Two Down

I just finished my second critique partner’s novel, and I’m really happy. It was a blast. I enjoyed the characters, the world building, the strange romance between the two main characters. Her main issue was not that she isn’t a great writer with a unique vision, flowery prose, and all those things we get told make a great writer.

Her problem is that her book is too long. I’ve read so many novels where I wanted to grab the author and shake his stupid head from his shoulders because I’m just lost, because the novel is too short, because the scenes suck and lack description.

This is the opposite of that. The scenes are awesome. The prose is all roses and sunshine and puppies playing in the springtime. Her idea is unique, special, and interesting. The only problem is that the book is just too long.

It’s like this stack of movies I have on my shelf. I know they’re awesome but come on LOTR is like 4.5 hours long and what am I made of time?

I’m impatient. I skim read. I fast forward through commercials. I try to imagine how conversations are going to go instead of listening and jump to the end. I’m that annoying guy in your meeting who yells, “Cut to the chase you hapless dimwit.”

If I could I’d distill books down into syrup and inject them into my body and just have all the information from them.

All that said, I’d still read this book.

Hipster Wednesday

I finished my first read through edit of Hatter is Mad yesterday. That is the edit where I take into consideration all my crit partner’s comments and adjust accordingly. I deleted two chapters. It made me sad.

I have about four more chapters I need to completely rewrite because they take place from another character’s perspective in third person. Lillim, the main character in Kill It With Magic and Hatter is Mad, tells the story in first person. Even Fairy Tale is first person.

In this section, I’m telling a story that happens before Lillim is born. I wrote the four chapter sequence from the perspective of another character who was, you know, there. It doesn’t work as a flashback though. It doesn’t work because Lillim isn’t there.

It reminds me of when I read a Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes book, and partway through the book he just goes off on a totally different story that doesn’t make any sense until you get to the end. When I read it, I almost put the book down. In fact, many people recommend you skip it.

I don’t want a “please skip because there’s no Lillim” section in my book. If that was the case, I should delete it.

The other option is taking the whole arc out and either expanding it into a short story or a novel. I’m tempted to do a “Side stories” type book where it has all these stories about other characters.

That sort of makes it hard as a writer though. I’ll tell you why. I can trust, with some accuracy, that a person on book 2 or 3 has probably read book 1. Not 100% of the time, true, but most of the time.

I can’t trust that a person has read “Unrelated side stories in Lillim’s world.” So if I develop a character, in this case Mitsoumi Mawara, in a side book, I can’t trust that his actions in another book will matter to the reader in the main storyline of Lillim’s books.

It turns him from being a neat, fully developed character into an Easter Egg. I don’t want that for him.

It also shrinks my book by another 6k words. I’ve already cut out 2k words and Hatter isn’t exactly long to begin with. There will definitely be a point where it gets so short that someone reading it might say, “this book really isn’t long enough to justify the $3.99 or $2.99 price tag.”

So Far

Today is August 22, 2014, and it is exactly one month before the planned release of Kill It With Magic. This time next month I will be a published author, albeit self-published, but hey, I’m counting it.

So let’s see where I’m at.

  • I’ve gotten the final cover of Kill It with Magic, along with the back and spine.
  • I’ve submitted the book to seventeen reviewers
    • Four responses to read and review the book
    • Two responses to not read the book
    • Twelve no responses
  • Submitted the book to Rockstar Book tours on 8/3/2014 but received no response.
  • Spoken to my editor who seems to think that there are no major issues with the book thus far.

I’m on track to get the book back on September 8. That gives me two weeks to edit the manuscript for consumption. I spent last weekend going over the formatting on a dummy copy of Kill It With Magic and am pretty confident I can get all the Kindle formatting banged out in an afternoon.

Createspace? Well… I messed with it for a long time, and it seems much harder to format than Kindle. Every time I mess with it, it just makes me want to pay someone to do that part. I don’t know if there’s an easier way, but it seems like a very manual process to me. I have a couple ideas in my head that I may try this weekend.

I was tempted to start the presale of Kill It With Magic on Amazon, but I opted to not do that this time. I’m not sure how extensive the editing really is going to be for the book, and you have to hand in the final manuscript ten days in advance. Getting the book on September 8 and having to turn it in by September 12 seems impossible.

If they’d had the option before I decided on my date, I think I would have chosen November first as the release date, but you live and learn.

My main push, at this point, will be to get Hatter is Mad fully edited by the time I release Kill It With Magic, then I can hopefully get it back from the editor in time to release in December.

My goal is to launch it at the same time I run my first promotion for Kill It With Magic, which will be during the December buying season. If that happens I can, hopefully, get the now finished Fairy Tale out by February.

Now, I just have to find some way to get people to know the book exists.

