The next chapter: July 2016 update

So, here we are again at a monthly update. August. Where has the year gone?

One of the great things about tracking your production (and this applies to all things, not just writing) is that you can look back and see the evidence of your work. It’s very comforting.

In addition to wrapping up my work in July this time, I’m going to review the year to date.

July

JulyProgress

This month, I finished my first review of Gerod and the Lions. As with the last couple of novels, I wasn’t twitching as I reread, reacquainted myself with the story, and worked on some of the flow issues I saw. One reason for the flow issues was that GatL was written in chunks, separated by work done on other projects.

Sometimes the gaps were months long, and it shows. I had to get my head back into Gerod’s world and each time I returned to it, it took a few days to recapture the feeling.

The draft comes in at 44,996 words, which is decent for a middle grade book and 124% of my revision goal for the month.

I also continued work on the short story, which I’ll be submitting for consideration soon. 2,615 words written on that.

And, of course, there was the blog, and since I continued to participate in the weekly challenges presented by Gabriela Pereira to her DIYMFA Street Team, I far outblogged my goal.

Between the short story and the blog, I wrote 173% of my goal for July.

I also had the pleasure of guest blogging a couple of times in July, once on Mel’s Madness, and later, on DIYMFA (holy cow!). I have another guest blog due out this month on Kristene Perron’s Warp World blog.

I continued querying.

Year-to-date

Please keep in mind that revision is a very different animal than writing. I’m not writing all these words from scratch. I’m rearranging words, rewriting sentences or paragraphs for flow, inserting or removing punctuation, and making notes for future revisions.

Writing equates to original words.

Month Revision Writing Projects
January 69,774 words 186% of goal 9,274 words 141% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
February 40,708 words 108% of goal 5,027 words 90% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
March 66,637 words 177% of goal 8,436 words 141% of goal AoW, Figments, Marushka, blog
April 37,478 words 100% of goal 10,498 words 187% of goal Marushka, blog
May 50,882 words 136% of goal 10,474 words 181% of goal Marushka, Reality Bomb, blog
June 48,009 words 128% of goal 12,013 words 207% of goal Reality Bomb, blog
July 46,656 words 124% of goal 11,387 words 173% of goal RB, Gerod and the Lions, short fiction, blog

 Now and the rest of the year

With GatL, I’ve finished reviewing all of my drafted novels. Many of them are still grossly underwritten, but at least I have a better idea now of where I’m going with each.

For August, I just finished up my short story, which I will now revise, and otherwise, the only writing I’m doing is on the blog.

I’ve taken some time off to consider the remainder of the year and what I want to do.

Under consideration are:

  • Assembling a poetry collection (going to submit to a local small press) – August
  • Organizing a collection of my non-SFF short fiction (again, targeted at the small publisher) – August
  • Outlining the third book in my epic fantasy series. I’ve already taken a shot at it, but I know I have to rework it. I’ll do this anyway, because it’s this year’s NaNoWriMo project, but it’s on the list. – concurrent with other projects through to the end of October
  • Returning to Initiate of Stone and AoW, to recapture the voice of the series and bring everything into line in light of the outlining and NaNo for the third book. I want to get to November steeped in the world and its characters. – September and October

Because the third in series is of the epic nature, I expect to be continuing the drafting well into December.

I’m also taking a bit of time to think out how I want to structure my writing year from here on out. Previous to 2016, my focus was on getting the words down. Great, but then I had six novels drafted, only one of which was ready for querying.

This year, I’m focusing on the revision of all those drafts. They won’t be completely ready to go, but I’ll be in a place where I can alternate writing and revision in the coming years.

I want to draft new work twice a year, and then work on revision in between. I don’t know exactly what form that’s going to take (except for NaNo), but I think it’s something I can do.

Other stuff

I’m heading out to WorldCon/MidAmeriCon II on the 17th. It will be my first big con, so I’m super excited. This will be my last convention or conference for the year, though. I’ve blown my budget.

As a result, though, I’m going on a blogging vacay. I’ll schedule my Thoughty Thursday curation for the 18th before I leave, but you won’t hear from me again until I’m back and recovered and ready to resume bloggage on the 27th. Sacrifices have to be made.

