Saturday, July 21, 2007
Well, I must say, I've found it difficult to keep up a blog, or keep up with my forum posts, since going back to work. I've also been finding it difficult to write. Not difficult to know WHAT to write, just difficult to get around to it. Writing was something I was able to accomplish on breaks at work at my last job, and then... well, whenever I wanted, during my unemployment. I'm finding it hard to actually have to "schedule" time to write, and then to stick to that schedule.
So this weekend, I decided I absolutely needed a break from even worrying about it, and maybe something to spur my creativity so I would feel the urgent NEED to write. So I was definitely looking forward to the release of the final Harry Potter book.
Don't read further unless you want spoilers!
Just kidding. I wouldn't do that to you. I, along with about five million others, am a very fast reader, and finished the book in just a few hours, but I would never spoil anything for those throngs of fans out there slavering to discover all the secrets for themselves. I'll leave that to whoever those schmucks were who scanned the whole book and put it on the Internet a few days ago, or whoever it was that decided that Wikipedia needed to be IMMEDIATELY updated with every significant detail of the book! I'm just going to give my own vague impressions here, trusting that my readers (if I can be said to have "readers") actually want to experience the end of the story for themselves. So there will only be a few sentences of review here.
Before I do that, though, I just want to touch on that whole spoiler thing. Don't get me wrong, in certain circumstances, I'm not averse to spoilers. For my favorite comic books, sure, I sometimes enjoy a little advance warning about what's coming. I find it entertaining, as well as a good marketing tool for the comic companies. Oftentimes, I'll buy something based on an advance review of the comic, or spoiler pages I've read. With TV shows I'm really bad about it... I almost ALWAYS want to know what's going to happen on Smallville. Who the newest FOTW is going to be, what DC canon character is going to show up in a totally new form just for TV. But as an author... albeit an unpublished one... I sympathize with J.K. Rowling. A bunch of folks out there are saying she should just let it drop. Who cares if someone got an advance copy of her book? Or 1200 someones? Who cares if it was posted on the Internet? The fans are going to buy it anyway, it's not going to affect her bottom line.
At this point, does anyone really think Rowling cares about her bottom line? Richer than the Queen of England, people! And that's pretty rich!
She cares about the product of her work, and pleasing her fans. She cares about seeing her carefully laid plans come together, and the excitement she's managed to generate over all these years for the culmination of this story. And yes, like every other author, she gets a perverse pleasure from seeing the shock, surprise, and emotion on peoples' faces when some unexpected twist they've written sincerely moves a reader. No, I'm not saying Harry Potter is incredible, heart-stopping literature, but no one can deny that it's become a serious phenomenon all over the world. And to be honest with you, I'm a fan... I love the books. Not my favorite series, but still, I've thoroughly enjoyed every installment. And I honestly feel for the woman that this pall was placed over the proceedings for the final release at the very last moment. And if it were me, and the release of my novel (first, second, seventh, or millionth!) was coming up, I'd be mortified to find out the entire text had appeared on the Internet. Then again, judging from the fans I saw in our little town's B&N release party, no one even noticed outside the big newspapers.
Now... on to the review...
It was good. Go buy it.
OK. Let's see.
Without giving too much away, then...
J.K. Rowling managed to tie up just about everything, every loose end you could think of, in a nice little bow. Everything (just about) is explained. Everything makes sense in the end. And you can tell that she meticulously plotted these books out from the beginning. There were plot points and simple comments from as far back as book 1 that turned out to have far more significance to the overall story than I would have believed.
OK, so not EVERY question ever asked by a fan is answered. But some of the questions us fans can come up with are pretty... ummm... nit-picky. So let me clarify and say, every question that J.K. Rowling intended from the beginning to be important to the story, was answered.
As far as the flow of the book, and was it an enjoyable read... it flowed pretty nicely, overall, and I certainly did enjoy it. There were a few parts that dragged a bit, and a few parts that seemed just a tad repetitive, but they were things that needed to happen. You'll have that over the course of a story that takes seven books to tell. Look at Jordan's Wheel of Time series... every third or fourth book is basically just filler, to get people from here to there and set up the exciting events of the next three or four. But those slightly dragging parts weren't overpowering, and the story flowed quite well from one concept to the next.
For the writing style, this book is a very drastic change over every book prior. Each book has had a darker and darker tone, especially since Goblet of Fire. Half-Blood Prince was pretty dark all around. But this book is by far the darkest, most adult of the entire series. This is reflected in Rowling's writing style. She uses far less flowery speech, and far less humor. In fact, a lot of the sense of delight and wonder in this magical world is missing, replaced by drama, fear, and angst. But that's most certainly to be expected, and even desired, when a story has followed its main characters from childhood to adulthood during what have to be considered perilous times.
Who lives? Some people. Who dies? Some other people. That's about all I can say on that, other than to point out... well, death and loss are pretty prominent in this book. Then again, so is self-sacrifice, triumph, and celebrating life.
So, all in all... I liked it. I don't think it's the best book of the series, but it was a highly satisfying ending to the story. There were sad parts (starting less than 60 pages in), there were happy parts, there was triumph and loss, and the ending... well, read it yourselves.
Anyone else have any thoughts? On the review, or on the mini-scandal leading up to the release? Feel free to comment.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Started my new job. I'm loving it so far... I like the location, the plant site, the guys I'm working with, and the job itself. It's less than ten minutes from my house! What could be better?
And oh, lest I forget (which I can't, because I'm obsessed at the moment...), the comic book challenge entry is DONE!!! And entered! And looks GREAT! The artist, Erick Marquez, really outdid himself. I can't sing this guy's praises enough... he did an amazing job bringing the characters and scenes I gave him to life. You can find our entry page in any of these locations:
Still no word from my agent... she's been in NYC for about a week, pitching my novels. I hope to hear something soon, either while she's still there or when she gets back. Fingers still crossed!
So anyway, sorry for the recent absence. I'll be sure to post more in the future.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Ring of Auberon comic is coming along. More art has been posted on the MySpace site http://www.myspace.com/ringofauberon if anyone is interested. The page we're entering has been completely penciled now, and partially inked. Color should be coming soon as well, and then it's back to me for lettering. 8 days til the deadline... getting nervous! However, on a positive note, I have scripted pretty much the entire first issue. It needs some tweaking, but the general idea of it is down. So, once we enter the contest, the plan is to really get moving on the art so that we can have a solid pitch to make assuming we're in the top 50.
The novel front is also still moving forward. My agent should be in NYC as we speak. I hope to hear back from her soon about how her trip went. With as many pitches for me as she's planning to make, I'm hoping one or two connect. I'll update you on that as soon as I have any more info.
And finally, I have a start date for my new job! Yay! Next Wednesday... the day before the Comic Book Challenge deadline... yipes! That means I'm going to have to really bust my butt, use up all my free time, once I have those completed pages. I'm very excited about the job, though. I've been trying to get on in computer services at this plant for a LONG time. It's so close to home, pays so well, and hopefully will be a stable enough job that I'll be able to really set down some roots again.
School's almost out... meaning my son will be heading to his mom's house for the summer very soon. I'm of two minds on the subject. A summer off from the responsibilities of being a single dad is looking kind of nice... but two and a half months without my son isn't really looking so nice. Ah, well... I've endured it before, I can endure it again.
So that's what's been going on. Busy, busy!
Oh, also... check out our dedicated MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/ringofauberon as well as our Picasa website at under the username RingOfAuberon. Thanks for the interest, and we hope we get your vote in the challenge!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
The dedicated MySpace page can be found at http://www.myspace.com/ringofauberon
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
First off, I've still been polishing the script for the Ring of Auberon. It's going great, and I'm beyond excited about it. The artist for the project is working on the excerpt page for the competition. And beyond that, my agent has said that if we don't win the contest, she would like to take a look at the project and possibly represent us in finding a publisher.
Secondly, my second pitch for the contest may be going forward after all. A very talented artist I met on MySpace, who was too busy before to work with me, has decided that he can possibly help me out. I'm working on a script page for him, trying to make it an exciting scene, and he's going to try and get it inked before the deadline. So if we can make it in time, I'll be involved in two collaborations for the competition!
And finally, my agent is getting ready to go on a trip to NYC to pitch projects face to face with several editors. She's made a lot of appointments with some of the major houses, and has already had a few requests for advance copies of The Gatehouse book 1 so they can familiarize themselves with it before she meets with them. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty promising to me!
So things are looking up on the publishing front. I'm pretty hopeful some good news will filter back to me soon.
On a totally unrelated note, I'm still waiting on an official start date for my new job. Why is it that these background checks take so long? There's nothing to show up on it... are they digging back to my elementary school days or something? I've never been arrested, never been in jail, never been accused or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, never so much as tried illegal drugs... I've only ever gotten one speeding ticket in my whole life! What's the deal?
Sunday, May 13, 2007
So then, Thursday of this week, I get a call out of the blue from a recruiter that has a job opening right here in Mount Vernon for the largest employer in town. It's for a PC break fix technician. The pay is only a bit less than the technology refresh, but it's a 3-month-to-direct-hire position as opposed to a temp position. It's also maybe ten minutes from my house. AND after 3 months, there's a full benefits package.
