The Obligatory NaNo post…

Well, it’s that and if I have to look at the memoriam to Bruce N. at the top of my page, I’m not too sure how long my strength will hold out.

But yeah, I’m doing the challenge again. 50,000 words, 30 days,

Think it’s easy? Oh, hon, you are just so funny!

Try it. It’s anything but easy, and I have no idea how I managed to participate – and win! – for the past 9 years. My books actually have a three- to four-year cycle from concept to publication: I write most of it for NaNoWriMo, then let it sit for two years, and only then, two years after the first draft is completed, do I revise it, and send it off to my editor, and start haranguing my cover artist, and get the template together.

The first novel in my series, that I published in 2009? I wrote that in 2006. And it was before I learned about what it was to self-publish. My, how things have changed. How things changed indeed from 2009 to now, 2015, when I have five books and a script-book under my belt.

I will say, without hesitation, that there is a lot of freedom when it comes to writing sci-fi/fantasy. You create everything from scratch, you set your own rules, you set your own canon – and it’s also one of the most difficult things to maintain. You create a world, a story, a set of rules, and it’s on you to not screw it up. As I will be writing Book 9 of the series – how I got to 9, I marvel to this day – I am also going to be revising Book 6 and prepping that for publication. Target date for publishing… July 15th. And the biggest challenge will be to keep the story within canon. I have set the rules into place with the first arc; now the challenge is to stay with it.

And yes, Ragan Whiteside, this is why you wait a year between installments. :) Because really, the revision process? That’s how long it takes! I have to cut out all the excess verbiage I am prone to when I’m narrating, I have to add scenes, add characters, kill characters, and then adjust the grammar. And all of that before my editor rips it apart.

Why Book 9, if this will be my tenth year? Easy answer: last year, I stretched my Origins story from the year before last. It turned out to be such a massive to-do that I just could not manage to get it completed within just one year. It was massive enough for me to stretch over two NaNo wins, and… I did it. Again. Even though, if truth were told, my motivation has been at nil. By that point, I was just too busy with photography and travel to think about writing.

found via Google Images
found via Google Images

Considering what these last few months have been, I will also confess that I very seriously thought about throwing in the towel altogether for this year. Very seriously. I love writing, and I love my story, without which I wouldn’t even be anywhere near any of this, but there is only so much that I’m capable of doing before everything in me up and says, “ENOUGH!” I am exhausted, mentally if nothing else. Losing two very important people in my life nearly back-to-back was an exercise in perseverance that I never, ever want to repeat. I still haven’t the foggiest how I managed to get up, go to both my jobs, do the photos for Sinbad’s show at the Cutting Room, and stay on top of everything.

Indeed, strength is a funny thing. It may not always seem like it’s there, but when it’s all you have left, the caliber of it will surprise the hell out of you.

If I can survive the past few months – hell, past few weeks alone – I think that by now, it’s safe to say that I can go through anything and come out on the other side of it.

And that’s why I’m taking on NaNo this year again. 50,000 words, 30 days. Ninth manuscript in my hands. Will edit Book 6 and work on the script version of Book 2 simultaneously. Why? Because I can.


Whew. Now what?

So. The screenplay is finished.

*sigh of relief*

I’m a little surprised at how it turned out. This is still the first draft; I’ve not subjected it to an editor, and I’ve written the entire thing in shooting style, which is only permissible if you’re going to direct. Which I’m not. But it makes for very good reading; it’s very visual, especially considering that the camera angles effectively tell you how to see a scene.

This is, in a certain sense, the key difference between the novel version and the screen version: a screenplay doesn’t give you as much flex of imagination as the novel. Screenplays are much more direct.

Now, of course, this begs the question of how I feel now that I’ve done a new style of writing that I was, prior thereto, unfamiliar with.

And you know what, I’m not sure how I feel now that I’ve finished a full-scale feature-length screenplay. Good, yes. I am now familiar with a new writing form, and it’s a completed challenge. Will I do this again? Definitely. I’ll be transforming my books into screenplays, for sure. But now I need to go forward with marketing them, and marketing is going to be the weird bit. I have never done film marketing, never took a course on it, and have little idea as to where to start. I do know a film agent, though, and I may have a chat with him. I also know more than a few authors who have film and agent connections, so I may well be able to go from there.

It’s a now what? sort of a feeling.

I’ll figure that out as I go along, and if I happen to get something started up for the film version of the series, then we’re in business.


Adapting an adaptation

So, after reading the full Suzanne Collins trilogy, I went to see The Hunger Games on the big screen.

I will admit that the adaptation is pretty solid. It cut out very little, and kept enough of the original story. The camera angles were good, the acting by the cast was superb, and the script had minimal alterations.

