So, This Is Happening

I’ve been sitting on this for a while because there were lots of little details to wrap up, but the wait is over.

Here’s my squee-filled cover for Untalented, created by the lovely and extremely patient Heather McDougal ( and

Fun facts about this cover:

For the front cover, we found a model who’s closer to how I picture Saroya in my head than I’d thought possible. I couldn’t find the old computer-generated sketches of her that I got from an online character generator a long time ago, but the resemblance is eerie.

The canal scene on the back cover is from one of my own pictures of Venice. Heather tied it fantastically well into the world of the story, and it wound up representing an actual scene in the book.

I have too much squee. The book itself will be coming out some time this summer. Stay tuned!

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So after producing a little over 67,000 words in just over 2.5 months, I sense I’ve hit—not a block; let’s not call it a block, let’s really not—a mild speed bump.

I don’t want to call it a block because I believe it’s just my brain resting for a bit. The word count above is my best since NaNoWriMo 2012, and while that was an interesting exercise, it wasn’t much fun. Whereas what I’ve been writing since January IS fun, and I fully expect it to continue in that vein.

The problem with NaNoWriMo is that I became a slave to the word count, and the story suffered as a result. Right now, I’ve reached a story point that needs a little simmering. I haven’t found quite the right spice blend yet. Whereas before, I might have felt angst at not producing, at the moment I’m perfectly fine with letting my mind noodle away on the problem in the background while I attend to other things, because I know that giving the story that space will ultimately make it better.

The other important difference is that I also know not to let myself wallow for too long in simmer mode. If I don’t come out of it naturally in a few days, I’ll just kickstart the process again, even if that means a few 100- to 250-word days.

I think what I’m enjoying most about Project Shorty is finally coming to terms with some of my limitations and weaknesses. Viewed from the right angle, and harnessed properly, some of them can even be turned into strengths.

Every writer is different, and for every writer, every project is different. Know thyself, fight or surrender at the appropriate moments, and the words will flow.

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Where’s Kat?

There’s been an obvious dearth of posting around here, and I figure I should address why.

Back in November, I had a change in my work situation. It’s left me with considerably less free time on my hands, which means I had to choose between certain activities in order to make sure I still get to do the big things, like write.

People who follow me on Twitter and Google+ will note that I’m much less engaged there right now. I still post the occasional item as a sort of “I’m not dead yet!” heartbeat, but really only have bandwidth for one social network at a time. I went with Facebook as it’s where more of my personal connections hang out at the moment. I’m hoping to get re-engaged socially some time soon.

I also chose to neglect the blog. I need to write, and that writing needs to be fiction. My latest projects are going extremely well, and I hope to have news on some fronts by early summer. But as a result of putting in the necessary hours there, I’ve had to let the blog fall by the wayside. Prime Writing is still open, but some months I may not have the bandwidth to deal with it, so I apologize ahead of time if I can’t accommodate your request. It’s still worth sending me a request just in case.

At any rate, not dead yet! Just very busy on other fronts.

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I’ve known for a while that I write short (for a novelist). I’ve done five major story first drafts now, and they’ve all topped out between 30,000 and 35,000.

I’d come to the conclusion that I write short, but I’d never embraced it. I squeezed two novels out of the first two ideas. The next two still haven’t been polished, for various reasons, but one of them was my partial reluctance to face the daunting task of adding more material (the other is, they’re still simmering; that happens too).

But now, I’m going to embrace it. I write short. My new experiment consists of a set of episodic content spanning a longer story arc. The rise of indie ebook publishing, and the success of other episodic content by names more well-known than me lead me to believe there’s a market for this type of thing. We shall see.

Episode 1 is drafted. I suspect I’ll write one or two more before polishing the first, and embarking on a release cycle. Should be fun!

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Outline Panic

I’ve just been through that stage of writing I dub “outline panic”. Outline panic comes after I devote some time to a new concept, enthusiastically write out several scenes, and then come to a screeching halt when I realize “there is NO PLOT here. None. What was I thinking?”

