Effulgent Corruption is edited, setting it down for now.

on Friday, July 29, 2011
I did a quick breeze-through of the final two parts, mostly doing spelling and obvious grammar problems, and I'm calling this good. Minus submitting to writing group (where the comments will be noted but not yet implemented), I'm not messing too much with Effulgent Corruption until after WorldCON at least.

There are still a few things left to do that I might tinker with. Before each chapter is a cute little quote about a specific god (one per part), but I got sick of writing them around part 3 so after that it just says "insert quote here." I wanted them to actually tie with in the current story but did an awful job at it (it was supposed to also be a cheap way to provide back story without too much expository dialogue during the actual book), so they haven't been done. That's going to require me writing them all completely separate from the actual book in attempt to make it so they don't suck, but we'll see. For now, I'm leaving them as "insert quote here." Deal with it.

Re-reading it I already have specific ideas for things that might actually require substantial edits. In terms of plot development, I'm fairly content with Drake's and Ciara's parts, minus minor tweaks. Rook's takes a significant turn in his second bit (Part 6) which I don't feel is foreshadowed enough before. Also his engagements with Grax are entertaining but also border on repetitive; cutting a hefty chunk of them will help the pacing. By the end of the novel I've better solidified their relationship to what I want, but it is a tad shaky early on. That's probably going to be the biggest edit (minus, of course, what alpha readers contribute) and I'm not exactly looking forward to it.

All that aside, ALPHA READERS. If you really want to read a 350k rough draft, I am more than willing to send it to you. It'll be a major "no details required" review, where I really only want a specific plot critique and ideas on what scenes do and don't work. No line edits, nothing too major. Just read through it and give me a hefty review. I honestly probably only need a couple of these, so if you are a voracious reader and don't mind reading something dark and depressing, let me know. I can provide any format, including Kindle or ePub.

Speaking of Kindle, I hesitate to talk about Paradise Seekers. My constant internet harassment of bloggers and forums has slowed as I tried to finish Effulgent Corruption, and as a turn the sales have gone from "mediocre" to "awful." I'm now considering making it free and saying "eff it" to Kindle publishing for now, but we'll see. It's also a tad harrowing to realize people you've known online for 10+ years (of which I have a plethora) won't throw down $1 to buy something to support you, or to help promote you. Those who have supported me: I really really appreciate it, and by no means wish to sound ungrateful. You are awesome and I wish you all the success you can get.

The point of this is that I did epublishing to "test the waters," and so far haven't been very impressed. Perhaps if I put more out on there it would help, but most people chuck short stories up there, and I can't write a good short story worth beans. I'm going to resume (or rather, return to my normal goals) pursuing traditional publishing means for now, but should things change I'll reconsider epublishing. Point being, you aren't going to see Steelgods 1 on there anytime soon. Sorry.

Speaking of Steelgods, since Effulgent Corruption is no longer wasting my time, I'm going to haul through Gears of Anbar now because I can (warmdown writing). I haven't fully decided on my next project following that, but we'll see what happens.

In the tradition of posting youtube videos, here's something Chuck threw in my direction. Yes, I still love Game of Thrones. No, I haven't gotten around to finishing the book yet. Derp.

Effulgent Corruption - Almost done editing

on Thursday, July 28, 2011
I've been picking up the pace after Part 3...the Parts after that I was more in the groove and don't require as much heavy editing. I've just finished Part 5 and have only Parts 6 and 7 remaining.

I already have plans on what to cut from these sections, though Parts 2 and 5 (both of Ciara's parts) are making stern arguments towards leaving most of the stuff in. And they are the longest parts. Gosh dang it.

I'd consider this a "pre-alpha" read for those who want a copy. Basically you'll go in knowing its a rough draft, but help me to figure out exactly what plot things should be axed, or which parts of the book seemed to have problems with pacing. It also is a general assessment of the plot to see if it works. Last thing I want is to have a finished book with a plot that just falls into oblivion.

In other news...that's it. I haven't started up Gears yet, mostly because I'm lazy and I want to finish EC edits first. If you want to be in the "crappy, rough draft" reader group, feel free and let me know. Just know it's a massive thing and I'd need feedback relatively soonish (like a month or two). It would be mostly general feedback, however, so you wouldn't need to line edit or anything.

That's it. Back to work! Here's more Nier music because you want it.

