Archive for category State of the Writer

State of the Writer: June 2013

It’s a new month, and it’s a new plan.

It’s always dangerous to think of the baby as being on a schedule, but for now she’s going to bed at a reliable time, and reliably falling asleep. Just writing that sentence has probably doomed us, but my wife-slash-coauthor and I have finally figured out a way forward on Nickajack that starts this week. That’ll get the ball rolling after a few months of scrambling to find a little time here or a little time there. Now it’s one hour twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, after the baby has gone to bed. Laptop gets plugged into the television, eliminating a source of distraction in the process, and we work. First on Nickajack then eventually on Mogollon.

I also hope to work out some schedule for the Sarah Constant books once the Nickajack books have a comfortable routine. I need to move from world building to outlining, one of those pesky little formalities required if I’m going to ever actually write these novels. While I hate to say I’m planning to plan to plan, that’s where I largely am right now. Planning to use this month to figure out a schedule that will work for outlining. Babies do this to your brain and your time. Seriously. Though I don’t regret it for a moment.

These State of the Author updates are getting shorter, but I’m going to keep up with them. They do me some good.

State of the Author’s Bees: Very active. We got some great bees this time around, and they’re already into their third super of frames (the super is a box, each of which holds eight frames). While I doubt we’ll get any honey this year, it’s not impossible, and they’re certainly setting themselves up for a better summer and winter than our previous hives. They’re also friendlier bees, if that’s not weird to say.

State of the Author’s Beer: Was a busy beer week last week. To the point that it’ll get its own post this week.

We’re into the third month of 2013 nominees for the Great Hugo Read, which means diving into the deep end of the Vorkosigan Saga with Captain Vorpatil’s Alliance, and continuing through the Newsflesh trilogy with Deadline. I didn’t entirely realize how long either Vorpatril or Deadline were when I paired them together, it’s nearly 1000 total pages of reading. I hope I get through both of tem, but Deadline might bleed over into August. No pun intended. Cause, see, it’s about zombies…

This week on the blog. Beer, thoughts on my first time reading Midnight at the Well of Souls, the future of Star Trek, and probably other things. Among the other things I’m trying to work into the schedule is this blog, which I posted to only ten times last month, with four of those posts being last week.

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Joe Hill on Writing With Kids

Lacking a tumblr myself, I can’t exactly re-tumbl this in the proper way. Is it called re-tumbling, or is that just my Twitter influence popping through. Oh god, I’m only a few sentences into this post and already revealing how terribly unhip I am with social media.


Anyway, Joe Hill, author of Heart Shaped Box and the upcoming NOS4A2, was tackling some questions on his tumblr over the weekend when this one came up:

Poppachaos asks: How did you find time to write when your boys were younger? I’m the primary caregiver for my 15 month old son and can’t manage it. Short of locking myself away at night and never seeing my wife, I’m running out of ideas.

Anyone who follows me or this blog knows this is my biggest writing hurdle. I’m not going to post Hill’s entire response here, you can go read it over on his tumblr, but it boils down to a key point: Make your writing fit your life, don’t try to make your life fit your writing. This is, he notes, a period in time when “[j]ust getting a good night’s sleep is a major triumph.”

He suggests figuring out projects that can be written in shorter bursts, fit into the little nooks and crannies of new parenthood. Campbell nominee Chuck Wendig said similar on Sunday afternoon, tweeting:

Right now, I’m clearly at the point where I’m getting used to the fact that my writing will be burst driven. For now, at least. And that’s fine. In some ways it’s working for me, bursts are great for world building little elements of my generation ship. I’ve actually got ideas for what could be little burst stories within that world, including some fairy tales. I suppose the real transition is away from looking at what I’m not getting done to focus more on what I am getting done.

So I’m going to make it a goal at the end of every day to find something positive to say about my writing progress for that day and tweet it out. Even if it’s not something I would have counted as “progress” in pre-baby times. Think of it as a daily State of the Writer. Today it might be as simple as coming up with how Red Riding Hood would be rewritten after 300 years on the Sarah Constant. For anyone else that a daily writing affirmation might help, join me with the hashtag #DidToday.

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State of the Writer: April 2013

That's right, I used the IRS building to illustrate April.

That’s right, I used the IRS building to illustrate April.

