Schedules and Progress

First things first: TWDY 4 – Blood Money is out an in eStores now! Check it out in the Kindle store or on Smashwords. I’ve been pressed for time due to an abundance of projects lately, and I didn’t get a chance to post a big announcement blog when Blood Money went live last week. I did get the cover art graphic for the front page slider on my home page ready the day of publication, though, which is a first for me.

(Side note for people using Kindle Direct Publishing: it turns out you have to manually add books to your AuthorCentral page, which I had forgotten until I was checking the link to write this post).

As I mentioned last post, I’m sticking to a schedule of four main projects: TWDY, City of Magi (querying), Joyriders, and Blackout. I’m fighting the urge to spend too much time on Blackout, which is natural because that’s a brand new book and filled with all the shiny expectations and simple joy of putting a new story together. There’s really nothing else like it—that’s the reason I started writing in the first place.

To keep myself honest, I came up with a Google calendar schedule that emails me the assignment every morning. I spend at least three days on new material, be that Blackout or TWDY, and two days on query stuff and editing. Needless to say, I look forward to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings more than Tuesday and Thursday. I’m also going to be keeping more regular tabs on my progress and posting them here.

Joyriders Issue 1 is theoretically ready to be published, though I’ll be seeking at least one more editorial opinion before I pull the trigger. Part of my recalcitrance is that I don’t to commit to two regular series. Keeping TWDY going while querying my book and a short story (which I’ve been neglecting) is already a lot. Joyriders is a great story and deserves to be told. For that matter, it needs more of my mindshare than it is currently getting.

TWDY 5 is a work in progress, with two full chapters complete and probably six more coming. The first season of TWDY is going to wrap up with issue 6, and I’ll be creating a compendium from those to sell as Volume 1. I had originally planned to go just five issues, but there are some threads that need to be addressed that I just don’t see myself getting to in 5 issues. We’ll see. I also have the option of making Issue 5 a monster “season finale.” I don’t intend to lay off of TWDY afterwards—I’m having too much fun writing it and loving all the reader feedback that I’ve been getting. That being said, I do need to slow down a bit. I’m targeting April for the release of Issue 5, and if there is an issue 6 it will likely be June or July, depending on how much writing I do on vacation.

My City of Magi work is pretty close to finished, though of course things could always be tweaked. I have a synopsis that I’m trying to cut down. It started at 2100 words, and I’ve got it down to 1512. I’m aiming for 1000, so there’s still work to do. My query letter is more or less in final form. I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope soon.

Blackout is an interesting creature. It stands at just over 19000 words now, and it’s the first book of which I’ve done a complete plot outline before getting too far into it. I can tell you now how the book ends. But I won’t. It’s also the first book that I’ve ever written in the first person. I’m not going to go out and do present tense because I kind of hate that, but it is a fun experiment. It’s also the first writing exercise I’ve pushed out into a full book.

The only other project I’m jugging is the short story Magi Rebellion – Part One, a short story written in the world of City of Magi providing the backstory for the city of Dein Astos. I’ve shopped it once and need to keep putting it out there. If nothing happens after a while I’ll publish my planned trio of short stories using the magic of KDP. It’s a story worth being told.


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Back in the Saddle

February 8, 2012 5:15 pm by MRM in News, Projects

I’ve been radio silent for far too long, and mostly it has to do with juggling a million projects at once, including an exciting new one that I’ll post excerpts from shortly. The projects of note are:

1. Those Who Die Young – Issue 4: Obviously. Barring a disaster, this will be published next week and I’ll have cover art up and ready for you later this week. Some of my more loyal readers might notice a title change. At the end of Issue 3, I declared (in the preview section) that Issue 4 would be entitled “Bloody Mess.” My wise editor thought that was horrible when she heard about it, and after much consideration, I think she’s right. I came up with the much cooler (and still applicable) new title, “Blood Money,” which we both agreed was a massive improvement.

2. TWDY – Issue 5: Next week will mark the first time in TWDY history I’ve published issue N without first completing issue N+1. I have written some of it and I know what happens, but I haven’t gotten a rough draft banged out yet.

3. Official Query Letter – City of Magi: I’m super excited about this one. City of Magi is complete, revised, and ready to be queried. There are two minor stumbling points to that, though. One is that to query, you need a query letter. I’ll post a little about that later, or perhaps just leave the interested reader to the eight million conflicting advice columns that already exist. The second is the submission package, which includes…

4. Synopsis – City of Magi: I’m still fumbling with this one, fighting to get it down to size. I didn’t end up reducing the size of City of Magi as much as I had hoped (final length, 273K words), but with a synopsis, your freedom is considerably restricted. This is very much a work in progress right now.

