In this series, I've been looking at how my novels stack up against the hottest trend in fiction right now: billionaire bad boys who are into bondage. So far I've covered the Billionaire factor and one of the two components of the Bad Boy, Inner Torment. In this post: the other half of the Bad Boy factor, Jackassery.
The guys in these books, I don't know. It's a good thing they're rich and they're hot, because it's kind of hard to tell why any woman would want to have anything to do with them at all otherwise. They refuse to take No for an answer, they manipulate or coerce Sweet Young Thing into sexual practices that are outside of her normal preferences and comfort zone, they control where she goes and when and who she sees... If you've ever read any of those Top Ten Signs Your Partner Is An Abuser lists, this is probably starting to sound familiar.
Sweet Young Thing usually does stand up for herself against Bux Cashton eventually (reviews are divided on whether or not readers appreciate that development), and that does sometimes seem to be a turning point in the plot, with the guy maybe coming to realize that there are other ways of interacting with women besides being a complete jerkface to them.
Yeah, it's a common fantasy, the tormented jerk who comes to appreciate the woman who is so patient and understanding with him and is reformed into a nice, loving, romantic, wonderful guy. But there has to be something there in the first place to make Sweet Young Thing think it'll be worth all the jackassery she has to put up with in the meantime. Are hot, rich, and tormented enough? Apparently so.
Anyway, here's the Jackassery ratings on my own heroes (with bonus notes about how the ladies deal with it):
Prince Eruz (Urdaisunia): Considering everything he's dealing with in his personal and professional lives, Eruz is really a pretty nice guy. He commits two main acts of jackassery where Rashali is concerned, neither of which are intended to be controlling, bad, evilly underhanded, or otherwise offensive, although they certainly come across that way. One is more a matter of social ineptitude than anything else (Eruz isn't really a people person), the other is a matter of urgent political necessity. Rashali's reaction is to renew her resolve to make sure the Sazars are destroyed or driven out of Urdaisunia, though she later comes to realize that his actions weren't what they seemed to be and maybe there's another solution to the Sazar-Urdai conflict.
Jackassery Index: 3
Sevry (Chosen of Azara): Again, considering everything he has to deal with, he's a pretty nice guy. His main problems are the pressure he's under to complete his task and, as with Eruz, a lack of social skills. For all his many and varied experiences, he's never had to deal with someone like Lucie before. When he realizes that she's the person he's been looking for all this time to help him complete his mission, he uses a number of tactics to try to persuade her, including guilt-tripping. His worst act of jackassery certainly isn't intended to be that way; it kind of just happens. He still gets himself slapped by Lucie, plus she's never afraid to tell him that what he wants from her is out of the question.
Jackassery Index: 2
Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Roric scored highest on the Inner Torment scale. He's worked very hard to build a new life for himself, and everything in his life and his world is very carefully controlled. He dislikes having any kind of chaos or unpredictability in his life. When Perarre comes into that world, he is fairly overbearing in his attempts to make her obey all his little rules for how things should be done. They work for him; shouldn't they work for everyone? Perarre really really wants this job - or, more specifically, she wants the future opportunities that a good reference from the renowned Professor Roric Rossony will open up to her - so she goes along with it to some extent, though never without pushback, and he eventually comes to see that a little chaos in his life won't hurt anything. Which is good, considering what happens next.
Jackassery Index: 4
Adan (Sarya's Song): When Adan and Sarya first met, when they were teenagers, he did one thoughtless thing that caused her a lot of pain, but he didn't mean to. She still hasn't forgiven him. He also has a number of other faults - he feels no need at all to demonstrate false modesty, and he's extremely fond of, er, female companionship, but he never does anything with the intent to make Sarya feel bad or to control her. He actually isn't as big a jackass as Sarya thinks he is, but she cuts him no slack whatsoever.
Jackassery Index: 5
Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): Silas commits one supreme act of jackassery, fairly early on in the series. Even while I was writing it I was thinking, Dude, no! You don't do that! To his credit, he realizes almost right away what he had done and why it was bad, and feels really bad about it. Lainie doesn't hesitate to let him know how bad he'd made her feel, but after some awkward conversations and a really spectacular act of redeeming himself, she forgives him. And he's just been a doll ever since :D
Jackassery Index: 5
Conclusion: No one's perfect, and everyone does stupid things that hurt someone else, even when they don't mean to. But just because you might have had a good excuse for making a stupid mistake or otherwise doing something hurtful (past trauma, the demands of your job, temporary stupidity), there's never a reason why you can't apologize, do something to make up for it, and try to do better in the future.
