Category Archives: Writing

Putting the “In Progress” in my WIP!


Took a few months off from blogging. Finished the Mussorgsky sequel, got it edited and pretty, and sent it off to my agent. Went from coast to coast selling books and spending QT with the prettiest girl in Charlotte. Holidays. Family and friends.

But I’m back…

Now, a little over a month into working on the third book and I just hit 15K. My stuff aims for the 100K mark, so I may hit the 1/5 point by next week. This new project is proving challenging and fun, two adjectives that always seem to go hand-in-hand when I sit down at the keyboard. Strange connections are magically forming as they have with the previous two books, characters are coming to life, and this trilogy is really coalescing well as the writing on this “finale” begins in earnest.

As for Book 2 and other projects, lots of stuff is going on behind the scenes, lots of new words are being created, and (hopefully) there’s going to be a lot of news coming up in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.

Happy 2016 to everyone. Two months in and it’s proving to be a pretty great year. Life is good.

And now, to quote Joey Tribbiani, “How you doin’?”




So, it occurred to me that being an author in the 21st century is a lot like being a gardener.

Your main crop is your novel. Like tomatoes, or any other plant, this needs sunlight and water (your time in the chair), fertilizer (time spent reading, with other writers, in critique groups, etc.), weeding (editing out those pesky adverbs, etc.) and eventually you take the product to market to sell.  But these days, it isn’t good enough to just grow good tomatoes. You have to tend to the zucchini (your Facebook), the squash (Twitter), and the strawberries (your website) as well as cater to your customers and make sure the environment around your various beds is clean and pleasant. It would be so easy if all you had to do was just grow your tomatoes, wouldn’t it? (not really, actually… growing tomatoes in this metaphorical exercise is actually quite hard… but I digress)

As of last week, I’m working to increase my gardening presence. My tomatoes are robust, I’m tending to my strawberries more, I’ve always been good at growing zucchini, but my squash skills are the pits – I can never remember to tweet – Hey, if I have something to say, I’ll say it! 😉

Add to that the green bean patch (Pinterest) which I’m trying to learn and all the other new plants I plan to check out (Reddit, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc.), and it seems like there’s not much time to grow tomatoes anymore.

My lesson from all this: Make sure you spend time on your tomatoes. That’s what you sell. Everything else is just to get people in the door.

In other words, I’ve been tending to other projects this week, but back at the editing this weekend for sure. We’ve got a book to launch and a whole bunch of tomato lovers to feed this fall/winter!

Have a great weekend everyone!


And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…


Or at least the moment I’ve been waiting for.

Disclaimer: These are the scrambled thoughts of a man who is simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted, triumphant and tired, dauntless and overwhelmed.

My writer’s group gathered last night around the incomparable Gail Martin for our monthly meeting to discuss publishing, marketing and other facets of this writing business. The talk surrounded such things as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Shelfari, Reddit, and others, but as always we started our gathering with announcements, and this month, boy did I have an announcement to make.

On 28 Feb 2014, Lisa Gus at Curiosity Quills Press contacted my agent, Stacey Donaghy, with an offer to publish The Mussorgsky Riddle. On 13 Mar 2014, we accepted her kind offer. It’s been a long haul, this hike from novice writer to not so novice writer, unagented to agented, unpublished to contracted with a publisher, and at every step, I’ve always repeated the same mantra.

Patience, Darin. Patience.

Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond thrilled and can’t wait to hold this book that took me over two years to complete in my hand, but having had a week for all of the excitement to sink in, I’ve thought a lot about the experience. I fully expected to sit down tonight and turn out a full-on Kool and the Gang, Celebrate Good Times blog post, but as I sit here and listen to the 80’s shuffle echoing from my AppleTV, I became a little nostalgic–I know… that never happens to me ;-)–and this is what came out.

I’ve read stories of all the “overnight” successes who have been working at their craft for years, and though I have done anything but “arrive,” I get it. I’ve been writing for almost exactly ten years now, having written the first word of Pawn’s Gambit as I sat in a MIG hangar in northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, back when I stared up at Mars and it’s baleful red eye every night and wondered about having the god of war look down on me as I stood on a battlefield. Since that time I’ve written two complete novels, am currently on the last chapter of a third, have written half of a fourth (the sequel to PG), written and published 19 short stories among six small publishers as well as a rare piece of fiction in Chess Life magazine, attended half a dozen writer’s conference, met countless authors through local, regional, and national writers groups, participated in (and ran for two years) a writers group with 500 members that critiques writers’ works twice per month, and led a successful small critique group out of my home for years. And all this with a full time job and still needing to sleep and eat occasionally. Oh, and watch The Walking Dead, of course.

The constant along the entire way and at every step: waiting.

Not all waiting is the same.

There is counterproductive waiting. Waiting till I had time to write. (honestly, med school and residency had a lot to do with that) Waiting till I felt like writing before sitting down at the computer. Waiting till I had everything all worked out in a story to actually put down words. Lots of stuff like that. As a dyed in the wool procrastinator, I know all about that kind of waiting.

Then there is productive waiting. Keeping your eye on the ball. Being in it to win it. Being patient. Waiting for the right story idea. The right word. The right ending. The right agent. The right publisher. Have I been impatient at times? Of course. But sometimes, good things actually do come to those who wait. Just the right kind of waiting, I believe.

