Category Archives: Young Adult

A Day in the Life of a Writer

So let’s say you’ve decided to make a go of writing full-time.  You might imagine that your work day would consist of sitting at your computer for long stretches of time, busily writing.  After all, you’re a writer!  Isn’t that what writers do?

Well, I’ve had a busy day doing pretty much all writing-related stuff and it occurred to me that it might be of interest to someone contemplating the life of non-stop excitement and adventure that I’ve embarked upon.  Keep in mind that I still work full-time in the tech support industry, so this is all in my “free” time, at the moment.  This was how I spent my Saturday.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love it.  The temptation to play computer games is always hovering at the edge of my consciousness, taunting me (and occasionally seducing me), but the writing and editing is in fact fun.

But it’s also a lot of work.

  • Last night, I finished going over the final galley proof of my YA novel and emailed that off to my editor.  That doesn’t count for what I did today, of course, but this morning I remembered a couple things I’d forgotten, so I sent a couple emails to straighten that out.  That novel will come out March 1st!
  • I also received an email from a reviewer who’d been nice enough to host a giveaway of another one of my YA novels.  She’d picked a winner and was forwarding the email address to me, so I could send the eBook to that person.  I sent the email, of course.  And I was charming as all get-out.  
  • Murderous Requiem has gone into the editing phase.  Yay!  I received the first wave of edits from Dreamspinner and now I have to go through the manuscript and accept or reject the changes… and explain why I rejected them, if I do that.  I have a lot of respect for my editors and I think they’ve really improved my writing over time, by pointing out passive sentences and suggesting ways to make them more dynamic, as well as forcing me to review awkward phrasings and strange word choices.  But sometimes we disagree.  I may prefer the way I wrote the sentence originally, or I might have a reason for using a particular phrasing.  One of the big battles in By That Sin Fell the Angels was over capitalization of pronouns referencing God and Jesus.  The Chicago Manual of Style says they shouldn’t be capitalized.  After all, the King James Bible doesn’t capitalize them.  However, I based the church in that book on the Assembly of God churches I attended as a teenager in New Mexico and Texas.  They capitalize.  A lot.  Just listen to an Assembly of God pastor talking about Jesus and you can hear the capitalization.   Their website is covered with capital letters.  So I fought for that one.  But I digress….  Anyway, the edits have to be done by this coming Wednesday.
  • I was contacted by a fellow author who had read The Dogs of Cyberwar and wanted to let me know that she’d reviewed it, and also wanted to chew me out for the cliff-hanger ending.  I assured her that I would get back to Dogs as soon as this current novel I’m writing was done.  She’ll have to get in line behind all the other people who want to strangle me for the ending on Dogs.  Does this count as work?  It was a pleasant email chat with a friend.  But still, writing-related.  And yay!  A review!  (Thanks, Angel!)
  • Speaking of my current novel—or as we sophisticated writer-types like to call it, WIP (Work In Progress)—it’s lagging behind.  I’d promised my publisher I’d have it done by the beginning of March.  Now I’m certain that isn’t going to happen, so I had to hang my head in shame and ask for an extension, until the end of March.  Fortunately, she was gracious.  
  • Then I wrote a scene and realized I was going in the wrong direction.  It wasn’t bad, but it meant I had to change the direction I’d wanted to go in for that character, which really didn’t make sense.  So I spent some time brainstorming with my husband to see how I might get things back on track.  Fortunately, it didn’t involve throwing out what I’d written, but I now have to go back and write some stuff leading up to it and change what’s coming after it.
  • Then I played Morrowind.  (Scratch that!  It never happened!)
  • I updated the list I’m keeping of things that need to be done.  It includes interviews I’m doing, bloghops, submitting published novels for consideration in various awards, miscellaneous promotional stuff, etc.  I currently have about fifteen open items to keep track of.  
  • I did some brainstorming about my next YA novel, a somewhat surreal sci-fi adventure.
  • I submitted two novels to the Rainbow Awards.  (Last year, one of my YA novels got two honorable mentions.)
  • So how much writing did I actually get done today?  It actually wasn’t a banner day for writing.  Let’s say about 1,000 words.  A good day for me is about 2,000 words.  But if I can manage 1,000 a day for the next few weeks, I’ll make my deadline, at least.  

So that was my day.  I’m sure other writers are much busier than I am.  I certainly know writers who have more output, but I’m not too unhappy with the amount of actual writing I do.  I have slow days and fast days, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I managed about 150,000 words of new material last year, not counting editing.  If I calculate that out for 52 five-day weeks, then that means I wrote about 600 words a day.  I can easily increase that, if I were doing this full-time.  We’ll just see how things go.

