Monthly Archive: July 2013

An Excerpt from Witch Warden

Hello!

I cranked out a couple thousand words last night. Moving hard toward the end of chapter 5. I should have it done if not tonight, then before the weekend. (I can get a lot of writing done at work when it’s slow.) Targeting mid-August as when I will finally have a complete first draft done did up.

In reading elsewhere, I got the impression readers enjoy seeing excerpts from works in progress. So I thought I would drop in a little snippet that came out as a result of last night’s work. It happens late in chapter 5.

“I first met B’rulda over twenty-five years ago, when she showed up as an over-eager recruit from the Oladi midworld, Tinta,” I said, beginning my tribute to my fallen comrade. When I finished twenty minutes later, both Meneu and I were openly crying. She added a few touching memories. Using my databand we added the recording to the memorial set up by Guardmaster Telk.

Finally in bed, I realized sleep would probably be long in coming. My thoughts continued to churn. Fragments of my fight in the hanger bays flashed haphazardly, in no particular order. Flames, my blasting the control centers, driving the hoverdisc, screams, bodies flying. I had to let the mental chaos swirl itself out on its own. But I could push it back for the most part.

Meneu snuggled against my right side, as she usually did, her arm across my chest, our legs intertwined. Our foam mattress had slits in it from side to side, allowing me to sneak my arm beneath her without her having to lie uncomfortably on my limb. The mattress had been a long-ago purchase by her for us.

“Remember your mission to Byne?” she asked, her voice low in the surrounding darkness and quiet.

“I was actually thinking about it earlier,” I said.

“You left so suddenly, all we had time for was a kiss and a hug. You were gone for months, but it didn’t really bother me. I just didn’t think you were in any real danger on that one.”

I gave a light chuckle. “And it turned out I probably came closest to dying than on any other mission.” Both me and the young Bynick girl I was trying so hard to save.

Meneu adjusted her position, somehow edging closer. “Then I saw you hit by that stingwhip, and those… thugs carrying you off.” She sniffed, and the shaking of her body told me she was crying. “And I thought I’d lost you. I’d lost you. And I never got a final hug.”

My debriefing let her know what had happened, in a cold recounting. She probably felt my light, involuntary trembles, and knew full well the emotional impact it had, and was still having, on me. And now that she was back in my arms, I could let myself feel the anguish of knowing how my desperate situation had impacted her.

“I was so helpless,” I whispered. “When Copperfox reached for me to steal my memories… all I could think about was you. How I’d somehow failed you.”

She reached up and wiped away my tears. I rubbed the tip of my thumb across her own wet cheeks.

“You will never be a disappointment to me, Maels Raptori,” she said. “I regret nothing. I’ve been truly honored and blessed to have been a part of your life.”

“No, Meneu. You are my life.”

She moved to place her cheek against mine and hold me tight. I hugged her back.

“I was so scared,” she whispered into my ear. “So scared.”

“Me too,” I admitted.

We held each other in the dark. Eventually our tears and trembling left us.

Sleep came quickly after that.

So, a lot of that probably doesn’t make sense. I just thought readers familiar with the series might enjoy a peek at the work in progress.

WIP Update

Now that A Child of Byne is off to the publisher, I can focus more now on my current work in progress, Witch Warden: The Ux-Blood Trilogy, Book III.

Right now I am halfway through chapter 5. I can see in my head how I want it to play out, and how it will lead into chapter 6 and the great climactic fight. The current word count is around 95K. I foresee the final manuscript falling near a 125K word count. That’s what I’m aiming for, anyway. This one won’t be as long as Witchblood  but it’s the story that wants to be told. I still think it will as entertaining, if not more. For readers of the whole trilogy, Witch Warden answers questions introduced in Earth Cell, particularly regarding the plague that wiped out the Raptori, leaving Maels as the last of his kind (and how he survived that).

