Posts Tagged With: writing

Zack Jackson 4 Delays – A Eulogy of Sorts

So, I had hoped to have Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus all wrapped up by the Fourth of July, but unfortunately, last weekend brought with it tragedy with threw the rest of our week into disarray.

Saturday, my cat slept all day. Literally; we couldn’t get her to wake up for more than a few minutes at a time. When she did wake up, she seemed to have trouble walking. Our day was fairly normal; we didn’t realize until the evening that she had not, in fact, done ANYTHING all day besides sleep (she was 17 years old, so she slept a lot).

We took her to the Vet ER (not my first choice, since the vets at that particular location don’t really know how to handle my cat. They did their poke and prodding thing, gave her some IM fluids (couldn’t get an IV in because she was a bit dehydrated) and an appetite stimulant. We weren’t able to get that in her, but we were able to give her the other medicine she’d been on since we moved; an anti-anxiety drug that also served as a pain killer.

Things seemed OK after that. Sunday, she was still lethargic, though not as much as she was Saturday. Her left hind leg seemed to be bothering her and we knew she had a bit of arthritis in that knee. I had made an appointment at her regular veterinary office earlier in the day, so we took her and had her examined by a vet who knew how to handle my cat. They took some blood and we weren’t able to get any more answers. We made a follow-up appointment for the next day when her regular vet would be in. During dinner, we heard some noises upstairs. I knew she’d gone up there to lay under a small table I have in the hallway, so I dashed up to see her thrashing around like she was stuck, though there was nothing for her to get tangled in. I brought her downstairs.

Her gait was extremely slow, her tailed held low and she stuck to the perimeters of the rooms. As the evening progressed, it seemed increasingly likely that she could not see. She’d walk into walls if her whiskers or ears didn’t touch them first. She did eat and drink and use the litter box, but only after we directed her toward them.

I’d often joked that Callie would end up one of those gnarly 25-30 year old cats before she died. At her last appointment in January, she received a clean bill of health; everything looked great for a nearly 17 year-old cat.

On Monday, the vet confirmed that our suspicion was very likely; she’d had at least one stroke over the weekend. He said that her could refer us to a nearby neurological specialist, but with a 17 year-old cat…

It was a conclusion my wife and I had already discussed. The cat we took to the vet lacked the spunk, vigor, and fight that our Callie was known for. She was blind, in pain, and suffering. We made the difficult decision to euthanize her. I held her when she started to stumble after they gave her the sedative and helped her lie down, where she fell asleep with her head on my arm. Looking back, I can say that, when they euthanized her, she went out as she lived, sleeping on my arm.

RIP my little girl, Callie.
2001 – June 25, 2018

Kitten Callie (technically before I knew her, but not long before)

 

Kitty Boops

 

Callie looking on while I write one of the Scars of the Sundering novels

 

Wassup, you?

 

A pretty girl

 

Her favorite place to sleep

 

Sleeping in our new home

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Back in the Saddle

So, it’s been quiet around here lately and you may be wondering “Where is Zack Jackson 4?”

Well, I’ve been moving. Not far; I still live in the same city. It was a downsizing move. However, now that is essentially finished (still need to finish unpacking) and I can resume work on the final edit of Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus.

I hope to have all the work completed by the end of the month and have the book in your hands by the Fourth of July.

ZJ Book 4 Cover low res

Once Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus is wrapped up, I plan to finish my next fantasy novel (I’m already 50,000+ words into it), then start work on Zack Jackson 5.

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Themes in My Writing

I want to expand a bit on my twitter thread from today (the one about my books, not one about whatever else I talked about).

The Foundation of Drak-Anor DuologyWhen I wrote The Foundation of Drak-Anor, I had a story to tell. A story about misfits and “monsters” finding acceptance in a world that just wanted them to die. They themselves “knew” they were monsters and acted accordingly; they thought nothing of lashing out and attacking dwarves for their supplies. It’s not like anyone was going to trade with them anyway, right?

