Sunday, December 16, 2012

(Not) winning

This was the first weekend in a while that I could really look forward to writing. It made me realize that while I may have a third book out at the beginning of the new year, what I was most excited about was the work that ran up to it. Not that the editing experience was not enriching, or that it did not produce an objectively better book. But nor could I really say what it was, either. For those of you who aren't aware of my facebook page, the cover is done. For those of you who are, the edits are also complete.



I didn't win, or place, or garner an honorable mention once again in the sci-fi short story competition that I attempt yearly these days. It would be a lie to say that yet another flop isn't a repeated blow to my ego. On the other hand, I really believe I had assumed the dual posture of someone who both thought he would do exceptionally well and someone who would not be surprised to get the rejection letter. As always, the form letter came along with it links to online classes and lectures that were beneficial to past winners. In my mind I thought, "I don't need any help to write more like me, thanks," but out loud my only voice is the sound of my mouse, working steadily to move the letter into the online stack of rejections I'm collecting.

If you'd like to read what I submitted to the competition, it's here.

Unfortunately, I got back to my writing too late to immediately jump back into it. My careful road map of an outline helped practically none at all. I couldn't figure out the deeper, hidden things that the me in the moment would've just known. I realized I would have to re-introduce myself to everything all over again. My confidence at finishing before Spring slipped ever so slightly. Which is to say I take it as a challenge.

I also reconnected with a former co-worker recently, and she paid me half a dozen startling compliments. She's someone I highly respect because she's a writer, too, and a sculptor and philosopher, and has been published... in Finnish. She spends times for months over seas and makes journals of her travels; she owns fewer things than most by choice. She's a wizard, and this person decided to draw something I wrote, and then asked me if that was alright. I couldn't imagine a scenario when it wouldn't be.

Lastly, the other situation that I was very hopeful for fell through, also. That window over at Harper Voyager closed. I got my submission in, and the three months are just about up. After it, they insisted the author accept their silence as a rejection. So, no breakthroughs today, or for the whole of 2012. That's alright, I suppose. Provided we're all still here and kicking, there's always 2013. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fight(ers), fight(ing), fight

The first round is done. I can't be sure, but I think I'm much closer to understanding the difference between good and bad editors. Not that the previous ones were bad, but the current person I'm working with feels better. Things are developing into what I could only describe as a working relationship. In the beginning of the manuscript, when she saw that I was going about something in a confusingly convoluted manner (for instance, using adverbs too much and/or not using strong enough verbs) she would say that things could be, or needed to be, tighter. Towards the end, the only comment was "tighter" and the arrow pointed to a highlighted sentence in track changes. I knew what she meant and went about things accordingly. She was explicit in that I didn't have to change things, but I needed to provide explanation. She wanted the back and forth. And I can admit that at points it was frustrating, but that's mostly because part of me wanted to be lazy, and all of her wanted me to be better.

We still came away disagreeing on some things, to be sure, but by the end of the first round I honestly felt like she respected what I was doing, and me, and that she was as committed as I was to making the novel as good as it could be given time constraints. She said she liked the book. I even got a handful of compliments in the comments section that had nothing to do with awkwardness or tightening or semicolons. Those felt especially good. I may not have come away with another fan from all of this, but hopefully a colleague.

"Please take this all with a freight car filled with salt," she wrote, "I have great respect for what you have accomplished."

And maybe I shouldn't be quoting her, but I wanted to get the words exactly right. It's cropped up lately again that while I am most certainly a writer, I might be writing about the wrong sorts of things. I never know what to do or say with that sort of thing. I can't think of a recent precedent, where an athlete chose the wrong sport or a musician the wrong genre (well, there was MJ but I will not be making that comparison). "Well, you can certainly sing, but... this isn't your wheelhouse." In all of these categories, the work is difficult, and at the beginnings of all these careers the compensation is low. The drive comes from love, I figure, in just about every case. The criticism, as a result, feels moot, and yet...

I met someone new last night, and she asked me what I liked writing about. Hm, no. She asked me what most of my stories were about, as if to establish a trend or quantify a track record. Speculative, was my reply. Stories which arise from wondering, as opposed to catharsis or purpose. What if, I always say to myself. But then of course when we dance into the specifics it all becomes terrestrial again. It would not be very inaccurate to say that I'm standing in line, miles and miles and miles behind Meyes and Rowling, but the only real differentiation would occur if someone picked up my books and read them after reading theirs. "Oh," the imaginary readers in my brain say, "it's similar, but not really." My editor compared the latest book to King's Dark Tower series. I may have already said that. I may say it again. Frequently.

So this is me, waiting for the second round to start, waving hello to December, and looking forward to 2013.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Full body cast can't catch soul

Seems like that time of year again.

My editor for the next release contacted me, and I was relieved at her thorough professionalism and evident experience. The people I've met thus far that are near my age I can count on one hand, but in every respect age does not equal expertise, or even experience. Writing seems to come and go with people, stay with them in their youth and then vanish, only to reappear again in the middle of life, perhaps after children. I made sure to at least ask for advice, and she was very nice, and shared with me some of her experiences and thoughts.

And she thought the novel was "pretty solid" as well. "It was an interesting and exciting read... Overall, it reminds me of the King's Dark Tower series." Admittedly, I've never read the series in question (although I picked up the seventh book for super cheap, and at one point intended to collect and read them all). And also, there was half a paragraph between those two compliments of less flattering material. To sum up, I have some work to do. It seems to me, after a few years of this, that the novel I'm trying to write hasn't been written yet. I've written novels, but the only metaphor that comes to mind right this second is the crazily difficult stunt. I just keep hurtling down the ramp, over and over again, then fling myself into the air, spinning and twirling and flipping. Twice now I've fumbled into the kind of full body roll that everyone from the ground recognizes as a resigned and prayerful posture. "Wow," they all say, "I hope he's going to be okay."

But I guess since it's yet to kill me, I'm free to try again.

So that's what I'll be doing in the interim. I'm a little sad that I didn't squeeze out another chapter on the Winter project, but I feel ambitious about finishing it before Spring. I also might just get around to taking notes on a few other stories that have begun to jostle for my attention there in the backseat of my brain. I sort of miss hanging around a larger group of writers. Only sort of because writers who actually write are a bit rare. This less seen type is the hermit that spends most of their time underwater, swimming about their own ideas. They surface every now and again only long enough to tell people that they're alive. The other type is that one that talks about writing and that's pretty much it. But I do miss getting together every now and then and discussing. Much like the stunt competitor in the metaphor, it's not easy to talk about trying to touch the sky with people who have never pondered it.

However, I digress. As I was saying, it's that time of year. So, for myself, this year it's been about the little things. Air conditioning. Toilet paper. A smooth-running vehicle. Family. Friends. Laughter.

Writing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Yes we should

Writing and blogging seem to go hand in hand. It's been weeks since I wrote last on the current project, and I imagine it's been about that long since I updated this blog as well. I did a lot of planning recently, spent a lot of day-befores making I-swears to myself. That's about it. I did a lot of planning and very little implementation of what I came up with.

