Crossing the Rubicon with Jonathan Strange

It turns out, I’m a microblogger. And once Google Plus releases an API and WordPress programmers produce an appropriate plugin, my microblogging might take over. Meanwhile, if you’re new to my blog and you’d love to hear more of my randomness, you can find me on Google Plus.

But here’s two microblogs for you, meanwhile.

I’ve been rereading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell since I recently purchased an on-sale Kindle edition. (It handles the footnotes by putting them at the end of each chapter (and also hyperlinked), which is reasonable.) It is probably my single favorite book, and Susanna Clarke is one of my top three favorite authors. This is true even though I had to read it three times to figure out the POINT of Mr. Norrell in the grand scheme of things. It is one of the few books I’ve read where the early promise of wonder delivers in a way that surpasses my imagination. I love rereading it (even if I skim some of Mr. Norrell’s awfulness).

One thing I noticed on this reread is the wonderful job of foreshadowing done by the footnotes. From the very beginning of the book, there are subdued little references to things that happen at the end of the book– a single issue of a magazine published, for example, or a reference to a quarrel between two characters.

Beautiful book. I hope the author really is working on a sequel. She seems to have vanished from the networked universe in 2006.

On a totally different topic, today I read an article in the New York Times on decision fatigue. Basically, decision fatigue is a form of ego depletion, wherein the more decisions you make, the harder you find it to make decisions. The article goes off into the territory of ego depletion too, where willpower is a resource that can be both used up and renewed. The general conclusions seem to be that it’s easier to make decisions earlier in the day, and glucose renews our store of willpower.

It’s interesting seeing echoes of this article in my own life. For example, trial and error has taught me that if I want to lose weight, it’s easiest if I budget most of my calorie intake for the end of the day. Biology and metabolism rates while sleeping be damned, I know I’m bad at resisting eating in the evening. I’m much better at exercising self-control over food in the early part of the day.

While I’ve written at any time of day, I seem to be happiest if I do it in the morning. It’s easiest to make myself sit down right after I get up. Failing that, I usually schedule it right after a meal.

And I have a special relationship with grocery stores. I used to do my grocery shopping in the evenings, and often I’d do it alone. And by the end of a shopping trip, I’d be shaking and emotionally exhausted with all of the decision-making I’d be doing, choosing between brands, planning out meals on the fly, debating between cost and quality, trying to decide on allowed indulgences. Having a list helps a little. So does having somebody else along– the distraction means I spend less time worrying about making an optimal decision.

Indecision is something I struggle with a lot these days. I’ve often wondered if I’ve become more indecisive as I’ve gotten older. Now I think this is probably true. I make a lot more decisions these days and those decisions affect more people. It’s no wonder I sometimes flip out when nobody other than me will decide where to eat for dinner.

I suspect decision fatigue also shows up in editing my own writing, especially with something I’ve spent a long time on already. I remember the feeling of, “I DO NOT CARE ANY MORE I WILL MAKE CHANGES WHEN SOMEBODY BUYS THE BOOK AND TELLS ME WHAT CHANGES TO MAKE.” It isn’t that I don’t care about the book being the best it can be. I was just completely out of resources (which some people call ‘give a damn’ and other people call ‘spoons’).

(I just got my revision letter for Matchbox Girls. I’m wondering if I should invest in some yummy snacks to pop right before each editing session. It could help!)

This Is The Handy Small Child

Tomorrow, he turns four.

He was born a month early, via surgery. I had to wait 45 minutes in the OR while the team went off to deal with a real emergency. I was terrified, but I joked that I’d reached the ‘waiting in line’ part of the roller coaster ride.

And I remember the moment when he emerged. The team probably delivered half a dozen babies a day, but they still went ‘awww’. I guess you really have to love babies in that job.

I was numb, but I heard them. And I felt it– this unexplainable, mystical sense that a new life had entered the world. I’m not a particularly mystical person these days, but moments of life and death, they still stand out.

My son. The handy small child mentioned in my Author Bio. He’s very handy! He’s always willing to be picked up and swung around. When Publisher Kate sent me an offer letter, he didn’t know what had happened but he sure liked it a lot.

