Posts Tagged ‘3 Day Novel’

Oh, yeah, baby!  Finally!  My 2014 3DN novella, The Longest Con, is finally in Pre-Order at a special discount price of $1.49.


Covers By Christian

Let me have a moment here to stare at this wonderful Cover by Christian.  Mmmmm.  Damn, it looks good!

Let me say first that I appreciate everyone that has preordered this already, and thank everyone who is thinking of dropping a buck and a half on my work.  Please comment and review–I want to know what my audience thinks about my work.

Here’s the link to Amazon for the book.

NOTE: I will be sitting down Feb 18-20 to write another tale (NOT a sequel) set in the same universe, so yes, there will be more.


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Way back in September, just after I finished the 3-Day Novel Contest, I looked at my hard drive.  I mean, really looked at it.  What did I see?  Seven novellas, all of which did not make the cut for 3Day (I’m not altogether sanguine about my chances this year, either).  Of the group, one will never see the light of day, a second is actually a far-distant sequel to The Honorable Thing, and the third (“Live Wire”) is still in the judging queue.

That left me four novellas, of the seven, that were suitable for self-publication.  So I picked one.  I then reached out to other 3DN participants.  Hey, if I am going down a road, why not have friends along?  I have three or more who really want to see how things go with me, then they will join me.  Not a problem!  One I completely empathize with.  I am glad to have a cheerleading squad on the bus with me.

So, I buckled down, shook out the novella, and sent it to a beta reader and an editor.  Tremendous feedback returned.  Both of them, highly successful professionals, stressed how much more they wanted to know about my characters and demanded sequels.  Thus, the Family of Grifters series was born.

The Longest Con was a 2014 3DN entry that garnered zero attention from the judges.   But it was both one of my favorites and one of the shorter works I have done.  Now, I’ve been asked to add something to it (understandable), and get it published.  I engaged one of the great upper mid-range cover artists, Christian Bentulan, to create the first of what I hope will be many covers for the Family of Grifters series.  Oh, you want to see it?  Here it is!

The Longest Con

The Longest Con

Pre-order opens on 2/1/2017, TLC launches on 2/10/2017.

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Just a short note, because I really have to get my head into this:  3 Day Novel begins at midnight.  Follow (if you dare) the maniacal crew from all over the US and Canada (and the world) as we try to write a 30k novella in 72 hours.  http://SmartURL.it/3DN_ChatZone

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As promised, here are some Happenings since July.

Agent Search:  Still going on.  No new queries since October, of course.  I should restart this.

Three Day Novel:  Yes, I took part in this one.  We’re still waiting on the results.

Paradisi Chronicles:  This one deserves its own post.  An open universe, tied to a Future Chronicles anthology by the incomparable Samuel Peralta.  I was invited to write a short story and submit it.  The story has survived canonical review, and is awaiting Sam’s approval.

National Novel Writing Month:  As previously reported, I am one of two Municipal Liaisons for this fantastic organization.  In November, one is challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  That I did, despite being out of state for about half the month.  Although the novel degenerated badly, at the end, I did write two very nice treatments of hard SF topics which I will extract and polish.  So it was worthwhile.

StarShipSofa:  I was offered the chance to narrate one of their stories, which I jumped on.  SSSofa is a Hugo-Award winning weekly podcast heard by thousands.  I recorded the narration before my brother passed away, did most of the editing, and then John died.  I couldn’t focus enough to revoice the MC, but they liked the product anyway.  They also added a nice tribute to my brother in the intro, which I found very touching.  Click the link and listen.

Princeton Writing Group:  Every Tuesday, I lead the meetings at the local Panera Bread.  This is where I got most of my writing and editing done.

Speaking of editing, I have finished the First Flensing of The Honorable Thing.  I cut it down from 221,000 words to just under 106,000.  The Second Flensing will whittle that down further to 85,000 or less.  It’s now out to Alpha Readers, so that I know it is at least somewhat readable before I invest more time in it.

Oh, and I’ve submitted stories in a few spots.

And…that’s about it.  Sorry it seems like I’ve been dogging it.  John’s Estate sucks up a lot of time.  I really miss him.

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An implied question on the 3DayNovel boards got me to thinking about the pantsing/plotting question. The poster said “It’s a good start to a story I like. I know I need to plot!” The implication here is that if you have a problem just pantsing it (writing without a pre-planned plot) then your only choice is to plot. The problem is that decision is, IMHO, missing a vital first step. So I wrote the following response:

I would like to propose a distinction here: Everyone talks about plotting. Plotting, plotting. In my mind, that calls up the image of everyone in the villain’s lair, over a guttering candle, with a roll of plans held down by a rock, a knife, and a pistol. Sure that happens, but I think it is a late-intermediate step in the creation of a work.

