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!
Time for one of my favorite things to do, reveal a new cover! I just got the final version of the Source-Breaker cover art the other day, and I have been so excited to show this off!
This is from the full wraparound cover for the paperback, showing the spine area with the left side of the arch. The back of the cover is just dark because there isn't really anything over in that direction to show. The ebook cover will look like this:
I just love this. I've been having the hardest time visualizing Kaniev (the dude with the sword and the handful of magic), and the artist, Mominur Rahman, and I went over a bunch of different reference photos, different poses of the same model, and this is the final result. When I saw it, I went, Wow, that's Kaniev! Mominur has this knack for capturing my characters perfectly, and it's always exciting to see how he brings them to life.
Here's the short blurb for Source-Breaker (needs work; I'll come up with a better one in time for the release):
Kaniev, a repairman of magical Sources with a series of failures behind him, and Fransisa, a Source priestess who is being displaced by a new Chosen, come up against a wizard conducting dangerous experiments with Source-power that could damage all the world's Sources.
And here's a peek at an early version of the scene where Kaniev and Fransisa first meet: http://www.kyrahalland.com/blog/sneak-peek-source-breaker
I'm hoping for a mid-December release for Source-Breaker. I've become frustrated with how long my revising and editing process takes, so I'm going to try streamlining it without sacrificing quality, and hopefully can get this book out the door in less than another month. To make sure you don't miss out on the release and the special limited-time low introductory price, sign up for my email alerts!
Since the Weird Western StoryBundle and the accompanying blogging blitz ended, I've been trying to get caught up on other work. I'm making progress on both the first draft of Defenders of the Wildings, the follow-up to the Daughter of the Wildings series, and on the revisions of my upcoming release, Source-Breaker (formerly known under the working title The Source-Fixer). I don't have a cover yet for Source-Breaker, though I've ordered one from my cover artist and I'm eagerly waiting to see what he comes up with. My next book after Source-Breaker will be Heir of Tanaris, and I do have the preliminary sketch for the cover art for that, and it's gorgeous! Anyway, to keep you entertained in the meantime, here's a sneak peek from Chapter 1 of Source-Breaker, where Kaniev, our intrepid but struggling repairman of broken magical Sources, meets Fransisa, the priestess in charge at Source Chaitrasse (remember, this is an early version; there's still a lot of editing to go on it):
Somewhere deep inside the building, a bell rang. A moment later, a girl in a white robe opened the door and blinked up at him. "Yes?" she asked in a high, sweet, barely audible voice.
As you can tell, this relationship is off to a wonderful start :P
Watch for the cover reveal and the release of Source-Breaker, a novel of Estelend, coming up later this fall. And to make sure you don't miss out on release news and special limited-time low introductory pricing, sign up for my email alerts.
Taking a quick break from the Weird Western StoryBundle to announce that The Brilliant Career of Sajur Golu and Other Tales of Azara is now available. This companion volume to Chosen of Azara contains the following stories:
To give you a taste of what's in this collection, I've posted "Coming Home" over in the Read Right Here section.
The regular price on this collection will be $2.99, but now through Sept. 5 you can get it for only 99 cents at the following stores:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | OmniLit |
DriveThruFiction | Smashwords
Also, Chosen of Azara is only 99 cents through Sept. 5!
Amazon (all international sites) | Barnes & Noble
iTunes | Kobo | OmniLit | Smashwords | DriveThruFiction
So I said I've got some cool stuff coming up, and here's the first one: A new cover for Chosen of Azara!
Here's the ebook version:
And the full wraparound:
Like I said, it was a really tough decision to get a new cover for Chosen of Azara. Katt of Design by Katt did a fantastic job with the previous two covers, and she was wonderful to work with. I highly recommend her for beautiful photomanip covers. But with two more books coming out soon in the Estelend world, I wanted to tie all three of them together with similar cover styles that would also go with the cover of The Warrior and the Holy Man, another Estelend book. Matching all those covers would be really hard to do when working with photo-based covers, especially since it's also really hard to find stock photos that work for my particular brand of romantic high fantasy. So I commissioned Mominur Rahman, who did the amazing covers for Daughter of the Wildings and the Warrior and Holy Man cover, to do the covers for the new Estelend books and also the new cover for Chosen. I think he did a wonderful job of capturing Sevry and Lucie, and Juzeva too, up there in the corner, and also in nailing the genre and the type of story. The previous covers will remain on display on the book page for Chosen; in the meantime I'll also start getting the updated files uploaded. It might take a few days for them all to go live and for me to get all the images on the site updated.
