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Archive for September, 2011

So far, I’m happy with my progress in this experiment. Having BLOOD IS THICKER to work on allowed me to let a particularly tricky scene for MAGIC’S FOOL sort of percolate in the back of my head until it was ready. BLOOD IS THICKER took the pressure to write something off and made that easier to do.

MAGIC’S FOOL continues to be slow going, although I’m starting Chapter 4 today. Spoiler alert: One character does not make it out of Chapter 4. After this, maybe I’ll pick up speed. Or maybe I’ll be called back into BLOOD IS THICKER.  Sooner or later, I expect one of them to take over and push the other to the back burner, but for now it’s working for me.

In MAGIC’S FOOL, I needed to write an action scene involving a game played on horseback with three (not two) teams. That’s what needed some time to gel for me. It’s not like I’ve actually seen a lot of three-sided games (apart from board games, which don’t count) to draw on. Plus, I had to work the rules of this game into the action. (There’s no scene like the one where quidditch is explained to Harry to make that easier. All these kids have grown up with this game.) But I think I’ve got it. Readers will let me know if I’m right about that.

In BLOOD IS THICKER, I’m ready to start Chapter 5, in which the extent of the problem they discovered in Chapter 4 will become apparent. Something will have to be done, involving some sacrifice and a change of scene. That should be fun. I’m already seeing a couple of the scenes in my mind’s eye.

On top of that, I’ve started doing some research for THE BARD’S GIFT, my YA alternate history. I found a great reference book (kindle for pc edition so I’ll always have it right with me when I’m writing) for the basic daily life sort of information. This is the stuff I’d usually make up as part of my world building, sometimes using historical models. With alternate history, though, it needs to be as close to the real history as I can make it. Well, apart from the things I intend to change. It is alternate history.

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Part of me is a little nervous to blog about this. Superstitious that I’ll jinx things, I guess. But it’s exciting and it’s something that all of us writers dream about, so I will. Besides, redux already mentioned it in the comments to my last post, anyway.

This happened Wednesday, very shortly after I wrote and published my last blog post. As I try to do every week, I sent out a couple of queries for BLOOD WILL TELL. I hadn’t even gotten off the computer when the phone rang.

I answered it, fully expecting it to be somebody trying to sell me something. It nearly always is. Blow me away, it was one of the agents I had just queried. We talked for a little while about BLOOD WILL TELL and about what else I’ve been working on. A very little about me because when she asked that question my mind totally blanked. I’m sure I came off as a blithering idiot because I was so shocked.

I’ve gotten emails back from agents. Even a few requests for partial or full manuscripts. I’ve asked questions of agents on live chats. I’ve spoken to an agent at a conference. I have never before had an agent call me.

Anyway, in the end, she requested the full manuscript for BLOOD WILL TELL and the first chapter of MAGE STORM.

And I’ve just started shaking again typing this blog post.

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So far, I’m liking this multiple projects approach. It doesn’t matter when I sit down to right, there’s always something I can work on.

In the next week or so, I’ll be wrapping up some revisions to SEVEN STARS. I need to work on one early action scene that got a little too much in the head and not enough in the action. It needs just a touch or two of scene-setting, too. I think I’ve got one other scene I want to look at. And then I want to work a bit on the opening. I’m afraid the main character feels just a little too old in that scene. SEVEN STARS is young adult, after all. So I want to add just a touch, a few paragraphs at most, to show her true age before she shows her competent professional side on page 2. I don’t want her actual age to come as a surprise on page 5. And, while she is sure of herself, she needs to have enough youthful and human traits to make her sympathetic before everything falls apart for her in chapter 2.

MAGIC’S FOOL hasn’t advanced very far, yet. But I know what I’m going to do next. I just have to let the scene work out in my head a little more.

Fortunately, that’s not stopping me from writing, because I’ve also got BLOOD IS THICKER. Like its prequel, BLOOD WILL TELL, this one is just plain fun to work on. I’m well into chapter 3, which sets up a couple of conflicts that will parallel the main conflict. Chapter 4 is where the bottom is going to drop out and things go from “Okay, that’s a problem, but we can work around it” to “What just happened and what the heck do we do now.” That’s where the fun is really going to start.

