Dreary January

Firefight releases today! It just so happens to coincide with Sbux Tip Tuesday, which makes me desperate for a bookstore.

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But! I won’t buy it yet… I know, I know. I haven’t shut up about this book for a couple weeks, and all of a sudden I’m not buying it?

But that’s because a fortuitous visit to Sanderson’s website dropped a bomb on me yesterday.

Thanks to the book’s release, he’s touring again, and will be in Portland on the 16th! But, I’m scheduled to work during the signing, and was on the verge of tears yesterday afternoon. Ask my friend, Crazybull, he was making fun of me.

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But, an angel in the form of a co-worker, swooped down and saved me. She’s agreed to cover the shift, and I am Portland bound! So, in an effort to support awesome Indie bookstores like Powell’s, I’m holding off on my purchase until the event.

Which sort of works out. I didn’t want to rush through The Star Scroll just to read Firefight, and it gives me time to read Mitosis as well. It just allows for better pacing for my reading this month.

Speaking of reading this month, my hubby is a bit of a comedy buff. He loves stand-up, and his favorite comic is Patton Oswalt. He came to Salem once, and I bought us tickets for Trevor’s birthday. We had a blast, because Patton is one hilarious dude. And, in case you hadn’t heard, he launched a book today as well, titled Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film. And, he’ll also be in Portland, at the Burnside Powell’s, on the 29th signing books and shaking hands.

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So, all of a sudden my dreary January is full of fun events!

Another fun event is a return to our weekly Dungeons and Dragons campaign. This is something relatively new for us. Trevor and I are fairly nerdy people. We play video games extensively. I have a Kingdom Hearts tattoo as well as a Doctor Who tattoo, and Trev’s rocking the Star Trek insignia for life. And I read Sci-Fi/Fantasy almost exclusively these days.

So, when a co-worker of Trevor’s suggested we get a party together for a beginner’s campaign, we were 100% interested. So we gathered a group of pretty interesting people, who created even more interesting characters, and we’ve been playing for a month solid. But, the Holidays made us a skip a week, and tonight is our return!

And what does the only female party member wear to play D&D? Why, only the finest nerdery out there!
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That’s right! A Dragon Age tank top, featuring her favorite romance option (a gift from her adored husband) and a Pikachu cardigan (a gift from the adored in-laws). Short of cosplaying our characters, it doesn’t get much more nerdy.

I don’t work at the Bux today, so I find myself wasting time scouring the internet, tweeting, and reading intermittently. It’s nice.

But, I did wake up this morning with a drive to work on Jordinn’s Story, so I’m going to wrap up this dribble, and get to it.

I’ll see you soon, Blogland!

BZ

My Reading List Keeps Growing!

Guys! Guys, guys, guys!

I am so excited right now! Like, drawing attention to myself in the Starbucks lobby as I fangirl and foam at the mouth, excited!

I popped over to Brandon Sanderson’s website to check-in with his progress meters, because they don’t show up on his mobile site. So, I’m skimming through blog posts, and see that he’s done a 2014 summary, as well announced his projects for 2015…

Guys! He’s releasing two, dos, deux, zwei, TWO Mistborn books next year! Both of them Wayne and Wax novels, AKA sequels to The Alloy of Law! And he admitted that there will be a fourth and final book in that series somewhere down the line.

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Guys! I am wigging out right now. Add to it that Firefight, the sequel to Steelheart comes out next week, and I have a deadline to meet! I can’t be stuck reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café when a new Brandon Sanderson book is released!

Also, his list of projects is so overwhelming. He has so much going on and I am so excited for all of them!

The weekend before last found me traipsing around Portland with Trevor and his parents. And if I’m in Portland, I’m stopping at Powell’s. Trevor grumbles as he follows me about the metropolis of books, but I think he secretly enjoys it. I don’t know how he couldn’t. Any place that packed with books is too magical to dismiss lightly. I think he mostly worries about our bank account when I’m there.

This last trip I only bought five books. He thought it was a lot, but I promised him it could have been so, so much more.
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If we lived anywhere near this book mecca, I’m certain I’d be begging on the corner within days. Above you’ll see my five finds. The top two are starts to series I’ve been meaning to try. Year Zero is a sci-fi that’s been chilling on my goodreads “to read” list for far too long. Castings was a lucky find. I’d never heard of it before, but upon reading the back cover, and leafing through the pages, I’m pretty stoked to tear into it.

It’s the bottom book that is my true treasure however. It’s a hardback copy of both Legion and The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson. I already own, and had signed, a paperback copy of The Emperor’s Soul, but could only find Legion as an ebook. And if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I don’t do ebooks, if it can be helped. And so I’ve never read Legion, but snatched up this copy for $10!

It’s perfect timing, because the sequel was just released, and I can get a hardback copy from Powell’s!

But, before I can tear into any of these, I have to finish the current Book Club book. I’m almost halfway there, and am feeling motivated to get it out of the way. School starts in a couple of weeks, and my reading time will be hurt because of it. At least, my pleasure reading will be.

Today I plan to start edits on A Stranger Comes Knocking. I’m feeling confident as far as readability and grammar stuff, it’s content I’m worried about. I fear the story may have taken a direction Caladria isn’t really looking for…

The only way to find out is to edit it up and send it off. For all I know they’ll be pleasantly surprised, and they might really enjoy my spin on events. I don’t know.

I have an hour or so today, and about four hours tomorrow to work on the story. My goal is to turn it in before work tomorrow. And since I can’t seem to focus, I’m gonna get some lunch.

Have a great day, Blogland!

