Breaking Ground & Being a “Real Writer”

I’m having a very surreal moment right now. I’m breaking ground on my 2nd novel of 2011–my 3rd one all time. I just finished the outline for The Price of Loyalty after the end of a marathon day today. You’ll see what I mean when I get to the word count section. This is the longest outline I’ve ever written, so hopefully it’ll be easy to fill in the cracks when it comes to the actual writing part.

Let me break down the surreal part. I consider myself a writer, but in my head there’s a tiny voice that sometimes tries to tell me that I’m faking it. I’m not a real writer. I’m just someone who wishes they were a writer. When that voice kicks in the acceptances, the rejections, the completed stories, and even the two completed* novels don’t count for shit. It’s kind of annoying actually. I hate when that voice pops up. Well it’s kind of happening right now, but this time it’s a little more incredulous instead of discouraging. It can’t believe that I’m starting another book, never mind the fact that I just finished one a month or so ago. Writing yet another book is something real writers do. Okay, maybe it still is just discouraging.

Screw it! I’m writing another book. In a few months I’ll finish the rough draft, and then maybe that little voice will shut the hell up.

*By completed I mean I’ve finished one to the point where it’s suitable for submission. Its sequel has a complete rough draft but hasn’t had any edits or revisions. It’s kind of pointless to start really revising that one because it can’t really be sold on its own.

Here’s my statistics for this mentally exhausting day.

Project: The Price of Loyalty (outline)

Deadline: N/A (was supposed to be 6/1)

Word count: 7,964


My First Interview & Some Writing Updates

My first interview is up at the Dagan Books website. My first ever. I think it’s really cool that all the authors included in the In Situ anthology are being interviewed. It adds a little bit of personal flavor to the anthology if you can get a glimpse into the authors’ heads. At the very least, I hope I don’t come across as boring or dumb.

Sadly, the dumb part may not be avoidable. I just headed over there and realized that my spell checker changed the name of my story on me. It’s supposed to be “Jewel of Tahn-Vinh” not “Than-Vinh.” Also the website listed isn’t current anymore. I switched to this current site and forgot to to mention it to Dagan Books. Whoops. Should be simple enough to get proper info put in the interview though.

I took a break over the weekend and didn’t work on The Price of Loyalty outline. I’d been working on it for over a week straight and I needed a bit of a break. I dove right back into it. I got a good chunk of it done today. I’m actually over the 40,000 word mark for the outline, but that’s okay. It just makes the actual writing part that much easier. I’m getting near the climax and the main character is going to get the emotional shit kicked outta him. Nothing hurts more than broken trust and expectations.

Project: The Price of Loyalty outline

Deadline: N/A (maybe 6/1)

Word count: 8,066 (since 4/20)

In Situ Cover Art

This news is a couple of days old, but the cover art for the upcoming Dagan Books anthology In Situ is available. Here’s a slightly scaled down version of the full size image.

Personally, I think the cover looks amazing. My story “Jewel of Tahn-Vinh” is included in the anthology, and it’s scheduled to be released in May 2011. I’ll also have an interview up on the Dagan Books website sometime in the near future. I probably should the dates down… Oh well. Enjoy the cool art!

Price of Loyalty Outline Updates

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve had several job interviews that went well, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that front.

I’ve put in lots of work on the Price of Loyalty outline. It’s coming along pretty well so far. There are a couple of rough/not fleshed out parts that I’ll have to go back to later, but they’re not important right now. I just want to get a detailed, complete framework for the story in place. Then I can start filling in the gaps and actually write the novel.

On a semi-related note. I started a new feature series over in the Community Blogs section on Destructoid. It’s called “Under the Radar” and it’s where I focus on games (some newer than others) that just flew under my personal radar. The first game featured in the series is BioWare’s Jade Empire from 2005. I don’t know how often it’ll be updated, but I’d like to at least make it a semi-regular thing.

Now word count and stuff.

