Goals: May 2017

Somehow May crept up on me very quickly. The sun is finally shining in California, which should help me get up earlier and get more writing done.

Last month’s goals were:

  1. LIGHT & SHADOW (ToB&L 5) revision and rewriting. I got about halfway through this, as a sudden adventure in Twitter pitching forced me to shift gears to do a revision on The Eighth Octave instead. I finished the EO revision, so I’ll count this as a CHECK!
  2. FINISH draft of musical magic co-write. Not only did Tamara and I finish it– we did a massive revision AND submitted a pitch. CHECK! 
  3. ODDS & ENDS (this includes working on some editing and formatting projects for others, mainly). Odds & Ends turned into a bigger category with a couple unexpected formatting jobs. I’m getting them done. CHECK!

Goals for May are:

  1. LIGHT & SHADOW (ToB&L 5) revision and rewriting FINISH
  2. RE-READ The Eighth Octave Draft
  3. FINISH various formatting jobs

Goals : April : 2017

It’s time to review and post goals for another month. I was smart last month and kept my goals simple:

  1. FINISH  Mage & Source  revision. CHECK–I did this and sent to Tamara Shoemaker for line edits. That’s a relief.
  2. START musical magic co-write. CHECK–this is going very well. Tamara and I have nearly created a very rough draft for the entire book. We estimate 2-4 more chapters, plus an epilogue.
  3. READ through newly revised River Running and send to beta readers. CHECK–this one is off with a beta reader right now.

I’m going to keep it simple for April, too:

  1. LIGHT & SHADOW (ToB&L 5) revision and rewriting.
  2. FINISH draft of musical magic co-write.
  3. ODDS & ENDS (this includes working on some editing and formatting projects for others, mainly).

Deleted Scene: Laith describes a mage’s view of pregnancy

This little scene is mainly interesting for a mage’s perspective on the magical theory of pregnancy in the Lethemian world. It turns out that neither this particular pregnancy, nor the magical facts about it presented here, remain valid. It was a wrong turning in magical theory and in story that I eventually had to cut.

The mage Laith Amar is the narrator for this scene:

As I descended into aethertrance, I swept my magestone over my hand on Lujayn’s abdomen. And there it was: a pinprick of mauve light in the center of Lujayn’s vibrant crimson plexus. A female spark, no more than a few days old. I bent to look closer. Damnation. The little fleck of life was barely attached in the network of Lujayn’s aetherlight, hanging by a single thread. I’d never seen an embryo so close to being unmoored. I’d heard many theories about why some pregnancies worked better than others—the mage I’d trained with at the Conservatoire said the ones that were not securely woven into the mother were unwanted by her. I didn’t believe that—I’d seen enough of the unwanted fetuses of whores—they often asked me to remove them—to know that whether a child was wanted has little to do with whether it was fixed well in the Aethers.

My own theory was that it had to do with the characteristics of the aetherlight of the parents. Most Conservatoire-trained mages paid no attention to the subtleties of aetherlight colors, how they melded or did not. Most mages did not have clear enough aethersight to see such nuances. When I examined a pregnant woman, I could easily see that the color of the child’s aetherlight was connected those of the parents, to varying degrees. But sometimes the parental aetherlights did not want to blend, and when that happened, the resultant embryo looked like this little one inside Lujayn Arania.

Experience told me not to bother with a repair—the little speck would never hold. But since it was my own brother’s child, I had to try. I pulled threads from my own aetherlight to stitch the little mauve speck into the crimson network more securely. Flashing the requisite sigils, I did the best I could, but even so, I worried.

As I came up out of the trance, I met Lujayn’s wide eyes. “Did you see?” she asked. “Will I have a baby?” her voice still held that cool and rather insouciant tone.

“Yes,” I said. “I saw the light within you. I made a working to fix it better. But Lujayn—” she glowered at me as if she didn’t like my casual use of her first name—“you must be very careful. I have done what I could, but the aetherlight was very fragile. I’d recommend bedrest for the next sidereal, at least.”

“Bedrest!” she cried, clearly annoyed. “But Jaasir and I are headed to Lysandra in three days!”

