Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

The Dogs Project: Rewrite and Final Report

by Daniel Abraham

What is the Dogs Project?

 Well, I had hoped I’d get that one last critique in, but it’s pretty clearly not going to happen.  I have to say how much I appreciate the comments I had from the folks who did chime in and that I totally undertand not having time to ge around to it from the one that didn’t.  Scheduling is always a trial.

The final draft is due in with Shawn in a couple weeks, so I’m in the process of making the final draft (and finishing up the script for Issue 13 of A Game of Thrones: The Comic Book and the first draft of The Expanse 3: Abaddon’s Gate . . . no rest for the wicked), and so I thought I’d tell y’all what I was thinking and then (finally) open the floor to comments that I can actually read.

So having been away from the story for a while and having four, I think, very good responses to the story, the question becomes what am I going to do about it.

So, in no particular order, here’s the to-do list I built going into the rewrite:

1) I’m changing Charlie’s name to something less related to Dickens.  I’m thinking Alex.  The Charles Dickens problem came up in more than one critique, so that makes it real.

2) Adam is getting recast as a woman, and I think changing her name to something relatively gender neutral.  This isn’t something that anyone talked about in the critiques, but the more I think about it, the more comfortable I feel with the idea.  The grace of having unambiguous pronouns in the dialog was what finally won me over.

3) Adam’s exposition-in-dialog clearly doesn’t work.  That’s not a big deal.  All I have to do it cut out a bunch of it.  Fixing things with a knife is always easy.  And it gives me a place to put in some more of the emotion that Charlie’s story is missing.  I think Ian is right about him feeling numb, and I don’t think the tactic he suggested of having Charlie be *aware* that he’s numb is a cheat at all.  But I think it will work better if I have that *and* more genuine emotion.  Especially guilt about not having tried harder to make things work with Dickens.  So I can put some of that in the space I’m carving out of Adam’s on-the-nose dialog.

4) Charlie’s gone-away life.  Charlie came out of nothing, and that’s not working.  I’m adding in some things that tie him back into the life he used to have and doesn’t anymore:  some folks that he used to to the movies with that are checking in to see if he still wants to come along, an Internet dating service that he’s going to cancel his account from, a sister who lives elsewhere that will call him to check in.  Things like that.  I want to keep him isolated and alone, but I can do that by showing the connections that were there and that they aren’t working anymore.  At least that’s the plan.

5) The White Office.  What Charlie does isn’t important to the story in any way, but that he does something may actually give a lot of the heft that I see people missing.  I think he’s going to be the specs and materials guy at an architectural firm. The one whose job it is to go over manufacturer’s lists and specify what kind of paint/tile/insulation etc. for the general contractor.  My mother was an architect for something like thirty years, so I know enough about how her office worked to know that’s a real job.  And I can put in a few concrete, specific details about office life that will ground the story in reality a little better.

There are some things I’m not going to change, even though I think the criticism offered was legitimate.  The dog attack, for instance, I’m going to leave a little unrealistic because, of course, it’s not a dog attack.  That may make the story weaker for the folks who read it just on the surface level, but I think I get that back with the folks who grok it a little more.  And I don’t think having the attack be more like a real dog attack actually wins me anything but distance from the core of the story.  I’m also not bringing the original dogs back or finding them or resolving that in any way.  I’m leaving that open at the end as part of the horror.  It’s a little tricky having a story whose point is that it doesn’t resolve, and I imagine I’ll lose some readers on that basis too.  But I think it’s what the project calls for so . . . yeah. Doing that.

And that, more or less, is that.  The final result will be in UNFETTERED which has a huge list of first-rate writers in it and the proceeds of which will go to paying off Shawn’s medical debt from chemotherapy.

So that’s it.  The Dogs Project is essentially over.  I hope it was fun to watch, and I’ll be leaving all the bits and peices up if you want to come back to it later.

