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Tag Team, Back Again

We're watching Black Swan, and I just submitted on Salvation again.  This will be lucky #21.

My will is iron.

Almost Of Legal Drinking Age...

Make it 20 rejections for Salvation.

I'm going to the A's vs. Orioles game.  I'll submit again when I get back.

As you were.
Moreso than being a batter in Major League Baseball, writing is a business of astonishing failure before success is found.  Consider the following examples...

Robert M. Pirsig was turned down a mind-numbing 121 times before Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was finally published.  Beatrix Potter was forced to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit before it went on to be a much-beloved children's book, a copy of which sits in my own library.  Frank Herbert's classic Dune, widely regarded as the greatest science fiction novel ever written, struggled for years to find a home.  And Madame L'Engle's classic young adult novel A Wrinkle In Time was shot down 29 times before going on to be read by tens of millions of children.

So what does this mean?  Easy.  I got shot down again, and I'm trying like hell to salve my ego.

I've known dozens of writers over the course of my life, and only a small percentage of them suck in a deep breath and try their hand at the submission process.  I'm not saying this to ding the ones that don't; the fear involved in the concept of dropping something in the mail or hitting SEND on that exploratory e-mail is a daunting type that not many people get the chance to experience for themselves.  It's great fun to create, to slam through a novel for the first time and come out the other end scratched, a little dinged up but alive in a way that few will ever know.  And then when it's time to put your feet on the road and try to get it shared with the world... your hands shake.  The spit in your mouth dries up.  You start thinking about any other thing you can do in order to put this distasteful errand off.

In order to succeed, you have to run the risk of failure.  I have failed with Salvation nineteen times, now.  I submitted again tonight, of course; this will in all likelihood push it up to twenty rejections when it's all said and done.

My will is iron.  I believe in myself.

And nineteen times later, it still hurts to fail.

Same Crap, Different Bucket

Rejected again on Salvation.  The next time I send it out will make twenty submissions of this novel.




You cannot break me.  My will is iron.

What The Hell Is Next?

So a month ago I finally laid Descent to rest, and it felt good.  It felt like it was time for a writing-related vacation, and I have definitely been enjoying my time away from the keyboard.  Now my fingers are starting to twitch again.

The question is easy: what next?  In addition to two novels who could stand to benefit from some inflating (The Final Nine and The Phoenix Initiative), I also have four candidates that have been clamoring for attention, with varying intensities, for some time now.  Since I don't really have anything else to blog about at the moment, here's each of them in turn.

CANDIDATE #1:  Chances Are, modern romance/contemporary fiction.

Where We Stand:  About 30,000 words done.

The Skinny:  I recently came up with a way to expound upon the basic plot of the novel, which means that I'm not stuck with one main character dictating the entire ebb and flow of the book.  Basically, I was able to come up with two subplots and that'll do just fine for completing the book within the 80-100,000 word mark that is asked for by publishers in this genre.  I am looking forward to finally putting this one to rest (I started it back in early 2010), so there is a good chance that if it's not the first one started, it'll be quite soon.  Plus it's the sequel to Lottery Odds, which would enhance the saleability of that title.  The only problem I foresee is some messy re-writing of certain parts that I have already done, mainly trying to get some of the brittle humor quality out of the manuscript and replace it with something that is not quite so cat-on-the-edge.

Likelihood Of Being Next:  Decent.

CANDIDATE #2:  Zero, modern urban fantasy.

Where We Stand:  No words done.  Some basic plotting has been achieved.

The Skinny:  Given the fact that I have been shopping Salvation so tirelessly (it's the number one book in the query hopper at all times), logic dictates that I should have all my ducks in a row should a publisher or agent come a-calling.  Descent is now finished, and that only leaves one title left in the series.  The logic is flawless; what isn't flawless is the path ahead.  It's the last book in the series, so I need to wrap up a lot of loose ends (while still leaving some open for the next generation of books) and it needs to be a white-knuckle ride... something which has not been my specialty in the past.  The prospect of doing 90,000 words in rocket-sled fashion is a daunting one, so I'll probably let this one simmer a little while longer before taking that fabled deep breath and diving in.

