I haven't been posting much because I'm THIS CLOSE to finishing the first draft of SEAFLAME, Book One. TODAY I FINISH WRITING THE THING, fellow writer-warriors!!! #amwriting

My intent has been to post here at least once a week, but obviously that hasn’t happened lately, and the reason is my usual one: I’ve been really focused on cranking out the words on SEAFLAME!, and guess what! Today I finished the first draft!

So…how did it come out in the end? Well:

It. Is. DONE. [thud] #amwriting

I’m not gonna lie, folks: while I gave myself permission to write a long book, mainly because I wanted to write a long book, I didn’t quite expect it to be this long! That’s a lot of words. It’s about 60,000 words longer than Stardancer‘s first draft, about 50,000 longer than The Wisdomfold Path‘s, and it’s about 30,000 longer than what was my longest book to date yet, Amongst the Stars. Plus, this is only the first book in a duology, and I plan to take a break from this project before I draft Book II, so it’ll be a while before this book sees the light of day beyond my own eyes. Sorry, folks, that’s just the way of it. But I will say this: I think I’ve done some really nifty work here, if I do say so myself. Certainly there’s some very strong character writing, and I look forward to seeing how it’s received!

SEAFLAME! is my Dumas-inspired adventure novel, and it’s a “fantasy” by virtue of taking place in a completely imaginary world, and there is no magic in it at all. It was a lot of fun to write, and I’m really glad to have a draft complete, because this is a project that I’ve started three times already. Third time was the charm, though!

So what’s next? Ghostcop II (more on Ghostcop to come in the next few months), and then the first draft in a new space opera series (which will be set in the same universe as The Song of Forgotten Stars, but the stories won’t intersect), and then either SEAFLAME! Book Two or Forgotten Stars IV. I like having my work planned out way in advance. Almost makes me feel like a real writer!

Onward and upward! Zap! Pow! #AmWriting

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Buckle Thy Swash!

There are a lot of ways to separate writers into opposing camps: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you write in past tense or present tense? Do you have a daily quota, or not?

One of my favorite such queries is: Do you listen to music when you write, or not?

Some writers don’t listen to music, claiming that they can’t focus on the story when music is playing. Others need music, as a way of setting mood and of shutting out the rest of the world. I fall into the latter category. I can write without music, and I often do, but my preference is to have music going.

Usually I listen to classical, Celtic, or film music while I write. I’m not too insistent on matching my writing music to the mood of what I’m working on, but I do like to use music as writing-mood music at least some of the time. Thus, for my current WIP – the Alexandre Dumas-inspired Hefty Adventure Fantasy novel Seaflame! – I have been listening to some swashbuckling adventure music. Sometimes you just need some good adventurous-sounding music when you’re writing about crossed swords and villains with big hats with feathers in the brim and pounding horse-rides across the landscape and highland clans and all that sort of thing.

The Three Musketeers, music by Michael Kamen. This is the score from the 1993 film of Dumas’s novel, and it’s a terrific score. In fact, it’s almost certainly the best thing about the film.

The Adventures of Robin Hood, music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. So many wonderful swashbucklers of Hollywood’s Golden Age boast scores by Korngold. I can’t even look at a picture of Errol Flynn without hearing something by Korngold in my head.

The Sea Hawk, Korngold again. See what I mean? This is my favorite Korngold score.

Pirates of the Caribbean, music by Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt. I really do love these movies and have never understood the increasingly negative reaction to each one that comes out, and the music is a lot of fun too, for a more modern take on the swashbuckling thing.

Cutthroat Island, music by John Debney. This is not a good movie, although I also don’t think it’s quite as bad as everybody else does. It cost a ridiculous amount to make, the male lead was terribly miscast, and the movie simply wasn’t good enough to overcome being in a genre that simply wasn’t in demand at the time. Debney’s score, though, is amazing – in fact, many film music lovers consider it a classic. Lots of swashbuckling here!

The Mask of Zorro, music by James Horner. Energetic fun here, if you want a Latino flare to your swashbuckling music.

Ivanhoe, music by Miklos Rozsa. Rozsa is another of the great composers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. He’s likely best known for his work on big epics like Ben Hur, but Ivanhoe is a wonderful swashbuckling listen.

