Proof That Happy Goths Love Zwieback

henar-torinos-pan-annualWhat you see here is a photograph of Spain’s very own mega-talented artist, writer, and self-described “happy Goth,” Henar Torinos, holding up a copy of The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, for which she provided the incredible cover art. She thinks it rawks! :D

Henar made her comics debut as the creator/artist of the two-volume graphic novel series Mala Estrella (Bad Star), published by Ediciones Babylon; the series won the award for Best Manga of 2012 at Ficomic, Barcelona’s International Comic Fair. She currently works as a freelance illustrator and designer. I met her through deviantArt, the online art community, shortly after I joined; I’d been looking for artists for the Pan-themed promotion “The 13 Days of Pan-demonium,” and a site search for “Happy Goths” led me to her page—specifically, two pieces entitled “Happy Goths Exist” and “Still a Happy Goth.”

To see more of Henar’s creations, visit her deviantArt page. I’m pretty certain you’ll like what you see!

SWC_PanAnnual01The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, published by StarWarp Concepts, is a 56-page, full-color special that contains stories by Steven A. Roman (that’s me, the author of the Pandora Zwieback novels, as well as X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy) and Sholly Fisch (Scooby-Doo Team-Up, The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold). In addition to Henar’s wonderful cover, you’ll find art by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0), comic-art legend Ernie Colon (Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld), and Elizabeth Watasin (writer/artist/creator of the comic series Charm School and the steampunk novel series The Dark Victorian). The comic is available in both print and digital formats, so visit the Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1 product page for all the ordering information, as well as sample pages.

Blood Reign: Pandora Zwieback 2 E-book On Sale at Kobo

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrThe Zwiebackian takeover of digital readers continues, because now you can find the ePub edition of Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2—my young adult, dark-urban-fantasy novel—at Kobo! Here’s the synopsis:

She was stabbed in the heart with an ancient mystical spear. Her mother was kidnapped by a band of vampires led by a fallen angel—their goal: unleashing hell on earth. And every living creature on the planet faces extinction at the hands of a race of biblical monsters. But for Pandora Zwieback, the worst may be yet to come.

In this terrifying next chapter of the story begun in the critically acclaimed novel Blood Feud, join the teenaged Goth adventuress as she discovers that death is only the beginning of her saga…

You’ll find Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2 here for $2.99 at the Kobo Store. Order it today!

And don’t forget: the first Pandora Zwieback novel, Blood Feud, is still available from Kobo. Want to know how Pan begins her saga? Then purchase Blood Feud and Blood Reign and get started reading!

Blood Reign: Pandora Zwieback 2 E-book at Oyster Books

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrE-book lovers, take note: you can now find the ePub edition of Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2—my young adult, dark-urban-fantasy novel—at digital subscription library Oyster Books! Here’s the synopsis:

She was stabbed in the heart with an ancient mystical spear. Her mother was kidnapped by a band of vampires led by a fallen angel—their goal: unleashing hell on earth. And every living creature on the planet faces extinction at the hands of a race of biblical monsters. But for Pandora Zwieback, the worst may be yet to come.

In this terrifying next chapter of the story begun in the critically acclaimed novel Blood Feud, join the teenaged Goth adventuress as she discovers that death is only the beginning of her saga…

You’ll find Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2 here at Oyster. Add it to your subscription queue today!

And don’t forget: the first Pandora Zwieback novel, Blood Feud, is also available at Oyster. Want to know how Pan begins her saga? Then purchase Blood Feud and Blood Reign and get started reading!

Blood Reign: Pandora Zwieback 2 E-book Now at Scribd

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrHey, e-book lovers, you can now find the ePub edition of Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2—my young adult, dark-urban-fantasy novel—at digital subscription library Scribd! Here’s the synopsis:

She was stabbed in the heart with an ancient mystical spear. Her mother was kidnapped by a band of vampires led by a fallen angel—their goal: unleashing hell on earth. And every living creature on the planet faces extinction at the hands of a race of biblical monsters. But for Pandora Zwieback, the worst may be yet to come.

In this terrifying next chapter of the story begun in the critically acclaimed novel Blood Feud, join the teenaged Goth adventuress as she discovers that death is only the beginning of her saga…

You’ll find Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2 here at Scribd. Add it to your subscription queue today!

And don’t forget: the first Pandora Zwieback novel, Blood Feud, is also available at Scribd. Want to know how Pan begins her saga? Then order Blood Feud and Blood Reign and get started reading!

