Strings, Bows, and New Books

June has been an odd month, so far. I’ve been feeling like I’m drifting aimlessly, which is more or less normal procedure after a book release, but it doesn’t make the feeling any more comfortable. What I’m meant to do during and after a new book release, of course, is write the next book; but I find that I’m rarely in a cohesive enough frame of mind to concentrate properly on the next book while the new book is in the process of being published. That means that I’m usually scattered, undisciplined, and inclined to waffle for both the duration and about a week after launch day.

Today, I’m happy to announce, I seem to be back to form. The last couple days have seen anywhere from 500-1500 words consistently written, which means that the new book is settling in well–or, to be more accurate, the new books.

That’s right. I’m obviously mad. This time, I have two strings to my bow. And by that I mean that I’m writing two books at once.

One of the WiPs is the next book in the Two Monarchies Sequence, BLACKFOOT. Carrying on almost directly after the end of SPINDLEBLACKFOOT concentrates on the adventures of a young girl called Annabel, her friend Peter, and Annabel’s cat Blackfoot–along with a parliament of cats, sneakily growing ruins, and a certain staff that supposedly vanished years ago. Some previously-met characters will be appearing again *coff*PolyandLuck*coff* and many questions will be answered. I don’t want to say too much because spoilers, Sweetie, and I haven’t finalised the blurb, but I’m really looking forward to this one.

The other WiP is a romance. That’s right. An actual romance. Well, it’s in an Edwardian/Korean style setting, with distinct fantasy elements to it, but it’s my first fully romance novel. I usually do Fantasy With A Smidge Of Romance or SciFi With A Smidge Of Romance. With BRIGHT AS THE EYES OF YOU, the focus will be on the romance. I’m planning on publishing a chapter every couple of weeks on Wattpad as soon as I have a cover to upload. I’m hoping to get feedback from native Korean speakers (and romance readers, if it comes to that) since BATEOY is a bit different from my usual kind of book. Below is a rough blurb for your information. I’m having a lot of fun with this one, and since I have THE WHOLE MONTH OF JULY OFF FROM WORK, I’m hoping to finish the first draft of both books reasonably quickly.

BRIGHT AS THE EYES OF YOU: Confined to her couch because of an inability to walk, Clovis Sohn spends her days and nights dreaming, drifting further away from the reality closest to her with each passing day. But Clovis’s dreams are also real, showing her the outside world and people that she otherwise has no access to. As Clovis dreams and watches, she becomes caught up in the complicated love life of publishing assistant Ae-jung, an ordinary young woman who has three very different men in love with her.

There is Clovis’ mischievous half-brother Jessamy, arrogant writer Hyun-jun, and bored, playful composer Yong-hwa. Ae-jung is mistress of many secrets, not the least of which is her love for Hyun-jun, and neither Jessamy, with all his delightful humour, nor Yong-hwa, with his fondness for games and subtlety, can succeed.

Jessamy is young enough to love again, and Hyun-jun is just beginning to learn to love, but it is playful Yong-hwa that Clovis connects with. Ae-jung’s rejection of him has hit as hard as his unexpected love for her did; and Clovis, who has always thrown her bread to the wounded bird over the healthy, decides that Yong-hwa needs another game to bring him back to himself.

And in the end, perhaps it will take Yong-hwa to bring Clovis back to herself.

In addition to all this, I’m learning Korean and Hangul, and enjoying every moment of it! Hangul is like decoding and deciphering all at once, and as someone who practised to be a spy as a kid, I’ve taken to it like a duck to water, proving that some people don’t grow up, they simply grow older.

What are you guys up to? What are you writing? Reading?

Oh No! It’s NaNoWriMo!

Well, it’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is coming up fast (National Novel Writing Month, for those not in the know) and everyone is talking about prepping for their November novel. This will be the first year I’ve participated, and while I don’t think I’ll go so far as to actually sign up to anything, I’ll certainly give it a shot. In my case it’s a little easier: I’m prepping for the second novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy, and at 40,000 words it’s hardly a full length novel. So I’ve got a head start already! (And if I finish that novella this month, as I fully anticipate doing; well, there’s always the third one to write during November!)

