Thursday, December 23, 2010
These are preliminary results to a survey that will be published by Mike Shatzkin at Digital Book World in January.
Some interesting stuff in there...
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
It's now been over a week since I last did one of these #reverb10 posts and that makes it official: I've fallen off the wagon.
I have good excuses though. Really! I was kind of under the weather for a few days there. Then there's the weather itself which has really blown goats and frakked my commute up good. The real killer was last Saturday's family Christmas. We hosted, which means lots and lots of prep work, but it was all good. We went non-trad this year and had Mexican Christmas. We made to slow cooked beef brisket, homemade refried beans, fresh salsa & guacamole, tortillas, and, of course, plenty of liquor. Good times!
Time to get back up on the wagon.
December 13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
This is the big one, isn't it? That was rhetorical because, of course it is! It's so easy to talk the talk, but walking the walk is another thing entirely. I'm gonna walk it good, baby! Walk what? The book. What else?
I'm not exactly sure yet how it's all going to go down, but 2011 is the year in which I'm going to start moving ahead on the publication front. I'm putting To Kill the Goddess out there one way or another. My plan is to start with the traditional old-school publishers and see what kind of response I get. Clearly, that's the easy way to go. No, easy isn’t the word I'm looking for. Safe. It's the safe way to go. We all know how that process works.
For those aren't familiar:
1. query an agent
I think in my case there is going to be a lot of praying. I think my book kicks ass, but like this years Christmas, To Kill the Goddess is non-trad. At its core it's high fantasy, but there's also a healthy dose of suspense thriller, sci-fi, and horror. Add in the multiple point of view storyline, an adult / non-YA target audience, and a complete lack of vampires and, well, you can see how it might be a hard sell. It's going to take someone with vision and while I truly believe there are agents who have the vision to see what I'm trying to accomplish those agents still need to sell my book to an old-school publishing house that is typically more interested in the easy/safe sell than they are taking a chance on something unique.
Add all that together and I think the best I can hope for is a mid-list commitment which translates to selling my book for peanuts and if that's the case then I'm going to take the option behind door two, which is self publication.
Stay tuned to The Scribblerati and see how it goes!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Mark’s thoughts on the last year and his writing per the prompts from reverb 2010 (in no particular order): http://www.reverb10.com/the-prompts/
1 word to encapsulate my 2010:
Full. By full I mean both busy and blessed. Work, classes, writing, editing, a new book started, parties, time well spent with friends and family, lots of books, movies and other diversions—but full. In most ways good: gainfully employed, creating, and trying new things, hanging out with people I like and love. In some ways bad—every day, weekend and most weeknights booked or over-booked. Full.
1 word for 2011:
Who knows until the fat lady of 2011 sings? But—I hope: FOCUSED. In particular being focused on completing both my novels (done in a form so I can finally look for an agent). Being focused on being present in all the things I do: my day job, my writing, my roles as a spouse, parent and friend. Yeah. Focus for me in 2011.
Thing I could do daily that I could eliminate (or the 11 things my life doesn’t need in 2011):
1) Organize and thin down all the incoming digital input I receive daily: e-mail (no less than 4 accounts); twitter (over 1,000 people I’m following); a dozen or so blogs that I follow at least, etc. It all becomes information overload that I’m not very good at keeping up with. Some of it has got to go. Not sure my strategy yet, but I’ll get there.
2) Time wasters: A chronic problem for me: games, video games, online poker, TV, digital news feed (per above). I took a month off from just online poker and made quantum leaps with my writing during that month. January 1 I’ve decided to kill my poker account. Trying for four aces and millions of fake chips is just another form of procrastination for me. It’s gotta go. This gets back to the “focus” plan for 2011.
Make. What was the last thing you made?
Sweet, sweet love.
TMI? Sorry, you asked (or rather those Reverb 2010 people did).
OK, so of course as a writer I have put down lots of words on paper this year, creating fictional characters and worlds that I hope someday others will want to pick up and read.
Besides the writing (and other pastimes as noted above) I am blessed with a creative 7-year old kid. Some mutual friends recently gave us a stop-motion camera setup—so this is the movie that I helped create. We hope you find the storyline enthralling. I am sure it is just the first of many. (Thanks Jerry & Janette and family) Hope it plays for you... it was a challenge to post it to blogger.
