1 Comment

Novel Lessons 4: Stalking the Beast

After delivering a draft of The Bones of the Old Ones and while waiting upon editorial comments I wrote my second Pathfinder novel, Stalking the Beast. And while it proved much simpler in composition than writing Bones, it presented its own issues.

By the time I sat down to write it I was beginning to understand that every novel has its own challenges. Stalking the Beast was a sequel novel to The Plague of Shadows, which was in some ways a search for identity by its protagonist, Elyana. By the end, Elyana was comfortable with herself and her past. I wasn’t entirely sure how to create a new struggle for someone who had found a way to get her sh*t together, so I decided to focus my efforts on her loyal half-orc friend, Drelm. Except that he was such a simple character I knew he couldn’t carry the narrative on his own.

Inspiration hit when I developed the third viewpoint character, Lisette, a gunslinger hired to kill Drelm. Her chapters were the easiest to write in the entire book, despite me knowing her the least. It was the oddest thing. Previous experience had shown me that knowing a character well was a great way into their head, but I learned that being INTERESTED in the character was real fuel as well. Lisette’s complicated life and motivations were so much more fun to write that they were vastly more simple to explore, so much so that I barely had to revise any of the chapters from her point of view at all. Read More




Writer Chat: Chris Willrich

During those long years when I was trying, and mostly failing, to get short stories published, there were a lot of writers publishing at the same time whose work I liked, but there was only one who I wanted to sound like. That writer was Chris Willrich. I’ve gone on to find my own voice for my fiction, one I’m pretty happy with, but I still admire the work of Chris Willrich an awful lot.

It was my pleasure to pick his brain a little recently, and today I’m sharing the resulting conversation.

First, why don’t you give us a little background about yourself and your work. 

I’m from Washington State originally, though now I live with my family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though I flirted a bit with science in college, I’ve been pretty much a book person — I was an English major who eventually ended up as a children’s librarian. There there were some interesting odd jobs in between, like working at a newspaper and as a harbor cruise deckhand. I’m writing full time now, for stay-at-home-parent values of “full time.”

I tried writing a little bit of realistic fiction in college but it’s been all fantasy and science fiction since then. I’ve had more success with fantasy, though I love science fiction equally. Those genres are like catnip for a compulsive daydreamer. I think I have an easier time finding a confident voice in fantasy; I haven’t quite figured it out for science fiction.

Because Gardner Dozois recently passed away, I’d like to say I’ll always be grateful to him for buying my first published story, and maybe even more for giving me encouragement and suggestions in some of the rejections I got from him. I think there are lots of people in the field who got their starts because of him, and who benefited from his advice. Read More




Gravity Falls

I’m locked away in the highest tower of my domain, working feverishly on a new draft, but I wanted to share with you that the complete Gravity Falls is now available for pre-order.

Gravity Falls is a wondrous, goofy, and extremely well-written show, stuffed full of creepy humor, thrills, lots of heart and good old fashioned heroics. Each episode is strong and most stand on their own, but they build into a wonderful interconnected, multi-layered story. It’s far more than it seems on first glance.

For years Disney refused to release it in its entirety, as they have done with many other TV properties, marketing only a few episodes here and there. But the fans were loud and the fans demanded and it seems that maybe Disney listened.

In any case, I just placed an order, in part for me, but also because my wife takes endless enjoyment in the show. There are always new minor details to notice in the background, because it was really well thought out from the start…

You can find it here.




Remembering Heroes and Sacrifices

In honor of D-Day this year I picked up a copy of the John C. McManus account of the 1st Division’s assault on the eastern section of Omaha Beach, The Dead and Those About to Die.

It’s an intense and gripping book, filled with detailed accounts of the harrowing obstacles and events, and tragedy and heroism. Just a great read, and full of examples of true leadership.

I had no idea that the men were so overloaded with equipment that it slowed them down. Time and again survivors reported that they had been weighed down with too much equipment, and felt that they wouldn’t have lost as many men if they could have moved faster. So many things went wrong — the aerial bombardment against German positions wasn’t very effective, the water was so choppy the special amphibious tanks sank, most of the boats were swept off course and into the worst possible places…

And yet somehow the men got off the beaches and took out the fortifications. In case you couldn’t already tell, this book has two thumbs up from yours truly. Highly recommended.



1 Comment

Updated Hard Writing Lesson: Word Count

I’ve run out of time to write a lengthy essay this morning about my fourth book, so I’ll resume that series of essays next week. Today I thought I’d draft a brief note about another writing matter that’s been a challenge to me for years: word count.

Like a lot of writers, once I got a steady writing gig I began to fret about my daily word count. It was always smaller than I wanted it to be. Some days I could get 4 or even 5 thousand words and occasionally much higher, but more often it was 3k or a little less. I last wrote about this in 2016, when I had realized that the overall weekly or even monthly word count was much more important than the daily word count.

That was an important realization, because it helped me stop getting frustrated every day when my words weren’t coming as fast as I thought they were supposed to arrive. I went so far as to read a number of books on writing faster to see if I could glean the secrets. I gleaned some, but I knew at that point that few writing tips are absolute. What works for one writer may not work for another — you have to be willing to try of course, but there are many different ways up the mountain.

Read More



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Yesterday I got to see some thumbnail sketches of covers for my upcoming novel, and I have to tell you, that was pretty cool. This book is starting…

Book on the Way

Monday, July 31, 2017

My posts may be a little spare in the coming weeks as I put pedal to the metal and start revision of the first novel of my new trilogy…

Novel Writing and Pulp

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hocking sent me a link to a site the other day that might be of interest to a lot of my regular visitors — although as I live…

Pacing and Drafting

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Following up on my post about the strengths of hardboiled fiction I come to the strengths of some of these old historicals. I’m about halfway through Gardner Fox’s…

Pulp and Sundry

Monday, May 8, 2017

I do like to write quickly and to be able to report vast thousands of words written, but as I think I mentioned, for me at least that…