Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Please GOD let this disgusting water buffalo lose 25 pounds and get her disgustingly rounded little tummy off my computer screen! As a father of a 16 year old daughter, this sort of marketing (which, let's face it, is everywhere), really freaks me out.
On more serious news - I've been wrapped up with the saga of my wrecked car all week, but despite this I'm still on target for a November completion of my manuscript first draft. Worst case would be that I deliver the first 95% to my editor in November (which should keep her plenty busy) and the last 5% in December.
Look for an interesting update to the car saga in the coming days, as well as my take on World Fantasy when I get back this weekend - I'm leaving for New York early tomorrow morning. Wish me luck on my pitches to the big NY houses for Rowantree!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
First of all, let me say up front that I’m OK, and my family is OK. Nobody was physically harmed by the event I’m about to describe beyond some bruises and scrapes and a hefty dose of terror.
Last weekend (the 20st of October), my family and I drove down to
On Sunday the 21st we were ready to head home. My wife, who had never driven the Dragon, asked to make one final run up the road as the first leg of our trip home to Ohio
A little past the 1/3rd mark, Kara approached one of the Dragon’s infamous “decreasing radius” curves. With a road challenge like this, the driver can be lulled into a false sense of complacency by an early gentle curve, only to be surprised when the road turns tightly in on itself, like the curve of a particularly nasty fish hook. Anyone that’s driven competitively, or has interest in racing can tell you that there are few challenges harder than a decreasing-radius curve. The Dragon’s turns are even more treacherous because often the road’s banking flips over and actually leans outwards at the apex of the corners, forcing the car to fight against its own momentum as well as the slight pull of gravity at the worst possible time.
As it turned out, this small extra force would prove to be our downfall.
My wife wasn’t even going all that fast; certainly much slower than I’ve gone through that particular section. Our five year-old son was in the rear, watching DVDs, and racing through the Dragon's 311 curves at warp speed wasn’t in the morning’s agenda. She went into the tight spot in the curve at only slightly elevated speed, but even that proved to be too much.
All I can figure is that she felt the car “go light” on the suspension as she drove over the negative camber banking. Instinct tells the average driver, even a careful one like my wife, to let off the gas at that point, and try to let the car slow down. As it turned out, however, that instinct proved to be the total opposite of what should have happened, for once the car was robbed of the force from its engine, the implacable hand of momentum grabbed the car and pulled it into a gentle, outwards slide.
It wasn’t much; just a few feet of predictable skid. On any other road, she would have gone a few feet into the roadside gravel and corrected, getting us back on course with no damage beyond a little dust on the paint.
But as anyone that's been there will tell you, the Dragon is no normal road.
The car’s passenger-side front corner clipped the rock cliff face standing about 48 inches from the side of the road, smashing it into modern art and lofting the entire right side of the car into the air. Safety glass exploded all around us in a glittering cloud as the car gently tipped over onto its side and then onto its roof, still skidding along the verge of the tarmac and the gravel shoulder. My stomach did that roller-coaster thing as I hung from my seatbelt. I remember watching the painted line on the side of the road sliding past the other side of the windshield glass, which, a moment later, began to craze and crack as the weight of the car buckled the convertible top over my head.
I didn’t even have time to be scared. All I wondered, in that moment, was if we had hit the cliff hard enough to rebound us across the entire road, and if we would plunge over the steep drop-off on the other side. Any moment, I expected to see tree limbs whipping past as we tumbled over the precipice.
As it turned out, somehow we kept hugging the cliff face, never entirely leaving the ditch beside the road. Thank God we did, for a tumble down the cliff would have certainly hurt us much more badly than we were. We stopped, resting on the driver’s side door, and waited while hurrying feet ran towards us. Other drivers stopped and helped me, my wife and my son through the ruin of the shredded convertible top. The smell of talc and explosives from the deployed side-curtain airbag mixed with the flinty smell of pulverized rock and dirt. I had glass and sand in my hair, and my elbow ached from a scrape I had received but did not remember.
In short, we survived the ordeal, but our beloved car was destroyed in the process. But, it did it’s job, and sacrificed itself to keep us safe, and for that I’m forever grateful to the safety engineers at BMW and MINI. Even though our car was a convertible, the reinforced top kept us from harm or even any real damage, something I’m frankly amazed by.
Now that the insurance company has totaled the car, we’ve begin to search for a replacement, but I’m certain that locating a new car in our exact model and color will be next to impossible. Wish me luck, and if you’re the praying type, send a quick word of thanks on our behalf to whatever deity was watching over me and my family on that fateful Sunday morning.