Pandora Zwieback: The Evolution of a Series’ Covers

Last week, I covered the importance of having an editor involved in the creative process of writing a book’s manuscript, in a trio of posts found here, here, and here. But that’s just one part of what’s involved in putting together a novel for publication. Today, we start talking cover design.

Good stories are always essential, but from a sales point of view, one of the most important aspects of publishing is the cover. It’s the first thing a potential reader is going to see in a brick-and-mortar bookstore (unless it’s displayed spine-out on their shelves) or at an online retailer’s site, so it’s absolutely imperative that the cover be as eye-catching and intriguing as possible. The vast majority of small-press and self-published books often fail in that regard, choosing the laziest, most god-awful type-and-image designs they can throw together: photographs or paintings (or worse, silhouetted figures) that have nothing to do with the story; lettering taken straight from their computer’s font libraries; titles that are too long, or extremely pretentious, or head-scratchingly vague. (Truth be told, I’ve seen my fair share of books released by mainstream publishers that take the same approach.)

So in 2010, when it was time to transform StarWarp Concepts from a comic publisher to a book house, I knew that Job Two would involve using professional artists and designers to provide eye-catching covers (Job One was having quality stories to publish; can’t have the second without the first). The first person I approached was Bob Larkin, whose amazing cover paintings for Marvel Comics (Dazzler, Haunt of Horror, Vampire Tales, The Hulk!, Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, Crazy) and Bantam Books’ Doc Savage pulp-fiction reprints had created a fan base that included such luminaries as Alex Ross, Joe Jusko, John Romita Sr., Jim Steranko, and Larry Hama. I’ve been a fan myself, all the way back to the ’70s, and was thrilled when, in 2000, he agreed to paint the covers for my X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy novels—and overjoyed when he did three cover paintings for SWC’s succubus character, Lorelei. This time, however, I wanted him to paint the covers for a series about a certain teenaged Goth chick.

LarkinArt02

Explaining the gothy nature of Pan took a bit of doing, since it’s outside the range of anything Bob had ever painted before, but he had two advantages going in to the project: Pan had already been designed by my creative partner, Uriel Caton; and Bob has an extensive history of painting horror-related images, from monster magazine covers for Marvel and Warren Publishing to monster movie posters for New Line Cinema, United Artists, and Troma Films (among other studios)—Piranha, Night of the Creeps, Humanoids From the Deep, and The Toxic Avenger II are just some of the poster images he’s created.

But why use painted covers? you ask. Why not go with a photograph of a model dressed as Pan? That’s what all the major publishers would do. And that’s the problem, because when all the major publishers do the same thing, they create a uniform look for an entire genre of books that’s extremely generic and boring. (To get an idea of what I’m talking about, check out this post about photo covers that I wrote back in 2011.) I wanted Bob Larkin originals for Pan’s series, and that’s exactly what I was gonna get. All I needed to get the process started was to show Bob what I had in mind…

Next: Creating the cover for Blood Feud, the first novel in Pan’s saga.

Blood Reign: Pandora Zwieback 2 E-book On Sale at iTunes

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrHey, e-book lovers, now you can purcahse the ePub edition of Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2—my young adult, dark-urban-fantasy novel—at Apple’s iBookstore! Here’s the synopsis:

She was stabbed in the heart with an ancient mystical spear. Her mother was kidnapped by a band of vampires led by a fallen angel—their goal: unleashing hell on earth. And every living creature on the planet faces extinction at the hands of a race of biblical monsters. But for Pandora Zwieback, the worst may be yet to come.

In this terrifying next chapter of the story begun in the critically acclaimed novel Blood Feud, join the teenaged Goth adventuress as she discovers that death is only the beginning of her saga…

You’ll find Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2 here at iTunes. Order it today!

And don’t forget: the first Pandora Zwieback novel, Blood Feud, is still available from iTunes. Want to know how Pan begins her saga? Then purchase Blood Feud and Blood Reign and get started reading!

Blood Reign: Author Steve Roman Interview from NY Horror Show 2015

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrFor the past three days, I’ve told you the story of the editorial process involved in the creation of Pan’s debut novel, Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1—but now it’s time to focus attention back to the online promotional tour for the second part of Pan’s adventures in Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2!

