Locke the Puppy!

Apologies once again for the lack of updates. It turns out that puppies are disruptive to one’s schedule and general life style. Who knew? Fortunately, they’re so unbelievably incredibly adorable, it’s hard to hold it against them.

7wks IMAG0242 11wks IMAG0434

As the pictures show, he’s growing super first. He’s seven weeks old in the first, eight weeks in the second, eleven weeks in the third, and thirteen weeks in the fourth. Having him has been both joyful and frustrating, as most worthwhile things tend to be. Perhaps the most important lesson is that having a puppy is the great social icebreaker ever conceived by man. I’ve had more conversations with strangers in the past six weeks than I’ve had in my life to date prior to that point.

At first I got nearly no writing done, but I’m starting to find a post-puppy equilibrium. Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on a short story that will hopefully be included in an anthology that may or may not be themed after purple unicorns. The plan is then to return to Gare and try to do my next revision of Wildfire Crown (which at this point needs a new title, sadly). Hopefully that will be done by the end of the summer and I can jump back into some other projects.

I also posted on the Fictorians this month. The theme was best-novel-you’ve-never-heard of, and I chose S, by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. Check it out here!

I’m headed toward the east coast to visit friends and family next week. The plane ride will be made all the much more enjoyable by Skin Game, the newest Dresden files novel. If you haven’t started the series, please do so. It’s superb.

I’ll leave you with a “video” that’s really only audio, but still worthwhile: a symphonic rendition of Phantom of the Opera that’s just sublime.

 

 

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Updates and a Puppy

It’s been a busy couple months. I went to DC for work and Vegas for pleasure, where I got to eat fabulous food with a good friend and see Penn & Teller for the third time.

Writing, unfortunately, took a hit, as I found myself trying to figure out what to do with The Wildfire Crown, as well as trying to work through the first draft of Lanterns of Shadesmere, my newest project. Lanterns is going well but slowly – it’s a far more complicated project than I originally envisioned. In retrospect, I probably should have realized this given it’s planned to be a seven book series in a different world with different magic. I’m taking a break from Lanterns to work on the next draft of Wildfire, based on the feedback I received from an editor. I was stuck for a while on how to best apply his comments to make the book stronger while still preserving my vision, but I feel I’m finally making progress. I’m hoping that I can have the Wildfire draft done by mid summer and a polished draft of Lanterns done by the fall, though that may be overly optimistic.

For a while, I thought I’d be self-publishing Lanterns, but I’m now reconsidering that. That isn’t to say I won’t self-publish in the future, but given the current state of my life I don’t need to rush into anything, and there’s a lot I could learn from working with an agent / editor. No final decision there yet, it’s going to depend on how the revision of Wildfire goes. My main concern is that Wildfire isn’t a particularly commercial concept and I’ll find it a tough sell, quality writing or not.

In other very exciting news, I’m finally getting the dog I talked about way back. His name is Locke and he’ll be arriving this Friday at  8 pm.

 

Locke

 

I promise there will be many, many, more pictures when he arrives 🙂

Also, for those interest, I’ve got a new post up on the Fictorians about writing from non-human perspectives: http://www.fictorians.com/2014/04/14/non-human-perspectives/.

Return of the Return of the Superstars

My plan had been to return home today from the Superstars Writing Seminar, but the thick fog surrounding the Colorado Springs airport had other ideas. Instead I find myself at the Radisson near the airport, forced to spend the evening reading and writing.

I know, I know. A whole orchestra of the world’s smallest violins are playing for me right now.

So, this was my third time at Superstars, a seminar dedicated to the business side of publishing. There are plenty of seminars focusing on craft, but I believe this is the only one that talks purely about business. What’s really cool is that, despite the fact that the last seminar was only nine months ago, nearly half the content was brand new. Publishing is changing that quickly, as  the e-book and self-publishing explosion have forced the entire industry to adapt. I got to hear all about it from established authors, professional editors, and even some successful indie authors.

