Update on All Flames Cast!

Alaina, Empress of Letaal
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You might remember this book I wrote called All Flames Cast. It was a while ago, I know. There really hasn’t been any news to report, beyond the typical querying process—a couple of full requests that turned into rejections, one partial request, and a whole bunch more outright “no”s—and so much of what has happened in the last 18 months has been in the revision realm.

Now, revisions have gone well. Of the 15 chapters I have posted here, only one hasn’t had any changes to it. The good news is that the book is a heck of a lot better, now. Continue reading

Mini State of Writing: Bitten by the Bug

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I sat down and worked on On the Strings of Oblivion last night. I’m still trying to let that settle in. It’s been over a month since I last did anything at all with it. My writing muscles feel weak and out of place. Creative gears are rusty and don’t like turning. Being bitten by the writing bug tends to leave me sore.

And it feels great. Continue reading

Mini State of Writing: Of Genesis Edition

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Big things have been afoot in the Chronicle of the Sons plan, lately.

As I mentioned in various earlier State of Writing posts, the plan for CotS has been for four books, with Of Genesis coming second and going over the same timeline as All Flames Cast, but from the POVs of some of the antagonists. As I set out to outline this, things started pretty smoothly. I got through an almost complete checkpoint list, and wrote a couple of character sketch scenes to help get a feel for the new POVs.

And that’s where I hit a wall. With one notable exception (we’ll revisit this in a bit), none of the characters excited me. I didn’t want to write them. Their stories didn’t feel right. On top of that, I realized that doing this as a second book would completely derail the narrative momentum built up at the end of AFC. Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Music That’s Impacted My Writing

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I know for a fact that I’m far from unique among writers as a big music fan. Almost every writer I know has some sort of writing playlist; many have the same habit I do of making a new playlist to fit the tones of new books or stories.

But just because I’m not unique doesn’t mean that music isn’t worth talking about in the context of writing. It’s indispensable for me. I simply cannot sit down and be productive on a manuscript without music.

On top of that, I get a lot of inspiration just listening to music. Often, it will be the tone of a song that gets me; others, it’s a line that I particularly enjoy or a really cool song title. In this vein, I thought I’d talk about some of the songs and the stories (that you can read right here on Dcafwriting!) that they inspired.

Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Goals For a New Year

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It’s 2016, apparently. I guess that happened? Weird.

Looking back now, 2015 was easily my most productive year of writing. I posted more on here than I did in the previous three years combined. (Unsurprisingly, 2015 saw more site traffic than the rest of its existence combined—by a lot. Somewhere in the range of 200%.)

More importantly, I made a few big strides toward my ultimate writing goals: I completed the manuscript of All Flames Cast, I sent off my very first query letter to an agency, and I received a request to submit part of the manuscript. You can find a big chunk of preview chapters here.

I’m heavily involved in revisions now, with the outline begun for the next Chronicle of the Sons, titled Of Genesis.

Which brings me to the “looking forward” part of this post. I need to build on 2015. I want to get All Flames Cast published (traditionally). It’s gonna take a lot of work. The current state is somewhere between a first and second draft. There are some seriously rough spots that need to a hefty amount of attention. A couple chapters may need to be rewritten entirely. Continuity issues abound, especially earlier in the book, written before I’d fully laid out the plan for a four-book series. These are all things that need to be done, even (maybe especially) if this agent decides to pick me up.

So that’s priority #1 for the first part of this year. I need to get AFC into a state worthy of review from beta readers and, if not probably but ideally, an editor at a publishing house.

The next step is finishing the outline and filling out character notes for Of Genesis. I’ll be talking about this process and this book more in the coming weeks and months, since it’s not your typical sequel. I’m trying something different, and I’m not certain how well it will work. Fingers are crossed. It might not be realistic, but I’d love to finish the first draft of this by the end of the year.

Another priority is setting aside the time and money to attend at least one writing conference in 2016. I haven’t made this a priority in recent years, and indeed haven’t been to one since AWP in 2010. As I take the next steps in my writing career, I think this is an important thing to get back into.

