Monday, December 29, 2008

A Moment to Dream

100 pages of Wildmane is off to my agent. The qualifying lap is over, and the race is on.

It's appropriate that this particular starting gun cracks with the start of the year. I fired up my writing engine back in October. Now it's revving as January rolls around. Of course, there has been a bit of a lag in December. It's only natural. The Christmas season tends to put the brakes on, not just with writing, but with everything. And that's the way it ought to be. There should be at least one moment every year where normal priorities take a back seat, and everything slows down. For me, that's the Christmas season.

Of course, Christmas brings its own hectic race. Well, perhaps for some people who are wise and shop early and get all of their lovely little ducks into a row before Christmas week, this time of year is relaxed and smooth. But in my household, we're very last minute.

Okay, I take that back. I am very last minute. My wife is simply overloaded. Or, to be more accurate, she is very giving and overly ambitious. She plans things out. She buys gifts early. But she also takes it upon herself to create hand-made presents for half the people we know (which is a considerable amount), and then can never manage to finish them all. In fact, a year in which 75% of her Christmas projects are completed by Christmas Eve is a banner year. So between the two of us, there is a lot of rushing, cursing, and multiple attempts to cram twenty marbles into a ten marble bag.

As for me, well, I could give many excuses to explain why I do my Christmas shopping five days out. And often two days out. And yes, sometimes even on Christmas Eve. But I won't bore you with the details. As I mentioned at the beginning of my blog, I'm an emotional sprinter. So perhaps, sub-consciously, I like it that way. Perhaps it's the only way I know how to be at my best.

It would appear that all of my Christmas blathering has nothing to do with writing, but it does. It has everything to do with writing. This post-Christmas lull is one of my favorite times of year. This is when I actually do get to slow down, and it is in those lazy, swampy moments that creativity begins to bubble.

Writing is always in the back of my mind. For those of you who have taken art classes, you know that the negative space of a drawing is as important -if not more important- than the painstakingly sketched lines of positive space. The negative space shapes the drawing. And every moment spent away from the keyboard is that negative space, bulging against the "lines" of my craft, shaping those rare hours where I lose myself in creation, making them more prominent. It is within this "negative space" that I recently crossed a writing threshold. It happened late on Saturday night, two days after Christmas. After sage advice from Aaron, a personal writing inspiration to me and a flagship member of the stalwart Sparkling Hammers writers group, I put the finishing touches on Wildmane and sent it off to Donald. Wildmane has been prepped for the next step: the sale of the manuscript.

Now the real work begins. I've given the story to the world, and now I have to make good on the promise those pages hold. It is akin to starting from the beginning. As I mentioned in The Creator and the Revisionist blog entry, writing the rough draft and revising it are two very different frames of mind. Now that Donald has something to utilize in a sale, I have no need of revision until the end of the book. I have spent the last week honing the manuscript, drilling down to the details and shaping the text. Over the next few days I intend to let go of that, to let my mind drift, let it expand once more, let it come to that place I enjoy the most, and then to let it loose on the story.

Perhaps Donald will be able to sell the manuscript soon, perhaps even before the rest of the story is complete. Wouldn't that be a nice belated Christmas present? Perhaps this time next year, I will be able to write a blog about the impending release date of Wildmane. What a nice little dream, and since the beginning of the year is the time for dreaming, why not? To all of you aspiring writers out there, take a moment with me in this brief pause, this "deep breath before the plunge" and send your dream out to the world. 2009 is coming. Let it give us that big break we've been waiting for.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Judge of Character

It is my full intention of making this a very quick blog entry (which inevitably means I will fail). Today is one of my favorite days of the year, and I really should get about all of the things I have to do. My wife is infinitely patient with me and my sudden writing jags, (and she should be inducted as a saint at the end of her days for being so), and I appreciate her turning a blind eye as I quietly tip-tap-type this blog entry. Because today is about family and friends, not about writing. It's about connecting to people one-on-one, renewing old bonds and making new inroads. But I couldn't help myself. I wanted to talk about this very important day in my life.

I know what you're thinking: What day is that? Are you referring to Christmas? If so, you're early. Christmas doesn't happen until next week.

But no. I'm talking about Clan Christmas. Today, I get to go to Colorado Springs, where we have a pre-Christmas get-together with the group of friends that we call our "Clan". Or at least as much of that group as we can gather together right now. After all, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are for family, and everyone has their plans for that. So every year, The Clan picks a day sometime in December, before Christmas hits, to come together and celebrate the friendships we have held onto so strongly.

