Just for today, my ebook, Dragon Venom, is on sale for 99 cents on Kindle! Get your copy today, the price goes up to 2.99 tomorrow!
Just for today, my ebook, Dragon Venom, is on sale for 99 cents on Kindle! Get your copy today, the price goes up to 2.99 tomorrow!
So, yeah, Season 7 of Game of Thrones is on, I have paid for an HBO Go subscription, and it’s Thursday and I haven’t even bothered to watch Episode 2.
It didn’t help that GRRM was all being coy again, well we MIGHT have a Song of Ice and Fire book in 2018 and it MIGHT be The Winds of Winter, but it will probably be just another damned compilation of stories about kings and dragons whom we don’t give the first crap about.
Give it up, George. If you don’t want to finish the damned books, don’t finish them. But stop playing games about it. Just admit it– I’m having too much fun living my life, the series has become a huge pain in the ass, and I don’t enjoy sitting down to write it anymore. Fine. Hand it off to Brandon Sanderson, tell him what you originally wanted to happen, and he’ll pound out a few hundred thousand words like the very good methodical worker he is. And it will all be over.
And GRRM can do whatever the hell he likes without ever having to field a question about “WHEN” ever again.
Seriously. He doesn’t sound like a man who is writing from passion, he sounds like a harried man writing with a deadline he can never, ever, ever meet, and hearing the discontent growing around him. All the while, the television series spirals into the basic equivalent of such a bad fanfic that anyone with any genuine love for the characters in the novels has long since given up on even thinking of them as the same people.
Go to Bali, George. Hand the stupid series over to Sanderson or one of those guys you actually trained and just let it go. You’ll be infinitely happier, and as long as they hit the basic touchpoints, you’ll have done what you hoped to accomplish.
And we can stop pretending that this ridiculous television version has any basis in human behavior, plot, or common sense.
Despite every possible thing conspiring against me this summer, I have finally gotten my first novel up on the Kindle website for pre-order!
Dragon Venom is a fantasy novel, filled with seafaring battles, steamy dragon-haunted jungles, and warrior monks fighting for their faith and for their lives. It’s the story of Raban, a young craftsman monk, who is forced to become something more on a quest to reclaim the lost treasures of a vanished empire. Under the leadership of their Knight Vigilant, Alarin, Raban and the rest of his order will test the bonds of brotherhood, faith, and humanity in their search for Paisadal, and their dangerous hunt for the forbidden lore of dragons.
Pre-order it now on Amazon!
I will be honest with you– in the past, I have been guilty of writing things that weren’t truly reflective of who I really am. I’ve written things just to try to sell them, just to try to break into a particular market, and written things that don’t actually reflect my ideals, thoughts, hopes, and morals.
Which is why I don’t really like to dig back into my past and publish my old stories and poetry. There’s very little in there that I am actually proud of, very little that I would want my grandchildren to read, so to speak. I wrote things that I thought would please my “market” and they are embarrassing to me now. Why did I write that, I ask myself. Was it really that important to sell a short story?
Some writers will tell you that writing “to a market” is just what you do. It’s the accepted practice– if someone wants to publish an anthology about freaky hermaphrodite clowns, then you write a story about freaky hermaphrodite clowns, even if you heartily wish that clowns were all stripped of their red rubber noses and forced to work at the DMV.
In some cases, the ideas spawned by certain markets, like anthologies and magazines, may, possibly, once in a blue moon, actually rouse your best creative force and you can write a heartfelt tale that sears the page in its beauty and passion. But mostly you’re just hurriedly grinding something out in the very slim hope that the editor will like it. Even though the editor is mainly counting on their friends and acquaintances to fill the anthology and is only holding out one or two slots for unknown writers, of course. And then you’re stuck with a story about freaky hermaphrodite clowns, which you now have to try to foist off on another market. (Those other markets know that this will happen, and cringe for months reading freaky clown stories.)
