Friday, December 30, 2011

Writing Resolutions for 2012

I drafted this blog post on New Year's Eve, but I didn' really flesh it out until today.

So, belated and on a Friday, here's a look at my Writing Resolutions for 2012.

Write more...and more often. I have the capability to write prolifically. I know this. Last year, I probably wrote between 250,000 and 350,000 words (that includes short stories, novels, and blog posts...and that estimate may be underselling it). I'm capable of writing more. Revisions on I, Crimsonstreak cut into "new" writing content. While working on a sequel, I averaged about 2,000 words a day for three months. In 2012, I resolve to bring that kind of consistency to the table.

Blog more. I run hot and cold in terms of blog content. It's tough. I, like many writers, have a full-time job. And, like many writers, I also try to tweet, Facebook, and blog on top of the actual writing. Hours in a day are numbered, and that means finding time can be a challenge. In 2012, I resolve to blog more often. I want to do more reviews (books, movies, etc.). I want to do more video blogs (I did ONE last month as an experiment). I want to do a "How to" series (I did a soft launch of this last year). I have a major opportunity this year. My very first book will be released. It's not going to make me a multi-millionaire. It may not even make me a multi-hundred-aire. However, people who read it may be interested in learning more about my writing. I want to make sure I have plenty of solid blog content for them.

Read more. I've been better about this. I've read three books in the George R.R. Martin "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. That's the same as reading, like, 20 books. I've also read The Accidental Billionaires, Empire State, Raise the Titanic, Ready Player One, and a few others. Ever since I bought a Kindle over the summer, I've found myself reading more often. Part of it's the gadget "cool" factor; part of it's the convenience factor. What's really helped, however, is the Kindle library lending feature. I can check out books from the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library without leaving home. It fits my schedule and it fits my budget. In 2012, I want to continue that momentum.

Publish a short story in a major market. I'd like to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. In order to do that, you have to publish a book in certain markets or sell three stories to certain markets. I've had modest (and I do mean modest in its purest sense) success with some short stories. Now, I want to sell a few to some of the bigger markets. This will get exposure and help me become eligible for the SFWA. In order to do that, of course, I have to actually submit some stories. I've been so focused on I, Crimsonstreak in the last few months that I haven't concentrated as much on my short fiction. In 2012, I resolve to balance novels and short stories.

Get a few bites on my next project. I've written a sequel to I, Crimsonstreak and it needs a lot of work. I know this. However, that's not the "next" project I'm referring to. I have another manuscript that also needs some more polish. I believe it's a more marketable/mainstream work than Crimsonstreak. In 2012, I resolve to give this to my beta readers and send it along the query route to see if I can get someone to bite.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Studicus Selects 2011

A while back, I abandoned my longtime Blogger nickname "Studicus" to become "Matt Adams." The thinking, of course was to better promote my writing by no longer posting via a pseudonym. It was actually kind of a tough decision because some college pals and I started a collective blog in 2005 called The Flying Trapeezius.

Those days were fun!

In order to keep writing, I decided I had to leave TFT and all three of its readers and replace it with My Kingdom for a Novel and its three readers. Yet, a tradition is a tradition...and for every year except 2006, I made a "best of" list called "Studicus Selects."

So here we go!

(You can check out the Studicus Selects archives below. Scroll past the links for this year's picks)

Studicus Selects 2010
Studicus Selects 2009
Studicus Selects 2008
Studicus Selects 2007
Studicus Selects 2005

Best Tech Gadget: Amazon's Kindle. Really, it's not even close. The other gadget I purchased this year was a rather buggy Motorola Atrix 4G, so the Kindle wins by default. This is a great device. I understand it's a dedicated e-reader and things like the iPad and Kindle Fire are far superior pieces of tech that sparkle and shine and play pretty videos. However, the Kindle is simple to use and no one can match Amazon's content pipeline. From a reading standpoint, it doesn't hurt my eyes because there's no backlighting. From a writing standpoint, it's great because I can email my manuscripts to the device and read my works in progress without sitting in front of the computer for hours.