Chapter One

 

I was really excited I finished Fairy Tale the other day. So excited, in fact, that I sat my wife down (who only reads stuff when I ask for help) and started reading the first chapter to her. At the end of the chapter she was like, “It’s a good chapter, but there’s no action. It’s mostly you recapping and setting up for the book. There’s nothing drawing me in.” I reread the chapter and, you know what? She was right.

It’s a really awesome third chapter. It’s really awesome for someone who maybe has already read two other books and is going to devour the third because why wouldn’t they, they’re that far.

If this is your first foray into Lillim’s world, you might be bored with chapter one. You might think, it’s funny and witty, but it’s mostly her rambling. In fact, nothing really happens until chapter 4. That’s ten pages in.

Can I really expect a reader to “plow through” TEN pages before some action happens? No, of course not. At least for me, if I’m not sucked in by the end of the first paragraph, I’m not reading the rest of the book.

So, I rewrote the beginning of chapter one to add some more action. It’s not super action, not like Hatter is Mad or Kill It With Magic, but it has a nice little three paragraph string at the start. I’m not sure it’s enough, but hey, first draft.

That said, Fairy Tale is exceptionally good for a first draft. The issue was that there was no action at the start, not that it was poorly written. Even most of the edits I have done (up to chapter 5) have been mostly stylistic or grammatical.

Then again, I felt like Hatter is Mad, was the best thing I had written, and it’s absolutely covered in red ink. I’m not sure if Fairy Tale is better than Hatter, but it’s at least as good, if it’s not better.

I hit my “Write a million words” thing a couple years ago, before I even wrote Kill It With Magic, and, ever since then, my first drafts have gotten better and better. I am confident that, especially after seeing the Hatter edits, Fairy Tale will take even less time to edit.

It makes me think about John Scalzi. I am in no way trying to seriously compare myself to him, but he said for Red Shirts he banged it out in a couple weeks and sent it to his editor. Maybe, by the time you’ve honed your craft enough, you stop having novel breaking scenes in your book? Maybe you learn the natural flow better?

I’m not there yet, but I can feel myself getting to the point where I don’t break my novel over something stupid. Now, I just need to remember that someone might pick up the third book in the series first.

Fairy Tale Finished

I just finished the first draft of Fairy Tale. It came in at about 10k less words than I had hoped for but about 8k more than I’d expected to be able to write. I know that once I start editing the beast will jump to right around where I need it to be.

I know most people struggle to cut things once their first drafts are done, but I just have the opposite problem. I tend to pound out the book and then, when I edit the book, go back and add silly things like description. I can think of a few scenes right off the top of my head that I can probably double in size.

Still, I’m a firm believer in the “A book is as long as it needs to be motto.” I’m just never going to write a 900 page tome, I’m not that kind of writer. (If you get to 900 pages, you’ve successfully written a tome.)

Part of me is happy to be done with the book, but the other part of me is really sad. Why? Because the ending is sad. I thought I was going to go in a direction and I just wound up going in a different one. In retrospect, pretty much everything I’d planned to do plot-wise didn’t wind up happening at all. I kept sitting down with it all planned out and wound up writing a completely different thing… every single time.

That said, it’s hard for me to believe I wrote an entire book since mid-June. Now, I just need to edit the book a couple times and find someone who wants to read the damn thing.

So, what was the highlight for me in Fairy Tale without giving too much away? The ballroom dance with Lillim and Caleb. It was a scene I’d originally written for Kill it with Magic, and it just didn’t work in the context of that story. But you can’t visit the magical realms of fairy without a ballroom dance. That’s like a given, right? Right.

Meet Anne Potatoes

 

Meet Anne Potatoes. I just came up with that. It’s a story about a girl named Anne Potatoes, obviously, and she does things I haven’t really flushed out. The reason why it popped into my head was because I was working on Fairy Tale and, without giving anything away, decided to use the phrase fee fi foe fum. Only I wasn’t sure how to spell Fee. For all I know, it’d be fi fi or something so I looked it up.

I found this on Wikipedia:

Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum.
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he living, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to mix my bread

 

I changed it up a little so it would be:

“Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum.

I smell the blood of a Dioscuri,

Be ye living, or be ye dead,

I’ll grind your bones to make my bread.”

Which makes me totally responsible for plagiarizing and bastardizing something I have no idea where it came from. C’est la vie.

I feel like lately I’ve been seeing a lot of television and movie trailers that are setting some horrible scene to a favorite children’s song or rhyme and it makes it so much creepier. It’s especially strange when you think about all those fairy tales, rhymes, and stories, were originally horrible and meant to frighten adults and children alike into behaving properly.

