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The Last Quarter

Photo by Christophe Ferron: https://unsplash.com/@christopheferron

I come to you 8 days from my deadline on Tales. I’m at 73.5% complete as of my last reckoning, which means I’m nearly in the final quarter.

And things are getting hard.The pressure is on. The anxiety is building.

The last 2 parts are the least polished out of the whole book, and missing the most content, which means I not only have to edit and polish the words, but create new content to fill in the gaps—missing scenes, mostly, and a few changes that I can’t seem to avoid making.

I’m still trying NOT to rewrite what’s there, especially if the content mostly does its job. My focus is on patching what needs to be fixed. But with the gaps I need to fill, and how I seem to have made some serious story errors as I wandered around trying to find the end of the book, there is an inevitable bit of rewriting that must happen this week.

It makes sense that the last two parts of the book would be the least polished. I spent the least amount of time on them. I went over everything that came before 2, 3, 4, even 5 times. The last two parts were written basically in one go. And then they got broken out into two parts, with lots of holes, after the first edit, when I realized what needed to happen to give the structure some balance and symmetry.

So I have anxiety because I have about 12 scenes to write and polish in 8 days, and some are brand new scenes, and it is arguably the most difficult task yet because it’s also the end of the book, where everything needs to come together like I had planned it from the start.

Ha ha. Right.

All the pieces are in place, though. It’s mostly a matter of mastering my anxiety long enough to sit down and get to work.

So I just wanted to report here to let you know that I’m on track, approaching the final quarter, but that my work is not yet done. I could use a little encouragement now—and also someone with a switch to stand next to my desk and smack the back of my hand each time I type “Facebook.com” into the browser.

Also, to remind myself not to be afraid of the deadline—the deadline is the main reason I have made such stunning progress in the last month. Even if I miss it by a few days (which I DON’T plan on doing), it still counts as a win in the grand scheme of things.

Okay, that’s probably enough kvetching. Time to get to work.

New Story: The Door Below the Comic Store

The Door Below the Comic Store is my first new short story of 2017, an adventurous urban fantasy story about a normal boy named Colton and the unusual way he escapes his miserable family life.

The Door Below the Comic Store

How would you react if you found hidden doors in your city that led to other worlds? Worlds of mystery and magic?

While trying to escape the incessant bickering between his mom and his jerk of a stepfather, Colton goes out to meet a friend—and instead, stumbles on a doorway that leads him somewhere unexpected.

Door Below the Comic Store - High Resolution - alternate font

Buy on Kindle  Buy Paperback

Jan. 3 Writing Update

Photo by André Sanano: https://unsplash.com/@andresananoJudging by the state of my inbox, this is the day when everyone returns to work. Since that means my life will soon become very full again, and I’ll be even shorter on writing time, I wanted to take this opportunity to mark it: I made massive strides on Tales of the Republic over the holidays.

I’m at about 60% complete on this round of edits now, even having adjusted my target for the manuscript upwards by 5k words, to 85k words total. For me this kind of progress is huge.

The word count adjustment is due to the fact that I keep adding words as I go. There are several missing scenes to write yet in the finale, but the extra 5k should cover them.

But I’m not dwelling on it, just barreling ahead. I’m enjoying myself too. I usually hate edits, so to feel joy in editing is a relief, to be honest. Part of that is a change in my process, but a bigger factor is a shift in my mindset. I’ll be writing more about that soon in future posts.

After I get to 100% on the edits, the book will go to a copyeditor, then back to me a few weeks alter for proofing and post-production. After that, it will be out the door. I’ll tell you more about the launch as we approach. Finally seems like I’m in the homestretch on this one.

The Nonfiction Work-in-Progress

I didn’t make progress on any other fiction since my last update, but I did solidify and then expand the outline for the nonfiction project. I’ve also got an ebook cover for it…and that means I have a working title: Practical Fiction. It’s going to be a nuts-and-bolts type of book focusing on the writing process.

Basically it will cover all the “tools” (mindsets, habits, ideas, and exercises) that I’ve relied on to transform myself into a writer—tools that I found lacking in the many many books on writing that I have read. Tools that I picked from many places and gathered together into my own practical system.