5. Joyriders – Issue 1: This is actually copy edited and almost ready to roll. I’ve had the cover art up for months now, and for some reason I just never judged this as ready for prime time. I suspect my focus on TWDY had something to do with that, and part of my reluctance is definitely that I won’t be able to push out issues of Joyriders like I have TWDY without sacrificing the latter, and I have a big emotional attachment to Lear and Erica, not to mention readers that actively bug me about publishing more. This could come out as soon as next month, but I’ll have to really consider whether I want to make a dangling commitment like that, particularly given…

6. A brand new book. I know, I know. Why? Well, this is something that I just got addicted to. The book is called Blackout, and it’s a supernatural thriller set in modern Philadelphia about a schoolteacher who gets periodically possessed by the angel of death to assassinate the members of a demonic cult threatening both the celestial and earthly worlds. The protagonist has no idea why he is being possessed, only that he keeps waking up over the bodies of people he has apparently killed.

I’ve been spectacularly hooked on Blackout of late, and it’s hard to deny the fun that this story is going to be to write. The difficulty is mostly in keeping my other projects moving, which I absolutely intend to do. My prioritization list reads something like

  1. City of Magi submission packet
  2. TWDY
  3. Blackout
  4. Joyriders

I just have to get my time spent on each to reflect this, as I’ve been succumbing to temptation to write Blackout more than anything else. I also have some crits that I owe my fellow writers. In all of this, one other commitment has been left in the cold: blogging. I’m trying not to do that, and to a certain extent I’m being pushed not to do that by virtue of my upcoming publications, but there are only so many hours in the day that I can spend writing. I’m still learning to juggle stories well. It is taking considerably longer than it took me to learn to juggle actual objects (I can do pins and spheroids, but no more than three).

February is going to be an interesting month, and I’ll do my best to get my work out into the real world instead of the confines of my Dropbox.


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No, I have not retired from blogging (and other news)

So… yeah, it’s been a while. Over a month, actually, which is impressive and disappointing, given that I started this blog with the intent of posting at least twice a month. If you look at the archive, I was pretty good about that. What happened? Well, November happened. November was the heart of my marathon season, during which I ran two half marathons and one full, so that took up a good bit of time. Also, November was holiday-tastic, with an extra family-related unexpected vacation to spare. It was also “Holy crap I wanted to get Trial and Error out on December first and there is so much editing to do” month. TNE took its time getting ready, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Issue 4, Bloody Mess, will hopefully be out in January, with Issue 5 in March. This comprises the last of what I’m calling “Volume 1” of Those Who Die Young, and while it by no means is the end of the story, it will mark the conclusion of a major story arc. I think of it as my season finale.

Curious things happened with my pricing in the month of November as well. In a run-up to the December release of Trial and Error, Shelter From the Storm and Bearers of Bad News were both dropped to $0.99, from their $2.99 height. I have previously addressed my decision to move to the $2.99 price point. It wasn’t one I made lightly, as I felt forced into making that particular choice by the bizarre cutoff value for a 70% revenue split as opposed to 35%. The latter is all you can select if you price your book outside of Amazon (and other booksellers’) predefined sweet zone of $2.99 – $9.99. I always thought the “natural” price of an issue was $1.99. Two bucks felt right for one episode of TWDY, much as it feels like a good price to pay for an hour-long serial television show to me. The problem was that, at $1.99, I get approximately $0.70 per sale, even on Smashwords. At $2.99, I get $2.00. The craziness is self-evident: by raising the price a dollar, I make more than a dollar more. I really hate that. I want to price it based on what I feel it ought to be worth, not a gimmicky formula agreed upon by the great brain-trust of all eBook sellers.

While I was thinking about that, it occurred to me that I’m not trying to do this to make money.  I really like writing, and I really want people to buy my stories. Why should price be a barrier? Hence, damn the formulae, I set Trial and Error to be $1.99. And I left the first two issues at $0.99. If you bought a copy at the higher price, feel free to email me—I absolutely will give you a code to get a free copy of the next or any future issue of your choice. I’m not trying to play the market or put higher numbers on early sales. As I said from the very beginning, writing TWDY is a tremendous joy, but it is also a tremendous experiment. Serial fiction is a strange thing to be toying with.

I did make one other change to my listings on Smashwords. I changed my settings for Shelter From the Storm and Bearers of Bad News to no longer say they have “adult” content. I’m not a big fan of the way that Smashwords filters it’s adult content, largely because they don’t have a sliding scale. It’s adult or it’s not. And although a hardened killer in Shelter does use the F-word when enraged, I don’t have graphic sex in the stories (I don’t actually have any sex in them yet, but I reserve the right for my characters to get laid). The criteria you’re supposed to use is whether or not it has material inappropriate for those under 18. Well… some parents wouldn’t want their kids to read a story that had even one curse word in it, and there is certainly violence in all three issues. TWDY isn’t appropriate for the Harry Potter target audience. However, if you go to Smashwords and turn off your adult filter, well, here are a few of the first things that pop up for me right now if I do so (without typing in any search words) : “Ms. Chanton’s Castle: Threesome in the Study,” “Locker Room Gangbang Quickie Series,” and “On The Floor: A Tish Adams Erotic Short Story – Episode #2.”

Actually, going there today had considerably less porn than usual. In any case, TWDY does not need to be cordoned off into the same section of the store as straight up sex stories (with all due respect to the authors of LRGQS, Tish Adams, and Ms. Chanton’s Castle"). No more “adult” setting for me. I wish they had a movie-style rating scale, so I could say that my books are somewhere near the PG-13/R border, depending on your sensitivities. Alas, it’s a binary scale, and I’m no longer rating myself as a 1.

