Friday, December 30, 2011

The copyedits....

THEY'RE DONE!
And that's awesome! :) Soon, I hope to have an announcement about availability for you all. See you soon...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Here's to hope!

Here's to the hope that by the end of this week all my copyediting on Memories of the Dead will be done. Then it's on to e-pubbing/uploading and all that fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Those damn edits

Just finished going over things and next up is to alter the "master" document to reflect the fixes. Most of them are utterly cosmetic--and one spelling error.

Ok, seriously, how does a misspelling of "home" (printed as "hom") make it past no less than a dozen spell checks? (Electronic and manual!)

Oh well, soon it will be fixed, finalized, and off to the races...right?

No. Still more yet to do. Always. But soon enough I will be able to make an announcement about the availability of the e-book. Keep paying attention here...it's coming. Honest! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Copyedits galore! (& other things)...and here I get mushy

Now I get to go through my manuscript ONE MORE TIME--what is this, like the fiftieth or something?

Anyway, this is to make sure it's ship shape and Bristol fashion for e-publication. I'm about four chapters in and so far so good. I hope to have this done by the end of the week--even sooner would be better. We'll see how it goes.

But every time I read it, each and every time, I remain a little bit impressed that I actually wrote something this size. Seriously! I didn't think it possible...but there it is, sitting on my desk. I mean, wow. Really?

Yeah, really. Wow.

For those of you out there who say "Man, I'll never finish!" I say this: yes you will. You need to finish. Not just for you, but for your characters, for the community of novelists at-large, and for the future. You could be, right now, be straining away on the next novel that will be compared to Twain or Poe. You could be "that guy."

And I hope you are. I really do.

Getting Memories of the Dead even half this far was a battle. Sure, none of the agents or agencies I queried or otherwise contacted wanted it, but I still have hope that a reader will enjoy the story. That's why I do this. Not for "fame and glory," but for the simple fact that I had a tale to tell, and I told it--well, the first part anyway--and soon enough other people on a grander scale than I can imagine will be able to read it, comment upon it, and make it their own. And maybe, just maybe, they'll like it just as much as I do. That's my vain hope.

Along the way, I learned a lot of stuff: some of it brilliant, some of it was shit, but it was all still learning. That's a good thing. I even learned what the price of my e-book will be. ($2.99) So, when I ask myself, "Was this worth it?" I get to answer back, "Yes, yes it was."

Be on the look out here (and at my Twitter) for the announcement that the book is ready to boogie to your e-reader of choice. I hope, dear friends and readers, that when that day comes you will grace me with the honor of a purchase and download. And that, when you read it, you will find within it's virtual pages something of value; and that you'll tell your friends, who in turn will give it a whirl as well. In this way, you become part of the story as well; for as we all know, the contents of a good story are not confined by the cover, but by the imagination of the reader.

Gentlemen, you are my protagonist; Ladies, you are my heroine. Each and every one of you are that epic person about whom I write. Inside their faces you find your own. You're the story, I only borrowed it for a time, and soon I shall return it to you, unscathed and better for the treatment, I hope.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The holidays are a time for rejection letters?

Yes, my final submission was rejected. TOR/Forge decided that--once again--my work just wasn't for them "at this time." Man, I hate that phrase. Makes one wonder when the "time" is going to come.

But regardless, I carry on and forward with PLAN Z, which if you recall, is the e-pub/self-pub option. So a rejection is not truly the end of the line. Be on the look-out for more details.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The cover

I received actually a couple of replies from folks, so here's a scaled-down version of the cover.

From the left, you will see the back cover, in the middle is naturally the location of the spine, and as your eyes travel right you encounter the dreaded front cover.

Comments? Concerns? Questions?


This is for a "US Trade" sized cover, 6 inches by 9 inches in size. Like I said, this one is lower quality and scaled from the original. Enjoy! (I also must point out, in print, that this is my cover. You may not steal it. Even though the elements in use are mostly public-domain art, they have been modified by me expressly for this purpose.)

Oh, and the white rectangle on the back cover is for the ISBN code/pricing information...it's not a flaw.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So....who wants to see my cover design?

In the event that TOR/Forge passes on my manuscript (and there's a great chance that they will, all things being equal and all that), I had been working on a cover in addition to the formatting "innards" of the book. All the final design elements are there, and it's a big file: the front cover, back cover, and spine, are all full color; so I won't post it unless you want to see it. I, for one, like it a lot, but I'm the creator, so I'm prejudiced toward it, as can only be expected.

