The Cheat is not Dead!

on Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Yeah, a really old Homestar Runner reference for the title. I'm up with the times, yo.

So what have I been doing, you ask? Well, mostly making movies! I've made two movies in the past month, which is a pretty good clip if I do say so myself, with more on the way. They'll be going public sometime in October or November, so keep an eye out!

What about writing, you ask? Well...I'm actually writing a new novel! It's called Empty Pages and it's me doing the same approach I had with Half (only less breakneck): Write something that's fun, silly, and I don't worry too much about. Except this one is YA fantasy vs YA vampires, so there's that.

Not surprisingly, I ended up plotting a bit of it in my head, and the story got a bit dark. However, I'm still trying to keep it silly and fun, and I think it'll be a pretty good read. Plus it's getting me out of my writing slump, which is necessary.

So that's pretty much it from me here. Writing a new novel while scripting, recording, and editing videos (which is a lot of work). I'm also picking up reading again (finally) and doing the whole work thing (though I'm trying to find a full-time job). Fun times?

Anyway, expect some more info on Empty Pages as it comes. But for now I'll just dump some words:

Talking book
Librimancers
The Scribe
Nobleman-turned-thief
Burritos (not in the novel)

So that's it from me. Keep it real!

Still nottin'

on Monday, August 13, 2012
So I haven't started writing again yet, mostly because nothing interests me. Though I did think of something I might try, which worked in May.

I wrote Half because I wanted to write an urban fantasy book where I just did whatever I wanted. It was hardly the deepest novel but it was fun and I really got into the voice presented. Quarter was that with more refinement, and again written in a short time span (three weeks vs two).

I also wrote Half because I was mad at A Straight Cut (and I'm still mad at it...that book's premise is cool but the story I wrote doesn't live up to it, at least not in its current state) and needed to just creatively explode all my pent up frustrations on something. Sort of a revival, of sorts.

I'm considering doing this again, but this time in a more traditional fantasy setting. Still YA (I'm probably pigeonholing myself into YA, but whatever...I like writing them more) but with more sillyness (like Half) then brooding depression darkness death (like every other YA novel I wrote). It'll be another book I don't care about if it's bad or good, just me throwing a character on a silly adventure.

If anything, it'll force me to start writing again, which is what I really need.

It isn't as if I've been unproductive. I'm currently alpha reading two novels, still writing game reviews on a nearly-daily basis on my video game blog, working on movies/videos for said video game blog, making perler bead sprites, working, and applying to grad schools. So yeah, been a bit busy. I also am trying to play the piano more, so add it to the list.

Regardless, I need to start writing again, because I'm frustrated that I'm not. That pretty much sums it up.

So expect some awesome writing soon. Also, editing Death's Aria and submitting it to everybody I just harassed with Half. What could possibly go wrong? :D

Fighting against the tide

on Friday, August 3, 2012
Sisyphus vs Rock

Hello loyal blog followers (what's left of you, anyway). Wondering what the hell I've been doing? Yeah...me too.

I took July off (as mentioned in my previous update), but July is over so that technically is no longer relevant. I had every intent to write my middle-grade novel this month, but it's humor and I haven't been feeling very...humorous lately, so it's been slow going.

My current new plan is to dig up every random idea I've had over the past couple months (including those I've abandoned), write either the first chapter (in the case of new books) or next chapter (in the case of those with abandonment issues) and whichever sticks I'm writing. Except I'm not allowed to do Eighth, because if I do I'll just end up writing that, and the last thing we need is a third book in that series.

Speaking of which, Half queries are still out in the wild. I've had a handful of partial requests (though, oddly enough, not as many as Steelgods. I'll go on record and say Half is a better book, despite that) and a few personal responses (that's new), so yay for me. Once I feel enough time has passed (read: probably in September) I'm going to do Death's Aria. My goal was at least three books submitted this year and I currently have only done one, so I should probably get on that.

Regardless, as much as I'd love to keep writing Half books (which I can write quickly and get fun, cool ideas for relatively fast), there's no use in pushing sequels for a book that might not sell. I'll keep writing them in my free time (like Steelgods), but honestly if Half doesn't sell the rest are pretty much dead in the water. Which makes me kind of sad, but I brought it upon myself.

Speaking of which: those of you expecting the Quarter alpha...I apologize for how long it's taking me to edit this. Since I took July off and have since been sort of mulling around, I didn't ever finish the edit. I actually don't have much more left (though I have to rewrite a chapter), but once I get it finished it'll be headed towards your inboxes. Thanks for your patience.

Aside from that, my video game kickstarter exploded (thanks to everybody who contributed!) and so I'll also be working on providing some video content for that, which involves writing scripts. Am I spreading myself too thin? Probably, but that's hardly anything new. Here's hoping I can make something awesome. I'm actually quite excited to get all this figured out; learning something new has always been interesting for me.

In either case, I have no idea what I'm writing next (I should probably finish Half and Quarter edits...and A Straight Cut...and Naught But Glass) but I'll keep ya'll posted. I still plan on doing the next Steelgods book in September, if only to keep with the tradition (yet another sequel to a book that didn't sell...brilliant).

Keep on pushin...

Current Updates

on Friday, July 20, 2012
Here's just a brief idea of what I've been up to:

- Preparing to make video reviews for my video game blog. Getting Final Cut Pro and a tutorial and starting tinkering around.
- Submitting Half to everything that moves. Had a few decent bites! (woo woo)
- Editing Quarter, doing my second minor edit of Half, and going back to Death's Aria
- NOT writing my middle grade book. I've written almost four books this year already, each on a deadline (all three of them took less than a month each) and I need a breather. Priming the pump or whatever. I'll start writing it once I feel the creative spark to write punch me in the face.
- Watched The Dark Knight Rises. Didn't like it. I'd promise a review, but I promise those all the time and then don't pull through. But I do want to write one.
- Enjoying taking a break from my hobbies. Sometimes I treat them with even more seriousness than my actual job (read: I do this all the time) and the stress is getting to me. A breather was necessary.
- I bought a Dreamcast (actually two Dreamcasts; one of the ones I bought was a model I didn't want...anybody want a Dreamcast?) and am enjoying playing games on that. Also bought like 50 NES games, so I have to burn through those.
- Considering writing scripts for previously mentioned movie reviews. They're gonna be crazy. Crazy AWESOME, or at least I hope.

That's it; just enjoying some laid-back summerness. I'll keep updating the Video Game Blog, but aside from that I'm on hiatus. I hope you are all having good summers as well!

Review: Apparition by Michaelbrent Collings

on Wednesday, July 11, 2012


There is nothing I personally fear more than losing myself. Losing control of my emotions and making a mistake, failing to maintain dominance over my most basic of functions and becoming manipulated by some other, sinister force. I believe this is why the concept of possession is so chilling to many people: you lose what makes you YOU, so you still have to witness the awful consequences of your actions.

Apparition by Michaelbrent Collings is about parents killing their children. I'm not going to mince words here, this book deals with filicide. If that sort of thing bothers you even in the very slightest, you should probably avoid this book, because it will get in your head and royally mess you up. However, if you are the kind of person who loves books that get into your head and royally mess you up, then I really have a novel suggestion for you!

To put it into context: this book starts with a graphic description of filicide. Not so much that I'd consider it distasteful, but absolutely horrific enough to make me squirm uncomfortably. Which, considering I got this book to be scared, I'll write that down as a bullet point for the positive.

The story follows Shane and his two children, who are seeking answers in regards to why parents suddenly snap and murder their children. All the while dark things being creeping into their lives, influencing Shane and putting some rather awful thoughts into his head. Without spoiling much, I'll just say that as Shane gets closer and closer to finding the truth, he falls deeper and deeper into the abyss of madness.

