Category Archives: Writing process
The page proofs for Iron Night have arrived! This is pretty exciting, and a little nerve-wracking, since this is the last chance I have to catch any screw-ups before the whole book goes off to print. Let me tell you – pressure is on.
But the book looks really fantastic (admittedly right now it is a pile of pages I carry around in an old file folder, but still), and I really can’t wait to see what people think of it! I’ve gotten fantastic feedback from so many people on Generation V that I’m a little (okay, a LOT) anxious to see how readers respond to the return of Fort and Suzume. Plus there are some new characters, some bigger roles for returning characters, and a few deaths. (not telling who, but yes – I kill. *maniacal laugh*)
In other news – some great new reviews of Generation V since the last time I posted. Here’s what people are saying:
Bastard at Bastard Books wrote:
Generation V is a refreshingly unique novel that all urban fantasy enthusiast should read, and a book capable of encouraging even the most ardent critics of the genre. Very much a page turner, a story that has a lot of heart and much to offer. With an extremely fun novel full of charm, Brennan has written a winner.
Justin at Staffer’s Book Review wrote:
…it’s a vampire novel that surprised me with its originality. What begins as a typical vampire urban fantasy, ends up with a lot in common with Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London. It’s a delightful novel that would strongly recommend to lovers of urban fantasy or urban fantasy doubters (like me) looking to stick a toe in the water.
Kathy F. at Stellar Four wrote:
First of all, my thought through many parts was, “This is effed up.” And it is, wonderfully, magnificently effed up. Horrible things happen, the whole way vampires are created in this world is nightmare fuel, and we have a MC who realizes how messed up his world is but feels powerless.
I also had the pleasure of doing an interview with Matt at 52 Reviews and I really encourage people to check it out – it was definitely the most in-depth interview I’ve ever done, and the result was one of my favorites!
Here’s a sample:
52 Reviews: To take the discussion of vampiric family values a bit further, I found it interesting that Fort and his siblings fall into somewhat predictable models of abnormal psychology while their mother seems to be a completely different model all together. What can you tell us about your processes in creating the matriarch of this family of vampires?
M.L. Brennan: Primarily, I think of her as an adult crocodile. Crocodiles are a pretty interesting species — when they are born, they are around ten inches long, and are preyed on by mammals, birds, and even big fish. They eat bugs, and spend most of their time hiding and trying to avoid being eaten. But you take that little creature, and (if nothing eats it) it is going to grow into this massive, tough, absolute apex predator that has pretty much no natural predators except other crocodiles.
If you could sit crocodiles down on a therapist’s couch, and assuming a few factors, namely, a) The crocodiles didn’t eat the therapist, b) The therapist had somehow found a way to communicate with the crocodiles, and c) That the crocodiles actually had a complex interior landscape, I think that would be pretty interesting. Because here’s a creature that goes from pretty much being everything’s dinner — and not just for one or two seasons, but for a very serious number of years, and the mommy crocodile stops responding to its distress peeps after the first few weeks — and in fear of everything to this absolute boss of the river with just about nothing being a real danger to it. That’s kind of neat when you think about it. To me, it would suggest that as little as I think I would really be able to understand or empathize with a crocodile, even with a helpful translating therapist (mostly because of the reptile thing, to be honest), I think that it would be almost equally difficult for its offspring to understand or empathize with the adults of the species.
That is admittedly kind of a weird genesis for a character’s psychology, but that’s how I picture Madeline, the vampire matriarch, and it helps me write her.
Pretty neat, right?
Regarding the writing, I just delivered the manuscript of Book 3 to my editor, so I have a little time before the response to that gets back. Iron Night page proofs are due back on September 24, so after that I’ll probably be seeing about lining up some publicity, maybe scheduling a blog tour. I definitely have a slightly larger rolodex than last time, and I really can’t wait until I get my hot little hands on some ARCs, because I am so looking forward to handing a few copies off to a few bloggers who I made friends with last time around.
Oh, and by the by – if you love RPG games with a strong sci-fi storytelling base? You really need to check out this kickstarter for Ambrov X – I’ve already donated money!
So Generation V has now been out for three months! Pretty amazing, actually, when I think about it. I’ve learned quite a lot over the last three months – namely that the Amazon sales rankings make little to no sense, and seem simply designed to break my heart.
Now, what should I be expecting from a three-month-old book? Well, as always, the Internet provided an answer:
Your 3-month-old is growing bigger and becoming more aware every day. By this age, your baby should be settling into a schedule, and giving you some much-needed rest!
Your 3-month-old’s nervous system is maturing, and his stomach can accommodate more milk or formula. Those changes should allow your baby to sleep for a stretch of six or seven hours at a time, which translates into a good night’s sleep for you.
