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Feb. 11th, 2011

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Updates

Black Gate 15 is another giant-sized issue, and will shortly be out to the printer.  I hope all of you have dropped by to see the fabulous new cover by Donato Giancola. If not, you should visit the site and feast your eyes.

I've been slowly cobbling a site of my own together at www.howardandrewjones.com, where I'll be blogging about my own writing. My first novel is being released from St. Martin's imprint Thomas Dunne Books in just a few days, followed by a second novel from Paizo a few days after that.

I'm still not sure quite what to do with this Black Gate Livejournal page. I've been too busy with other projects to keep it going, especially since there is a huge blog collective on the Black Gate web site itself. When I have something to say that the magazine's readers might find interesting, I've been saying it in the same spot as the rest of the bloggers. For now, though, I'll leave this Livejournal spot active. It's probably optimistic of me to think that I might one day have more time, but a man can dream.

Best,
Howard Andrew Jones

May. 16th, 2010

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Late Update

Dear Black Gate folks,

In case it wasn't entirely clear, there really isn't going to be a sister magazine called Spicy Troubadour. Sorry.

I should also point out that, in case nobody knew, the next issue of Black Gate came out and it's a beauty. I hope you're already reading it, or the PDF, available on site.

I'm not altogether sure what to do with this space these days. I'm pretty much head down over my Paizo game novel and will be until mid July, at which point I have to return to being head down over the second Dabir and Asim novel until September. Most of my posts about BG are now appearing over on the official Black Gate web site. I'm a bit behind on reading and reviewing, alas. And posting... I haven't posted anything here since that April 1 post.

So... what do I use this space for? Do I simply use it to duplicate the articles on the Black Gate web page? Or do I use it as a more informal place to discuss with the magazine readers? 

What are your thoughts? Any useful suggestions are appreciated!

Warm Regards,
Howard

Apr. 1st, 2010

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Black Gate to Launch Sister Magazine

Rumors about our new venture have been spreading for weeks, and it's time that John and I finally came clean. Next month we'll be launching a call for submissions to our new, bi-monthly sister magazine, Spicy Troubadour.

John and I have been getting letters for years asking for more stories about bards, minstrels, and troubadours in adventurous situations and exotic positions, and we finally decided to bow to public demand. We didn't want to change the core makeup of the fiction within Black Gate, hence Spicy Troubadour.

Heading up the new venture will be Managing Editor John C. Hocking, author of Conan and the Emerald Lotus, recent recipient of the Harper's Pen award, and owner of the largest collection of troubadour music and antique, clashing-legged lederhosen in all of Michigan.

While the primary thrust of the magazine will be stories about medieval music makers, to broaden appeal, Spicy Troubadour will also print comic Viking stories, and urban fantasies featuring vampires with talking cats.

We look forward to reading your submissions! Further details will be posted as the launch date nears.

Mar. 2nd, 2010

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Ten Writing Thingies

Burger-Eater, aka the writer of Child of Fire and various Black Gate stories, aka Harry Connolly, recently linked to a list of various well-known writers’ list of top ten things writers should do. Recently he posted his own list, and so too did the talented Sherwood Smith. Much discussion ensued.

 

You can find both lists here, if you haven’t seen them already. It’s good stuff. Some of the lists to which Harry linked had suggestions I didn’t agree with – like always avoiding any dialogue tag but SAID, amongst other things – but there was good stuff there too. Some of it may work for you and some of it may not, but it's sure to get you thinking.

 

Harry Connolly's List 

 

Sherwood Smith's List

 

Looking at these two inspiring links got me to thinking what my own ten things were. So, hmm. Here's ten hard lessons that I learned to apply to my writing process:

 

  1. Well, stay off the danged internet is one of them. That’s why I write on a computer without internet access, and why I haven’t finished reading all the comments or writerly advice on all these threads yet. (I may be transforming into a crotchety hermit, I’m not sure.) 

 

  1. Harry says not to have a ritual because one day when you don’t have the music, or the notebook, or the chair and the thermos and the lamp or what have you handy, you won’t be able to write. He’s got a point, but I do think you need to recognize that you have to do something to move into the writing space. Maybe you could have a choice of rituals. Sometimes I do a few stretches before I sit down to work. Sometimes I put my hand on my notebook and take deep breaths for ten seconds or so. You’re entering a creative space. You can’t expect to just dive in from the regular world and make it happen.

 

          Or maybe you don’t need rituals at all. More power to you, then. I find them useful.

 

  1. Know what all the characters in the scene want before they come on stage.

 

  1. Don’t force it when you’re stuck – get up and pace, or do something else for a bit and let your subconscious wrestle with it.

