Demonarchy

      Hello again.

      November, and with it NaNoWriMo, are coming awfully close, and I’m starting to get nervous (as I’m sure at least a few of you are as well). In fact, as of today, we have precisely one week before the writing begins. What better time for an update, no? Let’s make it a big one.

      First things first, I don’t think I have ever been this prepared for a story. I’ve said this before, but this tale of extraterrestrial adventure has been on my mind for quite some time. In fact, I started planning and outlining well before I had even decided to take part in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. It just so happened that, as the preparations were nearing completion, November wasn’t all that far away, and so I decided to give it a shot. Best case scenario, I finish a second novel. Worst case, I don’t.
The timing is… unfortunate, I have to say. Right of the bat, on the fourth, I’ve got three (!) papers due, so I’m going to be writing a whole lot to which the term “extraterrestrial adventure” isn’t applicable (alas). At the same time, they are all final papers, so I don’t have any classes to draw me away from my desk. That must count for something, right?
Whatever the case, I will certainly give it my all. I remember the sheer euphoria I felt when The Sunken ‘Panesian finally arrived in physical form, as well as the continuing pride. On top of that, the story itself is also just downright amazing, and it deserves to be given form (other than in my ocean of notes and memo’s). What more motivation could any author need?

      Onwards to the story, then. With only a week to go before I start writing in earnest, I see no reason to keep the details a secret any longer.
Quite a while ago, a couple of friends and I were hanging out, playing Once Upon A Time (an amazing card-based, collaborative storytelling game which all of you should try out if you ever get the chance), when a good friend (and incredible Dungeon Master) somehow came up with the word “Demonarchy”. A society ruled by demons. The word immediately went to work on my brain, and carved out a lodging-place there. I remember telling him that, one day, I would write a book about a Demonarchy, and that he’d be in the acknowledgements. Well, it looks that day might actually come.

      In a semi-distant future, the world is ruled by a group of mutated humans who have chosen to call themselves Monarchs. The mutations expresses itself, among other things, in extra-dermal bone growth, mostly on the skull, which, in some cases, look a lot like horns. Because of this, dissenters took to referring to them as Demonarchs. And, while the resistance was swiftly overcome, the term remains in use. Just not anywhere where it might be overheard by the less trustworthy.
In this setting, our protagonist, Wayne Bowen, is struggling on the darker side of society. The ruling elite, the Demonarchs, show increased tendencies to paranoid behaviour, and as such, Law has taken a more… restrictive character. Smugglers, then, are as much in demand as they are at risk.
Once, Wayne’s smuggling career was significant. He had a spaceship (an old model, with some flaws, but, you know, it had personality), trafficked highly illegal merchandise (even books!), and generally lived a very exciting life.
Alas, as his close companion, known as Lie, who’s a bit of a pessimist, might say: nothing good ever lasts. On a job that, really, wasn’t all that high-end, events transpired that necessitated any ship’s captain’s (be it naval or astronautical) least favourite protocol, best known as “ABANDON SHIP”. Sponsored by a local would-be crime lord (or lady, really), Wayne has been doing small-time smuggling jobs, but that’s nothing compared to what he used to do. Heck, he doesn’t even get to fly, he’s been stuck driving a vehicle with actual wheels. Now where’s the fun in that?
Now, this lost ship, called The Maiden, was rather important to Wayne. After he was forced to leave it behind, it was impounded by the Demonarch-run state, and he has lost track of it. For a long time now, Wayne has been spending a significant amount of resources trying to track it down. So far, it hasn’t resulted in anything but a significant drain on his (already limited) income, but deep down, something tells him that all that is going to change.

      Any day now.


Here We Go – Again

Hi again.

