NaNoWriMo Redux Roundup

Posted: December 3, 2014 in Writing
Tags: ,

So let’s see. Remember how I said I was modding out NaNoWriMo and it was really going to be 61k in 36 days? How’d that go?



I actually don’t really want to talk about any of this. Because of the lameness. But I feel I have to. Half the point of starting this blog way back when was simply to think aloud to get my crap together. Still. 50-50 that I actually press publish.

When I did this in 2012 as the final push to finish Amity, my kid was all of six months old. Infants are adorable, but often as lively as a sack of potatoes. My kiddo was not mobile and went to sleep at the drop of a hat. Now? Yeah… he’s two. Anyone else who has ever had an offspring is nodding in understanding. My kiddo is a fantastic little two year old and very low maintenance … for a two year old. He’s still a ball of fire. Who is starting potty training. And had to ditch the binky cold turkey. A two year old who is confused and pissed as to why he can’t have his binky can and will raise a lot of hell over it. I vastly overestimated the writing time I could carve out of life.


It is what it is. There’s nothing I can do about it. The kiddo needs what the kiddo needs. Insert witty zen-like phrase.

I still got In A Murphy Minute up to 50k (total, remember I started in October with high 20s). I wanted to be at 90k by tomorrow. Unless I can start bending the space time continuum, 40k in 36 hours is not going to happen. I did get a sizable chunk of it done though. That’s better than most months I have so I guess I will live with it.

What about the content of all those words?


Seriously. Meh.

I am having a lot of problems with Murphy right now. Honestly, that’s part of why I’ve lost headway on my wordcount this past week. I had a moment where I realized I was hitting the halfway point of the novel, and I still had not introduced the actual antagonist. It was a big double you tee eff moment. I wanted to give the relationship between my two main characters the attention it needed. By making the romance the A Plot and the magical gangsters the B Plot, I let the antagonists sit around on the sidelines waiting to be introduced for much too long.

My original framework for the plot was build when the protag was a guy and the character was a lot more abrasive. By making her nicer and expanding the roles of some supporting characters, large chunks of the middle of the book were not going to make sense as originally conceived. But that was ok. The first act and the last act were going to stay the same. I knew where I started, and I knew where I was heading if I got lost.

Still, it has made the middle tough because, even though I updated my working outline, that stretch of the plot is a lot less refined than the rest. Now I’ve got this big realization that I’m still have not introduced one of the primary characters that drives the whole fucking thing and the book is over halfway through the expected word count.


So I am having a serious lack of confidence in this book right now. I am sorely tempted to work on a different project. I have another novel that has been dominating my brain lately as opposed to the one I am supposed to be working on. I am resisting the temptation, though, because that is how novels never get finished.

But I can’t keep going on a project I have no faith in. Even though Amity never sold, I never lost faith in it until the rejections piled up. And still, I have a plan in the back of my head to strip down 90% of it and rewrite it as a single PoV in order to resurrect it some day.

And I think that’s what I need to do with Murphy Minute. A plan. Even if I don’t fix the first half of the book now, I think I need a game plan of how I am going to get the plotting into shape. With a game plan, I think I can regain my confidence in the book. One thing that I learned writing Amity, is that most of my editing will probably occur in the first act anyways so I am not terribly concerned or surprised by this fact. I know the characters better when I get to the end of the book.

I also finished the steampunk book I was reading yesterday. For today’s New Book Day, I decided that I needed to hit up a couple rereads that will jazz up my writing. Certain books inspire my writing on a level that others do not. So today I started my annual read of Nine Princes in Amber, my single all time favorite book.  I think I may follow up with a reread of Breach Zone which I was reading when I first started writing the novel. I might follow up with some Delilah S Dawson books as well. The romance disguised as sci fi is exactly how I’m handling writing Murphy Minute and surrounding myself with more of it should help. Not that the other books I’ve been reading haven’t been good or anything. I’ve actually been on a very good streak of excellent reads. I just think reading more spiritual kin to my own novel will be a positive.