BZ

The Literary Crevices of Salem, OR

I finished reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ yesterday. I toted the book around with me for the rest of the evening, unwilling to relinquish it to its place on my bookshelves. In fact, it’s still sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for me to decide I’m ready to put it away.

Buying the sequel will help. I spent most of my day off loitering the stacks of Salem’s various indie bookstores. That’s one of the things that enamored me to this small city. There is no Borders, no Barnes and Noble, not even a Walden’s Books in one of the malls.

But, there’s The Book Bin downtown, which has new and used books spread over two floors. Being downtown it tends to cater more toward the older generations, with a large selection of literary and general fiction.

The Book Bin Downtown
The Book Bin Downtown

But, they have a second location, just down the street from my work, The Book Bin East. This location, formerly Borders, caters more to my generation, with sprawling shevles crammed with Sci-Fi/Fantasy, both new and used, and a children’s/teen lit section that rivals any big chain.
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There’s The Book Habit, which is tucked away beneath a restaurant. Only used books live there, stacked two deep in horizontal rows on the shelves. They don’t even use a computerized register, and their organization and inventory are both mysteries. I only visit the ‘Habit’ when I’ve got the time to kill on an adventure in book hunting.
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The Paperback Exchange sits on a one-way street, in an old building whose windows are thick with the dusty grime of novels left neglected for too long. This store is probably my least favorite. It feels like sifting through the forgotten remains of someone’s former life. Dirty. The pricing makes no sense, and often can’t be found. I once stacked up a pile that, according to the numbers penciled onto the title pages, should have cost me upwards of $20, but once at the register the clerk/owner/hoarder told me the total was $14.

To this day, I’m not sure how she came to that total. The books are cheap there, and occasionally you’ll find an unexpected gem tucked away in some cobweb encrusted corner.
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Across the river I discovered The Reader’s Guide, a wonderful store in West Salem. They have new and used books, and today I found a real gem there; a hardback copy of ‘The Way of Kings’! I tore it from the shelf and cradled it against my chest, as if hugging a long lost child. Needless to say, I bought it, and at a steal of a price, $14.

This store is in a great location, but the building doesn’t have a proper sign. Instead there’s a hand-painted “Books” at the top, and then A-frame signs on the sidewalk. It looks rickety and sad, until you walk through the door into a wide room filled with shelves, all organized, with the spines all neatly facing out. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Just one glimpse into the large store.
Just one glimpse into the large store.

About 20 minutes outside of Salem, in the tiny town of Independence, is a great little bookstore called Second Chance Books. It has a similar feel as The Book Habit, though a bit better organized. I don’t go there as often as I’d like, but if I find myself with a bit of free time, I’ll go there, pick out a book or five, and then grab a slice of pizza from the shop next door.
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And then there’s my favorite. The bookstore that hid from me for two years, right under my nose. Ultimately, the search for ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ led me back here, to the place where I found ‘The Name of the Wind’. Back to Escape Fiction.
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This bookstore is something special. It’s a sprawling combination of warehouses, dedicated solely to fiction. There are about 8 different rooms, all bursting with different genres, and all organized neatly. But, there’s a quaint imperfection, some shelves housing novels in the usual, upright fashion, and some others stacked horizontally.

There’s magic in the twisting walkways defined by the placement of floor to ceiling shelving, a similar magic that can be found in the books themselves. It’s a place that makes my nerve endings light up, and at once soothes my soul and makes my heart race. They carry used fiction almost exclusively, but have an entire room dedicated to new Sci-Fi/Fantasy. It was here that I found the book I’d spent the better part of three hours hunting.

I’ll admit that I was holding out for a used copy. ‘The Name of the Wind’ had called to me, found me, and demanded in its own bookish way that I take it home. I wrote about it recently, claiming it full of magic.

I went to the Book Bin East on Monday, knowing I would need to find the sequel soon, but all their copies were new, and bound so tightly as to make flipping the pages difficult, as if the book were reluctant to share Kvothe’s story with me. I put each copy I touched back on the shelves.

And each store I visited today was the same. Either they didn’t have a single copy or it was new and secretive. There was no magic. But, in Escape Fiction, I found a copy that had promise. It’s still new, but it has the faint spark of magic, a hint at becoming what it’s predecessor is.

I bent to grab the book, and impatiently flipped through it at random. The binding was tight, but flexible. It promised to loosen up if I only gave it a chance. The words leapt at me from fresh, silken pages and again the smell wafted up at me. That familiar scent of printing and paper and glue. And though this copy lacked that warmth that comes from years spent read on patios and dinner tables, and in the wee hours under a blanket, they smelled of something else.

These pages held a fresh, clean smell. An eager smell. I cupped the book in my palm, and despite being over 300 pages longer than the first novel, it fit the same way, my thumb locked into the ‘O’ in ‘Rothfuss’, spine in my palm, and my fingers wrapped comfortably around to the back.

Used books tend to hog all the magic, but occasionally a new book is born with a hint of it. I’ll be honored to help ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ gather its own worn version of magic.

And so my day was spent exploring the literary crevices of this town I now call home. Then I ate lunch and read about 85 pages of my find. I was hoping to write, or maybe edit today, but my time is running out. Tomorrow I work some weird hours, but Friday I should be in, and finally able to sit down to write.

I’m still excited for this story, and scenes are coming to me as the characters continue to develop. I will admit that the writing has been ridiculously easy this far, and though I fully expect for that to come to an end, I won’t fret about it.

When the writing gets hard, you just keep writing. Right?

I’m also excited about the edits I’m working on, although retyping and printing is looking like less and less fun. But, I’ve got a few people eager to read the second draft once it’s ready, and I’m just as eager to get it cleaned up for them. I could use the feedback.

