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!
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!
Looks like it's time for a progress update. Two big projects are occupying my time and (limited) brainpower and energy right now. The major revision of Heir of Tanaris is under way; I'm about halfway through. As always, scenes I thought didn't need a lot of work are getting totally rewritten (just finished a long one that I decided at the last minute to change from Davreos's point of view to Isamina's). But I'm really happy with how this is coming together so far. The soundtrack for this book is mainly the album Haven by Kamelot. Give it a listen if you want to get a feel for this book, the next book in the Tehovir world.
I've also started the triage phase of revision on the Defenders of the Wildings series, the follow-up to Daughter of the Wildings. I was going to wait until the big revision on Tanaris was done, but decided I couldn't wait that long. And I think (hope!) I've got readers waiting for it too. So I started that, revising the whole series like it's one big book (which it basically is, much more than Daughter, which divided itself up neatly into separate novels), and I was going through book 1 and it was going fine, highlight these characters more, move this to this other scene, combine these two scenes, dum de dum, HEY WHERE'S THE PLOT???
Yes, I forgot to put a plot in book 1. Which probably explains why this "novella" is only 38 double-spaced pages long. My excuse is that I decided that what was originally book 1 needed to be book 2, so I took some stuff from the original book 2 and wrote some new material and stuck all that in front to make the new book 1, just so I could get the general scaffolding of the story in place. I know what the plot is supposed to be; a thing happens, as often does in novels, and this thing has potentially dire consequences for Silas and Lainie and their livelihood, and they talk about doing something in response. Well, then, other things happen and we get to the end of book 1 and they never did the thing they talked about. So doing the thing they talked about is the plot of book 1, and now I just need to actually write it. Fortunately, it fits in well with the other stuff happening that I wrote.
There are writers who claim they can write a complete, organized, well-structured story in one draft, with only needing to clean up the typos to make it publishable. I am not one of those writers. :P
So, anyway, that's where things stand. No idea yet on release dates; to make sure you don't miss out, sign up for my email alerts to get release news, special offers, the occasional freebie, newsletter-exclusive sneak peeks and trivia quizzes, and other fun stuff when I can think of it.
One more note: a very talented young writer named Cristian Mihai is in dire need of dental work that is far beyond his means to pay for. He has a condition that leaches all the calcium from his teeth, with the result that he has a mouthful of crumbling teeth, which causes him a great deal of pain and makes him unable to eat or speak normally. His writing is best described as literary fiction, which you may know is usually not my reading material of choice, but his stuff is really good. Anyway, if you can make a donation, or buy a package of reblogs on his site if you have a Wordpress blog, buy one of his books, or even just share on social media, every little bit helps.
My fantasy world, that is. Or at least the name.
Yes, Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and my two upcoming novels, Source-Breaker and Heir of Tanaris, is getting a name change. A long time ago when I first started developing this world, I just called it Source-World. Easy, and it made sense - the world is based on the idea of magic coming from Sources that are natural features, such as caves, springs, trees, etc. Not a terribly original idea, but it's a lot of fun to work with and offers a lot of possibilities for conflicts and stories, and for characters who are involved with these Sources in one way or another. When I was still doing this writing thing just for fun, Source-World worked fine as a name. But when it came time to start putting these stories out in public, I realized that Source-World wouldn't work because the people living in that world wouldn't think of it that way.
So I went looking for another name. I don't remember the exact process by which I came up with Estelend, but I do remember it involved consulting the etymology section at the back of my trusty vintage American Heritage dictionary. Anyway, so I came up with Estelend and it seemed okay. I wasn't wild about it, but it was better than Source-World. But I've never really liked the sound of it, and I think it looks funny, and that's been bothering me more and more. Another thing I don't like about it is that, to my ear, it seems a little reminiscent of Westeros, the world of Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire. I'll just say that I'm not a fan of those books and I really don't want to have any suggestion of association with them, and I don't want people to think I'm trying to invoke them.
I put off doing anything about changing the name, because it seemed like an awful lot of work and would involve making (admittedly minor) changes in work that's already been published, including to the covers. But I was disliking Estelend more and more, and realized that with two more novels set in the world about to come out, it's now or never - if I don't make the change now, I'm stuck with Estelend.
