Tag Archives: writing life

My First Five Years of Publishing


As I mentioned last time, my 5-year publishing anniversary came and went last month. Feb. 11, to be exact, the day I published Urdaisunia. Here it is with its original cover, which I made with a piece of stock art in Photoshop Elements 5. Not too bad, considering the knowledge and resources I had at the time.

Since then:

  • I’ve published 12 novels, 4 story collections, and 2 boxed sets each containing three of my novels, for a total of 18 titles.
  • I’ve been through about 29 different covers and cover variations (including having a pro put new lettering on cover art I was already using).
  • My bestselling book over the last five years was Beneath the Canyons, followed by The Lost Book of Anggird, Urdaisunia, and Chosen of Azara.
  • The store where I’ve sold the most is Amazon.com (not surprisingly), followed by Smashwords, AmazonUK, AmazonAU, and Apple.

In the last five years, I’ve met some amazingly kind, helpful, and talented people. (You can see links to some of their websites in the sidebar.) Technically, I suppose authors are in competition with each other, but the indie author community is the most cooperative and supportive competition I’ve ever seen, with so many people willing to share resources and tips, band together in marketing, and help each other along.

Sales-wise, I’m not where I hoped I would be at this point. But I’ve been correcting some things that might have been holding me back, and making new plans for moving forward.

Some things I’ve learned in the last 5 years:

  • It’s hard to build a career on standalone novels. I love my standalone books, but from here on out, new projects need to fit into a series (preferably a trilogy, a nice, manageable series length) and/or into a world I’ve already written in.
  • My books are not Romance. They do have strong romantic storylines that mostly follow genre conventions for Romance, but the emphasis is more on the fantasy storyline than the romance, which, I’ve learned the hard way, makes them less appealing to the Romance audience. So that led to some futile marketing efforts, and some covers that, while wonderful, were wrong for my books’ genre and real readership. But I learned something, so it’s all good ๐Ÿ™‚
  • My books are also very much not Paranormal Romance. When I first started out, I couldn’t really find anyone else writing the same genre mix of fantasy and romance that I write. Paranormal Romance seemed to come closest, so I got in with that group and again learned the hard way that my books don’t fit. Paranormal Romance has its own requirements and expectations – real world, mostly contemporary setting, and magical creatures like vampires, shapeshifters, or angels, none of which my books have.
  • While the common wisdom is that most fantasy readers don’t like romance in their books, there are some who are hungry for well-done romantic storylines. Fortunately, there are now more authors who are writing high/epic fantasy with strong romantic storylines, so hopefully that readership will continue to grow!
  • Typos get together and make baby typos when no one is looking.
  • It’s too easy to spend all day fiddling around with “publishing tasks” when what I really need to be doing is working on the next book ๐Ÿ˜›
  • It’s also too easy to spend all my money on books by the amazing authors I’ve met!
  • Contrary to the above, promoting books to other authors is a wasted effort.
  • Coding my ebooks by hand, while cool and kind of satisfying, also gets old and tedious. I resisted formatting by converting a Word doc for a long time, but I’ve finally given in, using Draft2Digital’s awesome formatting tool, and boy does that make life easier.
  • While I’m competent to do my own lettering on my covers, it doesn’t come close to what a real book designer can do!
  • I’ve also learned how to make international re-directing Kobo and iTunes links, to make things easier for my international readers on those stores. Just click and the link will take you to the right store for where you live! My Amazon links are also international re-directing links. (At least, this is the theory. Anyone from places outside the US want to click them and tell me if they really work?)

What lies ahead?

  • Trilogies: Defenders of the Wildings (in the revision and editing stages), and one set in the Islands of the Wildings world (planning), and I’ve got my very first novel ever and its sequel printed out and waiting to be revised and for a third book to go with them to make that into a trilogy.
  • I also have some thoughts on revisiting some of my older projects, to see if I can bring out more of their potential.
  • I’m learning ways to make my email newsletters even more useful and engaging.
  • Most importantly, what lies ahead is (hopefully) many more years of writing stories I love, the way I want to write them, and sharing them with readers who I hope will enjoy them as much as I do ๐Ÿ™‚

Defenders of the Wildings Story Grid, and More Stuff

Okay, so it’s been a while. After I released Heir of Tanaris, I did a re-edit of the whole Daughter of the Wildings series, fixing up a few things I wasn’t quite satisfied with, and also brushed up the blurbs. And Write Dream Repeat Book Design did these nifty new title treatments on the covers!
Pretty cool, huh? ๐Ÿ™‚ All six books wouldn’t fit on the banner she made for me; you can check them all out on the series page.

