Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wise Man's Fear

Just started the Wise Man's Fear. I know, I'm behind the times. I've only made it a few chapters in, but as you know, I've been thinking a lot about beginnings right now, and I found the way Rothfuss begins this book (similar to the way he starts Name of the Wind) really fascinating. The opening scenes are beautiful narration and dialogue; I'm fairly sure the frame story is omniscient, or if not omniscient, then a very light third person limited, although I did not spend a lot of time examining it (too busy enjoying the story this round through).

Where Rothfuss excels, and I remember the same was true in the first book, are his figurative language and his dialogue. The dialogue shines. And he has incredibly beautiful comparisons, similes, metaphors, figurative descriptions. All very, very well done. In fact, very similar to the kind of writing I would like to be able to do, although I find myself leaning more towards a deep third person limited rather than the somewhat lighter (in terms of narration) first person that he does. Still, he does first person well.

In any case, it is interesting to see him setting up problems for Kvothe to solve, along with additional story lines that, right now, don't have quite as obvious a terminus. I like that strategy, and it's a writing technique I want to incorporate. It will be really fun to see how the story unfolds; I am not a crazy Rothfuss fan (I'm thinking of all the hype for Name of the Wind), but I have to admit he's a master of the craft. If only there weren't such a long wait between books!

Dew continues, of course. Just wrote a painful but necessary scene that finished some of the set up; the next one (technically the one I'm in the middle of) is a big turning point for Siniq-elb, and it makes me happy just thinking about it. This is where the story is really going to get rolling!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

iMac Problems

Well, another chunk of Dew written. I'm really starting to get into Siniq-elb's world, and it's been a lot of fun, especially now that *most* of the set-up is done. I like introducing a character, exploring all their possibilities, but my favorite part is when things really get rolling. I like to have the experience of seeing them accomplish something.

Recently, my iMac has been giving me trouble, and after working through *countless* solutions, I'm fairly sure that it's the hard drive going out. I may take it in to have it looked at, but at this point, I'm just not sure it's worth it. My extended care package or whatever it's called has expired, and I'm not sure it's worth paying to get the hard drive replaced when it could end up costing me almost as much as a new PC (as much as I've loved my Mac, I just don't have the money to invest in one again--not right now anyway). So if the choice is between getting a good PC or getting the hard drive replaced on my old(er) iMac, well--we'll see. Everything is backed up on Time Machine, plus my most important stuff is either in Dropbox or on Google Docs, so I'm not going to lose anything major if/when the drive fails.

Until then, I'm just going to keep plugging along, finishing up Dew.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Genre

Well, another chunk of Dew written, and making progress. Siniq-elb's getting more and more situated, the world is coming into place around him, problems arising, goals, etc. Still some more setup before the story really gets rolling, but things are falling into position.

I read another interesting post on Magical Words today; don't worry--they're not always interesting. This one was talking about how one way to focus on writing is to think about genre-bending. Now--let me say this clearly--I'm definitely not against this. If anything, I love it. Neil Gaiman is brilliant. I love Michael Chabon's work. These guys are great. A. J. Hartley is right that we should all be trying to think of great, innovative story ideas (and structures) to push the edges of our writing and make us, and our work, better.

On the other hand, a few observations: first, although I don't know him personally, I'm guessing that A. J. Hartley's training as an academic is playing into his evaluation of genre and genre bending. Postmodernism and the idea of 'slipstream' are all very popular, both in the academy and among genre writers, and I think a lot of genre fiction writers would like to think that they are somehow Postmodern or slipstream when, in reality, they're just writing urban fantasy, or some other genre cocktail. I think there's a difference; I've outlined what I believe is the difference between 'L'iterature and genre fiction before, in general terms, so I won't do so again. Second, an interesting premise does not a 'genre-bending' make. I think that's a vital distinction, and it's one that we genre writers often aren't willing to make. We've mapped content pretty effectively onto style. Third, Hartley still links this type of writing to a specific type of success, although I think he makes an effort to break down that association. I'm just not sure such an association is always the case.

Anyway, it's an interesting read, and I think he makes some good points, so go take a look. Meanwhile, you should all take the chance to get the novella 'Black God's War' from Amazon while it's still free!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More beginnings

I read a post on Magical Words by Lucienne Diver. She talks about beginnings, but it really turns more into a way to avoid info dumps. Both are interesting topics, and certainly beginnings are often fraught with info dumps, but one thing I wish she had talked about was one of my main problems in a lot of genre fiction: the need to spoon-feed the reader.

