Friday, August 26, 2016


I'm baa-aack. Technically I wasn't gone; I just skipped a week. This will be an update on what's been going on.

First off, the big news, AKA commercial break. J. J. Collins' new book, Horsepower, just came out yesterday. You can find it on Evernight Publishing's site at and also on Bookstrand, Smashwords, All-Romance ebooks and Amazon. I added links over on the Shapeshifter Seductions blog, but I'm too tired and lazy to do that today. Just go to the site and type either J. J. Collins or Horsepower into Search and the page should come up. I already wrote the book. Do I have to do everything?

One side note: that scene on the cover does appear in the story. I won't swear to it, but the scene in the story may have been subconsciously inspired by this scene from Ghost Rider. This is the best scene in the movie, so I just saved you two hours. Ain't I nice?

# # #

I'm still working my way through the Throne of Glass YA series. I must admit, the writing has been improving since the first book, and the plot is shaping up into something truly epic. Celaena's still a bitch at times, but she's nowhere near the abysmal twit she was in Book 1. So far, Book 2 appears to be the highwater mark. I confess to skimming chunks of Book 3, which ran over 300 pages. I got busy doing stuff, and the library only gives you two weeks. The bulk of Book 3 is Celaena learning how to use her newfound magic powers, which pretty much amounts to filler. I don't think I missed anything.

I just started Book 4, which clocks in at a whopping 600 pages. I may be skimming again. Also, from what I gather on Goodreads, this book supposedly wraps up most of the major plot threads and deals (fatally, in some cases) with the major bad guys. There are supposed to be two more books in this series. The writer must have something truly spectacular lined up if she's going to off her prime villains with two subsequent novels looming on the horizon. So far I've been binge reading, but Book 5 isn't out yet, and Book 6 isn't due until next year, I think. Maybe it's just as well the initial storyline's ending. When I finally get to the next two books, it'll feel like a whole new series.

Two side notes here: My local library has all four books, but I only got one there. They're always checked out when I look for them. I've had to get the others at other libraries in the county. That's four books so far, each one borrowed from a different library. I'll probably skim Book 5 in Barnes & Noble. Someday I'll have enough disposable income to buy books again. Also, once Celaena turned 18 and became a legal adult by modern standards, she started killing on camera. She also developed an active romantic life. In Book 1 she had two guys interested, by Book 2 she'd picked one, in Book 3 she left the country and found another guy overseas, and now in Book 4 she's back home and apparently over the guy she was so madly in love with in Book 2. All this while still mourning the first love of her life, who died before the series started. If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.


So how'd I do on the Carina Challenge?

Miserably. Doesn't look like I'll be submitting to any of the anthologies. I did send in a proposal, but I haven't touched that either. Instead I got caught up in a story I'm not even sending to Carina. A couple people who sent in proposals have already gotten requests, and one of the editors said they've picked a couple already. Apparently I wasn't one of them. I'll finish both the stories I was planning to write eventually, unless I get distracted again. I blame yard work. When is science going to invent a self-mowing lawn?


Finally, my brother, who is and always will be nine years older than I am, ha ha ha, had a pacemaker installed to deal with an irregular heartbeat. It's designed to send minishocks to his heart if it stops to get it going again. Here he is in the hospital:

And now it's on the Internet for everyone to see. You don't have to thank me.

What will science think of next? Not a self-mowing lawn, that's for damn sure. See you next week.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Gotcha Covered

It's here! The cover for Horsepower, the new release from J. J. Collins! I don't have a release date yet, but it should be some time before the end of the month. I think. It's been removed from the Coming Soon page on the Evernight site. I'm hoping that's just an oversight. I'm sure if there was some kind of problem they would have contacted me.

This is the book I was talking about last week, the one where the publisher and I were wrestling over my use of strange spelling and slang words. Things worked out. I made the changes in the narrative they wanted, and they let me keep my dialogue, and by extension my characterizations, which is what I was ready to fight for. I consider it a win-win.

Some people may want to use this as an example of why self-publishing is the way to go. If that's your thing, fine. For the time being I'm willing to let publishers deal with things like editing, promotion and providing a cover. I would have had to pay $300 or better to get a cover that nice. As far as promotion goes, I tend to not do much. That may or may not be why my sales aren't spectacular. I'm seriously thinking about signing up for Facebook. Start a page for myself and one for J. J. Why not? They do it on Catfish. I wouldn't mind having Nev and Max show up at my door. Although I've established J. J. is blissfully married. That should keep stalkers away.

Anyway, my single foray into self-publishing sank without a trace. Quickly. I don't know if promotion would have helped. From what I'm hearing, the people who are successful in self-publishing are either writing to a specific niche, or already had a loyal (and large) following before they uploaded their opus. Or there was a specific demand from those follows, like with the guy who wrote The Martian (which started as a serial on his blog), or the people who wanted a print copy of what became Fifty Shades of Grey. I don't foresee that happening with any of my books any time soon. For right now, I'll stick with publishers.

