For this weekend's sneak peek, a look into Sarya's Song. Here, Sarya first sees the chained man:
She awoke with a start and found herself – somewhere else. She was still kneeling on a stone floor, but it wasn’t as cold as the floor of the Shrine. The air on her bare arms and feet also felt warmer. Looking around, she realized that she was in a small room about the size of a dormitory room – or a prison cell. The room was dimly lit, and shadows veiled the walls and corners. The cramps in her legs and the sting on her back where the lash had broken her skin seemed very distant.
A sense of presence, of someone waiting and watching, brought her to full alertness. She didn’t feel afraid, though. Instead, a desire filled her to know who was there and what they wanted. Her mind and body strained in eager anticipation as she waited…
“Sarya dyr-Rusac,” a deep, quiet voice said from a dark corner of the room.
Sarya caught her breath at the sound of the voice. It resonated deep within her heart and soul, in places that she had shut away long ago, and stirred feelings that she had tried for years to pretend she didn’t have.
She looked in the direction the voice had come from. The shadows in the corner lifted to reveal a man sitting on the floor. He had long black hair, a pale face that was achingly beautiful yet entirely masculine in its lines, and a lean, firmly muscled body. A complex pattern of curving black lines cascaded over his right shoulder and right breast, and Sarya felt a sudden wild urge to trace her fingers along those lines, to feel the skin of his chest beneath her fingertips.
The light in his corner brightened a bit to reveal the color of his eyes, deep sapphire blue. He appeared to be tall, but his wrists and ankles were bound with short chains attached to an iron ring on the floor, which prevented him from standing up. He met Sarya’s eyes with a gaze that reached as deeply into her as his voice had. He looked at her as though he saw her standing naked before him, with all her thoughts and secrets and yearnings revealed, and desired her.
I'm working hard on the final edits to Sarya's Song, but want to take just a moment to shout-out to all the nice folks who are supporting me this week while I'm the featured author at the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers group on Goodreads. Go check them out; maybe you'll find your new favorite author or book!
Antoinette J. Houston
Lisa Marie Gabriel
Catherine L. Vickers
Lyn C. Johanson
Also, one of my favorite book extras - here's the playlist for Sarya's Song. Kind of a variety here, pop to country-ish (as close as I ever get) to symphonic metal. "Another Heart Calls" ("I'll never ask for anyone but you") and "The Golden State" ("You are the hole in my head, I am the pain in your neck, You are the lump in my throat, I am the aching in your heart") are especially good for Sarya and Adan's rather... complicated relationship. "The Story" would be from Sarya's point of view, and this sounds a little like how I imagine her voice. "Sunshine" is how Adan sees her hair, and how he feels when she leaves. "Sleepwalker's Dream" and "Angels" are for Sarya's dreams about the chained man. "Crash and Burn" is Adan's point of view, to Sarya, and "All I Need" is Sarya in the aftermath of everything that happens. Enjoy!
Sarya's Song playlist on Spotify
So, time for a progress report. Mondays seem like a good day for regular progress reports, but don't hold me to that. :P ;)
Sarya's Song: I'm on the final polishing round of edits. After this I'll put it through a few proofreading rounds, then format and release. I'm looking at an official release date of April 10. It'll be coming out at a special limited-time low introductory price, so to make sure you don't miss out, sign up for my email alerts.
Daughter of the Wildings has been waiting patiently while I get Sarya's Song finished up. Still doing a little prep work for the big revision. I do have the preview files for the covers for books 5 and 6, so watch for some cover art reveals coming up soon! These two covers are some of my favorites in the series (though I love them all!). I also expect to receive the final high-resolution versions soon, so I can start making the actual covers. Got some cool fonts in mind for the lettering. And I'll be announcing some more exciting cover news soon!
Those two projects are taking up all my time and attention for now. Once Sarya's Song is out, I'll be able to start planning some new stories and novels.
Next week, I'm participating in the ongoing Writing Process Blog Tour. Should be fun! Check out this week's post at Isabella Norse, Romance Author.
Finally, on the health front, I had another ultrasound of my heart last week, and the report from the cardiologist was that it showed normal heart function and a significant decrease in the amount of fluid around my heart. So that was very good news, that I'm very thankful for. And now I just need to remember all the good resolutions I was making when I was a lot more scared and worried about exercising and watching what I eat!
