Spent the weekend with the authors of the Drake & McTrowell series. Learned more about readings and appearances. See the Handy Book of Important Acquaintances.

Also important, see The Clockwork Oracle anthology. Newly-minted for your reading pleasure.

There are many things are slowly accreting into my to-do list.

On the nuts-and-bolts of writing, we had a lot of laughs. They actually use the Hot Potato School of Writing. I find it amazing. It sounds like fun, but it isn’t me.

I find it particularly amazing because — as a non-fiction writer — word counts and chapter organization are something that has to be fussed over for a long time before there will be advance money and the “writing” begins.

Non-fiction writing involves the farce of writing to fill in the details of a legally-binding outline. This isn’t the way it truly works of course. The real work happened in the creation of the outline. In order to even make sure the chapters cover the material, I have to essentially draft each chapter. The “writing” phase is merely a brief expansion on the notes to make them a bit more readable.

But Drake & McTrowell are individually (and collectively) brilliant, so they really can toss cliff-hangers back and forth to each other and the story really will move forward and land somewhere.

I think the Hot Potato works for them because their stories are autobiographical. Many of the people and situations are drawn from their own careers as high-tech folks with lots of personal connections and complicated travel schedules.

I wind up spending too many hours researching sword types to be sure the size of the Red Knight’s sword matches some historical precedent. Yes, I’m writing #SFF fantasy. And yes, there’s magic, so the laws of physics are an unholy mess. But. I don’t want to make up swords that would lead to great cover art, but wouldn’t have been practical. I’m willing to sacrifice a little cover art coolness for a sword that could have been used to hack down Outlanders in battle and behead the convicted to administer justice.

My partner — to whom I read the drafts aloud — is the technical review committee of one. And there’s a lot of “How heavy would that be?” and “Wait. Half-rations would be — what — one thousand calories a day? The Mage would start losing weight almost immediately.”

Lesson Learned?

Lighten up a little. Gritty, immersive details can still be fun. Don’t be afraid to grab a hot potato out of the pot and toss it across the galley.