The term "The Clan" was coined back in my college days, meant to refer to this batch of friends who glommed on to each other through sheer inspiration. These friends dreamed each others' dreams, partook in each others' adventures, and formed ties that have stayed tight from then to now. Considering how easy it is to fall out-of-touch with the ones closest to us, I find this circle of friendship more amazing with every year that passes.

I went to a funeral yesterday, and the wonderful man who had passed away had a parade of friends step up to the podium and give eulogies. The eulogies were startlingly well-written, and you could tell that each person knew the honored man, Jerry, intimately, and had been moved by him, his warmth, and his inner strength. Each of them summed up what Jerry had meant to them, and attempted to give a view of Jerry's life to the audience. As each of the eulogists spoke, I found myself more and more impressed by the way Jerry had lived his life, and I wished I had known him. But the one thing that stuck with me was a paragraph that was taken, the eulogist said, from the writings of a native american whose name, unfortunately, I cannot recall.

The paragraph essentially said that the depth of a person's character is most accurately determined by his friends. Not by family, as one is born into their family. The blood of your brothers or sisters, fathers or mothers or grandparents runs in your own veins, and that gives intrinsic reasons to stay loyal to them. And not by your spouse or your lover, where the mating instinct drives you to them. But only, most accurately, by your friends. For these are the people you choose. For no other reason than your own will, you have bound yourself to them. And so there is no other reason besides your character to stick with them through hard times, through fights or long absences.

This struck me, and made me even more appreciative for the fantastic group of friends that I have. And it explained why today, of all days, is one of my favorite. I get to go and see those friends, catch up with them, and renew the connections that honor them as well as, according to one eulogist, my own character.

So here's to Christmas and the holiday season. May you all find your own vision of what that means to you. I know I will, starting today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bestselling Novel

Wow! I was caught flat-footed when I came home last night and logged onto my email. A gold nugget lay waiting in my in-box. My agent had copied me on an email he sent to my editor at Eos, mentioning that Queen of Oblivion hit the Denver Post bestseller list!

As my friend Peter would say: BOOYA!!!

That's three-in-a-row! Each one of the Heartstone Trilogy has hit the Denver Post bestseller list, but each time I'm equally astounded because all of this derives from the strong fan base right here in Colorado. They take these numbers from a few booksellers in the area, one of which is The Tattered Cover. So everyone who went right out and purchased the book and everyone who came to the book signing on December 3rd literally pulled Queen of Oblivion into the limelight.

And I was completely caught by surprise. Four years ago, Giles and I scoured the internet every day for any mention of the novels, looking for people who reviewed it or any other mention, and that's how we found out about hitting the bestseller list with Heir of Autumn (which debuted at #2, right under Stephen King's Cell, and then two weeks later, hit the bestseller list again at #7. Incidentally, 2 and 7 are my lucky numbers, so I was pumped). But these last few weeks, I was so busy with the holidays, the new promotion at work, and visiting family that I completely forgot to check.

It's such a rush to see Giles' and my name right up there with the greats of fiction. This time, we snuck right underneath Toni Morrison, who is at #5 with A Mercy.

If you're curious, check out the Denver Post local bestsellers.

Thanks again to all of you who have loved this story from the beginning and continue to show your support. For me, Santa arrived early this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Perspective Jumping, Intuition, and Facebook Fix-its

One of the things I've wanted to try after the Heartstone trilogy was to write a story with fewer characters and to stay longer in their heads. More thoughts. Less dialogue. Fewer jumps between perspectives. The Heartstone trilogy is set in a world that is alive with many cultures, and even more characters to represent those cultures. With Wildmane, I wanted to scale back, to have just a couple of cultures, and to delve deeper into a single character's head.

After training myself to jump quickly from one character to another throughout Heir of Autumn, Mistress of Winter and Queen of Oblivion, it has been difficult to stay put in Mirolah's (the main character of Wildmane) head. I keep wanting to shape the world by leaping behind someone else's eyes.

