Thursday, March 1, 2007

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

Unproductive Weekend
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

Getting Frustrated

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 kingdom of Canellin from an evil dragon whose sole purpose is to destroy all human life. Little does Hal know that his father has been pulled into this strange world behind him. What happens next is a thrilling tale of adventure, betrayal, and personal growth, as Hal learns that to live is to strive, and his father learns that sometimes you have to trust in those you love to do the right thing.

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.

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