Thursday, September 18, 2014

How far into the hollow would you go?


El Pato’s note: This is not becoming a book blog. However, I happen to know Jordan Elizabeth personally and can vouch for her story and writing abilities. Give it a look.



After losing her parents in a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria escapes New York City to Arnn—a farming town with more legends than residents, and a history of witchcraft and secrets best left buried.

Everyone in Arnn knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope when she should be afraid, and a past of missing children and broken promises.  To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness. How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?”


ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW is Jordan Elizabeth’s first novel.  This young adult fantasy will be published through Curiosity Quills Press on October 29, 2014. 
Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, can’t get enough of the woods, be it splashing through a stream, sitting beneath an ancient oak, or following a path up a hill.  Some of those adventures have led to abandoned foundations.  Exploring the rocks and crumbling bricks sparked Jordan to imagine who might have lived there before, and that train of thought carried her to a wicked legend and an enchanted hollow.  You can contact Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethMierek.com.

You don’t have to wait for October 29th to explore Witchwood Hollow.  Jordan Elizabeth is offering up a free eArc.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into Rafflecoper to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 20th. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Patrick Holloway's Bad-Assed Bio (or how I worked a few years and turned the same story from bad to good)



Hello fellow mentors. I figured I should hop on the bio bandwagon and give you some background on myself, Judgment (the novel you’ll be reading) and some things on how I’ll be entertaining in between the bouts of the hard work we’ll be facing.

Who the hell are you?

I’m Patrick O’Neil Holloway.




Yes, I am Irish as hell and yes, I am very proud of my Irish heritage. I drink beer (huge fan of vanilla oatmeal stout that Nikasi makes around here), and I am one of those tough bastards that never really goes to a hospital when they broke a bone cuz it never really hurt. With me, unless the blood is gushing, I never really cared. 



I graduated from the University of Idaho with a double B.A. in English (emphasis on Creative Writing and 18th century lit) and journalism. My goal in life was to make video games for a living...still working on that. I even went to Japan my junior year of high school to learn Japanese because that was “what you did” to get into the industry.

Unfortunately, there was a revolution as I got out of college: Game studios popped up in America and Japan had less of a grip on the industry. Realizing programming wasn’t for me early in my undergrad didn't help either, so I decided to focus solely on writing (not many openings for starting video game writers). I moved to Seattle, WA, where I currently reside and am still trying to get a break into the industry. That’s not to say I’ve had some great opportunities: I’ve written articles for GamesRadar (a big site owned by Future Publishing) and got paid for it (most game journalists never live to see that day). I also got asked to write some storyline conceptions and character biographies for an independent game that never got released.

So what do I do for money? Well, until recently, I worked the same job as college: Dealing blackjack and other table games. Ever seen Casino? Remember when they have the suits running around doing shady stuff? Yeah I did that too. But I never zapped anyone with a cattle-prod so I’m harmless. At the time I wound up really liking to write and figured the less responsibility Casino allowed me to take my three days and write.

Then five years went by.

Currently, I contract with Amazon as a specialist and am sitting around, waiting for my 90 day break to elapse so I can go back to working for them…unless a game studio comes calling.  

Working in a casino though has taken its toll on me in social settings: I’m a very simple, independent person. I usually have more fun being at my apartment reading a book or catching up on video games than going to a bar.

For those of you gamer mentors, I do have an extensive library. At several publications I’ve been known as “The Old-School Guy.” I’m a HUGE Super Nintendo fan and am still finding gems to play on the system. As far as my current favs, games like these should ring a bell:  Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV through X, Zelda OoT (I consider it one of the greatest games ever made), Ninja Gaiden (the NES games, and yes I’ve beat them), and Castlevania (yes, I can beat NES Castlevania…in 30 minutes). That’s just a sampling though. I’ve probably played everything from  the PS2-backwards. When the PS3 hit (along with the 360), I slowly became distanced from video games. I just didn’t find the newer stuff as engaging (similar to music for our parents). I still love video games, and they are a huge part of me, I just know that a career may not happen now. 


