This is from the Weekly Writer’s Prompt from Writer’s Digest: Hiring A New Villain, originally posted April 27, 2017. 500 words.
I crossed my left leg over my right as the monstrosity settled down into the chair on the other side of my dark wood desk.
“So, Mardock,” I began.
He immediately corrected me, his voice booming from behind the scarred metal helm that covered most of his face. “MOR-dock. Not MAR-dock. Mordock the Blood Drinker.”
As Mordock spoke, the sense of something just behind the veil of reality chattering and barking filled the room.
“Right,” I said, making note of it on my yellow writing pad.
I met Mordock’s hellish gaze. His eyes were red hot coals burning within his helmet. As Mordock shifted in seat the veins in his tree trunk of a neck and boulder-sized shoulders rippled – almost as if the tentacles of some creature resided under his skin rather than veins.
“So, Mordock, tell me a bit about yourself, and what would make you the best candidate for the villain of my next novel.”
“I began life as a slave in one of the tribes on the plains of Hruntnor,” Mordock began, his voice almost a shout. “My mother was a concubine of the tribe’s chief, and though I was his son he treated me lower than the livestock. As a young man I was thrown into the fighting pits, and quickly earned a reputation as a brutal killer.”
I scribbled notes as he spoke.
“It was the night of the blood moon that I discovered my destiny,” he continued. “I and fourteen other slaves fell into a sinkhole. I was the only one to survive. Within was a cave, and there the dark gods offered me power, taking the deaths of the thirteen other slaves as a satisfactory offering.”
Though I couldn’t see Mordock’s smile, I could hear it in his voice and see it in the flare of his fiery eyes.
“I climbed from that cave and killed my father, taking control of the tribe. I subjugated the surrounding tribes, leaving offerings of death to my fell patrons in my wake.”
I nodded approvingly. I liked what I heard.
There was just one more question I had.
“This all sounds excellent,” I said. “But can you do sneaky and underhanded?”
Mordock stopped and froze in place, his blazing eyes cooled for a moment.
“Uh. . .I, uh. . .I can kill.”
“Right, I gathered that. But can you craft and hatch maniacal plans?”
“Well. . .” I could see his red eyes narrowed in a frown. “I can. . .I can launch campaigns. . .and slaughter thousands. . .did I mention I can kill?”
“Yes, you did mention that.”
“Good, good,” he said, helmeted head bobbing. “Yes, I can definitely kill.”
“Well, thank you, Mordock,” I said, standing up. “I will be in contact.”
Mordock shook my hand, and I could tell he was a little dejected. He opened the door to my office, and I could see the long line of villain applicants had increased since the beginning of Mordock’s interview.
“Next!” I yelled.
So I’m back into the actual writing schtick. My book previously published under the title “Der Sternvolker” (which, by the way, is terribly improper German grammar; Es tut mir leid) went through a major edit last year, and is going through another one as we speak.
My experience with the two different editors I’ve used has been like night and day. One barely communicated at all, the other communicates a lot. One had a very definitive vision of where they wanted to go, the other looks to me for more guidance.
I’m sure other new writers are going, or will go through similar experiences. Here I will describe my experiences, and welcome input from other just starting authors who working with their first or second editor.
Part One covers my first editor. NOTE: This isn’t a positive or negative, and I attempt to simply relate things as they occurred. I do, however, write several lessons learned at the end.
I won’t use names in this article. So the first editor I used shall be dubbed: Editor One.
Editor One was an experienced editor with quite a few titles under her belt, as well as a few titles she wrote herself. I was excited to work with her as she seemed to generally understand the more sci-fi sort of things I was trying to get through, such as Cowboy Bebop and Firefly references. I was in geek heaven. She also had a firm grasp of the Turkey City Lexicon which has become the standard in a lot of writing circles, specifically in sci-fi/fantasy writing.
When I solicited her editing services she sent me a sample edit of the first few pages of my manuscript, and upon receipt of her edits confirmed I wanted her to edit my work.
It was the price tag that hit me: $2,400.
I had just received my tax return back, and instead of paying off some more debt, I decided to take the leap and pay her for her services.
And so the editing began.
I heard nothing for about four weeks.
And then, one day, my edited manuscript appeared in my inbox! I was ecstatic.
I went through the manuscript to see what she had done. It was diced, chopped, sliced, and beaten. And it needed to be. There was so much in my old manuscript that needed work, and that was just downright bad.