Coming up: Bondage.
So, I'm taking a look at the heroes of my novels in comparison to the current hot trend of novels about hot, tormented billionaire hunks who like to play rough. The previous post evaluated them on the Billionaire scale, with Adan Muari from Sarya's Song topping out at 11 (on a scale of 1 to 10), and the others coming in considerably under that. Next up: the twin factors on the Bad Boy scale: Inner Torment and Jackassery.
These two are linked because, in my extensive analysis of the trend (that is, reading lots of reviews, both positive and negative, of books on the "Falling in Love With a Billionaire" list on Goodreads), the male protagonist's past trauma and inner torment are what lead to his extreme narcissistic, hedonistic, selfish, and domineering behavior (aka his jackassery) and provide the excuse, nay, the justification, for any and all such acts. The overall idea is that the sweet young thing he fixates upon as his conquest (female in the examples I've seen, though I suppose this trend could also exist in the M/M romance sector) eventually comes to peace with and/or helps him overcome his inner torment and the accompanying bad behavior.
(Because I'm analyzing Inner Torment and Jackassery separately, this is going to turn into a four-part series. Me and series, it always turns out there has to be one more installment.)
My heroes on the Inner Torment scale (ratings are a function of badness of the stuff they've had to deal with combined with how well they deal with it) (Also, these are the characters as they are at the beginning of the books, more or less. Sometimes things get better, sometimes they get worse, bwahahahaha):
Prince Eruz (Urdaisunia): His father hates him. His brothers hate him. His wives are mad at him, and his concubines aren't too terribly thrilled with him either. His country is falling apart, and he's wrestling with all these inconvenient ideas about equality between the Sazars and the Urdai and how just because you conquered someone doesn't mean it's ok to abuse and oppress them. But Eruz is mostly too busy trying to do his job and figure out how to do what's best for everyone to go all emo over this stuff. And at least his daughter loves him <3 :D
Inner Torment rating: 3
Sevry (Chosen of Azara): His country was at war from the time he was three until he was twenty-three. After that, his people destroyed and his country in ruins, he spends a very long time on a seemingly hopeless quest to try to restore what was lost. His circumstances keep him isolated, constantly on the run, unable to tell the truth about himself or form close relationships with anyone. He's dedicated to his duty and determined to carry it out, but he's lonely and he's getting pretty tired. He still manages to keep it together, barely.
Inner Torment rating: 7
Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Hoo boy. Roric. Wow. I struggled with this novel for years, just not quite sure where Roric was coming from. And then one day he opened up and told me about his past, and I was both horrified by what he'd been through and terrified of writing about it. I thought there was no way I could write about a character with stuff like that in his past. I'm just not qualified (and I'm expecting some pushback for taking on a subject like this when the novel is released). On the other hand, I finally understood why he is the way he is - the accomodations he's come to in his effort to deal with his past and rebuild his life. Once I understood him, the story was much easier to write.
Inner Torment rating: 10. Possibly 11.
Adan (Sarya's Song): Incredibly rich, good-looking, popular, and talented, from a large and loving family. His father actually expects him to work, as in manual labor, on the family plantations during his visits home, so he knows what hard work is like and he understands, to an extent, what life is like for those less fortunate than him. He's pretty easy-going and content with life, except that as a teenager he did one incredibly thoughtless thing which totally ruined all his chances with the only girl he'll ever love. Not that he's given up hope, though.
Inner Torment rating: 2
Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): As a kid, he made some selfish and thoughtless decisions, which had devastating consequences for someone he cared about. Rather than (or, in addition to) being traumatized by that, he learned from it. Eventually, spurred on by the ideals he came to embrace as a result of that incident, he threw away the wealth and privilege he was born to and chose the life he's living now, and is happy with it.
Inner Torment rating: 2
Conclusion: My guys have all been through bad stuff (and continue to go through it). Some of it only mildly traumatizing, some of it devastating. They do have bad dreams and bad memories and painful, complicated emotions. But life is hard for everyone. Harder for some than for others, but no one is entitled to a bump-free ride through life, so they deal with it and go on as best as they can.