Hook, music by John Williams. Here we’re skirting the line between “swashbuckling adventure” and “outright fantasy”, but it’s hard not to get caught up in Williams’s work for this movie (which is, admittedly, not a favorite of mine).

Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, music by Michael Kamen. Kamen was somewhat underrated during his lifetime, and, well, he might still be a bit underrated. His Robin Hood score is terrific. (I like the movie, despite its well-known faults in the “historical accuracy” department.)

Rob Roy, music by Carter Burwell. This film isn’t quite the standard type of swashbuckler you might expect – it’s more of a historical drama, and Burwell scores it as such. But there are still exciting moments in it, and the score is well-worth hearing.

The Princess Bride, music by Mark Knopfler. Also not your standard swashbuckler, and therefore not the standard type of adventure music you’d expect for one, but it can still fit the mood, especially if part of your swashbuckling story involves Twoo Wuv.

And not just film music! You can hear a lot of thrilling music of the swashbuckling variety in the classical realm. A few examples, which aren’t remotely exhaustive:

Le Corsaire Overture, by Hector Berlioz. Berlioz is one of my favorite composers ever, and there’s a lot of adventure in his music. Especially in this rousing overture!

The Polovtsian Dances, by Alexander Borodin. Exotic and wonderful. The Russian Romantics will sweep you away, if you’re not careful. But come to think of it…let them!

The Flying Dutchman Overture, by Richard Wagner. There’s a lot of overlap between good swashbuckling music and good outright fantasy music, and this is an example. Wagner makes amazing listening for fantasy purposes, actually – but fantasy music is another post.

I could go on, but this post is pretty long already. These are but a starting point, though, so sharpen your rapiers, put on your wide-brimmed hat with giant feather in it, and go buckle your swash!

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Hey everybody! For one week only, you can get both FORGOTTEN STARS e-books on Kindle for just $.99 each! Two fantastic* space opera novels for the grand total of $1.98! Spaceships! Princesses! Ancient galactic empires! Lost planets! Mysteries! Action! Giant six-legged cats! Enigmatic space pilots! All this and MORE!!!

Get ’em while they’re hot!

*This opinion is completely biased.


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GUEST POST!!! On the Tracking of Progress, by A.B. Keuser

Hey, folks! It’s me. Below we have a first for this site: a guest post! This entry is by A.B. Keuser, a speculative fiction author who, by her own words, “spends a lot of time making things up and figuring fun ways to kill people.” Here she discusses her methods of tracking her writing progress. Enjoy!!!


I track my writing by day. It’s a practice I took up in 2013 when I decided to write 1,000,000-words in one year, and I’ve kept with it since because it gives me some really great feedback.

Much like Kelly, I keep track of my writing on a spreadsheet. Unlike Kelly, I record my numbers up in a calendar like set-up.

This allows me to pull day counts, week counts, and keep a running total.

Let’s look at March of this year:

This is what my monthly spreadsheet looks like.

The bulk of the sheet is the calendar where I record the actual numbers. I keep 3 lines for each date because I have a main item scheduled and then I’m usually juggling two other back-burner projects that I write on when I’ve met certain goals. This is why I color code them. With one quick glance, I can look at March and tell you what I worked on.

I like to keep track of my weekly w/c and my running total alongside this just to make sure I’m getting on with my bigger goals.

Below the calendar, I keep a running bar graph (At the beginning of the month, I set up the formula to collect the day’s totals and add it to the chart so I don’t have to worry about it later.) This is one of the most visual representations I have of my monthly writing. It’s quick, it’s tidy, and it gets the point across.

Why this works for me

My eyes get bored pretty easily when it comes to numbers. We’ve never really gotten along, so I use this method of spreadsheeting with colors and charts to keep me interested in said numbers.

I’m also a very self-competitive person. This year one of my bigger goals is to beat my totals from 2014 & 2015. It’s going well enough.

But one of the main things it allows me to do is know when I write, and when I should focus on other things and give my brain a break.

Honestly though, the main reason I do this is to hold myself accountable. As Kelly mentioned at the beginning of April, I post my counts every month. I’m not sure anyone really cares to see them outside of myself, but having them out there, in the open really helps me keep from slacking off.

