Monday, January 30, 2017

Hitting the Wall Until It Breaks

I am not going to talk about politics.
Not because I think artists & writers shouldn't-- because they totally should if they are inclined.  And not because I don't have strong opinions of my own-- because right now, oh mercy me do I ever.
I don't talk about politics for much the same reason an alcoholic doesn't take "just one drink".*  If I go down that road, then that is what I'm doing, and I'm not writing.  As strongly as I feel, I'm comforted by seeing all the like-minded voices out there who are fighting the fight so much better than I would.  They're doing the frontline fighting, and right now, my best use is being the USO.  You want something comforting to read, where good guys punch bad guys in the face, and that solves most of the problems? I've got you.  Get out there, fight the good fight, and come to me when you need a recharge.
Instead I'll talk about what writing a novel is like, as I've A. just finished the draft of one and B. got right into starting the draft of another.  Because like any long-term project-- any good fight-- a big part of it is endurance. It's not about doing this huge thing all at once.  It's about getting up each morning and punching that wall made of diamond over and over again until you break through it.
Keep getting up every morning and keep hitting that wall.  I'll be here when you need a break.
*-And right now things feel like a wedding with an open bar.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Does Not Having Pets Hurt a Writing Career?

One thing frequently talked about among writers, especially at any con, is managing one's social media presence.  How do you get people to be interested in you?
And the regular answer is: take pictures of your pets.  The internet will always get invested in your cats, dogs and other domesticated cuteness.
Here's the problem.  I don't have any.  
For the most part, that's because I really can't have any.  I mean, YES, I could, but... my time is already heavily accounted for and managing my time wisely is a tough challenge.  I can't add "take care of another living" thing into that.  It wouldn't be fair to the pet.  I think that's important-- if you don't have the time or capacity to be a good Pet Parent, you shouldn't be one.  
But people love those pictures on their twitter-feed, though.  Ah, well.
Instead, I just need to keep writing.  And so many things to write!  Seriously, I revamped my writing To-Do Lists a week or so ago, and it's a lot.  So I'll get back to it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

ConFusion Post-Mortem

So, this weekend was ConFusion, to which I say: Excellent.  Will do again.  
There was a lot happening, and to boil it down: I got to meet and talk to a lot of cool people, and I hope I wasn't too boring to anyone.  I signed a few books and did some panels and think I came off as something resembling witty and intelligent.  
All of my panels went very well, I thought.  I got to talk about steampunk with Gail Carriger, so: win.  And on the panel on publishing-nuts-and-bolts-and-horror-stories panel, I got to confess to Jim Hines how, when The Thorn of Dentonhill first was going to come out, months before it was published, I could see on Goodreads he was listed as "currently reading" and then "read", with no rating or commentary, and it made me a neurotic mess until I had actually met him and found out he enjoyed it.
But all in all: wonderful convention.  Would definitely do again.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Perils of the Writer: When Characters Have To Die, When Characters Have to Kill

