Sometimes it’s not raw talent that wins out, but the dedication to your art, education and the mental drive to get ink to paper (figuratively speaking.)

trailI ran a 10K race today and was unprepared. I had injured my foot somehow (don’t ask how, since I really don’t know.) but the one thing I did have was drive. I refused to not run the race; I made it to the starting area, then I refused to stop running. My pace may not have been record-setting, but the outcome was that I finished the race. It wasn’t talent. I don’t have talent when it comes to physical tasks. It was just a mind-set.

Yeah. This is about writing. It gets done when you get yourself to the starting gate and GO! Pace isn’t as important as being in the race.

Next time, we’ll talk about building an audience and their anticipation for your next book. Cheers!

Now off to soak my aching legs…

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So my last post was concerning having books in multiple formats and available from different sources. To that end I decided to go with CreateSpace for my latest books and the first proof to arrive was for “Blaze Motors.” The reason I went with CreateSpace was because the books will link up automatically with my Kindle versions and directing people to Amazon is easy enough. (as demonstrated by the link above. – go buy one of my books now.)

So, on to some images.

First off the cover was designed by my wife, Deb. For some people this would already be a flag. Holy crap, who is the editor, your 8th grade grand-daughter? No. My wife is a graphic designer with over 20 years in the business and she is amazing. The reason I mention that she designed it, is to let you know I didn’t use one of the createspace templates. From my understanding the templates limit your options for fonts and overall design. Not saying you couldn’t have a great cover using those tools; I just didn’t use that route.

Blaze Motors by Robert Britt The cover looks great and the book feels great. Quality heavy duty paper, not cheap or flimsy. Picture is outstanding and the cover is sharp looking. I had some concerns whether this would turn out well, but the look and feel is very nice.

The spine also looks very good. If you use the template you are sort of stuck with what they offer as far as limited fonts and spacing, but this looks really nice and reflects the cool fonts on the cover.


The back cover also looks good. The font is Pallatino. The image in the back was supposed to be sort of a watermark look, but looks a bit darker than it did in Photoshop. I just didn’t want a plain black background, so this works well..


So on to the interior. I used a size 12 Georgia font after scouring the internet trying to figure out what would look okay. I’ll get more into the formatting I used in Word at the end of this post. 12 worked. It could be smaller and still be easily legible. I’m going with 11 for future works. Something I wasn’t sure of was whether CreateSpace would add a page at the beginning to put in the legaleze and publisher information. They didn’t. So likely in the future I’ll add a title page and also some copyright information.

DSCF4936 DSCF4935

Finally, the binding. This is also quality. It reminds me of the soft cover text books I had in college. Very pleased.


So on to formatting. I used the 6X9 book size and set up my word document as such. I had to use the ‘custom size’ feature. I set the header and footer margins at .35, and the other dimensions as below.

create space page setup

Gutter spacing depends on page count.


For paragraph spacing I did 10 points after. (that’s in the page layout section of Word)

Couple things. This is supposed to automatically link to a Kindle book within 5 days, if you’ve already done a kindle version. One cool thing – if you haven’t done a kindle version of your book, Createspace will do it for you. Not sure how the formatting and all would work out with that, but it is a possibility.

Different fonts work better on Kindle than print. I used Verdana 12 for Kindle and Georgia 12 for paperback. What would createspace choose or do you get to make that choice? I don’t know the answer to that.


Lessons learned.

I did 10 point spacing after the paragraph. Probably too much. Not going to change the books I’ve done, but for future reference I think I’ll do 6 points.

I didn’t do any headers. Most books have author name and book title on alternating pages. Maybe in the future….

Add title page up front along with legal gobbledegook. (probably)

Don’t “select all” to change font type and think it’s going to be okay. Have to edit the new font for spacing, page breaks, etc. This was a pain, but also was an additional editing chance and possibility to see errors which may have been missed.


Any questions, comments, etc? I’d be happy to share my experience.



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So if you’ve been reading here for a while you know that I am a big fan of the e-book format and especially the Kindle reader, but you really have to think about your audience when you are writing (and more importantly marketing.)

There are lots of people out there who don’t own an e-reader and will never own one. It’s just a foreign thing to them. And… I’ll say it. There is a certain tactile feel to holding and reading a “real” book. Paper and ink just have their own feel and smell and it’s an independence thing. You are alone and absorbed and it’s disconnected and connected at the same time.

