Sale on The King’s Daughter novels…

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been uploading new cleaned-up versions of the first three books of The King’s Daughter and On Common Ground. In addition, the first three books have gone on sale:

The Amiestrin Gambit: now 99 cents

The Passing of Pawns: now $2.99

The Black Queen: now $2.99

And of course, Knight and Nightrider is now available here, only $4.99

And for those who are following Anna St. Vincent, Mary Quirk and the Secret of Umbrum Hall is now available as well.

Almost there…

The third book (of four) in the Palace of Dreams cycle will be coming out August 13th. (Click here for preorder links.)

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Mikael Lee has dreamed of death for a decade now. He shares the last moments of murder victims, usually ones he’s later fated to investigate. But one death has always eluded him: his father’s murder.

Now he’s dreaming his father’s murder again, an old and powerful dream that can drag him to the brink of death. This time, though, he has a witness who can help him find the truth: Shironne Anjir. She’s been dragged into Mikael’s dreams for years. As much as Mikael does, she wants this dream put to bed, the deaths in Mikael’s memories solved once and for all.

And more than that, Mikael wants to uncover his father’s greatest secret—the identity of a half-brother Mikael has never met.

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I honestly think this has been the hardest book I’ve ever written, and… I’m not even certain why. That does, however, offer an explanation for why it’s taken so long to get this one from the computer to the page.

Oddly, the main plot of this book was written back in 2004 or 2005, but because of various life incidents, publisher incidents, and changes made to the first book, it’s had to be totally rewritten.

I have already started on the fourth and final book in this sequence (Twilight of Dreams), and hope to have that out next year, although I have a lot of work coming out between the two.

And there is a possibility of a separate book about Sera… but right now I’m not committing to that.

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And I do have a book coming out later this year under the Anna St. Vincent name.

I am working on editing Knight and Nightrider, but I am not sure whether I’ll publish it this year or not. (Ideally, I’ll hold K&N and PEA until The White King is finished, but… that may be some time.)

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Much of this slowness is related to family life issues. My in-laws have been living with us for most of June and July, and we’re having some renovation done to make it easier for them to live here, so that’s been eating away at my writing time. I’m hoping that life will return to normal eventually, but this year has been… a difficult one.

But here’s to getting a single book out this year!  Mejor que nada.

One Terrible Month

Well, I wanted to have so much more done in the month of June, but life intervened.

My in-laws spent most of the month living here in my house. My father-in-law had a health crisis that provoked 6 Emergency Room visits, 2 planned hospital visits, and two visits from Paramedics here at the house. My mother-in-law also had a planned surgery amid that, so… it was clear they couldn’t keep on top of all that alone.

Therefore, much of my time last month was diverted to in home care, and stress took away a lot of other time that I could have spent writing. Between this and the pandemic, I’m surprised I got much of anything done. (We’re in a state with rising hospitalization numbers, so all the above hospital visits were full of additional challenges.)

As a result, Dreams from the Grave didn’t get sent to the editor yet. In fact, I haven’t even gotten to my final edit pass, although the editor has set a slot side for me in August.

I did almost get my end-of-the month Patreon posts done, and I am still working on the edit of Mary Quirk. I’ve also started a series of blog posts over on my Dreamwidth about why writers quit publishing, which is a thing that’s been on my mind for a few months now.

Anyhow, pushing on, which is the best I can do with all the issues.

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Slow Progress

I want to apologize for not updating the various series lately. I’ve actually finished the first drafts of two novels over the last two months, and I’m currently working on editing those into shape.

The first (and one I’m currently editing) is the next book in the Palace of Dreams series: Dreams from the Grave, wherein Shironne and Mikael try to decipher what he is supposed to learn from his own father’s death, but the only tool he has to do so is his dreams.

I’m hoping to have this one off to the editor by the end of May, although I’m not quite on track. I must work faster!

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The second book I finished (last month) is intended to be published under a pseudonym, and is rather different in texture from the above work. It’s been fun to work with this one, although who knows if it will sell?