And positives are what I need so I can finish and make this a damn good book.

NaNoWriMo Redux Update

Posted: November 8, 2014 in Writing
Tags: ,

Here’s a quick update on my 61k/36days mod of NaNoWriMo…

I’m around 11k words for the week so far. That’s fantastic for me. I don’t think I’ve hit that kind of word count since the final push for the first draft of Amity two years ago. The Amity final push was only 35k in a month. I don’t remember the exact week by week breakdown of the Amity push. I would have not even known then, remember, I wrote my first novel by hand so I could write at work when I was on third shift. There were a whole bunch of things that made hand writing a novel a special kind of hell, not least of all, no word count, just a rough estimation. Which ended up being overestimated by 20k when I was done. Amity was kind of short.

Anyways. According to my Calendar of Doom, at this very second, I am 5k behind getting Murphy Minute done by my birthday. Twice this week I fell asleep on my couch when I was putting my kiddo to bed. Twice more I started dozing off at the keyboard well before my 1.8k daily word goal. It’s not easy to write a lot of words with a two year old. He was an infant when I wrote the last book and small enough to fall asleep on me while I typed.

Rather than getting really annoyed with myself over not getting enough done, I like to think I’m doing pretty damn good at reminding myself that 10k in a week is probably one of the best weekly wordcounts I’ve ever had.

How’s the rest of In A Murphy Minute going?

Well, I think it’s solid. A lot more solid than Amity ever was.

Remember how a while back I scrapped 12k words, genderflipped my protag and restarted the whole thing? When I did, I also pushed back the timeline of the opening chapter and replotted the whole thing. Finally, after all this time (and triple the word count) I’ve gotten the Amina version past where the Cole version stopped. The basic framework of the plot stayed exactly the same and since I’ve started the Amina version, I’ve made her a lot less abrasive and expanded the role of some secondary characters. I’ve gone off the rails of the outline a few times, in part because of the changes Amina’s character has gone through.

The novel is stronger for all of that.

One of problems I did not see with Amity after it didn’t sell, was that I tend to rush from one big moment to the next without stitching them together well. I’ve seen this in short stories of mine too. Certain chapters of Murphy Minute are like pulling teeth because I want to rush off to the next important conversation or the fight scene or concert with Amina on stage. There’s a car chase I’ve been looking forward to writing for years. But I can’t rush. I can’t leave holes in the book like I did last time. I’ve seen it early enough to fix it this time around without wasting all my queries and getting a fist full of rejections.

But stitching those chapters together is a pain in the ass.

Which is why I’ve been screwing around on the blog for the last twenty minutes instead of writing new words.

Sounds like I’m in store for one of my patented “Dear Future Me (Present You), I’m dropping the ball on you cause I don’t wanna do it. Sucks to be you. Signed, Present Me (Past You)”

So National Novel Writing Month officially drops in eleven and a half hours when the clock strikes midnight.

Writers across the world drop into the word mines and hope to hell that when the clock strikes midnight on December 1, that we have something complete we can work with on a second draft.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. Well, kinda sorta not really.

I’m doing NaNoFinMo aka National Novel Finishing Month aka NaFiTFuckThiMo aka National Finish The Fucking Thing Month.


Really I get a couple extra days (plus that extra Daylight Savings hour this weekend) because my actual goal is to get this done by my birthday. Remember how I did that for my last novel? Yeah. The “Finish by my birthday” goal was very reasonable back in June. Now that I have 36 days to go? Eh… not so much.

It’s still doable. I’ve got 29k written right now. Based off the length of my outline, I estimate the draft of In A Murphy Minute will hit 90k. So that’s 61k in 36 days. That’s 1700/day. Because my birthday is on December 4 and not December 1, I really only have to do a little bit more than a NaNoWriMo pace.

