Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, Book Two

Two out of Three

Between holidays and travel and dayjob and a baby quickly becoming a toddler, I somehow managed to finish the edits on the Impossible Contract aka Book Two. For those keeping score, that means I now have two out of three books done* in this trilogy, and book one isn’t set to be out for, oh, another year.

It’s quickly shaping up that I’ll be finished with Book Three before One’s pub date, as well, which is astounding. I doubt I’ll ever have that sort of luxury again, and I doubt few others have. It’s a strange place to be in; for one, I won’t have to worry about reader reactions messing with plot. But for another, I’ll have completely moved on to a new and entirely different project by then.

Looking back through my blog posts, I realized I never really explained how I got here. Here being: having written the second book first. Here being: still another year to publication, even though I signed the contract over a year ago. Here being: planning on having three books done before the first ever sees the light of day.

I didn’t plan to write the second book first. I set out to write a standalone. And I did. So thoroughly that I’d never intended to write a sequel, let alone several sequels. Which, in retrospect, was a bit silly of me, but I was still reacting to being blindsided by a cliffhanger in a book I’d thought was standalone years back (*tiny fist of rage*). So.

So I intentionally did a Thing in the plot that pretty much negated the possibility of a sequel. And then I got an agent. And then my agent suggested I come up with some sequel ideas.

Cue panic.

Eventually, I did come up with an Idea, but it would only get me through another novel. With some gentle nudging from my agent, I came up with a few prequel ideas as well. Fast-forward to Tor asking for a trilogy and me being severely sleep-deprived from life with a newborn, and I asked – nay, insisted – that I give them a prequel and a sequel.

They thought this was a fine idea. And lo, the Impossible Contract became Book Two and I was on the hook for writing Book One, and yesterday. My potential publication date was pushed from 2018 to 2019, which is reasonable since the book didn’t exist yet.

But despite a bit of teeth gnashing and grumbling impatience on my part, I am so, so glad things fell the way they did. I got to go back and really dig in and understand the world in book one, and doing so only made book two that much stronger. I also got to lay the groundwork for a lot of the things that happen in book two (and eventually book three), which was decidedly satisfying. And it will probably make me look like a wizard, not gonna lie. Plus, future readers will get two** standalone books that nevertheless play off each other and are stronger for it.

Phew.

So if you like book one and Amastan, the historian turned assassin turned detective who is really tired of this shit, you’ll probably like book two and Thana, the overly ambitious assassin who regrets helping the man she’s supposed to kill and is really tired of all these undead camels.

To continue a tradition I started when I turned in Book One the first time, here’re the

Ending Stats for Book Two

Started writing: June 1, 2014
First Query Sent: April, 2015
Heavily-edited “final” manuscript sent: January 15, 2018
Number of rewrites: Two
Number of rounds of revision/edits: Six
Number of edits just to cut words: Three
Original Wordcount: 130,000
Current Wordcount: 104,000
Number of times I’ve hated this book: Twenty-seven
Number of times I’ve loved it: Thirty-six
Number of mug cakes eaten in celebration: 1
Expected pub date: Late autumn 2019

* Technically, book two isn’t done done, but the next round of revisions won’t require a total rewrite nor take three months. Unless I seriously miscalculated somewhere along the line. Which is possible! But doubtful.

** Book Three is technically also a standalone, but boy will it spoil you on the first two. Not even gonna try not to, there.

Uncategorized

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

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If you ask any writer (or artist [or human being]), they’ll say that 2017 was a rough year. Full of distractions and worry and dread. Yet despite all of that, we kept on keeping on. I’m not exception – while I wasted countless hours on what-ifs and not sleeping, the work still had to be done. And it got done.

But man, am I exhausted. Hopefully 2018 will be a little less emotionally draining.

