Today's Camp NaNo output:
1517 words Total: 5234/30,000 words.
Have I mentioned how much fun this series, Daughter of the Wildings, is to write? Aside from the issue of it not wanting to let me plan more than a few scenes or chapters in advance, which is completely different from how I usually write. The setting and the characters are so much fun, and I'm finding myself leaving places where I can write short stories and novellas later on to fill in some gaps. The world needs more second-world fantasy (that is, fantasy set in a world completely unconnected to ours) in a wild west type of setting.
Anyway. I realized I haven't written anything about Urdaisunia lately. It's published, it's out there, and I've moved on to other projects. But I haven't forgotten about it. There's a story behind the writing of Urdaisunia, and here it is.
A long time ago, I wrote my first novel. Like a good little writer, I then found an agent in the Writers Marketplace book at the library, and bundled my novel off to an agent who represented fantasy writers. Then I started my next novel.
There were two seeds for this second novel. One was an image that came into my mind, of a peasant woman, destitute and desperate, facing down three men on horseback who were holding swords over her head. Then one of the men, obviously in charge of the other two, orders them, in a language she doesn't understand, to not kill her.
The other seed was my fascination at the time (well, I still have it) with very ancient civilizations and cultures. Not the Romans and Greeks, those whippersnappers, but even more ancient. And not the Egyptians, because that's been done. I wanted really, really ancient, and something that you didn't see stuff about all the time. Sumeria fit the bill. I read up about the technology and culture developed by the Sumerians, and their literature and mythology, and began developing a world based on that. You can find more details about the Sumerian influences on Urdaisunia in this post. Then I plopped that peasant woman and the three warriors down in that world, and came up with the idea of an ancient, proud civilization in decline and conquered by newcomers, and the gods of that civilization all in an uproar about what to do about it.
I started writing that novel and was having loads of fun with it. In the meantime, I got a response from the literary agency I had contacted, a very nice rejection that made me feel like maybe I would hit the target with the next book. Also in the meantime, though, the word "marketability" had entered my awareness. Whether through reading Writer's Digest magazine, or something in the letter from the agency, or both, I don't remember. But at that point, I realized that I was not only going to have to write something good, I was also going to have to write something that an agent would find marketable and that the agent would be able to convince an editor at a publishing company was marketable.
And then I froze up. I had no idea what someone else was going to think was marketable - I still don't. I don't know if anyone does. All I knew was that I had never seen anything like the novel I was writing on the fantasy shelves at bookstores (pre-Medieval, non-European setting, no wizards and magic, all these gods running around doing their soap opera thing), which said to me that books like that were not considered marketable. I mean, I couldn't be the only person who ever thought of writing something like that.
So I tried to change the story. I stuck some wizard and magic stuff (beyond the small amount that came organically) into the story and tried to make the whole thing with the gods a little less weird, and just tried to make the whole structure of the novel more like that of the fantasy novels I was reading at the time. The more I tried to make the novel "marketable," the bigger mess it turned into, and finally I just gave up - both on the novel and on the idea of trying to get published, since it was now apparent to me that I didn't have a clue about how to write the kinds of things that agents and publishers would want.
This was in about 1991. Fast forward to, oh, 2005, 2006, or so. Those characters - the peasant-rebel woman, the hapless prince, the scheming gods, wouldn't leave me alone. So I dug into my old story files and hauled out my old printouts, gave the first few chapters a quick edit, and started posting them on my old fiction website, with the intent of writing and posting the rest of it one chapter at a time.
How did that work out? About as well as you'd expect it to. I had a mishmash of the different old versions I'd tried writing, plot threads that went nowhere, and no clue how I wanted it to work out at the end. So I chucked the whole idea again.
But those darn characters STILL wouldn't leave me alone. So in, hmm, early 2010, on a creative high after completing my first National Novel Writing Month challenge, I hauled out all my old notes and files and printouts, plopped whatever was salvagable into a Liquid Story Binder project, and patchworked together a complete manuscript from usable old bits and newly-written material. It felt really good to finally reach The End on the novel I'd started nearly twenty years earlier.
