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Archive for February, 2012

This post is dedicated to dragons. No, I’m not going to tell you about dragons. You already know.

I love this quote from G. K. Chesterton:

Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.

Except for one thing: Why do you want to kill the dragons?

Most of my stories seems to have dragons in them, for some reason.

BLOOD WILL TELL/BLOOD IS THICKER/(and eventually BLOOD STAINS) have dragons as major characters or even the main character. These dragons can take human form and have some interesting difficulties as well as advantages in dealing with our world. The family is into banking, since guarding treasure comes naturally to them.

MAGE STORM has three different kinds of dragons. Mountain dragons are merely incidental (although one would become much more important in the next two books, WILD MAGE and DRAGON MAGE, if they ever get written. That most likely depends on whether any agent and editor ever like MAGE STORM enough.) Water dragons are a little more important to the story. And then there are the Keepers, tiny dragons who maintain the magical library. I have to admit, I love the Keepers. These are all neutral or actually helpful creatures.

SEVEN STARS may be the only novel I’ve written that makes no reference to dragons at all. Hmm.

MAGIC’S FOOL does not have a live dragon in it, but it does have a story about a dragon and a group of suggestively placed sea rocks called the Dragon Bone Chain. The importance of the largest, Dragon Skull Islet, will only be revealed in later books.

Even one of my trunk novels, DREAMER’S ROSE, had a dragon in it. The dragon wasn’t important to the story, but it was there. Someday, I may figure out what I need to change in that story and rewrite it.

And at least one of my planned novels, THE BARD’S GIFT, will have dragons in it. Yes, it’s alternate history. I’m altering history to include dragons, as well as in other ways.

So, what is this thing I have about putting dragons in my stories.

 

 

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Well, I’m a lot closer to being ready to e-publish BLOOD WILL TELL. I’ve been studying all of the material on Smashwords. There’s a lot of it, so it’ll take me a while longer to work through it and be ready to actually go ahead. But this is definitely in the works.

 

 

Meanwhile, I have a first draft of the sequel, BLOOD IS THICKER. It’s nowhere near ready yet, but my wonderful critique partners will help me with that. I’ve been playing around with an image I found that could work for the cover of BLOOD IS THICKER. Unfortunately, right now, I can’t afford to hire someone to do a cover for me. Maybe if I get a few sales of BLOOD WILL TELL.

This image is nowhere near ready yet. This is just a very rough idea of what it might look like.  Think of it as a half-finished first draft. My main problem with it is that it’s so different from the cover art for BLOOD WILL TELL. They won’t look like they belong to the same series. Which means I may have to–eventually–come up with a new cover for BLOOD WILL TELL. I have a couple of ideas.

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Tag You’re It

Well, it seems one of those twenty questions things is circling the blogosphere again and I’ve gotten tagged twice in the last couple of days, first by Robin Weeks and then by PK Hrezo. 

The Tag rules: 1. You must post the rules! 2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged. 3. Tag seven (because it’s a magical number) people and link to them. 4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

I’m going to go for a loose interpretation and pick my own eleven questions from both lists.

Robin’s Questions:

