The War-Weary Saga – Book 2

So I have been working on book two of my story.  The title is The Broken Pack.  It’s a good title.  I like good titles.  I like a title that makes me want to understand why a particular name ended up tied to a story.  Through the Looking-Glass (by Lewis Carroll) is a good example; just an excellent title.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane (by Neil Gaiman) is another great title.  Both are books I love.

At this point, I’m about done with all of the “core” work for book 2.  I need to go back over it and pare it down from it’s current 68,000-word count to a more reasonable novella-short novel length of ~52,000 words.  Much of what will be cut will end up in the trash can, but some will slide into book 3.  At this point, I would say that I’m about 75% finished with book 2.  Here’s hoping that I learned a little something writing the first book so that the final 25% doesn’t take an additional two years of revising and editing to knock out.

Coffee. Oh how I love thee.

I have had very few addictions in my life.  I have been addicted to cigarettes and I have been addicted to coffee.  Yes, I know that they are nicotine and caffeine (respectively), but these are the forms in which most people are familiar.  I smoked for years.  But I did manage to quit, cold-turkey about 9 years ago.  I am quite proud of that accomplishment.  But coffee….that’s a different addiction.  I’m a bit of a snob about coffee, but when I really want it, I’m not picky.

I’m not a real big soda drinker, so my principle manner for caffeine consumption is coffee – and to a lesser extent: tea.  I drink coffee nearly every day.  I like to drink tea when I’m writing.  You wouldn’t believe the copious amounts of tea I consumed while writing Grenheim’s Thorn.  Seeing that mug on my desk was one of my signals to the missus that I was writing.  The other signal being a well-worn straw hat.  Don’t laugh, my office used to face a window and the sun would get in my eyes.

I have been drinking coffee for years. I love the stuff. Give me a medium roast, early in the morning, and I’m ready to work. Hell, I’m sipping coffee as I write this. Where would I be without coffee? Where would anyone be without it?  I can tell you that if I wasn’t able to drink coffee that I get a big….testy.  Some might say that I become a tad, annoyed.  I’m certain that there are some people who would say that I, sans-coffee, can be outright unpleasant.

So now here, I sit, coffee adjacent, wondering if I should post up a short story?  Does anyone have an opinion on the matter?

On audiobooks

I am an avid consumer of audiobooks.  I have read the entire Dresden Files (by Jim Butcher) end-to-end at least three times, all though the masterful narration of James Marsters.  I have loved listening to many stories.  I listened to Andy Weir’s The Martian (excellently narrated by R. C. Bray), Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One as well as Armada, both narrated by the incomparable Wil Wheaton.

A good narrator paired with a good story can be amazing.  That’s not to say that an excellent narrator can turn a bad story around; both parts must be good.  But an excellent narrator working from a great story can be a thing of wonder.  Such a pairing happened with Bronson Pinchot narrating The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia.  This pairing was a thing of beauty.  I am old enough to remember watching Perfect Strangers.  So seeing that Balki Bartokomous was going to be reading the story made me worry.  Turns out, Mr. Pinchot is flipping amazing.  I say that without hesitation, his reading of that trilogy was brilliant.  So here was a phenomenal pairing of a great reader with a great story.  It was fun.

I have considered the option of doing an audiobook of my novel.  I have a pretty good speaking voice.  A pleasant, resonant baritone (or so I’ve been told). It can’t be that hard to do, right?  Oh, how wrong I was.  It wasn’t the reading that was the problem; it was a problem of time and equipment.  To do a professional-ish audiobook version would require renting time at a sound studio and paying an engineer to handle the board.  I don’t have that type of money (or time).