Writing seems simple on the surface. Sit down and type words, one after the other. But as most new writers know, it’s more complex than it seems. This will be the type of book I wish I had found ten years ago, when I was just getting started.

Not rocket science, and most of it not even new information. It’s out there. The challenge is finding it and making it into a system. So the book is my attempt to put it all together for you and for me. To describe my system and try to show someone else how to use it. And as it always goes, I’m sure I’ll learn some new things myself while I’m writing it 😀

New Urban Fantasy Story

Last update for today: this month’s story, “The Door Below the Comic Store” is being published now (if you’re reading this at the time of posting). To get notified when it’s out and receive a free ARC (Advanced Review Copy), be sure you’re on my newsletter! I send free books and deals to readers there as well.

I’ll post again when it’s ready. Have a good one!

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 60% complete
(50,731 words revised / 85,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6,000 words … Status: Publishing

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … 2,694 words written (6,000 estimated total words) … Status: Writing

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

Nonfiction

Work-in-progress for writers … 500 words … Status: Planning

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

Photo by Mich Elizalde: https://unsplash.com/@mich

Since the big quitting, I find I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

In the morning, I sit down to write, as usual. That habit has been trained over three years and it’s the most familiar thing in the world.

After a couple pages of editing Tales, I take the dog for a walk. So far, so good. It always feels good to do something active in the morning. If I don’t do any other exercise for the rest of the day, at least I did that.

And when I get back home, my body tenses, ready now for the flood of communications that normally come roaring in. I’m ready, I brace myself, I open my email…and this morning it didn’t come.

Of course this is still the holiday break for many people. I’d forgotten that! And most of my clients and coworkers are on vacation, so it’s kind of quiet on that front.

But for the past several years that has been my routine. Writing and walking in the morning, and spending the rest of the day at the day job and reacting to all the other projects I had going on in 2016.

Since the big quitting, there’s this hole in my day. And I have to figure out the best way to fill it with productive writing.

But I find myself doing these other things instead, and they’re worth listing out so that I can pin and then exorcise them like demons:

  1. Check Facebook. And Twitter.
  2. Check WordPress.com stats. Sigh.
  3. Check book sales. No.
  4. Check email.
  5. Refresh.
  6. Refresh.
  7. Refresh.

God damnit. The worst part is that now I have all this time to write, but my body and mind aren’t trained to do the work yet.

My body and mind are trained to check email, prepare for the next meeting, respond to messages from the night before.

And the absolute worst part is that on days like this, when there are so few emails and notifications, I actually feel bored.

BORED!

How can I be bored when I have 62% of a novel remaining to edit by mid-January?

How can I be bored when I have Translocator 2 and 3 to plan and write?

How can I be bored when I have a short story to finish and dozens more to write?

How indeed. And yet…

Now that I’ve made the time, I’ve got to learn to fill it productively. I’ve got to learn to associate the hits of adrenaline with productive work instead of spending the remainder of my day reacting or checking my phone.

Time to rewire my brain to get the same high and satisfaction out of writing that I usually get out of reacting to emails.

So how do I do this? The same way I kickstart any habit.

  1. Make a detailed calendar with deadlines
  2. Create an accountability system
  3. Reward myself when I hit my goals
  4. Forgive myself when I don’t

• • •

Focusing on the things I can control—words complete—I mapped out the percentage to complete I need to hit to get Tales of the Republic in to the copyeditor by January 15th. That’s about 10% progress every 3 days, or roughly 2-3 scenes per day.

That’s my primary focus right now, but if I get bored, then I can switch to the current short story, or the nonfiction project I’ve been noodling with.

If I’m not feeling the fiction, I can also use the blog as a warmup, like I did with this post today.

And at the end of the day I can read in my genre. I’ve got several short stories queued up on my Kindle.

• • •

I wrote the above blog post as a warmup this morning and came back tonight to fill out my progress. After my slow morning, I got things moving and started making progress.

I edited 4,000 words fiction (adding 937 to manuscript of Tales)
I wrote 1,350 words nonfiction —this blog and the outline/intro of the new nonfiction book for writers.

