It’s the weekend before my birthday (thirty-something). Instead of clamoring for gifts, I want to spread the love to you, my wonderful reader. So two of my books are on Kindle Countdown sale. That means the longer you wait, the more it’ll cost. So get in there now!
Writing a novel is a marathon. It takes months, if not years. You have to be in it for the long haul.
You have to train for a marathon. If you want to run a marathon you have to gradually build up to it with shorter runs at first. Gradually, inexorably, you find the skill and endurance to persevere. To keep going.
You have to train for a novel. You have to write, and write, and edit, and rewrite. The long form of storytelling will ruin and exhaust a novice. You’ve got to build up to it.
Too many marathons will ruin you. Your body will fall apart. Joints and bones will give up after repetitive pounding against concrete. You can’t run a marathon all the time. But you don’t have to stop running.
You can sprint.
There is freedom in the sprint – the freedom of laying it all on the line in short bursts. No time for boredom. No time to think of giving up. Just go.
Novelists need to sprint sometimes too. Write a short story. Write a screenplay (which, in comparison to a novel, is a pretty short endeavor). Give yourself time to recover and do something that is joyously brief.
My new novel, Nightcrafters, is now participating in the Kindle Scout program. If I get enough nominations, Amazon just might officially publish it! And, if you nominate and Nightcrafters “wins”, you get a copy of the eBook for free! So please get your clicking fingers ready and nominate my book. It only takes a second, and I’ll love you forever!
At last, I can reveal what I’ve been working on for over a year. My latest sci-fi/fantasy novel is Nightcrafters, and you’ll be able to read it soon.
Kal Kai was once a nightcrafter-in-training until he learned the cruel truth of the craft. Every time someone uses magic, they lure dangerous creatures into our world. After his mentor expels him from the nightcrafter ranks, Kal meets a high-ranking government official and a flirtatious scientist with a modern theory of magic. Together, they have all the skills needed to stop the nightcrafters for good. But Kal’s greatest opponent will be the same man who taught him everything he knows.
I like it when writers blend fantasy and science into work that crosses genres. It’s a theme I incorporate in many of my own books. The premise of A Latent Dark had me ready to love the book, and initially I was intrigued by its vaguely future world where the Catholic Church has established dominance across much of the globe. I liked the steampunk-ish elements of the story too. But there were a few elements that disappointed me.
Firstly, the early pacing of the book didn’t quite grab me. I primarily read this book on subway rides where I had free time and no Internet connection, and didn’t find myself compelled to pick it up at other points in the day. I won’t say the first third of the book is boring because there’s plenty of stuff that happens, but I was always left with a sense that the things that were happening weren’t that intriguing. One of the greatest compliments a book can get is “unputdownable”, but I found myself laying this one to the side often without feeling like I was missing anything.
Then there’s our main villain, the Reverend Inspector Lyle Summers. He’s sufficiently evil in sufficiently creepy ways, but he’s also one-dimensional and a bit too cliche for my tastes. He does serve as a good example of religious extremism and pious hypocrisy, but beyond that he’s not going to be winning any villain Hall of Fame votes.
Finally, I didn’t like the final 20% of the book. As I said, I like it when fantasy and science combine, but there’s a plot twist near the end that totally jumped the shark for me and the story descended into metaphysical mumbo jumbo. I do appreciate the creativity here because it is a unique idea, but it didn’t work for me.
With all that said, reading a book isn’t necessarily about having a thrilling journey to an exciting destination. It can be a nice leisurely walk to a dead end too. I still did enjoy many of the side characters and the setting is fantastically developed. If you want something with new ideas on magic, the afterlife, and a good amount of real science thrown in for flavor, the book is definitely worth checking out at least.
I’m a writer. I tell stories. So, much of my perspective of the world is through a lens focused on how we mere human beings reach for the divine through our fiction, the stories we tell of what might be instead of what is. While a popular thing to do this week is lament all the political and social strife that have left their mark on our minds and hearts, I want to take a moment to be a bit contrarian and talk about how 2014 was a great year for the art of storytelling.
Movies fell in love with science, and scientists
Interstellar, The Theory of Everything, and The Imitation Game sold audiences on hard science and engineering, and the very human stories behind the people who make it all happen. In a time when so many people feel that America is falling into an age of anti-intellectualism, this was a huge and welcome trend.
