Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#ROW80 - Pet The Furry Wall

It was a nice week off. We spent the weekend bonding bunnies. My wife is a big pet person, and I'm a huge fan of rescuing animals. We don't exactly have a barnyard (up to two rabbits and two sugar gliders now), but we're working on it. A very cuddly barnyard. We added our second rabbit on Thursday, and had to figure out a way to get our resident Flemish Giant to accept her into the household (the humans, it seems, are the easy ones).

I was only bitten twice.

I think my wife has some pictures on her Facebook of them cuddling now. Rocky beginnings can lead to furry, achingly-cute endings. It basically took my wife locking herself in a neutral room with them for 24 hours straight, and getting it all figured out.

Anyway, I promised this week I'd get back on track with my goals. I basically took a week off after my latest release, and caught up on some of the less writerly pursuits in my life. (aka: I played a lot of Diablo.) Here are the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - Breaks are as important as writing. It's important to get one's head on straight before diving into the next project, no matter how much you may wish you had a dozen books out.
  • WIP - There are still some minor things with the print version of Fates' Motif we need to tweak, but the e-book versions have already been downloaded several times. I hope people are enjoying it. If you'd like a free version for helping me promote somewhere on the Internet (your blog, B&N... doesn't even have to be overwhelmingly positive or anything. Can just be: "yep, checking this out"), I'm more than happy to give them away. Just shoot me an email.
  • Blogging - This will only be 2/3 here, which is okay. I was 3/3 on the gaming blog, which makes sense since it was an "off week." I knocked out my personal post, too. Just in the nick of time.
  • Reading Goal - Posted the first of my Group Read entries yesterday. I'm glad I decided to do this, got some great comments and enjoyed seeing the responses of others. It's amazing how we can all read the same words, and take away such different ideas.
The WIP goal should get back to a writing goal this week. I'm going to start on my next novel, a sequel to The Binder's Daughter. I'm not sure sequel is the right word. Next in the series. I'm trying to make these more standalone. In any case, I plan to try to start off writing a page a day with the weekend off (or for catch-up). I still have a couple of post-release activities going on for Fates' Motif, so I'm keeping the goal conservative for now. I will probably try to speed up once I put the first few chapters behind me.

Here's a look at my "off-week" word count:
  • Since last check in: 2,685
  • New Fiction: 0 - In Between Projects
  • Round 2 Total: 21,974
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Warbreaker Group Read, Week One

I mentioned last week that I'm going to be participating in a group read of Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker. This is really my first group read, and I was apprehensive about whether I'd be able to keep up with the pace. I needn't have worried. This week's slice was Prologue through Chapter 12, and they breezed by. I actually had to hold myself back a little bit. Thanks to Naithan and Amanda for playing hosts (and Amanda for the questions). Let's dive right in...

1. All right, let's start easy - how are you liking the book so far? We've been introduced to a lot of characters and started several stories now. Any in particular catch your attention? Anything intrigue you?

I'm a sucker for Sanderson, and this has his touch all over it. Love the world building. The concept of magic through colors and breaths... awesome. Every time I read one of Brandon's books, I want to write fan fiction. His magic systems are both fun and intuitive.

I'm pretty sure the book came out before we knew Siri as the iPhone voice, but it's hard for me to shake the association. A bit unfortunate, because a clinical iPhone Siri would fit better with Vivenna.

It may be cheating because I've heard Brandon talk about some of the inspiration for Warbreaker, but the concept of a god that doesn't believe in his religion is hilarious. Love exploring ideas like that.

2. The Returned are all treated as Gods, but at least one of those Gods doesn't believe in his own divinity, despite seeing potential visions. Do you think the Returned will prove to be divine? How do you feel about the religion built up around them?

I think a case could be made in any culture that a true religion of the gods would be a lot simpler. It is mankind that builds up rules and dogmatic structures to support religion. We design rituals and such to help us feel closer to our gods. I think, perhaps, that the Returned may have been given a glimpse of divinity through near death experience, but not that they are, in fact, divine.

