Category: The Tomorrow Trilogy


So I’ve been more or less stalled at 27.9k words into Gray Morning, right?

Originally, I thought this was because I had essentially changed the game, removing one of my old plot-lines. Because originally, Jazz goes on the run from the Empire itself and goes into hiding. This is after Savin has his Moment of Sheer Awful (for Savin), and Jazz just doesn’t know how to cope with the combined stress of his collapsing Empire AND marriage, so he up and leaves.

Well, I came to my senses before starting this draft and dropped that plotline. Which gave me a slight panic attack, because oh fuck, what do I do with Ravi? Ravi doesn’t show up in the novel until after Jazz leaves and if Jazz doesn’t leave then how do he and Jazz meet and —

Eventually, I developed an answer for that, too. Ravi’s now a member of the Imperial Guard; he is brought in as an extra layer of protection for Jazz after the first assassination attempt goes down and fails (Jazz is shot, but not mortally wounded). What they don’t know is that Ravi himself is a member of the Resistance — in fact, he was the assassin who failed to take out the Emperor properly, in the first place.

So basically, that’s as far as I got in the book before my brain ground to a halt on how to proceed. I wrote a Council scene, paused halfway through it with Jazz and Mitchel sharing a meaningful look, and I haven’t written another word. Instead, I’ve been writing that OTP challenge and finally finishing up my stripper!Jazz smut that I’ve been sitting on for over a month.

And then this morning, I decided instead of working on any writing, I was going to nap. Because my son’s at school and well, I have caught his death flu (though mostly doing better now aside from the coughing).

And. I. couldn’t. nap.

Because I started thinking about how Jazz and Savin fall apart. Because in this version, I honestly don’t know how it comes about anymore. Savin lost half of the outside influences that had an indirect impact on his relationship with Jazz. The assassination attempts are still a thing and I can see that scaring Savin off, basically. But for Savin to think the relationship could never actually be repaired, something else has to happen, too. Because he adores Jazz. Always has. Always will. Leaving Jazz would be no easy feat for him; it’d be a decision he’d have to revisit a thousand times before he was certain he could even remotely be making the right one.

And since relationships don’t fall apart because of just one person — I wondered what Jazz’s role would be. I know he develops a romantic attraction to Ravi. He’s definitely already got a physical one, based on Ravi’s introduction alone. But there’s also a hint of a romantic/physical interest in Mitchel, too, on Jazz’s end. And it always kind of bothered me, how my one openly gay character more or less develops a relationship (in various uses of the word) with practically all of the males in the books. It’s not because I think gay men are promiscuous by nature — but I know that’s a stereotype. And it’s not one I particularly like, either, considering.

Do I think he cheats on Savin? Possibly. I think he at least makes a move on Ravi and Ravi more or less brings him to his senses/refuses to let things go any further than Jazz’s singular move, which Jazz respects. If Mitchel decides to make a move, himself, then Jazz would have to be the one to turn him down, and I don’t think that’d happen. I think they’d have sex, if Mitchel picked up on Jazz’s attraction to him, no matter how vague it was and thought Jazz was in a place (mentally) where he’d push his loyalty to Savin aside.

Which, well, Mitchel would, because he’s Mitchel. But that’s neither here nor there. Why does Jazz like so many people? Why isn’t he singularly focused like Savin is? He’s not —

He is poly.

And that was the moment Alicia realized she was not getting any goddamn sleep this morning while her son was at school, because goddamnit, Jazz, why do I have to figure these things out for you?? Except I don’t think Jazz really ever figures out about this aspect of his sexuality; he was married fairly young (24), and by the time Mitchel and Ravi really present themselves as viable romantic partners, he’s (unknowingly) close to his own death. But him slowly coming to an understanding about this aspect of his sexuality might be one of the things that pulls him and Savin apart.

It’s at least part of it. Especially if he tries to pursue anything with either Ravi or Mitchel — though to be fair, if he pursued Ravi, Ravi’d turn him down. And he wouldn’t pursue Mitchel; Mitchel would be the one to chase. And I think Mitchel’s subtle chasing is what Savin reacts (badly) to. Savin’s reaction puts distance between them. Jazz seeks comfort in Ravi. Cue more distance and more suspicion and anger from Savin. Jazz making a move towards Ravi. Being turned down by Ravi. Confiding in Savin the truth about it? Savin witnesses it? Something?

