Professional Editor

First off, a bit of distant back story. I’ve written a trilogy that is trunked. I consider it my “practice trilogy.” It’s not going to go anywhere for so many different reasons. However, these three novels allowed me to get where I am today as a writer. A writer that can sling a great story.

While that trilogy was a sword & sorcery style fantasy series, I’ve started up a new series that is firmly within the urban fantasy genre. Why the switch? Because I had the idea hit me, and it demanded I write it. I also wrote some test material with the main character, and it was fun to write. I haven’t had a fun writing experience in a long time, so I had to run with this for my own sanity.

As it turns out…. if you have fun writing something, people have fun reading it. My critique group gave me a whole slew of improvements to make to the story. I had a few beta readers expand on those suggestions, and this is the strongest novel I’ve ever put out.

So I hired a professional editor. If the book is so “strong” why would I need any editor? Two reasons:

  1. The book was shy of a low-end word count for urban fantasy by about 20,000 words. Maybe more.
  2. This is currently my best hope (but not my last hope!) for getting a novel published. I want to put my absolute best foot forward on this book.

Now for a bit more backstory that is more recent. Back in March, Pikes Peak Writers had Stuart Horwitz come speak at one of our Write Brains (and I hope we manage to get him back for the 2016 Pikes Peak Writers Conference!) Stuart is the author of Blueprint Your Bestseller and Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula. When he spoke at our event, I could tell he really knew his stuff. He’s also the head dude over at Book Architecture. When I checked out his books (I have read both and they are excellent!), and his services at Book Architecture, I knew I wanted to work with him.

I reached out to Stuart a while back, and we chatted via email about working together. When I had my finances wrangled to the point where I could afford the edits, I hit Stuart up and we started the process. Within a month, I had his feedback in hand and a phone call arranged for discussing the written feedback.

I just finished getting off the call from Stuart, and he was fantastic. Not just on the call, but all the way around. I’m very happy with the feedback, information, suggestions, insight, ideas, and so on Stuart provided to me. He’s someone I would gladly work with again on a future effort, and I think everyone that is “this close” to finishing the polish on a novel should reach out to him.

You remember that 20,000 word gap I mentioned that’s in need of filling? The #1 directive I gave Stuart is that I need to fill in those words without “padding” or “watering down” the story.

He nailed it.

His ideas for what the book is lacking will easily let me get closer to the industry accepted word counts for an urban fantasy novel.

Enough of me blathering on here about this. You have links above to do the clicky thing on. I have a novel to dive into and get some edits and additions put into place.

Thanks for everything, Stuart!


Chuck Wendig Challenge: Why I Write

Chuck Wending posted a flash fiction challenge here. I’ve taken up the challenge. Here goes my (up to) 1000 words:


This requires quite a bit of introspection on my part. I started writing when I was ten years old. I walked away. I picked it back up when I was fifteen, and dropped it again. I tried some in my early twenties, but had no real support group for it. Again, I moved on to other things.

Despite these stops and starts, I always wanted to create. I always wanted to forge stories in the form of words. I tried music, but I have no rhythm. I tried art, but I just don’t have the patience to master that craft. I tried photography, but it felt too mechanical and artificial for my tastes. (This is no bash against photographers. That’s just how I felt internally when I looked through the viewfinder at the world instead of just looking at the world.)

It wasn’t until I discovered the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group nine years ago (this month!) that I found a home for my writerly heart. With a support group around me, I found the encouragement and drive to continue chasing the goal of becoming published. The random discovery of the CSFWG bookmark/advertisement on a cork board in Poor Richard’s Pizza Shop forever changed my life.

However, this doesn’t answer the question of, “Why do you write?”

For two decades (plus a few years), I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t quite know why. In the past nine years, I’ve come to learn the following:

I write to…

… entertain.
… make people think.
… make people uncomfortable.
… challenge myself.
… challenge my internal assumptions.
… to stroke my ego.
… to leave a mark on the world.
… to allow an escape from this world for others.
… to create an escape from this world for myself.
… to be able to point to something and say, “I did that.”
… to purge my demons.
… to find new demons to chase, and that might chase me back.
… to discover (and create!) new worlds for me to play in.

Now… you may have noticed the “ego stroke” reason in there. That’s me being brutally honest. I’m not a highly egotistical person (though some might argue that point since I’m a writer), but there’s a part of me — a deep-down, driving part of me — that wants to walk into a book store and see my name on the shelf on the spine of a book.

