Tag Archive: Allegory


Dishing it up with Ty Drago

Hi folks, today my guest is Ty Drago.

He’s a busy man. For the past eleven years, he’s served as an editor/publisher – first of Peridot Books and now Allegory.

On top of that, he’s also published two novels. The first, a historical mystery called The Franklin Affair, was released by Regency Press in 2001. The second, a SF mystery entitled Phobos, was published by Tor Books in 2003/2004.

In addition, he’s written countless short stories, a number of articles on the craft and business of writing, and frequently speaks at writer’s conferences and SF conventions. A husband and father of two children, Ty travels extensively and – on top of everything else – manages to hold down a full time job as a business analyst. Jeez!

Best of all, he’s just received word that his YA thriller: THE UNDERTAKERS will be released by Jabberwocky in Spring of 2011!

JET: You’re a very busy these days with your new Middle Grade series the Undertakers as well as your duties as Editor-in-chief of Allegory e-zine AND holding down a full time “day” job – are you able to find a balance between your career(s) and your family?

TY: Well, my uber-supportive wife, Helene, once referred to me a “doer”. I guess that’s the best way to explain it. I’m not one of those people who can easily just sit. I split my life between two full-time jobs: one that I live and breathe for; and the other that pays the bills … for now.

On top of that I have my family, our interests, our trips. We recently bought a shore home that is taking up a lot of energy.

What can I say? I’m a “rolling stone!” J

JET: You’ve written science fiction, fantasy and horror. Which genre is your favorite and why?

TY: Fantasy, hands down. Science Fiction is about taking what’s possible and extending it further. Fantasy is about taking what’s impossible and making it seem possible. Horror is about tapping into deeply rooted fears, finding out what scares you and putting it down on paper. Of the three, Fantasy is the most liberating, the most versatile, and the hardest to easily define. I love it!

JET: Do you think writing speculative fiction was a conscious choice or was it just a natural affinity? Why do you think that is?

TY: I’m a storyteller. A thousand years ago, I’d have been the guy who wandered into the village around sunset and, for the price of a warm bed, a hot meal, a liberal sprinkling of alcohol, would sit by the fire and regale his hosts with tales of faraway places and forgotten lands. In our modern world, that sort of thing simply doesn’t work. So instead I’ve chosen the medium of the written word. But the spirit’s the same.

I’ve never liked the term “speculative fiction”. All fiction is storytelling and all storytelling is speculative. All fiction asks the question “what if”, and starts with some manner of “Once upon a time.” It is the oldest art; the true oldest profession.

Overall, I write what I think I can sell. My first published book was an historical fantasy. The new one is a Middle Grade dark fantasy. But, when given my druthers? Fantasy and SF. I’ve loved it all my life. So the answer to the question would be “both”!

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

TY: We’re living the single hardest time for a new writer to get established since Gutenberg was putting out nothing but Bibles. I’ve written more than a dozen novels and, so far, have sold three. I’d say that’s probably pretty typical.

The hardest thing for any writer is to get noticed, to get out of the “slush pile”. There’s more competition out there than ever before; the modern computer age has made it less tedious to write a novel than it used to be. After all, rewriting on the typewriter and rewriting with a word processor are two very different things! With so many writers submitting so much work, it’s more important than ever to network, to get to know your market personally, and to get recognized!

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

TY: That’s impossible to say. I love speaking in front of people. If pressed, I’d admit that I especially enjoyed an invite I received to attend the Oklahoma Writers Federation annual conference. They flew me out there, put me up for three nights, and then actually paid me for my time. It was a wonderful experience and I made some great friends that weekend with whom I still stay in touch.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

TY: Stephen King – a master storyteller. He has his hits and his misses, but he still has the best narrative style I’ve ever seen. And Isaac Asimov, the father of modern Science Fiction. I have books signed by both men. Their work was a huge inspiration to me.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

TY: Birth. I started writing picture books at the age of four and never stopped. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

TY: I like to visit the locales I’m writing about. I enjoy walking in the footsteps of my characters. I don’t know how “crazy” that is. Doing so is hugely valuable to me, as it gives me insight into details and nuance that might not otherwise get. Once of the things that sold The Undertakers, I think, is that the city of Philadelphia is almost a character is the story.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written – which one is your favorite? Why?

