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Done!

Earlier today, I typed “The End” at the bottom of the last page of BEYOND THE PROPHECY.

That doesn’t, of course, mean that it’s finished. As first drafts go, this one’s pretty rough. But now I have a draft to revise. That should go faster. It usually does.

The story threw me a curve right at the very end, too. I’d had in mind a particular ending. Not the resolution of the conflict. The denouement, setting the characters back down to rest–until the fourth and final book, anyway.

However, that ending depended on an event that has an unalterable real-world time period to completion. Well, it’s a fantasy. I suppose I could have altered it, way back in THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

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But, since I didn’t alter it there, I can’t change it now.

I’d been struggling with this over the last few chapters, making myself a note to write out a detailed, month-by-month timeline to make it all work. And then, half-way through the last chapter, I realized I had it all wrong.

That event can’t happen yet. Well, it could, but it shouldn’t. It needs to happen not in the fall, but in the spring. And since there are other events that need to happen over the winter–and which are slated for Book Four–it can’t happen in this book. Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into the works.

I had to think up something else to land this book on. I think I have. We’ll see what my beta readers have to say about it when I’ve gone through a couple more drafts.

The important thing is that I have a draft to revise. First it needs to rest a little. So, look for a preview of the cover art for BEYOND THE PROPHECY soon. Also the tie-in short story, “Modgud Gold”, now that I’ll have time to revise it.

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Woo hoo! I’m trying to finish up the first draft of BEYOND THE PROPHECY this week. I’ve only got two and a half chapters to go. It should be totally doable.

All rough drafts–at least all my rough drafts–need some work. This one’s going to need more than most before it’s ready for my beta readers. Still, with luck, I hope to be able to have it published by September or October. That’s the plan.

Before I can start the revisions, though, it’ll need to rest for about a month. That’s so I can clear it–or the version of it I meant to write, but didn’t quite–out of my head so I can look at it with fresh eyes. One of the best ways to do that, is to fill my head with something else.

So, during that month, I have a couple of things queued up.

One is to epublish a book I wrote over a year ago, now: Daughter of the Disgraced King. Here’s an advance look at the cover:

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Ailsa’s father was forced to abdicate when he married a mage. And things have only gotten worse for mages, since, due to the new king’s paranoia. Ailsa’s spent her whole life trying not to become a target of that unreasoning fear. But, if she’s going to save her magic-starved homeland, she’s going to have to learn to stand out and put her own considerable magic on display. Her first love may turn out to be more obstacle than help, but Ailsa won’t have to stand alone.

(Yeah, that pitch still needs some work.) I’ve already started the read-through to make sure it’s ready. There may be one or two small things I’ll want to adjust, but that shouldn’t take long.

Second is the Dual Magics tie-in short story, “Modgud Gold”. This one has been waiting for some attention for a while now.

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Third, if I have time (which I likely won’t), is a read through and possible revision to my upper middle grade fantasy (ages 10 – 12), Mage Storm (written back in 2011).

Everyone believes usable magic died in the Great Mage War along with its practitioners. Then a violent storm infects eleven-year-old Rell with leftover magic which threatens to kill him. In a world now hostile to magic, Rell’s survival depends on finding a mage to help him–one who doesn’t want him dead.

Middle grade is hard to publish independently–successfully, anyway. So this one might get sent out to a small press once I’ve gone through it again. I have other stories I want to tell about these characters and this world.

So that’s what’s up for the next month or so for me.

 

March MadnessThe Clean Indie Reads March Madness Sale is still going on and two of my books are in it. Check it out, not just for my books. There are a lot of great flinch-free reads on sale. And check out the other blogs on the blog hop, too. Here.

Don’t forget the giveaway of many of the books in the hop–including The Bard’s Gift. Enter that here. It’s enough flinch-free books to keep you reading for months.

So, here’s a little bit about the world building in these two books.


Fire and Earth:

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

Though raised as a fearless, faceless warrior, Casora couldn’t stop her homeland’s invasion. Bullied, hapless princeling Tiaran can’t escape his political doom. When they join forces on the battlefield they’ll rock the foundations of kingdoms.

