State of the Author, April 2017 (late)

Posted in writing.

April’s end was all about taxes. Taxes, taxes, more taxes. I filed my fiscal 2016 taxes on the 29th of April (due 30th). Yesterday I filed my HST 2016 report (due June/2017), and I am officially done with taxes until the same time next year.

Before taxes consumed four days of my life, I finished Cast in Deception.

HOWEVER… when I say I’m finished, what it means is, I’ve figuratively typed “the end”. I have gone from page one to page 500+. When my editor says I’m finished, it means an entirely different thing.

When I say I submitted Cast in Deception (which has not happened yet), it means that, having typed “the end”, I have started at the beginning again. I have revised the first draft, and in theory caught all of the small mistakes that I made while trying to get to the end. I have finished, but not submitted.

Preparing the manuscript for submission is what I have been doing since before taxes, and have been doing after.

So: I have not yet started on the Severn story; I need to submit this manuscript to my editor, where it will be her problem, not mine, for a few weeks.

Elsewhere I have said that my worry-brain and my story-brain are the same thing. This is not true of all writers; there are some writers who actually write better when real life is causing huge stress, because writing becomes a de facto shelter, a place that is safer. I would love to be that writer, but our processes are unique, and our own.

I wrote the first half of Cast in Deception in a state of extreme stress–and O.M.G. it shows. I have never made so many scene-blocking errors in my entire career as I did in these ten chapters, I swear. By scene blocking, I mean: I have two characters standing outside a room waiting for back-up, and then – in the next scene – they are in the room, without back-up. It’s not the larger picture, but the smaller picture. I can’t hold entire books in my head at the best of times – but I have never had a problem holding a mere one thousand words in my head, before. So: now I am fixing those, and shaking my head at #pastme. There may be swearing at #pastme, as well.

I have added 20k War words during April as well, but as often happens when I hit the end stretch of a book, I had to put War aside. (Endings eat my brain. In a good way.) I have hope that I will be finished War by the end of June (I think it’s 70k words to the end).

35 Responses to State of the Author, April 2017 (late)

  1. I am sorry to hear you were under such great stress. I admire your courage in admitting to mistakes, and your perseverance in fixing them. Take the time you need for your own well-being, too.

  2. Derek Adams says:

    Gosh. I can’t wait to read War and at the same time I just don’t want it to end. EVER. Jewel has been a part of my life for almost 2 decades, yeah? So many mixed emotions. I can only imagine what you must be going through with this, Michelle!

  3. Kel says:

    Sounds like stress… but I’m glad your taxes are done. Also, pleased that the latest Cast is the-end-ed and on the way to submitted. (It’s selfish, but I love the series… and am always happy to gush at soon-to-be-converts that there’s another one coming.)

    Take time for whatever you need to take time for. Who cares what other people’s processes are – they don’t write what you do. :)

  4. @Laura I think it’s not so much about courage as it is about being realistic, if that makes sense? I know that a number of my readers are also writers – and every writer I know makes mistakes in first draft. The type of mistake is absolutely individual to the writer – but we all do it.

    And then we try to fix those mistakes. Some writers, once they realize they’ve made a mistake, will go back immediately to fix it; they can’t move forward if they know things aren’t solid. Others will make a note, and continue, reasoning that it’s better to have the whole structural shape of the story laid out before they start.

    The stress – for me – is the absolute terror that I will miss something. But… if I had to be perfect the first time out the gate – in any endeavor in my entire life – I would probably literally never try to achieve anything, ever. I would never have submitted my first novel.

    Failure is kind of the by-product of trying new things. It’s not inevitable, exactly, but the more you try, the more you fail, just by law of averages.

  5. hsmyers says:

    Deep sympathy regards vexatious taxation time! I was required for years to file quarterly until I asked my accountant (quarterly and accountant go together) what would happen if I stopped. He said that the IRS would slap a fine on me. I asked ‘how much?’ he said some surprisingly small figure. I did the mental math and noticed the fine was less than the accountant’s fee—I thanked him and never filed quarterly again.

