It’s been far too long since I mentioned Jack Kane and the Statue of Liberty. Yes, this stand-alone book is wonderful and you would love a copy (you can get a copy right here). Mike Plested and I worked very hard getting that one out the door and then both of us had life events that took up a majority of last year bleeding over into this year.
Suffice to say, we’re finally up and writing once more! Jack Kane 2 is under way. We don’t have a full working title yet, but that will be coming along any time I’m sure. We’re passing it back and forth so it should get done in a far shorter time than the first go ’round we had with Book 1. The writing and plotting will be tighter. The characters are already fully formed. It’s great fun so far and we’re nearly 20,000 words in! WOO!
So if you haven’t read book 1, now is a great time to get caught up. You won’t need to read book 1 to understand the events in book 2, but it’ll help get to know the characters. As soon as this one is complete and off to the publisher, I’ll be sure to let you know. Needless to say, I’m very VERY excited to be back sitting at the keyboard. I think doing these little blogs posts are helping as well.
It’s an exciting time. I’m glad you’re still with me for the ride!
Until Next Time!
Two and a half years ago (or more depending on who you ask) Michell Plested and I began work on a book. We wanted it to be funny, filled with action, and readable by people of all ages. He pitched it to a publisher, and Ta Dah! Jack Kane and the Statue of Liberty found a home.
It’s been a long time and a lot of work to get here and it’s incredibly exciting. We’re so happy to share this book with everyone and hope that it finds its way into the hands of millions (not just because we’re greedy, but because we love to have people read our work and feed our egos as well as our bank accounts). If you’ve found a copy, I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as we did creating it for you to read.
So if you’re one of the millions who will read Jack Kane, thank you. If you haven’t picked up a copy, here’s where you can find it. Bear in mind, that it’s currently ebook only. Once we sell a hundred copies, this WILL become a print book as well. So if you’re holding out for a print edition, convince your friends to buy the ebook. The sooner we hit 100, the sooner it’ll be in print. It’s only $2.99 and oh so worth it!
Champagne Books: http://champagnebooks.com/store/index.php?id_product=527&controller=product
Oddly I’ve never been tagged in a blog hop. Not sure why, but recently I was tagged by a close, personal friend of mine, Michell Plested to do a blog hop interview about my writing process.
Mike is also my writing partner on our upcoming project, Jack Kane and the Statue of Liberty. Beyond our project (which we hope will grow into a series), he’s also written Mik Murdock: Boy Superhero, His podcast novel, Galaxybillies, and his award nominated writing podcast, Get Published.
Mike was tagged by Robert Runte, who was tagged by Joe Mahoney, who was tagged by Susan Rodgers, and if you’d like to follow further back than that, by all means, surf the blog hop (as it was intended to be surfed).
As for my interview, here we go!
Mike: You have some very aggressive writing targets. Can you talk about what they are, why you made them and how you are managing to work on them.
JR: Last year I wanted to write something I thought would be a modest number of words: 1000 words per day. When you look at that small number, it doesn’t seem like that many words. When you add them all up at the end of the year, that’s 365,000 words. When looking at a number that large, it looks daunting. For some people it looks nearly impossible. To me, it looks almost like a challenge.
I took it on head first and failed miserably. I only managed roughly 180,000 words. Just about half my original goal. I say ‘failed’, but is 180,000 words in a year a failure?
A long, long time ago I worked doing door-to-door sales. Our motto was shoot for the stars, you just might land on the moon. I don’t see hitting the moon as a failure.
This year, I upped my goal. Yes, I know that sounds crazy when I missed my goal for last year by a lot. Well, a lot of life happened last year that preventing me from writing for nearly seven months. This year, fates willing, I will have a lot more time to actually sit and write. So rather than just 1000 words per day, I’m shooting for 10% more (1100 words per day).
To get to my goal for 2014, I make sacrifices in order to write as much as possible. I watch less TV, I don’t go out to the movies, I cut back on a little sleep here and there, I cut back on the online games I play. If I’m to hit my goals, I need to spend time actually working on hitting those goals.
Mike: How do you balance having so many projects on the go? Do you work on one at a time for each one: or a certain number of hours; or a % of your writing time; or is it just a matter of focusing on each deadline as it comes up? Or do you switch from one to the other as you get blocked or bored with what you’re currently working on?