If you have reasons you write, throw the words into your blog (or similar media), head over to Chuck’s site, and drop him a link!


Turning Things Around

I’ve hesitated making this post for a while. I received some good news today that changed my mind about posting this, so here it is….

I’ve been down on myself for a good number of months now as far as my writing goes. I’ve faced some emotional challenges. I’ve battled doubts. I’ve run against my inner critic. Through it all, I continued writing, but with each word that hit the manuscript, I’ve had to ask myself, “Why am I still doing this?”

I see a vast amount of success around me. Some of it I’ve helped facilitate through critiques, organizing meetings where people can improve their writing, and working with the fantastic volunteers at Pikes Peak Writers to further the goals of everyone around me. I’ve been doing these volunteer efforts since June of 2008 with various organizations and since October of 2012 with Pikes Peak Writers.

The problem is that the success is not mine. I can’t take credit for it. My name’s not going to land on the cover of the book. The success is AROUND me, but not WITHIN me. This has led to my doubts in all areas, including the Day Job and things I enjoy outside writing.

When I’m not writing, I still ask myself, “Why am I still doing this?”

I’ve slowly been turning things around on the emotional front back to the positive. Then this morning happened to help push me further to a happier realm.

I found out that one the agents at the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference met with one of our attendees (this is a regular thing, so no surprise there), and they hit it off. The agent signed the author on, and sold her first book (and a few others) within two month’s time. The books were signed on by a large publisher as well, so this is huge for the author and the agent. I heartily congratulate both of them are their current success, and I wish them all the best in the future.

While this is success that is still AROUND me, and I can take maybe 0.000000001% of credit for anything happening there because I helped organize the conference and helped run the organization that hosts the conference….. This made my day.

Seeing this author rise through the ranks and achieve such a phenomenal goal of hers has shed new light on why I do what I do.

I truly do enjoy my work for Pikes Peak Writers. I usually (probably 98% of the time) enjoy my writing work as well… even the editing process.

It’s taken this monumental success put before me to make me realize I have to continue on with what I do because it helps other people achieve their goals. Yes, it takes time and energy and effort away from me fulfilling my own dreams, but I’ve come to be okay with that. More than okay. I really don’t have a word for how deeply satisfied I am that I help other people. I’m sure there is a word in another language or in the Buddhist realm about how internalized this happiness is. I just don’t know what it is.

I guess to sum up. I’ve been in a rough spot lately. Thanks to all of you that have noticed and helped shore me up with your friendship and companionship. Things are getting better, and I’m going to keep on chasing that dream of publishing a novel. It might take me a bit longer than I want it to, but as long as that pot of gold is out there, I’m going to chase the end of the rainbow.

I’ll catch it someday.

Thanks for reading.


I’m On The Round Table Podcast

I can’t believe it’s taken me almost two weeks to post about this! Many apologies to Dave, Terry, and Jake for the massive delays in getting this “out the door.”

A few months ago, I sat on the Skype-line with three fantastic gentlemen and scholars of the writing craft and pitched a story idea to them. They proceeded to throw tons of Literary Gold my way. I’ve caught most of it and crammed it in my pockets for later use on the story.

In this episode of The Roundtable Podcast these three wonderful people talk me through some difficult parts of my story, help me find a theme, and generate wonderful ideas for enhancing secondary characters.

Why am I just now remembering to post this? I listened to most of the “Twenty Minutes With… Jake Kerr” episode on the way home from work today. This means that interview will end while I’m on my way to work in the morning, and I’ll be able to listen to the recorded version of what I experienced live.

I can’t wait to see what new nuggets of wealth fall into my lap with a fresh listen. Gonna be cool.

The drive to work tomorrow is going to be very interesting, indeed.


Childhood Home

BigHouseBurning

Source: http://www.newswest9.com/story/28404028/crews-respond-to-late-night-midland-county

I found out this morning that the home I consider the most important one I’ve ever had burned down in the early morning hours. While I lived in a good number of homes growing up, this is the one I consider my childhood home.

My grandparents bought the home in 1978 when I was five years old. It was an old Air Force barracks from World War II. The city had purchased the training air base in my hometown from the federal government and turned it into a regional airport (now international airport and spaceport). In the 70s, the airport needed to expand. Instead of tearing down the structures, they put them up in a blind auction. My grandfather’s bid for the main barracks won because it was the simplest and had the easiest terms to understand. I remember him showing me the results of the blind auction, and I was astounded by the length and convoluted nature of the other bids. His was one sheet of paper that outlined he would buy the building for a certain amount (I forget the amount) and then move the building at his own cost. The cost of cleanup of the original site was responsibility of the airport, and the cost of prep for the new location was his to deal with.

