Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Couple of Brief Updates

After news that the Library of the Living Dead Press had scuttled several anthologies, I've learned that there may be some hope after all.

The editors of two cancelled anthologies (Attack of the 50 FT Book and Beta City) are shopping around their anthos to other publishers. The hope is that someone else will publish, maybe at a reduced pay rate. I would be fine with that. The editors will have to decide if that's what they want to do. After all, they've read through the slush and accepted/rejected the stories. I have a feeling both editors will do everything they can to find a home for those books.

I sure hope they do. I have two stories on the line:

Gus and Mariel: Gus, a puffin who spent his whole life in captivity, falls in love with a bird named Mariel who arrives from the outside world. When she is suddenly taken away, Gus escapes and stumbles into radioactive goo that transforms him into a towering puffin the size of a building. Determined to reunite with his lost love, he unwittingly unleashes a trail of destruction across the United States.

Grisham's Council: Angry over the inability of earth's heroes to repel an alien invasion, Grisham ditches the resistance effort and prepares to strike on his own. But as the days grow darker, the hero realizes he's never alone: a dark force hunts him and the others, forcing Grisham to forge alliances with heroes and villains alike.

Then, of course, there was more bad news.

This month, Strange, Weird, and Wonderful published my short story "Old-Fashioned Police Work." I received an email from the editor this week informing me that the publication was going to cease publication. It's simply too much work with no profitability. However, the editor is going to publish two "Best Of" volumes and asked if my short story could appear in one of them. I granted that permission.

This is the second of my stories to be picked for a "Best Of" compilation. Wily Writers is going to do a volume of their best stories of 2011, and my short story "Absolution" was selected for that. I don't have a timetable on the release.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Library of the Living Dead

Well, not all news is good news.

It seems the folks at Library of the Living Dead Press are having some financial difficulties, and several anthologies are being cancelled. I thought two of my short stories ("Sparky Save the World" and "Gus and Mariel") would be published and in anthologies by now. Another short ("Grisham's Council") has been in perpetual flux for almost a year.

In an announcement on the LOTLD boards, the publisher says nearly all anthologies have been cancelled. It's too bad, but the publisher pays most of the costs on his own and we all know the economic climate is terrible.

The implication I get is that the rights to "Gus and Mariel" (a story about a building-size puffin) and "Grisham's Council" (about an anti-hero who unwittingly leads a revolution against an invading alien force) will be released back to me, as their anthologies (Attack of the 50FT Book and Beta City, respectively) are probably kaput. I received an email today saying that the Live and Let Undead anthology is going forward, which means we will see "Sparky Save the World" in print. We're hoping that will be some time before Christmas.

Most of this is speculation on my part...the publisher identified only three anthologies that would move forward (Live and Let Undead being one of the three, while Attack of the 50FT Book and Beta City were not listed). If I hear anything different, I'll let you know.

It's a shame this has to happen, especially since "Gus and Mariel" is one of my favorite stories. Once I get official word that the anthology is cancelled, I'll see what I can do to shop it around.

On the other hand, if this move saves LOTLD from going under, it's definitely the right move.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Writer Fantasy Camp Experience

Writing, like professional sports, is full of big-time money, glamor, and adventure.

And the staff at the Matt Adams Writing Experience wants you to live the dream!

The Matt Adams Writing Experience is like baseball fantasy camp...for writers!

During this intensive, two-week experience, you will endure the ups and downs of the life of a writer, from juggling a day job and writing to fulfilling your daily word count, submitting your work, handling rejection, and much more!

Eat Like a Pro Writer!

As a Fantasy Writer, you will be required to cover the costs of your own meals at our Virtual Writers Store unless...

Write to Eat!

Fantasy writers who manage to publish a story will be awarded a meal voucher for the Virtual Writers Store!

Selection may vary by region. Prices non-negotiable.

Live the Life!

Fantasy Writers will work a full eight-hour day at a vocation of the staff's choosing. They will then have the option of waking up before this day job to write or waiting until after work to meet their required daily word count.

Work like the Pros!

Fantasy Writers will settle for the mediocre tools used by real writers! PC's! Notebooks! The possibilities are endless!

Standard work station pictured. Zebra statue and Colts desk calendar not included.

Write in Pure Comfort!

Fantasy Writers will enjoy the full benefits of an average writing chair! It tilts, it spins, it leans even has armrests!

