State of the Writer, February 2014 edition

Posted in Cast, ebooks, Essalieyan, Queen of the Dead, writing.

I cannot believe it is already February. But, of course, it is.

I finished revisions on Cast in Flame in January, and they’ve gone back to my editor. I still have copyedits to review (when they arrive) and AAs (the HLQ version of page proofs), and the book will be done. And I have a cover rough which I cannot share yet, which is making me cry. I will post the cover the minute I have permission.

Ahem. No one likes to see a grown author cry, so I will move right along.

I am about a third of the way through Grave. I admit that I have avoided looking at any reviews whatsoever for Touch, because I am still smarting from the writing part of it. Except for the review, because one of my close real life friends tweeted it. And facebooked it. And I was reasonably certain she wouldn’t have if they had hated it.

(Digression: I believe that readers should be allowed to say whatever they want about the books they read in their own spaces. I also believe that when I’m struggling with writing and therefore the inevitable uncertainty in my own competence, some of what they do want to say is not going to make my inevitable uncertainty any easier to deal with. So I mostly avoid reviews. When I’m feeling relatively competent, I will seek them out to see what people are saying and how they reacted to various books – but. I don’t think of this as cowardice. Mostly. I think of it as self-preservation.)

I am probably 4/5s of the way through Oracle. I say this because the mid-point arc of these two books is not completely clear to me – I can see the end of War, which is not, sadly, the end of Oracle, the book I’m currently writing. I know the end of Waris hundreds of thousands of words away, but: still writing.

There’s a lot of snow on the ground here.

But someone (Australian alpha reader) sent me a picture of a wallaby in his front yard. This is decidedly better than the picture of the very large snake which had taken up residence on the seat of his riding lawn mower for cute factor, but less amusing somehow (although that could be the caption: “Maybe I’ll do the hand-mowing first”).

60 Responses to State of the Writer, February 2014 edition

  1. Hugh Myers says:

    Ahem indeed…”I can see the end of War, which is not, sadly, the end of Oracle, the book I’m currently writing. I know the end of Waris hundreds of thou­sands of words away, but: still writing.” The only quibble I have is the use of the word ‘sadly’…from this reader’s point of view, this is cause for celebration :) Keep on keeping on Michelle—I’ll like most of us exercise patience since the reward is so great…

  2. Debbie says:

    I don’t think its cowardice either but, in your case I would think that 1 negative, how ever wrong they may be, can not stand up to the thousands of readers and bloggers who love and highly praise all the stories you write.
    You are an amazing storyteller. I love everything you write and I know from here, Facebook, twitter and amazon that I am not the only person to think so. Keep up the excellent work.
    I hope you and your friends/family imaginary and not so have a fantastic weekend and an even better year.

  3. I don’t think someone can be wrong about their own reaction if that makes sense? If the book (any book) didn’t work for them, it didn’t work for them. Some may attempt to explain why it didn’t work – some don’t.

    And yes, intellectually, its easy to balance the negative with the positive – but sometimes it takes work, and it doesn’t always come easily, and when I’m in that frame I hide here >.>.

    Thank you :)

  4. Rona Oestrich says:

    I believe that everyone except sociopaths and psychotics has self doubts much of the time. It is a sign of an aware and literate person to be able to voice these doubts. I know it doesn’t always help to hear how wonderful your work really is to soothe these doubts.

  5. Dawn says:

    Michelle, you are one of my favorite authors. I think your writing is a wonderful gift that you have decided to share with us. Like gifts, not everyone is going to appreciate (or possible understand) the gift. I look forward to your books.

  6. Tchula says:

    Wow, sounds like 2014 is going to be a very productive year! ;-) I look forward to seeing the new cover for Cast in Flame!

  7. michelle says:

    I think it’s because writing is an act of communication, and no communication is perfect. And also: sometimes, people are just not interested in what I want to communicate, even if I do it well. Which is perfectly reasonable; there are many, many things I’m not interested in reading, either.