Body Integration This year, when didyou feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
I took a fencing class last winter with my son. This was his first foray into that sport, but for me it was a refresher course. It turned out I was the oldest pupil in class (the 21 year old instructor usually referring to me as “Dad”), mostly fencing with teenagers. I was sadly reminded how long it had been since I had last fenced by my initial attempts at catching my breath and legs that burned from muscle fatigue after the classes. BUT I was also was pleased to find I could keep up with the class—doing footwork up and down the lengths of the gymnasium and scoring points against the much younger, more fit fencers. I was also usually was the number one pick for team games where often half of the class fenced against the other half of the class. It was a lot of fun, but I found I continued to enjoy the mind-game/strategy/concentration part of the sport just as much as the physical work out. I even found out that fencing with the épée—the one type of sword I had never tried to fence with before—was something I was really good at (class champion). Yes, I am adept at stabbing people in the toe and hand. Watch yourself.
Lesson Learned What was the best thing you learned aboutyourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
I broke my arm in September. For the first couple weeks it was really inconvenient. I couldn’t do little things like tie my own shoes or button my own work shirts. (This made me thankful for my helpful family). I found I really don’t like having to rely on others or ask for help (but I already knew that).
This broken arm happened on my second day of my “book in a month” class at the Loft (it was actually a six-week class, so the title is a bit misleading). I missed that class—and for the rest of that class I was also reduced to half-typing speed at best. Despite this injury and my reduced physical capabilities I found that it really wasn’t slowing me down much. I only missed one day of work due to the broken arm. In the writing class I hit all my goals I set, and ended up creating more material in a month than I ever had—around 30,000 words (and more words than anyone else in this class). My learning? If I focus (there’s that “F” word again) I can overcome any obstacles to accomplish whatever I set my mind to. So can you.
Wishing you great success and happiness in the year ahead.
Back to writing.
Monday, December 13, 2010
It all started with Friday. Hey, it was Friday people, and Friday means beer, not blogs. Plus, Claudia posted and I was having fun arguing with Mark about Lucifer. Yah, THAT Lucifer.
Then, there was the snowstorm, or #snownami as it’s called on Twitter. 17 inches or so in these parts. Let’s just say I had a lot of quality time with my snowblower.
But I can’t blame it all on #snownami. There was also a lot of fun. Baking cookies with the lovely @mplstravelkitty and devouring a delicious slow cooked pork roast were among the highlights.
Now it’s Monday – back on the horse and all that.
Let’s get cracking!
December 9 – Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.
I know this is going to be a huge surprise to those who know me, but I’m not big into the party scene. For me, my favorite social gatherings are small, intimate affairs with friends and/or family.
My favorite times are when it’s just the lovely @mplstravelkitty and I. I’m thinking summer. A trip to the farmer’s market and then grilling, throwing together a spread of veggies, grabbing a bottle of wine, and enjoying it all on our deck.
Sorry, a gentleman doesn’t give details about shenanigans.
December 11 – 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?
OK, seriously? 11 things? 11?!?
I don't have all year, you know...
PS Yes, I know I skipped #10! Wait for it!
December 12 – Body Integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
Oh, this one is easy. Almost every time I go to yoga.
December 10 – Wisdom. Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
I saved this one for last because it’s actually related to writing – shocker!
(To be fair, the Scribblerati will probably remember that I half made this decision in late 2009, but it wasn’t until this year that I actually went full in.)
The wisest decision I made this year was to rewrite my book. From scratch.
You see, naive me had this notion that I wanted to write my book a certain way. I wanted to write a fantasy loosely based on the same event timeline as 9/11, a timeline where the characters didn’t understand what was happening or what the stakes were until the big event at the end of the book. So I did. I did it perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that not even the Scribblerati understood.
So, I took their comments and reactions in stride and reassessed. I knew I couldn’t change the major plot arc, not and still be true to the story I wanted to tell, but I could tell the story in a different way. I could still have the same loose 9/11 concept, but this time I would need to make sure the reader understood what was at stake and what the consequences were, even if my characters didn’t.
