Friday, May 27, 2011

So what's correct?

I've read several "in the know" folks from across the Internet, and none of them agree, so I put it to you: what is the "proper" methodology to use to report (on page one of a manuscript) the word count of the book?

Type 1 people say "number of pages of manuscript multiplied by 250, rounded up to nearest thousand."

Type 2 people say "use what your word processor says, rounded up to the nearest thousand."

Here's the problem: word processors (MS Word 2007 among them) are wrong. Often times being off by more than 20%. This stems from the idea that the program simply doesn't know what a word is. Yes, I know...that's dumb...but that's the answer.

As a result, I'm a "Type 1" person. Sure, it's an overestimation of the actual word count (but not by much.) But still...I have to ask, and I did--which one is "correct"?

I'm sticking with Type 1--if it's good enough for Louisa Burton, it's good enough for me.

Fantasy and D&D

I think these two things go hand-in-hand for me. Being the geek that I am, a good game of D&D is close to my heart. Perhaps that game is what draws me to the genre, who can say.

Along those lines, often I shed light (here and there) on my D&D world--one I have not exposed to players (yet); and I thought it might be fun for you (if you care) to see the kinds of things that exist in this world I have made. Below, you will find the introduction of Gnoh, a Beos--which is like a minotaur, but larger, beefier, shaggier, and more bison-like. Take a look, and if you like, or don't, feel free to comment. Enjoy.

There was a blanket of thick, wet, snow on the rolling hills that ran up from the plains to the base of the great mountains. Around the rocks, and between the powerfully large fir trees, white death flowed like lava when the avalanche came weeks ago, obscuring everything and destroying all in its path. The cold had not abated yet, even this late in the year. Spring had come, but this place was too far north for the snow to recede much further, and it was not a typical winter that had just passed: strong winds, devastating cold with storms that battered man and beast alike for days on end--it was as if there was a wicked, frozen hand at play, making dismal ice its plaything, torturing the living with unending, unyielding, agony forged from frost.

But now, in the sun, those terrible nights seemed remote, though they were only weeks since past. The sun shone bright like a thousand torches; its glittering rays flooded the air, and bounced playfully off rock, snow, and tree. It was a beautiful sight, nature displaying in all its wonder, arrayed like never before. Each spring day was like the world renewed; and the sunbeams were the first witnesses of each new garment of life.

In a runway from the mountain, in a clear path where few glacial stones remained, and even fewer trees would grow, clearly standing he could be seen in the mid-day sun. He was called Gnoh--a Beos. His impressive size and bulk, nearly eight feet tall, was hunched over one of his fallen kinsmen. In fact the body was that of his sister, who had been slain only a few moments ago by things unseen and unknown.

Beos are, as some have said, like a Minotaur, but much larger, bulkier, and wooly. With impressive strength and resistance, they ignore the cold air, ice, and snow with which their native home mountains rage; yet they migrate like wild herds to green pastures in the South when winter comes, returning only when Spring compels them to head North--to where cooler winds may still blow. They are peaceful unless provoked, steadfast in friendship, yet slow to befriend; untamable in might, yet serene in nature--preferring the wilds of the land to the streets of the cities that men build.

He stood there on sandaled feet that sank deep into the snow from his massive weight. Wearing only a knitted-wool kilt of red and blue that was edged in gray, he shrugged off the freezing temperature that would slay any other beast. Powerful breaths from equally strong lungs filled the air with white mist that quickly blew away in the breeze. His deep chestnut fur ruffled in the wind, yet did not allow cold to reach his skin that remained completely hidden beneath. With one hand, he checked her body and found no life. There was blood upon her, and her eyes were open in fright, capturing the last images of what it was that slew her. With the other, he held what appeared to be the very end of a large, thick, ornately carved walking stick, the bottom of which was buried nearly two feet into the snow near where his sister lay. Yet it was no normal rod of wood, for an eerie purple glow could be seen coming from the snow where the bottom of this monstrous rod must surely rest.