So today I started outlining for reals. I find I work best from some combination of letting the words flow, and having a clear roadmap for where I’m going. I still don’t have an outline, but am getting closer to identifying what the various parties’ goals and objectives are. Which goes a long way towards settling the panic.

What this looks like from the outside is me staring blankly at the computer screen, or holding my head in what looks like despair, jotting down a note here and there every thirty minutes or so. It’s strange how it feels simultaneously unproductive and productive.

Have you experienced outline panic?

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The Strange Dichotomy of Canadian English

Over the last couple of months I’ve been copy editing one of my novels, and have run into the strange dichotomy that is Canadian English.

I’ve been using the Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd Edition. My writing software, Scrivener, comes from England so I assume its spell-checker uses British English. The main market for my book is likely the U.S., however. I’m currently editing for consistency trying to use more Canadian forms of words, then will do another pass to convert over to a purely U.S. version.

During the whole process, I’ve noticed a distinct tendency in my writing that I must guess is uniquely Canadian. I use the “u” version of words like “flavour” and “neighbour”, which Scrivener doesn’t complain about. Yet I’m also very consistent in using single “l” versions for the conjugation of words that end in “l”. Ie, “traveled” vs “travelled”, “marveled” vs “marvelled”, which the dictionary tells me is very U.S.-centric.

This has made me wonder if I should invest in putting out two editions of the book, one for the U.S. only, and one that’s more Commonwealth oriented.

So, fellow Canadian writers, is it just me with split-personality spelling, or do you do it too?

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May, June, July 2013

Breakdown, By Katherine Amt Hanna

Less action hero-y and more introspective look at how people might really act in a post-apocalyptic world.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven, by Tad Williams

Noir with angels.

The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear

The Red Wolf Conspiracy, by Robert V. S. Redick

I picked this one up on the freebie table at World Fantasy Convention and now I think I’ll be picking up the rest of the series at my bookstore. Sailing oriented high fantasy series.

Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos

Mil-SF with bite. Well-paced read. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

Finder, by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Original fantasy exploring racial and slavery issues.

By The Mountain Bound, by Elizabeth Bear

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Prime Writing – Chang Terhune


Chang Terhune has one of the more different takes on writing a novel, in particular, tackling the story out of order. This one’s for all those people out there whose moms told them they were getting too old to play with action figures.

Chang: It’s all because I played with action figures until I was 16.  Right up until I discovered that girls were not particularly sexually motivated by this.

The toys went away into the attic but I never lost the storytelling I learned in play; long, involved stories, fantastic space operas involving a combination of Micronauts, Fisher-Price Adventure People, GI Joe and Star Wars figures.  Stories were woven from Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien and a steady diet of TV.

I pursued the affections of the ladies with varying degrees of success (finally caught one that didn’t mind the action figures 20 years later).  But I never stopped loving science fiction nor what the toys inspired in me:  story.  Over a period of two decades — the Lost Years is what I call the period when I either wrote bad angsty white guy fiction or stopped writing all together — I never stopped thinking about those action figures.

In the early 2000’s, via Ebay, I was reunited with the toys of old and displayed them on shelves in my office.  I’d gaze at them while I was working and daydream.  At some point I felt a story bubbling up from them.  This led to me beginning my first novel in almost ten years.

I continued to pursue an idea: a robot, alone on a spacecraft in the depths of space.

Why was it there?

What was its purpose?

Where was it going?

Eventually the story shifted to a crashed ship the robot served on and then the story of the crash’s effect on the crew.  I thought I might tell the story through staged photos of my favorite Fisher Price Adventure People, which have a certain generic appearance that lent themselves well to one’s imagination at age 8 or 38.

I thought the best point of view was the captain’s, in a log format.  This was the first version of what would eventually become Harvestman.  It had a lot of problems and like any first effort born of mad science and untuned genius, it wobbled, smelled bad, was rotten, walked funny and generally survived only in the mind of its creator.

