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Revision Xibalba & Project Update

Whew, that was some hard work!  I finally managed to cut a scene from around page 130 and move it very early in the story arc.  This scene sets the stage better and provides true motivation for Jaid, the “Un-Indiana Jones,” to risk going to Guatemala, even to save her father.  It wasn’t cut and paste, though.  For one, the character cast was entirely different in the beginning scenes.

More difficult, though, was deciding how much Jaid would say to other characters, in particular, Sam.  Would she tell him what she’d seen?  Why or why not?  Could I use the tape to complicate her doubts and confusion in one way, while providing better motivation on the other?  Turned out, I could.  At least I think I did.

There are only a few more items left on my list.  One is strictly emotional conflict.  I began worsening Jaid and Sam’s relationship in the last revision, but I don’t think I made it quite bad enough.  I missed some good opportunities to make Jaid squirm.  The other item on my list requires me to do a little more background work on Dr. Efrain Reyes.  I need to know in particular why he believes what he does.  Once I do, I can make some of his dialogue scenes with Jaid all the more tense.  She knows, but doesn’t believe.  He believes, but doesn’t know the details.  They could each hold the secret the other needs–or end up deadly enemies, depending on how the cards fall.

Good stuff.  I should be able to wrap these items up by the weekend as long as no new fires crop up.  That gives me a few days to revise my synopsis and query.  Gah, I dread messing around with the synopsis.  I know the draft I have sucks bracken swamp water. 

Meanwhile, I have a tentative title for both of July’s projects and I did some really good character work tonight.  This may show how anal compulsive obsessive I am, but I created Gantt charts for my projects through September, color coded by project.  June = 3 projects in various phases; July = 3 (one will be querying the Maya story); August = 4 (remember when I said I’d take some time off?  hahaha); and September = 3.  This includes major revisions to the Maya story, Return to Shanhasson (first draft was finished last year for NaNoWriMo), and Seven Crows, assuming I can get the first draft done in August.  Ironically, this schedule does NOT include the two projects I’m writing in July.  Assuming either is contracted, I’ll have to fit in revisions somewhere.  If anything slips, it’ll be Seven Crows, but only for a month or two.  I’d really like to finish it this year, along with Victor’s story.

Yeehaw, it’s going to be a scorcher summer!

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Revision Xibalba II

So here are a few of the details that I’ll be tackling this week in the Maya story. 

  1. Opening scene:  clarify the whole “video taping” element.  Smooth the dialogue so it’s not quite so stilted.  Goal:  eliminate reader confusion about what’s happening.  DONE last night.
  2. Opening scenes with Jaid and Geoffrey:  remove the office break-in element entirely.  Remove the missing Chilam Balam book entirely.  Build tension between how she “ought” to feel and reality.  Goal: make Jaid a bit more sympathetic.  DONE last night.
  3. Set up the home break-in element completely differently.  No obvious break-in when she and Geoffrey arrive.  Goal: make Jaid less callous and remove any chance at all for TSTL comments for going into a house unarmed that has obviously been burglarized.  DONE last night.
  4. Move the video viewing element from late 1/3 book up to this point.  Jaid will see her father disappear, see the hints of magic.  Goal:  better explain why she goes to Guatemala, buy in, motivation, etc.  IN PROGRESS.
  5. Quinn’s first scene:  clean up FBI procedure a bit.  Goal: remove doubts to Quinn’s competency.  DONE last night.
  6. Use setting to play off Jaid’s memory of the accident.  Goal:  add subtle tension.
  7. Increase tension in dialogue between Jaid and Reyes.  She knows, but doesn’t believe; he believes, but needs to keep everything secret.  Goal:  racket up that “info-dump” scene with subtext tension.
  8. Reyes:  WHY does he believe?  Goal: specific details in his past to anchor his motivations.
  9. Jaid and Sam: build torn emotions, conflicting emotions.  Goal: racket emotional tension.
  10. Revise the scene with Madelyn to remove the missing Chilam Balam thread.  Play off substitute mother threats/Cinderella aspect instead.  Goal: continuity and tension.
  11. Increase technology in Venus Star, longer descriptive passages.  Goal: ground the reader better and bring tech to near future.
  12. Remove the video scene with Jaid and Ruin — smooth corresponding hole.  Goal: continuity.
  13. Read as a “thriller” instead of “contemporary fantasy” and evaluate tension.  Goal: racket up tension at every point, whether emotional or external stakes.

