Category Archives: Writing

Anything related to writing, authors, agents, publishers, etc.

Letter to my awesome daughter

My wonderful daughter is now 17 (man, that makes me feel old!) and in her final year of high school. She recently went on her Year 12 retreat, and the school asked every student’s parents to secretly write them a letter, which they would all receive one evening while they were away. They’d be given time to read it in private and to respond with a letter of their own. I cherish every word of what she wrote back to me, but while I wouldn’t dream of publishing her words, I’d like to share what I wrote to her.


My Darling Baby Girl,

If I said that I’ve loved and adored you ever since the moment I helped deliver you out of the safety and warmth of your mother’s womb, and caught you, and placed you in Mum’s arms, and cut the cord, and welcomed you into this world… then that wouldn’t be true. Because, well, I already loved everything I knew about you even before you were born. We had some great conversations while Mum was still pregnant with you (even though I did most of the talking and your contributions consisted mostly of kicking and punching and doing somersaults). I played you my favourite music by holding headphones against Mum’s belly, which of course is the sole reason you have such excellent taste in music even today.

Then, you were finally born, and so… perfect. You were there to comfort me with your bright, curious gaze – never once crying, just studying the strange being whose voice you already knew – when Mum needed an operation right after you were delivered and I was so worried that you might be an only child. It all turned out well, but I was so thankful you were there with me.

You had me wrapped around your tiny finger from the very start.

Every step you made, every breath you tade… er, took, I loved every moment of watching you grow up. You see, it wasn’t just that you were so cute (and, oh my goodness, were you ever cute!), but also that you allowed me to experience the entire world through the eyes of a young child again. All the glorious beauty of God’s creation, and I’d become so accustomed to everything that I didn’t really appreciate it anymore… until you showed it to me again. What a gift! In return, I wanted to share everything that I liked with you. If I saw a movie that was really moving, or funny, or exciting, I thought, “Ooh, I’m going to watch this one with Debbie when she’s <X> years old!” If I read a book that was really good, I thought, “Oh boy, I hope she’ll become an avid reader and devour books by the truckload.” (And lo and behold, it came to be thus.)

Well, all right – I can’t take all the credit for everything. Nearly everything, though. Yeah, of course Mum was always there to spoil you as well, so… almost nearly everything, then. (Now stop being so nitpicky and let me enjoy this!) And spoil you we did, but, right from the start, one of my goals was to help you be the best you you could possibly be. One of the most important traits I taught you was to be critical. I’d tell you things, even before you could properly reply more than yes or no (but, wow, you understood so much already!), and then ask a question that challenged what I’d just told you. Somehow, you just didn’t let me fool you.

So many milestones* along the way. Having a little brother, then another. Experiencing the wonders of having pets, and of having them pass away. Kindy, pre-school, primary school, secondary school, changing school, making new friends. Becoming a teenager, lying to your parents, reconciling. The first boyfriend (whom I somehow didn’t even kill… no guarantees about the next one, though), your first break-up. Braces. Your first job. Becoming a mature young woman (you were always way more mature than most others your age).

(*Disclaimer: Events may not necessarily be in chronological order. Events in rear-view mirror may seem more or less significant than they really were, depending. On stuff.)

And now, and now… you’re still and will always be Daddy’s little girl, but you’re also a wonderful young woman, so full of confidence – and rightly so – in her ability to handle whatever the world throws at her. Seventeen now, #ohmigoshohmigosh #howdidtimeflysofast?!? You’re old enough to watch horror movies with us, old enough to laugh at all my dirty jokes that I had to bottle up for years before you would’ve understood them (even if you cringe at some of them, you love it!), old enough to write your own stories (which are getting better so fast it’s scary), old enough to have your L-plates and later this year your P-plates. Soon you’ll be old enough to vote!

Your journey in your final year in secondary school will end a chapter in your life that will seem smaller and smaller as you move on and open new chapters over time, but you should always be proud of all that you’ve achieved and accomplished and become during this impressionable time. I know I am and will always be proud of you. Your sharp mind is a weapon, use it to beat life into submission. You can be anything you want to be, because you’ve been handed these most important attributes by Mum and me: awesome brains, the heart of an artist and a poet, a killer sense of humour, and a smile that can melt any heart. There shouldn’t be any situation where the things we’ve handed down are not enough, but if there ever is… I’ll be there for you.

Love always and forever,

– Daddy

 

Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down

And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we’ve handed down

You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Some feature of your father’s
That you’d gladly sell or trade

And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed

By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we’ve handed down

– Mark Cohn, “The Things We’ve Handed Down”

Recommendation: Hire a Mercenary Proofreader (and Editor)

Things have been crazy busy at my end of the world, but I wanted to take some time to give a well-deserved shout-out to a fellow blogger whose meticulous proofreading/editing services I’ve recently had the chance to experience.