    But it is harder to lose readers who did have an interest in what you were doing or saying, as opposed to losing people who wouldn’t have been interested, regardless >.>

  8. michelle says:

    I am hoping that 2014 is, in fact, a very productive year. Or at least a year in which I am not restarting the same book multiple times >.>

  9. Rona Oestrich says:

    Take heart, Anne Rice went off on a tangent that turned everyone off that I know. I am not even that fond of werewolf stories but her new series brought me back into the fold. I think your writing is so good that people who are turned off by something you do, will come back.

  10. Donna says:

    I hadn’t given much thought to how the author reacts when I comment on places like Goodreads about books I’ve read. Yikes!
    I think authors such as yourself, are amazing writers and give us such wonderful gifts in sharing your books with us (who can’t write to save our lives.) I love your work and look forward to each book you write (even if I do have to wait for them.) You have a very heavy work schedule this year and I wish you well in all of them!

  11. michelle says:

    You are never supposed to think about how the author reacts to that. Never. It is why I don’t go to goodreads – it’s about the readers, and their experience, not me.

    If I hate a book, or I’m disappointed in a book, I’m not really shy about it. Books & reading are highly emotional and personal for me, so of course I’m going to have a reaction to the books I read! (Often it’s: well, you’re WRONG about that book – it was brilliant!) So sharing opinions about books that I love (or hate) is an integral part of reading, and it always has been.

    But I can’t approach my own books as a reader. Even among my favorite authors. There are Terry Pratchett novels I didn’t care for. There are Robin McKinley novels I didn’t care for. I love those authors, and I still read everything they write. (And there are none that I hated, and none that made me want those hours of my life back, or better, brains bleached). If I can feel this way, it’s absolutely natural that any reader can.

    It’s different if you’re tweeting rage @ me or posting angry disappointment on my facebook wall or sending me angry email bombs – but expressing an opinion on goodreads or amazon or etc., etc., etc. is nothing like that :)

  12. Hilda says:

    Toronto? Try Washington DC; I live 10 miles North of it. It looks like Alaska here. I forgot the color of my deck. I feed my birds, and unfortunately squirrels, large pieces of bread so they can see it and eat. My computer is next to a window and I wear 2 sweaters, and I’m still cold. Give us a nice summer in Flames, please.
    How can you be 4/5 way in Oracle and not see the mid-point? Maybe I don’t understand writers’ book distances. Based on past multiple readers’ comments, Seeing Hundreds of thousands of words away for War, is a reason for jubilation, and a conga dance. Thanks for the writing effort, we wait, we will enjoy.

  13. Hilda says:

    When you finish all the story arcs “you want to tell”, I’m sure, based on comments here, the readers can come up with many other ideas for “story arcs”. I may not have enough years left to read them all, but others will. Just keep them coming, your books are one of the few and best pleasures of old age.

  14. michelle says:

    I am uncertain, at this point, where the break-point between the two books is – and that point would be the end of ORACLE. I can see the end of WAR, but seeing how WAR wraps up doesn’t quite give me a finished ORACLE, if that makes sense?

  15. David Y says:

    I bet none of us will complain when you find out that War is going to be 2 books after Oracle (except about the wait).
    And we’ll be ready with title suggestions for the extra book.

    (not totally kidding)

  16. Jake says:

    Michelle, you are an extraordinary story teller and a gifted writer, but no one can please everyone or even anyone all the time (though you come very, very close to pleasing me all the time:) as you said above. I, too, think that readers are the arbiter of how they respond to a story. But that doesn’t mean they have a clue what they are talking about! :)

    I remember when I first started reading the House War series, a reader and reviewer said it was all just a rehash of the Sun Sword series and the Jewel was his least favorite character in that series – and I looked at the story I had just read and thought to myself, did we read the same story? That first book in the series is beautiful. I can’t tell you how many times I have reread it – not because I find new things but because it is a.. comfort read, or emotional nourishment, or something, but it renews me each time i read it.

