Dec 18

Intertwined Lives Excerpt and Update

Intertwined Lives under 1Mb

(Not necessarily the final cover)

This was supposed to be my WIP list post, but since all I’ve worked on since the last one is Intertwined Lives that seemed kind of daft to bother with.  Intertwined Lives is now 34,442 words.  I’m two weeks into a plot that will cover two years.  I’m pretty sure I’m looking at a George R. R. Martin length thing here.  Oh well.

(Random oddness:  A suggested related article is a recipe for red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.  What the fuck is this thing smoking lately?!)


Kayden, Richie, Quinn, and Rusark couldn’t be more different. One’s a future stay-at-home Dad, one’s a minor rock star, one’s a rebel-for-hire, and one’s the newest officer in the Sweytzian Special Forces. One’s quiet and shy, one’s outgoing and hyper, one’s suave and charming, and one’s forthright and pragmatic. This book follows their four, very different, stories as they simply live their lives, lives that intertwine because of family, friendship, and love.

This is a story for everyone who’s ever wondered what the heroes do when they’re not saving the day. This is a story for everyone who’s ever wondered what the ordinary people in a society with epic heroes are like.

And the excerpt, from the chapter introducing Richie and his daughters:

Somewhere out there in the tri-galaxies, one of my older sisters was headed home after fighting to free a world from a tyrant.  Somewhere out there, one of my other older sisters was headed home after a bit of smuggling.  I, on the other hand, was in the nursery of my own house, trying to convince my daughters to take a nap.

“Izzy, c’mon, sweety.  I know you’re tired,” I said, putting her in bed for the fourth time in a nulair.  “Boris is sleepy,” I said, handing her her pale purple stuffed luriset.  “Why don’t you cuddle him?”

“Rosie’s up!” she argued.

“Only because you kept poking her,” I said, fighting the perfectly understandable urge to throttle my eldest daughter.  She wasn’t feeling the slightest bit of remorse for waking her sister up.  “Now, back in bed, both of you.  You need to be well rested for tonight.  We’re going to my parents’ house for dinner.  You don’t want to be too sleepy to enjoy that, do you?”

“Don’t wanna sleep with her!” Rosie said, clutching the pink stuffed dragon she carried with her everywhere to her chest.  “She’s meanie!”

“Fine then.  You can go nap on my bed.  Izzy . . . Rosie, what’s wrong, sweety?” I asked, having felt fear from my baby girl and caught a glimpse of her thoughts.  There was something about monsters in them, but I couldn’t make sense out of them beyond that.  There are times being only a quarter-Magvinnian is really annoying.

Rosie started to speak at the same time I noticed Izzy running off.  “Isabella Gwenneth Reddige-Fine, get your butt back in here!”

Izzy looked at me and apparently decided she didn’t like what she saw, as she climbed wordlessly back into bed.  “You’re cranky,” she informed me.

“Because you’re being a brat today.  Now, Rosie, what’s scaring you, baby girl?”

“Monsters under bed!” she yelled, clutching her dragon tighter.

I sighed heavily, wishing once again that I was telepathic enough to know who was to blame for this.  “Why do you think that?”

“James said so!”

I silently swore to kill my younger brother then said, “James is wrong.  Come with me, and we can look under the bed, okay?  Or you can climb up there next to your sister and sleep in here.”

She chose her sister over the monsters.  “Monsters eat little girls.  Izzy just pokes,” she informed me, as she scooted as far away from her sister as she could.

I ran my hands through my hair and shook my head as I walked back down to the living room.

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Dec 11

Five star reviews — Tsar Wars (Agents of ISIS #1) by Stephen Goldin

This is a book I read because the sample made me want to know more about the setting, the characters, and just what the heck was going on.

Also, the series title seems a bit unfortunate now.  This is space opera with no connection to any real world groups, so nobody judge me or the author just because of it, okay?

The description, via Goodreads:


Welcome to the first great space opera decalogy of the twenty-first century! Agents of ISIS is the 21st century re-envisioning of the Family d’Alembert series by its original author, an epic saga describing the fight to preserve humanity from the forces of chaos and destruction.

With humanity scattered across the galaxy on hundreds of worlds, the Empire is the only force for order across the stars. Without it, interstellar conflicts would bring chaos and billions of deaths.

But the tsar has been in a coma for five years now, and his grand-niece, the only apparent heir, is only 14 years old. In this hour of crisis, the task of preserving the Empire falls to two untrained–but far from unskilled–agents of the Imperial Special Investigation Service. Can they make a difference against the vast forces arrayed against them?

And my review,which the author appears to have liked since a quote from it appears in the front matter of the new edition:

What stands out the most to me in this book is the characters. They’re all very distinctive and very entertaining/horrifying/whatever words suits that character the best. They felt real, which is something I personally love in a book. The dialogue also felt natural and appropriate to each characters’ personality.

The plot was fairly predictable in some ways, but not enough to be annoying. That they were going to get from A to B was certain; it was clearly that kind of book; but how they got there was frequently a nice surprise.