I'm playing Diablo III right now, and one of the central stories revolves around a fallen angel that suffered from temporary amnesia. When he regains his memories, he unlocks the message he'd hoped to bring to mankind. In order to bring that message, he had to give up his divinity and become man. It's a rather Christian theme, if you ask me. I think the Returned might be more like fallen angels than actual gods. They seem very fragile for full-blow gods (dependent as they are on Breaths).

3. The God King didn't turn out to be the way he's presented and thought of in this world. Any ideas on what his role will be in this story? 4. The title - Warbreaker - what do you think it might refer to?

Having read Sanderson's Mistborn series, I can't help but draw parallels to the Lord Ruler there. Now, LR turned out to be a misunderstood mortal, albeit one with huge magical potential. I wouldn't be surprised if the God King is much the same.

At this point, I think the Warbreaker will refer to Siri with help from Lightsong. My guess would be that the potential conflict with the Idrians is going to continue to escalate, and that the two of them may have to expose flaws in a religion in order to achieve a lasting peace. Thus, Siri would "break" the war.

That's all. Tune in next week for the next batch of chapters! (And if you want to jump in, head over to the host sites and sign up. You get the questions a couple days in advance and can post with the rest of us on Tuesdays.)
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

#ROW80 - Today Is Wednesday, Right?

Releasing a book always makes me feel like a little bit of my brain goes out with it, and all that entails. Yes, I'm sharing part of me, and that is good. But I also feel somehow dumber, more stretched, as if the remaining neurons are scurrying to cover the hole. Eventually, they do, and we get back to business as usual, but for a bit there is a gap in my pattern of thoughts. The sort of gap that makes one ask: What day is today? Sometimes, even: What year is it? But then I feel like I'm in a time travel story, so I usually just stick to knowing the day. Years are optional knowledge.

Today's gap identification comes to your courtesy of my goals. Or rather, lack thereof. I'm not quite ready to reset, regroup, and restart my writing engines. After a release, the writer deserves a week off, am I right? Let's take a look at where I stand (and I'll sprinkle in some thoughts about where I might be going).
  • Lesson Learned - Maps are hard. I alluded to this in a post late last week. We're still trying to learn a better lesson (namely, how to get it in an ebook), but the lesson for now is that at least we can host it on our website and provide a link in the ebook. Links in ebooks are new territory, says I, and one that more fiction authors should be embracing.
  • WIP Progress - Released! And there was much rejoicing. Now, I must steadily repeat the writer mantra (Writers write, Writers write, Writers write...) and move on to the next project. I'm giving myself at least a week before I start taping "kick me" signs on my back.
  • Blogging - This will make 4/3 here. Release announcements help with that. I was 3/3 on the gaming blog as well. Still need a personal post.
  • Group Read - If you remember, my Not A Goal transitioned into a Group Read goal last week. Reading started on Monday (I cheated and started early). My goal here is simply to keep up, and have decent responses to post on Tuesdays. Expect the first installment next week.
Good times all around. Like I said, I'm pretty much slacking off this week, enjoying the feeling of release, and letting my neurons catch up. Next week I should be back on top of things. Until then, pleasant wordings!
  • Since last check in: 2,645
  • New Fiction: 0 - In Between Projects
  • Round 2 Total: 19,289
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Fates' Motif = Released!

The ebook for Fates' Motif has gone live everywhere! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Smashwords should trickle it out to the other vendors. Our POD print version will follow this week. We need to get proofs and such, but if all goes well, we should have up this weekend. We also will send out a release email through our mailing list with coupons. If you're looking for cheap reads, sign up for our newsletter (we rarely send emails, less than once a month, so no spam, promise) to get the Smashwords codes.

I'm really excited to share this story. It's also my second full-length release, which (to me) is a huge milestone. Both of my novels clock in over 100k words, which are large works. The Binder's Daughter took me almost five years to release (by the time you factor in writing, establishing my process, and learning how to e-publish). Fate's Motif took only about a year and a half. The releases have actually happened within a year of each other. That's a great pace for fantasy, I think. At least, it's good for me.

There was a lot of learning in this story. Everything from what to do about maps to writing in third person limited. We tackled the challenges, and I think the story came out stellar. Now, hopefully, I can get some people to read it. Promotion has been my weak suit so far, but I'm not at my five year mark yet. I need more works out before I worry too much about promotion. For that, it means back to the grindstone. The second book in the Spirit Binder Series is calling me.

