witches and poetry

So it’s been a few months, yeah?

I’ve been meaning to post all kinds of things since my last post about the Tao Te Ching. I really enjoyed doing a post a day about the Tao Te Ching, and you can just keep scrolling on the homepage to find a bunch of them. Or you can click here.

Anyrate, I’ve had essays I wanted to write and share about politics, art, love, life, my cat, and other stuff, but I seem to’ve sort of lost the habit.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about. The tendency to share and how it becomes habitual or ritual. Over the last couple years, I’ve been using social media less and less, and it’s sort of like I’ve been weening myself off the incessant sharing that happens online. There are all kinds of reasons, but mostly it’s just that social media isn’t good for me, personally.

But because I don’t really share much online these days, it seems less and less important to share anything online. It always seemed like the point of starting a blog was to do more long-form sharing of thoughts and so on. Then facebook came the place to share all my dumb thoughts, so I used my blog less, and then when I began using social media less, I thought I’d use my blog more.

The opposite has mostly been true. Like I said, sharing online is kind of like a habit or ritual. Once I broke the habit, it no longer seems to matter whether or not I share anything online.

Anyrate, there is some news to talk about.

i-am-alone-facing-the-moon-front-cover1

My first poetry collection is coming out from Hawkline Press. There’s an announcement on their site.

Obviously that’s the cover and title up above in that amazing image.

I wrote it a few years ago. I think it was 2014. I wrote three poetry collections that year. All of them over the course of their own individual weekends when I had fevers. I wrote like 600 poems that year, but haven’t done much with them.

Still, very excited to have this coming out. It’s about 130 poems, most in the ryuka, tanka, and haiku, and then a final freeform series that might be my favorite poetry I’ve ever written.

The collection is inspired by the life and death of Yoshiya Chiru.

The collection is dark and weird and simple.

It’s funny to have a my first poetry collection come out as my fourth book, since I used to primarily think of myself as a poet. Obviously I’m not, and probably never will be, but I’m proud of the poems I wrote, and I hope you like them.

I’ll probably talk more about them in the future.

witches

I also just wrote this novel. Or, not just now. I’ve been writing it for a while. I was hoping to have it finished before May, but then I spent all of April and May not writing. It was a weird deadline to put on myself, since I began this near the end of February. It’s about 130,000 words right now, though it’ll almost certainly balloon a bit once I do edits/rewrites.

It’s a big complicated novel about terrorism and imperialism.

Also, it’s a fantasy novel.

There’s a lot to say about it, really.  The novel is mostly about four people: a student, an activist, an immigrant, a 200 year old poet, a 500 year old teahouse owner, and a factory worker. They’re all elves, which is funny to me, since I never really ever intended to write about elves or other standard fantasy creatures.

But the novel is really about race, culture, religion, terrorism, aspirations, systemic violence, totalitarianism, and whistleblowing.

This novel really is a reaction to basically everything I love and hate about fantasy novels. For example, most fantasy novels treat races and cultures as monochrome. All elves are the same culture, all dwarves are the same culture, but humanity gets thousands of shades. So I decided to give my elves all kinds of shades, and so the novel is really about how no cultural purity is an invention, and a dumb one. But also it’s about how systems of power crush people.

I’m really happy with it, but it’s also one of the darkest novels I’ve written, which is kind of saying something, considering how many times I’ve written apocalyptic books.

But, yeah, this year’s doing well. Last year I wrote a giant novel and two short novellas. This year I’ve written two novellas and a reasonably large novel. Next I’m going to be writing a western novella, then a pirate novella, and then a novella about burning a witch at the stake.

But that’s not for a while.

It’s a relief to be finished writing this book because now I can get back into all the other things I want to do! Like read books, play videogames, and just not have the weight of a huge book on my shoulders.

That’s all for now, though. I’m going to say that I’ll keep updating things on here, but that’s a lie.

Mostly I’ll just be taking pictures of my cat.