But I've stayed true to my course. And after 100 pages, I made my first jump. And the chapter enchanted me (which is almost a sure-fire sign it's crap. The chapters I love the most from the outset almost always end up the dogs. I have no idea why this is). Immediately, my plotting mind wanted to jump to yet another perspective: the villain. It really was past time to go there. I'd written fully 1/4 of the story, and while a threat has already shown its face, it's mysterious, with no intelligence or discernable plan behind it. It was time to reveal my nefarious villain: Zilok Morth.

I was pumped. Ready to unleash all of my darkest thoughts through the eyes of my undead master of magic...

But that excitement faded the moment my fingers touched the keyboard. Writing the chapter was like standing and looking at the engine of a car that's not working. (C'mon, you weekend mechanics know the look I'm talking about). Stand. Stare. Put your hands on your hips. "Hmmmm..." And look like you're assessing the situation when you really have no idea where to begin.

When in doubt, just go. That's my motto. So I ran at the hill!

And stopped at the base. No no no. That's not the way it goes. I ran at the hill again!

And skidded to a halt once more.

Then turned away, disgusted. I didn't have time to have "bad writing nights" anymore. So, feeling my inspiration slump, I fell into all manner of distraction to avert the reality that I wasn't finding my "voice" for the chapter. I fiddled around on Facebook. I idled in my email.

Finally, with an inner growl, I went back to the chapter and just started typing dialogue. Any dialogue. Bad dialogue. Just to keep my fingers moving. And it sucked. And I hated myself. I went back to facebook and posted my problem. Everyone online gave their two cents.

That, apparently, was just what I needed. I'd love to tell you why, but I really don't know. When I throw problems at my friends, I never expect them to come up with the 'right' answer. Not really fair to burden someone else with that. And more often than not it's isn't WHAT advice they give me that helps, but just that they throw notions my way. So why did I do it? Intuition, maybe. Boredom? Perhaps the notion of speaking the problem aloud gives it room to breathe. I don't know. But sometimes it works. And this time, it broke my deadlock. Somehow it pulled me out of my expectation of what needed to happen, and let my intuition tell me what was going to happen.

Zilok Morth was not going to get written tonight. I'd left Mirolah in dire straights, and she needed resolution. Logically, I had to introduce the villain. That was what made sense, what my plotting mind demanded, but he refused to make an appearance. So I took a chance. I went back to Mirolah...

And the chapter sang. Ah, lovely. Young Mirolah grabbed the story back and made it hers once more. It makes me wonder if I'm creating a new addiction. Will I be able to jump from perspective to perspective anymore? Will Mirolah become a high-maintenance lady who refuses to be set aside?

We'll see. But the adventure proceeds, and that's what I was hoping for.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Writer's Tripwire

I have many writer friends. I think it's inevitable. We who choose this rarely lucrative profession glom on to one another as we cross paths throughout the years. From high school to college, I must have gathered almost two dozen friends who wanted to be authors someday.

After college, that number slowly dropped, and continued dropping as my writer friends' attention got caught by other things, or when they came to their senses and realized that becoming a writer not only required the sacrifice of many other grand things, but also required constant selfishness and a good bit of self-loathing.

I started writing when I was seventeen. And by "started writing" I mean I had that first, seductive glimpse of being a famous author. I put fingers to keyboard with the firm notion that I was writing my first bestseller, all the while entertaining the thoughts: Wow! Wouldn't that be cool to be Piers Anthony and write Xanth novels? Or wow! I bet Margaret Weis has the best life ever! Can you imagine? Thousands of fans waiting for your next story, aching to find out what happens to Tanis, Raistlin and the rest. Wouldn't it be sheer bliss to have readers living and breathing the lives of the characters you love? Yes. That is what I want. That is my heart's desire.

It's been twenty years since then, and most of my original writer friends have gone on to other professions, other adventures. I don't think many of them actively decided to give up writing. It's just hard to keep The Writing as a top priority when there's little encouragement and less money. They just let that dream lie fallow, and the years rolled by.

However, there are a few who stuck to it, gutting it out through the rejection slips and the grinding task of creation, throwing their passion onto the page in fits and starts. And of those friends, most of them fall prey to the topic of this blog, and will recognize what I'm talking about. I bring it up because it hit me smack in the chest this week.

I let my mind get the better of me. I let those incessant, chattering monkeys curl back upon me and wreck my house. I fell into a writing depression.