This happens at the beginning of course: info-dumps on world-building, info-dumps on plot, info-dumps on character. But in a lot of ways, even 'subtle' or non-info dumps (per most speculative fiction standards), feel like spoon-feeding to me. There seems to be this persistent need to tell the reader, and then remind him or her over and over again, of things that have happened.

I think what I'm particularly pointing to is the heavy, clunky prose of a lot of authors. Adverbs and adjectives, or flat out telling what characters are thinking or feeling, rather than working it through the POV.

So to take this back to beginnings--Diver also talks about how one way to avoid info-dumps is to start at the right point. She makes a big deal over the risk of starting too late and then having to do back story info-dumps. I'm not sure I believe this is a problem, or perhaps I'm simply thinking of it differently than she is. To me, it seems most effective to start as late as possible, and then to drop enough specific details about backstory that the reader can fill it in on her own. Right now, working on Siniq-elb, I already feel like I need to go back and add a few more details about his past, but I'm going to rethink it when I look at it next. I trust my readers to put together the backstory of these characters; I don't need to hit them over the head with it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Siniq-elb and beginnings

Well, Siniq-elb's section is underway. Beginning a new POV is always hard. It's almost as difficult as beginning a new book, although in this case, much of the groundwork has already been laid. What *is* difficult, though, is the act of beginning. Finding that spark that will carry the story forward, generating the momentum that will pay off at the end. It's like trying to push a big, heavy rock down a hill. Once you get it started, gravity will take over and do the rest of the work for you.

Ok, it's not a perfect metaphor, but it describes how I'm feeling. What's important is that, in addition to being difficult, beginnings are *fun.* They're this great moment of absolute possibility. Anything can happen. Sparks are flying. Feeling the plot come together, not just in an outline, but in the story itself, is incredibly rewarding.

So beginnings are nice. And so far, Siniq-elb's has been really fun to write. I've already had a couple changes to the plot that I think are going to make it far more satisfying.

On another note, I finished Moses Siregar's novella "The Black God's War." It was fine, although I stumbled in a few places, but I found the idea of a pre-release of one section of a book interesting. In that sense, the novella is not so much a stand-alone as it is a sneak-preview. At least, that's how I understood it. It will be interesting also to see how the full book does this summer when it is released. The novella is definitely worth picking up from Amazon's free list and giving it a shot. I'm now on the first book of David Dalglish's Half-Orc series (the book is titled The Weight of Blood). It's a great title, but I've had a hard time getting into the book, for a lot of reasons. I'm going to stick it out for a little longer and see if it gets better.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two and a half little things

Two and a half little things:

Most exciting--Ilahe's section is done!! I hit my normal word count for the day, and I was so close that, after I went on a walk, I decided to go ahead and finish it up. I'm so glad I did. It worked so well. A little sad, because every story has some loss, but I think a lot of happiness as well. It made me happy for Ilahe, at least. That means Monday I start on Siniq-elb, who is going to be *fascinating* to write. He's got his own challenges to overcome, but he's such a different character from Ilahe, I'm really excited.

Here's the half: As I was finishing up her section, I was thinking about David Farland's recent Daily Kick on endings, and on how there's a need for multiple endings. When I read the Daily Kick, I was a bit skeptical, since it sounded like too much hammering on the same idea. When I was writing Ilahe's conclusion, though, I realized I was doing something similar, but what I was doing was something like stages or phases of ending. Things that were not only important signals to the reader that we were getting close to the real end, but also things that were necessary for Ilahe to have happen before she could have her ending. I'm not sure if this is exactly what David was talking about--he uses the expression, "We're given much the same ending in each case," and his idea is connected to plot lines--but I think the ideas are related.

Second, I put up a slightly revised version of Fold Thunder, along with a new cover courtesy of Vinh-Khoi Le. I love the cover--it's great.

Here it is:



Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Character Resolution

Well, I've mostly wrapped up the inner character problems for Ilahe--writing that scene was really rewarding, and in many ways, helps me identify better the problems that I wanted her to face. Now all that's left is the battle itself (I told you there are always more scenes than I expected) and the aftermath. Both very fun parts to write! I'd like to knock it out over the weekend, but I've got quite a bit of other work to do, so we'll see what happens.

On a larger scale, writing this section (and similar character arc resolution for Abass, one of the other POVs for Dew), has gotten me thinking about how to structure, and more importantly, how to make apparent, character arcs in a novel. As I just said, in many ways, it's not until I write the resolution that I'm best able to articulate what the character is struggling to resolve (in emotional terms), and so I often have to go back and realign the rest of the narrative to match. That's fine, and it tends to work well, but it's something that I'm going to be focusing on and thinking about as I work through the last POV (Siniq-elb) and try to figure out more effective ways of writing these character arcs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sneak peek at Ilahe

As I've mentioned a couple times this week, I'm writing the end to one of the POVs of Dew, and it's been great. I've still got a few scenes left (there are always more than I anticipate, but that's ok), but the next scene is the huge battle for Ilahe. After that, it's basically wrapping up loose threads--but in some ways, that's my favorite part. I'm a big believer that the end shouldn't just be the trip back to Hobbiton aka the Shire. The end should do its own work (of course, that's exactly what Tolkien does--the end is far from a trip back to the Shire).

