Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fold Thunder on Amazon Free List

Great news! I saw today that Fold Thunder has finally made it onto the Amazon free list. I'm thrilled about that, of course! My goal from the start was to price it free on Amazon, since I believe that the best promotion is word of mouth, and the best way to get word of mouth is to get readers. And free should (I hope!) mean more readers. So thank you to all of those (or, better said at the moment, to both of you) who have left reviews--I'm grateful for your feedback and that you took the time to leave your thoughts for other readers.

For those wondering, I'm not sure how it got onto the free list. It's always been free on Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, etc., but Amazon refused to lower their price to match. In fact, I'd reported the lower price a couple of times on the Amazon product page, but to no result. Then today, I noticed a lot of readers of the blog coming from Amazon sources, and so I thought I'd see what had changed. And there it was. Right now at #3 on the free list for fantasy, and #21 (last I checked) on all free. Incredible. That's really wonderful.

So, please spread the word. Dew will be released in a couple of months, so there's plenty of time to enjoy Fold Thunder before then.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Abass preview and Indifferent

So, just a quick note on Indifferent (and I'll write more about this next post)--I wrote the first part of it today. Let me just tell you, I'm *thrilled* with the voice. The character is one I've been running through my head for a while, and I can't tell you how happy I am with the voice and with the 1st person POV. It was definitely much slower going today, and it's stretching me to write this way, but I'm loving it.

Also, as I've been revising Dew, I realized you still haven't seen a preview of Abass's POV. So here's his first paragraph, in rough draft form (he is the other POV that I haven't spoke about much):

Blood broke the sunlight, a spray that cast a thousand fluttering shadows across the dirt road. The woman screamed, dark hair falling in front of her flushed face. Abass could barely hear her over the roar of the Harvest. He pressed against the splintered planks of the building behind him as men, women, children pressed in closer to see. The first stirrings of harvest-madness washed over him, a surge of blood-lust, but his stomach grumbled louder. He forced the harvest passion down and focused on the crowd.

Anyway, I'll talk more about Indifferent next time, but it's going great.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

World-building and Plotting Indifferent

So I've been working on Indifferent the last couple days, letting Dew cool and settle before I go back and start prodding it into shape. I'd forgotten how much I *love* world-building. This is the first time I've done an urban fantasy, and so it's a very different process--I find myself looking at all sorts of information I'd never thought I'd need, and I also find myself enjoying it. This type of writing is creative in a different way, with different limits--this is a world that's very similar to our own (one of the main exceptions being magic) and so I'm working with a new set of constraints. It's refreshing and exhilarating all at once! In fact, although the plot is roughly sketched out, I still have a *lot* of world-building to do--and a lot more research to do before I can finish! Anyway, it's a real pleasure--it's been about six months, maybe more, since I did all of this work for Dew, and so it's a nice change of pace to do some creative work that isn't necessarily part of the narrative.

I recently listened to the Writing Excuses podcasts on urban fantasy and found myself a bit puzzled; the one on brainstorming urban fantasy was kind of painful at times, although I know in part that is due to the fact that most ideas sound trite when they're boiled down. Both podcasts were helpful, though, to the extent that they marked out some of the conventions and cliches of urban fantasy; I was glad to find that Indifferent doesn't fit into any of the cliches, and it actually seems to avoid most of the common tropes. I wonder if it will play out that way when it's written; as I've mentioned before, I think there are reasons that tropes can be helpful at times, so I'm not averse to having them in Indifferent, but I'm interested to see how it shapes up when I start the writing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dew done (well, the rough draft)

The title pretty much says it all: Dew is done! Wow, so exciting. The ending got a little more complicated than I had expected, and while I like how it concludes now, I feel like I may end up working on it a little more. Still, I pushed through and wrote quite a bit more than my normal quota today so I could finish it. Now we start the lengthy review process.

Review for me has a couple different phases. The most important is going through, reworking story-lines, making sure all the pieces fit together. In some ways, this is the most arduous for me, but also the most entertaining, because it is still a very creative process. After this, it becomes much more focused on the language of the story--not only looking for errors, but also general trimming, rephrasing. So I'll set to work on that here on Monday, along with getting the first bit of writing done for Indifferent. That's right, gotta keep writing in addition to the revising. No rest for the wicked.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dew almost done, preview

Well, just so you know, the rough draft of Dew is almost done. I'm wrapping up Siniq-elb's POV, which (I hope) will be finished tomorrow. Then it's back to the drawing board with revising, editing, etc. All the good stuff. Still, it's so exciting to have Dew almost finished. I've been writing Dew for about six months now, which is about how long Fold Thunder took, but Dew is quite a bit longer, and I have been juggling other life things while working on it. My hope is to have Dew up and ready to go by the end of July, but we'll see how things work out.

