the_gneech: (Default)

So recently, at Barnes & Noble, my attention was drawn to a hardback on the “fantasy new releases” table, featuring what was described as “flintlock fantasy with airships, a touch of humor, and an engaging female hero.”

I nearly burned the place down. ¬.¬

After the writing, revising, submitting, re-revising, submitting again, and so forth that Sky Pirates of Calypsitania has gone through, to see this thing sitting there made me want to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS SHOULD BE MY BOOK!”

So. Yeah. I was upset. Deep breaths. Let’s work this thing out.

On the positive side, clearly someone must think there’s a market for the kind of books I want to write. I mean, there it is. But I have to connect to it.

And to be clear, I’m pretty sure that the author of that book worked just as long and just as hard on it as I did on mine. My own personal green-eyed-monster popping out notwithstanding, I wish them success.

That doesn’t alter the fact that I had this extreme, intensely emotional reaction to seeing “my book with someone else’s name on it” right there on the very table where I have been trying to get my book for years now. What I have to do, is direct that energy in a positive direction.

If this is the team that put the book on the table, I reasoned, then it could serve me well to hook up with that team. A little research turned up the agent of not-my-book. I went back and rewrote the opening, again, to address feedback the book had received on the previous round, getting thumbs-ups from my beta readers, and sent it to that agent. Given that this particular agent has a strict “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” policy, however, the response could easily range from an excited followup any day, to chirping crickets until forever.

I don’t intend to wait. As far as I’ve been able to make out, the main thing that makes a writing career succeed (besides lightning in a bottle) is sheer volume. The most popular and well-paid writers I know get that way by writing a lot of books. And as much as I love Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, it is only the one.

What this boils down to is, I need to work on another book. I’ll keep shopping Sky Pirates around as long as it takes, but I can’t leave my career on hold waiting for any one project to move.

I have been trying to write a more “mainstream” fantasy, and I got maybe a third of it done as part of last year’s NaNoWriMo, but I keep running into a fundamental paradox: in trying to adhere to more standard tropes in order to make the book “sellable,” I feel like I’m just aping other people’s work, which in turn makes for a book that I’m not sure I would read, myself.

Of course, it’s just the first draft of said book, and so there’s an argument that I should just finish the thing, with “rip out all the Tolkien” being one of the goals of the second draft. But if I know all the Tolkien needs to come out anyway, then leaving it in there for the first draft feels like creating work I don’t need to do.

So perhaps I should just leave that one in the drafts folder and start a whole new project that’s more like what I want to write.

But I need to do something. I need to get somewhere.

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Writing)

Snoopy Deals With Rejection

Including the first cold submission to Tor, I have now been sending queries for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania to publishers and agents for five months. I have received:

  • Six form rejections

  • One personal response that my writing was strong but the agent didn’t feel a personal connection to these particular characters

  • Four chirping crickets

But today starts a new week, and so this morning I’ve sent off two more queries (including one to an agent who, even if she doesn’t care for the book, just seems like a cool person and I started following her on Twiter). As more responses come in, assuming they are more form rejections, I’ll keep sending more queries out, until this book sells.

Because that’s the thing, I believe this book will sell. It’s the kind of book I keep wishing somebody else would write so I could read it– and if I want a book like this, surely other people must too. It’s just a matter of connecting Book A to Readers B. I don’t expect it to become the sort of thing that makes it to supermarket shelves, necessarily, but I do think it’s a very entertaining first novel and is the good launching point of a career. I have seen (and read, and have in my personal library) books that are weaker on all fronts and yet are quite successful, and if those books can do it, so can mine.

So I keep calm and query on. There are hundreds (thousands?) of good literary agents out there, and if I get through the list, well, I’ll start over. And in the meantime, I will continue to work on the next book while waiting for responses.

We’ll get there.

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Writing)

On the value of good manners, the agent who passed on Sky Pirates of Calypsitania last week wrote back in response to my thank you note to say, “I think your writing is very strong and I wish you the best in your agent hunt! For me, I just didn’t fall in love with the characters in the way that I’d need in order to be a great advocate.”

This, while it may not sound like much, is actually hugely helpful feedback. When you send out query after query and get the same boilerplate “not a good fit at this time” response, you begin to question every little aspect of what you’re doing. “Is my query letter too amateurish?” “Am I committing enormous grammatical blunders that I just don’t see?” “Is my adventure story about airship pirates really just a string of vapid clichés?” “Are the weird relationships and social outliers in this story too off-putting?” “Am I a hamfisted hack and everyone’s just been too nice to say so?”

