making books personal: a blessing of monsters moi? progress
by Harry Connolly
My agent just confirmed that she received the new version of THE WAY INTO CHAOS. That’s just the first part of a long-ass story that’s not even finished, but I have post-project blues anyway. Christ.
making books: a blessing of monsters progress publishing
by Harry Connolly
I’m a few hours from sending my much-revised book off to my agent. I’m writing this Thursday night but scheduling it for Friday morning. By the time this posts, I’ll already be sitting in a Starbucks, hunched over my laptop, taking contractions out of the dialog of two characters who appear spread out over 148K words. Fun! Okay, actually, I’m filled with misery over this, but this is the job and it isn’t always fun.
So: N things make a post.
1) Kameron Hurley takes up the subject of survivorship bias and the marketing of books. I really liked this post, long as it is, because marketing is something I know squat about and she covers a lot of useful ground for a noob like me. Also: pulp covers not as attractive to readers, apparently. Give that a read.
2) C.E. Murphy hosts a guest blog post by Judith Tarr on how publishing used to work and how everything now is so much better. Yes, there was more money when she started, but now authors no longer have to worry about vanishing if their publisher drops them. You can read the whole thing in one post here, or in part one, two, and three.
Why link to the same material four times? In this case, the comments. They’re worth reading. For example.
Anyway, it’s a concise summary of where we are now contrasted with a description of where publishing was back in the day from someone who was there. I’m a little annoyed at the “Mommy and Daddy” stuff, but people have to make their point.
3) Hugo-winner Lawrence Watt-Evans responds by talking about his plans for his upcoming books and how he intends to keep putting his work on the market. He was an early adopter of the model of posting a book a chapter at a time as donations came in from his readers.
4) Speaking of where we are now, Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt are trying to revive their zine FLYTRAP, and how are they doing it? Crowdfunding, of course. This is the way the future will work, guys. Check it out.
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.
No really, that’s what he said! Good thing he was joking.
If you’re one of those people who have been going around the internet posting comments, tweets, and status updates like “Who’s this Veronica Mars? Kickstart me some more SERENITY!” you should probably click that link up there. He’s not planning to Kickstart a new Serenity movie because he’s tied up for the next several years with commitments, not to mention the commitments the actors have. Plus yada yada budget etc. Give it a quick read.
After that, you should read this post by LEVERAGE co-creator John Rogers, cleverly titled Veronica Mars Kickstarter Thoughts. If you want analysis from someone who is inside the TV business, Rogers is the guy to turn to right now. Until it was cancelled, Leverage was the only independently-owned TV show in the U.S. market, and he has a lot of insight about the nature of non-studio funding, whether Warner is taking a risk by giving the go-ahead, and much more. That’s worth reading.
Remember yesterday when I talked about ALL THE SHIRTS (limited-edition!) the VM people would have to deal with? Kickstarter fulfillment companies.
And, naturally, everyone is jumping up to say what shows should be next on the Kickstarter auction block: Chuck. Pushing Up Daisies. Sarah Connor Chronicles. Terriers. Deadwood.
Personally, none of those shows appealed to me in a serious way, so I’ll be waiting for that THUNDARR reboot.
Okay. Unless something very interesting happens, I’m going to lay off the TV Kickstarter posts for a while. I’ve got to steal time for my books at some point, right?
Currently I’m over 100K words on THE WAY INTO MAGIC, which is the sequel to THE WAY INTO CHAOS. I’m writing it as one long story, which is probably dumb, but there you go.
My life is incredibly dull! Good thing the internet is full of fun stuff.
making books personal: King Khan progress publishing the boy
by Harry Connolly
This past weekend was pretty rough. The one bright spot was lunch on Saturday to catch up with an old friend, but the rest was a litany of minor difficulties: tiny black ants came through the wall that divides my bathroom from a neighboring unit, the section of book I’m writing “feels” wrong while I push through anyway, I’m getting phantom food reactions, and my son had one of his irregular bouts of insomnia which meant he was up in the ass-hours of the morning and punchy through most of the day.
