Just covering an extra base here. The Mascot Serial will come to an end UNLESS YOU VOTE TO KEEP IT GOING! Please go to the last episode and see what's up.
Hello. First off, I must confess that this will probably be my last post until after Christmas. I expect to be working fifty to sixty hours a week after Thanksgiving and until Christmas. And there's no guarantee the hours will ease up after the first of the year. I can handle the hours day-to-day. But after four days of that, I just get worn down. Age? Or mileage?
There is some good news. My wife's health is noticeably improving. Her doctor's appointment last Friday was mostly good news. Also, I was even more of my usual smart-ass self. The wife, doctor, and nurse got into the spirit of the situation and we were all laughing like crazy.
Mrs. Waiss was sitting on the exam table and I said something smart-alecky (but funny!) and she told the doc to hit me. He did! He stepped right over and popped me in the shoulder! I said, "Hey, what happened to 'Do no harm?'" He responded with a grin, "She's my patient, not you."
That was just a little bit of the funnies of that visit. Primarily, he was very pleased with her progress concerning the pain. It has noticeably declined and she hasn't had to take much of the pain meds recently. In another month or so she might be quite a bit better and stronger.
I got another rejection. On my 10/12 blog I mentioned the short story, "The Affair." After all that cutting, the publisher didn't accept it. Darn.
I did something really stupid with that story—something I've never done before and hopefully will not do again. I didn't keep a copy of the original longer version. Now all I have is the shortened version, and I think the one that existed for a short time with an additional one thousand words was better. To quote Bugs Bunny: "What a maroon!"
I contacted two more agents about Saving Atlantis. One provides no info on response time; the other predicts about four weeks. She wanted to see the first fifty pages or the first three chapters, whichever was greater. Those coincided exactly. So she will see more of the story than the others have. I hope that will work in my favor.
For those of you keeping up with The Mascot Serial, I'm going to try very hard to get one more chapter done before the end of the week—maybe on Thanksgiving—but I can't promise.
And that is all I have. I wish you all an enjoyable and thankful Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas and good New Year.
I'm sorry I have not been able to post here recently. I'm having to work ten hours every day. I don't mind the extra hours at work, but I hate the two hours less at home.
On top of that, my wife spent another few days in the hospital. We went to Rochester for her appointment Thursday afternoon and the doc decided he needed to run a few tests...and he couldn't do it as an outpatient.
She wanted me to stay in Rochester with her at least to the weekend. She's spoiled, so I did. I had no necessities of any kind for staying a night or two. I could buy that stuff. But I had not taken along my laptop, so I couldn't do any writing.
I did think about writing a long email on my yahoo account and then I could access it here at home. But I need to look at what I did last before I can write what's next. If I'd taken my laptop (and I had considered it, but decided it wasn't necessary—fooled myself) I could have had this up Sunday.
And I have a new personal concern that uses up a little time...or a lot. Depends on how much I want to spend. But I enjoy every minute, so I've allowed the writing to slack a little for this new diversion.
I did take one small step on the writing front at the hospital. I left my name and book titles with the librarian; maybe I'll get a sale or two. They have a nice library on the seventh floor of the Joseph Building, with a few computers, lots of books, of course, and they'll charge your cell phone for you. My wife's nurse told us about that, which is how I found myself in the library in the first place.
Not much on the writing front to mention. I chopped the "Prelude" off Saving Atlantis, but it hasn't helped get acceptance from the last two agents I submitted to. I'll start approaching some of the publishers directly.
I also got a brand shiny new rejection for a science fiction story called "Guidelines." I think it's pretty good, but I must be wrong because over half a dozen editors have kicked it to the curb.
One bit of good news. Sunday morning, October 8th, I woke up and had a funny little idea about how one certain word sounds a lot like another. So that morning I wrote it, edited it, and submitted it to Page and Spine for their Crumbs tab.
The editor, N.K. Wagner, apparently found it as funny as I did. She put into the End Notes tab, which pays better.
If you want to get a quick laugh (read it aloud to others—it'll work even better) you can find "Plastic Passion" here: http://www.pagespineficshowcase.com/end-notes.html
Scroll down to the 10/13 entry. Then, if you don't already, read the rest of the issue. All good.
