a burning green

Last night I finished this new novella, which I discussed a bit just the other day. I didn’t expect to be finished so soon, since I thought I was taking kind of a relaxed pace to this, but I finished it in about eight days. Which, I guess, is pretty relaxed for me, since I’ve finished novels three times this length in roughly the same amount of time.

The first draft is around 21,000 words, and it feels oddly satisfying to already have two novellas finished this year. I thought I’d be taking a long break from writing after finishing Songs of My Mother, but that seems to’ve unintentionally instilled some kind of work ethic in me, or at least a writing habit.

So hopefully I can keep this up, though the next idea I have is for something quiet a bit longer. Perhaps 100,000 words. It’s going to be sort of my largest statement about anarchism, in that I’m building a continent like Europe that will basically just be a bunch of functioning anarchic states.

It should be fun.

But this new novella, it had a pretty unpleasant name during the writing process, but I’ve landed on Born Under a Burning Green for now. It might change, and it might change often, but I like it right now, and it’s pretty appropriate.

It’s about 90% dialogue, really. Most of it is funny to me, though that might just be my own preference. But these two women with pasts that are only ever obliquely alluded to just talk about the world and their place in it. Sort of a pseudophilosophical text in a fantasy world. In many ways, it’s meant to mirror the standard epic fantasy quest storyline while also removing everything that makes that a typical story. So there is a quest, but the reader isn’t really aware of what it is. There are great actions taken, though many of those are left undescribed. And in most stories, these two would be villains, since they do little more than murder humans and monsters alike.

So it’s a black comedy, I think, but also kind of an aggressive text, in that it’s pretty unfriendly. Brutal characters who are, essentially, living in a peaceful world. They don’t so much fight other humans. They butcher them in an often gruesome manner, though a lot of that is left to the imagination. The only things they fight are the monsters which roam the continent. Strange, foul monsters.

But, yeah, weirdly proud of this, partly because of how peculiar it is, but mostly because it’s a very peculiar thing for me to write, and it’s told in a manner that’s unusual for me as well. There’s very little outside of quotation marks. So the whole narrative and world is given through dialogue, which is just kind of a wandering, fun, accidental experiment.

But, yes, it’s finished. I hope you get the chance to read it someday. And I hope you love it.

quiet breaths

I was feeling pretty down earlier today. Pretty down for the last week, plus a few days. I probably don’t need to tell you why, but a lot of it has to do, I think, with how often I kept tabbing over to facebook or twitter.

I’m forming bad habits again. Unhealthy, stifling habits. It’s something I’m actively trying to prevent: spending so much time online.

Tonight I’m going to play Final Fantasy XV, maybe try some origami or draw some maps, or maybe write some more of this novella I’m working on.

The current title is vulgar and only a placeholder, but it’s about two women in a pretty traditional fantasy world. But instead of going on a quest or fighting for some cause, they mostly walk around and talk. Both of them have no education and very little understanding of the world they live in. They know kings and gods have a place but they don’t understand any of it, so much of the novella is made up of philosophical discussions between these two incredibly ignorant characters as they make sense of the world and try to sort it out to one another.

The dynamic is pretty interesting to me, because the novella is about 85% dialogue with very little extraneous descriptions. Because of this, it has kind of a meandering and hopefully naturalistic feel.

The other 15% of the novella is them killing monsters and other people.

So it’s a very violent text, but weirdly fun to write, and endlessly amusing to me. Not the violence, but the conversations. I might even just toss a short section of it in here to give you a taste:

The girl said, “There are no gods. Everybody knows that.”

“Then what is the Tesha?”

The girl shrugged, “Don’t know. Probably just some guy. Who cares?”

Her companion gestured to the dead bodies, “Priests.”

“Priests work as much for the king as they do for the Tesha.”

“What king?”

“What?”

“You said—”

“The fucking king! Shit,” the girl threw down the bone she was whittling. “You know,” she whirled her knife as if the gesture encompassed the whole world, the bracelet of teeth clacking, “the fucking king. Everywhere’s got a king.”

“But which king?”

“Shit, I don’t know. Wherever we are.”

“If we don’t know what he’s king of, what makes him king?”

