Yesterday I finished the first draft of my calligraphy-magic novel, The Mastery Books.
Let me repeat that: I finished my novel’s first draft! OMG you have no idea I just…HURRAY!
I’d anticipated the book coming in between 90,000-95,000 words, with an goal of the finished book (however many edit drafts later that comes) to be closer to 90,000 words. And guess what? This draft ended at 91,450 words. I just…Wow. I’m in shock. It’s so close to my anticipated goal!!! I’m done and 100% on target!
I used a new outlining method for this one, and man did it work for me like nobody’s business! My outline was 2-3 columns in an Excel spreadsheet for each chapter, one column for actions, the next for emotions and immediate reactions that lead to the next chapter, and the third for “hey don’t forget this; the bad guy is thinking this,” etc–notes to myself more than story plotting.
Now I get a couple weeks to play with short fiction, read a crit partner’s book, drink daiquiri’s in the sun… well, okay, maybe not that last one (not too much, at least). But some time away, to let me forget this story so that when I come back to read and edit, it’ll seem fresh and I’ll see the stuff I need to fix.
How am I celebrating, you may ask. Well, the AC repair guy is here…so with continued air conditioning! (yeah, not my favorite way to celebrate, either) Actually, I’m giving myself an entire day to play one day next week. A complete day off, no time spent at the keyboard at all, no errands. It sounds glorious.
(I know, I know–it’s supposed to be Two-fer Tuesday, but I’m giving a bonus, because it’s gonna be a long week, I think)
Friend and fellow author Shannon Rampe has a special blog post written by yours truly (that’s me) up on his newsletter, and cross-posted on his blog. You can find it here, if you’d like some springtime-themed writing content. While you’re there, you might want to browse his site, maybe sign up for his newsletter–he’s got one collection of short stories out, and has another coming later this month. He’s also got links to some of his published works, so you can get a feel for what he writes. (Hint: It’s good.)
GOOD NEWS! I’ve sold another story to Nature: Futures! I’m truly thrilled to announce this. It’s my third sale to them (!!!), and the first time I’ve sold a story to the very first market it was submitted to–thus it’s a double-Writer’s Bingo square! I don’t know yet when it will be out, but I’ll be sure to let you know. As always, I’ll post a wee bit here about its backstory, or how it came to be, or some such story-related anecdote.
I’ll leave you with a photo from today’s walk. It’s the baby alligator at the local small “improved” pond, with paved trails, paddle boats, playground, nearby shops, and an arts pavilion, etc. I’ve seen this one slowly growing since winter gave way to spring (as estimated in Florida time, that’s about mid-February). Now its yellow stripes are nearly gone, and I’m starting to wonder how long before the little thing gets moved.
Great news: I finished the draft of the *&*%) Novel, and have sent it off to my beta readers/crit group. In five weeks, I’ll hear from them what they think. (Commence nail biting…)
In the meanwhile, I’m far from resting on my laurels. No indeed. While I’m now working on my agent submission schedule, and things like synopses and query letters (omg how awful these are!), I’m also doing something entirely more fun–starting on a new novel!
This one is going to be contemporary fantasy (instead of secondary world, like the first). And set in a really cool place, too (sorry, mum’s the word for now. I don’t like sharing too much until I’m much more firmly in place with my writing, and planning.) I’ve just now finished the full plot outline, and man is this one going to be fun to write! I love the characters so much, and even the bad guys are interesting. At one point, I texted a writer-friend and whined, “How do I let the protagonists win when I’ve so fully stacked the deck against them?!? Ahhhhhh, I don’t know!”
But now, with some helpful prodding by said friend, I’ve figured it out. As always, some bits were serendipitous, little things that just fell into place because of what I’d determined before, but seemed so well planned. (Thank you, subconscious brain!) Other bits, like the ending, were so harrrrd to wrestle into place.
It’s not entirely done. I still have plenty of brackets in the outline, like this:
“They then do [some cool things], but things don’t go entirely as planned [how? What fails?].”
