Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rejection Collection

Here's a great post from the blog of Stephen Parrish. It basically lists a number of famous authors and works, and the ludicrous number of times many of their works were rejected before going on to become massive bestsellers. So if you've got a nice little pile of rejection letters, as I do, don't let that alone stop you. Maybe your prior works just weren't quite ready for prime time, maybe the industry just wasn't quite ready for your book, or maybe it was just dumb luck that passed you over. There's nothing to do but keep at it, and if you start feeling too down on yourself for being rejected, just look at Stephen's list again. You're in excellent company.

On Outlines and Revising

I saw this post over at The Incurable Disease of Writing today. It's called "I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; I stumbled when I saw." The post itself is a reaction to an interview in The Writer, and I have to say that I could not agree more with the original interviewee or Missy from The Incurable Disease. I don't have much to add to her post; you should just read it for yourself.

I will say, though, that I treat anything as an absolute. I do plenty of research and character design and worldbuilding and so on -- both before I ever start writing and consciously as I go -- but my initial outline is never even close to how the book comes out in the end. The characters always take me in unexpected new directions, and new ideas occur to me all throughout the writing process. And yes, I find it impossible to move on if my previously-written chapters have not been edited to some fair degree. Sometimes there's nothing to do but just plunge ahead with nothing but a long-term plan, good worldbuilding, and strong characters -- in such situations, the characters themselves will almost invariably show you what their story will be. And, you know what? I think that's how important parts of the most unique stories come about.

Friday, July 27, 2007


A few weeks ago, a client told me about a program called Mozy. It was so inexpensive ($5/month) that I signed up right away, and I've discovered that this program is really a terrific value. It was recently featured in PC Magazine, I'm told, but I haven't subscribed to that particular publication for a number of years now (too consumer-oriented; I've gotten so I much prefer TechRepublic).

I did a popular post on Data Loss and Backup Solutions a few months ago, and I think that this particular product is an excellent solution to the backup issues I outlined before. This is very similar to the more-expensive tools from Connected TLM that I have used in the past, but this tool is much simpler and more cost-effective. They even have a version that is completely free for up to 2GB of data, which should be more than enough if all you're looking to back up is your writing materials. I have a a lot more data than that to back up (58GB for now), so I'm doing the paid account. If you don't already have a backup solution (or aren't happy with the one you do have), check this one out and see what you think.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lucien's Story

I've been finding myself very stuck with ALDEN RIDGE lately, and this past week I've hit a point where I realized I just needed to set ALDEN RIDGE aside for a bit. A number of life events, some of which I mentioned recently and others of which I don't care to mention right now, have certainly helped me fall into a non-writing rut, but even back in early May when things were easier I was having trouble with this particular story. It's told from the perspective of multiple protagonists, and though it is "dark fantasy" it is still more than a little off the beaten path for my normal writing genres -- that's both good and bad. Variety is good, but being in unfamiliar territory has been slowing me up and giving me a lot of issues to consider that just wouldn't come up in a genre/writing style I am more used to writing in.

A new idea for a story set in the world of THE GUARDIAN has recently come to mind, and in light of these troubles with ALDEN RIDGE I've decided to pursue that for a bit. It's actually something of a prequel to THE GUARDIAN, and adds a number of exciting new elements to the mythology of that world. Right now I don't have a true title for the book, as it is still in pretty early form, so I'm just referring to it as LUCIEN'S STORY. Lucien is the protagonist, who lives about in Ivoria about 10,000 years before Sean Sunderland (the protagonist of THE GUARDIAN) is born.

