matt_doyle: (Default)
So, there's an agency that's looking for the best 3-sentence, 150-word max summaries of completed, unpublished novels, and will be requesting to read the manuscripts of the best 20.  Given that I am (perpetually) about two days from having RIHV all typed up, this seems like a dream come true to me.

Except that I suck at summaries.  I trimmed the one I posted last month down to 95 words, but am entirely disgusted with it.  A (brilliant) friend suggested that I write a drabble-summary, and maybe I will, but first I'd like feedback- both from people who have read RIHV, and might be able to tell me what I'm missing and what I described wrong, and from those of you who haven't, and can tell me in excruciating detail why my pitch is boring and cliched, and what would need to change before they'd be interested in reading.

Self-deprecation aside, really, please be very very critical.  ♥

The men who kidnapped Jordan say that they’re protecting her from her biological father, a man who belongs to an immortal cabal of killers that have bound their souls to demons to gain eternal youth.  Casimir is one of the hunters her father has sent after her, an unsympathetic but silver-tongued assassin whose hesitancy to shed blood has made him weak and ridiculed by his fellows.  Capturing Jordan is supposed to bring him the respect and power that should be his, but he isn't the only one hunting her... and Jordan is far from defenseless.
matt_doyle: (philosophy)
((And then restored it from a saved draft.  The original subject line was something like "Slipping this one in just under the wire," but, perhaps appropriately, LJ didn't restore that.))

And I'll admit I'm still not sure what I want to talk about. But it's important to me to just keep putting words on page, habitually, any day, no matter how uninspired I may feel, until it's a permanent, automatic behavior pattern. Or that's the hope.

Sadly, it's not just the blog that's dry and empty right now. My notebooks are also feeling a bit neglected. It's been six months, and I'm still adjusting to the fact that Running In Her Veins is over and done with, and I haven't entirely settled on a single other project. I'm researching a talking-animal story, working title of Cat Among The Rushes, that Megan and I started talking about one night as something to co-write, starting this summer if she has the time. While there are enough cliches in the animal-story genre that I cringe to think of it, some of my favorite books fall under the heading: Watership Down, Redwall (I don't care much for the later Redwall books, but the first few are just so much fun), Book of Night With Moon... and I think we've got an angle on the genre I haven't seen before.  But no actual work has been done on the story yet...

Allegedly, I'm working on The Hellion Prince, first in a trilogy of dark, swashbuckling secondary-world fantasy stories about treachery and politics in a human magocracy surrounded by the fey.  I have over twenty thousand words written, and I confess that I like those words very much, and I have a very clear vision of how this book should go and... it's not working.  Most of the 20k consists of two extended conversations written for backstory purposes, and the not-quite-hero of the tale is limp and uninspiring in all the scenes necessary to the plot.  Something needs to be shaken up about this story and this character, but I'm not sure what.

And then, of course, there's the third book I'm not really working on right now:  A Stain Upon His Hands, the sequel to Running In Her Veins.  I decided to put it off and work on The Hellion Prince because, put simply, I'm not that good yet - I don't have the chops to pull off the book I want Stain (or ASUHH, my usual abbreviation) to be.  I've got the first three pages done, relatively satisfactorily, but as with RIHV, the transitions in between major plot points are still totally obscure to me, and I realized the other day that, when written out, there are 15 discernible story arcs within the novel as outlined.  That's a few too many, I think, but I have absolutely no clue where or how to trim pieces off or divide the sucker into two books.  So...

... like here on the blog, I'm left to meander, and reflect, and peck out a page or two here or there, waiting to see what happens.  I can live with that.

((and LJ ate the line I wrote to conclude this post, too!  OUTRAGED.  I can't remember what it was and I'm too tired to try.  Pretend it was pithy!))

matt_doyle: (Default)
Specifically, a letter to an agent, in which I'll have to describe and sum up Running In Her Veins in a way that's concise and compelling. I am very bad at summaries of my stories that take less than an hour to tell.

So, I'm going to practice.

Running In Her Veins is a Neo-Gothic YA Urban Fantasy novel about a teenaged girl and an immortal assassin coming to terms with themselves and the moral dilemmas surrounding them, set against a backdrop of kidnapping, sword fights, chase scenes, demonic magic, and thwarted romance. Jordan, an adopted Catholic schoolgirl, sneaks out of her house one night and has her life utterly derailed when she is kidnapped by a pair of men who claim to be protecting her from her biological father - a centuries-old killer who wants her dead. Casimir is a Cossack warrior, a member of the Incarnadine Order, a cabal of immortals who have bound their souls to demons. As long as he kills to feed it, the demon's power grants Casimir eternal youth and unimaginable power - but his hesitancy to shed blood has made him weak and ridiculed by his fellow Order members. Now, if he can capture Jordan and bring her to her father, he can reclaim the respect and power that should be his. He isn't the only one hunting her, however... and despite the fear and confusion taking over Jordan's life, she is far from defenseless.

