the Author

State of the Author: December 2020 edition, plus news

Posted in DAW, writing.

I have been absent for all of November, in part because of revi­sions and in part because of general stress and anxiety. I have copy-edits for Cast in Conflict on my computer now. Copy-edits are the part when I realize: Oh, I’m an idiot. Again.

(If I made no mistakes, if I were compe­tent the first time, I wouldn’t have to deal with … my mistakes. And neither would anyone else. Para­lyzing writer-brain at it’s finest.)

Writing has there­fore been slow. Well, worse than slow. I real­ized, with the new West novel, that I had made a crit­ical error (char­acter intro­duc­tion) and that the book would be much better if I fixed that. Which means, because of my process, losing 110k words of writing and starting again at the end of chapter nine.

I’ve started the next Severn novel about four times. Some writers hate endings, almost all writers hate middles, and some hate begin­nings. I would be the latter =/.

I intend to continue the short stories — but I ran out of steam. We’re once again in a lock­down situ­a­tion, but it’s a partial lock­down compared to the last time. The book­store is still doing curb-side pickup and mail order, which means people have to be in the store to prepare those. So contin­uing with the short stories here prob­ably won’t happen until January =/.

And now for the news portion of this post:


Some of you may remember that I took part in a charity drive for the Pixel Project, on-line. I offered a short story of inde­ter­mi­nate length and allowed the person who paid for that a choice of prompts. The winner chose Severn. As is prob­ably totally clear, the “short story” part failed to be short. I know this will come as a shock to all of you.

I donated a second prompt as well. The second prompt was for an Augus­tine short story, a world that exists only in my short fiction. That did not turn into a novel. But it did turn into a novella that is too long to sell anywhere else (the cap is about 30k, and it was over 50k). For length purposes for awards, anything over 40k is consid­ered a novel.

So… I had a new short novel. 

The drive to write it was due to the charity, and it was – as was the Severn story – long delayed. I did finish it before the Severn story, because when I reached chapter seven of that story, I had to admit that it was not a novella. And a novel required publisher inter­ac­tion, because it’s a new novel, and option clauses exist. 

The Augus­tine story, I finished and sent to the person who donated to the charity (hi, Joey!), and to be honest, I thought that it was the short story I’d be writing when I offered the prompt as a dona­tion incentive.

I then had a short novel in my hands. One the plus side, it was already finished. On the minus side, it was 50k, which is short. But on the plus side, novellas are becoming more main­stream as stand­alone books in the SF/F genre. On the minus side, it was too long for that.

I decided I would make it someone else’s problem, and sent it to my agent.

Of my many novels, I think this is the one that my agent has loved the most.

So. We discussed things, and then sent the novella to DAW, to my editor Sheila Gilbert. And then covid happened. And then various other things happened, as there are always actual publishing emer­gen­cies for editors, because I am not their only author.

But this week DAW made an offer to publish the book. (It will include reprints of the other two stories set in the same world, and we don’t have a title T_T). I have no publi­ca­tion date yet – we’ve yet to discuss that part of the process. 

I know it’s not a tradi­tional West novel, and the West novel will be later because I have to start again at 90k words after revising the begin­ning to better support the tone and texture of the change. But the Augus­tine book is not instead of, and the first book of the last West arc is only late because of me. Again. T_T

And to be honest, I’m kind of excited about this new work. I’m happy to have this published as a book. I know short stories in general don’t get as wide a read­er­ship, so I’m delighted that they’ll be available.

…and now, back to the copy-edits.

35 Responses to State of the Author: December 2020 edition, plus news

  1. hsmyers says:

    As always my book­shelf and kindle stand ready for what­ever comes along! I’d point out that I’ve a partic­ular fond­ness for you shorter work as well. Any of which (or all) I’d be delighted to see turn into novel length work (or even multi-volume work.)

