Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I know I haven’t posted much with substance lately and I feel like I need to. Lately just getting in my daily 1500 words has been enough of a struggle, so also posting up an article on the blog is a stretch, specially when those take 2-3 times longer than my normal daily quota. But I have passed 80K words on my first novel, so I think a little slack is in order for me not maintaining my blog for the three people that read but never comment.
As many of you know, I have a newfound fascination with Brandon Sanderson, which I’ve discussed a couple times already, and read two his books (I’ll be working on the others soon). With the publication of his latest book “The Way of Kings” (which I loved) and the up-coming “Towers of Midnight”, Brandon has been out and about promoting said books and publishing a flurry of articles about how he came up with the ideas for the book, how long it took him, and his overall thoughts about the fantasy genre and where he fits into it. My favorite one was on John Scalzi’s blog and ended up being a bit looked down on by some pretty cynical people who had issues with his definition of post-modernism
Unlike me, Brandon actually graduated from college, so he’s an edumacated sort. I think partly because of his background in college and his ingrainment in the writing of epic fantasy novels for so many years, he’s developed a sort of history and road-map to the fantasy genre. From the genre defining Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, the grandfather of modern fantasy, to the next generation of novelists like Terry Brooks and Stephen Donaldson, fantasy moved on through the 80’s until Robert Jordan came along, who Sanderson considers the father of modern day fantasy.
I’m taking my view from the eye of a newbie writer. I haven’t graduated from college, hell I barely graduated High School, I even flunked the first semester of Senior English, which I had to scramble to take via correspondence the last half of my senior year in order to graduate. So bear with me in this…I am after all, a newbie.
Regardless of his exact definition of post-modernism, I appreciate the effort he put in to laying out his mode of thinking about the fantasy genre. Someone should, and he seems qualified for the position. I thought his article was fascinating, it really got me thinking about the fantasy genre as a timeline, rather than just what would I want to read.
Something I’d never really thought about, but struck me was the evolution of the fantasy genre; watching it split and change over the years. Terry Brooks was a far different author than Stephen Donaldson, and so was Robert Jordan from other modern fantasy authors. I was introduced to the fantasy genre with Dungeon’s and Dragons. I devoured the Shanarra, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books and many others at that time. As a teenager, that fantasy was amazing to me, and certainly felt epic.
It’s not till recently that I was introduced to David Eddings, Stephen Donaldson and others from the earlier days of fantasy, and I’m still trying to keep up with deluge of fantasy coming out now. With blurred lines and so many excellent books coming out like The Windup Girl and The Dark Tower series concluding it’s hard to keep up with everything, and enjoy reading the books that I read for what they are. Stories in time. 
Rarely do I sit back and think about the overall progression. I certainly see the recent push following the success of Twilight and all the other teen vampire novels coming out, but I just don’t have the breadth of knowledge to step back and really think about 50 years of publishing. Where we’ve been, where we’re going, and the whys and whos that answer all the little questions in between.
I appreciate Brandon (and others) doing the heavy thinking here. This is stuff I’d never really thought about, and I’m glad that there are people out there who are thinking about it. As Brandon said in one of his interviews, he gets to stand on the shoulders of Robert Jordan. As a newbie author, I get to stand on Brandon’s shoulders.
I get to enjoy his punditry and analysis of the fantasy genre and decide where I want to find my niche. As I sit down to write every day I find myself ruminating Brandon’s words, trying to figure out what sort of story I want to write. Do I want to write classical fantasy, swords, sorcery, epic adventures from stalwart group of protagonists? Should I delve into the political side, melding epic adventure with political espionage? How about intricate plot lines involving anti-heroes who slog through the muck of society barely staying on this side of tolerability?
This is stuff I haven’t thought about before, and I should. I love epic fantasies, I hope to write them (well I am, but we’ll see how epic it really is). 
Thanks, Brandon, for doing some of the work for me. It makes it easier to think up plot lines and gives me some goals to set to make my story better.
Then again I have to compete against massive tomes like Way of Kings. Let’s hope I have a really kick-ass editor.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Palimpsest

PalimpsestPalimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Palimpsest is a lovely story about a magical land that can only be accessed at night by having sex with someone who has been there before. Once you visit, you are left with a map of one of the streets tattooed somewhere on your body and a burning desire to return another night.

