Setting Goals by Christopher Patterson

Setting Goals by Christopher Patterson


We all feel like we are floundering at some point in our lives, and in many aspects of our lives. I think as writers, we experience this even more. We have those all too common questions: What am I doing? Am I wasting my time? Where am I going? What should I write? Have people wasted their time on me? And the list goes on and on.


As a teacher and coach, I am constantly talking to both athletes and students about goal setting. It is an essential practice for anyone wishing to achieve anything. Rarely do we see people who achieve some sort of success without establishing well thought out goals. And yet, I never talk about it to myself in regards to my writing. I set goals as a teacher. I set goals as a coach. I even set personal goals in regards to my faith and my fitness. But up until recently, I haven’t set any goals for my writing. I mean, I have had goals in mind, end dates, release dates, finish dates, etc. But I have never actually put something down on paper. What the heck? Why?



I think we as writers think, firstly, that goal setting stifles our creativity. You can refer back to another blog post I wrote about creating a plan for your story. I couldn’t begin to tell you, as I did some research for that blog post, how many writers out there refused to plan out their stories. And for that very reason…it stifles their creativity. Don’t put constraints on yourself. Be a free spirit. Be a thinker. I think it couldn’t be farther from the truth.


Secondly, most of us writers aren’t full time writers. That may be the goal (see, there it is) but that’s not the current reality. The time we give to writing is extra, carved out of a rather busy day that is consumed by full time jobs, kids, spouses, and other commitments. I think there is a fear that we won’t live up to our expectations, i.e. we will fail the goals that we have set.


One of my coaches, and now very good friend, said something to me once that was very profound, and yet, very simple. He was talking to us about goals and he told us that he couldn’t guarantee success. As an athlete, that’s not necessarily what you want to hear. You want to hear that, if you put in the time and effort, you will achieve success. But he was brutally honest with us. However, he added that if we do everything we need to do, everything required of us, we at least have a shot. A glimmer of hope. A light at the end of the tunnel. If we don’t do all those things—the prepping, the hard work, the running, the lifting, etc.—the one thing he could guarantee us was failure. Before we finished that talk, he made sure to add that the one thing most people fail at—they do all the physical and even mental prep—is writing down our goals. Wow! By not establishing and writing down my goals, I am hurting my potential for performance. And as a coach, I can tell you, its true. This is the one critical piece of the puzzle that many athletes over look and forget. Why are writers any different? We’re not.


I talk to my students and athletes about SMART goals. You may have heard of them before. I think they are a great way to establish goals, so lets talk about SMART goals in regards to writing and art.



SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound. These are individual aspects of a goal that, when put together, make a goal more achievable. Let’s talk about each individual part.


S—Specific—Your goals need to be specific. State specifically what your goal is, when you will achieve it, how you will achieve it, etc. Its not good enough to say, “I want to write a book someday.” It’s not even good enough to say, “I would like to be done with my book by the end of the year.” First thing you need to do is use definitive language in writing your goals.


“I am a published author on January 1st, 2020.” Speak about it as if it has already happened.


“I am the author of XYZ: Book two of the XYZ Chronicles on {insert date}.”


When we aren’t definitive in our language and if we don’t establish specifics, it gives us an out when we don’t meet that goal. We can throw our hands up and say it wasn’t in the cards. Rather, when we establish the exact goal we want to achieve, with an exact date, with an exact process, with whom we will achieve this goals, and any other specific you can think of, if we don’t meet that goal, we can go back to the drawing board and really figure out why we didn’t achieve our goal.


M—Measurable—Your goals need to be measurable. How exactly will I know that I have reached my goal? This is certainly related to Specific, in that I need to have an exact date with an exact publication, but how will you feel, who will you be with, what will you do. Are their checkpoints that will help you measure your road to achieving your goal. You will reach 10% of your book by this date, or chapter 10 by this date. You will find an editor by this date, or you will raise enough money for a cover by this time. Understanding what each step will look like, feel like, etc. makes the process so much easier to believe in and understand.


A—Attainable—Your goal needs to be attainable. They need to be realistic. If you have never written even a short story, and your goal is to finish a polished novel by the end of next month, that’s not realistic or attainable. If you have one published book that has done okay in terms of sales, and your goal is to go full time by the end of this month, that’s not realistic. Do you have the money, the time, the skills to achieve this goal. And if you don’t, how do you plan on making them and developing them.


I often refer to this step as the mini-goal step. This is the step in the goal setting process where a person needs to establish mini-goals that will help them achieve the greater goal. How many words a day do you plan on writing? How much money will you set aside a month to pay for editing and cover art? How many emails and newsletters will you send out for marketing? How many contacts will you make?



This step in our goal setting process might be the most important, simply because it hold your feet to the fire. You have to do a daily, weekly, monthly check to make sure you are track. You have to truly be real with yourself in regards to your goals. I am definitely not a dream killer. There are enough of those out there and if you are an aspiring writer, I am sure you have come across more than one person who has literally laughed at your dream of being an author, writer, producer, or poet. So, I am not saying you can’t chase your dreams. What I am saying is you must be realistic about your dreams. If you don’t have a lot of experience in writing, but you want to be an author, you may need to take some classes, invest time in your craft, and reach out to people. If you are terrible at marketing, you need to spend time honing that craft. If you don’t have any money, maybe you need to get another job to pay for all the things that make a good book good. Let me give you an example of what the attainable portion of goal setting might look like.


·      I will write 1000 words a day.

·      Publishing will cost me $1000, so I will set aside $100 a month for publishing costs.

·      I will spend 30 minutes a day searching for a reputable editor.

·      I will spend 30 minutes a day looking for a cover artist.

·      I will spend 30 minutes a day reading a book from the genre I write.


These are just examples of those mini-goals you might write to achieve the overall, big picture goal. And make sure they’re realistic. If you have four kids, work 50 hours a week, and do family night every Wednesday and church every Friday, maybe 1000 words a day is too much. Dial it back to 500. If you barely make ends meet, maybe $100 a month is too much to set aside. Do $25. And then if you find that you have become better at managing your time and money, adjust from there.


R—Relevant—This aspect of goal setting is always an interesting one because it forces people into a gut check moment. Is your goal relevant for you? Wait…what? Let me give you an example. I have had wrestlers who have told me, told their teammates, and written down that their goal was to be a state champion, but then when we actually sit down and talk, I find out that that isn’t their goal at all. Their goal is to get into shape for football, lose some weight, get stronger, etc. You see, their goal wasn’t relevant to their real, well, goals.


When it comes to writing, why are you writing? It’s perfectly okay to write a story that only you ever intend on reading, or you only ever intend for parents and family and friends to read. Don’t worry about the expectations of other people, worry about what you want to do with your writing. Don’t let people pressure you into spending time and money on editing and publishing if that is truly not what you want to do.


If you don’t know how to write, you can learn. If you don’t have money, you can raise it or work extra. If you don’t have resources, you can find them. If you don’t have contacts, you can build them. But if you don’t have the desire…well, you will never produce your best product if you don’t have the desire. Go after your goals. Not your parents’ goals for you. Not your teachers’ goals for you, or your friends’. Go after your goals and be okay with what they are.


T—Time Bound—This may be the most infuriating and frustrating of all the aspects of goal setting. Create deadlines. Its that simple. And if you don’t meet those deadlines, readjust and revisit why. But one of the worst things we do when we set goals is we set these arbitrary, wishy washy deadlines that aren’t specific. Set a deadline, stick to it, and if you don’t meet your deadline, figure out why, and set a new one.


Before I move on, let me say that it isn’t okay to miss deadlines. I mean, it is, but it isn’t. Don’t be okay with missing deadlines. Again, too many people will set a deadline, not hit it, and then just shrug their shoulders and give an “oh well.” Make sure you really know why you didn’t meet your deadline. It may be a really good reason (notice I didn’t say excuse) and that’s okay. So move on. It may be a terrible excuse (my wrestling coach told me once that excuses are like buttholes, we all have them and they all stink) and you can then figure out why you’re not devoting time to something that matters to you.



Aspiring authors out there, set goals. Take some time and make sure you hit each point in the SMART goal method. And then, once they’re written, do one more step. Take your goals, print them out, and tape them to your bathroom mirror. When that is done, read them aloud every morning when you wake up, so its they’re on your mind all day, and every night before you go to bed, so they embed themselves in your subconscious. Will it guarantee success? My wrestler coach would say no, and I would agree, but it does get you one step closer.


Have a great day and HAPPY READING!!!

Make A Great First Impression by Christopher Patterson

Make a Great First Impression

Christopher Patterson


The first thing a reader sees is your book cover. Think about it. Think about the last book you read, think about the last movie you saw, even think about the last magazine you picked up. Be honest. It was the cover, or the poster, that attracted you. It wasn’t necessarily an action packed, fancy, super artistic cover. It could have been very simple. It could have related to the genre well. It may have just struck a chord with you. Whatever the reason, that cover or poster attracted you to spend money on something. Now, there is a very real possibility that whatever it was you spent money on—a book or movie—wasn’t that good. Maybe the cover mislead you into believing it was going to be action packed and it wasn’t, or filled with great dialogue and romance and fell short. That happens. But the fact remains, you paid money for that thing. And, unless it was just so awful you couldn’t stand it and asked for a refund, you didn’t get your money back.



More so than the first sentence, or possibly even the title of the book, the most important aspect, feature, or part of a book is its cover. Again, think back to a book that had an awful title, or even a title that wasn’t really catchy, but had a fantastically engaging cover. If you are like me, a self-published author, you need to invest in a great cover. You need to be willing to find someone who has experience in designing books covers, can show you some of the other stuff they’ve done, and pay them for their very valued services. Don’t do what I did…at least at first…do your own cover.


I had this great idea, this vision in my head of what my cover should look like. And, at the same time, I didn’t have a whole lot of money. I was struggling, I knew that one of my friends dabbled in photography, and I figured we could create something amazing…and then best part—it’s FREE!



Big mistake. I say that, but it really was a great learning lesson. The cover looked amateur. And isn’t that the criticism that so many of us receive as self published authors. It’s amateur. It doesn’t look professional.

This is the uphill battle of all artist who have tried, or are trying, to go the DYI route. If you’re a musician, the music is great, the songs are meaningful, the musicians are talented, but it needs a professional studio’s touch. If you’re an actor or filmmaker, your work would be great if you only had access to MGM’s film studio, or Denzel Washington and Gwyneth Paltrow. Even visual art faces this struggle, in that there are major limitations to marketing and showing one’s work without being attached to a recognized school or studio.


And as the artist, we want our work to do the talking. If we are truly an amazing musician, artist, writer, signer, actor, etc. shouldn’t our skills alone be enough? I wish the answer was yes. I wish we could just somehow get our masterpiece in front of people and let them experience our imagination. Why should we have to pay for advertising and marketing and Facebook ads and space on the local radio station?

The real issue here is that for every musician or writer who is amazing at their craft but wasn’t fortunate enough to have parents who owned their own publishing company or a friend who’s cousin is the acquisitions editor for Penguin, there are a score or more of people out there who need to recognize that perhaps, they should focus on a different dream. And so when someone hears the term SELF anything, they have a perceived notion of what they’re getting.

Now, I am not a dream killer. I think someone who isn’t a spectacular writer can become a good writer with help, work, education, editing, etc. I think I fall into that category. But the problem is, so many self-published authors are so stuck on doing everything themselves, they have a hard time recognizing that they need help, and therefore never improve at their craft. This in turn hurts our industry, at least the DYI side, because now people pick up a subpar book and think that’s what they’re going to get every time they pick up a self published book.

