Okay, so it's been a while. After I released Heir of Tanaris, I did a re-edit of the whole Daughter of the Wildings series, fixing up a few things I wasn't quite satisfied with, and also brushed up the blurbs. And Write Dream Repeat Book Design did these nifty new title treatments on the covers!
Pretty cool, huh? :) All six books wouldn't fit on the banner she made for me; you can check them all out on the series page.
To celebrate the update, Beneath the Canyons is only 99 cents until after New Year's.
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | iTunes | GooglePlay | Smashwords | DriveThruFiction
So now it's on to updating the paperback versions and also doing the paperback of Heir of Tanaris, and the revision of Defenders of the Wildings. Yes, this is a thing, even though it's been delayed a while. The whole thing is written, I just need to beat it into shape. As part of that process, I made a Story Grid of the entire series. It's pretty long, so I couldn't fit it all into one picture. Here's the left side, from the start to the first part of Book 5 (Books 5 and 6 are a lot longer than books 1-4), partly because I forgot in the first draft to put the plot in book 1; what's in the grid is a skeleton plot that will need to be fleshed out a little more):
And here's the right side:
As you can see, I had fun with my colored gel pens :) The pacing and flow, the ups and downs of the different storylines, actually came out pretty good. I don't have to make a lot of adjustments to the story structure. The actual writing... That's another story (lol). At this moment, I'm well on the way through typing up the final revision outline and notes, and I should be ready to start marking that puppy up with the red pen this week. This revision method takes a lot of planning, but saves a lot of time and trouble later on. If I think of something I need to add, delete, or change, it's just a matter of making the changes in my revision outline, rather than having to go back and rewrite something I've already rewritten once. I'll probably have to do some of that anyway, but planning it all out ahead of time will keep it to a minimum.
So this should keep me busy for a while. I'll post updates whenever I have something interesting to report. In the meantime, I've got a stockpile of short stories waiting to be edited and posted or released for sale, when I get a chance, so watch for those.
I am very happy to announce that Heir of Tanaris is (finally) available at the following retailers:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | iTunes | GooglePlay | Smashwords | DriveThruFiction |
The ebook is only 99 cents through October 19; after that, the regular price will be $4.99. The paperback will be coming in a few weeks, probably.
Here's the description: As a young boy, Davian was sold into slavery at Source Makarsk, a corrupted magical wellspring. Over the years, he has risen in the ranks of the slaves; still, he knows he will never be anything but a slave until an elderly wizard, a prisoner at Makarsk, tells him he can be something more and gives him an astonishing gift. Desperate to find the destiny the wizard promised him, Davian risks his life to escape from Makarsk.
Isamina, a talented young healer at Sharan, a Source of healing magic, loves caring for patients and has a special gift for soothing their fears and pain. But her parents, the Master and Matron of the Source, and her betrothed, her former teacher, doubt her abilities and have their own plans for the path her life should follow. And the kind of healing Isamina most wants to do, mending broken minds and spirits, is strictly forbidden at Source Sharan.
When a badly-injured runaway slave is brought to Sharan, Isamina is captivated by the man she senses deep inside and risks everything to try to heal his tormented spirit, damaged by the evil Source that still holds him prisoner. And Davian, hunted by Makarsk's fearsome Guardian, must find a way to defeat the powerful magic that binds him to Source Makarsk so that he can become the great man he longs to be and win the love he yearns for, the love of his healing angel, Isamina.
Romantic high fantasy for adults [for some reason, people get the idea that my books are YA, which they most definitely are not]. Contains violence, mild to moderate sensual content, and disturbing themes.
You can read the first chapter here.
Heir clocks in at 100,000 words, by far the longest of my novels except for Lost Book of Anggird, which is in the neighborhood of 130,000 or so. Still only 1/3 to 1/4 the length of your average fantasy doorstopper, but long for me. Which is why it took so long to release it; I'd forgotten what a challenge it is to work on such a long book, and just how long it takes.
Next up, some fine-tuning of Beneath the Canyons; there are some things about the execution of it that I'm not really satisfied with. At the same time, I'll be continuing with revision prep for the Defenders of the Wildings series.