So I chose the words that express the idea of this world, magic or power and source, and went to a site that lists what words are in lots of different languages. "Magic" is pretty much the same in most languages, and I didn't want something so identifiable, so I also looked for words for "power." I tried out lots of different combinations, then did some Googling to make sure I wasn't using something that was someone's name or had an unfortunate meaning. One of my possible names, when I Googled it, Google didn't recognize it and suggested "Gardevoir" instead. Gardevoir is a Pokemon, and a very cool Pokemon, but I don't want something else coming up should readers Google for the name of my world.
After all this, I finally settled on the new name for Estelend, Tehovir. It means "power source" in a mashup of a couple of different languages, and looks cool; it fits with a lot of the other names I've invented for this world. How to pronounce it? However you want, since it's not a real word :-D In my mind I say it "TAY-hoe-Vir" (short i). But really, you can pronounce it however you want. Right now I'm in the process of making the change on the covers (fortunately, I do my own lettering and save everything in a Photoshop version so it's easy to go in and just change one word) and doing search-and-replaces in the books and stories set in that world. The publishing services at a lot of the stores I sell through are closed/on reduced hours for the holidays right now, so I'll wait until I've got everything switched around to start uploading. In the meantime, I'll start changing the old covers out on the site and also create a new Tehovir blog category and a page for the series. Because the week before Christmas, trying to get the next book out, what I need most is another task like this :-P But it's really a relief to not have that nagging at me any more, hating the name Estelend and wondering if I should do something about it.
In the meantime, if you really want to help make a small change in the world for authors struggling with health or financial difficulties, head on over to the Help an Author Christmas promotion. (Read more about it in this post.) You can browse (full price) books by authors who have donated to the assistance fund, and even make a donation yourself, if you want. The Daughter of the Wildings Books 1-3 and Love and Magic box sets are in the promo, and for each copy of those titles sold during December (whether through the promo or otherwise), I'll make an additional donation to the fund. Thanks for your support!
I came across this writing exercise I did for Dean Wesley Smith's Originality workshop on YouTube. The prompt was "a character standing on a bridge." (unedited, straight from my brain to the keyboard.)
She stopped in the middle of the bridge and set down her pack, catching her breath after the long walk through the rugged territory that had led to this narrow gap in the mountains. A cold wind whistled down the gorge, setting the bridge to shivering. She shivered as well, and not just from the wind. The urge to look back, just once, was more than she had will to resist, so she looked.
Nothing behind her.
Only the forest, the trees standing so close together, their branches so heavy and dense, that no moonlight could filter through to lessen the thick darkness among the trunks. Nothing else lay that way; everything that had existed for her now lay buried beneath fresh-turned earth.
She looked down, over the thin wooden rail of the thin wooden bridge that creaked beneath her feet. Far below in the gorge, moonlight glinted on the ripples in the narrow, swift-flowing river where it ran over rocks.
Nothing below, except for a burst of pain on hitting the cold water and the rocks just beneath the surface, followed by -- whatever lay beyond that. She had a hard time believing it was anything but oblivion.
Ahead lay more dark forest, as dense and lightless as its twin on the other side of the bridge. A path must lead on from the bridge, else why was the bridge here at all? But she had never heard anyone speak of an end to the forest, of any sort of destination such a path, assuming it existed, might lead to.
So, ahead of her, more nothing as well.
Nothing behind her but loss, nothing below her but oblivion, nothing ahead but the unknown.
Having caught her breath, she stood, considering the three different kinds of nothing. Or there was a fourth kind; she could simply sit down here, in the middle of the bridge, and wait for the end that would come sooner or later. But that would inevitably lead to the same oblivion that awaited her below, less painful but dragged out unbearably slow.
Loss, oblivion, or the unknown.
Finally she shouldered her pack and took a step forward, then another, then another. Of the three nothings, only the unknown held the possibility that it might change. So that was where she would go.
This might eventually turn into something. My brain is working on it, trying it out with other scraps of ideas that aren't quite ready to go.
In the meantime, the first draft of Defenders of the Wildings is progressing nicely (finally, after two false starts), and I'm still working on the second major revision of Source-Breaker. Hoping to have some cover art to show off soon!
Just an assortment of news and updates. First, Mistress of the Mirror and Other Stories, my new short story collection, is finally available. This collection contains five short fantasy tales of strange things found in pawnshops... And things too strange for pawnshops:
Mistress of the Mirror: A poor woman, an assassin, and a mirror.
Valuables: A curious pawnshop owner and a mysterious figurine.