I’ve been following the blog of Thomas Weaver for quite some time now (well, just about since I started blogging myself), and have consistently enjoyed his Grammar Rants, amongst other posts. I’d like to believe that we’re similar in some respects (perfectionists, sticklers for detail, and grammar na… er, ninjas), but I can’t claim to have any seriously honed editing skills (though I did rant myself about things an editor should’ve picked up in a book written by my favourite author that I just couldn’t overlook). So, since I remembered from first browsing his site a long time ago that he was also an editor who offered a free sample of his proofreading/editing skills for up to 5000 words – and because I knew I would soon be submitting my first chapter, which therefore had to be extra polished –  I thought I’d see whether he’d be able to find any little errors I may have overlooked in my own writing. I was pretty convinced that there wouldn’t be more than a few, and that those would have been ones that crept in with recent edits to said first chapter.

Boy, was I naïve.

 

The Red Pen

Who doesn’t love editing? Oh, put your hands down… *sigh*. (Image from wikimedia commons.)

Thomas not only found a few errors that had crept in, he also managed to remind me of how inconsistent I’d become with my commas and semicolons (in more places than I’d like to admit publicly), and of my bad habit with adding a fourth dot to an ellipsis when it’s at the end of a sentence, which isn’t correct.

I did have the audacity to disagree with some of his suggested edits, and, in our interesting email conversation about several aspects of editing and grammar, rather than being a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, he was happy to agree with some of my reasoning and answer my questions about some of the finer points of… stuff.

Oh, and, as a bonus, he came up with this gem regarding ellipses that cracked me up:

Then thou must write three dots upon the page. Three shall be the number of the dots, and the number of the dots shall be three. Four dots shall thou not write, neither shall thou write two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the three dots, three being the number of the dots, be written…

It helps to know the Monty Python original to appreciate it:

So, clearly, if you’re in need of professional proofreading and/or editing, I can whole-heartedly recommend Thomas’ services. Not only will you get first-class service, you’ll also be communicating with a guy who is very approachable, who knows way more than just his commas and semicolons, and who has a great sense of humour.

You can even try out his free sample offer so you have an idea of what you’ll get for hiring him. And if you do, please tell him Amos sent you – maybe I’ll get a discount when I need more of his excellent editing skills. ;-)

I just wrote a love scene…

… and it’s either insanely good, wonderfully romantic and tender and sweet… or hopelessly cheesy and pathetically inadequate. Dammit, how do I know which it is?!?

Aaarrgghh!

A couple of inspiring success stories

Just a quick one to share two success stories that are inspiring to anyone looking to break into the ranks of (traditionally) published authors.

Lynette Noni

First, Lynette Noni, who is starting to officially freak out! She wrote a bunch of lovely blog posts last year about getting a publishing deal with Pintera Press, and since then has worked hard (I’m sure) to get her book, Akarnae, polished for publication. The big date for her is the 2nd of February 2015, so just three days away… if you haven’t already, go visit her blog and send her some love and well-wishes. :-)

Akarnae, by Lynette Noni

Lynette Noni’s new book, Akarnae, is about to be published!

Good luck for the book release, Lynette! (The cover looks awesome, by the way.)

Sarah Joy Carlson

Secondly, Sarah Joy Carlson has just announced that she has signed with an agent in Ireland, which is also awesome news. In her post “Drumroll, please… I’ve signed with an agent!” she tells all about her journey of overcoming a few rejections, persisting and believing, and finally getting her dream agent for her novel, Hooligans in Shining Armour. (The blog post also contains pretty much every gif about excitement that currently exists on the Internet. :-) )

Congratulations to both of these great authors!

Can’t… blog… in… zone

Ok, quick break from writing, just long enough to say…

… Sorry, the main part of my mind is somewhere completely different right now.

… I’m making good progress with my last couple of chapters.

… Thanks heaps, Thomas, I’ll get around to that blog post when I have a chance (that is, when it doesn’t mean breaking out of the Zone), and will reply to that email. Just… not right now. (You’ll notice lots of 3-dot ellipses, though!)

… Another great picture my wife took that sort of fits the topic:

In The Zone

My attention is probably somewhere completely different right now…

… No, it’s not the Twilight Zone. (But thanks for your concern.)

… Your blog visit is very important to us. The next available Amos will be with your comment… er, later. Probably. Gotta go!