Struggling. But for good reasons. I’m finding more little bits and pieces of time to sneak in some world building or some outlining, some of which you even saw on the blog when I had that rather math-filled post not too long ago. Now it’s not so much about finding times, I know where they’re hiding, it’s a much more insidious problem: overcoming the momentum of not writing. That’s always been one of those challenges for me. When I’m writing, I’m going all guns blazing. If I step away for a while, it’s easier and easier to find excuses to not do it.

The baby.

The job hunt.

They’re easy excuses. And they’re valid and important excuses. But I don’t think they’re necessarily the all-encompassing excuses I’ve turned them into. Anyway, it’s boring to watch a guy beat himself up over stuff like this, so time to stop.

Still, little bits did get done, and in April hopefully little bits more will get done. I’m starting to have some notions for the broader plot of the first Sarah Constant book, and I need to start outlining I want to make the rough draft a Nanowrimo project.

State of the Author’s Bees: We’re getting to packages of bees around mid-month, so we’ll make our second attempt at being apiarists. Apparently it was a rough year not just for bees in Northern Virginia but all around the country. I’m not nearly experienced enough to say our hive failures were colony collapse. Hell, I know at least one wasn’t, since it got starved out by a vicious robbing. The hive that just vanished? Possible colony collapse, possibly something else. We’re still trying to work out what the inscription “Croatoan” means on the inside of the lid.

Great Hugo Read: One last reminder that we’re into the 2013 nominees, since all that got posted over the weekend. We’ve got one book that’s part of a huge series that we cannot possible catch up on (or, rather, I can’t, having read none of them), one that’s the last book of a trilogy that we can, and three that are standalone novels. We’re starting with Redshirts by John Scalzi as our primary read, and Feed by Mira Grant as the secondary read. There may be some truth to the rumor that I decided to start with the book that’s been sitting on my night stand since I got it for Christmas. I also tore through about a third of it last night, which is not my normal reading pace. Spoiler alert: I’m loving it.

The April-August schedule is here. Or here. Or over in the Goodreads group. This year’s nominees are an interesting mix with some high fantasy, some silliness, some seriousness, and some horror. I’ll be talking more about this year’s Hugo nominees and the Hugos in general later in the week, both here and on Unleaded.

Also coming up, there’s an interesting transition in my World Building Earth posts that I hope to get up this week, a natural segue between the concept of noon and the concept of directions that we’ll look at just as soon as I figure out some story telling step off questions to close the post with.

The days are getting longer. Baseball is back. I’m starting to think we’ve made it through the winter, and it’s time for bigger and better things.

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State of the Writer: March 2013

Pretend the 2013 goals are here. It’s not been the best of months, I’ll be blunt. Not much writing got done, by which I mean almost no writing got done. We’re still trying to figure out how to schedule our time, and what’s currently winning is our daughter being the cutest baby on the planet! I get home with her, and I don’t want to write I want to bounce her for most of the afternoon. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done some thinking about the Sarah Constant series, moving around some plot lines between the planned books, fleshing out some conversations I want to write, things like that.

Hopefully going into March I find a more consistent time to sit down and write. Might start doing it after baby’s bedtime, though I love having that time to devour books.

On another, and more personal front, I’ve been informed that job I currently have won’t exist in the near future due to a corporate realignment. Don’t feel too sorry for me, I’ve been given a massive five months to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with my career going forward, and I’ve already got a résumé polished and a few good opportunities to send it to. However that does mean that some of my writing time, both for fiction and this blog, will now become job hunting time over the next few weeks and months. What can I say, I guess I’ve hit one of those points in my life where changes come fast and furious, over a one year period my first baby and my first involuntary departure from a job.

So if the blog is a little light going forward, or at times perhaps the tone a little more melancholy, that’s why.

Still, I hope this pushes me to write a little more. It isn’t lost on me that if this happened when I had three novels out rather than three short stories, I’d be in a better position to say “to heck with it, I’m going to try making a go as a writer.” Maybe next time.

State of the Author’s Beer: Still mellowing, but getting more and more drinkable. Next batch isn’t yet planned, got to empty some bottles first.

State of the Author’s Bees: We’ve ordered two packages to replace our failed hives, which should arrive in mid-April, so more news then.

