Posts about writing and authorship, written by Kaleb Nation

Five Things

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Starting Monday, I hit the notebooks, staying at the local Pub That Is Not A Pub from morning until near closing time, editing and revising The Farfield Curse. I managed to walk in and get my usual, favorite spot that is one table away from the corner, so that I don’t appear to be hiding in the shadows, my laptop cable will reach the building’s only plug, The Writer Is Workingand I can still occasionally get a glimpse of the sun (which is very quickly becoming a faraway memory: the sun? What sun? Where? Surely you jest). I’m almost beginning to feel like an old, reclusive witch <—-

Things have thankfully been going smoothly. I am doing things in an order, first working on a bit of cutting in the length department, so it’s easier later when I need to add certain things that were missing. This is where the writing of the book turns into a labor of love: editing those words is really, really hard, but entirely worth it for the end result.

I have a goal of cutting a certain number of pages. To do this, I must take a fine-toothed comb to every line, trying to cut any odd words and condensing paragraphs in order to save one or two lines. One or two lines do add up. So far, just by combing the first 120 pages, I was able to cut 20 out in the first few days. It was all vicious (and slightly wicked) glee search-and-destroying those superfluous words. I spent almost an hour trying to condense two lines out of one chapter, so that I could cut the last page of it, which only had two puny lines dangling there.

The best part is that it’s like trimming back a big ugly tree into an Edward Scissorhands-esque plant sculpture. By the time we’re through, this book will be loads ahead of where we started out.

While taking a much-needed break, I decided to answer a question put to me recently: what will you do if you become a really famous author? It sounds thrilling, odd, scary and wonderful at the same time. So, I decided to make a video in response, which includes Lemony Snicket’s head, a phone call to J.K.Rowling, the Electric Light Orchestra, my bookshelf and more. Also, sunburn.

Hope you like it 😀

Contracts, Advances and a Stack of Paper

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There is something special in a writer’s first advance check. Many of you probably have an idea what that is: when a publisher makes a deal with an author, they lay down what is called an advance. This is money paid in advance to the author, in the hopes that his or her book will earn it back; following publication, the royalties an author earns off book sales slowly repays it. The original concept of an advance was probably so the author of old, being intrinsically penniless, might at least avert starvation long enough to finish the book.

Though I signed the contract a while back, and sent it in, there is such a long process on the publisher’s end that it usually takes a few months to get it back with their signature, as well as the on-signing advance. By getting those back in the mail, all has been signed and sealed, and now all that’s left is to prepare the book for publication! Some photos:

Me, signing the back of my first advance check. The Unwritten Manual of Authorly Proceedings & Conduct dictates (Section 2, Article C) that an author should always use a unique pen to sign their checks and contracts, as here seen in the pen-made-of-awesome my agent gave me:

Signing the first advance

While I was writing, I read dozens of writer blogs, and I always wanted to know what exactly a full manuscript looked like, before all the edits. Never finding one, I told myself I’d put one up for anyone else out there like me (by the time I’m through editing, picture about 2/3 this size):

The Manuscript

There is one line in this book deal that represents 6 years of work, a box of notes, a dozen notebooks, two drawers in a filing cabinet, and countless days and nights spent with characters and ideas. That line is this:

AGREEMENT made by and between Kaleb Nation…hereinafter referred to as “author”

Contract and advance

The signed contract, with the check hiding in the back.

Editorial Letters

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Today was the day I received my first Editorial Letter for Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, and I realize that since loads of the people who read this site are writers as well, some of you might find this interesting.

An Editorial Letter is the first professional edits that an author receives from their publisher for the manuscript. Its purpose is to take my writing and make it the best it possibly can. Authors have a tendency to love their own work and ignore its apparent flaws (we have to love it, otherwise there’d be no point in writing it). Editors, however, have trained eyes for how to make things better, and work their hardest to make newbie writers like me sound professional. It is of great importance, as demonstrated by the below illustration:

An Author’s First Edits

This editorial letter is the first step in getting the book ready to be published. Editorial letters do not go into punctuation or spelling mistakes (which happens later with a copyeditor) but rather overall plot and concepts and larger parts of the book which need tightening up.

