Kickstarting Renaissance Calling

The campaign to bring Renaissance Calling to print is live and going strong.

I’ve got some great rewards lined up.  Copies of the book, a backer’s box, even a chance to put your own character in the next book.

Take a look and remember to pledge early.  Even if it’s a dollar, it gets you access to Backer Polls and updates.

I’m excited by this and I hope you’ll join me in this endeavor.

-Michael

Chocolatier of the Moon Part 1

Memoirs of Pierre du Coco, Chocolatier of the Moon

Part 1: The Embassy

It was October of 1896 when I returned to Paris.  I had been in London for the celebrations in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  I was there at the invitation of the Greater Scottish Dessert Club, which was holding a challenge amongst the skilled artisans to see who might create the greatest dessert to compliment that most Scottish of dishes, the haggis.

It was quite the competition, I tell you.  Sir Willard Bakesworth, that Englishman who foiled me at the 1892 Boston Bakeoff, put together a good Cranachan dish, but I made a clootie dumpling with mixed fruits and a rum dressing that was so good, the Scottish judges were dancing on the table, an act that made every patron run for their sanity, Scottish dress being what it is.

But I digress.

I returned to my apartment with a heavy purse, and found a heavy stack of correspondence.  Some of it was of a personal nature, some from friends and former patrons, but of course there were the bills.  Creditors are a persistent bunch, and I tightened my grip on my purse, knowing that all too soon it would be lighter.

At the bottom of the pile, I noticed a silver envelope.  It was of a much different style than all the others, and I immediately opened it.  Inside was a fine invitation, also in silver.  Eagerly, I read it.

M. du Coco

I represent Queen Selene III, Monarch of the Moon.  At her request, I am interviewing Earthlings for potential positions.  Your name has come up.  Please respond to our embassy with a calendar of when you are available for an interview.

Sincerely,

Ambassador Lene

Well, I must admit, I was quite astonished.  True, no one could be unaware of the opening of diplomatic relations between the countries of the Earth and its natural satellite, but I was unaware that there was a full embassy here in Paris.  Just one of those things a chocolatier will fail to notice.

I responded and the next morning took a cab over to the Lunar Embassy.  I was at first disappointed in the building, as it was no different than any other embassy, but it occurred to me that the building was rented, and therefor has stood for some time before the diplomacy began.  It was the people inside that were unique.

Now, I must pause to ask you if you, my reader, have ever seen a Moonling?  If you have, then by all means skip ahead, but for those who have not, try to understand that they are simultaneously calmingly familiar and hauntingly strange.  By the first, I mean that they are human in overall appearance, with two arms, two hands, a single head with two ears and two eyes.  One mouth, ten fingers.  As varied in height and weight as we are.  By strange, I mean that their limbs are always scrawny, regardless of the thickness of their torso.  Their noses are flat and wide, to the point of almost being indecent.  And their skin, though always some hue of gray, may glow, depending on the phase of the moon currently in the sky above Earth.  As we were in a full moon, the Moonlings proved to be very bright that day.

But I digress.

The guards at the front gate were Earthmen, of some local regiment.  The guards at the doorway were Moolings, in black uniforms with gems sewn as to resemble a star field.   Their crescent spears blocked my path until I presented the invitation, and I was lead inside.

As the building was originally constructed for Earthlings, the interior was of a usual design.  The artwork that adorned the walls was fascinating.  The Moonlings, it appeared, had their own constellations worked out in the night’s sky.  On the walls hung artwork representing those constellations, with the stars emphasized so that one might find them in the sky.  I looked at one such painting, of a three armed Moonling fighting off a large jade rabbit, and wondered a moment on the story.  But then I was ushered in to see the Ambassador, and had to put such thoughts on hold.

Ambassador Lene was a nice man, a Moonling of course, but one who spoke without much of an accent.  I had heard, and here confirmed, that Moonlings are quite the capable linguists, and most are capable of speaking dozens of languages as readily as most men learn songs.

‘I will come to the point,’ Lene said after several minutes of pleasantries.  ‘Queen Selene has entrusted me to find for her court a Chocolatier, someone who can bring such art to her table.  After some inquiries, I believe you are the best choice for such a position.

I will admit, I was shocked.  I had not expected such an offer.  I was both excited and nervous.

I was excited, of course, for any royal position to be offered to me.  Chocolatiers make much effort to obtain Royal positions by use of samples, to such an extent that most royal courts never lack for exquisite chocolate.  At most, I could have realistically hoped for a patron.  But an actual Royal position, on the Moon!  Of all the chocolatiers of Earth!  I admit,  I was quite ready to brag about that to Sir Bakesworth.