If your baby does wake up in the middle of the night, wait about 30 seconds before heading into the nursery. Sometimes, babies will cry for a few seconds and then go back to sleep. When you rush in at the first sound of fussing, your baby won’t learn how to fall back asleep on his own.
When the cries don’t stop and you do need to go into your baby’s room in the middle of the night, stick to the essentials. Feeding and changing should be done in the dark, if possible, and then it’s right back into the crib. Eventually, your baby will get the idea that nighttime is for sleeping only.
Your baby’s daytime sleep schedule should also become more routine by now. Most 3-month-old babies take a few naps of about 1 1/2 to 2 hours each day.
Thanks, WebMD! I’ll definitely keep those things in mind. Somewhere between improving its nervous system and working on not waking in the middle of the night, Generation V got reviewed again – this one is from Book Lovers, Inc. I also had a great time recently writing a guest post about naming the Generation V characters for Shadowhawk’s Shade‘s ongoing series on the topic. If you haven’t been reading these posts, I really recommend that you go over and check them out. Abhinav has gotten a really great roster of writers, and it’s very fun to see so many different perspectives.
My posting recently has gotten fairly erratic – August is a pretty busy month right now. I just finished the copy edits for Iron Night and mailed them back to Roc last night (WOO!) – it really helped clean the manuscript up, and hopefully we’ve caught all the typos and little bits of weirdness that always seem to hold on no matter how many eyes go through the manuscript. (until the first real reader, of course. THEN they pop out.)
Here’s something interesting that I learned during the copy edit – apparently “Wookiee” has two “e”’s? What the hell is up with this? Now, I actually read a not-insignificant number of Star Wars books when I was younger (for those curious – the Thrawn trilogy), and somehow this missed my notice. What is up with all those extra vowels? One “e” would’ve been sufficient!
That took a little under a week, but now I can fully shift back to work on the yet-unnamed Book 3 (it has a working title, but it’s pretty horrible, so I’m not going to mention it at this time… or EVER). The deadline on that one is September 1, which is getting just slightly stressful.
On top of that I’m teaching two classes this fall (that part isn’t so bad – usually I teach five) which each need a syllabus before classes start – on August 28. Usually wouldn’t be too bad, except some jackass decided to assign new books. What jackass would that be? Yeah. Me. Fuck you, me from April! Stop making more work for August Me just to try to stop plagiarism! (Meanwhile October Me is probably all, “Yeah, fuck off, August Me. I am totally not dealing with that shit.”)
Aaaaand WorldCon is the last weekend in August. Which should be awesome and all, but Jesus Christ, at this point it would be redundant to even throw up a .jpg of The Scream.
So if I’m frothing at the mouth and twitching spastically in another two weeks – that’s why. Not all is gloom and doom, though. My brother wrote me an inspirational haiku! (seriously, this is an ML Brennan’s Older Brother original. If you want to use it, you MUST credit him)
Bare slate beckons man:
“Fill the page ere dusk descends.
Words don’t write themselves.”
–ML Brennan’s Older Brother
Isn’t that nice? Clearly my brother got the poetry gene in the family. (which I am actually very, very okay about)
So, what are the odds that I’ll be delivering a Book 3 manuscript on deadline? Here, I will defer to the master.
So I just got the notification that this is the one year anniversary of my blog! Whoa! Bit of a milestone, and probably one that deserves a long and thoughtful post….
…but since I’m up to my eyeballs in the Book 3 manuscript (tentatively titled, “Woods And Bears And A Few Poop Jokes Concerning The Two” — it’s a work in progress), I’ll have to be brief — a year ago, I’d just sold my book and two unwritten sequels to Roc, and my agent told me that I needed to set up a website. I had really no idea what to expect.
A year later — yes, there are things that I might complain or grumble about, but I’m always very aware that my problems now are very much first-world-writer problems. Generation V is in print. Iron Night will be published in January. I’m writing a book now with the knowledge that it goes to my editor rather than having to be shopped around in hopes of a sale.
Life is good. Very stressful, but good. I’m looking forward to seeing what things are like a year from now.
Welcome to July (also known as, “shit, how is it July already?”)! Last week was pretty good for the writing. I had a very useful phone conversation with my editor (the great and powerful Anne Sowards) in the middle of the week.
We talked about where I’m planning on taking Book 3. This was a pretty important phone call, since when Roc bought the three books, the purchases on #2 and #3 were based on a set of proposals, plus an over-series arc document. Iron Night is similar in most major points to its proposal, but the problem is that there are a few really BIG events that were in the Book 3 proposal that I just didn’t feel should happen yet. They needed more prep before I could get to them.
