27 December 2007

Another Customer Service Rant

(I originally posted this at Absolute Write, but decided to repost this here. Two reasons: One, it's been a while since my original post on customer service...and two, to break up the monotony of weekly writing goals posts)

Long ago, I stopped visiting Kinko's because of really bizarre fees they would charge for a person to bring in digital files to print. I could go to other print shops in town and get it done for no additional charge, so why bother spending money I didn't have to.

Somewhere along the line, I decided to go back there, simply because of the 24-hour convenience (so I could stop and get copies made before work). I found out they no longer charged extra to print digital files.

Last Saturday, I went to my regular Kinko's early in the morning to avoid Christmas traffic. I had a Word document I needed to print out for some final hand-edits, and my printer has some issues which makes a 30-page document a pain-in-the-butt to print off at home. So, I went in...everything went quick and I was out with nary a problem.

Today, I was planning to go to the same Kinko's with the updated Word document. Long story short, between some other appointments and post-Christmas price hunting, I ended up near another Kinko's. To avoid making the long drive out of the way, I decided to go in and get the file printed. They took the flash drive and printed it off for me, and then gave me the bill...twice as much as the other Kinko's.

Needless to say, I was a little confused, so asked what the extra charge was for.

Apparently, they do digital files, but if it's not in PDF format, they charge you an extra fee???

When I mentioned the other store had not charged me, the clerk basically stated they were supposed to charge for it, but sometimes clerks didn't, depending on the clerk.

Not to mention, it would have been nice for the clerk to mention there would be an extra fee for printing the Word document, and was I fine with that?

So, unfortunately for them, I think I'll stick with the other print shops, where I've never been charged extra, regardless of the file types I use...the clerks stick to a predetermined system of charges...and the clerks communicate with me any extra fees that may or may not be involved before processing the order.

26 December 2007

An Excellent Post From a Real Writer

I read a post over at Joe Konrath's blog today, and found it very enlightening as a new writer. I recommend it for anyone who truly desires to become a writer, especially the "I Will Feed My Addiction" and "I Will Never Be Satisfied" sections near the bottom of the post (at least for me...)


25 December 2007

Weekly Goals - December 25, 2007

Had a little bit better luck this week, but still didn't accomplish the goals I set out last week:

1. Completed around 5000 words on the first draft of "Dead Man's Forge" but still am not even halfway done telling the story. That's dangerous.
2. Didn't write anything toward Death Brings the Victory due to all the work toward "Dead Man's Forge."

So, here are the goals for next week (New Year's). I'm hoping being off work between now and then will help.

1. Complete first draft of "Dead Man's Forge."
2. Complete final draft of "Redemption."
3. Complete one chapter of Death Brings the Victory.

And oh yes, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

18 December 2007

Weekly Goals - December 18, 2007

Didn't get a thing accomplished on my goals for last week, so the goals for this week remain the same.

1. Complete first draft of "Dead Man's Forge." (title changed)
2. Complete one chapter of Death Brings the Victory.

12 December 2007

Weekly Goals - December 11, 2007

(Only a day late...)
An update on last week's goals...

1. Completed.
2. Not even started.

The goals for this week are as follows:

1. Complete first draft of "Demon's Forge."
2. Complete one chapter of Death Brings the Victory.

04 December 2007

Weekly Goals - December 4, 2007

An update on last week's goals...

1. Completed.
2. Completed and sent to one of the many beta readers I trust.

The goals for this week are as follows:

1. Complete one chapter of Death Brings the Victory.
2. Complete one section of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.

27 November 2007

Weekly Goals - November 27, 2007

An update on last week's goals...

1. Completed.

A note on the above: It was very satisfying to be able to complete this goal, because the story was nowhere close to being finished on Saturday following Thanksgiving. The next two days, however, were extremely productive, netting around 1200 and 1500 words, respectively...allowing me to complete the first draft.

The goals for this week (easy ones, as a reward for already completing all of my goals for November) are as follows:

1. Complete the plot outline for a new short story, "Demon's Forge."
2. Work through one revision of "Redemption."

20 November 2007

Weekly Goals - November 20, 2007

An update on last week's goals...

1. Completed.
2. Completed.

The goal for this week (only one, being a long holiday weekend) is as follows:

1. Complete the first draft of my new short story, "Redemption.

18 November 2007

Mystery Settings

Apparently, when I changed my settings to turn on word verification, either I accidentally changed the settings to only allow "members of the blog" to comment, or Google changed it for me (I'm voting for the latter). In any case, don't know how many people have tried to comment recently, but it should be fixed now.

14 November 2007

Weekly Goals - November 13, 2007

(A day late and a dollar short...)

An update on last week's goals...

1. A new chapter is in work, but hasn't been completed.
2. Completed one section of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.
3. Developed a rough plot for a new story (no title yet).

The goals for this week are as follows:

1. Create and input into the computer one new chapter of Death Brings the Victory.
2. Complete one section of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.

Labels: , , ,

07 November 2007

Great Fun

As much fun as it is to think your blog is popular with around 70 comments per post (and no, I didn't really believe that to be the case), I've had to turn on the word verification...

I'm pretty sure this latest round of severe attacks is taking advantage of the new "e-mail follow-up comments" fix that Blogger pushed out. Thanks a bunch!

