Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Free E-book Giveaway!

The first 20 people who sign up for the Jack Drew Newsletter below (over to the right) will receive a free copy of my new horror novel e-book, THE TAKEOVER. No catch. Just sign up below and when I receive the notification that you've subscribed, I'll send you the e-book.

That's it. Simple, simple, simple.

So, if you want a free copy of what will surely become one of the classic horror novels of the 2010's, sign up now!


Friday, November 5, 2010

The Takeover - Finally Released!!!

As of tonight, Screaming Aphony Press informed me that THE TAKEOVER has now officially been released on smashwords.com! It's available for Kindle, iPAD and most e-readers so go grab yourself a copy. You can get your copy here.


Chance Fordham is offered a dream job: a six figure salary and a house in an exclusive neighborhood filled with his coworkers. With no more debt to speak of, this job sounds like a dream come true for Chance and his wife.

But soon, what started out sounding perfect degrades into a horrifying microcosm of terror. His neighbors aren't what they seem. The Company is hiding secrets that should best stay hidden. His job is not what it seems. And Chance's marriage is falling apart.

The Company is evil.

He just never knew HOW evil.

If your a fan of Bentley Little, I think you're really going to like this one, too. It's dark, eerie and full of bizarre events that will make you squirm in your chair. I'm really excited that THE TAKEOVER is finally available and I couldn't be prouder. I hope you like it, too.

And, as always, please feel free to e-mail me with your comments or leave a review on smashwords.com. PS - the book will soon be available through Barnes & Noble, Apple's iBookstore and other premium outlets. And I'm also investigating a print run. More news on this in the future.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Poor Novel! (Not THAT One)

In July, I purchased a Pandigital Novel-a 7 inch touchscreen e-reader. In short, it's amazing. I can read epub-formatted books AND I (or rather my 5yr old) can play Angry Birds on it. This thing is so great I got my wife one and her friend and mom got one, too. So, I've been pretty supportive of this company from Day 1.

Recently, it dropped from my coffee table to the floor while safe and snug in its faux leather cover. Unfortunately, this was no protection. The glass cracked, rendering the device useless.

I have to say, after talking to a manager at Pandigital, I am very happy with the outcome. This issue could have turned out poorly and I could have ended up footing the bill for a new e-reader. Instead, they are taking the unit back under warranty and issuing me a replacement.

Thank you, Pandigital! And a special thank you to Sue Hyland, the manager I spoke with-she is a great example of customer service.

If you're in the market for an economical e-reader, them head to Kohl's or Bed Bath & Beyond and get yourself one. They are a real pleasure to use and, from my experience, the company values its customers.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Writing Tips: Minimizing Distractions and Getting Organized

I've got a gazillion ideas for stories. A gazillion. And, if you're writing mind works at all like mine, you do, too. You've got a noggin full of ideas that you can't wait to write.

And you want to write them all. Who doesn't? They're all great ideas! But let's face facts: you're simply not going to be able to write all the ideas you've come up with in your lifetime. It's just simple mathematics.

However, there are a few simple things you, as a writer, can do to ensure you get to the important ones and I've got a few suggestions to help you get there.

Three key strategies will help you be more productive:

  1. Minimizing Distractions

  2. Organizing Priorities

  3. Embracing New Technologies so you can be more productive

Let's look at these strategies:

1. Minimizing Distractions


OK – If you have kids, you're completely on your own here. (I'm kidding, I'm kidding). Trying to find free time where kids are involved is like trying to performing a leeching on yourself-even if you're successful, it's going to end up bloody.

However, in my house, we have a fairly standard bed time and, for the most part, the children are in bed by 8pm. I know not everyone believes in that kind of rigidity, but the routine works for us. So, basically, after doing chores around the house, my free time starts around 8:30 or 9. But therein lies the problem: most of my free time was taken up with distractions.

So, I sat down one day and went through my daily routine and sought out the distractions that sucked up my time. Then I did the same for my weekly routine.

I found that my biggest distractions so far were work from my day job, the Internet, Television shows I wanted to watch and books I wanted to read. In order for me to set aside writing time (and make the most use of it), I needed to minimize these distractions.