Sometimes, though, you’re just writing in a certain genre and you absorb the mores and cultural assumptions that are common to that market. Cultural appropriation is terribly common in science fiction and fantasy (ask me sometime about alien worlds who all seem to have desert areas with heavily draped peoples who call the area Something-istan. I start to foam at the mouth, I have heard.) So is writing about gay characters even if you yourself are not gay. Being progressive sells, that’s the heart of the idea.
I wrote a story once about a young woman in 1600-1700s Indonesia who was banished from her village, became bonded to a cursed knife, and then had the problem of how to remove the knife. Long story short: she gets her hand cut off, but decides, with the help of her lesbian lover, that the cursed knife must be destroyed for the good of her people. Because of the religious powers that were in that particular region at that time, I ultimately had my character pray to the Islamic god for his help in destroying the knife.
Now, if I was writing the story today, I would have found a way to leave Islam out of it ENTIRELY. Not simply to avoid offending the people of that faith (although that would be part of it) but also because it was just a hasty addition at the end, written under time pressure, and it wasn’t a very satisfying ending to the tale. I would have preferred it if the woman could have found some other ghost of her own people to banish her vile uncle’s spirit.
I guess it was satisfying enough to sell it, anyway– it was published in 2002 in a cd-rom anthology called “Extremes 5: Fantasy and Horror from the ends of the earth.” For, hah, an equal share of the profit. Sadly, after the editor had taken out his expenses, there was no profit, so basically all I got for tacking on this hasty religiously ambivalent ending was a copy of the cd-rom and a cramped hand from signing the sleeve inserts. Oh, and I was out about ten bucks for postage.
I would have made it more clear, I think, that the main character was only “gay” in the sense that she was heartbroken and suicidal and that she was responding to the other woman’s kindness and love. Two broken people clinging to each other in a storm. If it had been a man, she would have probably run in fear after her lifetime of abuse by men. Situationally, the gay character made sense. I don’t regret putting it in, because it was true to the character and the story basically wouldn’t have worked without there being someone else there to help her. She would have just given up and died, otherwise. I wanted people to feel that sorrowful weight upon her, and then to see at the end that she was, in fact, still broken– the love had not fixed the wounds in her heart. It just enabled her to endure the pain.
So I have decided that this week, in celebration of the idea of doing things “right” and true and writing from your passion and not your fear, I am going to republish this story, A Dagger in the Rain, on Kindle. I will be doing some editing to it first, fixing that problematical ending with the unneeded influence of an outside god. As an outsider writing about a distant historical place, and about ghosts in that place, nothing is ever going to be perfect. Even Joseph Conrad had to read several books about the Indonesian peoples before he dared to write about them, because he knew he wouldn’t get everything right without years of experience that he didn’t have.
The first step is going to be to find the disc. I know I just moved it into my closet right before Christmas! Then a quick edit and rewrite, and I will make it available for a nominal price on Amazon’s kindle page. I’d start tonight but I can feel my Ambien kicking in and my typing is starting to fall apart.
I am excited, I think, to try to make a story closer to my true vision for it. There are not many stories that I would bother fixing in this way– mostly my ghost stories, for those have always been the ones closest to my heart. When you’ve lived in a haunted house, ghost stories are always interesting ones.
My novel, thankfully, is only “not me” in one respect: I wrote it with a male protagonist. In hindsight, I still feel that he’s the best character for the job. I definitely wouldn’t want to put a female through all the stuff those guys get up to in their desert journey. But the fact that I wrote this novel to fit in with MY vision of what a fantasy hero should act like and do and feel and dream . .. that makes it so pleasing to me. I didn’t sell out for this novel. Raban and Valerius are just who they need to be, where they need to be, doing what they need to do. And it was a labor of love to get them there.
I’ll announce the release when it posts. 🙂
So, yes, the rain has fallen and I’ve actually begun to write new stuff again. No, it’s not exactly what I planned on writing, but it’s . . . good. Different. It’s taking some of the conventions of the genre and up-ending them in a way that (I think) has some interesting ramifications.
