Posts Tagged ‘The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh’

With most of the text revisions complete on The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh, I now turn to the book’s cover. First, I had to look through dozens of Shutterstock illustrations by my favorite artist, Tithi Luadthong. I want to have all the cover images for this series by the same hand. They just look like they belong together, that way.

After flagging 19 possible covers, I have it winnowed down to 6 finalists. While giving my brain a break from that, I’m also writing the cover copy. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Meven is a renegade, hated and hunted by the cruel regime of master mage Dar-Gothull. Her desperate desire is to lose herself in the treacherous Fang Marsh. Only there can she live the life she wants, in freedom and safety. To reach her goal, Meven must sneak through the town of Eshur, where her old enemy, the wicked Countess Ar-Torix, commands dozens of spies and guards. It should be no problem!

What Meven doesn’t know is that she’s already being tracked. Ozlin was thrown out because of his emerging magic. Now he’s starving on the streets of Eshur. Caught stealing, he’s about to be imprisoned in a brutal temple school.

Until Meven recognizes his power and intervenes. Suddenly she has a new, desperate desire — to save this mageling boy, and maybe save herself, as well.

What do you think? Is it too short, too long, too detailed, too vague? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Despite the ongoing circumstances, I have begun the revision process for The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. My first step has been to re-work the opening. What I had was good, but it was a slow burner. Every other novella in this series has opened more dramatically. I feel like the structure needs to match, if that makes sense, so I’ve been working through that.

What I’ve come up with emphasizes Meven’s longing to be free from her cruel and oppressive society. That’s why she decides to go live in a swamp. Previously, it was more about her fear of a childhood bully. As I continue on, I’ll need to keep that theme consistent.

The other important change is that, once again, I’ve changed the name of her foundling apprentice. Honestly, I don’t usually have this much trouble with naming characters! But his name is Ozlin now. Since I hope to publish in less than a month, I think I’ll have to stick with that.

Like many of us, I’m also struggling with an overriding sense of futility. In these scary times, who even cares that I’m working on this series? At the same time, I’ve never had a very big audience. So how will this be any different?

I am a writer. I self-publish my writing. I do hope to find an audience, but more than that, I must preserve my identity. Ten years ago, my family went through some really difficult times with my son’s behavior. I didn’t stop writing then, and I won’t stop now.

This virus cannot take my art from me.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I hope you’re all keeping well in this weird and wonderful time we find ourselves in the midst of. Today will just be my usual quick overview of what I’ve been up to.

“Stay home, stay safe” is what Governor Inslee says. It’s been a difficult adjustment, to say the least. Like a lot of writers, when I was first sent home, I said, “now I’ll get so much writing done!” My internal clock has not been re-set that easily. It still insists that writing time is only after dinner. I guess I’m not as flexible as I thought.

Queen Titania’s Court is my main effort at the moment. I trust you all saw the announcement last Wednesday. This is not just a ploy to draw eyes to my blog, I promise! It’s a way to repay many of you who have been friends and supporters. If any of your books can arguably be called fantasy, I hope you’ll sign up. And please tell your friends!

Prisoners of the Wailing Tower is now paused at 20,700 words. I’ve woven together my two POV characters and all their driving problems. Now I have to let the story ferment a bit. Doing this will allow me to focus on Queen Titania’s Court and on my next Minstrels of Skaythe novella, The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. That should be coming out in May.

Currently I’m playing two video games, Animal Crossing and Dragon Age Origins. That first one is brand new, although I’ve spent a lot of time with previous installments of the series. I sat through the drop with both my kids and currently share an island with my son. That means we have to take turns. When he’s using the Switch, I turn to Origins on the Xbox. Both of these games are old favorites, sort of like a pair of mangy but comfortable shoes that carry me through all that’s going on.

Anyway, I hope all of you are following Governor Inslee’s advice. Stay home and stay safe!

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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After all these signal-boosting posts, it’s time for my regular recap of what I’ve been writing on recently.

Short stories: I mentioned here that I completed a very short story that straddles the boundary between children’s and adult fiction. Just yesterday, I received the first rejection for “Call me King.” There was no actionable feedback, so I’ll be submitting that again shortly.

