Why and How I Wrote Beginning

September 2, 2016

Cover - FinalHello again everyone,

Shortly after publishing Inca I wrote a blog post explaining what led me to write about that empire and its people. A year later when I published Zulu I blogged about what drew me to the story of that kingdom and its people. I suppose now that Beginning is in the process of going live across the various regional Amazon websites, the time has come to talk about why I wrote this book.

Unlike Inca and Zulu, where my interest was first sparked by looking for more information about a civilization I did not know much about, Beginning began with me being self-conscious about my work. I suspect most writers after they have written a couple of books start worrying their stuff is all of a type, and maybe not the type they would have chosen if they had to do it over again. I have written two lengthy novels about cultures that are relatively little-known to my friends and family. If I wanted to write something much shorter with a broader appeal, what would that look like?

Inca and Zulu, much as I love them, ask for a lot of a reader’s time and attention. You cannot do a deep dive into the history and culture of people who most people are unfamiliar with while worrying about word count. They are by necessity long and dense. If I was free to write something where I knew my readers would understand everything from page one, what would I write about?

I have come up with half a dozen answers to that question so far, and most of them exist as a hundred pages or so of abandoned first draft material. One of the primary hurdles about completing a novel –long or short—is that you have to be excited about the subject matter and the plot and the characters for months and probably years of research and writing before you have a finished first draft to start editing and polishing. There were a lot of false starts as I searched for something I was sure I would finish. For maybe two years I despaired of finishing a third novel for want of an idea I knew would hold my interest.

I firmly believe writers need to read widely and deeply to develop their own craft. One of the most flattering things I have seen in the reviews for Inca is when someone says they can see some of Gary Jennings’ Aztec in my own work. Zulu was very much inspired by the early few decades of Wilbur Smith’s work. So who should I take as my muse for my third novel? Who writes the shorter novels that I adore?

I cast about through a few options, but again and again I kept coming back to Kurt Vonnegut.

Let me say categorically that Beginning is not a Kurt Vonnegut-esque novel, much to my regret. I lack his brevity and his wit. I am just telling the story of how I got started, and I started with Vonnegut.

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My Third Novel is Now Published on Amazon

August 26, 2016

Cover - FinalHello everyone,

My last blog post was about a year ago now. I apologized at the time, saying I was working on another writing project that was more important to me. It is with great pleasure that I return to this blog, then, to say I have now completed my third novel, Beginning. The e-book version is available on Amazon as of this post, and I expect the trade paperback version to be available sometime next week.

I am very happy with how this novel came together. One of my proofreaders called it, “Some of your best writing, and certainly your most accessible,” which has to be the nicest way anyone can say that Inca and Zulu can be a little dense for people who do not read historical fiction on a regular basis.

I will be blogging on a regular basis for the foreseeable future to support this book, so I suppose I do not need to say everything all at once. As long as I am blogging, I also have some other ideas for content that might be fun to share on this site. We will see how those ideas develop, I am sure.

One thing I would like to encourage people to do if you are reading this blog because you enjoy my novels, please join The Novels of Geoff Micks page I set up on Facebook. I share pictures and links there that will not appear on this blog, and comments on that page board go through to my phone where I will actually engage with them, rather than the WordPress comments section that I clean out once ever six months or so.

Anyway, you can expect to hear a lot from me in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, best regards and have a great day!

–Geoff


An Essay on Writing by Way of The Time Traveler’s Wife

November 25, 2012

I have just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Some months ago I co-founded a rather studious book club, and this one has been nominated a number of times without ever being selected for group discussion. I had a vague understanding of the premise, and it sounded appealing. I decided to pick up a copy and see what all the fuss was about.

My goodness, there is a lot to fuss about.

Just to emphasize my emphasis, I bought the book less than twenty-four hours ago. Fifty pages in I knew whatever else I planned to do with those twenty-four hours was going to have to be put on the back burner. I needed to see this thing through as quickly as possible.

The book was published in 2003 to rave reviews and was made into a movie I’m told I shouldn’t watch in 2009, so I imagine many of you reading this already know what it’s all about. For everyone else, the novel is about a man named Henry DeTamble with a rare genetic disorder that causes him under certain stimuli to become unstuck in time, flashing forwards or more usually backwards through a span of roughly a century to any number of places throughout the United States’ Midwest. He cannot control where or when he appears, naked and disoriented, but the journeys are guided in some way by his subconscious. More often than not he appears in the vicinity of people and places who have great importance in his life: His mother who dies in a car wreck; himself at a younger age; the Art Institute of Chicago, but most often –or at least it features most prominently in the novel– in the meadow behind the house where his future wife lives.