Next time: The Jackassery Index (or, Why in the world do the ladies put up with this $&%@#???)
You see them all over the place, on the bestseller lists, in ads on Goodreads, on the front pages on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and probably on the front tables at brick&mortar bookstores and prominently displayed at Target. Novels about a fabulously wealthy, hot, tormented hunk who sets eyes on some sweet young thing and decides he is going to have his way with her (or possibly him; I'm not conversant with m/m romance but I wouldn't be surprised if this trend exists in that sector too) and won't take No for an answer. Kink ensues. (Note: I haven't actually read any of these, but I've read a bunch of book descriptions and reviews on GoodReads. Close enough for literary analysis, right? :-D)
So, being the hard-blogging author that I am, I decided to examine my own novels through the lens of the 3 B's to see how they stack up to the latest hot trend, on a totally arbitrary scale from 1 to 10. This will be a series of three posts because there's a lot to talk about. (Oh, and as I'll be talking about books of mine that I haven't released yet, I will do my utmost to avoid spoilers. As always, the disclaimer is that these are romances in addition to being fantasy, so the more-or-less HEA is a given.)
First up: Billionaires.
The guys in these books are all fabulously, obnoxiously, breathtakingly rich. They are in their 20's and own half of Manhattan or Seattle or wherever. They seduce women in the offices of their world conglomerate headquarters and at expensive hotels where one night costs the same as a mortgage payment or two or four for us regular folks.
Let's examine the heroes from my first five books (Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, The Lost Book of Anggird, Sarya's Song, and the Daughter of the Wildings series - which is actually six books but I'll consider it as one) through the billionaire filter.
In Urdaisunia, Prince Eruz is the High Prince, the heir to the throne. Pretty good deal, right? He's gonna be king one day! Awesome :) But...the land of Urdaisunia has been suffering from worsening drought, food shortages, and epidemics for years, and has enemies from all sides, inside the country and out (and above), eyeing it so they can exploit what few resources it still has. Still sounds great, right? Oh, and his position as heir to the throne depends on the approval of his seriously disapproving father and his ability to outsmart his scheming brothers. All things considered, just chucking everything and running off to start over from scratch somewhere else starts to look pretty good.
Billionaire rating: 6
Chosen of Azara: Sevry is an actual, real live king. Yay! But he's got no country, no people, no home, no nothing. All he's got to offer a girl is an empty land, a ruined convent, a pure heart, and a willingness to work hard.
Billionaire rating: 1
The Lost Book of Anggird: Roric is a professor, a highly valued breed in the Vorunne Dominion, and he's one of the elite of the elite. He's extremely well-compensated, both in salary (though he seldom has to actually handle any money himself) and in the living accomodations and other perks he's provided with. And then one night it all goes kablooey and he finds himself left with nothing but the love of a good woman (or not?), a price on his head, and an interesting new talent (as one of the test readers put it).
Billionaire rating: 2
Sarya's Song: Adan is the heir of a fabulously wealthy family. Want to know how wealthy? Allow me to refer you to this quote from the book:
Adan Muari, tall, handsome, well built, auburn haired, heir of a family that owned nearly a quarter of Msaka Ras and a substantial portion of Msaka Dolna, possessed a True baritone voice of divine quality and extraordinary [magical] strength, and an equally extraordinary opinion of himself.
Msaka Ras and Msaka Dolna are not companies, nor buildings, nor city blocks. They aren't cities, or counties, or provinces, or even countries. They're continents. So yes, he's incredibly rich. But if the world's going to end, what difference does money make?
Billionaire rating: 10. or maybe 11.
Daughter of the Wildings: Silas was born into one of the elitest of the elite mage families in Granadaia. He walked away from it all because he seriously disapproves of everything his family stands for and believes in, and they feel the same way about him. So now he's just making his way as a bounty hunter across the Wildings. If he catches a good bounty with a good price, he lives well for a while. No captures, no money. But he has his freedom and his integrity, which mean more to him than money any day.
Billionaire rating: 2
Conclusion: Money and status aren't everything, and can be lost just like that. When you've got nothing left but yourself (or, in a relationship, when you've got nothing left but each other), that's when you see what you're really made of: money and status, or something more substantial.
So far Adan is in the lead with a B,BB,&B rating of 11 (on a scale of 1 to 10). Next post: we'll see how he and the other guys stack up on the twin measures of Bad Boy-ness, inner torment and jackassery. Stay tuned!
