July 29, 2011

Kindlegraph

I said it would be cool to add your signature to an ebook at a signing and three days later it's real!

It sure would be cool if I had a million dollars...

...

I'll let you know what happens on Monday.

As for the above, it's a good first start but their invasion of your Twitter privacy is a deal breaker (not to mention it's only for the kindle and I prefer the nook).

Progress!

July 27, 2011

I'm Famous!

I don't read erotic romance, but that doesn't make Roni Loren any less cool. We have a great rhythm on twitter where she posts a blog entry, people comment, she says "Go check out the controversy!, and I go see one person disagreeing with her. I then wag my finger at her for hyberbolizing controversy (she should be a Washington reporter) and we both smile and keep doing what we're doing.

Well today, she has a guest blogger...ME! So go check out the controversy!

Also, her first book CRASH INTO ME is coming out soon, so buy it if you like erotic romance. I'm told its both super nifty and keen.

Why are you still reading here? Go! Now!

July 26, 2011

The Absence of Trees

Completely unrelated to my previous post (and apologies for its rushed nature), but I've been spending a measurable amount of time pondering book signings lately. Specifically how I cannot attend them. I don't buy paper books any more. It would be awkward going up to an author and asking him to sign my nook. Mostly because I don't want him/her signing my nook. I don't want him/her signing its protective covering, as that will inevitably wear out. (I put it through its paces.)

I've been envisioning lately a laptop, an appropriate collection of cables, and signature files that could be created and then transferred to the user's ereader. What would be even cooler was if my ebook already had the code to accept such a file and once the file was present, the signature would appear within the ebook itself. That would be thrilling.

I wonder if anyone is working on something like that.

My Nemesis, Progress!

A bit of a note, I am still swamped at work though that should be clearing up at the beginning of August or thereabouts. Lots of nonsense going on right now, but I am well versed in Alice's time in Wonderland and through the Looking Glass so nonsense is right up my alley. (Do not judge that I live up an alley. We all fall on hard times sometime in our lives.)

Because I've been so busy, I've been writing down post titles of stuff I want to post but will have to get to later. You can imagine that this is as successful as writing down a book title and remembering the idea later. To that end, my post on adverbs last week had one major omission, the original point of the post! "Just the Adverbs" was a specific title I chose because the word just can be used as an adjective or as an adverb. And when used as an adverb, it really weakens your sentence. That is one of those adverbs where King and I agree. I almost always take it out when I see it. Unfortunately, I see it a lot in my own writing. In first draft, it seems to connote a triviality or an understanding of totality that in second draft review appears more as broken rhythm and indecisive imagery. If you're not using just as an adjective, chop it out. Your sentence will read much stronger for it.

Speaking of weaker, that brings us today's topic. It may be my folksy Midwestern upbringing or it may be some subconscious attempt to be less direct (something I'm told I need to be). For whatever reason, I tend to use progressive verbs WAY more often than is necessary.

I hope you can help me with this = I am hoping you can help me with this.

All. The. Time. If I were Superman, progressive verbs would be my green kryptonite (I was going to make a red kryptonite joke here, but reading through the Wikipedia entry for kryptonite just reminds me how much I dislike Superman and his entire canon).

A rhythm that I use to the point that one of my beta readers pointed it out to me is an independent clause comma progressive verb. He typed on the keyboard, thinking of all the times he wrote similar sentences.

Oh me and the ING are good friends. Too good, maybe. Me and ING need some space apart. Set it free and if it comes back, and all that. Maybe? Yes? No? I love you, ING! Don't go!

And with that, I go back to work. See you guys soon. For real this time. ;)

(How's your summer going? Did you hear that Nate Wilson had a son? They let him reproduce. The wonders of modern science. Wish him and the Professor well.)

July 21, 2011

F*cking Ponies!

