Tag Archives: sword and chant

The “I Can’t Make It To Worldcon!” Sale

Maybe you can’t make it to Worldcon, but you can meet a new author or spend some time with a favorite one, without spending too much money.

Starting today, August 14, you can pick up any of the titles below at special staying-home prices.   Sword and Chant is included at the sale price of $1.99 for Kindle and Nook .

The sale ends August 20, so pick them up now, let your friends know, and enjoy!

Continue reading The “I Can’t Make It To Worldcon!” Sale

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Breaking Rules For Principles

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Honestly – I don’t go around looking for rules to break. I don’t get my kicks and giggles from bucking conventional wisdom. It just… happens. I didn’t like the education opportunities others had created, so I’ve homeschooled my son for nearly nine years. I don’t like standard workweek obligations and expectations, so I contract and freelance all over the place. I didn’t like driving slowly on mountain roads, so I drove my ’66 Mustang around hairpin curves while stepping on the gas and—

Wait. Never mind. Ahem.

Continue reading Breaking Rules For Principles

Writer’s Blog Tour In Four Questions

I was tagged by the smart, talented, and generous writer Janice Smith to answer questions about my projects and process. If you haven’t already, go read her answers first!

What am I working on?
Right this moment, I’m finishing revisions for Sand of Bone. It’s the first in a desert fantasy series centered around a woman seeking to escape her wasteland prison, destroy her brother’s conspiracies, and reclaim the elemental mastery the gods took from her bloodkin three generations ago. It’s also about civil unrest, savage rivalries, and a dynasty clutching after the power of their ancestors. Some characters fight because honor won’t permit them to ignore wrongdoing; others pitch in because they’re bored with everything else. And there are caverns with lava tubes, people with eyes that glow and shimmer in the dark, and souls wandering the sands in search of redemption.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Umm… Actually, I think the search for novelty within the genre is highly overrated. I’ve never put down a book I loved reading with the thought of finding something completely different. I’ve never loved a story because of its niftiness alone. Novelty of technique or topic is a one-off, and the genre now too wide and deep for anyone to even know if what they’re doing is totally unique. So rather than seek ways to be different for the sake of being different, I’d rather develop skills that – when used over and over again – make readers want more of what I do.

(Consistency is all I ask. Immortality is all I seek.)

So what do I strive to do well? Characters – strong, weak, whatever – who have presence on the page regardless of the size of their part or their role in the story. Dialog readers can hear as they read. Pacing that moves rather than dallies, that holds tension behind even the quietest of moments, punctuated with a touch of humor. Prose that flows rather than clunks. Fight scenes compelling enough I can include the details I want. Worlds in which a person’s competence and integrity – not gender – determine how the person is viewed.

Why do I write what I do?
I write the stories I’d like read.
I write to explore ideas that trouble me. My stories are, in a way, conversations with my own conflicting views.
I write to entertain myself, and love it when I’m also able to entertain others.

How does my writing process work?
Every project is different, but most incorporate plotting and pantsing. A huge amount of writing takes place in my imagination long before words arrive on the page, and I tend to envision them as if I’m a director rather than a writer. I’ll run key scenes through my mind – adjusting dialog and tone, blocking, backdrops, and so forth – then remember I need to remove some of those details when committing the scene to paper.

Most of my process has evolved to include Magic Index Cards. I make one card for each scene (NOT chapter). Each card includes the following: POV character, setting, date scene occurs, the number of days since the story started*, primary events, primary character interactions, dialog, realizations or discoveries (if any), key symbolism and/or foreshadowing, and anything else I want to make sure appears in that chapter. Eventually I’ll set all the cards in their proper order and number them. When it’s revision time, I use the backs of the cards for notes. Yes, it’s messy and manual, and I’m sure folks do indeed find the Scrivener option to be awesome, but I get something intangible out of the kinetic process so I’ll stick with it.

