Archive for the ‘Passion for Writing’ Category

So I bought a new Kindle Paperwhite, and it’s almost an amazing e-reader (Mostly, I love it, but there are some issues with the “white” part when using the built-in lights–namely, the background isn’t a uniform color). One nice new feature (okay, I lied. It’s actually an older feature even on my trusty kindle2, but I hadn’t realized that until today) is that if you click to “View Notes & Marks” on a book, you’ll sometimes get to see the top ten most popular highlights on the book. Some books show these highlights and some books don’t. And you’ll probably see more highlights on your device than you’ll see on a book’s page at Amazon.

I’m one of the lucky ones, because my first novel does show the top ten highlights. Because I haven’t had any big news in awhile–semi-kidding, although if you want to follow my author news, my Facebook Author page is the best way, or on Twitter @MosesSiregar–I’m going to paste the top ten highlights (selected by the readers) from The Black God’s War here. I’ll list them in order with the most popular highlight at the bottom of the list.

1) “I know know how to fight him. His gods are a projection. They are just as false as this world. I know that. I will win.”

2) “You are a master in a tiny field. The ultimate truth still lies far beyond you. There is no end to evolution, to the unshackling of chains.”

3) [this is one a bit spoilerish] “his domain also includes the dark processes of life, including the balancing of what you might call sin. Our concept is karma. It suggests that whatever we do returns to us because in truth there is no separation between us all. So when we act upon another, we act upon ourselves. Evil acts come back to us, while good deeds bring good karma. As I understand your Lord Danato, it’s as if he is a god of karma.”

4) “The mind is the master of the physical world. The physical isn’t observed by the mind–it’s actually dependent on the mind.”

5) “Introspection, clarity, and creative imagination must come before action.”

6) “It’s the most recent worst day of my life,” she said. “Thank you for asking.”

7) “The descent to Hades is the same from every place.” -Anaxagoras [this is a quote, not my words]

8 ) “A man must act on his conscience. I would rather die than live by no greater principle than my own survival.”

9) “This is why our desires must be questioned before we undertake any great endeavor. If our values are flawed, our actions can only produce imperfections.”

10) “I believe it is not important how long you live, but that you give yourself to living. Live as only you can, with every part of you fully engaged.”

It was definitely cool for me to see what readers have highlighted in the book.

_____

 

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

Sasha Siregar was born in January. Here she is in one of her not-so-secret roles:

The Fairy Queen

Sasha, The Fairy Queen

She joined Athens, our 5-year-old son, and now we have the matching set. Becoming a Dad all over again has made me think hard about who I want to be when I grow up.

This year, while searching his soul, Dad has been spending time with son, coaching T-Ball, playing D&D with friends, and making some money.

Head Coach and Leadoff Hitter for "The Purple Spies"

I’ve been asking myself if I’m still committed to the writing dream. Smarter people than I have said that if you can quit, you probably should. But thanks to the people who have read my first book and gone on this journey with me, I can’t. Not today.

This saga that I’ve started (Splendor and Ruin) has another couple of big books left in it. Outside of being responsible to the people around me there’s nothing I want to do more than to write these books. And after I write these two books, I really want to write more.

One critical thing helped me get back on track. Over the last ten months, I’ve sold over 3,000 copies of my novel and given away roughly 20,000 free copies. In March, Amazon matched iTunes’ free price on my novel for six days, leading to 12,000 free downloads. I waited, expecting to get killed by reviews from so many new readers who downloaded a freebie that “just wasn’t for them.” Instead, I got so many kind reviews and many more kind emails. I shit you not one bit, my readers gave me the boost I needed. You told me that I should keep writing.

When I wrote The Black God’s War over the course of two years (the only book I’ve ever attempted), it looked like Mt. Everest. And before I attended my third Superstars Writing Seminar a month ago, book 2 looked just as difficult to climb. But after the seminar, my perspective changed.

I am going to pour all I’ve got into the next two books in this trilogy, but I’m already looking down the road, seeing that these books aren’t huge mountains in front of me anymore. These are books I’m going to write as if they were the last things I will ever get the chance to write, and then–Universe willing–I’m going to quickly move on and write more.

I want to get back into blogging regularly, but if I don’t, I can almost guarantee you that it’s because I’m writing. Because over the last month, I have been totally recommitted to these books. Do or do not. There is no try. And I love the way books 2 and 3 are coming together.