This huge building (two stories, roughly fifty feet wide and over one hundred feet long) was then mounted up on wheels and driven from the airport, over I-20, and out to where it stood until this morning. Somewhere, there is a photo of the building being driven over the bridge spanning the interstate highway. I wish I had that photo. I have no idea what happened to it, and the last time I was in my childhood home, it had gone missing.

From 1978 until 1980, my grandfather tirelessly labored to turn the building into a house. When it was finally fit for living in, my grandparents moved into the house. As they could do, it instantly became a home. I spent many of my weekends there. I spent every summer vacation I can remember there (or on the road with my grandparents to galavant around Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado).

When I turned 12, I moved in with them full time.

I lived in this glorious and wonderful home for seven years. At 19, the itch “to become a man” and move out on my own became too strong. I’ve often regretted not staying there for a few more years. I feel I could have matured a little more, lived a better life when I was younger, and maybe I would have finished college before I was in my thirties. Alas, that was not to be, and I struck it out on my own.

We always called it “The Big House.” I wish I had some photos of it in its prime. Perhaps I do somewhere, but just haven’t gone through the 3-4 boxes of memorabilia from my childhood to find stuff like that. If I ever come across a good photo of The Big House, I’ll post it.

The most painful part about this whole thing is the news report that states my former home was “an abandoned building.” It’s true. No one has lived there since my grandfather passed away in 2002, and we sold the house and property about this time last year. That’s thirteen years that the home has deteriorated into “an abandoned building.” It hurts me to type that. It makes me cry. I can deal with the loss of the physical object. I knew I’d never set foot it in again. I got everything I could from that home — spiritually, emotionally, physically, and in comfort — but knowing that no one was there to love my old home in its final moments saddens me to my core.

I’ve been processing this news all day long. I’ve been trying to put into words my loss. I’ve been trying to find a eulogy for my childhood home.

To The Big House: I love you. I always will. You’ll be missed. Most of all, thank you for being there for me when I needed you. Even though you are no more than charred timbers and fallen ash, know that you warmed my heart, and I will always think fondly of you.

Love,

J.T. Evans


An Article At SF Signal

Sarah Chorn (Bookworm Blues) put out a call on social media for articles for her Special Needs in Strange Worlds column over at SF Signal. I’ve been a big supporter and fan of Sarah’s column since it came out, and when she needed help, I had an article leap into my mind that I had to write. I proposed it to her and received an enthusiastic response from her. Within a few days, I had the article together in which I talk about my personal struggles with mental disorders and how they affect my ability to write and create. It’s not all about me, though. I do talk about how I work to overcome my obstacles and do my best to be successful with the chaos in my brain.

If you’re interested in reading more about Mental Disorders in the Creative Mind, follow the link.


New Desk

Desk_0582

Note before you start reading: You can click the photos to view them full-sized. I just thought you might want to know that before you scroll down.

My old desk was falling apart. The front lip was barely holding on, the surface was scratched and stained. I didn’t care about the stains, but the mars on the surface were more accurately described as “gouges” than “scratches.”

Desk_0583Add to that, the hutch was half hanging on because an ill-advised attempt to move the entire desk away from the wall. One of the mount points of the hutch gave way in that effort, so the desk had become more than a little hazardous.

Desk_0584All-in-all, it was time to replace the desk. It had served my wife as a desk since around 1999, and I took it over sometime around 2009. We got our money’s worth out of it, and then some.

Desk_0585I was sad to see it replaced because it was a great surface. It allowed me to spread out and have many piles of (highly organized) paper within easy reach. It was also very deep from the wall. Most desks are about two feet in depth. This one was almost three feet deep. Very nice, indeed.

Desk_0586My wife and I started shopping online to find a replacement. We exhausted all of the obvious choices, and many of the not-so-obvious web sites. I found some that I liked, but that our pocketbook would not. With a tear in my eye, I’d close those browser tabs and continue my search.

Desk_0587At one point, my wife started listing off sites faster than I could open new tabs, let alone search them. I finally told her to grab her iPad and help me out. I continued my search while she snagged her device, and then we continued scouring the Internet for a new desk side-by-side.

