Sample Sunday

After I got musically inspired, I thought about my new story idea and realized I need to do a LOT of research if I want to do the story right.  So I’m getting started on that.  But in the meantime, I’m reverting to my original plan, which was to work on a follow-on to the story I wrote for last quarter’s Writers of the Future submission.

Last night I got just under 1150 words down: the most I’ve written in one sitting since the day of Vasili’s surgery, when I finished Masters in the family waiting room.  So it was a good start.

In the spirit of Sample Sunday, here is that first scene.  The story is as yet un-named.

The tavern was almost empty.  A few patrons sat at tables along the wall opposite the bar and two more were at the bar itself: a plump middle-aged man in dirty work coveralls at the near corner, and a slender woman with short-cut black hair at the far end.  The barkeep idly wiped down the taps halfway down the bar, and a lone waitress chatted with a patron at one of the tables.  Vidscreens behind the bar displayed the latest headlines and sports scores, but the volume was muted.  A tune from the middle of the pop charts played over the bar’s speakers, just loudly enough to make it difficult to hear a conversation from more than a few feet away.

He would have expected more business, considering it was hump day.  Just two more days til the weekend, after all.  But he was just as happy for a sparse crowd.  He hated having to search through a throng to find his mark.  As it was, a quick survey as he paused at the tavern’s entrance revealed this evening’s objective.  He smiled slightly and walked to the far end of the bar.

He paused as he reached the chair around the corner of the bar from the slender woman.  He cleared his throat, but the woman already noted his presence, favoring him with a slight frown and a quirked eyebrow.

“Is this seat taken?” he asked.

She shrugged and looked away, back to the closest vidscreen, where, from what he could tell from the closed-captioning, some talking head was pontificating about the effect the latest elections on Centauri would have on interstellar trade.  That made sense, he supposed.

As he sat down, he was struck by the woman’s appearance.  Ten year-long shifts as Captain on a starliner, plus the time to move up through the ranks to reach that station: she had to be in her early to mid 40s at least.  But he could have sworn she wasn’t a day over thirty.  Her bio said she was the product of marriage between a Japanese man and an English woman.  In his experience, women from southeast asia tended to age well, but even still he was impressed.

The barkeep sauntered over.

“What’ll it be?”

“Bud Light.”

As the barkeep moved back to the taps, he noticed the woman smirk ever so slightly before taking a sip of her drink.  He would have figured her for something more exotic from one of the colony worlds.  But, in fact, she was drinking a Seven and Seven, unless he missed his guess.  Hardly the height of sophistication itself, and not exactly a perch from which to scoff at his beer.

“You ever study ancient history?”

She glanced back at him and rolled her eyes.

“I’m not looking for company right now.”

“Sorry.  Don’t mean to impose.”

She sniffed and turned back to her newsvid.  A moment later the barkeep returned with his beer.  He accepted it with a smile of thanks and tapped the paypad on the bar.  His identichip interfaced with the pay system, applying his standard tip rate automatically.  The barkeep looked surprised, then pleased, and voiced his thanks before moving away.  Tipping well was often useful for opening doors, he’d found.

He sipped at his beer for a few minutes, watching the newsvid with only the vaguest of interest.  It was a moot discussion: whatever effects the election caused had already occurred more than four years ago.  Folks on Earth were only now hearing about it, of course.  But whatever changes they made in response would also be extremely time late in reaching Centauri ears.  So what was the point?  Glancing back at the woman again, he noted that she too looked a bit amused at the discussion.  Of course, she would know the futility of it more than most.

Time to try again.

“So I was reading the other day about an ancient Athenian ruler.  Guy named Pericles.”

She stiffened slightly when he mentioned the name, but quickly recovered, sipping her drink again without bothering to look at him.

“Is that right?”  She sounded annoyed.

“Very interesting man.”  He took another drink of his beer.  “He took over while Athens was rebuilding from the Persian wars.  He fostered the arts, built the Acropolis, endorsed Athenian expansionism.  During his reign, Athens became the greatest political force in the region.  But then, of course, he pressed too far.  Made Sparta nervous.  And so, the Peloponnesian War.   He didn’t live to see it, but eventually Athens fell beneath Sparta’s military might.”

