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These are the straight up, blog type posts. Little of this, little of that

We have liftoff!

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I’ve been remiss in sitting down to write here, mostly because of a couple of long, stressful weeks.

We had our launch for Chasing Cold on the 14th, and it was a great party. One of those one of a kind moments. Seeing the stack of books on the table was so incredible. Knowing that I made that, that those words were all mine, and that those people were there for me.

There were some lovely surprises. My friend, Kim, who lives in Saskatoon, flew out without telling me. My friend, Jason, who I haven’t seen in almost fifteen years, who I’ve been conversing with since reconnecting online a year or so ago, showed up with no warning. He’d even messaged me during the day wishing me well and gave no hints at all.

My sisters came out and I took the preceding week off, so I could make sure things were ready and we could spend some time together.

It was amazing to see so many of my friends and family together and mingling. And to see them with my book in their hands.

So, to bring it up to speed, the hardcover edition is up on Amazon, Indigo and most of the major book sites around the world. The paperback is delayed, but we’re sorting it out. The Kindle version is out too, and Kobo and Nook aren’t far behind.

I even had my first customer review on Amazon and it was great. The reader gave me five stars and loved the story, And for all the right reasons, the things I’m most proud of and happy with about how the book turned out. So, that was a wonderful boost that came at just the right time.

Because, the one thing they never tell you, is that often you get something you’ve always dreamed of, and then, like all other moments, it passes. And the real world is waiting for you. Which isn’t a bad thing. Not in my case anyway, as I have a good life and the novel is icing on a very tasty cake.

That first week back at work was a chore, though, let me tell you.

I’ve posted a gallery of photos from the launch, so if you’re interested, go to the top of the page, just under the header and you’ll see a tab for photos. Hover on it and there’s the link for the gallery. They are beautiful, if I do say so myself. They were taken by my dear friend, Geoff Cook and he did an amazing job of capturing the event.

Chasing Cold got its first review…. yay??

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Well, I checked for the review in Publisher’s Weekly today and it had gone up.

It’s not exactly awful… just kind of… Meh.

And I was tired and off my game from the time change and the stress of waiting and a dozen other little life things, so, initially, it hit me hard. But I collected some thoughts from friends and Facebook folks and let it mull for the rest of the day. Some thoughts came to mind.

  • Awkward pacing. What does that mean, exactly? Too fast, too slow, too both? It’s just sort of a vague comment that I can put into the mental filing cabinet, I guess. Note to self: make sure pacing in future is not awkward. Whatever that means. Flippancy aside, I thought I had paced well, so either my perception is way off or the reviewer’s is. Or it could be taste. As I move forward I may be able to take something from this.
  • Reviewer seemed to think it felt dated, kind of like old school pulp fiction. My publisher referred to it as Golden Age. Okay. this I can form an opinion on. I grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein and Anne McCaffrey. That’s my era, and I fully cop to showing my age. In reflection, I think on some level, I was trying to write a more overtly gay version of that kind of book. A space opera feel without the pulse-pounding plot. I get that it may not be everyone’s taste. Sort of feels like saying “I didn’t like Jaws because it had too many sharks in it.”
  • The comment about older readers. Srsly?  OLDER READERS UNITE!
In the end, I wrote the book I wrote and told the story I wanted to tell. Some will dig it, some won’t. And this is the first review. There will be more and some will be good, some will be scathing and still more will be meh again. Nothing to do but take it, absorb it, run with it and move on. 

The Inherently Hopeless Premise

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I wrote a cranky Facebook status last week about Once Upon a Time. Even though I enjoyed it at first, before it began to go off the rails, it started off with what I like to call the Inherently Hopeless Premise.

You know it. What it means is that the show revolves around solving some mystery or a group of characters trying to make a specific thing happen. But the problem is, if you base your story on that, on the resolution of one specific problem, then you’ve set it up so that you can’t resolve the basic issue without ending the show.

