Farpoint Convention Wrap-up and General Thoughts

Morning all. I know it might seem a little odd that I didn’t liveblog the third day of my Farpoint convention experience. Maybe it seemed that I had lost interest, I’m not sure, but no. The truth is that Sunday turned out to be such a busy day that I simply didn’t have the time to handle sales and update the blog. Good news, right? Absolutely. While I didn’t break even (and let’s face it, few authors do), I increased my visibility, made some friends, and had a blast. So let’s tidy up the loose ends on this thing.

First I want to express my deepest gratitude to my table neighbors, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail (both from Dark Quest Books) for giving a rookie some pointers.

They gave me some brilliant ideas for future appearances and pointed out what might not be working. I appreciate that. I treat my publication business in the same manner that I treat my day job – any new knowledge is useful – and they gave me a lot to chew on. Hope to run into them at future shows.

I know my Friday entry seemed a little pessimistic, and Saturday morning felt a little rough, but at some point I finally “got” that I was there for a marketing/PR appearance, not to make money. Once that clicked, I started to warm up and ended up having a blast. It funny, too; once that occurred, my sales picked up. My three-day numbers wouldn’t blow anyone away, but it a pretty good start for a newbie.

As I mentioned on Saturday, I got to meet Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame and Felicia Day. I also got to shake the hand of Peter David, the author who has handled writing duties on the Dark Tower comic series. I know I’ve talked about my love-hate relationship with that series, but overall it had more good than bad, and it felt great to share my enthusiasm with him.

Sunday felt good. I had more visitors and felt more able to get into the flow. I engaged folks as they passed and managed to draw a few folks who seemed interested. We had to leave early as the other business needed some tending – that does, after all, help to fund this side of things – but overall I felt positive about the experience. So positive, in fact…

That I can confirm we’ll be making an appearance at Parafest 2013 in Bethlehem, PA from September 6th to 8th. I’ve also sent in my registration for the Gaithersburg Book Festival, but I want to wait until that fully set up before confirming that date. I have a few other shows on my radar for the coming months, but we’ll leave that a surprise for now.

I’m also proud to announce that I’m partnering with Grammarly, a site that provides a strong second set of eyes for your work. I do think the site can replace the work of a good editor, but it goes several steps beyond Word’s grammar feature and can sharpen up drafts before they go to your editor. I’ve tried it out, and so far I like it. Give it a spin and see what you think.

Other items…we’re in the process of working on the City of the Dead cover. I can’t say too much else as things are in flux. If this weekend taught me nothing else, it’s that I may need to reconsider the current look. We’ll see.

That it for today. Watch this space for more news.

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Friday Photography Week of October 12th

Okay, so here’s the deal: I’m trying to be a more productive author, which is why I haven’t had a Friday entry in some time. It’s just a lot to take up to 3,000 words from my fiction writing and put it into the blog. Not that I don’t like sharing with folks – not that at all. I just think that it’s a better way to spend my time.

HOWEVER, I do like sharing things, and I want to give my readers something extra. I also love to take photographs and haven’t done nearly enough of it lately, so I’m going to do something for the next few weeks: I’m going to give you Friday Photography, where I share my photographs from that week. It gives me some motivation to take more pictures and offers you some more unique content.

This week I have some of the pictures that I didn’t use from the Cox Farms visit, along with one of my favorite water fountains. Enjoy.

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Still Alive!

Apologies for the near-week of silence. I actually had a killer idea for an entry on Friday that  got pushed aside for time concerns, so it’s going to be up this Friday instead. Basically, I’m absent because I’m trying to make Room 3 the best book it can be, so at least there is (in my opinion) a good reason for my silence. I’m currently incorporating all of the beta comments while also making my own edits. Some of the beta comments had huge ripple effects, such as people not quite getting where the protagonist was supposed to be from, and that caused some confusion on some of her other statements.

Wait, let me back up. The protagonist, Kelli, says she’s from East Texas, ended up in Boston as a child, and then moved back to East Texas. After the events of the book she ends up in West Texas. Could I give you a good reason for all this moving around? Well, no, not really, aside from that just being the sort of thing that happens. So, to simplify, I just made her a child of Boston. Easy fix, right? Not so much. Ripples have gone through much of the work since that update, and I have to read pretty much every line to be sure it scans in her new accent, not to mention some changed slang.

Which is all well and good. I think in the end it will make for a stronger story, but it’s requiring a lot of attention to detail, which is taking away time for things like reading and writing blog entries.

