Thursday, May 23, 2019

Juggling the cat herders of interwoven plots

So let's talk about plot weaving.
I'm working right now on the draft for People of the Citywhich is the culmination of Phase I of the Maradaine Saga, and... friends, it's a lot.
I mean, I've been the person who's been all "YES LET'S DO THIS" but bringing together the threads of four different series in a way that comes together in a single book that needs to be A. a solid story in its own right, B. the third Maradaine Elite novel and C. the twelfth Maradaine Saga novel that closes and caps and satisfies a bunch of storylines, while setting the stage for more things in Phase II and beyond.
It's a lot.
I've been saying it's like juggling a chainsaw, a flaming machete and a baby. 
However, this is what all those outlines have been for.  I've been working up to this moment, and I've known what this one was going to be about, and how the different elements were going to come together here to unite the plot lines into what the plot of this book needed to be about.  I knew what I needed to seed in the previous eleven books.  The work has been building to this.  Seven main characters from four different series coming together into a big event.

But that doesn't change the fact that it's A LOT.  And I'm more than a little scared I won't pull it off.  But I've done the work, laid the foundation, and I think I've got it.
Because I fought to do this, and wow, I'm really getting to do it.  That's incredible.
So mark your calendars for Fall 2020.  We're going to have something awesome.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Announcing Two More Projects for 2021

My friends, I've been a bit radio silent the past few weeks, but it's because THINGS HAVE BEEN AFOOT.

Some of those things involve just doing the work.  At any given time, I'm drafting one thing (currently, PEOPLE OF THE CITY), expecting or working edits on another thing (THE FENMEREJOB) and copy-edits/final proofs on yet another (SHIELD OF THE PEOPLE). And if you've been paying attention to my blather, you might recall that PEOPLE OF THE CITY will mark the end of Phase I of the full Maradaine Saga, but also that it's the last thing I've got currently announced, and if things go to schedule (things are currently on schedule), the drafting of that will be done later this year.

So, I needed to have something to do next.

WELL GUESS WHAT.  I can now tell you a bit about that.  I have signed contracts for two more novels with the wonderful people at DAW Books: THE VELOCITY OF REVOLUTION and A CONSTABULARY OF ONE.

First, what these books are NOT.  They are not Phase II of Maradaine.  And not because I don't have EVERY INTENTION AND PLAN for Phase II-- I do, and I hope I've earned some good faith about delivering books in a timely manner.  BUT, I also feel I need a bit of a palate cleanser before diving into Phase II.  But it is definitely on the agenda.

First, VELOCITY OF REVOLUTION.  This is going to be a standalone dieselpunk fantasy novel, in a brand-new secondary-world setting. In a post-war, post-colonization city, occupied by foreign administrators, rebellion is being sparked by a mysterious messiah figure, and an undercover cop of mixed heritage has to infiltrate the local cycle-racing rings to find his way to this leader.  


Second, A CONSTABULARY OF ONE.  This is not Maradaine, but it is set in the same world.  If you've read A PARLIAMENT OF BODIESthen you might have an idea of what this book is about.  Briefly, it follows one secondary character from the Maradaine Constabulary as she ends up stuck in a city on the other side of the world.  She'll have to navigate her way through the foreign culture, struggle to earn her way home, and fight for the new chosen family she forms there.

So, it's not part of the Maradaine Saga, strictly-- it's more or less standalone.  But with the comparisons of Maradaine to the MCU: This is the Guardians of the Galaxy of the world.

With both of these novels, I've set a new high bar for myself, taking on new challenges.  Both of them are going to be hard, but I think I'm ready.  I'm super excited about both of these books, which should be coming out in 2021.

(And then?  We'll get to Maradaine Phase II.  But let me get Phase I done first, and we'll talk.)

Back to work.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Con Appearances

Man, I love a good SFF-lit con.  I wish I could go to more, but any that involve travel, unless I'm invited as a guest of honor, is out of my own pocket, so... I have to make judicious choices.

Especially since the fan-run, SFF-lit con is... maybe not dying, but it's definitely in an "evolve or die" place right now.  I see some of them evolving, and I see some dying.  Which is a shame. I will go to the bigger media comic-con if it's feasible (I'm at Comicpalooza in a few weeks!), but I find them less than useful for novel writers.  It's the difference of an event with 800-1000 people, who are pretty much all into books, and an even with 50,000 people, but only a sliver are into books.

However, I definitely feel like my local fan-run, SFF-lit con is on the "evolve" side of the coin, and each year it's gotten stronger.  And that would be ArmadilloCon, and HOLY CATS check out who's the Toastmaster this year.  YES IT'S ME.  So if you were looking for an excuse to check out ArmadilloCon this year, here you go.

BUT if  you need more reason, check out the Writers' Workshop, which is a fabulous one-day intensive workshop. I highly recommend it for beginner SFF writers looking to improve their craft.

And if you've got a con and you want me to come? Invite me!  I'd love to come.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Harsh Rejection Stories

My story isn't technically a rejection story, but it's right up there.  It's as devastating. I was on one small, private on-line critique group.  The set-up was pretty casual: upload things to a shared folder, and then critiques are either A. sent via group email or B. also uploaded to the shared folder.  No specific timeline, just put it up and people will get to it or not.  Because of this system, I had some things up there that I wasn't actually seeking critique on anymore.  I hadn't taken them down, mostly because I wanted the other members of the group to be able to look at the whole body of work/larger plan if they were so inclined.
And then I got this on one manuscript.