So, no brainer... I said sure, I'll interview. The company called me up that afternoon, very interested, and gave me a phone interview. I talked to the recruiter about an hour later, and was offered the job. I'd still heard nothing back about my background check at the other place, so I only had to think about it for a few minutes... I said absolutely, I'll take it.
Well, Friday I got a call from the other company. My background check was complete, and they were ready for me to start on Monday. I gave the recruiter the bad news, that I had accepted a position with another company, and explained why it was a better opportunity.
And he was TICKED. Big time. He told me I should have informed him that I was interviewing for other positions, and that it was unprofessional. He told me that they'd put a lot into getting me that position, and that I shouldn't have told him I'd take it if I were considering other offers. Basically, he tried to bully me into changing my mind and working with them.
At that point, I stopped the guy and explained to him that I had NOT been interviewing with other companies at the time I'd accepted the job. In fact, if I'd been able to start on the day I was supposed to... 4 days before... then it wouldn't have been an issue. I explained that it was a very sudden thing, that I'd gotten the call about the job and gotten the job offer in the space of two hours, and that I would probably not have taken it if I'd already been working for them. (That wasn't necessarily true... it's a GOOD opportunity.) Regardless, I told him that there was nothing underhanded going on, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
Well, he calmed down a little bit at that point, but he was still pretty ticked off. He made it clear to me that his company, and the company he represented, would not work with me in the future if I happened to be looking for a job again.
So I'm a little upset about the whole deal. Here I am, out of work, out of money, and I'm supposed to wait indefinitely while they keep pushing back my start date even if a better offer comes along? I think not! But it bothers me a lot that I've now got the label of "undependable", at least with one contract company out there. That's a bad thing, since the kind of work I do is almost always handled by contractors these days.
But what was I supposed to do? This new offer was from a place where I've been trying to get on for years. It's hard to get your foot in the door out there, and I couldn't pass up this chance now. This is the kind of company that people retire from, not the kind where they work for a few years and then move on.
Ah, well. Hard choice to have to live with, but an easy one to make, I suppose.
OK, rant over. Now let's talk about writing.
I've been scripting and synopsizing like mad for the Comic Book Challenge. I never did find an artist for the second pitch I had in mind, which is too bad, because it would have been a good one. But the artist I'm working with on the fantasy pitch is very talented, and he's got a great feel for where I'm going with the story. I'm really looking forward to working with him. So far, I've sent him two script pages, one from early on in the story and another from the climactic moment. I've also scripted out about ten other pages, working in order from the beginning. The story is coming along nicely, and I think it's something that will appeal to a lot of readers. So wish us luck! And stay tuned... if we make it to the finals, we're going to need all of your votes!
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
I'll be a contractor involved with a PC technology refresh for one of the area hospitals. Basically, I'll be checking out the old equipment, determining if it meets the criteria to need replacement, and then determining the needs of the user for their new computer system. After new equipment is ordered, I'll be setting up the new PC, delivering to the user, and giving basic instruction in use.
OK, so it's not glamorous. Kind of baby steps compared to what I'm used to. But I'm more than qualified for it, and it pays better than my last job, even if it is a short term contract. No benefits, but eh, I'm healthy right now.
But I absolutely refuse to let this interfere with my writing. Yeah, I'll be busy during the day, but I'll have time in the evenings... on weekends... lunch breaks... whatever. I wrote my first book while working a full time job. I can do it again. It'll even give me motivation. ;-)
So congratulate me. I'll finally be getting a paycheck again.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Ah, well. Enough ranting.
Things are going well here. I've finally got a handle on the revisions my agent asked for (except for that pesky prologue, which I can't help it... I don't agree with her on that!). So book 2 is moving ahead, with several changes made. I'm now going through the methodical process of making sure the changes I made are reflected later in the book. It'd be embarrassing if in Chapter 7 I were to reference an occurrence from Chapter 2, and have that occurrence no longer be there. It's time consuming, but it's coming along.
I'm still in the process of synopsizing and outlining my comic book pitch, and I'm pretty certain that I've found an artist I want to work with... on ONE of the pitches. For some reason, other folks who have contacted me have yet to send me sketches or character concepts. I figure they just have too much stuff going on in their own lives to have the time to get to it, even if they're excited about it. Problem is, there's a deadline that's only a month away, and I NEED to find the right artist for my second pitch if I want to get both of them entered.
I have a job interview tomorrow for a short term contract. I'm pretty confident I'll get it. I'm almost perfectly qualified for it. It's only three months, but the pay is quite good, so I've got my fingers crossed. Wish me luck, everyone!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
On the novel home front, my revisions for book 2 have been on a backburner for a little while as my concentration has been directed toward the comic pitches. I started some work today on revising, with the idea that having stepped away from the project for a little while, I'd have a better perspective. However, after printing out the book, I began reading through and looking for changes to make... and I found myself drawn into the story. My OWN STORY! How often does that happen to a writer? I know that on my first novel, and on every short story I've ever written, I can usually look back on the and feel pride, but very rarely do my own writings draw me in as if I were a reader instead. I can read my own work, and see both flaws and strengths, but this book is different. It was like reading an old favorite novel, instead of like critiquing my own work. I have to admit, it makes it difficult to find places to revise as my agent has suggested... but I LOVE this book! Not just as a writer, but as a reader. Regardless... I have to go murder a bunch of my darlings, and in many places replace them with new darlings, to please my agent.
And short stories... oh, my! All of my short story work has dropped by the wayside. I have mutiple projects that I had been outlining (one of which got turned into the dark fantasy comic pitch), but I haven't done any work on them in a couple of weeks or more. Short stories are often considered the true test of a talented author... and it seems I've let those particular skills desert me lately. Ah, well... there's plenty of time for that, I suppose. I shouldn't stretch myself too thin. I should concentrate on the things I already have an agent for, and the things where other people (artists) are likely going to be depending on me to do my part.
And last, but not least... I'm broke. I need a job BADLY. I've been looking, and I've been interviewing, but nothing has solidified. I've even been contacted by multiple recruiters and contract agencies based on my resume and qualifications, and they all seem excited about working with me, but none of them has turned into a job yet. It's driving me crazy. I'm not just a little broke... I'm BROKE broke. As in, have to borrow money for my son's school lunches broke. As in, going to be lacking in certain creature comforts like electricity, water, and shelter broke, unless I can come up with some way to make some money. It's not that I'm lazy, it's not that I'm unqualified... it's just that there are only a few things that I know how to do that can earn me enough to live on, and I can't seem to find anyone who wants to pay me to do them. It's getting frustrating.
That's enough about my personal life... I'm sure that's not what you're here to read about. I just throw it in there because it's yet another of the examples of real life intruding on my writing time and my frame of mind.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
As of yet, I've not cemented any arrangement to work with anyone. I'm waiting for preliminary sketches of a couple of my character outlines from several folks, hoping to find one (or more) who "gets" my concept and is excited about the project.
For anyone who's interested, what the contest requires is a page of story concept from the writer and a page of art from the artist. My understanding is that these could take several forms. A synopsis of the story, or a page of script, or character outlines and a general story concept from the writer. A page of character sketches, a page of finished character concept drawings, or a finished comic book page with or without letters from the artist. If I'm understanding the contest right, they'll look at these and narrow it down to fifty semi-finalists who will travel to California with more work to pitch to the judges there. I'm assuming this will be anything up to and including a full comic book ready to be sent to the printer. These fifty will be narrowed down to three, which will be posted on the web and judged by the public.
I'm working on two separate story pitches. One is a dark fantasy interacting with modern characters. There will be characters as wide ranging as Auberon/The Erl King, Titania/The Witch Queen, and Puck to more normal characters like Detective Jeff Mabry, Cassandra O'Neill, and Gustav "Gus" Stratman. If it works out the way I want, it will be interesting and fun to read on a "Strange Tales" or "Tales From The Crypt" level, and it will be graphically interesting, both dark and sinister and light and cheerful depending on the scene's setting or characters focused on.
The other pitch is a fairly standard reluctant superhero story, with a twist. There won't be any tights or secret identities, although the reluctant hero will act behind the scenes and in secret. He's basically a troubled teen, slacker, gets in trouble all the time, and suddenly finds himself gifted with superpowers. He uncovers a terrorist plot, and must try and convince the authorities of it or try and stop it himself. His only friend is a comic book geek from school who idolizes him for his rebellious ways. His friend will be the one urging him on to use his powers as a superhero, and our hero will resist as much as he can.
That's basically it. I'm excited about both of them, and honestly think that with the right art, both of them have a shot at winning. However, I must admit to being far more intrigued by the dark fantasy idea.
So what's anyone think? Do either of those sound interesting for a graphic format? With the right art, would you read a book based on either of those premises?
Thursday, April 12, 2007
"Submissions will be open from 12am May 1st to 11:59pm May 31st. People will need to submit a one-page paragraph and one completed page of art, showing what their plan for the overall book is. Submitters should have an art team selected and in place, ready to commence production on the book as soon as the winner is chosen."
Now, here's what I have to say: HELP!!!!!
I can't draw. Don't get me wrong, I have a slight bit of talent in the area. But it's in COPYING, not orignal artwork! I can do rough drawings of other people's work, or even from photos, but I can't produce original work from my own head! I need an artist to collaborate with me. I have pitches that I'm working on. But if I can't find an artist, I'll be stuck with sending in a page of stick figures! Which the contest guidelines say is acceptable, but really, does someone who does that have any shot at winning? I think not.
