Stumbling on the Up Slope

Last night was the biweekly meeting of my writer’s group, the Wyrdsmiths. Things have been a little light lately with the hand outs, what with some members either being between contracts, or in the middle of a hiatus, or just general attacks of life. It’s summer, it gets that way.

For the first time in a long time, I had handed something out for the meeting. It felt both good and strange to be on the receiving end of their critiques, and I have to admit that I had a little flutter in my gut as the group turned away from the general pre-business chatter and got down to going over my piece. You have to understand that I started with this group long before any of us were published, and long before I’d finished my first book. The people know me, know my writing, know my strengths, know my weaknesses. We’ve grown (and in some cases, grown up together) as writers. If anyone was going to be able to help me tear apart the material I’d handed out and figure out if it could be knocked into some form of marketable prose, it was these people.

That can be both reassuring and terrifying, especially if you’ve gotten out of the habit of being the one in the crosshairs.

All of which makes me appreciate something that has been going around in some writing circles on the web lately, and especially my friend and fellow Wyrdsmith Sean Murphy’s take on the matter. The subject? Stumbling as a beginning artist.

Notice I don’t say falling down. We all do that early on, and we expect it. No, it’s not the falling that’s hard–it’s the stumbling that comes later, after you’ve learned how to walk but are still figuring out how to run. The hurdles we face that arise from our growing self-awareness of our art, and the gap we find between what we produce and what we desire to produce.

Sean does an excellent job of talking about it from someone who is in the trenches, facing that hurdle right now, and I urge you to go read his piece Mind the Gap.

The only thing I would add is that that feeling of being dissatisfied with your work never fully goes away–the perspective and focus merely shift. But more on that another time.

“Sworn In Steel” U.S. Release Date

Sworn in Steel US high res

 

This just in: SWORN IN STEEL is slated for a U.S. release date of May, 2014.

But wait!, I hear some of you say. What about a release date for the U.K.? Australia? Poland? Germany? France? Bulgaria? That, I’m afraid, I don’t know. I wish I did, but those are things that can’t be determined until we have a U.S date. Now that we have one for SIS, my foreign publishers will start fitting the book into their catalogs and timelines as well — but that may take a bit, especially if we are talking translation. And I don’t always hear the release dates right away. So the best I can tell you that is everything is in process for everyone else to start figuring out release dates as well.

On the plus side, the book doesn’t need a lot of editing. We’ve by-passed structural editing (that’s where my U.S. editor sits down, reads the finished manuscript, and then tells me where all the plot holes/confusing bits/parts that could use polishing and/or rewriting are) and have gone straight on into the copyediting phase (which is where they catch all they typos and fiddly punctuation bits and continuity errors–you know, where “Angus” on page 24 suddenly becomes “Andrew” on p. 128 and “Angie” on p. 376…or something. There’s no Angus or Andrew or Angie in this book but you get the idea). This means my editor and publisher think the manuscript is clean enough to go straight into production, which means less overall time getting it from me to you.

Which, by the way, is both cool and scary from my side of the keyboard. Cool in that they think the book is good enough “as is” to jump that particular hurdle and rocket on towards print. Scary in that, as the writer I tend to sit back and go, “Really? Because, um, that one part with the thing? Where Drothe does that other thing with the people? And then the plot’s all like ‘ka-pow!’ later because of that other thing? I was thinking that if I just tweaked the part with the whatchamajigger and added a tiny scene with this other bit and then tweaked this other section where…” until my wife kindly walks into my office and smacks me in the back of the head and says, “LET THEM PUBLISH THE DAMN BOOK!” Even after the smack and my acceptance that, yes, I need to let this (especially this) book go, part of me still sees all of the other things I wanted to accomplish with this book that never quite worked or never quite made it on the page.

But that’s the nature of art, isn’t it? It’s never truly finished, but at some point it has to be done. The reality at the end never meets with the vision you had at the beginning. At some point, you simply need to step away and trust yourself (and others who believe in your art) and let it go.

And so I am one step closer to letting the book go and out into the world. May 2014. Look for it. And watch this space for updates on other release dates.

As for me? I need to start thinking about research for the third book because, as much I may sometimes wish otherwise, these things still don’t write themselves….

 

IT LIVES!

And that, dear friends, is that. SWORN IN STEEL is off to my editor, to be subjected to her tender mercies. I think I’ll go sit in the corner and twitch now. (Although gotta say…the new final scene is a hoot. :)

No idea of release date or turn around on edits yet, but I’ll post them as soon as I know.

Sorry for the long and drawn out radio silence. I had my head down in the writing hole and I tend to get tunnel vision. Plus, it’s hard to put up updates that simply say, “Still working: don’t know when.” But I probably should have anyhow.

Thanks for being patient and for pestering me now and again. It helps to know people are still interested. I hope to be catching up with e-mails and posts the like over the next week or two, as well as some posts about the process, what happened, and the like (I just want my brain to cool down a bit first).

Stay tuned. And again, thanks for all the posts and notes!

Elizabeth Gilbert on Artists & the nature of “Genius”

This is an interesting TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on how society views artists, and how there might be a better way. Not so much a solution as food for thought, but the more I do this writing thing, the more what she says here resonates. I especially like the classical view of “genius” that she cites.

The approach to art and inspiration she discusses at the end is something I hope to achieve at some point. Not there yet, but a worthy goal (and a sanity inducing one, I think).

I may have more thoughts to add when it isn’t on the wrong side of 12 AM; but in the meantime, enjoy.

WorldCon/ChiCon 7

 

Because all the cool kids are doing it….

Here’s my WorldCon/ChiCon 7 schedule, for those who are interested (don’t blink):

Fri Aug 31 10:30:am Fri Aug 31 12:00:pm Violence in Fantasy
Wright The use and misuse of violence in SF and fantasy. How much is too much?
D.H. Aire  Doug Hulick  James Enge  Scott Lynch

 

Fri Aug 31 4:30:pm Fri Aug 31 6:00:pm Autograph Session 6
Autograph Tables
Charles Stross  Doug Hulick  Gra Linnaea  Hanna Martine  James Patrick Kelly  Jay Lake  Paul Genesse  Sharon Shinn

 

The above may look light, but it’s actually about what I was shooting for. This being WorldCon, and it being in Chicago, I figured two things would happen: 1) I’d be low man on the totem pole when it came to panel slots/topics, and 2) I’d be spending a good amount of time catching up with friends (new & old, from near & far), hitting some of my favorite Chicago eateries, and just generally keeping things low stress. Another panel or two might have been nice, sure (and I was half hoping they’d let me teach my Practical Rapier For Writers panel), but I’m content with this. And really, the one panel I am on? ACES!

As for a reading slot: I specifically didn’t request one. Since I knew Sworn in Steel wasn’t going to be out in time, and wasn’t even positive it would be in a presentable state, I didn’t want to walk in and read something from the book I had released a year and a half ago. Some people may not be pleased by that (and I do appreciate you wanting to hear me stumble over my own words, honest :), but if I’m going to read, I’d prefer it be from something you can look forward to, rather than something you’ve already read. Maybe that’s more of a me thing, but I feel like I ought to roll out the new model at things like this, rather than try to slap a fresh coat of polish on last year’s offering. Plus, it leaves more time for pizza, which, let’s face it, is just about the best reason there is to go to Chicago.

So where can you find me at the con if I’m not in my panel or at the signing? Well, I’m stupid tall (6′ 7″) and have been known to haunt the bar at events like this. If you see me (or someone you think is me), feel free to come up and say Hi.