Anne agreed with me, and I had a really productive week of outlining. I’ve cleared up one of the thornier areas of the main plot, and now I’m just figuring out how some of the ongoing plots will fit in around it. The timing is going really well on this, since on Saturday I’ll be heading down to one of my favorite places in the world for a six-day solo vacation – can you guess the place?
Newport, RI. My family starting going down for a week every summer when I was about 4, and I actually lived there for a full year on my own. Newport is both one of my favorite settings in the Fortitude Scott books and a really important place in its creation. I finished the first draft of Generation V in Newport in the summer of 2011. In the summer of 2012, I’d just sold the series to Roc, and I thrashed out the full outline of Iron Night during my time there. This summer I’m hoping to get a chunk of writing done on Book 3.
My schedule in Newport is pretty basic – I get up in the morning, eat breakfast and read on the porch. Then I come inside and write for a few hours, breaking for lunch. In the early afternoon I take a break and head down to the town – I walk all over, looking in shops, checking out what has changed, until I’m exhausted and sweaty. Early dinner at the Newport Creamery (greasy spoon diner and decent eating for a writer on a budget – plus, Awful Awfuls!), then back to the keyboard. Time out on the porch to enjoy the sunset. Work until I’m tired, then to bed. Repeat until vacation is over.
It’s wonderful – though my brother usually calls me a few times to make sure I haven’t gone all The Shining on my own.
This year I’ll be leaving Newport on a Friday – the same Friday as my first convention! I’m really excited to be attending ConnectiCon – I’m on two panels, plus I’m going to get a chance to sign copies of Generation V! Plus I also get to attend a convention – yay! If you’re planning on attending ConnectiCon, drop me a note so that we can meet up!
So that’s what’s going on with me (and why there won’t be a State of Monday next week), on to the important stuff – what’s going on with the books! Firstly, Generation V is up to 22 reviews over at Amazon. Amazon also has a new format which I’m not especially thrilled about – I find it really visually annoying, and it kind of pisses me off to have to click on something to see basic book info like where something was published. But, hey, I guess when I’m a global conglomerate with billions in assets, I can complain then, right?
Two really great reviews of Generation V – one from Kristin over at My Bookish Ways, and the other that I found over at bookistry. Also, Candace from Candace’s Book Blog is having a guest post and giveaway extravaganza, and she was nice enough to ask me to add a post. I had a lot of fun doing it, so check out My Top Ten Favorite Books So Far This Year — because, really, I’ve never been able to do a Top Ten list of favorite books of all time. I remember getting really frustrated over that once back in 8th grade, and let me tell you, I’ve read a *shit-ton* of books since then. It’s not getting any easier. But favorite books read in a six month period? That I could get a fun handle on. Oh, and you should also check out my list because Candace is running a giveaway of a signed copy of Generation V. So, free stuff!
I’ll be guest blogging tomorrow at That’s What I’m Talking About for their Urban Fantasy Summer Reading Celebration ) — they have a pretty great lineup of books to raffle off, and they’ll also be talking about some of my favorite authors.
Speaking of summer fun – check out the Blogger Summer Circus Giveaway Hop. There are a lot of great blogs involved, but start off at one I like very much – Danielle at Coffee and Characters is the ringmaster, and she also has a lineup of cover reveals, and I’m *very* flattered that she included Iron Night as one that she’s really looking forward to! Believe me, I’m *dying* to find out what people think of it, and January feels like forever and a day, but it’s with the copyeditor now, who will no doubt point out about fifty problems that I was completely unaware of. (last time favorites included the fact that the gun Fort was using held about four more bullets than I thought it did – so the final version ended up with four more shots to explain how he emptied his gun)
Speaking of the Iron Night cover….
…it was included in the All Things Urban Fantasy Cover Art Coverage! They had 36 covers to get through (whoa!) but were nice enough to include Iron Night. The entry is worth checking out on its own (I love reading their cover art posts), but here’s what was said about Iron Night:
The covers for this series suck. A lot. They’re boring as all get out. That’s especially sad since this is a tremendous series.
Did you hear that? Chris says that this is a “tremendous series”! Woo!
While I will always applaud sensible clothes and just plain clothes on a model this is kind of boring. He looks like he’s just taking a stroll with his gun.
“Taking a stroll with his gun” would be the best kickoff to an animated Disney song EVER! (wait, didn’t that already happen in Pocahontas?) But, yes, I am continually relieved at Fort’s state of dress on these covers – ie, his commitment to wearing shirts. Actually, this cover got even safer, since he now has a tee *and* a long-sleeve shirt! That’s smart layering, Fort!
The V in the background is why I’m giving this cover the middle. My interest is peaked by it alone.
I’m a huge fan of that background V. Yes, it has flummoxed a few people, since the official series name is American Vampire, not Generation V, but I was seriously worried around title time that my series didn’t have themed titles, and I think that the artist did a fantastic job of using that V to tie them together. Bravo!