Gearing up for some edits on MAGE STORM, too. I’d like to get that one back out into circulation. I’m just not confident in the first three chapters right now. Only the most critical chapters in the whole thing, right? Actually, I think the first chapter’s pretty good. A couple of quick edits are probably all it needs. Its the second and third chapters where I’m afraid I lost my way in the last revision. I’m just not sure I get my main character to where he needs to be to make the decision to strike out on his own. And, um, too much dialogue–internal and external–for middle grade. Really. Cut to the action (instead of cutting the action).

Yep, I think that’ll keep me busy into next month.

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Ideas

Ideas come when I’m writing. There’s just no getting around it. I can stare at a blank screen until the cows come home (and I don’t even have any cows). I can take walks, do all the things that are times when ideas normally strike. The ideas will still likely come at those times, but they won’t come unless I’m writing. And revisions don’t count. It has to be real first draft (or at least second draft) writing. (Second drafts, I’m usually still doing quite a lot of new writing, putting in things I missed, skipped over, or didn’t know I needed until I got farther along in the story.) It seems like writing something new just engages some part of my brain that otherwise won’t talk to me.

So, I was a little stumped on MAGIC’S FOOL and decided to start BLOOD IS THICKER in addition to it. Well, wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I’d gotten a couple of chapters into BLOOD IS THICKER, my brain threw up just the ideas I needed to get back into MAGIC’S FOOL. Of course, while still throwing up ideas for the next chapters of BLOOD IS THICKER. I need to clone myself  so I can work on both at the same time.

I’m wrapping up a round of revisions from some excellent critiques on SEVEN STARS and itching to get back into both of my new projects.

I’m going to change just a little of what I’ve got in MAGIC’S FOOL. Then I’m going to start back up with my protagonist in a game of jarai (sort of soccer on horseback, but with three sides instead of two).

Chapter 3 of BLOOD IS THICKER will embroil my characters in some interesting political shenanigans.

Meanwhile, the latest interview on Farland’s Authors’ Advisories has inspired me to start the research for my alternate history story.

Looks like I’m going to be pretty busy for a while.

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First a little housekeeping. Some of you who visited this blog more than three months ago or so may have noticed that several pages were missing from the worlds tab. They related to the world of my first two novels–the same world as MAGIC’S FOOL. But also the same world as a short story I had entered in Writers of the Future. Since the judging of that contest is blind (nobody knows whose story they’re reading), I hid those pages. Since “Becoming Lioness” didn’t place, I’ve put them back.

Now, on to the meat of today’s topic. I’ve decided to try something different. I’m going to have two projects going at once–not, as often happens, one in revision and one in first draft. No, I’m going to try two first drafts at the same time. No idea if I can pull this off, especially with two such different stories. I guess I’ll find out.

The reason I’m doing this is that I’m pretty much stopped on MAGIC’S FOOL. Not blocked. I know what comes next. I can write it. I just don’t. I’ve been trying to figure out why this is. At first, I thought it was my concern over the central conflict. Having had to break up the much longer THE SHAMAN’S CURSE into pieces left me with a more internal conflict for the first story and that worries me a little, especially for a middle grade story.

But, having thought about that, I decided that I should follow Kevin J. Anderson’s advice and just dare to be bad (at first). Get the first draft down and then I can worry about fixing it. That doesn’t seem to have increased my enthusiasm for this project, though.

Now, I think I know what it is. MAGIC’S FOOL is a twice-told tale. I’ve already told the story. True, I’ve reimagined some elements of it, moved some things around, deleted others. But still, I’ve already told this story once. This is the reason some of us (like me) don’t outline extensively. Once I’ve told a story, the excitement isn’t the same.

That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on MAGIC’S FOOL. I just think I’m going to have to approach it differently than I do most first drafts. Instead of immersing myself in it and coming up for air with a completed first draft after six to eight weeks, I’m going to have to go more slowly. I think I may have to be content to just get a chunk done at a time–a chapter or two, perhaps.

But that’s not enough writing for me. The one thing I know for sure is that I won’t get anywhere by standing still. So I’m also, as of this morning, starting on BLOOD IS THICKER, the first sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL. (see a theme, there? Fooled you. It’s not what you think. No vampires, here.)

I normally just write down the ideas for sequels and move on to something new because, if the first book doesn’t sell the odds are even worse for the sequel. In terms of traditional publishing, you’re better off working on something different.

