July Writing Update

I used to do my writing updates around the end of the month, but given that I already do a couple monthly posts around that time, I’ve decided to move my writing based posts to more mid month. I’ll continue to talk about my goals and the projects I’m working on, but the posts will probably be a little more fleshed out. This isn’t to say that I won’t make any more posts about my writing outside of this general update, but it’s good to have a designated place for it.

So here we go!

At the beginning of July, I finished up the second draft of Hero of Darkwood. This means that the book is finally ready for my first readers. This is always when I’m at my most antsy. Hero of Darkwood hasn’t been seen by anyone but me since I started it for National Novel Writing month last year. That’s just over eight months! There’s always the terror that people won’t like it, or worse, they won’t be able to be specific about what didn’t work. It’s one thing if someone says “I found the magic system to be confusing,” because then you you know what the problem is, and can try to fix it. If they just shrug and say “it just didn’t work for me,” then you’re in trouble.

Since then I’ve put The Dragon Guard, a short story I wrote during the spring, through another round of revisions and submit it to a magazine. Hopefully, it will be accepted!

Looking forward, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what project I want to work on next. I have a great novel idea that I want to dive into, but I always assumed that I would work on it during National Novel Writing Month. Now, as I wait on my first readers, I find myself with some spare writing time. Right now, I’m submitting to agents (just did two today), but I know that I’ll only be able to do that for so long without going nuts. Part of me says I should work on short fiction, but none of those ideas are developed to the point where I’m ready to start putting pen to paper. But this new novel on the other hand…

The working title is The River King. The River King was actually my first NaNoWriMo project, which I did back in 2004 when I was a wee a sophomore in college. I managed to hit 50,000 words, but never finished the actual novel (a pattern that continued until my third NaNoWriMo, Leader of Darkwood). Unfortunately, the fact that it’s unfinished is the least of this novel’s problems. Beyond the typical issues that come with rough drafts, the novel has some serious issues with characterization and worldbuilding, and well… logic. Basically, the entire rough draft (or proto-draft) needs to be scrapped and completely re-written. So regardless of when I start writing it, I do need to tackle some prewriting first, a new experience for me. I do a ton of thinking about a project before I actually sit down to write it (as you can see, this idea has been in my head for ten years), but while I’m still not much of an outliner, I suspect that actually sitting down and organizing my thoughts will result in a stronger rough draft so you know, I don’t have these huge issues in characterization, worldbuilding, and logic (well, maybe logic just a little).

And if everything goes well, I should start to cobble together the first draft in August. Now this might mean that I’ll be too burnt out to do NaNo this year, which would be a bummer (it typically takes a month and a half for me to write a rough draft, and I don’t see The River King as being any longer than Hero of Darkwood), but if I already have the idea in my head, and it’s quite well formed, what’s the point of waiting?

Presenting The Civic 2!

So on Friday, I brought The Civic in for inspection, a nail biting experience for the owner of a fourteen year old car. because whenever I bring my vehicle in to the shop, it comes out needing something that costs hundreds of dollars to fix. At first, this inspection seemed to be going pretty well. I needed new front brakes and rotors (a problem I had been noticing for a little while, but since their wasn’t any ice on the ground, I didn’t see it as being that big of a deal. God I hope my mom doesn’t read these), which would only cost me $300. Not too bad. Unfortunately, my back bumper also needed to be replaced, and since it was July 4th, the parts places weren’t open. The mechanic wasn’t sure how much it would cost me, but he said it could be another $300 dollars and he’d get back to me on Monday. So he started working on my breaks, and in the couple hours it took to do that, my husband and I started talking. Was it worth spending $600 on a car that wasn’t worth all that much more than that? Was I basically just throwing my money away every time I patched my car back together again? How long would it take before the next $600 repair came in? We looked at cars on sale online, focusing on lightly used vehicles that were just a few years old.

And the next day, I found myself the proud owner of a two-year-old Honda Civic!

thecivic2

So basically, it’s the exact same car as my old one, only A LOT newer (and white instead of black, which means that winter is going to be extra interesting this year). Days later, I continue to be baffled by the new features offered by this car. Like a gauge that measure what my exact gas mileage is, and how many miles I have left before refueling (seriously, this is pretty hypnotic). Or a USB port where I can charge my iphone. Ooh! And an auxiliary port so I don’t have to depend on faulty FM transmitter to listen to my audiobooks over the car speakers. And four doors instead of two! And a CD player that didn’t die five years ago! And air conditioning that works even when it’s 80 degrees or hotter. And windows that, when you roll them down, ALWAYS GO BACK UP.

I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty happy with this new car. It may even be worth having to deal with a monthly car payment.

The Fox is up at The Lorelei Signal

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My short story, The Fox, can be found on the July Issue of The Lorelei Signal, which focuses on telling great stories that feature complex female characters. My complex female character is Vi. As the avatar for The Fox God, Vi has been gifted with stealth, speed, and smarts, making her a worthwhile choice for theft, espionage, and the occasional assassination. Unfortunately, these gifts come with a price.