But I was also nervous.  Transit to the Moon from Earth was accomplished by use of a large, elastic sheet suspended between a number of mountains in the Swiss alps.  One jumped, higher and higher, until the body reached sufficient height for the gravity of the Moon to take over and pull one into a rough and often undignified landing.

The nervousness must have shown more strongly on my face, for Ambassador Lene smiled.  ‘Oh, do not worry, Monsieur du Coco.  After the incident with the Prince of Lichtenstein, we were forced to consider new alternatives.’

If the reader is unaware, the Prince of Lichtenstein, on a visit to the Moon, faltered on what should have been his final jump and, instead of rising up and falling to the Moon, instead became stuck in the equilibrium between bodies.  He was there for several hours before a properly padded Swede bounced into him and forced him to his destination.

But I digress.

I smiled at the Ambassador, knowing now that I would not have to jump, but then I frowned.  ‘I do hope you are not referring to the American cannon,’ I said cautiously.

Ambassador Lene laughed.  ‘No, I do not.  We considered many alternatives, and though the cannon was quite interesting – and how American to think of a giant cannon for transport – we went with another alternative.’

‘European, at least?’ I asked hopefully.

‘German, in fact.’

‘Oh,’ I said.  ‘I guess that counts.’

We discussed the particulars, and I left quite satisfied.  My bills would soon be all paid, and I packed my belongings and chocolates, ready for an adventure.  I took a final walk along the river, drank at my favorite café, and sent off one final telegram at Sir Bakesworth, bragging about my station.  I was quite happy, I admit.

And the next day, I boarded the train.

Let’s do this!

ImpImaIconA lot happening this month, and all of it leads to publishing.

Started my publishing company, Impending Imagination.  Took me a lot of time (and many searched on thesaurus.com) to find a name that I liked.

Made my Facebook Author Page, so my personal and professional pages are now separate.

And moving into the final steps of beginning my Kickstarter campaign.  A little behind schedule, but I’m working towards it.

What does all this mean? PUBLISHING!

These steps are not just ‘the next ones’.  They signify a shift into my publishing years, from an enthusiastic hobby to an active business.  Every day, I have to do something, otherwise I’m letting myself down.

This is the starting line of what comes next.

As part of this, I’ve added message boards on the website, and loaded up wallpapers for download.

Probably some kinks to work out, but I’m eager to get going.

So, let’s do this!

A Writing Vacation

As a vacation this year, I spent a week at a cabin in the woods.

No, this was not some Unabomber shack with a hamster-wheel for generating electricity.  It was a nice cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin, complete with running water, electricity, and better cell reception than my apartment just outside of Saint Paul (thank you, Verizon).  It is the family cabin of a man who has been my friend since kindergarten, and they were kind enough to let me use it.

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Now, it may not be as exciting as traveling Civil War Battlefields or foreign countries, but it was just what I needed.  Time to read, write, and just reset.

FOOD

I was excited to grill out.  I’ve never done it by myself, having lived in apartments for all of my adult life.  I grilled out the first three nights, trying corn (did not turn out well), brats, salmon, chicken, and pork chops.   I even mixed vegetables, coated in oil and season, wrapped in aluminum foil, and grilled those.  Turned out pretty decent.

Non-grilling was mostly sandwiches, eggs for breakfast, toast with jam or various fruits for snacks.

Meal soundtracks provided by ‘Welcome to Night Vale.’

READING

I was halfway through Mockingjay when I got there, finished it by day two.  Lovely reading on a porch, though some areas better than others depending on the location of the sun.

Go through two graphic novels: The Dark Knights Returns, which I’d realized I had read before when I was much younger, and the White Donkey, a serious story about a Marine who goes to Iraq and back.  Both were good reads.

I also read through Atlas Shrugged for the second time.  No, I’m not a philosophical follower of Ayn Rand, but I think she is a terrific writer, and I wanted to see if I could understand a few things that did not make as much sense the first time.  And, truth be told, I did understand a bit more.  But not greatly.  I still spent some time researching specific questions afterwards.  Also, still couldn’t make it through the 75 page speech.

DRAWING

The reason I don’t draw much at home is lack of a drawing space, which is why I’m making a concerted effort to keep my dining room table clear.

