Break is Over

Greetings, fair readers!  You might remember I announced the end of my almost-final-draft of my first novel about a month ago.  Then I took a break! This post marks the end of my four week break from any scheduled writing.

I have actually continued to write during this time.  It just hasn’t been planned and I’ve attached no stress to doing it or not doing it.  This has been wonderful, but I’m ready to get back to work!

What I’ve been working on:

  • Short Story.  Plucked from poverty and granted unusual eyesight by the government, Iris is on a mission to train a new agent and take out a rogue doctor.  Complications from her “upgrade” make the task more difficult and may make her a target.
  • Next Novel.  Yes, I am working on my next novel!  It is not a sequel to my first novel, but a whole new adventure.  The gods bless anyone who survives the trek to Kelyt’s Crest with the gift of healing or the gift of fire, except Renato.  He arrived and received nothing.  Renato and his new friends must figure out why or humanity may fall to a dragon invasion.
  • Dungeons and Dragons.  I’ve had way too much fun with this lately.  We started a new campaign and I play a Circle of Dreams Druid named Cedar.  New dice, new mini, new adventure.  Just to be extra geeky, you can check out my character sheet on D&D Beyond.
  • Skyrim.  If I’m not writing, I have to fill my time with something.  I recently finished Breath of the Wild, and went looking for another game.  Then I remembered I never beat Skyrim and jumped right back in, this time with mods.  I still haven’t beat it because I’m just wandering around enjoying the awesome world.

Starting this week, I will return to the world of my first novel.  Reader comments are in, and it is time to do a few more edits before I call it “finished.”

I leave for the Writing Excuses Retreat / Cruise in one month!

Boom

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Fourth draft: Done.  After ten-ish months, my first novel is in the hands of some beta readers.  I’m not sure what else to say about this, except it is really awesome.  We’ll have to see where this goes in a month when I get back feedback, but right now I’m going to take a little break from the novel and work on a short story.

I’ll be watching Critical Role and playing Pillars of Eternity this week if anyone needs me.

Oh, and hey!  Website update.  Let me know what you think.

Goodbye, Third Draft

What an exciting week, readers!  I finished the third draft of my novel!

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It took quite a bit longer than I’d planned, but it is over now.  I learned so much in the process, however, and the novel is in much better shape than it was at the end of the second draft.

I cut out several chapters from a second POV character.  There was the main protagonist, running about the woods, trying to figure out herself and avoid the bad guy.  She took up most of the space in the book, and the story is about her journey.  The parts I deleted followed a young man in the bad guy’s camp as he attempted to find ways to spare the main character some pain.  This second character was very noble, and also very boring.

The prologue is also gone.  It has been in, out, in, and finally out again.  It is done, at least, so if I decide to add it back in, it won’t take much time.  I think I can put all the relevant information elsewhere in the story, though.

Now I’m on to the last revision before I send it off to beta readers.  This is going much faster than the third draft as I’m just cleaning things up here and there, so I should be done in far less time.  Let’s aim for a month!

oathbringer

In reading news, I finally read Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson.  I won’t have a review post about it, because I’d say all the things I’d say about The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance.  In other words, I loved it.  I think I liked it more than Words of Radiance.  Very thrilling!

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This week, I’m reading Anthony Ryan’s third installment of The Draconis Memoria, The Empire of Ashes.  I thoroughly enjoyed both The Waking Fire and Legion of Flame, the first two titles in the series.  So far, this new one doesn’t disappoint.  I can’t wait to see how it ends!

The Warrior Elite

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I just finished reading The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228 by Dick Couch.  Some may wonder if this is a standard read for me, but it is for several reasons.  First, I almost joined the military.  If not for a medical disqualification, I might very be an officer in the Air Force right now.  Second, I have friends and family in the military, so the topic remains of interest.  Third, I like reading motivating books with good wisdom on life.  I find many such self-help books to be empty, but anything following people of this caliber is usually anything but fake.  Finally, I don’t want to be a fantasy writer who bases my fantasy wars on other fantasy books.  Real life seems a much better source.

With a postscript describing SEAL efforts in Afghanistan, The Warrior Elite takes you into the toughest, longest, and most relentless military training in the world.