      October is a good month. A month of death and imminent revival, of flame-coloured leaves, and, most importantly right now: October is prep month. And what am I prepping? Well, in my last post I already mentioned a new project, my first foray into futuristic fiction. It’s coming along nicely, and the timing was too good to let this opportunity slide. We’re going back to where this blog first started. Back to what lead to The Sunken ‘ Panesian, my first novel, and what will now, hopefully, lead to a second novel. That’s right, the scifi story I’m working on will be my entry for National Novel Writing Month 2016.
Now, I can’t say much yet, except that I’m incredibly excited to try my hand at science fiction. I’ve got a title, a cast of characters that is all but ready to roll out, a plot, and a lot of notes and diagrams. I’m one of those writers who likes to have every major part of the story lined out before the first word is written, and then to see how the story progresses from plotpoint to plotpoint. And I have to say, I’m already pretty far in.
I’m also very excited to participate in NaNoWriMo again. I see that a number of my original writing buddies have signed up already as well, which is great – the competitive element is a big drive for me, even though I already know certain someones are probably going to blast off and reach the 50K in a week or two. You know who you are. Aside from NaNo, I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, but I think that, with some effort, I can manage the good old 1667 words a day.
For now, I’m keeping the title to myself, but as November comes closer I’ll post more and more details, right here. So, if you’re interested, keep an eye on this blog!
      So, what about the rest of you? Who else is writing this November, and how are you going to do it? Are you a planner, like me, or are you one of those gifted with the art of pantsing and full improvisation? NaNo is a great opportunity for anyone with a novel inside them. All you have to do is try, and who knows, come summer 2018 you might be anxiously awaiting the first printed copy of your very first novel!


To Boldly Go Where I Personally Have Never Gone Before

     Hey there. Long time no post.
     Nothing new there.

     No, the new part is waiting down below. But let’s kick this off with some updates, shall we?

     As per usual, I have been rather busy lately. The result of that is that I now have a BA in Comparative Literature, of which I am rather proud. That also means that I’m all set to dive into a two year long research master’s programme focussing on Medieval Literature, something else I’m rather excited about. My thesis, titled “Walking in Legends – A Comparative Analysis: The Parallels between The Lord of the Rings and Medieval Welsh and Medieval Irish Literature” (I know, right?) was well-received, too. I even gave a small lecture on the topic at a certain gathering of nerds. Good times.
     A further matter that has kept me busy is my imminent moving in with my girlfriend. At times the prospect still scares me, but at the same time I cannot wait for the already overdue email telling us when we’ll be given the keys.
     Less exciting news on the writing field: I’m running out of options for both Man Made Evil and Behind the Clouds, the short stories I have been trying to get published for a while now. After the first few rejection letters, the sting lessens, I can happily say. Nothing to do but keep trying, right? And keep writing, of course.
     And that, dear readers, is what I wanted to talk to you about. Because that Star Trek reference is in the title for a reason: I’m working on something new. Something big. Something ambitious. Something Sci-fi.
     In recent times, I have been drawn more and more to the genre. I’ve always enjoyed films and shows about rugged space cowboys and whatnot, but recently I have been reading more and more science fiction books. It started with Dune, soon followed by Phillip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke, and a growing number of others. And of course, before I knew it, my plot bunnies were wearing spacesuits as often as chainmail.
     And now, after what has already been several months of tinkering, I have a (very) clear picture of a beginning of my very own science fiction tale. The characters are all but fleshed out, their goals have been decided, and the big problems have already formed… now I just need to fill in everything between that beginning and those distant goals…
     I’ve always struggled with middle parts. But I’ll figure this one out. Because I’m fairly sure that we’re not talking about a short story here. No indeed. This has all the makings of a second novel.


Four months in – An update

      Good gods the last few months have been busy.

      I’ll try to be brief in my recounting, because I’ve got actual writing stuff to inform you of! So, let us begin.
      The last year and a half I’ve been busy with an internship, working for a small publishing company based in Amsterdam. I learned a great many things about the world and workings of modern publishing houses, which was my main goal while I was there. On top of that, I enjoyed most of the work, especially once I had gotten used to the nine-to-five workdays (which was something completely new to me). Yesterday we sat down to evaluate my performance during the internship. Everyone was positive, and I went home with a smile on my face and a good grade to boot.
      Turns out, working from nine to five, and then having to squeeze yourself in a train crowded to the point where I saw people (almost) faint more than once, is somewhat tiring. As a result, I didn’t have as much time for homework, cleaning, and Fun Times with Friends as I would have liked, let alone writing. Every once in a while I played with a plot bunny and wrote down a few notes (I don’t think there’s any power strong enough to stop those from coming), but that’s the extent of my authorly exploits during my internship.