To see Camille LaGuire's take on this theme, start with this post on her blog: http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2013/09/day-6-and-billionaire-bad-boy-scale.html
Every author has one. The Book of Eternal Revisions, where you need "just one more draft" to make it "good enough." And of course, each "one last draft" leads to another and another and another...
For me, that book is The Lost Book of Anggird. Aside from the, oh, sixteen years or so it took me to sort out the story and characters and finish the first draft, this book has been through more revisions than any other of my books. And not because the first draft was that bad; really, looking back on it now, it was really pretty good, as far as first drafts go.
No, the reason why I ended up going over and over and over it again was a bit of advice that prevails on various writing sites and forums (actually two bits of advice that form kind of an evil, story-eating symbiosis of doom): Before unleashing your novel on the world, polish it till it gleams, and a major part of this polishing is the removal of every unnecessary word.
At the time that I completed the draft of Lost Book and began the unending cycle of revisions and edits, I was heavily under the influence of a certain forum popular among writers, which is especially focused on "professional" writing - that is, writing for conventional publication. The advice quoted above is prevalent on that forum. I was feeling my way back into writing original fiction after a long stint as a prolific fanfiction writer, and wondering if maybe I should consider testing the waters in the shark, er, agent pool again, so I paid diligent attention to everything said by the "experts" on the forum, and tried to apply it to my writing. (The thought of starting to query agents again lasted about 5 minutes, then died a swift and well-deserved death.)
And, over three years of revising Lost Book according to those guidelines, here's what happened: When I got the feedback on Version 7 of Lost Book back from my test readers a few months ago and went in to do this last big round of revision, I realized that the prose was mushy and bland, almost entirely devoid of any color or personality whatsoever. I've been complimented on what people call my smooth, clear writing style, and received comments to that effect on Lost Book, but what I noticed went beyond smooth and clear.
What I had done in the pursuit of producing "acceptable" writing was I had stripped out much of the lively language, interesting details, and other bits of personality from my writing. I started reading the manuscript and almost immediately began thinking, That doesn't say what I meant, and, Wow, that sentence was boring - made boring in my attempt to smooth out the flow and present my ideas in the fewest words. It was like unflavored, watery Cream of Wheat, or that rice cereal you feed to babies. With no lumps or sharp edges or interesting sticky-out bits - they'd all been smoothed out and polished into oblivion.
Now, the advice to avoid unnecessary words isn't all bad. It's rooted in some good principles. In general, it's good to avoid repetitious redundancies and long passages that have nothing whatsoever to do with the story, and excessively purple prose.
But carried too far, you end up with "See Spot run. Spot is a dog." Or this thrilling passage from Lost Book, "There was a fire. The man was scared. He stole a horse."
Just kidding. It's not that bad. But when I started reading the manuscript to do this revision, I just knew that it wasn't right, it wasn't my voice.
In the meantime, since starting to realize that those bits of advice from that writer's forum aren't neccesarily the best, I'd also started reading Dean Wesley Smith's blog. Mr. Smith has a completely opposite approach to revision: don't. Or if you have to, revise as little as possible. I also took Holly Lisle's online How To Revise Your Novel course, which takes the approach that you identify what works with your story and what doesn't, fix what doesn't work, and get it all done in one big revision then get the novel out the door and get to work on the next one.
I need a little more revision than no passes or one pass, but I've taken the spirit behind Mr. Smith's and Ms. Lisle's revision philosophies and formulated my own advice: Don't revise to other people's rules, don't revise the life out of your story, use the words and sentence structures that most closely say what you want to say in the way you want to say it, and trust your own creative vision.
So with this go-round on Lost Book, what I'm doing (besides making the revisions suggested by the test reader feedback) is adding back in the life and style and individual voice that I'd stripped out in previous revisions. As I read, I'm paying attention to the difference between what's on the page and the way the prose comes naturally into my mind and changing what's on the page to my natural voice. I'm adding back in details, fun asides, extra lines of dialogue that give more insight into mindsets and relationships, and lots of other things to make it a fuller, richer story told in my voice. So far I've added back in about 7,000 words, even while trimming some things that did still need to be cut. And, for the first time in a long time, I'm excited about this story again, and I can't wait until it's ready to share with my readers.