In other news, I finally sent out the prequel short story to City of Magi to a short fiction magazine, so I’m quite excited about that. The book itself is still in revision, but I’m keeping a counter on how many chapters I have left to retouch. Right now I have 30 ready-to-query chapters and 33 left to go. Yes, it’s a really long book (250k words). I’m doing less slash-and-burn than I expected in the editing process. Of course I’m cutting out the unneeded parts, but I’m not axing entire chapters or characters like I feared I would have to do. I was careful on the characters I added and the scenes I wrote, and it’s something I can really stand behind.

There is one other minor commitment that has been keeping me from my blog, though that’s going to slough off as the days go on. Sadly, I was taken by the great geek apocalypse that is Skyrim. It is, hands down, the most addictive and enjoyable game that has ever been made, and it is a technical masterpiece to behold. I’m even more impressed that they created such an expansive game in this day and age and made it run well on low-powered machines like mine. My gaming/coding laptop didn’t used to be low-powered, but that was two years ago when I bought it. I’m hoping it has enough life left in it to comfortably play Mass Effect 3, and then it might be time for me to retire the old girl.

It’s a happy holiday season, and things are exciting in the writing world. I’ll keep you posted more often as things move along. During my holiday break, lots of stuff usually gets finished (City of Magi was completed in it last year).

Pick up Trial and Error on Kindle or Smashwords if you get a chance! It’s my favorite issue of TWDY so far, and it will only get better in February with Bloody Mess.


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Announcements, Radio Silence, and Projects

November 7, 2011 3:49 pm by MRM in Projects

I’ve been radio silent on the internets for a bit now. Funny things happen when you try to pay attention to the world. I’ve been involved with the #REN3 blogfest pretty heavily, and now that the contest has wound down a bit (there is still voting for the best overall story happening as of this post), I’ve gotten a chance to step back and reorganize my efforts.

First things first—publishing schedule. TWDY is progressing. And Issue 3, Trial and Error, will be coming out on December 1st, as planned (no delays so far and it’s been in edit mode for weeks now). In more unexpected news, I’m going to be making a price change to the first two issues of TWDY, with Issue 1 and Issue 2 dropping to $0.99 in promotion of the release for the rest of November .

After December starts, I will re-raise Issue 2 to its standard price of $2.99 (see my earlier post on pricing). Obviously, the goal is to get people hooked on the series as easily as possible. One notice about the price change. When it goes into effect will vary depending on where you purchase it. That’s because the e-publishing machines have different speeds. I presently publish in precisely two locations, Smashwords and Kindle. You can purchase via the iBookstore or the NookStore because Smashwords distributes there. Updates to the distribution channels only happen every week or so, though, and I can’t directly manipulate the price on Nook like I can on Kindle.

I’ve also been running a little bit recently, having finished the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco a few weeks ago and the City of Oaks Half-Marathon just yesterday. For NWM, I was just running for fun with my wife and sister-in-law, so we didn’t really press the time, but I did manage a PR in the City of Oaks, finishing in 2:04. I was aiming to break two hours, so I’m a little disappointed, but I should be able to break that mark on an easier course this spring. CoO is notoriously hilly, and the Tobacco Road half is precisely the opposite. Next week I’ll be running the Outer Banks full marathon, and the week after that I’ll be doing the Skinny Turkey half on Thanksgiving day (my excuse to eat whatever I feel like later that day).

All that running has taken some toll on my writing, and what’s fallen most behind is revision of City of Magi and final preparations on my short story (that I’ve been kicking myself to get out the door for months now). I’ll keep you posted on the progress of both here.

One last announcement: Though I’ve had the cover up for quite some time, the first issue of Joyriders is going to be delayed. I’ve just had too many things on my plate to also edit that first issue, and I’m committed to producing TWDY at a regular pace while keeping up my other current projects. It’ll likely end up a delay of a few months, as I get most of the editing for City of Magi complete and ship my short story.

 


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Secrets of Renaissance—Finale

October 26, 2011 12:01 am by MRM in Campaign, Flash Fiction, Writing

The end of the #REN3 blogfest is upon us, dear readers, and I’m sad to see it go. More than anything else, I learned that I can put a story into just 600 little words. I felt the limit this time more than any other, because I needed to conclude the action and get to the true meanings of the Oracle’s readings. I’m sad to see the Ren-faire stories end, but I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it.

Thanks to Damyanti, J.C. Martin, Lisa Vooght, and Stuart Nager for hosting such a fun story festival. If you haven’t checked out their entries and fantastic blogs yet, you should.There are a ton of other writers participating, and if you’re wondering where you can find them, have I got the link for you: Damyanti has a copy of the master list in a post on her blog.

Once again, I took the word count right to the limit (remember to omit the title and the #-scene-splitter if you paste it into Word to check the count). Wish I could go on longer, but like the Oracle says, I don’t make the rules.

