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The Ultimate Sacrifice

I hope to be a little younger than this guy when I start reading again.

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Some writers have sacrificed their families and marriages, discarding them along with their empty rattling Wendy’s cups in a ditch on the road to publication. Others have defaced their bodily temples with amphetamines , cocaine and hallucinogenic drugs by the handfuls. Still others have forsook the entire human race to pour their hearts into various magnum opera. And there are those who gave their lives for their work.

Me, I’m making the ultimate sacrifice. What? No, not that ultimate sacrifice. It’s hard to write when your flesh is distributed amongst the worms and insects.

No, I’m giving up reading.

Seems kind of sacrilegious, but I think I must do this thing if I am to make significant headway on my third draft. I’ve been moving along, but I need to go into deep cover and live the manuscript.

To that end, my evenings of reading for two, three, or four hours are done for now. The only reading I’ll be doing will be here:

You can be sure I won't get too much read here.

Reading is in my top five things that I love to do. I’ll miss it. Tim Powers and The Anubis Gates will have to wait. Hopefully I’ll be back on the written sauce sometime in mid August.

Beating the Middle of the Novel Slog

Sometimes it takes the heavy horses to get moving again

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I’d like to blame the heat for my malaise, but I know that’s not really it. After approaching the halfway mark, I stalled out. I hadn’t expected it since I have a pretty good idea where everything is going, but there it was. I was having a hard time pressing forward.

Some of it could be attributed to the first draft feel of the work ahead of me. It feels like taking a few steps backward even though this is the third go around. I’m sure it has something to do with the feeling that I’ve put in so much work and want to feel closer to being done.

  • First and foremost I tried not to beat myself up over the relative lack of production.
  • Second I kicked up my reading schedule some, reading The Scar by China Mieville (see side bar for link) and the occasional short story from any number of places (Just got my first issue of Realms of Fantasy and I have several short story anthologies). I even watched a movie (Hot Fuzz – watch it if you haven’t – great comedy).
  • Third, I took time away from writing and enjoyed the 4th of July weekend in the company of family. Good old fashioned physical fun (swimming, teaching our daughter to swim, jumping in the water, etc.) does wonders to clear the gunk from my mind.
  • Fourth, I did write regularly, but just not at my normal rate (1k-2k words daily), so that helped. I tinkered with some stuff I’d already written so I could get my head around where I was really going, the timeline of events, and so on. This was invaluable for getting my head back into the story deep enough where I could sustain longer periods of productive writing.

Now, with copious amounts of A/C and coffee, I’m moving forward again. I’m shooting to have some copies of my story to send to beta readers late this summer. That’s a big deal because it will mark the first time that anyone other than me or my wife have had a look at the story. I look forward to seeing what comes back (I think).

I’m sure there are other methods to get back on track, but these are the one that work for me. What do you do to get your writing back on track from the fits and starts into which we sometimes fall — an artistic defibrillation if you will.

Coffee Break No. 11 – John Connolly and The Seed of a Story

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If you like your fiction dark and a little fantastic, give this a try.

Responding to a comment here on the blog this morning (Thanks to Sarah Wedgbrow over at Folding Fields for jogging my memory), I was reminded of John Connolly‘s novel The Black Angel, the novel I was reading when I decided to write in earnest.

Connolly’s story was dark and contained supernatural elements. The thing I remember most, though, was the somber tone of the work.

I was delighted to find this bit on the Sedlec Ossuary and his inspiration behind the novel. I don’t know about you, but I love hearing authors talk about their story ideas.

Just be sure to shield your cup so you don’t get any bone dust in your drink.

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Urban Fantasy

by Jonathan 12 Comments

Maybe it's covers like these that have kept me away from Urban Fantasy.

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I have not read much urban fantasy. In fact, my experience with the genre is limited to Neverwhere and American Gods (probably not truly urban fantasy, but I’ll take what I can get), both by Neil Gaiman. I don’t know if it’s the covers of many of the recent UF offerings, i.e., usually a person on the cover in tight clothes holding some sort of bladed weapon. I try not to judge a book by its cover, but with so many of the books looking similar, how the hell do I choose?

