Year End Writing Wrap Up

After finishing writing much of Comet Jack 2
in 2013, I just yesterday finished the massive edit on it! So that's exciting. It's now ready for beta-readers, who will help me further tweak it. I also have a short Epilogue to write (which will include some appetizers for Comet Jack 3), a cover to do (I'm trying to tackle it myself this time around), and of course the post-beta-reader edit. After that, I will release CJ2 into the wild.

But that's all 2014. This is supposed to update you on 2013.

In 2013, I also wrote a rhyming kids book called You Can't Eat A Duck Like That. My incredibly talented nephew, illustrator Dave Kopka, agreed to illustrate it. So far it's been fun to collaborate. His job on the project is much, much larger than mine, so this one is "in development."

Also still "in development" is Pepperjane Gingersnap. Jill Thompson has been crazy busy in 2013. Check out the Scary Godmother Doll she successfully Kickstarted! Perhaps she'll have time in 2014 to work on Pepperjane. Her initial artwork for it is, of course, spectacular.

But back to me: I also read through several old novels I've written and found at least two I think are worthy of polishing and publishing. So there may be some news of that in the future. But I'm supposed to be looking in the rear-view mirror here, right?

At the beginning of 2013, I resolved to write every day. With the exception of a handful of days (no more than two handfuls), I actually accomplished this. Some days it was a mere sentence or two. Others were stream-of-consciousness rhythmic nonsense lyrics (some of which I quite liked). Sometimes I changed a word or two during my editing of Comet Jack 2 and called that my daily writing. Other days, though, I managed to get a solid hour, occasionally two. During the end of writing Comet Jack 2, I had a couple of marathon days. It's amazing to see your daily wordcount hit 4,000 or more when other days it's like pulling teeth to hit 400 (or 40).

In 2014, I want to do the same thing--write every day--but this time I want to schedule better. I want to actually block out two solid hours to write (or 1.5 hours or whatever I schedule) and then only write during that time, like it's a job. It is a job--it just doesn't pay much yet. In fact, it's more important than a job, or should be. Creating art is one of the most important things a human can do. (So now that I've said that, I better make my target "art". Hmm. That's a moving target by definition, always a little better, always a little out of reach. I've got work to do.)

But here I am writing about 2014 again. Guess it's not a bad thing to be looking forward, especially for a science fiction writer. I wish the same for you--eyes wide and open, looking ahead. Something amazing is just around the corner.

Happy New Year!

On Display

A little bird told me Comet Jack was prominently displayed at the local library so I rushed right over flapping my hands giddily like Homer Simpson. Low and behold, I found my baby sitting on its own easel, in the Young Adult loft, facing cover outward like like it had been picked best in show.

Even better, the copy shows signs of wear.
Which means readers. Which means I'm a very happy writer.

Soon I'll provide this worn copy with a brand new friend. I hope to have the (first) sequel out by the end of the year.

While I was at the library, I also snuck a peek at their computerized catalog, pulling up my book. (That's a rush too. Seeing your name and your book on a library card catalog makes you feel like a Real Writer. I know, I know: what an amateur.) The Comet Jack entry had a new description, written by someone other than me. It's pretty good, so I may have to borrow it. Anyway, here's the description:

"Jack is just an ordinary fifth-grader trying to adjust to life in a new school and deal with the schoolyard bullies who torment him. Then one day he accidentally falls out a window and suddenly finds himself whisked off to another planet, where he has been sent on a mission by the mysterious Comet Corps."

Okay, back to work. Comet Jack 2 isn't going to edit itself.

Comet Jack 2 draft is complete!

I finished writing the first draft of Comet Jack 2 this week. What a great feeling to type END on something you've been working on for... a while.

There was a point where I was struggling to write four or five hundred words a day, sometimes not even that. It was a real grind. Sometime last weekend I turned a corner though. The words just started flowing, racing toward the finish. On Monday, believe it or not, I cranked out 5,400 words. (These will likely need some edits...)

The draft checks in at over 97,000 words, which makes it almost 45% bigger than the first Comet Jack. It will likely slim down a bit in edits, but it will definitely be a longer book than the first. Even so, it feels leaner. There's a lot going on, both on Earth and on a different world. I don't want to say too much, but let me just say that Earth troubles are getting more complicated in at least two very important ways: first, things are traveling this way through the window, to Earth; and second, there's this girl...