How does that sound? Criticism would be great - if you've read the book, does this sound about right? And if not, does it pique your interest? Inquiring minds want to know...
matt_doyle: (Default)
In either the first or the second season of Lost, there's an episode entitled "All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues." Just seeing it made me laugh, more with wry self-recognition than humor. Write what you know is the mantra, and boy, am I familiar with this subject.

My father is one of my heroes. During the Vietnam War, he took part in the second-most successful draft action in US history, burning tens of thousands of draft cards. As a result, he did time in prison, and he met my mother while he was on probation, when both of them participated in the Continental Walk for ... either Peace and Social Justice, or Nuclear Disarmament, I can never remember that part. I am proud of him - he gave years of his life to serve his country and save American lives, if in a different way than any soldier. I'm proud of veterans, too, even if I'm not proud of the wars they fought in, but I fully embrace the pacifist and activist traditions of my family. My father has also written a staggering number of newspaper articles on nuclear disarmament and on the abortion issue, though his uncompromising use of language has meant that few of them are accepted for publication. I identify with him as a writer, too, even if my own writing is very different.

And yet.

The reason I'm writing now as Matt Doyle is that my father did not want his last name attached to any sort of writing that would sanction gay marriage or gay adoption. Despite his peace-movement past, my father currently identifies himself as a Republican, and despite not attending church with any frequency, draws a pretty hard line of conservative Christianity. All my life I have been subject to verbal abuse, criticizing my every flaw or failing, yet almost never responding positively to any significant accomplishment or achievement. He introduced me to science fiction, got me hooked on Star Trek and Star Wars before I could read, then spent my teenage years deriding the genre as garbage and a waste of my time. He has never hit me or any of my family, but sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me is a damned lie anyway.

In cat macro, the title of this post would be My Issues: Let Me Show You Them.

And yeah. This works its way into my writing and my gaming. Parental figures are important to everyone, of course, because they're a foundational part of everyone's identity, whether by their presence or their absence. It's an issue I go back and explore, again and again. In Running In Her Veins, the main perspective character, Jordan, is adopted, and the plot centers around the fact that her biological father wants her dead. Exploring Jordan's construction of self in relation to her family - the biological, the adopted, and the self-chosen - would more or less include recapping the entire plot and giving away several key twists in the story, so I won't do that here. But the other perspective characters have parents too, and though none of them are so much as mentioned in this book (at least, not more than peripherally), I've thought about them.

matt_doyle: (Default)
Sometimes I actually believe that Rasputin is still alive. Given the history of mental illness and paranoid schizophrenia in my family tree, maybe I should worry and shy away from this thought, but mostly I just think it's cool.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist of any stripe, and while I keep an open mind, my belief in the supernatural is minimal, save for my religious convictions. But I have always found the concept that there is something going on behind the scenes fascinating: something epic, dire, and sinister, something magical and very deliberately hidden away. That was originally part of my fascination with vampire novels and the like - I wasn't terribly captivated (then) by vampires themselves, but the thoughts that these secret, deadly immortal creatures existed in hidden cabals and manipulated the minds and sometimes politics of humankind? Wicked awesome. I read everything I could about the Illuminati (I first heard about them on Gargoyles, which definitely includes some Secret History in its world-building), the Freemasons, on how Princess Anastasia had survived, on Tupac Shakur's fascination with Machiavelli and why that meant he faked his death.

I think the research side of it is what really appealed to me. I'm a library geek and proud of it; spending hours piecing data together by cross-referencing half a dozen or more books is my idea of a good afternoon, and maybe even a hot date. If you assume there's a secret history to the world, there has to be evidence, and someone clever and dedicated enough could figure it out and prove it simply by reading between the lines.

A lot of this fascination has worked its way into my writing, and most especially into the Romance of Blood books. Running In Her Veins, the only one, er, actually written so far, doesn't show it as much - most of the perspective characters are just entering into the backstage area, so to speak. But some of it should still be evident - the villains are, after all, a hidden cabal of blood-drinking demonic immortals, even if they're not vampires per se. And while I don't know if he'll ever appear in the books, Rasputin is still alive - and I know how, why, and what he did to fake his death, and could show you a chain of evidence going back to the Roman Empire that would support my claims. Secret History stories have always seemed to me to be the most science-fictional that fantasy gets; because while there might not be science extrapolated upon and projected to convincingly shape the world, the principle is the same with rigorous historical research.

Though I still can't stand The Da Vinci Code.

So: what are your favorite Secret Histories?


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January 2014



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