On your first night you find yourself in a seance room with a string of yarn linking you to three other people. For the rest of your life you will be linked to these people. Everything you feel, touch, experience, they will too.

This story is about Palimpsest the place, and the journey of four people all from different locations in our world. It’s an immersive read, very vivid with well thought-out locations and inventive characters.

While I loved the story, I had a rough time reading this book. This did detract from the story, and slowed me down quite a bit. A lot of the words went over my head, making me glad I read it on the Kindle so I could lookup words as I went along. The worst was one page where I had to lookup 4 words, but really it teaches me I just need to improve my vocabulary. Hats off to the author for pushing me to improve myself!

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Review: Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse

Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper's CurseAmulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great Amulet Graphic Novel. Can't wait for the third!

The story is very engaging. I read through the entire thing in one sitting for the storyline. Now to go back and pay attention to the artwork on my second read-through.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

80,136 words so far.
I’m still doing my 15 minutes of free-writing and 1250 words per day, though I didn’t keep up with that exactly over the weekend due to a family trip.
My original plan was to have this novel finished in time for NaNoWriMo, which I’ll be covering in a blog post later on as it gets closer to November. 
I had a post where I estimated my word count of my finished novel a while back, and I’m still sticking with those rough numbers. I’m currently around half of my estimated word count to completing my novel (80K/150K.) 
It took me about 80 days to get this far in the book, and I somehow have to write another 70K in 38 days. Ouch. That’s pretty darn close to 2K a day from here on out. My ramp-up schedule has me bumping up to 1500 words a day starting this Sunday, and I think I’ll stick to that for now, regardless of what the math says. I worry about burnout most, and I’d rather be writing a little every day and love what I’m doing than get burned out and give up on it like I’ve done so many times. The year-end holidays give plenty of distractions already for not writing, I don’t need more on top of that.
I need to have this novel draft completed before NaNoWriMo, but if I’m short word count, I’m okay with that, as long as the basic storyline is there. I’ll draft up some notes on what chapters need to be fleshed out during editing phase like ***insert long description about how main character saves the entire village from an evil dragon here*** and ***insert scene where hero sweeps maiden away into the sunset riding atop said dragon***, only I don’t have any dragons in my story…or maidens…or do I?!?
I’d like to take a week off prior to NaNoWriMo in order to work on the outline for my next book (that I have to write entirely during November), and take a break to spend with my family before diving head-long into an even crazier month.
It’s all a little overwhelming at this point. I shouldn’t be scared that I won’t get it all done, but I am a little.  Distractions abound: World of Warcraft Cataclysm will be coming out around that timeframe most likely, which I won’t be buying, as well as Fallout: New Vegas, which I really want to get, even more-so than WoW to be honest. My wife, Jennifer, suggested I get it but she’ll wrap it for my birthday in December assuming I finish my NaNoWriMo book. The Pressure is on!
Will Tom be able to play his most anticipated post-apocalyptic video game of the year this year? Wait till December 13th to find out!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review: The Adventure of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle

The Adventure of the Princess and Mr. WhiffleThe Adventure of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a brilliant little book. It's not for little kids, though I think the older kids would get a kick out of it. It's bubbly and happy, and dark and twisted. Keep them coming Patrick!

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: Hunted by P.C. Cast

Hunted (House of Night, #5)Hunted by P.C. Cast
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another good book from P.C. Cast. This far into the series I'm starting to get a little disenfranchised from Zoey and her cohorts. These later books tend to only cover a day or two of Zoey's life and the minutia of the kids sitting around trash talking and rehashing scenes over an over is getting old. That said, I'm still very engaged, but finding myself skipping over entire sections of Zoey explaining to her friends something that just happened to her the night before.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

70,143 Words written on novel so far.<br>

15/1250 is getting tougher and tougher to do, but I’m keeping up with it at least.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Random Rambling Ruminations