There was just one problem, though. It was awful. Between my execrable "high fantasy" narrative style from when I first started writing, and the "let's just get this over with" brain dumps in the new stuff, and the random bits of deleted characters and subplots still lying around, it was a huge mess. I figured that one day I would tackle it and make something out of it, but I had no idea how.
And then I discovered Holly Lisle's How To Revise Your Novel online course. It sounded good, and I was gearing up to dive into the world of self-publishing and wanted to get the editorial skills to be able to make my books as good as I could, so I signed up. The project I chose to do the course with was that thrice-abandoned mess, Urdaisunia. I figured if the method taught in the course could make something readable out of that thing, then it could work on any book.
The course has five months worth of lessons, but it took me longer than that to get all the way through all the work. It was hard - just reading my rough draft made my eyeballs bleed at times, and I had to dig down really deep to find the really cool story that lay buried far beneath the surface. But I did it, I tore that thing apart, pulled out and dusted off what was good and got rid of the bad, and put it all back together again. When I finally finished the first revision, I sent my vastly improved story out to some friends who bravely agreed to test-read it for me, did another big revision based on their feedback and some more ideas I'd had about the story, and then, when all that was done, realized I had a novel I was proud of.
And, well, the rest is history. I did the final edits, formatted it, and now that story I abandoned long ago as being a hopeless cause is now out there, on Amazon and in paperback and everything (in theory, you can even go to your favorite bricks&mortar bookstore and special-order it). It's an incredible feeling.
And Rashali and Eruz and all those bickering gods are much, much happier with me now.
I finished the (very) rough draft of Daughter of the Wildings Book 2 today (three weeks ahead of schedule), and now it's in the revision queue. It was a tough one to write, but there were some very interesting developments, and the plot has thickened for the beginning of Book 3. Silas finally settled down and decided to cooperate. I think he was mad that I wouldn't write the sex scene that he wanted. You may (or may not) have noticed that I'll write an occasional sex scene when it's appropriate to the plot and character development, and nothing too explicit. But what Silas was asking for did not fall into these guidelines.
Silas: Oh, come on, it'll be fun.
Me: No. What do you think this is, 50 Shades of Wizard Bounty Hunters?
But we eventually came to an understanding, and finished off this adventure on a successful note.
(In contrast, Roric, from The Lost Book of Anggird, gives me The Look and says, "I beg your pardon, you want me to do what?" when it's time for one of those scenes. *Sigh* characters, can't live with them, can't knock them over the head and bury them in the back yard. Or... I'm the author, maybe I can *evil laugh*)
Anyway. The major revision of Chosen of Azara is coming right along, and I'll also be done with that ahead of schedule. I'm hoping for a May release but not making any promises yet.
The rest of March is going to be kind of disrupted, with doctor and dentist appointments and jury duty during the last week (unless I get postponed or excused). Instead of jumping right into DoW 3, I'm going to work on some short stories, shooting for one per week. I'll post them here as I write them, and then, a while after that, bundle them into another collection.
In other news, Urdaisunia is now available in the Kobo and iTunes stores. Still waiting on the Sony ebook store, but it should go live there eventually.
Finally, did you know Smashwords distributes to libraries? From the Smashwords FAQ:
Does Smashwords distribute to libraries?
At a time when a lot of the major publishers are price-gouging or outright refusing to sell ebooks to libraries, Smashwords offers a large selection of titles at reasonable prices (most Smashwords authors set their library prices at or below retail price, and some even donate their books). If you work or volunteer at a library, you might look into if your acquisitions department is aware of this option.
In today's news: A Cure for Nel, and Other Stories is still free at Amazon, through March 5th. This collection contains three stories: "The Peach Tree" and "You Can't Take It With You," which were posted on this site for a while, and a previously unpublished story, "A Cure For Nel," which takes place in the same world as my forthcoming novel Chosen of Azara. A short story collection on your smartphone, tablet, or ereader is a great way to pass the time while you're waiting at the doctor's office or riding the bus, and a free short story collection lets you try out a new writer with no risk but a few minutes of your time.