So if you're a talented illustrator... if you've always wanted to break into the comic book industry... if you KNOW anyone who fits either of those criteria... if your cousin's second wife's thirteen year old daughter is an artistic prodigy with a comic-book bent... LET ME KNOW! Put me in touch! I've got a month and a half to find an artist that I mesh with, who likes my pitch and wants to be part of this. Not even a month and a half, considering the artist will need a full page or more of illustrations by the end of May!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Case in point: Book 2. I've been working on the revisions for the first chapter of my second book, and tossing around some ideas that would work, but weren't really all that pleasing to me. Then, while seated on that majestic porcelain throne, inspiration struck. The problem with the opening chapter was with character development of the two main characters in the scene, and an unbelievable plot leap that my agent just couldn't accept. So I realized that part of the problem is that the opening to the scene is the epilogue to the first book. Other than the whole cliffhanger aspect, making people who read the first book want to pick up the second one, there's really no reason to split it up like that. Moving the epilogue from book 1 to the first chapter of book 2 allows for the character development that my agent felt was lacking. In addition, I also came up with a solution to the plot leap that fixes the problem and yet still allows our two heroes to be thrown into the same situation as they were in the original version... which is where I need them.
So things are moving along. I still haven't figured out what to do about the prologue, but I'm moving along on chapter one. Once I have that put together, it'll be time to go back and tackle the prologue and hope I can figure out what to do with it.
Maybe I should go visit the throne again and see what I can come up with.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
My interview today was with New Harmony Public Schools. The position they advertised was vague; I thought it was for a PC technician. What they actually want is a Technology Coordinator. And guess what? That's a good next step for me!
The interview was good. I spoke with the principal of the school and the superintendant. The interview lasted a full hour. They were impressed with my resume and qualifications, liked my skills, and seemed to genuinely like my personality and background. They went to great lengths to describe their current situation (they have a teacher who has been handling the duties part time) and their current configuration and potential changes they'd like to make. They asked me about what I would do in certain situations, and seemed pleased with my answers. They asked about my hobbies and interests, and were surprised to hear that I'd been writing fiction novels. The principal was also pleased that I have an interest in vocal music performance, because that is his background as well.
All in all, it went really well, and I think the were impressed. They're still interviewing, of course, so I won't know anything for a week or two. But I found the interview to be encouraging.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
I'm telling you, revising sucks rocks. If you read my blog regularly, you know my agent gave me a moderately brutal appraisal of the opening of my second novel, and I've been working on addressing the issues she identified. So far, I'm stuck on the prologue. In her opinion, it needs to be "edgier", and there's too much internal monologue going on. So I've re-written it now FIVE TIMES with no success. One attempt was even to throw away what I'd written altogether, and just keep the basic premise ad write something dark and edgy. Each time, it's been given to my first readers, and come back marked up as unacceptable. Everyone (except my agent) seems to think that my first draft is great the way it is, and that it doesn't need anything done to it. It's been driving me so crazy that I haven't even been able to address the other concerns she gave me, which seem more valid and probably easier to fix.
How do I resolve this? How do I fix something that one person out of seven has told me needs fixing? How do I find a middle ground between keeping myself happy, my first readers happy, and my agent happy? My agent has to be happy, because she has to love my books in order to sell them. But I have to be happy, too, or else why write?
Suffice it to say, I'm starting to grow frustrated with these initial revisions. Again.
On a side note, I have another job interview this Thursday for a local school district. I don't know how much it pays yet, but at this point, it doesn't really matter. I'm broke.
Wish me luck!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I just went to this movie with my son (13), neice (16), and brother (43). Let me say from the very beginning, I enjoyed this movie immensely. You may not see that from the review you're about to read, so I just wanted to state it up front. Also be aware, there are SPOILERS ahead, so if you don't want the spoilers, stop reading!
The movie had several flaws, and I'm going to bash them here, hard.
Number one, the movie is apparently set as a story being told by a teacher in the far, far future. However, the only references to the movie being a story are found at the very beginning, and the very end. That is, by far, the cheesiest and hokiest part of the entire film. It would have been better as a whole to drop those two scenes (although the cinematography in the far future scenes is beautiful, as is the countryside).
Number two, there is a scene toward the late-middle of the movie that introduces a new character played by Michael Clarke Duncan. He plays a Homeland Security director in Seattle. Now, there are some small problems with both the character, and the portrayal of the city of Seattle. First of all, they try to make the city seem... small, I suppose. The Homeland Security folks even make a point of asking why anyone would want to attack Seattle. Umm... huge population? Microsoft? Major corporate centers? That, along with other things, just seemed strange to someone like me, who lives in a town of 10,000. In addition to that, the introduction (and subsequent actions, and worse, INaction) of the Homeland Security folks just serves to make the entire sub plot pointless. They don't really DO anything. And at the end, after all is said and done, Duncan and the Homeland Security folks just... leave.
Number three, while we're shown this semi-interesting subplot about the elementary school teacher of the young male protagonist, it's hardly developed at all. The teacher (Dwight from The Office) has been having dreams for quite some time, and as it turns out, these dreams are directly connected to what's happening with the kids in this story. However... it NEVER EXPLAINS WHY! It never explores it one little bit. Here's this guy having prophetic dreams, and it relates to all this amazing, fantastic stuff going on, but we're never given an explanation as to why.
And, finally... we don't get closure! Or at least, not as much as I'd like. These kids develop interesting abilities and newfound intelligence... is it still there after it's all over? They suddenly have new insights into the way the world works, new ways of thinking. But we don't really know if any of this has had a lasting effect on them at all.
OK... so, all that being said... Go see this movie! The two kids are great, and the story itself, while having a few plot leaps that you have to pretend not to see, is engaging. The special effects are very, very well done, but not overused. They're not sparse, either. In fact, I'd say the quality of the SFX and the amount of effects use meld together to be near perfect.
So... A good movie. I'd give it a B to a B+.
Friday, March 23, 2007
That's the kind of thing I'm trying to build here with this blog, with only moderate levels of success. I want a community of friends, fellow writers and aspiring writers, and even fans, who can communicate back and forth and share ideas, tips, and inspiration. Networking and making friends with others in the industry. So, to everyone out there, leave me comments! Send me messages! Leave comments for the other folks who blog around here! Don't leave us hanging.
Now, on to blogging about writing. My agent's comments about my first edit: I meant to say second novel were not as disheartening as one might think. She basically just said there were a few plot leaps in the very beginning that didn't work for her, and that I didn't develop the two introductory characters enough in the first chapter before jumping into a confusing fight scene. I can definitely work with what she had to say, and nothing she said changes the fact that I still think the second book is stronger than the first. Her only complaint was with my opening, and she didn't want to read further until I had addressed those issues, lest they get lost in the shuffle.
Speaking of being lost in the shuffle, my short story work has taken a back seat to revisions on book 2. I'm not likely to make the deadline for a first quarter entry into the Writers of the Future contest at this point. I may be taking too much on… I'm working on book 2, jotting notes for future reference about book 3, trying to write two very different short stories, working on a script for the Comic Book Challenge (speaking of which, any illustrators out there interested in collaborating?), and occasionally outlining/making notes for a new book in a different continuity. Plus, I'm still looking for work and starting to get a bit worried about the financial situation.
So there, in a large nutshell, is where I stand. One last thank you to Nicole, and a request to everyone else to leave comments, send messages, and generally correspond!
Monday, March 19, 2007
Write A First Novel
The World According to Boring John
The Web's Most Humongous Collection of Writing Quotes
There are quite a few more sites I could post here, and I'll probably do so in the future. These are just ones that I look at regularly.
On a side note, I've received my first two rejections, from Little, Brown and Company, and from Harcourt. Both rejections are due to "too many familiar elements" in the story, as was my very first rejection from Sourcebooks. Basically, there are a couple of series out there already that have a youthful hero traveling to alternate universes. It's frustrating, because the reason there are similar stories out there is because it's POPULAR! And never mind the fact that my novel has far more UNIQUE story elements than it has similarities. What my story shares with theirs is the basic premise of alternate universes accessible from our own, and a young hero. That's it! The meat of my story is about a single father's journey to become closer to his troubled son, and help the boy turn his life around.
I'm not too concerned about it. That makes a grand total of three publishers who've seen my first novel, and three who have rejected it. There are several hundred more to choose from... one of them will get behind it!
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Comic Book Challenge 2007 is on! Platinum Studios has announced that they are accepting submissions for their second annual comic book contest. Think "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" minus the goofy costumes, bad acting, and reality show aspects. Basically, aspiring creators come up with their best comic book pitch and submit it. Fifty semi-finalists will be chosen to go to San Diego in July and give their pitch on live TV to a celebrity panel of industry judges. Three pitches are then chosen to be voted on by the public in an online voting process. The top creator or creative team will then be paid to write and/or illustrate their comic, which will be published as a comic or graphic novel in 2008.
I don't have any details on the submission process right now, but they should be available soon at http://www.comicbookchallenge.com .
