blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
So the appropriately named Rock-pocalypse (thank you,  [livejournal.com profile] gnibbles!) that devoured my sister's new-home experience also ate nearly two weeks of my life because... well, because someone tried to screw over my family member and that Will Not Stand. Everything in me that is Scots-Irish Sicilian came out in force, and there wasn't room for elsemuch.

I cannot go in to all the details quite yet (though I'm muchly looking forward to doing so, if for no other reason than to purge it from my brainspace). But I can say over two thousand square feet of two- to four-inch sized rocks were removed from my sister's yard this week. They removed enough rock from her yard to have filled the previous home I lived in with rock six to eight inches deep.

That's a fuck-ton of rock.

In case you missed it, here's what it looked like when they moved in:







Now she and her partner can move forward, with a large deck being built this week and the landscapers coming to finish everything off next week. By the 30th, everything needs to be in place, since they're throwing a huge party in that backyard to celebrate their marriage!

And this means I can move forward, too.

I'm wrapping up final commitments for a new StoryBundle I'm curating, answering almost as many emails as there were rocks in my sister's backyard, and sending over a dozen pieces of content for a client back and forth to ensure what I've said about their industry is accurate down to the last little word.

This weekend, I get to write, and to get Breath of Stone review and promo info out to willing folk.

I do not get to go camping. Two weeks out from my sister's wedding celebration, it would be bad familial form to, y'know, disappear into the woods. But this I know: much of September will belong to me and me alone. I intend to take advantage of that and disappear often.

In the meantime, I will be taking more afternoon wanderings. I've found a few removed places within an easy drive that both permit me to feel far away and offer writing-conducive atmospheres and resources. The far-away part is mostly psychological; I need to be somewhere that convinces my brain I'll not be randomly interrupted at any moment. Being in a house with a person who processes every single internal thought verbally (mother), and a person who will interrupt to first assure you he won't interrupt, then interrupt again to apologize for the earlier interruption (father), means I spend most of my home-time waiting for those interruptions. Somehow, someway, a fifteen to thirty minute drive fixes it. Whatever.

Book Three of Desert Rising is progressing. It feels so damn good to be writing it. I do need to nail down the title, because calling it Book Three is bugging me. :) I'm leaning toward another pairing--Flesh of Strife and Ash of Life--or something similar.

And a friend kicked my butt for not writing and publishing more non-fiction, and she's right. Recently, my non-fiction energies have flowed toward immediate client needs. If I'm going to build income rather than chase it, I must invest in my personal non-fiction writings as well. I've twelve months to meet my "hit the road with an RV" dream goal, so I'd best get cracking!


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Thank you for buying Breath of Stone!  I hope you’re enjoying it.  If you’re so inclined to leave a review at the point of purchase, Goodreads, or both, I’d much appreciate it.

The next in the series is solidly underway.  There’s some plotting left to do, and a couple nifty ideas popped up to bump up my excitement level, too.  One cool aspect is the inclusion of a character created by a Patreon backer who looks to become a key viewpoint character.  I do feel as if I have a lovely running start at this one.

I’m also poking at a shorter work that is both loosely related and completely different.  We’ll see how it comes along.

For anything other than the basics of writing fiction, writing for clients, and Auntie-ing for my nephews, the month of July is all but gone.  Sure, I can catch the occasional meal with a friend, but I’m not seeing much time beyond that.  Lots of family events–moving, wedding, kid events, and so forth–shall eat the days before I know it.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Breath of Stone, the second novel of Desert Rising, is available now!

Bone returns to silt and sand,
Blood to salt and water,
Breath to wind and stone,
Soul to sun and storm.
The desert consumes us all.


Read more... )

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
So the last couple weeks have been spent enacting the latest chapter of, "What Happens When Your Immune System Meets New Germs, Colorado Transplant Edition." I couldn't work at all for a week. I still have to monitor my screen time because of my eyes. Blargh.

This has not been a good year for me, healthwise. Or I suppose one could say it's been a great year, if the goal is to harden up the immune system. I guess we'll see how the second year in Colorado goes.

But there is good news!

I do believe I can meet the goal of launching Breath of Stone before 4th Street. There'll be far, far less pre-publication stuff than I wanted, but I'm more than willing to roll with that. The book itself is ready for readers, and that's what counts most!

Once Breath of Stone is in your hands, I'll be putting together the upcoming publication path. On a day to day basis, my schedule is unpredictable, but the overall time for writing is greater than at any time I lived in Indiana. That translates into more books! This is a good thing!

Thanks to a very generous patron, one of my two old and wounded cars will be repaired shortly after I return from 4th Street. That's more than a month ahead of what I'd be able to do otherwise, and the support and generosity is a most wonderful thing.

The next step will be to find a couple days for camping. 4th Street is its own celebration and retreat, but the need for solitude and silence is deep enough to make my teeth ache.

Have I mentioned here I'll be teaching karate, stage combat, and Shakespeare this autumn? I'll be working with a private arts enrichment youth organization, and I just couldn't be happier about that.

