That’s right!  After what felt like six hours of un-anesthetized brain surgery, Stars of Blood and Glory 1.0 is finally complete!  Here are the stats:

words: 76,326
chapters: 18, prologue & epilogue
ms pages: 360
start date: 20 Dec 2011
end date: 2 Feb 2011

Some extended stats, just for fun:

days spent writing: 36
miles traveled: ~5,500
viewpoint characters: 5
characters from other novels: 9
major characters who die: 3
space battles: 5
planets slagged: 1

The wordsplash:

Wordle: Stars of Blood and Glory 1.1

And the most influential song while writing:

It’s good to finish another novel, but this one definitely needs a lot of work before I feel that it’s of publishable quality.  I think I know how to fix it, but my mind needs a break in order to give it a fresh approach.  I’ll probably let it settle for a few months, then come back either this spring or summer.

I’m pleasantly surprised with how quickly I was able to finish this book.  Thirty-six writing days is something of a personal record.  Still, it feels like it needs a little more fleshing out.  76k is definitely too short for a novel of this type; hopefully in the second draft, I’ll be able to bring it up to 80k or 90k.

In other news, I heard back from the TLG program, and I’m happy to say I’ve been accepted!  I’ll fly out to Georgia in a little less than two weeks, have a seven day orientation period at Kutaisi, then ship off to wherever the Ministry of Education decides to send me.  I’ll be there until at least June, then either renew for a second semester or go somewhere else, maybe Eastern Europe or the Middle East.

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited!  Hopefully, this new career will be a good fit, and I’ll have many awesome adventures in the next few years.  Even if my writing starts to take off and my books start selling hand over fist, I’ll probably keep teaching for a while just for the experience.  Writing is fun, but when you have nothing else to keep you busy it can also get quite boring.

The next few weeks are going to be pretty freaking busy, so I’m probably going to ease off on the writing, at least until I get settled into the new routine.  Before I leave, I need to:

  • Find affordable expat insurance.
  • Pick up a 220 to 120 volt converter and plug adapter.
  • Publish Journey to Jordan on Amazon and B&N.
  • Get some new clothes.
  • Clean my parents’ guest room.
  • File state taxes for Utah (federal taxes are already filed).
  • Write up the last couple of Trope Tuesday posts for the backlog.
  • Finish the covers for Star Wanderers (while I still have access to my desktop computer).
  • Read up on Georgian customs and mentally prepare myself for the inevitable culture shock.

Shouldn’t be too hard, but it’s only going to get crazier once I’m over there.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated as much as I can, though; this is going to be fun!

So yeah, another novel down; this one makes my sixth.  Just another 94 to go before I reach my lifetime goal of one hundred!

That’s right: the second draft of Heart of the Nebula, direct sequel to Bringing Stella Home, is now finished.  Here are the stats:

words: 90,081
chapters: 20
ms pages: 426
start date: 7 Nov 2011
end date: 4 Dec 2011

And the word splash:

Wordle: Heart of the Nebula 2.0

This was just a quick draft to fix some of the known problems before sending it off to my first readers.  I’d thought that it was missing a whole bunch of stuff, but I ended up taking out more than I’d put in.  Still, it feels like it’s missing something, and I’m not sure what.  Hopefully, my readers will be able to help me figure it out.

I’m starting to notice a pattern with my writing.  The first draft is always the hardest, fraught with all sorts of frustrations and setbacks.  In contrast, the second draft is usually pretty quick, and involves fixing the problems without making any drastic changes.  The third draft is where the story really comes to life, as I start to make connections and tap the latent possibilities.  This may continue in the fourth draft, but anything after that is usually just a matter of polishing the prose.

For those of you who’ve read Bringing Stella Home, this novel takes place five years after and centers around James McCoy and Lars Stewart.  Stella/Sholpan makes a brief appearance, but Danica and the Tajji mercenaries do not; I plan on writing more about them (a LOT more about them) in Stars of Blood and Glory.

I’m going to send this draft out to my first readers and let it settle for a couple of months.  Once I’ve gotten their feedback, I’ll undertake a thorough revision, possibly with some drastic changes to the story.  I don’t want to commit myself to  a specific date, but if all goes well, I may publish it sometime next summer.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in beta reading Heart of the Nebula, shoot me an email–but please, only ask if we know each other IRL.  My next big project is Star Wanderers, which should hopefully be finished by mid-January.  And of course, there’s Desert Stars–I’m in the process of getting the cover art, so it shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks before it’s up!

So much going on…it’s good to get something finished.

