Wednesday, November 29, 2017

UT Football Coach Search--The Plot Thickens

Author's note: Sometimes, writers hear stories from sources that want to remain anonymous, which means those stories won't work in the context of regular journalism. That's where blogs can come in handy. And if I HAD heard any allegories from...say...4 or 5 boosters who didn't want to be named, I imagine the story would sound remarkably like this. Take from that what you will. 

You folks know I’m a novelist by profession, so I decided I would have a little fun with the ongoing UT coaching hire nightmare —just for fun and laughs — and tell you the story I would write if this was one of my books. I'd market it as a behind-the-doors business intrigue work of fiction that spans the gamut from the hiring of a football coach at a state university to big-money boosters and corruption.

First, the foreword. I’ve already inflicted poetry on you folks, so might as well go ahead and quote the Bible here:
Matthew 6:24 — No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of gold.
In my book, the real problem in the coaching search all along is that the UT athletic director, John Currie, is serving two masters. One is the university, and the other is top booster Jimmy Haslam. Currie follows Haslam’s lead to the detriment of Tennessee, ignoring the other boosters or deliberately misleading them, and condescending to the opinions of the fan base who are, in the world of big money college sports, relatively unimportant and unnecessary to his fundraising goals. And let’s make no bones about it — he’s not the first UT AD to do that. His two predecessors set a precedent for doing exactly that, and now it seems to be UTAD policy.

Harsh? Yes. But acceptable to all concerned. And while the boosters believed that big-time elite coach Jon Gruden has agreed to come to UT, down to the dollar amount of the deal(between $9-10 million dollars per year) and prospective assistant coaches to hire, somehow that deal isn't what happens. Currie, at the instruction of Haslam, tries to bring someone completely unacceptable through the back door as head football coach. The other boosters are shocked because no one told them anything about a deal with Greg Schiano. But the backlash from the fan base is so violent that UT has to back out of the deal. Currie then goes to Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, who flirts for a minute with a big money deal but then declines.

Meanwhile, in my fictional account…the fan base is screaming two names over and over. One is Tee Martin, the last quarterback to bring a national title to UT. But he’s not called, and rumors state that Tennessee favored son, Peyton Manning, also a former and beloved UT QB, has a problem with Tee as the next head football coach. If that’s the case, at the end of the day Manning should suppress his dissent in favor of the fans who have supported him throughout his whole career. But if that’s not the case, then who threw Peyton under the bus by claiming it was his doing? Peyton Manning, who is rumored to be under consideration for the front office of the Cleveland Browns? The GOAT, most beloved son of Rocky Top? More on that in a minute.

The other fan favorite is Lane Kiffin, who a lot of alumni and boosters would have a difficult time welcoming back to Knoxville after what he pulled the last time he was here. And since the narrator agrees with them (don’t @ me; just my personal opinion), I’ll just leave that conversation to sit.

So, in my totally fictional novel, while the fans want Tee or Kiffin, the university just got rejected in advance by Chad Morris of SMU and in minutes by Jeff Broehm of Purdue. Unthinkable.

Now the crazy train starts again, as Currie tries to find a candidate that Haslam will somehow approve of but who won’t be met by furious protesters outside the athletic department. Even as a novelist, I would imagine that list of names is very short. And then next — 

But…wait. As a novelist, I know that when something is bugging me about my story, I need to stop and think about it for a minute. I storyboard plots, like the evidence boards you see on TV crime shows. And in this case, I keep running into the same question.

Why would UT boosters have thought to a man that Gruden was coming to Knoxville, and how did they get surprised by the Schiano deal? A university doesn’t just up and change course on a decision if the boosters are all on board, right? Not without telling someone.

But the boosters’ shock and dismay was so evident and so universal that I can’t think anything other than they weren’t told. And if that’s the case, then the reasonable conclusion for any fiction writer is that there was a deal with Gruden that somehow fell through at the last possible minute. Who knows? 