Standard writing chair pictured with standard two weeks of wear and tear.

Go Inside the Submission Process!

In addition to meeting daily word counts, guests will scour the internet for markets for their short story and divide their writing time between writing and composing cover letters!

Sell Your an Agent!

Fantasy Writers with completed manuscripts will release their work out into "the wild" to find that perfect agent, but...

Walk Down Rejection Avenue!

Fantasy Writers with perfectly-polished prose will receive authentic form rejection letters for their efforts!

Standard rejection letter. Results typical.

Keep Trying!

As the short stories and rejection letters pile up, Fantasy Writers will be asked to keep submitting!

Standard "Bang Head Here" sign. Multiple stations available for multiple visits.

Prepare to Give Up!

As the visits to Rejection Avenue continue to pile up, Fantasy Writers will have the option of torching their manuscripts.

Standard manuscript bonfire. Results typical, but not recommended.

Choose Your Path!

Explore self-publishing, small press, and traditional Big Six publishing...all while our staff advises you on why none of those options will work for you!

Hang in There!

Fantasy Writers who keep writing, revising, submitting, revising, writing, revising, submitting, writing, revising, and submitting may just make it big!

Standard book contract. Results not guaranteed, though achievable through persistence.

The Matt Adams Writing Experience is now taking applications for Fantasy Writers!

The magical, transformative two-week course costs only $4,900!*

*Includes $500 deposit. Deposit is nonrefundable, even in the case of death.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

REVIEW: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones is the first book in George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I've known about these books for a while, and by that I mean I've nearly fainted when noticing their doorstop-perfect build while browsing for books at the bookstore. Seriously, if you had to use a paperback to kill a man, pick up a George R.R. Martin book. The first book was released in 1996, which means I'm really getting a jump on this thing (it's okay; I was late on The Godfather, too). No doubt, the popularity of the HBO series (which I have not seen) also piqued my curiosity.

To try to condense the plot of A Game of Thrones would be a fool's task. Thankfully, you've come to the right place. Using the viewpoints of multiple characters (I think there are eight main ones), George R.R. Martin treats us to a sweeping tale of love, lust, vengeance, betrayal, duty, honor, family, power, redemption, and pretty much every other theme you can think of.

The Stark family, I think, is really the focus of the book. Ned Stark is the lord of Winterfell, a bleak, wintery land that could give Hoth a run for its money. When his friend King Robert comes to ask Lord Stark to take on the duties as his number-two (the King's Hand), Ned reluctantly agrees. The decision is a pivotal one, setting up a series of moves and counter-moves that take the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and move characters around like chess pieces.

King Robert was once a brave and bold man, but now he is no true king. After marrying a woman from the shifty Lannister family, the king grows fat, belligerent, and unobservant. He enlists Ned as help, taking Lord Stark away from Winterfell and moving him south. Let's just say a lot of bad things happen (one of Ned's sons suffers a grievous injury, it turns out King Robert's former King's Hand was murdered by one of the Lannisters, Ned and his family are branded as traitors, succession of the King's line comes under question, Ned's bastard son--hated by his wife but loved by Ned--joins a dangerous group of rangers tasked with keeping watch of evil forces north of a barrier called the Wall).

Meanwhile, in a different book, the former royal family displaced by King Robert's line struggles to gain a foothold. The Targaryen family was cast out as rulers after a mad crazy. King Robert led a rebellion against him...and most of the Targaryen line was wiped out, save two surviving heirs, Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen. Viserys, who's kind of a spoiled, idiotic brat, arranges to sell his sister as wife to Khal Drogo, the powerful leader of a wild people called the Dothraki. Daenerys' story is one of pain, suffering, more pain, more suffering, loss, and rebirth. Seriously, nothing good happens to her. Then again, nothing good happens to anyone in A Game of Thrones.

The book has several subplots, most of them compelling. There's the journey of Ned's brave bastard son Jon Snow; the emergence of Ned's oldest trueborn son Robb as a pivotal figure in the Seven Kingdoms. The other Stark children have their own cruel adventures as well. The dwarf of the Lannister clan--Tyrion--also plays a large role in the events that unfold, as do the machinations of his sister (King Robert's wife) and brother (Jaime "The Kingslayer").

Old families clash; old allegiances whither and die while others are forged anew.

Winter is coming...and it is good.