This is the thing, though: when you’re adapting a novel for the screen, how do you decide what stays and what goes?

I will be frank: the movie version ending of The Hunger Games was a major deviation. I won’t spoil; if you read the books, you will know what I mean. That’s what disappointed me in the production, but considering that I’m currently standing in the same dilemma, I’m hardly one to judge. As it is, the bits that were cut from the novel were minimal. Except, of course, the ending, because that was completely out of alignment with the book. Same with a very, very key conversation between Haymitch and Katniss.

How does this relate to what I’m doing? As I’m templating Book 1 to adapt to screen, I have to do two very major things:

1. Ad-lib. Most of Book 1 is action, a good bit of contemplation, but not much on dialogue. I’m finding myself re-doing the existing dialogue, and ad-libbing the rest. To say that it’s a challenge would be right about appropriate; I have never realized just how much I’ve under-written in the novel form that I’m now finding that I have to put together in screen form. Minor, minor dialogue – it becomes relevant.

2. Direct. This is iffy. I’ve been told so far, by more than one person, that I should cut the cues and score sounds from the script. And you know what, I will. But before that, I need to finish the script, because it actually holds a pretty solid purpose. The purpose? To guide the adaptation. In novel form, everyone pictures the flow and sequence of scenes differently, but the script and the consequent film put the story forward in only one visible way. That is where the screenwriter’s skill at interpreting one medium into the next comes in.

You’d think it’s easy, if I’m working on the adaptation of my own piece, but that’s actually the most difficult aspect. How would I translate a story that everyone interprets for themselves into something that’s to be represented only one particular way?

3. Trim. And the opposite: insert. Because as I’m seeing now, there has to be a higher emphasis on continuity. I could get away with a highly choppy Book 1 in novel form, because the other books would gel it together. With writing a movie script, you do not have that sort of a flex. You have to trim the excess and add whatever you have to add – however minor or major – to make it gel.

The challenge I’m facing now, towards the end, is how to write/engineer some of the needed special effects needed to make some of the interstitial scenes work. That is, indeed, a pickle, but nothing I can’t work through.

Onward and upwards…just a couple scenes left to Script 1!


On Screenwriting vs. Novel-writing

So, because tax deadline kills the sleep and stokes the muse, I started working on the script counterpart to Book 1. Yep, I’m writing a movie. No, not for Script Frenzy – because tax season will eat me if I try that, and I’m actually about to head to work as I’m writing this – but because, frankly, it’s fun, and I want to pitchThe Index as a film series.

And I am slowly getting really, really into it.

I will admit this: when I first started laying down The Index, back in 2006, I had every intention of writing it so that it could translate to the screen easily. I can see this being a great series in film; I wouldn’t put my work on the same scale of potential that Harry Potter had ended up with, but I definitely think that my work has a certain visual appeal. At least to the nerds who ended up loving it so far (yes, I’m looking at you, and you know who you are!!!).

With all the difficulties and travails that I’ve had with the first book of this series – for the details on that, everything with the Book 1 category on this blog that dates back to 2009 will tell you exactly what was going on – I’ve had a surprisingly easy time so far templating out the first few scenes of the book in screen format. While in the first book I had the challenge of layout, conventions, scenery, and the general flow of the book, right now the challenge has shifted to having an effective portrayal of that same text. There is much less focus on the writing details when you’re working in screen form. It becomes all about the visual, all about how the characters will be seen, and all about how to see everything effectively. i.e. soundtrack cues, potential actors, etc.

This also brings an entirely new dimension to the process: I have to actually think of this in visual terms. I will admit shamelessly that I thought of anime noir at the time I was writing the story in the first place, but right now, and especially right now, I”m thinking of it as a live-action endeavor. Yes, might cost more, but it will work better this way. I have to actually consider who will play whom in the film. I can’t cast Shou and Kian, for the life of me, but I’ve earlier mentioned that Arriella would be best played by Serinda Swan (you may know her as Erica Reed if you’re a fan of Breakout Kings). Shourron I, both sides of him, would be best done with Liam Neeson. Rena would have a worthy portrayal in the hands of Annabelle Wallis (Jane Seymour from The Tudors, season 3). Arriella’s scheming mother, Morrhia, would go to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Lord Kirare, the Viceroy of the Underworld, will go to the actor whose presence inspired his creation to begin with: Chris Noth. And Jason Watson, the redheaded, lovable-little-shit bon vivant based on one of my dearest friends, will be played by the most versatile redhead there is….Damian Lewis. Whom you may have seen in Homeland.

Hey, dream big, right?

