Tuesday, May 31, 2011

YOU CAN CALL ME FLOWER IF YOU WANT TO

I've never been a big blogger. My posts tend to be short, and inconsistent. I'll follow blogs, ravenously gobbling up posts the second I see them hit, for a month or so, only to drift away...and then back a few months later. Sometimes I'll surf the links of my visitors, acquainting myself with colorful and diverse lives, catching pieces of heartbreak or success.

I grew up in a small town, before the Internet became a staple. I'm not used to being connected to people across town, let alone around the world. I find that I quite like it.

Blog stats tell strange stories.

For the past two weeks, I have been googled by Canadians more than U.S.-ians.

My lovely Lithuanian followers - fourteen a week, every week for nearly a year - have gone away. Migrated, perhaps. Maybe they're just on summer break. It could be that I offended them. What did I say, Lithuanians, that you have forsaken me? *weeps*

My blog continues to be listed on some Indonesian website that appears to be related to finding jobs throughout Southeast Asia. Visitors come to peer at my posts. I feel like I should post interview tips of something to reward them for their perseverance.

Australia continues to follow strong, week after week. Rock on, my dears.

Blog responses also tell tales of my visitors. Many of you are querying and either scared stiff about the process or stubbornly trudging on. A number of you are parents, raising mad little children in mad little homes. You want to be musicians, singers, visual artists and writers. You want to get more sleep and more exercise - in that order - eat good food and watch more movies. You want to read more and write better. Good for you all.

I feel like I should do something for you all. Would you like some kind of matchmaking to introduce you to one another? A recipe swap (my best friend says this suggestion makes me old...and lame)? Maybe a contest: coffee, book and a cookie?

Monday, May 30, 2011

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Despite the long weekend, I'm still so busy that there's no time for love, Dr. Jones. Once I have some time to think and then process said thoughts into words, I promise I will. In the meantime, I'll leave you with some art, compliments of my son. I believe it's from the British High Creeptastic period.

Cloud O'erhead, We Walk Nonetheless On Our Improbably Tiny Legs

Friday, May 27, 2011

IN WHICH I SAY "NAY"

Every now and again I am hit with, nay, I am well-nigh overcome with the burning desire to play a bass guitar really freaking well. And I can't do it. I don't know the first thing. My fingers, they are not nimble. I'm tone-deaf. I can read sheet music as well as I can program DOS basic (really slowly, with much teeth-grinding and a very rudimentary product).

But I want to. Oh, how I want to.

You got any overwhelming and completely unexplored desires, kids?

P.S. This post was brought to you by a crippling, sudden-onset desire to play bass.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

AN ODE - TO BETA READERS

The funny thing about beta readers, those brave folks who volunteer (or, let's face it, often are drafted) into reading early versions of your stories, is that they always find things in there that you didn't intend.

A couple of offhand comments become themes. Serious scenes become funny. That flash of brilliance that you clutched to your bosom and beamed over is now "confusing, vague, are you high? why do you keep dropping shite like this right in the middle of otherwise decent stuff?".

I have a few writing tics that are PRONOUNCED in early drafts.

  • Longgggggggggggg sentences
  • Word repetition of words while writing words
  • Pronoun disagreements. "He reached out with her arm" :facepalm:
  • And I have become the easiest target a couple of homophones could ever hope to find. You know, if they were sentient and cared about making people use them.


So buckets of thanks to my betas, for looking past my unintentional tense shifts, fragmented sentences, tangents and tragic authorial breakdowns, to find the story. And, kisses and virtual chocolate for telling me what the story I wrote sounds like outside of my head.

Betas, I adore you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SHORT TERM

I walk into the house. It smells terrible.

Me: I shall light this pine-scented candle that found its way to our home around Christmastime. That will be most lovely, despite the way that it quickly becomes overwhelming.

two seconds pass

Me: What the hell smells so piney? Are trees growing through the foundation of my very home, bringing with them a scent reminiscent of Christmastime?

:facepalm:

This is what happens to a writer's brain just before, in the middle of, or after a project. It is a sad reality.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

HOW ARE THOSE CRUTCHES WORKING OUT FOR YOU?

I'm not talking about walking supports. I mean words. Specifically those go-to words each author has, which we pull out of pockets or felt Crown Royal bags and toss into manuscripts like we're hoping they'll grow into something fruitful. Or that we think will disguise the text around them, some sort of linguistic camouflage.

These words are either familiar to the point of invisibility or exotic favorites that we latched on to at some point and feel compelled to write down at rates vastly exceeding common usage. Sometimes they slip past without drawing notice, other times they're like broccoli bits in otherwise flawless smiles. One of my favorite authors for a time had an inexplicable fondness for "soupcon". For the record, I really like saying "inexplicable".

