Faction Leader Profile: Navid

Navid Quote

First, an update: over $5,000 in 24 hours! Thank you! Let’s keep the momentum up!

We couldn’t do this without your support, and you’ve helped make our first 24 hours a fantastic success. So let’s keep it going! Try to see if you can get one more person to back today – just one. Every individual backer matters, and we need YOUR help to make the goal.

Please post about the campaign and share with friends. You can follow THIS LINK to post to Twitter, and THIS LINK to post on Facebook! Every single backer is invaluable, and we are so glad to have you on board. The first 48-72 hours are crucial for Kickstarter, so it’s imperative that we keep the ball rolling!

Now, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to the first of our Faction Leader Introduction Series! Let’s kick things off with Navid, leader of the Iskendrun priesthood!

-M

***

Navid

“Go forth, child, and fight for those who need you. Remember, by your deeds shall you be remembered on this earth, and not by your path to them. If you seek to aid the poor, the sick, and the weak, you must be prepared to take more than what is offered.”

Wise, trustworthy, and respected by all in Iskendrun, Navid leads the priests in a life of service to the city’s poor. Mindful of the source of the city’s wealth, Navid has never overtly criticized the nobility…though he is creative when it comes to his methods for securing donations.

As the city teeters on the brink of collapse, Navid looks only inward, to the pressures of poverty on the citizens, and to the exhortations of the gods that he secure the city’s prosperity however he can. Blaming the merchants for the peninsula’s collapse, Navid eyes their well-armed ships and builds a force of his own. Which begs the question…just how far would he go to end Azura’s reign in the peninsula?

——————

Finally, a big shout out to Children of the Zodiark! They were kind enough to tell their backers about City of the Shroud, and they have a pretty sweet looking game to boot. If you haven’t checked out their tactical JRPG + CCG/craftable dice hybrid, you absolutely should!

zodiark

52 Stories: Fairytale

Inspired by this post over on Amanda Patterson’s tumblr, I will be writing 52 short stories this year. Some, like this one, very short, and some longer! If you’re joining me in this endeavor, leave a link in the comments so we can find your stories! -M

***

Snow White

He had been watching her across the marketplace for a few minutes before she caught a glimpse of him. At first, he watched for the way the sunlight caught in her hair, for the graceful curves of her body as she bent to pick fruit. He considered telling his guards to bring her to him, but it had been so long since he had hunted…

The girl cast a glance over her shoulder, and her cheeks flushed pink with pleasure when she noticed his gaze. She dropped her eyes, then flicked them up to meet his once more; her blush deepened when he beckoned to her, and she hesitated, but she walked through the crowd to stand before him.

“Where are your attendants?” he asked her silkily, and she flushed, tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.

“They aren’t…they’re not used to the city.”

He had only then noticed the crest she wore, and he reached out to touch the clasp that lay against the pale skin of her throat. He felt her breath quicken, and felt his pulse begin to pound.

“Demmer,” he said. “What a very long time it’s been since your house has allowed one of its maidens to come south.” And what a treasure they had been hiding! Who could have known that old Dennion would produce a daughter so glorious as this?

“How do you…who are you?”

His black eyes flashed with mirth. “Ah, you would not know, would you?
Never you mind, my dear. Your father would find no fault with me.” Oh, he might complain, Dennion would – they kept the old customs in the house of Demmer, spurned the markets and clamor of the south.

But there was nothing the old man could do now to prevent it. The man felt his heart speed. Oh, he had wanted this for so long – her blood could produce an heir such as none had ever seen. When the priests were done with this son, the world would know the full power of the Empire.

And now, in a moment, she had practically fallen into his lap. How very fortuitous.

He reached out to stroke her cheek, and felt the denials and protests come to her lips, unvoiced, choked off. He reached out with his magic, let it flow deep into her mind, and saw the flash of fear.

Mine.

As he leaned forward to kiss her, he let his eyes drift closed with pleasure, the laziness of a hunt completed, and so he never saw how precisely her look of satisfaction mirrored his own.

*****

“Apple?” She held out a slice to him, and he caught her hand, kissed it.

“You’re bleeding.”

“I cut my finger.” She looked embarrassed, then surprised as he licked away the blood and pulled her close for a kiss on the lips. He felt he could drown in the innocence in her eyes. The apple was sweet, and the skin broke against his teeth as he chewed.