But, traditional publishing is no longer the only game in town and BLOOD WILL TELL is my prime candidate for e-publishing if I can’t generate some real interest in it this go-round. And, with e-publishing, it’s an advantage to have sequels to bring out relatively soon after the first book.

I have to start seriously thinking about that. December or January would probably be the optimal time to e-publish, if that’s what I’m going to do. And I really need the time to figure out what I’m going to do about a cover.

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First, I forgot to put in even a rough pitch of MAGIC’S FOOL in my last post, so here it is (very rough):

There are two kinds of magic in Rell’s world. In the coastal cities, certain lineages pass on magical talents from generation to generation. The magical lineages are very jealous of their inborn abilities and with good reason. It’s the basis of their rule.

On the plains, the semi-nomadic herdsmen use an initiation ceremony to create a connection to the totem spirit of their clan, which allows them to sense their totem animals–lions, ravens, eagles, bears, wolves, or wild horses. Because of their superstitious fear of magic, they don’t call their acquired abilities magic, but a rose by any other name . . .

Vatar’s troubles begin with his initiation. The magic of the initiation ceremony seems to have wakened a deeper inborn magic that must have come from his nonmagical, city-born mother. And the two kinds of magic interact in new and unforeseen ways.

Add to that, it appears that Vatar is one of those few born to be linked to another. And if he can’t find her, they’ll both go mad.

Second, I’ve been tagged. Barbara Evers passed on the Versatile Blogger award almost exactly a year after I first recieved it.  So, I’m reposting my “Seven Things About Myself” from back then. It’s probably a good introduction to the new people from the Platform-Building Campaign, anyway.

  1. My favorite author is Lois McMaster Bujold.  Her kind of storytelling, her damaged protagonists who have to overcome their own limitations as well as the external obstacles–that’s the kind of story I want to be able to write when I grow up.  Well, I could do a lot worse than as a role model than a multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner, right?
  2. I am a dyed-in-the-wool animal lover, although I do exclude things with six or more legs.  I’ve been known to rescue lizards and birds.  You tend to get funny looks when you arrive and say “Sorry I’m late.  I had to rescue a lizard.”  It’s bad enough that when it came to the place in THE IGNORED PROPHECY where I intended to kill off one of the dogs, I couldn’t do it.  It was harder than killing a character. 
  3. This is on my “About Me” page, but I’ll put it here, too.  My sport and therapy is dog agility.  It’s a sport where your dog is your team mate.  The human is intended to be the leader of the team.   (Corgis are bossy dogs by nature and sometimes that position is disputed.  I am still the only one that can read the course map, though.)  My job is to help the  dog run an obstacle course, composed primarily of things the dog has to climb over, jump over, or run through.  The obstacles all have to be performed correctly and in the right order, within a time limit.  Dogs run off leash and the handler may not touch the dog or the obstacles.  All of the instructions are communicated by voice and body language.  It’s a heck of a lot of fun for both me and the dogs.  You should see the grin my older girl gets when we play.  (Corgis are also a breed that needs a job.  Agility works very well and it helps keep them in shape, too.)
  4. Greatest time wasters that keep me away from writing:  Obsessively checking my e-mail, forums, web comics, and blog statistics.  (Sad, really sad.)  Playing stupid (and old) computer games.  Not even the new, hot ones.  Reading, when I’m into a really good book (not the case right now).
  5. When my evenings aren’t as messed up as they currently are, I frequently embroider while watching television.  Otherwise, television has a tendency to put me to sleep.  About half the time, I design my own embroidery patterns.  Almost everything that is hanging on the walls of this house has been embroidered by me.
  6. There’s a harp in my closet.  Not the kind you see in the orchestra.  That’s a pedal harp.  Mine’s neo-Celtic, which means it’s patterned after the celtic harps, but it has monofilament strings instead of gut and has been updated with sharping levers.  (Sharping levers do essentially the same thing pedals on the big orchestra harp do.  They allow you to change the length, and therefore the pitch of individual strings.  This is to mimic, as closely as the harp is able, the white and black strings of the piano, so it’s possible to play more modern music.)  I haven’t actually played the harp in a while.  In fact, not seriously since my father died.  That’s almost eleven years ago.  It’s time.  I’ve lost the calluses on my fingers.   Here’s a resolution (and it’s not even New Year’s), I’m going to take that harp out, tune it, and play at least a couple of carols this Christmas.  How’s that?
  7. I garden organically.  Although, around here, gardening could be classified more as sticking my finger in the dike than anything you’re likely to see in one of those glossy gardening magazines.  The yard’s just too big for one person to take care of, unfortunately.

