Nick Mamatas is no stranger to writing whatever he wants, damn the torpedoes. And as Mamatas writes here about his latest novel — the Trotskyist/Crowley/Long Island noir Love is the Law — for “The Hardest Part”, writing can be the easy part. “If there was any difficulty in writing the novel at all, it was in writing the book so that it could end up in a bookstore somewhere.”
THE HARDEST PART: Love is the Law
By Nick Mamatas:
Actually, writing Love is the Law was pretty easy.
I’m not the kind of writer, or reader, who falls for the well-worn trick of a single-sentence paragraph, but there you go. It was a breeze.
It was a breeze. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve had my eye caught repeatedly by the covers to Virginia author L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero’s Daughter series, which borrows from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and other classical sources to create a robust modern fantasy. But not all sources of inspiration and creativity and setting are so easily borrowed from, as she writes here for “The Hardest Part” guest column series.
The Hardest Part: Filing off the Serial Numbers
By L. Jagi Lamplighter:
When I was twelve, I started my first novel. My father distributed movies to television stations, and I occasionally worked for him, stuffing Gumby dolls into envelopes and other odd tasks that the children of film distributors are called upon to do. Because of his work, though, I was very familiar with copyright laws and the fact that it was not legal to write about other people’s characters.
Armed with this information, I very carefully put in hours of work to invent my own stuff, rather than write in the worlds of favorite authors, as friends occasionally did.
I was tremendously conscientious about it. Read the rest of this entry »
Friday Quick Updates: Local Black Friday and Small Business Saturday alternatives; another Carolina Book Beat focus on local sf on Monday; and the latest on the regional author holiday book expo next Saturday!Posted: 29 November, 2013
Friday November 29, 2013: While I’m probably somewhere in between the sentiment offered by Shimmer and the most commercial of line-up offerings at the big box stores, I did want to send out a roundup of what’s going on this weekend, along with some other news.
I was delighted when Bull Spec poetry editor Dan Campbell bought one of Sofia Samatar‘s poems, and we worked to sneak “The Year of Disasters” into issue #7 last year as her debut novel, A Stranger in Olondria, was due that summer. Buzz was already building and Small Beer Press soon released a multiple chapter PDF preview which I happily devoured, waiting for more. But, as sometimes happens, the book was moved to this year’s publishing schedule instead. Released to some fantastic reviews early on (Library Journal gave it a starred review, and Locus praised its “elegant language” and “revelatory focus”, calling it “the rare first novel with no unnecessary parts … the most impressive and intelligent first novel I expect to see this year, or perhaps for a while longer.”) it has remained a book of interest; Strange Horizons published Newcastle University’s Nic Clarke’s review just last month. And this week, after some months of growing impatience on my part let me tell you, the book was released in audio as well. Now, for the guest column series The Hardest Part, Samatar writes about her 13-year struggle with the book’s 7th chapter. Who believes in lucky numbers, anyway?
By Sofia Samatar:
The hardest part of writing A Stranger in Olondria was Chapter Seven.
At the end of Chapter Six, Jevick, my main character, sees a ghost. This is a young man enjoying the pleasures of a foreign city—he’s a merchant, a student, an amateur philosopher, a wanderer in bookshops and cafés. The first six chapters of the book have an even, contemplative tone: Jevick’s story is part memoir and part travelogue. Then a ghost starts haunting him, and his whole world changes. My writing needed to reflect that change. How? Read the rest of this entry »
Friday Quick Updates: MACE, Chapel Hill Comics hosts Ed Piskor, and 3 days remain to kickstart Purgatory PubPosted: 15 November, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013: All recovered from NC Comicon last weekend? While in the Triangle the sole event this weekend is the Ed Piskor (Hip Hop Family Tree) Chapel Hill Comics signing on Saturday, for folks further West, Steve Long is among those heading to MACE, “The Carolinas’ Best Gaming Con”, in Charlotte this weekend, which boasts Paizo Publishing’s Jason Bulmahn along with a trio from Pinnacle Entertainment Group as its guests of honor, and also involves Davey Beauchamp, so there is a high likelihood of some manner of shenanigans.
