Friday, August 5, 2022

picking up the pace

It's been several days since the brain fog and dizzy spells lifted and I started getting back to writing after a period off. That illness-induced break helped tremendously for me to review what I had of Book 15 and to re-evaluate how to proceed with the plot. I had prayed for help and had it, albeit not as I expected. God works in mysterious ways, using what he created to influence our lives and affect the outcomes in answer our prayers.

It wasn't fun being sick, but it was what I needed. He is the most brilliant storyteller of all; we just have to trust, which is known as faith. We're all living in the greatest story ever told.

I'll spare you further depths of my faith. I'm here to talk about writing, although my faith does influence me, so it is a part of everything I am.

Anyway, Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds Book 15 is moving along at a better pace, although behind where I'd like to be in the process. I don't know if I'll catch up, but one never knows. I'm not pushing myself to a schedule. I'd like to publish four books a year, but that's just not happening. I have a busy real life, so I'm not going to stress about it if I don't meet my goal. If the story comes at a fast pace, excellent. If not--if I have trouble feeling clear about the story--I won't sweat it. I want to feel confident in the story I write, even if that means a little extra time to think about it. It has to be right by me.

I hope you appreciate the dedication I have for this series. I am going to see the whole series arc through to the end that I have in mind, but it will take time. And the series does grow a bit more complex over time, so there's more to think about, even if it is episodic.

I'm just glad to be able to focus again to write. I was miserable with that brain fog, and that was much worse than what I periodically have from other causes. But that break helped me get unstuck in the story and it's now moving along like it should.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

back to work

So much for getting writing done last week. Not only did I hit a roadblock with making the plot point I had written into Book 15 work, but I was knocked out by covid. It wasn't terrible. I'd been exposed to it previously and never had more than barely-there symptoms so that I questioned whether I was really affected. However, this knocked me out for several days and caused brain fog and fatigue that's taken a little more work to clear. It made writing impossible for over a week, although I did start regaining my clarity of thought enough to finally come up with what had been stumping me. I still have a lot of fatigue and fog, making writing difficult, but the break was probably for the best. I'm starting to regain my focus on the story again and, with that comes some fresh perspective.

I thought I had the plot figured out, then stumbled, then thought I had it and stumbled. Something wasn't right--I wanted more action. Finally, I realized I had to look at things a little differently. The ideas and writing so far was good, which is why I couldn't just start over. This had the right foundation and good ideas, but I had to resolve why the latest threat is important. The other day, I got it. It just took a lot of effort to reach that point, and the break from writing probably helped. Thank you Covid (sort of).

Writing isn't always easy. The plot has to make sense and use tension and conflict so that readers want to know what will happen next and, as in this series, that means some sort of action with it. If I get bored, readers will definitely get bored. I like action and tension in various forms. And the characters need to stay true to what's established while showing some growth. It's always a balancing act.

Coming soon in paperback
and hardcover

Today, I've been working on formatting Collection 2 for paperback and hardcover. I also received a hardcover proof of Collection 1 from BN Press. I'll soon have a new proof and make that available for sale. The paperback of Collection 1 is available presently through Amazon Expanded Distribution for $27.95, but the hardcover will be just a little more worthwhile at $34.95 if you can wait until October. (Collection 2 will be about 76 pages more than Collection 1, so I'll see what price minimum I have to meet for that one.)

Btw, I can taste food again! It was tough tasting just the four basic tastes--sweet, sour, salty, and bitter--but no flavor. Thanks to the zinc and quercetin and also B12, that's coming back, along with my energy level. Covid is a strange illness. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but it's nothing to worry about. One dose of my horse dewormer snapped me out of the worst, like most horsepeople I know who had Covid--and yes, I actually used horse ivermectin, because I had it on hand and know how to dose it safely (by weight), and it worked. My horse will get the rest, since what's remaining is about right for his weight. For him, it's summer dewormer time, so perfect timing to use that up.

