Friday, July 22, 2005

I am a Writing God!!!

I am a very happy man today!

Not only am I heading for a week of camping tomorrow . . . but "Fish" is DONE!!

Oh yea! I plowed through yesterday and finished it out (I wanted it done before I left). It rounded out at a very nice 115,000 words. This is only the 1st draft of course and it will be longer after edits (I know, it's supposed to get shorter but mine never do!) I can now go camping without anything nagging at my brain. I'll put "Fish" in a drawer for a few months to stew and I'll move onto my "Clans" edits and start my next novel when I get return next week. (After dealing with the several hundred emergencies that will be waiting for me of course!) That makes the third (yea, baby!) completed novel I've done this year. That is a personal best for me and I hope (with a bit of luck!) to have number four under my belt before the end of '05!

It is so nice to actually finish novels instead of half-writing ten or twenty of them. It is very satisfying to know I can actually produce product for this industry on a reliable basis. (Now, if it's good product or not is another story . . .) For years I struggled with not being able to complete my books. In the last fifteen years I had -by my count- written one (1) complete novel (it sucked!), fifteen short stories (only one of which was published) and started (in some form or another) fourteen novels that I just dropped. Not a very impressive record is it?

So what changed? How did I get to the point where I'm writing every day and knocking out three novels (cumulative 400,000+ words)? A couple of things actually:

1. NaNoWriMo - I did it last year and found that ignoring outlines and plotting worked much better for me. I learned that I do much better if I let the story surprise me. I also learned that I can write every day if I really want to.

2. Holly Lisle and PBW - both these sites are very inspiring for a wannabe like me. They give invaluable advice and (more importantly) both these succesful pro's give you the honest details of what it takes to become a published author, with no bullshit or sugar coating. It ain't always pretty but they both give you the reality of what you're facing.

3. My part time job. (Didn't know I had one did ya?) I came to the realization that if I wanted to be a professional writer I actually had to treat my writing like a job. I've had part-time & second jobs all my life and I know how to push past burn out & exhaustion from the full time job to get the work done at #2 (Hey, when you've got a mortgage . . .) By treating writing as an actual job I have to: A) Show up for work and, B) Get the job done. Every day. Just like I would for any other job. Sounds stupid? Believe me, it's made all the difference.

4. This Blog. Having people following what I'm doing gives me a little extra incentive. You folks give me someone to be answerable to. I don't want to disappoint, or have you think I'm lazy! (Alright, we all know I am lazy but you get the point . . .)

The big surprise of all these things put together and all the long hours of work I've done is this: I love doing it. I've never said that about any other job in my life. Ever. If I can get to a point where this is how I make my living, I will be one very happy man indeed.

So, I will be away all next week and I won't be posting anything new until at least Aug. 1st. With that in mind, I decided to post something I'd written to keep you entertained while I'm away! (Don't you feel lucky?) It's really just a strange little scene that popped into my mind one day and I punched out in about five minutes but I kinda like it. Comments on the piece are welcome! Usual copyright/reproduction restrictions and all that good stuff apply here of course. Enjoye, and I'll see you on the 1st!


No one ever invited Edgar Perks to lunch. He wasn’t quite sure why, but they never did. He’d sit in his cubicle all day, punching away at his keyboard, entering the latest accidental death statistics for the insurance charter matrix, and he’d smile and talk to his co-workers as they went by. They all smiled back and seemed friendly enough. He didn’t think they disliked him, not like they did Jenkins over in H.R. –Jenkins was an arrogant prick that rubbed everybody the wrong way- but the fact remained: no one ever asked Edgar to go to lunch. Groups of folks on their way out to pick up Burger King or heading for a sit down at the little Italian place on the corner would pass by his cubicle and they’d all nod, smile, maybe even say hi, but not one of them ever thought to say “Hey, Ed, wanna go for lunch?”

He’d sit there, waiting for someone –anyone- to ask him to go along, or even just to ask if he wanted something when they were ordering out, but they never did. Sometimes, he would sit there through his entire lunch hour, hoping one of his co-workers would notice him sitting there, looking forlorn and hungry, but nope, not even once. The oversight was so universal that Edgar had to assume there was something about himself that made the other folks at Unified Health Statistics ignore him every day at noon. He’d started searching for problems he might have, even made a list! Bad Breath? He started rinsing with Listerine three times a day and always popped a breath mint before he spoke to anyone. B.O.? He showered twice a day and always wore clean clothes. Dandruff, bad teeth, bad haircut? No, no, and no… he’d seen professionals about all those and he was sure that couldn’t be it. He’d even hired a professional shopper to buy clothes for him, thinking maybe it was that he was dressing like a dork and didn’t realize it. Even that hadn’t helped, and it had cost him a pretty penny! Professional shoppers were not easy to afford on the salary of a data entry clerk. Edgar had done everything he could conceive of to make himself palatable to his fellows, to correct any social or personal faux-pas that forced them to shun him during the all important lunch hour.

