Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Belated Thanksgiving

Hey, we still have some turkey in the fridge, so it's still appropriate to give thanks, right?

I meant to pound out this blog entry during the holiday weekend, but family visits and general merriment prevented me from doing it. I'd like to take a few minutes to give thanks for my blessings.

Big Thanks

Family. I would not be the person I am without my family. They make me better. They challenge me. They support me. I'm thankful my parents read to me as a kid and encouraged me to write. They also encouraged me to watch lots of sports. To this day, I still write, read, and watch a lot of sports.

My wife. Like everyone, I worry. Sometimes, I worry a lot. My wife is always beside me to tell me to worry less and smile more. She puts up with my fantastic tales of superheroes and spaceships, my love of reading and pop culture references. She laughs at my lame jokes and puns. Perhaps I should not be so thankful for the it only encourages me to spin ridiculously stupid jokes and puns.

Friends. I'm not the warmest and fuzziest man around. Sometimes (actually, almost always) I'm terrible at keeping in touch with my friends. Yet when we do meet up or swap stories, I feel the immeasurable camaraderie between us. I feel the sense that nothing has changed even when everything has changed.

Mentors. Yes, mentors are covered in the "friends" category. However, I can think of several people in my life who transcend friendship. Yes, we're close, but I look up to you. I rely on you for guidance and advice. You always come through.

Little Thanks

Sports. Some people may balk at seeing this on the list. After all, what have sports ever done for anyone? I can't offer an answer to that question. I can, however, tell you that I live and die in the summer with the Cincinnati Reads; fret and worry during the fall and winter over the fates of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Indianapolis Colts; rise and fall through a certain March Madness with the Indiana Hoosiers. Sports are an important part of my family culture.

My trusty notebooks. My stories don't start on the computer screen; they begin on paper instead. In notebooks strewn about the house, I have outlines and detailed notes about nearly every short story and novel I've ever written or conceived. My filing system is I have none...and it sometimes takes a while to find what I'm looking for. Still, my notebooks inspire me and occasionally remind me of a crucial plot point I'd almost forgotten.

Kindle library lending. Thanks to this awesome partnership, I can check out library books on my Kindle without ever leaving my house. This is awesome and convenient. After feeling like I hadn't read a book for a while, I've read at least six books in the past two months. That may not sound like much, but considering three of those are George R.R. Martin's novels, it's like I've read 50 books in the last two months.

No Thanks

0-11. If you don't know what this means, you don't know me.

Revision Time for I, Crimsonstreak

I've made it a mission to read the books in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. I just finished A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series. I have A Feast for Crows from the library, but will put it aside for a few days.

More pressing matters call, you see.

I have received the revisions for my book I, Crimsonstreak, and it's time to work on those. The editing notes came just a few days before Thanksgiving, and I didn't really have a chance to dig in. I worked on them a bit last Wednesday, pounding out a more detailed timeline of some of the events leading up to the story. Actually, I'm pretty happy with the timelines. Now, I have to make sure the revised history of the world matches across the board.

I don't know how long this will take, but this is the next stop on the fabled Road to Publication.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First Draft in Facebook

I was looking through my author page on Facebook and realized I had basically created my own timeline covering the development of my first draft of Crimsonstreak 2. How long does it take to outline a book and complete a first draft? According to this timeline, it took me 108 days to finish a first draft of the main story, which weighs in at 87,000 words.

It's an interesting visual and I thought I'd share it. You can always "like" my author page right here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

And So It Begins...

I received a very important email this weekend.

Mastermind Kate Sullivan at Candlemark & Gleam sent me my revision notes and the line-edited version of the manuscript for I, Crimsonstreak. For reasons I'll not disclose at the moment, I haven't looked over the revision notes just yet.

Let's just say, however, that I'll be doing that very, very soon.

The timing works out just perfectly; I finished my first draft of I, Crimsonstreak 2: Crimsonstreakier on Friday night. I was looking over the manuscript and really like the first half. It's fast-paced and fairly breezy like the first book. I haven't read the most recent additions to the manuscript, but I feel like it went off in too many directions and couldn't focus in the second half. The grand finale, I feel, is a bit of a letdown right now. However, that's what first drafts are for.

Still, Crimsonstreak 2 is a "backburner project." Revisions must be done to the original book first. After all, what good is a sequel if it isn't a follow-up to something that's already published? So Crimsonstreak 2 will sit for a little while. That's a good thing, though. I'll get it out of my "mindspace," which will allow me to look at it more objectively.

Let the revisions begin!

