when novels blow up on you

Been a while since I posted, which wasn’t intended, since I hoped to blog a lot more this year. I’ve probably written more words on the blog than I have in a long, long time, but most of those are political or abstract questions of morality, which no one really cares about.

I might not even care about it.

Anyrate, I’ve been burying my head in a novel. It’s the novel I began back in January but I took a quick break to write a novella, which I talked about here. Unfortunately, as often happens to me, when I take a break, it often accidentally goes on and on.

So I had about 14k words written when I took a break to write that novella and I didn’t come back to this novel until May, which is just too too long. But I was able to start sprinting and get a big chunk of it finished.

Thing is, way back in January, and even at the beginning of May, I believed this novel would top out at about 80k words. And even that seemed unlikely. What I’d whisper to myself in my head was that the novel would probably end up being 70k word, which, for a fantasy novel, is kind of short. Especially since places like DAW have a soft minimum of 80k words.

So my goal was to finish the novel in May, which was no problem. I wrote about 80k words in two weeks back in 2011 when I wrote Twilight of the Wolves, which ended up being 95k words in its final form. So reaching 80k was not going to be a problem, and it wasn’t!

The problem is that I reached the 72k word mark and only finished the first of three sections.

Let me explain the novel a bit more.

This novel actually takes place in the same world as Twilight of the Wolves. It’s in a separate part of the continent and deals almost exclusively with one culture, and, really, just one village, though it will fan out a bit. It also takes place about 500 years before Twilight of the Wolves.

The novel originated in two short stories that I wrote for a workshop where my instructor was Valerie Valdes, who is an immensely talented teacher. Also, her novel is absolutely fantastic and can’t wait to see it get published somewhere. Anyrate, the length issue I’m having right now is because of her!

So I wrote these two short stories. All together, they were about 14k words. One of those stories was pretty much a failure, as it was largely a 7.5k word summary of a novel, which is what I’m writing now. The other short story was about 6k words and I wanted it to basically be a first chapter.

Unfortunately, because of Valerie’s suggestion, it also became a very detailed outline. So I started with a 14k word outline, more or less, to work from.

Which is awesome. It’s why I could leave this novel for so long and come back without any trouble. Even with this outline, I still thought it would only top out at 80k, which is basically taking those 14k and blowing it up by a factor of six.

What happened, though, is that the first 6k word of that outline blew up by a factor of eleven, which is ridiculous.

So the other 7.5k was the outline for part two of my novel. I’m currently 30k into that second part and I’m really only just beginning, so part two is likely going to be as much as 150k, which is, by itself, longer than anything I’ve written in my life.

At the novel’s current length (108k words), it’s longer than any project I’ve ever finished. I have an abandoned novel that’s almost 150k words, which may someday get finished and probably reach close to 300k, but I have no idea if that’ll ever be finished. Possibly not.

Anyrate, it’s becoming very possible that my current novel is going to be up near 300k.

I’ll break down the structure:

Prelude – 6k words

Part One – 66k words

Interlude – 5k words

Part Two – 100k to 150k(?) words

Interlude – 5k(?) words

Part Three – 30-60k(?) words

Postlude – 3k to 6k(?) words

If I end up on the low end of everything planned, I’ll be around 215k. But it’s possible part two will be right around or even over 150k words, and part three may be well over 60k words, especially with the way everything’s expanding, which would put the total at about 295k words.

Anyrate, a bit more about the structure.

The novel takes place in the present, and reaches back to tell the story of a life. It’s a story within a story, which will hopefully have a nice juxtaposition and play off one another. That being said, if those parts of the novel that take place in the present don’t create a really interesting tension with the real heart of the novel, then I’ll probably cut it all.

Because it’s really not enough for it to just work. When you’re doing a structure like this, it has to be more than just an element that works.

It needs to be transformative. It needs to remake the novel into something grander, more beautiful, more everything. It has to take that novel and just make it synergistically better.

If it’s not doing that, then it doesn’t need to be there.

But, yeah, that’s where I’m at right now. Just over 100k words in, just tipping past 400 pages, and not even at the halfway mark.

Which means I’m writing in a very different way for this novel. If you come here often or have checked out any of my posts about the process of my novels, you know I typically write a novel in about a week. That’s 5k to 10k a day until the novel ends.