Anyway, I’m off to work on editing a chapter while I wait for Trevor to show up. See you Friday, Blogland!

BZ

The Proverbial Cover and Book Conundrum.

Some days are just slow. Not lazy, or laid back. Not even lackadaisical. Just slow.

I woke up and spent the beginning of my day reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss. I bought the book secondhand on Tuesday. It’s Thursday and I’m 300 pages in.

I’ve had Rothfuss recommended to me many times, and I’ve picked it up in stores before, but always put it back. The main character’s name really put me off. I know it seems stupid, but I hate it when I don’t know how to pronounce character names.

Kvothe. I read it as Ki-vo-th. And it was cumbersome on the tongue. I put the book back on the shelf, and I ignored it every time I saw it.

But, on my visit to my favorite bookstore I found a copy and it was magnetic. The spine was well-creased, probably read multiple times before it was traded in. Those creases demanded to be touched.

I reached out, caressed the spine, and then pulled the book from its lonely spot on the shelf. I knew as I felt the weight of the book in my hands that I was going to buy it. There was magic in that book. Magic I couldn’t deny, though it didn’t keep me from trying.

Many of you are readers and writers, and you know what I’m talking about. Not every copy of a book is created equal. And though used books tend to hoard all the magic found in print, occasionally a new book is born with it.

I imagine that the criteria is different for every reader, but we all have it, and we all know when we’ve found a book that will be precious to us.

Firstly, ‘The Name of the Wind’ fits in my palm perfectly. The spine tucks into the flesh of my hand, my thumb locked into the ‘O’ in the author’s name at the top as my fingers curl comfortably around to the back cover.

That was the first moment, when I felt that jolt of satisfaction at the feel of the book. Then I flipped through the pages, their edges brushing against my thumb easily. No snags, no sharp edges. Just a smooth rush against the pad of my thumb.

And then the smell hit me. I knew then that I would not be able to put the book back on the shelf. The warm, soft smell of old books wafted up to me as the pages brushed past my thumb, hinting at a past filled with late nights and traveling in purses and cars. This was a book that had been cherished.

Finally, I opened it. I flipped its pages carefully, reading the title page, the dedication, and the acknowledgements, all while getting a feel for the pages themselves. They’re thin, but not brittle.

All these pieces came together to weave a magnetic magic, binding me to the book, just as the pages are bound to the spine. It was undeniable.

And so I tucked it under my arm and continued through the store with my friend, as she explored the shop for the first time. As we walked I mulled over all my reasons for not buying the book.

I can’t pronounce the character’s name. I don’t like “traditional” fantasy stories. I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower’. That pretentious guy at the Sanderson signing wouldn’t shut up about Rothfuss.

But, I knew, even as I tried to talk myself out of it, I would buy the book. I also knew that I’d start reading it that night. What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t be able to put it down, or that all my preconceived notions were completely wrong.

Calling this book a ‘Traditional’ fantasy novel is so far from accurate, it’s laughable. As for the character’s name? Kvothe? He tells you how to pronounce it, and by page 300, I’ve got it down; ‘Quothe’.

To say I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower’ isn’t entirely truthful. ‘The Waste Lands’ hasn’t been cracked open in a while now. Somewhere in the story my interest faltered. And though I don’t intend to give up, I’m still struggling to find the motivation to pick it back up.

Now, as for the pretentious guy… Well, even jackasses can be right about things, they just tend to lord it over anyone who will listen.

I will say though, that everyone I’ve spoken with/overheard talk about Rothfuss praise him for his flowing and lyrical prose. And yes, for the genre, I think he’s definitely very poetic.

But, there haven’t been many lines that make me pause. Lines that force me to see the beauty in the language. Maybe I haven’t read far enough, or maybe I’m being too critical.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not criticizing the writing. He’s great, it’s crisp, flowing, and full of striking imagery. And it’s definitely not as spartan as authors I’m used to reading.

But, coming from a general fiction, and short story background, Rothfuss isn’t flowery, or even all that poetic. But, he’s not as cut and dry as Sanderson. Rothfuss’s words flow and have a life of their own, but not enough to take away from the story.

It’s kind of an ideal style. And I’m glad I’m reading it now, as I’m beginning my journey into the biggest world I’ve created.

I think that might be why my venture into ‘The Dark Tower’ slowed. A lull in the story coincided with the end of one novel and the beginning of another, and a venture into a totally new world and tone.

I wanted to read something gritty and sparse while I wrote ‘Cards’, but Jordinn’s story is totally different, and I think I needed help. I read Sanderson almost exclusively while writing ‘Vessels’, and though I don’t think my novel can even compare to something Sanderson wrote, I definitely took a lot of lessons from his prose.

In order to write Jordinn’s story, I needed to read a book that would teach me how. I think ‘The Name of the Wind’ is that book. At least for now.

Anyway, I’m supposed to hang out with a friend today, but she hasn’t responded to my texts yet. So, until she does, I’m going to be editing ‘Vessels’ and keep working on the new novel.

I wrote about 600 words on Tuesday while I waited for a friend, and though that is small progress, I want to keep the momentum going.

If you haven’t read Rothfuss, I recommend giving him a chance. So far I’ve found ‘The Name of the Wind’ highly addictive. It’s the first of three, and the third has yet to be released.

I’m already worried about the potential of having to wait.

Have a good day, Blogland!

BZ

Insomnia and the Trouble with Endings

It’s one of those nights. When thoughts trickle in through the seams of my brain, persistent like the drip of a leaky sink. The nights that curse me once or twice a month. Blame it on the caffeine, or over stimulation. Or call it by name.