  6. That’s really interesting about your worry brain and your story brain. I’ve never thought about it that way and next time I’m super worried I’ll see how creative I am. Thanks for sharing that and can’t wait for Deception and War

  7. hsmyers says:

    Am hoping for word over run on War BTW—say enough for a tasty two volume set? Now if only there was a stress free way for you to accomplish that *sigh*…

  8. kirsten says:

    I was wondering if you’d be willing to share a “before and after” of a scene you rewrote? And explain what you did and why? It would be awesome to see the writer’s mind in progress.

    If you don’t want to, that’s ok too :)

  9. Debbie H says:

    Hope you have time to relax now that taxes are done. Really looking forward to Cast In Deception and War. Every time a new book is coming out I re-read entire series. Always find something new. I really love your worlds. Thanks for many hours of immersion in imagination.

  10. Nova says:

    Yay for getting done with taxes! I absolutely adore the Cast novels so I’m stoked to hear that another story in that universe is, at the very least, figuratively finished and will soon(ish) be making its way to my bookshelf. I’m sorry that you’ve been stress-writing, hopefully revising will be less stressful? As always, thank you for giving us wonderful worlds to escape into.

  11. Zia says:

    Taxes are never enjoyable, but I am glad Cast in Deception is finished in a sense both because that means eventually I’ll get to read it, and because that hopefully lessens some of your stress – even if just for a handful of hours.

    I’m also looking forward to War and I can only imagine what the end of a series (even if it’s not the end within the world) can mean to the person who has created it.

    Thanks for taking the time to update us! And, as always, thank you for writing.

  12. Chris G. says:

    Congrats on the taxes, and finishing the first round on Cast in Deception!

    As far as War goes, is that the final volume in the House War series, or is it still uncertain, or unrevealed? Thanks. :)

  13. Jo-Ann Ellen Croft says:

    I am extremely happy to hear that War is not the end of the series. I have been reading your novels in this series since the duology came out and, hopefully will be reading them for many more years. I love the detail and characterizations. I also like the flow of your stories.

    If War is submitted this year, then possible publication next year. Time to start rereading all the books again. Luckily I now have them all in e-book form so I can keep reading anywhere.

    Watch the stress levels. We don’t want you to get ill.

  14. cricqket says:

    Another Elantra book. SQUEE. Ok, I’m better now. I started on The House War” books a couple years ago, but some of them were available via audiobook but some weren’t and with “The Sun Sword” books mixed in without audiobooks, I decided to wait on those so I can hopefully enjoy them all once their on audio. “The Chronicles of Elantra” is one of my favorite series though.

    Glad you got your taxes done with. They can be such a pain.

  15. Joyce Ronquillo says:

    I’m sending soothing, healing vibes your way so Cast in Deception moves smoothly and quickly through the finishing stages. I get a bit impatient. Not with you but with the whole process. I have a friend who has been suffering the pains of having her first novel accepted and being dissected by strangers. Be kind to *pastyou, she tries even under stress.

  16. Tchula says:

    Congrats on finishing Cast in Deception! I’m so glad you sound like you’re in a better, less stressful frame of mind these days. Especially now that taxes are done, too! Here’s hoping the final 70K or so words for War come easily. I forget, but is the working title for the next part of the series still called Black Gauntlet?

    Summer will be here soon; I hope you get to take a nice vacation and relax for a bit. ;-)

  17. Kitiara Aerin Green says:

    @Michelle. How many books are fans allowed to ask to have signed? I have never been to a convention and tho o may sound silly your my hero and your elantra series have been a huge influence and your blog has been an inspiration to me as a writer.

  18. @Joyce: My alpha reader said the thing that most surprised him about writing novels for publication was the amount of time I spent not-writing. There were revisions. (Editorial letters give you the editor’s view on what needs to be strengthened, made clearer, etc.). There were the line-edits, the copy-edits, the page-proofs (proof-reading and catching the things that everyone missed in every other iteration).

    The thing that it helps to remember is that the editor wants your book to succeed; she wants it to be the best book it can possibly be. This is not, when there are fundamental disagreements, always clear =/.

