Welcome to the (un)official site for science-fiction and fantasy writer Bryan R. Durkin!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion... Again

So it came to my attention that, while I've talked a lot about my writing, I haven't actually offered much proof as to whether or not I can actually write. And while it's up to the reader to ultimately decide whether or not an author is good, the burden of proof lies with the author.

You may recall a few posts back, I posted a link to my fan fiction on fanfiction.net. While that will certainly give you a taste of my writing, it's important to note that all those pieces were purely just for fun and skill building, and none of them went through any sort of professional editing or publishing. Further, unless you're skilled enough to get a contract with a company that owns the rights to those works, you'll never make any money publishing fan fiction.

In thinking about that, I realized I haven't shown off my one piece of professional writing yet. I'd like to say it's modesty, but in reality, it completely slipped my mind. It has been seven years since I wrote it, after all.

At the end of this post, you'll find a link to a site where you can buy a short story anthology in which I published a short story, if you're inclined to spend money. If you're not, well, at least you can see I have been professionally published - although they misspelled my first name in the list of credits. Ah well.

"The Moonstone of Kadre Maryn" (hey it's fantasy, gotta have some crazy names in there, right?) is about a former mercenary who has been hired by a city under siege by an ancient enemy. Accompanied by the ruler's daughter and a few hardy soldiers, this mercenary sets out in search of a fabled moonstone which will restore the city's magical defenses. Along the way, he will have to battle mythical foes to reach his objective.

I'd like to think my writing has progressed quite a bit since then. But hey, it's my only professional credit to date, so I'm not going to hide it. Take a look and tell me what you think. ;)

Fantastical Visions II

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Starting Smaller

Yeah, missed last weekend's post again. But, it's hard to get motivated to post when you don't really have much to post about. But this time I do, and I thought I would do it before the holiday weekend officially kicks in.

Still haven't made too much progress on TSS. However, I've decided to go forward with trying to get my recent short story "Exequies" published. I don't know where yet. I've got some minor edits to do on it, but so far, all the reviews of it have been really good. Hopefully that means I did a good job on it, and the rigorous editing I put it through before sharing it might have done some good.

One of the things I've noticed while researching science fiction markets is just how weird many science fiction short stories are. Some of them I just have a hard time understand what's going on, who the main character is, or what they're trying to accomplish. Not because the "science" part of the science fiction is difficult to grasp, but because the writing is just... well... different. I don't want to say "bad," because in this day and age, quality is in the eye of the beholder. But seriously, when you can't even figure out if the main character - who is narrating the story - is male or female, or even human, until halfway through the story, isn't that a bad thing usually?

The only reason I can think of for there to be so many "weird" science fiction stories out there is that experimentation is a really big trend in the short story market right now. In their quest for originality, authors are pushing the boundaries of what was once considered an acceptable style or format for a story, and they're coming up with some very strange things indeed. Some of them work, and quite spectacularly. But in my opinion, most of them fall flat on their faces and there's nothing remarkable about the story except that it's impossible to figure out what's going on.

Now granted, that's just my opinion. And before you think me overly critical, let me try to explain why I think the way I do. When I write a story, whether it's a novel or a short story, I'm trying to communicate something. I'm trying to actually tell a story. Whether the plot revolves around a war or just a single person's inner struggles, the plot goes somewhere and conveys some sort of message. Sometimes the message is just the plot: "Here's what happened." Sometimes I try to share some sort of moral or communicate my personal values. But the point is, writing - even fictional writing - is communication. In my humble opinion, if a reader finishes a piece of writing and goes, "Huh?" the writer has utterly failed in his or her job. If by the end of the work, the writer can't communicate something the reader can understand, then the work needs to be rewritten. Otherwise all it accomplishes is making the writer feel good about him or herself.

Writing should have purpose, and if the reader doesn't at least have an idea of what the writer's purpose was (even if it was just for entertainment), it was all for naught.

So anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now. Hopefully, "Exequies" accomplished my purpose - which is both entertainment and perhaps a hint of personal belief. If I get the manuscript back from magazine publishers with "Huh?" written on it, well, it's time to go back to the manuscript and get it figured out!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


If you're like me, you probably have no idea what the title of this post means. It's Latin for "funeral rites" or "burial of the dead." Why the heck would I name a blog post "Exequies?" Well, even though I missed last week's blog post and I haven't been doing too much writing, I haven't been completely inactive. I've written and polished a 4,200 word short story entitled "Exequies." As for why I named it that, you'll have to read it, if I can ever get it published. It was one of those rare projects that sort of fell together perfectly after about half an hour of brainstorming and planning, and it only took me two nights to write it and a couple more to polish it up. So anyway, now it's done and I'm looking for a market for it.

In other news, last week was a crazy week for me, which is one reason why I missed my blog post. I fully intended to make it, but then I discovered that a 10-page paper I thought was due on November 30th was actually due November 11th, which at that point was only 4 days away. And I hadn't even started research on it. Plus, I had a presentation to give also on the 11th, which was as yet barely started at that point. So, any inclination I had to make posts was gone at that point. However, I made it through the week.

