No Hope

“Hey, did anyone hear back about Xaphan the Faceless?”

There was a long pause in the Shoutbox. Shadowhawk asked why.

I pointed out that the cover art for Treacheries of the Space Marines used the same art that was mentioned during the re-opened submission window. And the book was due in a mere four months, suggesting they likely found someone with promise. I knew it couldn’t be me, so I hoped it was at least one of us.

Then Narry dropped the bomb. There were no guarantees that they picked anyone from their submissions. One of the reasons they’re called submission windows and not competitions is because there are no guaranteed winners.

In the grim future, not everyone survives.

I decided, after hearing this, to go ahead and restart my final Black Library submission. I dug up an old interview with Laurie Goulding and read it over a few times. 500 to 1000 words. Forget plot, just prose. My current piece was plot oriented. But guys like Goulding wanted to see if I really got the Imperium.

I’m sighing as I type and think about this. How many times have I really ever taken the submission window very seriously? Once or twice perhaps. First, there was my one and only novel submission. Then there was the Xaphan story. And I took both fairly seriously. I edited, I thought it out. I tried plots that were stronger than I was used to writing.

Leaving a few extra hours for the time zone difference, I have two days.

It sucks, because everytime I sit down to write, I get stuck. This never happens with my original fiction, during which time I’m already charged and ready to go and just hit the page typing. And it’s not writer’s block. I can see the goddamn image in my mind.

I see the worlds of the Imperium. With their vast structures and arches that reach for the skies. The double headed eagle flutters on flags and banners that hang from every parapet. Carvings of skulls embedded in nooks along the walls, each etched with names of hundreds of menials who had somehow distinguished themselves, followed by the old axioms of Imperial truth. Mere hundreds, out ofbillionswho had given their lives away to be cogs of flesh, powering the grand war engine.

The tired masses, willfully slaving away at the assembly belts, as servitors march up and down the ranks to collect the occasional dud bolter round in a protective bin. Vox caster servo-skulls hover and bob in the air, broadcasting the occasional reminder that every menial owes not only their life to the Emperor, but their death as well.

A woman pauses to rub the sweat from her brow with fatless, boney fingers. The sweat stings her eyes horribly as it mingles with the light chemical clouds that permeate the air. There are no vents in the room, while the worst of the toxins are belched from towering stacks, dumped upon the atmosphere of a dying world overrun by humanity.

All of this. All of this to feed the war machine. The machine that powers the Eternal War. To turn every battle into a charnel house. To manufacture death for the sake of this shadow of life. Not one individual, not even billions, mean anything before the needs of the Imperium.

To save humanity, our humanity must be denied.

Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is a virtue. To know this life and no other. To not dream beyond one’s station. To know this cruelty and misery is the greatest achievement of these toiling masses who are ground to the bone.

“Forward!” Their masters scream. They must give everything they have. If they have children, they must be marshalled and marched, gun in hand, to die so that the Imperium can go on for just one more day. A precious few shall even become Space Marines, and masters of death they shall be.

And when they are spent, when they have nothing, when they are nothing, they can still pay back their endless blood debt to Him on Terra with the coin of their death.

But somehow, just sit down to write that idea out and… the hammer goes click instead of bang.

New Novel

Random scribblings.

Random scribblings.

So I’ve started working on the next Black Library submission with a brand new novel.

This year, I submitted three short stories and a novel. The stories were likely rejected because I forgot to add the summary paragraph, while the novel risked going against the direction of existing canon, as well as coming up a little short on content. All of this is without consideration for the Xaphan the Faceless submission window, which I still have some confidence in.

This time I’m getting a huge head start on crafting ideas. One of the things that sucks is that a lot of tiny details and ideas will never make it into the pitch because of the submission guidelines. Any smaller details that take place after chapter 3 will go unmentioned unless I get the thumbs up to write for round 2. So I feel my best chance is to run as follows.

For the chapter summary, I have a new focus. The characters, setting, plot and story are four separate entities and all four must move forward in some shape or form every single chapter. The difference between plot and story here being that story is what has already happened, while plot is the story that is being told now. While the plot can be winged and created on the fly, the story must be devised and laid out and told ahead of time.

I know from my writing that I am a better story teller than a plot creator. I feel confident that I can make interesting characters, amusing stories and occasionally devise intriguing settings. Plot has always been one of those things I’ve wanted to really get better at, and the only way I can do that is to keep developing new novels even if they don’t get published.

A quick chat with Shadowhawk has given me some ideas and a great focus for the story. Because the existing story is essential to crafting a sharp and smart plot, I want to avoid plot writing until I feel I have enough of the story in place. Hence my aim is very clear. There will be no real start of the novel until the background story is in place, because you must have the beginning before you know the end, right?

So when I’m done with developing the story, I want to create the break down in such a way that advances the story, plot, characters and setting in every chapter with an aim of about 20 chapters. With a six page limit on the chapter summary, I’ll need to keep my description of what happens limited to three and a third chapters on each page.

Now the second half of this revolves around the first three chapters. Last time, I was weak in this regard and barely squeaked passed the 10,000 word minimum. I have a hard time translating the correlation between the chapter summary to the actual chapters. Simply explained, the chapter summaries were too long and the chapters themselves were too short.

This tells me that far too much of the chapter descriptions were spent developing tiny, trivial details that should be coming about naturally from the story.