Likelihood Of Being Next:  Not so good.  Maybe after I complete another project.

CANDIDATE #3:  Dead of Winter, modern urban fantasy.

Where We Stand:  50,075 words completed.  All scenes have been plotted.

The Skinny:  Um, hello?  Remember me, your 2009 NaNoWriMo effort that you were going so strong on until you flipped your lid?  The reason why I have such exacting statistics and a frame of reference for this book is because as soon as I was past the finish line of 50,000 words, I stopped working on it... completely.  No editing has been done.  The last four scenes are still diagrammed and ready to be written.  The reason why I stopped working on it was simple: it was a dark as hell project (featuring serial murder, demonic possession and grotesque personal injury, among other things), and the brittle frame of mind I was in didn't really allow for me to work on something like that.  I'm in a much better place now, and I'd really like to close the book--so to speak--on Dead of Winter.

Likelihood Of Being Next:  High.  There's only four or five more chapters to be written, and I already know what they need to contain.  Logic might say that I should tackle Zero next, but what remains to be done for Dead of Winter could be blown out in a week.  I should really make this one next if for no other reason than to hang another completed trophy head on my metaphorical wall.

CANDIDATE #4:  Red Shift, science fiction.

Where We Stand:  The first two scenes are diagrammed, and I know what the major and minor plotlines are going to be.  The devil, however, is in the details, and I don't have many of those.  Not too many at all.

The Skinny:  This sequel to 2006's The Phoenix Initiative features the same cast of characters as before, meaning I don't have to come up with new ones beyond four or five noobs.  I have been wanting to do this one for quite a while and over time things have slowly come together... the problem is, much like with Zero, I've set the bar pretty high on this one and I'm a little afraid of fucking it up without more careful planning.  Offsetting this is the coolness of the opening scene, which I have been wanting to write since the moment I thought of it.  I have the feeling that much like id Software's cavalcade of titles such as Doom and Quake, this one will be ready when it's ready, and not before.

Likelihood Of Being Next:  Unfortunately, very low.  This looks more like a 2012 project, truth be told.

So that's where I stand, writing-wise.  Thoughts, catcalls, raspberries?

Right Back In The Saddle Again

Lottery Odds was rejected today, so of course it has now been sent back out during he same 24 hour cycle.  A couple years ago, I would not have been able to do this.  2009 (especially the last couple months) was crappy in a lot of ways, but one good thing that came of it was that I was able to get past the mental block I had concerning the submission process.

Please don't misinterpret what I'm about to say as tooting my own horn.  However, I don't know how many writers I have come across who can do barely more than dip a toe in the water when it comes the process of sending out material, much less full-on psychopaths like myself who as soon as the barrel crashes into the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall, grab another one and head for the top of Niagra Falls to do it all over again right away.  My friend Jennifer is consistently amazed by my persistence, but really, it's just something that's teeth-grindingly necessary if I want to achieve this goal.

I will tell one thing, though.  I'm never going to feel bad about any money I someday earn off this endeavor, not after all the kicks in the teeth I have received while charting this course.  Even if someday I get an absurd amount of money for what amounts to little more than busy work, I will look at it as interest paid for the all the years that I didn't make anything off this career choice.

Torpedoes Away

Submissions have been made for both Lottery Odds and Salvation.

That is all.

Quick Thoughts

Okay, it's been some time since I finished off Descent and had a couple celebratory cocktails.  Here's the post-mortem.

From start to finish, the novel took a little over two years to finish.  Le sigh.  That's not so good, but a lot of that bad feeling goes up in smoke when one considers the fact that I lost almost a complete year on writing and writing-related activities due to horrible anxiety and depression that went from about mid-November of 2009 to October of 2010.  I'm not kidding when I say that, either.  As a matter of fact, "Death Tide" was the first thing I was able to shepherd to completion during that time period; I also wrote nine chapters on Chances Are, but that's grist for another time.

