And July’s Almost Over

It’s been an intense two weeks. It honestly feels more like a month has gone by in some respects. With the kids out of school and somewhat around most days it’s been a little harder focusing on freelance building and novel-writing than I had hoped. If a couple of months from now we can see a future from this direction I may need to look at a laptop for me so I can go to remote locations regularly. Right now I would need to take the one Heather uses. It would be OK for me to take it on occasion and test working elsewhere, but it wouldn’t be a permanent solution.

On the freelance writing front I’ve spent some time trying to refine my marketing efforts. The most important thing a freelance writer has to market themselves is their clips. (Examples of their work for others.) As someone new to freelance writing I don’t have clips. I have years of writing here on this website, and over 75 articles at OurAgileJourney.com. The problem here is two-fold. The stuff written here is mostly personal blogging. It’s audience is family, friends, and weird internet stalkers. (Yeah, you know I’m talking to you. It is weird. We have no connection. Either introduce yourself or stop. Your life will be better for it. 🙂 ) The stuff at the other site is written professionally, but it wasn’t on-spec/commissioned/written for hire stuff. I’m working a couple of angles to try and get clips to put up. I’m offering a discount on the first project for clients and am willing to talk to non-profits about doing pro-bono writing projects. I am attempting to find and target tech companies large enough to hire out writing services but small enough to not use a large national marketing firm. I’m also trying to start with relatively local companies in hopes of that angle helping my pitch.

The novel-writing apprenticeship has started and wow! The talent represented is intimidating. Many involved are full-time authors already, working to go from making a living to making a really good living. Some are branching into a new genre for the first time. Some are trying to improve the catalog in their current genre. I find myself wanting to soak up all the knowledge and creativity they have to offer and being a little timid about contributing. If I create and maintain connections with a handful of the people from this group over the course of the next 9 months it’ll be worth it. Not to mention that I’m pretty sure it’ll be close to impossible for any of us to not get at least novel #1 written in a 3-5 book series in the environment created by the group. I hope to have #’s 1 and 2 done with #3 either done or close by February. I also plan to turn around and start another series as we finish. I’ll be looking for Science Fiction fans later this year to do beta reading, so feel free to let me know and I’ll make sure you get invited to a mailing list. (Which I don’t have set up yet.)

That’s all for now. Next time I update the kids should be back in school. This two month summer break just flew by!

Where is the Summer Going?

I thought it had been two weeks since my last update, but it’s been a month. Sorry about that for those that have been keeping up with them.

The last month has seen a big change. Heather and I have decided to let my job search fall into a passive mode while I attempt to build a career out of freelance writing and authoring novels. We will re-examine this decision after a few months to see if it still seems viable. If some nibbles come up I will pursue them, but I am not currently actively looking.

I have started to qualify and contact companies for freelance writing work. I plan to ramp up my volume on this one to contacting 25 companies a week and re-contacting them after 4 weeks. This is largely a numbers game. Of all the companies that I contact some percentage should be viable prospects looking to get some writing stuff done. As I build a client base I am offering a discounted rate for the first project. If you or anyone you know might have a need for a freelance writer I would love to hear from you or them.

On the novel front I have it out with some readers, and I need to spend some time this month following up looking for feedback. The next novel is outlined and I am ready to start blocking out scenes. There is something more to this one though. I have joined a group doing an apprenticeship on writing good genre fiction with some very successful authors. The idea is to find the intersection of what you love to write and what the market is buying and create a novel in that space. Over the course of the apprenticeship we will go from choosing a genre (no story idea required) to marketing and releasing the novel. This process is not one that I will use the middle grade fiction for. I think I am going to do Science Fiction for it and currently have a very general story arc for 3 books with a 4th kind of hinting at me. This was not an easy choice as there was not only a decent financial commitment, but there is a time and effort commitment as well. If all goes as planned with this there will be at least two of the novels out by this time next year. A downside is that this may slow down my hoped for progress on the middle grade fiction work. An upside is that I expect it to accelerate a fiction writing career dramatically for me, shaving a good 1-2 years off of what it would otherwise take to see a path to living off of that alone and providing a network of like-minded individuals that would otherwise take years to build.

That’s pretty much it for now. The next few months to a year will require hard work and dedication, but I think the end result will be worth it.

Short Week

This week I managed to get the novel both entered into a local contest and out to some people who are going to do beta reading for me. It is being sent with a pen-name because some of the people have kids that would recognize my name and possibly skew their feedback. I have started on the next story arc and hope to be outlining by this time next week.

The job front continues to be quiet without much posted and very little action when things are.

