Things and Stuff

sweeping

I seem to be in one of those moods again.  You know the ones: where suddenly feel the need to change everything up, try something new (or bring back something old after I’ve freshened it up a bit).  I think it’s because I’m on the back end of the Colossally Long and Really This Shouldn’t Have Taken This Damn Long project of releasing the Bridgetown trilogy.  I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks quite sunny out there.

Which reminds me — the layout of this blog is rather dark, isn’t it?  I mean, I like the look of it myself, but I feel the color scheme is starting to outgrow its usefulness.  Book 3 is starting to kick up dust on the horizon on its way towards release (still looks like it’s going to be either very late this year, or possibly early next year, by the way things are going), and it’s got a much brighter outlook.

I’m thinking that in the next few weeks, I may change up the site here, make it a bit more warm and inviting.  I’ve got the next few weekends wide open, so maybe some Sunday I’ll pop in and open up the shades!

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scully

I read a lot of webcomics first thing in the morning while having my breakfast and booting up the Day Job laptop, and I’ve noticed a very weird trend.  In particular, it’s a trend dealing with the balance between the creator’s vision versus reader expectation.  I first noticed this during my weekly reading of the Naruto manga series as it was being uploaded to various comic sites, in which a certain subset of fans were getting increasingly upset that the creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was driving the plot where they didn’t want it to go.  A few fans ragequitting the series towards the end (which was nearing 700 chapters by that time!) in protest.  Others going on lengthy Tumblr diatribes as to why Kishimoto was flat-out WRONG for writing his story the way he did.*

Fast-forward to the other day, when two webcomic artists, Mildred Louis (Agents of the Realm, a wonderful take on the magical girl trope) and Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life, an incredibly inventive supernatural/horror story) both started tweeting about readers who have recently contacted them, either through DM, site comment or email, letting them know how much they like their work…except that if you fixed X, Y and Z, and did A, B and C instead, it would be so much better.**

Dude.  Really?

I could never quite understand why some fans would do that, especially to creators who are releasing their work on their own and not through any publisher or production company. Would you contact your favorite band’s lead singer on Twitter or Facebook to say you loved the new album but Track 6 sucks ass because it’s a bit too long and someone hit a bum note?

Why would you cross the line from appreciative fan to self-appointed Subject Matter Expert on someone else’s creation?  Why would you want to?  There’s obsession (like my discography completism, for instance) and then there’s obsession (NO NO! You can’t write *my* babies into a corner like that!!), and the second kind is really kind of creepy.

I’ve seen writers get this a lot too.  I’ve gotten it a few times.  Well-meant criticism, but really…it’s our creation, not yours.  We’re trying to tell you a story we think you’d enjoy.  You’re like Vern from Stand By Me, continually interrupting Gordie’s story about Lard-Ass Hogan and just pissing everyone else off.

Constructive criticism isn’t always about saying ‘you did X, Y and Z wrong; here’s how to do it better.’  It’s definitely not about saying ‘this wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be written, therefore it’s wrong.’  And despite your apparent knowledge about what makes a good story, you’re forgetting the most important part: you’re speaking from opinion, not experience.  Your criticism isn’t helpful; it’s coming across as pedantic and selfish.

If you’re a professional editor at one of the major publishing houses?  If you’re a pro artist who’s worked on your craft for years?  Sure, that’s different.  We all like hearing from the pros on what we can do to make our creation that much better.  But if you’re just a Fan With A Very Important Opinion, not so much.

I know, I know…touchy subject.  Just something I had to get off my chest.

* – Never mind that Naruto is, obviously, a Japanese story on numerous levels, and so the storytelling, as well as the character development, is going to be quite different from expected American storytelling norms.  This seemed to be the one major point that the most vocal of this subset would often forget or ignore in their arguments.

** – I’m well aware that this could be mansplaining.  Louis and Lepas didn’t explicitly state that’s what it was, so I’m not going down that route here, but it would not surprise me if that was part of it.  And yes, I have seen it thrown at both male and female creators.  Still, if it was mansplaining, that’s not cool either.  It’s not well-meant criticism.  You’re just being a douche.

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kermit typing

WHAT IS MY NEXT WRITING PROJECT?  I can year y’all asking me that through the intertubes (mainly because you’re about as sick as I am with me blathering on about the damn trilogy).  I’ve got it narrowed down to three projects:  another novel in the Mendaihu Universe, the time-travel idea I’ve had for some time, or the music-related novel I outlined a short time ago using my daily words.  Each of them has merit, and I’m pretty sure the latter two will have a much quicker turnaround than the first one, so it’s still up in the air.