  1. How many books did you read last year? What was your favorite genre? Oh dear. I don’t don’t keep count. Not as many as I wanted to read. Sometimes I get bogged down in a book and am slow to finish it, but don’t quite want to give up, either. Other times, I go through them way too fast. My favorite genre is fantasy–mainstream (which just sounds better than adult when paired with fantasy), young adult, or middle grade.
  2. Which popular genre have you tried and tried but can never really get into? Hmm. Well, I don’t usually keep trying if it just doesn’t interest me. I guess I’ll have to say science fiction. Some of it just doesn’t float my boat. But, now, if it’s a really good story that just happens to be told in the future, I’m there.
  3. Which literary character is most like your ideal spouse? Which is most like your actual spouse /  significant other? Why?
  4. Besides writing and reading, what is your favorite pastime? Do I have to pick just one?  I garden, embroider, and (though not recently) play folk harp. When such things were possible, I used to love to travel. Some day, I want to get into the mountains again and drive the Northern California coast again, and oh, all sorts of things. Money and family responsibilities permitting (which they don’t right now), someday I want to go to New Zealand and Australia. That’s definitely on my bucket list.
  5. If you could play God and change one thing about the world, what would it be? Limitation: you can’t mess with free agency.
  6. Which writer’s conferences have you attended? If you had unlimited time and money, which conferences would you attend? Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to go to very many. I did get to SCBWI’s Orange County Agent’s Day last year. If I could go when and where I wanted: At least one of David Farland’s classes, preferably the one on writing YA, Orson Scott Card’s Boot Camp, SCBWI’s Los Angeles Conference and I’m sure I could think of quite a few more.
  7. You’re on a talk show, talking about your newest bestseller. The host announces a surprise guest: the author you’ve always been inspired by, but have never met. Who comes out on stage? What is your reaction? Lois McMaster Bujold. And, typical of me, I’m absolutely tongue-tied. I only think of all the things I wanted to say and ask on the way home.
  8. If you could design the cover for your WIP, what would it look like? Hmm. Well, it’s not exactly my WIP, but I’ve already kind of done this for BLOOD WILL TELL. 
  9. Which literary villain scared you the most? Dolores Umbridge. I always knew Lord Voldemort would be defeated somehow. But Umbridge’s small-time, bureaucratic, self-righteous evil is just the kind that can survive in this world–and do a lot of damage.
  10. Pantser or outliner? I’m about two-thirds of a pantser. I used to be a complete pantser, but I actually managed to write an entire 100,000 word book that didn’t actually tell a story that way. That broke me of that habit. Now I write what I call a proto-synopsis before I start something that’s novel-length. (I’ll still just go for it in a short story, though.) I insist on knowing the central conflict, the climax, and at least some idea of the try/fail cycles before I start. The actual ending, the denouement, almost always comes as a surprise to me, though.
  11. Which one of your characters would most benefit the world, if made real?

PK Hrezo’s Questions: 

  1. Plotter or Panster?
  2. Who is your fave character and why?
  3. Name 2 things within arms reach. A now mostly-empty cup of tea and my mp3 player.
  4. If you could go back and do anything over again, what would it be?
  5. Date with a celebrity, who would you pick? Oh dear. Well, there are a few I’ve definitely had a thing for. (cough, cough, Hugh Jackman). But, rather than go for any of them, I think I’d pick Robin Williams. No offense to Mr. Williams. But he’d probably talk enough that the fact that I couldn’t formulate an intelligible sentence wouldn’t even be noticed.
  6. What is your fave song?
  7. What genre do you write in?
  8. Fave thing to do other than write?
  9. Coolest thing you’ve ever done?
  10. Coolest place you’ve ever been? Okay, for this one I’m going to go with Alert Bay, British Columbia. I was on a small cruise ship (80 passengers) out from Seattle and returning to Vancouver, B.C. There’d been a last-minute replacement of one of our intended guides. The replacement just happened to be the man who had helped to create the written Kwakiutl language for the tribe and his wife, who studied totem poles. When we got to Alert Bay, they took us to the Big House and put on a show of their native dances. At the end, we got to join in the traditonal potlatch dance (badly). That was really cool.
  11. Favorite quote? 

If you’ve read this far, consider yourself tagged. Pick your own eleven from the lists above.

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Wow. I got so busy going through a final edit of BLOOD WILL TELL, I almost forgot to blog today.

 I am now 95 % certain that I’m going to go ahead and e-publish this, so look for an announcement in the next week or two.  I’ve got the cover art about as good as I can make it. I’ve been through the manuscript one last time. Now I just need to do the formatting and familiarize myself with Smashwords and figure out how to upload it to Amazon.com.

I also need to make a phone call to the agent who’s had the full manuscript. It’s been five months, so I’m pretty sure I know what her answer is, but I just need to touch base and make sure.

Here’s a teaser:

Valeriah let the droning voices wash over her, ignoring them. Politicians and businessmen: they could talk more and say less than any ten other groups. Fortunately, it wasn’t her job to listen to them. In fact, better not, since she needed to stay alert.

She scanned the crowd again. She didn’t see anything out of place, but her instincts screamed at her that something was wrong. Sight could be deceiving, so she submerged herself in her other senses. Senses that were sharper than a human’s.

There. The sharp scent of fear overlaid with anger. That was out of place on a sunny day at the opening ceremony for a new high school science lab. Circulating inconspicuously through the crowd, Valeriah let her nose lead her to the source. The man in the bright yellow T-shirt didn’t look like much, but a concealed weapon could be a great leveler. She didn’t smell gun oil on him, but there was something else.

