Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Night With the Kings In Queens

Continuing my epic theme for the summer, last Thursday I embarked on an epic quest to return to the city of my birth to see my favorite band play in the stadium of my favorite baseball team. If you follow me on social networks, you know that I am a rabid fan of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York and my favorite band is the Foo Fighters. I've always been a Foo Fighter fan but became obsessed with their HBO series Sonic Highways. I love the story of a story and following the stories of music in the cities they chose to record the songs of their new album in was must watch television for me. Like many writers, I find music inspirational and combined with the recording process and the narrative nature of the episodes of the show, it inspired me in so many ways. When they announced the summer tour and saw that they would be playing Citi Field, I took to begging both my wife and mother. Christmas 2014, birthday 2015, Father's Day and Christmas 2015 would all be spoken for if they got the tickers for me. Well, the wife came through and we were off to see the Foos.

Now, if you've gotten to know me, you know that I firmly believe that the journey is vastly more important than the destination, but this is one of the few times that the journey was awful (missed train, extra hour in the car in northern New Jersey traffic, a mind screaming migraine and a frantic 45 minute walk across town instead of a subway trip because my brain was locked because of my head). My wife was pretty much ready to leave me. Well, several bottles of water and 4 Advil later, I was adequate enough to make our way on the 7 line to Queens. The subway trip was the first sign that things were going to be okay. We made it to our seats just in time to hear the opening chords of Everlong and I felt the headache abating enough that I could feel my shoulders and head starting to rock.



Citi Field was amazing. Truly, a cathedral for baseball and I can't wait to catch a game there. And as a concert venue, it was amazing. The concert didn't disappoint. It was two and a half hours of rock and roll epicness. It was amazing. I danced. I cried. I sang along. I had a night that I'm still smiling about five days later. Dave Grohl rolled out on his Iron Throne-esque throne of guitars to hold court in Flushing with 40,000 courtiers screaming adulation and admiration.


Dave is a natural storyteller and exudes a king-like charisma that is second to none in music right now. He makes it feel like even though my wife and I were sitting behind home plate on the second level and the band was in deep center field that we were packed into a small club of 40,000 people. They weaved through pretty much all their hits and only two songs off the new album, including a chillingly beautiful acoustic set of "My Hero" and "Times Like These" that turned two great hard rock songs into melancholy ballads. They covered a few songs, including snippets of some great classic rock songs, when Dave introduced the rest of the band. Being a teacher, I'm not going to lie, "Schools Out For Summer" was nice and I found myself singing a little louder during the chorus. They closed it out with "Best of You." I recorded it on my phone for my daughter, who loves that song.



The Foos put on an amazing show. It far exceeded every expectation I had and I am glad I went. We wound up having a great Friday in New York that capped an amazing 24 hours that I'll never forget. While in NY, the epicness continued as I ate lunch at Eataly, where I found my mothership: the Nutella Bar. Three words: Nutella banana crepes.



Oh, I also made eye contact with Bo Derek. But that's a story for another time. For now, I'm climbing back into the writing world, inspired and overjoyed at the experience of seeing my favorite band live and in person.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Re-Read: Part Two, Chapters 1-4

So I've once again fallen behind Tor.com's pace, but I've been doing other stuff, but I managed to catch up today and I'll post my thoughts here and there in relation to these chapters, so here goes. Thus begins Part 2 of Dragons of Autumn Twilight:

Chapters 1 & 2:
So the companions return home and find it destroyed. The interesting thing about the start of this chapter is that it mimics the opening of the book (a nice text structure) and that despite the madness of what happened to Solace, some of the people are trying to carry on their day-to-day lives. It plays with the trope of the inn being the center of the fantasy universe quite well.

We get some well done flashbacks in these chapters too (I'll comment more about this later), especially this one as we get Tika's POV of what happens. The dragon carrying the inn down from the trees is actually that comes across as brilliantly terrifying.

Tika is a nice point of view. It's another attempt by the authors to give us a "non-D&D" perspective as she is not a warrior or magic user (I know, I know, she's a low level fighter). She's a "normal" person coping with this almost better than our adventurers. Granted, Tika is the cliched fantasy (dare I say buxom) barmaid that exceeds our expectations immediately. What is the damage for a frying pan in an AD&D game?