  2. Marcia says:

    Thank you so much for the update. I know I have told you before that I listen to your books over and over. I do this, because I love the world, but I also love that I can do every­thing I need to do and not lose where I am in the story. I can fall asleep now and wake up not feeling like I have missed anything. I can’t wait for the new book to add to my collec­tion and to continue getting lost in the world.
    I also want to thank you for not adding all the relationship/sex to the novels. Sense you have done this I have been able to share these books with my chil­dren. My 14 year old has been listening for a few years now and we discuss parts of the books. It’s so nice to have the open dialog and your books help keep it that way. I know that a lot of readers want more romance or other complain about how they feel Kaylin isn’t growing enough. I person­ally love it. I think people forget that there isn’t much time between books. As a result we actu­ally get to see/hear how Kaylin is growing. How the world is effecting her and her opin­ions. My 4 year old was named after Kaylin. To me how Kaylin acts and how she is growing fits perfectly with her back­ground and what’s she wants. She is growing and it’s so nice to see this.
    Sorry I started to ramble. Thank you for your wonderful books and the update. I hope you have a great month and take some time for yourself.

  3. Thomas Wiegand says:

    I hate to say it’s only writing that has kept you silent but I’m glad to say that it is only writing nothing worse with you or the family. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to visit this year but, you know why. I will be up approx­i­mately one month after the border opens. I want to give everyone time to figure this stuff out and be sure we’re all safe. I will gladly accept any reasons you have for slower than normal produc­tion. The product is always worth the wait. Stay safe, be well.

  4. Bobbi says:

    Always just love your books and the char­ac­ters and the worlds you create! Keep up the good work. We are in very “unusual” times and I think it is good for the world to slow down a little — take time to smell the roses as they say — I am certainly trying to.

  5. My hat is off to you for dealing with copy edits as frequently as you do. Copy edits and page proofs (which often happen at the same time for acad­emic authors) terrify the hell out of me and give me massive anxiety attacks. Last chance to fix things before my stupidity is immor­tal­ized for all eternity!

  6. Hannah A. says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented here, but I adore your books. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Jewel and Kaylin’s stories (and I’ve even gotten my husband to read the Cast series too). I know you apol­o­gize for being late in finishing your books, but I have to say you’re one of the most consis­tent authors I follow in getting new books out and it’s awesome! Thanks so much for contin­uing to write despite anxiety and current covid circum­stances, and I can’t wait to read your next book(whenever it comes :) )!

  7. Thanks for the update (more books is always good, no matter when). I hope you and your family (specially sweet greet­ings to your husband who listened to me so patiently at Loncon) will have a good holiday and New Year and health to all of you (at the Book­store, too).
    We’re doing pretty okay over here so far.

  8. Stephen P Engel says:

    Michelle, if you wrote with no mistakes or delays, as in being perfect, you would not be human. Then we, your faithful loving readers, would be very sad and disap­pointed because the best writer alive would have been trans­ported directly to heaven.

  9. DeDe says:

    Augus­tine!!! Thanks Michelle! (and thanks to Joey! )

  10. Debbie Matsuura says:

    Oh YAY for a new Augus­tine story!!! I can’t wait!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    After reading Server­rn’s book, I began a reread/relisten to the Chron­i­cles of Elantra. I so appre­ciate these books!
    I too love your shirt stories,

  12. Mary Allen says:

    I too am glad your absence wasn’t due to illness or other prob­lems. I have already reread Emper­or’s Wolves three times and just read the whole Sun Sword Series and started at Skir­mish to reread the House War Books. I think I need to take a book binding class to preserve my Sun Sword books or they are going to wear out. Thanks for hours of plea­sure and escape in 2020. I am anxious for the next Cast book so glad it is finished.

  13. michelle says:

    @hsmyers: I thought about expanding the novella so that it would be an actual novel… but I’m not good at that because to me the story itself is complete. So I’d have to add things that clearly weren’t neces­sary or it wouldn’t be complete as-is.

