THE WISDOMFOLD PATH teaser!!!

I’ve republished STARDANCER this week on Kindle, and published it anew on Nook. The new version (no new material inside the book, just some corrections of typos) includes a teaser for Book II, THE WISDOMFOLD PATH. Since there are readers who might be interested in this but who won’t want to repurchase the book — not that I’ll stop you! — I reproduce that teaser below.

[ahem]

Six months have passed since the Arrilori Visitors arrived on Xonareth. While they still work to find a way home, they are also becoming more and more accustomed to what they hope will be their temporary home. Even as winter settles over the two last cities of Xonareth, and even as the new King and Queen struggle with the fact that the cities’ sources of power will fail within a few years, they still find time and opportunity for celebration, in the form of a party for Princess Tariana’s seventeenth birthday. As they enjoy the festivities, little do they know that a new threat is arising….

“What now?” Margeth asked. “Are we staying to watch another game, or what?”

Tariana shrugged. “What do you want to do?”

“There’s dancing back that way,” Margeth replied.

“You know I’m not a good dancer!” Tariana laughed.

“Who said you had to be good?”

And in that way Margeth won that particular debate, and they headed off down another path toward another clearing. Ahead of them they could see light of shifting color through the trees, and they could hear music and feel the beat of its rhythm. In this clearing was a ring-shaped pond with four bridges leading to an island in the pond’s center. At the center of the island stood a wooden stage, and on that stage was a band which performed loud, fast-paced music. Their music was accompanied by a shimmering lightshow which strobed and pulsed in time with the rhythm.

Margeth was fascinated by the music, but Tariana’s attention was on the youths all around. They were so involved with the music, dancing and singing and holding hands and – Tariana tried not to stare at the number of couples scattered about, kissing – being together. This is what it is to be my age, Tariana thought.

“You should be careful here,” Corporal Brand said. “There are a lot of people around!”

“Don’t worry,” Tariana replied. “I’m sure we’ll be fine—oohhh!

Suddenly she was splashed with water, which was thrown into the air by two teenage boys who had broken into a fight and ended up falling in the moat. Tariana ducked back as Corporal Brand and one of the Kingsguard guards moved in and broke up the fight, dragging the two ruffians out of the water. Both were glaring at each other, and one – the angrier, apparently – tried making another attack at the other, but he couldn’t break free from Brand’s grasp.

“Stop it!” Brand shouted. “Stop it now! Calm down! STOP!”

The fracas started to capture the attention of the teenagers on the dance island, and gradually they all turned to see what was going on. Even the band stopped playing after about a minute of watching their audience slowly swing the other way. Tariana stepped back, and she felt her cheeks turning red already. Luckily, it was fairly dark.

“Lights!” Brand barked. “Now!”

So much for that. The light fixtures for the band’s illumination show switched to full illumination, bathing the entire dance area with harsh white light.

“How dare you fight in the presence of the Arrilori!” Brand shook the one kid by his collar, and then he glared at the other as if to do the same thing to him, but with his eyes.

“Corporal!” Tariana protested. “They didn’t even know I was here.”

“It doesn’t matter! They know what this event is, and they know where they are!” He shook the kid again. “You are on the Council Island, and you are attending on the Arrilori Visitors! This is how you behave?”

“She’s not even your girlfriend anymore,” said the other boy. “You need to get past it!”

“Shut up!” Brand snarled. “When I need your input I’ll ask for it.”

“Whatever,” the other boy said.

Now Tariana recovered her wits and her dignity somewhat, and stepped forward.

“Corporal,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder. “I think the fact that everyone is watching is embarrassment enough.” She looked at the boy in the Corporal’s grasp. His cheeks were still red, but not so much now from anger at the other boy. “You’re fighting over a girl?” she asked.

He looked down at the ground and said nothing.

“I’m just a person,” Tariana said. “You’re fighting over a girl?”

“Yeah,” the boy said. “He was kissing her.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Tariana said. “If a girl you liked was kissing someone else…why are you mad at him, and not her?”

The boy’s expression turned comical as he tried to think, and apparently failed. He looked at Tariana as if she had addressed him in some unknown language.

“Go home and calm down,” she said. “It’s bad enough all of these people got to watch you do this, right?” She pointed to all the kids on the dancing island. The boy winced, and lowered his eyes again. “Corporal?”

Corporal Brand nodded and released the boy. “Take them home,” he said to the other Kingsguard.

“Yes sir,” the Kingsguard replied, and then escorted the two ruffians away.

“And don’t lose a friend over this!” Tariana called after them.

“That’s it?” Margeth asked.

“They’ll be humiliated at school,” Tariana said. “Believe me, it’ll be worse than anything Corporal Brand might have done to them.”