In a way, it’s a departure both from “Harry Potter” and Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians”, steeped in science fiction, Star Wars, and hours and hours of actually dealing with children.
I’m excited about it.
But, I’m not going to spill it all out and waste that creative energy. I’m really happy to be writing again, though, and writing something with some meat to it. Flash fiction is all very well and good, but it’s hors d’oeuvres and not dinner. This is a lot more substantial fare.
I have had cause, recently, to question the focus of my writing.
Part of that, certainly, is that I have had no real success in the field, therefore anything I do is as a newcomer, really. A few small credits, in this world, don’t matter much at all. Large credits are a different matter, but I have none, so “starting over” isn’t going to be very difficult at this point. And, isn’t the absence of credits a sort of proof that my focus is off, somehow?
Another part is my growing cognitive dissonance with the science fiction and fantasy worldview. I love scifi and fantasy– I grew up watching superhero tv shows and watching my dad read science fiction books, for goodness’s sake. One of the first series of books that my dad gave me was Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I will always be a fan and a supporter of the field. My movie tickets, book purchases, and cable tv subscriptions all help to keep it going.
The general feeling one gets, however, is that it’s a field that carries a sort of anti-religious bias. One only has to look at Orson Scott Card (and his recent pariah-like status) to realize that faith, openly defended and forming the basis of one’s work, isn’t going to win you honor and glory. At best, it’s sort of tolerated. At worst, it’s openly scorned. Everyone seems much more comfortable defending a writer whose work borders on pedophilia and rape-apology than defending someone who supports traditional marriage. It’s a pretty screwy situation for an orthodox person to find themselves in.
And I am orthodox . . . I very boringly believe in and follow the traditional teachings of an ancient religion founded in the Bronze Age by barely-literate sheep-herders, modified somewhat by a man who was executed by the Romans for a crime which he didn’t commit, and further expanded upon by a bunch of celibate men who wear funny clothes. And I’m okay with that. I chose this life, chose this faith, and have walked away from both the faith of my forefathers and the agnostic and atheistic leanings of my childhood.
I chose it for love. Some may scorn it, but it’s mine. And something freely chosen, for love, is something that a person ought to integrate into their work . . . at least, as far as they are able.
So I find myself on the cusp of 40, wondering if I can somehow write BETTER if I write things that are more true. Things that are closer to my heart and closer to what we generally accept as reality. Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t . . . but I feel the need to explore the idea, anyhow. I’ll never be a theologian, but perhaps I can find another niche.
It’s just a notion, right now, but it’s something I’m going to look into over the coming weeks. Wish me luck.
I’ve spent the past few weeks pondering the nature of blogging, as well as my unfortunate habit of acquiring books and then forgetting to blog for several months. I can’t really apologize, because, well, I’ve read 30 books in the past 3 months, and some of them were decidedly excellent page-turners that kept me up way past my bedtime. Only one of them was actually Bad, as in “the kind of bad that you read only to try to understand how this shit got published, ever”, and even then I came away from the experience wiser.
I have discovered that, yes, you DO have to build the characters up for the readers BEFORE you put them into emotional situations. If you don’t, well, the readers simply won’t care. You can’t tell your readers that your character is a good person worth caring about. They won’t just buy it. Especially if you show the characters acting like total jerks and/or idiots and still tell us they’re great. Mostly it will get your book tossed across the room, or, even worse, you’ll have a page on Goodreads with NO comments or juicy forum posts.
The things that make for juicy forums and busy Goodreads pages– details left unresolved, hints and clues, ambiguity, and characters with muti-layered personalities, as well as dense plotting.
Those things are hard to create, especially when one has been plowing through novels at a headlong pace. So, no, I have not been writing lately. I have been gorging on spy novels and crime television, glutting myself on the Big Fat Fantasy greats, and wading through schlocky romance books in search of something to replace several good series that have ended (alas, I still haven’t found a GOOD romance/family intrigue/dramatic series. Most of that stuff is phoned-in instead of actually written.)
