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.
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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.)

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.

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