As I’ve mentioned here before, The Fox was my attempt to mesh together two of my favorite things: the snarky urban fantasy heroine, with a traditional fantasy setting. I had a ton of fun writing it for a lot of reasons, but I think what I liked the most about the experience was the fact that Vi is not really a nice person. I know I constantly feel pressured to be seen as nice or pleasant (admittedly, it’s kind of part of my day job, given that I deal with customers all the time), so it was really freeing to be able to write from the perspective of someone that didn’t care much about such niceties.

The story is currently up for free on The Lorelei Signal website (there’s even an awesome illustration by Marge Simon!). A print version will be released next month, under the magazine Mystic Signals.

Everything I Read In June 2014

As you see, I got a bunch of the short fiction reading done for the Hugos last month. Links lead to reviews on goodreads, but I’d be willing to discuss in more detail here. I went out of my comfort zone a lot last month. Sometimes the results were gone, sometimes not so much.

Novels
Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley

Audiobooks
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
The Bat by Jo Nesbo
Attack the Geek by Michael R. Underwood
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson- BEST AUDIOBOOK

Short Fiction
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu
The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal- BEST SHORT FICTION
The Waiting Stars by Aliette De Bodard
If you were a dinosaur, my love by Rachel Swirsky
The Snake Charm by Laura Lam
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar
Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day

Literary Magazines
Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014
Inaccurate Realities: Magic
Luna Station Quarterly Issue 018

Graphic Novels
Untold Tales From the Brothers Grimm by Gina Biggs- BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL
Avengers: The Enemy Within by Kelley Sue DeConnick
Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls by Scott Snyder

Comic Books
All New X-men #28
Angel and Faith #2-3
Black Widow #6-7
Cyclops #2- BEST COMIC BOOK THAT’S NOT SAGA
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #3
Guardians of the Galaxy #15
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider Man #2
Mighty Avengers #10
Saga #19- BEST COMIC BOOK
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #4-5
She-Hulk #4-5
Superior Spiderman #1-2
Velvet #5
Wolverine #7-8

Everything I Watched in June

Wow! Apparently, I watched a lot of stuff this month. Here are my thoughts!

In Theaters
The Fault In Our Stars- Watching this movie really made me feel old because my party (which consisted of my husband, my mother-in-law, and my mother-in-law’s boyfriend) were clearly the oldest people in the theater. Reality check aside, The Fault in Our Stars was a strong adaptation of a very good book. Yes, there were a handful of moments that felt stronger on page then on screen, but the fact that they were clearly committed to bringing The Fault in Our Stars to the screen rather than trying to turn it into a Nicholas Sparks or Twilight-esque film really worked well for me. The actors (especially Willem DaFoe!) are well cast, and the film does a great job of balancing the funny moments with the more serious ones. From what I’ve heard, the success of this low budget film may result in two more John Green adaptations (Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska), which I am looking forward to. B+

Edge of Tomorrow- Where did this film come from?! Edge of Tomorrow takes familiar tropes (a Groundhog Day-type scenario, an alien invasion) and really makes them their own. The suspense is appropriately nail biting, the action is top notch, and the acting is really good as well. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt play off each other quite well, she as the experienced solider, and he as the coward who is forced to become a hero. The movie possesses some occasional nonsense, but it’s pretty forgivable. Wish more people would see this one. B+

How to Train Your Dragon 2- While not quite as memorable as the first one, How to Train Your Dragon 2 does a fabulous job at expanding the known world and bringing our characters to the next level. I love the fact that even though Hiccup more resembles the more traditional leading man now, he’s still the same guy from before: all about communication and innovation, not violence. There are some really touching moments in this film, and is succeeds on a visual level as well. I loved the unique creature designs for the numerous dragons, as well as the exciting arial sequences. B+

Maleficent- And well… they can’t all be great. Maleficent isn’t exactly a bad film, but the wasted potential is just painful. Angeline Jolie gives a compelling performance as Maleficent, and the feminist retake on the Sleeping Beauty myth is very well done. But ye gads! What sloppy storytelling. Even as a relatively forgiving viewer there were far too many events that occurred because they needed to keep the story going in the direction they wanted to, not because it made any type of logical sense. Also, the “good fairies” annoyed the hell out of me, and the CGI was kind of inconsistent. I liked the character of Diaval though. I’ve always had a soft spot for shapeshifters. C

On DVD/Blu-Ray
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a webseries that ran on youtube from 2012-2013, retelling the classic novel Pride and Prejudice in the form of a vlog. I enjoyed watching it so much that I supported the kickstarter for the DVD release the day that it was announced. Numerous delays later, I finally ended up getting my DVD. it’s a really nice product. There are some sound issues with Lydia’s cellphone vlogs that become VERY OBVIOUS when dealing with the bigger screen, but I found that I ended up really enjoying watching these all over again. It does such a wonderful job of updating this classic tale, knowing just when to stick to the source material, and when to diverge. Every character is wonderfully cast and the show is very well paced. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is clearly something special the only comes around once in a great while. I’m quite happy to have my own copies of the DVDs now. A