There’s a lot to be said for patience, and I will need plenty more as I have no doubt that the waiting has just begun. I have just started the editing process to get my manuscript up to speed for CQ standards and I see more waiting on the horizon. Waiting for first edits. For second edits. For the cover. ARCs. First reviews. First sales. First royalties.

And starting the whole process over for the next book.

These are all good things to wait for, but as I sit here and take a deep breath, I realized one important thing.

You can’t just mope while you are waiting for the next step. You have to enjoy it.

Mountain top experiences are just that. Brief views of breathtaking beauty punctuating miles of often brutal hiking. But despite the blisters and leg cramps,  there is joy not only in the vistas from the mountaintops, but from the water of a valley stream, the green of the forest, the camaraderie of your fellow hikers. You have to enjoy the process, not just the highs, and when I look back, I can say that my hike has been a good one.

A few quick thank yous to my fellow hikers, because you can never say thank you enough.

To Lisa Gus at CQ for giving me a chance.

To my Captain, Stacey Donaghy, for being the absolute best advocate for my work I could have imagined. Oh Captain, my Captain, thank you.

To my friends among Charlotte Writers, for being my Charlotte family. You all are the best. Don’t ever forget it.

To other friends, both near and far, for a million things, many of which neither of us may even remember anymore.

To my family, for their LITERALLY never ending support. You are on every page.

To God, for giving me at least my fair share of patience.

And lastly, to one of my favorite movies, for teaching me five simple words: Never give up. Never surrender.

On another night, I will type my “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” post, but for tonight, thoughtful introspection is the order of the evening.


Good night! And remember, if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough. Now get out there and WRITE!

So what I told you was true, from a certain “point of view”

What starting a new novel feels like...

What starting a new novel feels like…

I haven’t looked, for I fear I would go down the rabbit hole only to reappear just before bedtime, but I suspect there are exactly  1 bazillion blogs out there on point of view and the advantages and disadvantages. My writer’s group and I were discussing this last night, and I thought I would take a moment to share my thoughts on the subject.

First – to anyone who is not familiar with what I’m talking about, point of view, or POV, is one of the basic characteristics of your storytelling for a particular story. You may remember some of this from your middle school and high school English classes. First person is “I did that,” second person is “you did that,” and third person is “he/she/it did that.” Then there is tense: “I do that” is present tense and “I did that” is past. I suppose “I will do that” is future, but if you anyone is out there writing in second person or future tense (or both – wow…) they are braver than me.

So, what’s the big deal? I basically wanted to share my story and where I’m at today.

The first thing I ever wrote since starting down this path called “WRITER” (i.e. not counting anything that I wrote prior to 2003) was my first novel, Pawn’s Gambit. A broad contemporary fantasy epic with a complex story, multiple characters both good and bad, and important things happening that my main character wasn’t privy to all but required third person. In a first person story, unless you are changing who the first person POV character is (which you can do, of course), you can’t see anything that is happening that your POV character isn’t present for in one way or another. This can be limiting, but also can help. My second novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is all first person, as it deals with the main character (a psychic detective of sorts) and how she perceives what is happening to her over the course of the story, both in the real world and in the mind of another character. My current novel is interesting, in that the source material I’m drawing from for inspiration was written in third person, past tense, and I’m writing my “version” of this story in first person present tense.

Another interesting thing I’ve discovered is that for me, third person lends itself very well to past tense and I have trouble doing it in present tense, though it can be done well. First person on the other hand sounds so much more pleasing in my head when I do it in present tense. It’s almost like the reader riding along and encountering the story with the character. So that third person past tense for first novel, and first person present tense for second and third novels. My short stories? Well, they’ve been all over the place, but it’s usually been one of the above. I contemplated doing my recent story, “The Eye of the Beholder,” (which was just picked up for Dark Hall Press’s Cosmic Horror Anthology) as second person, present tense, just to get the full gross out effect of the last page, but from what I understand, it’s hard to sell second person, so I stuck with what I knew.

The main thing I’ve learned? Likely there is a best POV for each story. It may be governed by what a particular writer is best at doing, but I believe it has mostly to do with the story you are trying to tell. Can you imagine trying to tell the story from Star Wars from a lone first person POV? Gah. Now admittedly, J.K. Rowling did an outstanding job keeping everything in the Potterverse down to only what Harry could see or what he was present for, but even then she went 3rd person, past tense with a close, non-omniscient narrator. If Harry didn’t know it or couldn’t figure it out, the narrator wouldn’t spill it. That’s one of the many things she did well in that series, and one of the many skills she brought to the table that made her series so successful.

Omniscient vs. Close is a discussion for another time. My friend, Jay, thinks that omniscient narrators may have their day again, but for now, third person POV out there seems to be sticking close to the focus characters senses and thoughts. Probably more of a trend than a rule. (It’s sold in the past. Don’t believe me? Go read some Tolkien.)

So, your homework. Take a look at your story. You may find, as I did with Mussorgsky a few years back when I was in about 10,000 words, that your third person past tense story is screaming out to be first person present tense. Don’t be afraid. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Just change almost every subject and verb for 30-50 pages, read it through a couple times, and drive on. If I can do it, so can you.

And now, I’m off to Starbucks, for some first person, present tense words are itching to fly out my fingers and onto the screen.

Happy Writing!