Thursday, March 26, 2009

Senility on submission

Now that Senility has been thoroughly critiqued, I've done a final set of revisions and edits and sent it off to the first magazine. Here's hoping they're wise enough to publish it.

Senility is a cross between Horror and Dark Fantasy. The horror elements are kept fairly light, more intellectual than your typical blood and guts stories. The title tells you at least a little about what it's about: old age. I'm not giving out any information on the plot, however. You'll have to buy the magazine that ends up publishing it.

What's kind of odd about this story, at least for me, is the responses that my test readers and the critiquers gave, compared to my other stories, The Lay of Percy Wallace in particular. I consider Percy the best story I've written, and the one I think is the most artistic, if you will. But it got very mixed reviews. Meanwhile, Senility got pretty much unanimous praise. Even the few critiquers that didn't seem to get the story said they enjoyed it, and nearly all the suggestions were fairly minor.

Don't get me wrong, I like Senility. And after re-reading it for my last revision phase, I enjoyed the hell out of it. But I don't love it like I love Percy. Yet the reactions of those who have read both favor Senility. Just goes to show that I guess I don't know my best writing when I see it.

I hope magazine editors will like it as much as my critique group and test readers did. Keep your fingers crossed!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reading, wRiting, but no 'Rithmetic

I read a lot. Baseball forums, publishing blogs, video game forums, news stories, and humor sites. Oh, and books. Lots and lots of books. I'd say about 99% of the books I read are fiction, but it's hard to define them past that. There are a few genres I don't read: Romance, Westerns, Women's Literature. But just about everything else is fair game. I am most partial to Epic Fantasy, and speculative fiction in general. For those who might not know, speculative fiction is Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. This is the genre I write in the most. But I also enjoy a good legal drama, or mystery (sometimes even cozies), or thriller.

People always ask me how many books I read. I really can't say, because I devour them. Just making a WAG, I usually say 3-5 books a week, and I think that's fairly accurate. I love to read, obviously. This love of reading is what led me to writing. In the past 5 years or so, I kept imaging plotlines for books, wishing somebody would write what I was thinking. In the past year, I decided that nobody was going to magically pull these great ideas out of my mind unless it was me, so I took pen to paper and embarked on a journey that has already proven to be strange.

Writing is much more difficult than reading, but far more rewarding, also. The sense of accomplishment when I finished the first draft of Jack O' Lantern was incredible. Ask just about anybody on the street, and I'd wager that at least 75% would say that would like to write a novel, and believe they can do it. How many actually do? Probably something like 1-2%. I've done it, and it's a great feeling.

Of course, maybe 1-2% of those novels that are written actually get published. That's where the balloon pops and the pride goes rushing out. Will I be one of the 1-2%? I certainly hope so! But only time will tell.

Books I've read this year

Inspired by my "What I'm Reading" blurb on the sidebar, this entry will serve as an ongoing log of all books I read this year, starting from a few days ago. You can jump to this post easily as times goes on by clicking on the link in the "What I'm Reading" blurb.

1. The Appeal by John Grisham
2. Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
4. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
5. The Associate by John Grisham
6. The Writer's Art by James J. Kilpatrick
7. How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
8. Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey
9. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, 2nd edition by Renni Browne & Dave King
10. Magic Street by Orson Scott Card

11. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
12. How to Write Best-selling Fiction by Dean Koontz
13. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
14. The First Family by David Baldacci
15. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
16. Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
17. Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card
18. Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
19. Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card
20. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

21. The Diamond Throne by David Eddings
22. The Ruby Knight by David Eddings
23. The Sapphire Rose by David Eddings
24. A Game of Inches, Volume 1: The Stories Behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball: The Game on the Field by Peter Morris
25. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
26. The King of Tort by John Grisham
27. Domes of Fire by David Eddings
28. The Shining Ones by David Eddings
29. The Hidden City by David Eddings
30. Slash by Slash and Anthony Bozza

31. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
32. Double Jeopardy by William Bernhardt
33. City of Bones by Michael Connelly
34. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
35. Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings
36. Magician's Gambit by David Eddings
37. Echo Park by Michael Connelly
38. Primary Justice by William Bernhardt
39. The Testament by John Grisham
40. Dark Eye by William Bernhardt

41. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
42. Blind Justice by William Bernhardt
43. Eldest by Christopher Paolini
44. Perfect Justice by William Bernhardt
45. Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings
46. Enchanter's End Game by David Eddings
47. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
48. Cruel Justice by William Bernhardt
49. Naked Justice by William Bernhardt
50. Extreme Justice by William Bernhardt

