Update on the House War series

Posted in Books, DAW, Essalieyan, grovelling apology, writing.

I finally have news to report about War.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read, for those who aren’t accus­tomed to this partic­ular Internet short-hand): The book I submitted to DAW is now going to be two books:

First­born, which will be published in February 2019 and

War, which will be published in June 2019.
______

For those who want the longer details, they are as follows. (I didn’t orig­i­nally intend to have the shorter recap, but — it’s a long post, and I accept that some people don’t actu­ally want author musings or grov­eling; they just want to know when they can read the book they’ve been waiting for. Since I am some­times one of those readers, I’m sympa­thetic.)

I mentioned some time back that I had finished and submitted War to my editor at DAW. I may have mentioned that it was 430k words.

My editor read the book. She pinpointed – as editors do – diffi­cul­ties, and we discussed revi­sions. I asked about possible cuts, because, given book length, I’d been thinking of nothing else since I submitted the novel.

The good news: she didn’t think anything was extra­neous.

The bad news: while I can tighten and smooth out areas that are a bit rough, doing that will not produce a book that is short enough to bind. As in: bind between covers. As in, put in one book. Sheila edited and worked on over twenty books last year (I think she said twenty-three, but don’t quote me on that). Joshua Starr is a very, very compe­tent managing editor – so he’s the one who does the page-outs for the actual, phys­ical book. I thought I could lose 15 – 20k words, total, while editing things that appear to have been written by drunk monkeys and added to the actual book. But – that’s the maximum possible before some­thing major has to go.

And Joshua came back with actual numbers. And the book, revised, would be far too long to bind in a single book. The word-loss we could achieve without losing actual plot threads was nowhere near high enough.

So we were then left with two choices – and I was already resigned to having only one. The first one.

One: cut 80k words.

Two: split what was there into two sepa­rate books. Sheila had asked for one more book. She accepted that this would be long, because it’s the end of a series, and at the end, there’s so much to tie in, to resolve, to pull together. I honestly did not think that split­ting would be an option. But…the book worked for Sheila. And it worked well enough that she didn’t want to lose it. (And, having worked with me for twenty+ years, she under­stands my process, which is not entirely straight­for­ward; all that comes is built on what happened before it.)

***

The advan­tage to option one: I will have one book, and I will finish the series, and readers have been waiting long enough for that final book. It would be done, and it would be in their hands.

The problem with option one: cutting 80k words >.<. In compar­ison to book length, this doesn’t seem like a lot, but in compar­ison to most published novels, it’s almost an entire book’s worth of words. But to cut 80k words requires removing way more words, because the elements that drive the plot forward in the cut words would have to be added back in. Those plot points can’t just be tacked-on to a different thread; they have to arise organ­i­cally. This means burning down half the book – opti­misti­cally, given my process – and rewriting from the ground up in the hope that the changed and reduced words will still mesh with the end that’s already there.

Which means losing a lot more than drunk-monkey words and scenes. (And, to be fair, some­times I hit a scene that was obvi­ously written by a drunk monkey, shriek, curse #pastme, and then yank it out and rewrite it prop­erly – which, oddly, adds words rather than subtracting them.)

***

The advan­tage to option two: the story, as written, with all of its tangled elements, would be largely preserved. And I could add the (very few) things that Sheila wanted added, because I would have the room to do it. Also, the denoue­ment, which is very very short for a series of this length as it currently stands.

The problem with option two: I knew, while writing War, that it had to be one book. The ending of a book is not the same thing as the middle of a book. Have I split books before? Yes (as anyone who has read this far already knows). But the deci­sion to split was made before the book was finished. I wrote to the “new” ending, while the intended ending waited in the distance.

Broken Crown was orig­i­nally supposed to end with the scene between Sendari and Diora in the Sword­haven that closed Shining Court. Uncrowned King was supposed to end with that, as well, because clearly I’d missed by a mile in Broken Crown. In the case of the first book, I real­ized I wasn’t going to make it, but the Festival of the Sun – and the sword in the lake – was a strong ending, a closer. The tour­na­ment in Uncrowned King was the same. I could write to those endings, and have a complete book.

Since I knew before reaching the end of the book I was writing that the book would have a different ending, I could fashion an actual ending out of the arc that would close in that book.

