The continuing chronicle of Wesley's quest to be published; plus comments on popular culture, family life, and whatever else falls out of his head.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Nothing new to report...

Got a couple more rejections in the mail yesterday. Nothing personal, nothing signed. Oh well.

The two agents who have the manuscript are still reviewing it. At this point I would be very surprised if I heard back from either one before we leave on Friday.

We're mostly packed up now and preparing ourselves mentally for the trip. I've been thinking about the trip a lot lately, trying to figure out how I want to deal with the Internet situation. There's part of me who wants to log on regularly every night to upload new photos and journal about the event. Then, the other part of me is screaming to stay away from any and all computers for the duration. I spend way too much time--that would be better spent writing--online cruising the message boards.

I can't remember which agent's blog, either Kristin Nelson or Miss Snark, said this, but one of them mentioned that you probably can't live off your writing until you have at least five books in print and earning royalties at the same time.

I keep telling myself that I will do a lot of journaling in New Zealand and promise myself that I will start writing 1,000 words a day as soon as we return. In the meantime, I do have a couple different ideas percolating. Carrie's been thinking about starting her YA series about her days in boarding school, and that's gotten me thinking about my unstarted YA novel about my own glory days in the drama club. I'm toying with the idea of setting it in the same small town as Carrie's story.

It really coalesced last week when a title finally popped into my head. "Exit, Stage Left." If this were to be a continuing series, I could name each book after a different stage direction. That's when I personally get hooked on a story, and I know that eventually I'll get it down on paper. For me, when I come up with a title, it somehow makes it real to me. Suddenly this unnamed project has an identity and character all its own.

I've rambled. The other idea is what would happen if a guy in the witness protection program for years and years had a son who became a stand-out star in college football. At first I envisioned it as a serious thriller, but then Carrie suggested the mob wouldn't fare well against the OSU Booster mafia, and all of a sudden I've got visions of Carl Hiaasen's books dancing in my heads. Thrillers--for that is what Hiaasen writes-- with a comedic touch are some of my favorite books.

Regardless, now I've got those two story ideas percolating plus the second Springer book vying for attention in my head. I've got to start putting some ideas down on paper soon, but I just don't know if I'll have time before we leave on Friday. I've packed three or four books for the flights down and back, but I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a LOT of freewriting on the plane.

I doubt I'll have anything new to report before we leave, so either I'll post again in a couple of days, or my next post won't be until I return. Regardless, I'm sure I'll have a lot to talk about by then.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

REVIEW: Serenity

Note to Self: Don't buy any more pay-per-view movies until they start airing them in HD Widescreen.

Finally saw Serenity the other day. Never got around to it at the theatres (see also, Rent), so after the wife went to bed, I ordered it off of pay-per-view.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that I loathe with an unbridled passion movies cropped for the full screen (Note to Self: Don't buy any more pay-per-view movies until they start airing them in HD Widescreen), I was really disappointed in Serenity. Maybe that's because I got my hopes up, but I literally dosed off somewhere in the middle. That's how bored I was.

My main problem with Serenity was the same one I had with the first few Harry Potter movie adaptions: It assumes the audience was familiar with the story from the TV series (or, in Harry Potter's case, the original books). To fully enjoy Serenity, you have to have watched and enjoyed Firefly.

I enjoyed the few episodes of "Firefly" that I saw, but I got the feeling that this storyline would have been better suited to that format.

REVIEW: Writer's Book of Matches

I saw this book a couple of months ago, but I haven't had the chance to pick it up until yesterday.

In a nutshell (pardon the pun--the book was written by the editors of the startup literary journal, "Fresh Boiled Peanuts"), The Writer's Book of Matches is just a collection of writer's prompts: simple one- or two-sentence ideas meant to prime the creative pump of the writer. Over a thousand, actually. According to the introduction, there are enough prompts to do one a day every day for over three years.

I could make excuses about why I don't write every day. I could talk about how remodeling the house is a full-time job unto itself, or that I've been spending a lot of time recently nailing things down for our trip in a couple of weeks. But the fact of the matter is that I have difficulty putting my butt in the chair and words on the page. Hopefully the prompts in this book will help me deal with that. In fact, I've considered starting another blog for the prompts: one a day, with exactly 1,000 words. No more, no less; just to see what I could do.

And it references the administrator of Absolute Write, my new favorite writer's place on the web, Jenna Glatzer. I'll have to toddle over there and see what AWers think of the book.