Effulgent Corruption: Afterglow/warmdown

on Sunday, July 24, 2011
I'm doing a final rough draft edit of Effulgent Corruption. Not enough for me to merit calling it a whole new draft, but mostly just cleaning up discovery writing crap that made it over and spell-checking/sentence fixing. I've already found stuff I want changed/cut before the next edit (there's going to be a substantial amount cut, which will hurt but is necessary), but I'm not doing it until I do the actual edit, which will probably be in September.
My goal is to finish this edit by the end of the week. I just finished part 3 of 7, which for word count is actually more than half way through. So I'm glad this will soon be over, I can set the book down knowing it's something I'd be willing to show somebody (even though I'd prefer if they waited for the next draft), and then move on to something new. Gears, aka the book I don't care if it is terrible.
I am not a huge editing fan, as you all probably know already, but my hatred of editing is only half true. I actually don't mind editing if somebody (either writing group or an editor) gives me a general direction of where to go. I'm not the best self-editor when it comes to my work, mostly because I don't like cutting things I think are clever or entertaining. But when somebody straight up says, "this is unimportant; axe it," it's a lot easier.
At any rate, what else have I been doing? I upgraded to OSX Lion on the Macbook and the Mac Mini. I like it a lot on the Macbook because it has a touchpad, which the OS seems to be designed for. Not as big a fan on the Mini, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.
Other news is I have an NES! I'll dedicate a post to that once I get around to it. I have a lot of games and I'm really enjoying digging up old favorite and playing 'em.

I have to start writing again. Editing is good, but I'm already feeling like my days are missing something because I'm not writing. Maybe I'll start Gears tomorrow (or continue what I started way back last year) just to make myself feel better. Get a head start (I'm going to try and write that whole book before the end of August).

Effulgent Corruption: It is finished

on Tuesday, July 19, 2011
At long (very long) last, I am pleased to say Effulgent Corruption is...FINISHED!

And now, some facts!

Total Words: 353,435
Days spent writing: 200 exactly (crazy)
Average words a day: 1767 (note I don't write Sundays and I didn't take this into account when getting the average)
Words written today: 7.8k
Word count broken into parts:
Part #             Word Count          Viewpoint
Prologue         478                      Thomas Divinious
Part 1             61035                   Drake
Part 2             67920                   Ciara
Part 3             65777                   Rook
Part 4             37312                   Drake
Part 5             66649                   Ciara
Part 6             24385                   Rook 

Part 7             29290                   All Three
Epilogue         500                       Ciara

Most words devoted to them: Ciara
Who I think is the actual star of the book: Ciara
Number of times I stopped because I had to brace myself for what I was about to do: 5 (three of them tonight)
Times I considered quitting: Too many to count
Favorite Part: Either Part 2 or Part 3
Least Favorite Part: Part 5 maybe? I don't hate any of them, but Part 1 needs the most work and Part 5 was by far the hardest to write. 
Favorite character to write: Rook
The Character I Personally Detest the Most: Edmund
My favorite character in the book: Zahed
Amount I want to cut: 90-100k
How I'm going to do that: No idea.
Key points I need to change: I made errors on languages between the nations, introduced a character that went nowhere (going to cut her completely), and made some errors in Grax's dialogue that doesn't fit with the current vision for the story. 
Gods that are actually dead: All six of 'em.
Wait what?: Yes, they are really dead. Hush up and read the story.
Time I considered rewriting the ending to make it less depressing: At least five, and just about every sentence as I was writing it.
Did I actually change it?: No. But it's still possible.
Number of cities (out of Six) the characters visit: 4
Number you actually see the inside of: 3
Ones we missed: Diasaria and Reneta (they'll be in book 2)
Original title for Book 2: The Dead Six
Why I won't do that: Because Larry Corria just released a book called "Dead Six," completely ruining my life. 
Is it longer than Way of Kings or Wise Man's Fear?: Nope (but only by a hair)
Could you add enough to make it that long: You bet. I can think of tons of scenes that didn't make it to the end, either because of time or because I didn't want the book to be longer than it already was.