Maybe that deal was actually signed . Maybe an actual MOU, even, say in some super secret facility at a country club, but Gruden's side amended it so Currie backed out of the deal. Then Currie went rogue at the instigation of Haslam and tried to hurry a new deal through and get Schiano installed before anyone could react. Especially the boosters, who thought they were getting (and perhaps had donated money to get) Jon Gruden. 

So how does that impact my story’s plot? And how do I bring this nightmare back around for the happy ever after ending? Difficult questions to answer. Obviously, getting rid of Currie’s not the entirety of the answer, because Haslam would be at the center of any new AD hire as well. If Currie was forced out, and he would be soon after this point of the story for rank incompetence if nothing else, then the next AD would be a Currie Lite. 

No, the real cancer eating away at UT’s guts from the inside is named Haslam. That’s what must fall if the good guys are going to win. 

You know, the narrator of this story lives up in Ohio so she(thankfully) avoids almost all of the cesspool influence named Haslam — except, of course, for the worst-run franchise in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns. (Coincidentally, where Peyton is rumored to be heading to the front office.) Apparently, Haslam likes to ruin proud, storied football heritages because he’s certainly done so for Cleveland and is single-handedly undertaking the same at UT. 


And yes, people that pony up millions to build a football legacy at a university absolutely are and should be involved in some decisions within the process. No one’s unrealistic enough to think otherwise. But involved, not dictating, and never to the point where one booster is basically running the whole show despite the other boosters, the alumni, fans, and the best interests of the university overall. Anyone with a grain of common sense could see the answer to UT’s woes — ditch Haslam and Currie, put Blackburn or Fulmer in at AD, and bring back a UT guy to change the narrative of this coaching hire. Make a popular hire, pay the staff well, and put the football team’s fate in the hands of the program and not some fat cat’s plush office where he sits like a spider in the middle of a destructive web. 

Easy, right? 

But common sense is a rarity these days, it seems, especially on the Hill where apparently no one from the university president on down seems to see the danger of UT’s continued association with Jimmy Haslam. Oh, and it’s oh so dangerous, too. As in a bringing down the whole house of cards in one stroke dangerous. Everyone, literally from the governor’s office on down, is in danger of losing more than they realize as the result of a football coaching search debacle. So when the university manages to hire someone — if that ever happens — the UTAD can take a deep breath. Disaster averted, so now the fans can shut up.

But the narrator is still bothered, and it all goes back to one thing — how so many prominent boosters and alumni were of the belief Jon Gruden was coming to UT and instead got Greg Schiano.
That seems…strange, doesn’t it? Almost as if those boosters were misled somehow into believing what everyone in the national media said was a pipe dream. In and of itself, that doesn’t seem possible. Those boosters are savvy businessmen from top to bottom. 


Unless those boosters were misled — say, for example, when the Gruden deal fell through and they weren’t informed of that after ponying up a rumored $20 million to make the deal happen. 

Unless the decision to go after Schiano was an AD going rogue. 

Unless the only other guy aware of and supporting the Schiano hire was the same guy who tried to get Schiano hired for a pro franchise…say maybe…in Cleveland. 

That’s the only thing that makes sense to me. I’m an extremely logical person, and I certainly try to be level-headed, although Twitter makes that challenging at times. But I am also a novelist, and pulling plot strings together into a story is what I do for a living. So if I were writing this as a novel, I would have to assume that there actually was a done deal with Gruden, maybe even a signed MOU that was amended at the last minute so that UT rescinded the offer, and that the Schiano offer was an attempt to sneak a malleable candidate through the back door without the knowledge or approval of the other athletic boosters but with the full support of one. 

In my book--a fictional book, mind you--I don’t think any athletic director would have been inept enough to present Greg Schiano as the “home run hire” that UT would “open the checkbooks” for in order to bring a man of “integrity” to run football. No one sitting at an AD’s desk is stupid enough to think that’s anything other than Bad PR 101. And obviously, the university had not called one other coach prior to last week.