Fun side story – I was on the phone with my brother last night, and I asked what he thought of the new cover. Typical brother, he didn’t even know I *had* a website (right on the book! Argh!), but it turned out to be a win, since then I got to listen in realtime to his cover reaction! (once he scrolled past last week’s fluffy dog – not my cover, btw). It was hysterically funny, and I wrote it down to share with all of you:
My Brother says:
WHAT? He went from film theory geek to Die Hard! And why is he carrying a sawed-off shotgun?!
I’m going to call that a thumbs up.
That’s about it – but remember that tomorrow is the debut of Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names (#5 on my list of books I read this year, btw). According to SF Signal:
I would wholeheartedly recommend The Thousand Names, not only to fans of fantasy but also to fans of military fiction of all types. Fans of Steven Erikson, David Drake, Glen Cook, Naomi Novik, Tom Kratman, Jack Campbell, David Weber, and John Ringo take note – there’s a new military fiction cowboy in town and his name is Django.
And if you’re buying The Thousand Names, why not take the opportunity to pick up Generation V as well?
The Iron Night edits are done! Now the manuscript is in the hands of the copyeditor. I don’t know whether it will be the same copyeditor who handled Generation V (Dan Larsen), but I’ll probably see it back in maybe 1-3 months. The good thing is that all of the major plot events are now basically locked in, so I can move forward to work on Book 3 and not worry about anything from Iron Night suddenly changing.
It was a mostly quiet week – one great interview was posted at Fantasy Book Critic – this is a great interview to check out. Mihir read and enjoyed Generation V, and he put together some absolutely fantastic questions, several of which I’d never been asked before! Lots of fun. Danielle over at Coffee and Characters did a great cover reveal for Iron Night. It’s very exciting and gratifying to know that people are looking forward to the Generation V sequel!
I also set up a Goodreads giveaway for one signed copy of Generation V — the hope there is that some people will learn about it from the Goodreads giveaway page and be interested enough to want to buy it if they don’t win the copy (or, even better, be so interested that they can’t even wait for the contest to end, and must get a hold of it immediately).
Great news from Amazon! Generation V is now up to 21 reviews! That’s really great, since it puts it past that 20 marker that I was told was really important. Thanks so much to everyone who posted a review!
Speaking of Amazon – an interesting article here is making the rounds on Twitter today. I’m certainly a fan of brick & mortars bookstores, and I actually worked for two years in a really lovely independent bookstore, so I do understand how important it is to support places other than Amazon. But at the same time I’m also very aware of how important Amazon is for my books. It’s an interesting conundrum. However, I can quite certainly do better in posting book links that aren’t solely to Amazon – so here is where you can buy Generation V from IndieBound and I’ve added that to the main book info page as well!
That’s just about all the news I’ve got, so back to work!
Kind of a mixed week. Didn’t get nearly as much writing done as I’d been hoping. About halfway through the week I came up with a fantastic idea for a completely *different* urban fantasy world, and spent a few days hashing out a basic world outline and primary character. Which was all very well and good, and I would love to someday have two series going at once, but seriously, FUCK. That was basically anti-progress on Book Three! And now I have to keep straight exactly which world has the egg-layers… grumble, grumble…
So unfortunately the writing goal this week is basically the same as last week – get a solid outline going for Book Three. I need to make some pretty hefty character decisions, figure out exactly how this Mystery Plot A is going to fit together in a way that brings in all the elements I need it to, and keep doing my research on bears.
Yes, that’s right, bears.
Other stuff went a bit better. Generation V is up to sixteen reviews on Amazon.com (only four more and I’m at twenty!), plus a very nice 5-raven review just went up today at The Bibliophilic Book Blog. Mihir at Fantasy Book Critic also did a great mini-review of Generation V that you can read here, so it was a good week for the book in terms of press as Generation V hit its one-month birthday.
Also fun – my post last week about A Modest Proposal About Firefly was hands-down my most-viewed post ever, so that was great. Even better was when Brian Taylor at A Descent Into Slushland wrote Another Modest Proposal About Firefly, which you should absolutely check out. I talked to a few other people about possibly doing a few more of these as guest posts – it’s a lot of fun to put together, and I love seeing what other people imagine. If anyone reading this is interested in putting a Modest Firefly Proposal together, just drop me a note.