And, of course, we’re going into month three of the Great Hugo Read. There’s no secondary book this month, but the primary book marks both the Audible, Kindle, Nook, and iBooks debuts of the Read for those who prefer audio or electronic editions. The book is Robert Heinlein’s Double Star, the first of five Heinlein books that will come up as part of the Read, first of two this year alone. Here’s your standard where-to-find-it information:

At first blush it sounds like a science-fiction version of the movie Dave:

One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was — as usual — in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.

Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake — failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe’s own life was on the line — for if he wasn’t assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!

I guess I should say a science-fiction version of the movie Dave done as an action thriller rather than a romantic comedy.

So that’s me. How are you?

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State of the Writer: February 2013

2013 Goals:

Query Nickajack. Um…so…about this. Yeah. Thing is, after much discussion with my wife/coauthor we decided to fire one of our point of view characters. It’s been a long time coming. We accidentally created a character far more compelling and with more agency. This is great, this is what editing a novel it all about. Not just fixing little grammatical errors, but making those big changes. Of course, this means cutting out 7-8 chapters and replacing them with chapters written from scratch. I’m hoping to get those new chapters outlined and drafted this month, but it does push the schedule back a little. Hopefully not a lot, but at least a little. Which means it also pushes back the schedule to…

Draft Mogollon. …by the same amount. Since we’re hoping to do a lot of outlining and drafting while Nickajack is with alpha readers, and since it’ll take longer to be alpha reader ready…yeah.

Draft GS Book One. This isn’t pushing back. I’m fleshing out characters and working out just how much of the plot for the series should end up in the first book. Or first novella. I’ll admit it’d be an interesting experiment to write this as one big volume containing three novellas, linking short stories, and a 1000-ish word coda that’s already written. It all depends on how much plot there is, and how much ends up in that first book.

Woof. Takes longer to find excuses for being behind on three goals than it ever took for being behind on one.

It’s otherwise a quiet month with little to report. That is to say…

State of the writer’s bees: Sadly, dead.

State of the writer’s beer: Happily aging.

Theyd_rather_be_rightWe’re also going into the second month of the Great Hugo Read with our primary book They’d Rather Be Right aka The Forever Machine and a secondary book I Am Legend. The Goodreads group is still going, and is seeing some activity, so if you’re reading the books and are a member pop on in. If you’re not a member, I do plan to talk about the books both over there and over here. It’s another month where the book is hard to find. Starting next month we get into books with audio and digital formats. Here are your options:

Primary: They’d Rather Be Right aka The Forever Machine by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley (1955)

Secondary: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.


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2013 Resolutions

I’ve talked my 2012 resolution to death. It was overly ambitious, especially in light of a new member of the household, but it’s one I’m still glad I set. I’d rather overreach with a resolution and let that push me through the year than underreach and be left with no motivation as the year ends. With that said, here we go with some overreaching resolutions for 2013.

Writing Resolution #1: Query Nickajack. Yup, like a zombie rising up from the grave, this goal is back for 2013, and feels much more attainable. We’ve still got some editing to do, some alpha reading to endure, some more editing to do, some beta reading to endure, and yes, even more editing to do. But I think we can pound that all out this year if we keep our eye on the prize. The fact that the alpha and beta reading stages will leave us with downtime leads to writing resolution #2…

Writing Resolution #2: Draft Mogollon. We’ve talked the plot of Mogollon at the highest levels, potentially know all our POV characters (if you’re my wife and reading this, I still love the character we created at dinner Saturday night), and should be ready to sit down and outline this beast once Nickajack is with the alpha readers. Drafting ends up a fitting term for this process, in racing you draft to move faster, and I unquestionably move the fastest when I’m sitting at a keyboard and generating fresh words. Which leads to, yes, a third writing resolution…

Writing Resolution #3: Draft Sarah Constant. I still don’t even have a good working title for this story yet, which is fine, because I don’t plan to write it until late in the year. Over the last few years, after deciding that pantsing it through Nanowrimo isn’t for me, I’ve still been interested to try the event with a fully realized outline to work from. So for the first ten months this year I’ll be outlining this novel in my spare time with the goal of sitting down and writing at least the first 50,000 words of it in November, if not the whole bloody thing. This might be where I’m officially overreaching.

Reading Resolution: 30 Novels. This I’m intentionally setting my sights low. But it will still be more than I’ve read in most recent years. 12 of these will be the primary novels for the Great Hugo Read, 6 or so will probably be secondary novels, the remaining 12 will be random other picks. And, hopefully, there will be more than those.