The girl slumped where she sat and sighed, “You’re really pissing me off.” She picked up the whittled bone and went back at it with the knife, the teeth bracelet rattling with every stroke. The scrape and grind of blade on bone vibrated up her wrist to the elbow.

Across the fire, her companion flayed the head of one of the dead priests, “Don’t see what there’s to get mad over.” Struggling with the skin on the nose, she gave up and sawed through the cartilage and let the severed nose fall to the dirt. “Who says there’s no gods?”

The girl snorted and shook her head, “Everybody.”

“Everybody don’t mean shit. You mean Alton and his family.”

The girl blew the bonedust from her hands and examined the blade she was making out of the bone. Her jaw clenched on one side and she reached down to her feet and groped for something with her eyes still on the bone in her other hand. Grasping at nothing, she looked down and then around her.

“What?” Her companion paused what she was doing.

“There was a grindstone here.”

Her companion whistled and when the girl looked up, her companion tossed it to her. The girl went to grinding the boneblade smooth. “What’re you making?”

Her companion giggled, “Don’t know. Thought I’d make, like, a guitar.”

“With a skull?”

Her companion shrugged, “Not sure I know what a guitar looks like.”

“It’s like,” the girl paused, then giggled along with her companion, “like a thin thing and a hallow thing,” her words collapsed into full on laughter and her companion laughed with her.

The night wore on and the fire burned down to embers.

Her companion said, “Should we add more wood?”

The girl shrugged, “You tired?”

Her companion shrugged and tossed another log onto the embers, then a second. They sizzled, popped, and eventually lit.

“What got the wood wet?”

Her companion shrugged, “Blood, probably.” She was deboning the leg of one of the dead priests. “If there’re no gods, then why is there a Tesha?”

The girl sighed, “Same reason there’s kings, I guess.”

“Why’s that?”

“Shit, I don’t know.”

That’s how the novella begins and it continues in that manner. So it’s a mix of comedy and brutality that’s sort of oddly therapeutic to write. It helps me breathe easier.

It’s interesting to me what I’ve written since completing Songs of My Mother last year. I’ve written a novella inspired by Greenlandic cuisine, Taoism, anarchy, and pacifism, and now I’m writing something that is, in many ways, its opposite: a violent, meandering, chaotic text with ignorant characters who have an undescribed past.

I don’t know what inspired me to write this current novella. In the Greenlandic novella, I was seeking to find an answer to the violence I see in the world. In this, I can’t say I’m looking for anything. Maybe I’m running from something, or trying to explain bits of reality to myself, bits of america to myself. Because I see how the recent frustrations, fears, and concerns are playing out in this short, brutal, comedy.

But, yeah, I’ve also written a handful of poems about Trump. I’m collecting them into a collection titled The Golden King. Maybe it’s a form of resistance or a way for me to write out my greatest fears for the future, but it’s a pretty unpleasant text so far. It’s draining to write those poems and so I’ve only written five, but I think the rest of the collection will be from a different kind of perspective, and hopefully those will give me a sense of hope and peace.

Which is what I’m seeking, first in my own life, and then in the world. It’s why I’m going through the Tao Te Ching every day.

Trying to breathe and live quietly.

Which is not to say passively.

It’s difficult to be at peace right now, to find balance, and sometimes it’s making me feel hopeless, since I see no balance to this. But, ultimately, it’s helping me. Allowing me to step back and see the world with cleaner eyes. Eyes less stained by the brutality of the present.

And I need that. I need to remember that the world is still a beautiful place. That resistance is more than shouting loudly online. Resistance is a complex, multifaceted thing, yet it can be as simple as clearing your thoughts, playing chess, or folding laundry.

Resistance is persistence.

I saw an interesting thread of tweets by an Iranian responding to americans on twitter. He highlighted how Iranians live and enjoy life, even though they live under a brutal theocratic regime (and he reminds us that the US toppled a liberal, democratic government to put the theocratic dictator in place).

It gave me a quiet sense of hope. That life goes on. That even when things seem hopeless, even when life is at its darkest, people still find beauty and love and laughter. They dance, and they sing.

That’s resistance. It’s the kind few talk about, but it’s a terribly important form of resistance: to persist. To love. To live. To laugh. To create art and collaborate with other people. To build friendships.

