Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting Back in the Groove

The last few weeks have been a blur of dizzy spells, hospital stays (had another 3 days in the hospital last week--fun fun), doctor visits (another this afternoon, too), and getting back to work.

Another week and maybe things will feel back to normal.

Throughout it all, I didn't have much time for rereading and editing, which is where I'm at now with the book, which does put me behind schedule. Or it would if I was on a real schedule.

I am on enough of a self-imposed schedule that I do feel a bit behind. So now I need to buckle down and go through the manuscript again and get into a final "I'm willing to let people see this again" state.

Sometimes it feels like a great big spinning wheel, and that I'm coming back to someplace I've already been. At least it is something I enjoy doing. That makes the work worth it.

Hope everyone is in good health and keeping on task with their own projects, writing or not.

has also been gardening, and the fruits of that labor are ripening. And delicious!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Different Strokes For Different Folks

Ah vacation.

It was a lovely plan: a few days in Yosemite for a wedding, a couple days in San Francisco with some friends who live there, a day in Sonoma, a day in Monterey, and then back to San Fran to fly home. My wife and I were really looking forward to it.

But it was not to be. The wedding was Friday--we made that--held at the top of Glacial Point in Yosemite park. Gorgeous!

The next day on the way back to San Fran, I had a stroke. I spent Saturday in ERs getting tested, and Sunday and Monday in the hospital getting tests and results and recovering.

Yeah, a stroke. I'm 31. Over an entire week I usually run about 10-12 miles (6-8 in one run, a few smaller ones during the week), and lift weights 3-4 times. One of the nurses noted I had the best cholesterol profile in the hospital. My resting heart rate was so low (from being in good shape) that nurses were worried when I went to sleep.

And I had a stroke.

Spent nearly two days not being able to walk because the damage ruined my sense of balance--though I can now walk again, so it has been a very speedy recovery. And 3 days of a 7-day vacation were spent in a hospital in Fresno.

I was released Monday evening, and we made it to San Fran that night. Had a great day Tuesday with our friends--good way to end the vacation--and spent all day yesterday coming back home (that 3 hour time shift really does make it a full day of travel!).

And now I get to make some more doctor appointments and try to get in to see a cardiologist and a neurologist sometime this week or next and see where I go from here.

So that was my week.

How was yours?

is doing very well. The whole stroke, from why/how it happened to the speed of the recovery, has been baffling doctors. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Power of Love

Here's the true power of love: I'm posting this love scene from a hospital--while I'm on vacation. Yes, for the love of my book and an awesome writing contest, I'm still posting this.

Name: Wes

Title: A Spoil of Wishes
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Entry word count: 748
Manuscript word count: 110,000
Link number: 13
Hot, savage passion mingled with sweet longing in that kiss, erasing Shae’s every doubt: Lorian wanted her. Beyond physical desire, she tasted the raw emotion bursting from his lips. She wanted to get closer, to push this feeling ever onward and see how far it could go.

Shae struggled briefly with his coat. The shirt she handled with less finesses, sending a couple buttons scattering across the room as she rumbled to remove it.

Lorian gripped the low neckline of her dress and with one sharp yank ripped bodice down the center. Shae shuddered at his display of lust and power. She reached up to kiss him again, and her tattered clothing fell away.

Lorian tossed her onto the bed, and she landed amongst the pillows feeling like he had thrown her into the sky onto a cloud. He climbed through the canopy curtain on his hands and knees, slowly crawling up her body. Shae’s fingers traced across his shoulders and down his back, across the patchwork mess of scars.

Shae drew him down until their bodies met, and he rained kisses on her lips and neck, making her gasp and sigh and clutch hard against his skin. He was so strong, so powerful. She was trapped by him, caged underneath his hulking form, but she felt safe there, enveloped completely in his arms. With her lips and her touch she tried to show him everything her words could not express.

He reponsed in kind at first, but then Lorian murmured between kisses, his voice quiet but firm. “We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Yes we should!”

“You’re drunk, Shae. Really drunk.”

“I swear I want this, Lorian. Oh God, I want you so much.”

He touched her cheek with a gentle hand. “The punch, Shae—the powdered unicorn’s horn--it distorts things; it can confuse what you really want.” He pulled away from her, leaving her feeling cold and alone. “Sometimes people wake regretting what they did the night before.”

Shae was quick to reach out to him, to reconnect physically. “Please, Lorian. Don’t go. Don’t…don’t stop.” If she had known about the was in the the punch, she wouldn’t have had it. This was what she wanted, not the influence of some elixir. She couldn’t communicate all the thoughts and feelings tearing through her, and he was already pulling away. “Please, no.”

His unnatural green eyes were on her again, filled not just with longing, but with sorrow. “I care for you, Shae. I can’t do this. I don’t want it to be like this.”

She had started this; she had been the one to make the move, to kiss him. They had connected. Everything had been so perfect. And now he was rejecting her. She felt hollow—her heart stopped existing.

She lashed out, led by her maelstrom of emotions. “Why don’t you want me? Am I not enough? Am I not enough like her? Do I need to boss you around? Is that what you need?”

“Shae, I didn’t mean—”

She slapped him hard across the face. “How’s that? Does that turn you on?”

His face jerked to one side from the impact. He was very still after the slap, but it couldn’t have hurt him much. Shae took his chin in her hand and forced his head back to her.

“I’m going to fuck you so hard you aren’t going to be able to get up for breakfast.” She planted a kiss on his lips. She would get him back, show him she really did want this.