First, you must think. Ask some hard questions. What is the MC’s purpose? What is the villain’s purpose? (I think that one is more important). What is the story question? What happens if the MC doesn’t solve the story question? How does the MC divine the story question? Does he have upside to avoiding the question?*

If the plot is the step-by-step construction of the story, putting the framework on the house, then the thinking is not just the foundation, it’s the siting of the story: are you building this house on a steep 60 degree slope? In a river? On a salt flat? Deep in the woods?

These are examples of bad places to site a house. Here’s the equivalent writing situations: Is your story so one-sided that you cannot depict a believable villain story and purpose (slope)? Or in such a chaotic setting that the idea of a stable, progressing story line is ludicrous (river)? Is the setting, or characters so arid that even you are bored (salt flat)? Or is the story concept so banal, so plebian, that there are hundreds of others like it (woods)?

That doesn’t mean you have a bad house. You have a bad site upon which to build your house. Manipulate some of your initial postulates in order to find that blend of contrast and utility that says :That house? It fits right in there.”

THEN you start plotting.


* – I’ve never been a fan of much of the horror subgenre where a bunch of young adults go into the only to have the evil pick them off one by one. About ten minutes into any such movie, I start cheering the evil for cleaning the gene pool of these obvious idiots. No, I get it…leave nobody behind, etc. But there is usually a period where escape is possible for all, and the apprehension of evil is there, but these fools keep going deeper. There is a huge upside to avoiding the main question here. Take the girl by the hand and leave. Come back in the daylight.

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Well, Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, and with it, another 3 Day Novel effort. This year, well, it wasn’t nearly as much satisfying as previous years. I’m not entirely sure why, though.

Maybe it was the length. At 21k, it was my ‘lightest’ effort yet. I don’t quite see how they could ever sell this as a ‘book’–it’s barely 100 pages long. My previous low mark for a 3DN was 25.5k. The story is only going to be as long as the story takes, though. I wasn’t about to fluff it up just so there’s more to read.

Maybe it was my writing speed. My first 3DN, I was running about 1250 WPH, whereas back then, my ‘normal’ pace was 1500. This one was just as slow, but my ‘normal’ speed is really up around 1800 wph. So, instead of going at 80% speed, I was going at 67%. It felt slower, and thus, more painful. I remember thinking I had lost my mojo…I was faster than this!

Finally, there was the subject matter. It was interesting to me, but it lacked something. Maybe because it was the written recasting of a long con that a TV series had explored, based on a movie, itself based on a book. Sure, the setting was novel, but the essential elements were not.

Well, it’s done and submitted, and all I have to do is wait. But I have no illusions–if it was this painful to write, I know it’s going to be painful to read. Well, we’ll know by 1 March.

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I was asked in another forum an interesting question:

…I’m so naive about the publishing world. I don’t want to fall asshat back into a major mistake because I didn’t listen to the more experienced ones first…

When it comes to writing, as well as publishing, it all comes down to what you want out of it.  As an example, I am bound and determined to become a published novelist.  Therefore my path is bent towards maximizing my chances at being published.  This represents one end of a spectrum; at the other end is the writer who does not ever want their words to see the light of day.

I will presume that the end that the questioner wants to achieve it to hold the physical book in their hands.  The question really is, then, “How do I get there?”  There are two paths: traditional publishing and self-publishing.  I will not go into the pros and cons of these two paths.  I will discuss my path, the steps I took along the way, and choices I made to advance to that point where I, too, will hold a book of mine in my hands.

I am, as of this writing, in my early 50s.  The way I look at it, I really don’t have a whole lot of time left to write everything this noggin comes up with, so I would much rather concentrate on writing and outsource as much of the other aspects of authordom as possible.  That means traditional publication is the road for me, and that’s what I’ll discuss here.  The other assumption is that I have a completed manuscript.

If one is to be traditionally published, then one needs a publisher.  If you look closely, the majority of TradPub houses don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore.  Which means representation is required.  In other words, an agent.  Again, I am not going to argue the pros and cons of using an agent.  So, how does one maximize the chances of inducing an agent to represent you?

