Sad Wednesday Apologies

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Appy Polly Lodgies.

Okay, guys. This isn’t going to be an easy post, and a lot of that is because I’m going to spend it apologizing to you.

Emily doesn’t like apologies. But this is a case where Emily really, totally, truly, SHOULD make them. So.

Some of you may have noticed–Little Bird didn’t ship, as it was supposed to, on 9/21. Even though that date was PERFECTLY divisible by threes this year. So it kills me.

Why, you might ask? Well–becaue Emily bit off way more than she can chew this year. Four books in one year is a lot, when only one of them was already written. Emily needs a few more months to get LB coverized and prettified. Because Emily spent most of the time up until the deadline date editing and helplessly dropping fresh stories like turds in the church bathroom. Yes.

So the new, ABSOLUTELY TRUSTWORTHY, release date for Little Bird is now 11/12/15. Just like it was for A&J last year. Because 11/12 is a nice looking number. All spiky, and then that little round bit on the two. (It also happens to be me and DND’s Definitely Not Anniversary. So, you know. Easy to remember).

Again, I have to apologize. I thought I was capable of working faster than I actually am–or, at least, of staying focused on the stuff I needed to do. I’m neither of these things. What I AM is big old liar. Can you forgive me, small cadre of readers? Huh? Huh?

In better news, there are other projects coming down the line as well. I’m writing a sci-fi story for a fiction anthology, and a very fine new friend has offered to help me out with an audiobook version of Aurian and Jin. And, if you’re bored, there are always these stories on Wattpad, both of which I’m updating right now, to slake your Aurian and Jin thirst for the next month-and-change. I’ve got a few more schlepping around on my hard drive: they shall become visible presently.

Again, so sorry to have to do that. But I’m still–STILL–working all of this out.

Bonemaker

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Just wanted to let you Aurian and Jin loving kiddos know, I wrote a companion piece to A&J a while back. It’s about Morda, Bonemaker and Emperor, and his rise to power through, well, what winds up being a lot of blood and gore. I’m posting it in installments on Wattpad, for your free and fancy enjoyment. If you miss Aurian and Jin, you might want to have a looksee.

You should also read The Antidote. Because Jin.

This is Bonemaker. THIS IS SPART–wait, no it isn’t.

Excerpt: Little Bird Prologue

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Little Bird, sequel to Aurian and Jin, is out soon. Are you excited? Eh? WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU?

I mean…something non-caps.

Figured I’d be a sneaky creature and post the prologue here, because, you know, three of you might want to read it. (A note: the first part of the first chapter is posted in the back of The Antidote, the Aurian and Jin novelette closing the gap between A&J and Little Bird, which you’ve totally read, of course. This prologue is before all that noise.).

You guys remember Beauland, right? That kid who healed Jin? Well, here’s what became of him.

PROLOGUE:
The Beans of Mantic Fortitude

Thirteen Years Ago

Beauland Bornsson, newly returned from the Aithar Smiles Blessed Healing and Conscious Loving Coven in Kartok, was
about to become a coven master.

He was, in fact, sixteen days away from it–give or take a day, with an eighty four percent chance of relative accuracy (and barring, of course, Unforeseen Dimensional Flux (UDF)). He had it marked on his calendar with a little red star.

The current master of this coven–the coven, as it happened, formerly known as the Coven of the Ursine Shattermath–had seen this outcome as well, at seventy eight percent accuracy levels, and this was so close to certain that he had done Beauland the immense favor of getting the garden servantry to go ahead and dig him a grave, which he was currently napping in until teatime.

The grave, the coven’s current master had informed Beauland, was nice and cool and quiet. Dark, even in the daytime. Much more pleasant, in fact, than the shit Beauland would presently have to deal with–this last bit being said, always, with an old man’s knowing quaver.

Beauland was fairly sure the Coven Master had seen more than he had. He was all right with that–it was better not to know everything.

Beauland had spent the last few years of his life at the Aithar Smiles Coven, learning that the healing arts were, profoundly, not for him. It was strange to be back here, after so long away–the multi-dimensional effects of the place were even wearing on him a little, the constant white of the Gauntlet was blinding and mind-numbing. Yesterday he had caught himself trying to brush his teeth over the wash basin–which was a mistake, as every boy raised in the Shattermath should have known. The wash basins liked to bite. It was far safer to do it over your dresser, and trust the Spit Sentinels of Gorshdrkr Dimension to redirect as necessary.

Today’s multi-dimensional failure had occurred only seconds ago, in the lunch line. It was simply enough expressed, though it was having disasterous consequences:

Beauland had gotten the beans.

He sat now in the dining hall, fork raised, next move uncertain. The damage had already been done: he had eaten a few of them. They were Xyclian beans: he could tell from the meaty aftertaste. And Xyclian beans, for a fellow of his delicate constitution, meant gas. And ever since that Evinanjin woman had destroyed the Astartian Pact a few years back, magic was intense and unpredictable, so who could tell what else they’d mean?

Beauland liked exploring new dimensions. He liked the power-pinnacle destruction of the Pact had lifted him to. But there were nevertheless times when he missed knowing that the limits of a magical reaction were, in fact, limited.

His fellow Sights sat clustered around him, pity evident on their faces. Every single one of the bastards had gotten the cabbage.

In the dining hall’s high narrow windows, scenes from the streets of seventeen separate cities flashed, in twelve separate dimensions. With the strangely meaty bean taste still in his mouth, Beauland watched a merchant in the Xolitol dimension crash a cart drawn by two snail creatures into a tea shop nestled inside a hollowed out mushroom. As much as inter-dimensional episodes could seem like something, it didn’t seem like a good sign.

“This is going to be bad, isn’t it,” Beauland said.

