Recent Updates

Archives, Part Two (July 9, 2008 to July 29, 2008)

R.I.P. Michael Turner... and other news (Tor + 3) (July 9, 2008)

I'd like to begin this post by taking a moment of silence in memory of Michael Turner, one of the greatest comic artists of our time, and a reportedly incredibly nice person. Please, take just a few seconds to honor his passing.

...

...

Thank you. I've touted his name as my favorite artist for the past few years, collecting a majority of the work he has done for Marvel. Though I never had the chance to meet him at a con - as far as I know, he never came to the New York ComicCon - I will miss his presence, and I offer my deepest condolences to his family.

In different news, I received my return receipt yesterday (see the previous post for this story). According to the information on the card, a man named Michael Johnson signed for the envelope on Saturday. As you may have noticed, I'm now keeping track of the number of days that pass (not workdays, just days in general) between their retrieval of the package and when I get a response. If nothing else, this series of posting will prove an interesting experiment.

So, last posting began PHASE 2, which I officially began last Thursday during my lunch break, which is when I get a majority of my writing done. Sitting down to actually write, I realized with a pain that I had forgotten to copy my notes and drafts from The Free Press onto my flash drive. Rather than salvage them from facebook - where two articles can be read in my notes section - I began to write about something that has been on my mind recently and of which I feel rather passionate about: the energy crisis.

I don't want to argue semantics here, and I certainly can't outline an efficient plan for humanity, but I will say this: something needs to be done. A recent article in National Geographic, - you can read it here - suggests that the world's oil may, and most likely is, being rapidly depleted. If nothing is done, the worst of the dire effects is yet to come. And, with the G-8's recent announcement that may do absolutely no good, global warming will only continue.

I am not going to say whether Obama or McCain have the right idea in regard to this conundrum, as I believe neither can fully realize a solution within their presidency, but Bush definitely does not. If Wall-E taught us anything, it's that we can no longer sit around and let others do our thinking for us. We have to act.

And that is what my short story concerns. Written in three sections, it is set in an alien world dependent on a scarce resource that is running out. I've written the first version of the first two parts, and will likely finish the first draft of part 3 tomorrow. My goal is to complete it by Tuesday and then begin work on another. Whether that will be based on either of my Free Press articles remains to be seen.

It's all a question of thought patterns, surely.

Whatever the case, my next post will - as per suggestion - discuss titles in length. And to all those wishing to get published: Good luck!

My Rant on Titles (Tor + 8) (July 14, 2008)

Although my memory is fairly bad, I do believe that up until now I have yet to actually name my story for my readers. So, my debut novel, should it actually be picked up by a publisher is called The Nobodies. The name is derived from a revolution movement in the book which hadn't actually formed in the story until WELL into the writing process.

Originally, the story was titled The Leprechauns. The main protagonists in that version all wore green and were a smaller faction of a larger revolutionist movement. An alteration originally occurred when my good friend Roberto - who I "hired" as cover illustrator in grammar school - conceived the team as more street-prone, wearing tank tops and form fitting clothing that would rival any '90s superhero comic. Asking him why he deviated, he told me that wearing green was stupid.

I didn't agree at the time, but subsequently changed it dramatically, although there are still many nods within the story to the original idea. Those of you who read it will realize what I am talking about if you look closely, although when the entire novel is actually published, I will certainly point out every cue for fanboys' sake.

The short story I began writing last week will be called Addiction, due to the presiden't recent capitulation that we, as a nation, are indeed addicted to oil. It is, as well, a general theme to the story and a pronouncement toward the end of the story.

With titles, though, there is no general rule as to how to name a book and there is probably a more-than-likely chance that any title an author applies to his/her book will be changed by an editor or marketer at a later date. Of course, titles are drastically important - as is cover art, which is why I "hired" Roberto to draw the cover rather than design it myself - and are one of the initial "grabs" toward an author. Variance in titles is rather interesting, however, as there are many instances wherein a title will have little to do with the book at all. Other times, of course, the title may be too expressive and may put people off.