    But: grats to her!

  19. kitiara aerin green says:

    @Michelle. Thank yiu so much! I dont know if you ever read anne mccaffrey but she was another hero of mine and if she had lived i had dreamed of seeing her comments on my hopefully publisjed books. And of meeting her and telling her how importanf she was to me. Youve been such an inspiration to me as a writer and a woman and your my hero everyone i know says kaylin is my twin and honestly she is especially in what barren did to her. I really honestly cannot wait to meet you and have my dream of seeing you and having you sign the elantra series for me. I own every book whether i bought or begged people for them thats how importang they are to me. I eat sleep and breathe books lol. My husband is alrwady groaning over my eager excitement for when cast in deception can be pre-ordered. Since im a fulltime college student struggling to pay my way through a masters in celtic history/mythology, a secondary major/ bachelors im ancient history specification ancient Asia, a minor in horse training and breeding a minor in international affairs and a minor in creative writing to help me as a writer. Needless to say i plan to finish school back home in Scotland when i move back from the USA but paying my way through school makes bills rough and your books hard to get bit vit for me. Your books and blog reallh get me through and have helped me grow. Whenever your feeling down just think how much of a hero you are to some of us. I cant wait for october!

  20. Taen Hardy says:

    Taxes are such a misery! I can only imagine the effort involved to complete the House War arc alongside all of your other excellent works. I hope the stress lessens soon!

    I must confess how eagerly I anticipate War, not just for the conclusion of Jewel’s journey to the Oracle, but because then we will be heading back to the South.

    The Sun Sword series is my favourite fantasy series, and always alive in my mind, having read and re-read it over and over again.. it’s compelling and heartbreaking!

  21. Julianne Single says:

    Ah taxes. I swore this year they would be done early. Of course what actually happened was they got filed April 17th, due the 18th. At least I got a refund which I’ve been dreaming of how to spend. Until last night when I got home from work to find water over half the basement because it was pouring out the top of the water heater (maybe there was an angry water elemental trying to communicate? )

    Dad came over and said that water isn’t supposed to come out the chimney (thanks dad)

    One emergency trip to Home Depot and $770 for a new heater and various mysterious accessories later and I can safely say that my refund is gone, I’ll maybe have hot water later today thanks to Dad’s mechanical genius. I think Dad enjoyed HIS Friday night. He will also more or less enjoy his Saturday too. Even if the new heater doesn’t quite fit where the old one does. And he will somehow do this without cursing.

    I do hope your stressors settle down however, Michelle. And I am very much looking forward to Cast in Deception. I am new this year to the Chronicles of Elantra and fell pretty much immediately in love Kaylin. Not because she is kick butt in a fight (tho that’s great in a genre where the average idea of a Strong female character is one there to support a romantic relationship with the male ones) but because, to me, she’s real. The words Severn uses in Chaos pretty much sum up how I love the character too.

    I love also that she doesn’t just undergo a vague training sequence the first book or two going from poor uneducated street orphan to wise and skilled and heroic, but remains true to herself, resisting at times when change feels pointless to her (I mean seriously who needs more than one damn fork, or spoon or sheesh… spork…) or changing when needed but feeling guilty about being wrong in the past.

    Yeah, I’d like to see her finally get that damn promotion but I also would rather she, and the characters around her that I love not morph into something unrecognizable. I love that the characters around her are more like a bunch of fractious aunts, uncles, siblings and even in laws who don’t just follow Kaylin around in blind worship, they protect her, tolerate her, try to nurture her and when that fails because… Kaylin, they growl at her or get angry with her or mostly for her. And generally let her muddle along.

    Lastly, can I mention Hope? For someone highly allergic to cats, Michelle, you have the contrary nature of them wrapped up in translucent wings. Because yes, cats are loving and loyal but they are assholes too. My cat, Dragon (yes, I have a cat named Dragon and there is nothing better than Dragon purr) likes to steal my pillow and sleep on my head. His brother Sammy is content to snuggle up next to me, next to me being half on top of me, generally on my face. I can count on them to greet me at the door every night begging for dinner, even despite angry water elementals in the basement sounding like a waterfall. They knock things down (can’t own knick knacks) and steal my socks but I love them anyway.