Chosen of Azara is on the next-to-last proofreading pass. Hoping to finish that today - I'm starting on p. 120 of 197 pages (of my computer printout). It's going to be kind of a push, which means I need to get off the Interwebs real quick here and get to work. When this is done, I'll load it onto my Kindle for one more quick proofread, and then it's format time! Urdaisunia took me two weeks to format, but I learned a lot in the process about what not to do and what to do to make it go faster. This time I'm hoping it'll only take me a week (or even less, hopefully). At this time, I'm aiming for a June 27 release date.
After that, I'll start the final revision rounds on The Lost Book of Anggird. I got some great feedback from my test readers, lots of love for the book plus some great suggestions on what I can do to make it even better. And I've thought of one or two cool things to put it, too.
At the same time, I'll also be starting the initial major revision of Sarya's Song. (I've got Design by Katt, who did the cover image for Chosen of Azara, on tap to do a luciously dark and romantic cover for that book too. Yay!)
And, since that's not enough to keep me out of trouble, I'll be writing Book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings during July Camp NaNo. We're going on a cattle drive!
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to this week's Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers featured author, R. Rose! And to last week's (I know I got him on the front page, but don't remember if I mentioned him in the blog), W.H. Cann!
Earlier this month, I got an email from an old college friend asking if my books are suitable for a couple of teenage girls in her life. I also had the opportunity to lend my proof copy of Urdaisunia to a good friend of mine, who also happens to be the wife of our current clergyman (in our church, the leaders of the congregation are drawn from the membership and rotated about every 5-7 years). These incidents, along with a discussion on my Goodreads group about content and age appropriateness got me thinking that I should do a post about content and age appropriateness of my books, as a guide for anyone who might be concerned about that.
To establish some context, I'll start by saying that when I was growing up, my parents told me that none of the books in the house were off-limits to me, and if I had any questions about anything I read I was welcome to bring it up with them. I think I was about 11 or 12 at the time. Of course, being the upright, church-going people that they are, my parents didn't have any pornography or anything like that in the house, but they did buy a regular supply of the current best-sellers, with all that entails. The first book I read with my newly-granted freedom (or maybe this was the book that inspired that conversation) was The Poseidon Adventure. The original movie had come out not long before, and the theme song from the movie was a big hit on Top 40 radio, so I was curious. Anyway, I grew up with the idea that, with proper parental involvement, teens should have few if any restrictions placed on what they read.
Of course, now, erotica and books with very explicit sex scenes are a lot more mainstream than they used to be, and I wouldn't be wild about the idea of my own teens reading those. So I'll agree that parents, and anyone who doesn't care to read explicit material, need to exercise more caution now than maybe they used to.
Sex isn't the only concern in deciding the appropriateness of reading material. Graphic violence is something that many parents and readers are concerned about; along with, at least for me, the cause served by the violence. I'm less bothered by reading about a villain being graphically and colorfully disposed of than I would be if the same methods were used against a hero, innocent bystander, child, or animal. Strong language bothers some people. Readers and parents might also object to what they consider sacrilegious content. A handful of f-bombs in a book doesn't bother me, but I've been known to put a book down because of light or disrespectful treatment of matters that are sacred to me. Some people might not like to see people of certain genders or races portrayed in certain ways. Some people might object to a specific political slant. The exact definition of what's offensive or inappropriate is different for everyone. As another example, I'm presently reading a fantasy novel that I believe is generally considered "clean," although it contains at least one fairly intense scene of near-rape, and I'm left wondering why near-rape is considered less objectionable than consummated lovemaking, just because the act isn't completed.
Anyway, the list goes on and on, and the consensus among writers is that you can't please everyone, you're bound to end up offending someone, and the best and only thing a writer can do is to write as honestly as he/she can.
So, to the point. How would I rate my books as far as age-appropriateness and offensive content?