But I couldn’t do that. Not for a novel this big. So I’m taking a relatively more relaxed approach to the novel. I pumped out a lot of words in June. Hit about 60k words over the course of two weeks, which feels so slow to me.

It’s weird, honestly. And today I was looking at the amount of words I’ve written so far in June comes to about 36k words. That may seem like a lot, but I’m used to that taking about four to seven days.

But I’m happy with the process. My new goal is to finish the novel before I turn 29 in September.  Then I’m hoping to either sell it to a publisher or get an agent before I’m 30.

Because of the size and complexity of this, I’m hoping to get at least a handful of beta readers. My friend Kyle Muntz has already read part one and had only good things to say, which was a huge confidence boost.

But, yeah, if you’re someone interested in an epic fantasy novel written by me that’s largely concerned with family, culture, and so on, let me know. Because I really am hoping to get eyes on this so I can make it as good as it can possibly be.

In other news, after I finished part one of the novel, I took another brief break to write a heroic fantasy novella that I’m very proud of. If you’d like to give me feedback on that, I’d be interested in seeing what you have to say as well.

So, yeah–that’s what I’ve been up to lately. I’ll be continuing to write this novel for a few months.


leisurely novelling

I started a new novel, which has been fun. I’m taking it much slower than normal, mostly because I’m just expanding two short stories that, by themselves, amount to about 13,000 words. I’m mostly expanding scenes and writing connective tissue between the scenes. It’s making for a very character focused novel about memory, perception, myths, stories, how legends start and how they become their own thing.

Anyrate, I’ve written about 2,000 words a day, which is far below average. I’m kind of hoping to finish it by the end of February, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens far sooner than that, since it’s sometimes difficult for me to hold back from spending all day writing.

See, I’m trying to be productive in my actual life and not just on my novel.

Means lots of compartmentalising of the day.

Often times I make playlists for any novel I’m writing, but I’ve mostly been listening to a couple of songs repeatedly. For example, that version of Skinny Love at the top of the post. It’s my favorite version of that song ever recorded.

I miss Bon Iver. I used to be really into him when I lived in Ireland. I listened to him almost every day while I was there.

Thing is, I wasn’t a huge fan of his second album. You know, the one that he won awards for. But his first one is much purer, I think. It’s gentle and ethereal and hopeless. It reminds me of being in love and not feeling it back. It reminds me of wandering crowded streets alone through misting rain and wondering what my life would be like when I went back home, if I even wanted to go home. If I wanted to spend any amount of time back in america.

But, at the same time, I find that it gives me hope, even though it feels tragic.

Anyrate, that’s kind of an aside.

My new novel isn’t really related to those emotions, though it may be tonally similar.

I just kind of miss Bon Iver. Mostly the Bon Iver from 2008, which is the one I know best.

Also, that version of For Emma, Forever Ago is so ecstatically beautiful.

Tomorrow’s another day of trying to stay away from the novel for all but two or three hours a day. Doing a few thousand words and then spending the rest of the day working my dayjob, loving my wife, and enjoying the other aspects of my life.

Take care, Starchild.

new site look, new novel

Benjamin Clementine has become an absolute favorite, so you should listen to that.

Anyrate, updated the look of my site for the first time in years.

I think this will make it much easier to read, actually. So hopefully this will save your eyes. It’s not as dramatic looking as the previous iteration, but it’s maybe friendlier.

I don’t have a lot to say right now, except that I started writing a new novel, which I’ve been meaning to start for a long time now. I wrote about 2,000 words yesterday and they were agony. It took me all day. Then I showered and realised I needed to delete half of those words. Then, last night while I was reading, I realised that I actually needed to start over and change the beginning completely.

So that’s what I did today and it went swimmingly. I wrote roughly the same amount of time as I did yesterday but ended the day with 5,500 words instead, which is a much better pace. The beginning is much fuller and more interesting, I think. It also simply makes more sense.

The nice thing is that this novel comes out of a short story that I wrote with two very different iterations. So I sort of have a skeleton for the rest of the plot, which should make it relatively easy to write from here on out. I’m not going to push to write it in a week like I typically do, but–who knows!

It’s very much sociological fantasy. Or, to put it another way, it’s going to be almost entirely character focused and most of it takes place in a very small geographic area. It’s about a village at a time of change and the extraordinary life of a family there.