I knew my baby had problems.  But it was my first book in almost ten years!

So I worked Harvestman over for a year or two until I thought it was ready then I let my friend Mary read it.  Later she sat me down at a cafe and told me…  It didn’t work.  An epistolary novel is rather hard to pull off especially as a first novel.

And if it didn’t work for someone like Mary, a lifelong reader of SF, then who else would it work for?  We were the target audience!  I was disappointed but took her words to heart.

And didn’t touch the book for two weeks.

I remember spending a lot of time fuming in fact.  Then one rainy day I went into my basement office and sat down at the keyboard.  I rewrote the first chapter in just about one sitting, looked at it then swore loudly.  Mary was right:  it worked better as a prose novel.  Damn.  So I set about writing the novel over again and it eventually became a much, much better story.

Other things happened to it along the way.

For one thing in the earlier versions the captain was always a little too earnest, a little too lantern jawed hero.  That had to go.  The more I thought the more I realized that he needed some problems.  He had nothing to fight for, nothing to lose.  I’m not sure how I came to seeing him as alcoholic but it may have been from my own battles with addictions.  I worked hard to transform him from a lame Kirk pastiche or Capt. Zapp Brannigan from Futurama.  Well, it worked.  Over time he turned into Leonardo Valencia; alcoholic, adulterer and former decorated hero.  Also black.  Because otherwise he’d be too much like me.  Ahem.

Then there were the Martians.  In creating a group so isolated and weird I had to look no further than at the freak show that is North Korea (Kim Jong Il and his father were both huge science fiction fans, incidentally).  Those who read Harvestman and its sequel will get a glimpse into the high weirdness of the Red Planet and just why they got so crazy and insular.

Then there is the matter of the largest but invisible characters of the book and that is the Transparent Ones (for whom the series is named). Two things contributed majorly to their development. One is a line from Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “2001” from the movie of the same name, obviously. He says famously little about the beings that built the monument only that at some point they lost their flesh and blood bodies, then became biomechanical then simply beings of pure thought or energy. That stuck with me for ages.

The other thing was an email conversation I had with Richard K. Morgan.  I loved his depiction of the Martians in his Takeshi Kovacs novels and begged him to write more about them or at least give me more details. “Better to keep them mysterious and vague,” he wrote back.

Screw that, I said to myself. He’d kick my ass if I said that to him.

But I thought a lot about that over the years especially as the Transparent Ones became more of a figure(s) in the novel. While they don’t really show up until The Astrogatrix (Harvestman’s sequel) I decided to ignore what two masters did and explore this great unknown race that made my world (no one will see any of them until the first book comes out which will also be the last released. That will be called “A Garden Galactic” and you can expect that some time in 2014 or so).

A fun little tidbit? All the Transparent Ones technology is derived from the paintings of Yves Tanguy. It is his painting, “The Transparent Ones,” where I got their name.  So keep an eye out for them later.

But I’m rather happy with the book as it stands.  It’s rare that one gets to spend so much time reworking one’s novels, especially in reverse order.  I’ve written three out of the four books in the series, totally out of order.  When I’m finally done I hope they present a solid universe that people will enjoy reading about as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

Now who needs a beer?  I sure do.

Chang Terhune is the co-owner of Portland Power Yoga in Portland, Maine, with his wife Alice Riccardi.  In addition to teaching yoga, he is an avid gamer playing on both Xbox and PS3 (not simultaneously), a writer of science fiction and other stories, and a musician.  A writer since he was twelve years old, “Harvestman” is his first published novel. Chang is currently at work on several books, including Astrogatrix, the sequel to Harvestman as well as a book about yoga entitled The Accidental Yogi.  He lives in Portland, Maine with his wife, wonderful daughter, dog Sparky and George Foreman-Terhune, a cat.  Find Chang on the web at

Harvestman is available from:



iBooks: Buy it on iBooks!

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