Starting fresh

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In contrast to the previous post, where you got to see all the paperwork and whatnot that I accumulated during the writing of the trilogy, the above is pretty much everything I have for my new project, Meet the Lidwells!   A print out of the very rough draft I wrote two years ago using 750 Words, and a pile of index cards that I’ll be using to outline the next draft.

That’s it.  Well, okay, there’s a few MS Word files of an incomplete outline and a rewrite I wasn’t happy with, and an mp3 playlist I’m slowly building, but other than that…that’s all I have.

I’ve got a nifty idea for a cover in my head (which I’m hoping I can pull off, as I’m not sure if I’m able to do it in Photoshop).  I already know what the format’s going to be.  And if all works out, this will be one of my fastest project turnarounds ever.

But yeah.  Starting fresh.

I’m looking forward to it.

(Not so) Great Starts

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The upside is that I’ve already gotten a good couple thousand words in on Meet the Lidwells!  Most of the text is coming straight from the very rough draft I wrote a few years back, of course, but it’s going in the right direction.

The downside is that I can already see where I’m going wrong.  Thankfully I know exactly what it is that’s wrong, and how to fix it.

I’ll be honest — the beginnings of my novels are always a mess.  I spend the first couple of chapters knowing what I want to write, but I haven’t quite grasped how I want it to play out.  The prose is all over the place as I try out all kinds of different styles on the fly.  I’ll plant the seeds of one or two minor plot points that may or may not survive the end result.  I may even get a few of the details mixed up.

But hey, that’s what revision and editing is for, right?  Once I do figure it all out (which is usually around two or three chapters in), then I have a solid platform for the rest of the novel, and I can clean everything up in those two or three sketchy first scenes.   A Division of Souls had at least three wildly different openings before I put all the pieces together and figured out which one works the best.  I had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to start The Balance of Light the way I wanted it.  Lidwells is no different; once I get into the groove, I’ll be able to build a more solid opening.

Do I wish I could write a perfect opening?  Nah.  Doing it the way I do is actually part of the fun!  It helps me connect with the story on an emotional level; once I’ve done that, then I can reshape the opening to fit that mood.  I don’t see it as wasting time and words; I see it as part of the whole exercise.  As long as I’m going in the right direction…that’s all that really matters.

Okay, now what?

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Hmmm….

I’ve got seven chapters left before I’m done with the final edit of The Balance of Light.  Once that’s done, it’ll be a week or two of formatting, processing, creating the cover, and releasing it out into the world.  It’s looking like that may end up being the first or second week of February at this point.

And then I’m done with the Bridgetown Trilogy.

Then what?

I mean, aside from my next project, Meet the Lidwells!, which I’ve been sneakily working on now and again during downtime.

Nearly everything I’ve ever worked on is more than five years old already; the Bridgetown story will officially turn twenty (!!) in March.  My trunked vampire novel, Love Like Blood, was brainstormed around 2003, written over the course of four years, and finally trunked by 2008.  Numerous other ideas, many of which I’ve also trunked or given up on, were created at our old apartment, which we moved out of in 2009.  I’ve been focusing so much on the trilogy that I’ve only got maybe two or three solid ideas I could work on — if that.

So what do I have planned, anyway?

Well, the biggest plan I have is to try to see how quickly I can turn a project around. I know I can do it — I’ve written and revised past works in a very limited amount of time.  I can definitely work to a deadline.

I also want to try writing something that’s not epic in length.  Lidwells is partly an attempt at that.  I’d like to write some standalone novels.  Not everyone loves a good doorstopper novel, so I’d like to appeal to the quick-reader fans as well.  This will not only teach me how to narrow my focus on the plot, it’ll also be a great exercise in concise writing.

I may even try a short story or two.  Technically I’ve written only one, and it’s pretty bad.  It was my ‘just to see if I could do it’ attempt during a very slow and broke-as-hell summer over twenty years ago.