In an effort to remedy my situation, I have entered Shaun Duke’s (@shaunduke in the twitterverse) contest at The World in a Satin Bag, where he is giving away three copies of Procession of the Dead by Darren Shan. I don’t know if I’ll be fortunate enough to win one of the copies, but it’s worth a shot. Hopefully it will provide the jumping off point into the Urban Fantasy genre. If you are so inclined, head over to The World in a Satin Bag and sign up yourself.

See how this cover stands out from those below?

This cover intrigues me more...

Here is the Booklist review of Procession of the Dead:

Popular YA author Darren Shan’s first adult novel is a combination of horror and near-future thriller set in The City, which is the center of Capac Raimi’s world. Moving into the city to work with his small-time gangster uncle, Capac soon finds himself at the service of the Cardinal, the leader of all the criminal gangs and the ruler of the city. Capac enjoys his new life except for a few small details, including the enigmatic blind and mute monks who have a way of appearing at significant moments in Capac’s life, and the fact that he can’t really remember any of his life before he came to the City. Then he meets and immediately falls in love with a young woman who is determined to dig out the Cardinal’s secrets. Fast-paced and exciting, Procession of the Dead is a gritty, creepy, and completely successful story with an ending that leaves openings for future series entries. Suggest to readers who enjoyed Mieville’s The City and the City (2009) for its slightly fantastical setting combined with a thrilling story.

A quick rumination: Would Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game would be considered Urban Fantasy genre if it were published today? I read somewhere that horror doesn’t really sell well these days, but it seems possible that some horror has been rebranded as Urban Fantasy or Dark Fantasy. If you have any thoughts, let ‘er rip.

The Name of the Wind

Back in August of last year, I went to my first Gen Con in Indianapolis. I was but four months into writing full time and excited to check out the pageantry, the games, and the writers. Upon visiting Author’s Alley, what I found were authors sitting at tables with their books and little else. It was less than impressive.

Unfortunately, I let that shape my opinion of the rest of the writerly things at the convention. Patrick Rothfuss was the guest speaker and I blew it off and thought little more about it.

Now that I know more, I wish I had gone.

Heading into Christmas, a blog buddy expressed incredulity that I had not yet read The Name of the Wind. She even generously offered to send me a copy. I declined, but I did put the book on my Amazon Wishlist and got it for my birthday.

I finished the book about a week ago.

The story was pretty good, mostly the retelling of a young man’s story, although there are events going on that hint at a larger story to come.  The missed opportunities and angst of the young adult relationship wore a little thin, but I still wanted to see how it worked out. He explores the familiar ground of education in fantasy — well traveled by the likes of Rowling, Hobb, and T.H. White — but keeps it fresh and engaging .

My biggest complaint is that it lacked the feeling of depth, of a larger, complex world in which the story takes place. That didn’t keep me from plowing through the story and I’ll read The Wise Man’s Fear when I can get my hands on it, but with some trepidation.

I think if I had found this book on my own, I might have enjoyed it for what it was: a good, fun story that entertains.  Unfortunately, the blurbs on the back cover and the recommendation raise my expectations considerably. Here is an excerpt from a Strange Horizons review that echoes my thoughts on The Name of the Wind:

But here’s the thing: it’s a fundamentally cosy book. It flatters the reader. It winks at her, promising her the real thing rather than some sanitised storybook version, at the same time sanitising anything that might genuinely unsettle, or unnerve, or wrongfoot her readerly expectations. It, like many works of contemporary fantasy, panders to a sort of imaginative tourism, a safe entry into an escapist imaginative space defined by its reassuring familiarity.

I think any disappointment stems more from my expectation of a more complex adult novel than anything else. In truth, The Name of the Wind feels more Young Adult to me. That said, where the story leaves off, there lies the promise of weightier matters. I will read The Wise Man’s Fear at some point and hope that Rothfuss’s writing will deepen. With the work and time he’s put into The Wise Man’s Fear, I would imagine that will be the case.