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.