Take, for instance, some of the titles in the current top 10 bestsellers from Amazon.com:

Breaking Dawn

Twilight


The Shack


Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting Your Kids Eating Good Food


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel


Eclipse


Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time


When You Are Engulfed in Flames


sTORI Telling


The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

Breaking Dawn, Twilight, and Eclipse are all part of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, which, although I haven't personally read any of them, are apparently rather good and do not need much marketing within the title itself. Book stores - relying heavily on the newest title for strong comparable sales - do enough marketing for the series themselves.

The Shack is a religious novel, although one wouldn't think that with the title. The description, usually the second thing read by any consumer, does sum it up well though:

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

Looking at the cover art and the title, many average consumers may pick up the book without realizing that it is a religious novel, which may do the title more good than harm. I'm going to skip any discussion about sTORI Telling, due to its rediculous title. OK, it is written by Tori Spelling. Wow. Did you really have to rhyme the title with her name? Horrendous.

What I enjoy are the long titles, which I will get into in a moment, and novels that bother telling you what they are. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel could, I suppose, be mistaken for a biography, but should this be actively pointed out to a reader? If it is in the fiction section, would it be that difficult to discern that it was a novel and not a work of non-fiction? Perhaps the publisher, Ecco, believed audiences would not instantly realize its novel form, but perhaps they give their audience less credit than they deserve. Althoug, maybe they did independent research... who knows.

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time, and Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting Your Kids Eating Good Food are all rather informative in their titles. The Dark Side makes sense, as it pulls in the political readers and historians. Three Cups of Tea is interesting, but... I think that it doesn't necessarily need it's extended title. The last, as a cook book, must discern itself from all of the others, and so the title is fitting.

One book that amused me, though not on the list at this point, was on an e-book bestseller list recently. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness... the title alone is nearly as long as one of my sentences. Would the title work without everything after the colon? Perhaps. Does it work now? I think the title, which takes up the entirety of the front cover besides the author's name, is nearly daunting and intimidating.


I, for one, enjoy Stephen King's example. One of his longest novel titles, The Girl Who Loves Tom Gordon, is sweet, simple, and to the point. It doesn't describe everything that is in the book, and yet it still works. It is Stephen King, though, so whatever title he has will be a bestseller.


Summing up, as a newcomer to the industry, without any one work published, but with several hundred books purchased... titles are important, but don't overthink them. Make them simple. Make them imply something further, something beneath the surface and hidden within the text itself. The Shack, of the list above, in these terms, is the best title in my opinion. What goes on in the shack? Why is it important? A shack, by definition, is nearly useless, and yet, as the title, it is given utmost importance. But why? It's the kind of title that a reader will want to pick up and look at more closely... not immediately dismiss because the title intimidates or is something you would not normally read.


The Nobodies. Addiction. Short and to the point and implying something much further. They aren't perfect by far, and subject to change, but they are the ones that I feel work. Only time will tell.


Until next time: Good luck getting published!!



I seem to always have difficulty thinking of titles.... (Tor +11) (July 17, 2008)

Today, albeit with much less fanfare, I sent out my second manuscript. Coming in at only 10 pages including the cover sheet, the little gem called "Addiction" - all 2,802 words of it - are currently on their way to Asimov's via First Class mail. I think that, since I sent a large envelope, First Class is the only way they'll send it. Either way, the manilla envelope cost me $1.17 to send.

This time, of course, I didn't get a return receipt. In the envelope:

Cover sheet: My name and contact information, the title of the story, the number of words, and THIS MANUSCRIPT IS DISPOSABLE printed on the bottom (1 page).

Manuscript: Standard manuscript format (9 pages).