I rarely go back to revise before finishing a project, though I will toss notes onto the index cards at any time. I’d rather remodel a finished project than rebuild. It’s a preference requires me to really think through my choices before putting them down. (That, and the fact I once killed off a character early in a story that could have really used him later on.)

When I’m pretty happy with the novel, I’ll send it off to beta readers. I have the most awesome of beta readers, truly. They’re smart, talented, creative, open to possibilities, and damn fine writers. And I never forget how lucky I am that they share those things with me. That’s not to say I use every piece of their feedback (for one thing, they rarely agree on everything!). But they always give me things to think about and consider. It makes for a novel written with awareness of choices rather than plain “instinct” or whatever.

Once revisions are done, off it goes to a copyeditor. I strive to submit as clean a copy as possible to my editor who is, for the duration of the project, my contract employee. And making life easier for my employees is, in my opinion, a matter of good ethics. (Now that I think about it, I’d likely put greater effort into keeping my house tidy all the time if I’d hire a housekeeper. Hmm.) Besides, producing a clean manuscript is just as much a skill as storytelling. It’s worth doing well.

And there you have it – my answers to the questions.

I’ve tagged three marvelous women to pick it up from here: Casey Blair, Tam MacNeil, and Alena McNamara.

*Remember when I mentioned wanting to do pacing well? Tracking the number of story-days is critical to my ability to do that as I tend to write multiple viewpoint, multiple location, multiple storyline novels, and I tend to cram a great deal into a small amount of time. Sand of Bone covers a long time, by my usual habits (four entire months!). Sword and Chant, on the other hand, all took place in less than a single month’s time.

Review, Revisions, and StoryBundle

First: A very nice review of Sword and Chant from Marissa Lingen. After our conversation about this post on the visibility of women writers and reviews of self-published works, I queried her about reviewing Chant. I’m beyond delighted she had nice things to say about it. Really, there’s always that voice in the back of my head telling me I should be grateful if I get feedback more enthusiastic than, “Well, it doesn’t completely suck.” And that voice natters at me even when I love a story and am confident others will, too. So the fact her review includes the word “recommended” without the word “not” in front of it had me singing. (Yes, I truly sang. No, you wouldn’t want to hear it.)

The publisher side of me is just as jazzed about her acknowledgement of the good production values.  Reviews of traditionally published books wouldn’t make mention of such as thing unless it was truly awful, but it’s so important for reviewers to include at least a passing mention of good production in self-published works.  We all know there is crap out there.  Reviewers do all professional writers a service by acknowledging decent work.

(And if you haven’t read that post of women and reviews I referenced above, I recommend taking a look if for no other reason than it’ll link you to Marissa’s comments on her own review policies.)

Second: Revisions of Sand of Bone are still progressing despite the distractions of spring fever. There is still one plotting issue I’m not certain how to fix. I’m letting it simmer in the background while working on other sections in the hope a solution will reveal itself. If a solution doesn’t spring from my brow fully formed, I’m not certain what I’ll do.

Third: It’s official! I am curating a fantasy bundle for StoryBundle.  I so enjoyed working with them as a writer, and am looking forward to working with them again as both a writer and the curator.  It’s tentatively slated for a fall release, and I’ve already begun to screen submissions. If you’re interested in submitting something, cool! Later today I’ll put up an overview of what I’m looking for and how to go about submitting.

In Deep

I’m nearly finished with the rewrite of Sand of Bone.

Hmm.  “Rewrite” sounds too small.  It’s turned into more of a total remodeling–the kind that involves stripping off three layers of disgusting wallpaper so the walls can be patched, ripping up tattered carpet so the original wood floors can be restored, replacing the windows, putting on a new roof, and upgrading the plumbing and electrical.  Then I’ll set to revisions–new brass hardware, intricate moldings, so on and so forth.  By the time it’s done, about the only thing I won’t have done is jack the novel from its foundations to put it in a new location.  (Been there, done that, see Sword and Chant.)

