Changing of the Guard

A bit of news regarding Oath of Blood has emerged, my magnificent horde, and because I prefer to keep my process honest and open, I want to share that news with you.

The short version is this: I am experiencing an editorial changing of the guard.

The long version is this:

Recently, I received a call from my editor, who had some unpleasant news for me. Life, as it sometimes does, had imposed itself upon her such that she could not complete the editing for Oath. As a result, she would be returning the manuscript to me.

If that frustrates you, I would ask your understanding. Life gets the best of all of us at times, and we must make the decisions that best allow us to move forward in good faith with our own work, art, and priorities. I have had to make those calls, as you likely have. Now my editor has had to make such a decision, and I cannot help but empathize.

So I hope you’ll join me in offering words of encouragement to my outgoing editor, who has been part of Oath of Blood since the beginning, and whose assistance brought me over many a dark and perilous threshold. I wish her only the best in her own journey and in her creative calling, and I hope you will, too.

As for the question of who takes the helm now, fear not! That matter has already been addressed, and so I am pleased to welcome a new editor to the manuscript.

She is a good soul who will not hesitate to call my bullshit, slaughter my darlings, and wreak whatever other editorial havoc is necessary to bring Oath over the finish line. Indeed, for the sample edit she offered, I sent her three pages; she sent back two—and this in a part of the manuscript that has seen six drafts.

I wailed and gnashed my teeth a little, as writers are wont to do, but the cuts were good, the recommended changes exactly the strong medicine I needed.

Last night I commended Oath of Blood into her capable hands. By current estimations, the markups are likely to be back to me sometime in mid-spring. However, if they take longer, they take longer, and this is as it should be.

So—three cheers for the editors, both outgoing and incoming!

(And now, back to work on “Beasts” for me!)

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Hissing at Bananas and Other Misadventures

This past week has been a rollercoaster ride. The chaos started last Sunday night, when the power went out as a cold front howled through town, leaving the house particularly chilly until Monday morning, when power was at last restored.

Tuesday brought the semiannual Ritual of Dragging Unwilling Cats to the Vet—which, although neither Kane nor Agnes were ill, inevitably did not go over well. In the end, the result of the expedition was baths for all (feline car sickness: the struggle is real), bandages for some (cats can be…persuasive when they don’t want to go somewhere), and generally a couple of cats who were not pleased with us in the least.

Thursday, Kane began to show some signs of malaise, and he also vented his frustration at my locking him out of the office by dismembering a shoelace. Truth be told, I didn’t think anything of this until Friday morning, when he greeted me at 7:00 am by puking all over the bedroom floor. Another round followed at 8:00, accompanied shortly thereafter by another at 9:00 or 10:00.

The puking went on at odd intervals until evening, at which point Mr. Warlord and I came to the conclusion that Kane needed to go back to the vet on Saturday morning. In inspecting the shoelace he’d destroyed, we accounted for most of it, but not for the plastic aglet on the end, so we’d begun to worry that he had eaten it. We also noticed that he had neither eaten nor visited the litterbox all Friday—further causes for concern.

So bright and early Saturday morning, Kane, lord of stupid cat tricks, went to see the vet again. He turned out to be dehydrated, and when we mentioned his other behaviors, the vet wanted to x-ray him. Unfortunately, the x-rays were inconclusive. Something unwelcome was definitely there, hanging out in his small intestine, but it wasn’t possible to conclusively identify it or to tell whether he was blocked.

Kane was given a stout dose of fluids and some anti-nausea medication and sent back home with us (we deferred an ultrasound or exploratory surgery for the moment). At the moment he seems all right, and has eaten a little and visited the box. He’s still under the weather, though, and will bear watching. If he worsens, it’s off to the vet with us again.

Agnes, meanwhile, has shown only a minimum of concern for her big dumb brother. Instead, she has determined to save the household from the dire threat of the…bunch of bananas we brought home from the grocery store. It’s a strange thing to see a cat hissing at bananas, but—well, I’ve long since given up on understanding Agnes.