The worst of the semester is over for me, I think. I still have one serious paper left to write, as well as a presentation which should be given this week. Then it's just finals. Hopefully, I'll be able to get back to working on The Serenity Solution before I head home for the Christmas holiday. I'd hoped to have the rewrite at least halfway done by then, but I hadn't anticipated how hard these last few weeks were going to be. But now that those are out of the way, I'm looking forward to doing some writing again.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Slowly But Surely

Not a whole lot to report again this week. I'm still working on the TSS manuscript rewrite of course. I just finished up the rough version of Chapter 9, nearly 30% of the way done with the whole manuscript. Then it's back to editing once again to make sure it's polished up.

I think I might be trying to devote a little bit too much time to just this one project. At first, it was exciting to figure out I could make it a whole lot better, but after a month of nothing but TSS, I'm getting a little burned out. It's not that I don't want to be writing, it's just that writing the same thing day in and day out gets a little mundane at times. I think I might start working on some short story projects every now and then, just to switch things up. I've got a fantasy short-short story I did for Creative Writing class last year that I'm thinking about polishing up. Then I've got a military fiction short story that was never quite finished and should probably be rewritten.

Compared to TSS, these are minor projects, and I'm not really sure I care if they're ever published or not. But they will help me keep my skills up and keep me writing while I'm taking a break from TSS. And of course, TSS will still be my primary focus. I'll keep you updated on how things go.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Insert Dutifully Made Post

Well I missed last week's post, and this week's is a little late. Quite honestly, there probably won't be much content to it, either. Basically, here's what's been going on.

Last time, I mentioned I discovered my manuscript for The Serenity Solution was about 79,000 words too long and I had to rewrite it. I've been spending most of my creative energy on doing just that. Currently, I'm about 20,000 words into it, with an end target of about 94,000 words - so about 21% of the way there. Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about the progress I'm making, as well as with the quality of the work. I've also had some good feedback on the rewritten Chapter One. I still need to do some tweaking and polishing, but I think the foundation I'm building on this time is much more solid, so to speak. In particular, the book will be much more evenly (and rapidly) paced, and Harmony's subplot will be significantly strengthened, setting her up to play a much stronger role in any further books. Chrissa Maxwell's role becomes a bit more ambiguous and intriguing, but no less important. She's being set up to be more important in later works as well. Zak Atheeda, Avery Halberd, and Amber Kynterle are pretty much staying the same, as they were set up pretty well to start with.

In other news, I gave a presentation on some of the basics of getting published to a Creative Writing class at my college last week. Granted, there were only four people there, including the professor, but I found it to be a good experience. And I managed to learn and reinforce some things for myself, as well.

That's pretty much everything for now. Hopefully, next week will see some more interesting developments.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When You Realize You Goofed...

...You have to face it. It's no good trying to patch the problem up. You have to stop pushing forward, and fix the problem at its source.

That was a lesson I learned this last week. It was a suspicion I'd had for some time, but without any hard facts, I thought it was just a fear without any reason behind it. Now I know for sure: The Serenity Solution in its current form is about 79,000 words too long for any self-respecting agent to even bother looking at it.

That's right, you can write a manuscript that is just too long to be marketable, especially if you're a beginning author, like me. I realized the manuscript was a little long, but I had no idea that it was way beyond the bounds of reasonable. Then I discovered that most agents look for a new writer's book to be somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 words long. Anything much longer than that, and they start getting nervous. Why? Well, quite simply, you have yet to prove that you can deliver. The fear is, if your book is too long, it's possible that most of it is just a bunch of fluff, and attempt to shore up a weak plot or an inability to concisely describe what's going on with the action.

To be honest, I probably suffered a bit from both of those problems in the TSS manuscript. Thankfully, the error was pointed out to me by some good folks from the Absolute Write Water Cooler (see last week's post for link), before I scared off too many agents - hopefully.