“I wouldn’t say bad, exactly,” said the woman next to him, waving her fork. She had the facial tattoos of the North Darklands all over her cheeks and brow, and the bone rings of a Far North Headsplitter braided into her hair. This costume, when combined with pointed teeth and the bloody mess on her plate, did nothing to console him.

“Pardon me,” he said delicately. “But aren’t you a Darklander? Don’t you people like cannibalism, and violence, and such? Why’re you here, in a Sight coven?”

“Right in one!” The woman smiled. “Without violence, how’re you supposed to solve your problems? But that’s all neither here nor there. This Darklander is also a pretty talented Sight. And this Darklander says the beans aren’t bad for you.”

“If not bad, then what?”

“Interesting.” She extended a hand for him to shake, nails rimmed in something dried and black that Beauland did his very utmost not to turn his sixth sense upon. “Dax the Destroyer loves interesting, and those beans are from an interesting dimension. You’re about to fart so hard your parents’ll feel it.”

“My parents are dead.”

“I know. S’what I meant.” She pointed a grimy finger to her robes. “Sighted, remember?”

“Could you…could you be a little more sensitive, maybe?”

“Nope.” She picked up a piece of whatever the red stuff on her plate was and gnawed it. “Name’s Betz, by the way. They tried sensitivity training when I got here. I ate the instructor.”

“Oh.” Beauland looked back down at his empty fork. Aithar only knew how long it would be until the beans caught up with him–or how much of a warning he’d have. Just thinking about it caused an ominous growl to rise from his abdomen. “I’m Beauland.”

“I know. You’re the man who’s going to lead the Coven.” She rolled her eyes. “Apparently, I’m not a good choice, even though my accuracy rating is two and a half points higher than yours. Old Master seems to think I’m going to tear down the coven and eat all the apprentices, or something. Lies and calumny, o’ course. I never eat where I shit.”

Beauland, who was beginning to feel an unpleasant pressure building in his stomach, shook his head. “Higher than mine? Impossible. Mine’s the highest since Riktau Gaugh founded the place four hundred years ago.” Sights, who for obvious reasons weren’t fazed by much, got awfully shirty over accuracy ratings. It was the first thing Beauland had been asked, along with his name, when he returned. He had taken to the practice wholeheartedly–easy to do, as his was exceptionally high.

Beauland’s overall accuracy rating was, in fact, eighty-nine percent. The current Coven Master, napping peacefully in his grave, stood firm at eighty-five. Ratings in the seventies were considered respect-worthy, ratings in the low eighties impressive. High or mid eighties were the stuff that set Sights to whispering in the hallways. Close to ninety earned you instant forgiveness in the Shattermath Coven if you should, say, go off for a few years to study Healing, jump dimensions at night more or less just to explore what was around now, and come back, shrugging, claiming it hadn’t ever been serious, really.

Not that Beauland had done that.

But, if this Betz was two and a half points higher accuracy than he was, then…

…then she was in the nineties.

It was unheard of.

Literally. No one had ever heard of it.

“Quit gawping,” Betz said, not unkindly. “At any rate, all that’s about to change.”

“Eh?”

“You’re about to have your anal awakening.”

“My–”

“You heard me.”

Beauland was about to ask the fatal question–what precisely constitutes an anal awakening?–when he found out.

The gas, which had been building relentlessly in his intestine, released itself with dimension-bending vengeance.

It was funny, he thought vaguely, as the gale-force winds blew his chair out from under him. This hadn’t happened before, but he got the strangest feeling it had. Perhaps, in some other close continuum, he’d been doing this from birth. Perhaps, in that continuum, he’d eaten Xyclian beans every day. Perhaps, in that continuum, he was Xyclian.
He made a mental note to visit Xyclia, next chance he got, and find out. It was fairly rare, for a Sight to find a double of themselves in another dimension, but it wasn’t unheard of. He’d rather like talking to himself a little. He might be able to give himself some good life advice.

His attention meandered back to the present, where strange things were going on. For one, everyone in the dining hall was staring at him–their upturned faces, hovering over their blue Sight-robes, wore almost identical expressions of horror. Betz herself, who didn’t seem like she’d be scared of much, had her mouth half-open.

Beauland realized, suddenly, that his chair had blown out from under him, but he was still very much in a seated position. Hovering, somehow, three feet over the Dining Hall floor. He had spilled the beans, and the grey goop of them had turned the floor underneath him into a legume murder scene, an edible splatter painting of considerable scope.

“Don’t freak out,” Betz whispered to him, “but you’re glowing a little.”

Beauland opened his mouth to tell her he felt fine, he was fine, this was probably just some weird side effect of being Sighted and eating Xyclian beans.

Instead, he spoke in a deep gravelly voice and an ancient tongue. Or, well. The voice came from somewhere, and that somewhere was loosely around him.

It said:

When the King is a woman and then is a man,
The looming red light spreads over the land.

One becomes two and two becomes one,
Brother and mother, mother and son.

Backwards and forwards, black and white.
Grow it in darkness. Kill it with light.

The mage’s bright promise to end with the king;
A song, a fine hat, and a bird on the wing.

For a few minutes, there was crystalline silence in the dining hall. Even the extra-dimensional scenery in the windows seemed to be waiting for Beauland’s next move.

The Darklander, Betz, was the first to recover. She grinned, shook her head a little, went back to her horrifying plate of near-raw entrailery. She slurped up some small creature’s liver: the sounds of her enjoyment echoed throughout the quiet room.

“Nice,” she said, dabbing her lips with her napkin.

Beauland said the one thing left to say, in such a situation: “excuse me.”

The room dissolved back into its previous chattery atmosphere. The intrusion of prophecy, Beauland remembered from his youth here, was a regular fixture in the Coven of the Ursine Shattermath–though, to be fair, it wasn’t usually paired with indigestion. Young Sights interrupting a Maths lecture with rolled back eyes, a blue glow, and utterly useless information about the winners of a pigskins tournament fifty years in the future hadn’t been uncommon.

