Feedback continues to filter in for Cold Iron. It seems to be pretty positive, and I think I’m mostly at the ‘fussing’ stage of editing. Instead of worrying about big chunks of narrative or major character turns, I’m ensuring that spacing, spelling, grammar, and other tiny things are all in order. The time is fast approaching when it will be ready for public consumption.
To that end I’ve retained the services of a graphic designer. Now, I do have access to things like Photoshop. I can do some photo editing and image manipulation that produces passable to decent results. But there is no way I’m going to make my first true commercial fiction endeavor come off like amateur night. A professional photo shoot (which turned out extremely well, thanks to the talents of J.R. Blackwell) deserves professional design. I have a few tips on how to proceed after that process is complete, and I will admit to feeling a little nervous about the whole thing.
In the meantime, three major characters have been interviewed, an outline has taken shape, and soon actual prose for some science-fiction pulp-inspired adventure is going to start hitting paper. I may also start putting together elements for a Cold Iron follow-up (depending on how the rest of the test read process goes) and of course I’m waiting to hear back from Angry Robot on Cities of Light, which may get another round of edits & test reads regardless of what is said. So there are a lot of irons in the fire, as they say. Some loose ends to tie up. A few fingers in several pies.
I’m going to stop before I start mixing those metaphors.
At time of writing, the rewrite of Citizen in the Wilds stands at 50,230 spanning 17 chapters.
I’m roughly more than halfway done.
In addition to completely reworking the opening so it doesn’t suck, I decided it would behoove me to move some of the folks in the story away from traditional interpretations of fantasy races. In earlier drafts, they were elves and dwarves. It made sense to go with what I knew, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was doing myself a disservice in trying to make my world something special but making these races no different than what’s come before.
Acradea is a living, breathing world all its own. Its native races should reflect that. So elves and dwarves became Yusarulim and Vulumae. The Yusarulim, or Children of the Grove, blend in with the foliage and greenery of their home in the forests and jungles, protecting what wildlife and resources they can from human intrusion. Events have left their people a bit scattered, with the biggest enclave being the titular Grove that rests at the heart of what Citizens call the Wilds.
At first, Asherian saw nothing. Then he detected movement, sliding down the vast trunks towards them. The coloration and texture of those approaching was nearly identical to the tree. Others emerged from the bushes and ferns, fronds wrapping around slender limbs that looked so delicate, Asherian feared they’d break with the slightest pressure. Their features and proportions, while vaguely humanoid, unnerved him, from their long digits to their slanted, almond-shaped eyes. The more they moved from the trees and plants, the more they appeared to be clothed in garments bearing motifs of leaves and sky, rather than those elements themselves. Their skin tones complimented these patterns, some with dark skin to match bark while others were the color of a clear summer sky. They were all armed, some with bows or spears, and others with wickedly curved daggers. And they were all staring at Asherian, not saying a word.
The Vulumae, while more numerous than the Yusarulim, are actually more secluded, living as they do far beneath Acradea’s surface in Holds of various description. With magic outlawed and lacking open air in which to travel, they have developed a rail system spanning the planet. Their society is highly regimented and vigilance is constant, as many believe that their proximity to the depths of the world brings them perilously close to what is referred to as ‘the Deep Darkness’.
Where the Yusarulim are slender and graceful, the Vulumae are massive, tending to move with deliberate purpose. They’re not quite as tall as the Children of the Grove, but the Stone-Folk easily have half again as much mass as a human of comparable size. Their skin tones range from soot to marble to obsidian and granite, slowly becoming more and more stiff and immovable as they age. They have large, dark eyes, well-suited for dark caverns and caves, and where humans have hair, they have either ridges of darker color than their skin that somewhat resemble cornrows or braids on a human, or strands or ringlets of what would appear to be spun metal, copper or gold or silver to name a few. They move in battle as one, with towering shields made to lock together and provide space for their spears, becoming mobile fortresses dangerous to approach and fearsome to behold when they charge.
So there they are. I didn’t want to just change the names of the races to sound different. My goal is to have them be functionally different from what we’ve seen before in “fantasy” settings. There’s a lot going on with Acradea and its origins, and these two races are a part of that. It’s my hope that readers will find them interesting and they add to the tapestry I’m weaving in Citizen in the Wilds.