Now, this isn't to say that I'm giving up on ALDEN RIDGE. It will take a whole lot more planning before I can even start writing LUCIEN'S STORY. I'll be working on both books at once, dividing my attention however my attention wants to be divided at the time. Right now I'm a bit burned out on ALDEN RIDGE, and LUCIEN'S STORY is still new and exciting, so I'm solely focused on the latter. I have a feeling that will change over the next few weeks, as I rekindle my enthusiasm for writing through this new work. Once I've got a little bit of distance from ALDEN RIDGE, I'm not as likely to feel like all my eggs are in that one basket, or that I'm in some sort of rut or that it's bad that I'm off doing something outside my usual specialty.

I've been warring with myself about making ALDEN RIDGE more traditional-fantasy-like, or adding more elements of Science Fantasy, but that's counter to my original vision for the story and I keep having to make myself not do that. I want this story to been broken-earth fantasy, with some elements of magic but not in a reassuring way. This is a world of fear and supernatural darkness, and frankly it can be hard for me to exclusively inhabit that world for months on end. If you were to pick up the book, it would only take you a few days at most to finish it, and there wouldn't be any problem. In most respects, writers like Stephen King are far darker than I am, anyway, and it's not like that has hurt their readership. But as a writer, while I truly want to produce a work like ALDEN RIDGE, it's not my "bread and butter" and so I find my thoughts turning to my world of Ivoria again. Indulging my hunger for visiting Ivoria should actually make it a lot easier for me to finish ALDEN RIDGE in a timely manner, with all its original darkness and spareness intact.

Hopefully the two stories will feed off each other -- when I hit a block with one, I can just divert attention to the other. I've read of various professional authors who do this, Orson Scott Card chiefly among them. I've long thought that this is how I would like to handle things if I were writing full time; writing something off-beat (for me) while at the same time continuing to service my core worlds. I hadn't thought I would do this unless I was able to make writing my full-time job, but seeing as I'm not writing much at all these days, I feel like this tactic will get me out of the rut I've fallen into with ALDEN RIDGE.

Of course, now I'm tempted to tell you more about LUCIEN'S STORY, but there's quite a lot I can't say. I will say that this story tells of the beginnings of Ashmedai, the lord of the demons that Sean Sunderland struggles against in THE GUARDIAN, and also Arc, the vampire who aids Sean. LUCIEN'S STORY is actually set back when Ashmedai and Arc were both human, before demonkind had even appeared. I also get to explore how the links between Ivoria and our world (the real world) first came about, back when Ivoria was free and still fairly advanced, and yet people in our world were barely learning agriculture. The story will be told in third person, but will follow Lucien about as closely as THE GUARIDAN follows Sean Sunderland. The other two most notable characters in this book will be Morgan Reed and Vincent Valerian, Lucien's two closest friends and companions.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Fear not, there will be no spoilers here. I know that it seems like everyone in the world is reading Harry Potter just now, but I haven't yet had the heart to look out into the news and blogosphere to find out what everyone else thinks about this last installent. Truthfully, I don't really care what anyone else thinks: to me, this was the last great book in a great series, and Rowling's best yet (The Goblet of Fire and The Half Blood Prince were previously my favorites of her work).

The day before the last book's release, I saw blog post from a reviewer at The Guardian, and they were really smashing Rowling's writing in prior books. The only specific complaint leveled at her, however, was her use of saidisms, which is currently very un-trendy. Personally, I think if that's the most serious complaint you can give to someone's work, that's really saying something.

But I know how people can get when something is this popular. I actually avoided reading the Harry Potter books until the fourth one came out (and then I started at the beginning and read all of them). I myself tend to think that anything wildly popular can't be good (and I'm often right), and so it took years of prodding by my wife and other members of my family before I consented to read the books. But once I did -- wow. I'm a huge fan of Rowling's genre, and yet I've never read anything like her books before.

I was less captivated by the first three books in the series simply because they are not as deep as the later ones, and because they are clearly aimed at a younger audience. Not to say that I wasn't captivated to some degree, or that I didn't enjoy them, but for me they failed to reach the level of personal connection that the later books evoked. Reading the Deathly Hallows, I found myself utterly in its grip, and the sadness that I feel at its close has, for me, only ever been evoked by three series before: the original Ender Quartet, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Dark Is Rising Sequence. Maybe The Chronicles of Prydain as well, but it has been a long time since I read those books.