Of course, being constantly under siege by people who scream how you’re evil and unholy and must be cleansed tends to affect one negatively. With patience, understanding, and a willingness to talk, one can move past that and find common ground.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00036]In Scars of the Sundering, they’ve found acceptance (if not tolerance), and now have to learn to live with the responsibility that comes with being part of a civilized society. They also learn that they can affect the world in ways they once thought impossible to them. Plus, they learn that there are always people who wish they’d just go away and will try to erase their history and legacy.

These are themes that developed organically. Although, I did try to show that no matter how different someone may appear to be from another, we all are more alike than different. We all want to live and love, eat, drink and enjoy time with friends. Ultimately, I just wanted to tell a fun story with interesting characters.

Hopefully, I did that.

Zack Jackson page banner flatI approached the Zack Jackson series differently. From the beginning, I knew I wanted a sci-fi version of Harry Potter (though without a Dark Lord, Prophecy, Faux-Latin Magic, and Kitchen-Sink Fantasy). I wanted to tell a story about a kid, going away to school where there’s all these weird and wonderful things and constantly getting over his head, saved only by his association with his friends.

Plus, I wanted to showcase real science where I could. I made a few concessions to fun, took a few liberties with physics so I could have faster-than-light (FTL) travel, and aliens that weren’t so alien we couldn’t relate to them. I wanted to give loving homages to the sci-fi I loved, like Star Trek, Mass Effect, and Star Frontiers, and sci-fact like NASA’s space exploration program and the work of astronomers the world over, as well as introduce subjects like transhumanism. I also wanted to showcase diversity in all of its forms, which I actually had to dial back in the third book after someone observed that I was trying a bit too hard.

Hitchhiker-Symbol-iconZack Jackson needed to be set far enough in the future that we could realistically have answers to certain questions because space is huge. More huge than pop culture sci-fi usually shows. As Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Now that I near the completion of the fourth book in the series (and anticipating writing at least 2-3 more), I’m beginning to see parallels in the series to current events and issues. These are things I didn’t consciously put into the book, but they must’ve been on my mind at the time. The kids grow a little older in each book, a little more experienced and (hopefully) wise, so the challenges they face are more difficult and more mature in their nature. Like the Harry Potter series, I wanted the characters to grow with the readers.

Again, ultimately, I wanted to tell a fun story with the Zack Jackson series. I’m really excited to release book 4, Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus, in just a few months. I’m equally excited to show you where the story goes from there.

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2017 – The Year Ahead

KaleDelilahFinal-CharReedAs a new year begins, it’s time to take stock of what projects I have on the table and where they all stand.

“Burble’s Big Day”
A short story I wrote for an collaborative Author’s Avenue anthology (the quality of which I was extremely displeased with), this will also come out soon as a short, middle-grade short story book with art by Brian Patterson (of d20Monkey fame). I’m going to edit it once more for good measure, but aside from the art, it is essentially finished. It will be available at Gen Con, if not sooner, in a deluxe full-color edition. I like to have something special to offer at Gen Con, and this is it for this year. This will be great for those of you with younger children interested in fantasy.

Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation
Editing and revisions are underway. I hope to have it finished and published by Memorial Day weekend.

Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus
The first draft collects dust, awaiting it’s day in the light of editing. Basically, this is going to sit until Salvation is done. Still, I hope to have it finished and published for Gen Con.

Scars of the Sundering, book 1: Malediction – Audio version
This is still in production. I’m just waiting on the narrator (Dan the Bard) to finish. Fun fact: this is the only audio-production of a fantasy novel I know of that will be narrated by an actual bard.

Of course, none of these projects are a new novel for me to write in 2017. I’m developing a couple of different story ideas right now. One is a young-adult novel/series for the World of Calliome set ten-plus years after Scars of the Sundering. Another is a sort of cyberpunk/urban fantasy set several thousand years in Calliome’s future. I’m not sure where my muse will ultimately take me, I’m also interested in writing some supplements or adventures for a role-playing game (which depends on my mood, potential collaborators, and various licensing factors). Of course, I intend to write the fifth Zack Jackson novel in 2017, Zack Jackson & The Ruins of Athos.

Here’s hoping your 2017 will be as productive and fulfilling and I’m going to try to make mine!

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NaNoWriMo 2016

National Novel Writing Month is upon us! For the first time since I started participating in 2007, I am not writing anything of substance this month.