Insomnia.

By definition I’m convinced that every person in the world struggles with insomnia. It’s not just the inability to fall asleep, but also difficulty staying asleep. Who hasn’t dealt with that from time to time? I will say that, once I’m out, I’m down for the count. Very little can interrupt me once I’m asleep. But, I’ll hear phones vibrate on the night stand, and awaken immediately for my alarm. I am not a snooze button kind of girl. However, I still consider myself a sound sleeper. I usually feel rested in the morning, and I don’t wake up sporadically.

But, there are nights, like this one, where the inner monologue just won’t stop.

This blog has seen its fair share of late night musings. They tend to be more poetic than the posts written during the day, but they also tend to make a lot less sense. Ramblings is a good term for them.

So. what has me riled up tonight?

You’re going to think me silly. I slipped up. I let myself play Mass Effect before finishing ‘Cards’. That’s right. Only one chapter and an epilogue left to write, and I didn’t do it. Instead I’ve spent about 10 hours finishing my second play through of my favorite game of all time. For those of you not in the gaming world, the last installment of the Mass Effect trilogy was a bit controversial. You see, most fans found the ending to be vague, and disappointing. And while I agreed with them from a player’s perspective, I saw the vision and the beauty from a writer’s perspective. This unique blend of perception allowed me to appreciate an ending to a most beloved series that the rest of the world hated.

They hated it so much that they took to the internet and demanded the developers fix it. We can stay up all night discussing the implications of such behavior, but that’s not what I’m really here for tonight. The development team stood by their ending, refusing to alter it in any significant way, but they did release DLC (downloadable content) that would add a few more cut scenes and more dialogue to deal with some of the ambiguity.

This game was released in March of 2012. The Extended Cut, as the revised ending is called, was released in June of the same year. Over the past two years I’ve downloaded all other available content, and have finally played them all. And tonight I was so excited to finally get some answers. I was ready. I could play it again, and ride the roller coaster of emotions that is the end of this trilogy. And so I played for almost six hours straight tonight. Only to discover, as the ending played out before me, that I never downloaded the Extended Cut.

This is what has me so pumped up.

How? Why?

I thought I downloaded it, obviously. But, as I think back, now that I know the DLC isn’t there, I remember thinking, “I’m not ready. I don’t want to play it yet, I’m not ready.” And so, out of a sense of emotional unpreparedness, I never downloaded the augmented ending. But, since we moved we haven’t connected the XBOX 360 to the internet, because we’re on the XBOX One much more. Without the internet, I couldn’t check to see what DLC was still available to me.

What this means is that I will have to play another additional three hours, after downloading the Extended Cut.

I’m trying to tell myself this isn’t a bad thing. It means I get to play again. I get to see all these wonderful characters, and interact with them. Again. But the thing is, the last three hours or so of Mass Effect 3 are hard on my soul.

I don’t want to get into details, because if you don’t know the characters, you won’t care. Some day, I’ll forgive you for that. But, there are two characters that I cherish more than any others. They are my wing-men. And one of them is my character’s romantic interest. They go on every mission with me, in every single installment of the game. My boys. And to go into the end sequence, which we all know is more than likely a suicide mission, is just downright painful.

Goodbyes, and lingering glances laced with things left unspoken.

You’re thinking I’ve lost my mind. That all of this can’t be in a video game. But, there are those that say these same experiences aren’t in books, and we both know they’re just flat out wrong. That’s the beauty, and the pure tragedy of good characters. They come to life in our imaginations. Spend enough time with them, and suddenly you know their movements, their every facial expressions, and their exact response to any given situation.

You know it’s true.

And so, playing this ending is painful. Even more so now that Bioware, the company that develops Mass Effect, has officially confirmed that the next installment in the franchise will be with all new characters.

There’s another silver lining I’m trying to convince myself of. All new characters to fall in love with, and new adventures to be had. I did have a thought today though that bolstered me on this subject. I’m a broken record, but I thought of Mistborn. The original trilogy was filled with characters that really moved me, and I loved each of them. The end of that series drives me to tears every time. When Alloy of Law, a book set in the same world, but 300 years later, came out I was excited.

And skeptical.

I could never love these characters the way I loved Vin and Elend. Or Sazed and Kelsier. Never.

Except I do. And would now even venture to say that the Alloy of Law is my favorite book set in the world of Mistborn. Yes, saying goodbye to Commander Shepard and her stalwart crew is painful. It always will be. But, these new characters, and their new adventure? I can’t wait to meet them. To grow to love them all, as much as I love the characters in the current games.

For tonight though, I’m angry and disappointed. All at myself. I spent so much time, only to experience the exact same ending for a second time. The game gives you options for how the game truly ends, but because I thought I had the DLC I chose the same option, in order to see the difference. Well, that didn’t work out.

So now I have to play again, and pick the same ending. Again. Because it’s my ending. The way my heart says it has to be. In the future, with other incarnations of Shepard, I’ll make other decisions. For curiosity’s sake. But, for now, it’s got to be this ending.

I’m supposed to be waking up for work in about four and half hours. Yeah. Another one of those nights. I find that, as I age, sleep just seems less and less important. I can get by on two hours of sleep. In fact, I did it just Tuesday. I slept nine hours last night, but had been up for a straight 22 the day before. And now I’m here, hoping that this post will get the rambling echoes of thought out of my head. That maybe now I can put my head to the cool side of the pillow and feel relaxed.

