Absent-Minded Ramblings

War Against the Wall-Eye Not Going Well

Comrades!

These are difficult times, indeed. Our major offensive against the Wall-Eye has failed, and our forces are in retreat. The brave men and women gave their all, but they were simply no match for the diabolical cunning of these cruel, merciless creatures.

The assault began when the 5th Regiment, made up mostly of out-of-work circus performers, rounded Bulbous Bluff. These 23 men, women, and monkeys hefted their pitchforks and rolled-up Yo-Yos and stepped past the big rock that looks like Gilbert Gottfried ready for anything.

But what they encountered was not anything. It was something. Something horrible. Hundreds of ravenous Wall-Eye launched a counter offensive, leaping into mouths hanging open in shock, and burrowing their way through our soldiers’ soft, fleshy bodies. The bluff was awash in blood before an organized retreat could be called for, and only seven of our men and women (none of the monkey’s made it) survived.

Not content to obliterate the Fighting Fifth, the Wall-Eye pressed their advance, forcing us to abandon Glassy Glade, Mellow Meadow, Oddly-Shaped Oasis, and about a third of Trenton, New Jersey. We apologize to the civilians abandoned in this time of chaos, and hope your new overlords butcher you all swiftly in the name of common decency.

All humans should know that this is but a single battle. Or rather, a bunch of battles all sort of connected. It is not the war. We will prevail in our struggle. If only because our opponents do not have opposable thumbs.

Remain vigilant!

walleye2

One of the foul demons an instant before it bit the head off of little Jimmy Skateboard–mullet and all.

Dr. Fell available for Pre-Order!

The happy, glorious day has arrived!

My debut novel from Crown Books for Young Readers, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Pre-order your copy today!

Obviously, this is very exciting, and I’ll have more information in the future. For now, feast your eyes on the awesome cover!

drfell

 

http://www.amazon.com/Fell-Playground-Doom-David-Neilsen/dp/0399568395

http://www.amazon.com/Fell-Playground-Doom-David-Neilsen/dp/0399568395

A First Draft is Born

Last night, somewhere between Yonkers and Spuyten Duyvil on the Hudson River Line, I finished my first draft of Book #2.

I had already finished a rough draft a couple of weeks ago, and had been going through the manuscript line by line, word by word, cutting, fixing, making things fit, attempting to establish some continuity in the story, etc. And now, viola! A First Draft!

The manuscript is out to my steadfast early readers who, I am sure, will come back with all sorts of things wrong with it. That is their job–to ruin my day. I do not blame them, nor do I spend a lot of time at my altar burning entrails and cursing their names to the Elder Gods who will one day rise to wreak vengeance upon them. Honestly.

Having completed the draft, I now feel…. antsy. To start another story. So last night, somewhere between Spuyten Duyvil and Yonkers (going the other direction), I opened a blank page and pounded out a concept that got me all tingly and excited. Not that I don’t love Book #2 (though I am still searching for the right title, obviously), but I need to set it aside for a moment and wait for the feedback to come in before I swiftly create Draft #2. At which point I will send Book #2 (in Draft #2 form) to Awesome Agent and Excellent Editor and hope they like it. But I need something to occupy my creative time as I sit and wait. And wait. And burn entrails.

***

A treat! For you! No, really!

Last night, I preformed in RadioTheatre’s production of Fright Night in New York City. As the company is named RadioTheatre, and the style of live theater is quite audio-heavy, these shows lend themselves quite well to audio recordings.

So here’s a link to the audio from one of last night’s stories, Edgar Allan Poe’s “Berenice.” The recording features me as the main character and fellow RadioTheatre performer Cory Boughton as ‘Carter.’

The story is a little over 15 minutes long. So sit back, relax, pull down the shades, and enjoy Berenice.

I’m Having a Book Baby!

On August 9, 2016, my debut novel “Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom” will be published by Crown Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House.

That date is exactly 9 months from… yesterday. So I’ve got 9 months to go. Which seemed like a fine reason to bring up some sort of pregnancy metaphor, particularly since–much like when I was 9 months from the birth of my actual children–my work is already done.

