May, June, July Progress

I am a horrible human being.

Here I was, planning on making monthly posts (if not more) about my writing progress. Then I blink and three months pass without an update. So … uh … oops? Let’s rectify that.



Total Words: 6,500

Not a terrible month with a strong finish. I stumbled across some good ideas and revelations that made the words flow.



Total Words: 3,750

Ouch. Not a fun month at all. Work threw a couple of big writing/editing projects at me that were due on short timeline. As a result, the creativity and energy that I normally used for my ‘fun’ stuff was sucked away into a pit of withering Corp-speak and frustration. Even when the projects were done, it took some time to get the words back up and flowing again.

Oh yeah, I moved to Stars instead of Dots. Because I ran out of Dots and Stars look better.



Total Words: 4,250

Better but still not there. Work was still annoying and then I had a four day vacation in the middle in which I did no writing whatsoever. Still, I’ll celebrate the upward trend.

So that’s three months. Let’s see if I can do August in September instead of December, shall we?

March & April Progress

Well I feel like a schmuck. I was positive I’d posted about my March progress but a quick look this morning told me that I was wrong. D’oh! To make up for that, here’s a picture of Cici acting as referee for a grunge match between Skye and Bee.

Rumble in the Kitchen
Rumble in the Kitchen


Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

A total of 7,750 words written during March which makes it a good, solid month. It also marked the rough end of Act One. Not much else to say about that one.


Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

Not nearly as good but better than I expected. A mere 5,500 words for the month. You’ll also note that I switched to Pink dots … that’s cuz I ran out of Green. A few things to note:

1) Following the end of Act One in March, I spent 7 – 10 days working out the path that Act Two would be taking. It ended up taking longer than I expected, though in the process, I figured out a lot more about my characters and made some much larger changes.

2) Solved a potentially major plot hole. Good but that took up a lot of time as well.

3) Grand Theft Auto 5 came out in the middle of April. I knew that was going to eat into my time so I’m not too disappointed. In fact, I’m surprised I was only 2,000 words off.

Guaranteed Self Destruction

My last blog post was something cryptic about fun. At the time I posted that, I was contemplating this grand post about writing, fun, and the lack thereof. Well, honestly, trying to come up with that has been downright depressing and I’m not too interested in doing that. So this will be short and to the point :

The past three years, I just haven’t had any fun writing. I came closer to giving up the whole thing than I ever have in my life.

Asymonte was the first time I ever tried writing a novel and I had fun. I don’t just mean ‘This is a pleasurable experience’. I mean ‘This is a goddamn blast and I’m loving these characters and let’s see what awesome things we can do today’. I talked with Steph about it all the time, teasing her with plot twists, relishing in finding new ways to get my characters into (and out of ) trouble, and listening to loud music as I pounded out vivid fight scenes.

When I finished Asymonte, I tried to write something different – Sci Fi since I’d been so immersed in Fantasy (Asymonte took 7+ years and 4 drafts to complete). That book was Genie Memories which led me to Viable Paradise. And thus, my problems began.

First things first – Viable Paradise is not to blame for this. Nope. Not a chance. I met a ton of great people there, got to hang out and learn with some of the best, and had a wonderful time. I’d do it again in a heart beat.

The failure came on this end – me, myself, and that ass known as I.

I applied every lesson I learned at VP wrong. Every paragraph and sentence needed a purpose. The story’s theme had to resonate in everything. Each word had to be perfect or it wasn’t worth moving on.  Was I using too many adjectives? Can I use an exclamation point here? What about [INSERT NONSENSICAL THING HERE]?

In short – I paralyzed myself. (Ironically, there was a lecture at VP that mentioned this very thing. One more lesson I forgot.)

The long and short of it though was that I wasn’t having any fun. Writing became a business and a chore. Yes, there is a business aspect to it but that’s for another time. That part doesn’t matter if you can’t get the words on the page and you can’t get the words on the page if you aren’t having any fun.