A good day. And I’ve made HUGE progress on Tales since the last update. I jumped up 13% since the last update 5 days ago! Best progress I’ve made in months.

No changes in short stories since the last update, however. That’s okay with me 🙂

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 43% complete
(34,368 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6,000 words … Status: Post-production

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … Status: Writing (2,694 words written / 6,000 estimated total words)

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

Nonfiction

Work-in-progress for writers … 500 words

On Quitting

Photo by Samuel Zeller: https://unsplash.com/@samuelzeller

This December I quit a load of things to make more room for writing fiction.

I finally came to accept that I was spreading myself too thin. I’ve known it for some time, and worked hard through 2016 trying to juggle all my jobs.

At times, I pulled it off, and it seemed amazing that I could do so much. In other cases, I failed and let people down.

And sometimes—more often than I want to admit—my stories fell through the cracks. That made me saddest of all.

My commitments were competing with each other in a way that kept me from meeting my writing goals. For instance, I was spending time organizing events for authors, and not writing. I was recording a podcast, and not writing. I was taking on too many for-hire writing projects and, you guessed it, not writing.

And there are things I am not willing to give up that go into this balancing act, too—time with my girlfriend, for one. My health (directly correlates to productivity).

But there is always room for change and growth. And so, this December, I made a business plan, defined my writing goals, and then set out to find the right balance.

This meant making some hard decisions.

I’ve quit things before—jobs, countries, people, bad habits. But I seem to go through a major quitting streak every three or four years.

  • At 18, I left the United States to attend college in Canada
  • At 21, I left Canada and went to Europe to travel
  • At 24, I returned to the US, to Austin, to become a freelance writer

Now I’m 28, and I find myself at another one of these impasses. A quitting streak is upon me. Right on time, wouldn’t you say?

I can’t quit my day job yet. I still have to pay the bills, and copywriting/content strategy is a good job that I enjoy. The clients I have are smart, passionate people who care about the work they’re doing. But I need more time if this writing fiction thing is going to pan out for me, so I did my best to find the right balance.

As of today, I can officially say that the worst is behind me. I quit a podcast that I was enjoying, the membership side of the Indie Author Society, and also turned down a couple freelance projects (so hard!). And other things I won’t go into detail about because it’s all in the past now.

It was the most difficult quitting streak I’ve ever done because I had to quit things that I genuinely enjoyed doing, but which were holding me back from hitting my word counts.

Usually a quitting streak feels like shedding an old skin, or putting on a new pair of clothes that fit just right.

This quitting streak felt like open heart surgery.

I am decimated now, and while I believe the writing will fill that hole eventually, I am tired and sad and seem to know what the french poets mean by ennui.

That, in itself, is a sign that I’m still not out of the weeds.

But I know it is a natural reaction, and that things will get better again soon (sidenote: revising this 24 hours after it was written, I already feel less anxiety about it). I’ve been through many quitting streaks before. This one is still processing. I’ll pick up speed in a week or so.

This December was hard, but I’ve cleaned the slate and now I’m ready for the next phase.

Here’s to lots of new stories in 2017.

Christmas Eve Writing Update

Whew, a lot of good stuff has happened since I last gave you a writing update.

First of all, “End of the World” has done all right for it being the first piece of fiction I’ve published in several months. I had zero expectations, so I can’t be disappointed. I’m simply happy it was well-received by those who have read it, and continues to sell a bit.

Door Below the Comic Store - High Resolution - alternate fontBut my focus has been on what’s next. Edits for my next fantasy story, “The Door Below the Comic Store” came back, and I’ve already gone through those and produced the ebook. I need to finish the paperback, and then that should be available about January 10th (my target).

My newsletter finds out about everything first, so sign up if you want to be notified (and get a free review copy!) Here’s the cover for “The Door Below the Comic Store”.

Edits for “Wendigo” also came back. This is a paranormal/horror story, a bit of a departure from my usual stuff, but in a good way if you like dark and twisted stuff. It’s inspired by the Wendigo legend of the Navajo tribe, and is about twice the length of most of my short stories: 12,000 words, either a long short story or a short novella depending how you want to look at it.

