Book Launch/Giveaway, Essays, Misc

Recap Series #2: The Challenges of Writing Wolf’s Bane, Sequel to The Purple Morrow

Berserker is coming out in 2 days, so I figured I’d better get back to writing these book summaries. Click here to read Part 1 of the recap series.

The Struggle was Real

So. Wolf’s Bane…more like Dyane’s Bane. Because that’s exactly what it felt like to write this beast.

 

When I had finished The Purple Morrow, I was on a bit (a lot!) of a high. It was the second book I had written, but it was the only one of the two that was publish-worthy. And, after doing the run-around, research, trying and erring, I finally published the book. Yes!

So, now I was on to book 2, Wolf’s Bane. But this time around, I struggled with something I hadn’t before: fear of disappointing. The first book had been well-received, something that, especially for a first-timer, felt like a miracle. And after slaving away at Morrow for 2-3 years, I had come to love the characters. I wanted to write them a great story while not disappointing readers.

I’ll tell you one thing. If you’re writing a book, don’t worry about disappointing your readers. It’s impossible to focus on telling a great story when you’re filled with anxiety. Write the book that’s in your heart, trust your characters, and trust yourself. If you do those things, the book should take shape. Okay, that was more than one thing. But, in writing Bane, I found these points to be true. Once I stopped stressing and just wrote what I was feeling and what felt right for the characters, the book came together. I’m pleased and proud of the result. And, in the end, the book ended up being well-received to boot. 

http://www.picstopin.com

Another struggled I faced was figuring out how to write a ‘bridge’ book, meaning a book that bridges the events in book 1 and the trilogy’s conclusion. How do you keep the story interesting while not giving too much away? And how do you end the book so that it’s satisfying to the current story while not actually ending the overarching story prematurely?

That was tough, and I struggled with that for a while. In the end, I introduced new elements and characters, deepened the world-building and developed the magic/spiritual foundations of the story, while working hard on character development. I enjoyed bringing that wretch, Oren, to life so much, and the antagonistic yet nurturing relationship between Seylem and Kelen was a blast to write. Working on Jeru’s development was harder, as he’s my Every Man who needed a believable hero arc, something I’d never done before. So, yes, there were many, many challenges to overcome.

 

Interesting points:

Wolf’s Bane is the first time I had to develop a magic system in a story. I’d never done that before, and I was lucky to have a friend at the time who guided me through the process and let me bounce ideas off him.

I experimented with tone, lyrical style, and integrated elements of poetry. It probably sounds weird, but I allowed myself the freedom to tell the story using elements that I felt were needed to do it right. Of course, that made editing and rewrites a challenge, especially the poetry-inspired sections but thankfully, I had a poet-friend to edit that.

 

So, as I did for Morrow, I’ll include an excerpt. This is from Usurper, Chapter 2:

Oren hurried to the Naagra-Oni’s chambers. The hallway stretched straight as an arrow in front of him, and a lush runner spanned its length. The carpet was the Ministry’s gift to them, a measure to counter the perpetual cold clinging to the stone floors. Arched, stone doors, unadorned except for the iron rings bolted into their surfaces, lined the corridor on both sides. Other Naagra of more lowly stature slept behind them. Slept, or read. Or plotted. Naagra were always plotting. Oren would know, since he had been at it the longest. And, if he were so bold, which he was, he would even go so far as to claim to be the best at it.

Oren wrapped his cloak tighter around him against the cold, but the dampness permeated the four thick layers of linens and furs. It even crept through his tiger-seal boots, so that his toes began to tingle. Outside, the wind howled, battering the temple walls. Oren thought how ironic it was that the wind appeared to fight so hard to find a way in when all he wanted was to escape, even into the midst of a late-spring blizzard.

He hated Ambroze, the Naagra-Oni, hated his gloating smile and his silky voice that, at first, sounded pleasant, even friendly, until one discerned the venom lurking underneath. The Master Seer, though, never bothered to hide his disdain from Oren. It shone through his ice blue eyes and that cursed, mocking smile. Oren would much prefer to test himself against the tempest blowing outside than spend ten minutes with the man. Only curiosity, not to mention the command to present himself at Ambroze’s chambers exactly twenty minutes before, forced him to continue moving down the corridor, around the bend and up two flights of stairs into the north wing; the wing that had once been his.