The thing is, if TOR picks up the book, the whole process of making the cover is out the window (I made it for the self-publish/e-published version, obviously); but hey, it's still a learning process, no? And I gain some small measure of insight into how arduous it is to get design you're happy with to actually work for you. (So it's not a total loss.)

So...wanna see?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tomorrow is the beginning of month 4

It is the first day that the publisher I submitted to might reply by. Now, I don't believe that it'll hit tomorrow, I'm just saying tomorrow is the first day it *could* hit. We'll see what happens, because from this moment forward until mid-February, it's "hold your breath" time.

Wish me good news!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Are you being overcharged for an ebook? The DOJ thinks so

Here's the story, and I have to say that it's worth reading and thinking about. Collusion, or the implication thereof, is never a good thing. Ever.

A law

The probability that a written work will discuss any given topic is directly proportional to the word-count. (I.E.: Big books eventually cover all available topics.)

This is why I kind of prefer short books. Get in, get it on, get out. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Steampunk is dead

Well, thank you very little, Justin Bieber... You took a genre with potential and turned it into more lameness to support your "career." Thank you very little, you dork. Ugh!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time, and the finding of it

There was a time when I had plenty of time in which to write, but now, having taken over a new (and more expansive) role at work, I find myself with less time to even think about "the next chapter," let alone to put pen to paper. I'm not dead, I haven't quit: I just find myself with less and less time to complete my project--and move on to the next one in line.

Faced with the fact that EVERYONE has a lack of time on their hands--and the holidays coming up certainly don't help in the matter--I ask you: how do you find the time to write? For me, I need at least a couple hours a day to just get my mind wrapped around how I want to say it, let alone edit, and format into something worth while (even if it's just an "alpha state").

How do you all fine/make the time to get the next bit written?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Snowman -- a poem

I wrote this a while ago--nearly a year or so--and I thought I'd trot it out for you today, since I'm in the Christmas spirit and all that. It's not perfect, but then again, nothing is. So, sit back, grab your cocoa (hot, I hope), and enjoy the tale of "The Snowman."
Many of you have heard the tale of Frosty the Snowman,
And of the story they say,
When children accompanied by an old magic hat brought him to life one cold day.
But what you may not know is that on that same eve,
There was another snow man who came to life in much the same way.

The children there,
On that cold winter's morning,
Set out for the day to play,
In the wicked cold--roaring.

They danced and they played in the snow at their feet,
When one decided to stack it 5 feet.

High into the air,
Almost to above their heads,
They packed the dense snow,
And adorned it with threads.

Clothing from home,
And a mitten or two,
Then one found a hat,
That had just blown into view.

Nobody knows from whence it had come.
All they did think was that they were having some fun!
So, onto the head the cap was presented, hooray!
And with magical flare, the movement gave way.

First with a yawn,
And then with a hop,
The snowman stepped forward,
All gasped as they watched,
As the playful new snowman they built stepped forward and dropped.

Down in a bow,
From his waist did he bend,
Like a marionette on a string,
He forwarded courtesy to new friends.

His cap in his hand in a delicate show,
He then played with the children there in the snow!

Long throughout the day,
And into the night,
They all laughed as they danced,
'Til the faintest sunlight.

Then Mother called them all in,
And with an "Aww!" they all cried,
Their friendly little snowman was fit to be tied!

But he knew a great secret,
It was one that he shared,
With the children all there,
And any who would might care.

That with the cold night,
He'd stand still and wait,
For the morning to come 'round,
For the children to come,
And exit their gate.

"No cries, little friends!"
He exclaimed to them saying,
"In the morning I'll come,
And we'll continue our playing!"

The children all smiled,
And waved their good-byes,
The snowman then sniffled,
With tears in his eyes,
For though the night short,
He'd miss them quite dear,
And long for the time,
When the children were near.

For it is from accepting youth,
That life comes,
It's magic!
Not to the old at heart,
And that is quite tragic!

So, when you are out, in the snow just today,
Play a little longer,
And maybe this day,
Is the one you will find a little magical hat,
Then you'll have a new friend, too,
And how about that!

I am a sappy SOB

I'm the only guy I know who when he watches certain--to be left nameless--Christmas movies on TV ends up weeping like a schoolboy. Don't tell anyone, I'll have to forfeit my "man card"; but that just goes to show you that emotion in a story can be easily transferred to the reader when good words are well chosen and the tale is painted with the brush in living color. A certain book, also to be nameless, does the same thing.