This tiny bit of specific feedback makes all that junk go away. Being told by an industry professional that my writing is very strong is a bonus, I won’t lie! But the real value here is knowing that it was a matter of personal taste, rather than a systemic problem with the work. There are plenty of books out there that are great books, but I just don’t get into them. The entire corpus of Ernest Hemingway, just for starters.

What that means, in real terms, is that I have to just keep putting the book in front of agents until I find one for whom the book clicks. Of course, that was my plan anyway, but I feel a lot more secure about it now. Even if this particular agent and I end up never crossing paths again (although there’s no reason we might not), she’s done me a great favor and I’m grateful for it.

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Writing)

It has often been observed that writing is a tough racket. Like, suspiciously so– people have been predicting the death of the written word pretty much as long as there have been written words, but particularly the death of the modern publishing industry as long as there has been a modern publishing industry, despite the fact bookstores tend to be full of people happily shelling out their hard-earned dollars for books even in this post-internet age and that book sales are actually up rather than down. The rates for writers are largely un-moved in decades, and editorial budgets are slashed, but book prices keep going up, so… that money has to be going somewhere.

However, for the time being at least, I am not interested in figuring out that mystery. Publishing for me is largely a giant black box where I put words in one end and, theoretically, money comes out the other. Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Granted, I have not submitted that much for publication in the grand scale of things, being largely self-published or having worked mostly with editors who were also friends and colleagues already. But over the course of my writing career, I’ve had far more successes than rejections. In fact, I can only think of three rejections off the top of my head:

  • A creature write-up sent to White Wolf for a Werewolf line “monster book” in 1989 or so. This was done hastily, because Bill (the line editor at the time) was in a pinch, and I basically threw together something that belonged in Call of Cthulhu instead. I’m not surprised he didn’t use it– in fact, I would have been more surprised if he had.

  • Out In the Cold, my first full-length(ish) novel, sent to an agent c. 1996 in a fit of youthful enthusiasm. This was a cozy mystery, and it didn’t totally suck but it wasn’t great, either. It did at least garner me a very nice handwritten reply praising the narrative voice and depiction of the characters. I eventually decided that mystery writing was probably not where my strengths were and shelved it after that. And finally…

  • Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, which as of yesterday has been rejected by one publisher and seven agents, and “soft rejected” by a handful more agents who simply did not respond (“If you do not hear in 4-8 weeks we aren’t interested.”). Of all these, yesterday’s rejection was the hardest.

The reasons why yesterday’s hit me so hard are twofold. First, this agent was specifically seeking steampunk novels– a genre which is notoriously tricky to get people interested in. I was very jazzed to see someone actually wanting steampunk, instead of having a subtext of “Okay, I guess I’ll look at it, but don’t you have any doorstopper fantasy or military SF we could check out instead?”

Second, after the initial query, the agent wrote back to me and asked for a larger sample, which was the first response of any kind on this book beyond a polite form rejection. I knew it wasn’t guaranteed that she would want to move forward after that, but I did think it was quite likely. She wanted steampunk, she liked the first chapter, and her agenting portfolio seemed like just the right fit for this particular book’s eccentricities. Alas, “After a careful reading, I am sorry to say that I don’t believe this project is right for me.” I sent her a thank-you note, and who knows, maybe something else will work later.

But in the meantime, we carry on. I really like this book– even if it weren’t my own it would be one of my favorites– and I honestly think it’s as good as anything out there. I know that steampunk is a long shot, and I know that first-time novelists always have a tough hill to climb. Yes, I’m disappointed, but I’m going to put it away for the weekend and then, come Monday, pull up the next three agents on my list and send it out again.

It is, as has been observed, a tough racket.

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Gneechtoon)
Okay. I need to get myself together here, as I've been sorta scattered lately. So here we go.