What I'm trying to say is that I feel pretty fortunate to have been able to get the novel done at all, so I guess in the end, the glacially long time frame it took is simply par for the course.

Thematically, Descent is a pretty dark book.  Since the Ring of Fire series is a designed six-book arc, I guess this novel was my own version of The Empire Strikes Back.  From the outset, I wanted the heels to carry the day in this book, and they certainly did.  I wanted it to be a moral-heavy story with a lot of opportunities to step back and forth across that terminator between light and darkness, and that's exactly what happened.  I won't be surprised a bit if people come away from this novel with a bad taste in their mouth concerning Kyle Lynch and the state of his soul, and it's a very delicate line to walk.

What I'm worried about is the novel will come off a little too cold for people to grasp onto.  The problem with making things dark is that it doesn't leave a whole lot of room for tenderness and such; Descent features no sex scene, although it is alluded to a couple times.  Not that I have any desire to write supernatural pornography, but this might be something that has to be added on draft two.  In this book sex actually takes on a darker tone, something more of a result of pure need rather than a desire to reconnect with one's beloved.

At the bottom of things, it has to be quite simply stated that there's a lot of ugliness in Descent.  My hope is that somebody who has followed along through the first four novels will find their way through the minefield of this one... and see the story for what it is.




And so we clock in with a final metrics count on Descent:

96,871 words.

And we are done!  Editing comes next, but for now, THANK GOD I AM FINALLY FUCKING DONE!


Doing It Doing It Doing It

Thankfully it's the beginning of my weekend, so I was able to have a nice glass of wine and relax before hitting the keyboard. Tomorrow the wife and I are taking a bit of a road trip to have barbecued tri-tip and play some music at Anthony's, so tonight was all about writing.  Well, that and playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 and watching X-Men 3.

I still need to do the ending confrontation scene between Kyle and Dennis, write the scene which ends the confrontation storyline with Detective Green and Tony Ginelli and get the final epilogue scene in the books, but once those three scenes are completed, I figure that I will probably be fairly close to about 96,000 words.  This is good, because Descent is going to need some heavy editing and there's going to be some stuff tossed over the side of the boat.  I'm not kidding myself by thinking this is going to end up good to go on draft one like Covenant was... but then again, Descent is a moral-heavy battle for the soul.  It's a completely different animal.

This was what I ended up with for tonight's effort:

86941 / 90000

Hmmm.  Pretty good.

I think when it's all said and done, it's going to be a great fifth installment for the Ring of Fire series.

Good thoughts to you and yours.

A Better Update Than Usual

Right now I am in the middle of taking a brief break from working on Descent, and I feel pretty good.  This book's birth has been a rather hard process, and it's definitely taken me a whole lot longer than I had planned on, but I think now I'm starting to see that fabled light at the end of the tunnel.  Wonder of wonders, I don't think it's an oncoming train.

Stephen King has said in interviews that a book should take no longer than a year to write; any longer than that, he says, and the little illusions and tricks a writer uses begins to fall apart.  If you're not completing the book by the time a calendar year has passed, the book stands a very good chance of being DOA.  This is another way that writers can differ; for me, my motto is like that of id Software, the creator of Doom and Quake... "It'll be done when it's done."  I don't like to rush things, and if it takes a longer amount of time to get something done, then so be it.  Not everything can come out like The Final Nine, which from start to finish took about three weeks.

