Monday, December 28, 2015

2015: A Year of Reading and Writing In Review

Break out the champagne and pop the corks, ladies and gentlemen, this here is my 100th blog post. From the inane to the profane, I've been blogging on and off on Blogger for a little over four years now and it's appropriate that my 100th blog post be a year in review post. Usually I wait until the 31st to do my year in review, but I decided that today is as good a day as any. So, how was my 2015? Chaotic on many levels and redundant on others.The Mets made the World Series. YAY! Star Wars came out. YAY! I didn't get a book deal. BOO! Either way, it's over and I'm already looking forward to 2016. So, let's review:

Part One: The Reading

I challenged myself to read 75 books this year and on January 31st I will have hit that goal. It will be the first time that I completed my reading challenge in the last few years. The funny thing is that looking back at my year, the start was mediocre at best but really picked up towards the end. So what were my favorites? Here we go:

  • THE GRACE OF KINGS by Ken Liu: Far and away my favorite book of the year. Ken told an epic story about friendship, love, war, nationalism, mysticism, advancing technology effect on the world, breaking traditions and tax codes that I'm not likely going to forget in the near future. His use of the "epic voice" turned what could've been tedious pages long passages into compact but effective paragraphs while focusing on the smaller moments that other epic fantasy greats would gloss over. Still gives me the tingles.
  • HALF THE WORLD by Joe Abercrombie: The EMPIRE of his "Shattered Seas" trilogy, WORLD was the best of the three books, though all were good. Where HALF A KING gave us basically a YA Viking Tyrion Lannister (and it worked so well), WORLD gives us a broader view of the world via dueling POV characters Thorn and Brand. Two stellar characters that are everything that is great Abercrombie and great YA. I liked but didn't love book 3 (HALF A WAR) as much, but after two great characters like Thorn and Brand, it was a tough row to hoe.
  • COURT OF FIVES by Kate Elliott: Everything that good YA fantasy should be. It plays with all the tropes brilliantly. In a lesser hand, it would be cliched. The world building is some of the best I've read and the action scenes pop off the page. And Jessamy...seriously...2015 was a great year for action heroines. 
  • THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS by Kai Ashante Wilson: Beautiful language combined with great action and world building that leaves me wanting more. Like KINGS above, WILDEEPS was a different kind of epic and it worked so much for me. Where KINGS was a huge sprawling story that was a condensed version of an even more sprawling story, WILDEEPS was a concentrated epic story confined to novella length. I'm still thinking about it weeks later.
  • SUNSET MANTLE by Alter S. Reiss: Imagine choosing to fight a war because of an article of clothing. That's basically the premise of this story and it shows the crazy things we find worth fighting for. The said mantle becomes a metaphor for the reasons we fight and, like WILDEEPS, it concentrates a massively epic story into a small space. Another books I want to see more of that world.
  • THE BUILDERS by Daniel Polansky: Holy Christ, this was probably my second favorite book of the year. I can't think of one thing I didn't like about it. I still have to write a full review on it, but I loved it. REDWALL meets THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, it does everything right from both of them. I went to the zoo shortly after finishing it and I can tell you, it's a very different experience after reading the book. 
  • THE WHISPER by Aaron Starmer: A fantasy portal story that's way darker than any portal story I'd ever read before and it works. It asks hard questions and gives hard answers. I'm still reeling from the ending of the book. I can't say enough good things about this book. Publishing was the real winner this year. As was Saga Press. 

Honorable Mentions: THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Drew Daywalt, COURT by Cat Patrick, HALF A WAR by Joe Abercrombie, A NEW HOPE: THE PRINCESS, THE SCOUNDREL AND THE FARM BOY by Alexandra Bracken.

Disappointments: ASHES LIKE SNOW by Sarah Raasch, CLASH OF EAGLES by Alan Smale, ORPHANS OF THE SKY by Robert Heinlein, STAR WARS: AFTERMATH by Chuck Wendig. 

Last year I touted it as the "EPIC" year, well I decided to do the same this year. Instead of 75 books, I'm aiming for 50 books because I am tackling a few epic fantasy series this year. My schedule as of now is: 
  • Wheel of Time, books 6-14
  • The Crown of Stars, books 1-7
  • The Dagger and the Coin, books 1-5
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles, books 1-2
  • Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, books 1-3
  • A Land Fit For Heroes, books 2-3
  • The Abhorsen Trilogy, books 1-3
  • The Prince of Thorns, books 1-3
  • The Swans War, books 1-3
  • The Dark Tower, books 1-7
  • The Throne of Glass, books 3-4
  • The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, book 1-3
It's ambitious, but certainly not written in stone. I'm also going to attempt to read one nonfiction book a month.

Part Two: The Writing

Well, barring some miracle 2015 won't be the year of the deal, so I have to believe that 2016 is going to be the year. I have a good feeling about it. Let's look back at the year that was.

My goals for this year, according to last year's end of year post was as follows: 
  • Finish the first draft of LABORS
  • Complete a super detailed outline of the NEW SUMMER'S GLORY/SACRIFICE, the last book in the SEASONS series.
  • Write short THE OFFICIAL VISIT
  • Write some shorter works
What I actually did:
  • Finished first draft of LABORS (75k)
  • Finished a rewrite of LOST SCION, formerly SISTERS OF KHODA, 4th draft (116k)
  • Finished a rewrite/recovery draft of SPRING'S TEMPEST, 4th draft (131k)
  • Finished another rewrite of LOST SCION, 5th draft (119k)
  • Worked on PENSIONER'S BROOCH, a novelette (6k)
  • Worked on, FROM THE DEEP, a MG horror (6k)
  • Started and backburnered THE GREAT NORTHPOINTE-SILVER PINES WAR, a YA coming of age prank war novel (3k)
  • Started FALCON AND THE CROW, a YA political thriller (4k)
So it was sort of a productive year for me. I still feel like I'm spinning wheels a little bit since I've been working on the same handful of projects for the last few years but I guess that's the nature of the business, isn't it. I've got some good ideas but I need to just to figure out how to execute them properly.