I’ll be making a decision quite soon, so as soon as I’ve made the decision, I’ll let you know.  One of them may actually involve some reader participation of some kind, and I’m really looking forward to trying to get that to work.  We shall see!

Until then, hope everyone has a gook weekend!

I Won’t Share You

The decision to pull out of a writing project is a strange one.  It’s never a knee-jerk reaction.  More often than not, it’s a laborious, emotional, drawn out process.  All kinds of questions arise, whether it’s worth soldiering on or cutting losses.  The feeling of frustration and irritation due to wasted time.  And even the relief (and the guilt of feeling such, despite the decision) when the deadline is no longer hanging over the writer.

I say this now, as I seem to be on the fence on a current long-term project at this time (don’t worry, it’s not Mendaihu Universe related).  I won’t go into detail just yet, as I’m still debating on what move I’ll take, but suffice it to say, the end result is different than what I’d expected it to be.  It’s starting to feel less like a publishable book and more of a private ‘vanity’ book…something that would appeal to me, but probably not to too many others.  Will I finish it?  I most likely will, given that I’m close to the end of the initial rough draft anyway.  I just may not self-publish it.

It’s a tough decision, and one I’m not taking lightly.  It’s not exactly frustrating that it may take this direction…just that it feels weird, signing off something that had potential at one point.

So, fellow writers….ever have this quandry?

Time is Against Me Now

This always happens, damn it.  I give myself a reasonable, decent timeframe to finish the line edit for The Persistence of Memories, and something comes along and says “OH HEY You need to get this done first, there’s a couple of errands you also need to do outside the house, and oh, by the way, Day Jobbery has been busier than usual, so chances of you sneaking any writing in during the day is slim to nil.  Oh, and remember those blogs that you ignored all weekend because you were too busy shopping and doing housework, and watching the new X-Files episodes?”

Grumble grumble whine whine.

But you know, I’m not going to let it get to me.  This has happened enough times that the most I can do is work around it.  I’ve read too many blog writers and webcomic artists that have this same issue, and that’s all you can do:  soldier on the best way you can.  I say this, as it seems my original schedule has gone a bit wonky.  I’m pushing the release of The Persistence of Memories out a few more weeks, mainly because after this line edit is done, I’m going to need to give it another surgery.  It’s great as it is, but it’s still far too long at nearly 169k words.  That’s actually about 15k more than A Division of Souls.  The response to that book, by the way, has been quite positive, except for the words no writer really wants to hear: it’s too long.  And Book 3 is even longer than Book 2, which is not a good sign at all.

But!  But!  It’s a piece of art!  You’re supposed to savor the pace both when it’s fast and slow!  Why does no one understand my genius?

Heh.  Yeah, right.  More like, “….Oh.  Yeah.  Huh.  You’re right, that bit’s pretty sluggish.  I should definitely speed it up.”

The thing with self-publishing is that you’re going to see it, warts and all.  The original 150k version of ADoS is still out there as an e-book and a trade until I get around to re-editing that.  On the one hand, as a writer, I feel like a failure because I put the book out there well before it was completely ready, and now No One Will Ever Trust Me as an Author Ever Again.

On the other hand, I can just get back on the horse, fix what needs fixing, present it again, and move on.

Whatever works, kids.

 

Granted, I’m also giving myself quite a lot to do in the next six months.  Editing and revising books 2 and 3 in the trilogy, as well as writing Walk in Silence.  My original plan for WiS was to have it released in April, but due to the trilogy editing and re-editing, work has been embarrassingly slow on it (about 2 handwritten pages a day, which really isn’t much).  I’m thinking that one will end up being released during the fall semester.  I’m okay with that…as long as it’s done by some point this year.

And then, maybe, finally, I’ll be able to work on new stuff.  Maybe.

Busy, but productive!

Hiya!

Thanks for your patience…I’ve been all kinds of busy doing too many things as of late, but thankfully a handful of said things have been writing related!  To wit:

The line edit of The Persistence of Memories is about halfway done.  This one’s taking a bit longer than expected, but I hope to get this one out sometime early in the new year.  It’s a bit longer than ADoS, but it’s actually shorter than it once was thanks to some heavy editing.

