Moving off to LJ

January 6th, 2007

I’ve decided to link the Mark Del Franco website to my LJ blog instead of here since I’m much more active on that one.

So, come visit The Weird Times in its new location!

Note: UNSHAPELY THINGS will be publishing January 30, 2007! In bookstores everywhere February 2007!

See you there!

Mark Del Franco

Braiding the Strands

November 27th, 2006

I had a productive Thanksgiving break. After spending the holiday with family, I wrote. Chapter 5 finished with struggle and will need to be wrangled into shape in the next pass, but it cleared the way to continue. Chapter 6 flowed quickly and 7 is almost done. It’s magic when the pieces fall into place.

I’m putting the business card together. At the printer today, I discovered that I undersized instead of oversized for the bleed, so had to redo it this evening. I increased the size in two different versions in case I still was too conservative. I’m having the damnest time with the image software. The printed images never seem to match the software’s indicated size. Fortunately, the printer patiently explains what will work best. I’m going to do bookmarks, too, but I need to think about them a bit more. I want them to look cool and not just look like odd-shaped ads. I want them to be something people might like to let hang around instead of tossing when they get it home.

I’m also planning my convention schedule. I haven’t contacted any programming committees yet, but I’m planning on Boskone in February and Balticon in May. Someone is trying to convince me to go to Conestoga in Tulsa in July and I might do it since it apparently will be focused on urban fantasy.

I also need to contact the local bookstores. One an independent sff store for a signing or group signing. The other–a Borders–just because it’s close to my day job and they might let a first author have a table for a couple of hours if I can guarantee sufficient traffic.

I have some other ideas churning, and will talk about them as they get more realistic.

So, lots of things coming together. Fun. Exciting. Nerve-wracking. But fun.

Here and There and a little Yon

November 15th, 2006

I’ve been over in LiveJournal lately having recently signed up. Already I’ve met some great people. From having no blogs, I suddenly find myself with two and a half. There’s this one, the lj one, as well as participating in an lj community blog called fangs_fur_fey. For now, I’m going to keep this blog separate because I’m thinking I’ll keep it the more book and publishing focused one. The lj is more daily blather-type stuff which, of course, you are welcome to visit. Fangs_fur_fey is very cool. It’s professional community of urban fantasy writers who are either published or about to be (like me). It has nice mix of adult and YA authors, werewolf, vampire and fairy novelists and related. The common theme is the urban fantasy angle for those who like their spec fic set in times other than the medieval. Most of us are modern world enthusiasts. We’ve been talking about how and why we write, with occasional publishing laments and jitters. Come see! I’ve posted new links to them on the blogroll.

On the writing front, I’m doing okay with Book 2. I know where it’s going, but it’s a little slow actually typing because I have a tendency to pause and think about how what I just put down on the page will play out in later chapters. I’m not a big outliner because I tend to deviate too much from whatever I put in an outline, which is perfectly fine, but I start forgetting to update the outline. If I’m going to write, I’d rather write the book then spend time updating the outline. What’s worse (actually better) is that when I’m in writing mode for the Convergent World, I start thinking about the next book or the next one or cool scenes that are To Come. All good stuff. It just needs to be WRITTEN.


November 11th, 2006

I went for what I thought would be an interesting walk in the fields around my cape house. It’s low-lying dune land with dense vegetation that I couldn’t even remotely penetrate in the summer. Now that all the leaves are gone, I assumed I could make my way around out there, take some interesting pictures of some bone-white trees I can see from the house, as well as some kind of red-berried tree that the sunlight made all the more amazing in color. I was wrong. Terribly wrong. The place is infested–infested–with tough, thorny vines. I mean vine WALLS. Concertina mesh. A little googling tells me they are likely green briars. I think this is the equivalent of kudzu on the cape—it runs everywhere, climbing mature trees until you can barely see the trunks. I never got near the white-barked trees or the berried ones. Every time I tried, the briars would force me in the wrong direction. I thought this is what must happen in the Old Forest beyond the Hedge. (All of you who know what I mean may geek slap themselves now.) It was kind of cool in a way, but also like trying to crawl through a gauntlet of maniacal cat claws on sticks. Honestly, I will never try again because it wasn’t fun and I returned very scratched and exhausted. I’ll try and post a picture of it all later.