“Don’t be so sure about that,” Brand grumbled. “Now what?”

“Well,” Margeth said, “I was enjoying that music.” She called over to the island. “Excuse me! Could you start playing again?”

People turned and looked at the bandmembers, who then looked at each other and shrugged. The percussion player began pounding a beat again, and the music finally resumed. Tariana smiled at Brand. “You see? Now I’d like to see what a dance is like.”

“All right,” Brand replied, and he and the other Kingsguard remaining escorted Tariana and Margeth across the bridge and onto the dance island, where aside from the band playing, nothing was returning to normal. All the kids there were still standing in place, staring at the two Arrilori Visitors. The band segued into a ballad, but still no one returned to dancing.

“We’re not…bug-eyed aliens or anything,” Tariana said.

“Maybe if you dance, they’ll dance too,” Margeth offered.

“I’m not going to dance by myself!” Tariana said. “That would look stupid!”

Corporal Brand cleared his throat. “May I be of assistance, miss?” He offered his hand to Tariana, and her eyes widened.

“You can dance?”

“Not really,” Brand said. “But it’s a slow one, so I can fake it. I think.” He shrugged. “How hard can it be?”

Tariana smiled, and even as she felt a thousand pairs of eyes on her, she took his hand and began to dance with her Kingsguard protector, or at least attempt to dance with him, as she had little idea of how to do it, herself. It suddenly occurred to her how strange it was that Mother had never included this in her list of Skills Every Princess And Eventual Queen Must Know. It seemed to Tariana that dances at formal cotillions was a regular feature of royal life, but maybe that was just something she’d got from the storybooks.

Their dancing was awkward and uncomfortable and the Corporal stepped on Tariana’s toes as much as she stepped on his. But it had the desired effect, as the youths all gradually returned to dancing themselves. Wherever they danced, Tariana discovered that others were smiling at them and giving them – giving her – thumbs up. Soon the song ended, and the band switched to a higher-tempo song. At that point a thought occurred to Tariana, and she giggled.

“What is it?” Brand asked.

“Oh, nothing,” Tariana thought. “Just…I’m a Stardancer, but I can’t dance.”

He gave her a quizzical look, and she just shook her head. “It’s nothing.” She glanced at the band and the kids who were taking to the faster song. “Maybe we shouldn’t press our luck on this,” Tariana said.

“Oh, I entirely agree,” Corporal Brand replied. “It was my pleasure, miss.”

“I hope so!” Tariana said with a laugh. “Where’s Margeth – oh, there she is!”

Margeth was dancing away with Otona, whom she had somehow found in the midst of this entire crowd. Otona grinned and waved at Tariana, who waved back. “Otona’s here?” she said. “I wonder if–” She began to look around, although she didn’t really expect to see him standing right there.

“Can I help you look for someone?” Corporal Brand asked.

“No,” Tariana replied. “No, I…no.”

He nodded and stepped back to allow Tariana to start walking through the crowd of dancers. It didn’t take long to circulate through the entire dancing island – it wasn’t quite as big as it had looked from the other side of the moat – but Gharanas wasn’t here. He could be anywhere on the Council Island, and wherever she went she would find more hundreds of people. She could walk and walk and walk and never find anyone she knew.

But of course, she did.

“I don’t think he’s here,” Jorja said.

She had cut her hair short and colored it black, so it took Tariana a second to recognize her. Jorja had once been a girlfriend of Gharanas’s. She was the youngest daughter of Star House Crassa. Her mother, Lady Troyelle, was on the Starhollow Council and had a history with Lady Aafilia which had, as far as they could tell, not always been entirely pleasant.

Tariana blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“He isn’t here.” Jorja looked around at her three friends who were with her. Tariana had seen these girls before, but she knew none of them by name. “You all remember Lady Tariana of Star House Arrilori, don’t you?”

“We do,” said one of them.

“Oh yes!” said another.

“How nice to see you again, My Lady.”

“I’m sorry,” Tariana said. “I’m not sure what you meant before.”

“Gharanas,” Jorja said. “You’re looking for him, aren’t you? I don’t think he’s here.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because he told me he probably wasn’t coming tonight.”

This was one moment when Tariana was glad for all of Mother’s teachings on royal decorum. It was a very useful skill, being able to maintain her composure when she felt like she had been kicked in her stomach.

“Oh,” Tariana said.

“His mother and my mother had business this morning,” Jorja said. “He came over a little after his mother did, because he wanted to say goodbye before he left.”

“He went back to Chrodeliss?” Tariana asked. Every ounce of her energy was now devoted to keeping the fact that her heart was sinking like a rock dropped into a pond from showing on her face.

“He said he was,” Jorja replied. “He’s not much of a liar, so I believe him.”