But, most of her notes were comments or recommendations. No hard “change this” or “move this here and it will really pop” or “delete this garbage and rewrite it.”
Included in her fee was a 1 hour consultation on her edits. I sought further information on many of her comments, and where things should go and how I should rewrite certain parts. She didn’t offer much. One of the recommendations I remember after asking if I should write a certain part a certain way was, “Really that’s up to you.”
At the end of our conversation I made the comment that I had a lot of deleting and rewriting to do, and she responded with, “And that’s one of the great parts of writing. You get your edits, and then you get to rewrite, sometimes the entire book!”
And that was that. My hour was up and I had exhausted my services with her.
I delved into the task of rewriting my manuscript – again. And then I re-rewrote it, and eventually stumbled upon my current editor…
First and foremost I felt some confusion with the process, especially at the end. My thought was that, while the editor can’t tell me exactly what to write, shouldn’t they at least be able to help with how to write it?
And that is where clearer communication would come in. I should have asked more questions about exactly what more of her editing looked like, maybe have check-ins throughout the process to get a feel for what she was saying and recommending, and get clarity on the details of the 1-hour consultation at the end. Maybe ask how such conversations went over with her other clients, what they covered, and what she absolutely would not/could not do.
I did look into other editors before I chose the one that edited my MS. Pricing for the length of my book (110k words) was about the same, give or take $50. With my contracts/procurement background I definitely got a wide selection of pricing and compare their editing styles and what they offered in their services (ie. post-edit consultation). Ultimately she was the best bang for my buck.
Perhaps I should have looked harder for editors, maybe there were veteran editors out there who could have offered better pricing for the same/similar services. And I would recommend to any readers to absolutely do so. Solicit examples and pricing from at least seven (7) different editors, and I recommend going all the way up to ten (10). Understand their editing style, personality, what they will do, and what they won’t do in the editing process.
Make sure everything is clear, and preferably in writing so there are no questions, disagreements, or misunderstandings down the road.
To Be Continued
I am currently working with my latest editor. Part 2 will be posted upon completion of her editing services, upon which time I will write about the experience, and lessons learned.
I hope this is helpful for new writers like me. If you’re a new writer, or even a veteran writer, tell me about some of your experiences – good, bad, and indifferent, and the lessons you learned. Are there any editors you would recommend to others?
Until next time. . .
I don’t normally wax political on my blog. I attempt to keep my political views out of my love of all that is geeky. This has been made more difficult of late with the current U.S. election cycle.
That said, I do enjoy reading history, both long past and more current. I hop from ancient history circa 500 BCE, to the history of Prussia beginning in 1500 CE, up to present times, and everything in between at a whim. Ancient Roman, and Viking history interest me most.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Within I purchased a copy of George W. Bush’s book Decision Points, and began reading in ernest.
Erenest is a relative term when you have children. It took me the better part of 2-1/2 months to read.
George W. Bush is without a doubt one of the more controversial Presidents of our time. He has been criticized for everything from No Child Left Behind, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was far from perfect, as all human beings are. But, he is a man and leader I greatly respect, with all of his faults. I miss a president, like him, who not only preaches love of America, but lives it.
Decision Points itself is organized by topic, not chronology. Bush chose a series of major decisions in his life, and in his time as President, to discuss. From his decision to finally kick alcohol, to his decision to run for President of the United States of America. It is a deep insight into how he thought at the time, and why he acted as he did.
Once thing that stands out most in the book is his willingness to give credit where it’s due. He generally does not halt at party lines. Whether Democrat or Republican, Bush equally honors those that he worked with and helped him to make, what he sees, as a legislation and decisions that made for a better country, or that kept the country safer. At times he does talk about his work with the Republican Party and strategy meetings for elections. But more often than not he discusses striving to work with both sides of the aisle in congress to pass pass legislation, and to help Americans and others around the world.
He also does two things I see very few leaders these days do. First, he downplays the things he actually did himself. He gives short mention to his slipping past the media and visiting the troops in Iraq for Thanksgiving, or the fact that he cobbled together support from both parties for controversial legislation. Second, he openly admits his failures. I think this second one is more telling of the kind of person and leader George W. Bush is. Few of us, myself included, like to talk about and admit our glaring failures. I’m sure it was difficult for Bush to do the same. But he did in Decision Points. He admits them openly and without reserve. Where he failed spectacularly the reader gets the feeling that Bush is as hard on himself as the media and congress was.