  1. Contact Jacky Paisley

  2. Deposit checks

  3. Resolve insurance

  4. Pick up prescriptions

  5. RH Bonus Stuff

  6. PotG badges to Patreon?

  7. Lia commish

  8. Sky Pirates agent pitches, round three

  9. Redliox potg badge

  10. Gryphon_2 potg badge (need refs!)

  11. Welof potg badge

  12. Loupy potg badge

  13. Script for issue five

  14. Mail Kamau's power cord

  15. FurPlanet commish

  16. Sky Pirates 2 outline

  17. Record footage for "Learning Not to Suck at Overwatch"

  18. Clean up bibliography, about page, and categories

  19. Clean sinks

That should keep me busy for at least the afternoon. ¬.¬

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Writing)

So far my efforts to get Sky Pirates of Calypsitania to market have not met with success. The rejections have ranged to form “not at this time” letters to more personal “not at this time” letters, but the net result is the same, i.e., “not at this time.”

I’ve been pretty carefully targeting my pitches to maximize their chances, but alas I am starting to run out of “top tier” possibilities and I have to consider what to do next. As this is my strongest book to date and what I hope will be the beginning of a personal “franchise” (to coin a marketing term), I don’t want to make any giant newbie mistakes that will come back to bite me later, but at the same time, I do need to start making some headway.

So I am now considering self-publication. It’s not really where I wanted to go with this book– my long-term goal for this one is “See it on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.” However, I also need to actually get books out there being read and making money, which they can’t do just sitting on my hard drive receiving rejection letters.

I think I’ve also started making headway on the next book, although it’s still quite vague in my mind, to wit: another book in the same setting as Sky Pirates. As much as I love Verity and Tanya and I want to know more of their story, they’re only two people in a much wider world, and they’ve earned a rest from adventure for a while, the poor dears. Plus, they’re getting out of the airships business (or at least trying to), but I’m still interested in following that thread. So that means finding someone else to write about!

So while what is probably the last round of agent pitches goes out, I’m going to hit the Scrivener corkboard and start plotting. If any of my writing industry friends have suggestions for getting the current book rolling, however, I’d love to hear them!

-The Gneech


the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
The early parts of the dream are lost to wakefulness. The first part I can remember involves me driving the Forester out of a parking lot surrounded by trees and onto the Reston Parkway, headed towards Fair Lakes. In the passenger seat is a woman that I don't know in reality, but whom dream reality identifies as one of my co-workers from Starbucks. By way of showing her how the bluetooth phone setup works, I call [ profile] hantamouse and [ profile] jamesbarrett.

While we're chatting with them, as I'm nearing where Vale Road and the water tower would be in reality, I spot a small blimp, burning furiously, coming in for an emergency landing in a park (that isn't actually there). After the appropriate "Holy crap!" I hang up on Lee and Jamie, pull into a park across the street (roughly where the entrance to Penderwood is in reality), and call 911 via said bluetooth connection.

911 rings. And rings. And rings. I'm just about to give up on it, tell my Starbucks co-worker to tell them what's happening if and when they pick up, and run to the blimp to try to help, when 911 answers.

Them: "What is your location?"

Me: "I'm on Reston Parkway between Fair Oaks and the Navy school. There's an airship on fire!"

Them: "Our computer shows that you are not on Reston Parkway, but actually parked near it." [1]

Me: "Well yeah, I'm not actually on Reston Parkway. But there's an airship on fire here. Send a fire engine!"

Them: "Please state your location as being near Reston Parkway, or move to Reston Parkway."

Me: "..."

On the grounds that people are probably dying while this nonsense is going on I get out of the car and rush to the blimp, only to find that it's not burning any more. It turns out it wasn't really a blimp so much as a blimp-shaped hot air balloon, and the entire thing was roughly the size of a Winnebago. Its passengers were a vacationing family of two parents, a teenage daughter, and a near- or early-teen son, who have carried the gondola into a gazebo [2] and are in the process of moving what's left of the envelope into the same.

All of them look rattled, but aside from the son having black smears around his eyes like makeup in some cheesy old movie, none of them seem injured or worse for wear. I ask if everyone is all right, and the son says, "Well we're not doing that again!" but that's about all the reaction I get.

I cross back over to my car to tell the 911 dispatch that everybody from the "burning airship" is okay, assuming that my Starbucks co-worker is still arguing with them about where the car is. However, co-worker is nowhere to be found and 911 has put me on hold. Just then I receive an incoming call: some person who keeps trying to wheedle me into being an editor for some project I'm totally not interested in is calling me. I tell them that I'm dealing with an emergency, to which they respond that they just called to tell me that there is a new chapter on Dropbox. My only answer is, "Yay?"

That's when the cats meowing for their breakfast woke me up. Sounds like it was only going to go downhill from there anyway.