Wow, between a cold and working on edits to Heir of Tanaris, September just blew right by. I was hoping to release Heir by the end of September, but that didn't quite happen. It's in the proofreading stages right now, and I'm looking at releasing it sometime next week.
In the meantime, I got a real book designer (Write, Dream, Repeat Book Design) to re-do the title treatment on the cover, instead of me just slapping something on it, and here's what she did:
I love the extra decorative touches to make it look like a real book cover.
She also re-did the titling on the covers of the other Tehovir books:
I love the branding on these. Watch for the new covers to roll out next week with the release of Heir of Tanaris.
And you should see what she did with the Daughters of the Wildings covers! There are some things with Beneath the Canyons that I'm not quite satisfied with, so that book will be undergoing another edit (no changes to the story, world, or characters; just the execution could use some fine-tuning). As part of this update, I decided to get new cover treatments to better reflect the fantasy-western genre blend. Same great art by Mominur Rahman, with nifty new design by WDR Book Design! Watch for those probably in November.
And yes, Defenders of the Wildings is still in the pipeline. I put the revision on hold while I finish up Heir of Tanaris, but I'll be getting back to it as soon as Heir is released.
With Heir of Tanaris in the later editing stages and (hopefully) still on track for release at the end of September, it's time to reveal the cover. I have been so excited to show this off!
And here's the full spread for the paperback:
As usual, Mominur Rahman did an amazing job with bringing my characters to life. And the magical tree is pretty cool, too. That was the first thing my husband said when I showed this to him - "Cool tree!"
Here's the short blurb, in case you haven't seen it yet: "When Davian, a badly-injured runaway slave from a corrupted magical Source, is brought to Isamina's healing Source, Isamina must find the courage to heal his damaged spirit, while Davian must defeat the evil within himself to become the great man he was meant to be and win the love he yearns for."
Some fun facts about this cover:
Davian's gloves weren't in the original character description. But I liked them so much I added them into the book, and they became an important detail in the story.
Also, Kaniev (from Source-Breaker) and Davian are from the same region of Tehovir, the northeastern fiords, (and, I don't know, Kaniev might even be Davian's great-great-grandfather or something) so I gave Mominur the same reference photos to work from, featuring the same model. Here are some closeups; you can see the resemblance between the two characters, but also how the artist captured their different personalities.
Finally, here's some of my mood music for the book, from the album Haven by Kamelot. The whole album is really awesome, and pretty much makes up most of the playlist for the book.
My Therapy (this is how Davian sees Isamina):
Under Grey Skies (the love song for Davian and Isamina):
Watch for Heir of Tanaris coming at the end of September (knock on wood). To make sure you don't miss out on the release and the special low introductory price, sign up for my email newsletter.
I think I mentioned before that I'm studying The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, a really cool editing method that takes you deep into how a story's theme and structure work together. The approach it takes really struck a chord with me, so I gave it a try with Heir of Tanaris. This might be more interesting for writers, but if you're an avid reader and like seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, you might find it interesting too.
Heir had already been through one major revision and was out with the beta readers while I was working through the Story Grid book, but I felt like I hadn't gone deep enough into what the story is about. This is a novel that has given me a hard time for years, trying to really get a grasp on it. So I decided to take Heir through the process, which involves making a spreadsheet of different sets of info about the story and a 1-page summary of the story then putting it all together into a grid.
Here's a screen shot of part of my spreadsheet for Heir:
Because spreadsheets are awesome, and doing this helped me start to clearly see the patterns of the story.
My "1 page" summary kinda turned out to be a lot more complicated than that. The Story Grid summary is based on a 3-part structure, beginning - middle - end, while I myself am more partial to a four-part structure, beginning - middle 1 - [midpoint reversal] - middle 2 - end, and Heir actually falls more naturally into 5 parts. But the basic principles are the same, each section consists of complications rising to some sort of crisis and climax, and I eventually got that beaten into shape.