Like I said, George W. Bush was far from perfect. There are things I disagreed with him on during his time in office. But he was also my Commander in Chief for the first part of my military career, and he loves the United States of America. He did good by the troops for the most part, and he backed his men and women 100%. He worked to make what he thought was a better, freer America. Though he was heavily criticized by all sides, he made the hard decisions and drove on to ensure America was more secure.
While reading I did poke holes in some of his reasoning. While he justifies the invasion of Iraq, he completely ignores the genocide of the South Sudanese at the same time. Though he defends bailing out banks and the auto industry, he says himself that companies should be able to fail as the free market and their own decisions see fit – instead Bush pushed to spend billions of dollars propping up failing companies instead of allowing true free market capitalism to reign and, while ripping that band aid off would have hurt, America would have been in a better position, in my opinion.
But he was POTUS at the time, and he was the one who had to make the decisions with the Congress he had to work with. I can arm-chair-politician all I want, President Bush was the “man in the arena.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Decision Points, and it will definitely be a book I reread in the future. I highly recommend this book to any who wish to have further understanding of the Bush presidency and that era of recent history.
Until next time!…
This week Mr. Chuck Wendig over at TERRIBLEMINDS challenged his readers to write a horror story IN THREE SENTENCES.
Sounded fun, so I provided my sacrificial offering, seen here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/10/12/flash-fiction-challenge-scary-story-in-three-sentences/comment-page-1/#comment-232508
Go and read the other entries, many are quite good. 🙂 Mine is under “Christopher Meyer”.
But I will also post it here:
John collapsed as the hand crushed his neck, the nails cutting deep into the skin, crimson droplets of blood trickling donward. He tried to scream, tried to call for help, but all the energy left his body at that moment as his soul was torn from his mortal form.
Releasing John’s empty corpse, the red-haired man that had attacked John smiled, relishing the rush of energy, a fresh freckle burned onto his pale face.
I promise I WILL have a Dragon*Con post up tonight. I don’t have access to my pictures at work (and I was totally slacking this weekend).
With PRIMO VICTORIA out, I have been jonesing to finish up the next book in what I’m (tentatively) calling the post-Earth series. This will consist of the following major novels: Der Sternvolker (soon to be retitled as The Star Folk), The Technocrat, The Elysian, and The Martin.
THE TECHNOCRAT has been in the works for some time now. Ultimately I write a few pages, even a few chapters, but hate the way it looks, sounds, and feels. It doesn’t convey the characters, story, or message I am filling the story with.
Recently I read Know No Fear by Dan Abnett, a Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy novel (and wrote a review on it HERE). My eyes were opened to a different way to write. Know No Fear is written present tense, as if everything is happening as the reader reads the book. Know No Fear was so well written, and conveyed the feelings and ideas of over half a dozen different characters so well that I thought I’d try writing it this way (given, part of that is Dan Abnett’s amazing writing ability).
So, to tantalize you (and distract you from the fact I haven’t posted anything on Dragon*Con), I give you a brief excerpt from the rough-rough draft of THE TECHNOCRAT.
The Democratic Republic of Haven Butte
31 January 2306
It’s “day time” in Haven Butte. Though Saturn’s moon, Titan, is on the dark side of its parent planet, every clock in the city reads daylight hours. Lights all around Haven Butte swat the darkness away in an attempt to regulate the population’s sleeping patterns and create the illusion of an Earth-like day.
Haven Butte is home to roughly twenty-thousand people. It’s large for a city-state on Titan—the fifth largest on Titan to be exact. For over a century the La Rochenoire family had ruled the twenty thousand citizens of Haven Butte. Though they were little more than thugs, the La Rochenoire family did help the former Central European Pact colony expand. Titan’s thick, ancient ice was cut back, and there was a reinvigorated movement to continue terraforming. New structures were built where there was solid ground. Massive plates were built to extend the city over Titan’s oceans where the ice was slowly receding.
Though the La Rochenoire family were bullies at the best of times, the people of Haven Butte tended to look the other way in favor of the slow advancement they were making. The standard of living had risen. The city wasn’t as cramped. With increased area to live came increased area to create businesses and, as long as no one messed with their power, the La Rochenoire family allowed those businesses to flourish. Everything seemed as if it was getting better.
