Friday, December 6, 2013

Stuff just happens. After wrapping up the last of the developmental edits of "Singing Stones" our world began to fray at the edges. Nothing so serious that it couldn't be handled, but it took time. Time away from the more technical editing of grammar and punctuation.

The plan to read aloud the entire manuscript has yet to happen. Like most folks the major holidays tend to occupy our time with preparation and celebration -- and the unforeseen. My muse's 96 year old mother fell and hurt herself when she tried to pick up her Black Friday ad-laden Thanksgiving Day newspaper.

My mother-in-law is one of the sweetest people you could hope to know. She's also one of the most difficult to keep down. Since she didn't complain all that much we thought she probably just crossed a rib. She was not going to let the pain stop her from having Thanksgiving dinner with us. The celebration continued as planned.

The next day she asked to be taken to see a doctor. One of her sons came and took her to the emergency room. Results, two broken ribs and a fracture at the L4  level of her spine (just above the tailbone). OUCH.

I won't go into the levels of guilt we felt, but there was a scramble to get her the care she needed. Holiday weekends are not good days to go to a hospital. After a few days battling the Doogie Howser's and bureaucrats of the medical world she told us she was ready to go home. She had had enough. Today she sits at her basket of yarn ready to resume her knitting. She still refuses to admit to the pain.

That is one tough sister.

I tell you this story to give you an insight into one the characters mentioned in "Singing Stones." She's not fleshed out in this book, but you'll see a little more of her in the second installment with the working title of, "The Loom of Kanarrah." She doesn't have a large role, unless of course my muse decides otherwise. Watch for her. Her name is Della Nevers and her daughter takes a keen interest in Maynard. 'Nuf said.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I took two weeks off. With the last of the major revisions completed I had to stop. The words were nothing but a blur. I'm sure there are still many more words, phrases and sentences which just aren't needed, but I could not see them.

Tomorrow is the end of that two week vacation and begins yet another task to catch grammar and punctuation errors. Also, I'll be going through my beta readers comments as I stretch my muses English Degree. We've decided to read the entire book aloud to each other. Reading it aloud is a technique often suggested for catching and fixing problems with pace and flow. This may seem like a tortuous exercise for accomplished/published authors. For me and the muse it seems most advisable.

It should be fun to actually hear the inflections my wife puts into the story. I'm sure she'll have plenty of suggestions on how to increase/decrease tension, exposition, narrative and dialogue.

When that is done I expect one last trial to put it through and a decision to make. I'll send it to a copy-editor for the extraction of my eye-teeth. If all goes well the book should be ready by the first of next year.

The decision will then be, do I self-publish or pitch to a publisher? I'm still not satisfied with the book cover and don't have the money to hire a professional. Well, I'm a great procrastinator so I'll shelve that decision until later.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Underwood No. 5

My father liked to tinker, especially with his ART-15 Ham radio. He kept that old WWII Army issue radio-transmitter until he could no longer find the vacuum tubes to keep it alive. Even then he may have cheated a bit and redesigned the circuits to include transistors. I never took up that interest, but my brother was certainly influenced by our father's passion for electronics.

Dad was also a scavenger. It was one way to keep that old black metal box squawking and beeping until the wee hours of the morning. I know, because my brother and I shared our bedroom with it.

His scavenging included city and county dumps. Our occasional trips to Las Vegas to visit my grandmother (his mother) often meant we raided the city landfill. He typically looked for discarded electronics, but sometimes his eye would catch a memory. His face lit up on those days. My brother and I went with him on one memorable occasion when he happened upon an old typewriter.

The old Underwood No. 5, a staple in many offices of the day, had a broken bar around the keyboard. He cleared away the debris and tested the keys and carriage. It worked--sort of. He took it home, cleaned it, oiled it and tinkered until it's key's clacked on paper and the carriage dinged on cue. Then he went to work writing letters and reports for his work. He was a hunt-and-peck typist and a professor of gutter linguistics. For every mistake he made he taught me new words and phrases. That's when my mother began to type his reports.

The years passed and that rugged old typewriter saw a lot of use. And a lot of cussing. The darn thing jammed up a lot if you typed too fast. Tangled keys could be a monumental task which invited Dad's linguistic clarity. The keys on the keyboard were too far apart for a kid like myself. If I missed a key my finger would get caught between them and sometimes get scraped. The ink ribbon would snag on the feed-guide and stop. Whining and weeping often followed.

Despite the frustrations I thought No. 5 was a marvelous thing and fun to use. At the time it was a grown-up toy for me. I could act like my Dad and still be a kid--except for the cussing. I used it mostly for homework assignments, but there were times I wrote stories for my mother. She took them to her ladies groups and read them. The stories must have been OK, because she kept asking for more. That was the first stage in my writing career.

Unfortunately the bulb of creative inspiration never lit up and that career turned so I could support my new family. Governmentese became my language of choice. There is a certain amount of creativity in it, but it ends up boring, barnacled and slug-slow. No one writes a best seller in that genre.

