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Posts Tagged ‘legion’

The Stars Are Legion: Coming Soon in Spanish, Updated Release Date

Stars Are Legion final coverVery excited to see that it’s been announced that The Stars Are Legion will be published in Spanish!

I’ve had a lot of fan requests for Spanish-language versions of my work over the years, so I was excited to finally see a book that will be translated and released there about the time it comes out here in the US/UK, I think.

Speaking of release dates, Saga Press did recently contact me to say they were pushing the book out again, about three weeks, to February 7th. If you have pre-ordered it, you probably got the notice for this. I’m not entirely sure about why there was a move this time, only that it had nothing to do with the book and something to do with Saga juggling some other titles in the schedule. There are some things in publishing I control, and some things I don’t, and this was one of them. Certainly not my first choice, but hey: that’s publishing ¯\_(?)_/¯

Despite the movement of that date, we are still keeping The Broken Heavens, the last book in the Worldbreaker Saga, at May 2nd. Once again, I feel this is too close for these releases to come out, but hey, again, publishing. This will be a good test about whether or not releases spaced closely together do indeed sell more books, or if they just make people tired of the writer! I’m curious to see how it turns out. I know that, if nothing else, *I* will certainly be tired next year.

But I’m pretty stoked to both finish up my second trilogy and give you a nice crunchy standalone. Be sure to nab your pre-order here.


Writing Conflict

I was always OK at writing the Big Conflict in a novel. You know, the war, the genocide, the revolution, the revolt, the coup, the big hulking thing that the novel centered around. But it took me a lot longer to figure out how to write about interpersonal tension, and longer still to realize that it was often the interpersonal stuff that interests me most, and keeps people reading.

I’m currently in the process of creating a “what do they want?” cheatsheet for the characters in my next novel, LEGION. When I first started writing book length stuff, I had these elaborate character cards full of all long, boring details about people.  They were way overly descriptive, and took far more time than they ended up being worth, since I’d change a lot of the details as I went along anyway.

These days, I might have a paragraph description of somebody and their major Issues, sure, but I don’t consider the physical descriptions of my characters as all that vital to the character building process anymore. Not like it used to be. Now, the most important questions I have to answer about everybody are:

  •  What do they want?
  • What’s stopping them from getting it?
  • Do they get it?

That tells me what my primary conflicts are. To figure out my secondary conflicts, I look for reasons that the people I threw together might not get along. Maybe somebody hates peanut butter because they believe it’s morally wrong to eat it, and they’re forced to travel with a person who owns a peanut butter factory. Maybe another person is allergic to dogs, and somebody else can turn into a dog. You get the idea. There should be a mix of stuff, though – seemingly small stuff like that and other stuff like, “Character X is a drug addict. Character Y’s mother died of a drug overdose.” Or “Character A’s village was burned by Character B’s people.”

These are secondary conflicts that get played out during those transitory periods between the major conflicts. So you have your main plot bumping along, and your primary character arcs (that what do they want/what’s stopping them/do they get it thing), but along the way there are these secondary or even tertiary bumps that make things just a little bit more difficult. They make bad situations worse. They might even cause an already stressed character to go off the deep end. I found out as I was writing the GOD’S WAR books that these were actually the conflicts I enjoyed the most, because they created a deeper tension to each scene. Now people weren’t just expositing dialogue. They were verbally sparring with one another. You could start to see the heat on the page, and you started anticipating when some character was going to lose it and stab another one in the eye for making fun of the way she shot a gun.

Sometimes I think this is why I often thought “plot” was so boring. I saw plot as a series of events that kept a character from achieving the goal of the story – usually, stopping the bad guys. I didn’t see it as the complex interplay of characters, all with different motives and agendas, pissing each other off on the way to attempting to accomplish something.

Sticky, unstructured, opposing forces smashed together in pursuit of parallel-but-possibly-opposed aims are just so much more interesting to me than “let’s just all save the day cause it’s the right thing to do, mmmmmkay?”

Re-imagining the Legion

I get asked about worldbuilding a lot, and now that I’m starting a new book, LEGION, it’s probably a good time to talk about what’s working for me and what’s not.

Shorter blurb for this one: LEGION is a stand alone space opera about two feuding families battling for control of a legion of worldships sent out beyond the edge of known space. Not that they know any of that.

