Archive for February, 2012

Collaboration from the Inside Post 1

Wait!  Don’t run!  I’m not planning another epic three-part three-day post.  I only call this Post 1 because I anticipate future posts on this same topic.  Please, I’m so sorry I put you through what I have this week, I just had so many thoughts to share on one subject.

Alright.  Collaboration.  As I’ve mentioned in passing both here and on Unleaded, I’m in the process of collaborating on a novel with my fantastic wife.  As I’ve also mentioned here, I’m currently working through every damn episode of Writing Excuses in reverse order.  It’s odd listening to them backwards, since it means they randomly fire Mary Robinette Kowal and get progressively worse equipment.  This backwards listen has delivered me through season 4, and I’ve now come to the end of season 3 and their episode on Collaboration.  Give it a listen, it’s only fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and they’re not that smart.

The episode has put me on defense, just a little.  Basically the advice given over-simplifies to: if you’re a starting writer considering collaboration, don’t do it.

I’m not going to pretend to contradict them for a second, I’m not going to suggest that new writers such as myself and my wife should form collaboration teams, or especially that novice writers shouldn’t, as apparently some do, contact established writers and offer to either sell them an outline or “collaborate” by having someone like Brandon Sanderson write their novel for them.  Seriously.  Who the hell does that?  DON’T DO THAT!

They make some fantastic points, collaboration shouldn’t be about finding someone to do the things you don’t do well so you don’t have to do them.  Now at this point an astute follower of my writing here and Unleaded will no doubt point out that I wrote a blog post called “Coauthor as Foil” where I made this argument:

Perhaps the single best piece of advice I can give from my limited collaboration experience so far?  Find your foil.  Find someone who is good at the things you’re not so good at, someone who has admitted their own shortcomings and they’re your strengths. Admitted is an important piece of this.  I don’t know if authors can work together if they don’t know their own writing well enough to know what they’re good or bad at.

It might sound like the lazy man’s way of advancing as a writer, find someone who can do the things you can’t so you don’t have to.  But it’s also a learning experience.  I’ve been told the best way to improve on my flaws as a writer is to read people who do well what I do poorly.  See what they do, analyze it, and bring it into my own writing.  It’s fine advice, but it’s only the second best way.  The actual best way is to find someone who does it well, and not just read them, but witness their process.  Watch it come together.  There’s something about being there in the planning stages that just doesn’t come across in the final product.

This now sounds like I’m contradicting myself.  The trick here, though, is the learning process.  I didn’t team with my wife’s skills at bigger picture world building and description so I could not do these things, I teamed with them so that I could do them better.  I’d like to think I now do.

There’s a deeper reasoning to our collaboration on this project, though: we already did it anyway.  I can’t think of the last project either of us worked on that didn’t include a certain amount of idea bouncing back and forth.  Heck, one of the best monsters I’ve ever created was for one of her novels.  Nickajack largely started as an experiment in formalizing, and I’ve very happy with the results thus far.  Does that make us an aberration?  An exception that proves the rule?  I don’t know, I certainly can’t say this will be a success in the long-term, but in the short-term I’m very happy with our results.

Would Howard Tayler still yell at us?  Probably.  Is that going to stop us?  Absolutely not.

A few words about our process, at least the process so far.  We’ve developed a fantastic three-part method for churning the first draft.  We world build in our separate ways.  She looks at the distant past, I tie that in with the recent past.  We talk about it with each other, get it all written down, and make sure it’s all internally consistent.  It’s how she knows what’s going on in our world in 950 BC and I know what went on in 1863.  We outline together, and I cannot stress enough how important I think that is in the process.  Both the outlining, and the shared nature of it.  We both throw ideas out, we bounce them off each other, and come up with the best path forward.  Sometimes she’ll end up having all the ideas for one chapter, sometimes I will, sometimes they need to come from both of us.  Sometimes she’ll have all the ideas, but only after I’ve vetoed one and we move on to her second idea, or vice versa.

