Monday, December 31, 2012

At the year's end.

First off: I apologize for the recent lack of entries.  Stress from work, travel planning, lots of book plotting, and some unfortunate computer issues left me with little desire to blog.  Oi.  I'm hoping and planning to write more regular entries here next year.  But that's then, and for a moment, this is now.  So let's talk about this past year.

This past year, I polished the absolute hell out of Skyborne, everything from rewriting a quarter of the book to doing a "romance and feelings" edit because I wanted to make sure to get that stuff right.  I'm very, very happy to say that I'm still just as enthusiastic about it as I was at the start of the year.  I've edited things until I was sick of them before, and I really feared doing that with this book.  Not happening.  I still have every plan to keep at it until I get Skyborne published.  Speaking of which:

This past year, I started the querying process in earnest for the first time since 2005.  It's just as nerve-wracking.  But at least it's both cheaper and faster now, since it's all done through e-mail.  ^_^  I have a new query letter I'm polishing up to start with the new year's queries, and hopefully this one will work better.

This past year, I got involved with the online writing community.  I'm more than a bit introverted, so throwing myself and my work out there online was a big step for me.  And y'know what?  It's been awesome.  There's such a great community of writers out there, aspiring and newly published and experienced and everything in between.  The mutual encouragement and support is absolutely amazing.  And sometimes it leads to new things...

This past year, I discovered New Adult, and realized I'd been looking for it my entire life.  Most characters I write are in their late teens to early twenties, so as NA slowly gains more recognition and support, hopefully I'll find a way to ride this wave as it rises.  I do hope NA grows into more genres than contemporary and/or paranormal romance, but everything starts small.  The simple fact that agents and publishers are acknowledging it is a major and very encouraging change.

This past year, I had two failed projects.  One of them taught me that I should never start a book within two weeks of having the idea for it, no matter how familiar the idea is.  The other taught me that there's a fine line between 'inspired by' and 'derived from', and that I need to recognize it before I cross it, preferably somewhere in the plotting stages.  But I re-learned that it's okay to just let a book go, and that it's okay to stop before something's finished if I know it's not worth continuing.  Hard lessons, but sometimes it's the hard lessons we forget on purpose.  Hence the need to re-learn.

That was this year.  Tomorrow starts a new year.

Tomorrow, I start writing a new book.  Seems like a good time for it.

Happy 2013, everyone.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Identity Crisis

Sometimes, the only way to realize something is for someone who knows what they're talking about to point it out.  If it's something small, it's usually not a big deal, unless it's something embarrassing like having your pants zipper open.  (Guilty.)  But this sort of thing is at its worst when it's something you don't want to hear.  In my case, it's something I heard from two friends who do in fact know what they're talking about:

"You're writing Young Adult."

Naturally, my first response was resistance.  Most characters I write are in their late teens and early twenties, out of the usual range for YA; that's part of why I'm so big on New Adult.  Also, I haven't read much YA.  Most of what I've read in that category consists of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series.  Both are excellent, don't get me wrong.

However, when I think of YA, I tend to think of stories that involve much younger protagonists and a different set of issues than what I like to write.  I tend to think of stories with lower word counts, which is a major part of why I've never set out to write YA; I seem to lack the ability to tell a short story.  Seriously.  Shortest book I've written was 103K, and I deliberately wrapped that one up as quickly as I could.  So despite YA being absolutely damn huge these days, I'd never felt the desire to write it.

But when two people who read a ton of YA tell me the same thing, it'd be foolish not to listen.  One said that the way I tell a story is too lengthy and descriptive for adult-aimed works.  I countered with examples from Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher, and she counter-countered with the point that both of them can pretty much write whatever they want these days.  Couldn't argue with that.  And Rena has been trying to convince me that I write YA for quite a while.

Rena also calmed some of my worries about this whole thing.  Fantasy stories always have a higher word count than other books, so I could query Skyborne as YA fantasy and not get rejected on word count alone.  And if I found success in YA, I wouldn't be expected to write teenagers only forever.  Which is good, since I fully plan to let these people grow up.  Eventually.

Now, I'm not giving up on New Adult.  I think NA will only continue to grow, and it's starting to get wider recognition as a niche that needs to be filled.  I dearly hope it soon branches into more genres than just contemporary or paranormal romance.  But I'm not going to avoid YA anymore.

I've got a list of agents who are looking for YA epic fantasy, and a brand new edit on my query letter.  Guess what I'm doing this weekend.

Wish me luck.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Character Cut-and-Paste

So I have this story I've been trying to write since 2010.  Okay, 'trying to write' isn't the best way to put it.  I wrote two different versions of this story in 2010, and I've been trying to get it to really work ever since then.

Somehow, nearly 400,000 words in two novels and a plotting document that's stretched to almost eighty pages hasn't convinced me to give up on this story.  Heh.

Anyway, this deals a bit with the character I discussed in my last entry.  I realized earlier today that she didn't fit in the story.  Her moments in the plot were minor at best, and she was mostly around because she added attitude and conflict.  And because I'm still trying to find a way to get The Power of Rock to really work in print.  (Someday, I swear.)  I know by now that, when a character has no real purpose in the story, it's time to cut them out.

So of course, my next thought was if she needed to be replaced, and if so, by whom.  I thought back along the lengthy list of characters I'd written up for previous versions of the plot, and realized that one of them would probably work.  But how should she be affected by the world-ending event that starts the story?

I had one of those moments of perfect idea, when something comes that fits both the character and the story completely.  In the space of a few seconds, I knew what she would be able to do, how it would affect her, how it would fit into the larger plot and help advance it.  I knew how it would change over time and affect her, and how she would interact with the larger world because of it.  I had a vision of her in her future, and knew just how much her life was about to change.

If I could have idea moments like that more often, I'd have a lot fewer half-finished plots, believe me.

So: progress continues apace on the new plot, with the newish character plugged in and ready to go.  For all the doubt that comes with plotting a new story - especially one I've been trying to get to work for more than two years - I'm feeling better and better about this every time I finish working on it.  It just needs some more time to really come together, and I need to go over the entire plot with an eye toward making everything harder for our heroes.

I have this horrible tendency to make things too easy on my characters, pretty much always have.  But that's another blog entry altogether.

Finally: having an intelligent British young woman in the book means the guy who's a real smartass gets to make a Hermione joke.  And get punched for it.

This is going to be fun.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Power and Disability

Ever get the feeling you're worrying about something that most people wouldn't even consider an issue?  Yeah, me too.  Hence, this.

I'm working on character and plot for a book.  In this book, thanks to a major event I haven't fully worked out yet, people gain access to magic.  And in this story, human use of magic tends toward them getting a power they want, whether they knew they wanted it or not.  One of the characters is a girl who's mute - not deaf, she hears just fine, but can't speak.  She learns to manipulate sound, and eventually is able to do so well enough to talk for the first time.

