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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Futuredaze: YA SciFi Anthology

Getting really excited for this one. I love working on stuff for anthologies. So far I’ve participated in two of the three “Fables for Japan” volumes. And it is an experience I’ll never forget. So when I was turned onto “Futuredaze,” I knew I had to submit something. Not only is it an anthology, but a YA SciFi one at that!

So over this weekend I began brainstorming on ideas.

First thing I did was refresh my memory on SciFi themes. To make sure nothing popped out at me that I may have forgotten. I tend to lean toward more “hard” SciFi, and even though this is YA, I wanted to keep that aspect of my writing personality and run with it.

With that said, one of the questions I love playing with in SciFi is, “What does it mean to be human?” I then answer it, or at least ask it, within the context of a SciFi background.

My first idea that really grabbed me was a take on “Frankenstein’s Monster.” In this case the idea germinated with how does the world react to the first Cyborg? There have been plenty of stories dealing with Androids. But what about a person who is mostly cybernetic, but with a few human parts left.

Specifically, what if this where a young boy–say ten–who was in a tragic accident? And his parents, unable to bear losing him, agree to allow his brain to be transplanted into a cybernetic body. This had a lot of possibilities to me; a lot of questions. Is he still human? How does the world react to this? How does he feel about it? Could someone so psychologically young be able to comprehend the gravity of their situation?

I was really digging its direction when my brain threw out a red flag. One of my fellow writing group members had something similar. Not necessarily about a boy and a cybernetic body. But it was close enough that I no longer felt comfortable going through with the idea.

Then it was back to the drawing board.

A bit bummed, I watched some Youtube videos and then headed to bed. And in that wonderful twilight of sleep, I got it. The idea that was both unique–at least to me–and that still dealt with the question, “What does it mean to be human?” I then fell asleep…

Some of you are thinking, “Ha! He didn’t write it down. He forgot it. Silly, sad, Jeffrey.”

But I didn’t remember it. So, shame on you. Because I have a ethos that I go by. I don’t write down general ideas. And I’ve been called crazy for it. But my belief is, if it was a strong idea, it will stick with you. It will resonate with you and your brain will continue to mull over it.

Come morning time I did a bit of rethinking and pulled it back up. Now was the time to start writing down the details. Within an hour I had the basics completed with the central conflict ready to roll.

At this point I don’t mind telling you all that it borrows from Star Wars and Les Miserables (considering I had just seen the show, it is no wonder). Quite a pairing, isn’t it? But there are two elements in both that my subconscious latched onto. Clones and little kids scavenging the battlefield for ammunition.

That’s what I’ll leave you with. I hope it makes some of you sit up with interest like it does me.

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The sweet smell of digital money

Received an email from Amazon last night, stating that I shall be receiving my first deposit for my short stories. That’s right everyone, I can now say I’m a paid author. You will now all refer to me as Professional Author Jeffrey N. Baker now.

Excuse me, I’m having to extract my tongue from my cheek.

Seriously, I do find it kind of cool. Though I think for the most part my foray into self-publication, for the time being, is at a standstill. I won’t be pushing the work like I had been. The marketing involved is too time consuming and I would rather spend that time writing, polishing, and getting a novel finished.

The process was worth it, I’ll admit. I learned a lot and next time will know exactly how to go about getting my work out there and into people’s hands. But for the time being, I’ll throw both works up on Smashwords for free in the coming months. Sales have nearly dried up as it is, so I don’t feel like I’ll be losing out on anything.

In other news.

A writing friend, Gary Henderson, sent me a link about an upcoming Anthology for sci-fi YA. It is going to be called “Futurdaze.” It sounds like a load of fun which I’m going to jump on with a quickness. As I get deeper into the literary world, I find that I want to get my name out there more and more. And I think this is an avenue for that.

Speaking of anthologies, I will have another submission appear in Volume 3 of “Fables for Japan.” It is titled “Brothers’ Three” and gets a bit dark. What makes this particular submission interesting is that it is my first comic I’ve ever written. Thanks to my good friend Chris Bivins for lending his amazing art to tell the story visually.