As is usual for me, the world building for Fire and Earth is an accumulation of many things. The idea for the Deathless, Casora’s band of warriors-turned-mercenaries came from Herodotus’s (possibly inaccurate) description of the elite Persian forces at the battle of Thermopylae. “The Immortals”, as he described them, always numbered 10,000 because killed or injured Immortals were simply replaced. Also according to Herodotus, their headdress included a face-covering cloth (possibly meant to keep out dust or wind). And so, the idea for an elite force of constant numbers–therefore “Deathless”–with face plates on their helmets that prevented any individual from being recognized by outsiders.

Their enemies, the Yriri, were based on the various hordes, like the Huns, who invaded Europe during the Dark Ages.  I wanted the Yriri armor to be different from that worn by the Deathless and their allies, so I based that on certain Oriental types of chain mail, which fastened in the front, like a jacket.


and The Bard’s Gift:

TheBardsGiftCoverSmall

Astrid is too shy to even talk to the boy she likes, so naturally she’s the one the Norse gods choose to lead a bunch of stubborn Norsemen–using just stories to inspire them.

Since The Bard’s Gift is a historical fantasy, the world building consisted mostly of research.

Probably the most surprising thing I found in that research was the Greenland shark.

The Greenland shark lives farther north than any other shark species. They are comparable in size to the great white shark, averaging ten to sixteen feet in length and up to 900 pounds. They can grow as large as 21 feet and over 2,000 pounds. Usually only found near the surface only during the winter, they are otherwise denizens of the deep. They have been found with parts of polar bears in their stomachs.

The flesh of the Greenland shark is poisonous, but the hardy Icelanders (and presumably the Greenlanders), had a way of leaching the poison out. Of course, it still smelled overpoweringly of ammonia, even then.

That was way too good a monster not to find it’s way into the story.

There were also mythological sea monsters, like hafgufa.

Translated as “sea mist” or “sea reek”, hafgufa was a sea monster of the Greenland Sea between Greenland and Iceland. Hafgufa was supposed to lie on the surface to feed. The stench of its belch drew in fish, which the hafgufa would then consume, along with anything else in the vicinity, including ships. Only Orvar-Odd had ever escaped, because he knew the beast rose and submerged with the turn of the tides and was able to get his ship out of range just in time.

Hafgufa was usually seen as only a pair of rocks said to be the beast’s nose. Sometimes hafgufa was equated with the kraken. Others attribute the stories of hafgufa to underwater volcanic activity and the release of methane gas.

And that’s not even getting to Thunderbird. See my post about that, here.

March MadnessTwo of my books are part of the Clean Indie Reads March Madness Sale this week. Check it out, not just for my books. There are a lot of great reads on sale. And check out the other blogs on the blog hop, too. Here.

There’s also a giveaway of several of the books in the hop–including The Bard’s Gift. Enter that here.


Fire and Earth:

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

Though raised as a fearless, faceless warrior, Casora couldn’t stop her homeland’s invasion. Bullied, hapless princeling Tiaran can’t escape his political doom. When they join forces on the battlefield they’ll rock the foundations of kingdoms.

Chapter 1: Berserk

Casora restrained the impulse to get up and pace across the floor of the command tent. She couldn’t show emotion, not even frustration, in front of her troops, but the continued silence from home was troubling. She reached up to rub the little scar above her right eyebrow.

She glanced up at the mountains visible through the open tent flap. The snow crept lower every day and so did her hopes of a recall order to let the troop over-winter at home. Casora dreaded the prospect of a winter stuck in camp with a troop made up entirely of homesick teenagers–every one of them carrying the potential of the berserker curse. Time to start planning a lot of training exercises.

“Riders coming!” The shout came from the lookout to the east, toward home. After a pause, the lookout added, “Two of them.”

Only two riders? She’d sent three out.