I hope you'll give Fates' Motif a read. I really hope you enjoy it. I look forward to re-visiting this world as soon as possible for the next part of the adventure.
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fates' Motif Maps!

Fates' Motif is about to go live. We have a map, which I think my wife did a wonderful job on. There are two versions, which I'll talk about in a moment. We're not so good at getting the image into the ebook. It's apparently easier said than done. If anyone has some good advice on how to embed a picture into the popular ebook formats, please let me know. Otherwise, we're just going to have to hyperlink to it on the blog here. We'll keep playing with it, and may update the source file in the future if we figure it out, but we didn't want to hold up release.

Once the print edition is out, it will have the black and white version of the map. Perhaps ironically, it's a whole bunch easier to get the map into the print edition than it is the electronic one. Still, this is our first foray into maps, so I hardly expected it to be easy. We'll learn as we go.

I mentioned two versions. The black and white is for the print edition (we do not print in color). It also is perhaps a bit easier to read. The color version is supposed to represent the map carved into a chunk of wood. I wanted to have a story reason why there would be a map. I imagine one of our main characters might create one during some of her musings. I'll probably mention it more concretely in later books, but such was the idea behind the creation.

So here are the two map versions, for reference, that go with the book. There will be a hyperlink to them in the ebook, and an actual reproduction in the print book. Best we can do right now. (Click for larger, more legible view.)

Black and White Version

Wooden Version
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Friday, May 18, 2012

FFF: Minus the Flash, A Preview

In celebration of having finished the editing process, I wanted to share one of the early scenes from Fates' Motif. Figured it fit with Fiction Friday, though it's a bit long to be considered "flash." 

This is the first time we meet our two main characters. The goal here was pretty simple. Introduce the characters, give you enough of a description to start forming a picture, and keep the scene domestic. In fantasy, it's always key to flirt with the line between the known and unknown. You want readers to be able to relate first (hence the domestic scene). If you succeed there, it makes the fantastical elements a lot easier to swallow. There are a couple magical hints thrown in here for spice, too. Anyway, the goal is to have this out Saturday. E-book first, print to follow quick on its heels. We'll see if we hit the date.

“Mother,” Werim yelled.

No answer.

“Mother,” Werim yelled again, louder this time.

Still no answer.

“Renee!” Werim screamed, his voice cracking.

“What?” came the irritated reply from inside the house.

“Mom?” Werim queried once more, bursting through the front door and skidding to a halt just across the threshold. “Whew, I thought you had left already.”

Across the room, a slim, red-haired woman straightened from the pot she had been crouched over. She calmly wiped her hands on her apron and fixed her eldest son with a level, green eyed stare. “Aye, ‘tis me. And just where would I be going, hmm?” Her voice trailed off into the pleasant thrum of household noise. Fire crackling, stew bubbling; the general din of housework. Strangely, the wooden spoon continued to spin in the pot, unnoticed, while emitting a faint, almost indiscernible glow.

Werim normally found his mother’s unique, lilting accent comforting, but being the target of the stare, he soon began to squirm. To buy time, he ran one dirty hand through his curly black hair, tousling it further. Halfway through the motion, he pulled the hand back and fixed hazel eyes on grimy palms. He would have to wash tonight, his mother would see to that. He hated washing. Carrying buckets of water, heating it, pouring it in the big, brass tub. It was backbreaking labor, and for what? To get clean? He would be dirty again the next day. Why couldn’t he just stay dirty?

“Um, I don’t know,” Werim admitted. “I guess I just thought maybe you’d gone away.”

Hmpf,” his mother snorted in reply. She reached a slender hand up and tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear before turning back to the pot. Casually, her hand found the spoon and continued stirring.

Werim blinked for a moment, his brain stumbling on the self-stirring spoon, but the delicious smells of cooking and pleasant hum of activity quickly chased the oddity from his mind. It was obviously a stew. The aroma of meat, vegetables, potatoes, and broth filled the small house. Werim’s mouth watered in anticipation. He’d had nothing but a loaf of bread, stolen while the baker’s back was turned, since lunch. It had been tasty, warm and fresh, but it was no match for mother’s stew.