Prepping steps:

  1. Cover. Already done! I know, I know, it’s not writing, but I like to go gloat over it every now and then. It bolsters me. And it’s so flamin’ pretty!
  2. Outlining. I do not outline. Never. Ever. Except with this novella trilogy. I tried it out as an experiment for TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, and it worked out so well that I’m going to do the same with the second and third novellas in the trilogy. I didn’t stick to it exactly (I used a few different methods of murder than I’d planned, along with other small differences) but it made things so easy that I’ve had to do very little in the way of structural edits. It helps that the novellas are only a third of the length of what I usually write.
  3. Stickers. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. My stickers are utterly, totally necessary. I get one sticker on the calendar for every 500 words I write. In fact, I’ve had to order MORE stickers because I went through so many, so quickly with the first novella. I love looking at the day’s box and finding it absolutely stuffed with glittering gold stars. They’re even more effective than chocolates for bribing myself.
  4. Beaut Beta Readers. I seriously have the best beta readers. I also have the best alpha reader. Okay, so my alpha reader is my sister. But she doesn’t let me get away with mistakes, and she points out REALLY useful stuff. Not to mention finding all my spelling mistakes and missed punctuation. Lately, she’s also been able to point out when sentences are too long/convoluted/confusing. It’s wonderful! And she has to do it cos I’m her sis. Win/win! My beta readers are the other members of my exclusive cough*small*cough writing group. They help out with stuff like weird comma placement, bad word choices, and character development. (Plus so much weird conversation when none of us feel like writing). I may not always agree with them or take all their suggestions, but they’re an integral part of my process. It would be a huge mistake to run any kind of project, NaNoWriMo or otherwise, without planning on edits, feedback, and revisions.

Well, that’s my planning. What have I missed? What do you guys do? And who else is planning on taking advantage of NaNoWriMo?

1P.S: TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, the first novella, is currently available at the Amazon store on a Preorder Sale for 99c! It’ll be out October 30th, and will go up to $1.99 thereafter, so get it while it’s cheap!

Cover Reveal: Twelve Days Of Faery

I’m so excited! Today is the day for the Cover Reveal of TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY! I’ve been wanting to blog this ever since I commissioned it, got it back, and saw how amazingly gorgeous it is. Of course, if you were part of my mailing list you would already have seen it…

But I love you anyway, and I’m really happy to be sharing it with you!

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If you want to check out a couple of samples of TDOF, click through here and here! Preorder will be up on Amazon shortly, and I’ll be sending out review copies very shortly.  In other words, if you want a review copy, now is the time to ask!

Busy, Busy, Busy

It’s been a busy week. And now that I’ve written the word ‘busy’ five times, it’s looking really weird to me. Maybe I need a nap.

But I digress.

It’s been a busy week. My proofs for Wolfskin came in (finally!) but since they’re late arriving I have only a week and a half to check and correct. So there’s that. Then there’s the last 5000-odd words of Spindle that need to be done by next week if I want to keep on target with that particular deadline. And then there’s Memento Mori (the second volume in the Time-Traveller’s Best Friend series). I’ve only just begun it, and though I know roughly what the story arc for the collection will be, and have a few titles and ideas for a few of the stories, I still need to write the thing. By August at the latest.

With all these deadlines, you’d think I’d be madly at work on one or all of them. No such thing. I also got a new idea for a Short Thing for Weekly Fiction’s Open Call For Submissions. Naturally, I started work on that, with a little bit of editing and proof-reading around the edges. Fortunately, Wolfskin is proving much less complicated than Masque was. I seem to have caught most of the errors and inconsistencies and missed words before this point (does that mean I’ve advanced a level? New Power! Error-Free Gained!) and it’s really mostly a matter of a tiny change here and there.

Added to all the above is a busier-than-usual week at work, coupled with an annoying surge of my favourite companion, Meniere’s Disease.

I may just quietly go mad for a while. Don’t mind me. It’s a self-chosen madness after all.

What about you guys? Who else has a murder of deadlines? (Well, what is the group word for many deadlines, anyway?) And are you actually working on them?

10 Things I Hate Love About You Writing

I don’t say this enough, but I love writing.

It’s sometimes excruciating, often frustrating, and frequently exhausting. And it’s always satisfying.

Pic from https://thewritersadvice.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/page-hugging-a-person.jpg

There are days when I have to scrabble and scratch for every flamin’ word, glaring into the middle distance for inspiration. There are days when my fingers can’t fly across the keyboard fast enough to keep up with the flow of narrative, and I forget to do simple things like eat and drink. Then there are the days when I can see the whole thing so clearly, but each paragraph is a burden to type out; whether the problem is distraction, laziness, or exhaustion.

I wouldn’t give it up for the world. So without (much) more ado, here are the Ten Things I Love About Writing.

  1. I get to create my own worlds. Ever since I first read The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle, I’ve fantasized about what I’d make if I could create my own world ex nihilo. It’s probably why I loved Age of Empires so much.  

  2. I had a horrible boss once. Threw stuff at me. Bullied all his staff. Trotted his huge bulk behind me every move I made in order to try and catch me doing something, anything wrong. One of his favourite past-times was asking me every day as I wrote through my lunch break, ‘If he was going to be in my books’. Well, yes. Yes he is. I doubt he’d recognize himself, but it’s him all the same. Don’t annoy me, people.

