Evolution

No, this isn't a debate about intelligent design, though a few regular readers would love that.  No, this more about evolving as a writer.

I started making a very serious endeavor to become a writer when I (ironically enough) returned from Afghanistan at the end of 2005.  Mrs. Axe and I discussed it on and off for some months and she was always the voice of encouragement.  (Still is, by the way.)  When I first began, my stories were awful.  I like to write fantasy – real sword-n-sorcery-type of stuff.  My plots were uneven, imagery fractured.  I had no sense of my own tone, or own style.  I just cranked out the stories and they were honestly pretty bad.

At the time, I didn't think of my productions as such.  I was just happy to be doing it.  I joined peer-review groups and became exposed to a wider circle.  I read books and magazines on writing.  I read other stories with a critical eye.  Even though I wrote for my own enjoyment, I wanted to be better.

And somewhere along the way, something clicked.  The message started to sink in.  I developed my own linguistic style, one that – based on some "guess the writer" contests in which I have participated amongst my peers – is somewhat distinctive.  As my confidence increased, I branched out into other parts of speculative fiction.  I wrote some stories with a science fiction and horror flair.  I wrote more modern, less medieval tales.  I wrote a book and started a non-fiction project.  My writing is different from what it was.  I evolved.

(Muse:  That sounds awful conceited.)

Maybe it is.  Maybe that's the point.

I believe one cannot stay stagnant.  You're always changing:  growing, shrinking, flowing with the rhythm of the world's heartbeat.  That goes double for being an author.  I am far and away a better writer than I was when I started making a serious effort to do this in 2006.  My vocabulary is better, my turn of phrase comes easier, and I can construct a more cogent plot.  Okay, sometimes I can.  Will I still be a better writer in six more years time?  I hope so – but who knows?  I guess we'll see.

And by the way, it's not just as a writer, but as a reader.  I've been reading a lot of horror lately, something I haven't read steadily in  a long time.  Maybe it's not evolution but maybe my tastes are riding a slow moving tide back and forth over the same familiar sand.

I saw recently that Lauren Conrad, actress and author to whom I took somewhat of an axe a while back, released another novel a few months back.  I diced her writing up quite a bit.  I looked at the new book and part of me wanted to do the same all over again.  But another part of me said, "You know what?  Good for her, I am glad she's succeeding."  Maybe her writing is dreck, maybe it isn't.  My opinion is just that, and worth what anyone paid for it.  As I have said so many damn times (and I should have it tattooed on my forehead) anything that gets people reading can't be all bad.

I'll even offer the same apology to the werewolf lady – so Ms. Porter if you are still reading, best of luck to you.  I did finish reading your book.  Not my thing, a little too derivative.  But I hope the writing gig works out for you.  I'll still take you up on your lunch offer, and even let you hit on me.  Just a little.

(By the way, for those of you worried that I will lose my acerbic attitude, don't.  I'll just try to be a little less direct about insulting people up front.  Or maybe I won't.  That's the fun thing about evolution:  you never know where it will take you.)

Daily Update #13

Been a while, hasn’t it?  I need to sweep up some cobwebs around here.  Anyway:

– Last week, I made another sale.  "A Mother’s Joy," about a woman with an unusual birth, will appear in Golden Visions Magazine in April of next year.  Hurrah for Axe!

– In the meantime, I had three other rejections.  Meh.

– Still humming along on the novel and making progress.  I added a few thousand words this week and the plot is working out.  Heh, you know I keep saying the plot is working but I’m waiting for my first review, where they guy says, "This sucked, and the plot is all assed-up!"  At that point, I would have to laugh at myself.  Why not?  There is no point in taking life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive.

– I have a story up on Critters this week.  It’s not one of the better ones and riddled with cliches – but I actually enjoyed writing it.  It’s action-oriented and kinda cheesy but what the hell, so is half the crap on the market now.  And like I said, it was fun to write.  Sometimes the best things are the simple ones.

