Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Horrible At English

I was helping my 11-year old daughter the other night with her grammar homework, and it occurred to me just how much I suck at the language.  Yes, I can write a moving phrase and come up with a sharp turn of words, but when it comes to standard English, I'm lost.

She was working her way through a book called Grammarly(which, ironically, I was about to spell wrong until I looked it up), and she asked for my help.  I puffed up my overly self-important chest, sauntered over, and found I was of next to no use.  She was supposed to find the prepositional phrase in the problem sentences, and I had to look up what a prepositional phrase was.  I also had to look up how to find the direct object and indirect object.

Suddenly, all of my nightmares from 9th grade English(or Language Arts, as it was called back in my last year of junior high) came roaring back to me.  I have to now admit that I, RD Meyer, published author and winner of several writing contests, routinely failed these kinds of tests.  And I don't just mean failed - I mean spectacularly failed.  I was getting 40s and 35s on tests that asked the stuff my daughter's 6th grade class is now going over.

Truth be told, while I can write pretty well, I don't always follow the standard rules of English(I know, I know...big surprise).  I don't even know what all of them are.  Instead, I write the way I speak and read.  I may unwittingly use pieces and parts correctly, but I'll be damned if I could point out the nuances to you.

This all makes me wonder just how useful knowing such minute details are.  No, I'm not blowing off education, but unless you teach the language or are an editor, when was the last time you really gave a shit what a prepositional phrase was?  Or a dangling participle?  Once you left school, did most of that knowledge just fly right out of your head?

I wish I cared more.  I really do.  I wish others could think of me as some kind of language guru, but it doesn't interest me very much.  I want to spell words correctly and be able to write a sentence so that the reader doesn't want to pull his or her eyeballs from the sockets each time my work comes up.  However, the specifics of each rule?  Sorry, but I'm just not that exacting.  I wonder how many of my fellow writers are...or if I'm in the minority when it comes to the give-a-shit factor.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Salvation Day - Cover Reveal!

My cover artist, Carl Graves, has done another fantastic job with the cover for Salvation Day.  I think it helps capture the spirit of the novel.  Please let me know what you think.




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sequels As New Ideas

If you're a writer, chances are that you have a special universe where you would like to set a great deal of your work.  This is usually the place our first novel comes from, and it's comforting to return to a familiar setting.  After all, don't many readers also demand to see what has happened to their favorite characters over and over and over again(Harry Potter, The Lost Regiment, The Great War saga, etc)?

Here's the problem with that, at least for those of us new to the water - our first novels aren't usually our best work.

I've written a few times about my first full length, novel, On Freedom's Wings.  I was swept up by a space opera that I was sure was going to take the world by storm.  I had sequels planned.  I prepared for years of going back into that universe and imagined all the accolades I'd receive as people returned time after time to see what was happening with the future I'd created.  Unfortunately, there was one teeny tiny problem...

My novel sucked.  A lot.

So, why is this a concern?  After all, don't most writers get better over time as they write and publish more?  Absolutely, but we know how the audience is - they won't read the later stuff in a series if the first book stinks.  It's counterintuitive to believe that people will join us halfway through a series where book #3 is great but the entry into that world has already jumped the shark.

There is a place for returning to the same universe, but it's usually after you've established yourself as a decent writer.  Making it the only place you write from makes it far less likely for folks to give you a chance because all they know is the initial shitty foray you made into that world.

It's daunting to keep figuring out fresh worlds and new ideas, but it's critical to success as a writer, especially new ones.  As our writing improves, people can find new novels that expose them to fresh ideas, meaning they can jump into that universe later.  However, crappy beginnings usually close people off to our work since most won't venture beyond the first book.

Branch out into other areas, especially when you first start out.  Readers will let you know once you've struck gold, and then you can find your happy place.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle

This was going to be a lighthearted post...until yesterday.  That was when the world found out that sci-fi great Jerry Pournelle died.  I read my first Jerry Pournelle book, Footfall, when I was 16.  The storyline about the traveling herd coming to conquer Earth after leaving their own war-torn world captivated me.  Years later, Inferno came to my attention as I was writing Salvation Day.  I remember hoping that I would one day reach the heights Pournelle did with his work.