Still, he sat there alone, day in and day out, waiting until all his co-workers had gone to lunch before shuffling out of his cubicle and into the elevator for the eleven floor ride down to street level to go and find his own repast. He invariably ended up sitting alone at one of those horribly small two person tables at the fast food restaurant du jour he visited. He thought there were fewer things more depressing than sitting alone in a fast food restaurant. By definition, they were places for people who were in a hurry, people who had busy lives and relationships and couldn’t take the time for real meals. Edgar sat there, staring morosely at the crowds of young mothers with their squealing children and the groups of teenagers who were most likely ducking out of classes, and the occasional party of business people in suits who wolfed their food while discussing important meetings and mergers before rushing back into their frenzied lives.

Edgar sat there alone, slowly eating his food, sipping calmly at his fountain soda –which, in your better dives, came with free refills-, and watching the Lunch People, as he liked to call them, rushing through their meals. He was in no hurry. He had his whole lunch hour to kill and he had to fill the time by eating slowly because he had no one to talk to. He envied the Lunch People who could sit there and wolf down their food, then sit back and kill time, sipping the flat soda from their wax covered paper cups and chit chat with each other for the rest of their hour. Sometimes, when people sat close enough to him, Edgar would pretend to be part of their conversations, whispering answers to their questions in his mind and making friendly comments on their lives under his breath.

“I’m sure your mother will be just fine,” he’d whisper or: “Did her husband know she was cheating on him?”

He’d listen carefully for their answers, surprised at how often their companions would ask the same questions or make the same comments he did. He wasn’t socially inept; he knew how to participate in a conversation! So why then was he sitting there alone, day after day, getting his only non-work related human contact by eaves dropping on stranger’s conversations? The truth was, he just didn’t know. He didn’t know, but there was no escaping the single, dominant truth of his sad little life:

No one ever invited Edgar Perks to lunch.

Copyright by JA Coppinger, 2005

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's Done

It's over now.

My boy's cat had to be put to sleep last night. The vet said that all we could do was extend her pain and that if it was his cat, he'd put her down. We had already discussed it as a family and we agreed but it was really rough. My son did as he'd said he would: held her on his lap until the last and told her he loved her and to have sweet dreams as she died.

He cried.
My wife cried.
I cried. (wanna make somethin' of it?)

Hell, even the vet cried watching how much pain the boy was in and how bravely he handled it for his friends sake. After, the vet pulled me aside to tell me what a great kid he is. (like I didn't already know!) That was really kind of him to say though. The boy held it together really well until it was all over and we were back in the car driving home, then it hit him she wasn't coming back and he crumbled. When he caved, the wife caved. It was a very difficult ride home. They both loved the cat a lot and they both were very tough. I'm proud of them both.

No writing last night (busy being Mr. Wet-Shoulder) or today (busy with final details of the upcoming camping trip). I still have a ton of crap left to do and shop for (yay. I so love shopping . . .not!)

My son (like everyone else in the known universe!) is currently reading "The Half-Blood Prince". The book was delivered Saturday night and (despite the insanity of the last few days) he had only 60 or so pages left to go as of bedtime last night. I imagine he'll be done with it by the time I pick him up tonight. Not too shabby for a kid his age, eh? The boy is a reading machine. Can't imagine where he gets it . . . Not only does it please me that he reads so well, it pleases me that I get the damn book next! Hey, if you haven't read the "Harry Potter" books, you're missing one hell of a fun read!

Ah well, time is tight - gotta run.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Quick Update

If there is a harder thing on the planet than watching your child's heart break, I don't know what it is.

Hell, I wouldn't want to know!

We had the "conversation" with the boy last night, explaining to him that his cat is really sick and that nothing the doctor does is going to make her better. We explained that there are options for treatment that might extend her life but that they wouldn't make her feel any better than she does now and even at that she'd be unlikely to live more than another year. His face just crumpled in front of me and I felt like the worst person on the planet, but what else could I do? We talked it over for hours (with many a break for tears and hugs) and he understood. He impressed the hell out of me actually. He was hurting but he faced it squarely. He said that if it comes to putting her down, he wants to be there and hold her in his lap as she goes so she knows she's loved. (Crap, I'm starting to tear up as I write this!) That takes a lot of courage for an 11 year old. I'm prouder of him than I can say.