-The Gneech [3]

[1] It doesn't strike my dream-brain as the slightest bit unusual that they'd have a computer that shows where my car is. My first thought is that when I called 911, my car GPS or phone GPS transmitted the location in case I was unable to communicate, which struck me as a very useful and prudent feature, even if it is part of a hideous police state of intrusive and endless surveillance. Which we do actually live in, in real life. My dream brain does want to know, however, "If you know where I am, why are you wasting my time asking me?"

[2] "Gondola into a gazebo" is fun to write.

[3] Analysis? I don't have much. Crashing and burning airships figure largely into my book manuscript, and of course I have been the guy on the other end of the line telling people there's a new draft up, so I might be projecting my own insecurities there. Starbucks co-worker has a lot of possible meanings, but is probably a reflection on the job itself rather than any person at it. 911 and attendant bureaucracy was probably inspired by real world current events more than anything else.
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)

A Random Steampunk Thought I Had

...and posted to Tumblr, but want to remember here. To wit:

The thing about airships is, by definition, that means they have to be lighter than air. So unless they can somehow pull that off while still maintaining the inertia of a thing on the ground, they’re going to be pushed and pulled by every little breeze that comes along.

So even the fantasy ironclad airships, bristling with cannons? Are basically big dumb junebugs, floating around kind of randomly, bumping into stuff, pointing the wrong way and occasionally going off on long detours in completely the wrong direction because of a stiff breeze.

…Which is kinda awesome, actually.

Mr. Torgue's Guide to Happiness

When something goes wrong in your life, just yell "PLOT TWIST!" and move on.

The Pale Blue Dot

The New Season of MST3K Kickstarter, Starring Joel

As of this writing, at $1.3 million of their $2 million goal and climbing, with 29 days still to go. Looks promising!

That's It For Now

Time to draw some ponies! I'll post 'em later.

-The Gneech

PS: My new favorite reaction to everything.

Obama WTF
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
Tried to draw Sunday and yesterday, and it was painful. Don't know what's going on there, but I need to let it be for the moment. On top of that, I suddenly got poked by multiple beta readers about the airship pirates book yesterday, so combined with the difficulties drawing I'm going to take that as a sign that's what I should be working on instead.

The first step will be to beef up the backstories and world creation. For the first draft, I came up with just as much as I needed to write the scene I was in and no more, but now I have to go through and make sure all that stuff is up to scratch. The next step will be to look for thin spots in the first draft and see where I can flesh it out. The first draft came to approximately 69,000 words in 19 chapters, but the fantasy market as it currently stands regards that as being unsellably short (I'll rant about that some other time). If there's another 30,000 words to be found in this story, it's going to be in breathing more life into the supporting cast.

Thing is, when I was outlining this book, I was aiming for "60,000-80,000 words" and I hit that target spot on, not realizing that the fantasy market had moved the goalposts since last time I looked at it. I sorta wonder now if it would be easier to start fresh with a new outline based on a new target of 100,000 words, than to try to graft 30,000 more words into the manuscript I've got. I'll ponder this as I work on the backstory stuff.

Even if I end up going that route, nothing is ever wasted. The first draft of this book is the longest item I've written to date and also some of my best work. So I'm not worried about that! It'll find its useful place.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Writing)
Back at the end of July, I was in a severe emotional crash, trying to resolve several contradictory ideas (a thing that happens to me with unfortunate frequency). I was spinning my wheels about wanting to continue Rough Housing to the exclusion of everything else, vs. wanting to be able to work on other projects, vs. the looming crisis of Mrs. Gneech's and my mutual unemployment. Finally, after some less-than-dignified LJ entries, a bad day at home, and the subsequent trip to my counselor, I basically said "To hell with it!" and wrote a book.

I poured a lot into this book. I mean, you wouldn't think so just to read the manuscript– it's essentially a potboiler adventure story on the surface. But like Wenton Delaney turning his divorce into a crime thriller, so much of this book was shaped by my weird traumas, life observations, and particular neuroses– chopped, channelled, and with spoiler fins welded on– that there was a lot of catharsis involved.

And credit to [ profile] rowyn, she was absolutely right. I got more storytelling done in a month and a half writing this book, than in two years of Rough Housing. For all its blockbuster nature, this book is deeper and more intellectually satisfying (to me, anyway) than just about anything I've written to date.

