making books personal: a blessing of monsters moi? progress publishing
by Harry Connolly
So, this is a little embarrassing and I just have to come out and talk about it.
I haven’t released a new book in a long time.
Duh, right? It’s not like you guys don’t know this. My last novel was CIRCLE OF ENEMIES, which came out Labor Day 2011. What’s more, I’ve already mentioned that I finished the first draft of CoE in 2010, before GAME OF CAGES came out.
So what the hell have I been doing?
Well, the first thing I did is write A KEY, AND EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK, which I had high hopes for but screwed up badly. I could probably whip it into shape in a month or so once I figure out how to manage the voice, but it’s back-burnered.
There’s also the Spirit of the Century novel I wrote for the game company Evil Hat. Kickstarter backers have already received their copies, but everyone else has to wait for this fall.
And there’s some short fiction, which I plan to collect and release as an ebook next month.
So what the hell? Where are the books?
Here’s the thing: When I started THE WAY INTO CHAOS (originally titled A BLESSING OF MONSTERS–you can decide which title you hate more) I’d planned to wrap up the whole story in 120K words. One volume.
That hasn’t happened. I’m at 270K right now and the end is in sight. However, I’ve stopped forward progress and gone back to the beginning for a major revision. It’s taking up a lot of my time and driving me a little nuts.
The whole thing is taking too long. I need to finish this and move on to another project; it hasn’t even sold and I’m sick to death of it. Also, it can take a year or more from the time my agent sells something to the time it’s released. Do I want my next novel to hit the shelves in 2015? 2016?
That’s too long.
So, in order to get more done and focus in on this project, I’m going on an internet fast. It’ll be at least this whole week, possibly longer. I will check my email once a day, but that’s it: no Facebook mentions, no Twitter replies, no LJ comments, nothing.
In the meantime, I will be doubling down on this book. I won’t finish in that time, but I plan to double my progress, at least.
I’ll also have some time to do some much needed chores.
In truth, I really enjoy social media but I feel over-committed at the moment. It’s become a bit of an obligation, so I’m shedding everything for w bit. When I come back I’ll take stock and see what I’ll need to change.
Funnily enough, just as I decided to do this, a guy hit the internet with his big “I just took a year away from the internet, and it didn’t solve all my problems” article. I understood the dude’s urge to change his routine, but is it really any surprise that his problems were internal rather than external?
Anyway, I’m not trying to fix my life here. I’m just freeing up time to work. There will be a couple of blog posts that will go live while I’m away, but you know.
Wish me luck.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters internet moi? progress the auntie mame files the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
I’m going to keep this short.
The most popular entry on this blog is the one where I dissect the reasons why my series was cancelled. I’m not what you’d call excited about that, but the fact remains. With luck, I’ll have a post in the new year that will finally draw more attention.
The year itself has been tough. I’d hoped to sell A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark but my agent was reluctant to send it out and I took her advice. Thank god. Last fall I took another look at the manuscript and realized I’d blown it. The novel needs major revisions and christ but the moment for it has pretty much passed. I’ll still finish it, eventually, but that leaves a big hole in my schedule. I put out no new work in 2012.
As for 2013, the only novel I expect to put out is King Khan, the tie-in novel for Spirit of the Century. If Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts sells, it’ll probably be scheduled for 2014. In any event, life is short. I am working constantly. I don’t have a lot to show for it right now.
On a personal level, my family life has only been getting better. I am a very, very lucky ugly fat man.
And that’s it. I don’t do New Years’ resolutions, because they carry the cultural baggage that no one keeps them, and I never wait until Jan first to make the changes in my life I think I need. But I’m going back to work now, and I’m going to keep working on a sequel to a book that hasn’t even sold yet and which probably won’t come out until 2015.
I don’t even know what to say about this except that I can muddle through it.
making books: a blessing of monsters internet progress
by Harry Connolly
I’ve been tagged by S.K.S. Perry to do this meme and while I normally ignore tags, I was planning to do this anyway. You can read his here.
What is the working title of your next book?
EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS, but it’s also probably going to be called THE WAY INTO CHAOS.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to do an epic fantasy, and the idea for this book came from a particular visual/event that occurs early in the book.
What genre does your book fall under?
Epic Fantasy, but it’s not medieval.
What is the synopsis or blurb for this book?
A sentient, contagious curse brings about the collapse of an empire.
