What to do about Book Number Two

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 So You Wrote a Novel? Good for You. Now What?

OF FATES CONVERGED, my first novel, volume one of the sprawling fantasy epic I’ve had in my head for the last 15 or so years is finished. Months of retooling, editing, and all that good stuff, in the bag.The querying has finally begun in earnest (and I got a request for 100 pages already *does the Cat Daddy*), but the question that looms large is – now what?

This is the dilemma – should continue writing the sequel to OF FATE CONVERGED (tentatively titled OF AMBITIONS UNBOUND) with the hope that over the next months (or year, or however long it takes) that an agent will pick up this first volume. The thing is though, even if agent does pick it up, there’s no guarantee that it will be sold to a publisher. And then if a publisher does take it what if nobody buys it? What if it languishes – collecting dust on store shelves and unclicked into Amazon carts? What happens to the other four books in the series I have planned? Scuttled unceremoniously into the the endless of void of the Never-to-be-Read?

Deep breath.

I’m really getting ahead of myself.
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You, me and WDCE

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If you have been following my Twitter (and why wouldn’t you be?) then you know that last weekend I attended my first ever writer’s conference – the venerable Writer’s Digest Conference East (WDCE) in New York City. This was a pretty big step for me and I think for a whole bunch of other authors in attendance. It was the first time I would be pitching my novel OF FATES CONVERGED to actual agents, the prospect of which was incredibly exciting and pretty nerve wracking too.

So without further adieu – here are some of the highlights of the weekend:
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Bookish Babblings – Blackbirds

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So, I’ve been slogging through FALL OF HYPERION for the past couple of months. It’s been a severe disappointment compared to the first novel, which I thought was a truly stunning and original work of fiction. I mean really, whose brilliant idea was it to turn the great set up from HYPERION into the Severn and Gladstone Show featuring the Hyperion Six? Dreadful.

Anywho… I desperately needed to take a break from the doldrums of this novel. I’ve had Mr. Wendig’s BLACKBIRDS sitting on my shelf for a while now and I am going to be seeing him speak at Writer’s Digest East Conference (so hyped) in April, so this seemed like the perfect time to delve in. Plus, BLACKBIRDS looked to be the exact opposite of what I was currently reading and the desired respite from highfaluting space opera I was searching for.

Though I mostly read SFF, I can get into pretty much anything that has engaging characters and an appealing premise, even nonfiction (recently finished the Steve Jobs biography, and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t an engaging character). I admit too, I’ve not read too many “urban fantasy” novels, but I guess I was hoping to get something like GIRL WITH DRAGON TATTOO – badass female main character in a grim and gritty world of crime and mystery, which is pretty much what I got.

So, as per usual in these bookish bloggies, I present random thoughts. Caution, there may be spoilers lurking amongst these words:

  • The Miriam Black character, in all of her filthy, white-trashy splendor, hooked me at once. She swear, she snarks, but behind all of her cocksure bravado, Miss Black shields a terrible secret. She can see how people die, and does so in extremely gruesome detail. She’s not really a likable person, no I wouldn’t call her that, but she has this sort of vile charm that I found quite irresistible.
  • Mr. Wendig’s wickedly clever prose does a marvelous job of bringing Miriam’ grimy, blood soaked and roach infested world to life while not bogging the reader down with unnecessarily lengthy descriptions. He really makes you feel like your right there, siting in some dingy motel or some seedy hole in the wall with Miriam and her pals all the way.
  • And speaking of not bogging down – the novel moves at a breakneck speed, never really slowing down for much time at all. There are some small respites from the action, but the tension never dissipates, even in the quietest moments. I think it took me about three hours total to read through it.
  • I very much enjoyed the interludes where Miriam reveals her past to Paul. The revelation about the red balloon was especially excellent, heartbreaking stuff. These interludes gave just enough of a break in the action, but like I said before, never siphoned away any of tension from the main narrative.
  • As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a sucker for exceptional villains, and think they are often the most important characters in a story. Mr. Wendig surely did not fail me in this department. His villains are as engaging as they are frightening – especially Harriet, the sadistic, beady eyed Hobbit with a torture fetish. Easily, my favorite part of the novel was “Harriet’s Story”. OMFG, so great.
  • The only thing in story that didn’t really click with me was the Miriam / Louis relationship. I felt to me like she was more interested in saving him just to give a big FU to the fates, to prove that she could control her power, rather than because she actually cared about him. I see where their relationship blossomed over the course of the novel, as Louis was the only person who really cared about her and was such a decent guy compared to the sleazy Ashley, but for whatever reason, the romantic connection between them never gelled for me.
  • That said, I did enjoy the ending of the novel, Miriam’s story arch came to a nice crescendo and even thought I know there is a sequel (which I will be picking up shortly) I would have been wholly satisfied with the conclusion Mr. Wendig presented.

