Tag Archives: fantasy

How writer brains work

So just a quick post – sort of gushing about another “Ah ha!” moment, while also to show how your brain comes up with shit that will work if you don’t hamstring it.

I’m trying to finish all remaining rewrites (a.k.a. draft 2) on the urban fantasy project by end of June, plan being to send CPs/Betas the first half by end of May.  Which meant starting from the beginning. I rewrote chapter 1 and the first scene of chapter 2 in February or March at some point, then dropped them. Because the second scene in chapter 2 just wouldn’t work.

Can’t exactly avoid it any more, though. It has to get done or other goals this year *coughPitchWarscough* won’t happen.

I was supposed to finish it yesterday. Didn’t happen. The new words sounded just as boring and overdrawn as the first set. To bypass some of the stress and anxiety of missing yet another deadline, I decided to plow ahead to chapter 3 and come back. As I started jotting out the first scene in chapter 3, this is what happened:

“Okay, where exactly are all these things in this container?”

*Tries to sketch out how it’s laid out. Looks up cargo container packing pictures.*

“How is there any room for her to move in there? And why would they pack the stuff that they need to unload and hide IN THE BACK?”

Brain – What about making it a pirate ship instead?

“Don’t be silly, there can’t be any pirate ships in this thing. That makes no sense-”

*Googles old merchant ship holds.*

“How can I make this fit the rest of the world? How can a pirate ship fit in an alternate, modern Charleston?”

Brain – Here’s all you need to know to tie it into this moment and recent past.  *Dumps out ideas and possible subplot threads.*

“…NOW CHAPTER TWO WILL BE SO MUCH MORE FUN!”

 

And now (well not right now) I can go back to chapter two and give it the oomph it deserves. It won’t be pirate ships… exactly.  Mwahahah.

Moral of the story: don’t quash the little voice that offers up what sounds, at first, like an outlandish idea. It might be the solution you’ve been banging your head on the keyboard for.

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2014 / 2015 Housekeeping – Pt. 1

Let’s just say I’ve fallen behind on putting up book reviews. I mean, behind. We’re talking 10 books from 2014 and 3 from 2015 – by release date, because I’m pretty sure I read more than three books this year…

Anyway, in the spirit of moving to a new year, time to get those puppies done! *Note – may be some spoilers in the reviews, so be warned!

 

1). Crimson Son by Russ Linton – A superhero story that doesn’t center on the super hero, Spencer is the son of Crimson Mask (the world’s most powerful augment), but doesn’t have any powers. Spencer’s one part cynic and two parts hormonal teen, which made connecting with him a bit of a struggle. The pacing, at times, seems to drag despite the urgency of Spencer’s quest. But the extended list of characters, from Hurricane and Hound to the Black Beetle himself, help round him out. It’s a story of survival, finding the truth, and, in a way, coming home. The truth and reality Spencer gets in the end aren’t butterflies and rainbows, but it’s enough for him to begin to heal.
Rating – 3.5

 

2) Premonitions by Jamie Schultz – I don’t know whether to call this a supernatural heist book, or maybe just urban fantasy heist? In any case, it was a fun read. Getting to know Karyn and co. takes a bit of time. There’s kind of an obligatory typecasting – there’s a silent guy who serves as the muscle, a magic-user who’s a bit more neurotic, Karyn as the leader and pre-cognitive Ace-in-the-hole. And then you have Anna. I still don’t know what Anna’s purpose is, other than a foil to Karyn and possibly the main gun. Strange to say, the highlight of the book is Karyn’s addiction. To keep her pre-cog abilities from rendering her to a comatose state, Karyn has to take an illegal drug called Blind. Her source dries up at the time shit is really hitting the fan. Seeing Karyn’s breakdown and flight from her team hit all the right notes. Her struggle is what brings the book together, and whether she gives in or overcomes it, well… you’ll just have to read!
Rating- 3.5

 

3) Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier – As always, Juliet is a master of elegant prose and fantasy with a historical feel. Blackthorn and Grim are two unlikely companions, but work well together. The premise promises to be interesting throughout the series –  saved from execution by the Fae, Blackthorn must give help to anyone who asks. If she can do this for seven years, she’ll get her revenge on the very man who imprisoned her in the first place.  Her first task is to help save a company of women nearly drowned in a local pool. It turns out one of them is betrothed to a local prince, and when she doesn’t fit the mold or personality he expected, he elicits Blackthorn’s help too.  It’s not a heart-pounding pace, and sometimes Blackthorn’s attitude makes it difficult to sink completely into the story, but has a happy ending typical of Marillier’s work – somebody ends up happy, but maybe not the titular character.
Rating – 3.8

 

4) Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews – This is the one we’ve been waiting for, guys! The book where we finally get to meet Roland, Kate’s notorious father who eats, sleeps, and breathes magic – and it lives up to the hype, though in a different way than expected. Kate is as sharp and sarcastic as ever as she tries to unravel the mystery of who actually killed a Master of the Dead. Hugh returns, still a giant pain in the ass. Packed with action, sprinkled with a few dark moments, and we get to see more of what’s in store if Kate fails against her father. It didn’t hit me as hard as Magic Slays or Magic Rises, but from this point, the clock starts ticking to when Kate will have to actually fight her father.
Rating – 4

 

5) The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley – Wow – this one was a ride. Plant magic, parallel worlds converging, and gender-bending societies made this a helluva standout in epic fantasy. The multiple POVs lend well to the broad scope of the problem – to the worlds converging and the threatened destruction/subjugation. Though Lilia is a problem child, she promises to be more important as Oma grows closer in the sky (meaning book 2, Empire Ascendant). Parts of the book reminded me of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness in the way Hurley deals with gender identification and roles. The ending did feel a bit rushed, and not as clear as it needed to be in explaining what Lilia was doing. That said, it’s a refreshing addition to the epic genre.
Rating –  4

Side note: Hurley is one of the writers whose blog you should be following if you aren’t already. She gives bluntly honest, down-to-earth insight on her struggles and successes as a writer. Especially great for young writers or aspiring writers who think they’re going to make it big with one book and then not need to have a day job to support their writing.

 

6) Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews – Woooo buddy I needed a cold drink after this one. This new series by Ilona and Gordon promises to be a scorcher. They build another impressive world where magic is hereditary, and houses form out of the families with the greatest abilities. Nevada is good at being a private eye, helping keep her family afloat so they don’t lose their home and livelihood. Even though she gets in over her head, she does what’s necessary to level the playing field. She’s not a chosen one. She doesn’t come from a great house. She doesn’t get rescued. She’s headstrong, but not in the same way as Kate from the Kate Daniels series. With Mad Rogan in the mix, I can’t wait to see the fireworks in the future books.
Rating – 4.5

 

7) Clariel by Garth Nix (biggest letdown of 2014)

Nix’s Old Kingdom books were probably the biggest reason/inspiration I got into writing. The world is so different from the standard dragons and wizards; magic is free, potent, and dangerous not just to the living, but the dead as well. There are gates in death, and those who die aren’t truly at rest until they pass beyond the final one. I hoped Clariel, would give a greater picture of the Old Kingdom before the Great Charter Stones were broken with royal blood, before the role of Abhorsen became incredibly important. I guess it does, to some extent, but fails to explain any of it. Clariel is unlikeable throughout the whole story; she has virtually no arc or development. She continuously ponders about ditching her parents’ ambitions and living in the forest as a ranger, yet does nothing about it. The plot is shallow, and the antagonists’ motives/plans are so easy to read it’s honestly like watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith all over again. But those things, really, aren’t the biggest letdown – that award goes to the world building. The story takes place mostly in Belisaere, with Clariel’s mother taking position there in some respect to her goldcraft. Very, very little is done with respect to building up the guilds, their history, and their importance to the city and King. Basically all the magic and wonder created in the other Old Kingdom books is completely missing here. It’s just unpleasant all the way around.
Rating – 2

 

8) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (favorite of 2014)

Part historical, part suspense, and with what seems like a speculative element thrown in – it’s an unusual, but fantastic combination. Nella begins as a romantic hoping her new husband will love her, and by the end she’s no token wife. She truly becomes a head of the household, at least what’s left of it. The miniatures are as stunning as the writing is beautiful. And I still don’t know who the miniaturist is! What floors me, though, is how much this book brings to mind British and American literature taught in late high-school and undergrad. Oddly, it reminds me of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. But better, way better than the Dickens, Chopin, and the like taught in college. Seriously a fantastic read,  and I can’t wait to read Burton’s The Muse coming out later this year.
Rating – 4.8

 

No, I didn’t count wrong. The other five reviews will be put up in the next week (probably while I’m procrastinating revisions). Maybe I’ll stop letting them get so out of control this year!