Chosen will be going on promo for a few days early in September, and the collection of companion stories, The Brilliant Career of Sajur Golu and Other Tales of Azara, will be out in the next couple of weeks. So watch for those; to make sure you don't miss out on these and other new releases and special offers, sign up for my email alerts.
Anyway, that's cool thing #1. Cool thing #2 is coming up in just a few days, and I am so excited about this! I'm like a little kid on Christmas Eve; I can hardly wait. Stay tuned!
Time for another monthly progress report, one week into August.
July was busy with family reunion/vacation and some other stuff, so I didn't get as much writing done as I hoped I would. I did finally figure out the follow-up Wildings series, which now also has a name, Defenders of the Wildings. I solved the story problems (I think); the events of book 1 make the most sense coming in the middle of book 2, which means I'm splitting book 2 in half and putting book 1 in the middle, with much attendant reworking of the two books. The story seems to be working better now, but what it means for the series is that this series won't be structured in nice, neat novel-length episodes like Daughter of the Wildings. I can't tell yet if it's going to be one large, disjointed book (my least favorite option), two short and somewhat less disjointed books, or a series of shorter serial-style episodes. Right now I've got book 1 (now the second episode) rewritten and I'm constructing episode 1 out of the first part of the old book 2. The whole thing is roughly outlined, and I added a concluding episode which wasn't in the original plan, to tie up the story in a more satisfactory fashion. (I also had to do this with Daughter of the Wildings, which first I thought would be five books, then I realized I needed a sixth book.) I'm also getting ideas for another follow-up set of books, called Children of the Wildings, starring, well, I'll let you guess!
I've also been working on edits of Tales of Azara, now titled The Brilliant Career of Sajur Golu and Other Tales of Azara. See my hopefully-not-too-lame cover I made for it above. If you've read Chosen of Azara, you may remember Sajur Golu as the evil, corrupt priest. This collection of short stories contains the story of his rise to the position of High Priest of Source Dar and of the Madrinan Empire, along with other background stories, character vignettes, and alternate points of view of scenes in the book. I'm looking at releasing it sometime before the end of August, in conjunction with the debut of a new cover for Chosen of Azara. Getting a new cover for Chosen of Azara was a very difficult decision; I love the current cover but it just isn't quite right for the genre and while it represents the characters of Sevry and Lucie very well, it doesn't really convey a sense of the story. None of this is the fault of the artist; I love Design by Katt's work and highly recommend her for beautiful photomanipulation covers. Rather, it's the difficulty in finding base photos to work with that are right for the book. Also, with two more novels in the Tehovir world scheduled to come out later this year and early next year, I wanted to re-brand the Chosen cover to fit with the others and with The Warrior and the Holy Man, which is also set in Tehovir. So I commissioned Mominur Rahman, the artist who did the amazing Daughter of the Wildings covers and also the new covers for Urdaisunia and Warrior and the Holy Man, to do these next three covers. I got the final art for Chosen today, and it's gorgeous. Watch for the cover reveal, coming soon!
So I've hinted at some exciting things coming up, and new cover art is one of them. The others I still can't talk about, but they're really cool. Stay tuned for news!
And finally, since it's Music Monday, here's a video for you. This is "My Therapy" from the album Haven by Kamelot, which is the theme song for my character Davreos from Heir of Tanaris, one of my upcoming Tehovir books.
Another Music Monday and a new project means it's time to make a new playlist! Part of the fun of working on a new novel is putting together a playlist for it. I wrote the first draft of The Source-Fixer without really having a playlist in mind, but now as I'm planning the revision, it's started to come together.
