In My Brainholes: Slenderman, Plus a Short Story

slenderman

Slenderman freaks me the hell out.

I’m not sure what it is, exactly, about the notion of the Internet-invented urban legend. There’s just something about him. Primarily it is, perhaps, that he’s an infiltrator; that he appears at will, bends the laws of reality, and pursues relentlessly his victims. Also he has no face. And he’s like some kind of weird spider thing.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re not familiar, the Slenderman is that guy up there — a creature invented for a contest on the forums at SomethingAwful.com. He’s a creature of sorts, faceless, who seems to have dominion over children and apparently abducts them. Some or all of the rules of the creature are subject to change depending on which interpretation you’re talking about, and at this point there have been a few. Still, there seem to be a few steadfast elements: the Slenderman is tall, man-shaped although not a man, and keyed on sight. If you see the Slenderman, he will hunt you down. Your fate is sealed.

Continue reading In My Brainholes: Slenderman, Plus a Short Story

5 Time Travel Movies Worth Your Attention

timecrimes 2

I was going to write about the whole Girlfriend Mode thing, but the more I thought about it, the less happy I was with whatever I had to add to the conversation. So here’s a conversation to which I can definitely add something useful to you guys.

Over the course of researching for SO YOU CREATED A WORMHOLE, I watched and read tons of time travel fiction beyond the stuff that I’d known and loved already. Rather than yammer any further, here are five off-the-beaten-path movies that take clever stabs at the time travel idea, and will occasionally blow gray matter out your brainholes.

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Adventures in Nerd Mecca: San Diego Comic-Con

nick and phil at comic con

Trying this daily blogging thing again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Our (second to) latest foray into the marketing of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel took co-writer best friend Nick Hurwitch and I to San Diego for the annual Comic-Con. If you’ve never been, well…yikes. It’s enormous. It’s packed. It’s a constant money-suck. And it can be a ton of fun.

I’ve attended Comic-Con on two other occasions, but both those times, I’ve been there to work in some capacity. This was also a work trip, but of a different stripe: Nick and I were each on a panel. We were there as authors. Which means very little except that it was awesome.

Comic-Con wound up being a pavement-hitting experience in hand-shaking and button-handing for us. Nick and I sprung for some 800 Time Travel Guide buttons to hand out to prospective readers, some of whom actually listened to what we had to say. Thursday, the first day of the convention, saw our book selling out at bookseller Mysterious Galaxy’s booth; that’s not exactly an incredible feat because there were only 20 copies on hand that day, but then again — selling books is hard. Try it.

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Time Travel Guide Genesis: Learn By Googling

google it

Part 2 in a series about the development of SO YOU CREATED A WORMHOLE, from idea to proposal to book contract to shelves.

Once you start to realize what the hell it is you’re going to be writing, you might start to wonder how best to sell it.

Co-writer super best friend Nick Hurwitch and I landed at that spot once we started developing the idea of the structure of So You Created a Wormhole. Having written a little bit of the book — an introduction, namely, plus a detailed outline of what we planned to cover within the book — I started looking into what we would need to accomplish before writing the entire manuscript.

I’m not entirely sure where I came upon this knowledge, because I feel it’s not really known that works of non-fiction have a different process than that of the standard novel when it comes to selling books to publishers. Novels are a full-manuscript affair, with the book written out ahead of time and then sold as a completed work. Non-fiction isn’t like that. How I came to determine that, I have no idea, but I decided to do a little research to figure out what we should be writing, if not the complete book we intended to make.

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Time Travel Guide Genesis: Doing It Wrong

deja vu save her

Part 1 in a series about the development of SO YOU CREATED A WORMHOLE, from idea to proposal to book contract to shelves.

When tracing back the genesis of the project that would eventually become SO YOU CREATED A WORMHOLE: THE TIME TRAVELER’S GUIDE TO TIME TRAVEL, I suppose the very beginning would be my obsession with zombie fiction.

Way back in 2008, co-writer and hetero-lifemate Nick Hurwitch gave me Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide. After reading it, it was striking how true to concept Brooks stayed with the whole thing. I’ve heard the book described as being tongue-in-cheek hilarious, and you can read it that way if you want. You can also read it as being a serious take on the idea of being in the center of a zombie holocaust, given how methodical and logical the book is. It plays both ways.