Funny story: I totally botched the ending of “Wendigo” the first time through. I sat on it, knowing something was wrong, for a couple months before I finally gave up and sent it to my editor. I knew, for certain, that I screwed something up, but sometimes you need an objective opinion. Once I realized it was the ending that was the problem (thanks to my editor and the help of a writer friend), it only took a few hours of focused work to fix it. “Wendigo” also has a creepy cover that I’ve already picked out, and will share soon. That one is slated for release in February.

So now, as you can see, I’m ahead of the curve as far as scheduling goes. That’s never happened before, but damn it feels good. Things are going to be different in 2017.

And that’s not all!

I also wrote 3k words of a new science fiction story that I’m calling, “A Body of Work.” I doubt that will be the final title, as I almost always change titles several times before a story is done. This is a hard science fiction story set in the near future, after Earth has colonized Mars and built a dozen habitable space stations in near-Earth orbit. Also, aliens. Fun stuff!

And finally, I made a smidge of progress on Tales of the Republic. Par for the course there. Now that I’m ahead of schedule, I’m going to make a big effort to change that and get through it sooner. Won’t speak to launch dates yet (I’ve made that mistake before…sorry).

2017 is definitely going to be different.

Which story are you most excited about? Leave a comment to let me know.

Last day to enter 12 Days of Books giveaway

Oh yes! And today is the lat day to enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaways. Click that link and leave your email to enter 12 signed novels.

12 Days of Books Giveaway

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 30% complete
(24,088 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6,000 words … Status: Post-production

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … Status: Writing (2,694 words written / 6,000 estimated total words)

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

The Curmudgeon

Photo by Jan Erik Waider: https://unsplash.com/@northlandscapes

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a part of me that resists everything.

This is the part of me that scoffs, calls you a liar, hates being around people.

He thinks—no, not just thinks, this part of me actually believes that Valentine’s Day and Christmas have become nothing more than trumped up commercialized gimmicks designed to syphon money from his pockets and fill people with material greed.

He uses the holiday season not to give, but to decimate himself, cut the fat, reevaluate his life in the cold hard light of a chilly December morning.

And, of course, to demand you turn off that fucking christmas music. “If you play Holly Jolly Christmas one more goddamn time…!”

This part of me is a skeptic. He’s stubborn. He argues for the sake of argument, complains for the sake of complaining. He’s never satisfied. But he’s cunning, because he manages to eke an abnormal amount of satisfaction from his discontent regardless.

Let’s call him the Curmudgeon.

Curmudgeon (noun): a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person. See: grouch, crank, bear.

The Curmudgeon is never comfortable. He fidgets and fusses, and heaps piles of scorn upon himself and those around him.

He is toxic. Don’t even get me started on his distraught relationship with guilt.

And yet, the stubbornness at his core fortifies him, like a shot of strong bourbon in the biting cold of mid-winter.

He knows it is darkest before the dawn, and that’s how he manages to carry on.

He walks tall through danger because OF COURSE THE DARK TIMES CAME BACK, YOU FOOLS. What the fuck did you think was going to happen? How did that possibly catch you off guard?

The worst case scenario is inevitable. Don’t ask if, but when and how and most of all, how bad.

The Curmudgeon is bad tempered because he believes he can be better; he is disgusted with humanity because he recognizes how far we have to go to become good.

And how often that opportunity slips through our sweaty fuckin’ fingers.

People who believe we live during the golden age of civilization are cursed with a severe lack of imagination.

A goddamn travesty, he’d tell ya. A waste.

If you happen to pass the Curmudgeon in the street at this time of year, and he’s not lost in thought or mumbling under his breath like a lunatic, you will know him by his greeting.

“Hey ya. Fuck you. Merry Christmas.”

Audiobook Recommendation: The Name of the Wind

51hp1ac+k6L._SL300_.jpgI just finished listening to The Name of the Wind on Audible — what a lyrical, beautiful book that is. Rothfuss’s metaphors and similes are music to my ears.

This was my second read through—I read the paperback last fall, and decided I needed to really take my time and listen this time around.