So that’s what I’m aiming for. I want to have fun. I’ve started a new novel, a stand alone fantasy that so far has no title. It’s been on my radar for a while so I had a go at it. I don’t know how it’ll turn out. Don’t know if it’ll ever be read outside of my house. But who cares?

The characters are surprising me. The scenes are vivid again.  I’m feeling some of that old flow back in the fingers again. And I’m having fun writing again.


February Word Count (+ January Revision)

The official word count of February … plus a revision on January.

Turns out that I was using my progress spreadsheet all wrong.You’d think being a computer guy, I’d know how to work a spreadsheet, right? Nope.

TL;DR version – I should have been entering the total word count rather than my daily word count. Fixing that makes my progress look a lot better and shows that I actually am making some headway toward my goal of 100,000 words.

February Word Count
February Word Count


Toward the end of the month, I vanquished the red and started making some positive progress. A few good days helps quite a bit with that. Unfortunately most of that has been eaten up in March already but I hope to get a gap again.

And for the record, the revised January Word Count:

January Word Count
January Word Count


The Word Count : January

Here be the official Word Count report of January.

January Word Count
(Click to embiggen)

In a perfect world, the Word Count column (first one to the right of the date) would have 250 or in each. And there wouldn’t be any red blocks either (which indicate how far I am behind where I should be). So this ain’t good.

Let’s start off by saying that I knew January would be rough. Trying to shrug off the shackles of writers block and embarking on something like this is always a challenge. It’s not uncommon for me to stumble out of the starting gate and pick up steam later. Then, the marathon, of course, which would take me away from my computer for a week (and to be honest, I rarely write on vacations anyway).

What I did not expect was whatever illness descended upon me and left me too exhausted to spell my own name, let alone contemplate a fantasy novel. After two weeks, I’m getting better but I lost a *lot* of writing time in there. Not a lot I can really say or do about that.

Here it is again in graphical format. The blue line should be even or above the red line. Er … yeah, not good.  February is already shaping up better but there’s going to be a lot of long nights ahead.

January Word Count Graph
(Click to embiggen)


* I’m using the Spreadsheet of Shame from Daryl Gregory, a very handy tool that someone whose name I regretfully cannot recall linked off Twitter.

A Query About Queries

Someone asked me, “You’ve been working on that query letter for a long time.  Is it really that hard?”

Yes, yes it is.  The novel is 103,000 words.  The query letter is 173 words. Or put another way …


It took me six years to write Asymonte. That was the easy part.

Rejection – Writing and Body


Back on May 13th, I got a request from Angry Robot for the full manuscript of my novel Asymonte.

Today I got notice that they were going to pass on it.  The reason given was that it was too similar in plot and style to something else that is being released this November.  That’s how publishing goes sometimes.  I’ll figure out the next step in the upcoming days.


My cold (5 weeks old today!) that was diagnosed as ‘allergies’ last week has been re-diagnosed as bronchitis with a touch of pneumonia.  Medication will fix it and hopefully I’ll be back to normal by the end of the week.  Or at least what counts for normal around here.

The Chicon Haul

Go to a con, come back with books.  It was pretty inevitable.

The Dealer’s Room at Chicon was a pretty cool place.  Imagine this – an enormous room full of books, media, artwork, and clothing galore.  In the attached room of equal size was an area filled with classic arcade games and full-sized Battletech pods.  I found myself wandering down there to unwind just about every day.

Angry Robot was the recipient of most of my money. Mostly because they had a good deal and also because I’m really liking what they are putting out.  And no, it has nothing to do with my manuscript being there.  Honest.  Serious. Unless it helps then ‘full steam ahead!’

Fortunately, I was able to get everything into my suitcase without having to toss anything.

The Chicon Haul

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul Kemp 

Kill the demon. Steal the treasure. Retire to a life of luxury.

Sounds easy when you put it like that.  Unfortunately for Egil and Nix, when the demon they kill has friends in high places, retirement is not an option.