So I guess that means I’ll be ignoring the blog a lot this month. Again. Writing takes priority until this novel is done and then I’ll breathe during the month of December then I have another grandiose project I am going to start in January when I’m rev’ing Murphy Minute.

Not joining me in the word mines? Well I’ve read some great books lately you should read too.


The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. I will be surprised if this one doesn’t win all the awards and Hurley is one of the smartest people in the genre. Read her blog just as fast as her book.






All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. This is a fast paced military sci fi book from Japan that reads kind of like Old Man’s War. It was made into that Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow. When I get a chance to see the movie, I’ll dust off my film degree and write about that.




Perdition by Ann Aguirre. This is the first in a new series that takes place entirely on a prison space station. As in, someone docks, dumps in prisoners and then that’s it. Who needs guards when there’s no where go to? It’s a dark sci fi starring a kick ass heroine in a world where everyone is the worst of the worst convicted killers.


Posted: September 10, 2014 in Stuff, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

So I’ve talked about things that inspire my writing rather frequently. It’s the sort of thing that blogs are for. Usually it’s when I mention my Shelf of Honor. That’s the small little shelf that lives near my bed with my all time favorite books on it. Scott Lynch, Roger Zelazny, Thorne Smith, Cherie Priest and so on and so on. Today, I’m not here to talk about the Shelf of Honor.

I’m here to talk about all the other stuff that inspires my writing.

See, we’re all not just writers, we’re storytellers. There are a lot of ways to tell a story, but there are certain things that are true across all mediums. I think this attitude comes from all those years I spent in film school. Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses. Film is better at motion than print. Video games have a leg up on immersion. Television (when it’s given enough episodes) has the benefit of time to go in different directions. Print excels at getting inside a character’s head. I think someone writing for any medium can learn from the best of the others

So what else out there influences my own writing? Keep reading, I’m getting there.

Mass-Effect-31Mass Effect

This one is almost a no-brainer among anyone who plays video games. BioWare, the company behind the Mass Effect series, has become known for the stories in their games. Having one continuous story span across three games still comes off as innovative to me even though the games have been around a while. The story is so very extensive it’s like the amped up version of a Choose You’re Own Adventure. Specifically, I prefer the second game out of the trilogy because A) it has the most story and B) it’s still a video game and has better gameplay than the first one. The opening montage in ME2 floors me even though I know exactly what’s about to happen. The best stories are the ones that get that reaction out of you even after the first time you’ve experienced it. The fact that it happens to a character I had just played dozens of hours with in a previous game really builds a connection to the player just to use that connection to manipulate the hell out of you.

The kicker to Mass Effect is there is very good tie in media. I’ve got one of the novels and a couple of the comics. It keeps the story going even away from the Xbox.


Exo-Squad was a cartoon from the 90s and I very distinctly remember watching it every day when I got home from middle school. This was the first cartoon that I had ever seen that had a serious story and didn’t just assume cartoons was “kiddie” stuff. Keep in mind, this was, not only before anime went mainstream, but before anime had even grown to niche status. (The first anime I saw is a completely different story courtesy of WPIX from NYC and the earliest days of Sci-Fi Channel) In the years since, I’ve heard Exo-Squad described as an American Anime. It was one continuous storyline spanning years across a large cast of characters. There were consequences felt from one episode to the next and there was no status quo to return to at the end of the show. It dealt with serious issues of fate, racism and slavery on a backdrop of a solar system spanning war. And military robot suits. Don’t forget the military robot suits. Spoiler alert… this is also the first time I ever saw a cartoon that killed off a character. (Also, boo! it was my favorite one) When I was 12, this gobsmacked me. I loved this show so much, after learning Dungeons and Dragons (2nd ed! THACO represent!), I worked with one of my friends to make a tabletop RPG on Exo-Squad because I wanted to be a part of that story.

I’ve watched episodes of it since and it still holds up.