My membership at the SFWA was approved – right in the middle of the absolute Chernobyl-level meltdown over the frothing misogyny displayed in the most recent Bulletin edition. Now, I’ll never see that edition (which I’m sorry to miss out on only because there was an article by the great Jim Hines in it), since my membership kicks in with copies now. But it was certainly an interesting experience to have already paid my dues money, but be unable to participate on the forums or speak as a member. The dust is settling now, and a number of absolutely wonderful responses and articles have already been written (the benefit of an incident happening in an organization of *writers*), many of which I already linked the crap out of on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I’ll restrict myself to linking to only two items of interest on this entry – the presidential statement by John Scalzi, which I think best exemplifies why I still really want to be involved in this organization, crazy glaring flaws and all, and Chuck Wendig’s marvelous blog post about sexism.
Now, here’s a palate-cleanser link for everyone who just got flashbacks from even that short paragraph – Kickstarter for All-Female Gaming Miniatures Reaches Goal in 30 Seconds!
Last item of note – I just got my copies of the Ace/Roc sampler in Science Fiction and Fantasy (New Classics and New Voices). This is extremely cool – one cover is of a steam-powered ship going into a wormhole and has samples from Jack Campbell, Ilona Andrews, Faith Hunter, Taylor Anderson, Mike Shepherd, and Anne Bishop – but then you flip the book over and there’s a second cover of an empty helmet on a snowy battlefield, and this side has samples from debut authors, the first of which is me! My sample is the first chapter of Generation V, which my brother recently told me was his favorite chapter of the entire book (it ought to be – this was the bait on my fishing hook to get published, and I cannot even say how many times I smoothed and rewrote this fucker). The sampler will be available for free at the Ace/Roc booth at conventions all this summer, so check it out! Also, I’ll be at ConnectiCon and WorldCon this summer with a backpack full of the sampler, which I’ll be happy to sign and give to anyone who wants one!
Okay, here’s a pair of fun facts – I loved the crap out of Django Wexler’s debut, and think that everyone should buy it and read it. Admittedly, everyone should buy and read Generation V first, but right after that, check out The Thousand Names.
The second fun fact is that Django and I not only went to the same college, but we were in the same program, and actually once took the same writing workshop with Hilary Masters.
In case you weren’t already pre-ordering The Thousand Names, here’s another reason why you should buy it:
But, seriously, no buying his book until you already own mine.
Things are going pretty well right now. I finished making adjustments to Iron Night based on the edits that my editor sent me, and sent it to her on Friday. These were mostly big-picture elements – character motivations, pacing, building up some elements and toning down others. What happens now (based on my experience with Generation V) is that she’ll take the manuscript and start working on it line-by-line – does this wording sound right? Is there too much repetition in one paragraph? Is a particular idea or piece of information established thoroughly enough?
That’s where Iron Night is right now. I’m really excited about this book – for one thing, I got to take Fort deeper into the supernatural world that he’d been fighting to avoid. I got to revisit and expand some tertiary characters from Book One, as well as introduce some new ones. The world gets more complicated – and also longer! Generation V went to publication at around 85,000 words, but right now Iron Night is beating that by 23K. Given that my word-count goal going in was just to hit 90K, that was kind of surprising, but fun at the same time.
I’ve also gotten a peek at the Iron Night cover – and it is amazing! I’m under strict orders not to share it yet, but as soon as that gets lifted I’m going to put it up. Stylistically it’s similar to the Generation V cover, but I think it’s more dynamic and atmospheric. Can’t wait to hear everyone’s reaction to it!
This week I’m working on Book Three stuff – solidifying plans, doing some background research, that kind of thing. My hope is that at the end of the week I’ll have a working outline of the book. Right now I have a broad idea of major events and where I want a lot of the characters to be at the end of the book, but I’m still working on finer details.
There have been a few changes on the website since the last time I posted an entry – I now have a full character list page. Don’t look through that unless you’ve finished Generation V – it’s spoiler-heavy. I made it to help me with Iron Night (making sure I didn’t use the same names for background characters, being sure that I was consistent on birth years for my vampire characters, that kind of thing), so it establishes where everyone is at the end of the first book. (including, for several characters, deaths and who killed them). When writing Iron Night I found myself constantly flipping open a copy of Generation V to fact-check, and somehow I think that that will just be getting worse when I start Book Three, so I figured that it was definitely time to establish a separate series bible to avoid continuity flubs.
I also have the Reviews & Interviews page – links to all the reviews, interviews, guest posts, or media mentions that I know of. In the last two weeks what has been very exciting is seeing the occasional review pop up that I had no prior knowledge of – a blog review by someone who hadn’t been sent the book by either me or Roc. That’s been very neat, and I’m happy to say that the reviews have overall been really positive.
A few recent ones include:
Fang-tastic Fiction, That’s What I’m Talking About, Urban Fantasy Investigations, Owlcat Mountain, and Fangs For The Fantasy: The Latest In Urban Fantasy From A Social Justice Perspective. There’s a wide variety of responses and writing in here – I love seeing how every reader responds differently to various elements.