But do I have any ideas rolling around right now?

That’s a good question.  Technically, no.  I only have the Lidwells project, maybe a reboot of Can’t Find My Way Home…and that’s it.  As I’ve said, this is why I’m making myself do the daily practice words.  I’ve already come up with snippets of scenes, snatches of bigger ideas, and random conversation that may be worth looking into later on.

It’s a bit daunting, to say the least.  Yeah, my subconscious occasionally pops in and reminds me that the only thing I can ever write in this lifetime is more Mendaihu Universe tomes, and if I don’t write them, I won’t have anything at all.  And that voice I usually ignore.  I’ve been in this Clean Slate situation before.  It’s completely natural to be nervous.

But hell, if Lidwells can pop up out of nowhere and take on a life of its own, I’m sure I can make that happen again.

Here’s to hoping.

Coming soon, Autumn 2017

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It’s a rock memoir.  It’s a music biography.  It’s fiction.  It’s a love story.  What the hell is it, anyway?

Meet the Lidwells! is the story of a family band from the 90s — four siblings and two cousins — rocking out at town and county fairs and wherever their parents could book them, until they hit the big time with the insanely catchy hit “Grapevine.”  They sign to a major label and become a huge success, selling out on tours, finding their faces plastered in teen magazines…only to burn out fast, lose their way, and go out in a blaze of glory less than a decade later.

And yet, somehow, they manage to keep their love of family (not to mention a ridiculous obsession with music) strong and unbreakable.

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Not the final cover, obviously, but you get the idea.

This was a story that came to me out of nowhere while I was working on my daily 750 Words back in early 2015.  Okay, maybe not out of nowhere.  One of my online friends had casually mentioned family bands at some point, and that led me to think of the Osmonds.  [I will freely admit that I loved that band when I was a little kid, well before my obsession with the Beatles.  Crazy Horses is still a great album.]  At the same time, I’d been reading a lot of music biographies, and was also working on my Walk in Silence project, when it occurred to me that writing a fictional music bio would be a hell of a lot of fun.

And it was!  I spent a good couple of weeks utilizing my daily words, coming up with fictional interviews, backstory, and even a discography.  Meet the Lidwells! will be my next project once the Bridgetown Trilogy is wrapped up, and I’m totally stoked about completing this one!

I hope you enjoy it!

Year in Review, Year to Come

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Two down, one to go.  What next?

It’s been quite a busy year here in Spare Oom.

Most of the time was spent focusing on releasing the first edition of The Persistence of Memories as well as cleaning up and releasing the next edition of A Division of Souls.  And once those were taken care of, I focused solely on the Big Galley Edit of The Balance of Light.  As of today I am about one third of the way through transcribing my manual edits to the digital document, which will then be formatted to both e-book and trade paperback.

[Side note: I’m worried that TBoL is still going to be quite a long book, so while it’s going to remain a single e-book, I may have to split it up into two trades just to keep the price and size down.  More on that when I get closer to finishing this portion of the project.]

The Persistence of Memories had an official drop date of 15 April of this year, about six months after the first book.  I haven’t nailed down a specific release date for The Balance of Light yet, but again, the closer we get to the end of this edit, quicker I’ll be able to do so.

All that said, I had to make do without a few other projects in the interim.  I put aside any actual work on future Mendaihu Universe books until this one was finished.  I also put aside any non-MU ideas that have been brewing; I haven’t trunked them, they’re just on hiatus.  In addition to that, I’d also put a temporary stop on my Daily 750 Words exercises.  I wanted to clear my desk and get rid of any extraneous assignments and deadlines so I could focus completely on finishing the Bridgetown Trilogy.

