Friday, August 16, 2019

VotC final edits

I've found a system that works for me in writing and publishing a series. Over the years, I've learned that writing two books ahead of what's coming up for publishing is actually very beneficial and fun.

There are several aspects to this:

  1. I get several editing rounds broken up so that each time, I edit my mind is fresh and I enjoy the story anew, which is great.
  2. Because my mind is fresh, I see the faults more clearly. With several rounds broken by time and working on other projects, I see different aspects each time I run through a particular story. It's not just editing but also the earlier developmental edits.
  3. I get a refresher for anything that's come since that book that's being edited as the next story to be published. I can then correct anything that I've written since that soon-to-be-published story.
  4. I can still make reasonable adjustments as I've learned from stories written since the next to be published. So far, I've been introducing different characters and situations, still establishing the universe and overall plot, so sometimes I want to change something a story or two later on a rule that was established earlier. By writing two ahead of where I'm publishing, I have been able to go back and make changes to better suit what the overall plot has wanted to become. Often this involves taking small details out or making details more general and less precise so that I have room to play without breaking anything.
Some of these I've mentioned in other posts, but it always amazes me how much I enjoy the stories after some time away, even if I'm still writing in the same series.

I'm currently running swiftly through final edits of VAULT OF THE CELESTIALS. I say swiftly because, after writing IN DARKNESS, LIGHT and most of the untitled #5 of the Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds series so far, VotC is fresh again and I can enjoy the ride. I appreciate all the drafting and many rewrites that got it to the point that it fits in the series and flows very well without a dull moment. Often, while writing the first draft, I feel like the story is moving too slowly, but that's mostly because the first draft can take 2-3 months to write. It only feels slow because real life takes place around it. Reading it through when it's nearly perfect is the best part; I can enjoy it like a new reader would.

I'm preparing VotC for its release on September 12, which is coming up faster than I expected. You can pre-order now from various retailers:

(Also available at other various ebook retailers)

Update 8/17/19: The final version of VotC is uploaded. Now, I can let #3 show itself to the world on the appointed date while I finish #5.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Forgotten Worlds update

I've been writing lately when I can on SA:FW #5, which doesn't have a title yet, and I'm keeping my eye out for the right cover image.

It's been difficult, partly because I've had some trouble concentrating this last month and partly because this story is getting more complex and requires more consideration. This story adds a big part to the plot like VotC, so I am being especially careful. (For #6, I'll have to consider something outside the main plot again for a fun break from the seriousness.) As a result, I have not only considerations of what needs to happen but also whose perspective to use for each scene. The latter usually comes instinctually, but this one is a little more complicated because of the plot. Sometimes, I need more character perspectives to properly tell the story, especially with such a diverse cast such as I've built up. I'd like to limit my main cast to the numbers I have now, although there will be one more coming at a later time and another one or two exiting at some point. I'm at a good number now and have enough backstories and personalities to keep straight, but I do like to switch things up to keep it fresh.

IN DARKNESS, LIGHT is in the line-up for editing rounds with VAULT OF THE CELESTIALS in the wings for final edits.

Once I've completed the first draft of #5, I will list IN DARKNESS, LIGHT (Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds #4) for pre-order. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, and I think I'll list books when I can list for pre-order everywhere (Amazon limits to 90 days out). Since I had some trouble while writing #5, it's looking likely that will release in late December, later than I'd hoped but still in the timeframe I wanted. 

Be sure to check out the first two books in the series and pre-order the third!

#3: VAULT OF THE CELESTIALS (pre-order to read on September 12, 2019)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

my new office

It's summer and I've been trying to enjoy the fresh air and not-too-hot summer we've been having.

Being outside has helped me through some difficult issues. I am an outdoors country person, having grown up on a farm/ranch. City life doesn't suit me. I'm glad I found our lot back when our oldest child was just a baby and snapped it up and built our home on it. We have a terrific view of pastures... and the neighbor's trees.

We added some cheap deck furniture recently, after moving our larger (cheap) set to the front patio. I like to sit in the front shade in the mornings when I can. Usually, however, I end up working then and have to wait for the sun to move so that I get shade on the back deck where I can sit. The sun heats up my computer too much to have it out in anything but shade.

There's something inspiring about the rustle of the leaves in the prairie breeze and fresh, clean air of being outside the city. I could do without the distant traffic sounds, but otherwise, it's quite inspiring for writing. The only other distraction is the occasional bee checking things out or the cats behind the screen door (behind my chair, where I'm standing to take the pic) mewing to get out.

So, for writing, this has become my evening office:

I'll sometimes play new age/instrumental music from my phone to the speaker--on the side of the grill (covered). The right music can help set the mood for a particular scene or character.

By getting out when I can, I've been more productive and creative, and also healthier. Forgotten Worlds #5 is over 16,000 words at this time, getting close to half done on a first draft!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

this blessed day

What a gorgeous day to be alive! It started out with me feeling off, but by the time I reached the farm, I felt alive. That fifty mile drive can work wonders.