Project: The Price of Loyalty outline

Deadline: N/A (maybe 6/1. 5/1 isn’t going to work)

Word count: 19,840 (since 4/8)


The PC loop

Last night I watched a promising new comedy on ABC called Happy Endings. Here’s the quick premise: Alex and Dave were all set to get married when she leaves him at the altar. Now their group of friends–Max, Brad, Jane, and Penny–worry whether or not this break up will pull their group of friends apart. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s basically the show.

Since it was a mid-season replacement with virtually no-name actors (or at least no-name to me) I didn’t have high hopes. I was pleasantly surprised after the pilot and the bonus episode that followed it. Max’s character is hilarious. He’s an openly gay guy, but he’s not openly gay like Jack from Will and Grace. One of his lines in the pilot was something along the lines of “something something…and I had sex with a dude last night.” It was such a change from the “Sex & the City type gay character” that I commented about it. Then in the second episode, the characters commented about it too. There was some great meta humor about how Max isn’t gay enough because he’s not a gay stereotype.

I enjoyed his character, but during one scene I paused the show, turned to my girlfriend, and said, “I bet no matter what happens in the rest of the episode, there will be people who get upset and complain.” All the friends are at Penny’s birthday dinner–just after Dave and Alex’s disastrous non-wedding–and Max is convinced that Penny’s date is gay. He makes little comments to the guy and comes across pretty strong with the whole hitting on the guy vibe. The date gets freaked out and leaves after other events have further ruined the evening.

Here’s where the PC loop comes in. And by PC I mean political correctness. Facetiously, I said how some people would get upset by how low key Max’s gayness was. He acts pretty much like any other sitcom secondary character–a little like Barney from How I Met Your Mother but with guys instead of women. So one side was going to get upset because he wasn’t “gay enough” whatever that means. Then the other side was going to complain because of how strongly he hit on that one guy. Anti-gays could use that to justify their ridiculous fears that that’s what all gay men are like–they’re just waiting for the chance to hit on you, maybe rape you, and force you to join their gay club or something. So even pro-gay people would get upset because Max’s character continued the stereotype of the “aggressive gay man.”

So in order to avoid upsetting people of various camps, PC steps in. Oh yes, political correctness. I was exaggerating, but really I’m sure there was some person (maybe just one) out there who watched Happy Endings that was upset by Max’s character. How do you avoid upsetting people? PC is supposed to solve that, but at the same time like I demonstrated in the previous paragraph you can get stuck in an endless PC loop. You try to appease somebody, but somebody else takes offense at your appeasement. It’s all highly ridiculous.

Max was a funny character. Happy Endings was a funny show. I liked how he openly admitted to being gay within the first few minutes of the show. Now I will get upset if his character doesn’t grow at all–not as a gay or straight or whatever man, but as a person. It’s hinted that he has some insecurities about his weight and parental issues. Those things need to be explored because that’s what will flesh him out as a character. Those kinds of things are what make characters grow. As long as Max doesn’t stay one note I’ll consider myself appeased…until I find something else to get offended by. That’s how modern culture works, right?

Space Opera Writing Updates

In all the excitement of writing my post about the definition of steampunk, I forgot to put up my writing updates. I’ve put the rough draft of Terraviathan aside for the time being. The Exile’s Violin needs to be published first before Terraviathan can be considered. I have plenty of time to work on edits, though I hope somebody picks up the book soon.

I started working on the outline of my science fiction, space opera novel The Price of Loyalty again. I’d first started it a couple of years ago when I was taking a break from The Exile’s Violin. I actually have a completed outline and several completed chapters, but they’re not up to my current standards. They feel very rough and unpolished, not what I’m capable of now. I decided to completely rework the outline and start over. So that’s where I’m at now.

Even though I define the novel as space opera, I’d like to think it’s not going to be generic space opera. Or at least it’ll be space opera with some nuances. Definitely not like this novel described (in jest) on Paul McAuley’s blog.

Project: The Price of Loyalty outline

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1 for the outline)

Word count: 12,477 since 4/4


How Do You Define Steampunk?

Steampunk. It’s everywhere right? But how do you define steampunk–as a literary genre. I’m more interested in it as a genre rather than steampunk culture, DIY projects, and the like. There are dozens of definitions and websites dedicated to the celebration of steampunk literature.