Then we get the most thinly veiled Gandalf expy in the history of fantasy lit. I know that Fizban is a more significant character, but he's almost note for note Gandalf the Gray, isn't he?

And by the end of chapter two, they are captured again. Sometimes it feels like they should be called the Prisoners instead of the Companions.

The one other thing that really strikes me about this chapter is for the epicness of the story so far, it's really taken place in a very, very small area of the world. And there is a lot going on in such a small space. I'm not sure what I think of that. I get that it's sort of a hobbled together D&D world, but it comes across as kind of sloppy: the mostly human Solace near barbarian tribes near elves (we'll get to that later) near a dead city near the sea where there seems to be very little mingling between these groups. Just some pretty sloppy world building.

Chapters 3 & 4
Over on Tor.com, Gilthanas seemed to catch some hell from people, but I'm going to be honest, I like some of the characterization of him in these chapters is pretty different for elves, who are usually described as these aloof super magic using warriors. In this, Gilthanas is presented for what he is: the second son to a monarch, more interested in being an academic than some kind of warrior. Kind of like a certain, wildly popular Targaryen prince we all know and love.

Tanis has finally gotten under my skin the way he has everyone else (it seems) on Tor.com. For a man supposedly in his early 30s (or whatever the half-elf equivalent is), he's a whining little teen isn't he? I can only imagine how emo (to use Justin and Mahvesh's expression) he was back then...I'll bet he wore skinny jeans and a Golden Girls t-shirt while trying to diddle his cousin....ewww...but to be fair, there is no blood there, so it's all good...am I right people??

The rescue this time is another cliche and reads like another random encounter from a chart in a module. I've extolled how one of the strengths of AUTUMN so far has been the action sequences. This one falls flat. It's slow and takes to long when compared to the rest of the book. It reminds me a bit of a movie that needs to be 90 minutes and needs about 5-10 minutes of filler, so we get Sturm's depression at being caught, Caramon's hunger, Tas's boredom, Gandalf Fizban's goofiness, a flipping gully dwarf and Goldmoon needing to find the "leader of the people" (read: a MAN!).

That last bit is important and kind of annoying. She just died. She watched her man die. She brought the gods back into the world and she's not the leader. She's not good enough to be the leader of the people. I mean it's bad enough that the best she can be is the "Cheftain's Daughter" but this is overkill Jesus. (See what I did there?) Come on. There are tropes I can excuse or defend, but this isn't one of them. It's actually kind of a bummer to read it now. I wonder what my 13 year old self thought. Hell, I'd love to read the damned editor comments on this that made this decision.

The rescue finally comes and this time it's the elves as we've come to expect them. A bunch of Legolases in the woods picking off the enemy while freeing the prisoners...with no plan beyond that. Jeez, elves are obnoxious everywhere, aren't they?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Epic Summer

July 4th. For those of use here in the states, it's Independence Day. The day we celebrate by eating and drinking in excess while blowing shit up with fireworks from China. Good times. It's also pretty much the beginning of Summer for me as a teacher. Well, not exactly, but sort of. Summer has gotten off to a good start so far. In the last six weeks I managed to put the finishing touches on THREE projects. I'm very happy about finishing them. Makes me feel accomplished, so let me talk about them:


