finding new ways and other thoughts about action

The title will make more sense a few paragraphs down, but first I’m going to ramble about writing a bit.

I sent out Songs of My Mother to several beta readers (want to be one?) a few weeks ago, and have already heard back from one!

I’m ridiculously pleased with the response. It’s not all positive, of course, but the reaction mostly fell in line with what I expected and what I wanted, which is good. The weaknesses I was worried about were called out, but none were really added. Some places I thought might be weaknesses proved to be strengths and, overall, the reaction was jsut positive. I’m ecstatic about that, truly. I’ve never spent so long working on a novel, and never written a novel even close to this length, so to hear good things about it was kind of exactly what I needed (especially since the Fear shrieked inside me almost immediately after I sent the novel to people).

And so I’ve been feeling good this week (got the feedback on Monday). Had to do a lot of driving (currently in Ohio and on my way to Pittsburgh), which means I’ve listened to several audiobooks and eaten a lot of Panera and just been spending a lot of time inside my head.

About a week ago, I got a new idea for a novella, too. What I usually do when ideas strike me is sit on them, let them percolate, but I decided to just start writing this one about an hour after the idea came to me, and it’s been extremely pleasant and fun and just kind of a joyous experience.

Several ideas kind of banged together at once, and all because of a wikipedia hole. Was looking at pictures of Greenland, and then reading about ancient piracy, and then, somehow, about Kasper Hauser, and was already rereading the Tao Te Ching for the hundredth time, and thinking about the Voynich Manuscript, and it all kind of came together for me. And because Kasper Hauser is such a bizarre story, it got me thinking about Visitor Q. And then because Greenland was on my mind (and cooking’s always on my mind), I was wondering what they eat there.

And so, in short, I’m writing a novella inspired by Greenland, pirates, Visitor Q, and Taoism (more on this in a bit). It’s called Days of Glossolalia and All the Days After.

It’s been fun and interesting. The Visitor Q influence is probably much milder than people would expect from such a claim (at least so far), but I’m hoping for this to be at least relatively normal, since everything I’ve written in the last four years has been kind of ridiculously bizarre.

But mostly it’s just kind of a come down from the arduous process of writing a 310,000 word novel. I wanted to do a lot of things differently, and a big part of that is writing something sort of bitesized. Something people can read in one sitting with relative ease, so I’m hoping it tops out at around 30,000 words. It’s already at 10,000 so I may be underestimating again, but I can’t imagine this being much longer than 40,000 words, even if it blows up on me.

I’ve been listening to real old Iron & Wine while writing it. I forget how much I love those albums and EPs. That kind of breathless beauty they have. But, yeah, mostly just The Woman KingThe Sea & the Rhythm, and Our Endless Numbered Days, though sometimes I go all the way to The Creek Drank the Cradle.

Trying to get a gentle feel in my head.

And I think part of this is because I’ve been thinking about Taoism a lot lately. I say that this new novella is inspired by it, but that could be said about most of my novels. The Tao Te Ching came to me at a strange time. Excerpts of it were assigned reading in my junior year of high school english class. The same english class that would introduce me to Dostoevsky, existentialism, nihilism, and other philosophical isms. But Taoism has always been the one that fits best in my head (besides the one I invented).

Someone even once asked me why the Twilight of the Wolves cover has a zen symbol on it, and I told them it’s a Taoism symbol (Zen Buddhism is basically a mix of Buddhism and Taoism). To me, Twilight of the Wolves is very much a Taoist text, and I think that’s partly why it means so much to me and why it still sort of breaks my heart that no one likes it.

But the Tao is in Songs of My Mother as well, and even Noir: A Love Story, and definitely in a handful of unpublished novels I have that are both extremely strange and extremely meaningful to me.

Pacifism is the driving force behind all my work, and Taoism has played a part in shaping that, too. My firm belief in nonviolence.

And so this new novella is dealing with that. How do you respond, as a pacifist, to pirates raiding your society?

The real reason why so much of this has been on my mind is because of Ursula K Le Guin’s blog. Click those highlighted words to see her post on the election, which goes into the Tao and resistance.

I’m going to excerpt kind of liberally here.

Americans are given to naming enemies and declaring righteous war against them. Indians are the enemy, socialism is the enemy, cancer is the enemy, Jews are the enemy, Muslims are the enemy, sugar is the enemy. We don’t support education, we declare a war on illiteracy. We make war on drugs, war on Viet Nam, war on Iraq, war on obesity, war on terror, war on poverty. We see death, the terms on which we have life, as an enemy that must be defeated at all costs.