Deleted Scene: Leila and Miki after the shipwreck

I missed Deleted Scene Monday last week because I didn’t have enough time to sort through my material and find an appropriate snippet. Here’s a piece cut from a very old version of The Gantean.

This scene takes place after the shipwreck that separated Leila from her daughter, Tianiq, and the other Ganteans. In this older version, Leila, Miki, and Tiriq ended up on an island instead of being picked up from the wreckage by a following ship. They think the island is where a group of refugee Ganteans have settled, a place called “new Gante,” but it turns out it is inhabited by Lethemians.

I cut this material for several reasons– one, to cut words; two, because it only added world-building, not story; and three, because it ultimately distracted from the plot and slowed down the narrative.

Leila is the narrator:

Barely able to pull our bodies out of the umiaq, Miki and I stumbled ashore. We found an inlet with a thin strand of sand, hiding between outcrops of black rocks. I had tucked Tiriq under my sealskin cloak for the journey, and spirits be thanked, he had slept, lulled by the steady rocking from the sea and the rowing. As we came ashore, he began to whimper.

“Soon,” I told him under my breath, as I helped Miki drag the craft ashore. “We’ll get back to her soon.”

It was too dark to find our way much farther onto New Gante. Miki and I collapsed at the farthest edge of sand, curling close like sled dogs in winter. It was not especially cold, but the storm had left us with a deep chill, from trauma and temperature alike.

Tiriq rooted around at my breast. I drew the throat of my shift down, to give him access. He ate furiously, as if he too had rowed leagues yesterday.

Lush trees provided a backdrop to the beach. The waters before me were still and tranquil, with no trace of the fury of yesterday. The shore could only be the northern face of the island; as I faced the sea, the glow of sunrise emerged from the horizon off to my left.

Miki sat up, and brushed a coating of sand from his face. He rummaged in his pack and drew out two skins of water, and a couple lengths of jerk-dried meat.

“Which way should we walk?” I asked, peering into the dense greenery that lay behind us.

Miki groaned. “It would be better to go round the island in the boat. Surely, if we follow the shore, we will come upon people. We won’t have to leave the boat behind.”

Of course. My mind was disheveled from the events yesterday. All I could think about was Tianiq’s helpless form sinking beneath the waves, the horror and the helplessness of that moment. For Miki’s sake, I pushed it back, and agreed to keep paddling.

Though our muscles screamed their agony, we made time on the calm waters. The island was unvarying in its lush vegetation. Where there were inlets, small patches of beige sand collected, but never the long, wide deposits I had seen at Murana or Orioneport. The island appeared deserted. Many times Miki and I exchanged wondering looks as the panorama of greenery continued. The sheer volume of life springing forth staggered me. How did the New Ganteans know what to do with it all?

Dark freckles sprouted on Miki’s face from the sun. My own skin felt tight and dry, and I kept my cloak loosely draped over Tiriq’s head to give him some small amount of shade. After two days of following the coast, our supplies began to run low. We decided to stop and stay ashore for a day, and see if we could find fresh water and food.

We skirted the edges of the jungle at first, searching for an outlet of water running down into the ocean. On an island as green as this, Miki and I both knew we would find fresh water. It was not long until we were rewarded with a small trickle, cutting down through porous black rocks to a ledge that overhung the sea. We followed the path of the stream upwards, until it grew fast and plentiful. Miki knelt, sipping at the water to taste it, then refilling our two skins. We sat down together on rough black rocks, and sipped water from cupped hands.

Privately, I nursed a doubt that the island we had found was New Gante, but I debated confessing my fears to Miki. He was adamant that he had set the heading right, but the further we progressed, the heavier my doubts grew. Merkuur had told me New Gante was so tiny you could walk around the entirety of it in one afternoon. Yet Miki and I had traveled nearly two full days by boat, and we hadn’t yet rounded the northeastern tip of this island.

“Miki, do you think…” He grabbed my arm with fingers like strangler vines.

