It’s been a long time coming

This post…

This post has been coming for a long time now. This post has been virtually in the works for 10 months. Over a thousand hours of my life spent working toward a goal. And just a few days ago, I reached that goal.

My book is done.

I have, for the first time in my life, completed a story I set out to finish. Through countless attempts, I have finally completed my first step, as a writer, toward my dream.

I am an Author.

All of that said, it’s time I take my next few steps. As I posted in a prior update, I’ve begun querying agents. However, as you all know, this is a long and painful process. Additionally, I posted an update about future plans and story ideas. I have made my choice and will begin outlining shortly. In the mean time, I’m recovering from fatigue and taking up a few short stories that I’ve had floating around for a while.

However, before I sign off and take my much needed break, I will drop the WIP name of my next book.

Epic of Q’tal

My name is Jason Penn and I am an author.

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7/14/2015 And so it beings

It certainly doesn’t feel like only 8 days have passed since my last post. This update will be short, but it’s a major one. As of today, I am querying agents. As of today, I’ve taken the next step in becoming a published author.

Now, I don’t assume it’ll work out immediately and everything will be sun shine and rainbows, but it is a big step. My book is finally in a state where only the eyes of an agent and editor can improve it. I can make tiny tweaks here and there for months, sure. However, I feel comfortable with what I’ve accomplished and waiting around trying to nail perfection won’t get me anywhere. It’s time to face the crucible and suffer rejection as all authors before me. Hopefully with it, I will grow.

5/18/2015 Update

Sadly, this update doesn’t come with much news of progress. I’ve found myself in a worrying lull as I reach the limit of my experience. Creativity doesn’t occur in a vacuum and I feel editing works the same. At this point, the previous Beta readers are all too busy with college finals or swamped with their own responsibilities. My own attempts at self editing, while fruitful, have limits.

So I reached out to a fellow author in the family who can give me some guidance. However she has her own projects and responsibilities, which means I will have to wait for the feedback I so very much need.

This brings me to why I’m making this update. I’m not here to mope over the stagnation, but to outline my plans for the interim. As I’ve been told so many times before, I must keep writing! I’m currently working on an outline for a short horror story I intend to submit it to a magazine. If it works out, good for me. If not, I will have gotten some needed practice in the first person perspective. I don’t have a literary degree. I went to college for programming. I’ve never been published before, thus no awards or history to include in my writer’s biography. So, while I wait to learn how I can do better, I intend to make the most of my down time.

My goal is to finish the first draft by the end of the week, but finishing entirely would be quite pleasing.

5/11/15 Update and Milestone!

The announcement is a little belated, but last Thursday (5/7/15) I finished the first round of edits of my story. I still have plenty more to do, but now I can finally say I have a completed first draft; though some chapters are as far as revision 5. Using standard spacing, Times New Roman, and size 12 font, it’s roughly 170 pages and 69,000 words. I’m amazed at how I used to worry about the book not being long enough, but that’s approximately right on genre target. Almost certainly, I’ll have to try and tighten things up to reduce the page and word count, though I’m not certain with my current level of skill I will accomplish much on my own. However I have a skilled Beta reader, a technical writer, and a connection with a published author who can hopefully give me her opinion and insight.

As I wait for feedback, my plans are mostly laid out. Now that I’ve returned to the beginning of the book with fresh eyes, I’m going to rework the first few pages into a proper opening. At the moment, even if it’s acceptable for my POV, it feels like an info dump. I’m going to highlight the essential setting details the reader must know and then figure out how to distribute the rest cleanly. My intent is to get the reader into the story within three paragraphs if possible. I’ll also look into different methods of entry, so likely I’ll be working on this section for the rest of the week if I’m unlucky. From there on, I’ll be going through my notes while tightening each chapter.

I’m excited and terrified by the impending querying process, but that isn’t any of my concern until I’ve made the book as polished as I possibly can. I much continue to work hard no matter how insurmountable the challenge may seem.

