On Finishing THE INCOMING TIDE

TheIncomingTide_wordle

According to my meticulously kept daily writing records, I started planning out The Incoming Tide last October two days after finishing Extraction. The records show fairly steady work on it, interrupted now and again for a burst of short stories or focused edits on other projects further down the publishing pipeline. Still, I didn’t finish the first draft of The Incoming Tide until May 22nd. It clocked in at 70k words, which is on the slim side for a novel. It took me seven months to crank out 70k words. Maybe that’s not slow, but it certainly felt slow to me—Ariah is a hefty 128k words and I wrote it in a little under three months. Ariah is nearly twice as long and took half the time, so what gives?

The Incoming Tide was an altogether different beast. Ariah was a second draft. It was a substantively rewritten second draft, but still it was a second draft. I knew the characters. I knew the shape and color of the narrative. I knew, in short, what I was writing. So there’s that: first drafts feel different, and for me, they often take a little more time to get out. And, actually, referring once again to my copious records, The Incoming Tide is the only first draft of a novel I’ve written since I started trying to get my work out there. Everything else had been rewrites. Extraction, the volume preceding Tide in the Tale of Rebellion series, is on its fourth draft.

But it was more than that. Tide felt sometimes hard to write. I felt a weird pressure while living in that book. Drafting and redrafting and redrafting Extraction meant that I could never quite move past it. Tide was like a light at the end of that tunnel. Tide was the promised land. It’s strange, you know, getting finally to that blinding light. It takes awhile for your eyes to adjust. It took me some time to find the rhythm of Tide, to find the style and voice of it.

Of course as soon as I finished Tide I started planning the follow-up book, The King and His Makers. Of course I did. But I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from it to queue up blog posts, to work on edits for Ariah, to ponder life. A little bit of space, I think, will take the edge off and make the first draft of King a little less scary.

Writing in seclusion

IMG1156

a rustic tea-fueled two-person writing retreat

I’m on vacation right now, which I very much needed. I am on vacation visiting a friend whose taste in books is very nearly completely compatible with mine, and who is as much of an introvert as me. Being with her is sublimely restful. She had been considering a trip to a remote cabin in the woods, and I sort of gently invited myself along, which (it turned out) she was sort of hoping I would do. So, I flew out to Chicago, and we rented a little red car, and I drove us to the Wisconsin woods next to the Mississippi River. The cabin was twenty miles away from any cell phone reception and had electricity adequate to power my laptop but no distracting internet connection. We returned to civilization yesterday and are now in a re-entry to society day where we’re pleasantly sitting in her apartment with her cat and watching Foyle’s War and eating oreos. Tomorrow I return to Denver and my family and my job, and I’ll return restored and replenished and feeling more like myself than I have in weeks.

We didn’t do much in the cabin. We sat around drinking coffee and tea with vegan marshmallows in our hot, caffeinated beverages and talked a lot about feelings and parenthood and Supreme Court decisions and The Iliad. At one point we ventured outside to meander up a dry creek bed, but we were both stoned and neither of us navigated the rocks there with any sort of competence, so our excursion was short-lived. Really nothing happened but the tea drinking and the talking and reading and watching fireflies and some writing, but that was perfect, and the Wisconsin woods was a prefect place to be doing that particular kind of nothing.

And the writing–travelling, for some reason, brings a focus to me and makes it extremely easy to write. I rarely find it difficult to write, but there’s something about the solitude of travelling alone and the distance from the every day grind that lets my mind drift into that little writing pocket with virtually no effort. I wrote 2,349 words on the plane on the way to Chicago. I wrote another 8,772 words in the cabin itself. It was effortless writing, and it was an ideal time for some effortless writing because I managed to establish the voices of my POV characters. My friend doesn’t read my writing. She’s generally interested and we talk about writing in the abstract, and we read the same books at the same time(ish) quite frequently, but I’ve never asked her to read anything of mine and she’s never asked to read anything of mine. I think it was better this way. There are times I very much want someone around invested in what I’m writing, pushing me to get it out, wanting to consume it as much as I want to create it. And there are times I want to create things in a private, hidden bubble. I think the lack of expectation involved in writing around a friend who is not a fan of mine helped the writing.