With my recent work on A Child of Byne, I have begun considering how I want the cover to look. Already I know the text will have a blue color but will use the same font. I like the way that’s worked out- provides a certain consistency, but the color allows for some individuality. (I use a shade of green for A Child of Byne.) In my head I picture Maels battling his nemesis in this story, a Kerrid named Copperfox, on a troucher walkway leading to an anchor portal. The swirling portal light is bright and leaves the two combatants in shadow, much like the previous covers. Below is the abandoned city of those who used to live at the Edge of All, as the place has come to be known. I think I can work this out. I still have the portal swirl I created for Earth Cell’s cover- I’ve used it on all the covers so far. The portal for Witch Warden will be different, though, in that it won’t have an achoring rock surrounding it. As described in the story, it just hovers in empty space at the end of the walkway. I’m thinking Photoshop will make it easy to smudge the poprtal’s edges, give it a fade into the surrounding sky. Should be fun to play with when the time comes.

For the back cover, I have not decided yet. I know I don’t want to go through the too-detailed process I suffered for A Child of Byne. There’s a part of the story which has an elevator-type setup in a rock shaft. I was thinking of going with that, as it would be fun to model in Maya. Plus, it’s a fun part of the story, in chapter 4. It would be tricky to arrange the shaft so the reader understands, but I think I could do it. Other thoughts include the lake on Galmeran, with the wooden buildings along the cliff walls, and maybe even the moment the Handresi Guild House comes under attack, with water spewing from the various portals that appear. That’s a key moment of the story, too. Still a lot of time to decide, and Witch Warden offers a variety of visual treats. I plan to sit down and slam both covers out in September, when the manuscript heads off to my copy editor for her magic touch.

For now, though, I am focusing on just finishing up this first draft. Unlike Witchblood, where I re-wrote the entire first chapter and significant chunks of the second, I am satisfied with what I have here in Witch Warden. I don’t foresee wholesale re-writes, just a lot of revision, to add detail to some items I kind of skipped over, and deepen the emotional content. I usually hold off on really hitting the emotional side of things until the first draft is complete and where I like it. That way, I can see the story in its entirety and work the emotions in on a more consistent basis. I like to see the big picture as I paint in the smaller details. Needless to say, it’s a process…

Major Progress on One Front

So, A Child of Byne is finally off to the publisher!

I spent all day Tuesday working on the back cover, then reading through the manuscript to make certain changes. I wanted this novella to reflect what I’ve written in Witch Warden. I also caught two typos along the way, so I consider that a rousing success!

The back cover didn’t come out all the way as I hoped. But I would consider the entire process a good learning experience. I learned the hard way that hair in Maya does not transfer well from one scene to another, so future work with hair in Maya will be done in scene. I also learned it’s harder to get shit done in ZBrush than all the tutorials say. My particular problem is with the UV maps. I spend hours making them in Maya, only to lose them when I try to do anything with the model in ZBrush. I don’t know what I am doing wrong, but obviously there’s room for improvement.

But in the end, hey! I set out to model the cloptix Maels rides in A Child of Byne and for the most part I got what I was shooting for. Need to work on the eyes a little harder next time, but I’m okay with what I ended up with. At least now I am more aware of a lot of the pitfalls when trying to do stuff in Maya.

And Photoshop was giving me issues. I don’t know if it was Photoshop or my Wacom tablet, but something wasn’t working right. I may have to bust out one of my other tablets and use it in Photoshop. If I get the same issues, then it’s the software. If things work hunky-dory, then it’s the tablet. Knowing my luck, it’ll be the tablet, which works fine in ZBrush, though.

Anyway, it is a time to take a deep breath and relax. The vast majority of the process is done. Both the cover and manuscript are off being vetted at the printer. Both have to pass some stringent PDF rules. The last cover I did, for Witchblood, had a tiny issue with the cover being a pixel or two too large. I made sure to check the cover for A Child of Byne to avoid that problem. I’ll know in a couple of days if it and the manuscript pass muster.

If everything sails through, then I should get an author’s proof in a couple of weeks. After making sure everything inside and out is perfect, A Child of Byne will be a done deal! Stay tuned!

Another Software Upgrade Beckons…

Got an email from the makers of Manga Studio. Version 5 is out now. It has oodles of improvements, and I think based on what I’ve seen might be the best comic book making software available.

If I were to buy it, I would go with the Ex version. The upgrade from Manga Studio Ex 4 would only be $150 or so. I could easily swing it.

But sheesh! When would I find the time to really get into it?