By all accounts, Pournelle was a gentleman who never let his fame go to his head.  Sarah Hoyt, whose blog I've frequented over the past few years, wrote a moving tribute to him last night.  She shared his lack of pretension and how he engaged even newbie authors as equals.  The world is a lesser place today without him, and our profession has lost a great man.  It may be a long time before we see the likes of another Jerry Pournelle.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Rare Editions(Mistakes?)

I overlooked a few minor errors in Akeldama, and those errors have grated on me since I noticed them, both because I'm a perfectionist who despises making such mistakes, and because I honestly thought I got them all.  Even as I make some corrections, I just know I'll miss something.

But yes, I'm about to submit a correction to Akeldama.  Why do you care?  After all, shouldn't that be what every author does?  Yes, but since I haven't yet reached the bestseller list, the copies that are out there with these errors may eventually become collectors items themselves.

I know it's terribly conceited to say such things out loud, as if I'm bragging on my eventual success, but someone has to be successful, so why not me?  And should that occur, the copies that aren't error free, limited though they may be, could end up being like the 1922 Wheat Penny or the "Inverted Jenny" postage stamp.  Knowing that I'm going to correct these errors has actually made me somewhat wistful about the copies I have.

Of course, if my writing career goes nowhere, or goes only a few steps down the road, then these rare editions will mean little.  They'll be conversation pieces for those few souls who bought them, but since the general public won't know or care who I am, the books will just be something cool to note if anyone picks up one.  However, if I do eventually become more than I am now, they might create some buzz.  Imagine(yes, this is in the realm of fantasy, but just go with me) a first print edition of The Shining where Stephen King accidentally called the main character Jack Torrence a couple of times instead of Jack Torrance.  Or a copy of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone in which JK Rowling switched the "i" and "o" in Hermione in some spots and spelled her character's name as "Hermoine."  Any chances some collector would like to have that due to its scarcity after correction?

All of this is just fantasy speculation and a bit of indulgence, but it makes for an interesting intellectual exercise.  It remains in the realm of fantasy for now due to two reasons - 1) I'm still a nobody, so no one cares if I have some errors in my work, and 2) since I'm still a nobody, there aren't a lot of copies out there, making this a more rare find should my books become more popular after correction.  And that's one of the keys to this whole thing - if I ever gain popularity, first edition mistakes will be much more common with the increase in print numbers, so it won't matter.  However, the low numbers now make those errors much more scarce.  If things take off, they grow more valuable.

Imagine creating something of value from a mistake!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Real Heroes

First, I know I've missed a few blog posts recently.  And I know you're sick of heating me bitch about how taxing it is.  I wish I had an explanation for my recent level of exhaustion, but I'm simply tired.  Real tired.  Most won't care, and I should just plod through and get back to it.  I will.  I promise.  But my pity party is still going strong at the moment.

Anyhoo...

I wanted to dedicate this post to the real heroes of a writer's world.  I know that I deliver the "meat" of a book by writing the story, but until I started publishing, I never really realized just how much goes on behind the scenes(or at least just out of sight).  Some stuff eventually gets seen, like the cover art.  And let me say that my cover artist, Carl Graves from Extended Imagery, is awesome.  He has once again gone well above the standard in the cover for my upcoming novel, Salvation Day.  He's making a minor tweak to the cover design he gave me a little over a week ago, and I promise to do a cover reveal once he gets back to me.  He has been a pleasure to work with, and he requires only a small inkling of the story to convey with images what that story is about.  He's a true hero.

My formatters Cheryl Perez and Rob Siders are just as essential to this process.  They format my work for print and ebook, tasks I have no idea how to do myself.  Even if I did, I'm not inclined to put in the time necessary - I'd rather be writing.  Both are real professionals who are able to shepherd a wide-eyed newbie like me through unfamiliar ground.  They've been extremely patient as I've bombarded them with questions and emails about topics I'm sure they consider mundane, but they've acted with professionalism and grace.  Again, real heroes.