I’ve seen the ARC (Advance Reader Copies). I’ve edited the version of the manuscript that is actually in the ARC. I’ve signed off on the art (not like I had a whole lot to do with it, but they let me pretend, which was nice).

Now the countdown begins (actually, the countdown started back when they bought the book, which was at about 16 months from publication, but I couldn’t think of any good 16-month countdown metaphors). For me, this means a lot of pacing back and forth and asking my wife if it’s August 9 yet. Although there are other milestones to be hit.

1) It will, soon I’m told, be available for pre-order. How cool is that? Though why anyone would pre-order a debut novel (except for, like, my Mom) is beyond me, but ya never know. Actually, I doubt my Mom will pre-order my book, because she’s probably expecting me to just give her a copy. Moms are like that.

1a) Cover reveal. Once the book is available for pre-order, I am allowed to reveal the cover art and get you all excited. Both of you. I think this is probably more exiting for established authors who have… what are those things called… oh yeah. Fans.

2) Audio recording. This is big for me because as an actor, and particularly a voice actor, I’m kinda-sorta hoping they’ll hire me to read my book. This happens, I’m told, in the Spring. So I’ve some time to kill before I find out.

3) Reviews start coming in. I don’t know when this happens, exactly. The ARCs are already out to some folks, and copies will go out to more at some point. And then we have to hope the people bother to read the book and review it, as many won’t. Still, that will be a big step.

There’s more. And it’s all so exciting. But I don’t want to give everything away in a single post. So come back soon and often to see what else goes into publishing a novel.

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom – Coming August 9, 2016!

Wherein I Sound Like Evil Incarnate

Tomorrow night, I will go insane.

Utterly, stark-raving, mad.

It’s gonna be awesome.

Tomorrow night–Tuesday, November 10 at 8:00 pm to be precise–I will preform in RadioTheatre’s production of Fright Night, a series of three marvelously-creepy stories told radio theater style in front of a live audience. The show is at The Sanctuary at St. John’s, located at 81 Christopher Street in Manhattan. And that’s the end of the shameless promo. Follow one of the links (they’re all the same) for tickets and information.

The show consists of three stories, and I’m in two of them. In case you’re interested, I witness someone else go mad in the first piece, then go mad in the second. Because I’m nothing if not a follower. But what is, perhaps, the coolest thing for me is that I’m also providing the voice of the host of the show, welcoming the audience to the evening and introducing each of the three stories. For the story intros, I use my deep ‘I’m so ridiculously evil’ voice. But for the intro to the entire evening, they throw some sweet-sounding effects on my voice as I speak and I pretty much sound like your worst nightmare come forth from the depths of the abyss to devour your soul.

Wicked! (Note, though I am not, myself, from Boston, I married into a Boston family and am therefore legally entitled to say ‘Wicked!’ from time to time)

The first time I heard my voice pumped through this nifty space mod-u-la-tor (earlier today at dress rehearsal), I jumped because I thought maybe God was making fun of me by repeating what I said a half-second later in his deep, booming voice. (Because I’m pretty sure God has a deep, booming voice. Though for all I know He or She speaks in an embarrassing, high-pitched squeak.)

Once it was explained that no, this was actually my voice, except it wasn’t, I was more comfortable. But the whole bit where I would speak and then hear myself half-a-second later kinda through me. The opening intro is matched with a lovely, 20-second or so bit of Maddening Music. The first time through with the Evil Echo it was so distracting to me that I was only half-way done when I ran out of Maddening Music. The only way for me to speed up is to somehow shut my own tremendously evil-sounding echo out of my mind, which is harder than it sounds.

And actually, it doesn’t sound all that easy.

When it all comes together, complete with spooky lights, nasty, creepy sound effects and music, and everyone going full-performing mode, it’s super sweet.

See ya there!

(the image is a link, too)

How Long Should It Be?

I’m overly-anxious about my length.