To celebrate the update, Beneath the Canyons is only 99 cents until after New Year’s.
Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | iTunes | GooglePlay | Smashwords | DriveThruFiction

So now it’s on to updating the paperback versions and also doing the paperback of Heir of Tanaris, and the revision of Defenders of the Wildings. Yes, this is a thing, even though it’s been delayed a while. The whole thing is written, I just need to beat it into shape. As part of that process, I made a Story Grid of the entire series. It’s pretty long, so I couldn’t fit it all into one picture. Here’s the left side, from the start to the first part of Book 5 (Books 5 and 6 are a lot longer than books 1-4), partly because I forgot in the first draft to put the plot in book 1; what’s in the grid is a skeleton plot that will need to be fleshed out a little more):

And here’s the right side:
As you can see, I had fun with my colored gel pens ๐Ÿ™‚ The pacing and flow, the ups and downs of the different storylines, actually came out pretty good. I don’t have to make a lot of adjustments to the story structure. The actual writing… That’s another story (lol). At this moment, I’m well on the way through typing up the final revision outline and notes, and I should be ready to start marking that puppy up with the red pen this week. This revision method takes a lot of planning, but saves a lot of time and trouble later on. If I think of something I need to add, delete, or change, it’s just a matter of making the changes in my revision outline, rather than having to go back and rewrite something I’ve already rewritten once. I’ll probably have to do some of that anyway, but planning it all out ahead of time will keep it to a minimum.

So this should keep me busy for a while. I’ll post updates whenever I have something interesting to report. In the meantime, I’ve got a stockpile of short stories waiting to be edited and posted or released for sale, when I get a chance, so watch for those.

Heir of Tanaris Story Grid

I think I mentioned before that I’m studying The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, a really cool editing method that takes you deep into how a story’s theme and structure work together. The approach it takes really struck a chord with me, so I gave it a try with Heir of Tanaris. This might be more interesting for writers, but if you’re an avid reader and like seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, you might find it interesting too.

Heir had already been through one major revision and was out with the beta readers while I was working through the Story Grid book, but I felt like I hadn’t gone deep enough into what the story is about. This is a novel that has given me a hard time for years, trying to really get a grasp on it. So I decided to take Heir through the process, which involves making a spreadsheet of different sets of info about the story and a 1-page summary of the story then putting it all together into a grid.

Here’s a screen shot of part of my spreadsheet for Heir:

Because spreadsheets are awesome, and doing this helped me start to clearlyย see the patterns of the story.

My “1 page” summary kinda turned out to be a lot more complicated than that. The Story Grid summary is based on a 3-part structure, beginning – middle – end, while I myself am more partial to a four-part structure, beginning – middle 1 – [midpoint reversal] – middle 2 – end, and Heir actually falls more naturally into 5 parts. But the basic principles are the same, each section consists of complications rising to some sort of crisis and climax, and I eventually got that beaten into shape.

And then the fun part, making the actual grid. You do this on actual grid paper with actual pens (it is possible to do it on a spreadsheet, but it would be a lot harder unless you’re a spreadsheet virtuoso, and the examples I’ve seen are hard to read); I used my new set of Tul colored gel pens ๐Ÿ˜€ which was fun. And here it is:

The boxes above and below the center line each represent a scene. The Story Grid method evaluates scenes based on how the story situation changes, from bad to good (negative to positive) or good to bad (positive to negative); you can also have bad to worse (which is fun) and good to better (use sparingly). Scenes that move in a positive direction go above the line, scenes that go in a negative direction go below the line. The tricky thing, and the thing that really helps you strengthen the theme of the story, is the direction the scene goes in has to relate to the overall storyline. For example, if the villain gets something he wants, that’s positive for the villain but negative for the overall story. So that scene goes below the line.

โ€‹Trickier is if one of the good guys gets something he wants that he shouldn’t want, because he’s trying to overcome a character flaw; that is also a negative turn for the story, even though it’s temporarily positive for the character. Or if the character has to make a sacrifice in order to achieve their goal; negative at the moment for the character, but positive for the storyline. It can especially get complicated if you have two conflicting goals. A scene can be positive for one storyline and negative for the other. For example, in a romance, if the hero passionately kisses the heroine even though he’s got no business kissing her at all right now, that’s positive for the romance but negative for his moral development. Heir of Tanaris has a lot of that conflicting stuff going on, so this helped me get a firmer grip on all of it.

