State of the Writer, December 2013 edition

This was supposed to be a post at the end of November, but November kind of got away from me, in the sense that a book was due at the end of it and it was not finished yet.

But it is now December, and the book is finished, so I am allowed to post. Or sleep. Or both, although it’s harder to watch what I say when I’m sleeping. I am behind on email. I am behind on tumblr. I am behind on facebook. I will be behind on twitter as of tomorrow. I am about a week’s worth of words behind on Oracle.

But: I am finished Cast in Flame.

November was largely one small first world crisis after another (things like: washing machine dying), with writing wedged in between moments of “OMG can’t any of this wait until December???”. And bonus shrieking.

I was very happy when I had 80K words of Cast in Flame because I was certain the book would only be 120K words long (which is generally considered long in today’s market). I was wrong. Again. The ending got kind of complicated. It’s easy to think “and then (elided) will happen, and then it will be over!”. Generally it takes more words than that to actually write the (elided) section.

So the book I was certain would be finished by 30 November wasn’t finished by 30 November. Apparently, according to Amazon & B&N, the book’s On Sale date is the 29th of July, 2014. And no, there is no cover art. Or if there is, I haven’t seen it yet :).

I have also been–except for the last “OMG IT’S DECEMBER!!!” week, been working on Oracle. It’s not finished. I think it will be finished in three months–but I have no publication date for it, yet. Because it’s not done. I mentioned I’m a week behind in Oracle words. I have difficulty working on two projects simultaneously at the end of a novel. So the first writing thing I want to do is catch up on those words.

After which I will start Grave

I’ve also written a book review column for F&SF.

I haven’t done much of anything else. At all. And no, I have not even started Christmas shopping.

I feel as if I am always struggling to catch up. I often think if I were more focused or better at organization, I would never fall behind. Or if I had a more realistic idea of how long things would actually take. It’s not like I haven’t been doing this for two decades now. And, to be fair to myself, until Touch, I was in a good writing space. But Touch, being what we affectionately refer to as a book from hell in my writers’ circles (the unaffectionate references being NSFW), knocked everything off the table, and I have been trying to pick up all of the things that fell and return them to their proper places.

But: when I’m writing actual book words, when I’m writing and things I’ve been struggling to keep in the air finally fall into place, I love writing. And in spite of all the whining, that hasn’t changed.

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.

World Fantasy convention & Audio Book News

I will be attending the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego this year. It’s a slightly different convention than the norm, and while I’ll be participating in the big Author Signing (it’s usually Friday night), I won’t be on panels. I will be wandering around the convention, though.

I will also, the day before WFC starts, be attending an informal meet-and-greet with a number of other authors at Mysterious Galaxy, on Wednesday the 26th of October. Since WFC has been sold out for months and months (Neil Gaiman is the Guest of Honor), if you are in and about San Diego, come say hello :).

And the Audio Book News

When I was at the Word on the Street (and knocking over pizza boxes – it was an accident because I’m clumsy when slightly excited. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m clumsy, period), I met Tara, who, among many things, is one of the people at HLQ who deals with Audible.

She just sent me email to let me know what the current Audible release schedule for the Cast audio books looks like. The list didn’t come with list prices, so I’m not certain how things are priced at Audible–whether individually or as part of an audible subscription. I confess I don’t listen to audio books because, among other things, I don’t have a driver’s license, so I am not taking long drives in cars (a place that seems absolutely ideal for listening to them).

On October 1st:

Cast in Moonlight.

This surprised me because I hadn’t heard about this, but I’m happy to see it done. It’s still technically a novella, at 39.6k words (official break point being 40k).

On November 1st:

  • Cast in Shadow
  • Cast in Courlight
  • Cast in Secret
  • Cast in Fury

On December 1st:

  • Cast in Silence
  • Cast in Chaos
  • Cast in Ruin

So, by year end, all of the Cast books will be available as audiobooks. (ETA: This was actually also the first time I’d heard about Chaos and Ruin in audio book format as well, which is why this is the first time I’m mentioning them. For some reason, this seemed less surprising to me.)