Soon after I found myself watching the Denzel Washington film Deja Vu*, also at Nick’s suggestion. Being a big fan of time travel, I was excited to get into it, but I found it lacking in some ways. Continue reading Time Travel Guide Genesis: Doing It Wrong

excuses and restarts

facepalm 600

Sometime around July, I started to write an entry in this blog to restart it. As you might have guessed, I never finished that entry.

That entry opened with a short discussion of lowered priorities, the balancing of making money and writing in blogs that no one reads, et cetera and so on. I also played the “I was writing a book” card, which kind of excuses me, I guess. Except we finished writing that book in April. I’ve had a few short flurries of activity since then in the editing process, concerning copy edits, content edits, cover choices and promo materials, but nothing to warrant not having written here for so long.

Let’s face it. I was lazy. I also read A Game of Thrones, A Storm of Swords (when something becomes a TV show or a movie, that’s often when I find out about it) and some other stuff. I’ve played a lot of video games for work. Skyrim is a thing that sucks up some of my time. I have a lot of excuses, I’ve written a lot of words, and I’ve neglected this thing I’ve created. I have a tendency to do that. I’m a terrible father and an easily distracted god.

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Boomstick, this is my: working as a real-live author

writing

Six a.m. on a Sunday. That’s what it takes this week – and this is the first week.

I feel like I’m going to puke.

Make a coffee run. Return home. Send the girlfriend off for her 10k this morning, which I’m unable to attend because apparently runners are not expected to have people who would like to be there to see them run. Come home; avoid waking up sleeping guests in the living room. Headphones. iTunes. Facebook. Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. Facebook game I ashamedly play.

Aaand finally: Chapter 2, about 4,000 words in. This being the first new chapter of The Book. The Book for which, you last read, we were shopping around the Great Book Proposal. The Book which Nick Hurwitch and I are now being paid to write. By a publisher, which is real.

Continue reading Boomstick, this is my: working as a real-live author

The Great Book Proposal

Or, “Can I Get a Hell Yeah!”

"Write, you bastard!"We did it in just four days.

Writing partner and hetero lifemate Nick Hurwitch and I have had an idea for a “nonfiction” humor book for almost a year now. We’ve been waiting for my arrival in Los Angeles to start serious work on the project, believing proximity will make the work much better, both in quality and in difficulty.

So I’m here – it’s time. But rather than just jump into it, there’s a different procedure for this kind of book as compared to, say, a novel.

A little background on the nonfiction book publishing process:

First, you want to try to find a literary agent. You can bypass this step if you want, but that puts you at a disadvantage if a publisher likes your idea. Because first off, you’re pitching your idea directly to publishers, something with which an agent would help. And secondly, seeing as you’re new to the game, you have no idea how to protect yourself from being ripped off as you’re trying to sell your idea. An agent helps with that, too.

So you come up with your book idea in as much detail as you can, and you write what’s called a query letter. The letter covers some very basic ground: It includes a hook idea that will get the reader wanting to read more about your idea, it identifies why you’re qualified to write the book you’ve come up with, it introduces you to the agent, and it tells the agent why you chose them to send all this stuff to in the first place.

You send these queries to several agents in your field. You’ll want to do some research ahead of time to figure out which agents deal with your sort of book. I did this by doing a fair amount of research using Amazon.com, book stores and Google.

The research process for us was as follows:

1. Identify similar books.
2. Figure out who wrote them.
3. Google-search the authors to find who represents them.
4. Send personalized query letters to agents who already have represented books like yours.

With that handled, you can send out a mess of queries. Most of the content in the letters is identical, except for the portion dealing with the agent personally and why you chose them.

Next, you wait. Well, normally, you wait.

As it turned out, Nick and I got a hit on our query letter that very evening. In fact, next major step – preparing a book proposal – wasn’t exactly fully completed by the time we heard from the prospective agent that he was interested.