Oh and here's proof I'm really good at Ninja Gaiden. That's me playing. No dying, using only the sword and showing bad-ass ninja skills:


So onto the long main event. Why should you pick me?: 

This is more a long story of “How Pat went from mild-mannered 20 year old to 30 year old mental patient.”

Judgment’s inception was when I was 17 (I’m 30 now) I was playing a video game called Xenogears which almost didn’t make it to the United States because of anti-religious overtones. The problem was, it was all metaphor.

“What would happen?” I thought. “If you took all the metaphors out and just did a blunt recreation of God on earth…but make him and all religions the bad guys?”

Judgment was born, but at this point it was known as Genocide (Genocide of the human race…get it?)

I held the idea for years. “I’m gonna write a book,” I said. But I’d get a chapter in and go back to other things. Mostly because in my undergrad I did so much reading and writing I didn’t want to do it in my spare time (I so should have).

When I was 24, I wrote a memoir called “The Gamer” which became ‘Practice Novel.’ The plot was about growing up in an internet-less world with Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy etc. Kinda like what games once were. The good ole days. I called it a Forest Gump about video games.

I got a lot of partial requests, but nothing came from them.



It was understandable. I had no platform and didn’t really have a voice at the time. I was furious like all beginning writers were, but one partial request wound up with me befriending a literary agent (actually drove crazy would be a better choice of words), who continued encouraging me long after her rejection letter. She’ll remain nameless, but nowadays she is VERY well known. Any questions about the industry, herself or her job and she answered them, never telling me to leave her alone. She even read a second draft finally saying “You’re a good writer, you can’t get published with this. You got any straight fiction?”

What followed back was an email longer than War and Peace where I described Judgment’s world. After I sent the email off, I was sure she would wonder when I’d just go away, but the next day, a letter in my inbox read:

“Uh…what the hell are you doing writing this? THAT! DO THAT!”

Thus began a five year journey into the ins and outs of writing and learning how to do this frustrating craft. I wrote the novel in 9 months, a shell of what it would become.

For starters, it clocked in at a whopping 160,000 words (it’s been cut to 93k). Purple prose, passive writing, 28 POVs, and pages of crap until the inciting incident flowed through the book’s beginning. I even thought it was an Adult novel (uh, no). And the end, oh man, the end made absolutely no sense (Something to do with cutting energy off and the crucifixion and satellites  and…Jesus even I can’t explain it). I trimmed the novel down to 150k and harassed agent lady (who told me to submit to her immediately once I finished). She was nice enough to edit 10 pages before she said “You just aren’t ready.”

Slowly our communication dissolved, but she’s doing really well and we still trade one-liners once in awhile on Twitter. But she was right—I wasn’t ready.

Stuck with an MS with no idea what to do, I had a friend read it, and actually finish (Not a close friend, an acquaintance, which is a huge compliment). She said there were issues “but something there.”

This was around 2009, and a huge Seattle contest, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary contest was around the corner. Hearing it was prestigious, I entered my ‘adult’ manuscript into the fantasy category along with about 1,500 other entries. Even if I didn’t win, I should get honorable mention for my unique idea.  

Uh no.

My scores (out of a possible 100): 55 and a 38. 

The two critiques I received were awful. Saying things like, “Look at your characters, make them more unique. Right now they are all one-dimensional.” Or, “The plot is beyond contrived, it’s just nonsense.”  Even better was, “The writer can get better by actually reading.”
The worst part was the final words of one of the judges: “I’m tempted to say, put this one in a drawer and start over, however I thought the plot had some merit, or at least what I assumed is the plot to be had merit.” The judge went on to say, “I notice great sentences. Your work with Trad Jenisis at the beginning had the elements of first class prose. Develop your unique voice.”

So I did what any self-respecting writer would do after someone thrashes their  baby: I got piss-ass drunk for about a week.





“They just didn’t get it! But someone else will,” I said.

The rejection letters I compiled said otherwise.