What Stuff Chapters Be Made Of…um, Other Chapters

November 8th, 2006

Okay, so. I sat down with myself last night and had a good long chat about my work-in-progress glitch. First, I threatened to trash completely about 6,000 words (of 20K written so far) by eliminating an entire subplot. But the subplot defended itself, claimed greater good will come with the over-riding theme of the Convergent World, if subplot remained and promised to be good and integrate into the novel. I had my doubts and pretended I didn’t believe it. Then the frag of Chapter 6, which was originally in Chapter 5, piped up and suggested it be put back in 5, only split in two with the current Chapter 5 in the middle because it was feeling a little bloated for such a short frag anyway. The current Chapter 5 objected because it was already having an identity crisis and didn’t think it could handle a split personality. I ignored Chapter 5 because it’s been so needy and over-dramatic. But then the lunch scene whispered it really didn’t want to be in Chapter 5 anyway because it felt neglected and preferred to be take-out. I was impressed that the lunch scene was able to pun in a crisis and told it so. But the best advice came from the storage room scene set either on the 15th or 18 floor (depending on how one counts) who pointed out it would make an excellent segue to the scene in the board room (rooms tend to congregate) which I was planning for a later chapter. The board room didn’t mind at all, as long as it got written, and if it became pivotal earlier, who was it to argue? Then a lot of selecting all, and copying and pasting, and highlighting and note-taking happened very quickly and, lo!, a chapter was born. I named it 5 and then when everyone stopped panting, we all smoked cigarettes.

The Chapter That Will Not Be

November 6th, 2006

I am having the damnedest time with Book 2 of the Convergent World (series, but not at this rate!). I tend to write fast and in order, meaning I rarely will write something for Chapter 8 before Chapter 3. I don’t use a real outline–if anything, I will make a list of events and then start plucking from it as I go along. I’m very good at keeping things in my head, so I don’t worry about writing down brilliance as it occurs (aside: when I was a teenager, I wrote an epic fantasy and took notes. Sorting through the dreck one day, I realized that a note I made three years earlier had been incorporated into the manuscript without checking my notes. I forgot about the note, but not the event. So, I don’t worry about taking a lot of notes).

I have started Chapter 5 four times now. It keeps turning into Chapter 6, which recently decided it wanted to be part of Chapter 7. Since I’m essentially writing an urban fantasy police procedural, things must happen in a particularly order for the clues and revelations to make sense. Chapter 5 was/is supposed to reintroduce a character from UNSHAPELY THINGS and introduce a new pivotal character in my MC’s life. And then we go thud. The problem is that, beyond needing to introduce the new character at this point, I haven’t really thought through the plot necessity of the character in the events of Chapter 5 (I know why he’s in the rest of the book). Frustrating.

So, now I’m rethinking everything. And writing notes to see if I can make the character have a point at his introduction. Which I hate, because it feels like a distraction.

Bad Writer, No Biscuit

November 3rd, 2006

Recently over on John Scalzi’s Whatever there has been much discussion about an unpublished writer’s bafflement over not getting published because, according to the guy, the publishing industry has become feminized and he is a manly man and they hate it. It’s silly and sad. First of all, assuming it’s true, then there’s this big hole in the publishing market for manly man books that the feminized publishers won’t publish. In America, big market holes are filled by people who want to make money. That there is no counter movement to create a masculinized publishing industry means either 1) the feminized publishing industry also somehow prevents everyone who wants to make money with manly books from doing so and they agree not to, which is a doubled conspiracy or 2) no such hole exists. I think the second explanation is much more likely, no?

