I’m pleased to announce that I’ll have a story in the upcoming War Stories anthology of modern military science fiction! I’ve been watching this project for a long time, because it sounds just fantastic. I knew I had to submit something to it almost as soon as I heard about it, so I’m honored and thrilled to join the extremely talented lineup.
I’ll post more about my story as time goes on, but for now, go back the Kickstarter to grab a copy and some cool extras!
It’s Halloween! And here is a black cat for you:
That’s Molly, by the way, and she is the nicest, shyest cat of all. But this is her special day!
On to the updates:
Things in production
There’s a short story upcoming in THIS MUTANT LIFE: BAD COMPANY which should be out in a few weeks. But that’s it for right now.
Things I’m working on
Here’s a list of books, etc., I’m writing/working on at the moment:
THE SEEKER STAR (Grayline Sisters #2): Violet’s story. Submitted to publisher.
THE FALLEN STAR (Grayline Sisters #3): Beth’s story. First draft in process. Slow but steady work being done.
THE BELLS OF VALEN (Extrahumans #4): In which Jill gets everything she ever wanted, and it almost kills her and everyone else. Stalled in revisions as I think of how to make it not suck.
THE DEMON GIRL’S SONG: Revising, again. And again. I’m going to make this book good if it kills me.
RAMONA’S MIRROR: Ramona comes face-to-face with herself and blinks. Stalled in the first draft, because of everything else going on.
Plus various short stories, etc. I’m writing a lot of short stories and essays.
In the meantime, NATIONAL NOVEL AVOIDANCE MONTH is upon us again. Get ready to avoid those novels, everyone!
Yesterday I got into a conversation on Twitter about whether killing off characters is always cheap or an easy way out in some way, and I’ve been turning that question over in my mind ever since.
I actually agreed when the topic came up, mainly because of where my own head’s been at lately when it comes to character death. For three of the last books I’ve written (none of which are published yet), there has been a moment where I killed off a fairly major character, and for a while I thought this was a great idea.
But then, after I’d written the really satisfying scenes where the character is there and then just… gone, and everybody deals with the fallout, I thought better of it. I started to wonder why these characters needed to die. What purpose in the larger story did that fulfill?
I had to admit that I didn’t know.
Eventually I came to realize that I’d done it for a couple of different reasons. In Book A, I did it to remove one leg of a love tripod. In Book B, I did it to make another character suffer, and out of some sense of justice for what the dead character had done. In Book C, I think it was purely for shock value, because the character had been a major part of three previous books.
And in each case, I think killing off these characters was taking the easy way out.
In Book A I thought, wouldn’t it be more interesting if the person survived, and they had to find another “solution” to the protagonist’s feelings for two other people? In Book B I thought, wouldn’t it be better if this character lived and the other characters had to figure out what to do with her? And in Book C I thought, wouldn’t it be better if the character wasn’t killed and remained in the story to be a pain in everyone’s butt?
In all three cases, the answer was yes. Book A was the most satisfying, because the “solution” to the love tripod was pretty novel, and fit well with the ethos of the book. Book B? It turned out not to matter. And Book C… well, I’m still fixing that one up, but I think it’ll be an improvement.
But I will say that my position on this is a little more nuanced than I’d originally thought. Sometimes character deaths are very meaningful, and belong in the story. In Book B another fairly major character does die, because that’s what the story basically screams for. The moment of her death is extremely high-stakes and is a turning point for the protagonist in a lot of ways. The entire book seems to be building up to it, and it works.
There is also an incredibly important death at the end of my first book, BROKEN. I won’t spoil it. But it’s the sort of death that some people, including my wife, are annoyed at me about years later. Was that death worth it? Was it necessary?
I go back and forth. Yesterday, I said I might do it differently. Today, I don’t think I would. It’s good that I can’t edit it anymore! My own self-doubt as a writer sometimes leads me to make unfortunate decisions.
That death did serve the story in very important ways–in fact, that death was the story in a fairly obvious way–and the entire universe of that book and the following books would be vastly different if that character had lived.
So I think you can do character death well. I’m planning a major one for the end of the series I’m working on now, and I’m doing everything to make sure it counts, it’s meaningful, and it serves the story and the character well. I think you can have death that doesn’t feel cheap or wasteful, and you can have death that isn’t just there to tug at heartstrings.
But it’s also definitely possible to have character deaths that are the opposite. As writers, I think it’s smart to not just toss characters away, but to really think about why we’re doing it. When we do that, our stories get better, and when characters do die, their deaths have a bigger impact and are more meaningful to readers.
You’re gonna love this one. I’m going to be at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester, MA at 7pm, with a whole bunch of other folks from some fantastic anthologies.
And if you feel like helping out an independent bookseller (which you should!) Annie’s Book Stop’s owner has an IndieGoGo campaign happening: Check that out!
It’s been a lousy few days. I’ve been sick–again! And it’s stomach trouble, again!
As I groggily make my way through another sick day, though, I have some good news. The three Extrahumans short stories I wrote that were previously only available to people who had pre-ordered one of the three print books are now collected into a single ebook on Amazon!
