Vacation fly-by: More revision notes

I’m still going through In My Blue World and making notes on what needs fixing. There are two MAJOR fixes to be made: one, that I need to change the POV to omniscient 3rd person, and two, that a number of sequences need to be pasted together. It’ll be a big undertaking that I won’t be able to start for another week or so, which of course is making me twitchy.

On the plus side, the story itself is solid — it’s tight and there aren’t that many holes and continuity issues I need to fix. It’s only the prose (and the first chapter or so) that needs cleaning up. And the cover is already done! I’m still aiming for an October/November release at this time. *crosses fingers*

So…what about the Apartment Complex story? Good question. I’ll still be working on that when I can and take my time, as I purposely haven’t assigned a drop date for it. [There is also the cover art issue, but that’s another post entirely.].

Okay! Back to work…

Working vacation: editing notes

Aah fudge. In My Blue World is gonna need a lot of work after all, isn’t it?

Well– maybe, maybe not. My opening chapters are always a hot mess. It’s definitely going to need a lot of TLC. From what I’ve seen up to about 3/4 through, it gets much better as it goes along.

Also: it’s stupidly HOT here in London. Thankfully our room has great AC!

Fly-By: two novels, finish my blueprint, begin my beguine

nowhere man typing

Yeah, I know, I used that subject line about this time last year.  I have a good reason, though — I’ve been quite busy this past weekend, attempting to get In My Blue World revised, create the freebie postcards for it (and get them ordered), and also go see Yellow Submarine at the Castro Theater!  I couldn’t pass up seeing one of my favorite movies from my childhood at a local theater I’ve been wanting to go to for ages.

On the plus side, I’m still relatively on schedule with this novel, which makes me happy.

Oh — and I may be making some pre-writing notes for a future Mendaihu Universe story that I will most likely start writing later in the year.  As if I don’t have enough to do right now…

See you on Friday!  🙂

On Self-Publishing: Creating Book Covers

050418 shutterstock outtake 1
Picture credit: Shutterstock/Jose AS Reyes.

I’ve said it before, I love doing covers for my books.  It’s another creative avenue that I get to play around in that I don’t otherwise have much time for.   Every now and again I’ll go through my own pictures and create one just for practice.  [I’ve even come up with a few pseudonyms for certain styles; for instance, all my fake mystery novels are all written by Chase Johnson, and my fake lit-fic and women’s fiction is by Joanna Chase.  Why? Because it’s fun!]

I’m still sticking with the above image for In My Blue World, so if I’m going to use it, all I need to do is purchase the rights from Shutterstock, fiddle around with it a bit, slap the title and by-line on it, and call it done.  I still use Adobe Photoshop to crop it to the right size and adjust the image.  (I’m probably going to lighten it a bit so the title and by-line will pop out more.)  And I still use the PicMonkey website for the text.  Sometimes it takes a short amount of time, sometimes it’ll take a few days before I get it to how I like it.

One thing I’ve learned from doing covers — aside from enjoying the process immensely — is that I should always make sure the cover ties in with the novel in a specific and important way.  It’s not enough to get a badass lady with a katana on the cover…there has to be a reason for it.  In this case, I chose this cover for a few reasons:

–The first half of the novel takes place in forest land.
–I didn’t want the girl to be in an Attack Mode pose, but an I’m Ready for This pose.
–I didn’t want her clothes to be stereotypically frilly or flashy (or steampunk or goth, for that matter).
–I wanted there to be at least some hint of blue sky in the background.
–It needed to have a decent amount of space for the title; in this particular instance, I like how the text not only balances it out, it intermingles with it.

This is also why I used the cover for Meet the Lidwells! that I did; it was a straightforward concert poster-stapled-to-lightpost image that is pretty much universal for any band starting out.  They say that the cover often pre-sells the book, especially if it’s eye-catching enough from across the sales floor (or legible in thumbnail online, for that matter).  Don’t think of that as needing a flashy action shot, or a crafty written-in-chalk image.  Look at other covers you thought were innovative or creative.  Look at the ones that made you stop and pay attention to it; then look at the cover as you would a piece of art…why did it make you stop?  And how can you use that on your own covers?