“Great.  Look, I REALLY don’t want company, so…”

“I heard a story about another Pericles recently.”

She froze, her expression suddenly becoming wary.  He continued on.

“Starliner by that name comes in from the Gliese system, just like normal.  But there’s nearly a week’s delay in unloading the cargo.  The crew is sequestered.  Interviewed by government agents, they say.  All but the fourth shift are out within a week.  That shift’s sequestered for more than a month.  Six months later, Malcolm Ngubwe, the fourth shift’s Engineer, dies under, shall we say, mysterious circumstances?  Then that same shift’s pilot, one Carlton Hersch, and his wife Alison, the shift’s doctor, leave the starliner company for work planetside.”  He shrugged.  “Not so unusual, except he was in line for promotion to Captain.  Strange time for a career change, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes you do.”  He leaned toward her, noting her expression shifting from wariness to nervousness, with a hint of pain as well.  “What happened out there to cause so much fuss, Captain Ishikawa?”

She swallowed, pulling away from him.

“Who are you?”

He tapped his thumb and forefinger and waited for a moment.  Then, when nothing happened, he sniffed in annoyance.  He’d figured she would have upgraded to the interactive database implant by now!  She’d been back long enough, and those implants made forgetting names a thing of the past.  He kept old-style holocards just in case, though.  Pulling one from his pocket, he slid it across the bar to her.  His credentials were plainly visible: Jeremy Reynolds, Investigative Reporter, Star News.

She picked it up, her eyes narrowing as she read it.  Then she stood, dropping the card onto the bar.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you, Mr. Reynolds.”

She turned to leave, but stopped as Jeremy grabbed her arm gently.

“There are rumors of a new strain of disease onboard.  The public has a right to know the truth, Captain.”

She hesitated, then pulled away from his grasp.

“Good night, Mr. Reynolds.”

With that, she walked away at a brisk pace.  She was out the door quickly, and never looked back.

Jeremy remained in his chair for several minutes more, finishing his beer and shrugging off the barkeep’s quip about him striking out.  There was definitely something there.  And he intended to find out what it was.

There you go.  I like to think it’s an intriguing start.  Obviously there’s a lot more to come.  Comments are always welcome.

Inspiration

I get inspiration from funny places sometimes.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of the time music is one of those places.  My folks started me on the violin when I was three.  When I was thirteen or so I got sick of being nagged about practicing all the time and quit, then a couple years later I picked up the guitar because, duh, guitar is cool.  Well, it turns out violin is cool too, and I still play both instruments.  My kids love it when I break out the violin.  In fact they’ll often fish the violin case out and push it across the floor to me as their signal that they want me to play for them.  Then they’ll grab the bow and try to play themselves.  They also love Disney’s “Little Einsteins” show.  Sibylla, my 3-year old daughter…our oldest, recently told me she wants to take violin lessons, so I guess I’ve rubbed off on her a bit.  Pretty cool.

That doesn’t get her out of karate lessons, though.  No daughter of mine will enter the world without knowing how to defend herself.  But that’s a different topic.

So anyway, my wife and I love Dancing With The Stars.  So do our kids, Sibylla in particular.  A couple weeks ago, Chelsea danced to this awesome, beautiful, haunting song.  My wife and I both wondered who’s song that was, and I found a website listing all the music on DWTS.  Turns out the song is “Eyes on Fire” by Blue Foundation:

After researching the song a bit, I discovered it was used in the soundtrack for Twilight.  Now, I’ve got nothing against Twilight, per say.  But I’ve never had any interest in it.  Primarily because whatever teenie-girls swoon over I’ve, by and large, found worthy of ignoring.  Maybe I’m just biased.  But in my experience, the only thing more annoying than a collection of teenage American girls is a gaggle of teenage Japanese girls, and I question their judgement.

No doubt a bunch of you are thinking I’m a racist for saying that.  Those who are have clearly never been to Japan, or the places that Japanese frequent on vacation.  I have, and let me tell you, I have the utmost respect for the Japanese as a people, a nation, and a culture.  But dear God, the teenage Japanese female, in pack form, squeals and giggles…loudly and incessantly…in a manner that makes my teeth ache.

