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Lack of Progress

I have made very little progress on finishing this chapter of MAGE STORM.

Mage Storm

I was sure I’d get that done last weekend, but . . . nope. Just one of those weeks. Too many other things to do. Managing a couple of overdue promotions, starting the search for next year’s health insurance.

Nothing to be done about it but set aside some specified time for writing and stick to it.

The first of the critiques on BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM is back.

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And, of course, there are a few revisions I need to make–some that will be easy, others that will require careful thought. I’m eager to get back to finish off that story. I really want to publish it either the last week of December or the first week in January.

So, now I’m working on finishing up the current chapter of MAGE STORM and making any notes that come to mind so that that story will be ready to pick up once everything’s in place for BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM.

Mage Storm

Also, FIRE AND EARTH is currently free, but just through October 15th–tomorrow.

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As I’ve sorted out how MAGE STORM and it’s sequels are going to work out, I’ve been thinking about the different kinds of series. There are several kinds. And it looks like I’m heading toward writing one (or more) of each. Not that I set out to do that. It’s just sort of the way the stories have fallen out.

The first, most obvious one is the trilogy (or duology, or tetralogy, or septology, or however many books the story needs to complete the arc). In this kind of series, each book tells a story, but together they add up to a bigger story. So, a trilogy (literally “three stories) is actually four stories—each individual book’s story, plus the overarching series story. The J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series may be the best example of this.

My DUAL MAGICS series fits this mold.

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A variant of this is a series in which the overarching story is about the world, not the characters. Someday, when I’m going to circle back and turn DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING into the first of the MAGIC AND POWER series, that’s what this series will be. Different stories, centering on new and different characters (though the earlier characters may well turn up as mentors—or something). In this case, the bigger story will be about saving one corner of that world. The characters in DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING made a good start on that, but the job’s not done (even though their character arcs are). 

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Then there’s the series that really kind of isn’t a series at all, but one big story told in more than one volume. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings comes to mind. (I mean, really, I can’t imagine reading that series—great as it is—while it was coming out and having to wait until the last book came out to find out what happened to Frodo and Sam after Shelob’s Lair—and then having to read the whole story of the Battle of the Pelenor Fields all the way up to the Black Gate before the story turned back to let Sam rescue Frodo from the orcs.)

My BECOME series is not quite that bad, but, yeah, you need both books to make up the whole story.

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Last, but not least, the episodic series is more like a series of mystery novels where each book contains a new mystery to be solved by the same detective. In a mystery series, the order of the books probably doesn’t matter much at all. This kind of series exists in fantasy, too, but in fantasy the order of the books may be more of an issue. Each book is still a story in itself and perfectly readable on its own, but they may build on the earlier books, making it advantageous to read them in order, even if that’s not strictly necessary. Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series are like this—same, or mostly the same, characters, different problems, which sometimes grow out of the earlier stories. But the problems don’t add up to a larger story arc.

My UNBALANCED MAGIC series, starting with MAGE STORM, will be along these lines, I think.

Mage Storm

So is the CHIMERIA series, come to think of it. Someday I may circle back and write the third book in that series.

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Huh! Maybe, when I get MAGE STORM done, I’ll start a boxed set of series starters.

Progress at Last

Taking a break–meaning stepping away and not even staring at the words or the page–for a  couple of days was the right decision. That little bit of distance allowed me to see just what (tiny) element was really holding me up. A very minor change in the least important of the characters involved in this scene let me move forward–and actually is making the scene much better.

I find that very often, that kind of lack of progress is an indicator that something–often something minor–just isn’t working. A little change, or, sometimes, a big change, will fix and unstick things.

I wouldn’t say I’m roaring along just yet, but I am getting words down, which is a vast improvement. MAGE STORM is back up on four wheels and starting to roll.

