The Sunday Morning Post

Ruminations

My pal Adam Rakunas has just moved, bought a house, laments the lack of time to write, and still manages to kick out an entertaining and educational newsletter. I am not jealous of my friends’ ability to get shit done, but if I were, Adam would be at the top of the list right now. And no, I’m not writing this because I’m feeling guilty on this even more lazy than normal rainy first of November post-Daylight Savings Time time change Sunday morning. Not at all.

But you can thank Adam, regardless. And go buy a copy of his first novel Windswept, which I said nice things about but they weren’t nice enough to make it on the Amazon product page and which I can’t be bothered to go track down and cut-and-paste here. Remember when I said “more lazy than normal yada yada yada Sunday morning”? Still applicable here.

Regardless of all that, it is the first of November, which means it’s Nanowrimo time again. I should probably figure out how to write once more and actually produce some fiction this month, as well as finalize the contents of those two books I have coming out next spring. But, mostly I’m here to shill for the Storybundle Nano bundle, which is one of those “pay what you like, but if you pay more, we’ll give you more” bundle opportunities.

This one starts with thirteen books on writing, including Albert Zuckerman’s Writing the Blockbuster Novel (which I’ve read more than once myself), Stant Litore’s Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Discoverability. Those are all in the first tier. If you pay a little more, you get the second tier, which is anchored by my Jumpstart Your Novel. A good way to start Nanowrimo, yes?

But it gets even better! There’s a second tier of goodies that includes ALL of the Nanowrimo bundle from LAST year. It’s twenty-five books for twenty-five bucks! All of which will help you leap over all of the hurdles that Nanowrimo is going to throw at you. Like a gazelle. A mighty word-slinging, hurdle-jumping gazelle.

[Mostly unrelated to the above, but following a curious line of thinking in regards to gazelles is George Saunders’ article in the New Yorker from last week about his writing education. It’s worth a read, especially for the bits of writing advice that he hides in the parts where he’s poking fun at himself.]

So, let’s call this an update. I’m becoming more and more inclined to vanish from the Internets on a day-to-day basis and spend all of that newly reclaimed free time writing, which will make none of you sad. In fact, you’re probably all wondering why it has taken me this long to get around to doing that. My apologies. It’s these lazy, rainy, time-shifted Sunday mornings that have been keeping me down.

Dodging Work

Ruminations

I still read a few newsletters, mostly from folks who are very diligent about posting regularly, and whose missives are always a delight to read. They usually offer at least one interesting thing to go read/look at/listen to. I like receiving these missives because they let me know that other people are busy thinking/dreaming/creating. I tell myself I should do something similiar, but then other things intrude and weeks go by.

Warren Ellis recently mentioned buying himself a countdown timer with thirty days on it, and I like that idea. Time management becomes critical when you have too many things to do and not enough hours to do them all. Rather, when you THINK you have not enough hours to do all the things you THINK you should do. Let’s face it: there are many ways we get in our way when it comes to be being productive. I’ve got one of those right here on the desk next to me. My iPad. Meant to allow me to read and write while not at my desk. More often than not, it’s next to my desk, distracting me from reading and writing.

I have a stack of Field Notes notebooks. I’m getting better about using them to keep track of the daily thoughts and lists, but my desk is still awash with scraps of paper that I don’t really need to keep. I have trouble putting things away–throwing them away, in fact–because I haven’t allowed myself the mental space to decide that this scrap is no longer needed. Eventually, I do throw them away, but only after they’ve been covered time and again with bits of math, scrawled URLs I never get back to, and line items from lists that are never finished.

Am I really this busy, or am I using all this as an excuse to dodge work that needs to be done? If things never get finished, then they can never suck, you know? It’s always better in your head–that unrealized dream. Once it is down on paper or on the screen, then, well, it dies a little bit, doesn’t it? It’s easy to second guess and fret about the Thing Done. We should be better about moving on to Thing Next instead of staring at Thing Done. Or, rather, the shape of Thing Not Quite Done.

Day Whatever

Ruminations

I’m losing them already, not yet two weeks into this new year. Days, that is. I’m losing them. Oh, I know where they’re going; they’re just not going where and how they should. Which is mostly a prioritization issue. I am still on winter hibernation sugar coma brain.

We rounded up the team and dragged our asses back into the collective virtual space that is our daily Google Hangout, and have been stunned and excited to realize that we did, actually, manage to produce six books last year. Five actually came out, and the sixth one–the second volume of the Cady Collection–hit the warehouse on December 30th. Because publishing never sleeps, kids. Never.