The unprecedented decision, however, was to stop writing poetry.  I’d come to the realization that it had stopped being something useful to me some time ago.  I’d used poetry as a personal experiment for a good few decades: a creative release for my personal dreams, irritations, ponderings, or whatever.  But it hadn’t been that for at least two or three years; it has become less of an outlet and more of a chore, and thus less enjoyable.  So I wrote one last long poem, closed that composition notebook, and filed it away.  I haven’t written one since.  Will I ever pick it up again?  Who knows.  Maybe, but I think I’d need to put some real thought and dedication into that form and do it right this time, instead of the way I used to write it.

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So.  What’s up for 2017, then?

Aside from releasing The Balance of Light sometime in the early months, who knows.  It’ll be the first time in decades where the Mendaihu Universe (and in particular, these three books) won’t be weighing down on me.  The slate will be fully clean.  For the first time in a LONG time, I’ll be able to fully focus on a completely new project.

I’ll be able to start in on one or more of those Possible Ideas I have on hiatus.  A few more stories in the Mendaihu Universe, for starters.  I don’t have any concrete plans at the moment, where New Projects are concerned, but once I’m ready, I’ll be planning like a fiend.

I would also like to return to the Daily 750 exercise again.  Over the past couple of years it has been a great Word Playground for me, and at least three possible future novel project ideas have come out of it.  And of course, I’d like to return to a stable blogging schedule.  Those things go out the window for everyone at the end of the year, so I’m not beating myself up too much over them not being timely.  Come next year, however, I’m going to make the best effort to stick to it.

I’d also like to practice more on my book cover artwork.  As I keep saying, doing the covers for my Trilogy was an unexpected joy for me, to the point that I could see myself doing cover art as a possible career step.

I do have some Big Plans regarding the business side of my writing career.  In the next year I’ll be making some very big, very important steps towards raising the bar.  [Yes, I know, that’s a business-speak phrase and I can’t stand that kind of talk, but it fits the situation.]  I don’t want to share them just yet, but I’ve been thinking about them and planning them in my head for at least a few years now.  I’d promised myself that 2017 would be the year they will become a reality.  I’ve started giving myself a soft schedule to work with, and will soon be spending some offline time making this business plan work.

And yes, as soon as I’m ready to release these Big Plans upon the world, I’ll let you know!

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All told, I think 2016 has been a stellar year for me, creatively.  One of the best I’ve ever had.  That’s not to say I wish I’d spent more time and dedication learning how to best sell my creative wares online and make money off it, but I’ve certainly reached goals that have been on my bucket list since I was at least ten years old.  I’ve rarely looked at my sales numbers, but I’m not taking them too seriously for the moment.  I scored a good number of downloads of both books during a month-long sale on Smashwords — a LOT more than I expected to get, to be honest — and while I earned no money, the fact that I did get that many hits meant quite a bit to me.  It meant that I was doing something right.  It meant I was closer to my goals as a professional author than I’d expected.  I now know where I stand, what direction I should head in, and what to expect when I get there.

Which means that 2017 will be the year I step up my game and start making money off of the Dream Job I’ve always wanted since I was a kid.

I’m looking forward to it.

I Write the Songs

I don’t think I’ve written more than a dozen or so songs since I moved out here to San Francisco in 2005.  Probably much less than that.  A few clips of melody, maybe a riff or two, but nothing concrete, not like my last songwriting wave in the early 00s when I was jamming with Bruce and Eric in jeb!.  The latest actual song milling about in my head is an instrumental I created using the sound of London’s District Line clacking down the tracks near Earls Court as percussion (which I recorded to my phone); I have not yet had time to lay it down as a demo, though I did get as far as making a very rough loop of the train as a trial run.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, it seems my next writing project involves songwriting.

What’s this, you say?  Has Jon gone off the deep end in a severely misguided attempt to write a multimedia book?  I mean, he’s a pretty decent writer and makes cool covers, but music?  What the hell is he thinking?

Well, I blame Wesley Stace for this.  Formerly known as John Wesley Harding for you 90s alternative rock people, he wrote a fun novel called Wonderkid about a quirky band that, against all odds, became a huge hit in the 90s, primarily due to having an extremely large preteen audience.  It’s a hell of a fun book and worth checking out.