Then the writing begins.  I’m the rough draft writer, which means I’m sitting down and turning the outline into chapters of around 1500-2500 words, making sure all the ideas are there, that we’ve gone from point A to B to Z as planned, that the dialogue and descriptions are down.  These rough drafts aren’t missing anything, but they are quickly written, which is my style.  Like I said, I’m not using the collaboration as an excuse to not write description, but as a way of getting better at it.  Which means writing it.  She’s the first draft writer, going through a few chapters after my pass and polishing things up, making the draft as good as possible.  Even those bits that we know will change.  Perhaps especially those bits we know will change.  In the end, I call them rough and first drafts because mine isn’t quite a first draft, and her’s isn’t quite a second, and because I’ve long used that phrasing in my own short stories to distinguish between the pass where I’m getting ideas down and the pass where I’m making the ideas work together.

That’s really where we stand two-thirds through the initial draft.  We’ve discussed some plans on how we’re going to do the second draft process.  It may be largely similar, but with the outlining stage replaced with a reading the first draft together stage.  For those interesting in our process, I’ll probably talk about it when it happens.  It’ll probably develop organically, much as our first drafting process has.  With collaboration, like with any writing, it’s about finding the methods that work best.

I still stand by finding your foil if you’re going to collaborate, but don’t use it entirely as a crutch.  Don’t assume collaboration is the best possible idea.  There’s a lot to keep in mind.  Make sure you have the same goals, make sure you have ground rules.  We actually went into this process with a negotiated out if we decided it wasn’t working.  As the Writing Excuses folks point out, it doesn’t make the process easier, there are more things to juggle, not fewer.  There’s working around schedules, especially if you don’t share the same sofa most evenings.  There’s negotiating ideas, the novel isn’t going to be entirely one writer’s baby.  That was, perhaps, the hardest part for me to learn.  I’ve found it very rewarding, however, and I think the novel is far stronger for both of our ideas than it would have been if just one of us was writing it.  Collaboration is not a tool for everyone, but then, no writing tool is.

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A Writer Reviews: Lord of the Rings (pt3)

The Return of the Sanguine

For those who missed the first two parts (part 1, part 2) I have divided the 10 main characters in the Lord of the Rings into the four temperaments, shown how characters who share a supposed temperament may share almost nothing else in terms of what actually makes them a character, and now I’m going to look at just the three Sanguine characters, and the differences in their character arcs through the movies.  Today it’s Gollum, Gimli, and Pippin.

The Sanguine, to recap, is the hot-blooded character, a character of passions and desires, and who let these control his or her personality.  When I broke down the Scooby gang back in part 1, the Sanguines were Shaggy and Scooby.  The Sanguine character will frequently, but not always, be the comic relief within a story.  Certainly one of the Sanguine characters in Lord of the Rings, Gollum, is anything but a comic relief character, serving instead as the primary antagonist to Frodo’s quest to throw the Ring into Mount Doom.  The Sanguine can be an effective opposing force for the story, especially if his or her blindered devotion is working directly against the hero of the tale.  Many comic super villains end up firmly in the Sanguine category.  Joker, I’m looking at you.  In the end it depends on the depths a character is willing to plumb to win his or her desire.

In terms of straight comic relief let us, with some regret, turn to Gimli.  I suppose it’s easy to make the dwarf the butt of jokes, I just hope there’s less of a dwarf-tossing running gag in the Hobbit films, especially given just how many dwarves there will be.  Most of the dissatisfaction I, and others, had with the movies revolved around Gimli turning into a series of running gags.  Dwarf tossing, corpse counting, throwing out complaints about whatever situations they were in.  Then he just fades away at the end of the movie, no mention of his fate, he’s the only character who is really left open-ended by the whole thing.  Which is a shame.  It’s an easy trap to fall into with the Sanguine, however, it’s one of the easier characters to play just for their archetype, then when no longer needed, to be discard.  The Sanguine is occasionally the character killed off to prove that Shit Just Got Real.  Or allowed to fade away when it’s time for the grownups to take charge.  The Sanguine comic relief will never solve a problem, except by accident.  It’s really a shame this is who Gimli was turned into.