I’ve done the crazy and applied for Brenda Drake’s #PitchWars. I’ll find out how that goes on the 25th. Not saying more about it for now.

I’m investigating partnerships with an editor. I want something long term, a professional editor who can help me get my drafts into publishable states.

I signed up for a first five pages workshop with NLA. Again, I’ll leave the deets for later.

And that’s this writer’s life.

Next weekend, I’ll be continuing with my CWS 2016 reportage with my notes from the Writing Hard Truths panel.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: August 2015 update

Ok. Let’s just get this out of the way. August sucked for writing.

I had every intention of writing when I was down in London, but I should have kept in mind the lesson I learned back in the spring. Mel + travel to deliver training = no writing.

Well, it wasn’t absolutely zero writing. I revised a short story and submitted it, and I revised my query letter based on feedback from Kristen Nelson (more on this in a bit), but that amounted to very few words.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, delivering training, though I’m good at it, drains introvert me something fierce. Add that to travel, not feeling well for most of my time away, not being around home to help Mom with her first cataract surgery, and not being around my support system, and you have the perfect storm of non-productivity.

Plus, it was two and a half weeks away. That was a fair chunk of the month. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Here’s how the month broke down (pun intended):

August progress

I drafted another 2,206 words on Marushka, but am still not quite at the end. I hope this month will see the end of the draft (at last). I am 95% toward my 75k word total goal for the draft, so that’s something.

I revised 62 words on short stories, only 8 of those while I was down in London. I sent two stories out and received two rejections.

I blogged 3,801 words, and I decided not to blog on the weekends while I was away. Ostensibly, this was to make it easier to write, but I’ve already mentioned how that went.

Total words for the month: 6,069. That’s my lowest monthly total all year.

August Summary

Other stuff I did in August:

When Roz Morris shared HodderScape’s open submission period, I had to submit Initiate of Stone. I’ve had no word, but I’ll definitely fill you in on the results.

Last year, I missed out on Kristin Nelson’s query letter intensive. It was that whole work thing, again. So, this year, I signed up, hoping against hope that my manager would find someone else to go to London in my place. It was not to be.

So I emailed NLA and advised that I would not be able to join the webinar. And Kristin offered to meet with me one-on-one when I got home.

That meeting took place this past Thursday and Kristin gave me some excellent direction.

Kristin was great, and though I think I was still a little fan girlish, I tried to make the most of the opportunity.

Yeah, I get star struck by agents. That’s the kind of geek I am.

So that’s it for my very unproductive month.

Rest assured, I’m back on track and aiming high.

The Next Chapter

Six questions with J.R. Cameron

John Cameron

John Cameron

I’ve never understood why it’s become common practice to write the author bio in the 3rd person. John R. Cameron lives in Sudbury, Ontario. If you’re taking the time to read my bio, isn’t it because you’re essentially interviewing me for a chance to be a part of your life for a short while?

Hi. I’m John.

I have a wife and a kid. They often drive me to the brink of madness; not a difficult thing to do, considering how close to the edge I already am. My daughter is a hellion. At the age of six, she’s both bright and bold, obstinate, and pushes every button I have. My wife blames my genetics: “I was never like that,” she claims. I deny it, despite knowing that I was also an uncontrollable child.

I’m thirty, and a teacher. I’m very worried about the current state of education. I’m concerned about the future, in general. I don’t think we all necessarily need to be alarmists, though I do believe that if you look at the world around you and aren’t a little worried, you and I probably aren’t going to agree on much. (Don’t worry, I’ll pretend not to look while you navigate elsewhere. There’s plenty of other entertainment online. Crushing Candy, and so forth…)

_______________________________________________________________________

WG: When did writing first come into your life (or vice versa)?  Give us the origin story of John Cameron, Superhero Writer.

JRC:        I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. I was one of those people who sat around saying, “I’m going to write a book one day,” but just never got around to it. I can’t claim that I couldn’t have found the time. I’d be lying if I did. I’ve pissed away a solid three decades of my life. Over the past few years, it’s like the thoughts running through my mind have turned into a constant third person narrative. We’ll call it the ‘itch’, I suppose. I realized the day was coming when I’d open a Word file, and start typing. I just didn’t know when that day would come, or what I’d be writing about. Until this past winter, I’d never made any attempt at a serious literary endeavour.

