Exploring New Worlds

I’m worldbuilding.

I’m in no way done with my previous novel, edits being what they are. However, I decided I’m going to take a break from editing in November for Nanowrimo. Then I decided I’d start writing a story that’s been bouncing through my head since 2009. Lately it’s been surfacing more, like a whale breaching from the depths of the ocean.

The trouble is, this story has real teeth. The beauty of The Corsican lies in its simplicity. The characters were in a space ship. There were only so many square feet they could interact with, and all of the background was bland and boring. The ship was blocky, square and utilitarian, and that allowed me to focus on the characters. It was a cheat for a first time novelist, and not one I recognized until recently. That doesn’t mean it was bad – a space story should have a space ship, after all – it just means the backdrop is just a backdrop in that story.

Bento shows a lot more personality from beginning to end. It has a living background, full of different slices of urban life in 2291. The story is based in the far future, but it’s still the far future of Earth, so a lot of it is recognizable, though distorted.

This next story, not yet titled, takes place out in space, on an Earth-type world. I’m not looking to do a huge examination of an alien society, but the fact that it’s not Earth means that the backdrop will be all consuming and fabulously important. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to that level of intensity, but my stories seem to not care about what I want.

Just after making this decision, I was invited on a picnic with my family out onto our local mountain. It’s a drive, but it’s a pretty drive, and when we got up to the familiar ear-popping sensation of altitude, I couldn’t help but look at the world like a visitor to the planet. Rocks, undergrowth, flowers, ponds, even the odd whistling sound of the marmots made me wonder, how would a world be different? How would the world be the same?

This leaves me with a lot of ideas that have to be created and be consistent prior to my word-dump in November. History, geology, culture, biology, how humans interact with the system, how the system reacts to the humans. In fact, I should probably be working on that instead of this.

I just like to check in once in a while, you see.

 

Microfiction, renewed

Hello! I apologize for being away for so long, I was on vacation. But I’m back, and noodling on a work that I am developing when I need a break from my other projects. Enjoy!

irishprison

The logic seemed obvious.

Han was younger then, but he’d seen the truth of it even so. The prophecy, uttered by a blind old fool, was a wagonload of horse shit. A psychological tactic, the last act of a man who understood that words were weapons. The prophecy sparked hope that ripped through the common people like wildfire through dry grass.

Han was a squire for Master Kindoshi when the prophecy was made. He kept his thoughts to himself. He knew better than to speak out of turn. Instead, he waited. He watched the lesser people fight back, watched them try to overthrow his masters, watched them fail and be pushed back into complacency.

Thirteen years later, Han was a grown man, a Master in his own right. He’d been asked to speak in front of Masters Masuki, Jentai, and Lin, discussing the trade routes from outside Taredo Yama. As he spoke, a young boy slipped into the room, silently. He made his way to Master Masuki. Han continued as though nothing happened, and was unsurprised when two other young pages slipped over to their masters. The three masters said nothing, but each looked like they’d bitten an unripe persimmon.

Han guessed what had them all so shaken. He concluded the meeting quickly and let the preoccupied masters disperse. His appetites would take him elsewhere.

Kenoi was not available, but Han would not be shaken off so easily. After three days he was admitted into Kenoi’s office.

“The baby is born,” Han began without preamble, “and the Masters want it killed.”

“And you have the solution?” Kenoi sighed. “I expected more from you, Han. There are a thousand ways to kill an infant.”

“More. However, if you kill the child, you’ll martyr him, and enrage the people. There is no safe way to kill an infant – no matter how accidental it appears, the hearts and minds of the people will imagine assassins behind the death. In fact, even if the child should die accidentally, it will now be laid at our feet.”

“I’m listening.” Kenoi’s voice was resonant and powerful, as well as deeply impatient.

“The family of the child is terrified. They’re imagining us around every corner. We already know from the prophecy that they are not people of means. We go to their door, and offer a solution. To keep the Chosen One safe until he comes of age, we offer them a place with us, in Laterre. We can give them a small boon, paper titles, even a plot of land for the child to play on. He grows up under our watch, under our care, and in no way interested in overthrowing us when he comes of age.”

“Taking the serpent to our bosom, so to speak?” Kenoi sounded unconvinced.

“Not a serpent, a child. A child that will be raised under our care and guidance. We have an opportunity to make him loyal from the start, and all without shedding a drop of blood.”

No Rest for the Wicked

I am writing my second novel.