Distraction 1: As I've pointed out before, I've disconnected myself from the Internet when I'm writing.

I have a removable wireless card I can remove. You, if you have more modern technology, should be able to turn your wireless card off or simply stop your network from connecting (consult your local nerd). This will guarantee you start to be more productive. When eliminate the constant droning sound of the Information Super Highway out your window, you will find you hear your inner voice a lot better.

Distraction 2: When it comes to work from my day job spilling over to my free time—I've drawn a line in the sand and I try very hard to make other people's problems just that: their problems and not mine. I work on emergency items that directly affect me or my team and that's it. If there's some other emergency that affects some other department, so be it. I try very hard not to let it become my issue.

Distraction 3: As for the television shows, I've embraced technology (and coughed up an extra 10 bucks a month) for a DVR. I record shows all week long when they're on and watch them when I deem it TV time, rather than have TV suck up all my free time (after 8pm each night).

I've designated a specific night for catching up when I can. If I can't, then I tell myself “oh well” - after all, who's words are more important to me? Mine that I'm creating? Or another writer's that got himself a career writing for a network television? If you answered anything other than “mine”, you need to rethink your status as a writer. I'm sorry, it sounds selfish. I know. But it's true. Your work has GOT to be the most important thing to you.

Distraction 4: I've set aside time in my schedule to read. That time is maybe a half hour or so before I go to sleep. If I don't have any writing pressing on a given day, I might take designated writing time to read. But for the most part, again, you need to determine where the line is and think about what's more important to you: your words or someone else's. This is why I try to keep a separate time for reading, so I don't have that problem.

Once I minimized the impact of my distractions, I was then able to start to organize my schedule and take command of my writing time.

2. Organizing Priorities

First, I took a look through all my notebooks to find the story ideas that were most important to me. And guess what, folks? Not every idea I wrote down was awesome. Not every plot or story that blew through my mind and I wrote down was a winner. I'm sure if you were to honestly review a lot of your ideas, you'd find a lot more of them should be tossed over your shoulder into the pickle barrel, rather than ever see the light of day on paper.

I took all the stories and ideas that were important to me and listed them out. I did this for two reasons: 1) I wanted to make sure that, during a second review (wherein I write them down) they were still as good as I thought. It turns out, I still dropped some.

2) I wanted to write them down because I wanted to take a close look at how much effort it would take to bring the effort to completion.

After writing the best ideas down, I went ahead and prioritized them, factoring in how complete they were and also how appropriate they were to what I wanted to accomplish as a writer.

What do I mean by that? Well, There are some writers out there who want to write anything. Some writers want to be science fiction writers. Some want to be only known as “dark fantasy” writers.

I'm a horror author. It's what I dig on. It's what I know best.

So, I prioritized my projects, based on what fit into my being a horror author. Sure enough, two projects that I still think about heavily moved to the lower part of the list. Why? Because their sci-fi stories. I'm not saying I won't write them. I'm just saying I won't write them right now.

So, I left myself with 3 projects and a timeframe for completion on each.

I had successfully organized my projects schedule. I knew what I was going to write. Now what?

3. Embracing New Technologies So You Can Be More Productive

Maybe you're not like me, but, since I'm a writer, a lover of words, a collector of books, I don't like change.

I like things as they are – I like them to stay the same. I distrust technology and changes to technology. I dislike change in tried and true things. A good friend of mine got a Kindle one day and, as he showed it to me, I heard words coming out of my mouth that sounded simply stupid. I scoffed at the device as one of the most useless things I'd ever seen. Now, truth be told, I'm still biased against a one-trick pony such as the Kindle. I like devices I buy to be able to do more than one thing.

But here's where I heard myself being absolutely stupid: I bristled against the technology before I even gave it a chance.

So, I recently stopped bristling against new technologies (and we all do it, too, admit it, we all feel the hackles on the back of our neck raise up when someone shows us something with which we are unfamiliar). I took a step back and realized that no matter what, smarter people than I invented some of the tools I'm going to tell you about and they did it to make their lives better. My life could probably benefit from it, too. I'm betting, so can yours.

Technology 1: DVR - Ok – so I embraced DVR technology to free up my night time and turn it into writing time. Easy enough. No need to delve any further. Record stuff like a VCR and watch it when you like. Easy Peasy.