Defeat for the enemy, victory for us, aggression as the means to that end: this obsessive metaphor is used even by those who know that aggressive war offers no solution, and has no end but desolation.

[. . .]

I will try never to use the metaphor of war where it doesn’t belong, because I think it has come to shape our thinking and dominate our minds so that we tend to see the destructive force of aggression as the only way to meet any challenge. I want to find a better way.

Emphasis mine.

Le Guin is a writer and thinker near to my heart. She’s one of my favorites. Maybe even my actual favorite. She’s the one that inspires me most, I think, and she’s the one whose worldview is most similar to my own. And in her blog post she discusses how we see the world and how we talk about the world.

It’s useful for me to see this, because she gets down to something that’s incredibly heartbreaking for every pacifist who must also be an american. It’s a neverending tragedy. We’ve been at war for generations and have no intention of stopping or even slowing down (all signs point to becoming more belligerent and aggressive, starting with China and Russia and Iran). There’s so much I could say here, but I’ll try to stay focused.

Though we’ve had some great scholars of peace, such as Martin Luther King, studying it is something Americans have done very little of.

The way of the warrior admits no positive alternatives to fighting, only negatives — inertia, passivity, surrender. Talk of “waging peace” is mere glibness, you can’t be aggressively peaceful. Reducing positive action to fighting against or fighting for, we have not looked at the possibility of other forms of action.

Like the people who marched to Selma, the people who are standing their ground at Standing Rock study, learn, and teach us the hard lessons of peace. They are not making war. They are resolutely non-violent. They are seeking a way out of the traps of anger, hatred, enmity. They are actively trying to get free, to be free, and by their freedom, free others as well.

Studying peace means in the first place unlearning the vocabulary of war, and that’s very difficult indeed. Isn’t it right to fight against injustice? Isn’t that what Selma and Standing Rock are — brave battles for justice?

I think not. Brave yes; battles no. Refusing to engage an aggressor on his terms, standing ground, holding firm, is not aggression — though the aggressive opponent will always declare that it is. Refusing to meet violence with violence is a powerful, positive act.

But that is paradoxical. It’s hard to see how not doing something can be more positive than doing something. When all the words we have to use are negative — inaction, nonviolence, refusal, resistance, evasion — it’s hard to see and keep in mind that the outcome of these so-called negatives is positive, while the outcome of the apparently positive act of making war is negative.

This final paragraph is especially interesting to me, since I’ve never thought about the language of peace. But it’s true: we always use it as a negative (linguistic negative, not moral one). It’s a subtle kind of thing built deep into english (and maybe many other languages?).

It brings me to something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and might write a post about eventually. But I’ve been thinking about technological development. Not even new development, but the development of technology through history.

To keep it brief: Might is Right has been the prevailing moral and technological theory since Columbus crossed the ocean blue. Which means it’s probably been there longer. Since the Crusades, probably.

It’s not the idea even that technological advancement makes you morally correct (Silicon Valley ideology), but that having a superior military with technological advantages makes you also morally superior.

This was absolutely Europe’s policy in the americas, Africa, and Asia. Because it is worth remembering that when the west first encountered China, we were like baboons when it comes to their (at the time) advances in technology. We didn’t understand it and saw no use for it, until we discovered that their exploding powder could be used to propel metal balls through metal tubes at incredible speeds, allowing those same metal balls to tear through a human body, even when it’s armored.

That’s a simplification, of course, but I’ll leave it at that.

But war and might have been seen as positive moral attributes to cultures for a long, long time. Whereas peace has always been an undesirable alternative. Something for cowards and malcontents and agitators.

We confuse self-defense, the reaction to aggression, with aggression itself. Self-defense is a necessary and morally defensible reaction.

But defending a cause without fighting, without attacking, without aggression, is not a reaction at all. It is an action. It is an expression of power. It takes control.

Emphasis, again, is mine.

And this brings us back to that other way. What is it? How do we find a new way?

I see so many posts on social media about our need to fight. Some even are saying that we must fight in any way necessary.

It scares me, to be quite honest. I see nothing but ruin ahead of us, when all our solutions are fighting. Our only metaphor for action is combat.

I think it shows how terrible things have become. How terrible they’ve always been.

We have glamorized the way of the warrior for millennia. We have identified it as the supreme test and example of courage, strength, duty, generosity, and manhood. If I turn from the way of the warrior, where am I to seek those qualities? What way have I to go?

I won’t keep quoting this, but we come to an interesting point, because Le Guin doesn’t answer this question. She leaves us, instead, with Lao Tzu and the Tao.

