Friday, February 28, 2014


If I had to choose an all-time favorite novel, Alden Bell's The Reapers are the Angels just might be it. Really, that's all that needs to be said.*

But I'll say more anyway.

I mentioned The Reapers are the Angels (we'll call it TRATA for short) in a post a couple years ago in which I geeked out a bit over everything zombie. If anything, my feelings for the book have only grown since then. I've actually been meaning to do a reread of it, but I've been so busy reading and writing other things that I haven't gotten around to it. (Which, incidentally, is another testament to the awesomeness of this book. I rarely, if ever, reread anything. There is so much out there I want to yet read, it is impossible to justify. But there are a few exceptions, and TRATA is one of them.)

The narrative centers around a young girl, Temple. In a lot of ways, TRATA is your typical zombie post-apocalypse story: Temple fends off the dead. She also fends off humans, and one who is hunting her in particular. But it's a coming of age type story, too. And it's about miracles. And the language. You'd never think a zombie apocalypse novel could be beautiful, but guys...The Reapers are the Angels is beautiful.

On something of a side note, I recently played The Last of Us, a PS3 game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-like world. And that game is surprisingly similar in tone to TRATA. If you liked one, I think you'll like the other. The Last of Us deserves a post unto itself, so hopefully I'll get around to that--in fact, an update on my zombie post from a couple years ago might be due. Zombie media has changed significantly even in just the past few years, and it might be interesting to talk about how.

The Reapers are the Angels is exactly the kind of story I love to read, and it's exactly he kind of story I want to write. I mean, I like zombies, so it's cool that this book has zombies in it. But what I love most is that it's about a character, and it examines closely that character and her role in the world around her. It presents a fascinating setting, but manages to make me truly care for Temple. And it makes me feel things. Like, emotions and stuff. Books that do that, at least for me, are kind of few and far between. Zombie books (or TV shows, or movies, for that matter) are even more rare. So, seriously...this one's a keeper.

Ok, and want to know the best part about writing this post? In checking out Alden Bell's website, I've just discovered that there's a sequel to TRATA. Exit Kingdom. Guys. This is amazing. AND I'M GOING TO GO BUY IT AND READ IT IMMEDIATELY.

You should, too.

* Because picking a favorite author, let alone a favorite book, is nigh impossible for just about any writer. Seriously, ask one. It really is. But, gun to my head, TRATA just might be the title I whisper. Definitely makes my top 5 favorite novels, in any case.

Friday, February 21, 2014


First of all, as you can probably tell, I'm trying out a new format. No big changes, but I've added a picture to the banner (that really has nothing to do with anything except the fact that I enjoy being outdoors and if you use your imagination I could totally be shooting a bow in that picture), and done some color scheme tweaks. I can't say I love the blue, but the red was starting to grate. For now, I think it's a good change. We'll see what I think in a couple weeks.

Secondly, today shall henceforth be known as the day in which I began the weekly FORMATIVE INFLUENCE FRIDAY! I know, I know, could I think of a more boring name for anything ever? Probably not. That's why from here on out I'll pretty much always refer to it as FIF. Maybe even #FIF, because #hashtags are #awesome and #totallynotoutofstyleyet. But here's the thing: I've been meaning to talk about books, movies, and other media that I've always thought were awesome and have shaped me as a writer for some time, now, and what better way than this? Basically I'll just jump around the list on my Formative Influences page, eventually talking about each entry. Also, it'll be motivation for me to blog a bit more consistently, which is a good thing. I think. And, hey, maybe you'll learn something. Maybe I'll learn something, for that matter.

First up: Let me tell you about Chris Van Allsburg.

Basically, he's the man. As in he is really cool and if you haven't read any of his books, you should immediately because (1) they're children's books so they won't take much time, (2) they're beautifully illustrated, and (3) they are fascinating and creepy and even dark sometimes and I love them.

Believe it or not, many of you have probably already been introduced to Mr. Allsburg's work through the feature film Jumanji. Behold the trailer:

Yeesh. Were all trailers so long back then? Also, that was twenty years ago, almost. Weird. Also, yes, that is Kirsten Dunst. Anyway, the movie isn't awful, but Allsburg's book is better. If you don't recognize Jumanji, you'll almost certainly recognize The Polar Express, also based on an Allsburg book. And while both Jumanji and The Polar Express were solid Allsburg books, neither were my favorites. I preferred books like

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, about a boy who stumbles into massive garden of eerily sculpted topiary trees--a garden with a dark secret.  Or

The Sweetest Fig, about a man who discovers figs that make dreams come true. He spends months studying dreams in an attempt to eat one of the figs on the perfect night, only to have his plans go tragically wrong. But then there's

The Wretched Stone, in which a ship finds a strange glowing stone on a remote island, a stone that the crew obsesses over, staring at it day in and day out (a thinly veiled but accurate metaphor for children watching television all the time).

And that's just naming a few. What I love most about Allsburg's work was the creepiness of it all. They were all children's stories, so nothing too crazy, but he still managed to create this eerie sense of worlds in which anything could happen. He paints fantastical places with both words and pictures. And, perhaps most of all, I loved how each of his stories made me think afterwards. There was always a mystery not quite answered, another hinted question behind the conclusion, that kept me thinking for days and weeks on end. For a little boy who loved imagining, there was hardly anything better. Allsburg's stories aren't hopeless, but they're certainly cautionary; and while perhaps not quite grotesque, they have their fair share of the absurd. Looking back, Allsburg's stories seems a strange precognitive echo of the effects Kafka would have on me much later.