And I managed to avoid spoilers! Not bad for my first rewrite update.
Thought I’d change it up from the usual anonymous pen.
I’ve mentioned that I, like many writers, have difficulty focusing at times. I know that, in spite of the time occupied by the dayjob, writing must happen. I’ve been ramping up because of several projects I want to complete in the very near future and while I still don’t have a set schedule completely nailed down, I’m certainly closer than I was, say, in December.
I’m really glad I was able to submit a story for the upcoming Amaranthology. Just the possibility of sharing the same storytelling space with the likes of Chuck Wendig and J.R. Blackwell makes me incredibly pleased and more than a little scared of not measuring up. I’m going to make it a point to read more of my fellow anthologist’s works as well. Either way, it’s an honor and I can’t wait to see it in print.
I’m still looking for ways to weaponize make more of an impact with my opinions/reviews. I have an article or two to draft up and pitch to folks. The thing that trips me up, though, is all of the unfinished fiction sitting in my Dropbox. Can I really be both a geek journalist and a fabulist? Would it be better for me to focus on one and relegate the other to blogging? I’m not sure. It’s another one of those insecure uncertainties that bothers me.
Timeless Tales and Cold Iron are some of that aforementioned unfinished fiction. I mean, they’re both finished, but I’m not putting them out into the wild as they are. They need edits. Hell, they need editors. The shorts are being worked over somewhere in the dark corners of the ‘Net and eventually I’ll work up the guts to give someone the novella a solid thrashing. After that? Definitely some sort of electronic release. Maybe Kickstarters. They seem to be working out for people.
The big thing, though, is the Citizen in the Wilds rewrite. It’s daunting. I’ve already written the damn thing at least three times, trying to get it right. It’s like the Darth Vader of my writerly existence: I know there’s good in it. And after this run it may be worth something, at the very least submitting to publishers again. The thing is, fantasy fiction in general and young adult fantasy fiction in particular already has a bunch of Tolkien wannabes. Elves and dwarves abound. When was the last time something actually new was released into the wild? I hope I’m not alone when I think people want to see a new world, fully realized and filled with mystery, one that figuratively (or perhaps literally) lives and breathes. Re-conceptualizing the world, its inhabitants and the places and destinies of the characters I’ve thrown into it are why I’m rewriting it yet again, hopefully for the last time.
Send encouragement, Internet. I think I’m gonna need it.
Leave encouragement below, Internet. I think I’m gonna need it.
Even as I write this I’m debating putting it off. I need to go to the post office and the library, the little voice says, the blog can wait. Who reads this stuff, anyway? Oh, and it’s about time for a fresh cup of tea. Wasn’t scratching behind the kitten’s ears fun? Yeah, let’s do that some more, then sort some Magic cards. Screw the job search and the writing, that stuff’s just depressing.
Allow me to give that sentiment – and maybe yours – a mental steel-toed kick to its metaphorical balls.
I wasn’t a fantastic student in university. Of the many papers I wrote, only a few were heavily researched and edited before turning them in. Most of them were dashed off based on scribbled, Ramen-stained notes the night before. Still managed to pass, though.
Having milestones, deadlines and checkpoints always helps. They can be major or minor, but like achievements in video games, they’re something to work towards. Sometimes I’ll make it, other times I won’t. But how does one hone a work ethic when there’s no set work to be done?
You set the deadlines yourself.
And you stick to them.
A couple weeks ago I hemmed and hawed about my to-do list. Since then I realized I do, in fact, want to write a sixth story for my anthology. But Red Hood took a lot longer than it should have to put together and a little reading of Revenge of the Penmonkey (available on Amazon and Nook, review later this week, short version: YOU GO BUY NOW) helped me realize why. I’d given myself no deadline. I spent mornings on Monster and Jobfox and whatnot, letting the best and most active period of time for my brain dribble away in a drab, seemingly hopeless and endless search for a new dayjob while Unemployment jerks me around.
Resolved to fix this after last night’s unfortunate turn of events with Building New Worlds (reschedule pending), I jotted down some titles and dates on a Post-it and stuck it onto my desk, opposite my StarCraft 2 reminders and the big one saying I need to write 1000 words that aren’t in the blog every day. I consider that a bare minimum.
