Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Round Robin Blog Tour: An Excuse to Soliloquize on Myself

Sarah Sawicki, blogger, wrote a story once that made me feel really slimy, but she hasn't repeated the practice since. Our most recent interaction involved her tagging me to participate in the Round Robin Blogging Tour, where I talk about myself and then talk about bloggers I think are cool (and who will be tagged so that they can do as I'm doing). Skip to the bottom if you've heard enough about me by this point.

1. What are you working on?

A massive, brain-eating project that I might die trying to complete. Here's the deal: I'm a finalist in this competition for Simon451, the new speculative fiction imprint from Simon and Schuster. The original entry was a book summary and 50 pages of that book, which I killed myself completing just because I thought it was worth it. The problem was that I got in...and now I have to write a book by September 1. Yes, I know, I'm whining about being showered in gold, but this is still a daunting prospect because I am now tasked with turning 50 pages into about 300 before September starts (or before August if I want to edit it at all).

The project itself is a familiar one, a fantasy story called Ashes, which some of you may have read. It is positively troperrific. Check this out:

In a city where everyone hides their faces behind masks made of light, a clever young beggar-thief with a fierce protective instinct severely pisses off a lot of powerful people in the course of staying alive. He attracts the attention of an illusionist who teaches him a magic system based on bald-faced deceit. Life gets even more complicated when they discover a way they and their fellow magicians can make their illusions real—and encounter a silent, grim-faced creature working to kill them before that happens.

If it helps at all, it's Oliver Twist mashed up with Harry Potter in Atlantis, sprinkled with bits of Treasure Island and Jack the Ripper, and the protagonist is the Tenth Doctor as a teenager (so Aladdin, but somewhat cleverer). And the magic system is Polyjuice Potion on steroids, which is great fun to play with (and resembles my original drafts not one single bit. Well, maybe one single bit).

Also I'm getting married (!!!) in nine days (!!!!!) to a beautiful, thoughtful, extremely smart and goofy lady. She doesn't blog much, but she put some thoughts down a little bit last summer. Click to read.

And, just to add things on, I started working with the Christian Writers Guild about three days after graduating. I edit things, sometimes I write things, but mostly I get paid to have a blast with a bunch of smart, entertaining folks for eight hours a day.'s going to be a busy summer.

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Mostly that it's less informed and more self-conscious. I tend to write fantasy, which is famous for two things: Tolkien and knockoffs. However, that's been changing, what with giants like Pratchett, Gaiman, Rothfuss, and Sanderson in the field. The fantasy that's genuinely worth reading is marvelous, and I write in the desperate hope that someday I can ape it in a worthwhile fashion.

If we limited my genre from fantasy to lower-tier fantasy, my work currently differs from those in its genre by virtue of its profound lack of dragons or anything remotely dragon-related. Or hobbit-related. And no orcs, either. Still pretty unabashedly British, though. I can't make my characters speak like real Americans, which is a problem since I've heard so few British people actually speak.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Mostly? Because I think I'm good at it, and I enjoy doing it.

When I started writing it was mostly an excuse not to do chores. Or...well, I suppose that's not entirely true. When I started writing it was not for any purpose that I could have articulated. The first things I wrote—really wrote, mind, not for anyone else's purpose but my own—were recollections from TV shows.1 I scrawled them in a notebook,2 trying to remember every word, and drawing pictures to match.3 I don't recall doing it because I wanted to write books, or because I wanted to show off. If anything, I'd like to think it was instinctual: that something in the stories I was watching woke me, tugged at me, the way that planets tug at comets.

Up to that point, writing had been a chore. I remember being absolutely baffled at the idea of spaces and insisting on putting some sort of character in between words to make it clear where one stopped and the next began. I hated holding pencils because I was right-handed, but I curled my wrist like a left-hander because both my parents were left-handed and that's the way they did it, and so the side of my palm was perpetually aching and coated in excess graphite. But while writing (handwriting, actually, which is a distinct thing) was awful, I loved stories. That's cliche to say now because everybody loves talking about how story-driven they are and how humans think in stories and story structure and story-as-message and Jesus told stories to get his messages across and story story story story story. Yes. I accept that.

