Archive for 2011/09/25

Dev and Transhuman update

I’m very thankful for weekends. I’ve got multiple projects going right now:

Transhuman #1 is in the second round of editing. Multiple people (who are not me, or one of my alternate personalities) have the book in their hands and are hopefully, frantically, excitedly marking it up as I type this.

The Kickstarter cover art advertising project for Transhuman #1 is paused until I have the second round edits complete. I’d like to be as finished with the book text as possible before I start the cover art build campaign.

I’ve started writing another book: Dev Manny #2. Check the Dev Manny website for a sample chapter!

How to be a good writer: Writing resources from great writers

Here are the writing resources that have helped me the most. These are not only “how to write” books and expert recommendations on storytelling technique, but some detail the process of writing and storytelling, which is another thing altogether.

Beyond the obvious “write more” recommendation that everyone uses, I’m not worthy of injecting my own technique or recommendations here. All of the authors below are masters and they know what they’re talking about. All of them have, I believe, improved my own skill, so I wanted to share what’s worked for me. Use what you see below to improve your fiction writing technique and become a better writer.

“On Writing” by Stephen King

“On Writing” is part autobiography, part writer’s how-to manual. However you want to define it, it’s a fascinating story as well as great instruction. A clear and very helpful introduction to the basics of good writing. If you want to write, but don’t know anything about the passive voice, or why being concise is a good thing, or why characterization is critical, then get this book.

The Elements of Style

It’s dry and boring. It’s over fifty years old. It’s still invaluable. There’s an expression: “You must know the rules before trying to break them.” Read The Elements of Style to learn the accepted rules of writing. From commas and quotes to sentence structure, Elements teaches what’s right and wrong. Use this book so that if you write something incoherent, it’s at least intentional.

“How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card and “Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters & Viewpoint” by Orson Scott Card

Now that you’ve read King’s “On Writing” and know the basics, it’s time to apply those lessons with more advanced technique. In these two books, Orson Scott Card deals with the more complex tools in the writer’s toolbox, including how to world-build and how to write proper perspective and characterization.

“Your Movie Sucks” by Roger Ebert

So you’ve read from King and Card, and have a perfect grasp on how to write and tell a good story. You’re far from getting anywhere good, because in order to know what to do, you also have to know what not to do. That’s where Roger Ebert comes in. Yes, he’s primarily a movie reviewer and here’s why it counts: There are many cliches and tropes and storytelling pitfalls, important not just in movies but in storytelling. Ebert knows them all, and you get to read about them in his collection of embarrassing examples.

Ebert has seen close to ten trillion movies, so if he doesn’t like something (and all movies in this book fall into that category), he can tell you why. More importantly, he can demonstrate why, how, where and when a movie failed. The book is extremely funny, but is (perhaps accidentally?) very educational.

“Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman and “Which Lie did I Tell?” by William Goldman

William Goldman’s screenwriting credits include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford WivesAll the President’s Men, The Princess Bride, MiseryA Few Good Men (as a consultant), Good Will Hunting (as a consultant) and Zombieland. As for novels, he wrote many, including the classic The Princess Bride.

This is just a sampling. If you’re familiar with even one of the works named above, you know how skilled he is. William Goldman is a very, very good storyteller.

The two Goldman books linked above are a decades-spanning expose of the film industry. He’s worked with seemingly everyone, and he’s not shy about embarrassing some powerful people to make his point. When he’s not giving his thoughts on Hollywood and the movies, he talks about writing. Storytelling. Characterization. How to keep the audience involved. What mistakes he’s made, and what he’s learned over the years. These are great books for screenwriters, but there’s plenty of information to share: Authors can learn from these, too.

Now, the above are “how to write” recommendations. They are all great, but there’s more to it than having the right tools for the job. There are far more excellent authors who haven’t written any “how to” manual for aspiring writers. Find their works, read them, process them and learn.

Good luck with your own reading and writing.

Eena? Transhuman? Serieses? Whatever: Draft #1 is done.

Thirty thousand words later, I have a book. Draft #1 is complete for what I’ve been calling “Eena”. The working title for this new series is “Transhuman”.

Yeah, it’s another series. Dedicated readers might also know I have the Dev Manny series and League of Scientists series, and for each so far just the first book has been written. So that’s three books making up three series. [Or is it “serieses”? Actually, the plural and singular of ‘series’ is the same word. Still doesn’t sound right, though.]