Another One for the Pile...

I got another rejection in the mail yesterday. A polite form rejection with a handwritten signature. It's a different feeling now that I have two agencies looking at the full manuscript. Doesn't affect me as much.

On the other hand, if I don't hear back from either agency before I leave for New Zealand at the beginning of next month, I may have to hurt someone.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Uh... help?

Little update on that last post:

One of the "other two" agents I mentioned in the previous post? I e-mailed him about the first agency wanting the manuscript, and now he wants it, too.


Carrie said the only thing to do is let Blankety Blank Agency know that this other agency also has it and hope for the best.

Yay me...

Got this in the ol' e-mail today:
Dear Wesley;
I read your query with interest and would like to review your work. Please send a synopsis and complete manuscript to the address listed below.
Thank you for submitting to the Blankety Blank Agency
A request from an agent to look at the entire manuscript of Unlicensed Magic.

I guess I should be more excited about it than I am. I am excited, but when it comes to stuff like this, I tend to get overly cautious about the next step because the only other option is total and complete panic. And that wouldn't be great for business either. So the next steps are as follows:
  1. Put together the submission package for Blankety Blank.
  2. Notify the two agencies that requested partials that there is a third party who is reviewing the entire thing.

Ironically, I'll first have to remind the two other agencies who I am. One has had a partial since last August, and the other has had it literally since November 2004. Which got me to thinking: How devious would it be to bypass the query stage and submit your partial or full manuscript as a follow-up? "As you requested, here are the first 5 chapters of 'Reagan Goes Commando.' Please let me know what you think, and I hope to hear from you soon." Or, "At your request, I sent you the full manuscript of 'Brokeback Leather Chair' four months ago. Please let me know the status of the manuscript." One one hand, you would think that literary agents would keep better records than that.

On the other hand, Kristin Nelson, over at her blog, just said she went through 150 queries while watching the Olympics Friday night, with 700 electronic queries waiting in her e-mail.

If I didn't risk having every literary agent in the US ticked at me, I might even try it.

...someone asked for a full manuscript...

yay me!


As I get older, I continue to notice my reading tastes changing. When I was a teenager, I was all about the fantasy and super-heroes. I'm still into that, but now I think I actually enjoy the mysteries, crime novels and thrillers more.

But, more importantly, I've recently come to an epiphany: regardless of which genre, the time I spend the first time I crack open a book really defines how much I'm going to enjoy it, or even if I'm going to finish it. With ever more limited amounts of time to devote to pleasure reading, I find myself putting down more and more books without finishing them. But if I am able to dedicate two hours or more, I am much more easily able to be drawn in by the characters and the plot, the style and pace, and thusly much more likely to enjoy and finish the book.

This bears further investigation. I'm going to try and see if I can dedicate two hours--not at bedtime--to read the next several books I try, and see if it makes any difference.

REVIEW: "Already Dead," Charlie Huston

I'm something of a slow reader. It's not often that I can read a full novel in a day. I generally have neither the time nor the inclination. I'm a notorious bibliophile--meaning I buy (or, since my marriage, borrow from the library) books I never get around to reading. But a couple of days ago, I was sick enough to stay home and recuperated enough to want to stay awake. So I pulled one of the five borrowed novels I have laying on my desk, crawled back upstairs to bed and settled in.

Vampyre clans have sliced up control of the island of Manhattan into territories and have settled into an uneasy detente. The wealthy corporate types of business sector, the militants and hippies in the village, the new-agers on the west side, etc. Joe Pitt is a rogue: not belonging to any clan but affiliated with several and desired by many. He's not a detective by trade, but a "fixit guy," much like Repairman Jack in F. Paul Wilson's series. He "takes care of things" for people. Often he's "taking care of business" for one clan in another clan's territory. He's doing this very thing, tracking zombies in Alphabet City, when he gets called in by one of the clans and asked to perform a favor he cannot refuse. A non-Vampyre teenage girl has run away from home, and Joe has to track her down. In his investigation, he discovers that this girl and her family have much closer ties to both the Vampyres and the zombies than he imagined.