Were there things that could have been handled better in Rowling's books? Yes. Undoubtedly, yes. There are things that could have been handled better in all human works, no matter how venerated. With older written works, such as Shakespeare's plays, we may be too culturally removed to see the seams in the writing, but I feel certain that the great authors and playwrights saw them in their own works. What author doesn't see the seams, however minor, in even the greatest that they have created? The only way authors become great is by seeing those flaws, and overcoming them.

Whatever her detractors may say, whatever they may point out as failings in her style, it is clear to me (and many others) that J.K. Rowling will be remembered as one of the great masters. There is a universality, a depth, and a poetry to what she has created that I am certain will endure. I look forward to sharing these books with my children someday, and I am certain they will find it curious how their parents remember the times when the entire world was caught up by the tales of Harry Potter all at once.

These are some of the happier thoughts that I have now that I have followed Harry's story to it's amazing close. These are the thoughts that battle with my feelings of loss, now that yet another great tale has come to an end. Whenever a series like this concludes, it is as if all breath is stolen from my body, and life seems shallow and pale. It is as if someone very close to me has died, quite frankly, because I know that I will never read anything new about Harry or his friends ever again.

If there is one true complaint that I can leverage against the end of this series, it is that I would have liked a little more closure between the last chapter and the epilogue. I would have liked a little more chance to say goodbye. But, after all, it isn't really goodbye, is it? Harry's world will live forever, or at least longer than I will, and I can experience his first day at Hogwarts any time I like simply by going to my bookshelf.

And yet, right now, all I am conscious of is that his world is now closed to me. All I have left are moving photographs, a pensieve full of rich memories. In a few days, or perhaps weeks, I will be able to feel that this is enough. But at the moment, I must feel that something very special has been taken from me. So bravo, Ms. Rowling, for in my mind this is the greatest achievement of all literature: You have created a world so compelling, so robust, that readers like me find their very selves entangled in the stories you weave. Harry Potter has changed me, like so many others, and for the better. My greatest hope, not just as a writer but as a human being, is that I may someday create something that will do the same.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Blogger Reflection Award

Many thanks to the very humorous and insightful Stephen Parrish for tagging me with the Blogger Reflection Award, which is, as he notes, not so much an award as a gesture. Still, it's nice to hear that one's blog has been of value to someone (even if it's not updated as often as one would like recently).

Now it's my turn to tag, so here goes (in no particular order)...

- Stephen Parrish himself is the funniest and has the most-interesting-topics-I-wouldn't-otherwise-read-about.
- Anne Mini is the most knowledgeable person on everything writing that I know. And she shares her knowledge for free! Amazing!
- Colleen Gareau (through her blog) has taught me more about Canada than I ever knew before, including an number of things about Canadian politics and civil rights that I might never have encountered before (since I live in the USA).
- Karen Mahoney (who has only recently left livejournal for Blogger, so has few archives at the moment) is by far the most refreshing aspiring writer's blog that I've found. She undergoes the same trials and tribulations as the rest of us, but her posts generally try to find the positive in these things, and she is frequently insightful. Just check out her recent post on Writer's Block if you aren't convinced.
- Jamie Boud is the only diary-style blog (about nothing in particular) that I read. It's a really good read (and the pictures are routinely excellent as well).
- Rachel Vincent is the most interesting new-author blog that I read at present. It's exciting and informative to see how her career is progressing.

Of course, there are many other blogs that I read and enjoy, time permitting, but these are just a few highlights (out of those that don't belong to agents).

Monday, July 9, 2007

Wherefore art I?

