January was an interesting month. On a happy note, I completed my second half marathon at Walt Disneyland in Anaheim. It was a Star Wars themed run. How cool is that? So my knee hurt so badly for a week and a half afterwards that I thought I needed a new one. So I thought I broke my foot for the first three days. It was totally awesome. Less awesome and on a much sadder note, my grandmother passed away in January. Then, ten days later, my wife's grandmother passed away. That awesome half marathon experience was sandwiched in between those two, terrible events. A lot of travel, a lot of painful, tiring emotions, and not a lot of great writing happened in the second half of January. However, some interesting things did crop up and I thought I'd share what I can.
I finally read the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howley. My good friend Ben Dalton (@bendalton) recommended it to me probably five years ago and I finally got around to reading it. [Minor Spoilers ahead]. I have to say, I didn't love it. I totally understand why it's a runaway hit and why it's doing so well. It's very well written. But, I don't love how the characters pass through the story. Specifically, by the time we get to what I would consider to be the main protagonist I had almost lost all interest in the book, due to what happened to the first two characters I read about. I definitely learned some things about structure and ending sections to really draw the reader in with cliffhangers. I can't say I enjoyed it beyond that though. Bummer.
This is, by the way, something of a trend for me. I have a really hard time with stories that aren't character driven. I love stories that follow a group of characters and really focus on them. Sure, the world building is cool. But I have a really hard time staying with a series of books when they are constantly jumping around and not sticking with the same cast of characters. I love Terry Brooks' work, but it's my one main complaint about the Shannara series. Each part of the series is just a few short books and then we jump decades (or centuries) to learn about another generation of the family and their adventures.
While I was home with my family, we spent some time talking about old objects in my grandmother's house. One thing that I've always been fascinated with is an old pocket watch. Every visit I've made to that house, as long as I can remember visiting that house, the watch has been hanging in a small glass bell shaped container inside my grandmother's china cabinet. For only the second, maybe the third, time in my life I got to really look at and hold that watch. It's much older than I thought it was. Like, two or three generations older than I thought it was. Not only is that incredibly cool, but it got me thinking about a new idea for a series of books. I'm sure this will be on the back burner for quite a while, but I wanted to share this because even in that emotional and grief filled time, I still managed to think a bit about writing and ended up coming up with, what I think, is a super cool way to pay a small tribute to my grandparents and some of the memories I have from my childhood visits with them.
I mentioned briefly in my post about Distinction in the Darkness that the visit to my grandmother some time back helped inspire the story. The grandmother that died was this grandmother. Even though she wasn't actually the character in that story, and even thought it's not really a story about her, the story was very much inspired by experiences I had with her and interactions I had with her after she moved into her nursing home.
As I move into February, I'm about 30% through my next revision pass on the book. I think that the updates are really making an improvement, and the feedback I've been getting on the early chapters is favorable. I still struggle with an unlikable character, and today I pushed her first PoV chapter back even farther into the second half of the book. I feel this is going to need some attention at some point, but I'm already juggling more things in this revision than I really want to be, so it may have to wait. Or, she may just stay unlikeable in this first book. If all goes well, I'll have plenty of opportunity to make you like her later.
Finally, I'm starting to focus in on some less creative and more functional writing. Brainstorming and outlining continues for book 2, although I've slowed a lot on that until this next revision is finished. I've also started working on elevator pitch materials, as well as planning for a full synopsis of the book. I'm 99% sure I'll be attending WorldCon in Spokane in August later this year, and I want to make sure I have this material ready to go. Do I think I'll need it at the con? Unlikely. Do I want to make sure I have it if I do need it? Absolutely.