And I haven't seen much of him lately because of the fatigue, but I hope to get back to him tomorrow or Friday now that I'm feeling normal again already.

There's my adventure in Covid. Now, I'm anxious to get back to writing and living my life!

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Sunday, July 17, 2022

Forgotten Worlds updates

It's been a hot month here but we had some much needed rain before the 4th of July and afterwards. Both of those combined to boost our garden growth. But it has also kept me mostly inside. My poor horse (fat and happy on a lush pasture) isn't getting much attention because of the weather, but he's still advancing in training when we do ride. (I'm especially glad that he's not prone to laminitis! He can be in the pasture to maintain his own exercise playing with his friends and moving around grazing.)

Given that, you'd think I'd get lots of writing done, but with autoimmunity and middle age, my brain isn't always up to the task. However, on those brain foggy days, I get other necessary tasks done.

I've been working on the paperback and hardcover versions of 5-book collections for Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds (Collection 1: Books 1-5 & Collection 2: Books 6-10). I have the Collection 1 paperback for sale through Amazon and expanded distribution to other stores and am still working on the hardcover. That takes a little more time, since I have to use a different printer source because of the length and they have different processes. (Amazon's hardcover length limits me to less than what the paperback length allows, and that's even borderline.) I've also started the process on Collection 2, but I don't know what I'm going to do since it's longer; I may have to make that four books instead of five, but we'll see what the printers allow for page length in the different formats.

I make the most of the days when I'm less focused by working on tasks that don't require such clarity as writing. Why waste the good days doing these tedious tasks when I'd rather be writing?

And when I have good writing days, I get a lot done. Part of that lately has been on Books 13 & 14 as I adjust certain plot points in writing Book 15 or reconsider some aspects while writing Book 15. It's all interconnected as a series, despite each book being a complete episode.

And I have been dropping some hints of something big to be revealed that will tie many things together and answer some big questions in the series plot. You may or may not catch those hints; they're in the small details. And don't worry if you don't catch them. I hope that when the big reveal of what I'm planning comes (around book 17 or 18), that it won't be a WTF moment and readers will be able to look back and see all the pieces that came together. I can't wait to reveal it, because it will change some things for the homestretch to the end of the series. I want to talk about it, but I can't, which is why I'm mentioning it but not being specific now. So much will make sense when it comes; I've been planning it for a long time now.

For those wondering about the romantic thread, Book 14 will finally bring that to fruition (the cover should make that clear), so have faith. I try not to leave big plot points like that outstanding too long. I hate when series hint at a romance and the characters never get together.

I still have around 25 books planned but could easily write more with all the ideas I have. Nevertheless, I'm going to try to stick to 25. I hope you're enjoying it so far.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

About writing, publishing, and positivity

I was reading a fellow author's (and long time friend's) recent blog post about the process of producing a book. You can find it here.

Ruth writes in the romance genre and has done well for herself, but she writes her fingers off to make that happen, as you can see in her post. I've always been impressed with the speed she turns out books. I've been lucky to manage two to three books a year of about the same length she writes, that's 1/3 her speed. And I don't even have 1/3 the books published that she has out. 

Her post inspired some thinking on the topic. Like Ruth, I do all my own writing. Is it good? That's up to you, the readers. I don't expect to please everyone. I don't hire ghostwriters or use AI. It is all on me, and, like Ruth and any human writer, I have good days and bad days. I've had days where I've been lucky to eek out a couple hundred words, or any, and days where I almost couldn't stop writing.

I'm not a machine. I am a living being. I am a wife, mother, homeowner, horse owner, cat slave, and employee for someone else. I love my part-time non-writing job and don't get to see my horse nearly as much as I would like. I also have one kid heading to college in the fall and another still in high school who needs mom or dad to get her to/from work since she doesn't have her drivers license yet. We have a house and yard to maintain. I also make time for my faith, which has only grown deeper as I get older. It all cuts out chunks from my days.

