State of the Writer, May 2019

This month saw my thir­tieth wedding anniver­sary.

I finished, and then revised for submis­sion, Cast in Wisdom, and it is, until copy-edits, at Mira. I finished a novella of ques­tion­able length (49k), which was one of two short story prompts for the pixel project charity over two years ago T_T. Speaking of short story prompts that were even less short, ahem.

Today, I opened the unti­tled Severn novel, and the unti­tled first book in The Burning Crown arc. Between the two, there’s 100k words, but I had to put them aside to write Cast in Wisdom and reread all the other West words (which, to be honest, I have not quite finished yet. There’s some­thing vaguely like home­work about this, and … I’m not sure I enjoy turning the work into home­work T_T. Yes, there is whining in this house­hold. It is not pretty).

These two books will occupy the next several months of my writing life.

War outside of NAI have added pre-order links to the War book page. Or rather, I have added the non-North Amer­ican pre-order links for the ebook of War. There are no audio book links at the moment because, while I assume the audio book is coming by the publi­ca­tion date, I haven’t found it on audible​.com yet.

(The design of this cover is done by Jenn Reese of Tiger Bright Studios.)

WAR: preview chapter, plus news.

I seem to have misplaced April.

First: News. I have sold DAW Books the first four novels in the series that is now called The Burning Crown, but which I’ve called The End of Days arc for decades. I have no titles, but do have dead­lines — the first of which is July of 2020. That’s when it’s due to the publisher. It’s not a publi­ca­tion date >.<.

This is the last arc of the Essalieyan universe. I expect it to be roughly the same as the Sun Sword in length. (Well, no, I orig­i­nally thought, it’s just these two books, right? I have endings! Greek Chorus: No, Michelle, try to be real­istic for once. You thought the Sun Sword was two books, too — Broken Crown and Sun Sword.

But I had key endpoints and the first endpoint was at the end of book three.)

War thumb-nail

Second: mini State of the Writer for May:

I finished Cast in Wisdom in Australia. I finished a very overdue short piece — which was 49k words when done T_T — on Mother’s Day. This was my first visit to Australia where there was not a lot of sun.

(This is not a bad thing for me, I hasten to add.)

I am going back to work on the Severn novel, because it has a dead­line and I would like not to be pulling all my hair out while attempting to meet it.

I am going back to work on the first Burning Crown novel; I have about as many words of each book written.

No, neither of these has actual titles yet T_T.

None of this is why you’re actu­ally here, though.

It’s one month before pub date for WAR, so it’s time for the preview chapter of War. It’s here.

State of the Author, March 2019 edition

I am, for the moment, done with the Writing Process posts, in part because they were an attempt to answer a ques­tion which has cropped up in different ways over the last few years. They were an enor­mous amount of fun for me.

I do have one more post — about the evolu­tion of process — but it’s half-finished, and it has been set aside in favour of taxes. Which is about as much fun as it sounds. Taxes are being done early this year because the annual writing retreat has been moved forward to the end of April. Which would mean I’d be in a different country at about the time Tax Panic sets in. So: early tax filing for me.

Writing news: First, the next Cast novel has a title: Cast in Wisdom. Second, I believe I’ll be finished it in May (of this year), which is why the annual writing retreat has been moved.

When this is done, I will write the other half of the Severn book — which does not, in fact, have a title. I’m calling it “The Severn Book” until a title suggests itself, mugs me, or more likely is neces­sary on the publisher side of things.

I have been rereading West novels; I’ve written a reason­able chunk of what will be the first post-WAR book, but have set it aside while I read and mentally recharge. I should have news about that in a more concrete form next month. Or the month after.

And I have changed the front page, to add WAR to the House War bibli­og­raphy. For people who have asked, and who might see this but who are not subscribed to the blog list: The publi­ca­tion date is June 18th, 2019.

News! And also State of the Author, October 2018 edition (long)

It’s me, and if I’m warning you that this will be long, well.

This is prob­ably going to be long. I did consider split­ting it into two posts, but there doesn’t seem to be a length limit in Word­Press, so. (For the record, my long-suffering husband suggested that I split it into three. Yes, he survived.)

So, first: The Sun Sword has been reis­sued in trade paper­back (which is the larger, non-stan­dard-size paper­back format). Yes, this means they are more expen­sive, sorry =/. This happened in July, but I didn’t find out about it until the end of August. I’ve added the rele­vant infor­ma­tion to the book pages here.

I am not, as will become imme­di­ately obvious, much of a photog­ra­pher >.<. As you can see, there’s been some changes to the cover crop­ping and type. I’ve put my refer­ence copy of Shining Court beside the new version (which has reflected light on it that I only notice now T_T) to give you a sense of the size differ­ence.

Covers TP Sunsword

Sun Sword trade paperback spines

Page size comparison

Below is a page spread from the trade paper­back of Broken Crown. The books have not been re-typeset — it’s the same page layout as the mass market orig­inal, blown up in size.

Trade page

They are all avail­able now.


Next up: It’s offi­cial. Mira has bought two Severn novels. Neither of which are written yet. These novels started as a novella, long over-due to the person who donated to a charity to be allowed to give me a short story prompt. >.<. In my defense, I did refuse to commit to a length — but I believe I also said it wouldn’t be a novel. Tech­ni­cally this is sort of true.

It’s early Severn, and the Wolves. I can’t really say more than that at this point, in part because the first seven chap­ters did not go quite the way I thought they would (which is why this is novel(s) and not “novella”.