Technology 2: Evernote/SmartPhone – If you're a writer, you have ideas. Those ideas come and those ideas go. You could be sitting at your job, have the best idea on the planet for a successful series of fantasy novels about a dragonfly who battles field mice and then your boss comes along and tells you that there's a big meeting where you're being blamed for some customer's oversight. Guess what? I doubt you're thinking about the dragonfly anymore. Chances are, you've forgotten most of the dragonfly story and you'll never get it back.

This is where Evernote comes in. Evernote is a notebook-type application for the PC, Mac and Linkmost smartphones. This last option is key for myself. I have a Blackberry Storm and I constantly use the app to enter ideas about dragonflies and field mice into it before some other distraction comes along. It allows me to basically perform a brain dump to the Internet. I then take 15 minutes at the beginning of my free time each night to review the notes and organize them a bit.

Technology 3: Google Calendar Seriously, if you're not using Google Calendar to organize your schedule, you really need to think hard as to why. Like I said above, I used to bristle at new technologies. This was one of them. “Why would I need to organize my time and enter appointments?”

Why? Two words: Free Time.

I didn't have it before. I used to fritter away my time. Now, I have organized all my chores in my Google Calendar and synced it to my phone. Everything I have to do in a week has an appointment. If a scheduled appointment comes up, I take care of it right away. This way, I get in the good habit of sticking to my schedule FOR EVERYTHING.

What comprises a scheduled appointment? ANYTHING AT ALL.

Gotta pick up your kids from school? Make an appointment.

Want to set aside free time during lunch? Make an appointment.

Have to go to DMV? Make an appointment.

Want to outline some book idea but want to squeeze it in while watching kids at the park? Make an appointment.

Let me show you a typical day on my Google Calendar:

8:30am – 5:00pm – Work

3:30pm – Pick up rugrat from school

(I usually leave dinnertime and playtime with the kids open)

7:00pm-10:00pm – New York Rangers at Ottawa

8:30pm – 8:45 – Check email, twitter, Evernote

8:45pm – 10:00pm - Write Insert to Takeover #4

10:00pm – 11:00pm - Brainstorm

I know this sounds like an extreme way of organizing your day but, trust me. It helps a lot. You firm up your routine and you'll see your creative output grow greatly.

Technology 4: Dropbox – I used to struggle with keeping versions of drafts of files. There were days I didn't know which version of a story was where. On my laptop? Did I stick it in a Gmail to myself? I could never remember.

Now, with Dropbox, you don't have to.

Dropbox is a web-based service that allows you to keep files “in the cloud” (read: on the Internet) but they appear on your PC as files on your hard drive. Edit them, copy them, do with them what you will, but they are versioned and stored off-line, on dropbox.com.

This service is great because I can use it on the laptop or, if I had an iPhone, I can use it on the phone. I had a catastrophic blowout the other day and lost an entire file. What could have been a blood-pressure-rising event, actually turned out to be a quick login at dropbox.com and, using their services, I was able to restore the previous version of a file in the blink of an eye. No ulcer. No pain. Just a quick restore and I was back in business.

Now, I use it as the primary storage for my writing. Dropbox is like a safe deposit box for important files. They give you 2gb of free storage to start with and, for Word or OpenOffice files, that's more than enough for most people's lifetimes.

Conclusion: If you're a writer who needs to find free time to write, don't bristle at new technologies that are out there. Use them to your benefit and you'll see that you will definitely start to produce more when it comes to manuscripts.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Simplicity and the Art of Writing

No, this isn’t a diatribe on how to craft the perfect sentence or anything like that. This is going to be a short discussion on how to simplify the how of your writing, rather than the mechanics of crafting fiction.

I don’t know about you, but I used to spend an inordinate amount of time setting up things before diving into a task. My wife used to say I’d procrastinate but it was something more distinct than that. I wasn’t procrastinating because I didn’t want to do my work. Hell, writing was supposed to be a fun task, right?

But whenever it came to free time, I should have found myself sitting down, writing fiction. Inevitably, however, I'd find myself messing around with my laptop, my mp3 player or some other piece of hardware or software. In essence, hours would go by and I’d pop my head up and it would be time for bed, all my free time frittered away.

