State of the Writer, April 2012

Writing was severely truncated for about ten days while I and a strep bug had a heated battle over who was in charge of my throat and ears. I won. I fell behind in, oh, everything, while I was sick.

I have an on-sale date for Cast in Peril, as the sell sheets arrived at the store while I was sick. The date is September 25, 2012. I’m waiting copy-edits and line-edits, but for the moment, the book is out of my hands.

Touch, the sequel to Silence, is possibly the most difficult book I’ve ever attempted to write, which, given Silence was one of the easiest, is responsible for the loss of great clods of hair. Sometimes books surprise me.

My new web-site is almost ready to launch. I’ll post here when it’s good to go.

And…the real reason I’m posting tonight: at 178k words, I have finally thrown in the towel: War is not going to be a single book. My long-suffering editor was, well, long-suffering. The book that is scheduled for January is therefore titled Battle, and it is not yet done. I almost did what I frequently do – write while the words pile up and hope and hope and hope that I will be finished it any word now. But I did that with City of Night and House Name, and had to split the book anyway, which meant there was a much longer gap between publication of City of Night than there had to be =/.

So this time, I tried to look at things realistically. I expect Battle to be at least as long as Skirmish.

I am going to try to get through the page proofs for the print-on-demand version of the Essalieyan short stories this weekend, because I have let that get completely away from me, and someone in email reminded me of it. I am also going to be working at the Bakka-Phoenix table at Ad Astra on Friday and Sunday this weekend (I’ll be in the store on the regular Saturday hours).

Silence, cover


Silence, the first book in the Queen of the Dead trilogy, will be published in hardcover in May, 2012. In any practical sense, this means the book will be available in North America sometime at the end of April, 2012.

People have asked me what it’s about; some have assumed because of the cover, that it’s a paranormal romance. It is paranormal, but for reasons that are entirely in character, it’s not a romance – and I am really hoping that this does not disappoint people =/.

The cover flap is a bit of a spoiler, IMHO. So if you hate spoilers, and you want to read this book, you’re probably better off not reading it.

Emma Hall is a high school student whose first (and only) boyfriend died in the summer in a car accident — before the book starts. Nathan was almost her entire world, and she’s now left with the bits and pieces of life that weren’t Nathan–her friends, school, her mother. She spends far too much time in the cemetery at Nathan’s grave, because it’s quiet there and she doesn’t have to make excuses for how she feels, or how she doesn’t feel.

She doesn’t expect to meet people in the cemetery, but one night she does, and as a result of that disturbing meeting, she begins to see things she’s never seen, and to hear things that no one else hears.

Quick, quick update

I have just had word from DAW about Riven Shield:

THE RIVEN SHIELD will be put out for distribution Friday, so that should
start appearing at vendors in the next ten days or so.

As I’ve mentioned previously, DAW, while being distributed by one of the ‘Big Six’, is actually a small, privately owned publisher, with the attendant number of staff. Getting new books into production, catalogues, and stores eats up about 140% of their time, and the other 10% (because no one expects to work in publishing at less than 60 hours a week) is left for things like digitizing the backlist.

Hunter’s Oath and Hunter’s Death have started to appear as ebooks in the wild. Riven Shield should join them soon, followed by Broken Crown and then the rest of the series in order.

When I realized Riven Shield was no longer available, I asked (where asked is the euphemistic form for ‘begged, pleaded, whined, cried, demanded’) that it be the priority in the Sun Sword universe, and I’m happy to say that it was bumped up in the “omg we have no time” queue.

ETA: Riven Shield will be available in ebook format; I realized that I had not made this sufficiently clear. At the moment, there are no plans in the near future to reprint it =/

State of the Writer, February 2012 edition

First: Joey Shoji has mentioned here and elsewhere that there’s a cover for Silence posted elsewhere on-line, but only in thumb-nail. I will be doing a post – and uploading the cover image – later this week; possibly later today, depending on how the writing goes.