A loud thump startled them both as Werim’s sister, Sharee, burst into the room. Her straight, auburn hair was cut short like her brother’s. It barely reached the bottom of her ears and was slightly mussed from an apparent mad dash back to the house. Green eyes like her mother’s quickly took in the scene. She was wearing the same tan pants and white, long-sleeved woolen shirt as her brother, though hers was markedly whiter. Both children were of similar height, and though the curves of early womanhood were beginning to differentiate brother from sister, they had yet to take a firm hold in Sharee. Lanky and awkward, the two could have been twins, though Werim claimed the title of eldest.

“Werim stole a loaf of bread!” Sharee announced.

The tattling was only a recent affectation. Growing up, Sharee had idolized her brother, thinking he could do no wrong. It reflected in her dress and mannerisms, but a recent jealousy caused her to be harsher on her brother than was strictly necessary. It wasn’t Werim’s fault he was older, and thus had reached his sixteenth year months sooner than she. Still, if he was now an adult in the eyes of the village, then he should begin to act like an adult. It was a view Sharee shared with her mother.

Standing aright from the pot once again and smoothing her apron, mother fixed son with another glare. The spoon continued to spin. Sharee was too intent on her brother’s suffering to notice, and Werim’s eyes had found the floor. He might be a good liar around the other village youths, but he could not for the life of him lie to his mother.

“Werim,” she began in a serious tone, “you’ll be going back to the baker’s tomorrow to make this right, hmm? I think several hours o’ sweeping floors should suffice, but be sure Roland is satisfied.”

“But, Mom,” Werim protested.

“No buts, Werim. What would your father say, hmm?” she asked, shaking her head.

“I’d ask him, but he’s not here,” Werim mumbled.

A frown creased his mother’s face, but she said only, “What was that?”

“Nothing, Mom,” Werim covered. “I’ll make it right tomorrow. Promise.”

“Good. Since that’s settled, you can go get some water and wash up before dinner. ‘Tis almost ready now,” their mother said, turning back to the pot and snatching up the spoon. As Werim turned toward the kitchen to fetch the water buckets, Sharee attempted to slink in the opposite direction. Without looking, their mother added, “Both o’ you.”

“But, Mom,” Sharee protested.

“Ah!” their mother snapped, raising the wooden spoon. The room had suddenly gone silent. “If you’re going to dress like a lad and get into mischief like a lad, then you’ll do the chores o’ a lad, too.”

Sharee crossed her arms and stomped a foot, “But I didn’t steal the bread.”

Their mother turned her head slightly and raised an eyebrow, “And you didn’t stop him either.”

A pout firmly ensconced on her face, Sharee redirected toward the kitchen where Werim waited with his tongue out.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

#ROW80 - A Day Late

I had the best of intentions to write this yesterday night. Just ran out of time. So, now I'm sneaking this in during a meeting. Fortunately, the posting area doesn't look all the different from an email. At least to the untrained eye. In any case, I'll want to be brief.
  • Lesson Learned - The best way to counter negative media is with overwhelmingly positive personal witness. Individual experience trumps mass market swill any day of the week. At least in my mind. The lesson for authors here is really a reinforcement of the "write what you know" mantra. Being a real, relate-able human being is often your best marketing tool.
  • WIP Progress - DONE! Editing has been completed. We're hoping to tie up the formatting, etc, this week and have Fates' Motif for sale by Saturday. Happy day!
  • Blogging - Now that I'm out of editing mode, my writing muse has woken back up. I only hit 2/3 on the gaming blog, but I was 4/3 here. I think I'll work on that personal post over the weekend as well.
  • Not A Goal - Since my editing is complete, I can read again! I'll celebrate with Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. Why that book? Because I've decided to take part in a Group Read. It just happens the timing lines up for me (plus I love Sanderson), and I've never really done the group read thing. Seemed like a fun idea. So you'll get to see my thoughts on the book here on Tuesdays.
Day Job isn't getting less busy. Spring evenings are great for doing anything except staying inside the house and trying to write. But I'm still truckin'. Still consuming and creating words and worlds. And, as proof, here's the word count:
  • Since last check in: 2,696
  • New Fiction: 0 - In Between Projects
  • Round 2 Total: 16,644
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cover Preview: Fates' Motif

I finished editing last night. It's always a huge relief when I turn that final page and say: I'm done. I have to fight the inner critic that always wants to do more, always could find something to improve on. If I let him have his way, nothing would ever get published. So when I hit that special point that I feel like I can tell him, in good conscience, to BACK THE F- OFF... yeah, that's a good feeling.

