Barb Tarn, curator of the Sci-Fi July Redux bundle (ten books for $7.99 – a real deal), interviewed me for her website. Thanks Barb.
It’s great to promote the bundle (there are some bestsellers in there – with my little book sandwiched in between Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch – both major bestselling authors), and nice to talk about myself in a, hopefully, coherant way.
Book bundles are a great way for readers to pick up books by authors they love, and find some new authors along the way. It will be available for a limited time (I don’t know the end date, but there will be one), so grab it while it’s available.
My novel in the bundle, Raven Rising, usually retails for $5.99, so picking it up in the bundle is good value for money. The bundle is available directly from BundleRabbit, but also from Kobo, Amazon, B&N and Apple
The blurb for my novel goes like this: Light years from home, Starship Raven went down in an impossible blazing wreck. Crack investigator Angelie Gunnarson and her team love this kind of impossible mystery. But the Raven might have more secrets than even Angelie can handle. An action-packed short sci-fi novel from the award-winning author of The City Builders.
It was a fun novel to write, and I hope to read. It’s great to get it out there in the bundle for a bit more exposure.
And thanks for the interview Barb, and for selecting my book for the bundle.
“And we’re back! Different authors, different books, but still here to entertain you through the summer and beyond with some neat space opera!
What you will find in this bundle: clones, FTL drive, mystery, bodyguards, conspiracies, romance, nanotechnology, space colonies, seeders, mercenaries and bounty hunters, alien empires, starship battles, space pirates, skymining operations, robots, generation ships, breeding experiments, starships, adventures and other space trouble with aliens and humanoids alike!
Ten novels, some longer, some shorter, of space opera and adventure.”
In the meantime, I’ve updated the cover layout of the novel from its version on Bundlerabbit. I’ve had a little advice on design, and reviewed a course I did a while back, and also am working on adapting to changes (not that I’m ever a good example of someone who adapts well to change) – such as the size of my name on there.
I’ve also tinkered a little with the blurb for the novel.
“Light years from home, Starship Raven went down in a horrific blazing wreck. Crack investigator Angelie Gunnarson and her team thrive on these kinds of impossible mysteries. But the Raven might have more secrets than even Angelie can handle. An action-packed short sci-fi novel from the award-winning author.”
The bundle is available for $7.99 from usual retailers. A pretty good bargain for all those books.
This year my writing is progressing a little faster than in previous years. I’m writing with a pulp kind of attitude. Proof-reading, correcting grammar, but very little in the way of revision (I did switch around two clauses in a sentence because they were simply clunky, but that’s about it). My stories seem stronger for it, and I’m learning much more about getting things right as I go, rather than thinking about fixing things later in editing. My stories, I’ll admit, are raw and unwashed, but I’m writing from a creative bent rather than letting my inner critic take over. Are they perfect? Unlikely. Are they fun? Well they’re fun to write, so I hope they’re as much fun to read.
It has taken an effort of will to let spontanaity and energy rise over searching out every little thorn. I guess this is overcoming years of workshops and courses where I’ve critiqued and been critiqued.
If you want a more articulate explanation of this approach, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an excellent article on perfection on her website. The comments following give a lot of credence to what she has to say.
With this approach to writing, how can I then presume to tutor in a course that espouses “writing is revision”? It sounds a bit two-faced. Well, part of it is that the course is an introductory paper where students are learning elements of the craft such as voice, detail, character, structure and so on. Another part is that students have the option to revise their story or to write a complete new story if they feel they can use the feedback more effectively that way. Overall it’s more about story craft than it is about endless revision.
I remember my early days of writing when I would enthusiastically write a half a story, with nowhere to go. Or have characters who went through the motions, rather than seeming to live beyond the page. I would revise and revise, change and cut, add new sections, remove characters, move commas, change “OK” to “Okay” and what-have-you.
I’m not against revision. I’m a fan of John Irving, who writes his novels from finish to start, and then works through polishing them and working on the language. His books are a delight to read and I can see all the work that has gone into them.
