Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back to Work & Dreaming of Writing

Today was my first day back to work after being cooped up since Friday with a case of bronchitis. Fortunately things didn't pile up too badly and I was able to catch back up fairly quickly. On another bright note, my Jeep has been repaired thanks to the services of the excellent local mechanic Don Dulaney. So things are getting back on an even keel.

I also found out this weekend that The Crownless King is eligible for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award. I think I'm going to enter it into the young adult division. First prize is a contract with Penguin Publishing and a $15,000 advance. While the cash advance is pretty cool, the contract itself would be a dream come true. I've always wanted to write books for a living and that would be my opportunity to do just that.

Naturally, being sick over the weekend brought everything to a screeching halt. Devan has headed out west to finish his training before he is deployed to Iraq. We don't know yet how much work we'll be able to get done over the course of the next year because we don't yet know how much communication we'll have. He's pretty optimistic that he'll have a lot of time on his hands. The plan is to have a "Next to Final" draft for a final review when he is back in the States and then off to publisher after that. The Sea of Souls will follow soon after.

Oddly enough, I've done a bit of work on the concept of Blood and Steel before I shut down for a week. Music is a very key element of my writing and while I never quite know what will inspire me, rock tends to hit a chord somewhere inside. The Sixth Sword was written to the soundtrack of Breaking Benjamin's album Phobia. The final battle was actually written to the heavy metal sound of Saliva's "Raise Up."

Writers listen to music in a very different way than most people. My wife, Bethany, comes from a family of musicians and singers. She hardly knows the words to the music she listens to. Instead, she focuses more on melody and structure of the song. I, on the other hand, appreciate the music and the sounds of the guitars in addition to listening very intently to the lyrics. The lyrics, coupled with the tone of the music, brings it all together for me and paints a picture in my head of what the artist is trying to convey. I pay attention to the unique phrasing and depth of emotion in the words. I've always thought that music would be the next step in my writing career and that is one of the reasons I picked up a guitar.

That paragraph was a bit of a diversion for me to get around to telling you that I found inspiration in Linkin Park's Reanimation, particularly in track No. 7. This is an album I've had since high school and listened to countless times. It's actually a really creative remix of their first album and has been one of the best albums I've ever purchased. This time I could see the ending of Blood and Steel in my head as that jarring mixture of rap and rock beat up my speakers. It was surprising and pleasing all at once.

So I made a note of it to come back to later. When I'm thinking about the novel, that will be on the list of songs that I listen to as I work out stuff in my head. The writing process is very fluid and different for everyone and mine is very greatly dependant on music.

Blood and Steel is also shaping up to be a little different from my usual work. In my previous novels, the climax tends to center on a choice that must be made by the hero. In The Sixth Sword, Alexander has to ultimately choose between good and evil, a choice that will have much greater consequences than he yet realizes. The Crownless King pits Sam against many difficult choices and he decides he has to live up to the demands of his conscience without any real thought for the consequences.

Blood and Steel, as it is turning out, is going to be about the consequences. Sam is loosely, or not so loosely, based on me and my own life. I very much have a tendency to leap without looking, though it's been tempered a bit with age. I understand this about myself and have learned when it works and generally when it's going to come around and bite me in the rear. Now Sam is faced with the consequences of the choice he made at the end of The Crownless King. He's made mistakes and he'll pay for them and he'll have to find himself again as the easy complacency of his life is once again broken. So it's less about the choice and more about the consequences this time around. I didn't really understand that until this weekend and I think that this new understanding will help the novel take shape.

I'll be working steadily on these projects in the coming year. I hope and pray that my schedule gets completely disrupted by the Amazon award. Until then, I'll just keep writing...

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