And it’s inspired me to act on some long-standing plans. Like hosting monthly gatherings (this is in the planning stages, but Chelsea and I have some simple ideas) and then I have some other ideas that require a lot more planning and some funding, but we’ll get there. Even if it takes me years. We’ll get there.

I guess what I mean to say is that it’s important to remember to enjoy life.

So take some quiet breaths and look away from your screen at some point every day, and just talk to another human. Not about politics or current events, but about what interests them, or what interests you.

Maybe just have a beer with friends or take a walk by yourself with headphones on, jamming to music you love. Or take the headphones off and listen to the sounds of winter.

It’s a good day to live, even if everything seems terrible.

glossolalia

Sitting at the Hong Kong airport, about to spend the next dozen hours in the air, and Trump is now president and a thousand other things.

One good thing that happened to me this week is that I finished a new novella. It’s called Glossolalia, or don’t scream it on the mountain.

It’s about one tenth the size of Songs of My Mother and about as opposite of that book as a text can be. I wrote more about both books a month ago. Incidentally, that post is also sort of about Trump, too.

But I’m very happy to have finished this, even if it took me about a month longer than I expected, and mostly because I spent three weeks or more not writing (it was the holidays, and stuff or whatever).

But the novella is influenced a lot by Taoism, anarchy, pacifism, Trump, Kyle Muntz’ new novel, The Effigies, and then all this random research I did about Greenlandic cuisine.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

I’ll be on  a plane, heading back to Trump’s america.

chasing and running

The night alive with moonbright butterflies swarming over the massacre. But for the screaming, the night was calm.

That’s the start to the novella I wrote this weekend. I spent a few hours hammering it into shape, and I feel really good. Really happy.

The image at the top is also very fitting for the novella.

The story may be terrible, but I tried a lot of new things here, so it was exciting. I planned on finishing it this Wednesday, but I ended up writing nearly 10,000 words yesterday because it was just flowing, so now it’s all finished and edited just two days after starting it.

But that’s how it always is with my writing, yeah?

It’s been a weird year for me, in terms of writing. I burst out of the year with a lot of productivity, but haven’t done much since finishing Dusk Country Blues way back at the end of January.

I think I made a big mistake in taking a break from the novel I was writing to dive into Dusk Country Blues, though it seemed right at the time. But, as is typical, me taking a short break becomes a long, long break.

Anyrate, I’m going to jump back into that novel tomorrow (or tonight), and hopefully finish it this month.

But, yeah, this novella. It’s called Runner (for now), which is kind of a poor title and is most likely going to change. But I did a lot of stuff differently than usual. It’s a chase narrative, for one thing, so there’s a kind of constant tension and my protagonist is having a pretty rough time, to say the least.

I also included interior, even though this is third person. This isn’t weird to most people, because everyone does third person with the interior of characters. But I haven’t written like this in maybe ten years. I have a strong rule against interiority in third person. But, for whatever reason, I wanted to try it here.

It made some things insanely easy, which is why I think I always considered it a cheat. But it was a useful experiment, and hopefully a successful one.

I’ve come to realise, too, that the length I think I work best at is from about 7,000 words to 50,000 words, which is the most awkward length of stories when it comes to publishing. Too long for short stories, too short for novels, and novellas are hard to find homes for. There’s always Tor, sure, but what’re the chances of me getting into Tor?

So it goes.

But, yeah, feeling good. Feeling productive.

If you want to take a look, give me a shout. I’m proud of it but also would like to get some extra eyes on it.

I wrote a lot of it to this song.

dusk country blues

This weekend I did something I’ve never done before. I took a break from the novel I’m writing to write something else.

Started it yesterday, finished it today: a grand total of just over 16,000 words.

It’s called The Dusk Country Blues and it’s certainly one of the strangest and most explicit things I’ve ever written. It’s also something I’m really proud of and happy with.

Here’s how it started.

Kyle Muntz showed me a story he was struggling with and asked for some suggestions. It was this story about two brothers and a girl with antlers living in this place called the dusk country, which is full of these huge abandoned manufacturing plants.