So where do I go from here? Well obviously, the book is not ready for public consumption yet. The first draft weighs in at around 68,000 words, which was once "just right" but is now considered "uncomfortably short" by most of my target markets. (One publisher requests a minimum of 80,000 words, while another won't even look at anything below 100,000. Good grief.) A common motif among comments from the beta readers has been that it's a fast read ("a wild ride" was another), which is a fine feature in an adventure story, but I also don't want people to just tear through it in one sitting and then forget it a day later. So it needs expansion, it needs building out and revising.

And what about SJ? I gotta admit, after a project like this, SJ feels very lightweight intellectually, even though it's just as time consuming. It's kind of a drag to pour two months into creating a comic that'll be read in five minutes and tossed on the pile with the rest, which was something I was already wrestling with before the fact that it's not exactly a money-maker was part of the equation. Novel-writing, assuming I can get rolling and am good at it, at least would help pay the bills. I can do SJ as a downtime project on the side between bouts of writing and revision, but then is it fair to hope for continued Patreon support? I feel like I've neglected my patrons for the past month as it is, and need to do something about that.

I'm still working on it. The good news is, Mrs. Gneech has been having some success in the freelance arena and has been getting calls back for permanent positions, so hopefully stable income will shortly be a thing again. I have been holding off on breaking down and getting a job as a barista or something, so I could devote as much time as possible to these projects while we still have our heads above water.

For the immediate future, I need to put the book down and let it set a bit before going into revision mode. My next immediate set of projects will be to work on commissions and get those Dungeons and Denizens pages done that I meant to do in August. My guess is that once those are completed I'll start working on revisions, which means SJ may not get into the queue before November or December. By then, I expect I'll know which direction I need to go.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)

Because I have a terrible sense of timing, I spent August writing a novel. (Alas, no NaNoWriMo bragging rights for me this year!) After being consumed by the muse for a month and a week, I wrote the last sentence of the first draft yesterday, and did the mental equivalent of flopping over in exhaustion.

In a day or two, I shall attack the next project on the stack, which will be either to finish off a few more commissions or to draw Dungeons & Denizens, not sure which yet. But before I do that, I’m going to read a mother-hugging book.

Mere words cannot describe how important books were in my life once upon a time. My mother was a librarian until I was five or six, and never lost the temperament even when she left the job. As such our family hoarded books the way some families hoard cats, Beanie Babies, or collectible holiday glasses from fast food restaurants. Since the advent of the internet, however, books and I have somewhat drifted apart. As in, I still have more books than average and going to the bookstore is still my favorite recreational activity… but I don’t always have one in my pocket and pull it out whenever there’s a lull in the conversation, and I don’t have a room full of bookshelves stacked three deep any more.

I regret this state of things; going from someone who read two books a month to someone who reads two books a year has left me feeling out of sorts and given me the gnawing fear that my brain may be atrophying from disuse. But the reason I don’t read any more is because I tend to work myself to exhaustion, then not feel like I have the “time” to read. Generally once I start a book, I have a hard time putting it down until it’s finished, and if I try to read in small chunks over time, I lose the thread and get bored. In short, if I can’t read a book all at once, I have a hard time reading it at all.

But reading, and reading a lot, is fundamental to being a good novelist. You have to read in your genre of choice, so you know what’s going on and what’s “been done,” and you have to read outside your genre so you don’t become myopic or stale, and you have to read nonfiction to learn what the world is actually like, not just to add to the verisimilitude of your stories, but also to know how to actually be a proper human being.

Recognizing this, I have decided to treat reading as a project. When I finish one project (such as the manuscript I just wrapped up), I will read a book, and then move on to the next project. Besides getting me back into reading, hopefully this will also act as a mental palate-cleanser. When I’ve been deeply involved in a big project, even once it’s “finished” I tend to spend the next few days or weeks wanting to tinker with it, like somebody coming back and saying “And another thing!” after the argument is long over. Sometimes these thoughts are improvements, but usually they’re just puttering, and occasionally they’re making Greedo shoot first, so on the whole I’m better off ignoring them. By picking up a book, wildly different from the last thing I worked on, I hope to make my brain shift gears more quickly.

So! Having written a potboiler adventure novel about steampunk air pirates, today I delve into Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James, a nonfiction social studies book. Once I finish my next project, which is likely to be furry art or comics either way, I’ll probably re-read Soulless by Gail Carriger, or one of the various short story anthologies that have been building up by my bedside for the past few years.