And now onto the report:

Cast in Peril is off to my editor at Luna; I finished and submitted it late last night.

Peril was difficult for me, in part because I realized at about 130k words that there was no way the events in the West March were going to be resolved in one book unless I threw away most of the 130k words I’d written by that point–because, well, there weren’t nearly enough words left. Unfortunately, most of those words are plot, and are required for the events in the West March. I phoned my editor, we talked, and after much discussion, she said “Yes, you can write two West March books, but only if there is a reasonable and satisfying arc that is self-contained in Peril.“ I returned to Peril. I revised Peril. I restructured Peril, and now, it is in the hands of my editor.

War is not yet done. I have 160k words, and it is not closing in on the end, but it is going well — for a variety of well that frequently involves hair-pulling.

Touch, the second book in The Queen of the Dead trilogy, is in progress. That’s the book I started over, when I realized that it had to be from an entirely different viewpoint, and it follows Silence.

And that is it for me. I will be continuing to work on War and Touch.

Meanwhile, the web-designer is now working on translating the mock-up of her design to an actual web-site, which will relaunch sometime in the near-future, which is exciting (at least for me!). I asked, a while ago, for opinions about web-sites, usability, and etc., and the end results should reflect some of that advice.
——
A little bit of a process coda (and the usual disclaimer, that no two writers have the same process and that I can speak emphatically only about my own):

If there was one thing I would teach myself, it would be the relation between story and length. Other writers, other professional writers, can and do come within natural striking distance of the word-length they’re given. Regularly. It sometimes makes me feel like I still haven’t found big-girl pants =/.

I always start out thinking “this will be short”. Sometimes it’s more of a prayer, but you get the general idea. I have good intentions. I tell myself this will be the book in which I come in at the right length.

Silence is, in fact, under 100k words. But it’s under 100k words in large part because it takes place in the here-and-now and the setting isn’t an issue in the same way it is for secondary worlds. The strangeness of Silence is entirely in the situation & the characters, at least until the second book. But this incredible success at finally writing something that is marketable length obviously went to my head.

So: a bit about story and Michelle.

I always think “this will be short” because the kernel of the story, in my mind’s eye, is easily grasped (usually because it’s the end). It’s easily written in a paragraph or less; it is entirely what it is and it feels contained.

Getting to that point, however– building the story that resonates with that kernel, is never completely predictable. Ever. Elements of story rearrange and reinvent themselves in my subconscious, introducing factors that add to, and strengthen, the whole – but all of these take actual words on the page. Sometimes it’s conversations. I have a very long conversation (between Jarven and Finch) in War; I think, at the moment, it is my favorite thing in the book. But if you asked me how long it would be before I started writing it, I would have said it would be half its current length–at a maximum.

Add to that the elements of the world that exist in the background that suddenly and inexplicably enter the foreground in ways that a) feel completely true and b) are not going to make your book any shorter or any less complicated (in Skirmish that would be almost everything that happens from chapter five on). The only thing I have found that works to kill this type of length is to immediately delete the written words and start again in a more orderly fashion. In the case of Skirmish, mentioned here because it is much on my mind, I couldn’t. I could not do it. Because sometimes the story as it unfolds on the page is the story. It wasn’t exactly what was planned, but it is viscerally, emotionally true.

So at some point, “this is going to be short” turns into “this might be long” and that turns into “OMG I AM DOOMED”. It’s like clockwork.

And if you remind me, after Peril is out in the wild and discussion will not be spoiling, I will tell you exactly where all the length was, and why it wasn’t immediately obvious to me that it would be long.

Skirmish Summary, part 2 of part 3, and a note about the differences between reading and writing

This is the final part of the summary of the events of The Sun SwordSkirmish Summary 03.b.

There are — as I think Michael pointed out in the previous thread — events that I didn’t mention, in part because it would add enormously to the length of the summary, and if I hit 60k words, it pushes the meaning of the word “summary”. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone, but it also wouldn’t be finished until next month.