06 November 2007

Almost Forgot

"Little White Truths" is now officially published in Issue 33 over at Ray Gun Revival

RGR has been having server issues, so if the above link doesn't work, the owner of the magazine has pushed a backup copy onto his own site. (The link is the line of text just above the Issue 33 cover art)

Crazy 8s

Since I have no idea if this is the way I'm supposed to do it (and Jenna tagged me without proper instructions :-P ), I'll just fake it and pretend it's correct:

8 things I'm passionate about
1. Keeping my wife safe (especially from herself)
2. Writing Aston West novels and short stories
3. Airplanes
4. Good music
5. Family (especially my baby niece and nephew)
6. Football (the American kind)
7. Laughter
8. Keeping the government out of my business

8 things I want to do before I die
1. Get published by a real, honest-to-goodness publisher
2. Visit Europe (preferably without the risk of getting killed in a terrorist attack)
3. Have my stories turned into either a movie or TV series
4. Figure out the meaning of life
5. Convince my cousin that writing is not the means of therapy she thinks it is for me.
6. Have a baby (with my wife...duh)
7. See Publish America go out of business
8. Completely understand why most of my favorite shows were taken off the air.

8 things I say often
1. Cool beans
2. Sucks to be you
3. Sucks to be me
4. Did something die in here?
5. Howdy
6. Are you going to get out of bed today?
7. I think you've had enough sugar, dear
8. Later

8 books I've recently read
1. Eleven on Top
2. Trace
3. Q is for Quarry
4. Who Needs a Hero? (Okay, I was reading it in prep for a rewrite...)
5. Godforsaken
6. The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing
7. The Screenwriter's Bible
8. Schwan's Catalog - August-December 2007 (oops)

8 songs I could listen to over and over
1. Call of Cthulu (Kthulu?)
2. And Justice For All
3. One
4. Orion (I'm a sucker for Metallica instrumentals. Go figure)
5. Ice, Ice, Baby (sue me)
6. You Oughta Know
7. Only
8. Startin' up a Posse

(this one above was actually the only one where I had to pare down the list...)

8 things that attract me to my best friends
1. Honesty
2. Intelligence
3. Being Straight-Forward
4. Humor
5. Morals (some looser than others)
6. The need not to talk every second
7. Keeping in touch
8. Hard-working

8 people I think should do Crazy 8s
1. Laurel
2. Nancy (if she still even has a blog)
3. Joyce
4. Matt (welcome back)
5. Cheryl
6. Trish
7. Alphabeter
8. Frank

Weekly Goals - November 6, 2007

An update on last week's goals...

1. Completed one new chapter of Death Brings the Victory.
2. Completed the final draft and submitted "Ever Dark" to an e-zine.
(It was rejected, but was re-submitted to another e-zine)

The goals for this week are as follows:

1. Create and input into the computer one new chapter of Death Brings the Victory.
2. Complete one section of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.
3. Develop a rough plot for a new short story.

30 October 2007

Weekly Goals - October 30, 2007

Tasks were completed this week, but nothing toward my goals from last week.

The goals for this week are as follows:

1. Create and input into the computer one new chapter of Death Brings the Victory.
2. Complete the final draft and submit my latest Aston West short story "Ever Dark" to one e-zine.

23 October 2007

Acceptance at Last

My latest Aston West short story "Little White Truths" has been accepted by Ray Gun Revival. Check back later for more detail about when it will be published.

Weekly Goals - October 23, 2007

Absolutely nothing got worked this last week, so the goals for this week remain the same:

1. Create and input into the computer two new chapters of Death Brings the Victory.
2. Complete two "sections" of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.
3. Submit "Misery in Wallowing" to another e-zine. (waiting on a rejection from RGR on "Little White Truths")

16 October 2007

Weekly Goals - October 16, 2007

An update on last week's goals:

1. Complete the final draft of Little White Truths. [Completed, and submitted to RGR]
2. Input one new chapter of Death Brings the Victory into the computer. [Completed]
3. Complete two "sections" of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory. [Completed]

And now for this week's goals:

1. Create and input into the computer two new chapters of Death Brings the Victory.
2. Complete two "sections" of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.
3. Submit "Misery in Wallowing" to another e-zine. (waiting on a rejection from RGR on "Little White Truths")

09 October 2007

Weekly Goals - October 9, 2007

An update on last week's goals:

1. Complete one revision of Little White Truths. [Completed multiple revisions, and the final draft is almost ready to ship out to some outlets]
2. Edit two chapters of Death Brings the Victory. [Completed]
3. Complete the next "section" of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory. [Completed]

And now for this week's goals:

1. Complete the final draft of Little White Truths.
2. Input one new chapter of Death Brings the Victory into the computer.
3. Complete two "sections" of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.

Aston West
short stories
writing goals

08 October 2007

The Murky Pool

For those curious, The Agent Pool is still running...only one contestant thus far has progressed to the second round, which is sad really...

But for grins and giggles, I received a notice today from a recently added contestant

56,000 words is too slim for a novel. You need 85-100K. So I’m going to pass.
Which is especially interesting, considering the contestant who progressed to the second round had no issue (as far as I know) with the low word count...

Go figure.

Aston West

02 October 2007

Weekly Goals - October 2, 2007

I've set up five monthly goals for October over at Absolute Write. In order to meet these goals, I'm going to break them down into weekly goals here on my blog. As well as getting my butt moving towards those goals ahead of the last week of the month, it also gives me an excuse to keep my blog posts churning...

So, here goes:

1. Complete one revision of Little White Truths.
2. Edit two chapters of Death Brings the Victory.
3. Complete the next "section" of the plot outline for Death Brings the Victory.

