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.

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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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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:

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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!

 

 

 

 

Ruined Castles and Ocean Cliffs

I recently got back from a ten-day trip to Scotland with my family, featuring castles, ruins, foggy cliffs, beautiful vistas,  and many, many sheep.

I’d hoped the trip would serve as a mental reset of sorts. Last month I had to get a bunch of medical tests done (nothing bad turned up, thankfully) leaving me stressed and feeling generally negative. Combined with the writing project I mentioned in my last blog not going well and being sick to death of The Wildfire Crown, I wasn’t feeling great about myself and needed a new environment to try to get some fresh perspective.

ShetlandView

Ten days of incredible views and wandering about centuries-old castles did exactly that. Writing’s been going great since I got home. I’m editing Wildfire in preparation for getting it to an editor in December, and working on plotting my next novel, tentatively titled The Lanterns of Shadesmere.  I’ll get started on the actual writing of that project when I attend David Farland’s Writers Mastery workshop next week.

Some highlights:

Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Gardens

Alnwick Courtyard

Alnwik Castle (the ‘l’ and ‘w’ are silent) is where they filmed the exterior shots of Hogwarts for the Harry Potter films. It offers a very complete castle-experience. Massive courtyards,  a long outerwall and rampart, an ornate dining room filled with so much art and craftmanship it feels more like a museum than a place people would actually eat, and even a suitably dank-and-dark dungeon.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar

My favorite part of the trip. Dunnottar Castle is a ruin sitting on a little lick of land on the ocean connected to the mainland by a narrow land-bridge. It’s moss-covered and dark and wet and you can hear the wind and ocean and there are hardly any signs / ropes preventing you from exploring it. The atmosphere there is one of those you can’t capture in picture or words, but it’s the type of ruined castle I’d only dreamed about existing before. It’s a place that tugs at your imagination as if it demands you to find a story here. I’d love to be able take my laptop there and find a quiet corner and write.

Eshaness Cliffs

EshaNessFog

EshaNessClear

My second favorite after Dunnotar Castles. Huge, foggy cliffs sitting in the Shetland Islands with hardly a sign of human habitation. The drop here is as intimidating as I’ve ever seen, as much for the length as the cold, angry ocean crashing below. We wandered around for an hour or so, walking up and down. The walk up was so foggy we could scarcely see a hundred feet in front of us, but by the time we went back it had cleared up and we were treated with a view of the entire shore-line. Absolutely unforgettable.

St. Mary’s Church

StMarys

This was a cool surprise. We spent two days being led around by Hugh, our properly Scottish tourguide who was witty, knowledgable, and brilliant in pretty much every way possible. He took us to a tiny little town with about four houses and up a one way road to an old church. From the outside it was about the most boring looking building imaginable, a plain white rectangle. But then you step inside and look up and are greeted by this extraordinary painted ceiling that seems to come out of nowhere. It’s amazing that places like this still exist.

Again, I apologize for the lack ofupdates to my blog this year. I’m hoping to at least get back to twice a month starting next year. For those who still read, thank you, and I gift to you yet another amazing Pentatonix video  🙂

City of Lights

I had the pleasure of spending a week in Paris with my best friend, Sean, and some other friends. It was more of a business trip for Sean – he was casting a StarCraft II tournament called Iron Squid. The goal was to see the tournament, do some sight-seeing, and eat a lot of great food, and I’m pleased to say we succeeded admirably at all three.

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As some of you may know, I’m tall – 6′ 5 – and planes these days seem built for people a standard deviation below average. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to an 11 hour plane ride, especially given that Air France wouldn’t pre-assign us seats.

Loading the plane was itself an experience. We were flying direct from LAX, and the assigned terminal was at the edge of the airport. There were no planes there – from the terminal they loaded us into busses, which took us to a building in the middle of nowhere whose sole purpose was to load the massive Airbus 380.

The best part? The plane wasn’t even half full. We had four people to two three seat rows in front of each other. There was plenty of room to stretch out, use my laptop, even nap. I read the first half of A Memory of Light, had some great conversation, got in 2000 words of writing, and frankly had about the best time I’ve ever had on an airplane.