Lately, I’ve simplified a lot of what I do. I’ve pared down my hobbies (I used to have a fair number), I’ve focused my free time on three things: 1) chores and tasks around the house [garbage, pool maintenance, lawn]; 2) my wife and kids [picking them up from school, etc] and 3) writing fiction. In order to focus on these 3 things, I’ve simplified how I do them so that I can keep on track.

For the chores and tasks around the house and the kids’ schedules, I’ve taken my Blackberry, synced my calendar up with Google Calendar and add EVERY scheduled nuance into it. So, if I need to leave work early to pick up my kids from school, it’s in my calendar and a reminder pops up 15 minutes beforehand.

I live and die by this calendar. Everything that makes up my life is in it. It syncs seamlessly between the Google Calendar and the Blackberry. I never used to focus so hard on things like this. I used to think they were for control freaks. Now, I realize I have to stop generalizing and realize that these tools are there to help me. I even schedule my writing time in there to be reminded. I love that this little process helped streamline a lot of my life and help me identify free time.

For keeping up with the writing, I’ve decided to pare down the distractions that used to keep me away from accomplishing it. For instance, I’ve gotten myself an old laptop with a wireless card I can remove. This way, I pop it out and I can’t get online. If I can’t get online, I can’t get distracted with Twitter or my blog or what Lindsey Lohan’s doing or what new books came out this week or what Seth Green had for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, all those are interesting things (I'm writing this blog, right?). But they’re complete and utter distractions from getting work done.

I simplified my writing environment to include this gnarly old laptop, running Ubuntu 10.04 (a Linux operating system that’s FREE) and OpenOffice for word processing. I don’t bother with a ton of writing tools. I don’t have a big support system of software. I listen to tunes with Exaile and I occasionally IM with people using Pidgin. And through a marvelous tool called pidgin-musictracker, I can combine the two to show people what I’m listening to. My point is this: I’ve pared down the entire writing experience to a crusty laptop that’s still portable (and light), and a word processor.

Welcome to 1987. I’ve basically thrown myself back to the days when I wrote my stories on an old IBM Selectric III my grandfather brought home from RCA when it was going to be replaced. Except I can tote this particular word processor around a bit more easily.

Yes, it weighs more than it looks like it does!

My friend Mike Oliveri’s got it right. He says here that you have to write whenever you get a moment to do it. EVEN IN A HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM. He’s right. You take every free minute you can and devote it to what you care about. For me, I recently realized that what I care about are the 3 things listed above: the home, the wife and kids and writing. Everything else is secondary. (OK, hockey might be nudged in there with writing, but it doesn’t take away from the writing, so we’re still ok there!)

I keep that beat up laptop with me everywhere I go. Anytime might be a good time to write and having a quick-loading laptop with minimal software (for ease of use) is a good thing. And when it’s inappropriate to have an old Compaq N620c under your arm, I have my Blackberry and Evernote to dump ideas into. Just last night, I went out to pick up some food at Friday’s. I had an idea gnawing at me for a few hours so I sat down under one of their incredibly bright, weird star-shaped lights and punched that idea into Evernote. That got it out of my mind and into a place I can see it again later.

I wanted to share these ideas with you because, if you're like me, there's never a good time to write. I'm currently putting this little blog post together on that laptop while watching my kids. You've gotta make the time, if you're going to have output.

Write when you can, where you can, HOWEVER you can. Write because that’s who you are and writing is what’s important to you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Wrap

Tonight, I completed my rewrites on THE TAKEOVER. I've still got a few more new scenes I want to write and insert into it, but, for the most part, the novel is finished.

I'm excited, too. It's been a fun process to revisit this novel and it's helped reinvigorate me with a newfound love of horror and the craft of writing, in general. I'm very relieved to get to the end of a novel. This is a process I started a while back and I was unsure if I'd succeed in completing it. But, sure enough, I've been able to finish this particular task and it's given me a kind of focus for future tasks.