Personally, my definition of steampunk doesn’t get bogged down in the Victorian era or 19th century settings. I also tend to focus more on the -punk part of the word. To me steampunk is still linked to cyberpunk, just with different aesthetic touches: challenging authority, oppressive regimes, etc. To me the -punk suffix is perfect for writing things that challenge the romantic notions of the 19th century, a time where European imperialism was at its height.

At the same time I love worldbuilding. I’d much rather create my own setting than use even a fictionalized version of Earth. It’s fun for me, and at the same time I don’t have to worry so much about factual accuracy. If it’s my setting I can make it how I want. But can a work be steampunk if it’s set in a completely made up setting?

I ask because my novel just got rejected by a certain SF/F publisher. While the acquisitions dept. said it had potential and was tightly written, “The steam punk feel came through strongly enough […] It was very modern in language and dress.”

They remarked that this was a subjective view, and I agree. I don’t fault them at all. It’s their prerogative to accept whatever books they want. But I can’t help but wonder, were they working off a different definition of steampunk than me? I think absolutely. According to this publisher, steampunk needs to have an older–read: 19th century–feel to it. On that note I have to disagree.

Just because a book isn’t set in England and doesn’t have people riding pennyfarthings and speaking with faux old-timey accents and diction, doesn’t mean it’s not steampunk. I had airship battles, clockwork automatons, corrupt governments, violence, and other things that I feel fall perfectly within the realm of steampunk. I put this question up on Twitter and according to the responses I got (from a small sample size) people seemed to agree with my view.

Oh well. It is what it is. I’ll continue to describe my book as science fiction/steampunk. This particular rejection didn’t hurt too much. At least they took the time to offer up something more than just a generic rejection, plus it had a little positive something something in the middle. But the best part is that it sparked this little thought experiment.

What do you think? How do you define steampunk? Does it need to have 19th century trappings, even when the piece is set in a completely fictional, non-Earth setting? Let me know.

Good News Everyone!

I hope you all just read that in the Professor’s voice from Futurama. If you didn’t then I’m ashamed of you. So I got some pieces of good news today. They’re not earth shattering or anything, but they’re still promising, more like opportunities for better news.

1) I have a job interview next week. Exciting.

2) I queried a publisher a couple of days ago about The Exile’s Violin because they said “they loved steampunk, but query first.” Thank goodness I saw their page when I did because their reading period was closing the next day. They got back to me this morning (2 days after I queried) and asked for the full manuscript! What? Normally you send in a query letter, then maybe some sample pages/chapters (anywhere from 1-3 chapters or maybe the first 20-50 pages) and  if they like the same, then the publisher asks for the full. Who knows, this could end in rejection, but I’m an optimist! I take it as good sign that the publisher wanted to read the full thing after reading my query letter. I know these things take time, but I can’t help it when I hope they get back to me right away–next week would be fine.

In other publishing related news, Tobias Buckell has an illuminating post on his blog about his story story collection Tides From the New Worlds and its ebook sales. It’s a very pragmatic and no nonsense look at ebook sales. It definitely offers something of a reality check for all those people out there who are screaming that print is dead and everyone should jump on board the digital train ASAP. I suggest you read his post, especially if you’re a published author.

And now writing updates.

Yesterday I did something a little unconventional for me. I wrote a short story in one sitting. Right now it’s titled “One Hundred Years” and its a little bit of a departure from what I normally write. I went for more of a straight up fantasy thing rather than sci-fi or speculative fiction. It’s not perfect and it needs some edits/revisions, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.

I also started revising my timeline and encyclopedia for my upcoming project The Price of Loyalty — a sci-fi novel that follows the rise and fall of one starship captain set in humanity’s future. It’s been really fun writing the encyclopedia and adding footnotes like it’s a real reference document. Once I get the encyclopedia a little more fleshed out, I’m going to start revising the outline. I like what I have so far, but it needs more depth and sophistication. Right now it feels very rough.

Project: “One Hundred Years”

Deadline: N/A

Word Count: 2,295