Monday, May 30, 2011

May Report

Alright, so at the beginning of the month I set about twelve goals that I wanted to accomplish before May was over. Shall we see how I did?

1. Finish first draft of Hector Kingsley. I am happy to report that this goal was definitely achieved! In fact I actually managed to get it done before the month started, which could be considered cheating but oh well...

2. Revise around 48k of Hector Kingsley before the end of the month. Cough cough. I, uh, kind of overachieved on this one. I started out doing around twelve thousand words a week, then I discovered that depending on the situation, I could get that much done a day and well... Let's just say that we have a fully functional, readable draft of Kingsley ready for anyone who wants to read it, okay?

3. Read and revise Megan's book, Contractural Gods. Success! Got it done last week in fact, and already returned it to her. It's a great story, and I am glad to have read it. Now we just need to get it published so more people can enjoy it!

4. Begin IA and write 6k per week on it. So far so good! The first draft of this one has already been a bit sloppier than Kingsley, but given that we are talking about a longer story that has been written far, far quicker than Kingsley was at the beginning, I am still satisfied with how it is developing. Now we just need to hammer out a few more details, and we will be set.

5. Visit the temple. Finally got this one done. I think I shall preserve this goal for future months. Going there definitely brought us some peace and direction that we could all use.

6. Attempt to go home teaching. Well, as long as you count the attempt part I managed it. I mostly just succeeded in getting a new home teaching assignment, but we'll work on that one. (Bows head in shame).

7. Do something social. Surprisingly enough, we managed this one. Actually had a night out with friends, baby and all. See, I can be around people too...kinda...

8. Work out the car licenses and drivers licenses. Ummm, kinda dropped the ball here. Might be able to work some of this in tomorrow, but I will need to continue my efforts in this category next month.

9. Begin my job hunt. I certainly started, now I just need to follow through...

10. E publish 'Killer'. It's up on Amazon as a Kindle book! Four people have already bought it. Shouldn't you? Heh heh heh.

11. Buy some new clothes. Much to the delight of my wife, we managed this one. Mostly got work clothes, since that's what I wear for most of the week, but that's okay. Now we just need new casual/sports stuff.

12. Stay sane. Well, how do you guys think I did on this one? Come on, be honest...

So there's my progress for the month. I think I managed to get a lot done before the end. We shall see how June turns out; hopefully I will be similarly productive, but we shall see. See you around!

Friday, May 27, 2011

On Religion in Fiction

Iron Angels is an interesting, challenging story for me.

At it's heart, IA is about a religious group attempting to avoid destruction. It is a fairly common theme in a lot of works of fiction and non-fiction, as our world has plenty of real life examples of the persecution of minority religious groups. There's plenty of inspiration there.

The worrisome part comes in a little later. First of, IA is science fiction, which means a strong religious element is a little, well, unusual. When a sci fi novel includes a religion, the belief system typically turns out to be one of two things. Either it is flat out wrong and possibly the reason some of the bad guys are bad in the first place, or its inaccurate and technically based on advanced science or alien contact the characters simply lacked the intelligence to understand at first. I think maybe the only time that religion has been introduced in a more positive light that I can think of was in Star Wars (the Force) and the original Battlestar Galactica (written by a Mormon). So it is kind of wierd to be working it in to a genre which very often is not friendly to it.

The second part that has concerned me is the fact that I need to include a character who is basically a prophet. With a character like that,it is very easy to wander into Mary Sue territory. An example I guess could be Galahad, perhaps the first example of the Mary Sue. Dude was just so gratingly perfect that people kind of end up hating him and gravitating towards one of the more human, relatable characters like Gawain or Lancelot instead. I don't want to write a Galahad, but at the same time I want this character to be considered an actual head of a real religion, rather than straying into one of the situations that I mentioned above. It has been a rather interesting struggle, but I think I've done a decent job of working it out so far.

The most ironic thing is that while I've been sweating bullets over this aspect of the story, the initial reaction to the first part of IA in the writing group was that the religious part was the most interesting part of the story. Figures...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Writing Hard

Have you ever written so much your wrists and finger joints start to hurt?