“Oh.” Tariana bit her lip. She wasn’t going to be able to keep this up much longer. “Thank you, I guess.” She smiled. “I hope you’re enjoying yourselves.”

Jorja shrugged and looked at her friends. “I liked my birthdate party better,” she said. “That was last month.”

“I didn’t know,” Tariana said. Dignity…dignity….

“I just wanted a small party with a few friends,” Jorja said. “But this is nice, if you like this sort of thing. I’m sure you’re used to it.”

“Well,” Tariana said. “I hope you had a good time, but I think I should be moving on. Enjoy yourselves and thank you for coming.” She managed a smile. “I like your hair, by the way.”

“It was our pleasure!” Jorja said. “And thank you for noticing my hair.” Tariana thought she heard one of Jorja’s friends snigger, but she wasn’t sure. It might have been the music. Tariana thought that Jorja and her friends would leave, but then Jorja stepped forward and laid a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, your…highness? What do we call you, anyway?”

“What is it?” Tariana asked.

“You do know why Gharanas didn’t come, don’t you?”

Tariana stared at Jorja for a long moment. Why was she saying this? Why did she care?

“Oh, you really don’t understand it, do you.” Jorja shook her head. “You were a Princess where you came from, so all this must be new to you. I should have been able to tell by your dancing.” She leaned in closer, so Tariana alone could hear. “Gharanas didn’t come because he’s who he is, and you’re who you are. Think about that.”

And then Jorja turned and walked away, rejoined by her friends. Tariana’s thoughts moved in what felt like a dozen different directions: sadness because Gharanas had not come. Anger, because he had not come and he’d said goodbye to Jorja and not to her. And confusion at Jorja’s words, which both made no sense and all the sense in the world.

“Your hair looks ghastly,” Tariana muttered.

“Miss?” It was Corporal Brand. “Did you still want to go somewhere else?”

“Yes,” Tariana said. “Someplace quiet.” I need to cry, and I don’t want to be seen doing it.

“Very well.” He motioned to the other Kingsguard, who came over and helped him escort Tariana toward one of the bridges across the moat. Margeth was still dancing with Otona, and had now made the acquaintance of a few others. Tariana stopped to look at her and wondered if she should bring her along. She’s having fun, she thought. No sense ruining that just because I’m not.

Tariana was halfway across the bridge when all the lights went out.

THE SONG OF FORGOTTEN STARS
Book II:
THE WISDOMFOLD PATH

Coming November 2015!

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A Few Things!

A couple of items of possible interest:

Item the FIRST: I’ve been working on getting Stardancer available on more platforms than just the Kindle, and I can now report initial success: the book is now available for Nook, right here! Zap! Pow!!

Item the SECOND: Now that Stardancer is no longer Kindle-exclusive, I can also repost sample chapters. To that end, Chapters 1 through 3 are now available on Wattpad!

Item the THIRD: I always dreamed of having success to the level of being a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Sadly, that can no longer happen (although we’ll see how this Trevor Noah fellow does), but I can still imagine! And what I can imagine, I can write. Hence, this guest post of mine on writer Briana Mae Morgan’s blog. Check it out!

That’s about it for right now. More stuff in the hopper, though! Stay tuned, Star Warriors!

 

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Cover Reveals

…but not mine! (Not yet, anyway.)

Two author-folk for whom I have quite a bit of admiration revealed the covers for their new novels this weekend. Huzzah for them!

First up is Carrie Morgan, with her cover art for her novel The Road Back From Broken.

Road is the story of Jacob “Fitz” Fitzgerald, a U.S. Army sergeant whose struggles with alcohol, post-traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt have estranged him from his wife and son. When a DUI car accident leaves Fitz facing the possibility of losing both his Army career and his family, he realizes that his relationship with his family can be healed only by confronting the very memories he wants to forget and by coming to terms with his role in the death of a comrade killed in an IED attack.

The other author to reveal her cover is Briana Mae Morgan, who is writing a YA post-apocalyptic novel about the aftermath of a devastating plague and two young people struggling to survive it. Check out her cover for Blood and Water!

Seventeen-year-old Jay Harris lives in a world struck down by a deadly virus. His parents are dead, along with half the planet. When Jay’s sister Maia falls ill, he must find a cure before he loses her, too. But unbeknownst to Maia, Jay is also sick… and he’s running out of time to save them both.

I look forward to both books. Congratulations to both authors!

 

 

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Tools of the Trade

Back at it! #amwriting #overalls #Carhartt

What writer doesn’t like talking about process? Let’s talk process! Specifically, the tools I use.