What's out there for me? WINTER'S DISCORD is still out with a few editors and I'm hoping the new year will bring something new for SEASONS OF DESTINY. If it doesn't I want to have a talk with my agent about possibly releasing it ourselves. But we're not there yet. THE LOST SCION goes out after the new year. So there's that hope.

What about 2016? What do I want to do? Well, here's the plan:
  • Finish the first draft of FALCON.
  • Finish a second draft of LABORS.
  • Finish a first draft of FROM THE DEEP or NORTHPOINTE
  • Work on SUMMER'S GLORY/SACRIFICE/STRIFE/whatever the hell I'm going to call it.
So that's the year in review. Here's to 2015. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review: Sunset Mantle

Imagine choosing to make a stand against hopeless odds because of an article of clothing. Sounds absurd, doesn't it....but Reiss makes it work brilliantly as a metaphor for the sometimes mundane reasons people fight. A rollicking fantasy adventure with epic implications, Sunset Mantle is one of my favorite books of the year.

Cete is a veteran mercenary with a strict sense of honor, but that is actually part of the world building, which I'll get to in a second. Cete's bravery, loyalty to his men and honor get him in trouble, a redundant theme in fantasy today. Call it the Ned Stark effect. But where Ned was consciously making his decisions, Cete didn't but still suffered the consequences of his action. Cete is a great character that stands out among some cardboard characters. He's well rounded with a deep history that's sketched out to where it's not overwhelming but given to us in nice, bite-sized chunks. His relationship with Marelle is sweet and well done. Her strength is what drives Cete and changes him in very subtle ways. The other characters aren't as well drawn and a little cardboard-y, but it almost feels a necessity for something at novella length and it works. We get enough about the stock characters to round them out enough to make them interesting even though we recognize them as stock characters.

The plot is well done. Nothing terribly creative but the writing is sharp, descriptive without being overbearing so it was a very quick, rollicking read that reminded me of a old fashioned sword and sorcery story, minus the sword and sorcery. Reiss has used the tropes of a "last stand" story with deft skill . A lesser writer would've fallen into cliche but not once does the story cross over.

The worldbuilding is great. Like WILDEEPS before it, I want more of this world. There's enough built into the world for there to be plenty more stories. It was a little confusing at time with armies, tribes militias, etc, but there was enough to muddle through without slowing down too much. The colonial motifs were interesting and again made me feeling like I wanted more. There is a blank slate to the world, so to speak, culturally, that lets the reader decide what these characters might look like that I really enjoyed. I kept imagining Idris Elba as Cete as I read. Publishing is nailing it and I'm all in on these books.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

It's hard to believe that I haven't written a book review on my blog since I read Ken Liu's brilliant GRACE OF KINGS, but it took a pretty amazing book to break me out of those doldrums and one of the first wave of's novellas was the one to do it. THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS was an incredible book that just blew me out of the water. 

A few months back I read Wilson's short story "Super Bass" that was set in the same world as this book and was blown away by it. This book is just a continuation of that feeling and when I finished SORCERER, I just kept wondering where was more of this. There is so much to love in this book that I seriously had a hard time starting this review. 

First, the world. Jeez, I want more of this world. In the short space of a short story and a novella, Wilson has created a massively complicated and very real feeling fantasy world with an obvious history filled with a diverse population of peoples and cultures that are grounded in reality. I want more. I want a world book. I want more stories about Sea-john and Orolumi (spelling?). The world feels like a hodge-podge of things that Wilson wanted to include in his own corner of the fantasy universe and it works brilliantly where others have failed.

Wilson's use of language is amazing. I've never read something that so effectively uses dialect without being hacknied and cliched. His integration of a modern dialect into a fantasy setting is seemless, which goes back to the hodge-podge feeling of his world and how it works. At times some of the language in the narrative itself threw me, forcing me to reread passages to make sure I didn't miss something, but I blame myself for that, not the writing.

The magic system was okay and a little confusing at times, but I'm not a magic system guy, so it didn't slow me down in the least.

The characters are well done and where a less skilled writer might fall into cliche, Wilson plays with the tropes in a way that makes the characters fascinating. From our demigod main characters: Demane, a lost soul that makes the mistake of instantly falling in love with the equally divine Captain so hard that he's willing to follow him across the world while keeping their relationship a secret to he stoic and savage Captain that can only speak in song that is capable of great acts of violence and love to background characters like Wale, Xho Xho and Messed-up, that give us a taste of who they are and just how divesrse a world this is. 

The plot moves right along, taking what could be a simple caravan guard story and making it an infinitely more interesting story of good vs. evil on a far grander scale. There were hiccups for me in the way Wilson tells the story, but like the language, I blame myself and not Wilson's writing. 

THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS is clearly one of the best books I've read this year and I can't wait for more from Wilson.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sour Grapes?

Students have a half day of instruction today, meaning only about a third show up and it's a scheduled "work" day for my classes anyway (they are writing), so I fell down the rabbit hole of Goodreads and found my already high levels of frustration growing ever so slightly, so this may be a short rant.

I'm sure that what I'm about to post can easily be translated as sour grapes, but I hope not. It's just me wondering out loud.

When I first conceptualized the book that became WINTER'S DISCORD, I wanted it to be a YA GAME OF THRONES(properly titled A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE because this was pre-HBO show) and it was partially inspired by the great THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASY LAND. (A book that is buried in a tote somewhere and I feel like I have to find again.) I've chronicled how I started it...much like the aforementioned A GAME OF THRONES (book, not TV show), the first scene popped in my head the same way it did for GRRM. It's very different now than it was then, but the concepts were the same. Ben was Toby. Jeremy was always Jeremy and Jess was known as Cat in that draft. The Princess's name was Isabella not Luciana. And I didn't have any idea where to go from that first scene. When I finally did, I looked at all the things I liked about THRONES and tried to loosely duplicate them, throwing in elements and tropes from Tamora Pierce's ALANNA series along with callbacks to the ever present DRAGONLANCE. This was 2006ish. I finished a full first draft some time in late 2007 and prepped it for it's first round of submissions in 2008, around the time my daughter was born. So I've been at this for a while. And this is the root of my frustration with the whole "YA GAME OF THRONES" thing.