It’s disconnected from that online electronic world which has enveloped the world, but it connects you to people that have been around since shortly after Gutenberg and his press opened up the world for reading. It’s a connection to history. Shakespeare held paper and read the inked word and so have all the modern writers. Whether it’s a newspaper or a book there is something about holding the printed page.

I went off on a little trip there, but it felt good. The point is that you have to get your words on paper to reach a larger audience. That might be magazines or it could be a newspaper, print on demands or a traditional publisher, but you have to spread the word with assorted delivery methods.

There’s something to chew on. Happy holidays and raise a glass to a successful new year! champ

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So last Saturday I spent the day at a screenwriting workshop with Peter J. Fox  and it made me look at screenplays, and maybe writing overall, in a brand new way.

teamworkThis also falls into the panster or plotter strategy choice with this obviously being plotster. Movies tend to be very structured with most falling into a three act type plot, so you have the set-up, the conflict and the resolution. Because screenplays are a unique animal – they need to be around 120 pages – the setup and the resolution each are 30 pages long with the conflict being 60 pages long.

These scenes are built around what is called a beat sheet. So we have around eighty sentences. Eighty short succinct sentences that describe the plot you are building. This is similar to the outline form which many writers use (plotsters, that is.)

How do you know where a story is going before you write it out? You may have a basic idea in your head, but if you don’t spell is out and give yourself some structure, you may have trouble getting there, or you may have a meandering plot that doesn’t hold a reader’s attention.

The beat sheet helps you to get to the point, while keeping you on track. It can also help you when you go to do your rewrite.

So I am starting to follow this new path. Peter’s steps (my interpretation) is to write out a story – a novella – to get things figured out. How are the characters and the story going to work out? I start with a basic chapter outline – so my steps will be 1) chapter outline 2) write novella 3)write out a beat sheet 4) write a treatment from that beat sheet 5) write the screenplay

I didn’t talk about the ‘treatment’ yet. A treatment is a breakdown of the story. Again, this goes back to the 3 act scenario. First act is the set-up. This gets done in three pages with only two paragraphs per page. Then comes the conflict. This is the meat of the story, and it is six pages, still with only two paragraphs per page, then finally the resolution, and – you guessed it – this is again three pages – two paragraphs per page.

Going through these steps makes you hone the story and really figure out what the basic parts are. I have a feeling I’ll be jumping from beats to the treatment – back and forth – until the story is tight.

The final thing, and I’ve talked about this about in other posts; the rewrite. Working on “It’s about time travel agency” has really helped me a lot with realizing that writing is a team process. In the Peter J. Fox workshop, Peter talked us through a sample script which was on Rev 16. Sixteen revisions and you know that was not all done by one writer.

We as writers get really close to our work sometimes and it’s hard to be objective and let things go. Some of my favorite characters may have to be killed off in a story, or even chopped from the story, and that’s hard. Really hard sometimes because my writing is like having another child.. Seeing someone else with your child and molding it, or ‘killing’ it, can be brutal, but in the end it’s all for the good of the story.

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We all get to it sometimes. The dreaded “writer’s block.” But what can you do about it? Here are a couple ideas.

Move to a new project. One of the biggest causes of writer’s block is that you aren’t sure what path to take. Have you ever gotten up in the morning with a burning idea in your mind? It takes no time to write (you are at your most proficient) when the story and characters are crystal clear and you have an obvious objective. The opposite is true if you don’t. You stare at the keyboard thinking. And thinking. And thinking. And not typing.

The best way to get past that is to start a new project. Maybe it’s just an article, blog post or short story, or maybe it’s a new book. Sometimes roadblockyour best ideas come when you aren’t thinking about them at all. It’s like when you are trying to think of the name of a movie and finally you give up. Then BAM you wake up at 2 AM and there it is. Give your mind a chance to relax then come back to your project once you’ve had a chance to refresh your brain.