I think the summary contains the backstory necessary to understand what’s happening now in Skirmish, but if there are points that are confusing, this is the post to ask questions in. I will try to answer them as they come up.

I also want to add something here. I did have a spoiler thread for Cast in Ruin discussion. I am happy to have a similar thread for Skirmish discussion, but when people begin to discuss, in depth, the contents of one of my novels, I try to absent myself from the discussion. This isn’t because I’m not interested; it’s because I don’t want to be a damper on the discussions that do arise, and if I weigh in, it frequently has that effect. What we perceive as writers and readers are different.

There are characters that I love that some readers hate. (I think Sendari holds the title as the character that’s caused the most conflict: my editor and several of my friends really loved & empathized with him; my mother and Kate Elliott loathed him). I obviously can’t argue with their reaction. I have my own — but my reaction in no way invalidates reader reaction. I didn’t intend that he be hated. I can’t change him after the fact, and to be honest, wouldn’t. He is, in my mind, who he is.

That’s an obvious example. But when discussions devolve into “what do you think the author intended”, it gets trickier. I can tell you what I intended (or didn’t intend, see: Sendari above), and I can sometimes do that without killing discussion completely, but not often. “Where do you think the author is going” is another example. I can’t really weigh in, because some people hate spoilers of any kind; even if I say “it is never going there”, it will close off those possibilities in a way that will leave some readers disgruntled.

I’m happy to answer questions — but some readers prize the discussion itself, and answering questions often kills that discussion. So: if you want my (non spoiler) answers to questions you have about my books, ask me here or in a blog post that’s not devoted to spoiler discussions, and I will try to answer them in a way that doesn’t step on reader toes.

Skirmish, and the story so far

First, noting the tags, I want to apologize for a number of things.

I did not intend to write a series of books that would break in the middle this way. What kind of an idiot writes a series that requires another entire series to be read in the middle? Apparently, me. Had I realized, when I finished Hidden City, that there would be three books that would cover one arc, I would have called the series something else, and had one “early years” trilogy.

I like to believe that I learn from my mistakes. I promise that I will never make this one again.

It didn’t occur to me, while writing Hidden City, that people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword would actually be reading these books. I am enormously grateful that they are — but it wasn’t something that I considered at the time. I know I should have. I am, I think, a clearer writer than I was when I first started writing The Sun Sword, but one of the things I’ve struggled to accurately understand is how much needs to be said for clarity’s sake. But when it became clear to me that I had new readers for this series, I was left with a large problem: How could I make the actual House War make any sense to people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword? I wrote several versions of a first chapter in Skirmish in an attempt to cover the story-so-far in a way that wasn’t intrusive.

But I realized, with each variant attempt, that it was a lost cause. I couldn’t do it in the book itself unless I changed the start point, and I couldn’t do that because the events are written, published; they can’t be conveniently moved or changed–and so, for better or worse, I didn’t, but instead, decided that I would have a summary, a story-so-far, for people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword.

When I approach a novel, I know what it’s going to be about. I have a plan. I don’t know it in every small detail; I know the world, I know the characters, I know what they want – but there’s an alchemical reaction that occurs on the page when two characters actually meet and talk. Whole conversations veer in directions I hadn’t anticipated, because people are like that. It’s like when you introduce two of your best friends to each other. You love them both; they love you. You naturally assume that they will love each other because it makes sense.

Except that they don’t, always. You know them. They know you. But what happens between these two people you know and care for is outside of your control, and often confounds your expectations. Writing is like that, for me. I know a lot about things in stasis. But things in action (where action in this case means the actual writing) move or change in ways that surprise me while still remaining utterly true to what I know of the world or characters.

I sat down to write the story so far, and as usual, I had trouble summarizing. In part, I have trouble because what I know and what is in the text are not the same; the text is a subset of the knowledge. (The other part: I wrote six books when I thought I had two. I am so not the person to write a summary of anything). I dragged my heels. I worked on Peril and War. In my mind, it’s still the end of November. And yes, our Christmas tree is still up.