Since the explosion of the show, it feels like every epically flavored YA fantasy that comes out has the lable of "YA GAME OF THRONES" slapped on it and when I read them, I find that few of them are anything like the books (and show) that I love. There was one, that I won't mention by name here, that pushed the "YA GAME OF THRONES" thing big time, so I was excited and read it. It was crap. It read like someone just read the Wikipedia entry on GAME OF THRONES, saw incest, used that as a major plot device only to undo it later while using every terrible, cliched YA writing trope  along the way. I often joke about the COVER ALL YA fantasy/dystopia bingo game in a lot of these books and this book had it. In droves.

To be fair, there have been many books that are worthy of that title. Cinda Williams Chima's SEVEN REALMS (we call that allusion in the literature business), Marie Rutkoski's WINNER series (I have to get book two), Tamora Pierce's ALANNA (even though that predates THRONES by decades), Abercrombie's SHATTERED SEAS (though that seems to get shelved with mostly adult fantasy), Jennifer Nielsen ASCENDANCE trilogy (though I thought that would've been better with some 3rd person POV in it) and Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series all come to mind.

Has this become a flooded market? Has the YA GAME OF THRONES become the vampires of today?

I hope not.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

That In-Between Feeling

Feels like it's been a while, as if I extended my social network embargo into my blogging space all the way to November. I assure you that this was not intentional, it just worked out that way.

I'm in the process of painstakingly guiding my seniors through a real, honest-to-goodness, upper level literary analysis right now, so that it takng monumental amounts of energy that may or may not be wasted considering I'm probably doing more work on it than they are, but this is the life I chose and when I started this blog I swore that I would not muddle it up with me whining about my job, so that's all I've got to say about that.

This fall has been all about SCION and cleaning that project up so we can get it out into the world. I came up with some new twists and focus to make SCION a very different book (and series for that matter) than I originally intended. I wound up playing with some tropes and in turn making the world much bigger than I think I wanted to. As I've stated before, much less adventure-y and vastly more epic. It's also the first book that is being positioned as stand alone, though that was always my tought about the series: readers would be able to access the series in any of the books and then back track if needed. We'll see if that philosophy works.

The problem with this is I'm experiencing a severe post-project hangover. I kind of don't want to write right now. This is a horrible thing for a writer and English teacher to say, but I'm just kind of tired tight now and it has me thinking about why I'm feeling that way. I have some thoughts.

First, I haven't realy written anything new in a long time. I've been doing a ton of rewrites and revisions, so I have to wonder if I'm feeling a little stagnant. Another thing that's bouncing around is self-doubt. This is a fairly recent phenomenon and one I'm not usually succeptable to. I'm questioning myself a lot lately and I don't like it one bit. Then there's the question of what's next and that's what's really got me messed up. I just don't know which direction to go. It's not for a lack of ideas, it's just I'm in that weird place where I'm questioning if a project is worth it based solely on the question, "Is this going to sell?" That's not a good look. Then maybe I'm just fatigued, but even that feels like a lame excuse.

So, I'm trying to slump bust a little. I've been working on a short story or two and a novelette, but I can't get traction on either of them. I've got some big projects bouncing around that I think are near the top of the WHAT'S NEXT file: a YA thriller, a traditional (as in not YA) epic fantasy and a few things I've mentioned in the blog before (YA prank war, MG monster book and a couple of YA sci fis). And since several of these things are things I've never really written before, I'm doing research via reading. First is the thriller and some middle grade books so I can figure out the voice, I think that if I catch the spark right I can really rip through the monster book over Thanksgiving and most of December. The prank war is a far off project that may be closer to middle grade than YA and I'm okay with that. The sci fis I have to decide what I want them to be. One is a Heilien-esque adventure while the other is something else more akin to a completely different genre. The epic fantasy needs LOTS of planning but I think I can figure it out, it's just going to take loads and loads of time. And then there's always the niggling feeling of wanting to write a good old fashioned fantasy adventure romp, though that will require a degree of planning as well.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Lots of reading to do and I'm sure I'll find the spark again sooner rather than later.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dragonlance Reread: Dragons of Winter's Night Chapters Two and Three

Two sharply contrasted chapters that both kind of work in their own way. The omniscient POV chills for a bit and settles into the one POV per chapter that most of us have grown accustomed to in our epic fantasy. We get some interesting perspective in these chapters and LOADS of important information that sort of sets up this book. It's a little heavy handed but sometimes being heavy handed is okay AND tie in novels were in their infancy, no one was exactly sure how these things work, so I can have some patience with these parts of the book.

We get a dragon POV, but I'll get to that later, I want to talk for a second about the long infodump that looks like it was copy and pasted (would that have been a thing in 1985?) from the Dragonlance World Guide. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I have a "thing" for setting guides, so much so that one of these days I'd love to do a formal one for each of my fantasy works. I'm a terribly mediocre world builder when compared to guys like Erikson, Bakker or Lou Anders (I dream of having a real sit down with Lou about doing one because he is the master of this), so naturally I kind of enjoyed this section of the book. Now, I was going to write a long post about geography, but maybe I'll do another one later.

One of the criticisms that's come up over on is that how is it possible that people haven't heard any news concerning Tarsis for 300 years. It's actually consistent with the world building. Tanis and the other companions, almost all "experienced" adventurers knew nothing about Xak Tsaroth, a once major urban center close to them, and other things going on around them. After the Cataclysm people stopped talking, stayed very regional and didn't hear rumors from far away (think about Alexandria or even Terminus in The Walking Dead). The Knights of Solamnia were sort of the newsbringers of their day since they seemed to protect everyone so with them holed up and disgraced, news slowed to a trickle, especially in the South where the dwarves cut off the only passes and with the sea taken away from them and what water they could access was filled with shipwrecks (basing this on a Ansalon map found online from one of the RPG supplements).