Most Awesome Blog Moment: Ernie Cline, author of the bestselling book Ready Player One agreed to do an interview that I could post along with my review for the book. I thought it was really neat for him to take the time out of his schedule to do that, especially since my blog is in its infancy. It should be a reminder to all writers: no matter how insignificant a blog/interview request may seem, even if you don't think it will reach many readers, you may as well do it. After all, you have to win this battle one fan at a time. You can read the review and interview with Ernie Cline here.

Most Satisfying Moment of the Year: Without a doubt, it was the email I received at 9:49 pm on July 19. I had submitted my novel I, Crimsonstreak to Candlemark & Gleam, a small press operating out of Vermont. It was kind of a Hail Mary because I didn't think anyone would be interested in the book. I was surprised, however, when I received an email saying C&G wanted to acquire the novel (after a few revisions, of course). It was a defining moment in my young writing career; a moment I'll always remember. The book is due out in May 2012. You can read more about the journey from first draft to contract here.

Best Early Anniversary Trip, Historical Category: In July, my wife and I took some vacation time and spent a week in Springfield, Illinois as an early fifth anniversary gift. I'm sure that's the very first place people think of when they think of a vacation spot. Anyway, we saw the Lincoln Museum and our 16th president's home. It was a fantastic trip (we even caught a showing of Captain America!) made even more fantastic thanks to cameos from traveling buddies Green Lantern and Superman.

Favorite Summer Movie: Without a doubt, Captain America. I loved it! The film was by far my favorite of the movies I saw this summer. Everything just seemed to "click" in this one. After a few cinematic disappointments (X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern), it was great to see a movie come together so awesomely! I liked it so much, I blogged my 20 Favorite Cap Moments.

Most Irritating Earworm: As much as I loved Cap, "The Star-Spangled Man with a Plan" was stuck in my head for weeks.

But this category is a tie! I saw a video for Selena Gomez's opus "I Love You Like a Love Song." It is easily the most irritating song I've heard all year. And for a month, it wouldn't leave my head.

The fact that I know the words--ALL of them--makes me want to hurt myself.

Best Discovery, Xbox 360: I've thoroughly enjoyed the Marvel Pinball tables for Pinball FX. I really like the Wolverine and Spidey tables. Blade is a nice change of pace, but I'd like to punch the Iron Man table in the face. Seriously. It's an irritating table to play. Perhaps there exist pinball wizards who love it, but I'm not a big fan.

Biggest Letdown, Sports: The Butler Bulldogs made it to their second consecutive national championship game, but couldn't pull off the upset against UConn. The frustrating thing about the loss was the feeling that Butler just had an "off" day. UConn played well, no doubt, but Butler was atrocious from the field, putting on a shooting performance that was historic in its futility. It was heartbreaking to see a team that had accomplished so much have such a terrible game.

Biggest Letdown, Writing Career: After having three stories accepted in various anthologies, the publisher cancelled two out of the three anthos. This was disappointing because I loved those stories and was looking forward to seeing them in print. On the plus side, one anthology forged ahead and will get published soon. The editor of one of the cancelled books found another publisher, but it's going to be released much later than originally thought. Still, a release is better than no release.

Most Insane Undertaking, Reading Category: I heard such good things about the Game of Thrones series on HBO that I decided I'd read the books. I heard they were long and had seen the paperbacks in the bookstore, but nothing really prepared me for the size and scope of the books. I borrowed them via a Kindle library loan...and wow. I had just 21 days to finish a 1,000-page book. I'm a fast reader, but trying to "race" through a book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series wasn't one of my best ideas. You can read my review for A Game of Thrones here.

Most Insane Moments, Indiana Hoosiers and Indianapolis Colts Category: These are both probably too recent to include in a year-ender, but Christian Watford's shot that propelled IU over top-ranked Kentucky was one of the year's best sports moments.

I still have this on my DVR.

My hapless Colts also managed to get a win last night, prompting this strange scene in which Reggie Wayne and Dan Orlovsky tried to give each other the ball after they connected on a late touchdown to seal the team's second win.

In a season in which nothing has gone right, this was a nice moment.

That's my brief review of the year that was 2011. These are exciting days ahead on the blog. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of Empire State for my Kindle and will have an interview with author Adam Christopher soon. You can expect the "ABC's of Crimsonstreak," a series that will continue the legacy of my "ABC's of Writing" and "ABC's of Star Wars." I'm sure my publisher and I will have some awesome treats as the publication of I, Crimsonstreak draws closer.