When a story is that engrossing, you know it's food for your brain--it's good stuff. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll get that right once on paper, and people will be just as enthralled. If I'm really lucky, that is. It's no mean feat. I can count on one finger the number of books that have done it to me; and I bet you can count that certain few as well. When someone writes that well, it goes beyond--it transcends--and becomes something more.

So, in the New Year that rapidly approaches, here is my wish for all my writer friends (and myself, if I can be a little selfish): let us all be so lucky as to write classics filled with emotional depth and care; and may we prove worthy of it once the pen ceases.

Monday, November 21, 2011

ARGH! Or, the tale of the lost query

Ok, so, as you know I'm currently in the middle of a story, and while preparing to get the next chapter on paper, I have been tweaking a query letter, which in my opinion was pretty freaking sweet--making little additions, changes, and alterations here and there. It was working, it was interesting, and showed some pretty good voice.

Then... Gone.

Yep, deleted by accident with no recovery. How or why it was in a particular folder, I have no idea--considering I'm pretty methodical. I guess I simply had a "brain fart," or something. So now I have to rewrite it from scratch. Not nearly as daunting a task as finishing a novel in the first place, but hey, still a pain in the ass!

Note and lesson learned: back up your stuff and make sure you know where it is...then back it up again!

Woe be unto me... Woe! :(

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My short story, Peerless

My short story, Peerless, is available now on iTunes bookstore and Lulu!

iTunes Book store link
And you can get it from Lulu.com here

Click, download, enjoy. :)

And it's free!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An idea...

This last week was hectic and painful, for various reasons, and I shant get into them because some of them are quite personal.

But even in that time--when all hell was breaking loose--a new idea of a story popped into my head. I don't have a title yet, but I know what it's about.

It's about a story. The question is, is the story real or just made up?

Here's what I will reveal: Great-grandfather Colin tells stories to the children at bedtime, each night a new and exciting tale. Sometimes about pirates and the high seas; sometimes about fabulous kings and princesses and quests filled with glory and honor.


But on this night, Colin sat in his chair before the fire, the eerie glow reflected in his stark-white, bristly beard, and as he lit his pipe--which depending on the story was a magic wand, a sword, or other such prop--he muttered to himself, eyes closed, faint and inaudible--as if he was remembering something old and hidden deep in his mind. Perhaps it is his first memories; it may be his first adventure as a boy (he had quite many, apparently), more than should fill many lifetimes--maybe it is his greatest tale.


The children all sit in a semi-circle at his feet, eagerly waiting for his first few words--they were always very dramatic. Some of them fidgeting mightily in glee as this was always one of the best parts of the day...the wonder that would come from him.


With a pause, Colin inhaled deeply, and with a "snap" his eyes were opened, almost as if he'd heard something--or something awoke him from deep concentration; and then his eyes focused, lids lowered, and his words came forth with smoke.


"I am the dragon healer."

What happens next...well, we'll just see if I ever get to writing it down. But I know what happens, I just need to get there first.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In honor of NaNoWriMo

In honor of National Novel Writing Month, I'm giving away a free (sub-500 word) ebook on Lulu.com.

This is the link. Click it.

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, 6 novels penned in less than a month

I would be remiss (and a bit evil) were I to not link to the source from which I am stealing.

Number one on the list is especially good (and so is the movie made from it): The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas.
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas: Irish novelist John Boyne said he was so wrapped up in this engrossing tale of a boy living through the Holocaust that he wrote the entire thing in two and a half days, barely stopping to eat or sleep throughout the ordeal. He notes that his other novels took months of planning and effort to write, but this story simply could not be slowed.
You can do it, folks! The great novel is in you, bursting at the seams to get out!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writer's Groups

One of the absolute best pieces of advice I (or anyone who writes, really) have been given is to find and join a local writer's group or workshop.

The sheer scale, they'll tell you, of the input you're going to receive is amazing. You'll have new friends, confidants, idea partners, you name it.

Fabulous, I thought. And I began looking for one, and much to my chagrin, I learned that there are groups local, but they're "private," meaning "me and my three friends, and you're not allowed in, sorry."

It's sad, I live in a city with a large BIG10 school, and we have famous author alum, yet the number of writing groups is zero that I can join. It's sort of ridiculous, and I'd laugh if it weren't so utterly stupid.

So, as I said once before: writing is indeed solitary. There's you and your words and nothing more.

Sad, I know, as I did actually try to find a group--I spent months searching, and came up empty.