My crutches are pretty simple. They're subconscious fillers, that slight roll backwards before I stomp down on the accelerator. For instance, if I were to run a "find" through the first draft of any of my stories, approximately 15% of the words will be either "well" or "fuck". A shocking 85% of lines of dialogue will start with "well". "Fuck" will be used as a verb no more than once.

(Those figures are made up, but I know I use those words more than I should.)

I noticed "a bit" and "rather" in two recently-published novels by two different authors. I'm assuming they are crutches specific to those writers. So what are yours, my dears? What words creep in or crop up while you're writing? Which do you double-dingo dare yourself to use?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

THE EFFING END

Sorry I've been scarce. There was some overtime for the Dayy Jobb. We've had nice weather. And I'm working on a story that, every time I raise my head, pelts me with sharp stones and balls of slush.  I'm about to tear out a Mad Libs sheet, complete it, add some fantastical crap and a brutal death, staple it to the end of the story and call it The Effing End.

As soon as I get my head above water, I'll be back. With freaking bells on.

Hope you're all having a great summer. :D

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

HERE'S THE THING

So here's the thing. Being a writer is a job, and it's a job that requires both time spent writing and time spent thinking about how to write. And sometimes, when plots aren't quite working or characters don't really click, we like to talk about how to write them so that they do work and click. And shake their little booties on the runway. Or not.

To the idle observer, a writer is someone who stares into space a lot, trails off in the middle of sentences, interrupts your description of a funny situation at work with a series of seemingly unrelated questions, and who sits at the computer for hours. Doesn't look that hard, does it?

But here's what writing feels like when it's not going well (warning: gory and disturbing imagery):


Maybe slightly less horrific. But only slightly.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

THESE ARE MY WORDS

I'm considering starting a spoken word show, using only the search phrases that lead to my blog.


All the demon hatchlings
with their judo hobos, as sick as dogs
The dogs of war, what
If only I had the summary for sucker punch, the movie


*bows*


Also, that totally reminds me of the scene from Grosse Pointe Blank where the guy who bullied Martin in high school confronts him...with poetry. I can't find a clip of it, but IMDB.com has it going a little something like this:


Bob: These are my words. 
Martin Q. Blank: It's a poem? See, that's the problem... express yourself, Bob! Go for it.
Bob: "When I feel... quiet... when... I feel... blue..."
Martin Q. Blank: You know, I think that is *terrific*, what you have right there. Really, I liked it, a lot. I wouldn't sell the dealership or anything but, I'm tellin' ya... it's intense!
Bob: There's... more.
Martin Q. Blank: Okay, would ya mind, just skip to the end.
Bob: To... the very end? "For a while."
Martin Q. Blank: Whew. That's good man.
Bob: "For a while."
Martin Q. Blank: That's excellent!
Bob: You wanna do some blow?
Martin Q. Blank: No I don't.
Bob: [Hugs Martin

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

HEAVEN HELP BAY CITY - INTERVIEW WITH KAT AND MOUSE AUTHOR ABNER SENIRES


We have with us today Abner Senires, author of the cyberpunk futurenoir series KAT AND MOUSE – Guns for Hire. K&M is a fast-paced, spare, sometimes violent and often hilarious series of tales. It was written as a weekly serial and is now available in paperback and e-book format.

2042. Bay City, California Free State. Kat and Mouse are ronin--street mercenaries--who like cake runs. Simple jobs with quick and large payouts. That's what these were supposed to be. Cake runs. But when the Duo sign on, they suddenly find themselves targeted by a biker gang, a team of corporate commandos, a cybernetically-enhanced special ops agent, a stalker, a band of kidnappers, and a Japanese crime syndicate. And they all want the Duo out of the way. Permanently. Now these sassy sisters-in-arms must survive the onslaught and still get the jobs done. Because in the Biz, it's get paid or get dead. As usual, Kat and Mouse are going to do things their way. Heaven help Bay City...

Following is an interview with Mr. Senires. My questions are in bold to make up for the fact that, in real life, I sound like an eight year old girl.

Let’s start with the most pressing question, Abner: why do you hate pants so very much?

I don't technically hate pants. In fact, some of my best friends are pants. But sometimes, I'm much more comfortable in shorts. I attribute it to my island-based ethnicity.

Now you're probably wondering what pantlessness has to do with writing. Well, it all goes back to an article I read on freelancing several years ago. The author equated freelance writing with the phrase "no pants 'til noon." Or something along those lines. So now, when I think about writing full time, I think about no pants.

Note to self. Stop wearing pants until noon. (My day job coworkers are going to love me.) How did you get started writing? Were you bitten by an inky-o-active spider?

I was not bitten by an inky-o-active spider, no. I was struck by lightning.

No, really.