For this weekend's sneak peek, here's the opening of Sarya's Song (still not the final version, but getting closer!):
On a small rise on the gently rolling prairie, Sarya sat with her battered lute in her arms, picking out the new melody that she could hear in the wind. The breeze was sharp with coming winter, and the grass was dry and brown. With the cold weather coming on, it was time to head south again. She hadn't done as well in the northeastern prairies as she had hoped; the region's rich farming and herding had suffered from the last several years of increasingly long and harsh winters, and though it wasn't as poverty-stricken as the bleak and destitute Burnt Hills, where she had grown up, there was still little paying work for a traveling minstrel.
She turned her mind away from the grim mining town of her childhood and the poor prospects ahead of her, back to the haunting music that teased at her mind. She had always been able to hear music no one else could hear, but it wasn't until she had come to the Skola at Sucevita when she was fourteen that she had learned that these melodies, called tropes, were part of the natural world, and, when sung as chants, they could be used to control the world and all things in it.
The last several years, she had begun to hear music that couldn't be found in any of the collections of the known naturally-occurring tropes. Over time, she had come to realize that the new tropes she was hearing seemed to herald disasters like none ever before known: long, dry, scorching summers and harsh, bitterly cold winters unaffected by any of the the weather-control chants; great shakings of the earth; exchanges of bloodthirsty hostilities between nations that until then had always been peaceful. When none of the natural tropes succeeded in controlling these catastrophes, new chants had been Composed, to no avail.
And then there was the last wedding ritual Sarya had Arranged. A chant intended to protect against tragedy had not only failed utterly, it seemed to have brought about the very calamity it was supposed to prevent.
Sarya could only conclude that the chants were failing, or else there were new forces at work in the world that were beyond their influence. But both were impossible. The music that controlled the world, both naturally-occurring and Composed, was a gift from Eshalarian the Creator himself, which He had given to mankind before moving on to new worlds and new creations. As a gift from the God, this music was perfect and eternal and couldn't fail. And unless Eshalarian had returned His attention to this world, no new forces could come into existence. Surely, if the kind and generous Creator did return to His work here, He wouldn't do so by bringing death and destruction.
A gust of icy wind rushed across the prairie, blowing strands of wheat-gold hair into Sarya's eyes. She lifted her hand to push the hair away from her face. As she did so, the wind rippled across the lute strings, bringing forth the melody she had been hearing in the wind in its fullness. Her breath caught at the beauty of the music even as it chilled her heart with fear.
An exciting bit of news today- The Lost Book of Anggird is being featured in a Book Brief on Indies Unlimited! Go check it out to learn a little more about the book, like where the title came from and who my favorite character is. And then, while you're there, check out the rest of Indies Unlimited for more great books by independent authors and, if you're an indie author, helpful articles and features.
In the meantime, I'm still plowing ahead with this edit of Sarya's Song. Lots of work to do, but I want to make this book as good as I can. Sarya's Song has been a difficult book to write and it's been through more different versions than any of my other books, but I think I've just about got it!
So I guess I pretty much blogged myself out during Love & Magic Week (which was tons of fun and I'm planning on doing it again next year, hopefully with some other authors as a group promotion or blog hop). Besides last week's Author Spotlight, I haven't been able to come up with anything to blog about. Mainly I was making a big push to finish the analysis phase of the Daughter of the Wildings revision and writing in major changes on Sarya's Song. I finished both of those last week, so now I'm moving on to the next stages. Sarya's Song is into the line editing stage, basically where I make sure the writing is nice and makes sense and correct any lingering mistakes. This will be followed by a couple of clean-up and proofreading passes, then Sarya's Song will be ready for release. I'm going to say late in March; hopefully sooner. It looks like I'm mostly finished with all the doctor appointments and tests for now, and we're on to just monitoring the condition to see what it does, so that will be a lot less disruption to my writing schedule. The problem isn't just the time spent at doctor's offices and down at the hospital getting all that stuff done; it's also the stress and worrying, and the fatigue. Being out and about for 2 or 3 hours pretty much wipes me out, physically and mentally, for the whole day.
Like I did with The Lost Book of Anggird, Sarya's Song will be released at a special low limited-time introductory price, so if you want to make sure you don't miss out on that and other release news and special offers, sign up for my email alerts.
As for Daughter of the Wildings, it's a bit harder to say when it'll start being released. I was hoping to have the first book out in June, but that might not be realistic. So I'll just say watch for the first book sometime this summer!