1 SASE: for their response letter

I decided to mark the manuscript disposable for two reasons:

(1) It saves me the step of buying dual postage for two large envelopes

(2) The submission was only 10 pages total, not enough to cry foul over

Of course, it may be rejected, but 10 pages can be printed out fairly easily and cheaply. Keep in mind that, after this point, there will be an Asimov's + Day joining the Tor countoff in the title.

In other news, I began work yesterday on my second short story before I start off on my second novel. The story - which I had begun at some point in the last year - is an expanded version of an article originally seen in The UConn Free Press. There, it was called "The Reality of It." Already distinguishing this version from the original, I have decided to call it "The Hand."

The original piece, at 841 words, was one of my longer articles in the Free Press, and it was also one of my most loved. A most original character who also happened to be a Free Press-er 'til the end, Roman, gave me my most heartfelt praise one evening during a meeting. Our issue had just gone to press, and in between making his own brand of tea that amused me every time and checking his "job" or whatever it was he was supposed to be doing on his laptop, he looked over at me and said,

"Did you really get stabbed in the heart?"

I laughed. That is the mark of a good storyteller. I won't ruin the plot of the story just yet, but it is rather odd and, if taken within a certain context, could be mistaken for truth. Either way, it does fit into my larger universe. Perhaps, after each publication, I will precisely place events into a larger scale of time so as to organize events for the general public.

That would make for an interesting bit of analysis, wouldn't it? I'm glad I keep a running score of everything.

Which reminds me, now that I'm thinking about it: "The Hand" isn't really anything quite science-fiction related. In fact, there is no science in it whatsoever. I believe it would be closer to the Horror category, instead.

Doing a quick Google search for "horror short story magazine," a webpage was the first to show up and act as my guidance. Starting from the top of the Monster Librarian page:

City Slab: the description seems to indicate that this magazine does not print any short fiction stories, so I immediately continued... though it does sound like a rather good read.

Dark Wisdom: once a quarterly, a hop onto their site revealed that the magazine had shifted to an annual anthology. Me, being the casual non-chalant impatient man that I am, continued on, though I did keep it in mind.

Cthulu Sex Magazine (CSM): has there ever been a better title for anything? Sadly, the first news on the magazine's website indicated that as of the last issue, the book no longer exists. Cthulu Sex Magazine will forever be in our hearts... or in our nightmares.

Cemetery Dance: the description for this magazine seemed right up my alley:

"
Cemetery Dance magazine offers its readers short horror fiction, horror related movie reviews, horror fiction reviews, author interviews and a column on collecting modern horror books. In addition, the magazine also has a dedicated column to all things Stephen King. The magazine should be considered a basic cornerstone in a horror magazine collection and a good resource for Stephen King fans. The consideration is that some of the articles can contain adult language and some of the short stories may not be appropriate for all audiences."

It sounded perfect, so I went over to their website, had a quick look around, and found these guidelines (I wonder if the picture will stay):

MAGAZINE:

Cemetery Dance issue #50Cemetery Dance magazine

Editor: Richard Chizmar

P.O. Box 623

Forest Hill, MD 21050
Fiction: Horror, dark mystery, and suspense short stories up to 5,000 words. Query for longer material. We want tales that are powerful and emotional—creepy, chilling, disturbing, and moody. Suspense/mystery/crime tales with a horror element are always welcome. Both supernatural and psychological stories are fine. Most common reasons for rejection are: lack of power, lack of originality, slow pacing, poor writing, boring themes. Read the magazine, see what type of fiction we are publishing—don't submit with a blind eye!
Submission Format: Send us one manuscript at a time with a proper SASE. No electronic submissions. Simultaneous submissions are okay, if noted in cover letter. Let us know immediately if your story sells elsewhere. Please do not send us multiple submissions—please only send us one story at a time and do not send your next submission until we can reply to the first. Please use proper formatting (double spaced, etc). Authors outside the United States should send disposable manuscripts with a business sized SASE that includes proper US postage. US postage can be purchased online at usps.com. No IRCs, please. Submissions sent with an IRC may not receive a reply.
Response Time: Averages 2 to 4 months, but stories kept for further consideration by the editors may take longer. We receive anywhere from 400 to 600 submissions a month.
Artwork: We solicit all our cover and interior artwork directly. Query first with samples. Please see the "Artwork Guidelines" below for more information.
Payment: Professional rates, minimum of five cents per word, plus two contributor copies. Payable within 30 days of publication. Up to 5,000 words; maximum payment of $250. All rights revert to the author upon publication.
Reading Period: We are open to submissions year round.
Please do not send any email submissions, queries, proposals, or pitches.