That's it, then. The book is finished. Done. At long last, it is complete. 
Is it my best book to date? I don't know, I sure hope so. I certainly think it is, but it's my own crap so I'm going to be biased. I do know it is by far the most complex, but I think I managed to have everything tie together well. Unfortunately, in order to do that the ending had to be depressing, but I tried to ease the pain and the later books won't be as bad. Honestly, this is probably the darkest one.
What did I learn from this, you might ask?
First, I'm not doing this again unless it's pre-sold to a publisher. This is too big and too long and way too much time. The only reason I didn't quit was because I broke it into parts which made it manageable. Had I not done that I would have abandoned it ages ago.
Second, I really enjoy plotting and writing books like this, but my next step is to learn how to keep it shorter. Maybe Effulgent Corruption wouldn't have worked shorter, I honestly don't know. But as it is nobody will ever buy this thing unless I trim it down substantially. I'd like my books to have a depth like this one, but I've got to keep the word count down.
Third, that I can actually write books like this. This is the good part of writing a massive book: I actually pulled it off. My longest book before this was WGMD, which took five months and was 180k. This is almost twice as long (it's only 7k short) and took six and a half months, so technically it was faster. The point is: I plotted a book I honestly didn't think I had the skill to write, or the patience to go through with it. It is now finished. I am taking that as a massive personal accomplishment. This has been the hardest book to write since the first one (Lacrymosa, which took three years of writing and I had been plotting the thing since I was 16) but it's good. If I only wrote easy books like Steelgods there wouldn't be much of a challenge there.
Last, that I write slower without self-imposed deadlines, and I also write epic fantasy a lot slower than YA. Maybe it's the genre, I dunno. I was churning out about 5-6k a day for the last two-three months, but at first I was fluctuating heavily. When I write YA I can usually put out 70-90k a month (which is the whole book), whereas for this it was more like 50k a month. Not awful, but I really want to try and get to a point where I can easily churn out 100k in a month if needed.

What else? I have my first volunteer reader (James, who also just mailed me an NES) lined up. He's going to binge read it saturday (he's also my biggest fan, ha ha) so my goal is to do a very fast spelling/sentence edit before then. After that I'm setting this down and taking a break. I don't know if I can take a break after being in the habit, so if it seems like I'm having issue I'll do a light 1-2k a day on Gears of Anbar (Steelgods 2) to cooldown before Worldcon. Then we'll see what happens from there.

Thanks for all the support, especially writing group for pushing me through this. I couldn't have done it without all of you guys. Now I need you to alpha read this monster. :P

Novel #6 is finished! On to the next!

Effulgent Corruption: Finish him!

on Saturday, July 16, 2011
Unlike my characters, this book just won't seem to die.
Granted, I have a schedule lined up (or rather a basic outline). Out of the 9 chapters in the finale, 5 are now finished, meaning I'm over half-way done with Part 7. Yay!

This is actually oddly stressful. I'm not writing much more than usual, but I feel compelled to finish a chapter every day. I'm so ready for this book to be done it's maddening, yet I'm also anxious because I don't want to eff it up royally. You know what I'm saying: after a huge project, it all comes down to the end, and if you screw that up you feel like you've ruined all the previous work. Luckily, I'm an author, so if I do churn out a chapter that's nothing but utter garbage, I can totally rewrite it at some future date. But I hate rewriting and I want this to work, so there you go.

I also realized writing group is never, ever going to make it through this book before 2012 if I post at the same pace I currently am, which is actually a pretty grueling pace. I might just have to call for straight up alpha readers after I do my first massive edit.

This post is actually an excuse to post a massive part from what I wrote yesterday, because I thought it was funny and it made me grin re-reading it at work today. Yes, I worked on Saturday, and yes it sucked. But now I'm rich, so that's how life works.

Ciara laughed. “That’s fine with me. Try to not burn the pie, Kika.”
Kika smiled, closing her hands around the glass. “I’m going to make it out of apples! Do you like apples, Thomas?”
“Why are you asking me?” Thomas chuckled. Kika blushed and turned away.
“No…reason. I was just wondering…”
Ciara realized what was going on, and she had to try hard to keep from bursting into laughter. “Thomas loves apple pie, Kika, as do I. I think that’s an excellent choice.”
Kika perked up instantly, and gave Ciara a nod. “I’d better go get started then, if it’s to be done before you get back! Bye! Be safe!”
She gave a wave and scurried back into the kitchen, still gingerly carrying the *spoiler*. Thomas watched her go in confusion, then looked back at Ciara.
“What was eating away at her?”
Ciara rolled her eyes. “Men.”
“Isn’t it obvious? She has something for you!”
“Wait, Kika? Are you being serious?” Thomas looked back towards the doorway where the Marked girl had disappeared.
“Gods, for being so smart you can be so very dense,” Ciara pressed her hand against Thomas’ cheek, pushing his face back towards her. She gave him a light kiss, then finished fastening her robe.
“But…I’m your husband. She knows that…right?”
“And I’ve hardly even met her, it doesn’t seem-“
“I’m not saying anything will come of it, I’m just saying she has a crush.” Ciara pulled the hood over her head, tucking her hair back into its shadows. “Weren’t you young once? Didn’t you have eyes for pretty Kian daughters?”
“I only had them for you.” Thomas smiled, reaching down and holding her hand. Ciara squeezed it tighter than usual, just enough to hurt.
“Me and at least three others; don’t try and change the past to your liking. I caught you kissing plenty of young ladies before you decided you liked me after all.”