And, just in case I haven't mentioned it before, my son is awesome. How awesome? Well, I had to interrupt a conversation about his awesomeness when he came home early to bring me pepperoni and bacon pizza. That's how awesome.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
As you might or might not know, my darling wonderful and faithful Hyundai has needed some work for awhile now. I garaged it about two months ago, knowing I'd have fix-it funds by the end of July, and began driving the Jeep. No biggie.

Last weekend, my sis and I traded cars so she could take her boys camping. No biggie. I picked up the Jeep and, as is my driving habit unless it's damned cold or pouring rain, rolled down the windows. Thus I heard a not-really-great grinding noise when applying the brakes. Not much of a biggie, really. My father and I can change out break pads fairly easily.

So Monday we popped off the wheel, and discovered a nice handful of broken-up metal rattling around in there.

That's a biggie beyond my and my father's ability.

And thus the crisis of yesterday: Do I cancel 4th Street and put those funds toward fixing the secondary car, or do I attend 4th Street and just... deal without a car the best I can for a few weeks?

Y'see, even though the work out here has been better, I've been playing catch-up, and am still working to regain the financial buffer that was eaten by moving from Indiana to Colorado. I have the money for 4th Street OR the vehicle repair. Not both. And that's crummy right now.

I don't want anyone to think I'm unable to make ends meet on the important stuff. This isn't that sort of crisis. It just... sucks. It means no camping, no dashing out to meet someone, extensive coordination to continue helping watch my sister's kids (made more complicated by the fact she lives on the Air Force Base), and much pre-planning to confirm client meetings.

And it shuts down almost completely the ability to find quiet and solitude. Truly, that's the part making the choice tough. Until the end of July, I won't have adequate funds. Until the end of July, I won't have an independent living space. (We're remodeling, so...). Until the end of July, please forgive me if I whine and gnash my teeth. Taking a short evening drive has been keeping me quite sane. We'll find out this week if my hips can hold up long enough to replace the drive with an adequate walk.

And in the midst of all that, some people made my all weepy-eyed with offers to help. Honestly, my first impulse is to shoo that away out of... pride? Habit? Ego? All of those things? But I'm also coming to understand for myself what I've so often told others, and choosing to not push away.

So. *deep breath*

  • I do have a Patreon! One dollar gets you in the door, and more dollars gets you more. :) We're aaaaaalmost halfway to the goal of adding a monthly video. Check out the reward levels, and do check out the milestones. If you're in the mood to support, I'd be grateful to have you aboard. And if you're looking to be helpful, that's a speedy and direct way.


  • If you're already a patron, or cannot/don't wish to be one, your help spreading the word is extremely helpful.


  • As always, buying the available books--for yourself or someone else--is a gift that gives twice: once when you purchase, and once when your purchase bumps the novel's visibility for other potential buyers. Leaving a review on the book-buying site, or even a rating at Goodreads, also helps!


  • Breath of Stone's release is looming near, and on its heels is the silly little cookbook, so you'll have a chance to pick up something new as well!


  • And if you're attending 4th Street, please say hello to me. :-)







blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

If I haven’t made huge mistakes in the trauma/recovery area, I’m thinking I can wrap up revisions on Breath of Stone by the end of the weekend. I’d like to say sooner, but I’ve perhaps a couple hours a day for it through the next seven days. (When I sell more books, I’ll get to do fewer non-fiction projects…)  Then I must draft cover copy, and that’s just… SIGH.

I’ll be posting a couple chapters for patrons over at Patreon, along with this month’s article on injuries and trauma and healing.

There is a second Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off underway! I’m thinking of putting Sword and Chant in the mix. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of novel. Even some of the most complimentary reviews mention it’s difficult to define. And it’s written in omni viewpoint.  More than ever, the response will depend on the reviewer randomly assigned the odd thing.

I’ve found new places I want to camp!  Pawnee Grasslands, Toadstool Geologic Park, Paint Mines, Palo Duro, Bisti Badlands….  And of course these longings are strongest when over a foot and a half of snow sits outside my door.

Have you see the schedule for the Nebulas?  There is cool, cool stuff happening there, and the cost of the conference itself is, in my opinion, darn good.  Alas, the Chicago location is far too expensive for me.  Maybe next time.

I’ll still be taping my own NOTx talk on the most important aspect of self-publishing!  I was trying to set up a small audience, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, alas, so it’ll likely just be me talking to you.

Lastly, the ankle is improving more quickly than I would have anticipated.  Just walking, there is nothing but a lingering tightness.  Going upstairs is quite workable.  Going downstairs happens slowly and stiffly, one stair at a time.  Side to side motion isn’t all that fun, and rotation doesn’t feel very good at all.  But progress!  It’s healing!


And if you haven't yet picked up your latest StoryBundle, please amble on over and do so. Our charity this time is Girls Write Now--a fantastic group dedicated to mentoring girls and improving their writing skills for success in all life endeavors. You'll also find in the bundle ten great reads from ten fantastic indie writers whose creativity, style, and craft is exceptional!



And now, back to work!

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Just a few days ago, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with Cat Rambo, marvelous writer and president of SFWA (who also has a Patreon you can find here).