Part of the reason why it sometimes takes me a while to finish a project is because unfortunately, right now writing is not my full-time job, nor is it even a part-time one.  I'm sure if there was a guaranteed check at the end of the rainbow, I would have been done a long time ago, sad to say.  As any pro can tell you, it's amazing how verbose one can get when there is a deadline looming two weeks away and you only have half of the 80,000 word novel under your belt.  In fact, I've seen that take some painful turns from time to time, so aspiring authors, take note: never bite off more than you can chew come contract time.  While it might seem like a great idea to be paid in advance to write four novels in year (a real-life example I quote from the files of a fellow author who may be in over their head), the actual nerve-shredding reality of what happens once that has to be done is something that may make you wish you'd never signed in the first place.  Don't over-extend yourself, or your life's dream might start to take on something of the shadings of a nightmare.  This is supposed to be fun, damnit.

Another reason it takes so long is because unlike other novels in the past I've written, the storyline did not end with Salvation.  I needed extra time for the overall plotline to come together, and unlike other series that I have read, I didn't want to simply make it all up as I went along and run the risk of writing myself into a corner.  Cracked.com has a great article on The 6 Best Series That Were Written On The Fly, and I strongly encourage all writers (and those with a taste of knowing how the sausage is made) to click on over and give it a read.  In the Ring of Fire series I knew what the main plot point of each book was going to be; what I didn't know was all the side trips and introduction of new characters (and ushering out of the deceased) that was going to take place along the way.

Finally, it should be noted that I have a tendency to occasionally become distracted by various pursuits, or even just by the process of attempting to live a well-rounded life.  That could mean anything from a few rounds of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 or Wolfenstein to a date night with the wife, from a chat session on Facebook to getting caught up on the nefarious doings of Vic Mackey and his crew on The Shield.  Far from these intermissions being a bad thing, I look upon them as welcome breaks.  I enjoy those diversions, and all other authors would be well-advised to do likewise.

Having said all that, though, it feels great to be standing on the edge of being done with Descent.  I have no illusions that it'll take a few runs through the editorial woodchipper to get everything jake and squared away, but it's not like Salvation came out of the box polished and ready for the prom dress fitting, either.  Covenant was pretty solid when it first came out, but it's the exception, not the rule.  I actually enjoy the editorial process, and keeping in mind what the final bottom line is--a fully functional novel--makes it feel not so much like work.

On a distantly related note, it looks like the television series V will not be renewed for a third season, making it quite ironic that both this reboot and the original weekly series it was based on will both end their runs with cliffhangers that won't be resolved.  If you think this is an opportunity for me to climb my soapbox about how bad of an idea it is to end every installment of a series with something that you need until the next episode/movie/book/whatever comes out to get resolved and why you should always make every effort a self-contained one, you are entirely correct.  Go here to read that screed about why proper endings are important in more detail.

The Red Progress Bar of Death?  It's making another appearance:

83574 / 90000

Damn, this Bloody Mary is spicy.  Good thoughts to you and yours.


Chalk up another rejection for Lottery Odds, as the two-week shot clock has officially expired.

Drawing board?  Yes, I know exactly where it is, thank you.  I will be heading back there now.

EDIT:  Okay, it's been sent out again.  The persistence of time...

Writing 101 - Unrealistic As Hell

One of my favorite shows on television is NBC's Parenthood, which makes one of only two programs I watch on that network, the other being the criminally underrated and as my wife pointed out, my favorite show on TV, Friday Night Lights.  I like Parenthood because I dug the movie it was based on, the plots run fairly realistically and it also has the deliciously dishy Lauren Graham... which is what makes this such a pain to type out.

Miss Graham's character is a somewhat frustrated artist type who, in a moment of inspiration in the newest episode, sits down and writes a story.  Well, at least we are told she does so; we never see any actual writing taking place, but that's okay.  Not every artistic endeavor shown on the boob tube has to feature a plucky piano-driven song accompanying its creation montage, right?  She hasn't written a novel, because she never says so and so we assume it is either a short story (likely) or a novella (not so likely) that she is holding in her manila envelope.  At one point she goes to the guy who she used to date, who is an English teacher by trade, and slips it under his door so he can take a look at it.  At this point, what happens next is completely unimportant because I know one thing is surely not going to take place:

No matter what other kind of hijinks takes place, he is not going to tell her that the piece of produced material sucks in any way.

