Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Update June 2017

It's been almost a year since I posted. I have been busy with some new ideas for stories and working on an idea of how to get published.

Back in 2011 I purchased a Kobo e-reader and have read a lot of books on it. I love reading on the Kobo as you can change the book you're reading to another one if you feel like reading something different. I currently have over 200 books on my Kobo and have read about 80 of them.

I decided earlier this year (2017) that I would work on some of the older stories and prepare them to be self published as an e-book. An unconventional idea of getting published, but I feel like it's the way for me to go. It will be an experiment but it's something that I feel like I should pursue. It feels right.

But first, I'd like to recap what I have accomplished in my writing and with Terry. In late 2016 I completed #86 Training For Trouble. After completing this story, I decided to give Terry and his friends a little break and revive another series that I have been planning for years.

The Clayton Boys are three brothers who live with their parents on Storm Island off the coast of British Columbia. Their parents are research scientists who work for the government. The first story in the series, Trail Of Terror was completed during NaNoWriMo 2016 along with Training For Trouble.

In early 2017 I started on Terry Macdonald #87 The Desert Phantom, but I couldn't get into the story so I have about a chapter written and have since abandoned the story(for now).

Then I started thinking about publishing the stories as e-books. I decided to revise Disappearing Act once again as it still remains one of my favourites of the early books. The only problem is that is it only about 12,000 words and the stories need to be at least 30,000 words. So I am currently working on revising and lengthening this story (its currently around 20,000 words) for eventual publication with more of the older stories to follow.

I don't have a timetable but would like to have the wheels in motion to publish by the end of the summer of 2017.

One major change--and I've thought long and hard about this--is changing Terry's first name. I like Terry as a name and back in 1979 it seemed like a cool name. But this is 2017 and I need to update my main character's image. While Terry is not a bad name, it doesn't really fit my character's personality any longer.

So I've made the decision to change his name to Justin Macdonald. Only the other day I realized that his first name is the name of the current Prime Minister of Canada, and his last name is that of the first prime minister of Canada. So I have a good feeling about the change. A very Canadian choice.
Obviously his cousin Justin, who I introduced in The Vanishing Game will have to change. Justin is now Alex. And Terry is now Justin.

So that's the update for now. Hopefully I will post more often. I know that so many of you are waiting with bated breath for my next entry so I will be kind and not keep you in suspense.

You're welcome

J.T. Brock

Friday, July 22, 2016

Update July 22

I finished #85 in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries, X-Treme Danger. Again this one wasn't as good as I hoped.

I am currently working on #2 of the CaseFiles series, Case of the Comic Book Crime and hope to have it done by August.

I'll update you as I finish a story and as I revise some of my older ones to hopefully send in to agents and maybe get published.

Take care,

J.T.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Writing Update

Hey I'm back. Sorry I haven't posted for a while..I've been busy writing.

I finished #82 Sabotage At Sea in June. It wasn't one of my favourites. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes when I stall in a story, I just can't seem to get the momentum back and the plot suffers. This one isn't too bad, though.

#83 Enemy Match. I have an arsenal of story titles, but none of them were inspiring me. I wanted to do another "school" story, one that takes place mostly at school. And I wanted to involve Terry's arch nemesis Daryl Peters. This story wasn't too bad. It was finished in July

#84 Secret of the Sunken Treasure was a title that I had for years. I started writing it as part of the "Casefiles" series as "Case of the Sunken Treasure" but found that Terry being in Florida and searching for treasure was a bit out of his age range. So I took the story and changed it to fit the "mysteries" series and changed his age back to 18 and instead of vacationing in Florida with his family, his friends were there.

Currently I am working on #85 X-treme Danger. I am about 2/3 of the way thru (July 15) and hope to finish the story this week or next.

I'm getting a little burned out so after I finish X-treme, I might try my hand at a Casefile (#2 Case of the Comic Book Crime) or a Brendan Starr story (#5 Scions of Xeroja)

Not sure yet, I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What I'm Working On Now

I'm working on Terry Macdonald Mysteries #82 entitled "Sabotage At Sea". It takes place on an oil rig on the North Sea between Scotland and Norway. I started this story a few months ago and got about 3 chapters in and stopped. I got stuck and don't know where to continue.

this is the drawback of not planning and plotting beforehand. But I can't preplan a story before I write it. I just have to jump in and get writing and the plot flows from there.

It's a good story with some good characters, but I'm considering shelving it and tackling another story if I can't get motivated to finish it. I have about 3 or 4 that I have started.

Within the next few days I will know whether to continue with this story or start on another. If I can come up with a cool title and idea for a new story then I will go with that.

Wish me luck

Monday, May 9, 2016

What's Happening Now

Well, I'm finally at my last post on the history of my writing. My next posts will be what I am currently working on and what I'm struggling with and how I'm progressing towards eventual publication.