I won’t lie; I have a number of unfinished projects. One of the goals I set for this year was to revisit all those projects I left behind and either finish or toss them. I know I do the best when focusing on one at a time. That’s what I am doing. I’ve already completed one novel and a couple short stories this year. I plan on completing a few more novels and a few more short stories.
For the most part, I’ll be writing each project one at a time from start to finish. If I don’t, I know I’ll be leaving stories behind once more and I don’t want to do that anymore. So I will take on something and I will work on it until it’s done. I want to clear the deck for future projects. Having all these stray projects causes me stress that I don’t need, so I want to put them behind me rather than leave them sitting around just waiting to be finished.
Now, I say mostly and let me explain that. I’ve got two projects that aren’t 100% under my control. Those projects include the sequel to Jack Kane (guess who the co-author is). The second is a book that I’ll be working on with the other person Mike has tagged, Jeff Hite. So I’ll do what I can when I can which means I may be working on three projects at the same time. There will be some juggling going on, but that will only make the challenge all the more entertaining.
We will see how the year goes.
Mike: What is your writing process? Where on the “just sit down and write <—> detailed notes/outline” continuum do you fall? Do you revise as you go, or first draft and then revise? Any routines or rituals that need to be followed?
I sit, I type, I hope for the best.
My process has evolved over the years. I’ve been writing nearly as long as I’ve been programming (since I was 12 or 13). When I was younger, I would write long-hand (I didn’t own a typewriter) and I would just write whatever came to mind. That lasted for a very long time.
Then I decided that it just wasn’t working. My stories weren’t getting to where I wanted them to be, so I started plotting. I’d write a page or two explaining what each chapter of a book would be about. That got me closer, but still didn’t feel right.
I got those down to about a paragraph for each chapter, then eventually down to a sentence per chapter. That’s where I’m at now. I will do a very rough outline of about 40 chapters per full-length novel. My chapters are short (around 2000 words) which makes the book read quickly as well as get written quickly as well. I do my best to not go back through a work until it is complete. If there’s a major change in the story line, I’ll make a note, know that it’s been changed, and move on. I don’t go back and re-write until the work is done.
I have no rituals. I used to. When I’d sit and write I’d eat an orange or two, or I’d take a short walk to get the blood flowing. I still walk, but not before I write. Now, I sit down, open my word count spread sheet, open the scrivener doc for the story I’m currently working on, and start typing where I left off. After 30 years of writing, I don’t need to warm up any more J
Mike: You have written short stories and novels. You have podcast some of your work and you have self-published other work. From that experience, what stands out as the most important learnings and principles or advice so far?
The biggest thing I’ve learned from podcasting was that reading my material out loud helps me find those little grammatical nuances I missed when typing. Now when I do dialogue, I will sometimes say the words out loud as I type them to help me get the flow of a conversation. I’ll find those little gasps, sighs, laughs, grunts, that some people will miss. Rather than pepper my dialogue with said, asked, etc, I will put in something that people do. To me, it’s more interesting when someone wrinkles their nose before asking a difficult question rather than just having them ask. These are things I can figure out as I’m saying the words.
If you want to get good as dialogue, talk to people. Talk to a lot of people. Talk to a lot of DIFFERENT people. People you don’t know. Watch how they react to what you say. Take mental notes on their faces, their body movement, the inflection. These are things that will help you write dialog that flows smoothly and will help give a personality to the people you’re writing about. It’s those little things that people see, but don’t notice. It’ll help the reader attach a little thing to someone they know, and suddenly your character just got that much more personal.
As for self-publishing, the best thing I can say is don’t expect to get rich quick. Get on a schedule (if at all possible), put as much money into your projects as you’re able to, and put out the best possible product you can. People will forgive little editing errors, they won’t forgive a bad story.
Mike: Anything else you’d like to add on your writing process?
I’d like to say that writing is easy. To be honest, it hasn’t always been. Sometimes, as I’ve said earlier, life happens. Your brain will want to turn off, you’ll need to take a break, and that’s alright. If you get into a writing groove, you’ll know it and it will feel wonderful. If you fall out of that groove, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t try to get caught up because you feel you fell behind. Just pick up where you left off and start again. That groove will be easier and easier to find each time you get back to it.
I’ve fallen off the horse many times. It’s not how many times you fall off. It’s how many times you get back on.