But that’s not the point.

The point is I’ve never read Twilight or seen the movies, and never intended to.  But this song, well, sings to me, despite it’s association with that franchise.  Not sure how else to say it.  Last night I purchased it on iTunes, and looked up the YouTube video embedded above as well as the song lyrics.  The video resonated with me because of the notes about where it was filmed.  In my submarine training, I learned about how brazen the Soviets were with nuclear safety.  This town’s involvement with that shadowy world struck a chord with me.

Anyway, I have this thing I do with music that I’ve just discovered.  If I really like it, I’ll listen to it over and over, look up the lyrics, and generally absorb the hell out of it.  This annoys my wife to no end, but I like it.  Maybe I’m just weird, but if I like a song, I just don’t get tired of hearing it.  And the more I hear it, the more I like it.

So last night, I went to sleep with this song going through my head.  I can totally understand why they used it for Twilight.  When my wife saw the lyrics, she said “It’s about a Vampire.”  Well, not really.  It was written well before the Twilight movie was made.  So I suspect the original subject matter wasn’t quite so paranormal.

Regardless, as the verses and chorus were echoing in my head, an idea began to form.  I’ve got a bunch of ideas for stories, but this one grabbed me and won’t let go, so it’s officially at the top of my priority list.

Don’t worry, it’s not a vampire story.  It’s a lot better than that.

I got a few paragraphs down tonight.  As I get more down, I’ll leave more glimpses here about what’s coming.  Maybe.

Honesty?

I came across a this article at the Wordplay blog this afternoon.  It reminded me of an article Brad R Torgersen wrote the other day about writing honestly.

I’ve read similar advice about writing honestly in many other places.  But I hadn’t really thought about it much before.  These two articles got me thinking, though.

Call me a Philistine, but I have no idea what it means to “write honestly”.  Does that mean writing the story as you envision it, and not trying to tailor it to some pre-conceived marketplace, or what you think people want to read?  Brad’s piece seems to imply it means not trying to fool the audience, not treating them like idiots.  But is there more than that?

I like to think I’m a pretty honest guy.  My mother-in-law tells me that’s why she likes me: you may not like it, but you always know where I stand on an issue.  So I assume that translates into my writing.  But it’s not like I sit around pontificating, trying to reach down into the depths of my soul to uncover some deep truths that I must convey with my stories.  I come up with something I think is neat and type it down.  Not that many somethings, so far, but the stack is slowly growing.  Does it need to be any more than that?

Maybe I’m over-thinking it.

Unproductive? Not really….

Wow.  I’ve gotten almost no writing done in the last two weeks.  1800 words toward a short story, that’s it.

But that’s ok.  In reality, I was probably not going to get anything done during this time, however I may have thought differently going in to it.  It’s about priorities.  I’ve been home, off work, sure.  But not idle.  Helping the better half take care of the kids, and in particular little Vasili who just had heart surgery, is far more important.  And fun.

The little man is doing great.  He had his two-week follow-up with the cardiologist today.  Everything looks perfect.  His incision wound is just about fully healed.  The doctor removed the (ONE) suture that closed up his chest tube hole today.  In a week’s time, according to our discharge recommendations, he can go swimming again, if that tells you anything.  Pretty amazing.  🙂

So yeah, I won’t call the last two weeks unproductive.  Not at all.

That said, I got more feedback on Masters.  All good, and all containing valuable input for spelling/grammar and some content issues.  I must admit, I was a bit dejected at the first guy’s input, because he was a bit negative.  Not completely: he did say he enjoyed it.  But there were negative aspects to what he had to say.  That said, these things are subjective, right, and the other feedback aggregates out to being overall positive.  So I feel a bit better now.

So I’ve gone through and corrected spelling and grammar issues that these first readers were good enough to point out.  I’ve got some more readers who I haven’t heard from.  Then we’ll see what Jeroen comes up with.  I’m looking forward to that.  He’s a pretty darn good artist, so I expect it’ll be cool.  Find out soon enough.

