An Update About Disappointing Things, and Things That Did Not Disappoint

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Let’s talk about disappointment

First of all, the book I’m reading now is a bit of a disappointment. I’m not going to name it, but it’s a multi-author thing designed to showcase their talents, and I have been mostly bored so far. 

My son told me to quit it, which led to an uncharacteristically passionate tirade against “Sevens”. 

“No sevens!” he yelled. “Sevens are the worst! I am anti-seven!” 

By his reasoning, if a book, movie, game, whatever is an eight, nine, or a ten out of ten in quality and enjoyment, great! Keep going! If it’s a three or four out of ten, it’s easy to just put it aside. 

But a seven is something you mostly enjoy, then completely forget about. Pleasurable, but not pleasurable enough to be worth your time.

As a philosophy that seems pretty sound, except it’s coming from a guy who eats a whole lot of frozen pizzas. Anyway, it appears that having multiple authors is a lure that will keep me going, even though the book isn’t as promising as it seemed at first.

Second, one of the problems I mentioned in previous posts is that I’ve been struggling with a minor, nagging health issue that has an outsized effect on my life. 

Anyway, a few months ago I starting taking these injections of a drug that was supposed to put a stop to all that trouble. The allergist told me his wife had the same problem as I did but the injections cleared up her problem with no fuss. If I could get insurance approval, I could have the same benefits. I’d be able to exercise again and maybe take simple manual labor jobs. 

Well, I’m getting my third injection next week, and so far I’m not seeing much effect. Yeah, it should fade after each shot and each shot should increase the effect, but I’m wondering if the allergist is expecting a placebo effect to kick in here. 

There’s a certain manner doctors adopt when they try to placebo away a minor ailment along with an insistence on the efficacy of a particular drug. I feel wary when a doctor is telling me a drug is so powerful that we need to all sorts of precautions in place.

Sadly placebos have never really had a strong effect on me. If think if they did, I’d still love Star Wars.

Third, there’s New Fantasy Novel. 

Last week was the fifth anniversary of the date this (unnamed) book was sent to an initial round of publishers. Five years and one pandemic later, there are only two left who have it under consideration. 

If these last two pass, I’ll be releasing it myself as usual, and as usual paying Patreon supporters get the ebook free. 

Still, disappointing to get all those passes. 

Fourth, I mentioned before that I’ve been on a job hunt. It ain’t going all that well, in part because of the health stuff I mentioned above. In part because I’m not really good at much.

Fifth, we come to a topic that is not disappointing. There’s a show on Hulu/Disney Plus that I really loved called MOVING. It’s about two generations of ordinary citizens with superpowers and the way their governments try to exploit them. It has great reviews, and the negative ones all complain that it starts too slowly.

I’d disagree. I say it starts small. The show is a collection of small stories, starting with one kid whose power is more of a curse, then moving to this supporting character, then to that one. Sometimes it’s a love story. Sometimes it’s espionage. Sometimes it’s a wild, out of control murder spree. Often, it’s people fleeing from place to place, trying to live small enough lives that they can be incognito. Great stuff. 

Sixth, there’s the writing, which is also going well. I know I have to revamp the beginning again, but this time I pushed past all that and am working on the escalating tension part of the story. 

Even better, I feel like I’ve captured the feeling inside it. 

It’s still the most complex book I’ve ever tackled—even more complex than One Man. Revisions are going to be fun (in the “challenging” sense) but it feels fantastic to have momentum.

Finally, a question if you’ve bothered to read this far. 

Do you mind these updates with several topics all combined? 

John Scalzi does them one at a time, but I’m afraid if I did that it’d give away how many tv/movie recommendations I’d want to give. 

Also, I’m kind of dull. I don’t have pictures of beautiful places I visit or insights from fascinating people I meet. I don’t claim any expertise on political topics. We have no pets. 

Single topic posts might be more reader-friendly, but they might also be booooooring. Which would return us to disappointment again. 

Let me know in the comments on Patreon, or @ me on blusky, where I’m @byharryconnolly as per usual, if you think these should be shorter and more numerous. 

