Posts Categorized: Current writings

2016 review: Part 3: Writing

January 29, 2017 Current writings, Ramblings, Writing musings 0

I got a lot of writing done in 2016. A lot. I finally found my stride, and increased my speed, as well as making daily writing a more consistent habit, and the result was (tada! roll of drums!):

548,000 words written

Which is a lot! Of that, 167,000 words, or 30%, was fantasy and the rest Regency romance. For the fantasy, I wrote the whole of The Second God and began Findo Gask’s Apprentice. For the Regencies, I finished Amy, and wrote Belle, Connie, Dulcie, Grace and Hope, plus a novella, Mary.

I discovered along the way that I can’t write two books at the same time. I can, however, write one and edit another, so that’s how I work it. At any one time, I’ll have one book being written, another ‘brewing’, or resting before editing, and another being edited or otherwise prepared for publication. At this precise moment, I have Findo Gask’s Apprentice half written, Hope awaiting initial editing and beta reading, and Grace newly released. If it sounds like a production line, sometimes that’s what it feels like! But I love the writing, and don’t mind the editing, so it doesn’t feel like work.

So how did I write so many words?

1) I wrote faster. I followed some of the precepts in Chris Fox’s book 5000 words an hour, like: write in short sprints; know what you’re going to write before you start; ‘eat the frog’, which means do the important stuff (the writing) first. Chris rolls straight out of bed and starts writing. He’ll stop between sprints for coffee or a shower, but essentially he gets the writing done before anything else in his day, and he’s often finished by 9:30 or 10 o’clock.

2) I wrote most days. I’m not fanatical about it, and in 2016 I took a whole month off writing (we went to Australia), but I try to write every day.

3) I bought a small laptop to carry round the house. It’s a dedicated writing computer, with nothing on it apart from Scrivener and the absolute essentials (browser and email), and I only use it for writing the current work in progress. It means I don’t have to go upstairs to the study to write, I don’t have to make the decision that ‘now I’m going to write’, and I don’t get distracted by the overflowing intray and whatnot; when I have a few minutes between chores, I sit down and write.

4) I developed writing habits. Every day after breakfast I sit down for half an hour to write. After lunch I sit down for another half hour. Late afternoon, another half hour. After tea, another half hour. Plus all those snatched moments between chores – ten minutes here, fifteen there. It adds up to 2-3K words in a day.

5) Brain.fm. This is a recent discovery. It’s music that’s specifically designed to enhance your focus while working (or to help you relax or sleep, if you choose those options). I don’t know how it does it, but it really does work, and I definitely write faster when I listen to it.

Plans for 2017? Write! I hope, without a month off to gawp at the amazing sights of Australia, I can write 600K words this year, producing 2 1/2 fantasies and 3 1/2 Regency romances. But honestly, the actual amount of words doesn’t matter, so long as I’m still enjoying it.

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My editing process

March 20, 2016 Current writings, The Dragon's Egg, Writing musings 0

I’m deep into the final edit of The Dragon’s Egg at the moment, and I thought it might be of interest to go into my editing process a little bit. Everyone has their own way of tackling the editing part of the job, and none of them are better or worse than any other, as long as the end result is a more polished and well-written piece of work. The only strategy I don’t recommend is skipping the editing process altogether. There are people who write a single draft and send it off into the world; Mark Lawrence, author of Prince of Thorns, is one of them, and if you write as well as he does, you can do whatever you like, frankly. But for mere mortals, or those of us with less experience, a solid editing process is essential.

Here’s my system:

1) First draft editing This sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? The first draft is the writing-from-scratch part of the process, and editing is what you do when you’ve got the words down. This is true, and a lot of people like to keep the two well apart. Concentrate on writing, they say, get into the flow, make notes of possible changes if you must, but don’t interrupt the first draft writing to edit.

But that’s not what I do. Instead,I edit as I go. Firstly, before I start writing each day, I read everything I wrote the day before and do some light editing – tightening sentences and paragraphs, improving descriptions and dialogue, cleaning up typos. Then I start writing, but if I come across something that needs (say) a change in the earlier part of the book, to add foreshadowing, to weave in a McGuffin that the plot now needs, or simply because the evolving story makes something not quite right, then I’ll go right ahead and make that change. Why? For me, it’s all about context.

What does that mean? When I’m writing a scene, I need to know exactly where the characters are, how they got to this point, what they know and don’t know, and what they’re feeling right now. Context, in other words. Now, meticulous plotters will have all that information written down somewhere, but I write the story as I go, so the details are all in my head. If I come back to a scene later, I won’t necessarily remember the precise context. So for me, it works much better to fix problems as I go.

