Mid June update

So it’s the middle of June, and I really should have finished Patriots in Retreat by now, but it’s been difficult to stick to any kind of writing routine, and the story is at that place where everything seems broken and writing through it is like slogging through a swamp.

Call me crazy, but I’m starting to think that’s not healthy. In Brandon Sanderson’s English 318R class at BYU, he always said the most important thing was to power through and just finish the damn thing–that you can always go back and “fix it in post”–but while that’s good advice for a new writer who hasn’t ever finished anything, I don’t think it works very well for my own writing process.

I think that what I need to do is take every weekend to cycle through the entire story from the beginning, not necessarily to rewrite it all, but to bring it into line with the stuff that unfolds later. Invariably, when I get to the three quarters mark of my WIP, it feels like the whole thing is barely holding together and that I’m writing myself into a train wreck.

For the last several years, I’ve tried to just write through that, only for one of two things to happen: either something else catches my interest and I decide to put the WIP on the back burner for a while, or it actually does turn into a train wreck and I have to set it on the back burner for a while in order to approach it with a new set of eyes.

Needless to say, neither of those outcomes is very productive.

Now, I don’t think Patriots in Retreat is broken. I think there’s actually a really good story in there, but it needs a little more excavation in certain parts before I can pull the whole thing out in one piece. This was my first time in years experimenting with the cycling process, and I don’t think I did it enough. Next WIP will be another experiment.

Long story short, I will probably have to push this one back another two weeks, which is going to push the release schedule for Sons of the Starfarers back another month. I’ve got another short story I can use to fill in the gap, but it is a bit of a personal disappointment.

Why is it so difficult to keep my own self-imposed deadlines? Am I really that flaky and unreliable? Not in other aspects of my life. Maybe my writing process really does need a complete and fundamental overhaul. Should make for some interesting future posts.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been up to. I really really really want to write a couple of short stories in a universe that may turn into a recurring one, but those will have to wait until Patriots is finished (hopefully early next week). On the publishing side of things, I’ve got a new short story and short story bundle out—more on that tomorrow! Lots of other stuff too, but it’s mostly behind the scenes, so not worth talking much about atm.

Patriots in Retreat will be finished soon, it’s just in the “this sucks and I’m a horrible writer!” phase. Which, hopefully, I’ll find a way to remove from my writing process altogether, because it isn’t healthy. When I figure out how to do that, I’ll let you know.

WIP excerpt: The Sword Keeper

At first, Tamuna felt as if she were falling through an abyss. Darkness surrounded her, so thick she could almost taste it.

Before she could panic, her fall slowed until she was floating in midair. Her feet touched water, and a deep sense of peace swept over her, the peace that one only feels in a dream. As the darkness cleared, she found herself swimming in a clear pool fed by a mountain spring. Rugged cliffs rose behind her, while a small stone chapel stood a short distance from the shore. An eagle cried out in the cloudless blue sky, momentarily breaking the solitary silence of the wilderness.

Where am I? Tamuna wondered. How did I come to this place? If this was a dream, it felt more real than any she’d ever experienced. The water was cool and refreshing, with a bed of fine gravel under her feet. There was no danger of drowning, though the pool was deep enough that she had to swim instead of walk. She was naked, of course, but that didn’t bother her. It would be silly to swim in her clothes.

She reached the edge of the pool and climbed onto a large rock. Snow-capped peaks lined the horizon in every direction, while virgin forests stretched out in the valleys below. The view was so stunning, it completely took her breath away. She’d heard of places like this, where the cattle herders took their cows in the summer and the hunters roamed in the winter. However, when she scanned the mountains on the horizon, none of them were familiar.

“Hello?” she shouted. “Can anyone hear me?” The echo came back a few seconds later, but only the wind answered her.

She shivered and rubbed her arms with her hands. The breeze was uncomfortably cool on her bare, wet skin, but fortunately the sun was rapidly drying her. She sat down on the rock and began to wring out her hair.

She noticed a small footpath nearby, leading to the stone chapel. A set of woolen clothes lay neatly folded at the head of the path, clearly meant for her. As soon as she was dry enough to dress herself, she climbed down from the rock and slipped the clothes over her body. They were thick and warm, perfectly suited for the mountains. The embroidery was red and gold on black in the style of the Khevsurans, with a recurring cross and circle motif. She took a few moments to admire her reflection in the lake before setting off down the path.

