Friday, July 29, 2011

Dew Update

Just an update for those of you keeping track: comments and feedback from my readers on Dew are starting to come in, so I'll be working through those, making changes, etc. That means that I'll have to work on the stuff from my readers first, and when I've gone through all of that, and made the necessary changes, I'll make my final pass of Dew and put it up for sale. At this point, it looks like the most feasible date is mid-September.

Indifferent is moving along nicely; I'm a bit past the halfway point on the rough draft. It's a shorter book than either Dew or Fold Thunder (that is, it will be shorter unless something changes drastically), but it's still longer than your standard novel. That will be coming later this year, depending on how revisions go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Authorial Image (or Persona)

I read a post on Magical Words the other day that I found somewhat bothersome; you can read it here if you like. And I suppose I should preface my reaction by saying, all of this is coming from me as a long time fan and reader of fantasy and science fiction. It's not coming from me as a writer. I'd love to hear from people about their own reactions to this post, whether as a writer or a reader.

The post talks about the need for an author to have a sort of visual, in-person brand. In particular, this seems to do with clothing, although other elements of appearance are also important. Ms. Price offers the example of her own brand as having to do with corsets and boots. Her argument is that by creating this sort of visual persona, the author can connect with readers, and that readers will also gain some sort of benefit from this. I'm not entirely clear on what this benefit is--apparently a sense of consistency is the main result, or perhaps the ability to identify with a specific author.

Regardless, I have to say I find this idea to be kind of silly. And that's just me speaking as a reader. I've never met most of the authors whose work I love to read. Frankly, I'm not particularly interested in meeting some of them. And the ones I *have* met have never had a consistent style, let alone anything approaching what most people would call 'style' in the first place.

And that's not a bad thing; I love those authors just as much as if I'd never met them. This type of 'branding,' of wearing a specific type of clothing--black leather, nose rings, boots, whatever the case may be--is fine if you enjoy that, but it should be recognized for exactly what it is: a gimmick. Most readers, and I'm speaking here as a reader, are not going to go to conventions, they're not going to dress up, they're not going to care what an author wears or looks like. The closest thing that will come to affecting them is if the author is a jerk or not, since this can come across pretty clearly in blog posts, interviews, etc. So while I think Ms. Price is right with regard, perhaps, to a very specific demographic of the reading audience, I think that 'visual branding' is ultimately a trivial part of being an author, and it is *completely* disconnected from the actual act of writing.

Now, I'm not trying to make Ms. Price sound like she was claiming anything different; I think her post is fairly straightforward about what she sees as the benefits of 'visual branding' and she is clear that they are separate from writing. But I wanted to take a moment to comment on this because, reacting as a reader, I find the idea so foreign; perhaps this is because I'm not really a convention-goer myself. I'd be interested to hear from people who had different reactions, or who find the idea of 'visual branding' to be particularly helpful.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Just a quick post with updates. Indifferent is moving along nicely; I'd estimate that it's about a third of the way drafted, which means I'm right on track. It's been a delight to write, and I'm taking stuff I've learned from the other books and trying to work them into the way I pace and plot this one. Writing in first person has been challenging at times, but enjoyable. Everything is going well on that front.

Dew is out of my hands, at least for the time being. I've sent it out to readers; once I hear back from them, I'll be going back through, looking at their comments, making changes where appropriate. And once that's finished, I'll do a few final passes before I put it up for sale.

I mentioned that I've been outlining/brain-storming the sequel to Fold Thunder. Flood, as it's being called for now, is really still in the most preliminary of stages, but I'm excited about the direction it's going to take. It will pick up on the events of Fold Thunder, and it will carry that storyline forward, but it is also intended to be a standalone work, so if you haven't read Fold Thunder, you will be able to enjoy Flood just fine.

That's all for now--just a status report, really.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Media

David Farland sent out his Daily Kick today with an interesting topic; you can find the article here if you'd like to read it first. In essence, he argues that with the advent of e-readers, people will move into a new medium for story-telling, one that involves audio and visual (specifically illustration and video) components as part of the reading experience, and, from what I can understand, interwoven with the text itself.

It's a fascinating idea, and one that I think will certainly be developed and explored by others in the coming decades. Certainly there's something very attractive about a synthesis of media; it's ripe with possibilities for new ways not only to entertain, but to produce great art. In some ways, though, it makes me think about the sort of blossoming of hypertextual storytelling when computers (and more specifically) the internet became more common. People theorized that this type of storytelling, where the ability to follow hyperlinks would move the reader along ever-changing webs, would offer an alternative to traditional narrative models.