Basically, I decided that if I really wanted to get this book on the market, I was going to have to rewrite it. Not an easy decision, seeing as I have already put 2 years into this project. But it was either that, or abandon it, which was absolutely out of the question. It seemed like an overwhelming project to rewrite something which I already thought was good; however, once I sat down to study the problem objectively, I discovered I had a few advantages.
  1. The basic plot was sound. The excessive length in the manuscript was more a result of my being too ambitious in what I wanted to cover in the book, rather than a lot of fluff - although there was definitely some fluff that needs to go.
  2. I already had the setting and back story well established. All I need to do is figure out how to work it into the action of the book.
  3. Characters are already well established. I don't have to sit around and figure out how they're going to interact with each other, as that was already taken care of in the first write.
  4. Some chapters and scenes are well written. Furthermore, beta readers have told me that hook at the end of the book is very well done. Because of this, some of the rewrite will be a simple copying of the good parts and pasting them into the rewrite, then polishing them to make sure they fit well.
So, that's where I'm at right now. I've stopped sending out query letters, since the manuscript is once again "incomplete." I've trimmed down the plot, and created a new outline. New target length for words is about 99,000, though I think it's going to end up significantly shorter than that, possibly as low as 90,000 words. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I'm great at learning things. Sometimes it just takes me awhile to decide that I want to learn them. Networking is one of those things I read about in the various books I have on getting published, but it involves actually interacting with people, and I'm not too big on that. Which is why I have a blog, instead of having a conversation about all this with someone. Lack of social skills aside, networking is a pretty crucial piece of your strategy to get your book from manuscript form to the bookshelf. For example, sometimes you can find the perfect agent by yourself. But for many of us, we come up with a list of agents that represents only a fraction of the available options. In other words, we need to know people who know people.

I've made a couple advances in my previously non-existent networking strategy this past week. The first thing I did was mention my blog to someone, which ended up with me being asked to give a presentation on what I've learned to a creative writing class. That wasn't originally what I had intended, but at the very least, I'll probably end up learning more stuff through the experience. Time will tell if it's a good thing or not.

The second event happened when I was investigating a possible agent online. I happened across a writer's forum that seems to be pretty extensive. It's a home for writers of all experience levels, including several that have been professionally published. It looks to be a great place to look for advice on both simple and complicated questions. Writers can also share their work there in order to receive critiques on it. I just joined it yesterday, so I'm still exploring the site, but it looks like it will be well worth my time.

Nothing new to report on my effort to get TSS published. I did sent another e-mail query yesterday. I haven't received any other responses back yet, so no news is good news I suppose.

In regards to my Bounty Hunter Quartet project, I finished an outline for the rewrite of Book I, and have started the manuscript for it. I've reached about five pages so far, and hopefully that will be up and running at a good speed shortly. I did decide to go ahead with the high fantasy aspect of it, as opposed to the urban fantasy version. It just didn't seem right to convert the project from its original genre, since I've spent so many years envisioning it as high fantasy. But, the brainstorming process has given me some leads for ideas on possible future urban fantasy projects. I'll keep you updated on how it goes.

Here's the link for the Absolute Write Water Cooler: Absolute Write

Monday, September 27, 2010

The List Grows Smaller

Well, this last week saw some disappointing developments in the quest to get The Serenity Solution published. Those developments took the form of 3 form rejections in the space of 3 days. Oh well, at least I'm hearing back from them, right? And it only brings my total to 5 rejections, which isn't very much. Or, if you want to look on the dark side, it means I'm just starting down the long road of rejection. The list of possible agents I can send my book to is growing drastically smaller in a short period of time. I might have to raid the local library for the 2010 edition of Literary Marketplace and hope it has a greatly expanded list over the 2009 edition.

But I'm staying positive. Oh yes. I think...

Anyways, the last week also saw some positive developments, concerning the Bounty Hunter Quartet series I mentioned in the previous post. I dug up my old files on it and finished reading through them. I've come up with quite a few ideas about what I want to see in the books, especially regarding a much, much deeper level of character development than was there previously. I haven't had any brilliant flashes of inspiration regarding the plot yet; I'm still waiting on that. Partly due to the new character development, and partly in order to maintain originality and a more compelling plot line, I need to change things up from the original version.

I'm working on basic character biographies for it, and hopefully within the next week or two, I can have a rough outline of the first book laid out. Once that's done, I can start writing the rough draft of the manuscript. Theoretically, thanks to everything I've learned in trying to get The Serenity Solution published, this book should be even better. It'd be nice to have something solid ready to follow TSS with.

And of course, I'll post updates as they happen, regarding any and all of my projects.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shifting Gears

Not too much to report this time around. I haven't come up with any new insights regarding my attempts to get published. After the major re-writes and change-ups to the first chapters of The Serenity Solution last weekend, this weekend has been remarkably quiet. I did send to e-mail queries to agencies on Friday. I've actually already heard back from one of them, but of course it was a polite rejection. I think there was a grand total of fifteen words in it. But hey, at least it's better than not hearing back at all.

Despite the temptation to become obsessed with getting The Serenity Solution published, everything I've read about publishing says that I have to keep moving forward with other writing projects. There are two reasons for that: one, getting a book from manuscript form to the bookshelf in a store can take a long time, and I can't put my career on hold for it; and two, I have to face it - this book might never get published. I think just about every successful author has a manuscript or two that never made it to the shelves. That's just the nature of the business. So, I have to keep my options open and keep other projects going.