Mage Storm

Cover Art

So, I did take the time to go work up the cover art for MAGE STORM. Here it is:

Mage Storm.jpg

I made a conscious choice to stay away from lightning this time, since the covers of the DUAL MAGICS series feature lightning, smoke, and fire:

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And the BECOME series also feature lightning:

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The plan with the UNBALANCED MAGIC series (subject to change), starting with MAGE STORM, is that I’ll use that same stylized dragon image against a different background–suitable to each individual story. There are dragons in the story–little dragons, big dragons, water dragons. And since this is a rewrite, I can easily work that symbol in and make it, if not important, at least recognizable. I think that will work to brand the series as belonging together.

Oh, and yes, I intentionally left the series number off. While individual stories may build on what went before, they should still work as stand-alones, too. This shouldn’t be the kind of series where it matters immensely in what order the books are read.

Now, back to getting the story written.

Character Backstory

I’m having trouble getting traction with MAGE STORM. Not really sure why. I know the story. I have an entire previous version to use as an outline, after all. I know what should happen in this chapter. I’ve done the character backstory. But . . . it’s just not flowing at the moment.

Probably time to drop back and do something else for a bit until whatever’s stuck comes loose. Maybe the cover art. And, of course, studying up on keywords.

Meanwhile, here’s the backstory of the character in question, Katria:

Sixteen. From Sawyers Oaks. Three brothers, two older (Darin and Ferd), one a year younger (Natan). One younger sister, Rosella.

Her family does not have deep roots in Sawyers Oaks. Her father had been a young child there, but his family had moved to Marketown after the Great Mage War. Before that, they had owned the sawmill in Sawyers Oaks. After the recent death of his mother, Katria’s father has brought his family—and his elderly father—back to Sawyers Oaks. His older brother is now managing the carpentry shop his father started in Marketown.

Katria’s first magic is fear-based, trying to save family members from the mage storm. After this, Katria’s family is attacked by villagers afraid of the return of magic. The father of the young man (Jeld) Katria had begun to have feelings for leads the attack and Jeld joins him. Her father and Ferd are injured. Angry, Katria uses magic to drive off the attackers—which only makes matters worse. Knowing that she could only cause more trouble for her family and guilty about what she’d done, Katria slips out in the middle of the night and starts west, drawn by Mastan’s Calling. She and Rell meet on the way.

She is best at fighting, reasonably good at healing (when in the right mood), only okay at Calling.

NobleBright

I will be working on figuring out keywords for some time, I’m increasingly sure. In my last post, I mentioned making a couple of changes to my keywords. It’s still really to early to tell whether that had any impact–though my sales have gone up this week. There’s some reason to think it had nothing to do with the keywords. Still, at least it’s a change for the better.

The change I made was to pick out my two lamest keywords for each book–and lame is the only word I can think of to describe some of them–and replace them with NobleBright or Noble Bright (to cover both possible spellings).

Why’d I pick that? What is this NobleBright?

Well, NobleBright, like its opposite GrimDark comes originally from the world of gaming, from which it cross-pollinated over to books.

In GrimDark fantasy, the setting may be more . . . grim. More importantly, the characters are mostly out for their own self-interest–material or personal gain or revenge. More like the characters from some Sword and Sorcery than like classic epic fantasy. G. R. R. Martin’s SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series (more popularly known as GAME OF THRONES) is a pretty good example. Quite a lot of recently published–especially traditionally published–fantasy partakes of at least some of this.

NobleBright fantasy may–or may not–have a setting that is less grim (some have coined the term NobleDark for that), but the main attribute is that at least one of the principal characters acts out of noble motivations.

There’s an argument to be made that GrimDark is more realistic and more accurately portrays what a medievalesque world would have been like. I won’t dispute this. I will say that if I want reality, there’s 24/7 news on cable TV.

I think there’s a much better argument–perhaps especially in our current world–for stories about characters who behave more nobly. For characters who just maybe make us aspire to be better and to make the world better.

In any case, that’s the kind of story I write. So, maybe they’ll find a better and bigger audience with those keywords. I can hope.