The Hardest Part

If you have a minute, I’d like to explain to you the hard thing about writing.

The hard thing about writing is not, as so many non-writers often assume, coming up with ideas. Ideas are easy. Ideas crop up like acne, shower you like a late summer rainfall in Louisiana, burst from your mind like a field full of dandelions. They’re not all great ideas, admittedly, but they’re not all terrible either. The bulk of them lie in that vast gulf in-between, an area of ideas which have potential, if only you have the time and inclination to pick out the best and cultivate them into something. Sometimes you have so many that you simply can’t figure out which one deserves your care and attention at the time. In those periods where I have been unproductive as a writer, this has sometimes been the culprit. I have no evidence, but if a writer came up with the term, I’m certain the phrase “a dime a dozen” was coined in reference to coming up with ideas. 

So coming up with an idea is not the hard part. Nor is writing the first draft. Well…relatively speaking, anyway. Writing a first draft IS hard. Looking at a blank page, as so many writers before me have observed, is intimidating as hell. The blank page is a vacuum demanding to be filled, and you’ve got to conquer your own demons of insecurity and self-doubt long enough to produce something to fill it. The blank page is an enemy that must be conquered, but sometimes you’re Rocky and sometimes you’re Apollo Creed. (In the first movie, that is. On good days, it’s more like Rocky II, and sometimes you’re Rocky and sometimes you’re Apollo Creed.) 

So writing a first draft is hard, but it’s not THE hard part. Nor is the revision process. Compared to a first draft, revision is easy. It’s taking what’s already there and making something out of it. First drafts are taking a chunk of marble and chipping it away into something recognizable. Revision is taking that chunk and polishing it, sanding it, and doing the detail work. It’s still work, but it’s not as exhausting or terrifying as the chipping away part, where at any moment you’re afraid you’re going to break it in the wrong place or crack what you’ve been chiseling for hours, days, weeks, and ruining the whole thing. It’s also,  in my experience anyway, less susceptible to being abandoned than that chunk of marble. Once you’ve gone this far it’s almost an insult NOT to go in and do the polishing work. Leaving it uncleaned is unthinkable. It’s a compulsion. It MUST be done.

The hard part of writing is the last part. Getting someone to read it.

There are thousands of books published every year. Millions of existing books fill the libraries and bookstores. Every single one of them is competition. How do I (and by “I”, I’m referring to all hypothetical writers in the world) convince you (and by “you,” I mean the person reading this with an Amazon tab open a page away) to read MY book?

Publishers are not necessarily the answer to this question. It’s true that they have greater resources than a self-publishing writer like myself, but it’s also true that they often decline to USE them. Except for celebrity writers or people who have already proven themselves capable of selling a million copies, publishers often simply slide the bulk of their authors into a pulsating mass of backlist, concentrating on that person on that reality show that was super popular last season and for some reason has decided they want to write a cookbook. 

So most writers are left trying to find the audience on their own, and that is not easy. If anything, it’s become more difficult than ever.

“But Blake,” you say, oblivious to the fact that you’re talking out loud to your computer or your phone or perhaps to some stranger on the bus depending on where you are when you read this, “doesn’t the existence of the internet make it easier? There are more avenues than ever, more places to spread your message, more ways to get your voice out there.”

Well sure there are, absolutely. And those avenues exist for everyone. Which is exactly the problem. More ways to get your voice out there has led to an exponential increase in voices attempting to be heard. There are millions of voices shouting for attention now, millions of people with something to say, and millions of people deserving the chance to say it. But no reader can possibly find them ALL, there are just too many. How do you stand out in the crowd?

If you’ve read this far expecting me to reveal the answer, to pull the sheet back from the table with a flourish, putting the solution to this problem on display, I’m sorry to disappoint you. That’s not what I’m doing here. The reason I’m writing this is because I don’t KNOW what the answer is. Writing this is a little exercise in therapy for me, trying to explain my feelings on this problem, knowing full well I don’t have an answer.

In a way, I envy those writers who have no desire to publish. There are a great many of them out there, I know. I see them in writer’s groups on Facebook, on writing subreddits, in a thousand other places talking about their WIP (work in progress), their FIC (fiction – often fanfiction, actually), their MCs (main characters) and their thousand stories they’ve begun and abandoned as soon as the next one of those oh-so-ubiquitous IDEAS has clawed its way into their skulls. And for them, it’s OKAY if the work never goes any further than their hard drive. I know they exist, I share memes about them on Wednesdays. They’re happy, it seems, just to create and leave their creation in a bubble. I do not understand this mindset, but I envy it, because these people seem to be satisfied with their station in the literary universe.

