Monday, November 28, 2011

On the Finish Line

So, another cross country related post. Hope it all makes sense.

I've done a previous post on a portion of my cross country course. As I mentioned then, our coach had taken great pains to provide a challenge to us and to our competitors. At one point, I heard that he had measured out the entire five kilometer (three and some odd miles for you non-cross country people) course to make sure that it was exactly one third up hill, one third down hill and one third flat.

Running the course could easily help you believe that rumor. There were several hills, each providing its own challenge and given its own unique name. There was Starter (pretty obvious reasons there), Ice Cream (sweet, sweet downhill), JV (cause its playin with ya) Sandy Hill (also obvious), and Mother (Cause it's not playing with you. At all). Each had its own way of confronting you with difficulty and forcing you to tough it out until you got to the top. By the time you got down off of those hills and onto the nice, flat bike path leading back to the finish, you were grateful they were all done.

What you didn't realize, of course, was the fact that all of those hills had been packed into about two thirds of the course. By the time you got down to the path, you still had a full 1200 meters left to go, nearly a full mile. If you sprinted the moment your feet hit the path, you were destined to die long before the finish.

The other thing you have to remember is where our coach put the finish line. He designed the course to loop back through a central area, where spectators could sit and watch the runners go by. You passed through that spot three different times after the start, and the finish line was set up right there. That means everyone is sitting there, waiting and cheering for you for the entire length of that last grueling flat section.

Those of you who run, especially in competition, know that cheering spectators are like crack for a runner. It's addictive; you want so badly to run harder and faster when people are shouting for you. It's an incredible boost, and one that I appreciated many times during my track and cross country days.

I did not appreciate it for the first thousand or so yards of runnning down that path, trying so hard not to sprint too early because I knew I wouldn't make it to the end. In a phrase, it sucked.

It was not an easy temptation to resist. After all, at the end of the race, you really, more than anything, just want it to be done. You want to stop running, cause it hurts. You want to get some water, maybe get your breath back, probably puke if it's been a really bad day. Mostly you want to finish hard, run well, and have the rewards of all the hard work you put in. Coach found a way to test us mentally with that last little trick of his, and I'm glad to say it taught me a lot that I need to know right now.

I say that because as of now, I'm on the last little bike path with Wolfhound. I have all the chapters for the book, I need only to go and look through some of the copy edits, format it and put it up online. There is an incredble urge just to put in a couple of 4am nights and have done with it, because it has been a really long race.

At the same time, I feel that is the worst thing I could do. I could get the book up, sure, but I would miss some of the final, refining touches that need to be made to it in order to make the story really shine. Putting those touches in means that I will no longer get the book up by the end of this Monday. It may mean that I will have to delay it until December 10th or so, which was the original deadline for the book before I started to advertise it around. Yet in spite of how frustrating that is to me, I believe that Wolfhound--not to mention my mental and physical health--will be better off in the long run for doing it.

So yeah, if you've noticed that the book isn't quite up yet, do not worry, it will be soon. I just haven't reached the sprinting point yet, and I hope that you will all have patience with me until I do. See you around!

Picture of the bike path courtesy of Yes, that was where the finish line was in the distance there. Yes, you could hear the spectators the whole way. And yes, Coach Cohen is a mad genius whose course terrified the other teams. He was awesome.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Juggling Projects

With all the excitement over Wolfhound--which hopefully will be up by next week--it is easy to lose track of where I am on the other stuff I've been working on. Here's a quick update on that.

Mysteries is now about 57k words long. That means I've got about two thirds of the book done, and that I'm on track to finish the first draft by the end of the year. Unfortunately, I seem to need to slow down my original schedule. What with the extra work to get Wolfhound up, the need to revise a few drafts of previous novels, and the general fatigue from the past six months or so of running all out, it is probably a better idea to stick to six thousand word weeks on Kingsley's second novel rather than push the envelope and risk burning out in two weeks. At least, that's my perspective.