5/3/15 Update and Thoughts

So here I am at the beginning of April and only 3 chapters away from finishing my first round of edits. I will sometimes tell myself that I’m only so many chapters away from finishing the book. I say that knowing that what I really mean is that I will finish the first round of editing. I will have successfully created a Revision 1 version of my novel.

A few months ago, I managed to finish writing the first draft. To a seasoned author, this is just another step in the process of writing a book. However, this was the first time I has ever finished a book. Before, I would often write the first chapter and quit because something else more interesting inspired me to focus elsewhere. Or, even more common, was that I wouldn’t ever write anything at all. I’d come up with everything and play out the book in my head. Knowing everything that was going to happen, I lost interest. Why write a story you already know everything about? I’d gotten my fun out of it and that was that. Before my current project, the closest I’d come was four or five chapters into a story two years ago.

Around October of 2014, I began writing an urban fantasy story based on a writing exercise I was going to do with my girlfriend. The exercise never happened, but I was intrigued with the world I’d created enough that I decided to give it a shot. January came about and I’d finished writing half the book. Had to quit my dead end job because I hurt my back… But I had written more than I had ever done in my entire life. And for the first time in my life, I felt proud of the effort I’d put into something.

Then, about two months ago, I wrote the finale. The book ended. I finished the first draft of the first book I’d ever written. No book, no story, will ever hold such an accomplishment for me again. This I share with every author, great and small.

I don’t feel as if it will be smooth sailing from here on out. I don’t even feel like I’ve crest the mountain and that the rest of this marathon is downhill. No… I know that once I finish editing these last few chapters that I’ll just be looping back to the beginning of the story again to continue editing until I have something worthy of people’s attention; of their time.

As a novice, there is only so much I can accomplish on my own. I have Beta readers giving me their thoughts. They have helped me so much in seeing my shortcomings. I don’t have a professional editor, but their sharp eyes see what I cannot. I look forward to finishing my first rounds of edits, because it means I will be that much closer to the day I can start querying agents. I’m aware of that it’s a tough industry to get into, but until that first rejection letter arrives, I don’t think it’ll sink in. Self doubt destroys us and I have it. Yet I’m working through it. I’m not afraid anymore. You could say that I know nothing and it is ignorance that blinds me to the pain I will soon face. I will accept that. However I will still move forward. Happiness is at my fingertips and I intend to grasp it.

3/11/15 Update!

Hey, so admittedly, it’s been a while since my last update. I’ve mostly been active on Twitter with small status updates. From now on I’d like to be more active on my Tumblr and WordPress accounts, but only time will tell.

Firstly I have an announcement that’s a whole month over due. I have completed the first draft of my novel! It also dawned on me that I’ve spoken very little about what I am writing.

I haven’t written up a synopsis, heck, I haven’t even given the story a title. It’s literally just called “Urban Fantasy Story.” I know, I know, my clever naming prowess can be quite awe-inspiring. I don’t really want to give much away just yet, so I’ll keep things vague for now. Along with what my naming mechanics have already revealed, the story also falls into the Mystery genre. The story takes place in Seattle amidst its large and diverse population of magical practitioners. I’m tempted to just start gushing out details, but I’ve been told to restrain myself for now.

I’m currently in the editing/revision stage and as of writing this post; I am editing the 5th chapter. I believe that puts me about 25% of the way through. To be honest, I’ve been doing a terrible job of editing every day. I’m hoping that this post will spur me on to keep working hard.

In the mean time, I’m already dreaming up what I will write next. It’s a struggle to keep myself focused on the task at hand. I tell myself every day, “I must finish this book.”

Since this is my first novel, I honestly don’t have high expectations. That is, I have high expectations for myself, but not on how well it will be received. There are so many greats out there and I can’t help but compare my amateur attempt with the works of Neil Gaiman, Catherynne Valente, Jim Butcher, and Tanya Huff. However I am new to all of this and understand that I can’t attain perfection without a great deal of experience.

