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Chapter 8 Checklist

December 09, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  2 Comments
  • Confident, but appreciative progranoist, check.
  • Dual-wielding katanas, check.
  • Razor sharp Marine Corps WWII stiletto, check.
  • Goblin ninjas—on fire, check.
  • Matching Colt 1911’s with reloads—check.
  • Korean martial arts, check.

Yes, it will be a romp. A ROMP I say!

/bow

Small Writing Update

December 05, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  0 Comments

No snark comment on the below post but I can see it coming.

Anyway, it is a truism that I would rather be writing than editing, but I love editing. Such a fun task. A beta reader points something out that goes beyond the grammatical. Do I agree with it? What can I do to fix the problem?

Last night I came across a comment that highlighted a rather glaring problem in Bunny Trouble. I fixed it by adding ten words. Ten little words. Now, I would rather fix a problem by cutting ten words, but I’ve already done that. I’ve removed 20k from the version I gave my coveted beta readers.  This type of manuscript smithing tickles me to no end.

As much as I like my job, I would love to write full-time. It takes a non-zero amount of time to edit. Sometimes that time is expensive.

Courtney, Part II

December 03, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  3 Comments

Courtney Summers posts a good follow up to her prior post on writing for the YA market.

I feel full of vim and snark, which is somewhat like vim and vigor, only more, um, snarky. In her original post she asked some mighty good questions. My take, a long-winded reply, alluded to Courtney’s own answer: Be true to the story.

Courtney was talking about truth and I was talking about honesty, which are almost the same thing. There is a nuance I was trying to convey (and failed), which is you can be true to yourself as a writer, but dishonest with your story.

How can that be? I am not entirely sure I can explain it correctly. But I can tell you for certain, Max knows. Max wrote about almost the exact same thing. He says:

“Another giant, oily blemish on the face of teenage literature (that was entirely intentional) is whatever urge compels writers to clumsily smash morals about fairness or honor or other cornball crap onto otherwise fine stories. Do you not think we get enough of that in our parents’ and teachers’ constant attempts to shove the importance of justice and integrity down our throats? We get it. I assure you, it makes no difference in our behavior at all. And we will not become ax murderers because volume 120 of Otherworld: The Generica Chronicles didn’t smother us in morals that would make a Care Bear cringe.”

I know, I know, it seems like my poor blog is Courtney Courtney Courtney blah blah. But she is talking directly to why I toss books in the recycle bin. Literally. I come across a story I deem dishonest and I throw it away. I will not expose my children to it.

Here’s my ultimate take. A story is sometimes dishonest despite the author’s intent because he did the easy thing, rather than the hard thing. A morality tale can be an excellent story, even one Max would like.

If it is told in an honest fashion.

“Truth is sought for its own sake. And those who are engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things. Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough.”

Alhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham)

My friends—all I simply ask—write about what is, not what you wish it to be.

By the way, you can thank Courtney for these little bits of wisdom by buying her book.

Lake Sammamish

December 03, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  3 Comments

Today, as I was driving by the lake on the way to work, the rising sun was peeking out of the clouds over the evergreen laden mountains and hitting the water, illuminating the mist rising from the surface.

Such a pretty little sight, one that tugged at me, a serene landscape as there ever was—such is a drive to work in the Pacific Northwest.

I used to keep a camera in the car, to take a picture of such things, because taking pictures is what I used to do. Last year I took it out.

Why?

That is a good question and for awhile I did not know. I came to realize my energy as an artist was limited and I choose to direct it towards writing.

My relationship with readers is so important to me—it is my lifeblood. When you read the first paragraph in this post, what did you picture in your mind?

Was it what I saw, or was it something better?

There is something about a well-composed photograph that captures a moment or is akin to a painting without paint. I do not belittle these works of art.

But I am greedy. I want more. I want the imagination, your experiences.

Perhaps you like crime fiction. There in the lake floats a body, picked at by the crows. Far from wearing Pacific Northwest attire for the outdoors, this corpse was wearing an expensive Italian suit. A sheriff boat is approaching the man, a tired deputy who wanted to go home earlier but had to gas up the skiff. Hauling the body in, his life will never be the same, for he recognizes the man, even in his bloated form.

