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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

WRITE IN THE RAIN

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Write in the Rainforest, to be exact. And even more exact: Write at the Rainforest Writers Village at Lake Quinault, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. This is year eight of this annual retreat. I’m the administrator of the whole shebang, and it’s sponsored by my small book company, Fairwood Press.

Later today I head down, and I’ll do administrative duties during the five days of the retreat, but I’ll also have some solid time to write. And I need to, as I’m behind on where I should be on book two. The retreat ends Sunday afternoon. About 38 writers attend. Every year it sells out faster. I’ve added a second session. I’ve toyed with a third session, but that might be a bit too much.

Thinking it might sound like something you’d be interested in? Look for registration to open for 2015 at the end of March, or early April. You’ve gotta keep your eye on the site though, because once it opens, those in the know are sitting at their computers hitting refresh, refresh, refresh …   Last year both sessions sold out in TWO hours.

Cell service is spotty, and the WiFi sometimes has difficulty, but I’m sure there will be some news somewhere in my other social media venues. Here’s the link: www.rainforestwriters.com

All is write in the rainforest!

THE COVER IS HERE

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I didn’t expect to make two posts in one day! But while teaching today, during my planning period this morning, an email from Marco Palmieri of Tor was in my inbox with the cover for The Ultra Thin Man! In fact, Tor had already posted it on Facebook and Twitter, so the image is already getting out there.

The artist is Victor Mosquera, and he’s done a fabulous job catching the essence of the book! You can find more of his artwork here: http://cargocollective.com/victorpaint. And my thanks, too, to Tor art director Irene Gallo.

Another milestone! As you can imagine, I’m pretty jazzed about this.

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THE BLURBAGE DIFFERENCE ENGINE

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Really, I’ve always liked the word “blurbage.  Then my brain connected it to “babbage,” and then connected it to the “babbage difference engine” (see William Gibson & Bruce Sterling’s novel The Difference Engine), the precursor to the modern computer, and a nifty steampunk prop. Beyond that, the word “difference” in the blog title really applies. Because a good blurb? Well, it can make a difference.

What’s a blurb? I’m not referring to the text on the back of a book (or on the inside flap of a hardcover dust jacket) that describes the book, although I’ve heard it called a blurb before. If you go to the book description for The Ultra Thin Man on my site here, you’ll see that kind of blurb, which describes the book’s basic premise.

When I’m talking blurbs, I’m talking about quotes from established authors, given to writers to help promote a book. On the same book description page, in the right hand column, you’ll see “PRAISE” and, to date, three blurbs. More are forthcoming. What prompted this post was receiving a fabulous new blurb from Hugo Award-winning writer Robert J. Sawyer, author of Red Planet Blues (his newest) and many others, including Flashforward and Triggers. Mr. Sawyer is a well-known, well-respected, and well-read SF author. Red Planet Blues, as a matter of fact, is a SF noir/mystery novel, and it was an easy decision for me to ask him if he might like to see the novel for the purpose of blurbing it.

Most of us buy books for any number of reasons, not just because a well-known author has praised it. But I’ll admit to looking at blurbs, particularly when I’m somewhat undecided about whether to buy a book or not. Obviously, there are levels of blurbage. The idea is to aim high. If Stephen King writes a positive blurb for you,  and it’s printed on the front cover of your novel, that ain’t a bad thing. If Neil Gaiman blurbs your book and says it’s the best thing he’s read in a decade…well, this is likely to lead to some extra book sales you never might have made otherwise.

It’s the same thing with reviews. I’m going to see good and bad reviews of The Ultra Thin Man. I’m bracing myself now for the bad ones. You can’t please everyone all the time, but half the battle is getting readers to pick up the book. A good cover will do that. A good review will do that. A bad review will do that, sometimes. And of course a fascinating, well-placed blurb will do that. And once a reader physically picks up a book in a store, they’re more likely to buy it.

The more positive, high-level blurbs an author garners, the happier the author will be, and the happier the publisher will be. My editor is very happy about the blurb from Mr. Sawyer, and for the others to date. We’re brainstorming a list, and more than a few requests have gone out. The earlier Tor can get good blurbs, the better that will influence the marketing department, and the book reps and book buyers at the bookstores. Those I’ve sent the book to so far for possible blurbs received electronic copies from me. At a time ahead of publication, (possibly February or March for mine), there will be bound galleys (advance reading copies, or ARCs), and many of these will be sent out to other potential blurbers, and also to reviewers. Some readers only want to read a physical copy.