Friday, November 18, 2011

REVIEW: Ready Player One

It isn't often that a New York Times-bestselling author drops by my corner of the blogosphere. In fact, of my 837 posts, this is the first time it's happened. Today, I welcome author Ernie Cline, who's building a nice little resume after penning the movie Fanboys and now his first novel, Ready Player One. Mr. Cline was gracious enough to join me for an interview, but first let me throttle his book in my review.

Ready Player One takes us to a grim future where the Great Recession never ended. Humanity has grown complacent and watched the world fall to pieces. Thankfully, people have a place to escape from all of this: the OASIS.

It's World of Warcraft on Venom (Bane's Venom, mind you). Or Second Life, but only awesome and with an actual purpose. The OASIS is the ultimate media-converged virtual world where anything is possible. Like the Matrix, without the people-as-batteries thing.

The book follows Wade Watts, a teenager searching for a better life. Wade, like everyone else, spends the majority of his time interacting in the virtual world. Through his avatar Parzival (the other spellings were already taken), he makes friends, goes to class, and basically eats and breathes a simulated world that's much better than actual reality.

The OASIS world was created by a reclusive billionaire named James Halliday, a mystical Steve Jobs-like figure who enjoys an almost cult-like following. A child of the eighties, Halliday relished video games, movies, and sci-fi and fantasy, incorporating them into his life and basing entire "sectors" of the OASIS on things ranging from Blade Runner to Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons. Upon his death, Halliday buried an "Easter egg" deep in the bowels of the virtual world program, vowing that anyone who found it would inherit the OASIS and all his wealth.

The Hunt spawns an entire subculture of online egg hunters (called "gunters" in the book) hellbent on finding Halliday's Easter egg and claiming the wealth, power, and privilege that would surely follow. The gunters and their freewheeling ways are threatened by a corporation called IOI (its agents are called Sixers) that employs vast numbers of people and resources to solve Halliday's riddles. If they win and take over the OASIS, it would surely result in a grim future full of microtransactions, subscription fees, and general corporate greed.

Wade becomes the first person ever to crack one of Halliday's clues, leading him down a virtual rabbit hole of eighties movie, music, book, and game references. Each clue becomes more and more vital, each reference more and more obscure as Wade and his friends Art3mis and Aech try to stay a step ahead of the IOI and its never-ending supply of goons. Other than a little hyper-competitiveness and mutual antagonism, they're mostly up to the challenge.

Watch out for giant robots, X-wings, flying DeLoreans, arcade showdowns, and a little RPG magic. Ready Player One plunges readers into an OASIS of their own where anything is possible and even the little guy has a shot at the high score.

-Cline knows his geek culture and drains every last drop from it
-Pop culture lovers may actually witness their own heads explode
-immensely detailed world
-likeable characters
-some nice surprises tucked away throughout
-I would love to try that "you're in the movie" thing

-bad guys were a little stock-quality, "evil for evil's sake"
-need to brush up on those Japanese robot shows
-pop culture references may lose or turn off some readers
-found a few of the characters stereotypical
-certain age groups will not enjoy or "get" this book


Ready Player One is a seriously entertaining read. If you love the eighties, pop culture, video games, and imagination, READ IT NOW. If you don't love any or all of those things, I'll admit the depth of movie, book, and gaming references could be deep and intimidating.

Still, I'm giving it a coveted Field of Dreams on the Ray Liotta Quality Meter (a brief explanation of the Ray Liotta Quality Meter)

QUESTION: Your book is steeped in geek culture. I'm sure you knew most of it going in, but did you have to research any of it? Which areas of geekdom required a little extra effort?

ERNIE CLINE: I didn't really do any research into the geek culture elements, unless you count my entire life prior to writing the book as "research." I only referenced things from my own life, as a way of maintaining my own interest in writing the book. I did occasionally look things up online, but only to make sure I was remembering something correctly. Most of the real research I did for the book involved studying virtual reality technology and haptics.

QUESTION: The OASIS seems to be the next evolution in gaming/roleplaying. How close do you think we are to the total immersion shown in Ready Player One?

ERNIE CLINE: It's difficult to say. We've been promised "virtual reality" since the 80s, but the technology still isn't quite there. We still play video games and browse the web on two-dimensional screens. But it seems like we're inching closer to something like the OASIS every day. The US military is constantly developing more and more advanced VR tech, as a way to train soldiers to deal with combat situations in a consequence-free environment, and haptic technology is also getting more and more advanced. It seems likely that sometime in the next few decades, something like the OASIS will emerge. If it does, I think an awful lot of people will become addicted to it.