His story wasn’t working and we talked about it for about an hour. I kept getting more and more ideas and telling him about all kinds of things he could do with this story. Thing is, he’s trying to keep it a short story, so probably somewhere around 5,000 words. That made some of the ideas just too big to tackle in that amount of space and those ideas would’ve distracted from the real story: the relationship between the brothers and this antlered girl.

So I told him to write it a certain way for a short story and then to write it again as a novella or even a novel, if it turned that large.

Incidentally, this is exactly how the novel I’m working on began. A short story that was too big for its size, so I rewrote it into something very different, only to realise that if I combined the two short stories [which would work], then I could tell the whole story and I’d have a nice short novella. But then I got a few more ideas and now these two short stories are turning into a novel that may be up to 100,000 words.

Anyrate, so I suggested Kyle try that, but he told me he probably wouldn’t, and then he encouraged me to write the longer version of it.

I kind of shrugged that off, but over the next two days, all I could think about was the dusk country and these three people.

So I wrote the first half yesterday and sent it to Kyle.

His excitement got me really jazzed to finish it, so I wrote the second half today. Just finished about half an hour ago.

It’s really funny to me, because Kyle and I have often joked how we’re slowly becoming the same writer. We both come from experimental backgrounds and are sliding into more straightforward and less stylistic writing. We’re also diving into genre fiction, which has, I think, been freeing for both of us.

We often talk about stories and give each other suggestions. We’re typically each other’s first readers. And so it amuses me that he wrote a story that inspired me to essentially rewrite his story, coming up with something very different, but also intensely similar [for obvious reasons].

He’s writing another draft of his dusk country story soon.

But, yeah, maybe this isn’t interesting to other people, but I find it funny and exciting.

Also, a novel I plan on writing this summer was directly inspired by a story Kyle wrote a few months ago.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that talking about ideas and being unguarded with your suggestions and inspirations is useful for the creative process. It’s good to inspire one another and to work off each other’s inspirations.

Anyrate, I want to share one of my favorite bits from this novella. It gave me an interesting way to go about worldbuilding, which is to do it through absence or contrast.

“You awake?” I felt his voice vibrate through the mattress, through my skin pressed against him.

“Yeah.”

“Tell me a story?”

“What you wanna hear?”

He shifted beside me, his body coiling in on itself. “Something beautiful.”

The cracks in the ceiling were just large enough to see through but there was only blackness. The faint glow of the fireflies only revealed outlines of our room. I rolled over to face them, my back pressed against Abe’s. I imagined this is how we were in the womb. Reluctantly pressed together. All that’s desirable in a man pouring into him, while I leeched what I could to make myself whole. Somehow I stole enough to have the voice that belonged to him. The rich and unforgettable one that would fit inside his lungs and mouth so well, completing the image of a human perfected. But the voice was mine and Abe couldn’t sleep without it.

I stared at the fireflies rattling against the glass chaotically. “Years ago, the dusk country was alive. The hum of machinery was everywhere. The sun came up and stayed up for hours. It went up so high that you could look straight up and it would be there before it fell back down. Mothers and fathers went to work and made the machines sing. Children gathered together in the sunlight and played games. They didn’t just collect fireflies. They collected spiders and beetles and butterflies. They traded them, not as a commodity, but like treasures. The streets weren’t full of dust and grass didn’t break them up. No, people got in cars and made them move. They moved as fast as you can run and no one got tired. There was food everywhere too. People ate more than insects and plants. Even the river flowed clean. The dusk country was a town made of light. Even the streets had light. And night would come but there were stars. Like a thousand fireflies but way up in the air. So high you couldn’t even reach them standing on a building. And there was a moon. It was like the sun but smaller. Night lasted only a little while before the sun came back. The best part was seeing people smile. Seeing people everywhere, smiling. Just smiling for no good reason. Just smiling because the sun was shining.

“You know what the best part was?”

“What?” his voice only a whisper.

“People didn’t just disappear.”

If you’re still reading this and want to read an extremely bizarre story about two brothers, a girl with antlers, an abandoned town full of abandoned buildings and machines, a place where the sun only ever reaches the horizon for a few hours before descending back into hours of night, then give me a shout.

Here’s a song by a guy with a beautiful voice.

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.