So, all in all, I throughly enjoyed BLACKBIRDS, it was a refreshing change of pace from the voluminous scifi and fantasy stories I’ve reading (and writing, lol) recently and Mr. Wending’s electrifying prose and dynamic characters kept me intrigued throughout the novel. What say you, my dear readers?

We’re All in This Together – The Power of the Tribe

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Yet Another Amanda Palmer Post

I reckon most of you have seen this already (it went viral on the Interwebs, as these things are wont to do), but here is the video of Amanda F’n Palmer‘s TED Talk. She speaks regarding the sharing of an artist’s work and life experiences with his or her audience.

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In #WriteClub We Trust

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Navigating the Mystifying Maze of Twitter

As I was coming to the end of the first draft of OF FATES CONVERGED, I began researching what tools I would need to start building my author platform, land an agent and (God willing) sell this damn book. After scouring many articles, the general consensus was that Twitter was one of, if not the, best outlets for building and marketing one’s author brand. I already had an account, but never once tweeted and was only following a handful of celebrities and economists (quite an exciting combo, I know).

I don’t know about you all, but when I was first starting to get my writerly stuff organized on Twitter, I was pretty lost. I had no followers, a book that was still in need of serious editing and revising, and no idea really what to say to the thousands of strangers that awaited me in the great wide Twittersphere. I once again read copiously of articles (Twitter for writers is a pretty popular topic for bloggers) about how to build a follower base, who you should talk to as a writer and what you should say. Even after all of the suggestions in these articles though, I still felt hopelessly afloat in a sea of hashtags and @ symbols.

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The Duality of Piracy

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A little disclaimer first – I’ve never download an ebook before, legitimately or otherwise. I don’t even have a Kindle or Nook or whatever. I still find great joy in the reading physical books. There’s something about the smell of the pages, the weight of it in your hands, the feeling when you turn over that last page. I just haven’t found the will to change over to digital. Plus, I have a collectors mentality about a lot of things and I like being able to display my books on a shelf.

That said, I find the debate about book piracy very interesting and it seems to be a rather hot topic among authors recently, so I wanted share a few of my own thoughts.
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Bookish Babblings – SAGA Volume 1

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As an avid listener of the iFanboy Pick of the Week podcast, I’ve heard the boys extolling the virtues of SAGA for the last few months. I’ve been a fan of Brian K. Vaughan’s work for a long time now, I contend that his RUNAWAYS run has got be one of best mainstream comic of all time. So I picked up the first volume of SAGA last week, with much anticipation and my thoughts are this:

