Random thoughts about writing…

Watch out now, quick takes!

I’ve been proofing for the last week, and I realized I hate any time I use the word ‘had.’
He had a smile on his face.
He had to go to the store.
He had liked cartoons when he was younger.
What is it about any use of that word that feels awkward or almost amateurish when I hear it? Maybe I’m focusing on it too much. I’m sure most readers breeze right past the word.

***

Writing a fantasy series, I’ve realized that lighting can be a major problem! My characters keep wandering into caves or abandoned dungeons—how are they supposed to see where they’re going? Even a scene outdoors at night can be a major issue. Yes, I know that I can give my characters torches. But those seem awfully smoky and hot and drippy—and just generally unpleasant. Plus—how long does a medieval torch last? I’m sure if I went back to old episodes of Xena or some other just-for-fun sword and sorcery show, there would be scenes where characters walk through moodily lit caves without addressing the fact that no one should be able to see anything.

Progress report

Today I finished the third draft of my latest manuscript! Woot woot! Still a good bit of proof-reading left to go, but I’m definitely in the final approach. The book is a little over 40K words long, but I’m thinking now I might not release it until I have Book 2 in the series ready. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea for independent authors to launch more than one book of a series at a time, because the best way to take advantage of a launch it to have another product out there, ready for new readers to buy.

It’s a tough decision, because I’m excited about getting this book out there. It’s been a blast to write! And quick too! (Six months, which is turbo-fast for me.) I’m feeling impatient about sharing it. But also, Book 1 has shaped up to be a ‘getting-the-gang-together’ sort of adventure, and I think the epic, world-ending threat that drives the undercurrent of the series isn’t really revealed until Book 2. So in that case, it makes sense to release both books together, to help establish what will be the ultimate quest of my Fantasy series.

So what are the tentative titles of my next two books?

Book 1:

 

& Book 2:

 

Save

Odds and ends… Even a beginning!

First, The Wilds is currently on sale on Amazon, starting today and ending Sunday, July 14th. If you’ve read Idyll Book 1 (still just $0.99!) and you’re looking for an excuse to jump into Book 2, this is it! I’ll probably run a limited-time discount for Exile (Book 3 of the trilogy), in the coming weeks, so I’ll make an announcement about that as well.

I redesigned my Idyll covers! OK, the covers were updated over a month ago, but still I thought it was worth calling them out. I’m not ecstatic about the Idyll cover, but I think the yellow stands out pretty well, and I think all three covers together, yellow, magenta, and blue, work pretty nicely together. I think I’m the only one who’s favorite is The Wilds cover.

Somehow Amazon recognized The Idyll Trilogy as a thing, and now it has its own page in the Kindle Store! I like how all the books look side-by-side:

And finally, I’ve been plugging away at my new series! I’ve already completed a rough first-draft at 35,000 words (I’m planning that these books will be about half as long as the Idyll books). I don’t want to say too much about the idea, but I’ll reveal more soon. I’ve even started Book 2 of the series, logging in 1500 words of a beginning just to see if the transition from Book 1 to Book 2 would work. Knock on wood, but I haven’t run into any plot-holes or roadblocks that might have caused any major rewrites on this series. I’m trying to keep the plots a little simpler and more crowd-pleasing overall. Although the characters are really start to resonate with me. I hope readers will be excited by the new series as I am writing it right now!

More soon…

Save

The Pulchritude Award: Insouciant

I just can’t get into this word. ‘Insouciant.’ Who do you think you are? Skipping around, not a care in the world, flipping your hair and acting generally unconcerned.

Straighten up, ‘insouciant!’ You have a serious problem, in my book. Meaning, literally, if I use you in my book, people are not going to know what you mean. They’re going to assume you mean ’insolent’ or ‘unsociable.’ Maybe they’ll think you have something to do with Dr. Seuss or John Philip Sousa. To me, you sound like truculent, or insolvent.

You have too many syllables, you start with a negative prefix. You use expend far too much effort to convey your meaning of ‘blasé’ or ‘carefree.’

Ah, you see? Blasé. Carefree. Airy. Blithe. So many better words to get the point across.

Wait. Where are you going? ‘Insouciant!’ No don’t leave sad. Maybe I was a little rough on you. OK, maybe I’ll try to use you again. Fit you into a sentence here or there. Yeah… there you go. Perk up, ‘insouciant!’

