Monthly Archives: June 2013

Fictional Characters in Real Life

Today was fun!

* * *

I get out of the mail truck and walk up to the customer’s door, her mail in hand. I’m steeling myself for a confrontation, just in case; they requested redelivery for a package that doesn’t exist, and it’s actually my fault because I left the notice in the wrong mailbox. Oops.

I knock loudly and ring the doorbell, hoping it will be over quickly. The smell of sunbaked dog piss hit me in the face before I even opened the fence, and mosquitoes swarm around the area as if they’d been specifically waiting for their favorite meal to show up. Long seconds go by, the upcoming conversation playing and re-playing in my head. A futile exercise, I know. They don’t ever go the way I imagine them.

I put on a smile as the door swings open. It reveals a wiry old man I’ve never seen before, slightly sunken features, thready white beard down to his chest. He stares out for a tiny moment, eyes unfocused.

“Hi,” I greet him.

“Wah!” he startles, as if I weren’t the guy that knocked and doorbelled just ten seconds ago. He recovers quickly. “Um, yes?”

“Yes, hi, you requested redelivery of a package notified on Saturday, right?” I show him the automatic printout I got in the morning. NOONE CAME TO THE DOOR PLEASE KNOCK LOUDLY AND GIVE TIME TO ANSWER is written under additional information.

“Uh, yes, uh ….” The man leans forward and dubiously looks at the paper, so close he could sniff it. I notice as I speak that his eyebrows jut out of his brow like wide, wispy canopies. It’s awfully distracting.

“Yeah, it’s my fault,” I tell him, “there was a misunderstanding—the package wasn’t for you, I left the notice in the wrong box.”

“In the wrong box got it,” the man repeats immediately. His voice is somewhat feeble. He fidgets. He missed a comma. I can’t decide whether he’s grasping the issue.

“Yeah, sorry about that. You can simply tear up the notice you got on Saturday.”

“Tear up the notice I got on Saturday got it.” He’s looking up at me, features conveying nothing but earnest compliance.

Okay, well. At least no-one is getting angry.

“By the way, if it ever happens again you can also leave the notice in your mailbox with the flag up. It’ll save you the trouble of filling out a form online.”

“Um, I need to leave the notice in the mailbox with the flag up got it.”

I blink. Twice.

“But not Saturday’s, though. I already know about that one. You can throw it away.”

“I can throw it away got it.”

We look at each other for a moment. His eyes are open to the appropriate width—not dazed, nor lidded, nor crazy wide. He looks perfectly lucid. My gaze keeps tracking back to those prodigious white eyebrows that tremble subtly with his every word.

“Well, then, here’s your mail. Sorry about that again, have a nice day.”

He takes the bundle and looks at it like it’s a handful of marbles. He looks back up, nodding vigorously. He approves.

“Have a nice day.”

The door closes. I stand there for a moment, somewhat stunned. I don’t even smell the dog piss anymore as I shut the fence behind me.

Nope. They never go the way you imagine.

 

***

 

Some stories have characters that could only exist in that story. Sometimes characters are so weird or quirky or stupid that they fail to suspend disbelief altogether. I used to balk at oddball characters in novels and fiction in general, but not anymore. They exist. There’s much worse out there.

Now, I’d like to think there is nothing wrong with this man at all. I sure hope he doesn’t have a cognitive disease, and that he’s free from the clutches of senility. I walk away from his home imagining he’s chuckling his ass off at the confused postman, or perhaps carrying on with the game of Starcraft I interrupted, fidgety hands moving at two hundred actions per minute while he mouths off the poor sod that challenged him. I was but a blip in his existence, a quickly dismissed annoyance in the grand tale of his life.

That is the reality I choose to believe.

I know kung fu,

– Israel

You Might Have Thought I Was Kidding….

I did say I would do it, and I ain’t the flaky type.

Behold the $2 frame

Behold the $2 frame in all its glory.

I wonder if a lot of budding authors do this. It feels important to cherish the new-ness of these experiences: I’ll never get my first rejection again, or write my first query again. Five years from now I’ll look at that frame and shake my head at my foolishness, and it will be good. This is a fantastic journey full of delightful frustration and disappointment!

On the other hand, that one time when I got punched in the face was a first-time experience I could do without. While we’re on that subject, I’d like to let the world know that I don’t need any more punches in the face, please. My experience quota is filled in that particular regard, as it is for faceplanting down cliffs, or getting lost in the woods, or being attacked by dogs, or falling in the wonderful clutches of explosive diarrhea. No more of any of those, if you’d be so kind.

Also,

Professional finish

Professional finish

Thumbtacks and string: the best picture-hanging method, or the absolute best picture-hanging method?

I’m the most skilled handyman in the planet.

Cats and Books – Print on Demand

I was terribly curious about Print on Demand and figured why the hell not. To clarify, I only wanted to print out a sample copy for private use. No intentions to sell anything here! After summary research I shunned the more mainstream stuff in favor of The Book Patch. It was a fairly painless process and it cost a whopping $12 plus shipping and handling fees.

