Absent-Minded Ramblings

Win Free Copies of Dr. Fell!

Did you know you had not one, but TWO chances to win a free copy of my book, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom? It’s true!

Fandom Monthly Magazine  and YA Books Central are each hosting giveaways on their sites–literally giving my book away!

My advice to you is to take advantage of their foolishness before they realize what they’re doing. Hurry! They’re bound to find out eventually.

In other news, I’m trying to decide what to write next. Do I write something new or go back into one of my preexisting worlds? I sway back and forth in my mind, with a number of different projects vying for attention. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Something New

Pro: I love new things. Exploring a new universe. Meeting new characters. Creating new adventures.

Con: I’ve put a lot of work into the worlds of Dr. Fell, Beyond the Doors, and Book Three. Now I’m gonna go and do it all over again?

Pro: My imagination gets to run wild. What interests me today? A forest of rotting trees? Schools filled with slime? THE Dr. Edward Virgil Ignatius Lance?

Con: Each new book is one more book between a current title and its sequel. What if people lose interest in Dr. Fell or one of my other titles before I get around to a sequel?

Return to One of My Preexisting Worlds

Pro: A return to an old friend. I love my characters, I’m excited to play with them again.

Con: What if I write a sequel, then learn the publisher isn’t interested in a sequel? Is that time and work wasted?

Pro: Dr. Fell has more adventures in him. Book Three is specifically set up for sequels. Strike while the iron is hot!

Con: The danger of unconsciously writing the same book over again. It worked once, what if I end up creating the same thing and fooling myself into thinking it’s different?

Not the world’s biggest dilemma, I know. But it’s where my mind’s at.

Thought you’d want to know.

New Title for Book Two!

So a couple of months ago I announced the title of my second MG book (due out next August). It was… Doors!

Except now it’s not. The new-and-improved, pretty-much-official, title of the book is now:

Beyond the Doors

The adventure of the Rothbaum children begins August 1, 2017!

I’ve seen some of the preliminary art for the book and it is fantastic.When I’m given the OK, I’ll share some of it with everyone.

In other news, Awesome Agent just gave his thumbs-up to my next book, which is now moving on to the next step of the creative process–sending it to Excellent Editor and crossing our fingers. I’m very excited about Book Three–which, unlike Beyond the Doors, has a ready-made title attached to it that shall be revealed in due time. As it is early in the process, there is very little I can say about it.

But I will say it involves a young girl, horrific mayhem, random, localized wind events, and a giant eyeball.

That out of the way, I want to mention a few really great books I’ve been reading. First up is The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands.

Set in 1665 London, this fantastic mystery follows a young apothecary’s apprentice into a world of mystery, clues, codes, and danger. I highly, highly recommend it. I was actually very excited because I finished it and thought to myself,  “I wonder if there’s a sequel? I hope there’s a sequel. There must be a sequel!” So I looked. There’s a sequel. It was published three days ago, on September 6th.

Kismet!

Next up is a really fun story set in 1892 New England. Jackaby, by William Ritter.

A young woman, scandalously on her own, begins working for R.F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained. Ritter builds a great cast of characters and a fun world in which to settle in and enjoy. There are two others in the series, so I’ll be getting those soon.

The third book I finished recently is R.L. Lafevers’ Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos.

This one is set in 1906 London and follows young Theodosia, who has basically grown up in the museum where both of her parents work, specifically in the Ancient Egyptian wing. She can ‘see’ curses on all the artifacts her mother brings back from various digs and does what she can to dis-spell them along with her cat, Isis. Then, of course, she falls into a massive plot that could destroy the world and she, and she alone, can save us all. This was published in 2008, so there are a number of addition adventures of Theodosia which I shall need to explore.

Looking back at these three, all of which I enjoyed, I am struck by the fact that they are all historical fiction. I never would have thought that I was attracted to historical fiction, and I did not set out to find such, but I have really enjoyed entering these past worlds. Perhaps I’ll find a time period in which to write a book of my own someday. A few come to mind. I mean nasty things have happened all through history, right? Which should I confine the horror to our own modern day?