Michaelbrent Collings is a master of building suspense, providing lulls that are still unnerving and then hitting you with big scares. I felt he did this near-perfectly in Rising Fears, while The Haunting had sections that felt a little long for me. In Apparition his pacing is at its finest: starting with a horrific, jolting scene to set the mood, and balancing the brief breathers with the heart-stopping horror. I literally read until three in the morning until I was so tired I passed out with Kindle in hand, and when I returned to the book I didn't stop until I had completely finished it.

While I'd argue this is my favorite of Michaelbrent's books I've read so far, I had two issues with it. The first is I never really had a grasp on Matthew's age, which kept throwing me off. He seemed particularly young considering how he talked (and was talked to) at the beginning, but then he'd observe things in his viewpoint that seemed way too old for his thought processes. A minor nitpick (especially since the teenage daughter was done so well), but enough to throw me off.

The other is the issue that horror masters have been battling since the genre began: that not seeing a monster is far more scary than when you actually reveal it. While I think Apparition did very well by concealing the true identity of the monster until the very end, once the reveal happened it was, as one expects, far less scary than anything I was speculating. A few of the final scenes even came off as a bit corny. This didn't detract from the absolutely bananas climax that Apparition has (not to mention the fantastic, fantastic epilogue that capstones this horror novel perfectly) but I often wonder if a horror book would work where we never actually see the big bad and only witness it's influence and awful aftermath. But that's not a question for this review.

Long story short, Apparition provides exactly as advertised: raw, unflinching horror speckled with gore and a healthy dose of "that's just wrong!" If you have any affinity for the horror genre whatsoever, I high suggest picking up this and all the rest of Michaelbrent Collings' works. Just be warned: this book was the first book I've ever read to give me nightmares, so maybe you should read it with all the lights on.

Four out of five stars. 

Nathan vs Video Games Kickstarter

on Thursday, July 5, 2012

(I'm reposting this from my video game blog. Please consider throwing a few bucks in my direction so I can make some awesome movies! :D)



I'm doing a kickstarter!

Like Let's Play's? Curious what I'd sound like on camera? Want me to play some REALLY AWFUL GAMES (Like PK Out of the Shadows on Gamecube) with commentary? Want to SUGGEST an awful game and have me review it ON VIDEO?

All this can be yours if you just contribute a few bucks to my kickstarter! RAD.

GO GIVE ME SOME MONEY! 

In all seriousness, I've been wanting to do video stuff for a while. I have a ton of video editing software already (hence why the kickstarter doesn't have to be too expensive) but I'd love to get a really nice capture card and maybe some good microphones and do some delicious video content. I can't guarantee it'll be all quality right out of the gate (hey, it's a learning experience) but I'm determined to make some awesome stuff should this get funded, and if anything watching me swear at Donald Duck while playing that awful PK game will probably be worth a couple bucks (in my humble opinion).

If you are interested, PLEASE go donate! As another cool bonus, if you donate $15 or more you get a PERLER BEAD sprite of your choice! Pretty rad, huh?

Share this around and we'll see how it goes! Thanks for contributing; and expect tons more content coming up in the next few weeks!

Quarter, book #10, complete!

on Monday, July 2, 2012

In another three-week (and a day change) book blitz, the sequel to Half, Quarter, is completed! Huzzah and hooray!

I'm hungry and want dinner, so here's some really basic level stats:

Total words: 75,064
Total chapters: 27 (including the epilogue)
New main characters: 3-4
Fight scenes: 7 (if you count the final fight + car chase as two)
Vampires: JUST HALF OF ONE THIS TIME!!!!


So that's it. This is less exciting than the usual book finish posts, but hey...what do you expect? Next on the docket, werewolf uncles. See ya then. 

A Book A Month All Summer

on Friday, June 22, 2012
A brief update (I'll be back from my blog hiatus soon; expect a post on writing book summaries!) for what's going on with my current plans:

I'm going to try and write a book a month for every summer month (June, July, August, September). This is more feasible than my original plan to write two books in June, mostly because life got in the way in June.

However, my current plan is to finish the half-done Quarter in the next week, and then start on my middle-grade novel in July. August we'll churn out Eighth, the third book in my Half chain, which should be pretty cool. Then, in September, we'll do the third Might of the Steelgods book: The War of Blood and Oil seeing as it's tradition to write one of those dumb things at the end of summer every year. (Steelgod September returns!)

After that I have no idea. I also plan on finishing A Straight Cut sometime in July if I have time. I'm going to just write it on days I'm not writing something else. That book annoys me.

I also have to edit Death's Aria and do minor Half revisions, as well as send Half to everybody and their dog in July. If I don't start submitting, my year goals to submit at least two novels this year will fail. I have more than enough material; I just need to submit!

That's it for now. I'm writing Quarter like a fiend! Expect some cool life updates soon, too. :)

GRE Induced Hiatus

on Friday, May 18, 2012

In case you haven't noticed, I'm taking a slight blogging break for the next couple of weeks. A week from Saturday I'm taking the GRE (and studying for it has sucked up most of my brain power) and then we are going to family reunion, so I will be too busy to provide updates.

I do plan on writing Quarter and my middle-grade novel in June (two weeks for each). However, don't expect updates from this blog for a while still.

Thanks for your patience; see you eventually!

My biggest problem with the Game of Thrones TV Show

on Friday, May 4, 2012
This show still has my favorite opening of any show ever. 

(This still isn't my post on violence or an album review. Sorry?)

So I've been watching A Game of Thrones on HBO. The sad truth is it was the first season that actually got me to finally read the books, which I devoured up until #4 which I am currently stuck on. Sorry, but after the insanity that was Storm of Swords, it's a little hard to keep going and have everything live up to expectation.

Regardless, reading the books opened my eyes a lot about how the TV show is produced and presented, especially now that I've read the second book before the second season kicks in. And, after re-watching the first Season (for my failed attempt to review them episodically on here, which I swear I'll do someday) I had a sort of revelation:

I don't think the TV show is very confident in itself.

But Sean Bean is always confident. THAT HE'LL DIE. The man's a two-legged spoiler. 

Hear me out: I love the TV show. I think it does well in presenting an adult fantasy story on mainstream television (if HBO is "mainstream"), which is something that very rarely happens. Usually these things fall apart under the silliness of the story or magic, and when they attempt to be "dark" they end up being shallow or pretentious. Which Game of Thrones manages to not fall in. 

Yet.

The reason I say "yet" is I feel it's skirting on the edge here. And the reason I have is this: it isn't confident enough in its dark premise.

Let me elaborate: A Game of Thrones (and the whole Song of Fire and Ice) is a dark batch of books. The characters are delightfully gray, with even the most noble appearing "heroes" often making selfish, poor mistakes and having us (as readers) question if we really admire these people as much as we thought. It has been said that the only good main character in this book is Samwise, which I can agree with. 

What made the books (especially the first one) so good is the fact it manage to be exciting, tense, and dark without having to do much stuff that the mainstream would classify as "exciting, tense, and dark." While there was plenty of violence, it wasn't at the forefront. While there was sex happening all the time (including incest, rape, and more) it was almost never on camera, and tended to not be sexually explicit (minus a rather putrid scene at the start of A Clash of Kings). The first book was confident that it could tell its story and be compelling without any cheap tricks. Sex and violence was presented as part of the story, not as gratuitous stimulation to titillate and excite. It was a necessity but not the point, with the violence or sex not being at the center of a scene but rather something that happened to support the dialogue, politics, and dark schemes. It's a fine line to skirt, because a reader can easily get bored without some "cheap thrills," but it was confident and masterfully done enough to pull it off.

But the TV show is not like this, at all.

If you are a legal age female in this show, odds are you'll be seen topless at least once. 

