“This has nothing to do with jelly!”

Apparently, completely freaking out over my WIP is a normal part of my process.


The weird thing is that it feels different every time. Each book has some massive problem that I don’t think I can solve, and it’s a different problem every time.

Someday, the problem that comes up really will be a book-breaker and my freakout will be justified. Personally, I think this project is that one, but I thought the same way about all of them.

State of the suckitude

I’m having real trouble with my WIP. It’s not The Buried King; that’s on the back burner for now, based on the excellent advice of my agent. At the moment it’s A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark.

There’s a solid idea behind the story, and a solid setting to build it on, but as I’m writing it the whole thing feels slack.

And I think I have an idea why. I’m trying something different here, with a main character who is very knowledgeable and competent, and the stakes are both personal and very wide-ranging, but there’s a kind of emotional distance. The main character and her, well, sidekick, are a little cool-headed about things. Almost like a pair of amateur detectives from the 11th installment of an British mystery series from the 30′s. Sort of blase (imagine and accent mark above that last “e”) and unflappable.

Sort of.

Anyway, I’m used to characters who are more emotionally invested. I’m trying something new to stretch myself, but I think it’s hurting my method. I’ll need to do a couple of things to establish strong feeling soon.

And you know what? That wasn’t the post I was planning to write at all, but the act of typing about this WIP helped me find a solution. Thank you, modern blogging.

Tonight I’m actually heading out of my apartment (gasp!) to meet friends I know online but have never met in person. Two of them (I’m actually unsure how many people will be there) are highly-acclaimed writers. An occasion like this calls for a clean t-shirt.

State of the family

My wife is having a great time in Italy (I just received a pic of her standing beside the Mediterranean with mud all over her).

My son has promised a Nerf gun sneak attack this morning. I know he wants me to set up a large defense, but I’ve been a little busy.

I am working on my new WIP, and I’m sorta hating it. When I have it open, and I’m working in the file, it’s good. When I’m making breakfast or putting away dishes, I don’t want anything to do with it.

This is me.

This post by Ally Carter comes at just the right time, because I’m having a bought of the crazies myself. Mine are probably not like yours–I tend to become quiet, lie in darkened bedrooms, and mutter to myself about all the ways I’ve screwed up.

I’m not fishing for encouragement; I’ve said before that encouragement makes me uncomfortable. Still, I’m going to have to come to some kind of balance, or work out a way to put marketing and sales out of my mind. I’ll find success the way every other writer does: by writing books people want to read.

It’s not going to happen by looking at Twitter traffic, or by skimming the Random House bestsellers to see where my book is rated, or by checking Amazon.com sales rankings, or any of that. I just have to work on my next book.

Online much?

Not really. Pizza Week has been a single-parent experience, and I don’t have a lot of time to hang out online. I’m trying to keep up with my email and LJ friends list, but even that’s a struggle.

Anyway, I spoke with my agent about Project Number Next last Monday. The story idea came from this discussion, and although at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle something like that, eventually the idea started taking over my brain. I had a character I wanted to write about. I had a take on the standard urban fantasy setting that I really, really liked. All through the rewrites of Man Bites World, I was thinking of a handful of confrontations in the new project.

But I fucked it up. I wrote 44 pages with very little dramatic tension–there was no villain, no serious obstacle, just a story question that spins out without resolution. In fact, I did something I pretty much never do: I liked a character so much that I just went along for the ride in her day without a solid narrative. A character died off the page, yeah, and there’s a “Who killed the jerk?” story line, but overall it didn’t work.

Worse, the project as it stands feels very whole and solid to me. It needs to be rethought, but I’m going to need some distance before I have another go at it again. I’m too close right now.

Which means that, as I wait for a second round of notes on Man Bites World (or maybe a check instead!), I’ve gone back to The Buried King, the second-world fantasy I was writing while I was querying for Child of Fire. I abandoned it when Caitlin offered to represent me (and told me to start work on Game of Cages.) I’ve gone back to the goof and discovered I hadn’t really solved the plot yet. So, it needs a little more pre-writing planning, and then I’ll be jumping back into a new book.

