Monthly Archives: July 2013

You can pry my vacation from my cold dead hands

Last Wednesday, I got home after a two-week vacation, the first trip in years that wasn’t related to a family event or holiday or a writing event. That same day, I read this question on Lifehacker: What would you sacrifice vacation time for

Seriously? Um, nothing. The idea of more schedule flexibility is nice–one of the options discussed is four 10-hour days and a three-day weekend, or eight 9-hour days and a 3-day weekend every other weekend. Although days are long enough as it is, and I’d still have to squeeze in exercise daily, having lots of three-day weekends (especially if they’re timed right for going to cons) would be nice. But not nice enough to make up for actually losing vacation time.

(Besides, I suspect it’d be too tempting to save all my writing for the weekend, and that doesn’t work too well for me–it takes extra time to get back into a project that I haven’t thought about for several days. I do much better with a balance between slow and steady progress and a few big chunks of time for concentrated work.)

A better question would be what I’m willing to sacrifice to get more vacation time. I don’t know the answer to that, but I have a very long list of what I’d do with that time. Starting with this scene I need to write at lunch.

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Haunted by the book I can’t read

My brother recently bought Neil Gaiman’s new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  We were both really excited for this to come out, and my brother tore through it in a night, then loaned it to me.

I haven’t been able to get much past the part with the kitten and the guy in the car–oh, and the coins.  To explain would be to spoil, but if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s not that those parts really disturbed me (well okay, definitely the kitten), but the problem is three things.  First, I wasn’t expecting the book to be so creepy in parts.  Second, I just moved into a new house, and I’m still getting used to the place and its quirks, like the fact that there’s an old incinerator in the back of the basement, a place I’ve nicknamed the crematorium.  Probably shouldn’t have done that.  I’m working through my issues with living in an older house, but adding the Neil Gaiman book on top of that isn’t helping.  Third, I like to read at night before I go to sleep.  Now, combine a spooky book, an unfamiliar house, the crematorium thing, and Jaleigh reading right before she goes to sleep at night.

Yeah, you see the problem.  I’m having these insane nightmares.  So I’ve stopped reading the book for now.  I’m going to pick it up again, probably read it only in daylight hours, and thankfully it’s not that long, so the nightmare thing won’t last forever.  But I mean all this as a huge compliment to Neil Gaiman for crafting such an affecting book.  I WANT to read it so much, and yet it scares the heck out of me in a lot of ways.  That’s some serious writing chops.

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Is it dead?

One of my plans for this summer was to send out agent queries for the first book I wrote. Note the was, then follow along.

A few years ago, I found myself shut up in a house in rural Minnesota with a toddler, going slowly nuts. So I started noodling around with this writing thing. Maybe I could write a story or two, just to have something to do besides changing diapers. I tried a few ideas that went nowhere, then one of them took off. Way off, and somehow a few months later I found myself staring at eighty thousand words of book.

Kind of.

Well, it was a book, but it wasn’t the book I wanted it to be. Not yet. I had written something, which is the critical first step, but I knew it needed a lot of work. So I revised. Had my wife read it, and revised again. Set it aside and spent some time on short stories, took a writing class, joined my first writing group. Got some more critiques, and revised it again. Then I got cocky and sent it out to a few agents. It got shot down fast.

Still needs work, I decided.

I worked on more short stories. Placed in Writers of the Future, and started selling. I got better and I wrote another book, then another. They didn’t get picked up either, but the agents actually seemed somewhat interested. During that time I also moved and found a new writers group (this one). I eyed the file where my first lay, gathering electron dust, and wondered.

It’s a staple in writing advice. Don’t beat a dead horse. If the book is dead, bury it and move on. Pounding on its chest and screaming “LIVE!” at the sky doesn’t always work. If those words are dead, you’re just wasting your time. So what about this one? This book I still really really liked? I decided to take a chance and sent it to the group.

They tore it up of course. It had issues, big nasty ones, and they pointed them out. But it turns out it also had things that they liked. So with their critiques in hand I tore into it. A few months and a major rewrite later, I had something that was much better. But…

Was it alive, or just a better looking corpse?

Well, I had just started another writing group with two of my friends from the west coast. I sent it to them, and we just finished talking about it.

Well, they tore into it again. There are still things that it needs. But the thing is… they liked it. And they were able to give me some fairly clear direction on how to clean it up. Most importantly, I actually agreed with them.

