Saturday, January 10, 2009

Manuscript Readers Update

I think maybe I've drained my pool of potential readers if this book ever sees print -- if I'd sent hard copy to all those who've expressed interest, I'd have to sell my car to afford the repro costs. Thank goodness for the computer-generated electronic file.

In a couple-three weeks, once I have enough comments, I'll do a post indicating what worked and didn't work for most folks, and I'll use that input on the next draft.

My primary focus, as always, comes down to two criteria:

1) Did I tell the story I wanted to tell?
2) Did I tell it well?

My notion at the moment is that I'm close on the first -- I do need a bit more to get there. I'd like to think I'm close on the second, but that's why I'm asking for comments. Objectivity is wonderful, but seldom enjoyed by a writer editing his own stuff. In my case, regarding objectivity, read: Never. And I am suspicious of folks who claim they can look at what they wrote with an objective eye.

I listen for the "Aha, yes!" bell to ring when I hear a critique. If I hear it, that always gets addressed. If I don't, I look at numbers. If nine out of ten people hate something I wrote and I don't, maybe they are all out of step and I'm not, but that's not something I can dismiss out of hand. (I still might decide to do it my way anyhow, but there will be a closer examination to see can I justify it.)

I'm not sure when my deadline input is, but pretty much if you haven't gotten around to it in a month or six weeks, it'll miss the boat. It's my intent to have this ms to my agent by the end of February; there are other books I need to get to, and I'm not getting any younger.

So many books. So little time ...

Addendum: The number of folks who volunteered to read and comment on the ms rocketed up faster than I expected, and in the interests of not overwhelming my tired old eyes, I'm going to shut down the list before the focus group turns into a general audience. I just sent the last one out. Thanks, everybody. The balcony is now closed ...


Steve Perry said...


All of you to whom I sent copies should have my email address. If you would prefer to send comment to me privately, that's fine, though I'm okay with public posting here, too.

Brad said...

Into Chapter 2 and so far, getting a feeling for Kane. No comments yet, other than the first few pages would be enough to get me to spend the beer money on it.

So far.

Should be done by tomorrow night.

Jordan said...

Just saw this after I sent the email, but I'll post here too so others can see.

I assure you, in the case of this reader, you'll get your book sale regardless if I've already read it or not, so you're definitely not /loosing/ a sale on me for having already read the draft. I know, I know, I'm abnormal in my download-read-buy trend. :-)

My comments that I emailed (removed of some of the more nit-picky and minor items):

I can't comment on the technical aspects of the gun and the martial arts, but boy-oh-boy can I on the information security topics. It's already handled well, but here's what I wrote about the crypto cracking.

Is the reference to "TrueVault" a thinly veiled reference to TrueCrypt? Or just coincidence. Just curious, though I assume the former. Might not hurt to call it by name?

Excellent reference to the cold boot attacks! The other "fun" way to crack the crypto that's popular right now is utilizing a GPU (graphics card's processor) to do it. High end modern graphics cards are only a couple of hundred bucks, but can crank through decryption attempts an order of magnitude faster than the fastest generic PC cpu. Also, the cell processor in a PS3 is particularly well suited to similar tasks. Lots of good crypto attacks of late use labs full of playstations. Seriously.

But back to the coldboot attacks, the tools that are public exist in bootable CD form -- so Lee could have given Kane a CD to pop in the drive of the laptop and a USB key to stick in the side. Kane would reboot the machine right there and the memory is dumped to the USB key for Lee to search later for the password (though usually it's not actually the password itself you extract, but the actual key--really nit picky detail there though).

Ironically, reality is actually even easier than the fiction in this case. ;-)

The timing of when Tinzen fills in Kane comes off as kinda random to me. It seems like the breakthrough point where he's "ready" or got enough info on his own should somehow be more obvious or clear cut. It makes Tinzen seem more capricious then wise.

The pacing at the end seems rushed. One example would be Milner's willingness to help Kane all of the sudden. I like the general idea for why and how he flips, but maybe it should go a little slower? Maybe Kane also help Milner through the bardo a little? Give him advice? Or at least some comment about how he won't need much because of his skills if that's the case? Not too much, just a little bit.

In that vein, the last few pages of the book blow by pretty quick. Feels hurried, though it does wrap most everything up for me.

The beginning was good, but a tiny bit slow, and then the end felt a tiny bit fast. Almost like the size was perfect, but the climax started a little too late or contained a bit too much revelation that should have come a little earlier. Not sure how I'd best explain it.