I do hope you're luckier than I; meanwhile, I plod on, doing my thing, and hoping that, someday, I'll write something amazing, something special, and it will be consumed by the masses to enjoy.

That day, I think, will make it all worth while.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How I want to write

I know how I want to write: I want to write the way Steven Spielberg directs a film. With that very same level of gravitas, importance, scope, and wonder. That's what I want. I want to write something so bold, eloquent, intelligent, and at the same time fun, that people generations from now will look back and say, "That Phil Hall guy? Remember him? Yeah, the dude that wrote that thing! Man, they don't write like that anymore!"

The question I have is: is it in me? Am I able to perform at that level?

Honestly, I don't know. I hope so, but then again, every writer (hopeful or those that have a measure of success) all want to blow you out of your socks with something new and fresh. I'm not new there.

Recently, little snippet ideas pop into my head, I think about writing them, and then I don't. Not because the idea "sucks," but because it's not "new."

I have two goals for the new year: (1) finish MINIMAL; and (2) write something really new. But I fear that as likely #1 is to succeed, #2 is just as likely to fail--have all the ideas been already written? I sure hope not.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A new short story: They Met Over the Internet

For a while now, I had been a bit afraid to actually post this out of some baloney fear that you all might think me crazed (or some kind of pervert.) I assure you, I am neither; this is just a story that plopped into my head a bit ago. If you like it, that is awesome; and if not, that's OK too. At any rate, here's probably the only bit of erotica I've ever written. Enjoy.

"Ooh!" She sighed and immediately asked, "Will it leave a mark?"

There was a twinkle in her eyes when he held the dark leather strop to her face, forcing her to smell the rich, powerful, luxuriant fragrance that only craftsman-prepared cowhide can muster--that musky, silky, sweaty, dream-like fragrance of such masculine quality that it fills the nostrils and that the mind instinctively knows. The belt had been worn smooth from many years of touch and loving use; and through it could be seen off-center, hand-bored holes of various shape and size: some were round, others square, and a few were in the likeness of stars that a child might playfully cut from strips of construction paper. The thickness of the band held the holes to taught perfection; she liked that, and held in high appreciation the discipline of the design.

As the warm sunlight beamed through decaying window blinds behind the upheld, perforated belt, our blazing star painted zebra-stripe shadows on her tanned and willing body. She knew that for which she came would soon be tasted.

"Yes, it will." 

His voice was deep, strong, confident, powerful, and it brought forth from within her memories of a long-lost father upon which she fixated often.

She harnessed the ball-gag carefully around her head and was nearly prepared for the lingering sting; but her gnashing teeth would need to bite when the time came--a time long needed--and her cries of desire and pain would need to be quieted, and he would not begin unless she was properly outfitted: order must confine the chaos. She took her time pulling the fasteners tight; she knew he wanted this as much as she did, and the anticipation was so rank in the room it could be felt even more than the small droplets of perspiration that formed on his brow. 

When finished with the black-lacquered mouthpiece, she lowered her skirt to the floor, exposing her bare-end flesh for him to see, freeing it from the confines that the laws of man dictate.  Her perfect heart-shaped ass stood stark in the room's morning air. He could see the gleaming of her piercings from where he stood, and the diamond stud twinkled in miniature reflection of the rising sun. He could smell her scent as it permeated the room, and this pleased him. He knew as the power of her musk increased so did the desire that drove it. Never once would he give his gift to the unwilling; and most certainly she was willing, waiting, and wet.

Arching downwards to brace for the impact, she was finally ready, and nodded in the affirmative as she bit down on the rubber ball that was held tight in her teeth. The time had come, and the much desired beating began.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Writing like...

There's a post floating about the Internet on how to write like Douglas Adams, of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame. And I almost read it.

Almost.

I was about to click on the link, so as to "steal" what info I could, and then I stopped. I stopped because a little voice in my head said something to the effect of, "You don't want to write like Adams, no matter how awesome he is (and he is). You want to write like you."

I thought about that for a moment and realized that it was true: Although I love his writing, I want to be me, not a ripoff of Douglas Adams. And while I'm sure that I could have learned something neato from the article, at what cost would it be? Would I, accidentally or otherwise, emulate (in poor fashion, I'm sure) his style somehow--or work it into my writing at a subconscious level--and thereby taint what ever it is I might touch?

I'd rather not. So I stopped and didn't click the link.

Such are the things that pop into my head. Such is the horror of wanting to be me and find my own voice that I'm absolutely willing to forgo some "easy" info in the name of "being me."