He’d done it himself, once or twice–faked it once or twice more. The problem with faking it, of course, being that someone in the Coven had doubtless had a mantic episode previously that foretold your faking. And, more than likely, it was the Coven apothecary.

This wasn’t fake, however. This had felt, in fact, very strange.

“I’d remember that prophecy, were I you,” said Betz. She had finished her plate, and was now sopping up blood with a crust of bread. “In thirteen years, there’s a high percent chance it’ll be important.”

“I guess I should listen to you,” Beauland muttered. “You’re in the nineties.”

“So’re you, now. Tomorrow, you’re going to check up with the accuracy reader. Mantic gases unblocked, you’re running at about ninety four.”

“No,” Beauland said weakly. “That’s impossible. That’s almost–Aithar bless, that’s almost one hundred percent accurate.”

Betz winked. “Yes, my friend. You’re very good. Of course, there’s still the occasional hitch–”

She was interrupted by three mournful horn blasts, some minor hubbub near the doors, and the appearance, in soil-stained blue, of an out-of-breath messenger.

“Hail,” the messenger panted. “Sad tidings, Sights of the Shattermath! Our Master, Rectix Vlarsson, has died! Nice and tidily in his grave, with a will left right next to the tombstone. Thank Aithar it happened before teatime. Oh–and long live our new Master, Beauland Bornsson.”

Beauland blinked. “But–”

“Remember,” said the Darklander. “Not quite a hundred.”

Cute Paintings of Monsters.

Well, hey there, boys and girls.

I had this whole plan where I elegantly introduced my art and showed you large, high-quality photos, but it looks like the buttfuck combination of WordPress and my tablet aren’t going to allow me to do that. So, as the image quality of my pictures had been summarized, so shall I.

Here are some shitty phone photos, combined into one image because this stupid tablet is apparently such a stone age piece of equipment that it can’t process multiple photos on a freaking page, of my artwork. I’ve been doing monster paintings lately. Some of them (can you even tell here?) are vomiting or bleeding glitter. Because we like it when things vomit or bleed glitter. For the most part, these are 5×7 on cheap canvas panel, with some tiny little canvases (bought at a craft store because AWWW CUTE) for the monster eyes.

That pencil drawing is a HUGE drawing I started a little while ago of Jin. Thought I’d toss it in because some readers might enjoy it. Once I get it a little closer to finished and there’s some shading in there I’ll fight my tablet for a more detailed image, okay?

Again, I’m not like a super talented genius type artist, nor do I do manga characters or watercolors of flowers, so I’m well aware I won’t ever make a living, but hey. Thought you guys might enjoy.

Don’t freak out, you’ll get a writing post either tomorrow or Friday at the latest. I just wanted variety.

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The little guy top right is unfinished, but whatever. Glittervom.

Woo!

In a brief and hurriedly-typed blog post, I am happy to announce that The Antidote, my Aurian and Jin side novelette is live. You should totally check it out if you like mobs of angry villagers, mobs of relatively collected villagers, sticking branches through cows, or, of course, drunks. Woo! Celebrate with me for a very affordable .99, which is less than the cost of pretty much everything except a pack of ramen noodles.

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HOLY SHIT HERE IT IS.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Novels

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Writing: What’s Up With Me, II

Sorry I’ve been all quiet on the western front, you guys. I’ve been spending this week trying to figure out my taxes, and um. I’ll put it this way, when you’re used to reaching for the 1040EZ automatically, it’s a lot to figure out. My brain goes numb automatically when anyone mentions taxes. It’s more boring than four hour bus rides with (gasp!) NO WIFI. I get ESPECIALLY ADD about taxes.

That’s right. More ADD than usual.

Be frightened.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a little bit of our usual chummy-chum bloggy-blog time to update you on the State of Stories over here, with definite dates and chewy chunks of expectation for all to digest. I’ve gotten a whole lot of writing done here recently–as mentioned here, I kind of accidentally wrote a novelette–and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you folks in the ragged remains of this calendar year.

First, the definitive dating list:

THE ANTIDOTE (Aurian and Jin novelette)–4/30/15. About 17K, not a long read but probably good for an hour or two if you miss A&J that much. There’s poison, obviously, and a drunk procession, and pregnant Jin, and a mob with bad spelling. It’ll either be free or .99, depending. Part of me wants to use this story, which slid out easier than a greased turd, as a freebie for marketing purposes–it can be read rather independently of A&J. Part of me likes to get paid for work I do. So I don’t know.

THE KING’S MIGHT (A Novel of Averdan)–6/21/15. About 55K. This started out as a novella and became a short novel, accidentally, because when Emily edits Emily adds in like a motherfucker. It is NOT, I repeat, NOT, an Aurian and Jin story. It’s something entirely different, but you’ll like it, I promise. Features Pratchettesque footnotes, a warrior’s comb, curious dissection, and king-type people. Will be priced at a very affordable .99, to suck you bastards into my web of lies.

LITTLE BIRD (The Sundering Trilogy, Book II)–9/27/15. And here, at last, is A&J Book II. It’s running at about 80K right now, but I’ve still got to button up my editing, so I reserve the right to change that figure as I see fit. Features more of the glory that was the Coven of the Ursine Shattermath, Jin and Aurian having a teenager, and that teenager doing what you’d expect Aurian and Jin’s teenager to do, which is mostly stupid shit. There’s also a male Woman King, phosphorescent witchery, cannibalism (or, erm, very fresh blood puddings in flesh-covered casings) and prophecies. Yes, there are prophecies. Don’t hate me yet, they’re fun prophecies, delivered by a homeless guy with a bad fucking attitude. Will be 2.99, as always. So forgo a cup of coffee one week in September so you can buy my book. Or: forgo two cups of coffee, so you can buy my book and a spare pair of underpants, because it is so awesome you will shit yourself.