Once that book is out, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

Well, that’s all for today. I’m sure you had a stupendous time reading my words. Right? Write.

Les Miserables: 25th Anniversary Tour

Last night my wife and I went to see “Les Miserables” at the Fox Theatre. I have seen the musical twice before. Once at the Atlanta Civic Center and once on Broadway. Naturally, the Broadway cast set the bar for every future cast. And that’s a high bar.

But, I’m not here to talk about the pros and cons of each character (though believe me, I could, and in great detail). Instead, I want to talk about adding new material to old work. Specifically, after its release.

See, this tour of Les Miserables added in some new music. From what I could tell, it was there to help “clear up” confusion in the plot. However, they only succeeded in making some hamfisted entries that felt incongruous to the rest of the music/score. Though, to my wife who had never seen it, she couldn’t tell otherwise.

Another way to put it is this. Say someone took the original “Star Wars” franchise and added in new musical scenes with crappy CGI. It breaks the original flow and doesn’t support the original tone.  I’m glad no one has done that….

Right. Anyway.

This got me to thinking about different mediums of entertainment, and how they approach adding new material. For movies, we get this in director’s cuts. Plays will often shift things around and play with settings and how they are presented. This happens a lot with Shakespearian plays. “Ooo, let’s set Hamlet in the African plains and make them all animals!”

But how does this work with books? I’ve heard mention that Orson Scott Card has gone back and edited Ender’s Game a few times. Cutting and adding (I wish I knew the details. I suppose I could look it up, but I’m being lazy).

However, on the whole I can’t think of many authors that do this. It seems like, for the most part, books are left alone. We, the author, don’t go back and twiddle with something that’s already been published. We just let it stand on its own merits. Is there something about print that makes us feel it is immutable?

For my digital short story, “Slip Drive” I did several edits after its release. There were several issues that I and others had overlooked so I wanted to be sure to address those. And Amazon makes uploading a new version very easy. Which I think is a blessing and a curse to the self-publishing industry.

The feeling of the immutable printed book, I feel, drives us to be more meticulous with our presentation. Where as digital distribution (for some people) gives the publisher a license to “get it out quick.” We can always worry about the minor details later, right?

I suppose, for the most part, I’m rambling. But for fun, let’s calling it musing over the concept of tinkering with already published work. And why some mediums are more likely to keep tinkering, while others just let it go.

That makes it sound more important, right? Write.

Tried something new

Huzzah! I finished up chapter 14 last night. But I did try something new. I’m not sure how many of you know that I write everything by hand first. The feel of the pen to paper really helps me be connected to the story at hand, rather than worrying about the beauty of the prose.

However, lately I’ve been having a hard time getting everything down. It has been a struggle to just sit down and write. My writing group helped immensely because I had a deadline and not much choice. But now that I don’t have another deadline for a while, I can feel myself starting to slip again.

Last night I was doing some beta reading for Matthew Quinn and got to a stopping point. I looked at my notebook and had an idea. What if, instead of trying to write in prose, I just wrote very basic. Giving myself the details, without worrying even about POV or sentence structure.

So I went for it. And it basically looks like this: Billy goes up to the store and walks around, not knowing what to buy. He doesn’t know that he’s being followed. Going down the bread aisle he catches his pursuer in the reflection of a mirror overhead. He turns around and says, “Hey man, I see you there!”

It reads like crap. But man it does exactly what I need it to do. I get my details down, get my feel for the flow, while leaving myself room for nuance once I get into Scrivener to “commit” it to the book.

Which it is funny. This method goes back to “The Frame” method I had talked about in another post long ago. I had thought I’d discarded it in favor for some other methods, but now it looks like I’m going back to it. To a degree.

This first novel has been a huge learning experience but I love it. I can honestly say I’m finding my own path now. Finding what works for me to produce quality work in a relatively short amount of time. Which is good. Because as I draw closer to the end of the book, the more pumped I get to see it in my beta readers hands.

I bet you are just as excited, right? Write.

So it was true.