Nudity is all over the place. Scenes in the novel that originally didn't have it added it as a "bonus," and scenes that did have sex are longer and more drawn out to keep things going. They even added an extra "main" character in the first season, some hooker Theron liked, just so she could spout some expository dialogue while the two of them were getting it on. It has gotten so bad that when last week's episode (Season 2 Episode 5, "The Ghost of Harrenhal") came out and was actually the first episode in the series without nudity, people stood up and took notice. Yeah, essentially episode 15 was the first one without some boobs. Nice work.

The reason for this is obvious, if a bit annoying. Since they have a limited run and the books are big, they had to get the expository dialogue out somehow. My main problem is that their #1 choice for doing this is during a sec scene. Vesyris needs to explain about dragons? Do it while he's having sex in a tub. Theron Greyjoy needs to explain the Starks and his frustrations to build into Season 2? Do it when having sex. Dani needs to learn more about the Dothraki? Make sure you do it when also talking about sex. Littlefinger needs to talk about his political goals? Position it over him teaching prostitutes how to turn each other on. Renley and the Knight of Flowers need to chat? Make sure it's while both are nude and shaving each other. Not all expository dialogue is presented via sex, but it does seem to be the vast majority.

What? Characters talking without sex? REWRITE IT!

While this could easily be dismissed as laziness of the writers, I honestly don't think so. There are plenty of added scenes that are actually quite good. The highlight for me is a dialogue between Robert and Ceresi in the first season that isn't in the book. You don't really learn much about their relationship in the novel except they generally hated each other and were married out of politics, but this little scene is just the two of them talking and remembering their times together. Both are horrible people (Robert because he's a fat, lazy sloth and Ceresi because she only cares about her personal gain and the gains of her children) but cast in this light you see them differently. You are given dialogue that explains the world and digs deeper into the character's. It's a great scene.

So I know the writers are capable here, because the rest of the show (both stuff that's new and old) is written masterfully. So why the need for all the sex? (and exaggerated violence, but we'll just assume everybody knows that's in there so I don't have to talk about it)

I think it's because Game of Thrones isn't confident that it'll be "dark" enough without showing all this awful stuff. It isn't confident in the viewers understanding the depth of the characters without shoving it into their faces.

Consider this: In Season 2 Episode 4, "Garden of Bones," Joffery is given two whores from his uncle as a birthday present. What happens is a long, horrible scene where the young king basically forces them to beat each other bloody. It's a stressful thing to watch because of how awful and trapped these whores are (though don't worry; both are completely nude and the show isn't afraid to show it).

I don't remember if this happens in the book, but it was certainly never presented in scene. My question is this: Why was it necessary to burn 10 minutes of a already crammed show on this? We already know Joffery is horrible. We knew it the second we laid eyes on him; he was a smug, pompus jerk. The actor was fantastic at portraying this without being overt. And, after he has done so many horrible things already, why is this necessary?

Because they aren't confident, is why. They can't let the subtle characters of the book simply play out; they have to slap you in the face with it. Over and over. "Look at us! Look how dark our characters are! Look how edgy we are! We are HBO, you can't see this on normal TV!"

Look at this picture. You KNOW he's a douche. You didn't need to see him order naked prostitutes to beat each other to prove it. 

There are many, many examples of this. And while you could argue it's to make it more appealing to a mainstream (read: dumber) audience than those who read the books, I really feel that it is more of them thinking their "edgy" drama is impotent, so they always overcompensate. Trust me guys: we know how bad the characters are. We know this is a dark story. But because you insist on showing us how edgy you are, the impact is lost. We are desensitized to boobs because they are all over the place. We are desensitized to violence because it's always gory and gruesome. And so, when a scene that is supposed to be impactful because of the violence or sex or abuse comes up, its effect is lessened. You are actually weakening your characters by having them be so blatant.

This might be a little nitpick and again, I'm technically a "new" fan of the books so I might be wrong, but it is really starting to get to me. It's almost predictable now...is an infodump needed? I bet you the next scene starts with somebody getting it on with somebody else. Oh look, I was right, what a surprise.

It's like HBO is a kid trying to hard to be dark and evil and scary he went to Hot Topic and bought all the clothes and stacked them all on and goes around growling and cussing and making lewd gestures, while all the adults just shake their heads and chuckle to themselves. That isn't edgy, it's overkill. The source material is so incredibly dark already, it would work better if you were subtle. Don't beat it into our heads that Joffery is the worst human being on the planet, just let him show it in line with the story. What does the beating of the whores have to do with the overarching narrative? Nothing. But when he forces Sansa to strip and humiliates her in front of the court (which Tyrion saves her from), this shows progression. It shows Joffery is awful right there. It shows Sansa is broken. And it shows Tyrion might actually have a heart, while earning plenty of Joffery's ire. It's a great scene, and it had no boobs (probably because the actress for Sansa is underaged), no forcing the point, and no expository dialogue. And hey, it was a scene lifted from the book. What a surprise.

At least all of Arya's plot arch is wonderfully intact.

Lastly, since this has gone on far too long anyway, let me give one final example. As I mentioned before, the Episode "The Ghost of Harrenhal" was the first episode to not have any boobs. I'd like to just point out a scene (minor spoiler here) that I felt was powerful that didn't have to rely on any cheap tricks to make it that way.

Tywin is around a table with his lords, discussing the war against Robb Stark. He's decided Arya is to be his cupbearer, without knowing her true identity, so she is essentially hearing her brother's mortal enemy discuss how he is going to destroy his armies in a methodical, tactical manner. As the scene plays out she is brought into the conversation, believed by Tywin to be a northern girl but not aware she's a Stark. After asking her what the northerns think of Robb, she spins a tale of mythological proportions about Robb's strength and Direwolf. Tywin laughs, asking Arya if she believes Robb is invincible. She says, "No...any man can be killed." Scene closes on Arya.

It's worth nothing there is almost no swearing, violence, rude behavior, sex, or anything of the sort in this scene, yet it is dark, creepy, tense, and powerful. We see Tywin as he really is: a genius and ruthless warlord whose competence makes him sympathetic but also a bit arrogant; had he know it was Arya there he might have realized his life was potentially in danger. And we also see Arya's arc growing: she's becoming more revenge fueled, convincing herself that she can kill anyone, even Tywin. Lastly, we are seeing the world and war develop, and all this is portrayed by some downright killer acting across the board. 

These are the types of scenes the show needs. We don't need people spouting politics in bed or right after. Giving somebody to do while spouting dialogue is a common writing trick: people sitting around is boring. But adding sex to make it "edgy" is just crass and cheap. If you can't use a scene from the book, make one that isn't there but doesn't involve tons of nudity. If you need to infodump, do it through other scenes. It was already sublimely interwoven in the novels; do it here if you want to retain that spirit. 

Plus, you know you want this in Season 3, HBO. 

Let me close by saying this: I do not hate this show. In fact, it's probably my most favorite TV show ever. It's magnificently cast, acted, and the production values are through the roof. I think it's setting a new bar for television, and I also am glad that medieval fantasy is finally getting through to the mainstream public as this might open up options for future TV shows in that genre.

That being said, I think the series could do better. Right now it's amazing, but with just a few changes it could be unforgettable. It shines with greatness, presenting powerful scenes and characters, and right when I'm sold that it's just the greatest thing we cut to a scene of expository dialogue and boobs. Or some grotesque, overly-bloody gore and violence. Or some other scene of crass tastelessness that seems to be there just to shock and awe. 

You are better than this, Game of Thrones. Stop pandering to the lowest common denominator. You are making a show for smart people, so stop backpedaling and make it for smart people. We don't need boobs and guts to get our attention. We want rich characters, crazy politics, and Tyrion outsmarting everybody with hilarious results. We want it to be dark but not edgy, serious and realistic but not overblown. The show is so close it hurts, and I was hoping after Season 1 when fans complained about these little things they'd fix them. They haven't, so I'm complaining again.

Make it happen, HBO. Make real, adult television. And then maybe this show will be remembered for much more. 