All of this is to say that the writing for A TALE OF REBELLION is clipping along.

Expanding PROOF – Week 1

As I mentioned a few days ago, I have switched gears to due an impending and enormously exciting deadline! Since I document everything ever, I figured I’d go ahead and document this process, too.

The gist is in two months I need to take “Proof”, a 6,000 word short story, and expand it into a short novel by adding at least 40,000 words. No small feat, right? Well, luckily, I have a bit of a head start: “Proof”, like the vast majority of my fiction, takes place in Aerdh. And it explores characters in a locale i’ve pretty thoroughly built out worldbuilding-wise. And it dovetails with some characters I’ve written about elsewhere. In short, I have a pretty comprehensive sense of what’s going on in the universe in which the story is set at that particular time in the universe’s history, which makes things a lot easier to work with. Mostly expanding “Proof” means taking the current plot, which is stripped pretty bare, and throwing in a bunch of complications to blow up the scope of the narrative.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not much of a plotter. The pace and action of my narratives typically develop organically from exercises in worldbuilding first and then character development. This project is really no different–the characters are definitely my starting place.

"where should i start? I know! A nice orderly table about my characters"

“where should i start? I know! A nice orderly table about my characters”

“Proof”, at its heart, is a love story, and I very much want to keep that element when I expand it to a novel. Specifically, “Proof” describes a relationship between two women that already has a history. Obviously, one direction I could take the project in is to pull back and watch them fall in love. But I like that they’re already together, that they already have a rhythm and a history. My inclination now is to keep it like that and to use the longer format to explore why and how they work (and why and how they don’t work) together. There is a certain kind of playfulness that exists when you’re writing about two people who already know each other and already love each other that is a little different than the sort of playfulness that exists when a relationship is new and still forming. I want the book to be about how they stay in love rather than how they fall in love.

So, since this will be a book so deeply rooted in how these two characters play off of each other, I started with mapping out how they react to each other. With a table. Look, I’m an analyst by training and trade, right, I think in tables.

The other thing I’ve been working on is an extremely rough idea of a plot. Now, the reason I’m doing this instead of just letting it blossom on its own like I usually do is a matter of scope–left to my own devices I will turn this into a 200,000 word epic about the nature of love and loss and shit like that. And it would be good. But this needs to be a quick, swift romp with just enough gravitas, and for that I need to keep my focus. Since I’ve got two months to make it happen, I don’t have time for a sprawling first draft.

EYES ON THE PRIZE, SANDERS

EYES ON THE PRIZE, SANDERS

So I’m brainstorming at lightspeed, figuring out which elements of the current story need elaboration and what the scope of this will be. It’s like a planning blitz, and so far it’s been really useful. I am sort of concurrently working out the roughest outline in the whole wide world.

I’ll keep y’all posted on where it goes from here!

NEW SHORT STORY FOR BETA READERS: Proof

Proof_wordle

Hey y’all! I just finished another short story. The description and info are below; I welcome any and everyone to read it!

When a friend turns up dead, Shandolin suspects her lover, an elvish assassin named Rivna, may be the reason why. Shandolin marshals all her skills to prove Rivna is the killer, while Rivna does all she can to convince Shandolin she’s innocent.

PROOF is a completed short story 5,650 words in length set in the world of Aerdh. PROOF is a glimpse into the chaotic political and personal lives of two strong-willed sharp-tongued young women that will leave you wanting more.

Interested? Let me know!

Writing Snippet: Shandolin

snippet_shandolin_4252013

This is from a brand new story I’m writing!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but I set a goal for myself that I would finish one piece of fiction every month for the next year. I like finishing things! I am on track to reach that goal — I finished “Crossing the Bridge” in January, Assassins in February, and “Blue Flowers” in March. But I’ve spent all of April mired in the black hole that is rewriting The Long Road.

Now, that’s not a bad thing, but I needed a little variety. My fingers get itchy when they’re not writing narrative pieces after awhile. And I’ve had an idea bouncing around in my head: a set of detective stories featuring two elvish women in an on-again-off-again relationship. One is an assassin. And the other, Shandolin, is a political firebrand.