Dr. Fell Blog Tour Blog Post Round-up

According to WordPress, I didn’t blog all of August.

WordPress is wrong.

Last month was the Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom Blog Tour, and I wrote a number of posts which you will want to read. So I’ve decided to make things easy for you and list them below. Think of this as the ‘Greatest Hits’ blog post of the tour.

August 1- Site: My Brain on Books

In this first post, entitled “One Writer’s Journey or How a Comic Actor Got a Book Deal Writing Children’s Horror,” I chronicle the wacky turn of events that led to my book deal.

August 6 – Site: Books 4 Your Kids

This post, “A Picture is Worth 46,000 Words,” tells the story of how I came up with the idea for Dr. Fell based on a single illustration from children’s illustrator Trina Schart Hyman.

August 8 – Site: Middle Grade Ninja

The title of this post is “The Horrors of Writing Middle Grade Horror or Why Books Aimed at Children Can’t Be Awash in Blood.” It basically deals with the difficulty of writing scary stuff without sending a generation of children screaming into the hills.

August 11 – Site: Seraphina Reads

For this post, I discuss “The Creepy House at the End of the Street” and how it shaped my childhood. Meaning how it left me emotionally scarred for the majority of my life.

August 21 – Site: Word Spelunking

I do not think I have ever been asked to write something as truly off-the-wall as I was for this site. The result, “Dr. Fell and the Cupcakes of Doom,” re-imagines most of the major characters in the book as cupcakes. You read that right. Cupcakes.

August 23 – Site: The Book Wars

“My Inspirations” discusses a few of the literary inspirations for Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, specifically Roald Dahl and H.P. Lovecraft.

August 28 – Site: Carina’s Books

In “A Little Bit of Scary” I document how I, a writer of both adult and children’s horror, am really a big scaredy-cat. My terror of terror began at a young age, followed me through life, and haunts me to this day.

So there you go. Seven blog posts to whet your appetite for many more. Enjoy!

 

Dr. Fell Travels the Internet!

Starting Monday, August 1, I am going on a Blog Tour!

This is a virtual tour where each day, a different blog or website devoted to Middle Grade fiction features Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. Each stop on the tour features a review of the book, and many will also feature additional content, such as illustrations from the book, interviews, and even entire guest posts I’ve written on a variety of Dr. Fell and writing-related topics.

The tour will last nearly the entire month of August, running August 1 – August 28.

The entire schedule can be found here.

Check out the various stops, get an insight into Dr. Fell, my writing process, and even what the characters would be if they were cupcakes!

My Totally Awesome Voiceover Demo Reel

I do so much more than write!

I eat! And I sleep! Take showers every now and then!

And I talk. Now I’ve decided to have a go at earning money by talking. After all, it’s something I’ve been doing for years.

So I have recorded a professionally-produced voice-over commercial demo reel.

Listen, if you dare!

This is step one in my long, convoluted plot to conquer America. Soon, my voice will be heard in every commercial, every jingle, every public service announcement in the country!

I have started the process by recording the audiobook for my forthcoming novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. It has gone well.

So go on and give my reel a listen. Then send it to everyone you know in the film, advertising, TV, or production industries.

I’m pretty sure it’s that easy.

What Makes a Book Middle Grade?

In less than 3 months (August 9, to be exact), my debut novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (currently the number 3,603,655th best-selling book on Amazon.com!) will be published. It will be published as a Middle Grade novel, or MG as they say in the industry.

Next year, my follow up book, Doors, will be released. Also as an MG title.

So that makes me an MG author. Wooo!!!

Who are the MG readers? Well, supposedly, they are children ages 8-12 or grades 3-6 who are beyond simple chapter books but aren’t yet ready to read about how the world has come to an end because the sparkly vampire and the innocent teenage girl can’t find love during the zombie apocalypse.