    But, I admit there is one more that I do want to write :)

  14. michelle says:

    @Marcia: thank you for sharing that :). (In our house, the one author that was cross-gener­a­tion was Terry Pratchett.)

    @Thomas: when it’s safe, we’ll be delighted to see in store again!

    @Leanne: That’s *exactly* how I feel about page proofs and copy-edits =/.

  15. Andrea says:

    Thanks for the update. I’m curious, do you really lose all 110k words. Am I the only one thinking, why don’t they get worked back into the story? I’d morn the loss😢

  16. Joey says:

    YAY! I love the world of Augus­tine so much! Part of what I liked about the first two stories was how they provided glimpses into the rest of the world as well as tanta­lized with mysteries. 

    (I suspect if the item had been an auction rather than a “donate for it now” I might’ve been the winner, but I was slow when donor perks went live. I think it worked out okay and I appre­ciate your flex­i­bility and will­ing­ness. I’m sure the Pixel Project was fine with how it worked out.)

  17. br60103 says:

    Which are the Augu­sine stories?

  18. michelle says:

    @Stephen: I tell other authors that no book is ever perfect the first time out. I absolutely, viscer­ally believe that. But… I can’t always feel that way about my own work =/. And, to be fair, most writers struggle with exactly the same reac­tions at different points in their books. 

    @DeDe: people who’ve read the stories like them. Tanya Huff wrote the intro­duc­tion to the small Cana­dian anthology the second story was published in. She phoned me after reading mine and said “stop what­ever you’re doing and write more of this Right Now.” (I said, “sure. I’ll just phone our mutual editor and tell her the book that’s due has to be put aside, shall I?”)

    @Elizabeth: A lot of people seem to have done that. On the one hand, Yay! Cast readers liked the Severn book! On the other hand… does this mean that non-cast readers won’t get very much out of it? Writers can be very anxious.

    @Mary: Our health in the West house­hold has been good. 2020 has been hard on everyone, though, so there’s a bit of fraying around the edges. For the most part it’s the usual: writing is not going well, and I retreat from the world because I have no good news to share.

  19. michelle says:

    @Andrea: I will lose 110k words.

    The reason is this: I am removing one char­acter who is plot impor­tant and replacing him with a different char­acter. Plot and char­acter are essen­tially the same thing, in my process. So the choices the char­acter will make will shift the direc­tion of the plot in ways I can’t completely predict until I write them. Attempting to fit what happened in those 110k words with a different cast of char­ac­ters just… stran­gles the book for me.

    Other writers could manage it magnif­i­cently; it’s not in any way meant to be a value judge­ment. It’s just the way my writing process has always worked.

    @Joey: Yes — I was surprised by that, and had already begun to beat my head against the nearest wall for an Augus­tine story. I do have an idea or two for another, but these ones are hard in a way that is entirely unlike novel writing.

    @br60103: The first one was published in a DAW anthology, Appren­tice Fantastic as, I think, “The Augus­tine Painters”; the second was published in a Cana­dian anthology as “The Colors of Augus­tine”. It was much longer than the first. The third has never been published anywhere and is… much longer than either of the two that preceded it. 

    So, the first and second stories will be reprinted along­side the new one.

  20. Tchula says:

    I’m really happy to soon be able to read another story set in the Augus­tine Painter’s world! I’ll defi­nitely pick up the 3 story collec­tion when it becomes avail­able. I have the other two stories in the antholo­gies, but it’s always nice to have them all together in one book!

    I’m sorry you had to lose all those words in your West novel. I’m sure it was frus­trating and tough to redo all that work, but you are doing what the book needs, and all of your fans appre­ciate it and will wait for your vision of the novel to be ready. Good luck, and I’m glad to hear that you are all well!

