Accountability for April 2017

Hey everyone. I plan to do weekly posts to keep me accountable for the work I’m doing.

This is the first of those, but I also want to look back at the year so far.

January and February I managed to write about 40,000 words and also edit Tenlyres into the complete version. I’m proud of Tenlyres, but I’m not proud of my slow word count.

In March I managed to start kicking it up a notch. I did almost 40,000 words in March, and that includes FINALLY finishing a draft of the sequel to Hunter and Seed, which now needs editing and beta comments before I release it.

April has been an up and down month for me, writing-wise. Big start, slow middle, decent finish. As of today, I have about the same number of words as March. So I’ve written just over 110,000 words so far this year. That may look or sound like a lot. I think its not enough for a third of a year.

So, here’s to a big push in May and June. I plan to increase the time I spend on writing again, moving to four hours on most days in May, then six hours in June.

Also, I am experimenting with writing sprints to increase my word count per minute for extended periods of time.

I have plans. Now its time to execute them.

Oh, and I want to get back here at least once a week for the near future. Thanks for reading.

Finally, happy post 800 to this blog!ac

Moments

pocket-watch-1637392

Yesterday I wrote four short scenes for current book I have in progress.

And when I write, short, I write SHORT. The longest scene in the group was around 650 words. The shortest, less than 200.

I always used to write pretty short, back in my high school days. Lately, I’m experimenting with my roots and trying to get the most beautiful moments I can make discrete from the ones before and after. I really enjoyed yesterday’s writing.

Related to this, when I walked into the coffee shop this morning, I recognized a favorite song by its fading notes.

That song? Porcupine Tree’s “Collapse the Light Into Earth.” Relevant, because it captures a single moment of emotion in sound and replays it consistently for the length of the song. It’s also one of the few Porcupine Tree songs from that era truly mellow enough to play in a coffee shop at 8 o’clock in the morning.

I guess the moment has got me interested.

Tenlyres (Check it out on Amazon and other ebook stores) is one of my more successful works to have long scenes as standard in it. But writing that book was difficult and took a long time compared to some of my other stories. Focusing on small moments is not easy when I am in the midst of a longer scene.

But I do love those little, near-vignettes that serve as the fulcrum to lever the story in a new direction or reinforce my earlier themes. One can build a story around moments such as these if the moment is strong enough.

I won’t claim to know how strong I make these sets of ~500 words, but I would suggest if you are a writer, try the short segments. They feel empowering, in part because if you have been writing for any amount of time you can probably get one written quickly without feeling as though you are hammering on stone.

And hammering is, in my opinion, a damaging way to look at storytelling. Because storytelling can be like excavation, as Steven King describes it in On Writing, but if one must know when to use the jackhammer, and when one needs but to brush the dust off the fossil.

I think those little moments require the brush all too often.

Thanks for reading.

Support this blog and help pay for my coffee habit! Buy Tenlyres, or any of my other books, today!

Amazon

Other Stores

Guest Post: Heisenberg Compensators

abstract-772523

Today I have a guest post for you, from an amazing writer I’ve been following for a few months. He has a style I can only dream of, and his crazy ideas are the sort I aspire to as well. If you ever wondered about genre, this is the guy to see. Everyone, Zig Zag Claybourne!

 

Heisenberg Compensators

 

“Tell me about the Before-Time, DiJonn,” says the waif.

“It was a time of repetitive wonders…” says the old man, eyes focusing on days he’ll never get back. “When only starship captains were allowed emotional arcs, and fans knew precisely at all times what they were buying…”

Low blow? Not too low. Let’s talk genre. Sci fi. Horror. Fantasy. Literary. Comedy. Erotic. What’d we leave out? (Tractor porn is not a genre. Ignore what Skeeter says.) Genre sets up expectations. From sci fi, we don’t expect deeply emotional romance. From horror, we get blindsided by the inclusion of robots (although we already live in a ghost world thanks to AI and “smart” tech). Fantasy? Get that socio-political layering out of my elven shire! We want what we want, and publishing has made sure we get that. Up till now.

Just this year I’ve read a book that features religion, damnation, time travel, horror, and a fair bit of comedy, not as incidentals but as the very fabric of the book; another where a witch and a technogeek have an on-again, off-again relationship that threatens to destroy the world; I wrote one myself (shameless frikking plug) merging science fiction, adventure, literary, satire and fantasy. It’s been described as “Buckaroo Banzai by way of James Baldwin and Blade”, and in my neck of the woods you mention any one of those three, you have my attention.