Huston has created an interesting world in which vampires and zombies "live," stripping away some of the basic mythology and replacing it with pseudo-science that at least sounds like it makes sense on the first reading. His style is suitably noirish while also appealing to the literary crowd. His prose is tight, taut and... decently paced. While the plot moved along pretty briskly, there were moments where the suspense stopped and he had to explain how things worked in his world. And the denoument of the story was sixty pages, which is easily fifty-five more than is ever needed in a thriller, and seemed to exist only to page Huston's thin page count.

The book was entertaining enough, as pulpish as it was. But there wasn't anything particularly new or original. Elements of this book that may be cutting edge in mystery or crime writing are standard in fantasy, even cliche. There's even a name for the sub-genre: urban fantasy. Huston isn't doing anything that Simon Green, Laurel K. Hamilton or Jim Butcher haven't already done to great success. They just get shelved on the other side of the store.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why is Figure Skating an Olympic Sport?

Don't mean to get off on a rant here, but I just don't understand what the big deal is about figure skating as an olympic sport. Don't get me wrong, because I don't think that skaters aren't atheletes, and what they do obviously takes a great deal of training, talent and skill. I just don't believe that any competition that requires a grown man to dress in a backless bodysuit and is soundracked by Ace of Base should be considered a sport. They're not being judged on their costumes, are they? They're not being judged on the music, are they? They're being judged on the accuracy of the moves that they are being required to do. Can they do the triple lutz or can't they? And how fast and in what succession?

Never mind the fact that any "sport" that needs judges to value your performance is a crock to begin with. If it can't be quantative--how far, how fast, how powerful--it shouldn't count. Things like figure skating, half-pipe, diving, etc., should move to the side and make way for real sports.

Like that thing with the brooms.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Rejection, but Still...

Got another rejection for my manuscript today. This one from Rachel Vater at Lowenstein-Yost Associates, Inc.

Ms. Vater was one of the agents that I thought I might have a shot with this time around. So, on one hand, it sucks. On the other hand, she did scribble down a note a the top of the form rejection:

Intriguing ideas here, but not quite right for me. Best of luck w/it.

No, it isn't much, but it's more than I've gotten from any other rejection so far.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I work downtown. Sometimes, at 10 AM, the church across the street begins tolling their bell for 15 minutes.

When I first started hearing them, I didn't know what they were for, but I soon learned that the church tolls its bell for the passing of the dead of important people (like Ronald Reagan), disasters (9/11--that was especially poignant because all the downtown churches tolled one time for every person dead or unrecovered from the attack... the tolling lasted all day), and executed convicts.

Today it was for a man convicted for raping and killing two women 20 years ago in Akron. It takes me about five minutes before I even noticed the tolling anymore.

Man Who Raped, Killed 2 Women To Be Executed

Monday, February 06, 2006

Darn Good Barbeque

If you ever find yourself in central Ohio, do yourself a favor and check out City Barbeque, the best chicken in town.

Superbowl XL: The "X" is for "X-tra Mediocre!"

I just glanced at my post from last year's Superbowl, and I would have to say that this year's was even less exciting. And that's too bad, because so many of the playoff games were great this year.

Both of the teams got to the Big Game through their defense, and I was expecting Pittsburgh to do pretty much what they did: Get ahead by a touchdown and then sit on the clock. What I was not expecting was the Seahawks playing as poorly as they did. Even with the poor officiating, the Seahawks SHOULD have won that game. That they didn't, especially after the awful play by the Steelers in the first half, just shows you that any team can win on any given Sunday.

The commercials were just as forgettable. As the hype over the commercials has surpassed the hype of the game itself, the quality in the ads seems to have dropped. The only ones that stood out at all were the Budweiser/Bud Light commercials. Nobody else even tried. I mean, Pepsi... P. Diddy? Seriously?

Opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics are just a few days away. Hopefully that will be interesting.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

REVIEW: Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe

We haven't heard from James M. Ward in quite a while. He was responsible for several successful Dungeons & Dragons tie-in novels based on computer games, and he's done a few other things, but to the best of my knowledge, this is his first non-licensed fantasy novel.

Set in an environment remarkably like the Horatio Horblower series with the addition of magic, Halcyon Blithe is a young man on his first tour of duty with the Arcanian navy. He meets characters that are right out of the catalog, and there really is not plot as much as a series of short adventures culminating in a novella at the end. It really isn't a well-constructed book.

And yet I enjoyed it. Ward's style is light and reads easily. There isn't much to think about, because this is a textbook light fantasy. I think the main failing in the book isn't in the writing but in the marketing. If this were marketed for Young Adults instead of older fantasy fans who like their fantasies epic and abounding with purple prose, it would be making a much bigger impact on the market than it has so far.