So, if you haven't read Chris Van Allsburg, go read him. Now. Immediately. Read him to your kids, especially if you want them to just shut up and think for a few minutes (which is, I'm now realizing, a large reason my parents probably gave/read them to me...). Basically, Chris Van Allsburg is Kafka for kids. And that is freaking awesome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

LTUE 2014

LTUE was great. I really think it's one of the best conventions in Utah. Great panels, great panelists, well organized, great community. I was able to meet a lot of people this year, including Larry Correia, Eric James Stone, and L.E. Modesitt Jr.; Megan who owns a sweet bookstore down in Cedar City, and Dawn Ray who reads 500 books a year, and tons of others, and of course caught up with some old friends in the area.

I also told Brandon Sanderson that I just signed with JABberwocky (which may or may not have come out of my mouth as follows: ZOMG BRANDON YOU ARE AMAZING GUESS WHAT I SIGNED WITH JABBERWOCKY SO WE ARE LIKE AGENCY BROTHERS WE SHOULD TOTES DO BROTHERLY THINGS LIKE BUILD PILLOW FORTS AND PLAY VIDEO GAMES AND TOTES HANG OUT ALL THE TIME CUZ TOTES ZOMG) and he was over the moon about it. No, really, he was actually excited! He loves to hear success stories from old students, and it was cool to let him know the good news.

My notes from LTUE this year were mostly through my twitter account, and many awesome things were said, including but not limited to the following:
That was Michaelbrent Collings on endings--basically saying that readers remember endings, even if they forget everything else, so the ending better be amazing. Which isn't to say that other parts of the story aren't important, but, like tires, they should do their freaking job.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr. was a freaking rockstar--definitely one of my favorite panelists this year. And, as previously mentioned, I had the pleasure of meeting him! So that was a thing and it was cool. I think the above quote went more along the lines of "'Efforts' aren't worth a damn if you write like shit." Basically, putting effort into your writing is meaningless unless you are actually entertaining people while you're at it. That isn't to say writers don't have room to grow, improve their craft, etc., but they have to put their effort into the right places. Modesitt's 64th book (Rex Regis, I believe), was just released a month ago, and he's been in the business for about thirty years. That's two books a year, for thirty years. That kind of consistency is worth its weight in gold, and definitely something I aspire towards. Like I said, a freaking rockstar.
Clint Johnson, in a fantastic panel on creating drama in fiction.
And another gem from Mr. Modesitt. And a good note to end on, actually. Long story short: LTUE was great. And you should totes go next year.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

LTUE and The Blood Queen Series

Just a quick update before going to bed. Attended the first day of LTUE today. Always a pleasure. LTUE was the first writing convention I ever attended (5 years ago, in fact), and it'll always have a special place in my heart. So many local writers and fans--Utah has one of the best and largest writing communities I know of, and it is cool to be a part of it.

So, yeah. LTUE is cool and going great.

In other news, I think I've found an official title for the series I've been working on (the working title has been The Rising Series, but I've always felt that has been pretty bland). So, officially: Duskfall is going to be the first novel in what I'll now be referring to as The Blood Queen series. I like it. It's not too long, but its strong. The tone fits the series, I think.

What am I working on right now in The Blood Queen series, you ask? An overall series outline at the moment (brief, sticking mostly to emotional beats and Dan Harmon's Story Structure--I usually don't work much from outlines; if I use them at all, it is in the revision process), and then I'm moving on to Book 2. I just might reveal the tentative title for that one in the near future, too.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Guess What???


Guys. Guysguysguys. Yes. Yes. Indeed. I have an agent, a literary-ish one who represents me and things I write and stuff. I can haz representation?

No meme could adequately describe my elation. No YouTube video could effectively demonstrate the soaring heights of my heart. No GIF could--WAIT I FOUND ONE.

Actually, put every GIF on this site together and you'll understand a fraction of the cray cray excitement I'm feeling.

Alright, that's enough gushing, I know. So here's the rub: I've signed with Sam Morgan at JABberwocky Literary Agency. They represent such phenomenal authors as Brandon Sanderson, Elizabeth Moon, and Peter V. Brett (among many others!). To say that I'm humbled to be in such company is a pretty massive understatement. JABberwocky was one of the agencies at the top of my list as far as dream scenarios go, so I'm still reeling about the whole thing. Because I still have to look to reassure myself, here's something along the lines of authentication:

I met Sam at Lonestarcon 3 last year, and I completely botched my first pitch to him. After some kind words on my behalf from a couple friends and connections, Sam gave me another shot, and eventually ended up asking for the full manuscript of Duskfall. A while later he got back to me, and since then I've been working with him on making DF a better novel. I've gone through two major revisions of DF since October, and I feel fantastic about the changes (which is partly why I've been so scarce on the good old blog). It is a MUCH stronger novel than it was half a year ago. Sam's comments have been invaluable, and his vision of DF seems very in line with my own.* Also, something I didn't know: apparently it is a common practice for agents to work with new authors with a novel for a while before officially signing them. Who knew? But, long story short, last week I got a call from JABberwocky's office, and the deal was struck, contracts were signed (in blood?? I'll let you decide...), and now I'm off to the races.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I chose to seek out an agent at all instead of self-publishing. Long story short**, Sam's revision notes that helped make DF a better story were almost worth it in and of themselves (in addition to a number of other services an agent offers, and why an agent is appropriate for my particular situation). But more on this later.

What happens next, you ask? Well, Sam will start sending Duskfall out to editors/publishing houses. So, in reality, an agent is still just another step in the process, but it's a pretty significant one, and honestly it's happened faster than I could have hoped. An actual publishing deal may be in the nearish future, or it may yet be a long way off, but being even one step closer feels pretty freaking amazing.

* The topic of DF revisions deserves a post unto itself; hopefully I'll get around to one in the near future.

** Why I've chosen not to pursue self-publishing (a least for the time being) also deserves an entire post, so yeah, look for that one, too.