I made it no further than page 5 before nearly chewing my left arm off in the frustration of knowing that a writer with a great imagination, a lot of drive, and most likely a wonderful story to tell hasn't bothered, after all these years of effort, to learn the basics of story crafting. To improve your writing, you need to, at the very least, read some well-crafted books and analyze the plotting, sentence structure, foreshadowing, and subtlety of the writers' works. No one is born knowing how to write or craft a story. Those are skills that take some effort to learn. You could be a great writer. If you don't put in some study time, all your efforts and talents are wasted.
Wow.  That's brutal, no?

That's the sort of critique that could send someone running for the hills.  Heck, that's not even a critique, that's a dressing down.  

Fortunately, I just laughed at it, and then promptly deleted myself from that group.
Because the manuscript in question was The Thorn of Dentonhill, which at that point had already netted me an agent and was out on submission.  And it was bought by my publisher just a few weeks after I got this.  I mean, what exactly was this person trying to accomplish with this critique?  I'm not sure.  But I feel like they were trying to just grind me down.

This business is tough, and you do not get handed anything and certainly don't deserve anything you don't earn-- you don't just get handed accolades and awards and film options-- but you need to keep pushing on as they try to grind you down.  Success could be right around the corner, and if you let them beat you-- you let a drubbing like that one up there break you-- you won't get there.

Don't let it grind you down.  Because every rejection and drubbing can be followed by that call.  Be ready for it.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fueling Up for the next big thing

Friends, my whelm has been a bit over.  In the past two weeks, I've launched one book, sent in the copyedits for another, and finished the draft of yet another.  And now I'm starting the process of drafting what's going to be a Big One-- PEOPLE OF THE CITYwhich is technically a Maradaine Elite novel (i.e., starring Dayne and Jerinne), but in practice, this is the first Big Crossover.  And it's a LOT.
Right now I'm in that less-sexy, more data-driven part of things of making sure I have timelines and terms squared away, knowing I've got all the who's and what's and where's and when's locked down.  
This stuff requires fuel.

My big go-tos right now tend to be coffee in the morning and herbal teas in the afternoon and evening.  Add in apples, peanuts and granola, and I'm good to go.

And I'll need to be.  There's still a lot of work ahead.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES is out in the world

All right, folks, A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES is out in the world, and I'm thrilled.  So far the reaction I've been seeing has been amazing, which is good, because I drop a few heartbreaking bombs in this book.  

And we had a great Book Release event.  Check it out!
If you've been following me on Instagram (and you should!), you saw I did a bunch of posts tagged #MaradaineMeals, with food from the books.  And since MULTIPLE people asked, yes, I'll be putting together proper recipes soon.
So go get your hands on A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES:
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and more!

In the meantime, SHIELD OF THE PEOPLE should be next on your radar (October 29th, 2019, preorder now), and I'm about to send THE FENMERE JOB to my editor.  Time to get to work.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Gospel of Bad Advice

I was reminded the other day about all the “rules” people like to quote at us, as writers, of how we should (or more often, should not) be writing.  The “should not” is the crucial bit here, because far more often than not, these rules tend to be things not to do.  Which is all well and good, but I’ve noticed that rules that ought to be phrased “try to avoid too much…” or “be aware of…” become gospel from on high: THOU SHALT NOT. And the problem always comes when "here's a suggestion"-- especially when it's specific to a piece being critiqued-- becomes preached like it's universal gospel.

1. Thou shalt not use passive voice.  On the whole, this is sensible advice.  Passive voice tendsto make for weak writing. However, more often than not, I've seen the person giving it not know what passive voice actually is.  Here’s a hint: it is not when the gerund form of the verb is used (as in “the boys were walking down the street”.) Or anything to do with verb tense or helper verbs.  Here’s passive voice in a nutshell: when the object of the action is the subject of the sentence.  Take “the boys were walking down the street”.  What the subject?  The boys.  What’s the action?  Walking.    Who was walking?  The boys.  The subject is doing the action.  Active voice.  Passive voice would be, “The street was walked upon by the boys.”    Subject?  The street.  But the action is done by the boys.  Got it?  Good.

2. Thou shalt not use ‘to be’ in any form.  I’ve heard it said that using forms of ‘to be’ is “weak writing”.  But you know what’s really weak writing?  The kind of convoluted verbal cartwheels I’ve seen people use to avoid a simple “to be” sentence.  Sometimes it pays to be concise.

3. Thou shalt not use ‘said’.  I’m of the school of thought that ‘said’ is an invisible word.  People don’t get caught up in its repetition.  True, if you have a two-person conversation, their dialogue should be distinct enough that you don’t need to indicate the speaker at every line.  But when you do tag, ‘said’ is nice and innocuous.  I’d also rather tack an adverb onto ‘said’ every once in a while instead of having characters chortled, exclaimed, exuded, implied or, god forbid, ejaculated.  I do like, when appropriate, asked, answered, whispered, muttered, murmured and shouted.  But on the whole, said gets the job done.

4. Thou shalt not use adverbs.  Yes, sometimes adverbs can be over done, and using an adverb is used where a stronger verb would do a better job, but adverbs are a useful tool, and they are part of the language for a reason.

Here’s the thing: I’m against any rule that’s spoken of as an absolute, about keeping the tools locked in the box.  The words and tools are there, use them.