But 2017 wasn’t all bad. Personally, it was pretty great. My highlights:

– Wrote the first draft of Book One
– Wrote the second draft of Book One
– Revised Book One
– Sent Book One out to betas
– Revised Book One based on beta feedback
– Sent Book One to my editor
– Revised Book One based on my editor’s feedback
– Turned in Book One (🎉🎉🎉)
– Hacked 20,000 words off of Book Two
– Going line by line, entirely rewrote Book Two
– 2/3rds way through first draft of Book Three

 

And that’s only the writing highlights. Outside of that, I also:

– Broke my personal 5k record
– Turned 31
– Took a baby to Germany and survived
– Attended my first conference (Sirens ’17 wot wot!)
– Dayjobbed the stuffing out of my dayjob
– Learned how to throw a proper punch
– Held back the tides of unwashed dishes and dirty laundry
– Kept a baby alive and helped her evolve into a toddler

 

Writing it out like that makes it seem as if I was riding the waves, but at the time it felt like I was drowning more often than not. 2018 should be better (and easier?) for a number of reasons, not the least of which we’ll have a toddler and not an infant who refuses to sleep more than 45min at a time (oh god never again).

2018 is actually shaping up to be pretty fun/exciting for me, personally. And maybe for you, at least come the end of the year. So what have I got going in 2018?

– Polish up Book Two
– See/reveal the cover for Book One (!!)
– Write, rewrite, revise, edit, & polish Book Three
– Hit up Tucson Festival of Books
– Sirens 2018 (!!)
– Bid farewell to my lovely desert assassins and start a new project
– Keep a small human alive

 

Yeah. Okay. No small task. But if I survived 2017 and all it entailed, I can certainly survive – even thrive in? – 2018.

May you let 2017 go and embrace the new year with hope and light. ❤

book reviews

2017 Books Of Awesome

After quite a few nights/days spent rocking a sleeping baby and reading a book, I thought I’d also rock my to-read list this year.

Ahahaha.

Turns out, sleeping newborns turn into not-sleeping infants turn into crawling, interested-in-what-you’re-reading babies. And if they’re not trying to pry the book from your hands, then you’re trying to pry the cat bowl from theirs.

In short, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to read as much as I’d like. While humbling, this was also freeing. Since I have so much less free time between baby, dayjob, writing, and well, generally keeping the house from descending into cat hair chaos, I was much pickier about the books I read. And – surprisingly! – I ended up loving almost all of the books I read this year.

Also interesting how this list is much more solidly fantasy than previous years… hmmm…

Because I don’t have as much time as I used to, I’m going to cheat and use/expound upon the tweet thread I already made for my #2017InBooks. Sorry/not sorry.

So here are (almost!) all those books, in no particular order, for you & for posterity & for a better year-in-review than I can ever do, in 140 (280?!) characters or less:

    • A Darker Shade of Magic* by V.E. Schwab – Fun! You’ve probably read this! I was late to the game but I can see what everyone was talking about. Pirates, magic, doom & gloom & good gay times. Honestly, the whole Shades of Magic series.
    • Hellspark by Janet Kagan – linguistic sci-fi will always always be my jam. What is sentience? What is language? Why is that spider-thing crawling up my leg?
    • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – timely YA insta-classic take on police brutality that pulls NO punches. We’ve got racism, riots, and class tensions with subtlety and nuance in >80k words.
    • The Nightmare Stacks* by Charles Stross – because Stross’ Laundry Files will always be my curl-up-with-hot-cocoa-and-Lovecraftian-nightmares series.
    • The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden – Demigods! South Africa! Robot revolts! Dik diks! Positive trans potrayal! Wholesale destruction! Need I say more?
    • Amberlough* by Lara Elena Donnelly – dear god I’m still having dreams about this book. Disturbing. Delightful. So gay. Do you like spy thrillers and cabaret and too-parallel politics? Then yes.
    • The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin – Stone magic meets astronomy with apocalyptic adventure and a mother-daughter relationship that friggin shattered me. This whole series is definitely core SFF canon now, by the way.
    • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer – I honestly still don’t know what to think about the Ignota Terra series except that it’s a) full of intense worldbuilding and b) not even slightly what I expected. Did I mention it’s intense? It’s… intense. But rewarding.
    • Winter Tide* by Ruthanna Emrys – You got some social commentary in my Lovecraftian horror and I like it.
    • The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis – Airships! Explosions! Adventure! Snarky fops! No central romantic plot!! Honestly just a lot of fun and a great way to end the year.

* – Consumed in audiobook form.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One

What a Difference a Year Makes

November 1st last year, I started writing draft zero for Book One of what we’re now calling the Assassins of Ghadid trilogy. I had a character and a scene and a vague idea of where it was all going.

Several rewrites, revisions, and now an editorial letter later, I think I can safely say Book One is done. Of course, we’ve already touched on what “finished” means, so I suppose we should define “done.”