For years, I’ve been a dedicated OpenOffice user. My reasons for this, at the outset, were anything but high-minded devotion to the open-source software model. No, it was purely self-serving: Around 2003 or 2004, I was still using Microsoft Office for Windows 95, which was increasingly out-of-date and lacking in newest features. If I recall correctly, the feature Office for Windows 95 that bugged me the most by its simply not being there was support for a mouse’s scroll wheel, but I may be wrong. In any event, I decided that it was time to update my office software, and at the same time, I learned of the existence of OpenOffice. After reading up on it a bit, and determining that it would suffice for my needs and the price was right, I made the switch, and I’ve used OpenOffice as my main writing software ever since.

Until now.

And not only have I made the switch from OpenOffice, but I have now adopted not one but two primary writing programs.

Why would I do this?

In general, I have never been unhappy with OpenOffice, and I still recommend it to anyone looking for a free office suite. However, there were aspects of its functionality that I discovered weren’t ideal, especially as I started ramping up to the publication of Stardancer. Formatting is very important, and if you’re independently publishing, the task of formatting falls squarely on you. This became a source of a number of headaches – all minor, thankfully, but still not easy to navigate. First, most of the tutorials you find out there on how to format your manuscripts for Kindle Direct Publishing or for CreateSpace assume that you are using Word, and thus they provide instructions for Word only, which means that you then have to do some research to figure out how to get the same effect out of OpenOffice. That brings me to the second problem I discovered: the processes for formatting correctly in OpenOffice are often not nearly as easy as the processes to accomplish the same tasks in Word.

Here’s an example: one standard of formatting manuscripts for submission to publishing markets is that you don’t use “smart” quotation marks (the ones that curl one way at the start of a quote and curl the reverse way at the end of it); you use “dumb” quotes which are just little straight marks that don’t quote at all. This being the case, I’ve been in the habit for years of using dumb quotes in all my writing, and in fact, I didn’t even think about it until I got my proof copy of Stardancer in the mail, opened it up, and recoiled in horror from the dumb quotes in the book. I’m honestly not entirely sure why the standard for submission format is dumb quotes, but the fact is, that in print, dumb quotes look like shit. So I had to change the dumb quotes to smart quotes – every single one of them in the book.

Now, I remember doing this in Microsoft Word, years ago. There, it’s strangely easy. You change the setting to “Use smart quotes” or whatever it is, and then you do a find-and-replace, with a quote in the “Find” field and an identical quote in the “replace with” field. Somehow Word knows to go through and swap all the dumb quotes for smart ones, and it gets them right, putting the left-quotes and right-quotes where they should be. You then do the same thing with a single quote in the find-and-replace box, and Word goes through and swaps out every apostrophe of single quote you have. This is some terrific functionality.

Unfortunately, this functionality doesn’t exist in OpenOffice, so you have to engage a more cumbersome process of using the additional fields in the find-and-replace tool. You have to use “regular expressions” and you have to pretty much do a separate operation for every right-quote and every left-quote. It’s also easy to screw this operation up, which can result in some bad things that you then have to root out.

The quotes thing is one issue, but there were a number of similar issues with OpenOffice that made formatting for self-publishing a right pain in the arse. Now, moving forward, I’ve pretty much stopped using dumb quotes, but that doesn’t help the manuscripts that already exist which still need to see the light of day. But when most instructions for getting things done ignore the platform I’m using, and when a lot of these tasks are more cumbersome than I want them to be, something’s gotta change. I’m planning to release a lot more stuff into the wild over the next few years, and OpenOffice isn’t ideal for my needs.

Further, I’ve learned that OpenOffice will likely not be seeing as much updating and revision in the future, for various licensing reasons that I don’t entirely understand, while a newer open-source suite called LibreOffice, which is originally an offshoot of OpenOffice, will likely see a great deal more innovation moving forward. Here’s an article that explains the situation, and here’s an article that outlines some key differences in functionality between the two suites. I’ve already adopted LibreOffice as my office productivity suite of choice. Here’s what LibreOffice’s word processor looks like:

libreoffice screenshot

Now, thus far I haven’t noticed a whole lot of difference, since LibreOffice and OpenOffice share common ancestry. But there are some nice touches that I do like a lot: your word count is always visible in the bottom toolbar, for example, and the find-and-replace tool shows up as a new toolbar in the footer, as opposed to a pop-up window that obscures the work. LibreOffice uses the same file formats as OpenOffice, and to my eye, its Writer program has a much cleaner look. Sadly, LibreOffice’s quotes-fixing works pretty much the same way OpenOffice’s did, which is why I’ve adopted another program for writing and producing books and such.

That program is Scrivener.

[Insert sound of giant weight hitting the earth here.]

