Twelfth Night

Hello! I hope everybody had a pleasant set of late-December holidays! We’re getting back into the swing of things around here, although it’s… not really the swing we had planned.

See, my husband and housemate both got laid off on the same day, ten days before Christmas. (Not a huge coincidence since they both worked on the same project.) It does rather change things, though. They paid all the bills while I worked on getting this writing thing off the ground! And while they have various things on various burners and everything may be glorious and stable again by the time March rolls around, it’s a bit uncertain right now. (And sometimes bloody terrifying.)

Right now I’m not planning on changing how I’m posting Nightlights (although I do want to talk about the ebook variant later). I will definitely be pushing Matchbox Girls when it comes out on February 21st, though. Hopefully early next week a Kickstarter will be appearing, in which interested parties can help fund the initial print run.

I’m currently about a month and a half out from my due date– yes, the Handy Small Child’s sibling will be debuting around the same time as my first published novel. Yay! However, I’m often pretty dozy as a result. I’d like to say I’ve been hard at work on Gravity’s Angels (and maybe write a post about how the current economic and social climate has influenced it) but I sometimes feel like I’m barely managing to keep my head above water. All the changes at home as the guys set up a home office and work on a playroom for the Handy Small Child have been distracting, too.

All right, so on the ebooks: I’m no longer committed to putting out the monthly ebooks. This might be a mistake in light of the layoffs, or it might be a good idea, in light of being rather pregnant and having other priorities.  Only time will tell! But they haven’t really been selling (which is fine, it was an experiment) and I’d rather save the promotional energy for other projects. I am planning on putting out the full text of Nightlights as an ebook after it finishes its run on the website, which will probably be in May or June? As usual, if this is a huge disappointment, please let me know. I don’t like disappointing people (or even abandoning ideas, really) but I’ve talked myself into the idea that people are pretty much enjoying things as they are.

I really wish there was a way to connect up WordPress and Google Plus. I always feel like I’m writing letters to distant family when I write these blog posts. I’m really much chattier in the short form! Oh well. Someday!

 

 

Reminder: Character Poll

I think I may leave it open through Thanksgiving weekend, but hey, character poll!

I’m hoping to have updates on the ebooks for Nightlights, and also maybe a cover reveal for my unrelated novel, Matchbox Girls, in the near future. Meanwhile, working on Nightlights and the sequel to Matchbox Girls, and planning Thanksgiving dinner. Yay!

 

 

I mean, not with a stick or anything.

I’m working on outlining a new story.

Well, I say ‘working on’ but the last couple of days have been exercises in cat-vacuuming. I’ve gotten a lot of the basics of character, worldbuilding, and theme down. I even had a sense of the ending, and the overall developing action. What I didn’t have was a plot to string all this together.

I mean, plot is hard for me. In this case it was even harder because I almost could have made a story out of meandering character development and world exploration, a sort of magic realism– and part of me wanted to. But the story is a direct sequel to a definite contemporary/urban fantasy, and I’ve read far too many complaints about sequels being incredibly different books from the original to want to tread that route by switching whole _subgenres_.

Plus, I know what a solid plot adds to a story: it adds action, it adds pacing, and it usually brings a whole bunch of secondary character definition and scene ideas. Without knowing my plot in advance, my characters would spend a lot of time in the kitchen drinking coffee.

Anyhow, backstory explained: [Copied from Google Plus.]

Well, at least I got almost six hours of sleep before getting smacked in the face with a (relevant) idea about how to solve my plot hangup and a third of a novel unfolded before my eyes.

(Well, I say ‘getting smacked in the face’ but it wasn’t the ‘wake up out of a sound sleep with the Muse standing over me with a shovel’ variety. I’d woken up naturally, was having trouble drifting off again, and started the Hour of the Wolf, in which I chew helplessly on the problems afflicting me. I hate the Hour of the Wolf. But in this case, almost as soon as I turned my attention to the issue, I asked myself the Right Question about it. And lost all ability to go back to sleep.)