Part of the reason it took so long to write was that I realized I needed to plan out the third book in the trilogy at the same time. While CJ2 is a complete story on its own, there are important reveals that set up the third book in the set.

Will there be other books beyond the initial trilogy? I'm sure, but I do see the first three as a set. Like the first three Star Wars movies. Will this will be my Empire Strikes Back (which is the best of the original movies)? I better get editing and find out.

Comet Jack 2 is coming! Stay tuned.

Putting Time in Perspective

Want to have your mind blown? Take several minutes and check out the graphs here:

Putting Time in Perspective

Each one shows a period of time, then "zooms out" to look at another period. It goes from one day all the way up to the birth and death of the universe (as it's commonly understood now).

All those very important events, inventions, ideas are just the most recent moments in our very long history. So, you know, you might want to allow for the possibility you might be wrong about something. It wasn't that long ago our ancestors thought they knew what was going on--even though they couldn't speak or make fire. (And not too far before that their ancestors were first poisoning the atmosphere with oxygen through photosynthesis).



I've just completed an online course in Songwriting. It was fantastic. Like all good classes, the material expands to apply to much more than just songs. The instructor spotlighted lots of concepts that translate well to fiction writing--ratcheting up the drama through instability, rhythm of language, the three act structure (as three verses in this case), and much more. The instructor was Pat Pattison from Berklee College of Music and he started off--BOOM--with Aristotle! How can classic Greek ideas on art not be helpful to those struggling to create it in the Twenty-First Century?

Aristotle - Art Analyst
The idea Mr. Pattison hit us with, and which hung around the course start to finish, was that of unity. Everything must work together to serve the purpose of the work. In songwriting, lyrics, point of view, rhyme scheme, verse-chorus structure, melody, chords--everything must work together toward common purpose. In writing, you could make a similar list--characters, plot, theme. In fact, all three of those belong in songwriting too. There are many areas of overlap.

One of the coolest things Pat Pattison talked about was the idea that all art--including fiction writing and songwriting--employs techniques of creating tension and resolution. In songs, you expect something to rhyme, or a melodic phrase to resolve, and when it doesn't it creates a certain amount of drama. Stretch that out to the perfect length, where the tension is ratcheted up to the point of breaking, and then offer your resolution as relief... that is the ultimate goal of a scene or a song or a book. There are a million ways to do it (and a million ways to screw it up) and taking the songwriting course, I hope, has opened my eyes to a few new tools to use in my own work. It certainly has me listening to some familiar songs in a brand new way.

Anyway, I highly recommend expanding your horizons with a FREE online course. I've done three from (sadly only completing two--my first was a bold attempt to jump into statistics and R programming without the proper prerequisites). It's like going to college for free. Also, you don't need to be college age to do it. You can be older or younger. The course description will tell you what prerequisites you need, but mostly you just need a computer, an internet connection, and a desire to learn.

All Coursera courses are free, including the ones taught by Berklee instructors. Berklee has its own online school, though the courses there cost money. If you google MOOC, you'll find other free courses from top universities. I love living in the future.

Heavy Stuff

2012 was a crazy year. Crazy is the wrong word. Wild is the wrong word. Lots of momentous change. Since almost none of it was about writing (beyond the fact that everything has a way of showing up in the writing), I won't create a list here. The world continues to turn and let's just leave it at that.

Comet Jack #2 is chugging along steadily. More than that, as the story emerges so does the story of the full trilogy. (There may be books beyond #3, but these first three will definitely be a set.) My challenge as I'm writing is to make sure #2 is a complete story on its own, even while setting the stage for an even bigger payoff with #3. I'm really digging the big picture, and with luck I'll pull this all off.

I'm juggling a lot of things here, but it feels more right to keep many balls in the air rather than dumb it down with an easier story: Jack's getting older, facing new challenges for which there are no easy answers, and the plot and themes are getting more complex too. Here are just a few things that are sneaking into the story: slavery and freedom and grayer variations thereof, the control of information and how that relates to the control of people, when you should keep a secret (if ever), what to do when you don't know what the right thing to do is, when (if ever) is it okay to decide what is right for someone else. Heavy stuff.

There's also dating. And any 12-year-old (or 13-year-old or 14-year-old or 11-year-old or 20-year-old) can tell you, that is heavy stuff too.

Stay tuned.