I had fun with my colored pens ๐Ÿ™‚ The blue boxes are for scenes where we’re in Davian’s head, pink boxes are for scenes in Isamina’s point of view. Imaginative, I know ๐Ÿ˜› Brown boxes are for the villain. The colored lines going up and down represent the rise and fall of the different storylines. Blue is one of Davian’s storylines, green is the other, pink is Isamina’s, and orange is the romance storyline. That line, for example, goes down when something happens to keep Davian and Isamina apart and up when they’re together and their relationship progresses.

Now, over on the right hand side, not all the way to the right but kind of in the middle of the right side of the graph, you might notice a problem. That’s right, hardly any scenes with a negative turn. Almost all the action is above the line. This means everything through here was going very smoothly for our hero and heroine. Which is nice for them but makes for a boring story. That was a huge flaw in the story which was really made clear by the grid. So what I did was go back and evaluate the story conflicts in each of those scenes, the larger-scale problems the characters are facing throughout the book. What problems did I solve too easily? Where do the characters need to struggle harder?

Another problem is all the way to the right, near the end, there’s one scene that stretches both above and below the center line with a bunch of lines zooming up and down and up and down all within that one scene that takes place over maybe an hour of story time. What that showed me is I was trying to do too much in that one scene and the climax of the story was rushed. So there again I had to deepen the struggle, and also spread it out over more scenes and over time within the story.

I just finished the revision incorporating everything I got from this and also the beta reader feedback, and I think it’s made Heir of Tanaris a much stronger, deeper book. I’m going through a modified version of the process with the first draft of the Defenders of the Wildings series, combining it with Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel method, in hopes of nailing all the major story issues in one big revision instead of two. Which hopefully will help me get those books out faster.

To learn more about the Story Grid, visit theย Story Grid website. Most of the content from the book is also available for free on the blog, and you can also view story grids that Shawn Coyne made forย Silence of the Lambsย (the book he uses as the example throughout the blog posts and book) andย Pride and Prejudice.

Anyway, Heir of Tanaris is currently on track for release in late September. To make sure you don’t miss out on the release (and the special limited-time low introductory price), sign up for my email newsletter. Subscribers will also get the first peek at the cover, before I do the cover reveal here on my blog. So excited about this; Mominur Rahman’s art for this book is gorgeous!

March Progress Update


Looks like it’s time for a progress update. Two big projects are occupying my time and (limited) brainpower and energy right now. The major revision of Heir of Tanaris is under way; I’m about halfway through. As always, scenes I thought didn’t need a lot of work are getting totally rewritten (just finished a long one that I decided at the last minute to change from Davreos’s point of view to Isamina’s). But I’m really happy with how this is coming together so far. The soundtrack for this book is mainly the album Haven by Kamelot. Give it a listen if you want to get a feel for this book, the next book in the Tehovir world.

I’ve also started the triage phase of revision on the Defenders of the Wildings series, the follow-up to Daughter of the Wildings. I was going to wait until the big revision on Tanaris was done, but decided I couldn’t wait that long. And I think (hope!) I’ve got readers waiting for it too. So I started that, revising the whole series like it’s one big book (which it basically is, much more than Daughter, which divided itself up neatly into separate novels), and I was going through book 1 and it was going fine, highlight these characters more, move this to this other scene, combine these two scenes, dum de dum, HEY WHERE’S THE PLOT???

Yes, I forgot to put a plot in book 1. Which probably explains why this “novella” is only 38 double-spaced pages long. My excuse is that I decided that what was originally book 1 needed to be book 2, so I took some stuff from the original book 2 and wrote some new material and stuck all that in front to make the new book 1, just so I could get the general scaffolding of the story in place. I know what the plot is supposed to be; a thing happens, as often does in novels, and this thing has potentially dire consequences for Silas and Lainie and their livelihood, and they talk about doing something in response. Well, then, other things happen and we get to the end of book 1 and they never did the thing they talked about. So doing the thing they talked about is the plot of book 1, and now I just need to actually write it. Fortunately, it fits in well with the other stuff happening that I wrote.