I freaking adore genre blending.

Frankenstein: gothic horror environmental philosophical treatise. The Bible: horror, sci fi, poetry, adventure, love story. Lucian of Greece’s True History: travel writing, sci fi, satire straight from the second century. Hell, even Peanuts counts as YA Dystopia (a world where even children need psychological counseling on a regular basis, and happiness is sought but never achieved). Creators have been dipping their chocolate into peanut butter since words became the rage. The blending of genre speaks not only to the sophistication of the world but of the reader herself. The Greek myths were huge soap operas against a backdrop of testosterone and estrogen of unimaginable levels. The African Orishas are sci fi, horror, fantasy, and romance all at the same time. There is no story that is a single thing unless we force it to be so. Unfortunately there’ve been lots of forced marriages in publishing. The world may never know how many writers have felt compelled to funnel what could have been grand ideas into narrow loveless couplings. Imagine The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being pitched today.  It’d either be an indie effort or it’d be pared down to being a buddy comedy with a quick, easy payout. Which is sadness.

The argument against blending says readers will be confused, and an author can’t build a following off of confused readers. Let me throw some names out to Google at your discretion: Sam Delany, CSE Cooney, Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Frank Herbert, Julian May, Terry Pratchett. You can build audience by being intriguing, by being daring, and respecting that a reader’s sense of adventure knows no bounds. One of the best novellas I’ve read in years came out via Tor.com in 2015: Kelly Robson’s Waters of Versailles. It’s fantasy, it’s historical, it’s farce, it’s as much about class structures as Les Miz and it’s deeply emotional. I love it. Kelly is one of the best practitioners out there of blending not only genre but realism, and guess what? You’ll be seeing her name for years. We forget that before there was “genre” there was simply good story.

In the beginning was the word, remember? And the word was good?

Are we seeing an upsurge in people wanting their consumables to do more than comfort them? I think we are. There’s enough familiarity in innumerable aspects of life that people can enjoy the challenge of a many-flavored mental meal, and with indie artists experiencing a boom of reach and availability (check out the indie lighthouse-site Narazu.com) the walls of genre aren’t merely crumbling, suckers are vaporizing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have markers. But it’s also good to know that at any moment of your choosing you can screw the map and go off-road. I titled this little blog “Heisenberg Compensators.” Why? If you’re into Star Trek you know that’s a McGuffin they created for their transporter technology to overcome the principle that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory. In theory we’re not supposed to be able to bounce about on a quantum level and have all kinds of resulting fun.

I give the human brain credit though. We take disparate bits, beam them into our imaginations, and reassemble them as paranormal detectives, mermaid orphans, mystic adventurers, or starship captains quite literally in love with their ships (hello AI-virtual reality world!). Genre-blending is not only fun to write and read, it leaves both the author and audience (wait for it) energized.

Surprised, even. Pleasantly.

Who doesn’t love that?

 

 

BIO STUFF

Zig Zag Claybourne (also known as Clarence Young) wishes he’d grown up with the powers of either Gary Mitchell or Charlie X but without the Kirk confrontations. (And anybody not getting that Star Trek reference gets their sci fi cred docked 3 points.) The author of The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, Neon Lights, Historical Inaccuracies, By All Our Violent Guides, and In the Quiet Spaces (the last two under C.E. Young), he believes a writer can be like an actor, inhabiting a delightful variety of roles and genres, but his heart belongs to science fiction.

His fiction and essays have appeared in Vex Mosaic, Alt History 101, The Wayne Review, Flashshot, Reverie Journal, Stupefying Stories, The City (a cyberfunk anthology), UnCommon Origins, Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine, and Rococoa (sword & soul/steamfunk anthology).

When not writing (or fiddling on Facebook) he loves promoting great art and posing the Great Questions, such as whether or not anybody will ever be funkier than Prince.

Find him on the web at www.WriteonRighton.com

Progress in Action

alaska-63728_1920

Ever since the start of November, I have been writing pretty fast.

I’m back at work on Tenlyres and am almost done writing part two. After that, I’ll edit and begin to serialize the remaining chapters, as well as releasing the ebook on Amazon and the other platforms.