-Tyrion the Imp; this guy gets most of the good lines and provides all of the book's scant levity with his wit
-Epic, sweeping scope
-Complex, well-developed world that feels real and steeped in history
-No character is safe from injury or death--you never know what's going to happen
-Really felt like there were strong characterizations for most of the principles
-Ned Stark, damn him, is one honorable man (as are his sons...even the bastard Jon Snow)
-Most of the plots and subplots are deftly juggled and intertwined
-Main houses all managed to seem unique


-I wish someone would strangle the blasted crows and ravens; "corn, corn, corn!"
-Don't expect to laugh at the wacky antics of the Stark family
-A sense of hopelessness runs throughout the whole book
-The length; good God, the length...not for the faint of heart
-A lot...and I mean A LOT...of characters to juggle and keep straight
-Prepare for medieval sex that is both crazy and comical
-"Ser" in place of "sir"--my mind couldn't get used to this even after 800,000 pages


I don't read a lot of fantasy books. Sweeping tales of kings and knights hold a certain appeal, but I've never really been into those types of stories. In this case, I thought I'd try something different.

To my utter surprise and shock...A Game of Thrones gets a scintillating 5 out of 5 on the Ray Liotta Quality Meter (what is this?).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Five Favorite Superhero Movies

After a post earlier this week on superhero movies I shouldn't like (but do anyway), I thought I'd take a look at a few of my true favorites. Comic fans will discuss the merits of each film exhaustively, bemoan the absence of The Dark Knight and Superman, and question the inclusion of Watchmen (you can't pick't...have...a...squid!). But the great thing about having my own blog is...I get to express my opinion.

I'd like to point out that this isn't an attempt to make an exhaustive list or a list of the "best" superhero movies. Below, you'll find five movies I really dig. With superheroes. Oh, and you can ignore the numbers. They mean nothing.


Batman (1989)

Why It's On the List: I love the Christopher Nolan movies, but there's something to be said for going to see a movie with your dad when you're nine years old. Those experiences tend to stick with you...and that's why Michael Keaton is my Batman and Jack Nicholson is my Joker. I have fond memories of this movie, the main theme is unparalleled (and I was bitterly disappointed it didn't return in the Nolan movies because, well, the Danny Elfman theme is Batman), and despite its darkness, it still makes you laugh at times. Plus, Lando Calrissian is Harvey Dent.

Favorite Quote: "I'm Batman."
Favorite Quote 2: "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"

X2 (subtitle withheld out of principle/2003)

Why It's On the List: The first X-Men was a triumph--mostly--but it ran kind of short and Magneto's plan to turn the world's leaders into mutants was lame. X2 gives us much more depth. Everything in this movie seems to carry more weight, and it feels grander because of it. Magneto doesn't miss a trick, Hugh Jackman is terrific as Wolverine, the siege of Xavier's mansion is exciting and well-executed, and Patrick Stewart was born to play Professor X. Oh, oh, oh...almost forgot! Brian Cox alert!

Favorite Quote: "People don't change, Wolverine. You were an animal then and you're an animal now. I just gave you claws."
Favorite Quote 2: "You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you different."

Spider-Man (2002)

Why It's On the List: This was a well done origin story helmed by Sam Raimi. Tobey Maguire isn't quite the wise-cracking Spidey we expected, but he does a fine job (even though he...ahem...probably spends too much time without his mask). J.K. Simmons is PERFECT as J. Jonah Jameson, Cliff Robertson brings some gravitas as Uncle Ben, Rosemary Harris is wonderful as Aunt May, and most of the web-slinging fun is well done. Also...I'll watch Willem Dafoe in just about anything. Despite the clunky Green Goblin armor, he gets the most out of the character and makes for a compelling baddie.

Favorite Quote: "With great power comes great responsibility."

Iron Man (2008)

Why It's On the List: Superhero stories don't always have to be about brooding and the dark nature of man. Just take Iron Man. This gem based on the Marvel character is absolutely terrific. Robert Downey, Junior, uses his quick-witted charm to bring Tony Stark to life. He absolutely owns this role and this movie, infusing Stark with devil-may-care smugness and humanity. The "Iron Man in training" scenes manage to get a laugh every time, and when Downey's on the screen, you can't look away. When he's not on the screen, he gets plenty of help from Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, and Jon Favreau.

Favorite Quote: "Yeah, I can fly."
Favorite Quote 2: "Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk."