Back in January of this year, I attended Long Island’s first NY Horror Show (you can read my show report here), where I met Kassandra Cosplayer. After introducing her to the wonders of Ms. Zwieback’s adventures on the first day of the show, Kassandra came back the next day with a cameraman and a microphone to find out more about Pan and StarWarp Concepts—and now you can check out the results of our one-on-one interview by going here.

Thanks for the interview, Kassandra!

Editing Blood Feud: How It All Turned Out

blood_feud_largeThe short answer is, if you’ve read it you know how Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 ultimately turned out: amazing story, critically acclaimed, loved by dozens. ;-) The longer answer’s a little more complicated—and amusing, in a terrifying sort of way…

In the last two posts I explained how, after sitting down to discuss the first-draft manuscript with my friend and editor Howard Zimmerman—and agreeing with pretty much everything he had to say about what a poor-ass story I’d told—I was faced with the task of not just rewriting half the book, but cutting a sizable chunk of the almost 500-page doorstop he’d had to edit. A barrage of back-and-forth e-mails followed, in which I described to Howard my plans for the rebuilding; thankfully, he agreed with them. And how I stumbled into writing what became for me the linchpin scene of the book, simply by the luck of a song playing on the radio as I was going over my notes: James Taylor’s rendition of “Up On The Roof.”

Now it was time to get to work. I went back to the beginning and started revising Pan right from her introduction. Out came the overwhelming combativeness and snark and “airhead moments” (to use Howard’s term) that made her a fairly unlikable character; in came a smarter, more introspective girl with a macabre sense of humor. Mom and Dad no longer hated each other. Dave Zwieback stopped being a dick. Annie wasn’t going to put the moves on him. And the angry tone of the first draft melted away, replaced by a cast of characters who actually cared for one another and, I thought, were pretty damn funny and likable. Except for the vampires—they were still evil assholes.

And then, before I knew it, it was done. Completed. At last I had a draft I was happy with. This, I felt, was now a story worth telling. And a good thing, too: the book was originally scheduled for April 2011, but I’d already blown the production deadlines for that to happen. So June became the new release month. There was just one problem: Howard didn’t have time to edit it—at least not in time for me to get the book out in June.

See, Howard just isn’t an editor, he’s got his own business to run: Z File, Inc., a book packaging company that’s produced some huge fiction and nonfiction graphic novels for major publishing houses: the science titles The Stuff of Life and Evolution: The Story of Life; adaptations of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes; and the New York Times bestseller, Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works. When I’d dropped the first draft of Blood Feud on his table I’d been lucky enough to catch him during a lull in his schedule. But now? He had two projects in the middle of production and wouldn’t be able to tackle my second draft for about a month.

My reaction? “Oh. Yeah, no, I understand. That’s cool. Well, uh…then I hope you like it in book form.”

I hope you like it in book form.

That’s right: the second draft of Blood Feud became the final draft with some tweaking that continued all the way up to the final, printed book. Without my editor looking it over. I sent the Word file off to designer Mat Postawa for typesetting, and from there it ultimately went to the printer to become the book you know and love. :D

Crazy, huh? Talk about taking a major risk! But I was so absolutely confident in what I’d accomplished, so positively certain that I’d addressed Howard’s concerns about the book and that this was the version of Pan’s story I’d always meant to tell, that I sent it to press.

And again, I lucked out. The book became a critical success; Pan has been referred to as a positive role model for girls; people have thanked me for creating a character with a weird-but-awesome name who’s so cool they’d love to be friends with her; one woman even remarked that Pan is so in tune with her own thoughts and feelings that the book must have been written by a female author.

The bottom line, though? None of that would have happened if I hadn’t listened to my editor the first time around. Blood Feud might have remained an angry book about angry people, and a project I’d either have killed or spent eternity regretting being published because the world turned out to hate the nasty, overwritten doorstop that was the first draft.

Thanks, Howard!

Editing Blood Feud: Up on the Roof

blood_feud_largeContinuing my tale—started in yesterday’s post—of the importance in having your writing edited, we pick up with what I consider to be the most important scene in my novel Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1…a scene that didn’t exist in the first-draft manuscript.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

That was one of Grandma Ellie’s favorite sayings, usually uttered as encouragement in response to some major event experienced by a family member or close friend. The last time Pan had heard it was after Mom and Dad’s divorce had been finalized. Mom had spent a day crying her eyes out, and Grandma had said it to try and cheer her up. Until this morning Pan had never really understood the phrase, but around four a.m., as she lay in bed unable to sleep, its meaning suddenly became crystal clear.