And… I did not do this in War. There is an arc that closes in the middle of that very long book – but it is missing a couple of beats and also, the coda of epilogue (and I really wanted that coda, while writing War, because I think it was a neces­sary emotional beat given what preceded it, but codas don’t fit the flow of the middle of a book.) So some emotional reso­nance was, and had to be, aban­doned.

I can’t discuss this much more without pretty serious spoilers; the edito­rial discus­sion was full of them, but — Sheila had read the whole book, so it wasn’t ruining anything for her.

And while fran­ti­cally flailing — as one does when one is panicking — I found the only possible ending for a book. It was the ending for which I wanted to write that coda, that emotional finisher that just didn’t work in the middle of a book.

I spent most of the last couple of weeks in contact with my editor, and Sunday, at 11:45 p.m., she agreed: this could work as the end of a book. And then there was the rest of the panic: the title for the new book. The need for a cover for the new book (because they have a cover for War, but its based on the ending), and, well, the new book.

I don’t think it will take a lot, to be honest. And I’m kind of excited because there were three things I did not write because I knew that I needed to leave things out in order to finish this in one book.

Which, clearly, I did not do, regard­less T_T. So while tech­ni­cally War is finished and is being split, there is writing to do to have two books as two books. The ending to War won’t change, but there are elements in the denoue­ment to be added. The begin­ning will change a bit. But the book will be primarily the book I intended to write (and, to be fair, did write, but not at a reason­able length).

I will be working on that. First­born will be published in February 2019. War will follow in June of 2019, which was the closest publi­ca­tion date avail­able in the DAW schedule. Sheila Gilbert was trying to keep them as close together as possible because she knows that readers have been waiting, and that the book is funda­men­tally finished. I will have no prob­lems making either of the new, asso­ci­ated dead­lines. And I have been excited, to be honest. And grateful.

I’m sorry for the delay; I’m sorry for the lack of infor­ma­tion. Things were up in the air because Michelle — as usual — wrote some­thing that was way too long. But I didn’t want to say anything until I had some­thing defi­nite to say. I suppose I could have said: It’s compli­cated, but that’s not actual infor­ma­tion. And I know people have been waiting for this last book — which is now two last books — for a while.

***

And now I want to add one thing. I’ve been working with Sheila Gilbert at DAW since 1994. Hunter’s Oath was published in 1995. It is 2018, and the end of The House War series will be published in 2019. Throughout all of these years, she has let me write my books. She has let me tell my stories. They are too long for the modern market. Any other editor would have said: You must cut, period. To be fair, they wouldn’t have had any choice.

Espe­cially not in the case of War. The only reason she offered a split she did not initially want was that she’d read the book I submitted and she didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to lose it either – but it’s essen­tially my fault that the problem exists in the first place. When I write, I think about the story, the char­ac­ters, the unfolding of the world. I don’t think about the length. (After I’ve finished my day’s writing, I hyper­ven­ti­late about the length. But that terrible, constricting fear doesn’t come between me and what I’m writing.)

All of our editing together has always been about the book in her hand. All of her addi­tions or subtrac­tions have always been about making that book a better book. Even in discus­sions about War, they weren’t about “is this even possible”; they were about how to make my story stronger and clearer. (The rest of the discus­sions that followed came after the “this is not possible” confir­ma­tion.)

I have been remark­ably lucky, in Sheila. I know this. I also know that other authors manage to figure out the story vs. length problem and write very good books within those constraints, and it makes me feel like I’m letting her down, every time.

But without Sheila Gilbert, these latter books would not exist. Authors have options now that they did not have when I started, but those options have only become viable in the last few years – and the West universe has existed for a lot longer.

If you love the books, and you want to thank someone, thank Sheila. She is not on social media; she is not a very public, social-outreach person­ality. Her name might be known because it’s on the Hugo ballot – but it’s a name in a sea of other names, many of which readers know little about. But she does go to conven­tions from time to time, and she is on the Hugo ballot this year. Editors and publishers often hear about the things people felt they did wrong – so I want to add a bit of weight to the things they’ve done right.

64 Responses to Update on the House War series

  1. Louis Haskins says:

    I am just delighted in your writing. Life isn’t easy, or neat. Life is messy, and compli­cated, and intri­cate, just like what your char­ac­ters go through in your writing. I appre­ciate that it can’t be easy to produce. So while I am impa­tient some­times to hear the rest of the story, I can live with how long it takes to tell it. You have done what writers should do, created char­ac­ters that I can emotion­ally invest in. Since I am invested, I want to know what happens to them. So keep writing, and I will keep reading.