Take Once Upon a Time. The premise is that all the characters from our favoutire fairy tales live in a small town with no memory of who they really are. The evil Queen cursed them all and they are doomed to live with no knowledge of their true nature. The heroine is an outsider who is actually the child of Snow White and Prince Charming who was sent to our world to save her. So, the premise is to defeat the Queen and reverse the curse, freeing everyone. Do you see the problem here? If you break the curse, no show. So, you’re left with a bunch of characters trying to achieve something they can never achieve. Which I find incredibly frustrating. And the show is doing exactly what I was afraid of, leaving the spunky and fantastic heroine never really achieving anything.

There have been many examples of the IHP.  Battlestar Galactica in both the original and rebooted versions. Though the reboot made good on its promise and resolved the IHP in the end. One of the main reasons I never watched Lost was that when I heard about it, it struck me as an IHP. Bunch of people crash on an island, are trying to get home. If they do get home, show’s over. And since most shows are intended to last up to seven years or more, that’s seven years of dangling that carrot in front of the audience’s nose. I wasn’t buying it. Now, I’m told they did transcend their premise and venture into other territory, but I couldn’t make it past that initial reaction.

Think of some of the shows you’ve loved. Examples of things I have loved that didn’t start from an IHP are things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Good Wife or the Star Trek series. Buffy’s mission was an ongoing one. There was a seasonal Big Bad, but you knew that though the BB would terrorize her world for a season, she would kick ass and the season would end with the premise resolved. The Good Wife has become one of my favourite shows. Even though it was fairly high concept (who is the woman standing beside the political figure mired in scandal) it was never an IHP. It’s a premise that mines character and situation and builds compelling stories from there.

Even something classic like Bewitched. Samantha’s a witch, Darrin knows and she wants to live her life with him in  his world. There’s no prescribed endpoint that the story says the character has to get to and therefore, the stories can go anywhere and there can be gains and losses and forward movement.

I got too tired of the Queen on Once Upon a Time always coming out on top, because if she ever lost, the whole premise of the show collapses. Not that it’s impossible to deal with. There are all kinds of interesting stories you could tell if you broke the curse. What do these characters do when they know who they are?  But the producers have to be willing to chuck the premise and have a plan that goes beyond it.

It’s a fine line when writing. With a novel, it has the benefit of being finite. The premise needs to be resolved in the book itself, or in the three books of a trilogy or however many volumes the opus contains.

You have an endpoint and you write to it. But with a series, it has to go on and if you base it on that one specific problem with the one specific resolution, you better have an amazing way to get me to that endpoint without frustration.

Final edits on the proof done (backwards)

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Finished reviewing the proof on Saturday night. And let me tell you, if there was any chance of my falling prey to hubris, reviewing that proof killed it.

When I need to do a really hard edit, really see the flaws, I edit backwards. Someone taught me the trick a long time ago and I find it invaluable. I start with the last page, read it and look for typos, extra words, missing words, repeated words, or any other artifacts of revision that may have slipped by. It’s one of those tricks of the mind. When you read it in the right direction, it’s too easy to get caught up in the flow of the story, how it’s unfolding. When you remove yourself from the plot, you see only the construction of the sentences, the actual physical way the words fit together and you see that page in isolation. It makes it so much easier to spot the errors.

And there were a fair number. Well, I left around 72 notes in the pdf, which isn’t really that many in a book that’s almost 300 pages. But some of them would have been really embarrassing if they had slipped through. There were some formatting errors too. But, knock wood, the worst have been fixed.

I worked through most of Friday evening and a good chunk of Saturday and sent it back to my publisher.

The uncorrected version was sent off to Publisher’s Weekly for review, but it’s industry standard for the press to get uncorrected proofs, so I’m not worried about that. The reviewer will get a good enough picture of the story to complete the review (here’s hoping he or she likes it. Cross those fingers, damn it!)

