Announcing: TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES!

It’s finally time! I’ve been working on this in secret for a while, and I’m so excited (and, not gonna lie, a bit terrified) to announce I will be launching a free web serial next Thursday, June 8th, 2017.

(AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!)

TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES follows the shenanigans of Miyara, a princess who escapes her meaningless life and goes into hiding, finding her place in the world serving a struggling community by running a tea shop that sits on the edge of a magical disaster. I have three serial novels planned, but as this is something of an experiment for me the first will function as a stand-alone—we’ll see how it goes! =D

 

What do I mean when I say “web serial”?

Essentially, this means I’ll be posting a novel online in sections, each of which will be long enough and ideally have enough character/plot arc movement to feel like a satisfying read. Some serials do each released section episodically, more like a classic TV format where each episode can be watched in any order. The bulk of what I’ll be doing is putting up a chapter, about 3-4000 words apiece, of a book (and it will be fantasy book-length) weekly.

Up-front, I’ll post the first four chapters all at once to give people a sample of what they’re getting in for, and also because that’s the necessary introduction for people to enjoy the other side of this project: side scenes that can be read in any order about Miyara’s adventures running the tea shop, each of which will feature a different fantasy-ingredient tea blend. The novel portion is going to be freely available online, and I’ll write new side scenes as the Patreon I’ll be launching reaches new goals.

Basically, I’m going to give you a free book, and every Thursday you can read a little more of it!

 

Why am I writing a serial?

A lot of reasons! Ultimately, it’s a gift to myself.

First and foremost, it’s for my own sanity. In the months spent over the last year working on a serious and messy revision, having one day each week where I could work on something that was fun and easy reminded me why I do this—that it isn’t always awful, and that I’m actually pretty good at this writing thing in general, even if I happen to be working on something hard. That bright spot was a great motivator, because feeling more competent helps me actually be more competent. I need something easy and reliable that replenishes me creatively and doesn’t generate more work and expectations than I’m prepared to deal with right now, and this is what I came up with.

It’s also because I’ve put a lot of time and effort into writing, and I want to have work of mine available to point people towards! I’ve had enough feedback from professionals in the field to feel pretty confident that (while I certainly have growing to do and always will!) I’m writing at a high enough level to be traditionally published. But although I’ve written ten novels (a few of which, it must be said, aren’t worth editing, let alone publishing, and exist firmly in the “learning experiences” category), I don’t have any novels published yet. Even if I magically had a book deal tomorrow, it would be another year or two before the book was out, and I don’t write short stories to try to get published in the interim. A serial, at least the way I’m doing it, is what I like to call “novel-adjacent”—there’s enough overlap in craft skills I’ve already developed without interfering with an actual book launch down the road. Serialized fiction also has some added bonuses in terms of getting to interact with readers and what they care about, which I’m hoping to make the most of through Patreon!

And, I can’t lie, I do hope the Patreon I’ll be launching alongside the serial generates some money. It’s not my primary goal, but last year—between moving, surprise medical expenses, car accident, and sudden job collapse—was hard on my emergency fund. (And my car is 16 years old. While I hope it makes it out the year, I have Concerns.) I’m not in such dire financial straits I need to change my work situation, but if a similar conflation of expenses hit now I am not in a good position to address them. While my work arrangement is wonderful for many reasons, it’s not ideal for replenishing a savings account fast. And, again, even if I had a book deal tomorrow, publishing income is not steady or reliable, and it would great to have a more regular source of writing income. Backing the Patreon is absolutely not required to access the serial or for me to finish writing it, but I would be beyond thrilled to have any income from this craft I’ve worked so hard on.

 

Why am I terrified?

This is the first fictional work of mine that I’m making public. Like, ever. O_O I haven’t even posted fanfic, and soliciting beta reader feedback or submitting to workshops and critique groups isn’t at all the same.

It’s not edited. I’m posting my first work in public without any editing. I mean, I will certainly be proofreading, and I know how to spell and how semicolons work and such. But that’s not the same as a) other people’s eyes on the work or b) developmental editing.

No one has even read it. My wonderful critique partner Camille Griep commented on the first four chapters, but all the rest is going up without my having any idea what people will think of it. Maybe it will be bad! Maybe people will hate it! Maybe no one will read it at all! WE’LL SEE.

 

Why am I excited?

I’m having so much fun.

