Stargate Monuments

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The Writing Middle-Slump

(I'm going to try to do more posts about writing, so here's some thoughts on the difficulties of middles.)

I wanted to do a blog post about getting through writing slumps, because of something someone said on Twitter. (I can't remember what it was now, but that's how my brain rolls lately.)

A lot of people talk about the mid-book slump. Writing the beginning of a book is exciting, everything is new, you're creating the world, meeting the characters for the first time. The end is also exciting, because all the plot threads are tying up and you should be done soon.

The middle is the hard part, where you have to make the magic happen and start pulling things together, increasing the complication but starting to find answers to mysteries. You have to make all the cool stuff you came up with in the beginning make sense. You have to set up the end. The story engine has to be fully engaged, etc.

Sometimes it feels like a slog, and that's when you want to quit and go write something else. You want that really, really bad sometimes. If you do that with every book you write, it's going to be a problem and end up getting you zero finished books. (This, by the way, is why agents, and publishers who take unagented submissions, only want to see finished books from new authors. It's a lot easier to start a book than to finish it, and they want to make sure you can finish. A lot of people are certain they can, and then don't.)

So if your book-middle feels like a horrible slog and you'd rather go out and shovel snow or haul rocks or dig holes in the back yard, it isn't necessarily a problem. It's just that middles are hard.

But one thing I've noticed about myself is that if the writing doesn't come easily (and it's not just because I'm tired or unwell or stressed) then the chances are good that there's a problem that part of my brain is aware of even though the rest of me is willfully trying to ignore it. Figuring out what that problem is can be tricky, but first you have to figure out whether it's actually a problem.

I think you do need to ask yourself some questions. Is the book-middle like climbing a mountain backwards through a mud storm because you're tired and need to just keep going? Or is there an actual problem? Is it a pacing issue, are things moving too slowly? Are the characters still in character, are you making them act in ways you kind of know they wouldn't just to make your plot work? Is there something you're trying to do now that needs more setup earlier in the book? Did you forget to put in something you know you really needed?

Or are you actually getting bored with your plot? Because if you're bored with your plot, readers may be bored with it too.

If you're saying: "I have to write this part and I don't want to." Ask yourself: Do you really have to? Is it necessary for the plot, characterization, the story? Why don't you want to? Is it not right for the pacing, slowing things down when it should be speeding things up? Maybe it doesn't need to be there.

If you don't like it anymore, it's okay to make something else happen instead.

You can always take a step back and re-imagine your plot. You should know the characters better at this point; maybe your plot needs to change to accommodate that. (It's often hard for some writers to create a character in a vacuum. It's only when I write characters interacting with other characters and facing situations that I start to get a real sense of who they are and how they behave under stress.)

What is the coolest, most exciting thing that could happen here that will still fit the story you want to tell? Maybe you should be writing that instead.

Your plot is not carved in stone, even if you did an outline. One thing I've found out over and over again is that plot points can sound great in the outline and it's only when you start actually writing those scenes that you see the flaws.

This is where experience and understanding how your own writing brain works is important. The only way to get experience is of course to keep writing through those middles, no matter what you have to do to get to the end.

Stargate in Distance


I'll be at ConDFW in Dallas, Texas, on February 12-14. This is a great con, and this year the guests of honor are Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi.

Here's my schedule:


READING (ADAMS) Friday, 6pm: Tex Thompson, Martha Wells
(I'll be reading from The Edge of Worlds)


PROGRAMMING 2 (MADISON) Saturday, 12pm:
Creating your Fantasy Hero
Panelists: Marshall Ryan Maresca (M), C. Dean Andersson, Tracy S. Morris, Martha Wells, Bradley H. Sinor, J. Kathleen Cheney
There are many stereotypes of hero out there in Epic Fantasy. The brawny barbarian, the wise wizard, the crafty thief and the pious cleric are all choices. Which hero fits your world that you have built? Or do you want to go counter ‐ trope and build something against the norm? We’ve put together the brains of our fantasy authors and they will give you ideas on how to build the perfect hero for your world.