Stay safe. 

The new book, health, and a few other updates

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It’s past time that I wrote an update about… Well, about everything. I’ve really only been waiting for my situation to be somewhat changed. It’s hard to motivate myself to pop up online and say Everything is good and bad in the same way as it has been for months. Here are some fun TV shows I watched recently. I hate to be dull.

First things first: Every spring, a number of SPFBO winners and finalists go on sale at 99 cents. This year, from April 13-16, there will be more than a hundred books—all having received positive reviews from the reviewers picking the contest winners—available at fire sale prices on Amazon. 

I’m posting this a day early, but most of these books should probably already be on sale right now. 

SPFBO Finalist Sale 2024

If you’re a fantasy reader, check it out. There are a lot of treats to be had (and a few of them are mine).

Progress on my new horror novel is ongoing. In fact, things have picked up a bit and I’m making better progress. In part that’s because some (but not all by any means) of the stressors in my life are letting up (more on that later) and some because I stopped throwing out the beginnings of the book and are just letting the story happen. 

I mean, I’m still going to have to throw out the beginning of this book and redo it, hopefully with ten thousand fewer words, but it’s nice to keep on keeping on. 

Recently, I read Catriona Ward’s Little Eve and reread Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. Both are amazing in very different ways. King’s novel feels like it’s all right there on the page. Everything is laid out for you and the story grabs hold of you and never stops pulling. I’ve said this before, but it reads like a thriller, which sounds like it should be a natural match for the horror genre, but my long history of discarded mass market paperbacks suggests that it’s a trick that’s actually hard to pull off. 

Ward’s novel is wonderful in a different way. It feels deeper and more upsetting, and also that more is being implied than I’m seeing. I may need to read it again to pick up all the clues to the mysteries at the center of it. Recommended if you like psychological gothic historical horror.

And I realize that I mentioned that I was in the middle of ‘Salem’s Lot two months ago when I posted my last update, so I’m publicly confessing to my ongoing reading slump. It started during the pandemic, and I’m feeling like the Ward novel is helping me break it. 

Then again, my son asked me to let him know when I finished my latest book because he wants me to try out a video game he likes. I can’t remember the name of it except that it has “Disco” in the title. Personally, my preference for video games leans toward monkeys throwing darts at balloons (in easy mode) but we’ll see. I do have Sundial and the most recent Robert Crais thriller on the shelf behind me, along with a few other options, just in case. 

A few weeks back, a number of people were pushing Netflix’s Blue Eye Samurai, and I bounced off it in my first attempt. It starts in the most boring way possible, with Our Mysterious Badass showing up in a restaurant and is then forced to deal with a violent narcissist and blah blah blah. It’s supposed to make us like the main character, but it feels like the usual bullshit. 

Still, the praise was steep enough that I sat down to try again with my wife. She loved the animation. I’ve said before that she really wants to see beautiful imagery in the shows she watches, and BES is honestly a step above. The story is goes to interesting places, too. Also recommended. (Trailer)

Finally, in a personal note, twelve years ago I started getting full body hives every time I did anything that raised my body temp. Cooking a meal, a hot shower, a tense conversation with my wife. Anything could trigger it. Over the counter allergy meds helped but not all the way. It became impossible to exercise or to even consider a job that was physical in any way. I went online to look into it and saw that there was no cure. The only relief I could hope for was that it might go away on its own, which could happen in 3-30 years(!)

As a result, I became more sedentary and more unhealthy over that time. 

Last fall, my new doctor arranged for me to see a specialist. At that visit, the specialist told me that there was an effective new treatment. His wife had the same issue that I do, and since starting this medication, her quality of life has completely turned around. 

He also told me that these reactions are an immune system problem and were not caused by environmental exposure like I’d thought. It feels weird that I find relief in that, but I do. 

Anyway, I need to get the first few doses of this injectable medication at the doctor’s office and, with luck, I will soon be active again. It’s been a lot of years of wearing long sleeves to hide the awful red blotches, or to sit in a cafe with my eyes closed waiting for the itches to subside. Things really could be looking up. 