TY: Jeez! That’s like asking a parent to choose his favorite child! Right now, my fav is The Undertakers, probably because I’m spending so much time thinking about it. I have two unpublished Adult Fantasy novels that I’d love to see in print. Once is called Chivalry, and it’s the story of a Philadelphia prostitute whose life is saved by a mysterious stranger who wields a silver walking stick as if it were a sword and calls her “Milady.” The other is Angelfire, a tale of Heaven and Hell, in which a young angel sneaks to into Hell to rescue his damned wife – kind of a modern Orpheus.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

TY: Let’s go to Robert Heinlein to answer that one. Here are his five rules for writing:

1) Write

2) Finish what you write

3) Edit what you write

4) Submit what you write

5) Write something else

I don’t think anyone has ever said it better than that.

JET: Any advice from an editor’s standpoint?

TY: Know your market. Don’t submit to a publication that you haven’t actually read. Be mature. Be professional. Accept rejection and don’t ever take it personally. Keep writing. Never ever give up!

JET: All right – now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with Paper or Plastic?

TY: God (and my eco-sensitive wife) forgive me … Plastic!

JET: Steak or Tofu?

TY: Steak!

JET: Beach or Mountains?

TY: Beach! Just bought a shore home. Hellooooo!

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

TY: Rock and Roll! I’m a Jersey boy!

JET: Classics or Modern?

TY: Both!

JET: Vamps or Wolves?

TY: I’ve always been a wolf guy. Used to dress up as the Wolfman for Halloween. I know some vampire-writer friends who will gasp to hear that!

JET: Zombies or Demons?

TY: Both. I’ve written about both.

JET: Horror or Comedy?

TY: Depends on the Horror and it depends on the Comedy. I love to laugh, but you can’t tear me away from a good scary flick.

JET: Salty or Sweet?

TY: Sigh. I’ve recently had to dial back on my salt, so I’ll say Sweet.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

TY: Tea. Never developed a taste for Coffee.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you’re working on now? What’s next?

TY: I’m heavily into the editorial changes for The Undertakers, working with my amazing editor at Jabberwocky. After that, I’ve diving into Book Two of the series, which is entitled “Queen of the Dead”!

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Ty Drago and his work at http://www.tydrago.com.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Ciao,

JET

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What editors want . . .

I figured since I’m knee deep in reviewing submissions for Allegory and operating as a content editor for both eXcessica and FIDO, I’d take a moment to talk about what I am looking for in a story. 

I lead a very busy life between my day job, my writing, my marketing efforts and operating in an editorial capacity, so when I sit down to read a submission, I want to be swept away. 

I want to forget about the ten gazillion things on my plate and get lost in the story. 

I want to feel something; love, hate, fear, sorrow, joy.

I want to be moved in some fashion by what I read. 

In order to do that, the writer must leave passive voice at the door.  Passive voice is the kiss of death in my book.  Telling the reader the story instead of letting them experience it for themselves is a cardinal sin and a lesson I learned with a little help from some very savvy and very patient writing friends.  

Let me give you a hideous example of passive voice from my own archives: 

This is from the very first draft of Survival Games:

They sat in solemn silence as the memorial service began.  The priest had inspirational words for the family about knowing that their loved one was at peace with God.  Family and friends shared stories of their experiences with Jessica and expressed how much they would miss her.

BORING!  No wonder why the original version didn’t get the fan fare I hoped for.  Frankly – it sucked.   At the time, I didn’t know better but as I said before, I learned.  Not only did I benefit from harsh critiques but I also invested in some fantastic on-line writing courses.  My favorite series by far is Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing courses, I highly recommend them for the beginning writer and even those more seasoned writers that want to dig deeper. 

After a long road from first draft to where I am today, I’ve learned to write with impact.  

Now compare the original with the same passage in the published version:

They sat in silence and the memorial service began.  The priest shared inspirational words for the family about their loved one being at peace with God, but it did nothing to fill the hollowness in his soul. He didn’t want to know Jessica was in heaven, he wanted her here to help raise their family, to watch them grow, to rejoice and celebrate year after year together.  He wanted his wife and as family and friends shared stories, Daniel listened with a bitter and empty heart.   

Twenty years together.

Twenty years gone in the squeal of tires and exploding gas. 

Twenty years and now he was alone.

This passage engages active voice and enlists rhetorical devices, letting the reader into the character’s head, thus making it a more compelling read than the earlier version. 

If something akin to my original version crossed my desk, I’d stop reading right there.  Basically, if the first page is riddled with ‘was’, ‘were’,  ‘is’, ‘are’, ‘to be’ and ‘had’, I won’t read any further and your story will be rejected.   I know that sounds harsh, but it is what it is. 

