Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Been Quiet Around Here Lately

Life has been a complete bear of late. Not in the negative sense (though there's been some of that), but in the sense that there's been so much to do and deal with in my personal life that there hasn't been much writing time, or indeed time to blog here.

Let's see, short list:

  • Changed departments at work
  • Ripping out carpeting at the house (long overdue, especially since we have pets)
  • One of our cats had six kittens
  • Two of the kittens died after much care (probable birth defects), causing my wife and I no small amount of grief
In the process I've read a fair amount and produced a couple of chapters of Darwin Colossus for Magic City Writers, but sadly writing has gotten pretty short shrift. Luckily we may be nearing the end of both the near-term floor refurbishing work and the kitten drama. 

In other news, Brant from Magic City Writers has had the entirety of his novel At The Lady's Behest Comes... workshopped by the group, so congratulations to him! Thirteen chapters, and more than 150,000 words, revised in full twice. The raw achievement of this has inspired me, so I'll be working to make more progress on Darwin Colossus from here out.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Congrats to Nancy DiMauro on her New Release!

Nancy (author site; blog) is a friend I've known since college at the University of Richmond. She's a lawyer and a mom, and has had her nose to the writing grindstone lots longer and more consistently than I have. I'm bitterly jealous, Nance. Way to go!

Here's her new book, Paths Less Traveled! Click to see her announcement, which in turn links to the publisher's site.

(Click to View)

I've read it, and it's awesome. Nancy has a way with compelling female characters that goes beyond their simply being interesting: instead of (like so many writers male and female) her characters acting sexless, or worse, like male stereotypes in dresses, Nancy's portrayals of Vonna and Falcon are unique, uniquely their own people, and uniquely, powerfully feminine.

Nancy has a story in the Women Writing the Weird anthology as well, and a short-story collection Shots at Redemption coming out in June.


Monday, April 30, 2012


It's the bane of most yet-to-be-published writers: with everything else going on in my life, how do I make space to write?

I'm hardly an exception. Between requirements at the Day Job and personal obligations like heading to the gym, spending time with the spouse, taking care of household chores and the like, it can be hard to block out time for writing. Worse, when I've finally sat down with some writing time to use, sometimes there's just nothing left to pour onto the page.

This really comes down to priorities. If working on the novel is important enough, making time becomes simpler (if not necessarily easier). But there's a subtler level, too: none of us is infinite. We all have to marshal our time and our energy. Just because I've managed to score some free time doesn't mean that I'll be able to use it effectively. If I've been shorting myself on sleep (and I frequently do) or failing to take care of myself in some other way (eating well, exercising, keeping my personal life as drama-free as possible), I won't have enough left to do anything like a good job, or to get any sort of fulfillment out of the experience.

The temptation is there to gut it out, to stay up until all hours and bleed onto the page--damn the torpedoes! sleep is for the weak!--but I know that I don't accomplish much by clawing a few hours clear if my brain is tapioca and all I can do is stare at the screen or write journal entries about how I'm so tired and nothing's coming to me. People at work have a right to the best you can do for them; why is your novel worth anything less?

Summing up: one mark of having your priorities in order is carving out the time you need. Another mark is spending yourself wisely: if writing is important, do what you can to make yourself--your best self--available for it.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Plotting and Scheming

I haven't posted here much lately because I've been focused on making progress on the Darwin Colossus rewrite. I gave an introductory scene to the Magic City Writers group for critique, and it was universally seen as an improvement. This is great news. I still have plans for horror novel The Work, but I'm giving Darwin Colossus priority for now, because A) I think it's a more complete concept right now, and B) there are a few steampunky movies debuting in the next few years, and since I enjoy writing it anyway...

I may or may not use much actual prose from the original short story in the novel, but I've been characterizing, plotting and analyzing the material I have and want to add to a fare-thee-well, working toward a Big Novel-Writing Push. I do, however, need to expand the scope and complexity of the plot to support a novel-length treatment. I think I have a handle on that, as of this evening: I have six major arcs identified, a three-act structure roughed out, and a theme of sorts to bring it all together.

Next up is a detailed series of milestones. I'd normally call it an outline, but I've come to realize that I split the difference between strict outlining and "discovery writing": I come up with goals for each scene and/or chapter to accomplish, and then in the process of writing each scene or chapter, I tend to find and figure stuff out about the characters and story that I might not have known going in. Thus, rather than easily calling myself an outliner or a discovery writer, I call myself a milestoner.

In any event, I'm excited about the story and writing marathon to come. As they come, I'll post interesting work-in-progress excerpts (WIPs), as I did during this past NaNoWriMo. I've got a visit with the parents coming up this weekend; I'll give myself until then to get my prewriting done, but after the visit, it's Damn the Torpedoes: nothing but work, sleep, exercise and hard-charging drafting.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Back After a Hiatus

Hey, everyone! I'm back!