If there is a last thought I’d like to leave you with, it’s that at this point, I don’t have an opinion about this story anymore.  The experience I have of it is so intimate and technical and idiosyncratic to me that I can’t even say if I think it’s a good story or not.  I have written a lot of stories, and I’m always a terrible predictor of which ones will go over well and which ones won’t.  I think that’s probably true of most writers most of the time.  In the words of Umberto Eco, I no longer know what it is about.

No, okay.  One last little thing.  Rape.  Yeah.

So I know and love some folks who’ve been raped.  You do too, even if you don’t know which ones they are.  The stats are that about 15% of women and 3% of men have had someone try to rape them.  The consequences are unpleasant and long-lasting and real.  (Oh, and I know that 3% looks kind of small, but to put it in context, as I recall I graduated high school in a class of about six hundred.  Back of the napkin says half were women, and three precent of the three hundred guys means I would have picked up diplomas with nine or ten guys who’ve been victimized along with the 45 to 50 girls.)

If you’re of a mind, I’d encourage you to skip the latte a couple times this week and pass some money on to RAINN.


And I always get what I want

by Ty Franck

We have three winners!






The answer was of course the redoubtable Amos Burton, formerly of Baltimore, now citizen of the solar system.

Please email your mailing address to james.s.a.corey(at) and we’ll get some books sent out to you.  Thanks for playing!


I want to give a couple books away. . .

by Ty Franck

A member of the Rocinante’s crew has been following @abrahamhanover for a while now.  The first three people to tweet that person’s hometown to that person’s twitter account will get a copy of Caliban’s War, signed by the two of us.

Once we select the winners, we’ll tell them to email mailing addresses to us.  I’ll post the winner list here, too.

This is my first time doing a giveaway like this, so be patient if there are glitches.


Sword and Laser Interview

by Ty Franck

Tom and Veronica from Sword and Laser interview the two halves of James S.A. Corey for their latest podcast, streamcast, broadcast, whatever you call this new internet media that looks like TV but lives on computers.  It’s the future, man.  Crazy.

I look very Metallica in this interview, Daniel looks very Simply Red.  This was not on purpose.


Want to meet Daniel and Ty?

by Ty Franck

Of course not, no one does.

But would you like to get them to sign your book on the off chance that they will be simultaneously killed in a very famous and unique way, thus rendering the signatures valuable?  Given the high likelihood of this happening, you’d be crazy not to!!!

Come to Alamosa Books on June 23 where the bitter rivals that make up James S.A. Corey will be speaking, signing, and making cruel jokes about each other’s expanding middle aged waistlines.  Don’t miss it!


I’m in Germany!

by Ty Franck

Well, stuff I wrote is.  So that seems pretty cool.  I’m curious why they didn’t use our awesome Dociu cover.


Just in case you were wondering…

by Daniel Abraham

We aren’t actually dead. We’ve just got massive deadlines coming.  Both Ty and I will be back on the blog shortly with deep insights and occasional buffoonery sometime after Friday.


First Caliban’s War review!

by Ty Franck

It looks like Publisher’s Weekly liked it.

I especially like that they are “itching for the third book.”  I guess that means we did it right.

Don’t skip to the end or anything, but I came up with the last line of this book, and I think it’s the coolest thing I ever did.  It’s all downhill after this.


First Reviews of King’s Blood

by Daniel Abraham

So far, people seem to like it.


Launching The King’s Blood

by Daniel Abraham


EDIT: Well, as always, it’s a little more complex than I’d thought.  King’s Blood is out today in the UK.  The US, a little less certain.  Let’s call this one Real Soon Now and celebrate accuracy over precision.


Well, it looks like The King’s Blood:  Book Two of The Dagger and the Coin is out in the UK tomorrow and in the US the day after that.  This is that nervous part where I’m right on the edge of the diving board.  By about this time next week, I’ll have the first week sales figures, a handful of the first reviews, and a better idea of whether the project’s taking wing.

On sale . . . holy crap, now? You mean like now now? Okay. Now.