And as for the temperature, using several maps I could find online of the Krynn, Ansalon is connected to the southern pole continent by a large glacier (could be directly connected but there is the glacier covering it) and Tarsis is only 100 miles from the glacier. It's a cold place. Think Patagonia in South America, where the coldest spots get to -25 degrees Celsius. There are other wobbles, but I'll address them later.

As for the Dragonlords, one of the things that Dragonlance did that I don't remember seeing in other fantasy works at the time is that we clearly get the POV of the "villains." The conversation between Skie and the Dragonlord is interesting because it's setting a big picture. It actually puts AUTUMN into perspective as a "small" story. The organization of the armies is interesting and gives some insight into the politics of the Dragonlords and that is interesting, I hope there is more (I don't remember). But this mission sounds personal on so many levels it makes you wonder who the three the Dragonlord seeks and why. (Heh)

The whole Elistan/Laurana/Tanis thing is weird, yet deserves notice only because it's the one heavy handed thing in the chapter that isn't working for me. To Laurana's eyes as an elf, Elistan is still kind of a baby. It doesn't sound like she's had a lot of experience with humans (at least pure humans) and this is kind of a novelty to her, an "old" human extolling wisdom to a "young"elf that has probably been alive as long as Elistan has been, though she hasn't probably experienced as much as he has. Elistan was never an interesting character to me. It was like they needed a wizened old man to be the "leader" because that was the trope they needed.

I want to say something quick about Sturm. He's just an idiot and a liar. Who walks around in full battle armor all the time? Even GRRM doesn't make his people do that. Seriously. He's supposedly this experienced adventurer and wanna be super soldier, but instead he acts the complete opposite.

Can we just get to the tomboy/princess/outcast hero love triangle already? Seriously, Dragonlance was SO an 80s movie. AND, maybe, just maybe a precursor to just about EVERY YA FANTASY out today?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dragonlance Reread: Dragons of Winter's Night: Prologue and Chapter One

I'm back. I didn't do a post for the end of Autumn Twilight. My basic overview of the last section was how rushed it was. So now we're moving on to the EMPIRE of the series: Dragons of Winter's Night. I am following along with again and here's my 2 cents about the book so far:

Autumn Twilight, when you think about it, was a small story. The entire story, despite the scope, really took place in a very small geographic corner of the world and, for such an epic story, really wasn’t all that epic, the elves leaving withstanding, as we know it. For the first time in the series we’re starting to get into a bigger world and it feels more epic right off the bat. We see the way two separate societies work in a short space, the human refugees and the dwarves. The politics of the Highseekers is fascinating, even after all that’s happened. It’s something I wish there was a little more of in this story. It makes me wonder if the Lost Chronicles books are worth it. (I can tell you I bought Highlord Skies because it looks like a vastly interesting story than the other LC books, but I’ll let you know.) Let me address that though….

The gap in the story bothered me as a kid and it bothers me more now. I get that they were probably under pressure to write a trilogy, but come on. Oh well, maybe I’ll read that Lost Chronicle some day. Oh, well, we all makes choices when we write.

It feels like Sturm and Tanis have become bigger dicks than they already were, but thinking about it, it’s actually not bad characterization. The cheap observation is that it’s all representative of the conflict they are both feeling inside. But there’s more going on. Sturm is desperate to be a hero, the bit with the dragonlance shows that and restore glory to his people in his family name. I get that and that’s kind of interesting, but we don’t get to see a lot of that yet. He’s also lied to his closest companions about what he is and still hasn’t come clean to them….AND STILL wants them to go north to fight in the war. That’s some stones. Sturm becomes a much more fascinating character in this book and this is the first insight into it.

I’ve also commented before on these reread posts about how fascinated I am my Solamnia and the Knights. One of my favorite parts is the kingfisher. I love that it is a symbol of the knighthood and the nation. Such a strange thing and I love it.

Tanis continues to be cool because he was emo before emo was cool. I’ll bet he listened to a lot of Smiths and Morrissey (I have a funny Morrissey story, but that’s not for here!). Anyway, he’s another one that is annoying because all of a sudden he has severe claustrophobia. Again, I know that this can be explained away, but it’s still sort of convenient for the story. He had no problem every other time they had to go underground, now all of a sudden he’d losing his shit over it. The cheap explanation is that he’s underground longer than those other times and the conditions are cramped, but as an supposedly experienced adventurer and sometimes sellsword, he’s not acting like one. This has been one of my complaints about the series reread as a whole. Now the more complex explanation might be that it isn’t the dwarven complex but the fact he is in a confined space with Laurana and he might be suffocating because of it.

The whole Tanis/Laurana relationship comes across as that couple in high school that was constantly fighting over stupid things. Actually, they remind me of some adult couples I know.

Let me also, quickly, talk about Raistlin. I get why he’s so popular. He’s the guy that all the nerds think they are/could be. (I loved me some Tanis when I read it, but good googly moogly, I’d kill to be Caramon.) Most aren’t. Raistlin’s a dick. I don’t care why, he’s just a jerk. I have no patience for it. I hated Catcher In The Rye because I always felt that Holden Caufield was just an asshole. Raistlin’s being a jackass to his FRIENDS. No wonder they thought he would betray them multiple times (and he kind of did, when you think about it, with the whole Xak Tsaroth affair).

By the end, we’re on the move again. And this time, there is something foreboding about it. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Social Network Embargo...Sort Of

It's late August and that means one thing: school is coming. Ugh, right? Anyway, if you follow me on my various social networks (and why wouldn't you?) you know that I was writing gangbusters completing THREE projects that were kind of hanging out there. I blogged about it earlier in the summer. Then what happened usually happened: I hit a wall. I had some project ideas and pitched them to the agent and he liked them all but had notes. One project didn't have a conflict (I think I remedied that), one he felt needed some development and he liked one enough to give me a nod. And that project was the one that I hit the wall with. I was struggling with the voice. I'm rambling, let me get to things here. In addition to that, we are in the middle of a move into a new house that has been...time consuming and stressful, not perfect timing for being creative. In the last few days though, as often happens, I've had a small flood of ideas pop into my head that has driven me forward and I'm starting to plan the next month.