So that’s it.  Not too much else new to talk about.  I’m heading back to work on Monday.  That’s a bit of a drag, but you gotta do something to earn a paycheck, right?  Actually, it’s not bad at all.  It’s pretty fun, most days.  Today more than most.  I got my annual nuclear power/submarine officer bonus check today, so I’m feeling particularly upbeat.  Based on that check, I paid off my undergraduate student loan (finally..took long enough) and the remaining principal on the loans to both mine and my wife’s cars.  So that puts us quite a bit closer to our goal of being completely debt free.  Over the last couple years, we’ve become acolytes of Dave Ramsey.  Last year we paid off the credit card, cancelled the account, and cut it in half.  I tell you, it’s a great feeling to not have that stupid thing anymore.

So yeah, I guess things are going pretty well.

That’s really it.  Until next time.

Feedback

Well, my rant the other day caught some interest.  Yesterday I got the most hits ever on this blog.  Hopefully I haven’t made any eternal enemies.  😛

So the first of the folks who are reading Masters sent me some feedback.  It was overall positive, but the reader gave me some good things to think about that I hadn’t considered.  Interestingly, he said he thought the story was too fast paced, and that by making it that way I didn’t do the story justice.  Honestly, that surprised me, because I was, if anything, worried about the opposite.  As those who read the rant can no doubt attest, I can be long-winded, especially when I get a head full of steam.  So I expected I’d fall into excessively lengthy descriptions and the like, so I tried to keep the story moving forward vice getting bogged down in minutia.  According to reader #1, maybe I should have gone into the minutia a little more.  Or something.

Obviously, this is just one data point.  I’ll see what the other readers have to say before I go make any radical changes.  But I found that feedback interesting.

…and the scams just keep on coming.

Over the last week, Dean Wesley Smith and his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, have made a bunch of awesome blog posts about the state of publishing in general, and agents in particular.

Kris’ post is here.

Deans posts are herehere and here.

Best go read them, and the comments, because there’s a lot of great stuff there.

My journey as a writer has so far been very different than I thought it would be.  Actually, I had no intention of being a writer at all until about nine or ten months ago.  My sister actually beat me to the writing punch.  She and her then significant other teamed up to write a book a couple years ago.  I was very proud of her for finishing a book.  Then, last year, or was it late the year before..I don’t recall, she landed an agent, and I thought sure she was headed for the big time.  After all, a writer writes a book, then she gets an agent, and then from there the agent gets her book published.  That’s how it works, right?

As an outsider, not involved in publishing at all, this was my understanding.  Agents are essential for being published, right?

Of course, the months went by and I heard nothing more from my sister on her book’s progress.  Now granted that was at least partially because I’m pretty busy with my own professional and family life, and she and I don’t talk as often as maybe we should.  I didn’t think much of it, in other words.

Then I decided to try my own hand at fiction.  In late December (over the Christmas holiday, to be precise), I started writing Masters.  I’d actually previously started, back in the summer of 2010, but I’d gotten all of a chapter written and stopped.  When I re-started, I totally didn’t like that first chapter, so I started completely over.  Then the new year dawned, and I decided that if I was going to actually write a book, I would naturally try to sell it.  So I’d better learn how this publishing game worked.

As I described two posts ago, I rather quickly discovered Dean Wesley Smith’s blog.  I read with extreme interest his “Killing the Sacred Cows” posts, and was amazed as I discovered that, from his way of telling it at least, agents weren’t necessary for the publication bit at all.  In fact, the more I read his posts and the comments to them, the more I began to wonder why any writer would ever hire an agent at all.

Naturally, I consulted other sources than just him in my research, but most other places I went to repeated the same old mantra.  Writers can’t weather the business of publishing on their own.  They need agents to explain how the business works and make sure they make the right decisions.

Well sorry, but I find that entire meme extremely insulting.

I’m not going to list my credentials in this post again.  If you want to read them, check out the “About Michael” tab above.  To make a long story short, I’m not some dumbass English major with no clue how the real world works.  I’m a pretty smart and savvy guy, and if you’re going to tell me I can’t understand a thing, that thing better be damn near incomprehensible.  It better make quantum mechanics look like adding 2 plus 2 (for what it’s worth, I got an A- in Modern Physics in college, so yeah I have a least a semblance of a clue about how quantum mechanics works).  Sorry, but the deep mysteries of business in general, and publishing in particular, ain’t that difficult to grasp.  So you get no points for trying to tell me I can’t figure it out just because I decided to become a writer a few months ago.  Try again.