His lips were lifeless. Everything that had been there was gone.

His eyes were full of pain. Not from her slap but something much deeper. Realizing she had hurt him, Shae was quick to apologize, but it was too late for that. Lorian rose and started for the door.

“No!” Shae scurried across the bed after him, but she made little progress. “No! Lorian, I’m sorry! Please, don’t go. Don’t leave me! Stay! I’ll stop. We can just…we don’t need to. Just don’t go!” The room blurred as tears filled her eyes. “Please, don’t leave me!”

She couldn’t see him now, but the crushing sound of the bedroom door closing chilled her blood with harsh finality. She collapsed into the mountain of bright white pillows, her body still smoldering with unsatiated lust and her heart torn asunder. Shivering in the cold, lonely night, Shae curled up around one of the pillows and cried herself to sleep.

And that is my love scene. The First Kiss scene of the book. Anyway, more from me later this week when I am no longer hospitalized and home from "vacation."

is OK now. But man did he do a number on himself.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Touching the Soul

There are times when I think I suck as a writer.

I'm sure we all do. It's not unusual. Self doubt. It's a good thing. Keeps us hungry to improve.

I have talent. I'm not being proud or arrogant when I say that. I do. I'm not saying I'm more talented that other published or non-published writers, but I can identify that I do have a gift for imagination and, probably to a less degree that imagination, for putting words to page.

But then I come across something that truly touches the soul. Most often it's music for me, because I love music and I suck at it (completely tone deaf), but sometimes it is a work of art (for which I also have no talent), and other times it is a scene written so beautifully and filled with such emotion that it fills me up to the point of bursting. Usually it's sadness, but not always.

And that's when I feel like don't have that kind of talent. I've never managed that level of...whatever you call that. Inspiration? Being inspiring? I don't know. Capturing the raw beauty of life. Yeah, let's go with that.

Not everything we read or write or watch or listen to can or should do that, of course. But it's powerful when it happens.

A few of my test readers have told me my book did get them choked up and teary (at an appropriately place). I was little surprised, and pleased, that it did so--especially when they said they had the same reactions across multiple reads. But still, I know I didn't touch the soul, not the way I mean.

And I'm not sure I can.

Some examples, if I may.

Music, in fact, the very song that got me feeling this way right now, The Book of Love. This is Peter Gabriel's cover of the original. There are some other great covers out there, too, which does says to me how awesome the song is.

For a book scene, I'll just reference the most recent one I recall. It was a scene in The Hunger Games, but I won't go into details and spoil anything. I'll just note it deals with Katniss and a crown of flowers. The second book, Catching Fire, had a great scene that built off of this, too. Just amazing the affect those scenes can have. Powerful.

I'll also add that the TV show Scrubs did this amazingly well. Never have I seen a show range from such comedy to such intense emotion. So many awesome episodes. This particular video sums it up very well, I think.

I suppose it would be hubris to think I have or should be able to create something like that. It's a goal. A far reaching one, I guess. And maybe, if I'm really lucky and I work really hard, I'll create something in my life that touches someone so powerfully.

It's a hope anyway.

How about you? What stirs your soul? What drives you on to lofty goals?

will keep striving.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And Now...Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Well, that was a bit of a hiatus. I don't think I'll win my official Blogger Cap with breaks like that!

It started with a week away from home for work travel. Our annual conference in Orlando. Good times! Got some sun, had some fun, ate some great food, and did a bunch of "video blogging"--they gave me a camera and had me roam around talking to people and filming my thoughts.

I feel bad for our editing guy--4 hours of me rambling. My voice will haunt his dreams.

The week after? I was just lazy, I guess.

OK, so back on track. Where am I?

I was rewriting. I trimmed the beginning--made a change that echoed throughout the manuscript and required a go-through to make all necessary changes.


And I'm glad I did it. I think it is a hell of a lot better.

And now, I switch hats. I go from author to editor and go back through and tear the whole thing apart.

Then I get some some lovely critical reviews from people other than myself.

But this is Now. Right Now. What we are seeing/doing is happening right Now. We are working on the Now, not the Then, and even though the Then will become the Now soon, it hasn't done so yet (and we don't want to skip a head to Then now cause that would be confusing).

So editing it is. As if I don't do enough of that at work.

did make a Spaceballs reference, yes. Thanks for noticing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Confession

This isn't easy to admit. But I feel like I need to get this out there or risk continuing deception to my readers. I probably shouldn't have kept this fact secret as long as I have. But I didn't feel comfortable revealing it before, and even now...I hesitate.  Pushing that friendly orange Publish Post button will be one of my Herculean trials.

Here we go.

No more procrastinating.


I play Dungeons and Dragons.

OK, that actually was pretty easy. I think D&D doesn't have the same negative connotations it used to have, and honestly, in my life, I am open about my gaming. I'm out there. I'm not "in the basement" like some people are. And I've already said I write sci-fi/fantasy here, so a littler nerdity is kind of assumed, right?

Even worse than just playing D&D, I play in two different groups. Worse still, I am the Dungeon Master (DM) in one of those groups. (Don't know what that is? Don't need to--I think you figured out from context that somehow the DM is somehow--improbably--nerdier then the rest of the group).

We all need out creative outlets, and D&D is one of those. I design adventures and monsters and characters in a vast, magical realm that I have created over years of playing. I even write short stories based on that world (though they are very much written to be non-D&D stories; no gaming background required, just a love of high fantasy).