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Filed under Reviews, SciFi, Writing, Young Adult

“Murderous Requiem” has been contracted!

Murderous RequiemSounds a bit like a disease, doesn’t it?  But no.  I’ve signed a contract with Dreamspinner Press for my occult mystery novel, Murderous Requiem!

As anyone who’s been following my blog or facebook page knows, I’ve been fretting about the marketability of this book for a long, long time.  It has a lot of sex, some of it rather raunchy, and more importantly a lot of occult information concerning ceremonial magick that could make some readers uncomfortable.  There is a romance between the main character and his ex-boyfriend, but since they’re in a sort of “free-love” commune environment, they have sex with other people while they’re working things out with each other.  Some readers don’t like that.  There are also some parts that cross over into horror.

I wasn’t sure if Dreamspinner would like it, because it doesn’t fit the classic romance model.  But they publish a wide variety of stories, so it was worth submitting it to them to see.  And now I have a contract!  Yay!

No info on a release date at this stage, but I’ll let everyone know when I have something.  Incidentally, the “cover” design to the left isn’t official and definitely won’t be the cover.  I cobbled that together from pictures I found on the Internet and used it as my “cover” for NaNoWriMo a couple years ago.

In related news, I did not win NaNoWriMo this year.  I didn’t even come close.  But I did get a start on my YA novel, Dreams of Fire and Gods book three, and re-wrote the ending of Dreams of Fire and Gods book two.  Trust me, the new ending is infinitely better than it was when I submitted it.  I’m very lucky that my publisher was understanding enough to humor me, when I asked her if I could resubmit the epilogue after we’d already signed the contract.  I also finished most of the edits on Dreams of Fire and Gods book one — we’re at the galley proof stage now.  That one will be released through Harmony Ink Press on December 15th.

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Filed under Fantasy, gay, Mystery, NaNoWriMo, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Writing, Young Adult

“By That Sin Fell the Angels” is now in editing!

It’s surprising how addictive editing can be.  Just knowing that what you’re working on is being polished up for print in a few weeks is a huge rush.  It can be frustrating at the same time, if you’re trying to actually write something new at the same time you’re working on your edits — especially if the two manuscripts are completely different in tone — but I still love it!

So even though I’ve been frantically working on book two of my YA fantasy trilogy (Dreams of Fire and Gods — don’t ask me what the subtitle for this one is yet), I’ve still been jonesing to get back to editing…something!  Anything!

My publisher had been tossing various forms at me to fill out for By That Sin Fell the Angels:  the cover art form, the  blurb form, the dedications….  Those are all set (though I have yet to see any designs for the cover — I can’t wait!).

Incidentally, here’s the blurb:

It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.

At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.

 Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open for the devil—and for a second tragedy to follow.

So I just received the first edits and now I have to approve them or reject them (with an explanation for why I don’t like them) and add any of my own (with review tracking turned on in Word, so the editor can accept or reject my suggestions).  Then I have to send it back by Tuesday.  Usually we go back and forth about three times before the final galley proof is sent to me.

The novel should be coming out at the end of August!

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Filed under Drama, Fantasy, Religion, Writing, Young Adult

Good Reviews for “Saturn in Retrograde”!

In addition to generally positive reviews of Saturn in Retrograde from readers on Goodreads, the novella has been noticed by a couple of review sites.

Serena Yates, from QMO Books (which is unfortunately temporarily offline for renovations of the site), gave the book 5-stars and said:

The story built very nicely. There are quite a few hints as to what is going to happen (most of which I figured out, but not all). Despite that, I loved watching the story unfold and following the details of how Patrick and Joshua arrived at where they needed to be. As for the big surprise at the end? That was truly shocking, yet no less logical. If you like time travel stories with a scientific slant, if two men separated by 25 years wanting to be together sounds like an interesting problem to solve, and if you like the slight headaches caused by trying to think in temporal circles, I am pretty sure you will love this story.

You can read the entirety of Serena’s review on Goodreads, though you probably have to have an account.  The link is here.

Don, at Hearts On Fire Reviews also gave it 5-stars and had this to say:

Patrick and Joshua were terrific together as a couple and the sex was hot.  Mr. Fessenden did a lot of research on the scientific end of the book which made the book all the better.  The numerous plot twists and turns kept me interested and guessing.  The unexpected HEA ending blew me away with surprise.  I didn’t see that coming at all and I’m still going over it in my mind.  I highly recommend this mind twisting book to anyone who loves a good puzzle.

