Thursday, September 27, 2012
cpwhitemedia.com. We've grown up. We've moved out. We've got out own Web site, CMS, hosting, and all that gobbledygook. So pop on over. Check out the tabs we've got too: you can browse and buy everything and anything. And just so you know, this Blogger site is going dormant for now. Follow Chris at www.cpwhitemedia.com today.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
I recently got the bright idea that I needed a literary agent because my books weren’t selling well. I decided to go ahead and query one, and not just anyone, but one of the top agents in the known universe. In my swing for the fence I thought that by magic he would somehow cause my poorly selling work to become magnificent and therefore change me into a discovered author who is loved, famous, rich, and possibly even more interesting, if such a thing is possible. But that didn’t happen, because he rejected my submission. And my heretofore magnum opus, K [phantasmagoria] is still not selling. Surely that’s not my fault. Right?
When the agent sent me a quick email to let me know “this one just isn’t working for me,” I reacted with grace and thanked him for his extremely valuable time because I am, if nothing else, professional. Meanwhile, under my skin, the sensitive creative bits were hurting. They still are. There’s no rhyme or reason for it other than the fact that someone who knows good writing basically told me my work isn’t good enough. The truth hurts, and this is the first time I’ve gotten a good dose of it. The hardest part to take was the truest: that he found it “hard to follow, with too much narrator-voice in it.” Yep. That’s precisely the problem.
But there’s more. See, earlier that day I met with another guy who knows his stuff. And he told me, “Dude, you have to do something about your covers. You’ve gotta stop doing them yourself. Find a good designer and pay them.” I responded with a sheepish yeah I know, which begs the question: if I knew that already, why is it still a friggin unsolved problem, know what I mean? So this guy who knows his stuff referred me to some awesome cover designers, and I got the ball rolling in the right direction.
What’s key about all of this is that I believe I have the ability to make my work better. I now realize why my book isn’t selling: because it sucks in every way sucking is possible. It’s true: cover, story, marketing, all of it. The hallelujah moment is now, because I can finally realize all of that and make the necessary changes. I mean, thanks to my fans—all two of you—but I can do better. Much better.
So I’m now going back through and rewriting K [phantasmagoria] for probably the tenth time. I’m taking out a lot of the gratuitous nonsense. I’m streamlining the plot yet again, trying to get that ever-important beginning right. I think the story starts in the wrong place, and I aim to fix that. Also the cover art is clearly bad, and that will be fixed— by a professional. There are branding issues as well, at least visually, and that’s going to be dealt with. Plus, the title is wrong. I can finally admit that. Phantasmagoria is a cool and loaded word, but most people blanch at it I think, at least if it’s in the title. And by the way, if you want to have a hand in retitling this book, your contest entry could win a free eBook at the C.P. White Media Facebook page. Just drop a comment and suggest one.
I’ve spent a long time sitting around waiting for the market to respond to me. It could be said that it’s been time wasted. But in light of the lessons I’m learning it’s been time well spent, at least if I can apply the kinds of changes that will get me good results. At this point, good results equal exposure, sales, and a loyal following that’s chomping at the bit for more. I have faith that I can deliver that. Though my confidence is at a new low artistically, it’s only for the time being. I can rise up and do better, and that starts today.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
|This has nothing to do with anything...|
Thy pockets are full
Of yeasty goodness
-ly awesome in admixture with gluten
Thou art crusty
And toasty and buttered
My teeth gnash
-ing across molecular webs that breadily fruiten
My mind is awhirl
A cascading torrent
Of bready texture
-s synapses fire ecstatically as I nosh
Wilt thou snog
O my slice
Softly thy coo
-ing to me makes mouth water in lusty anticipation of biting into your spongy innards
[This is better when it’s performed, as opposed to being read—ed.]
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Les Edgerton knows what he’s talking about. His eBook, Hooked, lays down the law about how to begin your novel—and how, most likely, your beginning could be much, much better. Making things worse, he doesn’t just expect you to take his word for it. He gives plenty of examples that buttress his point, like Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore, a book now on my to-read list. Look, here’s the deal: I know my writing has been changed for the better as a result of having read Hooked. I now approach everything differently.