Deadline:  by next Monday so I can return to queries.  That means I also need to revise the synopsis and eyeball the query again.

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Re-Visioning the Writing Plan

This month has not gone as I expected and June is far from over. 

I’m thrilled that I made the 50K mark for MayNoWriMo, but with preparation for Dear Sir, I’m Yours release next week, I lost all momentum in Arcana.  I’ve actually written a bit this month — already 15K for the prequel Letters — which reminded me of how much I love the Connagher family.

Victor, Conn’s older brother, has been on my mind a whole lot.  I’ve already got him cast as Adrian Paul.  I know some of his history (thanks to Conn) and I already know who his heroine is, although I don’t quite know enough about her to say I could write in earnest.  However, I do have about 10-20K or so of “pre-notes” — loose scenes that may or may not fit the story, etc.  I have the “hook” and it cracks me up.  Now, I have sooo many ideas to make that story deeper, richer, a killer fun story.

So here I am, dreading trying to get back into Arcana after it went totally cold.  Dreading having to re-evaluate my outline and figure out what I can cut since I’ve only covered 30 of a planned 100 sections (and already sitting at 50K).  Meanwhile, I’ve got a handful of revisions I need to do on the Maya story so I can get the next round of queries out.  I’d really really like to get cracking on the next Connagher story for Samhain to keep that pipe filled, especially now, while the ideas and voices are hot in my head.

And I realized that I really should probably shuffle my projects around.  The Maya story has a timeline built into it because of the whole 2012 end of the world thing.  I’m not using that at all — the story could be set at any time — but I like the idea of this book coming out BEFORE then to take advantage of all the hype.  I was really stressed out mid-May, wishing I could get those revisions done but I didn’t dare stop working on Arcana at the time.  Now, I might as well take advantage of that coldness and rip up the Maya story.

So for the rest of this month, my priorities are:

  1. Revision Xibalba II and return to queries.
  2. Prework on Victor and Shiloh’s story.  I don’t know what the title is, but I know the theme song, so I’ll refer to it by that:  Time is Running Out by Muse.
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Arcana Revision Hell: Preparation

Dig a little deeper in the Well, boys
Dig a little deeper in the Well.
If you want a good cool drink of water
You gotta dig a little deeper in the Well.

One thing I remember really struggling with as a beginning writer was “deepening” a story.  What did that mean, exactly?  I had a story in my head.  It was “the” story.  I didn’t know how to change it.  If I changed it, then it was a NEW story, wasn’t it?  If the character wanted to be different, wouldn’t he/she have shown up in my head that way?

I’ve been deepening Arcana and its characters today.  Gregar has been bellowing that song above in my ear all night.  Deeper, dig deeper, ask why, make this WORSE.  In many ways it’s like the tip of the iceberg.  What I know or see is so little compared to the details that lie beneath the surface.  I don’t necessarily need all those details on page, but knowing them adds a whole different dimension to this story.

I have to say, I have NEVER been so prepared to start a story.  The scary thing:  I’m not quite finished with these preparations yet, either.  I modified 5 character sheets tonight and realized I need to create a new one or I’ll end up with another cardboard secondary character.  (Yes, I was originally going to kill this character, how’d you know?  Now this character is sticking around indefinitely for me to torture.)  I’ve got a map of my castle drawn, but I’ve decided it needs a history.  This castle should have its own personality on page, very much a “character.”  This story could not be set anywhere else, and I need to reflect that down to the finest detail.

The character sheets are incredible.  They really are.  Why did I forget I had this template thingie?  It combines every little thing I’ve picked up over the years that help me get to the heart of my characters.  I’m not talking favorite colors and eye color here (although if there’s something important in physical description, I do have a spot for that) — I’m talking greatest fear, darkest secret, why the hero and heroine should NOT be together, etc.  I have paragraphs or more backstory for each character.  I have meticulous historical dates where needed.

It’s crazy.  Why isn’t this story written yet?  Oh, yeah, I covered that whole fear aspect already.

And even though I have a NINETY-SEVEN-PAGE OUTLINE (boggles), I’ve already gone through with pencil once and added details, then started another pass with a few new angles I thought of.  I’ve added a few scenes — bringing the list up to around 100 scenes.  It should be a nice meaty book when I’m done.  I’m going to make a third pass through the outline with character sheets in hand to make sure I cover scenes where the characters’ fears and secrets should come out or affect the emotions.  Heck, I might even make a fourth pass just for EMOTION. 