The Source-Fixer (this may graduate from working title to actual title) is about two people in the middle of life (Kaniev is forty; Fransisa won't admit to her age but, just between you and me, she's also forty) who lose everything that's given meaning and purpose to their lives up until now, then find new life and hope in a place they never expected. And yes, it's a fantasy-romance (I am who I am), but kind of different. So with that in mind, here are my songs for the book:
For your listening enjoyment, here's the playlist on Spotify. (click link to listen directly on Spotify)
We're 2/3 of the way through March, so I guess it's time for a mid-month progress report (which started out as a look back/look ahead at the start of each month. Schedules are not really my thing.). I've mainly been working on edits to For the Wildings, the 6th and last book of Daughter of the Wildings, and now, finally, I'm on to the final proofreads. Looking at a release date the week of March 28. To make sure you don't miss the announcement (and the special limited-time introductory price), go on over to the sidebar or to my email signup page and sign up for my email alerts. No spam, and I won't share your info, and you can get information about new releases and special offers, and maybe even a freebie once in a while!
I'm also working on edits to a Silas and Lainie short story, "A Good Example", set the summer after the events of For the Wildings. It'll be available as a free bonus for people who read For the Wildings. You don't want to read it without reading book 6, since it contains major spoilers for the book!
Being up to my eyeballs in edits for this book I really want to get out, I've slacked off a little on writing new words every day. I'm going to have to work a little harder to meet my word count goal for this month, but I did finish the first draft of the first book of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings! It's going to be a while before any of this sees the light of day, though.
Coming up next, I'll be starting on revision of The Source-Fixer (working title, though I might end up keeping it since I'm having trouble thinking of something better). This novel is a return to Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara, where magic comes from Sources, which are natural features like caves, trees, springs, and so on. Kaniev, the main character, has the job of repairing them when things go wrong, but some problems are harder to fix than others!
I've also got a new collection of short stories just about ready to release, probably in April (they're all done and edited, but the final proofread and putting the book together got shuffled to the side while I finish For the Wildings). Email subscribers will have the opportunity to get this for free.
As for reading, again, that's been taking second place to getting the book finished, though I'm still on track for my goal of 30 books for the year. I'll get caught up with the reading roundups again soon.
And, finally, a new project: we got a raised gardening box put in our back yard, and I planted some seeds! Snow peas, mixed lettuce, and broccoli. I'm terrible at growing things, but there's good soil in this box and it's on the watering system so I don't even have to remember to water the plants, so we'll see if this works. Hopefully stuff will start to grow (besides weeds; it seems like weeds are the only things that like to grow around here!), and I'll post photos of the progress. Here's the first one, of my garden right after I planted the seeds:
So, watch for For the Wildings coming soon, and with any luck my next garden picture will have little green sprouty things in it!
So the cold I thought was getting better when I wrote the post on Saturday got worse again yesterday, now today maybe it's a little better again... *sigh* But at least I'm able to sit up and write instead of being sick in bed, so here's a look ahead at my plans and goals for 2016:
For the Wildings, the conclusion of the Daughter of the Wildings series, is first up. It's still going through major revisions, with some editing stages still ahead, but is progressing steadily. I still don't want to give a release date, but will likely be in a couple of months. Now that things are settling down after the holidays and I'm not quite as sick as I was, I should start to be able to spend a little more time on it.
After that, I'll be returning to my Estelend word, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and "A Cure For Nel". This world is built around the idea of physical features in the landscape (caves, springs, trees, water spouts, etc) that are Sources of magical power, and certain people are born with the ability to take in and use that power. The Source-Fixer (crappy working title) and Heir of Tanaris are both complete in first draft and will be my next two published novels, coming out this year (I hope; they both need a lot of work).
Along with getting these three novels ready for publication, I've committed to writing 1000 words of new prose every day, whether short stories, novels, or writing exercises that might turn into a story. Blog and forum posts do NOT count! My writing goal for the year is 250,000 words (allowing for Sundays off and other days when new writing just isn't going to happen, like Christmas and travel days). I almost made it 300,000 words, but while I'm still developing the habit, I don't want to overshoot myself. I may raise my goal to 300k later this year. It takes me about 30-45 minutes to write 1000 words, so it takes some portion of my 3-4 good working hours a day but not too much.
So, with writing 1000 words a day, that's a lot of new stuff. A lot of it is going to be short stories. My plans for those vary - put them in collections for sale, post some of them here, use some of them for freebies for my email subscribers. This is an exciting new direction for me, having more work to release and to be able to give away. And it should help fill in the intervals between novel releases.
