Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Writing Update

       So, as of today I'm about 150 pages into the revision of my novel, which is getting steadily longer (it's now about 83,000 words) just as I'd hoped. I'm adding lots of character development, expanding a couple of the plot threads that sort of petered out toward the end, and fattening up some of the sparse sections. It's hard writing an action-adventure novel when you want to have three-dimensional characters but don't want to sacrifice pacing. I think there's a certain balance that must be struck and I'm hoping that it's one I'll have hit by the time the revision is complete. 
    On the writing side, I've still got two chapters left before the first draft of the Die Hard in space novella I was working on a month or two ago is finished. I lost a bit of my momentum there by the end and then had to shift gears into revision before I could hammer out those last two chapters. On a more positive note, I started a new short story, set in Cydonia City (the domed colony that serves as the principle setting for the Blood Red Mars collection) called "The Maze," which I'm quite excited about. What do you get when you take five of the toughest characters in the city (an ex-soldier, a mercenary, a Belter, a Triad gangster, and a big game hunter from Earth) and toss them into a wealthy aristocrat's maze he's built deep under his mansion? Well, I'm not quite sure yet, but figuring it out is half the fun! Oh, and did I mention the maze is rigged with shifting walls and hidden death-traps? I'm hoping to get this one written in a week or so, then back to the novella. That's all for now.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chasm City Review


          A seamless blend of baroque, far future SF and seething hard boiled crime fiction. This novel hit all the right notes for me and is easily in my top ten list of favorite novels of all time. Chasm City is a densely plotted, mind-blowing journey through the dark, multifaceted histories of not one but two colony worlds in a bizarre, hostile, and gothic 26th century universe of decaying technology, exotic bioengineering, and cutting-edge cybernetics, told through the eyes of a street smart mercenary named Tanner Mirabel. 
      While all of that makes this a fascinating and entertaining novel in its own right, what makes it a great one is its exploration of identity, what it means for the individual, and how definitions of such may change in the future. As a former astronomer for the European Space Agency, Reynolds knows his stuff, particularly when it comes to designing a believable future civilization. While some of the scientific ideas in the novel are quite heady, they take a back seat to the exciting character drama, which takes a somewhat familiar neo-noir storyline of love and betrayal and turns it on its head. There are so many twists and turns in this book you're never quite sure who's good, who's bad, and if a person is who they say they are. 
      If you're only going to read one science fiction novel this year (or EVER) do yourself a favor and make it Chasm City. You're in for one hell of a ride!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


       For the last week or so I've launched fully into the revision of my novel. In the time between completing the first draft and the start of revision I read several novels in an uncharacteristic burst of speed and energy, mainly to get a grip on structure, characterization, and dialogue in longer narratives so that I could approach my own work with a fresh eye. I can say that it has helped tremendously. The weak parts are just that much more apparent, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I've happily taken a red pen to the manuscript, cutting out bad scenes, bad dialogue, bad description, bad everything and begun to expand the narrative, fixing some of the major problems and fleshing out the main characters, many of which were underdeveloped the first time through. Though it is a long, arduous, and some times frustrating process, I believe I am making it a fundamentally better story. Will this book ever be sellable? Who knows. Have I learned a lot about writing and revision? HELL YES!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dead in the Water Review


       I recently finished reading Dead in the Water by Nancy Holder, winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel in 1994. From the first sentence to the last, this story baits, hooks, and reels you in, taking you on a journey of physical, emotional, and psychological horror. With a cast of rich, well developed characters, which include a tough-as-nails female cop, a doctor and his cancer-stricken nine-year-old boy, an elderly woman in search of her husband, and a young couple trapped in a failing marriage, Holder makes you invest in the lives of these people right from the start. You care what happens to them and that's what makes this novel so terrifying. 
      Interweaving references to poetry such as Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Sandburg's Fog, as well as pop culture like John Carpenter's The Fog, Dead in the Water is the perfect marriage of literary and popular fiction. At its core it is a character oriented novel, with every plot twist, every horrific image, every incident reinforcing the character's fears and emotional trauma. Holder doesn't pull her punches. When bad stuff happens, it really happens. The writing here is top-notch and Holder seamlessly floats between characters, shifting her voice to suit that of each individual while simultaneously maintaining a narrative flow that drags you through the book like a fishing line. Despite being third person, she manages to get so close to these characters it feels, at times, as if it is in first person. If you like creepy, atmospheric horror and great characters, do yourself a favor and check out Dead in the Water. You may lose a few nights' sleep, either from sheer engagement with the story or fear of what might be lurking in the shadows, but trust me, you won't regret it!