Fearing agents’/editors’ pet peeves

I just came across Thomas Weaver’s great post on Thinking to myself – or not that raised an interesting point about sometimes having circumstances where you need to dare to break some of the “rules” that seem to be so important to literary agents and editors.

Reading the beginning of the post, where Thomas explains the redundancy of adding “to oneself” after “thought”, at first I thought to m— I mean, I just, er, thought, “Heh, silly noob mistakes.” (Then I ran off and searched my manuscript for occurrences of “to herself”, “to himself”, and “to myself”.)

But seriously in all seriousness(*), I find it scary that agents/editors seem to have all these semi-undocumented pet peeves and the poor sods who submit their hard work and may commit one or two of them (which may soon be me!), despite the fact that these faux pas are easily corrected easy to correct, may never hear back from them nor ever find out what they did wrong.

(*) See what I did there? I avoided triggering someone’s pet peeve against adverbs (against which I’ve ranted previously) by using an adverbial phrase. Same thing, really (except it’s less succinct), but strangely enough, the same people that really mind adverbs don’t seem to mind adverbial phrases. Hypocritical of them, I know, I know… but they seem to “make” the rules.

I hope that there are more “reasonable” agents and editors out there than I realise (despite the fact that I understand how they came to be that way; I’m sure some of the things they have to read are just… shockingly bad). Because I’ll be running that gauntlet soon(ish). #amwriting

Wise Old Tree

Even this Wise Old Tree doesn’t know all the pet peeves that need to be avoided. (Oh, fine, I admit it – the tree doesn’t really have anything to do with this post’s topic. I just wanted to sneak another one of my wife’s great photos into my blog. Sue me.)

Does anyone have (or know of) a list of these types of pet peeves, or unwritten rules, for authors to avoid? And please don’t point me to the Turkey City Lexicon – in my opinion, that’s just common sense mixed with “never do this!” overreactions to serial-pattern-abusers.

I believe…!

(*clears throat and climbs up on his soapbox, manifesto in one hand, microphone in the other*)

I believe...

… that there are a few things I need to say at the start of the new year, 2015.

General

  • … that people who wonder about the meaning of life either don’t have kids or don’t pay enough attention to them.
  • … that love, humour and hope are the three main ingredients for happiness.
  • … in happy endings in real life. (In stories, they sometimes make me cringe, though. Even if I did silently hope for them.)
  • … in the importance of people being able to talk to each other… non-electronically.
  • … that you don’t need to drink alcohol in order to have fun.
  • … that smoking should be outlawed except for people willing to wear a permanently sealed-off helmet, and that the influence of tobacco lobbyists and the like are despicable. We all know what it does… why is it still around?
  • … that America and the UK need to stop hanging on to their confusing versions of the imperial system of units and finally go metric (your medical and military people are doing it… no, not with each other, I mean they use the metric system). Also, the US need to stop insisting on formatting dates with the middle value followed by the smallest value followed by the largest value. WTF? Oh, while you’re at it, guys, fix where punctuation goes on quotes that are less than a “complete sentence”.
  • … that bullies are almost always cowards too weak to stop doing to others something similar to what’s been done to them.
  • … that the most wonderful sound in the whole wide world is that of my kids laughing uncontrollably.
  • … that I’m the luckiest guy alive because my awesome wife, best friend and soulmate gets me and loves me including all my faults.

Politics

  • … that religious extremism of any sort makes this world a darker place, and that the rest of the world should take heed of how Australia handled her first real encounter with it. #IllRideWithYou
  • … that Australia needs to get rid of its current village idiot, climate-change-denying leader to start moving in the right direction again. We’re the joke of the world, being pretty much the only country in the world that is moving away from actively doing something about global warming, and it’s a friggin’ disgrace.

Software

  • … that OSS (open-source software) is the way to go wherever there’s a choice.
  • … that DRM (digital rights management) is wrong.
  • … that I couldn’t live without some of my favourite pieces of software (sounds like a future blog topic to me!).
  • … that installing a piece of software on my PC or an app on my phone doesn’t give it the right to do things like collect data about me without my explicit agreement, to not give me a choice of when it can dial home or check for updates, or to access any information on my system it doesn’t absolutely need to function. Worst offenders being companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe, but also increasingly “do-no-evil” Google. (I love Cyanogen!)
  • … that it’s a crying shame that Smalltalk isn’t more widely used as a programming language (try Pharo and Seaside if you like to tinker, you won’t want to go back).
  • … that I am fully within my rights, when I see an email from someone that ends with “sent from my iPhone” to add to my own response, “Sent from my 64GB/3G Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz Quadcore OnePlus One with Cyanogen 11S that kicks your iPhone’s arse (and costs less than half as much)”.