I've also gotten a proofreader for this one.  Yes, I proofread my last novel, but this time I actually went out and paid someone to do it.  No, it's not at the level that it would be if I had more resources, but Kari Case is looking over my work to help me avoid the same minor mistakes I encountered with Akeldama.  She has a background in such work, and she let me impose on her limited time with the meager resources I have.  I'm hoping her heroic efforts will make this release a little less stressful than the last.

Speaking of needing more editing, I plan to do a second post this week(Thursday morning) to discuss that very topic.  I know, I know...back to shocking consistency!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Spotty Record

You may have noticed that blogging hasn't been as consistent here as I promised.  Work and life have become somewhat overwhelming at the moment, so, for now, I have to scale back to once a week.  As things calm down a bit, I will try to get back up to twice a week.  Believe it or not, my goal is to blog three days a week, like back in the old days when this site was new.  Of course, my goal is also to run two miles in less than 14 minutes too, and I'm not sure I can get there right now.

So please stick with me.  Plans for Salvation Day are moving forward, and I hope to do a cover reveal shortly.  Until then, know that I'll at least be putting up one post a week.  Sorry it's not more, but life sometimes gets in the way.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Snowflakery

A few days ago, while reading According To Hoyt, I came across something that literally left me slack jawed.  Being as cynical as I sometimes am, it's hard to shock me.  Very Hard.  However, the total and abject stupidity of the world of hysterics managed to do so.

I'd never heard of The Black Witch before.  It's a YA thriller about a woman whose grandmother saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War(whatever that is).  This story follows young Elloren as she attends Verpax University to become an apothecary.  However, being sheltered as she was, Elloren has some shaky views about the people Verpax lets in its doors.  It seems she was raised by folks who think such folks are lesser people, and she, naturally, has adopted these attitudes.  But, confronted with the reality of those in her midst instead of the caricatures she grew up with, she's forced to reevaluate her misguided beliefs and come to terms with the way she once viewed the world with the way the world really is.  Sounds like a great story about overcoming prejudice and growing up, right?

Wrong.

A blogger named Shauna Sinyard, who goes by the handle Bookstore Babe, wrote a 9,000 word review that starts out with "Normally, I start these reviews with a photo of the book and a star rating. Today, I am not going to do that. The Black Witch is the most dangerous, offensive, book I've ever read. It's racist, ableist, homophobic, and is written with no marginalized people in mind."  Her review started a firestorm where people began trashing the book and the writer based on the views the main character holds for a good portion of the book(which is kind of important in order to establish the story where she can overcome these things).  Reviewers began giving one-star ratings on Goodreads and other sites in the hopes of not just persuading people to not read it, but to get removed from stores altogether.  What's worse is that many of those parsing out one-star reviews freely admit they've never even read it.

What.  The.  Fuck.

Look, if you want to give a book a one-star review because you think it's a shitty book, go right ahead.  We've all read horrible stuff in our time.  However, at least understand the story,  The blogger in question, and many who came out as part of the mob she stirred up, made their reviews because the main character doesn't fit into their neat little world where no racism should ever exist.  There is apparently no room for the growth of a character, or if so, then they don't care to read about that character's journey.  I mean...pfft, who would want to understand a character in order to better figure out how that person overcame bigotry and oppression in the first place?  Who do the folks who do this think they are, writers with a story to tell or something?

Shauna goes on to spout every cliché ever produced to caricature the American Left.  She labels the protagonist as a stand in for white people who marginalizes every minority stand in throughout the story.  She then tries to connect Elloren's journey with racist white people giving themselves a pat on the back for getting past it.  I guess in Shauna's world, there is no personal journey, no overcoming of bigotry, and once a racist means always a racist.  Let's hope she never picks up something like To Kill A Mockingbird or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

As bad as Shauna's lack of understanding regarding this made-up story is, those trashing the book based solely on her review are even worse.  Do these people allow others to make up their minds for them?  Are they so sheep-like that they will follow whatever someone in the "woke" crowd says?  And most absurdly, do they think their entire world will collapse...over a friggin' book?!?!