By making it an assignment for myself, I can make reading a thing I don’t feel like a slacker for doing during the day, and doing it in binges is totally doing it right. Win/win!

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Default)

“Hymn to Breaking Strain” by Julia Ecklar and Leslie Fish

The careful textbooks measure: “Let all who build beware!

The load, the shock, the pressure material can bear.”

So when the buckled girder lets down the grinding span

The blame of loss or murder, is laid upon the man

Not on the steel– the man!

But in our daily dealing with stone and steel, we find

the gods have no such feeling of justice toward mankind!

To no such gauge they make us, for no laid course prepare.

In time they overtake us with loads we cannot bear

Too merciless to bear

The prudent textbooks give it in tables at the end:

The stress that shears a rivet, or makes a tie-bar bend

What traffic wrecks macadam, what concrete should endure

But we poor sons of Adam, have no such literature

To warn us or make sure

We hold all Earth to plunder, all time and space as well

Too wonder-stale to wonder at each new miracle

’til in the mid-illusion of Godhood ‘neath our hand

Falls multiple confusion on all we did or planned

The mighty works we planned

We only in creation! How much luckier the bridge and rail!

Abide the twin damnation: to fail, and know we’ve failed!

Yet we– by which sole token we know we once were gods–

Take shame in being broken, however great the odds!

The burden or the odds

Oh, Veiled and Secret Power Whose Paths We Seek in Vain,

Be with us in our hour of overthrow and pain!

That we– by which sure token we know Thy ways are true–

In spite of being broken

–Or because of being broken?–

Rise up and build anew!

Stand up and build anew!

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Writing)

For the past two weeks, when not sending off job applications, most of my time has been spent writing another novel. I had intended to hold off until November and do it as a NaNoWriMo project, but for whatever reason the book said, “NOAP, you will write me NOW!” and so I have been. As of last night, I hit 20,000-ish words at the end of chapter seven, and I’m taking a “creative recharge and look back at the progress so far break” today before attacking chapter eight.

I have to say, I am very pleased with how the book is coming along, and as far as this story is concerned, it’s about damn time. This story started out as a nugget of my Arclight Adventures comic project, then morphed into my Coventry idea, then emerged as its own thing, then got shelved, then informed the creation of Rough Housing, then got shelved again, and now has finally re-asserted itself with forcefulness that will not be denied. Verity and Tanya want their story to be told, and they want it to be told in the right way, dammit! And when characters yell at me that loudly, well, I’d be a fool not to listen. The book is coming fast, and solid, and fun, but also with a lot more depth and texture to it than I expected. As I tweeted last night, I think this is going to be my best book yet, and this is the one I finally feel is a good candidate for publication.

The revamped Brigid and Greg novel is another good candidate, actually, and I may put that into the NaNoWriMo slot if this book is finished by then. That one would probably have been finished by now if the house sale hadn’t knocked me out of my groove.

A major factor in this level-up of my writing craft has been Scrivener, which has turned building an outline/story structure from a horrendous pain into an absolute joy. For both the B&G book and the new one, I have started with five notecards:

  • Act One: Setup

  • Act Two: Conflict

  • Act Three: Rising Action

  • Act Four: Catastrophe/Falling Action

  • Act Five: Denouement

Drilling down from each of these, I put in 4-6 more notecards with major story beats. On each of the story beat notecards, I then drill down and put 3-5 short scene summaries– not even whole sentences, just things like “Brigid and Isadora argue”. That whole process takes me a few days, and by the time I’m done I have a nice and solid skeleton to start hanging my story on. From there, it’s just writing out each scene as described in the summary, usually in a 500-1,500 word chunk, of which I can write around three on a “normal” working day and more on a really good day. Just looking at the math, you can see what happens: four scenes of 1,000 words each make a 4,000 word chapter; five chapters of 4,000 words each make a 20,000 word act; four acts of 20,000 words, plus a denouement that’s probably one or two chapters tops, make an 80,000-90,000 word novel.

(Of course, nothing ever goes completely to plan. In the current story, in order to twist the emotional knife on a particular scene, I decided to elevate something that was basically speed bump in my outline into a major catastrophe, which in turn made complications that had to be coped with, but which had not been factored into the original plan. Using Scrivener, that was relatively easy to fix, basically by just shoving in some more notecards for new scenes or chapter. Since it’s just shoving little pieces around at the outlining level, it doesn’t feel like major plot surgery.)