I have a minor complaint: A dictionary of the Yiddish terms would’ve been nice, as Google is letting me down on some. Other than that, this is best space opera I’ve read in ages.

An interesting thing about posting this reviews on my blog so very long after I write them is that it gives me time to reflect on the book some.  This one my recollections of prove something Larry Hama once said about how people don’t remember plots, they remember characters.  Tomorrow it will have been six months since I finished the book.  I remember the characters vividly, but only the most exciting and interesting bits of the plot.  This is still the best space opera I’ve read in ages, and the sequel is very high up in my 1300+ item “to read” list.


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Dec 01

Short story: Talen

There are various components in the laboratory...

There are various components in the laboratory… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This one is rather unusual in that I know not just what inspired it, but the precise moment that it started forming in my head.  I was reading Elizabeth McCoy’s Queen of Roses and encountered the phrase “robot autopsy”.  Pretty much immediately I saw the scene with Ren ripping out hunks of Talen’s innards, followed quickly by a couple of the other scenes.

This, like all stories on my blog, differs slightly from the version found elsewhere on this website.  I will, eventually, be updating all of those to have the final versions.

I think this one stands alone fairly well, but if I’m mistaken and you need anything explained, just ask in the comments and I’ll do my best.

Here’s the story:

Renata swore violently as the blast shook her ship.  “Talen, you okay?”

“Talen!” she said again, more forcefully.

“Talen!  Goddammit, answer me!  This is no time for a joke!”  Fear was beginning to creep into her voice.  She dodged the next blast with the ease expected of someone who’d managed to live through being a fighter pilot for a bit over three decades.

Talen!”  There was still no answer.

Having a moment to do so, she finally looked at the readout that would show if anything were wrong with her ‘bot.

The relevant section of the display was completely blank.

Tears stung her eyes, but she wouldn’t let them fall.  “You’re dead,” she snarled at the ship that had shot hers.  Flying recklessly, even for her, she caught up to the Kirid and brought all her ship’s guns to bear on it.  She fired them all at once, smiling savagely as the enemy ship exploded.


Almost thirty-two years earlier

Her ship neared the atmosphere of the nearest planet much too fast, its engines having been damaged very badly.

“Spirits of Battle and Flight, if you guys could spare a miracle right now, I’d really appreciate it!” Renata prayed as she tried to maintain what control she could of her ship.  “Talen, do what you can little buddy, but I think this might be the end for us.”

As the ship fell towards the planet, Renata lost consciousness and was battered around, the safety systems that held her in the pilot’s seat having failed.

She woke up a few days later in a strange hospital’s critical care wing.  She was missing a leg, which was easily, if painfully, fixed, and had some nasty internal injuries due to a support strut piercing her torso in the crash, but nothing some kilhu and surgery couldn’t fix.  She owed her life to Talen, she quickly learned.  After she’d passed out, he’d piloted the remains of the ship to as close to a landing as was possible, then improvised a comm and, showing that he had more first aid programming than anyone had ever expected from any shipbot, kept her alive until help arrived.


 Two days later

“He saved my life, and I can’t save his!  It’s just not fucking right!” she yelled as she pulled yet another fried component from the ‘bot that had been her companion in battle for so very long.  She turned to pick up the replacement piece and found Darrien standing behind her, a concerned look on his face.

“What?!” she snapped.

“When was the last time you slept?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she answered, taking a swig of coffee.

“Renata, go get some sleep.  Talen will still be in the same shape in the morning.   I promise no one else will touch him.”

“I’m fine!” she yelled, turning back to the shipbot.

Darrien came over and put his hand on her shoulder.  “Am I going to have to call Viktor and have him lecture you?”  Her husband, Viktor, had very strong views on her periodic attempts to substitute caffeine for sleep and never hesitated to voice them at great length when given reason to do so.

“Let me work.  Please,” she said, glaring at her boss.

“Fine.  Be that way.”  He pulled his comm out and started to key in Vik’s code.

“Darrien, if he were me, would you tell the medics to get some sleep?”

He sighed.  “Renata, it’s been two days.  You can’t get any response from him no matter what you do.  He’s gone.  I’m sorry.  You can possibly repair the ‘bot itself, but Talen is gone.”

“He can’t be.  He fucking can’t be dead!” she yelled, the tears she’d been fighting for the past two days finally escaping her eyes.

Darrien comforted her as well as he could and then gently walked her to bed, promising when she started to go back to the workshop that he would call Viktor if she didn’t get some sleep.


Thirty-three years earlier

Jake greeted his daughter with a hug and a smile.  “Go look in the garage.  There’s a present for you in there.”

Renata took off for it at a run.  Jake followed along at a bit more sedate pace.

“It’s a shipbot!  Or, most of one,” she said, seeing that the poor little thing was a bit beat up.