I've got about a hundred ideas for submission to the contest. I just need to choose which one to submit! I've also got the small problem of being just about the worst artist in the history of the genre. I can copy fairly well, but I can't do original work. So unless I can find an illustrator who is inspired by my story ideas, I'll be submitting just a story script... which I think will probably lessen my chances.
So, any aspiring comic authors and illustrators out there, there's your shot! Check out the contest, and get your pitch ready! And, as a personal aside, if there are any artists or illustrators out there who'd be interested in collaborating with me on a pitch, get back with me... quick! The fifty semi-finalists will be going to San Diego in late July, so time is running short!
Friday, March 16, 2007
Basically, what this means is, after you've written a work and had an opportunity to step back from it for a while, it's sometimes helpful to go re-visit it and THEN start making cuts. With growing experience, you will find ways to make the work stronger. In fact, the article gives several examples of things to watch out for that I've found I'm definitely guilty of. Overuse of adverbs and adjectives, overdramatization, unnecessary characters, that sort of thing.
I finished the revisions for my first novel back in January. It's been a month and a half, and I suddenly had the urge to go back and re-visit it for several reasons. One is, I'm obsessed with what my agent has told me about length and word count. Of the publishers who chose not to look at my work after the synopsis and query were sent, a couple specifically said it was because the book was too long for the target market.
So I opened up the file and started reading through it. I already had some ideas for places where it could be trimmed. My opening chapters are rather long, introducing the two main characters and getting to know them. But with the experience I got writing my second novel, I learned how to introduce characters better, get to know them with fewer words, scenes, or drawn-out explanations. The opening took place over three chapters before the fantasy elements of the story even started to develop. So I moved some things around, made some cuts, and changed the opening from taking place over two days to all happening in one. It may take some further tweaking, but with the re-arranging of a few events and the paring down, I believe I've been able to introduce the characters just as strongly, and it all takes place in one chapter. By chapter two, the fantasy elements are beginning to come to the fore. And I cut over five thousand words!
I feel that I can continue this through the rest of the novel. There are several other places in which I have been a tad wordy when it wasn't necessary. There are a few places where scenes can be combined, or possibly just gotten rid of. This is something that I was not able to see when I revised before. And I wouldn't be able to see it now if not for the experience of writing my second novel. I don't really know if it's something I should be doing or not; my agent is already happy with the first novel, and she does have it in some big-name hands right now. But I'm a writer, and typical of writers, I always feel that I can make it better if I just change this word, or that word, and murder my little darlings.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I went to the interview, and was told that the shift required would be evening shift, 4PM to after midnight. That's not something I'm able to do. My son is having a sort of rough time in his life right now. If I were to take the evening shift, I'd literally never see him awake except on weekends and in the morning when I send him off to school, and that's not a sacrifice I'm willing to make as a single parent. So the interview turned out to be pretty short, despite the fact that they seemed impressed with my qualifications.
I hope beyond hope that I get the interview for the other job soon. I don't know what they're delaying for, but they keep telling me the position isn't filled, and they haven't interviewed anyone else for it. But it's my perfect job, at a good salary, and 8-5 shift.
So today was a total bust. I'm now at home, and pulling up my short story to work on it and hopefully nail down the ending.
Oh, and for anyone curious, I've added an author photo (OK, it's actually a snapshot taken with my camera at arm's length). So you folk can see what I look like now.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Well, I went and got my hair cut today. It's been a while; I hadn't gotten a haircut since November! I was kind of enjoying the shagginess. But I have to look presentable for my interview tomorrow.
Now, back to blogging about writing.
I've been working hard on this short story, and it's coming along great. It still feels very odd to write in this format. The story is about a secondary character from my first novel, detailing his early life and how he came to be in the position he was in during the novel. Sort of a prequel. It's easy enough to do, because I've got the basic character outline that tells me how things develop. The problem is, I've got enough material to cover almost half a novel. I'm having to pick and choose what I include and what I cut. It's frustrating. But still, it's coming along. Barring any extreme distractions, I should be finished with the first draft by the end of the week. Then add a little spit and polish, get some feedback, and drop it in the mail. That's the plan, at least.
And then it'll be months before I find out if I even place in the competition. Ugh! The waiting is the worst part of this whole game!
One good thing, though. Win, place, or show, my story will be read by some greats in the industry. Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Robert Silverburg, Frederik Pohl, to name just a few. I get a thrill just knowing that so many big names will be holding my manuscript in their hands within a month or so!
Monday, March 12, 2007
Well, wish me luck!
I have a job interview on Wednesday, and another tentatively scheduled for Thursday or Friday of this week. The tentative one is exactly what I was doing at my previous job, down to the type of tracking software they use. The one Wednesday is one I'm not completely qualified for, but I'm highly qualified for the largest part of it. I made this clear to the person who contacted me, and they still want to interview me and think I might be right for the position.
Kind of nervous. I don't interview well. I tend to get a bit flustered. I'm qualified, and I'm good at what I do, I just get nervous dealing with new people until I get to know them... and you can't let your nervousness show in job interview!
Add to that the fact that I haven't worked, other than an odd job here and there on the side, since October of last year, and I'm going a tad crazy. Not only do I have to be nervous about the interview, I have to be nervous about the prospect of going back to work in a totally new place with totally new people. For some people, this might seem easy enough, but I'm an introverted, shy, self-conscious person who worked in the same place for almost six years.. And part of me doesn't want to give up my current so-called life of leisure.
Ah, well, I need the paychecks. At least until I become the next J.K. Rowling or Michael Crichton or Orson Scott Card.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
My son has been officially bitten by the theatre bug. After two months of long evening practices, he and his fellow choir students at his junior high school put on their rendition of the show High School Musical. Surprisingly, they played to a packed house on both Friday night's performance and Saturday afternoon's show.
If you're a parent of a child from the age of five to fifteen, you've probably seen or at least heard of High School Musical. It's become a phenomenon lately. And to be honest, it's really not a bad show, with some decent music (if a little "pop"-y for my taste), and the kids are really into it. And I have to say, I was very, very impressed with the quality of the production. It was on par with some high school shows I've seen.
I felt bad for my son at first. He had practiced and practiced for three weeks or so before the auditions, and had gotten to be very good at the assigned audition song. He was so excited. Music is a big part of our lives, and his mother's life as well, and both myself and his mother had a long history of musical performance in junior high, high school, and college. So he was excited about having a chance to make us proud.
And then came the audition. He came home having a panic attack, saying he couldn't go through with it. I talked to him for a while, and he decided he wanted to try, but that I had to go support him. I did, and he was sooooooooo nervous that he lost the tempo in his audition and blew the song.
And so he made the chorus. Better than nothing, but not what he wanted.
Over the couple of months of practice, he started to become disillusioned. He was working hard, spending all his free time on rehearsals, having to skip a lot of things he might rather be doing, and he didn't even have a speaking role. In the last two weeks before the show, he'd decided he wanted to quit, but I wouldn't let him. If he decides never to try out again, fine, but you can't quit once you've made a commitment to do something.
So the night of the show came along, and I gotta' tell you, he is SO glad I didn't let him quit. He loved it! He had a great time, both performances, and can't wait to try out for another show.
So I'm proud of him. He stuck it out, even though he didn't want to, and he found out that the payoff at the end was worth all the sacrifices to get there. If I'm lucky, he'll learn that as a fact of life and apply it to other things as well.
Yeah, I know, this is a blog about my life and not my writing. I don't do that very often. Don't hold it against me.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Starhawk, Book 2: Planet America, by Mack Maloney.
I don't know why I grabbed this book. I remember reading it the first time, and finding it awful. For that matter, I have read the first two books in this series, and they are both awful. But when I saw it on my bookshelf, I felt the perverse urge to read it again.
Yeah. It's still awful.
I won't go into detail on the plot (I'm sure some of you out there have read it), but it's a meandering, nonsensical science fiction/adventure novel with a ludicrous premise and the most inane dialogue and characters I've ever found in a work of fiction. From the amnesiac fighter pilot Hawk Hunter, who has built a faster-than-light F-16 out of thin air, to Pater Tomm, this book reads like it was written by throwing words in a hat and drawing them out one by one. Seriously. It's reminiscent of those creative writing exercises you used to do in high school and college, where the instructor would give you a list of words that had nothing to do with each other and you had to write a story or poem focusing on those words and tying them together.
After reading the first few chapters again, I decided to check this writer out and see what else he's done and how his books have been reviewed. This guy has written and published almost thirty books! He wrote the Wingman series, the Chopper Ops series, the Superhawks series, and the Starhawk series. The only one of these that I've had a brush with is Starhawk, the one I've been talking about today.
I just couldn't grasp how the person who wrote this complete dog of a book I'd been reading could have published thirty novels. Again, the only ones I've had the pleasure of reading are the first two Starhawk books. Perhaps his others are more noteworthy. I decided to look up some reviews.
And what did I find? The Starhawk books... these books that I found nearly unreadable, and almost laughable in content... got four and five stars in every review I could find! Even the only reviewer I found that had bad things to say (childish writing style... unbelievable or just plain wrong science... lack of talent...) said that the books were interesting and engaging!
Am I just missing something here? Or is this maybe one of those sub-genre things that you'll either like or hate, like my brother's favorite Mack Bolan series of books? Is this a case of a writer having found his niche, or am I just a big loser for not liking these books?