I shan’t show you my editorial letter, but this might be what part of someone else’s could look like:

– Sherman P should know that Granny’s Magic Box will destroy the universe 100 pages earlier than you have it. Otherwise, he would have tossed it down Mrs. Lovett’s Corpse Chute.

– There is a certain monkey in every chapter until chapter 23, when he unexpectedly jumps off Mount Slowmore. I am curious as to the point of wasting words on him if he does nothing.

– Change Edlardo Chullens’s name to something more palatable. Like…Edward something.

– There is already a famous frog named Kermit. He will always be more famous than your frog named Kermit. Change his name. Or turn him into a mutant turtle.

– Chapters 13-17 become slow when Protagonist tells the Long Saga of Grandmother’s Achy Breaky Bones.  Fix that, unless this is intended as an intermission time. I realize some people might enjoy taking naps through books here and there. If intentional, good idea.

– Your major villain happens to share my name.  I’m hoping this is a recurring typo.

(all snarkiness courtesy of me and bearing no resemblance to my editor’s own polite notes)

The changes are more so a broad overview of tiny tweaks to be made to make it better.

Mine are thankfully very merciful, well-directed, and I can already imagine the wonders they will work. I have heard horror stories from other authors who received 3-ring binders filled with post-its, blue ink, Sharpie markings, and chocolate to alleviate the murderous rage subsequently directed towards their editor. I got the impression that the aforementioned 3-ring-binder was immediately tossed into here:

Mount Doom

Mount Doom

I, on the other hand, have been looking forward with great anticipation to get to these edits.  It is not every day, obviously, that a professional spends enormous amounts of time to make Your Book the best it can. Which makes editing this a labor of love 😀 . I shall keep you all updated on future progress.

Signing The Book Deal [Video]

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And thus I affix my signature to the publishing contract. Since my family is back home and couldn’t be there for perhaps one of the biggest moments of my life, I got it all on film.

This video is a five-minute short about the idea, writing the book, and signing the deal. I go back to the original black journal from that fateful night when I first had the idea, then to my filing cabinets and boxes of papers and drafts which make up the five years of writing it, and while filming I even inadvertently discovered my first writing notebook ever, from when I was 10 years old. This is a bit of my own tale as well as that of The Farfield Curse.

The Day Has Come: Bran Hambric Will Be Published

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So the news is out and it’s my turn to make the announcement I’ve been dreaming of for years. I just got word that my debut novel, BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE, is to be published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

The First Idea - 3/3/03

That picture is from my journal in 2003, when I was 14: the very night I had the idea that would become this book. I had no clue.

It is impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t write books how amazing it feels to receive the call you have been anticipating for most of your life. That call came last Thursday, March 6, when I was in Rhetoric class and my phone started to buzz. I picked it up and saw my agent’s name on the caller ID, and it was at that moment I knew I was really, finally, going to be an author. I barely finished the last five minutes of class, dashing out and across campus, playing his voicemail nine times on the way. I made it into the building for the next class and called him back, and he had a deal.

Of course afterwards I couldn’t shut up about it. I did have a wonderful excuse for being ten minutes late to my next class, and after everyone started clapping I just barely made it through my speech (my assignment was to talk about web design) and I can’t honestly remember one word I said. People next to me at my next class somehow overheard my whispered phone call to my mom and started congratulating me as well. And when I got home, my roommate and I ordered pizza to celebrate.

Writing the Book - 3/18/03

There are so many stories behind the writing of this book and it would be impossible to tell them all: back when I used to punch drafts out on a monochrome Palm Pilot while watching my baby brother taking a nap; when I had the revelation of a The Whole Food’s bag on which, for lack of paper, I worked out Shamblescharacter’s backstory and had to write it out on a Whole Food’s grocery bag; when I talked to the security guard at that publishing house who told me that he hoped he’d get to guard my books one day. This is truly just the beginning of what will be the culmination of dreams I have held since before I can remember. I never could have possibly imagined five years ago when I had the first idea that anything like this could have come about: never in a million years would I have thought that one day, the words I wrote through all of my teenage years would one day fall into the hands of people who would enter into my world: this strange world I made and thought was so crazy and yet just had to write about because I loved it so much.

