Sunday, October 13, 2013

ABOUT WRITING PIRATES

PIRATES OF THE OUTRIGGER RIFT

As I type this, Pirates of the Outrigger Rift is halfway through its run as a Kindle Serial for 47North.  For a short time, it held the rank of #1 Bestselling Kindle Serial, which was way cool.  The amazing cover art is by Christian McGrath.  Chris is such an awesome artist.  You've seen his work gracing the covers of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher as well as novels by Brandon Sanderson, Warren Hammond, Rob Thurman, and others.

A long time ago right here in this very galaxy, a short-lived company appeared called Dime Novels.  They wanted genre fiction--science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, westerns, etc.--short novels that would be placed by registers in stores as an impulse buy.  Bill Allen and I thought we should take a stab at writing for them, so we came up with an action oriented sci fi romp called The Tycho Conspiracy, and they accepted the story for publication.

And there was much rejoicing.

Then, before they could send us a check, they promptly went out of business.

And there was much cussing.

So what do you do with a space opera about pirates that doesn't pretend to be anything other than fun when it clocks in at 35K words or so?  Well, it was too long for a magazine to touch it, and it was too short for a publisher to touch it, so it went into a drawer, and was lost to the sands of time.

Bill lives in Oklahoma, and I live in Colorado, but every so often we'd get together, and sometimes we'd talk about doing something with Tycho.  Then one year I went down to Oklahoma to visit for a week, and we decided to turn that novella into a full-length novel.  As I recall, we didn't keep more than a few scenes.  We took turns typing, and we cranked out a new improved version of the book, and it came in at 55K words.

Still too short to do anything with it as a book, and way too long for a magazine.

Back in the drawer it went.

Many years later, eBooks exploded onto the scene, and we finally talked about possibly doing it up as a Kindle book.  We looked it over, and it was pretty good, but needed work.  We changed the title to Pirates of the Outrigger Rift and hired a respected editor to go over the book.  She absolutely HATED it.  She had some excellent points about what needed to be fixed, though, so we made some changes, and it's a much better book thanks to her help.  Yes, it's true, editors don't have to like something in order to help improve it.  What a concept.

The book was still short, but on Kindle that wouldn't matter.  We'd need to format it, get a cover created, and then launch it.

But as fate would have it, Amazon started doing Kindle Serials, and they were open to unsolicited submissions.  Bill and I talked about it, and decided it was worth it to submit to the Kindle Serials program to see if they'd buy it.  Getting an advance wouldn't suck, so I followed the directions and sent Pirates to the good folks at Amazon.

A month later, I got an e-mail from the acquisitions editor to set up a phone call so we could talk about the book.  Next thing you know, I'm on the phone with David Pomerico at 47North, and he saw exactly what we were trying to do with the book.  He loved it.  We had a great conversation.  David rocks.  So it wasn't too long before we were going over a contract, and setting up a schedule to get the book expanded to at least 70K words.  We came in a bit longer than that, which is great.

We knew we were breaking the book into six episodes, so Bill and I spent a lot of time on the phone discussing how we'd make it all work. I was crushing a deadline on Dragon Gate for Sky Warrior Books at the time, so Bill did a lot of the heavy lifting once we worked things out.  We cleaned up everything, and the book, which was good before, was now terrific.

Next step: Developmental Editor.  We had the pleasure of working with Mike Shohl to whip the book into shape, and he caught things we missed.  This proves that all writers need good editors.  Mike did a great job helping us to make sure everything worked properly, and when he was done, the book was firing on all cylinders.

That brings us to the Copy Editor.  Our copy editor was Jodie Young at Rooftop Copy (if you need a copy editor, you need to hire Jodie--she's awesome!).  You'd think after we'd been over the pages, and multiple editors had been over the pages, there wouldn't be much left to fix.  Right?  Wrong.  Jodie totally got the book, and she made us look good (and that's not an easy task!).  She's by far the best copy editor I've ever worked with, so I'll sing her praises to everyone.

The entire team at 47North has been amazing.  They're all positive, and they love what they do.  I didn't think it could get any better, but then David told us we'd get a cover by Chris McGrath, so it was one of those times when you love to be wrong about something.  Chris is at the top of the list of cover artists working in the field today.  His work has energy, and I suspect that cover has helped our sales more than anything else.  I love that on the cover, Hank looks a bit like Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy in the new Star Trek movies)--NOT SO SUBTLE HINT TO HOLLYWOOD--Karl Urban would make an outstanding Hank Jensen.  Just saying.