Right now, my mother is reading this, and she is appalled by my language. Hi, Mom! Love you!

Anyway, there you go. State of the Union. What to expect. A warning shot.

Cheers,
EFR

NOVEL TIME

Sorry, guys. I’ll have a really writing post up for you tomorrow. But for now, guess what came out today?

No, not a new Harry Potter book. No, nothing to do with Star Wars. Sorry.

Here’s my book. Yessy yessir. You should buy it. You’ll love it, even more than you love me (which is a lot, I know.) You’ll grow fond of these people, which is a shame, because they ‘re words on paper and they’ll never know. But you’ll like it. I promise.

We’ve just got the paperback for now. Ebook is coming out tomorrow. Ebook will be 2.99. Print book is 12.99, because it’s pretty fucking thick. Yes. Yeeeessssss.

Aurian and Jin: A Love Story

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Writing Wednesday: How I Edit

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The first pair of Wrangler jeans was produced in 1947. They now, in 2014, make jeans in over 500 styles. They are, without a doubt, one of the cornerstones of the American denim market–they even offer a one-year warrantee with each pair of jeans. I’ve probably owned a few pairs of Wranglers in my life–not that I look at the brand on my jeans, but we probably all have, just like we’ve probably all had a cup of Folgers coffee, or eaten a bowl of Campbell’s soup.

Why do I mention this, you wonder? Well, simple. To set this up:

I pants harder than Wrangler Jeans.

You heard me.

I am a pantser from here to Ragnarok. I start a novel with no idea–aside from the basics, like ‘here’s a story about a man and a woman who’ll wind up accidentally saving the world’–no idea what’s going to happen in it. I know my characters and am excited about them, in the same way you’re always excited to meet new acquaintances. (‘Oh, so you’re a one-eyed harridan with dirt under her nails and a penchant for cold-blooded murder? How lovely to meet you. I’m Em.‘) As cheesy-cheese crappity-crap as this sounds, the story writes me and not the other way around.

I mention this because my first draft looks shittier than the toilet of a four hundred pound man subsisting on Taco Bell enchiladas. Names are misspelled. Names are changed. The goal of a chapter changes midway through the chapter. Scenes are ended, with FINISH SCENE HERE appended in yellow highlightered text at the bottom of them. Some scenes are missing entirely.

My first draft of Aurian and Jin was, I believe, about 55,000 words. The finished novel is about 95,000. What happened, you might be wondering, in the in-betweens to create that extra novella’s worth of text?

Editing. A looooot of it.

Now, I keep reading around the interwebs that editing is fun. I’m sorry, but no. It’s not. But, much like paying your bills and not doing (too many) drugs, it’s one of those not-fun things that you need to do, and that you can derive a certain amount of smug satisfaction from doing better than your friends. If you’re a pantser like me especially, you need to edit like a motherfucker. Hell, I probably spend twice as long editing as I do writing the damn thing.

I wanted to give you guys a look at my editing process for Aurian and Jin, to give you an idea of what works for me. It might not be what works for you–editing, like writing and dying, is something you have to do alone, and nobody’s going to sit you down and give you the Excel spreadsheet version of how best to do it. But here’s my method, and may it inspire you.

1) Write your first draft. Don’t stop, don’t go back and make sure this scene makes sense with the previous one. Just go with it. If you’ve got an idea, you got it for a reason. You’ve as long as you want to figure out what that reason was.
Note: I’m not advocating not editing in your first draft at all. But I will advocate doing it minimally–just little things that happen to catch your eye here, out-of-place phrasing and typos and such, Leave the big stuff for later.

2) Let it rest. I think this step is necessary. Take a month and start another story, write a few poems about sunsets, catch up on your housework, go out in the sunlight and visit your friends, who are wondering what the hell happened to you. Give that first draft time to fade into the back of your mind, and think about it as infrequently as possible. This way, when you go back to it, you will’ve stopped thinking you’re Faulkner reincarnated, and will be ready to face the surgery you’re going to have to do with some degree of steady handedness and honesty.

3) Read it again. Try to imagine you didn’t write this shit. It helps me to bring it on a trip, or to the beach, or somewhere else I would usually bring a paperback book. Try to judge your own writing objectively–what works here, and what doesn’t? What do you like, what don’t you like? Where are your characters out of character? What scenes–and trust me, there always are these scenes–define your characters?

4) While you’re thinking these things over, go back through and do a cosmetic edit. Is a character Harold on one page and Kumar on another? Fix it. Are the mountains black in one scene, reddish in the next? Fix it. The one that always gets me here is eye color–I went through three full edits before I realized my main character Aurian had grey eyes in some parts of the book and brown eyes in others. (A note: this sort of thing isn’t all on you. You’ll have beta readers later on to catch it too).

5) Now, go back and finish your unfinished scenes. Craft these scenes into a whole–you should have already laid the groundwork for this in your first draft, but here’s your chance to really buttress the leaning literary tower. Does Aurian have a lute in the first few scenes, and do you feel like this lute defines something about him–his settled nature, maybe, his unknown past, his attachment to the only sort of life he’s ever lived, even though he was meant for something greater and more foreign? Now’s the time to bring the lute into the story in a few choice other scenes, when he’s missing home, when he’s doubting the decisions he’s made. Such things are ‘visual’ cues for your reader when they aren’t too strongly handled.

6) This is about the point in Aurian and Jin where I realized there was something missing in my story. It bothered me for weeks, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Eventually, I realized–this was a story that depended almost totally on an understanding of Jin’s past, the past of a taciturn and deeply troubled ex-solider, and I was telling and not showing it the whole fucking time. How out-of-character is that? I added in about 30,000 words to the story at this point, creating a sort of second interweaving novella out of Jin’s backstory. It worked much, much better. The backstory sections are, honestly, some of the best parts in the book, and give it a little bit of the seriousness (as well as Jin’s POV) that was lacking in the first draft. Because of the backstory sections you understand Jin, who isn’t at all a talkative person, much better than you could’ve if she’d attempted to explain herself.