I’m not quite sure why things child-related are so creepy when put in the context of a war or a psycho killer. I mean think of that kid vampire from Interview with a Vampire. She is way creepy. Why? Because she was a kid.

I think that if I ever decide to write a true horror story, I’m just going to make the killer a six year old girl who beats people to death with a toy bunny that says, “I love you.”

Bam. “I love you.”

One Down

I really want to use the phrase “Up all night ‘till the sun,” but I’m not quite sure how to fit it in. Anyway, I just finished my first crit partner’s story and sent it back to her. I have to say, I’m impressed by her ending. The last five or so chapters were immensely better than her first five chapters. You can really see how her writing “leveled up” over the course of the book.

I have been focused on finishing her book because she had some kind of contest at the end of the month. I’m not sure, exactly. That said, I’ve totally neglected my other crit partner for almost a month because I’ve been trying to bang out a 25k word crit. It makes me feel like a jerk.

What have I learned from this experience? Having people send me their whole book at once to go through at my leisure is harder for me than a few chapters at a time. I’ve had dual (and even triple) crit partners before, but I haven’t felt this overloaded in the past. I think it’s because I seriously had 100k of work to critique and get back sitting in my inbox.

It isn’t any more work, but it seems like more work when it’s all there looming over me with teeth bared. The one nice thing about it though, is when I have time I can bang out a bunch of chapters instead of a couple chapters. In the past, sometimes, I’d have a bunch of time and then finish up what I had and by the time the next set came in I’d be like “oh sorry I’m swamped.” It also eases the reading experience because I can treat it more like a book.

But I’m a quick win kind of guy. I have to set goals. When there’s just a huge mound of words in front of me I freeze up like a deer. “Maybe if I don’t move, they won’t see me.” Now, I have to set my own goals. I’m bad at that, apparently.

I suppose the other difference was I wasn’t trying to write another book and edit an additional book at the same time. I was working on Kill it with Magic exclusively. This time I’ve been criting two separate books, editing Hatter is Mad and Kill it with Magic, in addition to writing Fairy Tale.

Speaking of Fairy Tale, I’m officially over 70% of the way done. Wow! I’m happy because I really need a break from Lillim’s world. I’m excited to get back into Abby Banks and write about how the boy with the pretty blue eyes makes her all twitterpated.

It’s sort of funny; Lillim and Abby are nearly opposite characters. Where Lillim is tough, strong, and kicks ass, Abby… well… she wants to be saved. She’s confused, and overwhelmed. I’m having a blast writing it, and I think it’s because it’s a break from writing tough girls. Then again, deep down Lillim is just a lost teenager who really just wants her mommy to love her. So there’s that.

Tabs

I have tabs open on my phone and every single one of them is tied to writing or publishing in some way. My favorites are similar. It’s all books all the time.

Why? Because I’ve been trying to figure out the whole marketing thing before my book is out. I know I’ll do one of those “50 things I wish I knew just 5 minutes prior to hitting the self-publishing button of doom” posts, but if I can make it 49… Well that’s a win.

I’ve been submitting my book to review sites so that means I’ve started a spreadsheet. I am slowly, but surely, compiling a list that shows the reviewer name, email, website, when I asked them to review, and what their response has been. It’s pretty similar to my agent query spreadsheet.

On that note, I was always irked by the agents who in one breath will tell you not to make a spreadsheet because they are people with real wants and needs, etc, etc. Then, in the next breath tell you they can’t even be bothered to respond to your query because they are just buried, buried under all the queries they receive as though authors are not people too.

Anyway, my spreadsheet is something I do to keep track of what I am doing. That way every day I can send out one or two feelers to reviewers so that by the time I have actual review copies I can send it to at least one or two people. (Actually, I have a couple already.)

But, as I have been compiling my list of potential people to bother with my “Hey you guys free book you can review over here” mantra, I have run into a snag.

See, I’ve long since given up on that whole traditional publishing thing. I just don’t think it is in the cards for me, and I’m tired of being rejected by people who won’t even read the book. It hurts my self-esteem, and I like my self-esteem. Why would I do things to make it sad?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of reviewers out there who won’t read indie books at all. Their website’s have bolded and exclamation marks around a statement that basically reads “Go away you indie slime, I don’t want to read your horrible book.” Then there will be some other note somewhere saying that if they do want to read your book their people will contact your people, etc etc.

It was incredibly frustrating to spend two hours going through review blogs only to find out they don’t review self-published books. I mean, hey, have you read Divergent? I could throw a needle into a haystack of indie books and probably find something better written.

And yes, I have found some great resources for finding indie books reviews. The Indieview springs to mind. But, I was trying to reach outside the box. Now I feel like I was told to get back in my box and keep my filthy hands to myself.