The entire review can be read here.

So…Yay!

Now you’re probably wondering, “Does this guy do anything besides sit around all day reading his reviews?”

The answer is, “Yes.”   But it hasn’t been very exciting as a spectator sport.  I’ve mostly been writing.  By That Sin Fell the Angels is in editing now, so that will take up a good deal of my time for the next month or two.  I don’t have a firm release date for that one yet, but I believe the plan is for sometime in August.

I also signed a contract for a YA fantasy novel called Dreams of Fire and Gods: Awakening, which is part one of a trilogy!  I’m frantically writing part two now, because my publisher wants it fast, fast fast!  Don’t worry — it won’t suck.  So far I’m really liking it.

Whereas the first part was a traditional sword & sorcery story with a band of adventurers fighting monsters, as they trek through the wilderness, then fighting a big battle against an enemy army at the end, part two is a bit different.  We’re seeing a lot more of the political and religious struggles going on in the empire.  I’ve also introduced a third viewpoint character, in addition to the two heroes: an assassin who is attempting to kill one of the heroes for the emperor!

And no, before you ask…I haven’t seen or read Game of Thrones yet and this isn’t my attempt to emulate all of the political maneuvering in that series.  It’s just the way the story is developing on its own.  I love it!

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Filed under Fantasy, Romance, SciFi, Writing, Young Adult

“Seiðman” Has Been Sold!

I received a very nice note about Seiðman earlier in the week, along with a contract to publish it under Dreamspinner’s new YA imprint, Two Steps Up!  The imprint has been announced through the ALA, but isn’t yet “online.”  However, I know that there are several books slated for release under the imprint, so I expect I’ll have more news on that fairly soon.

In the meantime, while I fret about the other novel I have floating around out there (By That Sin Fell the Angels), I’ve decided to write a story for submission to a time-travel anthology that will be coming out in June.  I finished the first draft of the story late last night, but there’s a problem:  it rolls in at a bit over 21k words, and the maximum word count for submissions to the anthology is 18k.

This is an unusual situation for me.  Unlike most other authors I read and talk to, I write lean.  I get the story down on the page and then have to go back and fill in descriptions and add detail to flesh it out.  Certainly, sentences can be tightened up: excessive adjectives and adverbs removed, run-on sentences shortened, all that sort of thing.  But eliminating over 3,000 words from a tightly plotted story will be a challenge.

I’m also anxious to move on to the Japanese samurai story I put aside last year.  I’ve reread the chapters I wrote and they have problems, mostly due to the emotional distance between the characters.  It’s difficult to portray two people falling in love when they’re separated by such an enormous class difference.  I’m also struggling with the social issues myself, attempting to portray the time period as realistically as possible.  One of the problems I have with modern authors who write about this time period is that they often have their characters doing things that, in reality, would probably get them executed or imprisoned.  That always yanks me out of the story.

But I’m certainly no expert on the subject.  I’m far less comfortable with this time period and culture than I am with Viking Age Iceland, so I keep making mistakes and there are a number of places in the chapters I’ve written where I don’t find the behavior of the characters to be convincing.  The overall result is, so far, an interesting story but with somewhat wooden characters.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a handle on that and produce something good out of it.  I’m still convinced that the core story, based upon a 16th-century samurai tale by Ihara Saikaku, is a great idea for a novel.

 

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Filed under Drama, Japanese, Romance, Viking, Writing, Young Adult

“By That Sin Fell the Angels” ready to go out the door!

The problem, as I’ve been lamenting in past posts, is where to send it.  As I finished the final draft, I found myself with tears in my eyes at the end.  This is a good sign.  I definitely think I have something that needs to get out there, so others can read it.  But who would publish it?

I got a couple suggestions from other writers.  One, sadly, turned out to be a dead end:  that publisher is no longer accepting novel-length manuscripts from writers, unless they have agents or are previously published through that publisher.  Perhaps if I send them a short story, I can get my foot in the door for future submissions, but finding an agent for gay romance is…challenging.  More challenging than finding a publisher for it, frankly.

The problem is that it doesn’t quite fit the category of “romance.”  There are two gay relationships in the story — one between two adult characters that doesn’t really change much, and one that gradually develops between two of the teenagers.  Since the most romantic relationship in the story is between teenagers, my first instinct was to consider the story to be a YA gay romance.