– I am still reading the wolf-lady’s novel.  I was a little optimistic on my time-line to get it read but I know I still owe the blog here a full review.  It’s coming along, as I have time.  Work has been flogging me like Kirk Douglas in Spartacus.

– This video will make absolutely no sense if you are unfamiliar with the Jim Henson fantasy movie The Dark Crystal.  If you are familiar with it – and you have the same kind of warped sense of humor I have – you will probably laugh hysterically.  If you don’t, you’ll wonder what the hell is wrong with me.  You might do both.

– Finally, I once again encourage folks to tune in to AMC Sunday night at 10PM Eastern for the premiere of The Walking Dead.  I’m a fan of the comic book series, which is a great example of group-dynamic in a time of crisis.  It’s being directed by Frank Darabont, director of the movie Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, and thus far, looks really good.

That’s it for today.  In the words of Stan Lee, Excelsior!

Daily Update #12

Blarg.  Okay, I’m slacking a lot right now.  Real life caught up to me and treated me like a kid caught shopliftng from a candy store.

– Speaking of kids…I’m getting ready to be grandpa.  Horror!  My son is expanding his family by one, with the addition of a baby girl – little Danielle.  Said girl is due by c-section on Thursday.  Mrs. Axe is – naturally – so excited she can barely contain herself.  Owing to the circumstances of our physical (not marital) separation, I’m not quite as excited.  I think I would be, were I closer to the action instead of 1200 miles away.  Anyway, all this talk of kids in the family means I may need to try my hand at some writing for children, which is its own skillset.

– I had another two rejections this week, both form letters.  I don’t mind form letters – that is, unless they try to soften the blow with flowery language.  Those are annoying.  Take these two form rejections I have received:

— Thank you for your interest but your story isn’t quite right for us.

Versus:

— Thank you for your interest but your story isn’t quite right for us.  We receive many high-quality works and have to make difficult decisions regarding them all which sometimes results in freaky space monkey sex.

Okay, they didn’t write "freaky space monkey sex."  But they could have and I would have never known.  Why?  Because once you’re rejected, there’s little reason to read further.  At least the first one gets me back out there working, without wading through the rhetoric about why they didn’t pick me.  If you’re going to use a form letter, use the KISS principle, people!  The above one went on for three paragraphs.

– I took a two-day break from my novel and cranked out another story.  I don’t know why but I needed a break.  In the interim, something spawned in my mind and I grabbed it.  I’ll put it to you this way:  if you can imagine the song "Coward of the County," with some horror elements mixed in, you’re halfway there.

– Finally, I have not yet finished the little werewolves book.  Too many distractions last week, plus I haven’t been sleeping well for a few weeks.  And coming home at night past 6PM isn’t helping.   I’m getting there, though, and still intend to do a full review.

Til then, enjoy that space monkey sex, freaky or non.

Picking up the gauntlet

So….

I stirred up a little controversy last week.  Nothing new about that.

Anyway, Ms. Grand took a mild swipe at me on her own blog, Lycan Librarian.  She said I made light of literary mash-ups (which I did) and said that if they were easy to write, there would be more on the shelves.  Well, since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out, quite a few other mash-ups HAVE been published, with who-knows-how-many-more waiting in the wings.  Having a tried and true plot does make the story easier to write.  How else was Eragon written?  It’s widely-regarded as nothing but a mash-up of LOTR and Star Wars – a view with which, after reading the first book, I heartily agree.

I speak from experience, as I once re-wrote a 10K word version of Snow White from the evil Queen’s point-of-view.  I already had the structure and sequence of events, which meant I could concentrate on the characterization, dialogue, and descriptions.  No writing is easy, but having one element already predetermined for you does make it easier.  I think we will see more of these mash-ups until the trend burns itself out – which I hope, will be soon.

She also took a stab at my musings on my own novel writing, saying that I thought I was too smart for the readers and would have dumb down the novel.  The comment would have been much more biting if it had been at all true.  Not only do I not believe that, I said nothing of the sort.  I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she misunderstood what I posted.  If it was an attempt at an insult, I have to give it a D+.