Done, right now, for this book, is a book that has been cleaned up on both the line level and the plot level, is a book that has been tweaked and finessed and had most of its problems excised or otherwise fixed. It’s still not perfect, but the bits and pieces of doubt that hung on after it was “finished” have largely been shed.

Of course, this is just another step in the process. There may (will) be another round of edits. There will (definitely) be a round of line edits. I hope for and expect as much, because I – and my publisher – want this to be as close to 100% as we can make it, without, you know, having to sacrifice our souls and selves.

So in a way, it’s not done done, but on the very long road that is publishing, I thought it significant that almost exactly a year after starting a book that was little more than a scene and a character at the time, it’s now become this: a rewritten and revised and edited and re-edited and tweaked and thoroughly-loved book, about many characters and with many scenes, that even has a plot.

As for when it will be out – assuming there are no Super Major Oh God No edits on the horizon – the current word on the street is March 2019. So we’ve still got some time yet. And I’ve still got two more books to finish.

Assassins of Ghadid, helpful tips, TIC, writing

How to cut 20,000 Words

First – and this is the most important step – write a novel that is 35,000 words too long.

Be told by several people that you really ought to cut some of that. Agonize over every word for a month and manage to cut 15,000 words. Rejoice!

Realize that the novel is still 20,000 words too long. Decide it will be a problem for future you.

Let the novel sit for two years.

Revisit, because finally you really need to trim that beast down. You ask your betas to point out places that should be cut, places where the plot dragged or they got bored. Your editor highlights entire chapters. Realize that those two years actually made it easier for you to see what you can cut. Notice a few patterns:

– You over describe everything.
– You over describe everything.
– You really like to talk about sand.
– You over describe everything.

Begin cutting a word here and there. Then a paragraph. Now, drunk on power, start cutting entire pages. Cackle maniacally. Stay up too late. Drink too much coffee.

Convinced you’ve cut at least 10,000 words, doublecheck your word count.

You’ve only cut 300 words.

Yell into the void that is Twitter. Pour another cup of tea. Start again with a word here, a word there. Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Congrats! You’ve cut 10,000 words. You still need to trim another 5-10k. You wonder if your editor will notice. You know she will.

Decide it will be a problem for future you.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, writing

Ending Stats for Book One

Started writing: November 1, 2016
Manuscript sent: June 27, 2017
Total days: 239
I.E.: 7.9 months
Percentage of days spent writing: 94%
Estimated days spent writing: 224
Average hours/day: 2.4
Average hours of sleep/day: hahahaha
Number of drafts: 4
Word count of draft one (aka draft zero): 56,649
Word count of draft two (aka draft one): 63,686
Word count of draft three (aka beta draft): 84,638
Word count of draft four (aka final draft aka finished MS): 95,069
Number of times I knew I wouldn’t get this done on time: 220
Number of times I knew I would: 4
Number of times it mattered: 0
Number of cupcakes eaten in celebration: 1
Number of days I’m taking off between books: 0

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, writing

When is it “finished?”

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As of Friday, Book One is done. And yet it’s not really “finished,” per se. It’s sitting quietly on my harddrive, resting and dreaming, before I slog through it for one last read-through, then it’ll be off to my editor who may (or may not) tear it apart and declare it an abomination. Either way, there will be more edits.

Which made me wonder why I felt like I could label it as it is, done. A big part of it is definitely a feeling, a big sigh of relief, a rush of pride. Yet I have been here before with books I’ve written, only to turn around and completely rewrite them 2 months or 2 years down the line.

So what does done mean?

For me, at least now, at least in this moment and for this project, it appears to mean that it’s at a point where I’m comfortable sharing without caveats. When I gave it to my betas at the end of May, I also gave them a ton of caveats. I was as far as I could get on my own at the time, but I also knew there were still problems, could feel them even if I couldn’t quite put my finger on them. So I told them that, told them to expect that it wouldn’t be perfect, and that it definitely had problems, and to please help me find what those problems were.

Now… it still has problems. It will never be perfect. But I feel like I can hand it off without caveats. That it can stand on its own. Within all those words is a complete story with a full character arc and logical consequences and big stakes, and minimal, if any, plot holes.

