Category: tarnhelm

Writing Update (and a Pigs in Space/Star Wars Mashup)

It’s been a while since I updated ya’ll on my writing. No time like the present, right? At this point, I basically have three major efforts that I’m working on actively.

  • Vodnik–The book’s been officially accepted by my editor, and it’s gone on to the copy edit stage. It’s also being read by some culture specialists to ensure my handling of Roma culture is done properly. I expect to take another pass at the book toward the end of this month. That will mainly be focused on fixing the details. Misspelled words, consistency of description (did a character’s eye color change?)–as well as fixing any cultural issues that might be brought up. I know the book is currently being designed (meaning what the interior and exterior of the book will look like–fonts, any maps, cover, layout, etc.). I’ve seen a rough draft of the cover, and it should be pretty darn cool. I can’t wait to share it with everybody. Vodnik is still on course for publication in spring 2012. That’s in about a half year!
  • Tarnhelm–The first draft is done. My writing group is finishing reading it, which should be done by the end of this month, give or take a week. At that point, there’s a laundry list of Things I Want to Change in the book. Having written it in between Vodnik edits, I feel like the tone is too uneven in spots. There are some plot points that I forgot I’d written, which obviously is a problem. I’m very much a drafter–I like to barrel through the first draft and get everything on paper, then go back afterward and start tweaking. So I’ll give Tarnhelm a read through in a few weeks and figure out how to change what needs changing. At this point, however, I haven’t yet identified any drastic changes that need to be ironed out. (Then again, my writing group hasn’t gotten to the climax yet . . .) I’ll revise the book, then look for beta readers to read it all at once–a very different sort of feedback than I get from writing group, where it’s spread out chapter by chapter over months.
  • Weaver of Dreams–In the meantime, I’ve returned to this, the third book I ever wrote. I’m rereading the manuscript, red pen in hand, mainly to evaluate if I think the book is worth a hard revision. It’s been a while since I picked it up–probably about eight years or so at least. I’ve already found some areas that need a lot of work. (For example, the book has two main viewpoint characters. In my desire to make their voices sound different, I decided that one of them would never use contractions. Not one of my smartest artistic choices over the years. That can and will be fixed.) So far, I’ve been really happy to see that the book is holding up fairly well. Then again, I’m only 30 pages in to a 200+ page book. There are some foundational problems I’ve come across (the set up of the big picture plot, for example), but nothing that looks too bleak. We’ll see what the other 170 pages hold in store . . . I’m shooting to have this read through done by the end of the month, so that I can transition from it over to the Vodnik copy edit, and from that over to the Tarnhelm revision, and from that over to the (hoped for) Weaver of Dreams revision, at which point I’ll hop back to Tarnhelm to do the third draft.
Clear as mud? That should take me through the end of this year. I’ve got some ideas for new books that I want to write, as well. They’re percolating in the back of my mind, hopefully improving with age.
So there you have it–probably more information about my upcoming books than you ever really wanted to know. For those of you who have hung around this long, allow me to reward you with the promised Pigs in Space/Star Wars Mashup (because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen C-3PO tap dance):

Writing Update: Vodnik and Tarnhelm

Maltese FalconEnough people have asked me here and there about what exactly I’m working on these days that I thought an update was called for on the blog. So. What am I working on?

Well, I’m not working on Vodnik right now. My editor has the manuscript and will be getting further edits back to me soon. Until then, I’m doing my best to forget everything about the book that I can. Not because I’m sick of it, but because I want to approach it with as fresh eyes as possible. Going over the same material time and time again makes it hard to be able to tell when something is working and when it isn’t. It starts to feel like a memorized speech, as opposed to something you’re saying with feeling and meaning. Does that make sense? So I’m trying to get what little distance I can get from it.

I’ve finished my author Q & A, I wrote a Slovak pronunciation guide, a note from the author about events in the book, a “Further Reading” piece, an acknowledgements page and dedication–all the little bits that need to go here and there in the book. I also had the chance to discuss some of my ideas of what the cover could look like (that was exciting–and something not all authors get to give input on. A lot of times you’re completely at the mercy of your publisher’s art department. Not that I have any control over the cover, but at least I was asked what I’d like. That felt nice.)

Anyway, once that was all done, it was time to turn back to Tarnhelm. For those of you who don’t know what that project is, allow me to inform you. (I’m not sure if I’ve tried to ever describe it succinctly before, so this should be an interesting experience.) Let me start with the most basic level: it’s YA Noir. What do I mean by that? I mean it’s a stylized YA hardboiled detective novel, along the lines of The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. Except instead of a hardboiled detective, you’ve got a hardboiled ace reporter–who’s about 16 years old. Think Veronica Mars from TV, or Brick from film. That’s the sort of feel I’m going for.