  • I liked the Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars vibe of the story as a whole. The two main characters, Alana and Marko were likable and engaging from the start. I could really feel the loved they had each other and could emphasize with their struggles.
  • I have to admit I was taken aback a little bit by the dialogue at first. Not to say it was bad, I guess thought the characters sounded a little too ‘hip’ or something for a space opera type story. I got used to it after a while.
  • The Will is an interesting character. The whole ‘badass mercenary with his own moral code’ has been done a million times (including my own novel, OF FATES CONVERGED), but it was done very well here and I loved his reaction when he’s presented with the vile underbelly of Sextillion.
  • There are some really great one page WTF moments in this book, like the reveal of the giant head girls on the aforementioned Sextillion, the spidery Stalk or Prince Robot just chilling out on the john.
  • Probably my favorite character is Izabel, floaty, disembowledy pink ghost monkey girl who acts babysitter for Marko and Alana during the night. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what I like so much about her, but I love her design and snarky attitude.
  • And last, but certainly not least, I have to mention the artwork of Fiona Staples. She did a really superb job of rendering all of the action – from the dramatic fight scenes to the intimate character moments. She handled to the character’s “acting” magnificently, they were all very expressive and emotive, even the faceless Robots.

All in all, a pretty great read, the plot moved a long a brisk pace, the action was consistently exciting and the cliffhanger made me eager to read more. I’ve got the first Y: THE LAST MAN trade on deck too. The Vaughan train rolls on! Your thoughts, my dear readers on SAGA or the great BKV in general?

The Arduous Scaling of Mount Published

Art by Adam Paquette
Art by Adam Paquette

Traversing the Vast Slushy Wasteland

I don’t know how many of you saw it, but last week a literary agent named Jennifer Udden live tweeted her slush pile for all the world to see. Part of me found it to be a fascinating exercise, a window into the thought process of someone who literally sees hundreds of novel pitches everyday and what she looks for in a submission. The other part of me found it absolutely harrowing to see the work someone may have spent years creating, pouring every once of their being into, dismissed because the first few sentences weren’t exciting enough or the premise seemed a bit cliched. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Ms. Udden is a some kind of dream crushing monster or something, she’s just doing her job, and a very difficult one at that. I just found the idea that if you aren’t able to hook an agent it a couple sentences or paragraphs, that’s it. Game over. Thanks for playing. It’s a terrifying prospect for the unpublished author.

It just so happened that one the same day, one of my Twitter pals, the inimitable Ksenia Anske (for reals people, follow this woman) wrote on her blog about the sometimes pervasive doom and gloom that hangs like pall over the publishing industry. It seems like every other article you read online is about how difficult it is to find an agent, get them to accept your manuscript, then for them to find a publisher, market your book, sell said book, and so on and so forth. It is an incredibly long and difficult process from finishing the manuscript you have been working years on to (hopefully) seeing on bookshelves.
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The Villain is the Most Important Character in Your Story

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You know them, you hate them, but if you’re like me, you can’t help but love them. These are the villains of your favorite stories, and I submit to you, my readers, that they are the most important part of those stories.

Hey! I’m a (Diabolical) Person, Too!

When I started writing OF FATES CONVERGED, one of my top priorities was to develop believable and captivating villains to plague or heroes during the course of the story. One thing that really irks me is when the “Big Bad” is not given ample back story or just pops up at the end for the heroes to fight, just because. This seems to happen on occasion in fantasy fiction (I’m looking at you Crimson King), and it drives me bonkers. Why should I care if they defeat this evil guy? And why is he evil, because the author said so? Because he wears a black (or red) cloak and laughs maniacally? He serves no purpose but to be a final boss battle? Yeah, I don’t think so. That said, there are many great villains fantasy fiction who are great characters in their own right:
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Bookish Babblings – A Storm of Swords

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Alrighty folks, this is my first attempt a book review / ramble (more ramble than review, likely). Thoughts, comments or hateful taunting about the format and content would be greatly appreciated.

About two months ago a groups of friends and I went sitting around at a little hole in the wall after a wedding in Brooklyn. After about two and a half Stella Atrois’, we got engaged in a rather vigorous discussion about whether or not I should just watch the Game of Thrones TV series or read ahead on the books. My argument was that the events of the TV thus far had been so shocking, I didn’t want them spoiled beforehand. One of my friends, who had read all five books, argued rather adamantly otherwise. He said that the books were so good, it was an injustice to wait.

After much struggle and debate, I relented.

He was right.
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