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I know. Inspiring title.

Been awhile, yeah. I'm going to blame most of that on the whole health scare from October on. Between pain and pain meds, it was a struggle to get much of anything done. Of course, revisions for MY DROWNING CHORUS, the second of the HAZELAND books arrived then. I tried and flailed, ultimately having to kick the pills before I could get back to work. I know. Writers have a reputation for getting tanked and then that finally overcomes the self-censors and the words can finally flow. Sure. That, like other myths, is convenient for shaping behavior and excusing all manner of bad decisions. But it's just not true.

Sometimes it just leads you to staring at a word for five minutes thinking of a different one, and not in a depthy or constructive manner, enriching the work and making it the best it can possibly be. Sometimes you just get fucked-up and can't do your goddamn job. That was me.

Got the revisions out. Added a couple things here and there. Made some changes. Tangled with the editor (mildly, I'll add) on the usual issues. I write the way I do not because I choose to do it, but because I am compelled, as someone once said. Okay, nobody said that exactly, but close enough. Of course, Scott's changes add up to helping things be more readable. Just hoping that the things I added without prompting further flavor things and don't detract. Granted, the book is over the length that we agreed on (and I had to fight for that larger figure to begin with – some 33% longer than originally figured – whoops.) But I'm sure it'll be fine.

It'll be fine.

After that came the craziness of Thanksgiving week and now that that's settled, I'm beginning to think a bit on HAZELAND as a whole, particularly since I'm supposed to be writing the next book and want the manuscript out by, uh, April maybe? So I can write the short story collection ASPHALT TONGUES which is supposed to be a fall release and probably to get started on what comes next.

That part's not quite so certain. There's a chance I'm writing a gothic SF space fantasy drenched in cosmic awe. There's a chance that HAZELAND rolls on. I honestly don't know yet. My publisher has wanted the gothic SF thing for some time (several years, really). That said, if I'm running a schedule for HAZELAND, I don't want to disrupt it. But I'm pretty sure that I can't manage two HAZELAND releases in a year *and* put out a full-length novel in a whole new world with setting that I have to establish on the page, etc etc. Perhaps it's a good problem to have.

As for HAZELAND, here's the plan as it exists now. Granted that this is not the whole thing. I'm not even sure what the contours of the whole thing look like yet. Mostly because it isn't just one story like say SANDMAN or WATCHMEN or THE THREE MUSKETEERS was. HAZELAND as I'm looking at it is much more a big collection of settings to work within (and ignore when the mood strikes). And while most of these stories are about Someplace Else where Weird Things Full Of Awe can happen, some of 'em aren't. Or they're just in the background while humans stumble about being humans in a mostly-recognizable if not 100% our world, just a few years ago. Okay, decades. Fine. Quibble about it. The future isn't evenly distributed and the past isn't dead, hell the past isn't even past.

But HAZELAND gave me a chance to tie together a bunch of disparate stories, not to make a huge and towering edifice of a monomyth or anything like that. Just to lead folks around from place to place. Maybe they don't like this one, but they'll like another. And no, there's no enigma-shrouded Mystery Box that I'm leading everyone towards and once it's opened, welp, there goes the driving thing. You come to like the people and the place and want to visit again or you don't. I'm not likely to write stuff to try and cater to anyone but myself. That's a fool's errand anyways. Yeah, there's writers who do it. Some of them you can name without thinking about and now they're trapped in very comfortable prisons of their own making. Or if they get out of them, they always come back, because, well, the audience demands it.

Right now, I'm the Sisyphean audience. That's one of those harrowing comforts, I suppose.

Anyways, let's take a peek at the plan. (And don't tell my editor about this. If he were to hear that I've got 15+ books more or less mapped out, some more sketchily than others, in this "series," he'd probably have a heart attack and I don't want to be responsible for that.)

Dig it.

Yeah, that seems like a lot. But in many ways, that's a life's work of accumulation and observation and putting strings together in a sort of string golem that eventually gets tired of taking orders and walks around on its own accord. Maybe it's a kipple golem, all manner of debris agglomerating together into a whole that the parts are not. Either way, it's the path I'm looking at.

And before you ask, the lion's share of these feature Cait. But she may not be as you recognize her now by the time things are done. If ever they get done as in a giant tome with a definitive conclusion. Yeah, the stories themselves, particularly as we see them in the trilogies all get conclusions. I'm not a monster--though this first one is kinda rocky, only because I never planned on QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS being anything more than a one-off of things that I wanted to work with. Seriously, it was a new story that I basically came up with (mostly because all the other ones I pitched got shot down) on a prompt from my editor. I didn't plan on writing a sequel or having that spiral out into anything more than maybe a trilogy and a second trilogy.

And maybe it won't be anything more than that.

As for what else I've been up to, there's that new WORLD OF WARCRAFT expansion that's just been released. I like a lot of it. I hate a lot of it. They've finally figured out a way to throttle the whole "rip though content and then get bored" thing by placing character advancement behind hard time gates. Everything from the campaign to loot drops goes to reinforce this. It's an honestly disappointing turn of events. Yes, I know, everything in WoW has been a grind. I've played longer than you have, most likely (original external alpha player, soooo). But to come out and just embrace it is sorta breathtaking.

As for the rest of the game, there's lots of beauty and a full-throated embrace of tertiary color palettes. There's a lot of very bad aesthetic decisions, too. The dungeons are short and to the point, at least. We'll see what the raids amount to. I expect them to be pretty rough for a couple weeks anyways. And I expect the pick-up-group function for raids to be a shivering nightmare that I won't participate in. (When every fight is mechanics more than burning down monsters, average players will fall short—it's in the nature of things. When LFR first happened, fights were super-simple, for the most part, aside from say the final Deathwing event, but even that was straightforward enough that people could muscle through it. Not so now, and it's un-fun to even try.)

I can't quite comment on the storylines because as we all know, we're just barely past the first act of any of them. We've been introduced to the world and backstory of these places. In some cases, so much backstory. It's a tough thing to balance, delivering what people need to know in-game and overwhelming them with that very information. I will say, going from one alien-ish city straight to another (in this case from Oribos to Bastion, which won't mean anything unless you've played) was… not a call I'd have made. Both blended into the other and didn't have any sense of differentiation. Also, Oribos, like Shattrath as a shared capital, feels like a dead and un-living place, in stasis. Now, that could be a comment on the afterlife or refuge or paradise, if you will, but I'm not sure that it was thought through all that much.

Also, honestly, the design of flight and transport and even the map layout of Shadowlands feels like it was made to increase hours played and not to be fun. That's a bean-counter decision, not an immersion decision. The first time you ride the lines of crackling aether to another realm, that's neat. When you have to do it multiple times in a day to do your daily quests, it becomes a tiresome chore. It's bad design and didn't need to happen.

The other problem is that to get a sense of all four realms of the afterlife, you're going to have to run four players through them. Which I guess is theoretically possible (leveling from 50-60 only takes a couple days, honestly). But that's over a process of months. I don't know that there's enough there there to justify it.

But, like I said, I'll be getting my warlock ready to raid on one server. Death knight on another, but much, much more slowly. How long it all lasts, yeah, that's another thing.

Oh, about the photo. It was taken on Lankershim Boulevard near Magnolia in North Hollywood (aka greater Los Angeles and I'll never change my mind about that) back in 2000 or so with my trusty Kodak DC290 camera. Practically an antique now.


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