Anyway, I think that with this book, I will actually be making the transition from perennial dabbler to true professional novelist. Not just because of the quality of this piece, but because I now feel like I have the tools and the experience to repeat the performance. I can now confidently build a novel-length story, and I know both what I want out of the process and what the process will need out of me to pull it off. And honestly, I think that when I actually finish something my writing is as good as anybody’s out there.

Building an audience, translating these books into earning a living, and all that stuff, is something else I will need to tackle, of course, as is integrating all of this with my desire to keep Suburban Jungle alive. But those are all topics for another day.

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
Strangely enough, this whole thing with [ profile] lythandra's job situation has kinda-sorta made me want to double down on my creative projects. It makes a certain amount of sense, in that all the professional writers/creators I know tend to pump out a lot of content in a diverse set of types, but it's also completely irrational because I am Teh Slow and I'm already going nuts from having too much do to do as it is.

Nevertheless, I want to go ahead and write that sky pirates story. You remember the one, don't you? This one?

Tanya and Verity (New Comic Dev Pics) by the-gneech on DeviantArt

A lot of Verity and Tanya got channelled into Charity and Langley respectively, which was a deliberate move on my part, but the rest of that setting is still interesting to me and calling to be worked on. I have an outline for at least one novel starring those two, which I was thinking of trying to bang out for NaNoWriMo this year.

The burning question is, do I keep it in its original (furry) conception, or try to write it up as a more conventional (human-filled) fantasy novel and sell it to the mass market? There's nothing about the story that really calls for it to be full of furries, I just like them better than hooman beans.

In any case, it needs to get in line. My creative queue for the moment is:

  1. Clear the commission pool

  2. Draw Dungeons and Denizens

  3. Draw Issue Four

That should keep me busy well up to November. And if I do end up with a day job, that should keep me busy well up to 2016+. :P

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)

So the general opinion is that the “necro” in “necromancer” refers to death– traditionally necromancy is the ability to speak with dead spirits, for the purpose of lifting curses, busting ghosts, whatever. This has led to the image in popular fantasy of necromancers being gothy types who hang around in cemetaries raising zombies and the like. Which works as a trope, but… it could go another way.

Another meaning of the original root “necro” is “dark.” Not dark as in “evil,” dark as in “obscure or hard to see.” i.e., hidden, secret. Necromancy by that meaning is therefore not “the deathly arts,” but rather “the secret arts.” Which could be anything! The secret art of turning lead into gold? Sure. The secret art of getting that fifth dentist to recommend sugar-free gum? Anything!

This of course leads me to ruminate on the word “secret.” What are secrets, exactly? They are things you carry with you. Your secretary carries your correspondence (and your secrets). A secretion is something that has been deposited on you. The Secret Service is not “secret” in the sense that people don’t know they’re there– far from it– they report to the Secretary of the Treasury, and they “carry” the President safely.

(Historical note: The Secret Service was actually founded to combat forgery after the Civil War; it wasn’t until the assassination of Pres. McKinley that they were given the task of protecting the President.)

This leads me to a vision of a fantasy setting in which an important personage (Queen, Emperor, Prime Minister, whatever tickles your fancy) is protected and served by a small cadre of elite necromancers (in the sense that they study secret arts), sort of James Bond meets Harry Dresden if you like. I can see this working particularly well as a steam-fantasy setting a la Gail Carriger.

However, I don’t have the time to write this at the moment, so I’m setting the idea free by writing it up here and putting it into your head. I might come back to it later, we’ll see.

-The Gneech

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Default)

October Commish — DeWhitton by ~the-gneech on deviantART

Followup to this one:

Our mate the steampunk flying fox takes a break from bug-hunting to maintain the ol’ death ray and enjoy a beer.

This one took me three tries to ink. Note to myself: charge more for real media in the future!

-The Gneech

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Default)

While crunching away on everything else, I have managed to do a few bits of art in-between. And here they are! Because I love you.

Gneech Bizcard 2013 by ~the-gneech on deviantART

Finally, after however many years, I’ve got revised business cards on the way, with new avatar, the current websites, and a new funny bullet. ;)

Biggest Little Furcon 2014 Badge Submission by ~the-gneech on deviantART

Graveyard Greg asked me to do up a Ghostbusters-themed badge for BLFC. The theme is ’80s-tasticness in general, with emphasis on pink and purple, so I went with more of the “Real Ghostbusters” style than the movie guys. And of course, with a GB pic, I couldn’t resist a little self-insert. ;)

I have no idea who the wolf gal is, but she’s blonde and she’s got glam stars on her cheek– that’s ’80s enough for me!