    And that is something very, very few stories can do.

  17. Tyronne says:

    Well, what can I say. Touch was a very good read. I’m enjoying it very much although I will admit it’s not my usual ‘cup of tea’. However, good writing trumps genre/style any day of the week as far I’m concerned.

    Can’t wait for Cast in Flame but then again, I say that about all your books and they’ve always been worth the wait. As for the cover and crying, that’s a little foreboding but my curiosity is definitely there.

    As for Oracle, I’m not surprised at all. You’ve created such a detailed story arc, I’m surprised you’re not pounding the walls with your head in frustration for all the ideas that must constantly bombard you as you write this story.

    That and the fact you’ve 3 very different, very good series on the go, I’m just gonna keep encouraging you and supporting you in all you do because your stories give me hours and hours of enjoyment and for that I thank you!

  18. Agustine says:

    You’ve got a very pretty updated self-pic in this web. I love it! =)

    And I’m ecstatic to hear the progress on Cast in Flame, Oracle (n War), and Grave. Yayyy!!!

    May the words go long! ^^
    Take care and have enough rest, ok? =)

  19. kscappace says:

    Michelle thank you for the update on the writing. I do like knowing how things are going. Nosy old woman that I am. I like the updated photo of you on the homepage too. It is a much better shot of you than the old one.

  20. Hilda says:

    Augustine, I was going to comment on the picture too, and forgot while writing a different comment. You are right about Michelle’s picture; she looks very,very nice, and happy (must have written 1,000 words in two days). I hope, like you that Michelle take some needed rest, specially in this cold and long winter.

  21. Chris G. says:

    No. I’m absolutely not a sociopath or psychotic, and neither am I plagued by an abundance of self-doubt. Thanks for believing that, but no.

    I do score in the top 2% of the population (U.S.) on every intelligence test I’ve ever taken, have a certain amount of autism and was abused a lot as a child (ptsd included), and for good and bad do several things that most people believe unlikely-to-impossible. So it may well be possible that you are generally correct, but of course generally is not the same as completely.

    “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” – Socrates

  22. Chris G. says:

    The picture does look quite nice. I don’t see her mole though (at least I believe it to be a mole based on past pics), perhaps she has had it removed?

  23. darbie says:

    I hate to ask as I wonder….but how many more books until jewel’s road is complete?????
    I love reading her story but for the reader our attachment also means we want a conclusion for our hero. I want the full story but I also want her to be satisfied, corny ??

  24. Hilda says:

    Darbie, in quite a few comments in previous pages after publishing the House books, Michelle told us, at least twice, that there will be a new series after War. I don’t know how many books or the titles; the number tends to grow with the writing of books. What we don’t know is the story that will need telling, what she calls the story arcs. There is even a name for the series which I can’t remember. If you think about it, it makes sense. This coming book (close to be finished) will be mostly about Jewel’s travel, with or without the Oracle, to learn her teachings for seeing the future, meet the Winter Queen and give her the tree, rescue her friends who disappeared from her rooms, fight or learn to use some of the strange animals she can see from her library (dragon); and there has to be some telling of what will happen to her friends at home, to Meralone who will stay there, and Haval who needs to protect her young friends . Jewel still needs to become a true seer, a Sen, gather her tribe to become a Matriarch and take over her place coming out of the sands. Then, we will have the war between the humans and Allasakar. Maybe the Southern characters will come back, and the ones from the short stories. Still, what is the role of the other Houses; what do they have to do while Jewel is away; what will be their final status. What will happen to the Kings and the people around them,
    Allasakar’s daughter, the Southern characters, the many from the short stories. Just reading this, I can see the years of books coming out of Michelle’s genius. I can easily see at least 8 more books before Michelle’s talent on this series gives up. We will have a conclusion for Jewel, but it will be years ahead.
    Different from Kaylin in the Cast series, which I think can continue as long as there are adventures for her to play.