He watched her lazily for a moment, enjoying the way the sunlight through the stained glass lit her hair red and purple. His head was fuzzy now, and he licked his lips—they were numb. He tried to bite them, raised his fingers to his mouth, and very dimly heard a crash; he must have knocked over his goblet. The world was disappearing in a haze, a ringing in his ears, and all he could see was her face: impassive, but strangely alight. She did not seem worried, and even as he felt
the seizure take him, she only sat, eyes fixed on him. It was not until he saw the rest of the apple and the stain of her blood that he realized what it all meant. And by then it was far too late.

When it was over, Caralla knelt by his body and closed his eyes, almost gently. She was shaking, her blood singing with the power of the spell, her energy terribly low. It had taken all of her considerable power to bind a poison strong enough for this. Even then, he would have been proof against it if he had known, if he had suspected.

It’s not over, she told herself. There is one more.

But carefully, it must be done with caution. The priests would be here soon.
Caralla drew a hairpin from her hair, dragged her fingers down one side to muss it, bit her lips for color, and knelt forward, her hands on the Emperor’s shoulders. Then, after a considered moment, she opened her mouth and began to scream hysterically for the guards.

*****

Caralla pounded on the door, her fist sticky with blood, and tightened her other hand around the little girl’s—the girl who was, at present, sobbing loudly.

“Be quiet,” Caralla snapped.

The wails choked off with a hiccup, and the empress sighed, kneeling to put one arm around the child. The girl had just lost her father, what could she be expected to do but cry?

Caralla pushed away the thought that the little princess shouldn’t have known. That there was a gleam in her eyes, now, that looked suspiciously like the madness Caralla knew all too well. Best to feed her an apple and be done with it, some part of her mind whispered at her, but there was still a chance the spells could be undone.

The sound of a cart out on the nearby road made Caralla hunch her shoulders. The midday heat was stifling and her heavy cloak made it no better, but she must not be seen. The emperor, that mad, power-hungry fool, had made sure everyone in the kingdom knew how beautiful his bride was. The bride the priests promised would gift him with sons. The bride he’d snatched from the market and married even before word could be sent to her family.

In that, of course, she had encouraged him with just the faintest resistance, hiding her smiles as he overrode her protests. It would hardly do for him to have found out who she truly was. None of them could know until the plan was complete. She had no illusions about what would happen then, and just for a moment, her fingertips drifted up the inside of her left arm, along the tattoo that held the spell to kill her mercifully before they could put her on a pyre.

The empire would be free. That was all that mattered.

She was raising her hand to knock again when the door swung inward.

“Caralla!” The woman fell back as Caralla pushed past her into the house, the girl in tow. Her eyes flicked to the girl, and Caralla knew what her cousin saw: behind the tears was a girl of rare prettiness, with thick black hair and skin as pale as morning’s first blush. A full mouth, with lips of a deep red, and black eyes. Behind the eyes…something unsettling.

“Eisa, my darling,” Caralla said. “Take a seat. I’m sure Avenine has some cider for you.”

“Of course.” The woman went quickly into the kitchen and took down two mugs, filled them with cider from an earthenware jug, and set one in front of Eisa. The other she handed to Caralla.

Caralla waited until the girl was absorbed in drinking the cider, rich and tangy, and then she looked over at the other woman.

“I need your help,” she said, bluntly, in the Old Tongue.

“Who is she?”

Caralla hesitated a moment. She wanted so badly to tell her cousin the truth. But in this, she realized, she could not trust even Avenine. The moment had come to lie; she pushed down her uneasiness and told a version of the truth. “I rescued her from the priests. She has…power, immense power, and…Avenine, I cannot tell you the things they would have done to her. The magics they practice are…I had to bring her here.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Someone will come for her, a huntsman. Until then…someone needs to look after her. Someone who can see her magic.”

“What sort of magic…” Avenine darted a glance at the girl, who looked back; Caralla saw her cousin hold back a flinch.

“I fear it has already been twisted.”

“You cannot possibly expect me to—”

“I need your help—she needs your help!” Her voice was high, attracting Eisa’s attention. “I’m sorry, love,” she soothed the girl, and then she drew Avenine further away, lowered her voice, superstitiously afraid that the girl would understand her purpose here. Who knew what powers lay dormant, or what small action could trigger the girl’s powerful self-protection?

“I have a spell. You must help me with it; it will bind her magic down. I just need time, Avenine, I need to learn how to heal what they have done.”

Avenine looked over at the girl.

