the Author

State of the Writer, December 2013 edition

Posted in writing, Cast, Elantra, Luna.

This was supposed to be a post at the end of November, but November kind of got away from me, in the sense that a book was due at the end of it and it was not finished yet.

But it is now December, and the book is finished, so I am allowed to post. Or sleep. Or both, although it’s harder to watch what I say when I’m sleeping. I am behind on email. I am behind on tumblr. I am behind on face­book. I will be behind on twitter as of tomorrow. I am about a week’s worth of words behind on Oracle.

But: I am finished Cast in Flame.

November was largely one small first world crisis after another (things like: washing machine dying), with writing wedged in between moments of “OMG can’t any of this wait until December???”. And bonus shrieking. 

I was very happy when I had 80K words of Cast in Flame because I was certain the book would only be 120K words long (which is gener­ally consid­ered long in today’s market). I was wrong. Again. The ending got kind of compli­cated. It’s easy to think “and then (elided) will happen, and then it will be over!”. Gener­ally it takes more words than that to actu­ally write the (elided) section.

So the book I was certain would be finished by 30 November wasn’t finished by 30 November. Appar­ently, according to Amazon & B&N, the book’s On Sale date is the 29th of July, 2014. And no, there is no cover art. Or if there is, I haven’t seen it yet :).

I have also been – except for the last “OMG IT’S DECEMBER!!!” week, been working on Oracle. It’s not finished. I think it will be finished in three months – but I have no publi­ca­tion date for it, yet. Because it’s not done. I mentioned I’m a week behind in Oracle words. I have diffi­culty working on two projects simul­ta­ne­ously at the end of a novel. So the first writing thing I want to do is catch up on those words. 

After which I will start Grave

I’ve also written a book review column for F&SF.

I haven’t done much of anything else. At all. And no, I have not even started Christmas shopping.

I feel as if I am always strug­gling to catch up. I often think if I were more focused or better at orga­ni­za­tion, I would never fall behind. Or if I had a more real­istic idea of how long things would actu­ally take. It’s not like I haven’t been doing this for two decades now. And, to be fair to myself, until Touch, I was in a good writing space. But Touch, being what we affec­tion­ately refer to as a book from hell in my writers’ circles (the unaf­fec­tionate refer­ences being NSFW), knocked every­thing off the table, and I have been trying to pick up all of the things that fell and return them to their proper places.

But: when I’m writing actual book words, when I’m writing and things I’ve been strug­gling to keep in the air finally fall into place, I love writing. And in spite of all the whining, that hasn’t changed.

50 Responses to State of the Writer, December 2013 edition

  1. Zia says:

    Congrats on finishing Cast in Flame! Look forward to picking up Touch in January as well (since that is closer than July). 

    Here’s hoping Oracle goes smoothly from here on out for you!

    And thank you for taking out time to post an update here.

  2. Hugh Myers says:

    But you whine so well! And since you occa­sion­ally do it in writing, I can truth­fully say that you whine as well as you write. For which same I am incred­ibly grateful. Take care and carry on!

  3. I try to do a once monthly posting, but — some­times, I’m too embar­rassed. And I didn’t want to post this until I could say Cast in Flame was finished.

    I used to think that people would have no interest in posts that amounted to “still writing”, so I’d confine myself to posts like: publi­ca­tion dates. Or cover art. Or new book contracts.

    But people would some­times worry because I’d disap­peared (which I do when writing is not going well), and I found that people were not getting frus­trated or angry at the “still writing” posts, so now I try to do them at least once a month (and frequently fail).

  4. Zia says:

    Any update is fine with me :) Besides ‘still writing’ means I still have some­thing amazing to look forward to and it is always worth the wait so just the knowl­edge it’s still coming is a wonderful feeling. 

    And I swear you have the best timing. I had a horrible day today so getting a noti­fi­ca­tion that you had posted here made every­thing that added to my bad day seem insignif­i­cant — so I want to thank you for that as well.

  5. Shrikant Trivedi says:

    Michelle, I read some­where that the House War series ends with an as yet unpub­lished tome called “War”. Is that true ? When is it out ?