Tonight, we're taking her to the vet to discuss all the options with him. If he can't give us any reasonable hope for the cat, she won't be coming home with us. We'll ask him to put her to sleep right there so she doesn't suffer anymore. She's been a really good friend to my son and she should go with some dignity, not wheezing out her last breath on the kitchen floor while we're all off at work and school. I think it's the right thing to do . . . but, oh man! My wife and son are going to take it real hard. Just talking about it floored both of them last night. I can't imagine what the real thing will do.

I'm worried about my wife, too. She's never had to face death in any real way before. She's 40 years old and she's never lost anyone close to her (human or pet). This is really the first family member she's going to lose. Oh, she was around when my dad passed, but that was my family (who we weren't too close with at the time) and she was more hurt by my pain than by his death. (if that makes any sense) She was up most of the night with the cat in her lap, crying. I had to do most of the talking with my son yesterday becasue she started to cry every time she talked about it. She'll be alright -she's a tough lady- but I kind of had a smile at her expense last night. She was upset about being helpless, about being stuck just standing on the sideline watching someone she loves dying and not being able to do anything about it.

"Welcome to my life," I said.

For those of you new hereabouts or who don't recall: my wife fought through breast cancer twice and I watched my father die of cancer while she was undergoing treatment. I know all about helplessness and fear. I've been on both ends of the stick: as victim and as spectator in the life/death struggle and I gotta tell you - I'll take victim any day. At least there I can fight, I have some semblance (even if only imagined) of control over what's happening, or at least how I respond to it. When you're watching someone you love fade . . . there is nothing worse in all the world.

Anyway, enough of the depressing.

I got another 1800 words into "Fish" at lunch today. I'm almost done with it now; one or two more decent days and I'll be ready to set it aside to marinate for a bit before loosing the red pens of hell upon it. I don't see anything more being done tonight.

Before I sign off, I want to say thanks to the folks who left comments (and those of you who didn't but just sent a good thought our way) about my boy and the cat. You're ideas are fantastic and your support very much appreciated.

Thank you.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Sad Monday

Another lovely goddam Monday! Why does all the unpleasant shit in life happen on Monday?

So, one of our cats (the female) was not feeling well last week so we took her to the vet. The wife noticed she hadn't been eating and she was listless and meowing a lot. The vet ran some tests, took some blood work, etc. and told us she had a kidney infection and was constipated. No big thing, we got some medicine for her and thought everything would be good. Well, we got the call this morning from the vet: the cat has CRF (Complete Renal Failure) to a highly advanced degree. She's also old (16 years) and not in great health to begin with. We have some treatment options but the vet wants to meet with us tomorrow to discuss what they are. The wife is taking this hard, but she's not the problem. My boy is a already a wreck and he doesn't know the whole story yet.

This is HIS cat. This is the one who sleeps with him every night and follows him everywhere he goes in the house. If he sits, she sits. If he moves, she moves. When he watches TV or plays his video games, she' always curled up right in his lap as he does. My boy loves this cat immensely. He's an only child and she's his closest companion. Just the act of taking her to the vet and being sick was enough to set him crying. We have to sit him down tonight and let him know that she's really very sick, with an incurable disease, and we might have to put her to sleep if the treatment options aren't reasonable, or if she doesn't have a good chance of showing major improvement from them.

This fucking sucks.

It's going to be hard for me because I'm not really fond of the cats. The boy knows I don't care for them very much and I'm worried that if the answer is to put her down, he's going to think it's because I don't like cats. (I don't, but neither do I want the poor creature to be sick or die!) Any way it goes, it's gonna be ugly. My son is going to be devastated and that thought puts tears in my eyes. It's going to be a bad night around our house.

Fucking Monday!

Well, at least I got a good bit of writing done today. 4,200 words on the finale of "Fish", all of which I'm pretty happy with. I also did more on the long sysopsis for GS over the weekend. I got through about 3/4 of the story and it reads pretty well. I was gonna do more tonight but (obviously!) that ain't happening! This whole week is gonna be insane. The boy and I are heading for a full week of camping with the Scouts and we have a ton of crap to get ready. Throw the problems with his cat on top of that and mix in the regular insanity of my life and I doubt I'll have time to breathe. I'll try to keep posting but it may not happen. If you don't hear from me this week, please keep a good thought for the cat.

