It’s Time

The truth is you can post about your book, or writing books, or trying to write books, until you’re blue in the face – but authors with titles to their credit do the very same. And I’d listen to them over me, so… The blog and website are tools of trade. They are purposed with drawing eyes. Without a product, they are as useful as signs directing consumers to empty vendors or unstocked shelves.

As such, this site waits. I have lots to say – little battles vs. finalizing a novel, balancing editing vs. children, trying to balance multiple story lines – but there is no purpose until there is a product. When the site was (proportionally) thriving I had a book inbound, and that makes all the difference with keeping up. Frankly, I’m far better off producing word count on the WIP, or inching Purge of Ashes closer to as professional a launch as I can achieve, then reminding passersby of my existence while yielding no news of interest. The product sells the product.

Now, though, the time has come. I looked at my wife a few nights ago and blurted, “I might never actually touch Purge of Ashes again.” I wrote. The editor edited. The beta readers beta read. Now I am working with the exemplary Michael R. Fletcher at producing an eye-catching query letter and synopsis. It is time.

So consider this my official website warning – there is nothing to report until one of the following two things happens: either I get picked up by an agent, or I announce a release date for Purge of Ashes self-published.

Until then, keep reading.

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Fall of Autumn

Another summer passed. I got around 25k written this summer, which is much more than last summer, but I had far greater opportunity. Unfortunately, I also extracted 21k words from the same WIP, saving those two story lines for a third book. This left me not far from where I was, although in truth it is much farther progressed. My skeleton for the book is now almost complete but for a few toe bones.

I wrote chapters 2, 4, and 6, mainly. These would be following the characters from the end of Purge of Ashes and picking up shortly after it left off. I cannot stress enough how much more difficult it was to work on these than the other seven or so I had already written. Those chapters were fresh characters, fresh locations, fresh story lines, and lots of action. It felt great to hammer those out because building and creating is just a lot more fluid than grooming and preening. But these follow-up chapters, that start after a climax, are tough. You have to re-establish the ambitions of each character, you have to deal with the repercussions of what just occurred, and in my case they themselves had to re-establish what the hell they’re doing and how they are going to do it. It’s a lot of exposition or inner monologues, with less time for action (not a problem since half a world away every other chapter keeps the pace up).

So while the word count is not as special as I would have hoped, the actual job done in steering the story in the right direction was essential: a worthy challenge for a mind without the distraction of the day job. After this post I’m starting on a pair of chapters that are basically a heist. I’ve been waiting to write these scenes for years. They up the ante and the adrenaline. It’s nice to know, now that I’m teaching all day again, that it is this kind of work waiting for me at home – where I can get into the adventurous side of things rather than the emotional. It’s freeing.

1 of 7 beta readers are in, and the others have till the end of the month. Moving on Purge of Ashes will come sooner than I expect, and I hope my finances are ready. I am not publishing anything short of a pearl this time. There can be no regrets.

Mark Lawrence Contest Entries

I mean, I might as well post them.

For those who don’t know, every so often Mark Lawrence hosts little writing contests, of roughly 300 words or so, with a panel of stellar judges. You write, usually with a theme of key words to mention, and then they are ranked and prestige falls upon the victors. While my entries never achieved anything notable, I loved the process for a few reasons:

  1. It forces you to work with so few words you quickly learn how essential it is to be efficient or curtain your ambition.
  2. It made me think about what type of scene is ideal for such a contest.
  3. Reading the winners sometimes really impresses. Other times it doesn’t, but then you learn from that, too. Five major fantasy authors as judges deemed this 3rd place. What do they see that is lost on me?

They also gave me a chance to write other content from my Imbalance world. While I toil away on the books (Purge of Ashes is preparing for beta readers in July) I rarely get to hop away. For both of these entries I went somewhere in-world distant and it taught me more about the world itself. I recognize that writing in my own world may inhibit my chances of winning, but this is the world I write in. Until it is done, I write in no other.

Without further ado: Bridge From Dard and Cutting.

Bridge From Dard (requirement: using the terms ‘life’ and ‘death’)

“I’ll be fine, Norae. You’ll see.”

We will see.

She would not get too close. She had her pole if need be.

The Bridge to Furl stretched out before Thanol Baeddicus, four lines of ropes coiled upon ropes framing an ingenious succession of interlocking planks. Each was long as a man and rooted by sturdy metal pins thick as mauls. It obscured not far from where Thanol was making his way out, lost to the blanched air of a soothing snow storm.

Morning had done little to alleviate the night’s chill, and the bridge itself was thick with snow heaped tall as her hand. It sloughed from Thanol’s boots to drop a thousand leaps to the chop below.

“See? Immaculate! A work of virtuoso engineering!”

So you said in crossing.

“Immaculate!” he repeated.

The man was a gifted talent. Her span in Furl as his apprentice had braved his thinly-veiled pomposity to find the skill underneath relished the exposure. In her naivety, Norae had assumed such capability beckoned an honest man. When the bridge had been proposed, such naivety withered. Life was, after all, the vandal of innocence. The greater fault lay at its feet.