Also, I’m playing Dragon Age: Origins because I’m years behind on videogames and I’m also reading The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly, and they have incredibly similar plots, at least on the surface. I mean, it’s probably premature to say that since I have dozens and dozens of hours left to play on Dragon Age and the Barbara Hambly novel is the first in a trilogy, but they’re both about this kind of embodied darkness rising and swarming over humanity. Now humanity needs to deal with it.

So, yeah, fun stuff.

everything i had to say about love

Exists in Noir: A Love Story and Ash Cinema.

Or at least romantic love.

I wrote those a few months apart and they’re most obviously about love and Death, living and loving and dying.

So if you’re looking for a present this Valentine’s Day or just want to read something about love that I wrote, you can get them.

Buy Noir: A Love Story straight from the publisher.

noir cover

Buy Ash Cinema from Amazon or get it for free from Smashwords.


File this under shameless self promotion, but these really are about love, and they’re for you.

But it’s interesting to me, these novels. I wrote them about love and out of love but I had never really had love. Or at least not how I feel it now. Back then I was looking desperately for it. I was wandering the globe hoping to stumble into it and slowly giving up on ever finding it.

Little did I know that I’d accidentally meet the person I’m about to marry about a year after I wrote these novels.

Here’s some music for you.

ydde who

Been doing a lot since I last posted. Things have changed in a big way. A very very good way though.

Anyrate, I tried to write a novel almost two weeks ago. Got a thousand words in and realised it wasn’t what it was meant to be or what I wanted it to be. I was relying too much on my familiar tricks: lots of narrators, lots of shits, weird structure, obfuscation. So I shelved it and tried to write a completely different novel but got nowhere on that either.

So I had two novels I needed to write. One about a hermit and accidental cult leader, the other about a young female graverobber.

Had no idea how to write either one and it was tearing at me, berating me.

And then on Tuesday they both took shape in my head. The hermit/cult leader one is going to be very much influenced by Milan Kundera, and I’m sort of going to steal his style, since I think I need to write in a radically new way. Or at least a radically new one for me. And then the graverobbing novel will be more similar to how I wrote Twilight of the Wolves, but much, much shorter and set in this world. They’ll actually both be set in this world. Sometimes people call it the real world or earth.

It began like wildfire on Wednesday morning and now I’m nearly seventy pages into one of them and it feels glorious. It’s a bit of magic realism and surrealism but also set in a mostly present day world, which is so strange to write again, after several years writing centuries in the future or in completely different realities.

I think I’m about halfway finished, maybe more. Hoping to get another 5,000 words in today, though that may not happen. I leave for Chicago on Sunday and will be there for almost a week, so I’d like to have it finished before then, but that’s very soon.

We’ll see though. It’s going to be a short novel, so it’s definitely possible. These last 20,000 words or so should be pretty fast paced.

I hope.

Other than that, I’ve been spending way to much time playing Civilization V but I also started working out again, so I should be in good shape in a few months. Finally.

It really sucks being fat.

I’ll hopefully start using my site more again. I have lots of thoughts about a lot of things and I want to get them down here.

Maybe soon.

Later, gators.

some things go noirish in the daylight

Every day this week I’ll be running a little giveaway at 1pm CST. I’m giving away Ash CinemaTwilight of the Wolves, and Noir: A Love Story.

Today I asked people to give me a reason why they needed to have my books, and I gave the winner all three.

So check in to my facebook page at 1pm every day to see what’s happening.

Noir: A Love Story comes out in just ten days and I’ll try to make something special every day.

So pay attention, because they won’t last long.

noir cover


In other news, Dennis Cooper read and loved my book! Honored and humbled and surprised. He talks about other books in there too, because he’s Dennis Coooper and he’s a groovy cat.

Also, some discussions of short film at Entropy:

Someone’s Gaze by Makoto Shinkai

Duet by Glen Keane

Premier Automne by Carlos De Carvalho & Aude Danset

on blurbury

Been way too long since I posted something. About a month, actually. Been insanely busy though.

I just wanted to talk briefly about blurbs. Most probably don’t know what that is, but writers are crazy about that word. It’s such a big part of their world that it’s almost absurd. Here’s how it goes for me.

For Ash Cinema, I didn’t even try to get a blurb. Didn’t even look for one. I like that novel a lot, especially as time goes on, but I never really felt like I had to grab at people’s attention with it.

