Multitasking When Writing a Series

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Image Source: copyright Melody Daggerhart 2016, cover of “Of Snow and Whiskers”, YA novel by Andrea Brokaw.

Ja-ja! The cover illustration for Andrea Brokaw’s upcoming novel Of Snow and Whiskers is done! The book will be coming out near the end of the year, so I was lucky to have lots of time to work on this commission. I will be looking forward to doing a review when it is released. πŸ™‚

Other than cover art, I’ve also been working fast and furiously on three books at once. THREE?! Yes, three. Why? My initial response is, “Because I’m an idiot.” No one in her right mind would do something like that. That’s like NaNoWriMo with a goal of 400K words in one month. And, yes, it is taking a toll. My work days start at 6 A.M. and often last until midnight without very many breaks … even working through meals and weekends. My mind is getting spongy. My eyes are burning. I’m dropping everything I put my hands on. So, I know I can’t keep up this pace for long. And it is for that reason that I will probably take a three-five day weekend over Halloween weekend. I can tell I need some time to just breathe and “be” before I give myself a heart attack.

But my second response to that question is just as simple: momentum. Every writer knows exactly what I’m talking about, right? If your progress has been slow moving on a project, but then suddenly that “A-ha!” moment hits and you clearly see the rest of the path before you, you can’t help but jump on that bike and fly with the wind in your hair. And you refuse to stop until you keel over exhausted. That’s where I’ve been for the past three weeks. But I doubt my body or mind can keep it going for four. At some point I have to rake leaves and do the budget, amIright? Heh …

So, here’s how I’m juggling three books at once, in case readers, or other writers, want to know.

Early morning hours, I open one of the books I’ve already written for this series. I’ve already finished Book 1: The Changeling. I’m currently about halfway through Book 2: The Fledgling. Since it’s been a few years past working on these projects, I can see them through relatively fresh eyes now. (Current bloodshot eyeballs and bags under the eyes being the exception.) I need to read for consistency, primarily, because the series needs to connect as one big story. Stuff I’m writing now circles back to book 1 … and so on. They’ve already been edited to death, so this only takes about one to two hours to do one chapter a day, making notes in my current project along the way. But if I run across an error that was missed in previous versions, or if I see a better way of wording something to tighten the writing and word count, I go ahead and make minor adjustments.

Every time I publish a new book in the series, I offer upgrades on past editions of previously published books. So these new edits will eventually replace the old digital offerings at Amazon and Smashwords. That’s the great thing about digital publications. You can always upgrade them without extra expense.

After a break to take care of myself, take care of my pets, and grab something to eat, I hit the writing desk again to work on my current project, Book 5: The Dragonling. This ends up taking the rest of the day until dinner because, though I am in the fourth draft, there is still a lot of large-scale editing going on. I try to make it through one chapter, same as with the “old” book notes and edits. I have to say I like it more and more as it begins to shine. Still no expected release date, but I’m halfway through the fourth draft now. It’s almost ready for beta readers.

During dinner, I sometimes watch an hour of Netflix, just to give my mind a change of pace. But then I go back to work and either finish the current chapter of work in The Dragonling, or pick up Book 6 (which has only a tentative working title). The original script I wrote for this series years ago had 5 books total. Because of the major changes I created for this version, there will be at least 6. (There will only be 7 books if 5 and 6 are too large for print editions and need to be broken up into smaller units.) Β Since this is the end of the series, I decided it was best if I worked on them together. It slows down production on 5 a little, but it also means 6 should be ready sooner than otherwise planned.

Book 6 is only in outline form right now. All of my unused notes have been dumped into 6’s folder. But I have also been doing research. And just recently I’ve drafted the first two scenes. So, I’m excited to see the next book taking shape, even though I haven’t finished the current one. Progress on book 6 looks very different from the other sets of work goals. It’s still mostly in the information gathering and organizing stage. So, if the clock strikes midnight before I complete a scene, so be it. For now, this book is not the one with the deadline. But you’d never know by the pace I’m working on it.

So, back to work for me! And Happy Halloween to all of you. πŸ™‚ Here’s to hoping we all have a safe and fun weekend of autumn festivities.

 

Book Review: Dragonvein, Book 1

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Book: Dragonvein
Series: Book 1
Author: Brian D. Anderson
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Historic

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“Carentan, France 1944 – Ethan Martin, a soldier in the 101st Airborne, is fighting for his life. But soon he will learn what peril truly is when he is ripped from his world and transported to a land of magic, swords, and dragons. And though the Nazis are now far, far away, danger is closer than ever. The Eternal Emperor, Shinzan has destroyed the mages and only a few dragons remain in exile. And now that Ethan, son of Praxis Dragonvein, has returned he must destroy him as well. Faced with unimaginable power, Ethan has only one hope – to reach the dwarf kingdom of Elyfoss before Shinzan can find him.”

Notes of Interest:

I was interested in this book when I saw that it combined several elements I enjoy reading about: magic, dragons, portal adventures into new worlds, and fantastical takes on historical periods or events. The thing in particular that caught my eye about this book was that the historic portion takes place during World War II. You don’t normally see dragons combined with Nazis. So I was in for the ride.

