Author This!

the glamorous struggles of an aspiring author...

Friday, June 12, 2009

For shame!

I have not posted for a whole month!

Well, nothing much has happened on the writing front. I pulled the draft of Morrow Magi out of circulation after that disappointing partial request and subsequent rejection, and have been doing structural changes that are, of course, having a cascade effect on the whole thing. I've also been toying with a science fiction short story which might have some possibilities. I wish I did not tend toward clever twists at the end. As I get older, twists seem more like cheap shots than satisfying conclusions.

Along with archery, I've taken up fencing again! This time, epee SCA style instead of olympic. IT IS AWESOME. I got a little freaked at first because I forgot what it is like to have someone actually trying to kill you with a sword with a cork on the end, but I'm over that now. Hurts my thighs something awful, but my God does it feel good to stab at someone. All that repressed aggression... kaboom!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hey, the egg timer rang! Your 10,000 hours are up!

Hey, the egg timer rang! Your 10,000 hours are up!

So I finished Levitin's The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature and really l liked it so I gamely purchased his first book, This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. It was wonderful. Really. Until I got to the part about 10,000 hours.

"... ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert -- in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is the equivalent to roughly three hours per day, or twenty hours per week, of practice over ten years."

For some reason I became irrationally irritated by this. Particularly since he mentioned "fiction writers" by profession...along with master criminals. Rather an interesting sensation to be grouped with master criminals.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Blame the name, Mame.

I have three characters in my book who are interestingly named. Griffin Bowen, which is meant to evoke adventure as well as mystery. Right rhythm, two beats, Griff-in, followed by two beats, Bow-en. A hero's name.

Then there are my dear villains.

The arch villain is named Murdock Bowen, Griffin's uncle, which begins with an unpleasant similarity to murder, and his character is certainly capable of killing.

The villainous partner in crime is named Erasmus Snood. I love the rhythm of Erasmus. Like the wobbly wheel on a shopping cart or the wear of an uneven heel, its the extra third syllable that makes it carry so much extra baggage. Then the final 's' of Erasmus slides in to the doorstop word of Snood, the double 'o' pitching a snooty slam. The whole thing is intended to imply a secretive nature accompanied by a superior attitude (which is comically misplaced).

I am tempted to write a Victorian novel just to use the girl's name Mehenatible!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Great Editing

Stacy Whitman, an editor late of Wizards of the Coast and Mirrorstone, will do critiques of the first 30 pages of your novel and your query letter. In my opinion, her work is detailed and insightful. She also teaches writing and it shows in her level of interest in plot and character mechanics. She specializes in fantasy and science fiction. Read all about her and her editing service at I think you will agree with me that we are lucky to have an editor with this much talent available to us writers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Every Agent Wants: The Perfect Rejection Form Letter

Yeah, I read the agent blogs. The way some people I know tune into American Idol, I tune into Query Shark, Nathan Bransford, and The Rejecter. And they all want one thing. For all of us aspiring writers to go away. I sympathize. I really do. But there is no need to be nasty about it. Repeat some clich├ęs about honey and lemons and oh, there are so many, take your pick.

The truth is, you have to find a way to reject something you don't want, and never want to see in your inbox again. If you are too rude, writers e-bomb, yeah, that's unpleasant. If you are too nice, they send you the whole manuscript with the first line changed and ask how you liked the re-write.

Where then is The Perfect Rejection Form Letter? Right here:

Dear [insert writer's name for that personal touch],

We at [insert your agency name here] read your submission with the utmost interest. Thank you for sending it to us. It has transformed our lives.

Clearly, your keen insight and original word choices distinguish you as a writer with great talent. It is with paramount regret that we feel unworthy to represent such a seminal work.

Indeed, it was only the thought of my poor ailing mother, who would be destitute without my support, that I did not immediately commit seppuku after reading your submission and realizing I would never be worthy to represent work of this calibre.

Yours in awe,

[insert your name here]

Plot Pivot

I'm afraid I'm still waffling around, but the basic plot line is that a minor German nobleman mortgages his property to go on crusade but unable to raise enough funds, so he marries a merchant's daughter, though he suspects the merchant is a Jew, and uses her dowry to finance the journey. The persecution of the Jews in Germany during the first crusade killed many and forced others to convert, so this is possible.

It is an inauspicious beginning to the relationship, as she is willful and not eager to be her father's pawn, and her new spouse is not interested in her other than producing an heir before leaving.

What happens? I don't know yet. I'm not even sure if the lovely couple will actually get together at the end. At one point I had considered having her husband return from the crusade with a holy relic in his mailed fist, sit at the great table, beg her to bury him with honor and fall silent. She opens his visor to find him horribly dead, eaten away with leprosy. I do like that.

But then some dashing somebody would have to be in the wings the whole time and not sure who that could be, but if she is at home the whole crusade, then a plot must be afoot... something that involves her merchant father with the debacle in Venice, and a whole lot of unladylike behavior on her part to smuggle her family out of the way, or protect that heir she produced, or something. She can stay home I suppose, but I refuse to write the damn thing if I can't write about medieval Venice.

Hugo Awards 2009 Finalists

Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Morrow; Atlantic UK)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)

Way to go Neil!!