I get the feeling that this progression is what I needed to figure out. Maybe after Ravi turns him down, Jazz finally makes a connection about himself he didn’t really see/understand before, and he tries to talk to Savin about it. Maybe they make the decision to work through it. To find ways around it. What Jazz did isn’t excusable and Savin will outright tell him as much, but Savin’s Savin. He’d try to be understanding and accommodating. He’d want to work through it, ultimately.

And of course that’s when I destroy everyone’s hopes and dreams and Jazz ends up dead, but Christ Almighty, did I really need a week sabbatical from GM to figure this shit out? Yeesh.

So I finally gathered the balls to look at the rest of Chris’s remarks on Seize the Day. Overall, it wasn’t bad. It could have been a lot worse. Granted, it could have been better, but really, when the word “potential” is involved in the over all critique, then guess what.

I dun did good.

Stylistically, I’ll be looking over my writing to see which things are going and which are staying. His advice to drop adverbs is a thing that I think I’ve been slowly working on over the course of the year to begin with, and cleaning up my character’s language? Yeah, that’s a thing my wife pointed out to me, too.

I disagree with his comment that my characters aren’t three dimensional — however, they aren’t given a lot of time to show the full extent of their personalities in the 50 pages he’s seen, which is not a good thing, either. Not to mention, I need to be less stingy with sensory details.

He did outright compliment my ability to write sexually appealing scenes, however. Considering I’ve only had the one scene, it doesn’t seem like much of a compliment, but still. When I write scenes like that, I do totally seem to think of all the details and where the characters are in space. If I could harness that mindset, it’ll allow me to include more sensory details in general and give my scenes more depth.

So overall, the critique was harsh, but positive. He didn’t outright tell me to stop writing (yay), and he pointed out which things work and which don’t. That’s fine. Those are things that can be fixed. It makes me want to rewrite all over again, but since I essentially handed him what was the first draft and not one that’s been turned over several times, and it was written in about a month — that ain’t bad, y’know?

It just needs a lot of cleaning up. I can do that later. I need to focus on getting all three books completed, but I will keep his critique in mind for the rest of the book. He did say that I needed to think out my world a little more — which, yeah, I could see that. World building and I aren’t really friends, and I was including as much as I knew in this rewrite.

All in all, not bad, and I know what things need to be improved upon, now. Of course, these are all couched in his opinions and whatnot, but that doesn’t mean that the critique isn’t valid, either. It’s all totally valid.

Putting it all into practice shouldn’t be that hard, I don’t think. I just need to work at it. And I will.

 

So I gathered up my courage and finally opened up my document for Seize the Day that has Christopher Buehlman’s commentary all over it.

The Prologue? Oh, dear god. It’s like I was put right back in high school. Chris (I’m calling him Chris from now on) ripped it to shreds. Shreds.

And I loved it. LOVED IT. Adored. Couldn’t contain my glee. For a few minutes, I sat in Mrs. Foxx’s 10th grade Honors English class, staring at my “rough” draft, blinking at how much red pen was scribbled all over it. How she would cross out whole paragraphs, give editing suggestions, pick out stylistic conventions that may not always be clear.

And that’s exactly what he did. In 10th grade, I prided myself on often being one of the kids with the least Red Pen. That more often than not, Mrs. Foxx didn’t cross out whole paragraphs on my draft. That I often scored at least a CHECK, if not a CHECK PLUS on those rough drafts. I forgot how humbling seeing that Red Pen could be, how empowering. Unfortunately, he didn’t do this for the first 50 pages — though I’m sure Chris’s poor brain would have melted out of his skull if he had.

Clearly, my stylistic writing conventions? I know they’re technically incorrect. I like for my prose to sound like a thought process, with repetition and odd breaks and starting with conjunctions. I always felt that drew the reader in more, that it allowed for the reader to have a better sense of what’s going on inside a character’s mind. It was a form of showing their mental state to me — but I likely overdo it. And it’s been so, sooo long since anyone stopped me and went, “Are you sure you should do it this way? Does it read as smoothly as you’d like? Or is it jarring to a reader. It’s in 3rd person POV, not 1st; people are a little less forgiving of it in 3rd.”