On the freelance front I have a very basic site set up at adammyhr.com. Next week I’ll add some detail and start actively pursuing clients. With that in mind if you or anyone you know have any projects that include freelance writing or editing I’d love to talk. As an added bonus I’ll work out some great rates if you (or someone you know) contacts me in the next two weeks and mentions this post – even outside of the technology space.

Stories on Some Days in May?

Obviously I’ve fallen off the daily story bandwagon I started at the beginning of the month. Interestingly it happened as I finished the novel. I think somewhere in my mind the stories helped me with the novel, so as the novel entered edit/revision/feedback stage the stories became a chore. I’m trying to fix my perspective on that one and get back to daily stories while planning the next novel in the set. I’ve finished the initial edit of the novel and am going to contact people this week about being beta readers. I’m putting together a kind of guide sheet on what kind of feedback I’m looking for. It’s my first time ever trying to get beta readers for something so there is some research involved.

The job search is slowing as summer gets underway. I actually had a recruiter tell me the market is getting very slow and they hope to see it pick up as the summer progresses. In my experience recruiters tend to be eternally optimistic about placing candidates, so this isn’t the best news to hear.

With the job search being as stagnant as it is this week I am planning to get a freelance writer website up and running and start prospecting for clients. I’ve taken some professional development courses related to freelance writing and have a couple more lined up to take. I’ll post an update here once it’s live.

Shifting

I didn’t finish this yesterday. I started it, but then I got myself sidetracked by games on the phone and lost track of time. I’ve been itching to write some Sci-Fi stuff, so this is. It’s technically from a prompt last week. I had hoped to do some catch up, but that’s seeming unlikely now. I like the ideas here and may use them in future stuff.

ReTelling A Folk Or Fairy Tale

This is one of my favorite prompts of all time!

The prompt

Re-write a fairytale

<– Write Below This Line –>

Continue reading

Goodbye Soccer, Hello Baseball

First, I’ve fallen behind on the daily short stories. I will write at least one today, and perhaps get a couple of extra’s done to make up for lost time. There is a reason though. I finished the first draft of the novel! Next week I will do an editing read-through. I hope it only takes a few dedicated hours. I guess the amount of story re-write I have to do will play into that. As part of that I will contact various people and ask them to beta read it for me. What that means is they’ll get an electronic copy of a minimally edited version. I can do word files for people who can’t help but edit as they read (Though that isn’t the type of feedback I’m really striving for). I can also do e-pub and mobi for those who can resist the copy-editing. I cannot do Apple Book formats as I have no Mac. I will ask these readers to provide feedback on the books flow, story, continuity (of characters, setting, story), reading level, and anything else they can think of. I would like to know what they think and why. Suggestions for improvement are welcome also. The book is a general fiction book. It is set in a small midwest town at about this time period. The target audience is juvenile/middle grade. (3-5th, the same reading level as Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for instance.) I would love to get a couple of kids from that age group to read it and do a sort of book report as well. If you are interested or have kids that fit the bill please contact me and we can discuss details.

In a bit of family news Cecilia is done with Soccer and Gideon is starting baseball, with Heather coaching. As we head into the last week of school what our summer will look like is still a little up in the air, but “on the bright side” we only need to figure out 2 months due to the strangely modified schedule our kids school has.

Over the last few years our Amazon Affiliate account shut down due to tax laws and moving. I looked into it this year as I started to investigate setting up an author account and discovered that due to newer laws the affiliate program is available in this state now. As such, links will start appearing in the posts. (I tend to limit to in-line text links with occasional relevant image links.) If you click through we get a small percentage of purchases made, even if it’s not what you clicked. If you update your Amazon bookmark to http://amzn.to/1RhStn6 then we’ll be defaulted to get the affiliate benefit for any time you visit. This doesn’t hurt you at all and it helps us out so please consider it. Let me know if you have any questions on how it would work.

The job search is hitting a bit of a summer slump. Fewer positions available and not many new ones popping up. To compensate next week, though it’s busy, I hope to step up the classes on freelancing I’m in progress on. If things there go extraordinarily well I’ll have multiple freelance clients in June and be making enough that we can seriously consider me building that instead of continuing to pursue other employment. Realistically, if I’m not working in June I hope to at least be bringing in something from freelancing to relieve financial pressure.

That’s all for today. I look forward to getting this early 1st draft of a 1st story out to some people and hearing feedback on how to improve it before seriously looking at publishing it.

Bryce’s Painter

This is today’s prompt. It didn’t flow as well as I would have liked. Definitely one that could use cleaning up. I think there’s a solid short story concept in it.

 

Tell The Story Of A Painting

Today’s prompt is a reminder that it’s quite all right to be inspired by other artists work!

