Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo: It's Over (Sort Of)

Well, I did it.  I managed to complete 50,000 words of a novel.  Fifty thousand, forty-five to be exact.  That's nowhere near all of the novel.  I'm estimating this one will run to at least 70,000, possibly more.  But to "win" NaNoWriMo, you had to complete just 50,000.  Which I did in spite of myself.

I say in spite of myself because I turned out to be my own biggest obstacle.  This is by far the longest thing I've attempted.  I didn't plan it out in detail well enough.  I usually have a general idea of where I want a story to end up.  Getting there is just details.  The devil, as they say, is in the details.  This novel has three viewpoint characters, four if you count the captain who only appears in flashbacks at the end of the major sections.  The characters are in separate locations when the book opens, and I alternate chapters featuring each of them.  I found myself writing more than one chapter about a character, depending how well I understood that part of the character's story arc in relation to the other story arcs.  I would then go back and insert chapters where needed.  I found this to be both a stressful and liberating way to write.

Anyhoo, I've not been blogging much in the last couple of weeks because I was trying to make the deadline.  I'm going to step away from the novel for a few days, finish up a fantasy mystery novella that's about 1500 words from being done, start reading some of the books that have been piling up.  I'm also going to think about some details I didn't work out very well before I started writing a month ago.  I hope to finish the first draft of the novel over the holidays, get it to the beta readers, and get to work on the second book in the series.  I've learned a lot about writing and how (not) to approach a novel, and I'm eager to put some of those things into practice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things I'm Thankful For

There are a number of things I'm thankful for. Here's a partial list.

First of all, my family, both immediate and extended. (This includes the dogs.)

Our health.

Employment, both for me and my wife. And not just a job in my case, but something I find fulfilling. While I'm not sure it's something I want to do for the rest of my life, I don't dread going to work every day.

A place to live, food to eat, cars to drive.

Books to read. Lots and lots and lots of books to read. And vintage pulps. And comics and graphic novels. And opportunities to write.

The good things blogging has brought into my life: new friends, review copies of books from both authors and publishers, and outlet for my writing.

That I live in the greatest country in the world, where I am free to say what I like, read what I like, and worship God in the manner I see fit.

May God bless each and every one of you as much as He's blessed me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RIP, Anne McCaffery

Locus Online is reporting that SFWA Grand Master Anne McCaffery died at home in Ireland of a massive stroke on November 21, 2011.  She was 85.  McCaffery was author of the long-running Pern series.  In addition to Pern, McCaffery was the author of a number of other series, which she often co-wrote with up and coming authors who went on to have significant careers.  These authors include, but are not limited to, Jody Lynne Nye, Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, and Mercedes Lackey.  McCaffery won a number of awards for her work, including the Nebula and Hugo (she was the first woman to win both).  In 2006 she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer Launch Weird Fiction Review

I'm not sure how long the news about this has been out, but I just saw it in a post from yesterday and thought I would pass it along to you.  Ann and Jeff AnderMeer have launched a new online venue called Weird Fiction Review, billed as "Your Non-Demoninational Source for the Weird."  Ann, as most of you know, is the former editor of Weird Tales.  The new site has fiction, essays, comics, reviews, and other items.  It also is not to be confused with the print journal The Weird Fiction Review edited by S. T. Joshi, and published by Centipede Press.  The site apparently only went live a few weeks ago, but there's plenty of stuff already up.  I don't recognize the names of the authors, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I'll try to check it out sometime in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Excerpt Two

Well, the second week of NaNoWriMo wasn't as successful for me as the first week.  I got bogged down in the middle of the week with family commitments, then my wife attended an out of town conference from Thursday through Sunday.  That didn't leave me much time to write, although I can't complain.  Hanging out with my son for the weekend was worth the missed writing hours.

I should be at 25,000 words today to meet the 50,000 word "finish line" or 30,000 to meet my self-imposed goal.  I'm at just over 19,000.  I think I can catch up if I don't miss too many days.  I knew I would fall behind during the first part of the month when I started and planned on catching up over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Here's the second excerpt from the novel.  The storyline concerns the crew of a starship who wake up from coldsleep on a planet.  They don't know where they are or how they got there and have to survive.  I'm alternating chapters between three viewpoint characters, who are on different parts of the planet when the book opens and whose storylines progress more or less simultaneously.  At the end of each major section, there will a flashback chapter involving a fourth character, the captain of the starship.  Where the captain is and what happened to her is going to be one of several mysteries the other characters will be dealing with.  The flashbacks featuring the captain will not be chronological, but instead will give a different perspective on events and discoveries in the section of the book each flashback concludes.

What follows is when we first meet the captain.

Angry Robots Books Announces New Authors

The following is a press release from Angry Robot Books:


Like most successful publishers, Angry Robot generally only accepts submissions through literary agencies. Earlier this year, however, the company ran a pilot programme to see how many unpublished - but talented - authors there were without representation. During March, Angry Robot invited all un-agented authors to submit completed manuscripts as part of an "Open Door Month". Over 990 novels were submitted during that period.

Today, Angry Robot are delighted to announce the first acquisitions from the first Open Door Month. Two new authors, each with a minimum two book deal, have now joined the Angry Robot family.