So, in the spirit of progress, I've been working on one of my old projects, a fantasy series that I started back in 2002 or 2003. Actually, elements of the story - characters, settings, plot lines - can be traced back much further than that, possibly as early as the late 1990s. It wasn't until 2003 and 2004 that these various elements began coming together in the form of the Bounty Hunter Quartet. The first book, tentatively named The Pillars of Heaven, reached a full 193 pages in MS Word, or 124,000 words, before it fell victim to a variety of issues. One was just the fact that my life was incredibly busy at that time, between going to school and then joining the Navy. Another was that I'd never really written any sort of cohesive plan or outline for it, so when I did get a chance to sit down and work on it, I couldn't remember where I'd been going with it. Somewhere around 2006 I decided that it just wasn't going the direction I'd wanted it to; it felt more like a patchwork of different projects rather than a single cohesive one. Then of course, in 2008 I began working on The Serenity Solution in earnest.

Now that TSS is finished as a manuscript, I've decided that I'd like to at least take a long hard look at the BHQ. Mainly, is it feasible as a story, and it what ways do I need to update it to fit my current writing style? I've already decided that I'm going to have to completely rewrite it, reducing those 193 pages to nothing more than extensive notes and reference material. Since the project has literally been over 7 years in the making, I won't be satisfied with it unless it's a true masterpiece of fantasy. In other words, I've got my work cut out for me. Switching gears from military sci-fi to fantasy is harder than I thought. And on a side note, I had a crazy thought the other day. What if I took the BHQ from a fantasy and turned it into an urban fantasy, complete with technology, guns, magic, etc? There are some serious pros and cons to that, of course, which I'll discuss more in depth later if I actually pick this project up and go somewhere with it anytime soon.

So you're probably wondering what the Bounty Hunter Quartet is all about. Not surprisingly, it's about a bounty hunter, at least in part. Mathen Nors is a mysterious man with a shady past, like most bounty hunters. He's attained the status of myth and legend among the common folk, who call him "Gray Death" because he's always cloaked and hooded in gray - at least, when he sees fit to reveal himself. But Mathen Nors isn't just a cold, heartless man who captures targets for whoever is willing to pay. He's a broken soul who carries with him the crushing guilt of past deeds, for some of which he truly is responsible, and some that he took up because no one else would. He has a strong sense of duty, but lately, the sense has become confused and clouded, mixed with a personal agenda and pride that he just can't quite shake.

After a demon shape shifter kills his sister, Mathen Nors embarks on a quest to bring the monster to justice, whether or not anyone is paying for its head. But at the same time, a shapeless evil is taking form in the far southern reaches of the Known Realms and extending its claws northward. Enslaving entire nations and using their peoples as proxy armies against those who remain free, it unleashes forces of chaos that will ensnare everyone. Mathen Nors will have to decide where his duty truly lies: with the rapidly diminishing free peoples of the world, or with the oath he swore to avenge his dead sister. Along the way, he'll begin to uncover pieces of his own mysterious past, and he'll find that it is far darker than anyone could have imagined.

That's just a quick look at what the BHQ is about, and of course there will be more details as it unfolds. Comments are welcome, particularly on what would be more interesting in this case: this plot as a traditional high fantasy, or as an urban fantasy. I still can't make up my own mind.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Quest for Marketability

Sometimes the biggest challenge for a writer isn't whether the manuscript he's written is any good or not. The plot may be good, the characters may be solid and original, and the action may be thoroughly gripping. But sometimes, I've discovered, this isn't good enough to get an agent's attention. My experience is still very limited, but I believe the greatest challenge facing me right now is getting my manuscript as marketable as possible.

I think my manuscript is good. The plot is solid and as original as you can get with military sci-fi these days. I think my characters are good and they fit well with the plot and each other. And there's no shortage of action. This isn't bragging really - after all, if I didn't think the manuscript was good, I wouldn't be trying to sell it to an agent. So then, what's the issue? After having read up on the subject, browsing numerous agents' pages online, and by researching how to write a good query letter, I've discovered that although agents may be writers themselves, they don't think the same way that writers do. No matter what an agent says, they have to think differently from writers.

In what ways? Basically, a writer - especially a new one - has the goal of telling a story. Creating a new world, new characters, getting the tale across to the reader. Because writers are a diverse group, there are innumerable ways to tell a story. Agents, on the other hand, have to sell that story. There are only so many ways to do that. While we as writers may think that a story that takes a long time to get to the point is redeemed by the glory of its ending, agents won't think the same way. They'll look at the beginning, see that it doesn't hook readers from the start, and move on to another manuscript - just for example.

So, I have to get myself into an agent's mindset, looking critically at the characteristics of my story, and polishing it so that it's as marketable as possible, without damaging the qualities that make it a unique story. Namely, I have to hook readers from the first line of the text, and keep them fully engaged until the last line. At the same time, I have to keep the plot unique, the characters solid, the action gripping, etc.

In the case of The Serenity Solution, I was told by a few of my readers that the book started out a little slow. I maintained it was because I was providing information that was necessary for understanding later parts of the book; it was setting up context. They agreed with me; however, it was still slow. This is a problem a lot of new writers have: trying to put too much background information at the beginning of the book. The key is to get the information in there, but work it into the action of the story so it doesn't slow things down.