D&D does take up time I could be writing. Last night, for instance, I spent a couple hours working on the next adventure, and a couple more hours will go to the same endeavor this evening. And then tomorrow, I'll spend an evening hanging out with friends, playing the adventure I created.

I could, perhaps even should, be editing. I could be working on my query and my pitch and my synopsis (I get chills just mentioning that bugger).

But we need downtime, right? Something to switch up the pace, to shift gears. Instead of tackling another short story or novel in order to take a break from the Main Book, I create adventures and then spend some times socializing--in person!--with my friends.  That's my creative outlet to the madness of writing a novel.

Anyone else got any "confessions" for their little outlets?

just wants to point out that the movie Mazes and Monsters starring a young Tom Hanks does a TERRIBLE job portraying a typical D&D game. The most glaring error is the lack of Mountain Dew, but there are so many I can't even list them all.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Like a Freakin' Energizer Bunny of Awesome!

Sometimes I get in a zone, and I feel like I can keep going forever.

I'm sure we all do. That wasn't meant as some statement of me having super powers. And if I did have super powers, I want the ability to manipulate time.  Just in case any super-power-granting entities are out there reading my blog and feeling benevolent.

Anyway, back to my zone. I usually get in the zone when running, more specifically running on a treadmill at a relatively light job while listening to my my Running playlist (go figure, right?). I can go for twenty minutes in the blink of an eye and if my Droid wasn't purring out time intervals, I'd run right through the morning and be late for work. It feels great to be that free. My mind is just open and pouring through possibilities and the energizing music rollings right into me, keeps me going.

Of course, that's not the only time I'm in the zone. I've sat down and plowed out ten pages without pause, never aware of how far the story got, how much I got down, only that I had a story to tell and it was growing and breathing and coming to life as fast as I could type it. Faster. There was more I wanted to do, stuff I had missed or skipped or held off on.

Sometimes the story just keeps on going and I'm racing to keep up and get as much of it down as I can before it's lost like Kubla Khan.

And then I have to go back and edit. Sadly, I don't have a zone for editing. I think that takes too much concentration.

made a Samuel Coleridge reference in a blog post. Sweet!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TV Watching

I don't watch a lot of TV. My wife and I tend to sit and watch it during dinner, which is supposedly bad. If we had kids, we wouldn't do this. And we typically watch the Cooking Channel (usually we are eating during Rachel Ray or Iron Chef), so we aren't so invested in the show that we don't chat. Typically we are trying to get ideas about what to have for our next dinner.

The Cooking Channel is our go-to station. There are a few TV series we DVR, and if we have them available, we catch up on what is saved and I have a TV night. My shows of choices are Castle, Supernatural, No Ordinary Family, and Fringe.

Sure, sometimes we Netflix a TV series (Spartacus) and watch it all in a week. But usually I only spend one night in front of a TV catching up on shows.

What's my point?

Do I need one? I'm just blogging, here.

OK, so I have a little bit of a point: cop and doctor dramas bore the hell out of me and I don't care about "reality" TV because there is very little that is real about it. Celebrities are famous already, and don't need a show about being famous, and people who are famous just for being rich annoy me. Dancing shows are decent, but I'd rather watch partners who are exceptional, like at a show or contest, than people who are merely trying to look good while dancing with someone who is excellent--but at least they are working at something unlike most reality shows. I do have some respect for Dancing With the Stars and the people on Biggest Loser...but I still don't care.

I like funny, I like fun, and I like fantasy. And I like Nathan Fillion.

And I want my own writing to excel at these things.

And yes, that does include Nathan Fillion.

would love to meet that guy and see just how much of his character's personalities are reflections of his own.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Alas, Alak

And the final reject of the first round of queries is in! Checking Google Maps for the closest bridge....

Just kidding!

I expected no less, to be honest. I'm not frail. I don't take this as an insult to my novel writing. In fact, if anything, this is merely an insult to my query writing. And I'm not frail about that, either. There is a delicate balance between too much info and not enough info, between telling about the book and giving enough of a taste of the book.

I don't think I've quite hit the balance yet. I thought I had, but then I read a query review (I'm thinking it was either Query Shark or the BookEnds Wednesday Workshop). Now, I've read and reread the archives on those reviews, and I've learned a lot about queries from those sites. But this more recent review sparked a thought in me. And it was similar to the thought that got me reworking the beginning (and now middle, to adjust).

The thought I had was this: I'm saying my book is action-packed, but I'm not showing that sort of energy in the query.

Of course, I'm now stuck with this thought: How do I pack action and drama and some sultry romance into a short query letter?

Practice. And a ton more rewriting.

has a little more to go before he's ready to rework his query and start the rejection process up again.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why, Yes, I Am in Fact an Editor

I listed Editor in my profession of my profile. I didn't do that to be cute or anything. I realize that we aspiring authors are all, in our way, editors. I've been editing my own work for the last few weeks during this crazy revamp of the beginning. But I didn't put editor down as a my profession because I have been editing nonstop at home.

I am in fact an editor. Yes, you will see spelling and grammar mistakes in my writing, both in this blog and in any samples I provide. I write blog entries, forum posts, and friendly emails without reviewing them much (if at all). I do go back and edit my own work, but sometimes you are seeing draft pieces.

And I am a terrible typist. I typo the hell out of the stuff I do type.

