Sunday, September 22, 2013

How I Knew I Was Ready to Have Someone Other Than My Mother Read My Writing

A book cover I made for my first attempt at writing a novel
AKA: The moment I decided to start submitting to actual publishers.

I’ve always made art publicly, but I had never tried submitting a short story or poem for profitable publication before this past few months. It had never been my immediate goal (but always my future one!). August marked the first time I submitted work to a magazine. It was quite the rush, really. Whether they accept, purchase, and publish it is a different story, but at least I finally had cooked up the nerve to do it. I just wanted to write a post about what brought me to this point, which is the point where I decided I could show other people my work.

Back in high school was when I first realized that I was a writer. My group of friends decided that we were going to start a local band, and everyone picked an instrument (none of us knew how to play anything) and promised to learn said instrument within the year. Out of the five of us who made this pact, I was the only one who followed through. I learned guitar, and I started a band with a very different group of guys who actually knew how to play. In the first few meetings of this band, I remember debating who would be the singer. Naturally, I, who had never sung publicly before at that point, backed away from the idea of me doing it. However, the guy who wanted to be the singer was flaky, and we ended up kicking him out of the band. So, the job fell on me, as the drummer was too busy drumming like a wild animal to sing and we didn’t have a bassist replacement yet.

As a singer of a band, it falls on you to write songs, and so I did. I wrote beautiful high school ballads of angst and hormones (they were not really beautiful, haha). But, I did write. I learned how to compose and put words together. My favorite band, Incubus, inspired me to actually sit down and pen out meaningful lyrics (rather than clich├ęs in rhyme), which were all poems to start. I spent hours and hours doing a single line in a song, but the work paid off. I learned a great deal about writing doing that. Near the end of high school is when the idea for The Unraveler sparked in my mind, but I made more visual art and poetry than anything else at that point.

During college, I went from writing lyrics to writing stories, plays, and even attempting to write a few novels. I did all of that before I even decided to become an English major (actually, I started as a music major and then went to computer science before switching to English!). Most of what I wrote during that time was garbage, but I’m happy I wrote it because I was continuing to learn how to write. My freshmen year of college was my first official attempt at writing The Unraveler as a full-length novel, and also my second, third, fourth, fifth, etc, etc. I probably have about fifty different documents where I tried to write the novel. In some attempts, I even got to chapter 3 before deciding that it was terrible. At one point, I stopped that and started something different. I wrote a 60k-word memoir about my high school band days. It was called, Join Our Cult (I still like that title). I never finished it because I realized that it wasn’t, strictly speaking, worth reading. Also, for creative nonfiction, I had taken too many embellishments and exaggerations. It just didn’t feel right. So, I shelved it.

I probably penned a few more one-chapter trials of The Unraveler throughout the rest of my college years. None of them really worked, but the ideas built and the story started to come together. I just didn’t have the skills at that point to make it happen, but the effort kept me learning.

I almost always make my own temporary covers for my book-length projects
During my final semester at my university, I wrote a 40k-word novel called Eyes On The Grid, but I didn’t finish that either. I knew it was closer to what a professional writer might put out, but not quite there. I think during the process of writing that, I gained about 30 levels in grammatical sorcery. I started winning writing contests (I even paid for my first apartment’s rent using writing contest winnings!). I wrote new songs, which my old band friends recorded with me.

I felt an awareness to writing that was different. I could look at other writing and identify why writing was good or bad (not just if). It was like a writing nirvana to me. When I hit that point, I began a new draft of The Unraveler that would actually get finished, and it was actually good. It was a story worth telling, and it was written with the skills I had been building for so many years with so much sweat.

I haven’t submitted The Unraveler to any agents yet, since I’m still trying to comb through and get feedback on it. However, I did submit a few short stories I’ve been writing when I’ve needed a break from doing my editing, and I did this beginning with last month (no responses on any of them yet). It was my first time, and it was a cool marker in my writing career.

Anyway, I guess with all this, the simple message I’m trying to put together is this: write. The only way to get good at something is to do it over and over.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blog redesign! -a blog update for September-

Ahh..... It's time to sip some pumpkin coffee and enjoy my hard work.