But he paid the glow no heed, for he knew it well, as it had been with him for many summers. His weapon, though no source of pride, was sturdy and cruel: a maul of iron, with a great, broad head that was emblazoned with runes and enchantments. This was a fell hammer--imbued with hatred and evil; but no evil being was he, for the Beos do not see good or evil, rather they see usefulness or waste, and this hammer, called "Soulshaker," had use even if men might call it evil.

He let the handle slip from his thick, strong, fingers, and it slowly slumped to the ground, becoming fully hidden in the white, cold, wet snow beside his dead sister. Four arrows protruded from her hide. Long and slender, with black shafts of ebony and adorned with black feather fletching. This was the sign of Men--Humans had come to the range of the Beos, as they had many times in the past; but this time it appeared they had came hunting.

Gnoh bellowed in grief over his sister, "No!..."

Sinking to his knees, he reached for her with both hands, leaving his weapon where it lay, he held her close, and pawed at her face he hoped there might be a hope of life. Weeping, he caressed her cheek, and howled lowly, mournfully, and he rocked her in his arms as if she was but an injured child and he the parent. Great wells of tears could not be held back by the dams of his eyes, and water flowed down his face to his broad chest.

Animals mourn, as do all intelligent beings such as him. But for all his sadness, he could not deny nature its pull; as he held her body, it became cold as the warmth of life faded away like a distant memory. Memories of childhood running together on the open plain, wind rifling through their fur: gone. Remembrances of gathered meals, full of family and friends: lost. Days and nights around the campfire with the shaman, hearing tales of faraway places that exist not only beyond the realm of their graze-lands, but as if magical, mystical, and unreal places of escape all at the same time--stories told and heard faded into the abyss of darkness and death with her passing.

All these past days were forever gone when her spirit, like the mist from his mouth, floated away on the wind as it swept down from the treacherous peaks. With her spirit fleeing, he let loose the traditional death-wail of his kind--and it echoed through the mountain chasms, across the rolling hills, and through the trees--silenced only by the howls of the wind with which it merged and became lost.

Yet through in his despair and sorrow, he was mindful that he was exposed, and he kept guard even as the tears from his heart chilled and froze upon his chest. So it was no surprise for him when a human stepped out into the clearing perhaps only fifty yards away...

Info on my WIP & other jazz

I have to introduce a new, minor, character in my next chapter. A reporter who is, for the lack of a less insulting word...a "bitch-and-a-half." The thing is, she'll be mentioned perhaps as many as two times...then that's it. She's there to provide a bit of "oomph" and a kick in the teeth to the protagonists, and that's really the end of her. I'm not the biggest fan of a character showing up just for one scene, but it has to be done. Besides, I can always write her out--or expand the role--when I revise things later.

The most important thing, to me, is getting the first "pre-alpha" of the story on paper; many revisions will come later, of course, but in the mean time I just gotta tell the tale and let it go at that. It's how I write, which may not be your methodolgy--and that's totally ok. :)

...In other news...a few of my Twitter folks are at BEA 2011. Lucky! I hope they all are having a kick ass time. Maybe someday, if I ever become a famous novelist (yeah, right), I'll get to go too.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The magic number

I now know the "magic number" of queries (maximum) I will put out for book #1.

100.

I'm getting kind of close, and that worries me a little; but at one point I have to say, "OK, now it's time to step back and move on." I could spend years querying if I don't, and that's a bad thing. First-time novelists rarely get their first book published, so I'm in grand company.

Once the last query goes out, that's it. We move to "Plan B", and when that fails, there's "Plan Z".

Might even give the thing away for free...you never know.

But at 100, I move on and call the whole adventure of "Memories of the Dead" complete--and focus all my time on "MINIMAL", and the stories that come after. I'm ok with that. I have to be, I can't wait around forever, after all, on a manuscript that might be destined for not-so-great things.