Having finished the rougher-than-rough first draft of Untitled Novel, I am now in the process of editing it into an actual first draft. My ‘so rough it’s an insult to rough drafts’ draft clocked in at a hair over 70,000 words. To anyone who is not a writer, that means nothing. To me, not that long ago, it meant nothing. Who cares about words? Books are measured in pages, aren’t they?

No, they’re not.

See, the size and style of your font effects a page count as much as anything else. Same with margins and spacing and all sorts of seemingly-unimportant things. I can tell you that my initial ‘you’re not actually calling this a finished draft, are you?’ draft ran 221 pages. But that tells you nothing about how long it is. I could be using size-48 font. I could be double spacing the manuscript. My margins could be three inches on either side. So we writers live by the word count.

How long is 70,000 words? Well, the only comparison I can do is with the Percy Jackson novels. Someone once showed me this fantastic site that listed the page counts of gazillions of books, but I lost the URL and can’t find it. And I only remember looking up the Percy Jackson novels. (If you know the site I’m talking about, please leave the URL in a comment!)

The first Percy Jackson novel (The Lightning Thief) was about 87,000 words. His second series, starting with The Lost Hero, are all around 140,000 words or more. Most publishers will not publish a middle grade or YA novel above 100,000 words, unless you are Rick Riordan (the author of the Percy Jackson series) or J.K. Rowling.

My book, Doctor Fell and the Playground of Doom (coming to a bookstore near you in August, 2016!) clocks in at around 45,000 words. Excellent Editor has requested I bring this current book in at no more than 55,000 words. As I noted earlier, the ‘rougher than sandpaper’ draft started life at just over 70,000.

So I’ve a ways to go.

The first step, which I’m doing now, is to just go through and nip and tuck, like I’m a plastic surgeon constructing the perfect whatever you want your plastic surgeon to construct. Right now, the book’s dropped 2,000 words and I’ve more than half of it to go. But what do I do if I complete this edit and find the book glaring at me with an overweight 65,000 words? I can’t just say the book is big boned and leave it at that. It needs to go on a crash diet.

That’s when you start negotiating with yourself.

“Alright, I’ll lose this cute little bit here but I get to keep the funny thing in the next chapter. Deal?”

Excellent Editor tells me not to worry. If it’s long, let it be long. But, do try to cut it down to 55,000. Or less. Less is good. It is aimed (I hope) at kids ages 8-12. How many words will they endure before they get bored and refuse to even give the book a try? That’s the delicate balance I’m striving for.

God help me.

My First Big-Time Marketing Lunch

On Friday, I had a meeting I’d been looking forward to for weeks–my first totally-professional, big-time, check-me-out marketing lunch with Awesome Agent and Excellent Editor. But in truth, I’ve been looking forward to it all my life.

I’ve probably imagined having The Lunch with The People in The Business hundreds of times. The details change, but the gist is always the same. I walk in, am quickly ushered to the best table by fawning waiters who are throwing rose petals in my path, and sit down to a gold-plated table topped with fine china and crystal goblets–one of which I’m asked to quickly toss to the ground and shatter in order to honor the wait staff. Rather than menus, a series of small boys take turns reciting item by item the food I am to be offered. I indicate anything I dislike by cracking an egg over the head of the small boy who offered it to me.

The People with whom I am dining all grovel for my attention, sometimes devolving into mini-sword fights with the utensils for the right to speak to me. Anyone inadvertently killed via fork or spoon is dragged away, so that I am not inconvenienced by the sight of blood. The food arrives on the backs of Tibetan Sherpas, and we get down to business–The People reveal their marketing plan for my book. It involves a world-wide tour incorporating paparazzi, lavish meals, and a guest spot on Game of Thrones. I approve their ideas and head home, satisfied that I have finally been taken seriously as an author.

Turns out, I got a few details wrong.

I met up with Awesome Agent and Excellent Editor at a nice restaurant, we ordered food from printed menus rather than the vocal stylings of small boys, and I got the basic low-down of what the publisher handles (contacting reviewers, media, booksellers, and so on) and what the author handles (everything else). So I have a to-do list.