Maybe this is inevitable. Maybe this is, like the rejection slips and self-grinding, a necessary aspect of the craft. I mean, what is more cliched than the tortured artist? When I first started writing, all I heard about was the half-insane writers. The misfits who were so socially awkward it was painful, but could put their finger on the pulse of humanity. The alcoholics and drug addicts. Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. Emily Dickenson. Writers who destroyed their lives for their craft, who cut out their hearts and threw them on the page, then died bleeding, miserable wretches.

I never wanted misery with my writing. I refuse to believe I have to become one of those wretches to be a great writer. I fight the notion all the time, but I can't deny the depressions on this rollercoaster of creation. This is an example of that seductive, destructive cycle:

Last week, during my writing nights (those of you who have been following the blog will know this is Monday, Tuesday and sometimes Sunday, based on the angelic benevolence of my wife), I delved into the character of Medophae. I'd reached my 100 pages looking through Mirolah's eyes, and it was time to start the next segment of the novel. Wildmane was ready to be born again.

I wrote it. And it sang. It trumpeted. A host of celestial beings converged on my house and struck up the orchestra. When the chapter was done, I floated out of that room and made myself a manic nuisance to my wife, who tolerated me, smiled affectionately, kissed me and sent me to bed. That was Sunday night.

The euphoria lasted through the Monday workday and into the next night, when I started the following chapter and flew along with the divine spirit flowing out of my fingers. And then I reached a crossroads, a place where a choice needed to be made. With happiness coursing through my veins, I hung up my keyboard and went to bed. I'd face that problem with ease the following night.

Tuesday night rolled around, and with joy in my heart and a full bag of Taco Bell gorditas on my desk, I jumped into the saddle set to work.

I failed. I tried again. I failed again. I shook my head, shook out my fingers, and tried to work out the problem. I tried to find that angelic orchestra which praised me so highly the night before. But it was gone. Those damned angels just up and vanished.

I like to blame it all on Taco Bell, but it wasn't that. It was that same tripwire that causes so many of my writer friends to stumble and, in this case, me too.

I was so enamoured of what I had written that I did not return to what really drives me. I wrapped myself up in the "glory of me" after creating something that lit me afire. And of course, so thoroughly wrapped, all I would write from that moment forward would be brilliant. Right?

But no. I looked back at the past few paragraphs and, sure enough, they sucked. I wanted to slash them to ribbons. My glorious pillar of self-appreciation cracked. Maybe I wasn't that good. Maybe I actually stank and my love of the previous chapter was simply the obliviousness of an over-tired mind.

Since then, I haven't written a lick. I'm afraid the moment I return to the keyboard, it'll all come out crap, and how could I possibly shame my previous chapter by following it with a dog?

And there is the trap.

I struggle through this even now as I type the blog. I'm going to have to return to Medophae, and I'm going to have to count on myself to guide him to the next scene with the same intuition that birthed him, even if it all comes to crap, because here's the thing: If I don't, there is no Medophae. It all began with my passion for his character, not an admiration of my prose. The words arose from that love.

And so, when I get to the keyboard this coming Sunday, that is what I will do. Simply start writing. The Revisionist can shred it later. Sometime in 2009. But right now, he has to shut up. Until the end of the book, the Creationist must have his way, or there will be no book at all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Luckiest Man I Know

I just got back from the first book signing for Queen of Oblivion, which was held at The Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch. These signings are my favorite things to do. A book signing is, truly, a moment when I get to live the dreams of my sixteen-year-old self, a boy who wanted to make heroes come to life and share them with the world.

Tonight, I got to blather on about my heart's passion, and everyone listened. They asked questions. They delved into my joy with me, and made it that much greater. The signing was outstanding. The venue was outstanding. The Tattered Cover staff was outstanding. And can I just say:

I have the best group of friends in the world.

There were over forty people there, and while I was very happy to see a half a dozen new faces (yay! Word-of-mouth and marketing works!), the bulk of the group was my friends and my family. These are the people who listened to me shamelessly regale them with my adolescent novels back in college, and who have cheered me on ever since then, down through the intervening years. These are the people who went to Giles' and my first signing in 2006, and to every signing thereafter. These are the people who rush out to buy the new books as soon as they can, even if they don't read anything else in the fantasy genre. These are the people who walk up to the signing desk with 2, 5, even a dozen copies that they intend to push on their friends.

In short, they are the the people who make me a writing success, and it was heartwarming -and humbling- to have them cheering me on.