Effulgent Corruption: Shades of Gray

on Thursday, July 14, 2011
Current count: Chapter 2 of 8 in the final part is complete. Six chapters left. If I keep the trend of writing one a day (about 5-6k) I'll be done next Wednesday. Though I'm guessing I'll blitz the final three in one day, which will probably be Saturday or Sunday.

Had a weekend hike/campout planned for Friday-Saturday, but it got cancelled. Oh well, more writing I guess.

This book is finally almost finished. I still can't believe it.

And now, Shades of Gray.

Moral ambiguity has also always been a key focus of my writing. The world around us is hardly black and white (unless you enjoy watching Fox News) but a staple of fantasy seems to be making it as such. Nobody argues that the Orcs in Lord of the Rings are just misunderstood, or that the Elves might actually just be huge jerkwads and are basically running away at the first sign of conflict. Nobody argues that the White Witch in Narnia might actually have some good qualities, and Aslan might have considerable flaws (probably because he's an analogy for Jesus, but that isn't the point).

My first novel, Lacrymosa, threw a girl in a middle of a conflict between two races. Raised by one but actually belonging to the other, she sparked off a war between them and was forced to pick sides. The goal with the story was that the reader would have difficulty choosing which faction they wanted to win: by presenting both with considerable good and bad qualities, it provided a moral conflict for the main character and (hopefully) the reader.

It would have worked if I was a better author, but everybody actually picked the same side (the Ala) so I guess that means I failed.

I'm also going on a tangent for what I was going to actually talk about, so now I'm going to try and pull this back together.

I'm completely convinced nobody is perfect. Everybody has their collection of vices, their "favorite sins" if you will. In most fantasy novels we are willing to glaze over these character flaws because the rest of the character is so overwhelmingly good. His motives are noble, so who cares if he was a mass murderer at some point? He's clearly good now, so it is easy to forgive that moral ambiguity for the sake of plot. Authors rely on this, throwing snippets of character flaw to make their character seem more rounded, then swiftly abandoning them  should those flaws actually negatively effect the main story.

Basically quirks for the sake of having quirks, not for actually integrating those quirks into the story. "My character has a quirk!" *checks off a box* "Now I can get on with the actual plot!"

As you can guess, this drives me crazy. While I'll admit most of us in the real world have weird eccentricities that only play a minor roll in our "life's story," I'm reading a book here. If my character has a knack for killing people without hesitation, why does he hesitate when confronted with a main character (besides the fact that it's, you know, the hero he's about to slaughter)? Why do we make unrealistic changes to how a character acts just because the person he's interacting with has a name (vs the nameless other characters)? If you give your character a flaw, you'd damn well follow through with it, and not some cheap, half-assed way that doesn't follow a character's past. Give them a trait or flaw, and make it relevant.

I'm off target again. Sorry, this is like being shotgunned by my brain's ideas.

The point is, one of my main goals in Effulgent Corruption (besides it being dark) was to make it realistic. All three viewpoint characters of EC have distinctly different goals. In their own minds (and in the mind of the reader, if I sold it right) everything they do makes sense. Drake's goals are logical. Ciara's goals are noble. The means by which Rook's goals are accomplished might be questionable, but his intentions make perfect sense.

The fun part is everybody's goals completely conflict.

I'll have to have Alpha/Beta readers tell me if it works, but the basic goal is that everybody's intentions make perfect sense when thought of separately, but when mashed together you realize that they are incompatible. Whose side do you take? Now that the end has come, who should win? Are any of these characters actually good, or do their flaws outrank their good points?