That’s the way life goes, my friend: Sometimes it’s better to do something that doesn’t make sense, especially when it’s more fun. I had the idea for a story, so I wrote it. By the time I was done, I realized I could write more in a series. So I will.

The book is in the hands of my trusted First Reader, my wife Gena. She’s smarter than me, has professional editing experience and her input can only help make the book better. The next draft will take perhaps another week to complete. I’ll also be working on planning the ad campaign for the cover art.

More later, of course. In the meantime, I’m excited to have another book on the way.

League of Scientists publication update: Lookin’ good!

The League of Scientists #1 – “Ghost in the Water” – is rolling ahead with publication. We’re on track for the end of the year! See this post for more detail.

“Eena” progress and cover art

My “Eena” book is coming along well. We’re at about 16,000 words so far. Going by the rough plot inside my head, it’s about half done, maybe a little less.

It’s interesting how each book I’ve written has impacted me differently. For this one, I’m actually enjoying the story and am eager to tell it. I enjoyed the others too, but they were more a labor of love. For “Eena”, there’s no deadline pressure or frustrations with the publisher (like the League of Scientists) and there are no existing expectations (like with Dev Manny). I can just tell the story, take my time and enjoy.

That’s the inside of the book. For the outside, I’m trying something different.

For those of you who don’t know about my amazing art skill, you should know I just now lied to you, right in this very sentence: There is nothing amazing about my artistic ability. Quite the opposite. I’m a bad, bad artist.

You’ve seen the Dev Manny book #1 cover art.

I developed that on my own. It’s not great, but I think it’s serviceable, particularly since I wanted to keep the focus on “Superliminal” and the computer virus names spilling down from each letter. In this case, me building the cover won’t damage sales too much.

Not so with “Eena”. The book topic is completely different, with action scenes and fun visuals meant for YA readers. I can’t have a simple cover. There’s got to be artwork there – real art.

I need a real artist to design this book.

The problem isn’t about picking artists, it’s being able to pay for one. The low end starts at $500 and goes up from there. I don’t have that kind of money, and since (1) I’m in debt from the League of Scientists and (2) Dev Manny sales haven’t yet paid off the publishing costs, (3) I can’t afford to spend any more.

I’ve just signed up for Kickstarter, a project funding service where you beg for money from others, and hopefully people will sponsor your efforts in exchange for perks like (in my case), signed books and similar prizes. My intent is to use Kickstarter to help pay for the “Eena” cover art.

Ironically, I realized that doing this just committed me to a publishing deadline as well as setting certain expectations, two things I was just bragging about not having to worry about. Such is the world we live in.

Here’s hoping. I’ll let you know the results.

New writing project – “Eena”

As I wait for the results of the published Dev Manny book and the not-yet-published League of Scientists #1, I still feel the need to write.

So I’m writing.

I’ve started another project. This is another book, targeted towards young adults. It has a science fiction / fantasy theme. Or more specifically, you could call this a “science fantasy”.

The book currently has a working title of “Eena”, which almost certainly will be changed before final publication. I have the plot pretty well figured out. But that doesn’t mean much without actual words on paper: I’ve still gotta write the thing!

As of this writing, Eena is just over 11,000 words. A rough ballpark I have in my mind is that the final length will be something like 30,000 words.

What’s that? You’d like a sample chapter? Well, sure! Here’s the latest version of Chapter 1:

 

 

“Over here, Ty!”

I whipped the tennis ball at Zack so hard it hurt my arm. I threw it off to the side, giving him the chance to jump for it. He pushed off of the bottom of the lake and shot out of the water. He grabbed the ball in mid-air and curled his body around it before he smashed back into the waves.

He could do that kind of stuff. Jump and flip and land and have it look pretty cool the whole time. Not like in a movie, but close. He’d taken gymnastics and was obsessed with martial arts. He wanted to be a stuntman when he got older. He’d probably do it, too.

I wasn’t like that. I was fat.

I would never say it to my parents and my friends never mentioned anything, but I was. Not gigantic fat. But my belt hurt when I put it on. Even with the too-small belt, my pants were all stretched out around the waist. My back and my feet would hurt if I ran too much, and I never ran because I could feel stuff jiggling around and it was embarrassing.

Which is probably why Zack blasted the ball back at me and aimed it right for my face. It was his way of being nice, of making it so I didn’t have to work for the catch.

Even though we were a couple dozen feet away, the tennis ball moved faster than I wanted it to. I threw up both hands to protect me – forget about trying to catch it – and the ball somehow bounced through my forearms and slammed into my nose.

