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Archive for February, 2016

Unless I discover something unexpected (and I am a discovery writer), the climax starts after the chapter I’m currently writing.

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There’ll be a bit of a time-skip I may decide to fill later. Or not. But it’s definitely coming up.

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Busy day. I almost forgot to post.

But I didn’t forget to write.

In the last week, so far, I’ve completed three chapters of WAR OF MAGIC,

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one of them today, and two chapters of BECOME.

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I can see the climax of WAR OF MAGIC starting in just a couple more chapters. The end may actually be in sight! At least of the first draft.

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That short break I took from working on WAR OF MAGIC worked.

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I’ve written two new chapters in the last couple of days. (All right, so one of them was very short. It still counts.) And I like them. That isn’t an absolute necessity with a first draft. The point is to get the story down, not get it right. That’s what revisions are for. But liking what I’ve just written is a real motivator for me to keep going.

That’s why I’m continuing to intersperse working on the first draft of BECOME with chapters of WAR OF MAGIC.

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I think giving my brain a bit of a rest from one story, without stopping writing, freed it up to generate what I needed for those next (difficult) scenes.

So, since it’s working, I’m going to keep doing it.

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So . . . I’ve been playing with cover art again.

I started out playing with cover art for BECOME. My goal here is to have at least a first draft of BECOME by the time I publish WAR OF MAGIC. That will allow me to include an excerpt of the new series at the end of the last book in the DUAL MAGICS series. Ideally, I’d like to be far enough along to include a pre-order link.

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I still may tweak the series title, but this is likely to be the cover.

Then I went back to my problem child–the cover for WAR OF MAGIC. I love the old cover image, but I just haven’t been able to get the title, etc. the way I want it. Nothing works. The latest version was okay, but it didn’t really match the other books in the series–and I want the covers to brand the series as belonging together. I’m going for something better than “I can live with it.” So, I bit the bullet and went with a different background image.

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I may tweak that series title a little, too. But now I’m happy with it. Finally.

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I think I may end up working on two first drafts at the same time. That’s not completely unprecedented. I’ve done it before. The trick is to keep the names with the right story.

But I’ve got some momentum and excitement again for BECOME. (I even started playing with the cover art.) Working on that in the interstices between WAR OF MAGIC should move both of them forward and keep me writing.

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The very worst thing I can do is stop because I’m stuck on something in a first draft. The ideas only come when I’m actually writing on a story–and they don’t always come for the story I’m working on.

I’d really like to have a good first draft of BECOME when I publish WAR OF MAGIC, so I can get it up for pre-order with an excerpt and a link at the end of WAR OF MAGIC.

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What I’m doing right now (well not right now, but you know that) is to go back through the early chapters of BECOME and try to make sure that the world building comes across to the reader. This is the foundation on which a fantasy novel is built. If the reader doesn’t understand the rules of the world, how can they understand the story?

At the same time, it’s absolutely necessary to avoid the dreaded info dump. This where a story essentially stops dead for several paragraphs or several pages (or, in the worst case I’ve ever read, an entire chapter) while the author explains the world. That’s just boring–and the one thing an author can’t do is bore the reader.

I always try to do the learn-as-you-go method of world building. Explaining–or better yet, showing–only what’s necessary at the moment and letting the world sort of accumulate. But it’s a delicate balance. And obviously from the critiques I’ve received, I missed that mark with BECOME. I really don’t feel I can go ahead with the story until I’ve got that solid foundation under it.

We’ll see how well I’ve succeeded with the patches.

As soon as I think I’ve got that in hand, I’ll go back to the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC. Got to get that done.

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I decided that instead of trying to continue grinding through the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC, what I really needed was to take a short break from it–only a week or so–and come back to it fresh.

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Hopefully that will actually result in getting the draft done faster. (It could hardly be slower.)

Meanwhile, I’ve gone back to look over some of the critiques on the early chapters of BECOME (also in first draft, but incomplete).

One of the things that became clear early on was that no one really liked my prologue. They were confused whether this less-than-likable character was to be the main character. They were confused about some of the world-building issues (which is a much bigger thing I’ll be working on). And they didn’t see enough conflict or hook to start the story.

So . . . it’s gone. But not forgotten. Because you get to read it here:

Prologue:

Queen Carala hung on tight to the railing at the top of the staircase for balance and scowled at the spectacle below her, clearly visible through the great doors, which had been flung wide for the occasion. A procession of priestesses, led by the High Priestess herself, climbed sedately up the broad steps of the Palace and were met by Carala’s husband of less than a year, Leradan, the Year King.

If she weren’t so heavily pregnant, she’d be down there herself. Not to welcome the priestesses, but to monitor whatever foolish promises Leradan made to them. Not that she’d have been able to sway him. Goddess knew she’d talked herself hoarse last night trying. But no one could change that man’s mind once he’d made it up. And he’d decided to let himself be thoroughly gulled about this.

Carala sighed. Much as she wanted to be there, it took two of her husband’s strongest guardsmen to see her safely down the steep staircase at this point. She’d just have to rely on her half-sister, Lady Damina, to let her know what ridiculous oaths the High Priestess extracted from Leradan.

Below, the High Priestess accepted a small, blanket-wrapped bundle from one of the other priestesses and passed it to Leradan. The infant squalled at the transfer and Leradan, blast the man, put the baby on his shoulder and rocked, completely oblivious to the effect on his dignity. Not that the demonstration that he would be a good father wasn’t reassuring. Carala placed a hand on her own swollen belly. But there was a time and place for everything. And the great hall, with the doors wide open to the whole kingdom, was not the place.

