Red-Stained Wings: Review

Received an eARC via NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge.


red stained

“Red-Stained Wings” by Elizabeth Bear.

Over other previous reads, where stories were filled with action and adventure, “Red-Stained Wings” featured almost no epic clashes between warring factions. Sure, there’s a few cannon balls here and there, and a few sorceries pulled up from Wizards’ sleeves every now and then. But it’s a definitely a big change of pace and I’m not complaining about it.

It’s the most character-driven book I’ve read in a while, where we explore each of the main cast as they navigate in their own hopeless and complex situations. “Red-Stained Wings” is proof you don’t need a tome with a thousand pages to give you intricate character-driven narratives. Everything is packed in there, self-discovery, purpose and empowerment, ambitions in every angle. Of course you’ll know who to root for, and at the same time, you kind of develop sympathy over supposed antagonists. Reader’s Stockholm syndrome?

All the characters are rich, fleshed out, and well-developed. There were characters I cared for, those I never wanted to leave their POVs, and a character I love to hate so much, which makes the book all the more better.

In such a tight book, the worldbuilding is amazing. It’s vast and weird. The Cauled Sun provides dim light and heat in the night, and the stars brighten the day. There are strange entities in the world and divine schemes gradually unfold.

Perhaps my favorite parts involved the Gage, traversing through dangerous land. The worldbuilding here explodes, a blast of epic proximity, making it known that there are much bigger things happening than the family drama. Or rather, the true reason behind it all. The intrigue here extends farther and makes insidious twists along the way.

Red-Stained Wings” by Elizabeth Bear comes out on May 28, 2019.

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Innards #16: Expanse

Some time ago I got it in my head that I can write well because I enjoy it. These days I’m not so sure. Self-loathing is a thing, gnawing at the back of my head. Wouldn’t go away, no matter how much I shoo it off. That’s alright. I like some self-loathing, keeps me sharp, in some way.

In any case, besides sulking in the corner like a whimpering cretin, I’ve sorted out my writing a bit. Things are looking somewhat hopeful, with the baby on its way and the job hunting and all that shenanigans, all things considered, my writings just got the refresh it much needed.

Year of the Red Whale23%

23% is as much as I can give to my current WIP. As of this writing, the Red Whale has about 50,000 words. The prime original word-count was 120,000 and then I decided to cut it down to 80,000. I’m dancing between the two, since I’m going to self-publish anyway. I can go crazy and push through that 120K, or chop things off with clean 40,000-word novellas. Sounds intriguing. But I don’t want to do that. “Year of the Red Whale” is a self-contained story. My challenge now is deciding to maintain the single protagonist perspective or add a few POV characters. There are four candidates to help expand a ton of things. I hope to finish the final draft of this book by the end of February.

Project Ashes: 15%

Oh, humbug. I have 40,000 words written in the first book of Project Ashes. I have parts of the beginning and parts of the end, with little details in between. This is a grimdark tale that is part of a much larger epic. I’m really excited to devote more time into the completion of this story.

Mindfly3%

Crap. Crap. Crap. Project Mindfly is a novella I’m working on for this month’s Apex Publication’s open submissions. I’m not sure where to put this story, if it’s fantasy or horror. I’ll just say it’s weird. Missing person. Body horror. Time travel with a twist. All that gritty stuff. I’ve began writing this story about two years ago but somewhere down the line I stopped to focus writing Project Ashes, which was, ironically, pushed back because of the Red Whale.

Project Sherlock10%

Every now and then I look back at this WIP. I love it and to me, is a fine project after Project Ashes. It’s got miscreant heroes, adventure, a bit of romance, conspiracy, street gangs, assassins, and an epic showdown in one of the unlikely places. It might involve a little bit of magic and if it does, it will probably be tech-based. Like Jedi lightsabers. If magic does get tangled into the mix, then, Project Sherlock will be part of a much larger world I’ve crafted up. The entire concept is really cool and exciting, so I’m putting a lot of thought into it.

Project Sword0%

Holy shit Jon, what the flying fuck is this? A new project? So soon? You still have a bunch of commitments like Project Ghost, “Tunnel Crow Town,” and “The Conductor.” And there’s a whole lot more. What is this Project Sword? Well, it’s a standard sword and sorcery. I wanted something that’s a little bit traditional. Just a bit. I have the characters mapped out and how some of the scenarios will play out. Yes, it will probably begin in a remote village farm. Yes, it will probably involve a main character who wants to live a normal life but is instead force-fed a destiny with big-ass responsibilities. Yes, it will probably have elves and dwarven folk, talking trees, and the such. And yes, it will probably have a pub scene, which is very important to fantasy stories. I got it covered though and I plan to twist ’em all up. My main concern is two of the characters resemble so much from the ones in Project Ghost. So, I don’t know. Should I merge them or what? We’ll see.