I digress. How does this translate into book covers. Like I said before, it is the cover that first attracts attention. It is the cover that alerts a potential reader to the idea of the book. What is the genre? What is the mood? And what lies in between the covers means little if we give a poor first impression. Think of an interview. If you showed up to an interview in basketball shorts, no shoes, messy hair, and a wrinkly shirt, it doesn’t matter how hard of a worker you are or what level of education you have, you won’t get that job. The assumption will be that you are lazy. You may be anything but…but that is the impression you’ve given. Same with books. Amateur covers, at least in the mind of a reader (however unfair it is) equals amateur writing.

But you’re an artist you say. Anything you do looks anything but amateur. Sweet. Congratulations. You probably have more artistic talent in your pinky than I have in my whole body. You still shouldn’t design your own cover. Why, you say? It’s the same reason you shouldn’t edit your own book. Objectivity. You have an idea in your mind. You see it, no matter how bad your cover is, because it’s yours and you can see beyond the picture. Others can’t. They only see what they see. And if your job isn’t designing cover artwork, then you don’t know what you’re doing, no matter how good of an artist you are.


The whole job of a cover artist is beyond the art itself. Their job is to know what people are looking for, in advertisements, books, music labels, whatever it is they’re doing. The book cover artist isn’t just a really good artist, a good drawer or painter. No. This is a person who understands the industry. It is very similar to a book editor. Again, someone who is an amazing writer or poet or essayist isn’t necessarily a great book editor. I would say look for someone who has some experience, but just like us, as self-published authors, they may be trying to get their break. So take a look at their interests, their education, etc. I think it’s okay to have someone design your cover if they have a little professional experience, but what is their background, do they know what they’re doing?

And how much should you be willing to pay? Well, depends on your budget, of course. You can find people who are willing to do your cover for relatively cheap, because they’re trying to build a portfolio. You can go on Fiverr and find someone who will do it for $5. But, my general rule of thumb is, god quality and good work is going to cost. Think of you as a writer. If someone wanted you to write something – an article, poem, essay, resume – for them, would you do it for free? I hope not. This is your craft. If you’re good at your craft, it costs. Don’t shy away from pricy work. The law of averages tells us it will be good work. But, generally, expect to pay about $200-300 for a good cover. At this stage in your career (which is the same stage I am in) I would not pay more than $1000 for your cover artwork.

Also, don’t be afraid to look outside the country (if you live in the USA). The woman who does my cover artwork lives in Spain. There is almost no lag time in communication and she is awesome.

I added her website to this blog posting so if you want to see if she can help you, that would be great.

I hope this helps.


Make sure you visit Christopher Patterson’s website at www.christopher-patterson.comand also make sure you sign up for his monthly newsletter where you can keep up to date with what’s going on in his world, his articles and blogs, get access to freebies, and experience promotional material. You can sign up for Christopher Patterson’s email newsletter here

Planning Isn’t Just For City Councils

Planning isn’t just for City Councils by Christopher Patterson


It stifles my creativity.

I’m not in high school anymore.

I know what I want to write.

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I’ve heard all these excuses when it comes to outlining a book. I’ve heard them all because I’ve used them all. We don’t need to outline. Things like NaMoWriMo are for amateurs and people who really shouldn’t be writing in the first place. Outlining and drafting are just unnecessary work, taking away time better used to execute my craft. Here’s my favorite excuse:

I’ll just let the words take me where they will.

And…that’s why I have done several rewrites on my books. Because I wanted to buck the system, be my own, independent person, blaze my own path, and do things my own way.

I think there is credibility to some of the responses authors have to the suggestion that they need to outline, plan and draft. We don’t want to be so regimented that it takes away from our creativity, and the outlining we do for writing fiction is definitely different than the outlining we learned in high school. You should know what you want to write. That’s the first step…coming up with a story. Finally, there are times when we have to let the words take us. There are times when we are writing and the Muses take over. We create something—a sub-arc, a back story, a new conflict, a scene—that we never intended and its beautiful, magical, wonderful, and more.

But let’s compare outlining to some other professions, some other areas of life. I do this because I think we think as writers, we are so different. In certain ways we are, but if you want to be a successful writer, ought we not look at our writing like a profession, a job, a career?


Would you be okay with a surgeon who just opens you up without a plan? They know what the issue is. They have a general idea how to fix it. But they didn’t plan. It would stifle their creativity as a surgeon. They take their idea, open you up, and away they go. No one would be okay with that. Perhaps the very best surgeons in the world could do that, if they absolutely had to, but even they don’t. Even they plan.

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Would you be okay with your financial advisor meeting with you—perhaps a meeting for which you are paying—without a plan? They know the market. They have a general idea of how the economy is doing right now. They have a general idea in regards to your finances and goals.  But they simple execute trades, transfer money, and place you in retirement vehicles as the winds blow, as they just “feel” something. No one would hire a financial advisor like that. In fact, the whole financial industry has rules in place so a financial planner can’t do that. Of course, your Edward Jones or Charles Schwab agent might get a feeling from time to time, just as you might get a creative intuition that allows you to break from your plan, but the majority of the time, they stick to the plan.

I love to workout, lift weights, wrestle, and grapple. What happens to those people who just walk into the gym everyday not having a clue about what they are going to do that day? They make fun of the gym-goer walking around with a pen and a pad of paper, recording their sets and reps and weight, but that’s the person seeing results. That’s the person who took time, at home, planning out the week, planning their next mesocycle or macrocycle in the gym, establishing goals, and keeping track of their progress. If you were paying a personal trainer $50 or more per session, would you be okay with them just deciding what you were going to do that day when you walked through the door? No one would be okay with that, so why would we as writers? Why should our readers be okay with that?

While I was doing a little research to write this blog, I came across an editing group based out of New York who would strongly disagree with me. Now, they have big name editors working for their firm. They are based in one of the literary hubs of the country. They have credibility. But one of their first statements was, “Planning your novel ahead of time increases the likelihood it will be dead on arrival.”


Does that statement confuse you as much as it confuses me? We can over plan. I have stopped going to writing groups because they are filled with authors who have been planning their book for ten years. They blocked out a whole Saturday to outline paragraph 3 of chapter 4. They spent an hour contemplating the title of chapter 10. So, yes, we can over do it. You don’t want the planning process to get in the way of writing. But, please, explain to me how planning something out, laying out a general framework of what we will be creating, if you will, writing the blue print of the story, increases the likelihood that it won’t work.

Planning makes writing feel like work. Uh huh. Is that a bad thing? Listen, if you are writing simply because you want to get ideas on paper and could care less if someone else ever picked up your ideas and read them, cool. If you are writing something only for your family and friends and know that they are the only ones that will ever buy your book, great. But the majority of you, if you write, want people to read your story. You want to make some money with your craft. You want to be a best seller. How is, then, writing not work?

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Now, that statement wants me to go on and on about how modern Americans are becoming lazier and few work with disdain and that is root of many of the problems we have in our country—and if you’re in a different country, I’m sure you could relate as well—but I won’t. I will simply say the only way, in my opinion, to make something of your writing, to get published and get read and sell copies, is to treat it like work. We have to write when we don’t feel like it. We have to continue our education to get better at our craft. We have to push through moments of writer’s block and boredom and stress. If you want writing to help pay the bills, or pay the bills plus some, then it has to be treated like a job, and planning your story is a part of that.

Planning stifles creativity. I had an epiphany in one of my first years as a teacher. Another teacher was mentoring me and when he found out I wasn’t using the textbook that most of the other teachers were using, he obviously asked why. I said, “I don’t like the textbook. It stifles my creativity,” to which he said, “it’s not about you. It’s about the students. You can be creative and still use the textbook.”

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First of all, even though I have said this myself, I don’t know how planning out your story stifles any creativity. But, secondly, it’s not all about me. Am I the only person planning on reading my story? If so, I can do whatever I want. In reality, I don’t even need to write a story. I could be totally content with my own imagination. What is my audience going to find enjoyable? How do I attract a larger audience? I mentioned this in another blog, but more than once, I have had an editor tell me I needed to cut whole chapters, several chapters, get rid of a character, etc. If it were all about me, I wouldn’t have done it. But it’s not all about me. I want people to read my story. I want people to enjoy my story. Planning doesn’t stifle your creativity. Planning perpetuates your creativity.

Not to beat a dead horse, but we can over plan. However, appropriate planning can and does (I am speaking from personal experience here) prevent rewrites. Another critic of planning stated: “Rewriting is a part of the writing process.”

True. I agree. But how many times do you want to engage in rewriting? Are we truly writing if the majority of our time is devoted to rewriting our story.  Rewriting can be mind numbing and demotivating. We thought we were done. Nope. There is no better way to take the wind out of a writer’s sails then to tell them they aren’t done—in fact, they are nowhere close to being done—when they thought they were. Speaking from my own experience, let’s go ahead and publish, get some decent sales, have some decent reviews, and then tell a writer, “Nope, we need to redo some things.” That was life changing and one of those moments when I questioned whether or not I wanted to write. Do I think that could have been avoided if I had engaged in proper planning? Yes.

How do we plan, then?

There are a number of great ways to engage in the planning process. I used the book Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt for a while and it worked very well. You can purchase the book. It’s relatively inexpensive. And if you buy the actual book (I bought the e-book) it comes with a workbook that you can copy and fill in. It's simple. It’s laid out for you.

Many authors use resources through NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. This organization has hundreds of resources to help an author “write” a novel in a month. Are you truly writing a novel in a month? No. But the idea is get the whole process down, get the plan and the framework down, in a month and watch your story explode into something great.  

My current editor has me write a simple paragraph explaining what each chapter is about.  At the same time, he has me use the Michael Hauge story arc model, in which certain things—Action, a Turning Point, a Climax—need to happen at certain points in the book. I know. Some of you are already saying to yourselves, “Don’t tell me when something is supposed to happen in my own story.” We need to get over ourselves. It works. I also use a simple character sketch. What this character sketch allows me to do is write a quick backstory without having to include it in my story. Most readers don’t care about the backstory of minor characters, but I do. The most helpful part of this character sketch? The first question is simple. If I could choose any actor to play this character, who would it be? You would be amazed at how beneficial that is. All of sudden, my characters truly come to life.

I like this method because as I write each chapter, I can reference my quick paragraph. If I start to get off track, I keep myself in check. If I want to change something that I had originally written in that paragraph, I have to justify it to myself. It’s accountability.

Before I bid you adieu, think on this…Robert Jordan, the author of the Wheel of Time series, spent 20 years writing 11 of what was going to be 12 books. Robert Jordan, regardless of whether or not you enjoy his work, is arguably a literary genius, but he had notes, outlines, and plans. His wife was able to turn all this over to Brandon Sanderson who, in turn, seamlessly finished Jordan’s massive series. If you read these books, you would never know it wasn’t Jordan who wrote them (there ended up being three more instead of one).

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The bottom line is, there are a thousand ways to plan out your story. But plan you must. Are there a few literary geniuses that could write a book with planning? Yes. I am not one of them. Eat a very big piece of humble pie, Google “How to plan your story,” take a day and do the dirty work, and save yourself time, energy, and heartache in the future.


Avoid the Info Dump by Christopher Patterson

Avoid the Info Dump by Christopher Patterson


For those of you out there that are Science Fiction and Fantasy fans like me, especially if you have grown up loving a genre that has shaped imaginations around the world and created trends followed by billions of people, then there are a couple things that you know very well, things that you have accepted about the genre.

We know that sometimes we will pick up a fantasy or sci-fi book that just isn’t all that great, but the action is so cool, and the story would make a killer D&D adventure, so we read it anyway. We expect some crazy names—of people, places, new creatures and races we are being introduced to. Only in sci-fi and fantasy will you see a glossary attached to a story. We expect the unreal, magic, heroes, villains who are clearly evil, etc. And we expect info dump.