As a result, I’ve changed a ton of things. Some characters are gone completely while other have been introduced. As for their arcs, they all start and end in the same place, but the way they get there is almost entirely different. All told, I’ve kept maybe 10-15% of what I had in the previous draft. The rest is entirely new.
People, especially writers, tend to look at me with a wide-eyed ‘you did what?’ reaction when I tell them I did this, but truthfully, it was liberating. It’s also been a lot of fun because this time I know I’m doing it right and comments from the Scribblerati – so far – have been largely positive.
The last 1/3 of my book is just starting to work it’s way through the Scribblerati right now. My fingers are crossed!
Thursday, December 9, 2010
"Look at what's happened to meeee....eee, I can't believe it myself!"
In my last blog entry, I talked about villains, so this time I thought I’d give their counterparts some equal time. As I said before, I tend to prefer the villains; they have way more fun, but nevertheless, I love me a well-written hero.
Last time, I came up with some possible categories for types of villains, so let's see if I can pull off the same feat for our heroes (the way I’m defining them, they don’t have to be the protagonist, just someone, to put it simply, 'on the side of good'), again, sticking somewhat, but not entirely to the sci-fi/fantasy genres.
Hero as the Perfect Person: This category was more common back in the day – especially in comic books and young adult literature. Superman, Nancy Drew, Aragorn (in fact, many of the characters in LOTR)… you get the idea. It’s harder to pull off today, because we 21st century denizens tend to like at least little darkness in our good guys (look at the majority of television drama protagonists these days).
I can think of a couple of exceptions, keeping in mind that these people have little moments of imperfection, but for the most part, it’s the outside forces in their lives that are messed up, not them:
Jack Bauer from 24 (I’ve only seen the first 2 seasons, so I can’t vouch for subsequent episodes) – the writers can afford to make him perfect, and by that I mean beyond smart, quick, capable, moral, brave, etc., because the whole season takes place over only 24 hours, and therefore everything moves very quickly. There’s no time for deep introspection or character development. In fact if our hero were flawed, it would get in the way of the action, and he’d be less fun to watch – part of the appeal of the show is that, no matter how dire things get, you know the hero is going to triumph in the end.
John Crichton from Farscape: Crichton is an earthling stuck in another part of the universe, far, far away. The big joke of the show is that he is the very best of humanity: he’s a genius (literally a rocket scientist), unbelievably brave, unfailingly moral, athletic, attractive, kind, funny, etc., but the aliens he encounters all think he’s about as evolved as a trilobite. (Okay, more accurately, an ape.) So, the writers have fun playing with everyone’s incredibly low expectations of him (his morality especially is seen as a weakness), and his constant struggle to prove himself, and gain the trust and love of these strangers.
Pretty much every main character in Star Trek: This is, in fact, one complaint that many people had about the shows; everyone's too perfect. At least we’ll always have Lt. Reginald Barclay.
The Superhero with a Couple of Flaws and/or Weaknesses: These folks are either literally super-powered in some way, or far superior to any living human being, and therefore might as well have super powers. Most modern comic book superheroes fit into this category, as does Sherlock Holmes. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Oh, man, she can kick some undead patookis, but put that girl in a romantic relationship, guaranteed it'll eventually fall apart, and then she’ll fall apart.
Veronica Mars: (Great show, by the way, go rent it if you haven’t seen it). Veronica is one of those not-really-superpowered-but-no-person-could-possibly-be-that-clever-in-real-life types. So fun to watch her big brain work, and she always gets her man, however, like Buffy, she acts a little screwy when it comes to the boys. More than that though, she’s itty bitty teeny tiny - pocket-sized, even, and not in the least bit kick-ass. Put her in physical danger, and she’s fairly helpless. Also, she's a little - vengeful, a little hard.
As a subcategory, I’d go so far as to say that most protagonists in Hollywood films fit this bill, sans the superhero part. (He’s great, but he: lacks self-confidence/doesn’t connect with his son/can’t commit to a relationship/can’t forgive himself for his wife’s death, etc. etc.).