So I’m not ready to start drafting just yet. But I’m getting close! And it’s just such a palate-cleanser from the last novel. Something new and juicy and not yet slogged through four times in a row. With luck, this means that when I get feedback on Novel the First, I’ll be able to look at it with refreshed eyes, and in a mood to rip right on into the work and send it out! (Heh, cross your fingers on that, okay?)
In other news, I have moved so much mulch! It has to be done before 10 am, when the temps and humidity and sunlight combine to make life utterly miserable for the rest of summer. Yesterday, for example, hit a high of 101F, and the humidity made it seem like my lungs were working double and my muscles were wilting on the afternoon (VERY short) dog walk. But the gardens are looking great!
Not so great is the front yard, where a mole has taken up residence and keeps lifting up tunnels that I, daily, sometimes 2 or 3 times daily, smash back down. We play frisbee with Dasher there, and if he steps on one and falls through, he could easily break a leg. Even if he doesn’t, jolting his limbs like that really hurts, since his arthritis is so bad. But he is not about to give up his 15 minutes of frisbee–not for heat, not for moles, not for anything. So here I go, smashing down mole tunnels.
That’s it for now. The afternoon storm has arrived in force. Lightning cracks and whitens the outside as rain sheets against the window, and the lawn outside. Time for a cup of tea, and a good book…
You haven’t heard from me much last year–last month, especially. I really don’t want to recount that time and those troubles. Let’s just say that 2020 went out kicking and screaming and causing as much havoc in my life as it possibly could, as long as it could. But now that is over and done.
I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to “start anew” and have another chance at success this year. Coronavirus isn’t gone, and we’re not racing around “like normal” (whatever that even means anymore); it isn’t magically “over” just because the calendar year cycled through to another page. (Unfortunately.) But it is a time to look ahead to coming possibilities.
The COVID-19 vaccine is out in the world, and that will surely change things. The US will have (new) leadership soon, and the world is beginning to emerge from horrible year that was 2020 and shake off the dust and excrement clinging so tenaciously to us. Maybe I can see family in person, and friends. Maybe we’ll be able to travel, not for necessity to the store, but for joy to see new things. What magic that will be!
My writing was put completely on hold for the last 6 weeks of 2020. I’d intended on finishing the novel draft in that time, which clearly didn’t happen. But now that I’ve clawed my way back to equanimity, I’m prepared to finish this draft at long, long last. I’m prepared to write more short fiction, and send it out into the world. I’m looking at editing up a series of short novels I’d back-burnered for lack of clarity on their ending; I think I’ve figured it out, and hope to test my theory by writing it.
I’ve also got a number of baby quilts to make; COVID did one good thing: provide my family with plenty of time to procreate! The family expands, and those babies need quilts. I’m on it already, and with great joy.
In short, it’s going to be a busy year. I’ve got lots of goals made, and am excited to get going. Get creating. Breathing new, fresh life into myself, my world, my creativity.
Welcome to a new year. I hope you’re prepared–I think it’s going to be amazing.
This week, the sandhill cranes have been gathering into great flocks that swirl up the late morning thermals into the higher altitudes, their melancholy voices calling and overlapping into a overwhelming, bittersweet chorus as they begin their long journeys northwards. Yesterday morning, the far end of the alley, where the trees are thickest, was overrun with robins. Hundreds of them, chirping and calling and catching every bug they could find before they, too, flew off in loose groups of tens and twenties for their northern mating grounds.
My windows are open all night, and local strawberries are in at the farmers’ market. On the afternoon dog walk, we seek out the shady path instead of the sunny one. And the plum tree has burst into fluffy white bloom, promising another bumper crop come summer. Even the wee new blueberry bushes are in blossom!
It’s official, then. Spring is here. The groundhog was right. Despite the snow and ice still plaguing the north, the birds are flying spring up to you.
Spring is a season of change. Of renewal and rebirth. And in that light, I have some news of a wonderful change in my life: I have been accepted as an Active Member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America! This has been a goal of mine for a very long time, and I’m thrilled to be able to join this organization, and to nominate and vote on the Nebula Awards!
