Updating Progress!

I really need to make a better effort to keep new material appearing on this site, don’t I? Anyway, I’m trucking along on Book III of The Song of Forgotten Stars (unofficially titled Princesses In SPACE!!! III: More Spacier). This one’s been a bit of a struggle at times, because I had a very odd narrative problem to conquer that I hadn’t encountered before, and it vexed me rather a lot, I must admit. Now, though, I am pretty sure I’m on the way. As of this writing I have a draft of a little over 100,000 words, with my target first-draft word count being 180,000 words.

More to come on all that, but that’s where we are!

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A couple of FAQ’s

Hey, folks! Here’s some stuff that’s going on, including some answers to a few questions that come up relatively frequently since STARDANCER hit the world.

Will you sell signed copies?

I will. For now, if you want one, e-mail me directly or message me on FB or Twitter and we’ll figure something out. Eventually I’ll have some kind of mechanism in place to do this, but for now, we’ll do it the cumbersome, old-fashioned way. (Or the quaint, old-school way, depending on how you see such things!)

How long did it take you to write this book, anyway?

I am honestly not sure, but it was roughly between a year-and-a-half to two years, for the first draft. I know exactly when I finished the first draft — it was April 16, 2012 — but I didn’t note my start date anywhere, so best I can figure is sometime in the latter half of 2010. On every project since then I’ve noted the date of official start, but I’m just not sure what day I started writing Stardancer.

When I began Stardancer, it was the first long-form work I’d done in quite a few years — mostly since the Arthurian novel I worked on for a long time, way back in the very-late 90s and very-early 2000s. I learned a lot from writing The Promised King, and I even put the first volume of it online (it was a duology), but I never finished the second volume except for a single draft I wrote in longhand. I planned at the time to move on to other novel-length works, but without feeling the need to go into particulars, the middle-to-late 2000s were less than kind, by way of real-life stuff, and I just went into a five-year writing funk during which I produced maybe a couple of short stories and one screenplay that was mostly intended as an internal exorcism for some stuff I had going on. The gist of it is this: I eventually decided, at the tail end of 2010, that it was long-past time to get off my ass, so get off it I did.

After I finished the first draft, I set it aside for three months. That’s my official “cooling-off” period, during which I move on to other projects and refuse to even look at the manuscript. It’s best to let the thing recede into memory, so that when I come back to it, I’m not as emotionally invested in this manuscript right here. Distance helps the eye when it comes time to revise. That first set of revisions took a month or two, and then I got the book into the hands of my beta-readers, who gave me some very valuable feedback; then there was another round of revisions. At this point we’re up to the beginning of 2013.

I spent most of 2013 submitting the book to markets and querying agents. This process resulted in rejection a-plenty, which is normal for the writing gig, and once I exhausted all potential markets so far as I could tell, I decided to self-publish. This brings us to sometime in January or February 2014. I decided to make November my target month for publication, and after that, it was more revisions, more proofreading, a few more revisions and yet more proofreading, and so on and so forth.

So, from the first time I sat down and started writing this story to the time it was available as an actual book? About three years.

So how’s Book II coming along?

Great! I think.

I actually have specific dates for the first draft: I began on March 4, 2013, and finished August 11 of the same year. A few months later, I edited it; early this year, my beta-readers looked at it. Book II (title forthcoming) will be a major focus for 2015, obviously: I have another November release target to hit! I’m actually pretty optimistic about Book II, since now that I have one book under my belt, I have a better handle on the process and how long things take, so I can better plan things out.

Great! And Book III?

I’m drafting that one now. Having some troubles, but nothing out of the ordinary. My goal is to be done with the draft by mid-spring 2015. I’m targeting November 2016 for release of Book III, and then taking a year-long break from the Forgotten Stars Universe in 2017.

Are you writing anything that’s NOT a Forgotten Stars book?

Why yes! I have an existing draft for the first book in what will be a series of supernatural thrillers involving a former policeman who has the misfortune of being contacted by the dead, for various reasons. I’m going to work on editing that for a release sometime in mid-2016, and drafting a sequel will be a priority in 2015 as well, for a 2017 release. I actually wrote that existing Book I draft (code-titled GhostCop) in 2013, but I haven’t had a chance to get back to it since. I’m aiming for a 2016 release and 2017 for its sequel because 2017 is a non-ForgottenStars year, and I don’t want to go an entire calendar year with nothing coming out.