She is an absolute delight!  The kind of writer who knows her craft and her business, and is excited about sharing her knowledge and connections with others.  The sort of person who is genuinely interested in others, and damned interesting in her own right.  Our time together, chatting about everything from family dynamics to SFWA projects, was immensely enjoyable.

I drove home from our meeting buoyed both by her encouragement and her expressions of creativity.  And I’m looking forward to jumping back into SFWA matters the moment I complete Breath of Stone.

(And really, I so need to be jumping back in. Everything got sidetracked right before the holidays, and must needs be sorted out by spring.)

But nothing is being done before I complete Breath of Stone, darlings. Nothing.  (Erm, expect a way, way overdue beta-read for a friend...) I’m down to one new chapter that needs composing and a couple that need some extensive revisions.  Then it goes out to beta readers who have been so damned patient and supportive, I feel unworthy.  Hopefully, those betas will enjoy the novel more than they feel the need to rip it apart.  Once I hear their feedback, I’ll have a good idea on the upcoming release date.

The last year has made a few things abundantly clear: I cannot write a massive novel in the same twelve months I must shepherd my homeschooled son through the last year of high school, train a replacement to take over one business, move cross-country, and set the foundation to launch a new business in a new location.  I don’t believe I’ll be willingly taking on that level of insanity again!

A few additional quick notes:

–A new Patreon article will go up next week!  In this one, we’ll look at the key principles that’ll strengthen any fight scene, regardless of how simple or complex you want it to be.  And the Patreon is only $35 away from adding author/fighter interviews and fight scene breakdowns as regular, monthly features, and about $115 away from adding a monthly video.  (Yes, a video.  I’m insane.)

–Remember that podcast on fight scenes I recorded for Beyond the Trope?  It’ll be available for listening in a little more than two weeks!  I’m hoping it sounds half as good as it was fun to record.  As soon as I have the link, I’ll send it out to y’all.  Okay, as soon as I have the link, and have listened to it myself, and have decided I don’t sound like an idiot…  then I’ll let you know. :)

–I am registered for 4th Street Fantasy!  I had a marvelous time last year, and can’t wait to not only connect with the cool folks I know through Viable Paradise and the awesome people I met last year, but to meet new people as well.

And now… back to the chapters!

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (Default)

My Darlings Most Patient and Understanding,

I awoke one morning last week with a solution to the writing logjam I've been hammering at for a couple, three weeks now.  So I spent some hours playing with it--sketching dialog (that's always my Step One), writing bridges, checking timelines--and determined that, yes indeed, it would work.

And there was much rejoicing throughout the land!  Well, my home, at least.  It included nachos and bacon.

This solution includes five new chapters, and I'm excited to write each one.  After fleshing out the notes well enough that I can call future work on them "revisions" rather than "writing from outline," I printed out the whole thing.

I don't print unless and until I'm ready to call what I'm printing an actual draft.

So.  Official first draft achieved, clocking in at 117K.  We'll see what it is once all the changes and additions are made.

There's a wee bit of additional good news as well.  Book Three is almost 50% written already.  There will not not not not again be so many months between novels.

And... I have no title for Book Three (and Four, which is all planned out, too).  I need titles.  I cannot come up with anything that rhymes with bone and stone without hitting my giggle-factors.  (Silence of Cone!  Twilight of Phone!  Tone and Moan!)  And for consistency's sake, I'd like the second pair to have the same rhythm as the first pair.  More on that when I have ideas for bouncing.

I'm working on the fight analysis piece for Patreon, too.  It'll be from Myke Cole's Gemini Cell, a novel I recently read and love-love-loved for so many reasons.  Rather than talk about what does and doesn't work -- that depends too much of genre, subgenre, and targeted audience -- it will instead focus on pacing, word choice, pov submersion, and so forth.

Though the fight scene articles will be Patreon-only, I'll be posting the first one here as well so folks know what I mean when I refer to them. (By the by, I will never use a fight scene I think fails.  While it can be instructive, I'd rather remain positive.)


So there we go! Even with the holidays approached, I've managed to work through about a fourth of the revisions in the last week. I'm growing happier and happier with the process and the outcome. And truly, I'm thrilled that the solution to my banging-head-against-wall problem results in, essentially, an additional book.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Most of yesterday was spent attempting to hunt down my primary Breath of Stone file. According to my computer, no copy of the file exists post-October 30, which is... quite incorrect. It isn't the only file missing. Yes, I've done searches. Yes, I've looked here, thither, and yon. I think there's a copy on my most recent Carbonite backup (yesterday!), but -- believe it or not -- Carbonite was completely down. And my email/password isn't working. I can see the file, but cannot retrieve it or check its contents. And so... we wait.

Worst case scenario? I'm missing the two chapters that have taken me longer to write than any other chapter in this novel, the previous novel, and the previous-previous novel. The two chapters that have been the most difficult to make work.
***

Having decided to act as if Carbonite will do all the proper magic, I've nearly worked my way through an entirely different chapter. This is the last "What the hell am I doing, thinking I'm a writer?" chapter challenge. Really, darlings, I cannot tell you just how challenging these chapters have been. I can barely express why. I'm thinking we should run a poll to see if readers of the published novel can accurately guess which chapters were so troublesome.
***

In news that might or might not be related to the above, I enjoyed whisky last night. My karate ladies gave me a special drink glass as a going-away present. It has markings on the side for LOL, OMG, and WTF. Guess how full that glass was, my darlings. Guess how many times.