I’d like to get book 2 out by the end of 2012, but that might be too ambitious. We’ll see. I’m definitely giving it all I’ve got, and I’m shooting for mid-2013 at the latest. I want to thank everyone out there who is looking forward to book 2, THE GODS DIVIDED. I know one little guy who can’t wait to see it (especially the map–he loves the maps):

 

My Biggest Fan

_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

Reddit is pretty cool. It’s a massive online community with countless  forums devoted to different topics.

I’m hosting an AMA (“ask me anything”) in the r/Fantasy forum as an independent author who debuted my first novel this year. Here’s the link to the thread, and you’re invited to participate or just read along if you’re curious about my book or indie publishing. You can also win a trade paperback copy of my book.

So far, I’m the only indie author who has hosted an official AMA in this huge r/fantasy forum. It’s incredible to see my name on the list of AMAs with Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss above, and Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson below. One of these names is not like the others. Thanks for your support, r/fantasy!

p.s. 2012 is gonna kick ass. Thanks to Monique Martin for the graphic.


_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

This morning, I decided to start a thread at the Writer’s Cafe at Kindleboards. It turned into this (I’ll just reproduce the post here).

On Facebook, someone said:

“I give my boss (who owns a small editing company) a weekly update of all the hot topics in book publishing news, and I get so tired of reading about people recommending self-publishing as essentially another get-rich-quick scheme. I feel like it’s all about the business end of things rather than the honor and prestige of producing a quality piece of literature.”

To me, this rings true. I understand that we’re mostly interested in talking about the business end of things over here (I like to talk about these things too), but that’s really the point. Indie authors are for the most part, all about the business end of things. Does this help us when readers see this? Does this help us in reality?

Why aren’t we talking–with other writers, on our blogs, on Facebook and Twitter–about books that have inspired us, whether classics or recent indie works? Why aren’t we analyzing what goes into great writing, great scenes, great characters, great plots, great dialogue. Why aren’t we lauding great books over great sales, at least more often than we do? Do we love words or do we love numbers? Poetry or spreadsheets?

We all have different goals and we’re all in different situations. I don’t believe that anyone’s goals are better or more important than anyone else’s goals. I have enough trouble judging the worth of my own goals. Entertaining thousands of readers through a combination of good books and smart marketing is a worthy goal, period. I think most of us want to write the best books we can and market them as well as we can so that we can reach more readers and make more money.

But, I offer this question: what is your heart’s desire as a writer? Because that is what you will tend to create in your life. Is it money? Fame? Respect? Craftsmanship? The journey or the destination? What are the inevitable outcomes of these goals? There are no right or wrong answers–just wherever you really are. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying money or fame.

I ask myself this question a lot and the answer isn’t always clear. But mostly for me it comes down to the journey of crafting good (hopefully great, perhaps someday classic) books. For me, that goal is more sublime. Money and fame come and go, and fame in particular is a mixed blessing. Respect is nice, but there’s no freedom in being enslaved to other people’s opinions.

What reading and books are all about–for readers–is beholding something touched by a muse of inspiration, raising your consciousness to behold the beauty and magic in a great story crafted with love, skill, and devotion. When that’s the goal–for an author–the only number that matters is one. One reader is all that matters. Whether that one reader is you, the author, or someone else–that’s up to you.

I respect anyone who wants to make enough money to live comfortably, support a family, or support their favorite causes. I respect anyone who wants to go on the roller coaster ride that is fame; life is short and at least fame brings you into other people’s lives. I respect those who wanted to be respected. Critical appreciation is as good a measuring stick for value as anything else.

Here, there are no right answers. Only honest and dishonest ones. Life will eventually show us the value of our goals, and then we’ll change again.
_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

Steven Erikson
Steven Erikson

Over the last year, I’ve interviewed some incredible authors for Adventures In SciFi Publishing (where I am a co-host). You can see all the interviews I’ve conducted here. At the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego last month, I got in some long interviews with Steven Erikson, N.K. Jemisin, Joshua Bilmes, Michael Stackpole, John Jarrold, and Brian Hades, as well as short interviews with lots of authors, including Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear, Patrick Rothfuss, Connie Willis, Robert V.S. Redick, and Eric James Stone. We’ll be sharing those interviews over the next month or so at the podcast.

 

Although it’s been a thrill to talk to so many bestselling authors over the last year, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a better interview than this one with Steven Erikson. I truly respect him and his work, and I wanted to give his fans a chance to gain a deeper insight into everything he’s been doing with the Malazan Book of the Fallen. So it’s been really cool to see some of the people at the Malazan forums enjoying this interview.