It's evolve or die, I prefer to evolve. So, here's to 100, let's hope that before we get there an agent says the most magical word of all: yes.

I don't often link, but when I do, it's darn important.

This is Bethany's blog, and the reason I link to that specific posting is because she's dead-on the money. Assumptions can, and do, ruin everything. She said it so I don't have to. Way to to, Bethany. And thank you for doing so.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Are books dying or dead?

http://blogs.forbes.com/booked/2011/05/20/are-books-an-endangered-species/

You tell me, man...I only live here.

Motivation

I find myself being motivated to write--the question is this: what if the writing I want to do at the moment isn't the novel I'm currently working on? I know it's ok to pop back and forth between works, but I'm one of those meticulous "do it til it's done" kinda guys. Maddening. I have all these stories to tell...and I can only do one at a time.

Such is life, I suppose. At least I have something to write. And I write to get the story out of my head and for really no other reason.

I know, I'm crazy. It's ok, though, as there's medications for my particular craziness. ;)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Congratulations to Gretchen McNeil!

Gretchen just got a deal with her publisher... Her first book isn't even out yet and they're clamoring for more. Folks, we may be watching a star on the rise here. Get your ass over to her blog and give her a verbal warm hug.

Good going, my dear. Congratulations again! :)

And in case you missed it... Here's the link to pre-order her book. Go get that now. You're gonna love it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A new chapter

Having just posted the latest chapter of my story on Facebook, it occurred to me that it was, in fact, a short chapter. Around 700 words, which is pretty short.

I went looking into "how long is a chapter," and found--lo and behold--that there's no magical minimal number involved. Chapters are, as it is pointed out, as long as the scene needs to be. Theoretically, you could have a chapter of one word...which would be weird, but you could do it if it was something like "Screams."

So far, my current story (unfinished) is 31000 words deep. Still not sure how long it will be, but we'll get there. I can't see the end yet, but I know we're making pace toward it. I didn't expect this chapter to be so short--but there it is, a quickie. Hey, if it moves the story and, hooks the reader, then you're doing it right.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Frustrated

I'm feeling that my book will never be published. Agents seem to not want it. I've even become a bit depressed, almost resigned to the fact that the odds of my book being even excepted by an agent is about 10000 to one.

I need a pick-me-up. Good news for once.

Latest and greatest (?) query...

At sixteen, Locarno is a sorcerous prodigy, and he knows it. As one so gifted, he has an all-consuming desire for knowledge--including the forbidden arts, which he's certain he can handle.

When a secret society starts murdering the learned and elite, Locarno turns to those forbidden arts for the power to destroy his nation's enemies. He uses a forbidden ritual that grants him immense power but it requires that he sever his soul from his body.

Resurrected as the Lord of the Dead, he becomes his people's hope and protector. But a man's soul does not want to remain separated. Ultimately, Locarno will either reclaim his soul and lose the power to defend his people, or he will lose what humanity he has left.


Whatchathink?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Newest Query idea (again!)

Locarno is a sorcerous prodigy, and he knows it. As one so gifted, he has an all-consuming desire for knowledge--including the forbidden arts, which he's certain he can handle. When a secret society wishes to destroy civilization, he alone can intervene. To defeat them, Locarno uses a forbidden ritual that grants him immense power. But there is a cost: the loss of his soul. And he must remain strong enough to keep his soul from reuniting with his body, for if that happens, his new-found power will fade, and all is lost.

Rising from the grave as a king of death, he fights this depraved group, struggles against his soul's desire to reunite with his body, and becomes mankind's hope and protector. Forging headlong into battle against an ancient power, using his immense skill, driven onward by the power of his godlike will, he smashes down their plot of destruction and becomes Lord of the Dead.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Example of QLH "fun"

Here's my current query:

Dear <--whomever it's aimed at-->:

Locarno didn't want to do anything other than study sorcery. Neither did he want to take the role of mankind's savior; but, unwillingly, he became our only hope against Dies Irae. Dies Irae, a secret society, wants to destroy civilization--if they can reduce man to a state of barbarism they believe God will destroy the world. By undertaking a magical ritual that will enhance his power, Locarno can defeat Dies Irae. However the process is flawed: it'll cost him his soul, and his soul wants to be reunited with his body. Should body and soul reunite, all his power will be lost and Dies Irae cannot be stopped.