WG: What was the idea that became The Second Lives of Honest Men and how did it occur to you?

JRC:        In December of 2011, I walked away from a terrible car crash. This was only because of blind luck, or fate, or whatever you’d like to call it. I slammed into a guard rail doing 100 kilometres an hour, backwards. I was pushing it – trying to get home on the first snowy day of winter, before the roads got worse. I rounded a bend, and low and behold, that stretch of road was worse. I fishtailed back and forth over the slush, trying to correct my course. It was a hopeless effort, and I quickly lost control. I clutched the steering wheel and braced myself against the seat, preparing for the inevitable. I blew out seven posts of the short, twenty post rail, coming to a dead stop in the middle of the highway. It was the only guard rail on that side of the kilometre long stretch.

I could have hit one of the many rock cuts, or been flung into the deep, stony valley between the East and Westbound lanes. Instead, I momentarily laughed off my good fortune while I waited for a tow truck. I even went bowling that night. When you walk away from an accident like that, the implications of ‘what if?’ begin encroaching on your soul. The harder you try not to think about it, the more the darkness grips you. I eventually came to terms with what mortality really is, and what it really means. I spent the better part of 2012 in a deep apathy, as I began seeing a lot of things in an entirely new light. I questioned how I’d been interpreting the world around me, and what my role was in it. In October of 2012, I was watching television with a good friend while we discussed the problems of society; how the moral compass seemed to be broken. An advertisement for Spielberg’s Lincoln came on during a commercial break. I made an off-hand remark, something to the effect of, “Maybe that’s what we need – Honest Abe to travel through time, and come fix things.” The idea was one I simply couldn’t shake. A premise, characters, and a rough plot formed in my head over the next few weeks. When I had enough pieces of the puzzle, I opened up the Word file and set to work.

WG: How long has it taken to take The Second Lives of Honest Men from idea to finished manuscript?  Can you give us some idea of your drafting or revision process in your response?

JRC:        My first draft took me seven weeks, working on it 8-10 hours a day, often more. I think the word is ‘obsessed.’ Once I felt that it was reasonably polished, I printed ten copies, and brought it to my first group of beta-readers. A month later, I met with each of the readers, gathering honest, critical feedback. After this process, I had a pretty good feel for what the book was lacking, and had some ideas how to improve it. I made several major changes to a couple of characters, altered some aspects of the plot, and narrative… It was a fairly extensive edit, that added about 6,000 words to the manuscript. I brought the second draft to a Philosophy professor and a History professor, both of whom were very encouraging, and willing to offer more great feedback. The third draft was a less exhausting revision than my second one was, and it saw its way to several more professors (three English professors and another History professor), and to many other people in my life. Again, all the feedback was extremely positive, and the additional advice was also great. One of the English professors convinced me to do two things: Write a fourth draft to fix a few lingering problems, and hire a professional editor. I’d hoped to avoid the latter. He made the case that no matter how good the book was, ‘Even Stephen King has an editor.’ That’s a rather humbling statement if ever there was one. So, I wrote the fourth draft, and had it professionally edited.

WG: When you mentioned your genre to me, you admitted that it sounded convoluted.

Writerly Goodness challenge time!

Imagine I am a high-powered literary agent, like Kristin Nelson, Janet Reid, or Donald Maass.  If I told you I could negotiate you a six-figure advance if you could nail down your genre, what would you say?

JRC: I always try to explain it like this: If you asked George Orwell what genre 1984 fell into, I seriously doubt the answer he would have given is “Science Fiction.” (Or, like me, he simply cringed whenever he was asked the question.) That’s the genre we typically associate with his novel, however; that is, the genre that our culture has branded it with through the passing of time. My book (should anyone ever care enough to define it) will undoubtedly be classified as science fiction. Like 1984, it’s set in an urban dystopia. I tried to use only as much science fiction as necessary to carry the plot, and have been relentless in making that aspect of the book accessible to readers of all genres. Personally? I think of The Second Lives of Honest Men as a character driven, philosophical odyssey that touches on technology, truth, freedom, hope, and redemption.