I love Lord of the Rings. I also love the Wheel of Time series (although, I will admit that I have yet to read the last several books). The Song of Ice and Fire is another favorite of mine. They are great pieces of literature that transcend the boundaries of genre fiction, have influenced many of authors in a very impactful way, and have brought entertainment to millions of people. One of the things that I notice about all three of these series, and a number more within my beloved genre, is they are descriptive. I know what everyone looks like. If the protagonist walks into a room, I know what that room looks like. I know how the food tastes. I know the backgrounds of every character—major and minor. They are ripe with explanation and information. And I like that. The problem…


… the majority of readers do not like it. You see, the majority of readers don’t need to know the whole back story of Thrak, the hard headed and grumpy dwarf—why he’s so grumpy and how he got that little scar on his cheek and the tragedy that he experienced as a young child. If you love playing Dungeons and Dragons, or any other role-playing game for that matter, you are probably thinking, “Why the hell not? Why wouldn’t I want to know this guy’s backstory?” I’m with you. But it doesn’t move the story.  

Now, don’t think that I am criticizing these three authors. They have or are clearly doing something right, and I enjoy all three of them. But Tolkien, Jordan, and Martin I am not…and neither are you. Maybe we allow them to get away with being overly descriptive because of the epic-ness of their tales…or because of how foundational they are…or because they just do it better than anyone else. But we, the author trying to become like these three, cannot get away with.


Let me back up. Maybe we can get away with packing our pages with tons of description and backstory and whatever else, but it will limit our audience. You see, I never realized how much my stories get bogged down by description and back-story, until a professional pointed it out. The reader doesn’t need to know the whole motivation behind a minor character’s action. They don’t really need to know any of it. They just need to know that they acting and how it affects the protagonist. You, as the writer, are really the only person that needs to know why they act they way they do. You need to know their motivation.

As a side not, I don’t think I ever realized how much I would write—and save—that would never end up in any of my books. Maybe that’s why Tolkien wrote the Simarillion. He just couldn’t handle having all this stuff saved away somewhere.

Someone reading fiction, especially fantasy and science fiction, wants movement. They want action. They want adventure. I am not saying they don’t want introspection and suspense and themes that cause us to think, but they certainly don’t want those things if they cause the story to stall. I have been living by a simple method recently, sometimes doing it very well and sometimes not—by the way, this method is forcing me to outline and plan my writing ahead, which I am not very good at—called the Hague method.

Anyways, what are some great ways to reveal information about characters or situations without overloading the reader with description, stalling the story, and info dumping?

1.     Dialogue. Get really good at writing dialogue. Conversations between characters can be a great way to introduce background information about a character or a situation. In fact, this kind of dialogue can be easily interwoven into action and conflict, therefore enhancing the story and allowing it to move forward instead of stalling it out with large sections of prose. Mundane description and backstory is boring.  We’ve already established that it halts the movement of the story, but why? Well, it takes the reader away from the story. If we are doing our job as writers, the reader feels like they are a part of our story. A stop, a break into detailed description or gigantic backstory slams on the brakes. And it’s a sudden brake. Its not a gradual slowing that the reader knows is coming. It’s a hard, jarring stop. What better way to give the reader an insight into characters by revealing conversation?


So then the problem is the dialogue. This is one of my strengths, so I’ve been told. There are probably a lot of areas I need to improve in with my writing, but I do agree that my ability to write dialogue is pretty good. What I find with so many fantasy and science fiction writers is our dialogue seems off. So how should we write our dialogue? Think about how you would speak. Certainly, they may be certain phrases and words you wouldn’t use in this world that you have created, but just write as you would naturally speak.

And what better way to introduce why Thrak is so grumpy or how he got that scar by one character asking him? We can reveal so much through conversation. In fact, do we not in real life? Rather than writing paragraph after paragraph of prose giving a well-crafted backstory, introduce it in the dialogue.

2.     Write a series of short stories about your minor characters. If you really want your audience to know why a character acts the way they act, or how they got to where they are, then try your writer’s hand at some short stories. Firstly, readers know what they are getting into. Secondly, you get a chance to explore a minor character’s actions and personality in much greater detail than a simple info dump, and at the same time add things like dialogue and action related to this story. Obviously, use the same story arc that you would use for your novel. And if your readers are faithful, and if they really enjoy your writing, they will read your short stories.

And as an added bonus, these short stories, as long as you write them as if they are stand-alone stories, can be a great marketing tool. Offer them for free on Amazon, or just email them to your mailing list. Use them as a carrot to hook readers. If they like your “free” short story, they will also enjoy your eBook for $4.99.


3.     Don’t get too attached to what you have written. I know that is easier said than done, but necessary. The very first person I ever had edit A Chance Beginning—several years ago when a small press had offered me a contract—told me I had to cut the first three chapters. I was crushed, devastated, horrified.  But I did it. I cut them out. And…it was better. I have learned that readers are interested in my story, not how fancy or intricate or intellectual I can get with my language. If something I write doesn’t move the story forward, it won’t work, no matter how much I like what I wrote. I mean, in reality you should like what you wrote. You wrote it. That’s why we have editors that we curse in the beginning and praise at the end. The story won’t change, but the words on the page will. It’s inevitable. And if you’re not willing to accept that change, then you have to be willing to accept the fact that a larger audience will never experience your story.

These are just several of many suggestions that I have for avoiding info dumping. All you have to do is a quick “info dump writing” search on the Internet and you will find tons of resources.

Avoid the many costly issues that I have had to endure. I am thankful for them and super thankful for the help from the folks at Wheatmark and the help I have gotten from my awesome editor Graham. My first manuscript was ripe with info dumping.  And then it got better and better and better. There are probably a lot of things we need to avoid as a writer, but a big one is info dumping.

I hope this helps you in your writing efforts and I look forward to you all reading A Chance Beginning, Dark Winds, and the soon to be released Braking the Flame. HAPPY READING!!!

The Need for Editing by Christopher Patterson

The Need for Editing by Christopher Patterson

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As a writer, one of the advantages of getting picked up by any publishing house, whether major or small publisher, is the benefits artwork, interior design, direction, and, yes, editing. These were the carrots at the end of the stick that all writers chased even just ten years ago. As a writer, you couldn’t make it without these services and, lets be honest, they were just so expensive and unreliable if you didn’t have a publishing house taking care of them for you. I mean, how are you supposed to pay for any of this stuff if you’re not making money from your craft.


Then comes along CreateSpace and IngramSpark and a number of other companies that are now offering writers the opportunity to self-publish, retain all authority over their own work, and minimal out of pocket expenses when it comes to these crucial components of publishing a book. Suddenly, authors aren’t chasing the big dogs anymore and even previously published authors are going the self-published route. Its amazing. What an opportunity. It’s the free market at work. Its American ingenuity. And then here comes the flood of stories that are maybe promising, but…well, could have used just a little work. Here are the books that are really good, but they are so hard to read because of the internal formatting. The books that are awesome, but no one ever picks it because the cover is terrible, some homemade picture or drawing that looks like it was done by a six year old. And then there are the downright, awful, terrible stories that really have no business being published.

I mention all of these because I know that I have fallen into each one of these categories. After chasing after big publishers and agents for several years, I finally received what every author dreams of—a contract with a publishing company. It was a small press, which was fine. This was my chance to make it big, get my feet wet, get a start and then move on to bigger and better things. However, I didn’t realize that I still had a lot of work to do. In fact, the easy part was creating my story. So, after rounds and rounds of editing, people leaving the company, and getting mixed reviews from past and present authors with this particular press, I decided to do something incredibly crazy and leave, back out of my contract, and self-publish (much to the encouragement of one of my previous editors).

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I love American and am deeply proud of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship, but they do have their dark sides. In the world of writing and publishing, one of the things that has happened is a complete shift towards DYI—do it yourself. I think the greatest mistake many DYI authors make is the avoidance of editing services. And I get it. I was one of those guys. And why do we, as authors, ignore the obvious need for professional editing?


  1. I’m a great writer and it’s expensive. Why would I pay for something I can do myself?
  2. I know a guy (or gal in my case) who’s getting their Masters in Creative Writing. I’ll just use them.

  3. I’ve got a couple friends that will do it.

  4. I’ll pay CreateSpace to do it. It’s a little cheaper.

  5. People know I’m a self-published author. They’ll forgive me.

So I am sure there are more excuses—and that’s what they are—that a self-published author can give, but let me give a resounding response to all of these, which, by the way, are all excuses that I have given. My response is ...


Not just no, but HELL NO!

I’m a teacher. I hope to one day be able to make a living through my craft as a writer, but as a teacher, I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I have come across disgruntled parents. They weren’t necessarily upset with me, but just upset.

I’m an engineer. I don’t understand why Johnny doesn’t get math. I help him every night.
I’m a nurse and, yet, Suzy won’t listen to me when I try to help her with biology.
I work in communications but I can’t help my daughter with her English homework.
I used to be a professional bodybuilder, but my son won’t listen to me when I try to help him out in the weight room.

All of these people are experts in their respective fields. Just as you are an expert in writing whatever genre it is you write. Just as you are an expert in whatever other field in which you might work. But teaching that subject to another human being is a whole other ball game. It’s different. You see, you get whatever it is you do. You understand it. In fact, you probably don’t go through the steps and processes that you once went through in order to do what you do. You are so automatic at your area of expertise that there are times where you have to take a step back and actual refresh yourself on the steps that you once took, reevaluate, and even relearn. I know I have to do both of those as a writer and teacher. Someone who is learning math doesn’t “get” math and a teacher is a person who not only “gets” it, but has been equipped with the tools to teach it to someone else. They may not be engineers, but they can prepare someone else to be an engineer.

Writing is very much the same. I write. I get writing. In many cases, I just write. I don’t do as much planning as I once did, not that planning isn’t important. I just know what I am going to do, how to do it, etc. However, I don’t necessarily understand industry dynamics. I don’t necessarily understand the changing trends in the science fiction and fantasy world. I’ve never studied marketing side of fantasy fiction. In fact, even though I had to self-edit in college, I’ve never really studied editing.

So, you see, you need an editor, and not a buddy who reads a lot of what genre you write, and not some starving college student, but a professional editor. This is their job. This is how they make money. This is what they do and, by doing it well, get more clients.


You will never have an objective eye for your own work. There will always be something in your story that needs to go, or needs to change, and you won’t have the will power to do it without someone, metaphorically of course, standing over you and making you do it. I finally hired a professional editor. The comments I was receiving on Amazon in regards to editing, the slow pace of A Chance Beginning, and the lack of buy through to my second book, Dark Winds, was finally enough to give me cause to call up a local publishing company in Tucson, meet with them, and then have them recommend an editor that could work with me and, after looking at what I had, want to work with me. One of the first things Graham did was tell me I had to cut the first three chapters. Then, at what I thought was an integral part of the story, he told me to remove that as well. My heart was broken. I felt crushed. I wanted to cry (maybe I did but I’ll never admit it) and it was the best thing to ever happen to my story. Suddenly, I started realizing things about my story, and about the industry and genre that I write for, that I never had before. You see, Graham is an expert in the fantasy and science fiction genre. He has experience editing in this genre. He studies the industry and studies trends. He studies story arcs and the different ideas on creating a plot and characters. Yes, these are all things that I have done as well, but not as in depth. This is what he does.

So, is it expensive?


Is it worth it?


In my opinion, what are the steps to getting an editor?

1.     Get an idea of how much it is going to cost and start saving.

I knew it was going to cost me about $2000. I started saving. Graham was okay with doing a section at a time—2 -3 chapters—and so that helped with the cost as well. I didn’t have to come up with everything up front. I would discourage people from taking out loans to do this. I’m not big on debt in the first place and what if it takes a long time for everything to work out? What then? Just save. Forgo cable and eating out and whatever else so you can pay for editor. And understand it wont happen tomorrow. We want instant gratification so badly. It may take a year or more and that’s okay.