On the flip side we’ve got the Sanguine’s ability to evolve, which can turn them into a very powerful character within a narrative.  And here is where we get to Peregrin Took.  Who doesn’t love the line “fool of a Took”?  It’s fun to say, and it’s fantastic when delivered with the gravitas of Sir Ian McKellen.  He can be counted on to be the classic Sanguine through the first movie, wanting to stop to eat, delighted that beer comes in pints in Bree, not thinking and giving Frodo’s identity away, knocking the skeleton into the well in Moria to alert the Fellowship’s presence to the orcs in Moria.  The first moment that we see something more from Pippin is when he asks Treebeard to take them to the west of Fangorn Forest, forcing the Ents into war against Isengard, but we still see his impetuous nature when he goes diving for the palantir, ultimately looks into it, and finally drafts himself into service in Gondor.  It’s this series of three events, coupled with being pulled away from Merry, that forces Pippin’s evolution as a character and pushes him away from the Sanguine.

What he becomes is hard to say.  There are elements of both the Melancholy and Choleric to the new Pippin.  In the end we don’t get to see enough of Pippin within the movies.  Within the books, he unquestionably becomes the Choleric, taking his place as the Thain of the Shire.  It makes his evolution a much stronger statement, as he needed to do some growing up to assume his ancestral title.  In the movies, it still makes him easily my favorite character.  The more I watch the movies, the more I see that the trip into Mordor is Sam’s story, not Frodo’s, and the rest of the Fellowship is Pippin’s story, not Aragorn’s.  They are the interesting characters for how changed Pippin is when he comes home, and how unchanged Sam is.  In fact, Sam is a study in how a character not changing can still be very satisfying, but I’ve really talked about these movies for long enough already.

So let’s sum up, and let’s do so quicker than the movies themselves.  The four temperaments can be a great way of approaching your characters and making sure they have unique roles within a group dynamic.  Characters of the same temperament do not have to respond to situations in the same way.  The Sanguine can be an extremely versatile character, but has pitfalls when used solely as comic relief.  With that, I can now put these movies on a boat sailing away with the elves, and look forward to looking back with The Hobbit later this year.

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A Writer Reviews: Lord of the Rings (pt2)

The Two Cholerics

Last time on A Writer Reviews I talked about the four temperaments, then pigeonholed the 10 main characters of Lord of the Rings (the Fellowship plus Gollum) into these categories:

  • Choleric (leaders): Aragorn, Merry
  • Phlegmatic (followers): Samwise, Legolas
  • Melancholic (loaners): Gandalf, Boromir, Frodo
  • Sanguine (wild-cards): Pippin, Gollum, Gimli

This time we’re going to look at the distinctions made between characters who share a broad temperament but are still quite different, and for this we’re going to look at the two bile-based temperaments, the yellow bile Cholerics and the black bile Melancholics.

We’re getting down to archetypes here.  When we’ve got just four broad categories to fit characters into, a wide diversity is going to end up in each of these pigeon holes.  Archetypes are fine, they’re wonderful, they’re absolutely fantastic.  They exist for a reason, and readers respond to them.  However, a character needs to be more than just the sum of their archetypes, and as writers we need to keep in mind how characters of both similar and dissimilar archetypes will react to each other.  This is the essential ingredient in creating both friendships and conflicts within a story.

Let’s start with our two Cholerics.  I made the obvious pick of Aragorn and the somewhat less obvious pick of Merry when picking who the Choleric characters are within the story.  Merry isn’t given many opportunities to actually lead, but remember I’ve only called the Choleric a “leader” as a short hand.  It’s more about drive, passion, and the ability to make those quick decisions on the fly.  Yesterday I cited the example of Merry making the call for the hobbits to escape the Nazgul via the ferry, but he also takes a clear leadership role when we’re down to just he and Pippin in Orcish captivity and in Fangorn forest.  His is an interesting leadership, as he’s the one willing to take the reins when no one else is, but he’s fully willing to defer to another when presented with an option.  Put Aragorn into the formula, and he allows Pippin’s Sanguine nature to rub off on him.  This is important.  Anytime that a story has more than one natural leader in it, there will either need to be that moment of deferral or that moment of confrontation.  There is a very short confrontation when the hobbits first meet Aragorn, and the real moment of deferral happens the morning after Bree when Merry pulls Pipping along when it’s clear Aragorn is not going to stop for every hobbit meal.

In a sense, we’ve got a natural leader, and a reluctant leader.  Both are Choleric, but one never strays while the other is more than happy to experiment with being a Sanguine when the moment is opportune to do so.