QUESTION: The book has so many nods and references, and then the OASIS itself has its own set of rules. How did you keep it all straight? Did a series "bible" figure into your world-building? Did you "map" out the different realms/sectors found within the OASIS?

ERNIE CLINE: The first few years I spent working on the story, I spent most of my time filling notebooks ideas and details about the OASIS and how it would work. I did create a map of all the OASIS sectors, while I was sorting out how travel within the simulation would function, and how each sector would be divided up into zones with different properties. It took me a long time to figure everything out, but it was necessary to get all of those details clear in my mind before I could begin to tell the story.

QUESTION: What were the struggles of seeing the book in print? How long has the process taken?

ERNIE CLINE: The main struggle for me was just finishing the book. I took me nearly a decade, working on it off and on between various day jobs and screenwriting projects. I would get frustrated and set the novel aside, sometimes for a year or more, before finally coming back to it for another try. Eventually I sold the option to one of my screenplays, and that allowed me to quit my day job and just focus on finishing the novel for a year. That was when I finally finished it, in late 2009. Once the book was finished, it only took me a few months to find an agent and sell it to a publisher.

QUESTION: What (or who) are some of your writing inspirations?

ERNIE CLINE: A lot of writers inspire me, and many of them are mentioned in my book. I'd say my three biggest influences are Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, and Neal Stephenson.

BONUS QUESTION: What's your next project/what are you working on right now?

ERNIE CLINE: Right now I'm working on a geeky coming of age movie about growing up in the 80s, in the spirit of American Graffiti and Dazed & Confused. I'm writing the screenplay and I also plan to produce and direct. Wish me luck, because I'm going to need it.


He drives a DeLorean. For real. Well, sort of.

Ready Player One is available at most major retailers and e-tailers, including and Barnes & Noble

Follow Ernie Cline on Twitter @erniecline

Visit his website HERE

I read the book via a library loan on my Kindle. Interview conducted via email. I would like to again thank Ernie for his time!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Coming Soon!

I've been corresponding with Ernie Cline, author of the uber-fun book Ready Player One. I just the read the novel and Mr. Cline was gracious enough to do a quick "Take Five" interview via email. I'll have my review of his book up and running in the next few days!

Also coming soon: a post on finishing the first draft of Crimsonstreak 2. That, ahem, will come sometime after I actually finish the book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Anatomy of a Small Press Book Deal

I've signed a contract with Candlemark & Gleam for my book I, Crimsonstreak. This is a small press, a relatively new one, but they've already released some tremendous books (check out Erekos and Broken). When I say tremendous, I mean tremendous, and Publishers Weekly agrees.

The purpose of this post is to illustrate how this book deal happened, how fate intervened at just the right moment, and how a rookie writer with a few short stories under his belt hit the right note with an up-and-coming publisher.

This novel is actually my second attempt at writing a book. My first, a lovely project called Seven, began in 2005. I finished it in a flurry over several days while trying to make the deadline for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. That was in 2007, the inaugural year for the contest.

That book had no shot. Seriously. It still exists--I've done some revisions--but Seven is in serious need of polish. Actually, probably a complete rewrite is in order. I'll get to that...someday.

Part I: The Birth of I, Crimsonstreak

I, Crimsonstreak started simply with the title Hero. It was my attempt to write a superhero book. The original file is still hanging around on my hard drive and clocks in at a meaty 55,000 words. I started it in October 2007, shortly after submissions opened for the Amazon contest.

The first draft came fairly quickly. The book uses a first-person narrative and the voice embodies my own with a heckuva lot more snark. Because the character, initially, mirrored me in many ways, the writing flowed very easily for that first draft. They were comfortable shoes, to say the least.

In 2008, the book's title became I, Crimsonstreak. I experimented with making my own cover (all attempts were poor efforts) and then had an idea to add "meta-fiction" to the book. These were newspaper articles, character profiles, journal entries, and other fictionalized writings meant to give the world a more "lived in" feel. More revisions followed and I decided it was time to query.

I began that long and frustrating process in 2009, when I didn't know anything about publishing (as opposed to today, when I kind of think I know something about publishing).

You'll probably be shocked to know those queries weren't well-received. The pitches were bad (I looked up some old emails and cringed) because I spent five minutes writing them. I described the length in terms of Microsoft Word pages instead of actual word count (all together now: forehead slap!).