2) Interlude Once I’ve reached that final chapter and written ‘The end’, I like to leave a book to brew for a while. I set my first book aside for five months while I wrote the whole of the second book, but nowadays I find that a month or so is all that’s needed to give me a little distance and perspective. Again, not everyone wants or needs to do this, but it works for me.

3) Full read-through and first-pass editing When I feel the book has brewed sufficiently, I create a mobi file from it and put it on my Kindle. Then I read it through from start to finish, as a reader. I keep a notebook handy, and write down anything that comes to me. Then, I fix whatever I’ve found. But because of the whole edit-as-you-go thing, my first drafts are pretty clean, so there isn’t much in the way of major changes to be done. I know plenty of authors who practically dismantle the book at this point, adding or removing whole scenes, chapters, characters and sub-plots, but that would drive me insane. The cleaner I can get the first draft, the better I like it.

4) Beta reading and final edit Once I’m happy with it, I look for beta readers. I have a couple of paid-for beta readers that I use regularly, and several author friends who are kind enough to volunteer when their own work permits. My daughter is also an informal beta reader, who gives me an invaluable reader’s-eye-view of the book. My author friends are terrific for craft issues. They’ll point out problems with motivation, pacing and description, and suggest ways to make a scene stronger. Which is great, so why pay for beta readers as well? Mainly because, as professionals, they give me guaranteed feedback to a schedule. Volunteers may get caught up in their own work, or real life may overwhelm their good intentions, but a professional is guaranteed to give me solid feedback by a set date, and that’s golden. When all the feedback is in, I work through it and make the final edits.

5) Proofreading This is the final step in the polishing program. I was lucky enough to find an excellent proofreader at the first attempt, who weeds out typos, missing and duplicate words and (my weak point) fixes punctuation. I can manage the basics fine, but knowing when to hyphenate, when to use en-dashes and em-dashes, when to use ellipses… she has all of this at her fingertips. She also starts the formatting process for me. I give her a Word document, and she creates the styles and sections so that I can finalise the formatting before uploading.

6) Post-publication editing Some people don’t touch a book after it’s been published. It goes out into the world, and that’s the end of it. Some will update the beginning and end sections (frontmatter and backmatter) to add in links to new books as they come out. But a lot of self-publishers tinker with a book even after it’s live, changing anything from minor typos through a full proofreading edit to changing the ending. My policy is to fix any obvious errors if they’re reported to me. This doesn’t happen often, but if someone points out a misspelling, I’ll fix that. But I don’t change the story itself, or add or remove text — with one exception. A reader wrote a review pointing out a couple of inconsistencies in the plot. In one case, it was clearly a misunderstanding of what was going on, which is fine, it happens. But in the other case, I could actually see the point. It wasn’t truly inconsistent, but I could totally see why a reader might think it was. So I added a sentence to clarify the situation.

So that’s my editing process. Editing is a little like sculpting. You start with a solid lump, then you hack chunks off to make a rough shape, then you smooth and refine and polish, in smaller and smaller iterations until the work is finished. It doesn’t matter whether the smoothing and polishing goes on alongside the initial hacking or as a separate process, so long as you end up with all the roughness worked out of it.

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Plotting for pantsers

March 6, 2016 Current writings, The Second God, Writing musings 0

Most authors like to plot a book out before they start to write. For some, that may be a couple of A4 sheets of scribbled notes. For others, it will be so detailed that it includes every chapter and scene, including lists of characters present and what happens, with a huge pile of background notes on characters, places, research, historical data and so on. The advantage is that when they come to write, they can focus on the words and not have to keep stopping to work out what happens next. The disadvantage is that a tightly plotted book can feel over-contrived and artificial.

And then there are pantsers. What’s a pantser? An author who writes by the seat of her pants, that’s what. A pantser sits down with a blank sheet of paper (metaphorically, because almost everyone writes direct to computer these days), maybe a character or two and an opening situation and… just writes. She never quite knows where the story is going until it gets there. The advantage here is that the story often has a more natural, organic feel to it. The disadvantage is that it’s all too easy to wander off-track and get diverted into possibly interesting but ultimately irrelevant side plots.

Neither way is better or worse than the other, since there’s no right or wrong way to write a book. The best way, perhaps the only way, is whatever gets the story written and that’s going to be different for every individual. But for any writer who’s having trouble finishing a book, it’s worth trying an alternative. If you’re a plotter, try pantsing. If you’re a pantser, try a bit of outlining. Whatever works.

I’m a pantser at heart. Of the five books I’ve published so far, four were entirely pantsed, starting with that blank sheet of paper, a single character and an interesting situation, and allowing the story to evolve however it wished. I like to call it discovery writing, because I discover the story as I write it.