For The Serenity Solution, this entails putting Chapter Three in the place of Chapter Two (introducing Harmony, arguably the book's most interesting character, earlier) and bumping Chapter Two down to where Chapter Three was (providing additional background information and further establishing the team dynamic with Zak et al.). That was easily done, a simple copy and paste and making sure the details still match up. Now I have to figure out if I can completely remove the "What Has Gone Before" section at the very beginning of the book and work that background information into the plot. A section like this is an easy way to establish general context, but it has the disadvantage of being a full block of nothing but background at the very beginning of the book. Plus, in my experience, it's usually used for books in series, where the reader has already been hooked and just needs a quick reminder of what happened in the last book. So, I have to figure out how to get rid of that. It will also help to tone down the misguided "Post-Apocalyptic" feel the book may initially give to an agent, and establish that it's really more "Post Post-Apocalyptic."

In other news, once I have this marketability issue resolved, I'm prepping yet another query to be sent by regular mail. I'll keep you updated on that as I get more news.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"The Serenity Solution" Project, Part 4

One of the key aspects of any story is the setting. Sometimes the setting plays a major part in the plot of the book, while in other cases, it mostly stays in the background, simply providing a backdrop. One of the things I'm struggling with in marketing The Serenity Solution to agents is how much emphasis to put on the larger setting that the novel takes place in.

Here's a brief overview of the setting. Basically, around 150 years before the book takes place, World War III happened. Most of the planet got nuked and was turned into a wasteland. Over the decades since, various city-states were built in areas that were still inhabitable, and it is in these safe havens that the majority of humanity lives on.

Those of you who are well-read in science fiction literature are probably seeing where my dilemma starts to come in. The "post apocalyptic" setting - whether it was created by nuclear war, a plague, or even aliens - has been rather overdone. Movies and books both have beat this setting to death, and it would take an extremely unique and gripping plot to make another book in such a setting stand out.

The reason I chose a post-apocalyptic setting for my book was because it was the only one I could conceive of in which 1.) there are only a few city-states on the entire planet, and 2.) though some technology is much more advanced than we see today on Earth, a lot of it (primarily the weapons) remains similar to today's technology level. Furthermore, the plot of the book has almost nothing to do with the nuclear war or the wastelands that were the result of the devastation. All action in the plot takes place in a few of the city-states. However, I feel that making a note of the setting (including the nuclear war) is important to have at the beginning of the book; it's the foundation for why a lot of things in the plot are the way they are. It's true that setting can be integrated throughout the action of the book, rather than in a bulk paragraph at the introduction, but in the case of The Serenity Solution I feel this would leave readers in the dark for too long.

The problem is, getting agents to see past that intro and get into the main part of the book. Part of the reason why I think my first couple submissions met with polite rejection is because I emphasized the "cataclysmic war" that led to the creation of the city-states a bit too much in my query letters. This latest round of submissions have included query letters and a synopsis that tone that down quite a bit, referring more to the action of the plot rather than the setting - which is something I should have been doing from the beginning. But, I'm learning as I go.

Now that I've shared the woes of this issue with you, let me provide a few more details of the actual settings of The Serenity Solution. Most of the plot takes place in three different city-states.

Serenity: Serenity is the home city of Captain Zakariah Atheeda, Sergeant Avery Halberd, Officer Amber Kynterle, and Officer Chrissa Maxwell. Ranked as the second-safest city on Earth (after Unity), Serenity hasn't been involved in a war for over forty years, and it enjoys a remarkably low crime rate. Its citizens are highly independent and proud of their ability to sustain themselves, adopting a nearly isolationist attitude. Because of their self reliance, the average citizen sees very little need for the art of Politics. Unfortunately, this attitude has rendered the general populace sadly naive about the world outside their own city, and they are generally unprepared for any sort of "foreign" threat. They rely heavily on their Police Department for safety, although they regard those same Officers with a great measure of suspicion and distaste. Serenity is a beautiful city. Its building are predominantly white, arranged in concentric circles, with the buildings at the center of the city being the tallest, and all other building gradually built lower as they get closer to the edge of the city. The city prefers to use blue and turquoise lighting, which makes the city sparkle like a sapphire at night.

Intensity: During the course of the plot, Zak and his team find themselves undercover in the city of Intensity. Intensity is the most dangerous of all the city-states. Law and order collapsed there over two decades ago, and some people believe that the Tribunal actually allowed this to happen, for reasons unknown. People are allowed to do whatever they can in order to get ahead in Intensity. Those with the most money fare the best, as they are able to hire mercenaries to defend their assets or attack and destroy those of their rivals. Life expectancy is extremely short in Intensity, as an unwary traveler can be shot simply for trying to help someone in distress. Corporations are the ruling force in the city, as they have the resources and the manpower to enforce their will. The city itself is huge, the largest on Earth, and it is a danger in and of itself. Building are constructed wherever open space can be found, often one right atop another. In most places of the city, the ground hasn't been visible for years. The various streets, walkways, and bridges form a warren in which even an experienced street dweller can get hopelessly lost.