Not. One. 

If I’m right, and if that’s the case, then in my fictionalized account of the UT shinola show, the story isn’t over with an acceptable football hire. UT has to look to the future, and future hires, to keep this from happening again. So what has to happen to prevent future horrors is that the regular guy fan base needs to come together with the folks in the sky boxes they never meet. The boosters. The boosters not named Haslam. Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how much money one guy has, it’s not enough to supersede the rest of the boosters, the season ticket holders, the donors, the former players, and the alumni. Between major UT donors, boosters, alumni, and season ticket holders alone, Tennessee stands to lose $100 million if those groups unite and stand up to the one fat cat Svenagli at the top of the heap.

That's an insurmountable number. 

In my fictional world, Jimmy Haslam should not be the real power running the show at the UTAD. The fact that he is, quite frankly, should be a massive legal conflict of interest since his brother is currently the sitting governor in the state of Tennessee. That kind of power over a state-run entity like a university stinks of corruption, and corruption always goes up, not down. With Governor Haslam mulling a Senate run, the last thing he needs to be tainted by his brother’s shenanigans in Knoxville. And the last thing Tennesseans should tolerate is the continued involvement of anyone named Haslam in the decision-making processes that impact not just their everyday lives, but what they love. 

The University of Tennessee. 

So anyone up to his nose in Jimmy Haslam’s armpits, who botched this hire so horrifically from the get go, needs to be kicked out of his — or her — office too. 

But as Currie continues to woo sitting head coaches with the hopes that one of them would be ambitious enough to be starry-eyed over the name of Rocky Top or dumb enough to ignore Haslam pulling the purse- and puppet-strings to actually agree to coach at UT, the real problem at UT leaned back in his custom-built chair, smoking those Cuban cigars, swilling his “no one can afford this but me” Scotch, and congratulating himself on being the Machiavelli that really runs the UT athletic department.

How does my novel sound to you folks? Think it’s bestseller material? I do. Because at the heart of this fictional story is how a big-time university screwed up the biggest hiring deal in a century of college sports and subsequently tried to kowtow to a booster’s demands to the detriment of everyone. 

I’m not a world-famous author. Not yet. Plan to be. But what most people don’t know about me is that I am a pretty damn good editor by God, and that I edit for writers who are on the NYT and USA Today bestseller list even as we speak. Believe me — I can spot a story from two states away. I can pull those strings together as well as anyone in the business. And if I were writing a (wholly fictional) story about corruption in big-money collegiate athletics? This plot I’ve outlined here would be a bestseller. Not because it’s fanciful, but because it’s credible. The problem with big-money boosters is that they’re universal when it comes to big-time football programs. You don’t think there’s a similar story in Tuscaloosa? 

Or South Bend? Tallahassee? 


Think again. 

But in this novel of football desperation, all the big money boosters (but one) were taken off-guard as well. In order to get the happily ever after ending in my fictional account, those boosters and the fan base would have to come together fast and create such an uproar that the real cancer at the heart of the UTAD woes would be cut out: Haslam is prevented from dictating university policy, Currie is fired along with any UT officials part and parcel of this deal with the devil, a native son like David Blackburn is brought in to clean up the UTAD mess, and a new coach with integrity starts to put the pieces back together of the football team. Of course, in my story that denouement would involve sirens and jail time and shots fired and maybe some gore, but hey — that’s what I write, right? Sci fi? Horror? 


At the end of the day, I’m just a struggling writer, making ends meet by editing for big name authors, who every once in a while finds a way to spin a little fancy with her one guilty pleasure — Tennessee sports. The problem with me writing this fictionalized account of a botched coaching hire, is that at the end of the day I’m not sure this is fiction. And if it’s not, the story will be written by someone with a lot more power in the publishing and sports media world than me, who can convince people to step up and corroborate this story. That’s how the publishing business goes. 

More than likely, that’s how the hiring of a football coach at a big university goes too. Fortunately for fat cats and their minions, no one pays any attention to the stories a struggling novelist tells. 

