Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Warning: the following post is made almost entirely out of links to TV Tropes.  Following these links could result in serious damage to your free time and cause you to fall victim to one of the internet's largest black holes.  Please click responsibly.

Like everything else I've written, I have no idea if STARWIND will ever be published.  This isn't me being self-deprecating, this is me being realistic since I just finished the first draft last week.  With this uncertainty, I also have no idea if the book will ever have its own TV Tropes page.

So, as a way to talk about the book that's not "here's what the book's about", I figured, why not make my own out of this week's blog entry?  Let's see....

Apocalypse How: not one, not two, but three of the planes the crew visits have endured significant destructive events.  One used to be a universe.

Artistic License: Martial Arts/Supernatural Martial Arts: Phoenix and Sarai spar in the subjective gravity of the Between.  Fighting someone gets a lot more interesting when each combatant gets to decide which way is down for them.

Asexuality: Phoenix.  It's even a minor plot point.

Badass Longcoat: Kris's brown coat.  Sometimes I feel like she knows what sort of story she's in.

Barrier Warrior: Sarai, though it's doubtful she'd consider herself a warrior.

Bi the Way: Kris.  Considering that she's dating outside her species, it's possible that another designation might work better, but I'll leave that for other people to argue about.

Chekhov's Gun: played straight with something Kris acquires early on.  Averted entirely with Kris and Phoenix's actual guns, which they carry but never fire.

Cool Ship: the Starwind, of course, as well as the five other ships in the race.

Elemental Powers: Kris prefers water magic, but can use earth when necessary.  Phoenix favors fire, which surprises no one.

Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: the book starts with Kris quite literally inside the mouth of one plane's version of a dragon.

Magitek: crystal datapads, magical ship engines, and an eternal gravity engine as one of the race's required items.  And Captain, who's a sentient wargolem.

Science Fantasy: the story has both a very wide definition of "fantasy" and a lot of (soft) sci-fi trappings all blended together.

The Big Race: the main plot of the story is the Starwind's crew participating in a race/scavenger hunt, which has them gathering five items from across the multiverse.

Train Job: played straight, in both a deliberate shout-out to this book's inspiration and the fact that Kris is a fan of Firefly and decides that if it worked in the TV show...

Unspoken Plan Guarantee: the crew has plans to acquire everything they need for the race.  Nothing goes as planned.

I think I'll stop now, as I've spent way too long on this already and I'm trying to avoid spoilers.  Hope I didn't make any of y'all lose too much time with those links.  :P

Next week: IWSG.

Monday, May 16, 2016

First Draft: DONE.

As of 8:22 PM Pacific time tonight, Monday, May 16, 2016, I completed the first draft of the new book.

...I am so tired.

But I'm very pleased to say that I don't hate it.  That's always a worry, you know - it's happened to me often enough that I've finished something only to immediately close the file and never open it again.  What remains to be seen is if, when I open it again, probably at the start of July, I read through it and decide if it's worth putting through the editing process and pursuing publication.

I think this one's going to be.  This thing was a hell of a lot of fun to write.  I got to visit seven different worlds, deal with a crew of six where only two of them are humans, and put these people through more kinds of hell than I've put characters through in a long time.  Seriously.  I think the only one who comes out of this thing physically unscathed is the wargolem, and that's because it's hard to scathe someone who's made of such a hard metal.

Yes, 'scathe' is a word.  And everyone gets their share of mental hardship.

It's a weird kind of relief to have this thing done.  I've been hammering away on it every night for exactly a month (started it on April 16), and I wrote fourteen pages of it this weekend, as I wanted to plow through the third act and get the thing done.  I don't know why I suddenly felt like pulling time and a half on my writing sessions, but it worked; the book's endgame played out pretty much exactly like I had it in my head, and if it actually is as good as I think it is, I'll be very pleased.

The final word count comes out to 91,748.  This is quite a bit less than I thought it would be, but I know that's going to change in editing.  I tend to overwrite, but I've also been considering adding some scenes to give two characters more time in the spotlight.  Adding these scenes would also throw in a brief jungle adventure, complete with lost ancient temple, and really, who doesn't love a jungle adventure?

For anyone who thinks that 91K words in a month is a lot: I started planning this book nearly two years ago.  I developed the basics of the magic system in a hotel on my way to my new home in Washington, back on February 28th of last year.  So while I might get through my first drafts with some speed, I don't think it quite counts when it takes me so incredibly long to develop the plot and get it to the point that I can start writing the thing.