Clearly I cannot comprehend her genius.

In the midst of all this, I’ve not made as much progress on “Beasts” as I would like, but daily progress has nevertheless been made, and the exposition is coming together. My goal, provided no more cat-related chaos, is to put the first section to bed no later than Saturday.

Today, I’m catching up on work I intended to do yesterday, for cats care not for freelance deadlines, but writers, perforce, must do so. Whatever your goals and plans, I hope you meet with success today as well!

 

Tending the Archive

This weekend has been all about de-crapping the office. As I noted last weekend, one of my goals for the year is to reduce the physical contents of the space by about fifty percent. And as I also noted then, much of the bulk around here is basically boxes upon boxes of old notes, drafts, scrawls, and other ephemera related to writing.

Saturday I gathered a bunch of the non-writing stuff and sorted it out between the shredder, the recycle bin, the trash can, or the box of stuff headed for the local charity, and today I dropped off the recyclable and charity-bound stuff. While I was at the office supply store unloading a dragon’s hoard of old toner cartridges (really, what was I thinking keeping them?), I decided to look at scanners.

I saw a lot of sleek, sexy scanning hardware, but alas, most of it was outside my price range…and honestly not the world’s best deal for what I would actually use it for. But I did ask about a hand-held scanner like this one, and based on what the sales dude told me, I decided to give it a try.

In short, I was told that while the quality of the scans wasn’t top-notch, it was good enough for archiving documents, and that the store saw a lot of customers who purchased that particular scanner for use in library and genealogy research. They’d take the little standalone, handheld unit with them on research trips and use it to quickly gather information from books and records for later digestion.

Which—that sounded like it could easily multiclass into an archiving unit for ratty old writing notes, so I bit the bullet and brought one home.

In the couple of hours between returning from the store and eating dinner, I was able to scan about 150 individual documents with the thing, most of them anywhere between 15 and 20 years old and in sore need of scanning and sorting.

I really couldn’t be more pleased with the speed and ease with which I’ve been able to process half a box of junk. Sorting through old papers is sure to go faster now, I’m looking forward to being able to quickly and easily move new notes and scribbles from corkboard to the hard drive as well.

The march of progress continues on Monday, and it’s my goal to have much of the old papers scanned, if not fully organized, by this coming weekend.

With any luck, I might actually find the office closet floor!

 

Slowbusy Day

Today’s been a slower day for me in terms of my brain, though not in terms of things to do. It’s one of those days when my thoughts just won’t seem to organize themselves, when the cats are forever underfoot and needy (but never quite satisfied) and when the stuff on my to-do list seems to multiply like rabbits.

The positive is that I’ve gotten a little bit done, but the negative is that it’s not as much as I wanted—or, really, even needed. My energy levels have been negative since I got out of bed, and all the coffee in the world hasn’t helped. That and, for whatever reason, the anxiety demons have come out a bit to gnaw on me. Nothing ever seems to chase them off; the best I seem to be able to manage is to wait them out.

On days like today, it seems like the best thing I can do is to preserve what energy I have, choose the most important things from the list, and do my best to get those done—that and hope tomorrow is a better day.

But in the name of consistency (and because it helps keep me on track), I’m making the effort to at least post something today. I may not do so every single day—after all, some days, there just won’t be much to report—but checking in regularly on the blog does a lot for me in terms of focus. I hope it also helps to keep you informed as well, and to let you know that I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth.

Here’s hoping you’re having a good day, and that tomorrow will be bright and productive for us all!

 

Nearer Horizons

Last night’s D&D session went well enough for an ongoing trek through the Underdark. I mean, nobody died, even if we are now captured (again; this is becoming a bad habit of ours). My half-orc wizard made it to Level 3 by the skin of his teeth, so he finally has access to some higher-powered spells, which means he might actually be helpful in the future.

