Hope’s End

This post is a bit of something new for me, and if people like it, I’ll try to do more of these. Today’s post is a review of a short story, Hope’s End. But first, I’ll tell you how I found the author.

Back at the beginning of the year, Brandon Sanderson made a post to say that a former student of his, Brian McClellan, had a book, Promise of Blood, coming out in April. I went and followed him on Twitter, and the combination of his marketing and Sanderson’s recommendation led to me buying his book on release day and reading it soon after. I enjoyed it.

While waiting for the second book in his trilogy, The Crimson Campaign, to come out, McClellan has written some short stories set in the same universe, which he calls the Powder Mage universe, named after his unique gunpowder-based magic system.

The second of these stories, Hope’s End, is now out, link at the bottom. I’ve had a chance to read the story, which comes in at around 8,000 words. You can read a teaser (the first scene) here.

Our protagonist, Captain Verundish, is contemplating suicide. Her husband has threatened to sell their daughter into slavery, and her heart belongs to another man, but her father, the priest that married Verundish, does not believe in divorce. She sees death as her only escape.

In the teaser, McClellan manages to give us the conflict as well as define the main protagonist and make us sympathetic to her. He then tells her story. Without giving any spoilers, I will say that I was deeply pleased by the resolution of this story. It was believable, and at the same time, satisfying in a way that few short stories are.

Throughout the story, we are reminded that we are in the Powder Mage universe, and we get some glimpses of General Tamas, one of the main protagonists of Promise of Blood, as he leads the army. The magic of the universe is in this story as well. However, you do not need to have read Promise of Blood to read Hope’s End, as all of the relevant information is explained in the story. If you have read Promise of Blood, the explanations may feel a little redundant, but not overly so.

At the climax of the story, there is a battle scene, which is well written and engaging. It fits with the gritty, “flintlock fantasy” style that I enjoyed throughout Promise of Blood. McClellan did not skimp on the scene because of the length of the story, and it alone makes the story worth reading.

We also get glimpses of some of the larger-scale politics of the Powder Mage universe, and as someone who has read Promise of Blood, they were quite fun to read, but not intrusive to the plot of this story.

I went in afraid that McClellan had written something that would explain an event in Tamas’ past, with only some semblance of a story on top of it. I should have known better after reading Promise of Blood. Instead, he has written a complete and engaging story that shows the events on the side, creating a nice balance of the larger universe and the smaller story.

You can buy Hope’s End from Brian’s website here, for only $0.99, and it’s well worth it. It’s also worth noting that for this month only, the Promise of Blood e-book is on sale for $1.99, and also well worth it. (I bought it even though I already have the hardcover.)

Goals.

I’m going to write another post about where I am, what’s been happening lately, and where I’m going with my non-writing life pretty soon, probably in the next week. I’ll give you a teaser for it here: I move out of home in 6 days to go to school.

This post, however, is going to talk about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to go in my writing life. I’ve decided it’s time to assess where I am, see if I like it or not, and see where I want to be a month, a year, a decade from now.

I’m working on a new project. A friend and I are working on an online game. He’s doing most of the coding, though I’m helping with that where I can. One of my majors is computer science, and trying to struggle through the code is good practice for me. But my major role in the project is the story. Many small games just have basic stories, or even no story at all, and they’re there only for the game. I understand these games; I play a few of them. I want our game to be different. Some of the large games–RuneScape, World of Warcraft–have novels that go with them. I don’t know if I’ll get that far, but I am writing background, flavor text, and some short stories to go along with the game, so that your progression actually makes sense, and so that there’s another level for the players to enjoy, if they choose to do so, and that they can ignore if they want to. I wrote my first short story for this two days ago, and I really enjoyed it, clocking in about 3,000 words in a single day, pretty much non-stop. I ran a quick grammar revision over it, and let a few gaming friends read it. So far reception has been pretty positive. My goals here are to get the game launched in a reasonable time-frame, and to continue writing short stories and back-ground text. I would like to have several ready to go when the game launches, and a new one every month or so as the game progresses, maybe less often. I’m not sure yet.

I’m close to finishing my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m 60,000 words in, and in the middle of what I think is the ending. My immediate goal is to make it through the novel, and set it aside/send it off to a few friends for comments. I hope to do this before classes start, and it’s what I’ll be spending all of my writing time doing for the next few days.