I didn’t know what was wrong with my work. Furthermore, I didn’t know how to fix it. What’s wrong with this picture? It can’t be that bad (yes, it can).

The following year solidified a usual routine: Work at the casino, come home and lift weights. Either do a pro wrestling match or write (the pro wrestling didn’t last long thanks to me performing a body slam wrong). Do Genocide editing over the weekend. A year went by and I again re-entered the PNWA contest with my manuscript in hand. The difference this time: It was 112k rather than 150 and I’d enter it in the YA category. I felt good. A year of revisions, reading a bit, I couldn’t lose this time.

Yeah, I can. And I again got blasted.

My scores (out of a possible 100) 54 and a 59 



This time though…something odd happened:

“The most trainable things in writing; mechanics, structure, pace, this writer lacks. HOWEVER (yes, in caps), what isn’t trainable is an imagination, and I find this story salvageable. The writer demonstrates strong potential with their story and this storyline and I urge them to continue revising and reworking this novel.“

 
The other judge:

“You have something plausible and original and I encourage you to not give up. Not just on writing, but on this book. You might have something here.”

About now, my life would be easier if I just got told to go do something else and take up knitting. The worst thing than being told to give up something you have worked on tirelessly and want to do for a career is being told you’re talented, but “not there yet.”  Because then you get to continue working in uncertainty while everyone else, well does their thing.

The fact they like your manuscript idea, but not your writing hurts too.  

Shortly after getting bombed again in the PNWA, someone mentioned how my book really had nothing at all to do with Genocide. Thus came a very easy decision: Name the book after the deity responsible for putting us on this earth in order to absorb us and take on the jinn. I named it after the last person Trad fights: It was now Judgment. 

In the meantime, I started work on another novel, a vampire cyber-punk called Phoenix. People were digging the samples and I thought maybe this could be the way to go.  I would look at Judgment’s icon on my desktop and stare for minutes saying “No…not you. You’re evil. You’re cursed.” and open up Phoenix. Of course then at a bar someone told someone else about the crazy plot of Judgment.



The conversation went like this:


Mutual Friend: “This is Pat, he’s a writer.”

Me: “Uh, I dunno about that. I don’t really get paid to do that. But I’m trying.”

Friend: “His book is about killing God. But it’s also got evil Jesus clones, road pirates, huge fights and lots of demons, but they are demons from mythology that—“

Girl: “—Can one book have all that?”

Friend: “Yeah and it’s fucking awesome.”

Girl: “Shit. Killing God? I wanna read this!”

And she was cute.

Me: “Yeah, sure.”

I went home and got everything together. When I checked the file, I found myself revising some things and saying “Wait, this would be cooler if I did this.”

I emailed her the file and never heard from her again. I did find myself once again tinkering away and rewriting things.

Goddamnit, I was doing it again.

Phoenix was stashed away, and lost when my hard drive went on the fritz. In the meantime, I made some changes to Judgment, moved some characters around, sucked it up and eliminated POVs. Tried to make the damn thing readable.

And another year went by. My best friend finally read a hard copy where it was clocked at 107,000 words. Said he loved it, but it had a few problems in it. Others were starting to finish it, even if I had to nag them for it. The odd thing was though--people were actually finishing.

And the yearly PNWA contest was rolling in.

Once again I submitted. I thought this time, this revision, maybe I’d go somewhere. “I’m done,” I said to my writer friends. “If this doesn’t win the bloody thing, I’m going to delete the manuscript from my hard drive. God’s pissed I killed him in a book and the manuscript is cursed.”

I got my critiques back and took them to Greenlake (a neighborhood in Northern Seattle) and read them on a park bench hoping being in the outdoors on the lake would change my fate, kinda like the movie Rudy:

My scores (out of a possible 100): a 74 and a 77. 

I shrugged my shoulders. “That’s it. I’m done. I’m going to write something else, go back to Phoenix.” I flipped through my scores and saw something on one of the judges.