Thanks for reading, and I hope the next posting will be sooner than this one was.
This will not be a long entry. I've been working ten hours a day for the last two weeks...except for the days I haven't because my wife has been in the hospital for two weeks and the hospital is a two-and-a-half hour drive away. So I took a couple of days off las week to visit her and I'm taking Friday off this week to bring her home. YES! We both want her back home...and our doggies really miss her...almost as much as I do.
I've been saving up a whole stack of dirty dishes just for her.
On to writing.
I haven't had much time for it. However, last weekend I did get in some activity. I found three markets that wanted stuff I have. One of those markets seemed like the place for me to submit a little romance short story titled "The Affair." "The Affair" was about 6100 words. The contest dictated a limit of 4,000 words.
I managed to cut it enough. It wasn't easy.
I went through it three times. The first time was easy. I do tend to over-write and put in sentences that are unnecessary—the same information is given elsewhere, usually a few sentences later. So the first time through I reduced the story to about 5100 words. There is no doubt that the story was better and more readable without those unnecessary thousand words.
The second reading got it down to 4600. And finally the third edit got it down to 3950. I don't know if the final version is better that the 5100-word version. I don't think it's as satisfying from the author's point of view, but I can hope the editor/judges like it.
As a writer, that is something you really need to learn to do: cut; slice and dice; chop, shave, and any other synonyms.
"When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done."
-Stephen King, in Writer's Digest
Here's one more King quote: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."I have not yet read it, but King's book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft has received plenty of good reviews.
So, how do I go about writing a fantasy series of novels? What do I need to do?
I'm currently reading David and Leigh Eddings' Dreamers series. Eddings is an excellent teller of fantasy stories...BIG fantasy stories. If you want to investigate him a little before investing your time and/or money in his writing, I suggest you start here: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/feature/why-you-should-read-david-eddings/
I've read two or three other series by Eddings. But I haven't learned what I could have from them. Until now. The key is to write a lot. Simple? Maybe. But after reading the first three books of the four-book series, I realize that the key is to build a really big world, people it with plenty of interesting characters, and go into details on their interpersonal relationships.
I look at Witchery now, and I could make that 87,000-word book into three books of about the same length each. I could have done that, but, remember, up till now I've never thought about writing a series. I have written the stories that came to me.
Now, I'm going to write a series (at least, that's the plan). So I must approach the entire project with a different mind-set. The story must be expanded. The worlds must be large and the characters must be plentiful and—here's the key—they must have long and interesting back-stories.
Going back to Witchery for a moment, I could have included expanded back stories on Kaar and Mirra and Milla and, of course, Maalak. I could have gone through the history of the long line of Torlins that ruled Kessia from its founding. In fact, I prepared some of that while writing the book, but decided it wasn't part of the story.
BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN!
Right this minute I'm aggravated with myself about the missed opportunity.
I'm going to derail my train of thought for a moment to reveal a truth that some of you may know, but it is likely that some do not.
That idea of the potential of Witchery as a series—the plot just as it was, with the same characters—came to me as I was writing this, and because I was writing this.
Writing actually can produce new insights.
I discovered this back in an English class in college. I'm used to learning new things about my characters while I'm writing fiction, but it's been a while since it happened while writing non-fiction. Cool, huh? Well, I think so.
Back to series writing. When I decided to do this I asked Anthony Wedgeworth how he started. He revealed that he had the concepts figured out before writing the first book, Fate of Thorik. He plotted out about thirty books and established many of the interactions and motivations between characters.
There is no way I can do that.
George R.R. Martin opined that there are two kinds of writers—the architect and the gardener. The architect plans out everything. The gardener plants a seed and watches it grow...and sees what it grows into as it develops.
Anthony is an architect. I'm a gardener. I've dug the whole and tossed in the seed. A few times a week I get an idea about what direction I want this bonsai tree to grow and I write it down. But I know I'll be surprised now and then as the story grows.
Some of the oldest clichés are: "count your blessings," and "things could be worse."
We all have our own personal problems. Do not minimize them...they are as big to you as they bother you.