Some highlights:

VIP Dinner. The idea here is each table consists of five attendees and one panelist. I sat at Kevin J. Anderson’s table this year, and was treated to nearly four hours of talk about publishing, writing, television, dining, and pretty much every other topic under the sun. Kevin’s been in the industry for decades and knows just about everyone. The fact that he’s still so gracious about his time with newbies like me is amazing.  The rest of the group at the table was fantastic too. Hard to beat a night of great food and great company.

Pitching: I decided to practice pitching The Wildfire Crown. I gave Dave Farland the written version and editor Lisa Mangum from Shadow Mountain the oral version. Dave really liked it, Lisa was more skeptical, but they both gave me great feedback and suggested some other approaches that I’m looking forward to trying. One of the key lessons I’ve picked up from all this seminars is that your brilliant novel won’t impress anyone if you can’t give them a reason to start reading it. Hopefully with all this advice I’ll be able to come up with a killer blurb that will sell me a couple million copies (or, you know, more than one at least).

Kobo. Mark Lefebvre from Kobo came back a second time as a guest speaker and raffled off a Kobo Aura HD. Using my tremendous skill at manipulating entropy and randomness, I managed to win the drawing and decided to up the awesomeness-ante by having James Owen draw a dragon on the back (an idea I shamelessly stole from another attendee). The result:

2014-02-07 18.17.28

This post doesn’t even scratch the surface of how cool the seminar is. I had dozens of great conversations and have made new friends.

For any writers reading this blog who want to make a career out of novels, I firmly believe this is the best money you can spend. Check out their website here!

 

 

 

 

Awesome Books You Should Read

2014 is upon us, no doubt to the dismay of doomsday-prophets everywhere. So far it seems suspiciously similar to 2013, but I imagine it will eventually reveal some surprises.

I’ve got an exciting year ahead of me. I’ve sent The Wildfire Crown off to an editor whom should be starting on it soon. It depends a bit on how much more revision I have to do once he hands me back his comments, but I hope to self-publish the novel this spring (April-ish would be nice). Meanwhile I’m hard at work on a new novel I’m calling The Lanterns of Shadesmere which is theoretically going to be the start of a YA-leaning seven book series. I’ve been hard at work on the first section and got a rough draft of the first third or so done during Christmas break, which revealed a number of plot issues I’m trying to fix. I thought I had them nailed but this weekend they rudely informed I still had work yet to do.  Still, I’m very excited about this book and series, and will share more about it later.

I’m headed to the Superstars Writing Seminar again in a couple weeks. It’ll be great to see old friends again. I also managed to nab a coveted spot in the retreat held by the Writing Excuses authors, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Taylor. It turns out I got pretty lucky, getting up at 6 am Saturday to go for one of 24 spots that about 200 people were vying for. That’s going to be in Tennessee at the end of September.

I had plenty of time for reading over the holiday, and happened across a number of great books that you all should add to your reading lists.

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie:

Joe Abercrombie, together with George R.R. Martin, writes what many call the ‘grimdark’ flavor of fantasy. I had tried one of Abercrombie’s stand alones a few years ago and didn’t finish it, mostly due to not liking any of the characters. But I’d seen his debut trilogy recommended enough that I finally decided to give it a try, and am very happy I did. Yes, it’s dark, but not hopelessly so. Abercrombie takes characters that feel like fantasy mainstays – the mysterious old wizard, the barbarian warrior, the spoiled young noble – and makes them fresh again. The characters in this series may be my favorite ensemble ever. My favorite isn’t any of the aforementioned but instead a crippled torturer named Glokta. My guess is you don’t think you’d enjoy reading about such a character, a sentiment I would have shared, but Glokta is one of the most brilliantly compelling characters I’ve ever read. It’s a case-study in how to make a reader sympathize with someone who is nearly amoral.