I’ll see you when I see you, followers of this dumb blog.

woolf waves

I’ve been listening to Max Richter’s glorious new album. It’s inspired by the work of Virginia Woolf. Specifically, Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, and The Waves. It’s tremendous, as are all things Richter does. The final movement–and perhaps his most emotional piece in years–is in the above video. It begins with the reading of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note, which I’ll copy in full here:

Dearest,

I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

It’s always struck me as a profound and devastating statement of love and illness.

I don’t have a lot to say about it, really. Or, I do, but I’ve said it before in a dozen other blog posts over the seven years I’ve had this site.

I’ve been writing my novel to this album. It’s a completely normal thing for me to listen to a Richter album on repeat for days, and he’s been the soundtrack to more than a few of the novels I’ve written. I don’t know if my work is capturing anything as well or as beautifully as Woolf or Richter, but I’m very pleased with the words coming out of me lately.

I feel fortunate that I’ve managed to avoid any serious bouts with depression over the last years, and it’s certainly what’s allowed me to be so productive.

I’m nearly 40,000 words into the new novel. I’m hoping to have it finished before May, which seems doable, even though the novel may balloon up to about 200,000 words.

As is almost always the case, I sort of saw this as a short novel, but I quickly grow comfortable with the size of this novel. I said that I’d keep it underwraps this time, rather than share the process of writing this novel while I write it, and I think I’ll keep to that.

I will say, though, that every chapter presents a very difficult challenge. It’s the kind of writing I simply was not capable of writing even a year ago. It’s the kind of writing that is exhausting, but ultimately rewarding. Complex yet simple. Dangerous yet loving.

I want this novel to be a surprise, and I think it will be. I think I’m doing something that is rarely, if ever, done, and that pleases me. I’m also writing in a mode that I’ve never written in before. In many ways, I think it’s my most daring and most normal novel, and I like that juxtaposition quite a lot.

 

writing and offlining

I’ve been feeling good for a few days now. Maybe especially since finishing the novella I was writing, though the title has already changed since writing that post. But I’ve been feeling good and positive. Chelsea’s parents are here, which is a good time, and my cat’s just being my cat, so that’s always awesome as well.

Been reading a lot of poetry, something I basically did not read at all last year, which is sort of odd. But I suppose I’m making up for it this year.

Don’t know what to say, really. Just feeling good, happy, productive.

I started a new novel today, too. Just finished the first chapter, even. It’s about terrorism and systemic violence and systemic power. It’s inspired a lot by the Tsarnaev brothers, oddly. I read Masha Gessen’s excellent book on the Boston bombing and it really got me thinking about all kinds of things, connecting the treatment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and especially the way the FBI treated his friends or people he barely knew, to the way governments treat minority groups, dissidents, and certain demographics when they commit a crime. Also reminded me how much that event influenced my writing back in 2013. I think I wrote three stories directly because of that bombing.

It’s going to be a tricky novel. A very complex and complicated one. It’s going to require a lot of thought and planning. Speaking to Kyle Muntz about it this morning made me realize it’s definitely a novel, and possibly a very long one, and not a novella.

So I know I talked about my next project being about anarchism, but I’ve had pretty good luck with these recent novellas. So I’m deciding to just jump into the shiny new idea, rather than sit on it for a few months, like I used to.

And so I wrote the first chapter, and I’m extremely pleased with how it came out. Gives me more confidence to tackle this project. Also, I’ve decided not to share a whole lot of information about it while I’m writing it, which is sort of atypical of me, since I sort of use this site, in part, to dump extraneous thoughts about what I’m working on while I’m working on it.

Sort of unrelated but also kind of related, I’ve uninstalled the twitter app from my phone, so now the only social media on my phone is instagram. This is probably a dumb thing to talk about, but I did the same thing with the facebook app when I decided to cut down on my facebook time sometime last year or the year before. It was successful, since not having easy access to social media in my pocket will create enough of a barrier of access that I’m unlikely to devote a lot of passive time to it, which was all too easy when it was just a few thumb taps away before. Along with that, I’ve logged out of facebook and twitter on my computers, because, again, that little barrier of access (insignificant as it seems) is typically enough to keep me from spending a lot of passive time on either site.