Cassandra Rose Clarke was the first signing to come through this process. Her two novels for Angry Robot show the versatility of this important new talent.

'The Mad Scientist's Daughter' is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist. And 'The Assassin's Curse' is a fantastical romp, starring Ananna, a no-nonsense lady pirate, born into pirate royalty.

Clarke said: "I'm beyond excited to have Angry Robot publishing my first-ever novel, and not only because of the delightful coincidence that my novel involves a robot who is, on occasion, angry. Angry Robot's reputation is stellar and their author list incredibly impressive - I'm humbled to be included amongst their ranks!"

We take a somewhat darker turn with a pair of books from Lee Collins - 'The Dead of Winter' and 'She Returns From War'. Both novels follow Cora Oglesby, a bounty hunter with a reputation for working supernatural cases.

Collins said: "As excited as I am at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Angry Robot's outstanding authors, publication was really a secondary goal of my submitting to them. My primary reason was the hope, however slim, of cybernetic augmentation."

Both deals were negotiated by Angry Robot's editor, Lee Harris, who stated: "There is an enormous amount of talent out there, waiting to be discovered, and I am thrilled we have found two great new talents as part of our search."

Both authors' debut novels will be published by Angry Robot in autumn 2012, with their second books scheduled for spring 2013.

Following the success of the project, Angry Robot expects to run a similar Open Door period in spring 2013, details of which are to be confirmed at a later date.

Ok, that's the end of the press release.  Further details and author photos can be found on the Angry Robot website.  Advanced reading copies of  The Mad Scientist's Daughter and The Dead of Winter will be available at some point.  I'll download them and post the reviews, here for the latter and at Futures Past and Present for the former.  Angry Robot is one of the more innovative publishers out there.  I'm eager to see what new authors they've discovered.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the Penn State Sex Scandal

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.
                                               Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene ii

I generally shy away from current events unless they have to do with publishing or in some way relate to heroic adventure when I'm choosing my blog topics.  For the most part, Adventures Fantastic and its sister site, Futures Past and Present, are current event and political free zones. 

However, for anyone who follows the news, like I try to do, there has been no escaping this week of the coverage of the still growing sex scandal at Penn State.  As a parent of a child in the age range of the ones in question, it's been hard not to put myself in the place of  the families of the victims.  It's not been a pleasant place to go mentally, and I'm not going to inflict that portion of my thoughts upon you.  I have found myself today thinking of the events in terms of the heroism, or mostly lack thereof, of the principal players in this drama.

So, if you'll indulge me in venting my spleen, I'm going to share some of my thoughts.  What follows beyond the "Read More" link might be offensive to some of you, so if you think you might be one of those people, please do us both a favor and don't read it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Nerve-Wracking Journey Across the Mountains

The Whitefire Crossing
Courtney Schafer
Nightshade Books
Trade pbk, $14.99, ebook $5.99, 300 p.

In the acknowledgements to this first novel, the author states that the first draft of the book was written during NaNoWriMo 2007.  That's encouraging because I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and I can only hope to write something half this good.

This is a dark, at times disturbing, adventure story with villains who are deliciously evil, yet have believable motivations.  The heroes are young, flawed, make mistakes, grow, and learn about themselves and the world.

The suspense is intense at times, and the passage across the mountains, especially after the blood mage attacks, is downright nerve wracking.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NanoWriMo: Week One

Well, I've managed to write every day of the first week of NaNoWriMo, although I haven't quite made the daily goal I set out for myself when I started.  As of right now, I'm 2,000 words behind and have written just over 12,000, or to put it another way, I'm basically one day behind.  The weekend wasn't good for writing, so I didn't make my quota every day.  Tonight isn't looking good at all.  My son's final soccer practice is this evening; they're playing for the championship this weekend.  I've got a stack of exams sitting here that I need to finish grading before tomorrow morning.  If the morning goes like today and yesterday did, then I can't count on finding time to grade in the morning. 

On the whole, though, I'd say the first week has been a success.  Taking a day or so off shouldn't kill my momentum.  I need to think about what each of the three viewpoint characters is going to go through next to get them where I ultimately want them to end up.

Monday, November 7, 2011

John Joseph Adams Buys Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines

John Joseph Adams
Prime Books announced today that it is selling both Lightspeed and Fantasy magazines to current editor John Joseph Adams.  The sale is part of the expansion of Prime Books.  Publisher Sean Wallace stated that the book publishing side of his job was taking more and more time.  Adams is a highly respected editor not only of the magazine but of numerous anthologies as well.  Adams issued the following statement:  "It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing.  Models are changing and so is the readership, and online magazines have a better shot at sustainability than ever have before. I believe the possibilities for growth are tremendous, and I look forward to staying in the vanguard of this new frontier."