I want to say I was quite thorough in researching first that this does not use up your first publishing rights. As long as you don’t sell it to anyone, you’re good. It’s the same as printing out your manuscript in your home’s printer.

Results! Luna is pleased.

Click for full feline greatness

Click for full feline greatness

I’ll admit I expected complete garbage, so I was very much impressed with the quality. The cover is somewhere between paperback and hardcover, while the interior is just as pretty as you’d expect a printed book to be. Too bad they don’t allow customization of paper quality — though the paper has the right feel, it would be nice to be able to use something more cream-colored.

Hairy fingers fans rejoice

Vanity at its best. Also it’s “theatrics,” not “theatricals,” and “he” instead of “him and other scribes.” That’s the kind of stuff that jumps out at you!

I’d recommend these guys to anyone, overall. The only snag I noticed is that the black and white printing isn’t very good for interior art designs, though maybe I simply used wrongly-optimized files. If you want to see how your book will look in print, this is definitely the way to go.

Which brings me to the actual, extremely useful aspect of this endeavor! This is an awesome tool for revisions. The draft I printed out with them was thought to be final after gruesome, lengthy editing, but so many things jump out at you from the actual printed page. I’d encourage everyone out there with a final draft to do this before starting to query (and I do mean final, editor-reviewed, ready-to-be-submitted draft: it would get way too expensive to do it all the time.) I didn’t regret it and neither will you, I swear on Andraste’s rump.

It’s also a very nice present for people that have believed in you through the writing of your novel, and I’ve put together a nicer, better formatted edition for them. And who knows, it could become an extremely rare collector’s item five hundred years from now. You must always watch for future generations, you see.

I’m still a little stunned that this technology exists at all. Print a book, any book, for hardly an hour’s worth of wages and some fiddling with suitably formatted files. It’s the future, people! 

Live well and prosper.

Thank you for thinking of us

No wonder there’s so many blogs out there, it’s all writing about yourself and how very smart and clever you are.

Not this time.

Dear Israel,

Thank you so much for querying us with your project.  Unfortunately, we did not feel it was the right fit for our agency.  While we are unable to comment personally on every query, please know we did give your work our full consideration.  Thanks for thinking of The Totally Awesome Agency and we wish you nothing but the best in your writing career.

Sincerely,

Peace, Love and Understanding 

Oh well. Though I doubt they based their decision solely on it, the mortifying typo I found in the query letter shortly after clicking send probably didn’t help. Oooops.

I find the biggest bummer in a rejection is the sense of futile time expenditure. It’s been taking me about two full days on average to research a promising agent and tailor their query. The alternative would be the unsavory practice of shotgunning queries to every agent out there that could be remotely interested, but it is greatly discouraged everywhere and it does feel … tacky. It’s alright, though—these are interesting times that I will endeavor to grok deeply so that I may cherish and praise them in retrospect.

That was a Stranger in a Strange Land reference! Man, so damn clever. Anyway, it’s not wasted time, because (I’d like to think) the query gets a little better with every submission. It follows, then, that I will eventually reach the Perfect Query Singularity and make the Universe collapse into paradox space.

That would be a very bad thing! I must be stopped. Only you can save the Universe, Dear Agent.

Too Much Information

My Dearest Brother suggested that I’m being too sincere in this blog—sincere to a counterproductive degree.

Now, I like to think I’m pretty good at taking criticism, just like there’s people out there that are really good at taking a punch to the gut. So after the inevitable, rapidly suppressed first thought of “no I disagree shut up,” I gave what I’ve written here a long, narrow-eyed look, trying to see what he’d seen.

And you know, it’s totally true. I probably shouldn’t say that my first draft was bloated and meandering, especially when I failed to mention that it was also pretty damn great, with snappy dialogue, spot-on emotions (mostly) and characters as deep as yo mamma’s—dammit, there I go I again. With many deep, well developed characters, is what I wanted to say. I probably should have stressed that Ms. Awesome Editor loved it, or at least many parts of it, in italics, yes indeed. It had enough potential and good writing to become the excellent book that it is now, and that doesn’t exactly come across in all my previous posts.

It’s hard to tell where’s the line between promoting yourself and being an obnoxious braggart. Done wrong or too often, humorous self-deprecation becomes stale or just fishing for compliments, and a positive-but-with-low-expectations attitude becomes depressing fatalism. Irreverence is my default state of mind, which might disguise the fact that I take making it as a writer Very Seriously.

Statements like the last one above make me cringe a little. Self-importance is such a plague on the internet—so unwarranted, so worthy of much eyebrow quirking and head shaking. I’m self-centered and self-important like everyone else, and I guess sincerity is what I use to fight it. If you are up-front with the flaws and the awful thoughts, I don’t know, maybe then it balances out the big-headed nonsense a little?

In an age when you can’t swing a cybercat without hitting anonymous acerbic sneers, jaded nonchalance, teethy malice hidden beneath saccharine politeness … sincerity is kind of scarce. And I have it, I have all of it, bahahaha!

Besides, I’m going to make a fool of myself anyway. I might as well own it.