It gets to the point where a guy can’t even steal time to post on his blog.
I have a post brewing about peoples’ tendency to see fantasy as a conservative genre and another about the interesting Amanda Palmer TEDTalk that’s been going around, but both have fallen victim to the demands of making wordcount for THE WAY INTO MAGIC.
But I do want to announce the release of this:
Yes, the Spirit of the Century tie-in novel I wrote for Evil Hat has been released as an ebook, but only to the people who backed the Kickstarter. If you’re one of those people, you can download the book from here. If you didn’t back the project when it first went live, you’ll have to wait a bit for it to hit the stores.
Now, I know there are lots of folks out there who could find a way to torrent a copy or whatever so they have a chance to read it right away. If you do, please consider buying it anyway when it hits the stores, maybe as a gift or something.
This blog (LJ, DW, whatever) has been pretty much neglected lately. In truth, I’ve been battling a post-holiday case of the blues. A number of authors have been talking about this lately, including Danny Marks on his YouTube channel and Cat Valente on her LJ, and hearing about their symptoms and struggles makes me feel a bit of a whiner. I’ve never come to the point of collapse or been able to get out of bed, but I am frustrated, impatient, short-tempered and otherwise unhappy with human interaction. Even Twitter, which is a pretty easy place for me to hang out online, has been off-putting lately.
I wish I could say that I’ve been perfectly cheerful and charming with my family, but that isn’t true, either. I’m also not hitting my daily word count goals every day (and I should be working right now) which is frustrating. I’m not sure what I need, except possibly more reading time.
Anyway, this blog has never been terribly active but I’ve been neglecting it lately. That’s why. Things will get more active, I think. Maybe in the spring, if I can’t get my shit together before then.
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.
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: 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 personal The outside world: beautiful King Khan progress
by Harry Connolly
I ended up doing a fair bit of blogging over the weekend. Most of it was jokey, silly stuff, but not all. There’s at least one post about failing at writing.
I mention it because I know people like to read about my shame.
What I didn’t mention was that I turned in KING KHAN to Evil Hat. The first round of (minor) revisions have already come back and I’m working on those today.
In the meantime, I have something nice for you guys: My in-laws are artists, in case you didn’t know, and my sister-in-law has just started a tumblr for her work. Check out the first painting she’s showing there.
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.
Over on the LiveJournal version of yesterday’s post, I had someone say they were surprised to hear that I was working on a project called KING KHAN. I thought, Have I not talked about this?
Let me give you a quick rundown on this project, what it is and what it will be.
Back in April, indie rpg company Evil Hat was having a pretty good run on a Kickstarter. They were trying to fund a trilogy of books based on their Spirit of the Century game, which is a pulp-adventure game with an emphasis on the 1920-30s, and it was doing well enough that they set some stretch goals. One of those was for me to write a book featuring a particular reader favorite character: Professor Khan, an intelligent gorilla who teaches at Oxford.
After some discussion, we decided that I was going to write a book that had Professor Khan visit Los Angeles in the studio era. There’s a mysterious death, a stolen weird-science maguffin, and lots of high-strangeness of the lightning gun/shrink beam/hopping ghost variety.
And it’s funny. At least, it’s supposed to be funny. There’s action, naturally, but I’m hoping the characters and situations will be amusing and uplifting. Did I mention that it stars a gorilla who teaches at Oxford?
Anyway, I’m nearly finished with the first draft (it’ll be a short book, probably 70K or less) and, after a polish, will send it off and get back to EPIC FINALE WITH NO DULL PARTS. No rest for the weary.
Charles Stross blogged about writing a novel in Scrivener and I thought it was an interesting read. Okay, I skimmed the part where he talked about LaTeX because Jesus, what the hell is that even and I pretty much don’t need to know.