I’m extremely humbled when an established writer has good things to say about the book. I can’t thank them enough, ever.

COPYEDITS COMPLETE

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Earlier this week I turned in my copyedits to Tor for The Ultra Thin Man.

The process was relatively painless. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I did this electronically. All easy to follow. There were no major gripes at the sentence level, which is good. I did add and subtract a few things here and there, and clarify other bits. It was my last chance to do so. The next time I get to look at the text from Tor it will be in page proof form.

So….I gotta believe….soon….I should shortly see some cover art! It’s a milestone I’m quite looking forward to.

PRE-ORDER ANYONE?

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Another post by me so soon? It’s certainly earlier than I expected, but I had to do a quick mention here about something I found out from my sister, who happened to search for The Ultra Thin Man on Amazon out of curiosity and found it listed there! There’s not a lot there yet, not even a cover (I’ve not seen any art to date), but it really makes things hit home: this is going to be a real book!

Further searching found it listed for pre-order on Barnes & Noble and Booksamillion also.

Yowzah! I’ll be adding the links to the website here at some point, but for now, here’s the Amazon link.

COPYEDITS BEGIN

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Just about a week ago I received copyedits from Tor for the book. It’s rather nifty to see some of the work the copyeditor did in getting the file ready for the next step in the printing process. Many of the changes were not things I need to concern myself with.

A lot of the pages have “delete” on them. Delete this space, this line. Delete these two hyphens and replace with an em dash.  Actual comments from the copyeditor are there, too, including questions about repeated words, logistics, and the like.  Also, formating instructions for first line indents, or italics (changing my underlines), small caps.

Then there are small changes related to style guides, capitalization and punctuation rules, etc. For example, “Patty Melt” should be “patty melt.” I see suggestions to change things, too, such as changing “breathy” to “raspy” to avoid the echo of “breath” earlier in the same sentence.  Also, although the thumbnail for this post shows red pen and paper, I chose electronic proofs, so everything’s done with MS Word’s track changes and commenting.

It’s also the last time I get to make any changes of note. After this, when the page proofs come, I’m rereading simply to look for obvious typos and mistakes.

I’ve been told by other writers they often get one or two weeks to turn around copyedits, but it does depend on pub date and other considerations….such as the fact that it’s the holiday season. So mine are due January 6th.

Luckily I’m off from school for two weeks, so I should be able to get ’em done no problem. And, while I’m at it: Happy Holidays everyone. I suspect my next post won’t show up here until after New Year’s.

TOR’S SPRING/SUMMER CATALOG

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I happened to be browsing around and saw the PDF of Tor’s spring/summer 2014 catalog. Wait a minute, said I, THE ULTRA THIN MAN is coming out in August. Is there something in the catalog about it?

There was. As happens with catalogs like this, where no jacket cover yet exists, there’s a blank there, but book information—available formats, prices, page count, size and weight, marketing plans—were there. I suspect some of that is subject to change.

But most intriguing was the book description, which I had not yet seen. Here on my website, I created my own “jacket copy” to have something descriptive about the book’s content, but it was very cool to read someone else’s description. (I don’t know who wrote it.) I’ll double-check with my editor, but I’m assuming I’ll be able to put Tor’s description on my site in place of the existing one. To see the catalog (which has ALL the upcoming spring/summer books for Tor), you can click here: http://media.us.macmillan.com/Catalogs/Current/TOR_Spring-2014_05_2013.pdf

But no need to click if you don’t want to. Here’s the text from the catalog for THE ULTRA THIN MAN:

A tense and fast-paced near-future thriller where aliens, terrorists, and interplanetary conspiracies collide.

In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug-induced slumber, no one—alive or dead, human or alien—is quite what they seem. When terrorists manage to crash Coral, the moon, into its home planet of Ribon, forcing evacuation, it’s up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives for the Network Intelligence Organization, to solve a case of interplanetary consequences. Crowell’s and Brindos’s investigation plunges them neck-deep into a conspiracy much more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.

The two detectives soon find themselves separated, chasing opposite leads: Brindos has to hunt down the massive Helk alien Terl Plenko, shadow leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Crowell, meanwhile, runs into something far more sinister—an elaborate frame job that puts our heroes on the hook for treason.

Crowell and Brindos are forced to fight through the intrigue to discover the depths of an interstellar conspiracy. And to answer the all-important question: Who, and what, is the Ultra Thin Man?