AUTOGRAPHS (THE GALLERY) Saturday, 1pm: Martha Wells, Stina Leicht, K. B. Bogen

PROGRAMMING 2 (MADISON) Saturday, 4pm:
Broke Down and Out of Gas... in Space
Panelists: Tex Thompson (M), Paul Abell, Martha Wells, KM Tolan, Chris Donahue, T.M. Hunter
Because even Furiosa occasionally gets a flat. Let's talk about all the fun you can have when spaceships break and flux capacitors blow – and how our favorite characters MacGyver their way back into action!


The Wand of Deus Ex Machina
Panelists: Kristi Hutson (M), Seanan McGuire, Michael Ashleigh Finn, Paul Black, Bradley H. Sinor, Martha Wells
Every hero has their emergency bag, or their special revolver, or their hellfire staff, or their wand. It’s as much of a signature as the clothes they wear, or the car they drive. Our writers talk about equipping their heroes, and why you shouldn’t skimp on describing them




* Out today: Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney
Shironne Anjir's status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.

* Children of Ash by Jaye Wells
Several months after their first victory over the vampires, Meridian Six and her band of rebels are called in to Book Mountain for a brand new mission. The leader of another rebel group needs help saving children who were captured by the Troika and sent to Krovgorod, the worst of the vampire labor camps. Getting inside the prison camp will be simple, but escaping it will be hell.

* This is looks like only the UK edition is available now: Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author.

* Magic Banquet by A.E. Marling
Dragon steaks, ambrosia, and chimera stew. The Magic Banquet is to die for, they say, and they are right. One guest perishes each night. The street waif, Aja, just wants a few mouthfuls of the first course, but this is a party not so easily left.

* The Risen: A Novel of Spartacus by David Anthony Durham
From the author of Pride of Carthage, the superb fictional rendering of Hannibal's epic military campaigns against Carthage's archenemy Rome, comes the perfect follow-up: an equally superb novel of the legendary gladiator Spartacus and the vast slave revolt he led that came ever so close to bringing Rome and its supposedly invincible legions to its knees.

* Hellebore & Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic
The essence of fantasy is magic and the folklore of women has often dwelt on the innumerable powers they possess. Magic that heals, magic that destroys, magic that saves their community. All these elements and more can be found in the queer women of Hellebore & Rue. These lesbians shape their worlds, their wants and needs, and, most important, their destinies.

* For Preorder: The Root by Na'amen Tilahun
A dark, gritty urban fantasy debut set in modern-day San Francisco, filled with gods, sinister government agencies, and worlds of dark magic hidden just below the surface. When a secret government agency trying to enslave you isn’t the biggest problem you’re facing, you’re in trouble.

* For Preorder: In the Labyrinth of Drakes: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
The thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, as the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.


Monday Raksura Things

I started today by spilling a cup of tea down the stairs, so that was fun.

* I've posted the first chapter excerpt of The Edge of Worlds on my web site, if you want a sneak peek.

And the book is now up for preorder in ebook on:
Amazon US, Barnes & Noble Nookbook, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Amazon France, Amazon Germany, Amazon Spain, and all other Amazons.

It should show up on Kobo and iBooks closer to the publication date on April 5.

* I'm about 85,000 words into the sequel, which now has a title: The Harbors of the Sun.

* And for Raksura Patreon people, the next snippet will be posted tomorrow. (Or late tonight)

* LJ won't let me link directly to it, but there is a Raksura wiki, The Three Worlds Traveler's Guide:


Various Things

* Kobo is having a 50% off sale until Jan 31. Customers will be able to redeem 50% off of any title published by KWL using the promo code JAN1650 an unlimited number of times starting today

That should include: Between Worlds: the Collected Ile-Rien and Cineth Stories, Wheel of the Infinite, The Death of the Necromancer, City of Bones, and The Element of Fire.

* If you missed it, my Ile-Rien story "Night at the Opera" with Nicholas and Reynard is up on Podcastle, with a full cast reading:

* Hugo Nominations are open!
You are eligible to nominate if you have an attending or supporting membership for MidAmeriConII (the 2016 WorldCon), Sasquan (the 2015 Worldcon), or Worldcon 75 (the 2017 Worldcon) by January 31, 2015. The nomination period closes March 31, 2016 at at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time.

