Thursday, October 25, 2012

Killing My Potential

As a child, I had a love/hate relationship with the word “potential”.  I seem to remember hearing that word applied to me more than once and I often felt that it was just a synonym for “not quite good enough.”  And yet, ironically, it is the love of potential (or the fear of failure) that has me dragging my feet on submitting my queries.
In my research, I found 13 AAR literary agencies accepting electronic submissions for science fiction/fantasies.  That’s 13 chances to find out if I succeeded or failed in my 2+ year investment in Kingdom Of Stone.  Right now it is at least a potential runaway best seller--heck, it could even be a Pulitzer Prize winning novel--but very soon the query letters are going out and those potentialities will quickly evaporate into actualities.  Unlike quantum particles, it seems books can’t exist as nothing more than an expanding wave of probability.

I know that even if the book never sees a publisher’s catalog, it’s not a waste.  I learned much just writing it and self-publishing is increasingly becoming a viable option.  Even if it gets turned down by all 13 agencies, it might still see the light of day in some future incarnation.  In the meantime, I’m ignoring much professional advice and working on the sequel.  Since this series is generally intended to be a series of related yet stand-alone novels, it ultimately doesn’t matter which gets published if I can get even one past the gatekeepers.  I’m fully prepared to go it alone if I must after that.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Line of the day

October is right around the corner and the NaNoWriMo site relaunch should hit tomorrow.  One of the things they do is archive off all the forum posts to give us a blank slate to mark up for the new (writing) year.  (Yes, November 1 now marks the beginning of my writing year.)

One of the threads I participated in the most was the Line of the day thread.  It made me slow down and pay more attention to voice as I dashed from plot point to plot point.  Since those posts will all be going away soon, I thought I'd cut and paste them here.  They're not exactly gems, but remember I was more concerned about hitting quota than voice.

* * *

He knew men were about to break in and try to kill them. He knew that if they put up a fight and lost, the spear-men would likely take it out on their wives and children. The image of it all hovered at the edge of his imagination making his hands sweat and his heart race. But he felt another part of him rising to the challenge, wanting to test himself against determined opponents. Years ago he had fought death itself to a draw at the battle of Korion-Tamia. How difficult could these warriors be?

* * *

(In this passage the poor of the city of Mari have organized and begun to terrorize the wealthy. The following is a mocking rendition of something like a Christmas Carol sung outside their homes during the Festival of the Long Night:)

"Good Adra, Good Madra”
“Remember traditions of old”
“As you sit beside your fire”
“And we stand out in the cold”
“With a feast upon your table”
“Remember those not able”
“And do now as you’re told…. “
The revelers began laughing and changing the words of blessings to thinly veiled curses, wishing them things like their house not burning down and their legs not breaking in the new year. Each improvised verse sung louder than the last.

* * *

It turns out that it takes a long time for a village to die. The weight of all the years of marriages and births and deaths builds up a tremendous inertia. Even after the harvests start falling off and the herd’s birthings diminish, the memories of past harvests and past herds pushes the villagers on until their hands literally have nothing to do and they stand staring at an empty horizon wondering if the whole world had died around them.

* * *

He was a shirtless old man with muscles like ropes coiled under well tanned skin. He pounded on a large wooden drum on a short stand with two short smooth sticks. Adding a series of syncopated beats, he changed up the rhythm, increasing the complexity until it verged on falling into chaos. It was a musical puzzle, a riddle, an accident waiting to happen. Like the man juggling knives, one was forced to attend to see if the performer was really in control of his art.

* * *

In the distance, the wound swelled, a gaping maw swallowing the foundations of reality--madness and death and the negation of all things trying to drag itself into existence by its teeth, clinging to the crumbling edge of the world, crushing its own hope by the weight of its need.

The frightened n’phesh flit about like panicked birds trapped in a room, looking for a way out. Caught in the current of destruction, they were being dragged screaming into the nothingness, their howling despair rising into a chorus of grief echoing in counterpoint to the rage of the thing seeking to birth itself through their deaths.

* * *

Andral’s forehead furrowed in warning, dropping like an angry landslide over his mis-matched eyes.

* * *

This is the place, Garanth thought. The place where my parents lived. The place where I was born. The place where my father went mad in his search for power and where he killed my mother. Somewhere in that confused jumble of buildings, her body still lay buried.