It's interesting what you can do with viewpoint in this case. A reader is naturally more sympathetic to a viewpoint character. If you can present their monstrous actions in a sympathetic way (think of any of the John Clever books by Dan Wells), you can trick the reader into liking a character and agreeing when them when they'd completely abhor them if they saw them from the eyes of someone else. I (attempted) to use this tactic when writing Rook. From an outside view, he's a complete animal, with no hope for redemption and the world would probably be better off if he were dead. But when you see things through his eyes, everything changes. The awful things he does actually sort of make sense. His greater goal is one that isn't just noble, it's necessary for the world to survive. But can you still really side with him? What when the only way for him to succeed will probably result in the murder of the the other viewpoint characters?

All this is in theory, however, assuming I actually pulled it off in writing. Which is also the reason I was so daunted by the task of writing Effulgent Corruption - I didn't know if I could pull it all off in the way I wanted. Again, Alpha/Beta readers.

My point is: I like gray. I like it in my novels. I like flawed protagonists that are flawed for a reason, and those flaws actually incorporate in interesting ways in the story itself. I like pulling the rug out from under readers (again, see Nier). I like reading books that do that, but brainstorming them is just as fun.

Now I just can't do it so much it's cliche. But that's an issue for a later time.

I'd throw an EC quote down here, but I literally can't find a single paragraph in this last part that isn't a spoiler.  So instead I'm going to turn to a random point in the book and find the most interesting paragraph that isn't a spoiler. I can't see how this could possibly go wrong.

(From Part 3, Rook's first part)

Then the cart passed, making way for a cacophonous clinking sound. Behind the wagon, like threads of rope dragged behind, were three lines of chained Marked. Each line in turn had three Marked attached, the slaves marching to keep up with the plodding cart, manacles clasped tightly around one wrist. They kept their eyes low, not struggling or fighting, simply pressing forward as the sweat dripped from their faces. Their corruption lines were long, one man’s reaching all the way past his shoulders and beginning to encroach on the flesh of hisneck.
            “Passive,” Grax’s voice was gleeful. “Covered; they hear one of Us now. They don’t remember what it was like to be men, what happened in their First Life. All they know is slavery, servants to their masters. Just like you, Rook. Just the way I like you.”
- Effulgent Corruption, Saints

Effulgent Corruption: The Home Stretch, emotional impact, death of charcters

on Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I've wanted to use the phrase "on the home stretch" for a while now with Effulgent Corruption, but could never justify it considering I'd always have more than one Part remaining.
Well, I'm on the home stretch. I have one Part left. It's outlined. I just have to write it.
I'm on the home stretch.

After outlining what will become Part 7, I realized how much I didn't want to write this finale. It has nothing to do with being unable, hating the story, or anything of that kind. The point is that things happen in the end that are irreversible, and after getting to know these characters over seven months (more, if you count plotting and the first false start) I am a bit hesitant to follow through. Who lives and dies (or is horribly maimed) at the end of Effulgent Corruption was decided WAY back during the book's initial planning (even before it had a title), but now that I'm finally up to that point it's hard to follow through with it.

I had a similar problem with the ending of Lacrymosa (even though that book wasn't nearly as well polished, it did take me a three year period to write), the ending of Harbinger, and the ending of the second part of Where Gods and Mortals Dance. 

Without going into too many spoilers: all the parts mentioned above have the deaths of main characters. I've always been forward in saying that nobody is ever safe, even viewpoint characters; it's been something I've been adamant on since I first started writing. I despise immortal viewpoint characters who seem to have immaculate luck and narrowly avoid death by just a hair every scene. Death is a staple of fantasy, so why are main/likeable characters exempt?

Because it's hard, that's why.

Part 6 also ends with a main character dying. For risk of spoilers, let's just say it is "one of my favorite characters in the novel." I literally had to emotionally detach myself from the scene entirely in order to write it. I went back for a quick re-read edit and actually skipped the part leading up to the death. I just couldn't re-read it, at least not then. I was so attached to the character and liked him/her so much that killing them was like a punch in the chest. I still haven't re-read the scene. And this was for a character I'd planned to die since the beginning!

As an author, we want deaths to have emotional weight. So we build up a character, make them endearing to a reader, force them to be very sympathetic, and then kill them.