(Not so) Brief Update

on Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Don't worry; the Violence in Fantasy Writing Part 2 blog will be here soon enough, as will my review of my friend's album. However, I straightened some things out with regards to my writing and I thought I'd share.

I have goals set for May and June, and they are as follows:

May
Finish A Straight Cut
Edit and send out queries for Half
Give Half to a limited Alpha run (while queries are out, probably)
Edit and prepare queries for Death's Aria
Plan Quarter (Half sequel; almost done with that already!)
Plan chapter outline for middle-grade novel


June
Write Dapper Lycanthropies Time Travel to Ancient Egypt and Save History (or whatever it ends up being called) in two weeks
Write Quarter in another two weeks


More Details
Editing Death's Aria is obviously the biggest thing in store for May, as A Straight Cut probably only has 20-30k left in it. I'm not stressing over wordcount for May I've decided; I already did for both March and April, and I have more important things to do (like fix my currently finished novels and submit them to meet my yearly goals slash actually move on this "career" thing).

After re-reading Half I've decided I actually think it turned out decent enough to submit to people. Is it perfect? No. But to be honest my strength as an editor is (in my opinion) overshadowed by my strength to write decent first drafts, so after a clean-up I'm sending it to every paranormal/urban fantasy person I know. Also: if Half does not get picked up, I will Kindle publish it. Despite it being silly I like it too much to just let it die (like what is currently happening to the Steelgods series).

I will need Alphas for the book. However, this is a very "pulpy" novel. Think the Monster Hunter International books or the first Dresden Files novels. It is intended as a fun ride and, while I'd love for it to be a refined fun ride, it's clearly seated in the less... prestigious realms of literature.

I'm also preparing for the GRE which I take the last weekend of May, which is right over CONduit. So I won't be at CONduit. Sad day. And I'll have to do that in May too.

June should be easier in theory. Quarter is practically sorted out already. I don't have an outline but I have the main plot points and twists, which is more than I had for Half and it ended up ok. We'll also be doing my middle-grade novel about time-travelling werewolves who are super British and go to Egypt, which will be short so two weeks should be feasible. I am going to a Jenkins family reunion so this isn't an easy goal at all, but as a plus I'll be surrounded by kids of the intended demographic for the werewolf book, so maybe I'll get some early Alphas. :P

Also both Quarter and Dapper Werewolves are books I just really want to write. To be honest, while I've been excited about ideas before (like A Straight Cut) I haven't really gotten sucked into a story on a personal level on a while. Death's Aria did a decent enough job, but the difference in my writing (both personally and the actual words on the page) between A Straight Cut and Half point clearly to the fact that I should be loving what I write more. So I'm going to write awesome stuff that appeals to me, even if it isn't high brow or whatever.

Not that I hate A Straight Cut (I FINALLY figured a bunch of stuff about it out, so the underarching story is really awesome now) but it isn't sticking. Also I know I have to almost completely rewrite the first 2/3rds (or do very heavy edits) before I can even show it to anybody, which is discouraging.

So that's my personal update that you probably don't care about. It works for me because it clears my head and now I have goals. So expect novel #10 (A Straight Cut) by end of May, and than a blitz for #11 and #12 in whatever order come June.

On Violence in Writing Fantasy: Part One

on Thursday, April 26, 2012
Pictured: Potential violence in fantasy. And Sean Bean

So I've been considering the topic of violence while writing fantasy for some time now, though a more recent conversation with my father-in-law finally sparked it to the point where this blog post exists. Violence in fantasy novels is fairly commonplace, as it is part of that whole "swords and sorcery" appeal that draws people into fantasy in the first place. You could argue a fantasy novel without a swordfight really isn't a fantasy novel, as if it's some unspoken requirement. What I want to look at is two important questions: Why do we feel violence is necessary in fantasy, and How do we portray the violence to best help a manuscript or story progress?

For this first part in this multi-part blog post, here's a brief look into other mediums to see how they handle violence. We'll start with perhaps the easiest to explain: Video Games.

From Bloodforge, a game that released yesterday on Xbox 360

Video Games have become dependent on violence to even exist. From the very first time Mario stomped a Goomba flat to the throngs of 12-year-olds currently blasting each other to death in Call of Duty, video games have become completely desensitized to violence. In fact, they are all reliant on violence to even make a game. Name me a dozen games that don't use violence at all to tell a story. Modern games. Old adventure games don't count.

Journey is the only one that comes to mind, and perhaps the recently released Fez, both indie games. The point is: violence is so overblown in video games that they are glorifying in it. The bloodies, messiest games (like Bloodforge above, God of War, Dead Space, etc.) often do so because they sell better. Like the slogan "Sex Sells" in advertising, "Violence Sells" could be applicable to video games.

Because of this, any sort of emotional impact violence might have in the majority of video games is lost. How am I supposed to feel sad my companion died in Modern Warfare 3 if I spent the whole game gunning down hundreds of people? Why should I be sad in an JRPG when my one character dies when I've spent the whole game slaughtering people, animals, and anything that has XP attached? Nier is the only game I can think of that actually turned this idea of glorifying slaughter against the player through its story, which is probably why I feel the game is atrociously clever. It was a game with swords, blood, and killing that lured you into the traditional gaming mechanic of "kill everything that moves," then pulled a clever twist on you that I won't spoil here.

The point is this: video game violence has become completely meaningless in terms of story, for most games. Even story-centric ones like Mass Effect seem to lose and edge when somebody I know dies because I've just finished killing hundreds of people. Perhaps the worst culprit of this is Uncharted, which is essentially Indiana Jones if Indiana Jones was just killing random mercenaries instead of Nazies, and doing it by the hundreds. As he cracks jokes and laughs he looks like a psychopath to anybody not familiar to this blood-soaked medium, like the creators saw Indiana Jones but completely missed why we didn't think he was a raving loon: he didn't kill everything that moved. In fact, someone counted the murders across all four movies, and there's only around 20, tops. I do more than that in the first ten minutes of any video game I've picked up in the last six months.

So video games don't know how to use violence for anything other than glorification (as a majority, anyway) and appealing to males.

One of the few movies that portrays all violence as horrific as it actually is.

Movies and television, however, haven't pigeonholed themselves into the violence-centered showcase like video games have. But, to be honest, they aren't without their flaws. The main difference between movies and games (aside from the interactivity) is movies aren't afraid to make movies without violence. They can make romantic comedies. They can make family dramas that are powerful and without a single ounce of violence in them. They can make silly movies, odd movies, and art-house movies. Comedies and more can all be bereft of any form of physical violence whatsoever.

However, when you go down to the fantasy genre, you find movies can be just as guilty as anyone else in glorifying violence.

Let's take the example from the first picture: the Game of Thrones TV adaptation. It's worth noting there actually isn't a hefty amount of violence in the first book, compared to other fantasy novels. Most violence happens off-screen, is very brief, and clean. The book is more about being a mystery story set in a dark fantasy world, while we follow a family as their lives change and influence the world around them. Even the most powerful death in the book, which I will not spoil here, is not described at all. Even abstractly. It's a brilliant death, too, and far more harrowing because you don't even see it. 

And then we have the TV show. Aside from adding tons of sex to "spice up" when expository dialogue was needed, they also extremely ramped up the violence. A guy gets a knife stabbed through his eye. You see a man get his head ripped off in the first fifteen minutes, and another one beheaded shortly after. A guy rips out a man's throat and pulls his tongue out through it, on screen, unashamed. Glorifying violence much, HBO?
Khal Drogo will mess you up. 

Looking at other fantasy novels it doesn't get better. The Lord of the Rings adaptations were surprisingly faithful, but they still spent a whole lot of time watching our heroes slice up orcs. Scenes that were off-camera in the book were put into the movie simply because they were battle scenes. The original novels certainly had their share of battles, but they weren't important. What was important was the characters, and that was forgotten.

