May 31, 2011

Words and Games

The topic of custom words in fantasy has come up in a variety of places I visit lately (Book Country, et al.), and while I don't hold it against people who choose to have names for months other than January-December, I find it a distraction and a lot of work for very little return. So I keep it simple. Seconds are seconds. Months are months. And so on.

What I found today is that I'm not as complacent about games. I made a chess reference in my fantasy manuscript and it brought me to a screeching halt. The metaphor is perfect for the situation, but I have trouble accepting that chess as we know it would have occurred in that setting in the same capacity. But choosing a name unique to the setting erodes the metaphor. I may dump the metaphor all together and ignore the problem. It's curious, though, that I'd be okay with measurements but not games.

What I absolutely won't do is use idioms or reference fairy tales or other key phrases that were told to us in our childhood that we continue to use today (no old lady in the shoe or anything like that). As a reader, that kind of thing pulls me right out of a story, so I will not do it as a writer. It may be inconsistent, but I don't care. :)

The Red Pen

Your pardon at the quality of the pictures, but I took those with my phone which does not have the best camera. They get the point across, though. I received feedback from an agent awhile back, feedback I was uncertain about. I never rush right into feedback assuming that a person is right or wrong. I weigh everything on a case-by-case basis. In this case, she pointed out a "defect" that wasn't actually a defect because it was intentional (I had intentionally slowed the pacing as a parallel to the bureaucracy of the setting).

Not to dismiss this feedback out of hand, I pondered on it long and hard. Not just long or hard, but both long and hard together, which is proven to yield better results. What I found was two things. 1) She was correct that, regardless of the atmosphere of the setting, there was an element of the craft that needed improvement. I could do better. 2) Whether I write it intentionally or not, slow-paced books are not the way for a first-time author to get published.

All this meant little until I realized a mistake I had made. I made it in the original draft and thought I fixed it in the final but never went far enough on the correction. This was the key! Not only would I fix the error, but I would improve the pacing and everyone would be happy.

So that's exactly what I did. I set about taking a comb a la Spaceballs in the desert scene. I chopped something like six-eight thousand words, combined chapters, rewrote two entirely, and in the end, the story was so much stronger for it.

So I go back to said agent and say, madam you are wise and virtuous. I have followed your inspired criticism and proffer to you a better draft, should you be willing to accept it. Her response was: send me the first three chapters.

You know that sound effect where the car tires screech and then there's a loud crash? Yeah, that happened in my brain. The first three chapters? But my revisions start in chapter 4!

Again, not to dismiss things out of hand, I ask myself, could these chapters use attention as well? I had already cut some five thousand words from them just during my normal revision process (yeah, they were big). Looking at the word counts and previous feedback, it seemed like chapter two had room to give. There was a lot of cool stuff that established character background and setting but didn't do a lot for the story.

So how do we approach this? I mean, this is serious. This is the time. Make it or break it. Do it or die. We need...THE RED PEN!

I don't use hardcopy much any more. I'm 100 times faster on my computer. I write on my PC. I revise on my PC. I revise again on my PC. But sometimes there is a time when things are important enough that I have to go old school.

Now very few of you (and by few I mean 1, unless you came over from Book Country where I reviewed some others) have ever experienced my critiquing. To put it mildly, I am ruthless. I don't normally offer to review other people's work for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is that they don't like me when I'm done. (That might be an exaggeration. I made one guy cry, but we became very close after that.)

What those people don't realize is that I'm equally hard on myself. And so you don't have to take my word for it, here is my long-form photographic evidence.



Here we go, making changes.




Wow, this needs tightening. Move stuff. Get rid of that. And that.




Okay, really? What they hell were you thinking. Just...no. Just no. Don't do that.