And, as is starting to feel suspiciously ordinary, it is the kind of idea that seems like it might get me into… trouble.

Plus, it breaks about half the guidelines I set out for narrowing in on a plot.

So now here I am, listening to the sun rise, thinking about all the work I have to (get to?) do now. I’m pretty sure I’ll do about a fifth of it before realizing ‘oh no, this idea won’t work!’. That’s just the way these things go. And it _will_ work. With some, er, work.

 

Updates! Personal news!

First: My cover artist is very busy doing the work that pays for our mortgage and dinner, so Illumination 2: Enemies (aka Nightlights Volume 3) is going to be delayed. Possibly there will be a double release of 3 & 4? If you are dependent on the ebooks and Can’t Wait, drop me a line and I’ll find a way to send you a proof copy of the ebook. In general I’m going to keep putting them up for 99 cents, partially because it’s hard to get them to be free on Amazon and partially because I dream of funding my Panera Bread writing excursions with writing income. But, you know, I trust it will all work out and I really want to continue making the ebooks available on a monthly schedule to those who want them.

I’m in the process of trying to make Volume 1 free on Amazon (it’s already free on Smashwords and B&N– a lick of the lolly for diehard ebook readers, you know), but it’s tricky and seems to rely on Amazon caring that people might get the book without giving them money, and thus slowly transfer their allegiance to another ebook vendor.

I’m working on other ways to promote Nightlights, too. Some of them are delayed, some of them involve asking people to click on links. I’m going to try not to be too intrusive, but I definitely want to attract more readers. If you have any ideas, let me know, and reviews on places like WebFictionGuide.com or the ebook retailers are always welcome.

Second: The production work on my Debut Novel (isn’t that a great phrase?), Matchbox Girls, is proceeding. It’s still set for February. I’m hoping I’ll get permission to show off the cover in a month or so, and I think a preorder page on Kickstarter will probably go up in December or January. I’ve been talking with the publisher about various preorder bonuses, and I think they’ll be pretty cool. And soon, I’ll be starting work on the sequel.

Speaking of my publisher, Candlemark & Gleam is a young press, with only two books out in hardcopy so far, but both of those have received Publishers’ Weekly starred reviews which is, I think, what’s known as critical acclaim. So that’s exciting.

Finally: Not only is Matchbox Girls due out in February, but I’m also expecting another release the same month. Hah hah. That’s in the way of a joke. Actually, we’re expecting our second child. The Handy Small Child gets a sibling! It’s going to be a busy month. Nightlights’ posting schedule should NOT be affected. I hope.

So there you go: updates and personal news. I now return you to your regularly scheduled story.

 

 

Books I’m Anticipating

My reading habits are weird.

I read a lot. I read articles and blogs on the web, and I carry my Kindle with me almost everywhere. But I don’t read new books that often.

This is because I don’t have very good self-control and I do have a job (even if I haven’t yet earned more than a cup of coffee from it) and dependents. When I pick up a new book, and I’m enjoying it, I start out trying to be reasonable: I read it when I have a bit of free time, or maybe when I’m doing chores I can do blind. I tend not to read new books right before bed because it makes it hard to fall asleep even if I do manage to put the book down–

–and inevitably, with a book I’m enjoying, I reach the Tipping Point. I fall headlong into the book, like Alice in the rabbit hole. Stopping reading becomes extremely hard, and in most cases it doesn’t even occur to me. I will do nothing that requires me to stop reading, until I’m done reading the book. Fortunately, lots of things can be done while reading, especially reading an e-reader. But I definitely neglect some responsibilities.

So while I read a lot, I mosey along mostly filling my head with rereads of Discworld, of Chrestomanci, of Harry Potter and Jane Austen. I listen to Georgette Heyer audiobooks. And I pick up a new book every month or so, and I reread an old book I’ve only read once (which is kind of halfway between an old favorite and a new book) when I’m bored with what I have. Earlier this summer I picked up Ghost Story by Jim Butcher, and Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, and A Dance With Dragons by GRRM (still unread). I also read The Demon’s Lexicon series, and the Planetary graphic novels, and Dracula and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and some other things.