My most recent interview was over at Book Lovers Inc.. I also had the wonderful opportunity to write for SF Signal about deeper meaning in speculative fiction writing, which gave me the chance to write about two of my favorite books: Neuromancer by William Gibson and Singer From The Sea by Sheri S. Tepper. Check it out: The Veneer of Escapism.
So that’s where things are. I’m hoping to do that parasite post sometime this week, but I have a few things on my To-Do list, plus a job interview on Wednesday, and Tuesday is the publication for the latest Nalini Singh *and* Cassie Alexander’s latest Edie Spence book, so there will be some rather significant distractions. I’m also trying to introduce my three cats to the CatGenie (litter pan whose cleaning is controlled by TECHNOLOGY!), and it is Not Going Well.
Oh, last thing! Shiloh Walker wrote a great article here about how important Amazon and B&N reviews are for the success of a book. Generation V has twelve reviews at Amazon, and one review at Barnes & Noble. So if you read the book and enjoyed it, please post a review on either website, or both!
And if you haven’t read Generation V… well, wouldn’t you like to give it a try?
Ever since Generation V was bought by Roc last year, most of my time (when not focused on work, or during the time when I was writing and polishing the initial draft of Iron Night) and focus was on how to best work on promoting the book before it was published. And now… the book is out. I can visit it any time in the bookstore, and now when I talk to people about it, they can actually order copies on their phones, and have e-copies pretty much immediately.
Which is incredible and amazing… but now I can’t help but wonder, now what?
Oh, don’t get me wrong – I know what I need to be doing. The classes I’m teaching are just going into finals, so there’s a lot of hand-holding and correcting going on there. Plus I received edits back from Anne for Iron Night, and those need to be worked on and finished before June 1. Plus I have the third Fortitude Scott book to plan and write. And I really should mop the floors of my house, because that totally got pushed to the back-burner for a few months when I was crazy busy.
But in a larger sense, regarding Generation V, now what? Worrying about how well it’s selling, or doing research and sending emails to try to get more people to talk about it – that has occupied the majority of my days this week. And I know that with my to-do list of actual writing, that’s going to have to change really soon. Maybe I’ll be able to spend a few hours a week thinking about and working on publicity stuff, but that’s probably it.
I’ve made a deal with myself – I’ll keep focusing on Generation V until the end of the week, but then the shift to Iron Night has to happen. So this is an interesting transition time.
Stuff To Check Out!
One of my favorite interviews ever at Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks – fantastic and thoughtful questions!
Another great Interview at The Qwillery.
Finally, another really strong review of Generation V by Tori over at Smexy Books. Very thoughtful and great stuff.
And in closing, my usual appeal – wouldn’t you love to own your very own copy of Generation V?
Two weeks until Generation V is on the shelves! This is amazing, because I can try and work it into conversations in a very fake-casual kind of way. “Oh, week after next? Well, I have that dermatologist appointment, and then I thought I’d swing over to the bookstore. No big deal. Thought I’d buy Munchkin Chtulhu… and MY OWN BOOK THAT GETS PUBLISHED THAT DAY!”
Very exciting times right now. Advance copies of Generation V have gotten three really nice reviews on Goodreads, which everyone should go and read. Here’s a snippet of what David Caldwell wrote about Generation V:
This isn’t your typical vampire/shapechanger novel.The author has come up with a new and creative take on vampires.The idea of the host is great and gets rid of a lot of the problems presented in most vampire tales.Vampires aren’t immortal, just very long lived.They continue to grow strongeras they age.They also gain many of the weaknesses(like having to avoid the sun) as they age.
And Matt Lunn:
M.L. Brennan develops a very likable hero and excellent surrounding characters to go with an interesting new take on old vampire myths.
And Django Wexler (full disclosure, I know Django, and his first book The Thousand Names is incredibly cool and amazing and I reviewed the crap out of it already.):
It’s always nice to see an original take on the vampire mythos. (Including, for once, a reason why vampires haven’t overrun the world!)
I’ll brag a little here – all three of those reviewers also gave me five out of five stars. (fact: I am going to bawl my eyes out the first time someone give a nasty review)
But what all three reviewers were talking about was the way that I reimagined and rebuilt vampires in this series, so I thought that this could be something useful and interesting to blog about today.
Firstly, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the vampire myth as it usually plays out, for pretty much the same reason that Django refers to – if vampires are immortal and all they have to do to make more of themselves is bite someone, have that person drink a little bit of blood, and then you have another vampire? You have a massive population control problem that will fairly quickly result in the entire world being covered by vampires!