Comic book stories on the big and small screens aren’t as much about superheroes; un-super heroes shone too
The comic book industry has long provided a treasure trove for the movie industry, but this year so a little departure from focus on the guys with crazy powers and focused on the heroes who can’t fly, don’t have super strength, and don’t have healing factors. Gotham took Batman out of the Batman story and mostly focused on the crazy but fascinating crime drama of Gotham city, sticking to a simple formula of cops vs. robbers. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 2 mostly did away with the superhero stories from season 1 and focused on the human team and how they had to use tech, smarts, and guts to win the day. And the blockbuster comic movie of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy, stars a guy who is pretty much your average bro (despite being half alien).
The book industry didn’t change much, which is maybe a good thing
Although we did see some big battles among publishers over digital distribution, and there were some experiments that may change the future of how people pay for books and how authors get paid, for the most part the year in fiction books was pretty similar to previous years, with young adult stories selling well but also big names like King, Grisham, and Murakami topping the charts. And we also saw the continuation of a trend that should surprise no one: movies sell books more than anything else.
As Variety notes:
Nine of the 10 top selling books of the year were tied into a film adaptation or film franchise of some kind, with various publications of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” first published in 2012, occupying three of the 10 slots. The success of Green’s novel and its film adaptation, which earned more than $300 million in global box office this year, propelled his 2007 title “Looking for Alaska” into the tenth spot, marking the only standalone, non-film-related novel on the book list.
2014 saw some changes in the storytelling industry, and trends are starting to shift. But most important of all is the recognition that we DO still have a thriving storytelling industry that uses fiction to help us gain perspective on reality.
A while ago I stumbled upon an excellent excerpt/article from Peter Mendelsund’s book What We See When We Read (Vintage Original). It talks about how the best novels are often very vague about physical descriptions of their characters, leaving the reader’s imagination to subconcsiously fill in the blanks.
From the excerpt:
Good books incite us to imagine — to fill in an author’s suggestions. Without this personalized, co-creative act, you are simply told: This is your Anna.
It really got me thinking about how I describe my own physical characters. I often leave a lot to the imagination and just drop a teeny hint about their appearance every now and then, but I have to say in my current book I was a little more cognizant of how readers “fill in the blanks” after I read this piece.
It’s the holidays, and that means publishers and authors (including me) are offering all kinds of crazy deals to get their books into brand new ereaders. Indie author Lindsay Buroker posted on her blog an epic fantasy ebook bundle sale that includes FOURTEEN fantasy novels. I just bought it myself, and it’s a great way to discover a number of new authors and new books in one shot for a great price. You can find the bundle at the above link, and get it for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Apple
This is one of those instances where I jumped into a book without knowing much about its history. It turns out this is the 7th book in The Wardstone Chronicles series, which I didn’t know until after I finished it. But it wasn’t a problem because the book feels like it could be a first book of its own series, so I didn’t feel lost or like I was missing something.
The book has a simple structure: each section is told from the point-of-view of a different character, either a witch or a witch hunter. The stories are only loosely related to each other, so the stories don’t get stale and you’re always discovering some new aspect of the world that author Joseph Delaney created.
I liked this book for its interesting chapters told from the perspective of witches both young and old, alive and dead. The mythology here is rich and fitting for the time period, and each witch exposes the reader to a different part of what it means to be a witch. Sometimes you sympathize with them, sometimes you just want to throw that witch’s ass in a bonfire.
What I didn’t like so much was the chapters told from the perspective of the Spooks, the witch hunters. Compared to the witches, they’re a drab bunch who don’t add much to the book. I would’ve enjoyed this much more if the spooks had more depth of character.
Still, it’s a good read if you’re a fan of fantasy, witches, and modern retellings of old folklore. I’m not sure I would need to read the other books in the series though; I feel like I’ve already gotten enough of these tales, and too much of a good thing can indeed be a bad thing.
I’m still working on finishing the first two books in my new science/magic series. Various life events have slowed down the progress, but I’m getting there. It’s happening. Light at the end of the tunnel, finish line ahead, *insert additional completion metaphor*
But some days, the words just don’t come out. One of my favorite writers (me) once said, “Some days the words flow like a mighty river. Some days they’re as slow as molasses.”
I used to struggle in times like that because 99% of the time I really tried to make whatever I wrote worthy of being published, even if it was just written during a draft. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with reaching my daily writing quota if I knew what I wrote was just going to get tossed the next day. I still feel that way most of the time, but I’ve also begun to embrace an idea that helps me get those days when the words just aren’t there…
Sometimes you have to write crap.
There’s one big benefit to writing crap: at least you know what doesn’t work. And another, smaller, benefit is that sometimes that pile of crap you just excreted out of your mind has some valuable seeds in it, and those seeds can grow into beautiful ideas worthy of putting in your finished work.