Then the revolution happened. For a decade a growing resistance had smuggled weapons and equipment into Haven Butte. In December of 2305 they launched their coup, killing King Harold La Rochenoire and his family and many of the bureaucrats and soldiery loyal to him.
Now the Revolutionary Council rules the Democratic Republic of Haven Butte—every last one of them hardline communists. Curfews are in place. Private companies and interests are now nationalized.
This nationalization includes two mines owned by House d’Helion of the Olympus Mons Technocracy.
Judd Wooller, president of the d’Helion mining operations on Titan, sits in a jail cell with his small staff. There are eight of them in the cell. The rest of the labor force had been Haven Butte locals. Many of the locals had left to fight for the revolutionaries, only to return to imprison their former bosses and take over the mining operations. Now Judd tries to keep his people alive. He shivers and pulls a thread-bare blanket tighter around himself as if he can squeeze another ounce of warmth out of it. He tried to send a message to Olympus Mons before the rebel soldiers came for him. He still has no clue if it reached its destination.
One of Judd’s staff, a woman by the name of Ayana, stirs in her sleep. Her ebony skin is cut and bruised, and she whimpers as she slumbers. The revolutionaries are especially rough with her. There aren’t many people of color in Haven Butte, and none as dark as Ayana. Ayana is a novelty to male and female urges alike.
These bastards will pay, Judd promises himself.
Judd is a former soldier. He served eight years in the d’Helion House Guards. While Judd’s staff sleeps he is awake and on the lookout for the possibility of escape.
Suddenly there’s a screech of hinges as the door to the small jail opens. Two revolutionary soldiers trudge inside, each encumbered by ragged, mismatched extreme cold weather gear. They speak to one another in a strange dialect, a mixture of Western and Central European languages from dead Earth. One of the soldiers closes the door, and they both remove their hoods. It’s a man and a woman, both at least half Judd’s age. Children playing at war.
The two soldiers stride up to the jail cell and peer in. Judd stares back, a look of defiance on his face.
“Olympians,” the woman says, pointing at Judd. “Stupid.”
The man and woman laugh. The man steps forward and punches a code into the cell door. The woman hefts her assault rifle to cover her comrade. As the door opens Judd’s personnel awake, bleary eyed and confused. Some of them hope that the past few months were just one long nightmare. As their vision clears they realize this is very real.
The man points at Ayana. “You. Come.”
Ayana cringes back and shakes her head.
The woman soldier barks something in her harsh tongue. The man sneers and lunges at Ayana. Ayana screams and tries to scrabble further back into the cell.
There is a noise outside. The female soldier lowers her rifle just a hair and looks towards the door.
It’s the opening Judd has been waiting for.
Judd pounces on the male soldier and tackles him to the ground. Realizing what’s happening, the other members of Judd’s staff join in bludgeoning the soldier with their fists and feet.
The woman is screaming now. Two of Judd’s staff members dart through the cell door and lunge at the female soldier. She gets one shot off, winging the first man through the door: Karl, Judd’s chief financial officer. Karl drops with a yelp of pain. The second man, Bradley, Judd’s purchasing agent, slams into the female soldier and knocks her to the ground. Bradley pins her with his greater mass and stronger muscles, and wrests the rifle from her hands.
“You not escape,” the woman says. “More coming.”
It’s silent in the jail except for Karl’s moans of pain.
Now Judd can hear the sound the female soldier heard. A low moan cuts through the air. It starts silent and distant, then grows in volume.
Warning sirens. They are blaring all over Haven Butte. There are exclamations of surprise and fear, and yells of urgency. The heavy tromp of dozens of boots pass the jail.
“What is it?” Ayana asks.
Judd picks himself up off the male soldier and walks out of the cell and out the door of the prison. The arctic cold of Titan cuts past the layers of clothes he wears, through his skin, and down to his bones. His breath catches in his throat from the frozen air. All around Judd the city is in a state of panic. People dart down the street in an attempt to flee. Fear fills their eyes. Soldiers rush the other way, oblivious to Judd or the jail.
Some of the people in the street look up in horror and point at the sky. They babble in their bastardized language. Judd can’t understand. He turns and looks up.
“Dear God,” Judd says.
The sky is falling.