I haven’t quite finished the trilogy, but I suspect the ending won’t exactly be happy. Fortunately a childhood of Stephen King novels has cured me of such hopes, and I’m prepared for whatever gristly spectacle Abercrombie throws at me.

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

An infamous warrior recalls his childhood where he was torn from his father and given to an order to be trained in battle. The concept here is as familiar as it gets, but man, when it’s done as well as Ryan does it, who cares. Vaelin, the main character, is as compelling and likeable as a character gets, and though there aren’t many surprises, it doesn’t matter, you’ll still be turning the pages as fast as you can. This thing’s got a full five stars on amazon after a ton of reviews. I picked it up after reading a lot of people call it the best fantasy novel they’ve read in years. They’re not wrong.

S by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Now this is cool. I bought S for my dad for Christmas, then immediately snatched it back to read myself. S is a kind of epistolary novel, though I’d call it a meta-book myself. It consists of the novel Sea of Theseus by V.M. Straka, a fictional author, as well as the notes written in the margin by two fictional characters, Jen and Eric,  who end up passing the book back and forth in a library as they try to determine Straka’s true identity, thus creating a story within a story.

Both the inner story, Straka’s novel, and the outer-story about Jen and Eric, are beautifully done. Doug Dorst recreates the style of older literary novels perfectly while also delivering a compelling story. Jen and Eric come to life through their margin-notes and end up being a very likeable pair. I can’t even imagine the difficulty in putting this project together, but it works beautifully.

For today’s video, a cover of the much-covered Lorde song Royals that you should listen to even if you’re sick of the song:

A Brief History of Stories, Part Six

(This is a continuation. Previous installments here: Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five)

Well, it’s been a bit longer since my last update than I’d hoped. It’s way too easy to fall out of the habit of doing these, as it turns out.

I thought I’d get back in the swing of things with an update on my novel, The Wildfire Crown. Although my blog-writing has suffered this year, my fiction writing has proceeded along a decent clip. After the plot disaster around Christmas time, I managed to finish the second draft, followed by a third draft around May. It was around the end of the third draft that I actually had the entire plot worked out, something that I sincerely hope I can accomplish the first time around in future novels.

At that point I took a break to write a longish short story / novelette that I submitted to the third quarter of the Writers of the Future competition. I thought the story turned out very well, and look forward to seeing the results toward the end of this month.

Then it was back to the fourth draft, which I’d hoped would be a polishing run but turned out to be more extensive, as I found a number of medium-sized plot flaws I needed to fix. Then it turned out the opening chapters weren’t quite working, so I had to do another revision there. Then…

Then I had a complete novel.

Not a finished novel, mind you. It still needs a great deal of polish, but it’s plot-complete. I sent it off to a handful of beta readers a few weeks ago, and have started getting comments. I’ll do another editing pass myself, and then plan on handing it over to a professional editor later this fall.

The next step is to figure out what I’m going to do with it. I’d expected I would go for an agent and large publishing company, but the last couple months I’ve found myself leaning in the other direction. I’m not sure publishing companies have responded to the e-book revolution as gracefully as I’d like. In particular, I’m not hearing good things about the size of advances and the contract terms newer authors are getting right now. Since I’ve got a great job and don’t need my writing to turn into a career just yet, I feel like I’ve got room to experiment, and my first experiment may be self publishing this novel. I’ll be sure to blog about it, either way, once I’ve made my final decision.

So what’s next? More writing! While editing Wildfire, I’ve also started a new novel, a mystery-infused epic fantasy featuring a Sherlock Holmes / John Watson style duo. It’s a major departure from Wildfire and I’m running into early troubles, but I plan on pushing through it and can’t wait to see where it ends up.

I sincerely hope you don’t have to wait too long for my next blog entry, but in the meantime, may I suggest the always-wonderful Pentatonix to pass the evenings. Here’s one of their newest videos:

An Ending of Sorts

Yesterday, I wrote the last few scenes at the end of my novel, The Wildfire Crown.