I can’t begin to imagine what my life will be like in another year when it’s out, or another three years or six. To actually step foot on what has been your lifetime ambition is mind-altering, and once you’re there you’ve got to set a whole new list of goals. More than anything, I wanted a radio show and to be an author. It looks as if I’ve gotten both.

I do not know exactly how much I can say here until I have the official press release from my publishers, but I do know that the book is currently set for a late 2009 or early 2010 release. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky is one of the nation’s largest independent publishers with many bestselling titles under their belt and sales upwards of $50 million. They are very innovative in their approach at publishing and I have complete confidence that they will be a wonderful home for my series.

We’ve got a long road ahead of us to make this happen: this is just the beginning, the first book, the start of it all. Things can only get better!

Interview with Scott Westerfeld

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If you don’t know who Scott Westerfeld is, you perhaps have something against reading the New York Times bestseller lists. He’s been all over the lists with his UGLIES series, including hitting the top spot. His latest, the fourth book in the series, is still on. So you can imagine how pleased I am to introduce to you my:

Interview with Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld1. Hi Scott, thanks for coming on! First, there’s a tradition here to describe yourself in ten words or less. The closer you land to exactly ten words of an improv bio, the more points you get:

A novelist who is waiting for hoverboards to be invented.

2. Uglies is easily your most popular series to date. How do you think writing for YA is different than when you wrote for adults?

With adults, you can afford to meander for a while before starting the story. But teens are a little bit harder to trick, so you have to write in a more direct and disciplined way.

3. Why did you decide to add a fourth book to the Uglies Trilogy?

As I was touring around for Uglies, I started to notice that some kids would ask me questions like, “Do you live in a mansion.” In other words, they were trying to figure out how famous I was. It occurred to me that fame was very important to us in this society, almost as much as beauty (the two are related, of course) so it made sense to project the post-pretty culture into that whole world.

4. All the books in your Uglies Trilogy-in-four-parts have been New York Times bestsellers- but the fourth was your first to hit Number 1. How did getting to the top feel different than the first time you hit the list years before?

Well–and this is TERRIBLY petty–but it was Jenna Bush I was pushing out of the top spot. And she’d been on TV all weekend before her book came out, and was the presidents daughter, which was kind of cheating. So, yeah, it was fun to nudge her gently aside.

5. Was it ever difficult through the Uglies series for you to write in the voices of female protagonists, since you are a guy?

I get that question a lot, but it’s kind of funny–no one asks me how I can write like a teenager *three hundred years in the future*, but the gender divide seems to throw people. Like, is being female really more different than living in another era?

6. Some of your works have been optioned for films, and I’m sure all your fans are eager for any tidbits. What’s the latest news?

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The Third Day of the Third Month

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On this night exactly 5 years ago, when the date was 3/3/03, at 9:55 PM, I was in bed staring at the ceiling, and suddenly had an idea: a boy and a banker, sitting on a rooftop, waiting for a burglar to come.

Click to see a clearer image:

And so it began

Interview with James Dashner

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James Dashner I have a knack for meeting people at just the right moment. I met Kaza Kingsley through an email I sent after taking a peek at her book in a store. I met Renee, a radio station manager in Florida, who just happened to be looking for a new radio show for teenagers when I called. And recently I met an author named James Dashner, who has been around once with a series but is coming around again to take on the world.

I just got word that James’ soon-to-be-released book has already sold more in presales than his first series in its entirety. Also, his book The 13th Reality: The Journal Of Curious Letters has been chosen as a Border’s Original Voices pick for April. How’s that for a start? It comes out on March 3rd, 2008, so be absolutely sure to get it, and if you’re still not convinced (shame on you) go read my review.