Balkabddipagaujgewapgogpejp!!!!!!!1111!!!111111

May 30, 2011

A Quick Tutorial

It's Memorial Day here in the US, a time to honor those that have served in uniform. We have parades. We grill. We post on Facebook that we honor their memory. What I'm finding, however, is that people don't know how to properly refer to America's armed forces. I see a lot of "in memory of our soldiers" and what have you. Here's a quick list so you don't make this mistake in your writing:

Army = Soldier
Air Force = Airman
Marine Corps = Marine
Navy = Seaman/Sailor

So when that person posted saying he was remembering soldiers, he was only remembering army personnel, which must be a bummer to all the others. (Marines in particular bristle at this mistake because Marines are Marines and they're always Marines.)

A trend that started during our invasion of Iraq is to support the troops! We have replaced armed forces with troops, which is also incorrect. A troop is a grouping of forces (originally at company size, so troops might refer to a battalion or two).

If you want to refer to the armed forces as a whole, call them such. Servicemen/Servicewomen is also acceptable. Or distinguish based on their individual calling if you don't have a mixed group.

If you're genuine about wanting to honor their memory, this little courtesy will help show you mean it.

It's a Code!

Every once in awhile I'm in the mood to write a conspiracy thriller story. So I'm updating a website to a new edition. The editor gives me chapter summaries in a Word doc, which implies they're all new. But they're not. Most of them are identical to the previous edition. BUT not all of them are, so rather than sending me a correlation document that says what I should keep and what I should change, I have to go through them all line by line.

Now the simple short cut to this is to look at the beginning and end of the bullet point. If they match, the rest does too (I tested this theory just to make sure I was correct--which I was). Scan for page numbers that might have changed and you're good to go.

In a couple of chapters, a weird thing happened. The first word and last word of each bullet point, when all points were read in succession, ALMOST formed sentences. Grand conspiracies of world manipulation and domination began to surface. I was part of some grand plot!!!

Oh, no wait, now it stopped making sense. I was ALMOST part of some GRAND PLOT!

But that would be kind of interesting, eh? Not someone who is really good at ciphers or puzzles but is just doing something mundane and stumbles on something that was in plain sight.

Who does he tell? How does he tell? Now he's on the run by what might as well be called the Illuminati! Oh no!!!!

May 28, 2011

Changes are Afoot

I'm in this rock/hard place situation where Webs.com is not keeping pace with technology, specifically the improvements to HTML like iframes. I have changes I want to make to my website that I simply cannot do with webs. It's showing its age and my site looks much more amateurish than it did three years ago when I first built it. At the same time, having a bad ass HTML5 with JS/CSS rocking your socks doesn't do me any good without a book to promote, as I'm sure I'll want to change it as soon as I DO have a book to promote.

So I'm going to go against what I usually say and start using this blog as a website. I'm in the process of adding static pages. I have not changed my website domain name to point here yet, not until I get things up and running. The links are no longer visible in the right, though, and some pages are there that weren't there before. Others require more work and will be forthcoming.

Please pardon us during our construction. ...and stuff.

May 26, 2011

And the Blind Shall See

If I had known that I was going to attend Sara Megibow's Writer's Digest webinar today, I would have posted earlier. It was a last minute decision1, and boy am I glad I attended.

It was a seminar on querying. I have attended such a seminar before hosted by her boss, Kristin Nelson. That seminar was geared specifically for sff. I've also followed Kristin's blog for YEARS, so I've heard a lot from the Nelson Agency about what makes a good query. So why did I attend? Because I continue to suck at queries.

Actually, at first, I asked Sara on Twitter whether I would get anything new from the presentation. And while she admitted that their philosophy on queries is pretty similar, there was one fundamental point I was short-selling: Sara isn't Kristin.

It has to be hard for an associate agent to work for a popular and established agent. How easy must it be to assume she parrot's Kristin's opinions or is the "second" option at the agency. Attend a webinar hosted by Sara, and you'll have that misconception dispelled. I will go so far as to say I learned MORE from Sara's presentation (which wasn't geared specifically to sff) than I did from Kristin's.