Sometime later, I was chatting online with a friend about the Osmonds (I forget the context), when I came up with an idea of writing a music-based novel myself.  Thus the family band The Lidwells were born!

That said…

Now that I’m at the point of wanting to do some prep for the Lidwells project, I’m not just thinking about making character sheets and a working discography (yes, I’m going that deep), but may be writing a few of the songs mentioned in the text.  All told I’m hoping to write about a dozen or so songs during the course of writing this book.

Added to that, this story takes place in the 90s during the alt.rock boom, so I’m going to have to write music that sounds like it would have fit then.  Will I record them as demos and post them here?  Yeah, there’s a good chance of that happening.

This should be interesting…

Things and Stuff

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I seem to be in one of those moods again.  You know the ones: where suddenly feel the need to change everything up, try something new (or bring back something old after I’ve freshened it up a bit).  I think it’s because I’m on the back end of the Colossally Long and Really This Shouldn’t Have Taken This Damn Long project of releasing the Bridgetown trilogy.  I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks quite sunny out there.

Which reminds me — the layout of this blog is rather dark, isn’t it?  I mean, I like the look of it myself, but I feel the color scheme is starting to outgrow its usefulness.  Book 3 is starting to kick up dust on the horizon on its way towards release (still looks like it’s going to be either very late this year, or possibly early next year, by the way things are going), and it’s got a much brighter outlook.

I’m thinking that in the next few weeks, I may change up the site here, make it a bit more warm and inviting.  I’ve got the next few weekends wide open, so maybe some Sunday I’ll pop in and open up the shades!

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I read a lot of webcomics first thing in the morning while having my breakfast and booting up the Day Job laptop, and I’ve noticed a very weird trend.  In particular, it’s a trend dealing with the balance between the creator’s vision versus reader expectation.  I first noticed this during my weekly reading of the Naruto manga series as it was being uploaded to various comic sites, in which a certain subset of fans were getting increasingly upset that the creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was driving the plot where they didn’t want it to go.  A few fans ragequitting the series towards the end (which was nearing 700 chapters by that time!) in protest.  Others going on lengthy Tumblr diatribes as to why Kishimoto was flat-out WRONG for writing his story the way he did.*

Fast-forward to the other day, when two webcomic artists, Mildred Louis (Agents of the Realm, a wonderful take on the magical girl trope) and Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life, an incredibly inventive supernatural/horror story) both started tweeting about readers who have recently contacted them, either through DM, site comment or email, letting them know how much they like their work…except that if you fixed X, Y and Z, and did A, B and C instead, it would be so much better.**

Dude.  Really?

I could never quite understand why some fans would do that, especially to creators who are releasing their work on their own and not through any publisher or production company. Would you contact your favorite band’s lead singer on Twitter or Facebook to say you loved the new album but Track 6 sucks ass because it’s a bit too long and someone hit a bum note?

Why would you cross the line from appreciative fan to self-appointed Subject Matter Expert on someone else’s creation?  Why would you want to?  There’s obsession (like my discography completism, for instance) and then there’s obsession (NO NO! You can’t write *my* babies into a corner like that!!), and the second kind is really kind of creepy.

I’ve seen writers get this a lot too.  I’ve gotten it a few times.  Well-meant criticism, but really…it’s our creation, not yours.  We’re trying to tell you a story we think you’d enjoy.  You’re like Vern from Stand By Me, continually interrupting Gordie’s story about Lard-Ass Hogan and just pissing everyone else off.

Constructive criticism isn’t always about saying ‘you did X, Y and Z wrong; here’s how to do it better.’  It’s definitely not about saying ‘this wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be written, therefore it’s wrong.’  And despite your apparent knowledge about what makes a good story, you’re forgetting the most important part: you’re speaking from opinion, not experience.  Your criticism isn’t helpful; it’s coming across as pedantic and selfish.

