Another chapter down!

I finished another chapter last night! Chapter thirty-two, wow. I write using Scrivener, so I don’t generally see the chapter numbers as I write them, and I don’t bother to count the index cards in the corkboard view. However, every time I finish a new chapter, I do a fresh compile of the manuscript into a Word document and an ePub for my Kobo and stick them in my Dropbox. Then I set Word to take care of widows and orphans so that there aren’t any when I print the pages out.

Thirty-two chapters. Apart from what I like to think of as “interludes”, which are short chapters told from the synchronizer’s perspective, each of them is at least 2,000 words long. Not that chapters have to be of a certain length in order to be good; I’ve read many books where a chapter has only been a few words to serve as a dramatic pause in the narrative or switch POV briefly.

I feel a bit like I did when I’d hit 40k during NaNoWriMo; I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and that excited me beyond description. I have only three planned chapters left, 7,500 words or less. Of course, this would be the moment where I veer off course completely and discover that I need to get a lot more done to reach a satisfactory ending. If that’s the case, so be it. There’s only so much planning I can do for a novel before it sweeps me off on its own strange currents.

I really like the gardener and architect images that George R. R. Martin spoke of:

I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.

To me, I’m charting a course down a river. I know that it leads to the sea, but I don’t know which forks to take, which waters are troubled by rapids and cataracts, which branches end unexpectedly and force me to carry my craft over land for a time. I don’t know when I’ll have to backtrack and take a different path. There is a lot of planning that goes into it, but there is a pretty large element of discovery as well.

Sandman confusion

I was pretty well confused when I went to buy the next volume of the Sandman from Chapters a couple weeks back. The cover of the new, remastered version of volume six is remarkably similar to that of volume one of the previous version. See here:

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While I was certain that volume six was the next one to buy, the cover threw me for a minute and it wasn’t until I was in the train reading it that I was sure I’d bought the right book.

The First Law

I’m currently rereading the third book of The First Law trilogy, a series recommended to me by a friend, a series that I quickly fell in love with. The world is realistic and gritty, rife with violence and danger; the characters are interesting, engaging, and defy archetypal expectations; and, most importantly for me, magic makes sense and has dire consequences if misused or used too freely.

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The author, Joe Abercrombie, has decided not to provide us with a map of his world, which suits me fine. Most of what I read these days is on my Kobo, which doesn’t display maps very well; I didn’t know the true shape of George R. R. Martin’s world of Ice and Fire until I bought the poster set of maps last year. Maps are lovely, but they can be distracting while reading. I have a tendency to flip to the front flap to see exactly where people are talking about.

Because of the lack of a map, we are forced to imagine the Circle of the World and its various regions. Luckily, three of these regions can be accurately named the North, the South and the West. The books visit all three of these and presents conflicts between certain regions and the central (I believe) kingdom of the Union, a kingdom filled with self-serving and/or empty-headed gentry struggling to seize power in the midst of the king’s declining health.

I greatly enjoy the writing, there is a lot of humor (especially dark humor) in it. I find myself highlighting certain passages to share them with my husband while we’re in the métro. My favorite characters are the soldier turned torturer after an extended imprisonment in the South rendered him unfit to do much else, and the highly manipulative and secretive Magus, pulling the strings with unknown intentions.

The trilogy contains a few revelations near the end that make the books more interesting to reread, though I would give them another go if only for the world and the characters and the writing. To any fan of fantasy who enjoys stories that do not take themselves too seriously (though the tone is quite serious indeed through a lot of the tale), I highly recommend The First Law trilogy: The Blade ItselfBefore They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings.

Incidentally, I found a new way to read on the train, making excellent use of my winter coat and my Kobo’s protective case:

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Mystery or explanation?

A central entity in Project: OBSIDIAN is SEEC, the Corporation that rules the Yggdrasil System in place of government. How the planets came to be ruled by a corporation is never explained within the story, and neither is the meaning of the acronym “SEEC”. It was a decision I made early on that I’m now questioning: the company is only ever referred to as SEEC or the Corporation so far.

On the side of mystery, we have the fact that the company has its own interests closest to heart. This leads them to keep many of their activities hidden for fear of evoking outrage in the people. Their true name would just be another thing to hide; though not necessarily incriminating, the executives of the Corporation may have come to enjoy this part of the mystique.

On the side of transparency, SEEC nominally exists to serve the people. They have provided the organization that allows the planets to best work together, the security that keeps most spacecraft safe from attacks by pirates, and advances in medical technology to prolong the lives of the people. Their name is a bone they can easily throw to the populace in the name of transparency.

Then again, perhaps the name was once well-known in the early years of the Corporation, but has now faded into obscurity like that of Nabisco; some people know what it is, but most can’t be bothered to care.

I’m interested in hearing some opinions on the matter. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Still climbing

I’m still climbing, slowly but surely, getting higher and higher. I have 302 printed manuscript pages and at least three chapters I haven’t even started. I’ve broken 61,000 words.

“Once upon a time, there was a young girl who lived with her parents in a city made of grey. They didn’t always have enough to eat, and they were often cold, but they loved each other very much and laughed all the time. One day, the girl’s father went off to work but never came home.”

“What happened to him?” Estelle asked.

“There was an accident at the factory,” Kandace said in a whisper. She continued, “The girl’s mother was so sad, she cried and cried. The girl didn’t understand, not why her father wasn’t coming home, not why her mother wouldn’t laugh anymore. The girl began to get sad and look up to the sun.”

“The sun?”