But yesterday, 2 books were released that I’ve been anticipating, and in two weeks, 3 more come out. And unlike with A Dance With Dragons, I’ve no incentive to wait on these.

Waiting on these is really hard. I’ve been thinking about them a lot. And since I’m not letting myself read them until I finish my current work on Nightlights, I figure I might as well talk about them. Especially since some of these books are outside the normal range of things I buy– I usually read new authors at the library first, and pick them up on my Kindle if I like them (as I did with The Demon’s Lexicon). Unless they’re massively on sale.

  • Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin: I preordered this book. It’s not the sort of thing I do. It wasn’t subject to massive hype, or pre-publication awards. It’s not an author everybody’s talking about. I encountered the author on Twitter, read the first chapter on her website, noted that it had some similarities to my own novel without feeling the same, and decided to go for it. I’m not reading this until I’m ready to start work on the sequel to Matchbox Girls, because I’m sure it will get my thoughts racing about my own nephilim setting.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: This book. My interest in this book is ridiculous. I’ve never heard of the author before. I’m a victim of hype, maybe, because I haven’t read anything from this book except the cover blurb and the first lines of a few reviews. Sarah Rees Brennan’s comment on it probably helped. I don’t even like the cover much. But I’ve dreamt about this book. I do like the title quite a bit; it looks like something that came out of my title generator. For perhaps obvious reasons, I’m also saving this as a palette cleanser between Nightlights and the Matchbox Girls sequel.
  • The Cold Commands by Richard Morgan: I’ve only read one other Richard Morgan book, but that was the prequel to this one, The Steel Remains. Despite how grim it was, I absolutely loved it.
  • The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge: Ohhh My God. Sequel to one of my favorite books of all time, A Fire Upon The Deep. A proper sequel, too, not a thousand-year-prequel (which was a very good book, but did not give me more Tines). I love the Tines. I have speculated on what would become of the Tines after the end of AFUTD repeatedly. It is an Old Favorite and  I never thought I’d get a chance to find out.
  • Snuff (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett: New Discworld novel. As you may know or have guessed, I’m a huge Terry Pratchett fan. I’ve figured out the right way to approach the stylistic changes in his last few books: rather than be angry and frightened by them, I’m just going to convince myself he has his own Brandon Sanderson. Stylistic changes are to be expected, given his situation, and the heart of his stories– the boundless affection for all the variations of humanity– hasn’t disappointed me yet. [Apparently Snuff is in 3 weeks, not 2.]
I’m also expecting to read The Broken Kingdoms  by N.K. Jemisin (sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) relatively soon, and the final book of that series, The Kingdom of Gods, comes out October 27th.
So yeah. October (and late September) is New Book Month for me. I’m gonna have to try and budget for it…

Enter Autumn

(micropost copied from Google Plus)

A week ago, it was summer. Then we had an extended rainstorm that spanned two days. It came alongside colds! A leaky roof! Jeans! Limos at the high school student’s house across the street!

Today, it is clear and beautiful and warm. I’m back in shorts. But it’s autumn. I don’t know how I can tell. I’ve always loved autumn. It’s an energetic season for me. The air feels different, and the colors seem to paint themselves even before the red and gold leaves arrive. Everything seems full of promise.

Maybe it’s just 15 years of attending school is to blame, reversing the role of spring and autumn in my yearly cycle. I like spring, too– but spring is for green growth. Autumn is for sparks, and kindling the fires that will last all winter.

Oh so busy revising and writing and driving

Well, the Handy Small Child has started preschool, and I’ve started working through the Matchbox Girls edit notes in earnest. The lazy days of summer, when all I had to do was write a Nightlights scene a day and do chores, have drifted away like autumn leaves.

Of course, it’s the hottest weather we’ve had all summer right now. I mean, my tomatoes  don’t care, they’re still stubbornly staying green, because they’re conspiring against me. But still, hot weather.