I think it might be an indication of how much I've been pushing myself that I would have that to deal with. A part of it isn't the writing I guess; my job involve a lot of computer data entry and dealing with a little baby inolves a lot of strain on the hands. At the same time, my writing has gone a wee bit crazy. I'm blazing away on the second draft of Kingsley, writing the first draft of Iron Angels and revising Megan's story all at once, and that has to take a toll.

The good news is that after the next couple of weeks some of those projects will be completed. I might be able to slow my pace a little bit--though not a whole lot--and hopefully my poor brutalized fingers will recover. Otherwise it'll just be a little bit difficult to write as much as I need to over the next few months, wouldn't ya think?

In any case, hope life is treating you guys well. I'll see you around.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Projects

So I've come to the decision that I'm going to send out Kingsley to alpha readers once it is ready, and after one last, quick run through, I'll send Wolfhound to publishers. That way I can focus on other things and still have it out there. One downside is that Wolfhound won't get another readthrough in its current state, but the upside is that I can give publishers a few more months to look at it before I go to e publish it myself.

Now, I just need to get Kingsley done...

Friday, May 20, 2011

On Adjusting the Schedule

As you might probably tell from my lack of ecstatic cartwheels, I didn't win the Suvudu writing contest. The news comes as somewhat of a lack of a surprise, given that nearly 700 novels were submitted and my little science fiction action adventure story was likely lost in the crowd. I would still enjoy hearing about where I placed in the pack (after all, Wolfhound could have come in at number 5 of 700, but they only recognized the winner and three runners up), but I wonder if the fact that I didn't win has highlighted some of the issues of going with traditional publishing. The odds of getting published with any particular label are likely much worse than 700 to one, and it depends almost entirely on getting the right book in front of the right editor who happens to be in the right mood. I know Wolfhound is a good story, and I don't want to see it languish in obscurity simply because agents don't want to take a chance on sci fi, or because the editor who reads it just isn't all that into adventure stories. I might need to look into e publishing it instead.

However, there is a more short term consequence as a result of the contest. I have a pretty good draft of Wolfhound that I would want one last batch of readers to do a quick readthrough on before I send it out to publishers, or before I try and get a copy edit done on it so that I can put it up online. At the same time, I am nearing completion on Kingsley's second draft, and will be looking for alpha readers on that story. I get the sense that my writing group is much more excited about reading Kingsley as well, and that there might be some disappointment over getting stuck with Wolfhound instead. So if I do both I run the risk of asking people to read two of my books fairly close together, which may not work out that well. After all, there's only so much reading a person can take...

So what do you guys suggest? Do I wait on Wolfhound and get an alpha read of Kingsley done first, or do I try to do both at once? Or should Kingsley wait instead? Or maybe divide up the readers into alphas and others as omega readers? Nuts. Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Wandering Leaves

As many of you guys already probably know, I have set a goal to be a full time writer at some point, whether self published or through a publishing agency. To that end I am wearing myself out on rewrites and new drafts in the hope of building up a bank of work that we can start putting out. E-publishing "Killer" was kind of the first step towards that goal as well.

Another step we've taken recently is slightly different. When Emily and I were first discussing the possibility of a writing career, we came up with idea of putting a kind of publishing company together. It would be more of a brand name, really, a way to identify the stories that came from one or the other of us so that our customers could cross over a little bit. We came up with the name Wandering Leaf Publishing. The name comes from an incident just after I proposed to my dear wife, who was slightly twitterpainted by the whole ordeal and afterwards declared that our 'love was like a leaf. It will grow big and fat!'

Sadly, my ideas of "Fat Leaf Publishing", "Corpulent Leaf Publishing" and "Big Boned Leaf Publishing" were all flatly rejected, but Wandering Leaf Publishing was apparently whimsical enough to pass the bar. We've already got a website/blog up, and we will both be posting on there occasionally as we finish and publish projects. Hopefully you will see more of that soon. In any case, see ya round!

PS Apparently I suck at linking to things. Here you go. Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

On E-publishing Killer

So I actually have a story up on Amazon now, sold through their Kindle Store. It's only 99 cents, which means only about 35 cents goes to me each time anyone buys it, but still, it's up for purchase!