The Prompt

Write the story of a picture

Tips

*You can pick a favorite picture, or use one of these examples

<– Write Below This Line –>

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/Merry_company,_by_Dirck_Hals.jpg

Bryce faked the life he wanted. Everyone knew this, except Bryce. Bryce faked it so long he actually believed the lie. He believed every piece of cutlery was made of pure silver. In his mind all the chairs had real gold painted on them. The tablecloth was made from the finest silk in the world he lived in.

“Bryce must we pose for yet another painting? We really need to go out and work – fund this lie that you live in.”

Mabel gasped in astonishment. “Stephan, how dare you! Nobody is living a lie here. We only work if we want to, that is the right of nobility.”

Bryce smiled. “Thank you Mabel dear. I believe Stephan will spend this painting in the back. It will be a glorious painting, catching the true beauty of our fine clothing.”

The painter hired by Bryce looked around in confusion until Mabel started whispering to him. “Ah. Mr. Bryce, I am not sure I ca catch the true beauty of such fine clothing. The grandeur of this room blinds me and makes my work pale in comparison to the real thing.”

“Non-sense. I have seen your work. You are a true master and I firmly believe that what you paint will be exactly what is real in the moment.”

“Very well sir. If I could get you all around this table here. I will need this side of the table open so I can see all of you at one time. Now, get comfortable, this will be a while.”

The painter started his work. Mabel had told him to embellish what he actually saw, make things seem better than they were. He started with her. She had only eyes for Bryce in his world. Even though she looked longingly at his friend Theadore in this room, the painter pointed her eyes squarely at Bryce. As he looked up he noticed she now looked right at him.

Next he moved to Francis. Francis had eyes only for Edith. This felt wrong, Bryce was the center of the world and everyone wanted to be like him, so he pointed Francis at Mabel, leaning him in longingly. Stephan had been banished to the back and looked sullen. This was unacceptable for one of his paintings so in the painted world Stephan smiled, content with his place. Looking up to see who was next the painter noticed that Stephan had a small smile on now.

And so it went that painter created a painting that showed a better world for Bryce than the one he saw. Everything the painter portrayed seemed to be true to life upon his second look.

After they finished Mabel paid for the painters time and sent him away. As she looked over the painting she started to get a concerned expression. “Where did you find this painter Bryce?”

Bryce looked back at Mabel, away from the fine goblets hanging above the mantel. “I’m not sure, why my love?”

Mabel looked up, not remembering ever seeing the goblets before. “Nothing love.” Mabel wasn’t sure what to say. She liked the new decor in their room but she felt sorry for poor Gertrude who had a strange curve in her back now though.

“Look Mabel, I can touch my knee with my right hand. I wonder why I can’t do the same with my left?”

“I’m not sure my love. Maybe next time we can find a painter who does better at painting people?”

Planning for the Future

I did do yesterday’s. It was a twitter fiction prompt so I didn’t port it over to here. If you don’t follow me on Twitter then you missed it. Feel free to follow me here: http://twitter.com/adammyhr.

I had trouble getting into this one, but I am very happy with the resulting story. This is another one I feel I should clean up and submit somewhere, but I really don’t know where.

Inspired By Real Events

There’s nothing quite like real life for providing weird and wonderful story ideas.

The prompt

Write a story ripped from the headlines

<– Write Below This Line –>

(Inspired by the first story under The Entrepreneurial Spirit at http://newsoftheweird.com/archive/nw160515.html.)

“We need to do this right Mary. We only get one chance and the results of this decision will reach over 100 years into the future.”

“I know Carl, I just don’t know that this is the right way to do it.”

“We’ve had this discussion every day for the last three years. In all that time neither of us has found a better option. Now that you’re pregnant we’re out of time. Honestly, we should’ve went a month ago.”

Carl grabbed his briefcase from the office and looked around the room. “Do we have everything?”

“I think so. I have all of our financial records. You have our real-estate holdings and household goods inventories for each property?” Mary started going through her day bag.

“Yep, I have those records here. How about employment history?”

“I’ve got it in the folder with our career plans.”

Carl closed the briefcase. “All that’s left is references for them to interview and I know we have those lists.”

Mary reached out to Carl and pulled him in. “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing here?”

Carl looked Mary in the eye and relaxed. “We are. They’re the best in the business and our little one deserves that.” He pulled her in to his embrace. After a moment he gave her a gentle kiss and pulled back. “Let’s go. We don’t want to be late.”

Carl held the car door open for Mary just as he had every day since they met. As they backed out of the driveway they looked at the neighborhood. They had spent the last decade buying houses in all the right neighborhoods and renting them out. They wanted to be ready when this day came. They always agreed that their child would grow up in the best neighborhood when they finally started. Their whole relationship had been building to this.