 

  1. If the subconscious can’t wrestle it apart, then try plotting it out with a notebook, listing all the thoughts and possibilities as they come. These days I work through almost all of my writing problems this way.

 

  1. Always carry a notebook and writing utensil. Laptop, schmaptop. In the time it takes you to unlimber it and fire it up, you could already have jotted down a few notes, which is what a small NOTEbook is perfect for. Ideas, snatches of conversation, whatever. You can carry a notebook with you out to eat, or pull it out while there’s a train on the tracks, or while you’re out fixing the horse fence. You’re unlikely to have your laptop at any of those places.

 

  1. Let the background details play out gradually.

 

  1. Character interaction should move plot.

 

  1. Play to your strengths during the rough draft. For instance, I find dialogue easier than descriptive prose, and prefer editing, so I like to get the whole thing drafted, with big chunks of dialogue, then go back through and pretty it up.

 

  1. There is no Right Way up the mountain. Every writer has different methods, and different styles. Maybe you agree that you should never use anything but said for a dialogue tag, but make sure it’s your choice, not a thoughtless adoption because some expert said it. Do what works for you. Heck, what works for you one day may not work for you the next, so keep lots of tricks handy.

Right, well, go visit those other lists, or comment here if you'd like. I've already violated one of my other rules by taking too long to write this. I mean, if I have more than an hour to put this post together, shouldn't I be writing some fiction? Which reminds me, if you're reading this, or their lists during your writing time, stop. Your writing time should be sacred to the muse, so stop bringing other things into it. You'll get more work done and won't feel as guilty later for cheating on her. Or him. Whatever your muse is.

Feb. 22nd, 2010

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Facebook

So I see that other magazines are on Facebook, and I was debating the creation of a Facebook page for Black Gate.

To be honest, I'm still not sure what purpose Facebook really serves in my life. I do like that I'm occasionally in touch with old friends and school chums, and when one of us says something it's almost like we're all gathering around the water cooler to comment on something nice or to commiserate on something challenging.

As to Black Gate, well, the site itself gets updated almost every day, so what would I be posting on Facebook -- hey, something new is up? Well, duh; it's pretty easy to see that. The other option is to just create a Facebook page for people to mark as fans and to do little else with it, but then the page would look abandoned and I don't want it to look as if Black Gate is non functional.

What do y'all think? I'm still inclined not to create the Facebook page, as I'm frankly too busy for what I'm doing already. Is there some greater purpose to it of which I'm not aware? I'm not saying it's bad for a magazine to have a Facebook page, I'm just not sure  Black Gate needs it.

Feb. 21st, 2010

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My Book Deal

Back in November of '09 I mentioned that I’d discuss how my book deal came to be, and I’ve realized since that it’s a tale of connections. The deal itself reads anti-climatically, which is why I delayed posting about it. I finished revising a book, I gave it to a friend, he showed it to his editor, I got an offer, I talked to agents of two writer friends, agonized about which agent to select, then chose one. See? Boiled down, the process sounds simple; after all, I’m just one of those lucky guys who wrote a novel and showed it to a friend, then got a book deal after just a few weeks from the first pro who looked at it. Easy as pie, right?

 

This account of events manages to miss a couple of things. The deal happened fast – if you leave off the year of drafting, and that I knew the characters of the novel so well because I’d been writing short stories about them for nine years. Then there’s the fact that before this book deal are twenty preceding years of sending other novels out to publishers and agents and collecting rejections... I honestly am not sure how many novels I’ve written before this. Sometimes they’d been rewritten so many times that each draft was a completely different animal (and one that still got rejected). It’s taken me a lot longer to get here than I would have liked, but I have to say, I appreciate it so much more than I would have if I’d just fallen into it. Apparently I'm not a fast learner, but I am really stubborn.

 

Nor should anyone reading my story gloss over the importance of friends. I didn’t just happen to have a friend, Scott Oden, who had multiple book deals, an editor, and an agent. It’s not as though Scott’s my next door neighbor. Scott gives a fine accounting of how we became friends here and it's illustrative of an important point. Writers should not be islands unto themselves – they should reach out to kindred spirits. If I had remained in my writerly cave, I would not have a book deal.

 

When I appear in an anthology I try to read the work of the other authors, and if I find like-minded spirits, I drop them a line. I do the same if I’m reading some reviews I like, or a novel I like. I write the author an e-mail. Sometimes they don’t respond. Sometimes they do and we exchange a few cordial notes. Sometimes we become occasional pen pals, and sometimes there is so much commonality we become friends.