Luckily for me, my finished rough draft for "The Hand" came out only at 3,783 words. There's plenty of wiggle room there, even for an expanded second draft, which is very, very likely.

Not sure when I'll be sending it out... maybe next week. It's already Wednesday, there's two days left for me to do work on it this week. It could happen, but I highly doubt it. It's never too early to start research, though.

'Til next time: Good luck getting published!

Phase 3 I suppose. (Tor + 18, Asimov's +6) (July 22, 2008)

It looks like I've just about finished my second short story's final draft. Based on some suggestions, I changed a few parts for more realism, but I'm going to double check those with the same reader and get a second opinion before I submit it. Whatever the case, it looks like it will be out before the week's end.

The length of the story increased, jumping from 3,783 words to 4,645 words. It's nearly pushing the 5,000 word limit, so I have the feeling that portions of the story may be edited from the final version. I suppose that's what editors are for: find out what isn't exactly necessary from the writer's vision and get rid of it. It keeps costs lower, it makes the story easier to follow, and it streamlines the entire process. Editors, in short, are our friends.

Moving forward from here, it looks like it may shape up that tomorrow may end up being the day I officially begin to write my second novel. Looking over what I've outlined originally, I believe I'll simply be trying to flesh out the outline with more descriptions so I know precisely where it is I am going. That was an initial problem with my first novel: though I outlined the basic plot, so many new twists and turns developed that the end product was vastly different. That is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that the book was initially only the plot contained within the first 100 and the last 40 pages. The middle, subsequently, is my absolute favorite part.

I wrote an outline during work last summer on the back of a flyer. During school, when teachers would bore me to the point of exhaustion, I often scribbled notes in the back of my notebook, more often than not pertaining to what I wanted to write. A large portion of these focused on The Nobodies since I continued the writing process at that time, but some were about my next book, which will go unnamed for now.

I simply wrote this:

What I want to have/have happen in my second book.

From there, a whole series of ideas flowed and though they weren't built into the initial outline, they were very entertaining and thought-provoking. Tomorrow, with both pages in hand, I will embellish the outline with not just those ideas but the many more I have had since the outlines, several of which spawned from the many books I have read over the last several months.

Fortunately, I know precisely where I want this book to end and what I want to accomplish with it.

Just now, I wrote another paragraph that followed that last sentence, describing precisely what was to occur following its eventual conclusion. Thinking better of it, I deleted five lines that would have detailed two additional books in my universe, and, admittedly, those are too far away to even contemplate at the moment.

As the writing process begins, I will be sure to keep as detailed an account as I can with at least a weekly update, though I can already sense a near daily update eventually rising from the constant pressures of literature. I plan to chronicle my weekly page count, any frustrations that may occur, and - given the chance one of my other pieces is published - any feedback, Q&A, etc. that may arise.

I suppose it really is Phase 3. And it scares the hell out of me.

Until next time, good luck getting published!

P.S. There are two other sites that I believe you should take a look at, www.drhorrible.com and filmfun.today.com. The first is an interesting video musical starring Neil Patrick Harris and a bevy of other characters and written by Joss Whedon of Buffy fame. The latter is a blog written by a good friend of mine that reviews television shows and movies. Check it out, and if you have any other useful/interesting sites that you think people would like, feel free to leave them in the comments... but please, no crap. I'll just delete it.