I am very pleased to announce that I’ve been selected for a two-week writer’s residency in Key West this fall. The Key West Literary Society sent me an acceptance email this morning, and I am still bubbling over with my joy and enthusiasm for this amazing opportunity, and at the thought of having two weeks totally dedicated to all things writing (and editing)! Until then, I’ll be editing the novel in bits and pieces, hoping to get the first revision pass done and the novel sent out to my beta readers.
Now, can we all just cross our fingers that no hurricanes blow in and toss this lovely plan into the weeds?
The Good News: My short story, “Sanachi’s Escape,” is in the current issue of The Colored Lens, now available at Amazon. It’s the story of a boy growing up in a very different world, making very difficult choices, just to survive. It’s just that sometimes, plans have to change.
The Better News: Starting January 31st, The Colored Lens is going to put the electronic version on sale. The entire issue will cost just 99¢! They’ll be announcing this shortly on social media, so get ready. The price will slowly rise, regaining full price on February 3. So get your copy on January 31st for the best pricing!
Now, did you see that picture up there? Let me point out that I’m the first author listed. That’s right, my story opens the issue! (insert squee here!) This is a first for me–being the lead story–and I’m thrilled that “Sanachi’s Escape” has garnered that faith from the editors.
Ready for a little bit more about the story? Well, the idea for “Sanachi’s Escape” came from my thinking about the children born into war-torn, strife-laden countries, and how that affects their lives, and the lives of all born there for generations. Naturally, it changed as I wrote it, but you can see that start if you’re looking for it, I think. Also, an early version of this story was my first submission to Writers of the Future, garnering an Honorable Mention.
I’m so pleased it found such a wonderful home, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Ah, here we are sliding into the new year with nary a mistake dating a check or letter so far! This must be a good omen, right? That or my brain is setting me up for a massive fail later…which I wouldn’t bet against, but also which I won’t be thinking about just now.
It looks like last year worked out pretty well for me. My short story sales and submissions went down, because early on I focused on the novel(s), letting short fiction slide. It distressed me quite a bit–still does, in fact–because I’ve become used to the “instant gratification” of short story sales instead of the “delayed gratification” of novel writing. For the longest time, it seemed to me that I just wasn’t getting anywhere. It took my husband commenting that “you know, you didn’t get as many submissions or acceptances as you’d hoped, but look, you wrote two novels last year” before my brain realized that, duh, yeah, I hadn’t been lazy or non-productive. Just “differently productive.” And this year, last year’s productivity will come to fruition.
2016: Highlights in review
Submitted Book 1’s opening for Taos Toolbox
Accepted to & attended Taos Toolbox
Edited Book 1 prior to workshop
Edited Book 1 after workshop!
Revisited overall trilogy plot
Wrote Book 2
Wrote at least 8 new short stories (Gah! I never tallied those figures so I can’t tell you–or myself–exactly how many!), 6 of them in Codex contests.
Became a Writers of the Future Quarter 2 Finalist (!!!!!)
One new story sale, one story “near-sale” [market went on hiatus 😦 ]
6 stories still on submission at the turn of the year.
So, here are my writing goals for 2017
Start Book 3 of my Jess Stow trilogy
Finish Book 3 of Jess Stow
Edit ALL BOOKS of Jess Stow, and send to editor
Final edits of entire trilogy
Get covers created (OMG–so exciting!!!!)
Publish Jess Stow books
Finish planning and plot-breaking Unspoken, my next, stand-alone fantasy novel
Start writing Unspoken
Participate in Codex short story writing contests for at least 5 new stories
attend Paradise Lost Writers Retreat
In fact, my advanced plan is to have Book 3 finished before Paradise Lost (end of April), which I can do if I average 5000 words a week on that novel. The Weekend Warrior contest is going on now, which takes a lot of my time over the next 5 weeks–but I’m still committed to this insanity plan. So you might not see me here or on any social media much until after Paradise Lost.
In other words, it’s going to be a busy year. I hope I come out at the end of 2017 as pleasantly surprised by my writing productivity as I was last year. And to you all, I hope the same. Happy reading, and happy writing!