And then the fun part, making the actual grid. You do this on actual grid paper with actual pens (it is possible to do it on a spreadsheet, but it would be a lot harder unless you're a spreadsheet virtuoso, and the examples I've seen are hard to read); I used my new set of Tul colored gel pens :D which was fun. And here it is:
The boxes above and below the center line each represent a scene. The Story Grid method evaluates scenes based on how the story situation changes, from bad to good (negative to positive) or good to bad (positive to negative); you can also have bad to worse (which is fun) and good to better (use sparingly). Scenes that move in a positive direction go above the line, scenes that go in a negative direction go below the line. The tricky thing, and the thing that really helps you strengthen the theme of the story, is the direction the scene goes in has to relate to the overall storyline. For example, if the villain gets something he wants, that's positive for the villain but negative for the overall story. So that scene goes below the line.
Trickier is if one of the good guys gets something he wants that he shouldn't want, because he's trying to overcome a character flaw; that is also a negative turn for the story, even though it's temporarily positive for the character. Or if the character has to make a sacrifice in order to achieve their goal; negative at the moment for the character, but positive for the storyline. It can especially get complicated if you have two conflicting goals. A scene can be positive for one storyline and negative for the other. For example, in a romance, if the hero passionately kisses the heroine even though he's got no business kissing her at all right now, that's positive for the romance but negative for his moral development. Heir of Tanaris has a lot of that conflicting stuff going on, so this helped me get a firmer grip on all of it.
I had fun with my colored pens :) The blue boxes are for scenes where we're in Davian's head, pink boxes are for scenes in Isamina's point of view. Imaginative, I know :P Brown boxes are for the villain. The colored lines going up and down represent the rise and fall of the different storylines. Blue is one of Davian's storylines, green is the other, pink is Isamina's, and orange is the romance storyline. That line, for example, goes down when something happens to keep Davian and Isamina apart and up when they're together and their relationship progresses.
Now, over on the right hand side, not all the way to the right but kind of in the middle of the right side of the graph, you might notice a problem. That's right, hardly any scenes with a negative turn. Almost all the action is above the line. This means everything through here was going very smoothly for our hero and heroine. Which is nice for them but makes for a boring story. That was a huge flaw in the story which was really made clear by the grid. So what I did was go back and evaluate the story conflicts in each of those scenes, the larger-scale problems the characters are facing throughout the book. What problems did I solve too easily? Where do the characters need to struggle harder?
Another problem is all the way to the right, near the end, there's one scene that stretches both above and below the center line with a bunch of lines zooming up and down and up and down all within that one scene that takes place over maybe an hour of story time. What that showed me is I was trying to do too much in that one scene and the climax of the story was rushed. So there again I had to deepen the struggle, and also spread it out over more scenes and over time within the story.
I just finished the revision incorporating everything I got from this and also the beta reader feedback, and I think it's made Heir of Tanaris a much stronger, deeper book. I'm going through a modified version of the process with the first draft of the Defenders of the Wildings series, combining it with Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel method, in hopes of nailing all the major story issues in one big revision instead of two. Which hopefully will help me get those books out faster.
To learn more about the Story Grid, visit the Story Grid website. Most of the content from the book is also available for free on the blog, and you can also view story grids that Shawn Coyne made for Silence of the Lambs (the book he uses as the example throughout the blog posts and book) and Pride and Prejudice.
Anyway, Heir of Tanaris is currently on track for release in late September. To make sure you don't miss out on the release (and the special limited-time low introductory price), sign up for my email newsletter. Subscribers will also get the first peek at the cover, before I do the cover reveal here on my blog. So excited about this; Mominur Rahman's art for this book is gorgeous!
You may or may not notice a slight difference in the site banner and the cover gallery over to the side - I've done a slight refresh of the cover of Beneath the Canyons, and also got a shiny new cover for the Daughter of the Wildings boxed set! Here it is in all its glory:
Write, Dream, Repeat Book Design put that beauty together for me :D
And here's my refresh of the Canyons cover:
Same awesome art by Mominur Rahman, but I adjusted the color and lighting a bit and changed the color on the lettering to bring out that magical glow thing happening around the edges of Silas and Lainie, coming off of the ore they're holding, and also cropped in a little closer on the characters so that the magic is a more prominent element.
Anyway, as for actual books, I'm still chugging along. I've been slightly less exhausted this week than I was last week, but my brain is very unfocused. I'm mainly concentrating my efforts on the second big revision of Heir of Tanaris right now; I want to get that done and edited and released. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say end of September, but I can't make any guarantees this far out.