What about the fifth book? That was The Fire Mages’ Daughter, and it was a little different. It was a sequel, so I already had a character in mind, and she was in an interesting situation. Her mother was a powerful mage, and so she was immersed in magic from the moment of conception until her birth. I wanted to explore that idea. How would it affect her, physically? How would she be different from any other child? So I had a character and a starting situation, but no plot. I had some ideas about what Drina would be like, but no idea where life would take her or what challenges she would face.

So for that book, I turned to the only plotting book I’ve ever found that works for me: Take off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker. It’s a very character-based approach, nice and simple, so it only took me an hour or two to come up with a plausible outline. I veered away from that towards the end, but it was a lifesaver because it got me off the ground.

For the current work in progress, The Second God, which is a sequel to the sequel, I didn’t need a full outline, because I already had a pretty good idea of how things would start off. And it rattled along really well, so that I’ve now got 70,000 words written. But… I’ve got to that sticky point in the middle where I have half a dozen different plot strands running through the book, and I need to start to pull them together. And that means I need to know how things end.

Now, I could just let it unfold. I’ve done that before, and let the characters lead me along whatever path they choose. And sometimes that works well — and they surprise me! But for a truly satisfying and resonant ending, especially since this is the end of a trilogy, I needed to be sure everything is tightly focused and not too rambling. And that means…

Plotting!

Being a pantser to the core, my plotting doesn’t involve wikis and spreadsheets and timeline software. I simply wrote down all the dangling plot threads I’d accumulated and points I felt were important, about twenty or so. Then I mulled it all over (while doing the ironing, as it happens; mindless chores are perfect for this). And gradually, some ideas coalesced. I think it will make the book a little longer, but that’s fine — epic fantasy is meant to be long.

And that’s probably all the plotting this book is going to get. Watch out for The Second God in September or thereabouts, and you can judge for yourself how successful it was.

 

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2016 strategy part 1: Writing

January 5, 2016 Current writings, Regency romances, The Dragon's Egg, The Fire Mages' Daughter, Writing musings 0

January 2016 sees me enter my seventeenth month as a self-publisher. To date, I have four books published, the fifth is imminent and the sixth is written in first draft form. The seventh is already taking shape in my head. All of these are part of the Brightmoon Annals world, a connected series of (mostly) stand-alone books. There is also a new project, tentatively entitled the Allamont Annals, a series of Regency romances. The first of these is almost finished. In 2015, I wrote 318,000 words.

In terms of sales, the books have had some modest success. Total sales 4,000, borrows 2,000 and over a million pages read. This is nowhere near bestseller status, but it’s satisfying to know that there are complete strangers out there who read and enjoy the books. In addition, I’ve given away more than 20,000 copies for free.

But now that I’ve worked out how to write a book and publish it and market it, what next? Do it all over again, of course! Here are my writing plans for the rest of this year.

The Fire Mages’ Daughter (book 5 in the Brightmoon Annals)

This one is written, edited, proofread and already loaded onto the Amazon servers ready to launch on Jan 15th. It’s a sequel to The Fire Mages, featuring Kyra’s daughter, Axandrina (or Drina for short), who is summoned to the capital as a potential heir to the Drashona. Bennamore’s neighbours, the unsophisticated Blood Clans, have a new boy god, and Drina’s unique heritage comes into play as events unfold.

The Dragon’s Egg (book 6 in the Brightmoon Annals)

This is finished and brewing for a while until it’s time to start editing. This is a little different from most of the other Brightmoon books, in that it features several point-of-view characters, and it’s more of a quest than many. For anyone who’s read The Magic Mines of Asharim, and wondered about the cache of dragon’s eggs Allandra and Xando discovered hidden under the mountain, this book will answer your questions. It also features some familiar characters from previous books. Likely publication date: May 2016.

The Second God (book 7 in the Brightmoon Annals)

A sequel to a sequel! This follows on from The Fire Mages’ Daughter, picking up Drina’s story after some five years. It’s again focused on the Blood Clans, and what happens when a second boy god is discovered. I’ve only just started writing this, so I have no idea at the moment where the story will take me. Possible publication date: autumn 2016.

The Allamont Annals 1: Amy (book 1 in the Regency romance series)

This is my new venture. Regency romances in the vein of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer were my first love, and I still have a partially completed manuscript, banged out on a manual typewriter, in a drawer. These stories are intended to be shorter than the epic fantasy, and amusing rather than exciting. They’ll be traditional (which means drawing room, not bedroom), and I plan to write six books in the series. Once I have the first four written, I will start publishing them a month apart. The first should be finished this month. Possible publication date: autumn 2016.