It’s hard to express how excited I am about it. 

That’s all. I’ll try not to take so long for my next update. Thanks for reading. 

Writing Update, Personal Update, Pop Culture Update

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It’s been too long since I dropped an update and talked about some random news, so let’s see if I can squeeze some time in for that right now.

Progress on the new novel has been glacial. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but I’m tackling a big story with a lot of POV characters, so I’m doing a lot of research and rewriting.

Also, I haven’t been 100% well. I don’t want to get into details here, but my daily wordcount goals are somewhat reduced. I’m still writing, but it’s a struggle and I’m getting pretty frustrated with myself. Not only does it suck for you, the reader, that it’s taking too long to get this next book solved and finished, it sucks for me. In a huge way.

It’s hard to overstate how unhappy I am about this, actually.

But this is the state of things at the moment and there’s no choice but to persevere. On the plus side, I have a new doctor who recognizes that I am more than just my BMI, so there’s hope in that.

To be clear, I’m not talking about Twenty One Palaces. This is the book I’m writing before that book which doesn’t have a title yet.

What else?

I’m pretty much walked away from social media. I unfriended everyone on Facebook and stopped looking at it years ago, although I still post whenever I have a new blog post to announce. I check notifications there every two or three months, so please don’t try to contact me there. I probably won’t see messages or comments for weeks, at minimum.

Also, they’ve changed the format so much that I’m not sure how to navigate it anymore. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for me to learn.

I left Twitter, too, although I still occasionally check the Stranger Things account for news about the show. But now that the final season is in production, I’ve pretty much stopped that, too.

BlueSky is the only space where I hang out online nowadays. I’m byharryconnolly over there, if you’re curious. My follows over there make the site pretty political, which is fine and all but before Twitter became a collapsed outhouse, it was a great place to talk about pop culture and pop culture art. That’s harder to find on BlueSky. Not that it matters much, since I’m not there very much.

Speaking of pop culture art, here’s a quick rundown of random stuff:

I’m rereading Salem’s Lot. It’s just as fun as I remember and has the pacing of an avalanche. There are just a few snowballs at the start but the end is overwhelming.

Next up for me are a pair of novels by Catriona Ward. I heard good things and I’m hoping she can help me overcome my ongoing reading slump.

Musically, I’ve been listening to a bunch of The Breeders and Belly. Yeah, it’s old music. See Salem’s Lot reference above. I’ve always been like this. I could never take part in Hugo voting or whatever because I never read books as they’re released. The songs are still great, though, esp the most recent Breeders album.

In movies/tv, The Holdovers was moving but not lovely, which is a solid recommendation from me. However my wife likes a little eye candy in her films. Landscapes. Architectures. Gardens. That sort of thing. She she admired it but wished for more.

We definitely got our fair share of lovely images in the fifth season of Fargo, and the story was fantastic. I love it when stories that don’t seem much like SF/F throw a few sfnal tropes in there.

I enjoyed Echo quite a bit, in large part because I like street-level heroes. I’m not sure how I felt about the ending, though.

Yes, this is a story about a woman who’s disconnected from her community and her culture, so the way she levels up at the end made thematic sense. Also, Maya’s relationship with Wilson Fisk was complex, ominous and poignant, too. Still, it’s a show about a hero that kicks ass but the final confrontation had more than a bit of woowoo. It felt weak. Intellectually, I appreciated it. Viscerally, I felt vaguely disappointed.

And The Marvels just landed on Disney+. I’d seen it in the theaters and watched it with my wife Wednesday night. Honestly, I have no idea what people were complaining about. It was breezy fun with lots of color and light-hearted humor.

Also, while it’s a sequel to the movie Captain Marvel (and it helps to have seen that film) having seen the other parts of the MCU that it pulled story elements from seemed entirely optional to me. Everything that needed explaining was explained in The Marvels itself.

That’s all. I’ll try not to be absent for so long in the future, and when I come back, I hope to have better news.