Meanwhile in local news, Mur Lafferty’s novel The Shambling Guide to New York City was nominated for Best Urban Fantasy Novel of 2013 by RT Book Reviews! and! in news that should delight both fans of Princeless and My Little Pony, local writer Jeremy Whitley was tabbed to write issue 2 of new 2014 IDW title My Little Pony: Friends Forever. More details: “(W) Jeremy Whitley (A) Tony Fleecs (CA) Amy Mebberson — The Cutie Mark Crusaders have done everything they can think of to get their cutie marks. But there’s one creature of chaos who might have some ideas they would never think of… Discord! When our pint-sized heroines start working with the unpredictable trickster, the results are bound to get unusual! Will Ponyville be able to survive their friendship? In Shops 2/14. Preorder in December!”
Lastly, there’s just 3 days to go in Bull Spec art director Gabe Dunston’s Kickstarter for his graphic novel Purgatory Pub, and he’s just $800 short of his $3500 goal. I’ve had the chance to work with Gabe on a few projects now, and this guy:
Is a guy you can trust to deliver the goods as promised. Best of luck, Gabe, in pushing over the finish line, and I look forward to checking out book one!
UPCOMING EVENTS, NOVEMBER 2013
15-17 (Friday to Sunday) — MACE, “The Carolinas’ Best Gaming Con”, in Charlotte this weekend, which boasts Paizo Publishing’s Jason Bulmahn along with a trio from Pinnacle Entertainment Group as its guests of honor, and also involves Davey Beauchamp, so there is a high likelihood of some manner of shenanigans.
16 (Saturday) 6-9 pm — Chapel Hill Comics hosts Ed Piskor for a signing of his newest graphic novel Hip Hop Family Tree: Volume 1. More info: http://www.chapelhillcomics.com/content/?p=3259
22 (Friday) — UNC’s Morehead Planetarium hosts a science education benefit, The Jupiter Ball. “The Jupiter Ball is a benefit gala for Morehead Planetarium and Science Center supporting science education for North Carolina schoolchildren. We are thrilled to announce that Dr. William E. Thornton, North Carolina’s first astronaut, will be our honored guest for the 2013 Jupiter Ball. As a member of the Skylab support crew, a veteran of two space flights on the shuttle Challenger and a holder of more than 35 patents, Dr. Thornton fully understands the importance of inspiration and innovation.” More info: http://moreheadplanetarium.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page&filename=jupiter_ball.html
24 (Sunday) — Quail Ridge Books hosts Elizabeth Langston – ‘Whisper Falls’.
[As always check the latest newsletter for the full list of events and such.]
The Hardest Part: Jeremy Zerfoss on Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative FictionPosted: 13 November, 2013
Life is sometimes a fortuitous sequence of events and meetings all leading to someplace interesting. For example: artist Jeremy Zerfoss started doing work with Jeff VanderMeer; I was publishing a review of VanderMeer’s non-fiction collection Monstrous Creatures and found room for Jeremy’s fantastic limited edition dust jacket cover; and then was later able to commission Jeremy to put together his amazing cover for Bull Spec #6 to celebrate all things VanderMeer. Looking back, I barely remember the process on my end of asking for that cover: “Do something weird and cool, thanks!” is probably as far as I got, and before long this amazing thing grew and became the cover. This process was quite short and brief, not taking years of back and forth collaboration via email, phone, and perhaps coded telegraphs or carrier pigeon missives, as the process Jeremy writes about here: that of working with Jeff to create Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction.
By Jeremy Zerfoss:
Blunderbook: Or The Hardest Part Of Working With A Murderous Bear
Hello everyone – my name is Jeremy Zerfoss and I’m the main illustrator of Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer, newly released by Abrams and available wherever awesome can be found.
