RESISTANCE Excerpt #2: Ezra Crick

Resistance CoverThis is an excerpt from my novel, Resistance, out now from Inkstained Succubus Press! You can purchase Resistance here directly from Inkstained Succubus (support small presses!) or here from Amazon.

Ezra came over and stood next to her. He was as tall as she, as thin as she, and at least ten times prettier. He had a delicate face, delicate hands, delicate everything. He was a broken thing—the beating Po saved him from left him with a mangled ear and a pronounced limp—which only seemed to add to the delicacy. He had pale gray human eyes that shone like polished coins and hair a rich, saturated brown like stained wood.

They’d never spoken much, though he’d hung around Kel nearly as long as she had. Ezra wrote for her paper now and again, but even then all he did was skulk into the Cardinal’s Nest, hand her a manuscript he’d dictated to Kel, and then leave again without a word. Doe suspected Ezra himself was illiterate.

He was nervous, the kind that spooked easy, a wounded little bird. But he came over and stood next to her.

“You done Kel a lot of good,” he said. His voice was soft. Delicate. The fragility of him made Doe want to protect him and shatter him at the same time. “He ain’t never been happier since he starting writing for you. Po’s just protective.”

“I cause a lot of trouble,” she said.

Ezra smiled. He looked like a painting when he smiled, a rare beauty frozen in time. “Name me a man who don’t cause trouble for his friends,” Ezra said, “and I’ll name you a man who ain’t got friends.”

RESISTANCE Ficlet #1: An Arrow Let Loose

Resistance CoverThis is a ficlet based on my novel, Resistance, out now from Inkstained Succubus Press! You can purchase Resistance here directly from Inkstained Succubus (support small presses!) or here from Amazon.

The inaugural issue of The Elvish Arrow was set to go to press the next morning. Shandolin should have been elated, but instead she was frantic, mired in the details. She’d taken over the back three tables of the Cardinal’s Nest, her favorite place to work. Madan, the barkeep and her keeper, let her sleep in the closet and let her commandeer as many tables and candles and bottles of ale as it took to get the radical newspaper up off the ground.

It had taken months of prodding, of talking big and begging to get folks to write for her. It had taken weeks of harsh criticism and soothed egos to edit all that writing. It took all her wits to haggle the printer down to a decent price. It had taken pulling strings and calling in favors to get the local gangs to agree to help her distribute the paper. All of it was paid for with Madan. He let her work it off in his bar, but he fronted all the cash. “It’s important,” he said. “This is important. Make your voice heard, Doe. Shout it all out so loud they can’t help but listen. That’s being a soldier, too. That’s part of the fight, too.”

Shandolin sat there reading and re-reading all of that work until her eyes watered and her vision went blurry. She made edits and painstakingly recopied the articles. By midnight she had a wicked crick in her neck from sitting hunched over so long, and her hands and forearms were black with ink. She heard Madan approach—a distinctive thump-scrape thump-scrape due to his wooden left leg. She heard the clatter of stoneware against the wooden table top. “Eat, Doe.”

“Not hungry.”

“Girl, all you are is hungry,” Madan said. He sat beside her. The smell of bread and cheese flooded her nose and suddenly he was right: suddenly she was nothing but a ravenous hunger.

She descended on the food with a fury; all her single-mindedness transferred from the nascent newspaper to the plate. Suddenly, she looked up at Madan, at his battered, scarred soldier’s face. “What if no one reads it, Madan?” she asked. “What if I spent all this time and you spent all this money on it and no one even reads it?”

Madan tore his own hunk of bread in half and dropped a bit on her plate. He smiled. “Even if no one reads it, it’ll have been said. That’s something. Truly, that’s something. But I think people will read it.”

“Really? You think they will?”

“I do,” said Madan. “So you’d better not starve to death before you put together the next issue, eh?”

RESISTANCE now available for purchase on Amazon!

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Resistance Cover

My debut novel, Resistance, is now available for purchase! You can purchase Resistance here directly from Inkstained Succubus (support small presses!) AND from Amazon here!

Over the course of the next couple of week I’ll be posting ficlets and excerpts from the book to whet your collective appetites, but for today I’ll leave you with the blurb:

Resistance has many faces, and one of them is Shandolin’s. When she finds her friend brutally murdered, Shandolin decides to fight instead of run–but her only hope of survival is a takeover of the City government. Shandolin draws everyone she loves into the fray with her: her assassin lover, Rivna; her mentor, Moshel; and her best friend, Kel. Apart, they are weak, but together Shandolin and her friends, lovers and fellows may be just strong enough to save their skins and the skins of the other elves in the City

Happy reading!