And for my son.


Friday, July 15, 2005

I'm Surrounded!

Friday afternoon and I am SOOO ready for the weekend! This week just kicked my ass (and with an ass the size of mine, that is not an easy thing to do!) I don't think I've stopped running for a moment. I have driven over 700 miles, taught six seminars for a combined total of 33 hours of teaching time plus the nightly writing routine. I'm whooped.

Made a 1500 word dent into the closing chapter (the real one this time) of "Fish" last night and started in on my full blown synopsis of GS. Turns out that I (idiot that I am) was confused about what constitutes a synopsis vs. a query with a short synopsis. So now I am working on the full blown synopsis and it is actually going smoother thatn the query did. For starters, it's a good bit longer (from what I've read: 1 page per 25 pages of novel is good) so I can put more of the voice of the novel into it and cover the key points in better detail. As anyone who has ever read my work can tell you: more words is better where I'm concerned!

Know what my favorite movie quote of all time is? Jeremy Irons in "The Lion King":

"I'm surrounded by idiots!" (play the .wav! It's all in the voice!)

Today, I had an engineer who wanted to scrap three weeks of work put into preparing a planning board presentation over the 3D rendering of his site. When I asked him what the problem was he said that the rendering was wrong because there is an existing tree in the scene that should be shown. I (fool that I am!) looked at the rendering and made the obvious statement . . .

"Uh, dude, there is a tree there."
"Yes, but it's not the right tree!"
"The existing tree is a Willow, that looks like an Oak!"

Sometimes I want to cry.

The weekend will be another busy one. I'm to hit the DMV for license renewal (BIG fun!), mow the lawn, visit my brother-in-law to install some software for him, take the boy to another b-day party, do all the shopping for next week's camping trip, take the boy shopping for the rest of the clothes we both need, work more on the re-design of our kitchen and basement, and -of course- spend much quality time with the wife because the boy and I leave for a full week next Saturday. Man, I really hope this sort of craziness ease up once I become a full time professional writer. (Oh, and if you are one, please don't dis-illusion me right now - my fragile psyche needs to believe that right now!)

I'm outta here. Talk to y'all on the next evil day that begins each week.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Planning and Parties

Another fun day at the grind and another day of not enough writing time. (Yea, I know I'm spending some of it here intead of on the novel but this blog helps keep me focused on getting the work done. I can't disappoint you -my loyal fans- now can I?) I'm also up to my eyeballs in planning the Summer Camp for my Scout troop this year. The amount of organization, paperwork, and planning for something like this is horrifying. (Don't believe me? YOU try planning a full week of 14 hour days for 45 people -all doing different things- and come talk to me!) Even so, I'm looking forward to the trip. An entire week in the quiet woods on a huge lake with nothing to do other than play frisebee with the boys and make sure they get where their supposed to be for their merit badges? Yea, I can live with that!

I did alright at the writing last night, got about 2k done on "Fish" and concluded the little pre-ending scene very nicely. I hadn't planned on it but I like it. It breaks up the suddeness of the ending and sets (I think) the right dramatic tempo as my two MC's move into the final scene of the book.Problem is of course, I have no idea how that's going to play out. Oh, I know how it ends but how I'm getting them there . . . not a clue.

My wife is a little annoyed right now (for once: not at me!) The boy has been invited to three birthday parties in the last three weeks, which is a good thing, but she's a bit annoyed about how they've been scheduled. See, this here is a two-income household. The wife & I both work full time to maintain our place in the food chain (which I figure at somewhere just above corn . . .) but the mothers of the birthday boys do not. They all scheduled their party to start at 4:00p.m. on a Friday afternoon. They are all pizza & a movie type parties so I can understand they want to get to the last matinee show but it's a little rough on those of us who work for a living! The wife gets very annoyed by things like this. I think she feels like a bad mom because she can't stay home and do the same for her boy. She shouldn't though. she's a great mom and the boy's well adjusted, happy, and only needs to be beaten three or four times a day! What more can one ask for, eh?

You know what? I'm gonna go tell her that!


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Welcome Surprise

Had the workday from hell today but I had a very pleasant surprise waiting for me when I got home. PBW had sent me her novel "Home for the Holidays" (as Rebecca Kelly) as well as a surprise copy of "Abigail's Story" (as Ann Burton). She personalized both novels and also took the time to send me a note of encouragement on my writing. I was touched. The lady is a class act! Thanks, PBW!