2.      Find an editor who is recommended by another author, publisher, agent, etc.

Just because some says they are editors, doesn’t mean they are. I think recommendations from the industry go a long way. Heck, when we start selling our books, our biggest marketing campaign will be word of mouth, right. So, contact some people. You would be surprised at how willing the big names in your genre would be to giving you five or ten minutes to just give you a coupe bits of advice, including a couple names of editors. They were like us once. They want to help.

3.      Find an editor who knows your genre.

You actually do have a friend who is a legitimate, professional editor. Heres the catch: You write mystery and suspense and they edit romance novels. I’m sorry. It’s not going to work. I know they are your friend and I know they might get their feelings hurt and you might save some money, but they don’t know your industry. They don’t know your genre. They know their genre. It would like someone saying to me, “Hey, I know you’re a teacher. I would like to hire you to tutor my kid.”

“Okay, what do they need help with?”


“But I’m a history teacher.”

“That’s okay. You’re a teacher.”

So, find an editor who specifically works with your genre.

4.     Find an editor with a good resume.

Probably secondary to recommendations, make sure your editor has a good track record, a good resume. I understand, just like us as fledgling authors, some editors need a way to get their feet wet, but do you want to chance the success of your book to that? Most editors will work for a publisher, newspaper, magazine, online blog, etc. at some point. That is how they get their feet wet. They don’t get their feet wet by doing freelance work for self-published authors. Find someone who has experience. And be wary of discounts. Be willing to pay top dollar for good work.

5.     Until you have found someone able to edit your work, don’t worry about cover artwork, marketing, or anything else. Take care of the content first.

Yes the cover needs to catch the eye, and marketing can turn a great book into a best seller, but if what is in between the covers isn’t quality, for 99% of authors, you won’t go anywhere.

I had mentioned earlier that I had dealt with many of the issues a self-published author deals with. When I first published through CreateSpace, my story was good but the writing was a disaster. The cover was terrible. My friend took some really cool shots of a sword and of a flame, but when we put it to the cover, it just looked awful. The internal layout was all jacked up. Spacing was off. Page breaks were off. It was a mess. So I did what any self-published author should do, I revised. And it got better. I paid someone to do my cover and now its pretty good. I adjusted the layout—put a little money into having it done. Much better. I cleaned up the writing. Better. But the problem was I never had someone professionally look at it, and I should have done that first. I pretty much did everything backwards.

So, take it from me, if you want success as a writer, the first thing you need to do is save up and hire a good editor.

I know its been a while. Stay tuned for my next bit of advice—hiring an agency to help you self-publish. What? I know. Sounds weird. But again, if I could do this whole process all over again, that’s what I would’ve done in the first place, and what I am doing now.

Hope you enjoyed this weeks article and writing tips. Until next time, HAPPY READING!!!

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Make sure you visit Christopher Patterson’s website at www.christopher-patterson.comand also make sure you sign up for his monthly newsletter where you can keep up to date with what’s going on in his world, his articles and blogs, get access to freebies, and experience promotional material. You can sign up for Christopher Patterson’s email newsletter here

You Don’t Open A Bookstore to Become Rich (except in BOOKS)

By Bobbe Arnett

Twenty-eight years ago this month, my sister Tricia and I opened Mostly Books.  We considered Beaucoup Books and a few other names but settled on Mostly Books as that is what we had in the store.  We began with used books, unique greeting cards, and gifts.  Our dad wondered what we were going to do with so many empty shelves in the store but it did not take long to fill them up by trading books for credit toward used books. Soon we started putting books on the top of shelves and then adding bookshelves to every nook and cranny we could find. 

As the years went on, we added more and more new books as customers kept requesting them.  We worked with many local authors to promote their books.  We have always sold fiction, mysteries, children’s books, non-fiction, psychology, romance, westerns, southwest books and many other subjects. When the big chain bookstores moved into Tucson we adjusted our inventory again adding more and more backlist books.  We greatly increased our selection of recovery books and we now carry all things recovery related including medallions and gifts.  Selling books at offsite events and conferences also became critical to our survival.  We look forward to the Tucson Festival of Books every March because we know we will sell tons of books, meet authors and market to thousands of new customers.

When another used bookstore moved into our shopping center, we increased our new book selection, t-shirts, mugs, sleep shirts and other book related merchandise.  Our book inventory is now about half new books and half used books.  Our greeting card section continues to grow as well and many of our customers say we have the best selection in Tucson.

Online booksellers, e-books and e-readers have also affected our sales tremendously.  When people could buy the same book cheaper online and with no sales tax, they went for it in a big way.  A lot of book lovers’ family bought them e-readers as gifts.  We responded by selling Kobo e-readers and Kobo e-books on our website.  The e-book trend has also inspired more people to read and has even help increase sales in our new books.  People are finding that they want the physical book as well as the digital copy when the book is amazing.

Everyone who works in the bookstore is a book enthusiast.  We love talking about books, discovering new books, open boxes that only contain books - if books are involved we are happy.  So of course we all read A LOT and most of us belong to several book clubs.  The nice thing about employing only book lovers is that our book selection is very selective.  We try hard to find amazing authors to introduce to our customers so that our shelves never stay stagnant.  It also means that are staff is happy to recommend a new author to our customers and, even better, will tell you that they have already read it and found it to be incredible.  Our personalize customer service has help create loyal customers, and we truly won’t be here without their continual support.

Many people come in and say they want to open a bookstore when they retire so they can sit and read all day.  We find that quite amusing and tell them we only get to read at home, not while working.

If you live in Tucson, you can find the wonderful people of Mostly Books and their extensive inventory of books at the Monterey Village, 6208 E Speedway Blvd. Also, give them a call at (520) 571-0110. Mostly Books is extremely friendly towards Indie and Local Authors - I know from experience - so make sure you support them with a visit and your business. You can also find them online at

 Make sure you visit Christopher Patterson’s website and also make sure you sign up for his monthly newsletter where you can keep up to date with what’s going on in his world, his articles and blogs, get access to freebies, and experience promotional material. You can sign up for Christopher Patterson’s email newsletter at

Complimentary Copy of A Chance Beginning in Honor of the Audio Release

Hey Everyone

In honor of the audio release of A Chance BeginningI am offering complimentary copies of A Chance Beginning for kindle. Make sure you go to Amazon to pick up your complimentary copy of A Chance BeginningYou can do so by clicking on any of the hyperlinks. A since your kindle copy of A Chance Beginning won't cost you anything, you can click on over to Dark Windsmy second book and the continuation of the adventure begun in A Chance Beginning, for only $4.99. So, you can pick up the first two books of the Shadow's Fire Trilogy for only $4.99 and experience an adventure that is being enjoyed by Paolini, Tolkien, and Martin fans. 

Once you get your complimentary copy of A Chance Beginning, and your copy of Dark Winds for under $5, click on over to audible and pick up the newly released audio version of A Chance Beginningnarrated by Amrit Sandhu

And, if you haven't already signed up for my email list, make sure you do that as well: 

So, here's what you need to do. Pick up your complimentary copy of A Chance Beginning. Pick up your copy of Dark Winds for under $5. Go to audible and pick up the audio version of A Chance Beginning, which you can do with an audible credit, by the way. And, lastly, sign up for my email list.

Thanks everyone and HAPPY READING and LISTENING!!!

Writing Process in Progress by Jordan Rivet

I’m an American writer living in Hong Kong. I got my start writing creative non-fiction about expat life in Asia, but found my true passion when I began writing the books I love to read: fantasy and science fiction. I wanted to build my own worlds and craft the kind of high-stakes adventures that keep me up at night.

I published Seabound, a post-apocalyptic adventure set on a souped-up cruise ship, in the fall of 2014. My writing process evolved as I completed three more books in that series and started the Steel and Fire YA fantasy series. I’m now a full-time author and recently launched my seventh novel. My writing process continues to be a living thing, growing and changing as I learn from other writers and from my own experiences. Here’s what it looks like right now:

Stick to a routine

Having a regular writing routine is the most important part of my process. I write five days a week from 11 am to 7 pm. Forcing myself to get dressed and walk to work puts me into “writing mode” whether I feel like it or not. I go to the same Starbucks every day and work right through lunch. My Starbucks is in a busy international area, and it’s helpful to have life and variety around me while I write. I usually run out of steam around 4 pm, so I take an email and Internet break and then dive back in for another few hours. 


I get a lot of my ideas while working on other books. There’s no better time to get inspired than when I’m already in “writing mode.” If an idea comes to me, I’ll write it in a notebook or add it to an existing document on my computer. By the time I sit down to start a new book, I’ll already know a bit about the characters, the world, and the story arc. This saves me from the dreaded blank page! I like using a 3-act structure when I’m planning a new book. I type out a basic outline and fill it in with short paragraphs for each major plot point so I’ll know where the story is heading. 

Hammer out a rough draft

I usually write my rough drafts quickly. My record is 67,000 words in eight working days. In general, I bang out my initial drafts in a month, NaNoWriMo-style, because it helps me keep up the momentum in the story. I want to write page-turners, and it helps if I write as if I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I also do a lot of my world-building here. It’s easier to come up with fantastical ideas and settings when I’m in the thick of writing the story than when I’m writing the outline. There will be plenty of time to make sure the world-building details are consistent in the later drafts. This part is all about making up cool stuff and seeing where the story takes me.

At this point I consider the draft virtually unreadable. One of my biggest fears is that I’ll die with a draft in this state and someone will discover it in the future and be . . . underwhelmed.

Build the structure

The next step is to print out the draft, read it through, and plug the events into a storyboard like this one. Looking at a classic story structure helps me see where the holes in my existing story might be. This is where I make final decisions about the plot and world-building and decide where to add or expand chapters. I’ll do this multiple times for different POV characters. Each person needs his or her own story arc.

Craft the second draft

Writing the second draft is the most extensive and painful part of the process. It’s also a lot of fun. I get to take the raw material I’ve created and mold it into a book. I add and rearrange chapters, expand and intensify scenes, fill in the setting details, and make any big plot changes. I’ve had drafts grow by 40,000 words during the Draft 2 stage. At this point I also do a lot of polishing and rewriting. By the time this draft is finished, I feel pretty comfortable letting my trusty band of critique partners see it.

Collect and consider feedback

While my critique partners read and work their magic, I usually jump into another book. Momentum is really important to my productivity, so I continue to write even while I’m waiting for feedback. I sometimes read books on the craft of writing during this stage. It’s important to keep learning, but I don’t like to get distracted by how-to books when I’m in the middle of a fresh draft.

When my readers get back to me, I listen to their advice, paying special attention to issues of pacing and character development. These things are hard for me to judge when I’m so close to the characters and have spent so much time in the thick of the plot. My first readers help me isolate the issues I can no longer see on my own. Anything is fair game for revision at this stage. I’ve been known to kill off characters and add whole POV sections based on the advice of my early readers. The books are invariably better for it.

Draft 3+

From this point I’ll do at least one more draft, depending on how much feedback I received and how much the language still needs to be polished. I’ll often add 10,000 or more words with each pass. My word counts always grow significantly throughout my process. Sometimes I’ll do up to five drafts, but that has become less necessary as my writing has gotten cleaner. Then it’s time to send the book off to my editor!

Think in series

At the moment I’m writing entirely in series. I’ve written a post-apocalyptic trilogy and prequel, and I recently launched the third novel in what will likely be a five-book fantasy series. For both series, I haven’t been certain whether my ideas had series potential until I finished rough drafts of each Book 1.

For later books in the series I repeat the process above, often beginning the initial stages before I get to the end of the previous book. This helps the characters stay fresh in my mind and keeps the momentum going. I still get my best ideas while working, and that includes ideas for the next in series.