Of course, it's every author's dream to fly to any city in the country and have hundreds of avid fans waiting to greet him. I have not reached that place yet, but I am willing to bet that the only way to get there is to have a core group of friends, like I do, who believes in me and has from the start. A group that takes my writing and loves it and champions it in the world.

Tonight, I am the luckiest man I know. I got to stand up in front of the people I love and respect the most, and I got to share with them my childhood dream.

Thanks to those who came and supported me tonight, and more thanks to that precious group that has been supporting me for years. Here's hoping I will someday prove your faith is well-placed.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Creator and the Revisionist

I reached 100 pages on Wildmane! Yes! I am ecstatic. This means I move on to the next phase, and get to send it off to Donald, who will hopefully find a home for it. And that means money. And that means I can buy new shoes for my daughter.

My objective for the next little while is to shape up the manuscript. The rough draft is down, has exceeded my targeted page count (by 2 pages), but now I need to make it tight. I need to knock away everything extraneous. I need to make it charged with juicy scene after juicy scene. It cannot house unnecessary chaff. The filler must be purged. This story can't just be a good story.

It must be irrisisible.

To help me in this, I have sent it off to a few people I call my "advanced readers". These people are chosen for a variety of reasons. Some have loved the Wildmane story since its infancy back in college, and want to be a part of its overhaul. Some have great talent in editing stories and have graciously decided to assist me. And some, well, some were just curious. But I'll grab their feedback with the same relish.

Because these perspectives are invaluable to me. As I write a story, I become immersed in the world. I have to. The characters cannot live if I'm not plunged into their bodies and seeing through their eyes. But, when it comes to the revising stage, this works against me. It can keep me from pulling back enough to see what I have actually conveyed, as opposed to what I think I have conveyed. One of the differences between amateur writers and professional writers is that ability to take that step back and see the story as a piece of craft, to be hacked and honed to the desired effect. This has traditionally been one of my weak spots, and advanced readers can help me in that area. We'll see if I improve.

So now I'm caught in limbo. I've reached my goal, but am far from the finish line. There is still a lot to be written, and the part of me that has gotten into the groove of creating the rough draft doesn't want to stop (it never wants to stop), but I have had to slam on the brakes to manipulate the craft. Revision works a very different part of my brain. I have had to switch mentalities. This is nothing like writing a rought draft. When I'm writing a rough draft, I open all the floodgates. All ideas are sweet, and I exercise little discrimination as I throw them into the story. Good, bad, ugly, all of it comes pouring out and spills onto the page.

When I'm revising, however, I'm curt, and I wield a word-trimming scalpel or, if the need is great, a chapter-lopping broadsword. I would even go so far as to say that I'm mean. I try to be mean. I look at the manuscript as though the writer is an idiot. All writers are idiots, and this particular one who wrote this particular piece of garbage needs to prove to me that he is not an idiot. I must be grudgingly impressed, or not impressed at all. I must chip and hack and push and cajole the manuscript into a shape that would seduce even the most sour audience because, in the publishing industry, that is the most likely reader to be standing before the gates of publication.

So, I just recently removed my revisionist cloak. I revised the 100 Wildmane pages last weekend, and have been lolling about in the aftermath, what I think of as my "mellowing" time. I can switch from rough draft mode to revisionist mode very quickly. Going back the other way is a bitch. Apparently, transforming from open-hearted and giddy to sniping slasher takes little effort. But once I've been revising for a while, I need a day or two to get my mind back into fullscale creating. I think the inner child who plays with the conjured, rough draft images is afraid of the merciless revisionist. He doesn't want to stick his head out while the blades are whirring.

But the blades have been tucked away for now. The story of Wildmane is calling, and the child is piping up again. He's bouncing around, asking when he gets to go back to Amrin and find out what happened to Mirolah after her harrowing escape. Will she ever see her parents again? What does the insidious Gar Verritt and his band of misfits have in store for her?

Ah, he's tugging on my pantleg. I gotta go.

Until next time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stavark's Stubbornness

An odd and wonderful thing happened last night as I was writing. It's been so long since it's happened that I'd forgotten what a thrill it is. It was like a deja vu that, instead of lasting a split-second, stretched and pulled me into it for an interminably sweet moment.

As Inigo Montoya would say, "Let me splain..."

