Write-a-Thon Check-in

Almost halfway through Week One of the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, I have gotten off to a great start with 3893 words, mostly from a great session of writing on Saturday (technically before the Write-a-Thon, but I’m counting it since I wrote on Saturday that weekend and not Sunday.

 

Here’s my participant page (where you can sponsor me — hint, hint) http://www.clarionwest.org/writeathon/michaelrunderwood

 

The Write-a-Thon is taking sponsorships/donations through the end of the workshop, so you have a bit over five weeks to sponsor me. I initially pledged 10,000 words in these six weeks, but I hope that my strong performance so far will let me annihilate that goal and keep going. Word count will likely slow down when travel gets more intense for my day job and when Geekomancy comes out, but I need to keep making words so that there can be another geek-tastic adventure with Ree next year.

 

Check in soon for a big announcement about Geekomancy‘s release! Excitement! Adventure!

Clarion West Write-a-Thon 2012

For those of you who don’t know, I attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2007, and it was a huge boost to my writing career. Clarion West allows writers to focus on craft and critiquing for six weeks. Most writers are urged to write a story each of the six weeks as well as critiquing 3-5 short stories by their classmates each day during the week. It’s often described as Boot Camp for writers, and while I haven’t done a military boot camp, my Clarion West experience was certainly a crucible. I’m still applying and re-interpreting lessons learned at the workshop, and Clarion West also gave me a community of peers, most of whom I’m still in touch with and some of whom I see once or twice a year at conventions, keeping up and basking in one another’s successes.

Digression for plugs — Success like Cassie Alexander’s NIGHTSHIFTED, first a three book (and counting!) series about a nurse that works in the paranormal ward of her local hospital; David Constantine’s PILLARS OF HERCULES, a Roman Steampunk action-adventure novel that includes Steam Engines, a Possibly-Divine Alexander, and the secrets of Atlantis; Melinda Thielbar’s MANGA MATH series of manga  about kids in a dojo that have to use math and martial arts to solve mysteries; and others!

I wrote my first salable novel after Clarion West (though it hasn’t sold yet), and I’ve tried to keep some connection to the workshop by participating in the Write-a-Thon most of the summers since.

For more info about the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, head here: http://www.clarionwest.org/writeathon

I’ve pledged to write 10,000 words and am hoping to raise $150 this year. My participant page is here, in case you feel like sponsoring me. 🙂

http://www.clarionwest.org/writeathon/michaelrunderwood

Blurb 2: The Geekening

I’m honored to have three blurbs from fellow authors and advance readers of GEEKOMANCY , which we’ll get to use for the initial release of the book (including one on the book’s cover, perchance).

Underwood’s Geek Fu is strong–and he’s not afraid to use it. GEEKOMANCY is fun, fresh and full of geek culture references that will have you LOLing to the very last page. This book is one hundred percent pure awesomesauce and totally FTW.

— Mari Mancusi, award winning author of The Blood Coven Vampire series

Modern, sleek, and whip-smart, GEEKOMANCY is a wonderful blend of geek and pop culture — you’ll find yourself grinning knowingly at least every other page. And Ree is the perfect protagonist to navigate Geekomancy’s world — geek enough to hold her own, yet human enough for me to be deeply invested in her struggles. I can’t wait to read the next one!”

— Cassie Alexander, author of NIGHTSHIFTED

If Buffy hooked up with Doctor Who while on board the Serenity, this book would be their lovechild. In other words, GEEKOMANCY is full of epic win.

— Marie Lu, author of the Legend trilogy

 

Now back to doing my authorial happy dance. We’re less than one month out from GEEKOMANCY’s release, and I am reaching the stage of excited where it requires deliberate effort to calm down at times. I’m also hard at work on the sequel, so that there can be another adventure with Ree Reyes to share with readers next year.

First Blurb for Geekomancy

Today, I got the first blurb for Geekomancy! And it’s a doozy, if I do say so myself.

“If Buffy hooked up with Doctor Who while on board the Serenity, this book would be their lovechild. In other words, GEEKOMANCY is full of epic win.”
– Marie Lu, author of the Legend trilogy
This is me doing my happy author dance. Those who have seen the ‘There Will Be Flail’ video will have a good idea of what said dance looks like.
We’ll be able to use this quote on the cover, at the various websites, etc. Cover blurbs are a great way to give a snapshot of what is worth getting excited about in a novel, and they help draw in the audiences for established/popular authors to build buzz. We’ve got a few other leads out for blurbs, and I hope the novel connects with some of the other folks reading as well.