Novellas: Prisoners of the Wailing Tower is just over 12,000 words and going slowly, but that’s what happens when your writing style is very exploratory. I still hope to finish it by the end of this month, when I’m taking a week’s vacation. With the Coronavirus thing going on, I’m starting to worry about whether we’ll be able to take that vacation as planned. Here’s hoping!

Video Games: I’ve finished up with Fallout ’76. I enjoyed many things about it, but I’m trying to follow the main quest and it keeps leading me to opponents that are 20 levels above my character’s reach. That gets frustrating. At the moment, I’m doing a run-through of Awakening, which I’ve played several times before, so it won’t distract me too much from Prisoners.

Coming Up: One reason I need to finish the first draft of Prisoners is that my intention is to publish the third Minstrels of Skaythe novella, The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh, around May 1st. I need time for one last revision, putting the cover together, and so forth.

But wait! There’s more! During the months of April and May, I will be putting together The Fairy Queen’s Court, a month-long celebration of fantasy that will coincide with Midsummer Eve (June 23rd). For those of you familiar with Teri Polen’s horror feature, Bad Moon Rising, the idea is very similar. All sorts of Indy fantasy writers will have a day on the blog to talk about their books. Those of you who write fantasy can look for those details in early April.

Yikes, that’s just a month away! Between writing, publishing and blogging, the months of April, May and June are going to be pretty intense around here.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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My project for late November/early December has been the third draft revisions on The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. It’s been going well. Currently I’m on page 65 of 90. I’ve only cut about 200 words, but that just means I had my length pretty well sorted out in the second draft.

As I go through these detailed edits, I’m reminded of a lesson I learned some years ago about imagery in storytelling. It’s really important that everything in the story be focused on the core of your story. The verbs you choose, the sensory details, the character dialogue — it all has to support and illustrate that core.

Think of it like lighting the stage for a play. All the spotlights have to point where the action will be. You don’t want them pointing at the stage-left drapery or up into the catwalk (unless something will happen there). Poorly chosen verbs, images, and turns of phrase are like lights that don’t face toward the stage. They may confuse the reader about what is important, or dilute the impact of the theme.

Where this really crystallized for me was when I was asked to help critique for a writing workshop at the last minute. The story was set in Kentucky, in the autumn, near an abandoned coal mine which had become a gate to Hell. The imagery was really nice, with fiery red leaves and ice floating on a pond. I suggested to the writer that he should decide whether he was going to have a hot Hell or a cold Hell. Depending on which one he wanted, he should de-emphasize either the leaves or the icy pond. That way, the images he presented would match the Hell that ultimately appeared in the story.

This, of course, is the sort of detail work that drives us writers insane. But when you can get every word to “focus” on “center stage,” it really does make a difference in the impact of your completed story.

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I mentioned that I’m into revisions on Ice Witch and the first page isn’t quite right. I’d like share the first few lines, so you can see what I’m working with.

On the deck of the trading ship Cross Current, Meven watched the shore of Eshur glide slowly closer. Gulls screeched overhead, perfectly expressing the dread that congealed within her gut.

Some things I like about this: a) It has the character, Meven, so we know right away who the story is about. b) It has a dual setting, on the trading ship, which is approaching a place, Eshur. I always like when one sentence does the job of two. c) It has a nice image, the gulls screeching, that connects to a powerful emotion, dread.

No matter what else goes on in a story, I believe that authors have to bring in an emotion right away. This will draw readers in more than anything else.

Now, things I don’t like: a) That first sentence seems unwieldy. I could make it more direct, “Meven watched the shore… from the deck of the trading ship Cross Current.” b) The final image, dread congealing in her gut, feels awkward. Meven has ice powers that don’t seem to fit with the verb, congeal. Yet I do want a sense of something solidifying and getting heavy as she approaches a place she dreads. I really need to get the right verb there.

Here is the next paragraph. These hast two weeks at sea had been a blessing and a relief. Born on the water, but for years confined to land, she had forgotten so much. The musky tang of salt water, the constant creak of rigging and slap of waves against the hull. The rhythmic dance of herself and the ship upon the tide. Even the way her clothing was always slightly damp and clung to her legs. She hadn’t felt so safe and content since she was a young girl.