The first troops on the ground were thirty pathfinders in Ranger-pattern power armor. They had set beacons for the rest of the force, and scouted the edges of Haven Butte. Now, four hours later, the assault force arrives.
Hundreds of drop pods erupt inside Titan’s thin atmosphere to expel their deadly cargo. Infantry clad in two ton Titan-pattern power armor cut their chutes several meters above Titan’s icy surface and hit the ground running. The mechanical joints and artificial musculature of the power armor propels the troopers forward at over twenty-five kilometers per hour.
Defending infantry begin to open up at the oncoming armored soldiers. Bullets whiz through the air. Some strike home into metal alloy chests and limbs with no effect.
The attackers respond with man-pack lasers. The angry, ruby beams screech from the barrel arm guns of the Titan suits and punch into the defenders’ lines. A laser strikes a man and his upper torso ceases to exist. Another laser cuts into a light vehicle, touching off an ammunition magazine. The vehicle explodes, sending fire and shrapnel in all directions. Soldiers surrounding the vehicle are thrown like rag dolls. The Titan troopers fire volleys of missiles from the back-mounted missile racks. The warheads slam into checkpoints and barricades.
Titan and Ranger power armor troopers smash into the defenders. The revolutionaries of Haven Butte put up a brave fight. They die miserable deaths. Haven Butte soldiers are gutted, torn limb from limb, and are crushed. This isn’t a battle. This is slaughter. None of the defenders are left alive.
Finally the Haven Butte forces deploy a few medium tanks. These are relics of a bygone era, barely kept in running condition for over two centuries. Their armor is more welded on scrap metal and paint than anything else. But these tanks have working guns. One tank rakes the attackers with heavy machine gun fire as it rolls down the street and checks their advance. Another tank fires a round from its large bore cannon. It doesn’t hit—a testament to how often the crews have had actual practice—but it forces the attackers to pause for a brief moment.
Suddenly there’s a screech and a roar as if the world is about to end. Planet shattering explosions follow. New craters form just outside of the city as ice and rock is hurled into the air.
There are three of them. Each one is larger than most buildings in Haven Butte. Each one looks like a creature from hell.
They trudge forward through the haze.
They are Colossi, the epitome of land warfare technology in the solar system. Two are twins—Krakens, each weighing ninety tons and armed with a rail gun and a laser in each arm, dozens of missiles in either side of their barrel torsos, and an anti-missile system on top.
The two Krakens unleash a barrage of nickel ferrous rounds and lasers at the defenders and the surrounding buildings. Skin, meat, and bone disintegrate. Buildings explode and then collapse. One of Haven Butte’s precious tanks erupts in a cascading ball of flame. Another tank has a hole punched in it from a rail gun round and crawls to a halt, smoke billowing from its innards. The crew doesn’t get out.
Leading the Colossus advance is an Oracle. It’s lighter than the Krakens at seventy-five tons. Each arm ends in a heavy and medium laser, and an anti-missile system guards its top. The Oracle is more armor and communications equipment than weaponry. It’s a command unit. All of the attacking troopers wear the crest of Olympus Mons and their noble house, but the Oracle sports long, ceremonial banners of crimson from either side of its bullet-like torso. The House crest flutters in the wind; twin dragons flanking a cog.
Technocrat Lord Rickard d’Helion wades into the fray. He fires his lasers as fast as they can cycle. The Oracle is running hot due to the high rate of fire, but Rickard doesn’t care. Tank armor melts under the onslaught, and the crew inside is fried. An anti-armor team ceases to exist. Squads of infantry in extreme cold weather gear are reduced to burnt meat. Those that survive Rickard’s attacks only live a few more painful moments.
Reports begin to flood over the radio in Rickard’s helmet.
“Zeus, this is Alpha Six, we’ve secured entrance into the city. Squads are advancing on the left flank.” Rickard’s Alpha Company commander, Captain Renner.
“Zeus, this is Beta Six, engaging enemy infantry on the right flank.” Beta Company commander, Captain Watkins.
“Delta Six to Zeus, blocking position set up on the North side of the city. We have captured roughly twenty enemy fleeing the city. Your orders?”
Rickard doesn’t hesitate. “Zeus to Delta Six: no prisoners.”
“Zeus, Delta Six acknowledges.”
There’s the sound of laser discharge and men screaming before Rickard’ s Delta Company commander, Captain Grimes, cuts the transmission.