Rule of 3 Logo

Word count: 600

The Prompts for Week Three (chosen ones in bold/italics/underlined):

    1. The misfortune is resolved/accepted.
    2. Relationships mend/are torn asunder.
    3. The final event becomes another secret for generations to come.
    4. There is a new arrival in town.

  1. You can catch the first three parts of my story on my blog:
  2. Part 1
  3. Part 2
  4. Part 3


The Oracle

Three horses were tied to the makeshift hitch by the old cypress tree when Dant got to the Espadon overlook. Three was a bad number. Dant leapt off of his tired horse and fell. Gunshots spooked the horses before he could get up. He held his breath as he raced into the familiar, secluded nook ahead.

Dant felt another shot ripple through the air. He could see Remi crying out, but his ears told him nothing. A crumpled body lay in Remi’s bloody arms. Jana’s fiancé, Tegan, stood before them both, pistol in hand. Dant didn’t have to think hard.

Tegan had just enough time to look Dant in the eyes before Dant slammed into him. Tegan staggered and windmilled his arms as Dant fell to the ground. The muzzle of the gun flashed twice more before Tegan hit the edge. The Espadon overlook was as deadly a drop as it was scenic.

The last seconds of Tegan’s scream echoed faintly in his ears. Apparently the deafness was temporary. He crawled over to his best friend and the woman they both loved. The sight of Jana’s lifeless eyes made the nightmare real.

“Said… I’d be with her ‘til the end…” Remi murmured. He leaned forward and kissed Jana.

Dant couldn’t feel anything as he spoke. “We have to bring her back home.”

Remi looked up at him. “Not we.”

Blood coursed down Remi’s chest and soaked his torn, dirty shirt. A dark crimson patch stood out on his chest. He cradled Jana’s body and leaned over.

#

People stared when Dant hitched his three horses outside the Oracle’s sanctum. Could have been because he was past hours. That, or the bodies strapped to the horses. He didn’t care. He hadn’t even looked for the horse that ran away.

The door wasn’t locked. He found the Oracle in her reading room, looking at a row of cards.

“You lied,” he said.

“I cannot.”

“You said I would be the most important man in her life.”

She sighed. “You’re the reason she died so young. Who’s more important than that?”

“What? I didn’t—”

“Shoot her? No, but you convinced her to get a reading all those years ago. She didn’t want to. Remember?”

Dant stood speechless.

“Her cards said that any man who loved her would be the death of her. That’s why she broke it off with Remi and tried to marry a man that wouldn’t love her.”

“But—”

“Had she never been read, she never would have left him, and Remi’s reading, that he would be with her until the end, would have had a very different meaning.”

Dant’s arm twitched. His vision blurred with tears. “You made me…”

“That’s bull. You had a choice. You could have pushed them together for good and been important in that way, but instead you sent her to me. Did you think I’d tell her she was destined for you? Sorry, Dant Dranall, but it wasn’t in the cards.”

Dant fell against her bookshelf. His fingers came to rest over a sliver of cold, sharp steel.

“I read my cards once, and they foretold the coming of the three. I watched you. Wish I could have told you more, but I don’t make the rules.” She smiled at Dant, the wrinkles on her face curling back. “‘Three lives, intertwined, will come between this world and thine.’ They always sang to me, even for my own reading.”

The Oracle closed her eyes. “It’s been so very long coming, Dant. Do what you came here to do.”

Dant’s gripped the dagger’s hilt and stood.


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Secrets of Renaissance – Part 3

 

For the past few weeks, I’ve been participating in the Rule of Three Blogfest, a month-long, shared world, short fiction festival. My continuing story follows three friends dealing with their intertwined fates as told to them by the town’s oracle. You can find the first part of the story here, and the second part here. Each week has a different prompt, but they are all limited to 600 words. Once again, I’ve hit the exact limit (though in this case MS Word is counting the scene breaks as words, so I’m technically two shy). You can always keep up with the latest entries in the blogfest by checking out Stuart Nager’s online paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Word count: 600

The Prompts for Week Three (chosen ones in bold/italics):

  1. The impending misfortune foreshadowed in the 1st prompt comes to pass, but one or more characters laugh at it.
  2. Betrayal is in the air.
  3. Relationships unravel or strengthen.
  4. A long-kept secret is revealed.

 


Destiny

 

Remi threw a rock off the overlook, trying to hit the Espadon. It landed a half-mile short, as always. The noonday sun bore down on the secluded nook behind the red, wind-carved rocks. It was the same nook where he’d spent dozens of nights with Jana. He held the note she’d left him in his hands and tried not to hope.

I’m going to the Espadon overlook today for old times’ sake.

It had to be good news. The oracle had foretold it, after all. They would be together ‘til the end. She wasn’t supposed to end up with some butcher. Simple enough words from an old, wrinkled woman’s mouth as she’d read his cards. Some people griped about only being allowed one reading in their lifetimes, but not him. The oracle had promised him Jana. What else did he need?

The Espadon twisted through the valley beneath him. She would come. The oracle had promised.

#

Dant had just gotten the stench of Remi’s mess out of the back bar’s floor when he heard someone calling from the front. He groaned and checked the clock. Ten in the morning. Way too early. It was illegal for him to serve anything now.