How times have changed. Old No. 5 has long gone. There are no ribbons to change or keys to untangle. No "ding" to signal a carriage return and no cussing because of a mistake. The cussing still exists, but for very different reasons.

Then one day, almost 4 years ago, my son said, "Dad, write a book." The bulb of inspiration finally lit. It may not be the brightest bulb in the litany of literary giants, or even runts, and I don't care. I'm having fun.

I may have been about 10 years old when Dad rescued that beat up old Underwood typewriter. I have no idea why his face lit up that day, but after he died many years later, I discovered some old letters he had written. Some were typed.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Awesome News

The League of Utah Writers held it's annual Convention at the Airport Hilton this weekend. I entered the first chapter of, "The Singing Stones of Rendor" into the contest. I hoped it would get an honorable mention or perhaps third place. 

It took "First Place" in the Leagues "First Chapter Category". My wildest dreams are possible, afterall. Judith, my wife and muse, deserves a great deal of the credit for this chapter because she suggested it in the first place. Then there are all my beta readers who have, and still do, contribute to the refinement of the book. Thank you all.

Though they spelled my name wrong the certificate is proudly posted below.

When this chapter was finished, and I applied all those hard-learned lessons, I felt very good about it. It had undergone a number of revisions which all came together to surprise even me. My muse gushed about it and said it was wonderful, but, you know . . . she might be a bit biased. My beta readers caught a few errors and made suggestions about expanding some significant points. 

In the end, with the League of Utah Writers Award, I feel like my skills have reached a milestone. It may be the first public milestone on a long road, but at least I'm on the right/write road. 

Thank you, beta readers.

Please join me on facebook. I have an author's page which will compliment this blog.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sails Sag

Progress with the book has sagged a bit. The wife (a.k.a. Muse) fell ill for about a week. Then the prescription to cure her made her sick for another week until that nasty pill was changed. She has recovered and feeling better now.

Progress on the book was made. Chapter 14 to 18 are done and awaiting my muses remarks.

Then came Salt Lake City's first ComiCon this past weekend. I planned on going all three days, but when Saturday rolled around I was too pooped to haul myself downtown.

The crowds were huge. I arrived Thursday afternoon about 5 PM and stood in line an hour just to register. Then got into another line to get onto the convention floor. Both Thursday and Friday the convention center and meeting rooms were packed. The video below was taken at 4:45 PM Friday. The throng didn't let up until after 8 PM. Even then the convention floor was still doing a brisk business. Other than some grumbling about how the event was organized everyone was in good spirits and eager to be 'assimilated into the collective' (refer to a Star Trek fan for definition. To my knowledge the Borg Queen was a no-show, which is probably for the best).

There were several authors and publishers with booths. I focused on booths selling books in my genre (epic fantasy) and talked to two authors at some length. Holli Anderson and Jason King shared a booth purchased by their publisher Curiosity Quills Press. I purchased a book from each of these local authors. 

Curiosity Quills has a unique query system which I happen to like, mostly because it is based on the honor system in which you have to honestly ask yourself "Are you ready?". No formal query letter is submitted, but . . . you'd better have your duckies jack-booted and marching straight. The questions they ask you are blunt and to the point.

That said, both Holli and Jason have an excellent relationship with Curiosity Quill Press. Its a hybrid publisher which has placed both hard copy and ebooks in Barnes & Noble, Amazon & Goodreads. Jason said he has a book on the shelves of B&N. Holli just got her book published this past week, so she's still looking forward to that opportunity.

My initial impression of Curiosity Quill Press is good. The book covers are well done, the paper and printing seems top notch. I'll be doing more research on them as the day draws near for submitting "The Singing Stones of Rendor" to a publisher.

All I have to do is answer that scary question, "Am I ready?" 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Revisions for 8-13 complete.

Except for feedback from my beta readers, chapters 8 through 13 have received their major revisions. They went quite quickly, which is a bit of a worry. I tend to overlook things when it goes so well.

The speed at which those revisions were made reminds me of this YouTube video of Brandon Sanderson writing a chapter. It's a high speed video which shows him writing and editing a chapter. Its twenty plus minutes long and interesting to watch--at least for a few minutes. He does a lot of editing as he goes which I find reassuring since I do a lot of that myself.

"New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson writes a chapter from Words of Radiance, the sequel to The Way of Kings, to be published in late 2013 (hopefully) or early 2014."

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite writers in fantasy. Some folks criticize his work as wordy. I haven't read all of his works, but I don't have any issues with his style. I find it refreshing in a lot of ways.

He spins a great yarn with plot twists and surprising magical abilities which are presented in a believable format. The first book I read was "Elantris" which blew me away. It had an innocence which I had not seen in other writers. Yet, the tension in the story did not suffer because of it. I like his ability to develop his characters in a way that I became invested in their lives.

Now that I've found him on YouTube with so many videos I will be taking the time to listen to him over and over again.

Another video, which I discovered on Alara Harpell's blog is great advice for any writer who gets even a little fatigued by the constant thrum of how difficult it is to get published.
It features the renowned author, Anne Rice.