*Sigh.* I’m not getting that advance, am I?

WG: All kidding aside, you’ve opted for self-publishing over a traditional publishing deal.  Why have you chosen that route?

JRC:        Several reasons. I feel that my book is very relevant to today’s world, and the problems which we’re facing as a society. I’ve seen so many authors who try to go the traditional route, and they often end up disappointed, jaded with the system, and their hard work sits on a shelf (or in a file) for years. Eventually, they simply give up on it, the moment of ‘now’ having passed them by. I can only imagine how many great books have been written by authors who never saw their work get published. I don’t want to be one of them.

Over the past five years, the traditional publishing model has been flipped upside down. E-book sales represent about 30% of the market, a number that’s sure to climb as people continue to shun paper, using digital formats instead. The big traditional publishers won’t look at newcomers, and the small ones often don’t have the push to establish a new author. Big or small, traditional publishers expect authors to do most of their own promoting, then thank you for your hard work by taking the lion’s share of the profit. I don’t blame them for the business model: Most books don’t do well, and they ride out the losers by standing on the backs of their best authors. By self publishing a well crafted e-book at a modest price on all the major e-sellers, and having Print on Demand paperbacks available through Amazon, I can access a world-wide market. There are many successful authors using this business platform, bypassing traditional publishing routes to put food on their tables. Being able to take care of my family while I do what I love – I think that’s the dream of every author, no?

WG: What’s next for you and The Second Lives of Honest Men?

JRC:        I’ve heard people say something to the effect of, “Writing the book is easy. The hard part comes after.” Let me tell you something: Writing the book wasn’t easy. My first draft may have only taken two months to complete, but they were also two of the most emotionally draining months I’ve ever been through. Still, the parable isn’t wrong in the sense that the harder part does come after. The editing process required a vast amount of work. The biggest obstacle was learning to put my faith in other people’s opinions. I only gave the book to people that I trusted to tell me the things I didn’t want to hear. And they did. It was always painful, as I listened to their advice over a hot drink (or a cold beer.) I’d scowl, counter-argue, and on some points I’d simply hold my tongue. After a number of days, (or weeks), a smattering of what they’d said would start sinking in. I’d be haunted by their voices as I tried, in vain, to sleep. I worked hard on the manuscript, mollifying the voices one by one, and repeating this process through each new draft (and each new round of well meant criticism), until I could finally rest. I passed the manuscript off to my editor the next day, and sent her a cheque. I struggled with the decision of what to write in the memo field. I finally settled on, ‘In Editor We Trust.’

Navigating the world of self-publishing has been an ordeal of its own. The Internet brings you a lot of information, but almost all of it conflicts. I made mistakes along the way – none fatal, but some costly. The good thing is that while I was waiting for my different rounds of beta readers to give me feedback, it left me plenty of time to prepare the other aspects of the book that a publisher normally takes care of: conceptualizing the cover, finding an artist, an editor, the best places to list the e-book, to promote the e-book, hiring (and working with) a website designer, finding a company to convert the book into slick, multi device / multi client formatted .epub, .mobi , and Print on Demand files…

Anyway, long story short… It’s finally all come together. The book is now for sale on all major e-sellers, and available in paperback through Amazon.

The Second Lives of Honest Men - cover

The Second Lives of Honest Men – cover

The website is up, and I’ll be using it as a platform to coordinate my Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter accounts. You can visit at www.johnrcameron.com , www.thesecondlivesofhonestmen.com , or www.embracetheirony.com. (All three domains lead to the same website.)  I have a well crafted, fun short story that I’ve made available on the website for free: Moonshine Perfume. I’ll also be writing short essays (I think they call them blogs, now) to accompany any more short stories that I find the time to write.

I’ll have a table at the Paranormal Show in Sudbury, Ontario, on November 30th, where I’ll be premiering the book and signing copies. The Paranormal Show itself is “a spectacular assortment of Supernatural feats that will make you question everything you thought you understood about REALITY.” – For more info, check out the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/590105517693380/

Come for the stage show, stay to check out the great work of local artists and authors.