The next project I'm moving onto will be code name Indifferent (not really a code at all, just an abbreviation of a prospective title). It's a very different story for me. First person, urban fantasy. I'm excited to try some different narrative techniques and to break out of what I'm familiar with. I'll keep you posted, of course.

As a teaser, here's a preview of Siniq-elb's POV, the first paragraph that he gets:

A noise broke the still, hot air of the forest. Siniq-elb tightened his grip on the longsword, sweat trickling between his hands, and waited. It came again. Footsteps. No animal had such an even, heavy trod. He glanced to his left. Natam, barely visible through the thick grasses that grew here, flashed a white-toothed smile and nodded. He had heard it too. A flash of silver as Natam shifted and the thick chain he had taken to wearing peeked out from under his leather armor. Siniq-elb frowned; Natam had come into money lately, and he had wasted no time in displaying it. Siniq-elb would have to speak to the man. Vanity would get the squad killed.

That's all for now, but I'll keep you posted on how things develop.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last of the Mohicans and Prose

So, over the weekend, I watched Last of the Mohicans (for perhaps the twelfth time in my life). As you can probably guess, I love that movie. I love pretty much everything about it, and the last 20 minutes are stunning in my opinion. As I was watching it this weekend, though, I started thinking about how incredibly effective those last 20 minutes are, and how effective they are without hardly any dialogue (well, I'm mostly thinking about everything after the Huron village, it might be less than 20 minutes). In any case, the movie tells the story *so well* without almost any dialogue--just music and action. And it's beautiful and tight and just wonderful.

Then, I read this post at The Scribblers Cove on phrases not to use in writing. I'm torn on this idea; while I'm all about moving past worn-out language, cliches, etc., I'm also resistant to the idea that just because an agent or an editor is sick of something, that the entire reading community shares those prejudices (formed, at least in part, by over-exposure to bad writing that much of the reading public won't see). So, while I think it's helpful to have in mind during the writing process that some phrases are cliche and that writing can be more effective with a little thought and careful use of language, I also think that sometimes those cliched phrases are helpful precisely because they can stand in for emotions that readers will be familiar with, when those moments of the story do not need to be hammered on by bending language. In other words, cliches can be helpful at times, and not simply in some sort of boring, hipster, postmodern, ironic reappropriation. My thought: do my best to write powerful, poetic prose, but also be aware that conventional language can be helpful at times.

How does this connect to Last of the Mohicans? While beautiful prose and cliched description can both be effective, sometimes, less is more. Rothfuss does this particularly well; there's rarely any doubt about how people are feeling, but there are very few explicit mentions of those feelings. Sanderson is much more explicit, but not heavy-handed, and (to respond to the Scribblers post) he *does* use cliches and the dreaded adverbs to convey this information. Being a good writer is all about knowing what is effective, and that's more a matter of experience and practice than it is of 'rules.'

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dew Update and Warbreaker

Well, Dew is moving along nicely; Siniq-elb's POV is reaching the last turning point for him (as a character), and from this point on it's going to be moving towards the climax and resolution. It's also getting to the point where the POVs start to cross over, so I'm going to enjoy writing parts of the story that the other characters have had glimpses of, but haven't seen entirely. It's a nice way to wrap up the book (well, before revising).

In a fit of nostalgia (and also, because it's available for free) I've been reading Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker. Talk about shock after Rothfuss, if only because of how different they are. I've mentioned before, I think, how much I like Brandon's work, and I'm a bit biased because I've taken his creative writing class, but man--never have the differences been so apparent to me. Plotting, prose, narrative technique. It's kind of incredible. Brandon's style is much more familiar to me, his prose much more transparent (and, one might say, 'prosaic'), but he works so efficiently. Everything is done very neatly. And I'm really intrigued by how much narrative he uses; when I move on to Way of Kings again, I'll have to compare and see if he still writes the same now.