The last beauty shots taken of my car, on Saturday afternoon, at sunset, on the Cherohala Skyway in
The final resting position of the car. We struck the cliff face on the lee side of the cliff, and somehow managed to not bounce off and over the other side. Thank God we didn't.
The wrecker on-site, ready to drag my beloved car onto the flatbed and from there to the wrecking yard. RIP, Nano – you were an awesome vehicle…
UPDATE: A friend of mine, Paul, put up a wonderful TRIBUTE to the “Nano Car” over on NorthAmericanMotoring.com… See post #15 for his full eulogy/tribute, but here’s a wonderful quote:
While we wish our motoring companions could be with us forever, Nano left us in the way a great car is meant to - protecting his family from harm, while taking all the Dragon could dish out. Matt, Kara and Grayson walked away intact due to Nano's strength when it mattered. And that beats the heck outta rusting in some shed somewhere.
Too true, Paul… thanks.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The 99 is a superhero comic book that features heroes that have powers based in the teachings of Islam. Here's the quote that really intrigued me:
In many ways, the vision for The 99 grew out of this moment. Al-Mutawa's hope is that the comic book - introduced in the Arab world in the summer of 2006 - will showcase a positive, tolerant, and heroic side of Islam that rarely gets much attention. Many of the characters have Arab-sounding names, and the series' premise derives from the 99 positive attributes of Allah, but there are no prayers, nor passages from the Koran, nor dialogues filled with religious jargon. Unlike the efforts by some evangelical Christians to co-opt pop culture (like rock music) and use it as a tool for proselytizing, al-Mutawa's agenda is subtler, and his emphasis remains on telling a good story.
Read the rest of the Boston Globe magazine article HERE.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Some of you may know that besides being a writer I also like to take photographs. I haven't done as much with it as I used to, mainly because after art school I had no regular access to a dark room or the funds to stay stocked up with film and photographic paper.
Luckily, the digital revolution has done quite a bit for photography - no longer must a photographer invest thousands in a darkroom, enlarger, chemicals and other paraphernalia to make images. A few years back I made the jump to digital and bought a basic, low-end Canon Digital Rebel, and I've never looked back.
Some of you might also know that I love my cars. I have a pair of Mini Coopers, a red 1275 from 1976 and an orange convertible Cooper S from 2006. They really are financial black holes and eat up way more of my time and money then I can afford, but hey, I've wanted a classic Mini since college (I saw my firrst Cooper way back in 1987 and have been in love with the little beasts ever since), so owning them is something of a "life goal".
I'm boring you all with this because I just got one of my photos published in this year's theminiforum.co.uk's annual calendar contest. HERE is a thread on their forums announcing the winners (my car is the "May" entry).
It's not much... just a photo credit and a free copy of the calendar (EDIT: maybe), but for those in the Mini community it's a bit of a status symbol. Plus, it's always good to get validation from others that your artistic work is pleasing and has merit. Thanks theminforum.co.uk for the opportunity to appear in your calendar!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Some quick news: I'm working with some local Barnes and Noble's and Border's stores in Central Ohio to see about doing some book signings - check back for news. I'll post any scheduled appearances here well in advance and I hope to see you there.
Also, Juno sent me a link to a little thing they prepared as a give-away - a .PDF file for a Blood Magic bookmark. I like it - hopefully they'll print out a bunch of these suckers sometime soon as giveaways. In the meantime, you can download a copy HERE.
No luck with the agent search yet, although I did get some preliminary replies... We'll see if any pan out. Something's telling me that nothing will really move until I can meet people face-to-face at World Fantasy next month, but we'll see.
Until next time!
Monday, October 8, 2007
Part sword and sorcery tale, part monster-drenched horror, part personal exploration of pain and loss, Blood Magic is one of those rare novels which refuses to be explained by the sum of its parts. The story follows Kirin, a shy woman who lives in her twin sister's shadow until her twin's murder. Seeking revenge through the dark magic she has learned, Kirin sets herself on a journey in which her yearnings for life and freedom crash against her deep-seated morality and the dark deed she has done.
Thanks so much, Jason. Glad you liked it. I'm still thrilled every time I see someone favorably reviewing the book. Plus, it's so gratifying when people see beyond the blood and gore to the story's deeper themes. As a first-timer, it's hard to know if you're being too subtle with these things (or too obvious for that matter), so comments like this really mean a lot.
A reminder: if anyone out there has a review on their blog or finds a mention of Blood Magic out on the web, please drop me a line so I can link to it here. Positive or negative, I want to hear about it.