For people like me, that’s not enough. I want other people to read my work. I want people to tell me what they think. I want to hear from strangers about what I’ve done, I want to know that somebody enjoyed what I’ve been bleeding into my keyboard all these months. I don’t need to change the world. I don’t need someone to tell me my books are their reason for living. I don’t want people to name their children after my characters (although if you do, I guarantee you that your little tot will be the only “Malefactory” in their grade). I just want to know someone liked it.

This is why writers plead with you for reviews and shares. The websites that sell books (mostly Amazon, but they’re not the only one) all use one of those funky fresh “algorithm” things to decide what gets promoted and, similar to the publishers I mentioned before, they give more weight to those writers who are already popular and need less help. Getting sales, obviously, boosts your presence in the algorithm. But so does getting reviews. When a writer asks you to go on Amazon and review their work, it’s not because we desperately need that ego boost of someone telling the world we’re the reincarnation of Hemingway, it’s because we know that if you DON’T do it, no one else will hear about our work AT ALL.

So if you really like a book, if you really enjoy the story that some poor writer has spent countless hours carving out of a block of solid marble, the absolute best thing you can do is go online (Amazon or wherever you bought it, or even both) and write just a few quick sentences telling the rest of the world that you thought it was good. The second best thing is to buy several thousand copies, but most of us will settle for the first one. If you’ve got the time – and here in the U.S. it’s Labor Day, so I know a lot of you have the day off – pick up those last two or three books you really enjoyed, cruise over to Amazon, and leave a review. 

Your favorite writer will thank you.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. Reviews welcome.

Happy Anniversary, Little Stars!

July 15, 2021. It is a date destined to go down as one of the most incredible days in the history of world literature. It is the day I first unveiled OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS to the world. That’s right – one year of Andi Vargas, Tony Gardner, and Shooting Star. A year of reconnecting with old friends from Siegel City and meeting many new ones. A year of adventure, surprises, mysteries, questions answered, and still more questions raised. A whole-ass year of fun. And with this anniversary, I’m here to ask you guys for a little bit of help.

Bear with me, I’ll get to it.

OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS is a serial adventure, with a new chapter appearing every Wednesday. It is set in the world of my novels OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES and THE PYRITE WAR (as well as numerous short stories), and it incorporates characters and elements from those earlier works, but it stands alone for people who haven’t read the other stuff as well. It is, of course, still a work in progress, but it’s been a remarkable year in the lives of Andi Vargas and her friends. A year ago, Andi was a normal girl whose mother happened to be one of the most beloved superheroes in Siegel City. A year ago, nobody KNEW her mother was one of those heroes, but as readers know, that’s what kicked off the story. A year ago, she could still pretend to be “normal.” A year ago, she didn’t know that she would travel through time. A year ago, she had never been to outer space. A year ago, none of our heroes knew that ghosts were real.

Interestingly, these elements of the story are all things that were planned from the very beginning. But other things – things that may shock you – were not. Keriyon Hall didn’t exist a year ago, not even in my imagination, and if I’m going to be honest with you, he’s become my favorite character in the story. (The same thing happened with Sheila Reynolds in the original OPH – she makes a cameo in LITTLE STARS, and it was fun to see her again.) The Rubies of Byrel didn’t exit either. Nor did Daystalker. But these were characters and elements I discovered along the way and, as is always the case when you’re writing a good story, you learn that these things were really there all along, but the silly writer just hadn’t unearthed them yet. Other things have not gone the way I expected – Blip, for instance, was originally expected to play a much bigger role in the story than he has turned out to have – but that’s okay too. You need to follow the story the way it unfolds.

So here, on what is kind of the birthday for Andi and Tony and Lita and Draugr, I’m going to ask you guys to give them a present. Y’see, I’ve still got a ways to go before this story reaches its conclusion, and I’ve always believed the more the merrier. I would like to have more people following along with this story – but that’s not going to happen if they don’t know about it. So first of all, if you know people who like superheroes or coming-of-age stories or long, sprawling epics, tell them about it! 

