Reality Spiked the Punch

I don’t think I could get any more vague with this title.

So I have an upcoming publication, which fulfills a lifelong dream of mine: to have my own work on my shelf, beside my other favorite writers, and not just in a 3 ring binder with stick figures on the cover. Although that might end up being the cover art, if one more artist falls through. Teach me to go to DA for commissions. (THE DESIGN IS SO SIMPLE! Designs. Plural. Possibilities.)

Anyway, I posted yesterday’s blog on my FB page and a friend of mine reminded me how long ago I started this project. Nearly six years. Now, I’ll be the first to say Real Life reared its ugly head and slowed the production of this work, let alone the nine other books I’m currently (not) writing on. I’ve rewritten the whole book (in entirety) no less than three times (see rule number one in previous post. Practice practice practice), and as a stroke of luck managed to move to St. Louis to beef up location/setting, changing some obvious small-town stupid I injected in the book.

The point of my story is this: time helped. Time changed things. Time developed things. I developed. I’m an extroverted introvert, and I love people. I love learning about them. Knowing them. Seeing what makes them tick. I developed myself (and my characters) from two dimensional stereotypes into complicated, damaged, imperfect people. Not all of them, mind you. Some are just fabulous. And they’ll remain fabulous come hell or high water. Or boiling hell-water. Sounds painful.

I’m simply excited. Several people have extended their surprise that I’m still working on the project, still writing, still proofing. I don’t think a lot of people understand that writing is an integral part of me. Some people’s passions are teaching, or architecture, or volleyball, where they find the most thorough fulfillment in doing what they love they can’t imagine doing anything else with their free time. I’m this way with writing. With the job I’m currently working, I was wholly unable to attend to my passion, my fulfilling grace, my writing, and it nearly destroyed me. It didn’t destroy the passion, mind you: I’d always have it. I’ll always daydream and dream and mentally explode in times of peace and calm. I simply won’t create anything out of it. It’ll fizzle and die, like little tadpoles in a mason jar full of water.

So in this current space, I’ve found the intoxication of St. Louis, my character, and the complicated idea of psychological warfare. I’ve rekindled my obsessive love for the word, and it feels really great. One step closer.

Chris

If you prefer a more personal discourse, you can find me at heissererwriter@gmail.com. I’d love to hear any opinions you have about writing, politics, religion, whatever. 🙂

Religious Fantasy is Apparently Taboo?

I know a building that reminds me of the sea. It takes up half a parking lot next to train tracks that lead to the university. Its brick is old, stained a draining white from internal leaking pipes, and ringed in dune-grass that is never mowed. Its paint is peeling, its wood planks are faded, warped, and aging, and someone, somewhere, repaints it once every three years.

But the wind hits it in its unhindered roll over the plains, scours and slashes and blasts ground train-stones against its walls. But not when the trains come. The trains protect it from wind, but howl worse, like sirens by the lighthouse.

Today it is raining. I paused at the building on my way into work and took a deep breath. I smelled the fresh growth of grass, smelled the mouldering steam-soaked bricks, and listened to the husky sound of dune-grass.

I sometimes imagine I am back at Coco Beach, and I am twelve years old, and none of this happened.


 

I spent most of my evening doing research on Religious Fantasy, a little-known sub-genre of Fantasy or, even, a subplot for Urban Fantasy. The use of religion and religious beliefs as a form of magic while also incorporating fictional characters are apparently frowned upon. Most publishers and most agents will avoid it like the plague.

This frustrates me because I’ve spent two years polishing a heartfelt work based on fact that, in the end, nobody’s biting because of the content: disillusioned boy discards ways of American life to travel the world, returns to realize all his ghosts (literally) are still around, and he must finally pick up the mess. In comes a priest, haunted by a demon. Soren puts his Dresden-esque abilities to use, hilarity ensues.

200 rejection letters from publishers, agents, and everyone in be-tween later, and I finally realize I never got more than a form letter. It could be the writing, of course: it might just suck. But the truer thing is most likely the lack of interest in touching fantasy elements in religious affairs.

I think I’m going to just self-publish it, or else release it to the internet via my wordpress site.

Thoughts?

~x

100k Words, and Why Fantasy Bites

If you don’t write HP fanfic or sexy vampires sucking blood and kicking tail, chances are you’re struggling to get published in the fantasy genre.