  1. THE SEVEN LABORS OF NICK JABLONSKY: YA Contemporary; 75k. Book 1 of THE JABLONSKY CHRONICLES. I described vaguely as a cross between FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and the writing of Lauren Oliver, Eric Devine and Sherman Alexis.  I first conceptualized this book way back in the summer of 2013 and started it then. For such a short book it took a long time to finish. As with all of my writing, it turned into something other than what I first imagined. I'm very happy with the end result and think that it's some of the best writing I've done so far. It's very different than my usual writing and I really liked writing it. My agent already did his first read and told me that he's going to read it a second time for notes. A lot of his initial observations were pretty spot on and I think I have some ideas how to make the next draft work even better. 
  2. THE LOST SCION: YA Fantasy. 117k. Book 1 of THE RETURN OF THE FALSE LORDS. A "boy" GRACELING crossed with THE THREE MUSKETEERS by way of THOR: THE DARK WORLD and Bollywood, this was originally called JAIMAN ZARACHEK AND THE SISTERS OF KHODA, then simply THE SISTERS OF KHODA, I decided I needed a new, better title and a slight change of concept. It was intended to be more of a "fantasy adventure" and as I wrote it and rewrote it I came to the realization that it needed to be "more epic," related to my theme of an epic 2015. The rewrite wrapped up in mid-June and it was really just the last third that needed to be ramped up. So I spent some time in my writer's notebook, trying to arc out the whole series. What started as a concept of 8 books was cut down to a trilogy with a few novellas and novelettes thrown in for good measure. I came up with a structure for the books (I have a feeling that I'm going to get to be known as "the structure guy.") and came up with the general idea for the three books. For now, though, SCION is in the trusted hands of my betas (my usuals, plus two new betas) seeing how the book works. 
  3. SPRING'S TEMPEST: YA Epic Fantasy. 131k. Book 2 of SEASONS OF DESTINY. Game of Thrones meets 90210 told from the point of view of those still learning the game of thrones in the tone and style of Tamora Pierce's SONG OF THE LIONESS. (My agent came up with that and it still gives me the chills!) This was the MS that I lost when the operating system crapped the bed on my old work rig and I didn't back it up. (Moron!) The good thing is that I think this is a better draft. I cut some crap that needed to go and made an actually tighter draft. In the HD loss, I also lost an early working draft of Book 3: SUMMER'S GLORY, but I reimagined a very detailed outline (which I'm going to have to do again since finishing the draft) and figure if we get a deal, I can just start chugging away as soon as possible. 
Now comes the hard part...what's next. I have a handful projects in mind, all YA and all smaller in scope but definitely sticking with my theme of epic. I've talked about trying Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k method, but my plan is to really attack writing to get a high volume of writing done. Here's the plan, with teases of the new projects:

  1. THE PENSIONER'S BROOCH: A novelette project I've been kicking around for a while and I'm going to try and high volume this puppy and get it done in 3-4 days while planning the next few projects.
  2. FRESH TRACKS: A YA "historical" fiction story that takes place in 1990 focusing on skiing, rivalry, young love and mix tapes. I'm going to try and mimic the epic fantasy, multiple POV style in this and set it up the way I would have set up a mix tape back in the day. 
  3. THE GREAT NORTHPOINTE-SILVER PINES WAR: Another YA "historical" about the escalation of a prank war between two neighborhoods in 1987. Might take place in the same "world" as FRESH TRACKS and will be told in a similar fashion minus the mix tape element. 
  4. THE NEXT TOWN OVER: YA something. I don't want to reveal to much, just think Steven King's THE BODY (STAND BY ME) crossed with THE GOONIES with a twist that I don't want to talk about. 
  5. LITTLE STEVIE POMEROY: YA/MG? horror? I've talked about this before and it's something I want to revisit at some point. Think ET but with more malice and from the deep sea instead of deep space. 
Readingwise, I just finished HALF THE WORLD by Joe Abercrombie and it's fantastic. I have an ARC of HALF A WAR and I'll be jumping into that along with a few others, including Lou Anders' NIGHTBORN. I'll be kicking the DRAGONLANCE re-read up again in the next day or so, plus I have a SUPER SECRET reading project I can't reveal (or I don't think I can). I was asked by a very successful writer that I admire greatly to beta read one of his books. I'm positively giddy over it and intimidated at the same time. 

So, it looks like my summer is going to be pretty epic. How about you?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

I've talked about world building before on this blog and I may do some blogs about world building in the coming weeks. In the spirit of that, I want to also do a post on shared worlds, especially the shared world that I think is maybe the best right now: The Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, I'm not going to get into nuts and bolts of shared worlds and world building right now, I'm going to talk about the quality ranking of these movies and discuss why I like them. I started this over on Facebook and got some interesting comments, so I thought I'd give it a go here. So here goes, in reverse order. (NOTE: I have not seen Age of Ultron, so I have nothing to say here about that. I will amend when I finally get to see it.)