“One day,” Oren swore as he swished down the darkened corridor, “I will take back my place, you cursed upstart! Then we’ll see who is left grinning with such disdain!” For now, Oren doubled his pace. He was still a subordinate–though the highest ranked subordinate–and it would not do to irritate the Master Seer.

He arrived at the massive double doors just as the gong struck the half hour mark. He would slow-boil Lapi in oil for making him late!

Oren shoved the great doors with all the strength contained in his wiry body. They groaned open. A blast of hot air met him, instantly turning to mist once it confronted the icy air from the hall. Oren waded through the cloud, emerging like some sort of wraith, and found himself standing in a great, round room. The back half was blocked off by a series of dark-coloured screens. The ceiling was hidden in gloom, but Oren knew it was adorned with the painted images of Anyul, the Snow god and his minions, Ice and Frost. They leered at him from above, shaming him into false humility as he stood before the Naagra-Oni. No windows pocked the walls of the room, and the torches were not lit. The only light came from dripping, black candles scattered throughout and the massive fires glowing in their hearths.

“You are late.” The words were clipped, and they cut like knives.

“My apologies, Naagra-Oni,” Oren answered, bristling. “I came as soon as I received your summons.”

 

If you enjoyed the summary and excerpt, leave me a message below. And don’t forget:  Berserker, the conclusion to the Rise of the Papilion trilogy, is out Thursday, March 8!

Essays

Two Things I Learned About Writing a Sequel

When it came to writing Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to The Purple Morrow, I was at a loss. Thrilled with the accomplishment of completing one book, I was eager to get cracking on the sequel. My enthusiasm dwindled, however, when I faced reality.

WolfsBane_Cover_2015_smashwords (1)

Just how do you go about writing a sequel?

It’s possible that nowadays there is a lot of information on the subject, but at the time, about 2 years ago, my searches came up nil. I asked around some of the writing groups I was a part of and scanned the internet, but ultimately I decided to do what I usually do, which is make it up as I went along. This post is for those of you who, like me at the time, are looking for somewhere to begin.

So, a billion rewrites later Wolf’s Bane is finished. It was a long and tough road to get it done. Here are some of the things I learned along the way:

    • Just because you wrote one book doesn’t mean the second will be a breeze. Writing is fun but it is hard. We do it because it’s something we enjoy and we look forward to the finished project. However, each book is its own entity, and just because you figured out how to wrangle that first beast to the ground doesn’t mean the next one will lie down and roll over for you.

steer

My challenges were many, but the one that stands out right now is trying to figure out how to write a ‘bridge’ book, basically a story that connects the events of the first to the eventual third book. The dilemma was balance. The bridge book has the job of continuing the story readers fell in love with in book 1 yet it couldn’t give away too much information or wrap up too much plot or my final book wouldn’t have punch. That, or by telling too much story, I’d end up with two-books instead of three.

scales

Also, it had to be satisfying. It’s one thing to ask people to read a book, it’s another to ask people to read an ‘in-between’ book. Really, by the end of book 1, readers are salivating for more but we’ve left them with what is essentially an unfinished story. Knowing that book 2 will be another unfinished story, I thought it was important to make sure that it was worth their time. I felt the story had to feel familiar yet present fresh ideas and twists, rewarding readers with a fulfilling experience, which would hopefully entice them to pick up the third installment when it comes out. That’s a tall order.

happy-face

In the end, I delved into world building, developing new and familiar people groups, their cultures and histories in order to emphasize how the past and the present affect the characters and their choices, which influences the overall stakes. I also worked on deeper character development and the addition of plot twists and big revelations to keep it interesting. Bane is a book that solidifies the story begun in book one, reveals more of what is really going on and sets up the events leading up to the final conflict and resolution in book three. Sounds easier than it is, which is why it took about 2 years to get it done.