  25. Deborah says:

    Michelle, I am a very picky reader. The books I like must be well written and entertaining or I don’t finish them. I have all of the Cast books and I reread them about once every 3 months. The only complaint I have is there aren’t enough of them. And that my mother who is 67 keeps stealing them from me. Guess what she is getting for her birthday?

  26. Dawna says:

    Thank you for the books you have written. I have enjoyed each of them very much. I am eagerly awaiting the next book to see what happens to Jewel next. I am also wondering if you are considering a book or series about what happens to Diora and to Margret? I would love to hear about what happened to them after the Sun Sword series ended. I love to hear how things are progressing in your blogs. It’s the best e-mail I get in my inbox. Thanks again

  27. Tyronne says:

    Like you Deborah, I’m the same way with books. I want to be entertained and they must be well written to entertain me. Having said that, at least your books are ‘still in the family’. My boss has ‘borrowed’ all of mine. I eventually told her to keep them as I have an e-reader and so can read Michelle’s books whenever I want!!!

  28. With these books – I think with any of mine – if you don’t actually care for the characters, you’re not going to like the books. And that makes sense. If someone liked the Sun Sword, but really didn’t like Jewel, the House War series is probably going to be difficult, or worse, boring.

    And that’s a lot my fault, because this is the worst structural planning for a series ever. What I had intended when I started Hidden City, I couldn’t do – because the book opened with Rath. That was the beginning.

    (I often have some idea of the events that start a book. But I will often start the book multiple times, looking for the right way into the story–the right tone, the right texture. It’s not the events, per se, but the viewpoint. The book’s voice. In this case, it was Rath. Which was…not very convenient.)

    But: thank you. Hidden City was, for a variety of reasons, very difficult, and it is happy-making to know that it worked for some readers :)

  29. I know that it’s not like the West novels; it’s not really like the Cast novels either. But I’m not always certain what, about my books, speaks to readers. Some readers said they would have known that the Cast books & the West books were both by me; some were very, very surprised.

    Touch – and I’m hoping to write a bit about that book, my general process, and possibly post (at Genna’s request) 33k words of version two – is just a bit more stressful because I struggled so much with the writing. I still can’t see the book clearly, past all iterations.

    But – thank you :)

  30. The picture is the most recent picture of me – but it was taken by the photographer who did the cover-model shoot for Cast in Flame. I’m not sure it actually looks like me (I identify most with the “About the Author picture”, but – it’s kind of more Author Photo-ish).

  31. I always used to feel a bit self-conscious about posting here, unless I had Real Book News – because most of the posts will be “Still Working”.

    But, another reader (who was worried about me because I hadn’t posted in months) convinced me that actually, readers wouldn’t mind knowing that I was, in fact, still alive and still working :)

  32. I can’t quite answer this one without spoilers – I know where the story, all of them, will go. I have NEVER been good at figuring out how long it will take to get there T_T.

    Sun Sword was, on proposal, two books.

    Sorry >.<.

  33. I have to admit that I get a huge kick of out of knowing that these books are read or shared between parents & children. I’m not quite sure why – but it really makes me smile :)

  34. People hate spoilers, and I am terrible at predicting *how* things will happen – but I think the South will be woven back into the whole, in the last arc. I think that much is safe to say.

  35. Tyronne says:

    I can definitely understand your stress. I remember you saying way back when that when you write, you don’t always know what the character is going to say or do next. While reading Touch my mind kept picking up ‘little things’ that could conceivably take your story in half a dozen different directions and none of them where you originally wanted it to go. Personally, it’s great for me because I know that as a result of that, I’m going to be surprised by where your characters do go (probably as much as you are when you’re writing it). It’s no fun knowing what’s going to happen before you even get there. That’s why I don’t watch much TV. It’s too predictable. I’ll take one of your stories any day!

  36. The mole is still there. I was – for the first time ever in a picture – wearing make-up, and the lighting was brighter than usual – but, I can see it in the picture I have.

