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Thursday, October 30, 2014


I've gotten my first feedback from my editor. First and foremost, the story is good and I'm incredibly encouraged by the feedback. There's nothing that can't be fixed and, in fact, the solutions are rather elegant and are going to take the story up a notch. Now that we have that out of the way:

Holy plot holes, Batman!

There's work to be done, things I'd never considered, or places where my logic was flawed. I've written a fairly complex story with a lot of twists and turns, the problem with that is tripping over yourself.

Mark's lessons learned:

1. Write the thing. Anything can be fixed, but only if it's finished. Butt in chair. Save the editing. The first draft always sucks. There's always time to flesh out ideas, add, remove and edit later.

2. Make sure your characters have clear motivations and objectives. All the major players need something to do and it isn't always good that they're on the same page as the protagonist. Conflict is drama, conflict leads to growth. Characters shouldn't be the same people they were at the beginning of the story.

3. My stories always start when my protagonist's life is about to change. Backstory is good, but backstory can bog everything down. Make it part of the dialog, uncover nuggets as the characters move through the world. It's a whole lot more fun for the reader to discover rather than be told.

4. Show don't tell.

5. There are flaws. I was lucky to find someone who can objectively look at the story and ask questions, explore motives, dig in the dark places. Actually, I was lucky twice. One friend and editor gave me really good in process shakedown that helped propel me forward and my current editor went down the rabbit hole with me and tore it apart. Now, I'm ready to get going and finish the final draft. Writing groups can be extremely helpful, but find the right one that focuses on give and take. There should be equal time spent on everyone's writing.

6. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn.

7. Don't be afraid of the dark. Everyone has a dark side and those place can be pretty interesting. Sometimes exploring the dark part of one's soul can help exercise the demons that everyone picks up along the way in life. Life is messy and head space often is too.

8. Flaws are delicious.

9. Using the word delicious is creepy.

10. Read, read and read. Definitely read in the genre, but also read outside the genre. Biographies are treasure, history and science are incredibly helpful. Romance, because who doesn't like a little romance in a story? Read classics, they're classics for a reason.

11. Waiting really sucks, so don't. Start the next thing.

Like my blog? Don't like it? Leave comments and feedback.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Listening and Observing

Yesterday I attended a book signing at a local independent bookstore called the Foxtale Book Shoppe, in Woodstock Georgia. It not a Barnes and Noble, there is no café inside and does not contain shelves and shelves of books reminiscent of a library that makes one think that library rules apply. Foxtale is a store and lively. The folks there are happy to talk with you, they gave me a tour and they told me about the really cool stuff they do to engage the community. Their big events are books signings like the one I attended yesterday. They had four very big names in the Urban Fantasy, YA and Steampunk genres, or subgenres, if you prefer. Two of the authors, Kevin Hearne and Cherie Priest I follow. I buy their work and I would have stopped out for either one of them. Having the both there was others I didn't know was a gift. The other two authors, Dililah Dawson and Molly Harper, I was not familiar with their work, but there were many there that were. Enough so, it made me think I should be paying attention.

The event started with a Q&A and I listened to them tell their stories. No one asked questions about specific books or characters, but everyone was very interested in their struggles to find themselves as writers and to get a little insight into who they were. I found that every cool. Cherie Priest told an incredibly amusing story about her manuscript being found while the office of a former editor taking a sabbatical from life was being cleaned out. Her editor found it, read it and couldn't get in touch with her because Cherie's contact information had changed and it was by the luck of still active e-mail address that changed her life.

Each author had very different stories about discovery and how much time, practice and patients it took to get discovered and how terrible their first submissions were. As Kevin told us, he taught English and this writing thing should be a pretty easy. He discovered what a foolish thought that was. His first three novel were complete junk, but an epic fantasy of his showed promise, but was still considered unpublishable. It wasn't until Hounded was written he had something worthy of publication. The rest is a story about beloved characters, COSplayers, beer, sausages and an Irish wolfhound by the name of Oberon with a completely hilarious twitter page.

Molly and Dililah were equally as delightful, but they're mostly in the YA market and I'm not really their demographic, but their perspective and struggle as authors hit closer to home and seemed to mirror what I went through trying to sell Dex Territory.

Here were four famous authors in the genre and each telling us, me. that each journey is unique. There are no hard-fast rules, persistence is required, a thick skin is essential and mostly, keep writing.

Their talk of the editing process made me feel less like a dumb-ass. Don't get me wrong, I am, but it's pretty normal. None of them hold literary degrees, which I took as great news as I only have a bullshit Liberal Arts degree cobbled together with various colleges as I went along. I feel like I have the lack of credentials necessary to succeed. Woo-hoo!