Anyway, he’s right about many things: there is no way to do the track changes thing that people use MSWord for. That means I either have to a) switch over to Scrivener to type out all the changes I want to accept in MSWord, or b) import the edited Word document into a new Scrivener project (or into the old project, which I haven’t done because .scriv files are already HUGE), or c) accept that the .scriv file will not be the most recent file.
I’ve been doing a) which is annoying but feels satisfying, too, like keeping a tidy desk.
Also, I don’t have the same issues with the compiling process. Yes, there’s a helluva learning curve. Yes, it’s annoying as hell. Still, with enough trial-and-error I was able to create a handful of very clean epub files, without any hand-coding at all.
The floating word count window? AWESOME. I seriously love it, especially the way I can set a due date for the draft and it will tell me how many words I have to do per day to make that goal. I can even go in and mark certain days of the week as non-writing days. That’s good. I wrote about that some time ago: You can see the progress bar in this screen cap post.
Something else I like is that I can import web pages into the research section. I can dl the Wikipedia page for “Pansy Craze” or “Samurai” then while I’m writing (my internet is always disabled when I write) I can easily
Finally, one thing Charlie doesn’t mention is one of my favorite things: Custom Meta-data. See, when I was writing the Twenty Palaces books, I drove myself to exhaustion trying to keep track of what Ray had in his pockets: Did he have money? How much? Did he still have a gun? Whose was it? Had he stolen a car? What make again?
It was crazy-making and involved a lot of tedious fact-checking back through the book. But! With Custom Meta-data I could easily make a line for “Money” and keep track. Or “Gun”
In Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts, I used Custom Meta-data to keep track of the two protagonists’ time lines. (They diverge late in the book.) That’s the sort of thing that drove me to distraction in earlier work.
Anyway, Scrivener is way too complicated, but I just ignore all those complicated parts I don’t need, just the way I did with MSWord back in the day. Plus, I’ve figured out the search thing that used to make me nuts.
I’m still working on the first draft for King Khan, and I swear that progress bar thing is really helping my productivity (not to mention the easy access I have to the synopsis). Yesterday’s word count was 3.3K which is huge for me, and today’s was 4K, which is unthinkable. So, you know, pleased.
And by “not a virtue” I don’t mean that it’s a vice or it’s something awful. I mean, it’s not a wonderful thing that people have or don’t have.
Okay, so, I’m an NPR-listener. Yeah, I often hear this expert or that being interviewed… so many of them that they sometimes run together. Sometimes I’ll hear something that sticks with me and I have to go back to find it again. Like this interview with David Eagleman.
What Eagleman said, for those who don’t want to click through to the show, is that our brains aren’t this unified thing. We, ourselves, aren’t a unified identity. Different parts of our brain want us to do different things: Lose weight, exercise, sleep in, work hard, order the fries, watch that TV show… We’re full of conflicting impulses.
This is certainly true of me. I have long battled with myself over all sorts of indulgences, and different parts of me fight in different ways. When I get up early to work on my book, I feel a sense of accomplishment. When faced with the opportunity to eat something I shouldn’t, I feel a sense hopeless despair.
And in recent years, it’s been a tossup which part of my brain would win, except for the despair. Hopeless despair has been a trump card in my life; I have a hard time beating it.
However! Lately I have stopped looking at myself as a complete whole. Lately I have tried to recognize that there are several different personalities living inside me, and that my brain plays dirty tricks on my to make me do things I shouldn’t. In essence, I’m accepting the fact that my own brain is often my enemy.
I’ve talked about this before: It can be hard to say no to food when the despair hits. It can be hard to get up early to work when I know I need sleep, too. But for the past few weeks, I have not been using willpower to win these internal battles. It might look like willpower, but it’s not. What I’ve been doing is keeping my goals in the forefront of my mind and treating all impulses that get in the way as an enemy attack. It’s not willpower to refuse to go over to my enemy camp.
It’s been working, too. For me, I mean. I don’t know how well this would work for anyone else.
 If you’re thinking of “parts of my brain” in an anatomical sense, you’re being too literal. I’m talking about competing impulses.
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.