RESISTANCE Excerpt #1: A Discovery

Resistance CoverThis is an excerpt from my novel, Resistance, out now from Inkstained Succubus Press! You can purchase Resistance here directly from Inkstained Succubus (support small presses!).

The second she turned the corner, Shandolin saw the silhouette of a man with a missing leg hanging from the eaves of the bar. She broke into a run. A string of denials rang through her mind: no, no, no, no. As she got closer to Madan’s body, the denials grew desperate, grew louder, until they fell out of her mouth. “No, no, no!” But Shandolin’s shouts were no use; it was he, and he was dead.

Madan hung by the neck from the metal beam of the Cardinal’s Nest’s sign. His feet were a tantalizing, horrible two inches above the ground. There was no breeze that morning in the City of Mages, but his body revolved in slow, tight circles anyway.

Shandolin stepped into a pool of congealed blood and tugged at her friend’s body. “No, fuck, no.” Her eyes blurred with tears, and it wasn’t until she felt the bloody stump of his left arm that she realized the damage his killers had done to his body. She leaped back; her earlier shouts ricocheted off the walls of the neighboring buildings.

Shandolin, Doe to her friends, took a second to compose herself. She drew in a deep breath and dropped her eyes to her now-bloody footprints. She choked back a sob and forced herself to look back again at the body of Madan. His face was frozen forevermore in pain. Both of his long-fingered elvish hands and both of his pointed elvish ears were missing. She saw scrawled across the door of Madan’s bar a message painted in tall, black Qin letters: Flout not the Emperor’s grace!

Shandolin—a refugee elf born in the Tahrqin-ruled City of Mages—had survived as long as she had because she possessed an inordinate amount of common sense. The City was diverse, yes, but the humans, the elves and the satyrs all lived under the thumb of the Imperial Qin. She whispered an apology to her friend’s body, and then she ran.

Correcting RESISTANCE

ah, the glamorous life of a writer

ah, the glamorous life of a writer

I’ve gotten feedback from some wonderful and thoughtful beta readers. I printed out draft 1 of RESISTANCE and pored over the text myself. All that’s left before I send it to the press is to correct the draft!

I’m doing that over this weekend since working from a sheaf of loose papers and a laptop is not so bus compatible. I’m getting this iteration of the book as close to perfect as I can for the editors–though no matter how many times I go over something or someone else goes over it a fresh set of eyes unearths a new volley of crappy grammar and bad spelling. Pays to be humble, y’all.

I like this part of the process. The hard work of editing is done and all of this is just the icing on the cake. When there’s only 1-5 corrections per printed page you fly through the draft pretty quick, so there’s a happy illusion of productivity.

PROOF Expansion ready for beta readers!

bigger and better than ever

bigger and better than ever

Holy shit, you guys, I finished expanding “Proof” into a novel! I have tentatively retitled it Resistance as adding 45k words does tend to change the scope and focus of the work a little bit. I’m planning on writing up my process and experience working on a deadline, but for now, I’ll just throw out a call for beta readers!

Resistance has many faces, and one of them is Shandolin’s. When she finds her friend brutally murdered, Shandolin knows that her life as an elf living in the City of Mages under the heel of the Qin is going to get a whole lot harder. Though the Qin have her in their sights and put an assassin on her trail, Shandolin decides to fight instead of run–but her only hope of survival is a takeover of the City government.

Shandolin draws everyone she loves into the fray with her: her assassin lover, Rivna, who would prefer a quiet life; her mentor, Moshel, whose history with the Qin leaves him paralyzed and frightened; and her best friend, Kel, who has too many mouths to feed to play a losing game of politics. Apart, they are weak, but together Shandolin and her friends, lovers and fellows may be just strong enough to save their skins and the skins of the other elves in the City.

Set in the unique and finely realized fantasy universe of Aerdh, RESISTANCE is a completed fantasy novel 52,000 words in length. RESISTANCE is about the big and small ways hunted people fight back, and what it may cost them if they win the fight.

Interested? Let me know!

PROOF Expansion Update

I did not mean to neglect this blog so long, but as you are about to see, I have been hella busy. the expansion of “Proof” into a novel is going really well! I am actually ahead of schedule already. Good job, me. Anyway, I thought I would write up a post that walks you through my process for this blitz writing project step by step, because if there’s one thing the aspiring author blogosphere needs it’s another writing process post!

Step 1: Make a plan of attack

Evernote is awesome because you can stick in to do check boxes, and there's nothing sweeter than checking off a box. I'M DONE, BRO you say to Evernote. And then Evernote buys you flowers.

Evernote is awesome because you can stick in to do check boxes, and there’s nothing sweeter than checking off a box. I’M DONE, BRO you say to Evernote. And then Evernote buys you flowers.