Of Rings and Lemon Cream Cakes: A respectable spinster and a diamond ring with a mind of its own.
Pawned: A fate worse than death.
A Worthy Instrument: A struggling musician and the lute of his dreams.
Only 99 cents at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Smashwords | OmniLit | DriveThruFiction | Kobo. Through August 31, if you sign up for my email alerts, you can get a coupon code for a free copy from Smashwords!
So whenever I think things are going to settle down, it seems like that's just an invitation for something else to happen. The week before last, it was the event that will hereafter be known as the Lycopolypse, when Lycos, the hosting and domain name provider, crashed for nearly three days. The Lycos sites, including customer service, email (including my business domain email), and subscriber control panels went down, as did sites hosted on Lycos and its subsidiaries Tripod and Angelfire, AND (relevant to our interests here) all domain names registered through Lycos (including kyrahalland.com) stopped working. So if you tried to visit my site on those days and got an error, that's what happened.
Fortunately, everything is back up and working, but I've also decided it's time to move on from Lycos. I'd been with Angelfire and Lycos since 2001, when I started my fanworks archive that I still run. Back in the old days, if you had some fanfiction or fanart you wanted to collect and post, or opinions to make available to the world, or any kind of hobby or interest to show off, or just wanted to carve out a little space for yourself on the internet, you taught yourself some basic html, signed up with Angelfire or GeoCities or Tripod (there were other hosts, too, but those were the Big Three and Angelfire generally seemed to be considered the best), and made yourself a website. None of this easy, instant Wordpress/Tumblr/drag n drop stuff; you had to actually learn some coding. But it was fun; there were a lot more regularly-updated amateur fansites back then, and if you've never had the experience of going to your favorite fansite, hoping for an update with a new chapter on that fic you were following or some cool new fanart to admire, and seeing - oh joy! - that flashing neon green text on black background scrolling by announcing an update, well, that's a big part of the internet you've missed out on. My fanworks site was hosted on Angelfire; just few weeks before the Lycopolypse I copied it over to private hosting owned by my older son and his wife. The Angelfire site went down, but with the domain names not working, no one could get to it on the other hosting, either, and of course no one could get to my author site. So I made the decision that it was time to transfer my domain names away from Lycos. That's been kind of a mess (I've had to involve their registrar, Tucows), but hopefully I'll get it all sorted out soon without any more disruption. Looking back, I'd been seeing signs for a few years now that Lycos wasn't the great company it used to be. I should have gotten out sooner, but I was still kind of sentimental about it. No more; it's time to move on.
One important thing to note: This site being unavailable for a few days had nothing to do with Weebly, my hosting service. Weebly has been awesome and very reliable, with great, responsive customer service. Still, I'm backing up my site (saving to Evernote, so I can keep the contents and the general layout) just in case the day does come that something happens to Weebly. Hopefully it won't; they've been great to work with.
So I'm still kind of tearing my hair out over the lack of progress with getting both of my domain names transferred (my fansite domain is all settled in its new home, but the transfer for kyrahalland.com is dead in the water at the moment), but otherwise it's back to the writing. The Source-Fixer is out to beta readers now, and the Mistress of the Mirror collection is finally up for sale. Next up, I'm working on getting Tales of Azara, a collection of companion stories to Chosen of Azara, ready to publish and working out more kinks in the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. Some of what I've already written I can keep, but a lot is going to have to be ditched or changed as I rein myself in from my meanderings and get back to the heart of what the Wildings books are really about. I've been re-reading The War of Art and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield and using the focused and simplified three-part outline structure from Do the Work, and I think I've finally got a handle on this.
So those three words (ouch, arg, and yay are words, right?) pretty much sum up May, or at least the last half and the first part of June.
For starters, sometime around May 18 I did something to my back. It started with stiffness, then progressed to pain and spasms so bad I would lie awake in bed at night, unable to sleep, crying because it hurt so bad. What was worse, we were supposed to go take care of our 3-year-old granddaughter for a few days (more on that in the "yay" section) and I just didn't see how I could do it, in as much pain as I was having. It also made it very hard to concentrate on getting any work done. I knew it was just muscular strain, most likely a combination of new shoes that weren't right for me and some awkward bending, but wow, it really hurt. Finally, the day before we were going out of town to tend Kylie, I did a search on stretches to help with back spasms, and found a site with some things that looked helpful. There was also a book, a $5 Kindle download, so I bought it and tried the first few stretches, and wow. I hesitate to say "miracle cure," but after I did just those first beginning stretches the pain was sooo much better and as I continued with the program my pain went away. The site is here: lowbackpainprogram.com. Of course, I'm not a medical professional and if you're experiencing unusual, severe, or persistent pain you should see a doctor, but for simple muscle tightness and strain, I wanted to share what really helped me.
