Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Samhain from Atticus

Since the hero of my novels is a Druid, this is a holy day for him. If he were more than a figment o' my imagination, then he'd want to wish you a happy Samhain. So, felicitous pagan greetings to you from a fictional character!

If you want to return those greetings, well, um, that would be weird.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kaibab Squirrels are COOL

If you have never seen one, do yourself a favor and do a Google image search for the Kaibab squirrel. They have white tails and these awesome little ear tufts, and they only live on the Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon.

It's an awesome example of evolution by geographic isolation; their white tails give them camouflage cover in the winters when there's snow. Here's the good ol' Wikipedia link.

I mention the little critters because one of them figures prominently in a short story I'm writing called "Kaibab Unbound." It's intended to be a teaser for HOUNDED, featuring Atticus and Oberon getting into a spot of trouble on the Kaibab Plateau.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Short stories take a long time

I can write a thousand words a day on my novel, but for some reason a short story won't let me write more than 400 words per diem.

I've rewritten the first page about three times now.

I've changed the title five times and I told the last one not to get too comfortable at the top of the page, because he's going to get revised like all the others.

I've written long descriptions of Flagstaff and then deleted it all because it didn't advance the plot.

I may need to write a thousand words in HEXED and then tell the short story, "See? This is how you're supposed to behave. Why can't you be like a novel?"

Yeah. That'll show it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

On HEXED and burly squirrels

My work in progress is called HEXED and I'm just about halfway through it. It features Coyote (not a coyote or the coyote but Coyote, the trickster), a fallen angel, some Bacchants, a nasty coven of German hexen, a tall priest and a short rabbi...amongst other colorful characters.

I have to say that so far I'm kind of cracking myself up during the funny bits. I hope other people will think it's funny too. I'm also kind of grossing myself out during the gory bits, but I'm not sure if it's okay to hope other people will be grossed out.

Anyway, HEXED is supposed to be finished in the spring, and HAMMERED, the third book in the American Druid series, will be finished in the summer, featuring nobody's favorite squirrel, Ratatosk.

"But Kevin," you may ask, "how can  a squirrel be nobody's favorite?" According to Norse mythology, Ratatosk lives in the World Tree, Yggdrasil (which isn't on my daughter's spelling list this week) and he regularly chats with a great wyrm named Nidhogg. Any squirrel that a wyrm talks with instead of eats has to be a mighty burly squirrel, right? Ratatosk is the kind of squirrel that bench presses guys like Charles Atlas. Ratatosk is the kind of squirrel that would steal nuts from Chuck Norris. Ratatosk will never appear in a Disney movie because he frightens small children and large dogs. I really can't wait to write about him...but I need to finish HEXED first.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dr. Xerox and the Low Toners

I am the lead singer of a band that must now be considered defunct.

De-funked, perhaps.

We were Dr. Xerox and the Low Toners, but alas! We lost our drummer over a year ago and haven't played together since. I kept hoping another drummer would come along, but we seem to be cursed, like Spinal Tap, when it comes to drummers.

And now our bass player is afflicted with agues in his right hand.

Though we were naught but a cover band ere the departure of our drummer, we had dreams of putting together original material; we even had a song written called "Happiness is Caffeinated."

I don't wanna be sedated
Chillin' out is overrated
By now it's been clearly demonstrated
That happiness is caffeinated.

Lyrics never look as good as they sound; I thought it sounded mighty fine.

And so I'm going to pour a little out for my homies, and also for my music that will never be birthed, slimy and wailing, into the world of public opinion. I do have novels to write, and that should keep me satisfactorily occupied on the creative front.

But to my Low Toners: Rock on, dudes. It was a pleasure shredding with you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

19th-Century Handmade Amish Swimwear

That's a snippet of imagery from a song by the Dead Milkmen that I can't seem to get out of my head. It haunts me with its absurdity, yet upbraids me with my own tunnel vision about Luddite society...

It never occurred to me, before this song, that the Amish might swim. They churn butter and make quilts and raise barns; they are not avid swimmers in the popular imagination. I could more easily imagine the Amish starting a death metal rock band than I could imagine them frolicking in the water.

I want to meet an Amish triathlete now, just to say I've shaken hands with such a creature. Does one exist now, or has one ever existed?