My eyes are starting to feel sluggish. Unwilling participants in this little exercise. And my head does seem calmer. The sentences don’t flow in that same harried pace, and I can pause to consider my thoughts. But, there’s still a spark in there. I know what it is. It’s the hint of creation. I want to write a Mass Effect fanfiction, but I know better than to go down that path. Fanfiction is the product of obsession. But, I can use this spark. The character that’s caught my eye, that is begging to be written…

I can use him. Not really him, obviously. Not his name, or his abilities. But his essence. I can take the characteristics from him, the things that helped me fall for him in the first place, and put them into someone of my creation. And I have an idea for who.

But, this is a dangerous topic. I’m not quite finished with ‘Cards’ yet. I can’t start working on something new until it’s done. That’s how this writer thing works. At least for me. I’m off again Monday. I’m aiming for completion then. I know it won’t happen before then, since I have to see this Extended Cut, and Trevor and I are both off Sunday.

Monday is the day. I’m feeling good about it. Well, not literally. In fact, I feel rather guilty for putting it off. But, that guilt will help me sit down and write it, once Monday rolls around.

I’m not completely cured of this wakefulness. But it’s definitely better. And this post blossomed into something much larger than I originally anticipated. My mind is settling, which means it’s time to get some sleep.

I’ll see you Monday, Blogland.

 

BZ

The Payoff of Hard Work

My drive home is short, as far as commutes are concerned. 20 minutes across town. My work is on the north side of town, and I live out south. Last night was mild, and humid as clouds rolled in, which let me drive home with the windows down.

I don’t consider myself an outdoors-y person. Hikes are nice, but I’d rather sit under a tree and read. I’ve always dreamt of kayaking, but it also scares me a little, because I find large bodies of water discomforting. Also, in nature I have to deal with that whole bug pandemic. I’ll pass.

But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t love the outdoors.

I crave the sensation of wind swirling around me, ripping at my hair. Of the sun shining down warmth that my skin will harbor for days. And of that salty fragrance coupled with seaweed that is the ocean.

It’s the details of nature that captivate me. And when I do find myself camping or doing uncharacteristic outdoors activities, I tend to turn into an extreme introvert.

Perhaps I should start by explaining that I am naturally an Introvert. Not uncommon for writers, I would imagine, since we spend a bulk of our time alone. What does that really mean? Introverts gain energy from time alone, spent thinking introspectively, whereas Extroverts gain energy from other people. The more people around, the more energetic the Extrovert becomes.

Yeah, just thinking about more than four people in a room talking to me is exhausting.

But, the quiet of nature, and the totally different perspective of animals, untouched by man, sets my brain buzzing with deep philosophical ideas and questions, and usually, with new fiction.

I’m not the most fun person to have around the camp fire.

Anyway, bringing this thing back around, I drove home with the windows down, inviting the night in to envelop me, and I did some pretty good thinking.

Yesterday I wrote about 2,800 words. I finished chapter 16, started chapter 17, and outlined the end of the book. I reached 49,500 words.

I started seriously working on ‘Cards’ in January. It’s May. I’ll give you a moment to count on your fingers, like I did.

So, that’s not quite five months.

‘Vessels’ ended at 47,704 words, and it took just over 6 months.

So, I felt pretty damn good last night when I realized that all this work is really paying off. I’ve written more words in less time. I am getting better at this novel writing thing, and at sticking to a routine.

I write about four or five days a week. I sit at the computer anywhere from 4-5 hours a day, but I probably only  seriously write 2-3 of those hours. Sometimes less. That has me writing about 8-12 hours a week. If I’m being good.

There were two weeks where I didn’t write a word. Boy was that a mistake.

This is one of those days where I really wished I were writing full time. I could get so much more done! Gah!

But, I had another thought last night that made me feel better in this regard. Brandon Sanderson wrote 13 novels before his 6th one was published. That book was Elantris, the book he’d written for his Masters Thesis. So, if he followed the schooling timeline perfectly, he was probably about my age when he wrote Elantris.

He wrote another SEVEN books before one was published.

I’m on my second book. All this work I’m putting in is for my learning. This is work to get accustomed to pumping out thousands of words a day, and not consider it work. These novels are the early ones, the ones that I’ll look back on fondly, and probably with a little embarrassment.

Maybe.

Or maybe ‘Cards’ is better than even I think. Who knows?

Anyway, what’s left?

Finishing chapter 17 is my goal today. It’s the last chapter before all hell breaks loose in the book. I have until 6pm to write, and I’ll probably finish 17 and get a good chunk of 18 done, if the past few days are any indication.

There are 20 chapters and an epilogue outlined. I’m getting so close to the end!

But, my brain isn’t quite ready to dig in just yet. I ate breakfast, but haven’t had any caffeine. Maybe I should. I’ve emailed caterers, and am scheduling a tasting with one for next week.

There’s so much other stuff competing with my writing time. I’m excited for when this wedding is done, and I can write with less distraction. Plus, I just want to be married already!

I’m still reading at a good rate, which I believe is directly connected to my writing success. If I stop reading I stop writing. And I definitely haven’t stopped reading. The Dark Tower is a fascinating series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Anyway, I have work to do.

 

BZ

 

Recreational Drugs and Writing

This post began as a comment to this blog post, but I soon realized there was just too much to be said from my mobile. So I got out of bed and decided to write a proper response, and give Trevor the additional 30 minutes of sleep he requested.

So, for those of you who didn’t click the link, a pox on your house! No, not really, though I may bite my thumb at you. And apparently I’m feeling very Shakespeare today. Anyway, in his post, Eli Glasman talks about his experience with and dislike of recreational drugs.