  2. Kim says:

    So many thanks Ms. Gilbert!!! You facil­i­tate my favorite author and I love you for it!!!

  3. L. Armster says:

    DAW and Sheila are my dream publisher/editor. I had the chance to pitch a WIP to her at a confer­ence in 2014, and she was kind but firm: “This needs work.” I’ve been working on that manu­script since then — in between devel­oping a series idea, dealing with health issues, life… and this one story that won’t let me go. DAW has published so many of the books I love, including yours. You are absolutely right. Sheila is a blessing to fantasy readers every­where. <3

  4. Jenn M. says:

    It’s REALLY okay. I too would also rather have more than less of your writing. I am OK with waiting between the two, and it being two, and every­thing else about this scenario. Pretty sure everyone who loves your books/stories/characters does so BECAUSE you write like you do, not in spite of it. Hooray for Shelia being tolerant and supportive, she sounds fantastic!, but please don’t beat your­self up for being your­self. It’s the being your­self with your stories that brought us here to begin with.

  5. Summer says:

    Michelle, I am person­ally thrilled to have *two* more books. Your lengthy writing is actu­ally a joy to me. It extends the time i get to spend in your wonderful created worlds. So, really, thank you. And Sheila.

  6. Kris says:

    Absolutely thrilled beyond belief with this update and I don’t even care it’s two books instead of one. I fell in love with your Jewel years ago. Waiting just a bit more is worth it for all of glorious details that have been such a distin­guishing mark of your work. Many thanks to you for your labors and Sheila, if you’re reading this, oodles of thanks to you as well for preserving these stories.

  7. Susan Ivey says:

    I’m over­joyed with your news!! Thank you for your lovely and intri­cate stories, I adore every one!
    Thank you Sheila for supporting Michelle.

  8. Katy Holder says:

    You are amazing! Miss Shelia is pretty fabu­lous too! I would much rather wait for the perfect book(s) than angst over some­thing just wasn’t right (bless that book’s heart). Every time I finish a degree (I might be a school junkie) I sit down and reread every­thing you’ve ever wrote that I can get my hands on. I have the best time! My husband has asked me to stop because he thinks this as a reward keeps encour­aging me to go to school. Thank you. Thank you for writing master­pieces that are so special to me that I reward myself with them for soul sustaining and repairing binges. Thank you for sharing your worlds. Thank you.

  9. Mary B says:

    I seem to be in agree­ment with most of the others here. I have all of the books in this universe and have read through the Sunsword series twice (at least.) I’ve learned through the years to have patience with the work because it is so very worth it, and, person­ally, I’m rather sad that it’s coming to an end. I’ve appre­ci­ated the mea culpas over length and the apolo­gies for making us wait because they were all so terribly sincere. This is the kind of story­telling that is increas­ingly rare in this day and age and for that I would like to thank you for the writing and Ms Gilbert for the preser­va­tion of the words. I’ll be picking up my copies on publi­ca­tion day and burying my nose in them until they’re done.

    Many, many thanks to you both for hours of great reading.

  10. ralphw2548 says:

     ¿Â ¿Â ››Â { <This is me doing my happy dance!! }

    TWO Books instead of one! Hooray! Huzzar! Et Formi­dable!

    Thank you Michelle for letting us know. I was anxiously awaiting news of when WAR was to be released. To now hear that I will get two books in 2019, I am ecstatic.

    Ms. Gilbert is also very much appre­ci­ated. Can I assume that she is being nomi­nated in the Editor- Long Form ( what else )cate­gory?
    I remember voting for her once before. Rest assured, I will vote for her again. As will all fans of the Essalieyan world, right ( hint hint )??

    Again, thank you Michelle for sharing your great talent with us. As always, remember to schedule in some time for your­self. Get some rest and enjoy this wonderful world.

    Be Well!