My books feature adult characters, with adult lives and concerns, and contain "mature themes and situations," including sex and relationships, earning a living, death, war, sacrifice, and the struggle against evil forces that disrupt their world. A principle I try to follow in my writing is that everything in the story is there because it's needed. (I'm not perfect at this, but it's what I aspire to.) The corollary to that is, if something needs to be in the story, I put it in. If some important story or character development requires a sex scene, I put in a sex scene, though I leave out any description that isn't important to the point I'm trying to make. However, if some detail of the act is important, I'll include that - but still in the least graphic manner that still gets the job done. My aim is never to titillate the reader - I don't want the reader to be pulled out of the story by thinking about their own reaction to what I've written, I want them to be engrossed in what's happening with the characters (this applies to everything I write, not just sex scenes). On the other hand, if the important character and story business take place before the sex scene, I'll draw the curtain. In Urdaisunia, we don't need to know what Prince Eruz does with his three concubines (no, seriously, we don't); what we need to know is the desperate state of mind he's in that drives him to seek comfort that way.
Same thing with violence. Prince Eruz has to execute some people. The important thing is what's going on inside Eruz's head as he is forced to carry out these executions, not graphic descriptions of the actual deaths, so that's where the focus is in the writing. In Lost Book of Anggird, a couple of reprehensible people are killed in a particularly grisly way as punishment for their misdeeds; the act of carrying out the killings is cathartic to the person who does it, as well as demonstrating the extreme state of mind that character is in, so I focus on that in the writing and not on the (literally) gory details.
Language: I try to use restraint in the use of strong or offensive language, because it loses its impact if it's overused. (A personal line for me is not to use religious oaths that apply in our world; on the other hand, characters in an invented world using oaths that reference invented gods aren't a problem for me.) Again, if it's necessary to communicate what the character is experiencing, or if the use of strong language is appropriate to how the character would speak in a given situation, I'll put in just what's necessary. There's a bit of language in Urdaisunia that's rougher than I would normally use, but it's coming from a thoroughly bad person who is purposely being as insulting and offensive as possible. Anything milder in that situation would have sounded silly.
And so on. In general, I try to put in what the story requires to be told honestly and completely, without going overboard, and certainly without any intent to purposely shock, offend, or titillate.
If you want something more concrete, here is where I rate my books on a couple of different scales:
On the All-Romance Ebooks Heat Rating scale, from 1 - 5 flames, I rate my books a 2: "some [consummated] love scenes. These will be more sensual than graphic and will mostly rely on euphemism." Some parts might edge up just a bit to a low 3, with slightly more graphic description. My short stories run from 0 - 1 flame.
Alternatively, here's a rating scale I devised for fanfiction (another post for another time):
G: Nothing offensive, possibly some slight angst
PG: Occasional mild language, sexual references, mild violence, angsty
PG-13: More frequent language, strongly implied or "on-camera" (non-explicit) sex, more violence, intense angst
R: Strong language, more descriptive (but still non-explicit) sex, semi-graphic violence
M: extreme foul language, explicit sexual description, graphic violence.
On this scale, my books run PG-13 - R. (Short stories G - PG-13).
As far as age recommendations go, my books are definitely not for children. Also not for young teens. As far as older teens go, my books don't fit into the currently-popular Young Adult category, mainly because they have adult rather than teenage main characters and address adult concerns rather than the typical coming-of-age themes usually addressed in YA books, and also may have somewhat more graphic content (though my understanding is that there are plenty of YA books with intense and disturbing content, that address serious issues of sex, drugs, abuse, and so on). Based on my own experience at that age - there wasn't a YA category back then, or if there was it wasn't nearly as prevalent as it is now, and when you were in high school you went from reading middle grade/young teen books to adult books - I think my books are suitable for ages 16 and up. I wouldn't have a problem with my 17-year-old reading them (aside from the embarrassment factor of kid reading love scenes written by his mom!) I mean, really, I'm not exactly writing 50 Shades here.
But, ultimately, the appropriateness of my books is not a decision I'm qualified to make for other parents - or any other reader, period. I hope the information in this post will give readers and parents the information they need to make the right decision for themselves.
The second of the three weird short-shorts I wrote in March is now available on the site: Mistress of the Mirror. The story prompt for this one was: a poor woman with a mirror runs afoul of an assassin. It will be available for free here on my site until I have enough stories to do another collection, at which time it'll come down and the collection will go into the Amazon KDP Select program for a while.
I schedule my writing projects by the month, so the beginning of the month is a good time to look back and forward. I successfully completed my April goals, writing the first draft of Book 3 of Daughter of the Wildings and doing the major revision of Chosen of Azara. In May I'll be doing the fine-tuning on Chosen of Azara. Depending on how that goes, I may even be able to get to the final copyediting and proofreading edits, the last stage before formatting the book and releasing it for sale. I'll also be doing the next revision on The Lost Book of Anggird based on the feedback I've gotten from my test readers. Response to that book has been very positive, but my readers have also given me some great suggestions to make it even better.