And now I’ve spent too much of my writing day on this post, and it’s past time to wake my son. Have a great Friday, everyone.

Forgot to add: my back is almost back to normal today.

27 Apr 2010, 11:29pm

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First full day

The first full day of Pizza Week (aka, my wife is out of town) was troubled. The fruit pizza (with sweetened cream cheese) did not go over well. At all. The more traditional pepperoni pizza I made for dinner (with the good pepp) also did not go over well. My son got me to make him a mini-pizza at the end of the day and I put all his usual boring toppings on them.

As for the rest of the day, I’m a single parent so I’m not getting online all that much. I did have a productive conversation with my agent yesterday, and I plan to talk a little about that when it’s not so late. Bedtime has passed, so I must pass out.


Don’t worry, I’m not going to describe my dreams to you. I am going to point out that I’ve had three days in a row of rest and rehab and paying back my sleep debt. Yesterday, for instance, I woke at my usual alarm-clock time (just before 5 am) and went into the living room with no writing work on my plate. Man Bites World is turned in and awaiting editorial notes. My proposal for Project Number Next is in the mail. I even shipped off a couple copies of Child of Fire for reviews. I could have revised an old short story I never sent out, but I didn’t feel any urgency on that front at all.

And this complete lack of any kind of deadline pressure must be why I dreamed the opening of a new short story, in text, just as I woke up.

I’m not ready to write the story because all I have is the opening lines, but it’s sitting on a back burner cooking down. In the meantime, I read the end of my current book, then took a nap on the couch. Does it count as a nap at 6:15 am, or is that technically “going back to bed”? It doesn’t matter. I read, relaxed, slept, and even played a little bit of computer game later. Nice! A day off.

It’s also nice to remember my dreams. Usually, my alarm clock drives them out of my memory.

Does anyone else dream in text? I only do it sometimes, but I’m curious.

8 Things about me

1) I’m going to the Jim Butcher reading tonight on the UW Campus.

2) I forgot to shave or pretty myself up. Oops. Can’t take the fat unshaved guy anywhere.

3) I finished the rough of my Project Number Next proposal yesterday, but the polish is going to take a while.

4) I need to read this at some point when I have time.

5) Having turned in Man Bites World over the weekend, I’ve actually played a couple of computer games. Imagine!

6) Playing Call of Duty 2 on “Easy” is like going to war as Private Wolverine. There’s a lot of “Hey! Who’s shooting me in the back!”

7) Regarding point 2) I could have picked up a razor at the drug store and shaved in the bathroom at work, but fuck it. I’m tired.

8. I’m so forgetful I forgot what number 8 was supposed to be. Oh yeah. I got a raise at the day job. Extra Kit-Kat bar a month! Whoo-hoo!

Well, my day is already blown

I overslept by two hours this morning, and those early morning hours are pretty much solid writing time. That makes me mutter curses and plan to abandon my kid to the Wii later today, but we’ll see.

So instead of posting something original, I’m going to cut and paste an email I sent to a friend. He asked (generally) for links to websites that would help an aspiring novelist FOAF. This is what I sent:

I’m only going to give four suggestions:

First, he should buy a copy of CHILD OF FIRE and study it closely. In fact, he should buy two in case the first copy disintegrates after multiple rereadings. And a third, to give away, I guess.

Second, he should read Slushkiller, along with *all* the comments:


It starts out as a discussion of rejections, and how professionals judge submitted work, but the conversation ranges over many topics (and even features a typically batty appearance by former WP-er Frank/Franchesca to defend self-publishing).

It’s long, though. Longer than many novels. He should stick with it and read the whole thing.

Third, check out the Learn Writing With Uncle Jim thread on Absolute Write:


The first volume of that thread is 251 pages long, with 25 comments on each page. It’s so long, though, that it was sealed off and a second volume started in the same novel forum. Again, it’s long, but it’s full of useful information.

It’s also been running for seven years. A little of the information is outdated, but it’s corrected in later parts of the conversation.

Fourth and finally, he should be reading agents’ and editors’ blogs. Start here:


And look at the sidebar. First of all, her numerous posts about the way publishing works are fabulous and full of detail. Second, her list of other agent blogs is terrific. The budding novelist should go through those blog rolls and find a few informative blogs to add to his RSS feed. It’ll be trial and error, but it’s important. While he’s working on his craft, he should also be studying the industry.

