So, I know it’s been a while, but things have been as hectic as a 2-year-old in a new playground. Literally.
My final chapter of the Silver Nights Trilogy is out now, and so I thought it a good time to recap what I learned in the process of writing it.
1) Things take longer than you think…
Especially when you think you can squeeze side projects in there between…
I always knew I’d finish my trilogy (I advocate the finish your shit mantra) but I thought I’d have it done a couple of years ago – around six months after the first novel came out and I realised just before publication that it was going to be a trilogy. The nuclei of the second two parts came to me very clear and I reckoned that I’d have them both done by Christmas – I had a part time job and summer in between, after all.
But then I got the idea for a novel about Loch Ness, and that just grabbed my attention like a talon clutching my balls, insisting I go along with it. So I thought it best to comply. The first draft spun out easily, but then there were drafts to go over before I submitted, and another project popped up. This was going to be easy – my publisher put out a call for erotic romance novellas set in one night in any city, for a series called City Nights. Well, I had a long short story set in Madrid that could be refitted in a jiffy. Or not. The challenge of writing erotica wasn’t half as hard (fnarr!) as shaping it into a longer story that was still under 25k words. Anyway, despite it taking me several rewrites I got the bug and did 2 more cities since, Pamplona and Boston (for these the story was simple, starting from scratch always is simpler) published under the name JD Martins – yes, I am a school teacher. Then there were edits for a YA paranormal and a children’s fantasy novel to go over for publication (yes, I’d a drawerful of old novels that I finally found willing publishers for). And of course, real life did it’s usual trick of getting in the way. Our daughter was diagnosed diabetic at two and a half, so I spent a lot of time cycling across town to inject her at lunchtime, we had another sprog six? months ago… all that great stuff. But the sequels kept simmering away in the meantime, slowly taking shape… of course, people kept asking when they’d be ready and I kept telling them a date not too distant in the future – three months or so, by this Christmas, as soon as submissions reopen, I’m sending both books straight away…
2) Think before you decide to write a trilogy.
At least, think before you tell everyone, and have the second and third pretty much ready to go before you tell everyone. Sure, the idea for the second and third novel might come to you real quick and seem pretty safe and secure, but they need to tie together like a trilogy, and, more importantly, people are going to be waiting on them – some won’t even read the first part till they know the second and third are written and out there for them to read straight after – hands up who’s waiting on Game of Thrones to finish it’s run before even starting? Only me? Oh… anyhow, though the ideas might seem pretty solid, they have to lead directly from the first to the second and into the third and though there might be three books, hence trilogy, a series can have three books, too – you just don’t write the fourth book, and nobody’s going to feel cheated. Are you? It’s not that the second and third novel aren’t solid, but the challenges facing the characters can’t be the same, and things that happen in the sequels need to have a coherency with the first, so perhaps write them all at the same time, rather than have one done and decide to add two more
But definitely write part two and three together. It might piss off those waiting impatiently for the second to come out, but it’s better in the end. Also helps keep all those characters in your head at the same time – werewolves have big families, dammit, especially when they’re trying to build up their numbers after centuries of persecution.
3) Stick to your original vision
I wrote the first novel in this trilogy, Leaving the Pack, twenty-five years ago. The time in between turned out to be very useful. I was inspired by Whitley Strieber’s novel Wulfen, and to honest, I never really read much about them since then. I liked my werewolves (almost as much as Strieber’s) and I didn’t much like the movies I occasionally saw or the few books I read. Having a book out before you write the next leads to the temptation to take reader’s opinions into account as write. But making everyone happy isn’t a possibility and if the reader didn’t like the first book, it’s pointless to try please them in the second, or the third. Besides, when I looked around at some of the other werewolf novels out there, I realised their tastes were more aligned with the books I wanted my story to stand out from – the real tribe who engendered the original myth.
4) Don’t bother reading in-genre – it’s probably not your genre, and there’s some weird shit out there.
I did read a few other books over the years, but reading other werewolf novels was a bad idea. They filled my head with stuff that I didn’t like, making me second-guess the world I’d created – a real world where shifting is just as physically impossible as it is in ours.