Does that mean that if you’re not between the ages of 8-12 you can’t read an MG novel? No, of course not. Anyone can read them. The first few Harry Potter books are considered MG titles. But then he grows up and likes girls and the books turn into 900-page YA novels.

Over time, I have unearthed what I thought were some of the unwritten rules on what makes an MG novel.

  1. The main characters are generally between 10-12 years old.
  2. There is no love story. No girlfriends or boyfriends. Basically, no puberty.
  3. No swearing. That should be obvious.
  4. If there is any sort of violence it is not graphic or gratuitous in any way.
  5. Good guys should win, or at least not lose (bad guys can survive/get away to help set-up sequels).

There are other rules for the basic sub-genres, but these have long guided my steps into the MG world. But now I have a dilemma.

I have a book. It is a good book. It was my first novel and it got me my Awesome Agent. Awesome Agent loved it and sent it around and got positive feedback. But nobody bought it. We couldn’t exactly figure out why until one publisher clued us in, saying in essence:

“We don’t know if this is Middle Grade or YA and we’re not sure how we’d market it.”

I took a look back at my list of five rules, and yeah, the book does break two of them. Specifically, the main characters were more like 14 years old and there is a minor love interest, though nothing that is ever truly explored.

So OK, maybe the book is meant to be YA. Except, well, no. Here are, near as I can tell, some rules for YA novels.

  1. Characters should be in High School.
  2. There should be unrequited love stirring the heart strings and quite possibly results in inappropriate behavior.
  3. Bad things can happen to everyone, including having important characters die.
  4. You can swear a little bit. The minor stuff. Not the biggies.
  5. The book should be set in a dystopian future where animals have evolved to feed on human flesh.

Aside from the evolving animals (which I think is more of a guideline than a rule), my book sort of fits. Except I don’t really swear. And my book doesn’t have a teenage girl pining over either a vampire, werewolf, or zombie. So it’s not really, YA.

It’s in between.

Now realize that the entire MG category was created to give publishers somewhere to stash the books that landed in between Children’s and YA. So where do you put the books that squeeze in between YA and MG?

As it so happens, there is an excellent example of exactly this sort of book. The Percy Jackson series. He starts out in High School. There is no real love interest. There is no swearing. There is no graphic or gratuitous violence. To be honest, the entire Rick Riorden cannon is made up of Middle Grade books starring High School kids. Which shouldn’t be possible.

So where do you stick him? Because wherever you stick him, that’s where my beloved first book resides. See, I tried to re-write it for Middle Grade, but when the characters get that young, the events of the story just don’t make sense. It is not believable that a 10 year-old would have the adventure my main character enjoys. So if the characters need to be in high school, does that mean I need to adjust the book to make it YA? By adding a stronger love story? More violence? More angst? If I do that, the book loses a lot of what makes it fun in the first place.

You see my dilemma. If anyone out there has any ideas, I’m all ears.

 

 

Dr. Fell Art Preview!

In addition to the sweet cover drawing seen here-

drfellcovercredit

-the amazing artist Will Terry is supplying Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom with a number of full-page, black & white illustrations, one for every other chapter. Below is a sneak peek at the illustration for Chapter 1.

drfell-1 Chapter

In all, there are 14 or 15 illustrations (I forget the exact number), each one bringing a specific moment of the story to life. I love Mr. Terry’s work, and think he has done a fantastic job capturing the chilling joy of the story.

Seeing someone else interpret my work in this way has been an absolute thrill. When I saw the first pencil sketch of the Dr. Fell cover, I nearly cried. It was perfect. It was obvious at first glance that the artist had not only taken the time to read the book, but that he got it, that he understood it, and that he was ready to play in the same world. There are background elements on the cover that you don’t even notice but that are directly taken from the story. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Last week, I was shown an early pencil sketch of a cover design for Doors and had a similar reaction. Sort of like ‘Wow, this is real!’ Again, the artist (a different artist, and one whose identity I will disclose at a later date when I know I’m allowed) captured the feel of the story and brought a pivotal moment to life. I’m equally excited to see what the artist does with the remainder of the story (although truth be told, I have not specifically been told that Doors will feature internal illustrations the way Dr. Fell does. I’m only assuming because I’ve also not been told it won’t. Does that make any sense?).