That changed this morning. Brushing my teeth, I tried to think of a less crazy way to say it than, "I heard the voice in my head again." But that's really the best I got. I knew what the next chapter was about, at least in the beginning so I felt confident about putting something down. Then, before I actually did, I began to hear narration in the back of my head on that very same subject. Almost like with an interactive file, I stopped and started the recording, editing where I saw fit. I rinsed. I spat. I looked myself in the eye while wiping my face and thought "well, I guess I should go write some of this down."

In the weeks since I last updated, several other ideas have occurred to me, too. Thoughts of grad school have reared up again and with those thoughts, doubts concerning my future and the unsettling uncertainty of not knowing where I'll be, and what my life will look like a year from now, much less a month from now. If I may wax political for just a moment, that seemed to be what the election was about: people with no certain future, and people who have no idea what that feels like trying to come together and reconcile their differences. Suddenly, the Never Ending Story 2 has much more terrifying premises. Sell your past for your future?

Speaking of being lost, a friend and I came up with a metaphor for outlining, which is something else I spent these weeks doing. An outline is like a GPS, I said, and he agreed with me, saying that it's a lot easier to get somewhere in a story if you know where you are. Moreover, he asserted, you really need to know where you are in the story. Speaking with him, he said he went back to stories he wrote years ago and thought that they were terrible. We discussed future plans and I asked him questions at points, addressing the perspectives of the him of now and the him of those years ago. His progress, at least, is something I can be proud of.

Another lapse I had was the realization that I had failed to acknowledge certain people in my author information page for the tentative February release. I told myself, years ago, that I wasn't going to do that, that I was going to try to keep everyone that helped me along the way firmly in mind. I haven't even gotten anywhere and already I'm fouling that up. Thankfully, the publisher is going to let me correct that mistake. They have no power to assist with all the others, unfortunately. Still, I guess we should fix them while we can.

It will be less than a month before you hear from me again. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Future-us

The work got done this past weekend, I'm proud to say. I also feel like I learned some things. Like about the idea of a brief, open-door policy to unagented submissions for a major publisher. The actual activity required some additional information which was surprising at the beginning, and understandable toward the end. The deadline for submissions is Sunday, but even as I was trying to get in things early, I could see evidence that the submission portal was under duress, trying to shoulder the load of everyone trying to access it. It occurred to me that the idea might have been something they had lightly discussed doing, then pulled the trigger on just to see what it would be like. Then, in the place of the river they expected, an ocean swelled up, threatening to crash their servers. If a publisher underestimated ebooks, I thought, it might have even more traction than anyone suspected. Then, once the portal was even accessible, it required a synopsis of the book, a query letter, even a "best scene." My experiences told me that many books would not get read on account of poorly written, uninteresting, or even sadly contrived requisite material. At least, I know I second guessed my documents more than twice.

But the task was eventually completed, and I felt good about what I had done. A friend reminded me that I was my harshest critic (to which I only briefly objected, saying, "well, if I were a lot of the editors I had submitted to, I'd have more success right now). That let me finish up the guest blog promo in short order. I went through the same rigors of making sure everything looked fine and made sense, but I didn't hover, and once it was done, I didn't fret. I sent it. The person said it looked good, and thanked me for my timeliness. I thanked them for the opportunity to try to get my name out to that many more people.

After that, I finished the initial round of edits on the book to be (tentatively) released in February. Like the previous releases, I have some anxiety about how good the final product will be as impacted by the unknown editor that I'll be working with. I think about my wholly different experiences, the pushing, the pulling, and the end result. I can do little but hope for a good experience, I realize, and move forward. A friend reading my second book told me how much smoother it was and now I begin to understand the feeling of the demon of the first publication. If the things were published in the order that they were written, there will always be an obvious disparity as one moves along (IF one moves along) a given series. The questions, I imagine, will sound like "what happened with the first book?" to which I will only be able to honestly answer "I wasn't as good then." But, would it really be too much of a stretch for people to find out (about any of us) that we didn't used to be so good? I'll keep you posted on my answer to that.

The other day, my publisher posted a blog that had, and I quote, "eerie similarities," to her own experiences as a publisher. She wouldn't say which experiences those were, of the lengthy list of... pseudo complaints? But then, I guess pointing them out would make them sound more like actual complaints. I can't lie and say that the experiences don't sound very challenging. They sound like the problems a busy entrepreneur would have. They remind me of the pros and cons of the process of choosing one's path and having to live with the consequences. As the years go by, it seems like either I'm realizing I had fewer options myself, or that the more I write, the more I tether myself to this mysterious destiny.

Be as happy as you can be with your choices.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Because i dream

Sometimes I dream when I'm awake, about award speeches and magazine interviews. In those times, I practice the things I tell, because I don't want to regret things I might say. I don't want to leave out anyone I mean to thank. Tracing the events that led to where I am is getting trickier by the season. This, for instance, was an opportunity I only heard about because I'd been somewhat active in an online writer's group which I was only invited to because I tried to apply myself during a web party for a book release. And that's one of the shorter lists of degrees of separation.

And that's where I've been over the last few days. With a two-week window, and their openness to accepting any manuscript of the genres they're looking for, I'm putting all my feet forward, and I'm doing my best to make sure they can be as good as they can be. Needless to say, work on the current project took a hiatus briefly. Submissions to agents are out, naturally, but I won't be stopping to wait on those rejections when an opportunity like this has fallen into my lap. Because sometimes I dream when I'm awake, about it all crashing down and having been for naught. I don't want any regrets in that situation either. I don't want to look back and say I didn't give every superhuman effort, because no one knows to what extent luck plays, and to what extent hard work actually pays off.

And that's why I've been working on a different promo opportunity as well. Hallow's Eve approaches, and on one of the lists I belong an opportunity arose where I could promote my work, provided it was paranormal. I can't say if such things pop up more often and I just ignore them, or if I was just paying more attention in this case. Either way, I signed up, even before I had an idea of what I'd write about. I just knew that I should be making more of an effort, in general. So today I'm writing. It isn't exciting, and it isn't my best, but hopefully it will be another stone in the road taking me where I belong.

I say belong, now, because going back to look at my work, I discovered renewed belief in myself. Words from friends has helped a great deal, too, their hands in my back, but as I went through the pages, followed the story, some of the doubt began to slip away from me. I still have loads to spare, naturally, but when you're being crushed beneath a weight, even a handful of earth removed from the pile can make a miracle's difference. This is the first time I've had more to say, but will cut things short. It would be nice to throw my thoughts concerning the science fiction author's role in guiding the future into the void of blog-dom, but alas.

I've got work to do.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Opening Time

I've written to the end of my outline. It isn't necessarily good or bad, but it is unexpected. Stitching together different but relevant stories into a (hopefully) cohesive quilt is an old habit that I might have been better served growing out of (in lieu of finding a better way to tell stories). As it is, there are times when I'm so keyed in that I don't necessarily need to look at the outline, and thereby can forget that I am guided by it. As it was, yesterday I finished chapter 9, with nary a glimmer or vision of the next project hounding me. I felt good, good enough to glance into my notes and see what was up next. That's when I was greeted with the infinite potential of white space. Was somewhat similar to leaping, then looking. Up that high, there aren't crickets, either, just the occasional and indifferent breeze.

