On Process

Hey, everyone! Hoping everything is going well. If not, then I hope that your enemies are at least doing less well!

I’ve been thinking a bit about process lately. That’s something that we “aspiring” writers tend to think a lot about, in my experience. We think about word quotas and what time of day we should work or how many hours we should spend. We think about which word processor to use and which computer or which pen and which ink on which paper or in which journal. And for the most part, that’s fine! Most writers I know aren’t operating under the impression that finding the exact right way to work will suddenly unlock the writerly heavens and let the words flow forth in a torrent. They do, however, want to find the process that leads to the most work getting done with the least stress and obstacles.

Again, that’s fine. Most professional, full-time authors that I know of seem to have fairly settled processes by this point. They know the way they work, and they keep doing it because it works. Published, full-time authors always seem mildly bemused by questions of process, but here’s the thing: it helps to get a glimpse of what the life is like. Many of us are still in the early phase that Stephen King describes in On Writing: balancing a cheap typewriter on our knees (or maybe a piece of wood across our knees) as we tuck ourselves into the corners of our laundry rooms. It’s nice to hear that there is a stage when you have a room of your own, with a desk and a door you can close, into which you can disappear for as long as it takes to produce your 2000 words a day.

This is kind of like that scene in Bull Durham, when Crash Davis describes what it was like to be in the Majors:

I think that’s part of why so many of us like hearing about the processes of those who have “made it”, or at least seeing photos of their workspaces.

There’s something else here, though. It’s also about learning tips and sharing ideas. It’s about sharing bits of process.

In my day job, I do a fair amount of carpentry. Not enough that I consider myself a carpenter, but a decent amount. I often work with guys who are actual carpenters, and one thing I’ve noticed about carpenters over the years–every single one I’ve ever known–is that no matter how good they are, no matter how experienced, they are always excited to see something new. They’ll take a long gander at another carpenter’s toolbox, to see how he organizes it. They’ll notice that another carpenter might be doing something just a little bit differently–marking a piece of wood for cutting, perhaps–and they’ll say, “I should watch her do that because her cuts are always really accurate.” It’s about learning new tricks to do with wood or maybe a new joinery technique: “Hey, my dovetails are never as tight as they should be and yours are always perfect. Mind if I watch?”

I think that’s a big part of why writers are so fascinated about process. It’s the nuts-and-bolts of the job, the actual part of doing the work that doesn’t boil down to character questions or literary techniques. (Don’t get me wrong: we’re keenly interested in that stuff, too!)

Talking process is basically the writers’ version of talking shop.

(A note on my own process: for several years now I’ve been getting up at 5:30 am to make coffee and then write for about 45 minutes or so before I leave for work. Lately I’ve noticed diminishing returns from this practice, so I’ve changed it up the last few weeks: while I still get up at that time, I no longer write at that point in the morning. The laptop stays closed. Instead, I read. Dedicated reading time is every bit as important as dedicated writing time. Reading is part of the job, so building it into my schedule is a good thing. Now, I’ll likely change back to writing once we get to November and NaNoWriMo, but for now I intend to keep up with my morning reading. In the small hours, before it’s light out, when the house is silent and the coffee mug is warm? That’s a great time to get some reading done, folks.)

UPDATES!

What I’m working on: With Amongst the Stars out and The Chilling Killing Wind in the hands of a capable beta, I’m back to Orion’s Huntress. I’m currently re-reading the existing material and rewriting a few small bits of it before I return to drafting the rest of the book.

What I’m reading: The Explorers Guild, Vol.1, by John Baird and Kevin Costner. (So far I’m digging this one. It’s a bit of a throwback in terms of writing style, so your mileage may vary. It’s also a gorgeous book with some of the best book design I’ve ever seen. I’ll review it on Goodreads when I’m done but I’m sufficiently jazzed by the book design that I may write a post here just about that.)

Paris: The Secret History, by Andrew Hussey. History book about Paris, but from the viewpoints of the city’s often seedy underbelly. Engaging read thus far.

The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz. I’ve been meaning to read Berlioz’s memoirs for over thirty years. Time to get it done.