  11. hanneke28 says:

    My thanks to Sheila Gilbert and Joshua Starr for allowing your stories the space they need to be them­selves.
    Your books are special, and beloved of readers because of that; intri­cate, detailed, complete, and very satis­fying to read because the char­ac­ters are so real, in all their complexity they always ring true emotion­ally. That makes your books so special, that and the depth you bring to your worlds and char­ac­ters; both of which need room to expe­ri­ence fully, in all the layers and extra threads this adds to the story.
    I’m so glad you found a publisher and an editor who recog­nised the neces­sity of this, and let you have the room to grow the stories to their natural full form, instead of trying to prune them to fit the stan­dard model (which I fear would take away a lot of their char­acter, like a pruned hedge instead of a full­grown tree).
    I’m also glad to learn of the planned publi­ca­tion dates, and that the non-commu­ni­ca­tion was not because the book was giving you grief in the way that Grave did. I just wish you could inter­nalise the happi­ness we all feel when you tell the story fully, completely, the way it should be; and worry less about the word counts. You have a very good editor and publisher, and so far they’ve always managed to find a solu­tion. I think you can trust them to do so.

  12. alpikinz says:

    Excited for two books. Cannot wait for them.
    I hope to see Avandar and Devon become major char­ac­ters again instead of back­ground char­acter. Avandar is too good of a char­acter to be rele­gated to back­ground char­acter the way he was written in oracle, espe­cially after his story in the sun sword series.

  13. Tchula says:

    Three reac­tions I have: Haha­ha­ha­ha­ha­ha­haha…!
    I love Sheila Gilbert!
    2019 is gonna be an awesome year!
    ;-D ;-D ;-D

  14. michelle says:

    Thank you all so much!

    @Ruth: That’s why I wanted to wait until things were not up in the air as much – so I could give release date(s) :).

    @Tchula: I’m glad that *someone* found it funny >.. I am sure I will look back on this in the future and laugh. @Hanneke28: The only trouble the Essalieyan novels have ever given me is the trouble I had with WAR — too long =/. TOUCH was prob­lem­atic because I was trying to make the book go in a direc­tion that wasn’t, in the end, the direc­tion the char­ac­ters would have taken, some­thing I have never done before. And will *never* do again. GRAVE was diffi­cult because of TOUCH. @Katy: Your husband’s request made me laugh out loud. And then I had to read your reply to my husband, who, yes, laughed out loud at the exact same place.

  15. Tracy says:

    Hmmm…so, my normal routine with this series(and most series, tbh) is to re-read from the begin­ning each time a new book in the series comes out. This becomes a bit compli­cated when you have two books coming out within the same year! Do I read every­thing through the ending of First­born in February or do I (somehow) ignore First­born and wait for the series read until after both books come out.…arrrrgh! But, if there is going to be a problem with my reading process, I guess this is a good problem to have, lol. I, like everyone here, enjoy your writing immensely, I’m glad that you and Sheila (and Joshua) came to a conclu­sion that gave us MORE story, rather than less!

  16. When­ever I see Sheila Gilbert on a Hugo Ballot in a year where I’m a member, she gets my vote. That goes double since Betsy Woll­heim finally got her own Hugo. DAW is absolutely the house that intro­duced me to female written fantasy in the late 80s and early 90s (often by the amazing covers of Jody Lee — your first duology, for example).

    I wish they got the credit and the finan­cial support they deserved for their place in devel­oping sf&f (not to mention all the antholo­gies they’ve published over the years — even when short stories weren’t en vogue).

    Re: more book — yay! ^^

  17. Vance Marker says:

    All I can say is YYYYAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!! I’m so happy that there will be an unex­pected “bonus” book. True enough I have been pining away for War for quite some one…but as much as I have bee antic­i­pating it, I have also been dreading the “end”. This way, the end is a little further away and the story a little larger. I am grateful for both!

    Thank you for sharing this amazing world with all of us!
    Happy spring to you and your family! ❤️

  18. Jeremy Londeore says:

    As with everyone else, I’m over­joyed to get a release date, at any length. As will the 2 new readers I recently.….recruited (?), conscripted, or intro­duced to your worlds (1 in Elantra, 1 in Essalieyan at the wedding in Broken Crown).

    I do wonder in what way the Essalieyan novels aren’t viable in the current market. Are the cost of a BFF (Big Fat Fantasy) too high for the profit margin at the current retail cost of the book? Has the market for the drawn out epic fallen out in favor of a more seri­al­ized and slightly shorter (per story) series format?

    I owe Ms. Gilbert a few debts of grat­i­tude for the authors I’m drawn to and direct people toward. I try to repay that in some small way by directing people to buy those books new rather than used when at all possible. And while that may be a drop in an ocean, hope­fully it is some­thing.