In addition to that, I have begun finalizing the requisite materials to finalize my third publication. Writing blurbs and choosing excerpts is as difficult as I remember. Such marketing tools made me recall also that I've also stopped waiting on fateful emails from agents, which means it's time to send out more queries. A friend of mine recently helped me with an interview question, perhaps the interview question: what is your greatest weakness. I had always thought of the question honestly, and realizing my predicament in each of those situations (having no money, but needing money to the point of lying for it) my perhaps being too honest always came to mind. He didn't necessarily say this wasn't a weakness, but he did point out that maybe a greater, and smarter, weakness to display is my inability to understand when it's time to throw in the towel.

For instance: writing. When your accomplishments are so small that even when added together they amount to almost literally nothing, it likely would seem to a normal person that one has failed, and it's time to try something else. Not me, apparently. However, I suppose when your breakdowns become your breakthroughs, things have no choice but to look up. Sometimes, actually most times, I hope there is some engaged audience observing my life, holding their breath, whispering to each other, "if he would only hold on a little more, it'll all work out." I hope that because no one I've yet to meet knows the future. That, or someone has lied to me, because in every case I was sure to ask. And being the one jumping, yet it's someone else that knows whether you'll land it or not just feels like a raw deal.

So, I might just quit.

But it won't be today. My fingers still work and my mind is still churning and all the no's have yet to strike me dead. Thus, the next step forward is inevitable. I just hope we're the ones who ultimately get to decide if we're worthy or not.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Swim, baby

Been awhile, though, I haven't been very busy. And it feels lately that every time I jot out one of these the impetus behind it is "Alright, now it's time to get productive." Not that I haven't been writing. I just haven't been writing as much as I could be. Should be. Would be, if only...

For months now, scenes of a book have been occurring to me, and I was satisfied with that, because keeping ideas at bay is part of what I do. The other day though, the thing inside my mind became ferocious and insatiable. It insisted, and that is a bit of a problem. I'm working on chapter 8 of the current book, and if experience tells me anything at all, it's that my books round out at somewhere between 25 and 30 chapters, which means that I'm only a third or a fourth of the way through this one, with another bearing down on me.

It's time to get productive.

Despite all this though, I have yet to be sad about such things crowding in on me. It feels more like a friend and less like an enemy, and link to my life such that if the ideas were ever to stop coming, then I'd really be worried. A friend told me recently that "I'm going to write a book" is a constant status. It was nice to be understood, if even for a passing glimpse.

The same friend also told me a story about a different side to writing. An author he enjoyed as a child wrote four books to begin his career. The first three were, evidently, some of the worst novels ever to have been completed in the English language. The fourth was published, and brought him notoriety, fame, and cache. So much that when the publisher heard of his previous three books (after he had published several more), they asked him to bring them in for the sole purpose of publishing those, too. In a memoir of sorts, the author professes to being too weak to deny them. The rest is history, as they say. I was of the opinion that when the publisher is asking for things you've written, anything you've written, just so they can stamp your name on it and sell it, then it's time to consider retirement. But then again, maybe it's better not to remember one's blunders in lieu of one's successes. What is the legacy of a dead man worth to those bones?

The agent denied me. I got an inch closer, but for naught. She told me the voice didn't grab her like she hoped it would (so the idea had potential, I guess, but the first five pages of execution were lacking). When I asked her for some advice, maybe the name of an agent who would be interested, she sent me the same email back again, as if she hadn't even read my question. I know of a few others that are farther along in the process than me, and because of this incident, I thought about their voices. I thought about all the soulful sounds that exist in all the books I'd read, trying to uncover what made mine so small. Which was a mistake, but thankful for me it was also fruitless. "This is such a subjective business," is what she also typed in her email. There was no one to tell of the strange juxtaposition of that statement, and then her rejecting me based on her solitary hearing (or not hearing) of my voice.

I wrote a poem about voice once. Well, it was about rappers, those confused, frightened, angry perpetrators often heard from equally audacious vehicles in and about town. Even the ones who don't shout, scream. "Because they know what's at stake," is the line of the poem which calls back to the fatigued child treading water at the bottom of a moonlit well, wailing. That youth, those rappers, that author (when he was still writing), and I, all just want to be heard. And there seems to be some strange, shared amazement concerning it all. Those who are never discovered, who ultimately drown, peace made with death or not, wonder at how they could not have been heard, and those who are plucked up into safety, thankful and grinning, wonder at how anyone could have heard them when they were so very far away. I suspect that a legacy is worth very little to the dead, yet is woefully precious to the living.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hungry

The local convention has come back around again, and all the ambitious thoughts I had this time last year seem like the rest of my dreams. I have a list of things I should have done, and it syncs nicely with the list of things I would have done had I the chance of a re-do. Oops.

On Sunday, the fourth draft of the short story I wrote was sent to the contest, an entire month before the deadline. This was not done entirely to give me something useless to fret about, but mostly to let me focus on some real-life things that have become most pressing. I had some good talks with people who read it, and learned some things about my constantly improving style and feel. I've been told I'm getting better at tap dancing the knife edge of showing just enough and telling too little.

And, crushing onslaught of reality or not, the voice in my head spinning sentences for the novel returned this very morning and I was happy for it. It's looking like this weekend will be productive on that front, at the very least. I feel confident that if I can move past the upcoming chapter things will be somewhat smooth for the next foreseeable chunk of the book (I outline, but with respect to the understanding that things can change in the moment of the actual writing). The trouble I ran into was trying to convey information to the reader through a character that is less helpful at conveying information. I'm still considering the obvious solution of switching point of view to another of the characters in the scene, but that might not be as beneficial as it sounds.

The transition from writing in a shorter form to a longer one is as strange as it always is for me. The maximum word count for the contest is 17,000. I sent somewhere around five, which came out, double-spaced, at around 18 pages or so. Not a leisurely chunk of reading by any stretch, but it can be done in one sitting. And I think that's fairly ideal. A short story comes in one bite, for me. There might be a difference in the chewing needed, and the mass on the utensil could be larger, or denser, comparatively, but I think a reader digs in one good time, takes away a full compliment of what the author was providing, and then drops the silverware into the bowl to signify completion. It's not as full of a meal, but it can sate if prepared correctly. On the other hand, a novel tends to have multiple courses. Things have to be eaten and paired together as the reader moves along, a bite of this mixed with that, a nibble here, a sip there. It takes longer, and is much more complex, and people are much more likely to take different things away from it. I'm consciously slipping back into a slower, more thorough mode of preparation, because the risk of putting in the wrong ingredient is the same, but there are so many more opportunities for a miscue. The likewise is true, too, and that is what can make it more rewarding.

And if you're wondering where all that came from just now, we'll go with "Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies."


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

High note

This weekend saw a hiatus, not in writing, just in what I was writing on. A few weeks back I had a discussion with a writer friend. He had paused in working on his own novel to chisel out a short story for a competition we try to win every year. To date, he has two honorable mentions and I have nothing. Even though he knew I was working on a book, he questioned my lack of initiative to write something for this year's contest. At the time I was against it because I had nothing to write about, and felt no incentive to wrack my brain to uncover if that were really true. We left it at we were both writing, and that's what mattered.