 

Read on, write on, eat cake. Happy New Year!

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Finished (first) draft stats

Draft one/book one of the UF project is done. It’s not perfect; the plot has little tears in its seams, and the main character continues to feel not quite right. But it’s done! The long slog to draft two (and three, and … however many more it takes) will follow after NaNoWriMo.

For now, though: STATS!

 

Word tallies:

  • NaNoWriMo 2014: 50,017 words
  • personal FebNoWriMo = 36,947 words
  • CampNoWriMo June = 12,131 words (this is what I actually logged on the site, but the file itself and the count sheet I used both have a decent variance from this number)
    Final count: *113k words

*About 5k worth of bonus scenes aren’t included in the total, and another couple thousand scenes’ worth were taken out that will be moved to book two.

 

Timeline:

  • conceptualized – Oct 2013
  • CH1 written/submitted to NTSFW in Feb 2014
  • made NaNoWriMo goal 2014 (50k words)
  • came up short of secondary NaNo goal (goal was 40k in February)
  • made CampNaNoWriMo goal (12k words)
  • wrote another 20kish July – September
  • 1st draft finish Sept. 24, 2015
  • concept –> 1st draft = less than 2 years
  • actual “drafting” phase (NaNo) –> 1st draft = less than 1 year

 

Just a refresher, it took ten (that’s right, TEN) years to finish the first draft of my epic fantasy, which weighed in at 128k words. That the UF took less than a year (depending on how you look at it) to draft, and is only 15k words short from that is kind of mind-boggling. If you had told me two or three years ago that I could draft a full novel in a year or less, I would have smiled and nodded, but inwardly been like Yeah right, there’s no way I can write that much in a year!

Finding a process that works to get the words down on the page makes all the difference.

 

Any burning questions about the drafting stage of this project? Any other numbers or stats you’d like to see? Want to know what song I played on repeat the most during this endeavor? Ask away!

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Book Review – One Night in Sixes by Tex Thompson

So shame on me, I’ve had Tex’s debut novel since its launch party, read it shortly thereafter, and am just NOW getting to the review. Still trying to find my blog-stride here, bear with me.

Appaloosa Elim is a man who knows his place.  On a good day, he’s content with it.

Today is not a good day.

Today, his so-called “partner” – that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has ridden off west for the border, hell-bent on making a name for himself in native territory.  And Elim, whose place is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn’t dare show up home again without him.

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day, but Elim’s heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner fast. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.

I was surprised that I liked this book as much as I did. Westerns are not my thing. Though it does retain an air of the old west with dust and sand, horse sales and gambling houses, it didn’t take long for those preconceived notions to get trampled by Tex’s world. Sixes, the primary setting of the story, is beyond the reaches of what one might consider civilized law. The city plays by its own rules, and only those “in the know” seem to decide who gets told how to play.

The characters are another plus. I wanted to punch Sil in the jaw for the first half of the book. Then Tex takes this unlikeable guy and turns him around. The entitled brat realizes what danger he’s put them in, and he makes a good attempt to the salvage the situation he caused. Elim acts as a good foil. I can’t help but feel bad for the guy. But his perseverance, and trust in Sil, get us through the latter half of the story.

The one [eensy] downside I can note is that once in Sixes, I found myself unable to keep up with the secondary characters. I was reading so quickly to see what happened next that I couldn’t keep track of everyone. The relationships between the Sixes inhabitants, and where they stand on the social ladder, are not explained very well. Or it’s entirely possible I missed the links there in my fervent reading frenzy.

Without spoiling anything, the ending got me. I guess everything else I read around the time had a HEA, and put me in the mindset that all would turn out well. No such luck here. Since this is the first book of three, though, I’ve got a lot of hope that Elim will catch a break at some point.

Book two of the series, Medicine for the Dead came out this week, so I’m excited to get the next piece of Elim’s story. You can find out more about Tex and her book-babies on her website: http://www.thetexfiles.com/p/works.html. Give it a shot!