    When the dust settles, and the demons are slain, I hope that you can continue in Essalieyan to the End of Days that seems to have been bouncing around in your head for many years now. And I hope Ms. Gilbert is there to help see those stories the light of day, in what­ever form that takes. I really don’t intend to stir up anxiety by that last, and I apol­o­gize if it does. At your discre­tion and in your own time, always.

  19. Lara B says:

    I am person­ally thrilled that we will be getting two books, and that there will be more space in which to include the things you thought you would have to leave out! Frankly, although I know it causes you much hair pulling, I love the results of your process. I have loved the world of Essalieyan since my first page of Hunter’s Oath, and I admit that I was feeling a tiny bit sad that the House War story arc was going to be coming to a close soon.

    I am so glad that Sheila Gilbert is and has been your editor. She does her job so well, and I deeply appre­ciate her work. I know that when I see her name as editor, that I can rest assured I’m about to get a well put together story.

  20. I’m very grateful for Sheila, and actu­ally, for all of you as well <3.

    I’m also, just in case you were concerned, writing the new Cast novel. But — I’m kind of excited about revi­sions now (which is not a thing that happens often, mostly because it’s a vitally impor­tant oppor­tu­nity to confront failure and fix it. The failure part is not always fun.)

  21. Nevada says:

    We never mind the extra words, they create the char­ac­ters that we are so curious about and invested in. And don’t sweat it, even at 430K words, it’s still shorter than Infi­nite Jest and more to the point than a Wheel of Time book.

    Thank you for all the words and inter­esting char­ac­ters and well-planned plots and detailed settings. I’m so bummed that you some­times feel like you failed for giving your fans what they want — I don’t think any of us here have ever attrib­uted that word to you.

  22. DeDe says:

    Agree with Jeremy on loving the End of Days contin­u­ance. And the titles seem ready-made: End of Days, Almost the End of Days, I Thought This was the End of Days But…, End of Days part1, The End. :-D

  23. Zia says:

    I honestly thought I replied to this when this post was first posted. Clearly the last three weeks of work have made me insane.

    I am beyond grateful the West series found such an incred­ible home with an amazing editor. I cannot wait for 3 (THREE!) books in 2019. Thank you as well for your time and for writing all these incred­ible series.

    If you have the time, please thank Sheila for all of us as well as more books is defi­nitely appre­ci­ated!

    And random side note…I had a heck of a time posting a comment. It kept saying invalid secu­rity token.

  24. @Jeremy: The costs are not imme­di­ately visible, because paper­backs are pretty much priced the same way when readers buy them. But: 100k-120k words (which is about what the market is gener­ally looking for) is cheaper to print than 300k words; the paper costs in this day and age are higher, and the paper required is a finer mill. So my 300k book and someone else’s 100k book have different base printing costs.

    My 300k book triples the copy-editing and proof-reading costs. If we assume that it doesn’t triple the editing costs because the editors are salaried, it’s still an up front cost. Cover costs would be about the same. I think.

    So on a profit and loss state­ment, if my 300k word book and someone else’s 100k word sell the same number of copies, my book makes less *for the publisher*.

    If I were selling the way someone like Roth­fuss or Sanderson sell, it would be less of a problem, because the economies of scale can kick in for the print runs if they’re high enough.

    @Zia: you responded on Face­book :)

  25. David Youngs says:

    Does this mean that War isn’t going to be subdi­vided into another 2 books again?

    (Where are the smilies?)

  26. Angie Gaule says:

    For myself, I am grateful. I hate it when the ending feels rushed; it is absolutely the place where the author needs to be able to speak. And I have been worried that not every­thing I need, as a reader, was going to fit into one book. This is amazing news, and I am excited. Plus, there is a release date! I believe I will be sched­uling my vaca­tion soon :)

  27. @Angie: Funnily enough, my alpha reader (beta readers are for when a book is actu­ally finished, at least in first draft) first came to my atten­tion when he sent email after he’d read — I think on the DAW web-site — that I was working on the “last” book of the Sun Sword. That book even­tu­ally became Sea of Sorrows, which… demon­strably not the last.

    He said, in effect, “don’t do it! Don’t attempt to tie every­thing up in one book – you’ll ruin every­thing”. This is a para­phrase — but, it was pretty close.

    I think I wrote back to say, “You are prob­ably the only reader of BFFs anywhere who writes to the author to tell them to make it *longer*”

    …but actu­ally, it was the same fear — he was worried that if I tried to tie it all up in one book, what he wanted as a reader would be destroyed.