Which means, IT LIVES! In a feeble sort of way, but that’s enough. Another round of revisions (not nearly so massive as the last) and I think it might start to look almost healthy.

Or am I just wasting my time,  beating that corpse?

I don’t think so.

That’s really all I’ve got right now, and I guess that’s enough.

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I think I see light at the end of the tunnel

Or maybe that’s a train that’s headed right for me. Either way, it’ll all be over in a few days. For those keeping score at home, my secret project is due tomorrow and we close on our house sale the day after.

This is not something I would recommend.

Everything has fallen into place, though, as these things tend to do when you’re semi-organized and keep your wits about you. We’ve gotten all of our crap out of the house and I’ve written a decent novella, if I do say so myself. I have managed to not kill myself or anyone else, which is definitely a win. I’m looking forward to some stress-free days. I’m anxious to get back into the WIP. I need to catch up on some movies and hang out with friends. Oh, and yeah, unpack some boxes and get the new apartment in order. So you know. Normal levels of busy.

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Cover art, geeks, and Red Aegis

This week I have three cool things to talk about.  The first is just a short note to say that I have seen the cover  for The Mark of the Dragonfly, and I hope to be able to share it soon.  Oh, and the release date on Amazon now says March 25th, 2014, so update accordingly, heh.

Second thing: this week I read Wil Wheaton’s book Just a Geek and loved it.  A lot of funny, poignant stories, beautifully written.  I also wasn’t expecting it to be a book for writers, but it is, and I’d recommend it for that reason alone, but it’s just an all around great read.

Third thing is a Kickstarter being run by Vorpal Games for the Red Aegis Roleplaying Game.  I’ll say up front that several of my friends and acquaintances are involved in this project, so I’m hopelessly biased here, but seriously, if you’re a fan of RPGs, you should check out this project.  Quoting the description on the Kickstarter page, “RED AEGIS is an epic, millennia-spanning, strategic roleplaying game where you claim your birthright, rally loyal followers to your cause, and forge a dynasty to stand the test of time.”  It gets more intriguing, though, as you will also “command successive generations of heroes from the setting’s ancient past to the far future.”  How cool is that?  I think they had me at that line, to be honest.

Anyway, I’m backing Red Aegis, and I encourage you to check it out, and while you’re doing so, scan the list of names involved in the project.  I think you’ll see some familiar and famous names in the RPG world.

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Other’s Worlds

I missed my post last week (busy summer is busy) and I had no idea what to write today. But! I can react to Kelly’s post.

I’m working on some tie-in fiction too, which means I’m also playing around in somebody else’s world. Mostly though, I’ve been enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong, I love world building, but it’s kind of nice to have all the basic crap already covered. Things like geography, climate, history, cultures, and god%*$&# mother$*%*&^% names. Instead of making that up, I can look it up. Then I can figure out how to bend my story around the world that’s already there– or how to bend that world around my story, if I can get away with it. Tie-in’s are mash-ups for me. I take a world and carve my story into it, working with and (a little) against what’s already there.

Really, it’s not a lot different than writing urban fantasy. I sure as hell wasn’t allowed any hand in world building real life. Which is probably good- there would be dragons. But it’s still fun to set stories in the realy real world. And easier. Especially with Google.

There are limitations. You’re stuck with the rules of magic and religion that are in place, world-shattering events are frowned upon, and you can’t just decide that all the elves have antlers.

That’s okay though. When I want to design my own worlds, I still can. So if I finally decide to set down the tales of Buck Rackgood, Night Ranger, I just have to start typing.

The door crashed open and a tall figure threw its shadow across the common room. It was a dark and horny elf.

Awesome.

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All tied up

So the secret project I’ve been working on is a gaming tie-in. Other than a very brief foray into fan fiction (which I didn’t like writing because no matter how I wrote it, I knew in my heart that whatever I wanted the characters to do was really what the actual author wanted the characters to do, and so my heart wasn’t in it) I’ve never written in someone else’s world. 

It’s … unusual. 

I like writing with constraints. Give me a topic (a time-travel agency! Magical clothing! Ghosts!) and I can write. Being given a specific topic opens up my creativity. However, writing in a fully realized world that I didn’t have a hand in creating is daunting. I find that I’m thinking “am I doing this right? Or am I completely fucking this up?” way, way more than usual. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the story. It’s starting to write itself, which is a really great place to be. 

When the going gets tough, the tough get writing. 

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