The relationship with Rosie likewise seems a bit shallower, in part, I think because it tapers off so abruptly toward the end, and her involvement dies out a lot beyond the sex scene (it seemed to me, anyway). Comes across as more of a distraction than an integral part of the story.

Really enjoyed it, it was good stuff as always.

Steve Perry said...

Always amuses me that a novel that takes months to get a draft done can be read by faster readers in a couple of hours. Same thing with a movie, I suppose, or any art.

Some of you are fast readers. Sent the sucker out yesterday, already I've gotten four reports by folks who plowed straight through.

No justice.

I'm going to hold off addressing them for a while, but I'm pleased with the quick and thoughtful responses thus far.

Stay tuned ...

Travis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jks9199 said...

Glad I made the cut; I'm about 2/3 through. Great read, and it's interesting to get to see the "inside" of a book.

Of course... I'm going to have to buy the book just to see if you take any of my suggestions!

I'll be emailing most of my comments, but may post the general stuff here.

jks9199 said...

Just finished. Now I can't wait to see the final book... Just a warning to others: there are some spoilers below!

General notes:
Overall, the story works. Lots of interesting takes on ideas, and several twists I didn’t see coming. I’d like to see a couple of characters fleshed out a little more (Milner, Rosie, JB), and the sex scene with Rosie kind of just seems thrown in there, almost like you had a checklist that said “hero gets laid.”

I’m not a fan of too much “gun porn” or “tech porn” in books; a lot of the time, it just ends up being a page or 4 that barely move the story, and are just kind of dull. And, as you’ve pointed out, can make an author look dumb when the get a detail wrong. (Not that you did on the guns…) I just get distracted and bored, and often find that sort of thing interfering in the story.

Part II feels a bit rushed, and the build up to the climactic fight where everything starts coming together is suddenly moving at warp speed, and coming together way too easy, for me. I’d like a little more struggle or problems for Kane, even if you just make him work harder to shake his anger.

A couple of developments just pop up with no real plot development, like the brief fling with Rosie. How’d she get into the house to fight the burglar (and who was he, and what happened to him? Didn’t fit with being one of Milner’s guys, didn’t fit with being direct for Chang, or for Oliver…)

Kane is a great character; I hope you’ve got some ideas for some more stories for him. Or other warrior-guides in the bardo.

More comments are being emailed.

Jordan said...

I'm just trying to make up for slacking on Dreadnaught so I wanted to get feedback sent off quickly.

I read some of it on my phone, some on my laptop, and some on a dedicated ebook reader. Wherever I was, I had some way to keep reading!

And on that note, the book was absolutely a success. I couldn't have put it down even if I wasn't trying to hurry myself through it. The story is interesting, engaging, and fun, and I had a good ride.

Jeff Chung said...

I absolutely loved it. Finished the whole thing just now.There was definitely a story told, definitely told very well.

I think I would like to see more development of Sam's training with Rimpoche, I think it would be cecessary to include some insight into his weapons training that would have prepped him to use a blade as he did in the Bardo.

Loved the development of the characters Rimpoche AND Gautama, very nice!

Very much enjoyed the 'fight' with Milner and the use of the gun vs knife thing.

I think this is another winner.

Oh, I don't care for the description of the knives used by Milner, just my opinion, but I think a more recognized Modern Tactical fixed blade would be cool, as the guns were well described, so, why not the blades, too?

Thank you for letting me read this. I'll be definitely purchasing when it's released. Great stuff!!


Steve Perry said...


Gotten more responses -- about half of the readers have responded thus far, which is a pretty good rate of return -- probably not everybody who got a copy will get back to me, if experience holds true.

I'm getting some good stuff, which I am incorporating as it shows up. Another week or so, I expect I'll have enough in that there won't be any surprises left.

As a general FYI, if I put something that is historically recorded into a book -- like the trek over the mountain passes from Tibet into India, it is as accurate as I can make it. I stretch some things for fiction, such as what Jampel did on the mountain, of course.

To the reader who pointed out that there were surveillance satellites that might have spotted the lamas, not as far as I can tell. The only countries capable of lifting stuff into orbit in '59 were the U.S. and the U.S.S.R -- and between the two of them, they had only put five up by then, not counting the moon flybys, and those sats didn't do much anything but go round and round and beep and count cosmic rays. No optics capable of picking up a bunch of folks traipsing aboujt in the mountains to say, Oh, look, it's the Dalai Lama ...

Of those sats, all but one had already dropped out of the sky. And the Chinese didn't get anything up until 1970.)

The rewrites are progressing -- some things have been added, others trimmed, and bits here and there explained perhaps a bit better.

I'll wait a bit and then do a posting with a final update explaining what I did and why, for those who might be curious.