30 November 2010

LOSCON 37

How I spent my Thanksgiving weekend: Dinner with family on Thursday. And then . . . LOSCON 37 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

After the thrills of going to the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus last month, I was eager to attend another con. Good thing there’s one only a twenty-minute drive away! LOSCON is an annual convention thrown by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the oldest continuing science-fiction fan group in the country.

Read my full con report at Black Gate.

22 November 2010

Book review: Conan the Renegade

This week marks my two-year anniversary as a regular blogger for Black Gate. I had already written articles for them before, but it was on 28 November 2008 that I did my first official Tuesday post. And I have only missed one Tuesday since then (but made it up with a bonus post for Robert E. Howard’s birthday symposium).

That first post was a review of a Conan novel by Leonard Carpenter: Conan the Raider.

To celebrate today’s anniversary, here’s a review of a Conan novel by Leonard Carpenter: Conan the Renegade.

See, it’s like bookends, or something. Or it’s circular. Or it’s lazy. I dunno, take your pick.

Anyway, it’s great to see that Black Gate is still thriving after two years of my dedicated attempts to drive readers away with my ramblings!

16 November 2010

The “Saw-the-Story-in-Half” trick

Frederick Faust isn’t only a great writer. He’s a great educator. I always learn about storytelling skills from reading him, much more overtly than from many other writers. But hidden among his letters, the very private writer who hid behind the twenty different pseudonyms (“Max Brand” the most famous of them) offers some interesting direct advice.

So today over at Black Gate, continuing this year’s tradition of Frederick Faust-related posts, I describe and then show in execution an intriguing story-creation exercise Faust suggested in one of his letters. I call it the “Saw-the-Story-in-Half” trick, and practice it on an unsuspecting fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm.

Read the complete post at Black Gate. . . .

14 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 14 and I win again

And so I typed past the 50,000 word goal of National Novel Writing Month for the third year in a row.

The thrilling 50,000th word is . . . wait for it . . .

“and”

Thank you Conjunction Junction!

Admittedly, the context of “and” is a bit more exciting: “The armies that had gathered from tribes and alliances across the Najael had all brought new weapons with them . . .”

Reaching 50,000 words in fourteen days—or, a fortnight, as some of us fantasy writers like to say—makes me one day slower than last year, and three faster than the first year. I seem to hover around finishing at the halfway mark. Once again, however, I have to remind myself that the goal is not so much numbers or speed, but making myself keep writing, motivating myself to work every day and put in good chunks of time. Beating myself isn’t the goal; the goal is to give myself concrete objectives and keep the forward momentum. My best first-draft writing comes out of sweep and drive and emotion.

I’m not done yet, and I wasn’t done either of the last two times at this point either. Both previous books rolled on toward the end of the month, with one getting to around 74,000 words and the other to 81,000 words before I typed “THE END.” I’ve been working on short stories this time, and I am currently wrapping up a novella, so those last two words will come much sooner. Probably tomorrow. I may write another story, but honestly there are some revisions I need to do soon on stories that I want to send to some anthologies with deadlines. It looks as though I will end with about 54,000 spread across six different works of short fiction.

Anyway, deep breath, a bit of relaxation, and then back at it tomorrow. . . .

11 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 10

Welcome to National Novel Writing Month, Day 10. Or, for me, National Short Story Writing Month.

The progress so far: I’m a bit over 35,000 words and into my fifth story. According to NaNoWriMo’s on-site calculations—a great new feature added this year—if I maintain my current pace, I will cross 50,000 words on November 15. This puts me close to schedule for my last two NaNos: in ‘08 I crossed 50,000 on November 17, and last year I crossed it on November 13. In both those cases, I continued long after until I finished my novel, ending both around 80,000 words.

This year, however, because I’m working on shorter pieces, I’ll end not long after 50,000 mark, whenever my story that crosses the finish line chooses to wrap-up. And I can guarantee it will be the one I started one today, since it is plotted as a novella, I my judgment based on the outline is that it will go around 20,000 words.

So, it appears that my tally of short fiction for NaNoWriMo (uh, NaShoStoWriMo) will be five works: two short stories (under 7000 words), two novelettes (7000–15,000 words), and one novella (15,000+).

One of the reasons that I’ll feel satisfied with stopping once I’ve gone past 50,000 is that I need to do some immediate revision on some of the stories to prepare them for anthologies with deadlines. I’ll spend the end of November doing important re-writing, and it will go into early December. I also decided today to attend LOSCON, a Los Angeles convention for steampunk, SF noir, and urban fantasy that takes places the November 26–28. I’m already itching to get back to a convention, and this one is a twenty-minute drive for me and costs only $45 registration, so why not?