So there you have it, laid out in the most open forum available to me. I’m going to skip State of the Writer in January, as it would just be a repetition of this post, but those goals will kick off SotW starting in February and each month after that.

Have a happy new year. Ring it in safely.


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State of the Writer: December 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack. I promised at the beginning of the year I would start every State of the Writer post that way. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to in part because we’ve learned just how much work goes into making a novel out of a first draft, and because we had a baby. But we’re still in a great place with Nickajack, we’re still working on it, and we’re hopeful for 2013. We’ve also started the sequel, working title Mogollon, talking settings, characters, and themes. Yes, themes. There are even roughly 500 words sitting in the rough draft at the starts of chapters one and two. It’s one of my big 2013 projects, but I’ll talk about those more in a month’s time.

December should see my next short story go live in an anthology called Old Weird South. Don’t worry, I won’t be quiet when the anthology goes up for sale. At this point I’m not sure if it’ll be digital only or if hard copy editions will be available. My story in the anthology, titled “The South, Rise Again,” was inspired by one of my favorite Nickajack era research books, Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering. It’s a downer subject, the book is about death and all, but a fascinating read.

My goals for December involve editing and outlining. Editing Nickajack. Outlining Mogollon and another project I’d like to write in 2013. There are likely going to be few words going into rough drafts this month, but no shortage of things to work on. Here’s hoping I actually get some of it done.

State of the Author’s Beer: BOTTLED! It took until nearly the end of the month, but Pi Stout is in the bottle. My hydrometer and an online calculator tell me the beer is around 6% ABV, right on target. Now it’s a waiting game. Stouts take a little longer to mellow out, and it does need some mellowing. We’ll probably open the first bottle for Christmas, but it’ll still be young. I did get 26 bottles instead of the typical 24, so there’s be some to spare.

State of the Author’s Bees: Getting ready for the winter. They’ve been switched from syrup, which can freeze, to bee candy. There are a few warm days ahead, hopefully they’ll be ready for the lean months. It’s been a tough year for beekeeping in the DC area. Hell of a year to start the hobby.

State of the Author’s Baby: Three months old tomorrow, so more then.

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State of the Writer: November 2012

Picture released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by Wikipedian Someone35.

What do you mean it’s the second?

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack. Last night started a new phase for Nickajack that will see my wife and I find a half hour, even if it’s in two fifteen minute chunks, to read at least one scene of Nickajack out loud a night. It’s a great way to hear the adjectives, the filtering, and the misworded dialogue. The intent is to fix these on the fly and to identify spots where props appear or disappear, character motivations aren’t as strong as they could be, and other plot weaknesses that we can then go back and fix up. This is the novel moving forward in a substantive way for the first time since the birth of our daughter, and it feels good to be back into it. If we push hard and have a good product on our hands, we hope to be ready for the first round of alpha readers by January. No later than March is my hope.

The ultimate plan is two rounds of external readers, the first likely drawn from those who have seen the novel as we’ve crafted it, and the second drawn from those who have no knowledge of the plot or the twists. Each will be followed by a round of editing based on comments. After both rounds are done, then we’ll be querying this bad boy. We likely wouldn’t have made the 2012 query goal even if we hadn’t had a kid, even if we did work straight through, but I’m still glad I set the goal so high. Occasionally you need something completely out of your grasp to keep you jumping.

If you fall into either of the camps that we’re looking to draw readers from, keep an eye out. I’m not looking for volunteers yet, but I will be soon.

In other writing news, I’ve accepted final edits of my story for Old Weird South, and the publisher is hoping that the anthology is out by December 1. I know that dates like this frequently slide, we’ll see about when it will actually come out. If it does hit that date, or up to 30 days later, that will be three short stories published in 2012. Which is awesome. I’ll need to get my ass in gear if I want to match or top that in 2013, and set my sights on some professional rate sales.

State of the author’s beer. Man…I’ve got to bottle that stuff. It’s okay to hang out in the fermenter, but yeah, I’ve got to get that bottled. Maybe that’s a this weekend thing.

State of the author’s bees. They survived the storm in one piece, and now we’re focusing on winterizing them. This means keeping them fed with sugar syrup and pollen so they have reserves to make it through the hard months ahead. That’ll probably be its own post in the next month or two.

