Monday, December 16, 2013

Thunderstruck Update: December 16, 2013

The announcement is up and official on the Thunderstruck Website... we're back!

The reasoning is pretty simple, and it all relates to time. It's taking far longer than I expected to create a novelized version of Thunderstruck, and by the time I do get it into the world, the people who care about the story will have had to wait years to see what happens next. I don't want to wait that long.

I have time to do a more limited update schedule, and so that's what we'll do.

What I don't have much more time for is this blog post, but I'll answer questions about the return in the comments section. Anyway, we're back on, and the story will resume in January.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Progress Report -- November 25, 20113

So I'll keep this short.

No news on the book front, other than a few more rejections (ouch, argh!), and work goes well on Three Shamans.

I have decided to start Thunderstruck as a webcomic again.

It's not going to be the same format. My time requirements are very different now, and so I'm expecting to start at an update pace of once per month rather than three times a week. The individual updated will be longer, though, so I hope I can keep the story moving like that.

If it feels like I can speed up or need to slow down, I'll do that.

Further news will be on its way as I get things ready. This is going to take a bit of preparation and oiling the rust off some skills I haven't used in a while. I aim to start updates in January.

Wish me luck...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Progress Report -- October 28, 2013

Still writing, still waiting.

Three Shamans is going very well, but I'm just about at the one point where I don't quite know what happens. My outline, which is otherwise very thorough, takes a skip. "Our protagonist does this, then something something, then she's onto the next stage of her adventure where lots of important things unfold..."

It's the "something something" part I'm still wrestling with.

This is how writing is a leap of faith, at least for me. You go along with a vision in mind, but eventually you get to a part that you're not sure how to handle. A blank spot on the map, if you will. And you have faith that something will come to you, that the landscape between what you've written and what you want to write will have a navigable road in it somewhere.

Which it generally does, in the end.

Got a question in the comments of the last blog post about whether I would do something like Thunderstruck ever again, and I had to chew on that a while before I could answer (sorry for the delay, J D). The question was if I'd do Thunderstruck or something like it again. I assume the question is about writing another webcomic, or continuing Thunderstruck as a webcomic, not about writing prose. The novel version of Thunderstruck is in progress, though other projects compete for attention.

But what about a webcomic?

My first response was "Nah, no way," but upon introspection I think that's not entirely true. I do miss webcomic writing, as much as it's not my focus anymore. I had a lot of fun with Thunderstruck, and I haven't been drawing much since I stopped. It would be cool to flex those muscles again.

If I did, there's no way I could go back to a schedule of three strips a week. That took an average of 15 hours of work per week, and if I want to have a career as a fiction author there's no way I can afford that much time. But something with a less ambitious schedule... that might work. Maybe not quite as irregular as Dresden Codak or comics like that, but still...

Okay, we're plunging towards the end of the year, and now is not a good time to start up anything new. I will revisit the question in January. And we'll see what emerges.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Progress Report -- September 23, 2013

Well, this month has been wet. I live in Longmont, Colorado, which is one of the towns that got a pretty high dose of the recent flooding. There are rivers running through Longmont, you see. This is usually something of an exaggeration. The mighty St. Vrain river is the sort of waterway that rarely threatens to wet the knees of those who might wade across it.

This month, it temporarily became the Amazon. It's as if the river got hit with gamma rays and became the Incredible Hulk version of itself. And like any good Hulk, it did some smashing.

Other towns got smashed worse. We live very close to Lyons, which is a town that really did take the kind of damage you'd expect from a battle between superhumans. It's going to take some time to figure out how to fix things up. Meanwhile, we're all a bit jumpy every time a few drops come out of the sky... not without reason. The ground is still kind of saturated, which means that more rainfall tends to slide right off the mountains and into those flash flood channels. It'll be nice when this stuff starts coming down as snow, I think.

Although a blizzard of equal intensity to the rainfall we just had would've left about 10 feet of snow, which is a bit much. Anyway...

I can't even talk about the near misses that I've been having with Dragon Waking. Well, I am talking about them, or rather writing about them, but it's kind of agonizing. Three different publishers claim to have been millimeters away from signing the book, only to take a pass on it due to some painfully obscure criteria or another (my favorite being "We've got too many books with dragons in our upcoming list right now." Aaargh!). And these are all still responses to the older version, not the leaner new cut that is currently in circulation.

