Friday, April 29, 2011

Going Dark

I will be without internet for almost one week. At least while I'm at home. My wife and I JUST closed on a condo, and we'll be moving over the next week. (I'll speak more on that in a future post.) So I WILL be updating the Charity of the Month on Monday, but if I don't have a chance to update next Wednesday or Friday, it's because the days that I worked were too busy to allow for blogging time.

So I will have internet at work, but I might not have time to use it. I should be up and running again on May 9.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Story from our Charity

I'd like to share a link with all of you about a wounded vet who's been able to spend time with his wife while he recovers, thanks to our Charity of the Month: Fisher House. Please check out the story here. Again, I'd like you to consider donating as well. Thanks to Fisher House, this couple was able to be together without spending money they couldn't afford to lose.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hiatus... Sort of.

I'm going to take a bit of a break from writing. This isn't a moratorium, just a chance for me to rest a bit. My blog schedule won't change, but I'm going to be sleeping in later before I head in to the Day Job every day.

I'm doing this because I've been really stressed and overwhelmed lately. I have to work my regular job, and I have to get ready to move. The one thing I'm not required to do at the moment is write. And with how easy it is to get sick when I get stressed, I'm going to cut writing from my routine for about two weeks until life calms down a bit.

See you Wednesday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Update

I don't have much to talk about today. It's been a slow week for me, writing-wise. The next few weeks may end up like that. But, that doesn't mean you can't check out the Charity of the Month!

Please go check out Fisher House and donate. They're expanding their facilities to give wounded vets more places to stay when they need to leave their home for medical treatment. And as I've said before, I would never ask anyone to give to a charity to which I have not already donated. Every little bit helps, and you can give as little as ten dollars. That's less than a tank of gas!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A letter to new writers

I would like to give some advice to aspiring authors who are attempting to write their very first book. But before I begin, I want to assure you that I mean this in the most constructive manner possible. I'm not trying to discourage anyone, I simply want to share some of my (admittedly limited) experience and knowledge.

Just a few days ago, I read a new writer's blog. She's in the beginning stages of writing her book, and she mentioned that she hopes to have it published by the end of summer. I struggled with myself over replying to that statement because I never want to be the guy who goes around destroying other people's dreams. I don't want to be mean, condescending, or a know-it-all.

But publishing takes time. Especially traditional publication. The fact is, even with a contract, it's going to take several months to turn a finished manuscript into a printed product. Jim Butcher just finished his next Dresden Files book (just over a month ago, I think), and it won't be released until July 26th. And that book is almost guaranteed to be on the NYT top 10 list. Kiersten White was able to get a rush job on her debut novel, Paranormalcy. From the time she got the publishing deal to when the book hit the shelves, it was over a year.

Should this writer have goals? Of course! Goals are what drive us to finish what we started. But getting a book published, at least through the traditional method, will take a long time. Even self-publishing takes a while, though. I know Todd Newton spent months going over his book when he self-published it. He spent a great deal of time editing, re-editing, and then going over cover designs, putting together a cover blurb, etc.. And it paid off because now the title has been published by a small traditional publishing house.

The fact of the matter is: it's the middle of April. September 21 is the last day of Summer. That's five months away. Finishing a manuscript in that time is COMPLETELY reasonable. In fact, I encourage that. I'll go farther and challenge any new writer to finish their manuscript, revisions and all, by the end of July. I came close to doing that last year, and it was one of the most enjoyable, eyeopening experiences of my life.

Please don't get discouraged by what I just said. I'm not trying to turn anyone away from writing. I know how depressing writing can get, though. I've set impossible deadlines for myself many times, and now every time a deadline passes and I haven't reached my goal, I consider moving on to another career. Some of you reading this have been writing for a few years, some of you have been writing for decades. I've spent half my life working at a career that, as of yet, has not moved beyond the amateur stage. Thirteen years is a long time for me, and I do get tired of missing deadlines. But that's part of being a writer.

