The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

My Query Was Totally Off

oops face

So I finally made enough posts in the Absolute Write forum to be able to post my work for critique. It was recommended to me when I asked the question on Reddit, and I’ve been impressed with the quality of the feedback.

 Case in point: I’ve been unintentionally sending out misogynist queries.

I was focusing too much of the internal conflict instead of the external, which is that Caden’s the only boy in a mess of girls. He’s doing a traditionally female-oriented job when he wants (and is better suited for) a more masculine job. It’s like forcing Hulk Hogan to do ballet. Wait a minute… that actually happened.

But my query made it sound like Caden was going “eww, girls” all the time, and getting rewarded for his efforts to avoid that. Very childish. But in fact, Caden does learn his lesson — the girls teach him the value of support and friendship and that healing can be more challenging than fighting.

No wonder I was getting so few responses. Nobody is going to pick up a book about a boy’s refusal of girly things — the majority of the reading and publishing world is. Implying that my work denigrates females is akin to shouting “No darkies!” in a Cuban bath house.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. I guess this means I don’t have to feel condemned by the lack of response. Maybe this means Defender will get a new lease on life?

The Last of my Query Letters

I sent the last of my query letters for Defender today. A little less than a year after I first finished the thing.

Total queries sent: 89. Total bites: 1

Man, I don’t know how you don’t curl up into a ball weeping in this business. Between Black Hole Son, Merm-8, and this, I’ve sent hundreds of query letters and had very minimal response. Not even people who were intrigued with the idea and wanted to see the writing style. Just whoop, reject, not even the 250 words were enough to put the foot in the door. I guess it’s not my third novel. My third novel, I get permission to cry. I wish I know where I’m coming in on the slushkiller percentile. All I ever get is “this is not right for me” or “my client list is full”.

writer tears whiskey
Someone’s got to fill these casks

These days I feel like I’m not writing what I’m meant to be. I get my favorite ideas for fantasy and science fiction. I got a cute little story that’s like a fairy tale romance but with a naga girl. But that’s all it is–a cute cozy story. These days, fantasy is full of epic landscapes and 500,000 word volumes. Or if you’re YA, ten book series with female warriors who know how to cartwheel through a hoop of fire but not how to talk to a boy. I’m not sure if I should try a non-spec fic or something else.

I should maybe be working on short stories. Practicing voice and style to match the current heavy hitters. I just finished “Press Start to Play” and these guys are light years ahead of me. I’m staying medieval and they’re flying hoverskids into tomorrow. Maybe I need to read more contemporary stuff to write in a contemporary way. My style’s more rooted in Stephen King and the classics that people tell me to read. It’d be like a baseball player modeling their swing after Babe Ruth. It was great in the day, but cannot contend with how the game has evolved.

NerdCon: Stories is coming up and I feel like I’m going as a poser. My heroes will be there and I don’t want to meet my heroes. I’m too afraid that they won’t measure up to my ideal. I’m too afraid any exchanges I have with them will be awkward. I’m not even really a fan — at least I don’t consider myself one. I love their works, but I don’t worship or fawn over them. My goal is to be like them. I’m afraid it’s going to be like Convergence all over again.

I haven’t looked at how “Dwarves Can’t Climb Trees” is doing either. I’m too afraid. Afraid that there are 0 hits, 0 downloads, 0 ratings, 0 feedback. I haven’t gotten one response about it since it went up. Even self-publishing is betraying me. How much longer am I going to have to be shouting into the dark?

Too Many Things To Work On

elsa anxiety frozen disney

There’s something about all the stuff coming down the line lately that’s starting to paralyze me with fear, at least according to my writing.  Merm-8 is supposed to be published on 9/5 (mark your calendars), but there’s still a lot to do.