“Teenagers are definitely going to be drawn to the diverse cast in Judgment as well as the rebellious nature of its original plot and will no doubt finish it. Probably more than once. Keep working on this one--it's different. ”





 I shook my head. “Son of a bitch.”

By now, I wondered why I had to keep being tortured with this crap. “Oh it’s so good, but so many things need done to it.”

For whatever the reason, I started analyzing everything. Really rewriting key scenes. Taking on more beta readers and crit partners than my sanity allowed. I’d focus on the first page, the POVs, the crazy ending. And another year of routine flew by. I became obsessed with Judgment. Girlfriends would read it and then ask me what happens after Trad kills Judgment and flies off into the moonlight, and I’d be giving them the spiel on the other six books in the series. Something was happening.

One year later, I again entered the PNWA contest in a rushed entry. I changed the opening of the novel on a computer at Fed-ex office (or whatever they call Kinko’s nowadays) and sent it off just to see how the overall plot went over.

I was starting to wonder what the hell I was doing with myself. I started another novel in the meantime, The Last Year. A book about a 29 year old casino dealer who had a degree in biochemistry but never found a job because of the recession. Feedback was awesome. I was slowly just giving up on Judgment (again). I was sick of the pain, the torture. No one wanting to say “This story really sucks” bullshit.

I’d sit in my recliner at night, straight up, staring at a powered off TV wondering what I did with my life. All this encouragement and I was stuck under a glass ceiling. And the worse part was, literally, no one. Wanted. To. Help Me.

About four months later on Memorial Day, I drove home from Starbucks with a latte and my phone went off. The caller I.D. said unknown number. I grabbed my phone, a bit confused and answered it.

“Hello?” I said sounding suspicious.

“Hi, can I speak with Patrick Holloway?”

Fuck, bill collectors.

“Yeah…that’s me.”

“Hi, this is the PNWA. Calling to let you know your novel, Judgment has made it into the top 8 of the our 2013 literary contest….”

Silence.

“I’m sorry, Patrick, are you still there?”

I blinked a few times trying to process what I just heard. “Are you shitting me?”

“Uh, no…I’m not.”





Ok, a dumb contest with a few thousand entries. Honestly, I really shouldn’t have been so emotional…but I was. They must have gotten sick of reading Judgment every year and just gave me a pass. I’m sure the novel was going to get blasted in the critiques I’d get back.

“There will be an awards banquette that you are welcome to attend to.” She said as I parked. “You can bring one guest.”

Shit! That sounded good. I had to pay for the food, but the price wasn’t too shabby.

I hung up the phone and walked inside, promptly calling everyone to tell them I actually was a finalist in something. I had a list of things to do: get them a photo of me, buy a dress shirt since I didn’t have one that fit me anymore, get a haircut (FINALLY) etc.

My critiques arrived in the mail a few weeks later. I figured I must be in last place and this year’s entries did really bad by comparison.

My scores (out of 50): 48 and a 49. 




“What the hell?” I asked. I saw them at first and thought they were out of 100, but saw they changed the scoring.

There wasn’t a single bad thing written in either critique. I got dinged on using weird mechanics (I think they were generous given my bad grammar), for having Kelita’s last name spelled differently in my synopsis and manuscript, and for “making us guess Trad’s background.”  Later they said. “Not many authors can do a slow start to establish character, but you do it so beautifully that I didn’t even realize that you opened with dialogue and a guy getting rejected by a hot girl.”

The nicest thing: “There are parts of the prose that could be taken as telling, but it’s so entertaining, and full of life I can’t help but enjoy it as part of the story.” 
 

It’s amazing what five years of work does to your writing ability.

I went to the awards ceremony and lost. To a book about fairies no doubt. Apparently, Jesus clones, killing God, and demons just can’t stand up to the power of fairies. On the flip side though, she wrote a damn good novel that I flipped through afterwards. There was no way my limited vocabulary could crack her, and she had a flawless prose. Also, she was a very nice person, so I was nothing but happy for her. The good part was I was asked to read the first few pages  of my stuff to everyone the next day.

