Sunborn Update

Since Sunborn (Chaos Chronicles Book 4) has been delayed until Winter 2008, it got pushed back on my editor’s desk while he dealt with a couple of other books. This is frustrating in that I haven’t heard any reaction to it yet, but at the same time it’s giving me some additional time to continue the editing at my end. So I’m still going through it, doing polish and cleaning, and fixing some problem spots pointed out to me by my intrepid writing group and by my wife. (Well, okay—I didn’t do diddly on it for about 3 weeks during the holidays—but I’m back to it now. When I’m not doing taxes; see other post on that.)

On the one hand, I feel pretty good about the way the book came out. On the other hand, I’m ready to kick it out the door and move on to something new. Like Chaos Book 5, which I’ve written the first page of, just to get it started. Or maybe finding a new business model for being an SF writer. I think I feel a post coming on that subject. Later, though.

SUNBORN Is Still…(probably) SUNBORN

Okay, I didn’t mean to not follow up for a week and a half, but I sort of crashed and burned after turning the book in. I still have some editing work to do on it, even before my editor comes to me with comments, but all the things I’d been putting off while finishing the book came rushing back at me.

Meanwhile, my editor and his assistants started saying they liked another title better. (After saying, all this time, “They’re all good—just pick the one you want.” Aaaiieee!) But I think we’re holding firm. I ran it past some more writing colleagues, and they preferred Sunborn.

I’ve been doing stuff like rewriting dust-jacket copy and coming up with a sort-of synopsis of the first three Chaos books, for the benefit of new readers. That’s a lot harder than you might think. It has to be short and enticing, and not a boring plot summary. It’s probably a good thing that this came right after we talked in the SF writing workshop about writing good query letters, and the importance of keeping it short and not writing boring plot summaries. I needed a dose of my own advice, and it was helpful.

Meanwhile, I just got word that scheduling changes at Tor are forcing a delay in the pub date. Auugghhh! Now it’s scheduled for winter of 2008, just a little over a year from now. The good news is that it’ll allow more time for proper preparation, by which we mean getting (we hope) nice quotes from other writers, in time to get the sales and marketing people excited about the book. (You probably thought publishers put all of those quotes on books to entice you to buy them. That’s partly true, but they do it even more to entice sales and marketing to get excited about the books.)

That about all I have on Sunborn right now. But I’ll sign off with the news that wrestling season has just kicked off for my daughter, and she started off with a pin in her first meet. That’s the way to start your senior year!

Chaos Book #4 — Major Rewrite Done!

Earlier today, a friend asked me by email how the chaos of my Chaos book was coming. Here’s how I answered: “You remember the movie Dr. Strangelove? At the end, where Slim Pickens rides the A-bomb down to its target like a rodeo rider, waving his cowboy hat like a maniac? He shrinks away and the ground rises up fast? That’s where I am in the book.”

Well, a short time ago, I finished up the 2nd major draft of Sunborn—I mean, Cradle of Stars—I mean, Crucible of Stars—I mean, no I don’t know yet what the title is! Who cares? Chaos Chronicles Book 4. Ya-ya-ya-ya-yah!!!

What a killer! But in the end, I started enjoying it and having fun again. I think I straightened out all the insane chapters that made no sense in the first draft, and I cut out maybe 140 pages outright, and added in 100 pages of new. This draft is about 40 pages shorter than the first.

(You understand, don’t you—when I say “2nd draft,” I mean second time through from beginning to end. Pick a scene or chapter at random, and it’s probably had 5 or 8 or 10 drafts.)

Now…I have approximately one week before the date I promised it to my editor, do or die. I start a final pass tomorrow, from page 1. There’s stuff I have flagged for further attention, and I’m sure the early chapters (not looked at in a year!) will benefit from tightening. That’s to get it into good enough shape to send it in, and hopefully for him to say, yeah, we can send this out to people and hope we get some quotes.

Then the real editing begins. But more on that later.

Cradle of Stars? Crucible of Stars? In Search of the Lost Star? No, no….