Having said all that, it’s not that Edgerton’s research is the last word on how you should write your novel. After all, that’s up to you, and he doesn’t pretend it should be anything otherwise. What he offers is a kind of road map on story—a little like Bickham did—except with far more emphasis on the opening bits, which are, at least in the sense of one’s writing being a commercial endeavor, the most important.
At first the terms are a bit overwhelming (especially when Edgerton talks about the ten core components of an opening scene, blasting you upside the head with shoptalk terms you’ve probably never dreamt of), but as one reads on it becomes clearer. In fact, I highlighted the crap out of my Kindle edition because Edgerton constantly drops in these little nuggets of truth and profundity that sit up and beg for it. Examples? Sure:
“The first time a scene ends in success, the story is over.”
I’m like, WHAT?!
“A protagonist should not gain anything easily.”
Okay, yeah. I knew that. No really. I did.
“Summary doesn’t convince anyone of anything. Write that down.”
Hey Les, look: I wrote it down. And now I have a bunch of fluffy crap I need to go and delete elsewhere. Thanks a lot.
In fact, Edgerton’s book is so chock-full of great resources, you should stop what you’re doing right now and download it. Seriously. If you fancy yourself a writer, if you’re an indie author, if you’re published and agented and signed and successful, you should read it. It can only help you, and Edgerton points out other excellent resources too, like Bickham’s Scene and Structure, and like another I haven’t quite gotten to yet, On Writing Well by William Zinsser (I’ll just take Les’s word for it that it’s going to be outstanding when I finally do get round to it).
I’m not joking, this book will change your professional life as a writer. What I found most alarming as I read through Hooked is that I’d been trading mostly on instinct and raw talent. The emotional quotient to that, at least as an author, is pretty much just stark terror. I was ignorant of the structure, the rules, the order of Story. And I called myself an author?! Now that my mind has been peeled open a bit, I’m soaking this stuff up like crazy. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. Go get yours now.
Monday, September 3, 2012
For those of you who have seen the Swiss Days videos, I apologize. For those who’d rather read about my adventures (or who’d rather not hear me sing when I’m bored), I give you the C. P. White Media Blog. I recently drove more than 800 miles in less than 72 hours; a feat that favors the young (-er than I). I did it for Swiss Days. And it was pretty fun.
A good friend and colleague invited Aaron and me to pop on down to Utah from Idaho for this event, which regularly draws more than 80,000 people to the tiny village of Midway, UT. It’s been going on for 65 years, and it’s a great chance to experience a bona fide slice of Americana, with a Swiss twist. Aaron wasn’t able to make it, so I took his Honda and set off, staying at our friend’s house, where I slept on the couch and dreamt about miniature Schnauzers and talked in my sleep very slowly: “Geeeeeeeet ouuuuuuuuut,” I said at about three AM to the trespassing evil dream dog, which woke me up and probably alarmed the other people sacked out in the living room. One doesn’t expect to hear an authorial guest going on at literally all hours; I’m sure it was a little more than just irritating. So I apologize to the people I offended/ horrified, and I have a feeling there’s more of that kind of action in my professional future. Just cuz. It would figure, that’s all.
I met some outstanding people at Swiss Days this year. I signed lots of books and met tons of fans, some of whom had actually heard of the Airel saga, imagine that! One young lady just couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved Airel and Michael and how she really hates that we keep leaving the reader hanging at the ends of our novels. I’m going to blog soon about Les Edgerton’s book Hooked, which is about hooking the reader from sentence one (a great idea), but in today’s world of the series novel it’s almost as important to hook the reader at the end of books one, two, and three, assuming there’s only four books in the series—it’s really the hook before the hook. And technically, the hook at the end of book one is really the hook at the beginning of book two and so on. Anyway, this young lady was chomping at the bit for book three: Uriel, which is coming soon (hopefully before the end of the year). If you want to be in the loop, subscribe to this here blog.