If you’re a writer, and if you share the fact that you’re a writer online and interact with other writer-folks on social media, very quickly you will start hearing about a program called Scrivener. Scrivener changes lives. It revolutionizes. It makes everything better. Scrivener is the Disney World of writing programs: it’s the happiest place on Earth, man.

Downloading Scrivener felt like the start of a long, dark path! #amwriting

At least, that’s what I’m told. I’ve been using it for nearly a month, which means that I’m about to exhaust my free trial of the program, at which point I’ll have to decide if I want to pony up $40 to buy the program outright. (You get a thirty-day trial with Scrivener. What’s cool is that the thirty days are non-consecutive; if you use it for the first time on Friday and then you don’t use it again until the next Friday, you’ve only lost 2 of your 30 days, not 7.) So, how’s it going?

Well, the first time I used it, I stared at it for five minutes before recoiling in horror and turning it off. Then, figuring that I needed to actually give it a shot, I launched it again and this time played with the tutorial it comes with. This helped, but not terribly much. I still spent the first few days of my Scrivener use staring at it and wondering how on Earth anyone could possibly use this program to do actual work.

I’m generally a start-and-stop kind of writer. I start writing, I write, and then I stop. I work in linear fashion, only retracing my steps when I need to: if the Muse tells me that I’ve made an error previously, either an error of omission or of simply writing the wrong thing. And I don’t outline. I just don’t, except for in certain very specific circumstances, and then in very limited fashion. I like to launch a writing program and start writing.

But here’s Scrivener, with its cork board and its “binder” and its “inspector” and…oh, the features, man! It’s like if you took someone who has only ever driven a 1975 Chevy Nova and then dropped them in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh with the keys to a 2015 Subaru Outback and said, “OK, get yourself home.” Sure, the steering wheel and the pedals and the shifter would look the same, but our marooned driver would almost certainly look around the dash and say, “Huh-whuh?!” That’s kind of how I felt about Scrivener, and even after nearly a month of getting used to it, I still find myself hopelessly confused by some of its features.

Here’s a screenshot of Scrivener, when you’re in its native writing environment:

scrivener screenshot

But that’s not all! Here’s the corkboard:

scrivener screenshot 2

Like I said, I really haven’t even begun digging into the various things Scrivener does. But I can say this: Scrivener allows a writer to take a more wide-angle view of their story’s structure, if they are so inclined. By use of the corkboard and the binder (that sidebar on the right that shows all the various chapters and whatnot), you can really see how your story is put together, and you can make changes thusly. Again, I’m not sold on all this as being useful to me, but then, I’m still very new to this program.

I do know other writers who are very much committed to outlining and who will produce detailed outlines of their entire novels (or stories or screenplays or whatever), and then they will write a scene at a time, and sometimes they will work on scenes in nonlinear fashion: ”Let’s see, what am I in the mood to work on today? Well, I need to do the scene where Our Hero confronts the villain in the Carbon-Freezing Chamber, without knowing yet that the villain is actually his father…I think I’ll write that today!” Scrivener makes doing that very easy, as you can lay everything out in terms of structure before you start actually producing copy, and then it’s all just bricklaying. This is interesting, but it’s not the way I work, at all.

However, this attention to structure does make it a lot easier to hop around for reference. Many’s the time when I’ll be happily writing along in, say, Chapter 16 of one of the Forgotten Stars books and I’ll realize I need to look something up that happened in Chapter 12. Scrivener puts Chapter 12 a single mouseclick away, which is quite useful.

Scrivener is also highly useful in that it will archive research materials and images and that kind of thing. For the Lighthouse book, I have a number of maps I drew and then digitized (by way of photographing them with my camera – the things we can do these days!), and instead of having to keep an Image Viewer program up and running, I just import those into the Scrivener project for that novel and presto! They’re available at a single mouseclick, too.

What I really like Scrivener for thus far, though, is the formatting. You can cheerfully write along and then have Scrivener automatically format your manuscript into submission style, if you want – or have it compile your manuscript into an EPUB file, which for independent writers like me is pretty dang huge. This is the main reason I got the program in the first place: because of a problem I noticed with the Kindle edition of Stardancer.

Every Kindle book is required to have a Table of Contents, so readers can get back and forth easily. And Stardancer has one. The problem is that its Table is in the book itself. This is because when I published it on Kindle, I used CreateSpace’s automated process whereby they take the files you uploaded for the physical book and base the Kindle MOBI file on them. This worked, for the most part, except for the Table of Contents. In most Kindle books, when you tap the icon in the upper left corner as you read inside a book, the resulting drop-down menu includes a Table of Contents right there, so you can access any chapter as you like. The original version of Stardancer doesn’t have this, and it bothered me. I tried figuring out how to solve the problem using OpenOffice, but this was simply not feasible. Hell, I’m not sure if the problem even can be solved using OpenOffice. Scrivener, however, is designed with the needs of independent writers at least partially in mind, and its compiler made an EPUB file which I was then able to easily convert to MOBI using another program called Calibre. (That’s all I’ve used Calibre for, which is why I’m not much talking about it here. It’s a pretty powerful program, though, and should definitely be in the indie writer’s arsenal.)

