Saturday, 30 March 2013

Putting all the pieces together

I love solving puzzles.

Any kind of puzzle. Word puzzles. Number puzzles. You name it, I'll try it.

I love sudoku. I like the way you gradually fill in the gaps, so the more numbers you put in, the more numbers you can then slot into place.

I love crosswords. I especially like cryptic crosswords, where each clue is like a little riddle that needs to be solved. It's one of the most satisfying feelings when you can look at a cryptic crossword after every word has been successfully filled in.

I love jigsaw puzzles. Even really easy ones. If I see one, I'll always try to do it. Except those really difficult ones where half of it is just sky - now that's not fun, partly because it's more like trial and error than real puzzle solving.

I think it's just something about how my brain works. I see most of the things I do as puzzles that need to be solved.

It definitely affects my writing. I suppose thinking about a story in this way is one of the simplest methods around. You have a character + they have a problem + they find the solution to the problem = a story. Simple. Clear. If I analysed most of my stories, I think you'd find they conformed to that structure.

What I find really interesting though is that while my characters are busy trying to solve their problems, I'm in exactly the same position as a writer. I'm constantly writing myself into tricky spots, then having to figure out how to get out of them. Sometimes I think that I spend just as much time on problem-solving as my characters do - and that's what I really enjoy about writing.

So far, I've always managed to figure it out. Sometimes, it's been just in the nick of time. There have been many times when I've sat down to write a critical chapter with no idea how it's going to pan out. And I refuse to allow myself to cheat. No additional characters coming in at the last minute. No deus ex machina. It's up to the characters to figure it out based on what has already been established in the story. Often that's even harder for me than it is for the characters.

I think that when it comes down to it, I see life as one big jigsaw puzzle, and the purpose of life is to put it all together. I know we'll never have all the pieces, so it will never be completely finished. But you can still end up with a pretty good picture.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The future of independent publishing: guest post by Dan O'Brien

Today I'm pleased to have another guest here at Dag-Lit Central. Dan O'Brien is presenting his thoughts on the future of independent publishing.

The Future of Independent Publishing

The digital craze that has grasped the minds of potential writers the world over appears to be something more nuanced, more original than at any other point in publishing history. That much is not in dispute. What is fascinating about such an idea, and all ideas that center on what publishing is going to do next, is something more foundational.

What do we mean when we say publishing?

Is there an entity to which we pay homage like the idols of the past (or present)? Or do we mean what is the normative trend in how writers publish their works at this given time? If it is the former, I hope that you can see through my thinly veiled sarcasm and see that it was meant as a jape. I imagine, if I am to correctly collect the collective consciousness of writers united, that we mean to work out the trend that currently afflicts how we seek out the publication of our stories––the great labors of love into which hours, day, weeks, and years are poured.

I see the future of our great collected endeavor doing what it has done since the inception of thought to print: it will continue. There is but a single constant in this vast universe and that is change. Independent publishing will change; hark, it has already changed from the black mark of POD and vanity publishing to something more promising––a participatory jungle of would-be writers swinging about on vines like Burroughs’ brilliant character before Disney turned him into a grunting hippie.

Writers in this climate must examine themselves first: understand what it is about them as individuals that make them worth listening to. When we have overcome the suffocating fear of introspection, the deeper examination of what skills we might deploy to achieve our goals become forefront in our mind. There is much more, but that is the stuff of another book that a business colleague and I are writing.

To sum it up: success comes from within mediated by sound and calculated choices executed toward a clear end. The fine proprietor of this blog was kind enough to allow to rant from a spell, and I have done so, albeit briefly. Here are some tidbits that this writer would like to see you help with:

I have launched a Kickstarter that at this moment is a far cry from being funded. A science fiction and fantasy epic with proper illustrations from a frustrated and brilliant artist is what awaits you, were you of course to extend the most meager of donations.

A Kickstarter Needs Funding

With that, I bid you adieu.

If you wish to learn more about me and my ramblings, search no more.

About the author

A psychologist, author, philosopher, freelance editor, and skeptic, Dan O’Brien has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Portent, The Path of the Fallen, Book of Seth, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog at

He has recently started a literary and publishing consulting business to help writers navigate the digital jungle. Find out more about Amalgam:

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Five pieces of writing advice you should completely ignore

A while back, I put up a post decrying the writing police and all those rules about writing they're constantly posting up in various places all around.