10. IRON MAN 2: I've only caught bits and pieces of this movie because I think it's a mess. It does give us Black Widow (more on that later), but it just didn't work for me and maybe fit worse in the concept of "shared world" than any of the other movies on this list. (More on that later.)

9. THE INCREDIBLE HULK: Vastly better than the 2003 movie, I actually think this movie was a good concept but terrible execution, most notably by Edward Norton. Norton is an amazing actor, but he ruined the movie. The thing about the Hulk is that he's a lot like Batman in that it's not the Hulk/Batman that matters but their alter ego that is vastly more important. Edward Norton wasn't a believable Bruce Banner...Mark Ruffalo is vastly better, the right balance of restrained anger, rumpled genius and twitchiness. The other problem is that the Hulk is supposed to be "fun" on some level (more on that later) and there is nothing fun about this movie.

NOTE: If this were a race, 9 & 10 would be way behind.

8. THOR: If you read my blog, you know I love a well-executed genre mash up and this was the first attempt at it by Marvel because they began to recognize that's what there movies needed to be. They weren't superhero movies but genre action movies that featured superheroes. THOR isn't a bad movie. It's actually pretty good. And it has Natalie Portman. Mmmm, Natalie Portman. It's enjoyable and kind of fun that had some real "meh" parts and some real WOW parts.

7. IRON MAN 3: I caught a lot of flak for my ranking of this movie, but I thought it was the most adult of the three movies. I loved the Extremis plot line and all the suits were freaking cool as hell. Tony's PTSD over New York was well done and his ultimate decision at the end was a fitting touch. Giving Pepper something to do was a nice touch as well.

NOTE: If this were the same race as the previous note, 7 & 8 would be way ahead of 9 & 10 and a little behind the rest. 2-6 would be tightly packed.

6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER: I believe that when io9 reviewed this movie they called it "a war movie with a super hero in it" and that was accurate. It was a great mash up of genres that began setting up the pins for the shared world Marvel was delicately building. This wasn't end of credit or mid credit scenes, this was a whole movie setting up what would happen next. Chris Evans is riveting as Cap/Steve Rogers and making it a period piece works perfectly. Plus it gave us Agent Carter....mmmm, Agent Carter.

5.THE AVENGERS: I'll probably catch some heat over this one. I loved the movie, but I think other MCU movies did what they did better than what this movie did. There are glaring flaws (just what we need a white sausagefest saving the world.) But one of the things it did really well was that it was fun despite the raised stakes of what was happening (more on this later). From the little character moments: Banner's frumpy-ness, Black Widow's blase attitude about everything, Cap's confusion over his place in the world, Tony's ego, etc to the broad sweeping action moments. But the topper for me is Cap giving orders to everyone of what to do and he looks at Hulk and says, "Hulk...smash" and Hulk grins. They did more with the Hulk in that one ensemble piece than the entire movie did.

4. IRON MAN: The movie that started it all, setting up the pieces for everything else that came after it. Smartly done, mixing just enough comic book material with their own spin on the story. And it was wildly entertaining....so much so my genre disliking wife enjoyed it thoroughly.

3. THOR: THE DARK WORLD: Genre mash-up at perhaps its best. Epic fantasy mixed with scifi in just the right doses. I've said in the past that I'm trying to capture that aesthetic in one of my fantasy series. It just works. And while it is a little darker in tone than say the Avengers or GOTG (more on that later) it still has an element of fun and adventure. Plus...more Natalie Portman.

2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: Another one I'm sure I'll take some heat for, but God I loved this movie. One of my buddies on Facebook felt it didn't hold up on rewatch and I respectfully disagree. Another said it relied too much on jokes and flash to cover up plot holes. So did another movie that I loved: Star Wars. Watch it. There are plot holes you could fly the Millennium Falcon through, but that didn't make the movie any less brilliant. When I first saw GOTG I described it as "Star Wars and Spaceballs had a baby that was raised by Firefly" and I stand by that. (There's a part of me that wants to write about Spaceballs and my desire to write something like it, but that another post!) GOTG brought back space opera by bringing it to the MCU and doesn't feel much like it's part of the comic book world, but there enough call backs for us to recognize it as part of the shared world. I've said before, in my post about epic being fun that GOTG is my argument that an epic story can be fun. Because they can be.