I moved on to another project. The sentiment in publishing is that if you can't sell your book, you write another and keep writing until you sell something. Some authors get frustrated, give up, and never reach this point. I was too young and idealistic to give up, so I churned out a couple other projects, while Crimsonstreak sat on the ol' hard drive, untouched, unloved, and full of untapped potential.

The market wasn't ready for a superhero book, I told myself. Unless you had a licensed Marvel/DC character, most superhero novels were doomed to fail. Even the licensed tie-in books, it seemed, weren't all that well received.

So what did I do?

I wrote another superhero book titled The Franchise, which I felt was my best effort. I polished and polished and polished that one before attending my very first writing conference, the Midwest Writers Workshop in summer 2010. I pitched my book to an agent, and even though he didn't represent the genre, he had a few kind things to say and suggested I keep plugging away. I ended up informally pitching that book to another agent, who requested the full manuscript. She eventually passed, but I was gaining confidence.

Part II: Let's Get Digital, Digital

Flash-forward to 2011.

Ebooks, once thought to be a fringe dalliance for readers daring enough to buy a Kindle, exploded. Like, Death Star-at-Yavin exploded. Self-publishing, it seemed, was the way to go.

Perhaps it is.

With stories of J.A. Konrath, Amanda Hocking, and John Locke dominating writing and publishing circles, I thought it was time to dive in. I bought a Kindle, learned about ebook formatting, Smashwords, and Amazon's Kindle platform.

My thought was to take I, Crimsonstreak, give it to my beta readers, design a cover (my attempts were much better as my photo-editing skills improved), and then self-pub it. Just to see the process, just to go through it. If I was going to be a writer, I needed to know where writing was going and it was obvious ebooks were driving sales. Jane Friedman, an advocate of digital publishing and frequent guest at the Midwest Writers Workshop, saw it coming, even though a lot of people were skeptical.

The book went through an intensive, two-month rewrite/revision. By the time I was finished, what was once a 55,000-word book now had 96,000 words. It felt better, more rounded, more professional. I became excited about the book again, but I knew it was going to be a tough sell for agents/editors.

I, a debut writer with a few obscure short stories to my name, wanted to pitch a superhero novel.

I had made the decision, with no resources, no connections, and no guidance, to self-publish.

This was going to happen.

Then, Twitter stepped in.

Part III: The Twitter Imperative

I was late to Twitter. If you're a writer, get on it. Now. Don't stop, don't think about it. Bookmark this post or open a new browser tab and register NOW.

I'm not going to guarantee that tweeting will get your book published, but that's how circumstances worked out for me. Some people are even Adam Christopher, a UK writer "discovered" on Twitter. You should follow @ghostfinder because I think his debut novel Empire State by Angry Robot Books is gonna be HUGE. He writes superhero stories, too...and his success helped me realize that maybe my superhero novel could go somewhere. (DISCLAIMER: I do not know Adam Christopher personally, but I follow him and occasionally respond to his tweets)

In May, I started following David Rozansky, the editor of Flying Pen Press and a very engaging Twitter user with more than 6,000 followers. Within a week of following his tweets, I found out about #bookmarket, a weekly Twitter chat about books, publishing, writing, and marketing.

Sometimes reticent about engaging people I don't know, I dove in and asked a simple question during the chat on May 12: what genre does a superhero novel fall in?

The answers were all over the board. I didn't expect that, although I should have. Fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, war, crime fic, detective stories, noir...the "superhero" genre is multifaceted.

One tweet came from Candlemark & Gleam: "In the case of BROKEN, superhero fic overlaps sci-fi and dystopia. Hit with readers. Love it."

I'd never heard of Candlemark & Gleam. I'd never heard of Broken. C&G is a small publisher operating out of Vermont specializing in spec fic/sci-fi. The book Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow is a novel with superhero elements.

And then, this tweet:


Just like that, I went from "I'll just self-publish this unpublishable book" to "let's give them a try."

There are authors who will say this was the wrong move; that I should self-publish. Maybe they're right.

But I'm just a guy with Twitter and a blog. I put some short stories up on the Kindle/Smashwords platform, and they didn't do particularly well (caveat: I didn't exactly promote them, either). I wasn't confident that putting Crimsonstreak in the market and trying to do it ALL by myself was the way to go. I wanted a partner; I wanted someone to help guide me through this process.

I gambled on Candlemark & Gleam in hopes they would gamble on my novel.

But I wasn't ready quite yet.