“I swear to you,” Caralla whispered, “I would not ask it if there was another who could help me.” She should not be asking at all. The girl should be dead on the floor of her rooms, her line ended forever. But somewhere behind those spells…was a little girl.

Avenine’s shoulders slumped. “Tell me what I must do.”

52 Stories: Rising to a Challenge

Inspired by this post over on Amanda Patterson’s tumblr, I will be writing 52 short stories this year. Some, like this one, very short, and some longer! If you’re joining me in this endeavor, leave a link in the comments so we can find your stories!

This week’s story takes place just before the start of City of the Shroud, a video game I am writing the story for that just went live on Kickstarter! If you play City of the Shroud, YOU will be the traveler – and will become a legend in the city of Iskendrun…

-M

***

Rising to a Challenge

The traveler grabbed at the flickering edges of the cloak, billowing away in the wind. It provided little warmth even when it was held shut, the old homespun being more patched than not, and with holes between the patches. The traveler resolved to leave it behind upon reaching the city, for who would hire such an ill-dressed worker?

Sand and rock crunched underfoot on the road. Once, this highway had been well-maintained. Iskendrun had been on the rise, then, and careful of its reputation. It maintained the roads well over halfway to Gayyan, in the north, and to the foothills of the mountains that separated it from Dahilah, though no one traveled them. The traveler had heard all of this from passing merchants. In those days, everyone agreed that it was wise: reckon they’re right, then. Can’t afford to look shabby. We’ll show them what we’re made of.

Then, of course, Iskendrun boasted of its grain and leather, oranges and lemons shipped south to Dahilah’s indolent nobles, iron tools shipped north for Tirwall’s endless statues and marbles. No one had any illusions about where Iskendrun lay in the hierarchy of the city states, but neither did they accept their place as fair. Did not Iskendrun’s farmers work as hard as anyone’s? Were their boulevards not as clean, their markets not as prosperous? It was old prejudice that held them back.

The traveler supposed that everything that followed was inevitable, then. Sixteen years old and kept well back from the road for fear of the draft, they had watched the army march north. Men and women looked ahead with determination, singing as they kicked up a cloud of dust that could be seen halfway to the city itself.

The traveler remembered, too, when it all changed. When the youths who were marched north looked younger every year, and even the youngest children of the outer holdings were hidden in the stables and root cellars, when the armor they saw no longer held the burnished rose of Iskendrun, but was patched and dirty. The armies no longer sang, and once or twice they raided the fields, and no one had the heart to stop them. No one ever came back from the north, and they all looked hungry.

It took a long time for the hunger to reach the outer holdings, where they made their own goods and sold only the excess. For a time, prices rose. And then the blight hit, for they had planted too many years of grain on the same fields.

And so the traveler walked, in a patched cloak and old boots that hardly deserved the name. It had been many months since the last soldiers went north; word was, the nobles were thinking better of their grand plans. Safe enough, then, for the traveler to go to the city and look for work—dockhands would be in short supply, there being few youths left in the city.

The traveler was just considering whether to stop for water and a bite of hard bread when the portal opened. Hanging over the road, shedding its skin in scraps of color that disappeared before they hit the ground, it held a deep blue glimpse into a world beyond, a world…dark, strange, and yet familiar. A road wound onward in the darkness, like the traveler’s path and yet terrible in its strangeness.

And from the mouth of it, poured creatures, shadows in the shape of acquaintances half-remembered, so odd in their appearance here that the traveler began to wonder what another might see, or if those acquaintances were like the fairies from the old tales, taking the shape of humans until it suited them to show their true form.

They stretched up, ghostly swords and staves in their hands, and the traveler fumbled for the hilt of the little dagger by their side. It was only days before the nursery rhymes would begin, and the whispered conversations in the taverns of Iskendrun: how a poor child of the outer holdings had defeated the creatures from a portal, with only their wits and a blade so dull it was hardly useful for cutting meat.

But the traveler did not know that yet. The traveler had learned only that hardship battered at every door now, that wolves would take the sheep from the meadows and blight would take the crops from the fields, and that there was no running from danger. There was a voice calling from the portal, strangely familiar. The traveler ignored it, and settled into a crouch, ready to fight.