The Flood Circle

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Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Audiobook: Amazon  |  Apple Books  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy


I have already described the origin of The Flood Circle in my post about The Iron Gate. Kickstarter. Backers. Fulfillment. Novel. A few people have expressed surprise that I am releasing another book so soon after the previous one. Well, I wrote both together, sort of. First draft and revision for The Iron Gate. First draft and revision for this one. Second revision then second revision. Beta read and then beta read, and so on. The real question is why has the delay between books been so long?

But when I sat down to work out the story, I had to ask myself: Is this the last Twenty Palaces novel?

I could have cut things short. Definitely. I could have tried to arrange the story so that the finale of this book was the midpoint of another, very different book. Then I could have wrapped everything up in a single novel.

It was tempting. I recently discovered that I am not, in fact, growing younger as the years go by. In addition, I like a fast-moving story. Why not put Ray and Annalise through the ringer? Why not… I don’t know… turn my final idea for a novel into a ten thousand word epilogue or something?

It wouldn’t work, though. There was still too much story to tell. There was too much I wanted to get done, and the danger of rushing a story is that it loses its emotional impact.

So there’s going to be one more book after this one, called Twenty-One Palaces. I know the general setting but I have zero plot beats figured out. The stakes, the tone, the supporting cast are all a mystery.

But that’s for the future. For now: The Flood Circle

The Flood Circle Cover

Here’s the synopsis:

The three original spellbooks, source of all magic in the world, have been found, and Ray Lilly has already “acquired” one. Now he and Annalise are on a historic mission to get the other two and they’re ready to kill anyone who gets in their way.

If they succeed, the Twenty Palace Society will become more powerful than it has ever been and could truly safeguard humanity from both extra-dimensional predators and the people who summon them.

But this time their enemies are more formidable than any they’ve ever faced before. What starts as a covert mission to hunt sorcerers quickly collapses into a desperate—and very public—struggle to survive. Can Ray and Annalise track down and kill these sorcerers before they execute a plan to drive the human race to the edge of extinction?


As usual, I’ll be turning the buy links below into actual links as the book appears on each site.

Tantor is still doing the audiobooks, and they’re planning to keep the narrator from previous editions of Twenty Palaces. I’ll add those links as they appear.

You may have noticed fewer options for a print copy this time around. Normally, I set up a print version within Amazon and through Lightning Source’s Ingram Spark system. Ingram’s distribution system is very wide, allowing you to walk into pretty much any bookstore in the English-speaking world and say “Can you order a copy of The Flood Circle for me?”

It also gave readers a lot of choices (for print) that were not Amazon. Bookshop.org and Indiebound both explicitly support independent bookstores. And while the markup at those two shops can be intense, supporting indie stores is a worthwhile goal.

Except it mostly never happens. My most recent bestselling book through LSIS has been Twenty Palaces, and that book sold only twenty copies. Over two years.

What’s more, LSIS wanted to charge me eighty dollars to put the book up for sale.

The POD print editions are already too expensive for readers, and the system is too expensive for me. It’s weird to think of a $80 fee as a negative advance that I’ll never recoup, but I’m sitting here facing facts and accepting it for what it is.

I’m also thinking that they set the price that high to discourage long-tail idiots like myself, and I’m a guy who can take a hint.

So this time around, the only print options will be Amazon and B&N. Sorry about that.

And please, if you like my books, please tell your friends. In person, on social media, posting a review somewhere. Anything. Please spread the word.

 

Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Audiobook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

The Iron Gate

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Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy  |  Powell’s

Audiobook download:  Apple Books |  Audible  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Indiebound  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

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Some time ago I started wondering how much actual interest there was in a continuation of the Twenty Palaces series. I’d tried the novella route with The Twisted Path, but sales were unremarkable. When I first started publishing with Del Rey, I’d thought I was a mid list writer. Later, it seemed I’d become a writer with a small following, then maybe not even that.

What was the point of trying to plan a career when my choices kept sending me in the wrong direction?