Now, for my own personal experience, I agree. Not something I’m a fan of. But, I know quite a few people who can enjoy weed with no backlash on their professional or personal life. These people smoke weed, or sometimes bake it into delicious looking morsels, probably less than three times a month. Others in my acquaintance are even less frequent than that. And they all give the same reason for why they smoke at all.

To relax.

Some get baked and play video games for hours. In fact, most of them do. It’s a relaxing way to spend a day you had no motivation on anyway. You had no plans, or pressing chores. It’s your day off to spend as you wish. Because it’s recreation. It’s fun and or relaxing.

And I think that’s where there’s a disconnect in the anti-drug logic. They say that so-and-so is addicted to recreational drugs. Hmmm… That just sets off an alarm in my head.

 Addiction: to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.

We’ve all seen it, whether on television or in real life. We’ve seen and known addicts. Something that started rather innocently has become a need in order to survive. Addicts are the extreme. The people who punch you when you ask for your left over beer from last night’s party. The people who steal from your tip jar so they can buy a McMuffin from across the street.

But, here’s the thing. Addicts don’t drink, or smoke, or do drugs because it’s fun. Sure, that’s how it probably started, but by the time the addiction is recognizable, they’re probably not having much fun anymore. They do it to feel normal. Which is a terrifying thought. But, smoking weed does not an addict make. In fact, I’m not sure I know a single person who is actually addicted to weed. Even those in my acquaintance who smoke every day, could go an entire day without smoking without withdrawal symptoms, or a meltdown. Because it’s still recreation.

Recreation: refreshment of strength and spirits after work; also :  a means of refreshment or diversion: hobby. 

Whether it’s a cigarette after a shitty shift, a beer after a long week, or a joint on Saturday night, it’s still something we do to relax and shed the responsibilities of the workday/week.

“Whenever we purchase recreational drugs, even if we know that we’ll be okay, we are still contributing to an industry that causes people’s lives to be torn apart. Even if we were to say that it doesn’t always happen, nobody can deny that it still does happen, that it’s still a risk that somebody, somebody we may even know and love, will become addicted. All I keep wondering is, what is so important about taking drugs that we’re willing to take this risk?”

An argument from the post. And yes, what he says is true. But, the same could be said of car/motorcycle sales. How many people die every day in motor vehicle collisions? About 120, in the US alone. Approximately 3,000 people die every day due to car accidents across the world. So, how dare you buy a car? A little extreme, but technically the same argument.

About 100 people die from drug overdose every day in America. So yes, drug abuse is a problem. Obviously. But one way to prevent abuse is to educate, especially as weed legalization becomes a reality across the nation. Although, you can’t really OD on weed. You just fall asleep and wake up sober.

And here’s another reason legalization is good! How many people go to their dealer just to get weed, and end up trying something else? Something ‘stronger’? Weed isn’t the gateway, dealers are. Legalize pot, regulate it, and suddenly it’s being sold in dispensaries by licensed government employees. The offer of something more, something that will keep you coming back and willing to pay more and more because you NEED it, has been removed from the scenario.

Because, once and for all, weed is not the villain. Addiction is a symptom. Something that occurs due to a need to escape one’s own reality. AKA, a way to deal with/ignore your inner demons.

Now, this is a writing blog, so let’s swing this thing back around.

Let’s think of some famous writers who were addicts…

Hemingway. The lifelong alcoholic. There’s countless proof behind this one, even his own admissions to fellow writer/drunkard F. Scott Fitzgterald.
Stephen King. Alcohol/Cocaine. And boy was he a mess. He doesn’t even remember writing most of Cujo, and it became normalcy for his wife to find him the next morning, passed out by his desk next to his own vomit. She threatened to leave, and over many hard years, he figured his shit out.
Aldous Huxley. LSD and Mescaline. This was later in his life, but the dude enjoyed him some crazy trips.
Philip K. Dick. Speed was his flavor of choice, used to enhance his productivity. He must have struggled with word count too.
William Faulkner. Alcohol. Though he did state that he wouldn’t drink and write. Always sober to write. I like that.
Edgar Allan Poe. We all know this cat was messed up. Alcohol was the big one, though I could see him enjoying absinthe along the way. I’ll admit that’s just stereotyping on my part however.
Brandon Sanderson.  Chewy fruit candies. Every writer has an addiction, even the Mormon ones! I’ve heard him talk about hot chocolate on several occasions too. Better be careful, Brandon!

Anyway, this response has sort of blossomed into its own animal, and its time to put it out of my misery. Besides, Trevor’s been asleep for more than an hour now, and I can hear his snores through both doors. It’s time to wake up the bear. Wish me luck.

 

BZ

Symptoms of the Learning Process

Mornings.

Generally, I’m not a fan. But, some are better than others. Those mornings I open my eyes, and they see. Blurry, because I don’t sleep in my corrective eyewear, but the images the magic of my eyeballs capture is filtered and understood by my brain. Those mornings my brain functions, and well. I’m filled with purpose, and ambition, and goals.

And on those mornings, I tend to achieve them.

And then there are the other mornings. Mornings like today. Where I open my eyes, and everything’s blurry, and it means nothing to me. I don’t see the ceiling of my bedroom. I don’t register the smell of the spring breeze.

I just know that I’m awake, and I am not amused.

These mornings are slow. They start sluggish, with me lying in bed for much longer than necessary, blinking away the remnants of interrupted dreams. I flick through techno-news, but don’t really understand, or form thoughts about the things I read.

Because my brain isn’t there yet.