And that’s a lot of reading, no kidding. That’s a double shitload. But it’ll be fun to read, because writers should be interested in the industry, and doing interesting things is awesome.

And now, and anti-rec: Here’s a list of people the budding writer should not waste their time on:

Anyone who says that NY publishers are closed to new writers.
Anyone who says that editors only want to publish their friends.
Anyone who says that they can’t get published because of their politics.
Anyone who says that you have to write short fiction to break in to novels.
Anyone who says that writers shouldn’t bother with small presses.
Anyone who says that most of what’s published today is crap.
Anyone who says that the big publishers are “dinosaurs”.

Good luck.

Frankly, I think those few links provide a buttload of reading, but if anyone wants to post a link or two of their own, I’ll drop him a note–since I don’t think he reads my blog (melodramatic sigh)–to check out the blog and LiveJournal comments for his FOAF.

Have a productive day.

Right here

Right here in the room with me is a woman in a sparkling satin dress, with a crumpled sash over her right shoulder and a tiara in her well-sprayed hair. Her face is streaked with tears, and she can’t stop saying Thank you! Thank you!. She has to steady herself by clutching the hand of the friend next to her.

That woman is me.

I just sent Man Bites World to my editor at Del Rey. And it’s only seven months and two days past deadline! Why, that’s practically early!

Okay. Not really. In fact, this book was really difficult to write. Add that the revisions for Game of Cages were extensive and time-consuming and you have me missing my target like a blindfolded man in a gun fight.

But it’s turned in and I’m ready for revisions. How do I feel?


To finish the post, here’s a list of the words that MS Word for Mac did not recognize during that final spell check: hitman, baster, motherfuckers, meh, berm, lynchings.

Now I get to work on the next thing.

Yesterday was supposed to be a day off.

I was supposed to take all of your advice and spend the day hanging out with my son, playing the new used Wii games I bought (verdict: De Blob=awesome. The Incredible Hulk=WTF were they thinking?) and general relaxing fun.

Instead I received my second round of notes from my agent on Man Bites World and spent about an hour and 15 reviewing the galleys for the last corrections to Game of Cages.

As I mentioned in my picture post yesterday, All the notes (there are only eight) are tweaks to bring out the stakes, fix pacing, or establish context. No prob. The plot and characters are solid (afaict). There’s still one important scene that isn’t quite pulling its weight, but it’s meant to be an oddball. If I can finesse it, I will. Otherwise I’ll just do what my agent suggests and shorten it.

And the Game of Cages galleys just needed straightforward correcting. After the copyedits are entered, a pair of proofreaders will read it, and I’ll have additional fixes to go over. I should have taken some notes about some of the errors they caught; I could have done another self-Thogging post. (For instance, trucks do not “skid on their brakes” omg no, not unless the brakes drop out of the bottom of the vehicle and get wedged beneath the tires.)

Anyway, my agent takes a little vacay starting tomorrow. I have a week to finish the revisions and prep the pages for Key/Egg/Remark. I suspect K/E/R has stalled out because I went off the rails. I’ll need to come up with a way to skim over the unpleasant scenes I’ve been trying to write to get to the fun stuff.

In unrelated news, my wife brought home her CPAP machine last night. I fully expect her to say it was too uncomfortable to sleep in, but I hold out hope that she had a good night.

Off to start the day.


I’ve lost my focus.

I’ve lost my discipline, drive and willpower. And I don’t know how to get it back.

Two things for today

First, if you run an independent book store, please, take five minutes every week to look over the new movie releases coming in, say, a month from now, and find out if it was adapted from a book. A new movie release is fantastic publicity for the book version, and you wouldn’t have to do more than stock a few by the counter to make a few impulse buys.

Second, I’m about to log off and work on Key/Egg/Remark. This being spring break for schoolkids, I find myself in the strange position of not having my homeschooled child in the apartment. His best bud from across the alley is off school this week and attending a week-long day camp–therefore, my son wants to be there with him. It’s like a week-long day play date!