In the meantime, however, I have blog entries planned for Wednesday and Friday, so expect more of me later in the week! Hope all is well.

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The Soundtrack of Our Lives

It’s Friday and you know what that means. Okay, well it actually doesn’t mean all that much in terms of the site, but typically on Fridays I post links to music that I enjoy as a way to share a song here or there. Today I thought I’d a broaden my horizons a bit and talk about my own personal rich relationship between music and writing.

I started with one of these bad boys.

I can’t exactly say when I discovered my own link between music and writing. My earliest writing efforts were on one of those comically giant manual typewriters – the thing came from a yard sale and wasn’t even electric. I used that typewriter to primarily write down some of the stories that I came up with while playing with my toys, but I was also creating a series about a private investigator in North Dakota, the name of which is lost to time. No music then, just a handful of ideas.

I moved onto an electric typewriter after a few years – one that my mother had been using for a home business. It still wasn’t an automatic typewriter, though, the difference being that I still had to use whiteout, there was no automatic carriage return, and the typing action, while faster than the old manual, was still a bit slower than some of the automatics I would use later. I still hadn’t really made the transition to music at that point – my “song” was the rapid-fire chatter of the keys – but I did manage to bang out a novel on that old typewriter, may it rest in peace wherever it is.

All this leads me to guess that it would possibly have been early high school or late middle school when I discovered the connection, while writing journals and fiction in a dark room lit only by candlelight, rock music sealing away the outside world. My earliest memory of this method includes Nirvana’s Nevermind, which would have been when I was 15 and a sophomore in high school, but I’m pretty sure that it was earlier than that. I suspect I’ve just blocked out some very bad music – I mean, really bad late 80s stuff. Less said the better.

But I learned that that the music helped me transcend my surroundings and become more focused in the world that was evolving on the page. One particular example of this that comes to mind is when I was pursuing the concept of writing a modern day version of the Canterbury Tales, with titles such as the Junkie’s Tale, probably spurred on by some class assignment but expanding to a whole new life. I remember following my process at the time – filling up a small journal with the story, writing in long-hand by candlelight while listening to music (Siamese Dream, in this instance) and then later transcribing it to a friend’s computer and printing it out there. This proves to me that, in some way, transcription has always been a part of my writing process. Intriguing.

Of course, I was a teenager in the early ’90s so the music that I listened to as I wrote was mostly angsty, alternative rock.  I remember Nine Inch Nails being particularly effective because I was writing a lot of nihilistic stuff.  As I got older and refined my approach to use certain types of music for certain scenes and certain characters, I began to discover more atmospheric music.  One of my go-tos to this day is the score to the original Crow movie. It’s exceedingly atmospheric and I’ve searched far and wide to try to find music that sounds like it and I still haven’t quite succeeded.  Here’s a sample track:

As my musical taste continued to evolve into my 20s, so too did my approach to mixing the music and genres.  Some of my early explorations into other types of music and becoming more of a music connoisseur could be marked down to just this – trying to create an effect as I was writing.

I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of writers use music to set the mood for their stories; Nietzsche wrote a treatise on tragedy inspired by Wagner, for example. Some people consider the music the soundtrack to their work, but I don’t know that I would go that far. By the time I’m done doing my editing and rewrites a lot of what was captured in that scene may no longer be present, but it does offer the atmosphere that I’m seeking. For instance, with my character Matty from Corridors of the Dead, I built a pretty extensive playlist of punk music that she liked, so anytime I was focused on a totally Mattie-intensive scene I would put the playlist on and it helped me to get into her head and really hear her voice speaking to me.

That’s definitely not the first time, either. I know that if I haven’t been able to figure out or nail down a character’s musical taste then it’s going to be a lot harder for me to hear their voice.  For some reason, I feel like musical tastes lead to the way that people sound, right down to their cadence. That applies even to people who don’t really listen to music; there’s something to that attitude as well that can shape a character. In my fiancé’s fanfic community, they use and create elaborate soundtracks for the stories that they write.  It’s kind of an interesting idea, I guess. If you can pick a song or two that might sell someone on the mood of your book, I suppose I don’t see a problem with that as long as the artist is compensated.

The crux of this, however, is my own curiosity about other writers. Do you use mixes? If so, do you have character specific mixes?  Book specific mixes?  Or do you just have one long playlist that you listen to as you write?  Please, let me know in the comments, I’m very curious. If you’d also you’d like to recommend some bands or music that sound somewhat like I was describing up there, I’d appreciate it.