Among our Melancholic types, we see a broader range of characters.  We have an energetic Melancholic, able to lead men while still fitting many of the paradigms, in Galdalf.  We have a Melancholic whose thoughtful introversion scales all the way to scheming in Boromir.  And we’ve got our miserable Melancholic who can hardly bear the burden placed on his life in Frodo.  We see two of the three overcome their base natures.  Boromir ultimately backs off when given the opportunity to snatch the ring.  Gandalf acts as the military leader at the battle of Minis Tirith.  Frodo never really does.  Even after his burden is lifted, he lives alone, and joins the elves, leaving Middle Earth.  Which is fine.  Having a character overcome their Melancholic nature can be a fantastic plot device for a story, but it isn’t a necessary one.

The problem comes with just how heavily to play the Melancholic.  This is where we get into my issues with the movie.  Two of our Melancholics are given bigger personalities.  Gandalf is the great wizard, older than the ages, plyer of magic and in many ways the architect of everything that happens in the story.  Boromir is scheming to get the ring away from Frodo.  Frodo is…depressed.  With the exception of the scene right after he’s released by Faramir he spends the entire time from the beginning of the second movie through the destruction of the Ring in a deep blue funk about how miserable he is with the path he’s been forced to take.  This.  Gets.  Tedious.  A character cannot be defined solely by his temperament, but needs some other depth or trait, especially a character nearly so introspective as a Melancholic.

So we have our temperaments, but we’ve got our layers on top of them.  We have two leaders, but one is a destined king of men while another is a hobbit who only takes the lead when no one else is going to.  We have our loaners, but one is willing to lead men, one is a schemer, and one is our overly introspective lead.

However, people change.  Characters are dynamic.  And a character who may start in one pigeonhole may end up in another.  Which is what I’ll look at tomorrow with The Return of the Sanguine.

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A Writer Reviews: Lord of the Rings (pt1)

Part One: The Fellowship of the Humors

I’d like to retread ground I’ve walked on before.  Nearly a year ago I talked briefly about using the four humors when putting together a quarter of character within a narrative structure, using a Cracked After Hours video as a basis.  At the time the concept was a new one to me, but I’ve been looking at it more and more in the months since, especially after discovering that my wife and I had accidentally created four point of view characters for our current novel that map perfectly to the four humors.

Let’s do a quick recap of the four humors, or four temperaments, for those who not aware of them.  It all started with out of date notions of psychology, explanations of human behavior in terms of the balance and imbalance of the four primary bodily fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.  This gave rise to four primary temperaments based on which of these essential humors was most in control of a given person.  Blood was sanguine, phlegm was phlegmatic, yellow bile was choleric, and black bile was melancholic.  While our understanding of bodily organs and our various internal fluids has evolved (at the time, blood was associated with the liver) and humorism no longer holds sway in psychology or medicine, the concept of the four temperaments has held on within fiction.  It’s the basis of an immediately recognizable quartet of individuals.

The sanguine individual tends to be an impulsive pleasure seeker who, in an extreme, might even be hedonistic.  We actually have a phrase in English that dates to this old four humors explanation of temperament, “hot blooded.”  The choleric individual tends to be ambitious and will take charge of a group and be its leader.  The melancholic individual tends to be a loaner, a perfectionist, and may even be a fatalist when taken to the extreme.  The phlegmatic individual is accepting, loving, and often a willing follower.

To oversimplify it within team dynamics, we have the choleric leader, the phlegmatic side kick, the melancholic outcast, and the sanguine comic relief.  This is a vast over simplification.  For one, the phlegmatic may not always be the choleric’s side kick, and the sanguine can be tragic as often as comic.  However, these simplified designations are helpful when considering just what role the four have within a group, and how it creates the classic group dynamic we’re accustomed to.  It’s one we even see starting in childhood.  Within the Scooby Doo stories, Fred is choleric, Daphne is phlegmatic, Velma is melancholic, and both Shaggy and Scooby (who are basically one character anyway) are sanguine.

This is a fantastic construct because it creates characters with natural in-built conflicts, and characters that viewers will be able to map themselves on to based on their own tendencies.

