The following is a collection of blog posts I started (and stopped and started again) when I first began writing Servants & Thieves. There are a few interesting bits that journal my thoughts about writing, various attempts to market and publish Servants & Thieves, and finally the decision to independently publish the series. If you are into reading the wandering thoughts of That Author Guy as he tries to figure out what his books are about, what his blog is about, and what God is steering him toward, then enjoy!
PS: Not sure if all the links from a million years ago are still going to work. I’m sure they’re still stored in the Way-Back Machine somewhere.
Why am I here?
Published Nov 26th, 2008 | By Derrick
I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can start this blog. Rather than bore you with the details of assembling this site, let me just say…it is most certainly still under construction. Some things are due to be updated (such as the “about the story” page), and others to be created, but I’ll let you know when those are done.
In the meantime, I thought it best to start with a brief mission statement, not only for this site, and the books I’m working on, but also the whole idea of why I’m writing at all.
I’m blaming the children. I have two of them, you see, and they both love to read. Voracious, I believe is the word. They got that from their parents, so it’s partly my fault. But now both are getting to that age where they’ve moved beyond the kids books, but aren’t quite ready for the full-out modern novel, with its adult themes. Whenever we go into a bookstore, I’m always looking around for what would be good for them to read. And what do I see?
Vampire books. Wizard books. My-Date-With-A-Teenage-Zombie books. Everything dark and twisted and scary. “Forbidden Fruit Tastes the Best,” seems to be the current theme.
My knee-jerk reaction was…we should fix that. We should have more books emphasizing the benefits of good choices, the beauty of the light, and the view of the world that says there is a God, and He still cares for us very much.
More than a year later, my reaction is the same. We still need positive alternatives to the fiction presented to our teens and tweens. Which is why I’m writing books, and have spent the last nine months or so crafting a new adventure that I hope will appeal to my kids, and possibly other kids out there, who need to be reminded that God is still there, and He still cares.
That is my mission–my raison d’être–to provide teens with good stories, based on a Biblical worldview, that affirm the light. Phil. 4:8
The Waiting is the Hardest Part (Part 1)
Published Dec 2nd, 2008 | By Derrick
Who would have thought it? After finishing the rough draft, and being all excited to continue with the edits, who knew that the hardest part would be the waiting?
Perhaps some explanation is in order. Several good books on writing (the ones I’m thinking of now are Stephen King’s, and Elizabeth George’s) recommend waiting at least six weeks after finishing a rough draft before you approach the manuscript again. This should allow the writer a chance to see the work with fresh eyes, and in my case, I can also read it as if I’ve never seen it before.
But, the waiting is murder. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing process so far, only to be brought up short by this enforced hiatus. I’ve taken to reading (mostly because the research books for the next novel haven’t arrived yet) and playing video games. And it’s only the second week.
Oh well. It will be time to read and finish the manuscript soon enough, and then I’ll get to the next more horrendous part…finding an agent.
Never Say It…
Published Dec 16th, 2008 | By Derrick
I should never have said I was having trouble waiting, or that I didn’t have enough to do. Big mistake. Since the last post, I went through a whole week of helping with the kids Christmas play. I had a role that basically took up the whole week. No, not a role on stage, but behind the scenes, running the sound board. I got to push a whole bunch of buttons, in rapid sequence, trying to keep up with the kids talking and singing and generally being the stars of the play.
When I stumbled back to my other job this week, I discovered all kinds of things that needed doing, and now am considerably busy there. And to think, I only need to hang on another week before I can start reading the book. I wonder what else could happen during that time…
Not much else is going on, writing-wise. I keep batting around a story idea that I had a year ago, but when I went to look for the notes–I had written an entire character profile for one woman, and had even started the story–they were gone. No idea where they vanished. I checked my HDD, and all my hand-written notes, but can’t seem to locate it. I did have a major HDD crash, a little more than a year ago, but I thought for sure I had typed all that afterwards. Yes, I’m sure I did…
If I get the motivation, I guess I’ll start over on that idea, and see how it develops. I also should do a quick Bible study on it as well. As long as nothing else happens.
Where has all the time gone?
Published Jan 8th, 2009 | By Derrick
Three weeks later, and I’m coming up for air. Whew!
On the writing front, I’ve done the quick read-through, and am now working through the second draft changes. One thing that surprised me (even though it shouldn’t have) was how much work there still is to do on the book. When I had finished it, I was convinced it was almost perfect. Ha! Must have been the adrenaline from finishing the first draft that made me so blind.
So, good news, bad news. I get to fix all the mistakes, but now I’m behind schedule. I wanted to package up the story and deliver it to my beta-readers in January, and now I’m not so sure that’s going to happen.
Meanwhile, I’ve been looking over lulu.com as a fun way print out the story for my betas. None of them like reading a whole stack of papers, and I can print books without worrying about copyright issues (by making the project a private one). It’s cool.
My other work has also been keeping me busy, and January is a whirlwind of a month coming up. I hope I’ll find the time I need, or at least some writing fairies who will work for cheap.
Published Feb 2nd, 2009 | By Derrick
After working for weeks now on the second draft, I now know how long it really takes to work through it. Silly me thought I could do it in a week or two.
The good news is I’m more than halfway done with that, and am plugging on toward the end. ’Twill soon be done.
As an aside, I was intending to post some of the research material that went into this first book, which is, as you would know if you read the About the Story page, set in Victorian times. Quite a few books detail this era, and innumerable works of fiction also come from then. It can be safely said that there is plenty of material to read.
Here’s the main group of books and resources I used:
- Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography (’cause it’s all about London)
- Judith Flanders’ Inside the Victorian Home
- Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew
- Charles Dickens Oliver Twist (for all the orphan scenes)
- Divided by a Common Language (to get all those English slang words just right)
- Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (’cause it’s funny)
- The Dictionary of Victorian London (where Lee Jackson has kindly done all the work for me)
- The Victorian Web (good for a general overview, and some good pics)
- Shakespeare Search (’cause I’m too lazy to read all the plays again)
- And of course, Bible Gateway, the Word at your fingertips
I know there were other things that contributed, most notably movies and other things I’ve googled and forgotten, but that’s the core of it.