But the fact is that I would recite the plots of movies I watched. I watched them over and over until I could repeat them word-for-word. I demanded that my mother describe the events of the movies that I couldn't watch (there were a lot of those). I spent hours consuming them—usually at the TV, but eventually from books, too, because you can't bring the TV with you to school or the bathroom or dinner.

I grew up a story junkie and that hasn't changed; it's just that now I can get high on my own supply.

And, y'know what, I think I've accidentally answered the wrong question here. Why do I write what I do, specifically long-form fantasy? Because I'm a glutton for punishment and because I deeply want to finish something of that sort and significance, just once. Just to see what it tastes like.

4. How does your writing process work?

If you're into graphic, rude, inappropriate metaphors, by all means read on. If you aren't, I'm giving you seven more sentences to decide you ought to scroll past this section. I'm even giving you a link. Just click on it and it'll take you away from this nasty (but, I will insist, entirely accurate) comparison.

Are you ready? You sure? You're going to regret this.

Fine. Here we go.

My writing process vacillates between being extremely easy (with lower-quality content) and extremely difficult (with fewer mistakes, more groaning, but more satisfaction in the end). It's best done after I've read a lot or watched a lot or otherwise gathered a significant amount of material. In any case, when it's finished, the real work starts, because then I have to clean the whole thing up.

You may already see where I'm going with this, but just in case you don't:

Friends, brothers, countrymen, I confess: to me, the writing process is wholly, remarkably, fundamentally similar to pooping.


  1. Both involve a dedicated time of sitting.
  2. Both are best done alone (perhaps with music to help stir those productive feelings).
  3. On rare but glorious occasions, it happens naturally and without effort, and when you're done you feel pretty accomplished and it doesn't stink that bad.
  4. Sometimes it's difficult to make anything come out.
  5. Sometimes it all comes out and then you have to spend a long, miserable time cleaning up an awful lot of crap.
The similarities abound.

Truthfully, it's not a surprise that I associate writing and defecation. When I was a toddler, my mother trained me to use the toilet by trapping me there until the magic happened. To pass the time, she'd read to me, and (as previously mentioned) I was a junkie. It wasn't long before I would get a little excited at the prospect of a potty trip because it meant more books. Fables and feces became intrinsically connected, and somehow that's a good thing.

(Fables and Feces is either going to be a memoir or a band, but either way I just made it and you can't have it.)

Nathan Biberdorf gets Freshly Pressed every three or four days now, so you ought to know about him. In case you're one of the silly folks who haven't encountered his particular brand of crass/thoughtful/hilarious, this is the time to remedy your lack. He writes about whatever's on his mind, which ranges from romance to math to God and what it's like getting to know him (even when you were pretty sure you knew him growing up). Find him by clicking on these prettily colored words.

Meredith Sell graduated from Taylor University a semester before I did because she's just that excited to do big things. She's addicted to learning new stuff, I think, which, y'know, there are worse things to get addicted to. She started out being in love with fiction and then got much more polyamorous. She hangs out with those nonfictiony types these days, too. Find her here.

Rebekah Farb was a classmate of mine, and she's a dyed-in-the-wool fantasy writer and has no shame about it, which is as it should be. She writes some really excellent fantasy that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves, and will either end up serialized on Jukepop or compiled in a book. In any case, she believes in writing hard and often. Find her blog (which is deep in the throes of a story you ought to read if you're into fantasy) right up in here.

I'm not technically tagging Amy Green here because someone else has already done it, and I hate being derivative, but if you're into theology, technology, or just the practice of being a better human being, The Monday Heretic is where you need to be going for your weekly dose of wondrous. Amy's a great friend, a fantastic writer, and a relentless thinker of thoughts. Click the link. Click it!

1. Specifically one TV show: the second season of Digimon. It wasn't a bad start, even though the next season was hands-down the best one. ^Back to post

2. My handwriting was awful. Learning Penmanship in elementary school was the closest I ever came to giving up on education. ^^

3. The pictures were much worse than the penmanship. ^^