I’m not an artist, at least not in the ‘I draw things that look good’ sort of way. My drawings are generally stick figures. And space ships, I always tend to draw space ships for some reason. But people? Living things? Forget it. I can’t even make a tree look good. My blades of grass leave a lot to be desired, as well. So when I see characters I created depicted on the page in two-dimensions (haven’t yet gotten anyone to make hologram of one) I am in awe.

Book 2 Has a Title! And a Release Date!

After months of sturm and drang, our long national nightmare is over–Book 2 has a title!

Prepare yourselves for the awesomeness that is…

Doors

Exciting, yes? I was iffy on using Doors as a title, but was then reminded of the past success of Holes and the more recent success of Room and so figured I was OK.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we actually spent a long time trying to find the title. I had taken to calling it Doors as sort of a shorthand and always figured I’d come up with something different later. But later came and I didn’t have anything. Anything I tried to add to it (like how we added “and the Playground of Doom” to Dr. Fell) came off sounding forced.

  • Doors and the Really Big Headache
  • Doors and the Kids Who Open Them
  • Doors and the Reason to Live
  • Doors and the Very Bouncy Castle

Nothing worked. I asked my readers, they came back with nothing. Except for one. Who came back with, “I kinda like ‘Doors’ for a title. Do you think that would work?” Excellent Editor passed the book around the department and asked for ideas. All she ever got back were suggestions to use ‘Doors’ for the title.

So there ya go. Doors. By David Neilsen.

AND I can now tell you when you will be able to find Doors in your neighborhood bookstore (they still have those, right?).

August 1, 2017

You thought the wait for August 9, 2016 and the launch of Dr. Fell was interminably long? Put that baby on your calendar. Amusingly, Doors was originally set to be released on August 8, 2017. One year after Dr. Fell. I guess they were thinking I’d come to rule that week each year.

“We can’t release your book that week! It’s David Neilsen’s week!”

But then I got an email from Excellent Editor.

“David. For various reasons, we’d like to change your release date. Instead of August 8, we’d like to release it on August 1. Is that OK?”

My first thought was, of course, to respond with:

“Oh, man. I can’t that week. So busy. Sorry.”

But decided not to push my luck. So 8/1/17 it is.

We’ve already hired an illustrator (a different illustrator from the one who worked on Dr. Fell), and she’s already given us a preliminary sketch of a cover design. Nothing I can share yet, but I’m getting all tingly.

Aren’t you?

Drowning in Red, Green, and Purple Ink

I have received Book 2 back from Copyediting! Wooo!

This means it’s time for me to re-read my work and see just how much I did wrong.

It is a humbling experience. Even when everyone likes the book (which they tell me they do), there are still a hundred or more errors sprinkled throughout. Getting the manuscript back from Copyediting is always a nervous experience (I say having had the experience all of two times). I have a relationship with Excellent Editor. We work together on ideas, I get suggestions and comments and critical thoughts from someone who is (or at least does a great job making think they are) invested in my book.

But Copyediting is something altogether different. It is a faceless, anonymous arm of The Man. A layer of evil every book must venture through before being reborn on the other side a creation of purity and goodness. Copyediting has RULES and GUIDELINES and stuff. There is no thought of massaging a writer’s ego, no care taken to remain gentle and nurturing. It is the harsh world, and their job is to toughen our skins.