Kirkman!

This is another post about the magical 2005 San Diego Comic-Con. This is when I met Robert Kirkman. I heard he was going to be there, and I decided to bring along my favorite Marvel Zombies Cover.  It’s this one right here.

Now, I don’t know if anyone else has had the same experience, but Kirkman was like the nicest guy ever. I waited in line for maybe 10 minutes; I was somewhat surprised no one was there.  I hadn’t really heard of Kirkman at the time, other than knowing he had just done Marvel Zombies. Maybe, it was the same for everyone else.  I assume that nowadays he would fill a huge line of Walking Dead Fans.  
 
He told me that this was his favorite cover and asked why I’d picked it.  I said that it was my favorite as well because the original Todd McFarlane cover was so cool.  I then asked him why, after the adventures in Ultimate Fantastic Four, he killed Magneto immediately in Marvel Zombies.  
 
He said that he had wanted to keep Magneto alive, but worried the story would become a Magneto story instead of a “Zombies” story.  That’s when I realized he was a good writer.  He was able to kill off a character he liked to make a better story.  
 
I would like to note that Arthur Suydam, the guy who drew the cover, was also at the show but refused to sign my comic book unless I bought something from him.  Here I was, a broke college kid, and the cheapest thing at his booth was over $250.  I remember having a similar experience with a wolverine artist when I was about 13.  
 
The guy refused to sign my comic, and it was probably the reason I stopped buying wolverine comics as a kid.  He did wind up signing it when this hot girl walked up and got an autograph and I asked her to get mine signed too.  
 
I’m still kinda mad about it almost twenty years later.  
 
The experience with Suydam was especially infuriating because Kirkman had been so nice.  It would have been really cool to get it signed by both of them, especially since I liked his artwork so much.  
 
I think if I have the opportunity to get Suydam to sign this comic, I will.  But I just may bring up his douchyness AFTER he signs my book.
 
I also met JMS, or J. Michael Straaczynski at the same show.  It was funny, a friend of mine and I waited in line for about fifteen minutes to get his autograph.  I had known he was going to be there so I brought my copy of Supreme Power #1.
 
I am a huge fan of JMS’ Supreme Power; I have no idea why except that it is awesome, and Zarda totally has that booby thing going on. Basically, the only thing I knew about JMS, when I met him, was that he wrote this book. I had no idea he wrote Babylon 5 or any of those tv shows.  It wasn’t until I saw all the Sci Fi fans lining up with their respective memorabilia that I realized he had written the shows.  That seemed kind of cool to me.  
As I said earlier , I really liked this series, and I was really happy to have my Supreme Power #1 signed.  
 
The fourth person I met at the 2005 San Diego Comic Con was Brian K. Vaughn.  I happened to be walking by and saw he was signing.  I often wander by the booths to see if I recognize anyone (even today) and this time I saw Brian.  There really wasn’t even a line which surprised me.
 

Since I wasn’t prepared, I ran across the hall to another booth and purchased this comic.  I then sprinted back and managed to get him to sign the book for me.  It was sort of funny because about an hour later I was sitting in a Marvel Panel, and they introduced Brian saying he had just finished his only autograph session.

It made me really happy to have gotten this because had I attended the panel first I would have been immensely sad to hear he had signed, and I missed it.

I may post about some other author meetings in the future, but I really wanted to mention these ones.

Orson Scott Card

In 2005, I attended San Diego Comic-Con.  I began attending in 2003 and have attended every year since (except this year).

What was special this year was that I knew certain people were going to be there.  What I did not know was that Orson Scott Card of Ender’s Game fame was going to be there.

I got lucky, you see.  I was in a Marvel Ultimates Panel, and they brought out Mr. Card. He talked about doing Ultimate Iron Man.  I was like “wow I’ve read all the Ender’s Game books, I’m going to go pick up Iron man.”

So I went and bought issues number 1 and 2. A little while later, I happened to be walking by the booth and lo and behold, Mr. Card was signing.

I was able to get him to sign both books.  He even took a picture with me.  I was so nervous that I could barely talk to him.  I mean I’d spent so much time with his books.  I did ask him if Bean was ever going to die.  He said that he really wants to kill Bean and that it will happen eventually. Remember, this was 2005.

The other cool thing about this was that I was able to get him to sign the comics.  If this had happened last year while I was at comic con I would never have been able to happen onto a guy like Orson Scott Card and walk into line to get his autograph.  The line would wrap around the entire state of California.

I got several other autographs this year, it was the first year I came somewhat prepared to get comics signed.  I will post the other ones over the next few days.  Still though, while I wish I’d have brought some of my hardcover Ender’s Game novels, (many other people had them), these are probably some of my favorite comics to have signed.

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