Cast in Ruin is Live – and this is the discussion thread

This is a New Idea (which I stole from Kate Elliott): This is the blog post on which discussions of Cast in Ruin, with spoilers, should take place. If you have questions that I can answer without spoiling future books, I’ll try to answer them here as well.

And now: two things.

First, I have to say that I have no idea what the actual on-sale date of the book is, and have been using Amazon’s, as reported to me by various people. In my mind, it’s an October 2011 title, and in my experience, new titles tend to ship and arrive the month before the publication month. Sometime. (It’s my suspicion that the release week is actually the week in which October 1st lands, because that’s the on-sale date for the ebook.)

September 20th – today! – is the day Amazon listed as release day. Some people’s books have already arrived, and I have even seen picture proof of its external existence.

Second: I know that the internet savvy among you will be aware that some authors are very concerned about when sales occur. They aim for ‘release week’, because they hope that sales during that week will land the book on the NYT lists, as the NYT numbers are compiled weekly.

I am not one of these authors. It’s my (possibly erroneous) belief that the momentum for a book has to be large enough on its own to achieve list status (any list), and also my certainty that many more people read these books than read my various on-line ramblings.

Also: I have two sons. They were once two small sons, and in the case of the elder one, I could not remain on the inside of any store for longer than ten minutes before he melted down. Going to a bookstore was a luxury, and remaining in the bookstore while he started to ratchet up the volume was…not a courtesy to anyone else who happened to be trying to browse. I love books. I want their authors to sell well, and continue to be able to write them. But being practical? I had no idea when the release date/week was, and there was no way, if I saw a book I wanted to read — while bouncing restive baby and praying for another thirty seconds of silence — that I was going to put the book back and come in a week later.

Given this experience, I am happy that people are buying the books at all. I have no idea what the right week even is. I don’t care if you buy the paper book or the ebook; I do ask that you buy a legal copy of some sort, where at all possible, because any other venue doesn’t reach the publisher, and if the numbers aren’t there – publishing being a business – it makes it harder for them to justify continuing to publish the books. Plus, they give me covers I love, and editing.

And while yes, the opportunity or possibility exists to now write the books and put them out on my own, it’s not really possible to get the paper versions down to a reasonable price at their length in PoD; in order to get it into any stores/Amazon at all, a book the length of Cast in Ruin would cost a minimum of 20.95, as opposed to the 14.95 retail Luna charges.

Ebooks are a growing market, it’s true – but as of Cast in Chaos, they’re just over 20% of my readership. Which means, in order to self-publish, I would be walking away from 70% of my readers (I’m assuming that 10% of the paper readers would find the PoD on-line, and buy it there).

Wow, long again. I’m sure this will surprise no one.

ETA (because it is late and I have had no coffee): If circumstances are such that you can’t buy a copy, I understand that; books are luxuries. But in that case, can you find a copy in your local library? Libraries do buy a copy, and the more people that pass through the doors, the greater the likelihood that their funding won’t be nuked to zero in the coming years.

News!

Wendy Good, in the comments to the previous post, asked: How many more Cast books are you currently contracted for with Luna? Will you seek contracts for further Cast books or is that too far reaching of a question? I dare to ask because I don’t want them to end. I know all good things must eventually, but would love some reassurance regarding the next few years, if at all possible. : )

The answer was: The one I’m working on now (which is Cast in Peril).

The answer is now: The one I’m working on now (which is, oddly enough, still Cast in Peril) and three more Cast novels, none of which have titles.

Some of the questions about various elements of possible future books – the Dragon Court – are affected by events in the almost available Cast in Ruin. Which is all I’ll say for the next few months, because anything else is so heavily into spoiler territory I will get hate mail at the very least.

I try very hard, with the Cast novels, to start with a very, very simple statement about the book before I begin writing. Cast in Silence was: Kaylin confronts and finally accepts her past. No, really. Cast in Chaos was: An influx of refugees causes panic and fear in Elantra. No, really. Cast in Fury was: In the aftermath of the panic caused by the tidal wave Kaylin must deal with an artiste — while Marcus Kassan is relieved of his duties on charges of murder.