Iron Angels is sadly still partway through the third draft. My ideas are ready and I'm starting to get excited about getting it ready for alpha readers. I just can't seem to find the brain energy to spare for it right now; Mysteries and Wolfhound are kind of stealing the show. Once Wolfhound's up, Iron Angels is next on the spot, and I hope to have it ready for an alpha read by mid-December. That way we will be on track for a fourth draft by the end of Feburary or so. I hope, I hope, I hope....

As for the True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, we have a breakthrough! We found an editor who is more than willing to run through the book for us, and the search is already on for a cover artist! I think that we have a better than decent chance of getting Kingsley up by the end of this winter, which is really exciting. It might be a little exhausting too, but that's the life of a writer I suppose.

In any case, those are all the projects I'm currently juggling right now. Soon as Wolfhound goes up, life will be a bit more managable. At least I think it should be, right? Hope all is going well for you guys, and I will see you around!

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Crunch Week

One week to go! We just have to finish up the editing process, format everything so that it looks good on ebooks and paper copies, stick some bonus material in for the paper copies, get cover stuff for the teasers for the next books I'm publishing at the end of Wolfhound, write dedications, acknowledgements and a copyright page, format that stuff...

<_< >_>

Oh crap, we've only got one week left! AHHHH!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On Progressing as a Writer

So I was thinking about it today and I have come to a decision. I think I am a better writer today than I was a year ago.

I know that must sound like a really obvious statement, but you have to look at this in perspective. When you are progressing as a writer it typically comes along very slowly. Your projects often take several weeks at a time, and it takes several weeks more to get most kinds of feedback on it. Often, aside from your own opinions on the subject, you don't have a lot of benchmarks to measure yourself by. It can seem like you are just running on a treadmill in terms of your skill, running and running until you wonder if you will ever have a chance to improve. That and there is this creeping fear that it is just as easy to lose your skill as it is to gain it, and that it could have happened to you.

Fortunately, I don't think that has happened to me. Wolfhound, is my first publishable quality novel. I've made it pretty much as good as it will be, and I feel confident that Jacob Hull will do a very good job of leading the way for my other stories to follow. Kingsley and Iron Angels both came afterward, and I can confidently say that the level of skill I've shown in those books is higher than Wolfhound, which given how good that first book is, really says something. Of course, they are also different types of books, so I could imagine that I was just finding a better kind of story to tell. The tipping point, I would have to say, was Badger, the sequel to Wolfhound. It's the same kind of story that Wolfhound was, though perhaps a bit less heavily structured, but it's just plain better. The characters stand out more, the plot is more balanced and understandable, and is all around a better story. I've gotten better!

I think I have had quite a few advantages that have helped me do that. My writing group has been a big part of that. The advice, suggestions and reactions of my fellow writers in that group have helped me to tweak my own writing style and grow as an author. The fact that I have been working flat out for about a full year on four different stories has helped me continue to improve--I didn't need to remember things that I'd learned with a previous project, because there hadn't been any downtime where I would have forgotten it. Finally, I've kind of had the desperation and determination provided by the fact that in a very short time I was going to have to start selling these things. That kind of need to produce things in order to publish on time breeds plenty of motivation to get better in the craft.

So yeah, I've gotten better at writing. Here's hoping that I can continue that progress as Wolfhound and my other stories start coming up over the next year. We shall have to see!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On eBook Fomatting

I will never, for the rest of my life, indent a paragraph using the Tab button for as long as I live.

Also, I will not spell names in two different ways over the length of an entire novel.

That is all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Samples!

So hey! I've managed to get sample chapters of Wolfhound up on my blog and over on the Wandering Leaf Publishing blog. Check it out for the beginning of the novel I'm putting up for sale in a couple of weeks. On this blog, it'll be under the Links and Samples page, along with the back cover description for the book. Hope you enjoy it!

