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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Shorty

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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Posted in Publishing, Story 1 - Untalented | 3 Comments

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

Harvestman

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 http://www.changterhune.com.

Harvestman is available from:

Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/chang-terhune/harvestman/paperback/product-21073191.html

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Harvestman-The-Transparent-Ones-ebook/dp/B00CKAFXZU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374178297&sr=1-1

iBooks: Buy it on iBooks!

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Prime Writing: Marko Kloos

Terms of EnlistmentMarko Kloos’s debut military SF novel, Terms of Enlistment, demonstrates how one author parlayed deadline panic into a wildly successful publishing endeavour. I couldn’t be happier to be featuring Marko on Prime Writing today, because it’s always great to see good things happen to nice people.

Marko Kloos:

I’d like to claim that Terms of Enlistment has an involved and fascinating genesis in multiple intricate ideas, all woven together in years of preparation…but the truth is that this particular novel came about because of procrastination.

I read about the Viable Paradise SF/F Writers’ Workshop some time in early 2008 and thought to myself that it might be a good idea to get serious about this writing thing and send in an application. Of course, I promptly forgot about it until about two weeks before the application deadline. The guidelines called for an 8,000-word sample of a novel in progress. I had two weeks to go, but I had no novel in progress. I had a few chapters of a fantasy novel I had noodled with over the years, but it wasn’t very good yet. I gave it to my wife to read, and she concurred, diplomatically suggesting that I may want to send in something else.

Last-minute deadline panic is one of my most effective motivators.

I sat down and tried to figure out what to write. I didn’t want to go with yet another attempt at Generic High Fantasy Novel #291 (“Now With 100% More High Elves! At Least Three Apostrophes Per Name GUARANTEED!”). The year before I had read John Scalzi’s excellent Old Man’s War, and the Viable Paradise information said he’d be an instructor that year. Old Man’s War is military SF, a genre I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I figured that if it’s fun to read, it may also be a lot of fun to write. I also wanted to have a chance to sprinkle in sensory and verisimilitude details from my own four-year stint in the German military, and MilSF seemed to lend itself to that.

“Young Man Goes To Boot Camp” is practically a genre staple. Because I wanted to write a military coming-of-age adventure, I would have to start at boot camp as well. But even if I didn’t outright want to subvert the trope, maybe there was a way to make it unique and interesting, and not your generic Super-Tough Boot Camp Experience.

What if the drill instructors don’t care whether you made it through or not? What if their pool of applicants is so high that they can afford to wash out 90% of recruits without having to lay a hand on anyone? You’d have to make military service so attractive that the young people of that society would flock to enlist. Military service is hardly ever a pleasant career, so you’d have to make it that not getting accepted into the service meant an even crummier life. You’d have to live in a real crapsack world to consider fighting interstellar wars an improvement of your life conditions.

From that, I came up with Earth in the 22nd Century: overcrowded, dirty, constantly low on resources, constantly strife-torn. And I came up with my protagonist, Andrew Grayson, a young man from the PRCs: Public Residence Clusters, the 22nd century version of public housing projects. In the PRCs, crime is sky-high, people have nothing to do except watch Network shows, and everyone gets a weekly 20,000-calorie ration of Basic Nutritional Allowance, artificially flavored soy mixed with reclaimed nutrients from human waste.

Stay in the PRC, eat chicken-flavored soy-and-shit meals, live a nasty and brutish existence, and die early. Join the military, and you get to eat real food, and if you make it through, they’ll give you a bank account and a retirement bonus that will let you get out of the PRC and into the middle class suburbs. In that kind of world, getting an induction letter and a slot in boot camp is practically a Golden Ticket.

Andrew Grayson has scored one of those Golden Tickets, and the novel starts the night before he ships out to boot camp. He thinks he has won the lottery, of course…but he soon finds out that things don’t usually go your way in the military once you’ve signed those enlistment papers. And he learns that access to real food, proper healthcare, and maybe a retirement account can come with a steep price attached. When part of your job description is to keep the unruly masses in the PRCs from spilling out into the ‘burbs, you may find that the $200 steak you had for lunch yesterday may come with the obligation to turn your weapons against your own people.


Marko Kloos was born and raised in Germany, where he worked as a soldier, bookseller, dockworker, and gas station attendant before he emigrated to the United States. He worked as a corporate IT drone for way too long before he figured out that he wasn’t cut out for the corporate life. Of all the forms of labor, making up stuff for money seemed like the least objectionable career.

Marko lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children at Castle Frostbite, a mighty compound patrolled by a roving pack of attack dachshunds. His debut novel, Terms of Enlistment, is published by 47North and available from Amazon.com. The sequel, Lines of Departure, will be released in January of 2014. You can follow him on Twitter (where he spends way too much time) at @markokloos.

Terms of Enlistment:

http://www.amazon.com/Terms-of-Enlistment-ebook/dp/B00CIXX144/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371048331&sr=8-1&keywords=terms+of+enlistment

 

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Chalk Paint Project #2 – Chairs

I had some very shabby chairs that I was hoping to take to shabby chic.

We paid rock bottom dollar for these off Craigslist a while ago because we had nothing to sit on when we bought our cottage. These were always viewed as temporary residents of the house because I was to receive some hand-me-downs from out East, but as with everything temporary they stuck around longer than expected.

So rather than cringe every time I looked at them I finally caved and gave them the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint treatment. But not before Guy took them apart and properly screwed them back together, with liberal application of wood glue (they used to be super wobbly to boot).

Of the four chairs, two were originally navy blue, and two dark green. I kept the half blue/half green theme, but softened them to Duck Egg Blue and Versailles green. The undercoat is Old White. All chairs sealed with the clear soft wax.

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