Writing faster

So far, I’ve managed to publish a book every four months, and for epic fantasy, I’m happy with that. My books tend to be long, convoluted and, for the later books, built on the back of the earlier ones. In The Dragon’s Egg, for instance, the characters travel to Mesanthia and meet up with Allandra, Xando and Zak from The Magic Mines of Asharim. This means a certain amount of rehashing of previous events to remind those who’ve read the earlier books what happened and cover the basics for anyone who hasn’t. But it also means making sure nothing contradicts the earlier books. I’m very bad about making notes as I go, so I end up rereading chunks of the earlier books to find out the details I need. That’s not a process that can be rushed.

The Regency books are shorter, but I’m finding I need to do quite a bit of research to get the historical details right. Did they have afternoon tea? Nope, not invented until 1840, but they did have sandwiches. What is an Earl’s mother called? She’s a Dowager Countess. How do guests sit down at the dinner table? Still working on that one. But it all takes time.

Nevertheless, I’d love to increase the amount I write each day, not so much to be able to publish faster, but to give myself more time to develop these stories with a little more breathing space. I’ve found a couple of ways to help me produce more words.

1) Write in several short bursts during the day. Some people call these sprints, but I’m too slow a writer to qualify for that. Plods, maybe. But several a day, each one producing 200-300 words, plus a longer session in the evening, gets it done nicely.

2) I have a rinky-dink little computer – a tablet/netbook hybrid – which runs Windows and therefore allows me to run Scrivener, my writing software. It’s also small enough to be easily carried round with me. So anytime I get ten minutes free – tappity-tappity-tap.

In part 2, I’ll look at the marketing side of things: launches and promotions.

 

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All the news: a new book, a new cover and some special prices

October 19, 2015 Current writings, Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages' Daughter 0

Autumn colours

You lucky people down under are heading into spring, but here in the northern hemisphere our non-event of a summer has finally stopped tormenting us and we’re into autumn. Scotland is glorious at this time of year, with the heather in full bloom, the bracken a warm, golden brown, and the trees wearing their finest reds and yellows and oranges. I spent last weekend at Braemar, in the Cairngorm Mountains, enjoying a break before the winter weather sets in. Husband was looking up ancestors and where they might have lived. This one has a view to die for, but it would be bleak in winter. I prefer my cosy modern house!

Well, this one might be cosy too if it had a roof…

Book news 1: The Fire Mages’ Daughter has a release date! Pre-order at just $0.99.

I know many of you have been wanting to know more about Kyra and Cal, and now you can! The fifth book in the Brightmoon sequence focuses on Kyra’s daughter, Axandrina, but both Kyra and Cal have a big part to play in this new adventure. This book is a little different from the previous ones, in that it’s a sequel. However, for anyone who hasn’t read The Fire Mages, or read it a while back and has forgotten the details, there will be enough information dropped so that you won’t struggle to work out what’s going on.

The book is currently with my beta readers, and will be published on 15th January 2016. It will be available in Kindle format, and also as a paperback. As with all my books, anyone buying the paperback will be able to download the ebook free of charge, through Amazon’s Matchbook system.

You can pre-order The Fire Mages’ Daughter now from your local Amazon for $0.99 or equivalent.

Book news 2: next up: The Dragon’s Egg

For those of you who’ve read The Magic Mines of Asharim and wanted to know more about the mysterious eggs discovered by Allandra and Xando – you will get your wish! The story of one of those eggs will be told in The Dragon’s Egg, and you will also meet Allandra, Zak and Xando again, as well as one or two familiar faces from another book altogether. I’ve written 50,000 words so far, which is close to half way. The Dragon’s Egg will be published in mid-2016.

Book news 3: special prices on The Fire Mages and The Plains of Kallanash

If you don’t already have a copy of either of these, now’s the time. The Fire Mages is $0.99 (or equivalent) for the next few days; it will be back to full price on Saturday 24th October. And The Plains of Kallanash will be FREE on Friday 23rd October, again on Tuesday 3rd November, and once more on Friday 20th-Sun 22nd November. These offers are worldwide, and you can find them in your local Amazon.

Click for The Fire Mages and The Plains of Kallanash.

Enjoy! When you’ve finished, it would be wonderful if you could write a review on Amazon, Goodreads or your blog, to help other readers decide if they would like it. Thank you! And if you have any comments or questions, do feel free to email me. I’d love to hear from you!

And finally, here’s the gorgeous cover for The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics (and yes, that is an eagle!).

You can see the cover in glorious hi-res here.

About The Fire Mages’ Daughter:

A girl fighting her destiny. A living god. A war with the Blood Clans.