Or maybe it does, and we’re still too eager to realize that. Regardless, more books than can be counted on one hand last year for us. That’s something.

And Farrago’s Wainscot relaunches today with issue 13. I had little to do with the stories and the behind the scenes code updating, but I’m delighted that it is the thirteenth issue with which the Old Man decides to return. More wacky experimental fiction.

Last year, I put out a collection (The Court of Lies) and a Christmas novel (Rudolph!). Neither were really on my to-do list at the beginning of last year, but they’re out now and so they go in the WIN! column. Getting content into the WIN! column is all that really matters. The details of how it gets there isn’t important. Well, maybe to me, because the process might have been some terrifying ordeal that I don’t want to repeat, but we are not going to dwell on those things now, are we?

Three issues of Cimarronin came out as well, and the other three have been scripted. It’s taken longer than I would have liked to put out six issues of a comic, but we decided we would re-invent the wheel once or twice along the way. Happily, we’ve got lots of pages for Dean Kotz to draw, so we’re out of the doghouse on that one. Colors for the first issue of the second arc have been making their way through our work flow, and so I’m hoping these issues will be available in the next few months.

I wrote 30,000 words on VERTIGO, 30,000 words on a draft of something else that is going to get scrapped and/or recycled into another project, and a bunch of words polishing material that ended up in The Court of Lies and Rudolph! In the last week of the year, I managed 20K on FERAL, but those words will probably end up in 2015’s count. There’s been about 20K worth of words written for the ETERNAL QUEEN theme for Worldspinner. All in all, about 100K or so words written in 2014 with no new book finished. Other than the three issue arc of Cimarronin in the spring, I don’t have any material scheduled for 2015. Yet. The year is young.

In my notebook, I three projects tagged as having been started at the beginning of 2013: HERE BE MONSTERS, BLOOD HARVEST, and ANGEL TONGUE. EVERGREEN showed up in 2014. None of those books have been finished. New projects are VERTIGO and FERAL. HERE BE MONSTERS has become ETERNAL QUEEN. Otherwise, things are in flux. Life as a writer without a contract. I’m going to label 2015 as the Year of Content. 2013 was the WTF? year. 2014 was Firebird Rising. This year is about making content.

So, yes, I don’t know what day it is, but it’s probably a writing day, regardless.

Leaving 2013

Ruminations

We’re a few days into the new year now, and I’ve already got a dozen lists of things to do, which is better than a box full of “things partially attempted and mostly unfinished,” isn’t it? I considered making resolutions and posting them to various social media places so that folks could call me on them later, but I realized that my list would be short.

  1. Let go of fear.
  2. Seize opportunities as they present themselves.
  3. Make creative mischief.

Which is pretty much the list that led me to founding Resurrection House, and that seems to have been one of my better ideas last year. I’ve acquired almost twenty books already (though, only four of them are front list). I have more than thirty novels in the submission queue. I announced a reading period for the XIII anthology about three weeks ago, and I’ve already received more than a hundred submissions (pushing 450K in total word count). It’s only going to get crazier, I suspect.

2013 was a pretty good year for creative work for me, too, and so perhaps it isn’t a bad thing that I spend 2014 working behind the scenes. Earth Thirst came out in January, and then promptly disappeared into the morass surrounding the sale of Night Shade Books. Mongoliad Book 3 came out in April, which was a nice cap to that arc, and then Katabasis came out in October, and no one seems to have noticed yet.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Sales have been good on the fourth Mongoliad book, but there’s a certain strain of ‘I didn’t know it was even out/planned’ in the commentary. For the record, Siege Perilous—the final Mongoliad book—is out at the end of the month.

There were two Foreworld novellas last year: Beast of Calatrava and Seer. Beast, along with The Lion in Chains (co-written with Angus Trim) and The Shield-Maiden (written by Michael & Linda Pearce) were collected in print as the first volume of SideQuest Adventures, back in August.

Fairwood Press and I assembled my short fiction into three ebook editions: The Queen of Faith, The Hollow Prince, and The King in Scarlet. A combination of factors prevented us from getting the last one into all of major outlets before Xmas, which is unfortunate as the final story in that volume is the long awaited Christmas story that I’ve been sitting on for many years.

That’s a lot of words. No wonder my brain is tired.

I’ve been waking up recently with my head filled with half-remembered narratives though, which is a sure sign that my brain wants to get back to story-telling.