He’s not what might be called a ‘normal’ child. It’s official!  He has a diagnosis of autism, and he’ll be attending a special preschool in the fall to help him catch up on the life skills he’s behind on. But the things that earned him an autism diagnosis are only a small part of what a strange and wonderful child he is.

He’s sitting on the porch right now, singing a little song he’s made up as he plays with chalk. Earlier, he carefully wrote out some basic math problems, and layered the alphabet on top of itself to make a star. Now he’s lining up the chalk into a rainbow and admiring it.

He spends all his time making art, or learning how to make art. He loves letters and numbers and colors– and he loves the solar system. He loves the solar system enough that it figures into his autism diagnosis, but there’s still room left in that amazing brain for castles and kirigami and logo design and math structures and color theory and an astonishing mastery of phonics. He’s comfortable with a number of different art programs, and doing searches on YouTube, and he’s learning how to build levels in Little Big Planet.

And he’s such a happy child, given how intense and focused he is on anything he does. He only recently discovered tantrums, which usually come when he realizes he doesn’t have the power over his world that he thinks he should have. They burn out quickly, as soon as something distracts him. He’s defiant, but he’s always been a master of saying NO, even as an infant.

He has a phenomenal ability to model and manipulate structures in his head. (The school evaluators called him ‘severely gifted’.)  Sometimes it’s figuring out how to fold and cut a paper so he gets the shape he wants when he unfolds it.  Sometimes it’s more abstract: I’m pretty sure he’s working on a foundational model of mathematics right now, as he asks me, “What’s 2+2? What’s 2×2? What’s 8+2? What’s 5+5?” I answer, and he asks new questions, testing his understanding.

He never asks why. He hasn’t gotten there yet.

Against all this wonder, the markers of autism seem small. I’m sure they’ll grow larger once he’s put into a daily social environment again and he has to learn that playing with other children isn’t a full contact sport. Once we start really insisting on the toilet training, and a speech therapist starts working with him on his eccentric speech patterns, it’ll be harder for him. But he’ll learn a lot and he’ll cope. He’s already learned so much.

I know I’ve been bragging a little. I don’t talk much about my life outside of writing here.

But tomorrow, he’ll be four.

Nightlights Soundtrack

OK, the post I was planning to write has been postponed due to a lovely and wonderful houseguest. But! I’ve been planning for a while to make a post about the music I listen to while writing Nightlights, along with the process of building a soundtrack and the way I use it.

I like silence when I write, often.

Unfortunately, I have a few problems.

  1. I don’t live alone
  2. I have (actual, professionally-diagnosed) ADHD.
  3. I’m not always in the mood to write when I need to write.

Music helps me with all of these problems. Music I’m extremely familiar with becomes a kind of white noise, serving the dual purpose of obscuring other sounds and eating up a distraction track in my brain. And if I turn it on when I’m not in my writing headspace, the strong habitual association and imagery associated with the music tows me where I need to be.

For Nightlights, I started with a song or two I vaguely associated with characters or events in Nightlights, and fed them into Pandora. Then I listened to the station created while outlining Nightlights, and grabbed other songs it suggested. Pandora is a lot better than relying on broadcast radio stations, which is how I used to do this. I’ll choose songs based on similar musical elements, or the lyrics, or even just a few lines in the lyrics that really feel perfect for a theme or concept. Then I listen to the soundtrack a lot until I know it like the back of my hand.

Sometimes songs show up in multiple soundtracks if I really like them or they touch on multiple concepts.

My favorite part of having soundtracks is that I feel like if I pick them early enough, they actually influence the story, because they’ve wormed their way so deeply inside my head.

Below, find my soundtrack, as currently ordered by my player! I’ve tried to include a few lines that capture why I picked the song, as well as a link to a performance of the song.