Work (in IT)

  • … that programmers shouldn’t have to wear business clothes.
  • … that software architects should have the guts to recommend the right software for the job, not based on which sales reps can throw more money at decision-making board members who still believe that more expensive must mean better.
  • … that IT recruiters are right up there with lawyers and other blood suckers. The fact that they charge between 10% and 40% (or even more) on top of a developer’s rates without really knowing anything beyond buzz words is just appalling.

Blogging

  • … that I should take the time to blog a bit more. (Yeah, like that’ll happen. *sigh*)
  • … that there are too many good, honest blogs out there to read – how I wish I had more time to invest in being a good follower!
  • … that following another blog without really being interested in what it’s about, i.e. just to get them to follow you back, is akin to lying. Thanks to all those who do occasionally read my humble scribblings, and I hope to find more time to read all your blogs. (I _am_ interested in those I follow! I just roll my eyes whenever someone new follows me whose blog is about “making money by blogging” or the like.) For now, though, my aim is simply to have (not necessarily build) a platform while I focus on writing my book. Building my platform will come later, when I have more time for that sort of thing….
  • … that WordPress is great, but they should finally accept that I like the “old” stats page better and stop asking me to vote in their silly survey every time I load it.
  • … that WordPress needs to finally find a way to fix the “invalid certificate” bug that causes security errors. I keep forgetting that certain things only work in certain browsers because of it, and that it sometimes causes my “likes” of other blogs to be lost. Not cool!

Writing

  • … that I’ve had enough of distopian future stories whose premise I don’t buy, or whose premise I buy, but they then make ridiculous assumptions about human nature that I just can’t swallow (might be another future blog post).
  • … that everyone should take grammar seriously. Not just grandpa. All jokes aside, don’t let our language decay because people have to fit everything into 140 characters. Do your part, write things out, learn how it’s done right without needing a spell checker, and gently educate those who fall short. Or, like, mercilessly correct them, or… whatever.
  • … that my story is worth telling.
  • … that 2015 will be the year I finally finish my story. Watch this space. #amwriting

Conclusion

  • … that you should all have a Happy New Year! All the best for 2015 (and beyond).
  • … that it’s about time I stepped off this soap box. Ahem. Sorry for ranting, but occasionally it’s nice to get this sort of stuff off my chest. Now somebody give me a hand getting down, it’s higher than it looks. Huh? What do you mean, the microphone wasn’t on?!?

‘Tis the Season to be… Writing

Oh yeah… holidays! Time off from work! Time to finally write more than a few disjointed hours per week! I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this.

Santa Writes

Image shamelessly merged from two free-to-modify images of Santa and a feather pen. No, I didn’t add the weird jester doll.

Admittedly, there’s also that little thing called Christmas to get through, but that will be so much easier this year… because all my kids are now old enough to know. We’ve kept the magic alive as long as we could; this year, all three of them will be in on the magic. Maybe that’ll take some of the excitement out of it, but I think it should still be fun. Just in a different way.

I finally found the time earlier this week to post a topic I’d been working on for a while (the GuildWars 2 bounties post; just taking, picking, cropping, uploading and inserting all those screenshots took forever), and may get around to posting on one or two other non-writing ones I’ve been meaning to do, but I do want to get back to the reason I created this blog in the first place, i.e. my own writing.

If I don’t quite finish writing the ending to my work-in-progress before I have to go back to work, I’m hoping to at least get close. Then, next year may find me writing about going through the long, boring, exciting, depressing, scary process of eventually submitting my work. Reading up on potential agencies to submit to, writing/honing my query letter, agonising over picking the sample chapters to submit, and so on. Wish me luck! :-)

But first, I have to get there, and write my ending. I’ve only got a rough outline thus far, but at least I now have a chunk of time to dedicate to it. (I hope.) Also, I have to complete my timeline (nearly done!) so that I can make sure that everything is logical and coherent. Not such an easy task in the fantasy genre and in my tropical setting, where I need to know exactly when the rainy season needs to kick in so that it all makes sense.

Oh, plus I need to get over this nasty chest cold I’ve caught… I think it’s been around a year and a half since I’ve had a real cold or the flu, so maybe I was overdue. All this coughing is exhausting, but you don’t need that much (physical) energy to sit and write.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

A heartfelt “thanks” to anyone who ever read my blog, I’ve learned heaps this year (not least of which was to adjust my expectations time-wise of what’s involved in blogging) and look forward to blogging more next year. And an even bigger “thank you” to my wonderful wife (she reads my blog and my scribblings) for putting up with me sitting in front of my computer for large chunks of my “spare” time and for supporting me in my crazy dream all the way!