Desk_0588Then she landed on quill.com and a wonderful desk for a fantastic price. I’d seen similar desks for $800 to $1200. When I saw the desk, I didn’t think there was a chance we’d be able to afford it. Then I saw the price of $300 with a free hutch.

Holy cow!

Desk_0590We ordered the desk ASAP (in case it was an soon-to-be-corrected error), and waited for a ship date. Well, I was called last Friday with an arrival date of Monday. When I got home, I started cleaning things up and boxing up desk contents. With the help of my son, we started tearing down the desk.

Desk_0591I think I finally finished getting the tear-down complete Sunday afternoon. Then there was the obligatory “vacuum under where all of the furniture used to be” process, and things were ready for construction instead of destruction.

Desk_0592Monday after work arrived, and I had a friend come over to help me out with the desk. The construction took forever. If you get one of these, plan on a good 8-9 hours of effort. Of course, the word “effort” falls short of the intense workout you get from moving around 300 pounds of wood and metal, even when the whole thing breaks down into pieces.

We got the job done, though!

Desk_0593The next day, I set about cleaning up the mess before migrating my stuff back into my office. Everything fits nicely, though my monitor barely squeezes under the hutch, and the bottom lip of the hutch blocks my view of the top edge of the monitor. I have to hunch down to see the top 1/4 inch or so. Not a big deal in my book.

Desk_0596With the desk together, the office put back in order, and me sitting here typing this, I’m very happy with my new office arrangement.

Desk_0597Many thanks to my wonderful wife for letting me get a new desk, signing for it when it arrived, and helping out with the construction for as long as she could stay away. I’m sorry we kept waking you throughout the late hours with the banging and thumping, but it’s hard to put these things together in silence.


Obligatory 2014 Recap

new-years-day-2015Wow. What a year. Ups. Downs. Even some sideways curves thrown in. I’m not going to go through every, gritty little detail and bore you to death. Here are some highlights of the year for me!

  • The year started out with a bang as the government decided it wanted back taxes on my grandfather’s estate. I damn near blew a gasket as my dad had promised this wouldn’t happen again. The stress of this all damn near drove me to stroke-level blood pressure for a couple of months. In the end, we had to sell my grandparent’s house (the house I spent ages 12-19 living in) to pay the taxes and get some cash out of the deal.
  • While this ordeal was going on, I received the good news that Phobias: A Collection of True Stories had been released with one of my stories in it. It’s a non-fiction piece, but it’s a gripping tale of how my arm was mostly amputated in a car wreck, and what’s gone on with me (physically, mentally, and emotionally) since that dark night in 1988.
  • Then came April with the annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Yet another great conference was had by all, and I was extremely grateful to be able to meet and hang out with old friends and new friends alike. The highlights of my 2014 PPWC were meeting Chuck Wendig, Jim C. Hines, and Michelle Johnson. Michelle asked for my full manuscript while at conference, but ended up passing on it later in the year. More on that later.
  • The rest of the year passed as I cranked out short stories, submitted them to a variety of markets, and let the rejection slips pile up in my inbox. Such is the life of a writer. You keep at it. Write more. Become better. Submit stuff. Accept rejection. Rejoice in acceptance.
  • July found me at a new Day Job. I’m still doing software engineering duties, but simply for a different employer now.
  • August rolled around and another anthology I’m in was officially released. The road was long and arduous for this particular anthology, but it got pulled off and I’m quite happy to have a story in Carnival of the Damned.
  • September found me in Paris for ten days (including travel time) for work. It was nice to go back again (I went as part of a tour group when I was a teen), but able to go alone, do what I wanted, when I wanted, and all that good stuff. However, I did get sick right before the weekend. Horribly sick. I bounced back quick enough, though. I was still able to see some of the sights I wanted to visit, but not nearly as many. That’s ok. I guess I’ll save up some things to see for next time I make it there.
  • Then in October a few things hit nearly at the same time.
  • Early in the month a flash fiction piece I’d written called “Broken Violence” was featured on HorrorAddicts.net.
  • Then later in the month, MileHiCon rolled around. This is a near-local (just up in Denver) convention that’s very well-priced (less than 50 bucks) and is always a hoot to attend. Again, I got to meet up with old friends and make some new ones while I was at it. The convention was all-around great (again) even if the fire alarms went off a few times on Saturday night and forced us to move the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show to another room.
  • When November rolled around, I received a very nice and thoughtful rejection letter from Michelle regarding Warmaiden. At this point, I’d been shopping the book around for an agent/editor for over five years. I decided it was time to move on from Laurin’s stories and write something fresh and new. The struggle to publish my first novel (and its sequels) was just becoming too much of a burden, and I needed to step away. It all, I trunked around 320,000 words from the trilogy. I still have them around, but they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
  • December rolled around, and I was writing more short stories, and decided to take a break from them to crank on a novel. I took two “short” (they’re short-to-novelette length tales) stories about the same character, merged them, added more material, amped up the grit and blood, and created (what I think is) a pretty decent urban fantasy tale. It’s a bit on the short side (about 44,000 words), so I’m going to run it past the critique group and get their input on places to improve/expand the story.
  • If you look to the right sidebar of my site, you’ll see that I came up one story short on my goal, and 10 submissions short of that particular goal. I’m okay with that. I now have one more publication from those submissions (Broken Violence), and eleven more stories to shop around once they get some polish on them.