I’m a little worried about having enough material for the second book, which takes place a little earlier. I won’t reveal too much about that, though.
Also, great stuff being posted on Michael Hyatt’s site: this one, for example.
Where it belongs
Published Feb 26th, 2009 | By Derrick
Over the last few weeks, I finished the second draft, and now the manuscript is where it belongs, in the hands of readers. Granted, it is a select group (my family), but so far they are enjoying the story. But still, there is something satisfying to know, after all the time spent alone in the closet, that your words are reaching out to someone else.
I won’t get too philosophical here. It starts to sound smarmy.
The other fun part about the beta version of the book is that I had lulu.com print 3 copies, and I plastered “NOT FOR SALE” all over them, in case one gets lost, and gave them to my beta-readers that way. It sure beats reading loose-leaf MS pages.
(In case you go to lulu, and try to find the book, I’m sorry, you can’t. They’ve got a nifty feature where you can mark the book as “private” and no one but the author can order copies. You’ll have to wait for the real deal, just like everyone else.)
I’ve also put the progress on the next book at the bottom of the page. Still generating ideas, but I do have the basic plot outline, and I’m starting to read my research books. (Sorry, no clues there, either.) The beginnings of a book are a little more gelatinous, a little more free-form, so it’s hard to “chart” it out exactly. Ideas accumulate, and at some point, I sit down and start typing.
Also, I’ve been researching agents, and working on proposal letters. Not as fun as writing, but necessary. More on that later, when there’s real news.
Finally, we’ve been doing a Bible study in our men’s group that is phenomenal, all based on Romans 12. Shows how each of us is to interact with God, each other, and the world at large. Good stuff.
Check it out.
Where Was I?
Published Apr 20th, 2009 | By Derrick
Is it April already? Seems like just yesterday we were slogging through the snow, and now the sun is brutal and bright. Where has all the time gone?
As for progress, I’ve been working my way through the third draft, and as far as epic struggles…this book is kicking my butt. The second draft felt too short, and my readers agreed. There were other parts that bothered me, an imbalance of characters, and so…. There are more characters in the third draft. Adding them seamlessly, and with maximum impact, is not an easy thing. Plus, I’d really like to be done, and moving on to the next book.
Which brings me to the progress bars. They are down there, at the bottom of each page, but they are misleading. The first looks like the book should be done, but it’s not. The second looks like I’m working on the next book, but I’m not. What can you say? No much, but work continues.
I am reminded of this verse, out of Proverbs, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” To me, this tells me that I may have lots of plans, but I only end up going where God wants me to go, and I cannot change that. Or if I do end up changing where I go, then things will only turn out worse. Can’t have that, can we?
Back to juggling cats.
Are we there yet?
Published Jun 11th, 2009 | By Derrick
Sometimes I feel like a kid, asking if I’ve arrived yet. The funny part is, we never do, do we? If we’ve arrived, that means we must be dead. Life is a journey, and a struggle, and all that jazz.
Still, there are plenty of enjoyable moments in every day. One of the fun things I did recently was create a “mock cover” for the beta book. My beta-readers like to read books in their native habitat (ie, bound, with a cover), so I oblige, and get to make things like this:
The good news is, if I’m mucking around with cover designs, then I must be done with editing. Quite so. One last read-through, and then it’s Query Time.
With endings, and beginnings, and patience, I found this verse to contemplate: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” This is Solomon, Ecc.7:8.
I continue to pray for patience as this writing/publishing process goes along. All in His good timing.
The New Business Model
Published Jul 7th, 2009 | By Derrick
I love listening to the Web-comics Weekly guys, four web cartoonists who have this notion that business for creative people has changed. Much of what they talk about seems like it should apply to writing as well, but there’s one snag. While they can give away content (their comic) for free, and monetize on books and other merchandise down the line, how does a writer do the same thing? Do you post a paragraph at a time, or a chapter a week? How do you keep people coming back?
Can you give your book away, and end up selling more copies? Can you skip the publisher and go it alone? It’s an interesting idea, one that I’ve been mulling over for a bit. For sure, you will see some sample chapters here on this blog, but probably no more than that.
I’ve seen Neil Gaiman offer entire books on his site, books he’s already written and gotten paid for, and yet by doing so, he has increased sales for those titles. Can an unknown writer do the same? I don’t think so.
To continue with the argument (with myself, of course), aren’t the best things in life free? For example, isn’t salvation a free gift? Aren’t most things you read/see/experience on the web free? What’s wrong with free?
I’m still debating the whole thing, but who knows? At some point, you might be able to read the whole book online, then buy the t-shirt on your way out.
2 Cor 9:15 “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
We interrupt this moment…
Published Jul 13th, 2009 | By Amy
Hi, this is Amy.
I finally found a place I can post my thoughts without my mom peeking in. She found my FB page, and INSISTED on being my friend, so she could track what I was saying. And she’s got my twitter name, and I can’t block her, or she’ll remove me completely. Sometimes I just want to tell her, You know I’m (almost) 16 now, and I do know what’s right and wrong. You’re not the only one in the family who has a brain! (Well, I guess Dad’s pretty smart too–but I’m not going to vouch for Ben.)
Anyway, That Author Guy was kind enough to leave his book of passwords out where I could see it, and saw he had a blog. If I can’t do FB, and I can’t twitter, then I might as well blog. Ugh.
We took a trip last week, to some national park. I told mom and dad I’d rather stay home and read, but they dragged me along anyway. Dad lectured us the whole way about “spontaneous pair production” until mom finally told him to can it. Three hours of that sort of family time, and I was ready for a break. But, no. We hiked around some dead volcanoes, and saw some bubbling mud things, until my legs were ready to fall off.
Ben, of course, loved it, and bounced from one natural attraction to the next. He swore he wanted to be a park ranger when he grew up. As if. I told him I could make him a permanent part of the park. We were near one of the boiling lakes. Mom told me to watch it. Oh well.