The observing part came into play with how they set up. They had swag with them, whether it was bookmarks, gift bags that were handed out from answering questions, lollipops with websites and book covers printed on the labels, etc. It was an excellent reminder of the business aspect of being a writer. I'm thinking about my campaign and sales strategies. While the work as a writer is winding down the business of being a writer needs to start. I'm a limited on what I can actually do, without cover art and materials, but it's a great time, while I'm waiting, to start lining up marketing materials. Enough of this and onto work. Be checking back in soon!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Buy stock in Blue Ink

I've gotten two notes back from my editor, Terry, who is a great guy. Now, I know I'm not a literary prodigy, I'm pretty much a regular(ish) guy with a day job who likes to jot shit down from time to time. It's fun for me. I get to explore the deepest, darkest places in my psyche and perhaps share them with a few folks and throw some coin of the realm in my pocket for winning this literary lottery. (use of alliteration - bonus points, having to use spellcheck to correct alliteration - points removed) Hopefully enough to, at least, buy a latte at Starbucks. (Full disclosure, Starbucks does not sponsor this blog) While I know I'm hardly a genius, I thought I had worked out most of the bugs, but those two notes have sparked off a storm of insecurity about my story and my worthiness as a storyteller. I've been rolling them around the brain pan, hard. And, I know what you're thinking and you're right, it's complete bullshit and I should file a restraining order against my mind for abuse.

Here's what I feel is reality, I put something out in the world and it's intimidating. Friends and family and hopefully a few others who take pity, or are dazzled by whatever cover art is on the book, are going to read this and pass judgment over me as an author, some may as a person, but I'm ok with it. The truth of the matter is it takes courage for anyone to put themselves out there, it's easy to hang back and be part of the crowd and lob likes, dislikes, reviews and comments out there. I hope there are going to be more bad than good, but ultimately, I'm curious. I'd like to know if I spun a good yarn, or have a tangle mess. (Use a metaphor, points added. Use of cliché points removed) I'd like to think I've matured and can separate the work from the man. I do it in my day job and it's taken a long time to get there. We'll see about that.

This feels like the next step in that journey. Taking the risk with something personal, something I spent years with and it's something I've come to the realization is flawed. It contains grammar, spelling and typographical errors along with plot holes, unneeded exposition, clunky dialog and general awkwardness. I'm grateful that Terry is asking me those questions and I really expect him to bleed blue all over those pages. Every blue mark is going to bring a smile to my face, because each is a lesson learned, each is a bit of polish on the stone and each is going to help me bring a better story. One, I hope, will be generally liked.

What I'm going to do is stop kibitzing over what is out of my hands and look to what is in front of me. That would be book two in my saga. This one's going a lot faster as I don't have to world-build on this one and don't have to start by laying out the rules and introducing the players. There'll be some reminders, but the point is to tell the tale.

Before I sign off here's a description of book one Dex Territory that Terry sent out. I couldn't have written this as it bounces around so many genre's that the story was hard to boil it down to the essential essence. (Bonus points!!)

Mark's urban fantasy thriller "Dex Territory" is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It's a mix of detective and super heroes in a high-stakes world of James Bond bad guys against law and order and true love.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Inaugral Blog of Mark Aberdeen

First words to my first blog about being a first time author, well, almost. Yesterday, I sold my first novel to TWB Press. A lot of things happened at once, both physical and emotional. It's been a long journey and a lot of work. There have been a lot of rejection letters, I mean, a lot. I could give you a cliché about wallpapering a wall with them, but currently they're propping up a table.

The emotional wave that hit me was unlike anything that I've ever experienced. I felt vindicated, triumphant, relieved, scared, worried, happy, overwhelmed and it culminated in laughter, tears and maybe a something akin to a barking sound. I know, it's only a book. There are thousands of them in Barnes and Noble and on Amazon and it's a first time novel, it's probably not very good and who are you?

I hear ya. Ok, I've written a lot, and by a lot, I mean a staggering amount. I have files and files of half-baked, half-written stories, characters both promising and doomed, I've created entire worlds, political, religious, technological and magical systems only to be forgotten on a digital shelf collecting a heavy coat of bits and bytes. All of this was in hope of one day having a story that's good enough to be considered publishable. Writing is a craft and it takes time, it takes practice and it takes a hell of lot of trial and error, put the emphasis on error.

You could be thirty thousand words in and realize it doesn't take you anywhere and there's no saving it. You losing a day's worth of writing because you hit no when the prompted to save it. Sometimes the thing you're most proud of is the thing your story doesn't need. Writing can be a soul crushing process and this is before you send a manuscript out to get rejected, and rejected and you're really lucky you get someone telling your story is promising, but they're not looking for that type of story right now. For me, it got to the point it was pretty darn funny. You'll learn all kinds of lessons and if you're persistent you have a collection of a hundred thousand words that may have taken years to write.

I didn't mean to depress you, come back.

Here's the thing: It drives you. You have characters in your head screaming to be heard, you have a story that you need to tell, because as long as you've looked and as many things as you've read, no one else has written it. Sure, some will say, we'll your story is like this one over here, sure there can be elements, but everyone's perspective is unique as are the experiences of each life. We all have a story in us, hell each of is a story. Sometimes, in spite of everything, a story must be told. Who better than you?

Getting it down is the key, persevering is essential, the rest is just spelling and grammar.

Yes, there are a lot of ways to tell stories, you can blog them, self-publish, or just send it to friends. With my first novel, Dex Territory, I considered all those things. Ultimately, I wanted that emotional response I received yesterday. I wanted a publisher to say, 'this is pretty good, we've got some work to do, but let's take a chance on it.' I'd been craving it my entire lifetime. Validation. It was everything I wanted it to be.

Today, the business of being a writer begins. It is a business and you're a sales rep, you're in advertising, in web design, and a social media participant. You have to put a bio together, find a picture of you not dressed as a Wookie. There a lot to do. I'll be blogging about the process while everything else comes together. It should be a fun ride. I hope you'll join me.