Seventeen-year-old Drina just wants to hide away with her books, but as the daughter of two powerful mages and heir to the ruler of Bennamore, her wishes are rarely considered. Summoned to the capital, she is plunged into a maelstrom of politics and power struggles. The only compensation is Arran, the handsome bodyguard she grows to love.

In her new role as a diplomat, she visits Bennamore’s mysterious neighbours, the Blood Clans. There she discovers there are other, darker forms of magic in the world than the familiar spells of the mages. Driven onward by a living god, the Blood Clans’ magic drags both their countries to the brink of war. Surrounded by enemies, Drina must find a way to tame the power of a god before everything she loves is destroyed.

 

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Writing update

June 6, 2015 Current writings, The Fire Mages, The Fire Mages' Daughter, The Mages of Bennamore, The Magic Mines of Asharim, The Plains of Kallanash 0

There seems to have been a lot going on lately, what with the launch of The Mages of Bennamore, various other promotions, and the ongoing projects of the next book, and the one after that. So here’s a quick rundown on the state of play.

Weekend promotions

This weekend (6th and 7th June) two of my three books are specially priced. The Plains of Kallanash is at $0.99 (US/UK Amazons only, sadly) and The Fire Mages is free in all Amazons worldwide. This is a great opportunity to complete your collection if you haven’t already got all three books. Click the links to take you to your local Amazon to buy.

The Mages of Bennamore

Release date was 15th May, with 34 pre-orders and a nice little surge of sales to get things underway. Then I had a week of promotion set up – paid advertising every day, with the price staying at $0.99 for the duration. This resulted in a grand total of 274 sales, and set the book up quite well for the rise back to its usual price of $3.99. There are still only 3 reviews on Amazon, and I would love some more, so if you’ve read it but haven’t yet reviewed it, a few lines would be very much appreciated.

The Fire Mages

This is my best seller by far, but it was a bit short on reviews, so I decided to use my free days (the bonus for being exclusive to Amazon) to try to gain a few more readers. The book was free on 24th May, with no paid promotion. I did some blogging and tweeting, mentioned it to the avid fantasy fans on Reddit and then had a piece of luck – the book was picked up for a free advert by Pixel of Ink, with the result that more than 4,000 copies were downloaded in the 24 hour free period! It also brought in several more reviews. As mentioned above, it’s free again this weekend (6-7 June) and will be free on 27-28 June as well, but I haven’t booked much advertising, so I don’t expect to give away more than a few hundred copies this time.

The Plains of Kallanash

Poor old Kallanash has always lagged behind its younger sisters in the sales department, but the release of The Mages of Bennamore put a bit of life into it, and this week I’ve been offering it for $0.99 in an Amazon countdown promotion (again, a benefit of being exclusive to Amazon). This has produced over 100 additional sales, with a couple of days still to go. Hopefully, a few new reviews will filter through, in time. It’s always lovely to have genuine reader feedback, so reviews are always welcome, whether the reader enjoyed the book or not.

The Magic Mines of Asharim

Ah, the next book in the Brightmoon world! This is scheduled for release sometime in the autumn. It’s finished but not yet edited, but before I set off for France last weekend, I popped it onto my Kindle so that I could read it through. It holds up quite well, I’m pleased to say, although naturally it needs a bit of tidying up before it goes off to beta readers. I’ll be starting the editing process very soon – not something I enjoy much (writing the first draft is always more fun), but very necessary to put a bit of polish onto the book.

The Fire Mages’ Daughter

The current work in progress takes a generational leap from the end of The Fire Mages, returning to Bennamore for another clash with the neighbours, this time the mysterious Blood Clans to the west. The clans have discovered a boy god in their midst, but will it lead to war with Bennamore? There will be some familiar characters returning to the story, but the main character is Axandrina, a potential ruler who only wants to return home to her family. I’ve written 60,000 words so far (perhaps half of it), so a way to go yet, but I’m enjoying the way the story is taking shape.

And after that…?

Who knows! But there’s plenty more of the Brightmoon world to discover yet. If you want to hear about all the new releases, don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list (click the Sign up! button up above).

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‘The Fire Mages’: coming soon!

January 4, 2015 Current writings, Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 1

‘The Fire Mages’ will be published this Friday, January 9th! An early Goodreads reviewer said:‘This is one of the best epic fantasy books I’ve read in a long time and I don’t say that lightly.’ To get your copy as soon as it’s released, you can now pre-order at Amazon (the link takes you to your local store). For a limited time, it will be priced at just $0.99. And it’s available right now as a paperback, priced at $8.39 (buy the paperback, and you can get the ebook free!).