Clare Abshire first meets Henry at six years old, and over the next twelve years their friendship evolves from an almost imaginary friend through to a guardian angel, and then eventually and inevitably into a crush that moves through her teenage lust into something adult and mature. On her eighteenth birthday he tells her they will not see one another again for two years and two months, and the Henry she meets at that point will be the Henry in the here and now –a Henry only eight years older than her who lives in Chicago– and he begs her to have mercy on him. He isn’t the man Clare knows yet, but he will become that person with her help.

Clare does meet the contemporary Henry after beginning university in Chicago, and their life together begins in both an ordinary and extraordinary way. Throughout their lives together it is understood that at any point he might disappear almost without warning, leaving a puddle of clothes behind. Sometimes he’s gone minutes, and sometimes hours, and sometimes days. When he reappears, he often bears the scars of his misadventures. She likens the waiting to women of previous centuries who married men who went to sea and spent long periods waiting and worrying and watching the horizon for a distant sail.

More than that I will not say. Read the book. You will not regret it.

Now I entitled this blog post, “An Essay on Writing by Way of the Time Traveler’s Wife,” and I do want to talk about writing in some depth. Many of you know that I’ve written a couple of novels myself, and when I read a book now, I read it as an author admiring another author’s craft. There is a bit of armchair quarterbacking involved, of course, but there is also a deep appreciation for the process and the art. I once had a trumpet player tell me I couldn’t be a real Beatles fan because I wasn’t a musician. I find that a laughable claim, but I will admit in the same way musicians can enjoy music with a fuller understanding of the mechanics involved, so too do writers appreciate books in a different way than other readers. We ponder motive, pacing, plotting, character arcs, prose, perspective. We wonder why something was done this way and not another. We peer between the lines to look at the author on the other side and ask, ‘What are you really trying to say?’

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My second e-book, Zulu, is now for sale through Amazon’s Kindle Store

May 14, 2012

Cover_Amazon

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to say we now have a working link. More importantly, my mother has bought the first copy, so I can now tell everyone else about it. Zulu is currently the 218,622nd most popular e-book for sale in the Kindle Store. I’m pleased to see e-publishing is thriving. With your help, I hope to climb at least an order of magnitude in the rankings. I’m sure there will be a number of updates and additional information in the near future –including a Smashwords link for those of you who do not favour Kindle e-readers– but for the time being I’m just going to say this is a proud moment for me. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please tell a friend.

Cheers and happy reading!

Now Available at Amazon.com and CreateSpace!

Addendum: As of September 30th, I’ve decided not to publish on Smashwords, focusing all my efforts on Amazon.com. Cheers!


My Favourite Authors of Historical Fiction: Sharon Kay Penman

May 2, 2012

Hello everyone,

While I wait for the ISBN number for my next novel, Zulu, I thought I’d add to my ongoing 11-part series on my favourite authors of historical fiction.

#5 – Sharon Kay Penman

I’ve written about Sharon Kay Penman before in one of my earliest blog posts, a lengthy book review that I will not repeat here for the sake of both brevity and originality. That said, I will repeat again what I said back in 2009: She is one of the shining lights of historical fiction today.

The particular era and area she writes about  is on the Middle Ages of Great Britain and France, and her attention to detail in that time period is every bit as impressive as Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series. If she says something happened on a Wednesday, she’s looked up the date and adjusted for the Gregorian calendar reforms that dropped ten days out of the year 1582 to make that statement. I’m only exaggerating slightly when I enthuse that when her characters lean against an oak tree, she’s probably seen the stump. She’s less a writer of fiction than a journalist who apologetically plays fast and loose with her quotations because of the understandable difficulty in interviewing people who have been dead for between seven and nine centuries. The history nerd in me gets all warm and fuzzy reading her stories, knowing she will confess her few inventions in a detailed author’s note at the end.