I'm waiting right now for Carbonite to connect and restore the chosen file. It still isn't connecting. I'll be making phonecalls. Sigh.
***

Once the entire revised Breath of Stone file is recovered, (because we are thinking positively, my darlings!) it'll currently clock in around 98K words. I've at least 70K words of additional material to add to it. This is not a short story. I hope that will make it worth your patience.
***

I'm thinking I just might, maybe, be fixin' to think about probably launching a Patreon by the end of the week. Since all patronage supports all writings, backers will see a combination of self-defense/combat rewards and novel-based rewards. There are pieces of it I think are fun but others might think are silly. I've decided the ones who think I'm silly are not my target patrons. :) And darlings, if I could come up with an appropriate whisky-related reward, I would do so.
***

I read with great sadness the reports from World Fantasy Convention on their handling of accessibility issues. Really, folks. Really. Accessibility is not an add-on. It isn't an option, or a treat, or an extra thing you do if you're feeling generous. When you choose and negotiate with a facility, you include that in the negotiations.

And don't toss out the "It's so expensive!" excuse. It was $800 you say? Great. Charge every attendee an additional $1. Or perhaps cut back on whatever little ding-dongs the hotel says would be nifty to provide. Access isn't optional. (Protip: when you negotiate ahead of time, you don't pay that much. Just sayin'.)

Really, my darlings, considering how dearly some industry folks cuddle and coddle institutional memory, it's rather ghastly that there is no formal way of passing along lessons learned from one con committee to another. My guess is the failure lies in protecting turf above other concerns.
***

Lastly, I'll tell ya that the biggest downside to running a tight schedule and/or having many overlapping responsibilities is the amount of disruption a temporary illness can cause. I'm still digging out from the weeks in October where I had about four productive hours a day (that included time for mundane things like taking a shower), and the following week where I crashed hard after the minimal demands of MileHiCon. Alas, my SFWA duties have suffered the longest simply because they had no deadlines that governed my income or ability to feed others.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
We are closing in on a draft worth showing to other people.  This is good news.

And yet, as you know, I’m readying to move over a thousand miles west of my current location.  I’m wrapping up my karate commitments—working with upcoming instructors on their teaching methods, adding more private lessons—investing additional time with the remaining wellness clients I’ve had even though I no longer run a practice, and trying to at least tip my hat to eighteen years’ worth of relationships.  My son and I are working to complete the final testing for his high school diploma while he works his last weeks and manages car repairs.  And at some point, I should actually pack.

Just to make things interesting, my laptop is crashing at random moments.  It always reboots, but since it’s a kajillion years old, I’m surprised every time it successfully does so.  A replacement computer isn’t in the cards until after the move, alas.

All of those things are bad news in relation to how quickly Breath of Stone will reach your hands.

And that truth, my darlings, makes clear my biggest learning curve as an indie author: accurately estimating the time any given project requires me to create.  Three times out of three, I’ve given you an estimate.  Three times out of three, my darlings, I’ve been wrong.

So… the answer to “When will Breath of Stone be published?” must now be, “When I know the novel will not disappoint you.”  Really, I could slap something together in the next couple of weeks.  But I believe delivering a substandard novel on time is far, far worse than delivering a solid novel late, and your positive enthusiasm drives me to give you the best.

The first first draft for Breath of Stone grew long.  So, so long.  So very long, I found myself rushing and cutting and cramming the story into something akin to a bad 90-minute TV adaptation of a multi-volume series.

And I was only two-thirds of the way to the end.

The solution I chose?  Change where Breath of Stone will end, set aside a chunk of chapters for what will become Book 3, and go back to the beginning to reshape the novel.

Y’see, when a writer tries to put too much story into too little space and/or time, something’s gotta give.  We end up with simplistic relationships because we can provoke a response in a reader by using a cliche or two.  Motivations seem unrealistic because we have to cut the 200-word dialog exchange that enhances a character’s flaw or goal.  Action feels choppy because transitions are pulled out.  Or—my own pet peeve—the book ends a heartbeat after the climax, as if achieving victory is harder than facing its consequences, so there needn’t be any words expended on resolution.

That’s not the novel I want to write.  I want to give you the novel that has in it what made Sand of Bone an enjoyable read for you.  I can’t do that if I’m cramming for length or time.  I’m just not good enough yet, I suppose, to turn out lovely story in the midst of life-chaos.  I wish I were!

I suppose you’ll just have to put up with me–rather, I can humbly request you put up with me!–until I master this learning curve. :)

In the meantime, here’s what I need to know from you:

Do you want preview chapters?  These would go to newsletter subscribers first, then be posted on a link-only page at the website.  These would be draft quality, and subject to change, but it’s sometimes fun to get a preview of the upcoming novel and to see what happens between the writing and the publishing.

Do you want to know more about the research pieces that go into the story, perhaps including notes and comments from folks I’ve consulted with?