“So why can’t I do this at home?” I asked myself.  “I’m smart, I have access to Amazon, surely this is something that I could do over a few weekends at home.” This brings us to the present.  To purchase a decent microphone and a small (2 track) mixing board isn’t the issue.  I can get both of those for much less than you might imagine.  It’s setting up a calm, quiet space in which I can sit, for hours on end, and record my voice.  And then comes the hard part.  I know this story.  I didn’t just write it; I know it.  I know all the hidden things, all the backstory – all of it.  So how do I make sure not to record any subtext about [REDACTED]? Or, how [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] aren’t really [REDACTED].

I imagine that if there is a call for it, then I may try and see if I can get an audiobook version of the story.  At this point, though, I am just happy to have gotten a single review.

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Where to begin?

So as some of you may recall, I recently picked up one of Scott Lynch’s books.  Sadly, it was book 3 (I swear I didn’t know!) of an established series: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence.  Upon my realizing my mistake, I returned to my audiobook purveyor of choice (Audible) and grabbed the first book: The Lies of Locke Lamora.  I finished the book yesterday, and now I am ready to write my review.  I will try to avoid spoilers on the story, but I will say that some spoiler-ish things are going to be said.  Such as Locke Lamora survives the book, this should be obvious as there are three books currently published in this series, and Locke Lamora is the main character.  So, if I spoil something of the story here, I apologize. 

Grade: A-  Trust me, it’s very difficult for a book to earn a perfect score, but this book was (by my measure) really flipping great.

I will give you the distilled version of this review upfront: Buy this book.  Read this book.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I believe you will as well.

Now the longer version:

The story revolves around a thief named Locke Lamora.  What a great name.  As an old-school fan of comics, alliterative names are just fun.  Locke is an amazing con man with a very colorful past.  A good deal of Locke’s early life is told through a series of interludes. It is during these interludes that we learn of how he became a thief and how he met the thieves with whom he works: The Gentlemen Bastards.  Again, another great name.  I will not spoil any of his backstory here, but I will offer that if Mr. Lynch decided to write a series of stories about Locke and the rest when they were young thieves, I’d buy it.

Fundamentally, the story is about a massive con game.  Not trying to give anything away, and I will explain no more of it in detail. The story manages to maintain a splendid pace, and the action sequences have been written extremely well.  So well as to make me wonder what if any, martial arts Mr. Lynch has studied.  There are many colorful characters and brilliant twists.  I would love to tell you about a twist near the end of the story that had me in stitches, but that would spoil the fun.

The narrator, Michael Page was brilliant.  So if you are a fan of audiobooks (I most assuredly am), I recommend it.  If you are a fan of words on a page (including e-readers), this book is still a fun read.

Am I an idiot for writing a review of a book that is now eight years old?  Perhaps.  But, I did promise to write a review of the book to make amends to Mr. Lynch for missing the first two books.  Will I continue to read the series: that’s a definitive: YES.  I found the story and characters to be very interesting.  I think that Mr. Lynch’s world-building skill is amazing, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

On Short-form writing

I love short-form writing.  I like reading short stories and such. Writing in the short-form (short stories, novellas, and novelettes) is challenging and very fun.  I typically write a short story when I have writer’s block.  Instead of beating my head on the desk wondering how to make my imaginary friends play with me, I just create a new idea and write that instead.  Some of these short stories are terrible.  I mean awful, unfit for human consumption.  Vogon poetry bad (+10 points for those of you who get this joke). Others are rambling, stream-of-consciousness nonsense (which can be fun to write).  A few of them have been decent.  For the decent (or better) ones, I then get to try to find the best venue in which to ply my wares.  I could whine and bemoan how literary journals are no longer interested in speculative fiction short stories by unknown authors, but I wont.  But while I love to write short stories, I find that when it comes to short novels I’m a bit of a snob.

Many modern fantasy authors seem to have a preference for writing extreme long-form works.  And don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with writing 350,000 or more words in a single tome.  I frankly think that Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss are two of the finest authors alive, but man do they love to write wordy books.