Titles, Titles

As I said in the previous post, I’m debating whether to change the title of the book I have been writing all these many years as Sunborn. The main reason is that another SF novel was published in the last year or so called The Sunborn. Now, you can’t copyright titles, so that’s not the issue. Causing confusion among readers and booksellers, however, might be an issue.

I’ve always liked the title Sunborn, and it’s one of those rare cases where I actually thought of a title I liked right off the bat as I sketched out the idea for the story, so that makes me reluctant to let go of it, also. On the other hand…there is that confusion thing.

So I’m thinking of calling it Starborn instead.

(The story is set in the star nursery of the Orion Nebula, where stars–suns–are born. And where there is trouble in Star River City.)

If you folks out there in blogland would like to be my focus group and weigh in with your opinions, I’d be glad to hear them.

Currently on a Writing Retreat

I’m currently squirreled away at a bed & breakfast on Cape Cod, taking a 3-day writing retreat to really concentrate on the last 120 pages of the rewrite of Chaos Chronicles #4, which I have been calling Sunborn all along (though that might change). My wife fixed this up for me back in August, as my birthday present. (Good wife!) I’m sitting in front of a fire with my laptop, trying to figure out the remaining thorny questions in the storyline/plot/background of the book.

Just taking a few minutes to post this update. However, I’m also going to take this opportunity to say Happy Birthday to my friend Victoria, member of my writing group for significantly more than 20 years! (Slug that I am, I forgot to say this on her birthday, so I am trying to make amends by shouting it to the world.) Happy Belated Birthday, Victoria!

Still Here, Still Pounding

This is about the longest I’ve gone without a post. Yikes! But yes, I really have been focusing on the rewrite of Chaos Book 4, and the rapidly approaching deadline. So it’s going to be like this for a while, I’m afraid. I’ll touch base when I can.

Here are a few highlights of what I wanted to write about, but didn’t have time:

Xena is now Eris, and Pluto is now a dwarf planet. Well, nuts. Still, Eris as goddess of chaos and discord isn’t bad. Sort of describes the current state of astronomy. And the world.

Another family brag: my sister Nancy Lorey and her video production partner Matt Star received three Telly Awards for videos they produced at their I-Conn Video Productions firm in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. There were over 13,000 entries for the award, which recognizes excellence in local, regional, cable, and nonbroadcast video. Way to go, Nancy!

On the national political front…oh, just new legislation abolishing habeas corpus for political and war prisoners, and legitimizing torture any time the prez decides to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions…nothing major (except—doh!—this is not what America is about, guys). Oh yeah, and Senator McCain (for whom I once held some respect) selling out completely to the radical right. Don’t get me started. But do read this New York Times editorial on the subject. Or this from InformationLiberation, which is a little more out there on the edge, but probably not too inaccurate.

On the local front, I am now co-teaching an SF writing workshop in Cambridge, Mass., along with Craig Shaw Gardner, at the Pandemonium bookstore. Depending on how it goes, this may become a regular event.

Also, I’ll be signing books at Pandemonium Books, on Saturday, October 7, from 7–9 in the evening. Stop by, if you’re in the Cambridge area! Craig and two other authors will be signing at the same time.

And now…back to the Chaos!

Still here…working on book

No, I haven’t died, though it might seem that way. There have actually been a number of things I’ve wanted to write about, but haven’t had the time. Ah, most of the ideas have fled now. I should give one update, though—my friend got out of Lebanon pretty early on and in good shape, for which I’m deeply grateful. She got a ride out on a U.S. Marines helicopter, so a big thanks to all of you involved in the evacuation. (No connection, but shortly after that, I got a nice email from an army sergeant who discovered one of my books while stationed in Bosnia, of all places. He said that later, while stationed in Iraq, he was always looking for good SF to read. That gave me great encouragement.)

I’ve been working hard on Sunborn, trying to beat down a group of chapters that just wouldn’t shape up. I think I’m getting a handle on it now. Also, it’s summer musical time at Arlington Children’s Theater, which one of my kids is in, and for which I’m once more helping out on the sound board. We’re in dress rehearsals for Damn Yankees right now, and have performances starting this coming weekend and going right through the next. (Fortunately—given that we’re in the middle of a heat wave—the theater has upgraded its air conditioning!)