What other things sound interesting?  I must admit, I’m not much of a “Let’s hold a contest!” gal.  But I’d love to have more discussions, and I’d love-lovelove to post developmental and editing examples using writing samples (voluntarily submitted, anonymous or otherwise, and I’d toss my own into the mix if requested as well) to talk about choices, shaping a scene, and delivering emotional verve.

Breath of Stone is coming.  So are the next two novels in the series.  If those continue to make readers happy, there will be two more.  After all, I cannot very well write novels about the fallout of intergenerational conflict without at least glimpsing what the next generation will do with the problems created by the current one!

.

If you’d like to sign up for that newsletter I mentioned above, click here.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (Default)
My darlings, there is indeed forward movement!

This week and next week are for major structural revisions.  We’re talking quite major here.  Were this an architectural project, I’d be doing something akin to replacing spiral staircases with glass elevators, and installing fireplaces in place of heating ducts.  Sure, it would be relatively simple were I just changing the artistic renderings.  But elevators and fireplaces require the installation or creation of all sorts of things that’ll be hidden behind panels and walls, and its the hidden things that make the obvious and visible function at it’s best.  That’s what has consumed my time.

Plot is easy.  Story is hard.

If I do it properly and well, if I take the time to do it right, maybe the reader won’t notice.  Maybe it’ll look effortless.  And I want it to seem that way.  I want the story to capture and resonate.  Yeah, I put in little connections and hints and call-backs, but I’d prefer they work without distracting the reader with their presence.

I don’t want to be a clever writer (which is good, because I am not clever).  I don’t want to be a writer-as-character in the story.  I want the story to be for the reader.

So.  The tentative schedule goes something like this:

Between now and next weekend, I need to retrofit the existing manuscript.  This includes stripping out a subplot that not only wandered into the hinterlands but tried to drag the main plot with it, replacing those chapters with what will actually work, and reordering some of the remaining pieces so they fit better into the structure.  I estimate it’ll take about 20K words of new material.

Then I really want to take another week to make one more pass before sending it along to beta readers.

Then I shall send it to my beta readers.  I suspect I’ll do a great deal of compulsive cleaning and packing around that time.

Then I fix All the Things.

Then I get a proofreading, and fix All the Other Things I screwed up while fixing All the Things the first time.

Then I format.

Then I send it out into the world!

Newsletter subscribers will get a release-date heads up–and access to a discounted price at Amazon*–before I make the general release announcement.  (How do you get the newsletter, you ask?  Why, you can sign up right here!)

And once it’s out there in the wild, I will again throw myself into packing and cleaning, which will likely distract me from the nail-biting wait to see the early reviews.

Thank you for your patience and encouragement, my darlings.  I promise the next one won’t take nearly so long to get to your hands.

Yes, I did say the next one. There will be more.  Hee.

*Why only Amazon?  Because when I make pricing changes, Amazon responds in a timely manner.  Other retailers and distributors take their long, long time.  Amazon’s response time is measured in hours, other measured in days and days.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Thanks to the wonderful work of Cabil Services, we have the perfect cover for Breath of Stone.

522-BreathOfStone-cover - Copy

I love it.  I love, love, love it.  And I totally love how the two covers work together.

Now: One of the most wonderful comments a writer can hear from readers is, “I hope there’s a sequel!”  And I do a happy dance of joy for each reader who said that after reading Sand of Bone.

I so wanted to have that sequel, Breath of Stone, completed for you by the end of April.  Alas, it simply isn’t going to happen without sacrificing quality (and sleep, and sanity, and paying my electric bill…).  In the spirit of total honesty, I confess I both greatly overestimated what I could accomplish in the time available to me and greatly underestimated the number of life events that would demand my time and emotional energy.

I hope to do better on both in the future, and apologize for the delay.

The revised target date is July 2015.  The additional time will make it a better story.

See, the thing is, I’m really excited about the story Breath of Stone is shaping up to be.  There’s all the action and intrigue of Bone, but the stakes are higher, the choices more brutal, and the characters more demanding of their own dwindling faith.  No one reaches the end unscathed.

Actually, no one reaches the halfway point unscathed.

But for all the darkness, there is hope and devotion and deserved loyalty as well.

And though Breath of Stone completes the major story arcs set forth in Sand of Bone, there are plenty of openings for another pair of novels if y’all tell me, “I hope there’s a sequel!” again.

So.  July.

Thank you for understanding, my darlings.  I intend to give you a story worth the wait.  You deserve nothing less.

And if you want to be among the first to access Breath of Stone, receive a free ebook of Serpent Heart, and have input on future projects, consider signing up for the Sand and Stone Newsletter.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

The Review:  As you might know, fantasy author Mark Lawrence put together the framework of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (details here), and Bob Milne of Beauty In Ruins is the book blogger randomly assigned to evaluate Sand of Bone.  Can I just say that any review whose opening sentence includes the phrase “quite astounding” is enough to make this writer do the Snoopy happy dance?  Check it out for yourself–both the praise and the critique.