The cleverer side of me demanded that I nab an interview in case James grows into an elusive author like Lemony Snicket or JK Rowling or Obert Skye (Charles Dickens has been flat-out ignoring my requests for some time now as well). Thankfully, James is awesome and agreed right off to answer what I like to call:

The 13 Questions for The 13th Reality

1. Thanks James so much for coming on. To start off, where did you get the inspiration for The Thirteenth Reality?

Thanks Kaleb Nation! I’m glad to be here.

It came from some serious brain pounding after being given one week to come up with a proposal for my eventual publisher. I’d submitted a different book to them, and they liked my writing, but didn’t feel that particular book was right for them. So I worked my tail off to write a proposal for an idea that had always bounced around in my head: The concept of a group recruiting kids by sending out riddles and clues, but also horrible, dangerous things to try to stop them while they solve the mystery.

The 13th Reality by James Dashner 2. In what ways do you feel your writing changed between your first series (Jimmy Fincher) and The Thirteenth Reality?

Oh, man, it’s not even funny. Sometimes it’s painful to go back and look at my very first book, A Door in the Woods. I’ve come a very long way, and learned many things. Hopefully, this new book knocks the socks off my old stuff. Not that I don’t like Jimmy Fincher-I’ll always love that story.

3. What was the hardest part about writing The Thirteenth Reality?

Developing the characters of Paul, Sofia, and Sato. The nature of the story is that Tick can’t meet them until almost the end, so I had to do it through emails. It was very hard, and I don’t know if I succeeded. But you learn a LOT more about them in Book 2.

4. How did you come up with the character names?

Oh, there’s usually a meaning behind them. I have a brother named Paul. Atticus is a tribute to To Kill a Mockingbird. Edgar was my Grandpa’s name. Lorena is my Great-Aunt’s name. Mothball and Rutger just popped in my head, however.

5. I was struck by the realistic family life references (aka, the junk drawer and Scrabble nights). Were these inspired by your own family?

Definitely. I get so tired of the old standard – orphan kid who lives with people who hate him. They always say write what you know, and I grew up in a happy family with supporting parents. I know that many kids weren’t as fortunate, and I’m committed to using my authorship to help those kids. And maybe my book will give them some hope, I don’t know. But the book also shows the other side. We learn in Book 2 much more about Sofia and Sato and the not-so-nice lives they’ve lived.

6. Do you have the number of books and plots of each one in the series planned out, or do you like to surprise yourself?

The series is planned to be 5 books, and they are outlined on a very basic level. I know the overall arc of the story through the whole thing. But I’m sure many surprises will pop up as I write the books.

7. Will the rest of the books in the series focus on Tick or will they explore the stories of the other characters?

Tick is definitely the main character, but everyone introduced in Book 1 will be heavily explored. In fact, Book 2 goes in a direction no one will expect in terms of Tick himself.

8. What do you think it takes for a writer to become an author?

It takes a lot of practice. I’m not sure why many people think writing is just an all or nothing thing – that you either have it or you don’t. It’s no different than basketball or piano. Practice makes you better. Write, write, write. Study your craft through books and writing conferences. And then submit your work like crazy and grow thick skin when the rejections start piling up.

Persistence is the key. I really hate all the nay-saying that goes on about becoming an author. I can’t tell you how many people pointed out to me that only 1 out of 1000 who try to get published succeed. My response: I feel sorry for those 999 other saps! If you work hard, act like a professional, and never give up, YOU WILL GET PUBLISHED. I firmly believe this. Boo yah!

Kaleb’s note: I’m going to start waking up every morning and shouting that. Boo yah!

9. What is one thing you have learned regarding publishing that you wish you could tell to all up-and-coming writers who want to be authors?

That’s easy: Rejection is part of the game. It hurts, and it will always hurt. But no matter how good you are, no matter how brilliant your work, the odds are astronomical that you will never receive a rejection. Or 10, or 20, or 100. If you learn to accept it and keep submitting, reworking when necessary what you’ve written, you’ll find a home.

10. Sometimes writers ‘recycle’ characters- someone who was cut in one of your older books or stories who appears suddenly in your newer writing. Do you have any characters who did this when you were writing The Thirteenth Reality?

