Sunday, December 26, 2010

Farewell and Hello

Farewell, 2010, hello 2011. This year was a bit of a challenge all the way around for me (as you may have noted by the fact that I haven't blogged since September! Egad.), so I'm actually glad to greet 2011 as a fresh start. I plan to use it to continue to stretch as a writer, to reach some publication goals, to finish the two big projects underway in my drawer, and to just enjoy life more. This year was pretty nose-to-the-grindstone and it slipped by really fast. More flowers are going to get smelled in 2011 at my house.

One of my clients gave me a great Christmas present, a bracelet that says "Embrace the journey." That's a great sentiment, and one I plan to keep in mind. Life is a back road with no map to tell you where you're really going. You get to decide whether to turn off, go back, or keep forging ahead to see where it all ends up. The best times I ever had in Germany were those when my hubby and I got lost on the way to wherever we had decided to explore that weekend and wound up in even more interesting places. So yes, life is as much about the journey as the destination.

That, I suppose, is why I like being a writer. Most times, I have no clue when I write the first sentence of a story or a novel how it will end or what will happen along the way. I get to find out when my characters do. That is fun, and exciting, and makes the less-fun parts of the writing process bearable. You know, those times when drudgery is the only way to break through to the next part that rejuvenates the story and your enthusiasm for writing it.

Embrace the journey, folks. May 2011 bless us all with new vistas and wondrous destinations!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Discipline vs. Inspiration in Writing

It's September, which is usually a fun and exciting writing time for me. The Other Worlds Writers' Workshop sponsors a Short Story in a Week challenge throughout the month, which is a hoot and something I really look forward to. However, this month has been a challenge of a different sort.

The well is a bit dry of words this time out. This tends to make it harder to write...

I could blame it on the very real and intense schedule I've been keeping the past several months, which has sucked up most of my creative energy. I'm tired, cranky, and really need a vacation. But life is life, and I want to write anyway, so here I sit, staring at the page and the two lists of required words, hoping inspiration will strike. This is not, generally, the best way to progress.
It is sooooooo much more fun when the great idea strikes from nowhere and you risk breaking bones in the dash back to the house to get at writing utensils. I remember scribbling on the backs of paper plates on a camping trip because that's all there was and I needed needed needed to capture the moment.

Ah, the good old days!

To be a writer is to face up to the fact that it's hard. To develop the discipline necessary to finish a story, or a novel, or a proposal, or a synopsis, you have to turn off the "maybe later" gene and just do it. Words will not fill the screen by themselves, even when the muse is red-hot eager to work with you. I picked at one long story for days the first week, and poured out a second in less than four hours. Then the muse went back to bed and I only managed one (semi-decent) story in Week 2. Since it came from a leisurely walk down to the old stone house a mile or so from my house, I really need to remember the value of downtime.

Is it good to push? I think so. Giving in to "later" is like deciding you don't want to work out today. I read somewhere that it takes three weeks to build a good habit and three days to break it. Speaking from experience, that's true. All it takes is a couple of days' break in a routine and suddenly it is quite easy to justify extending that break another day, and another. Losing momentum on a writing project can be fatal to the project. Or a diet. Or an exercise routine.

Oh, how I prefer inspiration, when the words pour out in a flood and every one of them seems golden. The characters are alive, the plot is tight, the vision is clear. But perspiration is the only substitute for those days when the characters are cranky, the plot is wandering in circles, and you have not a clue what happened to the great idea you started with. I'm stuck in perspiration mode this week, and hammering through is the only answer. BUT--I will concede and take the muse to town shopping tomorrow. I think she's seen a bit too much of this computer this week.

Perhaps if I bribe her with Coldstone Creamery for lunch...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reflections on Arslan

I was at SpoCon last weekend, and acquired a book. Not just any book, but Arslan by M. J. Engh, who was also at SpoCon. She and I have talked before, and we shared a couple of panels, and the discussion around the book from people who had read it was interesting, so I went to the dealer's room and bought it.

Oh. My. God.

I now totally understand Diana Pharaoh Francis's comment to Ms. Engh that Arslan was the most disturbing book she had ever read. I even understand Ms. Engh's only half-joking admonition to "Don't like it!" when she signed my copy for me. It is the sort of book that makes writers crazy because it is so good. Its premise is disturbing, its execution superb, and its characters indelibly damaged, haunting in their individual stalking of their disparate goals.