All right, onwards with the novella. I’ve wanted to write this particular story for over a year, but fear of the “touch sell” novella length held me back. To Hades with that, now—I want to write, I’m going to write. Oh, I already am writing. Too late, now I’m committed. (Seriously, I do have some specific plans for it.)

Back as new breaks.

08 November 2010

My convention report on World Fantasy 2010

Now that I’ve had some time to digest the World Fantasy Convention experience (as well as write about 27,500 words as part of National Novel Writing Month—yeah, I’ve gotten a bit ahead of schedule), I can finally write a massively and unwieldy blog post about it at Black Gate.

So go on over and soak in all the neophyte fear.

04 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 4 and Pratchett Relaxation

Here it is, Day 4 of National Novel Writing Month, and I’m currently a bit ahead of the Day 8 mark. This is about par for the course for me—I find it hard not to at pound out at least three thousand words a day; I’m just feel like I’m warmed up at 1,667 words. Also, I keep coming back later in the day to add just a bit more, which usually means another thousand words. Thus, I’ve done about 4,200 for today.

Nonetheless, because I’m writing short stories, the momentum is quite different this year. This morning I started on a new short story, a pure sword-and-sorcery adventure. This one is clipping along quite well, although as I’ve learned over years of work, my initial reaction to how well a piece goes down on the page has no direct connection to how it finally ends up. This story may turn out wonderful, or it may need a lot of revision work to get to its best form. Hard to tell at this point. The story I finished last night came out onto the page a touch more grudgingly than some, but I’m eager to take my second look at it in a few weeks and see what, exactly, I’ve got.

02 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 2

Whew, the last four days have been a whirlwind, with the World Fantasy Convention bleeding right into National Novel Writing Month. I have written before about how I decided to take a different approach for NaNoWriMo 2010, and I’m already finding the going tougher this year because I’m tackling short stories instead of a full, continuous novel. This means that I can’t plow ahead as freely, since plots need wrapping up and new plots have to start—often in vastly different settings and in different POVs.

The report so far as of Day 2: I’m in the middle of the second story and have reached 7,021 words total. This puts me two days ahead of schedule, and gives me breathing room when I need to plot out some of the upcoming stories.

Day 1 started in Columbus, OH at the end of the convention. I started writing the first story in the hotel bar at the stroke of midnight. The next day, I continued to write in the airport while waiting for my flight from Columbus to Atlanta. That got me to 3,564 words total the first day. I didn’t get any writing done on either flight to Atlanta or Los Angeles, and I was worn out when I got to L.A. I managed to write yesterday’s Black Gate post and then crash on my bed.

Up early-ish today, I ran a few post-vacation errands, and then headed to the Beverly Hills Public Library, where I finished the first story. This means that the entire 4,600-word work was originally typed on my Alphasmart NEO. Man, I love that machine.

Tonight I attended my first Write-In, one of the busiest I’ve seen, at the Novel CafĂ© on Ocean Park in Santa Monica. I started my second story here, and got it up to about 2,400 words while having an iced lattĂ©. (It’s too warm in L.A. right now to drink the hot variety.)
So, over the course of the day, I switched from a first-person contemporary tale set mostly along mid-Wilshire, to a third-person story set in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. You can get whiplash from doing this. At least I’m ahead of schedule . . . some of the upcoming stories promise to make life during November even weirder.

More news as it develops.

01 November 2010

How David Drake helped me write my first novel

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

As I write this, I am just now sitting down at my computer in my apartment after coming back home from the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH. I’ve literally tossed down my suitcases on the bed moments ago. My lips are chapped. I am tired.

I will have a lot to say about the con in my post next week, where I’ll give my impressions as a first-time convention goer. There’s no way I could get anything coherent out now with the experience so close to me—there’s a lot to sort through. But I do have one story from World Fantasy that contains a good piece of writing advice. I had mentioned this story to John O’Neill while we were sitting at the Black Gate booth in the Vendor Room (yes, I got to meet the Black Gate fellows for the first time in the flesh!), and he told me I should write a blog about it. He’s right, and it’s a good enough convention story to hold you and me over until next Tuesday.

This is the story about the best piece of writing advice that I ever received. It came from science-fiction and fantasy author David Drake, and because of it I was able to complete my first novel ten years ago. This weekend, I got to meet Mr. Drake in person and tell him what that means to me. He signed a copy of the book that I like to use as “evidence” of my learning curve. It was a great moment for me, and David Drake was about the coolest, nicest guy I could have imagined, and I think he was flattered that I felt so indebted to him.

What was this piece of advice?