Now I’ll be doing it in the mornings because dammit, I have deadlines to meet.
Specifically I’ve given myself until the 11th to finish this last short story. I’ve set Halloween as the date to send the veteran his edited manuscript, and while that’s going on I have until Thanksgiving (almost two months) to tackle the rewrite of Citizen in the Wilds. And after that, Valentine’s Day 2012 is the drop-dead date to complete the first round of edits and second draft of Cold Iron.
See, the thing is, if you don’t establish deadlines, especially if you’re doing something where they’re not established for you, the ‘dead’ part of the word rises from the rest and may very well choke the life out of your endeavor. We get distracted. Important things get our attention. Kitchen appliances explode. Earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, smog. Cats rubbing on our shins. Spouses, too.
I’m not saying chain yourself to your desk, glue your wrists to the bottom portion of the keyboard and type until your fingers bleed. Unless you have to. What I’m saying is impose some sort of structure on what you’re doing. Make promises to yourself about the amount of work you’re going to do, and for the love of whichever muse you think visits you in the night to whisper sweet writerly nothings in your ear, do not break them.
When you do, it’s not the deadlines who have the upper hand. It’s you. And when the deadline arrives and your work is done, you’re the one pointing and laughing at the deadline’s postmortem twitches and spasms, rather than being the victim of your own procrastination.
The goal since I was about 10 has been, to put it simply, getting published.
Back in 80s, when this goal took shape fully in my embryonic little mind, getting published meant traditional print. Robert Heinlein, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Clive Cussler and Diane Duane got themselves ink in hardcover and paperback books. The Internet was an infant. Reading fiction on a handheld device smaller than one’s Trapper Keeper sounded like something out of Star Trek.
Here we are, in 2011. We’re still waiting for our jetpacks, but electronic word delivery is thriving while many traditional publication schemes are dying on the vine.
It’s still out there, to be sure. I’ll be shelling out for the next Song of Ice and Fire and Dresden Files books. But I’ve gotten caught up (mostly) with Chicago’s professional wizard thanks to the gift of books through the Kindle. And publishers like up-and-comer Angry Robot are on dual tracks of traditional dead tree formats and the shiny hotness of e-publishing.
I think it’s past time I shook myself free of the big-hair coke-sniffing Reaganite idea of only ever making it as an author if I get a book on the shelves in a Barnes & Noble. Sure, Starbucks is going to keep its live-in partner alive for a while but most traditional bookstores are really feeling the pinch. The Internet, on the other hand, isn’t going anywhere.
Yeah, he gave me another kick in the ass this morning. I’ve been wondering how exactly I’m going to juggle writing one novel and rewriting another and still have a shot of getting fiction into the hands of readers before I get much older. And then Chuck’s post underscored something that’s been staring me in the face: I’m sitting on a bunch of it.
What’s to say I can’t write one novel, rewrite another AND put together a short story anthology?
I know a few of these stories are available to you currently for free through the link above. Others have appeared before (or have been promised to – I’m looking at you, Polymancer). But the free fiction’s pretty raw. Like a bunch of carrots in the store, you need to wash them off and maybe take a peeler to them before they’re at their best.
In other words, I need an editor.
I’m also going to need a cover artist. Maybe a photographer, maybe a more traditional pen-and-tablet artist, but somebody with visual arts skills far exceeding my capacity to doodle is going to have to help me out. I’m not about to wrap up a couple stories in twine, dump them on Amazon and say “Here you go, suckers, buy buy buy!” I’d like to think I’m a bit more professional than that.
I have no idea how I’m going to pay these intrepid and conjectural helpers, but hopefully something can be worked out. If you’re reading this and want to help, let me know.
Finally, in this anthology-to-be is going to be one story never before seen. Partially because it’s going to be another of those odd hybrids of disparate genres, and partially because I haven’t written it yet. It’s my hope that this, coupled with revised & edited versions of previous tales bundled into an easy-to-read one-stop shop will give folks enough incentive to pick it up.
And in doing so, they might become interested enough in my voice, style or sheer insanity to want to read more, which is where the novels and future shorts will come in.