    Otoh, I think my doctor would be delighted if I decided to have it removed >.>

  37. I am absolutely hoping that you have many, many more years — and that you do get to read the final story arc, since you’ve read everything else up to that point.

    And while I have readers, I will absolutely continue to tell my stories. I whine a lot – but there is nothing else I want to do quite as much.

  38. Julie Bailey says:

    I happened to find your books one day in the library and I was hooked. I loved them so much I gave them to my twin sister to read and guess what? Now she is an avid reader. After I finished the Cast stories I went on the, ” Into the Dark Series.” It made me cry buckets. Love your work and don’t care what the critics say.

  39. Hilda says:

    It’s because your books fit the category that we can call family books, and they give pleasure, a very high level of pleasure. If we love or like a person, we most likely will like to give them happiness. I don’t give your books that I have bought for my own reading to anyone, but I can tell you that I have bought copies of them to give as present, and the recipients love your books too. Going to another subject, even though I think or believe I know where the stories in Cast and House may go, and I can be wrong, I can’t see, or can’t bring to my imagination, where Touch may go. It’s like a close door; unexpected, a very different type of books.

  40. alexgeorgeal says:

    I enjoyed your post, Michelle, and your site in general. Seems like you have a good thing going with your series of fantasy books. I’m always glad to meet authors and readers who share my interests.

    I know what you mean about requesting reviews and then having the courage to read them as the reviewer lays open the work you have so lovingly toiled over for so long.

    I like to think that any review–good or bad–if done without malice or prejudice, adds something for the author. For one, if the opinion is unbiased, and the reviewer has experience, the writer can glean important information as to what needs changing, but a writer should always trust their instinct.

    I don’t want to take up too much space here so I’ll draw this to a close.

    It’s been great ‘chatting’ with you on this wonderful site.

    If you’d like to chat some more, visit me. I’ll be looking forward to it.

    Alex George
    Author of Under the Dragon’s Claw

  41. Asia says:

    T_T …….tears of joy. I happened upon Hidden City by accident at the library one day after a long period of frustration caused by a lack of good books (series) (my opinion). I LOVED IT!!! I was ecstatic when I realized that there were so many series (comprised of several books) that correlated to one another…..I was in reader heaven. I started buying all of them and have read them several times over in anticipation of the next ones.

    I am even more happy (at your expense, I’m afraid) to hear that there will be several more books in this series to come.

    I can honestly say that you have a brilliant mind. You are a wonderful story teller and a gifted writer.

  42. Alissa Pyrich says:

    I’m one of those people who adored the Sun Sword books but disliked Jewel. Nevertheless, because I find the world fascinating, I have been reading the House War series. In doing so, I’ve come to appreciate Jewel much more than before. I wouldn’t say I like the character, but I think I understand more what you are trying to do with her.

    I truly admire the complexity and richness of the world you’ve created in these books; thank you for letting us see into your world.

  43. Bridgett says:

    I have just one question. Do you know how many more Cast books you are planning on writing? After Cast in Flame?
    I love all the books of yours that I have read. I have not been able to buy all the books I would like to (I have not read all of the books you have written so have not bought all the ones I want). But as the years go by I plan on getting every single one of them.
    Thank you for all your work, stress, and dedication. I can’t even comprehend what it must be like writing three different books per year.
    I also like the new picture, though the candid ones are great. I love to see people as they are day to day.

  44. Chris G. says:

    Great catch! And cover of course.

    But there’s the text too:

    “Any day that starts with dragon arguments is going to be bad

    Kaylin returned from the West March in one piece. Now that piece is fraying. She’s not at home in the Imperial Palace—and she never intends to be. All she wants is normal garden-variety criminals and a place of her own. Of course, normal in her new life involves a dragon as a roommate, but she can handle that.

    She can’t as easily handle the new residents to the city she polices, because one of them is Nightshade’s younger brother. On a night when she should be talking to landlords in perfectly normal buildings, she’s called to the fief—by Teela. A small family disagreement has become a large, complicated problem: Castle Nightshade’s latent magic is waking.