But it’s not really about that romance, and two of the main characters are adults.  Ultimately, it’s about the descent into (metaphorical) Hell and eventual redemption of Isaac, the fundamentalist father of the boy who kills himself at the beginning of the novel.  That character isn’t gay, so there’s my problem:  I have a novel that revolves around gay issues and even has a bit of (very mild) gay sexual content, but the character who is really at the center is not gay himself.  It’s about a father dealing with his son’s suicide.

It’s been suggested that I might not want to avoid sending it to Dreamspinner Press, since they often surprise us (in good ways) with what they’re willing to publish.  Their editors are all very friendly, so if they decide the novel isn’t for them, I’m sure they’ll be nice about it.  With all that in mind, I’ve decided to give Dreamspinner a look and let them decide for themselves if it fits their catalog.

If they don’t want it, then I have one other option that somebody suggested.  Hopefully, I’ll have more, after doing some research.

I considered self-publishing, but my one foray into that — my novella, Finding Love Through Bigfoot — utterly failed to reach readers.  Well, perhaps not utterly.  I have had a few people read it and tell me they liked it.  But for the most part, I haven’t been able to give it away.  (And, in fact, that’s what I’ve been trying to do, since it’s FREE!)  By That Sin Fell the Angels is, I think, good enough to warrant better distribution than I can manage on my own, so I’ll try to find a publisher for it.

 

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It’s Away!

Seiðman has been sent!

Now I just need to get back to work on Murderous Requiem, in order to keep from fretting about whether Seiðman will be accepted.

I have a lot of confidence in the novel, especially after so many people have helped out by critiquing it over the past three years, including a couple people in Norway and Iceland.  But there are a couple things that might be problematic.

One is the vocabulary.  I counted twenty words in Old Icelandic, the language spoken in Iceland during the Viking Age.  Do I think that’s a problem for a YA novel?  Not really.  Teens are certainly capable of processing twenty foreign words.  But I don’t know if there’s some magic formula in the publishing world that says each foreign word equates to 27 and a half buyers who will turn away from purchasing the novel, or something like that.  I did included a vocabulary list on the last page of the novel, in case readers need to refer to it.

The other thing is the ending.  I went for a happy ending, but there had to be a caveat.  It simply isn’t realistic for a 17-year-old chieftain in Iceland in the year 1,000 C.E. to be a bachelor.  He must be married, and he must father children.  Otherwise, his “manliness” would be called into question, and he would lose supporters.  That’s just the way it is.  On the other hand, I personally have a big problem with men sneaking around having sex behind their wives’ backs.  So the solution is an amicable agreement between all parties involved.  It’s the only possible solution, apart from living a tragic, miserable life apart from one another.

But will a YA publisher go for that?  I don’t know.  I feel like I’ve proposed my characters stand up at the Althing and suggest Iceland adopt Socialism.

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Filed under Romance, Viking, Writing, Young Adult

Sending Seidman Out Into The Cold, Cruel World

Seidman was the first complete novel I ever wrote, and many people who have read it tell me it’s my best work.  The first draft was finished three years ago, and it’s now on draft six, which is more than I’ve reworked any story.

And it has yet to be published.  In fact, it hasn’t even been sent to a publisher.

Why?  Well, when you start thinking of something you’ve written as your best work, then you start getting pretty protective of it.  You keep tweaking it, trying to make it absolutely perfect, and you start telling yourself, “I’ll send this out, just as soon as it’s finished!”  But of course, at that rate, it will never be finished.  I’ve seen others do this, and saw how easily they got trapped in this never-ending editing loop, until the end result was that their “best” work was actually something they’d created so long ago that they could probably do better now, if they would just let go of this work and move on.  I vowed I would never fall into that trap.

Yet, here I am, three years down the road and still “polishing” the manuscript.

The other thing that plays a factor is fear.  If this is my “best” work, then what happens if I send it out and everybody hates it?  Will people sneer at me and ask, “Is this the best that you could do?”  What if it is?  Will that mean I suck?

Fortunately, I am not a patient man.  Which means I’m a disaster at detail work, but pretty good at saying, “That’s good enough!  Ship it!”  This has served me well over the years, and it has now come to the rescue of Seidman.

It’s time to let it go.  It’s good, but it’s not Gone With the Wind.  It probably won’t win a Pulitzer.  It’s time for one last quick polish, followed by a firm swat on the butt as I send it out the door.

