Come to My New Blog!

If you followed a link here from a comment I made on somebody's google blog, I would love to have you visit my blog, but this is no longer it. While I may occasionally post things here again once in a long while, virtually all my content will be at from here on out. If you were curious enough to come this far, why not give me one more click?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's 2008 somewhere . . .

In 2008 I . . .

  • . . . resolved to get back to writing instead of dreaming about writing, wishing about writing, and remembering how much I used to love writing.
  • . . . wrote Vanishing Act, my 100,000 word 120,000 word 105,000 word 90,000 word 83,714 word urban fantasy Young Adult modern fantasy Young Adult modern fantasy Young Adult contemporary fantasy Middle Grade contemporary fantasy Young Adult contemporary fantasy novel.
  • . . . stumbled across Steven Gould's blog while looking for information about the forthcoming Jumper movie, which led me to a conversation on appropriate versus inappropriate Young Adult SF content on SF Signal, which in turn led me to discover Ellen Datlow's and Nancy Kress's blogs. These were the first three blogs I began reading (four if you count SF Signal), and before I knew it I was following links and stumbling across new blogs and setting up a Google Reader account, with which I now follow the blogs of four editors, twelve writers, and eighteen literary agents, thirteen of whom represent the sort of fiction I write.
  • . . . was called a raging homophobe in that same SF Signal discussion, despite being a democrat who believes gays ought to have the legal right to marry, because I apparently wasn't willing to be quite as hateful as some other people. (Interestingly enough, Firefox don't know the word "homophobe.")
  • . . . started my own blog. Maybe some day people will find this blog as useful and interesting as I have found all the blogs I follow.
  • . . . attended two regional writers' conferences.
  • . . . attended three science fiction Cons: FX, ReaderCon, and WorldCon.
  • . . . voted for the Hugo awards.
  • . . . attended the Hugo award ceremony. (This was a Big Deal to me.)
  • . . . met a ton of writers and editors I admire, including Linnea Sinclair, Elizabeth Bear, Debra Doyle, James MacDonald, Ellen Datlow, Anne Aguirre, David Hartwell, Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Moon, Nancy Kress, George R. R. Martin, Robert Silverberg, S. M. Stirling, Joe Haldeman, and, believe it or not, tons more than I can remember. If you're a nerd like me, I can't recommend WorldCon enough.
  • . . . discovered that, while all those people are way cool and talented, Sinclair, Doyle, MacDonald, and Aguirre take cool and generous to astonishing new levels.
  • . . . was somehow lucky enough to get a published author to agree to mentor me. I won't say who, because I don't know if that's cool. (I don't want to drive a bunch of other wannabe's to this person.)
  • . . . put some awful crap from 2007 more or less behind me.
  • . . . failed to pay off the credit cards I ran up during that awful crap, largely because of all the travel we did this year. Oh well--it certainly can't be denied that we lived well. I'm sure that will stay with us longer than the bills will.
  • . . . learned a ton about writing, both as a craft and as a business.
  • . . . pitched my novel to three agents, in person, all of whom seemed enthusiastic and interested, and all of whom requested partials.
  • . . . failed to deliver said partials in anything like a timely manner, even though the novel was complete when I pitched it, because I decided it wasn't polished enough, and I didn't want to be That Guy who sends his stuff out before it's ready. Hopefully I haven't slammed any doors for myself, because these three agents, as luck would have it, are all fantastic agents I'd be thrilled to have represent me. I'll send the stuff out just as soon as my phalanx of beta-readers gets past chapter three.
  • . . . entered a literary contest, which I failed to win.
  • . . . submitted to an anthology right at the deadline, only to discover that, through some glitch, I sent them an empty file. Surprisingly enough, they declined to publish my empty document.
  • . . . won the big prize in Moonrat's Mischief Fights Cancer raffle!
  • . . . joined my state writers' association, and its local branch.
  • . . . had three published authors read some of my novel and make very positive remarks about my writing.
. . . and probably a few other things that are slipping my mind. In terms of writing, it's been a damned fruitful year. I feel really close to breaking through--when I think of how close I was to basically giving up on my dream before this year, I am awestruck by how blessed I've been.

More than anything else, I am blessed to have a wife who has the same dream I do, so I never have to explain or justify what I'm doing, because she knows. Whatever sacrifices this dream takes, she's right there making them alongside me, and we're there to pick each other up in failure, and to celebrate each other's successes. She's at least as talented as I am, so even if I don't break through, I know she will. I'm lucky to get to watch her and learn from her.

Continuity error averted

A beta reader suggested that there should be some hint that the truck Chris and his father live out of is unreliable before it has trouble starting up in chapter two. So I went back to chapter one, found where Chris first gets in the truck, and tried to come up with some telling detail that would lay that foundation. Let's see . . . Chris is reading . . . it's dark . . . how about if I mention that he can't use the dome light because it hasn't worked in years. Perfect! Except . . . late in the book, he does just that. He reads by dome light and drains the battery. Oops. Thank goodness I caught that. It's so easy to make a mistake of that sort. People who read a book generally finish it in a matter of days, if not less. But when you spend a year working on writing and revising it, it's so easy to forget stuff. It's like looking at a painting from across the room, versus being an ant crawling on the painting. The ant is too close to it to really take it all in.

Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

Where did my vacation go?!