7) Cosmetic edit again. Honestly, I did this at least once a week. Some people bitch about ‘ohmigaaawd, don’t your eyes just kind of glaze over, though?’ No, no they don’t. And if yours do, try harder. Don’t edit like you read. Pay attention.

8) This is about the time you should give your story out to your beta readers. You’ve polished up the loose ends, taken care of the worst of the problems, groomed it for glaring typos and changing names. It’s ready to be read. My personal advice here: don’t tell them to look for anything in particular, unless it’s the cosmetic stuff. You want their raw dog reactions. You want them to read it as though this isn’t a book by their coworker/family member/friendly fellow carpooler.

You also want there to be about twenty of them. What? you say, aghast. That’s twenty people who probably won’t buy my book when it comes out!

Here’s the hard stuff, pretty Polly. These everyday people in your life probably don’t really want to read it anyway, except out of curiosity to see what Auntie Emily put to paper. They’ll buy a copy anyway because they love you and want you to feel good about your sad self-publishing self. And if you choose twenty of them–if you can muster twenty people who fall somewhat into the niche that makes up your possible market–four of them might actually do it. And these are good people. You will love them forever.

9) Edit again, looking at your beta readers’ notes. Did chapter three strike Uncle Bjornsson as a little off? Is it because there’s a real problem with it, or because, as a paraplegic stroke victim, he has a problem with your portrayal of paraplegic stroke victims? If the latter is the case, you might want to listen anyway. The man knows what he’s talking about.

Take your readers’ advice to heart. If they notice a problem, and it isn’t expressed in terms of ‘OMG I just hate Monkshood eolbxff!!’, there’s probably a problem.

10) This is the part where, if you can afford it, you should take your work to a professional. I highly recommend this: however, I also can’t afford to do it. So, this is the point where you hopefully go to a professional, and I go through about ten more times on my lonesome.

11) I tend to go through, separately, for these concerns:
* Are my characters in character?
* Is my writing stylistically consistent?
* Could I say this in a way that’s less wordy? Are my verbs strong, could
I use fewer adjectives/adverbs? (I have a problem with this, and it merits a whole separate edit. You might have similar foibles.)
* Are there any ‘false leads’ in here? Do all the guns in the first act, in other words, go off in the third? Are there perhaps too many guns? Not enough?
* Are my places well described without being overdescribed? Can I picture this place just from reading about it? Do my eyelids dip and flutter during that four page long description of the castle?
* Is there any scene–any damn scene–that does not in some way further the plot of this story, or hold within some type of conflict? Man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself, etc. Delete empty scenes.
* These characters all want something. Am I getting across whatever that is? Do they get it/ not get it?
* Does my rising action build smoothly?
* Does my climax (with resolution) resolve all the major questions asked in the story?
* Can I get away anywhere with showing more and telling less? If I showed here, instead of told, would it be a major block to the flow of action in my story?

And the last and biggest is simply:

* Does this work for me?

12) After all this, you’re about done. Turn your manuscript in, lookit your galleys. Make your last corrections. I just proofed my galleys last week, and d’you know what? I STILL found typos. I STILL changed a few things around in the first chapter.

In fact, all I have left to do is go to fucking print.

I’m not going to lie to you guys. I am happier than a pig in shit. I am HAPPY to finally be done editing. Editing, after all, isn’t fun.

Now, of course, all I have to do is start editing the second one.

But I have to say this about editing. Remember–please Jesus, remember–even if you’re self publishing, you are still publishing. This is your immortal work, a testament to your ineffable genius. So edit it like it is. Make that fucker look beautiful. Take your time. Be meticulous. Get help when you need it. I keep seeing the term ‘over-editing’ popping up around writerly internet habitats, but you know what? There’s no such thing.

I’ll talk more about editing later in this blog, because I think it needs to get talked about, and very rarely does. All writing books have a chapter on it, but it’s usually a sad and thin little chapter, as though this wasn’t where the writer spent most of their goddamn time. The truth is, a lot of work goes into editing, and work just isn’t conductive to the idea of electrifying literary inspiration.

This is because inspiration–the ‘muse’–doesn’t exist.

Editing does.

Work with what you have.

EXCERPT: Death-Dealer

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Writing, writing and writing. Posting a little bit up here, just so you guys know I’m doing something other than bitching and moaning. Also for the sheep leg. Love the sheep leg. Love it.

In this scene Birdy Sard, the world’s least capable queen, has gone home to visit her village and her Pa. She’s found her Pa missing, and a lot of the village missing as well–the mysterious Women of the Wood have come forth to wreak havoc, and they weren’t counting on anyone having fire to throw at them. Birdy and her semi-trusty lieutenant are surveying the battle’s aftermath.

*****

The field was no longer the lush green field of her childhood. It was blackened, scarred. Smoke rose from it and from the corpses littered about it in dinted bits of bone armour. The remains of the sheep slumped here and there, caving forms covered in ashy wool. Directly in front of Birdy a sheep leg stood, strings of gristle up near the elbow where there should have been a continuation of sheep. The smell was abominable.

“Cor,” Birdy said, awed. “What d’you think could’ve done this, Salveed? Magic? There’s no more magic in these parts. Hasn’t been for years.”

Salveed shook his head, hunkered down and dragged his gloved fingers through the ashes that had once been grass and people and sheep. It wasn’t hot–was mid-autumn, in fact, long after the harvest–but he was sweating, and Birdy was too.

