Greetings and Salutations

Hello! I am here! Did you think I had dropped off the face of the earth? Or the blogging-earth, anyway? (Is that even a thing? Is that like Middle-earth? … sorry, I just finished re-reading the LOTR trilogy, so my mind is a little full of elves, dwarves, Rangers, hobbits, orcs, and Ents.)

I learned something about myself this past year, which is that I am really not a great blog-writer. Non-fiction tends to not be my niche anyway, and blogging, where you have to combine wit and wisdom in a short, snappy post which both enlightens and entertains … I can work at it, or I can accept that it’s not really my preferred area of writing, and spend more time on fiction, which IS.

But I don’t want to never blog, either – much as I enjoy interacting with people on FB and Twitter, blogging is its own unique community which I don’t want to entirely lose – so my hope is to still pop into this ol’ blog once in a while and touch base with you all.

So, once again, hello! How are all of you? We have started the third of Carl’s spring semesters here at grad school (we find ourselves measuring all our time by his school right now), which means it is our second-to-last, and wow. I realized yesterday that this summer will be our last full summer on the North Shore, which is an even bigger WOW. We are keeping busy with homeschool (love our Classical Conversations homeschool co-op we joined this past fall!), ballet and gymnastics (for the kids), trying to stay healthy (Carl and me), being friend- and community-minded (all of us), and for me, of course, writing.

Honestly, I haven’t done much writing since publishing From the Shadows in December. This is not so much of a slump as it just happened – I published the book, we jumped right into Christmas happenings, then we traveled to visit family, then we came back just in time to get back into CC, ballet, and gymnastics, and then Carl’s semester started. It’s been BUSY. But I’m starting to ease back into things, and am working on Magic Most Deadly’s sequel right now. I recently read a poorly-constructed detective novel with a friend, and breaking down the faults in that made me realize I was committing many of those in this book, so that was good (to realize this before I presented it to the world), and has created a lot more work for me. Which is fine! There’s no point in even starting a book if you aren’t willing to work with everything you’ve got to make it as good as you can.

In other exciting news – well, exciting for me – I’ll be making my first “author appearance” in one month. On March 2nd, at 7:00 pm, I’ll be giving a talk at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in Hamilton, MA, on the importance of stories and speculative fiction, and doing a reading from From the Shadows, followed by a Q&A session. It should be fun! I’m looking forward to it (and am also wicked nervous). If you happen to be in the area that evening, you should come check it out!

Meanwhile, it is February 1 and feels like May 1 outside, so I think I shall wrap up this update and make sure all our windows are open. Happy February, friends!

From the Shadows … Here!

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Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it’s possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn’t sure she’s up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try …

It is book release day! My second novel, and in some ways this is even more exciting than the first one. Certainly less nerve-wracking.

From the Shadows started as a fun “what-if” … what if an ordinary person from this world got swept up onto a spaceship centuries in the future? What is it wasn’t a matter of being a Chosen One or Super Special, but this person just had to adapt and find a place? How would that play out? What would it look like? How would she (this character was “she” by this point) have even gotten there, if there wasn’t some Master Plan Behind It?

From such seeds is a story grown.

First it was a novella, with a surprisingly poignant turn, as Riss, my main character, struggled with her sense of self-worth. It wasn’t all angst, all the time, but the poignancy surprised me (wait, when did this become the theme? When did this story develop a theme anyway?). I was pleased with how it turned out, and sent it to my beta readers and contacted Amanda at Fly Casual for a cover, thinking it would be a quick, easy publish and then I could go back to working on my “real” books, Rivers Wide and Magic in Disguise.

Heh. Not all, but enough of the beta readers sent it back saying “This needs to be a novel! What you have here is a good start, but you need to flesh it out more, you can’t just leave Riss half developed like this, as well as all the other characters.”

Nah, said I, this was just for fun! I have real books that need my attention, I can’t turn this into a novel. It will be fine as a novella.

A couple weeks later, I found myself sitting down and working at making it a novel. About a year after that, I finally sent the finished product – a short novel at about 65,000 words – to my editor. And now here it is, published and ready for the world.

I hope you enjoy it. I really, really loved creating it. The characters, the world, the relationships, everything. It’s a story very dear to my heart, and I am delighted to be able to offer it to you, my friends and readers.

From the Shadows is available in paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon, and in ebook form through Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. Kobo and iBooks will follow shortly – I’ll update this post with links as they go live.

Happy reading, my friends!

Coming … Soon!

So.

It’s not exactly the end of November, but I have a publication date for From the Shadows. Provided all goes as planned (rap wood), it will be out …

December 18, 2015.

Just in time for those last minute Christmas gifts you totally thought you’d already gotten and are now panicking over!

And in case you are a new reader to the blog and wondering what From the Shadows is, here again is the cover and blurb:

fts_5_picmonkeyed

Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it’s possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn’t sure she’s up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try …

I love this story ridiculously much, and I hope, come December 18th, that you do too!

