Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings

This time last week, I declared my intention to goof off in regards to what I chose to write, which mysteriously, was one of my most popular blog posts ever.  Apparently, that means y'all need to take things more seriously.

In the spirit of that, here are a few of the novel projects I've repeatedly put off or shuffled to the bottom of the list due to marketing and sales concerns:

A Flow Sequel:  I do have a title for this project, but I'm not mentioning it here since it's an implicit spoiler for the events of Flow (which in itself causes much debate I shouldn't even be having in the pre-writing phases, but having a title before I start is a key part of my process).  The story would be set a few years later, with Kit at the messy end of her first serious relationship.  He's part of the hidden world in that setting, so there's the additional complication that he feels responsible for her protection.  (Too much, as far as Kit is concerned, which part of the reason for their evolving breakup.)  Chailyn would be back, of course, and Hadrian ... and one of the exciting parts of this project for me is actually getting into his point of view.  Since he has hypersensitive perceptions, day-to-day living can be an overload, and I'm excited by the challenge of trying to convey that without leaving the reader completely lost.
But ... the sales for Flow don't really justify a sequel.  I can certainly make it a standalone volume, but why this book over all the others?  (In addition, years later, I'd love to get back into Flow and change things, but that's another story ...)

The Great Starshine Rewrite:  years and years (... and years ...) ago, I was involved in a fandom group.  I had a blast, mainly because I was too young to know better, but I created a sprawling cast of characters and an ongoing conspiracy that I always thought would be fun to revive.  The act of translating everything to an original world promises to create some intriguing results, and these are imaginary people I know like the back of my hand.
But ... as mentioned, the cast is sprawling.  There are a massive number of characters and subplots.  Not too many for me, because I'm nuts and I know the map and territory.  For readers ...?  That, I don't know.

A World of My Own:  my long roleplaying history also includes some original contemporary settings, where I was either part of the game founders or was invited to join staff later on ... which means that I ended up designing various elements for the setting.  I've considered combining these elements (or at least, a lot of them, some tweaked) into a single, cohesive setting so I can write short fiction in it.  It would also give me a chance to revive well-loved characters or ones I didn't give enough life to.
But ... there's a sliding scale between urban fantasy and superhero.  I have to find a consistent tone and potentially decide how comfortable I am writing superhero fiction - which seems to be a growing genre on the black and white page, but it certainly isn't an area I have a lot of knowledge about.  Of course, I can fix that ...
But part two ... it's not like I lack for short stories or ideas as it is!

Helen of Troy:  I'm a huge fan of Greek mythology.  I grew up with them:  one of my earliest story attempts was a retelling of the Pandora myth with Barbie as the main character.  The Pandora story is one that never set right with me, and I've tackled it in short fiction.  The Helen of Troy saga occupies a similar point of disquiet:  all this strife and death over a love affair?  
Scholars have numerous theories about the larger implications of Paris and Helen running away together, from the economic - the real reason for the war was trade; to the political - Helen was queen in her own right, so without her, her erstwhile husband no claim to the kingdom; to the fantastical - some sources connect Helen to a vegetation goddess and the health of her land to her presence.  Yet most fictional portrayals of this storyline attempt to make it historical, sensible in our real world.  To me, that's the least interesting path to take.  The Greek gods are infamous for their meddling, and they do it constantly in this saga.  To tell that story, full-fleshed, without taking agency away from the mortals ... that's where my interest lies.
I should note that I want to create an inspired-by tale rather than a retelling - different names, identities, other elements changed to suit ... well ... me.  That allows me more freedom, including the ability to be less literal and interpret threads in non-traditional ways.
But ... it's this last point that's the tricky one.  If I'm not openly identifying the storyline as Helen of Troy, does it just come off as mimicry rather than homage?

There may be more, but these are the four that I keep tossing off the island.  Maybe some day!  ... maybe soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings

When I first started writing, I really didn't know what I was doing, and I blissfully enjoyed the process of stumbling about in fictional realms.  I didn't worry about the business side of writing, about the things beyond writing quality that might influence whether a story could be sold:  length, trends, unpopular tropes ...

And then I did worry about these things.  Not so much the trends part of it - I was never all that enthused about trying to find the latest wave to ride.  But length, particularly when it came to short fiction, and other elements that publishers / editors hunted for?  These things bedeviled me.  I pushed aside projects I thought about writing because I didn't think they would be able to sell.  When my short fiction crossed certain word thresholds - and it often did; I am, after all, a novelist at heart - I would get depressed and even angry with myself.  What was the point?

Recently, I've turned a corner.  I've decided I'm done worrying.  Partly this is because I have enough of a backlog that I'm not under pressure to produce new work with an eye towards sales (editing is another story, mind).  But mainly, I want to keep hold of that crazy joy at the heart of writing; I don't want to lose the simple enjoyment of it.  This is what motivated me to write my zombie novella, even though the genre is done to death and works of this length are a horror to sell:  I just thought it would be a blast to write.  And it was.  It was the most sheer fun I'd had writing anything in a long time.

But even as I prepare to goof off, there's something else I need to give myself permission to do:  pick projects that seem like a stretch for my skill level, that are difficult to pull off, that present challenges I have to think my way through.  Scylla and Charybdis was just such a project, for me - novel-length science fiction being out of my comfort zone - and I gave the foundation work more love and attention than usual.  Look where it ended up.

So I am resolved:  let the games begin.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings

(For those who might not have seen it yet, my author interview for Kristell Ink: )

It always bewilders me when I come across authors who rename their characters deep into a project, sometimes more than once ... and even those who don't use names but placeholders.  Then there's that famous tale about Gone With The Wind and how Margaret Mitchell originally named her heroine Pansy.

I have trouble wrapping my head around it because for me, character and name are intertwined.  The act of naming a character crystallizes their identity.  There's something magical in the act, which is actually quite appropriate to the significance of names in ritual:  when you know someone's name, you have power over them.  When I would ponder new character ideas in my roleplaying games, I used to joke that as soon as I came up with a name, I was doomed.  That character would exist, regardless of whether I had the room to add another.

Of course, I've needed to change character names for one reason or another:  sometimes I'll find that two names are similar enough to cause confusion, and in one case, I accidentally broke a naming convention I had set out for myself.  When that happens, I try to preserve the feel of the name.  Usually that means changing it as little as possible, but sometimes, it's simply playing around with syllables, visuals and flow until I find something that feels right.  I might not even be able to explain why the old name and the new are analogous.

I think this may be a small part of why I enjoy secondary world fantasy so much:  I'm not limited to names that have been used on Earth.  I can pluck them out of the ether and find someone who maybe, just maybe, couldn't even be labeled with our names.  Or maybe that's just a fantasy like any other.