Mission Statement

Mission StatementI’ve been reading books on the craft and business of writing lately. One of the authors I’ve been reading is Susan Kaye Quinn, a successful, indie-published writer who creates YA fiction (and also writes a few craft-related books on the side). In particular, in her book, 10 Step Self-Publishing Boot Camp, she suggests that writers create a Mission Statement.

The basic idea is that the act of crafting a Mission Statement forces you to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing. It’s something you can revisit each year and modify as needed if your goals change. But it also becomes a metric by which activities can be measured: Does this task that I’m contemplating further my mission?

So, here’s my Mission Statement.


As a writer, I want…

  • To create compelling heroes who, through no fault of their own, are underdogs and are forced to evolve, because these are the types of heroes that inspire me.

  • To create stories about crimes, because people will always be people and somewhere, whether it’s a fantasy realm or a far-off planet, there will be evildoers who need to be brought to justice.

  • To craft genre-bending mash-ups with twists and turns that defy expectations, liberally infused with humor but still deeply rooted in the realm of drama, not outright comedy.

  • To continually seek out new ways to improve my craft.

  • To be a leader and member of a supportive writing community.

  • To create a body of works that reaches a large number of readers and explores the reaches of my creativity.


That’s it. Six bullets.

The first three are focused on what I want to write. I like mash-ups. I like mystery/crime stories set in exotic SF or Fantasy settings. I like stories with humor, twists, surprises, as well as sudden violence tempered with emotional moments.

This tells me that I’m going to have a harder time really establishing my brand than other writers who may just stick to one narrowly focused niche. Because my brand is “hard to define, cross-genre mash-up crime stories.” So be it. But it also means that my stories won’t be just like everybody else’s stories.

I’m OK with that. It seems to have worked well for people like Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin and others.

The fourth bullet is about always striving to improve my craft. Yes, absolutely. I want to write stories that move people, not just solely entertain them. To do that, I need to keep pushing my limits as a writer.

The fifth bullet is about being part of a supportive writer community. The way I see it, a rising tide lifts all boats. Help others if you want help yourself. In giving to others, I receive far more. And it’s fun, too.

The sixth bullet is about a writing career. I don’t want to be that “one and done” writer, the one who only ever writes one novel… I want to create a body of works that are worth people’s time.

Now you’ve seen my Mission Statement. I hope it makes sense. It does to me. I think Susan Kaye Quinn was right—it is a good exercise to find out exactly what you’re striving to do as a writer.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Potbelly Sandwich Shop I’m at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop, where I’ve ordered a salad for myself, a sandwich for my wife and a few accessories. I get up to the cash register, they ring up my order and I reach into my back for my wallet…which isn’t there.

I apologize, make my excuses and head out to the car to see if I’ve left it there.

Nope. I head back in and tell the cashier to just set my order to the side. I’ll run home and get my wallet.

A tall man with salt and pepper hair is standing near the cash register, waiting for part of his own order to be completed. He says, “You forgot your wallet?”

“Yeah.” I’m shaking my head, because I’m still annoyed with myself. “I’m just gonna go home and get it.”

“Ah, don’t do that. How big’s your order?”

“Just lunch for me and my wife,” I say.

He grimaces and then gives a shrug. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll just pick it up for you. I’ve been in this situation before, myself.”

“Thanks. Uh, if you give me your name and number, I can pay you back…”

He waves me off. “Don’t worry about it. Just pay it forward.”

He calls out to the cashier. “I’ll pay for this guy’s order.”

The cashier looks over at us. “The order’s already paid for.” He points past us at a slim, red-haired lady who’d been behind me in line. Without saying anything to us, she’s walking out of the shop. “She’s already paid for it.”

I ended up getting my lunch for free because of the kindness of strangers.

Sometimes it’s easy to be down on humanity, thinking that people are stupid, ignorant, callous, easily fooled, etc. Pick your particular gripe at any given moment. But really, most folks are just regular, decent people. And sometimes it’s really nice to be reminded of that.