Because passive time is kind of my disease. Probably most people suffer from it a bit. Instead of just not doing things, we’ll tab or thumb over to facebook or twitter and just start scrolling. Hours can get used up that way. I’ve mostly found it makes me less happy, which is not ideal.

I found, too, that when I cut down on facebook, it usually just means I spend more time on twitter, so this is kind of a symbolic way for me to back off both social media sites.

Intentionality is something Chelsea and I talk about a lot, and we’re both trying to be better about it. We want to be more intentional with our time and activities, since it’s so easy to just sit on a couch watching netflix while I have a laptop open and I’m scrolling through whatever. It’s not like it’s a terrible thing, but it often makes me feel like I lost time by being so passive about my evening, just letting various screens dictate my time.

And so this is part of it. Trying to avoid the passive scrolling and use that time for anything else. Like drawing maps, learning origami, writing, reading, or just actually watching the shows we put on netflix, instead of just creating a background noise to our passivity.

But, yeah, I’ll probably be offline a bit more.

You won’t miss me, because how many of you are even reading this? A blog is like a silent cry into a void! And mine’s no different.

Anyrate, I’ll be writing about terrorism for a while. Hopefully it doesn’t blow up on me the way Songs of my Mother did, but I do think it might be around 100,000 words, which is a lot of words to write.

I’ll let you know when I finish.

six months

After six months, I’ve finally finished the first draft of Songs of my Mother! For some reason, the following song is the first thing that popped into my head upon completion.

 

captureThe wordcount ended up being just shy of 300,000 words, though this will expand at least a bit–if not a lot–over that when I edit/rewrite. Well, here’s the total wordcount and pagecount.

This has been quite an ordeal for me, as people who come to this site well know. But now the hardest part is over. What comes next is adding in scenes I didn’t know I needed, rewriting scenes that may not have turned out the way they should have, and just general editing.

Luckily, the first 120,000 words are more or less in final draft form. Or at least finalish form. So are most of the chapters that take place in the present. So the bulk of the work will be in the rest, which is probably like 150,000 words. Still a lot, mind, but a lot less than 300,000 words.

At this point, it’s probably time to write some kind of a synopsis or whatever.

The novel takes place in the same world and on the same continent as Twilight of the Wolves, though it takes place several centuries before that, so there’s no overlap. The bulk of the novel takes place in a single village deep in the forest that covers most of the continent and it deals with life there. It’s about culture, life, and relationships, really. What it means to be a member of this village and how this village changes when one of its people becomes a god.

Luna is a child. Her mother and fathers are outcasts in their clan and the first section of the novel is, in many ways, a family drama. What it means to be an outcast, what it means to watch your society not accept you because of the decision your parents made before you were born. More than that, it’s about what it means to be a family. What kind of love exists between men and women, between parent and child. How we try to protect our children from our mistakes and how our children are far more perceptive than we believe they are.

Then a dragon comes to the village and Luna’s mother kills it. This is really the pivot of the novel, and everything spirals out from there. In killing the dragon, she becomes a god to her own people and the rest of the novel deals with this event.

It’s sociological fantasy, in the vein of Ursula K Le Guin or Samuel R Delany’s Neveryona series. The novel deals with mythology, philosophy, art, culture, love, sexuality, social conventions and structures, mysticism, pacifism, violence, apotheosis, deicide, suicide, motherhood, childhood, love, death, and what it means to be a person, what it means to be alive.

There are characters who are gods who have lived for thousands of years and characters who become gods while still too young to understand what that means. There are tragedies, moments of humor, violence, and the grotesque.

Basically, there’s a bit of everything. All my various obsessions–including cooking–find a place in the novel. But I think, at the heart, it’s about a few things.

The impetus for much of this was the disorienting sensation of being confronted by power so much greater than what you can conceive. And then being forced to accept that power and live under its shadow.

But the novel really finds a heart in the relationships between people. People children and parents, between lovers, between friends, and how power can turn these people into opposition.