 

Speaking of the interview, here it is: Steven Erikson Interview: Adventures in SciFi Publishing 151. I really hope you will enjoy it.

_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

I met Bryan Thomas Schmidt last year when I was looking for a roommate at World Fantasy Convention. Turns out, he’s written a scifi/space opera that’s been summarized as “Moses in Space!” His first novel is out–he’s written a tremendously fun throwback story that reminds readers of Star Wars. Here’s Bryan’s guest post with tips for writing with better characterization. He makes a number of good points, and I was able to pick up some nice ideas from his article:

_______________

The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

One of the keys to good storytelling that hooks readers is creating relatable characters. What are the tricks apart from character naming to accomplish this challenging task?

To start with, create individuals not stereotypes. Yes, characters have a story function. Yes, some of them are even like tropes, filling necessary roles like comic relief, the buddy, the confidant, etc. But that doesn’t mean you should stop there and fail to flesh them out. People are unique, no two the same, and so should it be with your characters. Each character should respond differently to a particular situation from any other character. For example, fight scenes, can often be a place where characters blend into one and all react the same. Instead try treating such common scenes as opportunities to reveal character through uniqueness. How would one character fight differently than another? Work this in and your story will be richer, your characters stronger. There are many other common scene types where you can similarly emphasize the uniqueness. Look for them.

Second, each character should have his or her own vocabulary. People use words differently, so your characters should as well. One of the best ways to distinguish and develop characters is through dialogue. Educated people use more sophisticated words, while less educated people structure sentences  differently. Think of this as you develop each character’s voice and use it to set them apart, create conflict and develop them throughout your story. Vocabulary, in fact, is far more effective than attempting to create accents. Phonetically, accents already pose problems and can even devolve into silly or, far worse, confusing dialogue styles which detract from the story.

Third, another way to develop character is by choosing the protagonist whose point of view will tell particular scenes. I tend to consider who has the most at stake in a particular scene and make the scene happen in that POV but there are varied theories. Whatever your method, your characters can be developed well through use of POV. For example, I had a scene where a couple are fighting. At the same time, an old enemy is stalking them with intent to do them harm. I told the scene from the enemy’s POV, even though he never interacts with the couple because it allowed me to further both the romantic storyline and the antagonist’s storyline in one scene through his internal monologue as he witnesses their discussion. Three character arcs and two plotlines were thus furthered in one short scene.

Fourthly, People’s tastes vary, and so should characters’. What they wear, how they choose it, etc. can be a part of characterization. Everything from color to fabric choices to scale, formality, and even clothing cost can be used to establish character. We use such things daily as we observe others to determine things about them, and readers will use such details as clues to define characters if you include them. Sartorial Style can be a tool for characterization.

Fifthly, we all have our favorite do-dads, don’t we? Things we take with us everywhere we go. The cliches for women are purses and for men, perhaps, favorite hats, but we all have something. Sometimes it’s small enough to fit in a pocket. Other times, it’s carried around for all to see. Props are a great tool for revealing character. Spend time observing people around you. What props does each person have? Keep a spreadsheet or list of potential props for characters. Yes, when writing fantasy or science fiction you might have to be more inventive than just copying from a list you made at the mall. That’s called writing, dears. In any case, props can add great flavor and speak volumes about characters.

Sixthly, who a person spends his or her time with says a lot about them and so use it to develop your characters well. Fellow characters, animal or otherwise, can be great for revealing character. We see how they interact with each other and we learn volumes about who they are. Think about it: what would the Lone Ranger have been without Silver or Tonto? What about Batman without Robin? There’s a reason Michael Keaton quit after two movies: he was lonely (Ok, that might be just a guess).

Seventh, it seems obvious but sometimes it’s easy to forget to dig deeply into a character’s past for material to develop the character. Even things you know about them but don’t include in your narrative can be of value. All the experiences of that character’s past serve to shape who he or she is becoming, from determining responses to various stimuli to emotional hot points from happy to fearful. When your character seems to become stagnant, review what you know about his or her past, then ask yourself if maybe there might be more to uncover which would help you as you write. You can only have too little backstory, never too much. It’s core to the internal battles all people face and will enrich your ability to write your characters with depth and broadness that stretches outside the boundaries and limitations of your story itself.