Which brings me to how excited I am over what I’ve learned; this entire endeavor has taught me so much. Nothing more so than about my own writing style. I’ve learned about my strengths and I’ve come to grips with my weaknesses. I intend to take everything I’ve learned and will learn and apply my new found knowledge to my next work. I hope to make every story I write better than the last. And most of all, I want every story I write to be worthy of the reader’s time and attention.

Wolf

Wolf is a short story derived from the classic Brothers Grimm tale, Red Riding Hood.  I primarily write in third person limited and have little experience with the first person perspective.  In my pursuit of becoming a better writer I decided to practice a different perspective and thus Wolf was written.  I am open to thoughts and advice.  Thank you for taking the time to read my short story.



Normally, I don’t come to this part of the forest. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid humans. However, this morning there’s been a smell in the air that has drawn me beyond my comfortable hunting grounds. Hiding among the foliage, I observed a small cottage. If memory served me well, it was the home of a human woman and child. I’ve only ever smelled them though; never did I dare come this close. I may not be a very big wolf, but I do take care not to be seen. I watched as the door opened and the child stepped out. I could faintly make out the child giving her farewell.

The child donned a cloak and carried a basket in both arms. I watched as she walked away from the cottage and down a path, blissfully unaware of my presence. There was a smell in the air. It was a scent that made my stomach growl. I stalked her for a time, making sure no other humans were around. She seemed to be humming a tune. It was pleasant enough, but was just noise in the end. After half an hour, she reached the depth of the forest — my domain. Finally on familiar ground, I approached.

I stepped out of the bushes and in front of her. She abruptly stopped and let out the slightest gasp. “Why hello, little girl.” Or at least, that’s what I thought I said. My human was a bit rusty. Her hood was drawn so far forward that it obscured her eyes and my view of her face. I was almost impressed she hadn’t gotten lost, such a small human as she was.

Her mouth, still open just a gap, slowly drew into a smile. “Why hello, Mr. Wolf.”

She maintained her composure well. I slowly circled her, but kept the conversation going. She had something that smelled so good. “What is such a scrumptious young thing like you doing so far from home?”

She held her expression and replied in kind, keeping me always in sight. “I’m on my way to grandmother’s house.”

I circled back around to her front, recalling a small cabin on the other side of the forest. I hadn’t been there in a while because of those damn humans cutting the trees down. “I believe I know of where you speak.”

The child spoke up merrily, “Oh? Are you a friend of grandmothers?”

Naivety is a sin in the wild. I grinned, showing my teeth. “You could say that, yes.” I sniffed and eyed the basket, “And what is that wonderful smell?”

The child let out a joyous giggle, “I’ve made a meat pie with mama!”

Ah, so that’s it. I drew closer, “It smells so good, I can hardly contain myself.”

The child looked from me to the basket and back. “Oh? Would you like some?” She reached under the basket’s cover.

With her action, I caught the fresh scent of the pie and yet found something unfamiliar. As much as I hungered for it, I’ve learned my lesson from eating unfamiliar smelling food. I’d also heard humans put all sorts of stuff, that can make me sick, in their food. “I… I will have to decline this time, but thank you little girl.”

She looked a little down as she closed the basket but perked up at the last moment, “I know! Why don’t you come with me to grandma’s house? She’s got to have something you’d like.”

I’ll be honest. I was contemplating just eating her. I mean, I’m not a bad wolf, it’s just my nature and the smell of the pie made me ever so hungry. However her proposal gave me an idea, reckless as it was. “Hmmm, I might take you up on that offer. Though, I have some business to take care of, perhaps I’ll meet you there?”

The child let out a squeak of excitement, “I’ll let grandmother know you’re coming!”

I moved out from in front of her to let her pass, “You do that. And make sure you stick to the path so you don’t get lost.”

She nodded her head energetically, her hood falling further over her face. “I’ll make sure! Thank you Mr. Wolf.”

I grinned, bearing my teeth once more, “No, thank you, little girl.”