Blood Magic is dark fantasy that at times crosses the line into horror. Kirin has seen and caused more than her share of death and destruction, but the battle against the Mor rages on. Set in a fast pace of alternating timelines, Mr. Cook builds a strong world for his heroine’s dangerous journey and fills it with dark magic, fatal combat and just a touch of love to encourage hope. Compelling, dark and most certainly deserving of a sequel.
Also, Katie's Reading posted an interview she did with me on her blog. Here's a snippet, and you can read the entire interview HERE.
How can you not work from an outline? I always find myself getting lost without one.
MC: The answer is... I have no idea. I like to have a few pages written sketching out the overall flow of the story... This happens and then this other thing happens and somehow this last thing ends up happening as a result... that sort of thing. But I seldom know all the deeper connections until I start working. Most of the time, even I end up having those "Oh,... so that's why this guy was so hostile to my main character back in Chapter five!" moments. I like to think it's my subconscious playing shell games with my sanity.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Thank you very much, Mike, for giving me permission to re-print the article - I hope that it proves useful to all the writers out there that read this blog (all five of them). :)
The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues
Mike: There are a lot of misconceptions about agents.
One is that you can't sell without one. This is demonstrably
false; I think most of us sold our first novels without an agent.
Another is that an agent can sell an inferior book. Also
false. An agent can get your manuscript read faster, and can
probably negotiate a better advance (though you should remember
that if it's only 10% or 15% better, it's going right into the
agent's pocket), but no agent can make an editor buy an inferior
(Well, yes, they can -- but only if it's "You buy Joe
Phan's first novel or you don't get the new Stephen King/Tom
Clancy/Danielle Steele book." But while it's theoretically
possible, consider the reaction of King/Clancy/Steele when this
gets out -- and it always gets out -- and ask yourself just how
long Mr. or Mrs. Eight-Figure Advance would stay with such an
READ MORE OF THE RESNICK/MALZBERG DIALOGUES...
Thursday, October 4, 2007
(A sidenote: this was the second time that's happened to me with Mike - last year he was cast adrift from a panel in a similar manner, and he took about 45 minutes of his free time to chat with me about the writing biz... Thanks as always, Mike, for your generosity if you're reading this...)
Anyway. While we were sitting there, being the mercenary little proto-author that I am, I decided to pick Mike's brain about agents and the process of finding one. He was very nice about it (I think my spastic thrashings and attempts to sound "like a real author-ish type" amuse him or something), and he ended up giving me about half a dozen names, all of ethical, hard-working professionals, and suggested that I contact them.
He also explained in detail what things that I, as a budding writer, should look for in a potential agent. Hopefully, Mike will soon be sending me an article that he wrote a while back for one of his many publications (which I will reprint here with his permission if he allows it), but in a nutshell, here's what he had to say:
QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL AGENT:
- What is the size of the agent's current client list? Will you be one of a hundred clients, swiftly forgotten, or will the agent have sufficient time to dedicate to your career? Bigger can be better, but too big is... erm, never mind. That sounds like a setup for a bad porn joke. You get the drift.
- What does the agency's foreign desk look like? Turns out that a book can generate significant additional profits via international sales, so who does your prospective agent work with overseas to procure those rights?
- What about their Hollywood ties? Books that are optioned for films or other media can generate significant yearly profits simply to reserve the production rights for a studio. Most books are optioned in this manner for years and years even if they're never produced, and every renewal means dollars in the writer's pocket. That being the case, the agency will need to have a good contact on the West Coast. Be sure to ask who that is and research their other deals.
- How to they participate in your work? Do they like to take a "hands-on" approach, suggesting edits that a potential editor might find appealing, or do they expect you to do everything all on your own? In that same vein, does the agent want to manage every facet of your career, right down to the $35 short story you just sold to The Town Drunk, or are they only interested in the bigger stuff? Best to ask this now, rather than wait until a big, fat contract chock-full of teensy-weensy writing is sitting in front of you.
- Most importantly, do you like them? This is a person that you will be trusting with your work, so you'd damn well better like and trust them. You'll be working together very closely for years, so don't disregard the little voice in the back of your head that's telling you that the guy across the table is a shady scumbag. On the other hand, if you have a deal on the table with an agent that you like much better, but it doesn't seem quite as financially advantageous, you still might want to use the person you like better simply for trust and quality of life reasons.
