Belated happy new year, everyone.
Another year rolls around, another calendar goes up on the wall. If you don’t have yours up yet, why not get this one?
I got it for my office wall, where I am writing now. And I also got this nice card with a note from Monika Kull, thanking me for renewing my WWF membership.
You should donate whatever you can, too. If you think your pet is important, imagine how much more important it is to save entire species which will otherwise vanish from our lands – from our television screens, even.
And how much less beautiful would our calendars be then, too?
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.
Twenty years is a long time. But always take the time you need…
Now the second and third parts of The Silver Nights Trilogy are ready to be launched, I can reveal to you the new look of the Leaving the Pack cover….
This cover will tie the three books together with the same look.
The second part, Leading the Pack, will be published next month, and is going to be available for pre-order very soon. I’ll also have ARCs for my reviewers in a few days, so drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to read and review…
Do Civil servants read Kafka?
This is not new. Complaining about the strange way civil service has of not serving much of anything or anyone is almost cliché. Kafka showed us all a hundred years ago. ? made fun of it in the forties. And yet it’s amazing how much it still goes on, even after demands for change produced significant improvements.
It’s not that they don’t give a fuck – they do, though they didn’t used to, and the can deny that all they like. The structures are too inflexible to make movement forward anything but slow. Though sometimes you can’t quite see what’s wrong.
Everyone has their story. This is mine.
I joked on my facebook page back in August that it would have been quicker and easier to go home to Ireland and get my Irish driving licence renewed there rather than get a Spanish one here instead.
I wasn’t far wrong. I went home last month without having received my new Spanish licence. And it was far from easy to get….
Part of the problem was the fact that this project of European integration is not running on rails – some of it is active resistance and some just ineptitude. That goes from the top; government departments not really eager to make it easier for dirty foreigners to come and get along here, to the bottom; civil servants unwilling or unable to learn the new rules and systems to follow the new laws.
My old licence photo – part of the problem was having to hand this over, in case I tried to fool the system and get two licenses, and thereby having to saying goodbye to my last ID where I have black hair…
The Traffic department has been turned to an appointment only system. You can’t just walk in off the street and seek assistance, like you would in any other service. That keeps down the number of people arriving at any one time. It hides the flaws, means the slowness is not so apparent. The queues not visible there in the office, but in cyberspace, where you need to wait at least a week to get a window – if you’re flexible in what time you can get there.
So when you get there, if all goes well, you are out in around an hour and on with your life.
But if you hang around, as I had to on my recent visit, well, you notice things that if they happened in any store or restaurant, you’d ask to see the manager and point out the problems with their service. Since it’s the civil service, we’re shit scared to do so, since the bastards know our numbers and can get their own back with good old losing our info.
Anyway, I was trapped in there for a lot longer than I should have when I sought to get a new driving licence. My mistake was not having a photocopy of my identity documents. And they don’t make photocopies in there for Joe Public. They might have a photocopier going night and day, have several sitting around, but they expect you to bring your own, even when they don’t tell you to have them.
I pointed out that the photocopy of the information sheet I’d got after queuing up the previous w
eek hadn’t said to take said photocopy, and the lady behind the desk produced a different photocopy that said I did.
So what were my options?
Go to the stationary store across the street and pay twenty cents for copies.
I had no problem with that. As long as it means you don’t have to come back another day, you forgive a lot of shit in these situations.
She gave me directions and then said she was going on break, but the next person would take care of me.
The copy took twenty seconds. Add to that the minute and a half it took to get there and back and I was standing before her before she’d got her handbag together.
But she was not going to sit back down – or, more precisely, let me sit back down. She’d mentally checked out for her break already. Instead she said to wait just there the next guy was on his way.
He was. He came and told her he wasn’t going to sit at her desk, but at the one next door. There was already an older dude sat there, dealing with some South American selling his car or something. That dude wasn’t going on break, but would swap to the information desk (Yes, I hear you ask, why didn’t the new guy just sit at the info desk and let the old dude stay where he was? Because I’m sure there are strange rules about how much time you have to spend doing each type of job) when he’d done with the car buyer.
He was in no rush, and his computer wasn’t working the best, so the new guy, a long, tall, sour-looking guy with a Union Jack tee-shirt (not necessarily a point in favour or against him) stood there behind him, then started to pace, holding his water bottle, while I stood there in front of the desk, making sure he knew I was next in line.
And we waited.
And so did the poor people who were queuing for the information desk
Because there was nobody there. And the tall guy wasn’t going to sit down there. It wasn’t on his job list for the afternoon.
So for ten minutes, at least, as we waited for that computer to process the car purchase, people came in off the street to find an empty information desk, and the queue built up. And the only person doing any work to speak of was a the security guard – a short young South American lady, who, being responsible for our safety could not allow the line to get so big and out of control. So she gave out photocopies and information to those she could, zipping around the office from place to place, and she most probably getting paid a pittance by the hour compared to the civil servants sat on their arses, or standing like long streaks of piss and going redder all the time in embarrassment at the situation.
Eventually out of said embarrassment, the guy started to acknowledge my presence, and my frustration, and when I finally sat down, and he began to process my own application, he did his best to make the computer do it’s jobs, and he was even nice enough to photocopy of one of my documents for me, so I could keep the original – which I didn’t even want, since it would only be valid for six months and I purposefully didn’t bother photocopying it. But he insisted, and I wasn’t going to argue, though I did wish that his workmate had been half as nice so I could have avoided the whole wait and his embarrassment.
After all that, the poxy computer would not work (they work through the internet, not with their own internal programs and server, if you can believe that shit). So after another half an hour of so of sitting at that desk, I had to come back in half an hour. That didn’t help, and I’d to go back next day. Still the process wasn’t working, and in exasperation I decided that I’d not bother driving for the next few days.