In an interesting twist of coincidence, I started both The Corsican and my untitled second work within months of each other, back in 2009. I don’t have specific dates anymore, but I know I started the second story after The Corsican, for NanoWrimo. (For the uninitiated, NanoWrimo is National Novel Writing Month.) I burned through the first draft, until I hit the climax, and then I stopped and thought, “Not so much.”

I have attempted this story more times than I care to admit. Always something changed. Characters developed, aged from high schoolers to twenty-somethings, main characters became supporting cast as more appropriate characters stepped forward, all the time tweaking the story to improve it. As is typical with these kinds of things, it took an outside perspective to put me on the path to correcting what it was that I just wasn’t happy with. The climax of the story, which was always my breaking point before, came easily this time around.

After three years of battling it, the story is flowing. Despite the amount of work I’m still doing for The Corsican, despite having all the other stuff I have to do, I can still sit down and churn out two thousand words in a day. This is just the first draft, though. Once I conclude it, there’s still acres of work that require doing. Editing, rewrites, polishing.

I can’t say this book has been easier to write because I published The Corsican. However, what I can say is that publishing The Corsican let me behind the curtain, to see what happens once the final ‘i’ is dotted and the final ‘t’ is crossed. Publishing has helped me to develop my process. I’ve gained confidence and trust my instincts as a writer. This draft has been easier to write, partially because I’ve become very clear on the characters over the years, partially because my husband is a genius and pointed out the book’s major flaw, and partially because I’ve learned from finishing my first book. It turns out, the best way to have a process for finishing books is to finish a book. The first one is the hardest, but after that you have a course of action.

I won’t be posting about writing a book in a linear fashion on this blog. I have many projects in various levels of completion, and I will share my insights as they come, from whichever project is providing me insight at the time. I welcome questions, and I will try to be clear on which project I mean, for clarity’s sake.

The world is full of stories. I’m glad that I’ve been able to add to the collective.

Juggling Act

I’m almost through editing proofs for my novel to be made available in paper to the public. I’m super excited about this. I have people waiting in line for the damn thing. I had no idea what to expect, being new at this, but man, I am past ready to get those books out.

I’ve also learned a whole lot about what’s expected of an author. No one really tells you this when you start out, but when you are an author, you are a manufacturer of a product. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you have many products, but when you’re brand new, you have one item, and that’s what you make and sell. You have to sell the books in order to make money. Even if you aren’t in writing to make money, you want people to read your work, otherwise you’d be content to let your words languish in your hard drive.

It’s important to note that while all this is going on, I am also writing my second book. I am having title gridlock and have renamed the beast five times now, so I am not going to share my current title yet. I want to wait until I get a beta reader to brainstorm titles with me. I will say that it’s an Urban Fantasy, based out of Seattle, but not always in Seattle. I’m interested to see if I get better sales with Urban Fantasy than I do with Sci-Fi. I hope so, because Urban Fantasy is my favorite genre personally. On the other hand, I have about five books outlined in The Corsican’s world, whereas this current book is sort of a stand alone story.

I never used to consider these things. For better or for worse, I’m aiming to become an author, making her living off of her wordsmithing. I am driven to getting my career off the ground, and I’m enjoying the hell out of the ride.

The proof is in the print

Things are rolling now! I have been bombarded by life changes; new jobs, new schools, new routines, and even new pets. I have truly gone from zero to sixty, and trust me, I feel sixty some days!

Today was a treat for me. I received a box of proofs. In retrospect, one would do, perhaps two, one for myself and one for my publisher, but we splurged. What the hell, it’s my first book, I don’t know what to expect.

This is why I didn’t know to brace myself at the appearance of several editing snarls.

I’ve been reading all my life, since I was four years old. I am as familiar with books as I am with dressing myself or brushing my teeth. At first blush the book is gorgeous, but upon second and third blush, details start adding up to imperfection.

The publisher chose to go with a sidebar title and name in addition to the binding title and name, as well as the title across the top and name at the bottom. Overkill for sure. Not to mention my cover art, drawn by my friend and co-conspirator Heather Gross, loses real estate to this stuff, which is not ideal.

Next, I found two banks of unintended text. Not quite a page worth’s each, but I’ve only flipped through the book. Hardcore combing is reserved for this weekend, when I can devote focused time to the project.