I brought up a couple of drawing books I own (including one that thinks Delta Force uses giant swords).  Did a couple of practice drawings that turned out better than I thought they would, but by no means am I going to start hiring out my skills.  But I did get some drawings done, and that counts for something.

Need to work on faces.  And arms.  And….yeah.

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WRITING

This was the main reason I went out there.

I wanted to finish a second book.  Not the sequel to the book I’m trying to publish, but the first in a fantasy trilogy.  I was about a third of the way through with it, but I hadn’t taken the time to sit down and get it done.  This was my chance.

I spent some time outlining, readjusting this or that, trying to get through three or four chapters a day.  I wasn’t sure I could actually finish it, but I thought I could come within striking distance.  The only annoyance was that I was using a laptop keyboard, and I’m use to ergonomics for most of my typing.

Tuesday night was the big change.  It was the only night where I had problems sleeping because of heat and humidity, so I spent the night writing.  I think I finished six chapters before I crawled into bed at three in the morning.

Wednesday I managed to slam home the rest of the book, even with a forced break when my laptop overheated.  Typed so much my hand cramped up for a few days.  But I got it finished. 50,000 word rough draft, but it counts.

THURSDAY

Yes, this day gets its own entry, because it was a very informative day.

When I was preparing for the week, my friend mentioned the cabin had a TV and Blu-ray player.  Now, I’m a technophile, but I was looking forward to getting away from the videos games and computers and distractions, which is why I spent a week in the woods instead of sitting on my couch playing video games.

Anyway, with the book wrapped up, I decided to watch something.  I had brought my Blu-ray collection of HBO’s Rome, and started watching it.

Immediately I felt like I had gone back into some cocoon.  Watched Wednesday, and continued Thursday.   All Thursday I didn’t read or write, didn’t try drawing, just zoned out.

I’d known for a while how much more I get done when the TV is not on at home, but going from five days of ‘got this done’ and ‘got that done’, to ‘I should do something after this episode’ was like jumping from a sauna into a snow bank, only the end result was less ‘exhilarating’ and more ‘frustrating’.

It made me realize just how toxic my apartment atmosphere is, and not because the building sucks or anything, but because I get too distracted by the giant TV to write, or draw, or clean, or host.  Yes, I enjoy the TV when I’m watching a movie or playing a video game, but I don’t need to turn it on every day, especially not when I’m going to watch something I’ve seen a dozen times before.  It’s been something I’ve been working on since I got back.

AND I’M BACK

I returned with a second book roughly written and a desire to keep moving on my writing career.  And all the work that leads up to that.

Slow and Steady Publishes the Book (I hope)

I did not expect it to be three months between posts.  I really thoughts that my next post would be announcing a Facebook page or a publishing plan.  Maybe some word on Crowd Funding or Publishing Dates…instead, I’m not there.

That’s not to say I’ve slacked off for three months.  My book is getting edited, and I’m closer to having artwork for a campaign.  I’m writing two other books that are coming along nicely.

But when it comes to publishing, there are so many options the possibilities get intimidating to consider.

I could ask for a lot of money and do a bulk package from a website, hoping that the extra expenses pans out for me.  While this seems simpler, I’m not a fan of how much it costs versus how little I can expect back, and how little control I may have over it.

Or I could start a publishing company and do as much of the work myself, working to get several books out there and establishing a name for myself that way.  This gives me more control, but I’m not sure that I know enough to use it correctly.

Lots of research to be done, and soul searching.  Whatever plan I go with, I’m going to be going with for the first several books I publish, so it’s got to be something I’m comfortable with.

Looking into 2016

2016 PictureAs 2016 begins, I look ahead and ask myself, as a writer and author, what do I expect to do?  What do I want to do?  I’ve wanted to publish for years and I constantly trip over myself.  I’ve got projects I revisit from time to time.  Lots of things I could do, I want to do, I should do.

So, realistically, what am I planning for 2016?

I’m planning to publish my first book.  

I’m so close, only if I give up completely will I fail to do so.  The third draft is a few chapters off from being done.  I had an editor lined up (and some options if it fell through), a company to help with publishing and promotion.  I’m researching Crowdfunding and Social Media.  And I’m staying focused.

I’m looking forward to holding a book in my hand and seeing my name on the cover.

I’m planning to finish writing a second book.

If I want to make a career as an author, I need to be able to write them faster than I have been.  Luckily I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer, and I believe I can finish as least one more before next New Years.

The book I’m hoping to publish is the first half of a book I cut in half; so with so much work done on the second half, I write the second book pretty quickly.  I also have a fantasy book I’ve been working on that I might be able to finish.