As for where I edit and what I edit as an editor, I am currently the Associate Editor at, which provides free lesson plans and interactives for English teachers (share that with all your teacher friends). ReadWriteThink is part of a joint initiative by the International Reading Association (IRA; and yes, that is me on the homepage pointing at you) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Officially, I am an IRA employee (hence my picture on the homepage, pointing at you). I started at IRA as a Production Editor (PE) for books and journals before moving the ReadWriteThink. Back then, we used to have Developmental Editors (DE) for the books, who worked with authors on the big-picture stuff  like chapter placement, over-all flow, and major formatting. After the DE was done working with the authors, she would hand it over the PE (me, in some cases), and we did the copy-editing, proof-reading, and layout editing.

So yes, I am an editor. Professionally. I don't do as much copy editing any more, but I still get tapped for that kind of thing when needed. I have my name in on the copyright pages of several books (which is neat!).

Now if only I didn't work in academic publishing, I might have some contacts to other publishers that might make it easier to land me an agent or a editor (or at least a manuscript request!).

Why mention all this?

Just in case anyone ever sees comments I make on work they post and wonders "Who does that guy thing he is?" That guy thinks he is an editor, and his business cards agree with him. You might not agree with him, and that's fine: Grammar is subjective sometimes, and voice and tone can change how a sentence is "properly" punctuated.

I would also like to say, Always thank your editor. You may not agree with or even like the changes they recommend, but realize all editors are doing their best to help improve your work. And if you don't think their is room for are probably wrong.

Anyway, that is my rant-as-editor. If you want to, you can see me in "action," though in all honesty, you are probably seeing more of me in more action that you would expect/want. Though, at the very least, it is pretty darn funny!

enjoys his day job. He just wished it helped him with his "night job" more!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


It amazes me how far reaching some changes can be. This whole change-the-beginning experience has to say the least.

A conversation no longer had in Chapter 1 now needs to happen in Chapter 2, but as a result of the changes in the conversation, something else is said or thought or noticed and now that isn't needed in Chapter 3. Oh, and since it happened that way, now, and this character isn't really needed, and that's a shame, but he can show up in the sequel.

Jeez! I had known changing the beginning would have a ripple affect. The crux vibrations is that I ended up de-cluttering and uncomplicating things a bit. All for the better, of course, but it has far reaching consequences.

I saw a friend this weekend, one of my original readers (we're friends from high school, and she was reading the stuff I was working on way back then). She's read parts of this current book, and always asks how it is going. I told her about the few changes I made to the beginning and then added, "So yeah, changing that is causing me to have to rewrite everything."

An exaggeration and she knew it, but the truth is, I am going back through every chapter and seeing exactly what is being altered by the changes. It's like a weird alternate universe of my original story, a "What If...?" plot line coming to fruition:

What if I had been a better writer the first time around?

Ok, not quite, but yeah, I do think I'm a better writer now than I was when I started this novel. It's only reasonable I would be able to see things differently and improve upon what I had previously done. But then again, editing needs to stop at some point.  I'm thinking (hoping) May.

And now, because I have been talking about the new beginning for so long, here is what my original post for the 312-word beginning contest would look like now. Except that this is closer to 350, but whatever.

The gentle shake was unexpected and unwelcome. Shae was cozy napping on the couch, and she was having such a vivid dream. She had no desire to wake up now, but when she tried to explain this to whomever was prodding her, all that came out was a groan.
“Shae, you have to get up. Come on!” The voice was urgent, and the shaking was getting worse, but she ignored it and embraced the heaviness of sleep.
It had been such a strange dream, tantalizing and yet a little disturbing. She had seen Michael having sex with a beautiful blonde woman except that Michael didn’t really look like Michael. In her dream, he had been so much larger and stronger. And he had tattoos, which was odd to see; there were a few down his arms, but the one that had caught her eyes was the elaborate phoenix spanning his shoulder blade. The blonde was no one Shae recognized, but she had been gorgeous: timeless and curvy and just so perfect.
The hand shook her again, harder this time. “Shae, we really need to go. Now! There, well, zombies....”
Shae had never had a sex dream about Michael before. She dreamt about him often, but usually she dreamed of two of them doing things together, like talking in a coffee shop or walking down the street. Sometimes they saw movies together or even went out on a romantic date. Never sex.
“Shae, please wake up!” The hand shook her harder, and she lazily slapped it away. She wanted so desperately to slip back into her dream. Someone had been talking to her at the end; it had been important too. Alas, it was gone now, and she slowly opened her eyes, hating the brightness that blinded her.
Where was she, anyway?  And who was trying to wake her? She didn’t recognize the voice, which was decidedly masculine.
When that thought sunk in, she came to with a start, adrenaline pumping. She didn’t know where she was and a strange man was waking her up and he was talking about...did he say zombies?

Quite a bit different. Quite.

Yes, it is fantasy, and no it is not a zombie book. The zombies are dealt with easily, and that is actually the entire point to them being there, but that doesn't really come up until Chapter 2.

is plowing through. He's nearly halfway through the book, and the further he gets, the less changes are required. Except to the next chapter he has to do...that one got hit pretty hard by these changes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blogfests I'm Not Entering

I've been seeing this A-Z April Writing fest mentioned on various blogs. I will not be participating. I don't yet have the blogging endurance for such a challenge.
The pitch challenge is pretty good: write a pitch sentence Twitter style. 140 characters. I'm not signing up for it because of the editing I'm doing; I no longer considering my manuscript complete (woe that I sent out queries earlier this month saying otherwise). But it is always a good exercise. I'll post that next time when I've prepared for it a bit.

Instead, I shall post a small snippet of my manuscript-back-in-progress. I actually had a reversal on one of my previous "sacred cows", the book never being from Lorian's point of view. I decided there could be one exception, the Prologue. My strategy for tackling the new beginning of the book was to start at the exact life-altering moment for both of the main characters, Lorian and Shae.