What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
It’s a sign of my old age that I don’t know much about current movie stars. No clue.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Are those the only two options?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started it in October of 2011 and finished on the day THE AVENGERS came out. (May 4th?) I rewarded myself with a matinee.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I homeschool my son and I wanted to start him on a long writing project. To that end, I bought a copy of Adventures in Fantasy by John Gust, which is a set of writing exercises to help kids think up and finish a fantasy “novel.” It also includes a number of terrific language lessons.
Because my son would never consent to do all those exercises by himself I did them with him, creating the basics of my book through those kid-oriented exercises.
Now, the way the book works, you create certain archetypal characters and put them through certain specific paces. To keep my own interest high, I fussed with and undermined the formula, sidelining the putative “hero” early and turning the sidekick and mentor characters into the actual heroes. We’ll see how well that works.
For his part, my son wrote a comic fantasy. I paid him a penny a word for it and published it on my blog. For such a young kid, he has a great voice.
I also wanted to deal with the idea of people who come from an empire, who don’t feel like they are particularly powerful within their culture nor do they think it’s fair that others see them as partly culpable for what the empire does, and what happens to them when they venture beyond the frontiers.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Good question. No clue.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Humans are not the only intelligent species, but the other creatures are not the usual humanoid monster/elf/dwarf types. They’re different enough that the characters at first don’t even realize they’re intelligent.
The book also has a number of magic portals in it, but they aren’t a source of excursion for the protagonists to explore other lands. They’re a source of incursion. The humans are being invaded here.
Finally, the tech level here is pre-medieval. The warriors are not knights, they’re more like hoplites (although the setting isn’t ancient Greece).
No tags! If you want to do this yourself, go for it.
personal: a blessing of monsters moi? the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
I’m typing this on my wife’s iPad, so forgive any weird autocorrect or capitalization issues.
Yesterday, about 20 minutes after sending my wife off to work her evening shift, I got the call I’ve been dreading for 19 years: she’d had an accident on her bicycle.
Luckily it happened on the bike trail (all hail civilized cities and their off-road trails) so there were no cars involved, but she was still banged up pretty badly. The accident happened because the bolt holding her seat to her seat stem sheared off and she fell backwards onto the rack. One of her pedals gouged her knee pretty badly and she struck her cheekbone on her handlebar. There will be other lingering aches and pains, but those were the worst.
So, no head injuries, no broken bones, no hospital visits. We’re very fortunate.
I convinced her to skip work to stay home and ice, elevate her leg and go to bed early. She was already nursing a cold, so there’s no reason for her to exhaust herself.
Then, after dinner, my son began to complain of stomach pain. We figured it was just gas but at around 10pm the vomiting began.
There’s always that hopeful moment after the first barfing that makes you hope everything’s all cleared up. Nope. He was sick on and off throughout the night.
My wife, who had gone to bed around 8:30, woke naturally around midnight. She took over for me a little before one then woke me around 5:30. The poor guy had been waking every half hour with pain and vomiting and couldn’t even keep water down.
Finally just before 7 I told him that h was still in the worst of it, that he needed to sleep so he could recover enough to hydrate himself.
He crashed out as though he was implementing a plan and has been sleeping for nearly 2.5 hours, with only minimal moaning and stirring.
Have I ever mentioned that he found me passed out on the bathroom floor once due to flu-related dehydration? He couldn’t have been older than four.
Have I also mentioned that, when my wife and I were first together in the nineties, I used to get up a 4am every day for my crapy job, but would be unable to sleep at night because I would be worrying about her nighttime bike commute? I used to lie in bed, staring at the ceiling while I imagined terrible accidents. Then I would hear the distinctive sound of her brakes out front and I’d drop right off.
So, yeah. A couple of mildly stressful days, especially since I’ve started falling behind on EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS.
Anyway, I’m going to sneak out of his room and make myself more coffee. I hope autocorrect hasn’t done anything embarrassing to this post.
making books: a blessing of monsters progress words
by Harry Connolly
One of the characters in EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS has insisted on an unexpected turn of events, and I’m about to write that scene, and I’m stuck. And I hate it. And I’ve wasted most of the day working on it.
And that sucks.
Basically, I need to work out an entirely new magic system for some new characters. It needs to follow the basic rules of what I’ve already done and violate those rules, too.
Which I hate.
More thinking and list-making to come.
making books reading: a blessing of monsters everyone loves blue dog harvest of fire man bites world Twenty Palaces words
by Harry Connolly
Rachel Manija Brown posted something provocative about so-called “portal fantasy.” For those who didn’t click the link: essentially it’s a Narnia-style story, in which a person or persons from our mundane world is transported to a second-world fantasy setting. Apparently, agents reject those stories at the query stage without ever requesting a full manuscript, and the reasons described in the post (all frustratingly second-hand) strike me as extraordinarily bogus.