Like most mountain churches, this one was built in the shape of a cross, with tall, narrow windows and intricate patterns carved onto the exterior. The stones were crumbling, and a long crack ran down the wall through the highest window. From the outside, it seemed to be empty.

I’m alone, she thought silently. And yet somehow, she knew that wasn’t true. Ever since the darkness had lifted, she’d felt a presence nearby, waiting for her. It felt as if she were part of a story that she was living through instead of merely hearing about.

When she reached the front doors, they swung open of their own accord, revealing a vaulted chapel that was dark and empty. Aging marble tiles covered the floor, while the walls and pillars were hewn from rough-cut stone. A ray of light shone down from the cupola, illuminating the apse at the center.

And there, embedded in a slab of pure white marble, stood the sword.

Her breath caught in her throat. Once again, she felt the call of destiny compelling her forward. She covered her head with one of the shawls by the entrance and quietly stepped inside.

“Hello?” she said aloud. Though her voice was barely louder than a whisper, it carried throughout the sanctuary.

Tamuna, a voice spoke in her mind. She froze, her blood turning to ice. Was someone behind her? She glanced over her shoulder, but saw only shadows. Perhaps the wind was playing tricks with—

Tamuna, the voice spoke again, this time as clear as if she had heard it with her ears. She spun around, but again, she was alone.

As she turned back to the apse, the air immediately in front of her began to ripple like a mirage on a hot day. The sword seemed to morph and change, until she saw two images before her: the sword in the slab of marble, exactly as before, and a tall young man with golden hair and a carefully trimmed beard, wearing a silver coat of mail and the tunic of a warrior.

“Wh-who are you?” she asked, taking a step back. Something about his gaze held her, telling her there was no need to be afraid.

“Tamuna Leladze,” he said softly, looking at her with the barest hint of a smile. “Over a thousand years have passed since mortal eyes have seen this place, now in ruins in the world of men. Many have desired to wield me, but I have refused them all. I am Imeris, the twelfth and final sword, and this is my sanctuary.”

Tamuna frowned. “The twelfth sword?”

“Yes,” said the young man. His image faded until he was almost invisible, so that Tamuna found herself staring at the hilt of the sword in the marble slab. It called out to her the way it had in the tavern, and she realized that the man and the sword were the same.

“How did you know my name?”

“I know a lot about you, Tamuna,” said Imeris, coming back into view. “Our minds made contact the moment you laid eyes on me. I know how your heart longs for adventure, how you dream of faraway lands. And yet, your unshakeable loyalty to the few close and lasting friends in your life keeps you rooted to your home.”

“You can read my mind, then?”

“Only because you are too innocent to know how to shut me out. What I read in your mind, others can easily read in your countenance.”

Tamuna gazed into Imeris’s eyes and felt as if she were staring into a mirror back through centuries of time. And yet, he looked like a man only a few years older than her.

“Why have you brought me here?” she asked.

“Do you see the inscription written on the floor beneath your feet?”

Tamuna looked down and saw an inscription, written in old, faded letters in the marble floor. She squinted and tried to make them out, but the writing was too ancient for her to read.

“What is it?”

“It is an ancient prophecy, pronounced on the day when I was forged.”

“What does it say?”

“It says: This sword IMERIS, though last to be forged, certainly shall not be the least. For in the days when the order is broken and darkness sweeps across the face of the land, it shall await the one who will wield it in truth and wisdom to free the world of men.” He paused, looking her in the eye. “You are the one of whom the prophecy speaks, Tamuna. You are the one whom I have chosen.”

A crack of thunder sounded in the distance, sending chills down Tamuna’s spine. For a brief moment, a cloud overshadowed the sun, throwing the chapel into shadow. Imeris looked up and frowned.

“There isn’t much time,” he said. “The enemy is nearly here. They will seek to destroy us.”

“D-destroy us?” said Tamuna, her knees going weak. “There must be some mistake. I can’t possibly be the one you’re looking for. I’m just a tavern girl!”

