Mirages and Speculations

Setting is a crucial part of storytelling. Setting affects the story in many ways. What challenges do the protagonists face from nature and their environment? How has the landscape shaped the culture of the people who live there?

There are some common tropes for fantasy and sci-fi stories. Fantasy stories are often set in a parallel version of medieval Europe, with small villages, walled towns and thick forests to traverse. Sci-fi stories are often set on gleaming high-tech space stations. There’s nothing wrong with these settings, of course. Sometimes they suit the story perfectly.

But an unexpected setting can result in an unexpected kind of story.

Mirages and Speculations is a fantasy and sci-fi story set in a different kind of landscape: the desert. Think wind-swept plateaus, scorching sands, and arroyos. Come discover if that glimmer on the desert horizon is a lake, or the gleam of light off the side of a flying saucer. If those swirling clouds are dust devils–or djinn.

Seventeen authors of science fiction and fantasy take you into worlds both futuristic and fantastic under the desert skies.

You can order it as print or e-book from Amazon here.

2017 in review

Seen through almost any metric I can imagine, 2017 was my most successful writing year yet. Any metric that does not include revenue, anyway.

I started this year by sending my novel Under Everest off to my editor. Written in the last half of 2016, Under Everest was the first novel that I wrote with an intent to publish. At the time I thought I would self-publish the book sometime later in the year, with the hopes of releasing more books in the series in the future. Most of 2017 was to be spent writing books outside the series, with the hopes of publishing one later in the year.

Like many plans, that one changed.

Once I spoke with some of my self-publishing peers at 2017’s Superstars of Writing Conference in Colorado, it became clear that I needed to expand the Everest story into a trilogy. I retargetted my launch window for 2018, now with the intention of releasing all three Everest books in that year.

Of course, that left me with two Everest books to outline and write. I’d never done more than one book in a year. In fact, Under Everest was only the second full length novel I’d ever written. It really felt like I might be taking on more than I could handle.

Fortunately my house was being worked on immediately after Superstars, which landed me in a hotel for several weeks. During that time I plotted out books 2 and 3 of my new series in one long effort. Once my hotel stay was done, I was ready to start writing book 2.

Writing Seas of Everest

Once I started working on Book 2, titled ‘Seas of Everest’, I began to regret the decisions I made at the close of Under Everest. Specifically the decision to split my protagonists into two different areas, as it forced me to essentially write two separate stories. I decided to write one story to completion and then the other, leaving the task of weaving them together until both were complete.

In the end, working out how those stories would interrelate with each other was a very satisfying process and I was quite happy with the result. Just like Under Everest before it, when I completed Seas and send it off to my editor, I felt like I had accomplished more than I knew I was capable of.

Writing Dragons of Everest

Writing the third book in the series became an adventure unto itself. Hit with the possibility of having the same editor for all three books, I had to race and complete the first draft of the manuscript in 40 days. Little over a month to complete a 100,000 novel would require me to write at a pace I’d never done before, as well as push me to not skimp on all the epic moments a trilogy finale needs. All this while still untying plot knots and factoring in editor feedback from Books 1 and 2. As with the book before it, I ended up learning that I was capable of more as a writer than I thought. I completed the book on time, even with a few days to spare.In the end I was very happy with the final (first draft) product. At that time I thought that would be the last I would be writing of my Everest crew for some time.

The Fifth Interdictor

Once Dragons of Everest was off to the editor I took a month to finish an older novella of mine, The Fifth Interdictor. By the end of November I had sent that off to an editor as well, which will leave me with four books that I can publish next year.

Looking forward to 2018

Again consulting with my friends in self-publishing, it became clear to me that my best path for writing in 2018 was to continue inside the Everest series. Fortunately it is a world filled with characters I love and a lot of untapped story potential. I am excited to see what the results will be next year as I attempt to double my 2017 output and produce four more novels in the series.

In Conclusion

I could not be more proud of my output in 2017. Not only did I produce two novels and a novella, I learned new ways to outline, new methods for setting up scenes and chapters and completely reinvented my writing process along the way. I very happy with the quality and content of the work and am excited to look forward to 2018 when these characters can finally meet the world.

My Year in RE-View

This has been the year of RE for me.

Relaunch – In August, WordFire Press released Knight of Flame, my debut novel introducing a small cadre of elemental knights and their constant struggle against the forces of Shadow. Originally published in 2013, this new version sports a fresh edit and shiny new cover. We relaunched the series, Chronicles of the Knights Elementalis, in preparation for the next three books.