Comfortable; not conducive to writing. We spent the weekend slamming through the book proposal. It includes the following pieces:

1. A detailed overview explaining what the book is, in an essay format. As I’ve read, the two most important things you can write in trying to get a book published are the overview, which also has to include a strong hook to get the reader interested, and that aforementioned query letter. Garnering a lot of interest in the project is key: Weakness in either of these two places means no deal.
2. An explanation of your “platform” as a writer. This basically covers marketing – what you can do as a writer to sell a book. We talked about the possibility of sending out press releases, getting features written up in publications to which Nick and I have ties, using social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to develop viral marketing, setting up an exclusive-content Web site – basically anything we could think of to show we’re willing to do anything to sell this thing.
3. Research into and a discussion of the market for the book: who the readers are, why people will buy it, and why a publisher should sell it.
4. A rundown of competing books and other similar titles on the market now, as well as an explanation of why your book is better, covers new ground, or otherwise will succeed despite other people having written in the same vein. We, fortunately, had little competition and were able to point at similar books not as competition but as evidence that a market for ours exists.
5. Your qualifications, past writing credits, and anything else that makes you look qualified to write the book.
6. An in-depth table of contents complete with chapter summaries. This isn’t iron-clad, but you want to convey a feeling that you’ve thought through the content of the book and know what’s going into it.
7. Sample chapters, usually two of them. The agent we sent the proposal to suggested an introductory chapter for setup and a later chapter to demonstrate what the book will read like once you’ve gotten your stride.

That, of course, is a ton of content. Nick and I had developed a lot of the proposal, but we were a full sample chapter and some other major elements shy when we got the response to our query. So we went to work.

I spent most every day sequestered in the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf located about a half-mile from our apartment, down on Hilhurst. The establishment makes some decent lattes, but more importantly, the wi-fi is free and I work better when I feel like I have a dedicated destination that’s not the couch. After finishing my day job (which I mostly do at night anymore, due to the interaction between the Pacific and Central timezones and the fact that my deadline every afternoon is 2:45 instead of 4:45 [or 5:45 back in Michigan]), the rest of every day was dedicated to writing the proposal and the sample chapter.

It came together pretty well. Between my work and Nick’s, we had a strong, well-edited proposal that had gone through proofreading from both our girlfriends by the end of the weekend. The sample chapters were a different story.

The HQChapter 3 has been written forever. Back when we first got this idea about a year ago, Nick and I wrote an extended Chapter 3 and backburnered it along with the rest of the project. In our new organization, we cut loose the opening portion and made that Chapter 3 and the rest became Chapter 4. The editing on the new sample chapter, the first portion, was negligible.

The other chapter is a portion of the book’s reference section, which is of a completely different style from the rest of the prose. That we started pretty much on Friday or Saturday. It was completed by Monday. Because we’re pretty awesome.

The section is “Surviving in Time: Prehistory” with the subtitle, “Carnivorous Dinosaurs to Carnivorous Ice Age Land Mammals.” It’s meant to cover everything before the appearance of humans as far as survival, and it came out pretty hilarious, I think. And not just because I wrote the first draft.

While that was being done, Nick and I had to rework our outline, which hasn’t changed in a year. This was no easy task – the outline we used to have was really, really, really rough. Beyond that, it needed a rundown of what in every chapter, including the reference guide. No easy task, considering we’d never exactly narrowed all that down.

Basically, all that stuff needed to be thought out and made up. So we set to doing that. And then editing it. And then re-editing it.

All told, printed and formatted properly, the book proposal represented about a week and a half’s work and came out to be 48 pages long. It includes the 10-page proposal, which is all original content we created in that time frame, an outline (six pages) and two sample chapters comprising another 31 pages and roughly 4,000 words, half of which was written in that time frame.

What’s great about the whole situation is that we busted out a substantial portion of the book under the gun, and it came out strong. For one, that means if and when we do get picked up by a publisher, we can smack this whole project down relatively quickly – which would be nice because we’ve already been sitting on it forever and I’d like to see it published. And the proposal and the full-tilt writing schedule we put in to create it has reignited my interest and excitement about the project in general. It’s a good idea, the content is good, and writing it is going to go well.

Fingers crossed. Waiting to hear back or start the cycle all over again. But at least the work’s done.

Again with the waiting. Meanwhile, on to the next project: Script Frenzy. More on that in a day or two.

Check out one of the sample chapters: Chapter 3: Thank God for the Brutal Death of Delbridge Langdon III