Just like my writing, my cover art has changed and evolved and advanced, little by little.  The more I practice, the more fake covers I make, the bigger my portfolio that I can use later on if I so choose.  And I would like to expand on it as well; for the Apartment Complex story I’m thinking about commissioning an artist — specifically a webcomic artist.  I already have a few images in my head that could work.  I’d still do the text, but I’d like a unique image this time out.

I know there’s a lot of self-publishing advice out there stating that you should never do your own cover, but I’d probably amend that: don’t do it if you don’t want to do it, or if you don’t have the ability.  On the other hand, if you have the artistic chops?  Go for it!  It’s a hell of a lot of fun and you can get really creative with it.

Deadlines and Detox

dragonball fight
If only I could deal with my deadlines that way…

Hey all!

As you’ve noticed, it’s nearing the end of June and I’m ever so slightly off on my deadline to get In My Blue World finished.  And I’ve already decide that I’ll be spending most of July revising said novel and preparing it for self-publication.

Which means that I’ve decided to put myself in Do Not Disturb status on social media.  Or as I often call it, detox.  I’ll still be posting here at B-Town and over at WiS at my normal schedule, so never fear!  You’ll still be getting all the twice-weekly blathering I know you all enjoy from me.  I’m just going to be hiding from Twitter and Facebook for a while so I can focus purely on the novel revision and not get distracted.  Especially given the news cycles lately, it’s probably for the best that I back away from the fires and keep a cooler head while dealing with this deadline of mine.

Wish me luck!

As If I Don’t Already Have Enough to Do…

ghibli poppy hill shun
Source: From Up on Poppy Hill

I was looking through my two blogs and I realized that a lot of the subpages — the links, the Buy Stuff and Newsletter pages in particular — are woefully out of date.  I haven’t touched them for at least seven or eight months.  And to add to that, I haven’t set up a newsletter in probably well over a year.

That’s gonna change.  Not right now, and not overnight, but soon enough.  Over the course of the next couple of months I’ll be updating those blog subpages and restarting a newsletter.  That will most likely be a monthly thing, a cross between a link aggregator for my blog entries and any news and upcoming events, and maybe a special passage or two.

So how am I going to update this?  Good question.  Between finishing off a novel, writing a second one, revising that first one, heading to the UK for a week and a half in August and following that up with Worldcon — not to mention juggling all that with my Day Job — I’m going to be ridiculously busy.  But I think I can do it.

It’ll take time, and I’ll probably be exhausted by the end of it, but I’ll do it anyway.  Because come on — I’m trying to be somewhat professional here, folks!  I can do better than the bare minimum here.  Y’all deserve it.

When Distraction Is a GOOD Thing…?

anime-pull-yourself-together

The downside to having a full schedule, especially when multiple social events are added to it, is that physical and mental exhaustion (and maybe illness) can sometimes kick in, screwing things up even worse.  Right now I’m trying to fight off a sore throat and exhaustion from too many things going on over the last few week.

That’s probably the best time for me to remind myself: It’s okay to take a day or two off from writing, you know.   Or even more importantly:  It’s also okay to call in sick to the Day Job now and again…that’s what your sick days are for.  Between my stubborn will to keep to my writing schedule and my Catholic guilt for not letting my coworkers down, I can be my own worst enemy sometimes.

Sometimes all I want to do is play an entire afternoon of PC card games, watch silly cat videos, and noodle around with my mp3 collection.  Is that too much to ask?

Well, no, not really.  I’m not on a strict writing deadline.  I can afford a day off from the Day Job now and again.  As long as I don’t make it a habit.  I can — and should — take a day or two off from reality now and again.  I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m jealous of those people who spend the entire afternoon binge-watching TV series or playing video games.  Why shouldn’t I be able to take a day off as well?

As long as I get back on track once I’m recharged, right?

anime sleeping
COME ON LAZYBUTT, WAKE UP YOU’VE GOT WRITING TO DO

Don’t forget *not* to write

pbc reading
Souce: Polar Bear Café

I know, I know, I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s always worth repeating, because we writers are often our own worst enemies.

Sometimes I get so into the groove of writing or revising one of my projects that I just keep going for weeks on end, and let other things fall by the wayside.  Which is fine, especially if I really want to make a significant dent in my progress.  Thing is, sometimes I do this for a little too long, and I’ll either burn out or I’ll lose track of other important things.