I gotta say…. Except for the shitty start to the year, I’ve had a pretty good one so far.

Here’s to hoping 2014 was nice to you, and may 2015 bring you as much success as you can fit in your hot little hands!

PS: Resolution for 2015 will be posted tomorrow. I’m still mulling around a few ideas, and I’m not sure which one to jump on just yet.


Without Damage

FunctionalNerdsLogoI’m about a month behind in my podcast listening, so some of you may have already listened to the podcast I’m going to talk about tonight. If not, do yourself a favor and checkout episode 206 of The Functional Nerds. (Check them all out, actually. They’re really good!) In this episode, Patrick Hester and John Anealio brought Sarah Chorn to the podcast as their guest.

During the course of the interview, they talked about how many books Sarah reads in a year, her excellent book review site (see link above), and her regular column on SF Signal called Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

What I want to talk about is a phrase that John Anealio dropped in the middle of the conversation. I’m going to give you the phrase, and then the context. The phrase itself may seem heartless truth, but read on before sending hate mail to John. The phrase is:

No one gets out of this life without a little damage.

The context in this statement is that they were talking about John’s son, who is in the autistic spectrum, Sarah’s health problems, and the curve balls life throws at us. John spoke the phrase, not in the vein of “Dammit! Why the fuck does this happen to me?” but in from the angle of compassion. He knows the truth of life handing you things you may not want or in a way you may not prefer, and he thinks that community (any supportive community) is what bonds us together as people, not just human beings.

John hit the nail on the head. No one is perfect. No life is perfect. Between the time you’re born until the time you’re put in a grave, life deals you damage. There may be breathing room here and there where life takes it easy on you. Cherish those moments. Be thankful (this is a Thanksgiving Day post, after all) for the times in which the fellow with the baseball bat stops to admire his handiwork on your life. Those are the moments in which you thrive.

This is not to say that life is a downer. It’s most certainly not. This act of breathing and acting and reacting and moving and doing and creating and all that is wonderful. It’s to be cherished. It’s to be hold close and admired along with the community you choose to surround yourself with.

Just remember that those people around you (and those you push back out at a distance) are damaged as well. All of us have been hurt and pushed down in the dirt at some point. Some of us recover, but bear scars. Some limp along (usually emotionally) for the rest of their days. Keep that in mind when dealing with especially bothersome people. They are not without damage. Give them some compassion, and you might be amazed at what the outcome brings.

For all of you that struggle with your particular flavor (or flavors) of damage: You Are Not Alone. We’re all there in some way. There are people and places that truly want to help and see you succeed in your endeavors.

Be human. Be damaged. Be beautiful because of it, not instead of it.


A Post In Which I’m Interviewed

Hey all. Long time no post. Sorry for the radio silence here, but life’s been… well… life.

I wanted to drop by here real quick and let everyone know that I’m still alive and well. I’m well enough to do interviews, too!

I have proof of that statement over at K.J. Scrim’s web site. If you have a moment or twelve to learn a little more about me, check out my answers to K.J.’s fantastic questions. I really had a good time answering everything.

Thanks for the interview, K.J.!

PS: Here’s a sample:

KJ ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
J.T. ~~ Most of the places I read about in fiction are horrific places! Marauding orcs, horrible demons, power-hungry fae, and constant warfare tend to be the fare of what I read. I don’t want to visit any of those places at all. If I had to pick a place, it would be… (hit the link above to see the full answer and more!)