Between waiting at the airport, killing time at the con, and just lounging at home, I finished this one today.  Loved every page.  I think it’s because it’s a throwback to the books I enjoyed as a kid when I was first getting into fantasy.  Sure, there’s not a ton of dramatic characterization or expansive worlds to explore, but there’s enough hints and stuff that it kept me moving.

The Corpse Rat King by Lee Battersby

Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.

Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.  And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.

Just as soon as he stops running away.

Premise sounded interesting and I liked the cover.  I’d heard some good things about it from others and when I was talking to the guy at the Angry Robot booth, we got on the subject of the Open Call and my own submission.  He mentioned that CRK was selected from their first Open Call and that kind of sealed it.  As an aside, I didn’t even realize at the time I was picking it up on release day. Should have tried to find the author at Chicon and gotten an autograph.

The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes

After accidentally summoning a demon while playing poker, the normally mild-mannered Chesney Anstruther refuses to sell his soul… which leads through various confusions to, well, Hell going on strike. Which means that nothing bad ever happens in the world – and that actually turns out to be a really bad thing.

There’s only one thing for it. Satan offers Chesney the ultimate deal – sign the damned contract, and he can have his heart’s desire. And thus the strangest superhero duo ever seen – in Hell or on Earth – is born!

Name aside, I like Hughes’ writing.  He’s clever, witty, and entertaining.  The premise of this one sounded pretty cool so it was a no-brainier.  Plus it looks good on the shelf.  Seriously though – when I approach the AR booth, the guy manning it pointed at my name badge, then this book, and said “Your not the Matt Hughes, are you?”  Laughed, said no, then let him know that I had a full submission in with them.  That got us on a short conversation about pen names and the like.  Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too much.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Chuck Wendig is a hell of a story teller.  Beyond that, he’s a strong advocate for sharing knowledge with other writers.  I follow his blog and have a couple of his non-fiction books on writing.  All solid advice.  I read the first five chapters of Blackbirds in e-book format but really wanted a paperback copy.  As a bonus, I got a signed copy.  I would have gone for a signing myself but I’m very scared of Wendig’s beard.  Dude, it’s scary.

There were also author signings and I got books signed by Jim C. Hines, Patrick Rothfuss, and Robert J. Sawyer.  I also picked up a gift for my brother and got him an signed drawing from one of his favorite artists.  I’m sure I’ll send it to him at some point but I’d like to see how long I can drag the torture out.

Shlock Mercenary

Return from Chicon

View from the 15th Floor of the Hyatt Regency

And lo, the prodigal son has returned from Chicago and the convention known as Chicon (aka Worldcon).  And he declared it, “Spiffy.”

It’s kind of important to note that Chicon was my first convention of any sort.  I’ve never really gone to anything like this and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Fortunately, I did have some old friends there and they helped guide me through it (being an introvert is not a perk when it comes to cons).  Still, when people found out that this was my first convention of any sort, I got one of two reactions:

1) “Holy cow!  You must be really brave!”

2) “Holy cow!  You poor poor fool …”

Needless to say, I did survive though not without some casualties (unsurprisingly, I may have caught a bug while mingling with 5,000 other people with sleep deprivation and compromised immune systems).  My ‘social meter’ crashed sometime early Sunday and I kind of spent most of that day in a bit of a haze.

Highlights in no particular order:

Watching the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field for the first time ever was great.  Making it even better was seeing them knock three home runs (one being inside the park) and win 6-4.

Wrigley Field

Meeting and chatting with some of my favorite authors.  Just to name a few: Jim C. Hines, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert J. Sawyer, Howard Tayler.  There’s even more and it’s hard to count or even remember all of them.

All over the place I was hanging out with people.  I got lunch with a bunch of friends from Viable Paradise 13 such as Brent (with whom I roomed), Cath, Ferret, and Julia.  Then there were all the other VP folks like Bart, Sarah, Fran, Kelly, and a few rookies going into this years class (sorry, I forgot names!).