I can't end this without mentioning the Disney adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis knew very well that putting a battle in the middle of a children's book was a slippery slope; should you really be showing kids killing mythological creatures? He did the right thing and cut straight to the aftermath, glossing over it because it really wasn't important. We all knew the Narnian's would win, and what happened after was far more interesting. Of course, the movie adaptation completely ruined this, showing kids murdering tons of stuff on camera, unashamed. The rest of the movie was downright fantastic, extremely faithful, and actually quite touching. But the second that battle comes on I'm pulled out. Also, how the heck is that movie PG?

The point is that movies are just as guilty at glorifying violence as video games, if just not as frequent. I can't think of any fantasy movie off the top of my head that manages to get through their whole thing without a swordfight or somebody killing somebody else. While I think violence can be used in a powerful way (such as in A History of Violence), in the fantasy sub-genre of film it rarely is, ever. Star Wars is actually an excellent example for both good and bad (past movies vs prequels), but I'll get into that later.

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn novels (the original trilogy) manage to have violence that is fun to read while not being gratuitous


Then we come to our current medium of choice, written books. While books certainly have been violent and gory, for the most part the majority of fantasy novels tend to tone it down substantially when compared to movies and video games. My personal theory on this matter is that the demographic that tends to enjoy graphic, gory violence tends to be males, usually in the age ranges of 13-25. It's also known that males (especially in this age range) tend to be most stimulated by anything when it is taken in visually (which is why pornographic videos tend to cater more towards males rather than females, etc.). Blood and guts in a video game or movie is easy to watch, digest, and get the violence "high" that is somewhat common with this generation of boys and men, while reading it doesn't quite do the same thing.

The point being that, if you want to argue which medium is the most "mature," the point would obviously go towards literature. It also has been around the longest, which one could use as the reasoning, but also there's that visual aspect that makes it different. Books also have the widest scope of the above mediums: they can be informative texts, artistic literary stories, romances, mysteries, fantasies...the list goes on. Unlike movies, however, you rarely find books that are violent just for the sake of being titivating (like the Saw or Hostel movies), nor do you find books overtly pornographic in nature (though the erotica genre could be argued for, but if you compared that with film pornography you'd see a massive distance, undoubtably due to target demographic).

The point is that with books much more is expected from the creators. In movies and video games you can get away with just adding tons of violence without purpose except to be "exciting." With books, that will come off as shallow or even boring. Long, overdrawn action scenes may be exciting for the author to write, but reading it might actually just be tiresome.

So we have our three mediums. In writing, how can we make violence be important?  How can it impact the reader? I'll try and go over this in the next couple of blog posts.

Revising, finishing, all that jazz

on Monday, April 23, 2012
A Straight Cut's third act draws from this awesome book

So I finished plotting A Straight Cut, which actually involved completely reworking the third act. My main issue with the novel currently (and will need to be fixed in an edit before going out to Alphas) is the lack of direction for the first 2/3rds of the novel. While it's been fun to have characters interact and putter around in the world I've made, the underlying plot has been shrouded in secrecy, making it boring. Luckily Act 3 will ramp things up a bit, but it really needs a stronger first two acts in order for the third act to both make sense and actually be meaningful. 

Which means heavy editing, but we aren't worrying about that now. Now I just need to finish this dumb thing.

In other news, I restructured how Death's Aria will play out, which mostly involved moving key scenes to make the final confrontation stronger and more significant. The biggest complaint from Alphas was that the ending confrontation felt weak. Generally the results of it were fine, but the actual scene itself and the events leading up to it were stagnating after such a strong second act. I've relocated one of the strong second act scenes (clever readers might guess what I'm referring to) towards the end of the book, making the final conflict much more character driven. This also allows me to further develop the characters up to that point and fix lots of the third act's pacing issues, which will be good.

The other major change is Aria's character. While many readers felt they warmed up to her by the end, others were so disgusted with her at first they couldn't get over that initial first impression and despised her throughout. I'm reworking her so that she is more likeable at the beginning but still seriously flawed, which makes her less of a jerk who has a social problem and more of someone trying to do better...who has social problems. This shouldn't change the character enough to break my initial idea, but I think it will make her much more sympathetic. 

All this is going to require a hefty amount of editing, so I'm hoping to burn through A Straight Cut quickly so that I can move on to Death's Aria and start submitting. We'll see!

I'm also mad that I scheduled the GRE over CONduit without knowing it, and they think it's acceptable to charge freaking $50 to reschedule. Seriously? For a test I'm taking on a computer that probably is proctored by one person you aren't paying enough for? Besides, we all know you just have a pool of these SAT questions you draw from to make tests. How much could it possibly cost? Monopoly at its finest. 

Anyway, that's it from me. I have a review of a friend's album coming up within the next little bit, so keep an eye out for that!

Two-Week Blitz: What I Learned

on Monday, April 16, 2012
Me, at around 9:15 pm last night. 

So I'm honestly surprised I pulled this off. For a little background on the project (this might be a recap from previous blog posts...bear with me) I was writing A Straight Cut, my YA fantasy canyon book thingy, and something about it was bugging me. It probably just hit that "2/3 mark" blues that always happens with manuscripts, when you start wondering if things will actually come together and if you totally just wasted your time and creative vision. Yeah, that part of the manuscript.

Anyway, it was so bad I couldn't continue and my wordcount was suffering. Rather than slog through it and waste a month whining, I decided to just write something for fun. I'd been wanting to write a book about a half-vampire vampire hunter for a while (probably ever since I watched Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust like freaking ten years ago) so I put A Straight Cut aside, and with no planning or preparation or even a premise (minus a half-vampire vampire hunter) I dove into it.

Two weeks and 80,000 words later, here we are. A complete novel. And you'll have to take my word for it, but I don't think it's that awful. Rough, absolutely, and to be honest I doubt anybody would ever buy it. But for a silly, pulpy read that involves killing vampires along with crazy plot twists and just general B-movie weirdness, I think it works.

Anyway, the experience was actually quite a revelation to me, much like writing Harbinger in three months during the summer of 2009 was (geez, that was three years ago?). For Harbinger, it proved that the first book wasn't a fluke: I could actually write books if I put my mind to it. For Half...well, let me just go down the list.

And apologies in advance if this is long, but I'm hoping you'll be able to glean some helpful information from this regardless.

-----

I (and therefore you) can make time to write every day if we put it as a priority

This was a big one. As stated in previous posts, I had an extremely busy two weeks, and that isn't on the writing end. I worked 6 out of 7 days last week, not counting all the other crap I had to do, and most of my evenings were completely full. When I finally got around to plotting out chapters, my heart sank. I had to write a minimum of two every day, which would be anywhere from 4,000-8,000 words, on days where I was completely booked from 7 am to 10 pm. How on earth was I going to write?

However, because I was determined to accomplish this, I started putting other, less important things aside to give writing priority. I ignored my video game blog. I didn't watch any movies, GiantBomb (my favorite video game video site), YouTube, or do anything past skim my favorite time-wasting websites. I still engaged in social networking, but I've never been very religious on that stuff so it wasn't difficult. The big one was that I ignored the freaking unbelievable draw of Age of Empires Online, which has been consuming my life these past few days. I even bought a new game and got another one in the mail, games I'd been looking forward to for a while (Silent Hill HD Collection) that I still have not played. Until my writing goals were accomplished, it took first spot.

Strangely enough, even after only two weeks this started to become habit. Rather than going home from work looking forward to lounging around, playing games, wasting time, and then maybe writing, every day I came home knowing I had to write, and I was excited about it. Because I just kept doing it and bumped it up on the priority list, it was actually much more fun to go write than to play video games or waste time. It wasn't easy, and it took a few days to fully kick in, but once it did I was actually making excuses to write more. With Harbinger I learned that if I was dedicated I could write every day. With Half, I learned that I could enjoy and look forward to it, and that it really wasn't that hard to make time, even if it was just an hour an evening.