So: There are three parts of the story so far. The first is a simple point by point recount of events that involve House Terafin leading up to the moment Jewel leaves for the South. These events are largely contained in The Broken Crown and The Uncrowned King. I don’t think this will be of interest to anyone who’s read the actual novels: Skirmish Summary 01

The second is a conversation between Finch and Jewel on the night Jewel returns from the South: Skirmish Summary 02

The third, and by far the longest, takes place in the kitchen, between Jewel and her den. In Skirmish, Jewel does speak with her den in the kitchen; this is in some ways a longer version of that discussion. This actually takes place before the conversation between Finch and Jewel. It is the longest because it touches on the larger issues that affect Jewel and the Empire: the wild magics, the hidden paths, the gods. A much shortened version does appear in the book. Because I’m so late with this, and because it is not finished, at 15k words, I am posting the first part of the third section, and will post the last part tomorrow (or possibly the day after): Skirmish Summary 03.a

The reason parts two and three are written as if they were novel text, rather than point-by-point summary is selfish, in some ways. The first section recounts events that the den as a whole experienced. But for the last four books of The Sun Sword, Jewel is not with her den. She is with Avandar Gallais, Lord Celleriant, Kallandras and a number of other characters. Her life is not political; the events she witnesses and participates in do not reflect the increasingly dire situation in House Terafin at all.

Jewel doesn’t see what’s happened in her absence; the den doesn’t know what’s happened to her in theirs. It made sense to write these sections as if the characters were attempting to fill each other in on what occurred, when time is a constraint, but it also tells me what they know, and what they won’t say.

Final Skirmish Cover

I am hip-deep in revisions – which is better than the chin-deep I was a week ago. When I am writing, and writing is going (relatively) well, I tend to be on-line more; I’ll tweet or I’ll post. When revisions are problematic, they eat my brain, and I tend to disappear. I’m sorry =/.

But mail arrived from DAW which I wanted to share here: the final version of the Skirmish cover. The novel is slated for January 2012 release in hardcover, and I will–when revisions on Peril are done–begin work on a ‘story so far’, something I haven’t done before. I’ll post that somewhere on the site as the date approaches.

Without further comment:

 (Actually, there is further comment, sadly. I can’t adjust the image in WordPress at the moment, so the larger file is cut off no matter what I do. If you click on the picture, however, you’ll see the image in full size. Sorry >.<)

State of the Writing, September 2011

I’ve been revising Silence, the first of the DAW Sagara trilogy now called The Queen of the Dead. It has now returned to my long-suffering editor at DAW.

While working on the revision, however, I have also been writing.

Cast in Peril is almost finished. Which is good, because it is due Soon. I have author copies of Cast in Ruin, and author copies of the mass market of Harvest Moon, which contains my 39,600k word novella, “Cast in Moonlight” (yes, it’s still a novella; it hasn’t broken the 40k word mark which would put it in short novel territory). These go along with the author copies of the mass market versions of Cast in Fury and Cast in Silence, but without toe stubbage.

My husband decided to build a steel shelf in the basement on which to put author’s copies of the various books. He managed to get everything on the shelf, and it all fit perfectly — until Cast in Ruin and Harvest Moon arrived. While he is always happy to see the finished books, because they are totally real, I think over time his enthusiasm for them has waned a bit…

War, the final volume of The House War, is not finished. It is not close to being finished. It is, I think, just under half done. But it does progress. I admit I am dying to know how people feel about Skirmish. Yes, I will post sample chapters, but I’m waiting until we’re closer to the publication date (which is January 2012). Also, waiting for the finished cover, so I can post that.

On my plate now:

1. Redesign the web-site a bit so that it looks more modern. When I say “redesign” what I really mean is find someone who does not have the graphic design acumen of a brick to hire to do it for me. But to do this, I will need to visit a photographer to get an author portrait. And before I do that, I might as well replace the glasses that are slightly broken, and have been for mumble mumble time.