And of course...we'll be watching for the return of Super-Manning!

I sure hope he's able to return. If he can' can expect lots of inconsolable crying and a terrible video montage set to "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Christmas Quote #7

Today's quote comes from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which I completely missed on TV this year. Between the sad, little tree Charlie Brown brings home, Snoopy's decorating hijinks, and the Christmas pageant, it's a true holiday classic.

As Charlie Brown is apt, he becomes a bit depressed with the holiday season, lamenting the glitz and commercialism that have marred the birth of the Savior. Good thing for Charlie Brown--and all of us--that trusty ol' Linus is there to set the record straight.

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid ... And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'

And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.'

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Bravo, Linus! Bravo!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Quote #6

"The Polar Express" seems to be one of those movies you either love or hate. Much of it has to do with how well you stomach computer-generated characters and how much you fear heading into that Uncanny Valley. I've read comments from a lot of reviews that praise the movie's art, but are completely creeped out by the "dead-eye, petrified zombie stare" of the computer-generated characters.

Hey, I know it's not perfect, but characters and their "soulless eyes" don't make me shudder in the least. I happen to like "The Polar Express." Perhaps it's because Tom Hanks plays every role in the movie or maybe it's because there's a Steven Tyler elf in there somewhere. But it probably has more to do with the movie's theme of believing in something no matter what others think, and having that faith rewarded.

"At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."

I can totally still hear the bell.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Revisions Update

All right, I declare revisions finished!

Okay, not really. I'm close, though. I did make it through all the pages and accepted/rejected changes. I read the comments (and responded to some of them) and reworked various parts of the book.

None of the notes were harsh (there was nothing saying, "Your writing stinks and you should go away"), but they were thorough. The thing you have to keep in mind while working on something like this is that these comments come from people who LIKED THE BOOK. They want it to be as good as it can be. So even when you feel a note is mildly chastising, it's not.

I want to go over most of the notes again and double-check my work.

I hope to submit my revisions to the Mastermind soon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Quote #5

"The Santa Clause" is an incredibly fun 1994 holiday opus starring Tim Allen. And this was Tim Allen at his high point, when "Home Improvement" was going strong, Allen released a book that shot to No.1 on the bestseller list, and this movie was tops at the box office.

The movie tells the story of frustrated divorcee Scott Calvin, who isn't handling life very well. His precocious son Charlie is visiting for Christmas, but Scott seems more interested in verbally sparring with his ex-wife and her husband Neil than taking care of his son Charlie. After Scott reads "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to his son, the boy hears a "clatter" on the roof and forces his father to check it out. They find a man on the rooftop...and Scott thinks it's a burglar.

When he yells at the guy, the red-clad man slips and falls...Scott Calvin has killed Santa Claus. So, he puts on the suit, does his best to deliver toys, and plays Santa for the night, not realizing that, by putting on the suit, he is legally bound to BE SANTA CLAUS FOREVER.

There are several quotes from this one, but I'll reference one today that my wife and I often cite. It happens when the police capture Scott in full Santa Claus regalia...and then try to interrogate him.

Detective: "Look, I know you're Scott Calvin. You know you're Scott Calvin. So let's make this simple: I say 'name', you say 'Scott Calvin.' Name?"

Scott Calvin: "Kris Kringle."

Detective: "Name?"

Scott Calvin: "Sinterklaas."

Detective: "Name!"

Scott Calvin: "Pere Noel. Babbo Natale. Pelznickel. Topo Gigio!"

Detective: "Okay, Calvin, maybe a couple of hours in the tank will change your mind."

Christmas Quote #4

Today's Christmas quote harkens back to a more innocent time, when a visionary man became disillusioned with the commercialization of Christmas and decided that there must be a better way. And so this visionary man crafted a holiday for everyone. A holiday that celebrated family and togetherness with Feats of Strength, the Airing of Grievances, and an aluminum pole that stood as tall and true as the pureness of that visionary man's holiday spirit.

Festivus was born, and the world would never be the same.

"Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be a better way...Out of that, a new holiday was born. A Festivus for the rest of us!"