In any case, Warbreaker is a great read, and if you haven't had a chance to do so, you should read it now. Like (almost) all of Brandon's books, it is a great example for writing precisely because what he does is both transparent and effective.

Monday, June 13, 2011

End of Wise Man's Fear

Dew continues along; I want to say I'm about half way through Siniq-elb's POV, but the endings always take a bit longer than I expect, so I may have just over half left. Still, it's about to hit the really exciting stuff, so I'm thrilled about that.

I finished Wise Man's Fear over the weekend; I'm torn. As I've said before, I *love* Rothfuss's prose. It's beautiful. I also liked the book overall, although with many reservations. Here are the main ones:

I realized that I'm bored with Kvothe. The interlude Kvothe is fascinating, precisely because of his weakness. The first book (Name of the Wind), growing-up-Kvothe, was ok, but slightly boring, because he was good at almost everything. The main narrative's Kvothe in WMF is *boring.* He excels at everything; even his weaknesses, like speaking his mind or having a temper, are assets in the end. This extends to the Edema Ruh; they're good at everything, universally kind and decent, and (of course) oppressed. Not interesting to me.

Also, the story arc of the book was less than satisfying; I reached the end and realized nothing had happened. Oh sure, Kvothe had done all sorts of exciting things, and his financial problems were solved--but really? 900 pages for that? He wasn't a different person, at least, not by much, and (as usual) he had excelled at everything he did. So what changed? He no longer had to worry about tuition. I know that's a bit reductive, but I still felt the story arc left something to be desired. It's sort of the opposite end of the spectrum from Brandon Sanderson (with his over-the-top endings that I love) or Steven Erikson (same) or even George R. R. Martin. Even less 'epic' tales have much more satisfying development. In any case, it seemed to suffer from 'middle book' syndrome.

Those quibbles aside, it's a fantastic book, and I really enjoyed reading it. I'm interested in the way Rothfuss made the narrative work; as I said, it doesn't really have an arc. Instead, it's a meandering progression through a little less than a year of Kvothe's life. In that sense, it's highly episodic, with a few recurring themes (poverty and Denna). I'm not sure if I liked it, or how effective it is, but I find it really interesting. Along with thinking about Rothfuss's prose and his dialogue, I'm going to be puzzling over the structure for a while as well.

I think now I'll go back and read 'Way of Kings' and maybe 'Warbreaker' by Brandon Sanderson to get a better feel for his style; I have different issues with his writing, but his structuring is very effective, and I'd like to take a look at it again.

This is a busy week for me, so you may not hear back from me for a few days, although I'll try my best.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

World-building issues in Wise Man's Fear

So, as I've mentioned, I'm reading The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and I'm really enjoying it. I've been thinking a lot about how he writes and I find it *fascinating.* The first person narrative, with a single POV (excepting the interludes), is a totally different structure from what I usually write, but it's one that I'm looking forward to using in my next project (after Dew). In particular, I'm interested in how this extended first person narrative requires a different structure for the story, and in how Rothfuss interweaves the plot threads so well.

I've had a few issues with the world-building, though. I mentioned before the use of God and Lord and the attempt to cover up the slippage between his use of the words and Real World usage. I find this frustrating precisely because, for me, it undoes a lot of what world-building is supposed to do (plant me in another place). This speaks to a larger issue in Rothfuss's world-building, namely the way that a lot of the world-building actually seems to model itself on Real World countries, religions, etc. Up to a point this is fine, but I find it to be less than effective at times because it makes it hard to have the world seem truly unique. The University, for example, is pretty compelling precisely because it reveals so much about the world--sygaldry, sympathy, naming--in a fairly natural setting. However, when we find out that (not really a spoiler, but maybe, although this is all told in back-story) Kvothe was saved in the trial partially by knowing the 'hempen verses,' it seems really ineffective because it's a wholesale piece of medieval Real World history (grounded in a complex religious and political scene that is unique to that period) transplanted into a supposedly different world.