We can look at the huge problems in Houston from the flooding of Hurricane Harvey, or the expected destruction and hardships from Hurricane Irma, and shrug off a bad back as insignificant. But it isn't.
Yes, it's pretty terrible to be without electricity or potable water for days or weeks. But someone can mitigate those circumstances for you. It's tragic and devastating to have your house under water and virtually all your possessions ruined or washed away. But you can get help finding a new place to live and possessions, as valued as they are, are still only things.
But, if you can't pick up anything below your knees or above your shoulders because of a bad back, or you can't take more than a few steps unassisted before you fall down, or become completely out of breath, and there is no fixing your condition short of the grave, that is not insignificant. Not to you, not to your family. So don't minimize your own real, (emphasize that word), real troubles just because thousands of other people have troubles, too. Their troubles may make the prime time news and inspire help from the Red Cross and the government and total strangers, but your own personal problems are just as debilitating and significant to you as one of those others.
I don't have any of those problems, by the way. My wife has her fair share of physical health problems, but she is getting better, not worse; none of the remarks above apply to family or friends. Those are just observations.
Now, as to preparing to write a serial. I mean, a series. I am writing a serial and have been for over two years. As far as the Mascot Serial is concerned, I had only one plan and the story is getting there. Our fearless mascots will have arrived at my goal by the end of the year. After that...well, we'll see.
But writing a series is a different animal. I have read a lot of series. Very early on in my reading habits I read The Hardy Boys series. But it wasn't too much of a series. Each mystery novel was a stand-alone story featuring the same characters. Occasionally one episode would reference a past episode, and the boys got older as the books progressed, but there were no cliff-hangers from one book to another. Note: I'm writing here from memories about fifty years old. So I could be wrong.
The Hardy Boys books were written by several ghost writers, none of whom were the creators of the series. So The Hardy Boys doesn’t really qualify as a book series. If you want more info on the series look it up in Wikipedia. The same formula—and the same creator—applied to The Nancy Drew Mysteries as well.
There is a difference between a series of books and a book series. Robert Heinlein wrote a series of short stories in the 1940s that came to be known as The Future History series. That term was preferred by the readers. The publisher called the stories the history of the future. These were also stand-alone stories, unrelated to each other in terms of plot and characters, but all happening against a backdrop of the same culture and technological history of future events. Later, Heinlein wrote a few novels that fit into the same future historical framework; these novels featured the character Lazarus Long.
None of those had what I believe are the primary features of what constitutes a book series. That is, there is a definitive Book One and a definitive Book Last, be that number three, four, nine, or whatever.
Stephan King's Dark Tower series is like that. Terry Brooks' Sword of Shanara series and subsequent Shanara stories qualify. David Eddings (some co-authored with his wife, Leigh) has published several fantasy book series.
Curiously, (or perhaps not) The Lord of the Rings, technically, is not a series. At least, it was not intended as such. Tolkien wrote the entire series as a single book. The publishers found it necessary to break it into three separate volumes due to the length; there was a shortage of available paper to publish that many pages in a single volume with any kind of wide distribution.
My own books, Just Lucky, Book 1 and Book 2 were originally written as a single work as well. I have enough for a Book 3, but whether that ever gets written as a separate book is very much in doubt at the moment.
One of the most famous series of books is the Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also wrote the Barsoom series novels.
Westerns came in series form, too. The Hopalong Cassidy books (also known as The Bar-20 stories) written by Clarence E. Mulford, are another example of a series of books featuring the same characters and the same setting, and maintaining a clear chronological order, yet each book is a stand-alone story. If you like Westerns, I recommend them. When Mulford was ready to retire from writing Westerns he hand-picked the author he wished to continue the Bar-20 stories. That author was Louis L'Amour. He only wrote two Bar-20 stories before creating his own characters and settings.
Anthony Wedgeworth's Altered Creatures fantasy series was planned out as a book series. In fact, he spent two years plotting out about thirty different books that fit into the make-believe world of the altered creatures. He has published the six-book series for readers thirteen-and-up and the three-book series for readers under age thirteen, and he is now working on the next batch...a new series but with some of the same characters.