In tandem with their physiological lunar rhythms, these people worshipped the wolf, had an affinity with their four-legged brethren that had led their enemies to assume they turned into beasts.
As a zoologist, I knew that wolf mating is similar to dogs, where they are unable to separate afterwards for a while. I went to double-check the term (knotting) in the final edit and discovered a sub genre of werewolf novels that was eye opening, let’s say.
5) The real world has changed, and so must your characters.
Even though my werewolves are first found roaming the city during the late Eighties, when homosexuality wasn’t nearly so visible in our cities, and I have no interest in writing gay sex scenes – and I doubt I could make them hot enough for the readers of werewolf knotting – I totally agree that we need more diversity characters in our novels. The werewolves are an ancient tribe, and the poster boys for patriarchy, but even they have to evolve to deal with the way things are nowadays, including equality for their daughters. But such changes are a joy to write, to put your characters in awkward situations. One thing that has not changed for the pack, however, is they still hate vampires, and real vampires are not so nice as they’re made out to be.
You can get all three books here….
So, after much quiet, the howl returns…
As I said in a post longer ago than I thought it was, I’ve been living in the real world these last many months.
But I’d done a year or more inside my imaginary city, the setting for the Silver Nights Trilogy.
I’m ready to publish the second and third instalments now.
Leading the Pack is out on Pre-order as of today!
you can get it for just 99c until publication on March 15th from Amazon….
and Unleashing the Pack will be edited soon and the cover is nearly done…
It was a pleasure to return to the characters, but working on the two novels in tandem was a struggle while I was immersed in them, and I hope I’ve done justice to my original vision of the werewolf story.
The question I feel I have to answer, before anyone even reads part two, is, “why go back?”
Because I didn’t need to.
The first book, Leaving the Pack, didn’t have an open ending. It was a stand-alone novel.
But I couldn’t leave it alone.
I had to go back and expand on the idea.
So I hope I’ve done the right thing. I hope I’ve not made a mess of the story.
One thing I hate is when writers and moviemakers go back just for the sake of it.
One of my favourite movies is Highlander, and I’ve seen it many times. I hate the sequels. I hate the series. Stupid films that made a mess of a great original story.
I’m watching Lonesome Dove, after having read the book, and now I have discovered there are sequels and prequels, but I’m wary about even going there, given some comments I’ve read.
Why mess with such perfect stories? Why corrupt the vision?
If you go back, you have to have a reason, a need, something else to say.
In my case, I wanted to explain the werewolves from different angles. Firstly, from the viewpoint of a new generation. Paul’s pack, in Leaving the Pack, is a disciplined machine. Paul has complete control (mostly) of his power. But is such camaraderie innate in a race so apt to violence? What is it like to feel such potency for the first time. I wanted to explore the line between being the alpha and what I called the leash – does power necessarily come with responsibility or vice versa?
Secondly, how do werewolves adapt to a new millennium? The twenty-first century is a world that such an ancient tribe as my werewolves would have trouble confronting, in terms of our more open, permissive and public society. How can you remain hidden in plain sight with so many cameras watching? The world is changing rapidly for us; imagine for a race who live so much longer. And at the same time, if they can embrace the future, then so can any other culture.
In Pamplona at the moment, we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the publication of Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises (a.k.a. Fiesta).
There are several activities organised, and a large exhibition in the Plaza del Castillo of photos from when he visited Pamplona – of him, and taken by him and his friends.
Some of the places he stayed are still here, under different names to those used in the novel, some have changed.
It was interesting to see that Heminway, though he never ran with the bulls himself, did get gored by a baby cow, which they release in the plaza after the encierro.
I was struck by a quote they have printed on one of the posters, which he wrote to a friend: “Pamplona is the most enjoyable place you’ve ever seen.” It was true then and it’s true now.
And my good friend JD Martins would agree.
Have you had One Night in Pamplona?
As I get back into the swing of things after summer, first thing I have to do is congratulate David Devins of Co. Leitrim and Damian O’Sullivan of Co. Cork, who both won copies of my children’s novel, Peter and the Little People in the summer IWT Irish Wildlife Magazine’s book competition.