This stuff harkens back to old timey book burnings and should scare the shit out of all of us.  I know that I've said not to wade into politics, but the attempt at censorship here should make all of us - left, right, or center - mad as hell.  I was going to say scared, but scared isn't the emotion I'm feeling - I'm feeling anger.  Anger at those who think words are dangerous.  Anger at those who couldn't be bothered to judge for themselves but would rather another like-minded person tell them what to think.  Anger over trying to suppress a book(and let's be honest - that's exactly what's going on here.  If these people were granted authority over what others could read, do you have any doubt, any doubt at all, that they'd yank this book off the shelves so you couldn't make a decision they disagreed with?)

I'm not so much upset with the book getting a one-star review.  Like I said, if you dislike a book, then by all means, give it the worst review you can think of.  Where I get agitated is with people like Shauna completely misreading a novel and chastising the author, Laurie Forest, for not getting over racism on the timeline the reviewer wants.  Or, what appears to be worse, daring to not be woke to this stuff from the beginning.  I wonder strongly at the kind of bland characters she likes, for they must be so milquetoast that there is no internal conflict whatsoever.  And then she and others have the gall to tell us it's a dangerous book(news flash - books are not dangerous - actions are dangerous; books are words compiled into a story, and if you think they can create evil, then you need serious therapy).  Shauna, get over yourself.  Your adherence to your "woke" ideology has blinded you to the threat to freedom you represent, not Forest.

Ideas must flourish in the light of day where they can be scrutinized.  Bad ideas must be countered with good ideas rather than shut down because those ideas make you feel icky.  And folks should actually read for themselves before they comment on whether or not something is hateful.  It would also help if they got the premise of the book rather than letting it go completely over their head because it didn't resolve in the manner in which the reader wanted it to.

I have no desire to be timid on this.  If my stance on this issue offends you, then unfollow me.  I do not want to associate with people who question whether a book should even be in print.  And yes, I mean any book.  Those who believe a book is too dangerous would feel right at home in puritanical societies where no unapproved ideas come out to make others uncomfortable.  Sounds so nice...and so shallow.  I weep for those narrow-minded fools who cannot countenance a book being out that doesn't meet their strict social standards.  How pathetic.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Intimidated?

I ran across this post from WriteToDone a couple of days ago, and it caught me off guard.  In a nutshell, it talks about how to not be intimidated by other writers.  Nelu Mbingu, the post's author, makes laudable points in trying to get folks over being intimidated, but the entire post brought me to one simple question - is this really a problem?

Maybe I'm naïve.  Maybe I'm an arrogant asshole.  However, I have trouble wrapping my mind around being intimidated by anyone, especially in a field I enjoy.  Do we not publish because we feel we can tell a story better than someone else?  And if we need to get better at telling that story, don't we just do it instead of brooding on it?

But maybe this is a bigger issue for most than it is for me.  In my personal interactions with other writers - I mean real writers, not the folks who keep saying they're going to write a novel but never actually do it - I've found that so many have egos of crystal, as if a single harsh word about the work or artist will shatter their view of themselves.  So many spend so much time trying to impress others that I wonder if there's any time left to actually...you know...write.

Yes, many of us feel insecure.  After all, we're putting our work out there for everyone to see.  However, feeling intimidated?  Why would we ever allow our own insecurities to make us feel that others are better than we are?  True, we can always improve, but so can that person you feel may be so much better.  I think we all need to take a deep breath and realize that everyone else has the same insecurity we do.

I'm not saying to tout ourselves as the Next Great Thing.  Humility can always serve us well.  That doesn't mean we should ever believe our writing doesn't measure up to someone else's.  Be proud of what you've written, and be confident in the way you wrote it.  If someone doesn't like it, figure out why and move on.  That's part of getting better.  But never - never - let yourself feel inferior to another writer.  We're all in this together, and simply putting our work out there for others is an act of courage.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Salvation Day Release Date!

My next novel, Salvation Day, has a release date!  It is currently scheduled for release on November 2, 2017.  I've very excited about this release, for although I've enjoyed writing all of my books, Salvation Day is, in my opinion, my best novel.  I look forward over the coming weeks to the cover reveal and promotion for my most engaging novel yet.

If you haven't joined my mailing list yet, send me an email and do so as soon as possible to keep up with everything scheduled in this release.  See you in November!