If you know me at all, you know I love me some social networks. I've decided between this sudden small flood of creativity and the start of school, I'm going to embargo my social networks. This is a huge deal for me. BUT, I'm not going to completely shut myself out. I'm coming up with a list of "rules" I'm going to follow.

THE RULES OF MY SOCIAL NETWORK EMBARGO: I, John Zeleznik, being of sound mind and body will not check, share, retweet or post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram from 9/1/15-9/30/15 excepting the following:

  1. Football. I will tweet during football on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday nights, especially when the Cuse is playing!  Sorry, I just can't quit you.
  2. Major news stories: I tend to stay away from politics on FB, so that will continue, but if some major news related thing happens, I reserve the right to tweet or post on Facebook. 
  3. My book deal: If I get a book deal and I can talk about it, but I will post about this.
  4. Friends' book deals: Same as above.
  5. Blog posts: I will share my blog posts on all my social network. 
  6. September 27: It's my mom's birthday. I will be posting something on Facebook that day.
  7. Anything happening where I teach, good or bad, but always in support.
So those are the rules I intend to follow. If you need me, email or text work. 

Wish me luck.

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'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, 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 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 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 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'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, 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 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'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."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Re-Read: Chapters 11 & 12: The Last Homely House...or Something Like That

So the Fellowship...wait, I mean the companions...gets to rest and recover at Rivendell...wait, I mean the forested glade of Elrond...wait, I mean the Last Unicorn...wait, I mean the Forestmaster, who casts some very un-D&D like magic and makes some pretty heavy handed foreshadowing about our knight in sour armor. 

This chapter is loaded with some great foreshadowing (am I cheating again by talking about stuff I know is going to happen?) of events in later books, especially involving Sturm. The interesting thing that happens is that Goldmoon, for all her royalty and being the one with the Blue Crystal Staff is barely paid attention to by the Forestmaster. Maybe this is where destiny is being emphasized: Tanis and Raistlin are the more "important" companions. The choice to go to Xak Tsaroth (one of the great city names in the history of fantasy) is one that bothers me a little. I mean wouldn't they know about Xak Tsaroth...again, it reeks of inexperience. We're led to believe that these characters are experienced, yet they don't seem to know a lot. 

I realized something about Flint while reading this chapter. I can't say if it was because of something specific I read or just a random thought. All he's done is grumble and grouse. The Companions don't seem to think much of him as a fighter and when factoring his age, it's pretty much implied that he's not much of an experienced fighter. He's just a travelling salesman that had to fight a little here and there to pay the bills or protect his goods. That's how the Companions came into his company. It's a pretty interesting angle when you think about it.

I enjoyed when they all blurted out what they thought they should do next,it revealed each of the characters motivations and desires in a very compact, economic piece of narrative. It actually shows some of the talent that we all seem to remember that may not have actually been there at first. But then the group dynamic comes to the fore and we see why Tanis and Raist are the most important. They are Picard and Riker. Kirk and Spock. Tanis is the respected warrior and leader and Raistlin is the XO not afraid to say what Tanis might not want to hear. They need to be in Xak Tsaroth at an appointed time and as much as Tanis wants to go see the girl he was going to spurn but is now having second thoughts about because his first choice left him twisting in the wind, which is kind of a dick move when you think about it. And then they jump the "walking, always walking" feeling in so many epic fantasies: they hitch a ride with flying horses. I refuse to call them pegasi. I have to wonder how much of an influence the original Clash of the Titans had on this part considering it would have been on an almost constant loop on HBO at the time they were writing this. 

The remnants of Que-Shu is the strongest writing so far in the story. It captures the horror of what happened and the Companions reaction to it as well as anything I've read. Granted someone like Martin would've taken seven different POV characters through the village at different times, all just missing one another by a few moments time. But the scenes are gutwrenching and revealing. The give some depth to the characters that wasn't there before and confront the readers with a real sense of dread...holy cow, is this the embryonic stages of grimdark before our eyes. My God, it's full of dark. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Epic Light Or Dark

This has been a downright epic week to be a geek. Seriously. For those of you living under a rock, yesterday the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens dropped and pretty much broke the Internet. (Take that Kimye!) Just in case you missed it:

Pretty epic...and you know what else? Fun. Pulse pounding excitement and joy. That's something I think is missing in today's epics. 

We live in a time when grimdark is king. When people want to make darker and grittier versions of everything. The same week that this trailer dropped, the premier of season 5 of Game of Thrones aired on HBO. (F**k you, Bit Torrent assholes...but that's another blog entry.) And the show is as dark as ever, with the books going even darker. As has been my motif this year with my blogging, it got me thinking about epic. But then another trailer dropped (well, not officially, but you get my meaning) later in the day, the first teaser trailer for Batman vs. Superman. In case you missed that one: 

Darkness. Dread. Heavy handed God/Jesus metaphors. Heavy stuff. For a movie about a guy in blue tights and a guy that dresses up as a Bat. I'm being snarky on purpose a little bit. The first thing I wanted to know about BvsS was where was the fun? Adventure? Excitement? (I know, I know...a Jedi craves not these things.) Actually the stark differences between the two trailers (and one would think the two movies) made me think of this:

 (Will Arnett is officially my "second" Batman, but that's for another blog post.)

So, what's my point here.  I stated earlier that I think one of the things that's missing in today's epics is the fun. There's no awe. No sense of joy or excitement. Our need to make everything "dark" to suit our cynical, jaded (spoiled, entitled) world view is taking the joy out of these things. I think there's a prevalent thought that without that darkness, there is no sense of stakes. But that's just not the case. The original Star Wars trilogy did it and learned to balance the light and dark. I mean Empire is by far the best, but still loaded with tons of "thrilling heroics." Jedi takes a beating for the Ewoks, but as was recently discussed by a few people (Saladin Ahmed among them) on the Internet it has some of the most thrilling moments in the trilogy: the barge rescue, the space battle and the Luke/Vader duel are all great. Fun. Pulse pounding. We need more fun in epic stories. But to be fair, Jedi  was 33 years ago. It was a different time.