  28. Nevada says:

    @Michelle: Where do we sign up to be alpha reader, or beta reader? I never consid­ered the possi­bility of a dream job that didn’t pay money, but appar­ently it does exist.

  29. Josie says:

    I am person­ally thrilled there will be two more books instead of one, as I am in no way ready to say goodbye to this ‘verse. I am glad you were given the option, kudos to wise editors and DAW folks. Is it Feb. yet? :) thank you for the update!!

  30. Nikita Segadaes says:

    @Michelle I’m so happy that we won’t be losing half the story, I think most of us are more than happy we get two books instead of one, theres no even that much wait time in between. Thanks heaps :D

  31. Michelle, I can only echo everyone else’s delight over the fact that we will get two more books instead of the expected one.

    Also happy to hear that work continues on the next Cast novel and that it will also come out in 2019!

    Just wondering what­ever became of the Severn novella? Last I remember reading it had grown to novel length and needed approval now from your publisher.

    Thank you so much for the beau­tiful stories you bring us and thanks to Sheila for helping to make that possible.

  32. @Elizabeth: my publisher moved offices, or rather, my in-house editor did — the entirety of HLQ and HCP in Canada moved into new offices at Adelaide and Bay in Toronto. So: word on novel dispo­si­tion is still in the air. They’ve expressed posi­tive interest in Severn novels, but the project still has to be taken the edito­rial board, and half of the board is in Toronto (the other, of course, is in NYC). They’ve settled into the new offices — so I expect to hear some­time in the future.

  33. Natasha says:

    Many folks have already expressed their feel­ings of joy that there will be two more books in the series, and the fact that length is not a problem. The more the better. I’d just like to say, ditto, and mention that I miss the days of +1,000-page books. 200 – 300-page books are an appe­tizer. Your books are always a meal! Thanks for nour­ishing my imag­i­na­tion.

  34. Tyronne Hodgins says:

    Another year — sigh! But I get two books — yippee! I simply love your story — I’ve re-read both House War and Cast series at least once a year. Every time a new one is to be released, I start with the first one so it’s all fresh in my mind. You remind me of David Weber. Can’t always hit a dead­line but the end product is SOOOOOOO worth the wait!!! Artistry simply cannot be dictated to and you are an artist Michelle! Thank you! Please pass my thanks on to Sheila as well! I may never meet her but without her understanding.….……She’s wonderful!

  35. Robin Soren says:

    I am sorry but the time between Oracle and the next book is so long that as much as I want to stay connected to the amazing char­ac­ters in the book, I am too angry at the author’s lack of integrity around caring for her readers. Two books in her other series have come and gone while this languished…

    I will not read this nor will I reread the other books at this point.

  36. Lin Edwards says:

    Michelle, your books are detailed and char­ac­ters are well rounded. I admire the effort you’ve put in your work. You make me feel like part of Jewel’s Den or a Domicis ; some­times we’re Jester. You allow us to observe and judge and rage… for that we Thank you! I’m looking forward to 2019 books!

  37. @Robin: I under­stand your anger. And I under­stand your deci­sion. I regret it, of course, and the worry that *all* the readers will have your reac­tion — disap­point­ment, frus­tra­tion, anger, has always been high.

    I won’t try to defend myself at this point; this is not meant to change your reso­lu­tion, but *is* meant to explain the delay. The delay, however, is some­thing I can’t change.

    The biggest loss of West writing time, however, was due to TOUCH/GRAVE (to be fair, it was also the biggest loss of Sagara Cast writing time as well), and this was entirely on me. It’s *all* on me.

    I always work on two books at once, until I reach the end of one of them (whichever of the two), and then write straight through on the one book until it’s done. I’ve found, with time, that I can only write a set number of words on one book/story in a day. After that, I burn out. My back-brain needs actual time to process what comes next. I started to work on two different projects because I discov­ered that working on a *different* project was fine. I could double the number of decent words in a day. I just could not do that on only one book/story. My writer brain needs some time and some back­ground processing to effec­tively write a book.

    The biggest reason the book after ORACLE was delayed was book length. At 430k words, WAR is 3x the length of a CAST novel. In the time it took to write one CAST novel, I wrote one third of WAR. In the time it took to write the next CAST novel, I wrote… another third of WAR. if WAR had been the length of ORACLE, there wouldn’t have been as long a gap — but it wasn’t. So, in the course of writing these novels, I will finish CAST novels before West novels, because of the length.