    • It’s not so easy to know how much of the other book(s) to include. I wasn’t able to get a clear answer on this point either. People I spoke to had different answers. Some write sequels without any summaries of the past book at all and others devote sections of to resume what went on before. I tried both tactics on different occasions to expected results. In the summary-less version, readers claimed they could not understand what was going on, in the summary-rife version readers complained about info dumping bogging down the story. So I compromised. Whenever I came to a place I thought explanation was needed, I wrote a line or two referencing an event in book 1 and then moved on. My hope is that for those who had read book 1 but forgot a detail, it would refresh their memory, and for new readers that they might be curious enough about book 1 to pick up a copy of Morrow to read. For the enjoyment of having a ‘full story’ experience, of course. 🙂

So, I’m curious to know how you have handled writing a sequel. How did you go about it? What tips and suggestions do you have to share?

Essays

Update on Wolf’s Bane and Excerpt

Here’s the update on Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to my self-published book, The Purple Morrow. The formatting for the ebook version is finished! The active Table of Contents is complete, chapter heads, and alternating Headers and Footers are working…OMG, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Here’s something about this process that I thought I’d share. Last week, as I was building up towards the formatted version, I realized I still needed help in order to finish the project right. As some of you know, this is an old manuscript: about 2 years old, maybe more. It has gone through so many revisions, rewrites and beta-reads I’ve lost count. I did manage to find a great proofreader. But something inside me still said, “Wait.” Now, I know no book is ever perfect–I’ve found errors in books published by big publishing houses, as I’m sure some of you have. Still, I want to do everything I can to make sure my readers have the best reading experience possible. So, because I can no longer see the errors, even obvious ones, I did something I haven’t done before: I asked for test readers. Three responded: one who read the first book and two who have not. It’ll be interesting to see the results.

Now, there are a few specific reasons I did this. To save time, I’ll just copy the message I sent the test readers, as I think it explains things well:

…There are two reasons I decided to host a pre-release (test) read/review of Wolf’s Bane. The first is for marketing, word of mouth, and publicity reasons. (i.e. I asked them to note sections that might be good for taglines, excerpts, citations, etc. I also asked them write a review which I can then post on my blog/website, press-releases, interviews, etc.).  The second is because I also need a little help with the manuscript. I’ll explain: This review version is the version I intend to publish. It has been proofread and I have made the recommended changes, but I haven’t reread the final version. There are two reasons for this: a) I have read the story so many times that, even though I love the story, I just can’t reread it again. By the time I will be able to, too much time will have to pass and I won’t ever get it published, and b) I am concerned that if I reread it now, I’ll start to change things, which, again, would delay the process. As you know, any story, even good ones, can be tweaked until Kingdom come, lol So, should you notice things that don’t follow (ex. words left out, or something that reads as though it might have been added at the last minute) please note them. I’m NOT looking for another proofread or edit, but things that just might read as out of place. Also, if you see any formatting issues I might have missed, please note those as well. After staring at 400 pages over and over, I just don’t see errors anymore…

Now, I might be taking a big chance with this; I don’t know. But, at this point, it seemed like the best way to handle the situation. Once I get the readers’ comments back, I intend to update the formatted version and upload that for publishing. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and once again, my super-talented illustrator sister, Amy Hands, is working on the cover art. See below for the painting of Jeru (main character) that she did for me. She is available for other projects!

Painting by Amy Hands
Painting by Amy Hands

 

The final stage after that, is for my also super-talented and dedicated husband, Samuel, to get to the graphic designing. He’s done both my current covers (The Purple Morrow and The Eagle’s Gift WIP), so if you’ve seen them you’ve seen his work. 🙂

And lastly, here’s an excerpt from Bane for you. In this section from Usurper (chapter 1), we get to know Oren, Kelen’s adoptive father, a little more, and are introduced to a new player in the game. Oren is on his way to a meeting when he pauses to reflect on an event that might tip the scales of fate in his favor…

From dustin.wikidot.com
From dustin.wikidot.com

Though he knew he was wasting precious seconds, Oren could not stop himself from taking a few more to reflect on what had interrupted him. The very thought of it sent excitement and a deep sense of satisfaction through him. Mid-way through his nightly meditations, he had sensed an old, familiar presence, one he had not felt for at least a year. The call had been faint, yet so surprised was he to hear it whispering at the edges of his thoughts, that he had ceased his incantations mid-sentence. Instantly filled with longing as well as a lingering hatred, Oren had thrashed his way through the scrolls and quills and a selection of prized books to the bottom of an ancient cedar trunk where he had found the crystal tuning orb.