The cover for The Persistence of Memories is still in debate phase.  So many cover ideas, but none are gelling just yet!  The three books have a color theme:  ADoS was to indicate late evening, thus the city glow.  TPoM is to have a much darker cover, signifying past-midnight; The Balance of Light is to be brighter than the other two, signifying morning.  I’ll have a few outtakes for you in the new year once I have more of a solid idea!

The physical book for A Division of Souls should be ready by January.  This one’s been tough, as I had to wait for A. to finish reading and suggest any edits, plus there’s a lot of weird formatting bits that I had to work my way through.  Thankfully I’ve figured them out, so at this point it’s a matter of doing the edits and uploading to KDP.  As an aside, the new (non-format) edits will also make their way to the e-book as well for consistency.

Longhand work on Walk in Silence continues apace, a few pages at a time.  Okay, this one has morphed so many times since its inception quite some years ago, but I’ve finally got it anchored.  This version is most likely the latest and last version.  It’s not exactly the nonfic book about 80s college radio that I’d originally envisioned (that may be a future book), but that music is still the main backbone.  It’s now become a memoir of sorts.

The new (still as yet untitled) Mendaihu Universe story got a reread recently.  It’s got some really good ideas, but it’s still very spotty.  Once I’m caught up with all my other projects, this one gets shotgun.

 

So yeah…all this on top of the usual fourth quarter Day Job silliness and other personal events going on.  It’s slow going, but I’m getting there! 🙂

All Kinds of Time

[One of the best songs about football, hands down.]

The problem with Football Season is that it gives me one more reason to be distracted from my writerly duties. Not that I need more distractions…I already have the music, the social media, the Day Job, and everything else! Still, it’s a pleasurable distraction; as with music, I have it on in the background while I’m working on something else, glancing up at the screen every now and again when someone scores or executes a brilliant play.

Time can be tricky, especially when you’re attempting to balance the finite amount we’re allotted with the infinite number of things you want to use it for.  I dedicate eight hours a day to my Day Job (I try to avoid overtime, and for the most part it’s never needed anyway), but during my breaks, I will sneak a few writing things in.  During my 9:30am break, I’ll sit on the loveseat across the room and write an entry in my daily personal journal.  During lunch I’ll read my writing magazines.  During the afternoon break I’ll catch up on emails and whatnot.  And on the rare occasion that I have a slow day, I may even work on a blog post.  After we both log off, we head to the YMCA and work out on the treadmills for a bit, and have dinner soon after.  This gives me a few hours at the end of each day, purely dedicated to my writing.

As said, the tricky part is what I should be working on, and when.

The thing about being a writer is that you most likely have about three or four different projects going on at the same time, each at various levels of completion.  My current status involves the following:  A Division of Souls is out in the world (yes, even at Amazon now — the physical copies are coming soon!), I’m currently working on the final edit of The Persistence of Memories, I’m writing the new Mendaihu Universe novel longhand, I’m carving out weekend time to pick Walk in Silence up again, and I have a few other fiction and non-fiction projects simmering on low heat in the back of my brain.  And that doesn’t include my daily personal journal, weekly blog posting, popping up on social media now and again, and other non-writing things such as guitar noodling and songwriting.  And there are things that keep getting put on hold, such as doing the daily 750 Words, my artwork and the Drunken Owl music recording project.  So much to do, so little time.

See, this is why I have the whiteboard schedule.  I haven’t been following it as of late due to the massive editing sessions for the Bridgetown Trilogy, and I think that’s a fair enough reason for putting everything on hold as of late.  I don’t mind, because releasing the trilogy myself demands a lot of time and dedication, and I’m not about to do any of it half-assed.  But now that the Big Release date has come and gone and that I’m letting it slow-simmer a bit while I figure out different ways to have fun with its promotion, I find myself with a bit more time on my hands.  Which means my week or so of relaxation and mucking about online must come to a close.  It’s time to refocus and dedicate the time that I have to what I want to get done.

Still, that’s not to say I’m not about to miss out on watching some football this season!  I may be busy, but I’m not about to let that get in the way of having fun as well!

On Writing: Point of Viewpoint, Or Different Mindsets for Different Styles

You’ve heard me (and other writers) talk about being ‘in the mood’ or ‘in the right mindset’ to write whatever projects they’re working on.  In the past it’s ended up being a crutch; I’d waste a good twenty minutes digging through my music collection trying to find the perfect album to listen to for a particular writing session.  I used to be really bad with that, but I’ve gotten better.  Most of the time now I listen to whatever newer release I happen to have close at hand, or if a specific album if I want to give that one another listen.