Casora walked to the front of the tent and cursed under her breath. They were her scouts all right, but whatever orders they brought had better be end-of-the-world urgent. There was no other excuse for abusing the horses like that. Then she realized that Varana’s braid was redder than it should be–blood red. Casora took off running. So did others from all parts of the camp. Varana fell off the winded mare just as Casora reached her.

“Report,” she said, but more quietly than her usual command voice.

“Stumbled into a scouting party just inside the pass. Ambushed.”

Ravan ran up with a water skin and Casora held it so Varana could drink. “What happened?” She handed the skin back to Ravan and nodded towards the other scout.

“Ledan was out in front. Went down with the first volley. We tried to get to a defensible position. There were too many. Had to run. Bring word back here.”

Casora rocked back on her heels. “What about . . .” She paused to swallow and steady her voice. “What about home?”

“Smelled the smoke even before we got to the pass. Whole valley’s burning. Even from that high up, we could see the Yriri crawling all over the valley in their black armor, like ants on a corpse. There’s nothing left.”

Casora looked down at her empty palms. Her chest was too constricted to breathe. Astraea invaded? It wasn’t possible. Even the Deathless, really only warriors in training, had never been defeated. How could Astraea have been conquered?

The roar of angry voices around her snapped Casora back to her duty. She had to get them occupied with something and quick. She gripped the hilt of her sword. Anger, especially, was the enemy of the Cursed. Not something they could be allowed to engage in for long. Her eye lit on one of the greenest recruits, looking young and frightened. “You, see the wounded to the medicine tent. Look after them.”

Casora scanned the other faces around her. Orders wouldn’t come from home, so the decision was up to her. If Astraea was under attack, there was only one place where the Deathless should be and it wasn’t sitting uselessly in camp all winter. “Ravan, organize the band. We’ll need the horses and gear readied. Break down the camp. I want everything packed up and ready to move by dawn day after tomorrow.” She looked at the stunned faces around her. “Get a move on. The Deathless are needed at home.”

At that, the band broke into excited units, scattering to their various tasks. Casora breathed a sigh of relief. She felt Varana shaking her head against Casora’s supporting arm. Varana had more recent intelligence. Casora looked down to her friend’s face. “What is it?”

Varana’s answer was low enough that not many beside Casora heard it. “You didn’t see how many of those black-armored devils there are. Even the full band won’t be enough. That army could crush us like you or I would swat a fly. All we’d do is get ourselves killed, too.” Varana turned her head back toward the mountains. “Besides, the snow followed us down the mountain. It’s the only reason we got away from them. No one’s going into or out of Astraea until spring.”


and The Bard’s Gift:

TheBardsGiftCoverSmall

Astrid is too shy to even talk to the boy she likes, so naturally she’s the one the Norse gods choose to lead a bunch of stubborn Norsemen–using just stories to inspire them.

Chapter 1: Starvation

Astrid leaned into the freezing wind, staggering down the beach hunting for driftwood to feed their meager fire. She kept one eye open for anything edible. The gale felt like needles of ice penetrating even the thick white bear pelt she wore as a cloak.

The wind swept up the fjord straight off the icy sea, funneled by the steep hills on either side. Astrid paused to take shelter for a few moments under a rock overhang that blocked the gusts. With nothing to hunt for, she let her mind drift, retelling to herself some of the stories her grandmother used to tell her. It was almost as good as sleep to take her mind off her hunger and keep her company.

From her shelter, she could see one of the many islets in the fjord, one that would be a seal rookery later in the year. That made her think of the stories about selkies, sea creatures that could shed their skins and take human form once a year. She pictured them dancing down there on the beach, as the stories described. In her mind, the leader looked a lot like tall, red-blond Torolf. The stories said that if a human stole the seal skin while its owner was in human form, the selkie could be compelled to stay on land as the wife—or, she supposed, husband—of the thief. Pity the stories always ended with the selkie finding the stolen skin and returning to the sea.

