Awesome Times in Tennessee

So, it’s been a while. My apologies to everyone who enjoys reading my blog for doing it so little this year. 2014 ended up having a lot of ups and downs, but I’m pleased to say it’s ended more on the up-side of things. I had some stuff in my head that really needed sorting out, and it appears to be well on its way to being sorted. Also, Locke is doing well and growing large. He’s up to 80 pounds! Obligatory adorable puppy picture below.

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In early October I had the good fortune to attend the Writing Excuses Retreat out in Chattanooga, Tennessee, put on by the wonderful Writing Excuses Podcast team consisting of Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. Unlike Superstars, the focus was largely on craft. Twenty-four of us writers were sequestered with the instructors and staff on a beautiful little woodsy estate owned by Mary’s parents, who often joined us for dinner conversation. The first three days consisted largely of lectures and break-out sessions. My break-out was led by Mary, and the six of us participating had each submitted the first 7000 words of our novel. All the critiques were illuminating in their own way, and I got some good insight from the others on balance between too much and too little worldbuilding, something I continue to struggle with.

The last three days was mostly free-writing time, punctuated by a trip to Rock City, some impromptu lectures, and an enormous amount of pie. Kara, Brandon’s assistant, makes a mean chocolate-peanutbutter pie I can still taste.

The whole experience was fantastic. I made some friends that I hope to stay in contact with for a long time. There were two specific experiences I wanted to highlight:

  •  Mary gave a “wildcard” lecture on writing in dialect, which turned into a broader discussion of writing characters in other cultures. This is a topic rife with pitfalls and one Mary has a great deal of experience with. As tough as it is, I think it’s important, and I don’t know anyone who could have presented the issues better. It really gave me a great deal to think about.
  •  I got a fifteen minute one-on-one session with Brandon. Admittedly, I was slightly cynical as to the usefulness of this, going in. He doesn’t know me at all, and I felt like the problems I was grappling with required more context than I’d be able to provide in the allotted time. Still, I gave it my best shot, giving him a five minute summary of some of my struggles. He made a few general remarks, paused, furrowed his brow, and then suggested that, from what I’d described, I might be overly constraining myself with certain plot choices before other parts of the story were fully developed. This point stayed with me, not least because my friend Sean had suggested the same thing a few months ago. When two people with extraordinary intuition offer the same advice, it’s worth carefully considering. I mulled it over for a few days, re-examined some of the problems I was having with The Wildfire Crown and the current project, City of Stone Wings, and basically decided they were right on the money.

I could blather on and on, but the point’s been made: the workshop was incredible. I’d recommend it for anyone. The good news is, in 2015 they’re doing it again – on a cruise ship. That means no cap on attendees. It does mean a worse instructor to student ratio, but I’m confidant that this group can figure out how to handle that (and they’ve already added at least one instructor). If that sounds interesting, sign ups are available here. 

In other news, work is progressing on my new project, City of Stone Wings, a post-apocalyptic YA fantasy novel. I was really struggling with the middle, but using the insight gleaned from the retreat, have spent the last two months rebuilding the world and back-story to fix a number of problems. The resulting outline is something I’m extremely proud of and look forward to writing. Hope to have a solid draft done in a few months.

Meanwhile, I recommend sending off the new year with Pentatonix, whom I’ll be seeing live in February thanks to a very generous Christmas gift 🙂

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Locke the much bigger puppy!

So my hope to keep this blog updated clearly didn’t pan out over the summer, thanks to usual excuses: work, business, writing is hard, etc. Please look at the pictures of Locke, now 6.5 months, and try to find it in your heart to forgive me.

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He’s a touch bigger now, weighing in at about sixty pounds. In particular, his tail has become a weapon of mass destruction that already threatens the existence of hapless electronics such as the laptop I’m typing this post on.

In case you missed it, I have had a couple posts on the Fictorians this summer, one on how much a writer can value small compliments, and one on what to do when you’re not hitting your goals. 

My writing goals are going poorly this year, which has been frustrating. I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on what’s been going on and while I don’t have any answers yet, feel like I’m making progress. In the mean time I’m trying not to get too frustrated and to enjoy what writing I am getting done. There’s still the Writing Excuses retreat to look forward to at the end of next month. I’m hoping it serves as a kick in the butt to get myself going again, not to mention how educational I imagine it will be.

Anyway, all I’ve got to say for now. I’m still excited about some of my projects but it’s going to be a while before I’m ready to show them to anyone. In the meantime, I suggest doing what I’ve been doing and watching Weird Al’s new videos non-stop, starting with this one:

 

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/.

Heavy Stuff

I’ve written about James Owen a couple times before. I’ve met him at all three of the Superstars seminars I’ve attended, and he drew the cool dragon on the back of my kobo I blogged about last post.

I’ve talked about how inspiring James is. I haven’t mentioned his own struggles with anxiety and suicidal depression, though he’s hinted at them before. A few days after the seminar ended, he wrote about them in depth here.

It’s a moving and worthwhile read. I also recommend reading the follow-up here. 

Suicide is a taboo topic.  That’s unfortunate, because it means for those in pain, it makes it all the harder to talk about. The theme to much of what James teaches is openness. That means being open about the good and the bad. Like him, I believe such openness connects people further, but it takes at times, as his post shows, tremendous courage.

Merry Christmas

I’m spending my Christmas with family in a cottage in the snowy woods of northern Michigan. Aspirations for writing were high, though reality thus far has provided a more modest output. The good news is I’ve found time to read Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, which I absolutely adored. I’ll be finishing the trilogy as soon as the remaining books are delivered and will likely blog about it in the future.

The good folk over at The Fictorians were kind enough to make me a full time member recently, and my most recent post, about how valuable the support of a good friend is, is up. Check it out if you’d like, I think it’s a nice story.

I hope all my readers find themselves enjoying their holiday, and as always, I recommend augmenting your Christmas experience with one of Pentatonix’s latest videos:

 

 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, all.

I spent my Christmas with my parents and brother on Higgins Lake in northern Michigan. Presents were exchanged, and I now have a huge pile of books sure to keep me busy through much of 2013. Later I enjoyed a long walk with my mom along the edge of the partially-frozen lake and a great conversation with my dad.  A wonderful day and soon to be a wonderful memory. I hope, regardless of how each of you chose to spend your day, you found the same.

For today’s music video, one of my favorite songs of all time by one of my favorite bands of all time. It always brings a tear to my eye.