That’s it, really.

I worked really hard to set reasonable expectations on this project (I do not, as a rule, do reasonable expectations for myself >_>) for how much work I can put into this on a weekly basis and have it be rewarding and not draining, which is my primary goal. And it’s already paying dividends, because I’m snickering in glee every time I go to work.

I’m writing this for myself. I’m not asking anyone to pay for it, I’m not planning to traditionally publish it, I’m beholden to no one’s sensibilities but my own, and I can do whatever I want. This means if I want to write unreasonable amounts of dialogue and however little physical description I care about, NO ONE CAN STOP ME. I can write scenes that are totally silly even if their relation to the actual plot is slim just for the sake of fun. I can fill my world with all the magic and snark and female friendships, elevate tea to a sacred calling, make dragon and cat BFFs, and EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE GREAT.

The story is light, warm, and fun. I. And every time I sit down, it’s a joy to play with.

It’s the kind of story I’ve been craving to read, and maybe I’m not alone: maybe that’s what you need, too. I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I’ve been.

I’ll be back next week with links to the website and Patreon for anyone who wants to check it out =D. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

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Choosing Reads

A few weeks ago, I realized I didn’t want to read, which is a huge red flag for me. I’d had a stretch of books that either weren’t great or required more emotional bandwidth than I had handy. Since “not wanting to read” is pretty antithetical to who I am, it was time to employ emergency measures:

I picked a book to re-read. A book I already knew I loved, and a book I was sure would be exactly what I wanted.

A sad consequence of doing most of my reading on an e-reader is that I don’t re-read as often as I used to, because I can’t wander around my shelves and wait for a moment of yes, THAT’S what I need to read right now in quite the same way. But even scrolling through the e-reader library, I have that aha moment when I pass the right one, and it occurred to me that moment itself is telling.

I know there are people who never re-read, but it mystifies me. For me, choosing a given book to re-read says a lot about my mood, for one thing, and what my brain is working on—particular questions of identity, grappling anew with themes addressed in a work, a reflection of the mood I’m experiencing or feeling the lack of. And re-reading these books is a way of reaffirming myself, what matters to me and who I am, and I find re-reading to be an immensely clarifying, cleansing, and centering experience.

(Also I can skip to my favorite bits.)

In this case, the books I re-read (five novels and three novellas from Meljean Brook’s Guardians series, for the curious) underscored a trend not just in what I’ve been drawn to in re-reading, but also the kinds of books and writers I’ve been reaching for.

My to-read pile of books that are denser, require more time or thought, and especially ones that I know will require more emotional bandwidth (hello The Fifth Season, which I’ve started and is AMAZING and is also still waiting on my nightstand) are piling up. I’m in a state as, I think, many are, where I’m just about at my capacity to deal with all the awfulness going on around me. I have about as much challenge as I can stand, and I want more escapism.

Which is not to say I’m reading books that don’t deal with serious or complicated issues; I have perhaps less patience than ever for books with, for instance, unacknowledged sexism, or books that are fundamentally stupid or depend on me pretending to be. But one reason I realized I’ve been picking up book after book by Martha Wells is that I can trust I won’t be smacked in the face with unanticipated sexism when all I want was a transporting read.

These days the books I’m craving, the books I’m reaching for, aren’t just good, nor are they just thoughtful or inventive, as if those weren’t already rare. They’re comforting. They have optimistic outlooks and happy endings. They contain deep personal growth and beautiful friendships, adventure and exploration of worlds and ideas, and I don’t have to worry about being side-swiped by sexism, racism, queerphobia, ableism. They’re warm, welcoming, fun, and if not precisely light, then at least not grim. They’re hopeful, at a time when I could use more hope.

And they’re hard to find, because that’s a tall order. I’ve developed my own list of authors and books I trust, and no doubt yours won’t look the same, because we all pull different things from stories and need different things at any given time.

But, as I’m not just a reader but also a writer, it seems only logical that I should be writing the kind of stories I want to read, because maybe other people need them, too.

I’ve been vague-tweeting about a Secret Project for a few months now, but I’m nearly ready to share it with you all. So look for more details here next week… =D

Draft! New Draft Complete, New Draft Beginning

I finished the first draft of a new novel! It’s a secondary world urban fantasy, clocking in at about 75k. So I promise I’ve been silent around these parts for a good cause. I’ll have to refine my pitch once I’m closer to querying, but this is the basic idea:

To protect her daughter and friends, a mage and professional adventurer has to stop the sorcerous storms tearing a city apart. But to save their lives she’ll have to sacrifice a piece of herself and become what she’s always feared — and even if she survives, she can never go back.

