If the word “theme” gives you flashbacks to high school lit class and your withered soul is croaking “Kiiiiill meeeee,” relax. This is not about guessing the intention of some writer who’s been dead for 400 years (or, more accurately, guessing what the teacher’s guide guesses was the intention of some writer who’s been dead for 400 years). There will not be a test. Theme is but a tool in the writer’s toolbox, as a hammer is in a carpenter’s. The person reading the book or sitting in the chair can sense the stability of the structure without ever thinking about the tools used to achieve it. Only the craftsman needs to know how it was accomplished.
Q1: Why did it take 18 months to write Silent Song?
A1: Because 2017 was a trash fire.
I spent much of the year trying to save the world. It was late September before I backed away from that pursuit because it wasn’t doing a damn bit of good in the grand scheme of things and my personal biz was suffering while I exhausted myself playing superhero. I wasn’t able to focus on writing until the last quarter of the year, and it shows in the production timeline.
I completely missed March due to a medication side effect that made me sleep 20 hours a day (and my 4 upright hours weren’t even consecutive), so not one word was written then. In all fairness, few other verbs occurred during that month.
I wrote 100,000 words of porn because that’s quick, thought-free money. (That’s not a dig against erotica or erotic romance writers. I used PORN for a reason.) That writing took away from novel writing, but the novel couldn’t be written and published in 5,000-word chunks every week or so and I have bills to pay, so the porn won the battle for my time.
Although I had a rough draft of the novel by the end of May, which is typical for me, it was a really, really fucked-up rough draft that obviously ignored its fomenting problems in favor of being able to say it was finished. (Have I mentioned I don’t do well with deadlines?) It had to be rewritten basically from scratch. So really, May→May = 1 year, right on schedule.
In summary, 2017 was a bad year all around, and I will conveniently erase it from my memory, along with much of my childhood.
The next book shouldn’t take that long because I’ve learned valuable lessons about how far my time and below-average energy reserves don’t stretch and will limit my extracurricular activities accordingly.
Q2: Why isn’t Silent Song in KU?
A2: Because Saturn is leaving my something-or-other and making me take principled stands that are going to ruin my life. (The horrorscope said “change your life for the better,” but it obviously doesn’t know how publishing works.)
I know romance power readers love KU. If you’re reading a book a day for $10/month, I understand the allure.
On the publisher side of the Amazon middleman, however, an alarming number of people, even when they think they’re cheerleading for KU, talk about the program like they’re in an abusive marriage—“they hit me again,” “I’m being punished for what someone else did,” “I can’t afford to leave,” “it will be just as bad with anyone else,” “the odds of dying are greater if I leave.” There are definite benefits to being in that relationship, but the drawbacks finally outweighed the benefits for me, and I reached the point where I would rather die than stay. At the moment, comparing current launch numbers to previous releases, it looks like I’m going to get that wish! Fortunately, I have a sweet write-for-hire gig that has nothing to do with Amazon and can almost afford to have my romance career murdered. It’s worth it to be out of the daily uproar about what new fuckery is happening on that side of the fence.
I regret losing readers who borrow rather than buy, but freedom comes at a cost and principles demand sacrifice.
At least I had the decency not to start a series in KU and then take it away from you before it was finished!
From the mailbag:
Q1: Did you learn anything while writing this book?
A1: It’s too soon to call it “learned,” but I did have a realization in the postproduction period (too late to apply to this book, but maybe next time).
In real life, I over-explain as much as possible, hoping to be thorough and eliminate followup questions. I’m an anxious introvert, so I script and rehearse that explanation until I think I’ve got every angle covered, and then I blank and panic if asked something off-script (including challenging questions like “What’s your name?”). Therefore, my goal is to answer every question before there’s a need to ask it.
My last two books have been between 130,000 and 140,000 words. For comparison purposes, average length for standalone romance used to be 100,000, and it seems to be trending down toward 80,000 recently as production speed gets prioritized. So 130,000 is quite lengthy, and that’s after cutting a whole subplot and leaving out 20 scenes I loved but couldn’t squeeze into the story’s timeline. Keeping it to a mere 130,000 was restraint—I could easily have gone an extra 50,000.
I’ve always known much over 100,000 words is too long, but my realization (which I will tell you now that I’ve OVER-EXPLAINED!) is that I overwrite because of that real-life tendency. If there’s a tangent in a story, I am compelled to go down it and explore every nook and cranny so you know I didn’t overlook anything and I WAS THOROUGH, so there’s no need to question me about what lies down that path.