Another way, if you don’t like starting new projects, is stream of thought writing. Open a new document and then just type EVERYTHING that is flowing through your mind. It might look like this

This is a stupid waste of time. I wonder what time it is? oh, it’s 6:31. I have to remember to take the dog to the vet she’s been scratching a lot lately actually she needs a bath too. She smells a bit. what is that smell coming from the kitchen. it might be the trash needs to go out or maybe I’m jsut hungry. that lunch yesterday was great and =I saw gas prices dropped again and ebola is in the news. I wonder if that iwll effect my job. people are so worreied. Too worried…

Etc. Etc.

Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation. Just get your fingers going. The stream of consciousness is something I learned at the Second City sketch writing class I took a few years back and occasionally it comes in handy. It just lets you know that your ability to write isn’t facing a roadblock. It’s more the idea or ideas for a particular project are percolating in your head and need time to mature.


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Ah, collaboration.

Writing is a lonely sort of profession, or pastime … or punishment.

But some people don’t work alone. I have recently joined that ‘club’ and have been collaborating with a group of people to write a podcast serial comedy series, It’s about time travel agency.  This is my first foray into collaboration and the lesson learned is, you need to learn to take criticism.

Where do your ideas come from? How do you think of such crazy/wonderful things? Writing is similar to raising a child. When someone critiques your child you take it personally. And perhaps it shouldn’t be, but you look on it as a reflection of you. This is my take-away. I have to learn that my writing isn’t me, and critique isn’t an attack on me, but is a second opinion looking to make the writing better.


the lonely life

Pride. This is something that Marcellus Wallace said to Butch in Pulp Fiction. “Night of the fight, you might feel a slight sting. That’s pride fuckin’ with you. Fuck pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. You fight through that shit.”

So, don’t let pride hurt you. Don’t let your ego stand in the way. This is a really hard lesson for me. When you’ve been in the game solo, and you don’t get recognition all that often, ego is the thing that keeps you moving. In my head I think Melville died a pauper. William Blake died penniless. Edgar Allan Poe died without ever making a living through his writing.

Recognition and monetary compensation are part of the dream many writers have, but let’s face it; in these times everyone and their brother is ‘publishing’ and there is a shit-ton of stuff to read. How do people sort through the rubbish and find the gold? You know there’s lots of gold out there and amazingly talented people who will, perhaps, never get discovered.

Collaboration might be one of the keys to becoming known and having a chance of rising above the crowd.

pardon the unusual post. sometimes when one writes it leads in unexpected or unusual directions.

strikes me that two activities I enjoy, distance running and writing, are both solo activities. Guess I am an introvert, really.

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So, if you are following along, you might remember that the last post was about The Big Lebowski. If you were reading carefully you know that it wasn’t about the Big Lebowski at all, but more about the plot idea the Coen brothers use, which is someone solving a problem in the worst possible way.

catch22“The worst possible solution” is a great starting point, but all novels or scripts really end up revolving around a single sentence and each sentence is made up of (at least) a noun and a verb, so you can think to yourself that really this whole book, script, play…whatever… has a key word or two.

These words may not be repeated ever again, but the fulcrum of the plot – the tipping point, if you will, comes down to something pretty simple. What is your idea? What are you writing about?

Let’s look at an example like “brain cloud.” This is the pivotal phrase in the script and movie “Joe vs the Volcano.” (A great movie which never found an audience while it was in the theater.)

So the movie is not about Joe’s brain cloud, but the brain cloud causes Joe to make a series of bold decisions that change the course of his life forever. The movie is about the way a character changes when his outlook on the world changes. This is also expressed in real life by the phrase “your inner world creates your outer world” which is so true.

If you take a character, a mundane character and force change on them, suddenly their world opens up and things happen. Plot is all about ‘things happening.’ Maybe this is overly simplistic, but there it is.

In my first book, Someone Else’s Tomorrow, Roger is accidentally killed off by the computer network that forms the foundation of that world. He is still alive, but he can’t live his old life anymore. He loses his job, his apartment and his old life. His new life could take him anywhere.

I think most stories that people get engrossed in are about personal growth. Whether it’s Luke Skywalker discovering his destiny,  Stella getting her groove on, Katniss Everdeen becoming a leader, Frodo facing unimaginable fears, Harry Potter becoming a wizard or Yossarian trying to get a discharge, great stories are about people growing and changing.

All that starts with a single sentence.

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I was watching a documentary called “The Achievers” which is about fans of the movie “The Big Lebowski.”