*quickly pulls out soapbox*

And I’ll reiterate my belief that connecting more trade-focused/trade-exclusive reviewers with quality self-published works is vital if we (writers and reviewers) want to remain relevant to the conversations readers–those marvelous beings who sustain us all–are having about books the trade industry might not known exist.  If a self-published writer pulls down seven to eight thousand sales in pre-orders, and the majority of trade industry participants have no idea who that writer is–let alone that she exists!–that’s an issue to be considered, my darlings.

*slides soapbox back under the desk*

The Musing: In the past, I’ve discussed my approach to reading and analyzing reviews.  In short, I believe the old advice of “Don’t read your reviews” is rather unhelpful because analyzing reviews help the writer identify what she can do better on the marketing front as well as the writing front.  A writer who understands what her supporting readers love is a writer better able to reach similar readers.  It’s with that in mind that I fold Milne’s review into my understanding of why people like and dislike all or part of my work.

More than one reviewer (though, thankfully, not the majority!) have mentioned the pacing flagged for them somewhere in the middle.  Of those who specified why, it’s about an even split between basic training elements and palace intrigue elements.  (Of those who didn’t specify, it’s quite possible everything felt slow to them. ) Yet folks on both sides say they are glad they pushed through that section to finish the novel, so… what gives?

On the surface, it can seem to confusing, even contradictory.  Should I reduce the palace intrigue?  Should I reduce the military/training aspects?  Should I just let it be and assume readers who enjoy one but not the other will continue to “push through” to the end?

The answer is no, no, and no.

Truly, Sand of Bone’s final chapters would have delivered a completely different visceral package had either element been missing.  The decisions made on the palace-intrigue side would carry completely different implications without the military and basic training elements.   The consequences on the military side would be so much less important were it not for the palace intrigue.

As a reader and a writer, I want both elements in my stories.  I’m as interested in what happens on the frontline as I am in what happens in the secret bunker.  I want to know what the soldier and the general thinks, believes, fears, and contrives.  So the solution isn’t to choose a “side,” but to improve my ability to write compelling chapters that unfailingly funnel the reader to turn to the next chapter regardless of the story elements.

Last Call:  The Sand and Stone Newsletter will go out to subscribers the night of Wednesday, April 22.  It’ll include your link to a free and easy download of Serpent Heart, the latest news and cover reveal for Breath of Stone, and an opportunity to give input on future projects.  If you’d like to be part of it, sign up here.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Item the First: The membership of SFWA has spoken and, by a vote of 6-to-1 in favor, has changed their governing by-laws to allow writers whose success comes from independent publishing to qualify for membership.  Detailed procedural guidelines are being hammered out, and it looks like authors will be able to begin applying by March of this year.

Last summer, I had my own dilemma over whether I should join.  And after I joined, I had my own disagreements with some of the organization’s choices, and I seriously expect I’ll have a couple more in the months and years ahead.  Yet and still, I am so danged happy–relieved!–to see this vote go through.  The support of the voting membership was loud and clear.  I’ll be sticking around.

Anyone who has questions about it, feel free to ask.  If I don’t know the answer, we’ll see if we can find someone who does. :)

Item the Second: The Indie Fantasy Bundle is entering its final week!  At the bottom of this interview with Brad Beaulieu are links to all the other author interviews.  In them you’ll find talk about worldbuilding, alchemy, international relations, history, windships, subversive genre-play, wish fulfillment and more.  It’s a fascinating group of people, and their diverse works reflect that.

If you’ve already picked up the bundle, thank you so much for supporting the authors and the charities!  It’s a wonderful thing, knowing so many new readers are finding and enjoying our books!

Item the Third: The sequel to Sand of Bone is still moving forward apace.  Breath of Stone is currently slated for an April 2015 release.  If you want to be on the early warning list, sign up now for the Sand and Stone newsletter!

Item the Last: Sand of Bone received a marvelous review from The Book Adventures!  Happy writer!  In the current market, when there are so many more choices–quality choices, mind you–it means a great deal to not only be noticed, but to know the story was enjoyed.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
My internet access last night was as slow as an exhausted sloth slogging through mud with kettleballs chained to its ankles, and writing on the computer in any position -- sitting, standing, reclining, whatever -- was distractingly uncomfortable. Thus I spent some hours stretched out across the bed to write by hand while the hip discomfort receded to an ignorable dull ache.

Excellent forward progress was made on Breath of Stone, the sequel to Sand of Bone. Considering I cut thousands of words with a fell swoop not too long ago, I'm pleased to have gained ground once again. Best of all, the collection of chapters that actively fought to escape the rules of a timeline are now behaving properly. I'll still need to do some trimming of edges here and there, but no characters now need teleportation to arrive at their proper plot-required destinations.

I'm closing in on the sprint. I can feel that sense of urgency coming—the sudden clarity that happens when I can hold the entire plot in my head while, at the same time, focusing on an individual scene. By the end of the week, barring intrusions, I should hit stride again.

Oh, and I had a birthday yesterday. Nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was rather pleasant. Best of all, my sister—who readily points out she is the younger sister—flew into town last night. Icky roads and flight delays meant she didn't arrive until around midnight, but we stayed up until 3am to make up for it. So worth it.

