Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Process Stories

Writing productivity comes and goes. By and large, I try to hold myself to at least 1000 words a day. If I can make it to that benchmark, I feel like I've been productive. Some days, I can even break 3000... though if one were to pay close attention to my word counts, it's obvious that I don't write every day. Life just doesn't allow for that, even if I'm not at a point where I need to step back and chew on the next step in the story. I also write much better if I have a nice long stretch of time ahead of me; knowing I'll be interrupted in two hours tends to put a damper on productivity.

I'm currently at about 95,000 words on Rich Man's War. By comparison, Poor Man's Fight is at 141k-ish (I don't have it in front of me just now). The "middle" for this book turned out to be a little tougher for me than the middle sections of my previous works, but I'm finally happy with the rough draft and I can move on.

I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I say that Rich Man's War ends with a whole lot of violence and screaming and probably someone's gonna get their feelings hurt. If anything, it will be a much bigger deal than the end of Poor Man's Fight. I'm on the cusp of writing that final arc... like the battle commences on my computer as soon as I have a good long stretch of writing time. (I'm actually away from my home computer as I write this, otherwise I'd be hard at work on it already.)

The biggest difference between writing urban fantasy and sci-fi, at least for me, is the level of detail that needs to be invested in world-building. Good Intentions basically just takes place in modern-day Seattle. The only serious benchmarks that could "date" the story are the references to Facebook (already fading in popularity with younger people) and Wade's service in Afghanistan. Once the US makes a serious pullout from Afghanistan, there's a solid timeframe in which the story must take place, but until then it could be September of any year from 2008 - 2014 (and on). But I don't really have to describe cell phones, or streets, or clothes.

Rich Man's War brings the setting into greater detail, and keeping that consistent is... well, more than a little work. I've tried to nail down a solid timeline, including establishing the year in which the story takes place, but that involved a lot of me wrestling with my own futuristic sensibilities. The biggest issue is the limits to Faster Than Light travel and communications, because that puts time delays on everything. This is all implied in Poor Man's Fight, of course, but in Rich Man's War it's much more of a factor. In Tanner's world, you can't put out a transmission that runs faster than the speed of light. This means that transmissions from one planet to the next within the same star system can have delays of several minutes or even much longer. The only way to speed it up is to put that message on something with an FTL engine and cover that distance... which happens regularly, and is the main method of interstellar communication. Yet even FTL-capable drones and starships have their limitations. For one thing, FTL travel through a significant gravity well like a moon or a planet is a serious risk; you won't really hurt the planet if you hit it (which, to be honest, goes against current scientific expectations), but you'll certainly shred your ship if you come too close.

This means it's about a three-week lag in communications between Archangel and Earth, and communications between other locations naturally run on different timetables. I don't have an Excel sheet with planets and their relative distances or anything, as I don't have all that many locations set up yet. I will likely get to that point after three or four books in this setting, of course... but regardless, keeping things straight once you've set up this sort of condition can slow down the writing.

The setting brings up other questions that I've only touched upon so far: people can live and retain their physical youth considerably longer in Tanner's world, so what effect does that have on a person's relationships? How about their career--when you workers are still young & spry even 30 years into a career, what effect does that have on advancement? This doesn't get a whole lot of attention in the current draft, and I don't believe it will be a center-stage issue even upon revision, but it's a genuine concern.

There's also a certain amount of research to be done. As I've said elsewhere, I'm not writing hard sci-fi, and my urban fantasy stuff is also intentionally comedic, but I like to know how the real world works so that I go off the rails intentionally rather than doing it out of ignorance. Natural Consequences opens with some legal drama, and obviously the interaction between a supernatural world and a legal system is something an author has to make up through imagination, but even then I spoke with four lawyers and a judge. In Rich Man's War, the big corporations are not the same animal as one might find here in the real world, but I try to keep the conditions and decisions to a human level. Several things done by the corps in RMW are straight out of the financial collapse of 2008.

I say none of this to make excuses, of course; the book will be ready when it's ready. But I know a few people were concerned when they saw Days of High Adventure come out and worried that I'm drifting away from Tanner, and that's just not the case. Days was written two years ago. I'm still crackin' on RMW.