And I'm starting to wonder if this is okay.

Earlier this year, I read a series of stories with a cast made up almost entirely of disabled people.  From reading it, I learned a lot about how to write people with disabilities.  The disability is part of what makes the person who they are; it affects their life in unavoidable ways, but it doesn't define them.  Like all characters, someone who's disabled needs to be fully fleshed-out, not just 'the deaf person' or 'the blind person' or so on.

The character I'm working on, I'm doing my best to do this.  I know who she is and how being mute has affected her.  I know why she loves music but why she's reluctant to pursue it as a career.  I know why school has become hellish for her.  I know the last thing she said to her parents before the world sort-of ended.  I know why she never uses her full first name.  And I know how she reacts when she realizes she can use her newfound abilities to speak.

What I don't know is if this is a good idea.

I talked about this with a co-worker, and he brought up the character Geordi from "Star Trek: the Next Generation".  For anyone who doesn't know, Geordi is blind, but has cybernetics that allow him to see everything standard human eyes do and beyond.  My co-worker told me how Geordi's improved vision was a plot point in several episodes, something essential to the story.  It wasn't just an example of "Okay, this guy's blind, but not anymore, thanks to technology."  And that got me thinking.

There is a right way to do this, I'm sure of it.  My character's ability to manipulate sound is an important part of the plot on several occasions, and her gaining a voice is an essential part of her character arc - not that it should be any other way.  I think that's how I need to approach it.  It's not that an issue she's dealt with all her life will suddenly go away.  It's that something has changed, and now she has to deal with it.  Because whether she realizes it or not, it's what she wanted.

With any luck, writing this book will go better than my last one, so someday I'll be able to talk about how it worked.

Friday, November 2, 2012

When is it Okay to Stop?

"Be persistent, relentless, and unstoppable, even when you want to stop. Especially when you want to stop."  --Adam Warren 

"You'd like to think that, wouldn't you?!"  --Vizzini, 'The Princess Bride'

So, I'm writing another new book, started it this past Saturday.  I didn't think that deserved its own blog entry, since odds are pretty damn good I'll start another one at some point in my life.  It's a book I've always been hesitant about writing, for a few reasons.  The first is that it's the start of a trilogy, and I'm really not sure about writing a book that's only sort-of a complete story when I'm still trying to get published.  The second is a much larger issue, and it's why having doubts after only six days.

The book and the world it takes place in were inspired by a video game I played a ton when I was younger, a game that's still one of my favorites.  I realized somewhere along the way in the world's creation that I wasn't quite being original in my planning, but I went with it anyway, since everything seemed original enough and I thought I'd changed things around enough to keep it from being obvious.

Now, nearly 20,000 words into the book, I have to admit it: damn, I couldn't be more wrong.

What I've written so far crosses the line from "inspired by" to "derivative of".  The book is following the game much more closely than I ever intended.  There are tiny moments that shout out the video game that I didn't really intend to put in - they just happened as I was writing.  Things like that are usually good, but in this case, I feel like it could get me in trouble.  I feel like getting this published would be tantamount to copyright infringement.  ...yes, I'm putting the cart before the horse when the cart is still a tree and the horse isn't even a zygote, but you get the idea.

This is why I'm thinking hard about cutting this off before I spend any more time on it.

I don't think stopping now would be a waste.  The planning document for the trilogy is twenty-four pages, and I already have a new plot in mind, one that would take place in this world but not follow the story that inspired everything.  I just know that there's so much writing advice out there that says not to stop once you've started a story.

But is there really a point to finishing a story when I couldn't, in good conscience, even try to do anything with it?  I know not everything's written to be published, but still.

I haven't made my decision yet, though I'm taking a night away from the story to mull things over.   Could definitely use some advice.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Query Letter from Another Universe which Skyborne is a Young Adult paranormal romance:

Shiloh used to think the stories of Abraxas were only that: tales from old books, tucked away deep in her high school's library.  It seemed no one else even knew of them.  Until the books opened on their own, and created a path to that other world, letting through something horrific.  Abraxas's gods of conquest, betrayal, and destruction have decided they want Earth as their new home, and Shiloh may be the only one who can stop them.

Too bad she has no idea how.  Tasked by several of Abraxas's other gods with binding the dark gods back into their books, Shiloh finds herself in far, far over her head.  The dark gods plan to enact a ritual on the winter solstice that will cast their influence across the entire world, with Shiloh's school as the ritual site.

On top of all that, Shiloh's just been asked to the winter formal . . . by Alexi, a girl from the dance team, sparking feelings Shiloh didn't quite know she had.  This only grows more complicated when Alexi reveals she's originally from Abraxas.  She's not sure how she came to Earth, but intends to return home once the gods' problems are solved, and would love to take Shiloh back with her.  Among Alexi's people, fighting together signifies a kind of marriage, and Alexi is just itching for a battle.

The dark gods' influence quickly spreads throughout the student body - violent classmates patrol the corridors, the student council ousts the teachers and staff, and every parent or authority figure Shiloh can find has fallen under the influence of a web of lies.  What little Shiloh is able to figure out from the books of Abraxas suggests a magical way to stop the ritual, but Shiloh has no magic.  Doesn't she?

Now, with the dark gods' ritual drawing near, Shiloh must figure out how she truly wants to handle things.  Should she destroy the Abraxas books, and hope that ends the dark gods' influence?  Should she give the three gods what they want, and escape to her beloved fantasy world?  Or should she take a stand, and fight back against the dark gods, with only Alexi to help her?  Time is running short, the dance on the winter solstice is coming soon. . . .

And everything changes when Shiloh learns to fly.

It should be clear by now that I have no idea how to write a Young Adult paranormal romance.  I came up with this after reading some tweets from Juliana Haygert wherein she talked about the issues with writing summaries for different genres of books.  I thought it would be interesting to write a pseudo-query for Skyborne as something very different from what it actually is.

Curious to see what people think of this.  And if nothing else, I laughed a lot writing this.  High school is bloody ridiculous on its own, adding some vengeful gods might actually be over the top.  Heh!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apologies to a Story.

Dear story I'm plotting:

I'm sorry I ignored you, disregarded you, and otherwise neglected you for this long.

I'm sorry I came up with silly reasons why I wasn't going to write you.  I thought writing you would be a bad idea, because I've plotted you and your kin as a trilogy, and writing you didn't seem like a good idea.  I'd like to think you'd understand - it's easier to sell a stand-alone story than the first part of a series.  I think.  I'm not entirely sure, now that I think about it.  Would a would-be agent be glad to know the writer has more planned?

I'm sorry for my ignorance, story, because it's led to you not getting written.