Angels (Within Temptation)
“No remorse ’cause I still remember
your smile as you tore me apart.”
Break (Three Days Grace) (Note: I love the whole sound of this song.)
“I’ve tried, but nothing is working
I won’t stop, I won’t say I’ve had enough.”
Comatose (Skillet)
“I hate living without you, dead wrong to ever doubt you
But my demons lay in waiting, tempting me away.”
From Heads Unworthy (Rise Against) (Note: This is also a Matchbox Girls setting song, but I didn’t discover it until way too late.)
“I’m not after fame and fortune, I’m after you
When I’ve served my time I swear I will come back for you.”
I Will Not Bow (Breaking Benjamin) (Note: While this wasn’t the original seed song for Pandora, I think of it as the core track now.)
“I don’t want to change the world, I just want to leave it colder
Light the fuse and burn it up, take the path that leads to nowhere,
All is lost again, but I’m not giving in.”
Still Waiting (Sum 41)
“This can’t last forever, time won’t make things better,
I feel so alone”
Savior (Rise Against)
“that’s when she said I don’t hate you boy,
I just want to save you while there’s still something left to save”
Animal I Have Become (Three Days Grace)
“Help me believe it’s not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal”
Pumped Up Kicks (Foster The People) (Note: Lyrically, this song is quite disturbing. It caught my attention because of the sound and just a hint of the what’s in the lyrics.)
“Robert’s got a quick hand,
He’ll look around the room, he won’t tell you his plan.”
Blurry (Puddle of Mudd)
“Everyone is changing, there’s no one left that’s real
To make up your own ending, and let me know just how you feel.”
Feel Good, Inc” (Gorillaz)  (Note: Okay, I generically love this song.  And I loved it first for ‘Hahahahaha’.)
“Yo, we gonna ghost town this motown
with yo sound, you’re in the blink,
you’re gonna bite the dust, can’t fight with us
with yo sound, you kill the INC”
Monster (Skillet)
“I keep it caged but I can’t control it,
‘Cause if I let him out, he’ll tear me up, break me down.”
I Hate Everything About You (Three Days Grace) (Note: This song was the seed song. Oddly enough, it was originally for a different story entirely, which I still hope to write someday. The story has evolved a lot since then but the song still serves a small purpose.”
“Why do I love you?”
Lights Out (Breaking Benjamin)
“Now you want to take me down
as if I even care
I am the monster in your head”
Semi-Charmed Life (Third Eye Blind)
“And I wish it could get back there, some place back there
in the place we used to start.”
Holiday (Green Day)
“Hear the sound of the falling rain
Coming down like an Armageddon flame (Hey!)
“How can one little street
swallow so many lives?”

A blogging platform

I’m tired. I’ve got stuff going on in my daily life that provides a great excuse for being tired, so it’s okay, but all the same, I’m tired.

I’m managing to get my work done. I don’t do as many fun things with the handy small child as I used to when I had more free time, but he hasn’t complained. He may not have noticed. He works hard on his art.

And I’m feeling more threatened by the current political situation than I have since I grew up in the 80s on a military base. And the economy is hurting too many people I’m very close to, in too many ways. And I’m seeing dreams ground underfoot.

And I have to keep writing, because what else have I got? What else can I do?

And it’s time to blog again.

But I’m tired. And I don’t know what to say that’s positive, interesting, and instructional, and not a rehash of places I’ve already spent a lot of time.

So, let’s talk about how authors are supposed to blog as part of building their audience. I’m not good at it and I’ve been honest about that from the beginning. The only way I started this blog was by knowing, at the time, that nobody was reading it. I can write interesting characters, and I understand the idea of making myself into a character and turning my life into an entertaining story.  But all the interesting stuff in my day-to-day life happens around the handy small child, or inside my head. In the stories in my head, specifically.

This is what I think: that if I need to spend time manufacturing content for people to read on the internet, I might as well make that content fictional.

I mean, I like writing posts when I have something to say. Explaining how I do something, sharing something I’ve learned, commenting on an ongoing event. I also like writing posts when I want to rant, but I do less of that these days. But you can consider this a rant, if you like. A quiet, tired rant.