Because that never happens.

No, seriously.  Think about it for a second.  Go back into your memory banks and dredge up every television show, movie or what-have-you that you have borne witness to where something was produced... and we're not just talking about writing here.  Let's throw music and acting into the magic hat as well, or dancing, or whatever you personally like as an artistic endeavor.  When the character in question unleashes their muse upon the unsuspecting world, how many times has somebody took the character in question aside and says to them in a firm but sad tone of voice, "You know, I sure hope you didn't quit your day job in pursuit of this goal"?

It doesn't happen.  The person who is nursing their long-held dream to be a tap dancer never stumbles over their own feet, landing them in the front row of the audience.  With the exception of certain examples held up for public ridicule on very mean-spirited episodes of American Idol, singers do not royally crap the bed and sound like they are throttling their kitty.  And while Miss Graham's former paramour advises her that what she has really written is a play and not a short story because the story is all being told through dialogue, he hastens to add that it is great dialogue and that it would be a crime if she didn't keep going.

This, of course, is all a bunch of well-meaning bullshit.  The problem that exists with the portrayals of artistic endeavors in television and movies (and to be brutally honest, in much more than its fair share of books as well) is that they are horrifically inaccurate when it comes to showing just how much of a struggle it is to become even mildly competent in any artistic field.  Oh yes, I know that there's examples of people simply picking something up and proving to be naturally inclined... but those examples are much fewer and far between in reality than entertainment would have us believe.

To a person like myself, who has spilled a whole lot of blood in pursuit of this goal, it's downright offensive.  Sorry, Lauren.  You'll not win me over with that cute dimple chin on this one.

seferin  recently wrote a post asking the writers on his list if realism is a necessary element when it comes to writing, or if this should be tossed over the side of the boat if it gets in the way of a good story.  Hard to tell that, considering how simplistic they can make even the hardest things look.

Torpedo Away

Lottery Odds has been sent out again, this time to the Victoria Sanders & Associates LLC Agency for their consideration.  I'll probably do the research for a new possible landing pad for Salvation tomorrow.  For now, Castle, since now we have both parts DVR'd and ready to go!

Cross your fingers on this one.  God hates a coward.

EDIT:  No dice.  I'm going to take the night off after four rejections in three weeks.  There may be a whiny post about this to follow in the near future.  FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU

First (Official) Day Of Spring: Good Stuff

Progress was made on Descent tonight to the tune of 1,256 words.  Since they are the first I have logged on this project in quite a while, I feel pretty good about that.  Would have liked to have gotten more, but that's what tomorrow is for.  We also watched The Wedding Singer and Bull Durham (best baseball movie ever) for Sunday movie night, and a great time was had.

Oh, we also kicked ass on spring cleaning today.  And yes, it's officially spring because the first game of Spring Training for my team took place, which the A's won, 15-7 over the Chicago Cubs.  Trevor Cahill, aka The Green Doom, was heavily shelled, but as he said, "It's better to have that happen now than have it happen later."

True words, man.  Springtime is in the air...


Let's see...

Oh yes, forgot to mention earlier that I was denied again, this time for Lottery Odds and this time by an agent I had submitted to before in my (seemingly) never-ending quest to get Salvation into print.  It only took two weeks instead of the eight to ten that was listed as the usual response time, but I genuinely appreciate the fact that the agent in question rendered her decision in such a quick fashion.  Much like a bad date, if things aren't going well I'd rather know about it as soon as possible, rather than stringing myself along in pursuit of something that isn't going to happen.

Also, I hadn't really thought that this was going to work out anyway.  Oh sure, in the agent bio it says that she reps romance and that's the sandbox Lottery Odds plays in, yes, but really... really, is the same woman who represents steampunk queen Cherie Priest and urban fantasy king Jim Butcher (among others) going to be taken in by the story of Richard and Stephanie?  I mean, really?