So this past Saturday, instead of doing any writing, we went on a short road trip down the coast to Half Moon Bay for brunch and a little bit of shopping, and followed it up with watching the first two Star Wars prequels.  We hadn’t seen The Phantom Menace since it came out, and neither of us had seen Attack of the Clones.  [Our post-movie thoughts: TPM had promise but suffered from horrifically bad dialogue and lifeless acting; AotC was miles better and actually quite enjoyable, if overlong and with a few questionable plot choices.  We plan on watching Revenge of the Sith sometime this week.  Noted, we’re watching these for a panel we’ve devised for BayCon in a few weeks!]

Taking a day off from writing is always a good choice, for multiple reasons.  One, every now and again it feels good not to have to worry about hitting a self-imposed deadline or word count.  I’m allowed a fun day off now and again, right?  Two, this is a perfect time for me to switch from Writer/Editor Brain over to Reader Brain.  Time to kick back, enjoy a story.  Be moved or inspired by a novel or movie.  Three, I get to be social with other people, including my wife.  Four, it reminds me that even though I might find the writing process thrilling and immensely enjoyable, there are other things out there that are equally as enjoyable.  Like going to the local zoo!

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Well, hello to you too!

I think I’ve managed to get the the point in my life where I’m okay if I take a day off now and again.  Writer that I am, I’ll most likely still think about whatever I’m working on, but in a passive way, making mental notes for later.  It’ll still be there when I get back in a day or so.

In My Blue World: Rough Draft Opening

madoka magica miki
Source: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I’ve been writing the first complete rough draft of In My Blue World in short daily bursts of around a thousand words on 750words.com over the last month and change, and I’m actually kind of impressed at how far I’ve gotten in such a short time.  After writing various disconnected scenes earlier in the year, this is my first start-to-finish attempt.  There’s still a lot more to go, new and old scenes inserted, as well as revision, but I’m quite happy with it so far.  If I plan this out correctly, I might have a new book to push by the time Worldcon rolls around!

Meanwhile, here’s Take 2 of the opening of the story.  Hope you enjoy it!

***

I’d been looking forward to this vacation for months, and now that it was here, it occurred to me that maybe I should have been better prepared for it. I had on the wrong pair of hiking boots and my feet were aching something fierce, and they we had a mile to go before we reached the cabin. I’d also made the mistake of taking the newer backpack, which ended up being slightly bigger than expected, and its corners were digging into my kidneys.

Not that I was going to let all that ruin their time at our grandmother’s cabin, of course. Once we got there, we could kick off their shoes, relax in one of the deep chairs on the open porch, and do absolutely nothing at all. After four months of dealing with online clients and impassive management, it was high time for me to forget about the goings-on in the world. Me and my sisters had planned this trip to the cabin since late last year, and now that time was here, and I wasn’t going to let anything ruin it.

The path loomed ahead of us, a slow but seemingly unending incline heading up the side of the mountain. To one side were the steeper foothills, and to the other was a gentle slope downwards to the large lake in the valley. Even though I should be watching my step and keeping an eye out for any unexpected animals popping out of the brush, I couldn’t help but glance leftwards to the lake. I’d been camping down there as well in the past, spending hours in the water, swimming with her family and friends.  We’d be making multiple trips down there in the next few days.

Grandma’s cabin, on the other hand, was equally as fascinating. About halfway up the mountain, the path leveled off at a meadow, with a few wooden cabins lining the edge of it, just inside the tree line. There was always something mysterious up there. Grandma Patricia always kept weird things there, things from her old life as a hunter. She’d taught all three of us girls, showing us how to catch, clean and cook fish and fowl and other things that ran around these deep woods.  We knew how to survive in the wilderness for the next few weeks.

That tear in the universe, though…that was definitely unexpected.

“Dianaaaaa…” Katie whined, dramatically dragging my name out.  “Are we there yet?” She made a production out of slogging up the final hill towards the meadow, dragging her feet and hanging her head.  She hung onto her boyfriend Greg as if he was the last shred of life force left in her. Greg said nothing, but I was sure his eyes were rolling right then.

“Almost,” I said.

“You are so lazy,” Allie laughed, hitching up her backpack and darting up the hill with a renewed burst of energy.

