Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: February 2012

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Words from Old Jeff

Every year I get a little antsy in February. Last year, I made plans to quit my job as a teller at a credit union and fly off to spend six weeks in Austria with a friend of mine. This year, I contented myself with shaving the "I work from home now" celebration beard I started growing last August.

On a whim, I left the sideburns. I have been told I now look somewhat like Mr. Darcy.

Anyway, this led some people who met me for the first time when I was heavily bearded to fail to recognize me ("Hey, what was your name again?" "Jeff. I had a huge beard until yesterday." "Holy crap, you did. Wow, you look different."). One of these people has begun referring to beardless Jeff as New Jeff and bearded Jeff as Old Jeff ("Wow, man. It's like, New Jeff...I like Old Jeff better.").

This weekend, a discussion about life, the universe and everything (the subject matter, not the book, although maybe we can talk about that next weekend...) with my girlfriend brought to mind some words from an even Older Jeff (or Younger Jeff, I guess, depending on your perspective). In college ("University" to most of the English-speaking world), I was tasked to write an Ode in the style of Keats. I had a hard time with the assignment, and wound up writing what became, more or less, an Ode to Everything. In its final evolution, it ceased to become an Ode at all and became the following instead:

I could write an ode, but I choose not to.

I see nothing in the world

more deserving of praise

than anything else.

Who am I to say that a mountain is beautiful

and a three-thousand dollar purse is not?

Who am I to say that the smile of a woman

matters more than the size of her waist?

...and who are you to listen?

There is beauty in everything

and if I see it more in one object

than another it is only because,

for a moment, my eyes were part-blind.

Not exactly Shakespeare, but the sentiment of the final stanza still brings me great peace, and I wanted to share it here today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Wordle: 2/24/12, Chapter 11, Soulwoven Book Two

Happy Friday! And happy Wordle. This week I've been working on Chapter 11 of the second book of Soulwoven, which takes place from Dil's point of view and starts to set up the trajectory her and Cole's story is going to take over the next two books.

Interestingly, you would think that the chapter focuses around Cole from the Wordle, although it really doesn't in real life. His name appears 15 times to Dil's six, but the word "she" is used 29 times, mostly to refer to Dil. (Wordle doesn't show common English words like "she," because then all Wordles would look more or less the same). Anyway, other words of note seem to be clustered towards the right side of the Wordle: "rain," "hands," "squeezed," "dawn," "hard," "away," etc.

That's all for now. The sun is shining and the apocalyptic winds of midweek seem to have blown on to someplace else, for which I am glad. Looking forward to getting outside a bit over the next few days. And spring is just around the corner! Hooray!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Something beautiful for Thursday: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

It is cold and cloudy and dreary outside, and I have discovered today a beautiful thing that ought to be shared as much as possible. It is a short film called "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," and I would be hard-pressed to find a better example of a simple and beautiful idea flawlessly executed.

The video, it seems, cannot be embedded, so I shall link you instead to the article on which I found it.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some thoughts on self-publishing

So. As part of my daily routine, I read two publishing-related trade publications: Publisher's Lunch, which I pay for, and the Publisher's Weekly Daily e-newsletter, which is free (woohoo!). The reading takes up a lot of time (usually an hour or two), but it helps keep me up-to-date on the industry I care most about in the world and is always well worth it.

Today, as I was reading the industry press for January 30 (I'm three weeks behind on my reading. It's very easy to get that way.), I discovered a couple of very, very interesting links to articles on self-publishing, right next to each other.

The first describes it as a bubble, a la the housing industry in 2006-2008, the dotcoms in the '90s, etc. And the scary thing is, the description fits very well, especially in light of the second, which includes the following gem of a statement:

Don’t have time to write it. Then tell it to a ghostwriter you outsource to for almost no money. You don’t need 60,000 words. Do it in 20,000 words. Throw some pictures in. Just do it. Then when you meet someone and they ask for your business card, how cool will it be when you can say, “here, take my book instead.”
Interesting to note the sources of each article. The "it's a bubble, react cautiously" article comes from The Guardian, a prestigious UK newspaper, while the "OMGGETRIIIIIIICH" article comes from Techcrunch.

Reading the Techcrunch article, it's very, very easy to see the author of the first article as entirely correct. I do sometimes wonder if the window for massive success as a self-published e-author existed only when the technology was brand new, and it's quite apparent that even if the window is still open, the number of people trying to climb through it is absurdly higher than the number who can actually fit.

At the same time, self-publishing has strengths where traditional publishing has weaknesses (namely cost and time to market). It's an incredible place to experiment. And one thing the author of the Guardian article fails to note is that it's entirely possible to go through all the rigamarole of the traditional publishing process and still only sell a few hundred books.

In the end, I do believe it's still a viable option both for getting your writing out to the public and for making money doing it. I think the cream will rise to the top and be swept off the top by traditional publishers. And most importantly of all, what I have always taken as the one necessary to having success as a writer still holds true: You just have to be great. For what it's worth, the one self-published Kindle bestseller I've read was actually pretty good, though it needed an editor.

In the end, it got one. It was picked up by a traditional publisher a few months back.

Things to keep in mind.

Oh! And a third interesting article from today's (well, last month's) reading. A press in Canada let a journalist sit in on one of their editorial meetings. The result is a very candid description of what they look like, and well worth reading for anyone interested in the industry.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Wordle: 2/17/12, Shoes

So! This week, for something new and different, I spent most of the week working on a short story. Short stories, I've found, turn out to have all kinds of uses, none of which is "learn how to write," or "practice your craft so that you can move on to novels," which is how they were introduced to me. They are, instead, great for exploring a single idea, or a thought, or an image, or a trick of words or structure you'd like to try. Sometimes they're great for all of those things at once.