Scrivener is a powerful and impressive program. It’s also highly confusing at first, and using it effectively may require some writers to change the way they look at their own work. It’s not perfect for me, by any means. Sure, the corkboard thing looks cool, but I’m generally not one to move scenes around much, so I’m not sure how much mileage I’ll get out of that. The program’s autocorrect lacks one key bit of functionality, too: My most common typo is double-capitalization, like THis. Every other program I’ve ever used automatically fixes those, so I rarely notice that I did it. Scrivener doesn’t fix those, unfortunately; maybe a future revision will. (And maybe I simply haven’t figured out how to make Scrivener do that.)

But Scrivener does have a nifty drop-down menu whereby you can toggle every single dumb quote in your manuscript to a smart quote, and back again if you so desire!

HOLY SHIT SCRIVENER CAN DO THIS AUTOMATICALLY 😍😍😍😍😍 #amwriting

Hey, sometimes it’s the little things. And I really dig the Fullscreen mode, which really puts your current writing front-and-center:

scrivener screenshot 3

I’m not in love with Scrivener, but hey, who knows. So far I’ve been using it on pre-existing projects and manuscripts, and that’s a pattern that will remain in place for a while. Maybe my views will shift farther in its favor as I learn more about it, use it more, and most importantly, use it to create an entire project from scratch.

But at the very least, they will be getting my forty bucks.

You win, folks. Scrivener is acceptible. #amwriting #scrivener #ronburgundy #AnchormanQuotesFTW

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Ooooh! Exciting stuff ahead!!

Hey there, folks! Just dropping by (in what I hope will be a more frequent thing) to discuss what’s going on in my World of Writing.

1. I’m still preparing for my “relaunch” of Stardancer, which will take place later this month. The book will no longer be a Kindle exclusive, which means that I’ll be able to also publish in on Smashwords, and I may also post several chapters to Wattpad. It’s time to stretch the wings a bit.

1a. When I republish Stardancer, the book will now include a small snippet of The Wisdomfold Path, as a teaser. If you’ve already bought Stardancer, worry not — I’ll be posting the same snippet here at some point soon as well. Also, as I get closer to the Wisdomfold Path launch in November, sample chapters from that book will go up on Wattpad as well.

1b. I will, at some point over the next month or two, set up a mechanism for ordering signed copies of my books directly through this site, if such a thing is desired. It will likely involve Paypal exclusively. I’m kicking around the idea of getting a PO box for correspondence and such, but I want to see what kind of market exists before I go to that much trouble. I have also ordered business cards, and a small number of bookmarks to tease The Wisdomfold Path.

2. I’ve started going through the existing chapters of The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy. I still think this book is likely to take years to come to fruition — remember, my goal here is a long, convoluted, Alexandre Dumas-style adventure — but I’m dipping into it again. I’ve already completely rewritten the first chapter. Wheeeee! This is a fun book that I want to be as rollicking and fun as possible. I may serialize this one on Wattpad in its entirety, when it’s finished. I’m thinking that sometime in the latter half of 2017 might be a logical time for that to happen. (At this point I do not have any inkling as to the actual title of this book. I never let the lack of a title stop me from attacking a story.)

3. I’ve completed the first-round edits for GhostCop (not the actual title), and beta-readers will soon be having a look at that one. My early goal for publishing that one is Summer 2016. (I also don’t have a title for this one yet, and that’s more of a problem since I want to release it in less than a year. I did think up one possible title, but the problem there is that I don’t like that title all that much.)

4. This will get its own post, but I’ve recently switched my writing software. More on that to come.

Onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!

 

 

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A Dispatch from the Hinterlands

Lots of red pen use on this one.... #editing #amwriting #overalls

Hey, everybody! Yes, it’s been a long time without a posting in this space. But not without cause! Here’s what’s going on!

1. I finished my second round of edits on The Wisdomfold Path (The Song of Forgotten Stars, Book II), and I am now having the book proofread. Progress is moving along nicely toward the book’s November 10, 2015 release date. And I cannot wait to see how readers respond to the continuation of the adventures of our Princesses (and their navigator) In SPACE!!!