There are writers who claim they can write a complete, organized, well-structured story in one draft, with only needing to clean up the typos to make it publishable. I am not one of those writers. ๐Ÿ˜›

So, anyway, that’s where things stand. No idea yet on release dates; to make sure you don’t miss out, sign up for my email alerts to get release news, special offers, the occasional freebie, newsletter-exclusive sneak peeks and trivia quizzes, and other fun stuff when I can think of it.

One more note: a very talented young writer named Cristian Mihai is in dire need of dental work that is far beyond his means to pay for. He has a condition that leaches all the calcium from his teeth, with the result that he has a mouthful of crumbling teeth, which causes him a great deal of pain and makes him unable to eat or speak normally. His writing is best described as literary fiction, which you may know is usually not my reading material of choice, but his stuff is really good. Anyway, if you can make a donation, or buy a package of reblogs on his site if you have a WordPress blog, buy one of his books, or even just share on social media, every little bit helps.

Defenders of the Wildings first draft finished!


Today I typed the final word of the first draft of Defenders of the Wildings, the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. It clocks in at 182,133 words, or 451 printed pages (11 pt Times New Roman, double-spaced). Actually 450 pages, because the last page has like half a sentence on it. I hate it when that happens. This is by far the longest single manuscript I’ve ever written; the combined draft of the six books in Daughter of the Wildings was longer, but I wrote each book separately. Defenders didn’t really want to divide up into six nice, neat novel-sized units, so I wrote it as one big thing and I’ll work out how to divide it up and release it later. Two volumes of three “episodes” each seems like how it’s going to work out. Of course, cover art is still a ways out, so I’ll still be using the Daughter covers to illustrate posts about Defenders for a while.

This book also turned out to be much larger than I expected, and larger than anything I’ve written before, in scope of action and number of important characters. Of course it still centers around Silas and Lainie Vendine, but we’ll also meet Torrin, a young ranch hand who discovers his magical powers, Magical Mik the traveling showman, Pazit Mahita, who is more than the ordinary farmwife she appears to be, and Lut Dorbich and Gidejoni Cajali, underministers from the Chardonikan Union (which got a name change about 80% of the way through, which is why I should probably stick to writing series in their entirety before I release the first book). You can get a sneak peek at Dorbich and Cajali here.

Writing this first draft was an adventure in itself. After two false starts, where I nearly drove myself nuts trying to figure out how to piece all the different parts of the story together (see story’s refusal to fit into nice novel-length units, above), I finally got it. I had to do a lot of copy-and-pasting from the earlier versions and filling in with new material until I got to the place where I had left off, but once I got there it was pretty smooth going. I was getting frustrated at how long this was taking, because there were a lot of times this summer and fall when I couldn’t keep up my daily production, but now it’s finally done, yay. Now I’m printing it out even as I type this, and it’ll rest while I finish up edits on Source-Breaker (note to self: get page on site for Estelend series set up) and start revising Heir of Tanaris.

This project brought me to 264,744 words for the year, including a number of short stories and the abandoned parts of the first two attempts. I’m counting words I’m not going to use, because all writing counts as practice, but I didn’t double-count the words I copy and pasted. For a while I thought I might hit 300,000, but having to re-work the Defenders draft slowed me down. Still, considering my goal was 250,000 for the year, I’m pretty pleased.

Of course, at this point I can’t even begin to say when Defenders will start being released. Sometime next year, I guess. To make sure you don’t miss out on release news for Defenders or my other books, sign up for my email alerts (no spam, and I won’t share your info). In the meantime, onward with Source-Breaker and Heir of Tanaris, and planning for the next series, Children of the Wildings!

…And Defenders just finished printing. Here it is:

Snippet: On the Bridge

I came across this writing exercise I did for Dean Wesley Smith’s Originality workshop on YouTube. The prompt was “a character standing on a bridge.” (unedited, straight from my brain to the keyboard.)

She stopped in the middle of the bridge and set down her pack, catching her breath after the long walk through the rugged territory that had led to this narrow gap in the mountains. A cold wind whistled down the gorge, setting the bridge to shivering. She shivered as well, and not just from the wind. The urge to look back, just once, was more than she had will to resist, so she looked.

Nothing behind her.

Only the forest, the trees standing so close together, their branches so heavy and dense, that no moonlight could filter through to lessen the thick darkness among the trunks. Nothing else lay that way; everything that had existed for her now lay buried beneath fresh-turned earth.

She looked down, over the thin wooden rail of the thin wooden bridge that creaked beneath her feet. Far below in the gorge, moonlight glinted on the ripples in the narrow, swift-flowing river where it ran over rocks.