Imeris looked at her long and hard, making her flinch. “There is no mistake, Tamuna. I recognized you the moment your mind reached out to my own.”

Her cheeks paled. “But…”

“Of course, you must take me up of your own free will if you take me up at all. If you so choose, you may leave this place by returning to the pool. Once you are submerged, you will return to your home.”

Tamuna nodded in relief. So there is a way out, she thought to herself. This doesn’t have to be my destiny. But even though the realization eased her somewhat, she couldn’t shake the feeling that to do so would be a mistake.

“What about the prophecy?” she asked. “If I reject you, will you find someone else?”

Imeris shrugged sadly and looked off into the distance. “Perhaps,” he said as he faded from her view. “Perhaps not.”

She hesitated a moment, alone now with just the sword. Once again, she felt it calling out to her, though this time, her thoughts were much clearer. You must take me up of your own free will, Imeris’s words came back to her. Another crack of thunder sounded in the distance, breaking the silence that had fallen with his departure.

I can’t do this, she told herself. This isn’t for me—I shouldn’t get involved.

As she walked back outside, her feet felt strangely heavy. A part of her longed to run back to the church and draw the sword out of the marble, just for the chance to experience an adventure. But of course, that wouldn’t be right. She couldn’t just leave Sopiko like that, after all that her aunt had done for her.

She reached the water’s edge, but hesitated before climbing in. A cool wind whistled over her skin, making the reeds dance and tossing back her long black hair. The surface of the water rippled, while a mass of giant thunderheads towered in the sky. She shivered, and not just from the cold. Lightning flashed in the valley, and a shadow darker than any she’d ever seen raced across the forests toward the mountaintops. There was a presence in that shadow, something primal and dangerous that made chills shoot down her spine.

Thunder rolled across the land, giving her pause. What if Imeris was right—what if she was the one from the prophecy? And if she was, then what would happen if she didn’t follow through?

The thunderheads towered high above her now, blocking the sun, and a stiff wind blasted the lake and flattened the golden-brown grass. Something evil was in that storm. Her heart raced, and she knew that she had to turn back.

She ran to the mountain church as fast as her feet would take her. Her breath came in short bursts, and her heart pounded furiously in her chest. She sprinted through the open doorway and ran to the sword in the marble slab.

“Imeris!” she shouted, gasping for breath. “Imeris, where are you?”

The sword called out to her, just as it had in the tavern. This time, she didn’t hesitate. As the sunlight turned to darkness, she gripped the handle and pulled with as much strength as she could muster. Thunder cracked directly overhead, and the sword came free with a metallic hum.

And then she was falling again through the abyss, tumbling as if a crack in the earth had swallowed her.

Beginning of June update

So it’s the beginning of June already, and it’s starting to feel like summer here in Iowa. Because it’s so flat, the sky stays light F O R E V E R, which is kind of neat. Lots more time to go on walks, which is where I work out plot points and other stuff.

Patriots in Retreat
Phase:Draft 1.0
Due:18 hours ago
77%

In any case, Patriots in Retreat (my current WIP) is coming along well. It’s turning out to be shorter than I’d expected; there’s only three chapters left, and it’s not quite 20k words. Will probably come in between 3ok and 25k, making it one of the shorter Sons of the Starfarers books.

Middles are tough, even for short novels. I have no idea if this draft is going to turn out clean or not. But I am trying to cycle through as I write, to minimize the number of drafts I need to do. If I can master that technique, I can double or triple my production.

The Sword Keeper is just about finished, only a few more touch-ups before I send it out to my editor. Need to get back in touch with him. We’re definitely still on track for a release this fall, and I’m super excited because I think this is one of the best books I’ve written. Look out for a WIP excerpt later on this week.

There’s a couple of short stories I really want to write, but I’m so swamped with the other stuff that I don’t know when I’ll be able to get to it. I’m not behind (yet) on my current WIP, but I need to keep a steady pace of just under 3k words to meet my deadline, which is going to take some effort.

I haven’t started writing Gunslinger to the Galaxy yet (the sequel to Gunslinger to the Stars)… well, that’s not quite true, because I have written the first line:

My name is Jane Kletchka, and I’m here to set the record straight.