But if you’ve read any of my books, you know that I sometimes have a penchant for weirding things up some. So what makes this one different from other YA Noirs (because there’s so many)?

  • This one has fantasy elements woven into it. Not heavy fantasy–more along the lines of Indiana Jones fantasy. Yes, there’s this object that can melt faces, but for the most part, the movie’s about action and adventure, not magical objects that melt faces.
  • This one has one heck of a screwed up main character. Vee Hertz has mental issues. He’s trying to work through some serious inner turmoil, and the way he’s been handling it is by patterning his life after Film Noir movies. It’s told from his point of view, and everything that happens to him is seen through a Film Noir lens. He’s the sort of kid right now who flips a coin as a tip to a McDonald’s employee. The kind of guy who tries to bribe librarians with folded up twenties. Make sense?
  • And to make matters more complicated, Vee starts to think that he’s caught in the middle of the plot of the Maltese Falcon. Everyone after a certain object they’re willing to kill for, and he’s the one trying to stay alive and make a profit in the middle of it all. He starts to base some of his decisions and actions on what Sam Spade does in the book/movie. Tarnhelm isn’t really an adaptation of Maltese Falcon. It’s more like a serious parody of the book. It transplants some plot elements from the hardboiled world of Dashiell Hammett to the high school world of today’s teenager. I don’t like the word “parody,” because these days that almost always is interpreted as a Weird Al spoof. This isn’t a spoof.
See why it’s easier just to call it YA Noir with light fantasy elements?
In any case, I’m 41,000 words into that project now, and it’s going swimmingly. I’ve got it plotted out completely now, and the writing’s chugging along with no problems. I’ve been workshopping it in writing group, and it’s had some of the best responses I’ve ever gotten for a first draft. It feels great to be working on something new.
Once I’m done with it and with the Vodnik rewrite, I plan to turn my attention back to one of my earlier books for another earnest revision. I’m leaning toward Weaver of Dreams, but we’ll see how I’m feeling. And there you have it–the current state of writing for yours truly.

What am I Doing this Patriot’s Day?

Let It Begin Here!: Lexington & Concord: First Battles of the American RevolutionIt’s Patriot’s Day today in Maine, which means I don’t have to go to work. Why do we celebrate this holiday? To commemorate the battles of Lexington and Concord. So first off, thanks to the British, for making this holiday possible. I suppose to celebrate, I really ought to be joining the Tea Party or something, but I think I’ll pass this year.

Instead, I’m going on a hike. To a waterfall somewhere. And maybe have a cookout.

I’d get a bunch of stuff done around the house, but I had the bright idea of starting a stone wall on Saturday. Denisa and I got a fair bit of it done, and then my back reminded me that it’s really not into lifting heavy rocks for long periods of time. Mustn’t make the back angry. So no big chores today.

I need to get some writing done, but I have no idea what I’ll write. I suppose I’ll work some on Tarnhelm, since the Q&A is done, the next edit for Vodnik isn’t here yet, and I have no idea what else I’d write about.

This was a fascinating blog post, I know. Basically, just a long way of saying “Have fun working today, suckers. I’ve got the day off.”


Family Newsletter, Snow Day, and Mailing the Contract

the farley family reunionCare to sample this year’s Christmas newsletter that we made? It’s kind of a beast to make print copies, so we didn’t send one to a whole lot of people. Also, the print version has a special “Buttersby Saves Christmas” short story that I don’t really fancy having kicking around the internet, so it’s been removed from this copy. But other than that, it’s all there in its original glory.


Now if you don’t mind me, they’ve called a half day at work due to the snow, so I’m going to pack up, go home and celebrate the fact that I’m sending back my contract to Vodnik on the way home. Signed it on the auspicious 1/11/11 date, so at least it’ll always be easy to remember when I signed my first contract. 🙂 Editorial letter should arrive here soon, at which point I’ll go back into revision mode. For now, I’m almost 20,000 words into Tarnhelm, which is what I decided to write while I was waiting. I’m about 10,000 words farther than I thought I’d get. Actually thoroughly enjoying it. The protagonist is hugely different than any I’ve written before, and it’s been fun to have a change up. Often I choose to write about main characters that are fairly clueless. This one (Harvey) actually knows what he’s doing, more or less. Nice.

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