I have a hard deadline for this project–August 1st–so it made sense to me to map backward from the hard deadline to see what needed to be done by when. I know my writing process well enough now to know I would need time for worldbuilding/brainstorming, obviously writing time, and then a little cushion at the end for copyediting. Because, you guys, I am a shit typist, and I don’t catch the terrible typing as I’m writing. Since this is my first project I’m doing ~for realsies!~ like with a really good shot at seeing it published I am kind of nervous. Instead of getting stuck in the self-doubting seventh circle of hell, I’ve built in even more cushion time to get a couple of my very fastest beta readers to look through the manuscript before I send it off (though if they’re like WOW B THIS SUCKS MONKEY BALLS I’m not sure there is functionally enough time to really do anything about that; this is mostly a peace-of-mind thing).

I gave myself a week of worlbuilding/planning time at the start, then two weeks at the end for edits. The time in between is writing time, and I worked out how much I would need to write everyday all of those days in order to hit 60k words by the point at which I need to start editing.

Step 2: The outline to end all outlines
You see the highlighting? The highlighting means I'm taking this seriously.

You see the highlighting? The highlighting means I’m taking this seriously.

I mentioned before that I’m not much of a plotter, but for this project plotting makes sense logistically. I’m pretty sure that was exactly the right call to make, so I wrote up a very extensive outline of what is essentially the original short story but with many more complications and a handful of new characters thrown in for flavor.

The thing is, when I say I don’t plot or plan much for most of my work, I mean that pretty much wholesale. I don’t structure the plot ahead of time, and I certainly don’t pay much attention to the structure of the book itself (chapters, sections, etc). But I did this time. I figured give or take 6k words was about the right length for a chapter which in a 60k draft would mean give or take ten chapters, so I printed out the Massive Outline and broke up the action by chapter, and within chapters broke it into scenes.

Step 3: Structuring the draft in Scrivener

Oh, corkboard feature. What a fool I was to think I'd never use you.

Oh, corkboard feature. What a fool I was to think I’d never use you.

Each scene got its own notecard with the following: a chapter designation, a scene number, a quick and dirty summary of the action this scene pushes forward, and keywords describing the characters present, major plot points, and setting.

The fact that you can mouse over the card in the binder and it displays the summary is super useful while writing–essentially, it lets me write to the next scene so I can keep any foreshadowy bits in mind as I go along.

Step 4: Get your write on

This is the fun part.

This is the fun part.

I’ve set this hard goal of 2200 words per day every day until the book is done. Now, I work 40+ hours a week and parent a toddler and have, like, a life and shit, so 2200 was, I thought, a reach goal. But it’s working.

I write on the bus, basically exclusively on the bus. I have a 40 minute block in the morning where I’m getting out about 1200 words, and I have another 40 minute block on my way home in the afternoon where I usually match or surpass the amount written that morning. The fact that I know the story so well and have hammered out all the actual stuff that happens makes this a bit easier, but by a week in honestly I think the rhythm of writing in two focused blocks helps me get all those words out.

This is not to say there haven’t been surprises along the way. The chapter structure has shifted a little. Characters I definitely did not expect to show up came into the story. Characters I thought I knew quite well showed me a whole different side to them. Despite all that meticulous planning and the rigidity of my writing schedule, the actual writing part of this project still feels very organic, which I think is a good sign.

Step 5: Progress monitoring is key

And we're back to my dear old friend Excel which you may have noticed I use for basically everything.

And we’re back to my dear old friend Excel which you may have noticed I use for basically everything.

I keep a spreadsheet where I track daily writing, log whether it’s writing or planning or blogging or what, and where I track my queries. I also keep a list of books I’ve read in here. Look, I just like lists, ok? That’s not a crime.

Usually I just have this log because I like data, but for this project it’s vital to track and monitor how closely I’m following that week-by-week project plan I’ve got over in Evernote. Doing this showed me that this weekend HOLY SHIT I was actually far enough ahead of schedule that I could take a break from writing. Which was good because I had Proper Adult Things to do this weekend like cook Father’s Day brunch for my partner and organize the hellhole which was once my closet and play with my kid and install a new saddle on my bike. Also somehow I drank an entire jug of orange juice in a single day. That was super important, and frankly, I feel rather accomplished.

This spreadsheet is actually kind of awesome because I have it where it auto-sums the number of words written within the year to date and also it sums the total number of words in a month and takes the average written daily for the month. WHAT I LIKE DATA.

Step 6: Make sure your ducks are in a row

compiling sounds so productive, doesn't it? "Oh, what did you do today?" "I compiled an entire book!" "Wow, look at you go!"