I’ll get up. Dress. Brush my teeth. Drive to work. It’s the drive where I seem to come to. I think it’s the music. Today’s wake up song was Johnny Cash’s rendition of ‘Hurt’. A depressing song to start my day to, but sitting in the warmth of spring sunshine, it wasn’t so bad.

So, two and a half hours after opening my eyes, I’m sitting, freezing in the Starbucks lobby. Seriously. It’s 55 degrees outside, why in the dickens is the AC on? And everyone else is wearing shorts, trying to get as much UV as their pasty skin can handle.

Anyway, I’m up. I’m here. And it’s time to get to work.

In my last post I made some lofty goals. I planned to finish chapter 10 of ‘Cards’, as well as edit both chapters 3 and 4 of ‘Vessels’.

I’m here to say that I killed it!

Chapter 10 is done, and awesome, building characters and the world. And it was FUN. A new-ish character has asserted himself, and it turns out, he has a good sense of humor. And he’s good natured. He helps temper all the darkness in my other two leading men.

And, I edited both chapters, as planned. It’s been an awesome week.

Yesterday I took a day off from writing and editing, and focused on my ‘Alloy of Law’ experiment. I’m just over halfway through the book, and I’ve learned a lot. Mainly, I am way, way, way too critical on my writing. And it’s keeping my word counts low.

A typical Sanderson chapter
A typical Sanderson chapter

I could write a six page short story and not have a single adverb, ‘was’ nor ‘as’. And I could make it work. But, trying to do that with a 50,000 word novel is just brutal.

Sanderson averages four ‘-ly’ adverbs per page. Now, I haven’t actually done the math to say that, but, it’s the number I seem to write the most. I’ve been a circling fiend, and I figured out something.

There’s a difference between using passive voice and bad writing.

Passive voice isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes you have to say how it WAS. There is no other way to say it, unless you take all the voice out of your work, and create these clunky sentences that just don’t quite work.

But, if your entire story is in passive voice, then that’s bad writing. There is a balance to be struck. A line to be walked.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to delete ‘bad writing’, that I didn’t see that the sentences I crafted instead, though technically stronger, weren’t actually helping the story.

I’d forgotten that I chose to leave the literary short fiction world behind. I’m reading and writing ‘popular fiction’, aka slumming it. And I love it!

Sure, my prose isn’t the most poetic. But, my writing is clear. You can read it and see the world, know the characters and be transported. That’s what I want.

I’m a little bummed that this realization has come after editing 4 chapters of my manuscript, because I fear I’ve done more harm than good, but I refuse to go back. All the chapters need to be in Draft 2 before I go back to chapter 1.

Ready for Retype!
Ready for Retype!

That’s the deal I made, to keep from getting caught in the editing loop. And, despite what I’ve learned from my critical approach to ‘Alloy’, I’m still going to circle and count these potentially offensive words. Because, while they aren’t synonymous with bad writing, they could be symptoms of it. I still need to be aware of their presence, and just how many I have. But, my perspective on how to use them, and how many can be in one chapter have changed dramatically.

I’m looking forward to editing future chapters.

Also, while I like ‘Vessels’, and think it’s good, I don’t think it’s good enough to publish. My mother will despair at the idea that Val and Ethan won’t someday be in print, but I see ‘Vessels’ for what it is.

It’s my first novel. It’s the start. Where I made all the rookie mistakes that I can’t quite see right now. It’s where I learned to write a piece of any sort of length. And where I learned and developed a writing process that works for me.

And that’s why I’m going to continue to edit it. I’m going to get it as close to ‘done’ as any other piece I’ve worked on, and treat it as if I want it published. Because, let’s be honest, you never know what you’re sitting on.

Ready for Retype!
This chapter took some work!

And because, if ‘Vessels’ taught me my writing process, it can teach me my editing process. It’s a learning experience.

And I won’t throw that away.

Anyway, my brain has finally caught up with my day, and it’s time to get some fiction in!

 

BZ

Welcome Back

Ahh… It’s like clocking in to work, opening a fresh, blank page for blogging. This is how I get the creative ball rolling, and help myself focus on what actually needs to happen.

See, when I wake up, my brain tends to be full. It’s like a thick stew being stirred constantly. I can’t grasp any particular thought, and I have about a million of them before I even brush my teeth. By the time I actually get in the car I’ve had about 20 different ideas for what to blog about, but once I sit down to it, they will all have disappeared, leaving me to think of something fresh.

So, what’s today’s fresh thought?

Let’s start with the fact that I met my writing goal for last week. Friday morning Trevor woke up at a quarter to six, to take his parents to the airport. I woke with the alarm, and couldn’t fall back asleep. I tried, like hell, but as my brain came to I felt flushed with writing. The spur of creation. I knew where the scene was going. It had marinated, and on Friday morning, the metaphorical timer had dinged. It was time to write.

By the time I reached Starbucks it was 7:30. My shift started at 9. Account for setting up the computer and eating breakfast, I had about an 1 and 15 minutes of solid writing. Notice, I didn’t write a blog that day. In that time I wrote 1,553.

I believe NaNo Campers call that a sprint.

Let me also say that ‘sprinting’ felt good. It didn’t leave me exhausted, my brain comparable to pudding. Instead I felt energized. Thrilled, and in love with the scenes I’d written. And, after reading them today, I still feel that way. They were good scenes.

Those 1,553 words ended chapter 9, and put a solid intro into chapter 10. But, as I imagined, I got zero editing done last week. Which means I need to edit two chapters this week.

My Starbucks schedule this week isn’t ideal for writing, but it’s a good compromise between the Write Life and my personal life. Off today, which is always nice, a whole day to myself to really get good work done. Tomorrow I close, Wednesday I’m a late mid, so I get to have dinner at home. Thursday I close, and Friday’s another late mid. And then Saturday I close, off Sunday.