These days I tend to write with the ending in sight. Sometimes in the course of the story it might veer off toward a new ending, but by the time I’m veering, a new ending is well-within sight. In many ways it all suits the kind of adventure fiction I’m interested in writing anyway.
In all likelihood I’ll never truly master all the techniques – lifelong learning and all – but my writing efforts are focused on working on the next story out of what I’ve learned from the last. There is a place for subtle, nuanced literature, and I hope that I come close on some occasions, but for now I’m not heading back to polish the energy out of pieces. I’m not likely to hit perfection, but I will continue to aim for writing good stories that will engage and entertain readers.
I read a great post on writing by Rachel Aaron recently – how she focuses her writing time to get concentrated results with a mix of tracking her productivity (word counts), knowing what she’s writing and writing enthusiastically – read the post if you’re a writer, it makes for interesting stuff. I’m partway through the first of Rachel’s Eli novels – The Spirit Thief – and enjoying it.
Rachel also has a post about her thoughts the Taleist survey of self-published authors. Her post was interesting, and for a moment I almost considered buying the survey to get a sense of my own efforts – after all this is a business and the survey only costs $5. Except then I read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Not a real survey” post on the Taleist document, and then the comments following that. Well – completely the opposite take. I’d had a sneaking suspicion that the survey might not be quite up to par, and her overview (and the comments) breaks it down neatly. Too many holes. Still, sometimes you’ve got to dig through a lot of dirt to find any gold.
Well, I knew this day would come and I’ve planned for it, I just hadn’t been sure that I’d be quite as far ahead of my writing goals, nor that I would be able to time the beginning of tutoring to fit with exactly what I’m writing. (I tutor in, you guessed it, creative writing).
I’m deep into the next novel (well, 18,000 words), but took a break a couple of weeks ago to write some short/long stories. I should finish the third of those today or tomorrow, then I’ll go back to the novel. That novel will be in three parts, with a long passage of time between each (the first part set in 1996, the second – which I’m about to start – in 2002, and the third will be current), so a break at the end of the first part feels healthy: the characters will have developed and that break should give me a slightly different perspective.
For the next four or five weeks I won’t be able to keep up my 1000+ words a day as I’ve been doing all year (actually much more on average, my lowest daily count was 1010 words, highest over 5500 – the total is just on 130,000 for the 75 days of 2012). It’s going to be hard to slow down, I think, but will likely help with the novel – it might be a little more considered and evenly paced. 500 a day would be nice, but it might be more like 250. Still, that’s about a page. I definitely want to hit 150,000 words by the middle of the year, and do think that with the breaks in tutoring it will be quite possible. It would be good, I think, to get this novel finished by then, and be thinking about the next one.Oh, plus a couple of stories in there too.
On the reading side, I’ve just finished Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s City of Ruins – a sci fi adventure following on from Diving into the Wreck (and numerous stories). It was a fun romp. It seemed to start a little slow, but picked up quickly and became utterly compelling. I’m looking forward to the next one in the series – (Boneyards) – which is actually already out.
Now I’m finally picking up John Irving’s Until I Find You, which somehow I missed reading when it came out. I loved Last Night in Twisted River which I did read when that came out over a year ago – actually one of my favourites of his. I expect I’ll enjoy this one. I know I’ll be reading it slow (see notes on being busy above), but actually, that’s just fine.
Lately I’ve been following the blogs of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith – if you’re a writer, you should be following them too: filled with wisdom and great ideas and, wonderfully, they do not suffer fools gladly. They are husband and wife, and run WMG publishing, and used to run Pulphouse publishing. They blog about the publishing industry, and sometimes seem to contradict each other (Smith says he can’t see a reason to hire a professional editor, Rusch says go ahead and get one), which is fine, I’m gleaning gold from both. My novel is getting professionally edited, but I’ll stick some stories up from having a single reader and a proofread.
