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:
Goodreads Page forA 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.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Fan groups, wikis and eligibility

So, a while back, I was chatting with an old friend who is far more business/marketing minded than I am capable of being, and he was talking about giving readers the opportunities tone more than fans, to "live" in Maradaine-- in the sense that there is more for them to engage in beyond the books. Partly that's encouraging things like fan art and fanfic (which: yes, especially fan art.) Partly that's merchandise. But largely it's about engagement and community.

I'm not entirely sure how to go about that, but I do know that some fans have been working on a Maradaine wiki, which is AMAZING. If you are interested in helping out with that project, I highly encourage it: https://the-maradaine-sequence.fandom.com/wiki/The_Maradaine_Sequence_Wiki
ALSO, since I've been asked, here's are my eligible works for this year's Hugo nominations, which are due on the 15th:
  • Best Novel: LADY HENTERMAN'S WARDROBE
  • Best Novel: WAY OF THE SHIELD 
  • Best Series: MARADAINE (the whole saga, not any of the individual series)
  • Best Related Work: #BelgariadLive Read
All right, back into the word mines for me. No use having fans if I'm not putting out the work, right? Right.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Creative Focus, and the Playlists Behind Them

I've been a little radio silent the past few weeks, at least in terms of posting, because I've been chin-deep on a few things, both in terms of creative projects and other personal responsibilities. Nothing bad, mind you, just busy.

Two things have been my creative focus of late. One is finishing the draft of THE FENMERE JOB, the third Streets of Maradaine novel, and like all third novels in the Maradaine saga, there is a crossover element, which I'm sure you can suss out just from title alone. 

The other is more in the developmental stage, but let's just call it a Secret Project for now. But it will probably be a standalone thing to palate cleanse myself between Phase I and Phase II of the Maradaine Saga.

Both of these, I've got some inspirational music for, though I don't tend to go full-on curated playlists. Rather, I tend to find thematic material and throw it together and then, in process, figure out which stuff really works for me.

In the case of The Fenmere Job, I'm leaning toward film scores from films that evoke the same feeling I'm going for. Here's the spotify link for that one.

For The Secret Project, it's got a very different feel from the other stuff, and the playlist matches it. As you can see, it's largely focused on a specific artist. That might morph over time, though.

All right, back to the grind. Plenty to do over the next few days.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Backlist love for The Maradaine Constabulary Series

With A PARLIAMENT OF BODIEScoming out in just a few weeks, I think it's appropriate to look a bit at the backlist and what's led up to this book. Primarily, the first two books of the Maradaine Constabularyseries. Blending high fantasy, murder mystery and gritty urban magic, this series features Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling, two detectives in the city constabulary who protect Maradaine from crime, both magical and mundane.

AMurderofMages
"A Murder of Mageswas another hit for me, a fantastic read from a new talent whose star continues to be on the rise."  - Bibliosanctum

Satrine Rainey: Former street rat. Ex-spy. Wife and mother who needs to make twenty crowns a week to support her daughters and infirm husband.  To earn that, she forges credentials and fakes her way into a posting as a constabulary Inspector.

Minox Welling: Brilliant Inspector. Uncircled Mage. Outcast of the stationhouse.  Partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with “the jinx".

Their first case together—the ritualized murder of a Circled mage—brings Satrine back to the streets she grew up on, and forces Minox to confront the politics of mage circles he’s avoided.  As more mages are found dead, Satrine must solve the crime before her secrets catch up with her, and before her partner ends up a target.

READ AN EXCERPTGoodreads Pagefor A MURDER OF MAGESAvailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBoundand more!

Maresca - An Import of Intrique
"Maresca offers something beyond the usual high fantasy fare, with a wealth of unique and well-rounded characters, a vivid setting, and complicatedly intertwined social issues that feel especially timely."  - Publishers Weekly

The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and uncircled mage Minox Welling.

With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the Little East, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And these few city blocks threaten to erupt into citywide war unless the constabulary solves the case.

READ AN EXCERPTGoodreads Page forAN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBoundand more!

But it would be remiss to leave out novels in the other series that lead up to this one as well! The Imposters of Aventil features Satrine and Minox as they investigate the murder of a constable and the Thorn's involvement, and the events of that book echo into Parliament. Also, as the inspectors team up with Dayne Heldrin of the Tarian Order, it wouldn't hurt to check out The Way Of The Shieldas well. And there may be threads to Streets of Maradaine.

It wouldn't hurt to read them all. I mean, just to be safe.