- And last - I didn't get this from Mike, but I've heard it countless times elsewhere - remember that money always flows to the writer, not the other way around! If you run into an agent or an editor that says that they charge a fee to review your work, run away fast! Everyone in the publishing chain makes money off the sales of your work, not on fees that you pay them (well, agents take 15% of your profits, but that's not really the same thing), so if someone's asking you for a check before they'll even look at your work, it's almost certainly a scam. Don't fall for it.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
This was my fourth Context, actually, but the first one that I ever attended as a panelist and guest (and thank you, Susan Kehner for inviting me – it was very flattering and I hope I contributed to the con’s success). I first learned about the con from my writer’s group – several members also helped with the con planning and suggested that I go. Editors and authors of every stripe were said to prowl the carpeted halls between panels, their eyes filled with an unholy, insatiable glow… My first year there, I met people like Mike Resnick and Tim Waggoner as well as editors from every publication you can imagine, from magazines and fan-zines to actual New York publishing houses. Heady stuff.
Of course, I’ll always have a soft spot for Context because it was there, in 2006, that I met Paula Guran and sold BLOOD MAGIC in the hallway in a frantic 5 minute pitch session. Paula and Ellen Datlow (another famed editor) had just finished up an early-morning panel on “A Day In The Life Of An Editor”, in which Paula had mentioned her new imprint, Juno Books. She announced that she was looking for manuscripts, specifically ones that featured strong female leads and deep relationship elements. The only wrinkle: Juno was looking to publish “romance/speculative fiction cross-over stories”.
Afterwards, I cornered Paula in the hallway and desperately pitched my little heart out, explaining to Paula that not only was the manuscript not completely finished yet (generally not recommended) but also that my book, while featuring a strong female lead and deep relationship elements, was not truly a romance/speculative fiction crossover like she said Juno was looking for (DEFINITELY not recommended). All the while, Ellen was tugging on her elbow urging her to go have breakfast with her so they could catch up and gossip… it was madness.
Even with all of this happening, I must have made a favorable impression because she asked me for my first three chapters and a synopsis. The rest, as they say, is history.
This year, I sat on several panels, including a very interesting one on “Killing Your Characters”, as well as a very informative panel (for me, anyway) on “How I Published My First Novel”. Everyone on the panel has such different stories, and I now realize, even more than before, how there’s no “one right way” to catch the attention of a publisher, other than persistent hard work and a genuine love of writing. Your enthusiasm will shine through, believe me, but it must be tempered by clean writing, so practice, practice, practice!
I got the chance to socialize with Mike Resnick at my autograph session – he just sat down next to me and started shooting the shit. God, I LOVE small cons like Context. At a larger event like Marcon, an author like Mike would probably be mobbed for the entire weekend. Mike very generously offered me some advice on finding a literary agent and gave me half a dozen names of people I might contact.
Even better, I met a boatload of extremely nice people, writers and fans, all of who walked right up to me as if I were someone worth talking to. Many presented me with a copy of my book to sign. Talk about mind-blowing. Other writers gave me their cards (or even copies of their books) and invited me to contact them.
Did I mention how much I love small cons?
In the end, the Con dealer room ended up selling completely out of BLOOD MAGIC, which gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling that’s only topped by a few other experiences (the birth of my kids… the day I got married… etc.). Thanks to everyone that took a chance on my book, and I hope you like it. If you end up writing a review, whether it be on Amazon or on a web site, please let me know and I promise that I’ll link back to it, good or bad, regardless of what you have to say.
Blood Magic is Matthew Cook’s debut and I have to admit that for a first book I am more than a little impressed. Once I started reading I found myself unable to put the book down as Kirin’s past and present rushed toward each other in a story that simply demands to be read. Not only does Cook tell a strong story, he gives us a strong convincing female protagonist, something not all male writers can pull off.
Katie mentioned in her review that she wished I'd talked more about the Mor, the subterranean, six-limbed monsters that invade Kirin's world, and pondered whether or not I'd be fleshing them out more in Book 2. The answer is: YES. The sequel, Nights of Sin, deals with the Mor quite a bit and should give the reader a deeper understanding of their motives for starting their war against humanity.
Also, I promised that I'd be talking more about Context in here, and I am working on that post, trust me. Check back later today for my ramblings.
Thanks again Katie, and I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book. Comments like "...I found myself unable to put the book down" make the long, sometimes grueling process of writing so worth it.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Also, some of you know that I was at Context, a great convention for writers and fans of Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror, over the weekend... I've not blogged about it yet (obviously) and for that, I apologize. Check back here tomorrow and I'll have a fat, juicy post up detailing the entire thing, I promise.