Lastly, another that seems obvious, but developing your character’s likes and dislikes can take you all kinds of places, especially when you examine how they might clash with those of the characters around them and even the attributes of the world around them. All kinds of instances will soon arise where you can reveal more of the character through actions resulting from these traits. In the process, your story will have built in conflict and drama and perhaps even humor you might not have thought of before. Character traits are a great way to add spicy detail to your story, surprising and entertaining readers at the same time. And don’t just limit yourself to personal preferences either. Character traits can also include physical ticks like clenching hands when angry or a slight stutter or even a limp or other defect.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

The Black God's War (Novel)The Black God’s War has arrived, to my sincere surprise, with some very kind reviews from three outstanding book reviewers.

GraceKrispy from MotherLode is a well-respected reviewer who rarely gives out 5 stars (so far, only four other 5-star reviews on her popular blog this year), but she had this to say at the end of her review of The Black God’s War:

If you follow my reviews regularly, you know I don’t give many 5 star reviews. In my way of thinking, there are almost always things I would have changed about a story. Although I’ve listed a few things I’d change about this story (clarify chapter headings and characters’ thoughts), I find that (hours later), I can’t stop thinking about the characters and their journeys. I find myself contemplating the messages that were delivered (whether overtly or veiled). Overall, I find I really can’t stop thinking about this story. Unforgettable story, intriguing characters, compelling journey with unexpected twists- in short, a very satisfying and engaging read. Isn’t that why we read for pleasure?

Then today a review came in from Derek Prior at IndieFantasyReview. Derek wrote a rather critical review of my previously released novella and he’s not the type to blow sunshine, so this was nice to hear:

The Black God’s War is, to date, the finest example of quality independent fantasy I’ve seen. This is undoubtedly due to Siregar’s willingness to write and rewrite until each chapter feels just right to him … As a reader, I was left with absolute confidence that this writer knows his world and characters inside out …

He’s also no slacker when it comes to presentation of his material either. This book has been professionally and extensively edited, proofed, and formatted. There is a remarkable map and a great cover.

This is what indie publishing is all about and I have no qualms about recommending this great novel.

A third professional review also arrived just today. It’s from Robert Duperre at the Journal of Always. Robert wrote the sort of deep, thoughtful, and thorough review that every author dreams of receiving. Here’s an excerpt from his 4.5 star review:

“… there is a rather brilliant climax that left me grinning from ear to ear …

In conclusion, The Black God’s War is a unique experience. The plot is intricate, the characters even more so, and the message is one of beauty. By the time you flip to the last few pages, I hope you have the shivers just as I did, which is how I know that Moses Siregar is going to be around a long time, and his voice, one of unity, passion, and loving sensibilities, is important – in the world at large as well as literature.

So bravo, Mr. Siregar. You wrote a damn good book. You should be very proud.”

Goodreads:

The Black God's War [A Stand-Alone Novel] (Splendor and Ruin, Book I)


Use the arrow in the bottom-right to turn the page:

Goodreads.com

_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

Some of you already know that I’m a co-host at the Adventures In SciFi Publishing podcast. Last week, in honor of the release of my novel, my friends Shaun and Brent interviewed, well, me. We discussed my early background, how I got into writing fantasy fiction, my influences, The Black God’s War, and the state of publishing today.

Here’s episode 130 of AISFP. Thanks for listening!

_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 


The Black God's War (Novel)Writing isn’t nearly as much fun without loud music in my face. I need your help so I can rock (or groove, or float) on.

I recently asked my homeys on Facebook and Twitter to recommend just one song for my next music playlist. These are the songs I’ll listen to as I write my next book, The Gods Divided (sequel to The Black God’s War, which comes out on August 1st). There’s still time to recommend a song (only one, please). I’ve listened to all of the current suggestions (thanks, y’all!), and here are the ten songs I’ve approved so far.

In no particular order:

Map of the Problematique, by Muse (from @AlexJKane).
Crystal, by New Order (from @RinnFalconer).
Call me When You’re Sober, by Evanescence (from @MumofBabyDavros).
The Last of the Mohicans, from the soundtrack (from @Strassur).
Timshel, by Mumford & Sons (from @charlotte_abel).
Roads, by Portishead (from @I_Pagan).
Sigur Ros, by Sæglópur (from Corey Podwinski)
Angels, by Wax Poetic featuring Norah Jones (Alexandra Geraets)
Sign of the Southern Cross, by Black Sabbath (Eric Kent Edstrom)
Remembering, by Karen Thurber (Karen Thurber‘s MySpace)

(I’ll keep adding songs to this list as I approve new songs.)