On another note, AHHHHH! We're almost publishing something!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Interview Up+On Early Christmas Commercials

So I've got another interview up, this time at Michele Ashman Belle's blog. I think it turned out pretty well, so go take a look.

So the other day I was watching TV during my lunch break--a luxury of working in the emergency room I suppose--and I found myself confronted by an age old enemy of mine. No, not the political ranting which now somehow occupies two thirds of any given preelection year. No, not people who hate videogames, or label nerds as an enemy of society. No, not even the spectre of bad sitcoms or repetitive drama shows disturbed my evening meal. It was a far older enemy that has haunted me more each coming year.

I speak, of course, of the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas commercial.

It may be that my feelings on this subject are tainted by the bias I picked up living in Massachusetts and Connecticut. There, Thanksgiving is a holiday you actually celebrate and everything, rather than a temporary gluttonous pause before launching into the shopping furor we know as Christmas. I like Thanksgiving. I like the memories I have from childhood of pumpkin pie and going over what I'm grateful for in my life. I think it is a tradition our society dearly needs to preserve. Yet each year it falls more and more by the wayside as Christmas tries to swallow November whole--having already polished off December of course.

The worst part about it is that it only gets worse from here. Holiday shows start taking the place of regular episodes, often just recycled stuff from the eighties. Songs I rarely want to hear before mid-December start repeating on the radios (is anyone else disturbed that we haven't had a new Christmas song since like the fifties?) and doesn't stop until they've squeezed every last drop of Holiday cheer out of it. The whole thing has gotten so overblown that it all begins to feel hollow.

This scourge has grown worse with the passing of time. I have not even had the opportunity to enjoy my traditional turkey and Pilgrim imagery, and I already have a bunch of idiots prancing to Christmas carols and telling me to buy something. My dear wife might consider me something of a Grinch when it comes to disliking these things. Maybe she's right, but it won't stop me from crying out indignantly when It's the Most Wonderful Time, to Buy Stuff gets butchered by another commercial in early November. Because trust me, at this point, somebody needs to.

Aaannnnd that's my curmudgeonly rant quota for the month. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On College

Just some thoughts I've been pondering lately. I've come to the conclusion that college is less of a bank and more of a commitment to jump off a rock. Yes that will make sense later.

I can remember several times that various instructors, speakers and advisors told me during high school the reason I should go to college. "Go to college," they said, "that way you won't have to work so hard when you're older!" They would then lay out the math behind the reasoning--that college graduates make more money than those with just high school degrees, that the money made by simply getting a job doesnt measure up when compared to those future earnings, that all the best jobs required a college degree to get. All seemed like pretty good reasons, especially since I was planning on going anyway. It was like making deposits in a bank: I would just withdraw it at the end and not have to worry so much.

Of course, they didn't mention that most jobs also require job experience, and place more importance on that than on the degree. Or that it is possible--likely, even--that you change your mind and not work in the same field as your degree anyway. Or that sometimes there are such a lot of unremarkable college graduates applying for jobs in your field that you end up unemployed or interning for free instead of earning those higher salaries.

The biggest misconception, though, was the concept of not having to work hard after the bachelors degree is done. If you are still an undergrad and reading this, yes, people still do actually have to work hard after college. In fact, I would say that after college you have to work even harder, whether that means you are trying to kickstart your writing career, attending the grueling hours of medical school or putting in 60 to 80 hour weeks in a research lab somewhere. The Fallout videogame series has a saying: "War, war never changes." There is a similar one that people should probably adopt when considering higher education. "Work, work never changes." It's going to be hard, it's going to be unpleasant, and there is no place on this planet you can hide from it. That includes mom's basement. :)

So rather than going to college and getting a degree with the hope of hiding away in a comfortable, work-free niche afterwards, please go to find the career you are passionate about. Find that thing that makes your life satisfying, where the work, while hard, is fulfilling. Then commit to working your brains out to make that career happen. Because if you are going to be suffering through all that work, you may as well commmit to something you care about. Otherwise, life will be terribly unpleasant. Kind of like someone who has jumped off a rock and hesitates partway through, it's not going to end well. You will probably end up with lots of bumps, bruises, and disappointment.