Also, I have a giant doorstop of a fantasy novel that I’ve been working on for a couple of years, on and on-and-off-again basis. It’s actually not technically fantasy, though, so much as historical fiction, except that it takes place in a world that doesn’t exist. There’s no magic in it, and the inspiration there is the rollicking adventure tales of Alexandre Dumas. Think sword fights, daring escapes, outlaw clans living in the mountains, hidden treasures, family secrets, villains who wear wide-brimmed hats with long poofy feathers out the back, confrontations on wind-swept promontories, tall ships running aground on the rocks, and so forth. I have no title for this, but I’ve been calling it The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy, because the main character is a young lad who lives in a lighthouse. The problem with this book is that it’s sprawling all over the place, so not only is it not done (it’s barely halfway there), I’m not at all sure what to do with it when it is done, so long will it end up being. I’m toying with the notion of serializing it for e-book first, and then releasing it in print afterward, but I’m still a few years out from being ready for it.

Forgotten Stars IV? Yeah, that’s not even on the radar yet, man.

Where do you get the time to do all this stuff?

I just use the time I have. I don’t have any time that you don’t have!

As ever, onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!

 

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Where STARDANCER came from

So, where exactly did I get the idea for Stardancer? Easy answer. I got it from a lot of places.

(This is long, but I hope it’s at least a little interesting!)

Like many a writer, my first efforts at fiction writing were fanfiction — Star Wars fanfiction, specifically. I suppose that’s not terribly surprising, huh? Fanfic has been the starting point for many a writer, and Star Wars was one of the biggies.

Now, when I was writing Star Wars fanfic, I wasn’t writing original stories in that universe. Instead I took the basic thrust of the Original Trilogy’s story and rewrote it, with “new” characters and some plot twists along the way. I changed Luke Skywalker from a farmboy to a competitive pilot. My Han Solo character acted the part of a cynical space-rogue, but that was just a front for his own revolutionary activities. Princess Leia? Well, she was the voluptuous space pirate who ended up being a part of the good guys. And instead of rebels versus a Galactic Empire, I had the galaxy basically divided into two “countries”, a democratic republic and a harsh Empire. These two entities had been at war for decades, and now it was coming to a violent head.

I kept some other stuff, of course. I had an Emperor and his Vader figure, although I played up the angle in the Original Trilogy of Darth Vader wanting to kill the Emperor and take over. The thrust of my Episode One (which coincided with Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was the necessity of destroying my Empire’s new superweapon; in my Episode II, the freshly defeated Empire — well, it struck back. And so on.

I finished my own version of the Star Wars trilogy, in the first year or two after I graduated college. Then, I started working on the first draft ever of my Arthurian novel, The Promised King (and let me tell you, that draft was an embarrassing mess). I thought I was done with Star Wars fanfic, but I found myself sucked back in, around the time The Phantom Menace came out. Now I was wanting to continue on — but not, as George Lucas was doing, by going backwards; I wanted to write what would have been a putative Star Wars Episode VII.

I did start that project, but I never finished it, choosing instead to eventually leave fanfic behind for good, as I started working on that Arthurian novel a lot and writing short fiction for attempted publication. Problem was, my space opera story for my own Episode IV was sticking in my head. The central idea was the discovery of a planet that has been literally sequestered from the rest of the Galaxy for centuries, a planet that was once a part of a vast Empire that has been gone for so long it’s almost completely forgotten — but its descendants are still lurking out there somewhere. I liked that idea, and filed it away in the back of my head. I knew I’d get back to that strange planet, whose inhabitants were forbidden to travel to the stars, but I knew it wasn’t going to be my re-worked Luke, Han, and Leia who went there.

So who would?

I had no idea.

I wasn’t worried about it. I wasn’t even consciously thinking about this, much. When I get ideas, I almost never jump on them as soon as they pop into my head. I let them marinate a bit. Or percolate. Or simmer for years and years and years — and I’m not kidding about that. This whole thought process, beginning with this little lost planet? That’s from 1999 or 2000. A long way back.

Meanwhile, at some point in 2001, I got a movie on a VHS tape that I had heard was very good, an animated film from Japan that would be suitable for The Daughter, was was only 2 at the time. The film? Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.

If you’ve seen that film, you know that it’s about two young sisters, one of whom is roughly 13 or 14 and the other of whom is around 6 or 7. They move with their father to a small village, out near a hospital where their mother has had an extended stay, and here they have adventures, some of which are supernatural and involve the giant furry beast who lives in the nearby enormous tree. (Yes, it sounds heavier and more depressing here than it really is — the film is utterly delightful and magical and you should see it if you haven’t.)