Even in the above paragraph, you can see these elements that I’m now stopping and reconsidering. I know how to write full sentences; I know how to cull some of the repetition, and I certainly know that starting with a conjunction? Not always a great thing to do. I like the effect these things have, but they might be best if I utilize them sparingly and with heavy care.

The soft urge that I would benefit from a professional editor alerted me that these things might be more distracting than anything else. I can certainly go over each book (once their first drafts are complete) and edit my stylistic choices down. Not out, just down. Save them for larger impact areas, hold them until the time is juuuust right.

Honestly, yesterday, when I saw all of the Red Pen, I closed the document and told myself to wait. I am so, so glad I did, because I can fully appreciate the amount of time and effort he put into just giving me commentary on the Prologue alone. His additional comments that related to the story itself? They were great, too. Some of them are even amusing. I will post highlights. If any of you follow my Facebook writer’s page, I’ve posted a couple of them there, too.

The biggest things I’ve learned, so far:

  • My stylistic conventions, while making the writing more personable, also can have an adverse effect on the reader
  • My characters’ use of language might have to be toned down some. They all love the word “fuck” because I love the word “fuck”
  • My sparse use of detail to paint a picture is a little too sparse, and sometimes I need to add a little more detail here and there to really plant the reader in the story

All things considered, this could have been a whole lot worse (so far). I still have four chapters to look through.

(He did, however, say I did a nice job with the Savin/Mari sex scene in Chapter One. Which is what I was really nervous about, lol.)

 

I don’t get writer’s block like most people. I can always find something to write, something to move forward on or to play with.

But my mind says it’s time to return to Seize the Day. I wrote chapter eight, started chapter nine, and stopped. Smaller projects called to me first. Then the partial rewrite of Gray Morning took over my brain for some time. After that? Back to smaller projects. I still have a submission piece I need to finish, but I left it for too long and am having trouble coming back to it. When the pressure gets a little heavier, I’m sure it’ll come back to me.

I work best under pressure, after all.

Since that small project isn’t speaking to me, and I don’t want to write the rest of Gray Morning, that leaves Seize the Day. And I am completely, utterly stuck on it. I knew there were issues with the time-line. I need to get it just right, because I want Mari to be a certain number of weeks pregnant by the time Jazz is shot so seriously Ryin calls for Savin’s help. Shortly after that, she’s going to go into pre-term labor and give birth a baby girl (Danni) that won’t make it, because she’s too premature and the doctors have their hands tied by the law and can’t help. 

So I fixed those. But how Mari figures out she’s pregnant wasn’t sitting well with me, either. So I brainstormed with my BFF Sarah in order to determine how Mari really figures shit out, and that helped, too. Usually, organization and timeline shit, along with something not being quite right in execution are the things that keep me blocked the most.

I have written just over 1000 words already today.

None of them are for Seize the Day but instead snippets of Gray Morning because I did the “write a drabble inspired by a song, for only the length of the song.” I did like… four of those this morning? Three? (Long songs, too — ones that were 7-10 minutes in length).

Clearly, I need something to kick my butt back into gear.  Something more drastic than fixing my outline and everything else. Just don’t know what.

Oh well. I’ll just continue to write snippets of Gray Morning to music until I can’t stand it anymore and force myself to restart chapter 9 of Seize the Day.

So, I am not a very subtle writer. I can try all I want to allude to a plot twist, I will never succeed in just alluding to it. Many are going to figure out that Mitchel’s intentions are nefarious at best. They’re going to assume that the man is involved with the Resistance. I’m positive of it.

But every once in a while, I think of this brilliant line. This blatant, outright hint that really, when it comes down to it, is just Mitchel doing what he does best: manipulate. Calculate. Say this one thing, earn all of the trust.

I try not to sledgehammer — and honestly, I’ve gotten better at it. It helps that I’m getting a handle on how to properly pace a story. It helps that I know a lot of the plot devices and the little bumps in the road for my characters ahead of time. Throw in a line here, dangle a tiny bit of information there. End a chapter with a single question that’ll make the reader think Oh fuck that can’t be good. 