I plan to complete all three of these goals by next Tuesday, October 9.

22 September 2007

Three Weeks

Three weeks since my last post? Yikes!

Just a quick update:

The Hero re-write, now entitled Heroes Die Young, is in contract negotiations with a small publisher. Looks like there may be new life breathed into it after all...

FID is still out there, waiting for me to do another edit on it. I'm hesitant, since it's also in the hands of an agent who had requested some sample chapters a few weeks back. It wouldn't do me much good to start in on an edit, and then have a request for the full manuscript come in within days.

On a related note, when the request for sample chapters came in, it was accompanied by a request for a 3-8 page synopsis. Go figure, all I had was the 1-page variety I had to send with most of my queries. That was a long night...

Misery in Wallowing was rejected, but the magazine I last sent it to indicated they'd like to see additional work from me (MiW didn't seem to "go anywhere" with its story). So, I've been playing with another short story concept. We'll see how that turns out.

I'm back into DBV now. In order to get myself re-acclimated with the story, I'm going through and editing each of the chapters I wrote months (years?) ago. So far, I've finished three and am in the middle of the fourth.

It never ends...

01 September 2007

An update

Just an update from my previous post:

The Hero re-write is complete. I'm now polishing up the query and synopsis before sending it around. I am stumbling across how to mention the book's previous "publisher" in the query.

Genesis was rejected. The particulars of the story really demand it goes to certain outlets, of which there are very few.

Misery in Wallowing has now been polished and submitted to another e-zine.

Hopefully, I'll maintain the pace and keep things moving. I've been pondering some additional Aston West short stories, so we'll see how that goes.

12 August 2007

Happier News

Since much of the past month or more has been filled with rather "down" news (and since I haven't heard word one in weeks from the Agent Pool), I figured I'd create a post with some of the happier accomplishments:

My novels

The Hero Re-Write - Currently in the "polishing" stage. I hope to be finished with this by Labor Day.

FID - Finished, but will probably have another polish edit or two. It's currently being shopped around to some agents, but nothing has come back positive thus far.

DBV - The plot outline is around half-complete, and around 8 chapters have been worked. My vacation this past week spawned a tremendous amount of work on the outline.

My shorts
(short stories)

Misery in Wallowing - Completed, but needs a thorough edit. I plan to submit this to an e-zine once completed.

Genesis (my only completed work not featuring Aston West) - Completed and submitted to an e-zine.

So, hopefully the progress will continue (and hopefully I'll have a few more ideas for short stories). We'll see what happens.

28 July 2007

Addendum to a Shitty Day

Had a meeting with our case worker yesterday, to get answers to the multitude of questions we had.

Turns out the decision to remove the children had been made the previous Friday, when she had come out to talk with us. It also turns out they are TAUGHT to mislead families when children are going to be removed (direct admission from our case worker).

And is it any wonder why there's always a shortage of foster families?

16 July 2007

Rather Poor Form

It's been a while since any of the contestants have done much to win the hearts of the judges in the Agent Pool competition. Today is no different.

Witness Agent 19, who bowed out today:

Dear Writer,

Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, your project is not right for the agency at this time.

Best of luck to you as you seek representation.

Warmest regards,

Agent [Okay, this line was my modification, to preserve anonymity...but fit with the first line, I thought]

Now, canned responses are nothing new. However, at least the others have programs which input the first name (or last) of the author in question. We'll ignore the fact that on their site, they even make the claim that if they're interested, you should expect a response...implying that if they're not interested, you shouldn't expect one. I'm not sure I would have been any more insulted by not receiving a response at all...

"Dear Writer"?

Do they adjust the response based on what they see in the query?

Dear Cash Cow...
Dear Author...
Dear Writer...
Dear Biped...
Dear Amoeba...

And since our last short response made it through the Translator with little for our efforts, we've made some minor adjustments. The moment you've all been waiting for:
Dear Nobody,

We hope our generic response has been enough to dissuade you from ever sending us future work for review. [it has] Space pirates are never going to be a big sell to the established houses, and to think it ever will be goes to show how naive you really are.

Keep searching for representation. Eventually you'll stumble across a scammer willing to take it on and you'll count yourself lucky.

Hope you burn in hell for sending us this dreck,

A Really Important Agent
Anyway, stay tuned next time for the latest episode of the Agent Pool...

09 July 2007

A Shitty Day

It would have to be a Monday, too...

Started off this morning at work, when one of my most valuable employees gave me his two weeks' notice...

I can't fault him, because he's wanted to go back home, and the opportunity availed itself. I wish him well, and know that he's going to treated far better by the corporate entity he's going to versus the one we currently work for.

Then, I received a phone call from my wife later in the morning. Our little five-year old has taken to increasingly violent and destructive behaviors, and nothing seems to help. It doesn't help that the social services system in this state is completely screwed up.

(I'm about to go on a major rant now)

So, when we decided to go into foster care, we knew that we were getting into something very deep. So, we wanted to set ourselves up for only receiving one child, in order to ease ourselves into this new world.

Our agency persuaded us to get approved for two, telling us that it would be very difficult to get it changed later. I still have my doubts about that, considering they wanted to send us a third after a short time with two. (the only thing saving us at that point was the state regulation that temporary licenses, of which we had at the time, did not allow us such an exemption...where a permanent license would)

So, without getting into details, the five-year old had serious issues with the amount of attention the infant was getting (since infants require more attention by nature). But it was hard for us to know which behaviors were normal for five-year olds, and which were as a result of tying to garner attention.

