Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mark Teppo's Codex of Souls Seeks the Light

I began writing this blog the first weekend in September, but incoming projects and deadlines prohibited me from finishing the blog post at that time. So, what follows is what I initially wrote, and then I will continue on from there.

* * *

On Tuesday I delivered the final edited manuscript for Mark Teppo's novel Heartland: The Second Book of the Codex of Souls to publisher Night Shade Books. The due date for delivery of the edited manuscript was that day, September 1, but the manuscript had in fact been completed a few days prior. I told Mark that I would sit on it until the 1st just in case he or I came up with any thoughts, issues, or last minute edits. Neither of us did, which is always a good sign.

Just as a point of information, the
"Codex of Souls" is a planned ten-book series, though I believe only the first three titles, so far, have a home at Night Shade Books. Personally, I have no doubt that all ten books will assuredly see publication. Book one, Lightbreaker, was published this past June, and Heartland will be forthcoming in early 2010. Each book contains a teaser for the next title in the series; book 3, Angel Tongue, is scheduled for publication in 2011.

I've been working on Heartland for most of this past month. I read through the author's manuscript twice: making notes and minor edits the first time, then I gave the manuscript an intensive editing review the second time around -- sending the author an email as each question/concern arose. At this stage I was working on hardcopy -- I only edit on hardcopy! Once the editing and review was complete, I then keyed in all the edits and notes directly into the author's manuscript file using MS Word's "change tracking." Without "change tracking" I would be forced to deal with hardcopy from start to finish: I would have had to photocopy the marked-up pages and mail them to the author. However, "change tracking" negates the need for all of that. For those unfamiliar with "change tracking": My initial edits/changes are entered in a red font; the author's follow-up edits/changes are entered in blue. So it is easy to keep track of who entered what. Plus, anything deleted is automatically moved into a box in the right margin so one can view deletes as well as adds. And, of course, any change can be rejected by either person. Comments can also be added anywhere, when necessary, to explain edits, to ask questions/clarifications, etc. A great little tool. How did we survive without this years ago? Yeah, I know, photocopy and mail.

So far Mark and I have churned out at least 165 Heartland-related emails discussing the finer (and not so finer) points in the manuscript.

Before I proceed any further, I would like to include an excerpt here from Heartland -- just one paragraph from the hundreds of paragraphs and more than 132,000 words -- with Mark Teppo's permission, of course:

It's a funny way to remember someone: as a sensory phantom haunting you when they are gone. They become a collection of elusive details; you cannot remember them completely, and the more you struggle to put the puzzle together, the more you obsess about the gaps between the pieces. But, when you find these people again, when you crush them to you and inhale their smell, when you hear their voice, when you feel their touch, the pieces arrange themselves and you can’t fathom how you didn't see the whole picture before.

When I read words strung together into sentences to form a paragraph like this one -- well, all is right with the world. (What? You were expecting a quote of some heinous deed, or of some magickal display of power? -- Ahh, but I'm a romantic at heart.)

If the Codex of Souls series had to be classified/boxed/labeled, then I would be forced to say it is Urban Fantasy (with a strong male protagonist). But this series is so much more than that. I don't read much contemporary fantasy these days, as the stories are so overrun with romantic supernatural vamipiric zombies, but you won't find any of that in the Codex of Souls. Blue Tyson, in his
mini review, called Lightbreaker "An urban fantasy novel that is a lot more Hellblazer, Mage and Highlander than it is high heels, hot pants and horizontal vampire mambo. There's even a Watcher society and sword fighting." Lupa, at Pagan Book Reviews, writes: "Teppo's story is based on Western Occultism, particularly Qabalah and other forms of ceremonial magic. To be sure, there's a lot of fantasy element to it -- souls shoving each other out of bodies with visible results, qlipothic spirits zapping rival mages -- but the author knows his stuff as far as basic Western magical theory goes."

Recently, I was
interviewed by Charles Tan for his Bibliophile Stalker blog. In that interview I mention one summer during college in which I had read Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road – all in succession. If Lightbreaker had been published at that point of time in my life, the book would have fit in quite perfectly between Castaneda and Kesey. How about that for a summer's beach-reading experience!

Monday, September 28, 2009

September Links & Things

I'm posting my September links a couple days early, so that I can get this out of the way in order to work on my next blog post. I've completed some major deadlines (though I have more to come the beginning of October), but I have just enough breathing room over the next day or two to work on a new blog post. This new essay has been an on-again/off-again project for months now; I've actually started it twice but got interrupted with other projects and deadlines -- you know, the ones that inevitably pay the bills! But more on all that later.

So, here are my links and such for the month of September. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail and comment. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.

  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her online Freelancer's Survival Guide with "Setbacks (Part One)." Kris writes: "The real key with setbacks isn't preventing them; it's surviving them when they happen. Over the years, I've become a connoisseur of setbacks. I'm not interested in other people's misfortunes (except as grist for my own fiction), but I am interested in how other people survive those misfortunes.... There are four categories of setbacks and probably a million subcategories. The four major categories are: 1. Financial; 2. Mechanical / technical / production; 3. Physical; 4. Emotional." The author covers the first two categories in great detail in Part One, and I'll be looking forward to Part Two, since the "Emotional" category is one I'm particularly interested in reading.