I'm almost over the summer hump and will return to a normal blogging schedule after. Until then, behold this little piece of awesome:

July 18, 2011

Weak Words: Just the Adverb, Ma'am

I had this post planned awhile ago but all I saved was the title. I vaguely remember what it was about, but it ties well into a discussion I am having with Liz Poole about feedback I received recently.

First, here's a general rule that I learned the hard way. If you are going to critique, never rewrite the person's work. You can suggest subtractions and you can point out instances where things need to improve, but NEVER actually try to improve them yourself. It is not your work. If you try to rewrite, not only will the author ignore that feedback, he/she will ignore ALL your feedback. You are no longer critting. You're saying that it's not the way you would have done it, which is different.

Second, NOT ALL ADVERBS ARE BAD! I know people treat Stephen King's ON WRITING like a writing bible, but it was not chiseled in stone. His comment not to use adverbs is a hyperbole, trying to show you how much weaker adverbs make your sentences than other means of writing. When you tell someone "never do that" what you're hoping is that the don't do it very often instead of doing it all the time, which is what King is doing here. You're using an adverb instead of a stronger verb. Go use the stronger verb instead.

Strangely, what I see happening as a reaction to this order from on high is that authors are overwriting. They are using entire sentences (sometimes paragraphs) to describe what they could have with a single adverb. While imagery and strong verbs are great, I don't need you stopping the story ever other paragraph so you can wax poetic with your non-adverb.

There are adverbs I enjoy, just for the sound of them (punctiliously in particular). Best selling authors use them, if you're tethered to having a justification for using a type of word that is a valid part of English grammar. Set your adverb meter to two, but if you're going to offer critiques, pinging something just because it's an adverb is lame. Your goal is to help the author attain the strongest writing possible. Rote regurgitation is not how that's accomplished.

Verily.

July 14, 2011

Prince of Cats

Hello! Yes, I'm still alive, just super busy. Lots of work combined with home stress has been sucking up my hours. I'm still writing, because writing comes before blogging, but even that is slow going. I'm at the 1/3 mark and really I should be at the finished and ready to query mark. I need to get my ass in gear on that one.

While I didn't have time to post, I had the good sense to write a quick blurb and save it as a draft as I had a new idea for a story and didn't want to forget it like I did with the last one. After working it out in my brain, it reminds me a little as Bran's story in A GAME OF THRONES, in that there is a young boy where he is unexpected that overhears something he shouldn't. The similarities stop there.

Main character (whose name I have not picked yet so we'll just call him GROOM) works in a castle's stable as the youngest groom. As he is so small, the stable master sets him to tending the cats. The castle is reputed for its large cat population, a necessity based on an edict from the king to protect against the plague. The stables attract rats as do the dark corners of the castle itself, so they have a lot of mousers to catch the vermin for them. BOY tends to the kittens and does his best to keep the cats from getting into trouble as they have a tendency to get under foot (just like him!). Because of this and his own small size, he crawls about in the castle's nooks and crannies, finding a number of passages too small for regular use but large enough that he can go most anywhere in the castle without the use of a hallway.

This allows him to visit the princess, as she is a fan of kittens and has few people her own age to play with. At least, no one who will actually play because hurting her would be ruinous to their families, so everyone is too gentle with her. Except for BOY who has no genuine understanding of the social differences between a groom and a princess. When he gets caught and told he would have to be a prince to visit her, she names him the PRINCE OF CATS so that he would continue to bring her kittens to play with.

One day, after a new litter is weaned, he comes to the princess' bedroom to find two men there, arguing. He sees one, a king's advisor, but cannot make out the other. The princess was supposed to be there. It turns out they have some scheme to kidnap her. Now he knows of the plot and must warn someone. But who can he trust? In trying to riddle out who was the villain and who will be the hero, he uncovers other plots and other villains and everything becomes twisted and dangerous.

I envision the story as a middle grade offering, much along the lines of HOUSE ON SANDWICH NOTCH ROAD. That is a very difficult genre for me to write, so I don't know what will come of it. We'll see. :)


EDIT!