I wonder if I really am crazy...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Awesome quote

Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it. -- J G Ballard

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An idea in my head. Here's the beginnings.

Below is a very early (and rough) draft for the intro to a story I'm brewing in my noggin. The story is titled "Wašin Icu," and is about a Lakota WWII veteran who returns home from a VA Hospital visit only to have a premonition of something horrible about to occur. He's not sure what's going to happen, but he knows it'll be bad.

You see, Joseph Crow, the aforementioned veteran (decorated, thank you very much) is often prescient, and he only feels this way when bad things are coming. And definitely, something bad is about to make it's way onto the reservation.

So, for your enjoyment (I hope), here's an early draft idea for the intro to "Wašin Icu."

From the rear seat of the taxi, the slowly approaching gray, dead trees in the distance looked like low-lying smoke, and the branches merely wisps of fumes that were diffused in the wind. Behind the gray wall of woods were the fir trees, green as ever--as their common name would show--and beyond those were the fields of corn that had turned color. He was nearly home.

It was harvest time, and Joseph Crow would soon be back on the Lakota reservation. Being a decorated war veteran granted him some privileges--not great, grand honors--but a ride to and from the VA hospital as needed, and that was good enough for him. Pulling up to his crushed rock driveway, Joe stepped out of the dusty yellow cab and signed papers the driver had prepared. These papers--a mere legal formality--simply allowed the taxi company to declare Joe "returned" and they could get their payment for the work done. Better than having to pay those crazy mileage fees; and Joe couldn't drive himself, at least not until his leg healed.

Joe didn't mind signing the forms; he got his ride, and really that's all that mattered. As he stood there, his right leg began to throb around the new stitches, but he'd survive. After all, he survived the Ardennes Offensive, where some shrapnel from a German grenade managed to lodge in his leg; certainly, he could survive itching that would ensue over the next few days.

As he signed the last line--much to the happiness of the taxi driver--a chill wind blew and Joe shuddered. Not entirely from the cold, but from something else. It was a feeling Joe hadn't felt since he was a young man in the infantry. Something was wrong--something bad was going to happen. He just wasn't sure what. It concerned him so much, he stopped writing mid-signature, and lifted his eyes to the horizon, over the fields of dusky, yellow, dried corn, past the farms, and to the smallest of trees miles away.

These premonitions that Joe would experience were the reason his father had originally chose him to be the village's new medicine man, but thanks to a draft notice, Joe went off to fight in Europe, but the village's needs still remained; and so, Joe's younger brother, Thomas, would end up filling the role. A role which he was never suited for--or meant to have.

The last time Joe felt like this was the day he was hit by that damn Kraut grenade. Joe was the lucky one, he was only injured--for which he received a Purple Heart--three others nearby were not so fortunate. They received the honor of a battlefield burial, and Joe was evacuated to the rear by medics.

Just as then: the same chill shudder. The same feeling of dread. Something was going to happen soon.

The taxi driver tapped the clipboard with his knuckles. "Done signing?" He was impatient and wanted to leave.

"Huh?" Joe's trance was broken. "Uh, yeah, sure. Here." Handing everything back to the driver, Joe stood still staring, wondering what was going on.

The driver left Joe standing there, alone, in his driveway, blankly scanning the horizon for what he did not know.



Friday, October 7, 2011

A damn awesome quote

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
                                                                                                          -- Steve Jobs

Even though he is gone, I still learn from him. Crazy, how life works like that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On the passing of Steve Jobs

I'm not sure exactly what to say about the passing of Steve Jobs; I'm not even sure if I should.

The Apple II computer was the first computer I ever used. Even now, all these years since, the nostalgia of the machine pulls to me in ways I cannot explain. I guess that means "he did it right," and perhaps that's the best possible compliment.

My fascination with computers began there, with that Apple II, and continues onward; and although I am not a "Mac fan boy," I see what Macs are, and what Apple was trying to do, and how they changed things forever. I get it, Steve. I really do.

Without Steve at the helm, I don't see Apple going in the direction he steered--MBAs will inevitably go for the quick buck, and they're often willing to forgo quality in their hell-bent acquisition of power and wealth. But Steve wasn't like that. No, he was driven by something more: A design philosophy. The fact that he became powerful and wealthy is just a testament to the philosophy to which he held. He saw the design as artistry, and in a way demanded to be treated like one. Usually, we use the word "visionary" to describe men such as he, but he would have rather been called "artist." It was more fitting.