This redesign is supposed to help people who have no idea who I am or what I write find information about both who I am and what I write in one easy page load. Since I demonstrably know who I am and what I write, it’s not always clear to me when things are hard to find, and since I’m the one arranging the links and pages at the moment, I also know where everything is. I have a blind spot. Or more than one.

But…I do frequent some author blogs, and I hate the flash screens that basically pop up a picture which says “click here to enter” or something similar. The things which make a blog useful for people who read and comment on it aren’t always useful for people who just want information – and vice versa. There are one or two which I really, really like, but one is very slow to load (which, being me, I really really dislike).

This will not happen overnight (I can’t even see the optometrist until the 13th), so if you have any comments, suggestions, or requests, I’d be happy to see them.

2. Proof, format, and put out the other fifty-two stories. This is also not going to happen overnight, sadly. It’s the first work-related activity which I set aside when I have writing related work arrive in my inbox. I try to always write new words on a daily basis, but to do things like copy-edits, page-proofs and revisions after that. If there are no copy-edits, page-proofs, or revisions, I use the “after” time to proofread and format. I will be doing that for the next week or so.

3. Continue to write Cast in Peril and War, of course, and this should probably have been number 1, but I take for granted that it’s the high priority of each day.

More news

I have just finished speaking with Khristine Hvam Kies, who is the narrator for the Cast novels in audio book. Or at least the narrator for the first one. So: people who were wondering who the narrator is, it’s her :). We had a long discussion about pronunciation of names, and the tonal quality of the various characters and their speech, so I’m looking forward to the results.

Memory of Stone has been proofed and the entire set of six stories and introductions should be typeset within the next ten days. At which point, I will finally have a page count total, and after that, a cover for a print-on-demand version (page count equalling spine width, without which a cover can’t be finalized), which has been on hold forever while I work on the text. I will probably format and release the ebook over the weekend, because I have spent so much time on the phone today I have seriously shorted the writing time, and the writing still isn’t finished.

Phone, you say?

My editor at DAW. Some time ago, I mentioned that I had written a YA; I’ve even read the prologue and the first chapter in public in a couple of places. It’s a contemporary fantasy (my first at novel length), and I sold it to DAW sometime at the end of last year. People have been asking me when it will be published, and I’ve been telling them that the book isn’t going to be scheduled until the second book is finished (and, as I jettisoned the first 50k words of the first attempt, the second book is not yet finished).

However…plans, they always change.

Silence, the first book in a trilogy I am currently calling “The Dead”, although that’s probably going to change as well, is now scheduled for a May 2012 release, from DAW. So, Skirmish is coming out in January of 2012, Silence in May of 2012, and Cast in Peril sometime between August and October of 2012. Skirmish is finished. Silence is finished. Peril is not quite finished yet, but is in progress as I type.

Bits and pieces of news

I’ve been informed by DAW that my DAW backlist — the eight books that comprise The Sacred Hunt and The Sun Sword — should be trickling into the ebook channels in four weeks. They were total conversions, in that they had to be scanned from paper copies.

This means that all of my novels to date will be available as ebooks.

Huntbrother was on Barnes and Noble as of last night. Echoes which was sent by Smashwords in theory on the same day still hasn’t appeared. On the other hand, Echoes is available at Kobo.com, but Huntbrother isn’t.

The contracts for the audio versions of the first three Cast novels have been sent, so it looks like the first five novels will be available at Audible sometime in the not-distant future.

I am just in from Confluence 2011, and I had — as always — a lovely time.

But – and there has to be some bad news – I’ve had to pull out of the Worldcon this year =(. With luck, things should be more stable in the household in October, so World Fantasy is still a possibility, but it’s no longer a certainty.

Also, on a totally unrelated note, the cubic volume of mosquitoes has risen precipitously in the West backyard. You probably heard the shrieks of dismay (mine; mosquitoes only buzz).

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