Lorian's Big Bad Defining Moment, the thing that plunges him into the story, is very different and happens much earlier then Shae's. (And his moment leads to her moment, but that isn't revealed until the end, so shhhhh!). I made that the Prologue. Shae is still the main voice of the book; her Big Bad Defining Moment is the moment in which Lorian first enters her life...sort of (as in, this is only sort of the first time he has entered her life, not it is sort of her Big Bad Defining Moment--jeez, I should have called it something else, that is getting to be a lot to type!--cause it definitely is the Big Bad Defining Moment).

So here it is, paragraph 1 of the Prologue (still in progress):

Lorian knew for a fact his father was dead: He was holding his father's soul in his hands. It happened just like his father said it would, the energy swelling around him--the feeling as though his father was holding him one last time, comforting him, saying goodbye--before it coalesced in into a glowing ball. This was his father’s last gift to him--his inheritance. All Lorian had to do was accept it, and he would become the next Djinn.

And there we have it. That is Lorian's moment: his father died. That moment sets the action for Lorian. That drives him, and everything he does through in the book comes about because of this death.

is still editing this, of course, but that's where he is now. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Couldn't Help It!

Though, truth be told, I didn't try either.

Last time, I mentioned I was wondering if I was staring at wound to my book. It caused reflection and angst and inner turmoil; it probably sprouted a few gray hairs and made me lose an hour of sleep...give or take 5 minutes.

I joke only because as soon as considering the issue, I decided that, yes, it was an issue.

And I almost immediately decided to restart.

Blast and damnation--but amazingly enough, I began to consider and reconsider some different possibilities. Things I thought very important when I wrote them (or potentially conceived them well before they were ever put to "paper") turned out to not be so important after all.

Had I evolved as a writer since I first had these notions? Or had the book, being a mutable, seemingly living creature just developed in ways I had not anticipated, ways lent to these things no longer being so important to the story? Perhaps I had just missed that things could be cut out without drastically altering the story?

Funnily enough, this came about when I was running my synopsis through the grinder over and over again (a process I still detest, by the way); one of the later versions was a pretty sweet 1 page dealio, and in reading it, I thought. "Man, that's pretty good. If only that actually described what I wrote."

Of course, that thought led to another: "Maybe that should describe what you wrote. Maybe what you wrote is the problem here. Maybe things are so difficult to sum up in 1 page because you made them too convoluted in the plot."

To quote Poe (the singer, I mean): What a terrible thought.  And to continue my slaughter of brevity:

I must stay calm you know and I must be clear
It's gonna take a hundred thoughts to make this one disappear
A train like that could travel a soul for years
A terrible thought could have a terribly long career

-Poe, "Terrible Thought" off the album Haunted (which is the CD accompaniment to the very excellent and strange book House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, Poe's brother)

So my hundred thoughts to make that first terrible thought disappear? Yeah, those are now called Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3. Even if I end up not using them, it's been a fun exercise. They need a lot more polishing and refinement before I am willing to say that these will replace the previous version...but that's the way I see it going.

is haunted by the hallways in this tiny room, the echos there of me and you: the voices that are carrying this tune.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lessons Learned

Another contest come and gone, another lesson learned.  More than one, actually.  I haven't read through all of the entries, but I did read a bunch, and commented on some.  Ones that already had a lot of comments, I figured they had enough and didn't want to overwhelm.

It was an interesting experience. This whole blog thing has been.  I never really followed any blogs before (I did have some I checked out when I thought about it), and I've found some interesting ones now.  Not that I have really lacked the drive, but it does make me want to write more.  And try more.  Play with things a little differently.

It's an interesting shift. In part, I wonder if it hasn't been working on the new story as well. It has a very different tone than my finished work, and I'm really enjoying it.  I'm beginning to think I need to apply that to my "finished" book, or at least the beginning of the finished book.

The other part of me is thinking, "You haven't been rejected nearly enough to think you need to rewrite your beginning!"

To which the first part replies, "If you thought your beginning was perfect, you wouldn't be reconsidering rewriting it, would you?"

Of course perfection is elusive. But I wonder if I need to jump into the action sooner. It is meant to be an action-y book, after all.  And if I'm thinking that, then shouldn't that mean something?

Am I second guessing myself too soon, or did I stumble upon something that is a flaw and now that I'm aware of it, I can't look away from it?

And here I thought I'd be re-writing after my first writer's conference, not before it!

might have fallen into self-awareness. Damn it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Another Contest

Cause one contest is never enough--the more you enter the more you win. Or the harder you make the judges work to pick someone else. Something like that.

This week, we have this dealio going on over at Brenda Drake Writes . . . under the influence of coffee.

Post the first 250 words of your story, get some reactions (hopefully) and post some comments for others. Then submit the entry via email.

So away we go!

Name: Wes Ford
Title: A Spoil of Wishes
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Melalain watched in silence as her apprentice toiled away at his work. He was still young—How old had he said? Twelve years? She had lived too long to be aware of age anymore—but quite capable. His current project was not something a first-year apprentice could usually handle, but he was deft at the art of carnomancy. It wasn’t a particularly dangerous assignment, either. There was only a small chance that it could be fatal.

She monitored his progress from the observation balcony that circled the workshop. His hands danced through the proper patterns and his voice intoned the ancient words of power. He was doing very well so far, and a smile touched the witch’s face.