First, a little bit of background. The system we (Giles and I) used for the Heartstone Trilogy was:

1st step - Giles and I brainstorm ideas, sketching visions of the characters, setting and plot together
2nd step - Giles takes our ideas and plots the chapters
3rd step - I springboard from those synopses and write the rough draft
4th step - Giles goes over what I wrote, removing and adding as necessary
5th step - I take his revision, remove and add as necessary
6th-12th steps - We repeat as necessary until a suitable final draft is agreed upon

Giles and I paid a lot of attention to ensuring that the story adhered to our vision. Oh, we would change our minds and change course often enough throughout construction. We weren't rigid in our execution of our brainstormed ideas, but there was always an attention to looking back at the framework.

"Am I doing this right?"

"Can I go down this path?"

"How will this affect our original vision?"

Since I've started working solo again, I taken a new tack. I don't write down the plot. I keep the images, ideas and characters in my head (such that I can. I do not have a mind like a steel trap. Rather, I have a mind more like a chalk drawing from Mary Poppins), then sit down and just let loose.

There are downsides. This opens me up to all manner of mistakes. I could spend hours writing down a scene, only to step back and realize that the scene is useless in moving the story forward, and has to be scrapped. In fact, at the very beginning of the Wildmane re-write, I penned four full chapters, only to realize the direction I chose wouldn't work. I deleted them all, started over again and finally got the scene I was looking for.

But the upsides. Ah, I've begun to feel them. It started small at first. When writing, instead of feeling that vague concern, I began to feel a thrill, a simple joy of shaping the unknown. I banished the question: "Am I doing this right?" I locked those worries away in a dark little cell at the base of my mind .

I remembered that thrill from those faroff days of writing in my teens, when I first started. Back in Durango Colorado, where I sat in my bedroom with that sweet, high mountain breeze fluttering the blue checkered curtains, and I clacked away on my mother's electric typewriter. Of course, I didn't need to tell my nattering mind to shut up back then. I didn't have a nattering mind.

Every time I've sat down to write lately, or even contemplated writing, I've been hungry for it. I wanted to feel that ghostly excitement again.

Last night, it consumed me.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I come home on Monday and Tuesday nights and closet myself away. Last night was no exception, and with cheesy 80s music in my ear, I dove into Mirolah's world.

Mirolah, Gar Verritt and Stavark ran from the Merthalic blademen, trying to scale the wall to escape. Except Mirolah couldn't hold on, and she fell. And the blademen surrounded them.

Gar Verritt turned to Stavark who, as a quicksilver, could certainly have saved himself by flashing away. And this was the plan. Not Gar Verritt's plan, but my plan. The grand plot's plan. Stavark needed to flee. He was going to get help, and return to spring them in a swashbuckling spectacle that would make Errol Flynn proud.

So Gar Verritt, as I made him do, said to Stavark, "Go!"

And Stavark said, "No."

And so I made Gar Verritt tell him again, "Stavark, you know what is at stake. Go!"


I sat back from the keyboard, stunned. I did not want Stavark to say "No." That was not the plan.

And then I grinned. I grinned so wide my cheeks ached. Stavark refused me. Noble little Stavark quietly and stubbornly took a stand that he would, of course, have taken.

And in that moment, he came to life.

I didn't make that decision to say "No". Stavark did, from the core of his character. Stavark does not leave his friends surrounded by the enemy, even if it's the smart thing to do. Even if it is the only thing to do. He stays with them until the end. He does not care about my plot structure. He does not know it exists.

And that, I think, is when a good story really begins.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Book Promotion, Time Cubes, and Negotiations with the Wife

This past weekend, I engaged in a flurry of book promotion. As the Dec. 3 book signing at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch (see my November 13 post for details) is fast approaching, I shaped up my database of emails, typed up a quick letter and sent it out to everyone I know. So far, this area of becoming an author is my weakest area by far. I've been writing novels for twenty years. I've been uncovering the secrets of publishing for ten years. And I've been actively promoting myself for ten days.

But so far it's pretty fun. In this last few weeks, I've started this blog and discovered While facebook represents a huge potential time-sink (there are just so many interesting bells & whistles to dazzle me. And I am easily dazzled), it's amazing how many people I've connected with so quickly. And the blog has been a blast. It's a great way to warm up for writing on Wildmane.

As to Wildmane, I continue to churn out the rough draft. I've reached 68 pages so far, and the story is starting to cook. I am excited that my current system for writing is actually working. I had extreme doubts that it would. With kids, my job at the American Diabetes Association, fixing up our house, and social events with our wonderful group of friends, I had despaired that I would never find enough time to write.