Maybe I'll actually risk planning something fun and interesting and ambitious for my 45th birthday next year.*

And in the meantime, links and commentary!

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck: You've seen this -- I know you have -- but I include it because the thing I celebrate most about growing older is the ability to better discern what is worth caring about. And the older I get, the more interested I am in action over advocacy, involvement over analysis, and problem-solving rather than problem-uncovering. I realize, too, that those who prefer advocacy, analysis, and problem-uncovering would look at my choices and wonder what the hell good I think I'm doing that's actually valuable. That's okay. I know what I'm doing.

How Secular Family Values Stack Up: First of all, please know I'm completely uninterested in slamming/stereotyping the faithful and the believing. I was raised in the American Episcopal faith ("Catholic with options"), spent time at Benedictine monasteries, and strongly considered spending my life in religious studies. The path to my current secular life is long and winding and not for this post. Suffice it to say I am not surprised by what the article claims. And my sensitivity on the issue is most certainly influenced by the fact I've for years been surrounded by some extremely judgmental and unloving folks who have justified their actions through religion. Regardless, I found the article interesting.

Yes, Women In Dragon Ago Could Use Longswords: In addition to pointing it the mental gymnastics some folks go through to accept fighting dragons while dismissing female fighters (a pointing I heartily agree with), the article uses historical facts rather than play-acting assumptions to make its point. Sadly, I must admit the "Women do too fight!" argument is rapidly tumbling into my "no fuck to give" bucket—not because I don't have knowledge of the situation, but because the "No, they don't!" crowd is increasingly irrelevant on multiple fronts. Yes, some in the creative industry—many of whom, not surprisingly, say they just love strong women—will cling to their self-affirming bias. But there are many more who don't. And an increasing number of writers and creators who have been marginalized are trading in the approval of the establishment for the support of their fans.

(Besides, as a martial artist, I admit an unseemly satisfaction comes from throwing a bigger, stronger, cocky opponent who doesn't yet understand that force is not the same as power.)

Indie Fantasy Bundle: If you haven't already checked it out, please do! If you have, thank you! If you're interested in giving those writers more support, you can do simple things like add the books to your Goodreads lists, leave reviews for the ones you've already read, and let others know about the Indie Fantasy Bundle.

Speaking of StoryBundle, I'll be curating for them again! A whole post on the curating experience will be coming later in the week. In the meantime, the details of time and theme of my upcoming bundles are still settling into place. But if you're an author interested in being part of a future bundle, leave a comment or drop me a line and I'll let you know how to submit either directly to me or to StoryBundle.

Lastly, if you'd like to be updated on StoryBundle projects and know first when Breath of Stone is released, remember to sign up for my not-too-often newsletter.



*For those who have no clue what I'm alluding to: I had planned a complete weekend getaway with a group of friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. Instead, I spent it in a VA hospital with my not-ex-but-separated-from husband, helping him eat his first meal in three days while trying to find out from the doctors why he'd had multiple heart attacks in two weeks, and reading lab reports that indicated the diagnosis would be end-stage liver cancer. There is no need for you to mention this in comments if you feel awkward or obligated to do so. If, however, you have questions or are seeking support/information/sharing, I'm more than willing to discuss it.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
My writing “process” has so differed from project to project, I can’t even relate to the die-hard pantser/plotter discussions anymore.  And really—when it comes down to it, a pantser is simply someone who plots in detailed prose, and a plotter is simply someone whose pantsing happens in a streamlined outline.

The writing process for Breath of Stone is, again, very different.  Tearing apart two novels, ripping out an entire plotline and set of characters, cramming everything that’s left back together into one volume, and making it all flow as if I’d always envisioned it that way…  And wow, holy shit, this is hard.

Outside of a couple chapter-here-and-there cases, I write my novels straight through.  Start to finish, I move between viewpoint characters, shift settings, and push forward the plot.  Everything is pointed toward That Scene – the one event/confrontation/exchange, usually near the end, that is the entire reason I’m writing the novel.*

But this time… I’m writing out of order.  Yes, yes, I know many writers do this as a matter of course.  I don’t.  So the fact I’m writing Breath of Stone one viewpoint at a time, start to finish, is a bizarre experience.  At first, I spent far too much time crosschecking while I wrote to make certain each chapter would fall into its perfect place, as if they were Tetris pieces falling from the sky faster and faster and faster…  It didn’t work for long.  Not even my Magic Index Cards could save me.

So now I’m writing chapters according to viewpoint as if I’m sorting puzzle pieces by color before attempting to assemble it.  No, wait, that’s not quite right.  It’s more like… carving brand news puzzle pieces to match the picture on the box, and I won’t know exactly how to make the pieces fit perfectly until…  well, until I try to make the pieces fit together.  Then it’ll be all about shaving an edge here, sharpening a corner there, and making sure I didn’t create a snore-fest sea of blue-sky pieces in the process.

And it should all fit within the single novel.

Aaaaaand that’s a goal.  Not a promise.  Hee.

And if you’d like to be among the first to know when advance copies will be available for review, sign up here!