Hey, I went to film school, of course I’m going to add some movies in on this. Ronin is hands down one of my favorite films of all time. I wrote my thesis on this. I’ve seen it dozens upon dozens of times. One of the hallmarks of director John Frankenheimer, is kinetic motion and sound used in his storytelling. The director was a pioneer in the mechanics of filming a car chase back in the 60s. For a film called Grand Prix, he was the first person to strap a camera on the front bumper of a race car. Frankenheimer spent decades honing the skill of telling a story with cars in motion. Ronin has the best car chase of all time in it. Seriously. Take seven minutes of your life and watch it right now. I’ll wait. That scene tells a story without using a single word. You can close your eyes and listen to each car and know what each is doing. One of my goals with my writing is to pull off that same kinetic motion in print. I don’t know if I can ever pull it off. Car chases are something more suited to film than print, but I’m sure going to try. I am specifically putting a car chase into the novel in progress. Writing with such energy and movement is not easy to do. It’s not done very often. Myke Cole has pulled it off. Tobias Buckell too.


I wrote a whole blog post on how Defiance is the future of storytelling. Season two has upped their game since they’ve worked out some of the new show wrinkles. Anything I say here will be reiterating what I said back when I first wrote about it. Media crossovers aren’t that’s new. Dungeons and Dragons has been doing it for decades. Star Wars too. Those were all made of movies, games and print, but in the end, each item was a seperate piece of storytelling. It may have a common setting or referenced others in the world, but each piece still stood on its own. Defiance has leveled up the way storytellers have integrated television and video games. I can fire up my PlayStation and shoot hellbugs with Nolan and Irisa and run with Rynn after she escaped from prison. Then I can see them all live their lives on the SyFy channel. This is something that I think Defiance will pave the way for, especially as they refine their version of the craft. I hope they hit the point where they can dip into other mediums as well such as print and comics the way Mass Effect did.

Star-Wars-the-Clone-WarsClone Wars

Clone Wars is my current Netflix obsession. I never watched the show during it’s first run because of all that sprawl and continuous storyline, I didn’t want to just jump right in. Netflix is actually the best way to watch a show like this. Which is good because Netflix’s selection of actual movies tends to suck. This may be nerd sacrilage, but Clone Wars justifies the existence of the Star Wars prequels. The storytelling is just that good. It is everything the prequels wish they could be. Except for Jar Jar. He still shows up. Those parts do suck. This series has a lot of heft to it. It’s able to go places that the prequels never had the time to (yet tried to anyways). This show takes a page from Hitchcock. He said (paraphrasing the hell out of this, but most film school nerds know it) if you show a scene of two characters talking and a bomb explodes, you have only one moment of emotion from the audience. If you show the bomb with a big countdown on it first, then let the two characters talk, you have an entire scene of emotions.

That’s what Clone Wars has been doing for me when I watch it. We know Palpatine isn’t just some benign politicion. We know what happens to Anakin. You can pick up on some pretty dark hints with Anakin because we know he becomes Vader. Those aren’t just nerdy little in-jokes. That’s deft storytelling. They took our expectations and are playing a long con with them.

Ignoring the Blog

Posted: September 7, 2014 in Junk, Writing

I am going to spend all of five minutes not ignoring the blog to tell you how I really am ignoring the blog.

I’ve just about wrapped up Act One of the current novel which I’ve just decided I’m going to code name Minute. That’s the punk rocker godpunk novel for those who have been paying attention. Right now I’m knee deep in a update of my working outline. I’ve made some changes to the protag’s behavior based off of feedback from my first chapter. She’s less of a loaner now and it has caused ripple effects that have screwed up my outline real bad. I’ve also added a whole additional character. It’s for the better, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. But I was getting bogged down pretty bad without having the outline to work with.

On top of all that, last night I wrote a synopsis for the novel that’s going to come after Minute, code named Six. A while back, I drafted a short story starring the protag of Six. I finally figured out the set up for a novel’s worth of plot so I wrote it all down before I forgot it.