Then, last night, I received another email from my publisher that the first mention of it had shown up on Publisher’s Weekly”

 “Chasing Cold by Stephen Graham King (Mar., trade paper, $16, ISBN
978-0-9839531-7-3 “King’s far-future debut explores a man’s reasons for leaving his home and what he finds when he ventures into the unknown.”

And last, but definitely not least, the venue confirmed for the launch party. If you’re in T.O and I haven’t reached you through Facebook, hit me with an email and I’ll get you the details.

Proof

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So, the pdf proof of Chasing Cold arrived in my email today. It’s the interior of the book, formatted the way it will actually appear between the covers.

I called it galleys on Facebook. Mostly because I love the word, even though it’s obsolete now that no one typesets any more. It has a romantic tinge to it, something classic. I picture someone opening a box or envelope and pulling out pages to read, like in Auntie Mame. It’s one of those silly little author fantasies, the things you can’t wait to have happen when it’s finally your turn. Your words are one step closer to being a book.

Because, one thing they never really tell you, a manuscript doesn’t look like a book. It’s larger and double spaced and is just a stack of pieces of paper. It’s more like a really, really long high school essay or something like that. It doesn’t feel like a book at all.

But, when you see it in the right page size, with all the words neatly close together and with the proper indentations and all the italics where they’re supposed to be and the title page and your name on the top of the pages on one side and the title on the top of the pages on the other side, you see it grow. You see it become.

That was what I did today. I saw it become. Not all the way, but that much closer.

And I found two typos so far and an indentation error. But that’s what proofs are for.

Soon my baby will be out there in the world, in her shiny new jacket. All on her own, facing the lovers and the bullies.

I wonder what people will think. Will they get the story? Will they see something of themselves in it? Will it become someone’s treasure?

Someone else’s treasure, I guess.

One step closer to knowing.

Waiting

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I’m not good at waiting. I never have been.

Publisher is launching Chasing Cold at the beginning of April. We’re in the home stretch. Received and reviewed the edits. He’s working on the pdf galleys. I’m working at securing the venue I want for the launch party. Once we have the pdf or ARCs, we’ll query the two authors we’re seeking cover quotes from. We have some press and reviews lined up and ready to go once we have copies.

I’m on the precipice. There’s this huge change coming, this wave of new and different things. And all I can do is wait.

Things take time. Any worth having is worth waiting for.

Yadda yadda yadda.

Suddenly, on the inside, I’m Veruca Salt racing around the Oompa Loompas in the room with the geese that lay the golden eggs, bellowing “I want it now!” *note to self: stay away from the scale for the time being*

I keep checking my email. It’s one of those times when having a Gmail app on my phone is not good for my low level OCD tendencies.

Breathe.

Not really working on Blind Luck either. Wrote about 50 words tonight which is just kind of embarrassing. I know what I need to do: fix the spot where I ended up writing a half chapter that is totally the opposite of my original conception of that section. I need to amp up the drama and kick the chapter into high gear. I see the scenes and the visuals. The words, they no come.

Oh, well. Shove it all into the back closet and let the subconscious pick at it a while.

And wait.

If I cannot bring you comfort, then at least, I bring you hope

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The old year has passed and a new one has taken its place. It is the last day of the holiday season, and I am enjoying some quiet before going back to work and before the exciting changes of 2012 come into play.

This is the  year that one of my dreams comes true. My novel will be published. I will have a book out from a real press, though a small one. A press with a good and growing reputation. It will actually be sold in stores in the U.S. and in e-book version too.

It’s a strange feeling. Excitement and pride and yes, some trepidation too. Once you release your work into the world, beyond the circle of people who love you, it is fair game for anyone. They can comment or cut apart as they see fit. Some of those will be reviews that can help or hurt you. Your baby is out there in the world alone, to find its way alone.