Sam asked me to write a bit about the hardest part of working on this two year (OMG!) project and it took a bit longer than I expected since for a book that was this crazy, and this unprecedented — there were quite a few obstacles to tackle.
So… let me break this down as best I can: Read the rest of this entry »
I know Roanoke, VA author Mike Allen primarily through his fantastic speculative poetry (his poem “Hungry Constellations” is currently featured at Goblin Fruit) and in his role as editor of both his poetry journal Mythic Delirium and his anthology series Clockwork Phoenix. But he’s also quite an accomplished short fiction writer, with stories in Solaris Rising 2, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Weird Tales, and his Nebula Award nominated story “The Button Bin” in Helix. (Though, admittedly, I didn’t catch it until it was podcast at Pseudopod.) And, with The Black Fire Concerto, he’s a published novelist as well. Here, Mike writes about the potential pitfalls of outrunning your own story.
By Mike Allen:
The hardest part of writing The Black Fire Concerto? Maintaining the pace without losing sight of the story. Read the rest of this entry »
Friday Quick Updates, Monday edition: James Dashner, Chris Hardwick, NC Comicon, and Gabriel Dunston’s Kickstarter for Purgatory PubPosted: 4 November, 2013
Monday, November 4, 2013: I’m late this month with the newsletter to be sure, and have at least one more thing to put the finishing touches on before I can click “send” — that being the annual holiday gift guide to the year in NC speculative fiction. But until then, some quick updates to get to:
- As today was the first Monday of the month, I was on Carolina Book Beat again for the monthly focus on NC speculative fiction, this time with guests Diana Bastine and Debra Killeen. If you missed it live, look for the podcast in a week or so, and in the mean time you can catch up with their previous appearance on the show, in 2011.
- Did you make it or miss it? Some recent events to round up: Lemony Snicket at Quail Ridge Books, The Festival of Legends’ Unseelie Eve, and Duke’s “Race in Space” conference to close October, then on to HonorCon and other conventions, including at least one local representative (Mark Van Name) at this year’s World Fantasy Awards in Brighton, United Kingdom, where both the World Fantasy Awards and British Fantasy Awards were announced. For the latter award, the BFA for best anthology went to Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and the Arcane, which includes the short story “Buttons” by Charlotte author Gail Z. Martin, so congratulations to Gail!
Meanwhile, the current news and events for this week:
- James Dashner, the author of the bestselling Maze Runner trilogy, visits Quail Ridge Books on Wednesday November 6th at 7 pm for his new book, The Eye of Minds.
- The Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick, also the host of AMC’s The Walking Dead talk show The Talking Dead, will have a standup comedy show at the Carolina Theatre of Durham on Friday November 8th.
- Speaking of the Carolina Theatre of Durham, they’re hosting a ComiQuest Film Festival this weekend (Nov 8-10) in conjunction with NC Comicon (Nov 9-10 at the adjoining Durham Convention Center, with a free pre-party on Friday, and a special event with Neal Adams at Ultimate Comics on Wednesday evening). See this Ultimate Comics Facebook note for the full details.
And two more events this Saturday (November 9th) in medium- and far-flung places:
- The Charleston Young Adult Book Festival, YALLFest, in Charleston, SC. With guests Lev Grossman, Leigh Bardugo, Libba Bray, Rae Carson, David Macinnis Gill, Lauren Oliver, Veronica Roth, Veronica Rossi, Victoria Schwab, and many others. More info: http://yallfest.org/
- The First Annual Peak City Book Festival will take place on November 9th, 2013 from 11 am to 5 pm at The Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex, North Carolina.
Whew! But one more thing before I let you go, and that’s this:
Bull Spec art director Gabriel Dunston has two weeks to go on his Purgatory Pub (Book 1) Kickstarter, where he’s already collected pledges of $1500 towards his goal of of $3500. The first of a five book graphic novel series on the afterlife, Purgatory Pub asks “What do the Angel and Devil on your shoulders do when they are done harassing you?” and answers “They go to a bar and talk about you.” There’s a 2-chapter PDF preview available as well, so go check it out!