 

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Blogging a bit early this week. (Usually updates are on Wednesdays and Sundays.)

Since this is (near) the beginning of the Platform-Building Campaign and new people will be popping in to look at the blog, I thought I’d blog about my various projects today.

BLOOD WILL TELL

I’m actively querying this one. (Actually, this week I’m researching agents.) I have one full request out. Fingers crossed.

Being a half-blood is inconvenient on a good day, especially when the half you got from your mother is werewolf.  Valeriah can’t take wolf form, but the full moon still fills her with manic energy.  Running helps; a tired werewolf is a good werewolf.

Living perennially caught between two worlds–human and werewolf, magic and non-magic–doesn’t leave much room for love. That suits Valeriah just fine. She’s never had any luck with that anyway.

Until her cousin’s life is threatened, that is, and out of necessity she accepts the help of a mysterious young man to protect Cristel. Rolf is everything that makes Valeriah’s pulse speed up in spite of herself. Now, with Cristel’s life in the balance, is the worst possible time for that kind of complication.

But Rolf’s secrets could destroy her trust and that might cost her life.

BLOOD WILL TELL is a 97,000-word paranormal romance and potentially the first of a series.

MAGE STORM

I have queried this one, but a response from one agent who requested a full prompted some revisions which I’m still tinkering with.

Rell doesn’t want magic. He doesn’t dream of being a hero out of old legends or a mage. Certainly not a mage, after they all incinerated each other at the end of the Great Mage War. He’d just like not to be in his big brother’s shadow for a change. Someone should have reminded him to be careful what he wished for.

All he knows of magic are the violent, frighteningly aware mage storms formed of the ashes of those dead wizards. Mage storms seek out people on whom to vent their fury. When the ashes fall like rain, red cinders explode, white burn flesh like acid, orange ashes taint what they touch, and yellow cause withering death.

Caught in a mage storm, Rell is struck by a strange blue cinder that infects him with magic and protects him and his family from the storm. Rell starts to think that maybe magic’s not so bad after all, but he finds it only complicates his life. His father expects him to bring back the benefits of magic from before the war, but Rell doesn’t know how. Meanwhile, others who only remember the terrors of the war fear Rell and his new abilities. Frustration and anger only bring out one of the most dangerous aspects of his magic: fire.

Rell soon learns that whether he intends it or not, his magic will leak out, uncontrolled, whenever his emotions are too strong. If he can find some way to learn to use this “gift”, he may be able to reduce the threat of the storms. If not, he’ll probably end up adding his ashes to the mage storms.

MAGE STORM is a 56,000-word middle grade fantasy and potentially the first of a series.

SEVEN STARS

I’ve recently completed the third draft of this Young Adult Fantasy. The pitch is correspondingly very rough, still.

Because of her berserker blood, Casora has been raised as a warrior. Now that she has activated the Curse and allowed the berserker to rule her, she can never go home. She leads her band of exiled warriors turned mercenaries in the battle against the invaders who overran her homeland.

Tiaran is the youngest and least of princes, the one who will never be a warrior. He’s so desperate to get into the fighting when his country is threatened that his gullibilty leads him to run away–and straight into a suicide mission.

It’s up to Casora’s mercenaries to rescue the prince. Cut off from the commanders who are now besieged in the capital, Casora has to mold Tiaran into a warrior and together they have to find a way to defeat their common enemy.

MAGIC’S FOOL

I’ve really just started this one (half-way through chapter three). It’s a complete re-imagining of my first novel (well, if you don’t count the thing under the bed that we don’t talk about). This time as middle grade, which it probably always should have been. As such, the original 100 K word story will have to be broken up into two or even three separate novels, each with it’s own (related) arc. I confess, I’m just a bit nervous about that. I think I’ve got it figured out, but the only way I’m going to find out if it works is to try it.

So, that’s what I’m working on these days.

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