The part that resonated with me the most is when she took examples of debut authors and showed us how she took their query letters and formulated her pitch to editors2. That made a REALLY big difference in how I see queries and how I will approach them in the future. I rewrote the query for JH but am waiting for the audio archive to become available and listen a second time before I finalize things. It feels like there's a hole in the middle, which probably means it's perfect.

Now, if you're counting pennies and this kind of topic doesn't seem worth the expense, I will also point out that the webinar ends with a QA session3 and then you get to submit your query to Sara for critique. This is like a free swing. Here's my query. *feedback* Okay, here's my revised query, no harm no foul!4 I have heard from other people that sometimes the expense is enough for this fact alone. Basically they're buying a query critique and the rest is just icing.

For me, querying truly is my biggest weakness5. I want to improve and I feel that I have. Looking back at previous queries, I definitely have. *shudder*

If this sounds like something that may be helpful to you or if you've been on the fence about this kind of thing, I strongly recommend it.


1 Okay, technically it was a last sixty minutes decision. I went and grabbed lunch and then came back and participated.

2 She even spoiled Roni Loren's big reveal of her new cover. I know a secret!2 1/2

2 1/2 A secret until tomorrow when Roni reveals her new cover.

3 Sara saw a question I submitted and said hi to me. I squeed like a tween fangirl. :D

4 The query I submitted after Kristin's webinar led to the closest I've been to signing an agent.

5 Shut up, Liz! I like my pacing just fine.

May 24, 2011

Malcolm Castle/Richard Reynolds

I was watching an episode of Castle recently (in itself not surprising since it's the only show on right now where I watch weekly [Psych being the other]) and I made a startling realization. Nathan Fillion is playing the same character he played in Firefly.

I will not explain to you what Firefly is. You should know this by now.

Now you may think, "How can you claim Richard Castle is the same character as Malcolm Reynolds?!?!?!"

And I say to you this: Watch the pilot, Serenity, and then have the independents win the war. Who is Malcolm Reynolds if he didn't suffer the horrors of defeat and the aftermath of Serenity Valley?

He's Richard Castle.

May 18, 2011

Ooooo *shivers* Do it again!

I just had one of those moments. I love those moments. Back in the day, the reason I never finished anything was because I tried to plot things out. I might get a ways into it. I tried to get a feel for it and then write an outline, but I was convinced I couldn't go forward without an outline. What that meant is I never finished anything. 40,000 words on a manuscript and then three days working on an outline and I threw everything out.

I don't outline any more. Now I write by the seat of my pants. The pants/plots paradigm (p3) is a well established discussion on the tubes and I'm not going to tell you to do things one way or the other. Find what works for you and then do it. I will say, however, if you're not finishing anything you start, you may want to try an alternate writing method.

No, the reason the topic comes up today is because I had one of my favorite moments as a pantser. You're writing your chapter and you know where you're going and you just have to craft it to have some kind of competent literary end to the chapter. And then you get to the end of the chapter and your fingers keep typing and all of a sudden something you never considered before has appeared on the page. And not only is it good, it's awesome. The reader inside you screams, HOLY SHIT THAT'S AWESOME! Let's call that tickling the reader.

I suspect (but have no evidence and no inclination to prove my claim) that pantsing allows you to tickle the reader a little bit more because you're engaging in a higher degree of discovery along the way (I won't say you don't know where that's going because such a claim is insulting and usually only made by plotters that don't know better or bad writers who have no actual substance to their work). *deep breath* It's a matter of degree. I may not know the exact route I'm taking, but I know where I'm going and when I need to show up. Sometimes, though, you see that there's a road you thought closed that is actually open so you take it to see where it goes. And that's when your reader gets tickled.

That's a good moment. I like me the tickles.