Nothing below, except for a burst of pain on hitting the cold water and the rocks just beneath the surface, followed by — whatever lay beyond that. She had a hard time believing it was anything but oblivion.

Ahead lay more dark forest, as dense and lightless as its twin on the other side of the bridge. A path must lead on from the bridge, else why was the bridge here at all? But she had never heard anyone speak of an end to the forest, of any sort of destination such a path, assuming it existed, might lead to.

So, ahead of her, more nothing as well.

Nothing behind her but loss, nothing below her but oblivion, nothing ahead but the unknown.

Having caught her breath, she stood, considering the three different kinds of nothing. Or there was a fourth kind; she could simply sit down here, in the middle of the bridge, and wait for the end that would come sooner or later. But that would inevitably lead to the same oblivion that awaited her below, less painful but dragged out unbearably slow.

Loss, oblivion, or the unknown.

Finally she shouldered her pack and took a step forward, then another, then another. Of the three nothings, only the unknown held the possibility that it might change. So that was where she would go.


This might eventually turn into something. My brain is working on it, trying it out with other scraps of ideas that aren’t quite ready to go.

In the meantime, the first draft of Defenders of the Wildings is progressing nicely (finally, after two false starts), and I’m still working on the second major revision of Source-Breaker. Hoping to have some cover art to show off soon!

Mistress of the Mirror collection now available


Just an assortment of news and updates. First, Mistress of the Mirror and Other Stories, my new short story collection, is finally available. This collection contains five short fantasy tales of strange things found in pawnshops… And things too strange for pawnshops:

Mistress of the Mirror: A poor woman, an assassin, and a mirror.
Valuables: A curious pawnshop owner and a mysterious figurine.
Of Rings and Lemon Cream Cakes: A respectable spinster and a diamond ring with a mind of its own.
Pawned: A fate worse than death.
A Worthy Instrument: A struggling musician and the lute of his dreams.

Only 99 cents at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Smashwords | OmniLit | DriveThruFiction | Kobo. Through August 31, if you sign up for my email alerts, you can get a coupon code for a free copy from Smashwords!

So whenever I think things are going to settle down, it seems like that’s just an invitation for something else to happen. The week before last, it was the event that will hereafter be known as the Lycopolypse, when Lycos, the hosting and domain name provider, crashed for nearly three days. The Lycos sites, including customer service, email (including my business domain email), and subscriber control panels went down, as did sites hosted on Lycos and its subsidiaries Tripod and Angelfire, AND (relevant to our interests here) all domain names registered through Lycos (including kyrahalland.com) stopped working. So if you tried to visit my site on those days and got an error, that’s what happened.

Fortunately, everything is back up and working, but I’ve also decided it’s time to move on from Lycos. I’d been with Angelfire and Lycos since 2001, when I started my fanworks archive that I still run. Back in the old days, if you had some fanfiction or fanart you wanted to collect and post, or opinions to make available to the world, or any kind of hobby or interest to show off, or just wanted to carve out a little space for yourself on the internet, you taught yourself some basic html, signed up with Angelfire or GeoCities or Tripod (there were other hosts, too, but those were the Big Three and Angelfire generally seemed to be considered the best), and made yourself a website. None of this easy, instant WordPress/Tumblr/drag n drop stuff; you had to actually learn some coding. But it was fun; there were a lot more regularly-updated amateur fansites back then, and if you’ve never had the experience of going to your favorite fansite, hoping for an update with a new chapter on that fic you were following or some cool new fanart to admire, and seeing – oh joy! – that flashing neon green text on black background scrolling by announcing an update, well, that’s a big part of the internet you’ve missed out on. My fanworks site was hosted on Angelfire; just few weeks before the Lycopolypse I copied it over to private hosting owned by my older son and his wife. The Angelfire site went down, but with the domain names not working, no one could get to it on the other hosting, either, and of course no one could get to my author site. So I made the decision that it was time to transfer my domain names away from Lycos. That’s been kind of a mess (I’ve had to involve their registrar, Tucows), but hopefully I’ll get it all sorted out soon without any more disruption. Looking back, I’d been seeing signs for a few years now that Lycos wasn’t the great company it used to be. I should have gotten out sooner, but I was still kind of sentimental about it. No more; it’s time to move on.