52 Stories: A New Beginning

Inspired by this post over on Amanda Patterson’s tumblr, I will be writing 52 short stories this year. Some, like this one, very short, and some longer! If you’re joining me in this endeavor, leave a link in the comments so we can find your stories! -M

***

A New Beginning

She steps off the porch, because that is where the wild things are: the whispers in the wind and the soft curl of grass around her feet. She leaves the lights of the house behind her and she holds her fingers up to brush the sky as she makes her way home. The stars wheel above, as they do, on an improper axis. She does not look. If she does not look, she can imagine that her fingertips leave ripples across the Milky Way.

Her lips are stained with wine and she breathes heat out into the night like an endless sigh. The heavy air of the summer night is her cloak, and the runaway curls of her own hair are her crown. Her court is crickets and fireflies and the silent watchfulness of the trees is her castle. A stream carols to her with the low, slick rush over barely submerged stones and the burbling jump of the drops that fling themselves into the air.

How many nights did she feel the prickle on the back of her neck? The darkness watched her, she thought. Strange things lurked there, bears and spiders and half-remembered nightmares. How foolish of her, not to realize that they were her courtiers.

She smiles. The ground goes not hurt her bare feet, for it would not dare. The darkness is alive with green, creaking ponderously upward and stretching its leaves for an absent sun. Fog curls softly; the trees are dreaming.

She does not look back.

The Upcoming Year (and a Patreon Update!)

moira me book covers

Dearest Readers,

This year has been absolutely fantastic. In June, I was able to make a dream come true and begin writing full time. In 2016, I hope to get to the point where I am writing all original work instead of taking contract projects! It’s a little bit crazy, as goals go, but goals should be crazy.

I have some incredible projects lined up for 2016, so read on for more, and feel free to leave comments to tell me what you’re MOST excited for – those projects will come first!

  • More Miriel & Catwin – when last we left them, our sometime-diplomats were off to explore Innis Tearmen. Naturally, everything will go exactly as expected and nothing will go wrong.
  • …okay, I lied. There are some excellent adventures coming up for Miriel, Catwin, and Fidach!
  • City of the Shroud – I’ve teamed up with some truly incredible game designers to bring you a story I can’t wait to build…with you. Iskendrun is waiting for you, and only you can determine its fate. Follow us here, and get ready for a truly player-driven story!
  • Fallen in love with Cade & Aryn yet? If sarcasm, freedom-fighting, spaceships, and romance are your thing, you’ve got a great year coming up – five (5!) more books are planned in the Dragon Corps series.
  • And what’s this? Pale Ones coming to the shores of the desert to speak with the Yeshuhain? Yes, indeed! Mahalia may have begun to change the desert, but there is a wider world that is calling…and greater danger than she knows. 2016 will bring you Inheritance, the sequel to Mahalia!
  • Meanwhile, who could fail to be a little intrigued by our wonderful villain, Isura? Her story – what truly happened between her and Mahalia’s father, and the story of the founding of the Mage Academy, will also come out in 2016!
  • Quarterly short stories and novellas – Patreon backers will vote on topics for each quarter’s short story! The topic for March’s story was chosen during the Launch party a week ago: Brynja tells the tale of a young woman so far from the center of a galactic empire that her people have forgotten they were ever a part of it. Her psychic powers, however, attract the interest of a man bent on taking the throne for himself – and Brynja must take shelter in the mind of the Empress herself.
  • Haven will round out the Novum Trilogy, as the royals fight for the possibility of life after their battle with the Henth. These books have been wonderful, and yet terrifying to write. I am both glad and nervous to be picking up with Niv, Adea, and the others again!
  • You might not guess it, but one of my absolute favorite genres is anything Regency-era, from romance to mystery. This year, I hope at last to make a foray into the genre I love so much, bringing you the story of Violet, a young widow with scars both visible and hidden, a woman entirely at the mercy of her family – and embroiled, suddenly, in a murder where nothing is as it seems…
  • Nearly 15 years ago, I dreamed up the beginning of the Novum Trilogy, humanity’s first forays into space, and the trials that awaited them there. A young naval officer charged with finding out just what earth’s most reclusive trillionaire is up to will find a truth no one expected – he hasn’t been on earth in a decade, and he’s taken hundreds with him to a planet the governments of earth now desperately want.
  • So many things!

So there you have it – 10 books, a video game, and some super-awesome short stories! What surprises this year will bring, I do not know – but I have no doubt that wonderful story ideas will brim up, and I am excited to share them with all of you.