“Shhhh!” He pointed to an overhang of rocks and tree branches weirdly melded together above our little creek. Some of the more slender branches had begun to move, slithering down the face of the rocks like rivulets of thick water. Miki drew an ulio from his sack. His crouched with each muscle taut but still, only his eyes following the creature’s passage down towards the water. The snake slid gracefully into the waters, flowing towards us.

We tried to remove ourselves from its path. I had never seen a living serpent, but I had a visceral loathing for it. Miki seemed to know better how to treat it, and I could feel his fear and caution coming over me in waves. The snake made its way up the bank, straight towards us. It bent its black body into an s-shaped curve, retracted its head, and opened its mouth wide. Two fangs dripped with sticky white fluid. Miki pressed into me, his body cueing mine to creep backwards away from the snake. The snake sat frozen with its gaping mouth, and did not follow us. Once we were a good ten spans away, we bolted back down our trampled path through the foliage, racing towards the open visibility of the beach.

“Do you know what kind of serpent that was?” I asked Miki as we collapsed onto the sand next to our umi.

“Not exactly. But my master said the islands in the Parting Sea were full of snakes. He said they lived in the trees, and they could jump down onto you and bite you in the face. The venom’s deadly.”

I shuddered, imagining if the snake had chosen to strike. I hugged Tiriq and let him pull at the stretched out neck of my tunic to get to my milk. Tiriq had been eating nearly double since Tianiq was gone, as if trying to make up for her absence.

“Maybe the New Ganteans were chased out by snakes,” I said.

Miki pulled our last biscuit from his waist pouch. The biscuits were some invention of the Hutre: hard, twice baked breads that lasted forever. He broke it in half and handed me my share.

“I don’t think this is the isle of New Gante,” he said. “It’s just too big.”

I nodded my agreement. “But what is it?’

“It must be one of the Amarantinas. They’re the only islands of any size in the Parting Sea. The storm blew us off course.”

“What about the others?” I said, sitting upright. Tianiq. “If the course we set was the same as they, do you think they would have made it here?” I often forgot Miki had only twelve winters.

“Leila, the only reason we made it here was because we changed our course,” Miki said. “You went into Yaqi and flew, and found an island for us.”

“Merkuur would have done the same,” I said quickly. He too had a bird for a tormaq. “Pamiuq and Atanurat were with him.” I didn’t even know who Atanurat’s tormaq was, for he had lost his tormaquine.

Miki nodded. “I guess all we can do is keep going. If this is one of the Amarantinas, we’ll have to find some sort of community.”

“How so?”

“The Amarantinas. They’re where people like Cerio’s mother go to learn how to serve the gods.”

“They do?” I didn’t remember anyone ever mentioning that.

“Yes.” Miki rolled his eyes. “Cerio said his mother was gone for almost six sidereals. And when she came back, he had to pretend he wasn’t her son, cuz they don’t allow the servants of the gods to make young.”

I stood up, and tightened the lacings that held Tiriq against me. “So now we’re looking for priests and priestesses? We may as well keep going. We can try to find food on the waters.”

We made too much disturbance traveling through the water, and my line caught nothing. Suddenly, the coastline shifted as the sun dropped. Something about it seemed…inhabited. There were no boats moored at the water’s edge, nor any buildings. Maybe it was the clean line of foliage that approached the beach, different from the overgrown masses of green we had grown used to seeing.

“Let’s stop here,” I told Miki, sitting in front of me. The modest waves did little to help bring us into shore, so we paddled until Miki could hop out and drag us in the rest of the way.

Miki scanned the forest around us in the fading light. Tiriq began to fuss and whimper.

“What’s that?” Miki pointed up into the verdant hillside. I looked up, and saw the distinct shape of a roof, strangely familiar, with upturned eves, a line of red glowing against the green leaves.

“It’s a building.”

Miki began to trudge up the beach, and I followed. We found a narrow path cut up through the forest, strewn with rounded black pebbles so that the plants would not take root upon it. Steps led up the hill paved with flat, smooth stones. We followed the staircase up at least forty spans, and the path took a sharp left, widening into an open garden with islands of moss and stone.

Miki froze. The path turned to black sand, and the sand was raked into neat designs. It seemed wrong to marr them.