Despite the myriad drafts the novel has gone through, it was the first time I felt like I’d brought it to some sense of completion. There had always been holes before. Not to say it’s perfect now, but what I can say is the entire novel, chapter one to thirty nine, is a complete story.

It felt absolutely amazing.

Now, there’s still a lot of work to be done. I have some additional scenes I want to insert in, and a number of chapters that need to be rewritten. After that I hope to send the novel to beta readers for critique, before beginning a final round of polishing. I’m not totally sure how long that all will take – I’m very optimistically hoping only a couple months, but it could easily go longer than that.

I credit the two week break to write my short story for giving me the distance necessary to fill in those last few scenes.  The hardest thing about writing for me is the way you lose objectivity about your own stories. I write a scene and I’ll have absolutely no idea if it’s great or terrible. Worse, sometimes I’ll write a great scene and read it a week later and find it mediocre. At least the reverse also occurs; I had one early chapter that I absolutely hated when I wrote it. I read it again last night, expecting it to be a total train-wreck, and instead found it okay with a couple rough patches.

I look forward to being done with this project; as much as I love the story, I’m getting sick of it. I want it to be out in the world (or whatever aether novels sit in while awaiting the decision of agents / editors).  I want to share it with people, and hope that I’ve crafted at least one moment that means as much to the reader as it did to me writing it.

 

Next week, I’ll be attending Superstars Writing Seminar in Colorado Springs. . Last years trip was the impetus to creating this blog. I can’t wait to see what I learn this time – I’ll be sure to write all about it when I get back!

Today’s video: another fantastic performance by Pentatonix. Enjoy 🙂

Quick Writing Update

First off, my apologies for the infrequent blog updates the last few months. I blame the StarCraft II expansion and a foray into the world of dating 🙂 I hope to get back on at least an every-other-week pace again.

I spent most of the last couple months working on the third draft of The Wildfire Crown. I was generally very pleased with this draft; I added a new section at the start of the story which worked well, and the late middle of the story finally started to take shape. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t happy with the end. The final scene I really like – it’s the final two or three chapters leading to it that I still don’t feel great about it.

Feeling stuck and frustrated, I vented to some friends, both who gave me the sagacious advice of taking a break. I took them up on it, and spent the last two weeks working on a short story.

It’s a fantasy story about a thief seeking to avenge his lover’s death at the hands of a sadistic serial killer. I wrote the original draft last fall, and thought it thoroughly mediocre.  But I kept coming back and playing with the plot, and thought I was ready to give it another try.

After about a week, I had most of it down solid – except the final two or three scenes right before the end. Same issue I had with Wildfire.  Fortunately, after a couple days of angst and a very long conversation with Sean, I came up with something that worked. I spent another week polishing / finishing it up, and then on Friday sent it off to a first reader for critique.

I really like this story. It’s not perfect – I plan on doing another round or two of revisions – but it’s complete, it’s fun, and it unifies a lot of ideas I really like. Exactly what I’m trying to do with Wildfire, only 1/6th the length.

Still, it gives me a ton of confidence that I can actually complete something worthwhile. I feel like I’m so close with the novel – just this last little bit, and I’ll have something I can work with. Maybe it won’t be good enough for a publisher, but it’ll be the start of something good enough for me.

The next question is whether I should take even a longer break, and work on another novel. There’s a lot of merit to the idea; Two weeks wasn’t long enough for me to ‘forget’ Wildfire. Still, I really want to get to the polish-phase, so I’m going back and forth there. I plan on making a decision by the end of the week.

I plan on submitting the short story to the Writers of the Future contest. I’m hoping it’s strong enough to be a contender, but it’s hard to tell. I’ll let you know in the fall, when I get the results.

 

Today’s video is one of my recent favorites – an absolutely beautiful little song. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!