So, busy busy. I love it when things move right along on schedule. And now that Camp NaNo is over and I won't be reporting on my word count from that, I'll blog about some more interesting things.
Good writing days yesterday and today. Here's the numbers:
4/25 1568 words
4/26 2010 words
So close! Will meet my word count goal tomorrow; may or may not finish the story. I thought It was finished a couple thousand words ago and I was just winding down (with three thousand words still to go! yikes!) but so far I've added two serious life complications for Silas and Lainie and a Wait, what? Keeping things interesting!
The revision of Chosen of Azara continues, with major surgery to give one of the primary supporting characters a personality transplant. Probably looking at a June release for that one. The next stage of revision of The Lost Book of Anggird will begin as soon as I'm done writing my Camp NaNo novel. Projected release date for that is probably Octoberish. And Sarya and Adan from Sarya's Song (seriously need to think of a better title for that) have started knocking on my brain, asking if it's their turn yet. As soon as Chosen of Azara is out, major revision on the (very rough) first draft of Sarya's Song will begin. I'd love a 2013 release for that one, but it might not happen until early 2014.
So, here's a fun thing. Camille LaGuire issued a challenge on her blog: write about your characters at breakfast. (Or, for readers, your favorite characters at breakfast.) She starts off with a post about her young gunslinger couple, Mick and Casey, and what breakfast is like for them. I imagine that breakfast for Silas and Lainie, from Daughter of the Wildings, is probably pretty much the same.
The main character that came to my mind when I read this challenge is Professor Roric Rossony from The Lost Book of Anggird. The Professor has some interesting eating habits, and breakfast plays an important part in the first section of the book. Here's one of my favorite scenes (please remember that this is not the final version; all mistakes and bad writing will be corrected by the time this is ready for release):
(The setup: Professor Rossony and his newly-hired assistant, Perarre, have been at Morning Lecture, a quasi-worship service, and have just arrived at his office/apartment to begin the day's work.)
When they reached the Professor’s third-floor apartment, the Professor asked, “Will you join me for breakfast, Miss Tabrano?”
Professors in this land (the Vorunne Dominion) are a privileged class, and Professor Rossony is one of the elite of the elite. As part of his compensation for his work, he is provided with the best of everything in living quarters and food. This is entirely different from what Perarre is used to, as an Assistant at the University. Her position is roughly equivalent to a post-grad assistantship or research position, which doesn't quite come with the same status and compensation as that of a full and widely-renowned professor. So she's glad to join him for breakfast even if it does mean getting grilled at the same time over what was said during Lecture!
Tea, pastries, and fruit appear in this meal; later on, when Perarre has been consistently in the habit of eating breakfast with the Professor for some time, the meal expands to include bacon and eggs, bread rolls, and even oranges. The Vorunne Dominion includes areas that have the right climate for growing citrus, but because of the limited growing season and the costs in shipping them, oranges are still something of a luxury item. However, nothing is too good or too expensive for one of the Dominion's most renowed Professors.
Professor Rossony is also notable for his extremely fastidious habits (notice the eating the apple with a knife and fork; he eats bacon the same way, too). He has good reasons for having such habits; they're his way of coping with what is later revealed to be a difficult and chaotic childhood and adolescence along with other challenges that he faces. He seeks to maintain absolute control in whatever areas of his life he can to compensate for devastating things that were/are out of his control.
I like the opportunities this scene provided for some interplay between the Professor and Perarre as they get to know each other a little better, how she's chagrined to notice the difference between his fastidious manners and her own more careless style of eating (this contrast carries over to many other areas besides eating), and the fact that the Professor feels no hesitancy to push her, a female, to stretch herself intellectually, and that he offers her the respect of telling her she doesn't have to agree with him. Later on, breakfast becomes an opportunity for Perarre to show her displeasure with some of the Professor's behavior, by declining to join him at the table, and for him to offer an apology (buttering a hard roll for another person can be an act of contrition).
This is just in the first part of the book. Then the Professor delves too deeply into things he shouldn't, and everything goes kablooey (literally?), and then breakfast becomes an entirely different matter, when you're on the run for your life. But it was fun to use the morning meals in the first part of the book as a chance to develop the characters, show what their lives are like at the University, and start to develop their relationship. Maybe it's just me, but I can see just a little bit of the chemistry between Perarre and the Professor starting to bubble up in the scene I quoted here.