So, today I’m going to try and finish chapter 10. That’s a tall order, because it needs another 2500 words or so, but I’m sure gonna try. Tomorrow I want to edit at least one chapter, but I might get to two. That way Thursday can be a finishing/starting a new chapter day.

Also, and this is more for my entertainment as well as learning, I bought a paperback version of ‘The Alloy of Law’.
1396770073133

I love this book. It’s everything I could ask for in a sort of Steampunk detective story, and I won’t lie, it’s a major source of inspiration for the novel I’m working on. I own a hardback copy that I bought from when the book originally released, and it was one of the books I took to the signing. I just finished rereading it for the third time, and I think I’ve fully absorbed it now.

But, as I was reading my hardback I found myself noticing that Sanderson breaks some rules I’ve been living and writing by. As I flipped through page after page I found myself itching to circle ‘-ly’ adverbs and ‘was’. Also, he teaches against using dialogue tags, but he does it.

I needed to know how often he breaks the ‘rules’. So I spent the eight bucks to get a paperback copy that I could write all over and not feel too guilty. So, for my pleasure reading I have a hardback copy of ‘Steelheart’ sitting in my box at work, and for my editing, I’ve got ‘The Alloy of Law’. While I waited for the computer to wake up I started my ‘was’, ‘as’, and ‘-ly’ circling, and let me tell you, Sanderson definitely bends the rules.

20140407_122646

And that’s just page two! What does this mean for my writing? Not too much. I think Sanderson’s stories and his clear writing allow him to get a little lenient with the ‘rules’. Also, when you take into account that the book is just under 100,000 words, there’s more room for scenes that bend the rules. Also, the circles and counting don’t help me actually analyze the sentences. I have to go back, make notes in the margins, and see if the sentences themselves are strong, even with so many circles.

It’s going to be a fun exercise. And that’s how I’m treating it, an exercise to see how Brandon’s finished work looks. Something to compare my manuscripts to and to learn from.

Anyway, I’ve killed enough time here. It’s about time I started writing!

 

BZ

Editing, or How I Decide to Drive Myself Crazy

Ask any author, and they’ll tell you how much they loathe editing. Brandon Sanderson has to bribe himself, though he calls it a reward system. For every x amount of pages, he buys a pack of magic cards. Otherwise he would never edit.

I’m curious to know how you guys feel about editing. Because I love it! Writing can be hard, because I’m not particularly good at outlining. So, I have a general idea as I write, but the details are vague, and the story tends to go its own way.

Editing is the time when I’m actually in control. I can step away from the creation, which tends to give me mega-tunnel vision, and look at the whole piece. And then I can tear it apart and make it better.

10168190_10202708733052434_372412727_n

I wanted to talk a little about my actual editing process. At least what I know of it. I’ve never edited an entire novel before, so the process may change as I go. Learning and what not.

Usually I begin by reading the chapter through, and taking as little notes as possible. If I do take notes they’re broad, like “A little vague here” or “clean up POV”. Large tasks that affect the tone of the chapter.

Once that initial read through is done I put three things at the top of the front page:

was:
ly:
as:

Then I read it again, circling any “was”, “as”, or “-ly” adverbs. Once they’re all circled, I count them, and put the corresponding numbers in their place at the top. I do this because “was”, “as”, and “-ly” adverbs are indications of weak and passive writing. Having them circled lets me hone in on where I can immediately start strengthening paragraphs.

Not too bad for the rough draft!
Not too bad for the rough draft!

After fixing these sentences I’ll consider word choice. I’ll look for repetitive words and sentence structures. This is the part that’s like a puzzle. Finding what’s wrong with a chapter and removing it, then replacing it with something better.

In the past I’ve been editing short fiction. The prime directive in short fiction is to be as concise as possible, and to cut anything not absolutely crucial to the plot. Every sentence should characterize, world-build, and move the plot along. And yes, writing a novel should be that way too.

But, going into editing ‘Vessels’ I knew there was a lot of content that needed added. So, for the first time in my writing career, I have notes of scenes that need added into chapters during the editing process. It’s weird. And, I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle that just yet.

It’s these early chapters that are the most difficult. The plot didn’t really exist yet, so there were no hints of impending action, and characters that come to play late in the story need introductions in earlier chapters. A lot of adding new scenes in these chapters. Which I’m excited about!

But, it makes editing them a lot harder.

Anyway, once the line editing is done, you know, word choice and all that, I’m going to start working on the additions. Also, everything I edit gets written straight on the page, and then gets inputted in the computer later.

See?
See?

Once a round of editing is done I’ll make a note of it at the top of the front page. I’ll put the date of completion, which draft number it is, and the phrase, “Ready for Retype”. That way, if I don’t get to retyping right away, I can come back and know which edit it is, when it was completed, and that it’s ready to move on.

For short fiction I could retype, print it, and then continue editing. I could keep tweaking and perfecting for ages, until I really didn’t think it could get any better. But, with the novel, I’m going to treat it as a whole. Chapter 1 has been edited and retyped, meaning that it is officially on Draft 2. When all the chapters are at that stage I will reprint and start editing all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Until I think it’s ‘done’.

This is going to take awhile…

I think editing is daunting to a lot of writers. It’s not as fun as creation. The sense of wonder is gone. You already know what happens and now it’s the mechanics of the thing. Magic-less.

I get that. But, you can’t say it isn’t challenging. And I love a good challenge.

Anyway, enough ramblings here. It’s time to get to work!

 

BZ