 Once seated before it, he’d wasted only a moment to consider what he was doing and how many Seer laws he was breaking. But the presence called again, more insistently this time, so Oren pushed his reservations aside and set his eyes on the crystal’s clear, reflective surface. Calling up the appropriate incantation, he whispered the words, and soon, like struck crystal, the voice rang clear. Sweet and alluring to his soul as ab-clan honey to the tongue, it also exuded an undertone of discordant tension. This was fitting, for Oren both loved and loathed the Dark Master. As a moth is drawn towards the flame of his own destruction, he did not have the power within himself to refuse the Master’s call.

Lapi shuffled further out of Oren’s way to allow him a clear path to the door. The sound of his dragging feet against the floor drew Oren’s attention back to the situation at hand. He sneered at the nearly prostrate attendant, grabbed the edges of his crystal-embossed outer robe, and then crossed them one over the other before tying them down tightly with a red, tasselled sash. At the door, Oren twirled out of the room, but not before giving the attendant another withering look. “You are correct, Lapi. I do hate to be interrupted; however, not as much as I despise being late to meet the Naagra-Oni. Something I now must do, thanks to you!”

The door slammed behind him, its ringing most certainly heard throughout the entire east wing of the temple. Oren imagined the weak-minded Lapi trembling from his fury, or better yet, fainted on the floor. And smiled.

(excerpt Dyane Forde Copyright © 2014) 

Thanks for stopping by! Have you used test readers before? How are your formatting and self-publishing attempts going? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

 

 

 

 

Essays

Writing for Fun

Fall has certainly lived up to its name this year; so far I’ve dealt with the ‘fall’ of significant relationships and most of you have already heard of my grandmother’s recent passing. Folks, it’s been a tough few months. And we haven’t even hit November yet.

From quotes.lol-rofl.com
From quotes.lol-rofl.com

Still, there have been a few high points. After wanting to for a really long time, I finally got the courage to terminate the contract with the company that published my book, The Purple Morrow, so that I could regain full publishing and distribution control. So, for the last few weeks, I have been learning to format and, poof! like magic, the book is now available on Smashwords and its affiliates. And the best part is it wasn’t hard. I might be blogging about that experience soon so I won’t get into all of that now. Re-launching on Kindle (and eventually CreateSpace) is next. But major thumbs up to me for going ahead with this, as I’ve been afraid to tackle this project for months. Yay, me!

…What else has been going on…? What else…?

Oh yeah. The madness.

From funny-pictures.picphotos.net
From funny-pictures.picphotos.net

Last week, the day after our family loss, I went for supper with Sharon from my writing group. She’s such a neat lady: great-big smile, super-smart, funny, and endowed with a really unique writing style and voice. Earlier that week while feeling blah from the falls of Fall, in the hopes of jump-starting my creative flow I had put out a call to the group to see if anyone was into doing a collaborative writing activity. Also, I’d been in ‘editing mode’ so long it was hard to transition back into ‘creation mode’. Anyway, Sharon was game and we met at some neat little local restaurant/microbrasserie. She stuffed me good with the restaurant’s massive onion rings while she sampled their beer and I sipped red wine.

Anyway, a little while later, my stomach full of fries and sausages and onion rings, she pulled out her laptop. I was scared. I mean, okay, this was the reason we’d decided to meet in the first place but…I hadn’t written anything new is ages! And this was Sharon, English lit maven, smooth-talking poet…and then there was me. Internet-bred writer and sorta graduate (not at all) from the Writing School of Hard Knocks and Getting My Ass Kicked by Better Writers. I started to sweat. Grabbed my glass and gulped water. Signalled the waitress for more.