Part IV: Pounding it into Submission

All this was happening as I was trying to sharpen the book. With help from one of my beta readers, I was already elbow-deep in crafting a better I, Crimsonstreak. I killed off a character when we realized this was a fitting part of a character arc. I worked to tone the voice of the main character and bring consistency to some of his actions. I even added some of the extra content in the back of the book.

Before I submitted to Candlemark & Gleam, I wanted everything to be pitch-perfect.

I'm fortunate, you see, because C&G has an open submissions policy. I don't have an agent. It's not because I don't want one, I just don't have one. My attempts to find one didn't meet with success, so C&G's open submissions policy was a godsend. The pieces were falling in place:

1) Open submissions policy
2) Sci-fi/speculative fiction
3) Interest in superheroes
4) Previously published superhero book

C&G hit all the check boxes.

Publishing is a game of Battleship. You call out "F3" and hope for a hit. Most of the time, you're rewarded with a white peg. Even though the publisher fit my material perfectly, the chance of scoring a "hit" seemed very low. Still, I was hoping for a red peg.

A week after the Twitter chat, after looking up information about Candlemark & Gleam, I took the plunge. This all came after an intensive revision of the whole book and another round of re-polishing the first 50 pages.

On May 18, I unleashed I, Crimsonstreak on the publisher with a rather enthusiastic and (embarrassingly) long cover letter recounting our brief Twitter conversation and the required table of contents, synopsis, and 50-page sample.

A week later, on May 25, I received a request for the full manuscript.

Finished, right? End of story!

(laughs) No. Not at all.

Part V: Wait for it...Wait for it...

Email and Twitter move quickly.

People don't.

It's not a failing of human beings, but it is a reality. Editors are juggling several projects and several authors. They have other submissions to read and evaluate. Your submission is just another in their Infinite Pile of Novel Ideas.

It takes time to read a book. I'm a fast reader, but it still can take a while with a job, family commitments, writing time, blogging, etc. So I knew it'd be a little bit before the editor responded with a decision on my book.

I kept writing short stories, tweeting, and blogging, but my thoughts were focused on the excruciating wait. Do they like it? Do they hate it? Were the first 50 pages full of promise, only for the last 350 to be a letdown? Is the story told skillfully enough?

I have two email accounts; one for personal use and one for my authorial pursuits. These are, of course, connected to my smartphone, which beeps/vibrates every time I get a new message. Every offer, every email (be it from AMC Theatres, O'Charley's, Logan's Roadhouse, Facebook, Twitter, Barnes & Noble, my parents, or someone else) was an exercise in "is this THE email?"

Nearly two months passed before I had an answer.

On July 19, at 9:49 p.m., editor Kate Sullivan emailed her response.

Part VI: A (Conditional) Victory

I, Crimsonstreak, it turned out, was a "go."

Candlemark & Gleam wanted it, but the editor had a couple of changes she wanted me to make before issuing a contract.

The edits seemed reasonable enough and I had two options: do them "on spec" or with a conditional contract.

Since I was already terrified with the prospect of having a contract at all, I agreed to do the revisions on spec (this means there's no contract, just the understanding that if I made the edits and they met the publisher's approval, a contract would follow). These were in no way major changes. One of the requested changes involved the supplementary material, which my beta readers and I kind of "glossed over" during our extensive revisions of the main narrative. Another was a character who didn't quite "click" in its current form.

I told the editor my re-edits would be quick and painless...and I was telling the truth. I wasn't being asked to rewrite the whole novel or completely change the plot; I was being asked to tweak a character and the supplemental meta-fiction. The editor even offered a suggestion for the minor character in question. I could do this, competently, within a week or two.

On July 29, I sent my revisions.

Two days later, the editor responded that she was swamped and warned it could be a little while before she would be able to reread the manuscript (apparently, it was some crap about how they had "other authors" to work with /sarcasm).

Teeth-gnashing, excitement, and anticipation followed.

About a month later, on August 28, I had my final, final, final answer.

Candlemark & Gleam liked the edits and offered me a contract:

My book I, Crimsonstreak is due out May 2012 from Candlemark & Gleam! I can't tell you how excited I am!

You can bet I'll keep you updated on everything as the book takes shape.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

So far this week...

By the time this posts, it will be Tuesday morning.

I didn't quite finish my book yet, but I'm definitely getting there. I'm going to exceed my original word count target by 15,000 words!

Meantime, I'm racing against the clock to finish A Storm of Swords before the library takes it away from my Kindle on November 24! I'm 400 pages into the 1,200-page book, although the last 50 pages or so are background information and a preview of the next installment. I'll make my deadline with some dedicated reading over the next week.

