Ruminating on 2018

As the year comes to a close, it invites reflection. What did I accomplish? What do I regret? How did I grow?

Ruminating on 2018

Accomplishments and Growth

In comparison to 2017, I can honestly say that I’ve been in a much better mental place. I still miss my dad–and I always will–but time and new experiences have offered their salve.

  • Writing, both journaling and the three novels I’ve been readying for release,
  • Drawing, whether little doodles or letter art or sitting down with my sketchpad,
  • Language learning, because Duolingo is awesome (Spanish and Hindi for now)
  • Reading, especially to the munchkins but also some great series I’ve discovered,
  • Gratitude practice, which I can’t recommend highly enough, and
  • Exercising, from HIIT to yoga, barre to Zumba,

These activities have all helped changed my perspective, keep me busy, and bring different kinds of joy. An analogy that really resonated with me was that grief or loss is like a bubble of a fixed size in the ever-expanding bowl of our life experience. As additional bubbles fill the bowl, the loss bubble doesn’t get smaller, but its proportion in comparison to our life experiences starts to shrink. I think we also get used to the new normal of not being able to share the new experiences of life with our lost loved one. Regardless, it still sucks and the strangest moments remind me of my dad, but I don’t want to dissolve into a puddle of helpless tears at every juncture.

The kids are also more independent and conversant, so it’s fun to see the thoughts coming out of their heads and to play games with them that I genuinely enjoy too. Their personalities are so different, and their capacity to learn and to help and to love brings such satisfaction to my lifelong wish to be a mother. Whether cooking with T or folding laundry with D, we find ways to work together productively and teach each other life skills. T’s love for science, D’s for cuddles, and both of theirs for having someone lavish attention on them warms my heart.

Growth as a writer? Not that you’ll notice since I haven’t released anything, but my writing provides better description and pacing than before. I’m conscious of active word choices and I’ve developed a draft-edit-complete method that really works for me. It helped me speed through Book 2 and is going to help me wrap up Book 3 at pace.

Regrets for 2018?

Can one have regrets without having regrets? Because while there are things I would like to have finished (ahem, release Sea Dreams), I do know that the delay will benefit the book’s quality. Finding time to finish the first draft of Book 3, Sea Treasures, has been a struggle despite having taken time off for medical stuff.

After surgery in mid-November to remove what turned out to be a benign liver cyst, it took rather longer than I anticipated to get back on my feet. Work stuff took priority, and then we had family travel plans thereafter. I’ve really tried to be present for the time I spend with the family, to make the best memories I can, so I can’t regret that choice. All of these activities translated to limited writing time in the last quarter of the year, inevitably delaying the release of Book 1.

The delays in the writing also paid off: I found more beta readers who were willing to share their feedback, and the slow pace of my draft have resulted in some quality writing that should (hopefully) require less editing time. I’ve also updated some things in Book 1 to make more sense and add consistency to the series.

Looking Forward

I’ll be discussing resolutions for 2019 in my next post, but obviously the first three books of Sea Deception will be released in 2019.

Previous Posts

2017 2016

Saturday Snippet: Introducing Old Relationships in a New Story

On Saturdays or Sundays, you can check out a snippet from my latest writing efforts.  All snippets are copyrighted.  These excerpts from my writing are first draft, unedited words, and may not appear in the final work.

This excerpt focuses on the relationship between Del and Tolemius, a relationship that has existed since before the start of Dark Empire. It’s important to reintroduce the characters, to describe them and how they tie together in each new book of the series. While I think it’s unlikely that someone will pick up Book 2 without having read Book 1, it may have been a while since they last read it (especially, unfortunately, at the pace I write), so it’s helpful for the returning reader to get little reminders to make reading the new book easier. It’s also not necessary to provide exhaustive physical descriptions of each character, but a few hints

Here you’ll find that I try to bring up different aspects of their characters, including Tolemius’s worst fears and Del’s hobbies, while still trying to show the newness of their relationship. The central conflict and other important players also show up here, in this first scene of Book 2 (still untitled).

Del tried not to huddle into the warmth of his strong form. The fever left her with a chill the heavy cloak hadn’t been able to overcome. “[The healer] Unimir has exhausted his magical reserves trying to heal me,” she said. “He can’t do any more. I’ll have to weather the rest a while longer.” She imagined Tolemius frowned behind her. Del knew he hated feeling powerless, particularly in the face of illness. Her heart warmed at the thought that he worried so on her account, despite the trouble she’d caused him since their betrothal and the dangers they had both faced on their travels into Worvanz.

 

“Miran or the count should be able to counter the effects of the poison once we reach Jelnan,” Tolemius muttered. Whether he tried to reassure her or himself Del couldn’t tell.

 

“Then we best make haste,” she said. She longed to see her brother again, to know he was safe in these magic-barred lands. What a prize Miran’s power would be for the mage-hunters! As much as Del longed to return to Jida, her desire paled next to the urgency to protect her younger brother from the evils she had seen in Worvanz. [spoiler deleted]

 

Neither her own magic nor Unimir’s had reached its peak since leaving Canveris, and they both kept draining what reserves they built in an effort to conquer the powerful toxin her captors had used while interrogating her and trying to steal her magic. Neither of them possessed enough magic to overwhelm the poison, which seemed to absorb their power with only the slightest improvement to show for it. Combined with the exhausting cycle of short euphoria followed by a lengthier downward spiral, Del felt no better, and possibly worse, after each healing session. She shivered again, not with cold but with remembrance of the mage-hunters’ cruelty and the terrifying magnetic crystals they used to steal magic. Mistaking her shiver for cold, Tolemius’s arms tightened around her in response, though he was careful not to press against the myriad half-healed injuries she still bore. Del knew his strength—he had lifted and carried her on more than one occasion recently—and was grateful for his restraint.

 

Del ran a gentle hand over the horse’s mane. “Will you let him run, just for a moment or two, my lord?”

 

Tolemius surprised her by tucking the reins into her hands. The heat of his breath tickled her ear. “As you will, my lady, but be mindful he carries two riders.”

 

Del nodded, scarcely needing the reminder. The hostler on her father’s estate had her riding nearly before she could walk, and his lessons on caring for her mount had served her in good stead in the years since she’d been campaigning with the Royal Militia. Pressing her knees to the horse’s flanks, Del exhaled as he responded eagerly, streaming past the other riders effortlessly. Del closed her eyes for a moment, breathing in the dry wind and imagining she was flying.

 

In writing Dark Empire, I uncovered a tendency to leave all the description out, and at times I still fear telling (rather than showing) the reader too much. Here I’ve tried to balance out the telling by using shorter phrases that still summarize events from the previous story without giving away too many spoilers for folks who haven’t yet read Dark Empire. I find it easier now to write in description and feeling in my first draft: over the few days that I’ve worked on the introductory scenes, I’ve only rarely gone back and added feelings and description.

After the harrowing experience of fleshing out Dark Empire from a first draft of <35,000 words to a final draft of x with only three additional scenes, I can tell you that having to shoehorn description and character feelings into an existing manuscript can feel redundant. It’s really refreshing to build here in the first draft knowing I’ve provided enough detail the first time around. While I don’t doubt that some parts of the story will change as I finish this book, I do have confidence that introductory scenes will still contain a lot of the same detail they have here.

What do you think of this first glimpse at Del and Tolemius?