In fact, after I'd finished my normal quota for today, I was making dinner when the last lines for Ilahe's scene popped into my head and I *had* to write them down. I'm tempted to include them here, but I don't want to spoil the ending--it's too good to ruin. So instead, here are a few lines from Ilahe's opening scene.

--

The sun scorched Ilahe’s dark skin, so harsh she thought it would flay her to the bones. Not at all like the rainbow light of the Iris, with its smooth, even shadows. She wiped sweat from her brow and flicked it onto the loose stones of the rough mountain path. It dried within heartbeats. Stone kept no mark of her passage. That was the only blessing the Danma mountains offered; perhaps it would keep the priests from tracking her, for a while.

--

Anyway, that gives you a little taste of Ilahe. She's a tough cookie, but pretty great.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Follow up on Stephen Leather / Konrath

Just a quick follow up--I mentioned a similar idea (writing over self-promotion) on Kindle Boards yesterday, and I was surprised at how violently some people reacted. Mostly the reactions were something along the lines that Konrath does so much self-promotion that it's ridiculous for his blog to suggest anything else.

It seems a bit strange to me, though, that people reacted so strongly. Touched a nerve perhaps? The difference with Konrath, I think, is that he really does have *lots* of books up for sale, and he is constantly releasing more. While I'll probably never like the self-promotion bit, I can't say that people are wrong to do it. I think the thing that bothers me (and that I'm assuming Leather and Konrath are pointing to) is when people release one book and then spend all their time twittering or facebooking or tagging, etc. Not to say those things don't help, just that writing probably deserves a larger share of an author's time.

On my own end, of course, I vastly prefer writing, and so I'll do that any day of the week over self-promotion.

In terms of writing, today was very, very busy, and so no writing on Dew got done. I'll get back to it tomorrow, fortunately. I can't wait to write the next few scenes for Ilahe (one of the POV characters); she's about to have her big turning point, as well as the most awesome battle of her life (yet).

PS--New cover for Fold Thunder coming this weekend. I'm excited to show-and-tell. Cool story behind it too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stephen Leather

Back from a week's absence--I tried to post a couple of times last week, but Blogger was down both times, and then the business of real life caught up to me, which brings me to now.

I made some more progress on Dew today, a section that I enjoyed writing. Sometimes I like a particular section because I think the writing is particularly good, or because I think the section works really well--today it was just a section I enjoyed. Lots of action, and moving closer and closer to resolution. Very satisfying.

Last week, Stephen Leather posted on J. A. Konrath's blog. The link is here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/05/guest-post-by-stephen-leather.html

I enjoy and appreciate Konrath's regular posts, although I find the language a bit strong at times (like Dean Wesley Smith), but I really liked Stephen Leather's post. In particular, I think he makes some good points about indie authors: the lack of gatekeepers does lead to the publishing of books that are not particularly good, and indie authors, in general, seem to spend far more time talking about their books than they do writing new ones--or, even more importantly, than they do trying to write *better.* I'm probably guilty of all three, but I will still say, I was shocked to find that on Kindle Boards, in the Writers Cafe, there are so few topics about writing as a craft. Instead, it's always about sales, or about self-promotion, or marketing. Perhaps there are posts about writing as craft, but if so, they haven't made it to the top (meaning, they haven't been discussed much) while I've been looking.

The absolute, most important part of writing is the writing. That sounds redundant, and I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me. In particular, I think of people who hold positions in the bestsellers on Amazon, whose writing is, to be honest, awful. This isn't particularly a time to get into *why* they're on those bestseller lists. I'm sure DWS would give me a tongue lashing about how the only important criterion for judging writing is sales. I'm resistant to that idea, though--I simply refuse to believe that the most important element in writing is its commercial success, or profitability, or whatever you call it. However, I'm willing to concede that, while some books that sell well are not well written, they are nevertheless, 'successful.' That's fine--success is always relative to goals or objectives, and so people are welcome to define it as they will. To say that something is well made, or intelligent, or aesthetically pleasing, though--that's another matter, perhaps subjective in other ways, but a far cry from using sales as a metric for quality.