“Took him off a pirate ship we confiscated last korva.  Loreen’s done what she could for him, but we didn’t have many parts around for a model that old.  Thought maybe you could fix him up and use him.”  Jake was smiling at his daughter, who he doubted was hearing a damned thing he said, so intent was she on examining her new ‘bot.

“Daddy, do you have a one ilurĵa spanner?  Oh, thanks, by the way.”


Five days later, on The Asylum

Darrien came into the sim room, and his eyes widened at the (simulated) bodies surrounding Renata.  “Working out some frustration?”

She glared at him in response, but did lower her sword and command the simulation to pause before asking, “What do you want?”

“Just checking on you.  Alia said you didn’t even complain earlier when she arranged your tools properly.  It worried me.”

“I’m fine.  Or, I will be, once the parts I’ve ordered get here.  Then I’ll be able to boot Talen again, and everything will be fine.”  Or I’m going to go kill neo-imperialist assholes until it quits hurting, she finished silently.

“Renata, I don’t claim to be an expert on ‘bots of any kind, but from what I do know, the amount of damage he took when that blast caught him … he’s gone.  Even if his hardware works, even if, by some miracle, his personality module still works, his memory has definitely been erased.”

“If you gave up hope that easily when it came to us flesh-and-blood Daggers, I would’ve died on Yegio all those years ago.  No one could’ve survived that crash after all, right?”

Darrien pinched the bridge of his nose.  “Renata, please be reasonable.  This is more like if you’d had part of your brain destroyed.  Even if you can get him back online, it won’t be Talen.  I’m sorry.  I know how much that little ‘bot meant to you.”

“No.  You don’t understand.  If you did, you’d know why I can’t give up hope.  He saved my life; the least I can do is try to save his.  Now, if you don’t mind, I have some sword practice to get back to.”


Twelve years earlier

“Okay little buddy, just gonna hook you up to this new little guy and see if you can transfer some of the more interesting modifications you’ve made to your navigation programs to him,” Renata said, connecting Talen to the new — well, new-to-her — shipbot she’d gotten for her daughter, Lyndsey.

<<I have made no modifications.  That is outside my programming.>> the display showed, in far more formal language than Talen ever used.

“Oh, you have too made modifications!  I never programmed you to override half the safety warnings you do, and nobody else who I’ve ever let touch you would do so.  Everybody else is always going on about ‘That area’s marked DANGER:  DO NOT ENTER for a reason’ and such.”

The shipbot displayed <<I just have some glitches and need some repairs.  I shouldn’t be allowing you to risk your life that way.>>

“Oh, whatever.  You do not just have some glitches.  You enjoy playing ‘dodge the asteroid’.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody you’ve been modifying yourself.  I don’t want them picking you apart to see how you’ve developed something like actual intelligence.  You’re my buddy; I’ll take care of you.”


Three days later

“Sokonal and all the rest of the Spirits, please let this work,” Renata prayed, squeezing a small idol in her pocket.

She took a deep breath and powered on Talen.  Please, please let this work! she pleaded with the Spirits.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the lights that indicated his systems were coming back online came on.  Renata let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.  When the last light came on, she finally dared to ask, “Talen?  You still in there?”

The message crawled across the display slowly, but it was the best thing Renata had ever read.  <<Of course I am.  Backup memory seems more or less intact, but the main memory modules are gone so I’m missing bits and pieces.  What the hell did you let happen to me anyway?>>

She embraced the little ‘bot as she said, “I didn’t let anything happen to you.  You decided to make external repairs while we were still under heavy fire.  I swear you’re getting as reckless as me.  Wait … what backup memory?!”

<<Figure that one out yourself.  You’re the mechanical genius; it shouldn’t be hard for you.>>

‘True A.I. is an impossibility,’ my ass.  This little fucker is making physical modifications to himself now!  Renata thought as she closely studied Talen’s innards and found the small, easily overlooked, but heavily shielded, memory module.  “Talen, I don’t mind you modding yourself, but next time fucking tell me!  You scared the shit out of me!  I thought I’d lost you for good!”

<<Sorry.  So, how badly did you break the ship without me to help you fly it?>>

Renata playfully smacked at him with a spanner and said, “Let me run a few more diagnostics on you, then you can come see for yourself.  It’s not very banged up.”


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Nov 30

Why I failed Nanowrimo, and how I’ll be doing things going forward

I failed at Nanowrimo this year, but I’m okay with this.

There are reasons I could have failed that I wouldn’t be okay with, things that would boil down to just laziness, but that wasn’t the case this time.  True, there may have been a day or two in there where I played around on Flight Rising when I could’ve been writing, but that’s it, just a day or two.

I failed for the following reasons:

First, because I spent the first week, week and a half, of November sick, sick enough that had I had a “real” job, I probably would’ve called in for at least some of those days.  I know there are authors who say writing isn’t a job you can take even a day off from regardless of how bad you feel.  Those authors have never read the kind of crap I come up with when sick.  I’m not talking bad punctuation, I’m talking adding honest-to-Gygax liches and dungeon crawls to Star Wars sort of crap, to use an example from a game I GMed.

