May 21, 2016

Putting first things first

 Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

For those of you who are familiar with Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," you may recognize the title of this blog post as being habit #3. I recently (re-)learned the 7 habits, and this one resonated with me because it's one that I have trouble with. Putting first things first means that you can't do everything in the 24 hours you're given each day. You have to focus on your highest priorities and say no to the unimportant things. I've written about priorities before, but somewhere in the last few months, I stopped following my own advice. One of the casualties is my writing. I'm embarrassed to say how little I've written this year, even with my idea of writing during my commute.

This is a shame since writing is important to me. It makes me happy, and it helps define who I am. It's time for me to put writing first, or at least ahead of the less important things that I've been spending my time on. This blog post is my way of publicly holding myself accountable to following through on the habit. Will it work? Hard to say, but if I don't write, I hope it's because I'm doing something that's even more important than it.

May 7, 2016

How to read my stories for FREE

Readers, did you know that you can read some of my stories for free?? That's right, FREE!

Here are four ways:

1. "Drive," the first story in the Driver Series, is permafree. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic YA, this series is for you. Why not try the first installment without paying a cent? You can download "Drive" from the following retailers:
 

2. Sign up for my newsletter and get a Smashwords coupon for a free e-book. There's a link in the top right corner of this blog (see screenshot below) or you can go here to sign up.

3. Last year, I started posting some short stories on Wattpad. You can find them by going to my profile at https://www.wattpad.com/user/hswriting.

4. If you're a book blogger or book reviewer, I'm always happy to send you an e-copy of one of my books for review. Contact me at hsstonewriting@yahoo.com.

April 30, 2016

Anti-social? Who, me?

Before I experienced what it's really like to write a novel, I believed in the stereotypical image of an author cranking out his or her masterpiece in solitude. Think Thoreau at Walden Pond or Jack Torrance in The Shining (minus the homicidal tendencies, of course).

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

While working on a book alone isn't the reason why I wanted to become an author, it certainly has its appeal. I'm in introvert by nature, which means that I prefer to spend my time and energy in the internal world of ideas rather than the external world of people. That might make me sound anti-social, but I have to admit that I am somewhat. The ideal of buying my own island if I had the funds sounds great, if only for writing purposes. If I could lock myself up for days to work on a story (assuming food and a comfortable place to sleep are still readily available), I think I would thrive under the circumstances.

Alas, solitude isn't part of my reality. In the real world, I still work a day job where I interact with people everyday. Even when I write, it's often when I'm surrounded by lots of people, like on the train or at my kids' extracurricular classes. Fortunately, I'm able to block out most distractions (refer to statement above about living in the internal world of ideas) when I write. On the other hand, I sure wouldn't mind being alone.

April 10, 2016

Release announcement: Rescue

The fourth short story in The Driver Series, "Rescue," is now available! For the time being, this will be the last installment of the series. However, I've had a lot of fun writing about Claire and her post-apocalyptic world, so I won't say that this is farewell forever. :-)


You can purchase "Rescue" at the following retailers for 99 cents:

For the first time in memory, there is peace between Claire’s people and the Outsiders. The Drivers and their Protectors now have the gratifying task of spreading that goodwill across the region.

Claire and Shaun head to Half Moon Bay to deliver greetings and gifts to seal the peace treaty with the tribe that lives there. The mission goes smoothly at first, but events take a turn for the worse. Claire soon finds that it’s not just peace that is at risk. She faces the possibility of losing what’s most important to her. 


March 26, 2016

The downside of reading a great book

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com/ramzi hashisho

Recently, I went through a reading slump. For some reason, the books I read just didn't appeal to me. Although they received good reviews, I found them sort of ... blah. I struggled to finish some of them, and, in a couple of cases, I put them down for good, which is rare because I seldom DNF books. It didn't matter what the genre was. It didn't matter what time of day or day of week I read the books. Fortunately, after two or three weeks, I started enjoying reading again.

The reason for my book slump? I read a really good book right before it. It may seem ironic that a great book could lessen my enjoyment of reading, but it did because the books I read after it paled in comparison. The authors of the subsequent books couldn't capture the same magic that the great book did. I kept wanting to feel what I felt when reading the great book, and I was disappointed when I didn't. I know that this is unfair to the books I read immediately after the great book, but I also didn't believe that I should stop reading. What got me out of the slump was getting used to the writing level of the majority of the books on the market again.

I just need to recognize that I will come across a great book once in a while, and while that experience may diminish my fondness for the next few books after it, it doesn't mean that the subsequent books are bad. It just means that they aren't as great as the gem I read before them.

As an author, my experience also makes me nervous about when readers read my books. What if my book is the one they pick up right after they've read what they consider to be a great book? How will my book stack up in comparison? Perhaps I can now chalk up bad reviews to the fact that the readers just finished what, in their minds, was a great book. Yeah, I'm sure that's the reason.

March 19, 2016

Re-reading

I tend to watch my favorite movies over and over again. I don't remember how many times I've seen the original Star Wars Trilogy, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Matrix," "The Princess Bride," or "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I know I've done so enough times to easily recite lines from those movies (much to my wife's chagrin).

It got me wondering why I don't do that with my favorite books. It's rare for me to read a book twice, even one that I love. I've read my favorite YA book, The Hunger Games, three times, but once was for "research" while working on one of my own novels. Even thrice is a rare exception for me. How many times have I seen "Star Wars: A New Hope"? Must be at least ten times by now.

So I'm going to make it a point to re-read more of my favorite books. If re-reading a favorite book is nearly as satisfying as watching a favorite movie, then it will be time well spent.

March 5, 2016

Everything sounds brilliant at 2:00 am

I'm one of those people who have vivid dreams and remember them after waking up. My dreams have often been creative fuel for the stories I write. Back before I published my first novel, I wrote a lot of short stories, and I estimate that more than a third of those story ideas originated from dreams. (For me, dreams work better for short stories than for novels because the events in my dreams aren't expansive enough to fill a novel.)

Unfortunately, I also suffer from insomnia in that I wake up several times in the middle of the night. In a perverse way, my insomnia helps my creativity because, while I'm lying awake in bed, I'll hash out a dream I just had. However, the downside of doing so in the middle of the night is that my brain isn't awake enough to filter content correctly. I can't count the number of times I've woken up at 2:00 am thinking that a dream was the greatest thing since the story-telling equivalent of sliced bread. But frankly, those dreams often weren't as good as I thought they were. There's something about the half-conscious state I'm in that makes me think that bad ideas are good.

If an idea passes my 2:00-am-half-brain-dead test, I'll log it in my journal for further consideration. I'll then read through my journal in the future, when I'm fully awake. I don't know how many times I've asked myself why I thought some of my dream-inspired ideas were any good to begin with. Thankfully, I'll catch those not-so-good ideas before they turn into stories that I subject my readers to.

Except for this blog post, which came to me at 2:00 am one night.