Back in my twenties and early thirties, I'd disappear for a weekend, minimum, to do novel work. I could come home from my day job on Friday, get in the mood to write by watching a sci-fi movie, then go into my room and shut the door. I'd ignore the phone, ignore the knocks of my roommate, ignore the world. By mid-Saturday, I'd be writing, making progress. By Sunday morning, I'd be flying along, writing chapters and chapters. Add a third day to that, and I could damn near write a hundred pages of a novel in a weekend.

That was my late twenties. Now I'm in my late thirties, with a family, and here's the inevitable dilemma: I never get a two day block of time anymore. I don't even get a one-day block of time anymore. All of my free hours are diced up into little time cubes. Snippets of freedom in a packed schedule.

In the beginning, oh, how I would fight against it, craving that mythical three-day weekend I used to know, that open expanse of time to write and only write. Lara, my wife, was very patient at first, doing her best to afford me what I felt I needed. But as the pressure of parenthood increased on both of us, my selfish time stealing didn't fit. That time simply wasn't there.

I didn't want to believe it, refused to accept it, because losing that time equated to losing my dreams of becoming a writer, and that just wasn't acceptable. Lara and I would have endless discussions (and sometimes fights) about how to work it out.

In the end, I knew I was the one who had to bend, because all of those things that packed my schedule (like my children, my friends, improving my family's quality of life) were of my own choosing. They were not going to disappear. The diced-time situation was not going to change. So either I had to adapt, or my novel-writing would become extinct.

So I decided to buckle down and change my point of view. I couldn't have half of Friday, all of Saturday and all of Sunday. I had to fit my passion into diced time-cubes. In negotiations with Lara, we decided that while the whole weekend couldn't work, two week nights were reasonable. At first, it seemed pitifully inadequate. It was only a scant eight actual writing hours in comparison to the bountiful 38 of a full weekend. I had no idea how I would do it.

But, Monday and Tuesday night were mine. Inviolate. No discussions about time juggling. No responsibilities to intrude on my selfishness. I could banish the guilt, closet myself in my office, drink Coke and eat Pringles if I want to. And if someone trespassed, I had full rights to be the snarling ogre.

For those of you who struggle with finding your writing time, I have this to say: Hour for hour, I am more productive than I have ever been. It's unbelievable. I sit down, I force myself to write, and if it comes out crap, it comes out crap. But at least I am WRITING.

And the kicker is this: Less of it is crap than ever before.

Go figure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tattered Cover Book Signing

As promised, I am posting the confirmed time, date, place of my first book signing for Queen of Oblivion. Stay tuned for other books signings. I'm hoping to have one in Colorado Springs, one in Fort Collins and one in Boulder. The Fort Collins and Boulder signings will probably be in January, but I'm hoping to squeeze in Poor Richards in Colorado Springs before the holidays sweep us away.

So, if you're going to attend only ONE book signing this year, check it out:

Wednesday, Dec. 3
7:30 p.m.
Tattered Cover
9315 Dorchester StHighlands Ranch, CO 80129
Get the location from googlemap here

So come on down to Highlands Ranch. I'll be signing Queen of Oblivion, and I will also read a few chapters not only from Queen, but also from my new project Wildmane.

See you there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thoughts on "Queen of Oblivion"

So it looks like I'll have at least two book signings in Colorado (maybe four). I will post the exact dates and locations as I receive them from my PR agent. What I have requested is Friday, December 5th at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch. So for those of you following this blog, mark your calendars. I would love to see you all there! The saga of Brophy and Shara is coming to its culmination, and if you've been following the story, you don't want to miss it.

And if you haven't been following the story, then you really ought to pick up Heir of Autumn, the first book in the Heartstone Trilogy (follow the link on the left-hand side to buy a copy online). It is a rich history in a brand new world, complete with sexy sorceresses, earnest young warriors, deadly gladitorial games, and international intrigue. And overshadowing the clash of three mighty empires, a towering menace in the north that threatens to destroy the world.

Wow. I'm all excited now. I think I'll have to go back and re-read it.

So, I can't decide whether the publishing industry moves slowly, or if I move on quickly, but it already seems like ages ago that Giles and I buttoned up Queen of Oblivion. I can't even remember when we finished the first draft of it. Probably November of 2007. For fans of the series, Queen of Oblivion is the third and last story in the Heartstone Trilogy, and it comes out at the end of this month.