I’ve written some of my favorite scenes in this novel. Also some of my darkest and maybe some of my funniest. It’s an emotional journey, and it lasts Luna’s whole life.

We begin when she’s just a child, but we end with her thousands of miles away, much older and after much loss.

 

captureIt’s a novel in five main parts. There is a throughline that takes place in the present (Prelude, Interludes, Postlude), where Luna tells a person the story of her life. The story of her life happens over the course of four distinct sections (Dragonslayer, Savior, Goddess, Forest) that are broken up by scenes in the present. It looks like the picture on the left.

Despite the majority of the novel happening in the past, quite a bit of narrative movement happens in the present. It’s something I was uncertain about at first, this framing of the narrative, and I planned on abandoning it if it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.

Like, I didn’t want it to just be a story in the present and a story in the past. I wanted an interaction between the past and present that would make the narrative twist and bend into surprising directions, both for me and the reader.

I think I succeeded. I’m very happy with how it came out, anyway.

But, yes, I’m immensely proud of it and it’s taken me half the year to get it all written down. I’ve talked about the process a few times in recent months, so I won’t go through it again. But it hasn’t been easy! This is the longest I’ve ever worked on…anything. Not just a novel, but any single project.

And though it’s not ready for the eyes of the world, it will be soon. Hopefully sooner than later. But definitely by the end of November.

With that in mind, now’s the time to let me know if you want to be a beta reader! I’ll be reaching out to certain people, but I’m really looking for various eyes on this. I’ve never written anything even close to this long so I have all sorts of fears and concerns about pacing and structure.

But, yeah, reach out and let me know if you’d want to take a look at this monster.

I’ll be celebrating for tonight and probably the rest of the weekend, then probably taking next week off. But come November, I’ll be wearing my editor hat and trying to make this novel shine the way it should.

how do you solve a problem like my idea

Getting a real Sound of Music kind of thing in my head right now, which explains the title.

Anyrate, I may actually be finished with the novel I’ve been writing, but I’m not sure yet. See, I began Part Four about a week or so ago, but the further I get into it, the more I think it may actually be unnecessary. Or not unnecessary, but just a poor place to end a novel, especially one of this length.

It sort of feels entirely like denouement. For that to go on for 200 pages isn’t a good look, especially when you’ve already journeyed nearly 1,000 pages into a novel.

Either way, I’m going to finish this section, because it might still be worth it. But what if this is just a bad place to end a novel?

I’ve been thinking, too, about the possible necessity to write a direct sequel to the novel. This is all predicated on me actually selling the novel. The way I see it, a standalone 1,000+ novel isn’t an easy sell, especially from an author whose combined sales over three books is fewer than 1,000 copies. Maybe fewer than 500, which is depressing to remember.

Anyrate, if I do need to write a direct follow up, it makes sense to keep the novel ending I have planned, so that it will pick up right afterwards. I don’t know if the rest of the story will take another 1,000 pages, so it may be a very lopsided duology, but that’s just how it goes.

Of course, if the sequel isn’t necessary, I may just end this novel at the 260,000 word mark and call it a day.

As it is, I’m straddling 285,000 words. Staring down 300,000 words is still shocking to me, but it’s where I’m heading. I’ll probably be there by the end of the week, since that’s not so far from here.

I’m well on track to finish the novel by the end of the month, despite taking the previous three days off. I’d be ecstatic, actually, if I could finish Part Four this week. That would give me plenty of time to write the postlude, and then more than enough time to edit/rewrite this beast before the year’s over.

Because I do really want to begin submitting this before I turn thirty. It’s coming up fast and this novel will take a long time to perfect.

Anyrate, still looking for volunteers for beta readers. Maybe I’ll even give a full synopsis when I’m finished.

Later, gator.

your brain still works when you’re sick

Sick. In my lungs. Makes breathing a bit of a struggle. Congestion is what I mean. Have a humidifier going and green tea coming.

The last time I posted, I talked about productivity, which is kind of appropriate, because I then went on to writing 20,000 more words before the month ended. I got 120,000 words in September, which is probably a record somewhere.