  • Build a new website
  • Start using Twitter
  • Post on Facebook more often
  • Develop a School Visit plan
  • Make connections with anyone and everyone you can
  • Be ready to cold-call hundreds of libraries and schools and book stores
  • Do whatever it takes to have, like, 100,000 followers before the book is published in August

So I’ve got some work to do. But having that first meeting was really cool.

And I’m on Twitter! Follow me! @MrDavidNeilsen

I promise to Tweet.

Writing is Re-writing

With the rough draft of Untitled Second Middle-Grade Novel complete, I now turn my attention to the monumental task of editing.

The thing with this particular book is that it has been a far more difficult project than the first book. Because it far more complicated. Because I’m a glutton for punishment. And besides, I’m already losing my hair, so my tearing it out in frustration won’t do much more than speed me along the path I’m already on.

Somebody smart somewhere once said writing is re-writing. And if they didn’t, then I’m saying it and want full credit. My completed rough draft began life at just over 70,000 words, with multiple narrators and shifting motives and things I’d added at the end that I hadn’t thought to set up in the beginning and character arcs that switched gears somewhere in the midst of Act 2.

So there’s some work to be done.

On top of all that is the need to go and make it ‘more goofy’ since this is for Middle Grade (generally ages 8-12) and some of what goes on in the story is a little dark. But when things are goofy, you can be a dark as you like!

I also need to add that ‘David Neilsen’ flair that I’m told I’m going to have to have if I want to build a brand.

So there’s a lot to add. And then I have to also cut around 15,000 words. So… add stuff, but cut words.

I’ll be bald in no time.

***

The war against the walleye continues, and I’m sorry to say that casualties are growing in both number and ferocity. Just last week, Igor Schmidington was lost to us when a pack of aquatic evil devoured him until there was nothing left but his artificial leg. You will be missed, Igor.

NEVER SURRENDER!

(the scourge of the seas)

Rough Draft Complete!

Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!

I have just now, like 30 seconds ago, finished the completed rough (so very, very rough) draft of my second book. Well, third book written, second to be published. Unless someone swoops in and wants to publish my first book before this third book is put out as my second.

Everyone with me still?

Now comes the fun part- cutting. I write Middle Grade horror/suspense. My first book (second to be written, but first to be published when it comes out in August) was just over 44,000 words long. I was asked to bring this one in at right around the same length. Early on, I asked if I could stretch that. So they hesitantly said 50,000 words. About a week ago, I notified my agent that it was going to come in under 70,000. He said something along the lines of “It sure as heck better!”

Final word count? 70,684.

So I’m close. That said, this is the roughest of rough drafts. I will go through it and I will nip and tuck and there will be some cruel and unusual punishments taken out on frivolent words. Then I have to get it out to my readers, and then get it back and make more edits, then get it to my agent, then get it back and make more edits, and then finally get it to the publisher. All by December 1.

Piece of cake. Just ignore any loud, booming sounds heard coming from my home for the month of November. They are more likely than not simply me pounding my head against the wall.

On the Writing Road Again

Not that I’m travelling, just can’t get the song out of my head.

I’m burning the candles to get through my second book (well, third, but second that will be published). This has been harder than any of the others, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m finally in the third act.

Finishing the second act felt great, but then the third act punched me in the face and I was on the ground in tears (manly tears!). But today I am all smiles. Yesterday, I sat down with my third act and outlined the living $#%& out of it. Chapter by chapter. No more mister nice guy. It was some serious tough love, but when the day was over, I stood standing over a fully-outlined third act that didn’t suck.

Today I took that outline for a test drive, writing the first of eight final chapters. Imagine my surprise when I completed the chapter exactly where I had hoped, and it was neither way too short nor a billion pages long. It was just fight. The Goldilocks of chapters. And now I feel the juices flowing. Departed on the next chapter, and it felt good, too. Real good. Like ‘dang! I’m a writer!’ good.

So consider this an official countdown. Seven chapters to go until the first rough draft is complete.

Then the rewrites begin…