Let’s all be insouciant, if just for a little while. Insouciant.

The pulchritude award goes to vocabulary words that don’t sound at all like what they mean. Click below to learn more about previous winners: Phlegmatic, Inflammable, and Alacrity.

 

 

Blame it on terrain

I love a book where the outdoor setting becomes an epic character in its own right. From mountainous hikes of ’Lord of the Rings’ to flatland and river crossings of ’Lonesome Dove’—from the pine forest battleground of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ to the bucolic countryside where rabbits(!) battle in ‘Watership Down’—in the hands of a talented writer, the landscape can become an active participant in the story, driving the plot, dominating the mood, or dispatching characters as ruthlessly as any living adversary. I love when I stumble upon new words that describe types of terrain. Here are a few of my favorite:

Talus: A slope of loose rubble. Fallen and broken rocks that pile up at the foot of a cliff or mountain. I believe ‘Reamde’ used this term a lot during its climactic firefight scene in the wild lands of northern Idaho.

Scree: A slope covered with small loose stones. (Okay, very similar to ‘talus,’ but still a great word!)

Saddle: A ebb in a mountain ridge: A small depression or flat space between two higher peaks. I’m pretty sure I first read this term during a hair-raising scene that George R.R. Martin wrote, describing a passage into the Vale of Arryn.

Foothills: The rolling terrain that signals the higher slopes of mountains to come. I’ve lived my whole life near the start of the Appalachian foothills, either in North Carolina or Atlanta.

Spur: A line of higher ground, extending out from the side of a taller ridge or mountain.

Draw: The shallow depression between two spurs. A good place to find water runoff.

Arroyo: A gorge or ravine in a desert or typically dry area. The gully is cut by a river during heavy rains. In Arabic, this is called a ‘wadi.’

Serac: A ridge of ice on a glacier. I think this phrase was used again and again in Dan Simmons’ historical fiction horror novel, ‘The Terror.’ The book is about a ship in the 1840s that is stranded on ice in the Arctic Circle. The first image in my mind was a flat wasteland of ice, with a ship trapped in the middle. But Simmons explains that the pressure of gigantic ice floes coming together thrust up thousands of jagged ridges and hook-shaped spires that turn the arctic into an inhospitable maze—that’s especially for sailors with nothing but 19th-Century technology to help them survive.

That’s a few of the types of terrain  I could think of. Can you think of any others you love?

Idyll Chatter: Writing Progress

In May of 2008, I started keeping digital journal to keep track of my writing progress. Basically, I’d make a new .RTF file each month, and record what I wrote on for that day. Over the years, it’s developed into more of a personal journal—but more of a ‘dudish’ version of personal, as in recording what I did on my lunch hour, or what I watched on TV that night.

But I still list my writing (or lack thereof) for every day. And as I switch from one writing project to another, I color code the months with different color tags. That usually gives me a daunting (and usually depressing) look at how long it takes me to finish a book. I’ve included a screenshot of the last 4 years of my ‘Writing Journal.’

The yellow dots are months that I worked on IDYLL, and the purple dots are months I worked on the novel that became LINE OF DESCENT. I swapped working on those two books, on and off, for nearly ten years! The blue dots were months I worked on polishing SHADOW SIDEWAYS. The orange dots represent progress on THE WILDS.

I had forgotten that I started a first draft on The Wilds for several months, then went back to do one final pass on Idyll, then came back to finish The Wilds. So last week when I was checking how long it took me to write The Wilds vs. writing EXILE, I was disappointed to see 12 red dots (EXILE months) vs. 11 orange dots for The Wilds. Exile overall is about 3,000 words shorter, and also it has a more streamlined and straightforward plot. Also, I thought I was getting faster with my writing, and I thought I was really motoring along. Then I scrolled up in my Finder window and saw that in truth I worked on The Wilds for an 11-month clip and also an 8-month clip before that. So Exile WILL be the first book that I finished in a year or less. Pretty cool!

By the way… The green dots at the bottom of the window? Starting in April and May of 2017? That’s the beginning of a completely new series of novellas! I’m very excited about that, and it’s been major fun creating a new world. For this new series, I’m hoping to keep the novellas around 40,000 words, so that I can finish them and publish them at a more rapid pace. (By comparison, all of my other novels are around 80,000 words.) I’m hoping the series will have a sort of pulpy, episodic vibe—but with no cliffhangers. Stay tuned for more news in the coming months!