1/23

Thanks to the miracle of time zones, we found ourselves in Paris on the afternoon of the 23rd and took a taxi to our hotel, the Concorde La Fayette. The hotel was this super tall building right in downtown, part of the Palais du Congres and gave easy access to the number one metro line. Hoping to begin combatting jet lag immediately, we resolved to stay up as late as possible and set out exploring.

Paris in January, as it turns out, gets rather cold. There was actually snow on the ground when we arrived, and I believe the temperature that day was in the high 30s. This made the walk a bit more of an adventure than the others in my group might have preferred. I, being a hearty Mainer, actually enjoyed the temperature.

After lunch at a local French café (with incredible bread!), we headed to Notre Dame. What an awesome (in the most literal sense of the word) building. The layers of architecture, the way the different styles are built on top of each other, the absolutely astonishing stained glass windows, the gargoyles, and the immense size – it’s crazy to think that this was built centuries ago, without access to the technology we have today.

From Notre Dame the plan was to take the tower tour, but the wait was long and it was cold, so we eventually gave up and wondered to hot chocolate at Angelina’s, known for the best hot chocolate in the city. I can’t say I’ve tried enough to compare, but it was likely the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

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Sean had business stuff going on all day, so a smaller group of us made our way to the Louvre. There we spent a couple hours wandering around, checking out the Mona Lisa (far less impressive in person), and the Egyptian exhibits.

The coolest exhibit we saw was Napoleon’s Apartments – an entire wing set up to mimic the style of the French emperor’s living quarters. Think rich red carpets, ornate furniture, lots of gold and silver, and elaborate chandeliers. Gorgeous, like stepping into an old-fashioned palace.

1/25

Not much happened Friday – we had a nice dinner with some of the people hosting Iron Squid at a fondue restaurant. I can’t eat much cheese, so I had to settle with dipping filet mignon in a pot of hot oil, a real travesty 🙂

1/26

The day of the tournament. I came early with Sean and got a backstage pass, so I could hang around in the lounge. I met some of the other commentators and staff.

The theatre itself was huge – around 4000 seats, and they’d all been sold. I’ve been to a number of StarCraft tournaments, and they’ve been fun and well-produced. But nothing at the level of this; with a live orchestra playing while the players were introduced.

This video gives a good sense of how it was all set-up. I felt like I was watching a show in Vegas. Incredible.

1/27

We went to see the Sacre Coeur, which sits on the tallest hill in Paris, and walked around a bunch. Lunch was at a really cute restaurant that served absolutely immense portion sizes. The Sacre Coeur was gorgeous,  as was the view of the city looking down the hill. Would have loved to see it at night.

1/28

My favorite day from a culinary perspective. We went to a restaurant in the Jewish distract called L’As Du Fallafel, which is pretty much what it sounds like – Mediterranean fare, with their namesake, shawarma, and so on.

What’s so special about it?

It’s absolutely incredibly unbelievably good. I don’t even like falafel! This was like the best thing I’ve ever had! Huge amounts of food – the shawarma was great, the falafel was unreal, the hummus was great, the sides were great, even the lemonade was great. I don’t care if it’s not French – if you’re in Paris, go here. You will not regret it.

After, we walked around and the brilliant idea to do tea came up, so we found a tea shop – and much like the Falafel restaurant, it was incredible. They had this menu with about 300 different types of teas, plus desserts. I got a black tea called Fall in Love, advertised as having vanilla and floral notes, that was on par with the best tea I’ve ever had, and made me wonder again why my own tea sucks so much.

1/29

We went to Blizzard Europe in Versailles and signed an NDA. It was a really cool day – I’ll be sure to blog about it when I can 🙂

1/30

We flew home! Unlike the flight to Paris, this one sucked – we were in the middle of the middle, the flight was full, and Sean wasn’t there. Still, I managed to sleep for about a third of it, which made it bearable – and I finished A Memory of Light, so I can’t complain too much.

It was a great and unique trip – I’d like to go again and do more touristy things, but the mix of business dinners / engagements and sight-seeing was engaging, plus I made some new friends. I came back home energized (at least, after the jet lag faded) and motivated, and managed to knock off my second draft of The Wildfire Crown last week, with progress already being made on the third. Very excited to see how it’s coming together, and can’t wait to start to share it with people.

For this post’s video, another fine effort by the Avalanches, and a really lovely example of the music video as a story-telling medium.