Damn, it just occured to me that between PBW & Holly Lisle and their support: I'm going to look like a completely ungrateful ass if I fail at becoming a pro! (No pressure, dude! No pressure . . . just breathe!)

Much craziness at Boy Scouts last night. We had two boys who were not getting along, either in Scouts or at school, etc. so they (being 11 year olds) resorted to name calling and insulting each other in front of mutual friends. Pretty typical stuff, right? Well, it would have been had the parents not gotten involved! The two fathers wound up in a screaming match and threatening to sue each other if their respective child didn't back off.


What ever happened to letting kids deal with their own problems? When did our children become helpless animatrons who need daddy and his attorney to deal with a bully? Luckily, the other adult leaders in Scouts are solid, rational, guys. They sat the two kids down and had them talk through the problem in about three minutes and they walked off smiling and laughing together. The fathers of course, needed more work. We had to take them to a separate room and spend an hour getting them to calm down. Crap like that truly scares me.

Needless to say, I got back late from that and got no writing done last night. Today I was on the road (and caught in a traffic jam for over a full hour - no lie: I did not move the vehicle for over one full hour! Let's hear it for the Garden State!) so I didn't have a chance to get anything done over lunch either. I'm off to see if I can get into the actual ending of "Fish" or if the damn thing plans on taking down a few more side roads before it lets me wrap up and move on. Well, that's the joy of what we do I guess: never knowing what comes next!


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Of Pools and Yuppies

Not too bad on the writing last night - I got in about 1500 words of "Fish". The damn thing took an unexpected detour on me last night. I thought I was writing the big dramatic climax but it turns out it was just an intro scene to it, a false ending if you will. Surprised the hell out of me. The MC's think they won and that the BigBad is all gone. How silly of them! (Obviously, they don't know how truly evil we writers can be!)

I would have done a good bit more writing last night but the wife dragged me out to run some errands with her. (What is it with women? Why do they need companionship for the simplest errands?) After we got home, she and the boy dragged me out into the pool (under protest!) for a night swim before they'd let me get to the writing. I bitched and whined the entire way into the pool but we had a great time. The boy and I had much fun attacking (read: splashing) the wife from cover of darkness. (Heh heh! Cut into my writing time will you?) Consequently, I didn't even start writing until after 10:00 last night but I refused to go to bed until I'd finished out the scene, so it was all good.

I have a lunch seminar today, so no writing to be done then and tonight is Boy Scouts so I doubt anything will get done tonight either. I'm still procrastinating on getting the agent queries out. I have to pick up the new printer before I can do that and I'm also re-thinking my synopsis (yet again!) I don't know if any of this is really necessary, or if I'm still just frightened by the thought of actually putting my work out there to be judged. It's inevitable, I know, and I don't think that's what I'm doing but I wonder . . .

I was watching the news about Hurricane Dennis last night and I have to say I have a pretty cold streak in me. I saw all these home owners who were devastated by the loss of their multi-million dollar -insured out the ass- estates on the beach and I felt absolutely no sympathy for them. Listen folks, if it's that big a problem for you: move the fuck off the beach! Don't come crying to me (or asking for my tax dollars!) to restore your Yuppie Palace. The only people I'm interested in helping are the poor bastards living in trailer parks thirty miles inland who lost everything they own to that storm. Give them whatever they need to rebuild; I'm cool with that. Give Biff and Muffy a few mill so they can resurrect the summer beach house for the fifth time in as many years? I don't think so. Move inland if you can't take it. If you want to own these mansion so you can brag to your friends about your beach house, pay the ridiculous insurance premiums and don't come begging the government for aid when nature rips them down. Deal with it and shut the hell up.

Okay, so maybe rich folks get on my nerves a little bit. Comes from a lifetime of being dirt-ass poor I guess. I've got quite the little chip on my shoulder, no?

Ah well, gotta run. Busy-busy-busy day!!!


Monday, July 11, 2005

Monday Bites

G'day, all!

Pretty quick post today because Monday has (as usual!) sunk it's large and poisonous canines into the tender flesh of my sensitive backside. Y'know, I am sure that at one point there was an angel up in heaven who went to God with the concept of Monday and said: "Gee, Lord, I have this great idea . . ." I hope the bewinged bastard was one of those who took the Great Fall. The thought of him lost forever in a lake of burning pitch is a great comfort to me.