More free sampling: I'm continuing to post chapters of Urdaisunia, if you've been reading it serial-style here on the site. Watch for two or three new chapters a week, with up to three chapters (not including the prologue and Chapter 1) available at any one time.
Also, I'm within shouting distance (a few thousand words) of finishing the rough draft of Daughter of the Wildings Book 2. But that's a whole other post.
Urdaisunia is now available for the Nook at Barnes & Noble. Also, Chapter 4 is now available on the site for your free sampling enjoyment.
And a reminder - "The Peach Tree" and "Can't Take It With You" will be coming down in a day or two in preparation for going into the KDP Select program on Amazon. It will be available through the Amazon Prime Kindle Owner's Lending Library, and I'll be doing a five-day free giveaway sometime in the next few weeks. Watch for it!
The paperback edition of Urdaisunia is now available directly from CreateSpace, and should go live on Amazon within a week. This is a beautiful trade paperback edition, priced at $10.99.
My proof copy of the paperback edition of Urdaisunia came today. It's beautiful! Once I give it a good looking over and approve it, it should hopefully become available very soon. It's a trade-size paperback, and will be priced at $10.99 (U.S.). I'll update the Amazon buy link once it's available.
In other news: I'm still waiting for Urdaisunia to make its way through the Smashwords sales channels to the Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Sony online stores. I'll add buy links as it goes live on those sites.
In the meantime, Chapter 3 of Urdaisunia is now posted for your free sampling enjoyment. I'll continue to post 2-3 chapters a week, with three chapters available at a time, for sampling and free serial-style reading.
I'm working on a short story collection which will include "The Peach Tree" and "You Can't Take It With You," along with a previously-unpublished story, "A Cure For Nel," which is set in the same world as my forthcoming novel Chosen of Azara. (Completely different story and characters, though.) I'm going to experiment with putting this collection in Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, which will allow me to offer it for free five days out of a ninety-day period, and will also make it available in the Kindle Prime lending library. The downside is that the work has to be exclusive to Amazon while it's enrolled in the KDP Select program, which means that "The Peach Tree" and "You Can't Take It With You" will have to come down from this site. If you want to read them free online, you've got a few more days before they disappear. After that, I'll announce when the collection will be available for free from Amazon, and when it isn't free it'll be only $0.99.
But, you say, I don't have a Kindle! Never fear: here are a couple of different solutions. One is that you can download the free Kindle reading app for your computer, tablet, or smartphone (Android or Apple) and read through that. The other is, my ebooks are free of DRM, meaning that you can buy them from Amazon and use free Calibre ebook management software to easily convert them to your preferred format (epub for most other e-readers).
I'm curious to see if the KDP Select program offers any advantages as far as promotion and visibility are concerned. So I'll keep this collection in the program for a couple of 90-day cycles and see how it works. After that I'll decide whether to keep it in the program or make the stories non-exclusive again.
And in other news, The Lost Book of Anggird is out to the test-readers, and Chosen of Azara is undergoing a quality-check revision pass. It's already been pretty well worked-over, and I had it posted on my old website for a long time. I'm not finding too many problems, but it could still use a little work to bring it up to a more professional level. I'm not planning on sending it out to test-readers, and will hopefully have it ready to release in May or June.
I've also started writing Book 2 (as yet untitled) of Daughter of the Wildings. For months now, Silas and Lainie have been jumping up and down, waving their arms at me and going, "Hey, did you forget about us?" So it's good to finally be paying attention to them again. Like the first book, Beneath the Canyons, this one is kind of scary because I have a vague idea of what it's all about and where it'll end up but not nearly as many details as I would feel comfortable with to fill out a whole novel. I'm hoping that like with the first book, it'll all come to me as I write. It's a fun setting to write in, and Silas's voice is also a lot of fun. I read the draft of Beneath the Canyons last weekend for the first time since I wrote it a year and a half ago, and I had forgotten how very cool it is.
Thanks to digital self-publishing and print-on-demand, this is a tremendously exciting time to be a writer, and it's a dream come true for me to be able to share my stories with other people on my own terms without having to wait for anyone else's approval. I hope you'll join me on the adventure, and enjoy reading my stories as much as I enjoy writing them!