I'm sorry I neglected you in favor of something I swore I could make work.  Again, I'd like to think you'd understand.  I mean, I've already written two versions of that story, so who could blame me for thinking the third time would be the charm?  I'm further sorry I deliberately ignored you while I struggled with plotting that other story, all those nights I tried to figure out why it always, always seemed like there was something wrong with the plot.  I appreciate your patience while I went through revision after revision.

Though I think I heard you laughing at the relief I felt when I decided to let that other story go.  I forgive you.  A little bit of schadenfreude on your part is more than warranted.

More than anything, I'm sorry you've had to wait so long.  I'm sorry I didn't start working on you two months ago, while I instead wrote 103,000 words I hope to never look at again.  Hell, I'm sorry I fought against the basic idea behind you for years, because I didn't think I could pull it off.  I appreciate you proving me wrong as soon as I started working on you.

I hope you'll forgive me.  I hope we'll work together to create something awesome.  And I hope I'll be able to start on you soon.

Dear Self:

I apologize for making a blog entry after I've been drinking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's Not Time to Write that. Yet.

I've seen many experienced authors give a simple bit of advice: write down everything.  They offer different reasons for this, but they all amount to the same thing.  If you don't write something down, you might forget it.

There's a long file on my computer, called "untitled world notes", because I have no idea what else to call it.  The notes themselves started as just a few pages of ideas about a world with a magic system I've never before.  Yes, some people say every idea has been done, and the only difference is in execution.  (Some won't even concede that last point.)  I loved the world and magic I'd come up with, but there was a serious problem: I had no real story.  Not yet.

That changed a little while back.

Inspiration strikes in the oddest places.  I was at Dragon*Con with friends, at the Tolkien-themed event called "An Evening at Bree".  My mind started wandering, and as I was already surrounded by elves, I started thinking of how to do elves differently.  What I came up with fit perfectly into the world I'd created several years ago.

All of a sudden, boom, I had something greater - I had the start of a story.  No, I had the start of dozens of stories.  An epic series in this world started taking shape in my head. When I got back home, I sat down with the old notes file and started taking new notes.  I fleshed out as much as I could of the elves, worked out their relations with the humans and some of their history, figured out how they deal with this world's magic.  And somewhere in there, I realized something else:

Writing in this world, doing these stories justice and putting together the dozens of elements I want to incorporate, will take a long, long time.  There's political and social manipulation going on that will take several books to play out.  There are so many things to determine before I even know where to start.  To put it simply, not only am I not ready to write this, I'm not yet good enough to write this.

It's a weird thing to realize my limitations like that.  My confidence in my writing waxes and wanes, but this is the first time I've ever come up with something and had to admit I'm just not capable of doing this the way I want to.  Yet.  I have the seeds of the first few stories, I have an idea of where things will go, I have a few characters slowly forming themselves in my head.  And I'm writing all of it down.

I don't want to risk losing any of this.  The day will come when I'm able to put this whole puzzle together, when I can plan a dozen books in advance and let things play out as they should.  When that time comes, I'll still have all the notes I've ever written for this story.

Lots of things will change by then, I'm sure.  But I'm also pretty sure it will start with a morbid revelation followed by something blowing up.  Seems like a good way to get things going.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Figuring it Out - Emphasis on "Out".

Warning: the following blog entry contains a link to a TV Tropes page.  Your free time may be at risk.  Please attempt to avoid clicking the link if you have things you want to get done today.

Aside from the obvious distraction and "ooh, that sounds interesting" uses, I use TV Tropes a bit for research.  It often helps to know how something's been done elsewhere, so I can better figure out how I want to use it.  So when I found the page for Coming Out Story, I started reading with Skyborne in mind.  In my book, the two main characters are both women, and they end up together in the end.  But reading through the page made me realize something.

The whole "coming out to someone" thing?  It doesn't work for Skyborne at all.

The main character, Shiloh, only truly realizes what she feels for her companion, Alexi, toward the end.  And seeing as how Alexi makes no attempt to hide either her sexuality or her attraction toward Shiloh, it wasn't like Shiloh could just say "Oh, by the way, it's all mutual now" or something equally ridiculous.  I started really considering Shiloh's sexuality, and realized she had the same issue some of the people discussed on the TV Tropes page had:

Shiloh needed to come out to herself.

Where Shiloh grew up, there's an emphasis on getting married and having children, and people who don't have kids are seen as selfish.  It takes meeting Alexi, who's from a much more open culture, to make Shiloh realize how restricted her home life was.  It takes being around Alexi to make Shiloh realize she was never interested in the people her culture said she should be.  And it takes their journey together to make Shiloh realize what she never felt for anyone else.

I've been writing these two in one form or another since 2002.  In their stories, it's never a question of if they'll get together, only when.  But Skyborne is the first of their stories I've truly tried to get published.  So getting this right has become very, very important to me, and in the edit/polish I'm doing now, I think I've finally figured it out.

Another reason why I'm doing this entry now: another author with LGBT main characters, Adrien-Luc Sanders, is doing a promotion for his book, From the Ashes.  He's trying to get it into Amazon's top 100, a worthy goal for any author.  Drop by and take a look, won't you?

Win $500 or $250 Visa Gift Cards or a manuscript crit if From the Ashes reaches the Amazon top 100!
Contest Rules / Entry Page | Buy on Amazon | Add to GoodReads

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing when it doesn't matter.

Yesterday, I finished the book I was working on.  I sped like all hell through the final conflict and the resolution, typed up a scene I'd pictured taking an entire night in about half an hour, and closed things up with a tiny spark of hope in an otherwise downer ending.  I saved the file, closed it, and determined that no one would ever read that thing.

It's a weird thing, to finish a book and be utterly done with it.  This is the first time it's happened to me.  Most of the other books I've written, when I finished, I was utterly enthusiastic about them, all too eager to start editing and give them to friends for beta-reading.

But this book?  This hundred and three thousand words of a month-long learning experience?  No.  I'm done with it.  Utterly and completely.  I've finally proven to myself that the idea behind it, that I could apply a plot to an old slice-of-urban fantasy life series I did, will not work.  I've accepted that I captured a certain way of writing a character two years ago and further attempts feel like pale imitations.  I've come to understand that an 80-minute DDR megamix is not ideal music for writing any kind of tension.

Okay, that last one is kind of situational.  But hey, at least I learned it.

Toward the end, when I knew I was going to dump this book as soon as I finished it, I found myself in an odd state.  Writing something I knew would never exist outside my own computer felt very foreign.  I knew what I was writing didn't matter.  But I kept at it, because I knew if I didn't, I'd always wonder if it could have turned out better, if I could have saved it.  Now, I know.

I'm relieved in a lot of ways.  Writing is usually a draining experience for me, but it's not supposed to be a stressful one.  When sitting down to write becomes a chore, it's a sign something is wrong.  I never had trouble once I sat down, it was getting myself to sit down that was the problem. And I think we all know that a lack of desire to write leads to crappy writing.  So finishing that last page, writing those last few words, was a huge weight off my shoulders.

