Monday, December 31, 2012

The End of an Age

Last Friday I sat down with the intent of finishing my next Writers of the Future submission. I didn't. Why, you ask? Because I was distracted. I had a lot on my mind and needed to exorcise it in order to concentrate on what I really needed to do. The result of that exorcism was a very lengthy FB/G+ post that took me three hours to write. Yes, that's a lot of time for a relatively short piece but this was free written (which always takes me longer) and I had to sift through a lot of thoughts, memories, and emotions to get to the heart of the matter. I don't regret spending that time on this modern soliloquy, nor do I look on it as indulgent or wasteful. As I said before, I needed to give these thought and emotions time to run their course. A little meditation is good for the soul, and I believe it's good for art as well. It's hard to focus and create anything worthwhile when you're troubled. Even though the deadline was looming, by writing that post, I did exactly what I needed to do at that very moment. And you know what? After I'd finished it I was able to complete my submission by the deadline without any difficulty.

So, in case you missed it, here it is:

The End of an Age 

There's a hole on my bookshelf. I made that hole Tuesday night. It's the spot that A Memory of Light will occupy after I've bought it, read it, savored it, gotten it signed, loaned it to my mother, and rescued it from The Land of Misplaced Things (aka mom's reading nook). When Towers of Midnight came out it took about two months for that string of events to run its course. However, this time will be different because this will be the last time. 

This is the last anticipatory hole on the shelf, the last time the dragon banner will ride the wind, and the last time I'll be able to pester my mother to read faster so I can talk about what Mat and Rand did. For the last fifteen years, this has been the perennial cycle.

Light! I've waited fifteen years for the end of the world. 

Like many other fans, I want it to come tomorrow and I don't want it to come at all. I desperately want to know what happens but I don't want the journey to be over. The dichotomy is maddening. 

Yes, there are other series that I love in a similar fashion, that they will see me through life's dark days like the Wheel of Time did and there will be other books that I will anticipate in a similar fashion. But this ritualistic string of events is specific to the Wheel of Time. In a way, it's the turning of my wheel. 

Perhaps that's the reason why I'm so troubled by this. "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass..." isn't just a lyrical metaphor for life, it's become a way for me to define the stages of my life. And even though my wheel will continue to turn, the completion of the fictional wheel's revolution is killing a hope that I've unknowingly carried since Robert Jordan's death. That hope being that the series, having survived an untimely death, would somehow continue past it's completion. 

I've read the statements and heard Brandon comment on this at book signings and other events. I know it's not very likely that a companion series will ever see the light and I'm okay with that. Really, I am. The last thing I want is for The Wheel of Time to become a serialized fan fic. There's nothing wrong in harboring a little fan girl hope for another adventure, and likewise there's no harm in letting an Age pass at its appointed time. The series isn't going to disappear off the face of the earth. It will live on, I suspect, in the same fashion as The Lord of the Rings. Future generations will journey with Rand, Mat, Perrin, and the others and when they say "Wow! That was the coolest thing ever!" we'll smile and say "Keep reading. It gets better."

My life has been graced by these 14 tomes. They've changed the way I look at fiction, writing, and the world in general. Instead of regarding January 8th as the end of an Age, I should look on it as the beginning of a new one. A new age where I take my altered vision and use it as only a writer can to inspire others in the same fashion.

In the spirit of this epiphany, I wish to say this: 

In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, the Wheel of Time rose from the grave and found a new home in the hearts of men. There it continued to turn through the generations because after all, there are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

I'm finally taking a day off

At Ninja Keyboard headquarters, we take Christmas seriously. We do all of our cooking and feasting on Christmas Eve so that on Christmas Day, we can lounge around, enjoy each other's company, and be lazy. That means there's lots of baking to be done and little ones to keep distracted (and subsequently, out of the kitchen). With that in mind, I'm not going to be sharing any writerly enlightenment with you this week. I will be back next Monday (New Year's Eve) with a really good post.

Have a happy holiday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Welcome to The Next Big Thing, the blog chain letter questionnaire that gives writers the opportunity to talk about their work in progress. So, without further ado, here is The Next Big Thing.

What is the working title of your book?

The actual working title is Spider Web, though on FB and G+ I usually refer to it as the Cyberfunk book.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It actually came from a really strange dream I had a couple years ago. The dream was an interesting combination of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Phantom of the Opera, and Alias.

What genre does this fall under?

It's cyberpunk.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?

That's a tough one. I usually don't think of my characters as specific actors and I rarely model a character's appearance after one. There have been a few exceptions and this story just happens to have one. Cary-hiroyuki Tagawa would be ideal as the yakuza boss. That may be type casting, but he's really good at it. I'm not picky about who plays the other characters as long as they are or can pass as the right ethnicity. There are several Asian characters and their ethnicity is an important part of their identity. In the end I'd rather an unknown actor get the part than a celebrity that is a bad fit for the role. I know that isn't how Hollywood thinks, but it's how I feel.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

A retired hacker has to use their skills to rescue a friend that has been trapped inside a secret government project for six years.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm not represented by an agency and I have no intention of self-publishing any of my work in the near future. When the manuscript is ready I'll send queries to a few agents and editors.

How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'm still writing it. It usually takes me a 12 - 18 months to finish a manuscript. I've completed about 25% of the first draft in the four months I've been working on it. I want to have the first draft done by the time I leave for WorldCon so it's ready to pitch.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson. It's still a far cry from what Spider Web is, but it is the closest. I'd also compare it to the James Bond books by Ian Fleming since there is a lot of international intrigue.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The book and its characters inspired me. Once I get an idea for a story and the characters introduce themselves to me, I become a bit obsessed. I want to tell their story. I want to live every moment of their quest, experience their adventures, share their heartbreak. They become as real to me as a flesh and blood human being.

