Tag Archives: breath of stone

Revisiting the Wherefore

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About three years ago, my first novel came out.

No, wait.  That’s not right.  Let’s try…

About three years ago, I released my first novel.

Each sentence is nine words long.  The end result — readers can buy my story — is the same.  But the implied process was very different.

Back then, I told a writerly friend I expected it’d take five or so years for the trade-versus-indie bluster to fade.  If one knows the industry solely from popular online discussions, that estimate sounds wildly optimistic.  If one talks to writers who’ve taken the time to understand their evolving options, it’s not so far off.  As mentioned here, the “versus” is a sickly beast many have already left behind.

With that in mind, and in light of the reprised conversation on Fantasy Faction, I thought I’d revisit a post from 2012 explaining why I chose to return to SF writing as an indie author rather than resume riding the query-go-round, and see how well my reasoning held up.

Continue reading Revisiting the Wherefore

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The Latest On Breath of Stone

522-BreathOfStone-cover - CopyWe are closing in on a draft worth showing to other people.  This is good news.

And yet, as you know, I’m readying to move over a thousand miles west of my current location.  I’m wrapping up my karate commitments—working with upcoming instructors on their teaching methods, adding more private lessons—investing additional time with the remaining wellness clients I’ve had even though I no longer run a practice, and trying to at least tip my hat to eighteen years’ worth of relationships.  My son and I are working to complete the final testing for his high school diploma while he works his last weeks and manages car repairs.  And at some point, I should actually pack.

Just to make things interesting, my laptop is crashing at random moments.  It always reboots, but since it’s a kajillion years old, I’m surprised every time it successfully does so.  A replacement computer isn’t in the cards until after the move, alas.

All of those things are bad news in relation to how quickly Breath of Stone will reach your hands.

And that truth, my darlings, makes clear my biggest learning curve as an indie author: accurately estimating the time any given project requires me to create.  Three times out of three, I’ve given you an estimate.  Three times out of three, my darlings, I’ve been wrong.

So… the answer to “When will Breath of Stone be published?” must now be, “When I know the novel will not disappoint you.”  Really, I could slap something together in the next couple of weeks.  But I believe delivering a substandard novel on time is far, far worse than delivering a solid novel late, and your positive enthusiasm drives me to give you the best.

The first first draft for Breath of Stone grew long.  So, so long.  So very long, I found myself rushing and cutting and cramming the story into something akin to a bad 90-minute TV adaptation of a multi-volume series.

And I was only two-thirds of the way to the end.

The solution I chose?  Change where Breath of Stone will end, set aside a chunk of chapters for what will become Book 3, and go back to the beginning to reshape the novel.

Y’see, when a writer tries to put too much story into too little space and/or time, something’s gotta give.  We end up with simplistic relationships because we can provoke a response in a reader by using a cliche or two.  Motivations seem unrealistic because we have to cut the 200-word dialog exchange that enhances a character’s flaw or goal.  Action feels choppy because transitions are pulled out.  Or—my own pet peeve—the book ends a heartbeat after the climax, as if achieving victory is harder than facing its consequences, so there needn’t be any words expended on resolution.

That’s not the novel I want to write.  I want to give you the novel that has in it what made Sand of Bone an enjoyable read for you.  I can’t do that if I’m cramming for length or time.  I’m just not good enough yet, I suppose, to turn out lovely story in the midst of life-chaos.  I wish I were!

I suppose you’ll just have to put up with me–rather, I can humbly request you put up with me!–until I master this learning curve. 🙂

In the meantime, here’s what I need to know from you:

Do you want preview chapters?  These would go to newsletter subscribers first, then be posted on a link-only page at the website.  These would be draft quality, and subject to change, but it’s sometimes fun to get a preview of the upcoming novel and to see what happens between the writing and the publishing.

Do you want to know more about the research pieces that go into the story, perhaps including notes and comments from folks I’ve consulted with?

What other things sound interesting?  I must admit, I’m not much of a “Let’s hold a contest!” gal.  But I’d love to have more discussions, and I’d love-lovelove to post developmental and editing examples using writing samples (voluntarily submitted, anonymous or otherwise, and I’d toss my own into the mix if requested as well) to talk about choices, shaping a scene, and delivering emotional verve.

Breath of Stone is coming.  So are the next two novels in the series.  If those continue to make readers happy, there will be two more.  After all, I cannot very well write novels about the fallout of intergenerational conflict without at least glimpsing what the next generation will do with the problems created by the current one!

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If you’d like to sign up for that newsletter I mentioned above, click here.

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Update: Breath of Stone

522-BreathOfStone-cover - CopyMy darlings, there is indeed forward movement!