On top of all that, I also have autoimmunity that can sap my concentration and energy away, which is also why I don't get to see my horse as often as I like--the energy seems to get sapped on the otherwise best days or I have something else that has to get done. Writing is heavily intellectual. Anything that depletes cognition takes its toll on writing; the autoimmunity is particularly effective at that. I've had to learn to be my own doctor for things, although I have excellent independent physicians who have helped me get past the worst issues.

Given all that, I am proud of what I have achieved. I work hard in all my endeavors, and all of them complement one another. It is a symbiosis that I've learned to manage as best as I can. It's not rainbows and unicorns--life isn't meant to be easy--but I believe that we are defined by how we overcome our struggles to fulfill our purpose and achieve our dreams. God allows struggle to teach us how to better ourselves. When we can overcome without succumbing to the self-annihilating forces of jealousy, blame, or violence but can do something constructive, our limits are only what we place on ourselves.

As you can see, through all that I have going on, I continue forward. Thank God I don't have to depend on my writing income to get by. I tend to spend more on the business of publishing than I make, but that's because I support the publishing with outside income. Because of that, I also take on a lot of the roles myself, from author to cover artist, although I mostly try to find finished images to promote on the latest series (Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds). I've taught myself some Photoshop skills for cover work and for my day job, but I can only work with photos/existing images. (I consider the cover of UNBROKEN BONDS to be my best work to date.)

I have hired excellent cover artists in the past. (See the Paul Davies works on the Legend of the White Dragon series and Demon Age books.) Working with artists on custom covers is another process in itself, giving the artist something to start them and then going back and forth with sketches until you get something that satisfies both parties. And as Ruth points out, you work on their schedule. It can be very frustrating but very rewarding in the end.

I also format my own books and manage the marketing, more time taken from writing. I'd love to have someone to help, but I can't really afford that either. So, I take on these roles also and do the best I can at any given time. I try to do these tasks when my ability to concentrate on writing is low anyway, so the effect is minimal.

This is how I keep going and how I keep writing. I have a lot to manage in my life (doesn't everyone?), but there are people who are worse off and yet are able to do much more. I admire that courage and dedication and could only hope to match it, but we can never fill someone else's shoes. We can only work hard to reach our own unique potential and accomplish whatever we set out to do. This is why I love the quote below. It reminds me that small things add up to big things. Another version is that "a book is written one word at a time."

Many people may not realize just how much work that involves--it only starts with the writing. A book may be consumed fast, but creating and publishing it is a time-intensive process amid many other distractions and duties, and that is the point that Ruth makes in her post. Plotting, writing, rewriting (many times), editing, formatting (ebook and/or paperback), cover design, copyright registration, setting up at retailers (with all the details that have to be entered, not just a simple upload), marketing, etc. all take time and effort to complete.

I may not be as prolific as some authors, but I do nearly all of the work myself.

Unless fortunes improve, I will continue as I have with the writing and publishing and hope that I can bring some escape and positivity into your life.

ps--Book 15 is now at 11,500 words.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Writing update

I'm a plotter overall, especially with a series like Forgotten Worlds, but I allow room for surprises and flexibility to change things as necessary. No idea is perfect in its planning.

That's why as I've been writing Book 15, I've been revisiting Books 13 and 14. I left something unfinished in Book 14 which gives me a good subplot to wrap up in Book 15. And that also gave me a new idea for an extra end scene for Book 14, which teases a big question that could make things more complicated for me but add tension to the overall series.

While I try to keep each book as a standalone episode with its own beginning, middle, and end, I also have the overall series arc to consider. There are some things that get carried on for some time before being resolved, as readers have now discovered. My notes are long and complicated, and it's getting to the point that I may need a better format for tracking all these connections. I just don't have the time to sit and make up charts of what happens when and what else it affects, nor the inclination. I have too many other things to do in my day than to reorganize my notes.

Right now, I am happy to report that Book 15 is up to 7000 words. Considering I broke from it yesterday in a sidetrack of ideas that came to fruition in an extra scene at the end of Book 14 to tie into what developed for Book 15, I've still maintained a decent pace of writing. And this just re-emphasizes the need to stay two books ahead in writing of what I'm publishing. 