He stomped out to the front, prepared to fend off someone chasing the hair of the dog. He found Miri Willam instead, the redhead that worked with Jana at the flower shop.

“Mr. Dranall?”

“Yes, Miri?”

Her brows pinched as she spoke. “Have you seen Jana today?”

“This morning before she went to work. Why?”

Miri looked at the ground and folded her hands. “She never came in. Her fiancé was looking for her. I told him she might be here.”

“Tegan hasn’t been here today.”

She looked up with tears in her eyes. “He said that he was sad she wasn’t at work, but not surprised. Then he left. I’ve never seen him look so cold, Mr. Dranall, and he’s not a warm man.”

Dant tried to swallow, but there was no moisture in his mouth. His hand shook as he poured himself a glass from the tap.

“Thank you Miri. I think you should go back to the flower shop now.”

“But… but what should I—”

Dant closed his eyes and drained the glass. “Nothing, Miri. Please go.”

Jana hadn’t. She wouldn’t have. She said she wasn’t going to go. He checked the clock again. Just past ten in the morning. If he borrowed a good horse he might be able to head them off.

#

Jana laid her hand against the wind-carved rock that led into the nook. So many nights were back there. So many very, very, good nights. The rock was warm this morning. Inviting. Her horse gnawed at grass with Remi’s, tied to the makeshift hitch by the old cypress tree. It was far too late to worry about how stupid this was. Time to find out why she was here.

She watched Remi pitch a rock off the edge of the cliff.

“You’re never going to hit it, Rem.”

His jaw slacked for a heartbeat when he saw her. Its corner peeled back into that same half-grin that melted her heart every time he aimed it at her.

“There’s something I have to say,” she said. “I should’ve told you before. I owed you better.”

“You never owed me anything, Jan,” he said.

“It was the oracle. She told me that any man who loved me—”

The click of a pistol cocking cut her off. “I wish you hadn’t come, Jana. It would have been easier.”

It was Tegan.


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Welcome Back to Renaissance, Where Everybody has a Secret

Today marks part 2 of the #REN3 blogfest, in which I continue the tale of Dant, Remi, and Jana. For those who didn’t catch my first installment, check it out here. The Rule of Three Blogfest is a shared setting collective storytelling experience, hosted by Damyanti, J.C. Martin, Lisa Vooght, and Stuart Nager, and you can see some of the latest news and entries by checking Stuart’s online paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are a different set of prompts every week and a 600-word limit (not counting the title). Because I have to push it as much as possible, this entry (like my last one) is exactly 600 words. The prompt I chose was: A relationship becomes complicated. The exact way this prompt applies won’t be fully apparent until later installments, but I assure you that I’ve used it (in triplicate, actually). As requested, I’ll mention the word count and the prompt at the bottom as well.



Old Times’ Sake

Jana found an envelope wedged in her door when she opened it in the morning. It fell to the ground face-up. A sketched picture of a tulip stared up at her. She sighed. Tulips were her favorite. Three men would remember that, but only one wouldn’t simply buy a picture of a tulip and paste it on there. Remi. She eyed the trashcan by the door.

What was Remi thinking? What if Tegan had come by this morning and seen it? She slipped Remi’s note in her pocket and hurried out. Now she’d have to make a stop before the flower shop. There was only one person who could talk sense into Remi. Hopefully he was awake.

Jana hustled down Faraday Street, giving up on trying not to jog when she passed Metley. She was sweating by the time she saw the familiar sign: Heriot’s Pass, home of Dant’s famous Renaissance Brown. The windows were still shuttered.

She knocked. “Dant?”

The door to Heriot’s swung open, protesting with a squeak that Dant never got around to fixing. He always said it gave the place character. She edged her way in. The bar smelled like soap. It always did before customers came in.

The voice of a man swearing echoed from the back. Jana smiled. Dant was in the back bar. It was never a good thing when he had to clean up back there. She made her way through the connecting hallway, wondering what sort of crazy private party had been held last night.

When she got to the back bar, she found Dant scrubbing under a bench on his hands and knees. He wore a mask over his nose.

“Dant?”

Dant jerked up and banged his head on a table. He rolled to the ground.

“What the fu—” Dant’s eyes locked on her face and widened. He rethought his exclamation. “Jana? What are you doing here?”

She fished out Remi’s letter and tossed it to him. “An employee of yours left that in my door this morning.”

Dant pushed himself up. “Remi? How’d he wake up early enough to get that to you?”

“What am I supposed to do?” Jana asked. “If Tegan had seen that he’d have flipped. Can you talk some sense into Remi?”

“Of course,” Dant said. He tore the envelope open.

“Don’t—” Jana protested.

Dant pulled out the note and held it up to the light. “Congrats for everything, Jana. I wish you all the best. I’m headed to the Espadon overlook today for old times’ sake. Meet me if you want. Love, Remi.”

It was sweeter than she had expected. No pleading. It hardly sounded like Remi. “I can’t just run off to the river to meet an old boyfriend. I have work. I have a fiancé,” she said.