Serendipity: Serendipity is a city-state which has been constructed in orbit over earth. It originally started as a large space station, but was gradually expanded over the years to become a full-fledged city. Though it takes up considerably less space, Serendipity hosts a population comparable to Serenity's. It is one of the richest city-states, home to several large corporations, and it is constantly expanding as more and more people move there. As home to the Tribunal, Serendipity sees itself as better than its Earth-bound sister cities, and its citizens have adopted a rather haughty attitude.

That's just a very basic overview of the settings in which the plot takes place.

In other news, I made another submission today, this time via e-mail. I included my rewritten, shortened synopsis, and the first two chapters of the book. Hopefully, I'll hear something back within the next two weeks. I still haven't heard back from my previous two submissions, but those could take up to another two months, as they were sent by regular mail. Here's hoping.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Process Continues

It took me a bit more time and effort than I had hoped, but I've finally gotten moved back down to Texas for the last year of college. Actually, I should have more time to work on my various writing projects now than I did while I was fighting fire in Oregon. Something about living out in the woods and not having reliably stable power kind of screws up anything resembling measurable progress.

Despite the fact that classes have already started, I'm continuing the process of looking for an agent for The Serenity Solution. I have one submission that I'm still waiting to hear back on, and I spent much of today preparing another one to go out, hopefully in tomorrow's mail. This one includes two things I've never had to do before (in my admittedly limited experience): first, I had to trim my synopsis down to two pages. It wasn't as hard as I thought it might be, but it certainly feels... lobotomized. Secondly, I had to come up with a one-paragraph pitch for the entire book, which doesn't give away the ending. In other words, it looks like something you'd see on the back cover of the book. Thankfully, I've already taken a few shots at that in my own attempts at shameless self promotion, so all I really had to do for that was trim it down and make it look a little more professional.

In the course of sharing my triumphs and woes with a friend over the summer, I hit upon a possibly reason why my first two submissions might have been met with polite rejections: they both relied on my selling myself and my work solely through a one-page query letter. Kudos to anyone who can do that, but let's face it: I'm a newbie in this field, and I'm no salesman. I found myself following the train of thought that just about every hopeful author has: "If only they'd take a look at my book..." Well, as it turns out, a lot of agents ask for a writer to send part or even all of their manuscript along with their query letter. The downside is, such agents often take longer to respond, but this is far outweighed by the potential benefit: they're much more likely to actually look at your book. Following this line of reasoning, both of my last two submissions have included parts of my book. The first asked for the first ten pages, and the second requested the first three chapters.

Keep in mind, if your work has any hope of passing the test, it will have to be just as well written as a work that gets sold only by a query letter. The reason agents request only the first part of a manuscript is to see if you can get the reader hooked right from the start. If you can't, they're not going to keep reading the manuscript in the dim hope it will pick up somewhere around Chapter Ten. So, here's hoping I can get the agent hooked with the first three chapters of my own manuscript.

In other news, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what project I want to work on next. I haven't made any progress on the potential sequel to The Serenity Solution, though such a work is planned. One project I was working on over the last half of the summer is another military(-style) sci-fi thriller tentatively code-named "Contagion." I say tentatively because at this early stage, I don't even know if that name would fit it well. I do have some brief character bios drawn up, and some things I'd like to see in the plot. Lately, I've been thinking about going back to one of my old medieval fantasy projects and rewriting it. I've been wanting to do that for a long time, but it got put back on the shelf by TSS. That project right now is going under the guise of "The Bounty Hunter Quartet," with the original project planned as a series of four books (hence "Quartet"). Anyway, I'll keep you updated on those as progress arises.

Next time I post, I'll try to put up some more of the promised information on The Serenity Solution. Hopefully, I can get back to my once-weekly posting schedule now that things have calmed down a bit. "Hopefully" being the operative word there...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just My Luck...

First of all, apologies about how long it took to make another post. I didn't get my usual days off, so I ended up working for two weeks straight.

On the submission front, some news to report. My second query letter was met with a polite rejection, so now I'm on to the third and fourth options on my list. Right now I'm getting everything together that the various agents want to see. How in the world I'm supposed to summarize a 179,000 word novel in two pages is still beyond me; it took me an hour and a half just to trim a quarter page off my original summary to make it fit within a 3 page limit for the first agency I submitted it to. Anyway, hopefully, my third submission will be in the mail by tomorrow, and the fourth by next week.