But in reality, all this is helping me put the movie into motion, so to speak. Now that there are flesh-and-blood people representing the people whom I’ve written into existence, writing the screen form suddenly becomes that much easier. Same for soundtrack: no movie is complete without sound, and now I have to dig at my collection of jazz, rock, Celtic, and everything else to start matching scenes to songs.

In other words, the story hasn’t changed, but the presentation is wildly different. And considering that I spent the past six years heavily entrenched in and perfecting the noveling side of writing, to switch gears like that is quite the lulu. I won’t deny one thing, though: I rather like it.

To note, I will put up Mages on, which is a great hosting site for indie scripts, and I will also make a PDF of it available in e-book format. Print will be entirely too clunky…or not, I don’t know. Still thinking about it.

And, to note, if Mages does get picked up for production? Well…then let’s just say it. My life will be changing very fast.


Slight addendum: Book 1 can be found here, and is free for Kindle on April 17th. Yes, a slightly shameless plug. :)

Jump In With Both Feet

The more I think about what I’m doing lately, the more my logical side is forcing me to ask the crucial question of, “Woman, are you planning to sleep?!”

Uh…not really?

And yeah, the lack of sleep is starting to make my short-term memory go off-kilter, which blows.

However! This year had started with some very exciting things, and I have been delighted to wrap up an edit for a client, do two new graphic designs for another two, and am kicking off the photo sessions with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at BB King’s tomorrow. Hotdamn, swing in the city! I feel all sorts of glamorous, even though I’m not quite ready… and yes, I’m breaking out the pencil skirt for this one. For those of you who know me, you guys know I’d rather keep my yoga pants on 24-7…but hey, swing music in BB King’s demands it.

…Now that the good stuff is out of the way…

I find myself gravitating more and more towards photography. In fact, I’m finding that a lot of my writing had become more visual, so to speak, and having been previously described as cinematic in my writing, I’m wondering if that’s the direction that I need to pursue in further endeavors. I briefly mentioned wanting to screenplay The Index Series, and I think I am going to get brave and do it. The only problem is, of course, is that I have no idea how the film industry works. A lot to learn and dig into, and if there’s a producer in this world who’s willing to take a shot and make this series something awesome…well, if it’ll help me finally have my own apartment, I’m game for it.

There’s a lot on the menu travel-wise, and what better way to start the year than DC? Yes, the capital. I’m going to see Cheikh N’Doye, a bassist, whose special guests include Lao Tizer, Karen Briggs, and Chieli Minucci. My camera and I are ready, and I’ll get into town early enough to do some sightseeing, and get out of there midday Sunday.

However, all that being what it is, I will be keeping my money very close to the vest for the time being. I’m not in good shape, and I know it. Tax time will be kind, but just enough to fill the stopgap; the real rescue will be coming to me in the form of overtime. By then, though, I will have the coveted Newport Beach tickets.

This is the thing with Newport: I will buy out the room, if I can handle it. If people want to share with me, fabulous – just reimburse me the costs. I will also get to CA early, rent a car, and hit the road…why? Because there are people and places to visit. I can’t wait to see San Diego.

My traveling will likely be limited, and I want to make sure that I will save up enough to not make CapJazz a misadventure any more than what it has been financially in the past. This time, I want to actually finish this year at zero revolving debt, if possible, while doing all the traveling I can.

But I will see to getting out of town often. NY is great, but life outside of NY is even better.



ABNA 2012, and the Importance of Long-Term Revisions

First of all, a delightfully happy New Year to everyone! It is now 2012, which means…if you’re reading this, the world didn’t end.

Ahem. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. :)

Anyway, let’s dive right in with the news du jour.

For my fellow self-published authors, A.B.N.A (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) are coming up. If you’re unfamiliar with this, you can click the ABNA tag on my blog for past ramblings on the subject, or this link that explains it nicely.

For those who don’t feel like clicking, Penguin Publishing sponsors this shindig every year. If you’re unpublished or self-published, you submit your pitch, an excerpt, and your manuscript, and it gets vetted through multiple rounds of the contest (pitch, excerpt review, manuscript review) towards a $15,000 advance from Penguin and a publication contract.

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

This contest is something I’ve done before. I entered for the first time in 2010, and got through to the second round, only to be booted at the review stage. Second time was in 2011, and I didn’t make it. I kind of expected both of those outcomes, really, but I won’t lie that I was surprised when the reviews had come in. The reviewers, who I might point out are paid for this gig, are not matched by genre at all. So my urban fantasy/sci-fi series went to two people who don’t read it at all, and made it clear in the reviews.

Bummer. But them’s the breaks, and you can’t please them all.