Dant nodded. He laid Remi’s note on a table and sat down. “I know. Didn’t sound like him, though. Maybe Remi went and grew up while we weren’t looking.”

“Too little, too late,” Jana said. She watched Dant stare at the floor. “You actually think I should meet him?”

Dant shrugged. “It’s the first time I’ve heard him act like a grown-up. Maybe he just needs to end it clean, hear it from your own lips.”

“Then he’ll have to hear it another time,” Jana said. “Please tell Remi not to leave letters in my door anymore.” She spun around and left. She exited Heriot’s and headed west. The flower shop was east. Her heart beat like a jackhammer. Damn it all, Remi! And damn Dant too.

She was headed to the Espadon.


Prompt: A relationship gets complicated. Word Count (according to MS Word 2010, excluding the title): 600.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out the dozens of other fantastic writers participating in the #REN3 blogfest. The easiest way to find them is just to read Stuart’s online paper (and as a bonus, you get to see how cool paper.li is).


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Multithreaded Writing

October 10, 2011 12:59 pm by MRM in epublishing, serial, Writing

Ever since I published Bearers of Bad News, I’ve been trying to push myself into a multithreaded writing mode. What’s multithreading? It’s how we should think of multitasking. At least, it’s how computers think of them. Each processing core, that is. Multicore machines can do true multitasking, but old-school machines can’t, and it’s debatable whether or not humans can. We certainly can’t write more than one thing at a time, thanks to the two-handed nature of typing and our regrettable lack of a second pair of hands and eyes. For the most part, your computer can’t really do more than one thing at a time (even if it’s multicore – most programmers don’t take advantage of that). If you’re playing a game and something is animating while the game is deciding on something logical (like, did you hit that target?), then you’re seeing multithreading. What’s really happening is that the machine is quickly switching back and forth between drawing that animation and making that hit calculation. If you could read the processor’s mind, it would go something like this:

Paint the screen, paint the screen, paint the screen. Divide bullet speed by time. Add to distance. Paint the screen. Paint the screen. Is distance to target less than hit distance? Paint the screen. Yes. Check probability for hit. Paint the screen. Probability is 35%. Paint the screen. Get pseudorandom number. Paint the screen. Paint the screen. Number is 54. Paint the screen. Bullet missed. Paint the screen…

It’s never painting and calculating at the same time, but it looks like it to you because it switches back and forth so quickly. That’s the only thing computers are actually good at—doing simple things extremely quickly.

The relevance to writing is more the one-thing-at-a-time issue, when I really want to be doing multiple things at once. I want to blog. I want to tweet. I want to edit issue 3 of Those Who Die Young. I want to write Issue 4 of TWDY. I want to finalize my short story for submission to a couple of markets. More than all of these, I want to get moving on edits to City of Magi to ready it for queries.

There is absolutely no chance I can do all of these at the same time. I’ve determined that I can do minor edits even when I’m not in full writing mode, so I can banish that to evenings and lunchtimes and still make some progress on it. The biggest conflict here, though, is between TWDY and City of Magi. I love TWDY. It’s by far the most fun thing I’ve ever done in writing, and I love that people are actually buying the first two issues. I feel a duty to my readers to further the story.

That being said, City of Magi is my dream book. It’s a powerful story that is something I want out there in front of the masses, published in for-realsies paperback form and sitting on the shelves at your local Barnes and Noble. And it’s not going anywhere if I spend all my time on TWDY.

Hence, multithreading. I can’t write both at once, but perhaps they can develop in tandem. So I’m going to try something. Monday and Tuesday are for TWDY. Lear, Erica, Mede, Quinta, and Roland will plow forward in their quest to keep the peace and re-enable Lear’s entry to the Infinitum. On Wednesday and Thursday, I’m in for City of Magi. The Grey Ghost lives. Friday’s a toss-up. Whatever needs development gets attention. It may also have to do with my mood after my Friday workout, or how close to my self-imposed deadline for TWDY releases I am.

We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully it’ll look like I’m successfully writing two things at once. At worst, it’ll be an experiment I do away with and I’ll go to single-mindedly prepping City of Magi for a month or so before switching to TWDY-mode for a similar amount of time. It’s all in good fun.

 


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Welcome to Renaissance–Everyone has a secret

October 5, 2011 12:02 am by MRM in Campaign, Writing

We take a break from our regularly scheduled #writecampaign entries to look at a brand new contest. Because I must do ALL OF THEM. The new writing challenge I’ve embarked upon is hosted by Damyanti, J.C. Martin, Lisa Vooght, and Stuart Nager (some of whom have commented in this blog earlier). It’s name is the Rule of Three Blogfest. My new fun with fiction adventure takes place in the shared story town of Renaissance. Perhaps an introduction is in order. It even has a cool logo, just like the other campaign.

For this contest, I’ll be posting a new entry every Wednesday in October (though I’m getting a head start on this one) related to certain prompts. The biggest difference between the #REN3 contest and the #writecampaign is that all of the #REN3 entries are related. You’ll be hearing more about the characters below for the entirety of the contest, and every entry from all contestants will be taking place in the same city (though not necessarily in the same time or with the same “rules”). I’m stoked. I’ve been on a fantasy kick lately, so here goes.