I’m one of those writers that doesn’t write to be published. I mean, I do. Obviously. But, like Stephen King says (in his prologue to the Dark Tower, heh), all writers fall into one of two groups: those who write to disperse information and those who write to gather. I’m one who gathers my information before trying to get it published.

That’s probably why I’m not published. I could easily write the latest vampire/werewolf romantic sexfest. I don’t care to. It’s been done. As with Tolkien’s publication of LOTR came a handful of successful mimics (Terry Brooks, for one), HP/Twilight is bringing about a handful of successful mimics (and about a thousand and one unsuccessful mimics, of course). But that genre’s saturated.

And it’s boring.

I’ve written my Dresden Files-esque Urban Fantasy (to no avail). In fact, I’ve written two books in the series before I petered out sending the stuff out and trying to get it rewritten/fixed up.

I’ve written my Lovecraft-esque fiction (definitely to no avail). Form letters all the way, if I got a reply at all, and THAT work is about two years earlier than my Urban Fantasy.

Now, I’m 100k words up on a story that I find most accessible to the general audience. Fiancee and brother both believe it’s a YA novel, albeit a little graphic at times. It’s my take on the HP craze: 13 year old boy goes to summer camp at a school of magic. He has issues. Hilarity ensues.

Yet I don’t believe I’m looking at this writing thing correctly. It’s not the genre that isn’t getting me published. It’s not the content within that genre. I think it’s the complication of the writing. David and His Shade is a relatively simple text: no florid prose, no overly complicated symbolism/metaphors, no gratuitous dream sequences that warp or mutate the story (they’re more punctuation marks to the story instead of their own stories…).

I think it’s still too complicated. My fiancee was eyeballs deep in world religions when she returned from India and Korea. She had lived the magic, and knew the magic, and in turn taught me about it. Chi, chakras, totems, Astral Projections, OBE, all that was commonplace in her study, in her life. It permeates my writing. In fact, instead of the stylized British magic incorporated in the HP universe, my writing uses complex systems that are already in place: Christian magic, Pagan magic, Hindu magic, Earth magic, Faeries and elves and demons and vetala and angels and Genius loci, and a thousand things in-between. Werewolves, and vampires, too.

I wonder if that’s a turnoff for anyone in the publishing industry: specific embracing of all religions, and positing character viewpoints that disagree with major religions (such as an anti-Christian mentality in a teacher, for instance).

It’s a touchy subject, but I don’t feel like anything, in any genre, should be censored for the sake of political correctness.

If anyone knows the overall viewpoint of the Fantasy publishing industry on this whole thing, I’d love to know.

I’m (at most) 20k off from finishing this beast. I have a lot to cut. Next chapter is the climax. I’ll be finished with a rough draft by Sunday.

Can’t wait to start getting more rejection letters. ~x

More on Query Letters

These query letters are driving me nuts. For each completed book, I have now written three query letters: one as formal, one as casual, and one “specialized.”

It’s driving me nuts because after four years of studying the art of query, I still don’t have a clue what an editor wants. I’ve gone to “how to write a query” blogs that exist only to critique/improve readers’ query letters. So I write one that would (possibly) pass all her critiques. Then I get my Writer’s Market book out, read the first article, and slap my forehead: Apparently Editors Want More Info, Less Story. Oh.

*Adjusts glasses* Yes, sir or madam, I am currently unpublished, I think my work is very good, I’ve gone to college for this kind of stuff, and I work really, really well with others. I promote corporate synergy… oh wait, that’s my resume.

What to do? A query that smacks the publisher/agent in the face with an instant delving of story? A query that begins with, “It Gave Me a Name is my 93k finished paranormal fantasy novel set in St. Louis and focusing on Soren, my ghost-haunting, reluctant protagonist. He hates people sometimes. It’s not based on anyone I know in real life.”

No. I don’t know. I’ve sent this type of query out several times (read: over 50), and haven’t got a bite. I’ve learned a lot in the past year, but I don’t think it’s enough.

I’ll try for Zam! Pow! and hope the tight prose is tight enough, the information succinct enough, and the single-sentence explanation at the end should be, specifically, at the end. Oi. ~x