In the background, I'm also planning a follow-up series for Daughter of the Wildings. If you've read City of Mages, you might have noticed a whole new source of conflict mentioned in the book, which isn't related to the main conflict of the Daughter of the Wildings series but which I want to explore more fully in another series. Of course, Silas and Lainie will still be the main characters :-) I've got the basic plot idea for the first book and I'm working on the overall story arc for the whole series, but can't give any kind of timetable yet for when to expect it. Hopefully, if the prep work comes together, I can start putting my 1000 words a day towards that project later this year. As with DoW, my plan is to write the whole thing all the way through, so the whole thing is finished and readers won't be left dangling for years wondering when (or if) the next book will ever be written. Should worse come to worst, if nothing else, I (or my heirs) can post any of it that remains unpublished online.
I've also got ideas for a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories :-D and there are a lot of possibilities left open in the books to fill in with more stories.
And I'm still mulling over the sequel to Urdaisunia. The DoW follow-up gets priority, but it's there in the background, humming along in the back of my mind.
And one of these days I'll also get to revising my Very First Novel Ever and its sequel.
So I've got no shortage of stuff to work on; the main issue is prioritizing and managing my limited energy as best I can.
On the reading front, I've set my Goodreads reading challenge to 30 books for this year. (I realized that some of my 62 books last year are my own books that I added, but since I read each of them 5-6-7 times before publishing them, I suppose that counts :-P) One of my specific goals is to finish reading (or make significant progress on) the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson. I love these books; Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire just didn't do it for me but Malazan is amazing. And - bonus - the series is complete at 10 books. I've just started reading book 6, The Bonehunters; since these are massive books and very deep and heavy, it's probably optimistic to expect to read 5 of them in a year. But I'm going to try. I'm also planning to get started on the Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson (another of my favorite authors). And Larry Correia is a new favorite, whose books I'll be reading more of this year. But mostly, as the last few years, most of my reading will be indie authors. I'll keep doing reading roundup posts to share my recommendations.
As for my health, I've taken the concept of "one little word" (where you pick a single word to use as your theme for the year) and selected "nourish" as my word. This year I'll be taking baby steps to nourish myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most likely, I'm never going to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I can do things to help my body make the most of the health and energy it does have and increase them a little. And since a major factor in crashes and relapses is stress, finding ways to relieve/reduce stress and keep myself in better balance will reduce my crashes and increase my good, usable time and energy. Any success I have in this will hopefully manifest itself in greater writing productivity.
That's my plans and goals for the new year; wishing you health, happiness, and progress on your own goals and dreams in 2016!
And now, back to work.
Wow, we're into the middle of November, and I realized I haven't been updating much. So here's what's going on: I'm planning the next big revision of For the Wildings, book 6 of Daughter of the Wildings. I do this revision to fix major issues that have come up since the first big revision, either things pointed out by the test readers or things that have changed over the course of the series, or just mistakes I missed the last time around. After this comes a few rounds of fixing up, fine-tuning, and editing before the book is ready to go. Still can't say when For the Wildings will be ready for release; sometime in February, as a rough guess. It's longer than the other books, and with the holidays coming up I won't be able to put as many hours in.
I've also been reading a lot, and sometime soon I'll be putting up a monster Reading Roundup post. Tons of great books to recommend!
Finally, being November, it's National Novel Writing Month. I've done it and "won" it (I actually prefer to think of it as completing the challenge, since everyone who validates 50,000 words written in November is a winner) every year since 2009, and this year looks like it'll be no exception. I'm writing The Healing Tree (working title), an old unfinished novel set in the same world as Chosen of Azara, that I decided to take another run at since the characters wouldn't leave me alone and I love the idea of it. I used this awesome outling guide, Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker (pants - writing term, for writing without an outline or "by the seat of your pants") to plan it all the way through, and so far it's going pretty well. As of today, I'm at 28,165 words, out of a target of 50,000. The actual novel is probably going to be much longer.
The main problem I've run into with it is that Davreos, the male main character, is a very complicated character. I made some adjustments to him from how he was in the original version, but he keeps wanting to revert back to that instead of going with my changes. If I've learned one thing in 26 years of writing, it's that the characters are almost always right, so I've finally decided to just go with it.