Maybe I’ll finish a third book as well?

I’m planning on reducing the projects I’m working on.

A few weeks ago I counted myself as having 17 Projects in some stage or another.  Some of them were ‘hey, this could be a fun idea and I should think about it’, some of them were already underway.  This year I’ll figure out which ones I will focus on, and which ones I will put into storage.

Where do I want to be when 2017 starts?

I want to be a published author with at least one more book lined up and moving towards publication.

When is a project done?

I recently had a bit of a crisis of confidence in regards to my work.  While a large chunk of my 3rd draft is new and in need of extensive revisions, the first thirteen chapters have been written, revised, rewritten and revised again.  They’re pretty solid chapters.  But I still found things to change.

I’ve been working to publish for years, and I’m close enough I can almost taste it.  I would love to be able to finish this and move on to the next project, but I don’t want to wrap this up just for the sake of moving on.  This needs to be a good attempt, not just throwing it at the wall and hoping it sticks.

The question is: how will I know it’s ready?

I expect that every author has this crisis at some point, so I can’t believe I’m unique in this feeling.  But it’s hard to imagine Hemingway sitting at a typewriter and not knowing exactly what he was going to say.   That King or Clancy didn’t just write out a book and say ‘Done, what’s next,’ that they had to revise and consider and research.  I’m so used to the final product I have to remind myself each book starts with a simple idea.

In response to my own question, I don’t believe I will know it’s ready.  I could spend years revising and always find something wrong, something I want to work on, something to defer the next step again.  Maybe that’s why an editor is such an important part of the process, so that an author can take a step back and say ‘this is it.’

But for now, I still have a lot of work to do.

The Antagonist Story line

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Everyone has an antagonist

When I wrote the first draft of my book, I decided to include an antagonist’s story line, that is to say, a thread of the book from the perspective of an opponent, and not just people the main character has to deal with in her story.  The two characters never meet, never know each other’s names, or come within a hundred miles of each other.  I included the story line for two reasons.

First, it allowed me to explore more of the world.  The main character is fairly parochial in her view point, and does not travel far from home during the course of the story.  She learns a lot, but she can’t learn everything I want the reader to know.  The antagonist, being removed, well-traveled and experienced, could provide more of the framework the heroes are working against.

Second, his actions during the course of the book allowed me to toss a wrench into the main character’s story line, and to do so logically, without a feel of deus ex interruptus.

This worked for the 1st and 2nd drafts, though I must admit I was never quite happy with the actual wrench being thrown in.  When I started working on the 3rd draft, where I cut the book in half, I put the antagonist’s story line to the side.  I wasn’t sure (and I’m still not) that I would have room for it, and what kind of wrench he would throw into this one.  He would provide more of a world view, which in the long run may decide the issue.

Now that I’m nearing the end of this draft, I’m coming up on the point where I have to decide if I want to use his story line or not.  The first reason, world building, certainly still applies.  And I think the ending could use a wrench-toss to spice it up, make it more interesting for the character to overcome.  On the other hand, I’m not sure how long the book is going to be, and an extra story line could add too much.  And there is the aspect of writing a story where the reader learns alongside the character, reducing the chance of an information overload and surprising the reader along with the character.

I’ve got a tentative deadline of the 31st to finish writing this draft, so less than four weeks to decide if the antagonist stays or not.  Stay tuned!

Forgotten – A very short story

A very short story I wrote during a writing group exercise.  Not my normal type of writing, but it was well received.


‘Hi, honey!  Welcome home.’

What did I forget? I thought.  She’s smiling.  She hasn’t smiled in years.  I’ve forgotten something, and she KNOWS it!

Hi, dear.’ I hung up my jacket, meticulously putting everything back in its place the way she liked it.  It’s not February, so it can’t be Valentine’s Day.  Anniversary?  No, that’s in…shit, when WAS it?

‘Did you have a good day at work?’

A kid’s game.  I forgot to take time off for our kids…wait, we don’t have kids.  What did I forget?

‘Good enough. Yourself?’

‘Oh, I can’t complain.  I did make plans with my parents for dinner.’

I missed an email or text about dinner! I checked my phone.  ‘That’s good,’ I said, not seeing anything I hadn’t seen before.

‘It should be fun,’ she said.

I finally stopped and shrugged.  ‘Okay, I give up.  I know I forgot something.  Was it milk?  Dry cleaning?  Did I send flowers to the wrong somebody?  What did I forget?’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘you forgot that we got divorced.’