      He was a curiosity, this new apprentice. Lorian Mickaya, the child of a Djinn and a dryad. Any Djinn-child would make a rare and worthy apprentice, but the combination of the bloodlines made him unique. Some day Lorian would complete his apprenticeship and take his father’s place as the Djinn—a granter of wishes, a shaper of reality in a fashion—but he had to stay alive until such a time that he could protect himself. His father, for all of his power, hadn’t been able to.

       He drew the ceremonial knife across his chest, a single gash in the flesh above the heart, drawn deeply. He didn’t even winced from the pain. He just held the knife over the cauldron to let the blood dripped into the bubbling mixture.

        Thick, scarlet vapor exploded from the cauldron, swallowing his rhythmic chant with a menacing hiss.

will note that he did a little editing to his beginning based on some of the other feedback he had received earlier. Thanks, again!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Synopsis - Man, I hate it!

Yeah, I hate writing a synopsis of my book.  I did a 10-page synopsis, and that sucked.  I need to do shorter ones, too--bunch of agents ask for a 1-2 pager with queries. That's going to suck, too.

I get the point, really, but it's maddening.  I wrote an entire book which is sufficient length to explain the plot and the details with the level of description I think they need.  Had I wanted it to be shorter, I'd have written less.

I know, I know--apples and oranges and all that (though really, since both apples and oranges are fruits, they are fairly comparable and therefore the expression "comparing apples to oranges" doesn't make much sense). I just really hate writing the synopsis.  I can bust out a page of text in no time when writing the actual story, but try to summarize my writing in the same span is rough.

Still, nose to the grindstone and all that.  It's not all fun and games; every so often, you got to put in the work.  The Synopsis: the part of the process I consider work.


can synopsisfy this blog entry: "Today I bitch about writing a synopsis. It felt good to get it out there."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Explain the Coolness?

More dilemmas in query land.  No, I'm not saying I'm getting shot down left and right...the agents need time to get to my query in the slush pile before rejecting me. But this is another one of my wonderings.

I feel like I did something cool with my novel. Do I mention it in the query? When submitting some pages? In a synopsis?

Here's the coolness--it's nothing unique or ground-breaking; I'm sure it has been done before. But I did it on purpose, with specific intent, and I think it helps my story.

My last couple posts introduced the two main characters of the book, Shae (introduced in Chapter 1's 312) and Lorian (introduced in the Prologue's 312). My story is not always told from Shae's perspective, but it is never told from Lorian's perspective. If Shae is there, it comes from her; if she isn't, it comes from another female character.

In between chapters there are bits from Lorian's journal and a couple personal letters to his cousins.  These range through the time of his apprenticeship, all happening before the story takes place.  These journals introduce concepts and facts and people who will show up later. They are a little foreshadowing, and little explaining of Lorian's world, and give insight into who he is, his past, and his current motivations since you never get into his head as the story goes on. The things he says and does in the book aren't always up-front, and a few things from his past can be hooked together with these entries and with things other characters say.

Is it worth trying to mention that in the query letter?  I can find a way to keep that shorter than what I wrote here, but it is adding more to my query letter, which are supposed to be short. The question comes down to, Is this information that will make an agent/editor think "Interesting...I'd like to see some pages."

And here is an example. I've posted the beginning of the Prologue and the beginning of Chapter 1.  What I'm about to post is Lorian's journal entry between the two.  This might should also show how the weirdness going on in the Prologue will eventually meld with the non-weirdness going on in Chapter 1.

Just so that things are completely clear, the ritual in the Prologue is the body doubling he mentions in the journal; that would be obvious if the entire Prologue was read, but since only about half of it was posted yesterday, that probably didn't come through.  This is also the longest series of entries--most are kept to 1-2 pages.

Day 0
           I felt my father die. It was hours ago.
           I remember when he received the call about Mom. I remember his face when he hugged me and told me she had died. I remember the cold. I was empty. I didn’t get it.
           This is different. I can feel that he is dead. I get it.
           He had been acting strange the last couple days. When he left for his meeting this morning, he hugged me very hard and told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. I don’t remember him holding me so hard since Mom’s funeral.
           It couldn’t have been an accident. He was too powerful to die like that, like Mom did. He must have known going to the meeting something might go badly. Why had he gone? To meet a client, he said. Why would one of his clients kill him? He helped them by granting their wishes.
           Did they not want to pay him back for it?
           I have my inheritance; it came to me just like Dad said it would. All I have to do is accept it and I would know what to do then. I would understand what had happened. But if they killed him to get out of debt, wouldn’t they kill me, too? They now owe their debt to me, after all. I’m not nearly as strong as Dad. I can’t defend myself if they come for me.
           Aunt Diane and Aunt Persephone couldn’t protect me from someone who killed Dad. Bree and Song might get hurt if I go to my aunts. I can’t do that.
           There is someone stronger than Dad.
The Crimson Witch. Even Dad wouldn’t mess with her. I must find some way to get her to protect me. Maybe I can try to make a deal like Dad used to, a promise of wishes when I become the Djinn in exchange for her protection now. That might work.
           This is day 0. This is the day my father died. There are no dates now, just days from this moment until I find his killers and get revenge.
           Dad, one last wish. I know I can’t bring you back from the dead, but please, Dad, if you can, grant me just one last wish before I’m completely alone.