But that’s not all. LITTLE STARS is (currently at least) exclusive to Kindle Vella, which means that the Amazon Algorithm gets to decide how many people can stumble across it. And for that to happen, it needs reviews on Amazon. Even a quick one, even one sentence would be ENORMOUSLY helpful and boost the story’s profile. And while you’re at it, go back and make sure you’ve hit the “thumbs-up” button at the end of each chapter you’ve read. (Honestly, I’m not sure how those work with Amazon’s algorithm, but they sure as hell can’t hurt.)

And if you happen to be someone with a blog or a podcast or one of those Ticky Tocky things the kids like so much and wouldn’t mind giving a review to a larger audience, that would be pretty swell. Please, let me know about it if you do.

Finally, if you have absolutely NO idea what I’m talking about…well, you’re in the majority. If you haven’t read any of OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS, head over to Amazon and check it out. The first three chapters are always free, and each subsequent chapter costs literally pennies (between 30 and 40, depending on how long that particular chapter is). Then once you’ve met Andi and her friends, hopefully you’ll want to stick around and see where they wind up.

Shoot, I’M still anxious to see where they wind up.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. You know. In case he hadn’t made that abundantly clear.

Screw It, Let’s See What Happens

There is a school of thought that says writers (fiction writers, at least) fall into two categories: the architects and the gardeners. The architects must plan everything meticulously. Every plot point, every character beat, every theme and turn must be prepared and calculated ahead of time, and when the actual writing starts all that’s left to do is the installation. The gardeners, on the other hand, don’t plan much more than where they’re planting the seeds and what they hope to reap from the crop in the end. Gardeners tend to the ideas like flowers or vegetables, nurturing them, coaxing them out of the ground, but often not actually knowing exactly what the final garden will look like. Plants are alive, you see, and difficult to conquer. It’s better to simply help them find their most beautiful form.

I’m a gardener. I tend to start with a concept (what if a reporter found out that the superheroes he wrote about were frauds?) or an idea that won’t get out of my head (there’s a little bald guy in my closet holding an ice pick and I don’t know who he is but he is FREAKING ME OUT). I’ll add in some characters I find interesting, and I’ll think about where the characters and the concept might end up if I put them together. And then I start. 

Now to be fair, very often the answer to where they might end up is “nowhere.” Sometimes the combination doesn’t work, the marriage doesn’t last, and I end up with yet another orphaned story opening. (So many orphans. I’m really quite ashamed of myself. Lucien from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman could have an entire damn wing of his library devoted to me.) But when it DOES work, and it DOES come together, this storytelling alchemy frequently brings me to a place that leaves me unable to imagine it any other way.

This feeling is at its most powerful when I hit a point I refer to as “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” You see, sometimes it feels like something in a story is not right, like a character is fighting against your plan, like you’re trying to find flimsy justifications to make them do something (or stop them from doing something) that they don’t want. And often, it turns out the reason for this is because the characters are smarter than you are and realize that your plan is actually wrong, and you should just let them do what they so clearly want to do, and figure out how it’s all supposed to fit together later. That’s when, as a writer, you should say, “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” And damn if that can’t be great.

I’m going to give an example that spoils several of the more recent chapters of Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, so if you’re not up to date, you may want to go catch up and come back. (I mean, you should do that anyway. It’s a good time.) 

When I started the Meta-Crisis arc, you may notice that Keriyon Hall does not appear at first. In fact, he hadn’t appeared for quite some time, which was making me sad because he’s become one of my favorite characters in the story (even though he wasn’t in the original outline – he’s that flower that you didn’t actually plant in your garden but that turns out to be the loveliest one). So I thought, “Well, the crisis is affecting the entire city. I should just check in on him and see how he’s dealing with it.”

As it turned out, the way he was dealing with it was trying to figure out what Andi and Tony would do in his situation, and do that same thing. Which was perfect, it’s exactly the way Keriyon thinks, but that led me to a problem. He was SO good at predicting what Andi and Tony would do that he wound up arriving at the same hideout as they did, even though he wasn’t supposed to be there.

Well, screw it. Let’s see what happens.

And as he’s there and starts to meet some of the other characters in the story, I realize that Andi is having a very difficult time talking to Keriyon, because she’s dancing around the fact that Keriyon didn’t know about Tony and Vic’s powers. And while they were dancing, Andi kind of informed me that she likes Keriyon, she trusts Keriyon, and considering all the crazy shit that was happening all around them, keeping her friends’ powers a secret wasn’t even ON her list of priorities, let alone at the top.

Screw it. Let’s see what happens.