If you’ve enjoyed my work, and would like to have cool stuff like all books delivered to your inbox a week early, characters named after you, and sneak peeks into the worlds I’m building, head on over to Patreon to check out the backer rewards. This time of year is actually the very best one to donate – the $5 backer tier gets ALL books and an omnibus of prior works, and the $3 tier gets a book on signup and one book per calendar year! You get books and other freebies, and I will have assured writing time…which gets you more books, faster!

What do you want to see this year, readers? What are you looking forward to?

-M

patreon1

A Non-Spoilery Star Wars Review

The Droids You're Looking For by tee-kyrin on DeviantArt

The Droids You’re Looking For by tee-kyrin on DeviantArt

So! We went to see Star Wars last night, and my non-spoilery and very SHORT review is: go see it, it’s wonderful.

My non-spoilery and somewhat longer review is: I was thoroughly entertained, I loved the new characters, and the cameos were well-done (speaking of which, once you’ve seen the movie you should google Daniel Craig’s cameo because it’s wonderful).

Non-spoilery things I particularly loved:

  • visceral impact – one of the things Episodes I-III lacked, in my opinion, was grounded CGI. A lot of it was pretty, but not a lot of it felt real. In Episode VII, all effects were used to their full potential. The original trilogy made good use of its effects as well, namely in the way it did not rely on them to tell the story, but VII uses them to underscore the emotional impact of scenes, such as storm troopers moving with the shots they take, and the audience hearing the bodies hit the floor. This sounds unpleasant, but it’s a good reminder of what’s actually happening in this movie
  • non-sexualization of Rey, Leia, and Phasma – Rey is a full character, the sort of person you can see having a romance and being sexual, just like Leia and Phasma. But none of them are forcibly sexualized, and that’s a critical distinction. Rey is allowed to just be in a way we often see from male protagonists. Another male character’s attraction to her (no spoilers, remember) is treated like just that – his attraction instead of a facet of her character.
  • the imperial rank and file reacting to dark side shenanigans – in Episodes IV-VI, this was much more poignant, as you watched people go to their deaths for disappointing Vader. It’s less casually cruel here, but one of the strengths of the movie is in presenting the First Order as an organization with internal politics, and watching storm troopers and soldiers react to Kylo Ren’s anger adds a very human feel to the movie that JJ Abrams allowed to run the full gamut of emotions
  • Kylo Ren – Adam Driver played this role fantastically. The end.
  • More about Rey – Daisy Ridley also played her role fantastically. Also the end.
  • The continuing arc of characters from the original trilogy – I liked it.
  • ships coming in over the water – we saw this scene in the trailers, so I’m not going to count it as a spoiler. It was epic. I adored it.
  • That One Emotional Gut Punch – terrible and absolutely perfect, and making me tear up even now

So what did you think, readers?

-M

Patreon!

moira writes

Dearest Readers,

After a few requests, I have decided to take the plunge and start a Patreon page – and next Saturday and Sunday, I will be hosting a Patreon Launch Party full of giveaways, an awesome live chat, and plenty of other goodies! You can sign up HERE or read on for more facts, such as “what the heck is Patreon and why are you launching something on it?”

Both good questions! Patreon is a new way for artists, authors, and other content creators to get work out to their fans. As such, my Patreon page will be a different way for you to pay for books – and get tons of cool freebies like short stories and early access! Backers will be able to vote on short stories for twice-yearly anthologies, will get a special shout out in every book, and will even have characters named after them! (And yes, I’ll be taking requests, so if you want to be a villain – or a dragon or a spaceship – let me know!)

Even better? All Patreon backers next weekend will be entered in a drawing for a Light & Shadow themed gift package, and Dragon Corps themed gift package!

dragon corps gift setlight and shadow gift set

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see the giveaway schedule at the Facebook event HERE and the Patreon page HERE!

So why am I using Patreon, and what’s in it for readers? In short, more original content – faster! This year, I was able to make a dream come true and start writing full time. Since June, I have written over 700,000 words – about 7 full-length novels! The problem? Most of those words have been for contract projects, which I need to keep the mortgage paid and the adorable puppy fed. An assured few days (or weeks) of dedicated time for my own projects each month means that I can get stories out to you faster, with you getting all new content delivered right to your inbox before it even goes on sale.

patreon3

For more details on the extras and other benefits like turning your friends into villains (seriously!), head on over to Patreon!

-M

 

 

 

 

 

Book releases, so many book releases!