The writing was sparse this weekend (only 600 or so words) and I'm beginning to think life is seriously conspiring against me! Every time I turn around lately, some damn emergency is pulling me off the writing and it's making me nuts. It's also causing me grief with the wife because I'm (trying to) steal back writing time by clipping out some of the household duties I'm supposed to handle (Gee, can't imagine why that bugs her . . .). This weekend was an exploding hose on the pool, followed by an unexpected shopping trip my wife dragged me on in the afternoon, followed by a three hour argument over home renovations, followed by unexpected guests, etc., etc., etc. . . .

I really want to get the first draft of "Fish" done this week and start on the edits for "Clans". I also would like to start on the new novel, but I just don't think I'm going to have time between work, scouts, and our summer schedule.

I have a doctor's appointment today to get a physical so I can go to summer camp with my Boy Scout troop. I hate doctors. I am convinced that they are the leading cause of death in this world. (Hey, estimates say that nearly 95% of all deaths occur among people who have been seeing doctors - you can't argue with numbers!) I go when I have no other choice and I always confound them. They always want to give me the "you need to drop some weight" lecture but the tests always shut them up. My blood pressure is low, my cholesterol is low, my heart functions are damn near perfect and I'm generally healthy as a horse. They always give me the "lose the weight" lecture straight off, then scratch their heads and mumble under their breath when they get the results back. Quacks. (Oh, okay - so I DO need to lose some weight, but it's funnier this way . . .)

That's it for now. Gotta get back to the joy of Monday . . .


Friday, July 08, 2005

My Evil Plan of Luckiness!

I think I've come across a great new way to get myself books for reading without having to pay for them or visit the library: just keep entering contests on the web sites of writers I enjoy!

I saw today that I was one of the winners of Paperback Writer's (aka . . . well, you pick it and she's written under it!) "Take PBW's Books, Please" contest. I was selected to receive a copy of "Home for the Holidays" (written as Rebecca Kelly) for an inspirational quote I submitted. Thanks, PBW! BTW: if any of you folks have never been to this site, stop in immediately! It's one of the finest writing sites on the WWW.

Couple that with the ARC copy of "Talyn" I got from Holly Lisle and I'm well on my way to a wealth of freebie books from wonderful novelists! WOOHOO! I'm feeling good about myself right now - that's two back to back wins for me, and quite frankly: I'm the kind of guy who couldn't win a $1.00 lottery if I bought a million tickets. Maybe some of that luck will hang about for the agent submitals, eh?

It's Friday, which is always good. I got out of work early and I just dropped the boy off at his best friend's for a birthday party. They're going to see Fantastic Four and the boy is very excited. He's become quite the comics geek over the last few months, since I broke out my old (extensive) collection of Marveldom and let him have at it.

Got to bed late last night - the wife and I had a very long conversation about . . . well, everything I guess. Mainly, we were talking about the fact that we don't talk as much any more (yea, I know it sounds dumb . . .) and why. It was actually very nice. The last few years we've been so busy we've started to drop out of touch with each other. Last night it was great to just sit back and talk and enjoy being alone together for a bit. After fifteen years together (longer if you count dating!) it can become way too easy to ignore the person across the table and forget why you've been together for so long. It's nice to know that we both still actually like each other. Oh, we both know we love each other but liking someone . . . that's a lot harder to do. It makes me happier than I can tell you to know we both think the other is still pretty cool to hang with.

As usual, I'll be offline over the weekend. I will be working on home renovations, writing, and some minor yard work (pending the weather of course). With any luck, I'll get remarkable amounts of writing done and have wonderful news for you all when I return on That-Day-Whose-Name-We-Do-Not-Mention.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Toilet Paper Ambitions

I hit the bookstore tonight and picked up my "2005 Guide to Literary Agents" (and a few readin' books of course!) and now I am completely depressed. For starters: it seems my query letter is completely wrong. Well, not completely, but I do still have to go through another rewrite because I failed to include a "hook" in my first paragraph and it recommends more of a story outline than I had included. (Sigh). Second, I'm surprised how few agents are working with fantasy writers now, and of the few who are it seems almost 1/2 of them are only accepting clients on referral. That sucks for someone like me. I know no published authors, have neither the time (nor money!) to attend writer's conferences or the other networking opportunities suggested in this book. In short, it looks like I'll be taking the hard road into publishing. Ah well, I'll do as I must. Maybe -just maybe- my writing is nearly as good as I think it is and an agent will say: "Damn! This is the guy I've been looking for my whole career!" (Yup, and right after that I hit the lottery and my wife decides she actually IS a nymphomaniac bi-sexual with a fetish for bald fat guys like me . . .)