She sighed. If it were only that easy. Why would Torolf ever give her a second glance if she could never manage to say a complete, coherent sentence in front of him? Well, Torolf wasn’t going to magically appear on the beach. She might as well continue her search. She had to go farther and farther afield to find anything these days.


I’m a discovery writer. I know, I said that before.

One of the things that means is that I don’t always see the shape of a story when I start. In the case of BEYOND THE PROPHECY, which is the third book in a four-book series, I knew most of the events that would take place. I knew the theme. I knew the main conflicts. But I didn’t have a real feel for the shape of the story–the way those conflicts would fit together to bring the story from its starting point, through the climax, and on to some form of resolution.

I’m kind of a stickler for some kind of resolution to each book. That’s partly because as a reader I hate to be left hanging in the middle of a long story for months or a year for the next part–which often still doesn’t resolve anything. So I always try to structure my stories to reach some intermediate resolution in each book. I want each book to feel like a complete story in itself, as well as part of the larger story of the series.

Now, as I’m writing the beginning of that climax, I have a really good feel for that shape.

The downside of being a discovery writer is, as always, that the story needs more revision than a plotter’s might. All those things I figured out along the way are going to need to be set up in the earlier parts of the book. And they’re not set up in the first draft because I didn’t know about them when I wrote the first chapters.

That’s okay, because I actually don’t mind revising. Good thing. Even if I’d been keeping count (which I don’t), I’d be embarrassed to say how many revisions THE VOICE OF PROPHECY had to go through.

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Certainly a record, even for me.

Spring cleaning and writing are not the best combination. I’ve been giving the kitchen a deep cleaning. Now, normally I can pace myself. But there are just some things that have to be done all at once.

I saved up a couple of the hardest tasks for the weekend–naturally. Yesterday I pulled to stove out and cleaned behind it and cleaned the grease out of the vent-a-hood above it. Wasn’t good for much the rest of the day. The stove’s on the list for today–along with more other chores than I’ll possibly get to (mowing, getting ready to paint the house, cutting that bishop’s cap vine away from the side of the house–again). Plus, I want to finish the chapter I was supposed to write yesterday and at least start the one that I was supposed to write today.

Writing an action scene while I’m still wiped out from yesterday. That’ll be fun.

So, I’m going to have to find a way to energize myself. Music.

Normally, I don’t listen to music while I write. I like vocals, mostly, and me singing along–off key, because I can’t carry a tune in a basket–interferes with getting the words down for some reason.It’s not that I don’t enjoy instrumentals as much as the story-obsessed part of me just loves the tiny stories encapsulated in songs. Usually, I just have a news channel on in the other room for a little background noise.

So, I’ve just raided my old CD collection for some marches. Think I’ll start with my Hollywood Marches CD (Raiders of the Lost Ark, among others). Maybe that’ll get the blood pumping.

I pulled out a bunch of other CDs, too. Maybe I’ll start using more music while I write if I queue up some instrumentals.

I’m a little more than three-quarters of the way through the first draft of Beyond the Prophecy, the third book in the Dual Magics series. I’m at a point where I’m making a lot of notes of things that need to be fixed in the revisions.

This is the first book in the series in which things are moving on two fronts. Not that I haven’t occasionally cut away from the main character to show what was going on somewhere else. But now it’s not something that’s going to impact him later. Now, while he valiantly tries to put a lid on things over hear, they’re boiling over somewhere else. And, being only human (if a magical one), he can still only be in one place at a time.

The thing was, I didn’t have a good way to connect what’s going on in one place with the issues in the other–at least until everything blows up in the fourth (and last) book. That is–until yesterday, when the solution occurred to me.

I also had a couple of characters who’d played a part in the second book, The Voice of Prophecy,

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who had virtually disappeared in this book. I wanted to at least have them show themselves, since they’ll have roles in the fourth book.

And the plan came together. One of those characters is the perfect link between at least part of what’s happening away from the main city and what’s going on in the city.

I’ve backed up to add a chapter. That’s not something I usually allow myself to do in a first draft, but I’m making an exception this time.

 

 

 

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