I’ve gotten through content edits three times.  But now I’ve got to go through grammar edits.  And the problem is the grammar edits haven’t been marked, because they want me to go through the whole text and make sure it’s all right.  Which sounds like a bad idea to me.  I wrote the story to the best of my ability regarding grammar rules.  How would I notice something that’s wrong, if I’m working under the assumption that it’s right?  It’s being told that you’re not supposed to eat the shell of the peanuts.  But no one ever taught me that you’re not supposed to.

Someone has been providing cover art too.  But no matter what kind of feedback I give, the end result is only changed a little from the original inspiration.  They’re just very generic covers that A) don’t reflect the content and B) don’t entice me to read at all.  I’m not sure who’s doing it, but I wish they would respond with something more than simply more cover art mockups.  I’m glad the publisher lets the author have this level of approval on cover art, but I’m sad they seem to be incapable of understanding my criticism.

And then my stories in the hopper are starting to accumulate on me.  After grammar edits on Merm-8 (which will take a long time, because I need to have it read to me), I have A) Draft 3 on a 30k dwarf novella I want to get done B) either doing macros or read out-loud on Defender C) a long, serial fan fiction I really want to write.

Now, my heart says I want to write C, but my brain knows that’s a bad idea because that’s the kind of thing I can’t get paid for and thus, won’t advance my writing career (although it may improve my writing).  I’m afraid if I try and start that, it’ll be a case of “Gun x Sword” where the beginning writing style doesn’t match the ending because I wrote it in spurts between drafts of other novels.  Defender is the most lucrative, but the next phase of its revision is boring and I just finished the line edits, so I don’t feel motivated to do it.  And dwarf story, I don’t even know how to get it to sell.  Plus, it’s at a phase where it needs a lot of creation.

So the overwhelmingness leads to fear, fear leads to paralyzation.  So I feel deadlocked in all these stories that I can’t get done.  Le sigh.

Final Edits, Cover Art, and a Third Draft Finished

mermaid icon
Urge to kill… fading… fading… fadi-RISING!  …fading…

Today I finished the third draft of Merm-8 Defender (damn, I keep mistaking it for that), which means pretty much the content is set.  There’s one sequence of events that still bothers me, maybe because it’s so morphable.  I keep thinking it can morph into something better.  It used to be another scene but it slowly changed into something different to accommodate characters.  But it still fits the template.  But at some point, you just have to give up.  It’s the novel as a whole that people will remember, not one scene in the back.

This looks a little like a ten-year-old boy’s back

I also turned in the final author edits for Merm-8.  No one said anything this time when I turned them in.  I’m hoping everyone’s pleased.  I didn’t leave anything inconclusive, so I’m hoping we really are done, and they didn’t just give up on me.

What in the world is reflecting up there?

Also been working harder on the back cover blurb that’s supposed to accompany the book.  It’s not unlike writing a cover letter. The difficulty is pulling in more of that advertising quality.  I’ve been studying back cover copy, but they all are so uniquely tailored to their book.  And it reminds me of how far I have because even the big names like Hunger Games and Lock-In don’t have amazing cover copy.  They have amazing word of mouth.

Not a fan of the “evening gown” mermaid

And finally I got a delight in my inbox.  The mockup of my cover art was posted.  Squee!  But when I took a look at it, it wasn’t what I and the promotions specialist had discussed.  It was just a mermaid in dark water.  No science-fiction elements, no other characters.  It looked like a fantasy romance, which it definitely is not.  The mermaid’s not even the main character (although she’s the draw-in).

I hope the artist is receptive to feedback because right now it looks very generic and does not reflect the content of the novel.

Update

update

Defender Draft 3 has started. I’m working with 94,000 words and it’d be nice to whittle that down to under 90K, but I won’t weep if it doesn’t.

What disappoints me is my reading. I used to love reading, but now it feels like I’m reading just to get the books done. Just to diminish the “to-read” list on Goodreads or claim that I’ve read “a classic”. But through the list, I just haven’t found anything that reminds me of why it’s so good to read. The last one I remember is Eleanor & Park, and before that Looking for Alaska.