This is not intended to be any claim to good writing on my part, but good writing is my main goal, and so I'm going to spend more time on writing, and studying craft, than on self-promotion. If it doesn't 'pay off' (a term that reveals capitalism's rampant invasion of our language), that will be fine--I'll have done my best at what I think is most important.

Not to be preachy, but that's what every writer should do--decide for him or herself what is most important about writing, and then be true to that idea.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

David Farland and Literary Elitism

Friends, some more progress has been made on Dew. I'm close to wrapping up the second POV sequence, which means almost 2/3 of the way with the first draft. It'd be lovely to have it done in the next month, but I'm not sure that's realistic. By the end of June, though, for sure (I hope!).

I read an interesting article/email by David Farland today. I subscribe to his Daily Kick, which I recommend to everyone interested in writing and publishing. Today, his topic was prompted by a critique (I assume he means review) by a person whom David calls "an elderly nonfiction editor" (first warning flag). David goes on to claim that this editor's review/critique is representative of a larger trend within a literary establishment (particularly academe) toward an elitism that not only undervalues genre fiction, but actively seeks to destroy it--at least, that's how David makes it sound in the most elevated moments of his rhetoric.

Now, I don't know David, but I've read his Daily Kick for years, and I think I have a decent grasp for how he thinks, or at least for how he presents himself, and I've not seen anything to indicate that David is anything but kind and generous. The Daily Kick is a great example of that generosity and kindness (as well as of smart publicity). However, David's comments are rather high-blown at moments, and in my opinion, they reveal a strain of thinking in the genre fiction community that is uncharitable at best, and toxic at worst.

I'm referring, of course, to the belief that somehow the literary establishment/academe is 'out to get' genre fiction / genre writers--or, in a related sense, that elitism somehow implies hostility. It's a tangled web of associations, and I urge you to read David's article to get the best sense of how he represents it. I encountered similar, although vastly more infuriated, permutations of this sentiment in Brandon Sanderson's fiction writing class--whole sessions of class, it seemed, were dedicated to bashing professors and academe for being too elitist (most of the bashing was done by students, to be fair, not by Brandon).

My comments for today: first, I think David's point of view arises out of a specific approach to literature, namely, that literature's primary purpose is to entertain. David has made similar claims at other times; he'll talk about literature's ability to produce and subsequently relieve stress, to provoke certain emotions, to provide an emotional experience. All of these are signatures of entertainment--and, consequently, of the primary function of the literal text as a source of entertainment.

I don't have anything against this--far from it, actually, since I write genre fiction. And I love to be entertained. However, as a trained academician, and as a humanist, I think this overlooks competing, and equally viable approaches to literature. The approach most common to the academe, and to the literary community, is that the literal text is only part of the story, and that great literature is marked by a superfluity or excess of meaning that can be profitably examined and, through analysis, provide an even richer experience of the text than a surface reading. Related to this is the conception of literature as a primarily aesthetic, not entertaining, experience structured by language--a far cry from the emphasis on 'content' in most genre fiction.

In any case, my point here is not to argue with David (whom I respect), or to pick a bone with the genre fiction community--simply to point out that diatribes against elitism actually participate in almost identical discursive moves by co-opting literature as a form of entertainment, rather than of aesthetics. In essence, 'professors' (for lack of a better term) and genre-fiction lovers speak past each other because they look for different things. The professors that Dave talks about were (most likely) not afraid of their peers, or harboring a secret hatred of genre fiction--in all likelihood, they simply had no interest in reading as a purely entertaining experience, and the explicit literalness of genre fiction prevents it from being a profitable type of writing for the type of reading that literary critics want to do.

I think that's all I have for today, but I'd love to hear other people weigh in on this subject. Thanks go to David Farland for his continued generosity in writing the Daily Kick.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Figurative language in genre fiction

On Magical Words today, the topic of metaphors vs. similes came up. I'm not interested in delving into the two terms or their etymologies, although I think more can be said than Schubert does, but this brought up the, for me, recurrent concern with figurative language in genre fiction, particularly fantasy.

To me, it seems that in genre fiction in general, and especially in speculative fiction, whether sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal horror, etc., figurative language has a more complicated role than normal. This is due, in part, to the expectations that the reader brings to the table. It seems to me that readers of speculative fiction are much more willing to read a piece of figurative language as literal, precisely because the 'speculative' elements of the genre require a willingness to allow for otherwise impossible linguistic framing of the world. For example, in my WIP Dew, I write about panels of shadow and pillars of starlight--quite literally, actually, due to a specific effect of magic. In other genres, though, such language would be figurative. Perhaps even trite. And so as writers of speculative fiction, we must be particularly careful with figurative language, because in its figurative role, it's unbelievably important as a part of writing, but also because it can have, perhaps unintentionally at times, a literal weight that is not possible in other genres.