New songs added since I published this blog post:

Philosophia, by Guggenheim Grotto (@_MoniqueMartin_)
Anywhere on This Road, by Lhasa de Sela (Sarah Bartsch)
For Prayer, by Wye Oak (@iamfantastikate)
Blow Me Away, by Breaking Benjamin featuring Valora (lexcade)
Escape Artist, by Zoe Keating  (Timothy C Ward)
Threads, by This Will Destroy You (bennylol)
A Song for Starlit Beaches, by Yndi Halda (Machine_Gun_Jubblies)
Solitude is Bliss, by Tame Impala (MunkyAU)
Lobby, by The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble (thepaganapostle)
Welcome Home, by Coheed and Cambria (Barry Napier)

Feel free to comment with a song suggestion, and leave something like an email address or twitter handle in case I add your song. The first 20 selections will win paper copies of my book. EDIT: I’ve just reached 20 songs, but feel free to suggest a song if you’d like a chance to win a free ebook edition of The Black God’s War.

My taste is eclectic, and I like variety in my playlists. Thanks for your help, and check out the links to the songs above if you’re looking for a good time.

Here’s some of the best advice I’ve read on the subject of writing dialogue. It’s reprinted with permission from David Farland. You can find out more about David and sign up for his free Daily Kick emails at DavidFarland.com. The retweet button doesn’t seem to be working, so you can also retweet from here.

Below David’s Daily Kick, you’ll find a link to an excellent article on “Dialogue Tags vs. Action Leads/Inserts”by freelance editor Lane Diamond.

David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants – Don’t be “On the Nose.”

David Farland

David Farland

The topic for today’s kick comes from a question by Brandon Lindsay, and it’s going to take a moment to get to the point.

In screenwriting, one bit of advice that you’ll often hear is “Don’t be too ‘On the Nose.’” It means, don’t have characters giving speeches, telling you what’s going on inside them, playing down to the audience. Imagine that you have a character who is angry, and we get the following snatches of dialog:

Angela: “What are you so mad about?”

Derek: “You! Why did you have to wear that red dress? You look like a slut, and at my company party!”

Can you hear how hokey, how contrived, that dialog sounds?

There are a number of ways to avoid being ‘On the Nose.’ For example, maybe Derek doesn’t quite know what he’s angry about, or maybe he doesn’t dare say it. Or maybe he’s torn, because Angela looks so hot, and Derek noticed how his boss was eying her. Or maybe he’s even worried that the problem goes deeper. Maybe he’s not sure about Angela. Is she flirting? Does she really feel committed to him?

So you re-cast the dialog, you circle around the truth, skirt the deeper issues. You let the audience wonder what is going on, let the actors perhaps interpret the performance, insert their own nuances. You might reconsider the argument:

Angela: “What are you so . . . furious about?”
Derek: Pushes her away, turns and starts to walk. She follows. “Nothing.”
Angela: “This isn’t nothing. Tell me, please?”
Derek: “Really, I’m not mad.”
Angela: “Liar.”
Derek: Sighs. “It’s not you. It’s . . . did you see my boss, undressing you with his eyes?”
Angela: “He’s a drunken slob.”
Derek: “A rich drunken slob, and other women throw themselves at him.”
Angela: “I’d rather throw myself at you.” Derek hurries his pace, leaves her behind. “Grow up. You’re so immature.”
Derek: Whirls and yells at her: “You looked like a slut! And you acted the part . . . perfectly!”

Now, do you see what I’m doing here? Instead of having a character define himself, instead of having him come to the point, I let him circle the point. I let characters argue about who they are. Derek is defining Angela. She’s trying to define him. Others will be defining each of them separately during the course of the story. In other words, one central conflict in most stories is “Who are you?” It’s not just a question, it’s the center of an argument. A lot of different voices from various characters should come into play, sometimes with wildly different accusations. Who is Derek? Maybe his priest thinks that “He’s that gay guy.” His mother might think he’s too shy to ever “make a catch.” His father worries that he’s an over-educated loser. His girlfriend thinks that he might be ‘the one.’ The local cop might think he’s good for a murder, and the truth is, even Derek isn’t sure who or what he is. The story grows as he decides which roles to take and steps into them.

So, when you’re creating characters for a screenplay or book, you avoid being on the nose. You as the author know all of the secrets, all of the answers. You just don’t spill them too easily.

_____

Hi, everyone. Moses again. Another article I recommend on writing dialogue comes from freelance editor Lane Diamond. Check out his advice on Dialogue Tags vs. Action Leads/Inserts part 1 and part 2.

_____

Get email notifications of new posts:


 

Page 1 of 3123