So dinner is simmering in the oven, coffee is ready to brew, and I’m going to try for another 1500 words on the WIP. If I make 2000, maybe I’ll play a Wii game or something as a reward.

Have a great day, everyone.

5 Things Make A Friday Post

1) I finished up chapter one of Key/Egg/Remark this morning. Actually, I was slightly late to day job because of it. But doesn’t it feel good to start a new project? Hell yes. I’ve been writing Ray Lilly stories for years (and I hope to write more of them–buy my book) but it’s such a relief to go into another voice, another setting, another tone.

2) And yeah, as the previous point demonstrates, I have a working title for the next project. The plan is for it to be lighter in tone, much less violent, much more conversational, and slightly closer to the urban fantasy mainstream (although tweaked in the ways I like to tweak things–most of the characters, and especially the villains, will be human beings). I hope the working title does what it’s supposed to do, which is keep the tone light and the story clever; it’s too easy for me to go dark.

3) A few weeks ago, someone pointed out that Kindle owners were putting one-star reviews on books that didn’t have a Kindle edition, or that were priced above ten bucks. The reviewers even said, in the review, that they hadn’t read the book and weren’t going to until the price and format were to their liking. I clicked the “report this” button and within a few days the review was gone.

Well, Amazon.com has stopped taking those reviews down. I guess it’s because they think those angry Kindlegarteners are doing something useful for them. They could, if they wanted to, limit reviews to people who have bought the book from them. They could, if they wanted to, post a request in the forums asking people to stop, and to use the link under “Tell the Publisher!” But they won’t.

Because they’re dicks.

4) Back to items one and two: Key/Egg/Remark is totally on spec right now. I haven’t even run the idea by my agent yet. In truth, I suspect it has some… let’s call them “non commericial elements”

Am I a fucking moron? You bet! But it’s what I want to do. And rather than talk about the idea with my agent, I’d like to try to win her over with the story.

God, I’m an idiot. I should just write a steampunk YA about a teenage inventor and track star who teams up with his roboticized girlfriend to steal a military dirigible and raids an arctic lab to recover her human body. And the villain would have an implanted monocle-like eye piece and a hyper-intelligent talking cat who switches sides at the last minute.

5) I forgot to mail my taxes today. Duh. I’ll do it tomorrow.

Thank you, everyone

I’d like to thank everyone for giving their input on the title. It’s appreciated.

What does this title suggest to you?

If you saw this:


as a book’s title, what inferences would you draw about the content of the novel?

The world is full of story-fodder

I was going to drop this into the latest random link compilation, but it’s too cool to be buried there. Check out this news report on a story from more than fifty years ago in Scotland.

Yes, hundreds of children hunting vampires in a graveyard after dark–a vampire “with iron teeth” no less.

The story ideas that little news piece prompts are undeniable. The two simplest ideas would be to tell it from the POV of one of the children, if only for the chance to write about kids high on adrenaline because they’re doing something forbidden and dangerous. Some other writer might be able to write it from the POV of the vampire as it’s being hunted, frightened by the attention being drawn to it and indignant at being threatened by children.

It’s the POV of the parents that I find most interesting, naturally. A village where every kid has to be home by dark, and no one will talk about the local undead nasty, but what happens when the little ones find out on their own, and decide to be heroes?

I wonder if I can steal this for my next project.

Pleasant things

A neighborhood library branch (not mind) is having a writers event tonight. It’s some sort of reading and talk, along with an open mike. I was seriously tempted to go, just to see what it was like. If it was fun and well-attended, I would have introduced myself to the library staff and offered myself for future events.

Then I decided to run the authors’ names through a search engine. They’re all poets.

Just typing that make me shudder a bit. I don’t know if anyone out there has ever heard a poet reading their work on, say, NPR, but they always have the same unnatural, deadening cadence. Gah! Instead, I will go home to my family, share dinner with them, and maybe watch the last of the NOVA dvds we picked up at the library (“The Last Extinction!”). That will be pleasant.

You know what else is pleasant? Woolgathering for a new book. Everything is still made of potential and none of the characters have turned up dead in a burning orphanage. Yet.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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