  3. It’s perfectly permissible for me to listen to the voices in my head, and to document what they say. Admittedly when I start randomly snorting with laughter in the supermarket aisles, I get a few strange looks. But by and large, I’m safe.

  4. People buy my books. Guys, there are people out there I don’t know, who are reading my book! That’s the most surreal, delightful feeling you can imagine. And some of them love my books enough to tell me how much they love them, which is embarrassing and scintillating all at the same time.

  5. I love words. I love building them, taking them apart, studying them in different languages. I love crafting sentences with the right balance and the right nuance. I love creating rhythm and punch. I love discovering words like susurration and pulchritude and weasand. (Why, yes: I did use to read the dictionary when I was ten, why do you ask?)

  6. The more I write, the more I appreciate well-written books. (This has a downside, in that I have far less patience for badly written books; but then, why waste time on bad books when there’s so little left for good books?)

  7. Being a writer makes me look at things differently. It makes me look at people differently. Bottom line, it makes me look. It makes me pay attention.

  8. I’m never bored. Never. No matter if I’m stuck on a train or a plane or a bus, I can write. In fact, some of my most productive time (i.e. undistracted time) is when I have nothing else to do but write. I don’t understand the people at my dayjob who complain that an hour is too long for lunch. By the end of my lunch hour I’m usually typing like fury to try and get that last sentence in before I have to go back. My daydream time is precious to me.

  9. I have the most amazing dreams. Seriously. I dream in very often in whole stories, sometimes in vignettes, and even sometimes in snatches of character interaction. The trade-off is that I have very realistic nightmares; simple, terrifying, and entirely life-like. From these nightmares I frequently wake screaming, and only realize upon waking that I was, in fact, asleep. It’s worth it. It’s worth it for the euphoria every time I fly, or discover a forest city, or experience a whole world, background and story in dream. Heck, I’ve even had a subplot in one of my dreams.

  10. The sense of satisfaction is amazing. There’s almost nothing better than the feeling of achievement I get when I’ve beaten my personal record for words per day; or finished the first draft (or better still, the last) of my current WIP; or even finally arrived at that wonderful, euphoric day- publication day. The act of writing itself, is intensely satisfying. The difficulty is in stopping.

I may never reach a point in my writing career when I can quit my day job. I may become rich and famous overnight. I just don’t know (I can dream, but I don’t know). And I’m okay with that. My books are out there. There’s more where they came from, and the exercise of writing itself is so fulfilling that I don’t think I could give it up if I tried.

What about you guys? What do you love about writing?

Excerpt From ‘Spindle’: Current WIP

As Masque won’t be out for another 15 days, I thought I’d whet your appetite for my Two Monarchies Sequence by giving you a taste of my current WIP: Spindle. You may perhaps be clever enough to guess which particular fairytale I’ve messed with this time . . .

Anyone looking for this excerpt after it has progressed down the page need only click on the page Shorts & Excerpts to find it again.

Enjoy! (Bon Appetit?)

Excerpt from Spindle, chapter one

Polyhymnia knew perfectly well that she was dreaming.  Her hair was in pigtails and she was wearing a smock, which pointed to an age of perhaps twelve or thirteen; and the dream itself was a distant memory of a history lesson with Lady Cimone, her teacher.  She had been amused for a brief moment to find herself daydreaming during the lesson: dreaming, as it were, during a dream, while Lady Cimone pointed out the various flaws in Civet’s latest sally against Parras.
Oh, I remember this, thought Poly suddenly.  Parras tossed over one of our outposts, and we walked right into an ambush trying to retaliate.
Pain, in her left ear.  Poly clutched the injured member in surprise.
“Ow!”  She hadn’t remembered that.
“Perhaps you could pay attention to your lesson, now that you’re awake?” suggested Lady Cimone.  She always did prefer boxing ears to using a cane.  Maybe it was her idea of the personal touch.  “This is important, Poly.”
Poly let her younger dream-self murmur the appropriate response, her attention snatched away, because a gold-edged rift was beginning to form in the blue-painted wall behind Lady Cimone.
The lady caught the direction of her gaze and gave a sharp glance behind her.
“Bother!” she said.  She seemed annoyed rather than taken aback.
Before long the perpendicular rift was tall enough to admit a human, and Poly wasn’t quite surprised when a young man stepped through.  He was wearing a long, mud-splattered black coat that looked as though it had seen one too many days travelling, and he had an inquiring, dishevelled look.  His forehead was wide and square, with dark hair springing upwards and sideways from it, and his mouth was both determined and wistful; though the triangular set of his chin spoke more to determination than wistfulness.  Poly shut her mouth, which had dropped open, and took one involuntary step backwards as the man pulled himself fully into the room.  He was fairly glowing with residual magic, which set every alarm bell ringing in her head.
“Shoo,” he said to Lady Cimone, and stepped purposefully toward Poly.
The lady smiled a little grimly and said: “I am no more a dream than you are, young man.  Kindly be polite.”
Poly became her normal, older self in confusion, and the dream-memory of the younger her melted away, leaving Lady Cimone and the young man behind in the resulting void.  The young man seemed almost as bemused as Poly felt, but Lady Cimone was looking, as usual, serene and omniscient.
“I tried my best, but I’m afraid he got you,” she said to Poly.  “You’ll have to go with the wizard for now.  Your parents said they’d try to find you somewhere along the way, but things might be a little more difficult than they realised.  Try not to forget everything the minute you wake up, child.”
“But-” Poly began; but Lady Cimone was already gone.  Poly put her hands on her hips and surveyed the young wizard, who was still standing where he was, disturbingly real for a dream figure.
“Huh,” he said.  “Didn’t expect that.  Come here, princess.”
Poly could have said: ‘I’m not the princess,’ but it didn’t see worth arguing with a dream.  Instead, she said: “I don’t think so,” and slipped up and out of the dream.