Watchmen (2009)

Why It's On the List: A long and complicated graphic novel gets a very faithful adaptation that's visually stunning, visceral, and violent. Great turns by Patrick Wilson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Billy Crudup highlight the film. However, it's Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach who steals the show. His character, for better or worse, is the heart of the whole story. The screenplay does an admirable job of whittling down the comic's complex narrative, and it's a treat to look at. Some may find it a little slow, but it's a great movie to throw in on a boring afternoon.

Favorite Quote: "Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon. That's always been the difference between us, Daniel."
Favorite Quote 2: "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with ME!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

5 Superhero Movies I Shouldn't Like But Do Anyway

I'm a bit of a superhero fan.

In fact, my first novel is nothing but tights & flights and capes & cowls. I'd like to make a distinction here, too. I like comic books, but I'm not necessarily a comic book fan. For instance, I love the idea of The New 52, but I haven't picked up a single one of the comics.

What I am, however, is a superhero fan. I love the larger-than-life personas, be they super Boy Scout-y or depressingly masochistic. I enjoy both the hopeful and the hopeless, though I lean more toward the former than the latter. I have watched a lot of superhero movies...too many, really...but today I let you in on my greatest shame.

Five Superhero Movies I Shouldn't Like (But Do Anyway)

Daredevil (2003)

Why It's Terrible: Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck's costume. The theatrical cut was choppy. Evanescence was EVERYWHERE.

Why I'm Still Watching: Bullseye was fun (especially the "House of Pain" intro music). Jennifer Garner looked great. We got some Jon Favreau. We were treated to a cameo from Jack Parkman (David Keith) as Matt Murdock's dad. Some of the effects are kind of neat, although they ended up trying to out-CGI the Spider-Man movies. Joe "Guy Who's in Everything" Pantoliano made an appearance.

The Phantom (1996)

Why It's Terrible: This is a cornball movie full of pure, unadulterated hokum. The characters are flat, the villains weak, the storyline kind of lame, the design somewhat uninspired. And at the end of the movie, our hero rides a horse. In the jungle.

Why I'm Still Watching: Hey, Billy Zane's a cool dude. What The Phantom lacked in polish, it made up for in pure, pulpy fun. They even threw in a before-she-was-famous Catherine Zeta-Jones as the bad girl with a heart of gold. I like Billy Zane in this movie, Sgt. Aguado from Ace Ventura has a fun turn as the Phantom's cabbie, and Treat Williams is over-the-top AWESOME as Xander Drax ("Begins and ends with the letter X"). I like the interplay between Billy Zane and Patrick McGoohan.

The Punisher (2004)

Why It's Terrible: John Travolta. Setting a Punisher story in sunny Florida. The fat guy...okay...actually the whole "Punisher finds a surrogate family" subplot.

Why I'm Still Watching: I like Thomas Jane and his "Wild Turkey Breakfasts." I really liked the main title theme. Roy Scheider knifes a man to death. The "torture" scene with Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) was a nice touch. There's a big, fiery skull at the end. Oh...oh...and there's no Dolph Lundgren saying things like, "I still talk to God sometimes, I ask him if what I'm doing is right or wrong, I'm still waiting for an answer."

The Shadow (1994)

Why It's Terrible: Well, it starts with Alec Baldwin as an opium warlord (this reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which J. Peterman is the only "white poet warlord in the neighborhood"). There's an ill-tempered dagger that bites your hand. Penelope Ann Miller is especially annoying. Tonally, the movie is all over the place.

Why I'm Still Watching: Young Alec Baldwin and his luxurious hair. Jonathan Winters is a good for a chuckle or two. Ditto Peter Boyle. Also notable appearances from Wadsworth (Tim Curry), Gandalf (Ian McKellan), the dad from "Alf" (Max Wright), and Neelix (Ethan Phillips). The "Brooks Brothers" line still cracks me up. You'll notice none of these things involve Penelope Ann Miller.

Judge Dredd (1995)

Why It's Terrible: Rob Schneider. Comic book purists get in a tizzy because Dredd dares take off his helmet. Someone actually spent a lot of money to make this movie. I liked it the first time, when it was called Demolition Man.

Why I'm Still Watching: Even though I'd like to punch Rob Scheider in the face, his Stallone impression is funny. I have fond memories of this movie because I once remarked that the future would have a cleaner cloning process than the one in the movie, prompting a stunned friend to yell, "That's what you have a problem with? What about the rest of the movie?"