What is Arslan? Arslan is a very young man from a very obscure place who takes over the world in a week without firing a shot. Things go downhill from there, for everyone. Ms. Engh plays the reader like a violin, running the gamut of reaction. Layers upon layers of character development are in here, amid threads of brilliant SF woven into the fabric with seamless artistry. One cannot help but speculate on if/how/how much the characters and civilization in general have been damaged by the events in the book. Certainly they have all been damaged, but the extent is debatable, given the vagaries of life even without Arslan to stir it up, and the current state of the world.

The book succeeds both as SF (it is being re-released this December as part of a series honoring the grand masters of the genre, a title Ms. Engh richly deserves) and as literature. It makes you think, and the prose is beautiful as well as on point. It starts with a bang and never lets go, and never spends boring pages of exposition explaining how the characters arrived at the starting point of the book. They're completely in the dark as to that themselves, so the reader is too, and it works. Beautifully. The point of the story is not how we got here, but what to do about it.

I learned something from this book. I learned I have a long way to go as a writer, but my horizons have been expanded, and I am eager to take up the challenge. I learned more about characterization from Arslan than from any book I have ever read, ironic given that one of the panels I sat in on with Ms. Engh was about characterization, and never touched on the absolute brilliance she brings to it. She did share that she dreamed about Arslan, that he sprang from somewhere deep within her, and nothing she has written since has matched him in depth. One hopes not. One Arslan in your life is enough.

But what a learning experience he is.

This book is not a fluffy beach read. You will not soon forget it, and I recommend it to anyone looking to step up from pure amusement to something that might leave them a little uncomfortable, but wiser. It avoids every cliche, breaks new ground, and forces you to simply take the ride without expectation of the usual rewards.

Sorry, Mary Jane, but I liked it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing from Life

The old saw "write what you know" is often, I think, misunderstood. While it seems obvious to wrap your writing in things you know well to avoid embarrassing faux pas, this can loom like the Great Wall of Mediocrity for people who think they've never done anything interesting in their lives and therefore have nothing to write about. Au contraire. No one has been to Mars, yet there are plenty of stories set on Mars. Obviously "what you know" is not a deal killer. It's called research, and lots of it.

However, every writer has a wealth of hidden information in her soul. Everything you've done in your life contributes to the pool of experience lurking in your brain, that is tapped by your muse every time you begin to write. Or it should. Trying to step completely outside your "mundane" experience will quickly get you in trouble if you're trying to set a story in New York and have never been there. Watching Law and Order won't get you there, sorry. But you have lived somewhere in your life! What's interesting about the places--and all the people who live there--that you've encountered in your lifetime? How can you re-envision them to form the background of your fantasy or SF story? This is writing from real life, with a twist.

Now, discover the real hidden treasure in yourself. Step back and take a good look at things closer to home than Mars, namely, what do you know enough about to call yourself an expert on? That doesn't mean you have to hold a degree in whatever (or it might). It could be anything that will inform your stories with authenticity. This includes:
  • Regional dialects/foreign languages

  • Familiarity with a country/region: people, geography, scenery, customs, quirks

  • Hobbies: crafts you're good at that could be woven into a story to make characters come alive and give the piece a new twist. It occurred to me the other day that a hobby of mine I considered absolutely useless is actually well-suited to what I write, and I have a story well underway using that knowledge.

  • Occupations: what have you worked at in your life that will give your story an "insider" feel? Look how well "The Office" has done at capturing corporate cubicle craziness. What will office life be like on the moon?

  • Areas of study: that history degree or your seven languages have more uses than you know. How can you apply the mechanics of what you learned to fantastic situations and put that knowledge onto the page in interesting ways? How do museums or archeological digs really function, and how can you use that knowledge? Can you envision a whole new language from your knowledge of human tongues? (It worked for Tolkien!)

  • Clubs/associations: who do you associate with? How do the clubs work? Can you use that insider knowledge to form a secret society within your fantasy world? One hopes you're using the knowledge of costuming gleaned from masquerades at cons, or your hands-on experience with recreationists, as background for enriching your fiction.

  • What are you passionate about? The things that really mean something to you are the things closest to your heart, that you can write about with enthusiasm and knowledge, and perhaps spin a great story out of.
I recommend making yourself a list of what you know, what you're good at, past/present associations, and anything else you never considered might be germane to your genre. You will surprise yourself, I think. And suddenly the struggle to come up with a new setting, a fresh take, or an authentic scene may just get easier.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Discovering Your Characters

As promised, I'm sharing a little that I learned at Norwescon through some great conversations with the likes of Carol Berg and Brenda Carr and Renee Stern over the breakfast table and at spare minutes over the weekend. Since characters are at the heart of every story, we talked about characters a lot: what makes them tick, how to flesh them out, how to understand their part in the story. Doing so, and listening to Carol and some others read from their works, got my brain working in this regard.