Did it make any difference? Did all of those posts describing the various rules and regulations for writing disappear on the spot? Did it immediately stop the posting of any further advice of this nature?

Of course it didn't. Since then, I've seen lots more posts of this nature. Do this and do that. This is what makes good writing. And so on and so on and so on.

So, in the spirit of 'if you can't beat them, join them', I've decided it's time for me to post my five key rules about writing.

Here we go:
  1. Don't give your books cryptic names that don't help readers make sense out of them. Names like Doodling and Scribbling and Magnus Opum. Let's face it, they're just plain silly.
  2. Don't confuse people by mixing genres - especially adding humour into the mix. Think of fantasy for instance - we all know it's meant to be big and grand and serious. Adding jokes just makes it all sound silly.
  3. Don't write something with broad appeal across age groups. Adults read adult books and kids read kids books. There's no crossover allowed. As for all those grownups reading Harry Potter on the train, well they're obviously a figment of your imagination.
  4. Don't write the things you want to write. There's a whole audience out there. Actually, it's not an audience, it's a market (or so I've been told). You better go and find out exactly what they want to read before you begin writing a word. Maybe you'd better ask each one individually. And there sure are a lot of them, so you'd better get started.
  5. I couldn't think of a fifth rule, but everyone knows rules have to come in multiples of five. You can't have four rules of anything. Nobody's going to pay attention to that. So just to ensure you pay attention to the rules above, I've added this non-existent fifth rule.
There you have it. The five clear, inarguable rules for writing. Now that you've read them, please feel free to completely ignore them.
I know I will.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Time to hit the off switch?

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the problem I was having with blogger's block.

In that post, I mentioned that I wasn't having any problems with writer's block. In fact, at the moment I seem to be having the opposite problem.

I'm not sure what you'd call it. Writer's unblock? No, too boring. Writer's diarrhea? That's kind of disgusting.

Whatever you might want to call it, it's still a problem. I just can't stop the ideas flowing. At the moment, as I've already mentioned more than a number of times, I have three works in progress:
  • The new Neville Lansdowne story
  • My detective story
  • My other YA-ish fantasy story (to be honest, I've got no idea how to categorise it).
That's three different stories that are constantly percolating through my head. Three different sets of ideas. And that's not all.

Every day, no matter what I'm doing, I'll get more ideas coming in. Ideas for long stories and short stories and stories of any length in between. When I'm sitting down to eat or travelling on the tram or (especially) when I'm trying to get to sleep, they just creep up and pounce.

I don't know what to do about them all. I try to keep records and write them all down, but I know I'll never get the chance to work on them all. And when you get so many, it gets really hard to figure out which are the good ones worth following up and which are the ones better left alone.

I need more time. I need another me, so I can get more work done. I need my brain to just slow down a bit and stop throwing all these new ideas at me.

I think what I really need is a good dose of writer's block. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Sacrifice book tour: guest post by Coral Russell

Today I'm really thrilled to have a good friend, Coral Russell, as a visitor. Coral is one of the founders of The Indie Exchange, and an excellent writer in her own right. Today, as part of her Sacrifice Book Tour, she's telling us (or rather, showing us) how drugs get into the US. 

Once you're done watching the video, come over to the tour home page for a chance to win great prizes including gift cards and a Kindle Fire.

How Drugs Get into the United States


This video is a graphic representation of how drugs are smuggled into the U.S. On the Juarez border alone it's an estimate forty to sixty billion dollar business. The only issue I have is the majority of the drugs, ninety percent, comes from Mexico.

On the El Paso side, which doesn't have the violence that Mexico does, it's at least a multi-million dollar business because the drugs and money have to sit and wait for distribution. El Paso makes large drug seizures of three hundred thousand pounds or more but it is still a drop in the bucket compared to the overall amount that makes it into the U.S.

Sacrifice blurb

When Mexican drug cartels fight for control along the border, Juarez becomes the murder capital of the world. In El Paso, Texas it's drug business as usual: a grifter sets out to buy her freedom, a car salesman runs drugs to make his fortune, a gang leader battles to rise among the ranks of the cartel, and a detective and his wife are ripped apart by a family secret. Everyone's fate lies in the hands of an old woman. Will she let the past die with her or take revenge the only way she knows how?

Sacrifice is a fast-paced, gritty story that'll keep you guessing, gasping, and gripping your eBook.

Now available from Amazon.