ETA: As part of the pre-release build-up, Enchanted Blog Tours arranged a cover reveal party for me – a dozen blogs, all showing the cover and blurb. Karen, at ‘Karen Writes Stuff’ (great name for a blog!), got quite excited about it. Thanks, Karen, I think it’s an amazing cover too (designed by Streetlight Graphics).

‘The Fire Mages’ is an epic fantasy coming of age adventure with (naturally!) a bit of a romance. Here’s the blurb:

Kyra has always been drawn to the magic of spellpages. She is determined to leave her small village far behind and become a scribe, wielding the power of magic through her pen. Halfway through her training, she has a mage as patron and her ambitions are within her grasp. But a simple favour for her sister goes disastrously awry, destroying Kyra’s dreams in an instant.

Devastated, she accepts an offer from a stranger to help her find out what went wrong. The young man sees growing power within Kyra, potentially stronger than spellpages or any living mage. The answers to unlocking that power may lie within the glowing walls of the Imperial City, but its magic is strong and the unwary vanish without trace on its streets. Thirsty for knowledge and desperate to avoid another accident, she feels compelled to risk it.

While she focuses on controlling her abilities, a storm of greed and ambition boils up around her. Kyra is a pawn in the struggle for dominance between unscrupulous factions vying for rule of her country. Trusting the wrong side could get her killed–or worse, the potent magic she barely understands could be put to unthinkable evil.

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I’m back!

November 24, 2014 Current writings, Publishing/marketing 2

Did anyone even notice I was gone? No? Oh well. I’ve just spent three very pleasant weeks in Australia, first in Adelaide, then crossing the Nullarbor desert by train to Perth, then back to Adelaide to catch the plane home. Great weather, great food, great wine, great people – so friendly and just all-round nice people. And an astonishing number of them from my original stamping ground of Merseyside. Very weird to fly half-way round the world and hear so many Scouse accents.

I got plenty of reading done on the long flights to and from the UK, and on the train. Thank goodness for a well-stuffed Kindle. I have eight reviews ready to post, and several other books partly read. Lovely to be able to catch up on my reading, and not to have twenty other things vying for my attention.

I got some writing done, too, although I find travelling less conducive to creative thought. Still, I got a couple more chapters written of the current work in progress (book 4 in the Brightmoon world). I also did a full read-through on book 3, so progress is being made.

Current state of play:

Here’s a quick rundown on where the various books are at:

‘The Plains of Kallanash’: published, sold/lent around 80 paid copies, plus around 800 free copies.

‘The Fire Mages’: currently awaiting final beta reports, then one more edit and proofreading, ready for a January publication date.

‘The Mages of Bennamore’: complete and ready for editing. Cover art booked. Publication (I hope!) around May 2015.

‘The Mines of Asharim’: about 70,000 words written, probably about half-way.

Coming up:

I have another set of free days planned for Kallanash for early December – 3rd/4th/5th – and a little light promotion to help things along. So if you know of anyone who might like a free read, let them know.

I’m also beginning to plan for the release of ‘The Fire Mages’ in January. Beta readers have been very positive about it, and not found too many glaring plot holes so I’m going to give it a modest promotional push – a blog tour and a few not too expensive email lists. It will be quite fun to have two books out! I’m beginning to feel like a proper author. 🙂

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Writing process blog hop

August 2, 2014 Current writings, Writing musings 10

I don’t normally do these things, where you get mentioned on someone’s blog and you are asked to pay it forward by mentioning several other blogs. It always seems a bit like those chain letters, or a blog version of pyramid selling.

But recently this blog hop came to H. Anthe Davis’s rather splendid blog, wherein she describes in astonishing detail all aspects of her created world, as seen in her ‘War of Memory’ series. And you know what? This particular blog hop is rather fun. The only requirement is to talk about your own writing process, and mention three other writers you admire. What could be easier? Who doesn’t like talking about themselves?

So here goes.

1. What am I currently working on?

I have four books on the go at the moment, at different stages.

1) ‘The Plains of Kallanash’: epic fantasy with a strong romance element, set in a society ruled by multiple marriages. My two main characters are the junior wife and husband in one such marriage when the lead wife dies under mysterious circumstances. I’ve just finished the post-beta edits, and it’s currently with my proofreader. Cover art is done, blurb is polished, and all being well I shall be sending out ARCs very soon and self-publishing in September. I’m getting slightly excited about it (SQUEEEE!!!!!!) and already planning a proper launch party, with champagne and a cake and me ceremonially clicking the ‘Publish’ button. Fun or what?