Then I’ll type up everything, print out fresh copies, and be ready to go on May 1st.

The biggest changes so far have been making things worse.  More people die or pay some cost to achieve what they want.  The cast is a little bigger — and the overall themes are more complex than I originally envisioned, which are all good.  I have something more to say than I originally thought.  The general theme is balance vs. chaos and how the various characters all reflect different degrees — but there’s another new subtle layer underneath that just came to me today.  I definitely want to spend some time ensuring that shadowing exists in the outline.

More importantly, though, I eliminated some of the “fluff” elements.  This is a flaw of mine.  When I originally thought “Regency Fantasy” with a little “Romance,” I let a few standard tropes creep into the story, especially the ending.  Tonight, I axed every single one.  My heroine is going to be a bit subversive.  Her sister is excessively subversive, but she will pay a steep price for that independence.  I’ve done my research to the best of my ability, so I understand the consequences.  I think.  :wink:


There is a “Regency Romance” buried beneath the magic and fantasy, but it’s not going to end with a wedding, baby, and title, if you know what I mean.

Dig a little deeper in the Well.

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Arcana Revision Hell: The Plan

While reviewing my notes last night and this morning, I thought I’d made a dreadful mistake.

As I’ve mentioned, I have a huge binder full of notes.  The first draft was finished as a Fast Draft (ala Candy Havens) back in March, 2007, and ever since I’ve been overwhelmed at the prospect of revising it.  Literally, I’ve been unable to comprehend how I can possibly complete this project. 

While I’m glad I attempted a Fast Draft (and succeeded), the lesson I came away with is that draft is an OUTLINE, not a foundation on which I can build a story.  I can’t open that file and begin revisions — I have to start FRESH.  The first draft doesn’t contain all the story threads I decided to add later (when I realized I only had “half” a book), and the characters are two-dimensional, again, because I wrote the blasted thing so fast.

It’s a fantastic story premise, though, and well worth the work, if I can decide how to tackle it.

About a year ago, I bought Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days because of its revision chapters.  I cut the first draft apart like she recommended, made notes for each section, did tons of worldbuilding and new character development.  All good work.  But when I started the revision, I quickly became overwhelmed again.  I was afraid.  I got it into my head that I’d never be a Regency writer — which is true.  I’m a FANTASY writer who wants to write a Regency-based fantasy.  I lost sight of that and allowed myself to skip off onto a new project.

My fear beat me a year ago.

So determined to conquer this fear, I reviewed everything and found many incredible notes.  I also found something sadly lacking.  While I had 3 spreadsheets outlining the scenes, I couldn’t find any DETAILS about those scenes.  Now a year later, how the heck am I supposed to remember what a section title of “Somedays….” means?

After building up my mental reserves to tackle this revision, I sat here this morning sick to my stomach.  Had I really been that stupid to spend so much time outlining and planning — only to never create any kind of outline?  Usually I create notecards for each scene and jot a few notes.  It doesn’t have to be formal — just enough to help me remember what that section title was supposed to mean.  Was I so afraid that I’d wasted all this time on “planning” and “research” only to subconsciously sabotage myself?

I went through all my secret drawers, looking for a baggie of notecards.  Nadda.  I decided to go through my laptop files one more time.   Maybe I’d done something different that I couldn’t remember.  After all, I was using FD30D documents.  Maybe…

With a huge sigh of relief, I found a document called “Capsule Outline” — a glorious 97 page outline, one page for every single section in my day sheet.  WHEW.  I was really sweating bullets here, people! 

So now this week I’ll read my outline, review each character’s biography (yes, I have that much detail!) and make sure they’re tightly tied to the premise, and make any revisions to my notes that I come up with.  Then hold onto your butts, because May 1st, I’ll start the second major re-VISION draft of Arcana (RHP).

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If you heard any cursing this afternoon, I nagged begged That Man into putting up some corkboards for me in my office.  I bought some cool new animal print ones at Target the last time I picked up some Caribou Coffee, and I had a larger corkboard I bought months ago and he never put up.  The old one had itty bitty screws.  He only dropped them twice in the carpet.  The tiger print board is a little crooked, but it’s up, and I’m already putting them to use.

The vision is starting to come together, and it’s so big, I really needed a wall so I could see the connections.  These stories all started out as individual ideas, but with some give and take, and new inspiration, I think they’re all in the same connected world:  the science fiction Regency spoof, Seven Crows, and a really old untitled idea that keeps rearing its ugly head.  This time I think I finally found the right world and characters for it.

I’m still worldbuilding and figuring out the themes, main conflict, overall story arc, etc. so I don’t know what to “write” right now while I build this other world.  Oh, I have a story I could work on.  I’m just scared of it.

It’s the Fast Draft story from 2007.  I’ve done as much research for that story as the Maya one, if not more.  I’ve replotted it with three spreadsheets and have filled a three-inch binder with notes.  Yet I still haven’t been able to write it.  It’s going to be WORK.  Hard, gut-wrenching work.  Harder than Revision Xibalba.  Harder than anything I’ve done before. 

I know what needs to be done.  It’s just getting my mind in the right place to tackle the work.  It would be so much easier and more fun to tackle a bright shiny new idea…

But you know me.  I’ve never much cared for the easy path.

The first shitty draft of a short synopsis for the Maya story is done.  Copyedits on Dear Sir, I’m Yours are sent back to Angie.  Storybuilding is chugging along on a new world (or rather, galaxy).  So I guess all that remains is to drag out my binders and spreadsheets and come up with a plan for RHP.

Let RHP Revision Hell begin.

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Maya Blurb Retake Retake

I think I’m really, really close.  Thank you to Rene for her question — I think this one is even stronger.

Called “Ruin” because he destroyed his entire civilization, the Gatekeeper is sworn to kill anyone who tampers with the Bloodgates – portals to the mystical realms of the Maya gods. When Dr. Jaid Merritt’s partial translation of a codex accidentally sends her father to Xibalba through one of these Gates and releases demons from the Maya hell, the “Un-Indiana Jones” is forced to face her fears and travel to Guatemala on her first dig in twenty years. To save her father, she must survive the Gatekeeper’s wrath and help Ruin reclaim — and relock — the Bloodgates before the bowels of Xibalba empty into our world.

Aside, Kait asked about whether I should be using “Mayan” or “Maya.”  According to my references, “Mayan is used to refer to the language; otherwise, the adjective or noun Maya is used.  Mesoamericans today speak many languages (not “dialects,” as they are often called erronenously), as did their Precolumbian predecessors.”  From An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. 

If you’re interested, other research books I used for this project include:

  • Popol Vuh
  • The Ancient Maya
  • The Code of Kings
  • The Blood of Kings
  • Reading the Maya Glyphs
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Maya Blurb Retake

I hereby declare that May the Queen of Blurbs! 

Last night she patiently helped me tear and paste and scribble until we came up with a revised blurb for the Maya fantasy.  My beloved Sis also made a few important tweaks that I think help a lot — which Soleil also agreed with.  So it *does* take a village!

What do you think of this one?

Called “Ruin” because he destroyed his entire civilization, the Gatekeeper is sworn to kill anyone who tampers with the Bloodgates — portals to the mystical realms of the Maya gods.  When Dr. Jaid Merritt’s partial translation of a codex accidentally sends her father to Xibalba through one of these Gates and releases demons from the Maya hell, the “Un-Indiana Jones” is forced to face her fears and travel to Guatemala on her first dig in twenty years.  Together, Jaid and Ruin must reclaim – and relock – the Bloodgates before the bowels of Xibalba empty into our world.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s already commented.  Keep up the feedback – I greatly appreciate it!

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Maya Fantasy Blurb

Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath.  Smell the coffee brewing, fresh, crisp books, and stories just waiting to be read?  Great.  Open your eyes and pretend this blurb is on the back of one of those books.  Would you want to read the story?  Opinions and feedback welcomed.

The working title was NIGHT SUN RISING but now that I’m in the query stage, I’ve been calling it THE BLOODGATE CODEX.  Which do you like better?

Epigrapher Dr. Jaid Merritt is known as the “Un-Indiana Jones” on campus, but when her father disappears, she follows him to Guatemala with the ancient codex he discovered.  In the ruins of the city once called the Mouth of Creation, she learns that the fables she’s been translating are frighteningly real:  there really are “Bloodgates” to the mystical realms of the Maya gods, her father disappeared through one of these portals, and in the process, he accidentally released demons bent on human sacrifice.  Now she must find a way to save him, force the demons back to Xibalba, and survive the wrath of the werejaguar priest who guards the magic as the Gatekeeper.