In the next day or two, I will be updating this post with two people I will tag and interview. Thank you Mike for allowing me to join in. This was fun. 🙂
Growing up as a kid in the backwoods of Minnesota I spent a great deal of time dreaming of what I would do if I had super powers. I had read a lot of comics and knew a lot of different super heroes. I spent a lot of time staring down a tree trying to bend it to my will. I never succeeded. I jumped off a lot of things in an effort to fly. I’m lucky that I never broke anything. I held my breath for what felt like hours and it turned out to only be seconds. I found tools and old objects in the ‘dump’ we had in our back yard.
The ‘dump’ was a large hole in the ground that we were trying to fill in so people would ‘dump’ all sorts of things back there. A lot of broken lumber, old cars, appliances, trees. It was great fun to explore as the pile changed all the time. My brother and I had built a tree house from scraps, put knobs and dials on the walls. Constructed our own contraptions that did many different things.
What I’m saying here is Mike has written a book that really hit home for me.
As a Reader: Mik, for me, is a typical boy. One who is not content with just being a boy. He wants to do more and be more than he is. He tries hard and when bullies knock him down he gets right back up. When he runs into a problem he can’t solve, he tries to gain super powers to over come them. That’s just like any eight-year-old I know. Through trial and error Mik succeeds in failing in many interesting ways. Along the way he’s bullied by a girl and her dog, a glowing turkey, and continues to work hard along the way.
This book is intended for middle-school to young adult and it’s a fun story. It’s told in a series of events throughout the school year and each has Mik working hard to resolve the problem or situation at hand. Not the least of which is keeping his superhero secret identity from his parents. Mike Plested does a great job with building Mik up, giving him challenges that he must think his way through, and work hard to overcome. Not everything he does is successful and Mik learns through trial and error.
As a Writer: When I got through the first half of this book, I had thought the story telling was a little bumpy in spots and I had gotten into the meat of the story. What I discovered was this wasn’t just one story, but multiple stories all wrapped into one. I loved the way Mik went through all his attempts trying to discover how to achieve his own super powers and always had to come to a solution that made sense and fit within the reality of the story.
Mik’s growth from frustrated kid trying to gain super powers to a boy moderately satisfied with accomplishing tasks within his own means is a fun growth arc. For the most part Mik is left to his own devices though there are times when his parents intervene on his behalf and that helps to add to the realism of his growth. The adults are not clueless, but don’t pry too much which gives Mik freedom to do what needs to be done to work on achieving his dream.
Recommendation: Mik Murdoch is intended for a younger audience. Knowing that going in will allow older readers to enjoy this story. Even if this isn’t your cup of tea, it’ll make great reading for your middle schooler or young adult reader. A fun journey of a young boy and his dog (Krypto). From what I can tell we’re not done with Mik. Or at least we can hope we’ll see more. This is only the start of great things to come from Mr. Plested. I’m glad to say I was there from the start.
Last night I had a marathon of editing and I got through the rest of Jack Kane. I got through the last third of the book and my oh my does my brain still feel like mush. Not in a bad way. More like the way when you decide to walk for the first time in months and you feel wiped out but there’s the surge of endorphins that makes you feel elated. I’m riding that kind of high today.
What Mike and I created together is a fun, fast-paced book. It’s still got a couple of holes that Mike and I will likely pass back and forth and fill in, but over all it’s a fun story. A little more polish and we’ll get it sent off to beta readers, some editing friends, and then it’ll be the big agent hunt. Our intention is to find an agent or publisher for this book. We’ve already talked that one through.
We’ve both read and re-read all the talk of going Indie, contracts, royalty rates, and the like. At this point in our careers it’s a matter of gaining momentum. Once we have that momentum, there’s nothing wrong with creating another property and going Indie. It’s a matter of keeping an eye on the contracts to make sure all the clauses are in order. I also have friends that know contracts and have offered to give them the once over to make sure we’re not signing over rights that we should retain.
I was going to write a long post about “To Indie or Not to Indie” but I will write that when my brain isn’t as mushy as it currently is. I tried to read a little before I went to bed and I could barely keep my eyes open. I also slept in until nearly 9AM. That hasn’t happened in a long time and it felt great. Nearly 12 hours of sleep. After the week I had and getting through the edits of Jack Kane, I think I earned that little nap.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I don’t know when I’ll get around to my daily update so Happy Mother’s day to all you moms out there. I hope someone special in your life makes the day extra special for you.
Today is too beautiful of a day to stay inside. Tomorrow I’ll write about Mother’s Day. And Ducks.