I was three or four at the time, living in the Philippines with my grandparents. One day, during a big storm, I was hanging halfway out the ground floor window, playing with a length of rebar, jabbing it into this little pool of water outside the window. All of a sudden, there was a bright flash of light at the end of the rebar closest to the pool of water followed by this rumble of thunder. Next thing I know, I'm sitting about four feet back from the window inside the house, on my butt on the floor, and my grandfather is standing over me saying "You shouldn't be afraid of a little thunder."

I'm thinking that rattled something upstairs. *points to head* Made me susceptible to the writing bug. Also made me a bit off, puns and showtunes and all that.

Probably led to the whole pantslessness thing, too.

Later, when I was living here in the U.S. with my parents, I ran across a copy of Fredric Brown's short story "Arena" in an issue of Reader's Digest (I didn't realize who wrote the story or what the title was at the time, though. All I know was it had a guy fighting this alien creature inside this force-fielded area on some distant planet. I learned who and what later.)

After I read that story, I had a revelation. I wanted to tell those kinds of stories, too.

Who are your favorite writers, and how have they influenced KAT AND MOUSE?

My favorite writers are Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, David Eddings, Robert B. Parker, and Joss Whedon.

Asimov doesn't really influence KAT AND MOUSE, but he was my first formal introduction to SF so this is a shout-out to the Good Doctor. Heinlein's strong female characters certainly provided the template for the Duo.

From Eddings and Whedon I learned how to write effective ensemble pieces and scenes. The interplay between the characters in the Belgariad and in shows like Buffy and Firefly are excellent examples. They move story and character but at the same time provide some humor and lively banter.

I think Robert Parker has the biggest influence on KAT AND MOUSE particularly in terms of the style. The terse prose, the minimalism, is something I try to use in the stories. There's a kind of power to the prose when you go minimal, I think.

Also in the voice of the story. I borrowed that from Parker and also from William Gibson. I saw it in Gibson's "Johnny Mnemonic" and I see it in Parker's Spenser novels. What I call the "hard-boiled" style, which goes back to Chandler and some of the pulp writers of the 30s and 40s and onward.

If I could live inside of Raymond Chandler’s prose, I’d be a happy woman. What are the challenges to writing a serial?

Pace is the biggest challenge.

Not so much pace of the story as pace of the actual writing. See, each episode is roughly 6,000 words, sometimes longer. That translates to something like six or seven installments per episode. At one installment per week, one episode will typically run about six or seven weeks.

That means I have at least six weeks to write, edit, revise, and polish a complete 6,000-word story. And that's with day job, life, and other commitments.

Now, I do try to keep at least an episode ahead, but sometimes, things don't work out that way.

I'm actually having heart palpitations thinking of the relentless deadlines. *fetches self smelling salts* Much better. We’re putting out a casting call. Who would you love to see in the main roles?

Interesting you mention KAT AND MOUSE as live action. The episode "Easy Money" began life as a screenplay. I wrote it with Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez in mind. This was after the first Resident Evil.

After that, I kinda started to see certain people in the roles and tend to have that person or personality in mind as I write the episodes. I even put together a little visual reference chart for myself that I refer to as I write scenes.

So here goes, my cast list for Kat and Mouse. The main characters, at least.
KAT: Milla Jovovich as Alice in Resident Evil
MOUSE: Michelle Rodriguez as Rain in Resident Evil
REVELL: Sean Connery as Ramius in Hunt for Red October
SPECS: Joe Pantoliano as Cosmo from The Fugitive/U.S. Marshals
FAST EDDIE: Dominic Monaghan as Charlie from Lost
JAKE STEELE: Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds from Firefly/Serenity
MURPHY: Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo
JADE: Ali Larter in Heroes

*jolts self out of daydream* I heartily approve of this casting. You chose to self-publish KAT AND MOUSE. Self-publishing seems to be on everyone’s minds right now. I’ve seen a gamut of opinions on it, but very little about the how-to. What did it take to get this published?

This might be a long answer so I'll try and keep it to a manageable length.

For the print edition, I went with CreateSpace. After reading through various other POD places, I decided CreateSpace was going to work best for me. Plus, I liked the Amazon connection.

Next, I had to take the text of all 10 episodes and do some copyedits. Now, there was already a round of copyedits done when the episodes first went up. Anything missed back then was now caught and corrected at this point. There were some bits that got cleaned up. A line here, a line there. A bit of clarification here.

Then I had to format the text and the pages at the correct trim size and with the correct interior bits. Headers. Pagination. Front matter. Margins. Spacing. Typeface. Gave myself a crash course in book design. Just enough so that I could at least "look the part."

Then another round of copyedits, making sure the text actually looked like it came out of a legacy published book. And then exporting that final product as a PDF file for upload to CreateSpace.

After that came cover design. I originally did one that looked good at the time but when the proof copy came, I decided it needed more "pop." More "oomph." So I re-designed the cover. Spent a week giving myself a crash course in photo manipulation using PaintShop Pro. Then dove it with the design.

