The State of the Sam

Starving artist, day 23. Just ate salted caramel topping out of a jar, but that’s pretty normal, not really peculiar to my metaphorical starvation. I am being stared at by a large and Simba-colored cat named Zeus who is either concerned for my safety or waiting for me to die. His expression is unreadable.

No overarching topic today. In two weeks, I head back to Walla Walla, home base for the next chapter (that’s a writing pun). I wanted to use this post to assess the current state of all my various projects, along with my actual life, and some less consequential stuff. In no particular order:

Novels: Visiting Austin has been incredibly productive for The Valley of Steel. Forcibly keeping myself to a schedule on pain of shame, I have discovered I can actually, eventually, be disciplined–I’m less than a hundred pages away from marking the whole manuscript, and plan to apply the changes to the document just as fast, producing a working second draft in ten days. At that point, I’m going to need critical beta readers. I will reach out to all of you when the time comes, for anybody who wants to have me owe them a mob favor.

The Glass Thief, for its part, is down to 129,000 words, and I am mostly concerned right now with (what the hell else?) the query letter. Accentuate the crustacean angle, or keep it hidden? Trying to sell this book first has been like running a double-black slope on my first day, and also my skis are lobsters.

I have three ideas to follow up on next, and only two of them are RPG-inspired. The other is mostly stolen from Ghibli movies. I love them all–it’ll be a tough choice.

Short stories: Ray Bradbury said that an aspiring author should write one short story every week for a year, reasoning that producing 52 losers in a row would be harder than coming up with a good one. I hope the law of averages applies to a run of 12, because that is as far as my ideas go right now. I’m repurposing several characters from elsewhere, including my beloved Starkwether, Rafter, and the trolls of Archevis–just in time to stress-test them for their novel runs.

“A Tale of Rust Town” is with Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with several backups–I’m determined that I will start my career with this story, even if I have to wear a mask and sell it behind a dive bar to a Slavic man who thinks I’m Dean Koontz. The other thing I’m sure of is that I’m not submitting to Tor.com until I’m more established. They have great stories, and the pay is fantastic, but their turnaround is just too long for a newbie trying to live off this. That said, if they love “The Foaling Season,” all is forgiven.

Letters: People deserve them. I’m not writing them. I should be. Soon!

Spiritual: Not the longest step forward in the world, but I have stumbled upon the internet presence of the Pacific Northwest pagan communities by way of the nationwide site Witches’ VoiceWalla Walla has a selective coven of the Columbian Wicca Traditionthe Wheat & Wine Coven. The People of the Woods Church of the Old Ways in Cheney, WA, is also accessible to me, and recently held a large weather-magic event to push the gulf stream back toward Washington. Expect more on this.

Reading: Le Morte D’Arthur, still, and the reason is that it’s still amazing. Sir Dinadan is my favorite character–he’s constantly saying what I’m thinking. “Damn it, Tristram! Every time we hang out I end up fighting, like, fifteen dudes on my own. You never want to just go bowling.” He also writes an intentionally terrible lay about Tristram’s nemesis, King Mark, which I think makes him history’s first hipster. Also, this Hark! A Vagrant comic represents Tristram and Palomides perfectly. “You and me could make a bad vengeance…”

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, which inspired both Monkey Island and Pirates of the CaribbeanI’m only a few pages in, but there’s already been voodoo and betrayal and ghosts and dancing pirates. I’m sold.

Mountains of the Mind by Robert MacFarlane, who is auditioning for my new favorite author, and who is gonna get at least a callback. He is charting the allure of mountains in this book, beginning three hundred years ago, when they were mostly seen as obnoxious obstacles we’d eventually blow up and turn into farms. He has another book, The Old Ways, which is going to be one of the planks of my platform to learn about modern Shamanism and Druidism, plus I’m told it has boats.

Worm by Wildbow, which is getting its own post soon.

Watching: I’ve seen two fantastic movies recently, The End of the Tour and Everestwhich offered extremely divergent perspectives on depression and extremity, and similar gamuts of emotion. It’s amazing how two guys in a car and dozens of grizzled mountaineers in a record-breaking storm can traverse such similar ground. I also saw a worthless little movie called Black Massabout a man who likes to shoot people. It neatly elides all the compelling questions about Whitey Bulger and instead elects to give Johnny Depp a combover and shove a camera up his right nostril for two hours.

Doing: Not much else, at the moment. This manuscript has caused many other parts of my life to fall by the wayside. Upon my return north I’ll be fencing, shooting, and guitarring again, but until now all my energy goes to the book.

So long for now, and remember that thing about beta readers. Seriously, mob favor. If you need me to bust up a snitch’s place, I’m willing to go that distance for you.

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