Archives: Writing

Getting By

I hope all of my visitors are well. Here we’re doing alright. I know many of my writer friends are finding themselves with MORE time to write, but if anything my own time is a little more fragmented.

Still, work is progressing on the third book. I’m deep into Act II, which is usually my least favorite part of any book to write. An informal poll among writer friends over the years has revealed a lot of us feel the same way. In the middle is when your doubts like to gang up, when you’re not sure you’ve got your pacing right, when you’re not sure the characters are acting quite right, etc. But of course pacing trouble and wobbly characters are going to turn up in the first draft. As my buddy E.E. Knight likes to say, give yourself permission to let the first draft suck. You’ve just got to get the story down and do the finesse work in the next drafts.

I don’t have as many doubts as I used to, and I’m not feeling mopey about the work, in part because I’ve done this enough times that I know the routine and in part because out there in the real world a whole lot of people have far more serious things to worry about… As I’ve written there have been some surprises and some changes despite my outline, and I sense another change in what I originally planned may be coming down the pike once I start Act III. After that, the third and final act feels like it’s going to stay about the way I planned. I’m hoping I’ll have a fully working draft by the end of next month.


In the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time talking about outlining stories because I’ve been trying to find a way to write without getting lost down paths that yield moments that don’t work. I’ve gotten better and better at getting it right earlier on, in part due to outlines, but admittedly in part just due to practice.

The sequel to the upcoming novel, For the Killing of Kings, was much easier to write than its predecessor. One reason is that by the time I started work on book 2 I had a good handle on the world and the characters. I believe it’s always going to be a challenge starting a new work when you’re writing of an invented place because you need to get familiar with the world and the characters moving through it. 

But another reason it went well is because of the outline permutation I developed. I don’t know if it would have helped me in the past, but I know it helped me in the composition of the second book, and it’s helping me outline book 3.


This morning the leaves outside the kitchen window are gorgeous. I seem to appreciate autumn more and more as I age. Or maybe Im learning to better appreciate the things around me. Click to enlarge, and you’ll see the colors really pop.

I was traveling all of last week, and the way my phone has been glitching it just made Internet access a challenge. So I’m a little late getting this Black Gate link to you. My friend Myke Cole was interviewed by yours truly about his new book, the second in his new series. We also make casual reference to a really nifty sounding military history book he wrote. You should check out his work, and the interview.

Speeding Along

As I make final choices for the contents of the third issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull I took a couple of weeks off novel writing and have been working furiously on some short stories. Between books is about the only time I have anymore to draft short fiction. I’d thought I might get three or four, but one of them proved a really tough not to crack, and took me down multiple dead ends and many false starts. But yesterday I finally finished a draft of the third (chronologically) Hanuvar story. I’m nearly done revising a fourth, although there’s a rough of a fifth on my computer as well. Those last two don’t fall into the same chronological sequence.

I’d hoped to finish a new Dabir and Asim story that’s about two thirds complete, but it may have to wait for another break. It’s time to get to work outlining the third novel of my new trilogy, and it’s just about time to start gearing up for the big promotional push on book 1. Ugh. Promotions.

Today, though, I take a rare day off. Seems like every day lately, even weekends, I’ve had lots of work. Not that I mind the work. I just haven’t been able to game. In just a few minutes my friend Dean Brown, all around great guy and talented game designer (B-17 Leader is his) is coming by for a visit. Seems like I’ve known him for years now, but we’ve never met in person. We’re going to take a day and just wargame. Should be a grand time!

For the Killing of Kings Preorder

I’d like to thank Jennifer Donovan at St. Martin’s for clearing up the issue at Amazon with the pre-order button on my upcoming novel, For the Killing of Kings, and Mick and Troy and others for keeping me informed about that button’s disappearance. You can find both the book and its pre-order button here.

By a curious coincidence, this week I am reading final page proofs of the very same book. Next to me is a huge stack of paper, and a pen, and a little notebook. The stack of paper is the near final version of the text. The pen isn’t red, but maybe it should be. And the little notebook is to make notes of items I probably should have been tracking all along. The color of a character’s horse, for instance, or the character’s age — sorts of things I’ll really need to know going forward.

A few years ago I went so far as to purchase a program named Scrivener that is really supposed to help you track these kinds of details, but I was already working on the book in Word and didn’t switch. Probably I should have used Scrivener when I started work on book 2… but I’m pretty used to Word at this point. Maybe I’ll use it for book 3…

Speaking of book 2, I’ve tentatively titled it Upon the Flight of the Queen, and I’ve just sent it off to my agent. It will be heading out to my editor early next week.

I actually have some really neat things to blog about, and some more interviews from authors I’ve conducted. I’m just so busy with writing and editing that I may not update the site here as often as I like. I’ll still try to post updates a few times a week. I won’t leave it to the tumbleweeds…

GenCon 2018

I’m back from GenCon with some amazing memories, some fine stories, and some gaming treasure, and I’ll probably be talking about some of it in the coming days. For now, let me just say that it was certainly the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had at a convention.

Maybe you’ve met someone you’ve really admired, or reconnected with an old friend, or made a new one, or grown closer with a friendly acquaintance through shared experience. Maybe you’ve heard an inspiring lecture, or gotten some great career advice, or seen some amazing products you’d like to own, or played a great game session, or made important business contacts. If you’ve experienced any of these things, it might be the highlight of the day, or week, or month, or year. At a convention, those things can all happen over the course of a few days. What would normally be the best moment of an entire month or maybe even year can happen the next hour after another similarly memorable event.

That’s what happened to me this year.

Novel Lessons 4.5: Between the Novels, Part 2

One of the reasons I wrote last week of learning from other genres is because of one of the problems plaguing me in the as-yet uncompleted The Maiden’s Eye. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, some background.

The unfinished third novel of Dabir and Asim had several problems leading to its abandonment, although the most important of those was the cancellation of the series. By the second or third month after the release of The Bones of the Old Ones, it was clear that no amount of good press was getting the book to move. It just wasn’t selling. My editor told me if I wanted to go ahead and finish the third book, that he’d publish it, but the writing seemed to be on the wall, and we both agreed to step away.

I set to work deciding what I’d work on next, coming up with several ideas I’d back burnered, outlining them in some detail before I allowed myself to mourn the end of the series I loved so well. I’ve since vowed that I will at least one day finish the third novel, but I have to admit that it was a little easier to walk away because it had some issues:

Beta Readers

The other day I was asked what the best way to find beta readers was. In short form, you have to network with other writers.

I found my first beta readers when I joined critique groups almost a quarter century ago. Some of those experiences were, at best, useless, so you should never be afraid to walk away from a crit group that exists, for instance, solely to teach ONE way to write, to knock down other writers, or, more benignly, is full of people who only get one genre, and it’s not the one you’re writing.

Novel Lessons 4.5: Between the Novels Part 1

After I took my last post about novel writing live I realized that I’d left a few things out.

I’ve written before on the importance of reading outside the genre. I’d been doing so, narrowly, for years, because I had never been a solely “sword-and-sorcery” or even “fantasy” reader. After all, I started with science fiction, and pretty soon I was readily interested in reading historical fiction, at least of the swashbuckling sort. But these genres, or at least the flavors I usually prefer, are closely related.