I think about these things on Tuesdays.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Papyrus is evil and must be destroyed

There was a time—for about a month after its release—when Papyrus might have been a good choice to use for whatever design thingie you had to complete. Then everyone started using it for all possible purposes—for menus and garage sale fliers and real estate developments and dental offices—and it was ruined by its very ubiquity.

Aside from its abuse by the general public, it is probably the most poorly kerned typeface I have ever seen. It should be flushed on that reason alone.

The reason for its popularity had much to do with the fact that it was included in Microsoft's software, and it wasn't Times, Helvetica, or Comic Sans. (And the fact that it's not Comic Sans is about the only thing it has going for it.) Now, however, it simply needs to go away. Don't believe me? Want to help? Check out the links below.

  • If you'd like to get in on the ground floor of a new flickr group,  you can add to the photos at PapyrusSucks.
  • There's an extensive site of submitted photos broken down into categories called PapyrusWatch. The link will take you to logos, but there are additional links on the right side of the page that will show you examples of Papyrus abuse in packaging, calendars, etc. 
  • You can click here and look at the god-awful kerning between the capitals and lowercase letters, and notice how the studly hardhat man doesn't seem to fit with the Egyptian-y font. On this company's trailers in Arizona, the kerning between the T and the rest of the word is so bad that it reads like T roon instead of Troon.
Are you ready to take the pledge? Do it! I have, and now my soul feels as pure and white as bedclothes in a detergent commercial.

Friday, October 16, 2009

One Man's Everyday War

There is a pestilent practice proliferating amongst the hoi polloi—and no, I speak not of unnecessary alliteration—that persists in spite of my railing: it is the careless use of "everyday" in retail signage (and essays) when "every day" would be proper.

OPEN EVERYDAY, or LOW PRICES EVERYDAY, is what I see most often in shop windows. These same people do not proclaim that they are OPEN EVERYNIGHT, nor would they ever say they are open EACHDAY, but apparently they are comfortable with a certain level of cognitive dissonance.

I shall not let it stand.

I am making stickers that simply say EVERY DAY, and I will place them over offending signs when I see them. I will not add "you idiot!" or any other pejoratives, however appropriate; I will simply correct that which is incorrect and go on about my business.

Perhaps it is a silly line to draw in the sand, but we must do what little we can to promulgate the notion that we are a literate society. Come, my friends! 'Tis not too late to seek a proper sign! Sticker those windows and trucks and whatnot—correct them every day!

On the Necessity of Agents

Okay, okay: you don't need an agent. Unagented writers happen, and they will continue to happen, though their appearance is about as predictable as a lightning strike. You might be a bolt of lightning and your book will one day shock the world. So let me explain why you may want an agent.

Agents can submit your book simultaneously to as many publishers as they want. Publishers let them do that kind of stuff because the agents know them, take them out to lunch, etc. There's a personal relationship there that you don't have; an agent can pick up the phone and talk to an editor right now, and let that editor know she's about to receive your completely spiffy book and she won't want to put it down. Said editor will drop whatever she's reading from the slush pile and read the agent submission instead.

As an unknown author, you can't do that. If you pick up the phone and call an editor without being invited to do so, you've probably destroyed your chances of getting published there. You have to submit your work exclusively to one publisher at a time and wait for them to get around to you in the slush pile—and it can be a long wait, because agent submissions take precedence over yours.

Case in point: I submitted one novel to a publisher (who shall remain nameless) and they sat on it for a whole year. Imagine a year of nail-biting suspense with concomitant acid indigestion: it's not fun. To take my mind off the fact that I still had no news, I wrote a different novel—HOUNDED, as a matter of fact—and found an agent who wanted to represent it. My agent submitted HOUNDED to the same publisher and they bid on it in two weeks. They also got around to finally rejecting the first novel I sent them! (I'll work on that—it'll get out there eventually!)

Selling your book quickly is the first reason why you might want an agent: they can simply do it faster than you because they can make editors take notice of your work. The second reason to have an agent is that they take care of things like contracts and overseas sales and negotiations over rights and endless other minutiae that you, as a creative person, are probably not built to handle well. When Evan (my agent) just says the word "boilerplate," my eyes begin to glaze over, and that's before he gets into any details.

The third (and probably best) reason to want an agent is that you'll have a partner in your writing career who wants you to do well, because he or she will prosper as you prosper. And that partner is looking out for your long-term business interests, keeping a finger on the pulse of the market, and pushing you to grow creatively.

I'll post a separate entry on my actual quest for an agent and offer some tips for those who don't have one yet.