So why is it when I see the word count on my novels that I feel so disappointed?  Nearly 60,000 words is nothing at which to sneeze.  Somewhere along the way I think that I got my brain into the idea that Fantasy and Science Fiction books are supposed to be epic both story-wise as well as word count-wise.  Now neither of these are true.  Plenty of great stories have been shorter than 60,000 words and many have been longer. But, then I’m not trying to do what other authors are.  Well, at the bedrock I am attempting to do the same thing they are: convince readers that my stories are worth their time. I’m just trying to do it in a different manner.

I wonder what the world’s view regarding such things.  Is there a “minimum” at which a story is not long enough to publish outside of a blog?  I certainly don’t think so, but yet my prejudice for these word counts persists.  Very odd.

So now I have to come to terms with a) the fact that I love reading a truly epic book (such as Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings). And b) how to reconcile the publication of my significantly shorter works.  Perhaps I will begin posting some of my short stories on my blog.

Sigh.  Back to trying to convince my imaginary friends to play with me.

–CL

Republic of Theives by Scott Lynch

I am an avid consumer of audiobooks.  They fit well into my normal work, and they are often the only real “reading” I get to do during the normal workweek. I am currently reading/listening to Republic of Theives by Scott Lynch.

Someone, somewhere (reddit perhaps?) told me I should read this book.  So I picked it up a couple months ago.  The reader (Michael Page) is out-flipping-standing.   The story is engrossing and very well done.  Here’s the only issue.  And trust me, it’s not the fault of Mr. Lynch or Mr. Page; the fault lay solely in my hands.  I had never heard of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence. So I just grabbed Republic of Theives.  Herein is where I made my mistake.  For those of you who may not know, or are considerably smarter than I am: Republic of Theives is the third in the series. I will emphatically state that I feel more than a little foolish.  I started the book and was just thinking, “there appears to be a great deal of back-story between these two.  Why is the one guy poisoned/dying?”

My new audible.com credits arrive tomorrow, and I will grabbing the first book: The Lies of Locke Lamora.  Once I have read the first book of the series, I will certainly write a review of it here.  But consider this my endorsement of the series: even starting at book three of an established series, what I read was compelling enough that I wanted to go back and purchase the first book.

— CL

The night I pressed “Go”

So from what I understand of these things I am supposed to sit down and talk about my “process” and “where the idea came from”.  I feel like those are worthwhile ideas on which to speak, but I will save them for a later date.  For this – my first – blog post, I will speak briefly about pressing “go”.

I have enjoyed writing and telling stories for years.  There is just something awesome about the creativity I can bring to bear on such ideas.  I need a character who drags his left leg as he walks down the street.  Why does he drag his left leg?  Is it completely dead?  Does he have a cane?  I love figuring out all of those fundamental parts.  It’s just enjoyable to me.

In November of 2011, I sat down and wrote the first draft of a Grenheim’s Thorn.  It was part of the absolute chaos and fun that is National Novel Writing Month.  50,000 words in 30 days.  It’s pretty mental.  But in 2011 (my second attempt at NNWM), I was successful.  I won.  I finished my first draft on the 29th of November.  It was more than a little shocking to me.  I had my lovely wife give it a read, and she pointed out some critical (a topic for another blog entry) issues.  But she also pointed out that there was a decent story. So I continued polishing.  I approached a few friends and they gave my book a decent review.  Yes, there was work to be done, but it was certainly decent.

I will save you from having to read the full story of how my book came to be.  Needless to day, it took way longer than I thought it would and there was a great deal more work than I could’ve ever imagined.

The night I pressed “go”, to publish my story on Amazon was somewhat surreal.  I had to decide if I wanted to deal with potentially noone reading my book, or even liking the story.  At the end of the day, what’s the point of sitting on the sidelines? Go big or go home.  Risk the strike-out for the chance at a homerun.

So there it was, my book was available to the masses.  Good, bad or other, my book is there.  I hope that people read it.  I hope they like it.  I hope that people adore my storytelling and world-building.  And if they don’t I hope that they find something to like about my story.

— CL