Now let’s move on to this guy’s writing. For what it’s worth, look at the first five sentences (read the rest if you care/dare to):

1. First sentence. Presents a parallel construction of childhood/adulthood but the sentence structure is not parallel so it reads awkwardly.
2. Second sentence. Uses both “it” (singular) and “their” (plural) pronouns to refer to “gentry,” a singular noun. That’s simply bad grammar.
3. Third sentence. “Was given” should be “had been given.” Wrong tense. Bad grammar.
4. Fourth sentence. “To” follows “destined” only in the form of an infinitive (one is destined to “do something”). For a destination, the preposition should be “for.” Again bad grammar.
5. Fifth sentence. A doozy.

a) “New York City, Fifth Avenue penthouse” is not a correct location form in any manner. You can have a “Fifth Avenue penthouse in New York City,” “a New York City penthouse on Fifth Avenue,” or “a penthouse on Fifth Avenue in New York City.” I’ve never seen the construction this author uses and, even if it were a correct format, it would probably need a comma after “Avenue.” (anecdotal observation: I also cannot recall anyone I know who lives in New York call the place New York City. It’s always just New York.).

b) This long sentence uses the most passive verb available: “was”

c) Check out that last prepositional phrase “in the middle of the night.” Meaning, of course, the distance is different at other times of day. Neat trick.

And that’s just the first 5 sentences!

33 of the first 40 sentences of this chapter begin with the exact same word: “He.” It makes monotonous reading.

For no apparent reason, the main character is not identified by name for two pages (a classic novice error) and even then, only his nickname, as opposed to his rather long, three-name amalgam consisting of an Italian first and last name and a Spanish middle name. A little odd on its face for someone to have such a heavy-duty Italian name, yet grow up in East Harlem, which is also known as Spanish Harlem. Somehow I doubt the oddness will be addressed further in the novel.

I don’t mean to tear into this guy, but he also has a classic lack of understanding of why editors say the things they do to people who don’t write well. Calling something “too manly” or “not appealing to me” or “interesting, but not for us” are polite brush offs. They are observations that the rejected cannot argue against (“no, it’s womanly” or “yes, it does appeal to you” or “yes, it is for you” are not viable counter-arguments). Telling someone they lack simple grammar and observational skills invites argument because the rejected writer thinks that is a subjective observation against which they can argue. Editors are not paid to explain to poor writers exactly why they are poor writers. They get paid do a different job: find good writers. It has nothing to do with their genitals.

Publishing is a tough business. Too many bad writers think they are good writers, so the percentage of people that actually land a contract is actually quite small. If that’s not believable to you because you’ve read a badly written book, you would be amazed at how bad the rejected ones are. And those badly written novels are not an excuse for anyone to write badly.

If you are a writer and uniformly get rejected, don’t blame the industry. Take it as a challenge to write better. Join a writer’s group to get feedback from other writers. The mistakes you are making are probably not the exact same mistakes someone else is making, and others can point them out to you. Learn grammar. You don’t have to write with perfect grammar–but you do have to understand what good grammar is and why you decide not to use it. In the above examples, I’d bet the writer was completely unaware of the bad grammar because a writer uses incorrect grammar for effect. The grammar above does not add anything to the writing. Every writer–including published ones–that I know has a grammar book and reads it occasionally to check themselves. Bad writers always assume they know grammar and never check.

If there’s a conspiracy, it’s to find good writers.

The State of Publishing

October 24th, 2006

I’m doing a little cross-posting here. Recently on the Making Light blog, Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote as follows:

The Wall Street Journal has run a long prominent story about Henry Holt’s expensive acquisition of, and inadequate success with, Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder. Short version: big advance, big marketing budget, major push, not enough sales. Lots of sales, mind you, but nowhere near as many as they were aiming for.
These things happen. It’s why a project like that is called a gamble.
But enough about The Interpretation of Murder. What irritated me about the story was having the Wall Street Journal trot out the completely bogus standard paragraph about the state of publishing:

Much like Hollywood, book publishing is becoming a winner-takes-all contest. A publisher has to find a title with huge potential and single it out for special attention. If the book gets traction, the upside is limitless. If it fails, there’s a long way to fall. When a book doesn’t sell right away, the large chains sweep it into the back room, making space for the next aspirant. With 172,000 books published last year, shelf space is limited.

I think they’ve got that paragraph set up as a macro—and they’re not the only publication that uses it.