You want a modern example? I'll give you two: Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie. I often joke that GOTG is my "thesis" when it comes to my argument that epic stories can be fun. (Bonus points if you can name the movie that comes from.) Watch those movies and tell me that they aren't fun and epic.

Well, back to my epic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Re-Read: Chapters 9 & 10: Walking, No Dead

While Chapter 9 really puts us in Sturm's mind (I'll get to that in a minute) and his sense of nostalgia, my own nostalgia wanes at this section. The infodumping, which may be a step up from gamemechanicsposition from the first eight chapters, completely slows the narrative down. People complain about all the walking in Tolkien, but this is kind of boring. I really feel like a good editor would have cut a lot of this out, especially Tas's recap. Then when we finally get to Darken Wood, it's a made let down. No zombies (that may be a modern issue), no liches, not even one of the creepy guys featured on the first page of the chapter. Instead we essentially get the green scrubbing bubble ghosts from The Return of the King. I mean that whole section sounds like Peter Jackson boosted it from this scene. Pete, if that is true, of all the things you're going to take from DL? Seriously?

I have other issues with Darken Wood. Isn't this the Companions (I know they aren't calling them that yet, but for simplicity I'm using it) home territory and they've never checked out Darken Wood? You mean that's not a dungeon delve waiting to happen for young adventurers, especially considering not far away on the Gods' Peak Mountain people go on picnics. It just adds to the weakness of these chapters and kind of exposes the amateurness of Weis and Hickman. (And the TSR editorial staff.)

The story really vacillates between Sturm and Tanis with the other characters playing second fiddle, even Raistlin who is the only one that communicate with the dead that surround them. Sturm still obsessed with being a hero like Huma even though he wasn't even a knight or a squire (and Sturm is 30 at this point, old for a human). It's this delusion that makes him so much more appealing to me now. He's such a damaged man, more so than Raistlin who he seems to despise. Makes me think that comes from the fact that Raistlin has accomplished all he set out to do and Sturm is an utter failure dressed in his daddy's old suit. That could be kind of soul crushing for him.

We also get a little insight into Tanis: the twisting ring and the inner thoughts about Kitiara. He's a lover boy torn between the love of two women. A little wish-fulfill-y (just a smidge) here in that one is an elven princess and the other is a tomboy warrior. Okay, I'm cheating a little bit since that isn't exactly revealed, but so what? We know that Tanis has settled on Kitiara. We also get a nice character moment between Tanis and Flint. It's nice and well done, playing on the longevity of the two races, dwarf and half-elf, and how they see the world. Tanis is still a young man in Flint's eyes and to the rest of the companions for different reasons, and it is never clearer than it is here.

Centaurs. Meh. JK Rowling did them better later with better mysteriousness without using ye Olde English. But who is our mysterious benefactor that has summoned them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Re-Read: Chapters 7 & 8: 80s Movies Rock!

So, stole my idea. They are doing a Dragonlance Chronicles re-read. Okay, maybe stole is a strong word, but it is what it is. I decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so I've been posting edited versions of what I'd posted for the early posts from a few years back and decided I'm going to cross post my thoughts here. In this part, for Chapters 7 & 8, I'm going to wax poetic about how the writers seem to be borrowing heavily from 80s action movies. 

First, a general observation I made. This book has all the feels of an 80s action movie. (Stay with me for the analogy,) So far, our story generally follows two80s action movies plot tropes: the getting the band back together and the neighborhood has really gone to crap. It's pretty interesting that this follows those tropes pretty close which makes sense as those types of movies were the most prevasive of entertainment forms of the time. The old band gets back together after a period of time away from one another doing what they do (looking for proof of the real gods) and come back mostly empty handed with a stranger in the midst that sets off the plot of the story proper that happens to be related to why the band broke up in the first place. And the old neighborhood isn't the way they had left it. It's rife with strange clerics and problems with the decidedly crooked and corrupt local authorities. (Another trope from most 80s action movies!) It's kind of fun looking back at it and how much fun the authors are obviously having with playing with these tropes. And chapter 7 starts off with another trope from action movies: the damsel tells her story as they deal with the DMs random encounter of the chapter: tangleshoot vines.

They subvert it a little bit in that she's not a romantic interest for any of our leads but there is little for her to do as a character other than what is convenient for the plot at this point. Early on, this is much more a problem for me now than it was when the books first came out. Her story is moving, honest and really well done as far as flashbacks go. 

They play with another trope from 80s action films (actually most action films): the comic relief. Tas is actually kind of pitch perfect in this chapter as a perfect counter to the intensity of the fighting that is going on. In the midst of this fear and terror at what they are witnessing as a group, strange creatures that a group of relatively seasoned adventurers (I'm loathe to use that word) have never experienced before, and indvidually: Riverwind's obvious PTSD, Tanis's attempts to micromanage, Flint's age and Sturm losing his precious sword. The only ones keeping it together are the Twins and Tas. The literary slapstick of the scene between Tas and Flint during the fight is one of the best examples of slapstick in text I've seen. It reads the way a Three Stooges fight would appear on the page. On the other hand, I'm already annoyed with Flint's helm, dude is a dwarven warrior and a craftsman and can't find helm that fits. I don't remember if there was something mentioned prior as to why the damn thing doesn't fit, but it's particularly annoying already.

The Twins hold their own, but as times there's a little too much gamemechanicsposition going on with them (I'm laying claim to that phrase, but feel free to use it!) while Sturm continues to be dumb and kind of douchy. Scoffing at the idea of hiding in a ditch but has no problem stabbing an enemy in the back, he get taken out of the fight early. 

The interesting thing about this fight is that while the Companions deal with the enemy in pretty good order (these mooks are next level up mooks but mooks nonetheless), they kind of get their asses handed to them and are forced to retreat, another popular 80s action movie trope. What comes next? A training montage?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

One of the motifs on my blog this year is my desire for 2015 to be the year of the epic. I am approaching my writing this year with the idea that I need to write more epic and, with that in mind, I am approaching my reading in a similar manner. I was lucky enough to score an ARC of the highly anticipated The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu from the new Saga Press. I was thrilled. I was really looking forward to this book and, to be honest, Saga is exactly the kind of imprint I would love to be a part of as a writer, so this was a no-brainer. I can say this, GRACE exceeded all of my expectations for reasons I did not expect it to enjoy it.