I’m really excited about this one, and I’m teeming with side novella and short story ideas for these characters. I mean, I’m always excited about my stories, but usually when I finish a draft I’m overcome with the feeling of OH GOD EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE I’VE DONE ALL THE THINGS WRONG PEOPLE WILL HATE ME. This time, I’m worried because I still feel good about where it is at the moment. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.

Fortunately, this is exactly what alpha readers are for. And I’m especially fortunate, because a lot of very smart, skilled writers volunteered to help me out with this. I’m honestly blown away by how supportive this community can be and has been for me.

Lest I fret myself silly over the likelihood of one of them coming back and saying, “Nope, everything’s wrong, you’d better burn the whole thing” (no one has ever done this, but there’s a part of my brain that is always ready), I’ll be pressing right along into other projects.

Beyond the general catching up on life tasks that I’ve been pushing for the last couple months in my haste to get this underway, first on the agenda is to put together proposals for  Sirens programming. If you want to collaborate on something, let me know!

I’m also going to get moving on edits to the last novel I drafted, the YA space opera, since reader feedback has been waiting for me for longer than I’d meant it to. Unfortunately, although I’d meant to be done with the draft of Afterstorms by March, I lost most of February to moving. It ended up taking about two and a half months to draft, which in the scheme of things is not too shabby: I was averaging about 1000 words per day.

I am pleased to report that for the first time, I have successfully drafted a novel continuously — by which I mean, no break at the 20-30k point where I go, “HMM, quite a predicament you’ve got there, characters! I wonder how you’ll get out of it? …hmm.” And then I work on another project for a few months while I ponder, fail to magically arrive at a solution, and come back and outline my way out of the wall.

Anyway, I think the YA space opera will need another round of beta readers, so I’m hoping to have that ready to go out by the beginning of June, before I spend basically the entire month traveling. After that, I’ll be back to editing Afterstorms, possibly neck-deep in a novel collaboration, and probably figuring out what my next novel project will be. The fun never ends!

Editing Month: Defeated!

I HAVE DEFEATED EDITING MONTH.

I have two new novels edited and out in the world. I fell off the submission bandwagon for a while, so it’s both past time and also extremely satisfying. (With some accompanying panicflail, naturally.)

This is probably the best editing experience I’ve had, actually. On one hand, I did more extensive edits in a relatively short timeframe; on the other, working closely with these manuscripts again reminded me why I love these stories so much, and that made the whole process less grueling. I’m also organizing my editing, which has the advantages of making the process more logical and giving me tasks to cross off of lists. That helps me budget time and also track progress.

In the midst of all this I started a new part-time job as a tutor, and it’s been great to get back to teaching. It also means that I now know far more about standardized testing than I did when I was actually taking them. The fact that the SAT is relevant to my life is some sort of cosmic joke, but I’m loving getting to work with students again.

I have another novel to review and get back out on submission, but since I’ve been exclusively editing for the last month, I decree I’m allowed to switch back to drafting. Because shiny project!

(And because my writer brain is clearly feeling neglected: it has sent me a steady stream of dystopian action dreams for the last month, and since I refuse to go there I need to write something else.)

Now I get to pick up my YA mecha novel, because space battles with giant pilotable robots justify themselves, right? Right. SO EXCITED.

All The Deadlines

I know I’ve been quiet around these parts lately. A number of deadlines just converged on me suddenly. It’s strangely fortuitous I’m unemployed for the moment or this would be madness. (It’s already kind of madness.)

My drama project is on hold indefinitely, for those who’ve been asking: its main job was to help me re-learn how to have fun writing, because the Novel of Doom left me in a not-great place. That purpose accomplished, it can wait while I focus on other projects. So here’s what I’m up to now:

 

  1. Editing and Submission Packet Prep

I’m starting to get beta feedback for SHADOWCAST back, and it’s been pretty positive (so far, anyway). Obviously there’s work to do, but the comments are not in the vein of “BURN EVERYTHING IT’S THE ONLY WAY,” so. I’m trying out a complete rewrite of the first chapter for Cascade Writers (First submission deadline: met!), and I’ll tackle the rest of the edits in July. I’d like to have the bulk of the editing, the query letter, and the synopsis done before Cascade, but realistically it’ll probably take much of August, too. I’m also going to take a look at SOUL HARVESTER again now that it’s been out for a while and see if there are any tweaks to make. I want to be actively submitting both of these novels in September.