And now, back to the hard part, writing the next one. This time I'll write characters who speak correct English. It's August, and too hot to fight.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Stand Your Ground

Update/book report: I’ve started reading Crown of Midnight, the sequel to Throne of Glass, which I pretty much savaged last week. I’m pleased to say the reports on Goodreads were accurate. Most of the problems I bitched about regarding the first book have indeed been corrected in the second. Celaena’s not nearly half as annoying, and more attention is paid to what she does as opposed to what she wears. And she finally gets to assassinate people. She’s begun to live up to the hype that made up most of the first book. In fact, she’s in danger of becoming a Mary Sue, especially since—but that would be telling. Let me read through this book and maybe the next before I make that accusation.

Anyway, it’s now clearly stated that she’s 18 years old. So she’s a legal adult by modern readers’ standards, which is how she’ll be judged. Remember, even though these stories are set in fantasy kingdoms, foreign lands, future eras or galaxies far, far away, they still have to appeal to readers in the here-and-now. And get the okay from their parents, in the case of YA books. Therefore, no on-stage killing until the protag turns 18. She’s still drinking, though, even though she isn’t 21. Guess that part’s okay, since this kingdom hasn’t invented cars yet. Wonder if she could get arrested for RHWI (riding a horse while intoxicated)?

On a side note, if you want to see what tailoring futuristic science fiction or high fantasy to present-day sensibilities can lead to, tune in to an episode of the original Star Trek (set in the 23rd century but created in the 1960s) and have a giggle at the female crew members—officers, even—running around in miniskirts and go-go boots. Austin Powers would have felt right at home on the bridge of the Enterprise. Especially because, while racial equality has apparently been achieved, sexism will continue to run rampant in the far future. They even came right out and said in one episode that women weren’t allowed to command starships. I’ll bet young Hillary Rodham blew a gasket over that and never watched the show again. (Young Bill Clinton, on the other hand, would have given Kirk a big thumb’s up and a “You go, dude!”)

# # #

That isn’t what I want to talk about today, though. I’m in the process of going through edits on a story I had accepted by a publisher, and having to gear up for battle. Not over content. Over spelling.

Y’see, I try to write natural, realistic-sounding dialogue. My characters are a couple of motorcycle mechanics. Blue-collar, working-class heroes. Neither went to college. I’m sure the one just scraped through high school by the skin of his teeth. Which means they talk like just plain folks. Their sentences are peppered with ain’ts and gonnas, helluvas and son-of-a-bitches, and the occasional fuck. That’s not even counting the scene where they get drunk, which doesn’t do their diction any favors.

I extended this style, to a lesser extent, to the narrative, to give the story a distinctive flavor. The editor was fine with all this. Apparently she’s a writer herself. We like to play around with the language. We’ve got all these words at our disposal, yeah, we’re gonna have fun with ‘em.

The publisher, though, is another matter. She seems to be a stickler for proper spelling, which means my slang terms, contractions and fast-and-loose grammar will have to be “fixed.”

I’m okay with most of the changes in the narrative. That part’s not so important. But now she’s messing with the dialogue. Change that, and you change the characterization. You change who my people are. Blue-collar mechanics with a high school education do not, as a rule, talk like college professors. Especially with two to three beers in them.

I’ll change some of my words, but not all of them. Not when the changes threaten to turn my characters into different people, and my story into something I didn’t intend to write. That’s where I dig in my heels and fight back. Even if I have to withdraw it and try again elsewhere.

Which I did once, with an anthology story. The publisher rewrote it in a way that changed my protag’s character into what he thought it should be. To which I say, write your own story, buddy. Don’t write mine. The publisher backed off, and the story saw print with my protag sporting the personality I gave him. Score one for the writer.

I suspect I’ll win this one too. The editor’s on my side, and I’ve agreed to clean up most of the “misspellings” that seem to offend the publisher so much. But not all. The dialogue better stay the way these guys would say it, or I might have to pull up stakes and move on.

The irony is, my freelance job includes editing and proofreading. The book I’m reading now is rife with the same “mistakes” I made, plus a bunch I never thought of. That’s her style, her voice. It’s how she writes. They aren’t mistakes, either. She’s a damn fine writer and she knows exactly what she’s doing when she makes those choices. She’s also one of that publisher’s top-selling authors. If I “fixed” her alleged errors, I’d completely ruin the tone of her work, and be kicked off the job three seconds later.

The publisher I work for is a lot more lenient than the publisher I’m writing for. Though if they keep this up, I may not be writing for them much longer.

I’m hoping we can reach a compromise everybody’s happy with. If I have to, I’ll pull out the big guns and cite Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, widely considered to be the first true American novel. Wonder if Twain had to fight to get Huck’s colloquial speech patterns into print?

The irony there is, he probably prompted no squawks at all over his repeated use of a certain derogatory N-word, which has gotten the book banned all over the place in this more enlightened era. But hey, it was created in a different time. The folks who worked on the original Star Trek are probably nodding right now.