Now, I’m whining and moaning about what isn’t right, but it’s a proof! Ninety percent of it is finished, this is the punch list. I have a copy of my work in my hands, in print, cover, dedication, the works. Someone could write a book report on it someday. Truthfully I’m excited, elated, in a wonderful place. Once these proofs are fixed, I can print copies for my readers, who wait eagerly for my first edition, limited run, autographed copies. I love my readers so.

Of course, next will come ways of wooing the readership at large to read my stories. I have a wide network of friends and appreciate their support. My hope is to get this book to the next tier, where people I do not know get to enjoy my work too.

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

In the river of life there are long, straight, wide streams to float along, and then sometimes there are white water rapids.

And me without my kayak.

I had the opportunity over this summer to be unemployed. I realize that’s an odd way of putting it, but you can see unemployment as an opportunity or a burden, and I’d already chosen the burden route. I refused to be beaten down again.

This spate of unemployment lasted three months. (Which suggests that the economy is improving, if only to me.) During that time I took a “finished’ manuscript and edited the living hell out of it. I read words that I wrote three years ago, and formulated them into more polished sentences. I kept the superstructure of the piece unchanged, but honed the story so that it sounded less like a collegiate creative writing piece and more like a professional-level novel.

I sent the work off to my publisher, who was in the process of moving offices across the country. I knew that would cut into my turn around time, but I could afford to be patient. After all, I would end up published, which was what I’ve been waiting for all of my life.

Today, I got an email from my publisher. My book officially has an ISBN! This is an obscure but necessary step, taking a lowly Word document and allowing it to metamorphose into a brilliantly beautiful novel! For those who don’t know, the ISBN is the International Standard Book Number, and it’s how retailers can track your sales/inventory/income. Without it, no book store can find your work, or sell your work.

I shook when I read the email. When I saw the numbers. It was real. In less than a week my work will be released on the world, to stand or fall as it will.

Yesterday I was offered an official position as a software support specialist for a local company. I took it, of course. At the end of the day I need to support my family, and while I have high hopes that my book will become an International Best Seller and on the New York Time’s Best Seller list, I also know that it might not be this book that accomplishes that goal.

It will be hard, adjusting to the forty hour a week demands of a ‘real job.’ However, there is one thing that I’ve learned in these three months. I’m a writer, and no matter what my day job is, I’m not going to to give that up.

Richer than the Queen of England

When I was a young girl, I never thought about how writers got paid. I didn’t care. I wanted to be a writer, but I lived with my parents and they handled all the sticky financial details. Why should I worry?

Somewhere between moving out and having a family, I learned what it meant to be financially secure, to be stable and pay bills on time. I’m the household financier, actually. I found that I liked paying the bills and keeping track of the stacks. It was all functional.

Now, however, becoming an author has thrown me into the murky depths of intellectual property, royalties, and other things that go bump in the night. I had no idea where to turn. You can find fifty thousand books on writing by writers, but you can’t find one about the publishing and financial side. It’s in the best interest of the publishing house to keep those details quiet, so that they can keep their proprietary place in history.

No wonder publishers hate Amazon. They’re up front with everything. 30% of each sale goes to Amazon, and 70% goes to the author. You can find that up front on their website. Now, Amazon’s not going to give you an advance. That’s still in the realm of publishers. But that may be what is holding old school publishers back. An advance is a projection of anticipated sales. There is some formula that exists, that helps project an author’s sales.

I am not a mathematician, but I have been an app developer, and I know when a company makes projections on things they’ve never done before, the numbers are approximately as accurate as a five year old child who doesn’t want to get in trouble. When you have data, say, a previous title that sold, it is much more likely that the advance will be accurate, or at least within tolerable limits.

In other words, whose system is prejudiced to the known quantity?  Publishing houses.  Whose system wins no matter who is published? Amazon’s.

It is true, right now there is more poor work being churned out because of the simplicity and lack of quality checking that Amazon provides. I have read some bad stories because they were cheap and in my genre. On the other hand, I’ve read some really bad books that were on the New York Best Seller’s list. Much like the show, So You Think You Can Dance, the point isn’t about America’s best book, it’s about America’s favorite book. Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?

This will be a learning experience for everyone involved. I’m still worried about getting my checks, but honestly the worry is a pale thing beside how my book is going to do. Not for the financial gain, but for the terrifying reality that my work is out there, in the world, being read and hopefully enjoyed by a lot of people, who will then want to read my next work.

If I can succeed with that, then I truly will be richer than the Queen of England.