I had such plans for last week. I was going to get a whole bunch of revising done, and build a nice backlog for my beta readers of chapters that had been sifted with a fine tooth comb, with as much suck as possible filtered out. I was also going to resubmit that lost short from long ago, because the editor of the market in question responded to my follow up with a request to resubmit.


Between cleaning like mad--long overdue, because, as I've noted here, I've let things slide around the house to free up more time for writing--and entertaining and several big holiday meals, I've been at least as busy at home as I was the week before at work. Yesterday was the first chance I've had to work on my book in a week. I've got some annoyed beta readers, I think, since I've also slacked on sending out new chapters to read. Last thing in the world that I want is for them to lose their momentum.

I've also slacked on the blogging. Of course, blogging is a lower priority than writing, but I do want a record of my writing process to look back on later. I read this idea somewhere--I think one of my friends posted it on his forum--I'm making a note of the things I've learned not because I think people can learn them from me, but because I tend to forget, and so months later, flipping through my archives, I might learn from myself. So in the next week or so, I plan to blog about what I've learned through the process of working on Vanishing Act, and some sort of look back at the highs and lows of 2008 for me, from a writing standpoint.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wish I'd figured this out forever ago.

The solution to almost every writing problem I run across while doing my super-close edits seems to be, "go deeper."

Deeper third, that is.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do you still own the things you share?

I've finally got some people who don't live in this house reading my MS, and I have to say I'm a bit weirded out about it. When a new e-mail arrives from a beta-reader, I have this moment where I'm contemplating parts of my book and suddenly thinking, "Oh god, what will So-and-so think of this?!" Which is doubly weird, because I don't actually have any friends named So-and-so . . .

It's like, as much as I've been hoping this would be the work of mine that finally sees the light of day, on some level as I was writing and rewriting and revising, it actually didn't *occur* to me that other people would, you know, *read* this thing! This is my story--what are all these people doing reading it?!

It's also a vulnerable position, because I find myself fearing that people will think less of me if they read my writing and it sucks.

Oh well.

EDIT to turn one of these sentences into English and to complete my hastily-posted thought.

Friday, December 5, 2008


The climax of Vanishing Act was originally supposed to take place in Rome, Georgia. But I had to invent a road and a factory that didn't actually exist there, and then Chris spent some time in their sheriff's department--and I've never been to the Rome, Georgia Sheriff's Department. What are the odds anybody would notice if I got some detail wrong? Who knows, but I didn't want to chance it, so I decided to fictionalize Rome, much as Linnea Sinclair turns Saint Petersburg, Florida into Bahia Vista in her Down Home Zombie Blues. That way I could fictionalize whatever parts of it I needed to. So after writing the novel, I did a global find and replace, replacing "Rome" with "Carthage." (Cute, huh?)

So today I'm doing some really close editing of chapter three, when I run across this little gem:

Chris’s father snorted and said, “It probably has her kid’s paper on Carthageo and Juliet or something. Pictures of her dog. There’s no angle there.”

I'm all like, Carthageo and Juliet?! Where the hell did that--oh.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What I'm learning about myself . . .

This'll either be a series of posts, or maybe one post that I go back and add to later.

I'm doing very close, word-by-word editing right now. It's tedious, but I'm really pleased with the results. One thing I'm doing (I think I mentioned this in a prior post) is searching, with the Find command, for junk words, for weak writing signals, and trying to cut out the ones I can. In the process, I'm discovering things about my writing habits that I might not be able to learn any other way. How often do we look at our writing *this* closely?

Anyway, I'm going to make a note of the things I find, mostly for my own benefit. So that maybe in future writing I'll avoid some of these amateurish things in the first draft, and not have to seek and destroy them later. Still, maybe someone else will find it useful too, and that'd be cool.

One thing I've noticed tonight is that I have a real tendency to write "could" plus a present tense verb instead of writing a past tense verb. For instance, "Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the two men," instead of, "Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two men." It's often weak writing: Instead of explicitly describing what does happen or what a character does, I imply the action, by merely describing what the character *can* do, or what *can* happen. I'd never noticed that tendency before; I'm glad I'm onto it now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm not neurotic. Why do you ask?

Chris gets his hair tousled three times in my MS. Once on page 50, once on page 79, and once on page 105. By three different people: a stranger, the good maternal-like character (Michelle), and the good paternal-like character (Paul).

Too much?

He hugs a dog twice, both on page 134. That's definitely a problem . . . I'm noting it here so I remember to take care of it.

He gets squeezed twice. Once on page 79 and once on page 118. And on page 192, Paul squeezes Michelle.

I apparently never used the word "playful," though I could have sworn I did. Must have gotten it on a previous edit. Good on me.

Chris rolls his eyes four times and begins to roll them once more but stops. Two or three other characters roll their eyes once. He's a teenager, though . . . if he couldn't roll his eyes his head would probably fall off.

The word "eyes" occurs 53 times in my MS. I don't know if that's too much or not. I tend to think the eyes are a window into the soul. People roll their eyes, their eyes water, their eyes hurt when they are tired, and so forth. I don't think I use any single construction too many times, but it's something to watch and think about.

This is the sort of picky detail-level stuff I'm focusing on now. I'm thinking it's in these little details where the difference between polish and . . . its absence . . . lies.

UPDATE: I used the phrase "after an eternity" twice. Once on page five and once on page 134.