And there are days when I feel like, huh, gotta write again. Man, I wish I was doing something other than this. I wish I was doing something fun. It could be because I’m revising, not composing, and I’m more in the cleaning up phase than the creating phase. But it’s not like I’m sick of the story. Not yet. So that’s not the issue. It’s just being back into the groove. My lunch hours dedicated to this instead of going out to eat or taking a walk around the lake or watching TV.

Some days I have to resist turning into a slug. Some days I just want to forget about the writing I want to accomplish, the goals that seem so far away, and just play video games and drink whiskey. Then I become a consumer, not a producer. Like a caterpillar that just eats and eats and eats leaves and only serves as food for some higher-up animal. One that never turns into a butterfly to help pollinate the flowers it would previously destroy.

So it’s a struggle. It’s like trying to stay away from alcohol after going through the steps. It looks so good, so easy to fall into, but you have to resist it because there are bigger things than personal indulgence.

Second Draft of Defender (White Mage Story) is Done

Last night I finally finished the second draft of Defender, macros and all.  96,000 words.  Quite the monkey off my back.  All I can say is that the line-edits and typo and minor style errors really start to take their toll on the creative psyche.

But it’s so great to be able to take an extend-o break from the world of magic academy for a while.  All I need to do now is convert it into an eBook so my wife (and other peer reviewers) can read it.

Also, I can move on to my dwarf story, other short stories, and maybe pick up Gun vs. Sword again. Good times, good times.

Finished Draft 2 of Defender

Last night I finished Draft 2 of my new novel, which is currently titled “Defender #1: Return of the Harkers”.  I guess I’m not truly done, because there’s a few ideas I need to sprinkle back in — things I think of during the revision process that I have to go back and change, but I don’t want to stop my revising inertia.  Also I need to do my macros and spell-check.  That’s intensive.  But the legwork is done.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for peer revisions.  So have a creepy picture to celebrate.

Second Draft of Defender Started

white cloak woman

After the exhausting revision 1.5, and a few crappy short stories in-between, I have now started working on the second draft of Defender as of yesterday.  This will be the revision with doors open, that I intend for people to see.  Instead of the words “I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO WRITE BADLY” at the top of the draft, I now have “KILL YOUR DARLINGS” in bright red.  Still trying to grasp what that means, but every little bit helps.

Finished 1.5 Revisions on Defender

taranturaptor tarantula spider vulture

So a week ago I finished the 1.5 revisions for Defender (White Mage Story).  It felt like it took a long time, longer than most 1.5 revisions take.  I’m not sure why.  I did change jobs during it, so that was about 2 weeks of nothing.  Maybe I had an unusual amount of notes this time around.  This story cribs a lot from Harry Potter, in that it’s more about the fancy milieu, and less about the character’s problem/goals.  I have to shove in a lot of A) world-building B) characterization C) clues to the overarching mystery in a short amount of time.

So that means, as I wrote, I saw where the unnecessary characters were, the threads that didn’t make sense, the emotions that needed punching, and better lines/ideas.  Not to mention, I pretty much had to do a SECOND round of world-building, where I had to go through the story and identify every term and character that needed a name or a better name.

Now the second draft is ready, in which I will go through the story as I normally do, as a piece of prose, instead of inserting bits and pieces where appropriate.  The part I’ll need to work hard on is gluing those pieces together that I shifted around.

In the meantime, I get to try my hand at some new short stories.  I have one about a cyclops and one about an apple orchard dryad.  Good times.

Defender is Available to Read!

defender white mage

Happy day!  Callooh Callay!  You can now read Defender, my one claim to fame as a recipient of the “Writers of the Future” 2010 Honorable Mention award at Aurora Wolf for the low-low price of free.  

It even comes with this snazzy cover graphic that shows you what the characters look like.  Which is good, because I was wondering…