The reason for this is simple: I already have two manuscripts in the process of revisions and editing, and I do not need to add to the backlog. I just finished up the fourth Zack Jackson novel and the final novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy is in editing now. I really need a break. Plus, there are a lot of other Real Life™ issues coming up this month.

There’s always Camp NaNo in April or July (and I likely will participate in one of those). By then, I’ll probably be ready to start on the next Zack Jackson novel (that’d be book 5, for those of you keeping track).

But, this is about NaNoWriMo, not about my plans.

The important thing about NaNoWriMo, to stay on track is to write 1,667 words per day. The holidays can make that REALLY difficult, so I try to do a little more, especially at the beginning, and build up a bit of a buffer.

The advice about turning off your internal editor is doubly applicable during NaNoWriMo–don’t worry about making sure everything is perfect as you go, that’s what editing & revisions are for. Once you “give yourself permission to suck” it’s much easier to make progress.

I used to get all stressed about FINISHING the story before Nov. 30th, even if I was way past 50,000 words. The thing is, if you try to force a story into a certain word length, it can feel rushed or forced (or too drawn out), so just to satisfy the Rules Lawyer within, I’ll make sure I write some sort of closing, even if I never bridge it with the rest of the novel in November.

Pancras by Lily YangIf you have an outline and your story starts to deviate from it, that’s OK, too. When I wrote Wings of Twilight during NaNoWriMo 2010 (we’re entering mild spoiler territory here), I had all these plans for a particular character only to find out, OOPS HE DIED 1/2-WAY THROUGH THE BOOK. Thus was Pancras born, who became the breakout character and is one of the most popular characters in the story based on feedback I’ve gotten from nearly half-a-dozen people.

So, crack a beverage, get to writing and good luck!

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ConQuesT 47

Are you going to ConQuesT 47 in Kansas City, MO over Memorial Day weekend (May 27 – 29)? I will be there all three days selling & signing my novels and short stories. But that’s not all! I will also be on three panels on Saturday.

Success vs Accomplishment SAT 11 AM
A philosophical, and hopefully informational, discussion about what it
means to make it as a writer or an artist. What are your goals? How do you
measure yourself? What do you need to do next? How do you get there?

Dealing with Writer’s Block and Other Hurdles SAT 2 PM
With every book I write, I find there are more than a few periods of
internal conflict where the story is trying to break free but doesn’t
quite make it to my keyboard. Writer’s block is something many struggle
with. Join me as we discuss what works for me, for other writers, and for
you!

Independent Publishing 101 SAT 4 PM
A nuts-and-bolts primer in how to run a business as a 21st-century
creative entrepreneur — there’s more to independent publishing than just
“self-publishing”!

You won’t get these topics at the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium! At least, not from me. You also won’t hear what I have to say about these subjects here, at least, not before ConQuesT.

… mostly because I’m not sure what I’m going to say yet. I’ll try to make it profound and useful. I hope to see you there!

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2016: The Year Ahead

So what can you look forward to in 2016?

Most of my time, at least, in the first half of the year, will be devoted to revising and publishing Scars of the Sundering, books 2 and 3: Lament and Salvation. My goal is to have Lament finish for a debut at ConQuesT in Kansas City over Memorial Day and Salvation finished to debut at Gen Con in August.

Finishing and turning in “Burble’s Big Day” will take part of my time in the first quarter, as well.

I plan to write a second World of Calliome short story in 2016, though I don’t know which characters it will feature at this point.

The big project for 2016, as if publishing two full-length novels wasn’t big enough, will be to write the first draft of the next Zack Jackson novel, Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus. I’ve been developing bits of plot over the last several months and I expect sometime after Lament‘s completion, I’ll kick development into high gear.

2015 threw me a lot of curve balls which affected many of my plans. Malediction was supposed to debut at ConQuesT and I barely finished it in time for Gen Con. I wanted to have all three Scars of the Sundering novels finished by Gen Con so I could start Zack Jackson 4 in 2015.

Obviously that didn’t happen. Here’s hoping 2016 is a little more cooperative, ’cause I don’t have time for nonsense!