If you're new to this, I just want you to be prepared. I don't want your enthusiasm crushed because you set a goal that isn't possible to reach. There will be plenty of instances that will make it difficult for you to move forward. I just hate to see writers create them for themselves.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quick Post

Well, the wife and I started packing up the apartment this weekend. We turned in our lease termination notice, too. Now all we're waiting for is the final closing. That will happen on the 29th of April. Buying a place is definitely a lot of work, and taking care of it will be even more work. But I'm really excited!

I hope I can find time to write again, soon. I've been trying to get work done in the mornings, but since I don't have much free time, what with the home buying and day job, it's been rough. I even slept in today because I've been so tired lately. I know I'll have more time once we're all moved in and unpacked. I just wish I could spend more time talking with you, my readers. Instead, I am going to send out a query. Because I haven't done that in a while.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Update... sort of.

I don't have much of an update today because it's been a crazy week (as I mentioned on Wednesday). On the bright side, I'm still getting editing done. On the down side, I don't get another day off for eight days.

I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday Update

So on Monday I expected to have at least on full day off this week to work on my edits. That's not going to happen. In fact, I won't get another day off until the 24th. This is good because I am two weeks away from putting down a large sum of money for a condo. It's bad because I don't have much time to write. Sure, I'm trying to get up early to work on my book, but it's still hard. I managed to crawl out of bed at 5:30 this morning, and I made some decent edits. I just want MORE time to edit.

And I can't really work on edits in the evening because by Friday (I hope), Emily and I will be packing up the apartment to move by the beginning of May.

So that's my update. I'll attempt to keep up my blogging and edits, and I will keep you all in the know for as long as you are interested :).

Also, please give to the Charity of the Month. It's Fisher House, and you can check out my April 1st post to learn more about them. Link is in the sidebar, and I truly support what these guys do for our wounded troops and their families.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A return to the past

So as I mentioned in my last post, I'm revising and re-editing my first novel. It's actually turning out to be quite fun. I'm finding a lot of mistakes, both in style and grammar. I realize now how much I've learned in the last year and a half since I stopped working on this project to focus on Wyrm Fiend. And it's great.

I fell in love with the story and characters again, too. I really do enjoy this book, and I believe that if I put some work into it (and manage to get out of bed on time), I'll be able to turn this project into something that will be worth pitching to agents again.

I stepped away from the WiP because I'm not sure what I want to do with that. I think I'll leave that as a pet project, maybe turn it into my hobby story that I may publish in the future. For now, I want to continue to focus on YA books. I have such a passion for that age group, much like my wife, and I want to write books that they'll enjoy.

My head's a bit disjointed right now, and I need to get ready for work. So I'll talk about this more on Wednesday when I have a better idea of what I'm doing with the book. And I need the energy to better articulate my reasons for returning to this book instead of starting a new one.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Cut the melodrama

I came to the conclusion today that many of my characters in my first book raise their eyebrows, make dismissive gestures, shrug, purse their lips, etc. far too often. I didn't realize that I'd written a melodrama.

It's important that readers believe a character's emotions, and simple gestures help enhance dialogue and convey emotion. But if it's done too often, it only weighs down the narrative. As I revise and re-edit this book, I'm smoothing things out, making the language flow, and learning from the year I spent writing another book and reading the many, many writing blogs that are out on the internet.

I encourage you to do the same. If a book you've written never got accepted by an agent or a publisher, maybe it's time to take a new look at it and remove some of the over-expressions. If that's a problem you suffer. Because I do.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

My favorite letters

After two years of querying and getting rejections, I've come to the conclusion that form rejections are pretty cool. At first I thought it was awesome to get a personal response (and it still is), but the more I got used to receiving rejections, the more I thought, "These letters are too long-winded." I do understand that agents are trying to save time and feelings when they send out a form rejection. But I'm starting to have a special appreciation for the simple, one-line letters, personal or not.

You see, like the agents that I'm querying, I have a busy day. Sometimes I don't have the opportunity to read a long e-mail until I get done with work for the day. That's why my favorite rejection was a simple, "Dear Author, No thanks."

