Resolution, unfocussed

Resolutions. Everyone’s talking about them, today being the first day of the new calendar and all. But is it really worth it? A resolution is a declaration to attempt something, but most folks aim to wide. What they end up with is an impossible to meet “goal” that they are predetermined to fail to reach, and when they fail to reach it, grow despondent and throw in the towel completely.

I say we take a page from the master philosopher, of whom I’ve been watching quite a bit lately (thanks, SpikeTV!).

Develop-An-I-Will-Do-It-Attitude

Resolutions imply you’re going to make a single, monumental change, as if by flipping that one toggle you can go from zero to hero in the blink of an eye. That’s not how change works, though. It takes work, effort, and perseverance to make a change. Timetables are rarely relevant, because most of them are outside of our control. What am I saying?

There is no trying this year.

I cannot change the things outside of my control. As many of you know, one of my big goals is to be a respectably published author. Take from that what you will, but my intention is to be published through the same rigors as my peers. This means writing fiction that not only meets the mark for myself, but for my intended and current peer group. Over the course of 2012 I’ve come to known, thanks to the miracle of the modern age, a number of the authors that I respect in the writerly world. A few are publishers, a few are critics and reviewers, but most of them are the writers, that landed gentry of the wordsmiths that have been published. Many are not what you would call major A list authors – these aren’t the jet setting, tea and caviar for afternoon snack sort of people. These are the folks with day jobs, or the recently liberated, who write for the fun of it as much as for the excitement and joy they bring to others. Some are short fiction writers, others novelists, but they all share a love of the craft, a gee-whiz attitude about this circle they find themselves in.

And I sit on their periphery. Not ignored – many of us share common interests, and like minds being alike, a common sense of what is humorous and interesting – but I am not yet a real member. We get along, we’re sociable, and if I ever met them in the real world, I could certainly see being at ease.

Doing means starting yesterday.

This is the year I continue to work towards cultivating my “craft” to the point that others enjoy it and want to share it as much as I do. This is the year I start pushing my fiction out there until something catches.

In years past I’ve said I would make it the year I was published, but I failed to meet the first two requirements for that to even be possible. I didn’t write enough, and I didn’t put what I had written out there quickly enough.

The first half of that equation is completely under my control, and that means that I am the only person that can change it. I need to write more, and consistently. Its too easy to get into the mindset that I’m going to work on a novel and then ignore all other inspirations as they come. I can’t do that any more. Each day I need to set out to write, even if that means working on something I didn’t anticipate. The only way to be able to get published, ever, is to have something completed and ready to send out for publishing.

Which takes me to the second half of this equation, the one that I don’t completely control – I must send out what I’ve written. Nobody can even consider my work if they never receive it. Its easy to claim I will keep trying until I hit that 500 rejections mark (sidebar:  I still haven’t figured out if that means 500 rejections total, even if its for only three stories, or 500 stories completely rejected, although at this point it hardly matters since I’ve failed to send too many out there), but if nothing is ever sent, how will I know? And pushing this outside my control is the fact that these same publishers are receiving stories from the thousands of other aspiring and established authors, vying for the same publication space. Its no longer a secret that I’ve got a story that’s been sitting with a publisher since August. Said publisher has confirmed that the story is under consideration, but we are currently at five months out and no resolution. If that story suddenly gets accepted (and to be honest, my hopes for this are dwindling – my records indicate the same story has been out with publishers for 120+ days before getting rejected before), it would completely flip my success rate in 2012. But how do I make sure that 2013 has a better success rate? By sending more out, and the sooner the better. Who knows how long it will take something to move from slush pile to decision pile? A story written today could float around until the end of the summer before finding a rejection slip, and I can’t afford to just sit around and see how that story does before sending out the next one.

The manifesto that almost was

I didn’t mean for this to be such a long, drawn out post, nor for it to get so personal. I hate the first week of a new year, where everyone airs out their laundry of what they did or didn’t accomplish, what they intend to accomplish, and what they’re random number generator list of favorite things is. And then I started writing this post and nearly wrote out a plan for the year before my fingers could come to control of themselves.

I have no resolutions for 2013, because what I will accomplish can’t be quantified in discrete, modular blocks that are slotted into place with a pass/fail flag. No, 2013 isn’t the year I aim to try for something – its the year I do something.

Thanks, Master Yoda!

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Book Review: Theft of Swords

Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations, #1-2)Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that I had ample opportunities to read this book when it was in two parts, independently published – and failed to do so until it was bought up by Orbit and reprinted.

That was a mistake.

Originally published separately, readers can see the divide between the events and repercussions of the first book (Crown Conspiracy) that lead into the second book (Avempartha), and how together they form the chapters of a much larger tapestry. Sullivan sites the story arcs of Babylon 5 as one of his inspirations, and in reading the novel you can see that play out as he gives the reader a simple, straightforward collection of fantasy tropes building up our expectations that this story is going in one direction, only to flip it at the climax and offer a resolution that both fits the story so far, and yet defies what we anticipated.

The curious thing about Sullivan’s book is that he uses light strokes to paint a picture. He doesn’t labor over info dumping, choosing instead to give us a who’s who and a what’s what at the start of the book, and a few short dumps initially to fill in the gaps. Nor does he rely on the shock that grittier fantasy authors have brought us lately; this book is very much a homage o the simple, well written adventure story. While its most basic elements are a variation of the quest and heist motifs, there are deeper motivations at play than just greed. The real strength in Sullivan’s writing, though, is in his dialog, the repertoire and voice of his characters making them distinct enough to stand out from the backdrop. No, not all of the characters are well rounded personas with depth, but the characters with whom the story revolves live and breathe in the mind’s eye even after you set the book down.

Theft of Swords is not high literature, with flowing, flowery passages evoking a deep sense of wonder. What it is is wonderfully entertaining. Case in point, I sat down and read the last 40% of the book in one day because I just couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended to fans of epic fantasy, especially if you enjoy the “lighter” side such as a Brandon Sanderson or Daniel Abraham novel, you will enjoy this.

View all my reviews

This review and others can also be found at the Fantasy Book Addict

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River Song marathon on New Years?

River Song (Doctor Who)

I have this crazy idea. Proof that it’s actually crazy is that I haven’t bothered to check with my wife, keeper of my sanity and all things saintly, whether this is a good idea. No doubt, she will suggest not, though if I time it to mention it in front of the kids, I’m pretty sure I’d have their votes.

What with the symbolism of New Year’s Eve being the end of time/start of new time, what better way to celebrate than with a themed Doctor Who marathon?!? And not just any theme – not Daleks, or Cyberman, or even Sontarans, but what better way than tracing through River Song‘s life from birth to death, in chronological order?  Based on sketchy, hastily put together research, this would mean watching:

  • A good man goes to war (Birth)
  • The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon (As the little girl)
  • Let’s Kill Hitler
  • Closing Time
  • Wedding of River Song (Bulk of episode)
  • (could watch A good man goes to war for adult River here, but that seems overkill)
  • (we could then watch The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon for more adult River, but we do have limits)
  • Pandorica opens/Big Bang
  • The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
  • (technically, Wedding of River Song (Garden scene) would fit in here, but having watched once, best not to revisit)
  • The Angels Take Manhattan*
  • Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

That’s 13 episodes, roughly 10 hours with bathroom breaks. Not improbably or impossible, but it could crimp other plans. Or be pure genius.

(all of these episodes, incidentally, are available on both Netflix streaming and Amazon prime, so if you have either of those services like we do, bam!)

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