The internet is full of blogs. The writing blogosphere is full of blogs of a certain nature, blogs written by writers talking about writing, passing around advice on the best ways to succeed. It’s odd. Aspiring food bloggers don’t write about how you need to have a food blog in order to be a successful cook. You do, of course, need to cook– and writers need to write.  But I’m not sure how beneficial dutifully writing little nonfiction articles is to the business of crafting good fiction. And I’m not sure how helpful it is to selling fiction, because the people who read blogs on writing are writers, not readers.

I don’t like the popularity of the idea that you have to blog to sell fiction. I don’t like the focus put on crafting the perfect query, either. They seem equivalent to me. It might be helpful, but a lot depends on the audience and persistence and luck and patience and focusing on something that isn’t your fiction.

I saw advice somewhere that said it was easy– just cut out one of your TV shows, or get your spouse to put the handy small child to bed. And I laughed. I don’t watch TV. My spouse already bathes and tucks in the handy small child. It isn’t easy. Writing well isn’t easy, and writing great blog posts is a particular skill that doesn’t take a lot from fiction skills other than basic language arts.

I want to do my best. I don’t want to bore my audience. It’s convenient today that I had something on my mind that could carry me despite my lack of energy and general crankiness  And I certainly don’t want to lie to my audience, so it’s a grey post for a grey day. I could pepper it with exclamation marks, I suppose? And exciting questions! And list off tips you’ve probably already read before!

But instead I’ll just say:

Tomorrow’s storypost is called ‘Home is a Four Letter Word‘ and Friday’s story post is called ‘Monsters‘. And isn’t that the most interesting thing I’ve said so far?

🙂

Thank you for reading, and resharing if you have!

 

Greetings and Crowdfunding

Hi there! Welcome to my blog if you haven’t been here before.

If you’re reading this on a feedreader and you’d rather see only Nightlights story posts, that feed exists. You can get to it from my website, the right-hand column. If you actually want to see my blatherings well… hurrah! I’ll probably switch to posting my ‘Wednesday Post’ on Tuesday or Thursday.

This week, the Livejournal community Crowdfunded Creativity is in the LJ Spotlight. I only recently joined them but they’ve been incredibly supportive and there’s tons of interesting projects linked over there.  They invited me to lead a discussion inspired by last week’s post about serials, so I am! And I think I’m going to let that stand in for my weekly post today. So please check it out!

ETA: And if you want more blatherings to read, I wrote an unusually long post over on Google+ about my tomato garden. Totally irrelevant to anything but kind of fun!

Between Serial Fiction and Serial Novels and Series Novels

I.

Around twelve years ago, I picked up the first three Harry Potter novels and devoured them. It was Prisoner of Azkaban that stuck with me the most, and I spent a lot of time after I was done reading thinking about the details and mysteries revealed in that book. What else did I have to do? There were no more books to read, after all.

Around ten years ago I picked up the Wheel of Time and read everything that had been published up to that point. I enjoyed it, and I picked up each new book enthusiastically. And when I was done, I had vague, positive memories and no ability to distinguish between the storylines of the different books.

There’s something magical about a series of stories. Nothing earns obsessive love like an unfinished arc story. I have theories about that! But first, a tangent!

At one point, long ago, I read somebody wise discussing why audiences bonded with mysterious male characters.* We had to work to understand them, their motivations, secrets and histories, and the more work we invested in a character, the more we cared. I took notes! This was an interesting tip!

I think the same thing is true of serials. And series novels. (Let me know when ‘series’ doesn’t look like a word anymore. I think I’m already there.)

An enforced break between parts of a story means the audience spends time thinking about the story. They invest themselves in it. They care. They really want to get more! (And in some cases if they can’t get more on a timely fashion, they make more.)

This is awesome.

One of my favorite authors only ever writes standalone novels. I love her stuff with a passion, but after I read it, I’m done. I don’t spend time thinking about her next book because I have nothing to think about. Another book will come out. It will be good. It will probably have an awesome Kinuko Craft cover. That’s all I know.

Another of my favorite authors has written 35 books in the same setting. Each book is a discrete story, but the characters evolve and grow over time. I’ve spent some time anticipating the direction of the character growth, but I don’t really know what direction the setting is ultimately going, only where it’s been.