Another thing I watch for is info dumps.  The key with back story is to sit and write everything you can about a character and then read it with an ultra critical eye.  What does the reader REALLY need to know?  Will this information propel the story forward?  If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the info can stay, everything else should be nixed.  Too much back story brings the momentum to a grinding halt. 

The key to a fantastic read is letting your audience get into the main character’s head, into his hearts, feel what he is feeling, tasting, hearing, smelling and touching.  But this can be taken too literally, too far and what ends up happening is head hopping from one point of view to another, which is another faux pas.  The reader loses a sense of connection when the point of view is constantly switching. 

Each passage, chapter or section should be one character’s point of view unless your book is from an omnipotent point of view, but that is another challenge all together.  If you’re in Johnny’s head (POV) and he has his back to Sally, you shouldn’t show Sally’s facial expressions unless Johnny’s an alien and has eyes on the back of his head.  *wink-wink*

I’m usually a little more forgiving on this unless it starts to pull me out of the story, then like passive voice and info dumps – the story will end up on the rejection pile. 

The last thing I look at is dialog and the overuse of adverbs. Period pieces aside, if dialog doesn’t ring true, or sounds contrived or forced, you are dead in the water.  The best advice here is to read it aloud, that flushes out the more awkward phrases and such. Also, ask yourself if you would speak like that.  If the answer’s hell no – change it.    

And as far as adverbs – I’m of the opinion that these are the lazy man’s alternative to writing fresh and too many will land you on the rejection pile.    

I’m sure none of this is new or ground breaking for those who have been around the block, but for those new to the ring, I’m hoping this will help you step back and look at your piece with a more critical eye before submitting to any publication.  The writing has to be concise and compelling no matter what the genre. 

So, I wish you a sharp pen and an even sharper razor to cut the needless phrases, the passive voice and those pesky adverbs. 

Good luck and God bless!

JET.

The journey . . .

Another Friday – another blog. This time I asked my friends and fan base over at Facebook what they’d like me to talk about this evening. I got some great ideas but the first post intrigued me. For the others that piped in, I’ll tackle your ideas in subsequent Friday posts.

Anna Walls piped in with this gem:
As a relatively new author, I’m always intrigued with how my peers made that journey. Was it planned? When did you start planning if it was? That sort of thing. What did it feel like to see your own very first book in published form?

Was this planned – no not in the least, at least not the path my life took when I got married almost twenty one years ago. In college, I had dreams of being a writer, producer and director. My major was in Communications with a concentration in radio and television broadcasting. I loved it. I mean LOVED that world. When I got out of school, I went to work at a local television station in the capacity of a film editor. What that meant in the practical world is I reformatted movies to fit into the specific timeslots and took out scenes that were not suitable for broadcast television. I also helped out in the news room at times and on occasion wrote and directed kids news spots. It was a fun job, but it paid a pittance, so when the opportunity came to switch gears into the world of finance.

In all the years I worked and raised a family, writing was always in the back of my mind, but time just wasn’t there. But even during that time, my imagination stored all the ideas away into a “this might be interesting” file cabinet in my head.

The catalyst for change was in the beginning of 2007, my daughter asked the million dollar question.

If you could do anything, what would it be?

That was an easy question to answer. Write a book and get it published. And with that, my husband and kids gave the go ahead. For close to two years I wrote almost non-stop – every evening, every weekend, every vacation and I have eight manuscripts to show for that crazy brain dump. Since then I’ve written dozens of short stories, but my focus has been on refining those manuscripts.

I made the classic rookie mistakes with query letters, from the first batch which was really more like a typical business letter introducing myself and the stack of manuscripts I had written to the naivety of being sucked into those less than reputable publishers – luckily I got wise before I peeled off any cash.

The turn of everything happened when I met Lauren Baratz-Logsted on MySpace and she turned me onto Backspace (www.bksp.org) and the forum there. Talk about eye opening and humbling. I had a lot to learn and the folks there were exceptional at sharing knowledge and pushing me to write better, cleaner, more compelling prose.

That is when I started planning. I set up my own website, my own blog, branched out from MySpace to the other networking sites, and then started refining my pitch. I met the editor of Allegory and volunteered to be an associate editor on the E-zine and landed my first publishing contract myself. So now it’s a balance of branding my name, writing, editing and learning more about the craft. While I’d like to have an agent and get my more mainstream books in the hands of the big markets, I can’t complain.