Long before I went about this with any sort of rigor, I went with my gut (“You have to, it masses more than you do”–The Snark): I needed some kind of street cred, and the fastest way to go about it would be to get published.  Sounds like Catch-22, doesn’t it?  In order to get published you need an agent; to attract an agent, you need to be published.  But in this case, I am talking about two different kinds of publication.  The first kind is ‘long form’, or novels, and the second is ‘short form’, or short stories.

To me, short stories are medium-tough.  It seems that every idea I had started foaming up into a novel.  It required a certain amount of ruthlessness to chop off the kudzu subplots and concentrate on developing the core of the story.  The key feature of short stories, though, is that they are short.  That means there is rapid turnaround on all aspects of the form, from writing them, to proofing them, to submitting them and receiving feedback.

In my early days of writing, all I knew was NaNoWriMo.  The NaNo sites led me to 3 Day Novel.  Ah! A market!  A contest that, if I won, would publish my work.  I resolved to gain at least Honorable Mention, figuring that it would be a good writing credential to hang on one of the various embryotic novels I had filling my hard drive.  Well, I finished my third 3DN in September, and I have still not made it to HM.  But along the way I discovered Duotrope.com*.

Duotrope is a collection of information on darn near every writing market out there.  Everything from the Big Six to the fanzine that Junior cranks out in his mom’s basement, Duotrope has an enviable database of some 4500 markets.  Best of all, they have a calendar that lists deadlined calls for submissions.  At around the same time, 2010’s 3DN came back as zero.  Fortunately, there was a submission call that was perfect for the work, with a little editing.  And so forth and so on.  With some perseverance, I was published, in two different contexts, in 2012.  Finally!  I had some credentials!

The next thing one can do to snag an agent is a personal referral from either an agent or the client of an agent.  This one requires more finesse.  It boils down to networking.  For writers, that can be daunting–a lot of us are solitary by nature, and the thought of the glad-handing and schmoozing that epitomizes networking requires skills that we just may not have nor don’t care to develop.  It’s another chicken-and-egg scenario: to snag an agent, you’d like to have a referral from another agent, but to get that, you need to grab the attention of that other agent, and so forth.

Fortunately, I lucked out again.  NaNoWriMo had a link to The Book Doctors, who specialize in helping authors get published.  They were holding a pitching contest they call ‘Pitchapalooza’, and it was right near me!  I studied like mad to see how they wanted a pitch to look, crafted one for my latest project, and got to pitch.  I made the top five, but most importantly, I stayed and  chatted with them afterwards.  I was amazed at the sheer number of people that a) didn’t take notes, and b) beat feet out of there.  It was insane!  How else can you get real live face time with an AGENT if you flee once the event is over?

I went to two other Pitchapaloozas when they were held near me.  I only pitched once more, and that placed second.  Afterwards, of course, I chatted with them.  One of them looked me dead in the eye and said “I want to read that when you are done.”  Talk about motivation!  It took me another year to complete the work.  I crafted the pitch, incorporating their suggestions, and sent it in to them.  It turns out that they don’t work in the genre I was writing, but I gained that coveted agent referral.  Best of all, it was a personal referral–one where I could use the first agent’s name in my query letter.

Folks, that’s like getting Wonka’s Golden Ticket.  It won’t make the agent take a piece of drek, but it will induce them to read the query a little more closely.  For the all-important query letter, I had some golden bookends–a personal referral from an agent, and some real, live, publishing credentials.  In between these is the query.  Working with The Book Doctors gave me the skill to get that polished to a high shine.

So, how do you find an agent?  Wow–that’s a post all in itself.  Here’s the short and sweet:  Check out AgentQuery.com, QueryTracker.net, or PublishersMarketplace.com.  Use the first to select the agent, the second one to track your queries (think of it as Duotrope for your query letters), and the third to check on agents and deals.

That’s where I am at this point.  I am querying agents for my work.  I’m still writing and submitting short stories, since writing creds will age.  Plus, I have to have something ready at the end of this process, when the agent will inevitably ask, ‘What else is in the works?”

My path isn’t necessarily the best one or the only one.  As I said at the beginning, there are many ways to get published.  I am working this path hard, and I urge those of you who have ever wanted to write a novel to contact me if you have more questions.  I may not know the answer, but I can sure point you in the right direction.

Good luck, be well, and if you ever see a book out there with my name on it, buy it up pronto!


*Duotrope.com, sadly, is heading into subscription status.  You are going to have to pay, on at least a monthly basis, for the right to search their listings and maintain your submissions tracking.  But if you are pursuing publication, it’s worth it.



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