For now, I plan to relax for a week, and make the final preparations for Dragon*Con.  Then, I'm going to spend a month or so giving Skyborne another good hard thwack with the Editing Stick, since I haven't gone over it in several months.  Then, I'm going to start on one of my other two plotted books.  I expect either one of them will go better, as I've had them planned out for quite a bit longer than the thing I just wrote, and it's when I know the plot and characters intimately that I do my best work.

Soon, it will once again be time to start writing and see how it goes.  I'm already looking forward to it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Waxing lyrical.

I want to talk a little bit about music and writing, mostly about the influence that music has on a work in progress and also about finding a song that reflects the work.

I've heard people say they can't write while listening to music, and for some reason, I can't understand that.  I feel like having music playing quiets the other things going on inside my head so I can concentrate on the story.  More specifically, music quiets the parts of my mind that wonder if I have any new e-mail or if anyone's said anything interesting on Twitter.  Some people say to write on a computer without an internet connection, I say I'll be fine as long as I'm listening to something.  Mostly.

It's kind of a two-way street, now that I think about it, when it comes to music and inspiration.  It's someone else's creation working for you, allowing you to make something of your own.  I tend to find a few pieces of music that work for a story, and listen to only those when I'm writing and editing it.  Sometimes, it's just that the music in particular captures some of the feel of what I'm doing, while other times, there's such a strong connection between the music and the scene or character that I have to have the music to make it work.

Thankfully, that last one doesn't happen all that often; if I only got to listen to one song over the course of an entire book, I think I'd get bored with it pretty quickly.  Six years ago, I wrote a scene that had two characters dancing to a song, and so I played that song on repeat while writing that scene.  To this day, I still expect that song to start over again every time I hear it end.

And then there's the flipside: music I enjoy that I just can't listen to while writing, because for some reason, it just doesn't work.  Much as I hate to say it, one of my favorite new albums is like that, Garbage's "Not Your Kind of People".  Absolutely love the band, the album is amazing, but damn, trying to write to it ends in failure.  Which is why it struck me as so odd that the second song, "Big Bright World", fits Skyborne so perfectly.

Some of it's the mood of the song, but most of it's the lyrics; these two lines might as well be the two main characters talking to each other:

You're mysterious, you make no sense
I love you 'cause you're innocent
You fell out through a hole inside the sun

And then, the lines after that utterly and completely suit how they are together, and why they become so important to each other:

So magnify the best inside me
Fill the parts that you can't find me
The parts that won't give out when things get hard 

The best part, though, is that the song ends with three simple words that bring everything together for them, words that fit to end the book as well:

I'm with you.

For them, that's what matters most.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Uncertain Steps in Giant Boots

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  --Joseph Chilton Pearce

Not sure if anyone noticed, but I missed last week's blog entry.  I have a good excuse, though: last Saturday, the 21st of July, I started writing a book again.  Since then, I've written an average of 3000 words per day, and spent nearly every moment I'm not writing wondering if this is the book I really want to write.

Things like this are why writers go insane.  @_@

It's been a weird sort of dichotomy.  When I'm working on the book, everything is beautiful.  Characters are mostly acting according to plot and expectations, the words are flowing pretty damn quickly, and at the end, I'm exhausted and yet still wanting to continue.  It's what happens afterward that sucks.  I swear, as soon as I step away from the keyboard, I start thinking back on everything I just wrote and it doesn't seem good at all.

For example, last night's writing was largely prelude to the planning of the first major plot twist event.  Said prelude was five pages of hangover recovery, back-and-forth discussion, and character introduction.  This doesn't seem that interesting to me in retrospect.  But it involved a six-armed hug and the phrase "elf booty waits for no man", so I don't think it can be all bad.

Part of me says I should scrap this and not waste time finishing it.  But I'm ignoring that part, for several reasons.  First, I've seen too many pieces of advice from well-known authors that basically boil down to saying "Finish what you start."  They don't add "even if you think it sucks", but I'm sure at least one of them was thinking it.  Second, the real reason I wanted to write this particular story shows up halfway through the book, and damn, do I ever want to write like that again.  (I tried to make it happen earlier.  I tried very, very hard.  Trust me, it doesn't work.)

The third reason is the most important to me: good things can come from what once seemed a failure.  I wrote a book in 2009 and 2010, Shattering the Firmament.  I was so done with it by the time I finished, I didn't even bother to edit.  I just shoved it aside and moved on.  But the rewrite of that book became Skyborne.  Something seriously good came from a book that will never see the light of day.  So there's always hope.

Like any journey, I try to keep the "one step at a time" thing in mind.  One step at a time, and I'll reach my destination.  And only once I'm there will I decide what to do with the journey's results.

Granted, for the ridiculous nightly progress I'm making on this book, I seem to be wearing the literary equivalent of seven-league boots, so I might get to the end faster than I once thought.  Please don't shoot.  ^_^

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Research and Development

Funny how looking through stuff I wrote almost two years ago can count as 'research'.  Not nearly as funny as some of the stuff I wrote almost two years ago and thought was good...  But I digress.

I'm still at work on the plot for the next book, as I've talked about in the past few entries.  Over this past week, a conversation with a friend sparked an idea that wouldn't leave me alone.  Said idea meant re-plotting large chunks of the story, as well as some significant character changes, because one does not simply change out the main character of a novel without consequences.

This is something I stressed over quite a bit.  Swapping the book's main character for another meant I could write some things I really, really want to write.  (Sorry for the vagueness, but there's really no way to explain it without making this entry much longer than it should be.)  I was torn between making the changes and keeping things the way I'd initially intended them.  And I worried that this would turn into yet another story that I keep trying to find, another story that goes through dozens of plotted versions without ever actually becoming a book.

After talking this over with the friend who inspired the change, she pointed out something simple.  It's one of those things that seems so obvious but is also so easy to forget when you start thinking about anything other than just telling the story.  She told me to just write what I most wanted to read, to think of everything I liked and just put it into the story, because I had to be excited about writing it.  Yeah, I know.  It seems like that should be the first thing to consider when you start writing something, but it's easy to miss.

Changing the main character brought its own issues with it, though.  This goes back to an earlier entry I wrote about gender-swapping characters, because the new main character is female while the original one was male.  I had to change quite a few things, such as living quarters, and I changed the gender of another character to balance things out.  This has the added benefit of me now getting to write a snarky Englishman loosely based on one of my favorite writers.

The change has also affected the planned romance, and I now have no idea what will happen in that area.  I figure the characters will let me know if they want to get together, and I'll just have to sit back and hope that doesn't screw up the plot.

It took me a while to chew through all of this; major changes to a plot are never easy to deal with.  But I think I have a stronger story.  I'm hoping to start it sometime soon.

