Pondering a Story . . .

Long day at work today. However, since I’m technically on Spring Break (takes a look at the snow still outside and wonders about that), I didn’t have class this evening, so I decided to work on one of my stories this evening.

I decided to pick up with Flashpoint again and added 2044 words. It’s an interesting story, basically set in 1942 in the Pacific Theater of WWII. However, it’s going to take some linguistic work because terms the GIs would have used to describe the Japanese are definitely not acceptable these days.

So, do I stay true to the time period I’m setting the story in or do I avoid the stereotypical (and sometimes abusive) language used by people (and easily found in the comics, books and movies of that time period)? However, I don’t want my characters to sound like a bunch of Oxford dons on the battlefield either. Combat, especially, guerrilla warfare, tends to bring out more base emotions in a person. How do I make it feel like 1942 without offending 2014 readers, but how do I make it feel like 1942 if I write it like it’s 2014?

Right now, I’m in avoidance mode, but it just doesn’t read right to me. I’ll get with the editor/publisher for this short story when I’m done and see what they’re comfortable with.

Period pieces are hard. *sigh*

Thoughts on Editing . . .

Had a very interesting conversation with my writing sensei this evening. He’s been an editor in NY publishing (both in-house and freelance) as long as I’ve known him. We were discussing editing since I’d just gotten back the second round of edits for Skin the Cat and he mentioned some of his entertaining experiences with authors over the years.

Then, I came to a realization that I hadn’t even considered.

I am not a normal writer.

(Cue the peanut gallery – “We already knew that.”)

Yeah, yeah, hear me out. See, maybe it’s because my sensei was my first editor and he trained me well, but I love a good thorough edit (both content and copy editing). I want the editor to spot those continuity errors that keep a reader from winging a book across a room. I want the editor to let me know if I’m referencing a movie that came out three years later than I said it came out (although, if I let that happen, shame on me). I want an editor to remind me when I forget to have a person actually remember to turn around before addressing someone who just came into a room, unless I explain *why* my character would know that character entered (familiar footsteps, specific perfume, etc.).

I know what the story is supposed to say. After all, it came out of my head. However, that’s the problem. I *know* what’s coming, why things are happening, what’s happening off-screen. BUT the reader doesn’t. I have to tell them, or better show them.

That’s where an editor really earns their money—help protect me from me.

Apparently, that’s not what most editors run into. I’ve talked to other editors at conventions and the general consensus is too many authors would prefer not to be edited. It’s seen as an inconvenience at best and an offense at worst to be called out if they make a mistake of fact. STET seems to be their immediate response to an edit rather than seeing if maybe the edit makes sense.

If an author were to say their character went to see Casablanca on opening night in 1952, it would immediately make me want to see what other errors the writer made instead of *reading* their book. I would certainly expect an editor to smack me upside the head if I did something that blatantly wrong. Apparently, I’m not like the typical author.

Maybe it’s because I started out as a journalist, where if you can’t be edited, you aren’t going to work (or at least that’s how it was in the 1970s/80s). Maybe it’s because I work as a technical writer/editor myself, so I edit people’s work to make it fit the template and standards of my clients. Maybe it’s because I know I’m not God’s gift to writing, but I’m trying my damnedest to get there.

I like editors and I like edits.

Just call me weird. *grin*

(Oh, by the way, I finished reviewing my edits on Skin the Cat and got the corrections back to my editor. *grin*)

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African Legends, The Blight, Old Friends & Writing

Took a little time this week to relax and get organized. Tuesday evening I spent doing my college homework, Wednesday I attended my African Literature seminar where we finished our discussion on Mission to Kala by Beti and then reviewed two stories by Tutuola – The Palm Wine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tutuola’s stories were true fantasies. It’s as if he took a ton of campfire stories, mixed in the Yorba religion, and then invented enough of his own to tie them all together in a coherent story and then sent them out into the world. I think My Life in the Bush of Ghosts would make a great movie—surreal, without a doubt, but it would rank up there with Lovecraft or Carrol for things not making sense, but making perfect sense in the whole.

(And if that’s not clear, I can only recommend you reading the books to see for yourselves.)