I was trying to work on a sequel to my finished novel, but just my luck, all the ideas I've been able to come up with are for a completely unrelated book. In fact, I'm thinking I might actually try to teach myself screenwriting so I can sell the idea as a movie. But this is all just in the brainstorming phases right now, there's nothing definite set up with that. I think my brain needs a break from the Serenity Solution "universe," because try as I might, I just can't get myself to focus on it. And there's about twenty other projects I'd like to be working on. Yeah, just my luck.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fanfiction.net Link

While some of my close friends and family might be familiar with how I write and what I write about (when I'm not working on The Serenity Solution, anyway), I realize that most of the visitors to this page probably have no clue if I can even string together a story. Due to the fact that I want to keep any possible problems with publication rights to an absolute minimum in the event I can get this novel published, I can't share parts of The Serenity Solution itself.

I find that one of the best ways to keep my skills sharp is to work on fanfiction. Fanfiction, of course, is creating an original plot within an already developed setting, world, or universe, and often using already established characters. This alleviates the burden of having to create new settings and characters, and allows me to simply work on creating a solid plot.

At the end of this post, you'll find a link for my profile on Fanfiction.net. From there, you can browse the stories I've written, in case you're interested in how I write. I've completed a couple Star Wars stories, and one based on Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, which was also a television show. I started one based on the Halo games, but haven't finished yet due to more pressing projects (and I didn't plan the plot out very well before I started; I need to find the time to actually rewrite it).

Feel free to leave comments on the stories at Fanfiction.net, or you can do the same here on this post. Enjoy.

Fanfiction Link

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Now It Gets Real

Most of you probably don't know this, but two weeks ago I mailed my first query letter to a prospective agent, regarding representation for The Serenity Solution. This came after a month of getting my manuscript as ready for submission as I possibly could, and another 2-3 weeks of searching for agents who I thought would be a good fit for representing the novel.

Yesterday, I got the response back from the agent. It was a form rejection. Basically, "Thanks for your query, but your project doesn't interest us at this time. Good luck in the future." On the surface, it seems like it would be pretty depressing, but I'm choosing to look at the positive aspects of it.

First, by daring to send a query, I put myself ahead of the vast majority of writers out there. I got over the fear of rejection and I let someone else see what I can do. This is one of the first steps in the transformation from "writer" to "author." I'll never sell a book if I don't let anyone see it.

Second, it's keeping me grounded in reality. Sure, it would be great if I got an agent for my first book thanks to my first query letter. But then that could give me unrealistic expectations for the long road to publication ahead.

Finally, it's helping me to learn more. Not necessarily about what I did wrong, if I did anything wrong to begin with (a single form rejection by itself usually doesn't give you much information to go off of), but it is forcing me to explore other options. Mainly, I wrote a second query letter, changing up my approach to better fit the new agency that I'm querying. The more I do this, the easier it will hopefully be in the future.

People have told me they're sorry I got a rejection letter. As much as I appreciate their sympathy, I'm not sorry I got one. Every author has gotten at least one. Most have gotten many, many more. I look at it as part of building my experience. Plus, if I ever need to start a fire and I run out of kindling, the paper will be handy...

Today, I queried another agency, this time by email. Hopefully, I won't have to wait two weeks to get a response back, but we'll see. Of course, I'll keep updating this blog on the process, whether I move forward or have to go back to square one.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"The Serenity Solution" Project, Part 3

Following are the bios for the rest of the main characters.

Harmony - A mysterious woman representing the city of Intensity in trade talks with Serenity, Harmony uses only her pseudonym to protect her real identity. For all intents and purposes, she appears to be a simple diplomat, but she is working for a shady group of people which is trying to extend its control over the seven city-states. Despite her current affiliations, Harmony remains fiercely independent, and she uses her paramilitary and espionage backgrounds to catch her opponents off guard.

Master Chief Joseph Gates - As the Commanding Officer of the Serenity Police Department and a veteran of the streets himself, Gates finds himself in the unenviable position of balancing his Officers' needs with playing the political game his office requires. Generally good-natured and practical, Gates doesn't tolerate nonsense from anyone in his chain of command, either above or below his pay grade. Keeping Serenity and her citizens safe is his primary objective.

Chief Bram Heisman - Heisman is the selfish, unscrupulous second-in-command of the Serenity Police Department, and also the leader of the city's Administration, the "watchdog" organization which controls nearly every aspect of the city. Although ostensibly operating under the orders of the Administration Directorate, which oversees each city's Administration, Heisman seems to have his own agenda.

Maxim - Operating as Serenity's representative opposing Harmony's position in the trade talks, Maxim also uses his pseudonym to protect his real identity. Maxim is a highly skilled player on the political field, and is more than capable of countering Harmony's arguments. Regardless of his personal feelings or belief's, his goal is to ensure Serenity comes out on top in any negotiations.

That's it for the main characters of the book. As always, comments are welcome.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"The Serenity Solution" Project, Part 2

Now that you've had a brief look at what The Serenity Solution is about, I'd like to give you a glimpse of the main characters in the book. These are the major players that will be driving the plot forward; there are other, more minor characters, but they don't figure as much into the grand scheme of things. They are listed in order of most important to the plot to least important.