Shooting for sustainable productivity

If I finish a book on a Wednesday, I start right in on the next one on Thursday. I try to stay out of my own way by sticking to my routine and relying on the process that works for me. I want to be in this career for the long haul. Developing a consistent writing process is an important part of meeting that goal.

My process will continue to change as I experiment with other strategies and figure out what works. That’s part of the fun of it! I may not be able to go on my own high-stakes adventures in a fantasy world, but writing is the next best thing.

Author Bio

Jordan Rivet is an American author of swashbuckling YA fantasy and post-apocalyptic adventures at sea. Originally from Arizona, she lives in Hong Kong with her husband. She fenced for many years, and she hasn’t decided whether the pen is mightier than the sword.

Find Jordan’s books on Amazon here!


Make sure you visit Christopher Patterson’s website at and also make sure you sign up for his monthly newsletter where you can keep up to date with what’s going on in his world, his articles and blogs, get access to freebies, and experience promotional material. You can sign up for Christopher Patterson’s email newsletter at

The Attack on Indie (Self-Published) Authors by Christopher Patterson

I was in the middle of doing some research for another article I wrote when I came across several other articles dealing with self-publishing. I have to admit, I was excited to read them since they dealt with self-publishing and, even though self-publishing is becoming easier and more mainstream, its still hard to find usable resources. These articles quickly disappointed me. In fact, they downright upset me. I don’t know. Maybe that was their goal. Exert a gut reaction from someone who disagrees. What was the central idea behind these few articles? Self-publishing is a terrible idea, those who are self-published authors really aren’t authors, and writing should be relegated to the elite few.

 We Live in a DIY World

I am a little embarrassed to say that there might have been a time in my life when I agreed with these magazine writers and editors. I have always enjoyed writing and reading, but my first artistic love was the guitar. More specifically, I specialized in classical guitar. I practiced relentlessly (most of the time), worked and worked on fundamentals, toiled over studies and modes, and eventually studied classical guitar performance at the University of Arizona. I was proud to be a musician. I was proud of my skill and hard work. I was proud of my ability to sight read.

 And then came the self-taught guitarist.

 Man, these guys truly pissed me off. They learned a few riffs. Learned a few modes. Learned a couple chords. And there they were, playing on the U of A mall, strumming and singing to whatever the new, hipster song was at the time…and there they were, women swooning over their skill and men wanting to be like them. You’ve got to be kidding me. This guy couldn’t tell you what mode he was playing, or why those chords went together. He certainly wouldn’t have been able to play anything by Fernando Sor or Johann Sebastian Bach. He’s not a real guitarist. Or is he?

 I slowly began to understand, as I got older and wiser, that we were both, in fact, guitarists. We were different types of guitarists and our skills definitely lay in different areas. But, nonetheless, we were both musicians. In reality, many of those self-taught, non-music reading hipsters probably have or are making more money at playing the guitar than I even have or will. They recognized a market and played to it. Good for them.

“There Are No Guarantees"

 This attitude permeates almost every area of our world, every industry, every business. The girl who studied history in school and now makes a living by taking photographs is ridiculed by everyone else who went to school for photography. The self made business man who was a high school dropout receives the scorn of every other business person who has their MBA from some reputable school. The teacher who didn’t go to school to be a teacher, but rather went to school and studied English is now the most decorated Biology teacher in the district, much to the chagrin of every other educational professional. And the examples go on and on and on.

 The Industry Has Changed

 I was in college when I decided I wanted to be an author. I have always loved writing. I loved reading too, but when I read, I was enjoying someone else’s imagination, someone else’s creation. I wanted people to enjoy my creation, my imagination. I had started what would eventually become The Shadow’s Fire Trilogy, as well as several other spin off stories that are still works in progress. I thought what I had was pretty good (it wasn’t at the time) and so I started looking at what I would need to do to get my book published. I was excited, ready to go, and expecting to make a gigantic impact on the fiction world—especially in fantasy. Wow, was I in for a rude awakening.

 The Gatekeeper

 My dad was, for most of my life, a self-employed, small business owner. And he was good. Successful. Innovative. So, when I tried my hand at sales—and I was pretty good at it—I, of course, turned to my dad for advice. I was selling insurance and mutual funds and really trying to target businesses, trying to encourage them to set up company insurance plans and 401(k)’s. My father explained to me the concept of the gatekeeper.

 The gatekeeper. The ominous interceptor of information. The ruthless decider of worth and worthless. The unyielding door to the vast riches and markets held by the small (or large) business.

 The gatekeeper was usually the front secretary. This was a person who seemingly had a job that was low skilled, low pay, and easily done. Wrong. This is the person most trusted by the boss. This is the person who is privy to management’s most inner thoughts. This is the person who has outlasted all other employees, keeping their head down and doing their job. And one of their jobs? Sift through the countless letters and phone calls and even in person drop ins to determine whether or not they are worth the time of their employer. As a salesperson, you must find a way to either get through, or around, the gatekeeper in order to meet with the big dogs. The gatekeeper was the bane of many salespersons, and the destroyer of hopes and dreams of that one, huge policy that could make an insurance agent rich.

 The World of Publishing

 How does this relate to the world of publishing? Simple. The author is the salesperson and the world of publishing has landmines of gatekeepers just looking to blow you up.  I was surprised to find out how similar the world of writing and books and publishing was to sales. Only, in the world of publishing, they mask these portentous figures with titles such as agent or acquisitions publisher. And forget about going around them. In the world of sales, if you’re cunning and sneaky enough, you can find a way of avoiding the gatekeeper. Not in the world of publishing. You can’t even step through the door of a publishing house unless you’re being led on a leash by an agent, and not just any agent, an agent with a track record of success.

 It is so incredibly difficult to get published today.  Like I said, you first must find an agent. So you send out hundreds, if not thousands, of query letters. And after receiving rejection letter after rejection letter telling you your writing just isn’t that good, you steel yourself up, thicken your skin, do several rounds of rewrites and revisions, and repeat the process three or four times. Finally, you get something that is good. People read it and respond positively. You even know someone who knew someone whose cousin’s husband’s cousin worked at a major publishing house, and they assure you, your manuscript is ready. This is it. This is the moment. You send out the query letters. One. More. Time. And…thank you but at this time, we aren’t interested. It’s not your writing though. You no longer suck at the craft you so desperately want to be successful in. No. It’s almost that high school break up letter that no one wants. You would rather your ex-girlfriend tell you that you smell, she thinks your ugly, she hates your family. But instead, she tells you, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

 Welcome to the final rejection letter. And why is this one so hard to take. Because, at any other moment in time, like that failed high school relationship, your book would have been a best seller. It was just the wrong time. See, in order to get an agent, in order to get published, you must have experience. You must be fresh and new (remember, there’s no such thing as a new story). You must have published something before. Wait. Record screeching. What? How can I ever get my book published if I need to first be published in order to publish a book that isn’t yet published? Did that last sentence just sound weird? Sure, because that’s what has happened to the publishing industry. How do we get around it? Well…

 Welcome to Self-Publishing

 When I first started thinking about getting published, self-publishing—or vanity publishing—was so expensive and treated with so much disrespect by the rest of the writing community, any writer worth anything would have never even considered it. I was lucky enough to actually get picked up by a small publishing company and that only happened because I knew another author who had published with them and she gave me an in. At that point, as you might suspect, I thought I had made it. I was wrong. That was only the first step. I won’t go into the rigmarole that was my experience with a publishing company, but I finally left and found myself at square one again.

 By this time, however, self-publishing had started to revolutionize. Amazon had created a company called CreateSpace. They did print on demand. They offered editing services. They even offered marketing services. One of my editors who worked for my former publishing company actually suggested to me that I self-publish. It was much more respected now, much cheaper, and the industry already had several stories of self-published authors selling a ton of books and then getting picked up by major publishing houses. Could that be me? Maybe.

 You see, self-publishing offers prospective writers—authors—an opportunity they may not otherwise have. Just like online colleges offer people an opportunity to education, teach yourself music books offer musicians the ability to learn without shelling out a bunch of money, and YouTube offers someone who is otherwise not mechanically inclined a way to work on their car.

 The Attack

 The Huffington Post posted an online article written by Melissa Foster and Amy Edelman in 2012 that listed four reasons why Indie Authors aren’t respected. It was a well put together list. I agree with all the reasons.

  1. Bad editing

  2. A lack of gatekeepers

  3. Quantity over quality

  4. Crappy covers[1]

Yeah, pretty much spot on. But these are things that a self-published author can overcome. Find editors who want to pump up their resume. Save up some money and pay for it. Find students at your local college going through Creative Writing degrees. Take your time. Understand the concept of delayed gratification. Know that the more time you take, the better your product is going to be. And be willing to shell out a couple hundred dollars for a good cover. I found Adriana Hanganu. She does an amazing job and she is very reasonable.

 Melissa Foster also suggested in an article titled “Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?” that Indie Authors are killing the publishing industry by “creating a devaluing for the written word.”[2] Wow. Thanks. In some cases, I am sure there are pretty terrible self-published works out there, but are they any worse than some published works. I mean, read several books about a certain shade of color, or a series about sparkling vampires. These are better simply because they were published by a traditional publishing house? In another Huffington Post article, this one written by Dr. Jim Taylor, an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, he asks the question, “Are Self-Published Authors Really Authors, or Even Published?”[3] Dr. Taylor confesses that four of his 14 books are self-published, but still gives a somewhat unfavorable view of the self-publishing world.

 The article that upset me the most, and the one that prompted me to write this article, was an article from the New York Post. Joseph Epstein writes an article entitled, “Think You Have a Story in You? Think Again.” Epstein completely trashes writers thinking about self-publishing and eventually finishes his article with this condemnation: “Don't write that book, my advice is, don't even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs.” [4] I’ve linked all these articles to their online sources, so you can read them yourself if you want.

 Final Thoughts

 This world is full of nay-sayers. And, using the words of my wrestling coach in high school, there are no guarantees. The only guarantee I can make you is that if you don’t give something a shot, if you don’t do your absolute best, if you don’t work hard, you will not make it and you will not be successful. What is my advice to you? Keep writing. Don’t just write for the sake of writing. Write your best, whatever your goal is. Understand what self-publishing means. Understand the hurdles you have to overcome if you decide to self-publish. But keep that dream alive, and let other people read it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t ever stop believing in yourself. Write your story and Dare to Dream.

 Make sure you visit Christopher Patterson’s website at and also make sure you sign up for his monthly newsletter where you can keep up to date with what’s going on in his world, his articles and blogs, get access to freebies, and experience promotional material. You can sign up for Christopher Patterson’s email newsletter at


 [1] Losowsky, Andrew. "The Big Reasons Indie Authors Aren't Taken Seriously." The Huffington Post., 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Aug. 2016.

 [2] Foster, Melissa. "Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?" The Huffington Post., 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 25 Aug. 2016.

 [3]Taylor, Dr. Jim. "Are Self-published Authors Really Authors or Even Published?" The Huffington Post., 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 25 Aug. 2016.

 [4] Epstein, Joseph. "Think You Have a Book in You? Think Again." The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Sept. 2002. Web. 25 Aug. 2016.

How to Be an Audio Book Narrator by Amrit Sandhu

If you’ve ever heard an audio book and have thought, “I’d love to do that”, then I’ve written this guide for you. This is all I know about being an audio book narrator. I’m a newb in this field however I’d like to tell you it’s much easier than you think, and also much more challenging than you think.

Yes, this sounds controversial, however being an audio book narrator is not hard, if you have kids then you’ve probably been doing it already each time you read a bedtime story. But the hard part can be learning the new skills both on computer and vocal, setting up your studio, and most important of all, sticking with long books.