The thing also is, I’ve entered the books of my series in sequence on this one. So this will be Book 3’s chance to prove its chops, and I’m feeling good. Book 3 has been an absolute hit in the e-circles, and for those who have glanced at the hard-copy books, the front cover alone had drawn them in, and Marion Meadows gets props for designing that one. (small spoiler: he’s helping out on Cover 4 as well). It’s also a lot funnier than the other books in the series, even though it takes a lot of what happens in Books 1 and 2 and begins to paint the picture of what’s really happening. And if you are a reader and you’re still wondering what the hell was going on in Book 1? Well…your patience with me is about to pay off. Together, though, all of these factors make for a really great possibility for Book 3 getting, hopefully, to the full-manuscript review stage, and that is when it will shine.

However – and you knew that there was a however involved in this – this is a Penguin contest.

Who remembers the Book Country issues?

Penguin’s credibility had been sliding for a while. Some of the worst-edited manuscripts that I have seen recently were Penguin books, and to release a vanity-press subsidiary is a nice sneer of contempt at authors, both at the self-pubs who are trying to get to the market,and the published authors, who had seen a steady decline in how much Penguin manages for them. More and more do I see authors – trad-pubs! – running their own marketing. This is with a Big-Six publishing house. Um, what the hell? I thought that the reason that people would go trad-pub would be to avoid having to do their own deal.

So if the prize is a publication contract with them, I’m hesitating. The $15K advance would be fantastic, considering that it would solve a good bit of my financial issues, but it’s the contract itself. On one hand, it’s great publicity for the series. On the other hand, how long would it take me to wrestle back my copyright if the book doesn’t do as well as Penguin wants it to?

Food for thought, that.

Now. recently, I’ve wrapped up the manuscript for Book 6. It’s an interesting story, in the sense that the plot had started to evolve – and I mean really evolve – closer towards the end. This, of course, means that I will have a nice time in retroactive editing next year, but the fact is, I wrapped everything up in time. This is only the second time that I had finished a NaNo manuscript in the same calendar year as starting one (the first time being with Book 1), and this actually leaves me quite a bit of room time-wise to play around with my writing.

Of course, this is keeping in mind with the fact that I want to take KG Creative Enterprises and make it a real money-maker…but I digress.

I have been thinking, and the more I think about it, the more I feel that I ought to shop the books around in film form. While Book 4 is getting put together and prepped for publication, it’s time for me to start researching and learning how to write a screenplay and actually putting together Mages as a movie. I’m not, however, too sure how to shop this around, which means that I will have to do a metric ton of research once again.

A lot of you who had read the books would likely be saying, “ABOUT TIME!!!” right now. Yeah, yeah, yeah, been a while coming, but I got where I’m going. :p

Musically speaking, let me be the first to say that the jazz scene, which I had adopted as my home away from home, is pulling me in different directions. I’ve done the write-ups. I’ve done the graphic design. Now I’m getting into the photography, and I’m still keen on doing all of the above. Will it pay off? Possibly. Will it replace my day job, somehow? Hopefully. But one thing is for sure, this was a year of change so far, and I am finding it extremely important to keep focus on what’s coming up, and how to keep a close eye on what’s happening.

There’s a book I’m about to start up, before my fellow self-pubs, and it’s one written by Bob Baldwin, who took his knowledge and organized it into a music-business survival guide. As someone on the sidelines, and kind of sort of peripherally involved in the music world – at least in the imaging/writing capacity – I am keen on acquiring and applying this knowledge to the best of my ability. It can, and one of these days will, save my skin, I think.

I can’t even tell you how much I’m looking forward to doing all of these things. Of course, this means that this would very well be another year in which my personal life is nil, but I am confident that this will be for a good cause. Besides, if The Index will become a title that you will one of these days see on the silver screen, then I am sure that my efforts now will be worthwhile.

All of this, from screenwriting, to jazz writing, to photo, to graphic, to noveling – my stylistic flexibility is getting quite a workout. I will be the first to admit that I have never written a full-length movie script. I’ve read them plenty, and I think I will be able to figure it out if given enough time. It’s been some years since I’ve written poetry, and there’s a pretty good chance that I will be writing nonfiction in due time. I need to work out my style muscle very frequently, and very often.

Not that I make New Year’s Resolutions, I want to be able to write a vignette, a short story, or a prompt, once a week. If I manage to release an anthology, much like my editor had, then awesome. If not, then at least I will be able to say that I have had practice in multiple avenues of writing.

Happy first day of 2012, everyone, and at the risk of outing myself as a total nerd…may the Force be with you. :)


ETA: WordPress was having issues in regards to the scheduling. I apparently had an auto-save that overwrote the entire second half of this post. Big no-no. Fixed. Sorry.