I didn’t watch My Neighbor Totoro and immediately conclude that I should have two sisters go to my little lost planet. But that notion came along not very long after I saw the movie, and it’s clear to me that this is where that part of the puzzle came from. Now, I did make my two Princesses older than the ones in the film, but I liked the idea of the dynamic between two sisters. Brother-and-sister has been done a lot, but sister-and-sister, not quite so much.

From there, it sat in my mind. For years. I wrote a couple of pages, over ten years ago, just to see what it might feel like. I considered serializing the story online, in blog form, writing one chapter at a time. I kicked around a lot of options, through the last half of the 2000s, always kicking this idea of these two Princesses (because obviously they were Princesses!) and the odd planet they found, but never quite getting ’round to writing it.

I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but finally, sometime in 2011, I decided that it was time to stop waiting for the story to be “ready”. There is never a “ready”, when it comes to stories. I believed in this idea, more than any other I had (and I have quite a few), and I wanted to write it, more than any other. The question was, What was I waiting for?

And thus, it was off to the races.

Three years later, here we are!

 

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And now…THE COVER!!!

Good day to you all, Star Warriors!

Of all the various concerns I had as I moved Stardancer toward publication, the one that was most worrisome to me was the problem of cover art. You see, while I like to think I have a decent eye for good visual art, when it comes to producing it, I’m about as untalented as a blind person playing hockey. In fact, if we started at the same time, I suspect you’d find a decent blind hockey player well before I produced a decent sketch, much less a painting or anything else of the sort. I can do stick figures, but that’s about it, and anyway, Randall Munroe now has the monopoly on cool stuff with stick figures.

So, I needed an artist. How was I going to get one? Well, one thing I’ve learned in my years working at a large store is that often times, for any non-obscure talent you need, there’s likely someone amongst your coworkers who has it. So I asked around, and thus discovered that a young woman named Natalie Golubski, who works in our store’s bakery, is actually a very talented visual artist. She agreed to do the cover illustration, and I think the results speak for themselves in her representation of Tariana Osono, the older of my two Princesses.

The next book will feature Margeth, the younger Princess, and the third…well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, without further ado, here are the front and back covers to Stardancer, complete with the back cover blurb which will spell out more of the plot details. Enjoy!

STARDANCER front cover
STARDANCER back cover
(Click through to view them on Flickr, where you can embiggen them.)

Tune in next week for a very juicy tidbit, when I post Chapter One in its entirety!

 

 

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At Last! The ACTUAL TITLE Revealed!

Well, folks, the day has come.

When I started writing Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), I started talking about my writing progress on Facebook and Twitter and on Byzantium’s Shores. This was mainly a way of claiming my writing life for my own, after years of thinking about writing and occasionally writing and putting writing off for another day. I had a story in mind, a story idea I’d been nursing for almost ten years (if not more), and it was time to get going.

Problem was, I didn’t have a title. Just a story.

This has never dissuaded me before. I know writers who can’t even begin the first sentence of their first draft without a title, but for me, stories suggest titles eventually. It’s the kind of detail that takes care of itself, so I never worry about a title. One will come. It always does…and so was the case with this one. I was probably about halfway through the first draft when I figured out what the title was. Meanwhile, though, I found myself wanting to talk about my writing process and progress on my various social media sites, which meant that I needed a working title. Kind of like how Return of the Jedi was code-named Blue Harvest. I started referring to this book as Princesses In SPACE!!!, noting in parentheses that this was “not the actual title”.

As I went, I eventually came up with THE ACTUAL TITLE, but then it felt like Princesses In SPACE!!! had taken on a life of its own, so I decided to hold that title back until I knew the book was going to be published. So it was that I chronicled the whole process, from completing the first draft to editing it to submitting the book to publishers and querying agents and then finally to starting the path toward going independent.

Now, at last, here we are.

And that’s just this book! The overall title for the entire series went through a lot of permutations before I finally settled on it, and I didn’t get that figured out until just the last round of serious edits. I finally got there, though, and it’s time for the big reveal, here, as I unveil my Official Site.

So, without further ado, here is the video trailer for the book. Stay tuned to the end for THE ACTUAL TITLE!!! (Embiggening the video and watching it in higher resolution may be a good idea.)

Thank you, Princesses In SPACE!!! (the stalwart and trusty working title). You served me well!

Tune in next week for the next big reveal: The COVER ART!!!

 

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