I started working on The Dagger and the Coin pretty quickly after I finished the Long Price Quartet books, but I didn’t just sit down and start pounding out words.  I spent a lot of time talking to my friends and colleagues here in New Mexico about what epic fantasy is, what it’s strengths are, and how to engage with them.  I had a day-long meeting up at Melinda Snodgrass’ place with folks like Ian Tregillis, S. M. Stirling, Walter Jon Williams, George RR Martin, and Ty Franck where we pretty much sat around and chewed over what these projects are.  Then I had a massive plotbreaking session at my place with some of those folks and also Carrie Vaughn which was especially remarkable in that the house was struck by lightning in the middle of it.  On the up side, no one died.

The Dagger and the Coin was and is a difficult and rewarding project for me, because I’m trying something really difficult.  When I wrote The Long Price Quartet, I wanted to do something really original.  Something that I hadn’t ever seen in the genre.  Or anywhere else, really.  I’m very pleased with how it came out, and the folks who actually managed to track down a copy of Price of Spring and read the quartet all the way to the end have tended to be very positive about it.  (For those of y’all that haven’t, Tor will be printing up an omnibus trade paper edition later in the year, so Price of Spring is about to be a lot more available than it has been before.)  The Dagger and the Coin wasn’t about striking out for new territory.  It was about taking something familiar and making it feel new, and I took my lessons from Babylon 5.

I am a massive Babylon 5 fan, and two things I admire the most about that series were that it knew it’s own structure — if you finish the series and then go back and watch the pilot episode, almost everything that plays out over the next five years is laid out right there at the beginning — and that it took whatever it thought was cool and stole it, and most of the time, it didn’t even bother to scrape off the VIN number.  Psicops from The Demolished Man?  Cool, and what’s more, name the main guy Bester.  The evil place where a character falls into a pit and is reborn more powerful than before?  Well, Gandalf fell into Khazad-dum.  How about we drop Sheridan into a pit on Z’ha’dum.  Sounds almost the same.  I had never seen anyone steal so blatantly or so successfully.  Yes, okay, some of the scripts weren’t great, and some of the acting was among the most painful ever put to film, and you pretty much need to get through the whole first season tipsy and fast in order to stand the worst of it.  When I got to the end, I felt satisfied.

I was talking with Ty the other day about a short story we’re working on, and what he said was that those moments of satisfaction, of coming to the end of something and feeling that what you’ve just been through meant something, that it have you what you were looking for from it, is the gold we’re mining for when we do this.  I managed with the Long Price books.  I hope I will with The Dagger and the Coin.    I like how it’s going so far.  I’ve done what Babylon 5 did and taken things I thought were cool, even though my list was a little different.  I took Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen and Walter Tevis’ The Queen’s Gambit and Tim Park’s Medici Money and Macbeth and Firefly and Babylon 5.  I got my magic system from Joseph Gobbels and Karl Rove.  I put in the players from Hamlet.  I put in Torve the Trog in different drag from Panshin’s.  I made a whole range of exotic races and a world with the bones of dragons and great cities and strange ruins.  I put in people had no reason to like and made them likable.  I put in violence and sorrow and adventure and sex.

I’m finishing up the third book in the series right now, so the things that happen in The King’s Blood, I’m seeing bear fruit.  And I hope, hope, hope that people enjoy this.  Because I’m having a blast.

So if you’re interested, come check out what I’ve got so far.  If you haven’t gotten it yet, there’s The Dragon’s Path ( amazon | BN | indiebound) and The King’s Blood ( amazon | BN | indiebound ).  Also the first omnibus of the Long Price Quartet’s out ( amazon  | BN | indiebound ), and the second one’s coming.

And then, because you’re on a roll:

Medici Money ( amazon | BN | indiebound )

The Diary of a Man in Despair ( amazon | indiebound )

The Queen’s Gambit ( amazon | BN | indiebound )

You can thank me later.