Safe journeys, space fans.

The Story So Far

The story is fairly standard, yet it does not lack serendipity.

I’ve been thinking about Eternal since 2006, when I dreamed I died and showed up in the Pathways. I didn’t decide to seriously pursue it until *looks it up* April of 2011.

(I just looked up my word count pseudo-spreadsheet, where I’d note down the amount of words written each day. Though word output isn’t everything, It was a great motivational tool source of much self-yelling. I’ll talk about it at some point.)

I “finished” the first draft on May 20th, 2012, which just means I got to the final stop of the story. 210,000 words. Then I spent a couple months revising it. 190,000 words, and I thought I’d cut a lot. Then a dearest friend popped out of nowhere after a long absence and told me that a dearest friend of his was an actual friggin’ editor, and not just that, but this award-winning editor was willing to give it a look, free of charge and everything.

At this point you might think, wow, it doesn’t get much luckier than that. Well, then let me tell you that this editor liked it well enough to go through every page in the manuscript and mark it up. Page by bloated, meandering page.

But that’s not all. Because after I went through that manuscript and pretty much rewrote the entire novel (the way every first-time author is doomed to do, by the way, don’t think that you’ll be different) She went through it again. All she asked in return was that I credit her in the acknowledgments, and something about my first-born child that I didn’t take seriously but maybe I should’ve? Just between you and me, she’s a little bananas. Please don’t tell her I said that, she might set my house on fire with her pyrokinesis.

Anyway, revisions, gotta love’m. A billion or so drafts later, the final draft is considered Done on May 2013, save some minor adjustments. 160,000 words after adding a bunch of scenes and conversations, which might give you an idea of how bloated the first draft was.

This led to the “first query” blog entry down there. And so that’s the story so far. Now you know, invisible person!

It feels nice being able to work on something new until more revision is needed. I’m about 75 pages into the next book, something that’s going to be completely different from Eternal, wink wink nudge nudge.

Blank stare. Senile smile.

Awkward shuffle.

A Declaration of Intent

Greetings, phantoms from the future.

There’s a great number of compelling reasons why this blog is mostly empty. They basically boil down to (1) lack of an audience and (2) time constraints. I’m pretty much talking to myself here, and any amount of time I spend blathering on this blog is time that I could have spent working on a novel.

However, it has occurred to me that this is a very sad space indeed, and creating a nice backlog for future readers to browse isn’t that bad an idea. I suppose this is a disclaimer, then: I know I’m talking to myself right now. You don’t need to point it out. Readers will come, in time.

I can’t just blab about nothing, though—and the other reason why I’m starting today is that I actually have a fairly compelling story to tell through this blog, and that’s the…

PATH TO PUBLICATION

It’s been done before a thousand times, I’m sure. But every story is different, who knows what this one will hold? (Tears, tears, many tears). And in the diffuse future, when I can look back at the starting years with fond nostalgia as my robo-maid massages my temporal lobes, my millions of rabid, frothing fans will be able to read how it all started while masturbating to smiling at my early antics.

Time is still a real problem, what with lots of overtime in the day job and a budding writing career, so I will write these entries only when there’s something relevant to say, and I must endeavor not to obsessively search for clever turns of phrase on everything I write here. There will be rough spots and grammatical errors, hopefully minimal but I’m sure present to a certain degree.

Thus it begins, the chronicle of Israel Barbuzano as he wades forth through the Path to Publication!

Note: I promise never to refer to myself in the third person again.

If only they’d been swift

And so it has come to pass, my first rejection letter. Behold!

 ・ソ

Dear Author:

Thanks for your query. I apologize for this form response, but the volume of mail I receive makes it impossible to send individual replies in every case.

As to your material, I am afraid I must pass. I represent a very full list of writers, and must be highly selective in adding to it. I realize that it is difficult to judge your potential from a query alone; nevertheless, please know that we give serious attention to every letter, outline and writing sample that we receive.

Thank you for contacting me. I wish you the very best of luck in your search for representation.

Sincerely, 

THE GRIM REAPER

I redacted the agency because I don’t know, it feels like the polite thing to do.

Though it obviously sucks to be told no, I of course harbor no hard feelings (that’s a lie. I hope they burn. Haha just kidding, hah, hum.) Everything, everything I’ve read has told me to get used to rejection when looking for representation.

It’s my plan to print it out, frame it and hang it behind my computer screen. Things like this keep you grounded, you see. La! I shall shew you a picture upon completion of the deed. The fact that it’s a form rejection makes it particularly fitting.

I’m a big chicken shit so I only sent out one. Actually, that’s not the real reason. I sent out only one because I wanted my story to be “yeah, you’re going to hate me, but I sent out ONE query, got an agent on the first try, no hassle.”

I … I might be a douche.

On the bright side, since then I’ve scouted out some agencies I’m honestly excited about, especially the latest I queried. It feels weird to name names, so I won’t. I mean, she might come looking into this silly proto-blog and then we’ll both feel awkward, you know.

Anyway. It’ll all work out in the end *rocks back and forth*