Compiling sounds so productive, doesn’t it? “Oh, what did you do today?” “I compiled an entire book!” “Wow, look at you go!”

I am writing the book according to the specs I’ve set the Scrivener editor to for my own particular preference (12 pt Palatino Linotype, 1.5 spacing in case you’re interested), but lo! The press for whom I’m writing the book has preferences of their own. The mysteries of the human mind. Anyway, they send me a pre-edit checklist and formatting document, and I spent an hour or so tinkering around in Scrivener’s compile settings to work out how best to get Scrivener to export exactly the kind of document they want. I periodically compile a chapter here or there to make sure everything fits their requirements, and then I can just write the damn book without having to scramble at the end to make the formatting work.

So, that’s where I am and what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks! It’s clipping along at a great place, the nerves about this REALLY BEING A REAL THING are manageable, and I’ve been able to keep my head above water in the other domains of my life. Basically, I feel like this guy:

Well, I feel like this guy if he was, like, wearing clothes.

Well, I feel like this guy if he was, like, wearing clothes.
(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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!

Shifting Gears

we pause our regularly scheduled shit for an exciting new project now on an exciting new deadline

we pause our regularly scheduled shit for an exciting new project now on an exciting new deadline
(image courtesy of wikimedia commons; click through for source)

I had a Back to the Drawing Board post all half-written, but it’s going to have to wait. Not that I haven’t made progress on The Long Road rewrites, because I have*, but because it can be put on hold and something else has to get done by August 1st.

I submitted “Proof” to an open call for an anthology, and it caught the interest of the editors! Alas, it doesn’t look like the anthology is happening, but they have expressed interest in me expanding “Proof” into a short novel! They want the daft by August 1st, and I have full confidence I’ll make that deadline.

*Actually, I made quite a bit of progress The Long Road. I started drafting the rewrite! I am about 5k words in. Yep, the second I finished with all that prewriting and worldbarfing and timelining I have to put the project on hold.

Submissions Update: A Bouquet of Near Misses

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Well, Ariah made it to the ABNA 2013 semi-finals and no further. I wish this year’s finalist the best of luck! In any case, this seemed as good a time as any to write up an update on my submissions process thus far.

I’ve been writing with discipline and with hard-earned skill for about four years now. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve let anyone besides my partners Jon and Sam read any of my writing. Just sending stuff to friends was incredibly scary, and I think I started doing that around last April. And it wasn’t until last October that I sent anything to publishers or agents–that is, it wasn’t until eight months ago that I actually decided I wanted to try getting published.

Eight months later, I still have no published fiction (though I do have some academic and personal experience pieces published), but I feel really good about my prospects! From what I can tell of the publishing world as an outsider looking in, these things take time. Eight months is for most a blink of an eye on the road to publishing. And, the thing is, though I am new at this and my query letters are most definitely rough around the edges, I have been making it pretty far in my pursuits. It’s been all misses as of yet, but they have been near misses, and that’s pretty  awesome.

Case in point: ABNA 2013. I may have only made it to the semi-finals, but HOLY SHIT that’s still pretty amazing! I thought I’d be cut in the first round…and instead my manuscript was in the top 25 of 10,000 entrants! And I have absolutely glowing external reviews of my manuscript which I can use to beef up my query letter for Ariah (and, incidentally, it’s never been queried–I finished it just in time to submit it to ABNA). So, that’s pretty heartening. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been awesome to snag a publishing deal with a $15k advance, but, hell, I got really, really far.

Way back in October, Harper Voyager opened up a digital submissions process. I submitted a couple of manuscripts, and one of them, Sound and Song, was only rejected last week. Last week! I mean, sure, I would have preferred for them to accept it, but being under consideration so long is certainly a good sign. Sound and Song has also resulted in requests for partials and fulls from agents. A couple of weeks ago it was rejected by an agent, but rejected in a very flattering way:

Even in the first few pages you establish yourself as a writer keenly aware of both characterization and world building.

I sent the agent a heartfelt thank you letter, because she most certainly did not have to go out of her way to say that in her rejection. So, this is yet another near miss.

Near misses I can take. I actually handle rejection extremely well (it’s sort of a secret superpower). I might not have gotten any hard bites yet, but near misses signal that I might get one a lot sooner than a bunch of first round rejections would. Again, the very best of luck to all the ABNA finalists this year, and anyone Harper Voyager picks up through its open submissions, and to any clients that lovely agent ends up representing. I feel good about where I am, and how far I’ve gotten at this point.

EDITED TO ADD – Just now, literally two days after I wrote up this post, I got a firm bite on one of my short stories. So one of these near misses is now blooming into a palpable hit, y’all!