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NaNoWriMo – Week 5 (sort of)

The fifth Sunday! Tomorrow is the last day of NaNoWriMo! If you’ve been hitting your goals, you’ll cruise past 50,000 words tomorrow and you’re darn close today. Heck, if you push yourself, you could be finished today.

If you’ve been writing like a fiend, then you’re probably thinking “Thank goodness!” Maybe you’ve hit your goal for the month already and you’re thinking “I’m finished! This is my day of rest and tomorrow, too!”

Sure, you deserve it. If you plan on doing nothing with your manuscript because NaNoWriMo is just a fun bit of mental exercise, then go have an adult beverage of your choice, if it’s legal, and celebrate.

If you’re planning on trying to sell that manuscript, your work has just begun. For one, a 50,000 word novel is a HARD sell in most genres if you plan on looking for an agent. If you’re going the route of the Author/Publisher, 50,000 is a good length for a quick, light read. Regardless, you’re going to need to edit, revise, and proofread the heck out of it before you even think about charging money for it.

mungusMungus* says: “Don’t even think about charging money for people to read a NaNoWriMo First Draft.”

See, Mungus feels the integrity of an artist’s work is important. When you foist an unedited manuscript (and when I say edited, I mean someone other that you has gone over it with a fine-tooth comb; every writer auto-corrects in their head when they read their own work) upon an unsuspecting public, you do yourself and all independent authors a disservice. People will judge all of us on the actions of the worst of us.

So don’t do it. It will make Mungus angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

Anyway, that’s not very peppery. That’s serious. Be of good cheer; the end of NaNoWriMo is upon us and soon it will be Christmas (if you celebrate something else, I wish you cheer and good time during your preferred holiday!)! If you’re finished, take December off, believe me, that manuscript will still be there in January.

If you’re going to power through into December and keep writing because 50,000 words in November just isn’t long enough, well, good for you. I’ve done it many times myself. Don’t forget to stop and sip the eggnog every once in a while, though. You’ve done a great job getting through 50,000 words in a month.

Congratulations!

*Mungus is a character in my Zack Jackson novels. He’s an Ersidian and doesn’t like to be compared to a teddy bear, no matter how apt that comparison might be at times.

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NaNoWriMo Week 4!

This is it: the beginning of NaNoWriMo week 4. I know I’m a day late; I was busy writing!
Only 8 days left! If you’re going by strict word count, you should have reached 36,674 words yesterday. But you know, if you are behind, you can still make it. If you’ve only written 5,000 words as of yesterday, you can make it up by writing 5,000 words a day for the rest of the month (including today). Granted, that’s pretty time-consuming, but it’s possible.

The important thing to remember about NaNoWriMo is that it’s a way to help develop the discipline to write every day. Write 2,000 words! Write 200! It doesn’t matter, just get something down. Sure, there are people who use November to crank out a complete story as quickly as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve written something every day and keep doing that even past November, then you’re doing it right.

And if you fail to write 50,000 words in November? So what? The second year I tried NaNoWriMo, I barely got 22,000 words before life got in the way and wrecked my momentum. I keep promising myself I’ll get back to that story someday…

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REVIEW – Twitter for Writers: The Author’s Guide to Tweeting Success (Writer’s Craft Book 8) by Rayne Hall

Twitter for WritersI consider myself a fairly proficient Twitter user. I have two accounts (though I limit myself to @hccummings these days) and well over 35,000 tweets under my belt. So, not everything in this book was news to me, but there was still a fair amount of things Rayne Hall covers that I was unaware of.

If you’re an Author/Publisher or an Author just looking to drum up interest in your novels and you’re thinking about using Twitter, you need this book. It explains what Twitter is, how it works, how to use it, and common pitfalls of using Twitter. Sharing her own mistakes, Rayne Hall distills the pros and cons of Twitter into an easy-to-read guide. And believe me, if you’ve ever followed writers on Twitter, many of them make the very mistakes she covers in this book. Don’t be one of those writers. No one wants a feed full of advertisements.

Using Twitter as a marketing tool is difficult and time-consuming. This book will help you make the most of your limited time and help keep you from being a nuisance on Twitter (it’s really easy to do, and most of us are guilty of at least one of the mistakes Rayne Hall talks about).

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