While this might be a problem only for those familiar with medieval history, Rothfuss does something even worse: he pokes at the very underpinnings of world-building, language. I can't tell if he does so because he thinks it's funny, or if he really thinks it's clever, but either way it's like pressing on a bruise. When he claims that the word 'vintage' for example comes from 'Vintas,' he's making, albeit indirectly, a claim about the way language evolved in this world. Same with the word 'Lackey' from 'Lackless.' While it's pseudo-clever to come up with this, it's hugely problematic for world-building because it puts pressure on the most delicate part of the negotiation between the reader and the world of the story: the language itself. If vintage comes from Vintas, why do I understand the word vintage without having ever heard of Vintas before? More importantly, how do I reconcile the 'real' etymology of the word with the new one? Are all vintners from Vintas? Is the word wine from Vintas? Is the word vine rooted in Vintas? Rothfuss's world-building asks the reader to confront language in order to navigate the new world, and this, at least in my opinion, is the ultimate way to pull a reader out of the text.

In any case, these are relatively minor blemishes in an otherwise great book, but I was just so frustrated by seeing them. I love the story of Kvothe, but I wish the world-building had been carried out a bit differently.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Description and Travel

Sorry for the delay in posts; I'm going to be traveling for the next few months, and so my opportunities to post will, of necessity, be fewer, although the writing continues at the same pace as always. Dew is moving along nicely; Siniq-elb has made some great progress, I think I'm about a third of the way through his arc. As I predicted, I'm a lot more in the 'zone' with this section. It's just a struggle to get all the parts moving at the beginning.

I mentioned last time that I was going to write a bit about description. My thoughts are motivated by a series of posts on Magical Words; the latest dealing with description is part of a series by Faith Hunter. Her ideas are all very solid, mostly about the use of concrete details that appeal to a variety of senses. While her post was on taste and texture, which was fascinating, I thought I'd just offer a couple comments about description in general.

My point of departure: Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. It's great, as I mentioned last time. I've been reading it with close attention to how he describes dialogue and character interaction, and what I've found has been fascinating. For the most part, Rothfuss simply doesn't describe it. The tags are minimal. A few adverbs. Rarely, a beautiful passage describing the character's interior state.

Of course, he's doing 1st person, which is a different narrative structure, and my focus in limited 3rd person delves a lot more deeply into the character's experience of the world in the moment. Still, I'm intrigued by Rothfuss's success with much more minimalist dialogue framing, and it's something I'm going to be looking at closely in revision of Dew. Where are my insights helpful, and where can the dialogue stand on its own, without anything else.

As a final item, I'll include a piece of 'description' that does not include dialogue, since I find those moments are often much more difficult for me. From Siniq-elb's POV:

Sweat rolled down his muscled torso in tiny rivers by the time he reached the narrowing band of shadow at the edge of the trees. Thick air pressed against him like a second skin; this was the worst type of day in the ever-summer weather of the Paths. Rain would come and break the heat, bringing more perfect days, but it might be days or weeks before it happened. Even under the trees the air was hot and heavy, although the sun no longer threatened to roast him in his brown tunic.

Anyway, more thoughts on WMF as I keep reading, but I'm consistently interested by Rothfuss's prose, even when I don't always like it (for example, his decision to use 'God' and 'Lord' as oaths, even though they don't seem to fit the world he's set up).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goodbye, Kindle Boards (kind of)

Well, I finished the first big turning point for Siniq-elb, and I'm really happy with how it went. There's probably still a bit of fine tuning to go back and do, but I'm pleased with how things turned out. The next part is where he starts really getting into action, there are some surprises he doesn't see coming, and best of all, he gets to help some people! It's going to be great.

The title of my post refers to my recent decision (last night, and confirmed after thinking about it again today) to stop involving myself on Kindle Boards, with the exception of announcing new books, sales, etc. I never had a very strong presence, but I have tried to be active in that community since releasing Fold Thunder. While I've met some great, generous people through the site, the number of abrasive, unpleasant personalities is too high to make Kindle Boards worth my time. I deal with enough disagreeable personalities in my life; I don't need to spend my free time putting myself in a position to encounter more. This should in no way be a condemnation of all the people on Kindle Boards; as I said, there are some truly lovely people there. However, in addition to the poor manners of so many of the forum posters, I have found that a great deal of the conversations revolve around the twin cults of (self)promotion and sales, and I simply have no interest in talking about those things. In any case, as I said, I'll still be putting up announcements there, but I think I'll stop spending my time in a place that leaves me in a bad mood.

For next time, I'd like to talk about a recent series of posts on Magical Words (you probably saw that coming) about writing descriptions. Good stuff.