Let’s look at the Lord of the Rings.  This is a rather more complex series of groups that are constantly breaking apart and reforming.  At points there are just two characters together, at points there are as many as nine between the formation of the Fellowship and Gandalf falling in Moria.  But I’m going to break it down into two groups, based largely on the period between the fall of Gandalf and the breaking of the Fellowship.  They’re easy groups.  We’ve got the hobbits, and we’ve got the non-hobbits.  Among the non-hobbits we’ve got Aragorn as the clear choleric leader, Boromir as the dour melancholic who wants the ring for his own purposes, phlegmatic Legolas who makes only one active decision in the entire trilogy and serves otherwise as body-guard and ass kicker, and sanguine Gimli, turned into classic comic relief for the purposes of the movies.

The hobbits are a little more difficult.  It’s easy to consider Frodo the leader as he’s our protagonist through the movie (well, Sam actually is, but that’s another discussion), but he’s almost a textbook example of the melancholic, both within the temperamental definition, and the more modern idea of melancholy.  He’s the one who breaks the Fellowship by setting out on his own, and spends most of three movies bemoaning how unfair the world is.  Sam is the easy one to peg, he’s the phlegmatic follower.  At no point does he ever do anything but.  This even leads to my biggest disappointment in the movies, the moment when Sam briefly hesitates in giving the Ring back to Frodo.  In the book there’s no hesitation, as his devotion to Frodo is stronger than anything, even the allure of the Ring.  That leaves Merry and Pippin, who are so often “Merry and Pippin” that it’s easy to overlook them as their own characters, but that’s unfair.  Merry, even though he’s on the adventure to help Frodo, is actually the choleric, which doesn’t have to be synonymous with leader.  But he does take the lead at several key point, especially when the hobbits are fleeing toward the ferry.  Pippin is the sanguine, though he actually goes through more evolution than any other character.  At the beginning, he’s the one complaining that Aragorn isn’t aware of second breakfast, brunch, tea, lunch, or any of the other hobbit meals.  This rash nature ultimately gets him in trouble when he just has to look into the Palantir.  This also becomes the defining moment for his character arc, but that’s another topic.

There’s two wild cards: Gollum and Gandalf.  Gollum is easy, he’s a hot-blooded, single-minded sanguine, through and through (ignoring the split personality).  Gandalf is harder.  It’s easy to say, as with Frodo, that he must be choleric because he’s a leader.  But he’s also the one character who is the most at ease on his own within the story.  Thus, I would actually peg him as a melancholic, as he’s a loan wolf often concerned with the larger fate of the world.

That means within the story we get the following groups:

  • Full set of each (the Hobbits leaving the Shire)
  • 3 Melancholics, 2 Sanguines, 2 Cholerics, and 2 Phlegmatics (the Fellowship)
  • Melancholic, Sanguine, Phlegmatic (Frodo and Sam heading to Mordor, and led by Gollum)
  • Choleric and Sanguine (Merry and Pippin, luring the Ents to war)
  • Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric (The remains of the Fellowship, trying to save Merry and Pippin, and getting into every major battle)
  • Full quartet (Gandalf rejoining the above group in Fangorn)
  • Melancholic and Sanguine (Gandalf and Pippin setting off with the Palantir)

These personalities lead entirely to the dynamic within each group.  It makes the trudge of Sam and Frodo rather tedious, as there’s no leadership qualities in any of the characters, so the Melancholic is bemoaning his fate, the Phlegmatic is commiserating, and the Sanguine is plotting his take down of the other two.  It makes the adventures of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli throwaway fun, as there’s nothing to really ground the group, which is why their adventures of body counting can transcend to the frankly silly.  Merry and Pippin?  Ah, that’s a little more complicated, and something I’ll talk about on Wednesday.

Now that we’ve pigeonholed everyone into four categories, and I’m already well over 1000 words, I’m going to turn this post into its own three part epic.  Tomorrow I’m going to look at how different characters within each of the four temperaments can be from one another.

Part Two: The Two Cholerics (Coming tomorrow)

Part Three: The Return of the Sanguine (Coming Wednesday)

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Exciting News!