Anyway, I'll be taking the day off tomorrow, enjoying it with the family. But maybe tomorrow night I'll be able to put the stake in the heart of at least one of those new scenes I was talking about.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Wrap

This weekend I took the kiddies to Six Flags' Safari where our windshield wipers were pecked by an ostrich and the family truckster was impeded by a giraffe in the middle of the road. The more entertaining part of the trip through the safari was listening to the rangers/guides yell at every single New York license plate to "roll up your window! And STOP FEEDING THE ANIMALS!!!"

I got very little writing done this weekend (about 1,400 words [all done this evening]). However, what I did get done was completely unexpected and THAT is the greatest feeling for an author--writing something that you didn't even plan out. When the writing takes on a life of its own, that's the sweetest feeling ever.

Both the wife and I got official faux leather book covers for our PanDigital Novels. We apparently did this just in time for my wife's to take an unscheduled leap down a few stairs this morning. Luckily, the cover protected the e-Reader and it works just fine.

I'm just about done with my overhaul of THE TAKEOVER--maybe another week or so of pushing like hell and then it'll just be a matter of fiddling with the edges a little bit.

Luckily, we're coming up towards NaNoWriMo (the month of November), which I'll be participating in and using the time to finish similar rewrites to THE COMPLEX. It'll be a hefty task, but I'm feeling good enough to take it on.

Talk to you during the week!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Takeover Update

I've been hard at work writing some new material for THE TAKEOVER and submitting it to my editor at Screaming Aphony Press. The book should be completely edited and ready for publishing in two weeks. Which means, it will most likely be published in just a little over three weeks.

I'm really excited for this release because of two reasons.

#1 - You, The Reader, get the opportunity to finally read my fiction - something I've been incredibly lazy in terms of publishing.

#2 - This is the first in a couple of releases coming from Screaming Aphony. I'm hoping to keep to a schedule of a couple books released each year, which means more dark horror for The Reader and more fun beating on my antique laptop's keyboard for a little while longer. :)

So, keep checking back and there will, indeed be fanfare when the book is released!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Special Surprise Release!

Hey All,

Today, Screaming Aphony Press released my long-form story, THE CORRUPT at Smashwords. And as a gift to you, the reader, the story is FREE.

That's right. Kindle, Nook, iPad. You name it, you can download it--FOR FREE.
Tell your friends! Tell your coworkers! Leave a copy on your parents' Windows Desktop, for good measure.

THE CORRUPT is a weird western that blends the horror, fantasy and western genres together in a story that's already been given 5 stars by perfect strangers. :)

It's the first in a five or six story arc that will follow Hell as he continues his quest to find Kelsis, the dark force that's lived a thousand lifetimes. I'll be releasing each one of these through Screaming Aphony. Here's your chance to get in on the ground floor of an epic tale the likes of which have yet to be seen!

Be Seeing You!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Workin' Weekend

I took the kids to the park this morning and played sentry while they darted around three separate playground gym sets. Now, I'm sitting in my backyard, sipping some iced coffee (carefully, the root canal I have tomorrow can't come soon enough) and writing on my laptop.

I'm pushing real hard to get this novel out for a September release and the rewrites I'm working on are really creative workarounds for some fundamental problems I found in the manuscript for THE TAKEOVER.

I'm hoping to have most of the rewrites in place by end of this week and then it's off to the editor for a once-over. After that, I'll be prowling around online, starting promotion (as soon as I have a release date).

Watch this space! Updates soon!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Uneasy Future of Our Art

It is a turbulent time for the publishing industry and everyone involved (even in the periphery) are perking up their ears and paying attention to the goings on.

Barnes & Noble recently put themselves up for sale. Borders is floundering. Amazon is touting that e-book sales have surpassed sales of hardcover books for the first time ever. Dorchester Publishing just announced that they will no longer be publishing mass market paperbacks and will now be pursuing an e-book distribution model. (Dorchester has called this move a “transition” in its press release but, with the suddenness of this move and the speed with which they have let their editorial staff go, the 2 week knee-jerk reaction could only be called a “transition” as much as an abortion could.)

With all that’s going on in the industry, it’s easy to understand why a lot of people have begun to cry “the end is nigh!” and we are on the precipice of the end of publishing as we know it. I, personally, don’t think that’s true and I think it’s inflammatory and ill-informed to say so.