Honestly, I really don't like saying negative things about other people's work. That's why I don't really review books very often. Oh, if I feel strongly about something, I'll toss up a bad review somewhere, and I suppose I can get pretty caustic. (You should read some of my old reviews on Kryptonsite about Chuck Austen's run on Action Comics... Yowza!) But these Starhawk books are just BAD, in my opinion, and yet they receive almost universal praise!
I have to give Maloney his due, though. Whether I think his books are bad or not, he's gotten publishers to buy almost thirty of them. He's built the kind of writing career I can only wish for. According to his website, he began writing in 1984 and has been writing full time for a living since 1987. He's obviously doing something right; targeting the right editors, hitting the right niche market, appealing to a specific yet broad range of fans, something. He appears to have over a million copies of his books in print, and he's still writing and selling his work to publishers. Kudos to you, Mack Maloney, on having the life I want.
But man, I don't like your books.
Someday I hope someone writes a post just like this about my books. While I may find Maloney's books awful, a LOT of people out there obviously love them. One person's opinion doesn't make a book bad, and if someone ever writes a review like this about me, it will mean I've done what Maloney has done. Made a career out of writing novels.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Woke up this morning, sick as a dog. Sinus congestion, difficulty breathing, all over body aches, and tired.
I hate being sick. I mean, really hate it.
On a positive note, I wrote almost five thousand words today on my short story. I threw over a thousand of them out, but still, it's an achievement. It's going much better now that I've made the decision to write a character that I'm far more familiar with, one I've already developed to a high degree. There are still a few rough spots to work out, but I'll get there, and fairly quickly.
I'm shooting for between eight and ten thousand words. This is going to be difficult for me. I've already gone over the goal I set for myself for this point in the story. I don't know if I can pare it down to keep the entire story under my self-imposed limit. Working short isn't easy for me at all, but I'm confident I'll come in under the max limit for the contest, 17K words.
The goal is to polish this story up and enter it in the Writers of the Future contest by the end of this month. That means I need to finish the first draft by the first part of next week so that I can get it workshopped and proofread.
Anybody interested in taking a look at my short story? If I can get some folks who are willing to give me an honest critique and not show the story to anyone else, I'd definitely appreciate it. Just let me know.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
I'm developing a decent readership, but I don't get any comments. I'm starting to feel like I'm just monologuing here! I want to get input back from the people who are interested enough to read my ramblings.
On a different note, relating to my post yesterday, I think I've found a way around the problem I mentioned with my short fiction. The problem isn't so much that I'm having trouble dealing with writing short fiction, it's that I'm having trouble dealing with short characterizations. I need to write a character for a while, get to know him or her, before I feel comfortable writing for that character. But it's hard to develop a character to that point in short fiction.
But I think I've figured a way around that problem. The works I've already done have a LOT of characters, both major and minor. There are also references to a lot of events and history that is only peripheral to the books. So I'm going to take one big event that was only a mention in my novel, something that happened ten years before the book takes place, and then take one character that I know very well and write the story of his place and his role in that event.
Yeah, it's cheating. It's not really something new, it's something that's already been worked out as backstory for another work. But it's something I'm familiar with, and can really sink my teeth into. It's something that I feel comfortable writing. And it's something I'm certain I can do well. It's not really branching out the way I want to, but I think I've decided that I'll branch out in my next novel instead of trying to do it in short stories. At least until I feel more comfortable with the short form works.
Monday, March 5, 2007
So here I am, supposed to be working on a short story for the Writers of the Future contest. I've got a couple of starts, a little work done, but nothing I'm really confident of. The thing is, I'm not really happy with either of the possibilities I've been working on. Part of it is that I'm way out of practice in short form writing. In the past nine or ten months, I've written two novels, and it's a length and style I'm comfortable with. Shorter works seem incomplete to me.
I feel troubled by the lower depth of character development made necessary by writing short stories. I tried to approach it as a scene, a novel chapter, but that's not working. I can write a scene, but the reader really won't know the characters as well as I'd like, and that bothers me.
Another thing that bothers me is the fact that I'm itching to get started on book 3 of the Gatehouse series. I've got a good, solid idea for what I want to happen, and I'm dying to get the outline for it off the ground and get back into the writing. If I were working on that, rather than on a short story that I don't have a solid, comfortable, and workable idea for, then I'd be churning out four thousand words a day and feeling great.
But if I do that, I feel like I'm falling into a trap. You see, I love the Gatehouse, and I believe in the books and their sale-ability. But they haven't sold yet! I've written two novels, found an agent, and I'm being considered by publishers, but I haven't sold the books! So if I take a month and a half and write the third book, there's a possibility that I'll be working on something that's not going to go anywhere. I don't even want to consider that possibility, because I've invested so much of myself into the books, but that's the reality. And even if I sell the book, or even the whole series and get a three book deal, that third book is three or four years off from publication.
As a writer, I want to branch out, tell other stories, and I know I have them in me. But I just can't get to them right now because I'm so involved with the Gatehouse.
The two story ideas I've been working on are solid, good ideas. But they have the potential to become more than short stories. They have the potential to become novels themselves, even series. And I'd probably be more comfortable writing them as such. But my goal in this is to get some writing credits under my belt, maybe get a short story or two published, maybe even a win or an honorable mention in a writing contest. And I can't do any of that if I write them as novels.
UGH! It's frustrating. I used to write short fiction all the time, way back in the old days. I was far more comfortable with shorter work then. The only thing for it is to do it. I guess I should just ask you all to wish me luck.
Saturday, March 3, 2007
I know I said yesterday's post was the last for the week, but after writing a bit more today on the short story I'm working on, I had the sudden urge to examine my goals as an author. What is it that I want to accomplish?
My goals may actually be unique to me. You see, like everyone else, I want to build a solid, successful writing career and make money as an author so that I don't have to do anything but write. I want to become successful enough that I can send a finished novel off t my agent and have her send it to my publisher, with the assumption that it'll probably be accepted. Or even sell the idea to a publisher before I write the novel. I don't care if I make a fortune, or become a household name, but I want to be successful and have writing be my career.
But there's more to it than that, and I don't know if I've ver mentioned it on here before. I want to write comic books. I don't intend to ever give up writing novels, not by any means. But one of the things I really want to do is have a run of Superman or Green Lantern under my belt. I want my novels to get me noticed by the editors at DC.
Is that strange? I mean, I love what I'm doing writing my novels, and I want to succeed as a novelist. But a large part of the reason for that is that I want to be noticed, and be considered credible, when I approach DC Comics with an idea for a multi-issue story arc of one of my favorite characters. Or even an idea for a totally new creation, or a graphic novel adaptation of one of my novels.
Is it likely? Not really, although it's not out of the realm of possibility these days. Lots of creators and writers from outside the comic genre are being asked to work in comic books lately. Orson Scott Card, Raymond Feist, Richard Donner.
So yes, I want to be a successful novelist. I want people to love my books. I want teens and young adults around the world to wait with unprecedented impatience for my next novel. But in addition, I want to have my name in my favorite comic books as writer.
Just more evidence of my eternal geekhood.
Friday, March 2, 2007
I really depise cold weather. You see, I live in a little old house (built around the turn of the last century), and it's drafty an has its share of problems. One of these problems is the plumbing.
I don't have a basement, just a crawlspace, and it's drafty and not heated. For the past several years, when we get a serious cold snap, my pipes freeze. So last year I decided to do something about it. Because most of my pipes busted last year, I ripped out all the old copper and galvanized piping and replaced my entire plumbing system, by myself, with PVC. One reason is that I know how to work with PVC; I can repair it myself. Another is that parts for PVC piping are much cheaper. After I replaced my entire system with PVC, I insulated the pipes with snap-on insulation. According to the guy at the home store, that would keep them from freezing.
So for the past week and a half, I've been tracing down multiple leaks and cracked pipes, trying to find them all and repair them. Thankfully, because I replaced with PVC, it only cost me about $60 in materials and the time it took me, rather than several hundred to a plumber. But it's irritating. And I'm kicking myself, because in addition to the insulation, I had planned to put these heat strips on the pipes that are guaranteed to keep them above freezing. I bought the strips, but never got around to installing them. Ugh.
So I've gotten very little work done in the past several weeks. I've been working on a short story for the Writers of the Future contest, but I haven't gotten very far yet, and I'm not feeling that confident about my ability to work in short formats. I did get my marked up pages back on book 2, and have completed all the revisions that I want to do for now. But that was easy; there wasn't really that much to it.
Still no word back from my agent. For about two weeks now, my first book has been in the hands of three major publishers. It'll be a while before I hear anything, but I check my e-mail daily hoping to hear from my agent. Nothing so far, though, and we most likely won't be submitting anywhere else until we hear back from these three.
So there's my last update for the week. I'll be spending the weekend doing quite a bit of writing, so maybe I'll have some new insights to post soon. In the meantime, check out another site that I post on quite a bit. http://www.deepgenre.com is run by several pro authors in the scifi and fantasy genre, names like Katherine Kerr, Carol Berg, Kate Elliot, and many others. The site has areas to post questions for the various authors as well as a section on "Writing My First Novel" where you can post questions, concerns, look for hints and tips, get encouragement, etc. I'm not affiliated with this site, but I post there and get/give tips and insight there. If you're interested in what I have had to say there, or what other budding authors are up to, it's a good resource. I post there under the name ehjones.