Camp NaNo update:
On Friday and Saturday, various issues, including trying to fix a broken printer, dealing with wonky writing software, and the need to do a massive grocery shopping trip, kept my numbers down. Here's the report for the last few days:
4/11 - 1518 words
4/12 - 343 words
4/13 - 753 words
Total word count so far: 13,348/30,000
So I went and did my civic duty on Tuesday. I got put on the short list for a jury, but in the end wasn't selected for the actual jury. Which was just as well, since my chronic fatigue syndrome would make it extremely difficult to serve on even a three-day trial, which this one was. But I was also a little disappointed, since it seemed like an interesting case.
One thing about jury duty is there are lots of stories to be found there. The pool of people summoned to jury duty represents all different ages and walks of life. If you like to people-watch, that's a great place to do it. How do people come dressed - casual or all dressed up? What do they bring with them to pass the time? What's their attitude about being there? And what are the "why's" behind all those things?
And that's just in the waiting room. Once you get to the courtroom, there are more stories. What's going on with the case? For this one, it was a young woman who was a passenger in a car where a quantity of drugs for sale was found. Did she have anything to do with it, or was it the other person, the driver, who was responsible for the drugs? It would have been interesting to hear the evidence on that.
The stories weren't just limited to the person on trial. The prosecuting attorney was blind; she even had her guide dog in the courtroom to guide her up to the judge's bench when one of the prospective jurors wanted to answer a question in private. My husband and I got married after his first year of law school, and I can tell you that getting through law school and taking the bar exam and then practicing law requires a mind-boggling amount of reading and writing. This attorney was making notes with a Braille tool, and I had to wonder how diificult it must have been for her to successfully get through school and pass the bar and then function in this job, and what it was that drove her to tackle all these hardships and challenges and make it to where she was.
On the defense side, one of the defense attorneys was a young woman from a small town (she mentioned it because a few of the prospective jurors were from the same small town, and she wanted to make sure none of them knew her) and from an ethnic background that tends to be poor and under-educated. What made her decide to become a lawyer, and what drove her to overcome the challenges she might have faced to get to that courtroom?
Then, as I was thinking about those two women, I realized that two of my female characters, Perarre from The Lost Book of Anggird and Sarya from Sarya's Song are women who have worked their way into academically challenging professions despite great odds against them. So that seems to be a theme that I'm drawn to.
And then there were the prospective jurors. We each had to give a short biographical statement about ourselves. Everyone's life is different, and everyone's life has something unique and interesting about it. Careers, educational background, family situations, interests - no two people had the same combination of things. One thing they asked was what bumper stickers we have on our cars. I was surprised that almost no one had bumper stickers, and the few who did had something completely innocuous (like me; my only bumper sticker is for my college alumni association). I was also surprised that more than one person had a son in prison. Those people did not make it onto the final jury. You could hear the emotion in their voices as they answered the question if you have a friend or family member in jail. That must be an incredibly heartbreaking thing to go through.
They also asked if we have previous experience on a jury, what kind of case, and what the verdict was. I was on the jury once in a robbery case, and we returned a guilty verdict. (The evidence was clear, but it was incredibly hard to pass a judgment on someone which meant that he would have to go to prison.) I'm guessing that that's why they didn't put me on the jury; defense attorneys probably don't like that.
So that was my day of jury duty. Going by how I feel today, two days later, I should probably try to get a medical exemption next time I'm summoned. But it was definitely worthwhile, both for knowing that I was fulfilling my civic responsibility, and for the nourishment for my writer's brain.
No Camp NaNo word count on Tuesday, obviously. Yesterday I only got 848.
Total word count: 2357/30,000
And I kind of liked this line from yesterday's output (remember this is raw and unedited, fresh from my brain):
Being found out as a mage was bad enough; being found out as a mage who cheated at cards would entitle that mage to additional gruesome variations on the standard hanging.
So, back to work now. Planning to write a good big chunk on that Camp NaNo novel today, and continue progress on the revision of Chosen of Azara. It needs more work that I had thought, so the release date might be getting pushed back to June. I'll see how it goes when I get to the parts that need major rewriting.
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