When Kickstarter got around to their brief “Break Kickstarter” idea, I had a really dumb idea: What if I started taking pledges for new Twenty Palaces fiction, but instead of offering a specific goal, I let the backers choose it. Break Kickstarter was meant to encourage people to use the service in a new way, so I set a rate of five cents a word and promised to revisit the series at whatever level of enthusiasm readers chose. No stretch goals. No pledge tiers. For every dollar a backer pledged, they could pick twenty words to call their own.

So, if I made a fifty dollars in pledges, I’d write a thousand-word short story. If pledges were higher, I’d write more, with a cap at two complete novels because I really had no idea how much or how little interest there was.

Well, pledges did hit that cap, and I owed my backers two full novels of at least a hundred thousand words each. The first, called The Iron Gate, is out now.

Cover for The Iron Gate

The Iron Gate

Here’s a description of the story:

Stormy Bay is a dying town nestled against an eerily placid ocean, and Ray Lilly is trapped in it. He can barely remember his name let alone his mission for the Twenty Palace society. Worse, he realizes that for some time now he’s been living as a puppet, his body and mind under the complete domination of an unknown power.

And that power can still seize control of Ray’s body at any time, forcing him and the people around him to playact in nonsense stories that center around a mysterious boy and his monster dog.

The town and its people shift and change, but only Ray seems to notice. He has no idea what sort of magic has imprisoned all these ordinary folks in Stormy Bay, but he does know he needs to get them, and himself, out.

But that might mean crossing a line he has never crossed before. While Ray has certainly taken lives in his work for the society, it was always in self-defense or in the desperate moments before impending calamity. Can he bring himself to commit cold-blooded murder, even to save dozens of lives?

Next up, after The Iron Gate, will be The Flood Circle, hopefully released sometime next month.

After that, I’ll be writing something else to let the creative energies renew. At some point later, finally, I’ll be ready to write Twenty-One Palaces, the final Twenty Palaces novel, The one that wraps up the series.

In the meantime, here are buy links to online vendors below. I’ve hit a few glitches here and there, and will connect to the books as they appear on the various sites. Apple Books is being Apple.

If you want a print edition, options are limited for the moment. I’m waiting for other vendors to connect their catalogs to Lightning Source before I can add them.

As for audio, Tantor will be creating an audiobook that combines The Iron Gate with The Twisted Path, since the latter is a novella and is too small to be on its own. I don’t know when that will be available but I will let you guys know.

And I can’t wait for the book to be fully out, so I can edit these last four paragraphs out of this post.

In the meantime, if you read the book, please write a review.

—-

Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy  |  Powell’s

Audiobook download:  Apple Books |  Audible  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Indiebound  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

Welp, It’s Black Friday

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Today is Black Friday, and if you’re planning to visit a bookstore to do any of your holiday shopping, I just want to make note that you ought to be able to order One Man through Ingram.

I hope so, at least. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Thanks very much to everyone who bought the book and everyone who has written an online review. Right now, the book is selling to people who already know and like my work, but spreading the word will help this book (and my backlist) reach a larger audience.

At which point I should just say: Happy Leftovers Day. As soon as I finish this, I’m having a turkey sandwich and a slice of apple pie for breakfast, then I’m heading out to work on The Iron Gate.

For Every Failure, an Opportunity

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If you’re backing my Patreon, you may have noticed that it has been switched back on. That is, it’s back to a monthly basis, charging credit cards at the start of every month. I’d turned it “off” because I’d started a new job. As of this week I’m no longer working there, so it’s on again.

I’ve never been fired for being bad at a job before, but you know what? It was the right thing for them to do. I absolutely should have been let go. And I’m glad for it.

In previous posts I was a little cagey about where I’d been hired because it was a six-month contract at a game company, and I was sure how it would go. I’ll say now that it was the Valve Corporation over in Bellevue. I’ll also say that they asked me not to talk about the games I worked on/heard about/whatever outside of their offices, even to my own family. I haven’t done that and I won’t start now.

How it happened was this: Gabe, the founder of the company, liked my books and invited me to lunch. This was back in, I think, 2012? 2013? Several months before my Kickstarter for The Great Way, at least. I’d heard of Valve’s games but hadn’t played any, and I honestly thought he was going to ask if I would write a novel for the company. But lunch wasn’t just me and Gabe, we were joined by a bunch of writers already working for the company, and I was all What am I doing here? Nobody needs me to write a novel when they already have Marc Laidlaw sitting right there.