So, we asked our case worker for assistance...and she gave us a CRAP video that had to have been filmed in the late 70s. Not only did this NOT help in teaching us normal 5-year old behaviors, but it serious made us wonder whether anyone was even paying attention to our cries for help.

So, we continued on the way we were doing things, with zero help from any of the parties involved. The only thing they wanted from us was to sign up as an adoption resource. If we weren't going to help them with their ultimate plans, it seemed as though we were on our own.

An incident occurred recently which required our case worker to step in, mainly because the behaviors increased in severity, and no one was there to help us. We were directed in a specific fashion how we were to react to any behaviors the five-year old had.

The very next day, my wife called the case worker to ask for assistance on how to deal with a particular behavior. The case worker came and retrieved the child, presumably to watch her for the afternoon.

When the child was returned that evening, we were told the children were being removed. No advance warning, nothing.

Personally, I have to wonder if those in the social services system actually get their jollies ripping people's hearts out after driving the horse into the lake themselves.

Add on top of that, the entire time we were gathering the kids' belongings and trying to place them in their case worker's car (another post for another day, the need for a bloated system where 2 children require around 8-10 workers), we were in the middle of a torrential downpour that lasted for probably an hour.

All in all, a shitty day.

03 July 2007


While we pump all the standing oil out of the Agent Pool (though we had the idea of using it for wrestling matches), a quick recap of the highlights this week:

Two more agents failed to make the cut.

Agent 12 unfortunately sent a response so short that the Author-ese Translator didn't even realize it was reading an agent response before it shredded the thing to pieces (apparently we need to make extra copies beforehand).

Agent 18 on the other hand, gave a similar response to some of the others who try to make you feel worthwhile and offer hope that another agent may be out there for you (just not them).

But then, a glimmer of hope on the horizon...an actual piece of (I have to assume) manually-generated response hidden almost out of sight:
This feels like adult Star Trek in spots with vocabulary and word wit, but then it has a fun silliness that feels more like MG than YA... I’m not sure the voice quite fits for the YA tone I’m looking for.
A couple of thoughts (since the Translator doesn't have a clue how to work on manual verbiage):

1. This is the first time my work has ever been compared to Star Trek. I can honestly say that every other comparison has ALWAYS been to Star Wars. Now, it could be that Agent 18 doesn't realize there's a difference.

2. I'm going to assume MG stands for Middle Grade? Wouldn't that be kids younger than Young Adult? I've had responses that indicate it may have too much violence for Young Adult as it is. Granted, there's not much of that in the first chapter (which was all Agent 18 received)...

But on the plus side, it was feedback...and that's a start. Hopefully the other contestants will take this into consideration for their future efforts.

So, time to get back to work...anybody have a match so I could make quick work of it?

02 July 2007

When Fiction and Reality Collide

It's always interesting to see how fiction and reality can co-exist...

As an example, from the (hopefully) upcoming novel Friends in Deed:

Small, round vehicles hovered idly at the edge of the walkway, all along the length of the building. Each had a dome of tinted glass, and a ring of yellow metal formed a doughnut around the passenger compartment. Travelers exited the terminal and entered vehicles with open doors. The door would close and the vehicle hovered down the road.
Then I read something eerily familiar this morning.


30 June 2007

Little Gremlins

Apparently little gremlins have hacked into the control center and plastered pictures of themselves on everything.

Witness this...the traditional goodbye speech from Agent 18:

Please forgive this impersonal note but the high volume of correspondence makes it difficult for us to respond to you personally. Thank you for your query. Unfortunately it doesn’t match what we are looking for at this time. We hope other agents feel differently.
Within this message, I also received my original message, which included such statements as:

I wondered why she was so curious. “I spat in his face.”

R20;IR17;m telling you, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
(One of my personal favorites by the way)
My only hope is that the original message wasn't received this way. Yikes.

But then, the synopsis was almost perfectly clear of these little gremlins, so...

23 June 2007

Pool Sharks

A few more contestants have gone missing, with the actual names a bit hard to determine. Dismembered body parts in the surf have made the identification process tougher than usual. Another item we found was a sign - "Sharks / No Swimming" - which had a few large chunks taken out. Now that we've replaced the sign, we hope things will be a little more stable.

The executive producers for Survivor: The Agent Pool have decided to add a few more contestants into the mix so they could make the viewers happy. A big welcome to the newbies, and happy hunting.

Stay out of the water.

15 June 2007

In Other News

Agent 2 walked out into the surf, high tide came and went, and not a sign to be seen. I guess that means Agent 2 is hereby eliminated from the competition.

Recently, on a message board I frequent, I was suggesting the idea of putting my first book (which was released from the clutches of an evil trinity who shall remain nameless) out on Lulu, for free, in order to get people interested in my storytelling prior to FID being published.

Well, another user (who I know) suggested I should take the story to an e-publisher instead, and make a few bucks.

Personally, I don't really care to make any money off it, but the idea intrigued me nonetheless. So, I've set off on a wild adventure to re-edit the original manuscript (something I said I'd never do, of course) and see what happens.

It might still end up on Lulu for free, but we'll have to wait and see.

06 June 2007

More From the Agent Pool

Sadly, Agent 4 has been eliminated from the competition. But playing the optimist, here we have the final lines of what is normally the traditional goodbye speech:
There are numerous excellent agents that might be the right fit for your manuscript. Don't give up!
Some background, while we wait for the Translator to warm up...