A fresh start. A new beginning.

Annie had given her that, and so much more. Opened her eyes to a bright, magical world ready to be explored. Put an end to the constant fears about her sanity. Made her understand how special she truly was.

And so, just a little before five o’clock, Pan had gone up to the roof of Dad’s apartment building to welcome the new day—and her new life…

When I wrote the initial draft of Blood Feud, there was no sunrise greeting; no inner reflection; no moment when Pan realized she was more than her “monstervision”—her ability to see the monsters inhabiting the world that had been diagnosed as a psychological disorder when she was six. No real hope for her future.

As I mentioned in the previous post my editor, Howard Zimmerman, had pointed out how dark and angry the tone of the first draft was—a tone he was pretty sure I hadn’t meant to put into it. Pan, according to my descriptions to him, was supposed to be a “happy Goth” who feared her supposed mental problems but overall tried to live a pretty good life despite the obstacles in her way. And that girl, it turned out, was nowhere in the manuscript. Sure, there were flashes of happy Pan here and there, but she mostly spent Blood Feud being bitter and far too snarky—snarky to the point where even I, after rereading the pages, wanted to slap her. That needed to change, and quick. I needed to find a balance between angst-ridden Goth and loving young woman, or this character was going to be a major turn-off to every reader. And she was the star of the book!

And then, while making notes based on his edits, a song on the radio suddenly caught my attention: James Taylor’s cover of the Drifters’ 1962 hit “Up On the Roof,” and its lyrics by Carole King:

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below can’t bother me…

As you may have figured out by now—if you’re a regular reader of this blog—my musical tastes tend to run all over the place (“eclectic” doesn’t begin to cover it). In prior posts I’ve written about how Murray Gold’s “This Is Gallifrey” composition from the Series 3 Doctor Who sound track influenced how I wrote the confrontation between Pan and the fallen angel Zaqiel at the end of Blood Feud; and how HorrorPops’ rockabilly girl-power tune “Missfit” became Pan’s anthem (“My fist! In the middle of your face!”). Well, here it was “Up On the Roof” that helped me to finally, truly understand who Pandora Zwieback was, and exactly how to find her center—and the heart of the story I was trying to tell.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Those words just popped into my head, and immediately I could see Pan sitting on a rooftop, watching the sun come up as she drank coffee in a Frankenstein mug. A quiet moment, a pause for breath between dramatic scenes—a time when Pan could process everything that had been revealed to her by Annie in a previous chapter and realize she wasn’t a freak, wasn’t alone, wasn’t destined to live a miserable life. The moment when she stopped being a damaged soul, a misfit, and became a stronger young woman. There was a new world before her, waiting to be explored, and she couldn’t wait to take the first step toward it.

And I couldn’t wait to write it.

As clichéd as it sounds, the words flowed from me into the keyboard. It turned out to be the easiest chapter to write—and the shortest (4 pages)—and for me it became the scene around which the entire book revolves. It also completely eliminated the dickish qualities Dave Zwieback had exhibited in the first draft; now he was the loving, supportive father he was always meant to be. A win-win situation all around, then.

Tomorrow: how it all turned out.

“So, now…” Dad reached back and pulled [Pan’s] sketch from his pocket, then unfolded the paper and held it up to the lightening sky. The warm colors she’d chosen for the drawing shone even brighter. “This, I like a lot. It’s so different from your usual dark stuff. Very colorful. Very . . .” He smiled. “Dare I say, lighthearted?”

Pan grinned.

“It’s a new style,” she said. “For a new me.”

The Importance of Being Edited

You don’t need an editor! You don’t need anyone!
The Worst Muse

I didn’t think we needed that “intrusion” on a creator’s work, and the reason for this was how many horror stories have we all heard from somebody that’s working for DC, or whoever… I didn’t want an editor saying, “Jeez, Dave McKean, I really hate that scene on page 24 of Cages #3, where you have this character saying, “Blah, blah, blah … You’ve really got to change that, or I’m not going to let it go through.” That’s what I perceive as an editor. And I don’t agree with that.
Kevin Eastman, “The Kevin Eastman Interview, Part 2” by Gary Groth, The Comics Journal #202 (originally published March 1998)

The first quote, in case you’re unaware, is a joke. The Worst Muse is a Twitter account dedicated to being the voice in every bad writer’s head, providing the most god-awful tropes and notions that could ever pop into his or her head—and have, more often than not, been carried all the way through to the finished project.