They’re talking about non-adult books: YA and MG, but I don’t remember seeing a lot of adult-oriented portal fantasies.
But it’s only after I read a post on Making Light that I realize I myself have been All Over Portals in my books.
Now, that Making Light post is talking about Fantasy With Portals In Them rather than Portal Fantasies, which is not exactly a subtle distinction. For one thing, modern person transported to fantasy world setting is a very specific thing. Still, Circle of Enemies and Twenty Palaces both contain literal portals in which Things Intrude Into Our World, and the other two books have implied portals.
What’s more, EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS is full of portals; the barely-Iron-Age society conducts trade through them and they are the center of the plot.
It’s not portal fantasy, per se, but… is this my subconscious calling to me? Has the online discussion finally made me look into my heart and realize that what I’ve really longed to do all this time was write a book about a mafia hitman transported to pseudo-Narnia? Or a pipe-fitter in Osgiliath?
Well, maybe not, but it’s fun to think about.
making books: a blessing of monsters everyone loves blue dog harvest of fire man bites world progress publishing the auntie mame files Twenty Palaces words
by Harry Connolly
I’m writing this ahead of time because I expect to be hanging with my son at the tournament when this posts, but today is exactly one year since I announced that Del Rey would not be picking up any new Twenty Palaces novels and that I was putting the series on hiatus, with all the ominous implications of the word.
And that fucking post is still the most popular thing on my blog. More people have read about my failure than ever read my books.
What has changed since then? Well, A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark is on indefinite hold. The book itself is a major misfire–not in concept but in execution. It needs a massive rewrite before it’s ready to be shown anywhere and that’s not a very high priority for me right now.
What about Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts? aka A Blessing of Monsters? Well, shit. We’ll see, won’t we? One big change is that I seriously underestimated the amount of story there; what I’d planned to complete in one volume is not, in fact, complete after 140K words. So it will become two books. Possibly three. We’ll see what my publisher says, assuming I find one for it.
As for me, I’m working on a Twenty Palaces short story, which won’t be told from Ray’s POV. I’m hoping to have it finished soonest so I can get to work on Epic Sequel With No Dull Parts. I’m still waiting on editorial notes for King Khan, the game tie-in book I wrote for Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century role-playing game, and that will likely be the only book release for me in 2013.
I know. 2012 saw only two anthologies: Don’t Read This Book and Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and next year will almost certainly be a single game tie-in novel. I like all of that work and I’m proud of it, but I need to put out original novel-length fiction if I want to keep my career going.
making books: a blessing of monsters King Khan progress reasons i suck the auntie mame files
by Harry Connolly
Today was supposed to be a chill fucking day. My agent has the revised version of EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS. Last night I sent KING KHAN, my game tie-in novel, to Evil Hat. I hope they like it because Christmas is coming and I could use the money. Next I’m supposed to work on EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS and a Twenty Palaces short story I’ve been kicking around.
But today was for relaxing, people. Today was meant to chill and read through an old manuscript.
It was just about a year ago that I put the “final” touches on A KEY, AN EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK and sent it to my agent. After reading my revised draft, she didn’t want to try to sell it; she didn’t think it was ready.
Some writers would be all outraged by that, but I shelved the book and worked on something else. I knew I could revisit it later after taking some time away from it.
Today, I took a printed copy out to the coffee shop to give it a read.
It’s really a failure. Like, full of an amazing amount of fail. It’s so off that I have a hard time reading it. It’s embarrassing.
What happened is pretty clear: I had something in my head that did not get onto the page. The tone is wrong, the POV has no specific voice, the important emotional moments glide right by without any effort to acknowledge their power…
Fuck. I had this idea for a book in my head and I thought I was writing it. I wasn’t. Maybe I loved the idea of the book too much, because I didn’t take the time to address the problems those ideas would present. Maybe I’m hadn’t studied other works with that tone carefully enough.
Maybe the problem was all that and more. I’m going to have to think on this carefully. Someday. For right now I’m putting this book aside and working on something else.
Damn. Just when I become too confident, I find new reasons for humility. What the hell. It’ll just make me a better writer tomorrow.
In truth, I’m a little under the weather. It’s nothing serious, but while I’ll probably be skimming through my social media whatevers, I’m not sure I’m up to an actual blog post.
Besides, I have a bunch of work to finish this month, not least of which is to come up with a worthwhile title for EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS.