This seems to be a common question. I think I have an answer for you.
I’ve been spending a long time working on a Steampunk novel with Mike Plested. I’ve read a number of Steampunk novels during that time. It’s something that’s become quite an interest to me. I’m fascinated not only by the written word, but the fashion that has arisen around the Steampunk community. It’s really grown into a fascination culture all its own.
So when I saw the Beiber video, I was at first interested. I knew he had done a Christmas Album and for a pop artist this is nothing new. I don’t think Beiber even knew what Steampunk was until he shot the video It didn’t bother me that he had made one. To be honest there are a lot worse Christmas albums out there. Will it be in my music rotation anytime soon? Oh I don’t think so. I’m not a fan of his music. I’m not a thirteen year old girl after all.
But my daughter is. She loves the Beeb. She can’t get enough of him.
Now let me stop for a moment here. I write a lot. I explained to my daughter the concept of Steampunk. I told her what my Steampunk novel was about and she seemed a little interested. She always shows a little interest in the stories I’m working on and have even posted about them on her Facebook page.
So when I saw the Beiber video, I asked my daughter if she’d seen it. I wanted to share it with her. Even though I don’t care for Beiber, I do care about my daughter and I like to know what she’s interested in. Even though she’d seen the video, we watched it together. I asked her what she thought about it.
“It’s pretty cool. I like all the gears and stuff and the song is okay.”
“People online say that he’s killed Steampunk. They’re upset about this video.”
“Why? It’s just a song.”
“Because it’s Justin Beiber and a lot of people don’t like him.”
“So what does this video have to do with Steampunk?”
“Well, you remember that book I’m working on? The Steampunk one? Well, the theme for his video is Steampunk fashion.”
“Is THAT what your book is about? That’s so cool. Now I really want to read it!”
So in my mind, no, the Beeb didn’t kill Steampunk. If anything he’s introduced the concept to a whole generation that may never have heard about Steampunk or even cared that it existed. I don’t think it’ll take off like a rocket, but he didn’t single-handedly shoot the genre in the foot with a ray gun either.
So before you go off ranting that he’s done killed off an entire genre, take a deep breath, step back, and let’s just see where this all plays out. Who knows, it might result in new fans we never thought would turn to Steampunk.
In February of this year, my friend, Mike Plested, said “Jay, you should go to WFC this year.” I replied, “I can’t afford to go to WFC.” He said, “It’s in San Diego this year.” I said, “I can afford to go to WFC this year.”
Membership was purchased and I got more out of this weekend than I could have anticipated. This will not flow in chronological order, it’s just going to flow out of my brain as I think of it.
I knew going in there would be a fair number of established authors and a large number of new and up-and-coming authors. My expectation was to meet some fellow authors and perhaps bump into an established author or two. Boy was I wrong.
On the first day I met Terry Bisson. I knew his name, but had to look him up as to why. He had written the novelization of the Fifth Element. Terry was great to talk and Mike and I even went with him to breakfast with Lorna T. Suzuki on Saturday morning. I talked to Terry each morning and it was some great and insightful conversation for both of us. Lorna was also full of some great advice for self-publishing and was very excited about her movie deal.
On Thursday I had met the person now know as ‘the creeper’ and I didn’t like him much so avoided him for most of the con. I’m sad to see so many had their con affected by his presence. I had more interaction with him than I would have liked, but someone told me the first day. “You’ll meet seven people the first day and you’ll see them every day over the con.” That was quite a true statement.
On Thursday I also happened to be standing by the gazebo talking with a couple of people and L. E. Modesitt, who happened to be walking by, stopped and said “hello.” We had a great conversation with him and it was great to see him excited about his projects. So much so that he was nearly late to a panel he had to get to due to talking with us.
At the Aussie party I remember being able to get a beer. My first of the convention. It was to be my only that evening as there was a crush of people at that party. I stood near the wine table and Greg Bear got stuck in traffic. I introduced myself and tried desperately to not have a fan moment. As we stood there talking about how many people were at the con, David Clark, a long time friend of Greg’s stopped by and started talking with us. They shared many stories about conventions all through the years. Even L. E. Modesitt stopped and joined us for a few minutes. I’m so glad I didn’t drink much because I really enjoyed talking with them and they seemed interested in what I had to say.
So much so that the following day, Greg Bear and his wife, and David Clark and his wife came and sat with us during lunch from the con suite.