CONVENTIONS NEAR AND FAR

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The end of August saw my trip to San Antonio for Worldcon, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention. Worldcons are often well attended, full of panels and publisher parties, books and art…most of the time there’s just too much going on and not enough time to do everything. I suppose, considering the attendance at such major conventions such as the San Diego Comic Con, which boasts over a 100,000 attendees, a Worldcon’s numbers (three thousand to six thousand attendees) doesn’t seem like a lot.

Next summer, Worldcon will be in London. The attendance is bound to be smaller. I don’t usually attend the major conventions that take place outside the country. But now, of course, there’s a catch. My novel comes out next August.  Do I go to London?

A well-respected editor told me I might consider Dragoncon, in Atlanta. I asked: Isn’t that a media convention similar to Comic Con? I was told: It’s a matter of perception. Only 20% of attendees at Dragoncon are readers, and official attendance last year was around 50,000. Unofficial attendance, 100,000.  That would be 20,000 readers who might stumble across my book! The Worldcon in London, at best, will bring 5,000 attendees. Certainly something to think about when I make my decision about where to go.

As chance has it, the World Fantasy Convention, one of my favorites of the year, is also in London. That happens in a couple of weeks, and sadly, I’ll have to miss it. Next year, it will be in Washington D.C. I attended the convention the last time it was held there, in 2003. It’ll be good to go back and see the sights I wasn’t able to get to the last time. And it’ll be just two months after the book comes out.

Well, there are lots of things to keep in mind as the next ten months go by. Most new novels by “new” authors have a small window of time to make a splash. I’d love to have a chance to show everyone the sequel!

WRANGLING WRITING AND WORK

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Most writers have a day job. If lucky, they might have a working spouse.

I have a day job. I teach English Language Arts at a high school, and I’ve been teaching now for 28+ years. My writing languished for many, many years. Admitedly, I threw it off the rails myself, in 1995, when I began a small press magazine called Talebones. And then, in 2000, a small press book line, Fairwood Press. And then…

Teaching is draining. Heck, most career jobs are draining, aren’t they? Anyway, suffice to say, I wasn’t writing. When I sold my novel last year to Tor, my agent said that my editor had told him he’d been waiting for this book for 15 years! Ooops. Had it been that long from the time I’d sent the same editor a (thankfully unpublished) novel? Uh, actually? It was longer. The same 25,000 words of The Ultra Thin Man had sat there, waiting. Oh, indeed, I worked on it. The same 25,000 words, that is. By the time I’d pick the book up again, a year or two later, I was definitely not happy with those 25K words. REWRITE.  A year later….Ack, no. What was I thinking? REWRITE.

But there was something there. I’m not an outliner, so I’m not sure where the book was going, but it seemed promising. Still, I wasn’t making time to write. Something had to go. I had to stop saying YES to everything thrown my way. In 2009, I decided to say goodbye to Talebones. I started writing a little bit that summer, during my summer break. Not a lot, and much of it was back to that first 25K again, but there was some new stuff.

The new school year started. I was going to be busy again. I might have quit the magazine work, but I still found myself pressed for time. I needed a consistent block of time to write every day. What to do? Here it is: (Don’t tell on me, fellow English teachers at Riverside reading this…) Between 2007-09, I worked with a “1.2” contract. That is, instead of teaching 5 periods and having 1 planning period (1.0 equivalent), I taught classes all six periods, adding the .2. It was extra money, and the administration found it more advantageous than hiring a part-time teacher. During those two years, I learned to plan outside of the school day: after school, before school, Sunday nights…whenever I could, because I knew I wouldn’t have my planning period.

With that in mind, I decided to approach the 2009-10 schedule the same, even though I was no longer working the 1.2. I decided: I’m going to keep planning and grading the way I’ve done the past two years, even though I have my planning period back. I was going to take that same 55 minutes every day, 3rd period, and write. More often it was 45-50 minutes. But I was not going to plan during that time. Trust me, I put in plenty of hours planning and grading outside the school day–more than usual by a long shot.

September came around, and I threw a seemingly impossible goal out there: to finish the first draft of the novel before New Year’s. I made it! 75,000 words in less than 4 months after letting the first 25,000 words sit there all lonely-like for years.

So I’m here to tell you that if you want to write, or engage in whatever creative endeavor suits your fancy, or any seemingly time-consuming tasks you want to do outside your work day, you can do it. It doesn’t have to be hours and hours at a time. I’m not contracted for a second book as yet, and I’ve not yet gone back to that one-hour-each-day-at-work schedule with the determination I did in 2009, but at least while I’m waiting for my first novel to come out, I’m writing with more regularity.

I can’t afford to wait 15 years to finish the next book.