I don't know the publishing world nearly well enough to lay down any kind of codex of laws or principles, but here's one that seems to hold true so far. If you get an instant response to your query, that's bad. It'll be a rejection. The longer that someone holds onto your manuscript, the better your chances are--it means they're thinking it over. I imagine this axiom no longer holds true for someone like Stephen King, but for writers at my current altitude, no news does seem like good news. Up to a point.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Progress Report -- August 26, 2013

Here's something I didn't know until recently: the publishing industry is kind of like school. They have a summer vacation.

Now how could I not know that? I work in the publishing industry. We certainly don't get the summer off... we don't even really slow down in the summer. Individuals take vacations, but the company keeps trucking along at full steam (is that a mixed metaphor? Were there steam-driven trucks? Never mind).

Maybe it's different for Sounds True, or for non-fiction, or what have you. In any case, summer months are the doldrums for fiction, so my agent and I are regrouping and gearing up for our next assault once editors get back from their holidays.

For me, regrouping meant a rewrite of Dragon Waking, which I managed to trim by 100 pages (previously 350, now 250), without, I think, losing anything essential. There were only a few big chunks that I thought I could drop entirely. The rest of the process was like cutting down a tree with sandpaper. Every sentence, every paragraph, and every exchange of dialogue got scrutinized, and I tightened up everything I could.

At first, it was agonizing. And then I started to really enjoy it. I learned a lot.

I also figured out something more exciting to do with the second chapter, which amplifies the tension in the all-important early pages. So that's good.

In short, Dragon Waking has slimmed down into the middle-weight division (or middle-grade) and is leaner, meaner, and ready to get in the ring and mix it up. Fortunately, unlike prize fighting, you only have to win one bout in this game to come out ahead.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Progress Report -- July 15, 2013

So I've had one positive nibble and several "almost, but not quite" rejections now as my agent (Jennifer Unter) continues to shop Dragon Waking. There's a common theme with the feedback. The editors all like it and think the writing is good, but ultimately feel like the pace is too slow, especially early on.

Okay. Rewriting again.

Do I agree with this feedback? It's hard to say. On the one hand, I certainly believe that good pacing in fiction is important, and I'm under no delusions that I've perfected the art.

On the other hand, I can't help but feel that many of our gatekeepers of fiction (editors and agents, primarily) presume a bit when they say that "readers" like things this way or that way. A good book-buying reader tends to read... what, one book a month? Just guessing at that, but certainly two a month would be high. Agents/editors read dozens, and stop reading countless more because they have to get on to the next.

The person who reads more books is going to be more discerning and aware of the ins and outs of fiction, and that's all to the good. But that person also might develop a brand of impatience that does not really reflect what the general audience feels.

Anyway, I might just be expressing the annoyance of someone who has been asked to shorten his book by about 1/3. I've got a plan to do it, I'm underway, and wish me luck.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chronicles of a Recovering Reductionist

With my own writing news in something of a holding pattern (I'm working on a new book, waiting to see if we can make any progress with Dragon Waking), here's a different sort of blog entry...

I fell in love with science at an early age. Dinosaurs were my first crush—I was known as the kind of kid who could rattle off the traits of Pachycephalasaurus in first grade. I went steady with astronomy in high school, flirted with cosmology off-and-on, and lived in sin with physics and biology in college.

I never took the path toward being a scientist, since I was too interested in being a writer and an artist. Yet science and scientific thought shaped my worldview, my personal philosophy, and  many key aspects of my character. I was happy to be regarded by most in my family as a young Mr. Spock.

But as I got older, I started to look more closely at the basic assumptions about life that had filtered into my psyche. And I wasn’t satisfied by what I found.

I was never religious. In fact, I could be loudly (all right, obnoxiously) anti-religious when I put my mind to it. If I called myself “spiritual,” I meant it to mean that I loved beauty and art, not that I believed in the existence of any kind of spiritual reality. The world was a place of matter and measurable energy. Consciousness was a phenomenon of the chemical machine called the brain, and death of the brain put a period to its existence. We could make meaning in our life, but the universe didn’t provide and didn’t care. We were on our own.