Second, because I choose a bad story to do something like Nanowrimo with.  Not, I must say, because it was so complex like someone on the forums warned me about when I mentioned it.  No, the problem was that I had far more of it already written in various forms so a great deal of what I was doing was rewriting, which is a more time and brain power consuming process.  Just writing I can do very quickly.  The parts of Intertwined Lives where I’m making new shit up tend to go very fast, unless they’re the ones from Kayden’s viewpoint, but the bits where I’ve got to read what I already have, figure out what of it to keep and what to trash, fix narration since the previous is in third-limited over the shoulder of a character who’s not one of the narrators of this, and so on,  those bits are going very slowly indeed.  I can’t just skip them and come back to them later because what exactly happens in them will have major ramifications later.

Third, and probably most importantly, I learned that I’m just not the kind of writer who can make the actual writing career part the most important aspect of her life.  Actually, I’ve been learning this one slowly since May.

You see, I released Jake’s Last Mission in April and, to put it mildly, it didn’t sell well.  So, I did research and embarked on a quest to get it reviews to help it sell.  Well, the easiest way to do that was review exchanges and review groups.  So from May through September or October I spent hours each day reading books I didn’t necessarily have any interest in, or at least not enough to have voluntarily kept reading, so I’d get reviews.  In the future I’ll stick to one-on-one review exchanges so I can control what I read and so there’ll be, hopefully, less mismatch between what a reviewer’s expecting from my story and what it delivers, because this was helpful, but not as helpful as it could’ve been and the toll on my life was not worth it.  Reading shouldn’t be a chore and this was making it one.

I also started trying to update this blog twice a week, do networky stuff everyday, and other things like that.  Meanwhile, I kept wondering why I never seemed to get any writing done any more.

I’ve figured it out.  Reading books I’m not interested in to review them, updating my blog according to the schedule I worked out instead of just whim, networking more than clicking Like or whatever on amusing things . . . that’s taxing for me.  That’s far, far harder than sitting down and churning out a few thousand words.  Yes, I know it’s important and if I never do it I’m never going to sell and all that shit.  I don’t care any more!  First of all, I’m pretty sure that’s bullshit.  I’m not selling because I’m writing space opera novellas.  It’s that simple.  My wife writes teen romance novels that sell well with pretty much no promotion.  Science fiction readers are damned picky, and novellas don’t sell well regardless of genre, according to surveys I’ve seen.  So, oh well.

It’s not even a time thing, like it is for so many authors, which is why I thought I could do it since I don’t have a “real” job.  For me, it’s an energy thing.  It’s mentally exhausting to spend that much time each day as Shannon the Professional Author instead of Shannon the Person.  They’re different.  Shannon the Professional Author is, has to be, far more concerned with the ramifications of everything she does.  She can’t make a comment on a famous author’s blog that’s got horrendous typoes in it, nor can she be as vitriolic as Shannon the Person gets.  Mustn’t alienate potential readers!  Checking my phrasing and spelling may only take a few more seconds, but it sometimes takes a not insignificant amount of mental energy to force myself to choose words that aren’t so loaded, to pay enough attention to my hastily typed comment to make sure I didn’t get “to” and “too” mixed up, etc.  Combine that with the reading stuff I’m not really interested in to review it and trying to write blog posts when I don’t really feel like it just because it’s been so long, and by the time I can just sit down and write, I can’t.  It’s not that I don’t feel like it, though that’s probably the phrase I’d use at the time.  It’s that I can’t.  I’ve used up too much mental energy and need to do something where I can just turn my brain off completely.

There’s also that by spending all my time and energy on that stuff, I wasn’t getting new material to work with.

Ray Bradbury said:  “The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.”  I wasn’t getting that.  By the time I’d recovered from the energy expenditure of networking and blog writing and reading books to review, it was too late to do anything.  I tried, but mostly what I succeeded in doing was feeling guilty for the time I’d spent playing video games or reading books for fun instead of writing.  Because everybody says you have to write every day, after all.  I know that’s not true for me.  I know I write best when I write only three or four days a week.  But when I’m not even getting those three or four days, I feel horribly guilty regardless of the reason.

No more.  My early New Year’s resolution is to stop letting what I should be doing according to experts if I want to treat my writing career like a real career rule my life.

I’m not going to adopt a write just when I feel like it thing.  I know myself.  I am lazy.  I’ll never push past the hard parts if I don’t have a goal to shoot for.  I also hate failing, so I’ll give myself a 20,000 word a month goal to shoot at, because I know I can do that easily, but I’ll no longer let myself feel bad over reaching it by writing 4,000 words a day for five days instead of 1,000 words a day for twenty days.  So long as I’m not procrastinating and trying to get it all done in the last five days of the month, it’s fine.