May 17, 2011

Flashback

So there's a lot of chatter on Twitter lately about blog designs and website builds and etc etc. If you have not been to my website, this is the minimum level of quality I expect for a user-created website. Blogger and like services are expanding their styles to blend the boundaries between blogs and websites, but for the moment, I continue to contend they serve two different purposes. There are different graphical designs and interfaces that best accomplish those purposes, and as such, the two should be separate entities. I am in the minority on this one. Most new authors and aspiring authors seem to think blogs are enough. Established authors have blogs integrated into their own sites, so either way you get a single-platform delivery, though the latter is an achievement that most of us could not do and most services do not make easy for us (or if it's easy, it's not cheap).

I saw a really nice website today and my first thought was, "How pretty. Too bad it's crap."

What what? Why is it crap if it's pretty. Well, obviously, something could focus on its esthetic without accomplishing its purpose as a platform to introduce users to you and your work. In this case, its splash page was covered with Flash animation. Now, me being of a certain age, I was on computers when the internet first became available to the public at large, so things like Flash animation still dazzle. I didn't just build personal pages in Geocities. I used Angelfire too. These are the old build-your-own page and fill it with animated gifs and blinking fonts sites. Flash? Super awesome compared to the way things were.

Unfortunately, Flash has not evolved fast enough. While you may not be thinking about it now, you need to start thinking about mobile delivery. View your site on an Android and/or iOS phone and see the difference. For me, unfortunately, the template service I used to build my site does not offer fill scripting functionality, so I have to (*shudder*) use tables to format the page to look the way I want it. Tables no worky on mobile platforms, which is why I'm formulating a redesign in my brain. The thing is, Flash no worky either. Sure OSes like Android and WebOS claim to have Flash functionality, and to a degree this is true. But it's not full Flash. It's a mobile Flash and Air support and both are reportedly buggy.

When you do all those snazzy things on your site with Flash like have your name come swooping in front the side? Unless your site is specifically coded to adapt to users that don't have Flash functionality, your name is missing from the page. Or worse, you get a big ass question mark because your phone lacks the necessary plug-in to run the animation. You want your website looking in tip-top shape in any format a user may view it in.

So when next you contemplate a redesign to your site and perhaps think on splurging a little for some professional work, here are some things to think on:

  • No Flash
  • NO tables. None.
  • No frames except for iFrames. Old-style frames are like tables except scroll bars appear at the edge of them, meaning you may have a scroll bar in the middle of your page, which looks dumb.
  • iframes are okay. iframes aren't like old-style frames. They're a little pop-up window that pops up within the page. It looks like a Flash animation but is actually JavaScript
  • If the producer is capable, make the build HTML5 compliant. Capable or not, they should be working with JavaScript (js) and cascading style sheets (css)
  • No files necessary for your site to function (such as .js files) should be hosted on the produces server. Get that thing for yourself and host it with the rest of your site. You are fully autonomous. If they flake out and delete all their content they ever worked on, this should not affect you in the slightest.
  • No audio/video auto-play. Only emo teenagers auto-play music.

May 15, 2011

New Things

The template for the blog has changed yet again. I liked that last one, but there were too many small things that needed fixing. Date wasn't displaying properly. The manner in which comments were listed was dumb. User pics weren't showing up like they were supposed to. I'll be the first to admit that my JavaScript isn't the strongest, but things I know should have worked weren't working, and I want to have a blog that I can customize to suit my purposes.

So I found this new thing. As good as the last? No. But better than the standard brown world thing and more readable than my original that so many people (*cough* Rich *cough*) complained about.

So we'll see if this one sticks.

Something else I did today is try out Google Documents. Oh, I've used it before, but never for anything that was important. Namely, I've never used it for my writing. So I created a brand spanking new super-secret Google account (you can't hack what you don't know is there!) and ran through some trial documents. I am unsure of whether GDocs is a suitable replacement for a word processor.