For Twilight of the Wolves, I reached out to a lot of writers that I truly love. Mostly just big names because I think you may as well reach as high as possible, because the worst thing that can happen is they say No, which takes nothing away from you. I went for big names too, because this is a difficult novel to pitch and sell, and I thought having some famous names on the cover would do a lot of the legwork for me. Unfortunately, none took the bite, so I scrambled for some last minute ones, and since only one person had read the novel at that point, I got Kyle Muntz to blurb me. Then Berit Ellingsen was kind enough to make the time to read and say awesome things.

Noir: A Love Story is the one that I’ve done right, I think. Because of the way Twilight of the Wolves has struggled to find its audience, and because I had its success too tied to my emotions, I decided to go in a more personal way with Noir. It sort of still crushes me that Twilight of the Wolves hasn’t found its audience, but I’m more hopeful with Noir. I sought out a few different writers and I chose them for specific reasons. Tim Horvath because I wish I could write as intelligently as him. Jac Jemc because My Only Wide is haunting in all the ways I hope Noir is. Matt Bell because we’re both writing a sort of fantastic or mythological modern day. And then Steve Erickson because he’s my hero. I honestly consider him the greatest living american novelist, and have ever since I first burnt through all his novels. I couldn’t stop reading them, so I read them twice. He’s a genius in all the ways I hope to some day be, and I sent him my novel, not really expecting anything, but because I needed him to read it. If he liked it even a fraction of how I love his novels, that would make it all worthwhile. Every bad review would roll off me because I’d know Erickson digs it. I mean, he’s the whole reason I wrote a novel at all. He’s the reason I chose to take writing seriously. He showed me that I could write the things I want to write how I want to write them. I can be different in all the strange ways I am different. I can be a sentimental surrealist and find beauty there. More than that, his novels feel so close to my heart. I imagine we share many of the same obsessions, with film being the most obvious. And I wanted this novel, specifically, to have his name attached to it. I don’t think it’s similar to what he’s written, but it’s the novel of mine that’s closest to my heart. Probably because it’s my first.

And so I really can’t express how amazing it was to receive this blurb from him:

In Noir, Rathke exposes the pale, sickly underbelly of a vibrant utopia for all to see. He unravels the quiet metaphysics of the detective thriller by letting all of the witnesses carry equal weight. Rathke has a faith in his reader that makes the experience of reading his work one full of extraordinary rewards and teeming satisfaction.

So that’s how I went about seeking blurbs, and I think I finally figured out the right way to do it. To be honest, I wanted a blurb from Wong Kar Wai and Max Richter too, but I don’t know if they’d be into that.

There are other things I should be sharing, since a lot’s happened in the last month, but I just wanted to touch on this briefly because it really does make a lot of this feel worth it to me.

There’s one writer that I keep not asking for a blurb, though I probably should have three times by now. That’s Stephen Graham Jones, who’s basically the coolest guy around. I keep saving him for something special. Probably either the giant monster novel or the horror novel. We’ll see.

i’ll be somebody to love

Absolutely love that song.

Anycase, it’s Friday and it’s been sort of a logistical nightmare of a week for me on the job front. Things are ramping up incredibly quickly and we don’t have the right employees for what we need. I mean, they’re okay, but we really need a creative director to handle a lot of these things, and my boss isn’t very interested in doing that, apparently.

But, yeah, it’s Friday and the sun is shining and it’s time for love.

Just love somebody.

And if you want to review Noir: A Love Story or Twilight of the Wolves, or if you want to interview me about either, get in touch. I can probably send you a physical copy.

Also, there’s a Goodreads giveaway for Noir: A Love Story right now.

Speaking of Goodreads and giveaways, the woman who won the Twilight of the Wolves giveaway wrote a review, and she loved it:

A fresh new vision which reads like an ancient ballad full of old gods and the white men half machines who destroy them. I wanted to sing it in an alternating upbeat tempo of wolves and old god joy and a slow and mournful tune that cries with the loss of innocence and light as I read it. Thank you Mr. Rathke for creating a feeling far different from anything I’ve read before.

That actually makes me happier than a thousand kind reviews from people I know. She also just got the novel, which is awesome.

new books


on marketing your novel

With the approach of Noir: A Love Story, and the fact that Twilight of the Wolves and Girl with Ears are still going largely ignored, I’m realising how difficult it is to get people to care about what you spend all those hours writing.