I’ll still do detailed reviews of some books I read, including, of course, the two I’ve agreed to review that I still haven’t, but if I feel like leaving just a one sentence “This was pretty good, but overrated” sort of review, I’ll do that instead.  I also will not be making myself read everyday whether I feel like it or not.  Reading should not be a chore, as I said above.

I’ll try to update this blog at least once a week with the regularly scheduled stuff, but actual posts will be done when I have something to say, so some weeks there might be five, some there might be none.  I’ve put off writing some stuff I wanted to for it because I’d already made a post that week.  That’s fucking stupid.  If I’ve got something I want to say, why not just go ahead and say it then?

And, above all else, I’ll try to remember that even the days where I don’t do anything related to my writing career are still days I spend working on it, because even a day spent, as the day before yesterday was, reading the truth behind comic book urban legends contributes in some way to what I later write.  In this case, it made me think about what’s really important in adaptations of works, why I like X-Men:  Days of Future Past but would like to string up everyone responsible for the a made-for-TV version of Little House on the Prairie I saw once where Ma told Pa she would divorce him if he insisted they move to Oregon.  I’m not sure I can manage to explain this well, but it boils down to “There’s a core at the heart of every character and story that you shouldn’t violate.”  And that is useful for my writing because some Universal Nexus stories originate in the long-running rpg version of the setting.  There are always differences in the final story and the game, but the core is always there.  Stolen Time had, I think, two lines of dialogue and the overall plot in common with what happened in-game.  The core of the characters and the story itself was the same though, so it worked.  And I know by admitting that I borrow from rpg sessions I’ve just lost some potential readers.  To them I say “Go fuck yourself.  Take your pretentious attitude elsewhere.”

Posted in Jake's Last Mission, NaNoWriMo, Writing process | Tagged , | Leave a comment
Nov 20

How Do You Choose What To Read?

Cover of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, issue...

Cover of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, issue #150 © Marvel Comics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As part of learning how best to market my books, I’ve read many things that purport to tell how people choose books.  The fact that none of these reports, blogs, etc. say the same thing makes all of them a bit suspect, to my mind.  The one I remember clearest right now said that a person had to hear of a book a certain number of times before they’d but it; another that the important thing was to sell yourself not the book; some insisted covers were more important than content . . . you get the idea.

So I got to thinking about the last things I’ve read that weren’t assigned for a review group and why I read them:

  1. Three different M.C.A. Hogarth short stories:  One was a reread, the other two were because I enjoyed that one so much.  So, why did I read the first one in the first place?  It was free, by a self-published author — we need to support each other, and  the premise sounded interesting.
  2. The Name of the Wind:  I saw Patrick Rothfuss on Tabletop and was amused so I found his blog and was amused and very impressed by his way with words, so I read the blurb and sample and then some reviews to make sure the book didn’t start out good but end up horrible and then bought the book.
  3. The newest InCryptid short story:  I’ve been an InCryptid fan since I read the first book after the author described the main character as the daughter of Batman and Dazzler.  I discovered the livejournal post where she said this when a friend commented on someone’s reblogging of it on Facebook.  I don’t think Facebook shows me friends’ comments on other people’s posts any more, so this avenue of discovery is closed.  What keeps me coming back?  The characters are competent, amusing, and flawed — just like real people.
  4. The most recent issues of G.I. Joe A Real American Hero:  I’ve covered before how very long ago I fell in love with Larry Hama‘s story-telling.  So I guess the question here is what keeps me coming back every month.  And that’s a question with an easy answer:  characterization.  Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Duke, Stalker, Storm Shadow . . . they feel more real than some people.
  5. Self-published novel I won’t name because I don’t recommend it:  The blurb made it sound really good and it was free and self-published.

Reading over that list, it looks like for me the key to getting me to read your book in the first place is to make it sound interesting — and there’s no way I could make a list of what criteria do that as sometimes I’m not sure myself what makes one book’s blurb appeal to me while another’s doesn’t — and the key to making me come back is to give me competent, interesting characters; characters that might score high on Mary Sue tests, but who are flawed enough that you still can empathize with them.

Hmm, a list of how I choose to read a book would look like this:

  1. Blurb sounds like it’ll be an interesting book.
  2. Sample has interesting characters, good world-building is a plus, but I can overlook it a bit for characters.
  3. Sample doesn’t have many terrible grammar errors.
  4. There aren’t a lot of reviews saying things like “The first 50 pages are great, but then it’s like the editor quit.”  I have, unfortunately, read far too many books, both self and trad published, that have read like this.
  5. Cover, number of reviews, who the author is, all that other stuff some people will tell you is so all-fired important

So, what about you?  How do you choose what you’ll read?  What keeps you buying an author’s work?


Posted in GI Joe praise, InCryptid praise, Kingkiller Chronicles praise | Tagged , , | 3 Comments
Nov 17


This particular book of mine has cheap ftl, aliens, an attacking robot, and giant man-eating insects.  Non-fiction.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 10.25.48 PM

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Nov 15

Interview with me about Jake’s Last Mission and general update

This finally ran today, long enough after it happened that the answer to “What are you working on next?” is inaccurate, so just ignore that part.  The rest is still valid though, so if you’ve been wanting more info about the novella, click here to find out more.  Also, if you follow the link to “Once A Hero, Always A Hero,” please remember it’s now free everywhere but Amazon.

