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

Mailing List

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday Wordle: Soulwoven Book Two Ch. 17

Y'know, this whole writing blog posts on "Friday" while really writing them on Saturday thing would work a lot better if I still lived in New Zealand. One of the things they don't put in the brochure is that you're perilously close to the frontiers of time itself down there, blazing a trail for the whole world through the hours to come. Which makes it possible to do things early on a Saturday and still have it count as Friday.

In other news, time seems to have been on my mind lately. Someday I will turn it into a science fiction story full of wanderings and musings and coolnesses.

...

I haven't posted a Friday Wordle in a while. Last week was a bear, writing wise. This week was better. I revised several chapters in Book Two of Soulwoven and finished a first draft of a sci-fi short story involving androids, virtual reality, ultimate fighting, newspaper clippings, first-person present narration, and several other things that I don't usually work with. It was fun, but difficult. It is now sitting quietly on my hard drive while I do other things and think occasionally about what I really want it to become.

So I've picked one of the revised chapters in Soulwoven Book Two for the Wordle. It was hard to write, because while a lot happens, not a lot HAPPENS, if you know what I mean. There are important things afoot and the characters are unfurling their sails and much beauty exists to be described, but in terms of flash-bang-whizz-make-you-turn-the-page, it's a little sparse. In that environment, figuring out how to make you turn the page anyway can be challenging. It took me about three days to get this into a shape that I approved of.


So yeah, there we go. I like the fact that the word "pants" appears prominently in this one. It opens with a funny scene involving Cole, a manservant he's been assigned, and a pair of white trousers. Interesting to me as well is the fact that Quay's name appears despite a lack of his physical presence. Speaks to what's on Cole's mind, I suppose. Lots of names in this one. New characters abound. I first wrote the chapter while under the influence of War and Peace, so there's quite a few drawing room, comedy of manners sorts of happenings.

Anyway, I continue to ponder putting chapters of Soulwoven up on Wattpad. If a few more months go by without any bites from agents, I may just do it, at which point these weekly Wordles will probably change shape to accompany the chapters going up over there.

Happy weekend. May it be full of flowers and sunshine and cool, spring temperatures.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Confidence

On a Thursday! Those of you who have known me for a while will understand that I live in a sort of bubble that moves back and forth irregularly through the timestream. Sometimes Wednesdays happen on Thursdays. Sometimes Thursdays happen on Fridays. Very occasionally, Tuesdays happen on Mondays, but I do my best to avoid that whenever possible.

Anyway. Writing Wednesday! And confidence!

As I sit on the cozy side of the submissions desk again, one of the things that grabs my eye more often than not is confidence. Meaning, more than anything else, a willingness to be intentionally different. The Internet, the shelves of your local bookstore, and the mouths of your fellow writers are all full of advice on how to write an opening. In medias res! Start with action! Do this! Pull that! Twist here! Add a drop of lemon juice, set to 450, and cook for 25 minutes!

When you see the same elements in an opening over and over again, they get stale. I imagine that most writers-as-readers would agree. The kind of confidence I'm talking about it is a combination of the daring and the skill to say, "There's a lot of good advice out there suggesting I should jump left here. I'm going to try a misty flip instead." When I write, I try to think of it as approaching a scene from an unusual camera angle.

That's not to say that you should ignore the advice out there. It's like grammar. Learn it, then decide when and where to deviate from it for a particular purpose. But do, please, deviate from it. Imagination and beauty live in the spaces outside the normal, and experimentation is what will make you great.

Not every author who attempts a misty flip lands it. Most of them don't. Even writers who can string two or three together often don't make it to the end of a book without falling on their head a few times. But that's okay. The only way to learn how is to try, over and over again, until you get it right.

And as an editor: I notice. Even if I reject a book because the author's attempt at a double-cork 1080 takes him or her flying wildly off a cliff from which there can be no recovery, I respect the effort. It's the bold and the brash who will write the next great story.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Always Dance

...particularly at concerts.

You never know when some guy in a camouflage jacket will come up to you and ask if you want to pilot a giant robot puppet.

Thank you Black Seeds and Rubblebucket for making this happen.



...I'm the one with the blue eyes and the C-shaped robo-hands.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hugo Nominees

Discovered here that a list of nominees for the Hugo Award went up last week. For those of you who don't know what they are, here's the introduction from their website:

The Hugo Awards, presented annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award. The Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”), which is also responsible for administering them.


In the world of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, they are actually every bit the big deal that their website claims them to be. Usually I flip through the nominations without thinking too hard, but this year two things jumped out at me:

1.) I am clearly not the only one who thinks that Doctor Who is by far the best SF/F (and probably the best overall) show on TV.

2.) “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com) was nominated for best short story. I know it's not particularly PC for an author or editor to criticize an award nomination, but this story was an April fool's joke. I got the joke. I laughed. I was glad someone had written it. I stopped reading after about the first page and moved on.

There's an awful lot of SF/F out there that's trying to do more important things than satirize bad SF/F, and it needs all the publicity it can get. It makes me sad that the voters behind one of the biggest venues for recognizing SF/F short fiction chose to nominate a satire on their genre rather than something new and exciting in it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

For the Locker: A Writer on Suffering

From the Guardian: an article on suffering in art, and why it isn't necessary.

I have a hunch I may someday have cause to refer someone to this, rather than trying to paraphrase it off the top of my head. So into the locker it goes!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Some thoughts on self-publishing---for kids

As I plow doggedly through my backlog of publishing industry news, I came across this article today. It struck a chord with me because, when I was 15, I finished writing my first novel. It was called Seals of the Dragon. It followed two boys named Litnig and Cole as they and their friends tried to stop some necromancers from releasing a dragon that would destroy the world.

To any of you who have read Soulwoven, that will sound pretty familiar.