Last week an idea struck me, struck me so squarely that I decided I would write the story, and that it was going to that contest. The timing was good, I felt. Further inspired, I decided not to put any outlining or the usual amount of forethought into it. I wanted to sit down and let the idea take me somewhere. Normally, such an unfettered notion spells disaster for me. I always run the risk of writing myself into a situation I could have foreseen in outlining, and in free style writing most of the time it kills my momentum. I'm never clever enough to write around the block or diligent enough to erase back to the point where it all started to go downhill. Fortunately, there were no blocks. When I was done I had a vague telling with a horrible ending. I felt accomplished only in that I had finished it, and was regretting my decision to try the method in the first place.

It is at this point that I'd like to share some wisdom that I received recently: there is nothing that won't shine if you polish it enough. At least, the sentiment struck me as deeply profound. I saw it as applicable to any skill, life or career or otherwise, and I saw it as applicable to the heap of garbage that I had produced. I had written in the morning. I spent the rest of the time before lunch inundating myself in visual and audio media, washing my brain liberally. Then, I went back and read it. I read it out loud, fixing it as I went, cutting out entire sentences and adding others in different places. Most of the afternoon was spent clearing my mind again before I went back and edited that 2nd draft. Then I slept, and the next day turned the 2nd draft into a 3rd draft. By then, the ending was an actual ending and the rest of it was much more cohesive. I found the differences in the methods interesting. With an outline, supporting detail can be generated independently and not on the fly, marked down and notated so it doesn't have to be conjured on the spot. Main characters can be identified, named, and even sketched in advance. More than once during the writing, I recognized a need for a character, wrote them in, then realized I had no name for them, and they had no real qualities.

I won't say that I'll never try that again. After all, the feedback so far has been glowing. I don't know to what extent it's my maturity as a writer or if it's the spur of the moment style. For once though, I felt like I might actually place in the contest. I believed in the other stories I had submitted, but I knew going in that they would be labeled in the same fashion as my others. The kind of stories that only some people got, and that being only party do to sophistication. With this one, I feel like it has the same heightened aspect, but instead of just being on a summit, there's some built in features to allow a person to climb to understanding. I think that part of me believed that some people just wouldn't get some ideas. And while that may be true, it might just be possible to get a larger percentage over to the promised land than was previously assumed. What I'm most proud of is that looking back on my previous writing, it didn't make me look down on those stories or regret them. It made me thankful because writing them is what allowed me to climb.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kindest negatives

The query letters have gone out. Not to every place I could conceivably submit to, but on one particular website I found for registered agents, I certainly submitted to every single New York science fiction agent that accepts email queries. I did this because in such close proximity, such salesman could most easily shop my work to the imprints of larger houses face to face, provided they liked what I sent. Also, I wanted to test the waters, as it were, in case the query was too aggressive, passive, esoteric, or biting. I've received nothing but rejections so far, which is not surprising, but none of the kindly worded negatives implied any of my previously listed fears. 


By the way, if you've ever been curious about the kinds of lives authors you've never heard of lead, they engage in daily conversation with both people and machines that include language like this:


"...as to your material I'm afraid I will be passing -- I'm just not
enthusiastic enough about the concept of your story to feel that I'd
be the right agent for the project"

"Due to the amount of queries we review, we are unable to comment personally on why the project wasn’t right for us..." 

"After careful evaluation, I have decided that I am not the right agent to represent your work. I can only properly represent materials that greatly excite or interest me."

"We'd like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter..."

"It sounds like you're on the way to a solid career but right now we're not taking on new clients; my hands are full with the ones we have."  

I include that last one in segue. I remain optimistic. Last time I tried this, I submitted initially to the same amount of agents and received replies from only a handful. This time around I've heard seven eloquent, unambiguous no's with more, I'm sure, on the way. 

A scene I may right down one day occurred to me earlier this morning. I was looking at the window sill next to my bed. It's full of trinkets and souvenirs from other countries, gifts from friends. Most of them are good luck charms, idols that remove obstacles or creatures that grant luck. The only thing that isn't from elsewhere is that list of goals a friend encouraged I write down. That item came from a place I carry with me wherever I go, and I figured it would do well to rest near where I like to dream. 

In the scene though, two characters were investigating the living space of a victim of a homicide. One asked the other "Do all these things really help, all these little superstitious bits" and the other character, whom I had decided was both wise and knowledgeable suddenly, said, "Well, they won't stop bullets or anything, but believing in them can lead to the kind of mindset that avoids situations where being shot is highly likely. I suppose it's very chicken-egg."

Clearly if I ever were to write it down, it would need to enter through a drafting process. All of that is to say that I continue to write, both things that I think about and then scribble down and things I think about and resolve to scribble down some time in inevitable futures. Failures will come. Successes will follow. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tithe for the mill

I've become somewhat of an excuse factory of late. I didn't write last weekend. I thought about it, over the course of days, but when the rubber hit the road, the words failed to reached the page. Among other things, I'll have to work on that.

Family was in town recently, a lot of it. People I couldn't differentiate from the kind of stranger I might meet in an elevator or at a bus stop. But they said they knew me, remembered me. They said I looked like my parents, not either one but both of them, like I was some sort of mashed together amalgamation of my father and my mother. I spend time in the mornings staring at my face, and when I shave, or whenever my eye catches a reflective object. Another instance of having to take people at their word.

One specific family member, my aunt, and I went to lunch together. She asked me questions, and since no one else was around, and the place was dimly lit, lacking those pesky mirrors that I hate, I earnestly tried to explain to her the peace-less me. We didn't get very far, though. Her first question was what my books (which she had tried to read, but had failed) were about, and why I had written them. That took up almost the entirety of our time together. On the plus side, when I was done she seemed satisfied, if a bit changed over the ordeal.

Over the next few days, I went back to asking questions, of myself and others, rather than answering them. One I got stuck on was the dilemma of the genius. The question makes one choose between distant alternatives, virtually endless and definitively posthumous success versus more immediate and terrestrial notoriety. To struggle for the entirety of one's life, receiving rewards long after death, or being a more immediate spark, mundane but successful, a name forgotten by everyone moments after the casket kisses earth. I've yet to find anyone who would volunteer for the latter in lieu of the former. The religious man has the conscience of his after life to revel in the glory of his first one. The defiant man has his pride, the dignity of dying on his feet with his chin held high. Well, I did find one person who might've settled for the latter, but I only spied that mirror once, and have yet to revisit it.

That same aunt told me she was proud of me, that all in my family were proud of me. I could tell she had been waiting to say it, like it was on a checklist she had written while her plane was in flight. I asked her what I had done that was so deserving of everyone's pride. For her, it was more about things that I hadn't done. I hadn't fathered a child before I was ready, I hadn't ended up in jail, I hadn't dropped out of school. I told her maybe everyone's standards were just too low, however I did thank her. I thanked a friend as well recently, when he told me that he was proud of me, too. In an effort to move forward, I'm going to try to be worthy of these kind sentiments, even if I don't agree with them. Even if I can't see myself.

For these query letters, the next step in my professional development, I'm going to imagine the best version of myself, and how he would write them, and how he would send them. To live is to change, the saying goes, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

Change is hard, though. It is a grating, constantly difficult activity, but it is best accomplished stared in the face.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Judgment days

When your mom asks why you haven't written on your blog, that's a good time to recognize that you've been slacking off.