And hey, now I get to write about someone beating the hell out of dragons with a hammer.  There's no way that won't be fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Starting now. No, now. Wait for it...

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action."  --Frank Tibolt

I've talked about plotting in advance vs. making it up as you go along before - the 'plotter or pantser' thing.  While I stand firmly among the plotters, there's something I envy about those who can make up a book as they go along: it seems like it must be much easier to know when to start.

I'm in the middle of plotting my next novel, after my revelation of nearly two weeks ago, and it's going well so far.  But I know there's going to come a time when I have to start the book.  There will come a time when I've looked over the plot as many times as I can, fixed as many plot holes as I could spot, made sure everything that happens is important and every character has a significant role to play.  I'll know that, soon, it will be time to write.

Which means opening a new document with a blank first page and hoping like hell I realize what the first few words need to be.  I think we've all stared at the blinking cursor before, wholly unsure of just how to get something started.  The cursor mocks us all.

I expect false starts.  I expect that what I write at first won't even make it into the final book, and might get scrapped before anyone sees it.  Something like that happened with Skyborne; not only did the first draft have a prologue, so did every single revision, up to the point where I tried cutting it out and found the story worked better without it.  (Yes, I know there's a huge ongoing argument about prologues.  That's another blog entry, I'm sure.)  I expect to doubt myself every word of the way for those first few pages.

I know that I might write the first few pages, feel like it's not working, leave it, come back to it later, declare the entire thing crap, and wonder what I've been wasting my time on and why nothing ever works.  But I'll get over that, and I promise, it will not be a blog entry.

One reassuring thing about all this, though, is that when I get started and it works, I'll know.  When I sit down to write this and stand up an hour and a half or so later, utterly exhausted and giddy with a subtle kind of excitement, it will be a great day.  This is a story I've been wanting to write for five years.  I know that, once I start, I'll be able to keep it going, because I know this world and these people like nothing else.

I'm just not quite ready to begin yet.  I'll get there.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Suddenly: Plot.

There's a quote from John Francis Moore, the writer of the first comic book series I ever got hooked on. Unfortunately, I don't have the exact wording, but it goes something like this: "A good idea never goes to waste. It just shows up somewhere else."  And there's nothing quite finding a new use for an old idea to prove this true.

Shortly after finishing college, I started writing an urban fantasy series about college in a world where magic had come back to Earth, along with elves and dwarves and a feline humanoid race.  There was no real plot - it was just the lives of these people in college, going to classes magical and mundane and dealing with all the stuff that comes up in college life, with the additional factors of flying to class, magical duels, and dating outside one's species.  After writing about fifteen parts, I finally started posting it online.  What happened was a bit of a surprise.

People loved it.  Through a total of sixty-five parts, I got nothing but good reviews for these tales; I hadn't thought it was possible to post something on the internet and never get flamed.  More than a few people told me I should get the stories published.

I didn't really consider it, not at first.  For one thing, as I said, there was no plot.  College life was enough of a plot, as a friend of mine said, and when I tried to apply an actual storyline to the thing, it fell apart.  Also, if I'd had any thought of publishing the story, I never would have posted it online.  I did try querying a revised version to precisely one agent, but I didn't really believe in it; I half-assed the query letter and got the expected rejection.  I never expected to go back to the characters or setting, and was content to just let it be.

Until this past Friday.

Out of absolutely nowhere, I suddenly had the one idea I needed to give the series a plot and make it work as a novel.  I found the story mixed in among the college days.  I realized it was exactly what I needed to work on next.  I've been plotting, and have figured out most of what I need to actually write this thing.  And I can't wait to get started.

Part of why I'm thrilled to have figured this out now is that I've been big on the New Adult thing ever since I discovered it. While Skyborne features a late-teens protagonist, and could be considered one giant allegory for growing up if you squint, this story is different.  This is undoubtedly New Adult.  This is dealing with all the usual issues of moving out and learning to live on your own, all the joys and disasters of college, mixed in with the knowledge that magic is real and there are things from other worlds studying right along with you.  This is teleporting to China not only for a test but because Chinese food sounds good right now.

This is the main character introducing his girlfriend to his parents and hoping the spells hold so they won't realize she's a catgirl.

This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Can't Tell if this Experiment Failed or Not.

"I think people who create and write, it actually does flow - just flows from into their head, into their hand, and they write it down.  It's simple."  --Paul McCartney

I tried an experiment this weekend.  I have two very different stories I've been working on; both have been in the plotting stages for quite some time.  I don't want to work on the sequel to Skyborne until I actually sell that one, so that left me trying to figure out which story to work on next.

One, whose title abbreviates to OOTA, is this weird sort of urban science fantasy that starts with what seems to be an alien invasion but turns out to be a great deal more.  The other, which has no suitable title but gets abbreviated as GB, can best be described as 'godpunk', a word I'm not sure even exists.

So I decided the best way to figure out what to write next was to write the first chapter of each book.  This took some time to start.  Starting a new book is intimidating enough on its own.  Trying to start two of them at once?  Yeah.  Much worse.  And I'm not quite sure yet how to define the results.

Starting OOTA was difficult and shaky, as I had to describe a city I haven't been to since 2001, and had to deal with a character who's been through several incarnations, this one different in some significant ways.  And of course, I didn't realize until today that the reason it was so difficult was that I'd failed to put on the music I'd already determined would be this book's main CD.  (Yes, I have music specifically for different books.  The entirety of Skyborne's final section was written to U2's "The Joshua Tree" double CD set.)  Editing it to that CD helped smooth out some of the rough patches, and I think I'm close to finding the right voice.

Starting GB, though. . . .  It's been a long time since I wrote and felt like a story was fighting its way out of my head and onto the page.  Things I hadn't defined in the plot just happened as I wrote, and it all made perfect sense.  I spent the entire writing session feeling like I was trying to keep up with the story, and by the time I was done, I was sweaty and exhausted.  (Though I blame the sweat on the fact that I live in a desert and it's 80 degrees at night nowadays.)  I haven't edited it yet partly because I don't want to see if I was wrong about it, and partly because I'm not sure if I want to see if I was right.

The thing is, I'm hesitant to get started on GB because it's plotted as the first part of a trilogy, while OOTA is stand-alone but intended to be part of a much longer series.  If I wrote the first part of GB, I know I'd want to write the rest.  And as a good friend of mine once told me, you know you want to write the story that makes it seem like the Muse has you by the short and curlies.  (This hits closer to home than I care to explain.)  I know that's how it is with GB. But at the same time, damn, now that I've started on OOTA, I really want to work on it as well.

I'm sure I'll figure this out eventually, just had to get this out because I'm not the only one who's had this issue, and I can always use the advice.