But, it can also find it’s way into the hands of people who may love it, who may see its worth and love it as you did. When there are copies on the bookshelves of strangers, then the work is…I don’t know, safer, somehow. As it stands now, it is files on my computer and those of the few I have trusted with it, albeit in different versions. But if there are copies out in the wild, as it were, then it becomes more permanent, more a part of the fabric of the world. It becomes more real. A real mark has been left on the skin of reality.

Which is exciting in a way I can’t really find words for.

2012 will be a year of exciting change and yet, continuing stability, I hope. This past year has been the first in a decade not marked by illness or surgery or pain or deterioration. I have been pain free (beyond the vagaries of aging and the day to day aches and pains) and my leg is strong and stable and works well again. My work life has been stable and even bordering on fulfilling in new ways. I am surrounded by friends and family who love me.

And that, in a strange way, made this past holiday season harder to bear. The disease that claimed my mother’s life began at this time of year and Christmas has never been the same since. There have been new discoveries and new joys, but they have only filled a void which sprang up due to her loss. And that’s okay. Sometimes, it has even been good.

But, without the spectre of cancer or the ongoing challenges that came in its wake, there was much silence to be filled. And at times, it was filled by grief. Like, everything, though, grief passes and the tears it brings wash away the dust and the debris left in its wake. The spiritual house is cleaned and room is made for new light and new beginnings.

And a new year, along with all its new joys.

Progress report

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Had my writing group and managed to get a nice little chunk of writing done. About 1500 words on Blind Luck, the novel I’m working on. Bringing me well over 15,000. This next chunk is the end of Act One, the introduction to the world and characters and the incident that sets the rest of the plot into motion. Had a couple of brainstorms just as I was heading to bed last night. Always the way, it seems. When I need to be turning my brain off is when the flashes of insight and creativity come to me. But I’ve managed to get better at really storing them so I can act on them. And these were a couple of good ones that solved a couple of problems. Opened the doors to the rest of the act.

Now, I just need to work out the details of the plot I have outlined.

When is a book not a book?

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No, it’s not a riddle.

I admit to being a recent convert to ebooks. Before I went on a trip in the summer, I bought a Kobo and loaded it up. Catching up in reading was part of the vacation plan and I can read a lot when I have a good chunk of time to devote to it.  It made a lot more sense to carry a small electronic device than a suitcase full of books.

While I was home, I was able to meet up with an old friend from my university days, who is now an academic and professor and we got into a discussion about books and my recent conversion. Her sister used to run a very hip and eclectic bookstore. While we were talking, I managed to articulate my position for the first time.

I love books. I love them as physical manifestations of ideas. I love the feel of them in my hands and the look of them on my shelf, knowing I can pick up one of my favourites and read it any time.

But a book, to me, is more than pages or paper or leather binding. As much as I love books, I love stories more. To me, a book is a vehicle for a story. What matters to me most are the words, the characters; where the writer takes me. The narrative means more to me than the fact that is printed on paper and bound in a leather cover.

I believe the ideas are what matter, not the form.

There are good stories in books, on audio, in ebooks, on TV and in theatres.

I respect anyone who loves books, and yes, I admit to being vaguely distrustful of anyone who doesn’t read. I was raised with books and can’t understand how anyone couldn’t love them.

But, again, it’s the stories and ideas that mean the most to me, not the format. If you presented me with an amazing story on a papyrus scroll, I’d be down with that.

I love my Kobo and the convenience that it brings me. I love that I can stick it in my bag and read on my lunch at work or on the streetcar to and from. I like that it’s a light, convenient way for me to carry around ideas and stories. I especially like that when I am close to the end of one book, I don’t have to carry a second one to start when I’m done.

And, as a writer, in pure, unadulterated self interest, I’m glad that there are more ways that I can get my stories out there to be read.

 

Exciting things are happening!

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Publisher emailed me tonight. He’s entered the information on Chasing Cold into the Publisher’s Weekly database of books being published between February and June. I should have edits soon and we’re already batting around ideas for the marketing and for who we can approach to write reviews. Once the edits are done, I should get an ARC. Of MY book

Pretty darned exciting.

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