“Stay close!” I called out, but it was no use. When my youngest sister set her mind to it, there was nothing to hold her back.  In the process I sped up my pace to catch up. Katie responded with another groan and trudged along. “Allie, how many times do I–”

“Oh, wow…”  Allie had suddenly stopped short. “What the heck is that?”

My heart jumped, thinking she’d just found a dead animal, or worse, a sick animal, and sped up to join her. I sidled up next to her and stepped out just a tiny bit ahead, her hand out just in case. “What did you see?”

She pointed in a vague direction of the path ahead. “That! What is that?”

“Where? I don’t know where you’re–”

“That… shiny thing.”

I glanced up the path again, and sure enough, she could see something flashing. Something small but bright. A reflection of sunlight against something, perhaps? Even Katie and Greg had stopped to take a look at this point, and neither was quite sure what they were looking at.

“That’s too bright for a reflection,” Greg said. “Unless it’s a mirror.”

Katie shook her head. “That doesn’t look like a mirror. That–”

Her words were drowned out, as the air as torn in two.

The point of light sputtered and sparked to life, becoming as bright as the sun. I shielded my eyes and swore, blinking away tears and pulling my sisters back. The point of light began to grow; it expanded from a point to a line; a thick line of light, dripping with god knew what kind of plasma energy. And it wasn’t a smooth expansion, either. It was jagged, as if it was hacking away at the air and hitting resistance. Each time it ripped upwards, another growl of thunder filled the air.  It expanded until it was human height, and stopped.

The silence was terrifying.

Then the girl stepped through the tear, screaming unrecognizable words in a strange accent. She held a glowing sword in her right hand and a thread of green light in her left palm.

“Ah!” the girl cried. “Krozarr!”

The wisp of light in her left hand burst into a bright green sphere, and she pushed against the tear. Pushed down on it with all her might.  She growled more words that we couldn’t understand. The tear responded with just as much resistance, though it was no longer thunder… it sounded like heavy boulders sliding against each other.

Finally, with a final push, she closed the tear she’d just made and all was silent once more.  The girl shook the globe of light out of her hand and it dissipated. The tip of her sword dropped to the ground. She stood there, panting from exhaustion.

She turned around, and saw all of us, watching her.

“Aahyeh…” she breathed, and gave us a weak smile.

Then she fainted.

Creating Rules of Magic

madoka magica homura
Source: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

One of my favorite things so far in writing In My Blue World has been creating the rules of magic in this universe.  It’s very similar to the process I used when I wrote the trilogy, and it asked the following questions:

  1. What kind of magic do I want my characters to use?
  2. Why would they use it?
  3. What are the limits of its use?

Sounds simple, yes?  But the trick here was to remember: every use of magic must have its reason, and it must have its balance.  In the trilogy, every time Denni used some kind of psychic force, she had to do it for a reason (usually to protect others), and it had its balancing effect (Saisshalé would respond in kind).  This was to show that there was always a price to pay for their actions.

For In My Blue World, I essentially follow the same rules: Zuzannah (aka Zuze) comes from a universe where magic is a natural occurrence and is used in everyday life.  What kind of magic do I want her to use?  She uses this magic energy equally as a creative and destructive force; one of her abilities is to make ‘a tear in the weave’ of the multiple universes so she can jump between them, but for every tear, she must also ‘reweave’ it.  Why would she use it?  She uses it to temporarily escape from a stronger foe.  She also uses it to return and face him once more, when she is more prepared.  What are the limits of its use for her?  Weave-tearing is an extremely rare ability and uses up a hell of a lot of power in the process.  She only uses it when absolutely necessary.  The level and process of magic she’d used in her initial escape was so high and unfocused that it rendered her unconscious for two days.

Using these rules helps me focus on how the plot should unfold.  When she’s in the reality of our other characters, her magic is still there but it works differently.  When she returns to her own universe, her original powers return.  The other characters are also given the same rules: they are introduced to this magic as well, but with their own costs specific to them.

This is why I say that this kind of worldbuilding is often my favorite part of writing a novel.  It’s not just about coming up with neat ideas that I can play around with throughout the novel — though that is a major plus and a hell of a lot of fun — it’s about laying the groundwork for how everything works.  It’s a balance in and of itself, and quite often it suggests more of the plot than you initially expect.