Anyway, to give you a little taste of this new project (which will eventually be released for sale), here's the first scene. It's unedited, straight from my brain to my fingers, but I think it came out ok:
The wizard's screams died away in Davreos's ears. How could he still have the strength to scream so loudly? Davreos wondered. Or to even still be alive. Most of the enemies of the Empire or other subjects brought to Maikarsk's cavern for interrogation were dead by this point in their questioning. But somehow, that old man, nothing more than skin and bones and thin, ropy muscles even when he had first been brought to Maikarsk, had managed to survive this long and remain conscious enough to scream.
"Stubborn," the Inquisitress said, only a faint note of frustration and displeasure coloring her impassive voice. Davreos glanced at her, waiting for her next instructions. Her black robe, covering her from head to toe, hid all signs of femininity, all signs of individual identity, but her height, slenderness, and voice were unmistakeable. The Inquisitress's veiled face remained turned and bowed slightly towards the wizard where he was strapped to the table a little longer. Though her face was always veiled while she was acting in her duties, Davreos knew what she looked like behind the veil, and he could imagine the dark, tilted eyes narrowed in disapproval, the full lips frowning. "Useless," she said. "Finish him."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said.
"And," the Inquistress went on, "be sure to remove his Source-token before you dispose of his body. It might be useful."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said again.
The Inquisitress left the cavern. Davreos turned back to the wizard and prepared to lower the blade that would give the killing blow. Suddenly, the wizard's hand, which should have been bound with unbreakable chains to the table, seized the opening of Davreos's ragged tunic and pulled him down so that their faces nearly touched. Fear clenched Davreos's belly; how had the wizard's hand gotten loose? Had the bonds been insufficient? The Inquisitress would punish him if the wizard somehow got loose and escaped...
"I pity you," the wizard breathed against his face, his voice a nearly soundless tatter after all his screaming. "You could be so much more, so much better than this..."
Davreos froze. His heart nearly stopped. How did the wizard know of his most secret thoughts? Desires and ambitions that would see him tortured and killed this same way if the High Priest or the Inquisitress or, worst of all, Maikarsk itself became aware of them. He was a slave; that was his ordained role in life, and to hope for anything more was utterly impossible and forbidden.
"Silence," he said to the wizard, and pulled himself out of the old man's grip.
The wizard seized him again, this time grabbing his arm. He placed Davreos's hand on the small carved wooden pendant that hung from a chain around his neck, and folded Davreos's fingers around it. "Take this," he whispered.
Davreos had been ordered to take the Source-token anyway, which would contain power from whatever Source the wizard drew his power from, to sustain his magic while he was away from that Source. He pulled on it, intending to snap the chain, but instead, at his touch on the wooden pendant, power shocked up into him through his arm, warm and bright, with a golden-green glow that was more a feeling than a color. It filled him, the warmth and light almost unbearable in comparison to the power of Maikarsk he bore within him. It filled him until he thought he would burst; his jaw ached as his teeth gritted against the agony of it, biting back his own cries. He didn't dare make a sound; if he was weak against the subjects, he would be deemed useless and sent back to the worst jobs at the temple of Maikarsk. Finally the power seemed to gather itself and bury itself deep within him until it was no more than a faint glimmer.
He opened his eyes, which he had squeezed shut against the pain, and unclenched his hand from around the Source-token. Nothing but dust filled his hand. A cold bolt of horror pierced his chest; the Inquisitress had commanded him to take the token. But she was gone; perhaps he could tell her that the wizard had destroyed it himself.
Time to finish the job. He placed his hand on the blade again, then looked at the wizard. The old man's cloudy eyes stared sightlessly upward into the shadowy heights of the cavern, and his gnarled hand had fallen to lie limply at his side. He was dead, almost as though he had given up his life of his own volition. Davreos looked at the broken chain that had held the wizard's hand bound to the table. The wizard had had enough strength to break that chain and to hold on to his life until he chose to give it up. Why had he allowed himself to be taken prisoner at all, if he was that strong? Why had he surrendered his life instead of escaping? What had he hoped to accomplish with the useless sacrifice?
Stupid, he thought. The man had allowed himself to be defeated. Stupid and weak. Anyone that weak was worthy only of death.
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