Answering a question about the Dragon Court Book

Elizabeth asked: Is Cast in Chaos the Dragon Court book?

I started to answer this in comments, and then realized that it was going to be a long answer, so I’m breaking it out into its own post.

First, the quick answer:  Cast in Chaos is not, sadly, the Dragon Court book.  I do have an explanation, although it doesn’t actually change that answer >.>.

Part of the problem with the Dragon Court book is that there has to be textual room for the actual lessons before Kaylin meets the Emperor, because at the moment, she won’t survive.  In order for her to survive as-is, I would have to change the Emperor.  A lot.  And while I could, because he hasn’t yet appeared on the page, my sense of who he is is fairly strong, so it would be a big, behind-the-scenes, internal shift.  So, back to lessons…

Those lessons in and of themselves aren’t quite large enough or significant enough that they could occupy an entire novel.  This pushes them into subplot territory.

So, I wrote the beginnings of those lessons as a subplot for Cast in SilenceCast in Silence ended up being TDL (too darn long).  Way, way too long.  This meant that instead of adding subplot, I had to look at seriously cutting words, and the first and easiest 12k words to cut were, in fact, subplot words.

When approaching a manuscript in order to cut words, I make a list of scenes that might not be necessary.  (I also cut paragraphs or sentences as I go.)  The only criteria required for a scene to make the “possible cut” list is that the individual book will make sense without those scenes or words.  I then take the list of possible cuts and I present them to my alpha readers, and we discuss every single cut, and what we gain (less words) or lose (less impact) by those cuts.  Sometimes a cut that would make sense on an individual book basis makes zero sense on an overall series basis.  About which, more later.  For the moment, let’s return to the problem of the Etiquette Lessons subplot.

The words I did write for Cast in Silence couldn’t be used — at all — because at the time, Tiamaris had also been dragooned to sit in on the classes (Diarmat is not and has never been Tiamaris’ biggest fan).  Since he ended up where he ended up at the end of Cast in Silence, those words had to be quietly thrown away, and new words and a new situation were required.  This, on the other hand, is not onerous.  I had finished Cast in Silence and was working on Cast in Chaos, and I knew that I had to work the subplot of etiquette lessons into that book.

So, I duly began to write etiquette lessons, again, into Cast in Chaos.  However, Cast in Chaos was, once again, TDL.  And once again, not by a small number of words.

So, once again I was left with the option of desperately searching for Things That Can Be Cut So That The Book Makes Sense.  And it came down to a choice between cutting the Etiquette Lessons subplot, or cutting the scenes with Nightshade, which are vastly more relevant to the events in Cast in Silence than they are to the immediate events in Cast in Chaos.  However, although I didn’t put this out to vote, I could hear screams at the very hint of the possibility.

Let me now go back to cuts that make sense for an individual book, but that don’t make sense for the overall series, having given that particular example.  One of the things that makes writing a series fun is that there are elements and interactions between various characters that can play out over time, the way they often would in real life.  The other is that the world and its significant elements don’t have to be revealed in one large chunk up front; they can be discovered as they become relevant to Kaylin.

Characters can make both friends and enemies, and those friends–or enemies–become part of their world, returning or leaving as the particular story allows.  If there are no causal interactions, no building relationships, no touching of bases with some of these other characters in future books, there’s no sense of growth at all.

Those elements of growth aren’t completely necessary for the individual books themselves, but I feel strongly that they’re necessary for some sense of where the characters are, and where they might go, in future books.  I want the characters to change and grow in a believable way; I know not everyone feels that this has happened to date, but that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

However!  Third time lucky, right?  Cast in Ruin pretty much starts with the first Etiquette lesson.

And:  I’m sorry, Jessica, but Cast in Chaos is definitely scheduled for August 2010, which would be exactly a year from when SILENCE was released.  I am writing as quickly as I can >.<

City of Night cover and publication date

City of Night

City of Night, as some people have noticed, was originally announced as a March 2010 release — but in happy news, it’s been pushed forward a month, to February 2010. (In the publishing industry, forward=earlier; back=later; I found these terms confusing when I first started working in a bookstore because forward implied, to me, going forward).

The cover was painted by Jody Lee, who has always done wonderful covers for the West novels; as you can see, this one is no exception, and I was very, very happy when I first laid eyes on it (which was at the Worldcon in Montreal). I just finished correcting and returned page proofs for City of Night to DAW, which is the last stage of pre-publication in which I’m involved, so the book is entirely finished at this point. Yay!

I am, however, still working on the following book, House Name, and it’s not done yet, not because I haven’t been writing, but because, well. It’s a wee bit longer than I expected it would be. Everyone act surprised.

I’ve been mostly absent on-line while trying to catch up on deadlines. Writing the novels does take time–and I always account for that when I’m planning ahead. What I sometimes fail to account for are things like copy-edits and page-proofs, which, sadly, also take time, so I’m frequently overly optimistic in the months leading up to a deadline, and then frequently entirely desperate and impossible to live with as the deadline looms larger.

In other news, I’ve turned in Cast in Chaos. Line-edits, copy-edits and page proofs are a few months in the future for that book. I’m also writing a novella set in the Cast universe, but I’m not entirely certain which of three possible stories I’m actually writing; it’s for an anthology titled Harvest Moon, which should be out sometime in 2010.

When I finish House Name, which should be very soon, I’ll have breathing room and the mental energy to be more social, so I should actually be around more often. Thanks so much for your patience.

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