Author bio

Coral Russell runs the blog where she reviews Indie books/authors. "By the end of 2013, I will have read close to 300 Indie titles. I can vouch that the quality and diversity of Indie authors is worth investing in." On the blog you can find links to her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+ and email.

The Indie Exchange is a group of authors, readers, and book bloggers who post reviews, articles, and giveaways. Listen in Fridays to our radio show at

Ms. Russell won the 2003 McCaleb Peace Initiative which produced the non-fiction articles Peace on the Peninsula. All profit from the sale of that eBook goes to rebuilding Joplin, MO.

Titles available: Amador Lockdown, Playing with Fire (Devil of a Ghost Tour and Key to a Haunting), Peace on the Peninsula, The DIY Guide to Social Media Marketing and eBook Publishing, and Twelve Worlds (profit goes to Reading is Fundamental).

Monday, 11 March 2013

The birth of a character: guest post by Karen Pokras Toz

This is a busy week here at Dag-Lit Central. Today I'm please to announce a special guest, Karen Pokras Toz, who's paying me a visit as part of her Nate Rocks the School tour.

The Birth of A Character


Today, Jonathan asked me to talk about what makes my writing stand out from the crowd. While I love my story lines, I truly believe it’s my characters who capture my readers more than anything else.

Writing characters is not always easy. Every time I start to write a new character, I struggle. My mind, while it has a general idea of who this new character will be, has trouble closing out characters already written. I’ll often find myself yelling out loud, “Go away!” to the characters who keep trying to sneak back in. (Didn’t you know all writers are a tiny bit crazy?)

Eventually they leave, but just how do you create characters who have their own unique personality? For me, writing characters is an exercise in observation.

Almost all of my characters are based upon real people who have crossed my path at one time or another. I like to take people’s personalities and stretch them out to extremes. It sounds painful, but my goal is to make them into “that guy.” You all know who I’m talking about, right? I guarantee that everyone who reads this has a “that guy (or girl)” in their life. You know - the dad who tells the same childhood stories over and over ... and over, or the teenage sister who is a royal, whiny pain? How about the classmate who know everything about everything? Or the little brother who want to be in all your stuff? The next door neighbor who talks to much? Or the mom who buys everything on sale and in bulk? Yup, these are all characters in my books.

The thing about them is that they are not only fun to write; they are also fun to read. That’s because as readers, we can all relate to them – they may even be similar to you – or me. I’ve had lots of people ask me who my characters are based on. Well, in the interest of preserving my relationships, I refuse to say. Sorry about that. However, in my Nate Rocks series, Nathan’s mom is an abysmal failure at everything domestic, despite her best efforts. It’s perhaps a tiny bit possible that this character may or may not be based upon yours truly. Hypothetically speaking, of course. That’s all I’m saying.

As you can see, creating characters can be tricky. In the end however, if I’ve made you or your child smile, I’ve done my job.


Nate Rocks Is At It Again . . .

According to Nathan Rockledge, fifth grade has plenty of perks. Oh sure, there’s more work and that know-it-all, Lisa Crane, is still around – but, there’s a lot to look forward to as well: a laser tag birthday party, baseball at recess, and even a cool Halloween dance. Of course, all of that means nothing without the biggest perk of all . . . the class trip to New York City in the spring. If Nathan’s class can raise enough money to go, that is.

Give Nathan paper and a pencil and watch as his imagination turns him into Nate Rocks, hero and fifth grade super star. With adventures abound, Nate saves the day time and again. But will Nate be able to save the fifth grade trip?

Join Nathan, his hilarious family, and his friends, as he rocks the school in another fun Nate Rocks adventure. 

Pick up your copy at Amazon and B&N

Author Bio

Karen Pokras Toz lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and three children. Karen’s middle grade childrens’ novels: Millicent Marie Is Not My Name and the Nate Rocks series, have won several awards including First Place for Children’s Chapter Books and the Grand Prize Overall in the 2012 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, as well as placing first for a Global E-Book Award for Pre-Teen Literature. Karen is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Her first adult contemporary novel, invisible, will be released this summer. For more information, please visit


Facebook: htp://
Barnes & Noble:

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Challenge, focus, creative solution, completion

At the moment, I'm sitting at my desk, looking at a little cartoon.

It's one I drew myself. Not that I'm making any claims to being a cartoonist, or for that matter a visual artist of any kind. But sometimes, I quite like to draw stuff.