Thursday and Friday I did more research for Troubleshooters Incorporated as well as writing on Murder in Monaco.

Saturday, I decided to spend some time with my family and we went into Ellicott City, MD and hung out at the antique stores and other shops down on Main Street. I ran in to some old friends down there. In one of the “junk” shops, I found four books I had had as a kid, but my parents got rid of them while I was in the Army by mistake. They thought I didn’t want them any more, but they were fragile, so I was hoping not to move them until the Army quite moving me every couple of years.

So, I can now say I am the proud owner (again) of The Indian Mummy Mystery, The Forest Fire Mystery, The Mystery of Rustler’s Fort, and Sand Dune Pony, by Troy Nesbit, in their original Whitman glory. Sure, they cost a bit more this time than the 99 cents I paid for the originals, but it was worth it to find these again, especially in the condition they were in.

Also, Saturday night to help get me back into the mood to write, I tossed an old favorite into the computer to help me unwind. I decided it was time to go back to Ferelden and take on the blight in Dragon Age: Origins.

When I finally wrapped up for the evening (after starting at 1930 (or 7:30pm for you non -military types)), I remembered why I have to try and limit my playing – there’s something about going to bed at 0400 to remind one how old they are and how much their knees object to sitting still that long.

Still, I told myself it was to warm myself up for writing, so I resisted the urge to finish one more quest today and pulled out Flashpoint to work on. I added another 2,577 words to this short story today.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work on Murder in Monaco. Deadlines wait for no man. *sigh*

More Projects!

Not quite as busy a night as the other days have been, but I still accomplished a few things.

a) Started working on a new short story with a working title of Flashpoint. Knocked out 1532 words on it. While it’s not due anytime soon, I wanted to experiment with character voices.

So far, I’m having fun picking out voices from movies from the 40s and 50s and matching them up with my characters. That’s a little trick I’ve used to try and ensure each character I write has a unique voice pattern.

Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you why I’m writing this in the very near future.

b) Started plotting out Fool’s Cup, the final story in the For a Few Gold Pieces More short story collection. I’ll be sad to reach the end of this story, but I suspect it’s going to be a lot of fun to wrap up all the loose threads. There may be more stories with this main character, but I’ll have to decide whether doing a second short-story collection or a novel would be the natural evolution with this character.

c) Continued working out the main arc for the Troubleshooters Incorporated comic. I think I’m looking at this as a maxi-series rather than an unlimited series. Probably easier to keep it focused, especially with all the other projects I’m working on.

So, it was a pretty good day all together after all. And, there were new words written. *grin*

Surviving Monday

I don’t know if I’m coming down with a bit of a cold or if the Monday DST issue just caught up with me but I have been *dragging* all day. Wow.

However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t keep plugging along.

a) Sent the first set of revisions for Skin The Cat back to my editor. That actually took most of the evening, but I think it was time well spent. Hopefully, my editor will think so too.

b) Submitted the official proposal for the short story series to a different publisher. More on that to follow.

c) Started sketching out the second issue of Troubleshooters Incorporated Vol. 2 and laying out the overall arc and the sub-arcs for the comic series. Also spent a chunk of time reviewing Native American mythology to include in the story.

I admit, it takes a bit to make that mental shift from writing prose to writing a comic script. You can let the artist tell so much of the story if you lay it out right. Comics are such a collaborative medium,(unless you’re an artist/writer—so I guess you get to collaborate with yourself). It always amazes me when I describe a scene on a piece of paper and then I get the art back and see those few lines brought to life by the artist. And the longer I work with the artist, the easier it is to write to their strengths, which only makes their life easier too.

So, again, not a lot of words written, but definitely progress made. Not too bad for a Monday, I guess.