And just in time; I start another job tomorrow.  So anyhow, here are the stats:

words: 99,000
chapters: 22
ms pages: 465
start date: 3 Oct 2011
end date: 25 Oct 2011

And the word splash:

Wordle: Desert Stars 4.0

Can you tell who the main characters are? :)

This might sound kind of cheesy, but this book has a very special place in my heart.  I started it immediately after the 2008 BYU Jordan study abroad program, though it took me until the summer of 2010 to finish it.  Even though it’s shorter than Bringing Stella Home, I think it’s much more immersive, with the world itself playing a much larger role as one of the characters.

I’m very satisfied with this draft.  I say this with everything I write, but I honestly believe that this is my best work to date.  It’s surprising to see just how much my writing has changed between drafts.  It seems to be getting better, though, so that’s very encouraging.

I haven’t launched the kickstarter campaign yet, but I hope to do that by the first of next month, so be sure to look out for that.  In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to share the prologue, to give you an idea of what the story is about.  Enjoy!

=============================================

Prologue

The boy felt scared, more scared than he had ever yet been in his young life. It was because of the strange noises in the bulkheads and the way the walls and floor shook, but mostly because everyone around him, even his parents, were scared, and he didn’t know why.

The lights in the hallway flickered as he wandered out of his cabin, and the whine of the engine rose higher and higher. It wasn’t especially loud, but didn’t sound right; the boy knew that much at least. On the other side of the ship, a door hissed as it slid open. The boy turned and saw his uncle and three of his cousins come running out of the bridge, eyes wide with fear.

She’s gonna blow,” shouted his uncle. “Let’s move!”

The boy stood rooted to the spot, his legs frozen in terror. He watched as his cousins ran to the emergency escape chutes–the ones his parents had adamantly told him never to play in–and dove through.

A groaning noise came through the bulkheads–the terrible sound of metal on metal. He closed his eyes and covered his ears with his hands, and the floor itself dropped out from under him. For a frighteningly disorienting moment, gravity vanished, leaving him floating weightless in the corridor. The taste of vomit filled his mouth and he screamed in fright, but without gravity he could only kick his legs uselessly beneath him.

The moment passed, and he fell to the hard tile floor. Tears of terror clouded his vision, and his arms and legs shook so bad he hardly noticed that the floor was shaking. The ship lurched, sending him sprawling on his hands and knees.

Hands grabbed him underneath his arms, lifting him up and carrying him away. He glanced up and recognized the face of his mother, pulling him towards the escape chutes.

Mommy,” he cried, “I’m scared.”

I know, dear,” she told him. “Mommy needs you to be extra brave right now.”

The boy nodded. Though his mother tried to sooth him, he could tell that she was just as frightened as he was. That terrified him more than even the loss of gravity.

Come on!” the boy’s father shouted, further down the corridor. “Any minute now, and–”

The lights flickered again, and an explosion sounded from deep within the bulkheads of the ship. A low hiss sounded behind them, and not from a door opening.

Oh God,” the boy’s mother cried. “Is that–”

As if in answer, a mighty wind howled throughout the ship, filling the boy’s ears with its roar. It whipped at his hair and tugged at his clothes, sucking him away like a monster from the bottom of a giant drain. Somehow, he knew that in only a few moments, they would all be dead.

Hands grabbed him, lifting him up toward the escape chute. He screamed, but the roar of the wind was so loud he could barely hear his own voice. His mother slipped something around his neck, and suddenly he was falling through the chute, into darkness.

He came to a stop in a snug little space, closed in on all sides like a glove for his body. A holoscreen lay in front of his face, with a pair of flight sticks and a miniature control board. The boy gripped the flight sticks with his hands and stared dumbly at the screen, barely able to process anything that was happening.

A distant puffing noise sounded through the ultra-soft walls, and then he was falling again–only this time, he couldn’t move his arms or legs. He was locked into position, cushioned on all sides and only able to use his hands.

Fighting back panic, he watched as the holoscreen flickered and came to life. It showed an image of space, the stars spinning wildly as noiseless flashes of light burst into being before fading into after-image amid the blackness of space. He squeezed the dual flight sticks and moved them like he was playing a computer game, but it was no use–he couldn’t equalize.

Mommy, the boy cried inwardly. Panic swept over him, and his hands and arms began to shake. He screamed, but in the tightly enclosed space, there was no one to hear him.

The glowing orb of a planet came into view, filling the screen with its brilliant light. The boy squinted as the display adjusted, showing a brown and yellow landscape framed by a curved horizon. It danced with the spinning stars, moving so quickly that everything was a blur.

A red light started blinking in the corner of the screen, and words flashed across the display. The boy didn’t know how to read, but he knew it was something bad. He tried again with the flight sticks, but that only sent him spinning in a new direction.

Without warning, the screen switched off, and the entire capsule filled with thick, pink foam. The boy gasped and tried to shield himself with his hands, but before he could cover his face it hardened around his body, freezing him into position.