A friend asked me if I'd ever composed a list of the things I wanted, with as much specificity as possible. The kind of agent I want, the kind of publisher, the kind of contracts. The color, flavor, tone, and dimensions of the success I desire from this life. I had to admit that I never had. I've imagined intimations with interviewers, red carpet photos, conversations with other success stories, and other memories I'd want, but when it came to the kinds of things that would yield all of that, I'd always phrase things like "I just want someone to give me a chance" and "All I need is an advocate that has some backing of their own." For the entire remainder of the day after my friend had asked me that question I ruminated on the possibility that all the universe needs from us is specificity and such things come to us in time. It's not science fiction. Let's call it... faith fiction.

A Chinese oil painting in a restaurant reminded me of my latest problem, which prevented me from writing this past weekend. The style of art is designed to convey a thing, a horse, a cat, a bird, etc. with the fewest brush strokes possible. It's minimalism at its finest, and it's likely that I'm drawn to it because I'm somewhat of a minimalist myself. Sometimes when I write a scene, a floor plan is required, just to make sure I know, as the author, where everything is in the room. If the character is seeking escape, then all doors and windows, and the condition of those portals, must be accounted for. If the character is seeking ingress, then the same is true, but in the opposite fashion. In this case, something more like a drawing might be required. In an upcoming scene, an item comes into play. The problem is I have no real idea of what it looks like, and for the kind off writer that I am, I have trouble writing about things that I can't fix in my mind. What's worse, every day it seems to become more formless, the next passage to write out of reach.

On the (more) professional side of things, I've finally gotten around to composing a list of agents to query. It isn't a short list that I'm developing, but perhaps that's a good thing. A writer friend told me of a story she read about another author who queried 41 agents, who all said no before the 42nd gave the nod. Now, that same author has a very successful career that includes best sellers and movie deals. The last time I tried this I think I queried less than 15. The disparity is obvious, but I'm more reminded of the inexact nature of language. After all, "'this is going to be difficult" might be a statement of fact, but it does nothing for accurately measuring the difficulty of a task. I realized yesterday that I will always write, whether I receive accolades or not, but writing and trying to be a (professional) writer are two different experiences. After all, the person who simply writes understands freedom purely, and will never be fettered in a manner that the latter person will, constantly racing uphill, through tempests of uncertainty and storms of rejection. The professional lives to be judged, but not by choice.

About all I have today are movie platitudes, about how the future isn't set, about how there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Here's... questions

I'm happy to say I'm back in the swing of things. Supportive friends of mine ask me sometimes if I've been writing, and it's a difficult question to answer for me, like most. I work on stories pretty much everyday, after all, ponder on how to improve things I've written and on how to improve on things I've even yet to write. There's even some storytelling in my hobbies that make me think on character development, story pacing, and line writing. Ultimately though, for the past month and a half, the answer to the question has been no, I haven't been writing. But all that changed this Sunday.

Now I'm back to lying awake on nights late in the week looking into the mental file of an outline I have in my head. I think about what's happening next, and why it's important, who's involved, and where their place is in the overall setting. Lately, I would say my excitement over it has to do a lot with its familiarity. When it's all said and done, I might have been doing it wrong this entire time, but even if that's the case, I have doing it wrong down pat. Recently, some changes in my life led me to believe that things aren't going to be as easy for me as they could be, which makes the familiar seem safe and contenting. I'm not sure yet what to do with that realization.

In other news, my brain has had other thoughts. For anyone who reads this diatribe of mine, you might also know that I've wrestled with content for a long time. My mentor described the subject matter of my recent novels as a phase. A close friend said that it was regrettable someone with my predilection chose the subject manners in question. And most recently, a reviewer attached phrases like "too literary" and "esoteric" to my first novel, which includes words like "vampire" and "magic." In lieu of that, almost as if my brain had decided it was all true, I happened upon an idea for a contemporary novel. What's more, it stuck, and the characters, the conversations, the situations have all become much more clear in recent days.

If only my biggest problem was to decide which story to write first. But then, I wonder who among us gets to decide what our biggest problem is? They come to us, primarily, they affect us most directly, and we're the only ones who can claim such situations as ours, so why can't we? Another question without an answer, like a sentence without punctuation. Or a simile without the words like or as... which isn't a simile at all anymore.

On the one hand, I feel like I'm a little lost in a giant hotel with no employees or helpful signage. On the other hand, I'm writing again, so despite everything I still feel kind of great.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Things told me

The vacation is over, in more ways than one. I won't get into the messy personal details, but a few quotes come to mind. Favorites include, "you've still got options, even when there's a gun pointed at your head," and  "I've learned that 10% of life is what happens to me and 90% is how I respond to it." Which is to say that I find myself under the gun, and the past few days have encouraged me to carefully mull over my response to recent events.

One response I've decided on is not to stop writing, and I'm happy to say that it felt very natural, that decision. Before the news came, I had been editing through my sci-fi manuscript, cringing at points, and remembering why I did it in the first place at others. When I was done, I felt good, and the notes for the next book flowed freely, and have continued to even through the present (though, admittedly, I haven't slept very well). A related response is that I'm also going to revisit the agent search. I was willing to spend years publishing books with small presses in an effort to create a readership, proof to agents and editors that I was a safer investment, but with two books published, there's nothing to say that I couldn't try again now. I might still fail, of course, but somehow "I might still fail" sounds a whole lot better than "I might still try."

A friend of mine, a few weeks ago, talked to me about evaluating and re-evaluating. He maintains that one of the major high points of his life occurred in the midst of his trying to change. A different friend, who has long been very congratulatory of my limited success got into researching the success of certain highly popular books, which is to say, he's been reading them. He didn't tell me what conclusions he had come to, or if it had actually helped his writing focus, only that he could say, without pause, that he was not the target audience. I shared my own insights into recent novels turned record-breaking movie series. What I didn't say was how impressed I was with that level of commitment to try to change. Had my own mysterious challenges not arisen, I might not have been so receptive, either. That is another response I've decided on. Re-evaluation.

Believe it or not, I'm also trying to exist more in these e-places. Blogs and pages and profiles and such. I'm still coming to grips with the fact that, at least in the beginning, what a writer says on an internet page is more important than what they say on the pages in their books. But I also suppose it's better to come to grip something before it comes to grip you. At least, that made more sense before I typed it out.

Either way, things stand, and I'm working on doing the same, but I will leave with another favorite quote I heard recently, "If you want to be a writer, then write."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sunless Rhetoric

A good friend being good to me strongly encouraged me to write this weekend, because I hadn't in some time. What I had been doing was blazing a trail through the box of games the same friend bequeathed to me (okay so maybe he isn't so good). I stumbled across a fascinating parallel between the writing in games and the writing in books in that I found myself, as the main character, wondering why I should care about certain details and regretting not having as much information as I should've had to connect with the story material. "This," I thought to myself as I wandered around aimlessly, "is what bad writing feels like to a reader." However, what I was doing could not be expressly described as researching.