As you might know, I have pledged to give 10% of my royalties on Peter and the Little People to this NGO (if you’ve read the book you’ll know why) to help the great work they do.
At the moment a new battle has emerged for them, and us all, to tackle – the possible introduction of more destructive insecticides in Ireland, which threaten bees and other useful and important insects.
It seems that the fight to protect bees, like the fight to stop much environmental destruction will be continual, as companies try to introduce more chemicals.
It’s similar to George Monbiot’s post this week, that though the TTIP agreement seems to have been abandoned in the face of so much negative public opinion against it’s implementation, there are other similar treaties in the works, all designed to take power to legislate international companies from government – and thus public – hands. At the end he suggests we can never let our guard down, for the corporations and their cronies are always working against us and our environment, and they only need to succeed once, while we have to beat them every time.
Similarly, the bees and other insects only have to be erased from the planet once, and we have to save them every year, every week, every day.
Do your bit – join the IWT or whatever similar organisation operates in your country. And be vocal, even through the internet. It’s not quite the direct action that seems necessary to protect the Dakota water supply, but it’s effective when there are enough of us.
Click the link and leave a comment!
As September gears up, I’m also back to the city after summer in the countryside, and back to my desk. Will have some news to reveal next week, too!
As you know, 10% of my royalties from Peter and the Little People, my children’s novel about wildlife and leprechauns, will be donated to the IWT, the Irish Wildlife Trust – in addition to the 10% going to WWF.
For anyone who’s a member of the Irish Wildlife Trust, have a look in the summer edition of their Irish Wildlife Magazine and you’ll see that there are two copies of the novel up for grabs on their competition page!
Check it out – the answer is dead easy!
Five Minutes in Spring
Five minutes on a park bench
To catch sight of birds other than doves,
A walk along a tree-lined street
Instead of screen-staring upon a bus,
A pause between passing engines to
Actually hear the blackbird,
Lingering by a flowing fountain
To listen to the lovely gurgle,
A long gaze upon a hillside
Growing shades of green for grazing,
A halt, a hesitation, to inhale the
Heady horse chestnut scents;
Five minutes in spring, just five,
To remind us this here is life.
It’s been a busy few weeks here in Pamplona.
I’ve my children’s book, Peter and the Little People out today! You can get it here... https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/fantasy/peter-and-the-little-people-detail
As well as that, I’ve a novella under the name JD Martins, One Night in Boston, out tomorrow! You can get that here… http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Martins_JD/one-night-in-boston.htm
What with promoting these and my other books, and preparing a blogtour for One Night in Boston, as well as normal life stuff like end of school year, taking care of the kids and having a baptism, I’ve not had time to do much reading or writing, or getting a chunk of time to get out in the mountains.
But it’s vital to take just a few minutes as spring spins past to appreciate why we’re here, to pause to see just how fast life is flying by. Then get back to the kids and exam correcting, and the edits of the book you swore would be done by Christmas…
Today I have the great pleasure of having Janie Franz, a multi-published author who’s written all kinds of books and is known for her strong women characters. She has several series published by Muse It Up Publishing where we share an editor.
She’s eager to share an excerpt from her new novel, Coda, which is Book 3 of The Lost Song Trilogy and Book 6 of the Bowdancer series…
Tell us what’s happening in this excerpt, please Janie…
Jan-nell, her son, Chandro and Bekar from the sisterhood, and the virile sword dancers discover dark secrets about the women on the mountain as they bring the lost sisters home. During the journey, Jan-nell’s growing attachment to Bekar is tested as Bekar discovers the joys of having men in her life.
Jan-nell raced toward the boulders on the cliff above the dyemaker’s encampment where her sister-kin supported a young girl between them, guiding her carefully down the treacherous rocks toward their fire. The girl’s bright yellow dress bulged around her belly, straining the fabric.
“She is about to bear a babe?” Jan-nell asked, placing her hand on the girl’s roundness. “Is this your first?” Raising her face to look at the young mother, Jan-nell gasped. She stared at her sister-kin Chandro, who had wrapped her arm around the girl, held her right hand, and watched the ground and the girl’s bare feet, as they moved.