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Writing Tips: Signing Books

Signing Books Shortly after you start publishing books, you learn that writers have another duty. When you appear at events, people want you to sign your books. More than that, they often want personalized dedications, often to a child or other loved one.

Screech!

Now, they paid for the book, so you really, really don’t want to mess it up. And doubly so, when they ask you to personalize it.

Here’s my tips related to signing books…

  1. Always have books to sign. Always.

    When somebody stands in front of you asking to buy a signed copy of your book, pull a copy out of your pack, suitcase, or carrying bag and sell it to them. At worst, take their money and tell them you’ll be right back, you’ve got some copies in a box in your car. It’s not just money, it’s an opportunity to turn somebody into a true fan, the kind of fan that will buy all of your books if you’re lucky.

    Note: This works best for indie writers. Trad-published writers don’t have copies to sell (but all of my other tips still apply to them, too).

  2. Always have multiple pens around, and good ones at that.

    Look, they bought your book. They’ve asked you to write in it. The least you can do is make sure that you not only have a pen, but a good pen so you can scrawl smoothly and legibly. Show them you’re prepared, easy-going and professional.

  3. Practice your cursive writing…in advance.

    If you’re like me when I published my first book, except for your signature, you haven’t practiced cursive writing in years. Years, I say. Basically, you’re going to need to do some practice. My first few dedications were wretched…and really slow to write.

    Practice. It’ll pay off for you.

  4. If they ask you for a personalized dedication for a child, always ask if the child understands cursive writing.

    Not all schools are teaching cursive writing anymore. It’s in the process of becoming a dying art. So you can’t know for sure whether the person’s child will understand a dedication written in cursive. And I honestly think that a dedication that can’t be read by the intended recipient…er…loses a bit of its potential impact.

    Print it if you have to, but make sure it’s understandable to whoever is going to receive the book.

  5. For each of your books, have a set of standard phrases you use for personalization.

    Take it from me, phrases are a pain in the butt to try create on the fly. Have a set of stock phrases for each of your books. Be prepared to accessorize on them as needed, but you’ll have a much easier time if you have something to start with.

    As an example, my story, The Good Book, is about a man who has lost all hope, and a magic book (with a bad attitude) that changes his life. Here’s an example dedication:

    Cherlyn,
    There IS magic…never stop looking for it!
               David Keener

When somebody cares enough about your work to want you to sign it, take them seriously. Give ’em something worth caring about. It’s a great way to connect with your fans.

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David Keener’s Writing Life

David Keener's Writing Life

I want to be able to post about my writing on Facebook. But I don’t want to be that guy who does nothing but spam his erstwhile friends and family. When faced with a dilemma, I look to other writers for solutions. Professional writers like Susan Kaye Quinn and others.

What I decided to do was to create a Facebook group called David Keener’s Writing Life, in which I can post information about my publications, upcoming events, my various activities, etc. And anything else that might make sense for my audience.

This makes it an opt-in sort of thing. I’ll post occasionally under my non-group Facebook account, as well as updating this web site regularly. But the Facebook group will get the daily stuff, the “where I am” type of stuff, etc. This way, people who want to know more about my upcoming stories and my life as a writer can follow me as they wish…but others don’t have to if they don’t want to.

Honestly, I’m also trying to recruit a core audience to help me achieve success as a writer. I’ve run smack-dab into that discoverability problem that writers talk about. Nobody really knows who I am, or what type of stuff I write. Most of the successful indie authors end up establishing a “Street Team” of committed fans to help them with pesky things like sales, reviews, word-of-mouth advertising, etc.

So, if it’s your cup of tea, feel free to follow David Keener’s Writing Life.