“Throat’s dry. Keep it coming.”

“Beer? Wine?” the waitress asked.

“Hell, no! Water! I’m thirsty!”

She nodded and walked away, but as she withdrew I thought that maybe I should have more wine. Then I could pass out, avoid this terrible mistake of a meeting and, when I came to, blame the whole thing on the ‘the spirits’.

Mercifully, Sharon went off to powder her nose but then I was stuck with the blank screen, cursor flashing like its sole purpose was to remind me that I had nothing to say. At all.

I’m going to suck. Whatever I write is going to suck. She’s a serious writer. The group is made up of serious writers. I’ll suck and she’ll tell everyone. I’ll have to quit, or move—we might see each other at the mall or Target. Everyone will know I’ve lost my voice. Craaaaap!

I started to write. I’d been staring outside the restaurant’s back door and noticed the street light was casting a greenish-yellow light across the boughs of the trees; the effect was kind of neat.

Describe it.

Capture the mood and then go from there. If it sucks, well, it sucks.

So I continued to write. 350 words was the limit we had agreed on before handing off. Now, I at least I was writing. It wasn’t so bad. But what was, was knowing that Sharon, who had since returned, was waiting to follow-up on what I had started. From over the top of the screen, I could see her politely giving me my space, looking at her phone…

“Alright, done”. I handed her the laptop. “I have no idea what I wrote, but…”

She took it, scanned what I wrote and was off. Damn, she was fast!

From www.etsy.com
From http://www.etsy.com

So, we go back and forth like this a while, all serious about the sacred activity of writing, of creating–until she started to giggle. I have no idea what she read that set her off, but suddenly, she was smiling, nodding and typing away. She kept on giggling and kept on typing while I wondered WTH was so funny since I hadn’t intended to create a comedy—what’s funny about a sociopathic teenager bent on a bloody home-invasion???–but I wasn’t really disturbed. I figured at least she was writing and not looking askew at me, gnashing her teeth as she snaps the laptop closed to dash off to hail a cab out of there.

I read her section. It was good. It contained her trademark style. Cool. But it also had some funny stuff in it.

I started to giggle. And giggle some more until I couldn’t stop. Then we were both giggling, laughing out loud like no one else was in the place, writing, handing the laptop to the other, giggling and writing some more…

The night finally ended. We had to go home. But I didn’t want to. I’d had way too much fun.

Clearly, in light of the last few months I’d needed that. But on the other hand, as we talked, we remembered that writing should be fun. Yes, as writers we have specific goals and we work hard, striving to get the next project done, submitted, or edited. But fundamentally, writing should be something we do because we enjoy it—something that leaves us elated, pleased, content. I had actually planned to post the story we’d written, for kicks. I’m just waiting for her permission, if she gives it. Later that night, though, she emailed me saying that long after getting home, she was still laughing, and I admit that for a few hours afterwards, so was I.

I write best when I don’t care about people’s expectations. That night’s experience was a reminder that I should write because it’s fun, that I should worry about the rest (finesse, editing, ‘perfecting’) after I’ve gotten the story out onto the page.

So the message? Enjoy yourself! Write nonsense if you have to. If you’re feeling stressed or stuck about a project, stop, breathe, and think about why you are doing what you’re doing and reset your goals. Or, try an interesting writing exercise with a friend and feed off their energy. Laughing, BTW, is an excellent stress reliever. It can help clear out the crap and leave you feeling relaxed and focused so you can tackle that troublesome project.

From plus.google.com
From plus.google.com

Anyway, I just might post that story one day, so stay tuned. And stay tuned for more information about The Purple Morrow and the sequel, Wolf’s Bane, which I am beginning to prepare in earnest for release in the New Year. I’ll be posting updates, excerpts, and maybe even a cover reveal, too, as the release date approaches. And as usual, drop me a line. I love to hear from you. Do you have any funny writing stories? How do you deal with getting stuck in a rut or feeling insecure, untalented, or like the well has just plain run dry?

Until next time!