Even though I’ve spent a lot more time rereading Discworld books than I have Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire books, I’ve spent far more non-book time thinking about the latter two series. I suspected Snape was motivated by love by the end of Azkaban and I knew it by the end of Goblet of Fire. And just ask me about R+L=J and Sansa and the Hound in ASoIaF sometime. (Have not read Dance with Dragons yet, no.)

A well-written story with sequel hooks and mysteries will grab my mind and not let go for days.

II.

I don’t think it matters if it’s a serial or a series.

Wait, you want to know the difference?

Can you remember what happens in each book, where it begins and ends for each character? Or is the whole story a mass of events, perhaps chronologically ordered?

Discworld is entirely a series. Harry Potter is a series, until the last couple of books where it develops a serial flavor. ASoIaF and The Wheel of Time (which I haven’t read since my binge a decade ago) are decidedly more serial.  Classic serials also show up in newspapers and daytime television, media that lend themselves to an endless exploration of a setting and the lives of a set of characters. Of course, the other sorts show up on TV enough but I don’t really watch enough TV to have any idea what’s what these days. Somebody can help out in the comments, maybe.

I’ve encountered a number of people who believe that there’s a fundamental difference between serial fiction and serialized novels. This has both interested me and made me knit my brow together. My observational experience is that while, certainly, the feel of a soap opera and the feel of Harry Potter are different, they both prompt audiences to say, when they get together, “How about that last story, eh? What do you think will happen next?”

Maybe I’m too focused on potential audience investment, and not enough on that feel? But for my own purposes, I don’t think it matters whether something is serial fiction or a serialized novel or a set of serial novels.

Still, it seems to be important to some other writers, and one day if I work hard, I’ll understand why.

III.

I think I’ve stated elsewhere what made me decide to put up a serial. (I mean, other than the possibility of attracting passionately interested readers, because that’s really the goal of all writing.) I’m not a clever blogger, so I wanted to put something of myself on the internet that would entertain in the only way I know how. And I wanted to experiment with having deadlines, and getting reader feedback while the story was still in production.

But I’m writing quite a bit ahead of schedule. I didn’t think writing each section right before I posted it was feasible for me. I like to let things sit a bit before doing an editing pass, and I needed a buffer against both discouragement and distraction, because I’m the mother of a little boy. I now have more of a buffer than I originally planned because apparently deadlines make me work even harder than I anticipated. But the story is still ‘live’, as far as I’m concerned. And planning it all out in advance, as I have, has simply made it possible for me to stick to my schedule far better than I ever have before. It’s the planning it all out that makes me feel like it’s a serialized novel, even though since I’m not finishing and polishing it before posting it, I guess I fall right in the middle.

I know that a lot of people who dislike planning a story out. It robs the story of energy, takes away the thrill of discovery. I’ll… I’ll have to write a post about my experience ‘pantsing it’ at another time. For now, I’ll accept that everybody works best in a different way.

So, let’s see. What are the benefits and burdens of posting as you write? You get a deadline. You get possible instant reader feedback (although probably best not to count on that). You get an iron-clad excuse to not get trapped in a revision loop. You can make sure your story fits with current events perfectly, if that fancy takes you. You can even abandon storylines that nobody’s interested in. What else am I missing?

IV.

I’ve also come across discussions of the goal of each serial posting. These vary just as much as the kinds of fiction:

  • Each post should be a good jumping-in point for new readers
  • Each post should be a complete bit of story
  • Each post should hook into the next
I haven’t seen a discussion of the length factor, but I do think that figures in. At a thousand words three times  a week, it’s not going to be possible to make each posting a good jumping-in point. 5000 words twice a month, on the other hand, could be a complete short story. Everybody seems to have a different ideal.
A confession: I’ve always had trouble with chapters. Maybe it’s because I read too much Terry Pratchett, and he disdains chapters in most of his books. Maybe it’s because the idea of what a chapter should be seems varies as much as the ideas of what a serial fiction posting should be. I admit I’ve never understood the point of chapters if you’re supposed to try and end a chapter in such a way that the reader doesn’t want to put the book down. Are they just a tool for deceiving yourself/your parent about when you’re planning on putting the book down? A legacy from an age of reading aloud when the readers needed some break point? Or are they supposed to be a discrete story chunk? I have no idea!
Ahem. Sorry about that.
V.