Closing and Opening

Ruminations

I didn’t get many words down for NaNoWriMo. Not many at all, and that’s indicative of where my head is at lately more than anything else. Disappointing, sure, but there are other things going on. I spent a little time updating the bibliography last night, and finally put up The Hollow Prince page. The second ebook collection has been out for more than a month, and I’ve been remiss in actually telling people. To overcompensate, I also put up the page for The King in Scarlet, the last of the triptych.

In looking at my bibliography page now, there’s an interesting sense of closure. The very first entry on it is “A Christmas Wish,” my first story back in 1996. The King in Scarlet contains the [redux] version, and I’m struck by the current state of the bibliography is the entirety of my writing career come full circle. I have nothing planned for 2014 (other than putting the three short fiction collections into a print volume), and 2013 was an incredible year of output. Which says something because it felt like 2012 was a pretty banner year as well.

But, because writers writer long before writers get published, this also says that I didn’t write much in 2013. Nor did I blog much. These things might be connected. Maybe they should be. I don’t know. Shortly before Thanksgiving, I went off into the woods with some friends, and had an opportunity for some reflection. Said reflection is still percolating through my brain, but I had a very vivid dream this morning that suggested that I should get on with things. And so I shall.

Post Funk

Ruminations

I spent the last two days in a bit of a funk, brought about by that irksome between project doldrums, a tweaked neck, and a bit of the summer malaise. I attempted to flush it from my system by getting out of the house and spending time with some of my delightful friends, which also resulted in an opportunity to visit Paper Hammer up in Seattle. The storefront of the Might Tieton artistic community, Paper Hammer is chock-full of letterpress goodness. I went looking for ideas that could be used for the print edition of The Potemkin Mosaic and came away with thoughts of accordion books and message bottles.

Otherwise, I’ve spent a few days noodling on the opening of HERE BE MONSTERS. I suspect that’ll go out in a few days and we’ll see what Mr. Agent Man can do with it. I still need to do some more marketing for Queen of Faith, as well as some outreach for Earth Thirst.

I’m spending a lot of time thinking about presentation and new projects and big ideas. But it’s a lot of thinking yet.

Reading: Rob Ziegler’s Seed.
Watching: Justified – Season Four.
Listening: David SylvianGone to Earth [disc 2]; Scylla Unreleased Demos*.

*Wikipedia claims these are a “poor quality bootleg,” but it’s basically Curve as an overdriven garage band playing IN YOUR GARAGE, which is still better than 90% of the crap out there.

Resuscitating the Patient

Ruminations

I joked last night on twitter that the act of writing is a matter of figuring out which order you should cruise your social media sites, and this morning, I’m caught in that very trap. I really do need a large five-minute timer with electrical leads running from the back of the case to my scrotum. Five minutes! DING! ZAP! Otherwise, the day gets away.

That said, yes, I’m on tumblr. It is one of the ugliest themes you can possible install, but I spend all my time in the dashboard which is much nicer. I need to figure that out still. And I need to update my website because it is well past time to give it a bit more functionality. Not to mention making it easier to find this blog, because otherwise, I’m just talking to myself. I still might be, but there will be the slight illusion that others might stumble upon it.

Speaking of stumbling upon things, the first part of my short story collection is out in ebook land. Called The Queen of Faith, it’s a half-dozen stories culled from various places over the years, including my first professional sale, “How The Mermaid Lost Her Song.” The above link will take you to the product page, where you can find links to various places to pick it up.

The cover art is by Neal Von Flue, my eternal partner in crime. One of these days he and I should get in the same room and have a beer or two.

There’s a general sense of dusting things off and cleaning out the cruft from the shelves around here. There has been a lot of deadline chasing in the last three years, and I can’t complain about the output, but it has meant that I have spent way too much time locked in the quintessential writer’s dungeon, banging out words. I think I’ve figured out how to bang out words pretty well now–some of them form reasonable coherent sentences, even–and it’s time to put this experience to use.

Last night, I sat down and banged out a thousand words for a new prologue to HERE BE MONSTERS. It’s in a much different voice and tense than the previous draft of the opening chapters, and I’m going to give some thought to applying this style to the whole book. I’ve been castigated a few times over the past few weeks about shirking my duty to write the books I want to read, and so this may have been part of my reticence about this project. Hopefully this new approach will be more exciting.

Dreaming of Books

Ruminations

I’m still turning over ideas about The Potemkin Mosaic in a print edition, and while in Seattle today for other reasons, I stumbled across the Paper Hammer store, which in turn led me to Mighty Tieton and Marquand Books. Couple that with getting caught up on my reading of the Heavenly Monkey Studio blog, and it’s been a day of thinking about fine press editions.