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This is a young adult novel (as one might guess from the title) and I’m still working on a marketing plan for it. I have been publishing chapters of the ROUGH DRAFT on Wattpad, though, if you’re curious.

(ROUGH DRAFT means that it still needs editing, just like the chapters that I post here. That’s also a tentative cover, along with a horrible horrible series name!)

Anyhow, I hope to get back to regular posts on the serials next month, although no one can be sure how things will pan out, then!

I hope everyone is staying safe and being cautious!

 

 

 

Reflections on first person…

I’ve been working on cleaning up my mss of Whatever Else (for some reason, a lot of periods were deleted) and that led me to think about writing first person rather than third.

I have a limited number of stories in which I used first person, and for most of those, I was trying to portray a specific ‘voice’.

For example, A Hand for Each was written to sound similar to the writing of Richard Dana (Two Years Before the Mast).  I wanted the narrator to sound like an English seaman.

After five long years of herding freighters about the Indian peninsula, we had finally been given orders to return home. How I longed to see England again. My family wrote to me but their letters often went astray, likely arriving in a port we had just left. I knew that I missed many of them.

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The Stains of the Past was meant to sound more like a young woman with a past: 

I believe in redemption. Every week when I go to confession, the priest tells me my sins are forgiven. I am a new person now, he has explained, and my penitence has created in me a clean heart. Unfortunately, my sins haven’t been forgotten. My past will always be with me, at least as far as Kiya is concerned.

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In The Nature of Demons, I wanted the hapless narrator to sound a bit like Dr. Watson. I was thrilled when one of the critiquers actually mentioned that my Dr. Antris sounded like…Dr. Watson!

A more educated man would have recognized the signs, I thought.  Only a week before, the king had forced Menhas’ company on me, naming him a shaman among his tribe — a storyteller and healer.  As such, I expected him to have at least a passing familiarity with the hundred forms of demons.  “Do your people not have stories of these creatures?”

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In Fleurs du Mal, I wanted the protagonist to be disdainful and cold.

I looked at Anne instead. She clung to Jeremy’s arm with one hand as we walked, her hips swaying as if she still heard a tango in the night air. I couldn’t decide what to make of her attachment to him. He is far out of his league, I thought, my trusting little brother.

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And in Whatever Else, I wanted my main character to sound…a bit helpless. She’s in a society where women are chattel, and has never been trained to do more than be a wife. So it was a difficult voice for me to write, but I hope I cam up with the right one:

His sudden claim baffled me. Arras had been my husband nearly four years. Three years older than my nineteen, Seyvas was of an age with him; even through the worst of our peoples’ squabbling, he and Arras had remained friends. Since our wedding, though, Seyvas hadn’t come to the manor at all. Not until now.

I turned back to him and whispered, “What are you talking about? You’ve known Arras all your life.”

“Arras is dead,” my brother answered in a flat voice, his eyes gone bleak

I stared at him, mouth agape.

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So for me, the choice of first person is usually tied to the fact that I want the POV character to sound different than me. I want them to have a very distinctive personality.

What’s your reasoning behind the times that you chose to write in first person?

#SFWAPro

Writing Advice: Should I Plot? Or Pants?

This is one of those strange areas in which the answer seems perfectly obvious: whatever works.

The problem that most people have isn’t grasping the fact that while plotting works for some authors, it doesn’t work for others. Most people get that.

The problem is, they don’t know which option will work for them.

For me, it’s a mixed bag.