What does it take to become a Navy SEAL? What makes talented, intelligent young men volunteer for physical punishment, cold water, and days without sleep? In The Warrior Elite, former Navy SEAL Dick Couch documents the process that transforms young men into warriors. SEAL training is the distillation of the human spirit, a tradition-bound ordeal that seeks to find men with character, courage, and the burning desire to win at all costs, men who would rather die than quit.

This book follows Class 228, as one might expect from the title, and it also ties in well with both Lone Survivor and American Sniper.  We see Marcus Luttrell, the author of Lone Survivor, in his training days in Mr. Couch’s book.  Both of those books are amazing, and far more personal and colorful (my nice way of saying rated R).  You should consider reading both if you’ve only seen the movies.

This one picks up on some of the more “big picture” items and places the class in a broader context.  I found the tone less personal, which made it somewhat easier to read.  The back portion of the book is dedicated to some follow up information on the training post 9/11.

As I said, this book certainly isn’t as colorful as some of the others on the same topic.  Don’t read it if you want to be awed or completely sucked into the drama like with an action movie.  It is definitely a non-fiction book with less action but more detail.

Another great resource is the Discover documentary on Class 234. Between all four sources, we might start to get the briefest idea of what complete and total badasses these guys must be just to survive even the first few weeks of training.

 

Writing in the Rain

Greetings, fair readers!

It is a rainy day here, and I’ve been coasting through some revisions.  That process is turning out to be rather dull and long but will make for a better product.

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Calling it a “revision” may not even be accurate.  Following my March writing class, I’ve basically rewritten vast portions of my novel and added more detail in almost every paragraph.  It makes for a longer, but better, read.  My pre-class second draft with two POV characters clocked in at 68k words.  My current draft has the same number of words, but I only have one of the two POV characters written, and I have at least two more chapters with her yet to finish.

My goals for this week are to finish up most of the main protagonist’s POV chapters.  Then I’ll go back and rework or revise all the chapters for the other POV, hopefully by the end of July.  I’ll have a scene or two with the first POV again, and then my third draft will be complete.

The fourth draft should be much simpler!  Once it is complete, I’ll send it out to some readers and take a much-needed break.  Ideally, this will occur before I go on vacation in September with the Writing Excuses cruise!

I’ll get feedback from my readers, and then, if all goes well, I’ll finish the book.  It will probably be after my “one-year” goal from last October, but it’ll be close.  Not bad for not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Some have asked if my novel is “good.”  I think my story is good, or I wouldn’t be writing it.  Is it the best novel ever written?  No.  Is it readable?  Quite.  More importantly, I’ve learned a lot about writing and have had fun doing it so the second novel will be even better.  I will be a better writer for my second book, but all I have to do for my first novel is write the best I can write right now.  On that front, I’m successful.

In unrelated news, a friend of mine wants to write a non-fiction book in a few years, about his experiences right now.  What kind of notes should he be taking?

 

 

Write! Write! Write!

Last weekend, I took the Short Story Intensive class with Mary Robinette Kowal. This prevented my normal blog update, but I assure you it was worth it!

I was most familiar with her due to her work on the Writing Excuses podcast.  If you’re a writer and haven’t tried that out, please do so as it is excellent.  She writes novels and short stories and is also a voice actor and puppeteer.  Today she live-tweeted during the spacewalk because she knows things, like the people in the red shirts stay inside the ship.

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Selfie in Space! Source: NASA Image of the Day

My schedule for my novel hoped for the third draft to be complete by the start of June, allowing me all month to focus on something else while beta readers had the draft. My goal was to work on a short story this month, and thus I jumped at the chance to take the class when it came across in email.

The draft is not on schedule. This isn’t surprising as this is exactly the first time I’ve ever written a third draft, but it has been somewhat frustrating. It was nice to take a weekend off and focus on something else creative instead. As an added bonus, I walked away with a completed draft of a 3000-word short story. This is the same story I’d hoped to write over the whole month of June!

It was a wonderful class, and if you’d like some fantastic information about short stories, then you should consider the course. We did several exercises and then concluded with an actual draft. Each exercise was critiqued by two other classmates as well as Mary Robinette. This wasn’t as stressful as it sounds, and not nearly as bad as reading out loud like I did in Dallas.