After I read, a number of people would approach me in the halls saying how I had them by the first sentence and asked where they could find ‘that’ book (apparently, they didn’t know this was for unpublished manuscripts). Agents who weren’t even at the reading would see me with my finalist badge and handed me business cards based on me becoming a finalist alone, I didn’t even have to tell them what the book was about.  


And I was promptly form rejected two weeks later.




The funny thing is now, anyone who reads Judgment winds up finishing in a few days. You guys once went through a version of this with your own glass ceiling.  You know that when people finish your unpublished novel, it’s a huge compliment (unless you have REALLY good friends it takes a year for someone to finish a poorly written novel). About two weeks after we met, my girlfriend read the whole thing from her small archaic phone (and got written up at work because she didn’t want to stop after a plot twist). She said she was worried “I worked on a shitty novel for five years…but it was actually one of the better ones I read this year."


That’s not to say I didn’t have problems. People have still been kind enough to point out my knack for doing crazy sentence structure, ignoring my usages of the comma and flat out not knowing how to use a single grammar principle. I’m probably someone that NEEDS to buy an editor.  


If I handed this to someone who reads, chances are they finish it in a week. You don’t do that if you aren’t doing something special.


So I guess that brings us to here.


You’re still reading? So you’re wondering why I told you this story of Judgment going from absolute crap to mediocre?


Because in the four years of entering the same contest, dealing with rejections, beta readers, feedback and those who abandon your manuscript after page 3…you build something: it’s called character. You either give up or keep going. I just don't like being told I suck and Judgment wasn’t there yet. I wanted to say “yes it is goddamnit.” Anyone else would have started over on another novel, unfortunately, every bit of feedback told me the opposite: Keep going.  I hate the word “no” and each time I hear it I only work even harder.  Two months is nothing compared to the years I’ve put into make Trad Jenisis accessible to the world.
Not once have I been told this was a bad book or I should shelf it, and believe me, I would have. I did try to move on several times, but no one would put me out of my misery. I probably should have invested more time to my other WIPs, but I always came back to this. People never remembered characters from my other novels. Long after they read Judgment they say “he looks like Trad,” or “man the fight with Hunter was fucking awesome!”

 
I don’t get that with my other books. Granted, none of them have had the work or heart Judgment has, but still, they lack something in them.


I went from awful scores to beating hundreds of people in a contest. That’s not a fluke, that’s called taking feedback and implementing it, and working your ass off.  Obviously, something is working because I continue to improve where other less fortunate books have plateaued and been abandoned.  
That’s what you’re getting with me. Someone who is going to work their ass off FOR YOU. What? Something doesn’t work? I’m not going to argue, I’ll tell my reasoning to why I did what I did and then make it better. Most of what I have done has been done by trial and error and on my own instinct anyways. I had to take those small pieces of feedback, annoying critiques, and everything else to improve myself.  I wasn’t smart enough to go do something else. So I just work my ass off.




I can’t tell you I’m a great writer, or that my book has more potential than another person you’re considering. I can tell you that no one else has the drama or concept that I have and whatever faults I have WILL be improved. I will listen to your suggestions. I can tell you that nothing is a darling (well besides some characters) even with bad critiques I’ve found something to implement, a terrible reader says something and I can still find merit to it.  


I selected my four hopeful mentors not because of their interests, but because of how much work they wanted to do. How much work they were going to do to me, and how much better they could make my book so I could *finally* put an end to this. Because I felt we could make something special.

I’ve accepted that it has become a part of my life whether I want it to or not. So while I may publish The Last Year in a few years, I’m sure I’ll be back to Judgment grinding that axe regardless if you want it or not. It’s not going anywhere and neither am I. Too late for me to stop now. Not when I’m this close to finishing the fight.


So finally, why should you take me ?: Because after five years I still love what I’ve done, learned so much, and can’t help but be optimistic about the future.