We are at a precipice, I’ll agree. But it’s not so high up and it’s not so scary. Up until now, the creation of content (words, thoughts, ideas, books, etc) has always been controlled by a select few (publishing houses) and then released into the public. This has always led to a bottleneck for creative works (as I see it) as there has always been a percentage of the target audience (you and me) whose prose probably is as good (or sometimes better) than what the publishing houses has let out into the world. However, the literary gatekeepers of the world have decided (for one reason or another) that those works were not good enough for the public. The Small Press helped in this regard somewhat, but not to a great extent. While we've all been introduced to some previously unknown talent by one small press publisher or another, the impact of these has vastly been unfelt, unfortunately.

Our industry (book publishing, specifically) is in a transition period. We are about to enter an era where the content (books, music, etc) will be produced by many, available to all and it will be up to the audience to determine whether what has been produced is good or not. Those novels that are good (even if self-published through such places as smashwords or lulu) will find an audience. Word-of-mouth will happen, no matter what. It’s just what we do as humans. People love to tell other people about the books they are reading or the newest band they just found. You can't get through a lunch with friends without hearing the phrase "Oh! You know what I just read?" or "You have GOT to hear this band!"

As a matter of fact, the publishing industry is going through the same growing pains the music industry did a few years ago. The process might look a little different and it may, in fact, scare the hell out of a lot of people, but don’t worry. We’ll get through it.

Digital content was a new and scary world for the music industry not so long ago. And what happened to them? They created new business models to work with the changing tastes of its audience and success is now being had. Since they can’t make as much money on albums, songs, etc, they are now getting more involved in merchandising and publishing: things they weren’t too interested in before, help their business models now. We, as an industry, simply have to do the same thing. Get through this transition period and find the business model that ensures success. We’ll get there, eventually.

In the near future, there are going to be more and more books published by authors who have decided that “Hey, I can publish an e-book!”. Some of those are going to be good. Real good. (One of my favorite novels of all time is DEAD IN THE WEST by Joe Lansdale, originally published by Space & Time. While not the true definition of self-published, you simply CANNOT tell me that Gordon Linzner (Editor Emeretus of Space & Time) had the same resources as, say, HarperCollins. It just ain’t true! I wish he did!) And some of those self-published books are just gonna stink. Really bad. Like an Oldsmobile after Mischief Night.

It’s really an exciting time, if you think about it. You are going to see more and more already established authors turn to the new medium and use it to their advantage. At the same time, you’re going to see new and unpublished authors start to dip their toe in the publishing ocean the same way. Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels) has a great model for using digital content to further interest in his work.

His new project, How to Destroy Angels, released an EP in July for free. 6 songs for you to listen to and get to know the new sound. If you dig it, he’s expecting you’ll pony up the cash for the LP when it comes out in 2011. In his words in this video, “I gave this EP of the new band away because it wasn’t a huge work … It was kind of an introduction. A sampler.”

An up-and-coming author can apply this kind of logic to publishing, as well. An unpublished author could effectively publish older (but still good—we still have to have some editorial credit—you can’t publish crap and expect it to sell. Okay, maybe you can) works and start to generate interest and create a brand name for themselves by publishing solid, mid-list works. If they do this through a service like smashwords, then they are able to do it profitably, as well.

You are about to see an explosion of artistry, my friends. We are on the edge of a tidal wave of output the likes of which has never before been seen. It will soon be easier to get books than ever before -- buying them in a blink of a digital eye mere hours after the author/editor has proofed their work.

Imagine how cool that could be.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


My wisdom tooth (left and wildly crooked) decided to move in on my 12 yr molar's territory. I'm not sure how I feel about a turf war going on in my gums.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Takeover - Coming in September

They were going to give him everything. A dream job. A house. Lots of money. Chance Fordham was finally moving up in the world. But soon weird things start happening at The Company.

Employees are disappearing.

Chance's neighbors aren't what they seem.

And worst of all, his marriage is crumbling apart.

The Company he works for is evil.

He just didn't know how evil.

Coming in September from Screaming Aphony Press, THE TAKEOVER will be released in ebook form for all electronic e-Reader devices: iPad, epub, .mobi, .lit.