I think it’s possible to construct a whole story, with a beginning, middle and satisfying end, with a sense of structure and pacing, and then write and publish it as a serial. At the end, you’d have something very like a novel, although the pacing structure might be a bit different than the standard modern novel’s pacing and structure.

I also think it’s fine to not plan nearly as much, to jump in and start writing and discover where the story is going, as long as you are good at two things: drafting in a readable form and writing on a regular schedule. I think publishing that as a book will be much less like a novel, and much more like a month of recorded soap operas. Still, soap operas are addictive for a reason.

I also think you can write a whole novel in advance, and dribble it out to readers. Although at some point, readers are going to want to know why you’ve chosen to torment them in that way instead of just giving it to them all at once. I mean, if it’s all written. You’ll probably want to come up with an answer for that. They won’t like, “I enjoy watching you squirm!”

Even though that’s probably the truth.

 

Coda.

An outline and Roman numerals didn’t stop this post from getting crazy and disorganized. This is why I make sure I outline and edit and sit on my scene drafts! And now, just in case: series series serial serial series series.

Check in Monday for the first post of Nightlights! Or possibly late Sunday night, if you happen to be up. 🙂

 

* I think the actual discussion involved a double standard regarding reserved male and female characters, and probably came from Neil Gaiman or one of his fans in association with the reaction to various characters in Neverwhere. But I’m almost certain the aspect I mentioned above also came out of it.

It’s like a war, but with myself

I’m getting a bit excited about launching Nightlights. Usually, I spend some time everyday thinking about Matchbox Girls 2– I’m not officially working on it yet, but the idea of writing the sequel is so, uh, challenging that I can’t help myself. But the past few days, it’s barely crossed my mind.

OK, some of that may have been the holiday weekend. But today? I had actual butterflies. I have no idea why! It’s ridiculous! It’s not like a whole book is suddenly going to be out there for people to buy and read and my entire career will hang in the balance– no, that’s February. No, it’s just posting a thousand words or so. What do I have to be nervous of? There are reasonable upper and lower boundaries for what could happen and I’ve thought them through and none of them are worth getting hot and bothered over. I literally have no reason to be nervous.

But I am.

I assume at some point, maybe a couple of weeks into Nightlights, I’ll get back to posting more general-purpose writing posts. But currently it’s really all I’m thinking about. I write a scene in the morning, I do some editing in the afternoon, and I work on the website in the evening. In between, I read other people’s posts about their writing, posts about the current business of writing, and related miscellanea. Later this month, I should be getting a revision letter for Matchbox Girls, which will hopefully broaden my horizons some….

Anyhow, this evening I spent time writing up an Introduction page. It’s up at the top of the site and I’ll try to keep it current. But I thought I’d include the text of it here, because I’m lazy and it pads out the post. Plus, it explains a bit more about what I’m doing.

Enjoy!

 

Hi There!

I’d like to let my stories speak for themselves, but a basic introduction might be in order.

I’m a writer. I prefer to write (and read) speculative fiction– fantasy and scifi. I have a novel called Matchbox Girls coming out in February 2012 from the small press Candlemark and Gleam. It reflects a lot of my interests, including angels, demons, faeries and monsters, as well as family, children, dogs and feminism. You’ll be able to find out more about Matchbox Girls elsewhere on this site.

I’ve also long been interested in the particular appeal of serial fiction. Mostly these days serial fiction shows up as, well, series. We’re coming up on Book 13 of The Dresden Files, and Book 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire and man, I’m addicted. As an audience, we always want to know what happens next and that anticipation is only heightened by a delay in finding out. It’s always seemed to me that the fever pitch of interest raised by an ongoing novel series or an ongoing TV series is never matched by the reaction to one-offs. And as a writer, that kind of interest looks awfully tasty.

