There are many ways to write

There are many ways to write. You can do so disparagingly, with only half your heart as you phone it in, putting enough of yourself into the work so that when tapped it rings of bronze and not tin. You can write honestly, seeking no artifice or glamour, not reaching for beauty or the perfect metaphor but simply for the right word, the exact phrase, conveying as clearly and simply as you can what you wish to convey. You can write seductively, in love with the very process, aroused by the language, crafting each passage with languorous care and delight, titillating the senses and beguiling the reader. You can push yourself, walk out on the ledge as you seek to extend your grasp beyond your reach, daring yourself to new artistic heights, asking yourself to prove that your high estimation of your own work is merited. You can borrow the tongues of dead men and women, emulate your heroes, speak with their voices as you honor them or steal their style. You can write loutishly, crude beginnings, a clumsy lover that is all elbows and too much effort, struggling with form and process as you seek to learn your craft. You can approach it as a craftsman, sheer the art of all mystery and unpack your toolbox as you tackle the project with a gauging eye and callused hand. You can churn it out. You can stumble and fall. You can reach, you can grasp, you can fail and will fail again.

And one day, perhaps – if you’re lucky – you’ll learn to write as yourself, inimitable and true.

A Stranger in Olondria

A Stranger in Olondria

Nic Clarke’s review of A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar over on Strange Horizons has roped me in. From the description, this book reminds me strongly of Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia. This promises to be a beautifully written novel in the vein of Lord Dunsany’s work. Here’s the first passage:

As I was a stranger in Olondria, I knew nothing of the splendour of its coasts, nor of Bain, the Harbour City, whose lights and colours spill into the ocean like a cataract of roses. I did not know the vastness of the spice markets of Bain, where the merchants are delirious with scents, I had never seen the morning mists adrift above the surface of the green Illoun, of which the poets sing; I had never seen a woman with gems in her hair, nor observed the copper glinting of the domes, nor stood upon the melancholy beaches of the south while the wind brought in the sadness from the sea.

I’m going to settle in to read it now, and will report back once I’m done.

CoffinCam podcast now available on Tumblr & iTunes

At long last, the first installment of the CoffinCam podcast is available at coffincam.tumblr.com, completely free and ready to chill your blood as it twists your mind.

Read by the inestimable Paul M. Guyet, this is a dark and horrific little novella that has been recorded on fine quality audio for you to listen to. We’ll be releasing an installment every few days, so if you want a horrific tale of perversion, bravery, and despicable secrets, head on over to give the first chapter a listen.

Edge of the precipice

The dawn has lightened and the depths of the woods behind my house are no longer opaque and mysterious. My mug of tea sits half drunk, and I’ve scanned all my preliminary websites, checking for updates, news, and other methods of diverting myself. I drafted an email and shot it off to the organizers of FaerieCon, asking if they could use my help in any way, angling slyly for a seat on a panel. We’ll see how that goes. There’s now only half an hour left before life revs up into full gear, and I’m suddenly getting dressed, brushing my teeth, eating breakfast, rushing out the door, pell mell through traffic, into my office, at the computer, emails, Skype interviews, design work, meetings, quick lunch, home, workout, cook dinner, sleep. Only half an hour of dawn calm, and my manuscript sits here, waiting for me to begin.

My cursor blinks, like a tapping finger, waiting for me to summon the nerve. To step over the precipice once more.

Modeling vampire infections

A disease modeling paper seeks to determine how a zombie infection would unfold in real life. Their methodology:

We introduce a basic model for zombie infection, determine equilibria and
their stability, and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions. We then refine the
model to introduce a latent period of zombification, whereby humans are infected, but
not infectious, before becoming undead. We then modify the model to include the
effects of possible quarantine or a cure. Finally, we examine the impact of regular,
impulsive reductions in the number of zombies and derive conditions under which
eradication can occur.

Their conclusion:

In summary, a zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilisation, unless it
is dealt with quickly. While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may
lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of
the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies
are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.

Hit hard and hit often. Sounds about right, if you’re able to do anything more than run away screaming.

Vampire Revolution

Woke up at 6 this morning. Been awhile since I’ve done that, woke up early to write. That old familiar dawn light, the flare of of the gas burner’s blue under the kettle in the dark kitchen. Booting up the computer while I wash sleep away from my face. Mug of tea in hand, I sat down at the computer and opened old files. Vampire Revolution.

Book 4.

I looked at the 30,000 or so words I had written last December. The final panicked race to finish what I had thought was the end of Book 3 but in truth had been the beginning of Book 4. How hurried it read, how it devolved slowly, page to page, into summary instead of narrative. Those 30k when fleshed out will be 50. Then I reached the point where my fever broke, the plot stopped making sense, and I stopped writing. I sat back and stared. Selah standing, furious, facing vampires with a frozen snarl. Where she was, and how she’d gotten there, simply didn’t make sense. As my old English literature prof would say: weak sauce.

So I started thinking it through. Drank my tea, wrote my way out of the foxhole by asking questions and posing answers. This is the part I love, the part that’s pure sublime literary crack for me – when your novel answers your questions for you, when the answers appear by themselves due to the novel’s internal logic and you realize that the solution was there all along. You just weren’t seeing it.