Imagine shoving all of these ingredients into a blender: a trickster, the Rock, giant falcons, whales that humans can ride, bathroom/raunchy humor, big battles between big armies, political scheming and plotting, airships, battle kites, a decadent empire, meddling gods, thrilling adventure, quiet moments between couples and a cast of thousands, how awesome a smoothie would that be? Well, that's kind of what we're looking at with The Grace of Kings.

I love big, sweeping epic stories, but the places that this book really, really works is in the quiet character moments that most authors of this type of book sort of gloss over or don't do as well as a writer like Liu does. It shows Liu's deftness as a writer that he's able to perfectly blend this into a narrative the scope of this story and make it more memorable than some of the bigger moments of the story. And for this alone, the novel is exceptional. But Liu blends a bunch of different genres into it and you all know how I feel about genre mash-ups.

The times between the quiet character moments are occupied by passages that instead of using a close, intimate 3rd person use a more epic voice (I believe this was the way Liu defined it in an interview I listened to on the Coode Street Podcast) and basically tells the story of two men: cunning trickster Kuni and super human fallen noble Mata as they fight for control of the Islands of Dara first as rebels then as rulers. The narrative swirls around them but tells the story through the eyes of a cast that would make George RR Martin shiver, from lowly peasants to noble (and not so noble) kings. But Liu blends these together deftly, using the epic voice to condense the tales into manageable bites and gives even the sidest of side characters of something to do and an important role to play in the larger narrative. What another writer, Martin among them, would take dozens and dozens and dozens of pages to tell, Liu does sometimes in a page or two, sometimes even a paragraph. Normally, this would be frustrating to me but Liu's storytelling works as long as you think of these parts of the story the same you would if you were reading something like "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" or "The Song of Roland."

His worldbuilding is stellar. While Liu uses the expression "silkpunk" to describe the setting, it's far more complicated than just slapping the "punk" label on it to give a feel for the world (I would encourage you to listen to the Coode Street Podcast, because I'm sort of riffing off things that were said during that interview). The world feels wholly unique and, in a lot of ways, made me think more of The Four Kingdoms of Avatar than Westeros or Randland with just the right twists and uniqueness that it stands clearly on its own with the great created worlds out there.

This book seriously moved me. Makes me want to write. I often associate books I'm reading with what is going on around me at the time. The last few months, like Dara, my life as been tumultuous and GRACE has been there to help me escape. While I spent two hours at the IRS dealing with a case of stolen identity, the book kept me calm. During a second visit to the IRS and a double crown (yes, I scheduled at dental procedure and a visit to the IRS on the same day!), it did the same. The IRS part is hilarious because tax codes are a huge part of the a very interesting way. While my daughter was in surgery on her ear, I stayed distracted jumping the islands of Dara with these brilliant characters.

I'm going to say now that this is easily going to make the end of the year top 5. Sharpie it.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How Does One Epic?

My last blog post was all about my epic intentions and that's going about as well as I expected: not great. I'm struggling to get traction in my writing right now. Work is a grind and when I get home I just want to not use my brain for a while. So, I'm desperate to get back on track and continue what I was intending to be an "epic" 2015. I started to think about what that meant and I came to the realization that the word epic has become devalued in this day and age. Phrases like "epic fail" and that was "epic" have become commonplace in our vernacular and I think that's a problem. I blame young people but that's just because I'm transitioning into being the old guy yelling at kids to get off my damn lawn.

I've been thinking a lot about epic, and a by product of that myth, in the past few weeks. Obviously, there is my previous post about trying to be epic in my writing and reading, but other things have me thinking about it as well.

A blogged about how one of my writing projects stalled because as much as I wanted it to be an adventure story, it needed to be more epic than it was. SEASONS is already epic enough and as much I love the contemp I'm writing, I'm having some problems with it, one of which is that I miss writing fantasy. Seriously. It's not the only reason I'm thinking about epic, though.

If you haven't been paying attention to the news for the last three months, we have been in the grips of the longest cold snap that I can remember in my life. If you'll pardon the expression, it's been epic. So much so that it inspired me to start thinking about my own "snowy" epic. (At some point I'm going to blog about my epic space opera I wrote as a 6th grader called "Drift" that was a total rip off of DUNE. If I could only find those notebooks.) It's really quite mythic as I tried to think what someone without the technological trapping that we have would think of all this snow and the storms that brought it. It would be pretty darn epic with all the trappings of a good myth. This has been an epic winter, the kind of winter that will be repeated in tales. Like the Blizzard of 93. I remember that vividly and that was epic. The entire city of Syracuse, along with pretty much the entire eastern seaboard was shut down for several days. There were stories by the dozens and even hundreds of the feats performed by people all over to overcome an almost vengeful act of God. Seriously. Google it. It was awful.

I was fortunate enough to receive and advanced copy of Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings and it got me thinking about what epic means, because it is epic in every way that I've come to understand what epic is. Now, this isn't going to turn into a book review because I haven't finished it, but I've been struck by some of the things Liu is doing with the book that fascinate me as a writer. As I've been reading it, I couldn't help but notice the mythic feel of Liu's style. Now I don't know if that's the way he writes or it was a conscious decision he made as he wrote, but as I tell my students, "No writer worth their salt puts something in their work on accident." (A quote stolen from my friend Andy King.) Liu weaves a lot into his book and a big part of that is what reads the way mythology reads. I think of the old Bullfinch's Mythology or the mythology book that was part of my SUPA classes back in high school...very narrative retellings of the myths. And it works. You all know how much I love a good genre mash-up and in it's own strange way that's what this is, but I'll save that for the formal review when I finish it. Max Gladstone actually articulated my thoughts much clearer and infinitely more articulate than I thought that I could in his blog a few days ago and that also partially inspired this post. It also makes me want to sit down and read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. That would be epic.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Epic Intentions for 2015

It's kind of hard to believe that this is my first blog post of 2015. But maybe it's not.