I hate titles.
making books: a blessing of monsters King Khan publishing words
by Harry Connolly
She has notes for me (of course) but they are surprisingly light. And there’s no rush.
Can I just let out a huge PHEW! here? It’s sort of an odd book, and I’m glad she’s enthusiastic about it.
Now to work on King Khan so I can start Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts 2.
making books personal The outside world: a blessing of monsters games giveaway moi? the boy wasting time
by Harry Connolly
Today is the last day to eligible-ize yourself to win a free book–all you have to do is sign up for my I-have-a-new-thing-out newsletter. Details here.
For those of you concerned about being spammed with my newsletter, let me mention that later tonight, when I send out the message about the new book giveaway, it will be the first ever issue of this newsletter.
In other non-news, since my wife has to work on Sunday and my son has a tournament on Saturday, today is my Father’s Day. We’re celebrating by having breakfast at a restaurant (I love restaurant breakfast, for serious) and having burgers for dinner. With buns. I know, crazy, right?
I’ve asked to have the Chris McGrath prints of my Twenty Palaces cover art either framed or matted as my Dad’s Day gift–like most people, I don’t need more stuff. However, my wife and son have been eyeballing a flat screen TV for our Netflixing. Nevermind that I think our 19″ CRT still works just fine; they have the temptation and I may be the excuse.
Anyway, I’m going to do a bit of work in the Star$$ until they get here, then they’ll leave and I’ll work some more. Work! It’s what’s for dinner.
Also, having finished, sent off, and celebrated Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts, I finally felt as though I had permission to play a bit of computer game.
Now, I’m not exactly Mr. Moderation, so I don’t play all that much. I tend to get stuck in games, trying to do one more thing one more thing. Of course, the games are designed to make you do exactly that, which sort of sucks. As a result, I have to keep away from them for the most part if I want to create books, stay married, pay rent, move my body, and/or feed myself.
But sometimes, I say what the hell. Last night after I did the dishes, I turned on Neverwinter Nights. (It was an Oppressmas gift.) I turned it off at 4 am.
It’s possible that my wife is correct when she points out that these games aren’t good for me. And that I’m a boring husband when I play. Worse, I still couldn’t find that third werewolf. And why am I carrying around this troll head? I know someone wants it, but…
Anyway, I will now get back to formatting my son’s 10K comic fantasy for publishing on the blog while I wait for the fam. Have a great day, everyone.
making books: a blessing of monsters giveaway moi?
by Harry Connolly
As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, I finished Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts yesterday and sent it off to my agent. This is a big deal for a lot of reasons and I have so very many things I want to say about it, but at the moment what I feel is a genuine relief. Anyway, let me skate over some of those topics.
1) No dull parts? God, I hope so. There’s one scene where they eat kabob that could maybe go, but…
1A) After sending to my agent, my son immediately found a grammar error on page one. It’s too late to do anything about it now, but, shit.
2) It’s 136,000 words long. That’s HUGE! Take a look at the printed manuscript with a life-sized Batman statue beside it!
I’ve never written anything that long before. All the Twenty Palaces books were 90- to 105K words. Weirdly, as I wrote, plot elements ended up taking way, way more space on the page than I’d expected. It’s epic, right? Epic is big? Well, I’d promised to make this a stand alone novel, but I’m breaking that promise. It’s going to be two books. (But no more! I’m serious!)
3) I started it on October 7th by doing the exercises in Adventures in Fantasy by John Gust. It was a homeschool project for my son, and he wouldn’t have done it without me. Actually, it turned out to be fun for us to do the exercises together. Being me, I had to mess around with the plot format, which I’m sure is a gigantic surprise to everyone.
However, when I sat down with my agent last summer, she told me that it would be good to be more prolific without a loss in quality. Two books a year, people, that’s what she suggested. That’s what I was aiming for.
Obviously I didn’t manage it, because this was just over eight months to finish. In my defense, the death of my father-in-law shut off all productivity for weeks and it was tough to get my momentum back. Still, only 8 months!
4) I was still late with it. Most of you reading this have probably watched Neil Gaiman’s 2012 Commencement Speech, in which he talks about freelancers staying in business if they have two out of three things: they do good work, they’re easy to get along with, and they meet their deadlines. Me, I’m afraid to admit that I’ve had problems with deadlines.
I’m not talking about externally-imposed deadlines, either. I find it incredibly difficult to judge how long a particular job will take. I promised my agent that I would send the revised manuscript to her in early May. This is mid-June. Not cool.
There’s no production schedule to ruin, no publishing slots to miss. This is just me, the pages in front of me, and my ability to sensibly judge how much time I need to finish a book.