I’ll give you two examples:

  1. I woke up one morning with a story idea in my head. I outlined it, and started typing. (My outline for it was only a couple of pages, but it was a novella). I typed and followed my outline and 26K words later, I was done.  That story was Iron Shoes, and went on to be a Nebula finalist in 2010.  IronShoes_Draft2DigitalFinal (2)

2. I had an idea  for a long time, and finally put together an outline for the story. It was a few pages long (again, a novella), and I sat down and began typing.  Within three paragraphs, one of the throw-away characters who didn’t even have a name suddenly took on a personality…and then I had to give him a name, and a story, and a reason for even being in scene 1. (That would be Duilio). And I tossed away my outlline, then sat there and wrote in a fever until 15K later, I had a novella, “Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy”.  That novella was later rewritten as a novel, The Golden City (a Locus Award finalist for 2013)

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My point being that both things worked for me. Yes, I prefer to outline, but…sometimes the outline just can’t contain what’s going on with the story. Could I have written The Golden City without having Duilio Ferreira suddenly appear in it? Could I have simply followed my outline? Yes.

It would have been a different story. It might have been a better story…or a horrible one.

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Here’s what I do:

I generally start out with a halfhearted outline-usually only a few pages long. Then I start writing.  I’ve learned that for me, the outline -usually- loses contact with the story somewhere about the 2/3 mark.  (The Golden City was an aberration, with the breakaway coming on page 1. Iron Shoes, on the other hand, never broke away.)

That’s when I do my REAL outlining–at the 2/3 point. I sit down and figure out where all my plot points need to fall, how long I have, and what loose ends I still need to tie up. It’s one of the least fun parts of my writing process, because I really want to stop and get back to writing words. But I make an effort.

Then I start writing again.  And once I get to end of a novel, I check in with my outline and tweak it a bit, and start my edit pass.

So generally, I’m using a hybrid form of pantsing and plotting. It’s what works for me.

Therefore, I’m not going to come down on either side, the plotting or pantsing side. The trick is to know that one tactic isn’t necessarily better than the other.

For me, the situation appears to be this:

  1. Outlining will work for one writer, but not another.
  2. Outlining can work for one writer for one story, and yet not the next.
  3. Outlining can work in tandem with pantsing on the same story.
  4. The situation can change. Plotters become pantsers and vice versa.

So try them both out. See which fits better. Be reckless and combine them! There’s no rule that says you have to pick one method and stick with it for the rest of your life. (Unless you get a tattoo. Then you’re stuck.)

#SFWAPro

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Bonus story: At a workshop, I had to write a story in 24 hours. I plotted the snot out of that thing, researching and setting up the small world where a clockwork-type factory functioned under the streets of Paris, doling out life and death. I slept for about three hours that night, and when I got up, started writing….a TOTALLY DIFFERENT STORY. I actually managed to get that 7K monstrosity typed out before the deadline that afternoon, but it was a close shave.

That story was “Fleurs du Mal”, which was later published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. And other than being set in Paris, it has NOTHING in common with the story I outlined.

Why this happens, I don’t know.

 

 

Writing Advice: Choose your advisors carefully

I don’t often dispense writing advice. In a lot of ways, I don’t think I’ve yet earned that right.  I’m not a million seller. There’s not a movie to be based on my works. And I’m not an industry insider. The only source from which I can draw my advice is my own admittedly-limited experience (and that of my friends).

But I’m going to dish some out anyway.

This weekend on my Tumblr feed, I ran across this quote:

“The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.”

Jeff Goins

I found this an objectionable statement, equating perseverance with ‘good writing’. I suspect that the author meant something more like “perseverance is required for successful publication“, but that’s not what he said.*

He -said- that people who quit writing aren’t good writers.

And that’s wrong. There are plenty of brilliant writers out there who are no longer publishing. This industry is brutal, and navigating its vagaries can be exhausting for an able-bodied young person with ample spare time.  For someone who’s ill; for someone whose finances barely allow them time to sleep,much less write; for someone who has 12 other projects in the work or 3 kids at home….sometimes pursuit of publication just isn’t in the cards. Not at the moment. Perhaps not ever.

That doesn’t make them a BAD writer.

For me, it was hard to balance work with writing. I was a teacher, and every moment that I spent writing was time taken away from my students’ possible futures. (This is a guilt thing). It was hard for me to work on writing when I needed to make lesson plans and grade and write grants and scholarships. So when I was teaching, I wrote very little save for during those 8 weeks of summer. That didn’t make me a BAD writer.