Charlotte author Gail Z. Martin is no stranger to Bull Spec’s ongoing guest column series The Hardest Part, as she wrote about launching a new epic fantasy universe with Ice Forged in January after six books in her . Here, she writes about an interesting difficulty encountered when jumping between epic fantasy and urban fantasy for her forthcoming 2013 novel, Deadly Curiosities as part of her ongoing Days of the Dead blog tour. Read on past the end for more info on her tour and for info on a one-day Kindle Daily Deal tomorrow (Oct 31) on Ice Forged.
By Gail Z. Martin:
With my new novel Deadly Curiosities (Solaris Books, summer 2014), I make the jump to urban fantasy. I’ve been writing epic fantasy for seven years, and will be continuing my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga books for Orbit with Reign of Ash in April, so I’ll really have a foot in both camps. That’s like trying to ride two horses at once, which are each running at different paces.
I’ve read a lot from both epic and urban fantasy, but it was a bit of a switch shifting from third-person narrative for the epic books into first-person for the urban stories. But I would say that the hardest part has been convincing myself that it’s ok to use modern phrases in the urban book since I worked so hard to become aware of them and avoid them in the epic books.
There are so many words and phrases that we use every day that do a great job of conveying exactly what we mean. In normal conversation, we don’t worry about the origin. In writing, it matters a lot. There are a couple of etymology web sites that have become bookmarks on my computer because I am frequently checking to see when a word or phrase was first used, and how it was used. For example, people have been puking since the Middle Ages, but they didn’t barf until recently. And while they have been pissing for hundreds of years, it’s only in the last few decades that anyone has been pissed off.
It matters because the wrong word choice is an anachronism and it ruins the suspension of disbelief for the reader. The right words take the reader deeper into the atmosphere of the book. The wrong word yanks them out with a hook.
Since I’m a word junkie, I find this fun. I collect cool words like other people collect shiny rocks. So I’m overjoyed when I find a great period-authentic word that is exactly what I need. The trick is to sprinkle those less familiar, but authentic, words so that they are enjoyable little bonuses instead of annoying readers by sending them to their thesaurus on every page.
With Deadly Curiosities, it’s also fun because the book is set in modern-day Charleston, SC, so there are some wonderful concepts and phrases unique to that area that help to set the mood. And while visiting the Middle Ages to check out locations isn’t entirely possible (although it’s amazing how instructive it is to visit what’s left), scouting local spots in Charleston is easy and always a pleasure.
So there you have it–the hardest part is remembering to have characters speak in modern English. Strange, but true!
Come check out all the free excerpts, book giveaways and other goodies that are part of my Days of the Dead blog tour! Trick-or-Treat you way through more than 30 partner sites where you’ll find brand new interviews, freebies and more–details at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.
Ice Forged will be a Kindle Daily Deal with a special one-day price of just $1.99 only on October 31! Get it here: http://amzn.com/B008AS86QY
Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books. My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.
About the author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga and the upcoming Reign of Ash (Orbit Books, 2014), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn and The Dread) from Orbit Books. In 2014, Gail launches a new urban fantasy novel, Deadly Curiosities, from Solaris Books. She is also the author of two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com.
Durham author Nathan Kotecki‘s debut novel, 2012′s The Suburban Strange, was an exercise in lengthy revision, as Kotecki wrote about in a The Hardest Part piece about its writing. When I got to talk to Kotecki about his new sequel, Pull Down the Night, on Carolina Book Beat, I started to get the impression that his second book had been an almost painless process. Not quite so, as the author writes here. Welcome back, Nathan Kotecki, to The Hardest Part:
By Nathan Kotecki:
When it came time to write my second book – the sequel to last year’s The Suburban Strange – I was not at a loss. I had plenty of inspiration, a solid conceptual idea, and no shortage of motivation. I suppose I felt a bit of anxiety that my first book might have been a “fluke,” and that perhaps lightning wouldn’t strike a second time, but that concern wasn’t strong enough to slow me down.
