Markhat is Grinning Tonight!

Fig. A: Inside the author's mind, which is almost always in a tree.
I have some very good news!

My fearless beta reader, the tireless and eagle-eyed Kellie, has read the first draft of the new Markhat novel.

Her verdict: It's a good book. The word 'loved' was used.

You may have heard my sigh of relief all the way from Mississippi.

I was terrified the series was going the way of so many others and getting stale. She said The Five Faces  avoids that entirely, which is exactly what I intended to avoid. She saw what I doing, even though I didn't tell her beforehand, and that makes me very happy indeed.

So. I'll make another thorough pass while reviewing her comments. If I feel another passes (or ten more) are required, I'll make them too. But hopefully The Five Faces will be off to the publisher for their consideration very soon.

I won't lie to you. Every time I finish a story or a book a mean little voice starts whispering from the cluttered corners in the back of my mind. "Oh, they'll all see what a fraud you are this time, they will," it says, in Gollum's voice, of course. "Know you for the poser and the no-talent hack you are, they will!"

"Why do you sound like Yoda?" I ask. That usually shuts it up for a few minutes, but by then the damage is done.

I'm not alone in harboring persistent doubts. Every writer I know endures that same little voice, from time to time.

I keel you! I keel your career!
After all, what we do is so very subjective. It is entirely possible -- heck, it's inevitable -- that one will find intelligent, educated, tasteful people who will love Book X, and persons with the very same qualities who will loathe Book X.

Which doesn't mean Book X is bad, necessarily. Or that it's good, for that matter. It simply proves the old adage 'you can't please everyone.'

There are plenty of good books which are despised by many. Any Harry Potter title, for instance. And plenty of bad books which are much beloved -- I'm looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey, and by the way put some pants on.

I understand that. I know not everyone is going to love my books. And that's fine. I don't rail and shout and argue when I get bad reviews.

If the reviewer has a valid point, I try to remember it, and do things better the next time around.  TEACHING MOMENT, for my writing class students: Don't EVER argue with a reviewer, particularly online. Don't even respond, not even to say thanks, because (in my opinion) the review area is for readers, not writers.

Your baby, your book, is on its own. Let it stand on its own two metaphorical feet. Let it fight its own mighty battles of analogy.

You, the writer, should be so consumed by work on your next project you're barely aware of reviews anyway.

Isn't that right, writing class peeps?

But I digress. The little nattering whispers of negativity I'm talking about tonight come from inside.

Those, you must absolutely ignore.

Writing is a lot like walking a high wire, except of course most writing is not done with one's feet. Once you're out there on the line, you've got nothing to keep you going but your wits, your balance, and most of all your nerve. If you start focusing on the whispers that tell you your next step is your last, you are going to fall.

Sure, you're not on a wire stretched hundreds of feet in the air, and the worst thing that will happen physically is a dropped participle, but your act comes to a screeching halt in both instances.

I've learned to all but silence that nasty little voice while I'm working on a project. But once I'm done, here's how my mental processes usually proceed:

Stage One: Euphoria. The book is done. Done, and I love it. I am clearly a genius. A prodigy. Future generations will praise my name and sell Frank Tuttle bobbleheads in the Tuttle Writing Museum Gift Shoppe. Another novel complete. Parades, confetti, and the really expensive Ramen noodles with the added flavor packets all around!

Stage Two: Evaluation. Sure, the book is done, but is it any good? Frantic re-reads. Edits. Re-writes. Repeat of Step One, if the book is deemed worthy. Adoption of air of quiet confidence.


Stage Three: Night of the Panics. OMG what was I thinking? Did I really send that manuscript off? Is it too late to recall the email CANIDESTROYTHEENTIREINTERNETTOPREVENTITSRECEPTION where are my PILLS where are my PILLS AAAAAAGH.

Stage Three usually only lasts about half an hour, but it always occurs at 3:33 AM and is accompanied by an inexplicable apparition of Isaac Asimov shaking his head at me in profound disappointment

Maybe I should stop picking my own mushrooms.

Anyway, I am now firmly in the midst of Stage Two with The Five Faces. I am bolstered by Kellie's appraisal of the book; while my cruel little voice freely questions my judgment, it cannot dismiss hers.

So ha ha, little voice. Maybe the Markhat series will someday jump the shark and lurch to an unseemly end, but that day is not today.


Well, sort of.

I'm building a prop for a friend of mine, the talented and lovely Mr. Matthew Graves, who makes documentaries as well as movies. Matthew needs an embalming pump for use in his upcoming film The Embalming, so I'm whipping one up from bits of this and chunks of that.

Now, when you see the picture you'll probably think 'Yuck what a disgusting object. It's filthy. I hates it, I do, nasty Hobbitsess with their thieving little handses..."

And I'll point out that we're both far too familiar with Gollum-speak.

But yes, the pump is dirty. It's supposed to be. There's an art to making things look dirty, by the way. I use a thin film of Elmer's Glue, spread by hand, followed quickly by a liberal dumping of a just-filled dustpan on the housing. Blow off the big stuff, let the dust stick, and viola, instant dirt (the glue dries clear).

Soon, the pump will be bubbling with a disgusting fluid, which shall be a viscous mixture of water, clam chowder, black coffee, syrup, and tomato juice. The soggy grey bits of clam -- oh, they add so much delightful texture, as they whirl past in the clear tank...

I plan to use hand-pumps to make the mixture flow and bubble. Matthew said he could add a mechanical whir in post-production.

So, without further adieu, the prototype pump, still under construction:

Not UL Approved.

Finally, and on a wildly unrelated note, let me share with you a comment made by one of my writing class students, who yawned as I expounded on the merits of showing, not telling, and then explained herself thusly:

"Sorry, Mr. Tuttle, but I stop listening when you start monologuing."

So let that be a lesson to me. No more monologuing! Instead, I shall speak from the heart, and also carry a small but powerful taser, because no one likes absolute honesty.

That's all for this week. Take care, people, and remember -- if you can't get real congealed blood from a rotting corpse, syrup and black coffee will suffice.