Anyway, bored at home now. Both Clara and Beth are at camp (hi girls!), but will be back next week.
Will post more later, if That Author Guy doesn’t catch me and toss me out. (Please, please please, let me stay? Thanks, T.A.G.!)
Another Way to Time Travel
Published Jul 20th, 2009 | By Derrick
Well, it seems someone has hijacked this blog, but after considering it for a while, I’ve decided to leave the post as it is. As long as she doesn’t detract from the serious content here, then it should be fine.
I’ve been working on the research for the next Amy and Ben adventure. They’ve told me the story from their point of view, but there’s a lot of history around the times they went visiting, and they don’t know nearly as much as they let on. So…I’m reading up on the plague in 1665, called the Great Plague. Amazing reading, and very shocking at the number of deaths. At its height, the sickness claimed over 7,000 people a month, just there in London.
Another interesting part is the conflict (already) between people searching for divine cause and those searching for scientific cause. Those politic enough even divided causes into first cause and second cause, being sure to include God as one of those causes, to cover all the bases. With an illness like the Great Plague, it’s no wonder people thought they were cursed by God.
Only a few of the preachers back then had things straight. God did not “send the plague” to punish the sinners in London, any more than he sent those terrorists crashing airplanes into buildings on 9/11. It is a fallen world, boys and girls, and our time here is brief as it is. I’ll see if I can find the quote from the book that is tickling the back of my mind–but it is one of the preachers from 1665 echoing the same sentiment.
Reading history is the best and easiest form of time travel. Safe in our chairs, we can visit any number of moments in the past, and while we may miss out on all the nuances of the time, and who said exactly what, we can still gain a deeper understanding of our humanity over time, and realize this: Human nature never changes.
A wise man once said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecc 1:9
Published Aug 17th, 2009 | By Amy
Me again. Amy.
Forced again into making blog posts. Mom’s computer was down for a week (I think Ben had something to do with that ) and so I was sneaking in some FB posts and such. Then we went on vacation for 10 whole days at Aunt Sylvia’s, and I didn’t get to do ANYTHING online. Bummer.
Now we’re back, and I can’t believe summer is almost over. I go back to school in a week. I don’t know what’s worse, being bored at home, being bored at Aunt Sylvia’s, or going back to school. To be fair, I got to do a lot of reading at Aunt Sylvia’s, and Ben was WAY too occupied by video games to be a bother. Auntie has a collection of antique (at least 8 years old) game consoles and games, and Ben was in heaven. She also has a killer collection of mysteries (sorry), which is how I spent my time.
Yesterday, I got to hang out at the pool with Beth and Clara, and we simply melted in the dry heat. We tried to pay attention to the older boys and their antics, but it was too warm to concentrate. I forgot how hot it gets here. We’ve lived all over, and spent a lot of time in the Midwest (nice, when it’s not muggy), and of course last summer we were in England (where everything is always green). But everything here in Cow-ifornia is very brown, killed by the sun.
After that, I read a fun and quirky book, all in one sitting. “Alex and the Ironic Gentleman.” A little below my usual reading level, but I liked it anyway. Mom picked it up at half price from a little bookstore that was going out of business. I hate it when bookstores close. You would think more people would read, then we wouldn’t have this problem.
Oops, gotta go. Clara’s texting me about meeting for ice cream. Yum!
The Value of Secular Entertainment
Published Aug 21st, 2009 | By Derrick
I’ve been re-reading Dan Simmon’s epic story, the Hyperion Cantos (four books worth), and thinking about how appropriate secular entertainment is for believers. There are two issues that immediately come to mind, regarding the value of secular books, movies, and music:
The first is about Truth. The full unadulterated truth comes from God’s word, his specific revelation. Books about the Bible, Christian fiction, musics and movies, all have more of the Truth reflected in them than other entertainment, but are still not 100% the Truth. The more we delve into secular stuff, the further from the Truth we get, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find hints of the truth somewhere in there.
The problem here is having to sort through all the garbage to get to that small kernel of truth, whether it be praising self-sacrifice, or showing upright moral behavior. We recently watched Gran Turino, and there are several good qualities to the actions of the main characters, but there was so much that they did wrong, it almost negates what they did right. The same thing with the Hyperion books. Again, self-sacrifice and “love-conquers-all” are major themes of the books, but so is distorted philosophy and a corrupt version of the church. When I’m reading, I’m constantly telling myself, “Well, that’s not true…that’s not right.” It’s a lot of work.
The second issue here is worldviews (a nod here to Del Tackett). Even if there are no overt issues with a secular book, movie or song, the underlying worldview gives everything a subtle bent toward the deceptions of the modern world. Many of the best science fiction novels I enjoyed when I was younger assume evolution, assume there is no God, assume that the “stuff in the box” is all there is to this world. Even if they don’t say it, the assumptions are there, twisting the knife a little bit more.
Why the rant, then, about secular entertainment? Why not just stick with the stuff made specifically for believers? Again, two reasons.
The first is quality. I’ve looked (and will continue to look) for Christian artists who have the high quality of story-telling and command of the medium (whether words, images, or sounds) that many secular artists have. I think music is pretty much there. There is a wide variety of positive music, from rock to rap to R&B, from many talented people. Movies are catching up, but I can still name on one hand the films that are strong, pro-Christian flicks. And books…my favorite medium…I don’t know. There’s a lot of fiction out there, but it seems geared toward the simple. Is it just me? Or do the authors want to keep the message simple enough, understandable enough, so the readers get the point, or get the connection to Christ? I know there are exceptions to this, but I haven’t found enough.
The second reason to continue experiencing secular entertainment is connection. We are aliens in this world, but we do live here. If we cannot connect to the people here, we will have more difficulty reaching them. We need to be “with” them, but “apart” from them. So any foray into entertainment needs to be approached as a debate, a challenge. We need to be transformed, and not conformed.
My final thought is about us as Christian artists, and it has to do with the quality issue again. We need to be excellent. We need to devote our lives to serving Christ through our art, and it needs to shine brighter than the “Twilights” and “Harry Potters,” it needs to move people more than the “eminems” and “50cents,” and it needs to enlighten more than the “Hotel for Dogs” and “Brokeback Mountains.”