  6. War is now actu­ally two volumes >.<. The first is Oracle, which is not yet finished, and there­fore not published; the second is War which is not yet finished, umm, and not yet started because it’s the second half.

  7. Chris G. says:

    I often think if I were more focused or better at orga­ni­zation, I would never fall behind.”

    Speaking as an internet commenter who has never met you (so y’know, take this with some large containers of salt). My humble theory is that if you were better at those things then maybe you’d be less better at world-building or char­ac­ter­i­za­tion or some other much more impor­tant artistic trait for which we are very grateful. So, neces­sary trade-off. 

    Also, there are writers who take 5+ years between books. And in the last 5 years you’ve had 10 books published. And a novella. And if we say 5 years and a month and a half we can fit Cast in Fury in there too. How many other Fantasy authors have that sort of productivity? 

    All right, I’m guessing that this sort of analysis isn’t what you were looking for, so I’m shut­ting up now. But thanks once again for letting us know you’re status. Hope that you can manage to fit in some quality time with your friends and family (the ones outside of your books) and enjoy life at least a little more now that Flame is finished.

  8. Chris G. says:

    I meant “your” not “you’re” in the second line of the 3rd para­graph of course. Darn.

  9. Kel says:

    I don’t know about the rest of the people here, but “still writing” is a perfectly valid post… also reas­suring, and reason for a small happy-dance in my universe. (I’m gener­ally too busy trying to read and walk at the same time when the books are actu­ally released, so the happy dances have to occur at other points in the process.)

    Also “Yay!” to being done with Cast in Flame. (And thank you for taking the time out of what sounds like a crazy schedule for the update to let us cele­brate with you. Don’t forget to breathe, every­thing else is optional.)

  10. Debbie Holcomb says:

    Thank you for posting that Cast in Flame is finished. I am so looking forward to reading it. I am in the process of re-reading the Cast Series. It is my very favorite. As a vora­cious reader I want to say heck with every­thing else, keep writing, but I don’t want to be that selfish. Take time to enjoy life so the writing with be a joy and not a burden. I really appre­ciate all you hard work and look forward to enjoying the fruits of you labor. I hope you have a happy Christmas.

  11. Yay for finished book, yay for update and I wish you some breather some­where in the holiday madness and a nice refreshing what­ever-refreshes-you body and soul in the near future ^^
    I am another reader just happy to know you’re doing your thing.

  12. controuble says:

    Always happy to see a post — any post — from you :)
    That Cast in Flame is done is great news. If it makes the pub date Amazon says, I will be ecstatic. Finished by you means it still has to go through editor, revi­sions (maybe), copy-edits and page-proofs. Hope­fully without inter­fering too much with Oracle and/or Grave.

    It was wonderful seeing you in San Antonio and getting to meet your husband.

  13. hawkwinglb says:

    Good luck with everything.

  14. Roz says:

    I think your novels always take longer than expected for several reasons: first, novels just do. But your work is extra­or­di­narily complex and engulfing – so much so that I can’t read it within a month of writing anything of my own. or I fall silent! So of course it would take longer. Plus, I suspect, your char­ac­ters are willful and insist that events unfold in a partic­ular way – demands which would add plot spirals and length (and time). As a reader, I’m just grateful that you devote your­self to this work so faith­fully, however long it takes.

  15. Rita says:

    Thank you so much for taking time to update. I’m ecstatic that there will be two more books for the ‘House’ series, and just over the top that ‘Cast in Flame’ is coming soon. I’m also sad at the same time because series are ending :( I greatly appre­ciate your sacri­fices for our benefit and promise to purchase and read every­thing you ever write. Happy Holi­days to you, your family and your support teams.

  16. Argentum says:

    Thanks for the update! As a long time fan and aspiring writer, it’s great to hear how organ­i­cally the stories of an admired author evolve. I’m some­times tempted to think I’m doing it wrong if I deviate from my outline — then I remember that you were surprised by Diora and Margaret’s friend­ship. It’s equally encour­aging to hear things like “the ending got kind of compli­cated”. I’m looking forward to all your new books.

  17. Olivia says:

    Hi, first time commenter here!

    Im so glad to hear that you have finished Cast in Flame!! Ive recently fallen madly in love with the Elantra/Cast series and have been prac­ti­cally throwing the books at anyone who will talk to me long enough for me to do so, haha.