Oh, you say I can’t get my manuscript read at all unless I have an agent?

I must call BS on that one.  First, it defies logic to suggest that an editor, whose job it is to find the next thing to publish, is going to pass up a good submission just because it doesn’t come on some agent’s letterhead.  If he or she does, then he/she is a dumbass who I probably wouldn’t want to work with anyway because he/she would piss me off to no end.  But beyond that, I’ve found, without much effort at all, numerous references citing a large percentage of first-time authors who get published without agents.

So screw you very much, all you naysayers.  DWS’ Sacred Cows posts are looking more and more valid.  So, tell me again why I need an agent?

Oh yeah, agents can get better contracts.

Really.

Is your agent an attorney?  Is he or she trained in contracts and copyright law?  Does your agent have any training in business and accounting?  Or is your agent just a fracking English major who happened to get a job on that side of the business?

I might be new to this writing gig, but I know enough to not take advice on contracts from someone who knows dick about the law.  The same for advice on business.  Stick a sock in it, buddy.  I’ve got an MBA on my wall.  What do you have?

I went through all these thoughts back in January/February, and I started to get rather concerned for my sister.  Now, she’s an attorney herself, and isn’t relying on this writing bit for her daily bread.  But all the same, I became convinced that she needed to ditch the agent and go on her own.  In fact, by the middle of February, I became convinced that it almost didn’t make any sense to go to a NY publishing house at all anymore, with the rise in ebooks.  The future is now, baby!

I sent her links to all the things I’d learned. and she can do what she wants with them.  But for me, I came to several conclusions:

  1. I neither require nor desire an agent.  For anything.  Ever.
  2. I’m publishing my novel-length stories electronically first.  Myself.  I see no reason to give up a sizable portion of my potential profit just for “validation” from some editor somewhere.  The only validation that matters is if people like what I’ve written and buy it.

The latest developments with agents, which Dean and Kris document in their recent posts, only solidifies these thoughts in my brain.  The latest scams that agents are trying to pull are appalling, but I guess not surprising considering what I’ve learned about the history of the agenting business in general.  It saddens me to think that many authors will get sucked into these scams.  But, I’ve no doubt many will.

Why?

Because too many writers are English majors.  Or even worse, people with MFAs.  Too many don’t bother to realize that they are, in fact, in business.  They’re deluded that they’re “artists”, and that “art” is some sublime thing that shouldn’t be sullied by such tripe as business considerations.  Writing is a noble calling, you see.

To that, I say: horseshit.

Art is no different from any other aspect of human existence.  It’s a business like any other, and as such is governed by the same immutable laws of economics that everything else is governed by.  In fact, it’s actually of far less importance than many other things.  You want a noble calling?  Be a fracking firefighter.  Be a soldier.  Be a doctor.  Be a scientist or an engineer.  Science and engineering are FAR greater pursuits than writing.  Those things actually improve people’s lives, in innumerable ways.  Writing, on the other hand, or at least fiction writing, which is what I’m talking about, exists solely as a form of entertainment.  That’s it.

So quit with the delusions of grandeur, all you writers out there.  YOU ARE NOTHING SPECIAL!  Get off your fracking high horses and learn to live in reality with the rest of us.  And if you want to be a success, stop sniveling and learn how business works.  Stop falling for the most obvious scams on the planet, grow a pair, and use the tools of modern technology to take charge of your own career, for Christ’s sake!

Of course, this won’t happen for most writers.  Because they’re fracking artists.

So they’ll remain poor and downtrodden.  And they’ll blame evil corporations or what have you for their state, like all losers who make bad decisions do.  But in the end, it’ll be their own damn fault.

God I hate artists sometimes.

Once again, I’ll re-iterate: I AM NOT, NOR WILL I EVER BE, AN ARTIST.

I’m a guy who decided to go into business writing stories for entertainment.  That’s all any writer ever is, if they weren’t too stupid to see it.

Ok, rant over.  I’m done.

New E-Publishing Opportunities….or not?

