"For the sake of humanity, join in Bitterwood's revolt." - Kirkus Reviews

Sunday, September 30, 2007


The final scenes edge ever closer. Looking forward to rolling over the 100k milestone this week. I could have probably written a bit further this evening. But, I made the strategic decision to stop with details of a scene still in my head to get me writing quickly the next time I sit down. I'd really like to get out at least 10k words this upcoming week. We'll see.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


About 9k words this week. Lots of fight scenes. I suspect in the rewrites I'll be looking to cut the use of the word "blood" by about half....

A few weeks ago I wrote up a list of scenes I still needed to write. I'm down to ten, although the list may grow. Still, the end is in sight.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I end the week with 80183 words. I got off to a slow start, but had a productive Saturday and Sunday. Of course, the trade off has been that I haven't left the house on what is probably the nicest weekend we've had in three months. August and the first half of September were just brutal here in NC. No rain, and day after day of heat topping out around 100 degrees.

So, even though it's early and I could probably finish off the chapter I've started, by reward for rolling over the 80k mark is going to be to leave the house and take a walk.

The week ahead of me will, I hope, be a productive one. It' s the first week in a long time when I have nothing scheduled on any night after work. Hopefully I can get a little bit done each night. And, it helps that I've reached some of the intensive action chapters again. Most of the last ten thousand words has been filled up with characters talking to one another and learning important secrets. Now, it's time for the characters to take these secrets and go out and hurt each other with them. It's also time for Blasphet to have his biggest scenes in the book. Those are always fun to write.

Signing Photos

I had another signing this week, at the Cary Barnes and Noble, this time a joint event with Lisa Shearin, author of Magic Lost, Trouble Found. I started reading her novel this weekend--it's got a very different tone from most fantasy novels. It's not an outright comedy like a Terry Pratchett novel, but it is a remarkably light and playful voice. Some fantasy chokes beneath the weight of its own self-importance. This is a book that reads as if the writer had a lot of fun writing it.

The event drew quite a crowd, and the Q&A session after the reading was a blast. Lisa and I had never met before, but our approaches to writing are both similar enough and different enough that we played off each other really well. We're going to do another signing together October 15th at the new Barnes and Noble in Burlington, and there may be other joint events after that. Watch this space.

Sorry for the fall off on posting here and at Whateverville. Still cranking away on the first draft of Dragon Forge. I have a personal deadline of the end of October to complete the first draft, but I also have a good chance of finishing it much sooner than that, possibly by October 15. I'd love to go to that reading and be able to say I'd just finished the first draft of the sequel.

In the meantime, if a picture is worth a thousand words, here are three thousand words of blog post: (Click on the photos for larger versions.)
Signing fever!

Lisa Shearin and I take part in a Q&A session.

This is actually from the signing in Durham. Don't I look like a real writer?

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Made it to 72015. Didn't get as much done this week as I would have liked because of the two book signings. The booksignings were important, though, and I'm told that a significant chunk of stock was sold from both stores, and I have a report from the Cary Barnes and Noble that sales of my book have been strong leading up to this Tuesday's signing.

I feel caught in a Catch-22. The time frame for writing Dragon Forge is so tight that I have to stay at home and work on it most nights of the week. I'd love to travel around more and do more signings, but finding the time is a real problem for me. On the other hand, if I don't travel around and do more signings, am I undercutting Bitterwood's chances at success? At my signing last Thursday, I was told the store had ordered about fifty books in advance of the signing and sold half from the in store display leading up to the event. I sold another five or six that night, and signed all the rest, and Angela, the community relations manager, seemed pretty confident they would sell out of these in a few weeks.

Selling fifty books from a single store seems pretty good to me. I mean, it's not Harry Potter numbers, but if I could get out there and visit twenty bookstores in the next couple of months, that would be a thousand books sold that might not have sold if I hadn't made the effort. Realistically, my schedule is going to limit me to stores within an hour or so of my house... I doubt there are a dozen, let alone twenty. Still, nights when I stay home and write, I feel guilty that I'm not out there doing signings. Yet, nights that I'm out doing signings, I find myself feeling the pressure of words unwritten.