The journey from writing Pirates of the Outrigger Rift to now having it reach the readers, has been a blast.  Once it graduates from the Serial program to a regular eBook at Amazon, the price will go up, so you might want to grab a copy while it's $1.99.  You snooze, you pay more.  The paperback will be out in a few months, and shortly after that, it will be available on Audio, so the ride continues.

Bill and I have plans to work together on more books, but we also have plenty of solo projects.  At the moment, Bill is writing a new novel about Carl, the War God from Gods and Other Children.  I know it's going to be awesome.  If you haven't read Gods, you need to follow the link and buy a copy.  You can thank me later.  Meanwhile, I'm working on the next Jonathan Shade novel.  Speaking of which, I should get back to work.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Recommended for your entertainment

Here we are on July 3rd, 2013.  I'm just back from SoonerCon, which was fun.  No, I won't bore anyone with my exploits there, and be thankful nobody recorded me doing a karaoke version of "When I'm Gone" by 3 Doors Down because, yes, I would inflict that on everyone.

Instead, I decided it might be fun to toss out some recommended books and movies.  I'm going to keep this to things I've read or watched in the last few years.  I'll cover TV in a separate post soon.

BOOKS

Books get to go first because too few people read these days.  I mostly read non-fiction, but I'm going to focus exclusively on fiction I've read in the last few years.  Here are some books that are worth your time with the occasional caveat tossed in based on audience.

By author in alphabetical order:

Bill D. Allen - Gods and Other Children

I read this years ago, but I'm including it because it was recently released as an e-book.  Carl is a war-god, and the problem with being a god is that people will worship you.  When a new god shows up, Carl is called back to the family business.  This fantasy is loaded with action and humor.  While you can certainly see the influence of Roger Zelazny, this book is all Bill D. Allen.  Excellent voice, terrific writing, and an outstanding story.  Way cool cover, too.  With a little luck, we'll have more of Carl's adventures coming our way soon.


Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games

I know, I know.  You've probably already read The Hunger Games.  I loved the first book in the trilogy.  The second book was okay, and I didn't like the third book so I put it down.  However, the first book is outstanding--great characters, great action, great story.  If you're one of the three people who didn't read it, go buy the book and settle in for an evening of entertainment.


Michael Connelly - 9 Dragons

While this is actually a step down for Connelly, it's still definitely worth your time to read.  It's a Harry Bosch novel, which means many of you may have already read it.  I love the Triad stuff, but thought the ending was a bit weak, and the book should have been tighter, but it was still a good entry.





Robert Crais - Suspect

Anyone who knows me knows that whenever the new Crais book hits the shelves, I'm going to be reading it immediately.  This one steps away from the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series and gives us a stand-alone thriller about a cop and his dog.  Get ready to cry, folks.  This one tugs on the emotions, and you'll be lost in Scott and Maggie's world, thankful for the journey.







Theresa Crater "The Judgment of Osiris"

This is a short story, but I hope she follows up with a novel.  I've long had a fascination with Ancient Egypt, so this scratched an itch.  The fact that I wanted more says a lot, so check it out.



Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers, so he has two books on the recommended list this time around.  His latest novel, and one I meant to read when it came out, but kept putting off until long after it won the Newbery.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is light on plot, but has a lot to say about people.  You won't forget the Hempstock women, and I hope Neil brings them back in another book soon.





The Graveyard Book is a delight from beginning to end.  Neil channels Rudyard Kipling for this one, and it's one that flew under the radar until it won the Newbery.





Barb Hendee - The Mist-Torn Witches

Barb Hendee is the co-author of the bestselling Noble Dead series.  While The Mist-Torn Witches is set in the same world, it's the beginning of a brand new series, and Barb is flying solo here.  She crafts a terrific fantasy story in a rich world.  Celine and Amelie are sisters, and Celine has been pretending to be a mist-torn witch (someone who sees the future and offers advice for a price).  When she suddenly starts seeing the future for real, she gets in over her head when she and her sister are offered a place to live provided she can uncover the killer of young women in the village around the castle.  Well-written with excellent characters.  I look forward to more adventures with Celine and Amelie.





Stephen King

I think Stephen King is one of the best writers working these days, and he makes the list twice here with recent work.

11/22/63 is a long novel about a man who travels back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination, but must live through five years before he can attempt to accomplish that goal.  The plot is terrific, but what keeps you riveted are characters you can care about.  King is a master.