Well, I’m a good sport.  Today, I picked up Little Women and Werewolves.  I bought it retail; I would not want to deny Ms. Grand her due royalty.  That is said without sarcasm; she got a book published, so she deserves whatever royalty she gets.

It’s about 400 pages, so unless something comes up this week, I should have it done by next weekend.  I’ll read it and give a full review.  It’s been decades since I read the original Little Women and I remember very little of the book so I’m coming at this from a fresh perspective.  Once I have it read, I will offer up some opinions.

And we’ll see what we see.

Aww…..

So….

I apparently have touched a nerve.  Little ole’ lovable me – adorable as a puppy and about as dangerous.

A couple of blog posts back, I referenced a book by one Porter Grand, called Little Women and Werewolves.  I made light of the writing in a passing way and thought no more of it.

Well, low and behold, the author made the following post (see it here, second comment):

Thanks for judging my book by flipping through it hastily. Once you are published, I hope people don’t do such things to your book.

I actually laughed out loud.

First, I pretty much expect to be savaged in some quarters if my book is published.  Nobody gets universally good reviews.  Even acclaimed writers have their share of detractors.  And it’s not restricted to people who have read the book.  I know people who hate the Twilight series without having read it, because they hate the hype and are generally annoyed at some things Stephanie Meyers says in interviews.  So, it happens.  Deal.

Second, my comment was basically a throwaway line.  I didn’t go into any great detail, since I only read a few pages.  Upon receiving the comment, my second impulse (after I laughed) was to actually go buy the book to review it – and heaven help Ms. Grand if I read the whole thing through and didn’t like it – because then I really would have unloaded.

Third – and most important – so what?  I’m some blabbermouth with a website, read by a handful of people.  I’m not a professional reviewer and my thoughts aren’t reaching any wide audience.  Ms. Grand has a published book.  Reviews on Amazon are decent.  She’s making money off the thing.  And she is worried about what some random boob on the internet says?  

Does not compute.   If I met Ms. Grand face to face, I’d have one thing to say:  "Ma’am, rather than worry about what some pissant blogger has to say, you might want to spend that energy writing your next book and get it to the shelves sooner."

"And if that doesn’t work, well, I’m here all night.  Drop in whenever you like and snark away."

"I can take it."

Daily Update #9

So …..

No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy.  Just a little bit of ageless wisdom for y’all while I sit around and wait for my furniture to be delivered.

– I am 12K words into my novel.  It is going well; I am on target for pace and the words seem to be flowing easily enough.  As I read my plot outline, though, I fret that I may be too clever – that it may come across that I am trying to outsmart the reader with my twists and turns.  In a nutshell, I am trying to set it up so that the main character has a whole host of enemies, ranging from people who simply don’t like him to those actively trying to kill him.  One of them is actually the Big Bad in hiding.  I have a wide cast of characters introduced and plan to slowly eliminate the potential candidates as the story progresses. Too cutesy?  You know, I don’t think so.  Besides, *I* like the way it is shaping up.  Maybe someone else will too.

– I am also reviewing a novel for reviewing credit on Critters.  While the plot is interesting enough, there are a number of problems with characterization and telling vs. showing that it is hard to review.  As I read it, I am struck with the uncomfortable revelation that someone may have the same reaction reading my novel once it is finished.  Yikes, I should not have opened that can of mental worms….

– I  had a couple of rejections trickle in and turned those stories.  Of 27 pieces I have tried to sell over the last few years, I have found a home for four of them.  Not the worst rate in the world but I can do better.

– As a side note, I noticed a book title while in the book store today:  Little Women and Werewolves.  I guess it is not too late to hop on the bandwagon since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I read a few pages of the imitator; Grahame-Smith need not lose sleep over it.

– Finally, I reorganized my links to the left and added a couple.  Just ’cause….