Thursday, February 28, 2008

Writing Lessons From Skipping the Middle

I was having a real problem with a middle scene in That Roman Story Set Entirely in Greece. Basically, I just flat out didn't know what I wanted it to say. It was one of the scenes that describes the 'why' of the other scenes. All this stuff is happening and the reader is being taken along for the ride but I always want some kind of revelatory scene in which the characters come to a sense of completion with the story. You know, the 'why.' Anyway, the scene was refusing to shape itself and I wrote a couple of weak attempts but wasn't happy with them. Then I decided to skip it and write the last scene. That's when it gelled. That's when I figured out what the middle needed to say. So when you're stuck with a scene that just isn't working, skip it and write the next scenes. Something will bubble up and answer the questions you couldn't answer before.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gardens of the Moon Review

I finally finished Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson.

Short Review: Very Good

Long Review: This book started out with an intriguing storyline and lots of good epic fantasy stuff. Then the middle happened. More and more characters got introduced, some of them irritating and many of them seeming so similar that I couldn't keep them straight. There's lots of stuff in the middle that could have been chopped out. But that's OK because then we get into the endgame and everything heats up. The characters that you've begun to care about start doing the things that heroic fantasy demands that they do. It all comes together in a satisfying conclusion and I'll continue reading the series, which is the whole purpose of a first book anyway.

The major problem that the book has is what I shall call 'excess fantasyisms.' There are so many races and magics and gods and things-more-powerful-than-gods and Important Fantasy Style Names that it really does stretch believability. I think the only thing that saves it it that it is so overdone you just accept the mental beating and convince yourself to enjoy it. Oponn, the god of luck, messing about with your scheme to rule the world? No problem, I've got Shadowthrone and his Hounds of Shadow to take care of that. Shadowthrone too much for you? Fine, I got myself a Tiste Andii lord with a Sword of Souls to bitch slap him. Not enough? How about an ancient Jaghut Tyrant brought back to life? Whoops, dude be outta control. Now I needs me a clanless T'lan Imass warrior (300,000 years old mind you) to put the smack down on him. But wait, that's not all. Just for giggles I'll have the Adjunct to the Empress raise up a Galayn Demon while the Queen of Assassins, who's also a High Mage by the way, murders the local Cabal with Dragons fighting over the streets of Darujhistan and a previously unknown but extremely handy Azath grows the Deadhouse and saves the Coin Bearer.

Good stuff.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Or: How to Get to Daegu in six easy steps.

1. Plane to Hawai'i. Make sure it's running late and in danger of getting fogged in.
2. Rental car to Camp Smith. Stop at Jack in the Box. Get some field gear. Go back to airport.
3. Plane to Incheon. There's just never a way to make eleven hour flights feel good.
4. Bus to Yongson Garrison, Seoul. Wait around for mass confusion to settle itself out. Sleep in very cold tent.
5. Bullet train to Daegu. This was the best part of the journey. We got up to 180 mph (that's like, I don't know, 10,000 kilometres per hour or something) while shooting through the Korean countryside. I'm generally opposed to any form of mass transit but this was cool.
6. Mini-van to Camp Henry. Daegu drivers make New Yorkers looks sane and friendly.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Witch of the Westmoors

I've turned my flash fiction piece into a first draft and it is now going through the reality check process where I find out if it's as good as I think it is or if it sucks. It has been titled "The Witch of the Westmoors" and the setting is quite some time past the events in Raven Kill. It has all of the good stuff that made Raven Kill such fun to write but I can't give any more details until the first story is published. The countdown for that is still continuing and the anthology Return of the Sword is still set to come out on March 15th. Next thing on the list is to finally finish That Second Roman Story Set Entirely in Greece. (Since I am typing this post while sitting at the Honolulu airport on my way to Korea for a few weeks, I have plenty of time ahead to do it.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Shadow and Night

This month's book tour covers The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley. This is mostly a science fiction tale with strong elements of fantasy and of course with a Christian message. What strikes me as most interesting about the book and the entire series is how mankind seeks peace and harmony yet cannot seem to gain it. But what if we did? How long would it last if it is built upon the knowledge of Man alone? (The answer, for those of you slow on the uptake, is not too long.) It is my contention that peace and harmony would either dull our senses and allow evil to slither through society at will or it would have to be imposed upon us by removing all traces of freedom. Since either option is bad, I must stand strongly against Peace and Harmony. Long live Strife and Discord!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Where Did I Put That Doggone Drawing Board?

"Such Great Faith" has been rejected again. Haruah declined to publish it and sent some comments from the slushpile readers that were interesting and pointed out some things that had slipped by me. (In other words, some of my assumptions were incorrect.) I'm thankful for their input and have some thinking to do about this story. It started as an experiment to see if I could artfully retell a bible story and focus on some of the other characters involved. I think I've done that but I knew from the outset that publishing it might be tricky. So now I think it will sit on the hard drive for a while until I figure out what to do with it. Maybe I'll put it on the internet somewhere and link to it from here. In the end, it is a story meant to point people to Jesus and after all, everything I do here is ad majorem dei gloriam.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Amazing Amazingness

Last night as I got ready for bed and was looking forward to surfing the net and otherwise wasting time instead of writing, I was struck by the sudden idea of a short follow up to "The Battle of Raven Kill." One thousand and four words later I had the workings of a solid little story. I only stopped typing because of two things. 1) Son Number Three was being brought in by Wife Number One and Only to be laid down in the crib at the foot of our bed, and 2) my laptop battery was running out. This morning I wrapped up the ending and came in at 1359 words. This is the fastest I've ever completed a story and its also a first because it's in first person. I can never quite keep a first person story going. I hate the limitations it places on me. However, this story worked well and everything fell into place nicely. I knew I was being verbose and I think I can get it down under the traditional flash fiction word count of 1000. Then I'll likely send it off to EDF.

It always amazes how the muse comes and goes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Writing Update

Busy week and weekend and now I'm in Kennewick on another sales trip. However, I did get a chance to try my hand at flash fiction this weekend. I put together a story of exactly 666 words in the rough draft (yeah, I thought that was interesting too) called 'Bleeding Grey.' It's a fantasy piece in the heroic vein that I currently favor. I'm not exactly sure if it fills all the criteria of a complete short story because right now it feels like quick scene within a larger work but at least I got through it.

In other news, That Second Roman Story Set Entirely in Greece still needs its last scene and I'm thinking about changing the direction I wanted it to go. That's next on the list to finish. Return of the Sword has its promotion page up and running and I'm excited to see how it turns out. Still no word from Serpentarius or Haruah regarding the stories sent to them. And that's it for now.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Destruction of Western Civilization

Subtitle: Not Just American Teens Are Dumb as a Box of Rocks.

This article is stunning in what it says about the British. Almost a quarter of them think Winston Churchill was a fictional character. Also, almost 60% think Sherlock Holmes was real. I love Great Britain and everything about it but this brings something to mind:

"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth should last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'" --Winston Churchill

Unfortunately, men still say that.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Return of the Sword

The ink is dry on the contracts and I'm very pleased to announce that my story "The Battle of Raven Kill" that had been accepted by Flashing Swords Magazine has now been scheduled to appear in their anthology, Return of the Sword. This book has an impressive table of contents and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. More information can be found here. RotS' editor is the very capable Jason Waltz of Howard von Darkmoor fame. He's been great to work with and is really driven to make this anthology stand out from the rest of the pack. And how can a cover like this above possibly fail!