Again, there might still be things I’ve missed, things I’m blind to. I’m going to read through it one last time and then other, fresher eyes will have a go at it. But for now, Book One is as done as I can make it.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, WIP, writing

#amediting – Make it Bleed

The best decision I’ve made so far with this round of edits – aside from, you know, doing them – was to turn on Track Changes. Now whenever I feel like I’m treading water and getting nowhere, all I have to do is flip to “show all markup” and see just how much I’ve done.

Aaah.

Of course, all that red doesn’t say anything about the quality of the edits, but it sure is pretty to look at.

T minus 10 days and counting and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m going to make it, and not just at the last second. 60-ish pages left to edit, 2-ish scenes let to (re)write. I’m starting to get it into my head that I’ll have time for another read through. But let’s not get too cocky – something is bound to happen and eat up all my soft deadline cushioning.

But I’m already starting to plan what I’m gonna do when this is off my desk. Sleep. Read. Buy a chocolate cake. Eat it all. And then start writing the next book. Which I am SUPER excite about, FYI.

In the meantime, I’ve still got 10 days, so here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! raucous gambling, mythology tweaking, and polite civic discourse.

Chapters: 25 chapters out of 33 edited

Current word count: 94,090 out of 90,000

Fun Google searches this week: “Does a camel chew cud?”

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, book three, WIP, writing

Stop! – It’s Beta Time!

Betas, man. What would we do without them? They’re magical creatures, willing to take the time out of their days, weeks, (months?), to glance over an unpolished manuscript and not only give feedback, but give supporting details and thoughts and comments and maybe – hopefully – a few ideas on what they think might help.

When we’ve been elbows-deep in the entrails of our book for months (years) on end, a beta helps us step back and see the body instead of the gore. Or, perhaps, a better metaphor: when we’ve been behind the scenes, constructing the scenery for our play, all we can see is the bare wood, the struts, the bad paint jobs. Our betas help us see the scenery from the audience side, where it’s clearly a quiet night scene in Paris or a warm rooftop in Peru.

Thing is, we writers spend a long time trying to capture what’s in our heads in words that will somehow, perfectly and exquisitely, recreate those same scenes and moments in the reader’s head. This is, of course, impossible. Until we become telepaths or create the technology for brain-to-brain transfers, that translation will be imperfect. Some things will always be lost. And we, the writers, will always be acutely aware of those gaps and errors.

Our betas, however, cannot see into our heads. They can only see what every reader will see in the end: what’s on the page. So – thank you, betas. Thank you on behalf of all writers, but also thank you on behalf of just me. At a time when I was 100% frustrated and done with my WIP not lining up with what was in my head, you helped me to see what was actually on the page. And also fix what was there. Without betas, I’d be running endless editing loops for the next 5, 10, 15 months. Instead, now I have a plan and a way forward, an end in sight.

That said, where have I been the last few weeks? I usually update on Tuesday because that’s when I have the most time, but these past Tuesdays I’ve been feeling the crunch. First I was finishing up one last round of edits so that I could get Book One out to betas, then I was beginning the next round of edits courtesy of those amazing betas. Now I’m 100 pages into the last heavy edit / mad attempts at polishing with my deadline fast approaching. Today I added 2600 new words and an entire new chapter that will need to be polished once they’ve had some time to sit and ferment. I have 160(ish) pages left to go, two more new scenes to write, and seventeen days. I got this.

…right?

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! tense talks over tea, avuncular uncles, and exciting! research! scenes!

Chapters: 14 chapters out of 33 edited

Current word count: 90002 out of 90,000

Fun Google searches this week: What the parts of a screwdriver are called

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, goals, writing

The Final Countdown

I’ve hit the final stretch which means I just want to be done already. If there were writing goblins, I would leave out whatever fruit or knick-knacks they desired to finish this for me.

I can see the end in sight, but I still have to get there. In the meantime, I’ve reached the previous Rocks Fall Everyone Dies point I’d left myself at before, so it’s a bit slower going. These are all new words, so I’ll have to go back and polish them. Just have to remind myself that I will polish them and that it’s okay for the first round to be crap.

Now more than ever I’ve got to keep my head down and focus on the words.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! violent storms, knife fights, and angst. So much angst.

Chapters: 31 chapters out of 32 edited

Current word count: 80035 out of 90,000

How done am I?: So done.