Well, yeah.  I had my hopes, slight though they were.

And yeah, it hurts when they get stepped on again.

Back to the drawing board... in a little bit.  No moping, just research.
So as I was saying earlier, Permuted Press shot me in the head today.  It hurt, a lot, because I had actually gotten to the point where I was looking at the situation and in the back of my mind the band was starting to play a tune.  Not "Nearer My God To Thee," either; this was a stirring martial number, one that signified that maybe I was getting close, because the last time the publisher said they wanted to see more material they extended me a contract and so--

--and so they pulled out their .38 Special and painted my brains all over the wall.  And I ended up staying home from work today because I was depressed but damnit, I was also pissed off and that's not the sort of thing you want to spring on the public, especially given that I have a fairly low horseshit tolerance as it is.  What really got my goat, for the record, was this line:

Unfortunately I've decided to pass on the novel as we've got some stronger candidates in hand.

Really?  As Eddie Murphy said, "Tell me something I don't know, motherfucker."  I can read between the lines just as well as anybody and did not need to be told that other people had done a better job of playing around in the sandbox than I had.  I mean, really, I didn't need to know that.  It's sort of implied given the tone of the letter, that tone being REJECTION.

Later on in the evening after drinking several glasses of geometric wine, eating a pair of Xanax and shooting Nazis in the face with gusto during a particularly violent session of Wolfenstein that featured more use of the flamethrower than was really necessary, I felt a little calmer.  After watching several episodes of the excellent comedy Sports Night and a rented blu-ray copy of How To Train Your Dragon, I was definitely more in control again.  Really, it was my fault.  I had forgot the cardinal rule of writing and submission, which is:


And hey, by the standards of where I was even a couple years ago versus how I am doing now, things are way better.  I'm now more likely to receive a personalized rejection letter rather than the stock variety they shit out on a depressingly regular basis and if all else fails, I have "Death Tide" coming in November or December of 2011 via Spells and Swashbucklers, so that's a good thing as well.  Finally, I was able to rise above this cut-to-the-bone rejection and send out Salvation again for another shot at that fabled brass ring that I've erased so much of my skin trying to grab.  So hey, points for me for being a professional and getting right back in that saddle again so soon after biting the dust in this arena I have carved out as my own.

But to tell you the God's honest motherfucking truth?  Between friends, no bullshit?  This evening I'm sending it out for the eighteenth time, so you can maybe understand a little of my teeth-gnashing comes from.

#17 And Counting

Shot down by Permuted Press.  More on that anon.  Next submission has been sent out.  Depression will not stop me.


Brutal Is Good

Today I finished off the fourth novella in the newest Stephen King collection, Full Dark, No Stars.  Wow.  Just... wow.  I hate to say it, but getting hit by that minivan was probably one of the best things that ever happened to King.  Before that unfortunate event, his books were becoming a little stale, a little predictable, not at all the kinds of things that you want to appear on the resume of a man who is one of the best writers ever.  After the impact, he became mean again.

Full Dark, No Stars is one of the more vicious works to appear in his catalog, and that's definitely saying something.  It's great to know that age 63, King has not lost his fastball.  He can still dot you right between the eyes with that bad boy.


Torpedo In The Water

I sent out the first chapter, plot summary and cover letter of Lottery Odds tonight.  Kind of a ritual; if I get sick and end up having to stay the day at home, I need to do something major to try to advance my writing career.  Be it writing a couple chapters, doing research on a place to submit or actually doing the dread walk down the plank to send a prospective project off, I make it a point to put my time to good use.

The place I am submitting to is actually one I have tried previously with Salvation and been turned down by, but I trust this agent to at least give the material a fair shake.  Estimated time on the turnaround is eight to ten weeks, so hopefully something will be known by the time tax season is getting wrapped up.

The whole Harlequin thing hurts, but there's nothing to be done for it now but to move forward.

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