Also a note that the Dark Carnival anthology from Timid Pirate Publishing is ready to launch. I received an email from the esteemed Mr. Nathan Crowder that the book will arrive at the Timid Pirate offices this week. That means I should get my copy in the next few days, which means I'll take pictures of the book and table of contents, which means I'll then blog about it. can also order it through

Friday, November 11, 2011

The End is Nigh

Crimsonstreak 2: Crimsonstreakier is nearing completion.

I can feel it.

Smell it.

Taste it.

So far, I have more than 80,000 words. I will probably be able to wrap things up in 5,000-6,000 words, making the sequel's main story about 10,000 words longer than the original. I find this incredibly interesting because at about 60,000 words in, I didn't know if I'd hit my 75,000 word target. Here I am now writing about how the sequel is even longer.

Obviously, I'm going to lose some of those words. I'm going to go through and hack away here once the first draft is finished. I've come to the realization that "finished" is a word that doesn't really work with writing. You'll find closure once a story is published, yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean a work is "finished."

Of course, now that I think about it, Crimsonstreak 2: Still Running may clock in even "heavier." I've left places in the manuscript for flashbacks, a technique I used extensively in the first book. These are essentially flash fiction pieces (250-500 words) that provide little vignettes into the characters. I've earmarked some sections for these little asides and imagine more will spring to mind when I read through the manuscript.

Exciting times here!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The first draft of Crimsonstreak 2 is coming along nicely. I'm currently camped at 79,700 words after a solid 2,000-word outing last night.

I was aiming for 80,000 words initially, but I will definitely exceed that (unless I can wrap up my story threads in fewer than 300 words).

I'm juggling all kinds of things in the sequel: an alien invasion, more parallel universe tomfoolery, a lovable man-bird, a Green Lantern-like interplanetary peace corps, and the "return" of a character who didn't make it through the first book. Seriously, I've ratcheted the crazy up to 11. It's kind of embarrassing. The thing is, I know right now that it doesn't totally work because this is a first draft and first drafts must be destroyed!

I abandoned some very important characters who were prominent earlier in the book. I need to fix that. The motivations of the bad guy aren't clear. I need to fix that. I don't introduce the bad guy early enough. I need to fix that. My main character needs a more solid character arc involving his relationship with a certain someone. I need to fix that.

By the weekend, I'll probably have the first draft complete. I'll then sketch out some ideas for extra, supplemental material and get to work on some of that. After a few days or even a week, I'll hastily reformat Crimsonstreak 2 in HTML and email it to my Kindle, where I'll read through it and find out how epically I missed the mark on the first draft. I'll make corrections, I'll change plot points, move some characters around, and generally make another mess. After that, the manuscript goes to some beta readers for feedback and more general destruction.

For me, revisions generally take much longer than spitting out the first draft.

I wrote the first book, for example, in 2007. It really didn't take all that long (a few months, like this one). I played around with submitting it a couple years later, but I didn't know what I was doing. I went through several revisions until the book felt polished and then got some feedback from readers. This summer, I submitted it to a publisher. That's a four-year development cycle, with the majority of that dedicated to revising.

Of course, I was not as polished of a writer (that was my second attempt at a book while this is my seventh), so I expect this process to go a little more smoothly.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Song of Ice and Words I Don't Want to See Again

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a journey to read George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. For the most part, I've enjoyed the series (my review of A Game of Thrones is here), but it is loooooooong. In addition, I've found a few phrases and words I never want to see again...although considering I have three books left in the series (A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons), I'm convinced we shall meet again.

Here are my five worst offenders so far:

Ser. Martin tries to set his fantasy world apart from our own medieval history, which is fine by me. After all, this is a fantasy book. So we see a number of names that could "almost" be from the English language (or another real-world language), but have a different spelling. In the series, "sir" doesn't indicate a knight; the word "ser" does. I'm more than half a million words into this series, and I still can't get used to this. I blame my background in Spanish (I studied it in both high school and college); "ser" means "to be," not "a knight."

Something with a "ling" to it. Lordling, wildling, sweetling. Ick. Especially sweetling. They're the equivalent of diminutives or terms of endearment. I don't care for them.

Craven. Meaning "cowardly," this word and its derivatives appear too many times in the series. A quick search through the Kindle shows "craven" appears 27 times in A Clash of Kings and 43 times in A Storm of Swords. When you're reading a book that's so long and detailed, a word like this shouldn't stick out, but it certainly does.