Steve's gone now, and I suspect Apple will not follow the path he laid out for the company he founded. So much is the pity. But from within, Apple can easily remember the right direction, I think, by simply asking themselves: What would Steve do?

(Steve would release an iPhone 5 that's twice as powerful as the iPhone 4S, and he'd thumb his nose at the competition. Let them catch up. Let them try.)

There can be no doubt as to the long shadow he casts upon the tech landscape; and as an early giant of the early personal-computing era, his footsteps are deep and powerful. All we can do is follow them, and where those footsteps end we will pause and wonder: how did the giant manage to fly?

We (techie folks) will have to make our way forward in a Steve Jobs-less world now. It can be done, it'll suck, but it can be done. The landscapes we'll eventually see will be beyond even the imagining of the giant we once followed.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll eventually figure out how the giant managed to fly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don't write what you know

Don't Write What You Know

Use what you know, but don't rely upon it. Expand, fictionally, on it; don't use your experiences as the crutch.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

25 Writing tips

25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer

This list is great, and my favorite is not being afraid to write crap. That fear alone is what kills the desire. That unfortunate "OMG! What if they hate it?" moment is the thing that destroys from within. Write what you write, how you write it, and let the chips fall where they may.

Maybe, maybe...you're going to create something totally craptacular. Yes, that can happen; but you can also possibly be the one to craft something fresh, new, and exciting.

I would rather, as a reader, see for myself if your writing is good or ill. I would rather have the opportunity to read it.

Write.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Short story: The Coming of the Dawn of Decay

Below is a short story I wrote a while ago. I think I've been reading too much Lovecraft, but anyway, take a gander, enjoy, and do not worry--I'm not actually crazy or anything. ;)
The four Fellaheen from places unknown had been brought before him, and at the beginning of his journey they were forced to bow, solemnly, and compelled to intone great and awful praise.

But he paid them and their honorarium no heed--they were mere puppets with meaningless lives and worthless souls; and before him they would subjugate themselves ten thousand times (or more.) And each repetitious motion exclaiming his grandeur would endlessly drone to the point of stupor. The sound of such music would be utterly meaningless in his ears, yet others that heard the torments would be driven to the brink of their fragile sanity--and this pleased him, that man might be made to suffer so.

He despised these slaves, yet he needed their aid, for his feet must not be allowed to touch the ground. It is written that in his footprints are stanzas of many unholy blasphemies, and God would not allow such abomination to taint the soils from which the First Man was made.

Upon the ground the unwilling servitors would lay prostrate as he walked upon their upturned backs as one might a carpet of living fibers. Their cries of anguish were purposefully muffled by their own hands, as they did not wish to dishonor themselves or the ears of he-who-walked upon them, for to do so would mean that they would be made to excavate their own tongues: such was the penalty written in texts no longer perused by the learned few--those ancient tomes that Man was not meant to know.

Upon the last of the four he would stand, waiting, until the previous three had realigned themselves before him; and when they finished their quick move to a new position, he continued on towards the city. It was in this way, on each aching and creaking back, and with each painful and jutting footstep, he would inch forward, ever forward, toward the barred gates.

When he arrived he found that the denizens had already fled, the city had been burned, and those too weak or infirm to flee had been slaughtered by their own kin--with throats cut, skin flayed, and entrails loosed from the bonds of the body. Men and women had been hanged from rooftop and archway, all by their own hand. Each of the dead, in their own way, escaped the chaos which would come with the approach of the unholy Dawn of Decay.

Within the empty city he marched--he and his living roadway of flesh--up to the city center, and then to the steps of the royal palace that were carved in marble as white as the snows of distant mountain tops. Stepping from the broken backs he then strode upon the hand-worked stones; and where he would step, blackness was left in his wake like the scorch of a recent fire--and in the soot were seen remnants of unspeakable things shimmering; and those that dared to peruse these glyphs found their spirits in a world of fire and pain.

As he took to the throne, he turned, facing the gathered throng that followed, then sat upon the alabaster seat that men claimed was carved by angels. In doing so, the dead that lay in the courtyards rose up, and sang to him in voices from the grave.

This hideous thing in form of a man smiled, for he no longer needed to hide his true nature, and the present living witnesses boiled in their own fear at the sight of him. His eyes swirled like inky black maelstroms, and where his hands clutched the arm rests, blood of equal blackness drained down upon the perfect, white floor. The blood, like living rivers, ran outward and down the steps, across the courtyard, beyond the risen corpses, and to the hidden corners of the Earth.