In celebration, I wanted to share a preview of the cover. My wife had it done super-early this time (she stumbled across the perfect picture to start), and I've been holding onto it for a bit, wanting to finish editing before putting this out there. Anyway, editing is done, so here is the cover:
What do you think?
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Why I Coach

I wanted to share something I wrote for one of my other blogs today. Generally, I don't cross-post, but I doubt a lot of you follow the high school football blog that I'm basically the admin of (I do produce content, but I consider myself more of an "editor" there). It came out, I think, rather well (sometimes words do that), so I wanted to share. Coaching and football are big parts of who I am, both as a person and a writer. I like to think that "team" and "family" are themes that will show up a lot in my fiction. At the very least, I think it may be illuminating to some people, and resonant to others. That alone is reason enough to share, so here we go.

Why I Coach

My name is Matt Hofferth, and I am a proud member of the Westfield High School football family. I am not a teacher, nor a paid coach. I commute each day to Kokomo, IN, where I am an Electrical Engineer for Delphi Electronics and Safety. I volunteer as a football coach in my free time because I love the sport and desire to make an impact on the lives of young people.

When I was in high school, my life was similarly impacted. My father died when I was 18. He had a disease called Neurosarcoidosis. Studies report that the disease has a prevalence of less than 4 per 100,000 people. Even in those four, the disease is rarely fatal. Even with the best doctors, however, my father appeared to be the exception.

The majority of my high school experience was marred by a medical battle, a fight for survival. Teenage years can be tough enough without the instability disease brings to the table. It's hard to remember a lot of the time fondly. Much of it was spent in and out of hospitals, breathlessly waiting on the next batch of tests to glean an understanding of our fate. I credit the sport of football, and the connections I made as part of a football family, for getting me through the difficult years. I appreciate football for giving me a bright spot to look back on.

My father, sometimes wheelchair bound, struggled to make it to my games. He was a baseball guy; he had never played a down of football in his life, yet he used the time afforded by extended sick leave to study up on the game so that he understood the rules and could support me like every other father. By the time we made it to the State Finals my junior year, he could understand many of the finer points, and certainly discuss the various swings the game took with special attention payed to my part in each. He may not have fully understood the mentality (football, it seems, requires a somewhat unique mindset), but he knew intimately what it meant to compete, to fight. He loved sports, and anything that instilled that same sense of fight in his son, he bought in to.

Injuries, setbacks, illness, these things are a part of the game as much as they are a part of life. Often, confronting mortality is a very daunting prospect, at any age. I believe football was instrumental to my understanding of life and living. We were state runners-up the year before my dad died, and the very next year we fell one game short of a return to the finals. My football career ended with loss, like most others. But adversity is one of the best teachers. Yes, I learned how to win, but I also learned what it meant to lose. And how to pick myself back up, rub some dirt on it, and play the next down. The friends and coaches I met through my involvement with football, they were my brothers, my surrogate fathers throughout my ordeal. They pushed and encouraged me, challenged me to get better, to stay strong. They drove me to the hospital. They were there when I received the call. They extended the line out the door and around the corner at my father's wake.

Recently, the sport I love has come under fire in the media. People decry the brutality of it, the negative effect it has on the human body. People question whether or not they should encourage their children to play.

One thing I have failed to see many of these articles address is the very positive effect it has on the human spirit. I am not the first, nor the last, former player that could claim that my involvement with football has taught me a lot of what I know about being an adult. Even, or perhaps especially, the little things. It's funny how many simple life lessons are overlooked until you lose a role model. For instance, I learned how to shave from my teammates; my father wasn't around to teach me (I was also, admittedly, a late bloomer in the facial hair department).