So how do we act? How do we resist without fighting? How do we remain peaceful when threatened by belligerent and aggressive forces?

Unfortunately, I have no answers. I very much doubt that anyone does.

But it’s something I’m trying to answer in this new novella. Or at least it’s the idea that’s at the heart of it.

How do we act and resist?

For me, as a person, this may take several shapes. But it’s something I’ll be thinking about for a long time. Pacifism is at the core of who I am, and it’s perhaps the only beliefI know I can’t exist without. And since I have no answers (the Tao teaches that there are no answers), I intend to learn how to act. How to be.

Anyrate, some thoughts to chew on. Maybe you’ll like the way they taste.

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!

on taking breaks and why robin hobb is my new favorite writer

After taking two months off, I’ve managed to write almost exactly 70,000 words so far in September. That’s a pretty solid amount! It’s not a record for speed, but this has always been more about endurance, which, previously, I’ve never had. The last time I wrote something even near this long was way back in January of 2013. In that month, I wrote about 130,000 words. Then I took a month off, and that month persists to this day and may stretch on for the rest of my life.

But this novel, I’m determined to finish it, if only to prove to myself that I can work consistently at a project, gradually chip away at it until it’s finished.

captureIn the past, anytime I took a break of longer than three days, it usually meant I was never going to finish that book. I have about a dozen of novels in various states of completion because of this. Way back in January, I thought that would be the state of this novel as well. And for nearly half the year, it was. Then I pushed into it, wrote about 120,000 words over two months. Then took a month off which became two, and now I’m here, my wordcount now tipping past 200,000, with so many more words to left to write.

It’s interesting to have written about 70,000 words so far this month. It’s roughly the length I thought the whole novel would be. As it stands now, it’s about one third of the novel. I’ve been able to push and fight and chip away at the novel, form it into what I want it to be.

I mention this because I’m taking the day off. It’s not the first day off I’ve taken this week. I’ve missed maybe three or four days. Usually because I was driving for 6-10 hours during those days.

I want to finish this before my birthday still, but there’s just no way. I have about twelve days(?) and just too many words to write. I’d have to average between 8,000 and 12,000 words a day, which isn’t impossible either. I’ve done it before! But it just won’t happen. I have a wife, a job, and a life I need to live, so I can no longer hole myself up with my computer for 20 hours a day. Now I’m usually lucky to have five uninterrupted hours to write spread throughout the day.

In some ways, that’s been useful. Quick, big creative bursts. Taking a break is useful to any creative process [assuming you come back to it], whether it’s a month or an hour, and so I’ve been able to hit 4,000 to 7,000 words pretty regularly, even with a truncated amount of time to work on the novel.

But that’s not the real reason I’m taking today off. And I may still come back and throw some words down later. The day off is because I only slept about three or four hours last night. I spent most of the night sneezing due to the most annoying kind of cold. I could have slept in, probably, but cats wait for no man and he slept like a baby while I suffered.

Anyrate, because I couldn’t sleep, I went back into the Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb and finally finished the third book in the trilogy.

Not that it took me long to read, but it feels like a long time, considering how quickly I read the first two books. Those first two books, incidentally, are why my break from the novel kept extending. I couldn’t put them down! And I finally willed myself back into my novel, but I still read from the third book in the trilogy almost every day. So instead of reading 1,000 pages in a few days, it took me a few weeks.

The kind of self control I’m not known for!

But, man, Robin Hobb. I think she’s my favorite fantasy writer.

You can find my thoughts on her Farseer Trilogy:

1

2

3

And the Liveship Trilogy:

1

2

3

These books are inexplicably amazing. The Farseer Trilogy is maybe my favorite reading experience of last year. FitzChivalry is my heart. He’s all my hopeless romanticism, my teenage foolishness and recklessness. That trilogy is all from a single perspective, in what amounts to a more or less european medieval society. It’s full of so much power and heart and beauty. Failure stands at the core of those novels. How we fail and in failing find success, even if it’s never the success we hoped to one day achieve. It’s the bittersweetness of understanding the harm you did when you believed you were doing your best. It’s accepting all that we’ve done. All the chaos and pain and torment. Rather than push that away and move past it, it forces us to embrace all the terror that we are.

I love it so much.

Because I loved it so much, I didn’t want to read The Liveship Trilogy, which follows it. It’s in the same world, but quite a far distance from the events of the Farseer Trilogy. Further, there’s a follow up trilogy that goes back to FitzChivalry. That’s what I wanted to read! But I was afraid I’d miss something important in the overall story of the world, so instead of choosing, I sat in indecision for almost exactly a year.