I'm also starting to think a little bit about what comes next. There are a lot of different directions I could go. I feel like it's time to start writing more new words. I'd like to write more short stories, both standalones and stories related to my other books. There's a set of stories giving some background to Chosen of Azara churning around in the Idea-O-Tron (aka my brain), and some for Urdaisunia. I'm also thinking more about my very first novel and its sequel, both of which are complete and I think would be pretty good after a thorough revision. And I have ideas and even partially-written chunks of more stories/novellas/novels set in the Estelend world. And I have an idea for a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings I want to start planning. And and and...
Anyway, whatever I end up working on next, I'm having way too much fun. I love the freedom of being an independent author and being able to work on whatever I want, although sometimes my brain feels like this (credit goes to Kristine Kathryn Rusch for originally likening this to the writer's brain on indie freedom):
Wrapping up Love & Magic Week with sneak peeks into two of my to-be-published works, Sarya's Song and Daughter of the Wildings. First, here's a look at Adan and Sarya's complicated relationship from Sarya's Song (please keep in mind this is still not the final draft!):
As she tried to make her way through the press of people back to the door that led outside, the last voice she wanted to hear called out, "Sarya! Sarya dyr-Rusac!"
Panic drove her to push her way faster through the crowd, but Adan caught up to her and grabbed her arm. "Where have you been?" he asked. "Have you come back to stay?" There was an urgency in his voice as though his questions were a matter of life and death.
She tried jerk her arm away from him, but his fingers dug harder into her arm. "It's none of your concern. I just need to speak to the Council of Masters about a bit of research I need to do, and then I'll leave again."
"You left without a word to me or anyone--"
"I didn't realize I needed your permission to leave." Around them, people were stopping to stare. Sarya tried again to pull herself free from Adan, but he refused to let her go.
"I didn't know where you were or what had become of you. I didn't even know if you were alive or dead!"
"What does it matter to you? You said yourself I don't belong--"
"Damn it, Sarya!" He pulled her close to him and pressed his mouth to hers.
Sarya's legs nearly went out from under her. His mouth was warm and hungry against hers; his upper lip and chin were scratchy with late-afternoon whiskers. She told herself she should push him away or something, anything but melting against him like she was doing while he kissed her as though he were starving and she was his banquet.
Been working hard on revisions to Sarya's Song and Daughter of the Wildings, and thought I'd come up for air and show my readers a little of the process I use to take a manuscript from not so great to, well, maybe not great but a lot better than it was!
I've learned revision through many years of revising novels, but the best method I've learned has been Holly Lisle's How To Revise Your Novel course. Ms. Lisle worked as an emergency room nurse for many years, and this general approach to revision can be likened to taking care of a patient in the E.R. When the patient first arrives, you don't start just randomly doing surgery on him. First you have to figure out what's wrong (and also what isn't wrong, so you don't end up removing a perfectly good spleen or something), then you make a plan for fixing it, then you take him into surgery and start cutting. Likewise, in this approach, you don't just start crossing stuff out in your manuscript right away; first you figure out what's wrong with it (and what's right), then you make your revision plan, THEN you get out the red pen and start making your corrections.
So, here's an overview of what goes into bringing you another fine Kyra Halland fantasy novel :D
1. I write a novel. This is a whole different process, and one I'll talk about more another time.
2. When the first draft of the novel is finished, I print it out on three-hole-punched paper and put it in a binder. This revision method will not work if you're working from a computer screen. Here's the printout of all six books of Daughter of the Wildings. My husband saw this and said, "That's a big binder." Of course, what he meant was, "Wow, I'm really impressed that you wrote something that long!" (This picture was taken right after I started the analysis or triage stage of the revision; I'm now about 2/3 through that stage.)
3. I make sure I have plenty of my trusty Tul Needle Point Fine Black Gel pens on hand. Then I start reading through the novel, making notes of problems I find with various aspects of the novel, such as characterization, plot, worldbuilding, patches of really bad writing, and so on. I also analyze each scene in the novel for structure and to make sure it really serves a purpose in moving the story forward. This analysis (or triage) step condenses approximately the first nine weeks of the HTRYN course into one step.