    Love your little updates you post here! I will surely be tuning in more often to see what’s up!

  18. Arkenian says:

    Glad to hear Cast in Flame is done! Speaking only for myself, I also like ‘still writing posts’ if its been a while. Because, you know, it is reas­suring to know this. I certainly under­stand that one can be working on some­thing and not, neces­sarily, making as much progress towards comple­tion as one might like, but at least then we know that you remain well and writing, as opposed to the many other things that can happen to authors. 

    Also, while we are on the topic. Let me please add, even with your very occa­sional and very small delays (as opposed to some authors in the fantasy commu­nity who need not be named) I DEEPLY appre­ciate your quite prolific approach to writing which gives me new good books to read (and an excuse to re-read old ones!) on a regular basis. I like to re-read the entire series every time a new book is published, so you alone keep me enter­tained quite a few weeks a year (except for the days I’m actu­ally reading the new one … that’s all too often only one night with leave taken the next morning. My boss would prob­ably appre­ciate it if you stopped releasing books except on Fridays and Saturdays.)

  19. Tad says:

    Still writing…”

    To a writer, these words can mean many different things, oftimes all at once. Worlds to build, char­ac­ters to develop, plot-holes to fill, conti­nuity to be aware of — these are the aspects of writing which you pour your­self into, trying to find the ‑right- words to set to the story, and which bring your stories to life.

    Still writing…”

    Dead­lines to keep, word budget targets, dead­lines missed, sched­ules awry — these are the aspects of writing which lead to stress, much pulling of hair, gnashing of teeth, angst and despair. These are oftimes the words which ‑prevent- your stories from reaching your readers, because they’re not finished, not fully devel­oped, not complete as yet.

    Still writing…”

    These are the words which are as music to our ears, because they mean there are still ‑more- words to be read, more stories to share, more moments with char­ac­ters beloved and bereft. You share them with us, and we share them with each other, time after time, again and again. For, as with best of friends, we return to them over and over, to find comfort and joy and to relive the wonder… just as it was, the first time.

    Still reading…”

  20. David Y says:

    The occa­sional post that says “There will be even more of this book than I said” will not be objected too.

    And for those of us that know you, not unexpected.

  21. Michael says:

    Here here!

    And good luck to you, Michelle.

  22. Don’t shut up on my account :). The thing is: I have no life. I kind of wake up in the morning, and I (try to) write. I read. I read books & manga. I saw 2 movies last year, in any medium. 

    I would imagine that other authors are more heavily involved in other aspects of life, and those take time. I have 2 almost grown sons, and I haven’t replaced child-time with anything but writing time.

  23. I am currently, now that the book is finished, giving myself two days to do neces­sary (ugh) HST tax filings for 2011 and 2012. I’m very much looking forward to Christmas, here :)

  24. It was lovely to see you again, too!

  25. I do this with Guy Kay, and with a couple of other writers — except I don’t so much fall silent as…write in entirely the wrong voice. So it’s hard to carve out the time to read those books – and I love them =/.

  26. I started out with my very first novel trying to write from an outline. Because I was told that this is how books were written. 

    But after every single writing day I would have to spend time changing the outline. Every. Single. Day. So I even­tu­ally thought: I’m spending more time reout­lining this book than I am following the outline (clearly); maybe it’s time to put the outline away.

    I write toward the end; the end resonates throughout the book for me. But the char­ac­ters and their inter­ac­tions gener­ally take the story in direc­tions I didn’t plan on – and then I either force them to conform to the outline, or let them go. I’ve chosen to let them go, because in some ways, the plot *is* their story. 

    But (so many buts!): no two writers work the same way, ever. We all have our own ways of making and reaching story, and the only thing that matters is that you find a way to tell the stories you have to tell. Your way and my way won’t be the same; your way and any other author’s way won’t be the same — but that sort of makes sense because we all have different stories to tell.

  27. Welcome :)

    I do the push-books-at-friends thing as well – but not with mine >.> Writers always see the flaws in their own works too clearly >.<

  28. kscappace says:

    I’ve learned not to panic when you don’t post for awhile. I’m pretty sure you’re tired of reading “Thank God you’re alive!”