NOTE: I think the next one is at least two lengths ahead of the pack. If this were a race.

1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER: I firmly believe that Marvel elevated their game with TWS. Forget it being a good superhero movie....it's a great movie. The directors made no secret that they were attempting to recreate the political thrillers of the 70s and they succeeded. Robert Redford (take a minute to let that sink in) took a secondary role in a superhero movie because he'd never been in a movie like this and his presence alone brings a gravitas to the project. It's a serious movie that asks serious questions, taking it's components from all kinds of places and combines them into a very satisfying gumbo. It gets Black Widow right (where I've heard AGE OF ULTRON gets her all wrong) in so many ways. It violates one of the great rules of comic books: "The only people that stay dead in comic books are Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben." (NOTE: know 2 of the 3 have been undone, but that's for another discussion.) There is little flaw I can find in this movie and it is the gold standard which all superhero movies should be compared.




Friday, June 12, 2015

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Re-Read: Chapters 19-22: The End of Act One

I'm discovering one of the hardest part of this endeavor is that I find myself becoming overly critical and even snarky about what I'm reading instead of enjoying the books and reveling in how important they were to me in my younger days. Obviously my reading eye and mind have changed, I have a vastly larger pool of literature to compare to Dragonlance and 30 more years of personal experience to haze my view of the world.With that in mind in these chapters we come to one of the early attempts by the authors to do something mature in their books.

Up to this point, for the most part, the book has been little more than a documentation of an old school AD&D game session. There's another blog post in me about this phenomenon. It seems to be the first, early fumblings of many young writers is to transcribe their tabletop game adventures or, worse, their video game adventures. I'll admit this last bit is purely personal as I'm not a gamer. There's one book in particular that I quit on because it read this way...especially the first 100 pages seeming like an endless transcription of every video game fight they'd ever had. Anyway, I digress. Back to Dragonlance.

The conversation between Goldmoon and Riverwind is a real attempt at doing something with a little depth and maturity. I applaud the intent and the effort, but the execution falls flat. It's stilted, awkward and a little hackey. And, as was said over on Tor.com, creepy. They had a chance to do some really interesting things at this point: some real deep worldbuilding, some discussion on what it means to be a ruler/leader that has to choose to be in love or to lead and talk about the sacrifices people have to make sometimes make for the people they love, but miss the opportunity completely. And that's a shame. I'm sure at 13 or 14, I didn't notice it then and thought that was normal, but now, it's noticeable.

The city of Xak Tsaroth continues to fascinate me on a worldbuilder level. The structure of it, what happened to it and its occupation both past and present, is riveting. While I have a Flint-like disdain of the gully dwarves, their occupation of the city makes perfect sense, though there is a little infodumping about the gully dwarves, they are one of the more fascinating parts of Ansalon. It also makes sense that they are subjugated by the draconians and don't even realize it.

The other thing these chapters do really well is ramp up the conflict between Raistlin and Caramon and the rest of the group. Caramon is loyal to his brother first then the others, but they are blind to it, being too busy waiting for Raistlin to betray them, which he doesn't exactly do ...I mean he had his own motivations for wanting to go through with this plan but don't all of them have their own, sometimes selfish, motivations? Sturm is desperate (I would say psychotic) to prove his bravery against a dragon, as much a creature of legend in their world as it is in ours, and Goldmoon is ready to sacrifice her life to face the same creature that's killed her love not once but twice in the name of what could have been a hallucination caused by errant gasses (not out of the possibility in an AD&D game)? So far, Raistlin is the kid they HAD to play with because they all wanted to play with Caramon and they are really resentful about it, whether that was because he was a dick (self-defense mechanism) or because he couldn't keep up with the rest of them. It's a nice touch that the only way he gets the spellbook is by an act of kindness.