I have to credit Joe Vasicek as an example in what I'm doing, since he got his stuff up long before I did. He has three up on Amazon, From the Ice Incarnate, Decision LZ1527, and Memoirs of a Snowflake. For those of you who somehow read this blog and don't know or read Joe's stuff, go buy his short stories. Decision LZ1527 is one of my favorite works of his, and all three are only 99 cents.

In any case, Killer is a short story I wrote a long time ago. It's based on an anecdote I heard in an immunology course at BYU, where a disgruntled researcher spiked her coworkers' donuts with a bacteria called Shigella. Shigella, if you are curious, has the effect of causing symptoms so bad they probably make the person wish they had explosive diarrhea instead. So naturally I took that story, turned it quite a bit darker and more disturbing, and wrote it up. The resulting story actually got Honorable Mention in the Mayhew Short Story contest, and is one of the more interesting projects I had during college. Formatting it to put it online was pretty good practice for both me and my loving, ever-patient wife, and may serve as a basis for the novels I'm writing now. We'll just have to see how things go.

In any case, it's awesome. So go buy it! Pretty, pretty please... :)

Edit: As ordered Drek.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Odd Possibilities

In my browsing, I've come across a publishing site by the name of It is a site that helps you publish paperback and hardback copies of your stories and other books, which would allow people to go and buy them even if you aren't picked up by a major publisher. It seems to be a pretty classy site, and I have been impressed by the services they are offering.

Besides the major possibilities for self-publisher authors, I've also started to wonder if I could use the site to publish a rule book for the Game. I know it is just a kind of odd side project, but it would still be fun for me to see the Game's rules in print, not to mention whatever side stories and such that I would include. But would the effort be justified by the payoff? Hmm....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On Late Updates

Woops. I tend to have these things set up ahead of time, so sorry if you checked in before I got this up.

In any case, just as an update on my progress, I am already a good part of the way through the beginning of Iron Angels. I was worried about starting it, because there is a religious figure as one of the major characters and it is hard to write one of those without getting preachy or didactic. So far, though, it seems to be going well.

Kingsley's second draft is going well, though a bit slower than I'd like. It is hard to think in both stories at once, and I can only hope that between the writing group comments and my own notes I can avoid losing track of things.

In terms of my other goals, we managed a temple trip and a social outing so far, as well as a first readthrough of Megan's book. Hopefully that's a good enough start to let me finish the rest of my targets for the month. Here's hoping for good luck! See you around!

Monday, May 9, 2011

On the Third Book

So, to review my previous posts, my first and second attempt at writing a novel involved basically two poorly backed up fan fictions for Chrono Trigger and Star Wars respectively. Both ended when my current versions of the novel disappeared, leaving me woeful, discouraged and generally unable to force myself to continue.

Now we will fast forward a few years to high school. I had, alongside my futile attempts at writing, developed a series of progressively-better role playing games which occupied my idle time and that of my friends. The most modern version of that hobby, known as the Game to the one or two people who still read this blog, was one that eventually drew me back to the writing habit.

You see, part of the interesting thing about GMing a game is the opportunity to help your players tell a story. It trains you in how to keep a reader hooked on a plot; players and readers both enjoy twists and mysteries enough that the skills crossed over easily, for me at the very least. The background of the Game gave me a ready made world to work with, along with the worldbuilding skills I had developed in making the Game itself. All I really needed was to put pen to paper, so to speak. So I did.

For all of those groaning in despair at the thought of a book written about a role playing game character, consider your feelings entirely justified. The characters in the story, which went from the name Star Heir to Guardians of the Past eventually, were by all accounts horribly uninteresting. The world, while complex and mildly interesting, was way too overdone, and while the plot contained some interesting twists, I drew the whole thing out way too long for the horrible reason of "because that's the way it happened in the game." Combine that with the fact that it stretched, over the course of a year, to about 300 single spaced Times New Roman pages in Microsoft Word (I estimate it was something like 150k to 250k at least) and we have a recipe made for disaster.

Nevertheless, I would draw your attention to the fact that this was a book that I actually finished. I did not lose this sucker; I had at least one or two backups of the story at all times. I introduced characters, outlined scenes, used dialog and detail. For all intents and purposes, this was like a journeyman's project where I refined my writing style and learned how to make a book work.