So, 2015. The first year I wrote a Terry Macdonald story in a year that ended in a "5". Not sure why this is significant. In 1985 I was busy at school. 1995 was in the middle of my 90's drought. In 2005 I was working on other writerly things.

This year was the most prolific year as far as word count goes. Only 8 stories were completed. Seven of those were in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries. And in December 2015 I wrote the first book in the middle grade series "Terry Macdonald Case Files".

But let's step back a bit. In January 2015 I completed "Curse Of The Black Dragon" where Terry takes on a vicious biker gang. While in the process of writing this, I decided to bring back an old character from way back in 1982's "The Sea Treasure". In that story Terry and Van go camping to Catfish lake and meet Jim Logan. I brought back Jim for this story and wove a bit of his history. I had also wanted to do a biker gang story and with the recent viewing of "Sons Of Anarchy" on TV, I finally took the plunge. It's not a bad story, though the idea that a Canadian teenager can take down a major biker gang leader is a bit far-fetched. but, hey, this is fiction.

Years ago I had purchased some duo tang covers at a local stationery store. I had four colours that I alternated on a "blue/red/yellow/green" order. I ran out of covers in 2015 and had been searching for years to find a suitable replacement. I didn't want cheap quality covers and had a hard time finding some but finally did. I had many more colours to choose from and decided not to go in a specific order, just use whatever colour I felt like at the time.

The next story, "Danger on Flight 999" was the last book to use one of the original four colour covers. This mystery was an airplane hostage scenario. In this day of terrorism and plane hijacking it just felt like time. Not that I'm glamorizing this at all, it just fit with today's headlines. And not a bad story either, though I'm not wild about the title. It's a little corny.

The next book I really liked the title, "Night Of The Zombie" was the first book to use the new covers and I decided to change the internal font as well. Another change was that I took out the chapter titles. I was struggling for the past few years with thinking of interesting chapter titles so decided to not use any at all.

Following this was a title I had since the early years but found it a bit intimidating to write a story around. With the recent addition of Raj Mistry, an Indian from Mumbai, I finally tackled "Mystery Of The Maharajah's Tomb". Terry and Raj travel to Raj's hometown of Mumbai and go undercover at a university. I really liked this story when it was done.

After the personal success of "Maharajah's Tomb", I decided to challenge myself once more and up the word count again for the subsequent books. On the next story "Terror On Tour" I made a conscious effort to slow down the pace and just enjoy the story unfolding and not be in such a rush to finish it. Terry and Van accompany Corey and his rock band on tour of Europe. I enjoyed writing this and it ended up at 12 chapters and over 26,000 words, more suitable to the teen book length. It's still a little small, most teen books can be upwards of 40,000 words, most even longer.

I now reached the 80th book in the series. "The Vanishing Game" was a cool title that I've seen elsewhere but decided to use it anyway. Another interesting character, Terry's cousin Justin comes to town. Justin suffers from Asperger's syndrome, something I had heard about a while ago and decided to have one of my characters suffer from it. He speaks his mind and some of the exchanges in the book are very well written. Again this book is 12 chapters.

The next book, "The Deadliest Stunt" was another good story. Two brothers, twins Rhys and Reed Wyatt come to town with their stuntman father. Again, very well written (at least I think) and I think I'm improving with my characterization. I try to make my characters interesting.

At this point I was worried about the age of Terry and my target audience. He was 18 and a senior in high school. I originally intended the series to be middle grade but was told that 18 is too old for my protagonist. I fretted about this for a while, because I like the fact that Terry was old enough to drive a car and travel on his own, but feared the "voice" of my stories was middle grade.

In late 2015 I decided I would make his character younger, say 14 and rewrite my favourite stories and lower his age accordingly. I would start out by writing a new mystery to introduce the 14 year old Terry, and "Case of the Midnight Intruder" was written. It's a good story, but as I did some research, the idea of rewriting the older stories to fit the new adjusted age wouldn't work.

So many stories depend on Terry's driving a car and some of the themes of my stories are just too dark for middle grade. So not to put "Midnight Intruder" to waste, I decided to still start the new series and just write new stories that fit the target age "middle grade" voice instead of rewriting older stories. Terry is a little younger and more impetuous but still can't drive and can't stay out late at night.

"Midnight Intruder" clocked in at over 30,000 words and 15 chapters, by far the largest Terry Macdonald story I had ever written. And I had fun and took my time, not rushing the story. I think in the last 30 years I have really improved on my pace. I would go back and re read some of the earlier stories and almost get whiplash they move so fast!

At the end of 2015, though only 8 stories were completed, I had written over 180,000 words. More than even 2012 when I completed 10 new stories and 2 rewrites.