One important thing to note: This site being unavailable for a few days had nothing to do with Weebly, my hosting service. Weebly has been awesome and very reliable, with great, responsive customer service. Still, I’m backing up my site (saving to Evernote, so I can keep the contents and the general layout) just in case the day does come that something happens to Weebly. Hopefully it won’t; they’ve been great to work with.

So I’m still kind of tearing my hair out over the lack of progress with getting both of my domain names transferred (my fansite domain is all settled in its new home, but the transfer for kyrahalland.com is dead in the water at the moment), but otherwise it’s back to the writing. The Source-Fixer is out to beta readers now, and the Mistress of the Mirror collection is finally up for sale. Next up, I’m working on getting Tales of Azara, a collection of companion stories to Chosen of Azara, ready to publish and working out more kinks in the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. Some of what I’ve already written I can keep, but a lot is going to have to be ditched or changed as I rein myself in from my meanderings and get back to the heart of what the Wildings books are really about. I’ve been re-reading The War of Art and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield and using the focused and simplified three-part outline structure from Do the Work, and I think I’ve finally got a handle on this.

May 2016: ouch, arg, yay

So those three words (ouch, arg, and yay are words, right?) pretty much sum up May, or at least the last half and the first part of June.

For starters, sometime around May 18 I did something to my back. It started with stiffness, then progressed to pain and spasms so bad I would lie awake in bed at night, unable to sleep, crying because it hurt so bad. What was worse, we were supposed to go take care of our 3-year-old granddaughter for a few days (more on that in the “yay” section) and I just didn’t see how I could do it, in as much pain as I was having. It also made it very hard to concentrate on getting any work done. I knew it was just muscular strain, most likely a combination of new shoes that weren’t right for me and some awkward bending, but wow, it really hurt. Finally, the day before we were going out of town to tend Kylie, I did a search on stretches to help with back spasms, and found a site with some things that looked helpful. There was also a book, a $5 Kindle download, so I bought it and tried the first few stretches, and wow. I hesitate to say “miracle cure,” but after I did just those first beginning stretches the pain was sooo much better and as I continued with the program my pain went away. The site is here: lowbackpainprogram.com. Of course, I’m not a medical professional and if you’re experiencing unusual, severe, or persistent pain you should see a doctor, but for simple muscle tightness and strain, I wanted to share what really helped me.

So that’s the “ouch” part and, fortunately, it’s much better now. As for the “arg,” I spent the second half of May (and some of it is still ongoing) wrestling with some frustrating problems.

First off, I was horrified to discover that on certain Kindle devices and apps (that use the new Enhanced Typesetting), all the paragraph indents were stripped out in all my books published since Nov. 2014, including the entire Daughter of the Wildings series and the two box sets I’ve released, Love and Magic and Daughter of the Wildings Books 1-3. I was absolutely mortified to see how terrible this looked. When my readers pay their good money for my books, even if it’s only 99 cents, they expect and deserve the highest-quality, most professional product I’m capable of providing. And a book with no paragraph indents does not meet that standard. With some detective work and some help from the good people at the Kboards Writers Cafe, I discovered where in my formatting process the problem was coming from, a program I use that apparently doesn’t play nicely with the Enhanced Typesetting. Fortunately, it’s a step in the process that, it turns out, is unnecessary; I was afraid it was a problem in my html coding and that I would have to re-do all my coding or change my formatting process completely. But all I had to do was run my html files through my process again, leaving off that last, unnecessary step, and everything turned out fine. Then I had to re-upload everything and get Kindle Direct Publishing to make the new files available to customers who’ve already bought the books, which kind of turned into its own comedy of errors (somehow, some of my correspondence got handed off to CreateSpace, which does paper books, not Kindle books >.>) and I lost a lot of writing time wrestling with all of it, but it eventually all worked out.

If you bought any of those books from Amazon and had an unsatisfactory reading experience because of the paragraph indent problem, you should be able to delete the book(s) from your device (NOT from your Amazon account!) and re-download it to get the corrected file. But apparently Amazon considers a complete lack of paragraph indents to be a “minor” quality problem <.< and so won’t automatically push the corrected file to people who bought it.

Then, while I was dealing with that, I noticed some suspicious activity with the fanworks archive site I own. I couldn’t track down what exactly was going on, and the only help I got from my hosting company was “change your password.” >.> I ended up moving the site to private hosting owned by my older son and his wife (I trust them with my site security more than the company it used to be hosted with), but I’m still getting the domain name and pointing sorted out.