She felt it trickle down her spine behind her curiass, hopelessly out of reach. She debated saying they should abandon the armor, but then again, where would they put it? And they had been through the deep South in it, been through jungles and forests and beaches, by damn. It seemed silly to put it away now. Frivolous.

Also, the scene around them scared her. She wasn’t above admitting it. She had grown used to her armor, would feel naked without it.

Very naked.

Salveed held some ash up to his nose, sniffed it. His nostrils flared like a dog’s.

“Well?” Birdy said. “I hope you’ve got some idea. I’ve got nothing.”

Salveed held up a finger for silence. He sniffed again.

“Damn,” he said. “I don’t believe it.”

“What?”

“I didn’t think they had the rock for it, this far north. You’ve got to find the right sort of caves. Not the sort of cave you usually…”

“Salveed.”

He blinked, coughed. “Erm,” he said. “Sorry, your majesty. Let me think about how to tell you this.”
“Waiting.”

“You know all the metal you use in Karakul, right?”

“I wouldn’t say I’m more than passing familiar,” Birdy said, a bit more tartly than she had intended. “We’re not close friends or anything. But yes, Salveed, I am well aware that we use metal for things in our lovely modern city. Make your point.”

Fear made her edgy, made her snappish and short of temper. She wasn’t used to being afraid. Hadn’t ever had much truck with it, not since she was little: it was by and large useless.

That sheep leg, standing in the middle of the field like a burnt matchstick, was far from reassuring.

“It’s blasting powder.”

“What?”

“How they’re doing it. It’s some form of blasting powder, but…but stronger. A lot stronger.”

“What’s blasting powder?”

Salveed looked surprised. “Really, my lady? You’ve signed royal permission to employ it in the mines at least fifty times.”

“Like fuck I have. Even if I didn’t read the document all the way through before I signed it, Viril and I would’ve heard about this happening.”

“Well.” Salveed, ever-patient, sucked air through his teeth. “I’m from Asatigne, right? Where the river Darking joins the sea, a few hours away from the foothills of the Jerillee Mountains. We do a lot of the mining for Karakul right there. We’ve had to cut deeper and deeper into the hills to find the right ores so you city folk can have your eating utensils and deadly blades and whatnot. Eventually it got to be too much work and too much risk to keep digging as far as the veins extended. So somebody scraped a salt off the walls of the hill-caves, mixed it with fire-coal and a little sulphur, and created blasting powder with it. An alchemist, of course. You find some of the best alchemists in the kingdom in the mining towns; legend has it this one was trying to make a potion for headaches and got a little too excited.”

“Cor,” Birdy said. “We have this stuff?”

“Sort of. The blasting powder we use in Asatigne, it’s–well, it’s just enough to cut into a sheer rock face and save a mining team of twenty a weeks’ worth of work. Which isn’t to say it’s weak. It’s not. But blasting powder that can blast a whole field like this, tear everything in it apart–it’s not magic, but it might as well be. Whoever created this stuff had death in mind, not land clearing and ore.”

“And it works when you light it on fire.”

“Basically. I’m guessing your friend Dap took a lucky shot and hit someone who was carrying quite a bit of it.” Salveed held his fingers up to her. “Smell that?”

“Ugh. Smells like eggs gone rotten, only sharper.”

“That’s the smell of blasting powder. Remember it, my lady. Better than you remember to read all the papers you’ve signed.”

Birdy looked around one more time at the blackened field. “We know how to make this,” she said. She was uncertain if it was a question or an affirmation.

“Yes.”

“Could we make a lot of it? Fast?”

Salveed sighed his weary patient sigh. Though he must have been close to Birdy’s age, he looked very old. “Madam, would you want to?”

The silence of the place was absolute, the desolation absolute. The village with its children and livestock and cookpots and bustle seemed very far away suddenly. All the people seemed very far away.

“No,” Birdy said at last. “I guess I wouldn’t. Let’s go get Pa. Viril can figure the rest of it out–he’s the King, after all.”

Excerpt: Aurian and Jin, Chapter One

Okay, so I lied. This is actually the first part of the first chapter. Fact is, I went in to do one final draft before pub-date and I had a horrifying realization: this is, aside from the prologue, the first part of my first novel, and I do not like it.

I just don’t.

I know there’s too much dialogue, but I don’t think that’s what’s killing me. Yes, they coldly dispatch some people, but that’s sort of what they do. If you’ve got any suggestions, help me out. Aurian needs you, in the sad puppy-dog sort of way he tends to need people.

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ONE
ERSATZ WIFE

Aurian gazed down the length of the blade to the knotty hand grasping it, and beyond there to the dirt-streaked face of the bandit currently holding him up.

“I said,” Aurian repeated patiently, “what money?”

“Don’t get yourself killed, laddie. There’s got to be some money in this shitheap. Couple coppers socked away, antique glassware–whatever you’ve got. If you ain’t got nothing, we’ll just slit your throat and sell your corpus to the necromancers down the road. All the same to us.”

The blade at his throat pressed a little deeper. Aurian swallowed, with some difficulty.

“Look where this inn is situated. We haven’t seen a traveler in months. We’ve got a few pigs in the yard and a few chickens. About half a barrel of ale. That’s it.”

“Don’t lie to me, now!” Spit flecked Aurian’s face, as well as a few droplets of red–the bandit had finally worked up nerve to press the sword deep enough to draw blood. Aurian ignored the pain, took deep measured breaths. The bandit’s two friends, every bit as dusty and mustaschioed as the bandit himself, were beginning to look nervous. Aurian was willing to bet none of them had ever killed a man before–hells, if the weather had been better, they’d probably still be on their farms with their fathers, and the nasty-looking machetes at their sides would still be used for clearing brush.

These times made men desperate, they did.

Which was none of Aurian’s business.