It’s first stop will be a new gay YA imprint that’s being launched soon.  I can’t say much about it, until the imprint is launched, but I’ve contacted the editor, informally, and she’s expressed an interest in seeing the novel.  So I’m planning on sending it out this weekend or early next week.  If she doesn’t like it, then I have a couple agents in mind.

 

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Filed under Romance, Viking, Writing, Young Adult

“The Guardians Awaken” is finally finished!

Well, in first draft, anyway.

The Guardians Awaken is the tentative title of a fantasy novel I’ve been working on for a couple years now.  I originally pictured it as a YA novel, but since the characters would technically be adults in a medieval-style fantasy world (they’re about 17 or 18), I’m no longer certain that it has to be.  It’s a gay romance, of course, but the sex isn’t explicit — it’s more focused on romance and the actual plot (go figure).  Though, technically, it doesn’t have to be an “adult” novel, either.  I may have to see how my readers feel on that issue.

My biggest concern is vocabulary.  Erich and I came up with three languages for the humans and the two warring factions of gods in the novel, which is great, in that it gives the world a bit more depth.  But it’s potentially irritating for readers.  I suspect I overdid the various words for different things.

The next concern is originality.  I think the story line is good, if not radically different from other fantasy novels.  Hopefully, there’s enough going on to keep it interesting, and the characters are good.  I think that’s the case.  Every time I go back over it, it catches my interest, anyway.  Again, we’ll see how readers feel about it.

But the big problem is the two factions of gods.  One is off-screen, for the most part, but they’re based upon the legends of the Norse Aesir and Vanir.  Not precisely, but certainly inspired by them.  And what makes this a problem is the Vanir.  Tolkien was inspired by Norse legends, as well, and his elves are very much inspired by the Vanir and the Alfar of Norse mythology.  I’ve been struggling to make my Taaweh not the same as Tolkien’s elves, but it’s a challenge.  The Vanir were gods of the earth, vegetation and water…as are Tolkien’s elves.  There are some major differences between my Taaweh and Tolkien’s elves, but they aren’t really apparent in the first novel.  (Yes, this is just the first part of a trilogy.)

I was using my work on the end of this novel as my NaNoWriMo “novel” this year, only counting new word count, of course — nothing that I’d written before November.   I was intending to then continue past where this one ends and segue into the second novel in the series.  But unfortunately, I haven’t had a free weekend this month, until now, and I’ve only managed to get about 12,000 words done towards my NaNo count.  I’m pretty much doomed for this year.  But finishing Book One is the important thing!

And now I have a bit of time to at least get a start on Book Two.

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Filed under Fantasy, NaNoWriMo, Romance, Writing, Young Adult

Galley Proof for “The Dogs of Cyberwar”!

I’ve received the (nearly) final galley proof for my cyberpunk novella, The Dogs of Cyberwar, and I have until Monday to go over it and correct any minor mistakes.  As the editor says, this is not the time for major corrections — mostly just things like typos, mispellings, grammatical mistakes that escaped us the first time, etc.  If I don’t find anything major, this will be the last I see of the novella until its release date, on November 30th.

I still haven’t seen the cover art, and I’m anxious to get a look at it.  But of course we have a month and a half to go, so there’s no huge rush.  Presumably I’ll have a chance to critique it a bit and offer suggestions, such as “I don’t really picture Luis wearing a beanie with a propeller.”

In the meantime, I’ve nearly finished Murderous Requiem.  No, really.  I’ve just completed the last sex scene and now all that remains is the climactic scene in which the villain gets his comeuppance and All Is Revealed.  I’m still not convinced the “mystery” is completely obvious to any reader who isn’t baffled by Murder,She Wrote.  (For those of you who never watched the show, the killer is revealed in the opening scene, leaving the audience to wonder,  Why haven’t we turned the channel yet?)

I’m trying to wrap it all up before NaNoWriMo next month.  My original plan for that was to write another murder mystery, but as I suspected would happen, I’m pretty much burned out on mystery, at the moment.  Instead, what’s caught my attention is sword & sorcery.  So I’m returning to a YA fantasy novel I’ve nearly finished (still a few chapters to go) and the sequel will be my NaNo project.  If I can possibly finish up the end of the first one this month, that will be a bonus.

I have most of it plotted out, which is exciting, because until now I’ve had absolutely no idea what was going to happen in it, apart from the ending.  (It is, of course, part of a trilogy.)  This month has been incredibly busy, but hopefully things will calm down soon.

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Filed under Cyberpunk, Fantasy, Mystery, NaNoWriMo, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Writing, Young Adult