Although my family was all in town for the annual festival that's not the county fair (that comes in two weeks), I enjoyed the day with my horse. Like me, however, he was shocked by my sister's latest addition that's not yet in the herd, a new mini donkey, a little jenny she's calling Jewel. Buddy snorted and wanted to flee when she came across the corral towards us, but then she was more afraid of him by the time she reached us and he seemed to realize she wasn't going to hurt him.

I love those big ears!

I should have taken a picture when Buddy had his neck arched and extended in that way horses do when they're curious but ready to run away if necessary. It's that look you see in Arabian poses. Even stock horses can be just as beautiful.

The dugout pond in the pasture with little grassy "islands"
the ugly wind turbines in the background ruining the scenery
After he settled down from the new addition, I took him into the barn and tacked up for a ride. Today, I remembered the Amigo Fly Rider, which I had bought years ago for a bigger horse. He loooved having that on, because it kept the bugs off! And they are bad. It's that time of the year where fly spray doesn't cut it. He was so much more relaxed with the Fly Rider on than before we tacked up. Plus, with all the rain we've had this year, the mosquitos are atrocious, especially near the dugout pond and the trees and in tall grass. Thank goodness most of the grass is mowed for the first cutting of hay. If this rain keeps up, they'll get a good second cutting too.

I lunged before I rode today. It's been 3-4 weeks since I really rode and I was alone, so I wanted to play it as safe as I could. I tried 2-3 weeks ago but the weather had Buddy nearly flipping out, so I managed only a few walk circles in the yard that day, just enough to get him to settle down and not try to run away.

Today, the equipment was gone from the patch on the east side of the quonset, which has a slight incline, and the tall grass that was cut last weekend was gone (baled up somewhere), so we had a nice place to work right in the yard. Since no one was there except me, I figured I'd play it safe if something happened. Nothing did, except an excellent ride.

Buddy in his Amigo Fly Rider, which he really appreciates.
(facing down gentle slope to the farmyard)
And work he did! Buddy was so awesome. I can't believe how he can go a month without being ridden, then we ride and even advance in our training as if we'd been riding every day in between. It's crazy fun when he does that, although I'd prefer that we had more riding time. Nevertheless, he's gone from being afraid of me on his back at a canter to picking up almost right on cue and carrying himself like a pro.

Part of that is because we started really working with haunches-in this last spring. I started last fall with a little of it, but this spring, he's really picked it up. And it's made a HUGE difference for his balance. Between haunches-in to straighten him and learning to canter by cantering up the hills in the pasture, he's made leaps and bounds into first level work where only a year ago he was just okay for introductory level dressage. That's a big step in training with barely any riding. He can even canter on a slight decline with me now.

He's in a quarter-section pasture with his four pasturemates (soon to be five) with lots of hills and rough terrain, so he does keep himself in relatively good shape when we don't ride. Dressage work, however, is a little more demanding. He's advancing quickly, though, and that pasture life really complements my training well.

Today, I asked for just a couple tiny steps of walk half pass, just to get him to start thinking about it. It was difficult, but so was leg yield when we first asked for that. Now, he can trot leg yield like he's a professional dancer, which is the best analogy of dressage. He's very attentive to the aids too and rides almost right off my seat for most transitions and some movements, which is exactly what we want for any riding discipline. That will only improve, and then there's something magical when horse and rider feel as one mind and one body, but that's the goal of training.

And I noticed some other things about Buddy. He's matured. He stands level or even a little uphill (yay!) and he actually changed in many other ways. His neck is more refined and longer looking. Also, although his head still isn't a "pretty" head, he's grown into it and it doesn't look so blocky ugly anymore. It's almost like he was the ugly duckling that grew into a swan. There's something special about him now that he's hitting full maturity.

And after a ride that left me glowing with pride, I trimmed his hooves. I had three done and the fourth was difficult, because he kept wanting to itch his butt, first on me, then on the manger door near where I tie him in the barn. I figured he must have worked that area of his body extra hard in our ride and finally decided to interrupt the trimming to work over his body with the massaging curry comb and then put some liniment on that area bothering him. That seemed to settle him down so I could finish trimming the last hoof.

He ended as a happy boy and me as a happy horse mom as his friends greeted us at the pasture gate when I turned him out again.

Going out to catch Buddy.
The herd at the far end of the pasture (1/2 mi walk)

Writing progress

I've had some trouble with the latest story, Forgotten Worlds #5 (title TBD), but I've also been dealing with some weird health issues (possibly nutrient deficiencies, since supplements seem to be helping). Now that I've been recovering from the latter, the writing is flowing again. I've recovered my characters too from whatever was blocking them. For some reason, having a temporary crown for two weeks cut me off from my characters, darn near the scariest thing for a writer; but on goes the permanent crown and I can think again. I hate dental work with a passion, especially after this.