I do not have kids yet, but I plan to in the near future. Perhaps, many parents will say, I do not understand what it means to have a child, to want to protect a child. I am the oldest of four. I have two brothers that are 6 years younger than me (twins), and a sister that is 13 years younger. Anyone who has lost a parent at a young age can tell you that the eldest is often expected to step up and assist with the load of child rearing. This isn't to say my mother was not capable. She did a wonderful job (and I will thank her properly again this coming Sunday). But, like when a teammate goes down to injury on the field, there is an empty spot in the roster. The game requires a full team, and someone needs to step up and play. No one asks why in sports; this is just a truth.

I may not be a parent in name, but I know what it means to love and want to protect someone. I encouraged my brothers to play football, when the time came. I attended every game of theirs that I conceivably could. I'm exceedingly proud of the young men they've become. When I have kids of my own, I will encourage (not force) them to play as well. Football has given so much to me, why would I not want that for my children?

I have never had a concussion. The only bone I've broken is my pinky finger. I had knee surgery once, but it had nothing to do with sports (I was in an accident when I was 10). I've had many sprains and bruises, but none that really haunt me to this day, at least physically. The biggest scars that remain for me are emotional.

I coach because a secondary family is worth all the sweat, blood, and tears. I coach to make payments on a personal debt that I can never truly repay. I coach because my father would have enjoyed seeing it. I coach because I love the sport of football. More than just the scoreboards or the jerseys, the paint on the field or on the faces of fans, more than the lights on a Friday night; I coach because I love the marks that football left on me.
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Friday, May 11, 2012

FFF: A New Life

A double shot of flash fiction today, 200 words. This is using one of my characters from Fates' Motif, my upcoming fantasy novel. I'm hoping to release it next week. We're that close.

He met them at the edge of the wood. They were huddled in the shadows, cold and hungry. As he led the couple toward the wooden town wall, he casually flipped a coin in his right hand. The gesture served to keep them calm.

The man spoke, "Thank you, Master..."

"I am no one's master." He chuckled. "Call me Sorn."

"Sorn. We owe you a great debt. If we had stayed in--"

Sorn cut him off with a sharp look. The woman's hair would need to be dyed. Brown was the color of the locals. "I don't know what you are conversing about, good sir. You, your wife, why you have all lived here as long as memory serves."

The man nodded. "Well… thank you."

Sorn inclined his head, but did not respond. They were at the wall. He reached down, swept a bush aside, and pressed the coin against a flat stone. Green light warmed beneath his finger. He pressed it and waited, keeping vigil on the empty night. When the grinding abated, he kicked the stone and dropped into darkness.

"Come. I assure you this passage is safe," he called. “Your new life awaits.”
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

#ROW80 - The Cold Pool

Is there any busier time than the week right after a trip? Even a work trip. You leave for a certain extent of time, focus elsewhere, hopefully relax or get some stuff done. Meanwhile, back in the Hall of Doom know as the Day Job, life continues AS IF YOU WERE STILL THERE (unless everyone else takes vacation at the same time, I suppose. Like teachers). Seriously, I have this image of people stopping by my desk, having conversations with ghost me, and then leaving piles of work behind like unwanted pet gifts (we're a rabbit household, so these sorts of gifts usually take the form of a pyramid of poo. Little brown pellets, neatly stacked as if Sol had employed ancient Egyptian methods in order to create the perfect tomb).

Coming back to work after a prolonged absence is sort of like when your brother tells you to just jump into the pool, the water is fine. But it's not, is it? It never is. It's always freezing ass cold. So you leap and immediately your lower places migrate as far north as possible. You flail around for a bit until you find the side and begin to pull yourself out... only to realize that you've grown used to the temperature sometime during your frantic fleeing. Oh well, might as well paddle a bit now.

That's what it's felt like this week so far. I'm paddling. The limbs are thawing out a bit. There's still a bit of splashing going on. I'm hardly swimming effectively. I mean, look at the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - Something about maps. I'm sure there was learning there.
  • WIP Progress - I'm through chapter 23 now. That's 6 more chapters. Well short of my goal of 14.
  • Blogging - Got one done on the gaming blog, two here, and no personal post.
  • Not a Goal - I did not read a new book.
Yeah, the only one I hit was the one requiring me to NOT do something. But it isn't for lack of trying. It's just one of those weeks where you feel like you're being pulled every which way at once. This, too, shall pass.