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Getting away from phone calls, business, internet, and at-home reminders of everything I could (should?) do other than write was the motivation for the trip.  There have been far too many issues of late I've had to deal with--one of which resulted in me asking a past client if she often worked for free since she expected me to do so--and I needed to clear my head. I needed a break. I needed to be out of touch. I needed the peace to sweep away what I want to leave behind in order to make room for what I want to do.

  With all the other things happening these days, I was finding it impossible to wrap my head around how to make changes to Breath of Stone’s original outline that properly and deeply incorporated the seemingly small changes to Sand of Bone.  I had trouble keeping track of the diverging and converging plotlines.  And I had to figure out how to keep the character arcs I wanted while considerably shortening the action arcs.

I am happy to report it worked.  I read through piles of old material--deciding what would stay and what would go and what order the "staying" parts should be in. I shuffled Magic Index Cards. I got reacquainted with storylines and characters and intentions. I got my book back.

It did help that, due to my food-forgetting, my meal preparations were no more distracting than heating a boxed soup on a Sterno stove (and that little thing is awesome!) and opening bags of peanuts and dried fruit.

The remainder of today is for a little writing followed by necessary chores and teaching.  The rest of the week is for plowing ahead before I lose momentum.  While it would be awesome to say I can finish the draft by the end of October, thereby clearing the deck for a possible NaNoWriMo attempt, that would require consistent 5K-word days.  Since not showing up to teach and ignoring my son aren’t viable options, I’m going to say that October 31 finish date is out of the question.

One the other hand, finishing the draft by the end of November isn’t unrealistic.  Let’s give that a tentative shot, hmm?

Added note: Younger me would have been affronted at the shock others had to find a woman camping alone.  Current me finds it amusing.  Is it really such an odd thing?

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This!
I should be writing on my non-fiction projects. They really shouldn't be that hard to finish up. They're based on workshops I've given for years. I have PowerPoints, outlines, and audio recordings of the workshops as a foundation. And you know what? I can't stop thinking about the sequel to Sand of Bone long enough to write more than a paragraph or two at a time. Thus I'm permitting myself to write nothing but fiction this week. We shall see how the brain is working by next weekend.

That!
So the sequel, Breath of Stone, is indeed underway and I'm pleased with the way the opening chapters are running. I'm squishing what was two novels into one, made possible by the complete removal of an entire storyline, and the story will be better for it so long as I stay out of my own way. There might simply be Too Much Stuff. A few other things might have to be set aside. We shall see.

The Other Thing!
I haven't been camping for two years now, and I miss it terribly. Alas, my son has no interest in camping these days, and my nephews--who love to camp--are in Colorado. But I used to go camping alone all the time in my 20s. Why not now? So I booked a campsite for later this month, and it'll be all mine for two nights and most of three days. Gambit will come with me to act as an alarm system. (And yes, I travel with protection.) When I return, I'll post pictures and details and such. And I'm so damned excited about it!!
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
The opening chapter is now complete! In it, we have treachery questioned, loyalty confirmed, a touch of elemental manipulation, a dire threat, heightened stakes, and the discovery of a theft that could determine the balance of power.

I think that's quite enough to get the ball rolling apace.

At some point in the last few years, I lost the backstory-angst of writing a sequel. I no longer feel the need to ensure the reader is "up to speed" with all that happened in Book One. Backstory should be revealed on a need-to-know basis. There's no reason the rule should be different for sequels. So, happily, I find myself untroubled as a set a continuing story in motion.

Besides, one of the primary reasons behind telling/reminding the reader what happened before was the anticipated difficulty readers would have finding previous volumes. Now, with the shelf-life and accessibility of series novels extended and expanded immensely, the likelihood of readers having to jump in mid-series is so much smaller. Yes, there will still be readers who pick up mid-series, but it simply isn't going to be as common.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
No, it hasn't been a bad day.

Instead, it's one of those wake-up too early even though you wrote until almost three in the morn, discover an email about a piece of paper that must be submitted to a certain government agency by the "deadline on the original letter," dig up letter, confirm date is a mere 48 hours in the future, try to log on to the website you haven't visited in six months, discover your first three guesses at the password are wrong, get locked out of the account, read the passwords were automatically reset by the government agency three months ago anyway, spend almost an hour on the phone either waiting for a representative or talking to one, finally gain a new password, attempt to review personal data on the site, accidentally wipe out most of it, then take another half hour to re-enter it while dojo staff calls with questions about next week's summer camp and your mother texts you about the fact your father will be showing up on your doorstep in less than an hour, and realizing you haven't even yet changed out of your PJ's and it's after two in the afternoon kind of days.

Now the paperwork issue is resolved, the camp questions are answered, and I've 90 minutes before heading to the dojo.

On the other hand... remember that writing thing I mentioned above?

Almost two thousand words of a new opening chapter. Breath of Stone is officially underway!

And no, I've not heard a peep from the kid yet, and I'll be surprised if I do. I told him he didn't have to call me at all unless he needed something. He's only there for a short time, and the last thing I want is him feeling obligated to call his mother. Since the majority of folks on the trip are adults, and the teens are all sixteen and seventeen, I suspect he's getting the experience of Being An Adult as well.

Doesn't mean I don't miss him, but that's mine to deal with, not his to fix.

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