When they arrived at the downtown office they were shown to an ornate waiting room. They huddled together whispering plans and dreams for the future to each other.

“Mr. And Mrs. Leiman? They’re ready for you now.”

Carl stood up. “Thank you.” He offered his hand to Mary and escorted her back.

They walked into a fancy conference room where a group of 9 men and women in business suits sat around a table. There were two seats open for them to take their place.

“I assume you have all your paperwork?”

“Yes ma’am.” Carl got the briefcase and bag out and started to place papers on the table in front of them.

“Thank you. Everyone, shall we begin?”

For the next three hours the group at the table went over every piece of paper the Leiman’s brought with them. They asked questions of the couple every few minutes. Finally everyone leaned back. The woman who started the meeting put the lat of the papers down and looked at the Leiman’s.

“When do you find out the baby’s gender?”

Mary spoke up. “We have an appointment next Tuesday. We also have reservations every day for three weeks after that in case there are difficulties in obtaining it, all different times of the day.”

“You should have been here four months ago, basically as soon as you knew.”

The group leaned in together and started to confer in whispers. Mary and Carl sat in silence, worried.

After what felt an eternity the lead woman pulled a stack of papers from under the table. “It will be tight but as long as you have all 50 references you provided available until they are contacted we can help you. We have a 30 year contract. Most companies will only run an 18 or 21 year contract and jack the rates up on a renewal at that time. As a result they have – results due to lack of renewals. We find those ten years are very formative and most of our clients renew.”

Mary and Carl exchanged looks. “They’re prepared to talk to you whenever you call. Is this the same contract you sent us last month?”

“For the most part. You’ll want to review addendum’s a-f, the last 23 pages, for items specific to your situation. Finally, we’ll need to know the baby’s gender immediately. We will send an intern with you to the doctor.”

“That’s fine. We’ll need a couple of minutes to go over the addendum’s.” Mary started reading the back of the stack of papers.

“Of course. We’ll wait.”

About 20 minutes later the couple leaned back, exhausted. Carl spoke up. “It looks good. Where do we sign?”

The woman smiled. “At all of the yellow marks. You won’t regret this Mr. Leiman. We’ll meet with you again two days after we know the baby’s gender to go over our proposed name and initial branding plan for your baby.”

Spring seems to have finally arrived around here

Another week down. Another week I still am not bringing money in. The job hunt has continued to have small ups and mostly downs. I have finally gotten a little feedback beyond the simple “you were a great candidate but we went with someone else.” Mostly I’ve gotten feedback related to things completely outside of my control, internal referrals were brought forward, a candidate with specific industry experience was found, things like that. Some recent feedback was a little more useful and will feed into future interviews a little, but it’s minor in the grand scheme. Ultimately that position was re-cast anyhow. (How I was laid off to being with now that I think of it.)

As for creative/fiction writing, it looks like I’ve managed to (barely) make it half-way through the story a day challenge. That’s pretty cool. I’m pretty sure I only did 4 or 5 days last year.  I’m still not quite done with the first draft of the novel, that’s not cool. It’s close though. Very close. The little progress bar in Scrivner is mostly green now, no more red. If I don’t finish the first draft this week then it’s 100% because I didn’t do the work. If I really work at it I should be able to finish by tomorrow night’s Castle Rock Writer’s meeting, which was the secondary goal outside of by the end of April. In hindsight by the end of April was a little aggressive considering: it’s the first time I’ve written a fiction novel of any kind, it ended up being in a genre I’m not intimately familiar with, I haven’t been great at regular writing for the last year, and I’m splitting focus three ways on an average day.

I’m halfway through a freelance writing course. This one concentrates on email but has things that can carry beyond email. There are more courses available from the same place for case studies and white papers, which I think would be more fun (and profitable possibly) than emails and blog posts to do. With knowledge I am gaining confidence and if the job search continues to be unfruitful it will at the least be joined by attempts to get freelance writing clients this summer. If (When?) that happens which one proves more fruitful will be an interesting data point to look at.

The Living Mirror

A couple days late, but started Friday. I’ll readily admit this isn’t a new concept. As related to the prompt I’d say I didn’t relate what the protagonist’s flaw is. I would probably need to expand the beginning a little to provide this to truly fulfill the prompt.

Your Villain As A Mirror

Today were going to do something similar to — but different from —yesterday’s prompt.

Today is the turn of the antagonist or the villain.