    And the choice is always: write the book and story that needs to be written, or write… a lot less. ORACLE, when finished, was 270k words. FIRSTBORN will be 240. It’s the first half of the book I’ve been writing. I could have tried to turn in a book of that length – but I had been asked quite firmly for *ONE* more book. And there was a lot to tie up. To have a book out in a timely manner would have meant much, much less of a book/ending.

    So – from my perspec­tive, which is the writer’s – integrity *for readers* is involved in the long delay; it’s the end of a series and I want to end it prop­erly. But I under­stand that that’s the my perspec­tive behind the scenes — and it in no way dimin­ishes the disap­point­ment or resent­ment of readers who — like you — are frus­trated and angry.

    In the end, though, all it adds is anxiety — which actu­ally makes writing much harder, and books *slower* to come out. I am certain you are not the only West reader to feel this way. I was terri­fied that *everyone* would. But writing isn’t typing; it’s not some­thing that I can do at a burst speed for anything other than a short story. Drop­ping the Cast novels would not, in fact, mean the West novels would be completed faster.

    I would just have two sets of readers who are disap­pointed and angry.

  38. Oh, and David? I think I missed that the first time (i.e. when you posted it). I cannot think of a suit­able response, but in this house­hold there was a loud noise and waving fist…

  39. alpikinz says:

    Michelle, as your reader and fan of the house wars (more than the other series) sincerely wish that the last two books of the series really building and strength­ening all the char­ac­ters familiar that the readers have invested all these years to follow, instead of intro­ducing new major char­ac­ters.

    Honestly, I find that the intro­duc­tion of Shianne and then her parts that took a big chunk of Oracle was jarring, esp. consid­ering Oracle was “supposed” to be the penul­ti­mate ending book and yet a new “powerful” char­acter in which honestly has no rela­tion of addi­tional value to jewel did not make sense to me. I was expecting more of Jewel facing trials and tribu­la­tion in her journey to seek the Oracle, instead of playing besotted maiden to Shianne and wondering how to not make Shianne “walk” for several chap­ters. It made Oracle, as the book in the series, the least favourite for me.

    Perhaps you want to prepare us for the next arc of the series but really, these last few books should be about Jewel and the char­ac­ters she surrounded herself since the begin­ning, her, her den, her domicis, her house coun­cils, the mages, her city, not some beau­tiful unknown immortal that really has no impor­tance to Jewel’s story at this stage of the story. If Shianne is taken out of the story from Oracle, it didn’t really detract from anything in the book, at least for me.

    I am so glad that there are now two books coming out because I really couldn’t see how Oracle could be the penul­ti­mate ending book as it stands.

  40. Liza Ismail says:

    thank you thank you thank you Sheila and Michelle for keeping the story — the wait is obvi­ously hair tearing nail biting but i would rather have the two books then read a trun­cated version of it.

  41. Liza Ismail says:

    I don’t know if i can reply to @robin and other haters but at least there are books being released, maybe not in the universe you want. i can name another author who has been promising an ending of a 3 book series but its been 10 YEARS n still no sign of it. So to me a year to wait is nothing.

  42. Thunderchild says:

    I have to ask Liza, you wouldn’t by chance be refer­encing the wise mans fear series?

    I have a bet with someone that it’s actu­ally going to be 4 books.

  43. Liza Ismail says:

    Thun­der­child — chances would be extremely good — worried about your bet tho
    what would you lose?

  44. Thunderchild says:

    An immense amount of pride. That being said, the “I’m due” theory of gambling suggests I’ll get it back even­tu­ally.

  45. Liza Ismail says:

    ah — but he said the series was complete and would be released in sequence, so in my head its a finished product n count it from the first book

  46. Mary Grove says:

    I don’t under­stand Robin Soren’s anger in the least. You, Michelle are the most caring person and author imag­in­able, and it’s beyond the pale for anyone to try and use your overde­vel­oped sense of respon­si­bility against you like that.

    When an artist of any kind sets out to create some­thing as rich and complex as this series, that person doesn’t “owe” us her work and we don’t get to deter­mine the timetable on which we receive it. Yes we’re all greedy and want your books published as quickly as possible because we enjoy them so much, but that’s neither your problem nor a reason for us to be demanding that you write to our preferred timeta­bles. We’re not your bosses, we’re the recip­i­ents of your gifts and readers need to remember that. You gave us a good faith esti­mate of when the last book would be out and it didn’t work out that way.