This story’s about two-thirds of the way through, so stay tuned because I’ll be needing beta readers for it by May 1st!

Between Projects: The Publishing Hustle

Now that Assassins is finished and out to beta readers, I am between projects. And the thing is that in spite of the always glorious sense of accomplishment I get when I finish a piece, being between projects kind of totally sucks.

I think that for every writer there are parts of the process that are easy and parts that are hard. My process goes something like this:

  1. First spark: a sentence or an image or some such fleeting glimpse into what a narrative might be which seems to come from the ether
  2. First Draft: start writing about that spark
    1. plan out if need be. go with it if the story is crystallizing all by itself.
    2. take all the notes along the way
  3. YAY IT’S DONE AND THE BEST THING EVARR: send to beta readers to get some perspective.
  4. Let it sit around awhile until I can face up to the fact that it’s not actually perfect.
    1. hey look another spark! I’ll go write that for awhile (new process begins)
  5. Second Draft: rewrite this motherfucker!!
    1. go back through the first draft and make some plans
    2. burn everything to the ground and rewrite it (the story RISES like a PHOENIX from the ASHES!!)
    3. Proofread to the best of my ability (which is not all that great)
      1. convince a life partner to proofread it so I don’t look like such a dumbass
  6. Send back to beta readers & do one last round of edits
  7. Think about pulling together query materials
  8. Think about puling together query materials some more
  9. Poke around the internet looking for agents/presses/competitions the project might be a good fit for
    1. get intimidated
  10. Whine to various life partners about the publishing industry
  11. Edit the manuscript for possible self-publishing
  12. Daydream about covers
  13. Start a query letter, abandon it
  14. Repeat steps 7-13 for an inordinate amount of time
  15. Decide to focus on that cool other project I started between drafts 1 and 2

Ok. So you can see where my weak spot is: the whole getting things out there part. I’m not entirely sure why this is. Certainly, I write primarily for myself, but I won’t lie and say that it’s anything short of awesome when someone else reads my writing. Storytelling is communication, and communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I love sharing my work, but the publishing game leaves me cold. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It gives me no creative high. So I have to force myself to do it.

I get antsy between projects. There is always a moment when I finish something and haven’t started a new project where I manage to convince myself I’m tapped out, that I have nothing else to write. It isn’t true, I know that rationally, but that nagging fear combined with how much I just love writing means I tend to rush into a new project before following through on the publishing part of a just-finished project. No one likes writing query letters, or synopses, or the inevitable rejections (or, even worse, utter disinterest)  from the vast majority of the agents you query. Whenever I sit down to pull together a query package I have a moment of revulsion, like I’m wasting my precious writing time for this?

But, really, I’d like my manuscripts to do something more than sit on my hard drive in perpetuity. I’d like to build a readership, publish, get a body of work out there in a more professional and overt way than passing my pieces to friends, who pass them to their friends. So lately when I finish something and get the edits back from beta readers, I’ve started forcing myself to query it. New rule: no writing something new until a query has been written and some agents ave been queried. So far so good. Here’s hoping I can follow my own self-imposed rules.

All project descriptions are up!

Descriptions are available for all completed projects, both those in submission and those that need beta readers!

Beta Readers! Here are some projects for you!

Below are summaries of the projects for which I’m currently looking for beta readers. All this info can also be found on the beta readers tab up there at the top of the page.

NOVELS:
Ariah
Ariah has never quite known who he is. He is an elvish man at the mercy of his magical talents: a mimic and a shaper. He is a man who speaks in others’ voices, who feels others’ emotions as keenly as his own. For Ariah, the line where he ends and others begin has always been murky.

When his teacher, Dirva, receives an unexpected visitor, Ariah’s magical training comes to a screeching halt. Ariah follows Dirva across borders to a city where there is no one to help him marshal his gifts. Ariah meets Dirva’s brother, Sorcha, a man who will change Ariah’s life forever. The thread of Ariah’s life weaves high and low: he meets queens, works in factories, is nearly killed by bandits in a desert, and sails the southern seas with pirates. Ariah finds love, loses it, and finds it again. Along the way Ariah gains mastery of his magic. He discovers what kind of man he wants to be, and what kind of man he is.