State of the author’s baby. Eight weeks old now and super cute. She should start “hatching” over the next few weeks, but she already looks at us and smiles. This is all part of the process by which she’ll learn what is and isn’t a face, and what is and isn’t a person. So while she smiles at us, she’ll also smile at the cats, the wall, and random spots in the middle distance. Still, any smiling is smiling, and it’s awesome to see.

This month is Nanowrimo. The editing I mentioned above is my primary project, but I think I’m going to pick two other goals.

  • Redraft Vampire of Mars
  • Finish draft of Antioch, 1098

That’ll be a great start if I am going to try to top this year’s three published stories. Jen Brinn, sage leader of the Cat Vacuuming Society, always cautions to not make sales a goal since they’re beyond the writer’s control…but it would still be nice to at least match this year’s output.

If you’re doing Nanowrimo, best of luck with your projects!

Update: Earlier version of this post stated my baby was eight months not eight weeks old. They grow up fast, but not that fast.

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State of the Writer: October 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.

I’m starting with those words only because I promised, at the beginning of the year, that I would start every State of the Writer post this year with those words, to remind me that was my goal for the year. At this point it’s now the second of October, and we’re not even to beta readers, so I can say it will not happen. Does that make me regret the goal? Not in the least. It’s been a fire under my ass all year to keep working on the novel. But…life gets in the way sometimes.

I didn’t write this blog post yesterday. I had the Add New Post page open, ready to go, but I didn’t write it. Because I knew what it would say. That’s cheating. The entire reason I started these monthly posts back in February 2011 was to not only trumpet my accomplishments, but to keep myself honest as a writer. During September of 2012 my only writerly activity was to accept the edits on my story for the upcoming Old Weird South anthology. For which I was immediately paid, making this simultaneous one of my least and most productive months ever as a writer, depending on the criterion you want to use.

Writing with a baby has proven to be difficult. It’s hard to write when you’re not getting as much sleep (though I’m getting less not sleep than my wife, who is busy being the awesomest mom ever, sorry my mom). I was going to kick back into writing yesterday, but we had an opportunity for a date night with my wife to have sushi and go see a movie. When you’ve got a baby, those are the nights you cannot pass up, no matter how much you want to get back into writing. We saw Looper, and last night is one of the few nights I don’t regret not writing in the last month. Tonight, it’s back to the grind. My goals at first are going to be modest. 500 words of writing or 30 minutes of editing. Every week night. Morning writing has ended for now, it may return with the new year as I learn what my new morning schedule is. It may not if the new schedule will not accommodate it. If it doesn’t, I will find another 15 minute chunk of time daily that is exclusively for first drafting. One of my first goals will be prepping Vampires of Mars for circulation among some pro-rate markets. I hope to have it out to the first stop (wherever that ends up being) by the end of the week.

I have the best possible excuse in the world for not writing, not just a baby, but a fantastic baby. Going forward, I will likely refer to her as Little Bird in this blog and on Twitter, following the habits of Tee Morris, Chuck Wendig, and others of not referring to their children by name online. It’s ultimately up to her to craft an identity connect with her name on the internet, which she won’t be doing for a good long while (more on that later in the week, likely). I’d been planning to give her an online nickname for awhile. Little Bird is one my wife started using, and I rather liked.

State of the Authors Beer: Hoping to bottle π Stout this weekend, especially since I promised some bottles to coworkers yesterday.

State of the Authors Bees: It’s been a rough summer for nectar in Northern Virginia, not just for my bees but across the region. That’s probably why my one hive was robbed. To prepare the bees for winter, we are feeding them 2-to-1 sugar syrup so we’ll hopefully not lose both hives our first year.

October also features Capclave, which I’m still determining how I’ll approach, and Flashathon, which I’m doing a poor job talking about.

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State of the Writer: September 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack

Um, so I normally start by talking about Nickajack and its progress. And normally I make these state of the writer posts on the first of the month. I’m a little late because I’ve spent the last few days in the maternity ward. I’m now a daddy to a beautiful little girl. That’s really occupying my entire mind right now. Mother and baby are both well and sleeping.

State of the Writer’s Bees. Bee-like.

State of the Writer’s Beer. Ready to be bottled when I get one consecutive hour of time.

That’s it for today.

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