Of all the agents in the competition, this one seemed the oddest, as Agent 4 wanted to see 50 pages of the manuscript with the query. I admire Agent 4 for being brave enough to wade through 50 pages of slush, or at least subject a reader to 50 pages of slush, on a regular basis (and since it took a week to get the response, I'll assume for the sake of argument they read the whole 50 pages). However, one would think that someone could see what an author is truly made of in 5-10 pages as much as they could in 50. The mind boggles.

Okay, time for the Translator to work its magic:

Much like in high school when you were strung along with these old adages:
"The worst thing they can do is say no."
"There are plenty of fish in the sea."
"Those girls don't know what they're missing."
And on and on and on...
We really don't want to depress you, because the worst thing in the world is a depressed author. So, please accept our attempt at making you feel better, and truly believe there will be an agent (or publisher) for you out there somewhere.

I feel better already...

05 June 2007

A Word From Our Sponsors

Since there's a lull in the action, let's take a moment to explain the rationale behind this recent foray into self-deprecation.

Many may see (and have, judging by some comments) this as bizarre behavior, mocking oneself and their attempt to get published (or in this case, get an agent so one can get published).

Personally, writing is not my day job, and likely won't become one for many years to come. I think, given the chance (and the appropriate behavior by publishers who don't hail from Frederick, Maryland) , I would do well as an author. I have mad book signing skills, I seem to have some draw across age groups, gender lines, and readers of different genre; and the fan base seems to expand without me even trying anymore.

But being an engineer, I have this knack for numbers, probabilities, and determination of reality. Though it would excite me to get a honest-to-goodness publisher, my hopes are not high. Thus, I like to poke fun at myself and my exploits in this life called authorship.

Even more may ask themselves why I post excerpts from rejections (I've also been known to take submission guidelines and run them through as well...).

Could it upset the agents who sent those rejections to me (if they stumbled across my blog and saw them)? Possibly...but hopefully they will see it in the true spirit of self-mocking (and mocking of this entire adventure) it is.

Doesn't it upset me to get rejections? Not really...because one would have to think that space pirates would actually be something publishers wanted to sell to believe a contract could be forthcoming. In all actuality, getting accepted would be a big surprise (welcome, but still a surprise).

The Author-ese Translator, though, is real, I'm afraid. (which is another reason why I don't fret the little things like rejections...especially the form ones)

And since we're now marketing the Ae-T (to pay for all the beta reader copies of FID we gave out), here are a few blasts from the past for your enjoyment and amusement (and mine).

(Sorry, with the transfer over to the new blog, all the old comments got wiped out...)

More From The Translator
The Translator on OT
Submission Guidelines, Translated (my personal favorite, by the way)

And hopefully we'll see some action here in the next few days...unless the remaining agents have all read my blog and made a blood pact not to send me anything to run through the translator...

30 May 2007

The Saga Continues

A little more action today in Survivor: The Agent Pool for our viewers. Look for a cameo spot by the Author-ese Translator later...

Agent 1 is out of the competition. In the traditional good-bye speech, Agent 1 lamented:
As to your material I'm afraid I must pass -- I'm just not enthusiastic enough about the premise of your story to feel that I'd be the right agent for the project.
The translator has been fitted with new industrial-strength bearings after the last snafu, and is ready for anything...

*chug, chug, chug*
Space pirates? What the hell are you thinking, fool? Nobody writes about space pirates. Nobody outside of maybe really BAD Pirates of the Caribbean fanfic...
And then moves on...
I realize it is difficult to judge your potential from a query; nevertheless please know that I give serious attention to every letter, outline, and writing sample I receive. Sorry I couldn't give you a more positive reply.
It took me a whole of maybe 30 minutes of attention to realize this book was going to suck big hairy donkey balls...a more positive reply would have required more time than I was actually willing to spend on this dreck.
So sorry, Agent 1...better luck next time. As a parting gift, please accept these slightly worn bearings for an Author-ese Translator.

Agent 6 rounds out our highlight reel today, setting off the Translator's early detection & warning initiation (EDWIN) system. With this fabulous upgrade, the Translator can actually read through responses and alert the user to when it should require translation. This frees up the user to work on crappy query letters and synopses for sending out to the masses (also known as tossing chum in the water) instead of sorting through responses and making his or her own decisions on what should be translated.
As you may know, I run a very small business and unfortunately there are periods when the time that I have to consider new material is very limited. Unfortunately you've caught me during one of those periods. Since I can not offer to consider your work in a timely manner I must pass with the hope that you will find an agent who can offer the attention that this deserves.
EDWIN was tipped off by the fact Agent 6 noted the package came at the wrong time, but never alluded to what time might be better, followed up by a claim of passing on the project due to not being able to consider the work in a timely manner.

The translator is not impressed...and has now fulfilled its mandatory warm-up cycle.
30 minutes was way too much time for me to look through this package (only a query), so I cut it down to about 30 seconds. I saw your first bit about space pirates and asked myself "WTF? Nobody writes about space pirates. What the hell were you thinking?" If I act fast, maybe you'll pass along this dreck to one of my other larger competitors and drag them down into the slush pile abyss...
3 down...the action is just heating up.
Tune in tomorrow and see more highlights as they're piped into the clubhouse...

29 May 2007

And They're Off...

It's been an exciting day here in the clubhouse as we've been watching the action out there in the first day of Survivor: the Agent Pool...