The problem is that most of those tangents don’t serve the story, only my neuroses. A better use of my time would be finding ways to eliminate those tangents so there’s nothing about which to say “Hey, you overlooked this and weren’t THOROUGH,” thus freeing us all to concentrate on the important parts of the story.
I’ve already gotten myself into a “Gah! This is 50 pounds of plot in a 5-pound bag!” situation with my current plot-storming, but I have to remind myself this is the exploratory phase, when tangents are possibilities, not pitfalls. The point of plotting is to arrive at focus for the writing portion of the program, and until the map is drawn with nice, clean lines connecting the milestones along the best route, I’m allowed to roam far and wide in search of hidden treasure.
Q2: Whatcha writing next?
A2: I’m still deep in the “maybe this is a stupid idea and I shouldn’t pursue it” woods, so I don’t want to tell you something that might no longer be true by tomorrow.
While banging ideas together, a major character-defining event in the heroine’s backstory (which was the entire reason she popped into my mind) has broken off and gotten tossed, and without that backstory event, a subplot I’d already mapped all the way through no longer applies and has to go, and a family relationship affected by that event and the theme I planned to use based on that relationship no longer apply, which makes the story I thought I would be writing yesterday unrecognizable today. Something better will come from the changes (ideas that break the first time you handle them are too flimsy to see the light of day and need to be replaced with stronger material), but at this stage, the story could turn into almost anything. It would be misleading to tell you much before I even arrive at an outline that makes sense.
This is why I advocate outlining/plotting/whatever you want to call forethought in the writing process. Every idea seems great in isolation, but the instant you start putting them together, they don’t fit in the designated spots, they break, they’re ugly, and you’ve got a huge mess. Nobody likes abandoning a story they’ve put tens of thousands of words into, but forging ahead with that mess like nobody’s going to notice it’s a mess is doing a disservice to all parties involved. Forethought tells you up front, before you put weeks or months of writing into a doomed project, what’s absolutely not going to work so you can replace the weak parts with sturdy ones.
You’re unlikely to foresee every little stumbling block that will come up during the writing process, but they’ll be little stumbling blocks you can cope with rather than huge, story-breaking problems, all of which were slain during the planning phase.
Q3: Do you do anything to celebrate finishing a book?
A3: Usually, being able to move on is its own reward (I often liken getting out of a book to getting out of a bad relationship—he’ll never get a comeuppance for doing me wrong and I’ll never get back a dime of the money he “borrowed,” so I’m only hurting myself by dwelling on it), but this book was such a grueling experience, I got a writing ring to commemorate not quitting a thousand times.
Yes, those are turtles. Because I’m slow, get it? I’m also quite comfortable in the safety of my shell, and I’m hard on the outside and squishy inside, so I am basically a turtle.
I have a question. WHEN DID MY HANDS GET SO SHRIVELLY? The one time that camera takes a half-clear photo, it has to be of my elephantine skin.
You might even say my pachy-dermis. *ba-dum-TISH*
(I’m not sorry. If I were a fairy tale princess, my heart would go to the suitor with the best terrible puns—the Kryptonite of word nerds. And turtles.)
If you want to know anything else, deposit questions in the comments.
I got the second batch of paperback proofs today, with the brightness and contrast adjustments. These don’t look like they took a bath in black ink, so I approved them. Paperback should start to pop up at online retailers within a few days. I’ll update the Books page and the Silent Song page with links as I find them.
The shiny finish of the cover isn’t doing it any favors for photography purposes (it’s not this washed-out in real life), but you get the idea about the lack of definition in the initial printing versus the new.
I went through the trouble of getting a mantitty cover, so I demand to see abs, dammit!
Silent Song is as good as it’s going to get and has been uploaded to sellers to be released on May 1. This is not tentative—the sellers have the final file, not a placeholder. It’s a done deal. The short preorder period is only to allow for technical difficulties that always seem to occur at one store or another to hold up the full release process.
If you’d like to preorder now, here are links to the major sellers:
If you don’t trust me (no hard feelings—who among us has not been burned?) and prefer to wait, the New Release and Nothing Else Newsletter will be going out on May 1 to remind your inbox.
As my “thank you” to you for being interested in my books, the early adopter price will be $2.99 until May 15; thereafter, the price will increase to $4.99.
If you’re just browsing and need more information, here’s the book’s page with its description and a long excerpt.
I’m saying this a lot lately, but I mean it every time: Thank you for your patience. I know this book took an unreasonably long time to produce, and I appreciate everyone who stuck around to give it a try.