I’ll be headed back to Swiss Days next year. I was stunned by the beauty of the event, and that includes the gracious people that organized it, staffed it, and attended it. I’m super impressed. I’ll be bringing my family back next year, and I probably won’t even have to bribe them with a stop off at Lagoon in order to get them to go. And I woulda stayed longer, but my oldest boy got baptized that weekend, so I had to leave early because I prioritize my fam—especially for things like that (I actually got the be the one who baptized him, and in the Boise River, no less). It was a momentous weekend for me. I’ll be sharing more of what I learned as the blog pages turn. Until then.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Hate is so out of fashion these days, what with the moral superiority of the amoral shouting down at us from the high horseback of the religion of Save The Victim. I, however, have never been afraid of swimming against the tide. Ask me if I have an ounce of give-a-crap on me. My hatred of the Windows operating system is self-justified anyway because Windows refreshes it anew at random maddening intervals. Which makes it worse.
Attempting to trust Windows 7 with one’s productivity is like tasking a psychopath with cooking breakfast: you never know what kind of results you might get. Here’s the application of my angst. I was innocently using Inkscape, an open source (free) vector based graphic design program that’s available not only for unlucky number seven Windows, but also for Mac, which I’d wager is more stable in the same way that building one’s house on concrete is more stable than building a skyscraper on the point of a sharpened pencil. Granted, I was asking Windows for the exceptional: “pretty please with sugar on top can you render an image for me at 300 dpi with the dimensions of 5.25 inches by 8.5 inches.” <ENTER>
Whereupon Windows thought (boy howdy do I use that term loosely) for two hours and then spat out an unusable file that no program installed on my machine could read. You know what? I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
I then tried again. This is a regular occurrence for the Windows user. Microsoft is apparently okay with its many millions of clients being required to shoot craps on top of the OS that Gates built. The problem is that this craps table is like an extra-coarse cheese grater and the dice fall through the holes quite often. Anyway, I re-asked Windows 7 for permission to please be productive. I set the Inkscape application (oops, Microsoft calls them “programs,” not applications—that would be a Mac thing) working and then stepped away for an hour, knowing Windows would need time to do its hair and nails and gossip to the girl in the adjacent chair about how ambivalent it really felt about the whole thing.
WINDOWS 7: I don’t know, girl, it’s like this User I have expects the world of me… he actually thinks I’ll obey when he clicks the trackpad in certain ways!XP: Tell me about it! It’s like they think they can just pop in and bark orders any time and get what they want.WINDOWS 7: Mmmmmm- hm. Girl, you know that’s right. I was like, “Oh no, you didn’t just walk up in here without so much as a ‘hello’ or a ‘damn girl you look fine’ or anything.XP: Right?! Them fools be thinkin they can just have they way wit us. I’m like, “Oh HAY-ull naw.”WINDOWS 7: You got that right, girl!
One can predict how this ends. I sat back down at my Windows machine to check on it—it’s the only OS on God’s green earth that needs a babysitter—and what, to my utter shock, awe and surprise did I discover? Why, only that Windows had refused to obey a direct order. I got the following message:
Inkscape has stopped responding… <DIAGNOSE>
Whereupon I engaged in the ritual every Windows user knows by heart: CTRL> ALT> DEL, which now, as opposed to the relative elegance of XP, launches a menu window that gives the user more choices that are actually not helpful at all but instead just add an unnecessary extra step before you get to the Task Manager you really want. I clicked on the Task Manager choice, and the all-too-familiar little window opened before me, showing me that yes, Inkscape had indeed stopped responding to my commands. Big surprise. I then force quit the app…er, program.
Then Windows 7 popped up another window, this one ostensibly helpful:
Windows is checking for a solution to the problem… <CANCEL>
I lost it. I shouted at my computer, “WINDOWS DOESN’T NEED TO CHECK FOR A SOLUTION TO THE FRIGGIN PROBLEM; WINDOWS IS THE PROBLEM!” Then I calmly clicked CANCEL.
I then engaged in another ritual Windows users find all too familiar: I started all over again. Sigh…
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
It seems like it’s been forever, I’ll tell you that much. I wrote The Marsburg Diary, or at least I started writing it, over a year ago. It started off as a Stoker-esque historical horror piece, but through the constructive criticism of my friends, it became far more. Harvey Marsburg was born. He took on the traits of a couple of people I’ve met in my travels, at least in regard to the amount of Dr. Pepper he consumes (one of my LAV school instructors practically survived on the stuff; a 2-liter of it was always with him like it was part of his uniform of the day). I think ol’ Harv is what makes the series great. He’s like a fifty year old male version of Airel: a little eccentric and proud of it, with the occasional amusing bits of inner dialogue.