Hero- And now for something completely different! Hero is a gorgeous Chinese wuxia film that came out a little over ten years ago. It focuses on a name called “Nameless” who has said to have killed the nation’s deadliest assassins for the King. Only it’s a little more complicated than that. It’s easy to focus on Hero’s beautifully choreographed action sequences and scenery, but what really draws me in is the role of storytelling. With every retelling of Nameless’s story, the stories become more complex, the characters more real, which continues to enhance the viewers experience. The resolution to the tale is probably not going to mesh well with many western viewers, but its unconventional take on heroism certainly provides the viewer with food for thought. A-

Wreck-It Ralph- Some movies just get better with every rewatch. Wreck-Ralph is a fabulous film about the secret life of video game characters. What really impresses me is how well this kids film deals with issues that adult ones struggle with. The cast is juggled expertly, with every one of its four central characters having a clear character arc. It also handles the issue of gender exceptionally well, and the plot has some genuine surprises. As an animated film, it’s true that the animation itself is beginning to show its age, but the voice acting remains top notch. Very happy to have watched this again. A-

On Netflix
The Host- Welcome to the awkward cliff notes version of The Host! Where it’s clear that the film makers care about keeping hard core fans pleased by keeping in all of the key scenes from the book, but don’t give a shit about making a good movie. Watch, as certain elements that work fine on page look absolutely ridiculous on screen. If you’re just looking for a relatively faithful adaptation on the Stephenie Meyer book, then you should do fine. If you care at all about pacing, set pieces, script, or (despite the actors’ best efforts) performances, do not watch this. D

Robot and Frank- How did this little gem of a film pass me by? Robot and Frank is a charming movie about an elderly man who gets a helper robot so he doesn’t have to go into a nursing home. At first, he resents it, until he realizes that the robot can help him reclaim his past as a jewel thief. Robot and Frank is a wonderfully acted film that mulls over the relationship between humans and technology, as well as the realities of aging. Add in some fun caper elements and a few twists and you get a genuinely enjoyable film. A-

 

Goodbye Strange Chemistry

So a while back, I mentioned that one of the places I had submitted Lady of Darkwood happened to be a small press. I was really excited about this potential opportunity, because this was a publisher whose work I’ve enjoyed as a reader and, after reading my submission package, they had requested to see the entire of the book. Now, as rejection letter after rejection letter was rolling in, I was subconsciously putting all of my hopes in this small press.

Only, it was taking a long time for them to get back to me. Probably close to eight months.

So a little while back, I sent an email to submissions asking for an update. This morning, I got an email from their editor letting me know that the reason that I haven’t heard anything is because the press was shutting down.

That small press was Strange Chemistry. Hearing this news was doubly painful. Not only was I hoping that they might take a chance on my book, but I’m also a big fan of the Pantomime series by Laura Lam. I’ve since heard that books that were supposed to come out as soon as August won’t be hitting the shelves as a result of this closure. Since Strange Chemistry is part of Angry Robot, I can only hope that some of the staff and writers will find places there, because it would suck if a lot of people were put out of work. Granted, there are rumors that Osprey (Angry Robot’s parent company) is looking to sell Angry Robot, so who knows what will come of that.

One thing I’ve taken from this is just how fragile small presses are. Yes, they’re sometimes willing to take more risks then the big guys, they’re more open to new authors, and they’re a nice alternative to the big-business feel that larger presses give off. But at the same time, they can fall apart. We saw this recently with Night Shade, and now we’re seeing it with Strange Chemistry. Granted, the alternatives aren’t perfect. The bigger guys typically won’t let you in the door without an agent. Self publishing comes with no support at all, and requires a financial investment to start up that not everyone can handle. There’s no perfect option.

I have no idea if Lady of Darkwood was seriously considered for publication. They may have take one look at it months ago, decided against it, and just didn’t get to me about it. Maybe, they never even got to where I was in the slush pile. Regardless, this means I’m going to have to make some big decisions over the future of the Lya Darkwood trilogy that may be hard to swallow. I can only imagine how difficult it is for writers who were supposed to have books coming out (some as soon as August!) that are now caught up in limbo. I also know a lot of readers are frustrated as well, especially those who are two book into incomplete trilogies.

It’s a tough time for a lot of people right now.

Recommended Resource: MIKE R. UNDERWOOD: 25 SECRETS OF PUBLISHING, REVEALED!

Wow! When is the last time I did one of these?

::Checks old posts::
::winces::

Seeing as they’re often what brings in new readers, that’s not very smart of me, is it?

Anyway, I woke up to find this GREAT article over at Chuck Wendig’s blog by Michael R. Underwood. Michael has experience on both side of the publishing industry (he’s written the very funny Geekomancy series, and works in marketing for Angry Robot), and here he shares lots of information people SHOULD know, but don’t know about the publishing industry. I think what impressed me the most about this article is how he manages to go a step beyond what most “tips for aspiring writer” posts do, and manages to do it in a way in which is both entertaining, and informative. This entry not only taught me a lot of important information, but it also hits on certain of misconceptions I see being thrown around by less informed, but very vocal, aspiring writers or self pubbers (case in point, #2- No One at the Publishers Hate You). If you’re thinking about getting serious about publishing, you should really check this article out.