Every writer goes about creating characters differently. For me, it has always been about letting them grow organically from the page. Each character develops his own personality and speaks right up for himself when something needs to be said. When seven characters are in a group, I never have to stop and think who should say what. It just flows from who they are. How they react in any situation has always helped me understand how they got there and who they are.

The problem, however, with letting characters find themselves is that they could easily come out looking all the same, especially the lesser lights. Secondary characters need to be distinctive to be memorable, fully as much as the main characters need to be different from each other. And beware, if you write series, that you don't write a new series with the same characters from the last one, just with different names. I notice that Bernard Cornwell did this with his Starbuck Chronicles, which I did not enjoy nearly as much as I did his Sharpe series, where he pioneered his stock characters of an officer and his faithful sergeant meeting all circumstances together. Even Cornwell admits the two series are similar and laid off Starbuck in pursuit of other projects.

So, how to keep your characters fresh? Brenda Carr, who just sold her first story to Fantasy and Science Fiction (good for her!), "interviews" her characters to understand how they'll react to given situations. Her imagination is a bit richer than mine, I'm guessing, so I did a matrix instead, for the first time ever, for a series I'm working on. Hoo boy! That was enlightening.

Here's something to try if you're stuck on characterization: build yourself a table in Word or Excel or on paper. My columns were:

Name of Character
Strengths
Weaknesses
Quirks
Motivations
Physical Characteristics

Discover your character's strong points, in magic or physical prowess or mental agility or what have you. Then discover what keeps him from being all powerful. These are also the things his enemies can use against him, whether it is a weakness of character like gluttony, a gap in knowledge like total inexperience with the opposite sex, or a chink in his magical armor. Both strengths and weaknesses should arise logically and not just because you think the character needs them. Maybe your guy has a withered right arm. How did it get that way? Is one of his weaknesses a terrible fear of dogs? Where did it come from? If a strength is stubborn loyalty, can that also be a weakness?

Quirks are those things that make your characters different from everybody else and instantly recognizable on the page, like a favorite expression, a nervous twitch, a weird-sounding voice, or an obsession with dirt. Here is where you turn your stereotypes inside out, like Carol Berg did by making a knightly character obsessed with his physical comforts and somewhat effeminate, clutching his scented hanky all the time. USA Network prides itself on its "characters welcome" tagline, with characters like Monk and House so far outside the normal box they are memorable and watchable just because they're so different. A really "different" character who is also sympathetic is the Holy Grail.

Understanding your character's motivations keeps him or her from becoming a cardboard cutout. It will quickly become clear if your villain is simply EVIL or driven, like Hannibal Lector, by some horrid thing in his past. Evil really doesn't work as a motivation. Good, believable characters have more than one facet, and more than one reason for doing what they do. Find them. Understand how one character's motivations runs up against another's. This is the basis of conflict, without which it's impossible to sustain the plot of a novel (or any decent short story, either).

Recording physical characteristics is not just a good idea, it's essential to keeping continuity from one end of the novel to the other. It's really stupid to allow your character's eyes to change color from one chapter to the next for no reason. And when you write it all down and start to compare them, you'll quickly note if all of your people are starting to look the same.

Other writers no doubt have different systems, more or less involved, but I think I will use this from now on to deepen my understanding of who my characters are, and to force myself not to get lazy and just let them figure it out for themselves. Even the lesser characters onstage deserve a good part!

Monday, April 19, 2010

News from the world

Hmm, I didn't think it had been quite so long since last I reported in, but it's been a busy six weeks. First there was the Short Story in a Week challenge on www.otherworlds.net, my workshop, which ran all through March, then Norwescon at the beginning of April (more on that in a minute), then a frantic dash to overhaul a manuscript and get it out to Tor before the editor forgets that she asked for it. So now that's all done and I can think about some good things that happened in the course of that six weeks.

First, I did get my 8 stories in during the SSIAW challenges, which means I didn't have to skip one of the word lists, and I now have even more stories to pick through and clean up. I did sell an SSIAW recently: "Wishes and Horses" to Tales of Moreauvia, so that is a bit of a motivator.