Anyhow, this weekly post is supposed to be about Matchbox Girls. It’s my novel! It’s coming out in February! I’m going through it closely for the first time in at least six months. It hasn’t faded as much as I thought it might, but I did spend three years weeping tears of blood over it. Maybe it takes more than six months for those to fade.

Yes, okay, hyperbole. I don’t think I even cried salt tears over it. I did, however, reach the 3/4th point in the original draft, then decide it was All Crap and wrote it all over again from scratch. And it took a long time. Three+ years from start to finish, as I said (and for comparison, I’ve written 111,000 words since starting Nightlights in April).

A few scenes from the initial draft made it into the second draft mostly unmodified, but there were huge, huge changes, too. Characters cut, characters added, sub-plots expanded, sub-plots removed. Sometimes I run into brainstorming from before I even started the initial draft and it’s barely recognizable.

One thing I’ve noticed I do in the process of refining a story idea is that I strip information from the protagonist. In early iterations of an idea, the protagonist is often well-informed, with clear instructions and knowledgeable mentors. This makes maintaining tension harder, which affects pacing. So I throw out most of the information and make acquiring it part of the plot. What I do is probably a bit of a cheat, and I’m sure many excellent authors are able to provide a well-paced story without throwing characters in over their heads.

But it seems to be an effective cheat.

Okay, going through editorial comments and changes probably adds a lot of tension to the reading process for me. But while every scene is still laser-engraved in my memory, I still picked up this sense of growing anxiety and dread from the story, an awful sense of ‘Oh God, what’s going to happen next?’ Ridiculous, because I know. I wrote it. Ridiculous and weird. A couple of beta readers mentioned that they’d read most of the story in one sitting, which I dismissed at the time as ‘they were trying to get through it fast’. (Sorry, beta readers! Please forgive me!) Now, I’m wondering if I maybe did something right.

Posts like this are hard for me. The idea that saying something good about myself or my work will backfire on me is deeply, deeply ingrained. But I also need to do lots of self-promotion to succeed in this new publishing world. Or at least– I need to do some self-promotion. I still firmly believe that quality should rise to the top, but I’ve grudgingly come to admit that it can’t happen if it’s hidden in a closet. It’s easier for introverted me to work on quality improvement over selling myself, but I’ve got to work on both.

So, Matchbox Girls. Every sixty pages or so, it changes gears, always going faster. I think people will like it. And you’ll probably be hearing more from me about it.

And Now For A Word… (A Nightlights non-story post)

Hi there!

I’m still working on various ways to get the word about Nightlights, and you can help me! Until September 12 (when I expect Illumination 1 to conclude), if you post about Nightlights on your blog or social media of choice, you can get a free copy of either Illumination 0: Disintegration or Illumination 1: Guardians in ebook form– and if you opt for Illumination 1 (aka ‘volume 2’– I regret some decisions already) you can get a copy as soon as it goes up on Smashwords, which will probably be around September 5th. Just comment or drop me a line via the Contact form with a link to your post (or an anecdote, if your social media of choice is ‘real life’).

After Illumination 1 concludes, I’m going to be running a favorite character poll before starting Illumination 2. The results of this poll may influence the story! I suspect I’ll leave it open for a week or so because I believe not everybody reading reads every posting-day. 🙂 But since I’ve never done this sort of thing before, I welcome advice on duration and methodology!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy the story!

The Gossamer (old fiction)

I’ve been thinking about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic all day. It’s a show I keep meaning to watch, because I’ve heard such good things about it, and I loved My Little Pony when I was small. MLP:FiP seems like it fixes so many of the things I didn’t like (for I always have complaints about what I love), and covers over the rest over with both style and substance. But I haven’t gotten around to watching it to find out yet!

Anyhow, in digging through some old writing on old hard drives, I found this. I think it dates from about 8 years ago. Since I’ve been too out of it to post this week, I thought it might be fun to share this.  Structurally it lacks almost everything I’d put into a story today, but perhaps I was aiming for a different aesthetic?

(The ‘stay tuned’ at the bottom is also from the original file.)