As we start 2016 (well we are almost halfway through), I've slowed the writing pace a bit. 2015 was exhausting but I'm not going to stop now. I'm going to continue with Terry in both the "Mysteries" series and the "Case File" series.

I have also written part of another Terry Macdonald story "Marked For Terror" that will eventually be a part of the Terry Macdonald: Teen Agent Series. It will be for older teen readers and will feature more guns violence and even terrorism.

So that is the history of Terry Macdonald and my writing experiences up to the present time (May 2016). I plan to write 6 stories this year (I had better get cracking!) as well as another in the Case Files Series.

As I mentioned in my first blog post I would eventually like to publish some of my stories. They need a lot of work, but I think it would be so cool to be published. I've been writing for over 30 years and I feel like this is the next logical step.

Stay tuned for more blog posts about my continuing writing and publishing journey in 2016 and beyond....

More Changes To The Series-Upped The Word Count

One of the issues that has plagued me since the beginning is that the word count of the stories is not really a publishable length. Up to now, my stories have 6 chapters with about 2000-2200 words per chapter, so most books are from 13,000-14,000 words long.

Since this is a teen series (it was originally a middle grade series but that's not very realistic what with Terry's age (18) and some of the themes), 14,000 words is not long enough. So in 2013 I decided to make a conscious effort to stretch out the stories. It came about by accident really.

The first book I finished in 2013 "Clue In The Headmaster's Cloak" was still 6 chapters and about 13,000 words. It was a good story and we meet Terry's cousin Angie who first appeared back in 1979 and "Mystery Of The Haunted Cottage".

The next book, "The Jungle Temple" was the first story that I had written nearly half the book but didn't like the direction it was taking, so I went back and changed a major plot point and continued on. The story needed more than 13,000 words so it ended up being 7 chapters.

The next two books also had 7 chapters instead of the usual 6. "Mystery Of The Dark Mirror" was an interesting book as it dealt head on with Corey Cross and his depression. We find out that he was seeing a psychologist behind his friends backs and it turns out the doctor was a bit of a quack. I am quite proud of this story and it is very dark.

"High-Wire High Jinks" was a good story and dealt with a circus that comes to Port Salser.

Also in 2013 I wrote "Secret of Devil's Cave". I liked this story as well. But decided to push the word count again and ended up with 8 chapters and around 17,000 words. This was a title that I had since the early days of the series but never got around to writing it. I took it off the title list as it had the word "devil" in the title. But I dug it up in 2013 and finally wrote the story.

So even though only 5 stories were completed during the year, and no rewrites, I did up the word count. The word count would be upped again 2 years later.

I didn't take part in NaNoWriMo this year so no books were written during November 2013.

In 2014, six stories were completed. I find stories that I stop during writing and lose momentum usually don't turn out as well as ones where I push through and write in a short time frame. "The Space Shuttle Case" was one story that I wrote in bits, but it didn't turn out too badly. Terry and the gang head to Florida and the Kennedy Space Centre to help a friend of Jenn Vincent's brother who is accused of sabotaging a shuttle launch. We meet Jenn's brother Michael in this story.

The next story "The Eco-Warrior Mystery" introduces a new major character. I have always been fascinated with Indians and (east) Indian culture. I also wanted to broaden my ethnic base with my characters. I had a black character, Toby Gellart but he's not a major character.

I created brother and sister Raj and Neela Mistry. they are environmental activists and are integral to this story. I am still working on their characterizations, but Raj has sort of replaced Corey as part of the Terry-Van--?? trio. He starts out being Van's friend then during this mystery becomes Terry's as well. He will show up in more mysteries in the future. Neela will be Van's steady girlfriend.

The next story "The Arctic Island Treasure" brings back Van's uncle Ned who we met in "Mystery Of The Ivory Idol" back in 1984. This time Terry and Van are in the Arctic on an icebreaker and uncover a treasure. This is a title I had lying around for years and really liked it as a title and was excited to finally get to use it.

The next story was another title I had hanging around for years and always wanted to write a story about "Tahiti Spies". It was a pretty good story and Raj is in this one again, the first one since "Eco Warrior".

In most cases I think up the title to a book first, then think up the plot but I had an idea about a mystery surrounding an obnoxious deejay. I started writing "Peril On The Air" without a title and the story just flowed. I don't really care for this title, but couldn't come up with a better one. It's a little cheezy but it fits the story.

Another title I had in my arsenal for years but found it too ambitious was "Mystery Of The Dead Man's Double". this one deals with insurance fraud and "twin cousins", something I researched a little before writing.

I had written 74 titles in the Terry Macdonald Mysteries by the end of 2014 and was writing about 17,000 words a book or 8 chapters. In the early days I never dreamed I would get this far in the series. I had over 100 titles in the "arsenal" but didn't think I would get close to writing them all.