This is, frankly, the point I planned to reach about this time last year.  (Never underestimate the power and influence of grieving.)  More than once, I’ve been troubled by my lack of steady–let alone exceptional!–progress over the year.  I’ve decided to let that go.  I’m not under any contractual obligations, just the expectations I set for myself.  And though my lack of new offerings have most certainly hurt sales of Sword and Chant, that novel isn’t going to disappear or go out of print.  Once Sand of Bone and its sequel Breath of Stone go up, Sword and Chant will still be there.

So back I go to rewrites and revisions.  That means I won’t really update anything else online right now.  Other than playing on Twitter–where I can drop in and out of chats when I have the time–I’ve gone a tad quiet.

What’s also quite wonderful is I have in hand a novel written by one of my Viable Paradise classmates.  That means I have the perfect bridge between my own writing sprints!  Nothing spurs me on to write more, and strive to write better, than to read awesome stories by others.

Reviewing Reviews

After hanging around writers in various states of publish for the last twenty-plus years, you’d think I’d have internalized the “Don’t read your reviews!” advice.

After hanging around me for not too long, you’d see I can be quietly and subversively hardheaded about certain pieces of advice.

I do indeed read my reviews (a simple process these days, since I don’t get that many).  And I consider what they mean, individually and collectively, about how I’ve connected with readers.

That phrase—connected with readers—is the foundation of my review-reading mindset.  It isn’t about judging “quality;” it is about understanding if what I produced matched the readers’ expectations.

Continue reading Reviewing Reviews

Once More, With…

… with feeling.  Or different feelings.  Or deeper knowledge, or better strategy, or greater confidence.  Or hubris blind to incompetence.  We shall see.

I am inflicting more revisions on Sand of Bone.  Once upon a time, repeated revision rounds felt akin to shaving away words and layers in an attempt to make my novel-peg fit into a proper slot.  But the freedom of how I’ve chosen to present my stories, along with the reading and consideration of reviews given to Sword and Chant, have given me both a positive push and clearer understanding of my goals.  It’s made these last two rounds of revisions exciting and enlivening.

There are a couple big changes, both involving worldbuilding.*  One is the transformation of Exile into Salt.  The same behavior will get you sent to that gods-hated place, but the change of name and purpose fixes plot holes, and allows for all sorts of little one-lines from characters such as the unofficial and sarcastic “motto” of Salt cures.

It also allowed me to burn far too many hours checking out salt flats, and that was much fun.  Quirky and random research topics are one of the reasons I love the work I do.

Also changed is the mortality of the ruling Velshaan.  They’ve always been descendants of the creation gods, and they’ve always aged, been vulnerable to harm, and decidedly mortal.  But now they can die only when one of their own bloodkin kills them.

Think through the consequences of that one, and you can see why I’m excited by the change.  Yes, your own kin will be the cause of your death, but what about times when withholding that death would be worse than causing it?  What rituals would be created to be a psychological buffer?  How would it feel to grow up knowing no one but your family can kill you, and that you must one day kill a parent or grandparent?  What happens when the bloodkin have a really, really big feud?

As you can imagine, those two changes alone create massive ripple effects.  The revisions are line-by-line, word-by-word, with an eye to ensuring every choice, plot point, and character attitude is compatible with the changes.

But the bottom line is I’m so much happier with what the final novel is becoming.  I’m newly excited rather than frustrated.  I’m loving it all over again.

As an added bonus, the changes fit well with a tidbit of advice picked up from Brad Beaulieu’s GenCon seminar this weekend: Plant fear of the solution in the character.

(And if you haven’t read Brad’s work before, I highly recommend it.  Epic fantasy, flying ships, Russian flavor, truly awesome and complicated characters.)

Today, I made it through the first four chapters of changes.  As long as life doesn’t deal me yet another sledgehammer to the gut, I just might get these revisions done by the end of September.  It’s only, y’know, nine months behind schedule.

*For reasons why I’ll blithely alter my worldbuilding, see On Worldbuilding, Changes, and Plot.