I'd flip a coin, but I have this unfortunate tendency to catch flipped coins on their edge.

Monday, June 18, 2012

On Love Triangles, Again. (Sort of.)

"If you love two people at the same time, choose the second one.  Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn't have fallen for the second."  --Johnny Depp

This post's inspiration, and the quote, come from a post in Juliana Haygert's blog about love triangles.  Reading what she wrote there made me realize I had a few things to say about it myself.  Oddly enough, she has a quote from me in there, so there's some odd circle of inspiration thing going on.  Anyway.

I've never actually written a love triangle, though I've read several; I didn't realize how many until I looked over my bookshelf and started counting.  Of the two that stick out most in my mind, one is a fairly standard "guy must choose between two women he has feelings for", while the other is a bit more interesting, seeing as how one of the guys doesn't realize he's in a love triangle at all.  In both cases, these are complex situations that take fourteen volumes (each) to get set straight, but they lead into the real point:

The love triangle should not be the entire story.

In both of the series, there's a great deal more going on than the person-in-between trying to figure out who they should choose.  Because of that, we get actual stories, not just love triangles.  And seeing as how these are rather long stories, believe me, I would have lost interest long before they finished if they were nothing more than "Who should I choose?  Who do I really love?"

I understand that things don't always go as expected, especially when writing.  I think most, if not all, writers have experienced that weird moment when a character does or thinks or feels something that wasn't in the plan.  Something that makes the writer step back for a second and say "Wait, what just happened?"  And it makes a lot of sense that love triangles in stories can start in this way.  Chemistry between characters is a funny thing, and it can take as little as two characters meeting to change everything.  This happened with earlier incarnations of the two main characters of Skyborne; one's utterly unexpected reaction to the other's flirting made me realize they had to get together by the end, and they've ended up together in every version of them I've written.

But I've heard of stories wherein a character who seemed set to be with one person suddenly finds someone else dancing about in unexpected parts of their mind.  The story is suddenly about that character figuring out their feelings.  Boatloads of angst ensue, and whatever the character was working toward before, it's no longer important.  This would be when I put the book down.  As much as I like a good love story, the book will lose me if I'm waiting for a character to get their head right, pick a person (or both, if that works) and get on with the plot.

The story I'm currently plotting has a ton of possibilities for romantic entanglements between the characters.  Imagining them is a hell of a lot of fun, and responsible for the random fits of giggling my co-workers are used to hearing from me.  But no matter how much I'll enjoy seeing how they all bounce off of each other and who ends up with who, I know that's not the whole story.  Not the real story.  And not the reason I'm telling the story.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Girls and Boys

Music for this entry. Video is possibly NSFW. Video is definitely strange in that way only music videos from the 80s can be.

Like a lot of writers, I get my best ideas when I'm not writing; in my own case, when I'm not sitting in front of a computer. I actually get my best ideas in the shower, which has led to more jokes than I can count, but I digress.  While trying to keep myself distracted during yesterday's workout, I started trying to figure out what the main characters of George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series (and/or "Game of Thrones" on HBO) would be like if they'd been born the opposite gender.

This turned out to be really interesting.  Women and men are treated very, very differently in these books, so I tried to determine the characters' core personality traits and see how those would have worked out under a different set of societal expectations and vastly varied circumstances.  After considering various characters for a good fifteen minutes, I realized that being born a different gender would have changed everyone's situation completely.

And then I started to wonder: for the books I'm working on now, what would they be like if I gender-swapped my own characters?

It's not something I could do with Skyborne; I've been writing the two main characters for ten years and I can't see either of them as men.  But other characters are considerably more malleable.

One book I'm plotting, the aforementioned OOTA, also has characters I've been working with for a while, but I've tried to get their story to work so many ways that switching their genders isn't difficult. For some of them, it would work; their backgrounds and personalities aren't tied to whether they're men or women. The abilities they gain might be seen in drastically different ways, though. I'd be less vague but I haven't nailed down those abilities yet. What's really strange is that, while two characters as they currently are might end up romantically involved in the story, when I switched their genders I couldn't see it happening between them at all. A day later, I'm still trying to figure this out.

After thinking on it further, I remembered this isn't new to me after all.  In a trilogy I've plotted out, I realized partway through that most of the characters were male, and all of the antagonists were men.  So with a quick find-and-replace, Nathan became Nadine, which put a considerably different (and less bearded) face on the empire Our Heroes are working against. While the empire's ruler is still male, having a high-ranking female officer leading attacks and recovering valuable items changed things over the course of plotting.

I have to admit, I'm not sure how to put into words just how it changed things. Gender dynamics is a tricky business, and it's nigh-impossible to discuss such things without walking into a landmine of stereotypes and societal expectations.  But I think it's also nigh-impossible, or at least very difficult, to say a character's gender doesn't matter.  Even more so to write a character so their gender doesn't matter.

Either way, I think this is a really interesting exercise and I'd recommend anyone in a book's plotting stages gives it a shot. I realized some things about my characters I never would have otherwise, who knows what you'll find out?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let's talk about Sex... Scenes

"You are not writing a sex scene. You are writing intimacy that reveals the character." ... "The reason you take characters into bedroom is because there are things that can't be revealed anywhere else."  --ZA Maxfield

Despite having those quotes ready, I wasn't originally planning on writing an entry about sex scenes today.  Then I realized that, if all goes well with the little story I'm working on tonight, I'll be writing a sex scene tomorrow.  So let's talk.

Part of the reason I like those quotes so much is that they're the best way to approach sex scenes I've ever read.  I don't think such scenes should be gratuitous, done just to titillate the reader or (gods forbid) just to keep them reading.  If your characters are going to have sex, there should be reasons behind it based in their characterization and the plot.  Otherwise, really, what's the point?  There was a time when I thought about including a sex scene in the final part of Skyborne, but I deleted that sentence from the plot not long after writing it, because it didn't serve any real purpose.  I thought it would show how far the main character had come over the course of her story, but as it turned out, a rather intimate conversation did the job just as well. computer's MP3 player is now playing Garbage's "Sleep Together".  I knew this thing had a sick sense of humor.

I think what's most important about a sex scene shouldn't be that the characters are having sex, but why.  It seems obvious, but it's also something I'd never seen discussed or even mentioned until I found the above quotes.  It should be important, not necessarily a pivotal moment but something that leads to a change in the character(s) or the plot itself.  In other words, it should be just like any other part of the story.

Years ago, I was talking about writing with my dad (he's not a writer, but he builds bicycles in his basement with fire and steel, and that's cool too), and he told me about an interview he'd read with a writer.  I don't remember the author now, but what he said stuck with me: everything that happens needs to advance the plot.  Every scene, every conversation, every action.

Even if the conversation is limited to grunts and other assorted noises and the action can't be shown on network TV.