That allowed me to leave my driving licence there with the dude so that he could work away on the renewal in his spare moments. This was because if the driver’s licence is not in his hands, he can’t work on the application – just in case, god forbid, I should try to send my old Irish licence back to Ireland and get a new Irish one in addition to my new Spanish one. Which is fair enough, I’d say – if I didn’t know better.
I’m sure he’s loads of spare moments, but at least he put a few to good use, so that the next day I got a call to go collect my temporary drivers licence, with the assurance that my new, ten-year licence would be in the post in a couple of weeks.
That was September. Now it’s December.
Even when you think you’ve finally won, you’re not always in the clear.
And then, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you get surprised. My new licence arrived eventually, just as I was about to get time off work to go to the DGT office and see what the hell the story was.
The new licence! Worth waiting for? Not for that photo… ;-(
And then it was joined by a second, identical, Spanish licence, so that, if I was so inclined, I could indeed go back to Ireland and get a new Irish one. It’s like waiting for a bus, sometimes.
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!
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.
I saw that the movie Highlander was released exactly 30 years ago, the other day.
One of my favourite films ever, if not my favourite, it is the perfect example of something I wrote a blogpost for MuseitUp’s Sunday Morning Musings last week, in answer to the question … is every story a potential series?
My response was No. Not in the least.
You can read the full answer below, but suffice to say, some stories are done when they are done, much as we’d like them to keep going. Highlander said it right before they broke their own rule with two successively silly sequels – There Can Be Only One.
Even those that seem like they could be are probably better off not becoming series.
I don’t like writing novellas very much – if I have to create a world and a set of characters each with their own back story, I want to give them more life than just 25 thousand words. And while it is nice to use the universe you create for more stories, especially if that universe is kickass and cool and populated with beings Darwin only wished could have evolved, sometimes the story to be told about that world has its beginning, its middle and its ending. And they say “that’s all she wrote” because there was nothing else to tell.
Trying to come up with a something new to say in a series is often difficult, and sometimes contrived, if not an abject failure. Just look at some of the movie franchises that have “graced” our cinema screens over the years.
I’ve never written a series. Nor do I plan to. But I am writing a trilogy, which didn’t set out to be one – I got the idea for the second two parts twenty years after I wrote the first book, which stands alone fine. I just needed those twenty years to get the novel right, get it published, and have the characters age that much – kind of like if Sylvester Stallone made Rocky and then just went straight to Rocky Balboa. And thought the story for second and third books came pretty easily, and I have first and second drafts of both, they still feel a little contrived and not as fresh as the first, and are having an equally long and difficult birth as that – my first ever novel.
Though some of my other novels are open ended, so that the characters are mostly alive and well at the end and could hypothetically continue their adventures, I’d feel like I was just throwing more shit at them just for the sake of it. They did their time. They paid their dues. They deserve to live happily ever after in everyone’s imagination. Aside from this fact, I don’t have the time for them anymore. They came, they conquered my imagination and I obliged by giving them a story and now I’ve shown them the door.
There are too many other ideas knocking to get in, demanding mind time and requiring their own stories be discovered and told.
And while I wish they’d hush now and then, I’m forever in love with the next book, whose possibilities are endless and unprescribed by stuff I’ve already written.
My current work in progress is a Young Adult novel set in Ireland; my old stomping ground of south Dublin, and north Wicklow.
I have the layout – the streets and hills – down so well that a reader could navigate by it; follow the footsteps, or cycle tracks, of the characters, smell the pine woods and take in the views of Dublin Bay.
But I’m writing a court scene at the moment, and I’m not so sure of my ground. I’ve never been in court in Ireland. I was on the jury of a Coroner’s Court in Dun Laoghaire in my late teens – a very interesting experience. But I don’t know the exact way prosecutions are conducted in Ireland; what the prosecutor is called, who comes to collect the witness from the waiting area (or where they even wait) and take them to the courtroom, if witnesses are allowed to talk before or after they give testimony.
Do the barristers wear gowns and wigs nowadays? I think they do, but does it really matter?
That’s my question.
Do I need to mention the wigs, the gowns, where everyone sits in and Irish courtroom?
Everyone has their own image of a courtroom, created from movies and television. Why should I mess with that by creating a new one?
Why look up the particulars and detail each part of Wicklow County Courthouse (as I assume it’s called)?
I’ve never been to Wicklow County Courthouse. I probably never will. So I can bet that 99.9999 etc. percent of my readers won’t, either. Half of them might never step foot in Wicklow (a big mistake – it really is the Garden of Ireland, so go book a flight today), so am I just wasting my time and effort and in fact, messing with the plot by even trying?
Is it better to invent a little?
I’m not against research – as a scientist it’s the bread and water of life.
Nor am I usually against accuracy. The days of the full moon in my werewolf novels all correspond to the actual dates in the calendar of the year the books are set. I made a mistake once and had to rewrite a chapter because what I had written couldn’t have taken place on the particular date (full moon clashing with state holidays).
In this case, though, I think vagueness and actual invention might serve the story better.
It’s a bit like when the priest says, “You may kiss the bride” at a wedding.
I’ve been to a few weddings, including my own. The priest doesn’t say that; at least not in a Catholic wedding. But if you were to describe a proper wedding, it would be serious and fairly boring (seriously, I’ve looked at my watch on all three occasions I was Best Man).
Similarly, I am not sure (though a quick email to friends in the know would clear it up) if a court summons is served by a policeman or just a civil servant – or by post. I don’t really want to know, though, because my story is best served (ha ha!) by a nondescript civil servant knocking on my heroine’s door.
But should I find out?
Should I bend the plot to the whims of the Irish Judicial system?
Or should poetic licence extend to prose?