“Look,” he said at last, allowing his voice to quaver slightly. “All right, you’ve got me. My wife keeps a sack of coppers on her–supposed to last us the winter, they were. You’re welcome to ’em. Just leave us in peace.”

“Maybe,” the lead bandit said curtly. “Maybe not. Where’s the lady?”

“She’s upstairs.”

The pressure on his throat lightened. The bandit resheathed his sword. “Call her.”

“Jin,” Aurian called. “Oh, Jin! We have visitors.”

“Fuck off,” came Jin’s voice from above, thickly. Aurian was willing to bet she had been sound asleep.

The bandits chuckled. “Right proper and obedient, that one,” one of the two lesser bandits snickered. Aurian phrased his request carefully:

“Jin. These gentlemen are interested in some of your coppers.”

“Are they now?” The voice had brightened considerably. A door creaked, followed by a familiar lithe step, joined by a series of creaks as Jin took the stairs down.

Aurian was not facing the right direction to see her, but he could tell from the guffaws of the bandits when she was in view.

“Aithar’s hells, laddie, that’s your wife?” said the lead bandit. “Where’d you find her, hanging in a butcher’s shoppe?”

“Oh, now,” Jin said pleasantly. “You shouldn’t have said that. I was planning on leaving you alive.”

There was the sliding ring of drawn steel, and a few soft rushed footsteps. There was a choking sound. The bandit in front of him went stiff as a red wet rose blossomed in the center of his chest, tipped by the point of a sword. He slumped.

With a vicious kick, Jin Grewler slid him off her sword and onto the bodies of his cohorts. She wiped her sword distractedly on his tunic.

‘Hello, my darling dingleberry,” she said cheerfully. “My precious puking pearl. My salubrious swine. My–”

“Enough!” Aurian grinned. “I truly thought we might be fucked, this time. I thought you’d really gone to sleep up there.”

“I did.” She bent, began to rifle through the purses of the deceased. “What, you don’t think I’d rise to the sound of my hubby-wubby calling?”

Aurian laughed in spite of himself. “Of course you would, my purest puddin’ pumpkin. Of course you would.”

“Augh, don’t do it to me. Makes my skin bloody well crawl, so it does.” She found a purse that jingled, pouring copper coins into her hand. “Good take on these bastards. Fourteen copper.”

“About time somebody beat ’em at their own game. Toss it in with the rest, I guess.”

“Which board is it, again?”

“Third from the welcome mat. Step on it, it’ll sound hollow.”

As she stepped, listened, and cursed, Aurian took the moment to stretch, blot the small wound at his throat with the back of his hand, and look at his wife.

It wasn’t a picture many men would feel lucky looking at, he knew–especially considering she was his wife in name only. Jin Koch, neĆ© Grewler, was nearly six feet tall, thin as a rail, and possessed the pale blanched-looking skin and sharp profile common to the Imperial south. In addition to her sharp profile, she had a braided mat of ivory hair that hung unbrushed and unloved to the small of her back–the sort of hair that, with about a year’s proper maintenance and a good shearing, might have curled in attractive ringlets around her face.

But her face was the problem, really. For, in place of one pale grey eye, Jin wore a patch–a big patch. Even so, the patch was not large enough to cover the scars that extended like mountain ridges from her empty socket, or the healed-over shiny burns that clustered around it.

She had come to him because no one in the town down the road would have her: a disfigured woman in her late thirties looking for a change of name and a quieter life didn’t have many takers in an organized sleepy municipality. Aurian, unlike the townsfolk, had recognized a war wound when he saw one–and the boundless opportunities it implied.

He was not an opportunist–not in any conventional sense, at least. He had been starving at this gods-forsaken inn on the side of this gods-forsaken minor road for long enough to know that. But when he saw a chance to get back–at the bandits who robbed him at least once a fortnight, and the townsfolk who told him he’d never amount to much–well, he’d have been a fool not to take it. She may have been ugly, and crass, and a drunk, but this strange Imperial swordswoman had made him in six months about double what he’d made in the past ten years.

And all for the price of his hand, and free beer.

Jin found the hollow board, and kicked it up and over. The eerie light of all their stashed copper shone on her face, making it beautiful, a sculpture in reds and oranges. Aurian smiled at her affectionately.

“How much, d’you think?”

“Don’t know. Four hundred–five hundred, maybe. A little sack of it’s in gold.” She scowled, fingering the offending sack. “We could afford a place in the city with this, you know. ”

“Aye, but then we couldn’t do our civic duty.” He gestured to the fallen bandits. “We keep it up, dear heart, and Sohoban’s Way won’t have any more bandits on it at all. We’ll be heroes. They might even make me mayor.”

Jin snorted. “Faugh. Mayor of the midden heap, maybe. Need I remind you that these people hate you?”

“They do now. When they find out we’re rich…” he left his thought unfinished.

Money could do so much.

In one easy motion, Jin grabbed a dead bandit and slung him over her shoulder. “Speaking of midden heap, what should I do with these scumbags?”

“We’ll burn them tonight. Say a few words over them.” Seeing her face, he added: “Come on, Jin. They’ve suffered enough for their crimes. Don’t feed them to the pigs.”

“‘Would save us a bundle on pig feed.”

“We don’t need to save a bundle. Remember the pile of copper under that floorboard?”

“They’re dead. They don’t care if they’re pig feed or in a crypt. Might as well use what you have, says I.”

And that was Jin: practical, no-nonsense Jin. Aurian, who had been born and raised in this area and had never seen adventure so much as shake a stick at him, couldn’t help but admire her attitude. He would never feed a dead man to pigs–whether or not he believed in an afterlife didn’t even enter into it. It just wasn’t the done thing.

But he could see how it made sense.

“No pigs,” he said at last. “Have some respect, dearest. Just pile ’em out back–I’ll get around to the fire presently.”