Looking back at my bookshelves, there's only a handful of volumes there that have sex scenes in them, and in most, they serve the purposes I've discussed here.  Those scenes show things about characters that wouldn't appear otherwise.  Those scenes represent changes, turning points, breaking with the old and joining with the new.  Above all, they are essential parts of those stories.  I hadn't really thought it before, but that's definitely part of why those books have their places on my shelves.

A final note: the lead character in Skyborne, Shiloh, floats above whatever solid surface is beneath her and has never touched the ground.  I've been asked what her sex life is like more than anything else about her.  Seriously.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Adult: A New Hope?

No, I can't resist a "Star Wars" reference.  But seriously:

I'd never heard of the New Adult genre until yesterday.  A fellow writer I follow here and on Twitter, Carrie Butler, mentioned it with a few links, and I was curious.  What I found had me wondering how in the world I could have missed this.

New Adult is, basically, fiction targeted toward people who are just getting out into the real world.  Most information I have on it comes from this entry on Sharon Bayliss's blog and what I've picked up over at NA Alley.  The target age range is about 17-23, and that's the general ages of the characters involved as well.  This hit me hard because that's the exact age range of characters I like to write, and I had no idea there was a specific genre for that.

Of the two main characters of Skyborne, one is seventeen; the other is, in her own words, "old enough to bleed, too young for wrinkles".  (She doesn't know for sure and doesn't much care, but I think she's about twenty.)  In a long-running urban fantasy series I wrote a while back, the entire cast was in college, putting them at 18-21 over the course of the stories.  And the other novel I'm plotting now, with a title that unfortunately acronyms to OOTA, again, the main group of characters pretty much fit into that 18-21 range.  Except for the one who's not human, but I'll work that out later.

To make a long story short (too late), learning about New Adult was like finding a genre custom-made for the kind of stories I like to tell.  Writing YA never appealed to me, though I've been told some of my stories would fit with it, and I've sometimes wondered if I was writing characters too young for adult fantasy/sci-fi.  If NA is going to be a new thing, something that's going to take off in the years to come, I have to make sure I get on this and hope it catches on in the industry.

And that, for now, means more plotting.  If anyone invents plot-specific spackle, please, let me know.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Burn... these pixels?

When a story’s first line is “Burn this book!”, it’s up to the writer to make sure the reader never actually wants to do that.

Those words are the first line of Clive Barker’s Mister B. Gone.  It’s the story of a demon, one who’s trapped in the book itself.  The book takes the interesting tack of having virtually no fourth wall, as the titular Mister B. addresses the reader on a regular basis, doing everything he can to convince the reader to stop reading the book and burn it.  I started reading this because I thought the story’s unusual premise sounded interesting.

It wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be.

I don’t read many horror books, but I’m familiar with the common aspects of demons and their ilk; this book doesn’t go far from the classic demonic tropes.  Corruption of the innocent and the church?  Check.  Lots of fire?  Check.  Bathing in infants’ blood?  Check.

Yes, that last one actually happens in the book.  Mister B. even complains about how difficult it is to keep the blood warm while he’s killing the babies.  During that scene, I started to realize what was keeping the book from actually being scary.

For all his conceits, Mister B. is a very commonplace demon.  Nothing he does seems horrific, nothing he does lives up to the bone-chilling wrongness the book’s back cover promises, because it’s what I expect from a demon.  I’m sure there’s a literary term for evil becoming predictable, even banal, because it’s exactly what the character doing that evil is supposed to do.

We expect heroes to be heroic, to stand against impossible odds, to protect innocents, to take on life-threatening tasks and come out both alive and successful.  That’s what heroes do, and heroes who do nothing but that risk becoming boring and predictable.  It ends up working out the same way for Mister B.  As a demon, I expected him to corrupt, to threaten, to manipulate.  That’s exactly what he did, and it got old halfway through the book.

Why, then, did I keep reading?  Because of Mister B.’s own threats.  This is another part of the book that didn’t work at all for me.  As I said, Mister B. steps into his own narrative from time to time as he tries to get the reader to burn the book.  He threatens, he makes promises, he describes just how he’s going to kill the reader if they don’t stop reading and burn the book.  Call me callous, but all it did was make me laugh, because it was too over the top to be scary.

Mister B.’s supposed reading of the reader ruined its own effect as well.  He claims he can see the reader through the pages, claims he knows the reader’s reaction to his tale.  This, of course, assumes a great deal about the reader.  I know some people would find the book as scary and wrong as it’s supposed to be.  But for Mister B. to say he can see my horrified expression when I’m really giving him a raised eyebrow of disbelief, well, it ruins the desired effect.

The concept of “the fourth wall will not protect you” isn’t a new one, but it depends on the audience feeling like it’s truly threatened.  I didn’t feel that way once.

There is, however, one thing in this book that truly struck me as truly frightening.  As fitting for a story starring a demon, it starts in Hell.  There, Mister B talks about the other demons, and how some of them know they mean nothing in the greater scheme of Creation.  Can you imagine that?  Knowing the universe has a purpose and knowing you have no part in it – knowing that, ultimately, you do not matter.

It’s a shame that happens so early in the book, because it’s the scariest part of the entire story.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Joy and Danger of the Rule of Cool

I mentioned the Rule of Cool at the end of my last entry, and I want to discuss it a bit more today.  While the TV Tropes page defines the rule well enough, I'd like talk about how it pertains to plotting and writing a story.  To quote:

''The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what's cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don't like 'em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in 'em, 'cause that's cool. Guys who like military hardware, who think advanced military hardware is cool, are not gonna jump all over my books, because they have other ideas about what's cool.

The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff.  — Steven Brust

It's that last line that leads to all the trouble.

The Rule of Cool is very, very, very easy to follow when writing: throw in everything you think would make your work awesome.  I'm fully convinced the ending sequence of Jim Butcher's Dead Beat was done purely because Mr. Butcher thought of Harry Dresden riding a zombie tyrannosaurus rex through the streets of Chicago and worked backward to make sure the scene made sense in the context of the story.  If the scene had just kind of happened, it would still have been awesome, but it would have felt tacked on for the sake of awesomeness.

And that's where the problem lies.  It's way too easy to think "that would be cool, that should happen" and put something into a story without considering whether it truly works or not.  In my last entry, I talked about a book I made up as I went along, and that story truly was me throwing in everything I thought was cool.  I ended up with a story that not only had a secret society hiding magic from the rest of the world, I had Earth under attack by Lovecraftian entities, a main character who did a kind of alchemy by summoning demons into things to power them, a massive insectoid creature ripping itself free from under Las Vegas, and a girl who took out the bad guy in the final battle with the Power of Rock.

Yes, I just linked TV Tropes twice in one post.  I apologize for any free time you may lose.