“Who’s there? Iduma, is that you?” A voice floated through the gate of hewn cedar that walled in the garden. The voice spoke in Balethemian, and spoke it well, with an accent that would have put the speaker in good standing in the High Court.

Miki and I just looked at each other.

“Iduma, the Prioress says we aren’t allowed to go out into the gardens after they have been swept. Honestly, don’t you…” The cedar gate swung open, and a girl stood before us, draped in pink linens of varying tones. Her honey-colored hair was pulled back from her round face and braided down her back. She froze for a moment, long lashes fluttering round her wide brown eyes.

“Oh!” she finally said, as her eyes flicked down at the curving patterns in the sand. “No one’s allowed in the garden after it’s been swept.” She stayed frozen on her side of the sand, and we on ours.

“We came up from the beach,” I told her. “Our ship was wrecked in the Parting Sea. We’ve been paddling for three days looking for people.” At this point, Tiriq began to squall.

The girl’s eyes grew yet larger. “Oh, Lord Amasis!” she said. “I’d better go and get the Prioress.” With that, she turned and fled, leaving Miki and I marooned on the far side of the black sand.

Miki gave me a look. He mostly loathed the Lethemians, and I knew he was happier alone in the wilderness than in their company, even taking viperous snakes into account. He was thinking we would do better to run back down to the boat and flee before the girl came back.

I shook my head at him. “I can’t, Miki. Not with Tiriq. And we have to find out if the others might have come by here, or if there are other islands where they might have landed.”

I had to believe we would find Tianiq and Atanurat and Merkuur. The alternative did not bear imagining.

September 2016 Goals

August was a good month of writing and working for me. I also possibly made a big break through on a problem that often eats up my writing hours: migraine headaches. I am trying the most common prescription medication again (Imitrex) after years of using alternative solutions that all either failed (various diets, herbs, remedies) or made matters much worse (acupuncture). At any rate, so far I’ve fully aborted two out of three headaches with Imitrex, which feels pretty miraculous after twenty years of impenetrable cyclical migraines. What this means is that I may have 2-4 more days of good solid writing per month to complete these goals.

Last month’s goals were:

  1. Work on ToB&L Book 4 revision. CHECK, but still slowly plodding through the plot– or plotting through the plod, as the case may be.
  2. Finish posting the matwork series to my Pilates Blog (2.5 exercises left!) CHECK
  3. Keep working on the various formatting and editing projects for other authors. CHECK–I made good progress and finished two projects.

This month’s goals will be:

  1. Work on ToB&L Book 4 revision. 
  2. Finish ToB&L Book 6 revision: The final four books of ToB&L are intricately connected, and so, as I’m revising book 4, I’ve been reading Books 6 & 7 to make sure events and logistics match up. I started revising Book 6 last month to fix continuity issues, and I realized I needed to take the story timeline further and add a few chapters at the end. I plan to finish this book’s ending this month.
  3. Begin ToB&L Book 5 revision: This book is getting a full rewrite similar to Book 4. I switched up the timelines and narrators in these two books and so they needed a complete reorganization. I’ve been having so many ideas about Book 5, and I’m very excited to share the narrators’ stories someday. Readers of the series have met these two narrators before in earlier stories, and one of them is the character most-asked about, and a personal favorite of mine.

 

August 2016 Goals

July was a whirlwind of activities, so thank goodness my three July goals were simple:

  1. Work on ToB&L Book 4 revision. CHECK
  2. Post at least 4 new exercises to my Pilates Blog. CHECK, I posted 4
  3. Keep working on various formatting and editing projects I’m working on for other writers. CHECK

August looks like it will be more of the same. I’m involved in several longer term projects that can’t be completed in one month so here are my goal for August:

  1. Work on ToB&L Book 4 revision. 
  2. Finish posting the matwork series to my Pilates Blog (2.5 exercises left!)
  3. Keep working on the various formatting and editing projects for other authors.

Maybe next month I’ll get a little variety in there!