To sum up other news, my February NaNo extension was somewhat successful. I wrote another ~37,000 words. Most of which were for a new beginning third. There will be a lot of cutting and stitching together in my future. We also adopted two cats (kittens, really) earlier this month. Next time we will think long and hard about getting young’uns, or make sure we bring them home at the same time. Oy.  They are starting to get along, but it has been a slow, stressful process.

Want to help pick the next review I post? Have at it! The ones on my list so far, are: Premonitions by Jamie Schultz; Clariel by Garth Nix; Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier; Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews; The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton; The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley; Crimson Son by Russ Linton; Night Broken by Patricia Briggs.   Leave a comment with your vote!

Until next time, write on!

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Building a new world

The time’s running away from me, but I still want to address emotional response that I mentioned in the DFWCon recap post.

To sum up, one of the author/agent duos suggested, when submitting or querying, to be prepared for rejection and when it does happen, not to make your response from an emotional place.  Don’t go throwin’ ‘bows because they didn’t understand your character, or said your premise wasn’t exciting. If your comeback snarky and rude, why would that person (be it an agent, editor, publisher, critique partner, etc.) want to work with you in the future? If you aren’t open to at least considering change or opening your eyes to what the flaws are in your work, it’s going to be difficult to move forward.

After the conference ended I hit upon an epiphany — reigning in our emotions, and how we respond to what we’ve written (or someone’s feedback on our work), goes hand in hand with our entire writing process.  We need to breathe through the sentences that don’t work, and the characters who act in opposition of their nature. We need to remind ourselves that what we’ve written may not be perfect, but we’re moving in the right direction. Every word is another step towards establishing our voice, and learning what works. We need to stop letting our emotions run the show, and instead remind ourselves of what we have accomplished. We all have bad days where we look at what we’ve written, and our inner critic just won’t shut up. We just have to remember that we’re human, we make mistakes, life gets in the way, but the writing will get better if we can push past the self-doubt and put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard).

There are numerous other writers who have discussed dealing with self-doubt and guilt, but these are three of my favorites:  Rachel Aaron – Don’t Stomp on My Cake!  ;  Kristen Lamb – Writer Victory series  ;  Lauren Sapala – Self Doubt: The Writer’s Constant Companion

 

I tried revising my epic fantasy first draft from May to July. To say revisions didn’t pan out in those three months would be a massive understatement. The more I looked at it and tried to start fixing it, the more deprecating my thoughts became. In preservation of my sanity, I’ve shelved it. I’ll bring it back out in a year or two, but I’m just not ready to deal with it. Hell, maybe it’s not ready to deal with me. But that’s not necessarily bad, because I’m better off moving on to something that makes me excited to write, than to sit and stare at the monitor waiting for brilliant inspiration on how to fix a broken story.

 

Tomorrow I’m flying to Charleston, SC to fully immerse myself in a new project. For three and a half glorious days I’ll be sightseeing and eating my way through historic downtown, while filling in the gaps of an urban fantasy world that has waited patiently for its time in the spotlight. Now that the EF is out of the way, it’s all magic and technology and a different species of shifters from here!

 

 

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Into the Nether…

Welcome to the blog! I’ll be sharing insights about my writing process, the status of current project(s), and anything else I find that tickles my fancy.

Much of my last ten years has been focused on one story, a fantasy, which I planned as a trilogy. In the scope of how young I started it, ten years isn’t a long time. I finished the first draft of book one just before the new year (seriously, 9:00 PM on New Year’s Eve), and then set it aside for a couple of weeks. When I came back to it, I thought I’d be ready to push through revisions and editing sweeps to get it ready for the world of querying. I was wrong. I reread it, saw that the first half needed substantial rewriting, and promptly panicked.

It’s taken a few months, some tears/frustration, lurking on a variety of writing websites, and a lot of jottings on dry erase boards and paper, but I finally feel like I have a better grip on how the first half has to be changed.

Although writing isn’t easy, I want to show readers the world that I’ve created, and the characters who inhabit it.

 

Side note – I am really impressed that Literature&Latte (the people who make Scrivener) have a way to look up your order number if you’ve purchased it previously. So glad I don’t have to buy it again!

 

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