I think these days, there are opportunities for old-fashioned serial fiction– serial fiction presented scene by scene or chapter by chapter, rather than book by book– to find a new niche. Newspapers are dying, but newsreaders are thriving. People are more and more accustomed to reading thousand-word blocks of text, often on tiny screens. There are multiple avenues for letting potential readers know of updates, without requiring them to remember to check the website. And there’s large and enthusiastic communities dedicated to discussing and enjoying fiction.

Nightlights is my attempt to fit into that niche. I think of it as bus-stop reading for your smartphone, or coffee-break reading in your office. It’s posted on a webcomic schedule, three times a week, and each entry is the equivalent of 3-5 printed pages. It’s been extensively planned out, and there should be no break in the posting schedule unless something catastrophic occurs. I expect it will run for a year or so, with some bonus material written by audience request upon conclusion of the main storyline.

So What Is It?

It’s a step into the fantastic, as everything I write is, although it’s grounded in realistic characters. While Matchbox Girls is classified as urban fantasy, Nightlights would end up as YA paranormal– the protagonists range between 15 and 17, you see, which seems to be the primary requirement of YA these days. Aren’t genres funny things? Anyhow, would you like a back-of-book blurb? Okay!  Like most blurbs, it’s spoilery for the first story arc, so I’ll hide it here.[learn_more caption=”Nightlights Blurb”] Ajax’s miserable life takes a different path after he’s rescued from a nightmarish monster by a pretty girl with a sword. She’s a Nightlight, a kind of teenaged guardian angel, and she offers Ajax the chance to join them. His choice takes him to an otherworldly tower, where the walls talk and the sun never shines, and into a conflict as old as humanity.[/learn_more]

For those who don’t want a blurb, just a description, how about:  action-filled character-driven fiction about modern teenage monster hunters with magic weapons.

Nightlights is not, in any way, actually related to my upcoming novel Matchbox Girls, except that they both spring from the same mind. However, it’s my hope that if you like one, you’ll also like the other.

And It’s Free?

Although Nightlights will stay available for free on this website (unless somebody offers me seven figures to take it down), I do plan on making it available in ebook format for those who don’t want to read it on a website. Every 12 or 13 scenes is loosely grouped into a story arc, and every month I’ll push a novelette containing those scenes to the ebook vendors. After the whole story is done, I’ll collect the novelettes into a proper novel, and send that to replace the novelettes. These ebooks will be not be free, but will be reasonably priced. I will be selling them less to turn a profit and more to make the story available in more avenues– but if any long-time readers want to buy copies, that would be delightful.

I may also put up a tip jar at some point, although I have to figure out how those work these days.

What’s All This Other Stuff?

Well, this site started out as my writing blog. I’m hoping to maintain my weekly posting habit. I’ll also be posting intermittently about Matchbox Girls and its sequel (although I’ll eventually have a site dedicated to supporting that series). If you don’t want to read anything but the fiction, there should be an RSS feed to the right on the main page to let you subscribe just to Nightlights. I won’t be offended, I promise. I’m also hoping to keep up a proper table of contents for Nightlights, with a sidebar making it easy to navigate between chapters, and proper Previous and Next links on single pages. If that works out, it should be easy to refer new readers to the story, and I hope you will!

 

 

All the ways I do not write

I am inevitably irritated with ‘under construction’ graphics on webpages. Nonetheless, I’ve been hammering on Dreamfarmer for days now, trying to figure out a theme and a method for publishing Nightlights when the time comes.

  • I could have a separate blog. This is a last resort because I’d like to keep my writing identity on the internet consolidated. Unfortunately, a separate blog would also be the easiest to set up since I wouldn’t have to worry about sorting out blog posts from story posts and making sure the story is easily navigable without mixing blog posts into that. Another benefit is that I could have a separate look for Nightlights.
  • I could use WordPress’s categories and a theme that supports featured posts. This has some drawbacks involving navigation, which I’d probably have to do some handcoding to handle.
  • I could use a custom post type introduced in the latest major WordPress upgrade. This is a lot like the previous option but provides more flexibility for future plans.
  • I could give up on separating out the posts types and providing good navigation on a great-looking site, and cry.