Zemanta continues to be highly amusing in recommending related articles.  Somehow, this post relates to an article called “Does my toddler love me?”

Also, I’m sorry about the lack of posts this week.  Now that I’m finally over my cold and subsequent sinus infection, I’ve been trying to catch up on my NaNoWriMo word count.  I realized Friday I hadn’t made the post I meant to Monday yet and then immediately realized that that meant that the one that was intended for later in the week hadn’t gone up yet either, so I’m just going to skip this week except for this one.

My NaNoWriMo word count is presently 17,095, which is 7,905 behind where it should be for me to finish on time, and 4,905 behind where I wanted to be as a worst case scenario.  ~sigh~

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Nov 08

NaNoWriMo progress and WIP update, November edition

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping an LED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NaNoWriMo for me this year is more about developing a regular writing routine that about reaching 50k words.  That said, I’ve not been doing remarkably well at achieving either goal due to starting the month with a nasty cold that turned into a minor sinus infection.  Fuck you, germs.

I’ve gotten 9885 words, a third of which I wrote today.  I’m more than 2000 words behind where I should be by their calculations to reach 50k by the end of the month.  I’m, however, only 115 words behind where I wanted to be at this time, so I feel that I’ve pretty much caught up.

  1.  Bobby’s Daughter

Synopsis:  This is sort of a sequel to the novel I’ll have coming out next year, No More Lies.  Twentysomething years after it, someone shows up on Bobby’s, the main character of both stories, porch claiming to be his daughter.  A bit of self-loathing occurs and disappointment from just about everyone, then adventure will happen.  And a bit of stupidity.  It’s a space opera, though a bit small scale for one.

First paragraph:  The knock on the door surprised me a bit.  Most people who’d be visiting unannounced at that time of day would’ve just walked in.  I slid a knife into my left hand and opened the door with my right, figuring I could never be too cautious . . . especially after the shit with Andrei last year.

Present status:  4,172 words written, have realized a serious plot problem and may have to chalk this up to a neat but unworkable idea

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

  1.  Giant Space Spider

Synopsis:  In a different, more pulpy space opera setting than the other works, a ship goes to investigate a world no ship has ever been able to get past.

First paragraph:  No one knew what lurked beyond Alzas.  Spacer rumors had put everything from ancient evils from before the dawn of time to pirates very determined to keep their stronghold secret.  All that was known for sure was that something was there, and that something didn’t let anyone past.

Present status:  789 words written, possibly stuck

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

  1.  Jake’s Early Years

Synopsis:  This is a prequel to my novella Jake’s Last Mission.  This would be the story of how Jake went orphaned ranch hand to military officer.  It’ll start a space western and shift as it goes on to military space opera.

First paragraph:  “I can quit school.  I already know how to read and do math and such.  I can figure out anything else, Dad,” I said, sounding as mature as I could at eleven years old.

Present status:  Don’t know how many words written as some is handwritten.  I idiotically switched from third to first person, so I’ve got to decide which I’m using and rewrite the rest.

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

  1.  Second Kavaliro Cousin

Synopsis:  Lyndsey and Taliza, the main characters from my novella The Crown of Eldrete, and a team are going to Polthaina to try to secure the space port and naval base with the help of local rebels.  Someone’s been feeding the bad guys intel.  It’s space opera.

First paragraph:  When Lyndsey got to the bridge of the yacht, Taliza was already there and talking to someone.  “I understand that,” she was saying, “but we’re unarmed, so clearly there’s no reason to fire on us.”  Taliza hit the button that let other occupants of the bridge hear what was being said over the comm.

Alternate first paragraph:  Polthaina had been attacked by enemies so often in its long history that the entirety of the world was covered in ruins.  Lyndsey paused to try to read an inscription on a vine and moss covered arch in one of these ruins.  “Hey, Cousin?  You got any clue what this says?”

Present status:  2,553 words written in one version, 363 of another.  The existence of two different versions that are that incomplete should make clear how very badly this story is going.

Aiming for:  Novella

  1.  Lyn, Rek, Ana, and Bobby Have An Adventure

Synopsis:  This is set years before the Kavaliro Cousins series when Lyndsey’s wife, Anastasia, was a Dagger (rebel-for-hire) too.  She and Lyndsey were on a mission when they ran into Bobby (from No More Lies and Bobby’s Daughter) and his best friend, Rek, who are on a mission for the Sweytzian Defense Force Special Forces.  The two groups are targeting the same organization, but for different reasons.  It starts with Rek’s disguise being good enough to fool Lyndsey so she shoots him, and things go downhill from there.  This one is also space opera.