The 30 thousand word block hit me, and it hit me hard.  I had read from other authors that getting up to the 30k mark will be easy. But once you get past it, you’ll run aground. When I started getting close to it I thought they were crazy. I was blazing through the word count. Pulling in close to 3k words per chapter and sailing for the horizon.

Well call me Truman because the horizon was painted on a wall.

For me it happened around 35k. I wish I knew exactly what really caused the issue. Right now I point to the fact that I wanted to add some plot points to earlier chapters in order to make the chapters I was writing make sense. Now most of my writing friends have said, “Just make a note of it and move on.” But man, my brain just wants to have those details. I imagine it is in order to be able to sell the recall.

It’s like, if it isn’t there then it isn’t real or something. That’s where the next bit of advice you always hear came in to do some heavy lifting.

Push past it.

So I did. And I think the only way I was able to do it was because of my writing group. I signed up to be critiqued at our next meeting. What this does is kick me in the pants to meet my deadline. And I tell you, it worked. Very well.

I sat down to write chapters 12 and 13 and ended up with enough material to already have 14 in the bag in just a day or so. The only thing I know for certain is that 12 and 13 will need a lot of work. They aren’t as solid as I’m used to having with my others.

But at this point that doesn’t matter. The goal for the first draft is to get your ideas down on paper. See the story beyond your initial thoughts and then figure out what needs to be brought up and what needs to be knocked down. And I have a feeling a lot in 12 and 13 can be thrown out. But that’s OK.

In fact, I broke 40k with these two chapters. And based on how much I’ve been putting into each one, I’ll easily surpass my initial goal of 50k. And seeing how things are going, I’ll probably even have more than 20 chapters like I initially planed as well. Which is fantastic. I’d love to have far more than I need than too little. I want room to chop as much as possible and tighten up this book.

At this point, I’m on the downhill. Racing to some big reveals and really pumping up the drama. Wil is in for some surprises.

 

 

First 11 chapters

My wife and I decided it was time for her to start reading my novel. Up to this point I have kept it close to my chest. For two reasons. One, she wanted to be able to read the novel in one go. And two, I wanted to get her genuine reaction to the novel after it had been fully re-written and edited.

But with my recent blocks on the story, we felt it was time she read it and maybe she could be a sounding board on what may be off. She has always been good at giving me a nugget of an idea that I can run with and expand on. Without her, “Hiroko’s Tale” probably wouldn’t be the story it is today.

So I printed out the pages for her:

80 pages of my novel

 

There you have the first 11 chapters of my novel, tentatively titled “Where the Weird Things Are.” It is very awesome to see it all out on paper like that. All 33k words, single spaced, one-sided. That roughly came out to 80 pages. But man, something about seeing all those words on paper really made me feel good. Accomplished even.

Maybe that’s why I have a bigger drive for traditional publication over self-publishing. I get a much bigger high seeing the physical copy of my labor.

Now I just need to get it done and find a publisher. Easy, right? Write.

One step forward

I have a good wife. Last night she looked at me and said, “Go write.”

She can be very persuasive.

So I sat down in my little writing nook in the guest room and pumped out a few pages. I can’t say that I’ve broken my rut. But I can say that I’ve taken my own advice given to beatbox32 and powered through. With the help of my wife’s shove.

Not much to say on the novel front other than that. I’m getting some things done and should have two more chapters for my local writing group this Sunday.

KDP Update

Well, March has come and gone and I have a small update to how “Slip Drive” and “Hiroko’s Tale” have done over that month. Hiroko didn’t do much of anything so I won’t speak on it, but “Slip Drive” ended up selling 30 copies over that month. That is actual sales, not freebies. I make that distinction because I see a lot of people talk about their numbers, but they tend to only mention their free units.

With that said, I think 30 copies with no advertisement on my part isn’t that bad really. A little less than one a day. I haven’t had anymore people leave reviews but with the ones that are there, I think they help give me the few sales that I do have.

My next step is to put both “Hiroko’s Tale” and “Slip Drive” up on Smashwords once their KDP Select enrollment is done. Hiroko was done on the 16th and I have to wait until the 29th for “Slip Drive.” It will be interesting to see how things work when they are on more than one platform.

Well, it can’t hurt right? Write.

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