Actually, this post isn’t about that.  It’s about something I was subconsciously aware of for years, but just recently started monitoring, and it’s kind of interesting.  At least to me, anyway.

This one’s about where my mind is while working on whatever project I have in front of me.  At present I’m letting my imagination run rampant within the confines of my created world for the new Mendaihu Universe story…I picture novels as one long story of character evolution, where the the only rules are that nothing remains static and that consequences just as important as the actions.  I tend to let myself get well and truly lost in my created world; that is, ‘lost’ in the sense that if my brain suddenly and unexpectedly comes up with a doozy of a plot twist and I know it’ll work as part of the whole, I’ll let it take center stage and not hold back.  I think of it as writing for an audience of myself, though with full expectation that others will want to read and understand it as well.

Writing nonfiction is somewhat similar, only the boundaries are much tighter…at least that’s been my experience with Walk in Silence.  The focus is on the subject matter’s evolution within the confines of reality…thus imagination is reined in considerably, only given to the prose itself.  This is also true with my blog posts.  Not counting the more personal entries over at my LJ where my writing is more freestyle, I try to give my writing at least a little bit of professionalism.  When I’m writing nonfiction, I’m writing for an audience other than myself.

Poetry and song lyrics are a different beast, where I tend to be more emotional with my style.  I started writing poetry and songs back in my late teens as a release, but also as a playground for words, where I’d let myself come up with odd metaphors and weird imagery.  There’s really no rules here…I just riff it from start to finish.  This stuff is totally a personal indulgence, though I’ve been told by listeners that my Flying Bohemians and jeb! lyrics were pretty cool, so I’m fine with that.

The fascinating thing is that, now that I’m working on the new MU story, writing blog entries and (soon) working on Walk in Silence again, I find myself conscious of how my mind will shift from one style to another.  It can be tricky, especially if you have a lot of disparate writing ideas milling about in your head, but after all these years I’ve managed to make it work.  I think part of it is what I call the ‘going in’ phase of the session.  For instance, if I’m about to write the MU story, even before I put pen to paper I’ll start thinking about the characters, get in their heads and emotions for a few minutes to remember where I was.

[Noted, this is where the writing session soundtrack often comes in, and why I’m often a sucker for a certain mood in the songs.  The music helps me set the tone of the section I’m writing.  This is also true for nonfiction, or at least with Walk in Silence; for that I’m actually listening to the music I’m writing about so I can connect with the subject more clearly and emotionally.]

I think now that I’ve made sense of how my creative mind shifts from project to project, I’ve become better at giving each project a tighter focus.  I know how I’m doing it, so I’m less worried about whether or not I’m doing it right…as long as I’m doing it my own logical way, then that’s all that matters.

On Writing: Where Do I Begin?

Begin at the beginning.

Select an idea, any old idea, and riff on it.

Let the idea sit there and marinate for a while; let it solidify into something worth writing about.

Outline, outline, outline!

Let it bleed out of you; don’t stop to fix it, revise it later.

I’ve heard all kinds of suggestions on how and where to begin a new project, and in the back of my mind I’ve been thinking about how and where I’ll be starting up the next Mendaihu Universe story.  I’m still working Walk in Silence as my main project right now.  I’m also creating a story out of my daily words (currently called The Lidwells Story), so it’s not as if I’m hemming and hawing and not getting any work done.  The new MU story isn’t exactly top priority at the moment, but it’s in the back of my mind, poking me like a five year old every now and again, begging for a scrap of attention.

The trouble is that I’m really not sure where to start with it.  I have a few very vague ideas of characters and plot points, but nothing solid.  It’s not severe trouble, though…I have to remember that The Phoenix Effect started out almost completely from scratch as well, and I had maybe five or six scenes tops in my head.  I have to remember that I had two plans when I began it: 1) write a new novel, and 2) use the idea of human spirits coming from somewhere else.  That’s it.  Nearly all of the scenes, plots and subplots, and character evolution I wrote in that book I came up with while writing it.

So really–the trouble is not where to start the story, but where (and when) to begin writing it.  That is: prioritize projects. Don’t worry about the new MU story just yet–don’t worry about the plot or the characters, or even the theme at this point.  Finish WiS and the Blogging the Beatles projects, and continue submitting the Bridgetown trilogy.