First paragraph:  Son of a fucking bitch! Lyndsey thought as the guard got into sight.  He was looking right at her.  Guess I’m not as well hidden as I thought.  With a quick prayer, she pulled her holdout blaster and shot the guard.  Having not taken the time to aim, the bolt only scorched his leg a bit.  Should at least slow him down some, she thought, quickly hitting a button on her comm with the hand that didn’t have a blaster in it.

Present status:  6,809 words written.  Might need to back up a bit and rewrite from there.

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

  1.  Magi

Synopsis:  Elianthir has just become a mage.  His grandfather died under mysterious circumstances years ago.  His girlfriend, who’s a member of his hometown, just found brutally killed sheep.  An evil mage is somehow involved in all of this.  That’s all I know so far.

First paragraph:  Elianthir touched the intricately carved silver cover of the codex with trepidation.  He knew that once he opened it, all of his grandfather’s hard won knowledge would disappear from its pages.  The words — those the Order of Tylar considered important anyway — had been carefully copied into the Grand Codex of Tylar, of course.  But that didn’t stop Elianthir from feeling like he was about to destroy something of great value, to destroy the last remaining bit of his grandfather, who’d vanished in a cloud of pale blue smoke while fighting a telazir years before.

Present status:  2,619 words written.  I need to do some world-building first.

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

  1.  Super Hero Story

Synopsis:  Super villain stole an important thing.  Super hero team that usually deals with such things is too well known to super villain, so they’re recruiting a new team.  I think I was planning to go with something Avengers like . . . new team learning to work together while thrust into the crucible sort of thing.

First paragraph:  The red energy field contained by the pentagon pulsated.  Mona Cathar, known to most as the Pink Spider, studied it from afar, daring not to get close enough to be tempted to try to touch it.  The others present, actual scientists, unlike her, jabbered about “revolutionizing our understanding of Quaglon science” and “non-electrical power” and other such things.  Mona, however, saw one thing when she looked at it:  Money.

Amount already have:  372 words written.  Pretty sure this is stuck, which is sad.  I have the bad guys and their motivations, but the good guys are proving much harder.

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

  1.  Viktor’s Life Story

Synopsis:  Viktor has finally conceded to have an official biography written, decades after killing the tyrant Drochslem and bringing peace to the Vorton galaxy.  That’s the frame story to him telling the tale of how he went from quiet bookish teenager to war hero to Dagger to Drochslem’s slave to Drochslem’s killer to crippled bar owner, poet, and professor.  Space opera, needless to say.  Space fantasy to a certain extent too, I think.

First paragraph:  I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d expected Viktor Blue to look like, but it certainly wasn’t the gentleman standing in front of me.  His silver hair, the only part of him that betrayed his age, hung to just past his waist, part of it pulled back in an elaborate braid.  His clothing was much like that his husband normally wears, but tamer:  a loose, long-sleeved white shirt with ruffles at the cuff and collar; a black vest with silver embroidery; black silk pants; and black boots polished to a gleaming shine.  His jewelry was plentiful, but simple and understated, save a pair of silver filigree earrings he absent-mindedly untangled from his hair as he limped towards me.  There was a black cane with a pearlescent handle next to his chair, but he’d left it behind.  He was tall with piercing blue eyes and spoke in a cultured baritone.  He sighed softly before asking, “You’re the Royal Historian, I presume?”  His accent was odd, which I didn’t find surprising since he hadn’t learned to speak Allurian until he was in his thirties.

Present status:  1,111 words written.  Like this story, but am just not feeling inspired.

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

  1.  No More Lies

Back cover blurb:  Years ago, Bobby Kavaliro ran away from Sweytz, from everything and everyone he’d ever known, lured by promises of money and power made by the smooth-talking dictator of Anerix.

A few years later Bobby came to realize how stupid he’d been and became a spy for the very world he left.

A spy posing as an assassin.

A spy whose best friend and mentor has just had his cover blown.

A spy who jilted someone who would now like to see him dead.

A spy, in other words, who needs a vacation.  And a spy who is hoping to meet someone to share his bed while on that vacation.

Bobby finds more than that when he meets Karen.  So much more, in fact, that before too long he’s moving back to Sweytz, looking for a job, and trying to quickly learn how to be a responsible adult for the first time in his life.

Meanwhile, Anerix’s High Command, now very much suspecting he was a spy, are sending assassins after him . . . and after Karen.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Karen doesn’t believe half of what he’s told her about his past, nor is she sure she wants to be with him after she gets to know just how temperamental and immature he can be.

Bobby has to grow up fast to keep her love, deal with everything he’s missed while he was gone, try to avoid being killed, try to keep Karen safe, and try to rebuild his relationship with his family, all at the same time.

First paragraph:  This is exactly what I needed, I thought, as I leaned back against a tree in Thil Park on Sarglerich and began tuning my loothin, a break from sneaking around listening to things I could get killed for overhearing, worrying every second that somebody’s gonna figure out what I’m up to and kill me, and all the other shit that goes along with my job.