When we did pre-orders for the print edition of Broken in November, 2011, my publisher suggested I write a short story as a reward, because we were doing them through Kickstarter. That made sense, so I wrote a story called “Jump Up Into the Sky,” which is about Sky Ranger crashing into an old woman’s garden. That story is supposed to serve as a bridge between Broken and Fly Into Fire, and it’ll make way more sense if you read Broken first.
That worked well, so we did it again for the release of Fly Into Fire in January of 2012. This story is a prequel, set about fifteen years before Broken, and it features one of my favorite characters–Crimson Cadet! In this story the Law Enforcement Division, led by the Union’s new Sky Ranger, has to track down a girl who supposedly has extrahuman powers, and Crimson Cadet has to face up to all the things about extrahuman life that make him uncomfortable.
In August, 2012, The Spark came out, and once again we decided to use a story as a Kickstarter reward. This time I chose a short I’d been thinking of turning into the beginning of the fourth Extrahumans novel. I decided not to do that, going in another direction to focus on Jill instead, but I liked this piece and what it said about Renna. It’s set nearly 20 years after Renna leaves home, sometime after the events of The Spark, and it’s about what happens when she goes home to be by her dying mother’s side.
I hope you check these stories out! They’re cheap, only $0.99, and free if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber.
Ah, the writing life:
Hey everyone! I’m still coming down from finishing SEEKER STAR, but I have started working on other projects.
One quick announcement: I’ll have a story in the upcoming anthology THIS MUTANT LIFE: BAD COMPANY, due out in October. It’s all about superheroes, so Extrahumans fans take note! Really, go grab it when it comes out, you’ll like this story and this whole anthology.
I’m slowly easing my way into revisions on THE BELLS OF VALEN (Extrahumans #4), because what there is to do with that book is just overwhelming. I tell myself that the hill was just as high and steep with SEEKER STAR, but it’s always daunting to be standing at the bottom, looking up.
I’m also promising myself that I’ll write a few more short stories, because I like them.
And now here’s the serious part of this post: I’m also being careful because I can feel burnout creeping in around the edges. I’ve done a ton of work over the past three years, and I have a good buffer when it comes to books finished and on submission. But I also feel like I have a ton to do, yet, and I need to take some time to recharge.
I burned out once when I was a high school teacher, and it was awful. I don’t ever want to do that again, especially for something I love as much as writing. So I’m going to try and take a breather, balance my day job, columnist job and my home life out, and do what little I can manage for now.
After a couple of weeks of taking it easier, I’ll likely be back on the old schedule. At least, I hope so.
On Wednesday night I finally resolved the last comment, closed my eyes, and sent the manuscript for THE SEEKER STAR (Grayline Sisters #2) off to the publisher.
I know, I know, this is a normal thing. But this didn’t feel like a normal kind of book. I’m gonna talk about my process and my own challenges in writing this book, so feel free to look away!
I started writing this as a direct sequel to DAUGHTER STAR, and it was to have continued the adventures of Marta Grayline. But after a whole lot of false starts and about a year’s worth of agonizing, I realized that I’d already told the Marta story that I wanted to tell. I then thought about her sister Violet, and came up with a scenario in which her marriage falls apart and she goes off in search of her missing sisters. I probably wrote 20,000 words in a week, and once I surfaced I knew I had something. That’s when the plan to have three books, one about each Grayline sister, formed.
But this book turned out to be anything but easy. Violet’s story was damn hard to write, and life kept getting in the way. I was on track to finish the rough draft in the summer of 2012, but surgery and recovery got in the way. Then I was contacted to write my piece for QUEERS DIG TIME LORDS, the edits for DAUGHTER STAR, which were among the toughest I’d ever been given by an editor, came back, and THE COLLECTION from Topside Press released. I didn’t finish the rough draft until October, and then put it aside, exhausted.
The editing and revising passes were a huge challenge. The story felt like it needed so much more fleshing out, and the story problems were so major that I felt I might never actually resolve them. A lot of people cut tons of material when they revise, but I don’t. My rough drafts are like sketches, and I fill in the details when I revise. To give you and idea of what I mean, the rough draft had about 65,000 words; the final manuscript has over 96,000. Not that I didn’t cut things, I absolutely cut a lot, but I added a lot of story, background and character development in as well.
In short, this book felt like a fight. But I think what came out of that long, difficult process is pretty good, and I think people who liked THE SPARK and THE DAUGHTER STAR will like this one a lot.
Anyway, that’s that. So what else is going on? Let’s see:
The Seeker Star: Done, turned into publisher. Whew.
Bells of Valen: Extrahumans #4. I’m planning on getting to revisions for this book soon, promise. The first draft is written and is in a terrible state. Much fixing needed.
Siphane and the Whale: Cranky robot girl teams up with introvert to save her friends. Working on revisions, this is probably next on my list to get done.
The Falling Star: Grayline Sisters #3. Planning stages. I have bits and pieces written. Looking for a significantly different feel to this book than the previous two.
Plus columns at CT News Junkie every week!
And that’s what’s happening.