With the announcement last week that Realms of Fantasy was closing again, it's been an eventful week in sff periodical publishing.  As I promised when I posted about RoF I'll have more to say about these changes in a post later this week.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dispatches From the Lone Star Front: Profile of an Early Texas Ranger

It got an email last week from Jason Waltz, informing the contributors of Home of Heroics that he was discontinuing adding new material to the site.  Between work and family obligations, not to mention trying to publish the books on the Rogue Blades Entertainment schedule, Jason said he was exhausted and simply couldn't devote the time necessary to maintaining the site.  As regular readers of this blog are probably aware, I was one of the contributors to Home of Heroics, with a quarterly column entitled "Dispatches From the Lone Star Front", featuring heroes from Texas.  It was in a different vein than what I do here, focusing on history with little or no fantasy aspect.  With Jason's blessing, that column will continue here, although I don't know if it will be quarterly, more frequently, or just when I find something interesting to write about.  Reader reaction will help me decide.

Adventures Fantastic would like to wish Jason and Rogue Blades Entertainment all the best.  Home of Heroics will be missed; the contributors are still around and blogging on other sites, so if you enjoyed the work of any of them, look them up if you haven't already.  Now, here is the most recent Dispatch from the Lone Star Front that would have been posted at HoH if things had been different:

Jack Hays
There are a number of qualities that are commonly used to describe heroes.  One of them is courage.  John Coffee “Jack” Hays had that in spades.

Hays was one of the first Texas Rangers, seeing most of his service during the days of the Republic, before Texas joined the United States, and then during the Mexican War.  He was renowned for his bravery, cunning, and his leadership.  He was called “Devil Jack” by the Comanches. 

The Rangers were formed to protect the Texas settlers, both Anglo and Tejano, against bandits and hostile Indians.  The Comanches were the primary tribe hostile to the settlers, and they were traditional enemies of the Lipan Apaches.  Naturally, the Rangers, and Hays in particular, allied themselves with the Lipan.  Hays’ Lipan scout Flacco is reported by Walker Prescott Webb to have said, “Me and Red Wing not afraid to go to hell together.  Captain Jack he brave; not afraid to go to hell by himself.” 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Here We Go Again: Realms of Fantasy Folds

At the risk of sounding like Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again.  On Wednesday, William Gilchrist of Damnation Books announced the folding of Realms of Fantasy.  Gilchrist stated that the company was losing money on the magazine, and that the October issue (which shipped late) will be the last.  The magazine is currently up for sale.

I've been distracted by things the last few days, including but not limited to NaNoWriMo, so I only saw the announcement this morning.  While I wasn't greatly impressed with what I've seen of the magazine lately, I hate to see it go and hope someone picks up the torch.  I'll post further thoughts sometime in the next few days, once I've gotten some family obligations off my plate.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Excerpt One

The first three days of NaNoWriMo have been productive.  I wrote 2,000 words the first day, a little over 2400 yesterday, and just under 1600 tonight, bringing my total to slightly over 6,000.  This is a good pace, and it will come to a screeching halt tomorrow.  I've got commitments tomorrow night which will keep me away from the computer.  There's always the weekend to try to catch up and gain a little cushion.

I've written what amounts to three chapters introducing three of the main viewpoint characters.  I'll introduce a significant fourth viewpoint character later in a flashback, whose present whereabouts will be a mystery for a while.  None of the three characters I've introduced have any idea where they are or how they got there when we first meet them, nor do they know anything about the nature of the planet they're on.  Discovering that will be a major portion of the storyline.  I don't have a working title yet, still kicking a few ideas around.

Anyway, here's what will probably be the first chapter, in rough draft form with little to no editing.

Lieutenant Jacob Vasquez dangled over the river, trying to convince himself to let go of the branch he was hanging from.  There were enough rocks below, and the drop was high enough, even with this planet’s slightly lower gravity, to make such a course of action potentially fatal.
He looked back down at the base of the tree for inspiration.  Three creatures from a nightmare clawed the trunk.  They were as tall as large dogs and just as wide.  Short black fur covered their backs and eight legs, fading to grey on their undersides.  Square heads protruded from the bodies, connected directly to the torsos without benefit of necks.  One looked up at him, opened a mouth filled with needle sharp fangs, and gave what Vasquez could only think of as a cross between a yodel and a whine.
The call was answered from within the forest, and two more of the things scurried from the trees.  They moved incredibly fast for their size. 
One of the newcomers made a threatening noise at one the creatures already there, and received bared fangs in response.  The one that had yodeled ignored the arrival of the two and began clawing its way up the trunk. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Day 1

Well, I got 2,000 words done today.  That's not counting tomorrow's exam that I wrote this afternoon.  If I can get between 1500 and 2,000 words completed every day, not counting any revisions, then I should make my goal, which is the minimum 50,000.  Since this is my first year to participate, I'll have a better feel for what is a reasonable goal next year.  I know I won't be able to match that number every day, but if I shoot for it, I'll get closer than if I don't.  I plan to write more than that on weekends and over Thanksgiving. 

So far, so good.  I won't post a word count every day, but I will from time to time.  When I get a good chapter done, I plan to post it as a sample.  I've got several different viewpoint characters on different parts of the planet when the novel opens that will have to be introduced, so I'll pick the introductory chapter I like best.  Tonight's chapter isn't quite done, so I figure at the rate I'm writing, a chapter every couple of days is what I'm most likely to get done.