So that's the "ouch" part and, fortunately, it's much better now. As for the "arg," I spent the second half of May (and some of it is still ongoing) wrestling with some frustrating problems.
First off, I was horrified to discover that on certain Kindle devices and apps (that use the new Enhanced Typesetting), all the paragraph indents were stripped out in all my books published since Nov. 2014, including the entire Daughter of the Wildings series and the two box sets I've released, Love and Magic and Daughter of the Wildings Books 1-3. I was absolutely mortified to see how terrible this looked. When my readers pay their good money for my books, even if it's only 99 cents, they expect and deserve the highest-quality, most professional product I'm capable of providing. And a book with no paragraph indents does not meet that standard. With some detective work and some help from the good people at the Kboards Writers Cafe, I discovered where in my formatting process the problem was coming from, a program I use that apparently doesn't play nicely with the Enhanced Typesetting. Fortunately, it's a step in the process that, it turns out, is unnecessary; I was afraid it was a problem in my html coding and that I would have to re-do all my coding or change my formatting process completely. But all I had to do was run my html files through my process again, leaving off that last, unnecessary step, and everything turned out fine. Then I had to re-upload everything and get Kindle Direct Publishing to make the new files available to customers who've already bought the books, which kind of turned into its own comedy of errors (somehow, some of my correspondence got handed off to CreateSpace, which does paper books, not Kindle books >.>) and I lost a lot of writing time wrestling with all of it, but it eventually all worked out.
If you bought any of those books from Amazon and had an unsatisfactory reading experience because of the paragraph indent problem, you should be able to delete the book(s) from your device (NOT from your Amazon account!) and re-download it to get the corrected file. But apparently Amazon considers a complete lack of paragraph indents to be a "minor" quality problem <.< and so won't automatically push the corrected file to people who bought it.
Then, while I was dealing with that, I noticed some suspicious activity with the fanworks archive site I own. I couldn't track down what exactly was going on, and the only help I got from my hosting company was "change your password." >.> I ended up moving the site to private hosting owned by my older son and his wife (I trust them with my site security more than the company it used to be hosted with), but I'm still getting the domain name and pointing sorted out.
And, this whole time, I've really been wrestling with the second Daughter of the Wildings series. I was going merrily on my way, well into the third book (of a projected five), then I realized I was bored and unhappy with what I was writing. The magic and fun of the first series just weren't there. Some serious thought on the matter revealed a couple of problems. Mainly, I've been very concerned with some current social and political issues, and that was making a heavy appearance in the stories. I don't try to keep my books entirely free of my basic convictions and world view, but pounding on issues the way I was doing, making the books *about* them, does not make for good books. It was sucking all the life out of the books. I also realized that the fun of the Old West setting, the magic, and the Silas-Lainie relationship were all missing as I was telling this bare-bones story that was, really, just a thinly-disguised rant on the issues I was concerned about.
So I refocused on what the Wildings books are really all about, magic, adventure, and romance in a fantasy world inspired by the Old West, made note of the stuff I needed to change, and set aside what I had of book 3 and started over (I didn't change anything in books 1 or 2, just made notes on what to change, in case I changed my mind again. Which turns out was a good thing <.<).
But I was still unhappy with it; now Silas and Lainie were all whiny and depressed because everything was awful and all these terrible things were happening to them. Which brought out the other major flaw in what I was writing. Silas and Lainie weren't *doing* anything. Things were just happening to them and they were just going with the flow, whining and moping and feeling guilty and depressed about it. Which, you know, maybe you win literary awards for stuff like that, but I can't stand reading or writing it.
So, finally, last Friday and Saturday, I sat down and rewrote the entire series summary, looking for the flaws in the plotting, where I was making things happen just for the sake of having something - anything! - happen and where I needed to focus on the heart and soul, the reason for being, of the Wildings books, and re-outlined the entire series beginning to end. The good news is, I'm not going to have to throw out everything; most of book 2 is still good (though with severe editing for political ranting), but the whole second half of book 1 has to be pretty much rewritten, and while the basic structure of book 3 is okay, the characterizations and reasons why things happen have to be totally redone. The bad news is there's a lot of work to be done to get back up to speed, and it's going to make my daily word-count tracking more complicated, since I'll be doing a combination of copy-and-paste (can't stand rewriting material I've already written if it's at all usable) and writing new material. But I finally feel better about where this series is going, and excited about it again.