We had a choice of prompts this week, so I picked “someone might fall in love.” Of course, I could never take the easy way out and just write a love story. That’s too easy to be interesting. Good stories always hurt.

The word count limit was 600, and because I can’t help myself – I pushed it right to the limit. Incidentally, I’m not counting the title in that. Hope that’s okay. Without further ado, welcome to my little corner or Renaissance


Last Call

Dant checked the clock behind the bar. Last call. It was about damn time.

“Make it quick, gents. One more round and the law says you’re drunk enough,” he said.

The ratty assembly of miners grumbled and swore. A man with a soot-covered face told Dant in no uncertain terms where he could stick the clock, along with his empty mug and half his boot. Dant laughed. It was one of the more creative threats he’d heard this week. Everyone got one last pint of ale. People loved his Renaissance Brown – he couldn’t brew it fast enough. Travellers came all the way to the North End to get a sip.

“Remi,” he called. Might as well get started cleaning up the back bar early. Everyone was out front tonight. If he was lucky, he could get to sleep before the sun started poking its head where it didn’t belong. He looked up. Where in the seven hells was Remi?

“Remi,” he called again. Still no answer. Dant took a wary look at his patrons. None looked like much trouble tonight. The worst one might try would be to steal a refill, so Dant took off the tap handles.

“Don’t get any ideas, gents,” he said and ducked under the bar. He slid by two men who looked like corpses that learned to drink. He usually put Remi on the back bar. Only half his patrons even knew about it, and it was best to keep Remi in lower-profile positions.

Dant hurried down the hall and into the empty back bar. He stepped in something wet. Remi was passed out at a table by the door. Vomit spilled out from under his head and onto the floor.

“Gods damn it Remi!”

Remi jerked upright, his blue eyes wide. The left side of his stubble was coated, as was his hair.

“What? What?” He looked back and forth until he saw Dant. His eyes came into focus and he looked down. “Oh, man. I’m sorry. I’ll get this.” Remi tried to push himself up. His hand slipped on the side of the table he had generously lubricated and he fell back onto the bench.

“I’ll get the mop,” Dant said. So much for getting to bed early tonight.

Remi pushed himself back into a sitting position. “She’s gettin’ married, man.”

So that’s what this was about. Jana. “I know.”

“You knew about it?”

“She told me,” Dant said.

“How could you not—”

“I was going to tell you tomorrow because you had the day off. Had. I was hoping to avoid something like this.”

Remi deflated at Dant’s barb. “I’m sorry man.”

Dant grabbed a bar towel and threw it to Remi. “Just dry yourself off. You got it in your hair. Get a pint of water and I’ll get the mop as soon as I clear out the customers.”

“You really think she’s gonna marry that guy?”

Dant looked at his friend. He’d been feeding him the same half-truth for years. He hated getting Remi’s hopes up when he couldn’t tell him the whole answer.

“No, I don’t,” Dant said.

Remi’s eyebrows relaxed. “Really?”

“Really.”

Dant headed back to the front bar. Only three miners remained, nursing their dwindling lagers for all they were worth. No trouble tonight. Well, none but Remi. For once, though, Dant didn’t blame him. He understood the pain all too well. But Dant knew something Remi didn’t. The oracle had been quite clear: Dant was destined to be the most important man in Jana’s life. He just didn’t know how to break it to Remi.



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An Unnecessary Review of The Hunger Games

October 2, 2011 4:50 pm by MRM in Review, Writing

I don’t usually read YA. I want to get that out of the way early, because that’s probably the only reason it’s worth reading this review. The Hunger Games is one of the most popular books in the world at the moment, and if you haven’t heard of it, that’s only because the movie hasn’t come out yet. Yes, it’s one of those books—the ones that get so popular they become pop culture phenomena, like Harry Potter or the Twilight series. If you haven’t read it, you’re probably one of those people like me who avoids pop culture phenomena and can’t stand to be seen walking out of the bookstore with a paperback that has a movie star’s face on its cover. Or maybe, like me, you tend to think of YA as cutesy stories about kids that are probably really interesting to kids, but you don’t like being hit over the head with childish things any more than you like watching Nickelodeon.

To be clear, YA doesn’t have to be like this. I respect YA authors and a ton of my writing community friends write exclusively for YA. The reason I’m going on about this (and I’ll continue for a bit, if you’ll forgive me) is that The Hunger Games is the absolute best kind of YA: the kind where you wouldn’t know it was targeted at younger audiences unless you were told. There just happens not to be any sex or dropping of f-bombs, and it doesn’t feel contrived in any way. The protagonist just happens to be sixteen years old.

If you’re a YA author who dreams of having movie-making appeal, to write stories that take over the imagination of the world, read this book (as if you haven’t already) and take note. This is how you do it. This is how you amaze someone like me, who has no kids, comfortably watched the movie The Aristocrats, and wants to lead the horde down the FCC with torches and pitchforks every time I listen to the radio and hear an artist’s work censored. This is how you get to someone like me, who when he sees a version of a movie where all the sex and swearing removed thinks only “You took out all the best parts!”