Anyway, because of that I ended up taking the first week of October off. Figure I deserve a break. Then this weekend, I was able to get another 8,ooo words into the novel, which serves as the last interlude chapter. Tomorrow, I plan on starting section four, which is the last section. Hoping real hard that it only runs about 40,000 words so I can finally be finished with this thing.

I’m currently over 260,000 words on the novel, which is, you know, a lot.

But everything just keeps getting longer. Section three was meant to be 50,000 words, but ended up at 70,000 words.

And then, in this week taken off, I’ve found scenes that need to be added to the novel, which might push section two over 100,000 words and section three up closer to 80,000 or 90,000. So the novel keeps expanding and expanding. A novel I never thought would be even near 300,000 words is now going to traipse right past that number.

But, yeah, big fat novel getting bigger and fatter.

Something else I did while I was not writing my novel is come up with a pretty solid definition of the next novel I’m going to write. It’s a world where two ancient species fight a war that ends when a human wizard obliterates all life on that continent. Then we jump forward about 500 years to an anarchist industrialized world without magic where people are super into occult techniques, though everyone knows they’re not real. A man who believes that the world now has a god is ridiculed and thought of as a quack. He wants to go to that other continent, where the ancient species were made extinct. The novel follows several people as they go to that other continent to find the wizard who annihilated whole species.

So that’s the gist of it, but I also developed a Tarot deck and a new set of Zodiac symbols.

It’s going to be fun to write.

But! I thought this would be a nice short novel to follow up this big giant one. I can already tell it’s going to be much bigger than I initially thought. Hopefully not more than 100,000 words, because that’s a stupid size novel.

But, yeah, just some dumb writerly stuff today. Don’t worry about it.

 

 

an unusual month

A lot has happened. Part of me wants to write about the travesty that was the first presidential debate. The solitary confinement of Chelsea Manning comes to mind too. Or maybe something real topical: the blatant and casual racism of Bill Maher.

But smarter people will talk about that. Have talked about it. Will keep talking about it.

So I’ll do something selfish and talk about myself!

It’s been a good month in certain ways and a terrible one in other ways. Discovered how much fixing our plumbing is going to cost. Meeting with my contractor soon. Had to have my deck painted, which also wasn’t nothing. So the bummers are mostly just financial, which is a big deal, but we’re fortunate enough to be able to come through and pay for it all. Oh, and our sweet little Viggo needs to be neutered.

It diverts us from our financial goals, but that’s just how it goes, I guess.

Anyrate, the novel has been going well, so there’s that. Also, I’m seeing Sigur Ros tomorrow, so that’s pretty awesome too.

Last night I reached and passed 100,000 words for the month, which is kind of a lot! It’s nearly half this novel. While I hoped to be finished with this novel by my birthday, there’s way too far to go for the two days remaining. But hopefully I’ll be finished next month. But, as is typical for this novel, everything gets longer. I’m already nearly at the point that I was certain the novel would top out at. I had a hard time thinking I’d reach 250,000 words, but here I am, just 15,000 away from that with a lot of story still to go.

My only goal this week now is to finish this section of the novel, which leaves me one more section–the last one–and one chapter between them, with one that follows section four.

So there might be upwards of 70,000 words to write, which means the novel is going to be even gianter than I ever could have expected.

I’ll also be crossing page 900 this week. Maybe even today, depending on how much I’m able to write today. Probably it’ll be tomorrow. Either way, I seem to be writing a brick of a novel, which is just the hugest bummer, but also kind of exciting.

Then comes the editing. Editing may take a while and the novel will either shrink or grow. Knowing how my editing usually goes, it will probably expand a bit, or significantly.

But, yeah, my only real goal is to have this completely finished this year. Sending it to beta readers as soon as possible and then rewriting/editing once more in order to send it out to agents and publishers next fall.

I’ve had a few offers for beta readers, but I’m always looking for more! If you have any interest in reading this giant novel about gods and demons and dragonslayers and kingkillers and the like, let me know!