The second quote, unfortunately, is not.

These days, most comic and pop-culture fans know Kevin Eastman solely as co-creator (with Peter Laird) of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the prime example of the little small-press comic that could (and still does!). But in 1990, Eastman—who’d struck gold in the ’80s with TMNT—decided to use a good portion of his Scrooge McDuck–sized fortune to bankroll a new venture: Tundra Publishing. It was intended to be the home of high-end comic projects that mainstream houses like Marvel and DC wouldn’t have even thought of considering, and for a while it succeeded: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s massive (and massively acclaimed) Jack the Ripper graphic novel, From Hell, got its start there, as did projects like Scott McCloud’s nonfiction analysis Understanding Comics and Mike Allred’s frenetic superhero spoof Madman Adventures.

Tundra closed in 1993.

A lot of it had to do with poor management: accepting too many projects; royalty splits of 80% for the creator and 20% for Tundra (after costs); creators getting paid but not delivering their work; Eastman’s refusal to listen to advice on how to run the business—even when it came from Doubleday’s Ian Ballantine, one of the demi-gods of publishing; paying an artist $20,000 for his work, then finding out he tore the pages to shreds in a fit of anger. By the end of its run, Tundra had become a $14 million money pit, and Eastman had to shut its doors.

But Tundra also suffered from a lack of editorial control—Tundra hired production people as traffic managers (called “straw bosses”), to make sure that projects got from point A to point B, but they were to remain hands-off when it came to the actual content of those projects. Tundra was all about the creator’s “vision.” Because it was believed that editors as a whole are a terrible bunch of hacks—failed writers who try to prove their worth by pissing on the visions of the creators they work with, just to prove they’re superior storytellers.

Riiiight.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t editors in the world who like to “mark their territory” just to prove who’s the boss, because there certainly are. Or, conversely, that there aren’t editors who’d rather be chummy with and starstruck by the talent instead of acting as a helping hand, especially when it comes to big-name authors and artists—because God knows I’ve met some; they’re the ones who usually say, “I can’t edit him (or her)! He’s (or She’s) _____!” Or that there aren’t editors who lack vision—sometimes for absolutely baffling reasons. (I’ll give you an example of that sort of madness another time.)

But those are the exceptions, not the rule. A good editor isn’t there to destroy the work or be your suck-up buddy, they’re there to offer advice, to tell you where the writing is weakest (and where it excels), to point out structural issues and offer suggestions, and, when necessary, to tell you when you’re hurting your creation with your terrible writing. And they’ll tell you all of this because they want you to succeed.

Really.

And it’s something that even Kevin Eastman probably came to learn in the post-Tundra years—after all, he’s recently returned to writing and drawing TMNT stories for comic publisher IDW, and has to deal with editors there. And long before that, back in 1999, Kevin and I got along just fine when I was the ibooks, inc. editor who handled Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.2, the novelization of the Eastman-produced animated feature Heavy Metal 2000—the one major problem with the project being that the book came out a year before the movie, and then the movie was released under its own title, which killed the book’s tie-in sales. Still, Kevin and I got along so well that he had no problem in later approving me as the author for the TMNT novel trilogy that ultimately never came to fruition.

So yes, when an editor knows what they’re doing, they can be your staunchest ally, and your most enthusiastic supporter, when it comes to getting things done right. But they can also be your harshest critic, because they know you can do better. And if you’re willing to listen to their feedback, you will do better.

Which brings us to the editorial tale of a little book called Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1

Howard Zimmerman (l.) and me at the 2010 New York Comic Con.

Howard Zimmerman (l.) and me at the 2010 New York Comic Con.

“So where’s the girl in the comic?”

That was the first question my friend and editor Howard Zimmerman (whom longtime sci-fi and comics fans may recognize as the former editor-in-chief of Starlog, Comics Scene, and Future Life magazines) asked me back in 2010 when we sat down to discuss his edits on the manuscript for Blood Feud, the first Pandora Zwieback novel. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

He pointed to the print copy of The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0—the free introductory comic I’d been handing out to convention-goers in the year leading up to Blood Feud’s publication—on his table. “Well, the girl in this comic is happy and funny and likable, and the girl in this”—he pointed to the manuscript—“isn’t. So where is she?”