I write this in bold because it is, in retrospect and realization through writing this blog post, this is the greatest syntactical problem of my previous novel. This obviously says that the novel development fell short of the intended goal, that being the creation of a complete story. The  chapter summary is simply to assure the editors that I know where this story is going. But the editors will not be selling the chapter summary, they will be selling an extension of the first three chapters. So when I write the chapter summary, I should save the miniscule details for the story and get to the damn point.

Let His Name Be Known

What I currently almost look like in Space Marine.

What I currently almost look like in Space Marine.

Deep breath, man. Deep breath.

  • Short story summary? Check.
  • Short story synopsis, between 500 to 1,000 words? Yep, got it.
  • Short story sample, 1,000 words? 1,000 words exactly.
  • … Short story name? Duh. Yes.
  • My contact info? My name, email, cell phone and Bolthole handle.
  • Font at 12? Yep.
  • Font is Times New Roman? Yes already.

Still… I guess I’ll sleep on it. There’s time.

Tonight, I plan to work out using my amazing new 40 pound dumb bells, play some Space Marine and get some sleep.

Space Marine is becoming a challenge in multiplayer. Many of my opponents are now 30 to 40 range, and that’s a big deal. Sure, I can copy their load out when they beat me, but it keeps me from playing how I want to play. Tonight I’ll make level 15 and get my second perk slot. Not game changing, but I’ll take any edge I can get. On the bright side, I earned the Vambraces of Hate. I didn’t even know I wanted these until I got them. They look like something M.D. Geist would wear. I’ll post some screen shots later.

Birthdays, September 11th and Meltaguns

Mighty Meltas merrily murder morons.

Mighty Meltas merrily murder morons... MEOW!

Last week, I found out that my favorite bartender’s birthday falls on September 11th. Ouch.

I absolutely feel for the families and victims of the September 11th attack and I have not forgotten. My heart goes out to them. At the same time, having your birthday fall on the same day would absolutely suck. So my buddy Fernando and I got her a card and a little gift and went to happy hour.

She showed up grumpy from the rain we’ve been hammered with the last week, among other things. Fernando and I played it cool, ordered a beer and some food and then whoops! Card dropped out.

She was ecstatic. And rubbed glitter from the card all over her shirt. Not sure what to say to that, but she liked it so that’s good.

So if you have a casual acquaintance whose birthday falls on or even around September 11th, do something nice for them. You’ll be doing the world a favor. Personally, I’m not going to forget September 11th. But I’m not going to let it ruin someone’s special day either.

Retiring from the bar last night, I went home and finished the Space Marine single player campaign. I won’t give away details, but that last ‘boss fight’ was a little disappointing. On the bright side, I found my favorite new gun in the multiplayer. In the first game with it, I took eleven scalps with the Meltagun against 7 deaths. I learned quickly that the Melta seriously hurts but rarely kills in one shot. So if you try it, be prepared to finish them off with the knife. I even put together a new configuration involving combat stimulants and a serrated combat knife perk for that purpose. Just stay away from open battlefields, use alleys and places with lots of corners. Approach using cover to hide and protect yourself. Blast and then make them deep throat 12 inches… of knife.

P.S. If you don’t get the reference in the picture caption, shame on you:

I love that movie. Anyway, I’m going to a wedding this weekend so this is probably the only post you’ll get until Monday. I’m going to work on my Xaphan submission before I jet. Happy weekend, readers.

Ohhh My Head…

Not feeling too great right now.

On the bright side, got Space Marine set up and jamming away at it. While not perfect, it is a most satisfying experience and worth it. It’s still slash and hack heavy, but the experience is better than I was expecting. I’ll write and post the first half of a review today. IGN is rushing to finish a review of their own. I suspect other companies are having similar problems.

Oh, more good news. My writing sample for the Xaphan submission has come back and is ready for editing. I keep saying Friday, but I suspect it should probably wait until Monday to be finished.

Back soon. Food. I’m thinking California Tortilla.

P.S. This post just happens to be the 41st. Very apt number.

Le Conte Est Morte

My god, if he added banana slices, he would have killed us all...

My god, if he added banana slices, he would have killed us all...

My second short story is dead.

I let my creativity get ahead of my planning. The story that was developing was a good one, full of investigation and somehow blending some action in there as well. But half way through the process, I stopped and stared at it. And I realized that I had failed to accomplish the overall goal of the submission window: To introduce Xaphan the faceless to the reader.

Sure I eventually do it, but I do so at the end. And Xaphan’s reputation is covered through hearsay and rumors, which would be fine if this were a novel and I had time for that. But still I do not really introduce the audience to Xaphan, face to… faceless.

Narrativium suggested that I rewrite and improve on it, adding Xaphan in. But doing so would be a different piece whose storytelling quality I cannot guarantee. I can recycle the characters and maybe an idea or two but that’s all.

What also saddened me was that the overall technique I use to introduce Xaphan was little different from the previous short story, of which I am much more satisfied with but need to rewrite to make the story more concise. The difference being is that Xaphan is introduced early, and is constant throughout the story. That and the ending is way more satisfying with Xaphan leaving his mark on the Imperium. Not in a gigantic, universe shattering way, but large enough to be a nuisance.  If I’m going to use the same approach, I might as well just use the better one.

Back to the drawing board.