NaNoWriMo Complete! Sort of…

Well, this is awkward.

Technically, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write at least 50,000 words during the month of November. Well, I just typed THE END on the first draft of my book. A first draft which is 40,861 words in length. So, technically speaking, I have not won NaNoWriMo.

Go on. Ask me if I care.

Over the course of 25 days, I produced a complete first draft of a middle grade fantasy novel. Like most of my first drafts, this one is an utter mess. (My son is disappointed I won’t read this version to him, and he has to wait until at least draft two.) But it has a lot of fun ideas, and is just begging to be rewritten and cleaned up into what I hope will be a publishable novel.

I’m thrilled. This is exactly what I hoped I’d be able to accomplish. There were several days I wasn’t sure I’d make it. We had some family issues, and I had to scramble to get the page proofs done and turned back on Revisionary. There were also times I think I might have pushed myself a little too hard. I felt myself skirting depression once or twice as I struggled to get things done in the real world while also chiseling away at the word count.

Lessons learned:

  • I’m not the 25-year-old kid with no life who can do 80,000 words in a month. But I can do 40,000 in just under a month, and that’s pretty damn sweet.
  • First drafts are allowed to be broken. Stop beating yourself up for not being perfect the first time. (I have to relearn this one with every book, but I had to learn it harder this time.)
  • Have fun.
  • Goblins make everything better. So do chainsaws.
  • Concrete wordcount goals and public accountability (like the word count meter) work really well for me, but also increase stress.
  • Don’t neglect self-care.
  • First drafts, for me, are about throwing in every idea you can. Revision is for pruning some of those ideas and developing the ones you keep.
  • Next book: chainsaw-wielding goblins…

For my fellow NaNo writers, whatever your goals this month, whatever your triumphs and setbacks, whether you “won” or not, I hope you had fun. I hope you discovered something new. I hope you grew as a writer, and I hope you feel good about the work you’ve done.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go print out a manuscript.

Revisionary – Preview

Revisionary - Cover Art by Gene MollicaRevisionary [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], the fourth and final Magic ex Libris book, comes out on February 2, 2016. I finished up the final page proofs at the end of last week, which means I can officially share a preview of the first chapter.

If you haven’t read the other books, there will be spoilers. You have been warned…

I’ll be sad to move on from Isaac, Lena, Smudge, Nidhi, and the rest, but having read the book again over the past week or two, I’m very happy with how everything wraps up. And I should have some news to share relatively soon about what I’ll be doing next.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s bought and borrowed and read and reviewed and shared and generally just enjoyed and supported these books. I hope you enjoy this installment.

LosCon Schedule

This week has had more than its share of stuff. I’ve even missed my NaNoWriMo goals a few times, which always makes me cranky. On the other hand, I have probably-very-good-news on the book front I should be able to share soon, I’m mostly done with the aforementioned NaNo book (it needs a lot of revision, but who cares), and next week I get to fly out to Los Angeles to be Guest of Honor at LosCon.

So that’s pretty awesome.

Here’s my final schedule.


  • 2:30 – 4:00 pm, Marquis 2: To Publish or Not To Publish
  • 4:00 – 5:30 pm, Atlanta: Hell Hath No Fury
  • 6:00 – 7:00 pm, Marquis 4,5,6: Opening Ceremonies


  • 10:00 – 11:30 am, Atlanta: Independent Voices – From Writing to Publishing to Promoting
  • 1:00 – 2:30 pm, Marquis 1: Jim Hines Q&A
  • 4:00 – 5:30 pm, Boston: Geeks Got Your Back
  • 10:30 – 11:59 pm, Atlanta: Sexy vs Sexualized


  • 1:00 – 2:30 pm, Marquis 2: Pads or paper
  • 2:30 – 4:00 pm, Atlanta: Creating a Realistic Universe

There are a lot of really cool people at this one. I’m really looking forward to seeing and meeting folks!

Us Against Them, Part Whatever

I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

Reading some people’s knee-jerk “Bomb ’em all!” responses to various attacks. It got me thinking about the Hunger Games series, and how President Snow responds to Katniss Everdeen’s actions in the 75th Hunger Games by bombing her entire district into oblivion.

Y’all understand Snow was one of the villains, right?

This generated a number of supportive comments, which is no surprise, given the amplification effects of social media. It also triggered arguments about gun control, religious intolerance, idealism vs. reality, and questions about my kid getting shot in the face.

Like most Americans, I don’t have a full understanding of life in the Middle East, the political and religious realities people there are living with. I do know that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. I know many of those Muslims in the Middle East live in regions of instability and war. I know many of them are on the ground fighting back against terror, or simply fighting to survive. Many are trying to escape threats like ISIS/Daesh.

We see innocent people murdered by terrorists, and we feel angry. We feel afraid. We feel powerless, and we want to do something. I get that.

Why are we afraid? What is it we’re afraid of? One American commenter talked about her fear of people who want to kill her for being female and not wearing a veil.

We’ve had a total of 26 people killed in jihadist attacks in the U.S. in the past decade. (Source) The most recent data I could find showed 24 U.S. citizens killed in terrorism incidents overseas in 2014. (Source)

In the meantime, three women are killed in the U.S. by their boyfriends every day. (Source) If we’re going to talk about threats against women, terrorists aren’t anywhere near the top of that list.

