Wow, has it really been 80 days since we started this ROWnd? I know I accomplished more than if I hadn’t participated. I want to thank Kait for starting this and keeping it going, all the participants, and those who commented on my check-ins that gave encouragement. Also, I want to make a special shout-out to Gene Lempp, my ROWbro, for being a sounding board on my originally goals, a cheerleader when I needed it, and especially a butt-kicker when I needed it. Thanks Gene.

So how did I do? My original goals posted July 4th, and what I accomplished, are listed below.

1) I turn in each of my WWBC (Warrior Writer Boot Camp) assignments as they are due. These are due by midnight Wednesday of each week, but some assignments may take longer than one week to finish. I did well on WWBC during the last 80 days. The biggest thing that happened was a change in direction for my novel. I scraped the fantasy I was writing and started on a thriller set in The South. This was difficult for me to do, but I realized the book I was writing was not what my heart was telling me to write.

2) I complete Kristen Lamb’s “Blogging To Build Your Brand and Your Fan Base” course in July, and implement what I learn during ROW80. Note: I will adjust my goal once I complete the course, as doing so now will probably not be accurate. I did complete Kristen’s class, and I highly recommend it. It allowed me to find what I enjoyed writing about (see item #1 above) and I met an incredible group of other writers that I truly enjoyed interacting with. I was the only guy in the class, but they didn’t hold that against me. I also adjusted my goals for blogging to three times per week, plus ROW80 check-ins, and I didn’t miss a blog.

3) I score a minimum of 114 points in 750words each month during ROW80. I seriously doubt I will write each and every day, so this gives me one day a week I can miss. I think I figured the numbers correctly based upon the FAQ there. The 114 points wasn’t something that actually worked. The algorithm, or whatever it is they use, is so funky that I just started counting the number of days per week I wrote. Since it states in my goal that I was actually shooting for six days per week of 750words, then it was pretty easy. Since there were 11 weeks in ROW80, that means I could miss 11 days of writing during this session. I missed 10, so I hit my goal. The main thing is that I wrote quite a bit, and it made me more disciplined. I recommend that you give it a try if you haven’t already.

4) I read two craft books and one fiction book during ROW80, and post a blog reviewing each. The two craft books are “The 11 Secrets of Getting Published” and “A Dash of Style” and the fiction book is “Outlander”. I finished “Outlander” last week, and the reviews are at the end of this blog, so DONE!!!

5) I comment on and tweet links to NLT 15 blogs per week. Oddly enough, I thought this would be the easiest to do, and it turned out to be one of the hardest. While I think I definitely hit 165+ comments/links in 11 weeks, there were a few weeks where I didn’t make the 15 mark. I’m going to give myself credit for the overall goal, but I need to be more consistent on a weekly basis.

Thanks again for everyone’s help during the last 80 days, and I’m ready to start thinking about my goals for the next ROWnd. Enjoy my reviews below if you’re interested.

“The 11 Secrets of Getting Published” by Mary E. DeMuth

While I truly enjoyed this book, and the way it was written, I didn’t really find any secrets here. Mary E. DeMuth is engaging and draws you into her different chapters with experience, what to do, and what to avoid, but I knew most of what she shared through my reading of current blogs by various published authors. Her chapters on writing itself (craft, discipline, critique, and genre) were my favorites. I’m afraid her chapters on the business of writing (publishing, queries, marketing, key players, fear of rejection, and writers’ conferences) may become dated in the details as time passes. However, I believe they can help if taken as an overarching approach. I also liked the bonus sections.

I bought the Kindle edition, but I wish I had bought a hard copy to make notes. While I’m glad I bought the book, I would only recommend it with the caveat that you’re going to appreciate the fact you have quite a bit of meat in one book, but you probably won’t find many secrets.

“A Dash of Style” by Noah Lukeman

This book was recommended to me by Jami Gold to help me with my grammar. While some of you are grammar Nazis, I am a grammar goober. I typically find grammar books incredibly boring. This one is engaging and fun. It uses a variety of ways to make grammar interesting to those of us not inclined to liking rules (that would be me). To begin with, it isn’t so much worried about the rules themselves as much as it is when, where, and how to use specific types of punctuation. The author also has each of the chapters on punctuation broken down by how to use it, the dangers of overuse or misuse, context, and what your use of that particular punctuation mark says about you as a writer. The book allows you the opportunity to really see how some punctuation functions within writing. I found the sections on colons and semicolons especially helpful. He breaks things down to their smallest element and then gives great examples for proper use. I highly recommend this book.

By the way, if you’re a grammar Nazi, and I made a mistake above, please feel free to correct me. You’ll feel better if you do, and you won’t have to bite your lip for the next 20 minutes.

“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

This book was recommended to me by several people, so I decided I would give it a try. In all honesty, I found the start of the book to be slow. It took me quite a while to get into the story. I think the reason for this was because she had to set the stage for future events. If I had not heard such great things about the book, I probably would have put it down before the life changing event happened. Once that occurred I really got into the story. Claire and Jamie are great characters, and Black Jack is one of the vilest people I think I’ve ever read about.

As someone who loves historical fiction, I thought the author did an outstanding job on the highlands of Scotland. I felt as if I was living there when I read the book. It was truly spectacular writing. I must warn you that this book is not for the faint of heart when it comes to certain scenes. Blood, gore, and certain perversions are definitely part of the landscape of this novel. I can’t get into any details without revealing certain aspects of the story, but let’s just say I almost had to stop a couple of times, and that rarely happens with me. If you like historical fiction and romance, and don’t mind the above, then this is a really good read.

SPOILER ALERT – DO NOT READ BEYOND HERE IF YOU PLAN ON READING THE BOOK

I absolutely hated how Black Jack was killed, and was he really killed? I know there are sequels to this book, so I wonder if he survived and later rears his ugly head down the road somewhere. Being gored by a cow in a dungeon and then trampled to death? Come on. I wanted either Jamie or Claire to kill this guy, preferably slow and agonizing, but not with a cow. That was disappointing to me. So I tried to understand why. I guess if Claire had killed Black Jack then Jamie wouldn’t have felt like a real man, and for Jamie to be as vulnerable as he was he couldn’t kill him either. I just really hated Black Jack, and I wanted him to suffer, long and hard. She did a great job in making me hate him. As a guy, I really had trouble getting through some of those scenes. I mean this guy needed to be drawn and quartered or something. Anyway, I’ll stop there and just wonder if there was a better way, but the success of the book speaks for itself, and I should take note I suppose. I didn’t hate it so much that I won’t read her next book.

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