I’m something of a software junkie when it comes to stuff like Manga Studio. I have several versions of CorelDraw that I never use. I have all sorts of photo editing software, movie editing software, 2D and 3D animation software, and the last five or six versions of WordPerfect Office. (Now, to be truthful, I use the hell out of WordPerfect, and it’s far, far superior to Word- but do I really need the upgrades?) I have several color schemes software programs, too.

I think I’m weaning myself off the upgrade trough, though. I’ve stuck with Maya 2012, the CS5 Creative Suite, Office 2007, when upgrades are available. I haven’t upgraded several other programs, either. The current versions are installed, they work, so why tinker? Especially Maya- damn, that was a bear to get all organized and working. If I buy the latest Manga Studio, it will be one of the few software purchases I’ve made this year- I think the only other one is an upgrade of Sketchbook Pro, which I do use quite a bit.

Right now I am struggling to finish Witch Warden against an early September deadline. I have a few more steps to go on the back cover to A Child of Byne before it’s ready to be sent off. (Not to mention some changes within the story I’d like to make, based on what I’ve written in Witch Warden.) I’m forcing myself to put aside a couple more projects until my current plate is cleaned off. So my time is pretty much claimed by works in progress, some of which should have been done months ago.

While upgrading to Manga Studio EX 5 would be fun, and I would welcome the chance to get into it and try my hand at graphic novels, I have to hold off. Time constraints will allow me to take only partial joy at the purchase. The promise of time to play down the road rings hollow (as today’s work never seems to get done). I have adequate software to accomplish the chores I might set for myself using Manga Studio Ex 5. Heck, Photoshop is powerful enough to create comics (though it’s not specifically designed for that, unlike MS Ex 5). So sadly I must hold off.

Eventually I do think I will upgrade and play with the software. I remain a creative person and having another outlet for my imaginations is always fun to have. I’m not deluding myself into thinking I will ever become proficient with the software and create comics with a certain regularity- I have other projects to bring to life that are not comic in nature. For now, though, it’s nice to anticipate.

Manga Studio Ex 5

Terrorcruise Front Cover

I was searching through my old files earlier, looking for the final version of the cover for my debut novel, Terrorcruise. I had trouble finding it.

I hadn’t learned then to keep better track of everything. With Earth Cell, my second book, I did begin using a template-style process for creating the cover. Both the front and back cover artwork and blurbs are in separate files. I pull them into a final Photoshop file that contains the cover template my publisher gives me when I am ready. (The cover template is based off the page count, so I really have to know the page count, to within a handful of pages, for the template to work.) This way, if I need to tweak something on either the front or back cover, I deal with a smaller file size, and only that part of the project. So screw-ups are limited in their scope. (How many of you out there haven’t lost a Photoshop file in some form or fashion? Yeah, I know!) I followed the process for Witchblood, my third book. I am following the process for A Child of Byne, a novella I intend to release soon, and will follow this method for the third book in the trilogy, Witch Warden. (Though at 67K words, I still consider A Child of Byne to be a novella.)

My search today for the complete cover of Terrorcruise reminded me of both how far I’d come in treating this as a professional thing, and in designing the actual covers. If you were to see the Photoshop version of the Terrorcruise cover, no doubt you’d cringe. I sure did when I eventually did stumble across it. I’m amazed it actually came out as… well, successful as it did (in that it fit and I managed not to slip a typo into any of the words). Just as you’d cringe if you read the very first draft of my debut novel. But as with any skill, practice makes things less messy. I’m close to getting the final pieces together for A Child of Byne. While the process is taking away precious time from my work in progress, I’m still enjoying the process. I may have gone overboard (after all, it is just the back cover, which won’t be seen in any advertisements) but I am learning quite a bit about the software I use, and hope to parley those skills to work on a front cover soon!

And rest assured, once I do, I will make sure to keep everything meticulously organized. I’ve learned my lessons with the first.

TC_cover_front

Thoughts About the Future

Is it Friday already? I didn’t really think about it until I was on my way to work this evening. But yep, it really is!

So yesterday was my first night back after a three-week vacation. Took me a bit to get back into the story. Had to read a lot of the previous chapters to remember names and races and such. That’s one thing I’ll focus on in the next big revision- making sure I got all the character names and places where they work and their species correct. I’ve done pretty well with that up to now. But this story has far more characters than the previous stories, and it’s quite the juggling act. I’m pretty sure I have it all down correctly at the moment. But it won’t hurt to double check those suckers. Then I want to spiff up the clothing, and… well, I’ll worry about it all come revision time.

