Tag Archives: writing life

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 clearly 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 😀 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.

​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 🙂 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 😛 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 the 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 for Silence of the Lambs (the book he uses as the example throughout the blog posts and book) and 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!

Advertisements

March Progress Update

Picture

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. 😛

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!

Picture

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

Picture

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.

Picture

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 😀

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

Picture

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 😀

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.


April Progress Report

Picture

Finally surfacing for air after recovering from getting For the Wildings ready to release and diving into the next projects on the list. It’s still hard to believe that Daughter of the Wildings is complete and published (except for the paperback; I’ve just started working on that). It started as just an experiment about 4 1/2 years ago, then that one book turned into a 5-book series, then 6 books, and turned into a story that I felt absolutely compelled, driven, to publish. There was a time, a little over two years ago, when I was honestly afraid I might not live to finish it, but the problem turned out to be relatively mild and self-correcting and *knock on wood* I hope I won’t have any more similar problems for the foreseeable future. I do need to try to get back to the better health habits I was working on before.

Anyway. So, yeah, Daughter of the Wildings, the project of my heart, my obsession for the last few years, is out there now, and it’s time to move on to other things. Next up is The Source-Fixer (still trying to think of a different title, and not having much luck). I’m nearly done with the triage phase of the first big revision. This book started out as a project I abandoned many years ago, then I figured out how to finish it and wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo in 2014. Now that I’m reading through it, I’m seeing things I love about it and also some major issues. Nothing unfixable, though.

I’ve also initiated the process of getting cover art for Source-Fixer and Heir of Tanaris, and a new cover for Chosen of Azara. Since these are all set in the same world, I want to re-brand Chosen with a cover to match the other two books. I love getting new cover art, and I’m so excited to see how these are going to look!

In other news, as a result of my commitment to write 1000 words a day/250,000 words this year, I have a bunch of short stories waiting to be published. I’ll be releasing the first collection of five soon (finishing up the final edits on them). Email subscribers will have the opportunity to get the collection for free 🙂

And also, as part of writing 1000 words a day, I now find myself nearly 7500 words into book 2 of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. I finished the draft of book 1, then was wondering how to get to the next major plot point in the series story arc, and realized what I needed was a range war! So I did some reading up on range wars in the Old West, and book 2 just kind of came together. Daughter of the Wildings may be finished, but I’m not done with the world or the characters quite yet.

Last month I planted some vegetables in my new raised gardening box. Let’s check in on how my little green things are doing:

Picture Snow peas – looking good!

Picture The mixed lettuce is doing pretty good too.

Picture Broccoli, not so much, but there’s a few of them coming up.

A reminder: if you read For the Wildings, don’t forget to go to the link at the end of the book to download a free Silas and Lainie short story, “A Good Example”! The story has major spoilers for the book, so don’t read it before you finish For the Wildings 🙂

Finally, since it’s Music Monday, I’ll leave you with the video of Insomnia from Kamelot’s album Haven.


March Progress Report

Picture

We’re 2/3 of the way through March, so I guess it’s time for a mid-month progress report (which started out as a look back/look ahead at the start of each month. Schedules are not really my thing.). I’ve mainly been working on edits to For the Wildings, the 6th and last book of Daughter of the Wildings, and now, finally, I’m on to the final proofreads. Looking at a release date the week of March 28. To make sure you don’t miss the announcement (and the special limited-time introductory price), go on over to the sidebar or to my email signup page and sign up for my email alerts. No spam, and I won’t share your info, and you can get information about new releases and special offers, and maybe even a freebie once in a while!

I’m also working on edits to a Silas and Lainie short story, “A Good Example”, set the summer after the events of For the Wildings. It’ll be available as a free bonus for people who read For the Wildings. You don’t want to read it without reading book 6, since it contains major spoilers for the book!

Being up to my eyeballs in edits for this book I really want to get out, I’ve slacked off a little on writing new words every day. I’m going to have to work a little harder to meet my word count goal for this month, but I did finish the first draft of the first book of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings! It’s going to be a while before any of this sees the light of day, though.

Coming up next, I’ll be starting on revision of The Source-Fixer (working title, though I might end up keeping it since I’m having trouble thinking of something better). This novel is a return to Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara, where magic comes from Sources, which are natural features like caves, trees, springs, and so on. Kaniev, the main character, has the job of repairing them when things go wrong, but some problems are harder to fix than others!

I’ve also got a new collection of short stories just about ready to release, probably in April (they’re all done and edited, but the final proofread and putting the book together got shuffled to the side while I finish For the Wildings). Email subscribers will have the opportunity to get this for free.

As for reading, again, that’s been taking second place to getting the book finished, though I’m still on track for my goal of 30 books for the year. I’ll get caught up with the reading roundups again soon.

And, finally, a new project: we got a raised gardening box put in our back yard, and I planted some seeds! Snow peas, mixed lettuce, and broccoli. I’m terrible at growing things, but there’s good soil in this box and it’s on the watering system so I don’t even have to remember to water the plants, so we’ll see if this works. Hopefully stuff will start to grow (besides weeds; it seems like weeds are the only things that like to grow around here!), and I’ll post photos of the progress. Here’s the first one, of my garden right after I planted the seeds:

Picture

 So, watch for For the Wildings coming soon, and with any luck my next garden picture will have little green sprouty things in it!