Once Heir of Tanaris is out, I'll turn my full focus (such as it is) to Defenders of the Wildings. I've got another story/series idea I want to work on, that I think I can set in the Islands of the Wildings world, but first I'll just work on the big edit on Defenders. It's almost scary how much work it's going to need, but I'm trying out a process that I hope will let me cut my two major revisions down to one. I also have a bunch of short stories I've been meaning to get to in the evenings on days when I get my full quota of work done during the day, but that never happens. At least I'm making progress, slow though it may be.
Once again it's been a long time since my last post. Even longer this time, I guess. May and June were very difficult months for us. My 87-year-old mother-in-law went into a decline, with trips to the emergency room just about every week. My husband helps his parents out a lot, more or less acting as their caregiver when they've needed it, so that meant a lot of time in the ER and the hospital with his mom and dad. The one week in May when his mother wasn't in the ER, he landed there with a severe abdominal infection (he's fine now, but it took a lot of antibiotics and it was several weeks before he could start eating normally again). Finally, in the later part of June, my mother-in-law suffered a major stroke which left her in terminal condition, and she passed away a week later. We had been planning a trip to Flagstaff in early July to see our son who lives up there. The funeral was a couple of days before we'd planned to go, so when it was over we decided to go ahead and get away for a much-needed break. We got back a few days ago and now I'm finally recovering enough to do stuff like write blog posts and do some work on my books.
My husband's siblings, who live out of town, were here for their mother's final days and had been coming in before then as they were able, but the brunt of the long hours at the ER and the hospital visits and managing the ever-changing medications and various problems with my in-laws' aging house fell on my husband. And someone needs to take care of the caregiver, so that was me. The uncertainty, the late nights and long hours of waiting, the stress and worry about what might happen next and what to do about it, took a toll on us both, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I'm starting to recover and get back into the groove on my books; I think my husband will be okay, too.
So, we're going to miss her. She was 87 and had been in poor health for several years, and it seemed like she was ready to go. But it's still hard to get used to the idea that when we go over to their house, she won't be there in her recliner with the volume on the TV news or whatever PBS show she's watching turned all the way up, eager to tell us about the latest thing she read or watched and to get the latest news about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren (our granddaughters). She was a Jewish woman who graduated from law school in a time and place when that was almost unheard of, she was a politics and history buff, and she loved reading and learning new things. In her last few years, she developed an obsession with the musical "Hamilton" (yes, my 80-something-year-old classical-music-loving mother-in-law bought the soundtrack to a hiphop musical and actually enjoyed it) and also with tracing her family history. I like to think of her finally having the chance to ask her grandfather where he really came from. She was a wonderful, loving, accepting mother-in-law and never spoke an unkind word to me, and she was always supportive of and interested in my writing even though fantasy really wasn't her thing. One of the last things she said was that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren were her legacy.
Anyway. I'll be back soon with a progress report on Heir of Tanaris and Defenders of the Wildings (still coming along, even if it's been a little slow lately).
Whew, ok. Yes, I'm still here, up over my head in revisions on two large projects, Heir of Tanaris (the upcoming Tehovir novel) and Defenders of the Wildings, the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. I'm making progress; Tanaris went out to the beta readers early in the month and the reports are coming back in, and I finished making my revision notes for Defenders (a couple hundred pages' worth) and now I'm trying to systematically set about making sense of it all and organizing the revision so I don't miss anything, from adding the actual plot to book 1 to characters whose reason for being in the books I'm still figuring out to what exactly that green stuff is.
I've also got some more short stories I want to put into a collection, and then there's the Source-Breaker stories, which will be a newsletter exclusive. Life's been kind of crazy for the last month, with one thing and another, but hopefully things will settle down. I'm hoping to be able to cut back on extra demands so I can recover from everything and get caught up on my writing projects.
Since I'm always trying to improve my writing craft, besides my usual revision methods I'm working my way through The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, which is basically like a big textbook about story structure and story theme and how they work together, and how to analyze them in your project. I'm doing this with the revised version of Tanaris, and it's making me look at things in a different way that's both mind-blowing and makes a lot of sense with how I think about writing. I'll definitely be incorporating it into my workflow. It might even streamline my process a little by catching more of the big issues at the beginning of revisions.