It’s frustrating and disappointing. You put a lot of work into writing something to make it as great and awesome as it can possibly be, and then you even give it away to people for free, hoping they’ll review it or tell other people to read it. And then you wait, and you hope that it works out.

I feel as if I did a lot to try to promote both Twilight of the Wolves and Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp, even giving a two for one deal the entire month of April, but it doesn’t seem to have done much. Probably I could’ve done more, or should’ve done more, but I didn’t write them to market stories.

And that’s what we have to be, in essence. As small press authors, as independent artists, we need to be our own PR, Marketing, and Sales departments, and that depresses the hell out of me. Especially because these things are actually just as important as the quality of the book itself. The best novel in the world without a campaign behind it won’t do much.

And I think that’s been part of the failing of Twilight of the Wolves. As much as the editorial and publishing team understood the novel, the marketing team has done essentially nothing with it. They sent out a bulk email to publications, which received basically no response. I’ve contacted about fifty publications with no real response. It’s very depressing, doing what you can and still getting nowhere. I’ve written about the accidental unmarketability of my book, which is one of the most popular posts I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into any real interest in the novel, as far as I can tell.

I think, relatively, I’m maybe not even selling that poorly, considering the indie press market, but it’s disappointing to me that I’ve not sold even 100 copies, and have only sold about twenty copies since the publication date. I have two reviews in publication of the novel, with only one more review being on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s frustrating, yeah.

And so I’m trying to think about how to make Noir do better out in the world. I think it’s a novel better geared towards the indie crowd, and it feels as if there’s already more people paying attention to it. But I’m still not sure where or how to get it reviewed. I sent out about fifty ARCs of Twilight of the Wolves, which resulted in three reviews so far. I suppose I could do the same thing and hope for the best, but I don’t know if that’s useful.

Luckily, there’s some time to figure it out. Much less than there was before.

And then there seems to be a debate about promoting yourself on social media that’s sort of devolved into a chaotic sprawl of vitriol, so I’ll step past it, but I don’t think social media works to sell books. It can, sure, and I’m sure everyone who bought Twilight of the Wolves first came across it on facebook, but I don’t think it’ll do what people expect it to.

Too, I’m not sure what works better, or if there’s a way to push your books without being obnoxious. Probably I’m thinking too much about this side of publishing and should just get back to writing. Unfortunately, taking on a lot of new work responsibilities has cut my time to read/write to almost nothing these last three weeks.

Anyrate, I guess the point here is that I’m looking for reviewers for Noir: A Love Story. I can send you a digital copy. I’m also looking for reviewers for Twilight of the Wolves and Girl with Ears.

If you’re interested, get in touch. You should know where to find me.

People will always tell you not to worry about your sales, and they’re right. I expected too much from Twilight of the Wolves, and that’s going to be a long, slow sell, if it ever picks up. But I think what frustrates me is that I know a lot of reviewers/interviewers/readers and they also don’t seem to be interested in the novel, which is a bummer. But, I mean, that’s what the post I previously linked is all about: writing books no one wants.

But, yeah, rambly post. Trying to think of ways to market my novels. To make people care.

And how do we get people to care? I’d argue that there are more readers than ever, but there are also more writers than ever. How do you reach people when they’re bombarded by so much every day/week/year?

That’s the trick. Usually it means getting a bigger venue to care.

But that is anything but easy.

the song of the black mages

My story about Vivi from FFIX came out from Cartridge Lit last week, which has to be the coolest idea for a magazine ever. Literature influenced and about videogames. It’s perfect.

The story’s called The Song of the Black Mages and is the first of many stories I’ve written/am writing about Vivi that takes place between the last battle of FFIX and its ending cinematic. I hope you dig it.

Over at Entropy I have a few things going on as well.

Short Film of the Week: On Your Mark by Hayao Miyazaki

Short Film of the Week: Red by Jorge Jaramillo & Carlo Guillot

Sunday Entropy List: Favorite Animated Films

Editors’ List: Favorite Books Translated into English

And then I’ll also just remind people that Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp is only a dollar and Twilight of the Wolves is only three, so go out and get them! They take place in the same world and are amongst my best writing, I think.

Oh, also, go buy Green Lights by Kyle Muntz! Read a review at HTMLGiant.

And since we’re talking about books released, a whole load of them were just released by Lazy Fascist Press, which means all kinds of awesome. Pay special attention to Michael J Seidlinger and Brian Allen Carr.