I just finished redesigning this blog to look... more like the imagery from my novel. I am a crazy visual person, and I feel like the creatures and characters in my novel are really what will sell it. Before, my blog was a colored-pencil sketch of an endlessly long whale, but that only emphasized a short scene from my novel. This, however, encompasses the feel of my world better. I have a huge Halloween-feel to my book, so jack-o'-lanterns, crows, and the skeletal rat bring the spirit of that season out. The kudanite, or that bluish-purple monster in the lower left corner, is a seahorse-inspired sentient being. I have my little clockwork robots marching across the top. The woman in the orange-pink is Rosalyn the Squid Lady. She's a poet, pirate, and the leader of a troupe of clowns. I spent like six hours coloring her in. I also made a new header logo!

All of the art on my site was hand-drawn by me, unless I've noted otherwise. Most of it is digitally enhanced or colored, but some of it is shaded with pencils. The words in the background are from an actual passage from The Unraveler.

Anyway, I mentioned pumpkin coffee. I need a refill. Haha! Let me tell you about Duncan Donuts Pumpkin Spiced coffee. It's a seasonal thing, and you can get it now until the winter. It's absolutely delicious. I suggest blending it with marshmallows and a good helping of milk.

So, writing this month has been really about expanding my online credentials. I have submitted short stories and poetry to five publications (and it was my first time submitting stuff!). I'll probably know by the end of this month if any of it has been selected. I've been working on a bunch of short stories and flash fiction, just to sharpen my skills. I've written everything from pure horror, to a western, to an Irish folklore tale this past month, and I hope to do more. Of course, all of this while still editing my novel. It's close to as edited as I can make it, but I have a few friends reading it. Maybe I'll get some feedback, since another of my friends have started a writing circle group. My friend Matt S. sent me insanely useful feedback that changed my book in major ways a while back. I'm still thankful for it.

My routine lately has been reading whatever Daily Science Fiction sends me and then visiting the author-of-the-day's website. I'm trying to research what other authors are doing to promote themselves, and how what they add to their websites to make them have that extra-uuph that puts it above the rest. That's why I've added new pages like "Extras" and "Reading suggestions" to my own site. I want people to come to my website and see how hard I'm working on all of this, how dedicated I am. I'm doing all of this while trying to figure out what I'm going to do next with myself (but that topic is for a different blog).

Anyway, tell me what you think of the redesign. If you see anything that looks out of place, let me know! And get some pumpkin coffee!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Unraveler Extras

I wanted to start a page full of stuff inspired by The Unraveler that you can download for free! Using these are a great way to show support for the novel. All of this was created by me unless otherwise noted. Please only use these for non-commercial purposes. Have fun!
Artwork - Here's some higher-res images from my website. Download these and use them in creative ways!

Blue Kudanite => Click here to download!

Jack-o'-lantern => Click here to download!

Crows at flight! => Click here to download!

Banners - Do what you will with these! The backgrounds are transparent!

Click here to download the white banner!

Click here to download the black banner!

Small Banner - forum signature sized!

Icons - Use these on your website or as your avatar !

Logos - You can add these to documents, so only those in the know will understand the secret.
Click here to download the plain eye logo!


Click here to download the realistic eye logo!

Music - These are music tracks I created that share a connection to The Unraveler!

Click here to download "Knockdown Sandcastle"
This song was written, recorded, and performed by Harrison Aye. This was during the same time as The Unraveler, and it was inspired by the seaside setting in the novel.

Click here to download "On and On"
This song was written and performed by Harrison Aye, with recording and percussion by Brian Wood. The lyrics and music were inspired by the same dream Harrison had one night that sparked the idea for the entire novel. I wrote a blog about that dream here!

Click here to download "Flytrap"
This song was written and performed by Harrison Aye, with Scott Weber performing drums and Brian Wood recording and performing guitar. This song was inspired by a concept I was creating for this novel. I imagined a giant flytrap of forgetfulness, and if it devoured you, you'd be forever forgotten. This giant flytrap is named Gome, and he still sits at the bottom of a very deep pit within my book.