But I did write, and for the first time in a long time no one will be able to see what it is I put down. On about the third page, my computer restarted, saving nothing of what I had written. I searched and searched when it finally booted back up to find no trace or sign, not a stray word or dangling punctuation. It was as if I had never sat down and committed to those passages. And yet I felt better, felt like I had done something productive, felt like I had exercised whatever muscle is required to string together ideas and fuse them as one with whit. Suddenly, it didn't much matter that anyone would ever read them and tell me whether what I wrote as good, or poor. I was back to square one.

In an opposite gear, I was featured in an interview by another author at my publisher. She was also nice enough to review my novel as well. Around the end of the month I think the rest of my promotional efforts will bear whatever fruit, and of course those items will be posted here.

This morning while questioning the drain in my bathroom, it answered to me in the form of the last novel in my urban fantasy series. A character, whom I had thought of previously, flashed onto the insides of my eyelids in much more vivid detail. I thought about who he was, and who he wasn't, what people sought from him and he from others. I do believe he has bejeweled teeth. I had other plans, though. I'm still trying to get notes about my sci-fi novel from the people who read it while warring against the notions that it wasn't very good and doesn't deserve a sequel. I'm happy to say that the strongest weapon against those negative thoughts has been to simply crack the thing open and work with it until it is good enough. Yesterday I wasn't aware I had such confidence.

So, that's about where things sit. I just finished reading one book and another has recently landed on my desk. I hope to get back to the writing soon. The last page I wrote wasn't nearly good enough to have been my best, even though no one will ever see it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Legacy

I had a lot of thoughts, and then I had none. Lately, without writing on something weekly, I'm feeling fairly unproductive. Plans are being created almost everyday, but none of the little seeds have quite gestated into something more fertile. I am working on a few guest appearances to promote the latest novel, so that's something. It's a bit odd, answering something like the same questions over and over again, and being conscious of similar answers being already in existence, time stamped for eternity. One question I consistently choose to answer is about advice given to aspiring authors. How does one battle a mountain?

Thoughts and opinions about the April release are trickling in. It seems to be about the same as last time, the vast majority of people who read it like it, and then there are a handful that don't for a smattering of reasons. I fear the editing might be somewhat impactful, and I'm not sure as to whether or not I should have fought harder. The next release is being judged as I type this; the phrase "fragile balance" comes to mind. Certainly, it's occurred to me before why authors would go through all the trouble to make their own labels. But more than that today what affects me is a mistake that was pointed out to me that was all my own. I'm ashamed to admit it, because what caused it was little more than my own lack of experience. My mentor encouraged me to experience things so I could write about them with greater authority. I've never felt like I failed in that regard before. And now... well, now I understand why he said that. Because it's never going away.

This week, the sequel to a video game that shaped my college life (yeah, I was a nerd) was released. All my friends bought it, then posted pictures of themselves holding the box on Facebook. I felt a bit displaced because I had no strong desire to join them, felt no jealousy at not possessing the game as well. Likewise, I spoke with a scientist friend of mine poised at one of those crossroads in life, one path leading towards the lonely kind of success outsiders dream about, and another pointing in the direction of the mundane kind of happiness everyone would wish for if they could only understand its sublime perfection. And of course they're mutually exclusive. "The children of some of the greats," my friend said, "were often neglected by their obsessed parents." It was one of those conclusions that washes over the listener, and drowns them in understanding. I felt similarly displaced again, and a bit small to think that I would have more trouble deciding to walk down the latter road as opposed to the former.

I think this week is a bit of a wash. Too much time spent looking back... or maybe too far forward.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Up and up

On Sunday I wrote, detouring the route that would take me to the coffee shop again in lieu of sitting in the room I like to call my office and writing there instead. I was happy with the end result and happier with the idea that I was finally, finally close to finishing.

Last week I had discussed getting together with a writing friend and perhaps having dinner. On yesterday we did so, but afterwards the night was still young, his because Monday is his work schedule's version of Saturday, and mine because he is a constant reminder to me of what can happen if one simply leaves oneself open to possibility. After drafting and snipping several plans, we ended up taking our laptops to his office, or might I call it perch. That it is a nice, quiet area full of tables and chairs is not so remarkable, even to say that it's on the 19th floor of a luxury hotel. It's remarkable because my writing friend is terrified of heights.

Yet that is his office. "I was really afraid the first time," he said to me, "actually, I kind of tried to claw my way out of the elevator." He went on to explain how finding his newest writing space was an accident. He had been wandering the area around his apartment when he found the hotel, the site of the annual local sci-fi convention, and after stepping into the elevator he had wanted to go down. As it turned out, the elevator took him to the 19th floor on a whim. I imagine him afflicted with the shakes and flop sweats. Yesterday, I watched him nod his head only a little nervously as we went up, and after we reached the floor I watched him type out a confident 500 words with hardly any hesitation at all.

For me, I completed the draft of my epilogue. I explained to him that it wasn't perfect, but my editing it would have to wait because I was going back to the very beginning, not of that novel but of that series and turning it over and shaking out everything that wasn't working. The last section of the last book could wait. I was glad to be done, and free to think about other things, though I didn't hardly exult. I could see a large portion of the city from my friend's office, and I can't remember the last time I was nineteen stories up anywhere. I had forgotten the kind of scope such a height granted one.

I have a long way to go, is what I'm saying, and I could see it last night. Next on the docket is to get with everyone who lent me their time to read over the draft of my sci-fi novel and to take ample notes. I have more wall space now so I can actually print out the thing page by page and tack each onto walls, draw on them with a red pen with arrows made from fire.

Step at a time, step at a time. A smooth, express elevator would be convenient, even preferable, but I'll get there this way, too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Being continued

The insidious nature of distraction occurred to me the other day as possible excuses piled up. I have a box from a friend that I referred to as my "retirement," in that it contained a gaming system and a dozen different games. When I used to open the box and look inside, I could see a future where I sat next to a television and let my brain make dazzling chemicals as I exercised my fingers.

A week at my new place, I finally opened the box and made that possible future a reality. It was as pleasant as I imagined.

Then came the time when I would normally write. The coffee shop seemed unappealing, even the notion of writing itself was strange and foreign. I wanted to play.

I'm happy to say that I did play, but only after I worked. I triumphed over that urge, but in leaping that hurdle I could better examine its dangerous nature.

But while I was thinking about that I came across another new notion: talking shop. It's been more than a year (by a smidgen) since my first book came out, and during that time I've come to realize even published authors, among published authors, exist in a hierarchy. I saw a contest, in fact, that was for "new authors" except, to those judges, that meant authors with less than four books. This didn't jibe with my reaction to people's question "How long have you been writing," because when I thought about it, the answer that always came to mind was "as long as I can remember." Yet, I'm still new.

Anyway, as I was meeting more and more people, I finally got around to discussion of sales, and the numbers of such. I was encouraged by some authors' responses and discouraged by others. As I had long ago intuited, it all came down to networking, but it was nice to have my assumption realized. The gap between the actual skill level of stitching together sentences and sentiments was not so distant from writer to writer, but the margin of networking was huge. Networking determined net worth, to a certain extent. Still, even knowing now what I have to do does not necessarily guarantee that I'll do it. That's how much I dislike it. But, what else is a person to do when they are in disagreement with the universe, but change?