There are worlds layered like pages in a book.

In many of these worlds, Cinderella is not a person, but a role. In one such land, she is their Cinder Queen, born and reborn every century among the ashes, sought out by her Prince-Consort and raised to magnificence and glory. She is their conscience, their angel of compassion, their dove of mercy, but it is her Prince-Consort and his father the Regal who rule this land. She is the guardian of children, and of young women, and she may intercede on their behalf. While she reigns, her command on such matters is law.

But the exiles are not human, and the Prince and Regal do not listen to her pleas on their behalf.

They are odd creatures, fragile, with spindly legs. They resemble the sturdy, squat horses of the land, but we shan’t call them ponies… no, let us call them the gossamer. They come from the south, a tired, ragged band, telling stories in the cadenced speech of the fey, of a dark castle and how it crumbled and set them free. Ten lands they claim to have passed through, seeking a home, and in each they were told, “Try the next land, they’re much nicer than we are.”

“How will you earn your keep? Will you pull for us?” asks the Regal dubiously. “We have fine oxen. I do not think you could compete with them.”

The leader, flame-red, says, “We are tired and hungry and weak from years of service, Your Highness. We could not outpull your oxen.”

The Regal rubs his beard. “Well, you’re fine looking creatures. Perhaps you could find service as the steeds of noblemen.”

The leader, flame-red, says, “Our legs are thin, and our strength is not in our back, Your Highness. The weight of grown men would break us.”

Exasperated, the Regal says, “What do you have to offer, then? We cannot simply take you in out of the kindness of our hearts!” (Though of course the Cinder Queen had insisted they could do just that.)

The leader, flame red, shakes out her mane and it flows like a sheet of silk down her neck and back. “We have beautiful hair. You may comb it.”

The Regal snorts. “Off you go, then. I’d tell you the next kingdom is nicer, but there is only the sea to the east, the stone to the west, and the snows to the north. Take your pick.”

The Cinder Queen goes to the flame red leader and wraps her arms around the gossamer’s neck and leans her head against the gossamer’s head. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and, “My name is Julie.”

The flame-red leader puts her head over Julie’s shoulder. “I am Kindle. Be at peace, little cinderella. This was no more than we expected.” (This does not make the Cinder Queen feel any better.)

They choose the snows to the north. Kindle, their flame-red leader, remarks, “Perhaps they will welcome us.”

“I’m sure they’ll appreciate your long silky hair,” says the Prince-Consort.

The are exiled from the kingdom during the yearly celebration of the Cinder Queen’s ascension, the green borders of the kingdom sealed against their kind. Julie watches as the brightly colored shapes trudge into the snows, until the colors reflecting from the snow can be seen no longer.

They walk north. They lean into the wind and snow, and they walk and walk, until at last the butter-yellow one stumbles, and falls. The other stop, and two more fall to their knees: sky-blue, sea-green. “Tiara,” says Kindle. “Robin. Flute.”

She sighs. “It is time, my gossamer.” The icy wind cuts across them, blowing her words away, and so she shakes out her hair. The others follow , and banner after banner of luxurious silken color is swept out by the wind. Slowly Robin and Flute climb to their feet, and even Tiara rises and the brightness of her hair streams out in the wind.

And the wind stops.

As their hair, tangled and wind-knotted, settles into place, their colors reflect from the still snow. They move, tiredly, and their colors twinkle back at them. Then, the sun comes out, and the snow shines. There is a great groan of ice and a tinkling noise and the colors shatter as the snows slide apart and a misty valley appears before them.

“Welcome,” the snow tinkles. “Be welcome. Be warm, and walk among us, so that we may reflect your beauty. We will eat the cold as you ate the wind. Be welcome.”

And this is how the gossamer came to Snowshine Valley.
(Yet To Come: Julie discovers children are vanishing from her kingdom! The Prince-Consort earns a name! The gossamer plant a garden! Details on gossamer variants and where they come from! But does the gossamer hair get untangled? Stay tuned to find out!)