Why would I even be considering it? Because of THIS! My Eee PC is aging and the new models don't use XP as their OS any more. A netbook using Windows 7 is counterintuitive. More so when it's Windows 7 Starter (which isn't much of a starter). The Chromebook is a web-paced portal device but it allows you to work offline. This wouldn't replace my Asus laptop at home but my Asus Eee PC that I write on. That thing doesn't have anything on it other than Open Office. So not being able to install applications isn't much of a concern for me. Acer is making an 11-inch WiFi only (well, they're making a 3G version as well but I have no need for that). And with a cell phone that acts as a mobile hotspot, this may be the next logical step in my computing evolution.

The problem with Google Docs is A) the terms for which you have to agree to use it (they're standard stuff, but I don't like terms for my work), B) it indents lines using an indent formatting rather than a tab mark, and most importantly C) there is no custom dictionaries. You can add words to the dictionary, but you can never remove them. And you cannot have multiple dictionaries, which is exactly what I do for my books. What is a valid word in one novel may not be a valid word in another. So I make a new dictionary with each manuscript. I can't do that with Google Docs and that's a really big deal.

Still, the Eee PC hasn't kicked it yet. We'll revisit this proposition once it is gone and I need a new laptop.

May 13, 2011

GOO! (Re: Firefly)

Firefly on Blu-Ray is currently $23 on Amazon. Serenity is $10. If you haven't already updated your collection, fly like the wind!!!!

Back to the Future!

So Blogger was reset to a previous back up. Anything you posted yesterday is most likely not there. Cool thing is, I actually scheduled yesterday's post Wednesday night so it was still saved as a draft. I pushed it live again.

It's a pretty big deal Blogger going down like that. Some people really saw the cloud as dark as it could be and are rushing to back up everything. This may be a good idea, but it takes enough effort that I am not one of those people. One of the benefits (risks) of cloud computing is that the external service maintains its own content integrity. I trust Google enough not to lose my entire site. I certainly wouldn't want to invest the effort backing up my site after every post.

If Google should somehow vanish from the earth and their content collapse, it's been fun talking to you all.

...some more than others. Some of you are too quiet, so how can that be fun? Talk more. We like that sort of thing.

May 12, 2011

Do Good Deeds

Perhaps the best benefit of a growing write-o-sphere on the tubes is that we can gather as a group for good causes. Charity auctions abound where you can donate to diabetes research, adopt a town in the storm ravaged south, or donate to the Red Cross general fund on behalf of the southern storms.

And those auctions are pretty nifty. Free books, a nook with a crap ton of ebooks, page reviews and phone calls by the likes of Kristin Nelson, Sara Megibow, Jo Volpe and a whole lot more. If you have some monies to spare, stop by these places and add your voice to the awesome (and get some awesome opportunities in exchange).

Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure for Diabetes where you can bid on for a critique and phone call with Kristin Nelson or Sara Megibow while giving money for diabetes research (and not the I ate too much and now I have diabetes but the I was born with this mess and it totally sucks diabetes).

Do the Write Thing where you can bid on a critique and phone call with Jo Volpe or a review by the slushmaster at Pyr publishing while raising money for the Red Cross general fund to help aid efforts as a result of the southern tornadoes (technically donations to the general fund cannot be directed to a specific cause).

All 4 Alabama where you can bid on a critique and phone call with Sara Megibow (lord she's going to be busy) while adopting small southern communities that could use the money for their disaster relief. This goes directly to local organizations of the auction's choosing.


On a side note, all of you go bid. People have been starting with timid bids on really awesome people, so I've been bidding what I thought should be the "base line." While some people agreed and outbid me, others are being more tepid. If I win all the auctions I've bid on, I'll be out much more money than I've budgeted. So all of you go do a good thing, both for your fellow man and for me. :D

May 11, 2011

Feline Masters



There are many reasons why I prefer cats over dogs. Many many reasons. Today's reason is because their genius knows no limit. We have three cats, an old man and a brother and sister we adopted a year and a half ago. The young boy fancies himself the king of the jungle and regularly mauls a string I run in circles for him.