And if anybody has any good links to other author resources and websites, send them my way! I'm always looking for other writers, pro and amateur alike, to talk to.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
So if you're reading this, and you want to get a handle on who I am, what I'm doing, and what I've accomplished so far, go back and read my old blogs. The details of my work on my first novel, my surprising success in finding an agent, and my first very close call with getting published are all there for your enjoyment (and possibly ridicule, but I'm OK with that).
And new posts will be coming at a rate of 3 to 7 per week (depending on whether there is any news to report). So if you find what you read here interesting, keep checking back! Favorite me! Tell your friends! And please, leave me comments... I want to create a forum, a community of friends who are as interested in what I have to say as I am in what they have to say.
Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2006 12:18PM
How it All Began
Hello and welcome to my first attempt at blogging! What you will find here may be fascinating, it may be boring, but it will certainly be... ummm... typed.
I'm a single father in the southern Indiana area. One of my lifelong goals has been to become a successful writer, but I've never been able to fulfill that dream. I suppose that's due in large part to the fact that, after I left college, I never really wrote anything again. Ever. That's all changed over the past few months, though. I've re-acquired the creative bug.
It all started when I had this little idea for a short story starring my son. I was going to write it just for him, figuring he'd get a kick out of reading a story where he was the hero. This was nearly a year ago, mind you. I wrote the introductory passage, and it was a nice little beginning of what I thought would be a fun read for a twelve year old child. But then life, work, and parenting troubles intruded, and I lost track of what I'd been doing with the story. In fact, I lost all the copies, even electronic, that I had of this wonderful story beginning.
Fast forward to spring of 2006. Those parental troubles I mentioned before? Yeah, they were still around. Basically, my kid was driving me nuts. He was refusing to do his schoolwork, lazing around, giving a LOT of attitude, getting in trouble at school, and basically being a typical angsty teen. At twelve. Ugh. It's pretty much accepted as fact by his teachers that my son is very, very bright, with the potential to finish at the head of the class in whatever he does. But it's also fact that he's lazy, doesn't like to do any kind of work or activity that he doesn't enjoy, has a temper, and generally acts like the world owes him a pass. With a lot of hard work, mostly on my part, I managed to shove him through the last few weeks of sixth grade with marks that got him promoted to seventh. Barely. And in June, he went off to stay with his mother for the summer, as usual.
So I suddenly conceived a bright notion. I'd re-work the story I'd been writing for him before. I'd change the character, who I'd initially written as kind of a happy-go-lucky kid with just a few problems in school, to a not-quite-troubled-but-almost teen that was more in line with the reality of what we were going through. And I started from scratch. I sat down one day in early June and started writing a story outline. It quickly grew into a novel outline, and by the end of the week, I had an entire book, thirteen chapters and a prologue, mapped out in outline form. This was something I'd never done before. My earlier failures at writing a novel, the ones that caused me to abandon my dream, consisted of me sitting at a keyboard and typing sixty pages or so and having the story get away from me so badly that I just tossed it all and started over. I must have done that a hundred times in the early 90's as I tried to live my dream. But this was different, a new (to me) way of writing. So, using my outline as a reference, I started writing. And writing. And writing. For the most part, except for some minor tweaks and changes here and there, I stayed true to the outline, and that's been my saving grace. Instead of having the story go off in directions I didn't want it to after sixty or so pages, I've written 75,000 words of a 90,000 word novel in just over two months. I've had a little assistance in the editing process, but for the most part it's mainly been correcting typos and instances where I've called a character by another character's name. (That happens more often than you might think, by the way.)
The biggest change to come out of this process, though, is that the story evolved from it's original purpose. Yes, I still want my son to read it and perhaps use it to gain some insight into his own life, and the story is still about him and for him. But I've got the itch now. I want this published, and with the reception I've been getting from the few people I've allowed to read it thus far, I think I have a good shot at it. Just two more chapters and I'll be finished and ready to start the final editing. And once that's done, it's time to officially submit to a few agents!
Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006 9:40AM
Where I Stand
82,787 words, according to MS Word. That's where I stand. Now, I know that actually equates to about 70,000 words in the way that publishers count them (no words under 3 characters are counted, and many common words with more letters are excluded as well) (and a big oopsie edit added in: I was SOOOOO wrong about how publishers count words! My 82K words was actually over 100K by their method!). Why am I so concerned about the word count? Well, at first, I was concerned that I was going to come in under 80,000 words, which most agents and publishers would consider a novella. Many publishers are unwilling to consider this, what they consider shorter fiction, no matter how good the story might be. Most agents I've queried have requested that a fantasy novel be no less than 80,000 and no more than 130,000 words. Now that I've passed the 80,000 word minimum, my concern is that I'll overshoot the 130,000 mark by a great deal. As it turns out, I still have quite a bit of story left to tell before I can join my ending (already written) to the rest of the book.
Now, all that being said, it still comes down to story and writing style. I can't really define my style, or tell you who to read to get an idea of how I write. (What you're reading now? Yeah, that's not how I write.) All I can tell you is that I've had my two editors (who I count with a grain of salt because they're related to me) and several friends, acquaintences, and even one stranger, read selected sections of this novel, and so far it's been received with unanimous praise and requests to read the finished work. There's been the usual pointing out of typos and even the occasional suggestion on tightening something up or fleshing something out, but overall, there've been no suggestions for major changes or even re-wording. So apparently my writing style is one that some find pleasant.
As for where I am now in the story, well, last night I finished the rough draft on a chapter that really seemed to be tough for me, but I think it turned out pretty well. It's not the most action packed sequence in the book, but it's definitely the one where the most different things are going on all at the same time. It's kind of a three-tiered chase sequence that ends with two of the three parties joining together, and a jailbreak at the end. It's hard to explain without giving some details about plot, which I'm doing my best to avoid yet. Someday soon I'll post a basic synopsis, but I won't give away the end or any of the twists I've put in. Suffice it to say, this chapter really kicked me in the butt, but now that it's written, I'm more than pleased with how it turned out. Not only does it have moments of suspense, humor, and action, but it moves the story to where it needs to go next and reunites my two primary characters, who have been separated throughout almost the entire text so far.
Oh, yeah, and I caught myself again last night calling one character by another's name. That seems to be my own little personal pitfall. If this book ever gets published, I hope to God that whoever edits the thing looks closely for that!
Tomorrow, I plan on posting a little snippet about my life and what's been going on. I was going to forgo things like that, but I finally realized that it's a big part of the process. So if you're not interested in hearing my personal problems, skip tomorrow's entry.
MySpace Blogs from Aug. 17 2006-Sept. 5 2006
Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006 3:28PM
And the other shoe drops.
Well, this is going to qualify as one of those obstacles to writing, so I suppose it deserves a late afternoon update. I am a PC technician who works for a company that is contracted by a local government agency to provide all of their technical support and computer management/operations needs. As of today, my company has announced that our client will not be exercising their option to extend our current contract through the end of the year, and our company chose not to put in a bid for the next contract. The client has selected a new vendor who will be taking over all operations on the first of October. This means, essentially, that unless I am offered a job by the new vendor, then I will be released from my employment in the place where I have worked for the past five and a half years.
Not that this wasn't somewhat expected. It's a very political environment, and it's been obvious to us all for quite some time that this axe was going to fall. I've been looking for a new job for almost a year, but the market in this area is remarkably dry for my chosen field, and I am unable to consider relocation. And aside from all of that, I LIKE my job, I like my clients, and they are rather fond of me as well.
And so, we have as of today embarked on the process of trying to transition a two-thousand-plus-user operation from one vendor to another in a bare 45 days. It's going to be a monumental task just on the PC/Operations side (my area of responsibility), not to mention for the networking and system security side of things.
One good thing, though. If I am not offered a job by the new vendor, then I essentially get a severance package that will keep me in paychecks until almost the first of the year. If that event occurs, I suppose I'll try to look at it as a two and a half month vacation.
Anybody want to lay odds on whether or not I can sell a manuscript in four and a half months? LOL, I'll be betting not, if that tells you anything.
Friday, Aug. 18, 2006 4:44PM
About the Author
Random facts about yours truly:
My name is Eric Jones.
I graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 1991.
I've been writing as a hobby since I was 9 years old, but I haven't made a serious attempt at becoming a professional since shortly after my son was born. Say, 1995 or so.
I've been an avid reader since the age of 4, and read my first full-length novel (The Hobbit) at the age of 6. From that day forward, I was hooked, a true fantasy junkie.
I'm ashamed to say that my favorite novel is Battlefield Earth, despite the fact that the alleged author was a total nutjob.
I was divorced in 1995 and became the custodial parent of my then 1-year-old son.
My son, Hal, lives with me 10 months out of the year and spends summers with his mother.
I'm a college dropout after multiple attempts. First try, I was a screwup. Second try, I tried to do too much at once and ended up dropping out to get a real job and take care of family. Third try, I was a single dad and couldn't hack the responsibilities of college and parenthood. I know, I know, other people do it, but I couldn't. College took a back seat, and I ended up dropping out yet again. I'll probably try again when I'm 60 and graduate just in time to go on social security.