The cartoon is split into four separate panes:

1. The challenge
2. The focus
3. The creative solution
4. The completion.

I didn't make up the titles. Many years ago I attended a problem-solving workshop as part of my job, and these were the titles of the four sessions which described the four stages of problem-solving.

I didn't love this workshop. To be honest, anything that involves me sitting down while other people stand up and go blah blah blah is not something that I love. So, during the first session, the challenge session, I began to draw. Vaguely aware of what the presenter was droning on about, I began to draw my own little challenge. It's a golfer, standing on the edge of a cliff, about to hit a golf ball. The flag is located on a small island, a tiny stack poking at from the water quite a distance away.

Once I had this picture drawn, I had figured out a strategy that would allow me to survive the rest of the workshop. I would draw a little cartoon to illustrate each part of the problem solving strategy my golfer would use to solve the problem of getting the ball into the hole. I'm not going to tell you what that was (maybe I'll scan the pics and put them up for a subsequent post if people are interested) but I can tell you it did involve a rather helpful whale.

These cartoons really struck a chord with me when I noticed them recently, because in some ways they encapsulates the important aspects of writing to me. Most of my stories involve a character facing a problem (the challenge), taking the time to comprehend what that problem involves (the focus), finding a way to solve the problem (the creative solution) and finally enjoying the satisfaction of a problem solved (the completion).

It's more than just the characters. It's also about the way I go about writing a story. It's like I give myself a problem and then try to figure out the best way to solve it. And I can't always rely on helpful whales to come to my assistance. But that's where I frequently get the most enjoyment from the whole writing process.

Have a great week, and hope you find solutions to all your problems.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Book blast - Nate Rocks the School

Ok - today I'm doing something a little different. To celebrate the release of Karen Pokras Toz's new book, Nate Rocks the School, I'm participating in a Book Blast!

What is a book blast? I'm not completely sure myself. But read on and I'm sure we'll both be able to figure out the answer...

Nate Rocks is at it again...

The highly anticipated third installment of the Nate Rocks series is here! 

According to Nathan Rockledge, fifth grade has plenty of perks. Oh sure, there’s more work and that know-it-all, Lisa Crane, is still around – but, there’s a lot to look forward to as well: a laser tag birthday party, baseball at recess, and even a cool Halloween dance. Of course, all of that means nothing without the biggest perk of all . . . the class trip to New York City in the spring. If Nathan’s class can raise enough money to go, that is.

Give Nathan paper and a pencil and watch as his imagination turns him into Nate Rocks, hero and fifth grade super star. With adventures abound, Nate saves the day time and again. But will Nate be able to save the fifth grade trip?

Join Nathan, his hilarious family, and his friends, as he rocks the school in another fun Nate Rocks adventure.

Pick up your copy at Amazon and B&N!

Chat with Karen Pokras Toz today at 10:30 am  EST and then follow the Nate Rocks the School Tour for appearances by the author and characters, reviews, and swag pack giveaways!

Nate Rocks the School Tour 
Grand Prize Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A GWR Publicity Event. Sponsored by Karen Pokras Toz.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Banging my head against a wall

Oh no. I've got blogger's block. Again.

Blogger's block is not the same as writer's block. I don't have any problem at all with writer's block. In fact, I currently have multiple stories on the go, and I could quite easily sit down and work on any of them.

No, as far as the actual writing goes, I'm totally not blocked. You could even say I have writer's unblock - far too many story ideas and not enough time to write them all.

The problem I have is quite different. It's not related to any of the stories I'm working on. It's solely related to this blog and its contents. As far as this blog goes, I've totally run out of ideas to post.

It's been going on for a while. Every time I'm due for another post, I sit down and wrack my brain and see what I can come up with. So far, I've been able to bluff it. At the last minute, some tiny little shred of an idea has come up and I've been able to spin it out enough to make it look like something substantial. Last week, I was even able to take something from a comment someone left and build up something from that.

But today, the pretense is over. I'm revealed. I stand before you, naked and defenseless, unable to come up with any further excuses.

I've just got nothing. Nil, nada, bupkiss (I'm not even sure I spelt that right). I've tried everything. I've tried brainstorming and writing out ideas on a sheet of paper. I even had an extended session of banging my head against a wall. But still, I have nothing good to work with.

So to all of you out there, I apologise. Please don't abandon me. I'm sure I'll be able to work through this blogger's block eventually.

In the meantime, I'm off to bang my head against that wall again.