 

  1. The Rising Wall

My friend Katie from Sirens is putting together this really cool thing. If you’ve read Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, you may be aware that the zombie apocalypse has begun. With Seanan McGuire’s blessing, Katie is building the Wall from the series, which means she’s collecting from fans and friends fictional posts from bloggers during the early weeks of the Rising. I haven’t actually read this series of hers, but Katie’s put together an introduction and cheat sheet, so if you want to play too let me know! The deadline for the blogs isn’t flexible, since we have to match timing with what’s canon in the books. This is such a fun idea, and I’m really excited.

 

  1. Drafting a Short Novel

Here’s the real kicker. Let’s rewind about a year and a half.

I’ve just finished Viable Paradise and my brain is melting out of my ears. I go deep into edits for SOUL HARVESTER for a couple weeks, attend my first World Fantasy, and then think I’m going to do NaNoWriMo when I’m already starting a week late, I have no plan, and my brain is still reeling from the last few weeks. Haha! Oh, past Casey.

So I write about 8k, decide I need to switch from close third to first person, rewrite the whole thing, get up to about 20k, and promptly run out of gas. Hitting a wall at 20-30k is part of my process; I take a break at that point to work on another project for a while and then pound out the rest of the first draft in one go a few months later. For this one, deciding to abandon it was easy. It had been a post-VP experiment and NaNo novel, and I could already tell even if finished it would clock in around 50-60k max. For adult high fantasy, that’s a hard length to sell. I still liked it, but I had no pressing need to finish, so I put it aside.

Back in the present day, some of you may have seen the announcement for the Tor.com Imprint toward the end of May. They’re going to be publishing short novels, novellas (yes those are two different lengths), and serials. I read this and went, Hey hold on. I had a thing…

I took a look at that partial draft. Some problems, unsurprising given a) it was a NaNo rough draft and b) my brain was in a puddle when I wrote it, but overall I liked what I was seeing. So I looked at the announcement again: they’re taking unsolicited submissions through August.

And I thought, Do I have time to do the thing…? I WILL DO THE THING.

I figure if I can draft and get it cleaned up by the end of June, that gives me all of July to get feedback, and then in August I can edit like the wind and submit before the window closes. I spent a couple days doing some light editing to refamiliarize myself with the story, outlined myself out of the hole, and leapt into the word mines.

 

SO. Deadlines. A lot of editing. Once I have it under control, I’m picking up the YA mecha space opera novel draft again (where I reached the 30k point and switched projects), because robot battles in space. That’s my light at the end of the tunnel, but I have to make it there first — bearing in mind I have two cons in the next month and also need to acquire a new part-time job.

EVERYTHING WILL BE GREAT. REALLY GREAT. *__*

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Writer Blair MacGregor thoughtfully tagged me to take part in the Writer’s Blog tour, so here we go! Blair’s answers are really insightful, so you should definitely check hers out first.

 

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I’m working on two projects at the moment: I’m editing a high fantasy novel in which a sorcerer-prince and a ninja have to work together to figure out what’s causing a magical plague of monsters and defeat it. And, because a different book I finally finished drafting went monstrous on me, I’m switching gears completely with a YA SF novel in the style of a romantic comedy JDrama, and so far it is coming along as hilariously as I hoped.

 

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?

First, I absolutely agree with what Blair wrote about novelty. That said, there are some trends in my work: critique partners have observed that I’m prone to writing badass female characters who snark, and this is not incorrect ;).

I write characters who are outsiders and monsters and heroes, who are smart and competent. I write strong female characters, strong in the sense of strong characters who are women, not in the sense of physical or killing abilities. I love taking characters who have been overlooked or who consider themselves failures and dismantling their assumptions. Agency, individuality, choice, and freedom are always central.

 

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

Because no one else can write my stories, and because I have to write them so I can read them.

Because by its very nature, a fantasy work must create a world, and the creation of a new world in turn creates opportunities to challenge readers’ expectations of how their own world must work. The (spatial, temporal, etc.) distance fantasy establishes enables readers to consider ideas presented with greater objectivity.