I just have to say I’ve been incredibly busy with life these last few weeks. Work has been killer. Homework stuff with the kids. Every two weeks I increase my word-count and this starts cutting into the amount of time I have to get things done. Couple that with a energy level that seems to decrease the deeper I get into this project, I find myself struggling to keep up with the book.
But that’s life, right?
We all get burned out of things if we spend too much time on them. I have been focusing on this book a lot lately, but I think it’s a good thing. Writing in particular is a bittersweet profession. My current job I get paid regularly. I might think I should be getting paid for all the free OT I give my company, but ultimately my bank account stays above freezing, so I’m sated.
Writing this book is a lot different. I spend all this time up front just writing it. This cuts into my free time, and yes, into family time. It’s a sacrifice all around. 
Once I’m done (goal is end of October to complete the rough draft)  I will have the joy of spending 2-4 months editing the darn thing. This first edit will take a long time and be painful, but I’m hopeful I’ll make it through it.
Once I’m done with that do I get paid? Oh hell no. I have to get it shopped around to agents, publishers, editors, the list goes on.
Once I have found an agent/editor then I get the check right?
Well, possibly. I’ll get into that in later blog posts when I get closer to actually doing all of that.
The point of all these ramblings (and they are ramblings copied and pasted from my free-writing exercise during lunch today) is that my day-job pays me every two weeks. It keeps the lights on, it puts food on the table, and it allows me to read all those fancy Kindle books you see me post on Facebook.
This writing thing is a big gamble. I’m spending tons of hours ahead of time writing something that I have no guarantee will sell. 
But I keep doing it, just like many other authors. Hoping for that eventual payoff. Sure I want to turn this into a career, but I have to be smart about it. Assuming I’m halfway decent, and hire a world-class editor to fix everything, I’m still looking at a 5-10 year process to be able to transition to full-time writing. If that even happens.
So for now, I just keep on keeping on. I write my 1250 words each day, and I post up blog posts when I can. Writing comes first, then the blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

Weekly Writing Status
62,215 Words so far.
Still keeping up with 15 minutes of freewriting, and 1000 words per day…well…kind of.
This week was nice. I headed out of town for a three-day weekend with my folks and my in-laws. Getting out of town and heading to small-town U.S.A affords me some time to get away into a quiet room and do some reading. This time it was trying to get through Brandon Sanderson’s epic novel The Way of Kings.  I didn’t finish it on my vacation, but I did finish it when I got back.  Amazing novel, you can see my review for it here
Due to the long vacation weekend, I was not able to keep up with my word count goals. I did write each day, but I told myself not to push myself as I just wanted to make sure I sat down daily to do something, and I did that. 
It was vacation after all.
When I got back to the real world on Tuesday, I was able to have the joy of sitting in the dentists chair for two hours counting the number of flinches I had as the Novocain was wearing off. Yeah, it hurt, and my gums are still sore and swollen two days later.
So, I didn’t write any on Thursday. But I kept up with it the rest of the week once I was over my Little Shop of Horrors reenactment.
So the lesson here kids: Dentists=evil.
And Keep writing daily!
Oh and go read Way of Kings, it’s good regardless of how much Novocain you’re on.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review - "The Way of Kings"

Book Review - "The Way of Kings" by Brandon Sanderson. Book One of the Stormlight Archive

This book was epic. Epic in size, epic in scope, epic in it's presentation.

It took me over a week to read, where I normally rip through 2-3 books in a week. My hats off to Brandon Sanderson for writing such an involved story.

I was a bit confused at the beginning, much like when I read Warbreaker. His magic system is very integral to this storyline and he launches right into it near the beginning of the book, then bounces out to introduce all the main characters. The world he has invented is massive. Storms coming out of the East, great walls of water and wind. Entire civilizations, including plant and animal life hide out inside their shells, gripping the ground or hiding behind rocks in order to survive these storms.

It's a bleak existence, but one that is steeped in mystery, depth, survival, and triumph.

I can't wait for the next book in this series. I already bought the Hardback as well as the Kindle version. This is definitely one to read again.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weekly Writing Status

57,521 Words so Far.
Still working on 15/1000
This week was not easy. 750 words per day wasn’t bad, but 1000 for some reason hit me pretty hard. For the first time in a couple months I actually missed a day writing. Well, two days. 
I broke a tooth, I think that counts.
But I did catch up the following day. So I ended up writing 2 days of 2000 words, 2 days of 1000 words and around 500 on another day.
This next week continues 15 minutes of free-writing per day to clear my head, followed by 1000 words per day. Only I’m leaving town for three days for the holiday weekend. This should be fun trying to keep up with that.
I won’t stress about it if I don’t get it done. Vacations are needed.
Till next week, keep writing!