To remedy this, I’m going to start carefully recording everything I do, writing-wise. Every day of the week, how many hours of writing, how many words I write, how many words I revise. It won’t be a goad to productivity; it will help me understand the way I work right now.
5) Last night, I celebrated the completion of a new manuscript in the traditional way:
My kid took the picture, and he didn’t know to zoom in so the freeze frame of Burn Notice would be cropped out.
Today is for reading and recharging my creative batteries. Maybe I’ll even (gasp!) get to play a video game! I know! Crazy!
6) You know how the latest big thing in fantasy is twisty grim pseudo-medieval political fantasy with very little magic? I didn’t write that. Whether that’s a smart choice or not, I dunno, but there it is.
Bonus last thing: My book giveaway is getting a lot of sign ups. If you missed the post yesterday, I’m giving away a signed copy of an anthology I’m in.
Time for a break from sitting and typing. Catch you guys later.
A Blessing of Monsters has been retitled. Big surprise, right? There’s no way I’d be able to keep that title. Anyway, the new title is: Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts.
That’s unlikely to be the final title, either, I know. Titles are hard.
making books: a blessing of monsters moi? progress words
by Harry Connolly
“I’ll never buy one of your books!”
Seriously. Don’t say this.
It used to be that, whenever authors went online, people told them “Be careful what you say! Don’t be political! Don’t be controversial! You’ll drive away readers!” And people believed that, too, until it became clear that it just wasn’t true.
The truth is that most writers don’t care about some stranger who pops up and swears they won’t give us money. That just means they’re part of the largest set of human beings on the planet: My non-fans.
What’s more, it just makes a reader look silly. So if you are never going to read some particular author’s work again, go for it. Hey, blog about it or Twitter about it with your friends. But don’t bother telling the author, because they don’t care.
In other news, life has been determined to interfere with my revisions on A Blessing of Monsters but I’m making headway. In fact, I’d be nearly finished with them right now if I hadn’t come up with a startling new idea that really pulls things together.
Tomorrow is going to be another big working day. I’m tempted to go on an internet fast so I can wrap this sucker up.
I call it the “bullshit.” As in: “I did one bullshit worth of work on my revisions today.”
Which isn’t fair to my revisions, because I found a minor inconsistency that I needed to hunt down and fix, and that stupid crap takes time. I would have had to fix this at some point, right?
Still, it’s frustrating to have this dumb stuff take so much time especially since it means I can only finish bullshit.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters internet progress the boy
by Harry Connolly
Because I didn’t have free fiction set to give away. What can I say? My son’s “novel” isn’t finished yet and most of my short fiction is already for sale as ebooks, either on my online store (which is still not working ten days after I asked for help from Shopp tech support) or B&N/Amazon.
Then I realized I’m still giving away free chapter of my novels. Chapter one of Child of Fire is here.
Okay, maybe that doesn’t really count. Go easy on me here, I’m behind on my current book.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters progress the boy
by Harry Connolly
In a few hours my son and I will be taking off for Surrey and the Pokemon Regionals there. I won’t be dropping by bookstores or meeting folks: this trip is about my son and his fun. I do plan to work on my book while my son plays.
Anyway, progress on A BLESSING OF MONSTERS has been tough lately… right up until yesterday, when I had a great day. Protip: It’s hard to be motivated to write when you know every word is just going to be cut in the second draft. Yesterday I reached a part I knew I would keep, and things magically became easier.
With luck I’ll have time to write a bit later so I won’t lose the whole day. But tomorrow should be better.
I got to spend some time with A Blessing of Monsters today. I wrote about 1200 words, then wrote 100 anti-words. I wanted to do more at the end of the day but the scene I was working on had gone all wrong and my kid wouldn’t give me the space to think about it.
At some point in the day I even came up with a decentish title, but I didn’t write it down and now I’ve forgotten it. Ah well. It was probably brilliant.
Anyway, it felt good to take hold of the book again, even it wasn’t a firm hold. We’ll see what comes tomorrow.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters internet progress words
by Harry Connolly
Yesterday I wrote and turned in the Suvudu.com Cage Match between Tyrion and Ray, and I think you guys will be a little surprised at what I did with it. It was long, though.
Anyway, to my surprise it took me all day. I gave up one of my prime writing days for it, a day when I’m supposed to be finishing 2K words on A Blessing Of Monsters, so that’s bad.
And after this next cage match wraps up, I’m going to be turning off comments on the blog globally. The spam is just wasting my time and having my time wasted drives me crazy.