Dearest Readers,

The end of the year is fast approaching, and what a year it has been! Moving to writing full time has been exhausting, but has felt natural and wonderful from the first day! I have been working on a variety of supercool contracts (one of which you’ll hear about fairly soon!), and I have also had time to settle into my own writing, both finishing projects I started before the transition and launching news ones.

Projects like what, you ask? I’m so glad! Let’s start with the one that just came out on November 20th – Mahalia!

Mahalia_CVR_LRG

Available at Amazon

Mahalia was my first novel, and a story I truly loved. However, as I went back to look at completing the trilogy, I could see all of the truths and complexities I now wanted to bring to her battle for survival. Mahalia is resourceful, loyal, and courageous, and I am so glad to share her story with you again! You can find it here at Amazon, and I hope to have it out to all retailers soon!

Next up? A little bit of holiday cheer!

DecktheShip

Available at Amazon

The holidays can be full of laughter, love, unexpected camaraderie, and unexpected shipments of rum. Wait, what? That’s right – your favorite crew members aboard the Persephone, as well as Miriel and Catwin, Saira and the Wizard and Demetrios and more, all have holiday stories to share? Chasing rogue wizards around in summer snowstorms? Stealing a despot’s Christmas dinner? Oh, yes. And each story has a recipe included with it. Deck the Ship with Boughs of Holly will be out December 4th – you can get it HERE on Amazon!

Oh, did you think we were done? Not even close!

cyborg not finalAvailable at Amazon

Earlier this year, I was given a remarkable opportunity to appear in not one, but two more of the Future Chronicles anthologies. An original short story, Legacy, appeared in The Future Chronicles Special Edition earlier this year, and another original story, Indigo, will feature in The Cyborg Chronicles. Indigo pushes the boundaries of what it means to be human, where exactly the line blurs, and what happens when a human accepts the chance to become something more… The Cyborg Chronicles will be out on December 28th, and you can preorder it here!

And one final project for this post. Need a little Romance with your SciFi? Need a little SciFi with your Romance? Either way, I’ve got you covered. The Dragon Corps series follows a group of elite soldiers in humanity’s far future. Love, loyalty, passion, and mystery intertwine – always with a happily ever after for our sarcastic, lovable heroes. Dragon’s Honor and Dragon’s Vengeance will be out just after Christmas – preorder them here!

DragonsHonorFinal

Preorder Dragon’s Honor at Amazon.

DragonsVengeanceFinal

Preorder at Amazon.

Happy Holidays to you all, wonderful readers! May they be filled with warmth and happiness, and high hopes for the new year!

-M

Editing: Let Me Count the Ways

Dear Readers,

As the first draft of my manuscript is now complete, I thought I would give you a window into the editing process. Editing is both wonderful and terrible. It’s the stage at which you get to tackle everything you didn’t like in the writing phase and find a crazy number of new things you don’t like. You lose scenes you loved. You struggle with scenes you need but don’t like. But at the end, miraculously, there’s another draft that’s so, so much better.

Then, of course, your beta readers and/or editors get their hands on it and tear it to shreds. So it goes.

When I started writing novels, I had no idea what I was doing. Some people read up on story structure and writing techniques before writing, but not me . I waited until later for that. The first time, I dove in headfirst and flailed around for a while. It worked out pretty well, being pretty much the best way for me to do anything, but I really didn’t know enough about what I was doing to know what needed edits, either.

Now I do. This is a double-edged sword. It leads to better manuscripts, but now I despise my first drafts. Ah, well. To give you an example, these are the things I’m doing on the first few rounds of edits before this goes to beta readers:

  • there are three chapters I want to cut almost all of (nothing really happens)
  • there’s an entire subplot I want to cut out, along with all the scattered references to it in the rest of the manuscript (ugh)
  • subtle but consistent references need to be made to the properties of magic in this world
  • there are some basic reader expectations of when things should be happening. You know those times when you’re reading a book or watching a movie and you think, “it really feels like something should be happening right about now”? Yeah. We want to avoid those moments of wondering. I’ll try to move plot points in line with those expectations, though perhaps without the rigid precision laid out in Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering
  • I’ll be doing a causality edit a la Jack Bickham in Scene & Structure. What this means is that I go through every scene and make sure there are ZERO leaps in logic or understanding. If something happens, there needs to be a response to that before the scene goes on. Every. Scene.
  • I’ll do a tension edit. Each page is pulled out one at a time and edited to make sure tension is building all the way through. Keeping it to one page (printed out) means that I can’t get lost in the scene and forget what I need to be doing.
  • I’ll be doing a scene purpose edit. This means I go through the scene and make sure that everything builds towards, well, the central purpose. Why is this scene in the book? (If I can’t answer that, serious changes need to be made.)
  • I’ll be doing a chapter linking edit. Is the information from the last chapter integrated? Are the transitions jarring? (Sometimes they’re meant to be, sometimes not.) Can we tell immediately how much time has passed from the last chapter and why we are where and when we are?
  • I’ll be doing a consistency and fact-checking edit. This is for details large and small: when did Character X find out about Plot Point Y? What color are Character Z’s eyes? Is that one made up word capitalized or not?
  • I’ll be doing a spelling & grammar edit. Typos, typos, typos. So many typos. I abhor them, but I make them. Don’t think you’re better than making typos. You aren’t.