Set in the unique and finely realized fantasy universe of Aerdh, ARIAH is a completed fantasy novel 128,000 words in length. Ariah’s is a story of a young man’s journey to reconcile his heart, his talents, and his beliefs with a world that is sometimes hostile. Ariah’s story is about the ways we surrender and the ways we fight to survive. It is a tale of love found in unexpected places and in unexpected ways.

Mage-Born
No one ever told Shilla about the drive, or about pregnancy, or about the Magi birthright. No one ever told Shilla much about anything. But the drive comes anyway, and Shilla finds herself pregnant with no idea what to expect or how to handle it. Her ignorance is damning and terrifying. All she knows is that the child must be born, and that she must travel far north into the Magi homeland to bring it into the world.

Circumstances force her to travel with the child’s father, a mage burdened by secrets he refuses to share with her. As the child grows within her, Shilla’s magic becomes weaker and weaker, but she pushes on, and drags the baby’s father with her. As the months slink by, Shilla finds herself compelled to keep going, determined to get to the homeland, and burning with resentment that she’s in the situation to begin with. Her body becomes increasingly foreign to her, she finds herself in stranger and stranger lands, and Shilla must look inward for the strength to make it through the pregnancy alive and sane.

Set in the world of Aerdh, a universe of wily and wary magic, MAGE-BORN is a completed fantasy novel 77,000 words in length. MAGE-BORN explores the isolating intimacy and terrible strangeness of pregnancy, the way it pushes you apart from the world and bonds you to people you’d never expect.

NOVELLAS
Assassins
Some satyrs don’t build guitars or harps. Some satyrs build knives instead.

Arisyabet and Gahvrielo built knives. They live in the cloister and serve the satyr villages of the high mountain peaks as assassins, and they know that in order to keep living they must follow through on the death edicts the village elders hand down. The assassins themselves will be killed if they are no longer useful. For Arisyabet, the lines of her life are startlingly clear: do as asked and keep living. Protect the cloister to protect herself. But her best friend and lover, Gahvrielo, cannot bring himself to accept who and what he is.

An assassin’s life is not easy. Danger lurks around every corner, as much from within as from without. Arisyabet and Gahvrielo cling together, but their attempts to make sense of their lives drive them in opposite directions. Their story starts with an act of anguished brutality and unfolds layer by layer to explain how and why two people so devoted to one another wind up like they do.

ASSASSINS is a completed fantasy novella 27,000 words in length set in the richly imagined fantasy universe of Aerdh. ASSASSINS explores the idea of free will, of choice, and the moralities of what we do to survive.

Request some fiction!

ASSASSINS available for beta readers!

Some satyrs don’t build guitars or harps. Some satyrs build knives instead.

Arisyabet and Gahvrielo built knives. They live in the cloister and serve the satyr villages of the high mountain peaks as assassins, and they know that in order to keep living they must follow through on the death edicts the village elders hand down. The assassins themselves will be killed if they are no longer useful. For Arisyabet, the lines of her life are startlingly clear: do as asked and keep living. Protect the cloister to protect herself. But her best friend and lover, Gahvrielo, cannot bring himself to accept who and what he is.

An assassin’s life is not easy. Danger lurks around every corner, as much from within as from without. Arisyabet and Gahvrielo cling together, but their attempts to make sense of their lives drive them in opposite directions. Their story starts with an act of anguished brutality and unfolds layer by layer to explain how and why two people so devoted to one another wind up like they do.

ASSASSINS is a completed fantasy novella 27,000 words in length set in the richly imagined fantasy universe of Aerdh. ASSASSINS explore the idea of free will, of choice, and the moralities of what we do to survive.

 

Interested? Let me know!
Send me a message on my facebook page or fill out the form below!

ASSASSINS first draft is done!

I just finished a novella about satyrs assassins (the first chapter is up here)! It clocks in at 27,000 words and explores themes of essentialism and free will with a heavy dose of queerness in there because that just seems to happen in my writing. Looking for first readers, so let me know if you’re interested!