I had a clear idea of how the series was going to develop. Rather than follow my protagonist from The Suburban Strange (Celia), the series is really about a location through which characters will continue to pass – Suburban High School. And so as much as I loved Celia, and even though she is still a major character in books two and three, I was going to shift the point of view to a new character with each subsequent installment. I met Bruno and a few other new characters to join the story in book two, titled Pull Down the Night, and got down to work.
As with the first book, I felt it was important for my secondary characters to have some sort of arc, themselves. (In The Suburban Strange, seven of Celia’s friends have minor but significant arcs of their own.) If only the main character grows and changes in a novel, it feels artificial; while we change, the world is changing around us, too. So, in conjunction with the coming-of-age crossed with supernatural journey I envisioned for Bruno, I conceived secondary plot lines for his friends, attempting to weave them together into a coherent whole.
For a while, though, the coherent whole wasn’t appearing. I had plot points sprawling out in every direction: a love triangle as well as a shot at romantic redemption, sets of misaligned agendas – both real and supernatural, the meddling of a mischievous ghost, a chaotic neutral gatekeeper, a few betrayals and their consequences, and a flock of boys who want to sleep with everyone. Oh, and a minister who is trying to deal with a crisis of faith.
Yeah, it was a bit of a mess. But as sprawling as it was, I loved all of it, and I really didn’t want to let go of anything, because deep down I believed there was a place in this book for all my ideas. I just had to figure out how to whip it into shape.
(That wasn’t an easy call, by the way. I imagined my editor saying, “We really need to think about walking away from [insert any of the subplots here].” There is that dreaded note: “Plot confusion.” When I resolved to protect all the pieces I had, it was very important that I get it right, or I risked giving my editor the impression that there was too much going on, and then having to try to overcome her request to cut back.)
Typically my writing process begins with a research and idea-generation phase, which results in a collection of clear impressions of scenes, moments, and turning points toward which I will begin to write. For Pull Down the Night, instead of creating an outline at that stage – which felt like a flat and lifeless exercise, I jumped directly into a gloriously messy first draft, replete with gaping holes, inconsistencies, and unresolved chronology issues. This paid off, because I had many great experiences of being pleasantly surprised during those early writing sessions.
I always get excited when I realize mid-scene that a character really needs to take a different direction than I envisioned, or that a missed opportunity can be reclaimed with a certain change in setting or plot – these epiphanies convince me I’m being true to the project, allowing it to develop authentically, rather than forcing my agenda. (I will admit, this approach probably also contributed to my overabundance of ideas.) Once the first draft was done – and fully aware that at that point it resembled three distinct novels more than one, I went about extracting an outline from the draft, and in so doing, began to make structural decisions to refine the manuscript.
This is what saved me with Pull Down the Night. I made a mess, then wrote an outline to tighten it up. Then I wrote the next draft (still incredibly messy and sprawling) and afterward went back to re-outline, see what had changed, and figure out how it might change further. I kept looking around in my story for the places where loops could be tightened, scenes and motives combined, and characters returned to balance.
The design process – whether it is in visual art, choreography, architecture, or, yes, writing – has always fascinated me. I have found so many instances in other people’s work and in my own when the work is strongest because the design process was customized to best facilitate the project. What I mean by that is: While this cadence of draft/outline/draft/outline/draft/outline worked very well for Pull Down the Night, it’s simply the technique that was appropriate to solve the problems I encountered with this project, and not the default approach I’ll use to write other books.
As it happens, the next project I’m working on – a young adult novel without any supernatural elements – is a bit of a roman a clef, and as such, it called for a much more structured outline before I began any writing at all. That’s not to say there haven’t been some major epiphanies following the first draft, but they have been of a very different type, and the outline has remained intact. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you the hardest part of finishing that novel before too long.