Not my own.

“She withstood a blizzard, Pupil Norae. A blizzard! Warleader will march by nightfall.”

Two pins were shoved deep in her rucksack.

“If—”

Thanol reached the plank that felt their absence. Easy to see in daylight. Impossible under snowfall. He gave a weak squeal and slipped through. Norae had her pole ready, but it would not be necessary. The magnate was already fallen to his death.

Chilled, she rubbed her hands together. Just the night’s work catching up to me.

Norae of the Dard drew her knife and began at the ropes fixing the bridge to her cliff.

Cutting (requirement: using the terms ‘night’ and ‘day’)

“Wait, heading where?”

“Lonely Child.”

“And how many?”

“Two thousand. More. I-I’ve been riding since noon, sir.”

Rold the Lobber chewed, eyes set on the outrider. Offland’s finest knelt, feathered headdress splayed across his goat-horn helmet in a mess that bore a striking resemblance to Rold’s mess of a kingdom. He addressed the supplicant with his fork while cutting with his knife and cursing the man’s belligerence. This is why I need guards on the doors. Those boots just ruined my carpet.

“Get Latmask. Have him marshal half our horse and get going. If they can muster in twenty they will arrive with well over an hour to spare. Have him… hide… in the hills, or something.”

“S-Sir, it will take three—”

Four hours to get there, give or take an axle. I was just dining with my eldest son and his family no less than a week ago. Think I don’t know the roads between here and Banor?” He snatched a third potato.

“They were already at the border, sir,” the man said, overloud.

Rold gobbled down the potato half chewed so he could sooner upbraid the mongrel. Remain after being given orders? Utter pomposity! Plus he stinks of horse. Preparing to lash out, he caught a glimpse of the man’s trembling comportment. Caught the dust coating his boots and the length of their shadow.

“I—”

Since noon, sir.

The room heaved under a sudden, suffocating weight he could not unsummon. His knife clattered away, a numb attention grasping at senses that each slipped free, bleary and useless. His mind slugged its way through the loathsome calculation, then, pushing back his chair, Rold the Lobber stumbled away to the balcony where he faced a depthless night cutting through the light of day.

Book Chat w/ Nicholas Eames, Sebastien de Castell, and Miles Cameron.

Bakka Phoenix Feb 2, 2018.jpgA few weeks ago I popped down to Bakka Phoenix at Harbord & Spadina to catch a chat with Sebastien de Castell, Miles Cameron and Nicholas Eames (above, left to right) about their novels, fantasy writing, and how to offend GRRM fans by accident. It was a quaint space, wall to wall with fantasy and genre fiction, and a slew of interested fans at attention as the trio discussed finer aspects of the craft and quipped about coffee.

I once went to see Dave Gibbons speak about WATCHMEN, but this was different because he was the artist and his crowd were aspiring artists. Seeing authors discuss books live is a great way to get interested in their work, because – at least with these three – their general intelligence, depth of research, and ease with which they speak in front of a crowd draws you in. Cameron had clearly done this the most, and often wanted to tread into deeper subject matter, while Eames was the opposite – throwing one liners about while taking a humble approach – or just being so. de Castell, for his part, offered the lion’s share of the most interesting stories, as well as the best advice. He’s also dashing.

All in all, I learned a bunch and had a nice time. Got my copy of Kings of the Wyld signed and had a nice chat with Eames. Picked up Traitor’s Blade as well. Apologies to Miles Cameron – my wife made me promise to only buy one book!

Next time I’ll have to sneak my way out to the dinner they mentioned they were attending afterward – ostensibly to eat.

Day 10 of 10: Summer Writing Afternoons

Well, my summer math program has come to an end and that means that so has my afternoons of writing time away from disruption. Now back to the full time kid time. I wrote very little today, just cleaning up the last two sections I wrote so they accurately finish Chapter 16. Alas, I spent the rest of the day negotiating a way that Grip of Dust actively becomes two novels instead of one. My word count suggests it is wise, as did the many plot lines and locations. Narrowing the focus book by book works as long as, well, it does. I have hammered out a way for Grip of Dust to exist in mirror fashion to Purge of Ashes, as in, prologue, 25 chapters, epilogue – and divided into three sections based off geography, but the question becomes what is left for this new third book? First, I need a new name. Silence of Deluge will yet remain the final book.  Second, eek. A diligent eye is required to assure I don’t screw myself over in some way. I had the whole of the book planned out before it ‘got big.’ It better stay tight and action-packed or what’s the point? I have three chief story lines to draw from for this new book, ones left out, now, of Grip. The first two happen in the city Palprazen, so they go together well, but the last one is giving me fits as to what to do: either my lead leaves Grip 75% of the way through the book to be central in book 3, or I augment who goes where to keep him and certain elements in a more… streamlined fashion. Ah, well. Time and tears will tell.

All told I got 10,000 words done, roughly, and cleaned and re-inspired some more.