Cast in Peril was a small paragraph. Some of which I can’t detail, because it follows from Ruin. Cast in Peril is not the book I planned. Which is to say, it is the book I planned, but in planning, I seem to have forgotten that plot takes words, and the more plot there is, the more words there are, and at some point, there are too many words, because clearly I thought I could fit everything into one room. An apt analogy would be furniture: the fridge is now sitting in the hall and the dining room table is the TV stand, and there’s no room for anything but the couch because you can’t get past the table, and for some reason I thought it would all fit in one room.

In this, I absolutely blame Teela; it is entirely her fault. Well, actually, that’s possibly not fair. It is also the fault of another character I can’t name yet.

What I really want to do is post Chapter One of Cast in Peril. And no, of course I won’t, because it will make no sense if you haven’t read Cast in Ruin.

ETA: I think Cast in Peril will make sense to a reader who hasn’t read the previous books, in as much as that’s possible, but readers who have will immediately say: who the heck is (character name redacted)?

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.

Cast in Ruin Chapter Two

I hope people aren’t getting tired of seeing this cover, because it’s one of my favourites in the series to date. Which is not, of course, why I’m posting it again.

No, I’m posting it because so many people have asked, here and in email, if I could just possibly post Chapter Two before the book’s release date. I can’t think of any harm it could do, and yes, Chapter One ended in an unfortunate place — which was honestly not my intent, because I didn’t really write Chapter One thinking of it as a separate entity, the way a short story is.

Here, without further preamble, is Cast in Ruin Chapter Two. Enjoy!

I will be sitting here at my computer working on the other half of today’s writing, which has been going very slowly thanks to allergies and the type of sleep allergies sometimes cause. I am certain my children are grateful that I spent time preparing Chapter Two instead of being cranky, grouchy mom <wry g>.

Cast in Ruin: Chapter one

It’s the end of July, and as promised, here’s Cast in Ruin, Chapter One, which Amazon lists as a 20 September 2011 release. It’s an October title; it’s sold to stores as an October title, and the date of publication that I always reference on my pages is the publication month for which the book is sold to stores. With paper books it is impossible to have an exact date without complicated legal embargos (i.e. of the type used for Harry Potter books and no one else); the Amazon date is probably truer to the time at which the book will start to arrive in physical bookstores (and therefore Amazon’s physical warehouse).

It is also listed on the Elantra page in the sidebar, but I thought I would try to save people a few clicks and a page load by linking it from this post as well. Yes, it’s taken me several books worth of first chapters to think of this, but, ummm, I plead author-brain.

The UPS man delivered the mass market paperbacks of both Cast in Fury and Cast in Silence yesterday (where, true to form, I tripped over them on the way in from work, and bounced around the front hall with Stubbed Toe. The books, however, were unharmed). Cast in Fury was originally published with a glossy cover in trade paperback; the mass market has a matte finish, but with the title, my name, and the tag-line on the back cover in full gloss. I really like the way it looks. It is, otherwise, the same book.

Enjoy!

Cast in Ruin: Cover

I’ve received permission to post this. It’s a cover proof, which means it’s open to some minor revision; there might be some small details that change between this and the final. But I thought people might like to take a look at it.

(ETA: The artist responsible for the cover is Shane Rebenschied)

Cast in Ruin is an October 2011 title.

Cover proof

Which character is harder to write?

Aaron asked
If 39k words is all it takes to reveal Kaylin’s history, then perhaps you’ve been a bit lenient with Jewel, eh?

Well…it’s Kaylin’s first case, and because of the wordcount, it doesn’t go into as much detail about the rest of her life as maybe it should; also, I thought it would end in a different place, because I’d hoped to be able to do her first case with the Hawks and the argument over the question of her survival in the same story. This didn’t happen, because it would probably have doubled the length.

Which is the more difficult character for you to write (at the moment and all things considered), Kaylin or Jewel?

The answer to this one depends on the time of day, and in particular on which project is currently causing me to pull all my hair out.

Kaylin is difficult in part because the entire novel (almost any CAST novel) is from her viewpoint. Any information that reaches the reader is information she has to personally come across in one way or another. It can’t be unnatural; it can’t be information she wouldn’t otherwise see–she has to be involved directly. This complicates the way the stories unfold or are presented.

I’m trying the “more” command in WordPress to make the posts on the front page a bit shorter; please tell me if this is not helpful, or if it’s annoying.

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