    Update: Actually,
    Part Two deals with "Physical Setbacks." Guess I'll have to wait for Part Three to read what Kris has to say on "Emotional Setbacks." And finally, "Setbacks (Part 3)" which deals with five types of emotional setbacks: Fear, Anger, Betrayal, Failure, and... Success.

    Here's a link to the
    Table of Contents for the Freelancer's Survival Guide. If you have found the information useful and informative that Kris has been providing in this weekly series, please subscribe to her blog and/or its RSS feed, or follow Kris (@KristineRusch) and/or me on Twitter. I love what Kris is doing, and have been happy to share this with my blog readers, but due to time constraints I won't be maintaining ongoing series in this monthly Links update.

  • M. J. Rose is the best-selling author of numerous novels, most recently The Memorist. She recently published an Op-ed piece on entitled "Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid." Her gripe is that authors are more and more responsible for promoting their work; in fact, many publishers now require it of authors! So the author invests his/her time -- and money -- and yet there has been no change whatsoever in how the author gets paid by the publisher for their work; the same old royalty schedules still apply. Rose writes: "It used to be that the author wrote and the publisher published. Publishing meant everything from editing to distribution to marketing. Now, more and more books are not being published, but instead are merely being printed. No one walks into a bookstore and says to the clerk — 'I'd like to buy a book that I never heard of and that you never heard of.' Someone has to do the marketing and get the word out. And if that's going to be a shared responsibility, so be it. We all have the same goal in the end. But our contracts and the way we get paid can't remain the same. It's time to start a new chapter."

    In response to Rose's Op-ed piece, Robert Miller, President and Publisher of HarperStudio, wrote a follow-up piece entitled: "
    Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership." I think "partnership" is the key word here. His concern is: "What amount of marketing effort should be expected of the author before their royalty changes?" He feels that both parties should be doing everything possible to promote the book; but what if the book doesn't make money? Who takes the loss? So Miller believes that "publishers and authors should be equal partners, sharing profits fifty-fifty, as we are doing in all of our deals at HarperStudio.... This financial structure requires both parties to think responsibly about costs, since both parties will be charged for those costs at the end of the day."

  • A new collective of self-published authors -- Backword Books -- has launched, initiated by the efforts of Henry Baum, of Self-Publishing Review, which I have referenced quite a lot in my Links & Things postings. The 9/3/2009 issue of Publishers Weekly featured an article on Backword Books: "Baum is convinced that literary self-publishing will eventually achieve the same sales results as those of traditional presses. 'The vetting system is out of whack in the publishing industry' said Baum…. 'It's literary writers who are having a tougher time of it in today's climate, not just reaching an audience, but getting published in the first place. With Backwords, the hook is the writing itself. That's our strength.'"

  • Author Dean Wesley Smith kills another sacred cow in his ongoing blog series "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing." The latest entry is on "Rewriting": Dean states: "Robert Heinlein's business rules have worked for many, many of us for decades and decades, and his rules go simply: 1) You must write. 2) You must finish what you write. 3) You must not rewrite unless to editorial demand. 4) You must mail your work to someone who can buy it. 5) You must keep the work in the mail until someone buys it. Those rules do seem so simple, and yet are so hard to follow at times. They set out a simple practice schedule and a clear process of what to do with your practice sessions when finished. But for this chapter, note rule #3. Harlan Ellison added to rule #3. 'And then only if you agree.'" Dean goes on to explain how rewriting can make stories worse than better. I'll leave you to read his words and decide for yourself; as for me, I'm not in total agreement, as I'm on the receiving end of those manuscripts.

    Dean has added the next chapter to his "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing," this one on "
    Agents." He lists 12 bulleted points that he defines as "standards of this industry and you can infer what you want from these standards to help your own writing and your own fight against this myth." For point #7, Dean writes: "Editors never know what they want to buy until they see it. An agent who tells you he or she knows exactly what an editor wants is just full of crap."

    And yet a third chapter has been added to Dean's "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" -- "
    Workshops." Big Workshop Myth #1: "A WORKSHOP WILL HELP YOU FIX A MANUSCRIPT." Dean goes on to explain why a writers' workshop will NOT help you fix your manuscript, but he does give some insight into what a workshop WILL help you with, and he concludes by stating: "...there's nothing a workshop can do to help you fix a story without killing it. But you can learn stuff from a workshop that will help you make your next story better. Your focus always has to be forward, toward learning and writing the next story.

    This will be my last entry on Dean Wesley Smith's "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing." You can learn when a new chapter is posted by following @DeanWesleySmith and/or me on Twitter. Or you can subscribe to Dean's blog.

  • The Editor Unleashed website, subtitled: "Writing, Publishing, Social Media and Community," has published a list of the Top 25 Best Writing Blogs of 2009. Writing blogs were first nominated by readers, the list was then culled to the top 50, I believe, which were then voted upon. I wish I had had the time to check out the initial 50 but, alas, I don't even have time to write my own blog entries! Anyhow, the Top 25 are broken down into categories "Publishing Trends," "Marketing and Social Media," "Creativity," "Fiction Writing," and "Freelance Writing." Lots of kudos in the Comments, as well. If you're a serious blogger on writing and/or a serious writer, you should check out these 25 blogs.