I want the reader to dread. I want them to see things that the POV character of a chapter/section does not see. I show them the body language, I use Dramatic Irony to the best of my ability — anything, really, to pull them in and make them wonder just how long before things go to shit. I want them to guess at what happens next, and to hate me for it when I exceed their expectations.

And today, I wrote one of those Lines. One that made me grin ear to ear, one that made me go Oh yesssss as I wrote it, as my heart leapt in my chest. Because that line? Should make the reader question everything that proceeded it in that scene. Should make the reader question every little action that takes place after it. And I love it. It plants that seed of doubt, one that will make people fight over Mitchel’s characterization and his true motivations.

And I love it.

Please, let me know if and when you see it…

***

Jazz’s lips parted, just for a moment, before he tightly clamped them shut and shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about this,” he gritted through his teeth. He turned on his heel and stormed towards Mitchel’s front door. “I should have fucking known that you’d try and see how you could use this whole thing to your advantage.”

“This damn well isn’t about me, Callahan,” Mitchel growled, causing Jazz to stop in his tracks, his shoulders bunching together. “This is about you and Bates, and ultimately, the Empire. If the two of you are going your separate ways because of something inconsequential –”

“You don’t even know what he did!” Jazz snarled, glaring at Mitchel over his shoulder. Tears gathered in his eyes yet again, but he ignored them as he continued. “Don’t even fucking try to tell me I’m overreacting when you don’t know what that bastard did to me!”

“I can certainly make an educated guess,” Mitchel responded simply, standing up straight. He continued to close the distance between them, keeping his arms crossed over his chest. “Bates has become increasingly agitated the past few months. The growing distance between the two of you has been painfully obvious in that time — but I have not once seen you so adamant in refusing to work on your issues. Whatever he did, it’s not something you think can be fixed.”

“He almost fucking raped me,” Jazz spat. Mitchel’s eyes widened before his expression went blank. “So yeah, you’re right — I don’t think that’s something we can fucking fix.”

Jazz remained where he was for a moment, wishing his chest wouldn’t heave the way it did before he swallowed the rest of his tears and headed towards the door yet again. He ran his fingers through his hair, whimpering into the palms of his hands as he continued forward, refusing to look back.

It wasn’t like Mitchel actually cared, anyway. The asshole never did. Only looked out for himself and no one else, always used those around him to get what he wanted. What the hell made Jazz think that, for once in his fucking life, Mitchel could actually be human?

“Jazz, wait,” Mitchel called, his voice barely loud enough to be heard over Jazz’s tears.

Jazz stopped yet again, his hand resting lightly on the doorknob. When was the last time Mitchel had actually called him by his name? It had to have been years. “What?” he dared to ask, facing Mitchel. He avoided the other man’s eyes as tears spilled down his cheeks.

“You’re right — you really shouldn’t return to the Palace,” Mitchel said, frowning. “You should either report Bates for what he did and be prepared to handle the scandal it will cause, or…” Mitchel paused, taking a moment to clear his throat and approach Jazz slowly.

Jazz hastily wiped his tears away. “Or…?” he prompted, taking a step towards Mitchel.

Mitchel smiled, though it looked nothing like his usual smug expression. Sadness lingered behind it — something Jazz wasn’t sure he had ever seen before. “Or leave,” he finished quietly, looking away from Jazz. “No doubt, Bates will feel it necessary to blame your disappearance on the Resistance, but at least you will be free of him.”

“I can’t — the Empire –”

“There’s a Council for a reason,” Mitchel said, cutting him off. “If you wish, I can direct you to an…acquaintance of mine. That way, should you feel the need to provide suggestions for the ongoings within the Empire, you’ll be able to reach me.”

Jazz bit his lip and looked away, reaching for the doorknob behind him. “They’re not — not someone who’d know who I am, are they?” he asked, scuffing his feet along the floor.

“I assure you, Diehl will not recognize you without that ludicrous wig you wear for public appearances,” Mitchel said, smiling slightly. “He’s a good man — unlike myself.”

Jazz managed to smile back. “I dunno, Mitchel,” he whispered, feeling his cheeks grow warm, “You’re a better man than you realize.”

Maybe if Jazz had realized it before, he wouldn’t have gotten into this mess, in the first place.