-----

Put book progress first, wordcount second. 

I've never been a planner. Even with Half, I only started plotting it about 1/3 of the way in, and it wasn't until the 2/3 mark that all the bits and pieces I'd been building up and randomly injecting into the story started to piece together to make the ending. But that's for another section; the point of this is chapter outlines.

I rarely use chapter outlines until I'm near the end of a book. This is mostly because I'm scared that outlining every chapter in my book will stifle the creativity of the story. Some of my best scenes and chapters were impromptu and entirely unplanned, the book taking me in a direction I didn't expect and myself as author just going along for the ride. So it's scary when everything feels so set in stone like that. 

With Half I had to do it because I didn't have time to wait for creativity to just randomly hit me mid-sentence. And, oddly enough, my wordcount worked better for it. When I had a chapter list (even if for 90% of the time the last act was just "whatever happens; who knows, maybe four chapters?") I had a clearcut goal to accomplish. Every chapter I finished felt good, like I could check it off a list as I continued my slow march towards completion. Since I had plot progress goals rather than just "write 2,000 words," my scenes were more streamlined right off the bat. Wordcount skyrocketed.

Did I still split chapters? You bet; some days I only had two chapters planned and four spawned out of it. But because I already had an end goal for the day (due to my rather lenient and vague outline) I would just plug forward until I accomplished it. It was a challenge, a mountain to climb, and in tandem with that my number of words a day went up as well. There were certainly days where my goal required only a few words, and then I had the satisfaction of having my evening free. It was weird; I didn't realize how much better this formula works for me, but it does. Having a blanket number can be helpful but also weak. Making actual percent progress in the plot feels like you are actually working towards something. Just food for thought.  

-----

Turn off the personal editor.

This is another big one, and one that is hard for lots of people (including me). My biggest issue with A Straight Cut is I hit a point where my internal editor (who is actually a pretty crappy editor, based on my editing abilities) would start screaming at me over every stupid word I'd put to page. And, retroactively, he kept harassing me about all my previous words, making me doubt my previous chapters. "Nobody will buy this!" He'd rave like the douchebag he is. "Who wants to read this crap? You took a good idea and squandered it!"

Half punched the editor in the face, for a few reasons. First, it's a freaking vampire book. I knew this was going to be a pulpy, silly romp when I started it. So who cares if nobody reads it? It was the same thing with The Ashen Destroyer, my Effulgent Corruption fanfic novella. I was writing for myself again, not for some perceived agent, editor, writing group, or audience. I was allowing myself to just get sucked into the story, to love the characters and do whatever crazy stuff I felt like doing. It felt great, and the editor could only bug me about sentence structure and stuff, and even then I had spellcheck turned off (so no red lines) so I would just write words and not stop to worry about it.

I think something a lot of prospective authors forget is the fact that nobody published actually has complete creative freedom. Sure, they can technically write what they want, but eventually that's going to have to go through a writing group, agent, editor, and eventually the harshest critics of all: the fans. Any author worth his or her salt doesn't want to spend the rest of his or her life cleaning the thing up in post, so s/he starts making sure their first drafts are a little better. Which, whether they like it or not, stifles creativity. I'm not saying this is a bad thing; it's a sign of becoming a better writer. But what I am saying is for some people this can be too much, and go too far. Not to cite any examples, but think of authors who take years upon years to just write the next manuscript in a series. Their self-editors are going nuts, and usually when the book comes out it is bland and less creative than the previous entries in the series. It's that damned self-editor, thinking he knows everything, when really he should be kept in check and only used if necessary.

Half was when I turned all my limitations off. It was my first book since Harbinger (and Lacrymosa before it) where I felt like I could just do whatever the hell I wanted and not care about the consequences. I think the book is stronger for it, and it certainly helped me enjoy the story more personally.


-----

You can fix it in post. Or in the middle. Or whenever. 

This kind of ties in with the last two, but it was really brought to the forefront when writing Half. I jumped into this thing headfirst not even knowing if the pool was full of water, jello, or radioactive scorpions. I knew the goal (the other side of the pool) but what I was swimming through to get there was a mystery. I just wrote anyway, thinking of stuff that would be cool and would eventually get me to the other side.

About 1/3 of the way through I figured it out, using what I'd established already to set up the second act of the book. Following that, at the 2/3 mark I completely changed my plans and decided to have the ending escalate in a completely different place, after a completely different incident, and with a totally new climax. Was my book ruined? Did I have to go back and rewrite everything?

Nope. I did have to go back and add a very small section in the middle of a chapter, as well as alter several bits of dialogue to provide proper foreshadowing, but it was about a thirty minute fix at most. Granted, since then I changed it again, so I still have to go back and make sure it is all tight, but the point is that you can fix stuff later. If you have an idea that is just marvelously amazing, just write it in and then fix it later. Granted, this won't work with any idea (it has to be within reason), but the point still stands. Don't stifle your creativity. It can always be fixed after you are done: just focus on getting to the end before examining the journey.


-----

Write what you love, and love it when you write. 


So this title is kind of hokey, but the point still stands: if you want to do this as a living, you have to enjoy it. Art isn't like an office job. In an office job, you can sort of not enjoy what you are doing but it's a grind. You aren't usually required to make something beautiful or artistic as a part of it (unless your office job is creating art, in which case you should probably still enjoy it or else you'll get static crap...like shovelware video games), you just do your time and go home. But with writing art, especially if you haven't sold a book, you'd better really like doing it. If it's painful or too difficult or you can't seem to find time for it, maybe you aren't cut out for it. Lots of people really want to write a book, but few people do, and fewer write a second. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but if you really love writing you'll keep doing it. You won't need money or fame or someone bossing you around to go out and do that thing you love. It's just what you do because that's who you are. Or you can grow to love it through practice.

Writing Half was stressful. Very stressful. My self-imposed deadline was killer and it sucked away all my free time. But looking back I had a total blast last week. It was a very hard week in terms of not-writing. I had tons of work, things went bad at work, I was stressed, and I had little time to do what I wanted. But I had something to look forward to after all that was done. I got to dive back into a silly story about a flippant vampire hunter who loved his job. I got to use my imagination to create whatever I wanted every single night, not worrying about what I or other people felt about it. It was fun and a journey, an adventure that only I got to go on with my characters. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, even with all the stress and pain.

So write because you love it, and you'll love your writing. Make it happen.


-----


There was certainly a bit more, but I think that will do for now. Point being that I am very glad I tried this, and gladder still I managed to pull it off. It was a very rewarding experience, and helped me get back into a writing mood for more "serious" projects (though I do plan on editing Half...and if anybody wants to read it I'll gladly send it your direction). 

That's it from me. I hope to start the Game of Thrones HBO series reviews tonight, so stay tuned!

Book #9, HALF, is done.

on Sunday, April 15, 2012
Click to enlarge

I did it. 

It nearly killed me, but I did it.

To get an idea: I wrote 8,000 words on Friday, 10,000 words on Saturday, and 13,000 words today in order to pull this off. 

I feel like this book just kept squeezing and squeezing me until the words came out, but it ended up working out because I finished it. Half is complete.

And I have a book now about vampire hunters, elves, and supernatural diseases. Yay?

Here's some fun facts.

Total Words: 79,590 (so close to 80k I can taste it! Edits will probably bump it up)
Days Written: 15 (Sunday to Sunday to Sunday. April 1st to April 15th)
Average Words a Day: 5306
Chapters: 25 and an epilogue
Total Time: 30 hours (exactly. Weird)

Wacky stats? I'm really tired, but I can manage a few.