I will be done with editing in ten days. That's a good thing. Blogging may struggle until the Day Job settles down. Still, it should settle. It can't remain break-neck forever. Before I know it, I'll be kick-turning at the walls, gliding smoothly from end to end, and creating my own warm spot. Because what's a cold pool without some pee to warm it up?

Let's see what my pee count is up to...
  • Since last check in: 1,453
  • New Fiction: 0 - Editing Mode
  • Round 2 Total: 13,948
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Monday, May 7, 2012

Maps In Novels

Is Fantasy the only genre that comes standard with a map? I can't recall ever seeing an included map elsewhere. Maybe in a sci-fi novel. Or a book about maps. I don't think many other genres include a map.

I guess if you're reading a thriller about a bank heist that takes place in Chicago, the writer assumes you could, you know, Google Map Chicago if you wanted to. Same with romance, although there's probably a good slice of those that take place in a made up setting. I don't know. I can't claim to be that well read. I've done a lot of thrillers, sci-fi, and fantasy. Otherwise, just the odd book here and there. I try to give the "popular" books a try, if only to see what the fuss is about. Case in point, I didn't start in on Harry Potter until the series was almost all out. It took me that long to "cave."

I digress. The point is that I was musing about maps. As my fantasy novel gets closer to release (I'm on Chapter 22/32), I've become more ponderous about my mapping situation. Quality maps are hard to come by. There are plenty of folks that'll whip you up a cover for the right price, but a map? That's a lot harder. It has to be accurate, has to fit with what is described in the story. Plus, even in fantasy, you want to have some semblance of geographical correctness. I mean, I suppose everything could be controlled by magic, but I think readers will appreciate a well thought-out, believable ecosystem.

I wasn't planning to do the initial release of the book with a map. I just don't have a good solution for it. I'd really like to do something crazy, like embed an interactive map that makes use of e-readers. Something different than the page right before the story starts. Not that there's anything wrong with those maps... it just seemed like if I were going to "go there," then why not go all the way?

Unfortunately, there are technical and artistic limitations on my end. First of all, I'm not good at drawing. Like, at all. Pictures with words, yes. Pictures with pictures, no way. Go figure.

I actually know someone who makes maps for a living. She's like, the Map Queen. I talked to her about it, and we even know someone who does a lot with interactive maps. The three of us met and had grand ideas. Grand, I say. But I'd essentially be asking them to take on a second job for little or no pay, and they don't really have the time to begin with. Maybe someday our plan of world domination could come to fruition, but it's not going be in time for this book launch. And I'm determined not to let the map hold things up.

I think it is certainly readable without a map. I mean, I drew one for my own reference, but it is awful and I was never planning to share it. Yet, several beta readers have said: "You need a map." In fantasy, it just makes sense. Who doesn't like to track the trek of our adventurous heroes across a fantastical landscape? I know I do. I get it, I really do. I just would rather have no map than a crappy one.

Then I realized I have a wife that can draw. Seriously, she's pretty good. She doesn't think so, but I think so. And I'm artistic director here, damnit. So we picked up some calligraphy pens at Michael's, and we're going to give this a go. It's our first fantasy map. We have no idea how embed it in an e-book, but we'll figure it out. The betas asked for a map. There shalt be a map! It's only proper for a fantasy novel, right?