“Pile ’em yourself,” Jin shot back. “And think about your priorities, while you’re at it. You want to stay in an inn with no traffic and drink your days away, that’s just fine. I’ll do it with you. But you can’t go taking things for granted like you do. Someday you’ll be sitting here with no fodder for the pigs, thinking ‘oh, if only I still had those bloody bandit corpses…'”

“Taking things for granted like I do, eh? You’re the one who sits day in and day out. At least I sweep. Hells, your arm gets more muscle moving tankard to mouth than it does swinging that sword of yours.”

“Aye,” Jin spat, tossing the bandit back down on the floor. “Perhaps it does. But I know something of the suddenness off loss, laddie. You’d do well to listen to me.”

She stalked off. Aurian counted to ten.

Before he hit seven she came back in, grabbed a tankard from under the bar, filled it at the barrel, and walked back out again.

“Think on it!” she called.

Aurian sighed, bent down, and heaved one of the dead bandits over his own shoulder. There would be no talking to her for the rest of the day.

*****

Around four in the afternoon, just after he finished scouring the spilt blood off his floor, the necromancer entered. Aurian put his bottle of lye back behind the bar and raised a hand.

“Horis,” he said. “Welcome back.”

“Aurian!” the necromancer answered, taking his usual seat at the bar. “Good to see you still about. Bunch of blokes through the coven yesterday, telling us they would bring us an innkeeper’s corpus in return for a sheaf of hexes. I take it your woman took care of them.”

“With her usual speed and skill,” Aurian said, grinning. “How goes the gathering of knowledge?”

“Fair, fair. I’m close to reanimating mammals. Found a chipmunk skeleton in the woods, got it to stay alive for a full thirty minutes this time.” The necromancer rolled back his black sleeves, revealing forearms covered in the snaky blue tattoos of his profession. “Augar and Denis might be by tonight. They’ve been in the trials all week and they’re starved for your beer and a friendly game of cards.”

“How’d they do?”

“They’re full-fledged now, aye.” The necromancer smiled widely, even white teeth splitting his cadaverous face in two. “Reanimated a dead salamander each. I’m very proud.”

“You should be. This round’s on me.” Aurian poured two tankards, and the two of them clinked them together. “Ah, Horis. What’d you do to deserve such talented students?”

“Not a damned thing, Aurian–not a damned thing.”

The two men sat in companionable silence for a while, listening to the breeze shake leaves loose from the trees outside.

“Horis,” Aurian said, after a while. “D’you ever wonder what it’s like to live in the town? Not a care in your day save making money, neighbors on all sides, pretty little vegetable garden on your roof. Town guard to protect you. Everything right there.”

Horis sighed. “Oh, laddie. I know it must seem tempting to you, but trust me–our kind isn’t any happier there than their kind would be here, on the edge of the Grieving Wood. I’ve lived in a city or two in my time, and it’s more annoyance than pleasure. Your neighbors always want to know what you’re up to, see. A single bad spell, a single infestation of undead woodchucks, and they’re all against you until death do you part. What you do here, fair though it may seem to you–they’d arrest you for it, in the town.”

“Why?”

“Well, because you’re killing people.”

“But they’re bad people. People who’re trying to kill us. It’s self defense.”

“I know, lad. I know that perfectly well, and I understand it too. But see, that’s why we live out here, and not in there. Out here, we can seek our own justice. In there, why, it would be the job of the Town Guard to fight for us. And whatever sort of job they did–well, that would be that. You might not ever see the people who robbed you put to justice. You certainly wouldn’t get to pick their pockets afterwards. And you’d just have to like it or lump it.” The necromancer took a swig from his tankard and grimaced. “By the way, boy, your beer’s getting sour.”

“I know, I know. But I want to drink up what’s left before we put in the new barrel.”

“Any of the good stuff left?”

Aurian grinned. “And there I was thinking you were too drunk to remember it. Aye, there’s a bottle left.”

He rummaged under the bar, coming up with a rounded glass bottle and two dusty shot glasses. He poured them both a shot.

“You know,” he said, swirling the cloudy liquid about, “I never understood how my father got stuck out here.”

“Stuck? Stuck! He chose to live out here, lad.” The necromancer raised his glass. “Sun’s rising, moon’s waning.”

“Sun’s setting,” Aurian replied automatically, raising his glass as well. “Moon’s waxing.”

They both drank. The berry liquor left a warm glowing flame in Aurian’s belly. He leaned against the bar, looking out the windows to the leafy green depths of the forest beyond them.

“But why here?” he asked at last. “On this out-of-the-way road, near this out-of-the-way town. ”

“I couldn’t say–never knew him as well as I know you. I suspect he was born hereabouts. When you’re older, you’ll understand the power your birthplace holds over you. Or perhaps he just wanted a decent quiet life for you.”

“I’ve got a decent quiet life,” Aurian said, a little bitterly. “It’s boring the shit out of me.”

The necromancer chuckled. “Oh, my boy. If you told anyone in town what happened here–or what you have piled out back, for that matter–they would call your life anything but decent and quiet. Certainly not boring.” He reached over, patted Aurian’s shoulder with one of his tattooed hands. “Where’s that harpy you live with, anyhow?”

“Out,” Aurian muttered. “I pissed her off this morning, I think. She’ll be back before sundown. She always is.”

“Like a bad copper,” the necromancer agreed amiably. “You’d do well to listen to that woman more than you do. She’s far wiser than you. Seen more, too–still no idea where she’s from?”

“None. Nor do I care. Somewhere Southern, obviously–and coming into town wanting a name change? I thought it was better not to ask. She’s a good woman, she couldn’t have done anything too awful.”

“A sensible attitude to take.” The necromancer handed Aurian his tankard. Aurian filled it again, and topped off his own.

“To Jin,” the necromancer intoned.

“To Jin.”

“Sun’s rising.”

“Sun’s setting.”

They drank.