Yet what I sat down this morning to write about is my new understanding of the power of names. As I said, this past weekend I did write, and it went well, but what I was most pleased with was some real headway in conceptualizing how I would change my fantasy series, what words I would change and why, to create the effect I had envisioned for it from the beginning. Just like that, I became newly invigorated, and now can power through the last few chapters and even lay the groundwork for a continuation (somewhat complexly, I've set out to use my initial trilogy as an introduction to an even larger cosmology and my hope is that in depth discussion of one world will account for my glossing over others when I mention what they are, how they are, etc.).

So today sees me dancing the dance of change again.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bright side

I should be writing, which is not to say that I'm blaming the blog. I'm making excuses. Yesterday I moved and my muscles have stretched and torn in ways they haven't in some time. And while they're excited, I'm much less so. It was a new kind of sleep in an old bed. My fear that I would be unable to rest fully and normally, despite whatever fatigue, came true.

So now I'm doing the coffee shop thing, because of all the things I paid for and took care to reserve in advance, and pre-imagined, internet in my new place was not one of them. I won't say that this was completely accidental. Much like renting a place with stairs, I knew that making certain kinds of decisions would be more interesting, if not better, for me. Already I've been silently introduced to all sorts of interesting people dwelling in the palace of the dark bean (and I am not immune. I'm drinking crazy expensive orange juice).

The only plan I have at this point is to intend to plan. The outline is expanding again as I think forward, and while I wasn't able to finish the draft before Spring, or before I moved, I will finish it. I have the next novel in my published series already submitted, and a few soft agreements for promotional opportunities that may very well carry me on into summer. I also have made strides to sit down and take notes on the first sci-fi novel with  one of my readers before I start on the next one.

So yeah, plans.

The sun has risen now, turning that foggy kind of promise into full-fledged day. The people around me, chatting, musing, reading, sipping, jotting, coming, and going take it for granted. I figure that's about where I need to get back to with my regimen. Make it regular like the sun rising.

But something can be said, too, for the other major part of being a writer, which is reading. Not just words, but people, situations, and circumstances. It could be that writing is the evacuation of the vast stores of thought through the particular lens of the specific author, and if so, it only makes sense that every now and again such quantities must be invested in, rather than given out.

Hm, so does it matter if the excuses are good ones?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foolishness

This morning I wrote, an event which by and large determines my reply to the question "how was your weekend" posed by my co-workers. I wrote, I will say, so it went alright.

And normally I don't tend to this site at the same time, or on the same day, or in the same mindset that I tend to whatever novel, but this weekend has been one of firsts, so why not keep the trend running?

The book comes out in six days, and I've had the final file in my inbox for over a week now. After the errata phase I was so worn out that I just wanted to distance myself, but curiosity, as always, reconstituted me. I was curious, you see, because the last time I had gone through the editing phase things were left out. And if you've been keeping up, you know that one of the main goals this time was to prevent that from happening again. So I doubled my effort, then I tripled it.

But you know what they say about it taking two to tango. And this reason, by the by, is why there are so many publishing houses. There are so many authors who felt like their weren't truly being heard by their editors, by their publishers that they struck out on their own. "This," they said, "is how it should be done." They were wrong, of course, because it's a trend that continues to this day. For me, I can say now, having looked at the file, that on one particular page, in one particular case, I did not make myself clear enough. The sentence in question (which I won't be specific about it; if you know my writing, it will smack you in the face) will be yet another cringing moment in my career, one I will hear about at length and never be able to explain away as it not being my fault.

But, I've decided not to be too upset about it. After all, I had to have written something that was so confusing that the only way the editor could understand it, to cause it to make sense to her, was to change it. Never mind that it changes the entire meaning of the entire passage. It's very possible that I could have done something other than try to force something which they weren't going to accept. My old boss would call this a "bought lesson," and as such I'll be paying for this for some time.

I wonder if something error-less will ever come out of me, or if everything I ever do will be less than it could be. On the one hand, I guess that's somewhat of a grim thought. On the other, it could be that perfection is simply the pursuit.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering

Twitter tells me I haven't been by in a while to post about what I'm doing. I guess I've also been somewhat neglecting this particular outlet as well. I have no excuses or reasons. But the words are coming. Blogging is like riding a bike I don't want to be seen on. It's got tassels and a basket; I'm not precisely in sync with what it advertises.

Writing didn't happen last weekend, but oh the editing. The final proofing had to be done on the April release. Unlike last year, I actually had work to do, dialog to fix, mistakes to root out. I admitted a while back that last year I hardly even looked through the final proof. I thought to myself, "I've looked at this, what, fives times? Six? I'm sure by now it's fine." That wasn't the case, as I found out. Every time someone found a mistake, it seemed like I had to hear about it. Needless to say, I was motivated to prevent that from happening this time around.

Consequently, I spent the entire weekend combing through the entire book. I found mistakes, the kind that I would've found had I looked last year, the kind that can be found in a lot of print books at all levels of publication. I discovered that the difference, in a lot of cases and categories, is diligence. The obvious question is "how hard are you willing to work for what you want?" I haven't come up with a precise answer as yet, but I know I at least want to work hard enough that I have fewer regrets.

This week two different people compared me to two different authors. Well, the first person said that I reminded her of Steven Wright, and the second person said my writing is reminiscent of Glen Cook. Somehow, I feel like that leaves me as the artistic equivalent of the crack between couch cushions. No one hardly ever investigates, but those that do are always interestingly surprised at what they find.

In my reply to Twitter:


Mia culpa. Took some weeks off actually doing things, instead of writing about doing things. Be back soon… or maybe not. Don’t wait up...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Step-mother to success

At about six o'clock this morning I realized I made a glaring error in the plot-logic of one of my novels. It's not the first time, I'm sure, but this is certainly the most pronounced one that I can think of. It's also proof that even reading a previous book before writing its sequel is not a fail safe against such mistakes. I'm at a loss though for how to document it. The writing continues, but things are turning back around on themselves. Like the first whiff of decay from a spoiling bottle of milk, for the first time in a long time I can sense the expiration date of something I'm writing.

I think the pace is to blame. One chapter a week has been the slowest I've written in years, and slow progress can be as deadly as no progress for a creative project. It stretches things out uncomfortably, and the more time is spent on it, the more other things "come up" and the more unrelated ideas begin to develop "on the back burner," the more "opportunities" to do other things arise. A lot of authors struggle with this same concept, writing along happily and then they hit a speed bump generated by life: holidays, vacation, other work, family. And with each one it makes it harder and harder to get back up to pace. I have several friends that come back seasonally to things they've been writing, and still other friends that never go back. I've got to figure out how to avoid that. Even after I finish this book, and I will, I still have to go back through all three and sort out problems caused by the initial drafting, as well as the kinds of things I discovered in a dream this morning.

So, downs and ups, ups and downs. In other news, the blog I wrote up for that guest appearance finally went live. I told people how bad the pictures were that I took, but that at least they were my bad pictures. Honestly, they came out better than I imagined, surrounded by a legitimate looking website and words. Also, so far as I'm aware, the April release is still a go. A friend gave me some good advice after asking me a good question. What's your strategy, she said. I didn't even know what she was talking about, because she was talking about marketing. The advice she gave me was to contact everyone who had reviewed the book previously. So far as I'm aware, reviewers have mountains of books they have to churn through on a regular basis, so it would be unlikely that they'd remember my work from last year, however if anyone's going to have that much more incentive to read the second book of a series, it would be the people who read the first (most of them, anyway). It wasn't the first time I had felt stupid that day, nor would it be the last.