Hero as Everyday Schmo: Pretty self-explanatory. In sci-fi/fantasy, this person is usually tossed into extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes they become great heroes (Luke Skywalker), sometimes they just survive (Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Who else? Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. Many of Neil Gaiman’s protagonists. Harry Potter (despite the magical powers, I’d put him here. Everyone in his world has magical powers, and he’s hardly exceptional). Simon from Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series: In fact, a lot of fantasy books use this type of hero.
Hero as Redeemed Rogue: Han Solo! Han Solo! One of my favorite types of heroes, they’re so fun to watch/read about, and for some reason are often quite sexy. Must be the bad boy/girl thing.
Of course, it all comes back to Buffy with me – and the show excelled at portraying the Redeemed Rogue - Spike, Angel and even Anya and Andrew fit this bill. Who else? Xena, Warrior Princess. Artemis Fowl. And one of the best: Severus Snape from Harry Potter.
A subcategory might be ‘Misunderstood hero’ – folks we think are bad, but actually turn out to be good. Serious Black springs to mind, as does Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. For obvious reasons, though, these folks are almost never the main characters.
Hero as Seriously Damaged/Flawed Individual: This is a late addition, due to Jon's comment on my Batman neglect. I had thought of Mr. Batman, but didn't know where to put him... now it occurs to me that I was missing a category. Far from possessing "a couple of flaws," but not quite an antihero, these folks show up most often in ongoing series (otherwise they tend to end up a Redeemed Rogue), and they usually are extraordinary in some way, otherwise we wouldn't put up with their antics. Tony Stark (narcissistic, womanizing alcoholic), Batman (brooding vigilante), and House (jerk) all fit the bill.
Antiheros: I thought I’d give a nod to this type of character, even though they’re less ‘heroes’ and more ‘nasty protagonists’- your Taxi Drivers, Clockwork Oranges, Catchers in the Rye and the like. If they turn out to be actual heroes in the end, like Thomas Covenant (even though it takes a LOOOOOOONG time for him to shape up), they’d belong in the Redeemed Rogue category. I can think of two possible exceptions (you be the judge), and both are sociopaths:
Dexter: Sure he’s a psychopathic serial killer. But he DOES rid the world of bad guys.
Kate Mallory: She’s a cop from a wonderfully suspenseful series of books by Carol O’Connell, and although she’s a diagnosed sociopath, she does right in the end because of a code set up for her by her adopted cop father and his wife. (Sound familiar, Dexter?)
So then. There’s a bit of Hero sandwich for you to chew on. What are your favorite types of heroes? Name your favorite all time heroes!....GO!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Uh, anyone? Help?
I'm not a maker. Alvin's a Maker, not me. This is why I have to hire everything done.
The only thing I've made is the book, of course, and parts of a data warehouse, but I don't think that's what they are going for here.
Anyone make anything?
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Didn’t I warn you there might be a lot of activity around here with this #reverb10 thing?
Yes, I believe I did. I think.
Anyway, after my last post geeked out on football, I decided I wanted to real this thing back in a little bit and keep things as focused as I can on writing. After all, this is a writing blog.
Enough foreplay -- let's get to it!
December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
I have to admit, my initial reaction to this one was underwhelming. The first thing I thought of was that wide-eyed kind of little kid wonder and, let's face it folks, that's just a little bit too Oprah Book Club for the kind of goings on around here.
Naturally, in the long and steadfast tradition of those made uncomfortable by something, my first inclination was to write a blog making fun of it. I thought of doing something like this.
Wonder. I wonder why all the batteries in this house seem to be dying all at once. (Anyone else having that problem?)
Wonder. I wonder if the world really will end when the Mayan calendar runs out in 2012 and, if it is going to, would Jessica Alba consent to swinging by? (It's okay people. She's on my free five card.)
But then I had a realization: wonder is what we writers do every day.
For those of you who don't write, I'll let you in on a secret. Half the time you see a writer they aren't there. Oh sure, they may be sitting right across from you with a beer in hand but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that there is a part of their brain that is constantly observing, taking notes, speculating, wondering. Now, don't get all angry. This is just what we writers do. If we didn't sit around spaced out half the time the rest of you wouldn't have any stories to read.