The only problem is, as the author, I'm infinitely more intimate with a character than a reader. They've spent maybe a few hours with him/her, while I've spent months (sometimes years) entertaining them in my thoughts. Doing awful things to characters is my forte (which is also what discovery writers excel at), but even I have a threshold that can be crossed. George R. R. Martin can do awful things to people without batting an eyelid, but I think most of us are more like J.K. Rowling, who cried during several stages of writing the Harry Potter novels. It's hard to be mean, especially to people who are good and don't deserve it. There isn't always a happy ending, but there's a difference between being told about the unhappy ending and having to create it.

In truth, this whole post was sort of an extension of a comment I posted on Rose's blog, but the point still stands. I'm having troubles starting this "beginning of the end" because I know I'm going to have to do awful, unfixable things to my characters, and I feel bad about it.

But it was going to happen anyway, so I'm going to write today regardless.

I was also going to post about moral grayness in characters (and melodrama), but that'll have to wait for a future blog post because my brain is addled with Mountain Dew and work isn't helping with my mind mushiness. So just know that the end is coming, this book will finally be finished, and I'm going to kill every character you ever loved or do awful things to them (or both). So ha ha.

Also, a new tradition is to post a picture or youtube video relevant to something, so here's the final boss music from Nier. I posted it before, but it changes just before you deal the killing blow, which I think is a great example of emotionally attacking a player/reader before a character death.

And why not, here's the original song in case you forgot.

Effulgent Corruption: Part 6 is done. Yes, really. Also, this book is too long.

on Monday, July 11, 2011
My lovely wife sent me an email today, and here is what it said:
Part #             Word Count          Viewpoint
Prologue         478                       N/A
Part 1             61035                   Drake
Part 2             67920                   Ciara
Part 3             65777                   Rook
Part 4             37312                   Drake
Part 5             66649                   Ciara
Part 6             23935                   Rook

Total Word Count: 335K
Estimated Part 7 (final part) Word Count: 40k
Estimated Final Word Count: 375k
Word Count of Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: 386k
Word Count of Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss: 395k

So yeah, this book is REALLY LONG. It is worth nothing that both Way of Kings and Wise Man's Fear were that long after editing, and I'm hoping to cut down the 60k sections by 20k each of just content cut (and cut everything 10-20% of just "cleaning up sentences" cut). I commented to a friend last night I wanted a ~30% edit, which would be 90k, WHICH IS THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF STEELGODS. WHAT.

Anyway, I finished Part 6, though the ending is extremely abrupt. What happened was I figured I had a page left, but I kind of lost the groove last night so I was going to finish it later. But after my wife read it this morning she commented on how she liked the abrupt ending, and after re-reading it I do too. I might still write my original ending and see how I like it, but I sort of dig this abrupt scene cut.

I'm now in severe planning stages. Yes, I'm planning, get over it. After over 300k words and now all it is coming together, I can't afford to not plan and somehow screw this up. So I'm going to MAKE AN OUTLINE (what? no!) and actually figure out this ending and then write it.

One of my friends also said he's going to get popcorn on the 23rd (after his last school final) and read Effulgent Corruption from start to finish. So my new goal is to finish the book before then. After that I'll do basic edits until August, then write Gears of Anbar that month while maybe writing Steelgods? I don't know, I've been working on this book so long I forgot how to keep a schedule.

That's it from me. Here's a tiny bit from the last part.

“Get the hell away from me, you madman!” Rook pointed, fury coursing through him. “Get back, or I’ll…”
“You’ll what?” Grax rose his hands to the sky, spinning as he chuckled. “Strike me down? Tear me to pieces? Cut me asunder? I am only visible to you, Rook. Only you can see my divine presence, only you think there is a man standing before you in the road. You are the madman, the insane one. I am simply a patient observer, existing only in your mind and through your blighted sight.”
Grax started laughing hysterically now, clutching his chest as tears ran down his face. “And do you know the best part? I told you to sew your eyes shut! You didn’t want to, hell on earth you were persistant, but in the end you were so weak, so malleable. I tricked you into thinking it was what you wanted, can you believe it? All this while you told yourself it was your intention, your choice. And now, now you see me all the time. Don’t you understand, Rook? Minerva was right. Who in their right mind would sew their eyes shut, knowing full well a dead god awaits them beneath those closed lids?”