Smith is doing a challenge this year to write and publish 100 stories. He writes them, proofs them and publishes them. I’ve bought and read the one of them (so far) – “On top of the dead” – and it was pretty good. Not perfect, not gemstone polished, but it was a story and, seriously, I enjoyed it and was engaged from start to finish. Isn’t that what counts? The study guide I teach from states that the fiction’s only rule is that it must compel the reader.
When I was interviewed by Shells Walter earlier this year, I was asked about my advice to beginning writers. I said that your first draft is not good enough, probably not your second draft either. Now I think I’m inclined to agree with Smith, though with a caveat – Smith is no beginner. He’s published around 90 novels, over a hundred short stories, teaches and has run publishing businesses and worked as an editor. I guess he knows his way around stories. Something he’s noted is that students don’t necessarily improve their stories on the second and third drafts, and often make them worse (I’m paraphrasing here, but I don’t think I’ve misunderstood – though don’t quote me as having quoted him). On occasion I’ve noticed that with my students, though that said, sometimes the final story for the year is a much improved version of the original.
So, should I edit this blog post, or just let it out with a simple proofread? What, you saw a typo?
From time to time my stories can be dreadful. I don’t need a reader to tell me that. I put them aside, come back and really they’re not working. I rewrite from scratch. Now, that usually works and I get something I’m happy with – Where there’s water took a couple of runs at before it was working. A current story – Sleeve Tattoo – is at a second draft stage and I know there will be wholesale deletions, some extra bits to write and so on to make it work. Other times I do write quickly and the first draft needs tightening, proofing and seems ready to go. Back from Vermont was like that. So was Deadstick. Both got published out in the real world. One of the keys is to know when it’s just not working, and I’m still learning that.
I’m not that much younger than Smith and Rusch, but certainly by comparison I’m a fledgling writer (though my first publication was more than 20 years ago, and I have published over 100 stories, I’m still earning a living from tutoring and librarianship). I’m learning lessons and growing as a writer. With my new publishing venture – Triple V Publishing – I’ll start electronically republishing some stories that have only been in print anthologies, and then, taking a lesson from Smith, perhaps start writing and publishing stories right away.
Deadstick – the first Triple V story, will be out soon. It was one that was written fast – over a couple of weeks – and came out pretty much how I wanted it, with a few changes (though in it was originally conceived as a fairy story, it became dieselpunk – more on that closer to release).
Thursday, reading for writing post, and I find I’m torn and distracted. Another review book arrived over the weekend, but I’d already started Diving into the Wreck and I tried to put it aside, but it’s too compelling and the review book is, well, less-so. My compromise at the moment is 50-50, so I’m progressing through both slowly, brakes on for Wreck, pushing through the other (which is by an established, prize-winning, well-regarded literary writer, but a bit too conceptual).
So I’m still only halfway into Diving into the Wreck, but it’s too clever and well-constructed already so I just have to blog about it. It does have an intriguing structural element that I’m not sure will resolve – the first third feels like a separate adventure to the next part. Certainly it is setting up what is to come, and did leave me wanting more, but the ideas and characters are engaging, intriguing and deftly handled.
Rusch’s reputation in the field is huge, and, yay, she has sold a new book in the same universe, which should be out next year.
Friday update: okay, can’t stop reading this – really this just cements advice that you shouldn’t try to read two books at once, alternating is too confusing. I finished part two, and of course, consummate novelist that she is, it does link back to part one, much better than I’d expected.
Saturday update: well, I’m nearly finished Wreck and it does make sense. Sure the structure felt odd (and I’m sure would still even if I hadn’t been tried multi-booking), but it fits and fits well. I’ll probably finish it tonight, then return to the review book. I like deadlines (gotta have this review in by May 5th), but perhaps get a little hung up on them – there’s plenty of time to finish Wreck, read the other and write the review. I’ve already been researching the author (which is fine, non-fiction biography is a different kind of reading) and have drafted some of what I’ll write in the review anyway.
Sunday update: okay finished now, it all makes sense, it all works well, actually better than I had expected and it’s great: I really have to recommend this book. Now, on with the review.