Accuracy in Fiction – Where to Draw the Line

One of the most fun things about having a book release these days is the #bookstagram world. So many book lovers make gorgeous collages with my book cover – like this one from Reading Between the Wines Book Club – and then tag me on Instagram. With THE ORCHID THRONE, I’m getting all kinds of beautiful orchids and it rocks so hard!

The hubs and I have been watching Reign on Netflix – from the beginning as we’d never seen it – and we’re a few episodes into Season One. I realize I’m late to the game on this, as the show ran from 2013 to 2017. But I’ve seen so many people – like my editor Jennie at St Martins – who just LOVE this show, that I wanted to check it out. And it’s gotten me thinking about historical accuracy in fiction. Come on over to find out more. 

Revision: God’s Work, or the Devil’s?

We had a lovely warm day on Saturday, and I got out the lounge chair to do a bit of sunbathing. Jackson elected to go with the package deal: sunbathing AND affection. He leads a pretty good life. Good thing I’m not concerned about my tan lines!

Otherwise I’m deep into revising THE FIERY CITADEL, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE, the first two books in my Forgotten Empires trilogy. This is the series – totally new world and characters! – that I’m doing with St. Martin’s Press. I turned in the draft of book 2 in April and my editor, Jennie Conway, sent developmental edits back to me while I was at Nebula Conference. She’s a terrifically insightful editor and gave me great feedback on tweaking the story. That’s a primary reason to go with traditional publishing, if all goes right (and some of this depends on having a good agent and serendipity), then you get to work with a fantastic editor who really brings out the best in your work and helps you to grow and move the story into the next level.

But… you know what they say: growth is painful.

I’m one of those writers who loves drafting. I used to say I hated revising – and I did – but now my feelings aren’t so strong. I don’t love it as much as the freefall rush of drafting, but it feels like good, necessary work now. Some of that is working with a good editor.

I used to have a critique partner who was the opposite of me: she *loved* revising. She called it “God’s work.” For me, revising always felt like fixing the mistakes I shouldn’t have made the first time. I’d tell her she had the wrong deity.

What’s funny is, now that I’m writing full-time – and theoretically have more bandwidth, hours, and concentration for my stories – I’ve become less demanding of myself that way. I no longer regard revising as “fixing mistakes,” but as part of the process. If we compare sculpting to writing, then my first drafts now are the rough of the figure with the surrounding marble chiseled away. The figure is recognizable, perhaps even showable, depending on your standards. In the revision stage, however, is when I bring out the shadows and highlights, when I polish the features so they have the perfect expression. I layer in the surrounding details, giving the figure context and deeper meaning.

Huh. Kind of does sound like God’s work.

Refilling the Well

I finished THE FIERY CITADEL, book two in my Forgotten Empires trilogy with St. Martins Press, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE. Yeah, it doesn’t come out until 2020 – maybe summer? we don’t know – but I completed the first draft and sent it in to Editor Jennie. There will be more work to come, but that’s the big milestone to pass.

I promised myself this time that I’d take some time off before heading into the next project. More than the weekend. As a full-time author, I write five days a week, going for 3,000 – 3,500 words per day. It takes me an average of 3 – 4 hours to get that, with an overall elapsed time of about 6 hours, including breaks. I usually have a pretty tightly packed schedule, so finishing one book has meant diving right into the next. But I track my productivity pretty carefully – I can’t control my creative process, but I can learn all there is to know about it and plan accordingly (which is part of owning your process) – and I’ve discovered that the week after I finish writing a book draft tends to be unproductive.

Even when I schedule myself for my usual work week, the writing tends to feel like pulling teeth. My word counts are low, I screw around a lot, and I don’t really refill the well.

So this week I’ve been not writing. Yesterday I tackled the garage. We have this one corner with a built in workbench and set of shelves. When we moved in (lo, these ten years ago – sheesh), we stuffed a lot of stuff back in those shelves, especially the lower ones, and back in the deep corner where they form an L. The original plan was one side of the L (the long one) would be for David’s tools and the short side would be my garden bench. My husband, however, while possessing many sterling qualities, is almost pathologically incapable of organizing his stuff. So his workbench has been a mess since day one. In fact, it’s a more ancient mess than that, as he pretty much threw the existing mess of his workbench and garage stuff into bins when we moved and dumped it out here.

I keep a hammer and a few screwdrivers in my office, just so I can find them when I need one.

Not only is his workbench a nightmare, when he has no place to put anything – which is always – he’d stack it on my garden bench. It got so I couldn’t even get to my gardening stuff. So I ceded the field of battle. I moved the baker’s rack from our front patio around to the secret garden and put everything there that can safely weather outside. I’ve also pulled most everything out of that space – discovering numerous rodent nests in the process – and now I’ll organize it for him. I kept a lower shelf for my garden stuff that needs to be out of the weather, but otherwise my garden bench is now for his fishing supplies. I’m kind of excited to do the thing where you hang up the tools and draw Sharpie marker outlines to designate where they go. We’ll see if it works and how long that lasts…

Anyway, it’s been good to disengage my brain and simply lift and organize. I’ve been rearranging the patio and garden, too, and things are looking pretty. Plus, I found some cool garden ornaments I shoved back in that corner and forgot I had! Watch for pics of those as I get them put out.

A Report from the Book Brain

I received my box of galley proofs of THE ORCHID THRONE! They’re really just gorgeous. Even the paper has a wonderful texture. And these are just for Advance Reader Copies (ARCs)! I can’t wait to see the finished versions. The book releases in September, but I’m crossing fingers that I might have copies at RWA in NYC. For the moment, I only have ten ARCs, so we’ll be seeing who to send them out to. I included the lovely note Editor Jennie sent. Now you all can see why she’s so fab.

If you follow my podcast, First Cup of Coffee, then you know I’m hard at work on book two of the Forgotten Empires trilogy, THE FIERY CITADEL. This trilogy follows the same heroine and hero for all three books, so it’s been very fun to follow my pair as their relationship deepens, and as the overall threat escalates. As many of you know, I discover the story as I write it, so I’m finding out some amazing stuff. And the stakes are pretty intense. I’ve passed the midpoint of the story and am closing in on the end of Scene 5. The book has come to life in my head, which is something that happens at a certain point in drafting for me. It haunts my thoughts continuously. I think about it as I fall asleep and it’s on my mind when I wake up.

I really dream vividly at this stage, too, and talk in my sleep a great deal. David tells me that the other night I was having what sounded like a conversation in my sleep, but I was talking in two different voices. Kind of creepy, huh?

Good thing I have an outlet for this level of crazy…

Anyway, being at this intense level of creating gives me what I call Book Brain. I don’t have much room in my head for any thoughts that DON’T have to do with the story. I’m just sure I start sounding all vague on the podcast…

So, that’s where I’m at. A couple more weeks and book 2 will be done. Woo hoo!!

 

 

Coming Up with Titles: the Pain and Glory

Spring has sprung here fully into summer and the flowers are so lovely! This is my pink anemone clematis that I’m training to climb up the grape vine in the arbor. Love how it’s coming along!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is “How do you come up with your titles?” Come on over for a long and involved story of one of my titles!