Alas, I was unavailable yesterday and his sister wanted to play too. So the young buck (heretofore known as Wolfgang) took his string in mouth, hopped up on the kitchen table, and dangled it over the side. The young lass (heretofore known as Jitterbug) then proceeded to play string with him, no humans involved.

This level of complex thought staggers me. Truly they will rule the world some day.

May 10, 2011

A Tree is Just a Tree

Way back when, I meant to pursue a career in the United States military. At first I thought the navy and then found my place with the army. I was in an ROTC program, but because I had not started from the beginning, I was required to go to Camp Challenge (or basic camp). It's like boot camp but shorter and not as unpleasant depending your drill sergeants (my DIs did not hold to that latter fact and gave it to us as much as they could--still easier than trainees, but we lost a few people to medical because of hernias and the like).

Anyway, when I came home, I was unnerved by the changes. I loved nature. I loved going out to parks and climbing a tree and just basking in its wonder. But when I came home, trees and roads and become lines of fire and ambush zones and it all proved very difficult to unhook from.

I'm reminded of this because I've been pursuing publication for two years now (my first query was sent September 2009). And I draw closer to my goal, it's been harder to disassociate from that slog and just...be. I am competitive and like to win. No one likes to have the race end right before they get to the finish line. But that has required an emotional tax that is sometimes hard to pay. I am a writer is always followed by "Have you written anything I've heard of" and "Wow you must be rich" neither of which I can affirm.

Sometimes I feel that disconnection where I'm walking through the forest but the trees aren't trees and the roads aren't roads. Twitter isn't twitter and word counts aren't word counts. They're objectives and goals and requirements and all part of this grand social puppet show I've thrown myself into.

Today I'm feeling particularly zen. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the delicious chicken chili I just had. Either way, today I see the trees for trees. I enjoy writing. I enjoy what I write. And while yes I do want an agent and to be professionally published, it's enough that I enjoy what I do.

Strangely, all the self-doubt and worry about not being good enough lessens when you're not so concerned with being published. If you're not obsessing about whether they love you, it's much easier to love yourself.

Toof Fairy

Someone tell me if this has already been made into a horror movie. It sounds familiar. A friend suggested a story idea while we were goofing around, but it's one that's really stuck with me. The tooth fairy takes kids teeth because there's a bit of youth stuck to the tooth that the fairy can extract, ensuring it lives forever.

Is that a movie? It seems so simple that I figure someone else has to have thought of it. If not..DIBS! ;)

Bravado

The scenes I have the most trouble writing are men posturing. I blame fantasy for this. It is one of the most used scenes in classic fantasy when two alpha males begin barking at each other and bumping chests. It also reads like the stereotypical nerd living in his parents' basement writing the hero he wishes he was taking revenge on the people that picked on him in school.

I don't live in anyone's basement, and none of my characters are representative of a person I wish I was (or think I am). They are their own selves. Chest thumping is what stalled THE 7TH SACRIFICE for the second time and I wrote another such scene this morning in my current wip. It's a necessary tension in the plot and will factor in later, but...

...but I don't like posturing. At all. It feels juvenile. Worse, it feels amateurish. I am the hero and I'm a badass therefore I am better than everyone. Did you smudge my pumas? I will have satisfaction, sir! Throw wine in face, punch to the stomach, draw swords, epic duel. Honor maintained.

What? Dude. Chill out. No grown adult is as quick to temper as a fantasy hero is. You don't need to browbeat everyone into supplication. If you're confident and skilled, your own regard is all that matters. Let the guy scuff your pumas. Throw an urchin a copper piece for a quick polish and be on your merry.

It's incredibly difficult to write because no matter how I approach it, I don't like that kind of thing, so I'll never think I've done good enough. I'll leave it there for now, but who knows whether it'll even survive my second draft.

May 9, 2011

A Self-(pub)-Study

Joseph Garrety spent the last month reading only self-published work. He blogged about his findings. I think this is a very good assessment and doesn't show a bias one way or the other. (Though I expect I would be far less forgiving on the lack of quality. I am equally harsh with traditionally published works as well.)