Main Hero Characters: Five
Character Deaths: That's a spoiler, foo'!
Vampire Deaths: There's...a lot. Most on camera.
Stages of the Vampire Disease: Five
Types of Supernatural Beings that show up: Five
Werewolves in the book: ZERO. 
Really bad jokes from the protag: There's lots of these
Ending promising a sequel? Of course

Despite starting simply because I thought writing a book about somebody half-vampire would be a cool idea, this book really developed and took off in directions I didn't expect. Re-reading it (granted I was skimming it) I found I actually really enjoyed both reading and writing it. Of course, it's my own thing so I'm probably biased, but after some clean-up this might actually not be a horrible thing.

I could publish it on Kindle at least. Just saying. 

Point being that while it's easy to dismiss it as "another vampire book," I did try to do things that would make it enjoyable to read, while sticking to the mythology enough but infusing it with some personal ideas of my own. I actually ended up really liking the world, even if they don't dig deep into it at all, and will probably revisit this series (?) sometime when I'm pissed off at another book and need to go on a writing blitz (I'm looking at you, A Straight Cut).

So Book #9 wasn't quite what I expected, and that means Book #10 is probably going to be A Straight Cut. So we'll see how long it takes me to finish that now that I'm used to writing 5000 words a day.

Also, I thought of a brilliant idea for the best children's book ever which I'm totally writing after A Straight Cut, but the premise is a secret to everybody but my writing group so YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO WAIT. 


The final stretch of the experiment

on Saturday, April 14, 2012
This movie is gonna be awesome.

So Half is sitting nicely just shy of 60k after around two weeks. I have finished Act 2 and am now on the final act, where everything goes totally bananas. I'm estimating another 4 and a half to 5 chapters remain, and I'm stuck at work until 8 tonight and have plenty to do tomorrow.

I'm gonna do it if it kills me.

To be completely honest, this was probably the worst set of weeks to try this. Last week wasn't extremely busy aside from work, but we did have busy evenings and it was freaking Easter so, you know.

This week was super bad. It was my six day work-week, and in addition almost every single evening (which is when I do most of my writing) was busy with something that ended up going the entire time. As a plus I got to go out to eat twice, saw The Hunger Games, and discovered that Buffalo Wild Wings is pretty much the best place to eat on the planet, but it still put a massive dent in writing time.

So yeah, if I'm doing another "two week" thing, I'm planning it over better weeks.

But still, it's been a very interesting experience, and I plan on giving a detailed write up that nobody will probably care about after I (hopefully) finish on time. Since I'm a discovery writer there was no planning put into this at first, meaning stuff only started to fit together at around the 60% mark, and even then I had to go back and fix all the stupid mistakes I made so that there was "foreshadowing" and all that junk. But again, as an experience I have learned a ton, and hopefully sharing it with you guys will help you with your own writing. Or at least be interesting.

Anyway, that's the story from me. I still plan on doing an episodic Game of Thrones TV show review on here soon, and post some Hunger Games movie impressions. So stay tuned!

Writing Update

on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I've been quiet and it's late so this will be a brief post, but I figured I'd give a status update.

I've been writing Half for every day. According to my calculations, if I wrote two chapters a day every day this week, I'd finish the book on Sunday. Unfortunately, I'm currently a chapter and a half behind due to procrastination and the fact that this is "Hell Week" (something that happens every other week where I work 6 days of the week). I also have stuff planned almost every evening this week, which makes it hard, as well as my crippling Age of Empires Online addiction.

That being said, I've written, on average, 5,000 words a day over the past 9 days, including the "Bad" day that I only got 1500 out. I've also got a solid plot for the entire book that I actually think is pretty decent, if it is kind of ruined by the fact I used stupid vampires. Whatever, I'm writing for fun, you'll survive.

That's 43,483 words in 9 days. Which is the length of a full middle grade novel and a shorter end YA novel. My final estimation is that this will be around 70-80k. I don't have the last 1/6th of the book set in stone, though, so it might end up being longer.

This is also a very..."pulpy" book. In that I wanted to make it a fun ride but there isn't really any substantial depth to it (though I did try and both remain loyal to mythology and mix it up a bit). It's probably awful, but I really don't care at this point because I'm having a great time writing it and (hopefully) it'll at least be a stupid fun read if I decide to ever share it with anybody.

After I finish I'll be formulating Death's Aria edits and finishing A Straight Cut. I'm hoping to have Death's Aria edited by the end of April or Mid-May at the latest so I can begin sending it out. I have high hopes for that book.

I also spent monday making Steampunk Goggles. If you want to see the details, my wife's blog covers it in more extensive detail.

That's it on my status update. Still writing, still trying to write a book in two weeks. If I didn't work Saturday I'd devote the whole day to it, so I guess I'll be saving that for Sunday.

Writing what feels good

on Monday, April 2, 2012


So I'm switching gears. After being deathly ill last week but still writing ~750 words a day on A Straight Cut, the book hit it's 60,000 word mark and officially hit the point where I hate it. This seems to happen with every book I write at some point: usually around the 40-60k mark I start hating everything about the novel and want to never show it to anybody ever again.

Luckily, I usually push through, but with A Straight Cut I have a problem: I know how the book ends, and I know what I want it to be, but I have no idea how to get there. Or I have an idea, and it is bland.

After some extensive walks and brainstorming, I've decided to set A Straight Cut down for a little bit. Not too long, seeing as I still want to finish it, but I need to take a break and write something else. I need to write something I want to write. Something faster paced. Something with more violence. Something...stupid.

So I'm writing a vampire book.

Yes, you hear it right, I'm succumbing to genre cliches and writing a book with vampires in it. Hey, at least they are hunting them rather than loving them.

It's an idea I've had muddled about in my brain for...well, a long time to be completely honest. I never really went for it because I felt it was 1. Stupid and 2. Falling into mainstream genre trapping, but you know what? I don't care. I wanted to write it, it's going to keep bugging me until I do write it, and I need to write something that I don't care about if it sucks or not for a while.

So I'm going to do it. But in true Nathan fashion, I'm going to make it hard on myself. My goal is to finish this book in two weeks.

I currently have a basic structure of a plot, but not worrying about if it sucks means that if I ever get bored I can add more vampire hunting or bad attempts at humor or whatever the crap I want to keep the story moving. Which also means no excuses for a poor wordcount: I've been slagging off this year so far on my wordcount, so I'm hoping this'll pull it back up. We are going for 3k a day, 4k ideal. Yeah, I know it's a lot, I don't care.

Once it's finished (whether I make the goal or not), I will be editing Death's Aria while writing either the vampire book (called Half) or A Straight Cut on the side (as I have to write new words every day as part of my 2012 goal). From there...who knows.

So that's it. I have a new book in town, and it might suck. Whatever; I need some stress off my back, and this will do that while still not compromising my goals. So here comes Half, you fools. You brought this suckfest upon yourselves. :P

Determination only goes so far

on Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Click to enlarge.



First up: Writing group buddy Adam is running a Kickstarter to help get print copies of his Pathfinder supplement that makes Rogues less useless (and have more variety). If you have any affinity for Pathfinder or D&D go and drop him a few bucks, I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Second up: I apologize for neglecting this blog over the past several weeks. Whenever I'm about to write anything for it I get stricken by either disease or get too busy and it gets neglected. I actually have several interesting (or I think they are interesting anyway) blog posts that actually involve writing in the pipeline, I just haven't gotten around to writing them yet. So...keep your eyes peeled. I'm going to try and post more on here.

Third up: I have the flu pretty bad. Luckily I seem to finally be on the tail end of it (I came back to work today instead of sleeping in. Here's hoping that doesn't undo three days of sleeping and eating Airborn tablets raw), but there was one point I'd like to bring up: I wrote at least 500 words every day I was sick. On Saturday it was so bad that for 1/2 of my awake time I couldn't even sit up; I spent most of the day lying on our loveseat with chills I couldn't get rid of no matter how many blankets I piled on. Despite that I still managed to get a few words out, as I did on Sunday and Monday. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here (I'm pretty sure when I go back to editing those sections are gonna be pretty dang awful), but rather point out that I still have written every day in 2012. So there's that.