2. Meanwhile, I am finally working again on a project that has been on the back burner for far too long: my supernatural thriller GhostCop (not the actual title), whose first draft I completed in November 2013, and which I have not touched since. Why did it fall off the radar? Mainly because of ongoing work on the Forgotten Stars series. Lots of 2014 was taken up by prepping Stardancer for release, and then I had to get the first draft of Forgotten Stars III: The Search for Spock (not the actual title) done. This was followed by the edits on Wisdomfold Path, because that series is top priority up until Book III’s November 2016 release date. I simply wasn’t able to find time until now to get back to work on GhostCop. But now I am.

And really, I’m not sure that I regret the long layover here. I am a firm believer in waiting a chunk of time — several months, at the very very least — between passes through a draft of a book. It can be less time than that when you’re proofing and gearing up for publication, but I firmly believe that a first draft should not be even looked at until a hard minimum of three months has passed. Distance helps make the parts of the book that aren’t very good stand out, and the longer it’s been, I find the less prone I am to seeing what I meant in the book and seeing what I actually wrote. In some cases, I can’t even remember what I meant, and when that’s the case, that means it’s time to cut. The result was that the manuscript ended up with a lot of red ink.

I enjoy this part of the process. #editing #amwriting #redpen

That’s not a bad thing! The book will be better for it, actually. I totally believe this. Every time I see a writer friend online saying that they’ve just finished a draft and are going to start editing immediately, I scream, “NOOOOOO!“, and throw myself across the room in slow-motion at them, as if I’m trying to knock the poisoned wine cup from their hands before they sip. (Yes, it’s dramatic. Sue me.) But really, the longer a first draft sits, the better.

As I worked through this one, I found passages I had no memory of writing, and I found other passages that seem to contain possible seeds for sequels. This excites me greatly, as GhostCop is intended to be the first book in a series. Unlike The Song of Forgotten Stars, this series will be intended as open-ended, and I’m hoping to work on a first draft to a second book sometime this coming fall or winter.

(Also, I’m not actually being coy about referring to this book as GhostCop. I literally do not have a title for it yet. I tend to just wait for titles to show up. One always does, so why worry about it? And if you’re wondering, I’m looking at sometime next summer for a release on GhostCop, so there’s that. It’s significantly shorter than the Forgotten Stars books, too, with a more ‘hard-boiled’ prose style.)

3. Finally, I’ll have more details as I get going, but I’m planning on releasing Stardancer on Smashwords sometime in late August, which means that it will be available for more formats. This also means that it will no longer be a Kindle exclusive title, and I will be removing it from Kindle Unlimited on August 15, when its current Kindle Select term ends. If you’re reading it via KU, make sure you finish by that date. (Although I’m actually not sure how that works, come to think of it — do KU books vanish from Kindles when their terms end? Hmmmmm.)

So that’s where we stand currently on things. So much time! So little to do! (Wait…scratch that, reverse it.)

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Six Months of Stardancing

So, I released Stardancer six months ago today! Time for a bit of reflection.

Obviously I haven’t begun to rival JK Rowling yet, but hey, they didn’t build Rome in a day either. All things in their time…and really, who knows? I’m still feeling my way through this whole process, and I’m quite certain that there are a lot of avenues for promotion that I haven’t even sniffed yet, so hopefully I’ll do better in the future. One thing I’ve always known about the writing gig, and always worth remembering, is that unless you’re basically the writing equivalent of a lottery winner, we’re all playing the long game. It’s about plugging away and hoping for connections; or, as Neil Gaiman put it, “putting messages in bottles and throwing them into the sea and hoping some of them come back”.

The most gratifying thing has been just seeing the reactions come in as people read the book. Every single review or mention I see, every comment I get, is another reminder that there’s this thing I created and I put it out there and people are reacting to it. I’m still at that stage where every single reader who reports back is a magical thing to me, and to everyone who has read the book and commented, Thank you very much! I hope you’ll all stick around for Book II.

And speaking of Book II, it’s almost time to get going in earnest on the final preparations for publication. I’m only a few days away from completing the first draft of Book III, and then it’s time to do another round of edits on Book II. Then will come proofreading and correcting, all in time for my November release date. My amazing cover artist is already planning that aspect, and I’ve got other things to do as well: a back cover blurb, for one.

One thing I can reveal right now, though, is the title. Here it is!

WE HAVE A TITLE!!! #AmWriting #sciencefiction #scifi #spaceopera #books #yalit

Hmmmm! To what does that title refer, and what does it tell us about Book II? Well, it refers to a single line toward the end of Stardancer, which should indicate a thing or two about the focus of Book II.

All right, I gotta get back to work! I have undertaken a “full radio silence” policy on my various social media outlets until I get the draft of Book III finished, so if you’re wondering why I’ve not said much on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, that’s why. I’m getting close, though! Onward and Upward! Zap! Pow!!