Re-envision – As we finalized the re-release of Knight of Flame, I had the opportunity to re-invent the second book in the series, KNIGHT OF AIR. I’ve been rehashing the third act, arguing with myself over where to end the book. My original vision and early drafts clocked in at 180k words. But then I got to thinkin’…maybe that’s too long…maybe I should shoot for the same length as KOF (approx. 119k words)…yeah, let’s do that. I see where it all fits. Sure, I can make that work. Yes, I CAN make that work, but that’s not how I envisioned the book. And forget that title—Knight of Air. It’s not right. My thoughts were locked in old-think, or prior-marketing-syndrome, where I thought I’d title the book with the name of the knight’s POV introduced with that novel.

Recharged – Recharged, I shattered that mindset. I’ve re-made key decisions to honor my original vision and I’m pushing forward. The second book in the Chronicles of the Knights Elementalis is called, THE LAST CLAN, and will be decidedly longer than KOF. All for the better. Blast-off!

Rehash – I could rehash the huge, non-writing family and corporate priorities that consumed my time this year, but to what end? To beat myself up for not meeting my writing goals? And that would accomplish…what?

Refuse – I refuse to devolve, to give in to entropy and atrophy. I’ve worked too hard to let a little elapsed time derail my writing future. So I look to the future.

Refocus –Every day is a new opportunity to make progress. Big or small, progress is progress. And as the year comes to an end, I’ve refocused on my writing. Baby steps at first, I’m tackling the last edit of book 2 and pre-writing a new middle-grade fantasy.

Recommit – Time continues to prove elusive, but I’ve recommitted to my craft and returned to my writing desk. Words will flow. Stories will unfold. Characters will live and breathe and shine. This I vow to myself, my family, and my readers.

I own this. When I come before you next year with a Year-in-review post, it will read decidedly different. Count on it.

If it isn’t working …

If it isn’t working, change it.

This axiom can apply to a lot of things in our personal and writing life.

While reflecting on this year, I realized that I made changes in two significant areas of my life. Things weren’t working in a bad, horrible way, but in ways which didn’t allow me to be as productive and healthy as I could be.

On the personal side, we all know that we can’t change anyone else. We can only change ourselves. That’s because the desire to change has to come from within to be realized and to be sustainable. This past year, more than ever before, I had to create boundaries and acknowledge my physical limitations. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and although I have never worn it on my sleeve, I learned that I must own it and not deny how it affects my life.

Publicly admitting that I have CFS feels risky. What if a publisher learns of my illness and isn’t sure I can handle the stress and time commitment of a writing career? Truth is, I know others with this illness and their writing careers are doing well. How do they do it? Time management. Cutting out extraneous activities, and the emotional and physical stressors imposed by other people. They focus by choosing to do what is important (writing) and sticking to it. This also includes self-care.

Mind you, this is what we all need to be doing. The A-type personality of doing all things and being all things to everyone burns most of us out. This is why I’m speaking out. It’s not for fear of a publisher rejecting me but to let other writers know that it’s okay to be who we are (health and other issues) and that we don’t have to live up to the schedules and productivity of superstars who have made it big in the industry. Hey, being on best seller lists, writing all the time, and being appreciated by a large readership is still my goal, but I don’t stress about it anymore. I just work toward it one bit at a time.

So, on the personal side, I became much more accepting of who I am and in applying self-care. The cool thing is, is that by doing this, I’ve become more productive, have grown as a writer, and was a finalist for the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s Aurora Award. How cool is that?

The writing life can be lonely and sometimes it’s good to have another writer or group to discuss story issues. Realizing my need for such a group got me talking about this with other writers. This brought about the second great change in my life – the creation of a developmental writing group.

I still belong to a critique group and a speculative fiction group which has skills sessions and critiques. The camaraderie within these groups is great as is the learning but they weren’t exactly what I wanted at this time. I wanted to learn how to write mysteries and to be in a group that supported story development, not critiquing.

Four of us got together and found a mentor. Once a month, we share what we’ve been working on, and ask for feedback and brainstorming on specific problems. We’ve all become better at outlining and as a result, our stories are much better for it. The wonderful thing about this group is that it is supportive and positive. We each get a half hour to talk about what we want, whether it’s about an outline, story structure, a piece of our writing or whatever questions are running through our heads. The others respond, share their insights and at the end, we check to make sure the person’s concerns were addressed. We leave inspired, energised and most importantly, happy that we’ve had a good place in which to talk about specific writing issues as we develop and plot our stories.

Change comes in many forms, both personal and professional but only after we’ve been honest with ourselves can we create the type of environment and support we need to become more productive and successful.