4. Once I've gone all the way through the manuscript and made my notes, I get out a bunch of index cards (index cards are key to this method, and I've developed something of a fetish for them :D). I make an index card for each scene as I want that scene to be (not as it is now), giving a one-sentence summary of the scene and what the scene is supposed to accomplish, story-wise. Then, referring to my sheaves of notes, I write a summary on the back of each card of the changes I want to make in each scene. Finally, I color-code each card with a post-it, showing approximately how much work each scene is going to need. Neon green means I'll be changing up to about 25% of the scene, bright yellow means 25-50%, neon orange is 50-75%, hot pink is 75-100% or a completely new scene. (I love post-its. Along with 3-hole-punched printer paper, Tul pens, and index cards, they're one of my essential non-computer writing tools.)
5. Once I've got my plan in place, I start marking up the manuscript. This can get pretty messy (like a good bout of surgery). I use red pen for corrections, and I've also learned to keep a blue pen handy to un-correct, that is, to mark where I've made changes in red and then changed my mind and decided to keep the original. Where it gets really interesting is where I've marked out a correction in red, and then decided to keep it, so I've got my changes circled in blue to not change them... Or something. It all makes sense when I'm doing it. To illustrate, I took some photos of pages from the current revision of Sarya's Song. (Warning: not for the squeamish.)
Here's a marked-up page; if you look closely, you can see where I circled something in blue that I had crossed out and then decided to keep. I make use of top, bottom, and side margins, and the arrows pointing off the side show where the new writing spills over onto the back.
And here's another one. You can see I've got stuff going all over the place. It looks like the poor page has been savaged by rabid weasels.
This picture shows some of my notecards. This page isn't as marked up, but you can see where I've circled chunks of text and drawn arrows showing where they should be moved to.
And, finally, here's the back of a page with new stuff written in. I'm about halfway through this revision of Sarya's Song, and so far I've added about 3000 words to the story.
6. Strictly speaking, you're supposed to wait until you've marked up the whole manuscript before you start typing in the corrections, but I'm afraid I'll forget what half of my arrows and cryptic scribbles mean, so I type up each day's revision when I'm finished.
I do this process twice, once on the first draft and once on the second draft after I get the feedback from the test readers. After that comes a revision to fix up any leftover bits of bad writing and continuity mistakes, then a line edit/copyedit, and then some rounds of proofreading. And, voila, a finished novel!
Update: while we're on the medical theme, I'm happy to report that after a lot of tests (including a stress test which I rocked, working out hard with absolutely no symptoms), I had an appointment with a cardiologist today and got good news (or, at least, better news than I was afraid it would be). I have a small to moderate amount of fluid around my heart (pericardial effusion), which apparently has been there for a while. It isn't causing any serious problems, except for some occasional discomfort. We're going to keep an eye on it to see what it does, if it gets worse or stays the same or goes away. In the meantime, the doctor suspects that it was caused by inflammation/autoimmune activity (which would also be consistent with my chronic fatigue syndrome) and so the next step is to see a rheumatologist. Hopefully we can pin down the underlying cause and treat it, which will control or eliminate the pericardial effusion.
***If you're a writer, I highly recommend the How To Revise Your Novel course. It's a brain-wrenching, gut-wrenching five months and costs about $250, but if you want to publish your writing, it's the best 5 months and $250 you can spend. The link is my affiliate link; I get a commission when someone buys the course through that link. But I don't promote the course because I'm an affiliate; I promote it because taking it has been the best thing I've ever done for my writing. Regular link if you want to find out about the course without following my affiliate link.
I've been thinking about this post since reading Dean Wesley Smith's post on setting writing goals for 2014. This year got off to a rocky start for me; I had an abnormal EKG a week before Christmas, which was kind of alarming, and I've been dealing with tests and a lot of anxiety since then. Everything is still inconclusive so far, but right now it looks like we're not dealing with anything immediately dangerous; most likely it's nothing serious, or we've caught something more long-term serious in the early stages.
Getting this glimpse of my own mortality had the contradictory effects of making it hard to make future plans and goals (who can make plans for the future when they're afraid they're going to drop dead at any moment?) (seriously, I'm a terrible hypochondriac) and making me really zero in on what I want to accomplish in my life. The main thing I realized, besides wondering who would make the Christmas fudge and homemade dinner rolls at our house if I wasn't around (getting alarming health news right before Christmas really sucks) is that I would be extremely bummed out were I to shuffle off the mortal coil before getting Daughter of the Wildings out. I've instructed my husband that should something happen to me, DoW is to be made available however seems best at the time - put up for sale, or just posted for free, or whatever. The problem is, as it is right now, still in rough draft, it kind of sucks. It's not terrible, but there are parts that make me cringe or that are just plain wrong, and I really don't want it to go out into the world this way.