    And it’s not the only thing.”

  45. Deborah says:

    Great attention getter! What better way to start the anticapation for Cast in Flame than to have Castle Nightshade come to life. Oh what stories it could tell! Cant wait to see where you gake us this time.

  46. Hilda says:

    I’m so delighted. I happened to look at the Amazon website looking for new books while waiting for Flames (it was ordered a while ago), and found the cover. Kaylin looks my idea of a Gypsy, and sexy too, bright colors and open back. I wonder where she got those clothes and how she paid for them. Didn’t see her little dragon and is too bad. I hope it remains important in her life and adventures, even if Nightshade has to keep himself far from her, or become its friend. I immediately changed the delivery from 2 days to next day, about $10.00 more. If I could trust my local Barnes & Noble, I would go there to wait for it. But I can’t forget readers’ frustration with both Borders (before closure) and B&N bookstores when unable to find her books for days..

  47. Zia says:

    I found if I call B&N for about 3 months in advance – and about once a week – it worked wonders. I do it for every single Cast book now as they have them on the day of the release instead of 1 week later. They don’t carry the West titles so I have no luck there at all, but 5+ years of bugging them about the Cast novels did work out.

    Of course I always buy 2 copies so I buy one from Amazon -just- to be safe because B&N is still not my favorite store as it keeps shrinking its fantasy/scfi section.

    Granted…Borders never carried anything useful at all so I was happy when it closed.

  48. Chris G. says:

    Interesting. My two B&N carry the Chronicles without problem, except for Peril which took an extra day. But the helpful employee who called around for over an hour insisted that was a publisher delay.

    Which is much better than the Indie store in my area, Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach, CA does. They don’t carry Sagara, at least not the times I’ve checked, and were ridiculously incompetent the one time I tried to special order one. I told them thrice I needed the larger PB and gave them the ISBN and MSRP and they still ordered the MMPB. I told them it was a gift I needed in 3 weeks, and the order would be no good if it took longer. Of course it took 7 weeks. And the person who called to lmk the book had arrived was very introverted and incomprehensible on the phone. I’m not trying to discriminate, but why give the person who is too fearful of calling customers the job of calling customers?

    Meanwhile my B&N also carry West, and even brought Battle out to me on the Saturday before it’s release date, when I was only making sure they would have it. Of course several of my Border’s carried one or more Sagara and/or West, so maybe it’s a regional thing?

  49. Zia says:

    It probably is. Like I said the B&Ns in my area (I call 5 stores during the time leading up to the next release) didn’t carry them at all until I started calling. Now they do thankfully and they seem to be selling so it is less of a hassle to get them to order the books than it was.

    Oddly enough I ran into the same problem with B&N when I ordered a book. They apparently cancelled the order and then messed it up, and then I got a very nasty phone call telling me to pick up the book asap. Needless to say if they don’t have it in the store I refuse to deal with them now. Which is sad since bookstores used to be my place to relax…and waste hours.

  50. Karen says:

    I am so looking forward to Oracle and War when they come out. There were so many characters in the Sun Sword series that I would like to see again and find out what happens to them. I do not know if you will be bringing them into the House series (at least one has been but I know his story is far from over) or whether you have another series planned. I have been reading about that world since the Sacred Hunt books. I would hate to see you stop writing in that world but I would also like to know what is going to happen.
    And Jewel is one of my favourite characters.
    Also looking forward to Cast in Flame but the Sacred Hunt, Sun Sword, House world is my first love.

  51. Diane says:

    I am also looking forward to Oracle and War. I have just finished re-reading all of the Sun Sword Series and the House series. I am now going to start on the Cast books.
    Jewel is also one of my favorite characters. I had just started reading the first book in the Sun Sword series, when we adopted a tuxedo kitten. I named her Jewel and she is still with us today.
    Take your time with the books, I take something new with me every time I re-read one of your books.

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