…but in any case, I’m starting to get a bunch of great ideas for that one. Will probably start working on it sometime this fall.

Publishing-wise, I’ve got a ton of stuff to work on but not enough time to juggle it. Most of the stuff falling by the wayside is marketing stuff, which isn’t good, but sales seem to have picked up in the last month so hopefully that isn’t too much of a problem. Still waiting for some reviews to roll in for Gunslinger.

Major items on my publishing to do list include:

  • Write the author’s notes for “The Open Source Time Machine” single and short story bundle.
  • Compile the metadata for “The Open Source Time Machine” single and short story bundle.
  • Format and publish “The Open Source Time Machine” single and bundle.
  • Send The Sword Keeper to Josh Leavitt for editing.
  • Write the book description for The Sword Keeper.
  • Find a cover artist for The Sword Keeper.
  • Rewrite all short story descriptions.
  • Make a new cover for A Hill On Which To Die.
  • Upload all books to DriveThruFiction.

Not a small list—and that doesn’t include all the maintenance-type stuff!

So that’s the big challenge: making time for all of this while working the day job. It’s only 5-6 hours a day, but it adds up. I am saving money, though. My goal is to turn around at least $100 from my writing profits each month into investments. It would be really cool to start investing in space technologies, and the research for that could tie into my writing projects very well. Virtuous cycle and all that good stuff.

That’s what I’m up to these days. Peace, love, and penguins y’all. Thanks for reading!

Recovering…

This sinus infection has really been kicking my butt. I’m running at about 70% right now, which is better than last week, but still sub-optimal.

A lot of stuff is happening in the next couple of weeks. First, I got the edits back for Gunslinger to the Stars, which means that it should go up for pre-order sometime early next month. I’m also rereading Genesis Earth in preparation for writing book two, Edenfall. If things go well, that should be out by the end of the year.

At the same time, I’m moving out of my apartment soon, probably within two weeks. My landlady is selling her house, which means that the mother-in-law apartment where I’m currently living is not the best arrangement. Also, I just discovered some major mold issues. If it weren’t for this sinus infection, I’d already be in process of moving, but the illness has delayed things. Need to work out a plan.

Then there’s the half-foot of snow that just got dumped on us here in Utah. Joy.

Point is, it’s probably going to be a while before you hear from me again. I’ll try to keep you guys updated, but no guarantees. I’m still writing, though, and should have some more stuff coming out soon. Next month’s release will probably be another short story, since they’re easy to put out, but my next novel, Gunslinger to the Stars, will be available soon.

Sick, sick, sick

So Thursday morning, I came back from the gym after running 2.5 miles on the treadmill and promptly fell asleep for half an hour. Later that evening, I went for a walk and found myself out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs. For some reason, I was having difficulty getting air into my lungs. No other symptoms, though, so I chalked it up to the inversion and took an alka seltzer to clear things up.

Friday, I woke up with a complete lack of desire to go anywhere or to do anything. The day was mostly a wash, though I did get up to Salt Lake to see my sister who was attending Rootstech 2017. On the way, I started coming down with a mild headache. Also, minor congestion.

Saturday was when the plague finally struck me.

Congestion, massive headache, unbelievable chills—the whole works. I spent most of the day in bed, with a blanket, a quilt, and a down comforter all piled on top of me, and I still didn’t feel warm enough. Drank lots of water and took a bunch of medicine, but I was still in a pretty bad way through most of Sunday.

As things stand right now, I’ve still got a headache and I’m coughing up all kinds of nastiness, but it seems that the worst has passed. Still popping vitamin Cs and drinking piss-tons of water, which isn’t fun, but at least I’m getting better.

No idea how that’s going to impact things this week. Hopefully, I’m back on my feet and writing again relatively soon, but that may or may not be the case.

Either way, there’s still a lot of prewriting to do before I can start my next WIP, Edenfall. I need to reread Genesis Earth and really immerse myself in that universe. I also plan to look over the reviews and spend a day or two picking over tvtropes like a menu. If I can line everything up the way I want to, I should be able to write a really clean first draft and publish it before the end of the year.

No promises, though. I’m still not sure when this sickness is going to go away. Hopefully soon.