My favorite author of all time is Piers Anthony. I haven't loved all of his books, but I've loved enough of them to form an opinion of his genius.
I'm terrified of spiders.
Monday, Aug. 21, 2006 3:18PM
Didn't really accomplish much this weekend. My son had a friend over Saturday night, and they kept me up til all hours playing PS2 and being loud, so I didn't get much writing done. I did transfer everything I had written so far from my spiral notebook into my PC, but I didn't get much new material written. Sunday was laundry and lawn mowing day, so there wasn't much done in the daylight hours, but I stayed up late and got some work done. As for the word count, I'm just over 90,000 words at last count, and there's a lot more left to do.
I thought I'd talk a little bit about the technique I'm using to organize and create this novel. It's something relatively new for me, but it's the technique I'll be using from here on out, that's for sure.
In the old days, when I was trying to write novellas and short stories, I'd sit down at the keyboard and just start typing. I thought this was they way to do it. It seemed to work well enough for short stories and poetry, but for anything longer, it always seemed to bomb. If you've ever heard a writer talk about how a story got away from them and started going places they didn't want it to go, that pretty much describes my experiences. I would end up with a secondary character taking over the story, or I'd have what I thought was a brilliant idea and add it to the story, only to find that it wasn't so brilliant and didn't work with what I had planned in my head.
This time, I've changed my technique completely. To begin, I wrote a little snipped of story, something that flowed well and gave me ideas for where I wanted to go with it. Then, I sat down with pen and paper and began an outline of the story from beginning to end. This may not be possible for future books; I was lucky in that I had the story complete in my mind before I started the outline. So my outline consisted of a chapter by chapter synopsis of literally everything I had planned to put in the book. Every action sequence, every major story beat, every major character. This process took me a week.
After the outline was finished, I sat down again with a fresh composition notebook and a new pen and started writing, following the outline fairly religiously. There were a few tweaks here and there, but for the most part, I followed the outline point for point, simply turning outline to prose. But I got to a certain point and I realized I didn't have a map of all my characters and an outline of their personalities and whatnot. So I sat down to do that. One of the major changes in the book came from it, actually. One of the secondary lead characters ended up changing gender, which added a new subplot and bit of interest to the story. Later on, I realized the need to add another character and make some slight changes to yet another subplot. This just illustrates that the outline I created wasn't set in stone, but rather was a very fluid and mutable tool. And, thanks to the outline, those brilliant ideas could be checked against the later chapters that hadn't yet been written, just to make sure they really were brilliant.
After I finished writing the first four chapters, basically what amounts to the 50-60 page sample you send with a query, I sat down at the keyboard and typed it up. It wasn't a direct, word-for-word process here, either. The typed pages were essentially my second draft, with wording changes, passages and sections flip-flopped to make them work better, and even a little snippet thrown in from scratch here and there. The main thing that writing by hand before typing did for me, though, was to slow me down a bit. I never had a chance to get ahead of myself, because I write a LOT slower than I type. Anyway, I gave these typed pages to my two editors, and went back to my notebook to write some more. The pages were given back to me a few days later with a remarkable amount of red ink on them. As it turns out, typos you make yourself are completely and totally invisible until looked at by another person and outlined in red! There were also a few suggestions for expanding passages, which suggested that I was going too fast. I knew what was supposed to happen, but I wasn't making it clear enough in some spots. But for the most part, the pages were well received.
One interesting (to me) thing that happened was that my timeline from outline to first and second draft was slipping. As an example, I ended up with four characters who were trying to chase down two others to save them, but the two others had a four week head start. Geography and the laws of physics couldn't reconcile this. But, the four week head start was required for other parts of the story to make sense. I realized at that point that I didn't have a map of the world (the one this story takes place on, at least). So I sat down and tried to figure out how to draw a map so that the pursuing party could take a different route and gain four weeks in the chase. And I was able to do it, by coming up with a reason as to why the first party would have taken an overland route when there was a perfectly good, and far shorter, water route that would cut that much time off their journey. And when I came up with the map to fit these new facts, amazingly, much of my timeline now suddenly fit together beautifully with no extra tweaks needed!
Ain't it amazing how these things work out?
And from then on it was rinse and repeat for the next ten chapters, bringing me to about where I am now. There have been some additions and subtractions to the story, but for the most part, what I've written is pretty much what I outlined almost three months ago.
And that's why I'll be using this technique for everything I want to write from now on, from short story to epic novel. This way of doing things has been what's made it possible for me to get as far as I have.
Sorry if I'm boring anyone with this. I know that what seems interesting to me might be nails on the chalkboard to other people, and I also know that I can be remarkably long winded. It's hard to guage how these posts are being received, as I haven't received any comments posted yet. Fear not, the excitement is about to appear, as I begin the process of submitting formal queries and sample chapters to agents. And then, of course, the excitement will vanish as I wait the interminable weeks and/or months for the many rejection letters (and hopefully a couple of acceptance letters!) that are bound to flow in.
Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 11:16AM
I'm almost there. I'm so close I can taste it. I'm at 98,000 words, 264 typed and double spaced 8 1/2x11 pages, 16 and a half whirlwind chapters, and I know where the story needs to go. I just can't get it there easily. Some of the things I outlined took more space than I thought they would. And this last bit that I just finished writing was HARD, much more so than it should have been. I kept having to back up and re-write. It was a tense scene involving a cave in, a sword fight, and a lot of tension. But no matter what I did, it either seemed to rush or drag. I tried trimming it down to the bare essentials of the story, and it seemed rushed. I added some more dialogue, descriptions of surroundings, and descriptions of the events as they were occurring, and it seemed to drag. It took me 5 re-writes to finally strike a balance, but it's taken me nearly 3 days just to get this one chapter written in first draft. Now I have my characters where I want them, and they're on their way to the climactic final battle (which I've already written), but there is one major story beat I have to hit, which isn't panning out as I'd hoped but is VERY IMPORTANT to the story, and one minor subplot that's going well but will require some minor re-writes to earlier chapters because it almost feels thrown in at this point. And that was a very long but surprisingly close to grammatically correct sentence I just wrote.
UGH! It's frustrating being this close and having this many problems! To make this work, I'm going to have to add another half a chapter before the climax, AND another five or six thousand words in earlier chapters to make this minor plot point make sense. And it has to make sense, because it figures into the second and third books rather prominently, although still a subplot and not a main plotline.
I'll get it. I'll probably finish up tonight, go back and do a little tweaking here and there, and then print up a couple of copies to hand to my editors. Also, by this Friday I'll be mailing off six copies of the first four chapters with synopses and query letters to six agents. I've thoroughly researched agents online and through several other resources, and chosen a dozen that handle this type of project, are actively seeking new projects, are open to new writers, and have successfully sold novels I've either heard of or heard of the author. These six are my first official foray into the submission world.
Wish me luck!
PS- If anyone has any pointers on getting seen and noticed by agents and editors, feel free to let me know.
And, if anyone wants to read the first few chapters that I feel are ready for public consumption, just to give me a critique and opinion of my style, I'd certainly appreciate it.
And finally, if there are any established authors out there who'd be willing to read my work and give me an honest blurb about it, I'd be more than willing to drop a copy in the mail to you. Just to make sure it's something you might read on your own, I'll tell you that it's a fantasy/fiction novel geared toward teens to young adults (up to my age and older... I'm young, right?). I'm posting another blog entry today with the semi-blurb I wrote while organizing my thoughts for writing the query letter. Check it out, and if you want to see the finished product, let me know!
Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 1:06PM
Here's the blurb for my novel:
Hal is a bright young slacker who's having trouble both in school and in his personal life. He is remarkably short-sighted when it comes to taking care of his responsibilities, preferring to spend his time and effort playing video games, reading, or wandering in his grandparents' woods. By the middle of his last semester of seventh grade, it's beginning to look like he's going to be held back despite his exceptional mind, and his father, Eric, is at his wits' end. But the final straw, in Eric's eyes, is when Hal gets suspended for fighting with the school bully. At a loss for what to do to help his beleaguered son, Eric considers private school, counseling, even boot camps.
But then Hal discovers a strange house in his grandparents' woods that wasn't there before. With hardly any warning, he is pulled out of his own world and dropped into a strange new realm of magic, monsters, and dragons, and the race begins to find his way home. Little does he know that his father has been pulled into this strange world behind him. Can Hal defeat the Great Dragon and save the world of Canellin from certain destruction? Can Eric find Hal in time to save him from his own impetuous actions? Can the two find their way home, now that they've been recruited by... the Gatehouse?
So, is that suitably melodramatic?
Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006 12:55AM
105,294 words, 18 chapters, prologue and epilogue, and I'M DONE!!
Well, sort of done. The first six chapters are final draft, the rest still needs editing and possibly some re-writes and expanding some passages. But as for the main story, it's all down on paper. It's printing out right this minute on my laser printer to go to my editors. As for my queries, I sent off six of them Friday afternoon. All of the agents I submitted to promise replies to every snail-mail query within three weeks to six months. I've got all my fingers and toes crossed that I'll hear back good news soon.
