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About that gap in posting …

24 Sep
Writing

Sometimes this is what writing feels like. (Photo courtesy of Bundesarchive)

Yes, I’m back.

I did not just stop posting. And I certainly didn’t give up on writing. I’ve been writing and editing for something like a thousand years (at least it feels that way sometimes), so I’m not about to stop now. But for about three months, I wasn’t posting, I wasn’t writing fiction, and none of my books were available.

What happened?

Let me start at the beginning.

It was brought to my attention that at least one “scene” in The Hall of the Prophetess crossed a line I did not want to cross. I was trying to show the strength of Karia’s character. Whether I succeeded or not, I went too far.

Of course, the scene did not occur in a vacuum. I needed to re-evaluate the whole of the third book of the series The Day Magic Died. And of course, that meant I needed to think through the entire series. In addition, I wanted to re-evaluate my other series as well, the Nascent Payne mysteries.

So I withdrew all my books from sale. (I guess that’s one good thing about independent publishing – I get to make decisions like that.) Then I started through the books one at a time.

Books 1 and 2, The House in the Old Wood and Karia’s Path, were pretty much the way I wanted them. Oh, I found just a couple of things like this, from Chapter 52 of The House in the Old Wood:

No matter how much padding there is, it’s not possible to sleep in the back of a moving wagon. And Karia’s parents did not have a lot of padding. (I’m not sure how much good it would have done to pad her parents.)

But after fixing literally two or three goofs like that, those two books seemed ready to be re-released.

Then I hit Book 3, The Hall of the Prophetess. Oh my. Besides the issue I mentioned earlier, I found myriad problems. I mean, the spelling, grammar and punctuation were good. But beyond that? Ugh.

However, rolling on through Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy, and the unreleased draft of Book 5, The White-Silver House, my discouragement turned to encouragement. I now knew why I was having such trouble completing the fifth and final book.

I really messed up in Book 3.

And I learned an important lesson:

Don’t rush.

I rushed to complete Book 3 and get it out, so I could promote the series by offering Book 1 free just before a Christmas season. It worked in the short run: I saw my greatest sales in the next couple of months.

But Book 3, I now see, is where the wheels came off. Many of the problems with Book 5 stem from decisions I rushed in Book 3. For example:

  • In the first draft of Book 3, two of the important characters, Ni’ika and Tika, were basically the same person. I rushed to differentiate them, and they shifted more toward caricature than character. That error becomes quite an issue in Book 5 (though I can’t really elaborate without spoilers – sorry!).
  • The central dialog in Book 3 takes place between Ni’ika and Karia, and in the first draft, it was too clear. It did not make sense that Ni’ika, a woman who looks down on other races, would know the language of those other races well. I rewrote her dialog … and made it an absolute chore to read. In my fourth decade as a writer and editor, I know that if readers hit something that’s hard to read, they stop. And somehow, in my rush, I forgot. It’s bad enough that this derails readers. But it also obscures some of the important things Ni’ika says in Book 3, and that can damage how readers understand Book 5. (Yeah, sorry, I can’t explain that either.)
  • My mischaracterization of those two key people in Book 3, Ni’ika and Tika, makes it difficult to create a believable relationship arc for Karia with each of them. That’s not evident in Book 3, and in my rush I missed that. But it became quite problematic by Book 5. (Slight spoiler there, but you probably missed it, so I won’t say anything.)

However, perhaps the most important mistake had little to do with characters and everything to do with the storyline. The story turns in Book 3, and it should set us on course for Book 5. But it’s ever so slightly off course. At first – and in fact, all the way through Book 4 – that wasn’t much of a problem.

But finishing a series this long is sort of like steering a ship across the ocean. A difference of one or two degrees makes a big difference where you end up. And I was in such a rush to get Book 3 out, I released it before I knew precisely where Book 5 was going.

I’ve mentioned before that I wrote the ending of the series before I completed the first book, so I’d know where I was taking you. And I’ve told you the ending changed over time. I rewrote it several times as the story twisted and turned.

Yet in my rush to get Book 3 released, I wrapped up the writing and editing before I went back to the ending. By the time I got to the actual ending in Book 5, there were some fissures in the storyline. And now I see where those cracks and gaps began: in Book 3.

So what does all of this mean?

It means I need to take Book 3 apart and put it back together again. Then I’ll need to make sure Book 4 reflects the changes in Book 3. And after that, I can work through the fifth and final book.

That’s going to take some time. But in the end, the series will be far better because of it.

A chance meeting in Austin

10 Mar
Photo by Daniel Mayer

Photo by Daniel Mayer

I’m headed back to the place where everything changed.

Two years ago I was well along in drafting my series, The Day Magic Died. I just had no idea what I would do with it.