The Three Musketeers, Dumas. I love Dumas and I’m re-reading this, with the intent of reading the entire series of books about these iconic heroes.

These last three titles, by the way, are a part of a reading experiment I’m doing wherein I pick a few books that have very short chapters, and then I read a chapter a day from each. In this way it takes a long time to get through a book, I admit, but reading in short bursts is a valuable skill, and in the case of 19th-century novels, it’s a nice way to capture the feeling of serialization that the first readers had.

On Byzantium’s Shores, my Personal Blog:
Box of Dreams, regarding an antique box
On Choosing Happiness, a bit of introspection occasioned by a fully-clothed dip in a stream
Thoughts on Twenty Years of Harry Potter

Have a great week, and I’ll see you around the Galaxy!

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Plans: I got ’em!

I'm setting goals, you guys! #wheeee #amwriting
Well, half of 2017 is in the books! Wow, that sure went fast. So what’s coming down the pike? I’m glad you asked!

1. In terms of book releases, the next project on the horizon is THE CHILLING KILLING WIND, which is the supernatural thriller long code-named GHOSTCOP. I am hoping to release this book in September. This book will launch a series of novels featuring former police detective John Lazarus and his strange encounters with the supernatural. It is currently in the hands of a couple of very capable beta-readers, so we are hopefully on pace!

2. In terms of drafting new books, I am resuming work on ORION’S HUNTRESS, which you’ll recall is a new space opera series set in the same universe as THE SONG OF FORGOTTEN STARS, but with little to no plot overlap. It’s a big galaxy, and all of that. I don’t have a targeted release date for this book yet, but it won’t be until late 2018 at the earliest.

Then I plan to stick to space opera and return to my beloved Princesses and their pilot. It’ll be time to start working on FORGOTTEN STARS IV, for which I’ve already started generating plot notes and such. The next books in the series will form a tighter arc than the first three, so I’ll need to plot things farther out. In fact…gasp!…I’m thinking of outlining these books.

I know. It’s like it’s not even me anymore!

After a draft of FORGOTTEN STARS IV is done, then I plan to return to SEAFLAME!, the fantasy-adventure long code-named THE ADVENTURES OF LIGHTHOUSE BOY. I’ve been waffling on this project because I have Book One drafted, but the whole story is told in two books, so I’ve been trying to figure out if I should draft Book Two before doing any editing, or do an edit of Book One first and then draft the second. I’m leaning strongly to the latter, with both books getting some much more serious editing later on after both are written. SEAFLAME! is basically one very long book that I am splitting in two, and once both are out, it will be done.

I expect that all of this work will take me far into 2018, so after that, who knows? Maybe FORGOTTEN STARS V, maybe a third John Lazarus book.

3. And let’s not forget about editing! The major editing project will be getting THE CHILLING KILLING WIND ready for publication, and I have a draft of THROUGH THE PALE DOOR (the sequel) done, which will require some very heavy lifting. There’s also the afore-mentioned SEAFLAME!, the first book of which will receive a light edit before I draft the second half of the story, and I also have a draft of a supernatural thriller involving a doomed kayaking expedition in the wilds of Alaska. (This last is a one-shot, no series, no sequel.)

So I am not lacking for projects to keep me busy. In fact, I’ve booked myself probably well into 2019 at this point. Yay, me! And, whew.

Swamped

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FINALLY!!!

At long, long last, the ebooks of AMONGST THE STARS are available!

Kindle
Nook

I do apologize for how long this took. This book’s formatting was quite the hassle in terms of getting it all to render correctly in e-book form. Scrivener is a fantastic piece of software, but the “compiling” part of the job is ZERO fun. In fairness, I’m not really sure how they could make it any better than it is, and there is always some aspect to ANY job that is the pits.

(If you MUST know, this book eschews numbered chapters in favor of “viewpoint” chapters, with each chapter headed by the name of the character whose viewpoint we are now in. If you’ve read George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, you know how this works. Getting all that to compile correctly, without Scrivener adding chapter numbers, and generating a proper table of contents, was a HUGE pain. But I got it figured out in the end! And I wonder about people who compile even more complex works, in terms of structure within Scrivener where you can have entirely separate scenes to compile into chapters and then into parts and then into novels…yikes!)