    So really looking forward to the next installment of the series, hoping life treats you better Michelle though without stress it is said in medicine we would not get out of bed so there is that, though some days I wish I’d stayed in mine. I hear cursing in Leontine can make you feel better. Barrani too but I’m afraid I don’t know any useful words. Take care, and watch out for angry water elementals, they can make a mess in the basement.

  22. Jeff Jensen says:

    Glad to hear the progress on the books – looking forward to finding out what happens next! To echo a previous comment, what’s next after War?

  23. @Taen: Thank you :). Yes, I will be returning to the South–but I *think*, at this point, I actually move far to the west first, into Hunter territory…

    @Jeff: End of Days arc, which I have been calling The Black Gauntlet. It’s the last arc in this universe.

    @Julianne: Thank you :). Kaylin is young – and I see her as young. So heroic and wise is kind of off in the distance. But…I believe that wisdom is actually two things: making mistakes and learning what you need to learn from them not to make the same mistakes again. When we’re young, I think the best we can hope for is that we have the courage to make all new, different mistakes.

    In some ways, Kaylin learns from her mistakes more readily *because* her early life was so much of a mess. She lost nothing she needed to stand on, nothing that anchored her life, if she had to reconsider what she knew, had to change her mind, if that makes sense.

  24. Alan says:


    Short stories that are leaping at me while I reread the house war series:

    A & a Handernesse learning the importance of from hectore, with a wandering walk through the city. Possibly with tree climbing and catching.

    Alowan or Levec’s first day in the house of healing.

    Aphaniel teaches first years, meets Evayne?

    A story on farmer Hansen’s farm.

    What a wonderful rich world this is.

  25. @Michelle,

    Yay: taxes being done. Boo: taxes.

    I am very much looking forward to “War” and “Deception”.

    With “War”, I am a bit sad to see this aspect of the house series come to a close, but I also realize there is no way the overall series is done as there is too much going on in North, South, and Cities of Man (Yes, the “Cities or Man” are in the “South”, but are they really of the “South” or is the “South” of them?). I expect we will find out as the story continues.

    Even better is there does not appear to be an end for the “Cast in” series. Each new book is a wonderful adventure. In whatever Kaylin does, sometimes I cringe, sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I cheer, but I always enjoy the story and always check to see if maybe some of the book was accidentally lost as they always feel to be a couple hundred pages short. Yes, I do not desire to put the books down and want them to go on for a bit.

    Thank you for the wonderful tapestries of words woven by you and shared with all of us.

  26. Jay says:

    So out of curiosity I’m wondering if the reason for deception being in the title is that between Hellen and Hope implying Neya was in control of the changes coming from her shadow tattoos and she hasn’t come to terms with being chosen is part of her and capable of driving the change with her subconscious. Not that I expect an answer that would constitute a spoiler

  27. Tim Horton says:

    I love your books ,I’m so glad that the series didn’t end with cast in Flight, (not sure where I read that) anyway, Please Please stop making her seem so weak( book 1, she almost kills the dragon by her self and still remembers magic from when she was 13Y/O, (burning the doors to ash.)
    The short story about when she was young and lost her temper,
    that was a great story, when you let her be more of a warrior it makes a much better book,
    saving people is great but it gets kind of old after a while, and in C I F
    she didn’t even use hardly any magic and you had her practically hiding behind Moran.
    Don’t you think it’s time to have the shadow change her after Hope
    and the devourer make sure it can only be for the better like changing into a dragon when she wants to or the woman with wings that Tara first showed her and told her it was a possibility,
    and she needs to figure out when she can heal herself like she’s starting to do that makes her almost immortal.
    I’m not going to stop buying your books, but please make her more of
    a badass.

  28. Darbie Ferrara-mathys says:

    Hate to ask but after War how many books do u envision until the end???

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