Listen, I’d love to stay and have a drink and chat, but I’ve got to get back to the book! See you later!

Sunborn–What Took So Freakin’ Long?

Ah. Yes. People have been emailing me for years, asking when the devil the fourth Chaos book is going to be out. Not to mention, my editor and publisher, who have been patiently checking in from time to time, hardly ever mentioning the fact that my deadline is so far in the past it’s nearly red-shifted out of sight. (Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Tom.) Guilt, guilt.

Well, it’s not because I meant to take so long, or haven’t been trying. The first thing that happened was that I had another book to do under a prior contract, which was going to take me a year or two to write—and then I’d get right back to the Chaos series. As it happened, that book was way harder to write than I ever imagined, and longer, and it took nearly five years to get finished. (That was Eternity’s End, and I’m happy to say that it’s met with a good response, and earned me my first and only Nebula Award nomination.) By the time I came back to the Chaos universe, the trail felt a little cold. I had to reread the first three books myself. (I’m rereading them again now, to keep the story clear in my head. You forget things, after a while.)

Basically, three things happened at once, as I worked on Sunborn:

  1. I undertook a book that was way, way harder to write than I thought when I outlined it. (Lots of really cosmic stuff, sentient stars and so on, but at the same time a deeply personal story, always told on a human scale.)
  2. My life as a parent was becoming increasingly full, with lots of activities and competing needs filling the days; and, as well, a need to do consulting work as a writer/editor to help pay the bills. (This is a good place to acknowledge the debt that I, and you my readers, too, owe my wife for bringing in a steady income through her work. Thanks, kiddo. I appreciate it.)
  3. Doing all this other work made it really hard to keep the novel centered in my mind, so that even when I had time to work on it, I couldn’t concentrate.
  4. I’ve been wandering in something of a creative desert for the last few years, trying to find the inspiration to turn this into the book I envisioned (and promised you, my readers) years ago.
  5. Like many of my writer friends, I was trying hard not to feel depressed about the state of my career, the state of the marketplace, the shrinking sales of our books compared to the way they sold 15 or 20 years ago, the loss of readers to competing forms of entertainment (movies, TV, mega-bestsellers, the internet, blogs [oops]). One always tries to appear upbeat in public, but it wasn’t always convincing on the inside.
  6. I began to lose my ability to count.

Somehow, though, I kept at it. The constant support and cajoling of my writing group was invaluable—as was other forms of support, from people who cared enough about my ability to keep writing to help in significant ways. And always at the back of it all, the feeling that God had given me a certain gift for writing, and I wanted to make good on that gift. (Plus, all those promises I’d made to you my readers over the years.)

And so, here I am at an important milestone in this project. As I said in the last post, I have a lot still to do. Probably two more complete drafts, anyway. But it should go faster now, and with much greater feeling of hope.

I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening.

But for now, I’m feeling pretty good.

Sunborn First Draft Finished!

Yes. At last. I have typed the ending words of the fourth book of The Chaos Chronicles! And they are:

“To be continued…”

Which isn’t a joke, of course, if you’ve been following the Chaos series. My faithful readers have been waiting a lonnnnng time for this fourth book in the series, the fourth of a planned six total. (I was shocked myself to look back at the header in the early chapters: I started this thing in the fall of the year 2000. Oy.)

Note the title of this entry, though. First draft finished. I’ve got a lot of rewriting to do. A lot of rewriting. It all came together and made sense (I think) in the end. But a lot of the 706 manuscript pages of this book are…well, I’ll be polite because this is a family publication…a godawful mess. But that’s okay. Really. Because getting that first draft down is the crucial thing. I can always work with it and straighten out the things that are wrong, once I have it down on paper (or phosphors, or LCD pixels) to look at. It’ll take me a while, and it’ll hurt, but I know I can do it.

Yes! Gimme a high-five, please!

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