Even so, Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe is a fun little fantasy adventure, and I look forward to reading more if this book is followed up.

Friday, February 03, 2006

On Form Rejections

Over at the inimitable Miss Snark's blog, I was surprised to find out that agents don't generally send out comments or reasons for rejecting a manuscript after requesting on. I already knew that agents are under no obligation to let the writer know at that point, but I assumed that they would out of courtesy. After all, at that point the agent and author have been corresponding for several months, and the agent probably has an exclusive on the manuscript. I don't mean to sound self-righteous, but if an agent had my novel for a month or more, especially if other agents had expressed interest, I think I'd be owed an explanation.

Not that I have any recourse.

I've received three rejections in this round of submitting as of last night. Two were impersonal forms addressed to "Author." One of those didn't even mention the name of the specific agent I submitted to, but just the agency. And the third wasn't even that formal: They simply returned my query in the SASE and slipped in a 1x2" slip of paper that read "This does not suit our interests at this time." Not the most encouraging of rejections, I'll admit. But at least they responded. There are agencies that don't.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Marvel Adventures Flip Magazine

I had a chance to read the latest Marvel Adventures Flip Magazine (and what a mouthful of a title that is) last night. The two stories included in this issue weren't the greatest, but they were still fun. The Fantastic Four get taken on a joy ride by Lockjaw of the Eternals and Spider-Man gets tailed by Scorpion. (Like the pun? I made it up all by myself.)

These are light adventures, with no real sense of danger for either the FF or Spidey, but they're fun little amusements. Manuel Garcia's art for the FF is amazing, and it's sad that the Marvel Adventures line has been so ghetto-ized, because his talent is worthy of greater recognition (although, for some reason, the uniforms of the FF are much closer to the Ultimate FF or the movies than the current "official" look for the team)

The "Adventures" lines for both Marvel and DC are a sore spot for me. Ever since Batman Adventures first arrived in the early 90s as a companion to the Batman animated show, some of the most solid, entertaining and accurate portrayals of the iconic heroes have been through these imprints. However, because they're "kiddie" titles, nobody over the age of 10 seems to pay attention to them. Hopefully these titles are getting better distribution through the more "family friendly" venues of convenience stores, drugstores and the like.

We're not interested, but how 'bout you help us instead?

Because of the trip the wife and I are taking to New Zealand next month, I sent out a couple of queries to some travel magazines and locally to the Dispatch. The Travel Editor responded within days by phone, which was nice. She said they weren't interested in freelance travel work, but would like to keep my name and number on file because they'd like to interview me for an article on volunteer vacations.

Now, there's obviously now way to tell if she was telling the truth about already planning an article, but regardless, I don't know if I should feel insulted or not. On one hand, it is a form of publicity, and I'm being used as a resource. On the other hand, I'm not getting paid.

On a related note, if the Dispatch does interview me, it'll be the third time since Carrie and I have gotten married that I've been in local media since we got married.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I Can't Watch the State of the Union

Last night Carrie and I had a meeting at our church, but even if we didn't, I wouldn't have watched President Bush's State of the Union address. It's not that I'm unpatriotic or even ambivilent. I'm very interested in the what Bush has to say about the country.

It's the applause. It gets to me.

Regardless of the President, his party will stop to interrupt his speech at least once every couple of minutes with applause for finishing a sentence. Doesn't matter what he's saying. He could be describing the new budget or the contents of his shorts, his party will stand and cheer.

I don't know when it started, but I first noticed it with Clinton, cheering for anything and everything that came out of his mouth. I thought the Democrats were bad with him, but the Republicans are even worse. "My fellow Amuricans, before I got here tonight, I sneezed into my hankie. What came out looked like a sad clown. Wanna see?"

Oh, how I would dearly love for the next POTUS to stand up there and say, "Please hold your applause until the end of the speech," and actually hold the gallery to it. As it is, the applause makes a boring 30 minute speech into an irritating 90 minute speech.

Maybe if the President had visual aids. Powerpoint, a little CGI... something! "Unemployment is at a 30 year low, as you can see by the card held by my lovely assistant Bambi."

When I read the speech this afternoon, I think I'll take a bathroom break after every other paragraph. After all, that's what I do when it's on TV.