I recommend the Altered Creatures series. Book 1, Fate of Thorik the first volume, is an excellent series starter; the others are very good at continuing the pace and the plot and bringing in new characters and new concerns. Each one has at least one special scene that will stay with you for a long time, plus the characters are all strong. And it is highly unlikely that any reader will anticipate the ending of Book 6, Plea of Avanda.
Okay, so much for the introduction to what is or might be a book series and what might be a series of books.
Continued next time.
Some of this will be a repetition. Sorry, but I think it'll be helpful to get the point (such as it is) across.
I've published three books so far and a fourth, the second volume of the Just Lucky story, is scheduled to be published this fall. I am now putting the finishing touches on a fifth novel, a paranormal romance/thriller.
In none of those cases did I decide to write something and then try to come up with a story. Prophecy of Honor just popped into my head one day at work and after three days of thinking about it during "mental downtime" I had the whole story in my head.
Witchery was written originally in 1990-91. Again, I did not decide to write a book; the story just evolved in my mind. I know for sure that Robert Heinlein's novella "Magic, Inc." played a huge influence in the development of the characters and the magic.
The two adult fiction novels, Just Lucky, Book 1: Friends and Enemies and Book 2: Love and Hate are two books totaling just under 200,000 words were taken from an original manuscript of over 300,000 words. Again, I did not sit down with a blank page (on a computer) and decide to write a novel. The story decided it wanted me to write it.
Yeah, I know. Sounds weird. In about 1995, give or take a year, I wrote a short story as a sort of present for a friend. So, yeah, I did decide to write a short story. But the main character of that story kept bugging me for years to tell more of his story. How did he acquire his major permanent disability? How did he come to be married to an incredibly beautiful and athletic woman?
So I wrote it all out. Although I had to make decisions about the characters, the story itself never required any contemplation. It just proceeded. Much of it was easy because I set most of the story at the University of Northern Colorado about 1969 and a few years past. The same years I attended UNC. Many of the minor incidents in both novels are based on actual events. I admit this in the front of the book. The hard work was the editing and specifically what to leave out.
The paranormal romance, Saving Atlantis, is in some ways the same. I read Stephen King's novel, Bag of Bones. I liked the novel but I did not like the narrator—the hero—Mike Noonan. I thought he was weak both in body and in character. I wanted to write a book where a similar character did things the way I thought they should be done. At the same time I couldn't use the same plot and characters and situations that King used.
After a few days of contemplation I had the main characters and the basic plot.
So what? I'm getting to that. My point is that up to Saving Atlantis I never decided ahead of time to write a novel. The stories just came to me from outside sources.
As I finished up the editing for Saving Atlantis and made preparations for getting it published, I had the thought that now I needed to start another one.
I've been influenced at Writers Conferences and the recent Writers Open Forum by other authors that have written a fantasy series. I'm envious of the banners and other props they can bring to a gathering featuring their series.
So for what is really my first time, I decided not only to write a fantasy series, but I had to decide what to write without having any outside spur. I had to come up with something new all on my own, plus forming a story long and complex enough to carry through at least three full-length novels.
The following few paragraphs about the muse are inspired by Lee Allen Hill's essay on the Writers Table tab in this week's issue of Page and Spine: www.pagespineficshowcase.com
This is the point where some writers or would-be writers wait on their "muse" to visit them. They expect some tangible influence to show them where to go, what to write, how to fill that blank page with good words.
I never have been sure what "the muse" is. Does the muse supply ideas of what to write, or how to write it? Or both?
Either I don't need a muse or my muse is synonymous with my creative thinking.
It took me about ten minutes of thought to come up with a theme, a general story line, and the opening scene. Another few minutes and I had the two main characters. Over the course of the next week (this last week) I have four additional significant characters and a host of minor ones, questions to be raised in the first book and answered in later ones, and the cliff-hanger end of the first book.
I've made notes about all this. Next time, I won't reveal any details, but I will share a few things about preparing to write a series.
For now, I want to repeat something I've written here before. If you're interested at all in being a writer, you will find these blogs or newsletter very helpful—no, more than that. They are pretty close to must-reads. You should subscribe: (they're free)