The other day, one of my Facebook contacts had a guest post from a lady who very happily told everyone how she got her books published through a couple of  e-publishers.  She was very upbeat, happy, and proud of her accomplishment, but I found it hard to feel happy for her.

No offense to her, but I can’t fathom the appeal of a strictly e-publisher.  This lady’s story is telling.  Her books won’t come out until February and August of 2012, respectively.  In ebook.  Call me a Philistine, but I can’t see how in the world it could possibly take nearly a year to get a book out only in ebook format.

Look, I finished Masters last week.  Jeroen tells me he’ll start reading it in a week, maybe two, once he catches up on some other projects, and that he’ll have a preliminary cover design about a week after that.  In the meantime, I’ve got seven people reading it for content and typo errors.  I’ll probably contact Bubblecow or some other professional editor too, and maybe a proofreader.  With all that work, I fully expect to have Masters up for sale, in all ebook outlets, by mid to late June.  Doing it on my own.

So this lady is adding many months to the process, and I guarantee she’s giving up a sizable percentage of her royalties to boot.  And for what?  I don’t know these presses she signed with with, but really, what exactly are they going to do to earn that money that she couldn’t do for herself?  Maybe some marketing?  Maybe?  But mostly I suspect all she’ll get is an ego boost from having someone say she’s good.  And she’ll pay a lot of money for that.

I don’t know.  It smells like a bad deal to me.

I can see hooking up with print publishers, so you can have a better chance of getting your book into bookstore chains and what have you.  But signing with a publisher only for ebook publishing?  No way, Jose.  That makes no sense to me.

Now, I could be wrong.  Maybe she’s getting a lot more out of this deal than I suspect.  Maybe she’s getting a good percentage of the gross proceeds, so she’ll get close to the 65-70% royalty she could get just be doing it herself.  But I strongly doubt it.  More likely she’ll get 25-50% of the net at best.  And as J Daniel Sawyer points out in this post, when it comes to contracts, getting a piece of the net proceeds essentially means getting nothing.

Not for me.  No way.  No how.  I’m totally onboard with Dean Wesley Smith’s latest recommendations.  If someone wants a piece of my action, they better offer some SERIOUSLY good value for the money.  And even then, I’ll probably say no.  One should never pay for day labor with a percentage of ownership.  And make no mistake: if you’re giving someone a percentage of your royalties, you’re giving them partial ownership of your copyright.  There better be some HUGE value added to justify that.  But considering the copyright lasts until seventy years after the author dies, I can’t fathom what could add enough value to offset a sizable reduction of that long-lasting a cash flow stream.

Call me silly.

UPDATE: I just went through and re-read her post, and it’s even worse than I thought.  She went through an agent to get these deals.  So not only will she not get the ebook royalty she could have, but she’ll also have an agent skimming off part of what little she does get.  Ugh.

Several Books Reviewed

Hello again.

I did a bunch of reading while we were in the hospital.  In preparing for the trip, I picked up several ebooks, since I figured I’d have time to power through them.  I didn’t finish all of them, but here’s what I thought of those I did finish.

Back when I was getting started writing, late December/early January, I decided to do a bunch of research into the business side of writing and publishing.  I don’t recall exactly how I found Derek J Canyon’s site, but I was pretty impressed with how open he was about how he was doing business, his costs, the steps he took to get his books done and out there, and how he was doing in sales.  I didn’t immediately key on his book though.  But while getting ready for the hospital, I decided what the heck and picked up a copy.

I’m glad I did, because Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is a very fun and quick read.  Noose is a great character.  Heck, they all are.  And there’s nothing like gun fights, car chases, skydiving onto blimps, aerial battles, and general mayhem for great entertainment.  I’m just glad I don’t live in that world.  That said, I do have a few nits to pick.  One character is advertised to be several hundred years old, but if you do that math on that, it means he was born in the 1800s, and none of the technology he supposedly used to prolong his life existed back then.  And they all suffered from the “you shot me but I’m going to keep on trucking as though it didn’t affect me” problem every now and then.  Now, Derek has a reasonable explanation for it with one character: pain inhibitors.  And nanobots for healing solves the long-term wounding problem nicely.  But that still left the immediate “I’m shot” reaction lacking in some of the characters sometimes.  That’s a small nit, though.  I’m going to go ahead and give Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance five stars on Amazon and Goodreads, because I liked it a lot.