Day 264
The double is finished. It took a few months to build it. Melalain kept calling it birthing but that sounds gross. I prefer to think that I constructed it like a robot.
Transferring into it was painful, but I don’t remember much of it. I was out for at least two weeks. After that, I slept a lot. It took a while to learn how to move because I was in a body that had never used its muscles before. It still feels strange, like my body doesn’t quite move with me. Even writing this takes a lot of effort.
Melalain says it will get better with time. She didn’t think I would even be awake yet, much less able to walk or hold a pen.
She was very proud of me. She says the double looks just like me. I feel like there are a few differences. She said she didn’t think I could make the eyes look like mine. But I did. I had to. They remind me of Mom.
We dropped my real body off earlier today. It was some sort of nursing home. Melalain said she used a spell so that no one would know I was new there and to make sure that I never got moved. She asked me why I picked that one. I don’t know. It seemed right. Like home. Close to home. She said my body would be safe there.

Day 2,101
           This morning I was sitting in the study reading, and I felt a sudden connection to a vast, distant power. It was oddly similar to touch the Fey, and yet I know it was different. Strange and yet familiar. I still don’t know what happened, only that for a moment, I was a conduit for this power; I channeled it and directed it without thought or conscious awareness of what spell I was crafting. And then, once the spell was fully formed and sculpted, the power was gone.
In that moment, I had the vague impression of a hospital room, but I don’t know why. And then I started to hear a girl talking, seeming to speak directly to me like we were old friends and yet she was addressing someone named Michael.
Who she is and why I could hear her is a mystery. Oddly, I found I could keep on reading and still hear everything she said; her voice in my mind was no distraction at all. In fact, it was comforting, almost familiar, but maybe that impression was simply due to how she spoke to Michael. She sounded as though she had done so numerous times before. I was actually disappointed when she said she had to go—she must have talked to him for over an hour; if Michael ever replied, I never heard it. In fact, now that I think about it, she spoke as if she didn’t expect him to. She said she would be back soon, and then her voice was gone, as though I am not privy to it unless she is speaking to Michael. I wonder if I will hear her again. I must admit, it has stirred a certain curiosity in me. Who is she?

Day 2,103
I have solved a bit of the puzzle that is the girl’s voice. This “Michael” to whom she is speaking is me. Or rather, my first body. After all this time, I had actually forgotten that my current body is merely a double built to house my spirit and that out there, my true body still lives and breathes. And she calls it Michael.
She was back this morning, and what she said confirms my suspicions: she visits me every few days and spends time with me. She has done this for a while now; I got no sense of movement, but I’m sure “we” were taking a walk. I know what my other self is like—a living body and little more. That she spends so much time taking care of that, well,  that really says a lot about her, I think.
I don’t know why I can suddenly hear her or why hers is the only voice I can hear. She spoke to someone named Judy, but I could not hear Judy at all, only the girl and again only until she left Michael for the day. I did some research on body doubles, and nothing indicates how this could have manifested. Either the body is built with this sort of connection to the first or it isn’t; mine wasn’t. I discussed the matter briefly with Lainy without going into the specifics of my situation so as not to needlessly alarm her, but that provided no answers. This shouldn’t be happening.

Day 2,105
Her name is Shae.

And that is it for today! Hope everyone is having a great Tuesday. Thanks for stopping by.

started writing his newest book over the weekend, and he had a lot of fun getting to know the main character.  She's feisty!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Prologue vs. Chapter 1, Take 2

As promised, the picture of the French toast I made once which inspired the description used in my Chapter 1 breakfast scene. I had made cinnamon swirl bread, thought I can't recall why I had made it, and I had three loaves from the one recipe. My wife and I decided to use the bread as the base for French toast. That is maple syrup dipping sauce in the center bowl there.

I decided to go with the 312 pages of Chapter 1 for yesterday's contest, but I did consider going with the Prologue since it was such a short piece. I thought it might be interesting to see them side by side anyway, even though I went with Chapter 1, so here is the 312 from the Prologue, just for comparison. I figure if I plan on being a writer, I have to put my work out there to be seen (that is the point, anyway) so I might as well get some out now.

        Melalain watched in silence as her apprentice toiled away at his work. He was still young—How old had he said? Twelve years? She had lived too long to be aware of age anymore—but quite capable. His current project was not something a first-year apprentice could usually handle, but he was deft at the art of carnomancy. She had little doubt that he could complete the process, and it wasn’t a particularly dangerous assignment. There was only a small chance that it could be fatal, after all.

        She monitored his progress from the observation balcony that circled the workshop. His hands danced through the ritual patterns and his voice intoned the ancient words to summon forth the power necessary to work this magic. He was doing very well so far, and a smile touched the witch’s face.

        He was a curiosity, this new apprentice. Lorian Mickaya, the child of a Djinn and a dryad. Any Djinn-child would make a rare and worthy apprentice, but the combination of the bloodlines made him unique, and he was living up to her expectations. Not an easy feat.

        He had come to her seeking protection as well as training. His father, killed just days before his petition, had been a powerful and influential man—Djinns always were. Lorian was afraid the murderer would be after him next and rightly so; he was quite perceptive for one so young. She had agreed to take him in, unconcerned by any danger his presence might bring. She was the Crimson Witch; there was little that could harm her and nothing that she feared.

        He drew the ceremonial knife across his chest, a single gash in the flesh above the heart, drawn deeply. He held the knife over the bubbling cauldron so that the blood could drip into the mixture. He hadn’t even winced from the pain.

        Some day Lorian would complete....

So yeah, it's not so much that there is a great deal of action, but it is a mix of an action with some back story. It's not necessary to have all of these details, but it does come up. What Lorian is doing here is important in the book, and it is described in the book...but reading it here will make it make a little more sense. His back story (his father being a Djinn, his mother being a dryad, his father being murdered and him coming to be taught by Melalain), all very important, all touched on in the novel.