Oh, and I wrote a nice little short story in the Tenlyres world last night. For those of you who have read part one, this story stars the adventurer and thief, Ferdinand Thoss on one of his earlier treasure hunts. I really enjoyed writing it, and though the story is pretty short, I think it does what I wanted it to do. It lightened my mood as I go into a very dark set of events that is approaching at the end of part two.

Also, I think it’s worth mentioning, while I’m on the subject of Tenlyres, that part three (The conclusion of the story) will most likely not be serialized, if only because it will be even longer than part one and part two, a whole novel in its own right. That will come out when I can manage it, probably early next year if I can maintain the pace of this week for a few months.

My current pace is pretty amazing to me, but thanks to a little program called Cold Turkey Writer, which makes it impossible for me to do anything else with my computer until I hit a target wordcount, I have been making rapid progress on the story before me. How rapid? Four thousand words a day has long been my idea of an attainable, if difficult goal. And that’s what I seem to be able to hit in about 3 and 1/2 hours if I do it all in one sitting. I bet I could go faster than that, but so far I’ve been interrupted by something in the middle of all the long sessions.

The short story I polished off from start to finish (In rough draft) last night took a little longer, but it definitely gave me a sense of what I can do from simple prompts and a few notes. It ended up being around 3000 words, but I’m pretty proud I managed to write at night for a change, as I’ve not been doing that much for that past couple years.

What else is there to say? I guess one of the issues with writing the short story, one of the things that slowed me down, was that I was listening to podcasts for the first 2/3 of the process, and they wore me down around a third of the way to my wordcount. So, I took a break for about 30 minutes. Even so, I’m really happy with my experiment and its results.

And writing fast helps me enjoy my process a lot more. Don’t know why I have to shut out practically all distractions before I can make that work, but whatever. It works. And that encourages me to keep at it.

Here’s to moving forward.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Hallowing

halloween-1756756_1280

Today is Halloween, and while I have no plans for this holiday, I enjoy the season.

Today’s post is not really about Halloween. This morning, I had a few memories surface (Who knows why) of various people I have been an asshole toward at various times in the past, both distant and recent.

So, I’m thinking I’m going to start a kind of parallel holiday with Halloween.

Halloween in these parts means kids dress up as scary things and go around asking for candy, as it does most places it is celebrated. This new tradition, let’s call it Hallowing to make it easy to remember, is one about dressing up in your best emotional state (For me that’s pretty easy in the morning), and then apologizing to someone you have been a jerk to for some specific way you have wronged them. Then, thank them for something cool about how they are.

Here’s to emotional vulnerability, am I right?

Let’s give it a try in digital.

His esteemed Business will know who he is when he sees that. Well, your Business, you have been on my mind lately. See, like many of the people I got annoyed with back in the day I released my temper on you more often than I should. I’ve often been opinionated and thought mine was the only right way, but let’s get specific. That time you ran the Dresden Files RPG and I left angry, following a rant at you… I was absolutely wrong to go off like that. And thanks for being a reliable friend, but more specifically, thanks for that time at the liquor store you told me I should drink whatever I liked, because I was worried I’d look silly with something sweet.

Yeah, that was cool.

Happy Hallowing, your Business!

And happy Hallowing to everyone else. If you go out and participate in this new side of the Holiday of October 31st, let me know in the comments on this post.

All you writers, here’s to NaNoWriMo Eve.

As always, and just in general, thanks for reading.

Monsters

heroes_of_the_dawn_1914_14750481494

This image appeared in a book from 1914, called Heroes of the Dawn, about Celtic mythology. One of my brothers got me a copy of a newer edition of this book about the time I graduated from high school.

But this image.

This is a freaky image, and I love it. That shadowy figure shooting a beam of fire at this little human on the ground is identified as a sidhe, read fey or even faerie, on the Wikipedia page. But the point is that there are monsters about in lore and legend.

Of course, there are monsters in real life, but I like the literal monster. The beast. The giant. The demon.

These critters resonate with me. I’ve really liked reading about them, playing games with them, even building models of them.

Over the years I’ve reached for the monsters in my fiction every now and then, but I’ve noticed that by coming up with a rationale for the monster they become creatures still potentially capable of inspiring of awe, but much less capable of inspiring terror. Another author Paul Elard Cooley has an interesting essay about monsters elsewhere on the internet. His approach to the subject is a bit different from mine, as he seems to favor less strangeness and more horror. No surprise there for me, having read his work.

Anyway, fire-breathing fey inspired this post. But I gotta get back to my own page. My own monsters.

Thanks for reading.