The biggest challenge is always to keep the stories exciting and interesting and largely complete episodes with lead-ins to what's to come.

It's getting more exciting with some major events (and HUGE revelations) to come!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Real life mysterious event

Unexplained phenomena, weird things, happen in real life.

Last night, I had just settled onto the loveseat in our walkout level entertainment room to do something I rarely do much of anymore--watch a movie. Now, I like wearing my robe at night, but we have AC so I don't usually get too hot and the cats love that fleece robe. (I'm a cat slave.)

Next to the loveseat is a side table, then a small walkway between that and the treadmill (facing the TV--our rule is whoever is on the treadmill controls the TV while they're walking/running). In front of that treadmill is an oscillating fan that we keep set to just face the treadmill, so about ten feet from where I was sitting next to my husband.

My Siamese had just settled on my lap, as he always does, because that robe on my lap is his throne and you won't convince him otherwise, not even with my laptop there and I'm trying to write. In this case, I had no computer, so he fully stretched out in luxury. (I was done for the night and wanting to vegetate a bit.)

I was getting a bit warm soon after the old boy settled on my lap. That's when the unexplained happened-- the fan in front of the treadmill turned on. No one was near it. My husband and I were the only two people in the room and both of us were sitting on the loveseat. When I questioned what just happened, hubby offered to get up and turn it off. I told him no. The circulating air felt good.

It wasn't scary, just weird. And this is all true. I'm not writing fiction.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

beginning again... Forgotten Worlds Book 15 started

Coming Fall 2022
It took me some thinking and consideration of what has happened in the Forgotten Worlds series to date, but I decided what Book 15 would be. I just released MESSAGES, and have SOUL SHADOW and UNBROKEN BONDS aside for editing.

I read through SS after releasing MESSAGES and then started reading UB. When I was nearly at the end of UB, I finally figured out how to coordinate what happens next for Nya and her friends and figure out what happened in between the stories, which would have been no real story of its own and worked out well as a narrative summary. The story has become a bit more complicated since I now have established rules of how things work, tech, cultures, etc., but I anticipated that going into this series. I kept the first half relatively basic with independent adventures that didn't always involve the series plot but still built on it, and those stories made sense for the characters to grow together as friends/companions and form a cohesive team. The goal is always for each story leading to the next and for the growth of the characters and advancement of the over-arching plot. It's the subplots that get to be trouble, so I had to wrap up some of those in UB before I go any further.

Coming Winter 2022-2023
Book 13 is the background of L'Ni, revealing the Feri culture quite in-depth and how they betrayed L'Ni. In Book 14, an important romance comes to fruition, and L'Ni is taken from the celebration of Ann and Nik's wedding, which is mystifying in itself until you learn how it was down (pretty basic really but a realized threat to Ethalian security). I also wanted to wrap up the question of what the mirror meant in the Vault of the Celestials trials and reveal another hint of something big that I've been developing, something that I introduced way back in The Rule of Yonder. I didn't have the answer then but it did come to me a few books later and I had to be careful to sprinkle in hints of that as the series has continued. Writing two books ahead of publishing allows me a chance to use an idea and go back in editing those previous books and add whatever I need. That's why I always have two of these stories waiting in the wings when I start a new one.

I have the rest of the series planned and probably have too many ideas already, but I came up with something else for Book 15 to get back to a bit of a side adventure again. I know. I know. I need to stick to what I have and quit expanding this more. That's easier said than done with a series like this, but I do want to finish it. I may not develop some of the ideas I have into full-blown stories if it gets too long, but they're all good, and now that I have a countdown to doomsday for the series, I have some time to fill and details to develop.

So, there's what I'm up to and some of my thinking on this series. If you ever have questions or even an idea, feel free to contact me by commenting here or by completing the form at https://melanienilles.com/contact/. I'd love to hear from you.