 

Someone once accused me of running a deliberate campaign to promote myself, but I'm not that mercenary, and no one I've become friends with this way is stupid enough to be tricked by a social climber pretending to be their pal. While I’m basically an introvert, I’m pretty social for a writer, and I get lonely. Writing, hell, I guess any art I can think of, is a lonely business. When I see someone doing something I admire, I want to reach out and tell them, and maybe pick their brain a little. It’s good to exchange notes with other writers. How do they go about it? How do they wrestle with the demons, meet their deadlines, get so many words a day? What writers inspire them? How did they learn about this trick or that… you get the idea. And since I write sword-and-sorcery or heroic fiction or, at the least, stories with adventure, when I first started seeing print it was hard to find other short fiction writers with a similar aesthetic because so few magazines were open to that kind of thing. I wanted to meet other people who were as into this kind of thing as I was. As a result, some of my dearest friends today are people I met because I wanted to compare notes with like-minded folks.

 

In short, or in long, then – become part of the community if you want to become part of the industry. Read the authors and reviewers and reach out to people you respect, or with whom you feel a kindred spirit. And keep writing.

Feb. 6th, 2010

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More Previews

I hope all Black Gate fans have been keeping up with the web site, where in addition to an ever growing library of fascinating articles we now have a web comic and... more previews! This is a Hulk-sized issue of Black Gate, the largest ever fielded, and it's bursting at the seams with heroic fiction goodness. If you haven't done so yet, I hope you'll sign up for a a copy of your very own.

As everyone knows, next week is a very special time for couples, because they'll be able to sit down together with the new El Borak and Other Desert Adventures collection by Robert E. Howard. I'm smart enough not to get my sweetie a copy for Valentine's Day, but I do hope to be reading it at some point in the next seven days. Sure, I've read almost all of the stories, but they're worth more than one re-read. They were penned by one of the greatest adventure writers ever to appear in print. And then there's the essay inside from the late Steve Tompkins, the last new essay of his I shall ever read. I've been looking forward to it, though the reading of it shall be bittersweet. Steve was a brilliant essayist and scholar and we're all poorer for his absence.

Jan. 25th, 2010

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Black Gate Issue 14 Preview

The preview's up! Follow the link here to see the cover and a sneak peek at the contents.

The wife and I hadn't really been looking forward to Avatar because we'd heard it was unoriginal and predicatble, etc. Well, we went yesterday and really enjoyed it. Did I think it was the greatest movie ever? No, but it hit all the right notes, and was firing on most of its cylinders most of the time. It got me involved in a great adventure. I left thinking that the criticism I'd expected to agree with had come from an ungenerous place.

I think that too often people forget that what's old hat for them is new to lots of other people. YOU may not be the target audience for Stephanie Meyer's work or for J.K. Rowling, but somebody sure is, and if some of the critics had heard (or read the essays from) the number of students over the last few years who have reported to me how Meyer or Rowling got them fired up about reading, or introduced them to fantasy, I think they might be more charitable... although they'd probably manage it with noses in the air anyway.

Here's a cliche (minus the accent mark I can't figure out how to add): there's nothing new under the sun. We keep tapping and retapping the same mythic elements for a reason -- they speak to us. Avatar was a good story, even if it has elements we'd seen before. It worked; it lifted me out of the mundane, and fired up the imaginations of my children. Any of my friends who are reading this and who were buying the word of the critics should go see it on the big screen, preferably a 3D screen, while they can.

Jan. 22nd, 2010

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(no subject)

All day today the Black Gate bloggers will be posting essays about Robert E. Howard on this, his birthday. I hope you'll drop by and check it out.

A preview of the coming issue, 14, should be going up in the next few days. It's a splendid issue, even looking past the fact you'd expect me to say that.

I have been writing now full-time since January 4th and I've rarely been so happy. Every week, though something has come up -- kids get snowed out of school, I have to take a vehicle in to get maintenance, etc., so I still don't know what it's like to work full-time for an entire week. Maybe next week. In any case, it's glorious to not have to fit what I love to do around the edges of my life, and I'm making huge strides forward into the sequel novel. It's feasible that by day's end today I'll have 20,000 words of the projected 90 thousand something. I am supposed to be getting editorial comments on the first book in the next few weeks.



Jan. 11th, 2010

Black Gate 4

New Posts

I was going to post something clever on Livejournal today, but I'm not actually that clever, and I'd already spent a good 45 minutes or more writing a new review on the Black Gate web site, so I'll just point you over there.

Things here are well. Hope to be able to showcase the new issue very, very soon.

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