Or compare those terrorism numbers to the 11,208 firearms-related assault deaths in the U.S. in 2013, or the 4,913 non-firearms assault deaths. Hell, a U.S. citizen is 74 times more likely to die of the flu than of ISIS-style terrorists, but I don’t see anyone changing their Facebook icons to promote flu vaccines. (Source)

This doesn’t mean we should ignore terrorism. It doesn’t mean we turn our backs on the victims in Paris and Beirut and Baghdad and elsewhere.

What it means to me is that we need to do a better job of recognizing our fears, of assessing what it is we’re so afraid of, what we should be afraid of, and how we choose to respond to various threats. We’re so fired up about our war on terrorism. Where’s our war on domestic violence, which is a far greater threat to the people of the United States? Why are we so quick to fear in one case, but not another?

Some of it is media-fueled, of course. Terrorist attacks against white people get a lot of coverage, and so they take up a lot of real estate in our brains.

There’s also that ongoing Us vs. Them mentality. We see Muslims as “them,” no matter how many speak out against terror, no matter how many Muslims save lives in these attacks, no matter how many Muslims are on the ground fighting and dying in the ongoing battle against ISIS.

Emotions suck when it comes to understanding statistics.

Human beings have to be better than that. We have to be smarter.

I’m all for fighting against terrorism. I want my family and my country to be safe. I want innocent people to stop dying.

“Bomb the Muslims!” isn’t going to accomplish that. Turning our backs on people who need help, leaving them to suffer and die, isn’t going to accomplish that. Fear and hatred of Muslims isn’t going to accomplish that.

In fact, that very fear and hatred and intolerance is exactly what ISIS wants from us.

The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufrī religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffār without hardship, or they perform hijrah to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens. (Source)

These terrorist attacks were committed with the goal of increasing our intolerance and our fear and our violent reactions, and in so doing, driving more people into the arms of ISIS.

I don’t have all the answers. But I know one thing. I have no intention of helping terrorists.

Latest Goblin Newsletter

The November 2015 edition of Jim’s newsletter went out this afternoon, courtesy of Klud the goblin scribe. As usual, I picked one subscriber at random to win an autographed book.

Last time I did one of these, I accidentally broke up Kermit and Miss Piggy. Who knows what’s going to happen this time around…

You can read it here, or subscribe here, if you’re interested. (And if not, that’s okay too.)

NaNoWriMo Pep Talk – Hitting the Wall

One of the Lansing municipal liaisons for NaNoWriMo asked if I’d write up a pep talk for week two. I decided to talk about that part in my process where the novelty and shininess has worn off, and I realize my outline is broken, and suddenly it feels like the story is crumbling in my hands, and what was I even thinking???

It happens with pretty much every book I write, usually around 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through the first draft.

Here’s an excerpt from the pep talk:

This is the time in Jim’s writing process where, like Charlie Brown kicking at that elusive football, I lose my footing and end up flat on my back, staring into the sky and wondering what the heck just happened.

My shiny new idea isn’t quite so shiny anymore. I’ve gotten lots of words down, but they don’t exactly match what I was imagining. And this next part of the outline doesn’t make any sense at all, now that I think about it more closely. Good grief, the Jim who was outlining this thing last month is an idiot. And now I have to fix his mess.

Everyone’s writing process is different, of course. You might zip through the entire month with never a doubt, never a stumble. (In which case I hate you a little bit.) But most of the writers I know, beginners and pros, hit a point at least once in every project, sometimes more, where everything feels like it’s falling apart.

I’ve got eleven books in print from major publishers, and about 33% of the way through writing every single one of them, I felt like I’d missed the football. I stared at the clouds and asked who had swapped my brilliant, perfect outline with this meandering, illogical, half-baked nonsense. This was it. I’d have to tell my publisher I’d failed. The whole world would finally know I’d been faking it all along.

Now for the good news. After twenty years, I know this is a normal part of my process. I know I can get through it. I know that once I climb back out of the Pit of Despair, I’ll discover that hey, maybe this book is pretty cool after all.

Ups and downs are a normal part of the writing process. It doesn’t mean we suck. It doesn’t mean we’re going to fail. It means we’re human. Our job isn’t to be perfect; it’s to get the story down.

You can read the whole thing in the NaNoWriMo Forums.

NSFW Sex Ed Link

This is an odd one for the blog, but a Tumblr link the other day led me to a webcomic by Erika Moen called Oh Joy Sex Toy.

As you can probably guess, this is not a blog you probably want to be reading at work. It’s primarily a review blog focusing on sex toys, but Moen has also done some comics that are more purely educational.

The one I wanted to spotlight was her webcomic about how conception/pregnancy really works. This one comic was, in many ways, more informative than the entirety of the sex ed information I got in school. Given the state of sex ed here in the U.S., I figured it was worth sharing.

If you’re interested, she has all of her educational strips indexed on one page, covering everything from how emergency contraception works to “the terrible art of boner-hiding.”

Again, not safe for work, but she has a wonderfully open, honest, and welcoming style.

And while you’re reading (or not, if you prefer), I’m gonna get back to the writing. 8500 words and counting! :-)