“Well, the comic takes place after the novel, so she’s different,” I said—knowing even as I said it how stupid it sounded.

In fact, Howard continued, the book was filled with unlikable people—from Pan to her parents, even to Annie. Karen and Dave hated and sniped at one another throughout the book; Dave was months behind on child support and alimony—but had still found enough cash to pay for a vampire skeleton to ship from England (Howard referred to him as the “biggest dick” he’d ever read about in recent months); Annie was putting the moves on Dave; and Pan was sullen and argumentative and hated damn near everybody. It was an angry book about angry people, and he was pretty sure that’s not what I’d set out to write.

So I did what any author usually does when somebody beats the hell out of their work and questions their skills (I used to edit for a living and I handed out a lot of beatings, so I know): I got my back up. I defended the writing, nodded politely as Howard tried to tell me where stuff needed improving, and then headed home, convinced he just didn’t understand what I’d written.

A couple days later, I reluctantly sat down and started reading his edits:

Pandora is the most realized character, but she has too many airhead moments, which not only keep the story from getting too serious, they also keep readers from taking Pan too seriously. Teenage angst is hormonally driven; fear of being ostracized is enough for teens to commit suicide. Pan should be a “haunted” character. She has had “monster vision” for years. She has been treated as though they are hallucinations and put on medication, so clearly she either thinks she is insane or that she is being totally mistreated. Either state of mind would give the character an edge currently lacking. Or, rather, mostly just seen when she punches out her rival in the mall. That’s a good beginning, but should be just the top of the iceberg.

Dave is a two-dimensional slapstick character who we suddenly have to take seriously toward the end of the book. It’s very easy to see why Pan’s mom divorced him. He comes across as totally incompetent. It’s amazing he can keep his business running and the store open.

The final few chapters seem to be different in intent from the balance of the draft. They are leaner; harder. It’s almost as though THIS is the voice you need for the book, but have only discovered it toward the end of telling the story.

There were a lot more comments along those lines, as well as a plea to cut down the manuscript—the first draft was close to 500 pages—and suddenly I realized he was absolutely right. About everything. Pan wasn’t complete as a character. Dave was an asshole. About the only likable characters in the entire book were the friggin’ vampires. And holy crap, where’d all the anger come from?!

And yet…there was still a story in there among the confrontations. A story about a girl who’d been treated like an oddity most of her life; who was brimming over with pain and wanted it to end; who needed to know how special she really was. If I could get past the anger and the shouting I could find that story.

I started digging, and much to my surprise, it didn’t take as much effort as I’d expected, as I explained to Howard about a week later (click to embiggen, as they say):

Pan_Emails

See, a writer is allowed, even expected, to get defensive about their work—it’s perfectly understandable and part of the game. But a smart writer then puts aside the defensiveness and listens. Unlike what Kevin Eastman believed, back in 1990, or what a lot of authors may still believe—that an editor is just there to pee on the writer’s work and screw with their “grand vision” (which, truthfully, is what a bad editor may do)—the bottom line is (to be blunt about it): your shit ain’t gold. The words aren’t written in stone. Or, as award-winning producer/showrunner Steven Moffat often points out in his scripts for Doctor Who, time can be rewritten. So can your prose.

(For example: An author once responded to my work on his short story by bellowing, “There was more editing in that one story than in my last ten novels!” My response? “Well, what does that say about your last ten novels?” Then his head exploded. :D But he listened to my comments and agreed they made sense, and the story got published with most of them taken into consideration.)

When they do get their asses kicked by an editor, writers shouldn’t always fall back on friends and family (or their own ego) for a counterargument—most of the time they’re just enabling your bad writing by telling you how wonderful it is, that others don’t understand your “genius.” Howard might be my friend, but before that he was an editor for over thirty years (not to mention my boss when I started out in book publishing as his assistant editor, in 1994), and an editor who cares about improving the work is worth their weight in ego-stroking well-wishers. The good editors fight you (sometimes) because they want you to tell the best story possible, to help you grow as a writer. And after you’ve cooled off, 9 times out of 10 you’ll agree with them; maybe not 100%, but enough to see where they made a good point about some element that you really do need to change.

In my case, agreeing with Howard’s feedback meant I’d be rewriting half the novel. Still, now that he liked the new direction I’d proposed, I knew I was on the right track for the second draft.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the chapter that, for me, became the linchpin for the entire revised novel—a chapter that didn’t exist in the first draft.