So my main advice here is to look at the person who’s giving you advice. In the case of the guy above, he seems to be a self-help guru with 4 books published (the most recent by his own press). Yes, he’s a big seller (on Amazon), but has he ever tried to pitch a fantasy novel to one of the Big 5?  Has he ever submitted to Clarkesworld? Has he ever tried to publish in your market?

Perhaps his advice isn’t the best match, then.

For me, the pithy statement above was simply miss-aimed. Equating talent and skill with persistence doesn’t work for me, no matter how good a little soundbite it makes.

#SFWAPro

 

 

*And yes, I’m aware that this might be out of context. I haven’t read the book. However, alone and with no context is how I encountered it being touted on Tumblr…

 

 

 

One WIP? Or many?

One of the interesting things about authors is how we’re all different. Some of us are plotters, some pantsers, and a large percentage are in between. Some write every day. Some don’t. Some have rituals or a special place to write, while others can write anywhere, anywhen.

And some of us can only work on one project at a time.

I’ve never been one of those writers. I’ve always been able to have three or four WIPs going, save when I was under a real deadline crush. In fact, for me that makes it easier.  If I’m having trouble working on WIP1, then I open WIP2 and tinker with that for a while. A lot of the time, that shakes loose whatever was bothering me about WIP1.

Recently I’ve had 3 WIPs going: After the War, The Horn, and The Sins of the Fathers. 

(I actually have opened a few other files in this time, mostly on weekends, just for fun. Sometimes we need to do ‘fun’ writing just to remind ourselves why we do this.)

But my point is that this strange way of working is what works for me.

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After the War is due to be out later this summer, which means I need to get that last section finished, and then get it out to my editor. I’ve even got a cover commissioned for it, due to me about June 15th.  Now, this is a Portugal story involving Serafina Palmeira and Alejandro Ferreira.point_of_no_return3_by_faestock

(This is the -likely- picture we’ll be using–via Faestock on DeviantArt–for the cover…the rights belong to that artist.)

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But it’s recently been The Horn and The Sins of the Fathers that have taken up most of my time.

The Sins of the Fathers (name may change) is the sequel to Dreaming Death, starting only a month later than the end of that novel. Now, this was primarily concerned with the problems caused by Shironne’s father, Mikael’s father, and to a lesser extent, Deborah’s. Hence the name.

However, the edits on the first book killed off Shironne’s father before the first book happened. He was supposed to die slowly and painfully in the first half of Book 2. Removing him also removed a lot of the issues with Mikael’s father, so…I’m having to rewrite Book 2.  This happens sometimes.

On balance, I’m okay with the changes, but it means that as I was rewriting the sequel, the murder in it seemed to work less and less, making the plot weaker and weaker. Unfortunately, how to fix that problem has eluded me for for quite a while. I’ve been spinning my wheels writing it because it just seemed…wrong.

But working on The Horn provided an answer in a very different way.

I’ve been working on that, a series of novellas set elsewhere in Larossa shortly before the events of Dreaming Death (early summer-fall).  The events of the two story lines eventually tie together.So it was of direct benefit to me to have parts of The Horn solid in my head and written down.

But while I was hunting and pecking through my old files for a spare bit of text (I really need to get in there and rename all those old files because their current names are gibberish) I ran across an old Mikael/Shironne story about a murder that…

Well, I’d never finished that 2005 story. I probably got busy with something else and never got back to it. But suddenly I had in my hands the answer to my problem with TSotF.  I could swap out the short story’s murder for the problematic one in the book. A bunch of names had changed, but  the short story was set right after the book, so there wasn’t much time or age difference.

And suddenly I knew how to fix the broken part of TSotF. I am in the process of stripping out the old murder and working in the new. I’m re-outlining the book, as much as I do outlining. And everything is moving again.

Such a relief.

The point to all of that being: For me, working on more than one project at a time is helpful.  Not true for everyone, but for me, it pays.