And as for the State of the Writer:

I spent a few years doing nothing but revi­sions, subjec­tively speaking. In the real world, it was a couple of months.

First, First­born. It has more words in it than it did when I first split the book, and it was not as straight­for­ward as any other split in my DAW career (of which there have been many), because I wrote the book knowing I couldn’t split it; War was supposed to be the final volume. But then at 430k, we had a book that couldn’t be bound. So.

I chose the only emotional point from which the end of a novel could natu­rally arise and then… had to restruc­ture things to give that ending the impact it deserved. In the end I chose to open up some­thing that seemed obvious to me, if off-the-page, from the end of the entire 430k monster. My alpha reader told me that this was not obvious at all in the former iter­a­tion.

This is a problem I often have; things that are not obvious seem obvious to me, because I know how they work. Things that are obvious to others seem more diffi­cult to me because I can’t always see forest for trees. Exam­ples of both abound >.<.

After I sent First­born off to my editor, I then sat down with what is now called War. (Sun Sword was a moving title as well; I started every book after Broken Crown with the rough draft title Sun Sword. It only stuck at the end, because it was the title meant for the last book.)

War, however, now started in the middle of a book.

The middle of a book is not a great place to begin a book. So the revi­sion on War was both neces­sary and front-loaded. I think, in the end, First­born is actu­ally a bit longer than War. Both are now with DAW, and I will not see them again until page proofs arrive, which in the case of the former, should be any minute now.

But, they were done, and sent to Sheila! Yay!  I sat down and started the first book of the last arc — which, for a West novel, means iter­a­tive approaches to the begin­ning of a book. This did not last two days.

The universe decided I had not actu­ally done enough revi­sion; there was clearly not enough revi­sion in my life. Cast in Oblivion came back from my Mira editor, and so: Revi­sions! Again!


By the end of those revi­sions I had reached an impor­tant conclu­sion: do not revise three books in a row. Revi­sions on one book — and I’ve only ever had one, with actual writing breaks in between — are fine. It’s bumpy in that I approach a book looking only for things that don’t work — things that I messed up, things I knew in my head that never quite made it to the page — but it’s posi­tive in that I can make it better.

Three months of seeing nothing but the things I got wrong? Even the joy of fixing things or adding things is so heavily shad­owed by the fact that I wouldn’t need to do this if I could just get it right the first time. And that myth­ical ‘get it right the first time’… never happens. There are always things I miss. I know no authors person­ally who can claim that they never revise. There might be authors who don’t — but I’ve never met them.

I’ve been doing this for a while now. I under­stand that revi­sions do not mean the work is garbage or terrible. I under­stand – prag­mat­i­cally speaking – that I have always revised, with edito­rial feed­back in hand.

But the prag­matic under­standing did not stand up well to three novel revi­sions in a row. I’m never doing it again; I will take time to write actual book words – to create – in between. As it was, reading for the F&SF review column saved what remained of my sanity, because I had a book review column due, and had read only 2 books for it. I read, I wrote the column, and I sat down to new book words again.

The Cast in Oblivion copy-edits arrived in my inbox.

In the mean time, the gloom had the effect it always has: I avoid the internet. I avoid being on-line. I avoid being an author in public. Because I feel like a fraud; if I were the author that readers actu­ally wanted to interact with, I would never be this incom­pe­tent, right? The little voice that says, “but you’ve always worked this way since day one” is too quiet.

The part of me that is Eeyore in real life?

Is finally taking a nap. I have sent in the copy-edits for Cast in Oblivion (which is the stage after revi­sions and approval of same). I am looking at: three possible places to start the first of the End of Days books, and two possible places to start the Severn book (the begin­ning that’s there doesn’t quite work for a novel; it would have been fine in a short story), and my creative brain is now starting to be excited rather than cowering in embar­rass­ment.

State of the Author July 2018 edition

I appear to have missed the month of June =/.

This month, I turned in Cast in Oblivion.

I have not turned in First­born yet, but will hope­fully finish it before the end of this month; it was more compli­cated to split the book than I’d orig­i­nally intended, and required a couple of running starts, but I am now on the (new) last chapter. I am very glad that I don’t have to worry about the length of the book, since it was the shorter half of the split. Jody Lee, the cover artist, finished the emer­gency Unplanned Novel cover before I finished the revi­sion >.>. I will share when I can.

I am writing the first Severn novel next, Elantra-wise. The next Cast novel should be about Bellusdeo and the Dragon Court. In theory. Books have a way of starting where I want them to start and turning left. Rapidly. My intent is to write the Severn novel and follow it imme­di­ately with the Cast novel, so the Cast novels should continue at one book a year. I am trying to fit things around that one-book-a-year.

I will move imme­di­ately from First­born into War revi­sions – but they shouldn’t be as compli­cated (cue hollow laugh). Nothing that is currently being written in First­born should have a large effect on War, or the second half, as it currently stands. After which, I will start the Not-Yet-Named first novel of the End of Days arc, which begins in Breo­danir.

It is hot in Toronto. I melt at temper­a­tures greater than 22, and at 22 if I am not sitting still. Whining about heat has almost eclipsed whining about my own incom­pe­tence at revi­sion.

My current reading has been Alan Garner’s non-fiction The Voice That Thun­ders, which has eaten parts of my brain. A collec­tion of essays based on presen­ta­tions, he talks about archae­ology, myth, writing, mental illness. I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but some of what he says resonates with me. Or alter­nately, is very similar to what I have said about writing. Some of it, not so much, but it’s still very inter­esting to me.

How is summer treating everyone else?