One moment it was mired knee deep in the Bog of Eternal Stench, the next I was off to the races. If this happens, then that would happen, which would lead to this, and this, and this. Suddenly, what had been weak and diluted became necessary and imperious.

With the ending in place I can get to work.

This is the first dawn that I’ve risen to in a long, long time, but tomorrow I’ll rise to another, and then again. This is it – I’m finally going to finish The Human Revolt in grand style.

On Vampire Revolution & Writer’s Block

I’ve got the first 30,000 words of Book 4 already written, but those need to be fleshed out, and by the time I’m done with them they should actually cover the first 2/3rds of the novel. I originally set out to write a trilogy, and began to panic as ‘The End’ of Book 3 receded before me like some desert oasis mirage. The more I wrote, the more the plot unfolded, and it was only when I was about 35,000 words over the mark that I decided (with a friend’s timely advice) to cut Book 3 into two, and make it a tetralogy.

So. The first third/two thirds is done, and all I need to do now is start from the beginning, work my way through each chapter, and finish the sucker up. For somebody who’s written entire novels before in a month (Books 1 & 2 in The Human Revolt being a case in point), you would think this would be easy. That I would have Book 4 wrapped up by the end of September, edited by the end of October, and published come November 1st.

There’s a problem though.

I’m facing a bad case of writer’s block. Facing? Wallowing. Drowning, even. I’ve got no motivation. No desire. I don’t even sit at the keyboard and stare at a blank screen before getting up in disgust – more like I don’t even sit down to begin with.

At first it was just plain burn out. I’d written over 300,000 words in about three or so months at the end of 2012, and also created my Kickstarter video and project and launched it successfully. Following that massive creative phase, I was just gutted going into 2013. Scraped thin like the rind of a papaya once all the flesh is gone. That then morphed into a melancholic disappointment after I launched Book 1. Because nothing much happened. A handful of people read it, and then it stopped selling. In fact, by that point all my books had stopped selling. I was doing worse going into my third year than at any point outside my first couple of months as a self-published author. But I told myself things would change when I published Book 2, which I did around May–and again, after a few initial sales, everything petered out.

Still, I forged on. Edited Book 3, planned a big promotion for the launch, and sent it out into the world. And lo! The promotion worked! For a week the copies were flying off the shelves. And then, when the promotion ended, so did the sales. Today, about a month later, sales have stopped again.

It feels like shoving a car with no wheels through the snow. If you put your shoulder to it, you can force it forward a couple of yards, but as soon as you stop shoving, so does the car.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some truly wonderful responses from readers. People have written some heartfelt and touching emails and Facebook posts, which have felt like flashes of light in an otherwise silent and dark cave. But these are isolated, and few and far between.

Which leaves me in a strange place. My original burnout has deepened under the weight of my frustration. After a year of intense, backbreaking work, I’ve received some wonderful reviews, and that’s it. Of course I know I should finish Book 4. And publish it. And hope for the best. But at this point, I’ve got little faith that the pattern won’t repeat itself. I’ve got 8 books out there, and none of them are selling. How much difference will a 9th make?

So that’s where I’m at. Writer’s block, frustration, burnout, and disillusionment. Something’s missing. Is it the writing itself? The reviews have been mostly positive. Is it the covers? Sophie’s art is stunning, but maybe it’s not appealing to readers? Is it the back copy, or my lack of constant promotion, or…?

I don’t know. After three years of publishing, I’m at an all-time low. I know I’ve got to keep on trucking. I know I’ve got to keep on publishing, and some day soon, maybe the good luck fairy will kick me a break. But right now? It’s tough.

Great zombie essay

I’ve been giving zombies a lot of thought. I know, on the surface there might not be that much to contemplate, but there are interesting subtleties at play once you go beyond the fact that on the surface they’re just the walking dead with a taste for living human flesh. While digging deeper, I came across this pretty fantastic essay. I’d encourage you to read it in its entirety, though be warned: there are some WWZ movie spoilers.

http://urbanhonking.com/isawthat/2013/06/21/an-essay-on-zombies-and-then-at-the-end-theres-some-rude-jokes-about-world-war-z/

Vampire Redemption has been published!

 

VAMPIRE REDEMPTION has been published!

The vampire war has begun anew. Cured of Sawiskera’s curse but bereft of his god-like powers, Selah finds herself alone, vulnerable as never before, and burdened by the sins she committed while seeking salvation.

Yet the war offers her no respite. Blood Thralls sweep across the land, and the US military has her on their most wanted list. Plessy stirs in Miami, and everywhere the world descends into madness and despair.

And through it all, a vampire stalks her, his might undeniable, his hunger insatiable. Theo’s vow to consume her heart haunts Selah’s every waking moment, and she cannot deny the righteousness of his vengeance…

Visit the Amazon page here: http://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Redemption-Human-Revolt-ebook/dp/B00EACYF0U

My current card

The Hanged Man represents the willingness to forsake the temptations of instant gratification for a higher cause, and because of this willing sacrifice he accomplishes the goals he has in his heart.