As for actually holding my first book in my hand, it’s an amazing, surreal, joyous, unbelievable feeling that I can’t begin to describe.

Now all I need to do is find balance between my writing life and my family life. Once I find that, I’ll be golden.

This week has been quite an experience starting with the receipt of my Survival Games ARCs. Wow, let me tell you cutting the tape off the box and pulling out that first copy was surreal. It’s been a dream of mine since high school, and I had the pleasure of sharing it with my folks who were at the house to get my son off the bus like they do every Monday afternoon. I actually made my father tear up because that first book I pulled from the box, I gave to him as an early birthday gift. You have to understand the relationship I have with my dad, he is and always has been my hero. The man has a heart of gold and an equally sharp sense of humor that has defined my outlook on life, so it just seemed right for him to receive that first copy.

And here I thought my week couldn’t get any better than that but then Monday night I received the preliminary artwork for Mind Games from a stellar cover artist down under. Working with Scott Dawson was a pleasure and after a few minor adjustments in the image eye color, we had the cover ironed out and submitted. I posted that cover over on Facebook and I’m telling you, it is beyond beautiful.

The rest of the week was tied up with work – my day job overriding a lot of my time and sucking the life out of me so I had nothing left at night and even wading through the Allegory submissions was slower than usual. Well, I guess that’s what you get for taking close to two weeks off from work. LOL. I did get an invite to the Winslow House Bookstock event in Mass on October 2nd and set up a couple guest blog events close to the release dates of both books, so it wasn’t a total loss.

The week ended on an up-note. I was hired as a content editor and my story Grayson House hit in the top ten over at the P&E readers poll which thrilled me to no end. I’d love to see this story get within the top 5, so if you get a chance, please take a second to vote for me before the polls close on the fourteenth. Here’s the link and I would be eternally grateful for your vote! http://www.critters.org/predpoll/shortstoryh.shtml

Well, that about does it for me for this week faithful fans. Until we meet again!

Happy 2010!

Happy New Year. 

My new year resolution is to pay a little more attention to my blogs.  I’ve neglected them for too long.  So prepare for a weekly rant from yours truly.  

I received wonderful news a couple days ago, Mind Games, the second book in the Games trilogy has been picked up by eXcessica for release on November 29, 2010.  A little over four months after Survival Games goes live.  I’ll have to work on the last of the series which is appropriately titled End Game and hopefully that can get on the docket for early 2011. 

I also have a short story that is in the staff showcase over at Allegory in the January issue.  Armageddon.  So jump on over to www.allegoryezine.com and check out all the fabulous stories that made it into this edition.  There were some stellar submissions and I had the joy of helping Ty Drago narrow down the maybe list to the final eight.  It was a joy to read all the maybe’s but a bear to try and pare that list down for both the best and a balance of fantasy, science fiction and horror. 

Anyhow, submission period starts again in February, so we all get a breather to focus on our own writing.  Once I finish polishing End Game, I’ll start my focus back on the FBI series and start hunting for representation of that series.  I already have 5 books (that need work) and a partial 6th in that series and I’ve been away from them for too long.  It’s time to get Special Agent Steve Williams back into hot water. 

My wish for all the writers out there is for a prosperous and productive New Year!

Hello! It’s snowing in CT and I figured I’ve neglected my blog long enough. The stew is on the stove simmering and the Christmas shopping is done, so I’ve got no more excuses. 🙂

November was a mad rush of a month – my first Nano and I didn’t hit my goal. In the past 2 years I’ve done 4 successful Writing Marathons through Backspace hitting 50k or more in a month each pass but not this year.

This year it went by the wayside because I just didn’t have the story fully baked in my head. I could sit here and blame it on the day job or sifting through the Allegory submissions or even on the edits for Survival Games or the holidays even, but every one of those reasons is just a lame excuse.

My brain was more centered on the things I need to do in the Games series, and the fixes I want to make in the FBI series. I do have 3 partial stories started and waiting for the timer to go off, but until I clean up the existing ones, I really can’t seem to focus.

I did have some success with short stories though. I’ve written one for an eXcessica anthology and am editing my way through the second as we speak. I also have a third one due by year end and I don’t know if I’ll make that deadline with all the other items on my plate – but I’m sure going to try!

In the meantime, the release date for Survival Games was moved from May to July – just in time for the summer heat. 🙂

Well, the big fluffy flakes are falling and the fire is cranked in the wood stove, so it’s time to get back to the creative side of writing.

I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday!