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Follow me, for a moment.  I swear this will all make sense.  The following are all somehow related:


In the back of my mind, I’ve been mulling over May’s crit, in particular her comments about two secondary characters for which I hadn’t done the greatest job.  In fact, I’d gotten lazy.  Remember the week of Valentine’s Day when we ran the Character Clinic, and I said that if you could kill a character, without impacting the story, then the character wasn’t needed?

Dr. Geoffrey Malcolm was a useless character.  I don’t think it’s too huge a spoiler (since this happens in chapter 2) to say that he’s the guy who dies in the first 10 minutes of the movie.  He’s supposed to help the reader feel sympathetic toward Jaid, to show how she’s damaged, but otherwise, he really didn’t have a purpose.

Huge mistake.  Huge!

Dr. Reyes, a secondary character that Jaid meets in Guatemala, was perhaps even worse.  He was the “plot needs him” character.  I needed him to be there for certain big events, but he had no depth.  I’d gotten lazy again and forgot my own saying:  every character is the star of his own story.

Dr. Reyes had no story to tell other than helping–or causing difficulty–at the right plot point.

So what does this all have to do with the other points above?  I’ve been a fan of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for at least a year or two now, and this year, I’ve been writing more regularly in my daily journal.  I’m trying really hard to remain OPEN all the time, and just watch and wait for the right inspiration to come.  Now, more than ever, I really needed some inspiration.  How was I going to put some sparkle into these two characters after so many revisions already?

Bright and early this morning, the twitterverse and blogosphere was thrilled with Susan Boyle’s performance of I Dreamed A Dream.  I watched it and bawled.  I watched it again, and bawled some more.  While working this morning, I kept thinking about why it had touched me — and so many other people.  Here’s a 47 year old lady who’s never even been kissed!  Going out on stage in front of millions of people, putting her dream on the line.  People laughed at her.  They braced for a William Hung quality performance, and instead, she rocked the house, just as she promised. 

A fantastic story, right?  But there’s more to it, if you look at the song she chose to sing. 

I dreamed a dream.  I dreamed that love would never die.  No song unsung.  But the tigers come at night.  As they tear your dreams apart.  And still I dream he’ll come to me.  But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather.

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

*sobs*  That song, coming from her mouth, dreaming since she was 12 years old that she could be a singer, and now, finally, that dream has sparked to life once more.  That’s powerful stuff.

And I’m sitting here, listening, thinking, and I know that I can use this.  This emotion, the common human element of having a dream, watching it die, struggling to live anyway, trying not to hope because it’s so painful…

Dr. Reyes had a dream too, it turns out.  A dream he watched go up in smoke, literally.

As for the other television shows I listed, all of them have impacted the Maya fantasy in some fashion.  I love the FBI as portrayed on Numb3rs and tried to build a similar team under Special Agent Quinn Salazar.  I love the ambiguity in Prison Break:  one moment a bad guy is trying to kill them; the next he’s the only one who can help them.  Back and forth, up and down, there is no “white” or “black” character in that show, merely shades of gray.  Even Michael has been “tainted” by his actions.  People have died thanks to him, even though all he set out to do was save his brother.  Everybody has a line to cross, and that show makes them cross that line over and over and over.

But the biggest impact is probably Charlie’s big map of connections.  I love that idea and I swear I’m going to do this for the next major project.  Every person he comes into contact with goes up on his board and he starts figuring out how they know each other, why they did certain things, whether he can trust  them or not. 

Everything’s connected.  That’s how I found Geoffrey’s purpose.  He’s connected in a way I never expected, and that connection ends up helping Jaid from beyond the grave.  Or as I should say, even though Geoffrey has entered the White Road, he still manages to give her the clue she needs at the right time.

Now to fix–or rather complicate–Dr. Sam Gerard’s life with a little Oedipus complex, and liven up One Death a little more, har har, and then I’ll get back to the synopsis.

This has certainly been the project from Xibalba, but the story is tightening so much I think it’ll squeak when you read it.

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The Maya Fantasy Opening

Revision #113 or something like that. 

It’s just that pesky first line and the next few paragraphs.  So small, yet so important.  They must set the mood, the language, the character…they must be compelling, moving, tempting you to continue turning the page.  I sat over lunch today with a notebook and pen while I scribbled, doodled, crossed out, ripped, wadded up, and started over again until I finally settled on this.  What do you think, compared to the old opening here?

He never hated his magic until it compelled him to kill.
From the broken shadows of his temple, the once all-powerful priest watched the encroacher attempt to work the same doomed magic.  Brilliant ruby pooled in the pocked basin of the altar and overflowed, streaming the hand-carved stone in vibrant filigree.  The blood glowed like molten rock hot from the earth’s heart, releasing magic into the night.
The priest shuddered, his skin crawling in the caress of power.  His nostrils flared to catch the faint tantalizing scent of sweet copper.  Such temptation.  He tightened his grip on the starved jaguar pacing within him.  Such power. 
The city once known as the Mouth of Creation had kept his secrets for a thousand years.  Now he must kill this man to protect that forbidden knowledge.
Keeping to the shadows, the priest called out, “As Gatekeeper of Chi’Ch’ul, I command you to leave my city or die.”

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Revision Xibalba

Quetzls sang, warriors beat spears against their shields, and there was great rejoicing across the land, for the third (polish) pass of the Maya fantasy has been completed.

All of my [notes] have been answered.  All of my other notes I captured as I read through the third time have been answered.  I tied up a few nagging things that sagged a little too much — and the story reads pretty tight and fast, if I do say so myself.

Now I’ll e-mail the story to my beloved sis, my dear friend Wanda, and Soleil who volunteered once again to act as a beta reader.  I’ll also e-mail the story to myself.  It may sound odd, but I like to read a completed story in gmail using the view as html option.  Something about the changed formatting helps me see issues almost as well as on paper.  Once I gather their feedback and mine, I’ll print the sucker out and make one last pass on paper — but in a couple of weeks.  I want some time to clear my mind so I can read it a bit colder with more distance.

In the meantime, I’ll whip up a synopsis and decide which project is next.

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The Maya Fantasy

Openings suck.  They do.  I’d rather write 400 pages total than page one.  Inevitably, I end up rewriting the first page at least a dozen times.  Last night, I ripped the opening apart again and shuffled it all back together.  I think, maybe, possibly, this might work.  I’ve pasted the opening section below.

What’s the verdict:  would you keep reading?

The city once known as the Mouth of Creation kept its secrets for a thousand years, until a hurricane dislodged enough volcanic rubble to reveal the shining peak of the tallest pyramid.  People came.  Stone by stone, they unburied Chi’Ch’ul.

Hidden in the shadows of his shattered city, the once all-powerful priest watched and prayed.  He prayed they wouldn’t find the secret chamber beneath the Pyramid of Dawn.  He prayed they wouldn’t discover the last precious codex he’d been unable to destroy.  When all his cursed secrets were revealed one by one, he prayed the gods would send a deluge to wash Chi’Ch’ul into Lake Atitlan, the deepest lake in all the world.

Nothing happened.

His prayers hadn’t been answered since the day he’d broken his oath.  The gods had cursed him, destroyed his city, and wiped his name from memory.  It was fitting that he be known only as Ruin, set to guard the very magic that had doomed him for eternity.

Inevitably, the fool who’d found the codex soon attempted to work the same magic.  At least the man’s victim wasn’t human.  The goat bleated pathetically, its cry cut off in a spray of blood on the stone altar.  Clumsily, the man dug around in the chest cavity, hacking resistant ligaments to tear the heart free.

Furious regret brought the jaguar that Ruin still carried inside him closer to the surface.  Had they learned nothing by studying these crumbled temples he’d once called home?   “As Gatekeeper of Chi’Ch’ul, I command you to leave my city or die.”

The man whirled and whipped the bloody heart behind his back.  He took a step backward and his ankle turned on a stone, nearly tumbling him off the steep outcropping to the lake below.  “Nobody else should know the name of the ruin.  Who are you working for?”

Ruin stepped into the moonlight.  The encroacher recoiled.  With the jaguar prowling the cage of his body, Ruin knew his eyes gleamed gold in the night and his voice rumbled closer to a growl.  “I cannot allow you to tamper with my magic.  My city has already been destroyed.  Would you destroy the world as well?”

The man muttered beneath his breath, “I expected trouble, but from someone much closer.”  Raising his voice, he said, “Name your price.”

So be it.  Small golden lights began buzzing around Ruin.  “Nothing you can possibly offer will stay my hand.  As long as I live, these sacred waters shall lie still and silent, and I’ve been alive a very, very long time.  My curse demands your death.”

“Please, don’t hurt me.”  The man’s gaze darted left and right, but Ruin would ensure there was no escape.  “I have a daughter I love very much, even if I haven’t told her so.  She’s incredibly brilliant.  Without her help, I wouldn’t have figured out the inscriptions to begin the ritual.  I owe it all to you, Jaid.  I’m sorry…for everything.”

Ruin breathed deeply, but he detected no other humans within his city’s boundary.  “Then she’ll die, too.”

The man blanched.  “She’s far away and safe.  Don’t come here, Jaid!  Ever!”

Again, Ruin scented the air but detected no one else but a few humans in the compound they’d built nearby.  Perhaps the magic had already damaged the man’s mind.  Better he die, then, and quickly, before he attempted a greater sacrifice.

Balls of light blazed brighter.  A golden swirling wave obliterated Ruin’s vision.  Bones cracked and twisted.  His scream of pain rumbled bass, a jaguar’s roar piercing the night. 

Tail lashing, the jaguar crouched in a pile of torn denim.  The sharp stink of his prey’s fear burned his nose.  The big cat knew his purpose.  He was only called forth to kill.

Desperate, the man slung the goat’s heart out over the lake and threw his weight off the jutting peninsula.  Effortlessly, the jaguar leaped to the rocky sands of the shore.  Gasping in pain, the man rolled away, narrowly escaping the slashing claws.

Wet with rain, a sudden gust of wind swept across the shore.  Clouds boiled across the sky to hide the moon and stars.  Thunder rolled through the night and the ground trembled.  Lightning split the sky, winds increasing until the trees thrashed and waves whipped the surface of the lake.

The jaguar clamped his ears and tail tight to his body.  He’d failed.  Again.  This time, the world would not survive the gods’ wrath.   

A shape formed in the darkened waters.  Thrashing, bulging outward, a hand rose from the depths.  Water broke, cascading down the sceptered arm, white and blotched with spots of age and disease.

Terror rippled through the jaguar’s fur.  Oh, stupid human fool!  Why had he opened Xibalba, with no wards to lock the demons beyond?  Had he not read a single word of the codex’s warning?

Shuddering with horror, the man whimpered.  “Where are the golden plumes?  The jade feathers?  This isn’t Great Feathered Serpent!”

The jaguar swiped at the man’s abdomen.  Jerking away, he screamed and fell backward into the lake.  He thrashed helplessly and sank like a stone through the Gate, while a Lord of Death crawled onto the beach with another demon right behind.

Snarling, the jaguar slammed into the first demon, trying to knock it back through the Gate.  Even as weak as a newborn babe, it refused to go back to the Place of Fright.  The other Death Lord crawled out of the lake clutching a small hunk of flesh.  Cradling the now cold heart to its mouth, the demon feasted, while the other sniffed the air.  Its gaze turned unerringly to the goat carcass above.

Every drop of blood would give them power.  Power to destroy the world.

Abandoning the shore, the jaguar scrambled up the obsidian outcropping to the altar.  Back hunched, fur writhing, bones snapping in agony, he transformed back to the Gatekeeper.  Shaking, Ruin grabbed the edge of the stone altar and pulled himself upright.  Desperation pulsed through him with every beat of his heart. 

He picked up the blade left by the human.  The sacrificial goat was cold, but the demons would still find power in it.  They would find more power in him if he couldn’t send them back.  He refused to consider it.  After all these centuries, he would not fail again.

Blowing out his breath to center himself, he drew the knife across his left palm and sprinkled blood on the altar.  He raised the knife toward the glowing Eveningstar.  “High Lord Sun, may you journey well and defeat the Lords of Death.  Follow the White Road, paddle across the endless Sky, and rise again on the morrow.  The heart of your jaguar beats within my body.  Your breath fills my lungs.  My blood is yours.  I call upon your power, Jaguar Night Sun, to cast the demons back to their caverns of Death.”

A rattling sound like wind through dead branches rustled through the night.  “Enough, Priest.  You can’t send us back.  There’s not enough blood in your body.  If you give yourself, who will lock the Gate?”

Blood Gatherer gave a mighty leap and landed on the rocky outcrop.  Corpse-white flesh locked onto the dead goat, and the demon shivered with ecstasy.

A cold rolling wave slammed into Ruin.  He stumbled.  His vision darkened.  His heart drummed, frantic and arrhythmic, answering the demon’s call.  Thick and hot, boiling toward the surface, blood fought his body’s prison.  Even fresh from the bowels of Xibalba, the demon possessed power to suck the spark of life out of his body without laying a single finger on him.

How could he possibly stop them? 

“I have use for you, Priest.”  Blood Gatherer smiled, blood streaking his bleached jawbone.  “Bring us sacrifice so we may grow in power, and we will give you every power beneath us.  You will rule the goats of this time.”

“No.”  Ruin drew himself up, shoulders high and square.  He raised the knife to his chest, directly over his heart.  Wind clawed at his body, buffeting him in fury.  Warm trickles down his cheeks confirmed his eyes and nose already bled at the demon’s command.  “I’ll kill myself first.”

Blood Gatherer laughed, a deep, painful sound like a boulder crushing flesh.  “You can’t die, Priest.  Don’t you think I know what my brothers did to you?  You’re tied to the Gates, always watching, doomed to kill anyone who dares use their precious magic.  Yet you failed, for here I am, breathing and walking in flesh outside Xibalba.”

Ruin bowed his head, hiding his eyes and his face behind a curtain of hair so he could think.  If he surrendered to them, they’d use him to slaughter innocents.  Eventually, they’d gain enough power to open another Gate.  They’d release all the demons of Xibalba to walk this earth. 

“Use your magic, Gatekeeper, and help me punish them.  We’ll lock my brothers in First Five Sky where they’ll never be able to make their Return.  This earth will be ours to devour.”  Blood Gatherer lowered his voice to the croon of death whispering, sleep, sleep forever.  “I can end your curse.  I can give you exactly what you want, brave Priest.  You crave death, eternal rest?  I will even give you your twin and you can drag him to the bowels of Xibalba for me.”

Ruin jerked his head up, his face twisted into a snarl.

“Oh, yes,” Blood Gatherer purred.  “Fight me.  Let me bleed you.  Your sacrifice will be worth a lakeful of measly goat blood.  I can sacrifice you again and again, an eternity of suffering.  Think of the power you’ll give me.”

The other demon had already disappeared, too anxious to spread disease and blight upon the land to bother with him.  Another demon hand reached for the night sky through the angry waters of the lake.  I must lock the Gate before they kill me.

 “Do you know what they call me and my brother in this time?  Because we’re doomed to destruction, we’re known as Wrack and Ruin.  He blames me for the death of his beloved Seven Butterfly.  He hates me because I dragged him back from death.  I seized him from out of your clutches and brought him back to life.”

The demon bared bloodstained teeth, red eyes blazing with fury.  In a temper, he whirled and thrashed about, his voice raising the wind to hurricane strength.  “He was mine!  He died according to plan!  You doomed an entire people by breaking your oath and using the Gate to save him!”

Gripping the stone altar with one hand to brace against the gale, Ruin turned the stone circle to align the glyphs with his purpose.  “I damned my entire city to save my brother.  I broke my solemn oath to the gods.  I walked the White Road alive and breathing to find his soul and drag him back.  I am Ruin, cursed by the gods to never die until my debt has been paid.”

The smaller circle was easier to adjust.  The stone clicked into place and the wind died.

Blood Gatherer turned his head, slowly, his mouth twisted into a parody of a smile.  “His woman still suffers in the lowest level of Xibalba because of you.  Do you think he will ever forgive you for that?”

Guilt tore into Ruin’s heart as viciously as jaguar claws.  Wrack would never forgive him; he would never forgive himself.  Yet he could not allow the demons to escape.  He raised the knife and methodically sliced the locking glyph into his left forearm. 

Power pulsed through the night, moonlight braiding with the magic in his blood to shine on the lake.  Bubbling, swirling dark waters stilled to reflect the light of the moon once more.

The Lord of Death shrieked with fury.  He lunged across the altar and seized Ruin around the neck, bony fingers crushing his windpipe.  “What will they call you when I use your soul to destroy this world?”

“Dead at last,” he wheezed.  “Kill me and end my misery.  I welcome your torments in Xibalba.”

Blood Gatherer drew him close to his skeletal face.  The stench of rotten, putrid flesh made Ruin gag.  “Not yet, Priest.  The greatest torment I can give you is to force you to watch while I destroy this world you’ve protected for centuries.  Watch the pitiful humans die with plague, crippled with disease, maddened and corrupted by our power.  Watch me rise up other priests and bathe in blood.  Watch me claim your Gates one by one until I control the worlds within.  Only when I reign below and above while the worlds are lost to utter darkness will I give you the death you deserve.”

The demon heaved him backward.  Tumbling through the air, he slammed into a stone column.  His skull cracked and his spine shattered.  Pain exploded. 

Then Blood Gatherer released his terrible gift for which he’d been named.

Ruin felt his blood leap eagerly from his body, called by the Lord of Night to strengthen him.  Blood poured from every wound and orifice, spraying the demon with incredible strength.

Lost to darkness, Ruin could only lie there and wait for his body to die.  His heart thumped ever more awkwardly, trying to compensate for the trauma and only speeding his death.  His lungs refused to draw air.  He felt every pain, every horror of death, until his heart ceased beating.

Yet he knew he would rise up and walk again when the gods refused him shade beneath the Great Ceiba.

Please let me die this time.

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Revision Xibalba, the next phase

Now that the major “re-VISION” of the story has been completed, I’m ready for the “edits” pass. 

I already did the first 100 or so pages from hardcopy a few months ago, smoothing sentences, etc.  but I still wasn’t happy with the opening paragraphs.  As soon as I finished RX last week, I jotted some new thoughts for the beginning.  I worked on them this morning Dark & Early and I think they’re much closer.  Close enough that I sent out my first agent query. 

:shock: I figured an iron in the fire would light a corresponding fire under my backside to finish this next pass.

I have a notebook open with three different pages.  One is timeline stuff – especially backstory.  Because I worked on the revision for sooooo long, and the cast is rather large, I’m afraid I might have forgotten some of the details. 

I also have a page for dropped threads or questions to myself.  Like in Quinn’s opening section, I hint quite heavily at some backstory with him and Iago that caused them not to speak for 12 years.  I never really go into that event.  Maybe that’s okay — or maybe not.  They’re guys after all, and I don’t think they’re going to sit down over tea and discuss their feelings.  *rolls eyes*  But as a reader, I’d want to know a little more about what happened and at least have some acknowledgement between them.  It would be even better if I can highlight that moment and showcase something in the climax as a sort of “pay back.”  I don’t think I managed to do that, and I’d love to, so hence the note.

I also have a limited number of [notes to myself] and a handful of comments in the main draft that need to be resolved.  I’ll make notes of ideas for each one as I go.

Lastly, I have a page to track chapter length and number.  Yes, I’m a math major — that doesn’t mean I can count.  I’m ashamed to say how many times I’ve messed up chapter numbers. 

:oops: [Angie just caught said boo-boo in Dear Sir. ]

Remember, too, that I was hacking and pasting stuff left and right.  I write in individual files for the most part, and then paste them into the main story line.  So I have all the first draft files (001, 002, etc.) and the second draft files (new_001, Tara_001, Quinn_001, etc. for the new scenes) and I wasn’t always paying attention to length of chapter.  I go by instinct in revision, what feels like a good break, but now the analytical part of my mind needs to see if the chapters fall into a reasonable length.  E.g. I don’t want one that’s 30 pages long.

I’m already through Chapter Five and don’t expect the rest to take more than a few days, unless the ending just shocks me with a huge hole.  So I’m opening up the request for any interested beta readers who can read in the next week or two to contact me.  I’d be happy to read a full manuscript from you in exchange.  I’m not looking for line edits — more general “I’m confused here” or “what happened to X?” sort of things that are in my head but didn’t make it to paper.  Although obviously if you catch me in a grammatical error, I want to know about it!

So begins the Great Agent Hunt of 2009.  *Da da DUM!*  Yeah, I’m not hearing angels singing or trumpet fanfare, not in this market with everyone reporting a sharp increase in queries, but you know me.

I’m going to try anyway.

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Revision Xibalba: The End

If you heard the screams early this evening, it was me!  I finally finished the second major pass of the Maya fantasy, Night Sun Rising!  (title subject to change)

I want to try and capture some of my feelings and thoughts here for later while the memory (horror) is still fresh in my mind.

When I say revision I don’t mean edits.  In my mind, there’s a huge difference.  Doing edits (for me) means I print the manuscript out and evaluate word choice, flow, sentence structure, inconsistencies, typos that I missed online, etc.  Some sections might have considerable notes, but usually this stage doesn’t require massive rewrites.  I may throw out one or two particularly bad or awkward scenes and rewrite, but not chapter after chapter.

A revision means rip apart and re-VISION the story.  See it in a new light.  Tackle it from a different angle.  I did some cut and paste, but the order was fouled up.  For example, in the first draft, I had Jaid’s father’s POV — and although I eliminated his POV in the second draft, there were some cool details of Xibalba that I wanted to include.  I had to rip those sections out, change the POV entirely, and put them in a brand new place in the manuscript.   Other sections (many!) I had to simply write from scratch all over again.

This wasn’t simple “edits” but a complete rewrite.  Hands down, this was THE hardest revision I’ve ever done.  There were a few contributing factors.

  1. NSR was my first NaNoWriMo novel (2007).  So yeah, it was written fast, without a lot of prep work done in advance.  However, I don’t write slop, not even to “win” NaNo.  This was a solid draft with a beginning, middle and end.  Yes, there were mistakes and dropped threads, etc. but I didn’t do dumb stuff like insert song lyrics just to hit my word count. 
  2. My writing has matured a lot since 2007.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of opening up a file and seeing nothing but an editor’s red (Track Changes) and comments on five (six counting this week) manuscripts!  I say this honestly and not facetiously — I’ve learned an incredible amount from my editors, and learning is one of my all-time favorite things.
  3. Since it was a NaNo novel, I hadn’t done a light “edit” pass to fix sentence structure or fill any holes.  Why bother, when I knew it was way too short and needed considerable work?  So even if a section was “mostly” useable, I still had to make all the edits and clean-ups as I went.  It will also need a hard copy pass, because I’m sure I missed a lot.
  4. The first draft was only just under 64K.  This draft clocked in over 92K.  I added two major subplots, each with new POVs.  Whoever said they’d rather add than cut — I don’t quite agree.  It’s really, really hard for me to add nearly 30K to a story to make it work. 
  5. The “new” story threads took place in Texas (mostly near Dallas) and the other (existing) was in Guatemala.  I had to time them so that in the climax, everything came together and made sense.  Even though the showdowns happened in separate locations, they were connected.
  6. I changed genres from paranormal romance to romantic contemporary fantasy.  The crux of the ending changed completely.  I think it’s heartbreakingly romantic but not HEA.  It’s definitely a cliffhanger.  (No, I have no idea what happens in the next book.)
  7. One POV was eliminated; two were added.
  8. Nearly a dozen new characters were added, with brief histories, goals, etc. all preworked.  I had a private WordPress blog for this information, because I couldn’t keep it straight on paper.  
  9. A brand new antagonist entity was added.
  10. The plot was much more complex in the second draft, easily the most complex and complicated plot line I’ve written. 

The biggest consideration, though, is definitely elapsed time.  I started the revision in 2008 (June 12th according to my spreadsheet).  I have a number of excuses:  releases, another NaNoWriMo, illness, etc.  but a lot of it was mental reluctance.  This revision was SO HARD.  I just didn’t wanna work on it sometimes.  I’d much rather draft a new story from scratch that didn’t require so much work!

What’s really scary is that as hard as this revision was, RHP will be even harder.  :cry::shock:


RHP is my “Fast Draft” story from March, 2007.  50K+ written in 11 days.  I’ve got an entire large 3-ring binder of notes and research and lists of things to try and fix…yet just thinking about beginning that revision makes me ill.  It will make the Maya revision look like a walk in the park.  It will be massively complicated by the genre:  historical (Regency) fantasy.  I’ve done tons of research.  I own dozens of Jane Austen manners books, What Charles Dickens Ate, etc.  I even read Passions (loooooved it).

Yet that story sits on a shelf because I’m intimidated by it.  Well, guess what.  I will face that fear, and soon.  I know RHP will topple NSR from its place as hardest revision, but it’ll be worth it.  I want to conquer the fear, and…well, I admit.  RHP is likely the highest concept thing I’ve come up with.  It’ll definitely be in my best interest to get cracking on it and soon, before something frighteningly similar comes out.

I thought the Maya story was high concept until Jessica Andersen’s Maya series came out.  :sad: 

And no, this won’t be the last post on “Revision Xibalba.”  I’m still tinkering with the beginning, I have a list of things to go back and expand/tweak/fix, and a few [notes to myself] that require a bit of research.  Then I’ll have a hardcopy pass to complete.  Then, the Great Agent Hunt will commence once again.

Please send chocolate.  I’m going to need it.  And lots of red wine.  Or is that whine?  :mrgreen:

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Revision Xibalba

Yes, I’m still slowly grinding away on the project that will not end.  I lost Friday night thanks to a lovely visit with Aunt BB and Uncle J — it’s always nice to see them.  Just hard on my writing schedule.  Saturday we had 3 hours in the car, and I actually got quite a bit done, but then I slept in really late on Sunday and visited with my Beloved Sis all afternoon.  We had a blast, baked cookies, made a Cherry-Diet-Coke Chocolate Cake, and realized we have exactly the same black Sketchers in the exact same size…but we didn’t write! 

I didn’t get up quite as early as I needed today, but I finally managed to finish up one section this morning and another (short) one tonight.  NSR is just shy of 90K (88,965).  According to my spreadsheet, I only have 5-6 sections, depending on how the resolution of two major story threads ends up.  That’s it!  Yet it feels like miles and miles away.

We’re hoping to do a mini-vacation trip for the monsters this weekend (they’re on Spring Break), so it would be most excellent if I could finish the revision and reward myself with the books I’ve been promising myself on the drive to St. Louis.  I also have first-pass edits to complete on Dear Sir, I’m Yours, so that might be wishful thinking to get both of them done before Friday.

We’ll see what I can manage.


In the center, a black stone rose up from the floor, sticky and wet.  A living, beating heart oozing fresh blood sat on top of the stone.

One Death gestured grandly.  “Behold the caged heart, some of our greatest magic.  Only the heart of a king can last so long, except possibly…”  His head turned slowly, his glowing red eyes latching on to her.  “A cursed priest’s who cannot die.”

She shuddered at the thought of Ruin’s heart ripped from his chest, magicked into beating for the Xibalban Lords’ pleasure.  They must gain a great deal of power from the constant beating of the heart and its fresh flow of blood.

“The greatest wonder is that we need do nothing to keep it beating.  Only the king’s great emotion keeps his heart caged and alive:  his love, hatred, and fierce desire for revenge.  Ah, such sweet, delicious emotions.  I’d forgotten what human emotion felt like until he came into our hands.  He’s given us much to savor.”

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Revision Xibalba

I’m truly in hell.  Jaid is now in Xibalba, but that’s not what I mean.  For the first time I can remember, I *dread* working on a project.  I mean, I’d rather do anything at all.  Clean toilets.  Find the carpet in the monsters’ playroom.  Of course, check e-mail, loops, blogs…  ANYTHING.  Just don’t make me work on the next section!

Seriously, I’ve never faced such reluctance.  Once I begin and I get into the story, I love it.  The plot is incredibly complex, the characters are vast and complicated, the mythology is cool.  But UGH, getting there, making myself BEGIN, every single day, is the hardest battle I’ve ever faced.  Indeed, I do believe this is the hardest revision I’ve ever done.  Harder than murdering Shannari and beginning Rose over for the third and final complete rewrite from page one.  Harder than throwing out the initial plot for Beautiful Death and streamlining a few characters that I still miss (Phillip).


Needless to say, getting up Dark & Early — knowing I have to work on this project — has been difficult.  I did make it this morning.  Thankfully, I had started the current scene last night, briefly, so it wasn’t all out dread I felt.  It took hard, solid work, but I finally finished one section.  ONE.  At this rate, it’ll take me every single precious free moment for the rest of the month to finish this revision!

I refuse to give up, though.  Even if I can only manage one step up that steep, unforgiving Mountain, I’ll take it and count the day a victory.

Revised:  1,497

NSR:  83,916

Snippet:  Upon arriving in Xibalba, Jaid has a little talk with One Death, the head demon.

“When someone is sacrificed with the White Dagger, what do you do with the heart?”

“What an amusing question.”  Louder, the scratchy voice came from the right.  Fighting her instincts that demanded she tear off screaming in the opposite direction, she huddled low in the water.  “Personally, I prefer to eat it.”

Her hopes plummeted.  If she couldn’t retrieve Wrack’s heart and free him from the Xibalban demons, then Ruin would forever be trapped.  His brother would always be the chain that prevented him from ending the demons’ plans. 

The demon continued casually, as though he were merely musing aloud.  “Some of my brethren adore the smell of roasting meat and so burn the offering.”

“But what about your greatest enemies?  What do you do to honor them?”

The demon cackled.  Finally, she realized why the voice distressed her so much.  It sounded like millions of armored beetles clacking their bristled legs together.  Her skin crawled, and it was all she could do not to swat at her body to brush invisible bugs away. 

“No great honored ones come here.  They die in battle and go directly to rest in the shade of the Great Ceiba or hang themselves and Ixtab, Rope Woman, shines upon them as they walk the White Road.  Only the dishonorable travail in the bowels of Xibalba, or the stupid, or unlucky.  Which are you?”

“All the above,” she muttered.

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Revision Xibalba

I admit, the day started out pretty rough.  Just so nobody thinks my head is getting too big, I got a rejection on a short story last night that bummed me out so bad that I had a pretty nasty talk with Gregar, my sadomasochist muse.  

I said something like, “If I had any other muse, then maybe my stories wouldn’t be so dark and full of pain all the time.  Maybe I wouldn’t be throwing severed hands around or chopping fingers and thumbs off, or, in this last case, corrupting an innocent into killing a holy person!”

Gregar laughed so hard he bent over and slapped his thighs.  “If you had any other muse, then you wouldn’t have me.”

“Well,” I retorted.  “What else but blood and violence can I expect from an assassin?”

The Shadowed Blood went ominously quiet.  Goose bumps raced up and down my arms, but I didn’t back down.  I was too upset.  

He stared at me until flames began flickering in his eyes (which if you’ve read the Shanhasson books, you know that’s a really bad sign).  Finally, he said, “You created me, Lady.  You hid me in Shadows.  You placed my ivory rahke in my hand and whispered to me of blood.  Every time you write, you throw me to the bottom of your Well and trust me not to let you drown.  You need me exactly the way I am.”

I knew he was right but damned if I would admit it.  “Why can’t we write something happy for once where no one dies or suffers?  You know, sunshine, bunnies, light…”

But I knew the truth.  One of my favorite lines from The Road to Shanhasson is:


“Sunshine and bunnies?”  Rolling his ivory rahke back and forth across his palm, he stared at me blankly.  “What fun would that be?”

So after that little chat, I whined a bit more, made a few silly oaths (something like never reading another submission call, EVER), and then just shut up and got to work on the Maya story.  Of course, the first scene I needed to work on involved demons and torture.  Gregar didn’t say a word, but he couldn’t help smirking every chance he got. 

Finally, at the end of this last day of vacation, the Maya story is sitting at:  82,419 words.  I have 9-10 sections left to revise (including the new ones I finished yesterday), so the story length is right on track for 90-100K.  Revision Xibalba is far from over, though.  I’m going to have to make another pass and watch for continuity problems.  It has taken me too long to get through this project to remember some of the finer details.

So back to the Evil Day Job tomorrow.  I don’t know if I’ll manage Dark & Early yet or not.