- Effulgent Corruption, Dead

Effulgent Corruption: Killin' dudes and the idea of corruption

on Thursday, July 7, 2011
Something that has always been prominent in Effulgent Corruption is the emphasis that the corruption in the story isn't just referring to the poison that crosses the flesh of the magic-users ("Marked") in the book. One of the main points of the book that I settled on when brainstorm it is the idea of corruption spreading across multiple fronts in the wake of a catastrophic event (all their gods die expectantly, and are replaced by a huge, growing chunk of crystal). How would a world react? Would they follow it up wisely, or would the leaders take advantage of the situation?

Of course they'd do the latter; who am I kidding? But this idea of unrestrained corruption makes for a fun write, because it encompasses all the themes of the book. Here are a few key ones that I think of.

- Corruption of Government - Societies that had been constantly ruled by seemingly omniscient, immortal beings that lived among them an then straight up died would quickly assign others to fill the gaps. These mortals, however, would hardly be able to fulfill the task without adjusting the system to better fit their now-empowered needs, leading to corruption.

- Corruption of Earth - This one is simpler: Gangrene crystal kills the soil it touches. It absorbs nutrients and leaves ground in a state similar to ash. As the massive Heart of the Gangrene crystal continues to shoot out "veins," it'll slowly eat away at the world, corrupting it.

- Corruption of Flesh - Another simple one. When Gangrene is embedded in the hands, eyelids, or chest of mortals it grants them power...at a price. The surrounding area is affected by the crystal, turning black, and as the users wield the power the blackness crawls. As the corruption numbs any body part it touches, once they use their power enough it'll eventually reach their head, numbing the mind, or cover so much of their body the Gangrene (which is essentially a slow-acting poison) kills them.

- Corruption of Mind - This one has actually been the funnest to write. Even if the Gangrene doesn't reach the mind, as it grows it seeps into the blood. Not a massive amount (at least not in uncorrupted areas of flesh), but enough to start influencing the mind and body of the Marked. It's a gradual thing, the insanity, and leads to some of the most interesting points of the book. All of the viewpoint characters are Marked; which are insane? Are some already insane, or are they on their way, or are they somehow avoiding the Gangrene's influence entirely? What do they see that is their addled brain lying to them, and what is reality? As the book progresses the viewpoint grows more and more unreliable, which makes for some fun scenes. This is also the most "psychological" part of the book (yay, I'm finally using my stupid undergrad major), with some characters knowing they are losing their minds, and others being blissfully unaware.

- Corruption of Morality - If you take away the gods and the rules, what do you have left? I in no way am drawing parallels to our world, but if our deities walked among us and suddenly died/disappeared, what would happen to the rules they set up? If the new human rulers (see #1 up top) didn't care about the old laws, what idea of morality would remain? It might last a while, but in time it would corrupt as well, with only the most stalwart worshipers of the dead gods willfully following their old rules.

- Corruption of Divinity  - This is further addressed in the second and third books, but think of how your perception of gods would change two centuries after these gods died. Would you really remember them the same way? Do we even remember history as it actually happened, or how it was recorded? How much of that would change, especially in a middle-ages era society where record keeping was more controlled?

- Corruption of Economy - Your world suddenly has a resource that can turn men to to magic-using slaves, but it is extremely hard to mine and is technically biochemical warfare to stab it into somebody. How much is this crystal worth? How would that effect the world's economy? How would that effect conflicts between nations and trade? It would break down, centering about this resource, until everything normalized. It would corrupt it.

All these things were ideas I considered and keep in the back of my mind when plotting and writing Effulgent Corruption. I wanted a book that followed a central theme but didn't blatantly say all the things mentioned above (that's what a blog is for!). So it was interesting for me to try and figure out how all this crap fits together, then make a story out of it.

Though in truth it was the other way around. I started with an idea "magic that kills you, and magic users are slaves." Basically, I wanted the reverse of a normal fantasy story, were magicians are revered sages and (basically) the most powerful men in the world. What if there was a stipulation that made them weak? What if they forgot how to be men after gaining their powers, and could be trained/brainwashed into being submissive slaves despite their incredible power? How would a society work in this situation?

The opening sentence of Effulgent Corruption is, "The day the last god died, the Gangrene crystals appeared." This was, essentially, all I started with in terms of the deities, the crystals, and all that before I actually figured out the plot. From that grew the Gangrene crystals (the name of the crystals, like the title of the book, was actually intended to simply be a placeholder until I thought of something better), and then the repercussions something like Gangrene would have across an entire world.