So she told him the truth and Keriyon, being the unshakably loyal and positive person that he is, not only took it in stride, but decided to gear up and join them on the quest. And when we got to the end of the arc, and the “Young LightCorps” was revealed to the world, all of a sudden Keriyon Hall was in the picture with them. A character who was never supposed to be th– no, wait, that’s not right. He was never intended to be there. But he was most certainly supposed to be there.The stuff I’ve written since then (that you haven’t read yet) has convinced me of that. 

“Screw it, let’s see what happens” is recommended by eight out of nine muses. Ask Oneiros if “Screw it, let’s see what happens” is right for you. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. If you haven’t read it yet… well, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself for the spoilers. 

80,000 and counting…

Can I just, though, for a minute?

A couple of years ago I had an idea for a story. And I took some notes and I puttered around on it a little, but ultimately it went nowhere. The thing is, it wasn’t an idea for a novel. It was… bigger than that. It was a very longform yarn (I hesitate to use the word “epic” because it kind of sounds pretentious, but in terms of length I can’t think of a better word to describe it), one larger in scope than a single novel. It wouldn’t really work as a SERIES of novels either, though, because the story contains dozens of arcs and episodes: some long, some short, some standalone, some interconnected. It includes a large cast of characters that would grow and develop and learn and change over time. If anything it felt like this was a project best suited either to the kind of storytelling we see in television or comic books — connected episodes, each a part of a whole, but with flexibility and a rhythm that novels don’t really have.

Now I don’t know anyone who owns a TV studio, and even if I did, I know enough about the industry to know that even if there WERE somebody interested in my story, I’d lose control over it almost immediately.

Comic books would have been perfect — this WAS the next installment in my superhero universe that began in the novel Other People’s Heroes, after all — but I don’t have a publisher, nor do I have the money to hire an artist to work with me. And I especially don’t have the skill to draw it myself.

So for these reasons (plus, if I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think I was in the proper mental state to really devote to this story at the time), it was put on the back burner. Now guys, my back burner is CROWDED. There are a LOT of stories there — books, short stories, scripts, comic book ideas — all sitting and spilling into each other and getting moldy. And I feel guilty every time I put something else there, because I fear in my heart it will never leave.

Then this spring, Amazon announced its Kindle Vella platform — a service via which writers could publish a story one. Short. Episode. At. A. Time.

For the first time in ages, I went to the back burner and took something off, bringing it back to the front.

I’ve been working on OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS since then. It launched in July, and except for a Hurricane Ida-caused blackout in September, I’ve posted a new episode every Wednesday.

As of today, I’m about 80,000 words into the story, and I’m not close to finished. For comparison, the original OPH novel clocks in around 90,000 words. This is the point where a novel is ramping up to the conclusion. In LITTLE STARS, today my main characters have just discovered their FIRST clue as to what is REALLY going on.

And my goodness, it feels phenomenal.

I’m not saying this just because I hope you’re reading it (although I very much DO hope you’re reading it). I’m saying it because it’s been a long time since I had a fire under me when it came to writing. And for that long time it was like there was a hole in my life. There was something missing, something I had lost. I feel like I’ve got my hooks in it again. I feel like I’m reeling in something special.

Everyone ought to feel that way, don’t you think?

Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars in the Amazon Kindle Vella Store

Dad Drain

Hey, all — a quick update. I certainly haven’t forgotten my vow to fill you all in on the tumultuous week of Eddie’s birth, and I’ve got every intention of talking about the ups and downs of parenting (for example, the fact that a loose nipple wound up soaking both the baby and myself in formula at 3 in the morning today.) However, as anyone who has ever had a newborn can certainly attest, those first weeks are draining. Erin and I have been about as tired as we’ve ever been, and even now that Eddie is sleeping a bit better overnight (a bit, I stress), between taking care of him and keeping up with the day job, I’ve been too pooped to pontificate lately. Fingers crossed that this will change soon, because heaven knows I’ve got an awful lot to talk about. In the meantime, all is well.

NaNoWriMo Kicks Off at Midnight…

Longtime readers of mine know that I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo, alias National Novel Writing Month, which is held every November. The challenge, for those who choose to accept it, is to write an entire 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. I have participated many times, and all but once I made the 50K mark in time. Unfortunately, several of those attempts fizzled out after the 50K mark and the stories never wrapped, but you can still see some of my November efforts in print. My novels The Pyrite War and Opening Night of the Dead, as well as the title story in my holiday anthology A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas all began life as NaNoWriMo projects.