My arms spun in circles as I tried to keep myself upright in the stomach-deep water. I lost my balance and fell backward. My legs slipped out from under me and for a moment it felt like I was floating in space. I hung there for a moment in the shallow water and squeezed my eyes closed against the pain in my nose.

Then my leg brushed into a slimy chunk of half-submerged seaweed. I hate seaweed. It looks like snot and feels about the same. I know it’s nature and life and everything, but it’s so gross I think it should be removed from all lakes and oceans. Or I guess I could just swim in pools the rest of my life.

When the seaweed wrapped its slime around my calf, I freaked out and tried to thrash away. It took me an extra few seconds to get my feet under me and heave myself, gasping, back into the air.

Zack helped me the rest of the way up, looking at me with concerned eyes.

“Hey, you okay? I seriously did not mean to hit you.”

“I think I’m okay. My nose hurts.”

His eyes widened.

“Oh geez, dude, you’re bleeding.”

My face was wet. I felt liquid running off of my head and down my face, back and chest. I thought it was water but now I didn’t know. The word blood started to bounce around in my brain. I felt light-headed, like I was about to tip over. Zack grabbed my arm and pushed me to shore.

“Mrs. Ford,” Zack said. He shoved me at my mom. “Tyler hurt his nose. We were playing catch and I missed. And then he missed.”

My eyes were closed but I could tell what my mom would do. First she’d throw up her hands in the air in surprise and fear. Then she’d get super-paranoid and would probably-

“Tyler! What in the world did you do!”

I opened my eyes and saw my mom coming at me. Her hands were up in the air with surprise and fear. She looked scared. She reached out towards my face.

“We were just playing catch, Mom. I missed the-”

“Oh, this is my fault. I should’ve been watching you boys closer. It’s just this is our vacation, so I didn’t think you’d be able to get in trouble on the lake. And Zack is always so responsible.”

That was nice for Zack, but that also meant I wasn’t responsible. That felt worse than my nose. I felt my face going red.

“I’m fine, Mom.”

“Here. Let me just clean you up. Your nose is swelling.”

“I’ll do it. I’m fine.”

My mom moved away, talking to herself about putting ice on my nose and checking to see if it was broken. I could tell by the tone of her voice she was already forgetting about this latest crisis and was prepping for the next one.

I turned away and touched my nose gingerly. My fingers came away clean. Most of what was dripping off me must just be water. No horrible bloody nose. The pain had settled down to a gentle throbbing. I guess that was a good sign.

I plopped down on the beach in a crunch of wet sand and heat. Out of the water, I was already sweating from the noon sun burning down my head, neck and back. Zack sat down next to me. We stared at the lake, at the gentle waves kicked up by far-off speedboats, and at the dozens of kids jumping around and playing at the beach in front of us.

“Hey Ty, I’m really sorry.”

“I know. It’s not your fault.”

“Want me to tell your dad or anything?”

“No. I’m fine.” My nose still pounded softly, feeling like it had only recently been attached to my face.

Zack was a tough guy. I didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of him. And my dad wouldn’t care, even if we could find him. He was probably out doing his “Extreme Living” thing, where he slept on the ground at night without a sleeping bag, ate stuff he found in the forest, and built tents out of leaves. My dad was weird.

This was my family’s yearly vacation to Something Fun. We usually did it around my birthday, June 20, so it was always in the blistering hot days of summer and a good excuse to go somewhere we could swim.

I’d just turned fifteen, and this year’s trip was to The Lone Wolf Lodge in Michigan. It’s a family resort where you go and stay in a cabin – a real log cabin – and swim in a lake and explore the forest and as my dad says, “Enjoy the simple life.” For me, that means no Internet, no cellphones, no gaming. That’s what Dad likes. I think it sucks.

There was another reason I hadn’t wanted to leave home this year. Somebody was still back in the city.

Emily.

Zack was the only person who knew that I was seriously in love with Emily Dowers. I told him two years ago and he swore never to tell anyone else. He didn’t. Zack was cool about stuff like that.

He was also good for advice. He’d dated plenty of times. He’d told me about how to kiss a girl with or without tongue, where to touch, what to do. Great for him, I guess. But I’d never even kissed a girl. Actually, I should tell the full embarrassing truth: I’d never even held hands with a girl. …Well, yeah, I’ve held hands with my mom, but she doesn’t count. I mean a real girl.