Norwescon was wildly successful from my point of view. I subbed a couple of pieces to the writers' workshops there for feedback, and got great input. I highly recommend this venue; the critiques were thoughtful, professional, and a lot of successful pros in the genre donated their time to do them, for which I am so appreciative. I hope I can give back at next year's con. And the icing for me was running into a Tor editor, who listened with sympathy to my tale of the last MS they requested from me going into a black hole--and then asked that I send it to her. So woohoo! Maybe this time I'll actually get an answer.

Best of all, I came home fired up with new ideas, some of which I'm going to write about in the next post. Ideas that will make me a better writer, I hope, so stay tuned. I intend to share!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Undercover monsters or spooks you can see?


Today we have guest blogger Naomi Clark, my fellow author at Damnation Books. Her newest book, Silver Kiss, is just out at QueeredFiction. Today she's sharing her thoughts on the monsters we love to create – and read about:

It seems that in Urban Fantasy you get two types of monsters: those in hiding, and those in the open. In SILVER KISS, the monsters are out from under the bed and living in the open. The werewolves are out of the closet and very firmly among us. There are advantages and disadvantages to that, of course. But I’m interested to know what readers prefer – undercover monsters or out and proud monsters?

What makes for a better story – the solitary vampire struggling to hide his true nature from his neighbours, or the pack of werewolves trying to fit in with their community? Would you rather see the trails and travails of a lone faery finding his place in the world, or the adventures of a hoard of goblins living in the big city? Dragons hiding in caves or selkies working at the local swimming pool?

Either option brings its own conflicts and problems. I chose to have my werewolves out in the open so I could explore how they might fit into modern society. But it would be equally interesting to see how they avoided modern society. In a world where organ transplants, ID cards, and forensics are so commonplace, how long could a monster stay undercover?

I’ve got a great contest for everyone. There’s an ebook for a winner at the end of today and everyone who enters now will also be in the running for winning a signed print copy of SILVER KISS drawn at the end of the week. Just answer this simple question in your comment to be entered into both competitions:

What do you prefer – hidden monsters, or monsters in the open?

You can catch up to Naomi and take part in the contest at her website, www.naomiclark.net..

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Writing Magic

So okay, I'm halfway through writing "Hunter," the 3rd book in the alternate history series, and I'm finding myself slipping away from the rigid rules of magic established for the series. Well, semi-rigid. Actually, fairly liquid and slippery, 'cause I keep seeing new and cool applications of the underlying source of magic. The temptation is always there to simply make it into the Force, or something akin to the Force, wherein anything is possible so long as you just concentrate hard enough.

Inventing good, new, and original magic systems is really hard. Most newbies just think their heroes should be able to blink and have anything they want appear. No rules, no limitations. Of course, if the Evil Overlord has no limitations, then there can't be any conflict or Heroic intervention, can there? His Exalted Evilness gets to do anything, can dominate the world effortlessly, and the fight is over before it begins. Even Homer, author of the world's first epic fantasy, knew this. The gods of Olympus needed to work through their pet humans, understanding well that when worship withers, so do the gods.

Magic needs rules, and I believe most gaming systems have very rigid rules in place to make sure the players aren't constantly running into arbitrary deus ex machina type solutions to puzzles and people airily throwing down impossible tricks. No Hero should be good at every aspect of the magic, nor able to simply invent new possibilities on the fly. If he can conjure fire at will, he should be miserably bad with water. Maybe he's creative enough to apply old magic in new ways, but it should be after some thought, or with at least the possibility of such application in his mind. Inspiration in crisis is wonderful, but it must be foreshadowed as a possibility first.

Magic should not come easily, and it should come with a price, either in a physical toll on the body or some unpleasantness in forcing the natural to bow to the unnatural. Maybe it's painful; perhaps it shortens the hero's life; perhaps the gifts are inborn and natural to the wielder, but were meant by nature for survival, and overuse sets nature out of balance and thus becomes actively counter-evolutionary. Maybe the magic systems are so intertwined that selfish manipulation results in unintended consequences, as in Tim Pratt's wonderful story where sucking the "cloud stuff" away indiscriminately lets the silver lining go flump onto unsuspecting people below. Whoops.

Consider the source of magic. Is it natural, rooted in elemental forces like fire, water, air? Is it mental, dependent on the strength of mind and will of the practitioners? Is it physical, dependent on proper placement of stones, brewing of potions, etc.? What happens when a practitioner is cut off from the source of his or her magic? Melanie Rawn did a good job with this in her Sunrunner series. A Sunrunner without light cannot exercise power, and if mentally running shafts of light when the sun goes down, will be left mindless forever. That is both powerful, consistent magic and logically limited.