I’ll be having signings at some of the more traditional outlets early in the new year: dates to be announced.

You can also find me on Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/664867.John_R_Cameron , on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/embracetheirony , and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/EmbraceTheIrony .

Thanks for a great interview, John, and all the best with your future authorial adventures!

Blue pencil and pitch

After breakfast and the keynote on Sunday morning, I had signed up for a blue pencil session with Jim C. Hines and a pitch session with Nephele Tempest, back to back. Needless to say, I was a bundle of nerves.

How the blue pencil went

After Jim’s wonderful keynote the evening before, I was a bit worried at the thought of sitting down with him. Not that I thought that he would tell me my writing sucked, but I worried he might be too gentle with me.

I needed help.

After the reception my first page received at SiWC idol, I really wanted to fix my opening.

So I explained my concerns and Jim got right to business. He had a few excellent suggestions, some of which I’d already suspected, and set me on the path of a few more effective ways to get my character across. He asked a few insightful questions, and over all I thought he did a lovely job.

Afterward, he asked me if he’d been of any help to me.

What a sweetie.

I was so pleased to have met him, even under such time constraints.

How the pitch went

I’d pitched Initiate of Stone last year at the Algonkian Conference I attended. Though I received the interest of an editor from Penguin, I had to delay submitting anything to him because I had some work to finish. Though he agreed that he’d rather see a novel made its best through editing and revision, I believe I took too long.

When I had signed up for Surrey, I was able to book one blue pencil and one pitch session.  The blue pencil was with Jim C. Hines. The pitch was with Kristin Nelson. If time allowed, I would be able to book additional appointments on site.

I had researched the agents in attendance and decided that I would make every attempt to see Nephele Tempest, Pam Hylckama Vlieg, and Rachel Coyne, if time allowed. They all handled fantasy, which is what I was there to give them.

As I mentioned in a past post, Kristin Nelson had to cancel when her flight from Colorado was cancelled due to weather. Pam Hylckama Vlieg was ill and unable to make it.

I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel Coyne on the first day. She was friendly and kind, and encouraged me to book an appointment. When it came time for me to do so, however, Rachel was booked solid and the only time I could book with Nephele Tempest was Sunday morning, back to back with my blue pencil session.

Since last year, I’d taken a course with Marcy Kennedy on loglines, taglines, and pitches. I’d also done some research on the internet and learned a few things from Adrienne Kerr’s query session.  My pitch was a work in progress, and though I’d brought my computer to work on it, I wasn’t able to print my documents. I wasn’t about to lug my lap top around so I could read from it, either.

Outside my room, I didn’t have consistent wi-fi, and so I couldn’t even copy the file into Dropbox and open it on my phone.

So I’d spent my breakfast recreating my pitch from memory.

Things went well, and Nephele asked to see my first three chapters.

They’re with her now. We’ll see how things go.

All I can say is eeeeeeeeeee!

More tomorrow, folks. Goodnight for now. The eighth Doctor calls 😉

First, a few notes

Flight from Vancouver to Toronto

Flight from Vancouver to Toronto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My flight was seven hours.  I had to be at the airport (a 20 minute drive) an hour ahead of time, fly to Toronto and have a brief layover before boarding my connecting flight to Vancouver.  There’s a three hour time difference between Ontario and BC.

Having arrived in Vancouver, I had to then make my way to Surrey.  I asked hour much it would be for a shuttle.  Even the flat rate was more than I was prepared to spend.

So I back-tracked, bought a train ticket, and rode the sky train for another hour and a half.

At the terminus station, I still had to catch a taxi to get to the hotel.

So, altogether, I spent about ten hours in transit and though it was only four-ish when I got here, I was done.

I checked in, got to my room, and discovered something:

I had to pay for internet access, and I could only pay for either in-room or meeting room access.  I opted for room access, hoping that my smart(-er than me) phone would have enough connectivity to tweet.

After supper and a bath, I went to bed, about eleven pm Pacific, but about two am Eastern time.

I woke up at 3 am.

Though I did my best, I only managed to send one tweet before my phone bogged down altogether.  I haven’t been able to send or receive much of anything since.