There was the same oval-shaped face, the same light brown eyes, the same copper curls. But the young mother was only perhaps sixteen summers and kept her curls long, falling far down her back, not in the curly cap Chandro wore. The girl could have been her little sister.
Though appearing strong in the leather vest and wide-legged short breeches of the sisterhood, Chandro the trackfinder appeared stunned and frightened. She whispered assurances to the girl as they came farther into the light of the fire.
The girl cried out as Jan-nell felt her belly tighten underneath her hand. She made Chandro and master hunter Bekar stop while she placed her hands on each side of the bulge and looked deep into the girl’s eyes. “Take a deep breath, filling the belly. Like this.” She showed her. “Now let it out slowly for as long as you can. Concentrate only on releasing the breath.” Usually, one long breath was enough to breathe through an episode. But because the girl was so frightened, Jan-nell had her breathe again to calm her and make sure she had learned the practice.
“You did well.” Jan-nell smiled. “There is a place for you to rest over here. We will make you tea and some broth… How are you called?”
The girl stammered out, “Wila.”
Jan-nell tried out the new name. “Wila.” Then she smiled again. “We will take good care of you and your babe.” She pointed to a sheltered spot where a coarse blanket stretched between two boulders and was held in place by large rocks. Jan-nell’s son, Bearin, and the beastmaster, Shadu, had made the shelter for her to rest during the heat of the day. When she had spread her own blanket and laid her head upon her travel pack earlier, she had no idea it would become a birthing chamber.
Night had fallen quickly on the plateau where the travelers made their camp. The fire gave out a welcome glow, and one of the burning branches would provide a torch if Jan-nell needed one to guide her when the birthing occurred.
Chandro and Bekar helped Wila sit on the blanket under the canopy while Jan-nell moved her travel pack out of the away. She would need the healing wares within it as the night progressed. She turned to the trackfinder. “Could we use your pack for a pillow for Wila?”
Chandro nodded as if in disturbed thought before she moved to fetch her pack.
“Bekar, make the girl comfortable,” Jan-nell said then took two steps toward the trackfinder. She hooked her arm around Chandro’s elbow, whispering as she walked with her away from the girl. “How fare you?” Jan-nell searched her face, which still was a mix of emotions, but fear and horror were the most pronounced. Chandro had seen something.
Jan-nell guided her sister-kin toward the dark-skinned sword dancer Farik who frowned as he listened to his sword brother Mali’s report of what had happened in the dyemakers’ camp. Mali was still dressed only in the black silk loin cloth he donned to climb the rocks without hindrance when he and Chandro had gone after Bekar.
Farik turned at the women’s approach. He stepped to meet Chandro, immediately drawing her into his arms.
“I think she is in shock,” Jan-nell said. “Get her off her feet and hold her close. Heal her with the Ashay, the spirit within. If she starts to shake like she is cold, cover her with a blanket even in this heat and give her some tea.”
She turned to Mali, her foster-father. He looked weary in the fire’s glow and much older than she. “Take Chandro’s pack to the girl. It will be her pillow.”
“I will fetch it,” he said, frowning at the young mother who still sat on the blanket beside Bekar who had not moved. “But the girl will not let me near her.”
Jan-nell nodded. “I thought as much. That was why the women supported her, and you did not help.” Her forehead wrinkled in worry over Bekar who just sat with a hand on the young girl’s arm but did not even look at her. “I will take it to the girl and make her comfortable.” Returning her attention to Mali, she asked. “Are you well?”
He nodded grimly. “But what I have seen will haunt me all my days.”
About Janie Franz
Janie Franz comes from a long line of Southern liars and storytellers. She told other people’s stories as a freelance journalist for many years. With Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox, she co-wrote The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book, and then self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid! She also published an online music publication, was an agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, a radio announcer, and a yoga/relaxation instructor.
Currently, she is writing her twelfth novel and a self-help book, Starting Over: Becoming a Woman of Power.