Luke Skywalker, a mental practitioner, was mostly bounded by his own fears, his own inability to set aside logic to embrace the Force. He continually thought of it as something physical that must be stronger than the object to be overcome, instead of something that could be shaped to the desired strength. But Lucas's Force apparently has no outside limits apart from the mental will of the practitioner, and perhaps the strength of the physical vessel wielding it. This system is less logical, more prone to abuse as people display sudden new and unguessed-at powers.

It is well to think through how your magic works before ever putting your hero into a situation where he needs it. For every exercise of magic, think of the counterpoint the bad guy could use to negate it. For every time the hero goes out on a limb to use his magic, think of how you can saw the limb off behind him while he's exercising it. Give your Hero, at the outside, five things he can do well with magic. Give different powers to different people, or give them varying degrees of proficiency. Above all, set down the rules of logic for your magic system, and don't violate them; otherwise, your readers will rightly call foul.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Top 10 Reasons for Not Getting Published

After hanging around cons and workshops for awhile now, and after some soul-searching and self-examination, herewith is my personal list for why some people never get published:

  1. They never finish anything
  2. They never send anything out
  3. They never seek feedback
  4. They allow rejections to rule their outlook
  5. They don't research the markets
  6. They are careless in manuscript preparation
  7. They don't believe "Da Rools" are for them
  8. They don't understand what "professional" means
  9. They have a limited understanding of their own language
  10. They would rather "be" a writer than "become" one
I imagine a lot of people will have different ideas about this list. I think many writers will recognize themselves to a degree in one or more of these failings, at some point in their careers. For sure, I suffered from #4 for a long time. Rejections hurt; repeated rejections induce agonies of self-doubt and intense urges to just quit the whole game and find something less painful to do with one's spare time. Were it not for the sheer, equally intense joy of creating characters and watching what they do, writing would not be worth the abrasion of the soul caused by repeated rejections of one's efforts.

That said, persistence pays, and it only takes one acceptance to restore some of that wounded ego. You don't get acceptances if you don't haul the junk out of the drawer and send it out.

Reason #3 is a major cause of failed-writeritis. Your story may be good. Or not. Aunt Martha's opinion may make you feel better, but is Aunt Martha an editor, a professional writer, an English teacher, or a bibliophile who has read everything from Kafka to Heinlein and knows the difference between good literature and bird-cage liner? Writing in a vacuum leaves you vulnerable to stupid grammar mistakes, tired plots, cardboard characters, cliches, and newbie uncertainty. Ask. For. Help. There are too many great workshops out there, freely accessible and mostly free of charge, to twiddle your thumbs in a self-imposed bubble. Unless, of course, you want to spend the rest of your life getting rejections without knowing why.

An amazing number of people blithely violate #5. Research smeesearch. They neither read the magazines they want to be published in nor even the writers' guidelines put out by same. They send fantasy to SF markets, horror to children's markets, and erotica to Christian markets because they did not bother to check what those magazines want. Nor do they keep up with what is being published to see if their story is using a tired idea or doesn't fit the writing standard the editors are looking for. Besides, what editors say they want and what appears in the magazine often seems to be a disconnect. They're people. Occasionally a story comes over the transom they just can't resist. However, the odds of yours being one of them sink dramatically by simply firing stuff off in hope.

There are many guidelines for manuscript preparation but many people are clueless anyway. This relates directly to #8. Failing to grammar- and spell-check your masterpiece is a sure road to the rejection slip. Badmouthing the editor who rejected your unreadable masterpiece is another. Professionalism means treating your writing with the same level of attention and respect that you would take to your day job. The editor is your boss. Your story is an interview, and it surely will not get you the job if it is not dressed correctly, doesn't have the proper job skills, and doesn't get there within the reading window.

Reason #8 relates to #7. Writing is full of rules, from manuscript prep to grammar. People who fall into the trap in #9 are not likely to overcome #7. Understand the language you are writing in before attempting to violate rules of grammar in the name of style. Prove you can write before you start using run-on sentences or other stylistic tricks. Get rid of the ellipses. Learn what parentheses are for. Understand what paragraphs are designed to do. Best of all, learn proper punctuation, because no editor will sit through abusive punctuation from page 1. Da Rools apply to everybody, because no reader wants to suffer in the name of art. That's your job.