It should have woken her.  For a moment, she thought it had.  She was standing in her own small, rounded chamber, stranded aimlessly between her bookcases.  Through her window-slit the outside world looked sunny and normal.  Then she saw the translucent something coating her hands from fingers to elbow, and belatedly felt the odd, sideways pull that had brought her here.
“Bother,” she said aloud.  The translucent something wasn’t quite magic, but it seemed to be the dream equivalent.  In real life, Poly had no magic.  It was the one consistent way to tell dream from reality when her dreams became too realistic.
Poly wriggled her fingers and the translucency shivered coolly across them with a sense of familiarity.  When had she started dreaming about magic so often?  In fact, when had she started dreaming for so long at a time?  She felt as though she’d been dreaming for years.
Time to wake up, Poly decided.  She let herself slip upwards and awake, and again found herself sliding sideways to the pull of something strong and unfamiliar.
Someone said: “No you don’t, darling.  Back to sleep with you.”
Poly gave a little gasp of indignation and fought against the pull.  It was ridiculous to allow her dreams to be hijacked by an unpleasant dream entity of her own creation.  Where was it coming from?
She dragged herself around in the direction of the voice, feeling the reality of her dream-chamber wobble around her.   A nasty quiver of surprise shook her at the sight of the hooded, murky figure that seemed to be more shadow than substance, cobwebbed in the doorway.
To give herself time to become brave, Poly said: “Now, what are you?  I know I didn’t dream you up.”
“You must have,” said the hooded figure, its voice soft and amused.  “Here I am.”
Too smooth for words, Poly thought, sharp with fear.  There was a prickle at her back that made her think the enchanter from the previous level was making his way through to her again.  A panicked, nightmare quality had settled over the dream like a wet blanket, weighing her down, and for a brief moment Poly found herself unable to think.
The same soft voice said: “Darling, you’re being difficult.  There’s no need for things to become uncivilized.  Be a good girl and go back to sleep.”
“I don’t like you,” Poly said experimentally.
“That’s hurtful, darling,” said the voice reproachfully.  “As it happens, I’m really quite fond of you.  However, needs must, and you really need to go to sleep.”

The reasonable tone to the shadow’s voice was hard to resist.  There was her bed, in the middle of the tower room where it didn’t belong, and Poly felt herself take one step towards it.

The sheets should have been cool and smooth when she slid between them.  Instead, they were fuzzy and warm, and Poly felt her eyes gum together in the last warning of approaching slumber, the prickle at her back fading in the warmth.
“Huh,” said a second voice.  “This is all very interesting.  Who are you?  No.  Not who.  What?”
“Undefined element,” said the hooded shadow thoughtfully.  Poly could vaguely see it through her gummy eyes, outlined in the brilliant gold of the wizard’s magic.  “You are not valid here.  Retreat or assimilate.”
“Tosh,” said the wizard.  “You’re what? A remnant?  Go away.”
“No, I don’t think so,” said the shadow; and it seemed to Poly, mired in sleep, that an impossibly strong magic was stirring in the room – no, in the very air – around her.  It was bright, fiery, and entirely translucent.
The wizard said: “Yow!” and did something golden and magical with more haste than precision.  Poly stirred, fighting against sleep, and saw his face briefly appear above her.
He said: “Well, better get on with it, then.”
Poly tried to say: ‘Get on with what?’ but found that she couldn’t move her lips.  It took her a shocked moment to realise that she couldn’t move her lips because she was being kissed. It took another to realise that she was waking up- really waking up.  Gold magic fizzed from her lips to her toes, and everything familiar . . . disappeared.