Joyland is a much different book.  This one is short, and combines a murder plot with a coming of age story, and a ghost.  It's the kind of mix that Stephen King can pull off so much better than anyone else.  I read this one in one sitting.


Glenn R. Sixbury - Night Marshal #2: High Plains Moon

I feel a little strange recommending this one because I wrote the first Night Marshal book and invited Glenn to write the second.  That said, his book is better than mine (this is a good thing).  Vampire Marshal Jack Talon takes on werewolves in his second adventure in the weird west.  Glenn introduces a wonderful character named Dan Wolf.  The action is terrific and the humor is in place.  An excellent addition to the Night Marshal series.


MOVIES

For movies, I'll stick with the first half of 2013.  I've seen quite a few movies, but certainly not all of the releases for the year (nor would I want to see all of them).  I would expect Much Ado About Nothing to make the list, but I haven't seen it yet, so it will have to wait.  I thought Man of Steel would make the list, but I hated that movie.  No, not because they changed Superman, but because they had a terrible story that made zero sense--they relied too heavily on the current Hollywood nonsense of "it doesn't matter if it makes sense as long as we show it up on the big screen because people won't think about it."  Clearly, they're right, but it's not a trend I like.

So far in 2013, these are the movies I enjoyed (and I'm sticking with 2013 releases).  In alphabetical order we have:

Fast & Furious 6 starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Duane Johnson, etc.

Needless to say, I was a little surprised I enjoyed this movie.  The action just keeps on coming, and they took time to give a nod toward characters who have honor and care about their family.  Sure, it's unbelievable, with stunts that would kill or cripple people, and it has the world's longest runway, and they let the bad guy go for no apparent reason aside from having one more action set piece, but I didn't care.  It was fun.



The Internship starring Owen Wilson & Vince Vaughn

This is another one that surprised me by being fun.  The first ten minutes or so, I was worried, but as soon as Wilson & Vaughn make it to Google, the movie takes off and keeps you laughing.



Iron Man 3 starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Shane Black is a terrific writer and a terrific director (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang might not have made any money, but it's one of my favorite movies).  Okay, this is a comic book movie, so you have to turn your brain off a bit because Tony Stark would have been killed several times in the first big action set-piece, but that's true of most action movies.  This one had lots of cool action, plenty of humor, and was just a blast from start to finish.  I would have made some changes with the ending, but that's just me.  Stick around for the bit after the credits.  It's worth it.



The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp & Armie Hammer

Critics are bashing this movie.  Some folks are bashing Johnny Depp for playing Tonto.  I'll grant you that the movie is too long, and there are some plot holes, but Depp is terrific as Tonto.  He carries the movie, so whether you like it or not depends on how you feel about his performance.  I enjoyed it.



Now You See Me starring Jessie Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, etc.

Huge cast including Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson, and others.  This twist on the heist movie by using magicians was a total hoot.  It kept me amused and entertained all the way through.  So far, this is my favorite movie of the year.  It helps that it's not a sequel or reboot or remake.



Promised Land starring Matt Damon & Frances McDormand

Damon co-wrote the script, but the reason I enjoyed this movie was for Frances McDormand's performance.  She is awesome in this flick.  The story is certainly torn from the headlines--fracking is no longer simple profanity on Battlestar Galactica.  It's serious business.  The movie doesn't totally take sides on the issue, so it can be enjoyed no matter what you think of fracking.
 Star Trek: Into Darkness starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, & Benedict Cumberbatch

This movie was uneven, but overall, I enjoyed it.  I would have done some things VERY differently because it's a mistake to get yourself compared to a better movie, but I enjoy the new crew, and I like how they're growing the characters.  I look forward to more Star Trek movies.



White House Down starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx & Maggie Gyllenhaal

I haven't seen Olympus Has Fallen yet, so this was my first terrorists take over the White House movie.  What it lacks in believability, it makes up for in fun.  Tatum and Foxx are both terrific in their roles.  They keep the humor coming amidst the action.  Having dealt with Hollywood producers, I suspect that the screenwriter (James Vanderbilt) had to work in a silly way to keep the daughter involved, but that's all right.  Turn off your brain and enjoy the ride.


World War Z starring Brad Pitt

While it shares the name of the book, and the premise of the zombie outbreak, the filmmakers went their own way and told a different story against that backdrop.  Pitt is very good as the UN employee who travels the world looking for patient zero and a way to stop the zombie plague.  Cool action, some smart writing, and terrific acting make this one a solid win.