So whatever you decide in terms of education--and I think this will apply to graduate school as much as undergrad stuff--commit or you'll always regret it. And if at the end of your jump you find something you don't like, pick yourself up get back up the rock and try again. At least, that's my take on things. For what it's worth. See you around!

Monday, November 7, 2011

On Getting Through November + Interview at A Storybook World

Alright! So it's been a busy last couple of weeks. We are officially about three weeks out from putting Wolfhound online, and that fact has me a little intimdated, excited, befuddled and happy. It's kind of a mix of things. In one way I feel like it's taking forever to get up, because I've been working on publishing this thing for months now. At the same time, it's like this deadline is rushing straight at me way, way too fast. So I'm now enjoying the delightful blend of impatience and panic that I would assume accompanies the publication of anyone's first book. I guess that means I've hit the perfect middle ground then right?

Progress on Mysteries continues apace. I'm at about the halfway point, which is more or less where I had wanted to be by now. Based on the status of other projects, however, I think that I will need to prolong the number of weeks I work on this one. It is not that the novel is taking too long--far from it in fact--I just need more time to revise other projects so that they are ready for the next step in the process. Among those projects would be a 3.2 draft of Iron Angels to get it ready for an alpha read (would have already been ready with 3.1, but then I got an excellent character development idea), work on getting a copy editor/cover artist team together for the True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, a 2.1 draft for Badger (Emily really liked it! Huzzah!)and finally the formatting and prep work to put Wolfhound up on the 28th. I figure that those projects are important enough to extend the schedule a little bit for Hector's second novel, especially if it means that I get the next few books up online in a shorter amount of time.

So yeah, that's the progress so far! I just need to make it through this month without going completely nuts and we will have finally gotten this book up! Now it's just a matter of following through...

On another note, I have another interview up, at A Storybook World. Go there and read it! See you around.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On Making the Shift

So it occured to me that I look at writing much differently now than I did a year ago.

Before I decided to make writing a career, writing used to be what I did for fun, or what I did to relax. How much I wrote in a day or a week really didn't matter, and finishing a book was almost something I did just to have it done.

Now I'm on a writing schedule. I still enjoy the work, but that's what it is now, work. I'm responsible to produce so many words in a week, and I try to hold myself to those expectations. It's a different perspective, and I wonder if that shift in viewpoint is the difference between people who putter along on projects and people who actually make it as writers.

Then again, maybe I should wait until I have a book online before I talk myself up, huh?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Birthdays

Today I will turn twenty seven years old.

For some reason this birthday fells like a turning point to me. Twenty seven seems to be the age that I can no longer tell myself I'm just a "young adult". Maybe it is just that a lot has happened since my last birthday. I've had a daughter come into the world, I've decided on a career and gotten the wheels turning on publishing a book, and I've even somehow managed to write three or four more books to continue publishing after that. I've held down a job for over a year, kept the writing group going for a year after that, and have been living in Houston for nearly as much time as I once lived in Washington state. Looking back over the past few years, I've managed to get through a lot more challenges and changes than I ever could have expected.

Somehow, without quite realising it, I've become an adult.

The change is a little disconcerting. I have to be mature now, responsible even. I have a family depending on me to do what needs to be done, to provide for and protect. I'll need to take care of myself to, so that I can be there for them when they need me. That means I'll need to start thinking about retirement funds, health care plans, even life insurance... All that stuff I thought that other, more mature people could deal with. Maturity sucks.

That still doesn't mean I'll be giving up all the little nerdy quirks and habits that make me, well, me. I wouldn't want to leave all that behind, of course, or try to be someone I am clearly not. I suppose I will just need to get a bit smarter about it. Wish me luck; I'll probably need it.

And with that cheery sentiment, happpy birthday to me! Also, it's November! Four weeks to publication!