The fight with the dragon has some tense moments, but it feels like after three chapters in Xak Tsaroth we want to destroy it and move along. It is another nice touch that the "damsel in distress" is Raistlin and he is prepared to make a final sacrifice, whether that's out of spite or to save his friends is left ambiguous, At the end, the thing that ruins the dragon fight seems to be a little bit of laziness as it's a very heavy handed example of dues ex machina if there ever was one.

We end Book One with the chilling words "Solace is burning."



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Re-Read: Chapters 13-18: Cover All, Nightmare Fuel and Action Inspiration

I've been remiss and missed some of my posts, but I've caught up to the folks over at Tor.com and I thought I'd share my thought.

Chapters 13 & 14
Chapter Thirteen seems heavy on the “we rolled this section on the random encounters chart” gamesplaysposition. I remember reading something (an interview or something like that) about the scene with Tas and Flint getting drunk on the log being directly lifted from them playtesting the modules. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d link. We’re also sort of reaching the “Cover All” of Fantasy Trope Bingo here: the mysterious dead swamp. I’ll leave aside my own problems with the ignorance of our “well-traveled adventurers” for the sake of story telling for now, but now that I’m a cynical fortysomething and not a bright eyed middle schooler it’s getting harder to do.

The thing this section is making me realize though is how much of a first book this is and reminds me, structurally and tonally, a lot of Star Wars (Episode IV). It’s setting pieces and doing the hero’s journey thing but to a group as opposed to a single person. It’s hitting the tropes perfectly. There’s a character for everyone to latch on to from every group of people, so it makes sense that it was so popular with my age set.

Chapters 15 & 16
Finally, a freaking dragon. Took us long enough. I always have problems with dragons as the big bads but think this is one of the ways the D&D tie in really works in their favor. To most of us, when we hear dragon we think of fire breathing lizards, so the first dragon we meet can not only cast spells but spit some kind of acid as well. Because 100 foot long flying lizards aren't terrifying enough?

As I remember it, the Riverwind scene was pretty terrifying the first time through and it holds up really well. It's horrifying but tastefully done, not gratuitous but graphic enough for us to feel the horror of what happened. You can feels the uncertainty heroes minds as to what to do next. It's really some of the strongest of writing so far in the book.

Strangely enough, the writing is starting to feel like it's coming into it's own and it's starting to work as a story. There's a part that makes it almost feel like a cheap out with how easy this problem is solved, but in the context of the story, it actually works...a lot. It would be easy to complain that the Companions forget about Goldmoon and the staff but a few things are in play: healing isn't a "thing" in this D&D world. There are no clerics and magic items don't have healing powers, so for the most part, our heroes wouldn't even think of that in the moment. A moment when they are still feeling the deep fear and terror of dragonfear. It's understandable that they wouldn't be thinking about that at that moment.

It finally feels like we're getting somewhere and Xak Tsaroth is one of the great fantasy cities!

Chapter 17 & 18
The strength of these books are the actions scenes. While they are occasionally disorganized and almost nonsensical due to the authors' strict adherence to game to text translation, they are still really well done. Not over the top or heavy handed, they work really well. The pages turned fast. I talk about the action scenes because chapter 18 has maybe my favorite action scene in fantasy ever: the fight in the pots. It's just brilliant. Confusing, chaotic, fighting in a tight place. The pacing is brilliant and it reminded me in an instant of the elevator scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The writing is tight and on point throughout and it only ramps up the danger the Companions are in.

I've tried (to varying degrees of success I hope) to replicate many times. In one of my trunk novels I have an entire chapter that is called "Up The Scaffold" that is one character's fight up a scaffolding the side of a building. I've done it in the contemporary story I just finished. It's hard to do and do well.

The escape down the wrecked tube is harrowing and involves more of the slime covered walls of the city, which is a great detail that isn't actually grating despite it's repetitiveness. Actually, a lot of the details about Xak Tsaroth are great. The city is a nightmare, having fallen off a cliff into a cavern in the earth. It such a hard thing to visualize for me but it all works. Except when they get to the bottom of the pipe, which I will talk about next time.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Having A Hamlet Complex

As I continue on my "epic" 2015, my thoughts wander to Hamlet. Yup, the Danish prince of one of Big Willy Shakes most epic plays is in my thoughts as we are on the precipice of summer. Usually, this time of year, I imagine some epic writing plan for the coming months and share it here on the blog. Then in August, as summer reaches it's twilight and I am faced with the impending doom of the coming school year, I lament how miserably I failed at achieving my goals. So, here we are, the first real warm day of the year and as I'm thinking what's next for me, I can't help but feel like Hamlet.