And for all you writers reading this saying, “What a self-centered asshole.” You’re right. And I hope that if you have done your own version of my story that you  are at the same point--a boiling pot ready to explode. Because if it's anything I've learned with all the work I've done. It's only a matter of time for us.


Good luck to you entering. Oh and Mentors! Pick me! 

OH AND GO NINERS!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What about this writing thing?



So I wrote this post about the 49ers and Nintendo games. Granted, it's a fanpost, but it wound up on the front page, so that means something. I have given lots of thought to looking into being a 49ers beat writer, but I simply don't know enough about the game of football to really be effective. It's not like video games where I can arrogantly claim I know more than the developers. I like football, I like the 49ers, I just don't know enough to where I can talk about stats/rankings/whatever.

So combining video games with football was about as close as I'd get to writing a football related post for a blog. Plus I haven't written much at all in the last year so it was nice to get back into the swing of things. Do I miss my quest for something full-time?

Not really.

So many deadlines and tedious work. No thanks, I think I like working in corporate America much more. Sure I'd like to do the fiction writing thing full time, but we all know that's not happening.

Speaking of which, Judgment is now done, well at least the fat and lame plot lines are out. Yes, the book may be a bit of a shadow of its former self, but all that was cut  is going to be put into the sequels and elaborated on. This is the first time I've said "This is good" rather than "It's good enough."

Not good enough for the publishing industry though. We've already collected our first rejection letter -- and this agent was actually recommended to me. A nice form letter saying "Forgive us for sending a form letter"

Translation: "Thanks, but screw you."

Oh well, such is the business. Onward we march!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Console War that Couldn't




Sony fired off a shot on Fort Microsoft showing a console with graphics and obviously Microsoft knew what artillery Sony was using. A new console with graphics. Boring, thanks for showing up before E3.

But rather than use that opening to counter attack and talk about what the Xbox One should be doing and get the hype going, Microsoft basically told us all we sucked and went with this D.R.M. And it was a sound strategy. Developers were hamstringing you to do it, you could make some good cheddar in licensing fees on the side, Sony had to be doing the same thing right? I mean, so far they have updated graphics so it’s business as usual right?

Wrong!

While this current console war came down to Blu-Ray and overpriced PS3 systems at launch, next console war will all be decided by those three letters etched into gamers’ minds: D.R.M. Scratch that, it’s already been decided with D.R.M.

Now there’s plenty of blame to go around for that little detail, we can start with the developers not happy with their billions of dollars they already get. Continue with Microsoft doing what they do best by trying to suck as much money out of the public as possible. The question we all have to ask is what crazy consultants at such a respected company like Microsoft would not intervene and say something. You know, like, “Hey, Sony may not do this, we don’t want to give people a reason to go with the competition.”

Like I said with the PlayStation 3, brand loyalty is just a made up word that gets replaced with, “Most bang for the buck.” Nobody was going to buy an overpriced PS3 when the 360 had nearly as good graphics, well, as good as cross platforming gaming could allow. The most bang for the buck this year goes to Sony, which sells consoles for a bill less than Microsoft.

That alone means people will go with Sony. And why not? As long as developers continue their cross platform campaigns, there’s no reason to own two different next-gen consoles (unless you want to own a Wii-U also). And sorry, Killer Instinct is five years too late to sell me on an archaic fighting engine that should have happened years ago. Good luck with that, Rare.

The change is as sudden as it is with the announcement tonight:  Sony once again ‘Get’s It’, Microsoft got cocky like Sony did last time and thought they could do whatever they wanted. Sony has every right to declare victory before their console has even been released.

And before all of you email me to tell me I’m crazy and don’t know what I’m talking about. Just remember, I predicted Sony to have the same problems they did with their last console and that the Xbox 360 would be on top for most of that console wars. Pretty sure I was right about that. This isn’t something that Microsoft will magically change too. They are a company that decides what we will like. Have you ever heard of Windows?  

Forget D.R.M, if I were Microsoft there’s a few other letters I’d be more worried about come launch day: D.O.A.