The Prompt

Write a story in which the antagonist or villain shows the reader what your protagonist could easily become if they gave in to their flaw

<– Write Below This Line –>

Amie didn’t know the woman on the other side of the glass. In fact, Amie first saw her the previous night. Kind of. Amie would never forget last night.

Every Thursday night Amie and her friends went bowling. They were at their usual lane having a great time when all the monitors in the place flashed a red warning screen. Simultaneously every phone in the place made some kind of alarm sound.

The monitors made no noise, but the phones started reading a public service announcement. Amie couldn’t recall the exact message, something about the governor’s office being broken into and casualties reported. What came next, that Amie would never forget.

The talking heads on the screens disappeared. In their place, the same picture as suddenly appeared on their phones. Amie’s face. Not just her face, her face, hairstyle, makeup, earrings, everything. The picture pulled out to show Amie in full. The picture Amie wore a slightly different outfit than the real Amie, so similar that at a glance they looked the same.

Amie’s friends looked at her in horror. Silence settled over the bowling alley. People in adjoining lanes backed away. An eternity passed for Amie followed by the bouncer from the bar walking toward her in slow motion.

“Don’t move Ma’am. The authorities are on the way.” The bouncer held a stun gun obviously at the ready.

Amie responded by passing out. She came to this morning I this room.

A woman in a suit came in. Amie looked at her, trying to focus her mind. “Hi Amie. I have good and bad news for you. The good news is that we officially believe you had nothing to do with all of this. The bad news is we believe it because the DNA tests are back. It’s an exact match.”

“I think I need to go in there and speak to her.”

“Amie, you know the rules. Technically you are family, meaning you can’t be part of the investigation.”

“That’s nice. If you think it’s going to be a problem then turn the camera off.” Amie stalked out the door.

As Amie opened the door to the next room she heard her own voice talk to her. “If you aren’t my lawyer you might as wel-” The woman went silent as she turned her head.

Amie felt the woman’s eye’s on her as she calmly sat down across from her at the table. Internally she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to look up. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then looked across the table, at herself. She fully expected the mouth across from her to move when hers did as she started to speak.

“Hi Annie, assuming that’s your real name. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She paused to see if any kid of response would be forthcoming. “You’ll probably be pleased to know the Governor is dead. The blood found on your clothing tells a fairly compelling story.”

Annie sat silently, barely registering what this image of herself across the table said. What she really wanted to do was reach out and touch her, make sure this wasn’t some kind of hallucination brought on by the drugs.

Amie sighed. “To be honest I don’t really care that much. I didn’t vote for him and we’ve got you pretty much dead to rights. Video of your entrance and exit, prints and DNA on the murder weapon, blood on your clothing matching the crime, it’s really just about as close to slam dunk as it can be without the video of you actually knifing him. We’ll likely even have motive when we’re done tearing your life apart.” Amie paused at this. The woman across from her sagged at the shoulders.

Amie closed the folder of paperwork in front of her and pushed it to the side. “What I really want to know is, who the hell are you?”

Annie looked up defiantly. “Fuck you bitch.” Who the hell am I? Good question.

Amie slammed her fists down on the table. “I’ll find out. By this time tomorrow I’ll know your life better than you do. By this time next week you’ll be in the deepest cell of this building, and by this time next month you won’t see the light of day for years. If you’re lucky you’ll live for years, but this state doesn’t guarantee that – the death penalty is a very real possibility here.” Amie swiped up the folder from the tale and stormed out of the room.

“Amie.”

“What Suzanne?”

“We’ve got info on her. I think you’re going to need to sit for this.”

“Why, because our DNA is an exact match?”

“Kind of. She was adopted, kind of.”

Amie sat. “So? Lot’s of people have been adopted, including me.”

“She was found the same day as you, at a hospital just ten miles from the one you were found at.”

Amie leaned forward, interested now.

“She grew up mostly in foster care. Most of the homes she lived in have since been closed down for problems ranging from poor living conditions to abuse and child labor allegations. She was finally adopted at 14. At 16 she filed for, and was granted, emancipation. Her adoptive family continued what happened to her in the foster care system.”

Amie sat horrified. It sounded like this person, who she was 99% sure was her twin sister, had the worst hand life could possibly deal delivered to her.

“At 18 she dropped off the grid. Her house tells quite the story though. She spent the last 23 years tracking down her birth parents. She found her mother 3 years ago in a drug house. According to records she died last year, gunned down in a police raid initiated by the Governor.”

“So, motive?” Amie could barely speak, using work to stay grounded.

“Partial. She found her dad recently. Based on her writing and research her dad raped and beat her mom resulting in twins. They were left at different hospitals so they wouldn’t be able to easily trace themselves back to her.”

“Her dad?”

“The Governor.”