And God wept as Creation was undone.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Query letters

I just finished the rough run-through on Chapter 23 of MINIMAL, and then when I was pleased (for now--as you know the editing and fixing never ends) I headed over to Absolute Write's forums and took a peeky-poo at the top/new posts. Naturally, there's a query letter posting in there.

It was a good query, if you ask me. I'm not going to relay details, as that's unimportant to what I want to actually talk about.

What I want to blog about today is the fact that all query letters are beginning to all look the same.

They start out with "The <blank descriptive> about <insert character name> is..."

Boring. Utterly boring. I would not be surprised if agents start railing against this model, asking instead for some LIFE in the intro. As soon as I see those cut-n-pasted, uninspired openings I get pretty bored. I know it's functional, it's what you need to do, but dammit! It's dull as hell.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My next "to read" book is "The Night Circus"

The Night Circus, By Erin Morgenstern, is my next novel to read. It's been getting a lot of positive praise lately--and a movie deal is in the works--and I figured, heck, if this is the current state and cream of the crop of YA novels I should be stealing from it what I can learn--right?

Right! So, I am going to begin in earnest next week. All is in readiness, and so it shall soon begin.

I hope it's good.

The next chapter

I've not been just sitting on my butt lately, I've been plotting the next chapter; and I know what's in it, and what happens...but the thing is this: I needed a chapter name. I couldn't go forward without it. (Once you read the book, you'll know why.) Well, finally, I got the name of the chapter, "Confrontation."

Simple...and it just sort of hit me. And I know that the chapter after that is called "Money."

I'm a weird guy, but all this will make a lot of sense later on, I promise. In the mean time, if you're bored...why not email all the agents you know and tell them that "There's this great unsigned manuscript called 'Memories of the Dead,' by Phillip Hall, and I think you should look at it!"

Just kidding...don't spam them--they'll kill me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wishes

If you know me, you know I'm not superstitious in the least, but today on the way to work I saw a shooting star and wished upon it... Some things don't change from youth, but the wishes might.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amazon pulls e-novel for use of Oxford comma

I don't know if this story is true, but it's interesting (and weird.)

Here's the link to the original posting (quoted below)
« on: Yesterday at 07:27:16 AM »


Allow me to blow off some steam....

Until now, I have had nothing but great service with KDP. But this morning, I got the following message:

---------------

Dear Publisher,

During a quality assurance review of your title, we have found the following issue(s):

Title has punctuation and typo issue in it. Few examples are mentioned below:

*Location 811; Unnecessary comma - "a sofa back, and"
*Location 813; Unnecessary comma - "solid-brass, boattail"
*Location 1088; an appropriate word could be used in the place the letter "J"

Please look for the same kind of errors throughout and make the necessary corrections to the title before republishing it.

-------------------

"...before republishing it"Huh?

Now, I find that my book  is listed as in "DRAFT" status on my KDP Bookshelf! This book has been published and selling very successfully since June 21.

I have to assume that these two events -- plus my inability to get sales statistics for hours -- are related. I just sent a fuming letter to KDP making the following points:

Whoever on the KDP "quality assurance" staff sent this message needs to go back to school.

I'm a professional editor and a lifelong professional writer. My book was heavily proofread by multiple individuals prior to publication. My use of commas in a series conforms to "The Chicago Manual of Style," in which the next-to-last item in a series is followed by a comma. And my use of the letter "J" was in the term "J school" -- an abbreviation for "Journalism School." It was used in dialogue and intended as slang during a conversation.

I am astonished that staff at KDP (a) are wasting time proofreading books, and (b) do not have the basic skills that such a job requires. If this staff member's incompetence has caused my book to revert to "draft" status, that individual deserves to be fired.
Ok, if this is true and serious, I have to ask: Is this Amazon's job? Because if it is, then they suck at it. There are tons of e-books I've gotten that have far worse grammatical errors in them--and yet they pick on this guy? What the heck?

Amazon: listen up, boyo: editing an e-book isn't your job, just providing space upon which to market/sell the book is your job; leave the editing/error checking to the author.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Form of trespass upon ideas?

I was just at the local Wal-Mart, perusing the books available--you never know what cool on-sale item you can pick up--and while looking though the books there, each one I picked up had a little card/flyer in it about Jesus returning soon.

Every. Single. Book.

It didn't matter what the topic or style or genre. They were all equally "spammed" in this manner.