      I enjoyed my internship, and I think I’ll be grateful for the experience come graduation, but I’m glad it’s over. The next challenge has already begun: my bachelor thesis. Today I had a preliminary chat with the professor who will be assisting me, and damn this is going to be fun. I’m going to explore Celtic elements in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, with a focus on why people take it for granted that those elements are there (because they do). There’s obviously a lot that still needs doing, but I’m very excited about it, which is a great help.
      Now, one of the great things about a bachelor thesis is that you get to work when you want to (as long as you make the deadlines). That means I am very likely to have more time for writing again. I’ve got a few options, but I think I’ll start with something short, which will most likely be called Ascending . As to my other stories, Behind the Clouds has been in the hands of Tor.com’s editors for four months now. Judging by what I can find on their website, that probably/hopefully means it has passed the initial selection, and has been handed over to the senior staff, who will decide whether they want to buy the story sometime between now and early May.
      As of today, Man Made Evil is also “out there”. I’ve submitted it to a website which specializes in speculative fiction, broadly defined. I think my story could find a place there. One of the other reasons I chose them, is that their response time is a mere forty days (deadline set for the fourteenth of March).
      All in all, good tidings. I see that my attempt at brevity has failed once again, so I’d best end things here. Hopefully my next update will be filled with excited nonsense about getting one of my stories published. Do stay tuned!


Three to Seven Months

      The downside of only posting on here when I have something worthwhile to present, is that occasionally there are huge gaps. But hey, quality over quantity, right?

      So, without further ado: news! Exciting news, actually. After another round of editing, I finally sat down and looked at a list of possible websites and magazines that might be interested in purchasing the rights to publishing Behind the Clouds. Lots of good options, mostly US based. The process is simple: you submit your work, along with a cover letter and some additional information, and the website/magazine reviews it, decides whether they want to publish it, and gets back in touch with you. If they’re interested, they either pay you a flat amount, or pay per word. Not all magazines offer payment. Some magazines give you a few copies of the edition you’re featured in, others offer free illustration, and many can’t offer more than the fact that you are being published, which in itself is all sorts of awesome. I imagine there are less people who submit to those magazines, making it easier to get in.
      As I said, I was looking at a list, identifying interesting paths to publication, when my eye landed on a familiar name: Tor.com, sister-company of Tor Books, publisher of Steven Erikson’s Malazan series – my all-time favourite series. Needless to say, I immediately started to get excited. Judging by the submission guidelines, Behind the Clouds could fit with what Tor.com has previously published, at least genre-wise (though I still find myself struggling to label the story. I generally consider it a fantasy-horror-werewolf-mystery-narrative-experiment).
      Of course, there is a downside. Tor.com’s big, they pay well, and as a result they receive a whole lot of submissions. Whereas smaller potential publishers listed a response time of two, maybe four weeks, the submission guidelines on Tor.com clearly state that it can take three to seven months before the final word is in. There’s two rounds of selection. The first generally takes less than three months. If you make it to round two, your work is passed on to the big guys, full-time editors with little time on their hands. If the gods are good, and they like your story as much as the first reading team, you’re set.
      Right now, Behind the Clouds has founds its way to the “to read” pile in the Tor.com office. Somewhere between January and May, I should be able to tell you more about what’s going to happen. I know, that’s a long while, but I’d really like this to work out.
      At the same time, a while ago I made it a personal goal of mine to get something published before 2016. It looks like that is not going to be Behind the Clouds, but I do have Man Made Evil just about ready to submit, as well as something shorter that, with a little work, could turn out to be rather interesting. I suppose that, for those two, I could look at publishers with a shorter response time, just so I can cross off this goal. And would that not be cool.


In which I write about Creative Writing

      Creative Writing might well be the most useful class I’m taking this year.

      It’s been six weeks since my last post, high time for another update.
      I have a plan. I like plans. I’ve gone over the plan many a time before on this blog, so I won’t waste your time explaining it all again (but you can read all about it here). The short of it is that I want to polish my existing short stories over the summer and try to get them published in magazines. To do that I feel I need to improve, and to do that I’m taking a course my university offers called Creative Writing.
      I’m three weeks in and already I feel like I’ve gotten better. Each week we write a short story of about 500 words (which I never manage to stick to), focussing on one aspect of writing. We’ve done one that was all dialogue, no narrator-text whatsoever, one about showing the same event through two vastly different points of view, and the next one will focus on character description (I already have a plotbunny lined up). There’s a lot of rewriting and feedback (from peers and from the teacher, a witty Londoner with a very colourful way of teaching), the textbook we’re using is actually helpful (thank the gods, because that bastard was expensive) and the final products really aren’t half bad. The best part is the final assignment: a 2000 word story meant to show off all we’ve learned (which I may or may not end up trying to publish as well). In addition to that, we have to rewrite some of the shorts we’ll have written for the earlier assignments. Those I probably won’t publish, but I can definitely share them here, provided they turn out interesting, when the time comes.
      There are about four weeks left of the course, and I’m very excited to see what more I can pick up. It won’t be enough to turn me into a bestselling author just like that, but I am getting better. Who knowns, I might actually be able to sell something come the summer.