I guess that’s it for now. Here’s Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Tell me, baby”

Red Whale: Quick Update

On Reddit Fantasy a topic about National Novel Writing Month emerged. Writers everywhere started posting stuff about their work-in-progress. I’m still waiting what exactly comes out of the blender out of all the random stuff I put in the Red Whale. Yet, I gave in, and posted something real quick about the “Year of the Red Whale.” Might as well update it here too for the world to see.

Tyrant emperor turned beggar turned criminal thug, burns empire that starts a world war but he doesn’t give a damn cause he’s busy squaring off against necromancers, witches, and basically everyone else he pissed off while he was the emperor.

That’s a mouthful. I probably could have come up with something better, but I didn’t want to write a sales pitch, just to bring out an idea into the open. My original thought for this novel was to set it at 120K words, then it got reduced to 80K. Having recently scraped much of the material, I feel the sweet spot is going to be between 90-100K. This is, if the plot went out of its way again to complicate things. I could revert back to 80K if I manage to control everything and keep the plot simple.

Now, with this shenanigans over, I’m off back to writing.

By the way, this is Ryukahr, my favorite Super Mario YouTuber/Twitch streamer. Give him some love, will yah?

On a side note, here’s Hayley Williams of Paramore doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”

Red Whale: Year One Draft

I started writing “Year of the Red Whale” around October, to participate in NaNoWriMo. I made it to 40K words before the month ended, progress that I’m proud of. Since then I barely made it past the 50K-mark, getting stuck on multiple dead ends. The plot thickened to a messy pile of goo. Then all sorts of ugly things started spawning from said goo after trying to patch things up.

I didn’t think much of it until January. The Red Whale was a NaNoWriMo project, not the main WIP, but still it had ended up as my top priority novel to work on. I kept putting deadlines for myself to complete the draft, after all as a journalist I’m trained to submit on time, but I keep letting myself down. The solution was to get back to the main WIP, Project Ashes, but I couldn’t just let go of the Red Whale and busied myself over it.

Now, a year later, I’m still stuck, making no decent progress whatsoever. I had renovated a lot of scenes and redone several chapters. Nothing helped.

Finally, the nuclear option: Change the entire plot. Keep some scenes, some chapters, some characters, but turn things around. It worked. The pace changed, a lot, and I had to remodel my writing style. I had to cut down some action scenes and then add more action scenes. It feels like a brand new work-in-progress at this point, really. My only issue is, should I add more POV characters? There’s a lot going on, but the only thing that matters comes from the protagonists. So there is that to consider.

My final deadline, I hope, is on December.

Since it’s November and it’s a season for Stranger Things, here’s a Alice Cooper “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” I’d put “The Man Behind the Mask” instead, but, meh.

Not going to make it

As of this writing my total word count for “Year of the Red Whale” is within the 30K range. This includes the initial write-up pre-NaNoWriMo. I still have two hours to go, but I don’t want to blaze through it so recklessly.

A lot of things happened this month. And I failed to catch up, and that’s no excuse. I failed at NaNoWriMo, but I still managed to write a large amount of words into the story. So, I can’t feel too bad about it.

I’m just now going to polish the things I’ve written at this point and then proceed in crafting the rest of the story.

Peace out. Still listening to the entire Paramore soundtrack in an endless loop.

Year of the Red Whale: NaNoWriMo

Oh snap! I just did it. I just did this thing in NaNoWriMo where I announced Project Crown! Looks like I really will be participating this year.

As of this writing, Project Crown has over than 10K words. NaNoWriMo asks writers to start writing on the first of November. I’m not in the mood to stop writing and work on yet another project (Project Hunter, most likely).

Project Crown is on the roll and I see it being completed soon. Even though that’s still about 90-110K words to go. What I’m going to do, is write as much as I can until the official start of NaNoWriMo, after which, I’ll jump to the book’s next segment, or rather, the next “Part.”

NaNoWriMo challenges writers to write 50K words between November 1 to 30. If I do that, that’s 50K new words into my novel. To participate in the spirit of the event, I won’t include any words written before November 1.

I’ve announced Project Crown in NaNoWriMo as “Year of the Red Whale.” And that is its final title. It’s a fantasy story set in the Industrialization era. A time when most of the world has been discovered, explored, and colonized. It is a time for modern medicine as new diseases are born from the empire’s strands.

It is a revenge story and will involve all sorts of crazy stuff in it. I’m very excited in how much I was able to put in it without being senseless clutter. It all worked, somehow, at least for me. I’ll have to tally what the beta-readers will have to say.

Anyhow, I suppose I’ll talk more about the book some other day, when it is undergoing rewrites and polishing. While I understand a 100-120K-word novel is no easy feat to accomplish, I’m aiming to complete this story sometime in December. But who knows, I’ve said that before about Project Ashes.