To which I posted:

This is one of my favorite topics, because it is really the blind men and the elephant. When we see the WSJ type of articles that wring their hands over the state of publishing, they are really focusing about the state of a particular type of publishing. If publishing success were merely about who wins the most $$–which the WSJ article implies–then most publishers (meaning, all, big and small, commercial and academic) simply would not exist. These sweeping generalizations are irritating not because they are wrong, but because they are wrong about the wrong things.

I think when you get the mainstream press talking about success, it is likely defined as whether your grandmother, boss, close friend and your dog have heard about it. And if it is something that all those individuals like, we are really talking lowest common denominator territory. You can talk about the quality of that all you like, but the reality is something that hits such disparate buttons is rare. By rare, I mean the books that have this kind of “success” almost never have anything in common–Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, Mitch Albom. Your Grishams, Kings, and Steeles (again nothing in common) are successful because they are very good at pushing the same button again and again, so the author gets bought first, not the book (personal bias: I included Rowling in the former category rather than the latter because I think she is really writing one big book with a canny marketing campaign).

Meanwhile, out in the wilderness, tons of authors are selling tons of books that dont bubble up into mainstream consciousness (another definition of success). Ask the next ten people you meet who Neil Gaiman, Lois Bujold Masters, Robert Jordan, Ray Feist, Anne MacCaffrey or Terry Pratchett are and I bet you will get blank stares. You might get a glimmer of recognition for a Joe Haldeman or a Dan Simmons. And, yet, you can bet that each of these authors are enormously important to their publishers.

The other point I think gets lost is, calling something bestseller, midlist or backlist are not definitions of books. They are observed results. If that could be predicted, then why would *any* publisher bother with any but bestsellers if all they cared about was wild financial success (as if they could predict that anyway)? A knowledgeable publisher will publish a book knowing out of the gate it will not hit the NYT list. Why? Because they are hoping it will succeed by a standard of success that has nothing to do with the NYT. Calling something like that midlist is just lingo.
So, four paragraphs of ramble to make the point that the WSJ is assuming there is only one standard of success and one explanation for why publishers do what they do. Pfiffle.

The Making Light comment thread and subsequent post on the topic are interesting. Check it out here.


October 18th, 2006

Okay, why can’t I a) remember my blog password and b) remember the email I gave to retrieve it when lost? Let’s hope this reset sticks in my brain.

I haven’t blogged much because I’ve been incredibly busy at work, running off to my cape house, and talking too much on the phone. In the meantime, I’ve managed to complete the page proofs for UNSHAPELY THINGS and sent the corrections back. I discovered dumpster is apparently a trademark, but I think it’s stupid to capitalize. It’s one of those things where you’re supposed to do the correct thing, but it’s unclear if you really can cause trouble by, for instance, not capitalizing. Anyway, it’s done and the next thing I see may be an author’s reading copy (ARC) or the book itself. I don’t know, I’ll have to check.

My agent, Andrew Zack of The Zack Company, has updated my profile on his site. You can check it out here. Andy also does a interesting blog. He’ll often good publishing/writing advice–especially for beginners–and can be brutally honest about publishing in general. Plus he announces client’s books and you might find something unexpected. I’ll probably be checking out the Anne Morrow Lindbergh bio. All these links I’ll put on the blogroll for y’all. (I’m not southern. I have no idea why I typed that).

The Women

September 28th, 2006

Went to see a stage production of The Women tonight in Boston. It was excellent. The Women was originally a 1930s movie starring Roselind Russell, Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. It’s hysterical–a frothy comedy, very dated in terms of the roles of women, but if you take it for what it is, you will laugh. I was very impressed with this stage production by the SpeakEasy company. Every actress was pitch perfect. I didn’t find myself comparing them to the movie originals at all (well, maybe the Crystal role). If you are in or near Boston–go see.

Not much on the book front. I finished my first pass of the page proofs and found lots of typos. That’s the point of going thru page proofs. I found one word–yes, one word–that I want to change. I can live with the rest. Every time I read the manuscript, I’m tempting to change something. But I like this version. I didn’t mind rereading the story for the umpteenth time. I hope my readers will feel the same! Now I just need to do a pass through and see if I missed anything or if I have too much anxiety and need to do a third pass. Things will slip through anyway–hard to believe with so many people proofing and checking, but it still happens.