In the meantime, I keep writing. I got in another 1,000 or so words today on "Fish". The ending is going slowly because I want it to be dramatic but the scene seems to be moving much quicker than I imagined it. There's very little in the way of tension but a whole lot of action pulling me straight through to the finale. I'm just going with it. I have to keep reminding myself I can fix it in the edits if it sucks.

I've finally decided what I'm going to start writing next and (naturally!) it's not one of the novels I've been considering. I've had this bizarre dark urban fantasy that's been playing in the back of my head for the last two months and I figure: what the hell? The other fantasy novels I have in progress seem a little too generic right now. They don't have enough originality in them to run with. Oh, don't get me wrong: they all have good potential but they really need some major twist to give them "OOMPH". The other horror/literary book I have going I don't want to jump into right after "Fish". I'm going to need some space so I don't confuse the voices of the two books. I'm also gearing up to start my edits on "Clans" but not until I've gotten the agent queries finished and out the door. I have too damn much on my plate right now as it is!

The problem is I have too many damn ideas and not enough time to get to them all! (Which, for a writer, is not such a bad thing) It will be nice when I can do this full time (note the positive thinking there!) and I can really start to push into all the stories I have notes/concepts/backgrounds on, or have started writing but put aside. Christ, I write part time and I've written two complete novels this year; finished one from last year; started two more and have plans for at least another two before the year is done. And three of those are the first novel in extended series.


Nah, not me.

Now, if only I could be sure they're more than toilet paper with ink stains on it!


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Being Broken

I did a lot of travel today at work so I had a lot of time for thinking. I spent my time dwelling on writing and what makes people (like me) want to be writers. Let's face it, writing is neither the most glamorous nor the most financially sound career on the planet yet people swarm to it by the thousands; each struggling to catch that elusive brass ring. Why? Oh, I understand the desire to have others read your words or to leave something substantial behind when you cash out of this little game we call life, but there are so many simpler ways to do those things. Why writing? I pondered on this all day and think I have an answer.

We're broken.

Looking at my own life and the lives of the (admittedly few) writers I've known and considering what I've read about the lives of my favorite professional writers, we all have that one thing in common: we are broken. Our lives have been filled with pains, tragedies, and horrors that shatter us on the inside. We are -or were- lost, friendless, wounded animals left to lick our own wounds in the darkness. For people like that, books are often the only friends we can find. The only place we can go where there is understanding and compassion instead of scorn and abuse.

For a lot of us, that was our childhood, for others there were tragic events that destroyed our adult lives, but I think there is a common thread of pain and loneliness that ties all writers together. Writing is a form of empathic communication for us. Sounds new-agey, don't it? (Yea, I hate that pseudo-psychic aura-cleansing crap too!) Bear with me here for a minute though.

Words are the closest thing man has ever discovred to psychic communication. With words you can evoke emotions, memories, even create feelings inside other people that did not exist before. We can transfer thoughts, concepts, and visual images with just words. Now, refine those words. Tear them apart and structure them in the most delicate manner to convey exactly the emotion that you have inside you and that emotion can be recreated -tranfered if you will- to another individual in total. Empathic Communication. The masters of this form of communication we call: writers. Wizards of the Word who can transfer not just isolated emotions and images but entire worlds of complex thought and feeling. We can feel their love, hope, despair, fear and pain. Especially the pain. Remember: we are broken.

To heal ourselves we need to vent the pain before it reaches lethal levels. We need to ease the hurt and we need contact with others who can understand and help us bear that pain. Readers. Targets who can absorb the emotions we transmit via our Word Magic and comprehend them. We have to touch others to verify we are not at fault for the horrors we've been through. We need to test our own beliefs of what is right and wrong within us and the only way to do that is with Empathic Communication.

We write.

Now, I realize there is an exception to every rule (and shame on you if you take anything I write as a rule!) and not all writers come from dark places but I think at the very least there is loneliness and isolation in all of us who reach out through the written word. Writers are loners by nature of the lives we've led and writing is how we reconnect with the humanity we've lost. Luckily, some (hopefully most!) of us learn to connect again through more than just written words. The act of writing helps us discover that communication -empathic or otherwise- has to flow in two directions. We learn to live again. We learn to trust and we learn that because we've been hurt before it doesn't necessarily follow that we will be again. Consider this quote:

"The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Broken is not ruined. Broken can be healed. I was broken and I'm better now than I ever dreamed I could be. Writing (and the folks I love!) have helped do that. Maybe that's your story too. Maybe it's not and I'm completely off base here. Drop a comment if you like and let other folks hereabouts know why you write.