Here’s the thing: over the course of this process, more things are going to come up. I’ll need to fix those as well. I may need to write new scenes as I determine I need them. I may, in fact, need to change major plot points. I won’t know until I start fixing it.

Authors, what do you do in edits? Readers, what questions do you have? Ask away!

-M

Manuscript Last Resorts

Dear Readers (and Fellow Authors),

WOW, can a manuscript fight you, right? At one point a while back while speaking to the lovely Robyn Lythgoe, I described the process of writing Remnant as  similar to being dragged backwards through a hedge. This latest manuscript has been difficult in a different way: now that I’m writing full time, I found myself freezing up over every chapter, sure that I wasn’t doing my story justice.

The fact was, I just needed to get through my first draft and then edit it, but at the time I was consumed with the fear that I was a complete failure. Which was not so fun. On the plus side, I have come up with a gigantic list of things I resorted to in order to get it done, and have ranked them below in vague order of helpfulness. May they speed up your own manuscripts!

Helpful things:

    • A friend introduced me to habitica, which is about the most fun ever – it’s an RPG that you play by completing your to-do list
    • If you can’t get out of your chores for 10 days or so, put them on autopilot. Example: planning out two weeks’ worth of meals and buying all the groceries in one shot. (What’s for dinner? Oh, right, that thing. Do we have the ingredients? Sure do. Excellent.)
    • Point-by-point plotting of the chapters I was trying to write. Just a rough overview. One character brings up a valid point, and the other responds…how? Plan it. Very useful.
    • Turning off my internet while I write – and, in fact, blocking facebook and twitter entirely on my computer (I use LeechBlock, which is quite helpful – for instance, I realized that I was checking the news ridiculously often, so all of the news sites are blocked between 7:30AM and 5:30PM)
    • Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, DON’T go on social media between writing sprints. You will lose a staggering amount of time. (I imagine this will be doubly true leading up to the election next year)
    • I developed a mini-workout routine to do between writing sprints: 2 types of cardio, each for 30-45 seconds, a set of planks or sit ups, and some arm weights. Other authors have concurred that standing up and moving around helps them stay in the groove
    • Making sure to take an hour or two to decompress every evening. Reading, watching a movie, playing a video game – whatever it was, it needed to have nothing to do with my manuscript
    • I didn’t use it this time, but I’ve always had good luck with Freedom – it’s an app for Macs that completely shuts down internet

Not so helpful things:

  • while sunlight is great, getting out of the house was definitely a mixed bag on the helpfulness front. Walking to the library, while it didn’t take TOO long, tended to remind me that I had other errands to run. And other errands, while nice, weren’t as nice as finishing my manuscript
  • Bribing myself with episodes of Netflix or battles in mobile games. Again, a mixed bag. I tended to get distracted and not get back to things as quickly as I wanted. The moral of the story? Use the timer function on your smartphone, or buy an egg timer for a low-tech alternative.

Really not helpful things:

  • Every few chapters, I would decide that the whole manuscript needed to be revised and switch around everything, thereafter taking hours to correct every conversation and later chapter to reflect the changed order of events. Say it with me: write first, edit later
  • Usually around the time I tried revising things, I would go into a long self-lecture about how much of a failure I was. This sucks. It is no way to spend your time. Let my experience be your guide on this one, because I have tested it. EXTENSIVELY.
  • Unless you’re just really on a roll, don’t try working into the evening. Working late really doesn’t give you much value for the money beyond the first time you do it. It costs you the next day, which results in too much caffeine, which results in disordered sleep, which results in more caffeine…and on and on it goes. And getting out of that cycle is time consuming.

Authors, readers, what are your favorite strategies for staying on task?

-M