The foam covered his mouth and face, but was just porous enough to allow him to breath–in short bursts, however, because his stomach was severely pinched. The spinning grew worse, until he wanted to throw up. As if from a great distance, he heard a muffled roar through the bulkheads. Everything around him grew increasingly warm, until he began to sweat. He tried to open his mouth to cry out, but his jaw was locked too tightly in place–he couldn’t move anything, not even a finger.

Mommy! he mentally screamed. Where are you?

As if in answer, something popped behind him. Inertia threw him forward, but the foam held him in place, so that all he felt was a tremor through his body. Gravity returned, so that he felt as if he were dangling upside down from his feet. Blood rushed to his head, and he swooned, redness clouding his vision.

Then, like a punch to his face, the shock of impact hit him, causing his bones to shudder. He spun even faster than before, but the foam still held him. It felt as if someone had turned him inside out, though–as if his stomach had swollen and turned to mush.

As the spinning gradually came to a stop, tears streamed from the boy’s eyes. The roaring had died down, leaving him encased in near-absolute silence. That frightened him almost more than the noise.

A sharp hiss filled his ears as the foam grew sticky and porous all around him. He thrashed against it, pulling his hands and arms free as it turned into a sticky, foul-smelling soup. Behind him, a hatch opened, and he struggled toward it, spitting to get the nasty taste out of his mouth.

He crawled out and rose to his feet, blinking in the harsh light of a foreign sun. The hot wind bit him as it blew in his face, stinging his face with sand. He raised a hand to his eye and looked around him at the alien landscape.

A lonely, rust-red desert extended in all directions, with nothing but sand and rock and distant craggy peaks to meet his eye. The sky shone a hazy yellow, completely unlike the clean white light of his family’s ship. A new fear passed through the boy–the fear of being alone.

As he stared at the land around him, he reached down to see what his mother had slipped around his neck. It was a pendant with a little black case at the end. He felt it between his fingers and knew somehow that he would never see her again.

Tears clouded his eyes, and he screamed and wailed for someone, anyone–but in the harsh desert waste, there was none to hear him.

=============================================

Good stuff. I can hardly wait to get it published!

That’s right; after almost exactly two months of writing, the third draft of Desert Stars is now complete!

This is the first draft where I feel that things are truly coming together the way they should be, where the story is transforming into something that not only works, but is actually fairly awesome. I’m probably not the best judge, though, so I’ll have to send it out to another round of first readers to get their reactions to it, but I don’t think this will need more than one more draft before it’s ready to go to a copy editor.

Anyhow, here are the stats:

ms pages: 505
words: 108,468
file size: 246 KB
chapters: 22, prologue & epilogue
start date: 16 May 2011
end date: 18 Jul 2011

And the Wordle:

Wordle: Desert Stars 3.0

The most influential song in the writing of this draft comes from an mp3 cd of Arabic music that a friend in Jordan gave me while I was studying over there in 2008. The title is فرحة عمرانة بالدار, which apparently translates to “The Joy of _____ in Casablanca.” I know absolutely nothing else about it, other than it sounds very Arab. Since Desert Stars is essentially about a far-future Arab society, it resonated quite well.

The hardest part of writing this draft was probably at the very end, when my daily routine fell to pieces and I completely lost my stride. This seems to happen a lot whenever I’m trying to finish something, which reflects in my daily word count charts.

But the ending itself was not particularly hard to write; in fact, it was quite fun. A bunch of previous changes came together in a way that just clicked, including some spontaneous ones that I hadn’t planned for at all. As a result, I’m really excited about this draft and hope to get it out as an ebook before Christmas.

One question, for those of you who have read the previous draft: do you think I could justify splitting the story into two separate novels and selling them each at a lower cost? I hate books that end on a cliffhanger, but one of my first readers thought that this might work, and it would certainly give me more stuff to epublish.

Also, if you haven’t read a previous draft and would like to be a first reader, please let me know. I only send my rough work out to people I know in real life, however, so if our only interaction has been online, please don’t ask. I’ll probably start the fourth draft sometime in September, so you’ll have until the end of the summer (and possibly a little more) to finish it.

Next project? Publishing Bringing Stella Home and putting together the spin-off novella Sholpan. Shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks. After that, I think I’ll start the indirect sequel that I mentioned before. In the meantime, on with business as usual.

Yep, that’s right! I finished another novel, in this case the second draft of my fourth. It’s not without its flaws, but good enough that I won’t feel humiliated for life by sending it out to my first readers.

Anyhow, here are the stats:

Worlds Away from Home 2.1
ms pages: 450
words: 96,212
file size: 219 KB
chapters: 20 + prologue
start date: 14 Jan 11
end date: 4 Mar 11

And the wordle:

Wordle: Worlds Away from Home 2.1

Yeah, there are a few words that appeared a bit too frequently there. At least I know what to cut out in the next draft.