Is that asking too much?
The New New
Published Oct 5th, 2009 | By Derrick
Just some updates to graphics and other things on the site. I like the Shelfari plug-in, and have been keeping up my “shelf” to show what I’ve been reading. Makes it much easier to show people what’s going into the hopper, so-to-speak.
I’ve been enjoying reading about the Great Fire, and the book does a great job weaving the story in with the history, and of building the drama. Lots of things you wouldn’t think about these days were of great concern back in 1666. Like a lack of proper fire-fighting equipment, or hoses, or pressurized water pipes.
At some point, all this information will come bursting out, and I’ll have to start drafting the book, otherwise, I’ll lose the edge. I’ve also been looking at NaNoWriMo, and wondering if the timing is right to give it a try. That would certainly help my feeling of being behind in writing the second book. I know my undying fans are waiting patiently.
I haven’t seen hide-nor-hair of my other visitor here. Maybe she’s busy with school, or homework, or whatever 16-year-old girls are occupied with. Maybe she got her twitter account back.
Back to work…
What I want to do I don’t do
Published Oct 7th, 2009 | By Amy
Little ol’ me, again. Been a while, hasn’t it? Like the Author Guy said, I’d like to blame homework, or my extremely active social life, but I can’t.
I’ll start with this: school’s a bummer. A real l0s3r. Not that it’s hard, ’cause it’s not. It just seems pointless, and takes me away from the things I’d rather be doing. Plus, for some INEXPLICABLE (that word’s for you, mom) reason, I keep getting into trouble. Usually Ben is the one with more cents than brains, but just in this last week, I’ve had my cell phone taken away (txtng in class), my lunch time taken away (talking when I wasn’t supposed to), and at home, my computer privileges removed (um…I think that one was from an argument with mom).
Anyway, I was reading my Bible the other day (yes, Ethan, I still do), and I read this: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” And at first, I thought: ¿!?
But then I realized, as much as I want to do the right thing, I’m still prone to do the wrong thing, but that’s okay, ’cause God is big enough to forgive all of it. But it’s still a struggle. *big sigh*
In other news, Ben is bugging dad for a puppy. We’ve been living here two years now (in a row!), and both mom and dad think we’re settling in. In my brother’s mind, that means it’s time for a pet. I still don’t know. It seems I’ve lost more dogs than I’ve owned, if that makes any sense.
Oh, time to go to school, the carpool is here…
I knew I should have done this already…
Published Nov 23rd, 2009 | By Derrick
It’s about time, but now I’m blogging about why November is a crazy month. It’s NaNoWriMo time, that’s why. I’ve got a little widget to show everyone how I’m doing (down on the right), and so on.
Why am I participating in this lunacy? Well, the timing was right. I had just finished taking all the notes from my research, plotted out the story, written all the character profiles, and I had some ideas on settings. Next to come was what I call the Rough Sketch, where I just write down all I can think of and still stay within the plot outline. Others would call it the Discovery Draft, or even First Draft, but I like the metaphor of drawing a sketch, where you have all kinds of lines that don’t end up in the final drawing.
So far, I think I’m doing good. I’ve discovered a steady, daily pace is the way to do it. (The tortoise wins the race every time!) And it freaks me out when I have to miss a day (I think I’ve only missed one) or when there aren’t enough words in the day.
The other fun thing I’m pursuing is working on a trailer for the first book. I’ve seen what some other authors have done, and I think, I can do that. With the experience I’ve had with video editing, and other graphic arts stuff, I should be able to do a bang-up job of a trailer. And I think the last screen should read: “Would you buy this book?” If I get enough people interested, that may help when I’m talking to agents, etc., about marketing the books.
Sometimes this whole process seems to take forever. Writing a book takes a long time (at least, for me, at this particular point in time), and finding an agent takes a long time, and I’ve heard that waiting for the book to come out takes a long time.
But, as Solomon tells us: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” Ecc. 7:8. Another item to add to my “improvement” list.
A quasi-post for a quasi-blog
Published Jan 26th, 2010 | By Derrick
I’ve been thinking lately about the prefix “quasi.” As in quasiliterate (as if we were), or quasiblog (as if it was), or Quasimodo (don’t all start singing at once). Quasi meaning “having all the likeness of something, but without the essential core of the thing.” Or if you want to go with the literal Latin translation: “As if!”
I have written two “quasi-historical” novels. They look kind of like historical books, have all the taste, texture, smell of a historical book, but there are things that are different, things that make them more “fantasy” books than true historical. But I loved doing all the research anyway, loved learning about the past.
Like toilets. Ever wonder what the Victorians did for toilets? After about 1860, you had it made, with more and more homes having the patented flush toilets. But if you have tons of servants, why bother upgrading the house? The good old chamber pot is good enough, isn’t it? Use the pot, call the servant, and…you’re done.
Those poor servants, though. The master may be on the third floor, and the outhouse is in the back garden, and you get to carry the pot throughout the house before dumping it down the hole. At least that’s better than what they did with it in the 17th Century. If you lived then, you’d toss the contents of the pot out the window, onto the street. Look out below!
Nothing makes you appreciate the time and place you live now than comparing to how our ancestors lived back then. But when something happens, like the earthquakes in Haiti, and suddenly the past comes crushing back into the present.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Solomon, of course.
Trailers and Self Promotion
Published Feb 3rd, 2010 | By Derrick
After months of thinking, working, and playing around with video and animation clips, I finally got the book trailer finished the way I wanted it. Now all that’s left is buying the stock photos and footage, and swapping everything out…and then you’ll get to see it.
It got me thinking, though, about my last post, and how much I learned about the Victorian era to work on the first book. Research is king, right? Then I have a thought, and realize how much I still don’t know about that period in time.
Book promotion, for example. These days, it’s a combination of word-of-mouth, appearances, signings, advertisements, blog posts, Facebook announcements, book trailers on YouTube, you name it. But what about the Victorian days? How did Dickens, for example, promote his work? [Author scratches his head.]
