Contingency Jones Giveaway

Just a quick post this week. The Contingency Jones 3-day Free-Day event is in full swing! If you want a free kindle copy of the first season of this time-twisting, magic-slinging series, you’ll want to do it tonight or tomorrow. It goes back to its regularly scheduled price on July 28, 2016. 😉

Pick up your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Contingency-Jones-Complete-Season-One-ebook/dp/B01CZDCTTO

If you get it and like it, leave a review so other people will know how awesome it is! Thanks!

Minor Reporting, an Announcement, and The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Most of my current projects are chugging along at one speed or another, but there haven’t been any real milestones. New fiction writing has happened. A novel summary was written. I leveled up a video game character some more. All necessary (yes, even the video gaming), all important, but none of it earthshaking.

I am, however, planning to run a Free Kindle deal on my latest book – Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One – from July 25, 2016 – July 27, 2016. So mark your calendars for that, because I don’t run these kinds of promotions very often. J

I recently listened to audiobook version of Jim Butcher’s book, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass, as read by Euan Morton. This book has come under fire since its release for reasons both fair and unfair. One of the recurring complaints I’ve seen is that there are chapters told from the perspective of a cat. I think that this is a fair criticism. I don’t think it’s fair because I’ve got a problem with a talking cat, because I don’t. It’s not because I think Butcher handled the perspective of the cat badly, because he didn’t. It’s simply because it happened too often. I admit that I found myself resisting the urge to skip ahead during the cat chapters because they didn’t always convey information that forwarded the story.

That being said, I’ve also seen some criticism that Butcher was off-form when compared to his recent Dresden books, that the world building was poor and that readers couldn’t relate to the characters. To all of those I say, what a load of crap. Go back and re-read the first Dresden book, or the first book in any series you like for that matter, and you’ll discover that it’s shot through with flaws and holes that the author tried to retcon later. This is the first book in a series and, as first books go, it was very cleanly written.

The world building wasn’t brilliantly rendered, but it never is when you’re making up a universe from whole cloth. For the most part, Butcher didn’t info-dump on the readers, but included world building information as and where it could be organically fitted into the story. The world that he built was consistent unto itself and consistent with the neo-Victorian stamp of Steampunk. That approach of organic information inclusion and self-consistency is the best solution to the world-building problem that anyone has come up with so far. It’s also used almost universally by all writers. Knocking Butcher for not transcending the limitations faced by all world-building writers seems both petty and unrealistic.

Yes, some of the characters were assholes. Yes, some of the teenaged characters acted like self-involved, cocky teenagers. Some of the characters were also noble to a fault, duty-bound to a fault, and loyal to a fault. Some characters were compromised by circumstance and some were compromised by choice or position. In other words, the people in the book were like the cross-section of people you meet in real life. Some are good, some are bad, and all are flawed. If you go into any novel expecting to like all or even most of the characters, you probably shouldn’t be reading books aimed at adults.

I’d give The Aeronaut’s Windlass a solid 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it as a breezy, Sunday afternoon read for anyone who professes to enjoy Fantasy/Steampunk.

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration is a tricky thing. Based on what I’ve read by, heard from and discussed with other creative types, I’m pretty lucky. On the whole, I get more than my fair share of ideas and I’m usually able to see them through to a something resembling a finished product. I have not, to my knowledge, suffered writer’s block, a condition in which all writing is supposedly impossible. At worst, I’ve experienced the occasional bout of project block, where a given project is fighting me, but other writing endeavors continue to work just fine.

From time to time, though, I hit a stretch where I’m just not energetic. Everything feels like work, no matter how much I like a project. I tend to think of these stretches as my non-inspired periods. I can still write, but it’s all very cold-blooded and painfully grueling. It wears me down, which just exacerbates the problem. So, what do you do when you find yourself in these kinds of straights? You need to look outside yourself. I know that’s a pretty counter-intuitive mindset for most writers. We’re solitary beasts, roaming the prairies of the imagination like wolves on the hunt. Yet, looking outside myself has been the most effective strategy for me.

I think part of it has to do with placing yourself in a larger context. Not to be unkind to my fellow writers, but we can pretty a pretty self-involved group of people who overestimate the scope of our own issues. The truth of the matter is that there’s always going to be people who are struggling a lot harder than we’re struggling. Sometimes it’s your neighbor, and sometimes it’s a celebrity. So, to that end, I recommend the following two books. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day and The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) by Chris Hardwick. Both are readily available on Amazon and at other book selling-type places.

Wait, you say, what about (insert tragispirational memoir/biography/autobiography here)? Yes, I’m sure those are tragic/inspiring, but I assume I’m mostly talking to other creative types here. Day and Hardwick’s books both speak to those who are actively involved in the creative spheres, as well as to the geek/nerd/dork set which seems to be a nearly one-to-one with the writer set. Both Day and Hardwick talk about their struggles with mental health, anxiety, self-doubt and finding ways to continue being creative. In short, a perfect inspirational soup for the soul/world-weary creative type at low ebb.

Anytime I start feeling drag-ass about my books, short stories, and other projects, I go back to those books. They help me put my creative troubles into a broader context, to see which ones are just me being a melodrama queen (most of them) and which are actually problems that require some real attention. Most of the time, I realize that my big issue is being stuck in that awful middle phase of a project. You know the phase I’m talking about. It’s the spot where you’ve already poured a ton of time and energy into an idea, it’s nowhere near done, and you’ve got to put a ton more time and energy into it before you can show it off to people.  Yeah, that phase makes me feel tired.

That said, it’s not a real issue in terms of the work. It’s a psychological, rather than creative, roadblock. If you’re like me, though, you need something to jumpstart your perspective. I use those books to do that.

How about you all? Any tips or tricks for getting over low-inspiration periods?