May 4, 2011

It's a Start

Thanks to Ted Cross and Liz Poole for pointing out that it wasn't just people not being able to find comments but that comments weren't working. Seems there was a change in Blogger's comment form since this template was made that prevented comments from working. That has been fixed.

What hasn't been fixed is adding a link to the front page. JavaScript is my weakest popular programming language so I'm still working on which expression to modify. (Similarly, I don't like author names displaying after their comments, but my fixes for that aren't working, which sucks.)

I'm at work and can't devote too much time to fixing this, but wanted to get things operational. While I wouldn't necessarily expect you to go out and learn JavaScript, I strongly recommend you all learn at least basic HTML. You will all have blogs and/or websites and you should not be imprisoned by your own technology. You shouldn't have to hire someone or beg for help every time you want to make a tweak or add on a little something here or there.

It may seem overwhelming, but go to W3 Schools and browse around their instructions on programming languages, specifically HTML. You'll pick up the fundamentals. Remember, you are the master of your fate. And that means you're the master of your blog too. Don't let the machines keep you down!

How to Comment

So this new template I'm using doesn't put the comment link on the front page. You have to click on 0 Comments and then click on comment. I will fix it when I have some free time. I notice that I've received NO comments since I made the switch. Thing is, other than that and a few other minor quibbles, I like this template, so I'm going to stick with it. So if you don't mind, in the short term, taking the extra step to comment. I miss hearing from my peoples. :'(

May 3, 2011

Oh, you're a writer?

I stopped telling people I write fantasy unless they directly ask what I write. Even then, they get that masked look on their face like they're trying their damndest to hide their disdain. That or they had a sudden bout of diarrhea they were fending off.

Any more, really, I don't like telling people I'm a writer at all. Unless I'm around other writers (and even then the dick measuring can be tiresome). The first thing people ask is whether you've written something they've read. No, because it hasn't been published yet. Then how are you a writer? Well, sir, that is an oft discussed topic and one I do not care to repeat with someone who doesn't really care but is only making small talk.

What I don't mind telling them is that I work for a publisher. I do and have been in the industry for 8+ years now. I know my craft well. BUT the first thing I have to stipulate is that I'm not in acquisitions because the first thing people say when you tell them you work for a publisher is that they have a book idea.

It's always an idea too, never a book. "I have this book I've been trying to get published." If only. "I have this idea. Maybe I could give it to you and someone could write it." Yeah, you've read plenty of other posts that properly enumerates our disdain for such comments. I won't repeat them here.

BUT, last week, I got the comments to beat all comments. There is a crazy guy that comes into Jackie's that they've dubbed El Grosso. Once he leaves, they put on rubber gloves and clean his spot at the counter, his chair, and everything near where he sat. He doesn't look crazy when he first comes in, but once he sits for a bit, he starts...leaking. Dirty tissues every, a pool of syrup on the plate the ducks could swim on, and so many other nasties that I won't bother telling you about because really, his name tells you all you need to know.

Well he asks me a question the other day. It's a closed question. Question. Answer. I know it. I tell it to him. I don't extrapolate but return to my book. Speaking to him, however, turns out to be the only invitation he needed. And now we're off to the races! Oh I work in publishing? Yes but not in acquisitions. I have a book idea. Of course you do. I work in educational publishing. We do textbooks. Oh, it could be a textbook. You'll certainly learn something if you read it. You'll learn about life!

They have that class in college? I don't think it was offered at my school.

So I have this book idea, but I'm just too lazy to write it. (At least he's honest.) You could publish it (the idea or the book? I don't think anyone will buy a printed idea). You work in Boston. I'd like to go to Boston. It would be a lot better than here. I thought about going to Oxford and giving them my book. They're smart over there. But you're here, so I'll let you publish it if you want.