I found a lot that applied to my novel, as well. The class has reenergized me this week, and I’ve accomplished a lot both in my writing and my mindset. I think the rest of the draft will speed up as a result. I can hope!

The only downside to the class (which was announced and anticipated) was the sheer amount of time taken. I estimate it took up at least 25 hours of my weekend, perhaps closer to 30. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything other than eat, sleep, and the class aside from an hour to go to Mass. I didn’t get my normal amount of sleep either, which made the writing all the more interesting. She does have the class on her Patreon, if you’re interested in a version with a slower pace.

Long story short, you should definitely consider the class!

Magic with a Boom

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I mentioned I read Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan last week, and I loved it.  This explanation may sound strange but bear with me.  With many fantasy novels I read and love, I have a feeling of “oh wow, this is so cool!”  With this novel, I felt more “Crap!  That’s bad!  What will happen next?”  It was a different, but good experience.

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan.

The magic system in this novel is varied and interesting, with the main focus on a group identified as powder mages.  This is where the series gets its title.  As the description above suggests, they can control and draw power from gunpowder.   There are others who are sorcerers and even more with some magic talents, making for a unique set of magic users working for and against each other.

I really appreciated the characters in this novel, as most of them have something wrong with them.  None of them are perfect knights in shining armor, but they’re doing the best they can with what they have, and I wanted them to win.

There was also a diversity of opinion regarding the various god(s) and religion, which proved important as the story developed.  Why prepare for the gods’ involvement if you think they don’t exist?  But what if your enemies believe they do, and that motivates them to do evil?

The book has a sense of completion at the end, while also clearly setting up more books.  I like it when a book finishes the main plot up, as otherwise, it feels like I just did a lot of reading for nothing.  This one solves one set of problems while leaving us prepared to take on larger issues, and I’m excited to keep reading.

Have you read this series?  He’s also written a sequel to the series – what did you think of it?  Do you have any other books you’d recommend?

A Cleric Named Kreia

 

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The Creek!

 

It is the season for walking!  This is one of the few pretty photos you’ll find here I didn’t snag off of a free photo site.  I took this on a recent morning walk to the park nearby.  No filters were necessary.

This week was a little less productive on the novel writing, but I did develop the backstory for a wood elf cleric.  No, I’m not currently involved in a D&D campaign, but I don’t let such minor details stop me.  The novel is still going well; I have just been slowed by life events.  This is fine, as it is not my jobby-job which funds food and things so I’ve been happy enough plotting an RPG character I may never use.

I have been puttering around with the novel though and hope to make some big decisions regarding a prologue soon.  I’m at a point I’m either going to share more details about something that happened in the past, or I’m just going to reference them because we saw them in the as of yet unwritten prologue.  Decisions, decisions.  My writing group recommends the prologue because they want to see the full effect of my magic system, which otherwise won’t happen for most of the book.

Reading went exceptionally well, and I’m ahead of my 2018 Goodreads’ Reading Challenge goal.  Since I last posted, I have finished:

  • Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly.  This follows the journey of Astronaut Scott Kelly as he spends a year aboard the International Space Station.  This was both entertaining and informative, and I really enjoyed learning about some of the traditions of both astronauts and cosmonauts.
  • That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion by Fr. Paul Scalia.  Fr. Scalia is the son of late Justice Scalia, and the book is straightforward and articulate as one might expect.  It may have been a series of blog posts or thoughts, so seemed a little less connected than I would have liked.  I did enjoy the read though.
  • Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan.  This is the first of the Powder Mage trilogy, and I liked it so much I’m going to the library to pick up the second book immediately.  Expect a full review soon, but it is safe to say I recommend the book.

How about you, readers?  How is your writing going?  Did you read any good books?  Would you add a prologue?

beautifuldream

A few weeks ago,  I read One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler.   One Beautiful Dream is now one of my favorite books.  I rarely laugh out loud or cry while reading, but I did both multiple times as I read through her tale as a mother pursuing her dream of writing.

Pursue your passions, love your family, and say goodbye to guilt—pipe dream or possibility?

