Archive for March, 2011

The Monster that Stalks Me

Editing is a tedious, frustrating, yet necessary evil. To put it bluntly, it’s a scary process, and until it’s done, it looms over me, breathing it’s rank, guilt-laden breath down the back of my neck. I love working on someone else’s story and helping them round out the rough edges and make their story even better than it started. I can see the jewel in there, and I’m good at helping them bring it out and polish it.

Sitting down to my own is another thing.

I “remember” what I wrote. I remember something that flowed with lyrical ease from the tips of my fingers and remember wrapping up an entire masterpiece before laying it aside to ferment and grow beautiful.

Pulling it out, I discover nothing but a mess. Things I remembered being rich and vivid only exist in skeletal form, if they’re there at all. The things I thought were brilliant make me scratch my head and try to remember what the hell I was thinking so I can attempt to translate the gobbledy-gook to something close to proper English. It is an exercise that tests my faith in my skills and my perseverance every time I sit down to do it. I know it’s a necessary thing and one that will ultimately make me a better writer, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Recently, I pulled out “Shame,” a story I wrote not too long ago that I just knew was just going to blow me away. I was disappointed to find that it was more a robust outline of a story and not the creepy ghost/haunted house chiller I expected. It clocked in at ~3,400 words and all the lush imagery I thought I had put in there somehow evaporated, leaving behind the skeletal framework of the story. Thankfully, this was one I hadn’t put back for more than a few weeks, so it was fresher than some of the others I’ve worked on in the past. I broke Heinlein’s 3rd rule, but I think it was justifiable. I took the printed story and re-wrote it, page by page, and this time by hand, forcing myself to slow down and really consider what was going into it. Other than the cramp in my right hand and shoulder, I was glad I did. The finished piece (after another clean-up edit) weighs in at ~5,500 words and is much more satisfying to read. The ambiance of the story is more developed and I even creeped myself out with the ending. I’m hoping that others feel the same. My intent is to give it one more quick glance and I’ll send it to my betas to shred.

Discussing what I’d done with a fellow writer, our conversation turned to revision and re-writing, and how this “rule” might be subject to misinterpretation by those who follow Heinlein’s rules as if they were Commandments of Writing. Our conversation boiled down to a mutual agreement….that re-writing is sometimes necessary to achieve the quality work you want to put out on the market. After all, aspiring to greatness is never a bad thing, and if you work at it, it’s possible. We came to the consensus that Rule 3 could be interpreted in a more lenient way – Quit Tinkering With It Already and Send It Out! No story is ever perfect, but at some point, they reach Good Enough and you have to learn to identify it, accept it and be proud of what you’ve done. Keeping the fermentation period short also seems to help, since I can actually remember what I was thinking and remember my expectations for the story when I pull it back out. It makes “fixing” a little easier, and a little less discouraging. Not much, mind you, but a little less.

So for now, I’m off to go find Good Enough for my short story “The Manuscript.” Let’s hope that it’s as awesome as I remember and I’m not going to stare down the editing monster in another epic battle of wits. I don’t know that I can do two back to back like this! 😉

Until next time…

Something Like a Review: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

March 22, 2011 2 comments

When the first whispers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hit the internet, I didn’t even notice. My geeky little clique did, however, and talked about it non-stop from the first announcement. Their enthusiasm was unavoidable, and contagious. I wanted to read it, but I was skeptical. I was too much of an Austen fan to think that anyone else could do the original work justice, especially with the unconventional addition of zombies. Instead, I stalked the book until it was released, then downloaded a sample to my Kindle.

Before I finished reading the sample, I went to the bookstore and bought the dead tree version. (As a side note for you who are not familiar with this blog or my somewhat quirky tendencies, I consider hardcopy books -aka “dead tree versions”- an investment. For books I’m not likely to read again, I just buy the digital version, since they take up a heck of a lot less shelf space.)

When I found out there was a prequel, I was intrigued. I read Dawn of the Dreadfuls and liked it. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it was entertaining. It took a look at the zombie-slaying Bennet sisters from the beginning of their training. Hockensmith did well deconstructing the development of the characters and reconstructing them from the ground up, making their transition into P&P&Z flow seamlessly from one book to the next. He also did a good job setting up loose ends that led into the third book, Dreadfully Ever After. After the first two books, I expected to enjoy as a light, fun read. I expected solid, consistent characters since the author, Steve Hockensmith, was the author of the prequel. I will admit that I got a little more than I bargained for.