    So anyway, as another poster said, I’ve been re-reading some of the older Elantran novels and I came across a scene in Cast in Chaos where Evanton was working on a cloak for Kaylin. I realize that Kaylin has not had a chance to get back to Elani Street or to see Evanton but I did want to ask if the cloak would have anything to do with Kaylin being presented to the Emperor?

    The only reason I bring this up is because Evanton does not make insignif­i­cant gifts for Kaylin and we don’t have any other details on this.

    Also, if you don’t mind, I was wondering — Will Kaylin be presented as a civilian or a Hawk?

  29. Mac says:

    But: I am finished Cast in Flame.”
    ~joins in the happy dance conga line~ 

    This is wonderful news and thanks for taking time to share. I hope that you have time and space to enjoy the season with family and friends even though Oracle is lurking around with it’s deficit of words.

  30. Mac says:

    ~pauses and then starts to laugh~ One hopes, at this junc­ture at least, it will be as a Hawk; her survival rate increases dramat­i­cally by my reckoning.

  31. Debbie Holcomb says:

    I think the cloak was the one she got from Night­shade in Cast In Silence — remember when they went into the tower and it closed on the edge of his cloak and he dropped it and Kaylin picked it up and put it in her pack.

  32. I think my problem is, if it’s been long enough, I want to be able to announce some­thing substan­tive or signif­i­cant. And I spin in little circles. I didn’t post the November State of because I was so close to finishing Cast in Flame, and if I could actu­ally announce that, that would be news.

    But I started these posts in part because someone on the West Yahoo list (I am almost 100% posi­tive it was Aaron) said that he didn’t care about the books at that point – he just wanted to know that I was well. He was worried about me.

    Which had never occurred to me, before. I was mostly worried about spam­ming people’s inboxes with unwanted infor­ma­tion to that point, but I’ve really come to appre­ciate the responses I get here :)

  33. Mike says:

    I was an avid reader of the wheel of time series by Robert Jordan, but I didn’t follow his website, so one day when I was randomly wondering when the next book in the series was going to come out, the Google told me that he had died. Since I avidly follow your website, there is always the worry in the back of my mind that some­thing has happened to you if I don’t see a semi regular post… Thanks for the update! Can’t wait to read the new books.

  34. Jake says:

    I love Guy Kay’s voice almost as much as I love yours. Who else is on that list of yours?

  35. HILDA says:

    Friends, I’m so looking forward to “Flames” now that it’s finished. The Conga line is long. I went back to read Cast in Ruin, because it was all before the West March trip. And what happened there was “Bellusdeo”. She needs a place to live; she wants to be with Kaylin and the Ascen­dant. Bellusdeo had been a queen; she can’t stand the constraints imposed by the Emperor, she is very unhappy; she needs some­thing to do; Kaylin and Bellusdeo need a new place to live. I don’t think they can safely live in the city again; at least, Bellusdeo can’t. Will they try to take a fief? That’s supposed to be an accept­able activity. Can Flames be a battle among dragons? The Outcast dragon is not going to give up Bellusdeo. What will he do?
    For long, I have wanted to find out a story where Michelle writes about a new fief; prefer­ably the one next to Night­shade’s, or the one next to Tiamaris’. Would the Flames have anything to do with the Dragons? Fighting? Will the Emperor now allow Bellusdeo to wake up some of the sleeping dragons? I hope so; we need more char­ac­ters. And I want to see the Keeper again. What will Kaylin’s familiar do in the new adven­tures, including in the Keep­er’s Garden.I wish it will come by March, but …

  36. Hilda says:

    I just posted and found in Forum that someone said Amazon announced FLAMES. There’s a short descrip­tion of the book there. Hmmm; what I said may still go with what Amazon posted. I’m going to order now, but it’s going to be a looong wait.

  37. Zia says:

    *raises hand sheepishly* 

    I may have been stalking Amazon to find out if Cast in Flames had a release date like a crazy person… 

    Now I just get to stalk Amazon to wait for the book cover.

  38. Debbie Holcomb says:

    Have we a defin­i­tive expla­na­tion of what an Eryn is yet? According to the Lady, there are defi­nite rules that apply. When she was warning Night­shade they would not allow him to press her.