I knew before I even started planning the series that I wanted my vampires to have a lifespan. Because, let’s face it, immortal characters are boring. They have no life cycle, they have no particular stake in doing anything. But then there was the question of what kind of life cycle? I didn’t want this to be a thousand years kind of thing, because then you’re only ever within two generations of the time of Christ, and honestly, that’s a little weird to think about. “Oh, that guy? Yeah, my grandpa was drinking buddies with him. Man, did that Nazarian like to put back a few bottles of wine.”
I also really didn’t want a protagonist who was a few hundred years old. Unless I made it a completely separatist society, the vampire would have a really tough time rolling with the constant changes in time. And half of his memories would involve women in corsets, a lack of flush toilets, and the days when Mozart’s music was banned for being too racy.
When I started constructing my vampires, I wanted them to make sense in a biological way. Not a lot of sense, granted, since this is still fantasy and my field of study was in the humanities, but just enough that I felt like I could work with it.
My first step was to think about how vampires would fit into the natural world. Essentially we’re talking about an apex predator in its ecosystem – big, in charge, eats what it wants and no one eats it.
Vampires are basically Great White Sharks.
Now, Great White Sharks are amazing, and badass, and the entire reason behind Discovery’s Shark Week. But like all apex predators, they are also inherently vulnerable because of this important fact – prey species must reproduce quickly, because it’s through sheer numbers and fecundity that the species can continue, since just about everything eats them (think bunnies here). But apex predators are different. For one thing, it usually takes them much longer than their prey to reach maturity – both physical maturity and then sexual maturity. After all, nothing is eating them, so what’s the rush? Secondly, they tend to reproduce less often, and in smaller numbers, because, again, no one is eating them, so no worries.
Which is fine… as long as nothing effects that ecosystem.
Here’s the thing about an apex predator – they are far more vulnerable to changes than their prey species. They are also far easier to wipe out, because of those important traits – slow to mature, slow to breed, and then they produce small numbers of offspring.
This takes us back to the badass Great White Shark. We don’t know a whole hell of a lot about them, but we do know that they live 30+ years, and that they don’t reach sexual maturity until around year 15. They also have an eleven-month gestation cycle, and deliver between 2 to 14 live pups, which then swim off and have to fend for themselves while they get bigger.
That long maturation period and relatively low amount of young makes them very vulnerable. For example, if suddenly another species comes along with boats and the interest in sport-fishing them and/or making tasty soup out of their fins, a huge dent can be made in the population, and this is a population that can’t bounce back very quickly.
And that led me to an idea I really liked – that vampires were a species that was barely hanging on, because the long maturation period and the low birth rate had been a disaster once humans began developing technology that could offset the natural power imbalance between them. Imagine a rabbit vs. a wolf. Now imagine if the rabbit is carrying a rabbit-sized AK-47. Those big teeth don’t make such a difference now, do they?
So vampires are strong, and powerful… but it takes them a while to get that way, just like baby Great White Shark. And if normal humans (the rabbits) traditionally reach sexual maturity around 15-18, then my vampires don’t hit it until they’re around 250. And the birthrate is very low – usually between one or two offspring in a regular vampire’s lifespan.
Now my primary vampire, Madeline Scott, is unusually fertile in the vampire world. Her oldest is Prudence, who was born in 1775. Then Chivalry in 1864. Then Fortitude, who is now 26. And none of her children are old enough to either leave home or start a family themselves, though Prudence is getting close.
To me, that seemed both interesting and plausible that this was a species that A) hadn’t overrun the entire world, and B) could be pushed right up to the edge of extinction.
But most importantly, C) would be neat to write about.
That was how I imagined I used the idea of vampires as apex predators to construct my species. But I also had a second way of interpreting vampires, which I’ll go into more next time –
Vampires are apex predators. But they also are very specific predators, feeding solely on the blood of another species. Which to me made them…
Okay, that was a long break between posts. What happened was that my day job of teaching college freshmen started back up again, and I’ve been trying to juggle time between teaching 18-year-olds how to use apostrophes correctly and writing Book Two. That meant that this blog unfortunately fell a bit by the wayside. To my possibly half-dozen readers, mea culpa!
Of course, the hope is that someday, after Generation V is published (May 2013, ya’ll – mark calendars accordingly), there will be hordes of people visiting this website! And to you, readers of the future, I apologize. I know that you hang on my every word, and that this blog is a priceless repository of my musing back in the days before I hit it big and (presumably) totally sold out. Future men and women, perusing this on the e-readers that have been surgically implanted in your arms, forgive me.
But in addition to trying to convince college freshmen that it really is the time in their lives to learn how to use a comma correctly, the Generation V manuscript has gone through a major step in the editing process! Woo!