As for the song that best encapsulates the experience of writing it..hmm, I don’t know. The last couple chapters, I was kind of on a Metroid trip, so even though the old NES game has absolutely nothing to do with my story, I suppose I’d have to go with the Metroid title theme:

So yeah, those are the stats. As for my thoughts, here goes:

This draft was tough, but a lot more fun to write than the rough draft. Most of the struggle happened with the outline, which took about three or four weeks to actually come together, which is unusual for me.

I did a complete read through back in the first week of December, putting everything else on hold just to write the revision notes, and ended up following almost none of it. However, it wasn’t a complete loss, because outlining it helped me to cut out a bunch of useless filler and dead-end subplots.

I tend to do a lot of shotgun writing on my rough drafts, which means I spew out all my ideas in every which direction, going off on useless tangents and failing to properly foreshadow the major central conflicts.

However, by writing this way, I often discover things that I never could have foreseen from the outset. So long as I’m careful to outline each successive draft and cut out all the filler crap (even the crap that I love), it usually works out in the end.

This draft is somewhere on the crappier side of rough draft vs. finished, polished product, but it’s definitely better than the first one. If the third draft is this much better than the second, I’m optimistic that I’ll have this thing polished and ready to send out before the end of the year.

But before then, I need the help that only a few dozen pairs of eyes besides my own can give. That, and a few months to sit so that I can come back to it with new eyes.

If I know you IRL and you’re interested in being a first reader, please contact me. I’m especially looking for male readers, since the target audience is probably more male than female, but I’m open to pretty much anyone who enjoys reading science fiction.

So anyways, enough of that. On to the next project!

That’s right; I finished the fifth draft just tonight.  110,000+ words and 550+ pages in three weeks–not bad.  Here are the stats:

ms pages: 556
words: 110,000
file size: 264 KB
chapters: 27
start date: 21 Dec 2010
end date: 11 Jan 2011

And the wordle:

Wordle: Bringing Stella Home 5.0

The song that best represents my experience with this particular draft would probably be a chip tune remix I discovered recently (as in, yesterday). It’s called “Milk in Veins,” and the only version I have is in .xm (extended module) format. I don’t yet know how to export it to mp3, but here it is:

Raina — Milk in Veins

This draft was mostly just a quick polish, but I did get some useful feedback from some World Fantasy friends; some of Stella’s reactions were off, and Anya’s parts needed better development. I don’t know if it’s publishable as is, but it’s definitely as good as I can make it without a professional editor.

I had a good time with this draft. I feel confident that I’ve got an exceptional story here, and I think I did a good job telling it. At the end of the day, it’s great to have something you can look back on and say “yeah, I accomplished that.”

Now, to send it out into the publishing world and see if it gets any takers. Who knows–maybe this could be my debut novel! Only one way to find out…

That’s right; the fifth draft of Genesis Earth is complete. It was a quick, easy edit, but there were quite a few problems with the last draft, mostly having to do with the physics and timing/distances.

Anyway, here are the stats:

ms pages: 335
words: 71,500
file size: 164 KB
chapters: 16, prologue & epilogue
start date: 2 Nov 2010
end date: 20 Nov 2010

And the wordle:

Wordle: Genesis Earth 5.0

I used to describe this novel as a “hard sf romance,” but after this last revision I can see that it’s not hard sf at all–though the science (or pseudo-science) plays an important role, the story really is driven by the characters.

Thanks to some of my recent first readers, I also realize now that Genesis Earth is solidly YA. Based on their recommendations, I lowered the age of the protagonists to sixteen and seventeen, and made some adjustments to the query letter.

I’m not sure what this means for agent hunting, since it seems that many YA agents do YA exclusively, and while this novel is definitely YA, my other ones are much more adult (at least in terms of content and character).

Anyway, the song that was playing when I finished this draft was The Mummer’s Dance by Loreena McKennit, one of the songs from the soundtrack that Charlie put together a couple years ago. I think it’s very appropriate, especially for the last scene with the Icarian natives before the epilogue:

Finally, I thought you guys might want to see the “map” of the Icarian star system that I drew out on the whiteboard on my bedroom wall. Man, you have no idea how much I’ve been geeking out to this in the past few days. It’s a map…of a star system!



…and not a moment too soon.  I leave for the Salt Lake airport in eight hours, to try and sell this ugly beast masterpiece at World Fantasy.  Let’s hope I can find a few editors/agents who are willing to take a look at the manuscript!

Here are the stats:

Mercenary Savior 4.0

words: 123,045
pages: 620
chapters: 28 + prologue
file size: 288.1 KB
start date: 24 August 2010
end date: 27 October 2010

And the wordsplash:

Wordle: Mercenary Savior 4.0

The most influential song on my writing for this draft would probably be the theme from Terminator 1:

Man, why didn’t I grow up in the Eighties? Oh, wait…

I’d write more, but I have to pack for tomorrow. Good night!

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