Checking my Twitter feed after work on Wednesday I landed on some news.  Wasn’t the way I expected to find out, but I’m excited to say that the Steam Works anthology is now available on Amazon for purchase.  This marks my print debut, and I share the pages with Mae Empson, Sevan Taylor, Tim Ford, Patricia Puckett, Helen Branch, J. M. Mendur, AD Spencer, and R. M. Anton (man, I should turn those all into links).  My story in the anthology is The Rustler, a short I’ve had bouncing around in various formats for a few years and I was thrilled to find a home for.  It’s been a long time coming, I’ve been talking about this anthology since my sale last January, but publishing is often a slow process.

Check it out for just $11.99 from Amazon.

As long as I’m spreading news and turning this into an addendum to my State of the Writer, I’ve also received news that my other upcoming publication, Memory Eaters, is nearing the end of the layout process.  It’s still looking for the right publisher, but the editor has been very optimistic about its chances, and with layout nearing completion, I’m hoping that’s one less step between being picked up by a publisher and ending up in your greedy hands.  So keep watching this space, and I’ll give what updates I can, when I can.

Edit: Oh, and, um, you may notice on Amazon that I’m credited as DL Thurstan instead of DL Thurston.  That’s my own damn fault.  Lesson learned: when reviewing proofs, don’t just look at your story, also look at the copyright page to make sure your name is spelled correctly there.  Sigh.  Ignoble start to my career as a published author, but I’ll know to look next time.

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Stop Scaring Me!

For the second time in recent months, Barnes & Noble is making a move to protest Amazon electronic exclusivity.  Salvo number one was fired back in October when Barnes & Noble pulled a significant number of DC comics off their store shelves after Amazon made an exclusive distribution arrangement for those titles on the Kindle Fire.  This resulted in particularly nasty press when they removed Sandman comics, and thus set themselves opposite Neil Gaiman and his more than 1.5 million Twitter followers.  At the time it struck me as a potentially self destructive move.  In order to protest not being able to sell DC comics through one distribution method, they’d refuse to sell them through all distribution methods.  It was a fantastic boon for independent comic stores, however, who were more than happy to absorb that customer base.

In the end, it was fine.  Whatever.  I’m not actually sure how much of the comics market Barnes actually holds versus the more tradition comic book store venues.

Now we’ve got Amazon looking to expand their new publishing empire.  The first move was opening the Kindle store to self published authors.  The second was to lure these self publishers into exclusivity agreements by dangling money in front of them, a clear move to undermine self publication to the Nook and iBook stores.  Now Amazon has an new venture: print publication.  This isn’t a Lulu POD set-up that Amazon is doing, rather they are taking the form of a publishing house, vetting and selecting manuscripts, and giving the ones they feel deserving a print run.  It’s an intriguing move, and one that has the potential of turning the Big Six publishers into the Big Seven in a hurry.  If anyone has the clout to muscle into such a long standing fraternity, it’s Amazon.  Or, rather, they could provide the muscle behind their publication partner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to assail the Big Six.

What’s standing in the way?  Barnes and Noble.  Survivors of the great bookstore feud, the company that is still standing after Borders crumpled and shut down.  Really, the last bastion of the big chain book store in America.  They’ve decided they will not stock copies of the books published by Harcourt in their partnership with Amazon.

For the second time in six months Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar bookstore is refusing to sell books.

I’m not taking Amazon’s side in this fight.  Exclusivity bothers me, as I suspect I made clear when deconstructing their new KDP Select practices.  Clearly authors have the right to do with their stories as they want, especially when self publishing, but using corporate might to pressure for exclusivity strikes me as a stepping stone towards monopolistic practices.  However, even though I can understand Barnes & Noble’s position in wanting to protest exclusivity so their Nook is can compete on hardware quality rather than catalog depth…well…their methodology concerns me.  It creates a question of whether they’re using their might in the brick-and-mortar world in the same way Amazon is using their might in the digital world.

My concern comes out of my love of Barnes & Noble.  Even before Borders went under, Barnes was my clear favorite.  Oh, sure, they didn’t partition their fiction nearly as well as Borders, opting for broader genre categories, not shelving a horror section, but their stores were always more welcoming, more inviting, and better stocked.  Really, I guess my concern here is an entirely irrational and selfish one:

I’m terrified we’re going to lose Barnes & Noble, and that these are the first two steps along the way.