And now for the "yay" part. First off, I've been invited to participate in some projects that I'm really excited about. They're still in the early planning stages, so I don't want to give any details yet, but I promise you'll hear all about it when the time comes :D
Even better, I mentioned earlier that we went out of town to help take care of our 3-year-old granddaughter for a few days. Well, the reason we went and did that was because her mommy was in the hospital with a new baby! Our second granddaughter (first one born to us; her older sister came to us when our older son married her mommy, and hopefully the adoption procedings will go through soon) was born two weeks ago. Her name is Lily Dawn, and she is absolutely adorable, just like her big sister. Between taking care of Kylie and helping out at the hospital (our d-i-l had a c-section and had to stay a few extra days; she had a rough couple of days, and she'd had serious complications after her first baby so my son was really concerned and wanted to make sure she was never left alone at the hospital) I'm still pretty worn out, but it was worth it. It was really fun, and wonderful to welcome this precious new child to the family.
Hopefully (knock on wood), things will settle down now and I can start getting some more work done. I've got a series to re-write, two books to revise, edit, and release, and a short-story collection I'm getting ready to publish (have been for the last month >.>). We've got a big week-long out-of-town family reunion coming up later this summer which is looming menacingly over me (I don't travel well, especially when flying is involved, and I love my family but don't have a lot of energy for too much togetherness) but in the meantime I will try to ignore it and get back on track with my writing routine and schedule.
I've blogged before about keeping a spreadsheet of my total lifetime word count. When I updated the spreadsheet at the beginning of this year, I realized that I was within close shouting distance of 2 million lifetime words, and that my goal this year of writing 1,000 words a day would get me there before too much longer.
Yesterday, I did it. I passed 2 million words. My lifetime word count, as of last night (which is actually when I was writing this) was 2,001,285. The two millionth word came four scenes into the rough draft of the third book of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings.
Here's how I count the words: I use the word count from Word, which seems to be the most accurate (although I don't write in Word; I open my saved manuscript files in it to get the word count). I enter the initial count when the rough draft of a project is finished. Then, since the final versions are always longer (my rough drafts are often closer to an outline or summary; when revising, I write addtional scenes and fill out dialogue, description, and action), when the project is finished I update the word count to include all the additional words I've written. I usually add 20-50% or more words between the first draft and the final version.
Here's how all those words are distributed:
741,682 - published works up for sale
632,176 - fanfiction posted on my fanfiction site or complete and intended for posting
402,897 - unpublished completed projects in various stages of revision, intended for eventual publication
224,530 - assorted fragments, unfinished projects, and first drafts in progress, and a finished novel or two that will probably never see the light of day.
All of this is strictly fiction writing; no blog posts, forum posts, emails or anything else like that is included.
It took me from 1990 to 2010 to reach 1 million words, from 2010 to 2016 to hit 2 million. If I keep at my current pace, assuming all is well and I'm able to continue that pace, I should hit 3 million in 2020.
And now the big question: Are any of those 2 million words any good? Well, I don't know. I think so; I work hard to do the best writing I'm capable of, and I hope readers will enjoy what I write. One thing is certain; I'm better now than I was when I started 26 years ago, and I will work to continue to improve over the next million words.
Occasionally on Tuesday, I like to share something that I make that's yummy, preferably healthy, and easy to make during a long day of writing. Today I'm featuring what has to be the world's best stuffed bell peppers. Now, I know stuffed peppers usually aren't anything to get very excited about, but these are, for one reason: bacon.
Yes, these stuffed peppers have bacon in them. And almost everything is better with bacon. These aren't necessarily easy, though since I'm only feeding the two of us (or three of us, when our younger son is home from college), I use my trick of cooking half the batch the day I make it and freezing the other half for another day. And even if it isn't easy, it's totally worth it.