I will say now, by this point I was happy with my con experience. Just meeting Terry, L. E., David, and Greg made up for the price of admission. They made me feel welcome.
Then I ran into Robert J Sawyer. I must say that based on multiple interactions with him over the weekend, he really is the nicest guy in sci-fi publishing.
On day two I started wearing an LED name tag. This garnered a lot of attention. One author from a panel even stopped me afterwards to say, “I wasn’t distracted by your name tag, but that’s F*cking brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?” Myself and Mike, both wearing our LED name tags, became known as the Bobbsey twins by some of the con goers. Whatever helped people to remember me. It was a great conversation starter. Even Robert Silverberg had to stop and read our name tags and it garnered a smile from him.
I was lucky enough to run into all of these authors multiple times and each time they were pleasant and fun to talk with. I, as I said, did my best to contain my fan excitement of running into these authors and the conversations rarely came to their works and instead I got an insight to their con experiences, shared stories of past events, and enjoyed their company.
Mike and I also had the pleasure of not only running into Mike Stackpole, but pulling him aside for an interview for Get Published. I was going to just sit and listen, but when you’re talking e-publushing with and e-vangelist it’s hard not to participate. We not only did the interview, but we sat for a good time after just talking about the con and the con experience and the future of self publishing.
Beyond meeting people who’s name I knew, I also got to run into authors who I was familiar with, but not with their work. So many that it would be impossible to name them all. Suffice to say it was great meeting each and every one of them.
I had a great time meeting the folks of Nightshade books. They had brewed some beer for their book launch party and I had the best pumpkin ale I’ve had in a LONG time. Meeting them and the crew from Eraserhead/Bizarro books was a blast. A fun crew!
I also attended the ‘Sleepover of the Gods’. N. K. Jemisin was a fun, energetic host. I’m lucky to have met her.
Now to the meat and potatoes of my con experience. I got to meet Anita and Brian Hades from Edge. Mike knew them from previous cons and I had a great time talking with them about the anthologies they had out, their e-book strategy, the ability of a smaller press to make changes that the big companies are currently unable to make. I spent a good deal of time meeting many of their authors, going to the readings, and enjoying the Edge party. Both Brian and Anita made me feel like part of the family and it was so wonderful to get to know them as well as a couple of their editors Jaym Gates and Erika Holt.
Beyond meeting Brian and Anita, I had a great time meeting their authors. With the exception of one, they were all very professional and great to meet and talk with. If the people mentioned earlier in this post are the old guard, the folks from Edge are the new guard and they have begun to establish their place in the publishing industry. I would name names here but I’m confident I’d forget someone, but do go over to Edge, pick up an anthology and you won’t be disappointed. The readings were so much fun. I’m glad to have met you all.
At this point I’m gushing. I’m nearing tears because it all went by so fast and I had such a great time. The people who ran the convention did a great job with getting things set up, feeding so many of us, and keeping the con running as smoothly as it could.
Although it was my intent to try and pitch my stories ideas to as many as possible, I decided at the last minute that I would instead enjoy my time at the con. I didn’t take pictures. I didn’t bother an author for his/her autograph (except for the bundle of authors at the Edge table) and I did my best to maintain a professional front. Inside I was giddy and doing cartwheels. I don’t think I had a geekgasm at any point and was even told by some that if I hadn’t told them this was my first con, they wouldn’t have known.
Now to some sage advice:
1) Don’t be ‘that guy’ and if you get called out on being ‘that guy’ know when to say when.
2) Get some rest when you can.
3) Don’t start out gushing when you meet an author. Just relax, and be yourself. Let the conversation flow and you’ll make them feel more comfortable and it’ll make your experience that much better.
4) Don’t lead out with “I’ve got this great story/book/idea/etc” when you run into an agent/publisher/author. Again, refer to #3. Relax. Be yourself. Enjoy yourself.
I think stopping myself from trying to pitch unsolicited material to publishers and agents was the best call I made because I felt no pressure to find someone and I didn’t have any awkward moments. I just plain had a good time. This is most definitely something I will be doing again in the future.
To everyone I met at WFC2011, you ROCK! If I didn’t find you in twitter, please come find me. I’m @jrmurdock. I’m J.R. Murdock on facebook, and obviously you found my website.
Until we meet again WFC. WOO WOO!
P.S. If I did not include you in this post, I am sorry. I met so many wonderful people it was hard to keep track. Next time I will need to write more down.