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

(Oh, and by the way, for just a few days only, I’ve priced the Kindle version of Stardancer at $0.99. Get it that cheap while you can! It’s good, I promise!)

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A few things

Just a couple of items about progress and whatnot!

1. I’m nearing the final stretch of PRINCESSES III.

Stay on target! Stay on target! PRINCESSES III should be done soon!

I’m not sure how my writing pace will keep up, because I have a couple of complex set pieces to write still, and Big Set Pieces always challenge me. Lots of stop-and-start, some doodling of the setting, back-and-forth, writing-and-deleting, and that sort of thing goes on before I eventually get it right. And then, inevitably, when I work through the manuscript later in the year, I’ll think the whole thing stinks anyway. But I really hope to get this draft done by May 15. (May 11 would be better, because that’s the 6-month anniversary of the STARDANCER release!)

2. My daughter (henceforth referred here, as in other places, as The Daughter) has been reading STARDANCER, and she has opinions on the direction of the series. Which she texts me. At length.

The Daughter has opinions on the direction of PRINCESSES IN SPACE II. #AmWriting

Her opinion has received some backing from other readers! Well, I like teen romance more than she does, apparently, but still, the point is well taken, and without getting too spoilery for my own books, for the most part she needn’t worry. The romance is a part of the overall story, but at no point will it take over and become the main focus. I will offer this much: there is a bit of teen love angst in STARDANCER II: MORE STARS, MORE DANCING (not the actual title), but not a whole lot. It is, though, front-loaded in the book’s first few chapters before other things start happening. I do hope and plan to avoid the trap of allowing love and romance to counteract a character’s agency, because it really does suck when that happens. But more on that this November!

3. I’ve decided that on May 12, I will reveal the Actual Title of PRINCESSES IN SPACE II: TARIANA AND MARGETH’S BOGUS JOURNEY (not the actual title). Stay tuned!

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Thoughts

As I write this, I’m entering the climactic part of the story in PRINCESSES IN SPACE III: PRINCESSES ON PARADE (not the actual title), and as the story starts to wind up, some things have been on my mind. As I’ve noted many a time, I only usually have the vaguest idea what happens in a book when I start writing one, and I half-pants, half-outline my way through it, figuring that an ending will present itself at some point, as will the story’s general flavor. At this point, just about everything that is yet to come is pretty much settled in my mind, and all I have to do is work it from my mind into the computer.

That said, I’m also realizing something else: that this third book in this series is not that much like the first two, other than being an extension of that story. In much the same way, the second book had its own flavor and focus that set it aside from the first book. I think and hope that the fact that I didn’t basically write the same story three times, and that I changed things up in terms of focus and style, will be good for The Song of Forgotten Stars as a series. More than ever I’m thrilled to see this tale slowly unfold!

And now, back to the Startrails….

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Progress Report

So, how are things going? Well, when I’m actively producing a first draft, I track my daily output in a spreadsheet. Here’s a photo of that spreadsheet, from the beginning of March:

Day 4: Fresh! Lots of fresh words going into Book III of late! #AmWriting #takentodaymarch15

Note that I started March with 106,522 words in the book.

As of tonight, here’s where we stand:

Off to a torrid start this month! #AmWriting

So in 36 days I’ve written a little under 45,000 words. Cool!

What does that mean, though , in terms of the book itself? Well, my goal on the first two books in The Song of Forgotten Stars was a first draft of 180K words. Stardancer came in a little under that (but not much), and Princesses II: Electric Boogaloo (not the actual title) came in a little over it (but not much). I am currently expecting Princesses III: Flight of the Bumblebee (not the actual title) to come in over the 180K target by more than Princesses II, but still not by a huge amount. Maybe around 190K. There’s a lot that happens in the final act, and in general, this book is turning out to be the most structurally complex of the series thus far.

Obviously I don’t want to say too much, but seeing the evolution of this book as it’s crystallized in my mind has been really interesting. I’m doing some things differently this time, in terms of narrative structure, that I didn’t do in the first two, and this one has a totally different flavor, as well. I like that each of these books goes to different places, does different things, and focuses on other characters and relationships. I wish I could say more, but you’ll all see what I’m talking about, in November 2016 when Book III comes out!

(But this is funny: when I started the book, I actually knew what the last scene was. Each one of these books ends with something like a Marvel superhero movie post-credits thing that sets up something in the next book, and I knew what this book’s ending cliffhanger was going to be, so I wrote it first, before even starting with Chapter One.

And now, things that have come to me since I started Chapter One have made it necessary for me to rewrite that cliffhanger scene! I love when my own writing surprises me.)

More updates to come! I’ll certainly announce when I’m done with this draft, because when I am, it’s time to start getting Princesses II ready for its November 2015 debut.

So, onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!

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