Captain Zakariah Atheeda - Known as "Zak" to his friends, Captain Atheeda is a highly professional, highly dedicated Serenity Police Officer who believes in being prepared for the worst-case scenario. Even if it means breaking a few rules, his goal is to ensure his team will survive any challenge they may face on the streets. He takes his mission to protect and defend the citizens of Serenity very seriously.

Sergeant Avery Halberd - Called "Hal" by his teammates, Sergeant Halberd is Zak's second in command for the team; like Zak, he's a veteran of the SPD. He's easy-going and good-natured, but his Captain's word is law on the job. He's a little cynical about life as an Officer, but when it comes to protecting Serenity and her citizens, no sacrifice is too great.

Officer Amber Kynterle - Still considered a rookie in the Department, Kynterle's "new kid" mentality hasn't worn off. She's generally cheerful, lighthearted, and full of energy, which keeps her older male companions on their toes. Still a little naive, she starts every day looking forward to high speed chases and gun battles, without really understanding the kind of danger she's getting into every time she puts on her uniform.

Officer Chrissa Maxwell - As a brand new member on Zak's team, Maxwell is something of an unknown to the rest of her teammates. She has a cool, aristocratic manner, and remains aloof and impersonal with others around her. Although she seems exceptionally capable for a brand new Officer, she carefully guards her shadowy past and won't open up to those who would befriend her.

These are about half of the "main characters." In the interest of keeping posts to an easily readable length, I'll put up the second half in another post later on. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"The Serenity Solution" Project, Part 1

The posts of The Serenity Solution Project will explore the various aspects of my book, everything from the world in which it takes place, to the main characters, to discussions about the plot and where I hope to see the work go in the future. I'll be posting this in several parts, and I invite and questions, comments, and discussions on the topics.

For now, I thought I'd start out by providing a bit of a teaser, something similar to what you might see on the back cover of the book once it's published. Keep in mind, this is just my imagination at work. I'm not a marketing major, so I'm not sure exactly what a publisher would put on the back. Enjoy.

"God punishes the wicked and Nature destroys the unwary, but Mankind's greatest enemy has always been itself. A century and a half after an apocalyptic nuclear war, Humanity is struggling to build a utopian society in the form of seven city-states. But even as peace and order reach new heights, there are those who seek to incorporate the city-states into their own sinister plans.

Even while struggling to keep the peace, a team of Police Officers with the Serenity Police Department finds itself in the middle of a growing war which threatens to consume the city-state of Serenity. Undermined by his own chain of command and confronted by betrayal, Captain Zakariah Atheeda realizes he has to take his team outside the law if he wants to save his city and, somehow, get everyone home alive. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman known only as Harmony holds the lives of countless thousands in her hands as she navigates the political minefields of future Earth in an attempt to subjugate Serenity for 'the greater good.'

As plots with global consequences unfold, these opposing forces collide in a battle in which the weak are pawns and only the prepared have any chance of survival. Sacrifices will be required, loyalties will be tested, and alliances will be found in the most unlikely of places. Strap in, lock and load, because this is the dangerous reality of the future. This is the reality of The Serenity Solution."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The First Post

The purpose of this blog will be to relay news about my writing. Here, I'll discuss the various issues that I'm dealing with in regards to publishing my first full-length novel, The Serenity Solution. Once it's published and I move on to other works, I'll be posting news and updates about those as well.

It's been some time since I've used a blog of any sort, so I apologize if things look a little cluttered and unprofessional right now. I'm learning as I go along, and hopefully things will get cleaned up. Hopefully, if I'm successful at all, I can get a site of my own. But that's all in the future; this is what I have right now, and I intend to make the best of it.

This blog will be open to comments, and hopefully I can find a way to get some sort of discussions going on here. I love writing and I love the various challenges and problems that it can present, anything from the purely grammatical to the ideological and moral issues that come up. This, too, will take time, as I begin to better understand how this blogging thing works.

For now, my main topic of discussion on this site will be The Serenity Solution and the various aspects of it. Obviously, I can't share the whole work here, and not just for copyright reasons - the manuscript is 291 pages long, before being double-spaced in the appropriate format. It's also about 179,000 words long, which I understand is a bit lengthy for a novel. But, I would like to at least familiarize people with the basic concepts behind the work, including the world in which the plot takes place, and the more specific setting as it pertains to the novel itself. I also want to give a brief overview of the plot (without spoiling the ending, of course), and briefly introduce the main characters. The various inspirations for the book might also work themselves in. And of course, I'll be keeping everyone updated on the progress of getting the book published as well.

So please, make yourselves and home, and feel free to look around. Comments, as long as they are serious and civil, are welcome on any of the posts. My work schedule keeps me away from the internet for most of each week, so please have patience with me. I will reply to any questions or comments that warrant it, and I'll update the site as I'm able.

Welcome to my blog!

- Bryan R. Durkin