I know some people — some writers whom I have great admiration for — are very down on the concept of NaNoWriMo. They see it as a crutch, and they think people truly dedicated to the craft of writing should do so without it. While I respect their opinions, I must disagree. I’ve always found NaNoWriMo to be an excellent motivator, a chance to force yourself to action, secure in the knowledge that thousands of others are doing the same. To me, that somehow removes a little of the existential terror that comes with staring at the blank page. Just knowing you aren’t alone makes it better.

This year, however, I have a confession to make. I will not be participating in NaNoWriMo in the traditional sense. While I still believe in it, this year I find myself without a new project ready to work on. I don’t have any ideas fully formed enough to begin work at the stroke of midnight, as I have done so many times. What’s more, I’ve got several other projects in various stages of completion, and it seems almost unfaithful of me to start something new while these other things flounder.

So while I will not be kicking off a new project at 12 a.m., I will be using November to write. Actually, I’ll be using it to edit at first. Tomorrow I’m going to dive into the novel I began last year for NaNoWriMo, a work that I was immensely proud of, but that fell by the wayside as I did rewrites for my play The 3-D Radio Show (and special bonus cool points for those of you who saw those performances last spring) and that I never got around to finishing. And seeing as how that book is intended as the first in a trilogy, it really seems to me that I should get off my ass and get back to it.

Those of you who are doing NaNoWriMo this year, more power to you. I’ll be sending out all the moral support I can. As for me, I’ll be diving back into the adventures of Jenna, Ellie, Reggie, Colm, and their many-limbed friend as they try desperately to find something that belongs to them anyway. It’s an interesting story. It’s surprised me several times so far.

I hope I get to share it with you soon.

Hello, BayouCon!

writerI’ll be back early next week with a longer post talking about my experiences here in Sulphur for BayouCon 2016, but with one day left, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to the many fine folks I’ve talked to in the first two days.

I’ve sold some books, I’ve given out lots of bookmarks, and this afternoon I co-hosted a panel on world-building in a novel series along with horror author Alexander Brown. (I think that was some of the most fun I’ve had here — I talk about books and movies and TV shows all the time, but it’s rare that I actually get the chance to discuss my process and how I write.)

For those of you who got the address of this website from one of my bookmarks and want to know what I’m all about, here are the two most important links you can have. First, my Facebook Author’s Page. I update it frequently, any time I’ve got something worth sharing with people, from a new book to a new episode of my podcast. The other link is the Buy Blake’s Work page on this very site. This page features all of my work that is currently available, including all five of the books you saw on my table, plus lots of other stuff that’s only available in eBook format.

Enjoy the last day of the con on Sunday, come on over and say hello, and I’ll be back with more BayouCon thoughts next week.

Welcome to the new BlakeMPetit.com

ProfilepicHello friends, old and new, and welcome to the new BlakeMPetit.com. After several years at my old blog, I decided it was time for a new coat of paint, time to make things a little spiffier for a new era of (hopefully) new readers. In fact, I’m launching the new site now in order to get ahead of the  folks I anticipate meeting this weekend at Bayoucon. (More on that later.)

New readers — howdy! I’m Blake M. Petit, author of the novels and short stories  in the worlds of Siegel City and The Curtain, as well as a lot of other stuff. All of it is available right now, by the way, by clicking on the “Buy Blake’s Work” link at the top of this page. I’m also a high school English teacher, member of the board of directors at my local community theater, podcaster, and all-around geek. All of these things will be blatantly obvious if you stick around.

Old readers, any time I’ve got big news, announcements, or a major release coming up, it will be featured right here. Also, in the past, you’ve found my ruminations all over the internet. Now they’re mainly concentrated in three places: here, my movie blog Reel to Reel Movies, and the blog for my podcast and comic book discussion, All New Showcase. And if, for some reason, you really want to poke around at the content in my old blog, don’t worry, it’s still there. I’ve kept the old Evertime Realms page archived, trapped in internet amber, as it were.

IMG_0926As I mentioned before, I’m going to be at Bayoucon this weekend, June 24-26 in Sulfur, Louisiana. I’ll be part of a panel about world-building (Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Cypress Room), and my wife Erin and I will be there all weekend selling and signing copies of my novels and giving out bookmarks and high-fives. If you’re in the area, please, come on by and say hello!

That about does it for now, I suppose. I’ll be back early next week with thoughts and pictures from the convention. In the meantime, poke around at the links on this page and see what’s what.