I was listening with my writer’s ear—but Rothfuss’s work has that magic. Even when I’m trying to study the story, I can’t helped but get sucked into it.

The best bit: Siaru accents, like loud, sarcastic Russians. I didn’t laugh nearly as hard reading these lines. In the audiobook version, however, dialogue from the Siaru merchant in charge of the caravan where Kvothe first meets Denna had me doubled over, clutching my stomach. And when Kilvin, with a burned hand, was talking to Kvothe after the fire in the Fishery, and even Kvothe couldn’t tell if Kilvin was joking … instant classic.

Click here to listen to the clip of the Siaru merchant telling Kvothe the many ways he might “get left behind.”

The Name of the Wind Fan art

I also want to take this opportunity to share with you some of my favorite fan art from fans of The Name of the Wind. With the exception of Neil Gaiman, I’ve never known of another author whose fans are so engaged they make TONS of art featuring their characters. I hope one day to write a story that inspires art in this way.

the_waystone_inn_by_bchart-d91iu1s.jpg
By bchart on DeviantArt
cinder_v2_by_myques-d9o4djg.jpg
By myques on DeviantArt
doors_of_stone_mock_cover_by_thatsummersguy-d6gwtlo.jpg
By ThatSummersGuy on DeviantArt

I could have included dozens more, but these three caught my eye first and I’ve got to get back to working on a story. You can find more fan art on Pat Rothfuss’s all time favorites list.

The Smell of Cut Grass

eli-francis.jpg

Interior book design is meditative in a way that’s hard to explain. Repetitive yet satisfying, like mowing the lawn. Ahh, the smell of cut grass! The way the afternoon sun reflects off the even rows behind me.

But formatting books is better than mowing the lawn because I don’t have to contend with gasoline and hot metal, and there’s no grass to itch where my shoes rub against my ankles.

The design process clears my mind. I pop my headphones in and get lost putting things to rights. Resize a photo there. Match the fonts here. Even up those margins! METADATA IS THE BEST!!

*achem*

It’s especially freeing when the words don’t belong to me. When they’re someone else’s words, no dampened anxieties lurk behind the curtains of my mind. I’m still on the lookout for typos, errors, inconsistencies—as natural as breathing, you see—but have no need to worry about a massive hidden plot hole that might be lurking in that whiskey-fueled chapter I wrote at two o clock in the morning before a deadline.

Yet I still get to help make something I can hold in my hands. Maybe that’s why I like formatting books so much better than mowing the lawn, though they have traits in common—books are a craft, not a chore. After it’s done, a book goes out into the world. It takes on a life of its own. The grass in your front lawn carries on with its minor existence, too. Except, in that case, as every homeowner the whole world over knows even if they refuse to admit it, the grass looks and smells nice, but its only true purpose is to grow tall enough to force you back out there to cut it again.

I’m not saying my addiction to writing is any less potent. If anything, my draw to books is stronger, especially in me. But I’ll stick with books for now.

At least until the spring.

What It Means to Be Human

Photo by Patrick Tomasso: https://unsplash.com/@impatrickt

I believe people read to explore what it means to be human.

Who doesn’t love to pick up a new book, and get whisked away on an unexpected adventure? To fall in love with journey, the people? They are beautiful and they are flawed. Just like you.

It’s only natural to begin to empathize with their romance and their pain. Their loss becomes your loss. Their friendships folds itself close to your heart.

Life is to fiction as watered-down wine is to clear moonshine. Fiction is not life, it is life distilled.

Even a comedy has something to teach us between the punch lines.

Do you know anyone as well as you know the heroes and villains in your favorite books? Do you even know yourself that well?

And what other operation, apart from brain surgery, can take you so deep into the human mind?

This can be frightening, to be caught in such dark waters. But it also tends to open eyes.

Reading other people’s stories has something to do with what it means to be human.

Maybe the exploration is the meaning itself.

You can win 12 signed novels if you enter here between now and midnight on December 24, 2016! Award-winning novels, science fiction novels, fantasy novels. Do it!

12 Days of Books Giveaway

Also, check out my new short story about a garden and a robot named Michelangelo.