2) ‘The Fire Mages’: epic fantasy with a strong romantic element, and more of a traditional coming-of-age, girl with powers affair. Might even be YA (who’d a thunk it? Me writing YA – whatever next). Finished and ready to post chapters on Scribophile for critiquing.

3) ‘The Mages of Bennamore’: a direct follow-on to #2 in time, but with an entirely different cast of characters. Features a 40-year-old woman with a secret past (is there a character anywhere who doesn’t have a secret past? Sigh…) who gets involved with said mages. Just finished the first draft – yay!

4) New project, tentatively called ‘The Mines of Asharim’ (although my random it’ll-do-for-now titles do tend to become permanent). A woman running away from [something or other] volunteers to work in the mysterious mines in the Sky Mountains. Just getting going, but it looks like being fun. Magic! Sex! Exciting stuff happening (probably)!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This question might be easier to answer if I knew what genre it actually is. I define it as epic fantasy with romance, but it’s not epic in the sense of vast armies fighting the evil dark lord, or the rise and fall of empires, nor is it romance in the conventional sense of two people who meet, fall in love, are beset by obstacles but end up together. It’s definitely fantasy, though – a world unlike ours, with magic, although not overrun with monsters or zombies or vampires or anything of the sort.

As to how that differs from anything else – dunno. Every writer’s work is unique, so there’s that, but I’m not stretching the boundaries of speculative fiction or anything, or making profound points about the human condition. I don’t think there’s anything I do that’s never been done before. But undoubtedly my characters are as unique as any set of people, and their particular problems are unique, and I like to think I can produce an absorbing story, even if it’s not revolutionary.

There is one thing that’s slightly different about it. Some fantasy worlds are post-apocalyptic, having returned to some pseudo-medieval lifestyle after a high-tech, possibly modern type of era. Some fantasy worlds have had a magical apocalypse – a mage war or some other devastating magic-induced disaster. Well, my world has had both. There were in the distant past multiple advanced civilisations which rose and fell and rose again in a different format. There was also a period when very powerful mages existed, who got a bit above themselves and accidentally reshaped the planet and changed the orbits of the moons. All of those are gone, now, but not necessarily forgotten. The advanced civilisations left records of their techniques, and the mages left a number of ways for later societies to continue to use magic without getting dangerously powerful. These two factors underlie all my stories.

3. Why do I write what I write?

Because I had these sodding characters in my head and they wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote their story down, that’s why. I suppose it’s fantasy because that’s what I mostly read. I love the open-endedness of it, that frisson of excitement that absolutely anything can happen. There’s nothing sadder than predictable fantasy.

Oddly, I’ve never been sucked into the whole must-write-a-trilogy quicksand. My books are long, sure, but not that long, and each one has a clear end without any need for a sequel. I have ideas for follow-on books, but they tend to be different characters and different settings, with just a connecting thread or two, not really sequels. But the fun part about writing multiple books in the same world is that little things from one book creep into another one. So the strange glass balls in Kallanash turn out to have a bigger role in ‘The Mages of Bennamore’. Familiar characters turn up from time to time. They’re still stand-alone books, but with little easter eggs for regular readers.

4. How does my writing process work?

Other authors on this blog hop have described their wonderful and quite complicated methods. Mine is very simple. I have an idea, then I start writing and… erm, that’s it. Somehow it works. I tend to hit a sticky patch near the end when I have to pull all the various strands of the story together into a rousing finale, and my brain goes into melt-down, and that’s when I write lists and time-lines and so on. But otherwise, it all stays in my head, unfurling in front of me as I go along.

Once written, a book sits unopened for a long time – several months. I try to write something else while it’s brewing. Then it gets dusted off, I read it right through, polish the first chapters and get them critiqued. I’ve found Scribophile is invaluable for spotting things I’m quite impervious to – adverb abuse, tedious info-dumps, passive voice, having three successive scenes in the same dull room, ‘committee meeting’ discussions and so on. They’re not so good with plot and character development, because of the nature of chapter-by-chapter critiquing. So I only post a few chapters for critique, then send the book off to beta readers, do some final revisions and after that my proofreader takes over to sort out my creative use of ellipses. And the process does seem to get easier each time.

5.  Fangirl about three (OK, four) other writers

Ooh, this is the fun part. I get to tell you about some of my favourite writers. Sorry, I couldn’t keep it to three (I had enough trouble with four; there are a bunch more I’d love to mention). These are supposed to be bloggers that you pester to write their own writing process blog tour, but I hate being pushy, so I’m just going to tell you about a few people whose writing I love, OK? In addition to H. Anthe Davis, mentioned above.