- Today I’m delighted to be able to welcome a fellow Tirgearr Publishing Author, Christy Jackson Nicholas, author of Legacy of Hunger and the upcoming Legacy of Truth. She’s a bit of an expert on Ireland, having penned a travel guide – she’d know how to find Ballyboy Beach, I’m sure.
- Tell us a bit more about yourself, Christy. Where are you from?
That’s not an easy answer. I was conceived in England, born in Denmark, lived in Dearborn, Michigan until I was 8, and then south Florida until about 15 years ago. Since then I’ve lived in north Florida, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I guess I’m a bit of a gypsy at heart!
- Tell us about the setting of your book. Why did that place speak to you?
The book, Legacy of Hunger, is set in 1846. The main characters start out in Pennsylvania, and then travel to Ireland in the midst of the Great Hunger, commonly referred to as the Potato Famine. Ireland is my soul’s home, my ‘anam bhaile’. The first time I visited, almost 20 years ago, I felt immediately at home. I’ve been five times now, and will retire there some day. The magic of the land and the people have something integral within them that I must share with others. The novel is set in several of my favorite places – Ardara, in County Donegal, Achill Island, and Kenmare in County Cork.
- What do you like least about writing?
The editing process, hands down. I love planning portion, and writing the first draft. I hate the part that comes after – endless editing, changing, shifting, improving, refining. I think because it’s more of an organic process to me than writing it is. I am very methodical in my writing – plan everything out, write scene by scene in order, etc. I can change my plan as I go along, and I frequently do, but still push on bit by bit. After that, it’s all rather nebulous.
- Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal library.
I love fantasy and science fiction, so Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Diana Gabaldon, are all big favorites. I love historical fiction as well – Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Edward Rutherfurd.
- What inspired you to write in the first place?
Actually, finding my father after searching for him for fifteen years inspired me. He never knew I existed, and when I finally found him, he and my mother got together and got married for the first time. I knew that had to be a love story – so I wrote my first novel. It was addicting.
- Was there much research involved?
A lot more than I thought there would be! Since the novel is set in 1846, there are many small things that I simply didn’t know, such as what sort of foods would the locals be eating other than potatoes? How would one travel from Pittsburgh to New York, since the railroads weren’t that far west? Or across the ocean – the first steam ships were just being used at that point. I found myself writing about the funicular train and boat system on the Juniata River in Pennsylvania, near Hollidaysburg and Johnstown. After the book was finished, I then got a new job and moved to that area, completely by coincidence.
- Tell us about your next project.
I’ve already written the first drafts of two more books, prequels to Legacy of Hunger. There will be a trilogy, if all goes well! Legacy of Truth and Legacy of Luck.
- It’s great to see that the first of those is well on track. Thanks for coming by, Christy.
Grandmamma’s brooch haunted Valentia’s dreams.
Even as she relaxed at afternoon tea with her mother, the lace doily reminded her of the delicate intertwining design of the brooch. That, in turn, reminded her of the task she had resolved her mind upon.
She was tired of always settling for the smallest bits of whatever was good in life. Perhaps it was time to take larger chunks.
Valentia’s corset pinched as she leaned towards the tea tray, reaching for a large cake on the upper tier.
“Control yourself, Valentia, or you’ll end up looking like one of those Pittsburgh steel workers.” Majesta McDowell was always aware of the proprieties. From the servant’s area, one of the maids sniggered.
With an unladylike grimace at her mother, Valentia reached for a much smaller piece when she heard shouts. This wasn’t the normal sound of a foreman yelling at his workers.
This was panic.
Several other patrons stood to look out the plate glass window of the café. Though she was tall for a woman, all Valentia could see were the backs of strangers, and an occasional glimpse of someone running in the street.
Then there came a sharp crack, followed by a muffled explosion. Clouds of dust billowed, and Valentia fought her rising dread.
People in the café jammed the door, trying to escape.
Valentia, her mother, and their maids, Sarah and Maggie, pushed out of the stifling building. Panicked voices screamed amid crashes, all from a street not far away, in the direction of the Monongahela House Hotel.
Which was where they had been staying.
Her mind raced in panic, her stomach was a solid knot. Trying to make sense of the chaos, she looked the maids and her mother. She was transfixed, staring at the looming threat.