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Hourlings at Work: A Dynamic Writing Group

Hourlings At WorkIn 2014, I became a charter member of the Loudoun Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, a spin-off from a more general-focused writing group. With weekly meetings every Sunday morning, the group has been like bootcamp for the SF/Fantasy writers associated with the group, including myself.

Participating on Meetup as the Loudoun Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, the group is more informally known as “The Hourlings.” This is the name under which the organization has published two anthologies, with a third on the way. The name is a bit of a takeoff on the “Inklings,” a legendary writing group in England that included J.R.R Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and others.

To demonstrate how the group has progressed, I’ve compiled a list of all the publications that the members have made available for sale on Amazon since 2013. I’m pleased to add that I am amongst that writers who have begun releasing work to the public.

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I’m Always Amazed…

I sold two books today. Personally, and unexpectedly.

And this isn’t the first time. But I’m still always amazed when it happens.

It’s gotten to the point that I just keep a box in my car with copies of each of the books I’ve published. This isn’t hard, since I’ve only published two myself: a 56-page, humorous but hard-to-classify novelette called The Good Book and Fantastic Defenders, the first volume of my new “Worlds Enough” anthology series. Plus, there’s a couple anthologies that my writing group put out; I should probably have some copies of those on hand, too.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m selling them hand over fist out of the back of my car. But it is a steady trickle.

My first sale today was a project manager named Cherlyn who’d previously read one of my other stories in beta. She stopped in to my office because she wanted to pick up a signed edition of The Good Book.

So I went down to my car to get a copy for Cherlyn. When I returned, she was in conversation with a contractor named Wayne, a guy that I’ve worked with tangentially for years. I walked up and signed her copy with something typical like:

Cherlyn,

There IS magic…never stop looking for it!

        David Keener

Wayne watched me doing this. “I didn’t know you wrote books.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m indie-publishing on Amazon. Generally shorter fiction like this.”

“What do you write?”

I said, “Mostly SF and Fantasy.” I pointed at the book. “This one’s kind of an outlier. It’s got a fantasy element, but it’s mostly about a guy getting his life back together.”

“Cool,” Wayne said. “I’ll buy one. I’d like to support you, too.” Curious, he picked up Cherlyn’s book and started flipping through the pages. “Plus, knowing you, I can’t imagine you’d put something out that wasn’t good.”

Some days it’s wicked cool to be an author.

Thanks Cherlyn and Wayne.

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Book Signing in Manassas, VA

Come see me and Martin Wilsey, my partner in crime, tomorrow at a book signing in Manassas, VA. It’s tomorrow, June 17th, from 1:00 – 4:00 PM.

Book Signing at Richard McKays Used Books

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Three Hoarsemen Interview

The Three Hoarsemen Podcast Donna Royston, Martin Wilsey and I were interviewed a week ago for Episode 44 of the Three Hoarsemen podcast. We got to discuss our anthology, Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders, in our various roles as editors or, in Marty’s case, as the publisher (Tannhauser Press) of the volume.

Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders We had a lot of fun being interviewed. We got to talk about the anthology, our other works, Tannhauser Press and a few other subjects. The podcast is an hour and forty-two minutes long. If you want to skip forward to our interview, we’re at the 1:07:48 mark.

I especially liked their name for the episode. Since they also discussed the movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, earlier in the podcast, the title they chose was: “Fantastic Defenders of the Guardians of the Galaxy.”

I think that has a nice ring to it.

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Unbearable Cuteness

This little bundle of cuteness is Bentley, at the age of about six weeks. In this photo, he’s about ten pounds, although he eventually ended being about 130 pounds. Gotta love Lab Rottweilers.

Bentley in the Kitchen

OK, I know this has nothing to do with science fiction, but…well…who doesn’t like the unbearable cuteness of a puppy?

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Selected as Ebook Deal by SF Signal

SF Signal: Ebook Deal Hey, this is awesome! My new anthology, Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders, has been selected and publicized as an SF Signal Ebook Deal. How cool is that?

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