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holiday Season or whatever you prefer…) to all writers. Oh, fine, to all non-writers as well.

Excitement building about building excitement

The reason I’ve been slacking off with my blog-writing lately is that I haven’t been slacking off with my book-writing. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally finished the major rewrite of the section I was, er, rewriting.

I’ve written about what had happened and what I was planning to do a while ago in The Road So Far, from finishing a manuscript to early rejections to planning to do a huge revamp of my work, and now I’m done with what I set out to do. I’ve completely transformed the story while keeping core aspects of it, constructed a “story around the story” that I think works quite well, brought in a bunch of new characters to join the reader in discovering the main storyline, woven together the pre-existing threads with new threads and the threads around them, and I think it helps to give the whole thing a sense of building up to something.

It’s taken me a fair while (I have a family, a day job, and hobbies…), and to some extent it’s been frustrating because I had to slow down from my normal “just let it happen in my head” style of writing and think more about how all the individual threads interact and make sure that the story as a whole is cohesive, that some bits don’t contradict others and that the timeline is consistent from all perspectives. I even went to the trouble of using a mind-mapping tool to plan out my timeline visually for myself, with all the little occurrences noted of where a character may say something happened “three days ago” or was planning to do something “in three days” to make sure it all matches up with what’s in my head and what everyone else says. A very different aspect to writing than what I’m used to, but it’s been an interesting exercise, and most likely one I’ll have to repeat as the series progresses beyond Book 1 (which I’m hoping it will).

Of course, as I’ve read through it all multiple times to make sure all the little details are lined up, I’ve also let my inner editor run amok and did lots of reviewing, correcting, and polishing.

I think I’d even be willing to let some people read what I’ve got so far… which is both exciting and scary.

Now that I’m done with all the “weaving”, I get to finally go back to really writing because it still needs an ending to round off the first book (much, much more material in the series is still spooking around in my head, and I’ve got over 150k words from one character’s first-person perspective already written that I can use/adapt/weave into the main story when the first book is ready to send off… hey, it’s epic fantasy). I’ve got some ideas of how it’s going to go, but the details will grow like an independent organism writhing in the back of my mind while I try to keep up with putting it down on paper screen.

At a little over 70k words, the story should need about 15-25k more to give the reader an ending that will hopefully offer some explanations, some excitement, tie up some threads while leaving others dangling to be woven into Book 2, and leave her with an aftertaste of, “Hey, that was a great story set in an interesting world. I’m looking forward to visiting again and finding out what happens there next.”

Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy!

Excitement ahead! (Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

The end is so close I can smell it! I look forward to seeing where the story will take me.

Thanks for the reviews!

There have been two very nice reviews of Nicholas C. Rossis‘ short story collection, The Power of Six (Plus One), which includes one of my short stories.

So I thought I’d point them out and thank the respective authors for their time reading and reviewing this anthology. I hear from Nicholas that his book went to #1 (so what if it’s in an “obscure subcategory”, as he puts it… details, schmetails ;-) ), so congrats to him on that achievement!

T. J. Hapney

The first one was from T. J. Hapney, who summarises and reviews each of the seven short stories, saying that “each story is designed to make you think outside of the box regarding how we perceive things, which I really enjoy and found it to be a bargain for under $1″. She concludes that “this was a fun read, especially for those who enjoy short stories”, giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Here’s what she had to say about my contribution, Big Bang:

Big Bang by Amos M. Carpenter was an interesting story along the same line of those that Nicholas Rossis did in this collection. I really enjoyed reading Big Bang. It was definitely a different and witty way to look at how life in the universe may have begun. I found the story interesting and the writing style complemented Mr. Rossis’ so that the story did not seem out-of-place.

http://tjhapney.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/book-review-the-power-of-six-by-nicholas-c-rossis/

Thanks for the kind words, TJ!

Daniel J. Dombrowski

Daniel’s review is also very flattering, likewise summarising his thoughts on each separate short story. From someone who “grew up reading Asimov” and later “fell in love with the voluminous short fiction of Philip K. Dick”, I consider his positive words to be very encouraging.

The Power of Six […] will appeal most to readers who have already read and enjoy short fiction from the masters of days gone by. […] This is a solid collection of stories worthy of your time and money (a scant $.99) regardless of your genre inclinations.

http://thirtythirdstreet.com/2014/10/ebook-review-power-six-nicholas-rossis-nicholas_rossis/

Thank you, Daniel, for the detailed review.

Back to it

And now… for (most of) the rest of this Saturday, I’m going back to working on my book. Yay! :-)

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