Did he advertise? I know he serialized some of his novels, so they first appeared in the newspaper before being compiled into book form. Did he do signings? Appearances? I know he read some of his stories (and even performed A Christmas Carol) before audiences in theaters. Did he have good relationships with local booksellers? Did he bribe the kids on the street to tell all their buddies about his books?
Did he print bookmarks and postcards and business cards? Did he attend conferences, meet with other authors, agents and editors? Did he hang out at the bar and entertain wanna-be authors with tales of horror from the desk of a real writer? Did he agonize over whether he spent too much time promoting (blogging, Facebooking, making trailers) and not enough time working on the next book?
There is so much I don’t know about the Victorians, or even the next time period, the Restoration. I shudder to think what your average writer in the 1600′s went through. There must have been quite a line at Gutenberg’s Press. (That’s a joke–I’m not that dumb. I know Gutenberg made more than one.)
I must be thinking about Solomon a lot, because this came to mind: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecc 2:11.
The Long Awaited Teaser
Published Feb 10th, 2010 | By Derrick
I may have mentioned it before. I have been working on the “pre-publication” book teaser, both as an exercise in marketing and just ’cause it was fun. And now, the waiting is over. The teaser is ready:
I’ll eventually put a permanent link off to the side, or something, but for now, enjoy!
Fine art of dining
Published Feb 13th, 2010 | By Derrick
I almost hate to do another post, as this bumps the trailer down the page. But, the link to the video will be off to the side shortly.
In working on the second book, set in the late 17th Century, I’ve come to the dreaded “dining” scene. It almost seems obligatory, to show Amy and Ben eating at least once. I’ll skip the food for now, but I wanted to talk about the way the food was served, and the typical eating hours for our native Victorians.
In 1856, the new style for serving dishes was the a la russe (in the style of the Russians), where the servants bring food to each diner, and either the servant or the man at the table served the lady next to him and himself. This took lots of servants (or a few very busy ones, like at the Berkham house), and plenty of silver. Several dishes would be served this way, then a pause, then several more. Diners loved it; servants hated it.
Before this point, food was served a la francaise (yes, in the French style). All the food would be placed on the table, and then “removed” when the dish was finished, or the next course ready. Again, the man would serve the lady next to him. Servants were happier.
Either way, this service was traditionally for the “dinner” meal, and especially the “dinner party.” Back in the 1660s, the big meal was more around midday, and the only food you had later was a light, informal “supper.” Somewhere between the 1660s and the 1850s, dinner got pushed back, and pushed back, and that extra little meal we call “lunch” snuck in and took over the midday spot.
These days, no one is consistent. The big meal may be early in the day, or as late at 9:00. And who has servants anymore? You have to get your own food. Too bad.
Any way you slice it, Solomon said it best: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Ecc 2:24-25
Where have all the good books gone?
Published Feb 16th, 2010 | By Derrick
Finally, someone who agrees with me: Bob Hoose at PluggedIn said exactly what I’d been thinking for a while. Where are the choices in teen fiction? Where can you get a book that doesn’t have witches, wizards, werewolves, vampires, zombies or deep psychological problems?
Well, probably not at your local bookstore, that’s for sure.
Fairy tales were gruesome enough in the old days to scare kids pretty good (why do you think they were called Grimm?), but then along came Disney (and others) who tamed the old stories down. And because of that, we started getting more and more horrific tales (thanks Mr. King!), and eventually we thought this was great stuff to give to the kiddies. Here you go, kid! Good luck sleeping at night!
I guess my complaint is not really about the books, but the trend these days of teens wanting to change who they are, based on a book or movie. They don’t just read or watch and say, “That was entertaining, but that would never be me.” Now they indulge, and say, “I want to be all that.” Instead of clinging to the person God created them to be, they ditch it to be another goth, another vamp, another clone of Miley Cryus. It’s a shame.
I’m reminded of 2 Cor: “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” And when you go to the bookstore, what fellowship will wholesome books have with unwholesome ones? None at all, I hope. None at all.
But keep looking. There’s good books out there somewhere.
This is the scary part…
Published Feb 23rd, 2010 | By Derrick
By far the scariest part of living in the Victorian era was not the poor food, unsanitary conditions, or poverty, as some may have you believe. The scariest part surely must have been the bustles, crinolines, stays and corsets.
During the time when Amy and Ben were touring London, 1856, the crinoline was the method of choice for holding out the skirts, and achieving “high fashion.” Luckily, as a maid, Amy never had to wear one. Can you imagine, though? How would a young lady maneuver through a crowded room? How would she fit through doorways? How would she…um…use the outhouse? It boggles the mind.
Only a few years later, 1860 and beyond, the crinoline moved out of fashion, and the much more practical bustle took its place. What a relief, or was it? Corsets were still popular, and the wasp-waisted women of the time were the pinnacle of beauty. Ouch.
Will women (and men) continue to suffer to “improve” their looks? Are we still doing so today? Maybe we could all run around in sweatpants and sweatshirts instead. Everyone would at least be comfortable, and we’d all look pretty much the same.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Prov 31:30.
Published Apr 3rd, 2010 | By Derrick
Where has all the time gone? Time is not on our side. Time keeps on ticking away. It is the only commodity we can’t get back. Have you ever found yourself wondering just where it all went?
With “time” being a significant factor in the books I’m working on, I’m surprised I’ve never talked about it much, except to complain that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, especially writing. But I’m not here to talk about that.
It used to be that “Tempus Fugit” or “time flees” was engraved on many clocks, which gives us the constant reminder that time is short, and not to waste them. One famous clock, though, has a much different saying on it, one derived from Psalm 37. Big Ben, the famous clock/tower/bell in London, has a plaque in the clock room with these words: “All through this hour / Lord be my guide / And by Thy power / No foot shall slide.”
Much of that tower was finished by 1856, when Ben and Amy travel to Victorian London. The notable exception was the big bell, the one they would later call “Big Ben.” A larger bell had been made, but then broke at the construction site. The second one cracked, and had to be fixed, and is still striking a (slightly) sour note to this day.