      I’m not yet sure what I want to do after having rewritten Man Made Evil and Behind the Clouds. I have plenty of bunnies at the ready, but I’m not sure which one to commit to. Although, there is this poem based on Norse mythology that I would really like to give shape to… Or maybe I could come up with something entirely new… Well, there are a lot of possibilities. I guess we’ll find out eventually. For now, thanks for reading, until the next time!

      Enough for now. Thank you very much for stopping by, I will update again as soon as I find something worth your time again!


Man Made Revisions

      When March began, I challenged myself to work on Man Made Evil every day, and complete the shortstory by the end of the month. I’ll admit, there were more days without writing than I would have liked, but in the end, all turned out great. I completed the first draft somewhere between the second and third week of the month, at a slow but steady 500 words per day. The pace proved far more manageable than NaNoWriMo’s 1666 daily wordcount, but of course led to a far shorter final product. Good thing MME is a shortstory, and not a novel. The final result is a story of some 5500 words, spread over 17 small pages (the same size as The Sunken ‘Panesian and Behind the Clouds ).
      NaNoWriMo has already proven the method of writing first and editing later, but this was the first time I tried something similar for a shorter project. After a break of a few days, I started rewriting the whole story, rephrasing where necessary, leaving out matter that detracted or didn’t fit, changing a few things here and there… Normally, this is not really a method I could consider myself fond of. I have a rather strong dislike for having to repeat things. I know, I know, rewriting might well be a vital part of creating quality material, but with most projects I just couldn’t bring myself to it. Writing is fun, very much so, but it also hard, and when a story is finished, I’d rather move on to something new.
      Lately, however, I’ve discovered that rewriting, really, is not that bad. I’ve been trying it on several papers for my studies, which tend to be shorter than the stories I write, and I’ve noted a significant increase in clarity and quality alike (as well as a slight increase in results, I don’t mind adding). I’ve also found out that rewriting takes far, far less time than piecing together the first draft. You’re not starting from scratch, it’s more like a very thorough form of editing. If a sentence works, you’re likely to keep it as it is. If it doesn’t work, why, you’re already rewriting, what’s stopping you from reworking that sentence, finding something better to take its place? Perhaps a little extra information is required to make a scene come to life, or maybe you could do with a few less lines of internal monologue, or lose a few details. In short, rewriting worked for my papers, and I saw no reason why it should not work for my stories as well.
      On the night of March the 31st, in the hour of Well-Technically-It’s-April-But-We’ll-Pretend-It’s-Not, I sat down and looked at my story. In about a week and a half, I had rewritten perhaps two thirds of the story. Hm. Not so good. Quite a few things had managed to distract me, in these last few days, and I hadn’t worked on the story as frequently as had been the plan. It was roughly 23:30, as I was sitting there, thinking these thoughts. The conclusion I arrived at was a simple one, and one I’m sure is familiar to more than one of you. There was but one reasonable course of action, one I like to call No Sleep Until It’s Done.
      Around a quarter past one, I once again wrote the final words of Man Made Evil (they were among the sentences that worked), and leaned back with a stretch and a proud sigh. For now, this tale is done. In two weeks, I’m starting an eight week long Creative Writing course (so pumped!), which will teach me some valuable things about editing, I hope. The plan is to use that knowledge to polish my two currently finished short stories (and who knows, perhaps a third, though there’s nothing lined up at the moment) to the point where I just might be able to sell them to a magazine and get myself published, after a final round of editing based on proof readers’ feedback. Once the stories are published (or if they get nothing but refusals), I’ll make the stories available on here, as always without charge. If I’d post them before that time, the magazines wouldn’t pay as much. You see, published material is worth less, no matter where it has been published, even on a tiny little blog such as this one.
      For now, that’s all I have to tell you. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I will update you when an update is worth your time once more!