If you have any questions, then don’t be afraid to post in the comments below and I’ll get back to you. Failing that, you can email me direct at or get my contact details through my website on

As for what mic I use, after doing a lot of research I decided on getting the Cad E100S which is an American made mic. It had great reviews and was a favourite for voice over artists. The Cad came out much cheaper than the Neumann’s so it fit my budget. So far I’ve been pleased with the results.

I’m not going to go through setting up a home studio. There are countless videos on youtube on that, but, if you want to see photos or videos of my setup then just ask in the comments below. If enough people ask, I’ll post some.


Voice Acting

Being an audio book narrator is a lot like being an actor. In fact, you certainly will be acting the roles of the characters you speak. However there is no physical visual performance being recorded, even though you might be animated in your physical appearance, you won’t be performing on stage in front of an audience, nor will anyone see anything you do, so it is 100% dependent on your voice to get the message across to your listeners. You might think that’s obvious, however when you only have your voice to deliver a message, it’s very important you understand what the author is saying and you’re able to deliver the message in that way. Hence reading a subject you understand or are at least familiar with is often a good first step.


What Motivates You?

The reason you start recording an audio book is an important question. It is your reason is what will get you through to the end. Or not. So ask yourself, why do you want to narrate a book? Whilst the idea may seem romantic at first, that idea will soon fade once you experience the vast amount of work, time and effort it takes to record a finished piece. I’ll go into the time it takes to record and produce a final piece later.

Are you doing it to become famous? Are you doing it so you can make money? Or are you doing it so that you can tick this off as another thing you wanted to do in life? My reason? Well simply put, I wasn’t looking at monetary value, nor any fame aspect. I simply wanted to have a recorded piece which my children could listen to forever, long after I was gone from this mortal body. So it was my gift for them. That reason was strong enough to get me through to the end of the book without giving up. And that’s what you need. Whatever your reason for wanting to record a book, as long as it is stronger than your desire to quit you will be fine and get through it. So do it for you mum to listen to, in the worst case.

Oh, and as far as fame goes, I hate to admit it to you, but unless the person is already famous, I wouldn’t be aware of who is narrating an audible book I’m listening to. And since it’s all audio, I would have no idea if that person passed me on the street, so no, this is one field where fame is not prevalent. However, for me, that was one thing that attracted me even more to it. I didn’t want to be famous. But I did want to create.  


How Long Does it Take?

An hour of recorded finished audio can take between 4 to 8 times that to edit and finalise. That’s a lot of investment for a book which is 36 chapters long. I found it took me about 40 minutes to read 5 pages. Editing time took me around 2-4 hours for that piece depending on how many mistakes there were in my read. Of course, as the book went on I became a better reader and was able to read with less mistakes.

So yes, the time invested in recording an audio book is going to be longer than you plan. So your reasons are what will get you through it.


Start Practise Recording


Right, so I’m assuming you’ve got your mic, your studio is set up and you’re ready to go. My advice is take a book you like - any book, and start recording yourself. Read the first chapter whilst recording yourself.

Next, listen back to it whilst reading your book. There will most likely be a lot of background noise, a lot of pauses, times you’ve forgotten to read words out or times you’ve just missed entire sections altogether. Usually, the first attempt will be awful. So don’t worry about that.

Whilst you’re listening to your audio, think of how you could have said it better. Or imagine a professional actor narrating the book.

Now I would like you to re-record the voice over and think of the actor who is narrating it. Slow your words where necessary. In fact, we often read too fast when we’re nervous, so get used to that red light saying record and be comfortable in it and slow yourself down.

Listen again.

Basically, that’s what I did, over and over, until I was happy with what I heard. This is your school time. You are learning to use the tools, getting comfortable with the mic, learning to read in a quiet room with nobody to listen to you except a computer. You will get it. Just keep with it. If you absolutely hate it, then maybe this is not for you. But if you enjoy telling the story and strive for improving your recorded performance, then this sure is for you.




So the editing phase is where you get to have fun and improve things. Like taking away the background noise removing long unnecessary pauses, and even changing the tone of your voice.

I use a tool called  Adobe Audition  for this, but free software such as  Audacity  is just as good.

Learn how to use your software of choice. There are plenty of help videos on youtube  on this.


The Test

So once I was confident in what I produced was good, I asked a few other people to listen to it, and see if they were engaged and enjoyed it?

This can be tricky as people often don’t want to do things that others ask them to do, especially anything that takes longer than 5 minutes. So, it will be a good idea to make a friend, who has a similar interest whom you can critique back. You can also set up a local  meetup  group, or better still join a facebook group such as the  VoiceOver Club.

If you can read one chapter well, then you can read the whole book.


Listen and Repeat


A great way of increasing the kind of accents you have is by practicing them. And a great way to practice is by listening to different accents you hear, and mimicking them. When you’re watching a film, or tv show, attempt to copy the actors voice. The more voices you have in your bag, the more variation you can add to your audio book.

The other great way to practice is when you’re listening to radio adverts. These are actually good ways to practice different delivery methods: is it naturally spoken or not, which words have they emphasised. The key is to listen and repeat.

One way I found was that different voices come from different sources of the body. A booming voice might come from the belly, whereas a squeaky voice will be all from your throat.

Strive for excellence

This is something I realised in my life a long time ago (in a galaxy far far away). Those who strive for excellence, will always keep growing. They will better than they were. Continuously.

So if there’s one piece of advice I can give which is crucial to this, and probably any task you set before yourself, strive for excellence. It’s not about doing the best you can do, it’s about finding ways you can do better, to give the best final product.


Don't Over Perform

Now I admit, sometimes I record pieces where I think at the time I have produced something superb. And then I play it to somebody else and they think it’s cheesy or over performed. This is a common problem in voice over. We can give it our all and then over perform, and come across terrible.

But that’s ok. Just tone it down. Maybe take a break from the mic for a bit and return and have another go at it. Record several versions of a shorter piece and ask people what they prefer.


Get Your First Audio Book Contract


So by now you should be in a place where you’ve practised, and have received good feedback. So put yourself together a short showreel and go to  and choose a title you’ll be happy to read.

Don’t be discouraged by not receiving an offer. It could be that your voice just doesn’t match what the author had in mind for that particular book, so keep applying and you will get a deal.

If you keep getting rejected, then  contact me and I should be able to give you some advice.


Planning Your Schedule

With ACX once you are offered a position you will need to agree to a delivery date. Now, is the time to work your schedule. How long will it realistically take you to record it? How much quiet time do you actually have? Are you away on a holiday, or another event? Are people staying over at yours who will be potentially loud? All these factors will drastically affect your ability to finish your book on time.   

I try to set one rule in life when it comes to delivering a project: “under promise so you can over deliver“. There will be times where you might not be able to record due to illness, or random guests coming over, or your computer dies (by the way, always save to a cloud device such as google drive), so factor this buffer time. If you think you can get it recorded in a month, easily, including edits, double that time.

The Recording Process

Initially when I started out recording I began reading one chapter at a time. On average this took me about 45 minutes to do. Then I would send the recording to Chris, he would listen and let me know if I was on track or not. In the most part I was often on track. However, because there were 36 chapters in total, this would become a very long slow process. So I found simply by reading more than one chapter at a time, I was able to double my output. My advice is therefore read as much as you can in each sitting. Don’t just settle for one chapter. Read, two or three at a time.

Be sure to take breaks. You will need to keep your energy up and if you do feel your energy dropping, go eat something light and then do a few stretches or maybe go for a walk before starting up again.

I would keep a glass of water at hand, as it can get pretty hot in a recording studio, especially in the summer and your mouth can dry out. It is better not to drink too much water though, rather, just put a small mouthful and swirl it in your mouth to keep it moist. If you drink too much then all kinds of mouth noises will get picked up in the recording.


Communicate with the Author

The beauty about ACX is they are the contract makers and encourage you and the author to interact with each other in any form you want.

The book I read was A Chance Beginning by Christopher Patterson which is actually part of a trilogy called Shadow's Fire. I have to admit I’ve made a friend through this process. There is nothing like two minds getting together as one, so communicate with the author and keep them very much involved in your project.

So if there were delays, I contacted Chris well in advance. Chris was actually more the director of the piece. You see, direction will be needed, and who better by than the author? So Chris and I came up with this process. He would write me paragraph on each chapter, telling me what the tone is, who the characters are and what he imagines the voices should be like, and that was often enough to get things spot on for Chris in terms of what he envisioned.

We didn’t always get it right, there was a time the accent Chris recommended for the Dwarves did not fit in what I envisioned, so I recorded him two versions of the voices and he preferred the one I suggested. So if you do feel something else works then don’t be afraid to share this with your author.


Error Checking

The thing about ACX is it is a shared project with shared ownership. It’s in the interest of both parties to produce an audio book that sells. So that’s two pairs of eyes and ear that 100% want this project to work. There is a saying in Punjab: Two minds together are like 11 individual minds. I have to say, without the guidance and direction of Chris I wouldn’t have produced the book to the level I did.

After recording each chapter, I had Chris listen to it just to make sure I was on track. Then I would begin the edit. Later, the editing took so much time I decided to outsource this part to get the project done. So in the end we had two checks done, one by Chris to make sure the accents were on the right path and mood and tone of each scene was correct, and secondly my editor who would actually pick up a lot of mistakes which we missed out.

At the time of this writing we are on the final corrections of the last 6 chapters. We will then add some background music between every five or six chapters and then combine all of the recordings into one final file.


Regardless of your reason for making an audio book, unless it makes money it will be difficult to keep the process going and recording your next book. Therefore it will help a great deal if the author has some kind of following where you know sales are likely.

In most cases, authors on ACX are there because they do not have a large publishing house backing them. Therefore all marketing will need to be done by the author, and possibly you. In fact, this article is written specifically with that in mind, to generate awareness of the book. So blog about it, share it on social media, spread the word and find ways to get sales.

Have Fun

Recording an audio book is a mammoth task but not one that is out of anybody's reach. Therefore, I will say make sure you have fun. Always laugh, during the good times and the bad times, and it will get through it.

Good luck and if you do have any questions on this topic, then give me a shout at

© Copyright 2016

Anyone can be a Writer by Christopher Patterson

Mystery surrounds writing—all of the arts, really. It seems to be weird dichotomy when people learn or find out that you’re a writer, especially the author of a book, let alone a series of books. They are almost in awe, super excited for you, and can’t believe that someone could actually do such a thing. But then, they are critical. How do you make any money? Do you live on rice and beans? What’s your real job? I tend to focus on the awe and excitement.

People are always enthusiastic and happy for me when they find out I am an author. Everyone always says the same things: “How amazing.” “How do you do that?” “I could never write a book.” “I’m not creative.” “I wish I had your creativity.”

Aspiring Authors

Notice you can't even see the published authors on the chart
My buddy Tim visiting me at a book signing

My buddy Tim visiting me at a book signing

Sacrifice and Hard Work

My first book signing at Mostly Books in Tucson

My first book signing at Mostly Books in Tucson

I am very appreciative of the compliments. Trust me, I am more appreciative than many people might think. I try to stay as humble as possible. Humility produces wisdom, after all, even though I am very proud of being an author and the accomplishment that it represents.  I do recognize the hard work and the time and the sacrifice that goes into writing book. I live it. But what amazes me the most is how quickly people are to discount themselves, put themselves down, and defeat themselves before they have even tried something. I see it in sports all the time.


As a wrestling and football coach, I experience kids giving up before they even give themselves a chance. It’s too hard. It’s too time consuming. They just don’t have natural ability. Whatever the excuse, they give up before ever getting started. I didn’t realize that same trend in today’s society applied to the arts as well until I officially became a published author. And all the while, the thing I continue to say to myself is, “Anyone can do this.”