Kind of reminds me of life. We try, we struggle, and things break, or crack, and what we have left sounds a bit sour. But Big Ben (the clock) was known for it’s reliability in a day when things weren’t all that reliable. Even if we are cracked (aren’t we all?), we need to pursue that faithfulness, and seek after God’s heart, despite our limitations.
‘Cause time is short, and sometimes our chances to get things right are limited too. Tempus fugit indeed. But there is hope, in the One and only who is not trapped in time at all.
Solomon said it best, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Stuff I Googled Today
Published Jul 27th, 2010 | By Derrick
Research can take you in all kinds of strange directions. For example, today, in pursuit of reworking the beginning of The Servant and the Thief, I googled the following:
The spelling of the word mourning. Yes, there is a difference between a morning dress, and a dress worn for mourning. Huh.
The spelling of the creature “goomba.” I figured, we need a few more cultural references in there to appeal to the kiddies. Ben plays with a DS, so why not mention goombas? However…
Google showed me a very strange image of a goomba, which apparently came from a film in the 90′s about Super Mario Bros., so I had to look that up as well. What…a…disaster. How did this film ever get made? Stick to video games, Mario Bros.
Another image that popped up showed an actress that played Daisy. She looked familiar, so…quick search. Samantha Mathis. IMDB pulled up her films, but nothing looked familiar. Finally, found Little Women, where she plays the “grown up” version of the little sister, Amy. Don’t know how I recognized her from that, but there you go.
And finally, the word “hinky.” Did I know what it meant? Did I really want to use it in the story? I finally decided not to, just because it didn’t really capture the thought I was having.
So, there you have it. Not really a top ten list, but merely the latest in many rabbit holes I’ve dived into willing. More to come…
More Stuff I Googled Today
Published Aug 13th, 2010 | By Derrick
Okay, really this is several days worth, but it’s some odd stuff. Strange how the mind wanders. I started with food, so I can officially call this a smörgåsbord of topics. First up …
British Food: Amy and Ben order food service in their hotel room. What do they get? British hot dogs, considered one of the grossest foods out there. Pickled, in a can, served with what looks like some seriously wilted onions. They also order Bubble and Squeak, because it sounds funny, but they actually like this. And for dessert, some sort of pudding … which we know is not really pudding … it’s a meat thingie …
“It’s my nature.” Clever little phrase first coined by … drum roll … the scorpion who stings the frog as they cross the river, and then they both drown. Kinda’ answers the nature vs. nurture question, at least for scorpions.
Finally, very exciting, I had to search for a fix for my Wacom mouse. It’s misbehaving, and driving me nuts. I tore the thing apart, thanks to some tutorials, but wasn’t able to fix the scroll-wheel. Time to buy a new one, but they don’t sell the mice by themselves. Maybe duct tape can fix it.
Isn’t research wonderful? Got to get those details just right.
One last thing I searched for, on Bible Gateway, was, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” (Jer. 12:1) Hearing about ultra-secular, atheistic people succeeding in phenomenal ways, makes me wonder why so many Christians flounder.
We shouldn’t be pathetic. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) Shouldn’t we be awesome? Or at least weird?
Stuff I Googled This Week
Published Aug 23rd, 2010 | By Derrick
Okay, so research is slowing down, and I had to wait a whole week before I had enough interesting stuff to blog about. To be fair, some of this stuff I didn’t technically Google, because I knew which site to search, but in my mind, it’s still Googling. Whatever. Google is going to take over the internet anyway, and we’re going to have to pay 5 cents for every time we mention the word.
I had a minor character, with about 2 sentences of description, and she’s got dark hair and deep eyes. My first inclination was to make her a goth, or at least goth-like. But then I thought, should she be an emo instead? What’s the difference between a goth and an emo? So…googled “goth vs emo.” Didn’t find any wrestling references, thank goodness. Did find other variations of this same theme: neogoths, scene, post-punk, etc. Whoa. Talk about shades of gray. Decided to go with goth, because they are at least happier people.
Random word spellings and exact definitions for “Anne Boleyn,” “buzz” (yes, I spelled that one correctly), and “elysian.”
I also needed a place for Ben to want to visit in London, and I remembered an attraction I had visited when I was fresh out of high-school. Across the bridge from the Tower of London is a little hole-in-the wall museum call the London Dungeon. Totally gruesome and inappropriate, but fascinating for someone in their teens. I once wrote a research paper for an English class on “Medieval Weaponry,” and that teacher was there when we toured the museum. She said, “I can’t believe you talked me into seeing this. I should have known better, after that paper you wrote.” Ben never does get to see the museum. It might be on his bucket list, though.
Finally, the rival gang to Prospero’s gang needed a better leader name. It used to be Ruglund, but I wasn’t liking it. I thought of a good name, and did a quick Google to see if it was anyone super-famous that might sue me for libel. Lucky for me, there aren’t too many “Otto Rathbones” out there.
And thus continues a typical week for research. Once I finish polishing book one, I’ll be querying more, and then cracking the whip on book two editing. Joy. And, at some point, I’ll be working up ideas to finish the series with book three. That’s about all book three is right now, a bunch of notes.
With that, I am reminded of the verse in Prov 16:3. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” It is not my work, but his. Sola gloria deo.
Published Jan 4th, 2011 | By Derrick
Hello world, this will soon be a new(er) blog. There will be some changes around here, coming soon, and this is also the place where we will be documenting these changes, and documenting progress on the next grand adventure…the tangled web of e-publishing. Take an unsuspecting author, with a book or two to sell, and toss him to the turbulent waters of publishing. The big publishing houses are struggling, and it’s time for the digital age to truly take over. What will happen? Will our intrepid author make bank on any of his words? Stay tuned and find out!
Okay, cheesy plug aside, for many reasons, I’ll be putting books out there on various e-publishing sites, and figuring this out as I go. Is it wise? Is it worthwhile? We don’t know. But we’ll find out together.