And, this whole time, I’ve really been wrestling with the second Daughter of the Wildings series. I was going merrily on my way, well into the third book (of a projected five), then I realized I was bored and unhappy with what I was writing. The magic and fun of the first series just weren’t there. Some serious thought on the matter revealed a couple of problems. Mainly, I’ve been very concerned with some current social and political issues, and that was making a heavy appearance in the stories. I don’t try to keep my books entirely free of my basic convictions and world view, but pounding on issues the way I was doing, making the books *about* them, does not make for good books. It was sucking all the life out of the books. I also realized that the fun of the Old West setting, the magic, and the Silas-Lainie relationship were all missing as I was telling this bare-bones story that was, really, just a thinly-disguised rant on the issues I was concerned about.

So I refocused on what the Wildings books are really all about, magic, adventure, and romance in a fantasy world inspired by the Old West, made note of the stuff I needed to change, and set aside what I had of book 3 and started over (I didn’t change anything in books 1 or 2, just made notes on what to change, in case I changed my mind again. Which turns out was a good thing <.<).

But I was still unhappy with it; now Silas and Lainie were all whiny and depressed because everything was awful and all these terrible things were happening to them. Which brought out the other major flaw in what I was writing. Silas and Lainie weren’t *doing* anything. Things were just happening to them and they were just going with the flow, whining and moping and feeling guilty and depressed about it. Which, you know, maybe you win literary awards for stuff like that, but I can’t stand reading or writing it.

So, finally, last Friday and Saturday, I sat down and rewrote the entire series summary, looking for the flaws in the plotting, where I was making things happen just for the sake of having something – anything! – happen and where I needed to focus on the heart and soul, the reason for being, of the Wildings books, and re-outlined the entire series beginning to end. The good news is, I’m not going to have to throw out everything; most of book 2 is still good (though with severe editing for political ranting), but the whole second half of book 1 has to be pretty much rewritten, and while the basic structure of book 3 is okay, the characterizations and reasons why things happen have to be totally redone. The bad news is there’s a lot of work to be done to get back up to speed, and it’s going to make my daily word-count tracking more complicated, since I’ll be doing a combination of copy-and-paste (can’t stand rewriting material I’ve already written if it’s at all usable) and writing new material. But I finally feel better about where this series is going, and excited about it again.


And now for the “yay” part. First off, I’ve been invited to participate in some projects that I’m really excited about. They’re still in the early planning stages, so I don’t want to give any details yet, but I promise you’ll hear all about it when the time comes ๐Ÿ˜€

Even better, I mentioned earlier that we went out of town to help take care of our 3-year-old granddaughter for a few days. Well, the reason we went and did that was because her mommy was in the hospital with a new baby! Our second granddaughter (first one born to us; her older sister came to us when our older son married her mommy, and hopefully the adoption procedings will go through soon) was born two weeks ago. Her name is Lily Dawn, and she is absolutely adorable, just like her big sister. Between taking care of Kylie and helping out at the hospital (our d-i-l had a c-section and had to stay a few extra days; she had a rough couple of days, and she’d had serious complications after her first baby so my son was really concerned and wanted to make sure she was never left alone at the hospital) I’m still pretty worn out, but it was worth it. It was really fun, and wonderful to welcome this precious new child to the family.

Hopefully (knock on wood), things will settle down now and I can start getting some more work done. I’ve got a series to re-write, two books to revise, edit, and release, and a short-story collection I’m getting ready to publish (have been for the last month >.>). We’ve got a big week-long out-of-town family reunion coming up later this summer which is looming menacingly over me (I don’t travel well, especially when flying is involved, and I love my family but don’t have a lot of energy for too much togetherness) but in the meantime I will try to ignore it and get back on track with my writing routine and schedule.

Milestone: 2 Million Words


No, this isn’t my two million words. This is the rough draft of all 6 Daughter of the Wildings books.

I’ve blogged before about keeping a spreadsheet of my total lifetime word count. When I updated the spreadsheet at the beginning of this year, I realized that I was within close shouting distance of 2 million lifetime words, and that my goal this year of writing 1,000 words a day would get me there before too much longer.

Yesterday, I did it. I passed 2 million words. My lifetime word count, as of last night (which is actually when I was writing this) was 2,001,285. The two millionth word came four scenes into the rough draft of the third book of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings.