If you’re a professional editor at one of the major publishing houses?  If you’re a pro artist who’s worked on your craft for years?  Sure, that’s different.  We all like hearing from the pros on what we can do to make our creation that much better.  But if you’re just a Fan With A Very Important Opinion, not so much.

I know, I know…touchy subject.  Just something I had to get off my chest.

* – Never mind that Naruto is, obviously, a Japanese story on numerous levels, and so the storytelling, as well as the character development, is going to be quite different from expected American storytelling norms.  This seemed to be the one major point that the most vocal of this subset would often forget or ignore in their arguments.

** – I’m well aware that this could be mansplaining.  Louis and Lepas didn’t explicitly state that’s what it was, so I’m not going down that route here, but it would not surprise me if that was part of it.  And yes, I have seen it thrown at both male and female creators.  Still, if it was mansplaining, that’s not cool either.  It’s not well-meant criticism.  You’re just being a douche.

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kermit typing

WHAT IS MY NEXT WRITING PROJECT?  I can year y’all asking me that through the intertubes (mainly because you’re about as sick as I am with me blathering on about the damn trilogy).  I’ve got it narrowed down to three projects:  another novel in the Mendaihu Universe, the time-travel idea I’ve had for some time, or the music-related novel I outlined a short time ago using my daily words.  Each of them has merit, and I’m pretty sure the latter two will have a much quicker turnaround than the first one, so it’s still up in the air.

I’ll be making a decision quite soon, so as soon as I’ve made the decision, I’ll let you know.  One of them may actually involve some reader participation of some kind, and I’m really looking forward to trying to get that to work.  We shall see!

Until then, hope everyone has a gook weekend!

I’m not sure what to write next.

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courtesy Portlandia

Yes, I’ve blogged about this before.  I have a bunch of ‘maybe’ projects simmering on the back burner, waiting to be picked up and worked on, or trunked and forgotten.  It’s not going to take center stage until I finish and release The Balance of Light, so it’s going to be a while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start with the pre-production.  I can certainly start playing around with outlines, character sheets, timelines and whatnot.  Just that the bulk of the project won’t begin until at least sometime this autumn.

But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of starting a new project.  As I’ve said before, it’s been so long since I’ve come up with a completely new idea that sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to do it.  [I don’t always think this, though…one of the ‘maybes’ came out of nowhere during my 750 Words exercises, so I know I can do it.]

I know I sometimes overthink this part of the process; it’s the most stereotypical of writer’s blocks: what should I write?  We focus too much on wanting/needing to start something.  It’s like when you need to start that term paper for English class, but you have no idea what to write about…and that’s when you start stressing, because you’re focusing too much on getting it done before deadline and not enough on the writing itself.

I try to keep my mind open when new ideas come to me; more to the point, I try not to rely mainly on chance and random inspiration, because that almost never works.  The trick is to sow some kind of seed of an idea and work with it for a bit, see if you can make something out of it.  I tend to be a pantser in terms of writing, so what I consider my best ideas usually come from something only distantly related to it: one of the ‘maybes’ I have on tap came to me out of someone else mentioning the Osmonds in passing on their blog.  Out of that came the idea of writing a fictional music biography.

I have an idea jar here in Spare Oom, a long narrow glass jar with a plastic stopper that I bought for a dollar-something at the kitchenware store up the street.  I haven’t used it in some time, but there’s a few years’ worth of scrap paper in there of passing ideas.  Thoughts that came to mind that I didn’t have time to follow up on.  Just images, scenes, or characters that popped into my head while I was doing something else.  I haven’t even looked at these notes for some time, so now I’m curious as to what’s listed.  I used a few of them for my daily practice words a year or so ago.  Perhaps it’s time to do that again.

I’m not sure what I’m going to write after the Bridgetown Trilogy is done, but at least I’m going to be somewhat prepared.