This week and next week are for major structural revisions.  We’re talking quite major here.  Were this an architectural project, I’d be doing something akin to replacing spiral staircases with glass elevators, and installing fireplaces in place of heating ducts.  Sure, it would be relatively simple were I just changing the artistic renderings.  But elevators and fireplaces require the installation or creation of all sorts of things that’ll be hidden behind panels and walls, and its the hidden things that make the obvious and visible function at it’s best.  That’s what has consumed my time.

Plot is easy.  Story is hard.

If I do it properly and well, if I take the time to do it right, maybe the reader won’t notice.  Maybe it’ll look effortless.  And I want it to seem that way.  I want the story to capture and resonate.  Yeah, I put in little connections and hints and call-backs, but I’d prefer they work without distracting the reader with their presence.

I don’t want to be a clever writer (which is good, because I am not clever).  I don’t want to be a writer-as-character in the story.  I want the story to be for the reader.

So.  The tentative schedule goes something like this:

Between now and next weekend, I need to retrofit the existing manuscript.  This includes stripping out a subplot that not only wandered into the hinterlands but tried to drag the main plot with it, replacing those chapters with what will actually work, and reordering some of the remaining pieces so they fit better into the structure.  I estimate it’ll take about 20K words of new material.

Then I really want to take another week to make one more pass before sending it along to beta readers.

Then I shall send it to my beta readers.  I suspect I’ll do a great deal of compulsive cleaning and packing around that time.

Then I fix All the Things.

Then I get a proofreading, and fix All the Other Things I screwed up while fixing All the Things the first time.

Then I format.

Then I send it out into the world!

Newsletter subscribers will get a release-date heads up–and access to a discounted price at Amazon*–before I make the general release announcement.  (How do you get the newsletter, you ask?  Why, you can sign up right here!)

And once it’s out there in the wild, I will again throw myself into packing and cleaning, which will likely distract me from the nail-biting wait to see the early reviews.

Thank you for your patience and encouragement, my darlings.  I promise the next one won’t take nearly so long to get to your hands.

Yes, I did say the next one. There will be more.  Hee.

*Why only Amazon?  Because when I make pricing changes, Amazon responds in a timely manner.  Other retailers and distributors take their long, long time.  Amazon’s response time is measured in hours, other measured in days and days.

#SFWApro

After the Smack (or Stab, or Break, or Burn, or…)

Since I’ve just gutted the middle of Stone because the plot was moving with all the grace of a square-wheeled locomotive chugging over the Rockies, you get a Sunday blog post so I can clear my head before I resume stitching the innards back together.*

So here it is: As I mentioned on Twitter, discussion forums for MMA and other fighting sports are a goldmine of writerly information.

There are bunches of little guides out there on how fantasy writers can realistically and vibrantly portray combat.  Information on everything from edged weapons and individual duels to archery and battle formations is fairly easy to find.  But not as much hoopla surrounds the aftermath of those fights—the small injuries, the crippling injuries, and the physical/emotional life-long consequences.  It’s simple to Google for “broken leg” and come up with a pile of guidance from modern medical sites.  But that’s only part of the story.

From a storytelling perspective, it’s a mere sliver of the story.

The fun part—the part that makes plot and character development real—is what happens after the injury is sustained.

Continue reading After the Smack (or Stab, or Break, or Burn, or…)

Cover Reveal: Breath of Stone

Thanks to the wonderful work of Cabil Services, we have the perfect cover for Breath of Stone.

522-BreathOfStone-cover - Copy

 

I love it.  I love, love, love it.  And I totally love how the two covers work together.

Now: One of the most wonderful comments a writer can hear from readers is, “I hope there’s a sequel!”  And I do a happy dance of joy for each reader who said that after reading Sand of Bone.

I so wanted to have that sequel, Breath of Stone, completed for you by the end of April.  Alas, it simply isn’t going to happen without sacrificing quality (and sleep, and sanity, and paying my electric bill…).  In the spirit of total honesty, I confess I both greatly overestimated what I could accomplish in the time available to me and greatly underestimated the number of life events that would demand my time and emotional energy.

I hope to do better on both in the future, and apologize for the delay.

The revised target date is July 2015.  The additional time will make it a better story.

See, the thing is, I’m really excited about the story Breath of Stone is shaping up to be.  There’s all the action and intrigue of Bone, but the stakes are higher, the choices more brutal, and the characters more demanding of their own dwindling faith.  No one reaches the end unscathed.

Actually, no one reaches the halfway point unscathed.

But for all the darkness, there is hope and devotion and deserved loyalty as well.