Visit Alara K. Harpell's blog. Get a taste of her writing style. It's great.

Thanks for the video Alara.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Revision update.

Revisions up through chapter 8 are in hand. Next they go to my beta readers for last minute suggestions and changes. The chapters are beginning to roll along as I get deeper into the book. Chapters 1 through 4 are almost completely new with new and expanded characters along with some world building and hints about the magic system.

So far the feedback on those first chapters has been great. Chapters 5 through 8 are rebuilt with the added punch my editor said the characters needed. The rest of the book is expected to go much faster, though I can't promise new ideas won't get in the way. My editor, Teresa Edgerton, dropped some hints and ideas, among other things, to make it better.

I love to complain about those suggested changes to this historical work of art. However, I can see without a doubt Teresa's right--well, mostly. All right, always, but who's in charge of the complaint department here?

Chapter 9 is a must rewrite. Originally written to kick up the intensity, it now can be saved for the next book in the series, tentatively titled "The Weaver's Anvil." The new chapters are sufficient to develop the tension needed.

I'm excited about the coming edits and revisions. As Diann Thornley Read recently posted on her facebook page regarding her editors suggestions, "creative juices flowing like crazy." My muse, a.k.a wife, is hard at work seeing those juices remain manic.

"Thank you, dear. You can put the cattle prod away now."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Craig Johnson Book Tour.
Last night I joined about 150 people at the Viridian Events Center (8030 South 1825 West, West Jordan, Utah) to listen to Craig Johnson, who authored the "Walt Longmire Mysteries". His work is the inspiration for the popular "Longmire" series on the A&E network.

I've watched the television series and enjoyed it immensely. I have not read the books, a situation in which I intend to correct, soon. He had a video introduction which was well done, but I thought ran a bit long. Nevertheless, his talk was very entertaining and earthy. I think most folks in attendance enjoyed him, but there were a few who seemed a bit taken aback by an off-color joke and the word "horseshit."

The joke was attributed to the star of the TV series who is from Australia. I won't retell it here, but it had to do with New Zealanders and sheep. I heard later from a lady in attendance that she would not be buying any of his books, largely because of his foul mouth. She would, however, continue watching the TV series which does not include profanity, but does include rape, murder, child abuse, etc.

Everyone has their standards. I respect those standards as long as they are not imposed on others. It seems a shame to me when good writing is ignored because of an impression of the author as profane. I try to adhere to the social norm, but sometimes I fail. For that, I apologize.

The world is filled with profanity. Not all of it is easily recognized as irreverent, disrespectful, or insulting. I have worked and lived in environments where profanity of the first order has dominated conversations. You learn to recognize it as a means to vent frustration, communicate humor, sadness, joy and most any other emotion you can list. It has a gut-level beauty of it's own. All you have to do is listen.

We often hear from intelligentsia how immature and uneducated such language is. In my opinion, that is nonsense--or, I could say, "horseshit." Every level of society experiences some measure of profanity. Leaders of all types have used it--or not. Followers use it, fence-sitters use it, but it's the values of those people that matter.

It seems most people who are offended by profanity tend to overlook the values of the speaker and condemn him/her as illiterate or a fool. Vice President Biden notwithstanding, such judgments are themselves foolish.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This past week began with snarling and grousing about the continuing saga of writing, or rather, revising my book. "The Singing Stones of Rendor" plot line is completed, but my editor has said a few of my characters need some added punch. So I punched them.

They aren't happy, but I am. I feel better now. I even created a new character to get my main character in trouble. The scene was inspired by two books from Mary Stewart's Authurian Saga, "The Crystal Cave," and "The Hollow Hills." (I highly recommend these two books, as well as the other books in the series.)

My problem now is to complete the revision. I'm only on chapter six of 30 chapters. So, how hard can this be? Well, they're putting up a lot of resistance. We've literally gotten down in the dirt and fought over some of these new scenes. I'm winning, so far. I have a conniving mind, but they have youth on their side. We'll see who wins later.

I called a time out to attend an Oquirrh Writers function tonight. Tristi Pinkston presented information about blogging. That's a subject I've resisted for some time, but I was surrounded by a bunch of alluring women who persuaded me to get started. (I was the only testosterone laden person in a room of 15 females. It was overwhelming.) Tristi is one fun and funny lady. She was the Master of Ceremonies at the LDStorymakers Conference this year. It just so happens I also attended her lecture about blogging. She convinced me I needed a blog then, but I still had a lot of internal resistance. Today I finally succumbed.

Another task assumed this week has been to do some brainstorming and critiquing on a book in Diann Thornley Read's new military SciFi series. (I'll not spoil it by revealing titles here. Visit her blog or website for the announcement.) The first book is expected to be released by Tor Books in February 2014. I've stolen my Kindle Fire back from my wife to download and read her "Sergey Chronicles" series. How did I miss these books? I love military SciFi. How great is it to be involved with an author of this caliber? Well, "exciting" doesn't even come close to defining the event.

Well I've rubbed elbows with some great people this week, both virtually and actually. Including the characters in my book. What fun!!