I truly believe that. Like I said, I’m extremely grateful for the congratulations and admiration. But really, anyone could do this. I don’t say this to take away from my own creativity or hard work, but one of our mottos on our wrestling team—and one of my mottos in my own life—has always been, “Hard Work will always beat talent that doesn’t Work Hard.”

Define You


Clearly, not everyone wants to be a writer. So, this is not to say that everyone should be a writer, or that everyone wants to be a writer. This is to say, if you want to be a writer, you can be.

First, let’s define what kind of writer you want to be. That will, of course, dictate what course you take with your writing. I once attended a writing conference put on by Writer’s Digest and the presenter gave us three different types of writers and asked us to decide which one we are.

1.      The first type of writer is the writer that simply wants to leave a legacy. This is the person who wants to leave memoirs to their family, create a family tree, or simply get their thoughts onto paper and see it as a book. This writer doesn’t care about sales. This writer doesn’t even care about how many people see their book. It’s all about the accomplishment of writing a book.

2.      The second type of writer is the writer who wants to spread a message. This is the writer that has something to say, something important to convey to the world, or a certain group of people. They have experienced something that others have experienced, they have information on important social topics, or they simply want to touch people in a positive manner. This writer does care about how many people see and read their book, but they don’t care about sales. They didn’t write the book for sales. They wrote the book to send a message, tell a tale, etc. They don’t care about how much they make, just how many people read their book.

Coin Money.png

3.      The third type of writer—and the type of writer I am—is the writer who wants to make a living from their writing. They want people to read, and pay, for their work and craft. Now, there is nothing shameful for wanting to make money from your craft. Most authors still have a great story to tell, and they want people to read it. They just want to make money from it as well.

Committing to Commitment

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek
— Mario Andretti

So which kind of writer do you want to be? That’s the first step in this writing process. Next, you have to commit. What do I mean by commit? Commit some time—not a ton. Commit some effort. Possibly commit some money—again, not a whole lot. Commit to actually writing your story, whatever that might be. I think—no, I know—so many things don’t get done in our society simply because people won’t commit to something. Fear. Laziness. Other obstacles. Past failures. Whatever it is, you have to commit to writing your story.

What's Your Story

So, what’s your story? It’s interesting how sometimes the worst advice we get comes from our educators. Now, I say that with great trepidation, since I am, myself, a teacher. And, I have received some phenomenal advice from some fantastic teachers and professors. But, when I was in college and studying creative writing, I had several professors suggest that we write about what is commercially desired. If you want to make money, you need to look at what the market desires and then write that.

What terrible advice. From an economic standpoint, of course you would want to provide what the market wants, but you can do that and still write what you want to write about. People will be able to tell if you’re not writing what you’re passionate about. They can tell when you are, for lack of better terms, BS-ing them. Write what you are passionate about.

My Story

I love fantasy. I grew up reading fantasy and sci-fi, watching fantasy and sci-fi, playing fantasy and sci-fi games. I also love history. I knew that if I ever wrote anything, it would be fantasy, historical fiction, or a combination of the two. I have written contemporary fiction short stories—mostly for my creative writing classes in college. They’re good. I’ve gotten pretty decent feedback on them. But it’s not what I love. I have a hard time pouring heart into those stories. To be successful at anything, you have to be passionate about it, right? If you are a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a plumber, a police officer, anything, you absolutely must be passionate. That’s not to say you’re going to love what you do every day, but if you hate your job or your career, what’s the point? I feel the same way about writing. What’s the point of writing if you can’t write what you love? You love sparkling virgin vampires who hang out with metropolitan, sophisticated werewolves? Then write about them and don’t worry what other people think, just make sure you write the best damn sparkly virgin vampire/metro werewolf story you possibly can.

Employee Satisfaction (%)

59% of employees said interest in their work makes them happy

Critics vs Good Criticism

You have to ignore critics. I truly believe that no matter what any of us do in life, someone is going to tell us we can’t do it. I mean, would we even have an Olympics if anyone listened to the nay-sayers and do-nothings of this world? Just look at the graph above. Look at how many people aren't satisfied with their job. Do what you love; and do what you think you’ve been called to do, whatever that calling might be. That being said—and I will leave this as the wrap up to my first installment of writing tips—do listen to and pay attention to criticism.

Our Stories, Our Babies

My little man Shaymus

My little man Shaymus

My oldest, Savannah, with Shaymus when we first got to bring him home

My oldest, Savannah, with Shaymus when we first got to bring him home

Our stories are our babies. I have children. Some of you have children. We take pride in our children. And when people are critical of them, we get defensive. They are, after all, a part of us.

We have this story, this idea, this adventure, this movie playing in our head and it hurts sometimes when someone doesn’t like it or understand it. But there is probably a very good reason for that. Let me say that most fiction is genre specific, as you may well know, so if you write romance and someone who typically reads mystery tells you they didn’t get your romance novel, they didn’t like it, or whatever else, you might take that with a grain of salt—unless you are trying to cross over into a mystery-romance genre. But if someone who reads a ton of romance tells you they didn’t get your story, you might want to listen up. You don’t have to change your story, but it may be a plot issue or a character issue or a formatting issue. Just like a good parent who would listen to other parents who have great kids, as authors we would want to listen to other authors and purveyors of our genre.

I recently received my first two star review, and I have received several three star reviews. I am not necessarily going to change my story because of them, but they do serve as signals or alerts that there are some people out there that might have issues with my style, my story, my method of writing. One of the worst things we can do as authors is be so stubborn about our story that we are unwilling to listen—in essence, we are deaf—to good criticism, criticism that wants to help us get better.

Again, you don’t want to change your story. That is one of the reasons why I left the publishing company I was with before I self-published. They wanted to change my story. Don’t get me wrong. They gave me some great criticism that changed me as a writer for the better, but I had to be open to that criticism. Remember, you know your story. It’s yours. You live it in your head, replaying it like a movie. Your audience doesn’t know it, but you want them to get to know it, live it just like you. So listen to your audience. Let them help you convey your message and your story as best and most effectively as possible.

Until next time, start writing your story and HAPPY READING!!!

Make sure you visit Christopher Patterson’s website at and also make sure you sign up for his monthly newsletter where you can keep up to date with what’s going on in his world, his articles and blogs, get access to freebies, and experience promotional material. You can sign up for Christopher Patterson’s email newsletter at

Adams, S. (2014, 06 20). Most Americans Are Unhappy At Work. Retrieved from

Dietrich, W. (2013, 05 04). The Writer's Odds of Success. Retrieved from

Goldberg, J. T. (2011, 05 26). 200 Million Americans Want to Publish Books, But Can They? Publishing Perspectives. Retrieved from



What Makes Me Want to Keep Reading by Brett Lindskog

As my tastes in literature have changed I've noticed that I go less and less for cool looking covers and cheesy fantasy novels to more and more realistic fantasy novels. Not realistic as in the fantasy being gone, but realistic as in feeling like the characters could be real people. What really makes me disgusted reading a novel, any novel, is the author playing God with the characters. Machina Ex Deus is lazy writing and a sign that the author is not serious about the humanness of the characters. And if we aren't reading novels to explore humanness at some level, what is the point? The characters are what drives Game of Thrones for example. These feel like real people put into real situations acting in a real way.

Another thing that turns me off of books is not getting to the point. The Wheel of Time is a great example of this. It started off great, neat world, real characters, high fantasy stuff. Then it kept going and going and going, with nothing being accomplished and whatever the characters did accomplish would seem to be set back with convenient resurrections and new prophecies. This was never going to end. I want my time back.

The above things that pull me into and push me away from a book are hard to quantify just by the dust jacket. I usually only go for books recommended to me by the serious readers that I know in my life. I usually can't stand the copy that is put onto the dust jacket. This is why there are things like GoodReads, and Reddit, and the good ole' fashioned book club.

Brett Lindskog is a good friend of Christopher Patterson and an avid fantasy and science fiction reader as well as a reader of Christian motivational non-fiction.

Two Food Items I Cannot Possibly Live Without

Once again, here is a blog posting that really has nothing to do with writing, reading, fantasy, adventure, fiction. Really, it has nothing to do about anything—except for food. Not only does food keep us alive, but food is amazing, as evident by my expanding waistline. It is delicious. It defines our culture. It speaks to who we are, what we like, our interests. Food can even tell other people how adventurous we are, where we’ve been, what our preferences are. This then, much like our “What three books would you take with you to a deserted island?” is much like those many childhood what if games we all played. My favorite foods, the two foods that I cannot live without, truly define me. But they are not just about my taste preferences. They speak to my childhood. They speak to my upbringing. They speak to my likes and dislikes.

My two foods—Eggs and Cottage Cheese.

Okay, before you gag at my choices, let me explain why these are my choices.

Eggs – first of all, eggs are a super food. They are high in protein. They are high in good cholesterol. They are high in calories, so in a situation where calories are hard to come by, they would be a great source of energy. Unfortunately, eggs have gotten a bad rap over the last three decades. In fact, they whole, low fat dieting craze has demonized eggs, falsely. Scientific studies now show that, in moderation of course, eggs can be a very important part of a person’s diet. Despite all the scientific evidence, eggs were a very important part of my diet. I grew up a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian, I didn’t have very many ways of getting protein. My mom wasn’t a huge lover of eggs, and she is fairly lactose intolerant, so dairy wasn’t readily available in my house. My mom turned to soy based products, veggie dogs, veggie burgers, tofu, etc. for our protein. My grandmother—my dad’s mom—grew up on a farm. She was a meat and potatoes kind of woman. Tofu and veggie dogs were not her thing. So my protein staple at my grandmother’s house was cheese and eggs.

When I started lifting a lot, competing in powerlifting and bodybuilding, eggs became a great source of protein, especially for those cutting periods. Even during wrestling, when I was trying to maintain a certain weight, hard boiled eggs were a staple of my diet. Two or three hardboiled eggs helped curb some hunger, gave me some energy, and didn’t pack on a bunch of weight.

Cottage Cheese – So many people think cottage cheese is disgusting. Its rotten cheese. Curdled cheese. Old cheese. Its got a weird texture. Its watery. But, much like eggs, it’s a super food. Its high in calories, high in protein, and, even though it’s a little higher in saturated fat, the fat in cottage cheese is not completely bad for you. Much like eggs, also, it was a main source of protein for me when I was younger.

Like eggs, when I started lifting heavy, cottage cheese, at 15 grams of protein per half cup, became a ready source of protein, and on the days when I could stomach low sodium, low or non fat cottage cheese, it was fairly low calorie as well.

Why these two together then? Well—and this may sound super gross for most of you—my grandma used to mix my eggs with cottage cheese. The cottage cheese cooled my eggs down quickly and I, still to this day, typically mix my eggs with cottage cheese. It’s amazing. Gross? Maybe. But growing up a vegetarian in the 80’s, when being vegetarian wasn’t very popular and we didn’t have all the meat-free foods we have today, I got used to weird textures.

So, there you have it. A relatively short post about food, my two favorite foods. Every time I eat eggs and cottage cheese, I am reminded of my grandmother and it makes me smile, and makes my taste buds love me.

Thank you for reading my blog. Check out my Author Page at Amazon and as always, HAPPY READING!!!

Three Books I Must Have on a Deserted Island

When you’re younger, you always ask your friends things like, “If you were on an island and could only have two foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?” or “What two friends would you want with you on an island in the middle of the ocean?” as if that’s not a completely loaded question. I think those are fun to think about. In a way, deep down inside, it makes us organize priorities and importance. That might sound a little too deep for silly, childhood questions, but have you ever thought about what three foods you absolutely couldn’t live without. Well, have you ever thought about what three books you absolutely couldn’t live without? Even as an author and an avid reader, I don’t know if I have ever truly thought of that question. I have certainly thought of my favorite book. And I would have to say, even though my favorite book is The Hobbit, it has changed several times, over time. But, what three books couldn’t you live without. Hmmmm.