And, of course, Armand Assante. "LAAAAAAAAW?"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Crimsonstreak 2 & A Game of Thrones

It was a hectic week at work, which made it difficult to get any blogging done in addition to my writing. I spent most of my time this week working on my Crimsonstreak sequel or reading Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire.

As far as Crimsonstreak 2 goes, I'm off and running. By the end of the day, I'll have cracked the 60,000 word mark as the first draft starts to come to a close. I wrote the first Crimsonstreak fairly quickly, and the sequel is coming along nicely. I think the first draft of this one will be much more polished than the first draft of the original book. You can chalk that up to experience and becoming a better writer. Truly, my writing in 2011 is superior to my writing in 2007 in every way.

The sequel's plot is getting a little out of control, some characters are underused, and I'm worried that some of the lunacy is a little too "out there." I have several different factions in this book, and when I go through and revise, I think I'll have to streamline. I also wanted to have a bunch of interstellar cops like the Green Lanterns, so I added them to this book. I'm not sure it's an entirely successful venture, but the only thing I can do is keep writing to see where the idea goes.

The first book plays with the conventions of parallel worlds/alternate dimensions, but the sequel absolutely blows them out. I'm not going to reveal much of the plot (partially because of secrecy and partially because this is still the first draft), but let's just say the Crimsonstreak universe employs a lot of variable realities/timelines. It's fun, but also exhausting to track. The nice thing about parallel universes is the ability to see the different possibilities of what a character may have become. It also allows me to bring back (in limited form) a character who didn't survive the first book.

The first draft is approximately 75% done. I'm shooting for 80,000 words for the main adventure. It's currently missing some character vignettes (the first book is filled with these mini-scenes, which I feel give the main character and the others a little more depth). I imagine these little flashback scenes will end up adding four or five thousand words to the main story.

After the main narrative is complete, I'm going to start working on the "extra" material. The first book is unique in that it includes a ton of meta-fiction. The first-person perspective of Crimsonstreak makes it difficult to talk about other characters without feeling forced. To combat that, I wrote a bunch of newspaper & magazine articles, character journal entries, and bios to fill in some of the gaps. The material was a blast to write! For the sequel, this material isn't quite as necessary (returning characters like Colonel Chaos, Miss Lightspeed, and the Crusading Comet will already be familiar to those who've read the first book). However, with a three-year gap between the events that conclude Crimsonstreak and the beginning of Crimsonstreak 2, I have some opportunities to outline major developments in the story world that only get a passing mention in the book. I'll probably drum up some more character bios as well.

I'm trying to get as much work done on the sequel as I can. I anticipate receiving revision notes for I, Crimsonstreak very soon, and those will pretty much take over my life for a month or two.

I'm also trying to power through Game of Thrones, which I've found very enjoyable. I remember looking at all the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga in the bookstore a long time ago and saying, "There's no way I could ever read that." Well, thanks to the advent of Kindle library lending, I'm giving it a chance. I'm more of a science fiction guy than a fantasy-slash-medieval world fan, but the writing is excellent and the characters are wonderfully realized. It's just hard to juggle reading such a long book, working on my own writing, and going to work.

Ah, but that's what most writers have to do. I've heard the HBO series is very good, and thought I'd give the books a shot. When I'm finished, I hope to catch the HBO series on DVD.

So far, this is about all that's going on in my corner of the writing world. I have several short stories sitting idle on my computer right now. I also have a list of story ideas in my trusty notebook, but right now it's time to focus on my Crimsonstreak sequel and catch up on some reading.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How To Series: Backing Up Your Work

I'm not inventing the wheel here. I'm certainly not re-inventing it, either.

In this installment of my "How to Series," I'm focusing on a topic that should be near and dear to the heart of every writer.

Let's back things up, shall we?

You pour your heart and soul into your writing. It is a lovely, rewarding, frustrating, cursed, and wondrous thing.

So why not do everything in your power to make sure those words and images NEVER disappear?

Today, I'm writing about the importance of backing up your work...and keeping yourself protected.

I'm interested in tech. I love it. I'm not particularly good at techie things like rebuilding computers or taking a hydro-spanner to a stubborn hyperspace drive, but I do marvel at things that make life easier. I believe we should embrace these things.