“A great, burning light in the sky,” Kandace explained. “It’s name is Yggdrasil, and in stories it is a giant tree made of fire. The girl liked to watch the sun, imagining it as the giant tree, imagining that she would climb its branches to another world.

“Then, her mother got sick. The girl thought it was because of the sadness inside her. She thought it turned to poison and made her mother sleepy, so sleepy, until she didn’t wake up anymore.

“Without her mother and father to care for her, the girl started to plan a journey. She would take only the most essential things, pack them in a bag, and climb the burning tree to the stars. She climbed and climbed, stopping at each world she found, but learning that she preferred to climb from world to world than ever stop.”

A queer thing about characters

As a gay reader, I find that there are disappointingly few examples of surprise gay characters in the fiction I’ve read. What I mean is that I’d love to read about a secondary character who just so happens to fancy the same sex. The story doesn’t revolve around it, but it’s there.

Naturally, I feel like I can write differently. But I want it to be as subtle and as insignificant to the plot as that character’s eye color; a detail and not a defining feature. Not a woman who is introduced as a lover of women, but one we get to know for her other quirks and charms before learning, “Oh, by the way…” Because I want readers to see the person, not the sexuality.

I feel this way about all other aspects of a person that people find sorry excuses to discriminate against: gender, race, socioeconomic background, etc. If one of my characters is disliked, let it be because he’s an asshole, or she beats children. Not because he likes men or she’s a woman.

There are a few characters in my current story who do not identify as heterosexual. It hasn’t come up in the narrative, though I’ve left subtle hints here and there. I may not end up explicitly stating it, but they’re there. As long as it’s not relevant to the plot, there’s no real reason to come out and say it.

As in anything else, I reserve the right to change my mind. It would be fun to write a coming out scene where a character makes a heartfelt declaration and those closest to him respond with, “We know, dear.” I have one in mind who would fit perfectly into such a moment.

To summarize, I want more gay folk in fiction and I’m doing my part to make that happen. These characters will be realistic, well-rounded and flawed. They will be everything a good character should be, plus fabulous.

David S. Goyer, Neil Gaiman and… Joseph Gordon-Levitt are Working on a Sandman Movie

Joseph Gordon-Levitt announced last night that he is honored to be working with Warner Bros., David Goyer, and Neil Gaiman to bring The Sandman to life as film. There’s a lot to unpack here, so lets get started.

As with any talk of a film adaptation of a literary work, I am equal parts excited and fearful. I am also 100% interested in seeing how this progresses.

December so far

obsidian word count december

It’s a little disheartening to see how long it’s taken me to write another 10,000 words since the end of NaNoWriMo, but I just have to remind myself that I’m still doing far better than I was before November.

What is Project: OBSIDIAN?

I have made mention of Project: OBSIDIAN a few times already without going into proper detail as to what it is. I had written a couple chapters of it before November of this year, which I set aside to do NaNoWriMo properly. As of now, I have nearly 60,000 words and only a few chapters left to write to finish my first draft. It is the story of Captain Kandace Li Renwright of the starship Sylphid, who begins the book resisting her crew’s efforts to change her mind about getting a synchronizer for the ship, a device that would allow the ship to maintain a constant connection to the interplanetary network no matter where they traveled. The following is an excerpt from my rough draft:

Yet Kandace continually refused, for she knew what a synchronizer was.

In a “humane effort” to eliminate the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes, the sentence of synchronization came about. The conversion process remained a tightly held secret, though it was suggested that it involved heavy amounts of psychopharmaceutical injected into the sentenced. It was said that their mind became too fragmented for conscious thought, essentially vegetables floating in a vat of nutrients, but their splintered mind became capable of sharing information with other similar minds, across amazing distances. Attached to a rig to convert biochemical signals to computer language and back, they found practical use as devices to extend the SEEC Central Network onto ships no matter how far they traveled.

Kandace had no intention of having such a person aboard her ship, no matter how much they deserved such a fate. She found the very idea disgusting, and wondered what a synchronizer was aware of. Did they experience constant, unconscious confusion as their brains were bombarded by computer signals relayed back and forth psychically? Did they dream, their minds desperately attempting to cobble together some kind of experience from the data downloaded and uploaded through them? Did it hurt?

Naturally, there wouldn’t be much of a story if she didn’t get to discover the answers to some of her questions. Before long, Kandace relents and procures a synchronizer for her ship, one who will reveal himself to be aware of all the information that passes through his mind, capable of manipulating it, and intent on finding out who he used to be before he was made into a sync.

Dream of the Endless

I have been working on reading the Sandman from beginning to end. By “working on”, I mean that every few months or so I purchase the next trade volume at Chapters and proceed to devour it in a couple hours. I tried to finish them back in high school, ordering them at the library and waiting weeks between volumes, but the waiting became tedious. I had downloaded them and got a comic reader for my computer, but I quickly learned that I dislike reading for extended periods on a computer screen. I prefer to pay for them anyhow.

I love the way Neil Gaiman weaves a narrative through mythologies and literature. I feel proud for the references and subtle nods that I pick up on, knowing there are many more that fly right past me. I love the art, especially the sweeping vistas of the realm of dreams. I especially adore the personifications that are the Endless, each with their own quirks and personality flaws.

I am midway through Fables & Reflections now, using the security device as a bookmark. I had meant to slip it into my bag before work on Friday, but alas I forgot. I’m half tempted to dive into it right now, but I haven’t gotten any writing done for Project: OBSIDIAN this weekend and I really ought to put some effort toward that before I feel like a complete and utter failure.

To the stars it is, then.

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