    I person­ally echo everyone else who’s said they’re happy to get more of your writing and a longer length for this series as it closes. Don’t feel you owe us anything more than what you’re already giving, and please don’t let Robin Soren’s opinion push you into feeling bad about working the way you do. Yes, there are other authors who work differ­ently and also write wonderful books, but so what? What matters in the end is the work, not the method. Once all the House books are out, no one is going to be asking why they didn’t get written faster; they’re going ask if the books are worth reading. So don’t fret about letting us down by taking more time. You create such rich beau­tiful worlds for us to dream in — and all we have to pay for that glory is a little patience. Cheap at twice the price!

  47. Sunwyn Ravenwood says:

    Sigh… now I need to live another 14 months to find out how this series ends. Carry on.

  48. Stephen Engel says:

    Michelle, you are the best writer alive, and Jewel is your finest creation. You do not produce fast food and cheap wine, you produce the finest aged wines and the most savory gourmet dishes. That takes skill and time, so thank you very much.
    Thanks to Shiela for being supportive and caring.
    I look forward to the coming feast. :)

  49. Footsteps says:

    Thank you, Sheila!! Michelle, I think your stories are the perfect length. Looking forward to both books.

  50. Mira says:

    Michelle, I am SO EXCITED to hear that War is, once again, 2 books. House Wars feels like a hydra in reverse. Every time I think the last book is coming out, two more spring up. To be honest, it’s been a couple years since I’ve read the whole series, and I’m defi­nitely going to have to reread them all before I can crack open First­born, but that’s a delight, not a burden. The books are spaced out far enough that every time a new one happens, I have to make time in my life to relearn this fantastic world.
    Also, I really really appre­ciate the State of the Author and books and things blogs. It would have been much harder to wait for War not knowing if it was ever coming (as has happened with a few other epic series I once loved.) But knowing that things are happening, that you haven’t forgotten, means the world to me.

  51. Farrell says:

    I just finished Oracle knowing it was the last currently published book in the series. So excited for 2019. Three count them three new Michelle books in one year. I will just have to start one of your other series in the mean­time. ????

  52. Susan Ivey says:

    I’m absolutely delighted to have Three! more of your books in 2019.
    Pay no atten­tion to those rude, nasty people who are so unable to wait or enjoy Your Stories as you feel they are to written.
    Thank you for your amazing stories, and Thank you Sheila for being such a fan and fantastic editor.

  53. Atticus says:

    No surprise that you’re last book is going to be two books. Good for the readers and good for the publishers. The readers get two more books and the publishers get to sell two books instead of one. This is a common occur­rence in writing and publishing these days.
    Person­ally I’m quite pleased to have two books coming. I couldn’t fathom how you were going to complete such a grand story in just one more bok book.

  54. Tracy in Texas says:

    Oh Michelle, I’m sooo beyond happy. I hadn’t checked the blog in a while and got a deli­cious surprise when I read your July post. I scrolled back here to read the older ones and found this. It’s a dream come true, two books published close together. I’d so hoped you would split it out into more than one book rather than cutting down the content. Your writing is amazing and the thought of losing anything hurt my heart. You’re sooo blessed to have Sheila and we’re so blessed you two under­stand each other so well and work so well together. Thank you for this update. I’m flying to Canada tomorrow and will do so with a great big smile on my face. Rushing to charge the kindle so I can reread some of the books in the series on the plane. 2019 is indeed going to be an excel­lent!!! Thank you for making my next year :) :) :)

  55. Tracy in Texas says:

    P.S. I’ve got both the hard copies for the wonderful cover art and expe­ri­ence of turning actual pages and kindle for the ease of trans­port. Didn’t want you to think I miss out on your tactile versions ;) Thanks again for the update and my 2018 birthday present letting me know early how wonderful 2019 will be with not one but two books from you in this series :) :) Plus one from the cast series… excel­lent news indeed!

  56. Kelly Bowerman says:

    I don’t want to say goodbye to Jewel. So I for one think Sheila is a goddess and I’m over the moon we now have two more books ???? Bring February on!!!

  57. Marie Roberts says:

    Just to say thank you for a date. It’s been very long and I was starting to think there would be no final book to the series. In all your series “Sun Sword” series was the best I have ever read. And reading is one of favorites things. Many authors in my book­case. But never forget that one.

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