So we've been musing about maps. We've tried looking at a whole bunch to get an idea about style. Do you have a favorite map? Bonus points if it's not in a fantasy novel.
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

#ROW80 - El Check In

I'm on the road for Day Job this week, so we'll keep this brief. Work trips are rarely restful, and I've got editing to do before an early bed claims me. Let's check on the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - As a writer, even a Day Job work trip can be story-fodder. Make the most of every opportunity to immerse yourself in other cultures.
  • WIP Progress - I was at Chapter 6 last week. I'm through Chapter 17 right now. That's 11 chapters in 7 days, three short of my 2-per-day goal, but considering all the travel and craziness, I'm cool with it.
  • Blogging - This makes 3/3 here. Only 1/3 on the gaming blog. I'm also on the hook for a personal post this month, but I've got plenty of time for that.
The gaming blog is in a bit of a rut right now. I have several things conspiring against me. First, the games I play are in a bit of a lull. Second, I don't really have the time to play them. Thus, not a whole lot of writing going on there. I actually succumbed to the Curse of the Blogger: the apologetic I'm-not-dead post. It happens, I guess. When Diablo III drops on the 15th of May (and, yes, I've finished my edits), then we'll get back to gaming.

Quick. Like I said. And now, the word counts:
  • Since last check in: 1,924
  • New Fiction: 0 - Editing Mode
  • Round 2 Total: 12,495
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Adventure is a State of Mind

Posting may be a bit sporadic this week. You see, I'm on my first real business trip for the Day Job. I say "real" because they've sent me an hour to the west and several hours to the north before (once crossing state lines to exotic Michigan... which looks oh-so-different from Indiana, geographically and culturally, but I don't really count those as trips. I did get a meal reimbursed on one, so maybe it counts, but the expense report for each had like two items. Hardly anything to write home about. I mean, it practically was home, so I'd just be writing to the same place I'm writing in. Wait... my head hurts.

Anyway, today finds me in exotic Juarez, Mexico. Okay, so maybe it's not super-exotic, but it's a lot different than Michigan from Indiana. They actually speak a whole 'nother language here. Can you believe there's anything outside of English? I know!

Okay, I'm being a bit facetious. I just honestly don't get out much. Plus, my knowledge of Spanish consists of random nonsensical words, learned either from random cab drivers while on vacation or Dora the Explorer. I assure you, backpack was not coming to the rescue when I'm tried to order my Subway sandwich at lunch. This is, coincidentally, evidence of my lack of adventurous spirit, I suppose. I go to Mexico and have Subway. I thought it was safe because I could point at the toppings. "Yeah, that. No, not that. No mas! Gracias." At least the chips were a slam dunk. Doritos is the same in Spanish. Who knew?

When Day Job informed me that I was being sent (at last second and probably great expense), I found myself equal parts reluctant and excited. Reluctant, because, let's face it, travelling sucks. Especially air travel these days. At 6'2", 220lbs... planes were not made for me. Honestly, if you killed me, boiled all the meat off my bones, and retrieved the femur from the pot... it would not fit if laid horizontally in an airplane chair. Perhaps a grotesque way of making a point, but there you have it. Planes and large people do not get along.

The writer in me was very excited, however. Any chance to visit a place heretofore un-visited is a golden opportunity. For instance, coming from Indiana, I don't get to see much geography. I'm guaranteed that pretty much any other locale is going to have more scenery than the amber waves of grain that I'm used to. In fact, some of you may have seen my tweet upon landing. Yes, I even found the rental lot majestic. (In my defense, the sun was silhouetting a large hill, and the coloring was that particular red, orange, purple color, that makes one stop and sigh. Only in the desert, it's, like, intense, yo. Like chose-the-wrong-grail-in-Indiana-Jones-and-the-Last-Crusade intense.) El Paso (just across the border, where I'm staying) is pretty much a city in the middle of a desert. I've not done a whole lot of desert travel in my lifetime, and the view from the plane alone netted me a whole bunch of imagery I'm banking for later.

Which brings me to the point of this article. I may be a terrible traveler, but as a writer, I cannot afford to be a hermit. An adventurous spirit seems to be a necessary part of writing, especially fiction. Fortunately, it doesn't mean you have to book a trip backpacking through outer Mongolia. Adventure is in the eye of the beholder. Every day is an adventure. Scenery is only what you make of it. A hill that excites me is probably completely boring to the El Paso native. The early morning border crossing is a complete chore for the average El Paso commuter, but for me it is fodder for a story about bank robbers (or something). A writer makes his own adventure, even on a stupid work trip when he's stuck in an office that's not all that dissimilar from the one he left miles away.

Here, at least, they call it El office, which makes it waaaaay more exotic.
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