I'm fortunate so far, in that I've yet to get any significant pushback on killing any characters in my books.  To which I saw: wait for Imposters of Aventil.  
(Because I'm not entirely truthful about no blowback-- there's something there that one of my betas found devastating.)
I tend not to be the "let's be horrible to my characters" kind of writer.  Not out of any specific gentleness-- deaths and serious injury are abound.  But I think you need to make those moments matter, and therefore you can't cheapen it too much with frequency.
Or, rather, you need to set a tone.  If the tone is set at "Horror", then you've got to kill characters left and right.  That's what Horror is supposed to be: a setting where You Will Not Survive is the default that characters have to work out of.  
I write Fantasy Adventure books where the tone is equivalent to, say, the superhero shows on the CW.  Each one has it's own specific rules about killing and death, of course, and as the writer I have to respect that tone.
By which I mean, it's not just about if characters die, it's how my characters approach lethal force.  To continue the CW parallels:
  • Veranix in the Thorn books is closest to Arrow, in that using lethal force isn't necessarily an ideal, but it's also not off the table.  Sometimes the situation will-- in Veranix's mind-- render it necessary.  He's out there in life-or-death fights, so he can't hold back in the moment.
  • Minox and Satrine in the Maradaine Constabulary are closest to The Flash.  They serve as officers of the law, and so their mandate is a clean arrest and proper justice.  They strive to do things the "right" way, bring someone in alive.  That doesn't mean that lethal force never happens, and they don't struggle with it... but they take it very seriously.  Also, most of the time the people who die in these stories start out dead to begin with.
  • Asti, Verci and the rest of the Holver Alley Crew of the Streets of Maradaine are closest to Legends of Tomorrow, in that between their darker pasts and operating outside of the system, they don't hesitate at lethal force when the situation calls for it.  They're anti-heroes who do what they have to.
  • Finally, Dayne of the (hopefully) upcoming Maradaine Elite series is very much Supergirl.  That's all I'll say about him for now.
  Hopefully, when a beloved character does get killed (perhaps in Imposters of Aventilnow available for pre-order?), you'll understand the brave and bold choices I've made there.
A reminder that I'll be at ConFusion this weekend, and if you are there and want to get you're hands on an ARC for The Holver Alley Crew, there's a way detailed here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Keeping the Machine in Tune

ARC copies of The Holver Alley Crew  are hitting the world, which triggers various book-bloggers starting in on acknowledging they've received it.  That prompted this from Mogsy at the Bibilosanctum:
Marshall Ryan Maresca is a writing machine! He’s already been putting out a couple books a year – quality books, I might add – from his two series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine, and now he’s starting a third called The Streets of Maradaine. I can’t wait to see what this new book will bring to the interconnected universe. 
I'll admit it, I love reading things like that.  I sometimes have a hard time seeing myself as "a machine".  I often feel like I'm not doing anywhere near as much as I could be doing.  I finally have achieved what I've struggled for all these years, and now I can't afford to waste any time.  I've got a lot to do, a lot of stories to tell, so I need to keep pressing along.
Here's the truth: I've known, deep down, that when I got published, it wasn't going to be this instant mega-hit out of nowhere.  My path to the next-level success wasn't going to be That One Great Book, but many strong books, delivered with consistency.  I won't let myself fail that.  I've worked to hard to get here to lose momentum now.
And the early buzz on The Holver Alley Crew seems to indicate that I've kept up with that.  From Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviews:
The whole narrative is tightly plotted, and each page makes you want to turn to the next – it’s got fires, knife fights, brawls, daring escapes, explosions, and a lot of heart – and as such, I’m looking forward to seeing what adventures the Holver Alley Crew go onto from here.
(So it's a good thing I've finished the draft of the second "Streets of Maradaine" novel, Lady Henterman's Wardrobe.)
Now, if you're going to be an ConfusionSF, it's my first time attending, and I'll have an ARC copy of The Holver Alley Crew on me to give away to one lucky attendee.  All you have to do is be the first person to approach me and say, "The job isn't skunked unless your pinched or dead."  (Or words to that effect.  I won't be a total stickler for getting it verbatim.)  That easy.  
Now: back to work.  A Parliament of Bodies won't write itself.  If it did, what would do?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Meme of My Muses

So, this week the theme is to make a meme about your writing experiences.  And since, for me, it's just going on at a breakneck pace, with my mind being almost overrun by different ideas and the different stories I want to tell.
And then I found an old picture of me that seemed perfect for what I was thinking...
This feels like an accurate portrayal of what my relationship with my muses is.