Garanth eyed the line of donkeys bringing food and timber and other supplies into the city and tried to convince himself that it was all real— that the city was a physical connection between himself and his parents— but it all seemed like an old story told about someone else.

* * *

The next day they crossed the line from the un-blighted fields to the blighted fields of the south. The farmers were plowing up the portions which could still be used to grow food, inscribing in the land the demarcation between cursed and un-cursed.

* * *

“I am not sure where I am. The last thing I knew I was in the fields outside Har-Tor, but I assure you wherever here is I am.”

* * *

Over the course of the last year, he had tried to use Andral's oracular powers to attract followers much as Craematis had done in Nur. But, where Craematis had managed to work his way into positions of power among the rich merchants and city elders, Pronos had only managed to attract a paltry collection of the old, the poor, the diseased and the desperate. Andral was talking with elemental spirits beyond human understanding. One would have thought such a thing would have attracted more attention.

* * *

Below them hundreds of buildings, some with quite tall towers, spread out beneath the gentle pastel glow of phosite crystals embedded in the ceiling. Stairs and ramps rose and fell while balconies and galleried bridges criss-crossed from building to building in what looked, from Garanth’s high vantage point, like gossamer webs of stone. Over it all the colored phosite gems waxed and waned with the eddies of the invisible flow of xaris. If it weren’t for the varied colors, it would have looked exactly like the beams of light moving across a city as they pierced through drifting clouds.

* * *

Apaidia's mother had warned her of such things collapsing and pouring hapless victims into great subterranean depths. There was no telling how much stone actually lay beneath them.

* * *

Feeling the gravity of awareness pull at him from behind, he turned and found her standing there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ready In August?

There seems to be an inverse relationship between writing and blogging.  Here it is September and I haven't blogged once since NaNoWriMo.  Fortunately, that doesn't mean that I haven't been writing.  Of course I've wasted a fair amount of time goofing off and playing MMOs.  I even started a new job which has rather occupied my mental space for the last several months. But, despite all that, I also managed to knock out 30k on last year's nano, re-work and self-publish a novella (including interior art) and planned out the rest of this year's nano.

Normally I don't even decide what story I'm going to do until September or October, so I'm feeling pretty good about that.  I recently finished a final (for a while at least) read through of A Kingdom of Stone (and made ebook versions for a friend to read) and started re-reading the first half of The Stone King to get in the right mindset for this year's nano.  I don't know what the work situation will be like during nano, hopefully I'll have time to write.  Assuming I do, I seem to be pretty well prepared.

We'll see.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Post Mortem

Now that the craziness of the holidays are mostly over and we come to the part of the year where we're supposed to be contemplative and introspective.  I thought it past time to do my write-up for this year's nano.

In many ways things went better than last year.  I still didn't make it to any of the events though, which was somewhat disheartening.  The local public libraries even got involved, but half their events were on the south side of town where nobody lives.  (At least nobody participating in the local nano forums.)  And not one official event was held anywhere near me.  None of my friends who normally endure nanowrimo with me participated or else they dropped out early in the month so that, once again, I basically had to go it alone.  I even considered dropping out and just doing my own thing, but I guess I'm too stubborn.  Well, that and the five free prints were still an incentive to keep going.

There were a few bright spots however.  Though there were a few rough days where I just couldn't meet goal, for the most part, the writing came easier.  This was the first year (aside from The Ascent where I was basically following an outline written by Xenophon) that I didn't get to the end of the outline before I hit the 50,000 word mark.  I guess I'm getting better at guesstimating my word counts.  The one really fun thing I engaged in this year was a thread on the local forums where we posted the line of the day.  It forced me to sit back and pay attention to my voice.  While each one may not be a gem, exactly, I really think it helped.  I'm starting to feel like a lot of the intangible parts of writing art coming together for me.  I may even post some of those lines on this blog.

I did, however, decide to take a little detour in my writing.  The piece I was working on, is NOT going to be ready by the June deadline for the free print copies.  I decided, instead, to work up a novelette I had done some time back.  I even decided to dust off my much neglected pencils and do some sketches for it.  If you like the idea of zombies in space, this might be a good book for you.

However, now I'm going to have to decide whether to save this story and do part 2 for next year's nano or go ahead with the military science fiction piece I was planning.  Perhaps I'll have a better idea after I finish detailing the remaining scenes, but first, I got a more work to do getting ready for June.