No, I'm not dead. A confluence of life events this past month has pretty much wiped me out, though, so that blogging has been a bit less of a priority. I don't care to go into specifics, but at any rate the normality of life has been interrupted by a few family medical emergencies, several large batches of new work at my day job all at once, and also the Independence Day holiday and the attending family visits. Some good stuff, some bad stuff, a large amount of stress from various items, a smaller amount of relaxation to recuperate.

That's largely what the art I've been doing over the past few weeks was all about; relaxing my brain. As a writer, you'd think that I would find writing relaxing, that I would find my solace from the world into escaping into the worlds that I create. I suppose that's partly true; certainly, if I stray away from writing too long, I get really antsy to get back to it. But in truth, I don't think that any career (or hobby, or anything else) should dominate one's entire life, or all of one's leisure time. That seems to be the impression that a lot of writers give on the Internet: that to be a successful writer, you must let writing consume virtually your entire life.

I posit that this is not true. Certainly, you must be prepared to let writing consume virtually your entire life on occasion--say, during revisions, or at the end of the novel when things are really flowing fast or a deadline is looming. That seems quite reasonable to me. However, keeping that mad pace (or anything close to it) up at all times seems to me to be, well -- mad. As writers it is expected that we have stories to tell, things to write about. In order for that to be true, I should think it an obvious corollary that writers must thus have lives of their own; after all, if most of their life experience comes from reading and writing alone, they aren't likely to produce much that is startlingly original.

Perhaps some of you will read this as a long-winded excuse for the fact that I have not written anything new for about two weeks now. Feel that way if you must, but someday I hope you'll find that you are able to take long breaks of your own. It will do you good, in any endeavor; any ruts you were in before the break, you'll tend to break out of. I've also been doing a lot more reading over the past few weeks, since I haven't been so busy writing. Harry Potter has been the order of the day for most of this time, as I'm rereading years four through six in preparation for the fairly imminent release of the closing seventh book. Despite the differences that some take with her style, I must say that J.K. Rowling really is an incredible writer and storyteller. You might not think that there's much I can learn from Harry Potter for a broken-earth zombie novel, but there certainly is . . . .

At any rate, before my life-imposed writing hiatus, I had had a number of breakthroughs on my manuscript. Aside from greatly expanding my second chapter, I've also now greatly expanded my first. The new opening that I have provides a little more depth, and is significantly less teaser-ish. I'm very excited about it. At some point in the next month or so I'll post the new versions of both chapters on my website, but I'm going to wait until after I've let them sit a bit longer, and until I've had a chance to get a bit more outside editorial feedback.

I've also made it about two thirds of the way through chapter 10, so that's some progress there. The planning and writing of the first chapter additions was a major hangup for me for a couple of weeks, so that really stunted my other progress as I wrote three different new openings before I found one that I liked at all (and that one I loved). I've had about enough editing for at least a few weeks, at any rate, so this week I'm going to get back in the saddle and write some new content--finish off chapter 10 for sure, and hopefully get a good ways into chapter 11.

So that's the news from my part of the world; I apologize for not responding to comments as much as I normally would have lately, and for not posting comments on everyone else's blogs. It's just too time consuming at the moment. I am still reading all my regular blogs, however, and I've been enjoying hearing how all of you are getting along (quite well for the most part--bravo!). Until next time . . .

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Numerous New Art Pieces

I've been doing some new artwork this weekend and this evening, in some new programs. The first two below were done in the (free!) Personal Learning Edition of Vue 6, a pretty incredible program that I'm just now discovering. Those forest scenes that were such a bugbear for me in Bryce are incredibly easy in Vue--and the atmospheric effects of Vue beat even Terragen 0.9, which is saying something. The latter two (abstract) images were done in Apophysis, an awesome freeware fractal flame generator. I actually did a fair bit of post-render editing in Photoshop for both of those images, but I never would have been able to create effects like that by hand alone. If you're into digital art, I highly recommend you take a look at both these programs!

Here are the new pics:

PS: I'm also on deviantART now.