My work's not done yet. The editing and re-writes haven't taken long for the ones I've done so far, but I have twice as much to edit now as I've done so far through the entire process. I think I'm probably looking at two, maybe three weeks more work and I'll have something I consider final draft. Hopefully just in time to hear back from an agent or two as to whether they want to see the full manuscript!
After I finish my editing, I need a break. I'll probably take a week or so off from writing before starting the outline for book two. And then it's back to the grind again!
Wish me luck, everybody!
Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006 10:37AM
It's coming along!
Well, I'm deeply into the editing process, and it's going great guns. I've been marking up a copy I made for myself to show typos and mark passages that need work. I've marked four passages so far that need to be re-written due to changes made later in the book that aren't reflected earlier on, but I was expecting that. They're things I changed but never went back and corrected in the earlier chapters, and the re-writes won't take long on those at all. I've also been told by one of my editors who has finished her work already that there is a character in there that could be expanded further. I've looked it over, and I'm considering it, but I'm not sure yet. It wouldn't be that hard to do, but it'll add length to the book and I'm not sure it's necessary.
There is one thing that I could REALLY use some help on. There's a section in there where one of the heroes is on a sea voyage, and the captain of the ship is teaching him how to use a sextant. Never having held a sextant, much less used one, I'm not entirely sure I got it right. I looked some info up on the Internet, but couldn't find anything that described the actual measuring process, just how to use the measurements. I'm also not 100% sure that my description of how to plot your location using the stars is accurate, though I know it's fairly close. So if there's anyone out there who is familiar with celestial navigation and use of a sextant, I'd greatly appreciate having someone go over the text for me and point out any errors. Re-writing it to be correct won't take much time at all, I just don't know what correct is for sure!
Other than that, it's going great, and I'm excited. I'm getting great reviews from the few people who have read sections so far. If there's anyone reading this who would like to read the manuscript, let me know! I'm always concerned about bias, so I'm looking for people to give me fair, honest critiques. I can take constructive criticism, I promise! So just give me a yell!
Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006 9:44AM
So a couple of weeks ago, I opened my case of RC and found that one of the cans had a gold top, while the rest were silver. I almost ignored it, but I noticed on the side of the can an advertisement for the "Jeep Top Down Summer". Turns out, the can was a free entry to the last game of the season for our local Frontier League baseball team. Not only that, those who had the cans were given a raffle ticket for a chance to win one of 2 brand new Jeep Wranglers. So I saved the can and went to the game last night.
They drew 11 names after every inning for the raffle. The names had to match up with the raffle tickets, and those names were the semi-finalists for the jeeps. The moment of excitement came when they called Eric Holmes, or something like that. Yeah. That's not me. Close, but no cigar. My son was sure I'd misheard, though. Even after I verified for him that I was NOT one of the 99 semi-finalists, he insisted on sitting there with my raffle ticket in hand, hoping they'd call my number. They weren't even calling raffle numbers by then... the 99 were given nametags numbered 1-99, and those were the numbers they were drawing from. But try to explain this to a 13 year old who's absolutely certain that it's his father's big moment, and should be the one to win the jeep!! LOL
Anyway, after the game, I went home and stayed up late on my editing. I've finished my own read-through and marked up my manuscript pretty thoroughly, and have made almost half of the corrections in the computer (including one re-write) that I marked. Unless one of the other passages that needs a re-write kicks me in the pants, I should be finished within the next day or two. Unfortunately, one of my editors is dragging her heels and hasn't even had a chance to start working on it. So I'm still looking at a week or two before I can sit down with them and go over the changes THEY suggest (which will probably coincide with the ones I've already made). I'm getting all impatient, even though I know it'll be months before I get any replies, provided I get any, asking to see the manuscript.
So, an exciting night, a fun baseball game (our team won... they're a game away from clinching the wild card for the playoffs), and a productive late night editing. Hopefully book 2 goes as well as this one has!
Friday, Sept. 1, 2006 11:15AM
I've done my part.
My editing is now finished, and I have what I consider to be the second or third draft of the completed manuscript. Second, because it's the second draft since the manuscript was completed. Third, because I edited the earlier chapters several times as I was writing, so most of the book has been edited three or even four times.
Special thanks to the anonymous messager who sent me the link to Nova Online's explanation of how to take measurements with a sextant, and how to navigate using a sextant. It was EXCELLENT, both simple and informative, and allowed me to correct my passage involving navigation with just a couple of minor tweaks.
I've been waiting for my editors to have a moment to sit down with me and go over what they've been given with me, so we can see if my changes were the same as theirs (most probably were) and so that I can see what they think I should change that I haven't already. I'm hoping to have that opportunity this weekend. If we can do it Saturday, I'm confident I can have the next draft completed by the end of the holiday weekend. Fingers crossed!
I have expanded the initial query mailing now to include a total of 13 agents in the hopes of receiving at least a couple of hopeful replies. If nothing else, I'd like for at least a couple of them to want to read the full manuscript. I figure if they read the manuscript, I have a 50/50 shot of being offered representation. And according to all the market studies I've read, it's about a 50/50 shot of being published if you find an agent. Now I just need to polish the text to make sure what I send to any agents that want to read it is clear, entertaining, and the best work I can put forward.
I've given PDF copies of the book to several friends of a friend (people I don't know personally), and am hoping to hear back unbiased opinions very soon. I also repeat the same offer I've made on here, if anyone wants to read my work, please, feel free to contact me. I'd like to get as many outside opinions as I can before sending the full manuscript off.
Here's the text of my query letter:
There are many worlds beyond our own. Worlds filled with magic, mystical creatures, and danger.
Hal is a bright young slacker who's having trouble both in school and in his personal life. He is remarkably short-sighted when it comes to taking care of his responsibilities, preferring to spend his time and effort playing video games, reading, or wandering in his grandparents' woods. By the middle of his last semester of seventh grade, it's beginning to look like he's going to be held back despite his exceptional mind, and his father, Eric, is at his wits' end. But the final straw comes when Hal is suspended for fighting with the school bully. At a loss for what to do to help his troubled son, Eric considers private school, counseling, and even boot camps. But then Hal discovers a house in the forest that wasn't there before, and without warning, he is pulled out of his own world and dropped into a strange new realm of magic, monsters, and dragons. The only way home is a dangerous quest to save the
This 106,000 word novel is aimed toward the young adult market. The resurgence in popularity of this genre is evident by the success of such works as the Pendragon series, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Artemis Fowl books. This book shares similarities with these, but is unique in tone and plot. There are four books planned for this series, with the possibility of more beyond the initial offering. The format of the series allows for almost limitless possibilities. The novels could touch on anything from swords and sorcery to super heroes to science fiction.
I have been a fan and avid reader of fantasy and science fiction from a very early age, but this is my first attempt at publication. The characters in this novel are based on my own life experiences raising my son as a single parent. What would happen if a normal father and son were thrown into a world unlike anything theyd ever imagined? This novel attempts to answer that question. The novel is complete and ready for publication, and I am currently working on the second book in the series.
Enclosed you will find a synopsis and the first sixty pages of The Gatehouse: The Door to Canellin for your review. These materials are disposable copy. I have also enclosed a SASE for your convenience. Please let me know if you are interested in reading the full text of The Gatehouse: The Door to Canellin.
Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006 10:08AM
Writing a synopsis SUCKS
I've sent queries off to another batch of agents, bringing my grand total to 25. It's difficult enough trying to tailor every query letter to the agent, so that they'll know you've researched them and that you believe your manuscript would be a good fit with them. But every agent has different submission guidelines to keep track of. This guy wants the query, one page synopsis, and first 5 pages. That guy wants the query and a chapter by chapter synopsis. And this other one wants the query, 1 to 5 page synopsis, and the first 50-60 pages. It takes me several hours just to set up the letters and print the right documents to send!
Writing a synopsis isn't as easy as I'd thought it would be. I now have three of them. One is my 1-page synopsis, not very detailed but just giving an overview of the beginning, middle, and end of my manuscript. It's pretty similar to the book jacket synopsis you read before you buy a book, except it includes the ending. It's HARD boiling down nearly 110,000 words into a one-page blurb! The second one is not as difficult, the 3 page synopsis. It allows for a little expansion and more detail so you can hit on the high points and still make it sound exciting, interesting, and fresh. I call this my 'book report' version. I think my 1-page synopsis is better, but the 3-page carries much more detail. The last one, though, the chapter by chapter, is horrible. The guidelines insist that your chapter by chapter synopsis be no more than ten pages. But I have 18 chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. That means I only have a couple of paragraphs per chapter, even less if it's double spaced as they usually request. This synopsis is supposed to hit ALL of the highlights of the novel in that tiny amount of space! It ends up being dry, and I think very boring, reading. Reading over my chapter by chapter synopsis doesn't even make ME want to read my novel! Thank god most agents don't want that much. Most of them wanted the one page synopsis.
Oh, and back to the manuscript editing. I've completed the content editing and now have my novel exactly where I want it to be as far as story and flow. All that's left now is a once-over to make sure there are no typos or glaring grammatical errors and I'll consider it polished and ready to be published. In other words, I'm essentially finished. Now it's all down to the waiting. I hate waiting. I'm taking just this week off from this process, and then I'm starting on book 2. I've gotten so into the habit of this being what I do with all my free time that I don't know what to do with myself otherwise.