Work on “Beasts” yesterday was steady, if not exceptional. I’m finding myself making faces at the limited amount of space available for exposition, though. Part of me wants to go on at length about the main character’s background, since I now know a great deal about what he was up to in the years prior to this little adventure.

(Un)fortunately, I have to remind myself of that vital truism: readers don’t need every damned detail to enjoy a story.

Which, of course, means I’m going to have to bite my lip and hold off on the self-serving expository spew I keep wanting to insert into that section. But such is life, and I think you guys will catch on just fine without some kind of poorly disguised history lesson that exists only to validate an impressive-to-me stack of backstory notes.

I’ve also been making tweaks to the description of the scenery, making sure that it reflects, at least in some basic way, the reality of a view from the surface of this particular moon. I wasn’t too far off the mark originally (I do try to do my homework, even if things almost always devolve into swordfights on the page), but one thing I hadn’t properly accounted for last time was how…close the horizon would be.

Basically, the horizon’s only about a half-mile away at any given time, provided an unobstructed view—as opposed to the threeish miles you could expect on Earth. This leads to some interesting visuals, in that some things sink off beyond your line of sight far sooner than they would in most places humans are wont to be found.

A big thanks is owed to my social media horde, who patiently fielded this question and helped with the specifics. It might only amount to two or three lines in the text, but I like to think they’re important ones, so if you helped me with the horizon problem, you’ll be able to proudly point to those lines and say, “Hey, that was me.”

Around the office, things are pretty relaxed today. I don’t have any standing obligations outside my work (and the usual demands of the cats), so it’s shaping up to be a nice writing and freelancing day indeed.

Here’s hoping your day is equally full of potential, however you may spend it!

Doing the Thing

Yesterday’s work on “Beasts” involved giving the draft a deep reading, making some notes on where I see problems, creating a checklist of adjustments that need to be made, and starting in on the first section (which totals about 2500 words, give or take).

I’m taking the actual rewrite/revise process pretty slow, and really only focused on the first couple of pages, neither of which I’m entirely satisfied with today. Still, they’re far better than they were yesterday morning, and I have a good sense of the changes I want to make. Today continues that process, and I’m hopeful that, if nothing else, I’ll step away from the keys today happy with those first two pages, and maybe even make some headway into the third.

It’s quite fascinating to me, looking at this manuscript now, how much I’ve grown since I last spent any time on it. The initial draft was written in 2009, the final draft of the original was published in 2011, and I made a stab at reworking it just a bit in mid-2012, before I started on Oath of Blood. When I put it away three years ago, I couldn’t see any way to help it out or make it better. I was just plain blind to its problems.

Now, working my way through the text, I find myself making a variety of unpleasant faces at rookie mistakes, gaping plot holes, and an unhealthy attachment to adverbs, among other things. I’m sure there’s plenty I still can’t see, but just the fact that I can pick up this old piece and see how to improve it now, when I though there was no more improving it, is hopeful. It shows I’ve made substantial progress.

But there’s also good in the old draft: it has a fairly tightly scripted story, and while there are some rough spots, it isn’t fundamentally broken. I still wonder how in the world it ever got published to start with, but I’m not going to question that. It was my first sale, and it served its purpose in that it put me in a mindset where I could say, “Yes, I can do the thing.”

Oh, and readers said nice things about it then, even if I have to hold my nose a little when I read it now.

And for that reason alone, if no other, I’d like it to be accessible in its more refined form. I’ll probably give it a new title, to distinguish it from the 7500-word short story in Jeff’s anthology, as one does, but again, I’m not putting much thought into that right now. Titles are almost always best for me when I assign them last, and/or when they arise organically from the work. For now, the working title will do.

In terms of the work itself, I’m also finding working in a shorter format (10-12k words, projected max) to be a breath of fresh air after the almost 90k sprawl that Oath grew into. I don’t have a lot of room for expository shenanigans or twisty subplots, and there’s no real estate for wasted words at all. Like the pulp stories that originally inspired the setting, it has to hit the ground running and earn its keep quickly.