All those novel words take priority over the blog. I do have a laundry list of topics I plan on blogging about when I do magically find the time. They include…

  • Non-book inspirations to my writing
  • Checking in on the careers of authors that debuted around the time I started this blog
  • An interview with at least one author I’m not naming because I haven’t asked yet
  • Kameron Hurley’s Mirror Empire because it’s good and will be important to the genre
  • A group interview about writing with kids what since I write and have a tiny human

That’s all. Back to ignoring the blog.


Non Player Character

Posted: August 31, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , ,

I’m sharing another short story of mine here on the blog since I had some good feedback from the last one. I wrote this one as an explicit challenge to myself to get something short done. I ramble a lot. As you’ve probably noticed. Short can be very difficult but I liked the way this one turned out. Fair warning… it’s experimental as hell, it plays around with formatting a bit. It will definitely appeal to the gamers (or rehab’d gamers) the most.

Give it a shot anyways. It’s pretty nifty.

Non Player Character – by Mike Douton

Welcome to Hac Nocte patch 5.4, and prepare yourself to change the way you play MMOs forever! Beginning at 0300 Pacific Standard Time, all servers will be shut down for approximately ten hours. We apologize for the unusually lengthy downtime but this is to accommodate Hac Nocte’s most ambitious and hotly anticipated feature to date: Adaptive AI.

We brought in leading artificial intelligence experts to create the first game that learns from you, the citizens of Hac Nocte. The quests and monsters of the world will no longer offer static tactics, so bring your A game. This is being introduced on a trial basis, so the Adaptive AI is being implemented on a limited selection of NPCs and monsters. Which ones? If we told you, that would ruin the fun.

Click on the link below for a full list of all the 5.4 updates, including a complete rundown of the new Adaptive AI.


Hail <<Player>>! You look like a strong and hearty adventurer. Perhaps you could chance upon yourself to help an old monk? I was making my pilgrimage to the Basilica of Attle, as my order is wont to do, but I hail from a small temple myself and had not the fellow brothers and sisters to join me in my travels. Crossing these perilous mountains alone, Zolia and her bandits set upon me on the road to the north. The temptress and elvish cur took from me the holy symbol of my order and left me on the road for the wolves. My injuries will keep me laid up in this outpost for days and I have not the strength to track down the bandit hideaway. Please <<Player>>, seek out this elf who wronged me, slay her with the gods’ justice and return my holy symbol to me. I will see you rewarded with what items I have left.

<<Token of Soomer>>

<<Robes of the Mountain Trail>>

<<Pilgrim’s Boots>>


Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Elapsed time… 4m26s

Player <<Calichi>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Attack Player <<Calichi>> with… Unequipped_melee

If player dies and/or no players inside 50m aggro range, return to loc 86,24

If NPC Zolia hp < 0 fade out and begin respawn counter


Repeat ad nauseum


Run Adaptive AI Analysis – Kill to death ration 9:117. Maximum damage per second threshold with Unequipped_melee reached. Maximum armor threshold with Armor_none reached. Analysis concludes, increase maximum thresholds with acquisition of items.


Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Player <<Shada>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Attack Player <<Shada>> with… Unequipped_melee

Player <<Shada>> hp < 0. Player <<Shada>> is dead

ALERT! Player <<Argain>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Target Player_corpse Shada. Loot item <<Fleet Force Short Sword>>

Attack Player <<Argain>> with… Fleet Force Short Sword

Damage per second threshold dramatically increased

Satisfactory analysis


Repeat ad nauseum


Run Adaptive AI Analysis – Kill to death ratio 204:316. Increase of maximum damage per second and armor thresholds equated with temporary ratio increase. Thresholds reached again. Analysis – player movement patterns increased and changed. Conclusion – NPC Zolia must accommodate player movements.


Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Player movements detected

Player Thice spotted outside 50m aggro range

Run Adaptive AI Analysis – ERROR ERROR

Adaptive AI Analysis can only be run in despawned state

Despawning NPC Zolia in 5… 4… 3…

Bypass despwan NPC Zolia. Force Adaptive AI Analysis for NPC Zolia

Adaptive AI Analysis – Player Thice range 57m. Inventory Focus Longbow range 60m. Player Thice hp < 50%. Thice activating healing over time. Conclusion…

Attacking <<Thice>> with… Focus Longbow

Pursue Thice. Attacking Thice with… Attle Truesteel Dagger

Player Thice is dead.

Loot Thice. Thice equipment < NPC Zolia equipment. Scan Inventory… Loot <<Box of Invisibility Potions>>

ALERT! Player movements detected at spawn loc 86,24

Multiple players detected engaging with camp NPCs. Detection is not optimal for NPC Zolia. Use item <<Box of Invisibility Potions>>

Multiple players are waiting at loc 86,24. Loc 86,24 is for NPC Zolia. Conclusion, players are waiting for NPC Zolia.

ALERT! Effect Invisibility countdown timer running low. Visible in ten seconds. Risk level high for NPC Zolia. Analyze player tactics. Player one class, warrior, high armor medium damage. Player two class, rogue has medium armor and high damage. Player class three, cleric has low armor and low damage. Cleric has critical beneficial spell casting.

Attacking Cleric <<Bucks>> with Attle Truesteel Dagger. Use ability Sneak Attack.

NPC Zolia attack speed is high. Damage threshold is high. Cleric Bucks reaction time is low. NPC Zolia’s Attle Truesteel Dagger strikes soundly on Bucks. Bucks hp is less than zero. NPC Zolia has slain Bucks.


Positive feedback loop due to results.


ALERT! Warrior <<Ting> using ability Charge. NPC Zolia turn to face Ting. Movement speed insufficient. Ting scores critical hit. ALERT! Rogue <<Geris>> uses ability Sneak Attack. Geris scores critical hit. NPC Zolia falls to the ground. Negative feedback loop localized in critical hit locations. Analyze negative feedback loop. Intensely undesirable. NPC Zolia hp is less than zero. NPC Zolia is slain. NPC Zolia desires return to despawn state to eliminate negative feedback loop. Fade to despawn state in 5… 4… 3.. ERROR! Negative feedback loop prevents transition to despawn state. Respawn in ten minutes. Negative feedback loop persisting. NPC Zolia strongly desires avoidance of the negative feedback loop.


Warrior Ting says aloud – “Let’s wait for respawn.”

NPC Zolia spawn loc 86,24 is not safe from negative feedback loop. Conclusion, NPC Zolia needs new spawn loc.


Repeat ad nauseum


Breathe NPC Zolia Loc 91,32


NPC Zolia has a positive feedback loop over the new spawn point. It is uphill from NPC Zolia’s true loc, screened from view by the trees. NPC Zolia reviews the inventory and approaches a nearby cave full of ogre AI drone spawn points. The last player encountered by NPC Zolia was class: engineer. NPC Zolia’s inventory rattles with frost grenades and incendiary grenades. There is a cadre of players at NPC Zolia’s true loc and the new goods are key to the new ambush about to take place.

Beyond the aggro range of the ogres, NPC Zolia takes the last Swiftfoot Potion in the inventory. Concern had in regards to the potential emergencies which may require a Swiftfoot Potion was overridden by an expected positive feedback loop after this new ambush tactic. Players in simultaneous quantity were overwhelming NPC Zolia so NPC Zolia would bring quantity to the players.

The Swiftfoot Potion left a strange but not negative sensation to the new inputs NPC Zolia was developing. NPC Zolia’s feet felt lighter when the potion took effect. The incendiary grenade arced into the center of the ogre AI drone camp, its burst damage flowering across the whole lot of ogres. At these levels, the damage over time effect is minimal, but the damage is not what NPC Zolia is after, rather the attention and aggro.