Here’s how I count the words: I use the word count from Word, which seems to be the most accurate (although I don’t write in Word; I open my saved manuscript files in it to get the word count). I enter the initial count when the rough draft of a project is finished. Then, since the final versions are always longer (my rough drafts are often closer to an outline or summary; when revising, I write addtional scenes and fill out dialogue, description, and action), when the project is finished I update the word count to include all the additional words I’ve written. I usually add 20-50% or more words between the first draft and the final version.

Here’s how all those words are distributed:
741,682 – published works up for sale
632,176 – fanfiction posted on my fanfiction site or complete and intended for posting
402,897 – unpublished completed projects in various stages of revision, intended for eventual publication
224,530 – assorted fragments, unfinished projects, and first drafts in progress, and a finished novel or two that will probably never see the light of day.

All of this is strictly fiction writing; no blog posts, forum posts, emails or anything else like that is included.

It took me from 1990 to 2010 to reach 1 million words, from 2010 to 2016 to hit 2 million. If I keep at my current pace, assuming all is well and I’m able to continue that pace, I should hit 3 million in 2020.

And now the big question: Are any of those 2 million words any good? Well, I don’t know. I think so; I work hard to do the best writing I’m capable of, and I hope readers will enjoy what I write. One thing is certain; I’m better now than I was when I started 26 years ago, and I will work to continue to improve over the next million words.

Tasty Tuesday: Stuffed Bell Peppers


Bolognese Stuffed Bell Peppers photo by abapplez allrecipes.com

photo by abapplez allrecipes.com

Occasionally on Tuesday, I like to share something that I make that’s yummy, preferably healthy, and easy to make during a long day of writing. Today I’m featuring what has to be the world’s best stuffed bell peppers. Now, I know stuffed peppers usually aren’t anything to get very excited about, but these are, for one reason: bacon.


Yes, these stuffed peppers have bacon in them. And almost everything is better with bacon. These aren’t necessarily easy, though since I’m only feeding the two of us (or three of us, when our younger son is home from college), I use my trick of cooking half the batch the day I make it and freezing the other half for another day. And even if it isn’t easy, it’s totally worth it.

Here’s the original recipe, from AllRecipes Magazine. Go look at it, then come back and I’ll tell you what I do differently. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/77194/bolognese-stuffed-bell-peppers/

Okay, you’re back. First off, I found that the filling works for 4 whole medium-size bell peppers, or 8 half peppers sliced lengthwise, not 6 whole/12 half. When I’m dividing the batch, I put half the filling into 4 pepper halves, or 2 peppers, and freeze the other half of the filling in a freezer zipper bag. (When you freeze and cook another time, the rice does get a little mushy, but let’s be honest. You’re not eating this for the rice, you’re eating it for the bacon.) I don’t stuff the other peppers until the day of cooking. I like to get a combination of different color peppers; red and gold or orange are my favorites, because they’re tasty and it makes a pretty and colorful presentation. Blanch the pepper halves in boiling water for about 30 – 60 seconds; this will help them cook better in the oven.

Also, the original recipe says you can use pancetta or bacon. I skip the fancy stuff and just use bacon. I figure one bacon strip per whole pepper (or four strips for the whole batch, to make filling for four peppers/8 halves). Of course, it probably wouldn’t hurt anything if you throw in an extra strip ๐Ÿ˜€

On to the vegetables: I increase the minced carrots to about 1/4 c., skip the celery because gross, and also add about 1/4 cup finely diced bell peppers (green or red is my preference) and the same amount of finely diced zucchini. So along with the pepper halves that hold the whole thing, you’re getting a bunch of good veggies. You could also add finely chopped spinach if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not, but if you are, that’s ok. I won’t judge you.

Prepared marinara sauce: I just get the Kroger store brand. It’s good. You could get fancy and expensive here, but there’s really no need to.

The recipe also calls for red wine, which I skip because I don’t usually cook with it, and for heavy cream, which honestly seems like overkill when you’re also using bacon and parmesan cheese in the filling. This recipe is rich enough without it (I can usually only eat one pepper half, or maybe one and a half, but not two) and it adds about a zillion calories. Use it if you want, but I don’t.

Like I said, this is kind of a lot of work, but you can divide the recipe (or double it) and freeze half, so it’s two meals for only a little more work than one. With so many vegetables, you don’t need to make an extra salad or anything. I just get some bake-at-home french bread and throw it in the oven while the peppers bake, and there’s dinner.