Tag Archives: writing process

Blue Defender – finally

Blue Defender CoverMy daughter has watched me writing up a storm for the last few years. Her question, why didn’t I write a story about her? Fair question. After all, shouldn’t she always be uppermost in my thoughts? How could I be writing about strangers?

A tricky thing that. How could it be done right?

Some writers I notice write real people into their stories. Clive Cussler mentions himself as a car collector or a marine archeologist in several books. One I recall the characters even had a conversation with Cussler. David Baldacci auctions off the privilege to have your name used as a character with the proceeds going to charity.

So, putting various concerns aside, I started writing. In secret. I did have one issue, being that I while I have a dedicated writing computer in a nook, I do spend some time writing on a laptop at the breakfast table.

Chances were, she would glimpse her name on the screen. So I changed her name in the manuscript for the duration of the writing of the book. Matti-Jay became “Bleu”, in part because I decided to title this secret manuscript “Blue Harvest“. Some of you may know that title as the secret working title of a well-known movie from last century.

So, in Blue Harvest, fifteen year old (yes I gave my daughter a few extra years – kids like reading about kids older than themselves) Bleu set about her adventures. When she was done, the magic of search-replace change Bleu to Matti-Jay.  The title became Blue Defender.

Next step: would she like it? To try it out, I formatted and uploaded it through my usual channels, and obtained a proof copy. When that arrived, it became our bedtime read for a couple of weeks.

I must have done a few things right, because the end of a chapter was frequently met with a “Keep going” (usually reserved for books like “Mortal Engines” or “Homeroom Diaries”), and the end of the book was met with “start writing the sequel now”.

That’s heartwarming for a dad, let me tell you. Better than any five star review.

Blue Defender is available as an ebook and in print through usual outlets. $5.99 for the ebooks. $14.99 for print.

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New Interview for Sci-Fi July Redux

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.

Bad Advice and knowing what’s coming next

blogtriteim1Seems to me that I’m spending all my writing time working to get over and unlearn all the bad advice from years (decades) of well-intentioned suggestions, poorly considered courses and lengthy apparently learned blog posts.
One thing that I just remembered was a piece of advice which went something like “Finish a writing session at a point where you know what comes next” and associated with that was one like “Stop halfway through a sentence. That way when you sit down again, you just carry on with that sentence”. The reason I remembered was because I finished up a writing session knowing absolutely nothing about what was going to come next.
Not a thing.
I realize that I’ve been doing this for awhile now. Stopping the writing session when I don’t know what comes next. Frankly, my writing is a whole lot more fun too. I remind myself that it’s no special jewel or flower. It’s just a story. Entertainment. And the first person I’m entertaining is myself.
Looking back, I’ve tried the ‘knowing what comes next’ thing and just found myself actually struggling to remember what it was I’d thought of when I sit down at the next session. What was it? She was running toward something, and what’s-his-name was doing that other thing, but what was the whole point? Or something like that.
And a half a sentence? Sheesh. I’ve always ended up just deleting the half and starting a new sentence.
Somehow, after years of angst with this, I’ve finally reached a point of just stopping. Stopping when I don’t know what next. Often times that ends up being the end of a chapter. I might type in “Chapter Twenty Three” ready to go for the next session.
Not one idea what that’s going to be.
I also realize that this does not exist in isolation. It’s paired with a whole lot of other things I’ve been learning, as I fill those gaps of unlearning.
One is cycling. I read back through the work as I go. That’s enough for a post of its own.
Another is ‘being there’. I spotted this in a short essay by James Patterson (at least that’s where I thought I’d seen it, looking back now, the essay I was thinking of doesn’t mention this). Reading through, that is, cycling back, I play at putting myself in my character’s situation. Attempting to ‘be there’. What’s her experience of the place? What’s his reaction to that last thing?
It turns out my subconscious is ready and raring to go. Those next lines and next events show up. I get out of my own way, entertain myself and let the story grow.
I don’t know what’s coming next, and the writing is a whole lot more fun.

Learning to trust my sub-conscious

Deuterium Shine POD cover3I’m deep in the heart of a writing a novel at the moment. Tritium Blaze, book two of The Jupiter Files series (Deuterium Shine, the first book should be out later in the year, then book two sometime next year. Cover image by Philcold | Dreamstime).

I write into the dark, as in, I have no outline (see Dean Wesley Smith’s take on this).

Smith talks about how the sub-conscious, having been exposed to ‘story’ since childhood, knows how story works. If a writer lets the sub-conscious out to play, it knows where the story is going. Even if the conscious mind doesn’t.