Boiled leather. Not being a master of arms, I don't have a lot of context for this method of armor plating. However, it seems nearly everyone is dressed in "boiled leather" at one time or another.

Corn...corn...corn. Stupid birds. Seriously. SHUT. UP.

Updates for the Week of November 7

I have received confirmation that the short story anthology Attack of the 50FT Book has received an official reprieve. After being cancelled by Library of the Living Dead Press due to budgetary problems, the good folks at Pill Hill Press (the same place that published my short story "And the World Stopped") have decided to take on the anthology. A few of the authors dropped out, but the majority will stay the course and see their short stories published. Bravo!

Another anthology, Beta City, remains in flux, My story is short-listed on that one and stands a good chance of making it in. The antho, however, was a casualty of the purge at Library of the Living Dead. I know the editor is shopping the anthology around and hoping someone will publish it. Let's hope we find someone...and that my short story makes the final cut.

Crimsonstreak 2: Crimsonstreakier* is coming right along. The first draft is at 73,000 words. I expect this one to be a little longer than the first book. Heck, the first draft already dwarfs the original Crimsonstreak, which clocked in at a meaty 50,000 words. Crimsonstreakier may end up in the 100,000 word range when all the extra stuff is complete.

I just finished A Clash of Kings, Book 2 in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I now have to tackle A Storm of Swords, which is a couple hundred pages longer. I have until November 24th before the library Kindle lending period ends. So, um, good luck with that.

Oh, and my Colts are officially the worst team in the NFL, thanks to our hapless 0-9 record. Since I am a dull-minded fellow, I will keep watching, though I will be using this a lot:

*Not the actual title, I promise

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Top 20 Captain America Moments

Captain America: The First Avenger (henceforth known simply as Captain America or simply Cap) was my favorite movie of the summer.

Really, it wasn't even close, and I saw most of the big summer movies (with a few exceptions). I can't explain exactly why I love the character of Captain America so much, but I do. I guess it's that classic never-say-die American individualism the character embodies. He's a simpler hero from a seemingly simpler time; Stars and Stripes embodied. Oh...and my brother and I used to play the heck out of this Sega Genesis game:

I was almost always Captain America in this game. My brother almost always used Iron Man. Hawkeye and Vision were usually on the bench.

Casting Chris Evans was a masterstroke. I was skeptical at first ("They're casting the Human Torch as Cap!?"), but Evans was awesome. Square-jawed, principled, dogged pursuer of justice and right. Yeah, pretty much exactly what Captain America is all about. An underdog who fights for the little guy and always puts others in front of himself. And he throws a freaking shield.


I never did a formal review of Cap, but I'm sure it would rate very high on the Ray Liotta Quality Meter. Yeah, I'd imagine Field of Dreams level on that storied scale.

So, to celebrate the release of Captain America on Blu ray, I proudly present my Top 20 Cap Moments.

Red Skull & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Joe Johnston, the director of Cap, also served as a second unit director on a little movie called Raiders of the Lost Ark. So, he has a bit of experience with the World War II Era (his other little movie, The Rocketeer, also helped here). Sometimes, Cap almost feels like what Indiana Jones would be if he were a cape & cowl/tights & flight type of hero. I love this little nod to Raiders, where the always-reliable Hugo Weaving says, "And the Fuhrer digs in the desert for trinkets."

All day, baby. Pre-Cap Steve Rogers is a sickly, scrawny little guy with a bulldog's heart. When some jerk starts yelling over newsreels in the movie theater, Steve won't have any of it. After getting punched, he gets up. And again. And again. And again. "I can do this all day," he proclaims. You kinda believe him, until he finally goes down and gets rescued by his buddy Bucky Barnes.

Five times the embarrassment; five times the heart. Steve Rogers doesn't want to kill Nazis; he wants to go out there and fight for his country, which he believes is every man's right. But he's asthmatic, weak, and would be instant cannon fodder. Still, a certain undefinable greatness runs deep in his veins, something Dr. Abraham Erksine recognizes. He's not interested in Steve's 4-F status...but he is interested in the young man's drive to join up.

Room for Improvement. Tommy Lee Jones' Colonel Phillips walks among the trees while looking for the man who will become the ultimate super soldier. Yet, there's something wrong about the lineup. "General Patton says that wars are fought with weapons but won by men," Phillips says. "We are going to win this war because we have the best men." [disappointed look at scrawny Steve Rogers] "And because they're gonna get better."