Diving ahead

Geekomancy has gone off to my editor, and any day now the next round (line edits) will arrive.  In the meantime, I’ve been plotting and planning and thinkerating about the sequel.  I’ve never written a sequel before, so I have a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.

Since Geekomnancy was originally a distraction from my ‘real’ project, the stress level when I started writing was very low.  I was just taking a fun break to try out an idea. Now I have a deadline, established continuity, series ambitions, and so on.

What I usually do (as in, what I’ve done for the last four novel starts) is to think and outline and ponder characters and plot, throwing it all into a mental pile.  When that mental pile of ideas and characters got too high, it would tumble into a wave of writing, and I’d ride that wave to get the first draft started.

The pile is building, and I’m trying to push myself to make the second book even more fun, more exciting than the first one, to build on what I’ve done while also finding something new to show readers, while keeping myself from stressing out too much (ala “oh crap Sophomore slump and I have way less time to write this book and what if the first one was a total fluke!”).

All in all, this time around, I’m feeling less like preparation is building up a mountain of ideas and more that it’s strapping on gear to prepare for my first skydive.

The light is green, I’m standing in the open door of the plane, the wind rushing in, lapping at my fingers.

Nothing left to do but let go and dive.  Also, I should probably avoid that turbine.

2012 Debut Author Challenge and Sequel Musings

I’ve been invited to participate as a featured author in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge at The Qwillery.

I followed the DAC a bit last year, and have had author friends featured last year and more folks featured this year.  I’m excited to participate in this conversation, sharing thoughts about Geekomancy, writing, and whatever else comes up.  My presence there is currently slight, since I don’t have a cover or locked-in pubdate for the book.  But as that info comes in and I get approval to unleash it on the world, you’ll find it there as well as in all of my other social media presences.

This week, in addition to flailing in excitement over the deal, I’ve been thinking about possibilities for the second book in the Geekomancy series.  Adam and I will be talking this coming week, and I’m very excited to chat about future possibilities for the series — I’ve never written a sequel before, so it’s going to be a great challenge to take the same core concept and fun characters which caught so much attention with Geekomancy and take it up to the next level, with new characters, new stories, and new geeky jokes and references.

Return to Geekomancy

Following on the enthusiasm and energization of World Fantasy, I am plunging back into work on Geekomancy, my super-nerdy Urban Fantasy.  The crap fairies replaced my solid first draft material with crap, but they’ll do that.  I’m growing more comfortable with my process, modifying my expectations so that the first draft is only expected to be the draft where I throw lots of energy and ideas at the page, getting the metaphorical clay onto the wheel so that I can later spin it into something awesome.

I’m currently at 62K, since I was waylaid by a terrible allergy attack yesterday and got nothing done.  I know there’s a big chunk I need to put in to introduce a character, but first, there’s a big throwdown which will involve blasters, ‘quilted mail’ made out of old convention shirts, and tall shelf-stacks full of other geeky memorabilia.

Thanks to one of the singles from “Ceremonials,” the new Florence + The Machine album, I have the theme for the ending of the novel, now I just need to get there.  I’m guessing that I’ll need another 20-30K of draft to get to the end, including going back and writing in an important character earlier.

 

World Fantasy 2011

I got back from World Fantasy late last night.

This was the fourth WFC that I’ve been to, and the third in a row, following San Jose and Colombus.  This year the con was in San Diego, which was pretty good for temperature, but it was dry as hell (maybe not hell, but dryer than the midwest).

This World Fantasy was a big one for me: I performed my first two fiction readings at a convention, with a personal reading and participating in a group reading.  I also pitched Shield & Crocus to a couple of editors and spent good time talking and brainstorming with client publishers Night Shade Books, Prime Books, and ChiZine Publications.

Reading:

My reading was in the first programming slot on Thursday (3pm) which turned out to be great, since many of my friends/colleagues from the Codex Writers Group were in attendance, as well as some personal friends (Scat Hardcore in the house!).  I rehearsed last weekend and got feedback from my brilliant girlfriend Meg, and was prepared to bring the awesome.  I read most of the first chapter of Shield & Crocus, since I’d just finished the big revision, had it fresh in my brain, and wanted to push the novel to help with things like pitching to agents/editors and such.