But there we have it. The ebooks are here! Huzzah!!

And there will be another announcement toward the end of next week, so hold on to your hats!

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Interviewed! (And a couple of other things)

Hey everyone! I did an interview!

Did you read my interview at TheGeekiverse.com yet? No? Well GO, folks! 😆 #amwriting

The Geekiverse is a cool website, based in Buffalo, that focuses on all manner of geeky stuff, from games to movies to music to books. They’re a neat bunch and I’m excited to be featured on their site. Go check it out!

(Meantime, I hope those of you who are waiting for the e-book of Amongst the Stars will continue to be patient. I’m running into some formatting problems that are giving me fits, specifically with regard to the book’s structure and how it works into a usable Table of Contents. I’ll get it figured out, I promise! More to come on that hopefully later this week.)

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Yikes!!!

I can’t believe I’ve gone close to four months without posting here. The time has not been wasted, folks — but I have really fallen behind on some things.

BUT, I am indeed making progress! The long-promised Amongst the Stars is in the pipeline, and I hope to have it out sometime quite soon. I’m not promising a date, but…soon. As in, no later than Memorial Day, and likely before that, once I iron out the last bits of design and get my proof copies.

For now, here’s a little teaser of the cover!

Rasharri's Eyes

More details as they come! I’m picking up the pace now! Onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!

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[tap tap tap] Is this thing still on?

So, almost two months without an update? Yeesh, that’s terrible.

November was…not good, folks. Not good at all. At least it was terrible as far as my writing goes; on the personal front, things are fine. But November was easily the worst writing month I’ve had in all of 2016 and the worst I’ve had in several years. November was NaNoWriMo, so I should have produced at least 50,000 words. In fact, I produce only 21,262.

Ouch.

Why is this? Well, I cannot lie, but I also don’t want to be political on this site, so I’ll simply say that the results of the American Presidential election threw me for a serious loop that did major damage to my mood for a big chunk of the month. It took almost ten days afterwards for that hangover to wear off and for my creative brain to lurch back into motion, by which time NaNoWriMo was a lost cause. Alas.

But it wasn’t all bad. I did finish the Doomed Kayak Expedition horror novel! The draft ended up at just under 84,000 words, which is the shortest thing I’ve written yet, and I’m sure that when I edit it I’ll get it down below 80,000. For me that is positively Hemingway-esque in terms of brevity! I also gave that book a title:

The Jaws of Cerberus.

If you’re wondering to what that name refers in terms of the book, well…hopefully the book will see the light of day sometime in 2018.

What’s next? A space opera novel! No, not Forgotten Stars IV, but something new. It’s a new series, but it’s set in the Forgotten Stars universe. I’m not sure right now where it fits time-wise with that series, but I am not planning any direct overlap at all (that’s the current plan, anyway), so it might not matter. I don’t have a title yet, but I can tell you this much:

  • It’s book one of an open-ended series of space adventure books.
  • The main ship is a light freighter named Orion’s Huntress.
  • The crew is initially comprised of four women with varying degrees of trust issues.
  • The Captain and the astrogator are lovers.
  • The ship’s doctor actually owns the ship, which makes her relationship with the Captain rather tense.
  • While I don’t have a title yet, my current idea is for every book in the series to have the word Huntress in it, alluding to the ship.

This is an idea I’ve been knocking around for a while. This is nothing new: I like to let my ideas knock around for a good long while! So here I go with this one. I’m aiming for a series of shorter books, around 100,000 words each, with each book being relatively self-contained. This is more Firefly or Miles Vorkosigan than, say, Star Wars or The Song of Forgotten Stars.

So that’s what’s going on right now. Stay tuned for more posts, I hope! I have 2017 to plan, after all. I’m behind on editing and publishing, so I’ll have more to say about those things in days to come. Stay tuned!

Because in my head I'm still twelve. #AmWriting #overalls

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