Now, let me explain before you go running off thinking I'm suicidal or have a thing for my mom or something. I'm focusing more on the idea that Hamlet is the "prince that can't make up his mind." It's my favorite angle, especially as a high school teacher trying to get reluctant Shakespeare readers engaged in a text. Presenting Hamlet as a kid that's so overwhelmed by everything happening to him that he can't rightly decide what his next move is going to be. One of the things that kept me reading The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan was my feeling that Rand was really Hamlet, unable to decide what to do next because everything was so overwhelming. I love when books do that and it's something I try to emulate in my writing. Which is why I am evoking the Danish prince, I am in a place where I can't decide what to do next. 

I found a great groove the last six weeks or so on THE SEVEN LABORS OF NICK JABLONSKY, a contemporary YA that I've been working on and off for a few years. A groove that came to a grinding halt when I came to the last section of the book, no more than 10,000 words, and realized I couldn't stick the landing. This put me into a panic that I cannot express. I froze, not sure what to do next with it. The panic became worse when something that was vexing me since the end of Christmas Break, my computer crapped the bed and took everything with it.

PSA for all of my blog readers: BACK UP YOUR DATA. My calm was irrevocably damaged when the poor IT guy came in to tell me all the data on the hard drive was lost and with it the the latest draft of SPRING'S TEMPEST, which just needed a polish draft, and a working draft of book three. It sucks and threw me into a tail spin. A tail spin I am struggling with right now. Like Hamlet, I can't make up my mind what I'm going to do.

I did manage to find a partial (about 77k out of 136k) draft of the new SPRING on a thumb drive and big chunks of it is just revised and rewritten from an older draft of SPRING, so it's not as catastrophic as I thought it might be, but it's still daunting and I'm trying to get my legs under me. I've reread/revised what I have and it's better than I remember (5 months away from it helps) and I figure I can recover, but the working draft of book 3 (SUMMER something...it's getting pitched as STRIFE but I'm leaning towards something else). In the words of the Danish prince, "That it should come to this" is debilitating and I'm unable to decide what to do.

On top of that, another project that I'm struggling sticking the landing for is SISTERS, which I decided needed to be more epic and is going through a face lift of sorts. It's not going to be called the YOUNG WEAPONMASTERS anymore, but the more epically named RETURN OF THE FALSE LORDS. That looms too and I want to put the end to SISTERS and plot out the other books in the series.

As I see it, I've got to make a run at this. I'm pretty convinced my agent is tired of me talking about the same two projects (SEASONS and SISTERS) so much that I want to get new words (LABORS) to him to see if we can do something with it. Plus I almost feel like I'm in a rut because I'm twirling around these few projects. As work lessens a little in the classroom, can I up the volume of writing work I do. Can I hit Rachel Aaron-esque From 2k to 10k level of work? As Hamlet says, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't." Can I complete all of these things in the next 120 days? I've challenged myself like this before and failed miserably...should that deter me? Of course not.

If I complete all the things in my ledger, it's about 270k. If you look at in terms of 120 days, that's only about 2k a day. I need a bigger pace than that. I want to start something new (besides SUMMER)...that 90s ski epic looms and I'm pretty sure the timeline I made with Aaron Starmer to complete said project is close to expiring. I have a notebook full of ideas I can work on as well and, for some reasons, a few of the scifi projects are calling me: A TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES ("Taming of the Shrew meets Firefly") and THE POINT GUARD AND SPACE PRINCESS ("Attack the Block meets "Love and Basketball"). Can I get more than 270k done? Can I finish off the SEASONS trilogy then move on to other projects? Is it worth the trouble? I don't know the answers for sure, but as Hamlet said, "This above all: to thine own self be true."