A lot of folks talk about different aspects of writing like once you know how to do it, you just do it. But the thing is, if you’re somebody really passionate about writing, it’s likely you want to figure out how to be a better writer. Sure, you can write the same formulaic thing time in the same vague setting and make money doing it, but if that’s not what you’re in this for (if I wanted to make money I’d write romance novels or vampire YA), then “getting better” should be high on your list of priorities.

It’s certainly high on mine.

Some of the pressure of starting a new book after a… well… a sorta critically successful series (I mean, I won an award, right?) is that you want to one-up it. You totally want to wow everybody who read the first series and thought it was Something Crazy Cool. Not just in the plot-and-pacing ways I worked on improving in both INFIDEL and RAPTURE after the rough pacing and plotting of GOD’S WAR, but in the wealth of its weirdness. When I read fiction, I want to go somewhere I haven’t been before. That’s the challenge, for me: creating some place totally unique.

The trouble is that everything is working against you.

LEGION is a space opera. That means it’s really easy to pull on old space opera tropes. It kinda creeps me out that the future we painted of 2200 in 1970 looks a lot like the future we paint for 2200 in 2012. I mean, really, folks? I recently read a highly talked-about space opera that, frankly, sucked. It read like a mashup of a bunch of really generic space games, with familiar family and social structures, dull and expected politics, clunky 1970’s future! technology, and characters I’ve bumped into dozens of times in other places.

I was really excited about this one because I’m stealing the plot. That means I’ve already got a detailed outline and synopsis. I already know all the characters and what they’re up against. But I realized as I sat down to write it that I hadn’t sufficiently done what is, to me, the most important part: figured out the gritty details of the world these people live in. I’m a firm believer in creating characters that really could not exist outside of their time and place. The way we view the world, the decisions we make, even many of our preferences, are deeply influenced by culture and place. That should work the same way in fiction, too.

I’m a big fan of organic tech (surprise) and I’d like to do more with that. The challenge is to think a dozen steps beyond the sentient starships of Farscape or Lexx and at least eight steps ahead of what I did with GOD’S WAR. Nobody wants to see you recycling bugs and magicians and boxing ad nauseum, as cool as those things might be.

When I started painting settings in this one, I kept landing on clean, sterile, environments because that’s what my brain assumes when I say “space opera.” But people living the way this particular legion lives are not going to have an understanding of their environments the same way we do. And they aren’t going to be clean and pretty. They are going to be pretty yucky to us. And terrifying.

I want to take some of body horror from shorter works like Geoff Ryman’s “The Unconquered Country” and Christopher Priest’s “Whores” and build an entire living, breathing galaxy (or perhaps solar system, depending on how one views the Legion)/ecosystem out of them. There are all sorts of assumptions that come from living in a place where your womb literally creates weapons of war, or spare parts, or food, raw textiles, and, of course monsters – the very stuff of life that your people rely on – especially in an artificially closed environment. There are massive economic shifts that will happen with that, big changes to social interactions, community mores and the like that have to be addressed.  When I throw around concepts like this, I’m also really aware of the millions of pitfalls that lie in wait. I know exactly how I could do it all wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

And there is also the environment itself, and how people relate to it. How does your conception of the world change when your world is always on the move? When it always changes? And, since this is a book written by me, how is war waged on these types of worlds? When things are destroyed, what happens? Is that it, or does it regenerate itself? How quickly? Can certain people control it?

And, of course, the most important thing: what kind of people would this type of world create? What are they really afraid of? What do they really want? What do they consider creepy vs. cool? What’s your relationship to your children when you produce them the same way you would a sparkplug?

When my characters start off life in a blank room, I know I’m not quite ready to start. What ends up happening is I write a lot of character-in-blank-room openings until the details start to come out. That’s what my challenge is now. My goal is to become not only a better writer, but a faster one, and in order to do that, I’d like to cut down on the amount of churn at the beginning and end of my writing process. I need to figure out more of how things work – and the gritty details of those  things – before I start working. Thing is, until I started working, I had no idea how little idea I had about what I was getting myself into.

So here I am, taking a step back and sketching things out more thoroughly. Before God’s War, I did this with all my books. But God’s War was a much more organic novel, where I just did a lot of research and then kind of dove in and saw what happened.  This time, I haven’t had as much research time, and I think that’s hindered me. It’s likely back to the library on Friday.

What I really need, of course, is that powerful first sentence that tells you exactly what you’re getting into when you pick up a book. I need “Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.”

I’m just not quite sure what the equivalent of that is in this world yet. And until I’ve got it, it’s back to the library.