And now we come to my personal favorite, #10. I used to get students all the time who, when asked, said they wanted to be web designers. These students invariably ended up in the middle or bottom of the class. On the other hand, the students who stated without doubt that they wanted to become web designers did very well. They understood the difference between dreams and the hard work required to make them happen. You can scribble words on paper all day long but it won't make you a writer. You must master the good sentence and the good paragraph before tackling the good story. Once you can string grammatically correct and pleasing prose together, you can worry less about the mechanics of the writing and more about the progress of the plot and character development. And people will be a lot more inclined to read it.

Let the quibbling begin. . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Joys of Writing

Okay, so I am erratic about blogging but I do enjoy it. The good news is that of late I have no time for it because I'm actually writing new stuff. What a concept! The Book in a Week challenge the last week of the year booted me back to the old writing discipline I used to have. I cranked 142 pages that week, most of which were really, really good pages, which finished that book and got the muse excited about starting the next one in the series. So now I'm over 100 pages into the new project and still wanting to face the blank page every day.

That has its drawbacks. It means I am less enthusiastic about the daily grind of making a living. I do not and will not let clients down, but I am remembering why I love to write, and how much fun it is, and how much I would rather be doing that all day, every day.

Writing, if you are not a writer, is an incomprehensible exercise in rejection coupled with continuing feelings of inadequacy. Yet we sit down every day and pull words from thin air and plop them on the page, knowing we will probably never get rich, or even famous, or even moderately well known.

That actually sucks.

Fortunately, the writing process saves us. I look forward every single day to finding out what my characters are going to do next. I don't actually know. I'm not one of those writers who sits down and sketches out everything in advance. What falls onto the page falls onto the page and somehow my subconscious, which is rather brilliant at putting patterns together (judging by my grades in school and the work I used to do for various and sundry agencies) manages to make a coherent plot out of it in the end. Sometimes the characters run off and do things unexpected, that I had not the vaguest notion of them doing. Usually that improves the plot rather than otherwise. At any rate, it makes it fun and exciting to sit down to that blank page every day. If I had to write to an outline, it would be just like being chained to a client's requirements. I can do it, even do it exceedingly well, but it's not as fun as turning the characters loose to play.

I am always amazed by where the words come from. I don't know. They just arrive, and I am grateful for all of them. I have always been able to turn the tap on and off at will, though some days it takes a little longer for the trickle to start, but eventually it always turns into a flood. Words are my friends, my enemies, and my constant companions. Without them I would not be who I am. I am a writer, and glad of it. So there!

Friday, January 8, 2010

On Writing Series . . . Backwards

Oh, my, it's been awhile but I have a good excuse: I've been writing! Other Worlds Writers' Workshop hosts a year-end Book in a Week challenge every year, and I used it to finish the second book in my alternate history series. That makes three written in the series, which brings us to the topic of this post. The first book written in that series is actually, chronologically, now the fourth. Who knew?

I sure didn't when I wrote "The Devil's Lieutenant" which is still languishing in final review at Baen and needs to go somewhere else soon if they can't give me an answer. I wrote DL as a standalone novel, thinking that was it. But the backstory is huge, and the story as it developed doesn't really end with DL, though that is, happily, one of the few actual standalone books I've written. I discovered myself wanting, really badly, to explore the backstory as well as write the two books it will take (probably, it could be more) to bring the series to a conclusion.

So now I'm writing the series backwards, which has a whole host of problems writing series forwards doesn't present. DL is finished and out the door to publishers, so I am constrained by a lot of what I wrote in there. On the other hand, it gave me fantastic structure for the 3 books that will come before it. I knew before I launched into the "prequel" trilogy a lot of what needed to be in it.

However... having just finished Book 2, "Rebel" (working title) I see some stuff I need to change in DL simply because the way things actually transpired in the Darkblood War are a bit more logical than the way they were described in DL. It may be that God has been telling me to hold up selling that one until this trilogy is finished so that it is consistent end-to-end.

The good news is that the changes are relatively minor and would not hold up a sale of DL as it stands, nor should the news that there are 3 books in the series ahead of it. They are set far away, with mostly different characters, but lead directly to the events in DL. You just don't need to have read them to make sense of "The Devil's Lieutenant."

I am so happy with "Rebel." The first third is good, the last third is excellent, the middle third needs an axe, which is what I'm working on at the moment. I hope to sub it for critique on OWWW by February, so I'm off to revision hell.

May your own series go well. Write them forward. Trust me--it's easier!