All fiction when you get right down to it. Just…100%, complete, nothing to see here fiction.

No, really. It's fiction. Promise.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

So...Let's Talk About the Harlequinade's Life History in Publishing

A few people in the world have read some or all of my Harlequinade series. Many of those people are NY editors at Big 5 houses, and from most everyone who's read one or more of the books I have gotten seriously mixed signals. 

Let me catch you up. The Harlequinade series is set in a world where American professional theater meets urban fantasy/horror--kind of like Something Wicked This Way Comes had a love child with The Phantom of the Opera. It's a serious genre mashup with elements of horror, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, time travel, and literary science fiction. The first book in this series, Theater of Seduction, won an award at RT, landed me my awesome agent, and managed to bulldoze its way through numerous publishing departments only to be killed off after multiple reads. The feedback I did receive was a variant of the following:

Don't know where we'd shelve it.

Too intellectual. 

Needs more *insert whatever the last editor said to take out of it*

--and my personal favorite:

Chapters are too long. 

Don't get me wrong. These are all legitimate criticisms from editors I don't know and some very good friends as well. As anyone who follows me knows, I am absolutely incapable of writing something uncomplicated. So these points are certainly valid, particularly as literature is a very subjective field from top to bottom. 

Is it any wonder that my forehead is permanently flat from banging it into my desk? In fact, the very first Big Five house (probably THE Big Five house in my opinion) my agent submitted Theater of Seduction to looked like a miraculously speedy done deal. The manuscript hit an editor's desk who absolutely loved it. Couldn't wait to sign it. Then it got to the final editorial committee and one guy shot it down.

Still have nightmares after that horrorfest. Went from looking like a world record--land agent, submit to major publishing giant, editor falls in love and contracts it--to a harbinger of heartbreak. 

Everyone who's read the series loves it. They love the voice, love the setting, love the twists, love everything but contracting the book for publication, in fact. So when that happens--and considering that NY publishing isn't looking for anything new and different despite what they may claim on their blogs--that leaves only a few fates for my much-beloved Harlequin. I can trunk him and forget I ever wrote the series, I can look for a small publisher, or I can self-publish. 

Until a couple of months ago, I would have slam dunked the Harlequin into my trunk and then cried miserably for months. But seeing how lightning struck unexpectedly with Zozo (evidently, it takes a demon for me where it takes a village for normal people), the self-publication option is unexpectedly attractive. 

May only cry for weeks instead of months. 

But here's the thing that I think a lot of publishers miss--there is definitely a market for non-trope, intelligent, multiple-genre romance out there, and that market is NOT getting the kinds of books they prefer. I am not a huge reader of romance, but I love it when I find those smart epic romances like the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. And I don't go in for percentages, either, like some publishers do in their submission guidelines--"the plot needs to be 50% romance" and so forth.

My novels hit right around 100,000 words each. Does that mean 50,000 words need to be all romantic plot? 

Kind of...sterile and unromantic when you put it that way. 

At the end of the day, publishing is a business and that business was thrown ass over head with the advent of digital publishing, followed by the ease and (relative) affordability of self-publishing so that now it's hedging its bets--established authors OR self-publishing success stories with a built-in platform who crave the phrase "bestselling author" behind their name. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Except, perhaps, for the readers who are craving something new. 

I've been blessed throughout my career as an author and editor to meet so many people--fans, reviewers, editors, other authors and particularly those in the romance genres--who have sincerely loved my work and gave me the opportunity to share in theirs. At the end of the day, I'm going to rely upon their judgment on my work because their judgment is what really matters. Harlequinade is too risky for Big Five publishing and that's cool. 

But it's not too different for readers actively searching for something different. And different happens to be my specialty. 