At the same time, our wondrous technology sometimes fails us. The internet goes down; your hard drive goes supernova (or your PC simply dies). Pages and pages of writing, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of words lost.
"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of words suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
This happened to me once. My makeshift PC was the Millennium Falcon of computers. Sometimes, when starting up, it sounded like the Falcon's broken hyperdrive in The Empire Strikes Back. One day, it simply decided not to work. It would not power on.

My short stories and novels were trapped in the computer.

I was thankful that the hard drives still functioned; I was able to hook them up and extract the data. I was fortunate.

Now, I have backups. And backups for my backups.

Redundancy #1: Flash drives

These guys are my best friends. Actually, just the Cruzer there is my best friend. The other one belongs to my wife. Yeah, I know...they're predictable. I back up everything on my flash drive. Each and every short story and novel is on there, organized in different folders so I can find things easily. They're handy to have around and allow me to take my work from computer to computer.

They do have a couple of minuses, however. Flash drives can easily spread viruses...and because they're small, they can also be easy to misplace. Still, a very useful backup.

Redundancy #2: The Cloud

A few months ago, Dropbox sent the internet abuzz because of a change in its terms of service that some felt could surrender their own rights to their files (read about it here).

Dropbox is a big flash drive in the sky--a service that exists in the Cloud. You don't have to take it anywhere because it's already everywhere. Just register a username and password, download the program on your computer, and your files are instantly available. Dropbox has apps for iPhone and Android, so if you like to read on your phone, you can view your stuff there (also handy for transferring pictures in a pinch).

If Dropbox's terms of service have you hot and bothered, there are always other services like Google User Managed Storage, Microsoft Skydrive, SugarSync, and more (here's a good comparison on all of these from Gizmodo). I'm a big fan of Dropbox because it is very user friendly, but you may favor another option.

Just have another option, please!

Redundancy #3: Email

Before Dropbox, I often emailed my documents as attachments to myself. This is the most redundant of redundancies; I would store the file in my sent folder AND inbox. I've used Yahoo! Mail for years, so I tend to stick with it. A lot of people prefer Gmail, and I have no problem with that. Technically, I suppose this is also a "cloud" solution, but I thought it was worth mentioning. This "backup" doesn't always have the most up-to-date version of a story, but if everything else crashes, at least there will be something salvageable here.

Redundancy #4: The Kindle Imperative

A pleasant benefit of owning a Kindle is the ability to email stories to myself. I don't really enjoy sitting in front of a computer for hours while trying to read something I'm working on. Emailing it to my Kindle allows me to kick back on the couch or in a recliner to read my work. If something were to happen to the file on my hard drive, the Kindle can act as a USB so I can get the file back. This also has a double-layer of redundancy--since I emailed my document, there's a copy in my sent folder as well.

Redundancy #5: The Tried and True Hard Copy

Listen, I don't want to sit down and transcribe 400 pages of a manuscript that crashed and burned on my hard drive, email, flash drive, or cloud application. However, IF something were to take a death ray to those files, a hard copy is better than nothing. There are even some services that can scan your pages and turn them into a file you can edit. My point here is as follows: something is better than nothing when it comes to backing up your writing.

What about you? Do you have any special "tricks" to keep your files intact?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I, Crimsonstreak Update

There's nothing huge going on right now in terms of I, Crimsonstreak.

I finally got my wife to start reading the book. It's not exactly her genre (our taste in books is quite...divergent), but she's giving it a go. Before, she'd made it to chapter four before shutting things down. There was a character in there she hated. Funny thing about that: it also bothered my editor, who requested that I revise the character or leave him out.

Score one for my wife on that one.

Anyhow, I was able to announce a couple weeks ago that the book deal was complete. The contract is signed, Publishers Weekly blurbed it and my publisher, Candlemark & Gleam, did as well.

Actually, I realized I never wrote a blog post about the publisher's blurb. I only linked it on my Facebook Author Page.

I thought I'd better remedy that today, so here's a nice little summary of the book from my publisher about I, Crimsonstreak.

I know the book will be coming out in May in both paperback and ebook. I'm not sure what the release date will be, but I put a countdown clock on the blog anyway. Just's kind of neat.

When we get a hard release date (right now the clock is set to May 1st), I'll update the Countdown to Crimsonstreak.

How to Series: Writing a Cover Letter

I'm introducing a new feature to the blog this week.

I've written several "how to" posts, so I thought I'd formalize these by unifying them under one umbrella.

And thus, the "How to Series" was born.