Sadly, Festivus proved to be too "out there" even for Kramer. That should tell you something about Frank Costanza.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Quote #3

"White Christmas" is a favorite in both of my families. I don't lead a double life or anything like's just that it literally isn't Christmas unless my father watches this movie around the holidays (and typically multiple times at that). The "other" side of the family would be my wife and in-laws...who are equally obsessed with the adventures of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis.

However, it's my wife who takes the "White Christmas" cake. She has a ceremonial viewing of the movie on Thanksgiving Day that kicks off a non-stop "White Christmas" viewing party through the end of December. If you enter our home at any time during that span, you're likely to hear "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing," "Love You Didn't Do Right by Me," "Mandy," "(We'll Follow) The Old Man," "Count Your Blessings," "Snow," "What Can You Do with a General?," "Sisters," or the titular "White Christmas." If I'm around and/or particularly cranky, you may find yourself skipping right through "Choreography."

The 1954 gem features Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as two old World War Two buddies who become successful producers and performers. Crosby's Bob Wallace was already well-established, but after Danny Kaye's Phil Davis gets injured while saving Wallace's life in the war, the two become an inseparable pair...even though Wallace wryly muses about how much better life would be without the headaches that come along with having Phil Davis as a friend.

The two end up at an inn in Vermont run by their old rundown commander, General Waverly. Problem is, there's no snow in Vermont, the general put his life savings into the business, and no one's gonna be flocking to Pine Tree to see "all that snow." Wallace and Davis have a honey of a brainstorm, deciding to bring their whole show to the general's inn to bolster business. They team up with the Haynes Sisters (Betty and Judy), who bring their own angles and romantic intrigue into the mix.

You see, Phil wants Bob to get a girl and get out of his hair. So he tries to fix him up with Betty...even though Bob resists. But before all that, Wallace and Davis have to save the girls from being arrested by a penny-pinching landlord. Well...really, it's Phil Davis who's doing the rescuing. He gives the sisters his and Wallace's train tickets and comes up with a brilliant idea to buy the girls some time to escape...

Bob: "I've got a feeling I'm not gonna like it."

Phil: "I've got a feeling you're gonna hate it."

Bob: "Well, what am I doing it for?"

Phil: "Let's just say..."

TOGETHER: "We're doing it for a pal in the army."

Bob was right: he wasn't gonna like this. On a completely unrelated note, I won $50 at the after prom talent show for lip-syncing to this very performance with an old high school buddy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Quote #2

Let's have another joyous Christmas Quote from Elf!

Another great, quotable line from Buddy, who...when confronted by a store Santa Claus...declares that the imposter smells like beef and cheese. But he's not finished there:

"You sit on a throne of lies."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Movie Quote #1

Christmas is nearly here...and I'm sharing my favorite Christmas quotes! I'll have all the classics (White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation), a few not-so-classics (like Arnold Schwarzenegger's all-time holiday smash hit movie Jingle All the Way), some "new classics" (Elf), TV specials (yes...deviating from the "Movie" part of the "Movie Quote of the Day"), and much, much more (although really: what "more" is there?).

We kick of our special coverage with my absolute favorite quote from Elf. It happens a little past midway through the movie, when Buddy's real dad participates in "Bring Your Elf to Work Day." Buddy sits in his office, complains about the bad-tasting hot chocolate (which is actually coffee), and then springs across the room to answer the phone.

"Buddy the Elf. What's your favorite color?"

I think we can all agree that the world would be a much better place if everyone answered the phone that way.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's a Video Blog!

I loved this video posted earlier this week by John Hornor Jacobs, author of Southern Gods.

I'm at a stage right now where I'm digging into revisions for my book, so this little film spoke to me.

Writing Day from John Jacobs on Vimeo

Of course, it's extremely well done. There's no way I can top its tranquil beauty.

However, here's a quick ramble on my week in writing...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book cover concepts!

I received an email today from my publisher that nearly drove me to tears. had nothing to do with editing notes!

Attached to the email were a few rough "proof of concept" pieces for the cover of I, Crimsonstreak. These were very rough sketches, but they really spoke to me. I didn't expect that. Even though the concepts are in an early stage, it's clear the artist read my book and picked out certain details to include for the cover. Some of these details were very minor in terms of the book.