In short, I was what you call a reductionist. Meaning I was a believer that all reality can be reduced to the physical world. Also known as a scientific materialist.

(And a secular humanist, I might add, You have to think a lot about ethics when the universe doesn’t provide any.)

But along the way, that changed.

One of Sounds True’s authors, Dr. Candace Pert, describes her own shift away from scientific materialism and towards integrated spirituality in her own life’s journey. Dr. Pert calls herself a “recovering reductionist,” and I know exactly what she means. I’m going to borrow her term for myself.

My contributions to the Sounds True blog will tell the story of the points on the road when I shifted away from being a reductionist and towards… well, whatever I am today. A recovering reductionist, to be sure. A quasi-pagan/shamanic spiritual rationalist and free thinker with a twist of lemon, maybe.

You see, being a recovering reductionist doesn’t mean I’ve given up on science (I still carry a huge torch for those dinosaurs). It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on logic (I can go full-Spock at any moment). And it certainly doesn’t mean I automatically believe what any given spiritual teacher has to say (even if they are a Sounds True author).

It does mean, however, that my life has gotten a lot more uncertain, interesting, and meaningful than it did in my reductionist days.

I’m looking forward to telling you more about it.

This was originally posted on the Sounds True blog. I'll be posting more of such entries as they come up.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Progress Report -- 5/13/13

I'm very pleased to announce that I've finalized my representation agreement with Jennifer Unter of the Unter Literary Agency. I have an agent again!

Together we have formulated a plan for the rewrite of Dragon Waking to position it for the middle grade market... and quite frankly, to make it a stronger book. Every change that I've been making feels right, either to make a scene stronger or to bring a character into sharper focus. I hope to go more into some of the specifics in later posts... I've been neglecting this blog because I've had no news to report, but now there are some very cool things happening.

The best part is simply that Ms. Unter is excited about the book, and really believes in it. After reams of rejection letters and polite "It's good, but not quite what I'm looking for" emails from editors and agents, it is an inexpressible relief to finally find an ally.

Other news: my wife Candi has started her own blog:
A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

She's in the market for a new horse, and is cataloging all the bizarre twists and turns this search takes when you're looking via. rescues and such.

I had a terrific visit to North Carolina to see family that I had not seen in entirely too long. Some of them didn't actually exist the last time I was there. Now they do, and I'm very happy to have met them. I need to be a better uncle about keeping in touch.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Progress Report -- 3/18/13

Good news! A new agent has agreed to represent my book. We're going to reposition Dragon Waking as a middle grade book rather than YA and make a go at it!

So for those of you who don't know the fine distinction in play here, YA (Young Adult) in recent years has been defined by some pretty heavy stuff. Hunger Games is one example, plus the latter Harry Potter books, Twilight, etc. I would say that YA is now almost aggressively grim. Also, the convention now is that a romance is pretty much required.

Middle grade is a home to somewhat more innocent material, and my book fits in that zone. When I was growing up, there weren't all these fine calibrations between genres, but these days the publishing industry has gotten rather more precise (for better or for worse).

Anyway, that's the big news. Writing is going well for Three Shamans, which is definitely a straight-up adult book. What kind? Er... could be urban fantasy, paranormal mystery, possibly even some subdivision of horror. I'll finish it and figure out the genre later. They'll probably be different by that time anyway.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Progress Report -- 1/28/13

Oh yeah... the blog. Knew I was forgetting something.

Most of the time, writing involves a lot of effort, discipline, and fretting over sentences. But every so often you get a gift. Last month, I received the gift in the form of a bolt of inspiration one morning that, over the course of a few hours, turned itself into a complete outline for a new novel that I am very, very keen to write. So that was kind of an awesome Christmas present from muse country.

First things first, though. I needed to get a new draft of Dragon Waking knocked out to see if I could tempt an agent who was on the fence about the manuscript. Fortunately, the conferences, how-to books, and critique groups have been working, and I was able to spot what was wrong in the previous draft without too much difficulty. It was one of those "How could I have thought that was a good idea?" moments. Anyway, after some grinding and sanding I gook about 4500 words out as well as a useless point of view chapter, and I think it's in much better shape.

That done, I start this week on Three Shamans. The writing continues...