Thoughts?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Amazon search

Well, I've contacted Amazon about *why* Fold Thunder hasn't shown up in their search listings--and they've promised to look into it. Here's hoping that it shows up in the next few days.

The last couple of days have been profitable in developing some new ideas for future books. I always feel like ideas come more plentifully, and more productively, while I'm actually engaged in a project. Much of the world of Dew, for example, came to me in spurts as I was writing Fold Thunder, which was actually a great relief. Writing is, after all, a form of work, however enjoyable. Brainstorming, however--or whatever you choose to call it--feels more like play (perhaps because I end up writing so little of it down). I'd love to hear about others' creative processes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Writing advice

Well, another chunk of Dew is written, moving me that much closer. The section of the storyline that I'm working on is wrapping up, which is great because that's always the most exciting and satisfying part to write--and, I hope, to read. The payoff for all the investment. Since I tend to write each storyline sequentially, and then mix them together at the end, I often come away from the project with very different experiences as I complete each storyline.

On kindleboards today I read a thread about bad writing advice, and it got me to thinking about writing advice in general. While it's helpful to hear other people's ideas, and they can often provide some kind of conceptual framework, I've found that the most significant insights I've had come from the process of writing itself. Writing advice becomes helpful after the fact, as a kind of reinforcement or articulation of the realization that I've had myself.

The challenge in writing, then, is being able to rethink and reevaluate writing strategies and techniques, to keep yourself open to seeing something new. This is where critiquing is helpful, for me at least--it helps me see things I would otherwise miss. From there, though, I still have to go through the process of 'acquiring' the new technique/idea/principle myself.

Any thoughts on this?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Amazon Link

For whatever reason, Fold Thunder is not showing up on any Amazon searches, so I've thoughtfully provided the link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004YQBQ04

I get the feeling I may need to contact Amazon to get this resolved, which is very frustrating.

In other news, much of today was wasted because after months (almost years) of battling recurring problems with my Mac, I had another relapse. I think I've finally determined the cause--as soon as I stopped using my Logitech mouse, the Mac has run great. I'm going to have to invest in a Magic Mouse soon because the old Apple mouse I'm using right now is broken and on its last legs.

More about Dew next post!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Publishing cont.

Well, Fold Thunder is slowly making an appearance on the different ebook stores. We'll see how it does--the next big step is to have people start leaving (favorable) reviews, and that part is definitely out of my hands. In connection with that, I may leave the book up for free longer than I had initially intended. Since Amazon will not let me lower the price below $0.99, I think I will leave the story up for free on Smashwords for a while and see if Amazon eventually matches them. We'll see if it happens. With any luck, Smashwords will get the free version in the Apple Store and B&N, and then there might be more of a financial reason for Amazon to lower the price (we'll see, I can't really figure out the logic behind which books Amazon makes free). Really, the main goal is getting the word out about the book and about me as an author--so, dear readers, if you've enjoyed Fold Thunder, let the world know!

Tonight I made some more progress on the current work in progress, code-name: Dew. I'm almost 2/3 of the way through the first draft, which is great. If I stay on track, this should be the longest book I've written so far, but also the shortest in terms of time to write. Part of that is not having to take off large amounts of time to deal with Real World stuff. So fingers crossed it keeps going well. I'm planning on having some sample chapters up here in the next month or two, and I'll put them at the end of the next edition of Fold Thunder when I update it. At least, that's the plan for now.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Amazon Fold Thunder Live (with problems)

Update: Fold Thunder is live on Amazon. Good news: apparently weekends aren't a total dead time. Bad news: it's priced at $2.99. I've lowered this to $.99 because I've found out that there is no way to intentionally offer the book for free (Amazon gets to decide this). I'm not crazy about it, but $.99 isn't awful for a full length novel :-).

If you'd still like to get it for free during the promo week, you can download a copy at Smashwords, but you'll have to upload it to your Kindle manually (not difficult, but also not as simple as just downloading it from Amazon).

PubIt is the last holdout, and I may just drop them and send everything through Smashwords, since Smashwords *does* allow for free ebooks. I'll keep you posted.

Fold Thunder on Smashwords Live

Well, against my expectations, the Smashwords edition of Fold Thunder was the first to go live. I'm guessing that Amazon and B&N must hold off on everything over the weekend (kind of crummy). Anyway, that just means I'll be pushing back the 'free week' for an extra day or two. If you want a Smashwords edition (and they have a lot of different formats) head on over there now:

Fold Thunder