I really like thinking about books. I should start making some. Maybe that’ll cure this fascination.

Tieton is having a Mini Maker Faire on June 29th (details here). Alas, I am otherwise occupied or I would be hauling the kids across the mountains for this.

The Little Black Book

Ruminations

I carry around a little black notebook. Most of us do, in some fashion or another. Mine is a Moleskine daily journal from 2007, when I had the idea of writing a full page every day and filling the notebook in a year. It’s taken me five years, and I’m down to the last few pages. In the front, I set aside a page for a table of contents, marking the start and end date of every project. It starts with The Potemkin Mosaic and ends with Earth Thirst. 2007 was also the year of my first professional short story sale (“How the Mermaid Lost Her Song” at Strange Horizons), which makes this little black book the record of my first five years of writing professionally.

There are eleven projects listed (one is still under wraps); five have been published (Potemkin, two CODEX books, two Foreworld books, and Earth Thirst); two—Instrument and Rabbit’s Foot—are novels in the universe that I have several short stories in; and the rest are isolated projects that are still in the germinative state.

Notice that the start date for Angel Tongue is a month before I finished Heartland. I’m just pointing that out to keep the nay-sayers at bay.

Which puts me at just under fifty percent, which I find to be a pretty good percentage. Of course, things don’t get put on the front page of the book until they’re far enough along to warrant keeping notes. And the list doesn’t really reflect that I did a lot of ruminating in the early years (through 2009), and in the last few, I’ve been spending more time writing than wool-gathering. Nor does this list reflect the five novellas that were written in the back half of 2012 (all of which will be out by this coming February). All in all, I wrote nearly 200,000 words last year and did editorial rewriting on another half million.

I started another writing notebook this week. It has three projects with start dates of January 1st. BLOOD HARVEST, HERE BE MONSTERS, and ANGEL TONGUE. I used to be an intensive planner, but looking back on the full writer’s notebook, I have to admit that very little of that was on my five year plan. My goal in the next year is to write one of those three books listed above. Maybe we should do a pool. Long odds on ANGEL TONGUE, of course.

[This post originally appeared at The Night Bazaar on January 4th, 2013.]

Research is Evil

Ruminations

We’re talking about the joys of research this week, and I can simply direct your attention to the picture accompanying this entry as evidence of the joy of research. Mmmmm. Books. However, there’s a seedy underbelly to research wherein you end up with shelves like this. This is the “Occult Wall” in my office–just the books that reference the occult history of the world.

You can go too far with research. You can wander off into the wilderness and never find your way back, which is detrimental when you have a book deadline.

Most of the Occult Wall was put together while working on Lightbreaker and Heartland, the first two volumes in the Codex of Souls (also from Night Shade Books). More than a few of these books I’ve not read all the way through, mainly because I bought them when I was “doing” research for the book. When the actual plot of the book went in a different direction, well, I still had the research material. That shelf there–the second one down from the top on the far left–none of that made it into the final draft.

For Earth Thirst, I wanted to not stress my bank account unnecessarily, and so I purposefully did only the minimum research necessary to keep the plot moving. Once I got a draft of the book done, only then did I go allow myself to do the heavy research. I still only ended up reading half of the books I picked up, but this time I only bought a single shelf’s worth instead of an entire bookcase. In some ways, this mirrors the respective protagonists of the aforementioned books: Markham lives in a very symbolic world, one that is rich with layers of inference and meaning; Silas is much more pragmatic, only bothering with concrete details that get him from point A to point B.

Midway through writing Earth Thirst, I got a call from Night Shade asking about a series title. “Are we doing a series?” I asked, and they just laughed. They know my predilection for research, you see. They remember the conversation we had one night at a convention where I rattled off the very explicit ten volume plan for the CODEX books, even though they had only bought two. After we settled on The Arcadian Conflict, I yanked about thirty thousand words out of the manuscript for Earth Thirst because, well, it’s plot that can be saved for later.

The other half of the books on my Arcadia research shelf are about dirt. Who knew there were so many books written about dirt?

That phrase comes up regularly during research. Who knew? More than one book owes its genesis to that phrase. Research used to scare me; now, I fear it for a different reason entirely. I have a book to finish. It has a defined scope. It’s supposed to come in at one hundred thousand words. Research can upset all of that.

How many books are there in The Arcadian Conflict? I’m not sure. But let me do a little research and get back to you.

[This post originally ran on The Night Bazaar on December 14th, 2012.]