One issue I have with using the prologue is that the book comes mostly from Shae's point of view, not Melalain's (though Mel does have her sections). I feel like if I am truly giving a sample of my work, then the better sample is Shae's voice, because that is what the reader will have through 90% of the novel.

So yeah, that's Take 2 for this discussion, and probably the last I'll mention it for a while. I think I might touch on Points of View in some post next week. I find it a fascinating topic for me to ramble on about.

would like to point out that the French toast in the picture was as good as it looks. Better, even, if you don't think it looks good there.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

3/12 Birthday Bash Entry

Title: A Spoil of Wishes
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Status: Finished MS

Shae leaned back in her chair, letting out a long, low breath. She hadn’t been this stuffed since her last visit three months ago. Her usual breakfast, when she had anything more than a cup of coffee, was just a yogurt or a muffin. Occasionally she had a bagel with cream cheese, and that was filling. But her grandmother Elsa never let her get away with eating so little when she visited.

Today’s breakfast, served out on the porch in honor of the warm spring weather, was scrambled eggs, sage sausage, and French toast made from a fresh loaf of cinnamon-raisin swirl bread and drizzled with all-natural maple syrup. The orange juice was freshly squeezed and full of pulp; the jams were homemade from berries grown on Elsa’s property; the coffee made from fresh grounds. Had there been a cow anywhere around, no doubt the cream would have been fresh as well.

“Is that all you’re going to have?” Elsa asked, eyeing the remnants of the morning feast that still dotted Shae’s plate. That was her way of saying “you’re too skinny and should eat more,” and Shae always took that as a compliment no matter how Elsa meant it. Shae loved her grandmother very much, but she wasn’t ready for the plump, adorable grandmotherly look yet. Elsa was always making little comments about Shae’s lack of appetite and her inability to eat well as though anything Shae consumed back in Philadelphia was somehow tainted because it wasn’t homemade.

“I don’t think I could eat another bite,” Shae said, trying not to think about how many hours on a treadmill it would take to burn off everything she had eaten. That’s what the gym membership was for, after all—not that she ever actually went, but that’s what it was for. If she had time to go to the gym, then she had....

And there we have the first 312 words, as per the contest rules over at Gabriela Lessa's blog. Happy birthday!  Hope it has been great so far!

has his birthday on 3/15, but he's not having any contests because of it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sample pages: Prologue or Chapter 1?

Blog post number 2!  How many do I need before I count as an official blogger?  I guess if I stay consistent through to June, I can call myself that.  If I want to.  Do I want to?

Anyway, on to the point of this rambling. When sending sample pages along with a query (some agents request "the first X pages" and the X seems to be 5 or 10), do I send the very first pages (i.e., the Prologue) or the beginning of the story (which I think of as Chapter 1)?

I'm curious about this because I have different opinions about my Prologue and my Chapter 1.  I think both are really good--not trying to be arrogant, here, I'm just pointing out I'm not sending something I think is less than good--but they have different points.

The Prologue has a faster pace and reveals some of the history of the important characters, but it isn't told from the perspective of the main character from whom most of the narrative is seen. The book can be read without the Prologue, and it will make complete sense and be a whole story.  Some parts of it will make more sense and be a bit clearer, however, if the Prologue is read.

Chapter 1 has a slower pace as the main character is developed (not overly) and her voice is shown.  She has a bit of slower build up to show where she is coming from before the action/twist starts later in the chapter.  I have reworked this section over and over to keep it from being too slow.  I can point out all the reasons I think the info is important and in the best pace/arrangement; of course, I'm not there with readers to point that out while they are reading, so it is kind of a moot point (or a moo a cow's opinion: it doesn't matter).

So that leaves me with the question, which is the best to send: the Prologue or Chapter 1?  I can't help but think Chapter 1, since that is the true meat of the story.

And I do like my beginning.  I just worry that it might not have the suck-you-in it needs for an agent to ask for more pages. Guess I'll find out if I actually get asked for pages, huh?  Trial by fire.

is going to get burned.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You have to start somewhere

I've been bad about blogging before. It seems like a cool idea, spilling out your feelings and issues onto a page.  But I think I need something to keep me focused on my goals. I think keeping a journal will help. If nothing else, it is good to record the journey. Not because I think anyone will really care so much about the individual steps, but because each step was important on the journey.

So right now, what steps am I taking?

I've spent the last few weeks polishing my pitch paragraph for my query letter.  This is after having re-written and re-polished it a dozen times months ago.

I have been reading up on agents I think would be a good fit for me, and tonight and last night, I sent some queries out.  I have more to send, and then time to wait before the rejects come in (I'm going to be realistic about this).

I'm looking into some online writing communities, and I'm checking some local-ish writing conferences to attend.

I need to write a 1-2 page synopsis of my book; I imagine that will be a difficult task, but a few agents want it for their query, and it is a good thing to have in hand when needed.

And I have a loaf of banana feather bread ready to go into the oven soon (this isn't the thick, cake-like banana bread most people will think of but a light and fluffy loaf more similar to white bread).

Yeah, I like to cook, too.  I'm sure more of that will come out as I write this blog.

My goal is two blog entries a week. We'll start there and see how we do.

signs off his blogs and some forum posts in the third person like this.  It's like a signature that is unique to each post. Yeah, it might be a little weird, but usually people end up coming around on it and finding it funny. You be the judge.