First things first, we need a plan. Do we have a plan? Not yet, but it includes things like, making sure the blog is working (okay, seems to be), working through edits, creating a cover, converting to digital text, and publishing on Amazon, etc. I’ll come up with a more detailed plan later, when I’ve got a minute, but that’s kind of the rough outline. You may also notice things disappearing off this site for a bit (like the trailer) as I recreate them in a more professional manner (ahem).
To close, we need some encouragement, which comes from Matthew 19: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” If there’s ever a time for the impossible to be possible, now is that time.
More excitement to come…
Plan of action
Published Jan 7th, 2011 | By Derrick
Making a list, checking it twice…okay, Christmas songs still ringing in my head. I sat down and figured out the kind of things I need to plan on for an e-book enterprise, and it goes something like this:
- A completed book. (Shucks, I have two. That was easy.)
- A completely edited and publication-ready book. (Okay, still working on that part. More on editing later.)
- An acceptable cover. (As much as I enjoyed the covers I’ve made, I need to see what’s working and what’s not, and design something more appropriate. Again, more on this later.)
- A place to publish. (This will involve a lot of research into formats for Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. as well as a place to buy a physical copy, either CreateSpace or LuLu.)
- A marketing plan. (Gettin’ the word out is half the battle.)
- A really awesome web site that will really speak to people’s wants and prompt them to buy the book. (Okay, that part needs work too.)
Am I missing anything? Virtual book signings? Big name endorsements? I wonder if I should buy a kindle now…
A Crazy Idea?
Published Jan 11th, 2011 | By Derrick
Self-publishing is an ugly word in certain circles. Fist fights might break out if you mention it. If for some crazy reason an author does self publish, he is a pariah. Real authors won’t talk to him, notice him, mention him (except in scorn or pity). Agents and publishers will keep their distance. But wait…what’s that sound? Is that the sound of the traditional publishing empire crumbling?
I’ve read arguments on either side of the issue, and I’m on the fence myself. On the side of the traditional publisher:
You get exposure for your book that you couldn’t get elsewhere. This applies more and more to fiction these days, as almost anyone with a non-fiction book and a platform can get speaking engagements and Oprah spots to promote their book. Still, with brick-and-mortar bookstores in trouble, where does that exposure get you?
You get the professional services of editing and cover design and marketing. But did I mention the rumors that many publishers are cutting back on some of these services? If they are cutting costs in these areas, or are expecting the author to pick up the slack, then where did the advantage go?
You get an advance. But just like the candy bars you see in the grocery store, they’re a whole lot smaller than they used to be.
You get to be a bona fide, industry-recognized author. Not just a wannabe who printed out his own book.
And then there’s the dark side, the lure of electronic publishing, the attraction of ultimate control over your intellectual property! [Insert Machiavellian laugh here.]
With self publishing you have ultimate control. That’s a good thing if you an ace writer, graphic designer, typographer, and marketer. Not so good if yur a bad speler. Bad product equals poor sales.
You get a lot of profit for each book sold. The word is, the Amazon Kindle store offers 70% of cover price back to their electronic book authors. Traditional publishing? Not as much, and for the same digital copy, sometimes less than 10%. Ouch.
Best sellers are much smaller numbers. Let’s do some math: if you sell 5,000 copies of your self-pubbed book, at $10 a piece, and make $7 from that, you get $35,000. Not too bad. How many books would you have to sell to get that same amount through a traditional publisher? Using a generous round figure of 20% royalties, you’d have to sell 17,500 copies through that publisher, if the book sells at $10. (The publisher would probably put the cover price as $15, but through Amazon discounts and other promo pricing, the average is around $10 anyway.)
Last but not least, you could still be picked up by a traditional publisher. Odd as this sounds, if you e-publish a book, and it sells well, then you have a proven sales history to show a publisher, and they may be more interested in taking a risk on you. Don’t ask me how that works, but it’s a possibility.
A lot of this stuff I’ve learned just reading the blogs of agents and publishers and fellow writers who wrestle with what’s happening in the book industry. There is a lot of speculation about where this is all going, but as for me, I’m going to pursue this crazy idea of e-publishing and see where it takes me. I just hope I don’t get into a fist fight over it.
Joshua 24:15b “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Evolution of a Cover (part 1)
Published Feb 11th, 2011 | By Derrick
Really, it’s nowhere near time to design a cover for my book. But, what can I say? I like designing things too, so one day I started messing around. And I ended up with a pretty good cover.
I’ll admit, one of the things that really drives book sales is the cover. According to Michael Hyatt, it’s one of the first considerations when a reader decides to buy. So, it’s kind of a big deal, if you hope to sell a book. Back in the days of Mark Twain, or Jane Austen, the cover wasn’t that much of an issue. But now, we’re such visual people, we won’t buy it unless the title and artwork jump off the page.
The first cover I put together (a couple of years ago) was just to give the book something on the outside. I printed some copies for the family to read, and didn’t put a whole bunch of thought into it. I’ve got a Roman aqueduct, some gears, and Big Ben, along with a rather monochromatic color scheme. Not exactly eye-popping.
What can I say? It got the job done, and that was about it. But not one of my better efforts.
Take two was for the expanded storyline, which I again printed through lulu.com for my family’s enjoyment. This one I put some more thought into, but also tried to keep the design within budget (which I think was zero). I’d say the results were better…but still no sale.
So what makes a good cover? Is it the artwork? The fonts? Is it how big the authors name is? (Just kidding.)
I think it’s time to do some research, and see what the competition is putting out there to sell their books. Plus, I’ll be taking a look at what CreateSpace and other companies offer for their book cover services.
That will be next time. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a thought on how we should present ourselves: Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (NKJV)
Evolution of a Cover (Part 2)
Published Feb 15th, 2011 | By Derrick
In considering a cover design, the next question I asked myself is, who out there is offering cover designs for a reasonable amount of money. Given that my budget is very low (zero at best), this was going to be a challenge.
Here’s some stuff I found:
CreateSpace (that Amazon sponsored self-publishing and e-publishing site) has all kinds of services, including interior and exterior book design. Their designs come with different packages, or you can purchase individual services (like cover design) for as little as $299, or as much as $1,499. Take a look at three covers, one at the low end, and one at the upper end, and the third around the upper-middle range:
Not bad, but then, did you see those price tags? Not good.
