Saturday, May 30, 2009


Funny how I can wake up at the crack of dawn for a Saturday morning bike ride, but on a weekday..... snooze button again and again.

By 6AM I was on the road heading toward the village of Skippack. It's a hilly out and back ride of fifteen miles through some pretty Pennsylvania countryside.

While I ride I think about my novel (usually a part I've been working on recently). I often have a song running through my head as well. I don't listen to my iPod as I would like to live to see my next birthday. The song that runs through my head is often one that I recently heard. In this case it was (unfortunately) a parody of Meat Loaf song. I like Meat Loaf, but was irritated that I had this parody song stuck in my head. Luckily I managed to switch it to another song. Now, I'm no fan of High School Musical (I've never seen any of the films), but this is the song that got stuck in my head:

The singer and the video editor/pianist are both former students of mine. Sam (the singer) also painted the picture of Hadde you see on the blog.

But that isn't what this post is about.

As I was riding back home this morning I was going up a long gradual slope. I took the time to check out the scenery (I was near Evansburg State Park) and looked into the woods to my right. I noticed bushes filled with white flowers scattered across the forest floor. I had to laugh. It was almost a perfect image of Landomere, the setting of the first four chapters of Eternal Knight. In the novel the flowers are called Everbloom. The funny thing is, when I wrote the book, I wasn't imagining a Pennsylvania forest. At least not consciously. But when I was writing the book my subconscious mind must have pulled out this image, one that I must have seen hundreds of times in my life, but always took for granted.

I won't be able to look at a Pennsylvania forest the same again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Evil Editor Query Critique

The Evil Editor's critique of my query has arrived. If you take a look at it, the first thing you'll see is "Guess the Plot." This is where other readers of the blog attempt to guess the plot of the book based only on the title. The first one is excellent. With a title like Eternal Knight I was expecting to get several vampire guesses.

Next you'll see a copy of my original query. The Evil Editor inserts comments (in blue). These comments are a mix of humor, snark, and serious critique. Following the query he gives more serious suggestions.

Other readers post their ideas in the comments section. These comments can be just as (or more) useful than the EEs comments.

*edit* You might want to skip the query letter. Query letters always show how a novel is resolved. Don't read it if you want to be surprised when you read the novel.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Still Grinding

If I get published I'll owe a big debt of gratitude to my critique partners. Mike Shultz just got back to me with a third round of comments on my first three chapters. No big changes, but his suggestions definitely improve the novel. Visit Mike's website. He has published several wonderful short stories and his novel Sword of Memory will be published in Germany next year. Visit Mike's website to learn how he managed to get published in German before getting published in English.

I'm about 35% of the way through this round of edits on Eternal Knight. Should be smooth sailing for several chapters. Things will slow down as I fix up the final 25%.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three Chapters

I sent the first three chapters to my critique partner today. I've done a lot of work on these chapters recently. I thought things were a little too "nice" in Hadde's homeland of Landomere. I decided to significantly increase the level of threat to Hadde and her village. The "ticking clock" just had three months cut off of it. The end of the world is much closer than it used to be.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mother, mother, her mother, Enna

Here's something I've been going round and round with.

Hadde is the protagonist of the novel. The entire novel is told from her (3rd person) point of view. Hadde's mother's name is Enna. However, Hadde thinks of Enna as "mother".

One issue... how do I introduce Hadde's mother's name if Hadde never uses it or thinks of her that way? I could just write it, but I feel like that would be an intrusion of the the omniscient author.

And how should I write the following?

"What are you doing, Mother?" asked Hadde.
"What are you doing, Enna?" asked Hadde.
"What are you doing, mother?" asked Hadde.

"I'm saving your life," her mother said.
"I'm saving your life," Mother said.
"I'm saving your life," Enna said.

First draft, it was lots of "Mother" and "her mother said."
Second draft, it was "Mother" and "Mother said."

This draft:
"What are you doing, mother?" asked Hadde.
"I'm saving your life," Enna said.

Do other writers go through this?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Progress report

Made some good progress editing tonight. I want to get the first three chapters into my critique partner's hands as soon as possible. From everything I've read the first three chapters are absolutely critical. You have to hook the reader by that point or you'll lose them.

Monday, May 11, 2009

First Five Pages

This is the opening scene from Eternal Knight. I just made some changes tonight, so let me know if you see any slip-ups.

*edit* Just saw that the formatting didn't hold when I cut and pasted. Sorry about that. I moved it to another page.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I am going to update this blog several days a week. I'll report on my progress with the manuscript and my upcoming plans.

It would be a great favor to me if you would "follow" this blog. You just have to click the "follow" button on the right. Even if you never visit the blog again it will give me moral support knowing that all of my followers are "watching" my progress (even if they aren't).

Tonight I did the last batch of cutting and pasting of large sections of the manuscript. Several scenes needed to be rearranged in order to improve the flow of the novel. Now I need to go back and fix some transitions that were disrupted by the cutting and pasting.

My hope is to have all the editing done in the next few weeks. After that they queries start to fly.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Query Letter

Dear Agent X,

Hadde of Landomere is a huntress who has sworn to protect and provide for her people. The Wasting makes her task impossible: crops are failing, game has disappeared, and strange raiders are invading her forest homeland.

While hunting, Hadde finds a golden necklace. Taking it as a sign that she must do more for her people, she leaves the forest of Landomere for the kingdom of Salador. She plans to sell the necklace for food and other necessities, but she hopes for much more--to gain the aid of the elementar-king of Salador.

Unlike her egalitarian homeland, Salador is a highly stratified, male-dominated world of politics, war, and deceit, teeming with its own problems. Hadde finds herself trapped there when the king, who believes her to be part of a prophecy, refuses to let her go home. Her unlikely romance with the king's brother, Morin, entangles Hadde in a web of Saladoran scheming.

When Morin learns of the discovery of an ancient magical artifact, he takes Hadde with him to recover it. Their journey leads not only to the salvation of Hadde's small village, but to the world itself. It also leads to the loss of her faith in humanity, and the loss of Morin's soul.

I currently teach military history and economics and previously served in the United States Army as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot. I am also a Revolutionary War reenactor and historical wargamer. In Eternal Knight I used my knowledge of medieval history, economics, religion, and military strategy to create a rich, believable world.

Eternal Knight is a 105,000 word fantasy novel. The manuscript is complete and ready for submission. Thank you for considering my work.


Matt Heppe

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Goal

For years I have had a goal of publishing a novel. I'll only consider this goal complete if:

1) The novel is published by a legitimate publisher. I will not self-publish.
2) I have to do a book signing. I don't care if the only people who show up are my family members. I will do a signing.
3) I have to get a photograph of me pointing at my book on the bookshelf at a bookstore. My last name is Heppe. This lands me right between Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert. I'll be insane with joy at the sight of Eternal Knight on a shelf between The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Dune.

What have I done so far?

1) I have a completed 105,000 word manuscript. It is much leaner and meaner than the 220,000 word original.
2) My critique partners have given my manuscript a very thorough going-over.
3) I have unsuccessfully queried over a dozen agents and one publisher. This was with an earlier version of the novel.

Tomorrow: My query letter.