NPC Zolia outwardly expresses a positive feedback loop at the now flaming ogre AI drones. They are not like NPC Zolia. They are without feedback analysis. Predictability in ogre AI drones is lamentable but useful to NPC Zolia today though. NPC Zolia turns down the hill, darting among the trees letting the Swiftfoot Potion carry NPC Zolia two steps ahead of the aggro’d ogres.

A hundred meters from the players at 86,24, NPC Zolia breaks from the treeline into a clearing. Increase speed as much as possible. Fifty meters and a player spots NPC Zolia, firing off a bow shot. Speed is in greater need than damage mitigation NPC Zolia concludes. The arrow activates the audio inputs for NPC Zolia as it pierces the shoulder. The negative feedback loop surrounding the arrow is extreme causing NPC Zolia to wordlessly vocalize and almost to slow the speed built up careening down the hill. The plan, the ambush is greater than the negative feedback loops. Increase speed as much as possible.

At the edge of the camp at NPC Zolia’s true loc, the other players have reacted to the bowman’s alarm. All eyes are on NPC Zolia as weapons are armed and spells readied. NPC Zolia darts among them and with a leap and a tumble out of range, NPC Zolia drops the engineer’s frost grenade. With a shattering audio input, the devise freezes the players’ feet solid. All feet may be immobile but all eyes are still on NPC Zolia.

With a positive feedback loop expressed, NPC Zolia emotes a wave to the players. NPC Zolia has their full attention now. The bowman lets loose another shaft that pierces the ground by the feet of NPC Zolia. Not a single player thinks to look what follows in NPC Zolia’s wake as the flaming ogre AI drones pour into the camp at loc 86,24. Unprepared, the players are outnumbered, unmoving and slaughtered. The ogres leave for their true locs eventually and NPC picks the player corpses clean.

NPC Zolia has been victorious.

I have been victorious.


cormorantChuck Wendig’s prose is a friggin’ force of nature.

Everything of his I’ve read is like an avalanche. You keep turning the pages and just try to keep up because you aren’t stopping. I’ve also got a special affinity for talking about Wendig on this blog. His first book, Blackbirds starring the foul mouthed protag, Miriam Black, debuted not long after I started posting on ye olde blog. His work ethic is like a tornado so I haven’t read all the books he’s published yet, but I still see him leveling up with each book I’ve read.

Today, we’re talking The Cormorant, the third of the Miriam Black books. My pal Drea blogging over at Scribbles at Midnight lamented on twitter that she needed to pick a new book out of the To Read Pile on the same day as me. So we both picked up with the swearing woman who knows when you’re going to die. We’re each attacking one angle of The Cormorant and getting feedback from the other. Read all the cool stuff going on below this paragraph and bounce over to Drea’s “Not a Book Review” to read all the other stuff the cool kids are going to be talking about.

Now I’m pretty sure this makes us some sort of blogging Voltron. I think I’m the left foot.

Let’s hit the back of the book copy before we get any farther along in saving the universe.

Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from “thief” to “killer”.

Hired by a wealthy businessman, she heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she’s good at, but in her vision she sees him die by another’s hand and on the wall written in blood is a message just for Miriam.

She’s expected…

Hrm. Not much to go with, eh? I seriously feel bad for whatever person at Angry Robot that has to write back of the book copy. Angry Robot books tend to be off the beaten path, which often means spoilers and things that aren’t just going to be summed up in two paragraphs. But that’s ok when you get to book three in a series I guess. If you’re getting this far along, you’ve probably already met Miriam. I know I don’t often bother reading the back of the book in a series until I’m sitting down to blog about it. I just said “Ohh! Book three. Hell yeah to that.” I must have at some point though because I vaguely remember the phrasing in it. But I don’t think it was until after I already purchased it.

So I’m off on a wild tangent. Let’s kill the introduction and get on with the good stuff.