No NaNoWriMo For Me

I had thought about doing NaNoWriMo this year – even after swearing I wouldn’t. I liked the idea of joining with other writers, of pushing myself to get a set amount of words written/edited. In the end, though, I didn’t commit – this month, we have Joy’s 8th birthday (yesterday); Carl’s mother’s birthday (in deference to her, I won’t mention which one); Carl traveling for a scholarly conference, leaving me the sole responsible adult for several days; Thanksgiving; and of course, any handmade Christmas gifts have to get started now.

November is never a great writing month for me.

I am trying to not let myself be lured away from the edits I am properly doing right now, and the short stories I would like to finish before the end of the year, to start a full-length sequel to From the Shadows. I have the faintest glimmer of an idea for it, which properly should be left to sit and develop before any writing ever happens (even if I didn’t have other projects to finish, WHICH I DO), but of course I get excited and want to start writing RIGHT NOW.

Discipline and self-control, right?

Sigh. Being responsible – even being responsible to the story itself by not rushing it, not to mention being responsible to the other stories I have begun and must not leave half done – is hard.

And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to be a responsible homeschool mom when I want to spend school hours writing instead …

Joyful Work

Those of you who enjoyed Magic Most Deadly will be happy to know that I am currently hard at work on revisions of the sequel (thus far, the working title of Magic in Disguise seems to be sticking). You might remember me posting here a few months back that I had finished the first draft? Now I’m filling it out, deepening it and padding it, putting events in their proper order, inserting clues (now that I know both the point of the crime and the criminal, two things I was clueless on when I started the first draft), creating a few red herrings, all that fun stuff.

I know some writers who dump everything into their first draft, and then spend subsequent drafts pruning, cutting away words and tightening it all up. That is not how I craft my stories. No, my first drafts are always the barest of bones (as a teen, I used to write my first drafts as scripts – just dialogue and a few terse “stage directions”), which then have to get filled out a little more in each draft. Right now my chapters stand at about 2500-3000 words each – I need to get them to 4000-4500 by the final draft. Whew!

It’s fun, though. And it’s fun to challenge myself by seeing if I can include enough background details in each scene to keep my beta readers from saying “more details! We need more details!” (I’ve never yet managed it, but it’s a goal). Today, for example, I spent some time figuring out the layout and general decor of Len’s London flat. While the readers of Magic in Disguise won’t necessarily need to know that the flat has two bedrooms, and the exact location of the cloakroom, or what the color scheme is of the dining room, having all that information at my fingertips will make it easier to sneak in subtle details to fill out the story and make it more vivid.

More vivid! That’s what I hope for with all my stories – that they live. I have a hard time re-reading Magic Most Deadly these days – my fingers itch to start editing, to fix all the flaws I see in it now, to make all these improvements. But one thing that does still satisfy me with it is how alive it is. Flawed though it might be (hey, it’s a debut novel), creaky though it may be in places, it does live, and that gives me great joy.

I hope that Magic in Disguise, when it is finished, not only is an improved book craft-wise from MMD, but is even more alive than its predecessor. A joyous, laughing, living book (as much as a murder mystery can ever be those things!), which brings as much delight to its readers as it did/does to its writer.

And now I’d best stop talking about writing it, and get back to actually writing the thing …

Just An Ordinary Monday

Today as part of school, I’m having the kids draw fantasy maps. I want them to include five things: a sea, mountains, a forest, a river, and roads. Other than that, it’s completely up to them. I showed them some examples and left them to it, only stipulating that they sit at their desks so they can’t see each other and and be influenced by what the other is doing.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about making up stories to go along with their fantasy maps. Putting people there, dragons, mermaids, anything they want, and then figuring out how they all get along and how the world functions together.

Economics, cartography, geography, art, writing, social … and they’re having a blast with it.

Some days I really, really love homeschooling.

Switching Mental Gears

I have been working exclusively on Rivers Wide (my 1930s Thousand Islands novel) for quite a while now, trying to get it to the point where I can start serializing it (I have to at least have it in a coherent draft form, and then I can edit/polish each installment as I go). So it took a wrench today to set it aside and immerse myself back in From the Shadows just for a day. My editor’s schedule has cleared, and she is ready for me to send it to her for line edits, and I had just a few issues I wanted to fix before mailing it off to her.

A wrench, yes, but exciting. Because – line edits! That’s a big step closer to publication. And as much as my head is full of Julie (of Rivers Wide) and her cousins and siblings, and their world of dairy farms along the St. Lawrence River in 1935, it was fun to revisit Riss and the crew of Caledonia and polish them up to meet my editor.

September was an exhausting month, with school starting back up (for Carl, for the kids, and our brand-new Classical Conversations homeschool group), the kids’ extra-curricular activities starting, Carl and I going through church membership classes, weekly Bible Studies, and a lovely whirlwind visit from family in the midst of it all. Not much time for writing at all, frankly.

But I knew that was going to happen, which is why I pushed so hard to get so many first drafts done this summer. Because, for me, second drafts/editing/polishing/et cetera, require much less intensive effort than the initial story creation. So I can pick a story up and do a little at a time without it taking me an hour just to get back into my characters’ heads and figure out where the plot is going. It’s still slow going, but it is progress.

And seeing that progress advance another entire step for From the Shadows is tremendously exciting, and I really can’t wait to hear what my editor has to say about it! Only another couple months before publication, guys!