What will I work on after that?

What are my long-term, 10-year+ goals? I want to be a published author, with books in the bookstores. (Yes, I’m optimistic that bookstores will still exist in 10 years.) That is the ultimate goal, I guess, and I want to take steps toward that goal, not away from it.

Let me take a minute and explain that goal. My true goal is to be a writer. I’ve done that already, I’ve written a novel, several short stories, and I’m almost finished with a second novel. But my drive to be a writer consists of two parts. First and foremost, I want to tell stories. I have more ideas than I have time to write, and I want to write these ideas down, get them out of my head–though this mostly seems to just make room for new ones. But I also want my stories to be read. That’s the purpose of a story, to entertain others. I read books to be entertained, and I would love for my books to be able to do the same thing. That is why I want to be published. (I’m not under any delusions that I’ll get rich from it. Not in the slightest.)

So what am I going to do? I could just keep writing novels until I feel they’re good enough (My second one is much better than my first, IMHO, and I hope this trend will continue.), and hope to get in that way. It’s one of the traditional ways, and lots of people have done it. I have considered it, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

But I also enjoy writing short stories, and reading some of them as well, at least of types that fit my tastes. I don’t want to write only novels. Some parts of writing, some aspects of the craft, can be practiced in short stories, and I intend to keep writing these when I feel like it. In addition, some ideas are better suited to short stories, and wouldn’t work as complete novels, and sometimes, it’s refreshing to start and finish something in a day or a week, instead of it being a months-long process.

So on my path to submitting novels and writing more of them (I’m not going to stop doing that. Period.), I’m aiming to submit and have published some short stories. I don’t have any right now that I feel are ready to submit (I really like the one I wrote for the game, but it’s for the game, not submission. There’s too much back-story and interconnectedness for that to work, even if I wanted to.). Thus, my immediate goal is to write some more short stories. Today is August 17. My goal is to have 1 done by the end of this month and being read by some writer friends for feedback. I want to have that one revised and sent off somewhere to be rejected by the end of September, and I want to have another one written by then. I want to do at least one new one per month until the end of this year (I might take November off if I decide to do NaNoWriMo), and have at least one rejection letter that I can print out and hang on my wall before the end of the year.

By the end of next year, I hope to have several short stories to shop around, and be able to collect a nice stack of rejections. My goal, my big goal for next year, is to get one acceptance, though that will probably be a low-paying, easy market. I’ll take what I can get, though I’ll always strive for the best.

I also want to write at least one more novel this year. I have three months, and I’m going strong with 1000 words per day. I can do another 50-60k on a single project, though I’ll be happy as well being 60k into a novel and it not being done, due to the fact that it ends up being longer. This is some-what vague right now, as I don’t know what I want to write next–I’m going to do brainstorming soon.

Next year, I hope to be able to revise the novel I’m working on now, once I have some distance from it, and write at least two more rough drafts, as well as several more short stories.

From there, it gets vague. Keep writing, keep submitting short stories. Hopefully in a few years, I’ll feel confident enough to start shopping a novel around, with the eventual goal of selling one. But that’s all vague.

For the rest of this year, here’s my checklist. I’ll keep you updated as I go through and hopefully hit these markers.

Finish the July novel by Wednesday, August 28, 2013.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by September 1, 2013.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by October 1, 2013.

Revise and etc. the short story from August by October 1, 2013.

Submit the August story to a market by October 2, 2013.

Get a rejection letter by the end of the year.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by November 1, 2013.

Revise the September story by November 1, 2013.

Submit the September story by November 2, 2013.

Maybe brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by December 1, 2013.

Revise the October and November stories by the end of the year.

Write at least one more short story for the game project, and whatever else needs to be done.

Write at least 60k words on another novel by the end of the year.

All in all, this would leave me with 4 revised short stories, 1 unrevised, and hopefully at least one rejection letter under my belt, as well as 2 completed novel rough drafts and a good chunk of a third. I think that’s a pretty good goal-set for my first year as a serious writer, while going full time to college. Don’t you? Looking at it all, I’m kind of scared. But if I can get all that done, I’ll be very proud of myself, and well on my way to becoming a published author. I’ll also have established that I can set goals that will stretch me, and I can make myself meet them. I want to continue being able to stretch myself and to grow.