Fourth up: It has been difficult for me regarding how long I should actually pursue this dream. Since I started writing "for serious" at the start of 2009 I've written over a million words of novels, branched out to different genres, and even currently plan on stretching my legs a little again (might try writing a horror/thriller novel that I concocted while in previously mentioned chills/fever dream state). The current plan of editing Death's Aria and then submitting it is still a go, and while I'll be doing that I'll be either writing my horror novel (tentatively titled Drip) or revisiting Naught But Glass (which I re-read the other day and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was when I was writing it). But the ultimate point is this: it's time for me to move on as if I'd never sell a book or make a career out of this. I've given it a year since I've graduated to try and push it forward, with me focusing all my resources on both the day job and writing, and I've seen no progress. So it's time to move on. I will still keep pursuing it as hard as I ever can in 2012, but I can tell you if we hit 2013 with no progress I won't exactly be chomping at the bit anymore for this whole writing thing. I'll keep doing it because I love it, but eventually reality kicks in.

Last up: That's actually it. Expect more blog posts in the future, hopefully.

TV Series: Sherlock

on Friday, March 16, 2012
His popped collar gives him power. 

So I don't want much television because most television is total crap. I haven't found it worth my time to sift through all the garbage in an attempt to uncover something that will be only mildly entertaining, and since watching TV takes so much time anyway I tend to not bother. TV also has a knack of starting something off fresh and original (like Pushing Daisies) and then either falling into a typical inter-character dull drama (The Office) or just going totally off the rails (Pushing Daisies again). This is also why I'm not all that miffed Firefly only got a first season: who knows if they wouldn't have messed that up?

Anyway, point is that I usually not watch much TV, and when I do it tends to be British TV (like stuff on the BBC) because they are actually funny and subtle and usually have original ideas. So, since I hate every show, it should be worth noting that I think Sherlock is one of the best things I've seen ever on television.

It's premise isn't exactly novel, after all those not-quite-as-good movies with Robert Downy Jr. are making mad bank at "modernizing" (or in that case "steampunkizing") Sherlock Holmes. The difference is that Sherlock completely modernizes it, setting it up in a modern day London. It also actually adapts the stories to fit in this setting without losing the original integrity (for the most part). Rather than being a writer, Watson blogs their adventures. Sherlock very clearly has a form of Asperger Syndrome, something characters point out but never really bring up with him. While Downy's Holmes was a jerk, he was sort of a crazy, likeable one. This Sherlock (as he is called, not Holmes) is very much true to the original character in that his only real likeable trait is the fact is he extremely intelligent; his social skills are horrendous and he has Watson as the soft-spoken, sensible foil. The balance works out extremely well.

Both the writing and the acting are superb. While there are a few missteps (the second episode of the first Series isn't that great, and the way a massive cliffhanger at the end of Series 1 resolves at the start of Series 2 plays like a huge cop-out), as a whole the show is very watchable, extremely witty, and immediately grabs you into its world. Again, this might be due to the loyalty to the source material, but Sherlock works on that fundamental level that good television does: it makes you care and takes you on a trip.

Each Series has only three episodes, and each episode is about an hour and a half long, so the length of a short movie. The have reoccurring characters but the main mysteries don't really carry over between (except the end of Series 1 to the start of Series 2), so they are great to just sit down and watch one episode (if you can) and you can leave it at that.

As it stands, this as Breaking Bad I consider to be the best shows on television. Smart, funny, clever, and exceptionally well acted, Sherlock is a treat. The first Series is on Netflix streaming, so if you have that you really should get on it.

Week in Review for 2/5/2012 - 2/11/2012

on Sunday, March 11, 2012
This picture is awesome. 

I forgot to do Week in Review last week! Whoops! I always remember on my stupid video game blog, but for some reason I space it for this one. Maybe it's because that means I have to blog 3+ times (one review for VG blog, one week in review for VG blog, one week in review for this blog) and after about the second one I'm pretty much burned. Not to mention I write at least 2k a day on top of this, have writing group Sundays (though it was off this sunday) and all other life junk. So, you know. I suck. Sorry.

Last Sunday we critiqued Death's Aria, and I got a ton of helpful information out of it. The book certainly has its share of issues I've gotta tackle, but as a whole I'm fairly confident. I'm not yet excited about fixing this thing, but that's why I'm writing something else first. The goal is to have Death's Aria ready to go out by May at the latest, and then start submitting like a crazy person to everybody on the planet. So all agents and editors who read this blog (all zero of you), beware: IT'S COMING.

I also did good with A Straight Cut this week, which I'm liking more and more. It's a first person book, and a big problem I have with first person books (writing them, anyway) is giving our viewpoint character a legit personality. I thought up a lot of things this week to help Timothy actually be interesting (things that'll have to be edited back into the first couple chapters), but I'm starting to think he's getting a bit better. It's hard, but if you don't stretch you never learn, right?

Anyway, here's what I did this week.

Words Written: 15,671
Daily Wordcount Average: 2,239
Current Project: A Straight Cut
Next Project: Death's Aria edits, probably another novella

I'm also still writing every single day. Which I realize isn't impressive now since it's only March, but when October rolls around and I've written every day of the year, we'll see who is laughin' then!

Also edits don't count as new words writing, unless I actually do straight rewrites, so I'll probably need to figure out something to write while I'm doing Death's Aria edits. Time to devise some awful fanfiction of my own books again...or steal Jason's mansion house and write my own awful book set in his world. It's not like he actually reads this blog and would know it was coming...

Anyway, see you next week!

Writing: That Moment

on Saturday, March 10, 2012



I finally hit that moment in A Straight Cut. You know the moment. When stuff starts clicking and you are really excited to keep writing the book. When a scene is just captivating and interesting and you are loving the characters and how everything is set up, and you can't wait yourself to see how it all resolves. Where everything building up to that point has been in preparation for that revelation, and now that you have it you realize things really do sort of fit together well, and you might actually just maybe in fact have a novel here under all these words.

That moment.

I know it happens differently for different people. Some people feel like that from the first chapter, the start of a new adventure in writing. Others it takes longer before it fully clicks, burning through many pages before finally "getting it." I know for me books have taken varying amounts of time before I love them (Death's Aria was quick, Paradise Seekers was instantaneous, Effulgent Corruption took nearly a whole Part, if not more). All the way up to it feels like you are treading water, just sort of writing but not getting anything out of it. Like you've been setting stuff up but you aren't sold on it yet.

Then it sells you, and you can finish the book.

It took A Straight Cut 30,000 words for me. I'm not saying anything before that was bad, I'm saying it didn't draw me in. Usually the whole "magic moment" happens when I discovery write a really good scene. When I know everything that's going to happen its hard for me to be excited. When characters surprise me or dialogue ends up being better or witter than expected, I get sucked in. And then I know the book is possible.

If I don't hit this point quick enough (or the early parts are super-sludgy), than the book can get dropped. Like what happened to Ringforger and what I'm worried has happened to Naught But Glass.

But yeah, that moment. It's great. I'm pumped to write now.

It's also countered by the inevitable "30,000 - 50,000 word 'I HATE MY BOOK' moment," which I swear every manuscript has once it hits that point (this isn't just me; I have proof in the form of other authors [published ones, even] confirming my theory :P), but we'll save that for when I hit it in A Straight Cut. Considering it took 30k for me to get to the "yay I love this book" moment, I'll give it around 75-90k for when I start hating its guts.

So that's it. I'm sorry I've been abandoning this blog, but my video game blog is thriving! That's been both good and bad; I started it as just a fun writing exercise, and now it's getting some insane amount of hits every day and it's only been a few months. I wrote 100 reviews for it already, though, so that's pretty good.

See you in the slump! :P