I’d known Emily since we were kids. We went to the same grade school together and then the same high school. We didn’t hang out with the same friends, though, so we never had a chance to talk. But I watched and listened. She was cool. Funny and smart. Not irritating-smart, but good-smart. She was hot. More in the last couple years. She had soft curves, better than any other girl in the class, and I really liked that.

She knew I existed, but probably didn’t care. I so wanted to call her, ask her out on a date, whatever, anything, but it just wasn’t that easy.

One time I was hanging out at Zack’s house. He handed me his phone. He’d already dialed Emily’s number. All I had to do was to hit one button and I’d be talking to her.

“Just like that,” he’d said. “Say ‘hi’. Ask her out to a movie. Or to meet somewhere. Get food. Anything. Just talk. This isn’t difficult.”

I don’t respond well to pressure. When I realized how close I was to actually talking with Emily, I froze up. My heart started beating hard. I even felt sick.

I don’t know how Zack does it, but I’m not him. I can’t just start talking to anybody like that, especially without practicing first, especially when that anybody is this perfect girl who I dreamed about for years.

So after I called Emily and heard her say “Hello?” I immediately hung up the phone. I took a deep breath, hiccuped and handed the phone back to Zack.

…and Emily called back.

Zack answered. She’d seen his parents name on the Caller ID and wanted to know what he wanted. Zack had told her some lie and kept me out of it.

The phone call only made things worse. Emily Dowers was pretty much perfect. I definitely was not. Zack got girls. The fat, quiet kid did not. There was no way she’d be interested in someone like me. So for the time being, I’d worship her from afar.

That was my life. Pretty boring.

I should say that part again: My life was boring.

Then I met Eena.

Dev Manny update

While waiting for publication of the League of Scientists, I was able to finish and publish Dev Manny #1: Superliminal. Get it:

Paper book
Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook

Figuring this out was a really cool process. I now know more than before about the self-publishing industry, as well as the craft of writing itself. Hooray for small victories.

What’s next with Dev? I’m going to wait and see how sales of the book perform. If it sells well, I’ll write another book. If not, I’ll still continue writing the short stories, adding to the collection already on the website.

I like Dev. He’s a fun guy.

League of Scientists update

Some of you pay attention to me. A not-small subset of you have asked: What’s up with the League of Scientists? When is it coming out? What stores will it be in? Will it be available as an ebook? Are you doing anything else?

Here are those answers:

Progress on the League of Scientists #1: Ghost in the Water

I’ve completed the first book. The publication for now is out of my hands and into those of the publisher. I’ve written the text, and they’ve got to turn it into a physical book. My contract did address ebook royalties as well, so I expect it will also be available as an ebook. Some of their books have appeared in stores like Barnes & Noble as well as my local bookstores. So, no promises, but I hope my book will be there too.

Progress on the League of Scientists #2: The Magician’s War

LoS book two is “pretty much done”. That is, it’s complete, but I’d like to clean up a few things before submitting it to the publisher. The publisher isn’t set up for it yet and has requested that we not work on it until we’re done with the first. Makes sense to me, and book two will be ready when they are.

You’ll notice no updates on the LoS website because I simply don’t have anything new to report. Not yet. I did email the publisher asking for an update or more detail on the publication date. This email was six days ago, and I haven’t heard anything back yet. I will update when I know more. For now, I will assume the publication is on track per the publisher’s last communication about it (December 2010), which was that the book would be available in late 2011. We’ll know in three months if that’s the case or not.

As for the final question – if I’m doing anything else – stay tuned for the next post.

Welcome to the Future!

It’s only been a few years, but AndyKaiser.com was looking just a tad dated. Remember the beautiful, hand-crafted old website?

I suppose it wasn’t that bad. Simple and minimalist and all that. But I still wanted to change it. Why? So I could do things like this, what I’m doing right now. Post any new thoughts and progress on my various projects.

For example, you may be aware of the books I’ve written, Dev Manny and the League of Scientists. However, I’m currently writing another book, of which I’ll tell you more about in another post. And I’d like to share with you as I make progress on it. What should I do, then? Build a new website for it? That’s a lot of work, and I don’t yet know if this book will be standalone or a series. And what about the book after that? What if I start a new unrelated project?

In the interests of keeping things simple, I’m making the effort to revamp andykaiser.com into a newer format. That is, a blog, a news site, whatever you want to call it, it’s a way to easily keep track of everything I’m doing, as opposed to following multiple websites (which you’re still welcome to do).

If you’re interested in my work, click the “Follow” links above to subscribe via email, RSS or whatever your preference happens to be. I’ll keep you up to date with everything Andy.

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