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I Will Be E-Publishing My Next Novel, Zulu, Soon

April 30, 2012

Cover_AmazonHello everyone,

As many of you know, I e-published a work of historical fiction, Inca, last summer on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and  I’m pleased to announce in the next few days I will be publishing my second novel. I’m just waiting for the ISBN number to come through, and then there will be a short delay while Amazon processes the file. I expect I’ll be blogging quite a bit in the next couple of weeks as everything comes online.

When I was fourteen years old I watched a movie called Zulu starring a young Michael Caine in his first major role. The film is an African Western –if that’s a thing– loosely based on the true story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, a minor siege that saw a hundred and fifty British soldiers defend a mission station against four thousand Zulu warriors for a day and a night. The redcoats won eleven Victoria Crosses for their heroism, but I came away from the experience with a lingering question, “What would make a man get up out of the tall grass and run against a fortress over and over again, armed only with a spear less than four feet long?” The redcoats fought for their lives and only survived thanks to breech-loading rifles and makeshift barricades shoulder-high. What were the Zulu fighting for?

Being a bookish sort, I went to my library in search of answers. Everything I read left me wanting to learn more. The Anglo-Zulu War was not a straight parallel to the Apache or Sioux wars made famous by American westerns: The Zulu were an iron age pastoral society with a strong monarchy, a thriving economy, and a culture that celebrated service to the State. The assault on Rorke’s Drift was fought exclusively by men in their late thirties and early forties who had missed an earlier  battle where their sons and nephews had won a victory that made the Little Big Horn look like a church picnic. The older generation defied the orders of their King and crossed into British territory to attack Rorke’s Drift so as not to go home ashamed at their lack of accomplishment. They threw their lives against the British fortifications because it was better to die than have their children think less of them. The tragedy of that, the stubborn pride involved, humbles me.

The Zulu Kingdom went on to hold off a quarter of the globe for six aching months, and their final defeat saw their whole world collapse into an anarchy of ashes and dust for the hubris of wanting to live free in their own land under their own laws.

Much more so than the Ashante or the Xhosa or the Pashtuns or any other people ground under the Victorian heel in the later half of the 1800s, the Zulu have echoed through history for more than a century for their proud, doomed struggle. It frustrated me as a fan of historical fiction that nothing has ever written from their own perspective: Every story I found was written from the British perspective, and the Zulu were rarely more than a mass of humanity seen over a set of iron gun sights.  They deserve better than that, and I began writing a story at seventeen that I’ve been tinkering with ever since. I hope it does them justice.

Zulu is the story of four young people: Mbeki and Ingonyama, the sons of a blacksmith; the exiled Matabele prince Inyati, and Nandhi, the daughter of a Northern baron. They grow up in a kingdom on the cusp of a golden age. Their lives are far from perfect, but they make friends and enemies at the Royal Court that draw them into the great events of a people with a culture and history as rich and deep as anything medieval Europe can boast of. The abrupt collision of their civilization with an aggressive foreign power armed with the fruits of the Industrial Revolution becomes their highest glory and their deepest tragedy.

If Inca was my attempt to follow in the footsteps of Gary Jennings’ Aztec, Zulu is unabashedly my homage to the early works of Wilbur Smith: There are love triangles, power struggles, boxing matches, elephant hunting, brush fires, and battles. While most of the main characters are fictional, the incredible events they find themselves caught up in really happened.

I’m excited to share that story with you. Best regards and happy reading!

–Geoff Micks

EDIT: As of September 30th, I’ve decided to stop publishing on Smashwords and focus on Amazon.


My e-book, Inca, is now live on Smashwords

August 14, 2011

Hello everyone,

In addition to Amazon’s Kindle store, My e-book is now also available through Smashwords.

For those of you with Kobo, Nook, Diesel, or Sony E-Readers, this should now work without any issues. Some of the formatting may be simplified during the conversion process, but all the prose is still there.

For those of you who are just running a search on Smashwords, apparently my book is being censored off the list for having adult situations. There’s enough sex and violence in the story that I ticked the box when they asked, but now that I know it limits my visibility I’m going to review the terms and conditions tomorrow to see if I can opt out of it.

I’ll have further updates and details on this soon. In the meantime, happy reading!

Addendum: As of September 30th, 2012, I’ve decided not to publish on Smashwords, focusing instead on Amazon.com. Cheers!

Further Addendum: As of December 30th, 2012, this novel is also available as a trade paperback at CreateSpace!