Work and family, individuality and motherhood, the creative life and family life—women are told constantly that they can’t have it all. One Beautiful Dream is the deeply personal, often humorous tale of what happened when one woman dared to believe that you can have it all—if you’re willing to reimagine what having it all looks like.

Jennifer Fulwiler is the last person you might expect to be the mother of six young children. First of all, she’s an introvert only child, self-described workaholic, and former atheist who never intended to have a family. Oh, and Jennifer has a blood-clotting disorder exacerbated by pregnancy that has threatened her life on more than one occasion.

One Beautiful Dream is the story of what happens when one woman embarks on the wild experiment of chasing her dreams with multiple kids in diapers. It’s the tale of learning that opening your life to others means that everything will get noisy and chaotic, but that it is in this mess that you’ll find real joy.

Jennifer’s quest takes her in search of wisdom from a cast of colorful characters, including her Ivy-League-educated husband, her Texan mother-in-law who crushes wasps with her fist while arguing with wrong number calls about politics, and a best friend who’s never afraid to tell it like it is. Through it all, Jennifer moves toward the realization that the life you need is not the life you would have originally chosen for yourself. And maybe, just maybe, it’s better that way.

Hilarious, highly relatable, and brutally honest, Jennifer’s story will spark clarity and comfort to your own tug-of-war between all that is good and beautiful about family life and the incredible sacrifice it entails. Parenthood, personal ambitions, family planning, and faith—it’s complicated. Let this book be your invitation to the unexpected, yet beautiful dream of saying yes to them all, with God’s help.

Although I don’t have children, her stories were instantly relatable, hilarious, and thought-provoking.  I’d followed her blog, Conversion Diary, for a long time before she started writing books, so I knew she was funny.  This wasn’t just a series of blog entries though, and I was delighted to track her progress from an overwhelmed mom to an overwhelmed mom with a book.

I immediately sent it off to a friend, who texted me a few hours after receipt with, “Why are we not friends with this woman?  We could totally be BFF’s.”  She suggested driving to Texas to see the author.  My friend read seven chapters that night, which is impressive because she actually does have children.  That’s how good the book is.

It is what led me to The War of Art, which I reviewed as well.  It is full of all sorts of wisdom, both practical and spiritual.  As a writer working on my first novel, I also found it motivating.  If she can accomplish her dream while also running her crazy-awesome mom life, then I can finish my book.

Do yourself a favor and read this book, especially if you’re a mom.  Have yourself a laugh and a cry with a nice glass of wine.

Winning at the Goal

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Last week, I set a goal for writing of 60 minutes per day.  I more than made this with an average of 70 minutes each workday!  Family is in town this weekend, and they take priority, so the workload has gone down.  That’s a good reason!

Next week, hopefully, more of the same.  I feel very good about my book and figure at my present rate, I’ll add about 50,000 words between the second draft and the third draft.  I may have to cut, but that can be a new adventure.  As it is, this draft stands at 43,000 words.

My writing group has pointed out several things I’d like to fix in draft 3.5, with the largest being I avoid telling to the point I don’t imply enough.  I may have the details they need scattered across three or four chapters, unlinked and with no mark of importance.  Most of the group has missed several key details until they went and looked for them again, which isn’t ideal.  Hopefully, that will be less of a rewrite than draft 3.

Speaking of my writing group, y’all can be jealous.  If I haven’t mentioned it, the group includes another epic fantasy writer as well as a webcomic author, a dungeons and dragons DM and module writer, and a poet.  The poet helped me rename one of the houses in my book because as an engineer I had thrown together an acceptable collection of consonants and vowels.  Apparently, words can sound better than that.  Who knew?

I spent some time learning about free indirect speech, yet another concept not covered in Calculus class.  Not that I’d remember anyway; I struggled with Calculus.  I’d like to use this more often, but I need to consider it some more.  Do you have any thoughts on this style?

This week, I read The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  I’m two books ahead of schedule on my 2018 reading challenge.  What are you reading?  Do you have any recommendations?

I stayed up too late Thursday night reading City of Bones because I had Friday off.  My body refused to sleep in so I was up at almost my usual time, and I felt like I had a hangover.  There was no alcohol though.  I guess I’m getting too old to stay up until 1AM!