(Which—that’s true of novels as well, but short formats really turn that demand Up To Eleven.)

In any case, though, I’m going to stare at my page allotment for the day, and after that I have some freelance work to do. Then, this evening is the D&D game in which I actually get to be a player, so I’m excited about that. We’ll see how my hapless half-orc wizard fares in his continued trek through Out of the Abyss.

Demon lords loose in the Underdark! Madness and fell sorcery all around! It’s like every session offers brand-new ways to go insane and die! If he somehow survives, I will be very impressed.

Onward, Upward, and Sideways

As I observed yesterday, I spent Monday afternoon making some decisions about this quarter’s side project. I have, at this moment, a total of four stories in various stages of progress, including one that’s entirely drafted (but needs some serious love), one that’s half done, and two that are maybe a quarter drafted with accompanying outlines.

I spent a good bit of time stewing over which to work on, since I like them all—I mean, I wouldn’t have started them otherwise—but in the end I decided to work on the fully drafted one first. It’s a short story that’s flirting with novelette territory, and it’s seen publication before, but the anthology where you can get it has limited availability, and some folks on Amazon seem to have very high opinions of what it should cost.

($293.18? What?)

Which, you know, that’s no fun for me or you. I want you to read my stuff, and you probably want to pay less than multiple hundreds of dollars to do so. Though if you do want to pay that much, I think I have a personal copy or two around here…

Ahem. Anyhow.

(As Jeff points out in the comments, though, and as my sadly undercaffeinated brain apparently failed to recall, you can still get the book direct from him right here at the Strange Worlds main page. So if you want some Sword & Planet goodness and you don’t want to pay like three hundred dollars, go check it out! )

Ideally, what I intend for this story is an eBook rerelease, pending some fix-ups and minor changes. I have grown significantly as a writer since it was first published and, well, it needs some assistance in certain areas, as well as some expansion that existed in the first draft, but which was cut because of the word count limitations in the anthology. And since that universe itself has now expanded to include Oath of Blood, some of the text in the original needs a bit of adjusting to fit the bigger picture.

In any case, the editor of the anthology (Jeff, over at Barsoomia) and I have talked about it, and he’s given his blessing for the rerelease, among other things, so for the first quarter of this year, my main goal is to get the revised “Beasts of the Abyss” whipped into shape and ready to start earning its keep on Amazon, making me perhaps tens of dollars in the process.

Riches, I tell you. Riches. I’ll be able to take a bath in…pennies or something.

Whether the revised Beasts will come out during the first quarter isn’t something I’m willing to say right now. That will depend on external factors over which I have only limited control: beta reader response times, editing, revisions, graphic design and layout, and so forth. But the idea is that it will be, at a minimum, ready for those things by the end of March.

At that point, it’ll be in-process at a minimum, with a goal of its being available by the end of the year at the latest, and I’ll move on to one of the other things I have on the list. As you might have surmised, these side projects are more or less an effort to finish all the half-finished things I have around the office, and to get them out to a wider audience.

Some of them, like Beasts, I’ll prefer to handle myself. Others I’ll shop to outside pay markets first. But regardless, there’s going to be a lot of shoveling through my stuff this year and putting old ideas to bed. They’ll get sold, or they’ll get pushed out onto Amazon to fend for themselves, or they’ll get trunked, but regardless, they will no longer be permitted to squat on my To-Do list.

Regarding the website and such, I didn’t have time to port any blog posts yesterday, so we’ll see what today brings. I will be starting the process of tying the main domain to this new site by the end of the week, though, so lisavtomecek.com will soon point here, and not to the old site. At that point, the old site will lie dormant until I can finish picking its bones clean, at which point I will take it down.

For now, though, I’ve got plenty of work to do. Look for another post tomorrow, in which I shall continue to let you know how things are going!