December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
This was an easy one for me. I let go of my need for control while writing.
That may not seem like much, but it was huge, at least for me. You see, it's taken me a long time to really learn how to write. There was a long, long time where nothing I wrote was good enough. I would struggle to make early drafts as good as I could. I would wrestle with the words as they tried to come out and the result was words flowing onto the page with all the rapidity of dishwater seeping through a clogged drain. Writing took forever, and the result was almost always disheartening.
Somewhere along the line, and I don't even think it was a really conscious thing, I just began to let go. Instead of fighting the words, I just let them flow out any old way they wanted to. I didn't care if they were crap, or if there was no punctuation, or if I shortened whole paragraphs into “so-and-so walks across town thinking about the bad guy.”
The result has been both surprising and liberating. In my last post, I briefly mentioned getting caned from my day job. During the two months I was unemployed I wrote close to two thirds of my book in exactly this fashion, just letting the words pour out any old which way. It was amazing.
So why do I think this change took place? The only thing I can think of is yoga. In yoga, you are constantly being instructed to let go. Let go of your fear, your resistance, your thoughts that you can't do what you're being asked to do. Somehow, I think all that leaked into my writing and I am now the better for it. Yoga, as they say, isn't a practice, it's a way of life.
PS. I can't do that - yet.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Well, I didn't know it either until yesterday but I like feeling important so play along with me, eh?
So yesterday I was sitting on the couch, watching a spot of TV with the lovely @mplstravelkitty and she asked me if I'd heard about Reverb 10. I was like, what?
Actually, it's #reverb10
And what in the name of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is #reverb10?
My synopsis: it's a big, writerish, end of the year blog thing.
This says it much better:
Go ahead. Check it out. I'll wait.
Kind of nifty, I think. Don't you? Although, I have to admit, it is kind of touchy-feely for what goes on around here. We Scribblerati are all about gritty fantasy, bad-ass angels, zombie apocalypse mayhem, redemption seeking bear-girls, sassy time travel, and the occasional rainbow farting unicorn. That's just who we are. I'm not sure that will really fit in with the majority of the #reverb10 crowd, but what the hell. Cyberspace is a big place. Certainly there is room for a Midwestern geek in along with all those mainstream bloggers, right?
So here goes. And I'm behind, so don't expect a treatise on each one of these.
December 1 - One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
2010 word: Progress
Yeah, I know, it ain't the snazziest but it is accurate. In 2010, give or take a month or two, I have completely rewritten To Kill the Goddess and I'm closer than I ever have been to being finished. On top of that, this has been my second year of doing yoga on a regular basis. Yoga has rebuilt my body and has given me a focus I previously lacked. I am strong in body and mind and I feel like I can do anything.
2011 word: Launch
I'm going to finish To Kill the Goddess.
I'm going to launch and who knows where it will take me.
December 2 - Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
I go to my frakking day job. I'm working on it.
December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
There's so many places I could go with this one. On the plus side: sitting on the beach in Aruba with the lovely @mplstravelkitty. On the minus side: getting canned. And, of course, countless moments in between.
But I'm going to take this one: Success!
That's the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football team and a whole bunch of fans storming the field with Floyd of Rosedale in hand. Those of you who don't follow college football, much less the Gophers, will find it difficult to appreciate what a moment like this is like. Sure, we can all understand the excitement that comes with winning a game, but this one was special. The Gophers have had a number of horrible seasons in a row and this year they have had some absolutely dreadful losses. I'm a season ticket holder and I haven't seen them win a home game since sometime in early / mid fall of 2009.
So this moment?
My throat is raw; hoarse from screaming and yelling. My head is buzzing from the realization that we actually won a game - and from a nip or two (or ten) of Jameson. My hands are wet and cold, fumbling at my phone and trying to get the camera to snap a picture. My ears are ringing with the shouts of those around me: startled cheers, hoarse shouts, and my dad, a disgruntled Iowa fan grumbling, “Come on! Let's get the hell out of here!”
PS. there's likely to be an avalanche of these coming from me so prepare yourself!
PPS. Any of you Scribblerati want to join me? Hop on!