  39. I think this was the fear: that some­thing had happened to me in real life. And this made sense, and I did post after that.

  40. AmelieS says:

    Do you mean Erenne? If that’s so, Michelle posted an expla­na­tion in the comments some years ago :

    Erenne has weight and meaning, yes. But it denotes owner­ship, even if exalted. Teela doesn’t give a rat’s ass about its weight and meaning, because she feels some terri­to­ri­ality herself, and she gener­ally cuts to the heart of the matter.
    Owner­ship of mortals is not, for someone who left the world centuries ago, in any way unusual. It was one of the ways in which, in a heavily Immortal popu­la­tion, one could guar­antee survival of said mortal: if you harmed the mortal who was claimed, you would suffer. If the person who had marked the mortal was powerful enough, the mortal’s status was hugely elevated, and it was clear that the mortal was of far more import than regular Barrani to the person who placed the mark.
    It was not done lightly, no. It’s not, however, a matter of equality, although in cases where owner­ship is passionate and obses­sive, it’s of course compli­cated because emotions are just like that ”

    However, we don’t know more than that yet.

  41. Hilda says:

    I just log out of Amazon and Michelle’s page there. There’s nothing about Flames there; no new book at all or comment. This is not the first time we readers see different things in Amazon, which seems to be or should be a “no, no”. Months ago, when I saw in Amazon the list of Michelle’s books that have been missing from the Sun Sword series, other readers did not found them. So, this time I couldn’t do anything about Flames. I’ll wait after Xmas and try again. I want to make sure I secure it.

  42. Hilda says:

    Amelie, yes, I remember the state­ment from Michelle too. I think we can add that when Bellusdeo appeared in Tiamaris fief and saw the build­ings, she asked Lanna­garos (the Arkon), “do you keep a lot of humans now?”. So clearly, in the older times, humans were kept by both dragons and Barrani. It would be inter­esting to see how and why the Emperor decided to protect the Humans. The Barrani Consort also mentioned to Night­shade the constrains regarding Erennes. Of course, he disre­garded it there, implying “I can do what I want with her”. It will be inter­esting to see how far he thinks he can go or dare to go.

  43. Hilda says:

    Thank you Zia. I just went back, to Michelle and nothing. So, I decided to add the title, then it came out. Order placed to arrive on release day. Ship­ping is more than the book.. But the summary is very intriguing. I have wanted to follow up to Night­shade’s call to Kaylin before she went to the West March. By the mirror he said he wanted her to go to the heart of his castle (this was left pending because of the trip); if you remember, earlier on he had threat­ened her in case she dare to go to the castle heart . She said some­thing about him not being able to kill her. Now the Castle may be waking up. Can’t wait all these months.

  44. rukminisingh says:

    I love the Chron­i­cles of Elantra series and I am so happy that you’re done writing it!! I can’t wait to see what Kaylin and the gang have been up to!

  45. Ashleigh says:

    I love the chron­i­cles of elantra and am super excited about cast in flame. Is it safe to assume that kaylin is finally going to reluc­tantly meet the eternal emperor? I can’t wait to read what trouble kaylin gets into next.

  46. Pam Samson says:

    This is a great Christmas present, found under the tree as a special late gift!!! Love your books all. Please, I hope that you have had a good time with your family as possible and good wishes for the New Year!!

  47. Michael manson says:

    As a devoted reader of your stories concerning Jewel, any and all updates are always a happy time. As with previous posters, I have also had to wait endlessly on authors like Melanie Rawn (mages of Ambrai), Brandon Sander­sons rendi­tion of the final wheel of time books, and Steven kings dark tower series. Somehow in all the things that we do, life has a way of adding compli­ca­tions. I’m just glad that authors like you are out there providing us all with a great story to take our minds off of the world and it’s demands. I hope that Christmas was enough to help you relax a bit, and that you have a great new year.
    Your friend in the US Navy,

  48. michelle says:

    Thank you! We had a lovely Christmas – in part because three days of no power and no heat really make the return of both very festive :).

  49. michelle says:

    Thank you! Christmas was good; New Year’s will prob­ably be quiet :).

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