Archive for the ‘The Business of Writing’ Category

Blog Hop – Writing: the What, Why and How

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Historical fiction author–and former editor of my all-time favorite magazine Paradox: the Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction–Christopher M. Cevasco has invited me to participate in a blog hop, where I answer some questions so you can find out more about what I write, how I write, and why I write. You can read his fascinating answers over here at his blog.

As for my own answers, here we go!

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on two separate projects. My second novel The Bone Flower Queen–sequel to my historical fantasy The Bone Flower Throne–is due to my editor on June 1st of this year, so I’ll begin the final editing and rewriting stage on that shortly. The Bone Flower Trilogy is a retelling of the Pre-Columbian myths of the legendary priest-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, an Arthurian-type character who tried to outlaw human sacrifice in the Toltec Empire, but it’s told completely from the point of view of his sister, Quetzalpetlatl.

I’m also working on the final draft of Fugitives of Fate, an alternate history romance novel set in the Aztec empire. With the Spanish Conquest averted, the last Emperor of the Mexica–Cuauhtemoc–works with the infamous La Malinche to bring peace between the various native cities, and stand together again future foreign invasions. Had history unfolded as we know it, Cuauhtemoc and Malinche would have been enemies, but instead they end up fated lovers.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I write in a setting seldom done in fantasy, science fiction, or romance: Aztec history and mythology. There are some fantasy and science fiction works set in similar milieus–Aliette de Bodard and Chris Roberson come to mind–and some paranormal/time travel romances do visit ancient Mexico–namely the Maya civilization, but I’ve never found anything written–neither paranormal nor historical–written in the Aztec Empire, so I’m blazing my own trail with Fugitives of Fate. Fantasy has a tendency to linger in familiar pseudo-medieval European settings, but more and more readers are asking for more diverse settings and characters, asking for things they haven’t seen before, with strong female protagonists who aren’t defined by their physical strength or acting like men.

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve written a bit more in depth about this question already here, but on the most basic level, I have two passions in life: writing, and Aztec history and mythology, and I love combining the two. And because there isn’t that many books out there yet that present SF/F/Romance with Aztec culture, I’ve had to write the books I want to read. It’s also become a goal of mine to present a more nuanced and less stereotypical image of Aztec culture, particularly when it comes to human sacrifice. A lot of authors who use Aztec elements or characters tend to focus very heavily on human sacrifice–and often present it as an unequivocally evil practice, but I’m trying to not only present a different interpretation of human sacrifice, but also to focus on other, far more interesting cultural elements. It’s been difficult to not focus on human sacrifice in The Bone Flower Trilogy, given the myth it’s based upon, but it’s almost completely absent from Fugitives of Fate, and I plan to not mention it at all in any future alt history romances I write. There are so many other cultural accomplishments one could focus on when writing about the Aztecs (or the Maya): they were prolific architects, brilliant horticulturists, and accomplished astronomers. If I can show the reader a fuller, more nuanced world, I consider it mission accomplished.

How does your writing process work?

Oddly enough, both The Bone Flower Trilogy and Fugitives of Fate started as shorter fiction; BFT as a novelette and FoF as a novella, and I expanded them to novel length–or in the case of BFT to trilogy length. I work best with an outline, and even though I had the basic storyline worked out thanks to having written the shorter stories, I still needed to figure out the missing parts to fill it out more completely. I spend a couple days fleshing out the missing parts by doing research, to give me ideas; in the case of The Bone Flower Trilogy, it was rereading the various myths about Topiltzin and picking out new elements I wanted to incorporate, while in the case of Fugitives of Fate, I brushed up on the political history between Tenochtitlan and Tlaxcala, and Tlaxcala’s role in the Conquest, to figure out how the various leaders fit into my new historical scheme.

With my outline in hand, I then crank out a first draft. I like November for doing this, because I find NaNoWriMo to be a good motivator for me, but I can’t wait around all year for that (or Camp NaNoWriMo in the summer), and so will set a deadline for myself and endeavor to keep it. Since I like the daily word counter that NaNoWriMo uses, my loving husband made me an Excel spreadsheet that does the exact same thing. I can typically plow through to a finished draft in three month, sometimes less–I finished the first draft of Fugitives of Fate in twenty-eight days. I never show anyone my first drafts; I let the muse dump anything it likes in, just to see what will happen, so there’s tons of plot holes, over-explaining, character acting out of character, and sudden changes of focus halfway through the book. I work best with something to edit and rewrite, even if it’s completely broken and fractured.

After letting it sit for a few weeks, I do a second draft, focusing on fixing plot holes, streamlining characters and cutting word count. Once I’ve got something I’m comfortable with, I send it off to my critique group, to get their thoughts and suggestions; I have two critique groups, one for science fiction and fantasy manuscripts, and one that focuses on historical romance; it’s important to find critiquers who are familiar with the specific genres I write in so they can make informed comments on my use of conventions and how my manuscript fits in with market expectations.

Finally, with critiques in hand, I do another draft; sometimes it’s a major rewrite while other times it’s just some plot and character tweaking, and fixing weak prose. Then it’s off to my editor and I give it no more thought until he sends me his edit letter.