 

On films and videogames

Both films and videogames have had important impacts in my life. As an aspiring novelist, I drew my inspirations and influences through the visual medium I saw on screen, cause, I hated reading at that time, I really did until my early adulthood. It was through videogames and film that was I able to experience the worlds shaped by H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Philip K. Dick, J.R.R. Tolkien, among others. To this day, I continue to draw inspirations from the things I see, allowing me to craft things in greater detail—or so I like to believe. In any case, the top 3 films and videogames below hits closer to home more than anything else I’ve experienced.

Film

“Alien”

Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror, “Alien,” is and will always be among my top 3 favorite films of all time. I remember my first encounter with it at the tender age of five or six, alone in the living room at night, turning a heavy knob to change the channel, making loud “thud, thud, thud” sounds: First there was some late night news from then RPN 9, and hitting channel 13: A man was screaming as people looked down on him with confused horror in their faces. The man stopped screaming and this dick-shaped thing burst from his chest, all soaked up in blood and gore. It’s the most violent metaphor I have seen on film about sex. Oh, H.R. Giger. You are missed, truly.

“American Graffiti”

The end of high school life means massive mental reconfiguration. Well, of course college years are awesome, the level of freedom someone attains can lead to world-shattering disasters, orgies, or both. In some cases, college life means you’re legal, you can go to bars and have a drink, and think yourself an adult, where you’re soon to start paying bills and the inner struggle to do the responsible thing. But high school life is, how shall we put it, innocent? Pure? It’s a life full of misadventures, an age of ignorance and arrogant. It’s that phase in life where it’s all right to make “some” mistakes and learn from it, a phase where you continue to struggle with the ropes of life until you have a tight grip on it and yank that shit down and hold it in your hands. That’s how “American Graffiti” is to me, the constant search and yearning for that white Ford Thunderbird. When Curt turns the Blonde, the one who he had been desperately searching the entire night, down, because he needed to leave, that’s the responsible thing. No matter how sad that is. It’s a journey where the best of times needs to be settled down as you get on a plane to adulthood, getting ready to embrace newer things ahead.

“Stand by Me”

If you disagree that the greatest films ever shown to mankind, then you can go away, die, and burn in hell, because “Stand by Me” is the greatest film ever. I’m not even being subjective here. It’s just plain fact that this film is the best thing there ever will be in modern and future cinemas. Don’t even say “Citizen Kane” is best god damn film of all time, just because everyone says so, I dare you to explain what made Orson Welles’ magnum opus the best of all in film history? You can’t and you won’t, because “Stand by Me” is a billion times better and I’m just shouting at you like a little kid, ready to get violent just to prove my point!

For reals though, “Stand by Me” is everything what I have ever wanted as a kid: A treehouse, a quest in the wild, misadventures and campfire, getting chased by a dog or a train, having friends that I can stand by with.

 

Videogames

“Digimon World”

I’ve always had an obsession to Digimon ever since I first heard about it as a youth. I’ve even had distinct dreams, almost a premonition, a poster of which highlighted the next Digimon that will evolve and what it will turn into. So, when I got the “Digimon World” for the PSOne, I was more than thrilled to run around with either an Agumon or a Gabumon trailing after me like a Pikachu in “Pokemon Yellow.” It’s an exciting mix between playing “Monster Rancher” and owning the Digivice-like “Tamagotchi.” In “Digimon World,” you actually get to train a Digimon, coaching it to various exercises to boost up specific stats, feeding them and rationing your food as you travel, and making sure they properly shit in the toilet (seriously), all while roaming around the vast Digimon world, rescuing and recruiting Digimons to populate the city. Only the wonderful exotic sights of Tifa Lockhart can beat that.

“Xenogears”

I got this game almost the same time as “Digimon World,” also for the PSOne. It was the first big game for adults that I’ve played and on my first playthrough, couldn’t exactly quite grasp how deep and sophisticated and heartfelt “Xenogears” has to offer. Also, it has kickass mechas, a unique gameplay mechanic, a frightening boss music, and a bitch slap plot twist (in a good way).

“Breath of Fire III and Street Fighter II”

I’m cheating the system, fuck it, but it’s a tie between these two. In Capcom’s glorious days, when it was a significant games publisher before it went all-out remaking “Resident Evil” time and time again, they put a lot of impressive games. “Breath of Fire III” and “Street Fighter II” among them. The former caught my attention and held onto it with an iron-grip, because it early adventures of Ryu, Rei, and Teepo. How, both Ryu and Teepo were orphans, and turned out to become epic motherfuckers that literally can rule the world. There were also a bunch of mini games and several side quests that all added to spicing up the game. It was also a time when you collect things in-game they actually added value to the gameplay and isn’t just “1 out of 10 notebooks.”

And “Street Fighter II” was the first game I played with my mom when she first came home with a SNES from the states. It was among our first bonding moments, I played between Ryu and Ken, then went on full Guilde (cause, ‘murica) and she played Chun Li. We’d play together after school, on the weekends, we’d also play “Super Mario World,” but we weren’t good at it at that time, so we often switched back to punching each other. It was good, sweet times before she had to leave and it wouldn’t be until several years later that we saw it each other again.