There's no doubt that it did, and in its own way, hypertextual storytelling is an incredible art form. But while new media will continue to arise, I question the logic that says that they will come to replace standard textual narrative. Multimedia text has been available since the written word; verse, in particular, has always had a strong correlation with song, to the point that at various times in history, poetry was not considered complete until it was linked to music.

Obviously what we're seeing today is new and different, and I hope it brings exciting new forms of storytelling. But I think there are also good reasons that the prose narrative, available to the consumer in the discrete object known as the book, has proliferated with great success. The problem with incorporating different media is that they are, precisely, different. While you can listen to music and read at the same time, maybe even read and watch TV at the same time, you can never do both as effectively at the same time as you can do one. I know, people will argue with me about this, but it's just not possible. The amount of attention required to pay serious attention to language means you have that much less attention for music, and while we can shift back and forth, all that really means is that we're doing one thing, and then another.

Of course I'm not a cognitive specialist, so perhaps there are new studies that disprove this, but I think my point remains. A multimedia story experience could be a wonderful innovation, but I can't see how it will supplant prose narrative. That would be like saying these new multimedia books are going to supplant movies. Or that they're going to supplant music. A new medium can come into existence, but there's no reason it can, or would, mean the death of an old one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Character Goals and Motivations

I've been thinking a lot about character goals and motivations recently. Not only was I working out a particularly difficult piece of Indifferent, having to do with some back story that I hadn't fully fleshed out, but I've been thinking ahead and loosely plotting the next book I'll be working on, code-name Flood (the sequel to Fold Thunder). In both the back story of Indifferent, and in the plotting of Flood, I came up against figurative brick walls: I couldn't figure out what two characters were doing.

In Indifferent, the character who was giving me trouble does not actually appear in the book, even though he's mentioned very frequently. In fact, he has a more important role than some of the people that the MC actually interacts with regularly. And he needed to have done something in the past--something that had put the world in jeopardy at one point. Now, I won't go into details about what exactly he did, since that's an important part of the story that you'll get to read, but I'll talk a little bit about how I worked through this problem.

I started off by thinking about who this character was: what was he like as a person; what was his family like; what had been formative events in his life. Some of this I'd already developed, some of it was stuff I needed to finish thinking through. Once I had that done, I went back, working through the events in his life that had led up to his final bad decision. I could see it all, picture it all. But I couldn't figure out *what* that last, bad decision had been.

Until I asked myself: what would this person want? And then I had the answer. After Indifferent comes out, I'll be happy to talk a little bit more about this and explain the rest of the process.

A similar story goes for Flood. A sneak preview: one of the MC for Flood is going to be Sammeen, who plays a small but important role in Fold Thunder. Now, I had developed quite a bit of backstory for Sammeen while writing Fold Thunder precisely because of how interesting he is. And when it came to plotting Flood, I knew what I wanted Sammeen to *do.* What I didn't know is why he would do it, or what else needed to happen.

And so I did the same thing that I did with indifferent. I went back and worked through everything I knew about Sammeen, and I kept asking myself, 'What kind of person is he? How have these events shaped him? What have they made him become, and what was he before?' And as I started working through these questions, I suddenly knew exactly what Sammeen needed to do, and why he would do it, and where it would lead him.

The point in sharing this is that, as a lot of good writers have said before, creativity is as much about asking questions and working through ideas as it is anything else. For me, characters are the heart of the story, and so I'm particularly invested in thinking about how they change, and why they change. And so I thought I'd give a slightly more descriptive account of how I worked through some of this stuff.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pat Rothfuss and Narrative

So I've been catching up on the podcast Adventures in Sci-fi Publishing; if you're interested in sci-fi or fantasy, whether as a writer or a reader, I think it's worth listening to. One that I listened to recently was Moses Siregar's interview with Pat Rothfuss; it's really fascinating, in particular because it addresses some of the issues that I had raised on this blog while reading Wise Man's Fear. If you're interested, here's the link.