Or, maybe you like science fiction. The lake is bereft of houses, development. The people who lived here long ago are all gone. Indeed, the area is almost empty—except for the helmsman.  She landed nearby in her small, whisper ship. The lake looked pretty, the planet seemingly undeveloped. A nice place to die, she thinks, as she walks along the edge of the lake. But she realizes that the trail she is walking on is no game trail, rather the remnants of some road. She has to sit and catch her breath. Who lived here, she wonders. A nice little quest before the radiation finally kills her.

Could you be an incurable romantic? A woman sits on the deck of her lake house, watching the lights of the other houses come on one-by-one. Far from being riddled with angst, her life is clear, her husband she adores, her days filled with meaning and purpose. She breathes in the fresh air from the lake, a blend of water and fallen leaves from the token deciduous trees that line the shore. She treasures little mornings like this. Soon, she thinks, she and her husband will be ready to have a baby. But her phone rings. It is the first man she ever made love to, a boy really, when she saw him last. He is hurting. His wife died, while he was away at war. He is beyond distraught; he is on the verge of non-existence. He is in town. Could he come to visit?

Opportunity is why I stopped taking photos. When I see, what I hear, smell, touch, and taste—it ignites my mind surely as if I was on fire. The camera is a wink of a moment, but your imagination is forever.

Today, as I was driving by the lake on the way to work, the rising sun was peeking out of the clouds over the evergreen laden mountains and hitting the water, illuminating the mist rising from the surface.

Larry Palooza!

December 02, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random, The Craft  0 Comments

I do not often comment on the book industry, mainly because it seems silly to talk about something I know little about.

But I am an observant person. Let me observe for you!

Larry Correia gave a shout-out about the Baen edition of Monster Hunter International. Right now it’s sales rank is around 7.5K, and at one point last night it was at 6K.

Not too bad for something shipping next year.

Obviously, Larry’s blog is widely read and he has a non-zero following. Why is Larry’s book so popular in such a short amount of time? I can surmise several reasons:

One, this is a reprint of a book he already published. That is an interesting story unto itself, but that is not the focus of my post. Anyway, at the height of the buzz for his POD version, he got with Baen and YANKED the book, leaving a void. This is where I first noticed Larry’s book. My book buying experience went like this:

Hey, a book about monsters from a gun guy. I AM SO GOING TO BUY THAT.

Ops, book is no longer available to order from Amazon. Huh. Well, let me look for a new book somewhere else.

A week later—can’t find it. I guess I will buy it used or from an alternate bookseller.

Ack, there are now no used books. I have to wait until 2009 to read it.

(sob)

A copy of MHI shows up on ebay. I snag it for US $25.00.

I devour the book, read it again and note used copies are going for $200-250, and giggle like a school girl. Ha ha ha ha I have my collector’s copy, bitches, ha ha ha ha!

Ahem. Anyway Larry has a few other things going. He did a viral marketing campaign for the original book by writing a bunch of shorts for a popular online forum. He ended the campaign with “and if you liked that, buy my book!”

Another reason is his blog. Larry is a conservative ranter plugged into the firearm bloggers. Larry can rant like no one else, and his blog is popular because of its well-written take on contemporary issues that would interest firearm enthusiasts.

That community is significant. In general it is well-read with above-average income. A book recommendation from one of these sites carries weight. An actual book written by someone plugged into the community even more so.

Finally, and most importantly, Larry’s book has a good buzz because it is just so darn good. Really. I posted on Amazon (for the POD version) that his voicing was great and the book, even when it went technical, did not talk down to me. As a reader with more than a passing familiarity with firearms, I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing it is when a writer, ironically writing about monsters in an urban fantasy, ignores the crap in popular fiction and Hollywood about guns and tells it like it really is.

In any event, surprisingly 4 of my readers of this blog are agented writers (which is a little frightening to the Hack Writer), one author’s book is nearing street release. There are also aspiring writers who visit. My message to you: you do not need to be a B-movie fan, firearm enthusiast—nor a conservative commentator—to study and appreciate the book sales and career-building Larry is presently engaged in. It is a fascinating look at online communities and fiction writing. His blog has several good summaries on his writing career, check it out.

And buy his book: I am selfish. I don’t want to buy a gun from Larry, but I would love to read more of his fiction!