On the drive to work tonight, my thoughts pushed ahead to what I plan to do once Witch Warden is done. I know for a fact I want to put off writing novels for a while. I have a few shorter works I want to get out of my head. I plan to put Chainsaw up for sale through Smashwords at some point. I also need to finish the back cover for A Child of Byne, but I hope to have that done sooner rather than later- at least before the publication of Witch Warden. I want to totally revise Closure, an urban fantasy novelette I wrote earlier this year with great enthusiasm, only to find it needs a lot of work. (But the changes I have in mind should round out the story quite well.) That one I’ll also throw out for sale through Smashwords. It should end up being a 34K word novella. I also have in mind a short story called A Ghastling Gillion Stars, about a child witch born with sensitive abilities (which are only supposed to mainfest in elderly witches). This one is set in the Ux-Blood universe.

Further down the road, I plan to write a novel called Maiden. With that one I have a short story called Slipsense, which introduces the milieu for Maiden. I also intend to hammer out four short stories set in my Warren universe, where rabbits are the main characters. These short stories center on the events that lead to the prophecy that drives the trilogy I have written out in my mind already. While I do have a fourth novel that focuses on the character who is afflicted with the prophecy, I don’t think the four short stories will ruin that story. If anything, they should add to it quite well, when all is said and done. I’m glad I have such clarity, even if these are all in the ‘intended’ stage still. Seeing everything before I pen a single word will help create a sweeping story arc.

When I do return to novels, I have plenty to chose from. Stand-alone novels like: Dew Drops, Condensation, Infestation, the previously mentioned Maiden; a quartet of stories set in a fantasy world called Norland Asunder, a trilogy about human settlers on an alien world that looks to be fantasy on the surface but is in fact sci-fi because aliens are involved, and a pair of stories revolving around Pathic America. Plenty of ideas to keep me busy for a while.

But before any of this comes to pass, I have to finish Witch Warden and get A Child of Byne off to my publisher- two immediate projects that cry for my attention. I plan to write out another two to three thousands words tonight on Witch Warden, then give the back cover art of A Child of Byne the majority of my attention over the weekend. I even bought a new 21″ monitor for when I work at the hospital, so I can have dual monitors when I use Maya. My 17.3″ laptop screen just doesn’t have the necessary real estate for such a deep and powerful program.

I’m Still Alive, Actually…

Well, it’s been since May 1st that I posted. Something about 3K words a day in May. Ha! That didn’t last long. I did get chapter 4 done, but I think that was sometime in June. I’m into chapter 5 now, but have decided to go back and make extensive revisions. So not a lot of real progress there.

But now I have a deadline: September 3rd. That’s when my copy editor expects a completed manuscript. I see this as a good thing. Otherwise, I’d be puttering with it for far too long. Just like I’ve puttered with the back cover art for A Child of Byne, my novella that’s pretty much ready to go. Just a couple things to do on that and I’d send it off to my publisher.

In other news, my publisher for Nit sent me my first quarterly statement. And needless to say… disappointing. I have tried to market it- well, not really. Posted posters in the workplace, told everyone I know, spread the word on my Facebook page. I did tell everyone I met at a recent family reunion/50th wedding anniversary. Have to wait and see until the next quarterly statement if that did any good (doubtful).

I did have another post all wrote up. But my local internet provider, Mediacom, let the connection fizzle. I lost the post. Thank you, Mediacom. You suck ass big-time. If you had competition, I would drop your sorry ass in a heartbeat. It happens with regularity that internet service is interrupted. That gets really frustrating when I’m trying to watch something on Netflix. But Mediacom doesn’t care. They have a monopoly in the area. So we consumers can all suck it. (Oh, sure there’s DirectTV and Dish, if I wanted to pay out the ass for shit I won’t watch. And internet with those companies probably sucks ass as much. No, we the consumer are just… effed over.)

Anyway, I hope to return to posting with some regularity. The original plan was every Tuesday and Friday. And since it’s only 2215 CST, I’m still on track! After being such a bad blogger for so long, good for me!

See you Friday!