It’ll come in time.  I’ll know when I’m ready for it.

20 years 5 months 18 days (give or take)

Some of the original notes from 1993.
Some of the original notes from 1993.

That’s a hell of a long time to be working on a novel, don’t you think?

At 11:18pm PT last night, I completed what I call the Great Trilogy Revision Project, a major overhaul of all three novels in the Mendaihu Trilogy.  Entire scenes were rewritten, edited mercilessly, tightened up, names changed and characters strengthened.  It took the better part of fourteen months and I kicked my own ass numerous times to avoid laziness and weak prose; I read, reread, re-reread, and re-re-reread (sometimes while at the gym!) until I knew the story, its history and its cast inside and out.  And I read it again to make sure I knew where it worked and where it didn’t.

Today marks the first day in probably a decade or so where I have no plans to work on the existing novels or work on anything related.  [Mind you, I definitely have plans to work on future Mendaihu Universe stories, just not at the moment.]  In my mind, this epic project is DONE.

Notes made while doing laundry, October 1993.
Notes made while doing laundry, October 1993.

In late 1993, I’d just watched the first two Gall Force animes (I’d find the third movie a short time later) and found inspiration to write what I often call my Infamous War Novel, or IWN–my first novel from my high school years–in a completely new style I hadn’t tried before: science fiction.  I wrote a few notes in a steno notebook while waiting for my clothes to dry at the Charles Street Laundry, and came up with a number of ideas that I could work with.  I’m amused by the first line saying “VERY ANIME”, as well as the consistent anime references on that one page.  As if I knew what the hell anime was at that point in time, other than my latest obsession!  All I wanted to do was write something that was totally unlike American SF at the time.

Did I know what the hell I was doing?  Probably not.  I was woefully ignorant of genre fiction other than through movies, comic books and Japanese animation.  But I was willing to learn along the way.  I understood right away that storytelling in Japan is significantly different than storytelling in America, and I wanted to try my hand at writing that way.

Soon after, I did what I normally do when I come up with story ideas: I draw maps.

The original Bridgetown Sprawl as of November 1993
The original Bridgetown Sprawl as of November 1993

I knew I wanted a few things: a sprawling metropolis, a giant tower (hints of the GENOM Tower from Bubblegum Crisis), and a megacity so packed with different places and cultures that I knew I’d be able to use the setting for multiple story arcs.  Bridgetown morphed and grew considerably and exponentially over the years, but there are points here that made it all the way to the finished product in one form or another.  Sachers Island, Branden Hill Park (named Johnson Park here, but pretty much in the same shape), the warehouse district,  and the dirty and dangerous strip of McCleever Street were there from the start.

Vigil, Take One.  Started 26 November 1993, 8:51pm ET in my shoebox apartment.
Vigil, Take One. Started 26 November 1993, 8:51pm ET in my shoebox apartment.

Where to start, indeed.

My primary aim when I first started this novel was to write something totally unlike anything I’d written before.  I wanted everything about this project to be completely new for me–an untried style, a setting I’d never ventured through, a plot that challenged me to work it through to the best of my ability.

Granted, I was far from perfecting that, but I was going to try anyway.  Vigil–so named after this band of rebellious misfits bent on saving the world from corruption–was started on the Friday after Thanksgiving 1993, after getting off work.  I’d had a few ideas written out here and there, but this was where it all started.

True Faith–the aborted rewrite from summer 1994–would grow out of this, introducing the spiritual background.  The Phoenix Effect, the project from 1997-1998, grew out of TF and introduced the alien races. TPE in turn became the trilogy after a complete restart from scratch.

So for all intents and purposes, Vigil was the version that started it all.  And now it’s done.

Any author will tell you that they have a hard time letting go of their projects, even once they’re completely finished and on their way to publication, and I am no different.  I’m sure I’ll want to pick these three books up again and tinker with them some more.  I’ve already got Book 1 out to a publisher, and am ready to take the next steps to shop it around and even get an agent if need be.  I’ve also debated self-publication as an alternative.   It’s a wide world out there, and I’d like to introduce you all to the Mendaihu Universe someday.  On this evening, I’m finally that much closer to doing so.

But for now?  I think I’ll do what I haven’t done since I started writing the trilogy proper, way back in 2000:  I think I’ll let it sit awhile, and let it age gracefully.