  21. michelle says:

    @Tchula: No, the frus­trating and tough part still hasn’t been done, and it’s why this book will be Even Later T_T

  22. Mary Allen says:

    Like the Sigurne scenes that never made it in to Oracle. Will you put the words you cut out on the blog? It pains me that your words and effort will not see the light of day.

  23. michelle says:

    @Mary Allen: The thing about Sigurne’s 25k+ words was that those words were – on the inside of my head – entirely canon­ical. I cut them because it was so long in the context in which it had started that it broke the flow of the actual conflict it was placed in.

    If I hadn’t been caught so strongly in the flow of that flash­back, it would have been much shorter and it wouldn’t have been so out of place; I know that authors are often told not to use flash­backs, but… the flash­back is some­thing I’ve used since the very first published novel; it’s how my brain processes backstory.

    The 110k is not canon­ical in the same way — it can’t be. There *are* flash­backs, and those are canon­ical — but most of the 110k words are written in the “present”; they’re things that won’t/can’t happen because they involve a char­acter who will no longer be in the story yet.

  24. Mary Allen says:

    Thank you for replying. I so enjoy your books. I am quite anxious for the Burning Crown series as I want to see Kiriel and Lord Isladar again.

  25. Agustine says:

    Michelle, ANY books (be it short novels, novellas, long novels, name it) that you write, I’ll be more than delighted to read and collect them. I’m excited to hear about the Augus­tine short stories and am looking forward to it, I didn’t get the 1st and 2nd, but am happy to hear that I will be reading all 3 of them when you get it ready. Yayy!! =DD

    My phys­ical Severn book from Bookde­pos­i­tory (sadly) has not yet arrived in my doorstep up until now, though I’ve purchased it last October 2020; it seems that it has gone missing some­where in the delivery process and I can’t track it down. I’ve contacted Bookde­pos­i­tory and they have been so kind to have another book sent, as requested. This was in early December 2020, and this might get lost as well, since it’s almost mid January 2021 and I haven’t seen any of those 2 books. I’m unhappy because of this, because I do want to add it to my West book collec­tion, and Severn IS my favorite char­acter so far in the Cast series. <> I hope a miracle happen for this (crossing my fingers). >.<

    By the by, Happy (belated) New Year 2021 to you, and may we have a much better year ahead. My town is on another semi-lock­down starting yesterday, until 14 days ahead. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay blessed! =)


  26. Eva says:

    I am an audio­book reader by pref­er­ence. I was so excited to listen to the first three books of my favorite Sunsword series. I keep checking with Tantor Media to look for more but I don’t see any sched­uled. I wrote and asked them to complete this series in audio­book. Do you know anything you could share about books 4 – 7 (which is the one I am really waiting for)?

  27. br60103 says:

    I just found Appren­tice Fantastic on a shelf behind a row of other books.
    I will get on to it directly … after I finish the other series I’m reading.

  28. Mary Grove says:

    Am I the only reader who hears Michelle say, “I’ll have to lose 110K words” and thinks, “No! I’ll buy both books, just let me read those words!”

  29. Peter Ebbesen says:

    @Mary Grove
    Prob­ably not, but at least in my quest I’d want to know just how many of those words were “stupid” or “boring” before making such a claim. I read enough of those two to last a life­time when reading the second half of House War.

  30. Hanneke says:

    Michelle, it’s been three months since this update. One is normal, two is not unusual when you’re busy or over­whelmed, three is starting to worry me.
    Are you alright, just very busy writing and editing?
    Anything your grateful readers can help with?

  31. emile666 says:

    I strongly second Hanneke’s comment!

  32. Mary Allen says:

    Me three. I am hoping you and your family are well.

  33. Karen Hamilton says:

    Me, too. Hope all is well with you and your family.

  34. Kathy S. says:

    We’re now into April. I’m with Hanneke. I hope all is well. What­ever is bogging your life down, I hope you’re able to resolve it.

  35. Agustine says:

    Michelle, i hope all is well on your side. Take care n best wishes from Indonesia. =)

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