This is a massive series--ten completed books including a historical fiction prequel--with one of the riskiest characters arcs I've ever attempted. Yes, that's saying a lot considering what I'm known for doing to my characters. But I wanted to experiment with the romance genre, and set its tropes against speculative fiction tropes just to see what I could make of it. And what ensued was, in my opinion, pretty damn awesome. These books are books I would read over and over--not because I wrote them, but because someone finally did.

So here in a few months, you guys will get to meet my favorite characters I've written so far. I have a feeling the Harlequin might just intrigue some of you. 


Yes, the Harlequin is one of the main characters. He's the bad guy, in fact. 


My motto remains unchanged. Nothing is as it seems.

Theater of Seduction--February, 2018
Theater of Deception--March, 2018
Theater of Cruelty--April, 2018
Theater of War--May, 2018
Theater of Desire--June, 2018
Theater of Vengeance--July, 2018
Theater of Destiny--August, 2018
Theater of Birth--September, 2018
Theater of Death--October, 2018
Theater of Power (prequel)--November, 2018

Strap in, kids. It's about to get busy with the Harlequinade.

Harlequinade Book One--Theater of Seduction back jacket copy:

Catherine Brighton had given up on theater when crippling panic attacks drove her from New York and her dreams, but when enigmatic director Phillip Lewis invites her to join his theatrical company, she knows it’s her ticket to Broadway. The company’s magical performance style is the holy grail of theater, an acting style that uses empathy to heighten the theatrical experience and psychically seduces the audience. Catherine quickly discovers that the company isn’t what it seems. Phillip has a strange hold over the cast, and the lines between reality and the play blur into a dangerous emotional minefield…one that’s cost previous leading ladies their lives.

The danger is compounded when Catherine falls in love with one of the male leads, Dominic LeClair, who is torn between his love for Cat and the secrets pressing in around them. When Catherine’s best friend, Mike, offends Phillip at a party and dies in a mysterious accident hours later, Catherine begins to question the uses of the company’s unique magic—and Phillip’s motives.

Despite her fear, Catherine is drawn deeper into the mystery surrounding the company and the man she loves.  As the eighteenth century tragedy unfolds on the stage, Catherine discovers that the plot extends well beyond the script, and empathy can be used for much more than wowing an audience. If she can’t find a way to free them all from Phillip, she’ll remain trapped in his theater of seduction forever.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Tragedy of George RR Martin--Discipline, Joy, and Speculative Fiction

Because I write speculative fiction, creating epic novels or series be they fantasy, sci fi, or paranormal is an advantage. Spec fic readers love to immerse themselves in a vast world capable of supporting huge plot arcs with hordes of characters to fall in love with and, in my worlds at least, grieve over after they suffer heinous deaths. That's the kind of interaction any writer craves for their readers. When I get hate mail for killing off favorite characters, I do a little happy dance around my desk. 

When readers get pissed enough to yell at me for killing off a character, that means I did my job right and I did it well. 


Because the readers were so emotionally invested in the story that they responded to that character's death with genuine feeling. 

The great thing about epic fiction is that you can kill off a lot of characters in a long, complex plot arc. 

But there are pitfalls, too. 

Sometimes, an epic plot arc can get away from a writer. I'm a very prolific and fast writer. That's because of two reasons--first, that movie I'm watching in my head. I'm not sitting around for weeks constructing a painstaking, convoluted plot outline. I'm already writing. The form of the story is ingrained enough in my head that I know how to write from the beginning of the plot's road, up onto the first small hill, dipping into the valley, and then building the trip up the mountain of the plot. Every great story has those peaks and ebbs, a natural rhythm as they grow and the world expands. 

And the second reason is that I'm just damn fast. I used to do product testing for IBM when I was young, which puts my typing speed over 100 wpm (words per minute). Since I have only the one job (writer) I can easily spend 10-12 hours a day at my computer. I usually can clock in around 2,000 words an hour. So if the story is really rolling--like the one my agent is currently shopping--I can write the first draft of an epic fantasy novel in two weeks or less. 

Man, that first draft is crappy but it's on paper, by golly. 