Here's the thing: as a would-be author, I was a bit put off by this, as I didn't expect it to be there, and what's more I thought "What if this was my book? How would I feel?"

Well, I came to the opinion that this sort of spamming is a form of literary trespassing. If you want to evangelicize your beliefs, don't foist a card on someone--rather invite them. I found this form of spam troubling. Needless to say, I didn't like it.

So I took all the cards I could find quickly to the customer service agent and complained a little--I wasn't a jerk about it--but made it clear that this sort of thing was not necessarily "cool."

Were I were to have found this sort of thing in my book--a book that deals with some occult concepts (hey, it is fantasy after all)--I think I would have been relatively incensed. Even though I write fiction, still my words aren't to be diluted by someone else's ideas. Nor should my reader, nor myself, be subjected to an undue interference with something even as passive as a card talking about Jesus' potential return.

I don't know, am I overacting? You tell me...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What are the odds?

As you know, I submitted my first book a while ago to a lot of agents/agencies. The total number of submissions was 101 (like the number of dalmatians.) In hopes that you might find it interesting, here's the breakdown.
  • 101 queries sent
  • Total number of replies (any) 49
  • Total number of no reply (any) 52
  • Total percent of agents/agencies that didn't reply at all 51.4%
Seriously. Just a smidgen over 51% of agents/agencies chose the "no response = no interest" methodology. Now while I understand their reasoning, and have spoken about that very topic before, these agents/agencies need to understand something important.
Agents and agencies that responded in any fashion whatsoever will get first "dibs" on any future submissions, and agents and agencies that chose not to respond will not receive a submission in the future.
That's an important thing they're missing. See, sure, perhaps my first novel didn't grab 'em, I can dig that. Not all things are meant for everyone--we're not talking the mythological chameleon here--we're talking about a story; but what if my next book is a million seller? What if, because of their unwillingness to put forth the extremely simple effort of firing back an email that says "No, but thank you," they get nothing? Does that not mean that some other agent does receive the "glory" of the find?

Yep. That's what it means exactly.

Now, I'm not saying my next book will blow you out of the water--I have literally no way to know if that's the case--but it makes you wonder a little why agents would chance a guaranteed future failure to acquire against the ten seconds it takes to reply with a negative acceptance.

At least, I wonder about that. And I wonder about how many mistakes of this sort it takes for them to realize the error of their ways--or is it that they simply don't care?

Agents, those of you who were so kind as to reply in any manner at all, I thank you from the bottom of my stone-cold heart. I truly do. But for those that fail to take into consideration that simple act, I wish you well on your journey, but I will not be joining you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This is deeply upsetting

First go read this.

Ok, I see you're back. Coolness, let's begin.

What the flying fuck is that agent doing? Either the story is good enough to deserve representation, or it is not. The "gayness" of characters is immaterial. If it's a matter of that agent not agreeing with the gay lifestyle, that's fine, but be professional enough to be detached. If it's a matter of bigotry, that agent needs to be eliminated from the "pool" of prospective agents immediately.

Look, I have a lesbian niece, and I love her dearly, and there's no way in hell I would eliminate all the characteristics of a character just because I might sell a copy or two. This would not only offend my sensibilities, but the sensibilities of my niece--and would cause her to potentially rethink our relationship which I value a great deal.

And here's the kicker: there's more than one agent saying "change that or else."

Hey, I don't know who that agent is, but he/she can fully and royally go screw themselves. That's just plain wrong. Either the manuscript stands on its own or it does not. End of line.

Now, I'd like to quote directly from the article:

We are avoiding names because we don’t want this story to be about one agent who spoke more bluntly than others whose objections were more indirectly expressed. Naming names can make it too easy to target a lone “villain,” who can be blamed and scolded until everyone feels that the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with.

Forcing all major characters in YA novels into a straight white mold is a widespread, systemic problem which requires long-term, consistent action.

Ok, point one: No, out the dude/dudette. If they're doing this, they're in the complete WRONG and need to be scolded and re-educated. Is this not the 21st century?

Point two: That's just plain wrong. There are lots of gay youth who are being disenfranchised--apparently by agents playing these childish and stupid games--purposefully because of some fear of a gay planet. Did they never think that there's a BUILT IN AUDIENCE for well-written gay YA books? No?... Looks like they're stupid.

My suggestion to Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith would be to self-publish and use this article as free advertising. Gear toward, target, and sell to the gay YA reader. You're better off and don't have to put up with bigotry, stupidity, and nosey nobody's trying to filter/lessen the hard work you've done.