VP13 - Ferrett, Brent, Me, Julia, and Cath

Panels galore.  Learned a lot, hope I remember a fraction of it.

Browsed the Dealer Room and picked up a lot of books including a gift for my brother that sent him into a fit like a little girl.  I think I own his soul now or something.

Also, my name got me a few miles of conversation.  See, there’s another author out there named Matt Hughes (also writes as Matthew Hughes).  While in the Dealer’s Room, I approached the Angry Robot table because I wanted to see what they had and because I’ve got something sitting with them.  The author Hughes writes for them and one of their people pointed to my name tag and said “You aren’t the Matt Hughes, are you?”  I laughed, denied it, and then said, “But you guys do have my full manuscript so I hope to join him soon.”  Brief but fun conversation after that about pen names and their previous open-calls.   Same deal happened elsewhere including with Robert J. Sawyer.

Ate some good food including a marvelous tapas place where I got to try squid and octopus.  Tastes like chicken.  Elsewhere food was okay though more than a bit overpriced.  Coming home to our own homemade pizza was a really nice treat.


I got to sit in on the Hugo Awards.  Those are some of the top prizes in sci-fi & fantasy.  I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get a bit of inspiration out of some of the folks who received awards, especially the first timers and newcomers.

Got in a nice 12 – 14 mile run along the lakefront Saturday morning.  Wasn’t sure on the distance since my GPS went bonkers on me but somewhere along the path my room key fell out and I didn’t notice til I got back to the hotel.  Whoops.

View from the 9 or 10 mile mark

So that’s that.  Not sure if I’ll go to another con.  Probably too early to tell but at least I had a good time.  For now, time for bed.  I got this work thing to go to tomorrow …

Chicon – The Windy Con

Thursday I flee work and head to Chicago for Chicon, the 70th Annual Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention (aka Worldcon).  To get a grasp on what this con is like, imagine a huge hotel in downtown Chicago taken over by geeks, nerds, cosplayers (people who dress up as their favorite characters), and generally the well-informed when it comes to science, sci-fi, and fantasy.  It’s kind of like a paradise for someone like me.

It is also a chance for me to get together with some old friends whom I haven’t seen in the flesh for several years, meet a lot of authors, get some autographs, attend a lot of very cool and interesting panels/events, and as an added bonus, get to see the Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field for the first time in my life.

So for kicks and to help those who will be attending find me (and to make those who aren’t attending envious), here’s my rough schedule for the weekend.  Flexible, of course, as I meet folks and learn of new things but I’m looking for to it.

Thursday, August 30

  • 2:30pm – Arrive via flight at 2:30pm, hotel by 5pm-ish
  • 6:00pm – 11:00pm : Opening Ceremony at Alder Planetarium
  • 7:30pm – 8:30pm : Crime & Fantasy

Friday, August 31

  • 9:00am – 10:30am : Anarchism in Sci-Fi & Fantasy
  • 10:30am – 12:00pm : Violence in Fantasy
  • 1:00pm – 5:00pm : Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field
  • 6:00pm – 7:00pm : Book Covers Revealed
  • 7:30pm – 9:00pm : Reading (Ferret Steinmez)

Saturday, Sept 1

  • Ungodly Early : 12 mile run (gotta keep up the training)
  • 9:00am – 10:30am : So You Wanna Be A Writer?
  • 11:30pm – 12:30pm : Viable Paradise 13 Gathering
  • 1:30pm – 1:45pm : Sneaky Meet an Author via a Friend
  • 1:30pm – 3:00pm : Habits of Effective Writers
  • 6:00pm – 7:30pm : Conquering Writer’s Block

Sunday, Sept 2

  • 12:00pm – 1:30pm : There Will Be Blood – But How Much Is Too Much?
  • Rest of the day is up in the air as I wander about, visit dealer rooms, see artists, etc.

Monday, Sept 3

  • Fly home