As for other future projects: I have a feeling that when RMW is done, I'm gonna have to go straight into the next installment, putting the Good Intentions crowd on hold for a while. Honestly, I first imagined that RMW would complete this story arc for Archangel, Tanner, Casey & all, but now that I'm here I've realized the only elegant way to handle it is to do it in three books rather than two. (That kinda screws up my play on the Civil War-era protest cry of "Rich man's war, poor man's fight!" because now I have to come up with a third title, but alas...) There absolutely will be more of the Good Intentions crew, because I love them dearly, but I've had this story arc in my head for about 15 years or so. It's time to get it nailed down and out there where people can read it all.

I plan to post the prologue to Rich Man's War here on my blog as soon as I've got the rough done and I have my trusty beta readers going over it. I'm greatly looking forward to that... hell, I've wanted to do it for weeks, but I figure it's best to make sure the book really is "coming soon" rather than just being a horrible tease.

Hope it's soon!

Monday, April 21, 2014


Hi all,

I made a horrible discovery today while straightening out passwords. It turns out some requests sent to my email address to be added to my notifications list have gone into my spam folder... and that means I have no idea how many I might have lost over the last year.

If you ever sent me a notification request and I didn't respond, you might want to send me a new one at bashfullyshameless@gmail.com. Of course, if you're reading my blog, that's probably not such a problem... but I figure I should let folks know.

Not a lot to tell about Norwescon this year, though I met with Lee Moyer about the cover for Rich Man's War. He drew up a very, very rough concept sketch while we sat in the hotel restaurant talking, and so for the third time I now have to change something in the story because what he dreamed up for the cover is too cool NOT to do. It's funny how that can happen.

That's all for the moment. Back to writing!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cliffhangers & Real-Life Plans

I will be at NorWesCon this weekend! It's a great sci-fi/fantasy convention here in Seattle that I've been attending for years. I'm not doing any panels or anything... so basically I'll just be there as an ordinary attendee, but that has been fun enough for a while now.

Days of High Adventure is doing quite nicely so far. It could use reviews if you are so inclined! Especially happy reviews, though I'm not one to tell people what to write!

As for Rich Man's War: I recently passed the 90,000 word mark. It's currently at 91k. The "middle" of the book was a bit of a challenge for me, because I'm trying to keep the inherent time-lag of an interstellar society straight. Having established that it's more or less three weeks between Earth and Archangel, even by the standards of the fastest ship, makes for a couple of challenges in maintaining a narrative flow. Add in a couple more interstellar locations and it gets trickier.

But it's coming along. I have pretty clear ideas for the rest of it. Although, I gotta say, now that the big climactic action-packed final arc is within sight and the book is already at 90k, I was just thinking... I could just finish it off at any point here with, "Dunh dunh DUUUNNNHHH!!!" and call it good, right?

I mean, granted, I'd piss off pretty much every single reader and never sell a book again, but still...   :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A New Novella -- Days of High Adventure!

So I've told people, perhaps inconsistently, that I may well have a bit of a surprise to release before I'm finished with Rich Man's War. Here it is!

Days of High Adventure!

Gaming with friends offered what Amanda missed in her dreary college life: friendship and excitement, the thrill of combat for a good cause and the chance to be a hero. Neither Amanda nor her friend, Eric ever expected to face the suddenly real world of their fantasy adventures, but when a careless joke draws the ire of a dark wizard, both must rise to the challenge. 

Leveling up has never been so hard... or felt so good. 

WARNING: Days of High Adventure contains graphic violence, graphic pre-marital sex, graphic violation of college housing regulations, rampant geekery, multiple dismemberments, impalings, bad language, nudity, drug references, consumption of alcohol, destruction of private property, paganism, theft, arson, slavery, reptile-on-human violence, improper placement of hazardous materials, money laundering, illegal immigration, tax evasion, poor workplace standards, unwed cohabitating couples, kidnapping, assault under color of authority, bearers of false witness, human sacrifice, desecration of religious sites, unsafe work standards, uncredited film quotes, and references to games falsely accused of Satanic influences. There may be dungeons and/or dragons herein.