Friday, December 30, 2011

Another One Goes By...

Wow, hard to believe 2012 is nearly upon us, and what a huge year it will be for me. Ghost of Ping-Ling comes out in Feb, then in March the book gets taken to Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy, in the hope that agents and publishers from around the world will decide to buy the rights (that will be an extremely nervous few days for me, and I'm not even going to be there). In June Mapmaker's Apprentice comes out, and perhaps even book 3 before the year's end, given the amount of time between 1 and 2. Hard to believe so much will be happening, it promises to be a dizzying ride.

This year, on the other hand, has been mainly hard work and waiting. In January, around the time I lost my job, Feb 2012 seemed an eternity away. That sense of frustration increased as the months ticked by. It's a very strange feeling when you've signed a contract for your first book but it hasn't yet come out. You feel like someone pressing your face against the window of a fancy restaurant, but you're not allowed to go in and eat. At first it's pure excitement and overwhelming joy, then it becomes a grinding wait for the publication date to actually arrive. Thankfully my wait is now measured in weeks (less than 5, to be exact).

And, of course, there's the ever present nervousness about how the book will be received. Some days I feel quite confident about it, a calm sense that the book is quite good (or at least the best I could make it) and should hopefully appeal to at least a few people. Other days I worry it will be shot down in flames, and this post I wrote some time ago will come back to haunt me, as if I unknowingly wrote my own destiny.

But who knows. As the great man said, who of us by worrying can add a single hour to our lives? It sounds like a good piece of advice to me.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe new year, that you take the time to dream, and that at least some of those dreams come wildly true.

See you on the other side!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Drifting Right Along

I'm about 25K words through draft 1 of Tales of the Blue Jade (from hence abbreviated as TBJ) book 3. In some ways that's a bit of a worry, seeing as this time last year I had a complete first draft of the Mapmaker's Apprentice, and even then delivered it 2 months late of the June deadline. What makes me a bit less worried is the fact this story is much better planned out than MMA, so hopefully I won't have huge amounts of rewrite and rethink to bog me down in the coming months (touch wood).

I'm noticing a bit of a pattern in the way my drafts develop. Even if I'm happy with the story (which I *think* I am in this instance), a number of things always need substantial work on the second pass. One is geography. The characters of my first drafts usually inhabit bland, hilly lands, perhaps with a few trees or rivers thrown in for good measure. Only afterwards do I spend time thinking about how to make the landscape more exciting and diverse, as well as atmospheric.

In some ways that's not a bad thing. As events, characters and conversations tend to flow in ways I didn't initially expect, so landscapes often need to change to suit the new tone. I may have initially planned a conversation in a green field in broad daylight, for example, only to have the conversation take on more sinister overtones than I anticipated. Gone, then, is the green field, and in it's place is a mist shrouded valley in the dead of night. Landscapes, like every other part of a story, need to be flexible and free to adapt in any way that suits.

Secondary characters also need lots of work on the second draft. To me, my characters are always identical when they're first introduced, and only later do they take on their own personalities and histories. This is a deliberate strategy. I prefer not to spend time thinking too much about the personality of a secondary character when they're first introduced. I like to see how their character develops, how it begins to seep onto the page as they talk and act in the story. They usually end up much more interesting that way (at least to me, hopefully others feel the same way!)

I find now that this combination of planning the story (outlining) while allowing some aspects of the story to evolve on their own is the best combination for me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mapmaker's Apprentice Cover

This was sent to me today. I absolutely love it!

Anyone who remotely knows the story should have no problem guessing who's on the cover of book 3...