Note: I’m running a giveaway for paperback copies of The Velocipede Races over on Goodreads. You can enter here for four more days: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/194802

 

 

Seven Questions : June 2016 : Tamara Shoemaker

Prolific YA fantasy writer Tamara Shoemaker joins me again for a third round of Seven Questions! Her latest book is Embrace the Fire, Book Two in the Heart of a Dragon series. Tamara is one of my favorite writing buddies. We have worked on each other’s books as beta readers, blurbers, and editors, and we have even co-written a story together in one of the Flashdogs anthologies.

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EJS: Pitch your featured book in three sentences.

TS: Embrace the Fire continues the journeys of the four characters introduced in Kindle the Flame. Political intrigue boils into epic warfare as kings clash and nations dissolve beneath Dragonfire and magic. Kinna, Cedric, and Ayden are drawn inexorably toward a fearful destiny, and Dragons, Pixies, Seer Fey, and other creatures are pitted against one another as the conclusion dissolves into a cataclysmic end that will leave the reader dying for more.

EJS: Of all your characters, who is your favorite and why?

TS: I put little pieces of me in all of my characters (even the evil ones), so this is an extremely hard one to answer; it’s like choosing a favorite child. At the risk of alienating the rest of my characters and embroiling them in green jealous ink, I’m going to choose Ayden. The pull of a lonely soul who has never known the joy of a mother’s love or the touch of a friend is one of my “mushy” spots. I just want to give him a hug. I think it’s likely that I make some of the other characters hug him more often than is absolutely necessary to make up for his lack of attention. Poor soul.

EJS: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

TS: I think the slice of the first draft from 20,000 words to approximately 70,000 words is the hardest. When I start a first draft, I’m on fire for 20,000 words. It’s still new, it’s fresh, and I’m still falling in love with the characters. By the time that 20k rolls around, the characters sag. They start to wonder: Who am I? Why am I here? Who created me? What if there is no creator? What if I’m just one big cosmic accident, and the only reason I exist on these pages is because someone, somewhere got incredibly confused? By the time 70,000 words rolls around, the characters have found their path in life. They begin to put their affairs in order, and they relax with their friends and family around them, cheering them on through the last few steps until the conclusion. But those middle 50,000 words are torture.

EJS: What do you think are the three most important personality traits for being a writer?

TS: Flexibility, determination, and a good mixture of talent with imagination. I know lots of people that have two, but not three, of those, and it’s never enough—not unless all three of those are present. Every writer has more weight on one or another of these, but as long as all three are there, a story will make its way from mind to book and into the hands of readers.

EJS: What makes a good editor?

TS: A basic understanding of what makes a good story. This seems simplistic, but there’s so much to what creates a good story that an editor’s job isn’t just a simple add-a-comma-here-delete-this-word-here. It’s understanding how to build a story on a solid foundation that won’t topple as the plot points fall into order. It’s identifying the main conflict and helping the author to build each character’s story around that conflict. It’s cheerleading—being the voice behind the author that beats down the author’s frustrations, whether derived from the editor’s critiques or from outside critiques, and being the one to pull the author through to the end, to a polished and completed book in his or her hands. A good editor is worth their weight in gold.

EJS: What is the best book you’ve read this year in any genre?

TS: I promise I’m not just saying this because I’m on your blog, but the best book I’ve read in a looonnngg time is Sterling by Emily June Street. It’s a wonderful romantic fantasy that is almost a twist on my favorite fairy tale: Beauty and the Beast. The plot is intricately woven, the character development is stunning, and the story arc kept me riveted. It releases at the end of June 2016, so keep an eye out for this one!

EJS: Are you working on anything new aside from your two fantasy series?

TS: Ha! I can’t seem to slow myself down. I’m enjoying building my freelance editing business: it’s always so exciting to read someone else’s work, helping someone polish their story to a high sheen, so I’m in the middle of a project there. I’m finishing up the third book in my Guardian of the Vale trilogy, and I’m also writing the first draft of the third book in my Heart of a Dragon trilogy. Recently, I’ve also begun drawing up plans for a historical romance series that I plan to put out under a pen name… you know, to work on in all my spare time. 😉

Learn more about Tamara, her books, and her stellar fiction editing services: https://tamarashoemaker.org/