 

Does that work for you? Or are you a ‘one project at a time’ writer?

 

#SFWAPro

Blind in Your Mind

Recently I ran across an article that discussed being “Blind in your Mind” here. 

It was fascinating to me to read it because I could relate to almost everything the writer said. In fact, several other writers I know said the same thing. Many of us don’t picture things in our heads, and it’s rather bizarre to us that other people do.

Now I want to be clear…I am not as “mind-blind’ as the writer of this article. I dream in color all the time and often can recall snatches of those dreams.  And I do, when I think about things I’ve seen in the past, sometimes get a split-second image in my head. It fades away so quickly that I don’t get any details out of it, like an afterimage instead of a true image.

I am far more likely to recall how something moved or words related to something I’ve seen.  I cannot close my eyes and picture anyone. Not even myself–like the Bible verse, I walk away from the mirror and forget what I look like.

This does not interfere, as the article specifies, with my ability to recognize people. I can recognize people’s faces both in real life and in photographs (as some other people cannot). But if I close my eyes and try to picture them, I only see blackness.

In fact, the harder I try, the less I get. If I’m trying, I won’t even get the split-second image that I mentioned before. I suspect that my ability to recall visual images is subconscious rather than conscious.

There is probably a continuum at work here, where some people are extreme, like the man in the article. And other people picture everything in their mind’s eye, rather like an internal movie.

Some authors who mentioned having a mind’s eye said they often struggle with descriptions because they can’t get the details right enough to match what they see. For my own part, I struggle with making sure I have enough description to get across the basics for the reader.

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One of the ways I deal with this is to use photographs of characters. I often keep those on bulletin boards so I can look at my characters as I’m writing them. That way I know what they look like.

Many of these photographs are from an old stash in tubs that I’ve been collecting since college…a long time ago. I’ve recently started using Pinterest to track my pictures as well. For example, here’s my set of photos that I’m using for The Horn. I can look at the pictures any time to remind myself who my characters are.  (Although I also print them out so I can access them when I’m not online.)

 

So if you’re a writer, do you have this issue? Do you see things in your mind or not? And if not, how do you learn to describe for the reader?

#SFWAPro

Reminders…

I will be presenting a session on Historical Research this weekend at the DFW Writer’s Conference (as well as participating on a couple of other panels.)

I have a Goodreads Giveaway ending tomorrow for 2 paperback copies of The Seer’s Choice, and I’ll have a giveaway starting tomorrow for 2 paperback copies of Iron Shoes.

And I also have a Giveaway running over on Amazon for Kindle copies of Iron Shoes. So if you’re a Kindle person, you can try there.

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For Patreon supporters, I’m almost to the end of the rough draft of After the War, so you’ll probably see the penultimate chapter on the 1st, and then the final on 6/1.  (And my cover artist is working toward a cover on 6/15.)

Finally, I’m still working on The Horn in my spare time. I’ll post a little more from this weekend’s work in a while (I’ve got roofing issues that have kept me busy, so there’s not much.)

For anyone who’s following The Horn, it’s a novella series that I’m working on, set in the Dreaming Death world, but taking place in the months before the events of that story. It entails a mystery that’s unfolding in front of the Horn Family and the House of Horn–which aren’t actually separate–involving a stranger they find on their land who claims to be hunting for the abandoned Fortress (Salonen.)

If all goes as planned, I may end up with 2 or 3 novellas, tentatively titled The Horn: Oathbreaker; The Horn: Original, and The Horn: Something Else that Starts with O. 

If you’re reading The Horn as I add bits, then you’re actually seeing what I call a Zero Draft, because I usually show that draft to 0 people. This is truly an experiment for me.

I can already foresee problems, since I have a character named Nora and one named Nohr.  So there are likely to be name changes ahead.  And there definitely needs to be more description. And I need to get someone to check some technical aspects (I can research glaciers, but I’ve never been on one.)

So that’s what’s going on in my sphere….I hope you’re having fun visiting.

#SFWAPro