Rothfuss's idea seems to be something along these lines: Kingkiller Chronicles is more of a biography, or auto-biography, than it is a traditional 'story,' and therefore it doesn't have the same arc of character and plot progression, nor does it have a teleology per se. I think this is a fascinating idea, but I think the problem with it is that, to insist that biographies and autobiographies don't have their own narrative thrust is to take, I believe, a too simplistic approach to the demands of life-writing. More than many authors, I believe, biographers and autobiographers feel the need to tell the 'story' of an individual, and the genre and form of life-writing has come to reflect that in many ways.

So I think it's fascinating that Rothfuss addressed this issue, and I think his idea is really interesting, even if I don't necessarily buy into the distinction that he's making. Regardless, Kingkiller Chronicles is a fascinating series, beautifully written, and well worth reading, if only to see how he concludes it. A part of me wonders if the third volume will be as anti-climactic as the second; it seems like his conception of the trilogy actually calls for such an ending, but I wonder how it will go over, or if Rothfuss is actually committed to what he has described. Or I may have misunderstood his project, and it may be completely different from what I've described.

In any case, a really interesting interview, and one that addresses, in part, some of the issues I've been thinking about.

Other news: Dew revision is moving along nicely, although I've found a few things to go back and fix that I hadn't expected. Nothing major, but small points for the plot arcs. Indifferent is progressing as well, and that is still a delight to write.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Moses Siregar's Black God's War

For those of you who did not see the announcement in other places, I just thought I'd let you know that Moses Siregar announced the release date for his book, The Black God's War, for August 1. You can find more details here. The book has a beautiful cover, and as I've mentioned before, I enjoyed the novella that Moses released as a sort of sneak-preview. If you didn't grab the novella while it was free, you might still find it on Amazon. If it's not there, you should read the sample of Moses's book and see for yourself if you like it.

Other than that, I don't have much to say except that Indifferent is moving along nicely, and revisions on Dew continue to be about what I expected. I'll keep you posted as things develop.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Indifferent, Dew revision

Things are going well with Indifferent; slow, steady progress. It's a very different story arc, for a lot of reasons: urban fantasy, a single, first-person POV, and the nature of the story being told. I'm really enjoying it, as I've mentioned before, but it's also a lot of work to figure out how I want this to take shape, how the pacing is working. The pacing is probably the most difficult piece to judge because narrative and action can slide in a first person POV, I think. Still, it's going well.

The revision of Dew is going great; I'm about halfway through the manuscript. There weren't nearly as many big changes to Abass's POV as I remember, although in part that's because I'd already gone back and done some. I'm working my way through Ilahe right now, and then I'll have Siniq-elb. After this, I'll send it out to my readers, get their feedback, and then I'll do a few more fine-tuning passes. But so far, the revision process has gone very smoothly, and I look forward to getting feedback from other people on the project.

Other than that, not much has happened, aside from my enrolling myself on Goodreads (mostly so that I could get Fold Thunder off of the other Gregory Ashe's page--who would have thought there were two of us?). Find me over there, if you'd like, but so far I haven't added anything but a link to the blog.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Indifferent and Voice

So, as I briefly mentioned in a previous post, work on Indifferent is going great. It really is! I think part of it is that it's a new project, and there's always something really exciting about starting something (I've talked a little about this before). Part of it, though, is I'm just thrilled with the way the voice has come out for the MC of Indifferent. I imagine that most people would classify the genre of Indifferent as YA, and since that seems to cover such a wide range of types of stories, that's fine with me. I'm just thinking of it as a normal story, though, with a teenage protagonist. Part of what's fun about that is being able to write in a version of this world--using tropes and elements that are shared across a lot of people. It's a very different experience from writing in a created world, and while I love world-building and creating new places and people and cultures, there's something I really enjoy about writing in ours as well (so it turns out!).

This is related to the character's voice, of course--a lot of what defines him is his ability to see things that are common to all of us, but experience them in a different way. In part, this is due to some tragic circumstances in his life; in part, because of his magic; and in part, just because of who he is. Regardless, it's great fun, and I think makes for a very engaging story.

Revisions on Dew are underway; I'm perhaps a quarter of the way through the first pass. Right now, it's mostly major things, as I've said before, but if I catch anything small I go ahead and fix that too. Later passes will be for grammer, spelling, continuity, etc.

And of course, Fold Thunder is still free on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, et al., so if you haven't had a chance to pick it up, do so now! I don't know how long Amazon will leave it there for free--the most frustrating thing about Amazon is their lack of transparency. Still, it's a great help to have the book there for free. Over eight thousand people have downloaded it in the last few days, and here's hoping that more will continue to download and, more importantly, to read it.