As for the story itself, I discussed it a little in this month's IWSG entry - it's a fantasy space opera about a crew of mostly non-humans and their interplanar spaceship, and they're in a world-hopping race/scavenger hunt.  It's heavily influenced by two things.  The first is the TV series Firefly and its accompanying movie Serenity, a sci-fi western that I'm willing to believe most of y'all reading this already know about.  The second is the anime Outlaw Star, which came out in the late 1990s and also features the adventures of a greatly mixed cast on their damn cool spaceship.

This is a book that wears its influences on its sleeve, so I decided to give it a title befitting that.  Both of the above series are named after their spaceships, and the book follows in that path.

The name of the book is STARWIND.

08/19/2016 edit: I added the jungle adventure.  NOW the book is done, three days later...  The final first draft word count is 98356.  Yeah.  ^_^

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Recommended Reading: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

First off: I want to thank everyone for their comments on last week's blog entry.  I've thought for a long time that the book I'm working on was the sort of thing no one would want to read and it would never sell, but y'all have convinced me I was wrong on that first point.  ^_^  And that gives me hope for the second one as well.  ...which I'll worry about long after I've finished the damn thing (current word count: 71239), I swear.

Now, on to the important stuff.

It's not often that I love a book and think everyone I know should read it before I'm two chapters in.  Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway is one of those rare books.  This story got a hold of me and pulled me along right from the start, and for different reasons than the usual.

It wasn't that I wanted to live in this story, or to know the characters, or to experience all that they did.  It was that I felt like I already had.

Every Heart a Doorway has a simple yet elegant concept.  It's about a home for children who've been through doorways, gone to fantasy worlds, and returned to our world, to friends and family who thought they were kidnapped or dead or worse, and who now have to learn to live in this world again, where nothing seems to work right and everyone thinks they're crazy for talking about what they've experienced.  It's the heartbreaking aftermath of every portal fantasy where the main character goes home at the end.

I also can't help but wonder if it was inspired by this XKCD comic, but that's just me.

Most of the book's characters either are or appear young, and we get to see just how much going to all their different worlds has affected them.  There's a kind of beauty and sadness to everyone we meet and to all their stories, since all these people who went to all these different places want the same thing: to find their doorway again.  To go back.  The book truly captures that longing, and the difficulties of living in a world that just plain doesn't feel like home anymore.

There is a plot, and it's a fairly simple one; I figured it out partway through, and if I can figure out a book's plot while I'm reading it, then odds are good most anyone can.  But I did not care one bit that I knew what was going to happen.  I was too caught up in how the book felt to stop reading, and I was genuinely sad when it ended.

This is a short book, but it doesn't feel like it's too short.  It's exactly as long as it needs to be.

I know I'm projecting here, but I can't help feeling like this is a book for we writers.  It's for a lot of people, yes - it's for anyone who's ever felt out of place.  But it really feels like it's especially for us.  We live in our own worlds all the time, perhaps more than any other sort of artists, and that can make it incredibly hard to deal with the real world sometimes.  This book was a beautiful escape into a world where people understood, even if their experiences weren't the same.

This book gets us.  Which is why I think everyone should read it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

IWSG: Embrace your Weird.

"Whatever makes you weird is probably your greatest asset."  --Joss Whedon

I mentioned a few entries ago that I don't want to write standard boy-meets-girl romance, or the amazingly common "good girl meets bad boy" romance which is practically a subgenre in and of itself.  I've never had any interest in writing mysteries, or contemporary stuff, or anything that feels like it could actually happen here in our world.

It all seems so... common.  So plausible.  So normal.  And while I'd never say someone was wrong for writing that sort of stuff, the thought of writing something that could be considered normal bores the hell out of me.

I know very, very well that I'm not the only one who feels this way, but looking at the sheer amount of books I see plugged these days that sound so ordinary to me, it starts to feel like it.  :P  I think this picture says it all much more simply:

See what I mean?

Things like this are why I encourage everyone to embrace their weird, no matter what genre they write in.  We're dealing with words here, and with words, we can make anything happen.  So go nuts.  Write exactly what you want to write, no matter how strange it might seem at first.  If you can find a way to make it work, and the story's better for the strangeness, go for it.

This is the sort of thing I have to tell myself as I plug away at my book-in-progress (current word count: 50961).  As you can see above, it's a strange sort of tale, and it wasn't until that tweet that I tried to consolidate the plot into a single sentence.

But I think that sentence is pretty awesome, so I'm still working hard on this thing, in hopes that someday someone else will want to embrace my weird.

...there has to be a better way to phrase that, but I think you get the idea.  Somewhere out there, there's someone (hopefully many someones) whose desired reading weird matches your writing weird.  And if you don't write it, they'll never get to read it.

So go.  Write.  And stay weird.