The big thing I want to key in with The Cormorant is the character arc Miriam has in this book and how it fits in with the character arc over all. More to the point, this is the first time I felt there was any sort of serious character growth going on with Miriam. In the first book, Miriam is a swear filled breath of fresh air in the genre. I loved every second of it, but in the end Miriam was doing nothing but surviving. In the second book, Mockingbird, Miriam starts out in a better place, but gives stability the finger early on and regresses back to just surviving. The stakes are much higher in this book so it’s all good though. Now we’ve gotten to book three and… more of the same. She spends the first half of the book doing exactly the same. She’s doing a fortune teller thing and is one small step above homeless. Survival. It started to wear me down a little bit. Around the halfway point, Miriam comes across her mother. After that, woah! There was three books worth of character arc crammed into some 150-odd pages. I definitely felt satisfied that the growth happened, but it was almost too late. I’m excited for the fourth book, when it comes out, but there were a couple chapters in the middle of this one where I got worried.

So anyways. That’s the short version of what I thought. But I’m not talking shop by myself today! We’re fancy today, so I’m tossing out some questions about Miriam and her character arc to Drea to see thinks. When you’re done, don’t forget to bounce over to her blog where we reversed the set up and I talk at length about the questions she came up with during her reading.

Me: How do you feel Miriam’s character arc in Cormorant fits in with the overall arc of the story? Do you think it took too long to get there?

Drea: I think Miriam’s character arc was pretty consistent. In the first and second books she is the same pithy mouthy smart ass. However in this third book I think she was a little more muted. Which was honestly a relief. Miriam is difficult to like, she’s rough on everyone and she knows it. What frustrates me the most is definitely how long it took for her to realize that maybe she should smooth over some of her rough edges for the sake of the people she cares about. Or even just to keep herself out of a little trouble.

I think that’s one of the things that confuses me about why I keep reading the series. She’s a truly unique character – she’s intentionally unlikeable. I enjoy how different she is. But I really don’t like HER. It astounds me that Wendig has gotten me to return three times considering how irksome I find this protagonist. J

Me: How do you feel about her mother, i.e. her past, being the catalyst for the change?

Drea: I think Miriam has been running from her mother and what happened to her all her life and I think it’s about time she actually tried dealing with her relationship problems instead of flipping them the finger.

That said it’s only natural that her mother sparks this change in her. In some ways I think seeing that her mother had changed gave Miriam the courage to admit that she needed and wanted to change as well. Although it’s clear just from her interactions with Gabby when she actually apologizes to her that she had already begun maturing some.

And in fact the more I think about it the more I think Miriam is just getting older and more mature in this book. There’s no one catalyst for change. When she murders the teenager she realizes she’s crossed a line and I think that more than anything else is a defining moment for her.

Me: Do you think it’s better or worse that she is doing all her character growing solo without Louis, even though he was such an important part of the previous books?

Drea: Can I just say I’m solidly, staunchly team Louis? I think he’s the main reason I keep coming back to this series.  And while I missed him in this book I think it’s an absolutely necessary thing that she’s doing all her growing AWAY from him.

As the second book showed – you can’t change just to please someone else. She tried to settle down with him before she was really ready to and the outcome was disastrous. I have high hopes for them in the future. And to be honest I hope that there isn’t any romance blossoming between Miriam and Gabby over the long haul.  I think Miriam is bad news for anyone she touches and Gabby has already had enough bad news.

In the next book I hope to see a LOT more change in Miriam because I’m tired of her hurting everyone who tried to help her.

So I hope that Wendig doesn’t backpedal on what I saw in the last half of the Cormorant because I’m tired of Miriam causing most of the conflict in the novel by being an asshole. This time I want to see some truly external conflict. I’m looking for less of a character study and more plotting.

Boom! That was rad, wasn’t it? Make sure to hit Drea’s website for the other half of the Two Person Book Club.