I don't publish. I build the media that goes along with the textbooks. Websites, ebooks, that kind of thing.

But you know someone. Not really. You gotta know someone. I should just go over to Oxford. I could study there. Learn a lot of stuff.

Listen. You're a writer. Do you know any good universities in Las Vegas?


And I swear, not a thing of that is made up.

May 2, 2011

A Double! (The War Makers)

Man, I'm not having the best luck with names today. Discussing whether it's okay to be happy about the death of Osama Bin Laden (short answer: yes, yes it is), I had an idea for another story. Not sure if it would be novel length. Maybe short story or novella. I think there's more than than a short story.

Anyway, so general concept, five war mongers, bankers or what have you, vying control of a central McGuffin. It's a great international chess game with armies rather than pawns. Two main characters, the generals of the armies that will battle until only two are left. In the end, they meet before their armies clash and agree that rather than they and their men dying, they should simply kill the war makers, each giving free passage to the other (as they could not trust each other to kill their own).

Not sure if it won't be too hokey, but I like the idea of it. It speaks to me about our efforts to pursue and destroy those people that make war against us.

The Invisibles

I stayed up late last night, so I think I've mentioned a little of this before but I will start from the beginning so I can organize these ideas for later reference.

Up the street from where I lived, there was a small utility company office. This is strange in that AmerenUE has a monopoly and it wasn't an Ameren office. It took me years to hear the name and I never did confirm it was what it said it was. It did not have a sign or anything. All it had was a sculpture on its front lawn. A concrete lightning bolt.

It took me a few years before I even noticed it was there. I don't know how many times I had driven up Watson to Hampton and on up to the interstate. It was one of my three main routes around the city. So I was astonished when one day I was walking rather than driving and there was a lightning bolt on someone's lawn.

It reminded me of the kind of lightning bolt you'd see on a comics superhero, a yellow bolt in a black circle or something. And I thought to myself, how interesting would it be if that was a headquarters for a super group and they put a sign right out front because it was a place of business but no one questioned it. We just move on past without thinking about it.

Now I'm in New England. I work on the west side of downtown just before Back Bay in Boston (sw corner of Boston Common). If you walk toward Back Bay, the pike and Tremont move at an angle askew to the normal urban grid, which causes one street to seem more like an alley because it doesn't really go anywhere. It just has a triangular building that reminds me of a rundown, brick version of the Flatiron building. This building has a defunct Italian joint, a Mexican restaurant, and a biomedical supply company (or so they claim!). The doors to the biomedical side of the building are all wooden with black iron bands. They have gargoyle head, iron-ring handles with a stone gargoyle over the door. If Doctor Strange was ever to have a headquarters, this would be the place!

AND THEN! I find out in Boston's North End, there is Henchman Street. I swear to god, that's a real street. Henchman Street!

This only stokes the fire of my imagination of a whole hero/villain panoply hidden in plain sight. I've been wanting to do this for awhile (since the lightning bolt) but I keep writing Hellboy. I need something fresh. I think this will work better as a graphic novel. The visuals of seeing these places out in the open will communicate better.

I thought of a title this morning, "The Invisibles," which unfortunately is the title of a comic that Vertigo ran from 1994 to 2000 (even though the stories are nothing alike). Granted, titles can be reused, but that's not always a classy way to go. And since I don't even have a story yet, it's nothing I need to sweat.

It'll be fun if I ever get to do it, though.

May 1, 2011

Better Late than Never?

I have SO many thoughts going through my head, some of them articulate, some of them...not. I remember where I was, what I said, what I thought when the towers fell. When we went to war. When we diverted personnel to a second war that would take the life of someone I care about. And now all these years later and the deed is finally done. There are many different posts I might write about the death of Osama Bin Laden, each of them with its own meaning and relevance to me. But now that my initial jubilation has tempered itself, I am struck by one resounding thought that seems more relevant than all the other things I could write.

Burn in hell, motherfucker.