Listen to the Boy! When a Hydra agent kills Dr. Erksine and tries to escape with the super soldier serum, the now-buff Steve Rogers chases after him. Eventually, the Hydra agent takes a kid hostage (how brave) and then throws him into the water (even braver!). Cap starts to rescue the kid, who assures him he can swim and implores him to chase after the bad guy!

The Star Spangled Man with a Plan. The movie's most charming sequence is when Steve, still not allowed to fight in the field because of the value of his genetic material, becomes part of a nationwide tour to sell war bonds. The song is memorable and eternally catchy. I dare you not to sing along:

Who’s strong and brave, here to save the American Way?
Who vows to fight like a man for what’s right night and day?

Who will campaign door-to-door for America,
Carry the flag shore to shore for America,
From Hoboken to Spokane,
The Star Spangled Man with a Plan!

We can’t ignore there’s a threat and a war we must win,
Who’ll hang a noose on the goose-stepping goons from Berlin?

Who will indeed lead the call for America,
Who’ll rise or fall, give his all for America,
Who’s here to prove that we can?
The Star Spangled Man with a Plan!

Stalwart and steady and true,
(see how this guy can shoot, we tell ya, there’s no substitute!)
Forceful and ready to defend the
Red, White, and Blue!

Who’ll give the Axis the sack, and is smart as a fox?
(far as an eagle will soar)
Who’s making Adolph afraid to step out of his box?
(He knows what we’re fighting for!)

Who [waked the giant that napped in] America?
We know it’s no-one but Captain America,
Who’ll finish what they began?
Who’ll kick the Krauts to Japan?

The Star Spangled Man with a Plan!
(Who’s strong and brave, here to save the American way?!)

Cap's Right Stuff. His first "mission" turns out to be a successful, and the triumphant Captain America struts to camp with the Howling Commandos in tow.

Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield! Cap doesn't throw his shield every five seconds in this movie, which is a good deal for everyone. The moments he does throw it are big ones. And. It. Looks. So. Good.

The Idea Men. After Peggy Carter gives Cap's new shield an unconventional lab test, both Cap and Howard Stark are speechless. I love their exchange in which they're too stunned to do anything except look at Carter as she walks away.

Steve Rogers: I had some ideas about the uniform.
Howard Stark: Whatever you want, pal.

Show a Lot of Things Happening at Once... After Captain America rescues the captured soldiers, Col. Phillips decides it's time to unleash America's new champion on Hydra. Thus, we get a superheroic montage of Cap & Company ransacking Hydra installations.

Stan the Man. Eventually, Cap snubs the congressman who turned him into a dancing monkey. When Steve skips out on a medal presentation, the congressman's lackey comes out instead of Captain America, prompting a confused (and always cameo-reliable) Stan Lee to comment, "I thought he'd be taller."

Consider the Gap Minded, if Anachronistically So. When Cap & Company go after Dr. Zola, the good Captain informs his team that the timing is very precise. Just a "ten-second window" he tells the guys. "Mind the gap," James Montgomery Falsworth replies.

Awkwardly Delicious. Tommy Lee Jones chews the scenery (and literally so in this scene) with the captured Dr. Zola. Love his delivery all the way through this one, but the line "that would be awkward" gets a laugh every time.

You're Right, Red Skull. Americans Are GREAT at This. "Arrogance is not a uniquely American trait, but you do it better than most." Really, the only person who could ever rival American arrogance would be a demonic, red-skulled "scientist."

But She Will! I love this nice, light moment before the movie's grand finale. After Peggy and Steve kiss, Cap looks at Col. Phillips. "I'm not kissing you!" he says.

Hero Down. A new life ahead of him, perhaps a lifetime of love. Yet, there's only one way for Captain America to save the world, and that means leaving everything behind...his friends, his country, and the woman of his dreams. He sacrifices everything to preserve them, as a true hero should.

Howard's Command. Howard Stark's search teams find the Cosmic Cube, but Howard Stark doesn't care. I love how this line ("Just keep looking") is delivered with both hope and bitter undertones; a searcher determined never to give up on Captain America.

As He Was Before, So He Shall Be. I thought this was a really nice touch. Instead of seeing a picture of Captain America decked out in his heroic gear, Peggy's last image is that of Steve Rogers, the man inside. I think that was an important choice.

Nap Time. Steve Rogers stumbles into Times Square, which probably looks like something from a B-movie serial to him. Yet, this is the real world now. "You've been asleep, Cap," a surprisingly empathetic Nick Fury says.

Check the Calendar. Confused, Steve's first thoughts turn to Peggy Carter and the dance that never was. Poignant, sad, and perfect.