Present status:  6,543 words in second draft.  Willing to accept requests to be a beta reader.  Will be resuming editing efforts in December.

Is:  Novel

  1.  Intertwined Lives

Synopsis:  Kayden, Richie, Quinn, and Rusark couldn’t be more different. One’s a future stay-at-home Dad, one’s a minor rock star, one’s a rebel-for-hire, and one’s the newest officer in the Sweytzian Special Forces. One’s quiet and shy, one’s outgoing and hyper, one’s suave and charming, and one’s forthright and pragmatic. This book follows their four, very different, stories as they simply live their lives, lives that intertwine because of family, friendship, and love.

This is a story for everyone who’s ever wondered what the heroes do when they’re not saving the day. This is a story for everyone who’s ever wondered what the ordinary people in a society with epic heroes are like.

First paragraph:  I’ve often thought that one of the cruelest tricks the gods (or spirits or ancestors or whatever) played on me was making me solely attracted to men.  Me, the guy who has wanted kids of his own since . . . I can’t remember when.  Always, as far as I know.  Oh, sure, I could donate sperm to one of my female friends and have them carry my kid, or Reuben could get one of my sisters pregnant . . . if it’s one of the other quadruplets, that would be kind of the same, especially if it was Veronica, since she’s tiny and brunette like me.  But . . . it’s just not fair.  I want a kid that’s mine and Reuben’s.  

Or, since I might change the order of the first two chapters:  Somewhere out there in the tri-galaxies, one of my older sisters was headed home after fighting to free a world from a tyrant.  Somewhere out there, one of my other older sisters was headed home after a bit of smuggling.  I, on the other hand, was in the nursery of my own house, trying to convince my daughters to take a nap.

Present status:  14,399 words, with scattered bits in various degrees of usability spread throughout the previous works that it’s combining.

Aiming for:  Well, it was supposed to be just one novel, but since it’s already 14,399 words and I still haven’t introduced one narrator and am only about five days into a story that’s going to cover a couple of years, I think I might be looking at either a GRRM length story here or a series.  I’m posting it as I go here. (I promise more will be up soon.  See previous bit about cold and sinus infection.  My schedule for the week fell apart.)

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Nov 06

Can we quit saving the universe all the time, please?

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next Generation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an interesting bit of serendipity, I read a wonderful short story recently, “Freedom, Spiced and Drunk” by M.C.A. Hogarth, that provides a wonderful example of what I was planning to talk about today.

Today’s topic is:  Not every sf/f story needs to be about saving the world/galaxy/universe.

I know this should be bloody obvious, but you’d not believe it from a quick perusal of Amazon or Goodreads.  Look, I love the Hero’s Journey as much as any body, but it’s not the only plot out there!  Can we please have some smaller scale stories, more like Ms. Hogarth’s that concentrate on an individual’s struggle with something other than an overwhelming military force or evil empire or corrupt government?!  I’m really about to give up on my favorite genres because I’m getting so fucking sick of everything being about people saving the whole setting all the time!  I’ve read Dragonlance; I’ve watched Star Wars; I know that story!  Tell me something different!

Wow, I got a bit . . . strident . . . there.  But, really, I’m getting pretty close to giving up on sf/f entirely for a while because I’m so fucking tired of everything being the same overall story.  Or at least being pickier about what I’ll read.  Look, fellow authors, for generations now we’ve had the lit fic crowd saying we’re all writing formulaic, plot driven stories.  Why, why, why are so many of you determined to prove them right?!

My favorite episodes of Star Trek:  The Next Generation weren’t those where the Enterprise was saving the day yet again.  They were those that gave me a glimpse of an alien culture (especially Klingons because I have an extreme weakness for honorable warrior cultures).  Let’s have a bit more of that and a bit less saving the day.

Look at Firefly, undeniably one of the best sf/f TV shows ever.  The crew of Serenity aren’t trying to save the universe; they’re just trying to keep flying and deal with their own problems.

Sf/f should be the genres exploring any “What if?”, any “Wouldn’t it be cool if?”, an author can think of, but lately those elements seem downplayed in favor of author after author giving their version of one of the oldest stories ever.  It makes no sense.

In a way, this ties into another issue I’ve been noticing with sf/f lately:  the lack of “sense of wonder”.  It’s like everyone is so worried about being realistic that they forget that part of the appeal of sf/f is that it’s not real.  Give me implausible creatures, single-climate planets, magic that’s not science . . . all that stuff that I’m pretty sure is why we all fell in love with the genres in the first place.

At least, it’s why I did.

This got kind of rambly and unfocused, but I’ve had a pretty nasty cold screwing with my ability to think all week and this is my fourth or fifth attempt at this post, so I’m going to go ahead and post it as is.  Maybe I’ll revisit the topic some time when I’m able to think more clearly.

I’ll leave you with a quote from George R. R. Martin, one of my favorite quotes ever from any author:

The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.

originally published in The Faces of Fantasy: Photographs by Pati Perret copyright © 1996 by Pati Perret



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