Here's the original recipe, from AllRecipes Magazine. Go look at it, then come back and I'll tell you what I do differently. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/77194/bolognese-stuffed-bell-peppers/
Okay, you're back. First off, I found that the filling works for 4 whole medium-size bell peppers, or 8 half peppers sliced lengthwise, not 6 whole/12 half. When I'm dividing the batch, I put half the filling into 4 pepper halves, or 2 peppers, and freeze the other half of the filling in a freezer zipper bag. (When you freeze and cook another time, the rice does get a little mushy, but let's be honest. You're not eating this for the rice, you're eating it for the bacon.) I don't stuff the other peppers until the day of cooking. I like to get a combination of different color peppers; red and gold or orange are my favorites, because they're tasty and it makes a pretty and colorful presentation. Blanch the pepper halves in boiling water for about 30 - 60 seconds; this will help them cook better in the oven.
Also, the original recipe says you can use pancetta or bacon. I skip the fancy stuff and just use bacon. I figure one bacon strip per whole pepper (or four strips for the whole batch, to make filling for four peppers/8 halves). Of course, it probably wouldn't hurt anything if you throw in an extra strip :-D
On to the vegetables: I increase the minced carrots to about 1/4 c., skip the celery because gross, and also add about 1/4 cup finely diced bell peppers (green or red is my preference) and the same amount of finely diced zucchini. So along with the pepper halves that hold the whole thing, you're getting a bunch of good veggies. You could also add finely chopped spinach if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not, but if you are, that's ok. I won't judge you.
Prepared marinara sauce: I just get the Kroger store brand. It's good. You could get fancy and expensive here, but there's really no need to.
The recipe also calls for red wine, which I skip because I don't usually cook with it, and for heavy cream, which honestly seems like overkill when you're also using bacon and parmesan cheese in the filling. This recipe is rich enough without it (I can usually only eat one pepper half, or maybe one and a half, but not two) and it adds about a zillion calories. Use it if you want, but I don't.
Like I said, this is kind of a lot of work, but you can divide the recipe (or double it) and freeze half, so it's two meals for only a little more work than one. With so many vegetables, you don't need to make an extra salad or anything. I just get some bake-at-home french bread and throw it in the oven while the peppers bake, and there's dinner.
Finally surfacing for air after recovering from getting For the Wildings ready to release and diving into the next projects on the list. It's still hard to believe that Daughter of the Wildings is complete and published (except for the paperback; I've just started working on that). It started as just an experiment about 4 1/2 years ago, then that one book turned into a 5-book series, then 6 books, and turned into a story that I felt absolutely compelled, driven, to publish. There was a time, a little over two years ago, when I was honestly afraid I might not live to finish it, but the problem turned out to be relatively mild and self-correcting and *knock on wood* I hope I won't have any more similar problems for the foreseeable future. I do need to try to get back to the better health habits I was working on before.
Anyway. So, yeah, Daughter of the Wildings, the project of my heart, my obsession for the last few years, is out there now, and it's time to move on to other things. Next up is The Source-Fixer (still trying to think of a different title, and not having much luck). I'm nearly done with the triage phase of the first big revision. This book started out as a project I abandoned many years ago, then I figured out how to finish it and wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo in 2014. Now that I'm reading through it, I'm seeing things I love about it and also some major issues. Nothing unfixable, though.
I've also initiated the process of getting cover art for Source-Fixer and Heir of Tanaris, and a new cover for Chosen of Azara. Since these are all set in the same world, I want to re-brand Chosen with a cover to match the other two books. I love getting new cover art, and I'm so excited to see how these are going to look!
In other news, as a result of my commitment to write 1000 words a day/250,000 words this year, I have a bunch of short stories waiting to be published. I'll be releasing the first collection of five soon (finishing up the final edits on them). Email subscribers will have the opportunity to get the collection for free :)
And also, as part of writing 1000 words a day, I now find myself nearly 7500 words into book 2 of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. I finished the draft of book 1, then was wondering how to get to the next major plot point in the series story arc, and realized what I needed was a range war! So I did some reading up on range wars in the Old West, and book 2 just kind of came together. Daughter of the Wildings may be finished, but I'm not done with the world or the characters quite yet.
Last month I planted some vegetables in my new raised gardening box. Let's check in on how my little green things are doing:
A reminder: if you read For the Wildings, don't forget to go to the link at the end of the book to download a free Silas and Lainie short story, "A Good Example"! The story has major spoilers for the book, so don't read it before you finish For the Wildings :)
Finally, since it's Music Monday, I'll leave you with the video of Insomnia from Kamelot's album Haven.
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