Highlights of the day:

1) Kudos and bonus points to Agents 3 and 8 for actually knowing how to use the Out of Office feature on their e-mail programs. After dealing with people at work who suffer from Outlook disabilities (similar to PowerPoint disabilities as covered in classic Dilbert cartoons), it's refreshing to know that at least some of our contestants have the ability to use technology correctly.

2) Negative points to Agent 2 whose Out of Office feature responded followed by another automated response later in the day which stated not to expect anything if I don't hear back in two weeks. Poor form, poor form...

3) Big kudos to Agent 10. It's not often that one receives a response that cuts through the BS and simply states "Sorry, not right for me." Although sad to see Agent 10 out of the contest, it was fun to watch while it lasted.

Now, it's time to go work on the Author-ese Translator...I think it may have thrown out a couple of bearings on that last one, as it had no idea what to do when offered a response that really didn't need a translation.

26 May 2007

Survivor: The Agent Pool

Well, you've heard me talk about it. Now it's nearing the time when the rubber hits the road (or the plasma hits the injectors?). We have 13 agents, all vying for the chance at a one million dollar jackpot* in representing Friends in Deed.

To keep everyone from being mobbed by the media during this event, we'll have to keep their identities anonymous for the duration of the game. All references to the contestants will be by number (Agent 1, Agent 2, etc.).

Expect a number of guest stars to appear throughout the course of the games, including everyone's favorite, The Author-ese Translator.

Betting on the results, though discouraged, is allowed, but only in those locations where gambling is legal.

Enjoy your barbeques and family gatherings this weekend. The contest starts Tuesday.

*Estimated. Actual results may vary.

16 May 2007

The Grandpa Gene

I have made an important discovery in the field of genetics recently, and wanted to share with the world.

The trouble is, this gene does not get passed on from parent to child, as with most genetic exchanges, but rather from infant to grandparent.

An ordinary, everyday man can hold their first grandchild, and the genetic exchange has immediately taken place. This ordinary man undergoes a genetic mutation, through which he loses all memory of past experience, and is converted into a instant pacifist / apologist.

I began to suspect my father had undergone such a transformation a few years back when one of my siblings (for the sake of time and sanity, I'll refrain from trying to explain the logistics of how they're related to me) had a child, and he became a grandpa for the first time.

Small things began to change. Suddenly, he became rather kind-hearted toward others and less upset (but not to where he never does) by the small things in life.

But it was not until we became foster parents that the truth behind the mutation had come forth. For months, he has spoken with me about the way in which we attempt to mold the young child's (not the infant) behavior through corrective techniques, claiming that all kids are like her.

The final piece of evidence in the puzzle, however, was the other day, when he made a statement about how "all kids are like that. You were a kid once, too, you know."

I call bulls---.

One must realize, when I was a child (perhaps a little older, but not by much), that my behavior had to be top notch. If I backtalked, ignored, or disobeyed instructions by either of my parents, woe to my backside...spankings were threatened, and then carried out (sometimes with a belt). There was no way I would stomp through the house in anger (at least not until I was a teenager, which is a separate post entirely). And if even a hint of a raised voice was in the air, I knew enough to stop what I might be doing and figure out how I needed to correct my behavior.

Of course, with foster care regulations the way they are, spankings are not an option, so other negative consequences have to be enacted (timeouts, removal of toys, removal of priveleges, etc.). One thing I do know is that with spankings, I had a lot of disincentive for misbehavior.

At least I knew (learned) enough to try and misbehave when:
a) my parents weren't around,
b) there was no way of them knowing what I'd done, and
c) there would be no physical evidence that my brother and I had whooped the s--- out of each other.

But when I hear my father try to gloss over my childhood behavior (and punishments in particular), it confirms my fears that he has been genetically mutated by

The Grandpa Gene

14 May 2007

Thinking? Since When?

As I mentioned over at his blog, I'm still trying to figure out where my blog makes anyone think...but Rob decided to tag my blog to receive the Thinking Blogger Award.

Thinking Blogger Award for The West(ern) Chronicles

Um, thanks Rob?

Now, since I’ve been tagged, I must:

1) List five blogs that make me think

This is a toughie, since I rarely get enough time to check out blogs anymore. But I have seen a few in recent memory that qualify for the award.

Fireflies in the Cloud

PostSecret (which qualifies on a weekly basis, even though I can't post a comment...)

Laurel Johnson Blogs?

Zonked Out

Blue Attitude

2) Link to the initiating post of this meme.

3) Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that warranted it. (Which I've already done in the sidebar)

Now, it's back to trying to work up some confidence and get a few queries out.

02 May 2007

On a Lighter Note...

Many of you have probably seen my posts about my current WIP, Friends in Deed. In some of the more distant ones (which after rummaging through my archives a moment, seem to have been posted over at my old blog and never got transferred over), you might remember a particular section of the story which was always a thorn in my side. Each and every time I would go through it, it always seemed to stall out my progress, and weeks (months) would pass before I could finally dig my way out into the later portions of the story.

Thankfully, in this most recent round of (hopefully final) edits, it appears that things have finally settled down, since I breezed through it fairly quickly.

So, there may be hope for me yet.

Next up:

Trying to figure out how to write that magic query letter which will spawn a massive bidding war.


How to convince agents and publishers that they need another poster child for an author success story once the last Harry Potter novel releases and Rowling becomes a has-been.

24 April 2007

Tales From the HOA

It's been a while since I had a good story to tell about our local Homeowner's Association...
But spring has sprung, so it was only a matter of time.

I received this via e-mail today...