MEMORIES OF THE DEAD, a young adult/fantasy novel, is complete at 72,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

<blah, diddy-blah-blah>


And here's what they pared it down to:

Sixteen-year-old Locarno always wanted to study sorcery with his grandfather. Taking on the role of mankind's savior never entered his mind. But when a secret society, working to reduce mankind to a state of barbarism, threatens to destroy the world, Locarno searches for a way to defeat them.

Locarno discovers a magic ritual that will enhance his power. But the process is flawed and will cost him his soul.

Now he must learn if he is strong enough to keep his soul from reuniting with his body. If that happens, his new-found powers will be lost. If it doesn't, he will join the ranks of the undead as their new leader.

A terrible choice for a sixteen-year-old...give up his soul to save the world, or save himself and watch mankind be destroyed.


Doesn't sound like I wrote the second one, does it? You know why? Because I didn't write it. More proof of that which I said earlier: no two authors can share voice.


Their advice comes down to this: talk about (only, it seems) the main character, and refer to the "bad guy" only in passing.

Ugh.

Queries suck and no two authors can share voice

By its very definition, two authors cannot share the same "voice." As a result, I sort of cringe when another aspiring writer tells me that their re-wording of a sample sentence of mine shows more voice. It's simply not possible. That's like saying "My eggnog tastes better than yours," when I don't even have eggnog.

All that leads up to this: I believe, at a very fundamental level, the whole query an agent process is flawed beyond repair. You can have a thousand hands craft what they all agree is a stellar query letter, and it can (and will) fail--fall flat--and go nowhere because of "too many cooks spoil the soup," and the simple fact that each agent is completely different. As a result of the agent's differences, one query aimed at Agent #1 might look awesome, but the same query sent to Agent #2 that agent might think it to be trite, stupid, long winded, boring, and stuffy--causing them to pass. And if Agent #1 isn't interested either, for whatever reason, all you managed to do was craft a carefully worded query that nobody likes except those that wrote it.

This is why, I believe, that TOR/Forge doesn't do the "query shuffle," as I call it, and simply asks you to send the first 50 pages of your manuscript. I think, at one point, they "got it," and decided to side-step the craziness in favor of becoming the world's largest publisher of science fiction. Their success cannot be denied.

If you've seen my previous query, you know it was a bit long winded (about 200 words), and after hitting up AbsoluteWrite, they (those who desired to help) pared it down to the following:

Dear <--whomever it's aimed at-->:

Sixteen-year-old Locarno just wants to study magic with his grandfather.

But he will become much more than a mere sorcerer when a secret society decides the time has come to destroy mankind.

Disobeying his grandfather, Locarno finds a magical ritual in a book of sorcery that promises to enhance his occult powers and grant him eternal life. With it, he'll be able to save all that he loves.

Only one problem...it will cost him his soul.

MEMORIES OF THE DEAD, a young adult/fantasy novel, is complete at 72,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

They're trying to convince me that this, somehow, has more "voice" than what I use; which violates the rule that two authors cannot share the same voice. "Voice," just so you know, is the style in which a writer produces his work--the way it reads, flows, the dialect, cadence of words, all that is his "voice." "Mood" is a separate thing entirely, and is independent of voice. Two people, who did not share identical lives and learning, cannot share voice: this is axiom. So, when someone tells you they wrote (or re-wrote) your proposal and it shows more "voice" than yours...they're full of shit.

Not. Possible. Ever.

At one point, you can ask for help, but their help often will just muddy the waters further. Being brief is one thing (just look at the query they have written), but what does it tell you about the story? There's a kid, he's studying to be a sorcerer, and there's this secret society that wants to destroy the world; and he has to save everyone--at the cost of his soul.