It turned out the offer was to work at the company on the actual games, which I had to decline. I didn’t play many video games because a) they were often asking me to do shit that was illegal and immoral, which I hate and b) too many games were boring, making me quit early, and most of all c) if I did like them, I could be obsessive about it. I mean, Freedom Force and its sequel were scads of fun, but playing them, I spent hours with my back to the living room, and every other aspect of my life suffered. I’m not exactly Mr. Moderation. My wife was especially unhappy to be ignored evening after evening while I shot pretend ray guns at cartoon people.

After that lunch meeting, I started playing (and enjoying) games a lot more, and Valve was a big reason for that. I love the Portal and Half-Life games–like, genuinely loved playing them–because they didn’t ask me to run errands, murder innocent people or navigate lots of high places without railings (seriously the worst). As my son got older, he started recommending games that suited me better, and so I felt I understood them a little better. I never became good, but they made sense in a conceptual way

Then we came to the end of 2018. I’d taken a big gamble after The Great Way and Key/Egg came out. I put two years into a fat fantasy with a cool setting, a plot that was a little out of the ordinary, and badass characters. The plan was simple. Write a book that stands out, place it with NY publishers, and let the backlist bump spill some extra coins into our savings accounts.

Except it didn’t work. Publishers passed. The book was too different, or too something, and there was no new contract and therefore no bump.

At that point, we’d been living off the money from The Great Way for too long and our savings was getting low (not to mention rent increases and a possible eviction in the coming months), so my wife asked me to find a day job, and I thought about Valve, and I reached out. Did, maybe, I have something to contribute there?

Nope! But I didn’t know that at the time.

Gabe and his people were nice enough to give me a chance though, working on a multiplayer team-fighting game that was in the very early stages. I was to do worldbuilding for them.

Which meant: Where and Why.

Where are they fighting?

Why are they fighting?

Those were the two questions I was supposed to answer, and over the course of two months, I couldn’t make a suggestion that both matched the criteria they’d given me and also made the rest of the team excited. Two full months! Of course they let me go.

As a writer, I’ve had my share of one-star reviews. And you don’t grow up in a family like mine and get all tender-hearted about what people think of you. But when you’re sitting in a meeting, and everyone looks miserable because of you–because of the mouth-sounds you’re making–well, that suuuuucks.

You guys should have seen some of the body language in the room for that last meeting. Picture, if you will, a person sitting on a bench at a bus stop at night. They’ve forgotten their jacket, and it’s sleeting. That’s exactly some of those guys were sitting: hunched over, head down, waiting for all this to just be over.

And that was my fault.

See, it doesn’t matter if it’s a great company, or that the money was good, or that there was a free salad bar at lunch every day with chick peas you could scoop right into the bowl (seriously, so fucking delicious). None of that shit matters if the work itself is a waste of time to everyone on the team, including the person doing it. That’s demoralizing as hell.

Me, personally, I think the setting I created for that last meeting would be a home run in all sorts of media–books, animation, whatever–but not in computer games and certainly not in the game they’re working so hard to create. It just didn’t fit. And at this point, I don’t care where my proposals came up short or if they went too far or what was actually wrong. All that matters is that it wasn’t successful, and Valve owns it, and I hope they can cherry-pick a few things out of it that they find useful. And if they can’t, sorry, guys.

Where does that leave me? Not unemployed, exactly, since I’m working for myself again.

Those two months helped refill our bank accounts a little, and I have three completed, unreleased novel manuscripts. One is that big gamble. Another is a mystery/thriller with no supernatural elements. Another is the fun fantasy adventure that needs a little bit more tweaking before my agent takes it to NY publishers.

I’m composing this during the time I’m supposed to be writing a novelette for an anthology I’ve been invited to, but I put that off because I feel like I owe you guys an update on where things stand, fiction-wise. I’ve spent the last two months squeezing my own projects into the hour before I went into the office, but now that I’m back on my own time, things will go faster.