There are a lot of incendiary quotes in that NYT article. I disagree with most of them. I do not think writing books is any harder than rocket science, and I do think that literary prodigies probably come around about as often as prodigies in other areas, which is to say, very, very rarely. I still have a big problem with parents self-publishing their kids' books. Here's why:

It's a shortcut that could very well end the journey.

Part of being a writer is chasing a dream that is ever-changing, constantly out of reach, as simultaneously constant and ephemeral as the stars. Every success comes in half-steps. Every reality feels just a little bit less vivid than what you imagined. And that keeps you moving. When I was 15, I went to the library and checked out a copy of Writer's Market, then submitted my novel to seven or eight agents. I got a bunch of rejection letters and one phone call from an "agent" who just wanted to sell me some editing services.

So I went back to work. I wrote the sequel, at least until the wibbly-wobbly-endy bit where I realized I wasn't quite sure where the book was going to end. Then I went back and rewrote the first novel. Somewhere in all of that I graduated from high school and went to college, where I rewrote some more, did some internships in publishing, and finally discovered why I had been trying to tell this story about these brothers for so many years. And once I learned that, everything clicked into place.

Seals of the Dragon did not deserve to be published. It was poorly written. Being rejected by the publishing industry told me that in pretty clear terms. But at the time, I didn't know it. If my parents had said, "Wow, that's amazing. We'll publish it for you," instead of just "Wow, that's amazing. We're incredibly proud of you," I would have gone to bed every night with dreams of eclipsing Christopher Paolini the next day (actually, I did that for a while anyway...). And I probably never would have rewritten Seals of the Dragon into Soulwoven. And as a result, something I'm very, very proud of now never would have come into existence.

Not seeing my writing in published form left me with the space to rework it, and to continue to tell myself that the story I was trying to tell was one that other people would love. If it had come into my hands as a book, and then other people had not liked that book, I probably would have abandoned it. In all honesty, I probably would have abandoned writing novels completely, and right now I would be writing software somewhere, trying to break into a different creative industry. My self-published copies of Seals of the Dragon would most likely be sitting in a drawer, gathering dust and occasionally making me feel slightly nauseous in that "This was a childhood dream of mine that never worked out but I still sort of want" kind of way.

I suppose a lot of parents wouldn't see that as a bad thing. After all, most childhood basketball players don't try to make a career of it, and if I was a software writer I'd have a job with a salary and benefits.

But if you genuinely want to encourage your children to write, don't give them shortcuts. Point them to an online venue like Wattpad, instead, where they can get all the validation of sharing their stories in a supportive environment without setting them in stone forever.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Authors are Amazing

I finished going through my first set of submissions yesterday, and as I pushed away from the other side of the desk for the first time in a while, I was left with one, overwhelming thought:

Authors are amazing.

The variety and scope of the stories people come up with, write, and submit is absolutely flabbergasting. Sure, there are plenty of problems with delivery. In the end, I'm reading past the third chapter for only two out of ten submissions. For many of them, I knew by the end of the first paragraph that they weren't going to work and read on for a few pages mostly out of a sense of hopefulness.

But man, the ideas. One of the coolest things about working in publishing is seeing the crazy, unwashed flow of ideas that humankind generates in aggregate. It's a beautiful and inspiring experience. As a species, we have a real gift for storytelling.

Back to work now, but I wanted to take a moment to share.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday Wordle: 4/7/12, Soulwoven: Exile, Chapter 17

I would call this a "Saturday Wordle," but that would totally throw off my grand tag scheme. In some alternate universe, it is surely still Friday right now, so if you like, feel free to assume this blog was posted there and somehow crossed its way over to our universe via Internet tube wormhole.

Anyway, this week saw me working on both Soulwoven: Exile and Soulwoven: Redemption, polishing in the first case and rough drafting in the second. Tsu'min's story in Exile is expanding significantly in this draft, which I like, because I find him a fascinating character. This chapter takes place alternately in his point of view and in Maegan (the daughter of Len Heramsun)'s.

Poof!



So, names and eyes aside, what have we got here? Green and blue and ancient and gray and old, rock and wind and sky and summit and overhang. The imagery in this chapter was inspired in no small part by my experiences climbing volcanoes in Ecuador and New Zealand. The Wordle reflects that nicely, I think.

And if you ever have the chance to climb a volcano, take it. They are cool by definition.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Big Thing

So if you've been following my blog over the last few months, you may have noticed a few hints about exciting things on the horizon in my professional life. The most exciting of them has happened. As of today, I am officially a freelance editor for Carina Press, a digital-first imprint of Harlequin that publishes just about every genre of commercial fiction under the sun.

What's most exciting about this is that Carina doesn't use its freelancers in the standard "We acquire a book, you edit it," manner. I get to read my own slush, acquire my own titles, and work with my own authors. It's a lot like being an editor at a traditional house, except that I will stay in Colorado, work from home, and not have to bother with meetings, contracts, or P&L statements.

For you my loyal blog followers, it means the following: there will start to be posts from Jeff the editor creeping into the blog. They will be on subjects I consider interesting and useful to people who love to read or write fiction, like things I see too often in submissions and things I don't see often enough. In short, the scope of this blog is going to widen in good ways, and hopefully its audience will too.

There will still be plenty of posting about my own writing, as well, but I wanted to cue you into the good news and the upcoming changes. I have my first set of submissions already, and I am very much looking forward to digging into it.

Here's to the future, friends and readers. Let's hope it's a beautiful one.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Radio Silence

Apologies for not posting over the past two weeks. It's been an extremely busy time for me, mostly gobbled up by something very exciting. There's a transition afoot. It's an awesome one. I can't share details yet, but hopefully will be able to shortly.

...so stay tuned. The silence will soon be over.