The problem was, among all that cool stuff, there wasn't enough of a coherent plot.  There wasn't enough about the characters to really make them compelling.  And when I tried to redo the whole thing and make it work, I couldn't.  While I'd like to think that it was just all too cool to be forced into a story that made perfect sense, I know it really meant I'd gone too far.

It's something I had to learn as a writer.  Start with something you think is cool, and build from there, either forwards from an awesome concept or backwards from an awesome final battle.  A story cannot live on coolness alone.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go snowboard down an active volcano while fighting off an entire clan of ninjas with chainsaws.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Plot. No pants.

"It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole journey that way. "  --E.L. Doctorow, on writing

It's a question I see thrown around a lot, when it comes to writing: are you a plotter or a pantser?  Do you need to know what happens ahead of time, or do you make it up as you go?  It's an interesting question, in part because every single writer will have an answer.  They may be firmly for one way or the other, or they may be somewhere in between (pants half up?  pants half empty?).  But they will be somewhere on that scale.

As for myself, I'm a plotter.  I've written enough to know I have to plot, I have to know what's going to happen so I keep things going and bring the story to an end that makes sense.  If I don't know where a story is going, then I have one of those wonderful attempts at a writing session where I'm staring at the mostly-blank page with maybe a sentence or two on the screen and no idea what the hell is going to happen next.

Granted, I get that sometimes even after plotting, but that usually means I screwed up somewhere.  And then I have a plot to fall back on, so I can figure out what went wrong and keep moving.

I have tried to write stories by the seat of my pants, just taking an idea and a character and seeing where they go.  One of the books I wrote in 2010 was like this -- it started off with a simple premise and an opening line about the world ending two weeks previous, and I was off and running.  There was a kind of freedom to writing it, I have to admit.  Not knowing where the story was going meant it could go anywhere.  I filled the tale with all kinds of things, figuring that somewhere along the way, I'd learn how they all fit together.  And in the end, the world was saved through use of a Ted Nugent song.

Looking back at it now, the book had plot holes large enough to drive the main characters' demon-horned armor-plated motorhome through.  I attempted to rewrite the book, to take the story I'd made up as I went along and give it a real plot, and everything fell apart.  Nothing worked when I tried to apply Earth Logic to it, and that's kind of essential for having a coherent story.  The demon-horned motorhome does not excuse this fact.

As much fun as I had writing the book, and as much as I'd like to revisit the story with an actual plot set out ahead of time, it was a valuable learning experience.  Over the past two years, I've put together a huge plot document for this tale, filled with a dozen and more ways to redo it, and I think I finally figured it out.  Whenever I get back to the tale, I'll know what's going to happen, I'll have reasons behind everything, and in its own weird way, it will all make sense.

But it will read like I was writing it by the seat of my pants, if all goes well.

As for why things like the motorhome and rock music stopping the Big Bad were part of the story, that falls under the Rule of Cool, which I'll touch on next entry.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Starting now.

"The Writer's Voice" contest has come and gone, and Skyborne wasn't chosen.  I'm oddly okay with this.  I'm really glad I participated in the contest, as it got me to finally start a blog and make some connections with other writers out there.  Aside from friends and family, I tend to be a pretty solitary person, so it's not easy for me to just wander into peoples' blogs, say hi, and start following them.  The contest was a good way to dive into that headfirst, as I wasn't the only one throwing my work out there and hoping it stuck to something.  Or someone.

...okay, that metaphor just died.

Anyway.  A big part of why I'm fine with not getting into the contest is that I'm now free to pursue the agents I want to work with, without having to worry that an agent in the contest will want to see my work.  Also, thanks to the contest, I now have a much better query letter and a fully-edited book, which I wouldn't have otherwise had by now.  Nothing quite like editing 133K words down to 128K in seven days.  So I'm coming out of this in a better place than I was when I went in.

Besides, this doesn't actually change anything.  With apologies to George R. R. Martin, in the game of publishing, you win or you keep trying.  There is no middle ground, because you only fail when you stop trying.  Or when you die, but at that point it's kind of moot.  ^_^

I don't think I'll be dead anytime soon, and I will not stop trying.  One way or another, I will win.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"The Writer's Voice" entry: Skyborne


Shiloh is a quiet, bookish young woman who spends her days lost in the stories of Abraxas, a world of magic, adventure, and dozens of gods.  When a monster from those stories attacks her hometown, she discovers the tales are very real.  Shiloh finds a hidden book of magic and uses it to destroy the creature, but before the monster’s body finishes twitching, a goddess of Abraxas arrives with dire news:

Three dark gods have shattered Abraxas, and they sent the creature to attack Shiloh’s home.  Only a mortal can restore Abraxas, but to reach it, someone has to break through the stars.  Shiloh was born floating and has never touched the ground, and she now understands why: she must fly, as she is whom the gods named Skyborne.

Breaking through the stars takes Shiloh to new worlds above her homeland, to conquered cities, snow-bound mountains, and a desert ruled by corrupt mages.  But the dark gods have reached these worlds as well, and will try to stop Shiloh at every turn.  Along the way, a dark-skinned woman named Alexi helps Shiloh escape one of the dark gods’ traps and then joins her, eager to help Shiloh overcome the dark gods and see what lies beyond her own world.

However, Shiloh and Alexi don’t know the whole truth.  The worlds they travel through will become the dark gods’ prison, and that prison must be lifeless.  Every time they leave a world behind, it is charred to ashes in their wake.  When they discover everyone they have ever known is dead, they must decide: restore Abraxas, or turn their backs on the gods who deceived them.

SKYBORNE is an adult fantasy novel complete at 128,000 words.

First 250:

    The librarian’s panicked cry shattered the library’s silence, and Shiloh slammed her book shut.  A chill ran through her.  Hannah would only scream in the library for one reason: another barbarian attack.

    Hannah dashed into the oak-walled alcove, and shouted, “Shiloh, we have to leave!”  She grabbed the back of Shiloh’s chair with shaking hands and pulled.  “Come on, come on!  We have to get to the fortress.”

    “I didn’t hear the bells,” Shiloh said, and floated off the chair before Hannah yanked it out from under her.  She slid the book she’d been reading back onto a nearby shelf, and started pulling other tomes from it.  “Let me get something to read, if we’re going to be in the fortress all day--”

    “There’s no time for that!” Hannah interrupted, then glanced around the small room as though afraid something would jump out and bite her.  She peered behind two of the tall bookshelves, and to the octagonal window high up on one wooden wall.

    Shiloh nodded, then picked up a pack made of thick canvas and started stuffing books into it.  If the barbarians made it past the wall, they’d set the town aflame.  She couldn’t risk that.  Not with these books.  When Shiloh tried to force a giant leather-bound tome into her bag, Hannah caught her wrist.

    “I told you, there’s no time!  We have to hurry!”  Hannah turned and headed for the room’s doorway, her long skirts flying back behind her.