There are a lot of writers who have the absolute opposite problem. Chief among them is George RR Martin, whose last novel in his wildly successful A Song of Ice and Fire--A Dance With Dragons--came out in 2011. With two novels left to complete the story line, Martin stalled so dramatically that now the television show based on his series has moved past his last published installment and has already completed a season beyond the books. He's reworked some of his older works, collaborated on a reference guide to Westeros, and zipped out a few novellas but the main series has languished now for seven years with no publication date in sight. 

What made that even worse was Martin continuing to announce publication dates, getting his fans excited, and then all those dates slipped by without a novel in sight. The latest self-imposed deadline by GRRM claims The Winds of Winter will be released in late 2018 or early 2019. If he actually makes this deadline, that will end up being a hiatus of eight years between book five and book six. So how is it possible that George RR Martin, who was trained in the deadline-heavy minefield of writing soap opera scripts, now finds himself unable to finish ASOIAF? What happened? 

I think he's gotten lost in the story himself. If you read Martin's ASOIAF, as the series moves forward the plot becomes extremely convoluted, with Martin occasionally going off on self-inflicted momentum murder by focusing on secondary characters and their plot arcs when those stories barely intersect with the main through line *coughSandSnakescough* and have little or no impact upon the ultimate denouement of the world. (That last bit is an assumption, because I can't imagine the Sand Snakes affecting much of anything except giving readers a PITA.) So now, having invested tens of thousands of words on that secondary plot, and hundreds of thousands on a slew of similar secondary plots, the writer sits and stares at his computer for days when he finally realizes what he's done to himself. 

He has so many plots going that he can't resolve the main storyline.

Time for...the Red Wedding, or other similar catastrophes. \

The only way to resolve a plethora of unneeded plots is to massacre them. Literally. But that, in turn, leads to other problems. With so many plots and characters it's only to easy to accidentally murder the wrong ones.

Enter Lady Stoneheart. Catelyn Stark's character could have done so much more than to be an implacable zombie seeking vengeance. In order to keep her in some fashion, Martin took away her greatest assets--her voice of reason, her common sense, her impact upon major players like Littlefinger and Jon and Sansa, and her ultimate moment of  revenge on Cersei Lannister, First of her Name.

But Martin is a perfectionist, and he loves the convoluted plotlines he used to whip out daily for soap operas. While I'm sure these two problems are, in some degree, to blame for his inability to finish the series, in the end it's more than likely something completely different and far more common. 

Writing isn't something you can just sit down and do, whiling away the hours like you are playing a video game or watching television. Writing requires discipline. Oh, I know. I'm the queen of procrastination. That's why for a long time I never finished a book. Once I completed my first novel, though, I created a set time every day to write new material. Back then I had to schedule around my job and other stuff, just like you do now more than likely. 

Now that I don't have a work schedule or kids in the house or a business to run, things are much different. I've created a discipline that works for me and enables me to maximize my productivity. I write new material in four hour blocks, and do at least one block a day. During my writing time, I turn off my phone, disconnect from the internet, and switch off the television. I will let my Alexa play music, but mostly classical and almost always instrumental--which is why I have playlists that are developed for specific moods. Then I open up the manuscript I'm working on to the last page and I start writing. 

I can hear some of my editing clients now. "But Celina, what if inspiration doesn't come?" 

Inspiration--the Muse--doesn't have a choice whether it's showing up or not for a disciplined writer. Writing is a job just like any other--except for the fact that it's a lot more enjoyable--and it comes when I want it to...not the other way around. Writers who sit around and wait for the Muse to pay a visit are generally writers who never finish a book. I keep the Muse showing up because of the next to the last thing I do in every writing block. I leave a comment for myself in the manuscript, making note of whatever my next thought or plot point following the last thing I wrote. 

The last thing I do is back up my manuscript. Trust me: you want to do that too. 