I need to let you know that I had a message on my home answering machine last night when I arrived home. It was a neighbor making a compliant against the yard keeping at your residence. The complaint specifically stated that the yard was commonly left to grow tall then cut short allowing the clippings to remain in clumps throughout the yard. I did view your yard and agree that the grass clumpings are obvious and detract from the appearance of the yard.

In an effort to more closely match the yards of your surrounding neighbors, I must ask that you improve the upkeep of your yard. This will likely include more frequent mowing, trimming and perhaps raking of yard clippings. Please respond and advise if there are any concerns with improving the appearance of your yard.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

Now, I'm no rocket scientist (oops, wait...I am), but one would think that with the frequency and amount of rain lately, they would understand that it's not exactly a mystery as to why the grass has been "commonly left to grow tall"...

(Actually, I think this has only happened like twice or maybe three times in the past three weeks, due to excessive rains and by my having such a FREAKING AWESOME lawn)

But, then, what can one expect??
The new president of the HOA board is the husband of a woman (also on the board) who has had it out for me for quite some time, because I don't let her pick on the rest of her neighbors...

So, of course, my response...

Only issue I have is when the frequency of rain and schedule issues at work/home do not allow me to mow more frequently. Most of the time, I do attempt to mow before the lawn gets as tall as it has these past few weeks, as it tends to cause my mower to bog down, thus causing the clumps of clippings observed by aforementioned neighbor. However, when scheduled religious activities and observances, work or foster care issues arise which do not allow me to mow on days where mowing is appropriate (on days where it isn't raining and the grass is not sopping wet), the grass tends to get taller than I would like.

If the neighbor in question would like to come talk to me and listen to my explanation personally, I would be more than happy to oblige and we could most likely come to a mutual agreement without involvement of the HOA heirarchy.

In the meantime, I can attempt to mow more frequently, and perhaps re-mow over clumps when they occur.


p.s. I guess I should ask whether something needs to be done immediately, or was this a "do better" request?

I guess I'll see how much ire I can raise in these folks before they threaten me with legal action.

I'm actually surprised they aren't laying the smack down on me for having a dead tree (due to a premature spring and subsequent re-freeze) in my yard. Being as how I don't plan on replacing it until the growing season starts in the fall......

21 April 2007

Doing a Great Dis-Service

Is it merely me, or has the customer service industry really gone to s--- in the past few years?

I began to notice small things, like heading through the drive thru at several fast food restaurants. I used to work drive-thru back in the day, and generally we'd wait for the customer to make a long pause, indicating they were finished ordering. Of course, then we'd try to get them to make an additional purchase, but that was pushed on us by managers.

Nowadays, I can barely get one part of an order out before they ask "Is that it?"

This is especially entertaining when I (apparently an adult, since I'm driving a car) order a Happy Meal first thing...

Okay, so that's a minor rant...and easily attributable to people becoming more rude in current times.

A few weeks ago, our couch began to make squeaking noises when we sat down. Since it was still under the one-year warranty, we called up the store to get it fixed. They came over and picked it up, then took it back to the store. Days went by, and finally they called to tell us that they'd be bringing it back. So, once we got it back and the truck had left, we finally got a chance to sit.

Lo and behold, the couch still made the same noise.

So, we called them up and explained the situation to them, and they agreed to come back out and get it. The manager we spoke with assured us that he would "personally" make sure the couch got fixed. We'll see.

Fast forward to just yesterday...

Our (American) car, less than 2 years old, begins to make rubbing noises when turning right. Obviously, this shouldn't be happening, even though it has just under 36,000 miles on it.

So, we take it back to the dealer to get it fixed under warranty. At first, they tell us that they won't be able to get it in for a few days. We find out through our original saleswoman that the dealer foots the bill for a rental when you bring cars in for warranty work, so we take them up on it.

Now, one would expect that since we have a four-door vehicle, with two small children, they would pony up for a similar vehicle. Instead, we get stuck with a two-door with limited room to navigate in the back seats. Not much fun with car seats and booster seats...

So, it was with much jubilation that we received a call later that evening telling us that they'd been able to get our car in and fix the problem (We discovered later that it was because the dealer only pays for a rental for one day). We drove back to the dealer, swapped cars, and everything seemed okay. The problem was apparently fixed and all was well with the world again.

Then, we drove about two miles down the road, and the problem popped back up. (Have I mentioned my disgust with American vehicles?)

I only hope that they didn't try a quick fix so that we wouldn't be able to get the car back in before it topped the 36,000 warranty limit (yes, it's that close). Even if that happens, I'll be rather forceful when explaining to them the meaning of true customer service...

03 April 2007

Is It Really So Happy?

Well, being as how I've been working a lot of long hours, we've been short-cutting on dinner quite a bit these past few weeks (months?).

So, needless to say, I've gotten fairly in tune with the latest in Happy Meal giveaways.

Enter the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles....

The trouble being, of course, that we have a little girl, and they only give these toys out for the boys...


Only *boys* get the cool toys? What in the world is that?
Oh yeah, it wouldn't have been so bad if the alternative wasn't so piss poor.

I mean, Wizard of Oz dolls? Come on...especially around here. You would have thought they would have realized the stupidity of that move. We don't get enough of that crap as it is...

So, I went through the drive-thru and told them I needed a Happy Meal for a boy.

Then I get home and she didn't even want the toy (that's a boy toy, she complained, after a little bit of prompting from my wife). Which is fine, I explained, because I could always use some new toys...then proceeded to play with the toy in question.