Upon receiving the file from Copyediting, I downloaded and opened it and stared at the mass of red ink. And blue ink. And purple ink. And green ink. Everything is done through the Track Changes function, and everyone’s comments and edits are included. In an attempt to be helpful. everyone’s comments are different colors. And then there are all the colors slapped on that aren’t notes, but highlights for formatting. One color for italics, another color for bold, etc. It’s actually quite pretty if I ignore the fact that much of it is based on tearing apart my baby.

The truly soul-sucking notes are the ones I get over and over on a given manuscript. For Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (coming out August 9, 2016! Pre-order your copy today!) this note manifested with the word “toward.” I had written it as “towards” throughout the entire book. So they made a note to change it each and every time. If I had 200 edits in the entire book, easily 30 of them were that single error.

This time is the word “OK.” I have used that work as written for forty years. I’m pretty sure I used it in Dr. Fell. However, at this time Copyediting does not like OK. It wants me to spell it out. Okay. So every time a character says OK, there’s a note to change it. Every. Single. Time.

It is a learning process. I must slowly but surely learn proper grammar. Eventually it will be ingrained within me and come naturally, but until then, it will be corrected. Over and over and over and over.

It is a slow process, but in the end my brain will be washed and all will be well.

The Sequel of Doom!

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom officially launches in less than four months! August 9, to be exact!

drfellcovercredit

I am, of course, ridiculously excited for the launch of the book, but there really and truly isn’t very much for me to do with regards to Dr. Fell between now and then. Except wait. And wait. And wait some more.

There seems to be a lot of waiting in the literary world. Maybe that’s why everyone likes to drink nice, soothing tea all the time.

Anyway.

So while I wait for Dr. Fell to jump into stores and off of shelves (and computer screens, remember, you can pre-order at Amazon today!), I instead concentrate on Book 2!

Except that I’ve already turned in Book 2 (which is not a sequel, but is, instead, the second book in my 2-book deal) and right now I’m waiting (there’s that word again) to get it back from Copyediting. This can take a while, as they often need to replenish the ink in their red pens in order to better underline everything I’ve done wrong.

So I turned my attentions to Book 3 (which is not a sequel to either Dr. Fell or Book 2, but a separate story that is totally awesome and which Awesome Agent will have the task of selling eventually). And finished the first draft. And sent it off to my early readers. And am now… you guessed it… WAITING to hear back from them.

So that’s three books all in the pipeline of being written and/or published, none of which I can actually work on at this point in time. What’s a writer to do?

Write something else.

Now I love new and original ideas. All three of these books are completely different works. My fourth book (which was actually the first one I wrote) is also its own beast. So that’s four books, four worlds. It can get lonely.

So I decided to revisit. I decided to begin work on a sequel.

Of course, the most likely book in need of a sequel at this time is the first one, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. I say this simply because it is being published first, and I wanted to revisit Dr. Fell’s world.

It’s a lot of fun.

The thing about writing a sequel is… trying not to make it the same thing. It needs to take the story someplace else. Build on what has come before. Take the reader by surprise while still feeling familiar. A tall order. Made taller still by the fact that the first Dr. Fell wasn’t necessarily written to have sequels. Mind you, I do keep the door open at the end. But this isn’t part one of a three-part trilogy like Lord of the Rings. Neither is this like “The continuing adventures of…” whomever you want. It’s like… you know how Stephen King wrote Dr. Sleep, a sequel to The Shining? The Shining didn’t need a sequel. It was a complete story. But eventually, King wanted to revisit that world and so he wrote a sequel. And it works.

That’s what I need to create. Something that works.

I have LOTS of fun ideas, and am already crafting a lovely, demented little tale. It is just the matter of finding the right way to tease the legion of fans of the first book (oh yes, there will be legions) while also being open to those who, for whatever reason, have not read Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (they were probably in a coma).

Fingers crossed, but I think I’m on to something. I wanted to start familiar, let old readers think they know where this is going, but then slowly but surely pull the rug out from under them as the true story takes hold, shakes them up, and spits them out.

Yum!

If nothing else, it’s something to do while I wait for August 9…