Related to that, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to change my picture on my facebook author page. Falling behind the technology curve is a lot like falling behind a heavy dresser in an unused, upstairs room. But I'm determined to claw myself up and out. I think I'd also like to come up with some artwork (read: hire someone to make) to represent the entire series of books, so I can use that as my page photo (until the next series is published, at least). That should be a fun project, sort of like coming up with one word to describe many books (or a thousand, since it will be visual).

So the through line is that I've fallen behind a bit, however I haven't stopped running. Far from the finish line, far from it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

History month

Work proceeds. I try to ask my co workers when I see them on Mondays how their various weekends went. And whenever I do, they cordially pass the question back to me. "I wrote," I typically say, and am happy to. This weekend's chapter came out of me on Saturday, so the part of the weekend I spent free of planning to write was more voluminous than usual. I even saw a friend on Sunday. The term rip-roaring comes to mind in description of the excitement.

A few months ago, an organic conversation bubbled up between a co-worker and I about things we liked to read. He had purchased my book, and had attempted to read it, which led him to lending me several books of his own in somewhat of an attempt to apologize for not liking what I wrote. It took some weeks, but I returned one of them, and apologized for losing the other, but the conversations didn't stop. When we got around to westerns, I was excited to tell him about one western I had read that I did enjoy, so we could finally have something in common (even though we share little aside from skin tone). Eventually, I gave him two books over two exchanges separated by weeks. One he liked, read in a night, delighted that I let him have it. The other he'll "have to go back and look at again."

Both feature black cowboys. One is about a group of soldiers during the civil war, very similar to the George Lucas produced Red Tails (there, you pulled an actual name out of me) except in a different time and place. The men were proud, and soldiered in spite of an era that labeled them unique. They battled through important battles at important times. The book was a lesson, one my older co-worker felt good about hearing, and repeating, and rehearsing in whatever other stories he read. The other novel was a dark comedy at its most light-hearted. The black character, literally interpreted, isn't so much the main character as the foil for all stereotypes about the old west and blacks' places in it. He escorts a white protagonist, a bigot and a buffoon, through a variety of dangerous situations only to be shot in the back in the end. Except he doesn't die.

After the conversation today, I kept thinking to myself, "but both books do the same thing." However, it wasn't until the server at my lunch restaurant got my order wrong that I realized that it wasn't important what I ordered. What was important was what the woman thought I ordered. What's important is what the reader thinks an author is trying to do. Or, at least, that is something to be highly valued in the process. Over my miss-ordered meal, I chewed on the notion of reading and writing and how, much like food, what a writer writes and what a reader reads says a lot about that particular artist (and if you caught that, then I meant it).

But I won't be dwelling on what the various things I do, artistically, say about me. I'll just be doing them. I will admit that it would be nice if two people somewhere were having a conversation right now on what I intended. At the stroke of midnight tonight, I'll have one less day to wait.

Friday, February 10, 2012

States of being

Yesterday a friend asked me about sports. Specifically my opinion about whether or not a certain player, that I had never heard of, should have made the all-star team. After his dismay, he further investigated to what extent I just haven't been paying attention, for years apparently. Later last evening, a different friend called me to tell me one of his projects was starting to get some air under its wings. He blessed me with the opportunity to get my name out there through an outlet of his creation, and asked me how my own projects were going. I told him the next book was due out in April. He asked me if I was working on the next one. I told him that I was working on a different series currently, but that the next five books of the series in question were already drafted. Again, there was silence on the line, though dismay is maybe an improper description.

So I guess I've given up things for all this focus. I haven't quite started stashing notes in my desk at work, pieces of plot and such, but I do tend to only catch the first half of things, or not at all. I prioritize in strange ways. So perhaps there will be commensurate payoffs as well.

I actually hung out with a writer friend recently that was pretty great. I'm not sure if it was the personal interaction or just the talking about stories but I left there, as always, thinking I should be doing that more. As luck would have it, he heard about a writer's group just the other day and told me that details would be forthcoming. And that his own projects are swimming along well. He's shifted from writing on his off days, pressuring himself into production, to getting up and writing some, even a little, every day. That's something I'm just not comfortable with, given my schedule. He's also a different kind of writer, than am I. He explores, fluidly ebbing and flowing with the story as he writes it. If he feels the need for a bird, he dots one in, like a painter, and later if it turns out he was wrong he easily removes it. By comparison mine could be described as more immutable. Pre-conceived, but difficult to change once chiseled into place.

I took a break from writing last weekend, the first in a while, but I feel good about getting back on the horse as it were. I don't think there's any more editing to do... I think... so I should be fairly distraction free. I had a sad moment when I remembered the short story I never wrote a few months back. I'm not even sure where the notes are. Nor am I sure where the time is for me to crank out a draft.

But then, it was with the first friend that I discussed the difference between hoping things would happen and making them happen. Finding the time versus making the time. So, I guess, I will be making the time soon. Perhaps it will be written just in time to share with a shiny new writer's group. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

All downhill

Well, it finally happened. I'm blogging about blogging. Still, despite this being another ill omen, I remain optimistic that the Mayans were wrong. Day by day, I find more things to add to my bucket list.

But back to my doom saying. Last weekend the picture taking progressed well.The photos were amateur of course, but I did do the driving and the walking and the shooting myself, so that's something. Further, among all the other things I was busy doing, I even jotted down some notes about what I would write. A tie in to my books developed that I was very pleased to stumble across.

The first round of edits went well, also. I had a window of ten days, and set out on a pace to complete the first round in seven, which allowed me to turn back around, as planned, and refine the beginning. I got it back to the editor in nine days, confident that I could put that book to the side for at least a few weeks while I worked on the current drafting project.

To that end I wrote, and was happy with the chapter that ended up being saved and backed up numerous times. However, I was wrong about that window of weeks. I mentioned before that this editor works very differently from the previous one I had. It turns out I was more correct than even I was aware. The turn around between the first round and second round was a matter of days. I was a little stunned.

So now I'm currently in the second round of edits, and I am committing to the same plan. This time, I combat the deadline for the blog I took all the photos for and the growing exhaustion over reading the same book repetitiously. I wondered openly in conversation with a friend about how other authors don't end up disliking the results after combing through them half a dozen times. Maybe, I thought out loud, that was a big requisite for going into the process super excited about whatever draft. Editing is a guarantee that dulls such excitement.

Last year, a writer friend told me publishing three books in one year was hard work. She is a pro at marketing and networking, so I assumed she meant all the smiling and hand shaking. But I think if I had to feel all year like I do right now, jumping from information form to information form, cover to cover, editing phase to editing phase, I might go a little crazy.

But then, whenever that cartoon man finds himself atop the giant rolling ball careening downhill, there's only one direction he can run, and he knows it has to be a sprint. There is no stopping, even though gravity has plans for him.

By the by, here's the new cover.