Go figure, she was all about playing with the boy's toy at that point.


Equally weird, when you leave the McDonald's website, they put up a little notice to let you know you're leaving, and they're not responsible for anybody else's website you may have linked to. I'm betting there's a pretty good lawsuit story involved in that one.

25 March 2007

Just when...

Just when you think you're finished, you end up being fooled.

Such is the case with FID. I thought I was finished.
Then an author friend of mine (Thanks Nancy!) pointed out some issues. So, I'm back into it once again.

Unfortunately, this means I get to put my other WIPs on the back burner. It never ends.

Thanks to all those who gave me comments and votes over at Gather.com. I imagine that it's not going to be high enough to garner a second round attempt.
But with this new input, I'll probably be busy for a while reworking some of those issues. So, it all works out in the end, I suppose.

After that, it'll be off to the majors with some queries.

12 March 2007

Bowing Down to the Man

So, I decided to just bow down to "the man" and submit my work to the First Chapters contest after all. It took a bit of work to juggle the chapters to get them into the "proper" form for the contest.

So, here's the sample.
I believe you have to join Gather.com to vote, but hope you do.

05 March 2007

And then again...

Maybe not.

I attempted to submit my manuscript to the First Chapters contest. I debated it for quite a while, and then figured I would take a chance.

I then received a rejection today in my e-mail, citing the fact that my submission did not meet the word count guidelines.

Oh well...

I did question them (just for grins and giggles) about whether it was due to the full submission or the three sample chapters. The former had no stated absolutes about word counts (though the standard "completed book length manuscripts" probably would be enough, since those who know me realize I'm not big on fluff in my writing). The latter had a 2K - 10K limit, and is probably the bigger reason for the rejection, since the first chapter (being a teaser chapter) comes in under the 2K limit.

So, my guess, either way, is that I'll be *verboten* from the First Chapters competition...I'm all broken up about that, as you can probably tell.

So, on to the majors, which was my original plan before I talked myself out of it in the first place.

26 February 2007

FID Completed (again)

After much strife and toil, I've finally completed all the remaining edits on my latest novel. Now it's time to move on to another, while I simultaneously prepare my work for (possibly) submittal to the First Chapters contest mentioned in the comments of another post.

My only questions about said contest are in the "standard" contract they force the winner to sign within 5 days of receiving it. I need to see if there's a way to view that contract before submitting.

Although I don't put much stock in my chances of winning such a contest, it would good to know whether there's anything in that "standard" contract I should beware of. Having been burned once by a publisher (if one could even call it that), I'm a little hesitant to be burned by another.

12 February 2007

Foiled Again

Interestingly enough, I was chatting with some co-workers who'd read my book and they hinted that it seemed very similar to a sci-fi series that was on Fox (briefly) a while back...named Firefly (the TV show spawned a movie, so it seems)

And so I've been watching a few episodes (and the movie).
Good stuff, and yes, I can see where it resembles my novels.
Too bad I never heard of this series before I came up with my concept back in the late 90s.
(and I'm certain Joss Whedon, who also created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, never saw my work)

As with all things, there are some similarities and some differences...

The main difference is that while I keep the focus on one character and his transport ship, Firefly brings a cast of nine characters aboard a transport ship.

The premise is similar...pirate-type character (or characters, with the show) who do odd jobs to make ends meet and end up getting themselves into the wrong situations most of the time.

The main character in the series has a lot in common with my own...tries not to show his compassionate, do-right side while he's at the same time committing what most would consider criminal behavior.

At least they don't have a talking computer...ha.

One big thing I've discovered is that the name of their "ruling authority" is the Alliance, which was what I'd planned to use for an organization in my upcoming novel. Now, I could probably still use it and be fine. But now that I've seen the show (and how similar it is to my novel series), I almost feel obligated to change the name...argh!!!!

(Going through, chapter by chapter, on a search-and-replace mission is going to be a pain in the...)

Another similarity is the group of ruthless beasts who plunder and such...the Gohr in my novels, Reavers in the series. Thankfully, I decided to keep the Gohr somewhat civilized, to the point where they don't resort to cannibalism.

Always fun and excitement to find these things out...makes one wonder how one person (Mr. Whedon) could take basically a similar concept and turn it into a TV series and movie, while I'm still waiting for a real publisher.

24 January 2007

Just a Small Update

I certainly wish that I could say my extended absence was the result of prolific writing being accomplished, but unfortunately it's merely a matter of life once again getting in the way.

Earlier this month, extended family had some domestic issues, which resulted in our home being used as a refugee camp of sorts.

And then, our temporary foster home permit came in the mail.

Apparently, foster homes are in very short supply, because as soon as the paperwork hit the agency's home office, we had kids plopped in our laps the next day (I imagine...they didn't tell me personally when the paperwork was received on their end after it was sent to them).

Because of all the regulations and confidentiality issues related to the foster care system (which are a joy, I assure you), I can't really go into anything much more specific. Rest assured, it's been a rather harrowing experience thus far. And even more exciting, there hasn't been a free moment anywhere to get anything resembling writing done.

One can hope that a somewhat stable routine will emerge shortly, and the latest round of beta comments will get incorporated.

But then, I thought that would be the end of it after the first round of beta comments...

04 January 2007

One Long Night

I've previously alluded to how Brisarian males are very protective of their females. Well, let's just say that one night, I'd had a bit much to drink and forgot to heed my own advice.

Needless to say, some of them found out what planet I've been hanging out on.

Yes, it's all my fault.