Sorry for taking off without notice, but I decided to try switching to a very aggressive exercise program analogous to CrossFit at the end of January, and after a month's work at it (and the attendant exhaustion, recovery fatigue, immune-system depression and dietary chaos), I've decided that doing it amounted to writing a mental and physical "check" that I had no business trying to cash. Nothing whatsoever wrong with the gym or its program: it's just not a fit for me where I am physically, and where I need to put my energy in terms of my other commitments (writing among them). I'll be returning to Planet Fitness and my previous resistance-training workout this week.

Ambiguous enough? Good! Back to writing, now.

Novel-length redrafting on Darwin Colossus is the Project in Question at the moment, so I'm taking that back up this week. This weekend has been devoted to good success in catching up on neglected errands and dubious success in staving off a creeping sore throat. Sleep awaits, tonight, and resumption of a more reasonable schedule tomorrow.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Darwin Colossus Rework; Plans to Self-publish

I'm taking a bit of a break from The Work to do some major surgery on Darwin Colossus, the short story from a few months back. It occurred to me that I want to get something out on Amazon that's in some sort of publishable state, and I can much more easily do that with a large short story than a novel. Might as well get it out there earning a little money: Steampunk is still doing very well, and I want to get a little bit of Amazon experience racked up as I continue with The Work, so that's the plan!

I'm really pleased with the concept behind Darwin Colossus, but it needed a lot of help in the areas of characterization and wordsmithing in its original form: the story suffered from overwrought prose and shallow character development. Some real distance from the manuscript has done wonders for my perspective on it, and I'm doing a rewrite of it: A) in the first person, and B) from more of a blended sci-fi/horror perspective than before. I'm also taking the time to flesh out the characters properly, which will shore up all manner of weaknesses the original plot had.

So, beta readers, I'm looking forward to buzzing this past a few of you again in a month or so, after an initial look from Magic City Writers, my local writing group. Be ready!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking into 2012

Well, 2012. 2011 was certainly a momentous year for me, seeing the production of Darwin Colossus and the beginning of several other projects, and my shift of genre from SF/Fantasy to Horror/Weird in late November. 

I took a big step yesterday and created myself an account at Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing site. The more I think about it, and the more I read blogs like J.A. Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, The more I think that submitting to traditional publishers is a bad idea, and, worse, a mug's game. Standard publishing royalties come to around 15%, and the usual time lag from acceptance to having a book on a shelf in a bookstore is more than a year; sometimes a lot more. Add to that the extreme fragility of the general midlist author's career when competing for marketing budget and shelf space with all the other hopefuls out there, and you have a recipe for low pay, huge stress and getting kicked to the curb the first time you produce a less-than-stellar seller. 

Amazon's and other ebook "press" authors typically make either 35% or 70% royalties, and as Konrath is fond of saying, ebooks are forever because there's no such thing as a shelf that can run out of space, or an imprint whose budget doesn't have room for an author still finding his voice or her audience. Sure, you don't have a big New York press marketing, editing or making covers for you, but I'm thinking that for the difference between 15% and 70% royalties, and invulnerability from the vagaries of the traditional business model, I can learn enough in those skill sets (and/or outsource) to do at least as well as a Konrath, or any of the other dozens of authors he's let guest post over the past year. 

The tradition is to make resolutions around New Year, but I'm thinking that a better idea may be to set goals. I'm a big believer in writing goals down, so here are the ones I am setting for this year. 
  • Finish The Work, or whatever I finally title it. I've got the entire plot outlined and dynamite characters worked up, so it's really a matter of keeping writing on it come Hell or high water. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm enjoying the process hugely, so there's no hardship there. 
  • Rework Darwin Colossus, using the things I've learned since its last draft to make it salable to some of the steampunks out there--you might have heard that retro-futurism is catching on lately. 
  • Write six horror short stories, exploring various themes from Lovecraftian mythos to ghost stories to social commentary. These will be for practice as much as anything else, but if they turn out well enough, I might well bundle them up in a collection volume for sale. 
  • At least get started on a second novel-length work. I have a few horror ideas I'm interested to get started on, and if SF or Fantasy is the better genre for them, I don't have to worry about being pigeonholed by my publisher!
One of the precepts Konrath, Hocking, Locke and others have hit upon is that quality, well priced and consistently produced tends to sell itself via word of mouth better than anything else does. I'm getting better at this every time I try it, and I'm willing to build an audience if Amazon and other pubs are willing to help me put my stuff out there. 

Some other, non-writing goals for the year:
  • Get my weight down to 240 or less. I'm looking the 270s in the face (35 lbs down from my start at 315), and I'm excited to be small enough and fit enough to be truly happy with the figure I cut in the mirror. 
  • Get my Java certification for the Day Job. It's really just the right thing to do, and having one's career eggs in several baskets is a good idea no matter who you are.
2011 was a hard year in many ways, rewarding in many others. Times have never been better to make big, gutsy changes--these are days when the question "what do I have to lose?" might have a different answer than you thought. 

This year I will be turning 42 years old, and I realized the other day that I'm tired of telling myself that I'm going to get around to things for yet another year. 

Take a chance, stick your neck out. There's no time like the present. Happy New Year!