I'm not sure what all I'm nominating yet, though two will definitely be for The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson and short story "The Demon of Russet Street" by Jessica Reisman (which is online here: )

* I will be doing a book signing for the new Raksura book The Edge of Worlds on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm at Murder by the Book in Houston, TX. J. Kathleen Cheney will be there too signing her new fantasy Dreaming Death. You can contact the store to order autographed books and have them personalized during the signing, including the other Raksura books, Kathleen's Golden City trilogy, etc.

Element of Fire cover

Night at the Opera on Podcastle

My Ile-Rien story “Night at the Opera” with Nicholas and Reynard is up on Podcastle, with a full cast reading!


Reynard Morane was at his usual table in the Cafe Baudy, a somewhat risqué establishment built on a barge in the Deval Forest pleasure garden’s lake, when a beautiful man approached his table. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence, especially in this cafe, but this beautiful man was a stranger. He said, “Captain Morane?”

From his features and dark skin, the man was Parscian, a little younger than Reynard but not by much, tall and well-built, and dressed in an elegant but understated way which suggested some level of the upper class. The coat was too expensive for the man to be from a university. For some reason, Reynard attracted a high percentage of men of academic persuasions. “Yes.” Reynard smiled warmly. “Please join me.”

The man hesitated, then drew out the opposite chair. “A friend told me about you.”

“And which friend is this?” Reynard caught the waiter’s attention and lifted his brows. The waiter sized up the situation professionally, then went to the bar for a fresh bottle of wine and glasses.

“A man named Biendare.” The man lowered his voice. “I believe he is known in some circles as ‘Binny.’”

“Binny?” Reynard frowned. This was not encouraging. Binny was not someone who would have recommended Reynard for an assignation. At least not the kind of assignation Reynard had hoped for. Just to make certain, he said, “At the roasted nut kiosk on the Street of Flowers?”

“No, it was in March Street, at a wine bar that also sells fried fish.”

“Right.” Reynard sat up, adjusting his attitude from invitingly indolent to business-like and alert.

The waiter arrived at the table with the bottle and glasses. Reynard sighed and told him, “No.”

“No?” The waiter looked startled, then disappointed. “Oh. Coffee, perhaps?”

“Coffee,” Reynard agreed.

The man cast a puzzled look at the retreating waiter’s back, and Reynard admitted, “I was hoping it was an assignation.” He waved a hand. “It’s the Cafe Baudy, you know. There are often assignations.”

“Oh, yes, I...” The man obviously decided to drop that subject and pursue his objective. “My name is Amadel. I am the confidential secretary for the Lady Shankir-Clare. She needs assistance of a…particular sort.”

Reynard held up a hand for silence as the waiter approached. He waited until the coffee service had been arranged and the waiter departed, then said, “She’s being troubled by someone but feels unable to confide the details to the Prefecture?”

“Yes, exactly.” Amadel added cream to his cup with the relief of a man who had been searching everywhere for help and was finally in the right place.





* The Incubus Job (Mission: Magic Book 1) by Diana Pharaoh Francis
So six years ago, Mallory Jade gave up killing. Now she’s a fixer. Got a problem with a demon? She can help. Infestation of pixies? She’s got you covered. Kidnapped by an undead lich? She’s on her way. Anything you need, so long as she doesn’t have to kill. It’s her one unbreakable rule.

* Free novella: The Bone Swans of Amandale by C.S.E. Cooney

* Western Shore by Juliet E. McKenna
Warlord Daish Kheda has been building political alliances, working to consolidate power over his new realm. Although he has saved his people from the twin evils of wizardry and dragons, he feels tainted by association with forbidden magic and fears he may bring great ill-fortune to his people. So Kheda resolves to once more join his Northern wizard allies in the hope of removing the dragon threat once and for all, and to seek whatever purification he can find. Only time can tell whether he will be condemned for his actions, or whether magic is less a sin than he was brought up to believe...

* Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe
Malian of Night and Kalan, her trusted ally, are returning to the Wall of Night—but already it may be too late. The Wall is dangerously weakened, the Nine Houses of the Derai fractured by rivalry and hate. And now, the Darkswarm is rising...