Also, Kristin Nelson was unable to attend, her flight from Colorado having been cancelled due to the weather.

I dealt with these small disappointments and have since had an absolute blast (so far).  Will be posting the day’s sessions and my notes as I go, but these will likely be at least a day late.

The leave begins

I’m going to be a bit scarce, or scarcer that I have been recently.

I have my time off and I’m going to use it to catch up on a few projects/straighten out my head.

What’s up:

It’s taken much longer than I intended, but I am coming down to the final, final, FINAL revision of Initiate of Stone before I send her off to the editor who expressed interest last year and to a few select beta readers.  I’m going to be revising my pitch/query and start targeting Agents and small publishers.

I’ll be attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference from October 25-7, and I have a pitch session booked with the wonderful Kristin Nelson (squee!)  I’m very excited, but after putting IoS to bed (for now) I will likely spend the next week prepping for SiWC.  I’m going to be reviewing my idea files for what I want to work on next.

While I wait to hear back from editors/agents/publishers about IoS, I’m going to be starting on/returning to other novel-length projects like Gerod and the Lions.

Come November, though, I’m going to be tackling another project for NaNoWriMo (!)  I only have until the 19th off, but I’m thinking it’s time to get something else up and out there.  This may be the idea file project I choose to prep for SiWC.

So that’s pretty much my writing ambitions.

I have said that I would participate in Khara House’s October Submit-o-Rama, and even participated in Kasie Whitener’s Just Write 2013 challenge for the purpose, but I’m not going to go out of my way to get a pile of short stories submitted.

If it happens, it happens.  I have some markets targeted, but I want to focus on my novels.  That’s where I need to be.

On a more personal note, I’m going to be trying to work in a little more physical activity.  I’ve gained weight just in the six weeks since I quit smoking.  It’s not good.  The clothes are tight.  And I haven’t been as faithful with implementing new habits as I was with changing the old.  I need something that will work with my life when I go back to the day-job.  This bears some thought.

I have no doubt that when I do go back, things will be as hectic as ever, so the new fitness routine has to be something that will let me get the sleep I need, get all the housework and daily chores done, and still accommodate work and writing.  And then there’s all that TV I like to watch 😛

I need to finish off my household clean-up (which stalled in September) and try to get the gardens into some kind of order before the snow falls.  I have a few projects I’d like to get to as well: 2 ceiling fans to install, my office door to strip and refinish, and one of our external doors to repaint.  I’m also looking at some storage fixes, cabinets for the bedroom and bathroom, and a new bookshelf for my office.

These last I’m not going to rush, since I think I’ll have enough with my trip to Surrey, another shortish trip to visit a friend in southern Ontario, and all the writing I want to do.

And then there’s Writerly Goodness.  I’m thinking it’s time for a face-lift, and maybe a new

English: Epic Win title card.

English: Epic Win title card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

name.  My domain will remain the same, but I’m thinking that a more appropriate name might be Totally Epic, or Epic Win (for my interest in epic fantasy).

I could go with something more general because I’m not just about the epic fantasy, I have urban fantasy, YA and MG, science fiction, and even some cross-over type novels in my idea file.  Plus I still write poetry and short stories, some of which are not speculative at all.

How about Improbable Possibilities (one definition of SF), or Speculations on Fiction?  There are some old suggestions: Phigment’s (Phigment is an imaginary dragon—the site would belong to her), or MelanieM/Millennium.  This last was from a friend who realized saying MelanieM sounds an awful lot like millennium.  Does something else present itself to you as clever?  I think I might just put a poll in my post this week 😉

A number of recent writer interviews have been delayed, perhaps indefinitely, so I probably won’t be posting much more than once a week (outside of SiWC, which I hope to blog and maybe even Twitter).  If I have nothing to offer by way of updates, I may not post at all in any given week.

Just to let you know.  I’m still here, but I’m going to be trying to shift my focus away from the interwebz for a bit and get back to the reason I started this whole platform-building gig in the first place—my writing.

I’ve been seeking balance for some time.  Maybe I’ll find it in the next five weeks?  Who knows?

Thanks for your patronage, and for your patience.