My fun fantasy will go out to publishers (“Funpunk”! You heard it here first, folks). My big gamble book and the thriller will be self-published. Kickstarter maybe? We’ll have to see. I also have to write the next Twenty Palaces novella. And at some point soon, we’ll look again at our bank accounts and maybe I’ll grab another day job.

So I wanted you to know that, even though I haven’t published a new novel since 2015(!) I haven’t stopped writing. I haven’t stopped working hard. There’s new stuff on the horizon and, you know, maybe I won’t try those big gambles again.

Thanks for reading.

Moving Past the Trope: Creativity Through Lists

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At the moment, I’m brainstorming for a new novel, and I thought I might help myself along by writing about the process. (And by “help myself along” I mean make myself stop goofing off on Twitter.)

In the moment that any writer looks at a blank page without a good idea of what to put on it, the possibilities are basically infinite. I could write about anything, really, including a random jumble of geometric shapes and nonsense squiggles.

But I don’t, because I’m a fiction writer. And I like magic and crime. And I’m a white dude living in America 2017.

And each of those things narrow that range of infinite possibility, because there are some things I’m more likely to write than others. Sounds obvious, right? Sometimes it helps me to think through obvious things.

Other times, I narrow that range with an easy answer. So the question: “Who will be the main antagonist in this book?” could be answered quite easily with a trope: A vampire. A werewolf. A Voldemort. A Lucifer.

And that’s fine. Some people love those tropes and want to play with them. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s the intent. For me, it’s not the intent. I’m hoping to find something on the far side of that trope. Something weird or unusual that readers maybe haven’t seen before.

Some readers don’t like that. That’s fine. But for me, the question is always How do I get there?, and the answer is almost always With a list.

I came across the idea of using lists for creative purposes in a book about writing comedy, especially a standup comedy routine, and it’s served me well in my fantasy/horror books ever since. The first step is always to identify the question. The second is to list the easy answers I won’t use in my book

So, “Who will the the main antagonist in this book?”

Possible answers:

1. Werewolf
2. Vampire
3. Voldemort
4. Lucifer
5. Ghost
6. Genius Serial Killer
7. Shadowy Gov’t Agency

And on and on.

I put them on the list because I want them out of the way. I don’t have to think about them anymore because they’re already on the list.

And let me say once more that I’m not bashing these tropes. I’ve written two novels with werewolves in them, so I recognize that they exist to be used and they persist because of the readers who love them. But sometimes that’s not what I want.

Next, I force myself to keep going. I write down terrible answers, like “ghost horse” or “newborn god of public transit who’s sick of waiting for his human sacrifices”.

Eventually, I get to weird stuff, like maybe “super-intelligent hive-mind of wharf rats”. What do the rats want? How intelligent are they? Will they join the longshoreman’s union?

It’s weird. Twenty years ago, if you told me my most creative work would come from a nearly rote exercise of making lists, I would have been horrified. And yet, here I am, writing a book about a rat colony that share a single mind.

(Obviously, I’m just kidding. No way am I writing a rat book. The research alone would give me the heebie-jeebies.)

The State of the Novelist Address: I just sent a book to my agent

Standard

I thought I’d pop in and update things for folks, writing-wise.

First, earlier this week I sent a new novel to my agent. It’s a crime/mystery novel, a genre I’ve been reading for years. This isn’t my first attempt at this style, but it is the first one that I feel comfortable with. Some aspects of it fall right down the middle of the genre, while some are probably all wrong and will make me tear my hair out in revisions. We’ll see! But it feels good to start a book and send it to her in under six months. I’m not usually that prolific.

Which means I’ve returned to revision on my Twenty Palaces novella. I know I’ve been talking about this for a while, but this mini-book has resisted several attempts to write it. At this point, I feel I’ve solved most of the problems and hope to have it on sale before the end of the year.

Once I finish that, I’ll be working on something new. No idea what it will be, but I’m just going to pick an idea that sounds cool and run with it.

Thank you for reading this, and being here.