A threatening column of black, oily smoke billowed from the riverside, a searing blanket of menace. The smell of burning wood filled the air.
A church bell tolled. She must quell her terror and take charge.
“Mother, this way!” Valentia tugged on her mother’s arm to break the spell she was under, and pulled her away from the hotel.
My name is Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon. I do many things, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing and photography. In real life I’m a CPA, but having grown up with art and around me (my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected me, as it were. I love to draw and to create things. It’s more of an obsession than a hobby. I like looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or a fragrant blossom, a dramatic seaside. I then wish to take a picture or create a piece of jewelry to share this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus I write. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. I do local art and craft shows, as well as sending my art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.
God made His world in seven days; it takes most authors a lot longer than that.
I’m not saying this because I swore I’d have the two sequels to Leaving the Pack ready for submission this week and I find myself unable to even get enough sleep.
I find myself a bit bemused about this whole George RR Martin Game of Thrones furor about the delay of Winds of Winter.
Perhaps it’s just me; I find myself bemused by lots of the things people get upset about on the Internet.
But what has happened to people’s patience?
I know we are creating a generation of impatient people raised on fast food and instant information. But we’re talking about readers. Readers of fantasy novels, the longest books ever, often with many books, which take years to read never mind write. If they can’t chill out and wait until the books hit the shelves, who can?
I have yet to see Game of Thrones. Not because I’m unconvinced it’s a kick-ass TV show. I am. I can’t wait to start watching it.
Except, of course, I can.
I am waiting.
I have the first three books in the series on my shelf. I haven’t read them yet. Don’t plan to for a while. I’m in no rush. I have a few years of reading material sitting beside those books, so I’m not stuck just yet.
Nevertheless, you’d swear there was no other book left to read in the universe from the clamour raised upon the news the new book will be delayed. Seriously, there are lots of other things to read. Go catch up on the classics. Or go read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. That’ll keep you busy for a year. And there are other TV shows to keep your eyes busy, too.
I know, I know. You’re in the middle of the series. You need to know what happens next.
When I was a teen I found The Clan of the Cave Bear in my local library. I was hooked. I took out the next two books straight after. I read on the back covers that they were part of a six-book series, called Earth’s Children. I was confused; t was a trilogy, surely. Then one day a year or so later I saw The Plains of Passage in a bookshop. I bought it straight away – well, I asked my mother to, since I was fifteen and it cost twenty quid.
Then I waited.
And boy, I waited.
For the first time, in my twenties, I looked up an author on the Internet to see what the hell was going on; where the next book, or was there a sign it was coming out. I was worried JM Auel was going to die before she finished the next two books. The last in the series, The Land of Painted Caves only came out in 2011. I’d waited twenty years to complete the saga. It took Auel thirty years to write them. But they were worth it.
Who’s the slowest writer of them all? GRR Martin and JM Auel
Photos from Nick Briggs/HBO via http://www.wired.com/2016/01/george-rr-martin-game-of-thrones/ and delibrossetrata.blogspot.com
It would have been great to find all the books completed, like we did The Lord of the Rings when we were kids (or The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). But them’s the breaks.
That’s why I’m waiting, so I can go start to finish.
Since it became possible to binge on TV series, it’s become better (for me anyway) to wait until the last episode airs, and your mates have said it’s worth the watch. Then you just go through the whole thing.
I did this with Mad Men, last year, and with Breaking Bad before that. I was planning on doing it with Lost, but skipped that. I bought my bother the box set of season one on the strength of the recommendations it got, then never bothered to borrow it when the sixth season ended to bad reviews. I’ll never watch it.
So I’ll stick to the other books on my to-be-read list for now, watch The Shield, when I get a chance to watch anything with a new-born in the house and a pile of things on my to-be-written list.
And I’ll continue to ignore people talking about what happens in the series the same way I ignore people talking about the Kardasihains and their ilk on the Internet.
And when George RR Martin is good and ready to put out the last book in the series, I’ll start reading and once I’ve read it, I’ll get the box sets from someone and sit down in front of my telly for a marathon. By then I’ll probably be retired and have loads of time.