Lastly is something that, honestly, will take a backseat to Chronicle of the Sons but remains present in my mind: I want to get back into the short fiction game. Last year I wrote one piece of short fiction that I liked a lot, and in fact inspired a new trilogy that I’ll write one day. I wrote two others that didn’t end up so great, set in the same world. You won’t be seeing those on here anytime soon, since I don’t like to post outright bad stories.

What I’m getting at is that I’ve gone from loving the short fiction format and writing seven or eight stories a year in 2011 and 2012 to almost completely abandoning it. I think I need to break out of that, get the creative juices flowing again, and use it to help flesh out some of the worlds my novels take place in. If things go well, I’ll post at least a couple short stories set in the CotS world this year.

Mostly, these all add up to finding a balance in my writing life. I’ve gotten very little concrete production done since finishing AFC last July, and a big part of that is the new job and coaching a hockey team. My schedule changed a lot, but it’s up to me to find the time and build the schedule that allows me to be productive again. I’d love to get back to doing at least 500 words a day.

So, as 2016 gets going, I’ll be a busy guy. What are your writing goals for the year?

Cup of Dcaf: Writing and Fear

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I will admit, I’ve never really understood the sentiment that so many writers express: namely, fear about their work. I know many fellow aspiring writers who have said they’re uncomfortable, at best, and outright scared, at worst, about sharing their work with a wider audience. I co-admin a writing group on Facebook with over 100 members, and many of them don’t post their own work; lots more only do so after much encouragement from the rest of the community.

The fact that this website exists, and the volume of work available for all of you to read should tell you that I’m not shy about sharing.

After all, I’m in this racket because I have stories that, at some level, moved me. I write them because I hope that they can move others, as well. I talked about why I write last month, and I think that post stands pretty well on its own. I don’t need to go into my reasons for sharing this stuff here, and I don’t need to go into further detail on why I want to be published. No, this post is about the first time I’ve actually felt scared when sharing my work.

About a week ago, I got a response from a query letter I sent to an agency in New York. A big agency. One that I’d written off months ago as a rejection. Instead, much to my surprise and immediate delight, they want the first 50 pages of All Flames Cast.

Let me tell you, clicking the send button on my response was the scariest thing I’ve done as a writer. This is a major step (even if the likely outcome occurs and they end up rejecting it) toward my dream of getting Chronicle of the Sons published. It’s exciting, and it’s terrifying.

What if it sucks?

What if I just wrote a great query letter, and people who are in, people who are pros at this, come back and say that it’s not salable?

What if it’s bad, and my relative happiness with the story is complete naivete and blinded optimism?

I’m pretty sure my stomach will be curdling nonstop until I get a reply (and who knows when that will be?).

I’m alive…somehow

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Remember when I was super excited to take the train north from London to Glasgow, and I was going to do a bunch of revisions and work on Of Genesis and write a new Book of the Week post?

Yeah, Storm Desmond had different plans.

I have never had a more insane day of travel in my life. I got to be nice and comfy in first class on the train for all of an hour before landslides and severe flooding forced the train to stop, all the passengers were shuffled off, and we were ferried aboard buses to take us the rest of the way north to Glasgow. The bus I was on broke down about 45 minutes later, because of course, and I ended up in a taxi with five Scottish women, being driven by a lunatic who thought it was great fun to go 85 mph and hydroplane all over the highway in the midst of a minor hurricane.

Did I mention that my seatbelt was broken? Because my seatbelt was broken. I legitimately thought I was going to die last Saturday, as this taxi skidded from lane to lane and six people yelled at the driver to slow the eff down.

Somehow, somehow, we made it to Glasgow in one piece, after seeing no fewer than six overturned vehicles on that highway.

I’m back in Colorado now after a less-eventful-but-still-hectic-at-times weekend, and it feels great to be home. Maybe now I’ll be able to get back into my routine of posting here.

Oh, and did I mention that I had the manuscript of All Flames Cast requested by an agent in NY? Because that happened. Full steam ahead on revisions!