Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chaos Book #4 — Major Rewrite Done!

Earlier today, a friend asked me by email how the chaos of my Chaos book was coming. Here's how I answered: "You remember the movie Dr. Strangelove? At the end, where Slim Pickens rides the A-bomb down to its target like a rodeo rider, waving his cowboy hat like a maniac? He shrinks away and the ground rises up fast? That's where I am in the book."

Well, a short time ago, I finished up the 2nd major draft of Sunborn—I mean, Cradle of Stars—I mean, Crucible of Stars—I mean, no I don't know yet what the title is! Who cares? Chaos Chronicles Book 4. Ya-ya-ya-ya-yah!!!

What a killer! But in the end, I started enjoying it and having fun again. I think I straightened out all the insane chapters that made no sense in the first draft, and I cut out maybe 140 pages outright, and added in 100 pages of new. This draft is about 40 pages shorter than the first.

(You understand, don't you—when I say "2nd draft," I mean second time through from beginning to end. Pick a scene or chapter at random, and it's probably had 5 or 8 or 10 drafts.)

Now...I have approximately one week before the date I promised it to my editor, do or die. I start a final pass tomorrow, from page 1. There's stuff I have flagged for further attention, and I'm sure the early chapters (not looked at in a year!) will benefit from tightening. That's to get it into good enough shape to send it in, and hopefully for him to say, yeah, we can send this out to people and hope we get some quotes.

Then the real editing begins. But more on that later.

Cradle of Stars? Crucible of Stars? In Search of the Lost Star? No, no....

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Jack Williamson (1908 – 2006)

One of the towering giants of the SF field has left us. Jack Williamson, who traveled in a covered wagon as a boy in the American Southwest, and on many a starship in his fiction, died today at the age of 98. His first short story was published in the Dec. 1928 issue of Amazing Stories. His novel The Stonehenge Gate was published in 2005. He won many awards over the years, but most recently he won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novella "The Ultimate Earth." That was in 2001, and I was proud to be on the same ballot with him (for a novel; I didn't win).

I didn't know him well personally, but we served together on the SFWA Awards Rules Committee (formerly the Nebula Awards Committee), and had many email exchanges in the course of that business. I was proud to be on that committee with him, too.

There's a good summary of his life and career on wikipedia.

Jack, you're in a greener place now, where royalty checks never come late! Smile down on us and wave!

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pretty Good Election!

To say the least. I must say, I cannot remember the last time I felt so happy after an election. I feel as if I'm finally getting my country back. Here in Massachusetts, I can at last feel hopeful about leadership from the governor, and an end to Mitt Romney's screw-the-towns-and-schools philosophy. Deval Patrick has his work cut out for him, but I'm hopeful that he's up to the job.

In my native state of Ohio, election-stealer Ken Blackwell is out of a job, they've put a Democrat in the governor's office for the first time in 16 years, and a Democrat in the Senate, as well. Dare we hope that election "irregularities" in Ohio might come to an end?

Nationwide, what can I say? The neocon/pseudocon stranglehold on the federal government has been broken at last. Finally we might have a Congress that doesn't roll over and play dead for the president, that understands checks and balances. With luck, we've seen an end to the pro-war, anti-environment, steal-from-the-underclass-and-give-to-the-rich sort of lawmaking we've come to know so well. It's probably too soon to hope for the repeal or amendment of the bad laws enacted under the last Congress. On the other hand, maybe they'll finally hold the president accountable to the law. Wouldn't that be refreshing?

And to see Rumsfeld leave: that's just a miracle from Heaven. (Side note: I had known that Rumsfeld was a former high school wrestling coach—embarrassing enough to the sport!—but had not known until I read it in the paper today that current Speaker of the House Hastert was, as well. Ai caramba!)

As for Iraq...truthfully, I don't know the best way out. I don't think it's right to demolish the country and then just leave it in disarray—but I'm not sure how much good we're doing with our continued presence. Probably the best thing would be for peacekeeping troops from other countries to take over, if they were willing. (And just to be clear, I don't doubt the dedication of the guys and women in uniform; it's we who have put them in that untenable situation.) It will take people smarter than me to figure that one out.