And though Breath of Stone completes the major story arcs set forth in Sand of Bone, there are plenty of openings for another pair of novels if y’all tell me, “I hope there’s a sequel!” again.

So.  July.

Thank you for understanding, my darlings.  I intend to give you a story worth the wait.  You deserve nothing less.

And if you want to be among the first to access Breath of Stone, receive a free ebook of Serpent Heart, and have input on future projects, consider signing up for the Sand and Stone Newsletter.

 

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A Review, A Musing, and A Last Call

 

The Review:  As you might know, fantasy author Mark Lawrence put together the framework of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (details here), and Bob Milne of Beauty In Ruins is the book blogger randomly assigned to evaluate Sand of Bone.  Can I just say that any review whose opening sentence includes the phrase “quite astounding” is enough to make this writer do the Snoopy happy dance?  Check it out for yourself–both the praise and the critique.

*quickly pulls out soapbox*

And I’ll reiterate my belief that connecting more trade-focused/trade-exclusive reviewers with quality self-published works is vital if we (writers and reviewers) want to remain relevant to the conversations readers–those marvelous beings who sustain us all–are having about books the trade industry might not known exist.  If a self-published writer pulls down seven to eight thousand sales in pre-orders, and the majority of trade industry participants have no idea who that writer is–let alone that she exists!–that’s an issue to be considered, my darlings.

*slides soapbox back under the desk*

The Musing: In the past, I’ve discussed my approach to reading and analyzing reviews.  In short, I believe the old advice of “Don’t read your reviews” is rather unhelpful because analyzing reviews help the writer identify what she can do better on the marketing front as well as the writing front.  A writer who understands what her supporting readers love is a writer better able to reach similar readers.  It’s with that in mind that I fold Milne’s review into my understanding of why people like and dislike all or part of my work.

More than one reviewer (though, thankfully, not the majority!) have mentioned the pacing flagged for them somewhere in the middle.  Of those who specified why, it’s about an even split between basic training elements and palace intrigue elements.  (Of those who didn’t specify, it’s quite possible everything felt slow to them. ) Yet folks on both sides say they are glad they pushed through that section to finish the novel, so… what gives?

On the surface, it can seem to confusing, even contradictory.  Should I reduce the palace intrigue?  Should I reduce the military/training aspects?  Should I just let it be and assume readers who enjoy one but not the other will continue to “push through” to the end?

The answer is no, no, and no.

Truly, Sand of Bone’s final chapters would have delivered a completely different visceral package had either element been missing.  The decisions made on the palace-intrigue side would carry completely different implications without the military and basic training elements.   The consequences on the military side would be so much less important were it not for the palace intrigue.

As a reader and a writer, I want both elements in my stories.  I’m as interested in what happens on the frontline as I am in what happens in the secret bunker.  I want to know what the soldier and the general thinks, believes, fears, and contrives.  So the solution isn’t to choose a “side,” but to improve my ability to write compelling chapters that unfailingly funnel the reader to turn to the next chapter regardless of the story elements.

Last Call:  The Sand and Stone Newsletter will go out to subscribers the night of Wednesday, April 22.  It’ll include your link to a free and easy download of Serpent Heart, the latest news and cover reveal for Breath of Stone, and an opportunity to give input on future projects.  If you’d like to be part of it, sign up here.

 

Insert Catchy Title Here!

My internet access last night was as slow as an exhausted sloth slogging through mud with kettleballs chained to its ankles, and writing on the computer in any position — sitting, standing, reclining, whatever — was distractingly uncomfortable. Thus I spent some hours stretched out across the bed to write by hand while the hip discomfort receded to an ignorable dull ache.

Excellent forward progress was made on Breath of Stone, the sequel to Sand of Bone. Considering I cut thousands of words with a fell swoop not too long ago, I’m pleased to have gained ground once again. Best of all, the collection of chapters that actively fought to escape the rules of a timeline are now behaving properly. I’ll still need to do some trimming of edges here and there, but no characters now need teleportation to arrive at their proper plot-required destinations.

I’m closing in on the sprint. I can feel that sense of urgency coming—the sudden clarity that happens when I can hold the entire plot in my head while, at the same time, focusing on an individual scene. By the end of the week, barring intrusions, I should hit stride again.

Oh, and I had a birthday yesterday. Nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was rather pleasant. Best of all, my sister—who readily points out she is the younger sister—flew into town last night. Icky roads and flight delays meant she didn’t arrive until around midnight, but we stayed up until 3am to make up for it. So worth it.

Maybe I’ll actually risk planning something fun and interesting and ambitious for my 45th birthday next year.*

And in the meantime, links and commentary!
Continue reading Insert Catchy Title Here!