Once I finish a writing block, I'll play online or clean house or whatever. I'll work on my editing clients' work, or write an article. I do not read what I just wrote though. Revision and editing is something I approach after I've completed the first draft of the novel and not before. The only thing I work on regarding my work in progress outside of those writing blocks is research/story boarding. I basically scout locations, find costumes for character description (or hair styles or shoes or interior design or what's on the dinner table. When I find an image that evokes my world, I'll pop it on my Pinterest storyboards. 

But I don't write. Just like any other job, you need to rest when you take a break. Writing is no different. Then, usually a couple of hours later, I'll start another writing block and do it all over again. 

This discipline helps keep my writing time productive, allows me to maximize both my time and my word counts, and lets me finish first drafts fairly quickly. But it also helps to keep writing fun for me. When I sit at my computer to start working on my manuscript again, I'm excited to get back into the world and find out what happened next. And if I'm excited to learn that, I can be fairly certain or at the very least hopeful that my readers will be as well. 

I don't think GRRM feels that same excitement. The announced deadlines that are subsequently missed, the lack of progress on such a heavily developed world, and the still-stretching distance between books five and six all indicate to me that he's bogged down emotionally. Hell,, he's a multi-gazillionaire off books one through five. He doesn't have to drag himself to the computer every morning like I do and start my work timer to compel myself to get to work. His hunger for the series has left him, and walking in the world he created no longer brings him the joy it once did. So he gives himself deadlines. He means to beat every one of them, too. He knows how long it usually takes him to crank out 200,000 words, and gives himself a generous cushion to ensure he beats that predicted date. 

Then he sits at his computer, waiting to pick up the lost threads of the story, knowing in his head where he needs to go next but dreading the journey because it's So he turns to the internet, seeking that inspiration. He answers fan mail because it makes him feel good. He checks out his website, then decides to write a blog post because blogging is writing too. He can write his way into the book. But the blog post diverts his attention to something else, and before he realizes it he's wasted two hours and not one word was written. So he gives it up for the day, meaning to make a fresh start the following morning.

Inevitably, it happens again. Because with all the chatter out there about Game of Thrones, absolutely none of it is about his books anymore. All the excitement, all the intense love of the fans is now reserved for the television show...and their writers have already forged the plotline that will resonate in fans' minds. GRRM's no longer necessary to build his own world, to set the characters he created onto the path he'd always intended for them to follow. ASOIAF is now secondary to the HBO version of Westeros, because GRRM didn't have the discipline he needed to finish the books before the series caught up with him. 

And now, it's passed him. 

When I sit down to write, it's a labor of love. I enjoy every moment I spend exploring my imagination. But I had to learn the discipline I needed to be at maximum productivity. In 2016, I wrote a little over a million words. In 2017, I will almost certainly write over 1.25 million words. Crappy words. First draft words. Words that I will beat and shape and melt until I forge a new story, a new book out of them. Make no mistake--I loved every single crappy word I wrote, and remember the singular joy each of them gave me. But not a single word would have been written if I hadn't created a disciplined routine for myself and stuck to it. I know myself too well. And that, in turn, had enabled me to make damn sure that if/when one of my series takes off like ASOIAF, I won't lose my joy in the middle and leave the last couple of books unwritten. Although my agent very intelligently told me not to worry about sequels until the first book is sold, GRRM stands as a cautionary tale and the lesson I learned from watching him the last seven years is that for any writer, even the great ones, the joy can absolutely evaporate from your own world. The money, the fame, the fans can become a distraction taking you away from what you really love. 

So, young writers, a bit of advice since I believe strongly in paying it forward. Create your own discipline. Not daily word counts, but a daily commitment of time without the distractions of everyday life where you can sit down, shut the door on the rest of the world, and walk beside your characters into whatever world you've created for them. Without the discipline, it's inevitable that you, too, will lose your joy in writing. And at the end of the day, that is the ultimate tragedy of George RR Martin. Not that he can't meet a deadline or finish his next book, but that he's lost his joy in Westeros, which has brought so much joy to millions of people around the world.