I finally picked up the Liveship Trilogy and literally could not put it down. It’s stupid for me to have waited so long. The setting is a bit different, showing a much more complex world with much more depth than you might have assumed from just reading the Farseer Trilogy. The focus is much wider. Rather than centering on one hapless hero who narrates his life, it bounces through a cast of about ten main characters. Most of them members of the same family.

I love it. I love it so much I can’t believe it. I almost want to skip the next FitzChivalry trilogy and move onto the follow up of the lives of these other characters in their corner of the world.

I won’t, of course, but that’s how good this trilogy is. Everything is so real. There are big ideas here. Bigger ideas than the Farseer Trilogy deals with. But there’s the same depth of emotion. Maybe even deeper. You come to know these characters–all of them–as intimately as you know FitzChivalry.

What I find most interesting about it is how hope suffuses so much of it. Failure is still key here, but this is a much more optimistic work, I think. However, there is some serious darkness here. Some moments that will haunt you and gnaw at your bones. It’s not as brutal a story as FitzChivarly, but it’s not exactly an easy life we come to know through these characters.

Also of interest is the shape the world begins to take. The Liveship Trilogy begins in a land that once had gender equality, but is currently as patriarchal as just about anywhere in our own reality. As the story moves forward, women must navigate this in a variety of ways. The world’s peril is not solved by the men who created it. Rather, the women of the novel take the world in their hands and work to make it better. By refusing to allow men to control their lives, they do more than find personal freedom. They save a nation (or four).

There’s so much I could say about Robin Hobb as a writer. She’s so confident. Handling action and adventure or political intrigue or family drama all with such skill that it feels effortless. Her plots are intricate and beautiful and dark and twisted but so full of love. Love love love.

And I love her writing. It’s astounding to me that she’s not known in the way that some of the other big name fantasy writers are. Surely it’s because she’s a woman, yeah. But she stands head and shoulders above so many of her peers. Her unflinching and grim reality with characters so real I can see them in my head the way I can recall the faces and voices of old friends. And her world is as rich and deep as anything any of her contemporaries have done.

Robin Hobb is a marvel and I cannot wait to keep reading her. Part of me wants to parcel it out, take on a new trilogy every summer, but I may end up jumping ahead into the next one before the end of the year.

Anyrate, she’s someone you should read if you have any interest in fantasy fiction.

 

still novelling

capture

Finally, I’ve finished Part II of the novel. As it stands now, the word count is about 173,000. Part II alone is 92,000 words.

To put this a bit in context, Twilight of the Wolves is the longest novel I’ve completed and it topped out at about 95,000 words. This novel just keeps getting bigger, but I think the worst is over, in some ways.

As I said earlier, I took July and August off of writing, which wasn’t a mistake, but it dragged on due to laziness and procrastination. I hoped to be finished with the entire novel by my birthday, which is now just 19 days away. It’s unlikely I’ll get there now, since I likely have upwards of 100,ooo words left to go. Still, I wrote about 40,000 words since last Thursday, which isn’t terrible, considering I also drove about 1,000 miles last week and had to do my dayjob.

I do think the most difficult part of this is over, though this novel, due to its sheer size and weight, has been extremely challenging to write. It’s like sprinting for days only to find yourself miles and miles from the finish line. But Part II was always meant to be the largest, which is why I ended up splitting it. So now I have Part III and IV still to go.

I have a general idea of what will happen in both of those sections, and I think they’ll both be somewhere around the 50,000 word range. Don’t hold me to that, of course, since every conceivable thing has expanded and expanded. Like, Part II is longer than I thought the whole novel would be, if that’s any indication.

Still, I’m very happy with how it’s coming out. It feels extremely satisfying to be working on it again and to be able to make such a large dent in it so quickly. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going.

So I have two sections left, each around 50,000 words. And then I have three more smaller sections that might total up to 15,000 or 20,000. If that’s the case, this novel will end up being just short of 300,000 words. An unthinkable size!

Already the book is nearly 650 pages so I’ll very likely hit the 1,000 page mark. There have been 109 chapters so far as well.

But, yeah, just updating, because I want to do that more, but mostly this is me patting myself on the back.

The struggle is that I want to share this with people already! But it’s likely not a good idea. Better to finish it completely and then beg a few of you to read this massive thing.

Oh, and if it’s not obvious, the current title is Songs of My Mother.

I’m going to take the night off and play some Fallout: New Vegas. Or keep reading Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb, which is extraordinary.

Next time I want to talk about Chelsea Manning because we need to talk about her. We should always be talking about her.