Ooh Progress (Tor + 24, Asimov's + 12) (July 29, 2008)

While planning my daily schedule, I've found it the most beneficial to write during my lunch hour, since I'm already at a computer and the distractions are minimal. This makes it very productive, but unfortunately, it also screws things up when I don't have a lunch break... as happened last Friday.

As of today, I'll be working at home every Friday as part of a new program. It's not very different than being at work (every other Friday is typically a half day during the summer anyway) but being at home and having a car available immediately for errands makes Friday's lunch hour so unproductive.

Because of this, I've decided that I have to write more often when I have free time at home. Fighting the creative process at night, there are times I can't wait to write but have other obligations to take care of first. It seems that I must find other times to accomodate these, at least for now.

I have, as of today, completed the preliminary outline for my next novel as well as a preliminary character list. Since I wasn't entirely certain what characters I would need throughout the story, the outline naturally had to come first. Afterwards, the character list semi-quickly followed.

Outline

As I've written before, I had already written an outline. This made things quite simple as I attempted to flesh out the basic plot of the narrative. As I added the subsequent details from the
What I want to have/have happen in my book list, each chapter and each character took on a life of their own. The plot slowly progressed and built speed and the ending became even more interesting than I had originally intended.

The resulting outline, still only preliminary, is approximately three pages long. It did become interesting, though, as a few chapters required additional research to what I already know. Spoiling the setting, which is New York City, research came rather easily. The New York Times proved incredibly helpful, as it has articles in its online database back to 1851. This led me to discover something that truly affected the timing of my story, but also justified the choice rather nicely. Sorry I can't currently get more into that. However, the sites I did visit were rather helpful and I will discuss them further in other posts.

Once the basic outline was completed, I had to turn my attention to figuring out precisely WHO was going to walk through the plot at my side.

Character List A few of the characters in this novel have already made their appearance in my universe, so  they simply had to be correctly characterized, something that didn't prove to be any problem. Other characters are related to characters already established, so the process simply became ensuring their names fit within the established (albeit thinly) canon.

It becomes interesting thinking of new names because, as characters, each of their names may represent a specific idea. Also, characters may come from different background, different time periods, etc. and thus cannot necessarily be fully related by way of first - or last - name.

Looking at it in such a way, there are several websites that become invaluable in the creation of characters. Wikipedia, BabyNames.com, and the Social Security Name Popularity List became of utmost importance. Wikipedia offered me historic details and names of people throughout history that I can draw attention to through the name. BabyNames.com offers meanings for various names, and can also be used to look up names with specific meanings. The Social Security Name Popularity List, which speaks for itself, also offered the top names of both sexes for specific years, many of which I simply could not have guessed otherwise.

After establishing which names I wanted to use - a variety from Spanish to Persian to English first and last names - I went through the outline and filled the names in, just to give a better sense of the overall narrative.

Further Research

Having finished both of these, I came to an important realization: I need to do more research. As much as I know about New York City, it's rather imperative that I learn more/observe more about the city. I have to pay attention to how people speak, particularly the people that bother you as you are walking along the street. I've never actually paid enough  attention to these people to portray them in novel form, so that should be something I need to do.

There are also a few locations I need to fully grasp, and I believe going to these locations and taking ample photographic evidence will help further the story. I also have to call a few people and ask them how specific items work, particularly the New York legal system - the many police precints simply have me astounded, but further research will certainly make sense of the situation.

I also... need someone's help. A particular scene requires the inclusion of a palm reader/fortune teller. Although this is not a pivotal scene, it is something I really don't know much about. So, if anyone has any desire to go to a palm reader/fortune teller or if anyone goes to one on a regular basis, please let me know. Otherwise, if you would be willing to go to one for me - I cannot personally do the fortune telling per request - that would also be quite fantastic. I will be sure to (at least) partially reimburse for the experience.

In the meantime, there are several sections of the book that do not require the research, and I will begin writing them shortly... tomorrow, actually.

Until then, good luck getting published!

No comments:

Post a Comment