Even better, I stayed at it! Once I was finished I came back and rewrote it. And rewrote it. And rewrote it. I would tell you how many times I went through this monster, but I lost track around version seven or so. I think I started working on it, and it was pretty much the only book I worked on until my senior year of college. While I'm sure many would consider that time wasted on just one story, I have to remind you that this was like a learning novel for me. It was this story that brought me to my first writing group in Quark, that introduced me to things like Tolkien, Jordan and Sanderson, not just as cool writers (which they were and are) but as people I could learn from and emulate. When I was on my mission, this was the book that I wrote the outlines for sequels to, keeping some small edge sharpened on my writing skills during preparation days whenever I had a rare, quiet moment. For all intents and purposes, this story was the beginning of my love of writing.

And I still have it. The whole thing still sits on my hard drive and jump drives at this very moment. While I currently have no plans on what to do with it, I don't think I will ever get rid of it. It's kind of like an old friend; you may not talk as much as you used to, but it is nice to know they are still there. That, and there's still some part of me that suspects I may do something with it someday, even if it means reshaping it into something a bit more trimmed.

In any case, here's to old stories and the growth they give us. May we never forget them. See you around!

Friday, May 6, 2011

On Goals Completed

So last Friday I completed my steampunk novel The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley. Yeah, it's only a first draft, but I think I've really managed to accomplish something here. I anticipated writing a 100k novel at the start, with about 15k a week. I had to adjust my expectations downward to a 80k novel with about 10k a week.

Then I got near the end and discovered that the book would be longer than I gave it credit for. By the end of last week I had 72k and a whole lot of scenes to go. I buckled down, wrote 16.5k in a single week and finished the thing before my family came in on Friday. (Booyah!)It is a good sign that I can meet deadlines like this one, especially since I set it for myself. That kind of thing can be important when you are trying to publish something on any kind of schedule.

So now I have Kingsley ready for a quick rewrite. I think I will have fun fixing up all the scenes that didn't go as well the first time around, and it will be nice to move on to a new book as well. We shall have to see how it goes...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Sera's Progress

So as an update on the baby, for those who are curious, Sera has been making great strides. And by that, I mean she has successfully puked all over my pants, rolled over in a fit of rage, rejected one version of pacifier completely while joyfully embracing a second version, and generally grown wonderfully in the past few days. She already feels heavier and sleeps better, and her eyes seem to show more understanding every day. The other day I got the first impression that she recognized me as her dad, and that made all the hearing loss from screaming, changes of clothes due to unexpected additions, and late nights combined. Also, this past Sunday she received her blessing, so the ward officially has a new little squiggler to add to the mix.

She is healthy and happy, and that's more than I could ever ask for. Here's hoping I can help her stay that way. See ya around!

Monday, May 2, 2011

On Killing Bin Laden

So last night the President announced that we finally killed Osama bin Laden. After painstakingly collecting evidence as to his location, Obama ordered a strike on the compound in Pakistan where he had been located since August and American forces not only killed him, but also retrieved his body for DNA comparison. Which pretty much means he's dead; there won't be any surprise returns from the grave for this guy.

I don't know how to describe how I feel about all of that. It is, without a doubt, a good thing that he is dead. The man was a blight on this world. He threatened the safety and security of everyone I hold dear, he orchestrated one of the worst terrorist attacks in modern day history, and he has been a consistent advocate of bloodshed and violence throughout the world. All this he has done in order to extend his power and influence, basically a major motivation for every wicked man from Gadianton to Akish. The fact that his death has been announced just before the apparent start of Al Qaeda's 'spring offensive' makes me begin to compare this moment to the day that the Nephites woke up and Amalikiah was dead. Sure, Ammoron and friends are going to be pissed, but you can't help but cheer Teancum in this kind of situation, can you?

At the same time, I don't want to focus so much on the very personal satisfaction that it gives me to hear his corpse is cooling in some American military vault. Vengeance, sweet as it would be in this case, is not the point of a moment like this one. Osama's death was not about revenge. It was about justice and closure for the many families he has harmed over his years as a terrorist, and it was about denying him and his ilk the opportunity to continue to do such things. He is dead, and the world is safer for all of us as a result. Most importantly, my daughter will never have to worry about him as she grows up, and that alone deserves a certain moment of gratitude.

In any case, hope all of you are doing well, and I will see you around.