Back to the proof. When that came in, my wife went through the book for a round of copyedits. A fellow writer also chimed in with edits, for which I was grateful. Then I went through for yet another pass.

After all that was done, the final files were uploaded to CreateSpace. They make sure the files are properly formatted and voila! We have print edition.

Next came formatting for ebook. Mainly ePub and Kindle.

For ePub, I went with Smashwords and used their style guide to format the text. It was more or less a matter of taking the original file that went to CreateSpace, knocking out all the pagination and headers and page formatting and going to a bare-bones text with minimal formatting. Once that was done, off it went to Smashwords for finalization.

Kindle was a bit different. I had to hunt down some guides for that. Kindle formatting turned out to be basically stripped-down HTML with some CSS. I'd hand coded web pages before using HTML so I wasn't completely in the dark with the process. It was pretty easy in that respect but it does take time. Global search and replace came in really really handy for a lot of that work. When that was done, I used Mobipocket Creator (an ebook management program that does a great job at Kindle format conversion) to create a finished file that I then uploaded to the Kindle site for finalization.

And that's what I did on my summer vacation--I mean, how I self-published KAT AND MOUSE.

Whew!

Question Time! A bullet train leaves Cleveland at 8 AM, traveling west at 168 mph. It’s got a leaky nuclear reactor. Kat and Mouse leave Bay City at 9:15 AM, heading east with a contract to recover a men’s European carryall from the shady conductor. When and where do they meet, and what happens next?

Ha! Trick questions. Most of Cleveland was destroyed by two 10 kiloton suitcase nukes in 2027.

Well played, Mr. Senires. What’s in store for the ladies now?

I won’t get into too many details but I will say there’s more to come about Jake and Kat, more about the human traffickers, more about Malachi and Jeffries, and more about Sakura. We’ll also visit again with Valkyrie, Absinthe, Fast Eddie, and Jade. And there’s some upcoming fun things involving certain Alliance folks doing bad things and a character currently in the wings who’s got a bone to pick with the Duo.

And there we have it! You can follow Abner, and Kat and Mouse themselves, at the following links Though do be careful. Every now and again Kat shoots first and asks questions later.

Website: www.abnersenires.com                Blog: acetachyon.blogspot.com
Twitter: twitter.com/acetachyon                  Book link: www.abnersenires.com/katandmouse

TWO FOR TUESDAY

This isn't link soup so much as a link appetizer, but there are two things I'd like the world to know about today. So, without further ado:

From Galleycat: How to Share Books with Troops Overseas
I can't think of anybody who might need a few hours of escape more than active-duty soldiers.

-and-

Please join me in celebrating the release of writer-buddy Kevin Hearne's debut Urban Fantasy HOUNDED. It's not just good. This is the start of an excellent new series, and it's available for purchase and download today. Doesn't that make you a lucky reader!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

TIME OUT FOR DOMESTIC MANIFESTOES

Tweeeeeet <--that's the sound of a whistle being blown.

Why, you ask? Because we're taking a time out to talk parenting. Specifically, potty-training, that surreal period of time in which one or more humans employ every trick in their arsenal, as well as stooping to things like bribery and begging, to convince another human (or possibly an alien-monkey hybrid) not to poo in his own pants.

Granted, it's a new human (hopefully), but it's still another person refusing to not poo in his own pants. And it's awful. Just soul-searingly awful.

We've reached the point where our new human recognizes the need to poo (hereinafter referred to as the Poo Instinct), considers pulling down his scientifically-engineered pull-downable pants and utilizing the device specifically purchased for him to poo in, then says nahhhhh, not gonna do it.

I'm not sure what to do. When a person decides not to do something related to the Poo Instinct, there isn't much an outsider can do to force the correct reaction to the Poo Instinct. So, I've decided to put my college degree to work. It's English, for the record. I'm going to use all my skills of composition, borrowing of other's fine works, and rhetoric to attempt -once and for all- to get my son to use the potty. If you would like to try this at home, then feel free to borrow the following. I give you:

The Poo Manifesto

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one (tiny) person to poo, and to assume among the powers of nature a separate and equal location for his used sustenance, a decent respect to the olfactory sensibilities of mankind requires that this (tiny) person should remove himself and make use of the throne-shaped potty so highly recommended by Consumer Reports.*


Now we are engaged in a great and unbelievably frustrating time, testing whether this household, or any household, so conceived and so dedicated to the principal of not pooing in one's own pants (possibly while standing in the kitchen playing with an exceedingly irritating parrot toy from a McDonald's Happy Meal) can long endure.**


To thine own Poo (Instinct) be true; and it must follow, as the day the night, though canst not then reduce thine mother to tears and unproductive gagging.***

*Declaration of Independence
**Gettysburg Address
***Hamlet