A few interesting numbers – when the fine folks at Roc bought my manuscript, it was 74,600 words. That’s a little on the light side – around 260 pages of a finished manuscript. The book was finished – there weren’t cliffhangers to it, but my editor gave me a few overall comments and notes that were really helpful. I spent a little under a month working on the manuscript after we talked, and when I sent it to her, it was now 84,000 words long. That was a gain of about 10,000 words.
And the amazing thing was that the main story never actually changed.
What changed during the process was actually mostly small things. Things I’d mentioned about my version of vampire nature and physiology were clarified. A few scenes that were already present got longer and more complicated. The motivations and pressures that lead my main character, Fortitude, to go from disillusioned coffee-slinger to badass hero were clarified. I added a few scenes as well that helped the overall feel of the book – there’s a stopover at a pizza place as well as an ammunition store that were completely new. It was a really useful process, and while it took a fair amount of work, I really enjoyed it.
There’s a lot of discussion about the benefit of graduate writing programs. I won’t get into that much on this blog, but I think there are a lot of very valid concerns about these programs – particularly in terms of how much money is being spent by students to get a degree that might have a very minor earning power. But one of the things that I will always say was worthwhile about the years I spent in that program was how much it taught me to be flexible as a writer. I might think I’ve just crafted an incredible work of genius, but if I ask someone for their feedback and they point out a big damn problem, I need to stop and address it. It might be the last thing in the world I want to look at, and sometimes the cuts and changes might be painful to make, but it has to be done.
I had a friend when I was an undergraduate who had written a high fantasy book. She asked me to read it, and I did. Problem was, I stopped reading about sixty pages in and gave the manuscript back to her. And I told her very honestly when I did that I just physically couldn’t read any more, because I hated her hero so damn much that everything after the first ten pages had been a struggle to get through, and I didn’t think that she had meant to create a hero quite that flawed. In fact, looking at the way she had described him, I had the impression that she’d tried to create a perfect hero.
I’m sure that I don’t need to say that she was pretty unhappy with my feedback. She also didn’t change anything about the hero, saying instead that the problem was with me. And in all fairness, writing isn’t like working at a customer service desk at the grocery store – the customer isn’t always right. (I did work that job for about two years in high school – that kind of thinking leads to full refunds for customers who leave bags of shellfish in the front seat of their car for two days in July) There’s no book written that will appeal to every single person. On the other hand, the first people you pick to read a book are usually your first people for a reason – if you respect their opinion, then you need to pay attention if they come back and say that there were problems here, and you need to figure out how to address them.
Fun story about that girl – when she was taking an introductory class to poetry, she had huge fights with the professor. All she wanted to do was craft very Tolkien-y style poetry, and this was a class where they were assigned a lot of different forms. I had other friends in that class, and apparently these fights were EPIC.
Anyway, back to Generation V.
Once I was done with this set of revisions, I sent the now 84,000 word manuscript over to my editor, and now she went through it with a fine-tooth comb. While her earlier comments had been pretty broad, now they were very precise and refined to specific moments in the manuscript, and sometimes right down to word choice. She also had some bigger questions, some of which resulted in completely new scenes. Again, this was a lot of work, but it was hugely fun and rewarding. I feel incredibly lucky that I ended up working with the editor I did, because she was extremely thorough and patient, and was clearly focused on trying to make the manuscript as good as it possibly could be.
Were all these changes ones that were easy to make? Absolutely not. At least three jokes of a highly questionable nature hit the cutting floor, and I was very sad to see them go. There was one suggested adjustment to a denouement element that had me in coils for a few days – the change she was asking me to make did make a ton of sense in the sense that it gave Fortitude a clear action on something in his life, but at the same time that would require the removal of an action from his gal Friday, Suzume. It was tough, and I spent a lot of time working on it. In the end, I think that it worked out, and it did make the book stronger overall.
We went back and forth several times – sometimes it took a while for a scene to be adjusted in a way that was working for both of us. By the time it was done, the manuscript length was at 88,800. Yet the fundamental elements of the story have never changed! Pretty damn cool.
The manuscript is now accepted by Roc, meaning that it’s a big step closer to being published. Right now, Generation V is with the copyeditor. Since this is my first publication experience, I wasn’t entirely certain what’s going on there, so I asked my friend BigRedK, who works at the Harvard University Press. She said this:
As for the copyeditor… Copyeditors exist for one reason: to make you realize that you don’t know the English language like you probably should. 😉
More seriously, they clean up the manuscript so all subjects and their verbs agree and so all pronouns have a clearly identified antecedent. They prune cliches, unmix metaphors, and go on “which” hunts (ie, use “that” with restrictive clauses, “which” with non-restrictive clauses — curiously enough, the Brits habitually ignore this “rule”). Moreover, they edit your manuscript to adhere to “house style”. (Do they use “cancellation” or “cancelation”? Do they use serial commas? etc.)
So this should be an interesting experience!