Writing Update

December 01, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, The Craft  4 Comments

You know you are a writer when you feel wretched and write anyway. Yesterday, I deleted 1100 words from Bunny Trouble but only added 500 back—while sick. There was a section in the novel that was a lot of tell, because I could not figure out how to reveal the detail either in action or dialog. Normally I delete things like that, but I felt what I was trying to say was important to the story.

I figured it out yesterday morning, and made my edits. The cuts were good, it shortened up the chapter and I peppered other parts of the manuscript with the concept I was attempting to convey. I added a bit of foreshadowing here and there and bingo, the novel gets even tighter, and a tad bit punchier.

On The Baby Dancers front, I added an important chapter to the novel. The main character, a teen, is a fine young man. In this chapter, he has a very adult conversation about love, attraction and the dangers of being a warrior (and not dangers to life, but dangers to heart and soul). It was a fine bit of foreshadowing coming off the chapter filled with action goodness, and I am quite enamored with the whole thing. More than just a filler chapter, it is a turning point in this young man’s dealings with other adults, especially women. I spoke from the heart, as raw and visceral as I ever have been.

That was 1775 words. The rest of the novel stretches out before me, clear and bright.

Not too bad, not too bad for writing while I was FOOD POISONED!

The Wife Unit and I let the kids talk us into fast food on the way home Saturday. We are not fast food fans by any stretch, and usually avoid it. The kids however, were both hungry and eager to get home.

That was a mistake. Three out of four of us got sick, with me catching the worst of it. Bleh. It took me all day yesterday to recover. Next time we will pack food before getting on the ferry and hitting the road home.

That is interesting to me. I can feel physically bad and still write about love. I think, dear 8.3 readers, that makes me a hopeless romantic.

Dancing with Setting

November 24, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

Bunny Trouble is near-future science fiction book set on the northern Washington Coast. It takes little description on my part to describe the scenery. In fact, if I told you this novel takes place in a small town on the wild and rocky Washington Coast, a town with a lighthouse and a river harbor, bordering the Olympic National Rainforest—I bet in your mind you have a really good idea of what it looks like. It might not match my idea, but when all is said and done, the picture in your mind is going to be better than anything I can describe to you.

Imagine that! I assume you’re a smart person!

The Baby Dancers is neither a contemporary nor a near-future science fiction book. It is Young Adult Fantasy that moves around to different environments, some of them quite different than the world we live in today.

This transition was not easy for me; it was a struggle, actually.

Yesterday I wrote 2,500 words in one of these environments. It felt good, as if I fell into a rhythm. I added a bit of tension, and a whole lot of action. I felt like the scenery description added a nice flare to the atmosphere and resultant action, neither understated nor overdone.

This bodes well. It was really fun, and a joy to write.

Nom!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

November 23, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Awesomesauce, Plot, Setting, The Craft  4 Comments

UnwindMy book reviews are targeted towards novelists (my prior book review can be found here).

Neal Shusterman’s Unwind is a near-future science fiction horror tale that can be summed up in one word: delicious. Quite simply, Shusterman goes where few dare to tread. If you have a love of edgy Young Adult fiction, then look no further. This book belongs on your shelf for several reasons, one of which is the intense questions that get asked, each one more thought-provoking then the last.

For an older gentleman like me, Neal Shuterman’s Unwind can be compared to a John Christopher novel written by Steven King.

The plot goes like this: abortion is illegal… on unborn children. During their teen years, parents can decide to send their child away to be “unwound” where 99.44% of their body is harvested.

The book centers on three teens that are now “unwinds”:

  • Connor, chosen to be unwound because he is a rebellious teen
  • Lev, who was born to be unwound based on his parents religious beliefs of tithing
  • Risa, chosen by the state to be unwound simply because they decided that they could not afford to keep her alive

These three escape their fates in a fortuitous freeway pile-up. Now all they need to do is survive until they are eighteen, when they no longer can be unwound. Capture means not death (so they say), because all the parts are reused, the unwind is divided into parts for a cheerfully waiting populous where the art of doctoring is rare but surgeons rule the health scene.