Monday, January 9, 2017

ConFusion and Parliament

Next weekend (Jan 19-22) is ConFusion!  This is my first time going to this one, and I am excited.  Looks like a big show.  I will be giving away an ARC of The Holver Alley Crew to some lucky person-- I just need to work out a good giveaway gimmick.  Probably one that will force people to prove they really read this blog.
Here's my schedule:
Saturday  11:00 AM
The Nostalgia of Failure
Steampunk and other historically-focused fantasies often engage with fundamentally flawed technology. Whether it's airships or clockwork machinery, there's a certain mystique around pre-industrial age invention. Why the fascination with the patently impossible? And is there a reason once-popular subgenres built on these ideas have fallen out of favor?
Emmy Jackson, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Sarah E. Gibbons, Cameron McClure, Gail Carriger
Saturday 1:00 PM
The Changing Faces of Comics
Many classic characters have gotten new looks, from less-exploitative costumes to new, diverse legacy faces: a teenage black girl genius wears the Iron Man armor, and a biracial Hawai'an actor will bring new life to Aquaman on screen. Will these new faces truly change the direction of comics, or will comics creators and publishers continue to go back to their old ways?
Annalee Flower Horne (M), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Pablo Defendini, DongWon Song, BluRaven C. Houvener, Jen Talley
Sunday 12:00 PM
Here's What They Did to My Baby!
No one really knows how the game is played. The art of the trade. How the sausage gets made. We just assume that it happens. And by it, we mean publishing a book. Authors tell the tale of the publishing process from their perspective. Copyedits! Title changes! Other mad alchemy!
Patrick S. Tomlinson (M), Suzanne Church, Jim C. Hines, Marshall Ryan Maresca
It's a light schedule for me, which means I will likely be BarConning heavily.  Come say hello.
This is the perfect time for me to run away from Austin, because (as longtime readers of the blog will know), January is when my beloved city wants to kill me.  Cedar allergies surge in this month, and it's rather awful.  Going somewhere else will be good for me and my brain.
And I need good things for my brain, as I'm ramping up A Parliament of Bodies.  This week will be about reworking the outline, as my original outline has... flaws. We'll leave it at that.  But this is the time to address that.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Embracing my Reading Destiny

I have to admit it, when it comes to reading, most of the time, I just want my literary comfort food.  I don't want to be challenged or dazzled by prosaic style.  Give me characters I like and a rollicking yarn and I'm good.
Needless to say, when I sit down to read, more often than not, I reach for Star Trek books.
For real.
Especially because, at a certain point once Trek was off the air, and the only new Trek was the rebooted movies, someone in the literary division just went, "Yeah, do whatever."  So the writers of the books were able to write stories with real momentum, real drive and real consequences.  They've now taken the world of the Trek universe a good decade or more past the last thing we've seen on TV, taking the crews of the Enterprise, DS9 and Voyager into new and unexpected places.
A great example of this: David Mack's Star Trek Destiny.  Here is an epic story that involves three ships crewed by familiar characters as well as original ones, as they deal with a massive Borg invasion the likes of which have never been seen before.  And when it ends, the entire landscape of the Trek universe is changed.  Those changes set the stage for the direction of the novels that follow.  It's massive and ambitious, and if you have fondness for Trek-- especially Next Generation-- you should read it.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Projects, New Goals

So, here we are in 2017.  It's going to be a pretty big year.   Here's what I know is on my plate:
The Holver Alley Crew comes out in March, and The Imposters of Aventil releases in October.  The only work left on Holver Alley is promotional (Go!  Pre-order it!), while Imposters still has copy-edits and final proof to look forward to.
I've finished the draft of Lady Henterman's Wardrobe, so once I hear back from the editor, I'll have some more work to do there.
The bulk of initial creative work in the year ahead-- at least to start, is drafting the third Constabulary novel, A Parliament of Bodies.  Right now I'm in "gear up" phase-- I'll spend the next two weeks doing things like fine-tuning the outline, creating files, and so forth, and then start the writing proper in mid-January.  If all stays on schedule (ha!), that'll be drafted by June.
I have a few other irons in the fire-- in addition to finishing Lady Henterman, I finalized another manuscript and sent it to the agent.  That should be bringing in a new contract.
I feel pretty good about what's coming up this year, in terms of my work.  It was good, emotionally, for me to close things up with two projects at the end of the year, so I'm starting the year with clean starts on the next projects.  That's also what the next two weeks will be about-- looking in at the other projects in my skull and seeing how their brewing process is.  
So those are the goals for the coming year: two books out, two manuscripts finished, and new contracts to come.
How's by your year?