At first glance, yes, this is a thirty-second synopsis of the story. Anything more? Not really. There's nothing there, and what is there certainly isn't my voice. It's their voice. And their voice is wrong, I had to pare out a sentence that wasn't even correct about the character. (I can't blame them, they haven't read the story and know only some bare facts about it.)

Then the AW folks even go so far as to say "if you can't write a good query, your manuscript or story is lacking."

Bullshit. If you read my story, it makes sense. Not one person who has actually took the time to read it had any issues other than easily corrected and overlooked grammatical errors. The story works.

Therefore, it is simply that queries are bullshit. The best one can do is write one good query, one you write, not someone else, and hope it displays power, strength, and your voice...all of which will cause the agent to say "Hey, I think I can sell this."

That's the key.

I'll use their stripped naked query for five agents/agencies. This will be the test. I predict failure equal to that of my previous attempts. And in the end, I believe, I will have only proven what I've just written: two (or more) authors cannot share voice.

Newest query idea

What do you think of this one? I call it Revision 8.

Dear <--whomever it's aimed at-->:

Locarno didn't want to do anything other than study sorcery. Neither did he want to take the role of mankind's savior; but, unwillingly, he became our only hope against Dies Irae. Dies Irae, a secret society, wants to destroy civilization--if they can reduce man to a state of barbarism they believe God will destroy the world. By undertaking a magical ritual that will enhance his power, Locarno can defeat Dies Irae. However the process is flawed: it'll cost him his soul, and his soul wants to be reunited with his body. Should body and soul reunite, all his power will be lost and Dies Irae cannot be stopped.

MEMORIES OF THE DEAD, a young adult/fantasy novel, is complete at 72,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

<blah, diddy-blah-blah>

Monday, May 9, 2011

Konrath interview with Morrell (oldie but a goodie)

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ in general is a damn good blog about self-publishing; but the link I just posted is an interview with David Morrell (seeing a pattern for today?) who talks about his Kindle exclusive novel, why he went there when there were publishers clamoring for it, and what he thinks of the whole "legacy publishing" (i.e.: paper publishing houses) business.

Read that. Hell, read everything Konrath says, then let it sink in. He makes POWERFUL arguments for e-publishing being the way to go and that just as sure that the dinosaurs petered out and went extinct, so too shall publishing houses--even the Big 6.

Do I agree? Yes and no. It depends on a lot of variables that are still up in the air, but regardless--you simply cannot poo-poo his opinion away when his thoughts are well researched, cogent, and probably the direction things will eventually go.

David Morell

This may be no news to you all, but David Morrell has a really fine book out that talks specifically about why he's a writer, how he got there, the toil he had to endure--along with the sidetracking of being a professor--and what new (and established) writers are to expect from the whole messy process. I HIGHLY recommend you read it, if for no other reason than to get a glimpse into the mind and inner workings of a writer who is not only highly acclaimed and successful, but is also a great storyteller. Here's the link to buy it or just to check it out. This one, you want to read.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chapter 14

I just finished, after a hiatus, the newest chapter of my current story. I'm still on track, and this marks 31000 words. Not bad. Not bad at all. Still this is all "pre-Alpha" state stuff, so there will be countless revisions yet to go, but the most important thing is to get the tale told--then go back and fix the fluffy stuff.

Ah, grammar, my old nemesis, we shall meet again! :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

A "beta" reader!

So...get this... I have a very charming woman acting as a "beta" reader for my book. Very cool. She's open, honest, intelligent, and doing me a BIG, AWESOME FAVOR by doing this! :) So, I'm taking this little time out to thank Bethany for doing what it is that she's doing.

Thanks, Bethany! :)

Plus, she's giving good feedback and asking important questions. Yay!

I know, later on, she'll hit me with the hard stuff, but for now--it's going pretty well, if you ask me.