Jenny Everywhere 2013 by ~the-gneech on deviantART

It’s almost time for Jenny Everywhere day, 2013! My submission this year has Jenny catching a ride on a handy airship! I decided to make her human, just to be different, using Nichelle Nichols as my inspiration.

If any woman ever deserved a steampunk fantasy action show of her own, it’s Nichelle Nichols!

If you’ve never heard about Jenny Everywhere, check her out:

-The Gneech

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Writing)
A while back [ profile] rowyn mentioned in the course of a conversation about writing and plot that she has an exercise she engages in that involves drawing tarot cards to develop stories. This seemed like a neat idea and I filed it in the back of my head for use later.

So yesterday, I just happened to be in a Barnes & Noble ("How did I get HERE??? I hate bookstores!") where I spotted a "steampunk tarot deck" in the remainders section. This was something I'd spotted before and been quite intrigued by, and my policy on such things is "If I see it again and still want it, that means I probably actually want it." Especially on sale. ;) So I picked it up and started mucking around with it a bit.

I also e-mailed [ profile] rowyn asking her for some guidance on her technique and she, being made of awesome and win, sent back a very detailed and helpful explanation. She also posted it to her own LJ, for anyone else out there who might find it interesting and useful.

I intend to give this a try in the upcoming months. :) I'll let you know the results!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Classic Style)
Yesterday was a bad day for me. No getting around it. I didn't sleep properly the night before and I should have called in sick but didn't, leading to a day of sheer pain at work.

However, that had the unexpected benefit of making me so tired that I had no choice but sleep last night-- and sleep I did. That proverbial rock people are always sleeping like? From now on, it sleeps like me. And this morning I woke up at 5:45, as close to bright-eyed and bushy tailed as you'll ever see me.

It's... an odd feeling. But I'll happily take today over yesterday!

In the process of all this industrial-strength sleeping, I had a dream about starting on NeverNever Book Three, which (had the strip continued) was going to start revealing explanations of why Excalibur manifested and chose Arthur, as well as how the Arcadians fit into it all. Although I don't actually have any plans to resurrect NeverNever any time soon, it was a very good feeling to have my muse doing anything considering how much of a mess she's been lately.

If I was going to do anything, it would be with Verity and Tanya, and indeed the muse has been simmering on those two for the past few weeks, even though I've said little about it. I think a lot of the energy from the Coventry inspiration has been spilling over, which is more than a little appropriate. I expect I'll end up tossing most of the background stuff I've come up with for V&T so far, but that's okay-- the first draft is supposed to be crap. I want to create the thing that my muse wants to create-- it's just a matter of figuring out what that is.

The Other News

In other news, the other news is good for a change! My mom is out of the rehab place and comfortably housed with my sister for the time being; motion is slowly but perceptibly returning to her left arm and she's looking hale and hearty compared to how she generally has been lately. Another friend of mine who's been fighting a very serious illness is improving and by all reports was due to go home from the hospital yesterday. I need to follow up and find out how she's doing. Finally, [ profile] hantamouse it seems has jumped through all the necessary hoops to get the promotion he's been angling for-- which means he'll be able to keep his house!

I'm liking this "good news" trend. Let's keep going with that.

So all in all, life is on the upswing right now. I'll take it. Thanks, life!

-The Gneech

PS: "Sissypunk" needs to be a thing.
the_gneech: (LIGHTNING from my FINGERS!)

Airship Boarding Concepts by ~the-gneech on deviantART

I've received a lot of helpful feedback on the design of the pirate airship Turnabout ( ), and one of the recurring topics of discussion has been "How do boarding actions occur?"

The top scenario ("Normandy") is what I originally had in mind, but isn't without its drawbacks. Here are some other thoughts I was playing around with as well.

Also, I'm currently leaning away from propellers and fans and towards maneuvering jets which use the same orichalcum gas that keeps the airship bouyant. This provides a nice tie-in to the fictional "technology" I've already got in place, and also provides a good reason why a ship would primarily use sails-- bleed off too much, and you fall from the sky!

-The Gneech

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