The Big Picture Numbers

ab sheet 2

2013: 1,000,497
Average: 83k words per month.
Best month: February – 133,329 words
Worst month: December – 0 words

In theory, this sounds awesome, right? So much productivity! But I managed that by ignoring all but two editing projects. Which means I’ve still got some back burner projects from that year that are waiting around to be finished.

If you’re just looking to get words down on paper—maybe you need to empty out your brain because it’s gotten too cluttered—the way I approached 2013 is great. You just write. If something isn’t working, you shove it aside and work on something that does flow. You worry about the rest of the writing stuff later.

2014: 438,943
Average: 36,578
Best month: May 62,965
Worst month: December 5,880

This year was all around tamer. I was working on things with the intention of finishing them and getting them right. That meant I couldn’t shove them to the side until my brain sorted through their issues later. I had to get things done, and I had to get them done when I scheduled them.

I learned, from looking through this year’s records, that I can’t rely on myself to do any writing on Thursdays. For whatever reason, they’re my own personal Mondays, and that day just sucks the life out of me, writing wise. Sure I can force it, but the writing is pretty awful in edits, so I usually just don’t schedule myself any req words that day. I use it for admin things now, like finishing up blog posts and doing marketing backlogs, or outlining etc.

2015: 361,949
Average: 30,162
Best month: November – 63,624
Worst month: June – 3,260

Now, those numbers look okay, but when you look at what happened throughout the year as a whole, you get a different picture. 1/3 of the words from last year were written in the last 2 months of the year. This has a very specific reason. While the first 5 months of the year were incredibly consistent, June through October were weak sauce on the writing.

June has its own excuse, my sister got married in our home state so I spent a lot of time traveling and with everything going on, I didn’t get a chance to write outside of 4 days.

July-Oct shows a different sort of recording. It shows how badly medication can affect your writing. Make sure you’re on the right meds, kids!

What this tells me on the whole

When I look at the numbers I have saved in my yearly spreadsheets, I can see patterns, like the fact that Thursdays just do not work for me. Decembers are (usually) pits of non-writing hell. Weekends are lucky to average 1000-words/day, and usually I just shouldn’t expect myself to get there.


And there you have it! Great stuff. How do you track your progress, fellow writers?

And check out A.B. Keuser’s books!

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Progress! I has it!

So my writing month of April is in the books! How did it go? Well:

Final April productivity. Whew!!! #amwriting

That word total is just in drafting Lighthouse Boy, which I have now retitled Seaflame!, after its main character. (Yes, I’m using an exclamation point in the title. Not sure if I’ll keep it, but we’ll see.) Just over 27000 words, and I think that as of this writing, I’m a chapter or two away from the end of this one. And then…Book II, at some point. Seaflame! is a duology, after all.

The other major project was editing Forgotten Stars III, and how did that go? Well:

I DID IT YOU GUYS!!!!! Now to format and get it off to beta-readers. #amwriting

Yup, the First Revised edition is done, and the book is off to the beta-readers. And yes, the title is Amongst the Stars. You heard it hear first, unless…you didn’t.

Amongst the Stars was the toughest book I’ve edited yet, because there were a lot of things I left unexplained or unsatisfactorily put-together, with notes to “Fix this later.” Well, all of those bills finally came due, so there was a lot more heavy-lifting for this rewrite, with a number of chapters that needed outright rewriting. Hopefully this all resulted in a much stronger book, but we’ll see!

So what now? Well, plowing ahead on Seaflame!, and then moving on to something else. The next book drafted will likely be a sequel to Ghostcop (which I may now have a title for; stay tuned for that announcement), and then the first book in a series of space operas set in the Forgotten Stars universe, but not related to those books story-wise. Hey, why create a whole ‘nother galaxy if I don’t have to?

I’m also starting to brainstorm a bit on the next three Forgotten Stars books, which will form Act II of the entire saga. The bummer part of this is that there probably won’t be a Forgotten Stars book in 2017, but the break might well do me good.

So there we are. As always….

Because in my head I'm still twelve. #AmWriting #overalls

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