I'm all about best intentions. Jules Winfield is talking to me when he says, "You were saying something about best intentions." The road way of my life is littered with the burnt husks of my best intentions. I am ambitious about my intentions and what I intend to do, even though I frequently fail at meeting my expectations for my intentions. And I'm laying down some intentions for the rest of the year that I would dare say are epic. I'm sure you're confused as to what I'm saying,,,so allow me to explain what I mean.

I write epic fantasy. I love epic fantasy. I cut my teeth on Tolkien then Dragonlance. From Dragonlance I wandered from tie in to tie in for many years. I became engrossed in a space opera series called Deathstalker by Simon Green that I never understood why they weren't bigger. It was brilliant and fun and I learned a lot about writing epic from it. It formed early images of the way to tell a story from multiple POVs.

My own writing languished. I was still in love with the idea of being a writer not actually writing. I was spending hard earned money on writing books not books to read and study as a writer. I was writing an epic fantasy without some of the foundation that I would need to write what I wanted to write. I'd been writing the same basic concept of the epic fantasy novel I would eventually dub THE FALLING DARK. It was an allusion to a line in a Dave Matthews song called "The Dreaming Tree." It had undergone several title changes and I butchered and rebutchered the beginning several times, but after reading Thrones and Greg Keyes' The Briar King, I moved forward on the project, completing the novel in draft form on December 24, 2003. I felt like it was gigantic...epic in every way.  I knew most of it was crap, but I thought I had some interesting concepts and ideas in it...enough not to just throw it out after I printed it out. I workshopped that draft on the old BWB Writer's Group and messed around with a rewrite that I had some people read for kicks. But did nothing else with it. It was a trunk novel. Plain and simple.

For kicks, since my main laptop is down and I have been in a massive slump at the beginning of this year, I went back an messed around with the draft a little. It wasn't as big as I thought it was, about 164k or 551 double spaced pages. Only about 30-50k more than the YA fantasy I've been writing. It was kind disappointing to find that out. The cool thing about this DARK is that I culled some things from it to write my YA fantasy adventure SISTERS OF KHODA. Actually, KHODA is a prequel to DARK. I intended for it to be a lighter story but one of the realizations I had when rewriting it last year was that it needed more epic. So I've resolved to become more epic and these are my intentions for 2015. I'm going to engage in more epic reading and writing. The plan is as follows:

I intend to up my reading of the epic doorstoppers that I love. I'm looking at books that are beyond 600 pages. Here are a few of note:

  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. I was sent a bound MS ARC of the book by Saga Press (my dream imprint) and I am presently reading it. (640 pages)
  • The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. (662 pages)
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. (1007 pages)
  • Books Six through Fourteen of the Wheel of Time (7,925 pages)
  • The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron (640 pages)
I'm going to spend some time reading this year, cutting back on my social networking and really hunkering down on what I want to get done in the reading department. There are other, smaller works that I am going to read too that are considered epic fantasy. I'm in the middle of listening to the audiobook of A Wizard of Earthsea, for example, and there are some omnibuses I'm going to read as well. I'm really going to shore up my epic fantasy reading this year. Study the genre so I can, in fact, make KHODA more epic. If you have any suggestions that aren't Malazan or Bakker, please make them.

I've got some plans for writing. I want to stop dicking around (broken record, I know) and get some words. Here's the layout:

  • LABORS: A contemp YA project I've been puttering around with for the last few years. It's about half way done and needs a good rewrite of the first half to finish the second. While it's not epic fantasy, I think there is some epic in it, especially since I am alluding to Heracles's famous Twelve Labors. 
  • KHODA: As mentioned above. This rewrite stalled ,I talked about it already, and I need to restart it. I came to the realization is that it needs more "epic" in it and that as much as I wanted this to be a fantasy adventure, that's not the story it wants to be. I've come up with a concept and I want to sort of arc it out a bit before moving forward on the rewrite. It'll still be YA as far as I can figure, but I may borrow more from the DARK in tone at least. 
  • FRESH TRACKS: A nostalgia piece that I've hinted at a few times. It's going to be YA in tone and content but take place in 1991ish. What does that have to do with epic? I'm going to write it in a similar fashion as I would my epic books: multi-POV and third person.
  • SEASONS: The rewrite of book two of SEASONS that I just finished, SPRING'S TEMPEST, was such a major departure from what I'd originally wrote that book three is almost going to be completely new and what is written doesn't really apply, for the most part. SPRING still needs a polish/continuity pass that I am going to tackle as soon as freaking IT decides to fix my damned laptop (that's an epic fail). SUMMER __________, I've got about three or four title ideas for book three. Do I go with the Shakespearesque motif? (Discord, Tempest) Or do I go with Sacrifice or Strife? Or something else with a little more finality? Glory? (The original titles, when this was a tetralogy not a trilogy were going to be SUMMER'S SACRIFICE or SUMMER'S STRIFE followed by AUTUMN'S GLORY.)
New Writing/Planning
There are three projects that are clearly in early planning stages in my mind and both will be epic in nature. But I've decided not to rush into them, but instead take some time to build them from the ground up. Do some serious world building for the worlds of these three things and craft the story accordingly:

  • SCIONS: We're locked in the midst of Winter here in Syracuse. It's been brutally cold but not very snow. In light of the Snowmaggedon that never came and the flurries we've been struck with today, I have been moved to writing some kind of northern epic. It's sort of based off of something else I'd been conceptualizing for a while. This is the book I want to be a real door stopping fantasy.
  • QUEST: I want to write an old fashioned quest novel. Play with the tropes and put my own spin on it. This is early gestation, but it's out there. 
  • TOURNAMENT: I've talked about this project before and the world building I've done on it. I intend to move forward on this project in the very near future and start writing it probably ahead of the other things on this list. 
So, that's my epic intentions. I'll probably come up short, but it's okay to dream a bit isn't it?