On to J E Medrick.  You may recall a few weeks ago I read her first book, Shackled, and that I liked it a lot. Cheat is the first novella in her new Icarus Helix series.  The vision is to put out shorter, serialized works more frequently.  Her schedule right now is to churn out one 20,000 word piece each month for the series.  That’s a pretty good idea, I think.  Several people have commented that ebooks are a great format for shorter reads, and that serialized stories could be primed to make a comeback.  Anecdotally, my wife and her friends have commented to me that they really like the notion of shorter stories, since you can tear through them in a single sitting, vice having to spend days or weeks (depending on schedule and the size of the book) finishing a full novel.  Plus, writing shorter pieces mean you finish them quicker, and get more titles out there faster, which is a great help for getting noticed.  Hard to find you if you have just one story out there.  If you’ve got twenty?  That’s a different matter altogether.  So in all, I’d say this is a smart business move, and a good way to tell stories.  Heck, it works pretty well for comic books, right?

Anyway, back to Cheat.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as Shackled.  She’s going for the YA genre here, and while I found the story fun and enthralling, I don’t think she quite hit the age of the characters correctly.  The main character is supposed to be seventeen, but to me it seemed he acted more like thirteen at times, especially when it came to interaction with girls.  Also, it seemed she made the characters a little too ignorant about some things, and I didn’t buy it (e.g. – is it really believable that juniors in high school wouldn’t know the word fiction?).  Those gripes aside, I dug the story, and she set up the future of the series pretty well.  I’m intrigued about what exactly CGT is trying to pull.  So overall, pretty good, but I thought it had some flaws.  I’ll be throwing three stars onto Amazon and Goodreads.

I’ve been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast for a long time now (a year?  year and a half? Maybe more? Not sure exactly).  I started listening to it because I’m a big Wheel of Time fan, and when Brandon Sanderson got tapped to complete the series I, like everyone else, said “Who the hell is that?”  I found his website, and contented myself that he was legit.  Then, at some point after The Gathering Storm came out, I noticed the Writing Excuses link on his site and followed it.  I dig podcasts in general, so I decided to start listening in, and liked it.  So even though I wasn’t writing, I listened every week.  It helped fan the embers though, I guess.  In January, after I started writing Masters, I went back into the podcast archives and found an episode about agents.  Since every writer HAS to have an agent (or, it turns out, not), I listened in, and realized I’d heard it before.  They talked about some controversial discussions that had stemmed from one of Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog posts.  Intrigued, I went to his site.  I’ve been reading his blog religiously ever since.  His Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog series was one of the first essays about the publishing business I read in my research.  It totally opened my eyes, since he talks about writing and publishing from a practical business-oriented perspective, and that resonated with me as an MBA.  It might be going a bit far to claim him as a mentor, since, though I’ve commented on his blog a few times and exchanged facebook messages with him once, he doesn’t know me from Adam.  But he’s definitely had a big influence on my thinking about this business.

Anyway, he set himself a challenge to write 100 short stories and epublish them, on top of everything else he’s writing this year.  Because his discussion on this topic has fueled my thinking a lot, I decided to buy and read The Challenge: Volume 2. A Collection of Five Stories, which he obviously he wrote as part of that challenge.  I’ve got mixed feelings about it.  I like his two “Poker Boy” stories a lot.  The second story in the collection, about the talking tree, was, as advertised, a bit weird.  But whatever, it’s all good.  “On Top of the Dead” was neat, but I had a couple nits to pick with it.  First, he’s talking about a pulsar being the thing that killed everyone.  I’m pretty sure he means a Gamma Ray Burst, since a pulsar is a quickly rotating neutron star that gives off radio pulses: not harmful.  The second thing is that while a Gamma Ray Burst will, if close enough, sterilize a planet, unless I’m vastly mistaken, it’ll only kill half of it.  The far side of the planet from the Burst would not receive any dose unless the Burst lasted for a full rotation of the planet, because while the gamma rays will be bent by the Earth’s gravity well, they won’t be bent THAT far that the planet wouldn’t still cast a “shadow”.  Now my wife would say, “It’s make believe” and roll her eyes at me for analyzing it like this, and I think Dean would too.  But that’s just how I roll as an Engineer and science guy.  I prefer plot points and details that are as close to factual as possible before they start deviating, if that makes any sense.  I still liked the story, though.  The last story was pretty cool.  I liked the concept: you get younger the farther away from your home planet you travel.  I wonder why anyone would consent to return to Earth at the completion of these missions, though.  So yeah, good stuff overall, despite a couple hiccups.  I’m throwing a 4 up on Amazon and Goodreads.