Wow, that’s almost creepy that you asked that. When I originally wrote the book, the main character’s name was Mason McGee. My publisher looked at me with a blank face and said it was awful (sorry to all you Mason McGees out there). So I stole a name from a different book I’d written, one which I highly doubt will ever be published. And that’s how Atticus “Tick” Higginbottom was born!

11. The first book in The Thirteenth Reality series comes out on March 3rd. How does its release feel different from the release of your other novels?

Oh, there’s no comparison. My previous novels were with a very small publisher with very limited distribution power. It took awhile for them to gain steam from word of mouth. This feels totally different. This new book will be in every bookstore in the country on its release date, with a very heavy marketing campaign, including a national tour. To give you some perspective: the presales and orders from bookstores have ALREADY exceeded the total sales of all 4 of my previous books.

12. Is there anything you can tell us to expect for the second book?

I’ve kind of given you some hints in other answers. I’ll say this: I think Book 2 is awesome! By nature, the first book in a series has a lot of set up. In fact, we’ve gotten very good reviews for Book 1, but many people have commented on how much they loved the last 100 pages of the book and wanted more. Well, they’ll get it in the sequel. It’s called The Hunt for Dark Infinity and comes out in March 2009.

13. If your book was to appear on the New York Times bestseller list next week, how would you react (I ask because I want to be known as the person who predicted it 🙂 )?

Well, first I would fall on the floor and crack my skull. Hours later, when I wake up in the emergency room and look up at the doctor sewing my brain together, I’ll smile and ask him to be very careful with the part that gives me ideas.

My publisher is not really expecting to hit the List this time around. I’m an unknown, and it may take a little time to get the word out. But I do know they’ll be heavily disappointed if Book 2 doesn’t debut on the List next year.

Having said that, I’ll admit there’s a teensy tiny little part of me that’s hoping for it. But it’s a long shot. And it doesn’t help that a lot of bookstores put the book out early, meaning we’ll have a trickle instead of a one day slam to open. But hey, I’m not going to complain. I’m the happiest dude on the planet.

New Music by Me

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[singlepic=68,150,100,,left] As usual, my new music track is quite different from all the other’s I’ve made so far, since I like experimenting. I made the theme for this track in 2007 but I never got around to working on it any more than a few days. Anyone who knows me probably know what this was made for, though even if you don’t you can either guess or ask me.


If you’ve already heard this at the other site, this version is different, longer, mixed better and doesn’t have all the thunder and lightning sounds. I also added in a type of bridge to a different but similar theme about 3 minutes in. I really liked the arpeggios (and I can honestly say that is the first time that word has been used on this site). Enjoy and please give opinions.

Interview with Kaza Kingsley

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kaza kingsley tour

Kaza Kingsley is the author of the Erec Rex series. Already there are two books out in the series, titled The Dragon’s Eye and The Monsters of Otherness.



Thanks Kaza for being here. First, for all the writers here, I have always been curious about that very first book signing, your first time out with your published book. How did that go and where were you? What did you do to prepare?

My first signing at Borders Books in Cincinnati was fantastic. Of course it helped that everyone I knew and their brother showed up to support me. I was floating on air, truly. I didn’t do much to prepare – I didn’t even do a reading at that signing. It was too busy, so I just socialized and signed books. A lot of fun! Then I had a party at my house that night to celebrate.day-14-kingsley.gif

You appeared at the Book Expo America some time ago to promote your books. What was the BEA like your first time there as an author?

That was an amazing experience. The Javitz center was enormous and packed with people. And the signings I did were incredibly busy. It was a little overwhelming – my publicist had given me a list of people to meet, but only a few of them were at their booths.

The best part was winning a bunch of awards at the BEA. ForeWord Magazine Awards took place in the middle of the Javitz center, and Erec Rex won silver for YA Book of the Year! The worst was that I got incredibly sick the second day I was there. It was hard to even walk. I had been throwing up all night.

Have you ever walked into a bookstore and stumbled upon your own book when you weren’t looking for it?

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