It seems, even, that it’s useful to get the conscious mind well out of the way. It can be a know-nothing spoiler. Even a saboteur.

I’ve written into the dark for many years now. Sometimes that means I have to go back in earlier in the story and add something. You know, if a character knows how to fly a jet, but it hasn’t been mentioned yet. A sentence or two in an earlier chapter can do wonders.

Now with this novel I’ve had to smile. Without giving too many spoilers, my character’s spacehip has been in dry-dock getting refurbished from the outset. Now that’s kind of odd, since this is hard science-fiction and my characters need their ship to, you know, do space stuff.

And then, last night, as I’m writing–40,000 words into something that will probably be about 60,000–the reason became apparent and clear and absolutely serving the story.

I am so looking forward to writing the next chapters.

My sub-conscious set it up from the very outset. It’s taken years of training my conscious mind to keep out of the way and last night I really felt like I’d made another little step toward that.

 

Trusty old submissions tracking book.

trusty tracking booktrusty tracking book interior pageEver since I’ve been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers, I’ve needed a way to keep track of those submissions. I’ve been around long enough that those first submissions went as a printed manuscript, inside a full-sized envelope, with postage on a slightly smaller envelope inside. To match the very physical nature of this, my tracking system also exploited the benefits of paper and ink. An accounting book, to be precise. And mostly pencil, since it lends itself to updates more readily than ink.

I’ve continued the practice into the present day. I’ve just come to the last page of my second book.

I do subscribe to Duotrope, which has a built-in tracking system for stories. That might be the way to go. But I do have another blank book all set. Starting next week, when my latest story will be ready to venture out into the wilds.

The value of persistence

IMG_20180420_072542So I’m posting here a photo of my Sir Julius Vogel award. It’s cool, and I guess I’m bragging a bit. But see those three folders underneath? Those are my rejection slips. You know, the letter you get from a publisher who for one reason or another isn’t taking your story. Gathered over more years than I care to admit.

I think there are about two thousand. I have a feeling I’ve lost some over the years.

Most of them are form rejections. Some are very nice personal rejections. One is a disappointingly rude personal rejection (I haven’t submitted to that magazine since).

And there, standing on the shoulders of all those rejections, is an award. To me this is the value of persistence. I mean this to be encouraging. Keep at it. Keep going. Pursue what you love doing. It’s not about the award (though that’s nice), it’s about loving doing it.

The Map Maker of Morgenfeld

The Map Maker of Morgenfeld thumb

I have a new novel out, and this one has a bunch of intriguing things about it. Intriguing to me, anyway.

First, it’s a fantasy, which I don’t often write. That said, there are no wizards or magic or dragons, no vast armies of conquest, no hero smiting demons with a terrible swift sword. This novel grows out of my younger self’s love of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series (I even shamelessly bastardized the name).
My style is very different from Peake’s. Well, of course, writing has changed over the years, and while Peake wrote some wonderful books, they are a product of their period. I like to think I’ve captured something of their essence in my own world.

Secondly, I wrote the novel while traveling. In April and May of 2017 we had a fabulous voyage to Santiago, Easter Island, the Atacama Desert, Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Almost six weeks away.

I wrote every day. Usually stolen moments in the evenings, at kitchen tables, or in dining rooms. Once or twice in noisy cafes.

The trip was awesome. But it was cool to maintain that writing momentum throughout. Especially with the focus on a project. I suppose elements of South American culture and lifestyle may well be wrapped up somewhere in the book.
Thirdly, or perhaps this should be my first item, I wrote the novel on a phone. We traveled light. Carry-on luggage only. Taking a laptop, with a bulky charger, would have been a nuisance. I discovered the cool little Rapoo bluetooth keyboard. I bought the Docs2go app, which allowed me to format the document nicely as I went, and also to track my word count.

I designed and 3D-printed a stand for the phone. I bought a travel wallet, one intended for money and cards and documents, and used that to create a neat little package for the keyboard, stand and phone so they could all just drop into my backpack easily.

All of those elements make The Map Maker of Morgenfeld perhaps my most unusual novel so far. I’m sure that traveling influenced the writing. I’m sure that the restriction of the phone influenced the writing.

I hope it all worked out into a readable, enjoyable book.
The cover illustration is near-perfect for me anyway. By Grandfailure | Dreamstime. It really shows the clutter and maze of Morgenfeld better than I’d pictured it.

Available all over, in print ($12.99), and as an ebook ($5.99), KindleSmashwords, and so on.