Lulu.com has two services, a basic book cover (template-driven) for $115, and a premium book cover for $450. Couldn’t get a sample of the basic cover, but the premium isn’t too shabby (image right):
Who else is in the game? There are a ton of independent designers, who will design your book cover, your web site, you refrigerator magnets, and even wallpaper your doghouse. I get too much spam already, so I never clicked on the “Instant Quote” button to find out how much these “services” would cost.
I also discovered I can download book cover software, for less than $200, which I can use to design all my covers. Hmm. I think I already have a program like that.
Or I can post a contest somewhere like digital point forum, and spend $20. Some people will do anything for a dollar.
So what’s an author to do? Luckily, I have Photoshop, and some iStockphoto credits to burn. Next time…the new cover will be revealed.
Evolution of a Cover (part 3)
Published Mar 7th, 2011 | By Derrick
At long last, the cover is revealed!
No, I’ve not been working on it all this time, but have been busy finishing edits on book 2. But as a reward for waiting, I have also uploaded the “making of” for the cover, and now offer it below.
Also notice the change in title. This is a move to match it with later titles, and also shorten it. Trust me, changes to the web site are coming soon, and the old title will be nothing but a myth. Enjoy!
Yes, the inside of your book matters as much as the outside
Published Sep 10th, 2011 | By Derrick
With the cover firmly in place (with a new font picked out as well), the next step in my book making process is to focus on the inside of the book, the interior formatting and font selection. After enduring the nightmare of Kindle-ready formatting (that will be another post), I was looking forward to working in InDesign to make Servants & Thieves a pleasure to read.
Aside from the obvious choices–what the chapter heads should look like, whether to use a drop cap or not, and what to do with section breaks–there are several typesetting considerations that I never considered until now. Here’s the short list of things I had to ferret out of the vast universe of the Internet to help make reading the book easier. (Kind of a punch-list of formatting.)
- Convert any straight quotes to “curly” quotes
- Ensure there’s only one space after a period
- Make all dashes (- -) into “em dashes” (—) and space them with “thin spaces” (gotta have InDesign to do stuff like this)
- Convert all ellipses to periods separated by (you guessed it) thin spaces
- Decide on the hyphenation rules (how many letters in the word, how many before, after, etc.)
- For each page, make sure there are at least two lines of text at the top
- For each paragraph, make sure there are no single “floating” words at the end (if possible)
- If a line is skipped at the bottom of one page (for spacing), the facing page must match as well
- Ensure there are at least four lines of text on the last page of a chapter
- Remove header from all chapter pages
I know there was more stuff as I went through the text, but this was newer material for me. I had studied how other books were put together, and a lot of this made sense, but it wasn’t until I had a checklist did I put it into practice.
Here’s a sample of chapter one, which shows the formatting for chapter heads as well as the first section break. Shows you almost everything but the page headers. Okay, here’s page two and three as well, to give you an idea of how that turned out.
Getting closer by the day to finishing out this process! The Lord willing, we’ll get it done.
Waiting is the Hardest Part (Part 2)
Published Oct 6th, 2011 | By Derrick
So, as of now, the Kindle version of Servants & Thieves is available for purchase at Amazon. The print version is also ready and on its way, but Amazon hasn’t posted that version yet nor linked it with the e-book. Once all that happens, I’ll be posting that we’re ready to sell books, the Lord willing.
That being said, it will likely be another week until the dust settles. Meanwhile, I have my marching orders for this month and next. I’ll be working on research, preparing a new promo video for the completed book, and starting November 1 I’ll be writing like crazy with NaNoWriMo. That should get me started on book three. After all that, it’s back to book two for the final thorough edit, and then massive proofreading before I can release that one. Think spring, probably.
But wouldn’t it be nice to just have it all done? I’m reminded of Paul, who said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil. 1:21-24) I think that goes for anything we wish to be done with: it is better live in the moment we have.
Hopefully, next time, everything will be ready and the season of marketing can begin.
More Craziness to Come
Published Oct 17th, 2011 | By Derrick
The word is out, and the books are ready. And what is our intrepid author doing now? Pulling his hair out and getting ready for November. What happens in November? NaNoWriMo, of course. Are you crazy? Yes.
Truth is, I wanted to finished book 3 this year, and now it seems this is only way I can do it. 50,000 words makes a nice start to the end of the series, and then I can focus on finished editing on book 2. Is there ever rest for this author? No.
Did I mention a new video is in the works to advertise the book? Probably not, but yes, there is. And another story in the works. Oh well.
More craziness to come…check back at a later date…
Movies and Flip Sides
Published Dec 2nd, 2011 | By Derrick
Here we are on the flip side of November. Good news, the rough sketch of the third book, Conquerors and Kings, is done. NaNoWriMo done and won. The bad news, it’s a mess. There are some good parts, and the story concludes satisfactorily (is that a Tristan word?), but it still needs work. But more good news, that’s what revisions are for…
As for the movies mentioned in the title, I’m happy to announce the final official book trailer for Servants and Thieves. I held off on announcing it until the November edition of the book was uploaded and ready to go. Book trailer, corrected and updated book, what more could you ask for?
Published Apr 11th, 2012 | By Derrick
Worked a bit on a new cover for the second book, Prophets and Liars. Here’s a quick progression of putting it together, including comments (click on a thumbnail to get started).
Prophets & Liars available now on Amazon!
Published Jul 31st, 2012 | By Derrick
Good news for fans of Ben and Amy’s adventures through time — book two, Prophets and Liars is posted on Amazon, both the tradeback version and the Kindle version. As always, you can also contact me directly for a discounted copy of the physical book. Disclosure here: my copies do tend to have writing in them, inscribed to the person of your choice.
Links to the right are active for both Servants & Thieves and Prophets & Liars, or email me at the address on the About the Author page.
And with Book Two of the Wanderers in Time series complete, that finishes out the Wanderers in Time blog posts. Thanks for reading!