Are you broken? Maybe writing about it will help. Feel free to use this blog.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Talyn by Holly Lisle

Alright folks, you are fortunate enough to be the recipients of my first ever online book review (you lucky bastards!) As you may know, I was recently received an Advanced Reader Copy of Holly Lisle's forthcoming novel "Talyn" which means I am one of the first folks around to get to read it (a very cool thing!) and I thought I'd let you all know what I thought about it (I hope Holly doesn't mind - I won't include any spoilers here).

I always feel the best way to judge a book is on its "Put-It-Down" factor. This is my measure of how friggin late at night you stay up to read the book before your eyes and brain just plain give out. If a book is good, I'm willing to stay up till about midnight (okay, I'm an old fart . . . deal with it!) if it's exceptional I'll push beyond. I started reading "Talyn" on Friday night, about 8:00 p.m. I figured it would be nice fill in for the holiday weekend. The plan was to read till about 10:00 or so, then head to bed early because I had a very busy schedule on Saturday. Well, by the time 3:30 a.m. rolled around and my butt was still parked on the couch reading, the wife finally came out and dragged me off to bed because I had to be up at 6:30 a.m. The fact that I had no idea what time it was (the wife swears she told me at least four times to come to bed but I ain't buyin' it!) tells you all you need to know about the quality of writing here.

"Talyn" has a powerful edge to it. It is the kind of hard driving fantasy that is frightening in its believability and in the way it transports you to the book's setting. Holly plays brutally fair with all her characters -the good and the bad- and you get a remarkable level of understanding and sympathy for each of them. This is no "touchy-feely-everybody's-okay" sort of novel though. You know and understand the villains completely but that only serves to make them seem even more evil. (The only other writers I know who can work so well with such an edge Are L.E. Modessit and George Martin.) Holly is heartless when it comes to putting her characters through the wringer. The good guys never escape unscathed, their plans never work out as they hope and every action has a very real -and often unpleasant- consequence. Forgive the oxymoron, but "Talyn" is one of the most realistic fantasy novels I've ever read.

The writing is wonderful, the story powerful, but the most remarkable aspect of the book is the stunning cultural landscape Holly has painted it on. "Talyn" deals primarily with the Tonk, a quasi-tribal culture with a richly textured religious and social structure that has been at war with the neighboring Eastils for three hundred years. Holly has built a very detailed and touching society with the Tonks. The threat of extermination that hangs over them becomes poignant to the reader. You want desperately for them to survive and to do so in a way that won't mean losing their culture.

All in all, "Talyn" is a fantastic novel. How fantastic? Well, to give a small clue: I sat up AGAIN on Saturday night until 4:00 a.m. and finished it late Sunday night. (How's that for a recommendation, eh?) "Talyn" is one of the best novel's I've read in a very long time and I strongly recommend you go ahead and pre-order it now. About the only complaint I can lodge against this book is that it seems written as a stand-alone novel. I would very much like to see more of Talyn and Gair (Okay, so I'm a trilogy geek. What of it?) and I hope Holly thinks about continuing their story.

So there it is: my first review. Hope it wasn't too painful on y'all!

As for me, I was limited on the writing this weekend (I was too busy reading & doing the whole 4th of July BBQ/Beer thing!) but I did get some more work done on "Fish". I'm into the final scene and it's moving pretty well actually. I just have to stop thinking about plot so much and let the novel work itself out. The synopsis for GS is done and I'm ready to start sending out the queries to my prospective agents. I just need to get a better printer before I do so. The six year old Lexmark Inkjet just ain't gonna cut it, ya' know? It streaks, skips, and generally fades to grey whenever it damn well pleases. I also need to grab the 2005 Agents/Publishers guides from the bookstore (hopefully tonight!) I have a short list of agents I want to work with but I realize the chances of snagging one of them as a first time writer is slim, so I'll be sending queries to a reasonable number of others as well.

The weekend was good - much relaxation and family time. We were busy but it was all running to get to places/things we wanted to do. I needed that break. I feel recharged and ready to go at the writing (and the job too, though that is of much less importance of course!) full force. There should hopefully be much more progress than you've seen over the last month or so.