So, with that as my focus, and now that I'm not quite so convinced that I'm going to drop dead at any moment *knock on wood*, here are my plans and goals for the coming year.
Although Sarya's Song is the next book scheduled to come out, I'm going to be spending most of my work hours on the initial revision of Daughter of the Wildlings. DoW is a huge project, nearly 300,000 words, and if I'm going to get it released on any kind of schedule, it needs to take priority. This shuffling of priorities will mean that the release of Sarya's Song may be delayed a bit. I'm hoping for a February release, but it may take until March.
My target for releasing the first DoW book, Beneath the Canyons, is June, though that may be a bit optimistic. The plan is to get all six books to where once I start releasing the series, a new book can come out about every other month.
Once Sarya's Song is out and DoW is well under way towards being released, there are a couple of different areas I'm thinking I'll turn my attention to. One is a couple of partially-written novels set in Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara. I also had a reviewer say they wished Chosen was a trilogy instead of one book, because they wanted more backstory on some of the characters and events. Rewriting Chosen as a trilogy isn't going to happen - I just don't feel it that way - but I'd like to do a set of stories giving some of the backstory the reviewer mentioned they'd like to know more about. Maybe I'll make this a Camp NaNo project in April or July. And the very first novel I ever wrote, Prince of the Trozdozh, and its sequel are sitting on my hard drive, calling out to me. I think they're probably salvageable, so I want to run them through my revision process and see it they really are something I can release to the public.
As far as production goals, right now I can't really set a word count goal. By the end of the year I aim to have released 5 novels (Sarya's Song and the first four Daughter of the Wildings novels) and at least one short story collection (the Chosen of Azara companion stories). I had five releases in 2013, so six releases in 2014 sounds like a good progression.
And, onward. Happy New Year, everyone! May it be happy and productive and with a minimum of unpleasant surprises.
Been working hard; time for a progress update.
The Lost Book of Anggird is on the final line/copy editing round. I'm about 1/3 of the way through. After that comes the proofread and formatting, and I anticipate being able to release it sometime during the later part of October. Watch for previews and book extras as the release date draws near!
The first major revision of Sarya's Song is a little more than halfway done. I'll start scaring up some test readers for it soon, and plan to be able to send it out to them later in September. It's hard to say for sure this far back, but I'm probably looking at a February release for that one.
The draft of Book 5 of Daughter of the Wildings is getting close to finished. I should be able to wrap that up this week, then get right to work on Book 6. As I've said before, the plan with this series is to get all the books written, then revise them all as one unit to get the storyline and everything consistent throughout. When I first wrote Beneath the Canyons, I didn't intend for it to turn into a series; I'd always thought of myself as a writer of stand-alone novels. But at the end of that book, even though the storyline was resolved, Silas and Lainie were in worse trouble than they started out in, so of course the story had to continue! The series has developed in some ways I wasn't expecting - some things I thought were important early on have turned out not to be so important (so far, at least - we'll see how things go in Book 6), while other things I didn't think were important have turned out to be major parts of the overall series storyline. So, there's still a lot of work to do there. Can't say for sure, but I'm hoping to start releasing the series in Spring 2014. At that point all the books will be written and will have been through the first major revision and the test readers, so I'm hoping for no more than a couple of months in between releases of each book in the series.
(And yes, if you're counting, I'm working on three novels at once right now. I think I'm probably out of my mind.)
Also, I just got a look at a preliminary version of the cover for Daughter of the Wildings Book 3, which is now titled The Rancher's Daughter. Thrilling, I know, but it has more layers of meaning than it looks like. I reserve the right to change it if I think of something better. This cover is going to be super cool.
While I'm on the subject, I want to say that of all the fun, awesome, cool things about being an independent author, working with my two amazing cover artists has been one of the funnest, awesomest, coolest things of all! Design by Katt and me-illuminated (Mominur Rahman) have both been great to work with, and I highly recommend them to other authors looking for custom cover art.
And a reminder, to be informed of new releases and if I have a sale or free coupon or something, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter! I'm too lazy and too busy to spam; you'll only get emails when I release a new book or am having a special on my books.
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