It was one of those "wow" moments we encounter so infrequently in life.

I think every writer hopes to see that happen. Yes, I understand the book isn't in print yet. Yes, I know I have like 80 billion pages left to revise. Yes, I understand this isn't even a final cover.

Yet, it was a special, very personal moment for me to see this artwork from a person I've never met who felt connected, somehow, to the book I've written.

Just wait until I get the final cover!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A few things about revisions

I have received editorial notes before for short stories, but nothing quite as intimidating as Ye Olde Professionally Edited Manuscript.

For I, Crimsonstreak, real people who actually know what they're doing have taken a look at the manuscript and judged every single part of it. They've added words, deleted words, played around with the order of dialogue, and questioned the wisdom of certain plot points. They've suggested altering the timeline, clarified certain ambiguities, and made it plainly clear that the supplemental material in the back of the book wasn't something to be glossed over.

Almost every page has a correction, suggestion, or comment. Rare is the paragraph that remains unchanged because of its utter perfection.

I'll admit something: I was kind of dreading the return of my marked up manuscript. It's not purely vanity (although I won't discount that entirely). Instead, it's the overall feeling that I may have screwed up my entire story. That I couldn't pull off a clean, plot hole-free, perfect novel.

I mean, I've already done revisions. For weeks and weeks and weeks, I ate I, Crimsonstreak for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes I had it for second breakfast. Elevensies. Dinner. Supper. You get the point. I wasn't looking forward to returning to that world again.

Do editors know about second breakfast?

The book was finished, right?

Of course it wasn't!

Listen, writing a book is a grind. I just finished the first draft of a new Crimsonstreak project. Some 87,000 words in just about a hundred days (what does that look like? Here's your visual). Crimsonstreak 2: Crimsonstreakier is nowhere near complete. I have gigantic holes to fill in the manuscript, both plot wise and structurally. I have characters who magically reappear and disappear. I have a convoluted ending that may or may not make sense.

It. Is. A. Mess.

Please understand something. If you're a beginning writer or a person who thinks the life of a writer is this glorious, triumphant world full of ponies (that's for you, Susan Jane Bigelow), you need to know something.

Your work isn't perfect.

It never has been.

It never will be.

A good editor will help you get it close. Sure, your manuscript may fly too close to the sun on wings of pastrami, but it will soar. That's the point.

You can't do it yourself. You need someone to help take your manuscript's latent potential and make it drip with authorial awesomesauce.

You'll get by with a little help.
It starts with some beta readers who can tell you various things about your book ranging from "that's pretty cool" to "you know, that's the worst idea I've ever heard and I liked the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher and eagerly await Red Scorpion III: Commie Reckoning."

A few things I've learned so far:

Time to talk about time. This is fairly specific to my book, but I thought I had my timeline all straightened out. However, through several different iterations of the manuscript, things managed to get a little muddled. The very first thing I did when getting my revision notes was to type out a complete timeline of the history of my story's universe. I now have that as a guideline to make sure everything works in sync.

It's not always so obvious. I know my characters. When I close my eyes, I can see their souls, their worldview, what they'd say about the BCS or changes in the Star Wars original trilogy. These things are not so obvious to readers who don't have this omniscient view of your writing world. Thus, something that seems plainly like sarcasm by a certain character may read as a "matter of fact" statement to someone else. If it confuses your editor, you'd better tweak it.

Microsoft Word is evil. Actually, Word is a solid program and one I'm very fond of. However, the "track changes" feature can be a little finicky, especially when it comes to accepting and rejecting changes. There are several points I'm still trying to accept, yet I can't seem to find the magical place to right-click. Perhaps I'm doing it wrong.

The semicolon lives! I take it this varies from editor to editor. However, I ended up striking a bunch of semicolons out of the manuscript after working on a short story with an editor who said semicolons were more appropriate for nonfiction. In my revisions, however, the semicolon made a major comeback. I'm fine with that; I like semicolons. Sometimes, I like them just a little too much.

The semicolon is a personal El Guapo.

When a character is the son of another character with the same name, referring to both of them as "Master Warren" probably isn't a good idea. Apparently, this gets confusing.

I could go on...but it's getting late and I still have 373 pages to read over and revise. I'm certain I'll have more to share as I continue.