Anyway, I'm not going to let that uncertainty ruin my week. I voted this week (actually last week, absentee) and so did the rest of the country. And I'm thrilled with the outcome.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Titles, Titles

As I said in the previous post, I'm debating whether to change the title of the book I have been writing all these many years as Sunborn. The main reason is that another SF novel was published in the last year or so called The Sunborn. Now, you can't copyright titles, so that's not the issue. Causing confusion among readers and booksellers, however, might be an issue.

I've always liked the title Sunborn, and it's one of those rare cases where I actually thought of a title I liked right off the bat as I sketched out the idea for the story, so that makes me reluctant to let go of it, also. On the other hand...there is that confusion thing.

So I'm thinking of calling it Starborn instead.

(The story is set in the star nursery of the Orion Nebula, where stars--suns--are born. And where there is trouble in Star River City.)

If you folks out there in blogland would like to be my focus group and weigh in with your opinions, I'd be glad to hear them.

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Currently on a Writing Retreat

I'm currently squirreled away at a bed & breakfast on Cape Cod, taking a 3-day writing retreat to really concentrate on the last 120 pages of the rewrite of Chaos Chronicles #4, which I have been calling Sunborn all along (though that might change). My wife fixed this up for me back in August, as my birthday present. (Good wife!) I'm sitting in front of a fire with my laptop, trying to figure out the remaining thorny questions in the storyline/plot/background of the book.

Just taking a few minutes to post this update. However, I'm also going to take this opportunity to say Happy Birthday to my friend Victoria, member of my writing group for significantly more than 20 years! (Slug that I am, I forgot to say this on her birthday, so I am trying to make amends by shouting it to the world.) Happy Belated Birthday, Victoria!

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Writing Question #X (and Y and Z): "Can You Help Me Break In?"

I get a fair number of emails from aspiring writers asking for advice, which is why I created an advice page on my web site—and a little less directly, why I created a free online writing guide (supposedly geared to younger writers, though from the occasional thank-you note I get, I don't think it's just kids using the site). Some people hope I will read their work and comment on it, or give it a blurb.

I am not unmoved by these pleas, but the answer I must give is, "I'm sorry, I cannot help beyond what I've already tried to do." If they ask me to read their work, I refer them to still another page I created, explaining why I can't. Most people seem to understand, but there's always this nagging sense that people think I can somehow help them get an in. That's a heartbreaking illusion.

Here's what I said, basically, to one person recently who thought I should do more:

You have a burning desire to write. I hear from a lot of people who want to write. And they all want to know the same thing: Can I help them "break in"? The truth—WITHOUT EXCEPTION, not one single exception—and I can tell just from reading their emails—is that they don't need help "breaking in." They need to learn to write. They need practice, they need training, they need a workshop to get feedback, they need to understand that writing is a difficult and demanding craft and it TAKES TIME AND DISCIPLINE TO LEARN. No one wants to hear that, ever. It's not about developing contacts, or knowing the right people, though eventually those things can help.

It's about learning to write. I can't help everyone in the world learn to write, though I try through my course and workshops I teach at. Find people in your college, or your community, or through paid or online workshops who can help you learn the things you need to know.

People seem to feel betrayed when I say that, but it's the truth.

My final suggestion was two books that we're using in the workshop that I'm teaching with Craig Gardner: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott and Stephen King's On Writing. They both have a lot of wisdom about writing, and being a writer. (There are, of course, many other good books on writing, and some not so good books.)

Come to think of it, if any of you has a favorite book on writing, why don't you leave a comment about it? We can compile a list.

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National Novel Writing Month

Speaking of writing, it's that time of the year again: National Novel Writing Month, celebrated and spurred on by the good folks at The idea that they promote is to write an entire novel in a month. My idea—almost as daring—is to finish writing my novel (Chaos Chronicles #4) and get it off to my editor by the end of this month. It's going to be a photo-finish, folks. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you've been hankering to write a novel, or putting off writing a novel, or are in any other fashion in the group of those who want to have written a novel...what are you waiting for? Visit nanowrimo for inspiration! Do it now!