Thank you Christopher Cevasco for inviting me to participate in this blog hop, and in the spirit of keeping this going, I’ve invited horror writer Stant Litore to join in with his answers to these same questions. He will post his answers on his blog on April 21st. Here’s a bit about him:

STANT LITORE is the author of the acclaimed Zombie Bible series, as well as the novella The Dark Need (part of the Dead Man series). He has an intense love of ancient languages, a fierce admiration for his ancestors, and a fascination with religion and history. He has a PhD in English, and he doesn’t consider his writing a vocation so much as an act of survival. Litore lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters and is at work on his next book.

The Year in Review and Resolutions

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So last year proved a most exciting year on the writing front. I sold my first novel in January and saw it hit bookshelves by mid October. My first royalty check is due sometime this month, so we’ll see how well it’s done on the selling front.

I’m a little less than halfway through the first draft of the next book in the series, but other than that, I did finish multiple drafts of an alternate history romance novel. I did query a couple of agents but had zero interest–as usual, I suspect that I’m writing stuff that traditional publishing finds unmarketable, so I just might decide to either go small press again, or even consider self-publishing it once I get a final draft done. I did submit to a couple contests and got some feedback, so there is some work to do on it before it’s truly ready for world. There’s no rush though.

On the reading front, I did really pathetic; I read a total of nine books last year, which is just unacceptable, so I’m aiming for more this year. I’m no longer going to put reading on hold while I write and will instead try to read at least an hour a day, before bed. I would like to clear out all the books languishing on my current reading list on Goodreads and start reading some stuff on my wishlist. I think reading more will also help me stay creative on the writing side, since it seemed that I really struggled with getting progress made later in the year when I wasn’t actually reading anything. This year has started off strong though, and I’ve already plowed through two books I had started last year (or, in one case, two years ago) and marked off two on my goal of 15. If the reading is going well, I just might increase that goal, but for now I’m aiming to be reading with more regularity than I did last year.

 

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
T.L. has
read 2 books toward her goal of 15 books.
hide

 

I hope everyone had a good holiday season and the new year is looking good.

It’s November Again!

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There will be no posts this month, unless something really exciting happens, because it’s November and NaNoWriMo time! I shall be hard at work on the sequel to The Bone Flower Throne, and you can track my daily progress right here on this post. Or, if you’re taking the challenge yourself, feel free to buddy me over at the NaNoWriMo website.

 

So see you again in December, and hopefully I’ll have a nearly-finished draft of The Bone Flower Queen. Good luck to everyone writing novels this month!

Bone Flower Throne on Scalzi’s The Big Idea

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the-bone-flower-throne-displayI got the opportunity to talk about my new novel The Bone Flower Throne over at John Scalzi’s blog, so if you’re curious about what inspired the story and why it took me four years to get it finished, hop on over there and give it a read. Here’s a little sample:

I’m an Aztec geek; whether it’s history or mythology, I devour it all. It’s a love affair that began in college and has taken over my fiction writing life. It gives me immense joy to immerse myself into that world, digging up the forgotten treasures and intrigues, and finding voices and figures my high school history and English classes never bothered to mention.

Like Quetzalpetlatl, the most famous woman no one knows anything about: the woman the gods used to ruin Mesoamerica’s greatest hero.

Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest

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I’m still pretty new to the whole romance genre, but there are tons of contests new writers can enter, and now that I have an actual completed manuscript, I’ve decided to dip my toe into the contest scene. Last month, I entered the MoRWA Gateway to the Best contest, and just last week I learned of a rather cool, free contest run by Harlequin called So You Think You Can Write? For a period of about 3 weeks, Harlequin lets authors (who aren’t already contracted with Harlequin) post the first chapter of their novel and a 100-word synopsis for readers to look at and comment on. All entries are also looked at and graded by Harlequin editors of 20 different lines, then, authors of those samples with the 50 highest ratings are invited to submit their complete manuscript to the editors. The editors then narrow it to down to the top ten and those full manuscripts are posted on Harlequin’s website for reader voting. The one voted best manuscript wins a contract, though in the past quite a few folks in the top ten have landed contracts as well. While there was a time when the thought of a having a full manuscript available to read out on the internet would have made me squicky, I’m just not there anymore; there’s only a handful of places that I think would be remotely interested in a novel set outside the Regency, Highlander, and medieval settings, so self-publishing seems the most likely route for this book anyway, so why not at least give it a try. Besides, let’s not be overeager and think that I would even get beyond the top 50, even if I made it that far to begin with. What I’m really hoping for is some feedback, and maybe even meet some folks who would be interested in exchanging critiques (I’ve gotten one offer to beta read, so I’m super excited about that).

Anyway, the first chapter of my alternate history romance set in the universe of my One World series is on the contest website. Here’s the pitch for it:

Driven by visions of the end of the world, Aztec Emperor Cuauhtemoc averted the Spanish Conquest of Central America. When he discovers the slave woman who would have helped Cortes working in his palace, he’s determined to win her trust, so she can help him turn his enemies into allies.

But to Malinali, he’s no different than the other noblemen who’ve made her life as a slave miserable. With time and work, suspicion turns into trust, and trust grows into love, but the shadows of an avoided past threatens to turn them into the enemies history meant them to be.

You can read the first chapter here.

If you have a manuscript you’re interested in entering yourself, they’re accepting entries until 4pm EDT on October 9th. You can follow discussion about the contest on twitter at #sytycw2013.