Thanks to practice, and my years of training as a performer (gamer, dancer, singer, sales rep), it went marvelously.  I had sound effects and robot voices.  I realized just after banging the wall behind me that maybe the people on the other side of the wall might be disturbed, but no one complained and it had a great effect on my audience.  I’m very happy with that as the first of many public readings in my career.  The group reading went well also, though I had barely 5 minutes due to a scheduling mishap.  There I read from “Last Tango in Gamma Sector,” and didn’t have enough time to get to the emotional breakup scene, but the audience seemed to be amused by the awesomeness of tango-piloted starships.

Social:

Each year, socialization gets easier for me at WFC, since my circles of friends and acquaintances grow after every convention.  Most delightful was seeing my friends from Bloomington, the Scat Hardcore crew who have scattered to the four winds, off to the Bay Area, Delaware, and the Big Apple.  The five of us had dinner on Saturday, and it was lovely.  Second best was continuing to hang with the Codex Writers posse, meeting new people and re-connecting with others.

Professional:

I wear two hats at World Fantasy:  Writer and Sales Rep.  Having the sales-side experience has been great for my ability to contribute to conversations and present myself as a publishing professional, since I have something that lets me stand out from other aspirant and neo-pro writers.  I met several folks on the Night Shade Books staff that I’d communicated with through email but hadn’t talked to in-person, which was great, since my gig on the sales side involves working with people in all departments of a publishing house: editorial, publicity, marketing, sales, and so on.  I also met the main editor for Prime Books, and chatted with the Prime folks on strategy and publishing trends.  I got to check in with the folks at ChiZine Publications as well, and am very excited for their upcoming titles as well as their World Fantasy Award nomination (they didn’t end up winning, but even a nomination is a big honor for any press).

The big win on the writer side was that I’d decided to try to find opportunities to pitch Shield & Crocus to editors, and managed to do so twice, each with presses that have put out work that I greatly admire.  I think either could be a good home for the novel, and I’m looking forward to their responses.

Look! Shiny!

I’ve decided to try out a new theme for the blog — I’m still working on making all of my social media things line up — I’d love for this blog to post to my personal LiveJournal, but haven’t put the time in making that go yet.  Mostly because when I have a fair bit of free time, I’m trying to focus on writing.

My current project, while I wait for readers to get back to me on Shield & Crocus, is trying to expand and finish a flash piece I wrote this summer.  Said story is making moon eyes at me and asking to become at least a novella, but it is forbidden from doing so.  Stay good, story, stay good!  I don’t need more long-form projects right now, you hear?  I’d love to keep it under 4K, but I at least want it to stay a short story instead of becoming a novelette (as novelettes over 7000 to 7500 words are much harder to place).

The World Fantasy Convention is coming up, and my excitement grows day by day.  It looks like I’ll be participating in a Crossed Genres reading, sharing a selection from “Last Tango in Gamma Sector,” which appeared in issue #19 of the magazine.  It will be my first author reading at a convention, which is a big excitement multiplier.

Currently Reading: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (one of Meg’s favorite books)
Currently Playing: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Currently Writing: “Evening Dawn”

Shield & Crocus — MASSIVE EDIT edition

After some very constructive comments in a revise-and-resubmit agent rejection, I’ve started a gigantic thorough revision of Shield & Crocus.

Objectives of MASSIVE EDIT:

1) Re-write all 1st person present chapters into 3rd person past tense.  Yikes.
2) Re-write all 3rd person present chapters  into 3rd person past tense.  Not as bad.
3) Focus on characterization, drawing out the POV character’s thoughts and distinguishing them from the more neutral narration/description
4) Punch up the pacing whenever needed, cutting material that doesn’t both move the plot forward and advance character.
5) If possible, add 5-10K words of enriching description and monologue.  This will take the manuscript from 90K to 95 or 100K, which are happier wordcount points for trying to sell the novel.  I’ve already written at least 8K of new material, but I’ve cut about 4K of weaker scenes as well.

I’m 338 pages in, with the document currently standing at 446 pages and 94.5K words.  I hope to be done with the full re-write by the end of this month.  My awesome girlfriend Meg has been my first reader for this re-write, and her input is fantastic.  I hope to get a couple of writer friends to read it between now and mid-October so I can make any needed tweaks on pacing or characterization to help it break through for readers.

Ultimately, I want it to be shiny and fully awesomeified by the time I attend the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego at the end of October.  That way, I can talk it up to editors and agents when appropriate.

Musical inspiration for the MASSIVE EDIT brought to me by the album “Invincible” by Two Steps From Hell, the soundtrack to the video game Bastion by Darren Korb, and Jonathan Coulton’s new album, “Artificial Heart.”