The mayor finished his “brief” remarks, finally. Zobran–he called himself Zebulon Towers on this side of the portal–stood to give his speech as the primary benefactor of the lab. Valeriah breathed more deeply, still trying to identify the strange scent. Not dangerous. But something . . .

The yellow-shirted man moved forward, raising his arm and shouting. “Towers Technology works for the military. Their money is blood money.”

Oh. One of those. He probably wasn’t a real threat, but her job right now was to safeguard Zobran.

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There’ no getting around it. The first chapter of a novel is as important to the querying process as the query letter itself and the dreaded synopsis. Some agents ask for a sample along with the query, which is usually the first chapter or some portion of it. (Very few, in my experience, as for more than the first chapter.)

So, along with polishing the query letter to a high sheen (which I’m still working on), and trying to write a good synopsis, I also have to try to polish up that first chapter so it will entice an agent to ask for more. I just finished the polishing edit on this one and I really, really, still love this story. I want to give it its very best chance.

The whole manuscript of SEVEN STARS has been critiqued by seven different critique partners. I’m confident in the story as a whole, but I want a little extra on the first chapter. And I know a lot of other writers are in the same boat. Therefore, what better than to help each other out. With that in mind, I’ve started a First Chapter Challenge on Hatrack River Writers Workshop. We can read and critique each others’ first chapters.

The great thing about a challenge like this 

is that you can learn so much. Not just from the critiques on your chapter, but from what you notice in other people’s chapters that maybe you would never notice in your own. It’s a win/win.

I’m only just a little nervous about the time commitment. In addition to my regular number of critiques, I expect to have three full novels to critique in the next two months. And now I’ve added the first chapter challenge, too. Judging from the number of responses to the challenge in the first day, it’s going to be a popular one. That’s good.

I may be crazy, but I’m looking forward to it. Critiquing is as important a part of growing as a writer as writing and learning to get critiques are.

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First Kiss

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a teaser from SEVEN STARS. This is Tiaran and Casora’s first kiss. They’re traveling through some caves that have a strange, energizing effect on Tiaran. But Casora (usually the strong one) has a fit of claustrophobia half way through.

He handed his torch to Mordan and put a hand on both of Casora’s shoulders. “Shh, shh. Don’t fight so hard. Remember your enyoro. Let the darkness wash over you, flow with it, not against it. There’s nothing to fear. This place is sacred to the one you call Gaiara. Can’t you feel it?” He lifted her to her feet and, without thinking about it, tilted his head to kiss her quickly, gently on the lips.

As he flushed warm down the length of his body, the sound that had been just at the edge of his hearing swelled into music and rose to a crescendo. It resonated with something deep inside him. Along with the music, the deep voice and the words of his dream came back to him. He smiled at the thought. If this was what Gaiar wanted of him, Tiaran would be only too happy to comply.

Tiaran had kissed a fair few girls in his other life, back at the palace. He’d gotten rather good at it, he thought. But none of those kisses had been like this one. He wanted to try it again, longer this time and much, much slower, but he heard Mord’s sharply indrawn breath and Hemrod’s huff. Maybe somewhere with less of an audience next time.

There was surprise in Casora’s eyes as he drew back, but the fear was less. He took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Keep hold of my hand. It won’t seem as bad.”

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I’m actually playing hooky (sort of) from an on-line writers’ hangout to post this, so it’ll be quick.

Well, yesterday I finally finished the fourth draft of MAGIC’S FOOL. That last ten pages was like pulling teeth–and there weren’t even that many changes. I suspect I’d just gotten burned out on the story, having done three straight drafts back to back. Note to self: Don’t do that again.

However, I’m now much happier with the story and I think it’s ready for readers next month. I’ll probably give it one more read-through before then, but not for a couple of weeks any way.

So, now I’m moving on to the polishing edit of SEVEN STARS. This one has been resting since July. I’m trying something new–giving it a good long rest before the last pass and sending it out into the world. That’s only really practical when you have enough completed works to keep querying while you give the new one the benefit of that time.

I’m less than ten pages in and already feeling energized by the change to a “new” story.

I’ve also been working on the query and synopsis. Look out agenting world. SEVEN STARS will be coming your way soon!

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