You know what really irritates me? All of the development of intensive customizations for WordPress and there’s almost nothing to using it as a platform to publish fiction. A good friend of mine has resorted to using Comicpress, even though she doesn’t have any pictures, let alone comics, for her serial stories. That’s because Comicpress is one of the only ways to present an archive of posts in chronological order (instead of the reverse chronology favored by WordPress). How crazy is that? WordPress is extremely advanced these days but in order to do what I want to do, I’m going to have to end up hand-coding– and it doesn’t seem like it should be a challenging issue!

Anyhow. I didn’t want to skip a Wednesday. I also didn’t want to draw attention to my extremely unstable blog right now, but I decided maintaining my habits was more important. Hopefully you’re all reading this through an RSS feed and won’t notice anyhow. This, in any case, is all I’ve been doing (other than writing) for the past week. Every evening, I hammer on the website until I pass out. It doesn’t help that half the time the back end is utterly unresponsive, and I have to hope that’s my home network and not my lovely webhosting service. If you HAVE tried to come to this site and gotten any kind of error, could you let me know? Thanks!

Mid-Book Blues

You can’t imagine how badly I don’t want to write today.

I don’t have a good reason. I don’t have other plans. I just want to spend all day in bed, intellectually if not physically. I’ve been procrastinating for hours now.

And what could it hurt, taking a day off? I’ve only had one day off in the last 34 days, after all, and that was when I went on a family outing AND had a dentist appointment. I’ve written on days I had a broken keyboard.  I’ve written on days when I had 2 hour doctor consultations eating up my normal writing slot. Surely I deserve a break?

I can think of two reasons the answer to that is ‘No way!’

One is: I have a deadline. Deadlines, even. They’re self-imposed but they matter a lot to me. I’m pretty sure I can meet the first deadline, which is only important so I can meet the second deadline. And I’m a lot less certain about the second deadline. I’ll be asking myself to do more in four months than I’ve ever done before, and if I can squeeze even an extra week of time out of the current project, that could help immensely.

The other reason is my motivation behind wanting to stay in bed all day: I’ve reached the first set of mid-book blues. It’s happened with every book I’ve written so far: somewhere near the middle of the book, I become convinced that it’s all a mess, and one of the worst atrocities ever committed to digital ink. My scenes aren’t cool enough, my dialog isn’t interesting enough, my characters are uninspired and my plot is too convoluted to be even remotely believable. Nobody sane could ever like it. It’d be better for everybody if I just gave up now.

It happens with every book. In a couple of books, the blues have won.  With my first major project, the blues actually convinced me to try to quit writing for a couple years. It didn’t last– how could it?– but it did prompt me to spend a lot of time studying storycraft in new ways. That was good, but I’d still like to return to that project someday. I found bits of it the other day and it wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it was at the time, at least on a scene-by-scene level.

What I really wonder is why this happens to me? It isn’t a function of how long I’ve spent on the project. It isn’t a desire to work on something else. It may be a little bit of jealousy– I think the current bout was partially triggered by reading praise of a few lines in another book and wondering if I had anything that awesome.  But usually reading other books while writing inspires and invigorates me as I observe new techniques and get stuffed full of good stuff. So… it can’t just be comparison.

And it might be a little of the echo chamber of constantly trying to improve my work– when I’m constantly looking for ways to make it better, that can easily become only seeing what’s wrong. But I have a supportive alpha reader who offers both constructive and positive feedback (‘needs more particle effects’). So it can’t just be the echo chamber.

And it might just be a bad mood, and it might be the part of the story I’m at, which is supposed to be scary and emotional and wrenching– and how can I write that without feeling some of it myself?

All I really know is that I have to keep writing. Because if I let myself stop, it will undo the habits I’m forming and make it so much harder to achieve my goals. Nobody can enjoy what isn’t finished, after all.

ETA: I finished my daily writing, and discovered neat little resonances between the beginning and the end of the scene. Awesome reward!