I watched as she walked down the path until she was out of sight. The path through the forest was filled with twists and turns. It would take her another hour or two to reach her grandmother’s cabin. But I know this forest – it is my home – and I can make it there in a quarter of that time. I ran as swiftly as my legs could carry me. Down my hidden paths I strode for grandmother’s house. After a bit of traveling, I reached the quaint and unassuming log cabin. Far off in the distance, I could hear the humans chopping.

I approached with caution. I sniffed the air to make sure it was only myself and the human inside. I spotted the old human through the window. Moving quickly, I reached the door and kept low. Humans had a way of opening these, but I could not. Instead I tricked her into opening the door for me. I batted at the door three times.

From inside, I could hear the old woman call out, “Red? Is that you? You’re a little earlier than I’d expected. Let me get that door for yo-”

The old human opened the door expecting the child, but was met with my teeth. I made it quick; after all, I’m not a bad wolf. I’m also not very big either, so I couldn’t just eat her before the girl arrived. I drug her body into the bedroom and onto the bed. I ate what I could and tried my best to make the cabin as dark as I could by pulling the curtains closed.

A time passed and finally there was a knocking on the door. “Grandmother?” I’d pulled the bedding over me and the grandmother. I grunted, testing different sounds in an attempt to change my voice. The child opened the door and entered the cabin. “Grandmother, it’s-”

I tried my best to sound different, but wasn’t confident it would work, “Red? Yes..”

She stood for a moment in the threshold of the bedroom, “Grandmother? You sound so different. Have you taken ill?” She said as she walked in and over to the dresser, placing the basket down.

“What sharp ears you have.” I said faintly

The child giggled, “All the better to hear you with, grandmother.” The child took out a box of tinder and struck a match, then lit a candle on the dresser. The light illuminated her face obscured by the hood.

“What… What sharp eyes you have.” I stammered.

The child’s pupils were contracted into pin pricks, “All the better to see you with, grandmother.”

This wasn’t right. My instincts started running wild. Instead of waiting in ambush, I felt trapped. She reached into the basket and retrieved the pie and sniffed. “It smells of death in here, grandmother. Are you going to be alright?”

I drew back, but kept the covers over myself and the grandmother’s remains, “W-what a sharp nose you have.”

The child placed the pie down and grinned, “All the better to smell you with, grandmother.” She reached into the basket again, and slowly pulled a blood stained knife out from under the cover.

“W-what sharp teeth you have…” My voice trembled.

The child turned to face me; her face an expression of madness. “All the better to eat you with, grandmother.” I Jumped back out of the covers and exposed myself and the remains her grandmother beneath me. “Oh? Mr. Wolf.” Her grin widened, “I see you got here before me. Naughty, naughty, Mr. Wolf.”

My back was against the wall and I growled as threatening as I could. But my tail was between my legs. I wanted to run. I was scared. My senses were leaving me as my instincts took over. Fear made my mind go blank. She took a step forward and everything told me this was it.

Then came a knocking. We both froze as a woodsman opened the door. “Old woman? Is everything alright?” He spoke as he turned to face the room. Before him was the child facing a wolf which stood over the dead grandmother. He yelled as he pulled his axe off his belt, “Get back child!”

He pushed her away and approached me. Humans have a stupid expression for this, something about ‘out of a pan and into a fire’.  I couldn’t get away. Maybe with just the child I could have darted out of the room with only a scratch, but not with him… Wait. Why is he just standing there?

It was then that I noticed the child standing behind him. Slowly, she slid the knife out of the woodsman’s back. He turned, astonished and bewildered, as the child proceeded to slash at him repeatedly. Even after he’d fallen to the ground, she continued to stab his lifeless body. I couldn’t move. I should have run away while I had the chance. Yet I was entranced — mesmerized by her savage display. I remained still, watching as she stood over his lifeless body, covered in his blood.

Eventually she acknowledged me again and spoke with her sweet and sadistic smile, “Will you be coming with me, Mr. Wolf?” And with that, she walked out.

I was stunned. Eventually I came to my senses and trotted after her. I had never faced a creature quite like her before… a genuine, big, bad wolf.