Sound positively hellish? Well it is. The undercurrent of unstated horror is relentless in Unwind and then BAM! It goes from the unstated to the all too real like a punch in the gut. Literally, I felt vaguely ill at the end of the novel. The subtleness of the cruelties with smiles suffered on these children builds to an epic crescendo that cumulates in one of the most terrible bits of sheer creep that I have ever read.

If you care to write edgy fiction, then look to this horror novel because that is what it is. There is little gore in Unwind worth mentioning, oh no. Like a Japanese horror movie, there is a sense of malevolence running through this sick and twisted society that looks so much like our own—yet is so different.

Or is it?

Consider if you will, the teens that were dumped at Nebraska’s hospitals. The mirrored reflection is not a dark twin of our light. Far from it, the parallels in this dystopia are sometimes all too familiar, and all too normal. And that is what makes it a chilling read for teens and adults.

For the Young Adult novelist, this study of unrelenting intensity warrants your attention. There is more here to scrutinize, than just pacing, atmosphere and plotting.

Unwind asks tough questions rarely found in a book targeted for teens. What is the beginning of life? When exactly does life end? What is the nature of consciousness? What are the consequences of anarchy when the law is so very flawed? In a world of villains, who is the true villain?

What are the ethics of compromise?

This, my friends, is a book that never talks down to the audience it was designed for, as the questions posed above compose a heady literary wine. You will be hard-pressed to find an action-packed book filled with such teen reflective goodness.

Another important part of this book is the voicing. Written in the third-person present tense, the word-smiting lends a flare not often encountered. The way the book is crafted lends itself to a sense of urgency; I was dubious going into it, but Shusterman pulls it off with his screenwriting experience shinning through.

If it seems like I am gushing, I guess I am. I do have some minor faults and quibbles with the novel, none really I feel necessary to drag out for the sake of being fair and balanced. If you write Young Adult fiction, it’s a must read simply because it does something rare: For the reluctant teen reader, it is a novel that will draw him in and leave him wanting to read more—because the type of entertainment given by Unwind can be found nowhere else. For the already fan of outstanding Young Adult fiction, it is euphoric lifeblood for the mind. There is not a bit of fluff betwixt its pages.

That’s a win-win combination of awesomeness that deserves your purchase and study. For what better result could there be for an author of Young Adult speculative fiction?

Coming Soon: a look at Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND

November 22, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  0 Comments

It’s time for another writer’s based book review, a thoroughly delicious—and horrifically chilling—novel by Neal Shusterman, Unwind.

This book review is somewhat timely which to me speaks mounds of creepy horror. Think of the teens dumped in Nebraska’s hospitals because they are unwanted. In Shusterman’s world, unwanted teens are unwound.

Tune in tomorrow. Or maybe Monday. Unwind as a Young Adult novel is contemporary, thought-provoking and an outstanding novel.

Max Leone: My Hero!

November 17, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, The Craft  1 Comment

Max writes in a letter dripping in awesomesauce:

“I am of that population segment that is constantly derided as “not reading anymore,” and is therefore treated by publishing companies as a vast, mysterious demographic that’s seemingly impossible to please. Kind of like the way teenage boys think of girls. The reason we read so little in our free time is partially because of the literary choices available to teenagers these days. The selection of teen literature is even more barren now that the two great dynasties, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl, have released their final installments. Those two massive successes blended great characters, humor and action in a way that few other books manage. When they went for laughs, they were genuinely funny, and their dramatic scenes were still heart-poundingly tense, even after I’d read them dozens of times.”

Let’s review shall we:

The reason we read so little in our free time is partially because of the literary choices available to teenagers these days.

Sound familiar? It should.

Max goes on further to state:

Finally, here is what I consider the cardinal rule of writing for young adults: Do Not Underestimate Your Audience.

Oh man, Max’s letter just goes from great to, well spectacular as Max hits a lot of people with a clue-by-four.

And the best thing about his post it ties directly into what Courtney was saying. DIRECTLY. See, I told you Courtney was smart. And here is proof! PROOF I SAY!

Max, this is my plege to you: My YA Fantasy novel will be as you say. I call it the Max Leone YA Novel – Winter Pledge 2008. Who’s with me?

max-large

If it gets published or not is something else entirely. I promise to give you and your friends what you are looking for. I promise to play my part, it remains seen if others will step up to the plate and deliver.