To be fair, The Hunger Games isn’t on the young end of YA (I hope). The themes are quite mature without being adult, and the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, isn’t really all that young in a society where people die young all the time.

Still, it’s worth noting as a great member of a popular genre. This isn’t just fantastic YA, this is fantastic fiction. The Hunger Games is a great story. I wouldn’t know it was YA if I hadn’t been told. There exists good YA that fails this test, that makes you know it’s aimed at children—Harry Potter is a great example of this—but the chances of ensnaring those of us who tend to avoid the genre is far smaller.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the most glaring irritation of an otherwise fantastic book. The damned present tense. Why writers do this is beyond me. The few scenes where Katniss is narrating about the past come off far more naturally and don’t make me trip over myself. I’ve never been a fan of present tense writing; the only author I read who did it and still got me through the book is Neal Stephenson with Snow Crash—and to be fair, that’s Snow Crash and I’m a nerd so you’d have to ring the pages with Hello Kitties to keep me away. The best argument against writing present tense I’ve ever heard is also the simplest, and I heard it from Orson Scott Card (so now you have to believe it). Present tense is simply not how we tell stories. Imagine a child sitting in front of you that wants to hear the story of the three little pigs. Most of you will say that the first little pig built his house out of straw. But that could be backstory, and justifiably in the past tense even if the story is told in present tense. But be honest, how many of you included this line?

“Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” said the pig.

Said the pig. Not says. What happened when the wolf came to the house made of bricks? Wouldn’t it sound odd to hear me ask what happens when the wolf comes to the brick house?

There is one class of stories commonly told in the present tense. Many of them start a little something like this.

A priest, a rabbi, and a leprechaun walk into a bar…

Jokes. We tell jokes in the present tense. We also summarize in the present tense. I’d say that Katniss Everdeen takes her little sister’s place in the reaping, even though it rankles me to no end that Suzanne Collins said it the same way in the book.

I’ve ranted on long enough. Use of the present tense doesn’t kill The Hunger Games, but it could have killed a slightly less interesting story. And I suppose that’s the second (somewhat backhanded) compliment I can give The Hunger Games: it’s too good to be dragged down by reading the present tense. It’s also too good a story for someone who doesn’t read YA to pass on it just because it sits on the shelf in that genre.

That’s the biggest thing about The Hunger Games—you can’t pass on it because it’s that good. The world is beautifully put together, even though author Suzanne Collins spends very little time laying out the rules of how things work. It’s set in a dystopian future where the United States has ceased to exist and dissolved into a collection of fourteen smaller fiefdoms. Thirteen of them rebelled against the Capitol and had their asses resoundingly handed to them, culminating in the nuclear annihilation of District Thirteen. As punishment, the remaining twelve districts have to give two tributes a year to participate in the Hunger Games, a sort of battle royale where only one child lives, broadcast live on TV. Viewing is mandatory in the districts. Each district must give one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen, randomly selected (though volunteers are allowed), and all children must be eligible. The districts are all far poorer than the Capital, and District Twelve, where the protagonist lives, is the poorest of them all. You can feel the desperation, the hunger, and the resignation in all of the characters.

When I described the plot to my wife, she immediately asked why the districts didn’t rebel again. If you read The Hunger Games, that answer is clear. It’s the same reason why North Koreans don’t rebel, why warlords can run regions of Africa without fear of an uprising of the people they oppress. If the oppressed people are desperate enough and fighting just to survive, “the Resistance” with a capital ‘R’ simply doesn’t organize. The people are fighting too hard just to put food on their plates. Political dissidence is beyond their concern.

Collins captures that tension perfectly. She also does something that all good writers have to do. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is by far the most interesting character in the book. You can’t help but love and respect her. You need her to win. The supporting cast is no less lovingly stitched together and interesting. Perhaps the most “YA” aspect of the book is Katniss’s confusion and utter incompetence at romance, though I can forgive her for wondering whether or not she has feelings for a boy she may or may not have to kill.

It’s a brutal and incredibly interesting world that Katniss lives in, and I found myself imagining being there, as I do with all stories that I get caught up in. And that’s when I knew that The Hunger Games was a fantastic story. In my opinion, it’s a better story than Harry Potter, though I doubt if it’ll become quite as much of a cultural phenomenon. It’ll have its day in the sun, and deservedly so.

I haven’t yet read the second and third books, though I certainly will. Of course the book ends with the conclusion of the Hunger Games, so I’m worried that in later books she won’t be able to match the intensity of having twenty four adolescents fight to the death—it’s kind of a tall order. I have enough faith in Suzanne Collins, though, that I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. I’ll even forgive the present tense.

If you’re a YA fan, you probably only read this to see whether or not you agree with me. If, by some odd coincidence, you haven’t yet read it… well… what are you doing? This is the best work of YA in the last decade. GO READ IT. If you’re like me and you tend to shy away from things intended for youths, do yourself a favor and pick up The Hunger Games. You won’t be sorry. If you hurry, you can get one that doesn’t have a movie star’s face on the cover.


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