It was bad enough that he’d brought his brat down from the north and installed her in the Palace. At least she was the daughter of his dead northern wife, not the bastard of some random priestess. And, of course, a girl and so no threat to Queen Carala’s child. Leria was at least quiet and polite. With this Temple brat, who could tell? Who was to say it was even Leradan’s?

Still cradling the infant, Leradan actually went down on his knees to seek the High Priestess’s blessing. Incredible. Carala knew he was a barbarian from some dreadful place in the north, but he’d been king of Juturna for three-quarters of a year. Past time he learned to behave with the dignity required for that role. She’d tried, Goddess knew. Carala was the daughter of the third Year King before Leradan. And one of those who’d ruled the longest. She knew about the proper demeanor for a king, if Leradan would just listen to her.

When Leradan started up the stairs, still carrying the infant and trailed by a buxom peasant woman, Carala retreated into her sitting room, seated herself in her large padded chair, and feigned disinterest.

As the group passed her door, Lady Damina scuttled inside.

“Well?” Queen Carala asked.

“It’s a boy, just as the priestess predicted,” Damina said.

“And? What did they make Leradan promise in return for this foundling?” Carala asked.

Damina shrugged. “Only that he would raise the boy as his own, my queen.”

Carala tossed her head. “Hmph! We’ll see about that.”

Damina patted her arm. “Well . . . really, what difference does it make? It might be good for your son—Goddess willing—to have a playmate in the Palace. And it’s not as if any of Leradan’s sons can inherit the throne after him.”

“Don’t be a fool, Damina. Juturna cannot survive if it maintains this barbaric practice of forcing its kings to fight for the crown every year. Quite apart from the instability, there’s no guarantee that a good fighter will make even a competent king. Goddess knows the last was a disaster and it was a secret relief to everyone when Leradan bested him in the warrior’s circle. And the one before him wasn’t much better. Leradan’s worked from dawn to dusk just repairing the damage they did. It can’t go on this way. My father knew that. If ever a Year King were strong enough to win his combats ten or fifteen times in a row, he could gather enough support to make himself permanent—and hereditary—king. Only, Father fell in his tenth combat. He never had the chance.”

“You think Leradan will succeed?” Damina asked.

Carala thought of her husband and smiled. He was young enough. He was tall and strong, though some of his guard were taller and stronger. What set Leradan apart was that he was the canniest fighter the Great Combat had seen in a hundred years. “Don’t you?”

Damina glanced toward the hallway. “He could win that many times, I think. But . . . will he try to overturn the combat? Will the Temple let him?”

“That’s why a king must win so many times. And be a good king, of course. So that the people will support him against the Temple, if necessary. As for the will . . . I’ve got years to work on that.” Carala placed a hand protectively over her belly. “And the birth of a son—a true son—gives a man more reason to think of the future.” Her expression darkened. “That’s why we can’t have this interloper, foisted on us by the Temple, given credence as Leradan’s first born.”

Queen Carala glanced toward the door in time to see a small grey cat stroll along behind Leradan and the nursemaid. Really! True, all cats were sacred to the Goddess. She’d never harm one, of course. That didn’t mean one had to allow them inside the Palace.

With a little help from Lady Damina, Carala hoisted herself out of the chair and waddled down the hall to the nursery that she had lovingly prepared for the birth of her own child in just a few days. She paused in the door. The room had changed since she’d last been here. There were two cribs now, side by side. And a small curtained alcove with a bed large enough for an adult—though not one of Leradan’s size. Sometime before Carala arrived, Leria had joined the group and now the girl strained on tiptoe to get a glimpse of the baby in Leradan’s arms.

“Can I hold him? Please?” Leria asked.

Leradan looked to the peasant woman, who smiled. “Of course you can. Go sit down in that chair.”

Leria obeyed instantly. The peasant woman took the baby from Leradan’s arms and placed it carefully in the girl’s lap. “Put your hand so, to support his head. That’s it.”

“What’s his name?” Leria asked.

“Gaian,” her father answered.

Carala drew in a sharp breath. “Glory of the Goddess.” They’d dared to name the boy that?

Leradan turned his head in her direction, so Carala placed a hand on her side as if a stitch there had been the cause of her gasp.

“I didn’t realize you intended to put him in with our own child. Surely, the Palace has enough rooms that they could each have their own,” she said.

It was the peasant woman who answered. “Truly, you highness, it will be easier to care for the babes this way. Until they’re old enough to need more room for their play.”

Carala pinned her with a haughty gaze. “And you are . . . ?”

Leradan answered, “This is Sarala, the wet nurse supplied by the Temple for Gaian.”

Carala raised her eyes to her husband’s. “And you mean for her to care for both babies.”

“Well, not as a wet nurse for both. But to care for them both? Yes. Why not? What higher recommendation could you wish than the Temple?”

There wasn’t a good answer to that. The Goddess’s priestesses would surely do all in their power to protect any child. Still . . . she’d planned on someone more . . . sympathetic to her and her own child. Perhaps when they were older, she could arrange for that. Carala nodded acceptance.

Sarala lifted the baby from Leria’s lap and laid him in the nearest cradle. The little grey cat—Carala had almost forgotten about that—leapt up to the edge of the cradle and then down into it. It pushed its nose into the baby’s face once, then curled up at the foot of the cradle, purring.

“You don’t mean to let that creature stay in here, do you? That can’t be healthy.” Or sanitary.

Leradan smiled down at the sleeping pair—baby and cat. “She is the Goddess’s gift to Gaian. To guide and protect him. Of course she stays wherever he does.”

Carala opened her mouth to say something more about that, but what came out instead was a gasp as pain lanced through her.

Leradan was at her side, instantly. “What is it?”

“I . . . I think our child is coming . . .”

 

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