Of course, if my past self were here right now, he'd dope slap me for complaining about this. This is exactly the sort of problem I dreamed of having for well over a decade, to be under contract for multiple books. And, 72015 words written in under three months is nothing to sneeze at. I just need to schedule as many signings as possible, keep punching the keys, and think about sleeping sometime in early 2008.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Thoughtful review

A review of Bitterwood has just appeared on a blog called "Thistles for Breakfast." It's a pretty well thought-out review. I'm particularly intrigued by his thoughts on the human traits displayed by my dragons. I confess, my dragons can come across, at times, pretty much as just big, scaley, winged people. In Dragon Forge, now that I have more room to explore and expand upon dragon cultures, I think that we'll continue to see a lot of areas where human emotions and dragon emotions overlap, but we'll also start seeing some interesting divergences as well. The interplay between male and female sky-dragons is going to be a good deal different than the normal interactions between male and female humans, for instance. And wait until you see what's considered a good child rearing practice among earth-dragons.

Just shy of 1500 words written today. Little by little, the writing gets done.


I've been publishing my Dragon Forge word counts every Sunday, but yesterday I was driving back from Dragon Con so I was too wiped out by the time I got home to update. Anyway, I've arrived at 66357. The con ate into my writing time, I'm afraid. This week, I've got two reading/signings lined up, which will also take a chunk of writing time away from me. Still, next weekend is relatively open, so we'll see. To stay on my official schedule, I have to be at 90k words by the end of September, so, roughly 24k words this month, or 6k words per week, which shouldn't be that tough, even though September is a relatively tough month at my day job as compared to August.

Now that I'm past the middle of the book, things are becoming slightly more difficult in some ways and slightly easier in others. In some ways, writing a novel is a little like building a jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, you don't get to look at the picture on the box. Fortunately, you do get to make the puzzle pieces into any shape you want. So, in the first half of hte book, I can place down my pieces--the scenes, characters, and plot points, pretty much as they come to me. I have an outline, but the actual writing is driven almost purely by imagination. In the second half of writing a book, imagination is still important, but so is continuity and logic. You aren't so much pulling things out of the air as puzzling out how all the things you put in the first half snap together into a coherent and satisfying plot in the second. Right now, I've scattered my various groups of characters all around the Bitterwood universe. From this point on, I've got to work on bringing them back together, and the choreography of getting character A to point B so they can fight character C can be surprisingly complicated.

By the way, some months back, I gave a little hint about a contest I was thinking of running. I said there was something important in my novel that I hadn't named, but didn't say what that was, because it was something of a spoiler. But, at this point, the book has been on the shelves for a few months, and plenty of reviews have now spilled the beans that the fantasy novel is actually set on a post-apocolyptic Earth. Specifically, Albekizan's kingdom encompasses the states of the American south--from what is now Virginia stretching down to Georgia. Climate change and a few other forces have radically altered the map. The area north of Washington DC is known as the Ghostlands and dragons seldom travel there. They also don't much venture west of the Appalachian mountains, for reasons I will reveal in Dragon Forge. Florida has pretty much vanished beneath rising seas, leaving only a series of swampy islands. Some of today's place names endure--Richmond and Conyers, for example.

In Bitterwood, I never refer to this area as anything other than "Albekizan's kingdom." I had thought of giving the kingdom a name that bore some phonetic similarity to America--Merka was one of my early options--but in the final draft I removed all place names because they were either too obvious or perhaps a bit silly. So, I still haven't decided on a name for my fantasy setting. Fortunately, I don't need one quite yet. The lack of a name for my setting hasn't hurt Bitterwood as far as I can tell, but it would be nice to include a setting name in the second book. So, start thinking of names. After I finish my first draft of Dragon Forge, I'll announce an official contest and some prizes for people who take part. The main prize I have in mind would be copies of the upcoming Solaris Book of New Fantasy, which contains a Bitterwood story, but since it's not out until early next year, I'm jumping the gun a bit if I start the contest now.

So... watch this space.