It seemed it would be problematic for publishers. I was a first-time novelist, and it’s tough to break into book publishing. It’s also not so much a series of five books, as it is a single huge story in five volumes. I was thinking I probably had to at least have a couple of the volumes written, and all of them drafted, before a publisher would look at them.

Even then, it seemed unlikely that a conventional publisher would commit to publishing all five books.

That’s where my thinking was when I went to South by Southwest, and met Hugh Howey.

I didn’t know who he was until I went to a panel on the future of publishing. He was on the panel, representing independently published authors, because he was — and is — a highly successful independently published author. I was intrigued by what I heard, so I went to his book signing afterward. There weren’t many people there, so I was able to talk with him for a while. Maybe too long. Eventually he told me that he had to go use the restroom.

But what I learned was enough for me to decide to publish my series, The Day Magic Died, for the Kindle and in paperback, myself.

Book 5 release is closer than ever …

13 Nov

The White-Silver HouseThe White-Silver House, the fifth and final book in the series The Day Magic Died, recently hit two important milestones.

Last week I finished the second draft. That incorporated all the additional sequences I had written, as well as all the changes that had to be made because of changes in the first four books since I originally drafted Book 5.

This week, I completed the final draft. That meant going through the second draft looking at consistency, storyline development and character development. I also caught a few typos and some awkward wordings (and one or two places where I had to ask, “What on earth were you trying to write here?”).

Now, the final draft is winging its way to my team of critical readers. Each brings their own strengths to the process, whether that’s expertise in proofreading, an eye for character development, talent with consistency or an understanding of teenage girls like our heroine, Karia.

All this suggests the question: “When will The White-Silver House be released?”

And I have to answer, “I don’t know.”

You see, the book is now in the hands of my critical readers. And I have been guilty in the past of making my critical readers feel rushed. That’s wrong.

It’s wrong, first, because they’re all volunteers, helping me out as their time allows. Rushing them does not express the gratitude I feel for their help.

It’s also wrong because rushing them makes it hard for them to give me the feedback I really need.

And giving them time is especially important on this fifth and final book. This is where so many of the plot lines need to be wrapped up. (And there need to be good reasons if some of them aren’t.) This is the destination that the characters have been evolving toward.

Equally important is the pace of this final book. We started slowly in The House in the Old Wood, and while the action began to pick up at the end, the pace then slowed again, all the way through Book 3, The Hall of the Prophetess. Things began accelerating in Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy, and this continues in Book 5, The White-Silver House, as our story races toward its conclusion.

On top of all that, I’m asking my team of critical readers to take on this task just as the holiday season hits. And you know how busy that can be.

So hang in there, good readers. Book 5, The White-Silver House, is coming. It’s closer than it’s ever been.

In the meantime, would you help me out? If you haven’t already told your friends about the series The Day Magic Died that they avoid you like the plague, would you consider doing so? I hope you’ve been enjoying the journey, and will recommend it to people you know. (And if you haven’t been enjoying the books, please recommend them to people you don’t like.)

Here’s where they can start …

Fodder for writing

14 Oct

dayoneHeaded today into rural Mexico for a magazine article. Who knows how this experience will show up in a book ..

A side trip into space

23 Aug

And now here’s something for people who liked my Nascent Payne mystery, The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway …

My original writing plan had me finishing up the first Nascent Payne series – The Hunt for the Wallaby – about the same time as I finished my fantasy series, The Day Magic Died.

But several things changed that. I decided to devote more energy to The Day Magic Died. Partially as a result of that, and perhaps because fantasy has a larger market than science fiction/Western/paranormal/romance/hardboiled-detective/humor fiction, and maybe because it’s a very different series, more people gravitated toward The Day Magic Died.

This led me to put even more effort into that series, and the more effort I took to ensure that I was putting out the quality I wanted to, the more time those took.

All this amounted to less time available for the second and third Nascent Payne mysteries, The Man with Two Eyes and The No-Good Book.

But there was another reason.

I was stalled on The Man with Two Eyes. I had made great progress on The No-Good Book, completing about a quarter of the first draft. But I couldn’t seem to get past about the 10 percent point on The Man with Two Eyes.

Until this past week.

This past week, I completed the first draft of the second Nascent Payne mystery. I already have a big list of things I need to address in the second draft, and more will come up as I go back through it. But completing the first draft is a huge step forward.

That’s also good news for people waiting for The White-Silver House, the fifth and final book of my series, The Day Magic Died. It’s good news because, when I stalled out on revising that book, I didn’t stop writing. So now that I’ve spent a little time away from the manuscript again, I can not only go back to it, but go back to it at full speed.

Which I plan to do tonight and Sunday.

If you haven’t checked out the first Nascent Payne mystery, give it a look.

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