51. A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks
52. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
53. Dark Justice by William Bernhardt
54. Silent Justice by William Bernhardt
55. Murder One by William Bernhardt
56. Watch you Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses by Stephen Davis
57. Criminal Intent by William Bernhardt
58. Death Row by William Bernhardt
59. Hate Crime by William Bernhardt
60. Duma Key by Stephen King

61. Capitol Murder by William Bernhardt
62. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
63. Capitol Threat by William Bernhardt
64. Capitol Conspiracy by William Bernhardt
65. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
66. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
67. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz
68. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
69. Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
70. Mistborn: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

71. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
72. The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson
73. The Ghost War by Alex Berenson
74. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
75. Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Appeal by John Grisham

If you have not read The Appeal and do not want to be spoiled on the ending, do not read further.

I've read just about every published work by John Grisham, from A Time to Kill to A Painted House. While I believe his earlier work is the best, I still enjoyed reading everything of his. Until, that is, I read The Appeal.

The Appeal is about politics, big business, and how they screw the little guy. It is also more a piece of political propaganda than it is a novel. Grisham viciously portrays big business as consummate evil, and conservatives as soulless lemmings who will vote however their church tells them. The liberals, on the other hand, are perfect: selfless and innocent of any wrongdoing. These themes are repeated throughout the book with nearly every character, making for some of the most boring protagonists and antagonists you'll ever find.

Grisham did manage to keep me turning pages, however, as he can still craft a well-turned phrase. The story progresses forward, and as the pages left dwindled, I began to wonder how on Earth he would wrap it all up satisfactorily. Unfortunately, he doesn't. The ending is probably the worst I've ever read in a professionally published novel.

Let me detour a little. There's an implied agreement between readers and writers:

The reader reads through the book, suspends disbelief (the amount needed depends on the author and reader), follows where the book takes him, and cares about the characters.

The author will create a well-written story with characters the reader cares about, and tells an engrossing story. The ending, while it does not need to be happy, satisfies the reader.

Grisham failed on his end of the implied agreement in The Appeal. The characters feel like wooden impersonations of characters from his previous novels, and the ending made me feel like I had wasted my time reading the preceding pages.

The Appeal does not deliver a happy ending. The bad guys win, the good guys lose. In and of itself, that's not enough to make for a bad ending. It's also a very realistic ending. Again, not enough to ruin it. What really killed the ending, for me at least, is this combination of factors:

1) The bad guys win--completely, totally, and without reservation. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, bad happens to them. They pay absolutely no consequences for their deviousness.

2) The good guys lose--completely, totally, and without reservation. Not one good thing happens to them in this story.

3) Too many loose ends are not tied up. Plot points that were introduced earlier are not resolved, and it almost felt like Grisham just threw the ending together because of a deadline.

I don't mind that the protagonists didn't have a happy ending. Most of what I write, in fact, has fairly nasty endings for them. But I balance this out with the antagonists getting what's coming to them, also. This allows the reader to feel that while things didn't work out perfectly, at least the characters they dislike got their comeuppance.

I hope that Grisham's newest novel, The Associate, is a return to his old ways. I have not had a chance to read it yet, but I expect to do so sometime in the next few months. If it is as disappointing as The Appeal, he might lose my attention.

Look ma, I have a blog!

So here's my blog. Not the first I've ever done, but I'm hoping it will be the one that lasts.

I imagine I'm supposed to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you. But really, there's no "you" here, at least not yet. I'm the only one who knows about this blog, and for awhile, at least, I imagine the only people who will see it are friends and family. They already know me, so I don't think I need to bother with an introduction. Besides, what's the point of that "About Me" section I wrote up, if not to serve as an introduction?

I do want to draw attention to one thing I have posted on the left side of this blog: the Works in Progress list. This is the list of short stories and novels I'm currently working on, and what's going on with them at the moment. I'll try to keep this updated as things change, but since writing, editing, and publishing are incredibly slow processes, don't expect changes often.

One final comment to close out my introduction post...this blog isn't going to be exclusively about writing/publishing. There's plenty of those blogs out there already, by people with far more credentials and experience (you can find some of my favorites in the Publishing Info section). I'll blog about whatever is on my mind when I feel like blogging, and I'm guessing my topics will mostly be about baseball, video games, writing, reading, and other such activities that catch my interest.