With that, I've ended up completely reworking the story that I thought was going to be #5 into something that fits MUCH better with improvements in what it adds to the overarching story of the series. The story was feeling thin, until this morning, when I realized what I could add. Suddenly, I had that extra dimension that was missing.

Sometimes in writing, we don't know what to expect or we think we know but it's not quite right. This happens with almost every story for me. Then there's an epiphany, an awakening of sorts, and the real story comes through. That's when the magic happens! I love those moments. For me, that's the reward of writing. It kind of is an addiction, but a good addiction, because the pleasure from those moments in writing are what makes it worthwhile and keeps a true writer writing and productive. It is for me what gambling or social media likes are to others; except this is purely constructive not destructive.

So, back on track with Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds #5 and actually almost a quarter into writing it with a good start and the best yet to come. This series is something special.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

the dog days of summer

Tuff enjoying a cool dip in the pasture dugout

We had a busy weekend, or at least I did. Saturday, I kicked my family out of the house to clean the garage. The mid-morning started out hot already, which was why, after pulling out as much stuff from the garage as we could and sweeping out all the leaves, dust bunnies, and insect carcasses, my youngest child kept asking me to spray her legs while we hosed and scrubbed the floor. By the time we finished cleaning, the temperature in the garage was almost 90 F and we had a fan going. The kids chickened out on us by then, so my husband and I finished the task of putting everything back. I had to wait for the floor to dry, while he built a quick shelf in front of where I park my truck; but that shelf allows more stuff out of the way and still leaves me room to fit my pickup so I can walk around it. A lot was rearranged. He and I worked in the garage a total of at least five hours. It was a long day.

Today, I started out tired but made the drive out to see my Buddy. I haven't seen him in two weeks because of weather and not feeling quite right. Today was blistering hot again with barely a breeze. I didn't ride, but I did check over my boy and gave him some treats. Afterwards, when I turned him out in his pasture and expected him to hightail it back to his friends, he surprised me. Instead, he followed me back to the gate with a look of "Aren't you forgetting something?"

I wasn't actually forgetting anything. I had just decided that he didn't need any body work, and I was already soaked in sweat just from the walk leading him in from the far side of the pasture and then brushing him off and picking hooves. So, figuring he wanted a quick work of his main problems, I went in and put my hands on his face. As soon as I did, he was yawning. It didn't take much, but I knew when he was done and happy. I said my farewell, and he meandered towards his friends--it was too hot to run.

I learned from my sister that I sometimes have a horse of a different color--apparently, Buddy likes to roll in the mud. I've seen her horses do it too. It's likely as much for natural fly protection as well as to cool off. Pasture horses know how to take care of themselves.

It's also haying season. Lots of cutting, raking, and baling going on right now. We pray for a few days at a stretch without rain so that the hay can be put up properly.

It was a quick trip, but I also delivered some goodies for the younger nephews and niece, toys that my kids no longer wanted or needed, which had been taking up space in the garage. And there were a few other items that my parents and sisters and their families could find useful. Now, if I could just get those old horse blankets and sheets sold, that would mean more space saving.

Monday, July 8, 2019

back to drafting

After some weird health issue bumps in the road last week, I got back to work writing this weekend.

I have a first chapter of the first draft written on Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds #5 and an outline written up already to guide me along. It's different. The characters are developing, and the new characters are still new, so the others aren't sure what to make of them, but I know. They can still surprise me, however.

And I have the closing (sort of an "end credit") scene ready for this one. I've been inserting those all along as extras with plans to lead up to bigger things in forthcoming books. It fits perfectly with the reveals in #5.

I wish I could write these faster, but the actual writing takes much more work than the outlining. Outlining is easy--that's just brainstorming. Fleshing out the stories and developing the characters is what requires work, and that is where the bottleneck is, besides real life. Besides, while I'm writing or editing, I end up developing other ideas and adding to the series :)

So, I'm working on #5 of SA:FW and still have ideas for 8+ more already written in synopses, some quite thoroughly; and that's not even getting close to the climax of this whole series. I expect to write a lot in this series, as long as the creativity continues to keep coming. It helps that these are only at that 40,000 word novella/novel borderline. I can actually create MUCH more with shorter books than I can with longer books, and there's still an overall story arc (like Babylon 5). If you're enjoying it, be sure to add me as a favorite author at your chosen ebook retailer to be notified when the next book is available.

The first two books of the series are available for reading now. #3 is pre-order for September. #4 will get set up for pre-order with an expected release date in the end of November 2019. Expect #5 to be available sometime around the end of February 2020. I'll keep working on a 2.5-3 month release schedule on these. Don't plan on seeing anything else from me until this series has run its course. (Unless I get stuck and write something else to get the creative juices flowing again.)