As the publishing date nears, I begin to revisit that rich story all over again. The angst of Shara, the agony of Brophy, the murderous drive of Arefaine. Most fantasy stories are about magic and adventure, about the main character finding his potential and living up to it. In fact, Heir of Autumn (the first book in the Heartstone Trilogy) was very much about that. Brophy started out a naive young man who grew into his strength in a trial-by-fire (literally).

But Queen of Oblivion isn't about magic and adventure, though there is plenty of both to be had. And it isn't about the characters finding their potential, though Arefaine finds hers (and can I say "whooo-boy"). Queen is about redemption. Brophy has lived through the fire, but it burns him still. Shara shoulders the weight of the world, and it constantly threatens to crush her. These characters have come into their full might, and Queen is about trying to choose rightly in using that might. It is about the traps that are laid even for those with the best intentions, and especially for those with the most power.

These characters asked for it. Now they've got it. And the question is: What to do with it. Join me in this fantastical world, and see if you bite your nails, curse and spit, cry and laugh, as much as I did.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On Inspiration and Wildmane

Okay, I'm off and runnin'. Two entries in two days. Fair warning, though, this is how I start. I'm an emotional sprinter by nature. It's the marathon where I lag.

Still and all, I was sitting at my computer this morning with a hankering to continue writing on Wildmane, one of my two current novel projects. Before settling in, I decided to check email, facebook and my blog, trying to make it part of my routine to promote my writing.

So this morning, I have decided to give my blog a direction, and it is:

The winding path of novel creation. That's my focus for this blog.

Or at least for today. (Remember the marathon analogy?)

So let's begin at the beginning. Let's talk about inspiration and drive. This is where novels begins. An idea that you just can't let go of. A purpose that grabs you and holds you until you have to write it down. These are the wisps of stories that drift past your conscious mind. These are the characters you've been dreaming about. That smart, sexy CEO in the business suit that you envision yourself dating. That streetwise city kid who's going to take the world by storm and make his impact.

These bubble at the base of the mind. They are the inspiration. And a writer takes to the keyboard, attempting to convey that inspiration accurately.

So now you've got your drive, so what next? It seems that writing is a constant attempt to define dreams into the concrete. From your imaginings into words, and then again from your words into a paycheck.

Thankfully, I have a fantastic agent named Donald Maass (perhaps I'll tell that story in a later blog, for those of you who are interested in such things). This opens up new horizons for a writer. So one of my current driving forces is the fact that, as soon as I have 100 pages of either of my novel projects (Wildmane or Fairmist), I can send it to Donald, and he will try to sell it for me.

After spending 15 years writing for myself and my friends and sending my creations out into the world to strangers who didn't care one bit about my dream of becoming an author, this is hugely exciting. There's someone on the other end, and he wants to see my stuff. The time and energy I pour into my work has a champion.

So, circling back to inspiration again, this adds to my drive. I mean, I'd write stories whether or not anyone listened to them. It adds immeasurable joy to my life, so I'd do it for just for the rush. However, having a quick road to publication whips that inspiration into a frenzy. I must get Wildmane done. And soon. The sooner I can, the sooner my dreams come true.

So, to Wildmane. I'm currently on chapter 5, roughly 40 pages, and things are about to heat up. The world is taking form, the main character Mirolah is finding her voice, and the side characters have pushed her to the cusp.

The sparks are about to fly.

And once they do, sixty more pages will go in a blink and then, the dream of that published book. My words in print.

Ah! Ambrosia.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

First blog!

Okay, here's my first blog. As it will always likely be, I've only got about five minutes to blog something.

Current news: Peter and I are trying to set up my blog site so that I can regale any and all comers with updates primarily about my writing, but also about life in general. One tends to leak into the other, I've noticed.

This is my new (and only, so far) attempt at self-promotion. I hear that one needs to do that if one is to be successful as a writer these days.

So check out all of the book pictures along the left-hand side here. Queen of Oblivion, co-written with Giles Carwyn, is coming out at the end of this month, so keep an eye out for it. There will be book signings in Denver and Colorado Springs, so stay tuned for that, too. I'll be posting the dates and locations soon.

All right. Time to go work on the grounds at Elowyn's school.

Until next time.