A Very Busy Sunday

While there wasn’t a lot of writing done on Sunday, there was movement on other fronts.

a) Talked to a friend about helping with additional edits to a non-fiction piece I’ve done and helping me put it together so I could have something to actually sell at these conventions I’m attending this year. 90% of the writing I’ve done the past three years has all been e-books, which are a fine medium for writing, but it’s tough to sell an e-book at a convention. Paper certainly sells better than electrons at a signing table.

b) Talked to a publisher about doing a new short-story series (after I complete the still outstanding stories I owe everyone else). Then talked to a friend who’s a military historian to help me get as much of my data as accurate as possible for the time period.

c) Talked to another publisher about a possible comic series with them. Also initiated talks with an artist to do either the comic or some of the covers for it. More to follow.

d) Finished plotting out the rest of Murder in Monaco. This time, I decided to start with the ending and then work backward to reach where I was in the story. I explored a few rabbit trails, but I think I’ve got a good solid way to end the story now and make everything make sense.

e) spent time with friends who came up to celebrate my wife’s birthday weekend and had a very nice dinner with them.

f) received the first round edits for Skin the Cat. I’ll work on them as soon as I get my homework that’s due Wednesday finished.

g) updated my Goodreads profile to be sure to list all of my books. Now, to contact the librarians to remove a book that’s not mine from the same list.

g) officially recovered from melting my brain yesterday at the Master’s Comprehensive Test. As one of my friends said this evening, I was suffering from “vuja de” – the illusion that you’ve never seen any of this stuff before – when I saw the questions in the comprehensives’ envelope.

So, now, it’s time to go to bed and try and convince my body it’s an hour later than it thinks it is.

February Recap

It was a pretty productive February, even if it did pale somewhat by the mad dash in January.

Reviewing my earlier blogs, I hit about 28,000 words written during February, which works out to be a healthy average. That’s not counting the five or six thousand words I wrote for school either, so I’m still being productive—at this point, grade point average is equal to royalties. Once I finish the thesis, then I can concentrate full time on writing just for me.  Also, there was a lot of writing that didn’t get counted above because I was doing a lot of editing and revising based on editorial feedback on projects I’d either submitted or feedback from beta readers who try to save me from myself before I submit to the editors. *grin*

February saw me finish my novel On Wings of Steel and submit it to my editor at Musa Publishing. I also finished Wings of Fire for my collection editor for Musa as well as submitting The Daimyo’s Sake for possible publication in a middle-grade magazine.

I also made progress on two novellas I’m working on—The Pearls of Darkness Affair and Murder in Monaco, both of them for Pro Se Productions.

Had a good deal of fun going to both Farpoint and MystiCon. While they did chew into some of my writing time, it was good to get a chance to hang around with Science Fiction and Fantasy fans and other professionals to swap ideas and anecdotes about this wild ride we call a writing career.

And now, will March end like a roaring lion as I push on through or will it end as a meek lamb with me slacking off and enjoying life? Is there a middle road? Would I take it if I could?

Comps and Robbers

Survived the practice graduation comprehensives I took this morning at Bowie State. I was a little concerned because I got a late start and had to jump in mid-session. Still, I got some good feedback from the graduate advisor and will probably knock out another essay between now and Tuesday evening to have her review for me. I’m not 100% comfortable with the comps since they can throw a bunch of stuff at me from any class I’ve taken the past three years, but I’m about as ready as I’m going to get.

Spent the afternoon putzing around with my wife and daughter, doing a little shopping and a lot of window shopping (yes, there is a difference). While she was busy in “The Hands of Time” shopping for spare clock parts she could use to design steampunk jewelery, I spent some time at a table typing away on a new section of The Pearls of Darkness Affair, the second story for my Chasing Danger duology coming out this November from Pro Se Press.

Then I split this evening spending time with my eldest cat who decided he wanted to be with me while I was working downstairs and finishing the edits to Skin the Cat, the penultimate story for my For a Few Gold Pieces More collection. Cat, which features my favorite rogue who meets a young woman who is close to his equal in both thief skills and snarkery,  is either a very long short story or a short novella (currently around 16,000 words). After doing the paper edits, I have red lines going every which way and arrows and scratch outs and new words and . . .

Well, let’s just say, while this version follows the same plot of the old one, I think it feels much more put together now.

So, tomorrow, we start typing. And doing more college stuff. Can’t forget that.

*sigh* I either need longer days or a fountain of youth so I can go back to when I could survive for days on end on about four hours of sleep.