This isn't intended to be a weekly feature or even a monthly one; the "How to Series" exists simply to demonstrate how I approach an aspect of writing. I plan to cover a wide range of topics including simple things like formatting a manuscript, finding places for your work, using Twitter, submitting a piece, etc.

The inaugural edition will focus on something I needed help with when I was starting my writing career: writing a cover letter. This applies primarily to fiction short stories.

Let's say you have an awesome short story you'd like to "release into the wild." You have a specific market in mind, you read through the submission guidelines, and you see the publisher wants a cover letter.

When I sent off my very first short story, I didn't know what to put here. Did they want to know where I worked? Should I tell them I've been writing since sixth grade? Should I inform them I started taking writing seriously more than a year ago? Should this include a complete summary of my life and how I came to this point?

The answer to all of those questions is a resounding "NO."

The cover letter, honestly, is shockingly simple in most cases. I say "most cases" because I've sent a few short stories to places that DO want to know a little more about you. As an aside, please honor this Cardinal Rule: Read the submission guidelines. They differ from publication to publication, sometimes in small ways and other times in major ways.

Now back to the cover letter. It consists of four basic parts:

1. Salutation
2. Story title and word count
3. Publication history
4. Closing

Let's look at these point-by-point.

Salutation. This opens just like a business letter. If you personally know the editor in question, you're probably fine with starting the letter with "Dear Sam" and using a comma. If you know who the editor is, but don't know him/her personally, go with "Dear Mr. Smith" and use a colon (like you would on a business letter). If you don't know who the editor is, go with something a little more generic, such as "Dear Editors" (with a colon) or "Dear [Publication Name]" (where publication name is the title of the magazine/journal you're submitting to; also use a colon in this case).

Use the third option (Dear Editors/Dear [Publication Name]) as a last resort. In many cases, the publication will list the editor's name in the submission guidelines. If it's not there, spend a few minutes on Google to see if you can figure out the editor's name. Also, if you're not sure if the editor is a man or woman (let's say the editor is listed as D.J. Davis, which could be either a man or a woman), a Google search should help you find out that information.

Story title and word count. The first line of your cover letter should be concise and to the point. Simply mention the title of your story and the approximate word count.
I'm submitting my short story "Terror in the Deli" for consideration in [Publication Name]. It runs approximately 4,000 words.
Seriously. That's it. That's all the information you need to put in the first line. You don't need to summarize the story or gush about what makes it special. Doing so is the sign of a newbie, and with the number of submissions editors get, that's the last thing you want.

CAVEAT: Some publications WILL ask for a summary of your story. If that's the case, it will be explicitly stated in the submission guidelines. Otherwise, stick with the approach above.

Publication history. Again, keep this section brief. If you've had 20 short stories published, don't list each and every one. If you haven't had a single story published, leave this line out. The editor will get the implication.
My short stories have appeared in Wordsmith Weekly, ABC Press, and Kiss a Wookie Monthly. My novel Walk Like an Egyptian is published by Excellent Books.
The key here is giving the editor enough information to know you take your writing seriously...and that others have as well. Just don't overdo it.

Closing. In the last line of your letter, thank the editor for his/her time and consideration. After that, close your letter and "sign" it. Use "sincerely" or "regards" or something like that. I usually reiterate my email address and sometimes include the URL for my blog under my name.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Matt Adams
[email address]
[blog address]
Now we have all the parts of our cover letter--the salutation, story title and word count, publication history, and closing--let's look at the whole thing. Your email should look something like this:
Dear Mr. Davis:

I'm submitting my short story "Terror in the Deli" for consideration in [Publication Name]. It runs approximately 4,000 words.

My short stories have appeared in Wordsmith Weekly, ABC Press, and Kiss a Wookie Monthly. My novel Walk Like an Egyptian is published by Excellent Books.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Matt Adams
[email address]
That's fewer than 60 words for the whole cover letter.

The best policy for these cover letters is to keep it simple. Be polite, respectful, and professional. Spell-check it just like you would your short story. Some editors may not ever read your cover letter--they may skip straight to your story--but the ones who do will appreciate your brevity and professionalism.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New short story out today!

The latest issue of Strange, Weird and Wonderful is out! My story, "Old Fashioned Police Work" is included. I was even given some nifty artwork by Richard H. Fey.

As an added bonus, my friend and confidant R.J. Sullivan (author of Haunting Blue) is this month's featured writer.

You can download the issue here or by clicking on the image below.