What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?

The protagonist is female. While that's not unheard of, it's not common. There are a lot of obstacles for her to overcome and a lot of factions that would love to stop her. She has multiple encounters with MI6 agents (if you're not familiar with British Intelligence, this is the same organization that James Bond works for) and the Yakuza.

Next Wednesday, Jo Ann Schneider is continuing the series. Be sure to check out her post on the 26th. I know I will.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The pen is still mightier

The recent tragedies across the nation have been the top subject on the internet, social media, and almost every conversation I've had or overheard. While I find the blog posts of Robison Wells and Dan Wells moving (and I agree wholeheartedly with their sentiments) I'm not going to add my own thoughts on the tragedies themselves. I've never lost a child or a loved one in a senseless act of violence or had a violent mental illness. I've had suicidal depression, but it was never to the point that I wanted to hurt others, so while I can sympathize, I can't empathize. However I can borrow the wise words of others.

And of course, this:

We have the power, the infinite power of language at our mercy, and it's our duty as wordsmiths to use it responsibly. We don't have to threaten people. We can get our message across without igniting a fiery debate. Starting arguments only creates more anger which than results in more unnecessary violence and I for one have had enough. There is too much ugliness in the world as it is. Arguing this way or that only adds to it. I suggest that instead of picking fights with our friends on Facebook over subjects like gun control, we listen to the admonishments of these gentlemen by making good art. As writers we can create a beautiful fairy land for people to escape to while they cope with the horrible reality that has been thrust upon them. We can likewise create a dystopic future that illustrates the consequences of inaction and apathy.

You can do more good with an allegory than you can with an argument.

Hitler used the power of language to inspire and motivate a nation to do terrible things. However we, as writers, can inspire a nation to be more kind, more generous, more understanding, more forgiving, more loving, more cooperative, more calm, more peaceful...and I think that's wonderful.

So, how about it?

Let's make the world a better place through good art.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Together we stand, together we fall

Ahh, December. That wonderful time of year when good (and not so good) boys and girls start flooding Santa's inbox with requests for the funds to attend all the wonderful Cons, workshops, and seminars that will take place next year. If I can put my two cents in, anyone that is serious about writing should seriously consider going to the Superstars Writing Seminar. I know I've talked about it in the past but I can't emphasize enough how much I learned and gained from this seminar. If my previous post about it (To the Stars and Back) wasn't enough to convince you than perhaps a couple videos will persuade you.

This seminar isn't just for those who have already published a work or two. This is for everyone who wants to make a living as a writer. Need to revitalize your career as a mid-list author? Go to Superstars. Want to know how to make money without being screwed by a big publisher? Go to Superstars. Want to be inspired? Go to Superstars. Want to make friends in the industry? Go to Superstars. Want to be surrounded by familiar faces at WorldCon? Go to Superstars.

This isn't one of those seminars that hammers information into your brain and leaves you scared and exhausted at the end of the day. This is a friendly seminar. Don't mistake me, they do cover a lot of topics in a short amount of time. Brandon Sanderson likened it to drinking from a fire hydrant and he was right. I'm still digesting the information in the copious amount of notes I took. My point is that no one there is judgmental. When I signed up last year I was invited to join the Facebook group so not only were the returning attendees already acquainted, but new attendees like myself were as well.

The whole point of this seminar is to strengthen the writing community by gathering together writers of all walks of life and experiences so that we can learn from each other and be better -- better writers, better businesspeople, and more well connected. Because after all, we are colleagues. If we're going to survive in this ever changing market and keep it alive, we have to band together.

                                                      So go ahead and sign up already!

Click to register

Monday, December 3, 2012

NaNo 2012: A.K.A. a lesson in masochism

Phew! NaNo is finally over! Huzzah!

My word count for the final week was 1400 on the novel and 1600 on the novelette. That's kind of lackluster for a final push but there were a couple days where I wasn't able to get much if anything written. Tuesday I went to Seattle for the launch of Jim Butcher's new book, Cold Days. The drive time meant that I didn't get much done on Tuesday and the subsequent road trip hangover made it near impossible to get anything done Wednesday.

Now, I know some of you are wondering if I reached my goal?

No. I didn't. But I got pretty darn close. Out of the 13 K I wanted to do on the novelette I wrote 8513. On the Novel I did 8281 of the 10K I set for myself. So out of the combined 23K I managed 16,794 words. I think that being a little over 6K from the finish line was respectable. Especially since my calendar looked like this:

                                          (Why yes, that is a Schlock Mercenary calendar.)

Add a 40 hour work week on top of that and yeah, that's a lot of commitments for any given month. But for NaNo it borders on the insane since, as I mentioned before, a few of those commitments took me as far as Seattle.

So what did I learn this year?

Two NaNo projects is CRAZY!!! Yeah, I am not doing that again. I'm not going to stop bopping between projects the rest of the year -- it helps me clear my brain -- I'm just not going to do it during NaNo. I do have to admit that there was one good thing about doing two projects. Normally I get burned out on the book about halfway through the month. Last year I actually resented the fact that I couldn't take a break from the novel without losing precious time. That was one of the reasons I did two  projects this year and while I didn't feel any of that resentment this year, I did have to continually readjust my brain for the different styles of the two stories. The protagonist's voices in each story are very different so I had to give myself time to push one out of my mind and pull up the other. If I spaced it out (worked on one in the morning and the other in the evening) it wasn't so bad but it still took a toll. I think it wore me out faster.

The other lesson I learned from this year's NaNo was that if I know my schedule is going to be that busy (like I did this year) than I'm going to postpone NaNo until December or January so I can focus on it more. I'm determined to make goal one of these years. As Hero Boy would say, "I will succeed!" And one day I will.

Oh yes, I will.