At any rate, I'm having fun with them, and putting together what will eventually be a collection that I plan to self-publish, because I want to see what that's all about.

So a week or two ago, I had an idea for a a story about a young woman doing a "walk of shame" (or, as I prefer to refer to it, a "walk of pride and joy and happiness and afterglow") through New York City, sans shoes. That story, now mostly complete, looks like this in Wordle form:

Main characters are Carly and Melody (or Mel). I think you can kind of get an idea of the direction of the story by the words floating them. I'd tell you what it's about, but to be honest, I'm still sort of figuring that out myself. I think it's got something to do with memory and sexuality and regret.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Wordle: 2/10/12, Chapter 10, Soulwoven Book Two

It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday!

And that means it's Wordle time. I'm trying to strike a balance these days between working on the first draft of Soulwoven's Book Three and the third draft of Book Two. Since I shared a Wordle from Book Three last week, I figured I'd share one from Book Two this week.

Chatper 10 of Book Two is about Tsu'min's past. He begins to take on a much more central role in the opening chapters of the book, and here we start to learn why he is the way he is--what drives the anger in him and why he can be so cold sometimes. A lot of that revolves around the characters Mi'ame (whose existence is hinted at in book one) and Maegan (who is new in book two), which is why their names appear so large. The eyes are back as well, because Tsu'min spends a lot of time in this chapter staring down Maegan as she asks questions about him.

What I love about this Wordle is that it captures so many of the important details of the chapter. It takes place on and around a barge, and words like "bloody," "shattered," "wanted," "pale," "pierced," "never," "chest," "cried," "cold," "guilt," and "pain," pretty much sum up what's going on here. If you skip over the names and body parts, you get a very good sense of the atmosphere of the chapter, and I just love that.

More blogging to come next week. Happy weekend!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Wordle: 2/3/12, Chapter 17, Soulwoven: Redemption

Hello and salutations! It's Friday, and that means it's time for another Wordle. This week's was generated from my great accomplishment of the week: Chapter 17 of Soulwoven: Redemption (the third book in the story), which represented the breaking of the writer's block dam I had been struggling with for a few days. Without further ado:

Want to know what my favorite part about this Wordle is? The fact that the word "eyes" appears in very small type at the edge of the design. BAM! One of the things I was wondering when I began this Wordle-by-chapter experiment (something I've never done before) was whether my heavy use of that word stretched across every chapter, or whether it was clustered in particular places. I'm quite gratified to learn that I don't use it everywhere. I was also gratified to notice, as I was reading a short story collection of his this week, that Neil Gaiman uses it quite often as well.

So! This chapter takes place in a town called Violan in Dil's point of view. The important moment in it is a conversation between her and Cole in which she is watching him very carefully. Hence the importance of his name in the Wordle. Other big words, like "want," "make," and "normal," hint at the direction their conversation takes. I'm always gratified when the word "want" appears in these things. It's a powerful, powerful word that lies at the center of all great stories.

Other notes: "Pyell" is the name of a character who appears in Book Two of Soulwoven and has quite an impact on the direction of Cole and Dil's lives. "Cara" appears at the very end of Book Two and is becoming more important as Book Three stretches on (I'm really coming to like her--I can't wait to see where her story goes).

Random Wordle sentence for the week: "Cara found whole sun inside stone."

In other news, it dumped snow on us last night and my girlfriend got the day off of work because the roads are terrible. Not to be outdone, I'm taking one off as well.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Writer's Block

Lately, I've been suffering from a bit of writer's block. I've been lucky enough through my writing career not to have this problem often, but it does raise its ugly head from time to time, usually when I'm stressed out about other things in my life and just can't break away mentally and focus on the story at hand.

Writer's block has about as many cures as hiccups do, and in general I've found they're about as effective. Every writer has to find his or her own way of soldiering through and getting something done in spite of it. That said, I'll share a few of the tricks up my sleeve today.

1.) Go for a walk. Most useful for temporary writer's block, of the "I really have no idea where this chapter should go next" variety. Something about the change of scenery helps get things clicking in my head and I usually come back with a solution of some kind.

2.) Listen to music. Not while writing (I gave that up long ago. I would write these great scenes to exciting music only to find that once the music was removed they weren't nearly as good), but while taking a break. A good song can calm the nerves and remind me of all the places I've been in my life that were better, worse, or just different than where I am now. Sometimes that's all I need.

3.) Read. Usually other people's work, the kind I aspire to create. It helps me figure out which direction those tracks in the sand I thought I was following were headed. I also read my own work from time to time, when I'm suffering from crises of confidence. I usually discover at least one chapter, one scene, one paragraph, that makes me think "Okay, I do have some talent. I just need to figure out how to do more of this."

In other news, as a birthday present to my father I converted the Soulwoven manuscript to MOBI last night, and I'll be uploading it onto my parents' Kindle this weekend so they can read it. I test drove it on the Kindle reading app on my girlfriend's iPad, and I have to say I was pretty excited about how professional it looked after only an hour of playing with formatting (thanks Matt Koerber, for helping me out with how to do that earlier this summer). If push comes to shove and I decide to self-publish, I'm reasonably certain that I'll be able to get it looking pretty snappy.