The story begins after Lizzy and Mr. Darcy’s “happily ever after.” Life isn’t as happy as the newlyweds deserve after the trials and tribulations they went through to get to their “I do’s.” The bridegroom gets nipped by a dreadful and then his bride begins her quest to save her beloved. While this certainly won’t stand up to a literary criticism or comparison to the original Austen novel, I found that I didn’t really care if it did or not. The story was engaging and fun and exciting. The characters were strong, and entertaining. Lizzy and Darcy maintained the vibrancy they were given in the original mash-up, and the reader gets treated to a new, albeit not entirely surprising side to Lady Catherine. What surprised and delighted me most of all was the development and growth in other characters, like Mary and Kitty. Both the dour girl and the frivolous shadow to the most frivolous Bennet girl both become more well-rounded characters than even Austen created. The development of Kitty was my favorite surprise of them all and I would happily read this series again just to see her growth from beginning to end.

The story was really enjoyable, and the cavalier action shown in the original continued, but with a the same shadows of decorum haunting each choice and action the Bennets take throughout the tale.There were enough twists to keep the story moving just a little bit faster than the reader, but each was plausible within the new context of the story. I was happy to see there were themes and loose ends carried through the preceding books to create a fulfilling trilogy.

As a set, the original book is the best, but Dreadfully Ever After is a close second. For the skeptics and literary purists who are wary of a classic being altered, I’d challenge them to put their stodgy sensibilities on the shelf for a bit and give this series a chance. The three books are clearly written by authors with a real appreciation of the original work, and while they are written with a sense of humor, it’s not one maliciously directed at the story. The humor through all three are enough to get the story light and enjoyable, but without detracting from the characters or the movement of the story. Even a classic work can be warped into something a devoted fan will enjoy when it’s done with as much skill and a sense of homage that Steve Hockensmith obviously invested in his work. I recommend investing in a dead tree version of Dreadfully Ever After and keeping it right beside Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Time Vortex

Today got sucked into some kind of magical, mystical time vortex.

I blame it on the new office building.

Let me back up just a smidge. Our company is doing some serious overhauls in a lot of different areas. We’re expanding at an epic rate. Last year at this time, there were roughly 30 people in my office. Right now, there are roughly 95.  Suffice to say that our building didn’t expand. Well, I take that back. It did expand…when we cut into the next office and took that over as well. It wasn’t enough, though and some cubicles housed two people. While they’re fairly good sized cubes, they’re not condo sized, by any standards. On the agenda was a swanky new office space with state-of-the-art…well, everything. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been ramping up to busy season, then trying to get a move organized, then Friday was official move day. They told us that Monday morning, the call center agents’s computers would be all set up and ready to go so they’d just sit down and resume work like any regular day. Something told me (and my friend) that this was a pipe dream and we played it safe by getting there early. Good thing. One computer was set up. One.

I’m not IT, but I could get an Academy Award for my performance in an IT role. We hooked up the computers, tinkered with the VoIP settings and finally had stuff up and running. Then came the troubleshooting. Then it was suddenly lunch time.

I did a double-take. When I looked again, it was three-thirty. Next thing I know, my office roomie was getting up and saying good night.

I still haven’t been able to figure out where the hell the day went.

Suffice to say, any spare moment I’ve had over the past week and a half was spent hunched over a rewrite of “Shame” and so far, it seems to be time well spent. Oh…and making the last few adjustments on my Something Like a Review of Dreadfully Ever After. That’s coming up here in just a few short hours. You can’t read the review until just after the stroke of midnight, so come back in just a little bit to find out how it measures up!

In my mailbox….

March 2, 2011 3 comments

I am so excited by what I found in my mailbox today….

Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

This is the newest release from Quirk Books in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy. I’ve flipped through it a bit and read the blurb and I’m so excited to dig in and read. In a way, this post is just a teaser…my “Something Like a Review” will be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks, just in time for the release on March 22nd.

Just to whet your appetite, here’s the synopsis from the Quirk website:

The story opens with our newly married protagonists, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, defending their village from an army of flesh-eating “unmentionables.” But the honeymoon has barely begun when poor Mr. Darcy is nipped by a rampaging dreadful. Elizabeth knows the proper course of action is to promptly behead her husband (and then burn the corpse, just to be safe). But when she learns of a miracle antidote under development in London, she realizes there may be one last chance to save her true love—and for everyone to live happily ever after.

For a little more information, please check out Quirk’s Dreadfully Ever After page.

Here’s to good reading…check back soon for the review!

Another One Away!

March 2, 2011 2 comments

Just sent off the most recent(ly edited) story and I’m pretty excited about it. I think it’s that innate masochism that’s getting some kind of sick thrill out of it. I know it’s very likely that I’m going to get a “thanks, but no” response back on each of them, but some part of me is insufferably optimistic and keeps whispering that maybe, just maybe, it’s going to be a yes.

Time will tell, I suppose. It’s hitting the right slush pile for the right editor at the right market at the right time. Let’s roll the dice and see what happens, shall we?

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