Lexi Revellion: Lexi was one of the first self-published authors I came across when I started filling up my Kindle with new-to-me names, and also one of my first wow-this-is-good successes. She’s unusual in that every book is different – not just the plot style but even the genre, so you never know quite what you’re going to get. Mystery romance, followed by a sci-fi thriller, followed by post-apocalypse… you get the picture. And always a lovely romance. The other constants are believable characters, tight plotting and a wonderfully British spin on things, complete with dry British humour. If I had to choose, I’d probably say ‘Ice Diaries’ was my favourite (but it’s a close call).

Andrea K Host: Andrea has the distinction of being the first self-published author to whom I gave a five star review. Her fantasies are invariably quirky, thought-provoking and intelligent, with genuinely strong female characters (not kick-ass superwomen, just normal women showing their inner strength) and often in a world where gender equality and groupings other than one man, one woman are the norm. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick a favourite book, it would probably be ‘The Champion of the Rose’, because I just adore the idea of a magically evil rose bush, but for pure, unadulterated pleasure, even better than chocolate, I’d recommend the Touchstone trilogy.

Tristan Gregory: I reviewed Tristan’s full-length fantasy novel, ‘Twixt Heaven and Earth’, some time ago, an unusual and intelligent look at a human war where angels and demons also get involved. However, my favourite writing of his, and a good starting point, is his linked series of novellas, collectively known as ‘The Wandering Tale’, independent stories where a minor character in one becomes the main character in the next. These are beautifully crafted, emotionally engaging works which are pretty well word perfect. Start with ‘The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth’.

Intisar Khanani: Intisar was one of those serendipitous finds. I came across ‘Thorn’ somewhere, somehow, started reading the sample and just couldn’t stop. It’s a delightful retelling of the goose girl fairy story, with terrific characters, some great world-building that never overwhelms the story and a magnificent ending. There are a couple of shorter works to enjoy, too, full of wonderful writing and lots of unpredictable twists.

For a longer list of some of my best reads of 2013, check here.

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Writing progress report: third book finished

July 27, 2014 Current writings, The Fire Mages, The Mages of Bennamore, The Plains of Kallanash, Writing musings 4

So another one bites the dust. Today I typed ‘The End’ on ‘The Mages of Bennamore’, the third epic fantasy set in the Brightmoon world. Because I like statistics, here are some numbers for the three books for comparison:

Book 1: ‘The Plains of Kallanash’

Elapsed writing time: 1 year

Total days of writing: 190

Total words: 220,000

Average words per writing day: 1,100

Chapters: 58

Book 2: ‘The Fire Mages’

Elapsed writing time: 5 months

Total days of writing: 90

Total words: 151,000

Average words per writing day: 1,700

Chapters: 44

Book 3: ‘The Mages of Bennamore’

Elapsed writing time: 7 months

Total days of writing: 119

Total words: 157,000

Average words per writing day: 1,300

Chapters: 44

This third book is much the same size as the second, but it took 7 months overall instead of 5 months, largely because I was also working on revising ‘The Plains of Kallanash’. There’s no doubt that it’s easier and more productive (for me, anyway) to work exclusively on one book at a time, especially for first draft work. For the last two or three weeks, since Kallanash went off to the proofreader, I’ve been working flat out on finishing this one off, with the result that I’ve had a much higher daily word count, and it’s been easier to keep track of the various strands of the plot in my head. I love getting immersed in a story like that, although I’m not sure it’s good for me: I go to bed only when I’m cross-eyed with tiredness, lie awake anyway, thinking about plot options, wake up early and start again. This writing lark would be much easier if I didn’t have so many other things to do during the day, like boring real world stuff. Who needs meals anyway? Or clean clothes? Dust, what dust?

This one will be left to brew for a while – several months at least. So what’s next? Well, a rest from writing first of all (and try to reduce the size of the ironing pile). Then ‘The Fire Mages’ is going off to Scribophile to be torn to shreds by my eagle-eyed crit-buddies. Its cover art is already scheduled. And Kallanash will be back from the proofreader soon for final tidy-up editing and formatting ready for ARCs in August and publication (eek!) in September.

For the next new work, I’m thinking of resuscitating something that predates all the three completed works, but was abandoned when I started Kallanash. I already have 120,000 words (over 30 chapters) of it, but (huge but) it needs a lot of work to bring it into line with the others in the Brightmoon world. Firstly, there are world-building aspects that are no longer canonical, so many details of the background have to be changed. All the names have to be revised (I used modern names, which just doesn’t work). Plus my writing style has changed considerably. Or, to put it another way, I was a terrible writer back then. So a lot of work. But I love the story, the premise and the characters, so I want to do it eventually.

But for today, I’m just going to relax and enjoy getting to the end of another book. A very satisfying moment.

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