What could have made it better for me:

Though not the fault of the book, necessarily, I started reading on the assumption that this book would pit dragons against Nazis. Or set up some alternate history where both the Axis and the Allies fought their battles on dragons, rather than in planes. Maybe it was the cover art that gave me that impression, or maybe my mind just took an idea and went crazy with it. (I do tend to do that … frequently.) But such does not happen … at least not in book 1. I’m not sure yet if it happens later in the series. But book one starts on earth and travels through the portal and stays there because the end objective is to find the dwarves. I was a little disappointed that not much action took place in the 1940’s, but I can’t fault the author for my own jump-ahead speculation. And who knows, maybe it will do something like that later in the series.

The main antagonist in this book felt a little weak to me. Not in show of strength β€” there’s dozens of examples of how horrific he is. I just never latched onto him as a multi-dimensional character. Part of this might be due to his identity (which I can’t give away without offering spoilers, so I won’t do that). Perhaps he will develop more complexity in the later books in the series, so I wouldn’t consider that a mark against him as much as just not being able to release too much information too soon. I love complex villains, so I hope he turns out to be dynamic in later books.

There were a few grammar errors, but nothing worthy of individual notations β€” nothing that pulled completely out of the writing.

What I liked about it:

The plot is straightforward. The characters are well-defined, mostly multi-dimensional. There were some unique features here and there that caught my interest, such as the portal splitting timelines (sort of) so that companions don’t all arrive in the same place at the same time and have to cope with the consequences of that anomaly. The dwarves having the machinery that they do was unique, I think. I like how dwarves in pop culture are sort of seen as the engineers of fantasy worlds, so this plays on that familiar trait, but takes it beyond the usual golems and gears ideas. And the descriptions were visual and tactile enough that several “phrasings” caught my eye in terms of verbal texture.

Upon entering a cavern in search of the dwarves: “It was as if the darkness was actually consuming the light.” I’ve been deep in underground caverns, but they were always lit enough for people to not, you know, slip and break their necks. But I remember how the temperature immediately dropped and the air immediately felt moist and heavy. So, this concept of darkness consuming light had a feel to it that I found very credible.

The descriptions of how the dragons were found stands out to me well because it was kind of creepy. I can’t say much more than that without spoilers, but it wasn’t what I think most people would imagine when walking in on a group of dragons. I found another description that compelled me to highlight it: “Their beastly roars shook the ground and forced the breath from Ethan’s lungs.” Dragon roars shaking the ground is a trait I think we all automatically assume, but forcing the air out of lungs? That’s different.

And finally I had to highlight this wonderful description: “The intricately carved throne was pure white ivory and gold – or that’s what people believed. Hronso knew better. What was imagined to be ivory, was in reality the bones of the Council of Volnar. Often during an audience he would notice the Emperor running his finger along the arm of the throne, an odd little smile on his face. Some claimed that he actually talked to it, even having entire conversations as if it were speaking back to him with a voice that only he could hear. Naturally no one ever dared mention this in his presence.”

Recommendation:

I have already bought the second book in this series and finished it. I will try to review it soon. I am still interested enough to buy a third book, but I need to hit some other books I’ve been hoarding first. If you like portal stories where the main character is a complete noob to his new surroundings, if you like stories about magic in politics, or if you like quests for finding lost dragons, this series might be for you.

Cover Commissions

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“Rina” WIP Image Source: Melody Daggerhart 2016

I do my own cover illustrations for my books. Sometimes I do art commissions as part of my freelance business. Right now I’m working on a cover painting for Andy Brokaw’s newest book Of Snow and Whiskers, which will be out later this year. So, I thought I’d share a peek as a WIP.

Before studying English in college, I originally wanted to do cover art and spent one year as an art major. So, not only is doing book covers fun for my artistic side, it’s a bit of a “dream job” … next to publishing novels, of course. Creating and working with books will always be my first love.

I was also fortunate to be asked to beta read Of Snow and Whiskers, and I can truthfully say I’m excited about this publication. It’s a follow up to the novel Of Fur and Ice, a YA story about a school for shape-shifters in Alaska. This time the main character is Rina, a girl who changes into a snow leopard. I can’t say much more at this point, but I will also be reviewing the book when it comes out. πŸ˜‰ I’ll just say that I love how certain elements from popular fantasy, paranormal, and myth Β were pulled together for this story. πŸ™‚

As for my own story, I have started the fourth draft of Dragonling, and am checking its consistency against ALL FOUR other books in the series! (*insert groan here*) Just kidding. πŸ˜‰ It’s a lot of work to make sure facts match over the entire course of the series, but it’s kinda fun to go back and re-read my earlier books and see how many elements I can connect back and forth across the span of the story. I primarily create stories I want to read, so I’m enjoying the work in spite of the fact that nitpicky editing can be rather mind-numbing work sometimes. Every time I offer a new book, I go back and check the old ones for the sake of consistency,Β minor “clean-up” edits that I notice post-publication, and add information about the newest book in the back matter links and such. Digital books update easily and freely, so always feel free to update your previous versions when I announce new versions are available.

When the fourth draft is finished, Dragonling will head to beta readers. And then I can begin work on that cover. πŸ™‚