Ok, I haven’t finished The Name of the Wind.  I’m only into the second chapter.  But I went into it expecting brilliance, and so far it’s living up to that expectation.  As a guy who fancies himself a big time fan of fantasy fiction, I’m rather embarrassed that I’d never heard of Patrick Rothfuss until about a month ago, when he did a bunch of podcast interviews to promote his new book.  Considering he’s gotten all kinds of accolades, I rather think I should have.  Oh well, I’m making up for lost time now.  So far, I give it three snaps up in Z formation, to coin a phrase from “In Living Color”, back in the early 90s.  Ok, I’m dating myself now.  Let’s go with two thumbs up and leave it at that.

Not that it really matters what I think about these works, but I felt like pontificating.

I’m done now.  Carry on, then.  🙂

Gaining a Following?

I took a couple interesting screen captures the other day, from the wordpress stats page:

Interesting.  I started this blog on 28 January, so counting the January stats is pretty meaningless.  But aside from that, readership here has pretty much doubled each month.  Neat, huh?  I guess what they say about just being consistent and posting regularly being the key is true.

Breaking it down by day in April,

The peaks and valleys are very interesting.  The biggest day was April 5th, when I revealed how much better my wife is at figuring out movies than I am.  That also corresponded to when I un-screwed myself on Facebook and set up an author page instead of a second personal account.  Telling all my friends/family about it generated some traffic, apparently.  Next biggest was 15 April, when I posted my rebuttal of the Game of Thrones Review in the NY Times.  I guess people cared about that.  Or not.  It’s very easy to see when I made a post and when I didn’t, though.

What’s all this mean?  Probably not much.  I just thought it was neat.

Anyway, I did a first re-read of Masters over the last couple days.  Well, not the first really.  I tend to go back and read what I’ve written, removing typos and such, as I go.  But this time I read straight through.  I found a few glaring continuity errors in the later chapters, a consequence of jumping around and writing out of order, I guess.  I fixed those.  But I need to get outside eyes on it.  So far, five people offered to read and provide feedback, so I sent copies to them.  I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

Another thing on the to do list is cover art.  Many people have raved about Jeroen Ten Berge‘s work, so I sent him an email.  He seems like a pretty good guy, his price is in line with the market, and he takes the time to read through the books he’s doing art for.  So what the heck?  I sent him over a copy of the manuscript with some of my thoughts.  We’ll see what he comes up with.

So yeah.  It’s been a good week.

Next week should be even better, since we’ll get the little man home.

I’ve got the next two weeks off to help him recover, so that will be a big help for the better half.  But not going to work should also give me some time to write short stories (I hope).  I’d like to get at least three or four done this month.  That way I can send a couple to magazines and post the others for sale, both singly and in a five-pack with the two I’ve already put up.

Then, in June, I’ll start book number two.  Not the sequel to Masters.  Not yet.  It’ll either be the dragon story I’ve been thinking of or the follow-up to Passing in the Night.  Probably the later, but we’ll see.

So that’s where things stand with me.  It’s been an interesting few days in the book blogosphere.  Now that I’m out from under surgery, I’ll have some thoughts on some issues shortly.

Children’s Hospital Boston

…is the BOMB!

I just gotta say it.

My wife has a blog about being a stay at home mom.  She posts now and then about her challenges.  And the good times, too.  She asked me to write a post about our experience this week at Children’s, and how things went.  I was happy to oblige.  If anyone’s interested, the post is right over here.  Go take a read.

I’ll leave you with a picture of a nice friendly nurse doing a great job for our little man (also pictured).