2015 would be another year of change. More about that in my next post...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Shifting Into (Writing) High Gear

In 2010 I completed 4 more Terry Macdonald novels plus I revised one of the older stories.

Since I has written the first 35 books by hand in pen, I had always wanted to go back and revise some of the older titles and while revising them by typing on the computer, I would fix up some of the old plot holes and freshen up the prose. My writing was improving every year and I was finally at at place where I felt I could add something to the older stories. Lengthen them and correct plot errors and flesh out the characters more.

The first book I revised in 2010 was "Disappearing Act" written in 2000. It was one of my favourites of the earlier stories and wouldn't need to be changed too much. The biggest change was naturally changing from third person to first person POV. I had actually started typing out this story a few years before I had changed to first person POV so I had to scour the manuscript and change all the third person POV references to first person POV.

I completed this revised story in 2010 along with the aforementioned four new ones. "The Vanishing Signal" was an interesting story as it dealt a little with bullying. "The Shock Wave Mystery" followed and took place in Australia. I used Google street view to get a feel for the area I was writing about, the Gold Coast in Eastern Australia near Brisbane.

The next story, "Mystery Of The Knight's Sword" was also interesting as one of the character's was an author and she had a germ phobia.

A title that I had thought up years before and always liked was "The Stowaway Cruise". I finally had a chance to use it in 2010. It was a good story as well.

The next year. 2011 only one story was completed in Terry Macdonald series, "Rock'n'Revenge".  I was dabbling with other writing and was going through a bit of a dry spell. But I would make up for it the following year.

2012 was a banner year for Terry Macdonald and his friends. I finished 10 new stories this year as well as revising a further 2 more. A total of 12 stories that year. I have not had that big a year writing since(n titles), although I've come close. According to my files, I wrote 129,000 words that year. (Well I probably typed many more but due to errors, that was the amount of the finished stories). In 2015 I wrote more words (but the reason for that I will explain more in depth in a later post)

The two that I revised in 2012, were "The Samurai Sword Mystery" and "The Spine Chilling Challenge", two of my favourites of the older stories.

As for the new stuff, I went from writing #54 to #63 during the year. And the other amazing thing is that some of these stories remain my favourites.

First off, I wrote "The Witch Doctor's Mask" in January of that year. Also in January I wrote one my all time favourite stories, "The Captive Missile". Sometimes I take a chance on a plot point and sometimes it works out and sometimes it falls flat. In this story it worked out and I love this story. it takes place in the Arctic, one of my favourite locales to use (don't know why this is).

In February I wrote 4 more novels, "Secret of the Stone Idol" which featured bullying at Port Salser Collegiate. Another new character was created. Danny Michaelson is a student at the high school who is bullied by air head jock Daryl Peters. Danny becomes friends with Terry and shows up in some of the newer stories.

"The Sport Card Conspiracy" featured Van and his hockey team, the Port Salser Porcupines. The next story has the distinction of being the fastest story written. It took me only 3 days, Feb 15-17, 2012 to write "Danger At Daredevil's Peak" which was about skateboarding. This book also had the distinction of being the 58th book in the series, which matches the number of books in the Hardy Boys Original Canon.

"The Crime Lab Caper" followed in February also, and the introduction of two new characters, Toby Gellart and Marnie Tobolowski. They are two post grad students who work in the crime lab that Mr. Macdonald opens up in this book.

I took a bit of a break after these stories. After all 4 books in one month is a lot of words. The last 4 books I wrote in 2012 were during NaNoWriMo that year.

The next book I had high ambitions for but the story fell victim to taking too many risks with the plot. Sometimes there are titles that I have for years and don't feel inspired to use so they sit on my title list. Other times I think up a title right away and am inspired to write a story to match. Such was the case with "Tick Tock Terror". I thought the title was cool, and wanted to do something a little different. I had an idea that each of Terry's friends would disappear and he would have a time limit to find them. I used the idea in this story, but the ending didn't quite come together like I planned. Still I'm glad I tried it. It was an experiment and I have to keep pushing myself or the writing gets stale.

The next story "The Dangerous Deception" was also a little different. It took place in Prague and again I used Google street view to help with researching the story. "Riddle of the Headless Rider" was an ambitious title but actually just refers to a school play that Terry is directing. I added some drama in that Terry and Melissa break up briefly due to Terry being jealous but also his arch enemy Daryl Peters, a character I created back in 2006, sticking his nose in and creating trouble for Terry.

Finally in 2012 I wrote "Cyber Phantoms" another title I just thought up and wanted to write a story right away. This one is another of my favourites.

So 2012 was very productive. I now had 63 Terry Macdonald Mysteries. The following year I would make another change to the series...but more about that in my next post.