I’ve long said that Barnes & Noble is in a better long term position than Borders ever was.  They embraced the internet early, rather than allowing Amazon to control their web presence.  They’ve created an eReader on par with the Kindle.  Now Amazon is striking at them with a two pronged attack of exclusivity and print distribution.  I’m not sure what the best course of action is for Barnes & Noble here, and I’m not here to create a new strategy for the chain.  Rolling over and taking it will just embolden Amazon to expand its exclusivity, but refusing to stock titles for the second time is worrisome.  Certainly they’ll have plenty to stock their shelves with, but it makes me wonder what will happen if one of the Big Six enters into any kind of eBook exclusivity arrangement with Amazon, will Barnes continue to cut of their nose to spite their face?  It’s a disturbing pattern.

Two last little bits of interest.  First, clearly Barnes & Noble is only so unwilling to deal with Amazon, as the Nook is carried on Amazon.  However, the Amazon search engine is also salted so that a search for “Nook” returns the following products, in order.  Kindle Fire, Nook Color, Kindle Touch, Nook Touch, Kindle eInk, Nook Wifi.  No really, go see for yourself.  This is going to be a tough fight for the future of bookstores, and while I still don’t think Barnes is going anywhere anytime soon.  But I’m scared.

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State of the Writer: February 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  We’re still in the big first step of the querying process: finishing the damn thing.  At the beginning of the month the draft sat at 35,000 words and had moved from act one to act two.  Now the draft is at 57,000 words, and we’re just past the two thirds point in that second act.  I’ve had months where I’ve written more than 22,000 words, but I don’t think I’ve had a lot of months where I liked what I was writing more.  Hopefully when next I’m visiting this goal we’ll be well into the third act with the end in sight.  I’m hoping the whole project comes in at 90-100k words, so another 22k word month will have us knocking at that door.  It also puts us well on schedule for getting some editing passes done and getting queries prepared perhaps around November or December.  Would love earlier, but patience will pay off and we won’t query this a day before it’s ready.

On my reading goals for the year, I’ve gotten through my first non-fiction selection, This Republic of Suffering.  It was about the attitudes towards death going into the Civil War, and how the conflict changed those attitudes.  It was a harsh transition from a period where people could largely die at home surrounded by loved ones, to dying by the thousands on battlefields hundreds of miles from home without any good process for identifying bodies.  My new book is Boneshaker which falls into the see-what-other-writers-are-doing category.  I’m going to withhold any review until I’ve finished.  Though I will say I love the brown printing for the book, though I do see several reviews calling the choice of browns unreadable.  That’s the danger of risks like that, I suppose.

State of the Blog.  I’m not going to do this anymore.  State of the Blog, that is, not the blog itself.  You’re not getting rid of me that easy.

State of the Writer’s Beer.  New Peculiar is now on an official hiatus.  I’m planning my next brew day to be no sooner than late July, hopefully no later than mid August.  Last night we did take our first beekeeping class, however.  This is relevant because it’s step one towards Peculiar Mead, which will be homebrewed mead made from homemade honey.  I’m drooling over some mead recipes (including on that calls for 6.5 pounds of kiwi in addition to the honey) but the first batch will be a straight up mead with no extra ingredients.  Patience will be key, I understand mead needs to mellow for a minimum of a year.  I love the federal homebrew laws.  I can’t sell any of my homebrew, but as a household of two adults I’m legally allowed to brew far more beer and wine for personal consumption than I actually have the equipment for.  And the mead counts towards my wine limit!  Ahh, homebrew.  Seriously, give it a try, it’s a lot of fun.

Looking to February.  A short, cold, brutal month.  Looking back at my January post I said February was a good target for finishing the first draft of Nickajack, I’m going to say I’m hopeful, but I won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t happen.  I do have a few days coming up where it’s just me in the house, which are often good for my production.  That…sounds far worse than I intended.  The next big collaboration challenge will come up in March: how best to edit the novel together.  So far the process has been outline together, I do the rough draft, and she polishes it into a first draft a few chapters behind me.  I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

Enjoy this slightly longer than usual shortest of months.  Be back with regular posts tomorrow, probably with my thoughts about the latest twist in the Barnes vs Amazon feud.

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