But Harvey’s also a little bit of my own personal fantasy doppelganger, too. He’s British, and I’m borderline obsessed with British culture. I’ve been digging for tasty bits of slang to use, and I fairly splattered the second installment in the Airel Saga Diary Books with a liberal amount of it.
Some of the criticism I got about The Marsburg Diary was that it was pretty meaty. You know, all that Victorian English stuff (which I love, and tried to make as authentic as possible). So to wit, the second book has lots more of Harvey. I had to integrate new characters and new diary lines, so the flashback diary bits are more of a seasoning than the main course. You’ll see a little bit more of William Marsburg’s personal thoughts, but the main event is Herr Wagner’s diary entries, which feature a little more of the infamous Mr. Rotheram. And I promise, in this book we finally get to the bottom of that haunting line, “I have always hated Falkenhayn.” Taking my cues from Goethe’s Faust, I really quite enjoyed writing the quintessentially evil Falkenhayn, and hope you enjoy reading him.
Want an excerpt? I knew you did:
Deep in the wood, somewhere in Illinois~
I probably needed a change of underwear.
Have you ever woken up to the sunrise after sleeping on a forest floor? Let me put it to you this way: it’s not like an advert for yoghurt and granola on telly, where the sun is gentle and there are woodland fairies to caress one’s cheeks. It’s bleeding awful. I felt like bugs were crawling all over me, I itched profusely, and I had managed to injure my neck and head with what I had decided to use for a pillow the night previous— a rounded stone. I was as stiff as grandmother’s knickers (whom I never met, God rest her soul).
It’s funny about getting older— when I was young, I was superman. Getting hurt was a rare thing that usually required me to do something really stupid. But now that I’m nearing fifty, all I have to do is wake up. I will try to rise to a sitting position and I’ll have sustained an injury.
Cautiously, then, I raised myself from the dirt. Gradually. Sloooowly. Never mind being nearly fifty. I felt dead.
“What happened?” I asked no one. I was half expecting an answer though, and looked around to confirm my solitude. I was greeted by none but the lone piercing sun in the east. I raised a hand to my brow to shield my eyes, the back of my hand brushing against a twig that had stuck itself to my forehead in the night— which scared me. After dancing around in fear for a moment, though, I finally calmed myself enough to gather my things, tend to the morning necessities, and begin walking.
What else could I do?
My car was dead. I had shot it.
And though my bestial enemy was dead too, or at least I assumed so, I also assumed there were no others like him chasing me round the wilderness. If there were, I reasoned, I wouldn’t have awakened at all. At any rate, I was an expatriate Englishman stuck within one of the islanded wilds of rural Midwestern America, stranded without a car, carrying only my backpack. My life had been whittled to that and its random plebian contents, with an especial consideration for those three books inside.
I checked my Ruger revolver. Empty still, of course. Anything else would have been uninteresting, after all. I shoved it back into my waistband at the small of my back.
I trudged on.
It wasn’t long before the wood began to thin out and brighten up. Trees gave way to scrub and brambles, which I tried to skirt around as best I could, moving toward some kind of exit. Nature doesn’t clearly mark these things.
Offhand I wondered what in the world I was going to do now. I was out in the middle of Illinois, somewhere south of Champaign, about an hour’s drive. That put me at least a hundred miles from my home in Chatham. The last road sign I remembered seeing was one for Tuscola, another anonymous American village utterly surrounded by corn. I knew at least that my wanderings had taken me off the beaten track and that I was far from help, far from home. Being on foot just made it worse.
I finally found a clear path to the edge of the wood, which was itself clearly defined: a gently curving razor’s edge, to one side of which there was unruly nature— brush and forest— and on the other side tall corn in perfect rows, towering at least two feet over my head, tassels waving in the early morning breeze.
That was the first time I felt what I call “the slip.” Like something just wasn’t quite right.
Some part of my brain was asking urgently why there should be a corn field ready for harvest in the middle of May. It was like gazing at an Escher; something was definitely not lining up here…
The Wagner Diary is now available for Kindle. Nook users have to wait until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next day.