My final writing grab of the summer: “The womensworn stormed around in a huff, collecting their belongings and uprooting their children. Blooded Face Eaters mounted up with all their gear in case they needed to ride. Dancetrap begged his spirits for this and that, assuming far greater importance to the events of the day than he ever deserved.”

Day 9 of 10: Summer Writing Afternoons

1,300 words again today, getting back into it. Got started late due to school duties, and will again on Wednesday as I retrieve the rest of my old classroom to move to my new classroom.

I once again hit this point of: “Must this be split in two?” I’m up to 93k words and have basically only fleshed out 60-80% of 2 of 7 story lines. I just can’t see it editing down or not feeling a tad foolish with a book so thick. Maybe that can be the gimmick that draws readers to the series? Stupidly large? Sometimes being unique is worth value all its own. Still, almost done Chapter 16. I can certainly do it by Wednesday, that is, unless it all unfolds into two. Not long now for the scene I’ve been excited for for years.

Today’s choice line: “Sometimes a moment of kinship linked two people more surely than a whole life of proximity.”

Day 7&8 of 10: Summer Writing Afternoons

1,200 yesterday and 1,300 today – and today was cut off by 1.5 hours. It does take a while to get going, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, if you only have the cracks of the day to write in, you never really get going. I’m excited to see what is produced over the final two days next week, although one of those I have to prep my classroom instead of just using it as a writing hidey-hole.

These sessions have really fattened an area otherwise non-consequential, but I am hoping it keeps as it helps the city of Csarvent feel alive. It also prepares the reader well for a character who is notable in the third book.

On that note, though, as usual, I am again beset by worries over whether I need to split this book in half. I am halfway through Chapter 16 (I skip all over the place, nowhere near that far actually) and it is 29.5 pages. I am yet to get to the second half of the chapter. If I split the book into two, this could easily be its own chapter – even ends on a DUN DUN DUN. That creates its own problems, though. Keeping it, however, the book and these chapters are getting kind of nuts. I want to maintain the same depth of scope and character as I had in Purge of Ashes, but with so many more story lines it is fast becoming insane. Insanely great? Maybe just insane.

Either way, there it is. Also cool to note, today I finally got to write about a character who I created entirely because the name I made up for my almanac of characters so long ago was so cool. Now she’s an important part of the story, having once just been a nifty combination of letters. “Kryloak.”

My favourite pull away today:

“The black ink of the round was half faded into her very skin, a mess of a pattern across her clavicle and breasts. Bruises ran the length of her right side, dark, blotchy and uniform. Kryloak’s eyes widened and stared at her slim finger as it ran a line along one of Daia’s ribs. Leaning forward a little revealed a purple welt twisted up like a whirlpool that covered near half of her skin-pressed rib cage. Its unhealthy hues rolled in and out of the depressions between bones, obscuring the smear of burst blood vessels and making a mess of a mess. The heiress’s gentle touch did not make her jump, but still sent a squeal of tenderness up her nerves. By Kryloak’s stares and Saishan’s idle hands, Daia judged that the Codine Aggregate was far more familiar with disease and malnourishment than the battle scars of fools prone to risk.”

Day 6/10: Summer Writing Afternoons

Six already? But all I’ve done is… blarg!

I actually feel like I have done quite a lot, considering, but nothing’s ever really enough. Today I finished off the two scenes from Monday and had to read (read: edit) my way through a few Daia parts to get me up to speed on her story line as it now meshes with the others. How many times have I had to do that. I like reading the older parts, though. I write so slowly and carefully, constantly editing as I go, that it feels good to read over the product I came away with and find that it mostly correlates, sounds well enough. I am hoping that by the end of these sessions I am near to completing Chapter 16. I have done about 16 pages so far in 4 points of view.

Also noticed that half my quotes were Smart and half Straight? What the dilly? A F/R figured that one out pretty quick. Leftover translation issue from OpenOffice to Word, I imagine.

Favourite lines of the day: “For the weight of a conscience rests on its fear of guilt, and once irredeemable, a penitent’s only absolution lies in damning themselves regardless.”

Queries

So back in 2013-2014 I sent out a bunch of queries to about 20 different agents, then got started writing Grip of Dust. So much has happened since then, and yet here I am two years later back at the drawing board doing the same: querying for agents! What a time to be alive.

Nowadays, agents can quickly access prospective clients’ social media platforms to get a quick gist as to who we are, what we do, and how impressive our friends lists are. Having this website in tip top shape should – nae must – be my top priority outside of production. So I thought to myself, “What would I want to present for an agent coming to scope me out?” Having less handsomeness than approximately 5 years ago, the answer did not come immediately.

Perhaps a simple WELCOME is in order. I don’t quit on things and I’m working on Book Two. I hope my query has piqued your interest. I love epic fantasy, role-playing video games, character design, cartography, rock music, hockey, armadillos, and TV shows that end in AME OF THRONES.

I seem friendly enough on social media. All the best in your search for the proper gem.

JM