Someday, I will write again. But, well, Game of Thrones is going into Season 3 soon . . . and in May, AMC will be playing Season 3 of The Killing. . . and, well, I used my birthday money from my dad to finance my space opera habit to the tune of several Iain M. Banks and Alastair Reynolds novels, as well as the game “Fallout: New Vegas” which I will undoubtedly sink 60-80 hours into.
So, will I ever write?
I think so . . . I feel ideas budding inside my head, but they’re just not ripe yet. The idea of fusing genres is tickling at my nose, leading me through old spy novels from the Cold War and histories of WWII. There’s something there, something that’s going to be important in my next novel, but I have to finish digging it out. I know it will make for a much richer and more layered story than I’ve done so far. So I have to chase these ideas down for a while.
And then, I’ll write.
Authors, I mean. I’ve been delving back into fandom recently. There seems to be a huge blind spot in fandom, wherein the members don’t acknowledge/admit that some of the author’s decisions were made simply to make the story work. There must be some REASON that all of the things written in the book happen. It must MEAN something larger. Conspiracy theory time!
Sometimes, we just make decisions based on “what has to happen to get the story to work.” Take GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, for example. In order for the plot to work at all, Tywin Lannister had to sit on his ass for 16 years, staying out of any political involvement in Kings Landing, just minding his own business at Casterly Rock. Otherwise, the Hands of King Robert wouldn’t have started investigating the king’s bastard children and threatening the stability of the Lannister’s hold on the throne.
Does it make a lot of sense that Tywin, who had already been a very successful Hand for several decades, would sit back and watch Robert piss away his grandchildren’s inheritance for 1 1/2 decades? Not really. Knowing Tywin, I’m seriously surprised that Robert didn’t have a lethal accident about ten years ago, with Tywin deftly stepping into the role of Regent at that point.
But, the whole setup of the novel wouldn’t work if that had happened. So the author left Tywin moldering on his Rock with Tyrion fixing his drains and ignored realpolitik for an unconscionably long time. This was, we were told, a man who was seething because Aerys had replaced him as Hand at the end of his reign. I don’t really believe he’d have let three more Hands serve without putting pressure on his daughter to at least get him a council seat. BUT . .. for the author’s purpose, he had to act as he did. There would have been no series otherwise. But it’s still just an authorial decision. It’s not history. It’s not gospel. It’s just something the author manipulated to set things up for the plot of the book. If you ask “Why?” the only answer that matters is the author’s “Because I said so.” But it still is just a setup.
Similarly, he made Ned Stark have no close living uncles or brothers or sisters. If he had, then a Stark would have been in Winterfell the whole time. Again, ruining the plot of the stories. But authors aren’t more special than other people… they’re just better at telling stories. Stories can be amusing, entertaining, inspiring, and moving. In the end, though, they’re all just pretty lies. And the author is the Liar in Chief, making decisions ruthlessly just to advance the story he or she has in mind. Why do the characters do what they do? If they’re good characters, they’ll have motivations and reasons and justifications. But the author decided to put that particular character in just THAT place at THAT time, remember. It’s all a pretty mummer’s show. 🙂
I was browsing through Amazon and their upcoming releases when I remembered that, wooooot!, the new Dresden Files book is coming out soon.
Here’s the book, cover and all:
I’ve been reading the Dresden Files now since about 1999, after my good friend Lena loaned me her paperback copies of the first three books. I’m hoping this one is more of a return to form for Harry after the last one, in which he was . . . kinda dead.
While I was ogling the new Jim Butcher book, I stumbled upon another book that set my skiffy senses tingling:
I love Lois McMaster Bujold’s work. Her Barrayar/Miles Vorkosigan books are some of my favorite science fiction books, ever. The last one dropped a brick on us. I wonder what she’ll do about that brick in this book, or even if it gets resolved at all. Might there be another Miles book after this one?
Hope you’re as excited as I am! I will be buying these in hardback, broke or not. 🙂