I think every agent should adopt that style, and here's why: if a writer cannot accept getting a rejection letter, then kindly informing them that opinions vary in this industry, the rejection is not a reflection of their work, etc., will do nothing to ease the sting of that first "no." A "no" is always a "no" no matter how it's decorated. Besides that, I can think of several agents just off the top of my head who have gone out of their way to explain their reasons for rejecting a manuscript. They even explain why most agents reject pitches. There are entire blogs devoted to the subject. By the time an aspiring author sends out their first query, they should be aware of all of that.

Also, I think the bluntness of "No thanks" would help weed out the writers who refuse to see their project through. Rather than slowly losing patience with rejections that border on an apology for offering representation, the unpublished authors will be required to get used to "no" very quickly. It's something they'll hear for their entire career (and yes, I am including myself in this). I think this will force us as writers to do a better job on our manuscripts before we send them over to agents.

Besides all of that, the short "No thanks" e-mail takes less than a minute to write. Agents who get over 300 letters a day need a way to speed up their process. And sometimes the only thing I want is "yes" or "no." I don't want to scan a letter trying to find that little word in the midst of a paragraph of how subjective the industry is.

And don't misunderstand me. I'm not being sarcastic here, I'm not complaining. I am, in fact, genuinely suggesting that, unless advice specific to the rejected author is offered, the letters should read, "Dear Author, No thanks." And see? It has a "thanks" in there, so it's polite :).

Monday, April 04, 2011

In which real life bleeds into my writing

I hear that the five most stressful changes an adult goes through include are marriage, moving, changing jobs, having kids, and losing parents. I knew a guy once who went through three of those five at one time. (He didn't lost his parents, and he was already married. I'll let you guess what he dealt with.) I wouldn't say getting a place is stressing me out, but at the same time, I hate making decisions that involve spending money. I don't like debt, no matter what kind it is. And I don't like making decisions in a hurry.

Our agent is making this quite a smooth process (which is her job), and she's doing it in a way that almost makes me believe that this purchase is as important to her as it is to my wife and me. That's exactly what you need in a realtor! Still, we agreed to buy a place, and we only have fifteen days to either confirm that we do want this place, or back out. I don't want to back out by any stretch of the imagination. (Although we haven't seen the inspection yet. I don't expect anything to be wrong with the place, so we're 99.99% certain that we're going through with the purchase.) It's just that I want at least three months to "feel out" this decision. Let me mull it over, weigh all of the pros and cons, maybe even live in the place for a few days just to see what it's like.

Why is that? Because I fear change. And this is bleeding over into my characters. I try to get my characters to protect the status quo, which is kind of their job. The status quo doesn't remain in place, of course, but as a writer, I need to make the characters deal with change differently. Especially because those characters aren't me. The character that I've done the best with so far is actually Chris from WYRM FIEND. While he doesn't exactly embrace the changes in his life, he uses them to his advantage. If I ever get the chance to write a second book (which I won't bother with until I have a contract for it), I'll make those changes rock his world even more.

I know change is good, both in my books and in real life. And I know paralyzing fear is bad. Very bad. Which is why I write. My characters don't get paralyzed by fear (though neither do I). They face it with the strength and power only fictional characters can possess. Mostly because the consequences don't ruin the lives of the people I really care about. (Not that any of my decisions have destroyed my friends' lives... I hope.)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Charity of the Month: Fisher House

It's the first of the month which means I get to introduce a new charity. I don't know how much I've talked about it before, but I have three friends in the United States Army, another friend in the Navy, and my sister-in-law will be joining the Navy in August. Both of my grandparents served in the armed forces, one in the Air Force, the other in the Army, and several times I have personally considered signing up to protect and serve the country I love (though that never happened, and now I'm too committed to my wife).

I believe it's important to take care of those men and women who have suffered as a result of their service to our country, and that's why Fisher House is April's Charity of the Month. Fisher House provides comfortable lodging for wounded vets who can't stay at their homes when they must receive medical and/or psychological treatment through the VA or out of town hospitals.

I urge you to go to their site and learn about the services they provide to wounded vets, and the please donate so that those services will continue to be available for the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.