For what its worth, here are the three books that I don’t think I could live without, the three books that I absolutely must have if I ever get deserted on an island and have to live there for the rest of my life. I would like to say that these are not necessarily in order of importance.

  1. The Hobbit. This is my favorite fictional book. I first read The Hobbit when I was in sixth grade. The librarian at my elementary school had to special order it for me, and I can still remember sitting down at my desk and looking at that yellow cover with the picture of Smaug lying atop this huge mound of treasure. The picture wasn’t all that great, but my dad and uncle had told me about The Hobbit, and I had watched the cartoon I don’t know how many times. I just sat there, imagining the mysteries and adventure and excitement that lay behind that cover. And that was it. I was sold out to fantasy in that moment. Those first lines, the explanation of a Hobbit hole, the introduction of a company of dwarves led by some mysterious wizard—BOOM! Done. Now, I have criticized Tolkien’s writing as I’ve gotten older, and my tastes have changed, but The Hobbit has come out on top. So if I couldn’t get my hands on any other piece of fantasy fiction for the rest of my life, this would have to be the one I could read over and over again without losing my mind.

  2. The King Raven Trilogy. I read this trilogy (I know not technically one book but you can buy them as one book, so I’m counting them as one book) not too long ago. It was my first endeavor into the works of Stephen Lawhead and I was pleasantry surprised. I picked up Lawhead because of a suggestion. He is a primarily fantasy author—although he does historical fiction and historical fantasy as well—who writes with strong Christian undertones. I try to weave some of my faith in my own writing, so I thought it would be good to read other authors who do the same. I was very disappointed with most. Of course, I am very disappointed with much of what gets published right now. It seems that there are always three or four shape-shifter, romance, ménage-a-triose books in the top twenty of Amazon. They’re terribly written and simply satisfy some primal sense that some readers want out there. Much of the Christian fiction world—very similar to the Christian music world—seems to turn a blind eye to bad writing simply because it is a Christian novel. I don’t think that is right. Regardless of the topic, I feel like good writing should be good writing, and good music should be good music. My point being, I picked up The King Raven Trilogy with great trepidation, already having read some pretty awful Christian fiction, and found something that I quickly fell in love with. It is a tale of Robin Hood, but told a little differently. One of the things I love about this tale is its not a tale of Saxons versus Normans, but Welsh versus Normans—a very different spin. Nottingham isn’t even in the story, and it weaves English mysticism and myth into a very historically accurate fictional retelling of the oppressive Norman invasion of England and the ensuing results. In my opinion, historical fantasy fiction at its best.

  3. Okay, so this may seem campy for some, sacrilegious for others, but my third book would be the Bible. My desire is not to get preachy here, not at all, but I am a Christian and, even though I do not open up the pages of my Bible (or the pages of my Bible app) as much as I want to or should, the Word of God has been a mainstay throughout my life and, no matter what I am going through, I can always look to the Word for advice, guidance, solace, comfort, etc. I believe that faith is important. I know that theologies and denominations and styles of worship can get in the way, and I know for a lot of people faith is a very personal thing, but when I want to understand who God is and why He is doing something in my life, it is His Word that I have to turn to. In fact, whenever I get frustrated with all those things, those extrinsic things that really end up seeming so inconsequential, I can turn to the Bible and get a true bearing and understanding of my faith, my faith community, the faith of my family. And, to be honest, the Bible has some of those elements that I just absolutely love in a book, whether its fiction or non-fiction. To me, it’s very believable. It has tales (that are true in my opinion) of mystery, intrigue, romance, horror, adventure. It’s got guys wielding swords and spears and wearing armor. Can’t go wrong with that. And, of course, at the end of the day, it is a statement of who I am.

So, ladies and gentlemen, readers of fiction, fantasy, adventure, and everything else, these are the three books I would want with me if I were stranded on an island. I will be completely honest and tell you, part of me wanted to put my own books in the list. Not because I think my books are amazing, but because I figure it would be a great opportunity to perfect my own stories. With that, I bid you adieu until next time. Make sure you check out my Author’s page at Amazon and until next time, HAPPY READING!!!

Four Things I Love About My Favorite Book

My favorite book, like so many of us who are avid readers, has changed over time. When I was younger, I would say any one of the Hardy Boys novels could be my favorite, or A Wrinkle in Time. That one was the first book I read with my mom. My dad then turned me onto The Wizard of Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guinn and, for a long while, that would have been my favorite. I finally read The Hobbit in sixth grade and JRR Tolkien’s classic quickly became my favorite; until, of course, I read The Lord of the Rings. I’ve read most of the books in the Forgotten Realms universe as well as most of the Harry Potter books. I am somewhat irritatedly awaiting the next book in George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and FireWinds of Winteras I am all caught up with his quickly-becoming-classic series. I read Brent Weeks Night Angel Trilogy and was a fan for the most part. I love Stephen Lawhead’s work. His first series I read was the King Raven series, a historical fiction/fantasy series about Robin Hood. Very cool. I have also either read or listened to many of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels and Robert Ludlum’s books, listened to many of the early Star Wars novels (now mostly not accepted as a part of the Star Wars Universe), and have had an opportunity, through publishing my own book, to read other newer author’s works. After reading all these books—well, I should say reading and listening to all these books—my favorite of all time…man, that’s a hard thing to decide. But my favorite of all time has to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

There are four reasons why The Hobbit has stood up against all these other great masterpieces, four reasons as to why The Hobbit stands out to me as one of the best, most influential, and most prolific novels of all time.

1. The Hobbit started a whole genre and influenced thousands of books. Certainly, fantasy fiction has seen some amazing authors after J.R.R. Tolkien. And within just a few generations, we have seen the creations of sub-genres like Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, etc. and amazing authors like Jordan, Sanderson, Martin, and Salvatore.  These genres were created by men and women who were just as innovative as Tolkien, but in my opinion, it is Tolkien who gave them the start, gave them the platform with which to create their masterpieces. Every fantasy book that I read has some relationship to Tolkien and The Hobbit. Some of these similarities are very clear—and sometimes a little too similar—and some of these similarities are obscure, but I believe if you were to sit down and read every fantasy novel written, you could draw lines of influence to The Hobbit. This is why The Hobbit is the best. Every time I read a fantasy novel, or even an adventure novel, science fiction novel, or mystery novel, a part of me always thinks about The Hobbit.

2. Tolkien crossed genre boundaries with The Hobbit. I remember going through college and my Creative Writing program. Almost every single person, when they found out you liked any sort of genre fiction, looked at you like you were some second class citizen. I blame most of this on academia. Schools and universities are teaching young men and women in droves a lot of things and theories that are bogus and weird and just simply contrary to what we experience in the world outside of education, but one of those things that is closely related to us authors, writers, and readers, is that the only legitimate fiction genre is mainstream literary fiction, the kind of stuff you might find in the main aisle at Barnes and Noble, in the New Yorker, or in a coffee shop being discussed by espresso sipping, early twenties intellectuals who smoke e-cigarettes and have discovered the meaning of life even though they’ve never paid for a single bill or have had a single, meaningful responsibility other than school. Besides the fact that most schools teach their students that genre fiction is lesser, worse, poorly written, and meaningless, it is hard for someone who is into a particular genre to appreciate another genre. In my experience, that happens when an author crosses genre boundaries—and Tolkien did that. I have met people who love romance, mystery, adventure, sci-fi, literary, poetry, and non-fiction who have all at least appreciated The Hobbit. Whether its Tolkien’s world building skills, or his prose, or his level of description, or his ability to create analogy, or even his insane aptitude at creating not one, not two, but multiple imaginary languages—all based off of a dead language in Old English—readers appreciate Tolkien’s writing. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have issues with some of Tolkien’s story, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can’t stand The Simarillion. But issues or not, and genre or not, most people appreciate what Tolkien did in crossing the genre boundaries with The Hobbit. There’s mystery, adventure, political intrigue, racial tension, a resistance to political and social norms, poetry, horror, and any number of other genres all wrapped into this singular fantasy novel that sparked a legacy of writing.

3. It’s a great piece of writing with great prose and great imagery and fantastic description. Tolkien is a good writer. I’m sure there are people out there who don’t like Tolkien or his work, but I think it would be hard to dispute that he is a good writer. Even at a young age, I like picking up a popcorn fantasy novel and slamming through a decently (maybe just ok) written book in a few days—maybe a week—and getting some good adventure, good fight scenes, and a satisfactory story. If nothing else, they always gave me great ideas for D&D adventures. But there is something to be said about great writing, in any genre, but especially fantasy. When you feel like you are living the adventure, man, what a great feeling. That’s what Tolkien does with The Hobbit. It’s not just some campy, corny fantasy novel that takes a few days to read and then you put it down to never read it again. This is a book that takes time. You find yourself rereading passages. Not because they were hard to understand, but because you know there is deeper meaning there. You know that it takes a few times to truly understand what Tolkien was saying. What was he alluding to? What is he foreshadowing? Or you come to this paragraph or two of excellent prose and you read it three times just because it is enjoyable to do so. His attention to detail—and I know some complain about it—gives me the ability to smell the smells, see the sights, hear the sounds, feel the tangibles and wonder the intangibles. Certainly, people have done the same thing, and maybe even people have done a better job, but picking up from reasons 1 and 2, and transitioning into reason 4, Tolkien was one of the first to do it with a genre that many cannot do it with, and in such a way that most who wouldn’t dare pick up a fantasy novel will pick up his.

4. The Hobbit was one of the first, full length novels I ever read that was written for adults. I was only eleven or twelve when I first read The Hobbit. And although I have read it four or five times—I know some people don’t have enough toes and fingers to count how many times they’ve read The Hobbit—I always go back to the fact that it was my first. Not to get really weird here, but I think it’s kind of like our first love, that first person we ever, truly fell in love with. We may not actually love them anymore—I know I am deeply in love with my wife, Kellie, and wouldn’t trade her or our family for anything—but they will always have a special place in your heart. I think, in a way, that is what The Hobbit is for me. I grew up playing fantasy games (D&D), and watching anime, and watching fantasy and science fiction movies and cartoons, but when I picked up The Hobbit for the first time, it all came together for me. I could see every character I had ever read or watched come to life on the pages of that book. I can still remember looking at the cover—it was yellow and it had a picture of Bilbo sneaking into Smaug’s layer—at my desk. We had just come back from the library and I had been bugging our librarian about the book. She said they didn’t have it, that it was a little too high level, but that she would special order for me. And she did. I get goose pimples just sitting here and writing about it.  That was it. That was the story that made my love for fantasy and sci-fi real. It was amazing. I could see Hobbiton, and the dragon Smaug, and the dwarves, and Gandalf. I had seen them before. I had imagined them. And here they were. Again, as I get older, I find little issues with the novel—character issues, questions I never asked as a kid, plot flaws—but I will always go back to that moment, when I opened that book, and my love for fantasy came to life. After that, I watched The Hobbit cartoon, read The Hobbit comic book, and began reading other fantasy novels. And, man, when the movies came out, I seriously might have shed a few tears. I think, then, it also truly sparked my imagination. Believe me, I had a vivid imagination before that. But just reading what Tolkien wrote, and I really think understanding how revolutionary it was at the time, I really wanted to convey a story, a message, a picture inside my head to other people. I really do think that that was one of those moments when I knew I wanted to write. Of course, my parents, my Uncle Bob, my grandmother, all these people and more, encouraged me and my creativity, but I don’t know if I would have ever come to the conclusion that I want to write, come to the conclusion of, “Hey, I could do this too,” if I had never picked up my favorite book, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Thank you all for visiting my blog posting. I hope you enjoyed it. Check out my Author Page at Amazon and please feel free to peruse my website and, as always, HAPPY READING!!!