The boy's name will be either Kaveh or Mirza. The kingdom will be in a Mid-East breadbasket like place, people and architecture with a Persian influence. The kingdom's name will be Kshathra, though it will be ruled by a shah not a king (I think). I'm also considering a caliph, but that is a different form of government. I also considered a raja instead of a shah, but that adds a lot more Indian influence than I want to at the moment.

The princess' name will probably be Shahnaz but I'm drawn to Parisa, a young Persian girl I knew online 12 years ago. Her attitude reminds me a lot of how I want this character to be. I'll probably go with the latter. I can already feel it.

July 5, 2011

Turning it down from 11

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. You know how they always say publishing is slow during the summer? Yeah, not so much if you work in production. I am currently the busiest I'll be all year (most likely) and while I'm not as crushed as I was in my old department, I am merrily occupied from start to finish. It makes blogging at work a little challenging. But here I am! Taking time out just for you! I missed you so much.

So what's going on with me? Well, aside from having one of the best Independence Day celebrations I've had in my life (swimming, grilling, fireworks, oh my!) I'm still hard at work on a rewrite/revision. AND not only is this manuscript better than it's ever been, but it has a new title as well.

I mentioned WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING a little while ago, saying that I was taking an agent's advice and changing the main character of the story. I cut some 30,000 words and have put back in 10,000. My "scraps" file I use to keep track of everything I cut (in case I want to use it elsewhere) is currently at 175 pages long (double spaced, courier new)! That's HUGE!

My previous rewriting attempt choked on itself. I slashed so deeply that I nicked an artery and killed the story. I realized my error and have rewritten one of the POVs. I can say, without a doubt, this is the best shape this story has ever been in. I'm really enthused at what the end product will be. I may have even started on a quality query. Who knows. (If that's the case, the world is coming to an end. Run!)

I felt that this new direction required a new title as well. WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING was clunky and while the story started tongue-in-cheek, it quickly evolved away from that. Also, whenever that phrase appears in the text, it always begins "HELP WANTED..." So that seemed an appropriate addition. I'd name it HELP WANTED: CHOSEN ONE. That rolled off the tongue better. But then I remembered the very first self-published novel I downloaded (it was thankfully free) named HELP WANTED: HERO. It was atrocious. This not only spoiled the new title, it spoiled the old title as well. I need to remove any kind of similarity between the two. I didn't want any of that stink on me.

So...we need a new title! Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. Come up with a bunch of crappy options. I have four characters, an underlying theme that doesn't work well as a title, and plenty of secrets. In the end, I decided to take inspiration from the end of the story. The new title is WITH A CROOKED CROWN, which I like a whole lot. (Google tells me this is a song by Bonnie Raitt, which means the last three titles I've chosen have been named after a song or a music album--I think there may be a blog post there.)

I'm only 81 pages into the revision. I've finished most of the rewriting. There's a collection of chapters coming up that will need some realignment to conform to this new approach.

The biggest work I've done so far? Changing the early plot path for my two prophets. Their introduction and the beginning of their quest leads in the same direction but is handled in a much more succinct manner. More importantly, one of the characters has seriously mellowed out. Now, he got shoehorned into this whole thing and didn't want to go. He has all kinds of secrets he doesn't want to come out and was frequently obstinate. Okay, he was a dick. But in an attempt to speed things up and change focus to the new main character, my original rewrite turned him into a HUGE dick.

And unless you're reading about porn, no one wants to read about a huge dick. I wrote the thing and he was pissing me off. He went up to 11 and he needed to be around a 6. So this new rewrite he got a serious overhaul. I don't think anyone would have read past page 50 in the previous iteration of this manuscript. He was that much of a jerk. Now I'm enthusiastic. I certainly hope others like it once I start querying. Current pace says that'll be at the end of July or so. Ugh. This thing is so big! (That's what she said.) It'll be worth it once it's done. (That's what he said.)