A few things to update tonight. First of all, Urdaisunia has been approved by Smashwords for distribution to the Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, and Apple ebook stores, along with other distribution channels. Watch for buy links as the book goes live on those sites.
Also, you can now read Urdaisunia for free, serial-style, on the site. I'll post a new chapter 2-3 times a week, with up to three chapters available at any one time. The prologue and chapter 1 are now available here. Once I reach the end, the prologue and first chapter will go up as a permanent free sample. If you're not sure about spending money on a book by a new and unknown author, this will give you a chance to try out the book. Of course, I hope you'll enjoy what you're reading enough to buy the book rather than wait seven or eight or nine weeks to find out how it ends!
And now that the Urdaisunia publishing chores are (mostly) done, it's time to get back into the writing/revising routine. Chosen of Azara is coming under the revision knife, and I'm getting ready to start writing Book 2 of the Daughter of the Wildings series.
Urdaisunia is now live at Smashwords! You can buy it directly at the Smashwords site, and hopefully it will soon (pending review of the technical specifications) make its way through to a variety of other sales channels, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, and Apple.
In the meantime, I've finished the paperback version and am now awaiting a proof copy. Once I get that and make sure it's all good, Urdaisunia will be available in paperback through Amazon.
I'm very pleased and excited to announce that Urdaisunia is now available in Kindle format from Amazon! You can get it here.
Epub format (for Nook, Sony, iPad, and all other readers) and the paperback edition will follow shortly. I'm formatting the paperback right now, and waiting to hear back from one of the epub vendors I'm going to use about some formatting. If what I want to try to do with them doesn't work, I still have a working, valid epub format file I can use.
Stay tuned; I'll add buy links as Urdaisunia becomes available at different retailers.
When I first started writing Urdaisunia back in the early 90s, I was interested in really really ancient civilizations. I also wanted to write something that wasn't in the usual medieval-European-influenced fantasy setting. Ancient Sumeria fit the bill perfectly. It's so old it makes Ancient Greece and Rome look like whippersnappers, and had a rich and influential culture and level of development. The physical setting (read about my fascination with desert settings here) offered a lot of possibiities for conflict, and I also found the Sumerian pantheon and mythology fascinating. And then there was the idea of a great and ancient civilization falling into ruin, which is also full of possible stories. We didn't have the internet back then, or at least not in its current form, where you can find out anything about anything with just a few clicks, but we do have it now, so here are some links to things that have inspired Urdaisunia.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a long-term exhibit called Iraq's Ancient Past with a lot of pictures and information about Sumeria and the archaeological work that has been done on the sites there. The headress of Queen Puabi, which inspired the headdress of Shairu-Az in Urdaisunia, is the third picture down. Here is more about Queen Puabi, including a video of some museum workers dressing a mannequin in the headdress and jeweled cloak that were found on Puabi's remains in her tomb. Also on the Penn Museum site is a feature where you can make your name in cuneiform. The picture on this post is my last name the way the Sumerians would have written it.
You can see more of Queen Puabi's headdress and jewelry at Sumerian Shakespeare. The site also has images and translations of Sumerian writings.
The International World History Project has an extensive section devoted to Sumeria. You can read a rundown of the gods and goddesses, a summary of Sumerian history and culture, and a section of the creation myth which gives a sampling of the divine soap opera the gods and goddesses had going on (a major influence on Urdaisunia!).
And, of course, we have to have ziggurats. The first and third pictures were particularly influential in how I envisioned the Royal Palace and the Temple of Ar at Zir.
A few more odds and ends: some ancient ships, and some Bronze Age swords. In Urdaisunia, these are the swords the Urdai used before the Conquest; the Sazars' swords are a new model and were inspired by Japanese katana.
Urdaisunia was only loosely inspired by Sumeria, so don't look to the novel for any kind of historical accuracy. But it was a fun world to play in, and I'll probably go back to it someday.
Finally, let me leave you with a musical tribute to the ancient world:
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Kyra Halland: Welcome to My Worlds is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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