While I don't consider myself a serious plotter or outliner, I do feel it is important for every author to really think through and imagine the implications of their world before they set their characters loose in it. It's easy to say, "My book uses dragons for money!" but hard to fully process how far-reaching that could be in terms of world changes. I've always tried to think substantially on that fact in my other books, but I never took it as far as I did in Effulgent Corruption, and for that reason I think this book is much better constructed than my others.

Point: BEING AN AUTHOR IS HARD OK. Figuring out all this stuff has been really exciting, and it has been fun to drop hints (or red herrings) frequently in the novel regarding exactly how it all goes together. I also am fully convinced now that the ending of the novel is going to piss everybody off, but if you see post 200 you can see my reaction to that.

I'm running out of break at work (and things to say), so here is an Effulgent Corruption bit to keep you busy. I'm back to my normal 4-6k a day, and Rook's section is going to be short so before you know it I'll be done. I'm shooting for the end of July at the latest, hopefully sooner, but we'll see.

Then the god was gone, and Rook’s body burned with power. He felt the familiar call of the Gangrene, the might of the Dead Six as it ebbed and flowed through him. His arms glowed with the Gangrene’s light, the orange and white throbbing and bursting with color. He was immortal, eternal, effulgent.
He would murder everyone.

- Effulgent Corruption, The Maw

Disease does not help writing

on Tuesday, July 5, 2011
I've been deathly ill (with a serious fever Thursday night), which has lead to no writing for Fri-Sun. I managed to write 1k yesterday despite being stricken with the plague, but I'm feeling substantially better (though not 100%...I'm probably at about 75%) and have an hour after work to burn, so hopefully that'll end with me writing lots.

I figured out Part 6; it'll be substantially shorter than the other parts should my estimation prove accurate, with maybe 2/3 the number of chapters as Part 5. I'm hoping that means I can finish it and Part 7 (aka the final part) in July, should I go quickly. I'm very ready for this book to be done so I can start on a lighter project (Steelgods 2). I'm also excited to edit both Steelgods and Effulgent Corruption in preparation for submitting it to everybody and their dog (and hopefully people I meet at WorldCon).

I haven't said anything about Game of Thrones (the HBO series, not the book) on this blog, but if you follow me on facebook you've seen I've gone NUTS over it. I actually binge watched the last six (of ten) episodes on the eve of my amazing disease explosion. Having never read the books, I must say these things are amazing. I actually tried reading the books and (like many others) was bogged down by their plodding pace. They are well written, for sure, but slow. I'm going to try it again because I literally cannot wait to see what happens in Season 2 and so if I just read the dumb books I'll know and won't have to wait. Though it might take me until next year to read that first book because...holy crap it's big.

Also it has a killer soundtrack and the rockingest opening of any show ever. Look, here it is so you can watch it!

Though if you are looking into watching it a fair warning: it's a "Hard R" rating. This is HBO, not normal television, so there's plenty of stuff you don't want kids (or teenagers, for that matter) seeing. The production values are through the roof, though, so it has that.

Yeah I should really read the books. Gah.

Here's a hefty EC quote. We are back to Rook, as you probably understood. This is the last character specific part in the novel. HALLELUJAH.

Despite knowing the meeting with Minerva would likely be an unpleasant one – Grax would see to that – Rook was excited to see her again. Something about the younger Corrupter did odd things to him; he felt completely uneasy about her but for some reason enjoyed the awkwardness. Spending time with her was like having a normal life, one free of the influence of harassing gods and impudent Marked.
“Don’t think like that,” Grax struck Rook upside the head, causing Rook to fumble the reigns. The horse, confused, broke its straight path for a moment before Rook redirected it back towards the tents outside Yehovuh. Rook gave Grax a scowl, the Mark about his eyes throbbing slightly as he Touched.
“She’s trouble,” Grax continued, sitting high on his war-horse. “She brings back something from your first life, something I don’t want you knowing. But if we are to kill the Saints, even I know when to admit you’ll need help. It’ll go much quicker with two, so long as you don’t stay together too often after the task is complete.”
Breaking promises, Rook growled but said nothing, remembering Grax’s warning back at the Marking Chamber. Bastard.
“I can hear everything you think, bastard,” Grax gave Rook a sideways glance, a touch of frustration in his eyes. “And considering the state of the Gangrene poison in her blood, I wouldn’t expect a substantial amount of quality time with the girl after you’ve killed all the Saints. Assuming both of you survive the ordeal, of course.”

- Effulgent Corruption, "Loss"