With Heir of Tanaris coming into the later stages of revision, I think I'll do the cover reveal coming up before too long. Newsletter subscribers will get the first peek, so if you're anxious to see this gorgeous artwork, sign up if you haven't already! And Sivael from Source-Breaker has been waiting to be interviewed, so I'll try to get to that next. Back to work :)
Yeah, wow, it's been a while since I posted, so I'm just coming up for air really quick to check in. Still hard at work on Heir of Tanaris and Defenders of the Wildings. These are two very large projects, but I'm still plugging away, more or less steadily, and making progress.
I'm almost done with the first major revision of Heir. This is turning out to be a very slippery book; some things about it are just really hard to pin down. Even after planning my revision and then doing the revision, I'm still changing stuff. I think I've written more new material for this book than I usually do in my revisions, so much about it has changed, especially what's going on with Davreos, the hero. I've been studying the Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne, and I think the next step will be to take apart Heir using this method to try to really get it figured out. It's not bad the way it is, but I'm trying to step up my game anyway, and I feel like there are weak spots that could be a lot stronger.
On the Defenders analysis, I'm on about page 250 out of 450. Just started book 5, but the last two books are a lot longer than the first four. It's going pretty well, there's a couple of supporting characters I've been struggling with what to do with and finally came to the conclusion that one of them has to die *sob*. Also, I was going over a scene the other day, just a small scene, and digging a little deeper into the conflict, when suddenly I realized what one of the major conflicts of the whole series needs to be. I had already touched on it a little, but now the full breadth of it has opened up. So, more rewriting. But it's the sort of thing that will take Defenders from a fun read but kind of lightweight to having a lot more depth and substance. In the meantime, I've booked the cover artist for this fall (yes, he's busy; good thing I didn't wait too long to contact him!).
I've also got some short stories on the sidelines, a set of backstories to go with Source-Breaker (this will be a newsletter exclusive) and another collection of stories I wrote last year, that will go up for sale (but subscribers will also have the chance to get it for free).
And I sketched out a couple of new novel ideas, or one might turn into a series.
Back to work!
Today I am really excited to be a host for the release blitz for Darkstorm (Rhenwars Saga Book 1), the new epic fantasy novel by M.L. Spencer. It's the prequel to Darkmage, which I reviewed a couple of years ago as part of my A-Z reading challenge. Some time after I posted that review, Ms. Spencer contacted me to very graciously thank me for the review and ask if I would beta-read the prequel, Darkstorm. Of course I said yes! Darkstorm blew me away, even in its early beta-read stage, and the Rhenwars Saga is shaping up to be an awesome series. Here's more about the book (and dig that amazing cover!):
Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages resolves to open the gateway to Hell. The only mages who stand a chance of opposing them are Sephana Clemley and her acolyte, Merris Bryar, along with their protectors, Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship.
Will Braden and Quin be able to protect Sephana and Merris long enough to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to manipulation and become darkmages themselves?
Darkstorm is available at Amazon.
Add to Goodreads
And while we're at it, here's the second book (though the first written), Darkmage, with a shiny new cover:
The hope of the world rests in the hands of a Darkmage.
The Well of Tears is open and the terror of the night has been unleashed. Now, the last Sentinel left alive with the power to defend his world against the minions of the Netherworld is a man destined to be corrupted into the image of what he hates. In the name of duty, Darien Lauchlin will see oaths forsaken, crowns toppled, friends sacrificed and the land he loves desecrated. For there is a very thin line between duty… and brutal inhumanity.
Darkmage is available at Amazon.
Add to Goodreads.
About the author:
M.L. Spencer grew up on the works of Steven R. Donaldson, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She wrote her first novel-length manuscript at thirteen. Her debut novel Darkmage won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy. She was also awarded 1st Place Prose in in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration.
Ms. Spencer lives in Southern California. By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. She is now in the process of expanding the Rhenwars Saga into a trilogy.
Visit her at:
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Click on the covers for more information
-National Novel Writing Month
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-The Passive Voice
-A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
Let's Get Digital
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-Raymond Cook - Western Frontier eBooks
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