There are events out together that are called Lebowski Fests where fans get together have costume contests, recite lines from the movie and generally just bond with each other, all around a movie which did really poorly at the box office, but then went on to become a ‘cult classic.’

pinsSo why am I talking about The Big Lebowski and Lebowski Fest? Well, number one, the Coen brothers are masters at what they do. They write character based movies that people either love or hate. Either one is okay with me, as eliciting emotions is what writing is all about. Love and hate are strong emotions. No one wants someone to be indifferent about their work. There is enough ennui in the word.

But the real reason (number two, if you are keeping track) is a tidbit; a throw-away line in the documentary. This is paraphrased, but basically someone said that Coen brothers movies are all about “someone having a problem and solving it in a horribly bad wrong way.” And off you go.

So think about that for a second. The character relationships are hugely important. When I do improv, I was taught that the best scenes are about two or more characters who are somewhere (doesn’t matter where) and they have a real connection, a relationship, and the background ends up being just that. The characters aren’t talking about their cutlery if they are in a kitchen (unless the cutlery is just a metaphor for how they feel about each other – maybe one is sharp and one is dull?)

The scene, the background, is just a setting. The relationship is what makes you care, but the plot is about a problem.

A problem can be something simple. Your mother hates me and it impacts our relationship.

How do you solve this problem?

a) You sit with your mother-in-law and have a discussion and try to hash out your differences. Boring (but likely in the real world).

b) You divorce your wife, so you lose the MIL problem.

c) You buy your MIL an around the world vacation and arrange a rendezvous with a foreign lover, so she moves to Paris and becomes a seldom dealt with fly in your marriage ointment. While in Paris she gets kidnapped by the lover’s incensed ex-mistress, and you have to go rescue her and realize she is an interesting person. You fell in love with her and divorce your wife and now you have  a DIL who hates you.

I don’t know that that plot really works, but the point is, you have a problem that is solved in a way that is abnormal and then the solution drives the movie (or the book.)

What drives your writing? What is the plot point or points that sets your book apart? What makes your voice something that people want to revisit?

I don’t know how the Coen brothers do it, but this little piece certainly got me to thinking. Hope it does the same to you.

Happy bowling, my little Lebowski urban achievers!

Behind the scenes look at the Coen brothers and the Big Lebowski here.  (affiliate link. thanks for clicking)

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It may sound like a cliche, but write what you know, or research until you truly know a subject inside and out. Live it, if possible.

When I wrote my first novel, Someone Else’s Tomorrow, I set most of the book inside a quirky little restaurant, El Pollo Loco. (Years later a restaurant opened with this exact name. )

One reason I did so was because I worked in a restaurant in college for about a year. I knew the backside of the restaurant business. (Yes,eggs2 backside. It fits, believe me.) I don’t know how to run a restaurant, but I know employee habits and how things get set up and turned over. One of the comments I got from numerous people was how they recognized the little details that I included.

When I included things like breakfast prep work I had no idea that people would recognize the truth in the actions I was typing about. It just was part of the scene.

So this isn’t to say you can’t write sci-fi, or about a foreign country, but do research and keep the details true to things you do know. Most writing really is about relationships, not the background, so good fiction or good science fiction is about people and how they inter-react.

Keep writing and honing your craft and keep it real.

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What do you do to promote book sales?

This is a part of the process that presents challenges. We are creative people; we think, we write, we publish. We wait for sales to start pouring in. But really for unknown authors the sales aren’t going to just pour in. They trickle in, at best, and you hope people will write book reviews on Amazon and gradually word of mouth has people clamoring for, not just this book, but more work from you.

The general thought (from the experts) is to write series of books. People fall in love with your characters and want more. Many of your favorite authors recognize success (think Harry Potter or 50 Shades of Gray, or Hunger Games) and follow up.

I’ve even gotten the advice to write a series of three books and release them all at once. I don’t have the patience, but it certainly is worth thinking about.

So what do you do to promote book sales? Social media, friends and family, Fiverr for bought reviews?

I am looking at doing the podcast circuit and just talking, but I also got these fantastic cards designed to drop off at libraries, book clubs and even book stores…











What do you use? comments welcome and encouraged. Let’s succeed together.




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