My favorite stories are ones that force me to think and are also overwhelmingly awesome and fun. So that’s what I do my best to write.

 

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

It’s different for every book.

I have outlined and discovery written and iterations in-between. In discovery writing there’s always a point where I reach a wall and have to outline myself out of it. With outlining there are always points where as I’m writing characters do or say things that force me to scrap sections of my outline. I can’t write out of order, because as I write characters make choices that change their relationships and the plot that I don’t know about before my fingers are on the keyboard.

Lately I’ve been starting with a general idea of plot and character arc with a few points I know to write towards and then I fill in (both the outline and the novel) as I go. If I leave myself notes the previous session and then brainstorm a scene right before I write it, the writing goes much more easily.

I write all the way through, only going back for minor edits, and then before I send a draft to readers go back and do a full editing pass during which I flesh out the draft. I switch between writing platforms (Word, NEO, Scrivener, notebooks…) and spaces (within my apartment or coffee shops) when I get stuck, though I format everything into manuscript format before I’m done for the day to keep everything consolidated, and then I back up daily because I’m paranoid. I track word count statistics so I can prove to myself that I’m actually being useful and pressing along. I draft sparingly and then add in descriptions and whatnot where necessary in the full editing pass, which helps keep me out of the trap of too much world-building exposition.

I sometimes put in headphones and turn of the internet to help myself focus; I always drink tea.

 

And that’s it for me =). Next up, I’ve tagged four fellow and fabulous Viable Paradise alumni: Aliza Greenblatt, Arun Jiwa, Alex Haist, and Nicole Lisa!

DOOM

You haven’t heard from or seen much of me lately.

I’m sorry about that. It’s become a matter of self care. I need to novel like the wind before I explode, so I hope you can bear with me for the time that’s taking, because anything that could add to my crazy (and stressors are often not intuitive) is getting pushed down the priority list.

On days when the writing goes well, I am resigned and angry that I can’t get more done, can’t do it better. On days when I fight for every word, let us say that my emotional and mental state is Not Great and leave that there as an understatement of gross proportions.

However, I am finally, finally at a place where I can see the end of this book looming on the horizon. Sometime in March I declared to a friend that if I hadn’t finished this book by the end of April I was going to start indiscriminately punching things. I said it mostly in jest, and then I realized I meant every word.

Desire to avoid indiscriminate punching aside, I am holding myself to that deadline. Some self-imposed deadlines are easy to break, but not this one. This one I believe, because if I’m not done with this book I’m going to go crazy. I’m sure, because I’m already going crazy.

I have finished whole other books in the time I have not drafted this one. This is going to be the roughest draft I’ve ever finished, but by god IT WILL BE DRAFTED. And then I can spend May writing something else, ANYTHING ELSE, without this story looming in my subconscious, worming its way into other stories where it has no business, prodding me with an increasingly pointy and fiery spike into writing it.

This is not a book that is going to get to beta readers before I’ve done a rather more extensive pass than usual. I tend to draft sparingly and flesh out later (say, 60k becomes 80k), and even so, I’m past the 135k mark on this monster. That’s not completely out of the realm for fantasy, but if I scale up those numbers and estimate I’ll be tacking on about 60k, well. Not ideal.

I’m thinking hard about what arcs I need to get done in the intended sequel and comparing to this monster, and I’m increasingly convinced that I’ve actually written two books, not one, and on one hand that’s reassuring, because it goes some way toward explaining why I’m not done drafting the damn thing yet. On the other, it means my pacing is totally off and I’ve been weighting motifs and layering subplots incorrectly, so editing will be a mess.

I know I’ve been dropping the ball on communication, and projects and commitments have gone on hold. I’m sorry. The very fact of STILL NOT FUCKING DONE is stressing me out more than I would have believed possible; it’s certainly not been true of any other books I’ve written. But then, no other books have been as big (I don’t just mean in length of words, but in the time it’s taken me to learn how to write it, in scope, in difficulty).

Maybe I’ll post more detailed metrics later — I keep them for myself anyway, because tracking my productivity at least helps convince my brain that I’m actually being useful. But for reference, that is over 85k written since I went part-time in February (in 2 ½ months). I am pressing right the fuck along.

I have two scenes to do today before I’m allowed to sleep. Talk to you soon.