* Kate Elliott's Series on Worldbuilding

* Chuck Wendig: 25 More Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing

Stargate Monuments

The Very Weird Freaky Sunday

Okay, so if you saw on Facebook, you know we had a very strange time on Sunday.

We live at the back of a 60s-era cul-de-sac with four other houses. While we were still trying to sleep Sunday morning we realized that the next door neighbor's dogs had been barking for a while and there was a lot of light outside. But we thought it was some combination of a possum/the college students across the street leaving early for somewhere and having their car lights on. Then about 5:30 we realized there were at least seven, maybe more police and DPS cars outside and they were focused on the house next door.

We were really worried, but that neighbor is an older man who lives alone now that his wife has passed away. (He's had a really hard time because they had two sons, and several years ago one murdered two older women and is now in prison.) So we were afraid the house had been robbed or he had been murdered or some combination. After a bit some of the cars started to leave but they were still guarding the house, like it was a crime scene. One of the cops told us they were waiting for a search warrant to go in. By noon things had calmed down to the point where there was only two cars.

Then the SWAT van showed up. That was freaky enough, but then they knocked on the door and asked if they could look out our upstairs window. So we had a SWAT sniper in our upstairs bathroom for most of the afternoon.

They tried to get someone in the house to answer them, but there wasn't a peep. I think by that point they were figuring that nobody was inside. They brought a robot out (someone pointed out from he photo that it was a bomb-finding robot but it's a small town and there's only one robot) and used it to search the house, then the SWAT guys finally went in. No one was inside, which was a relief. Then our SWAT guy and all the others left, then the regular cops came back but eventually left. They told us they had finally located the neighbor and he was out of town for the weekend.

The whole thing took from about 5:30 in the morning to around 4:00 in the afternoon. I was starving because I ended up skipping lunch because I was too nervous. I don't think we were in any real danger. They had the access street blocked off, but we saw they did let two of the college students across the street go to their house when they came back.

We talked to a reporter afterward and she confirmed it was about this

All these pictures were taken from our living room or bedroom windows:


Books! and other stuff

Sorry I haven't been keeping up with posting here. I've been both busy and lethargic.


I've posted the next Raksura snippet in the Patreon! If you're a Patreon person and didn't get the email, please check to make sure your subscription is okay. Patreon doesn't let people know when something's wrong, if your charge to your card didn't go through, etc.


I'm past 75,000 words in the sequel to the next Raksura book The Edge of Worlds (which is coming out April 5.) Still trying to figure out a title.


* Warrior Women edited by Paula Guran
"Each story contains strength and compassion, even when the personal cost is high. The depictions of battle and trauma are rarely graphic, but they're as hard-hitting as the subject demands. This is a truly impressive accomplishment for Guran and her contributors." - Publishers Weekly (STARRED)

* The Seer's Choice by J. Kathleen Cheney
Genoveva Jardim's father was a monster—a defrocked priest who used his healer's gift to murder instead. Determined to make amends for the deaths her father brought to the Golden City, she turned her back on her life among the aristocracy. She's chosen to work for the Special Police, learning how to use the healer's gift she'd never even known she had. She wants to save lives instead of killing like her father.

* The Assassin's Mask by Sarah Zettel
Things are turning around for seventeen-year-old Peggy Fitzroy, a once-orphaned spy. Her father is back from the dead, and her unwanted engagement has been called off for good. But when a mysterious veiled woman shows up, Peggy uncovers a fresh slew of questions about her past, present, and future.

* Short Story: Queers Destory Fantasy Special Issue: Christopher Raven by Theodora Goss

* Short Story: Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson

* Short Story: Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee

* Short Story: The Glass Galago by A.M. Dellamonica

* The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster
When the Dragon Ships began to tear through the trade lanes and ravage coastal towns, the hopes of the arichipelago turned to the Windspeakers on Tash. The solemn weather-shapers with their eyes of stone can steal the breeze from raiders' sails and save the islands from their wrath. But the Windspeakers' magic has been stolen, and only their young apprentice Shina can bring their power back and save her people.

* Kingfisher by Patricia McKillip
In the new fantasy from the award-winning author of the Riddle-Master Trilogy, a young man comes of age amid family secrets and revelations, and transformative magic.


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