Again, some things I like: a) It gives us a time frame for how long she’s been on the ship. b) It expands on the setting with sensory details. c) The sentence “Born on the water but for years confined to land,” tells some of her back story. d) “She hadn’t felt so safe since she was a young girl” gives more back story while also hinting at her goal, which is to live on or near water.

What I don’t like: a) The sensory details are great, but there are too many of them. Three details would have a better rhythm. b) The first two sentences connect awkwardly. My words need to flow like water (ha ha) and carry the reader along.

Some of you are new writers, and I wanted to share a bit of this process with you so that you’ll know you aren’t alone in trying to make it all fit together. For those of you more experience writers, I could use a few suggestions about that pesky verb in the first paragraph.

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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This weekend is a certain major holiday in the U. S. A. I’ll be chilling out with family, and I hope you all can, too. There’s a bit of suspense about when my actual family meal will be this year. Our daughter works Thursday and Friday, while my husband works Friday. I’m sure we’ll “work” it out, ha ha.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished all the blog visits I had arranged for Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts. I’m still open to appearing other places, of course, so recommendations are welcome.

Between days off work for the holiday and having no urgent posts to write, I am free to begin revisions on The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. I’ve made most of the major decisions as far as plot and outcomes. However, the beginning needs work and there is much polishing to be done. This should keep me occupied for a week or two.

I hope you all have pleasant holidays, too.

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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Work continues on the revisions on The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. I’m getting to the part where things have to be torn apart and rebuilt. That may sound upsetting, but actually I’m having a good time with it.

In the initial draft, Meven settled things up pretty neatly. I felt that she was a bit too comfortable in Fang Marsh. Perhaps a little smug, even. So for this pass I’m having her boyfriend fully betray her. He’s using flirtation to plumb her for information, and once he gets it, he’ll turn her in.

Skaythe has been set up as a world where everyone is out for themself. It seems dishonest for my characters to only encounter people who are good and kind. Betrayal really is the boyfriend’s most logical action. Not that I want to write a book that’s a bummer, I hate those. But it would be worse to come up with some complicated explanation for why he would not do that most logical thing. It’s never a good idea to jerk your readers around.

I’m also adding in a predator-and-prey scene that should be rousing fun to write. Maybe even work in some imagery around Meven and her boyfriend to evoke his true motives. Probably I’ll get to that part on Wednesday or Thursday. Can’t wait!

Finally, thanks to all of you who stopped by Teri Polen’s blog and took in my interview for Bad Moon Rising. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I might even do a similar event in the spring, around the time Ice Witch is likely to be published. This would involve fantasy, of course, rather than horror. We’ll see if I come to my senses before then.

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I have begun working on the second draft of Ice Witch. The most significant changes so far are to Meven’s foundling. I found that the rhythm of his name was weak, so I’ve changed it. Elldry is now Calisiph. In addition, his viewpoint was coming across as too cynical for a seven-year-old. I’m making him about ten, an age that allows him to question the adults around him in a more pointed way.

However, I will let him keep his toy monkey, Eelee. It was one of Meven’s puppets with an articulated joint that allows it to stick its tongue out. Calisiph was instantly charmed by this. Ten is a little old to be carting a toy around, but he hasn’t had a single thing to call his own for a couple of years, so Meven lets him take over ownership.

While this goes on, I’m also making a few decisions for my next novella. Have you ever had those weeks when everything you previously decided just seems dumb? I don’t like the title, I don’t like the cover art I’d chosen, and so forth.

Nothing is in print yet, so obviously this is the time for me to be making those changes!

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Yes! I have finished a non-skeletal and satisfying first draft of Fang Marsh. The novella came in at 33,500 words. The other Minstrels of Skaythe novellas are 32,000 words (The Tower in the Mist) and 38,000 words (The Cursed Grove), so Fang Marsh fits right in at its length.

That said, I’m pondering whether to take a stab at the second draft now. If I give myself 2 weeks, I should still have plenty of time to set up The Cursed Grove for Thanksgiving weekend. There’s a good use in letting stories rest between drafts, but I’m inclined to work on the issues I’m already aware of in Fang Marsh, and let it rest after that.

First of all, I’m changing the title, which I’ve known all along that I would. It’s going to be The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh. The title character is based on one from an RPG who was The Ice Witch. Yes, like The Batman, everyone knew her as The Ice Witch. Although Meven is not exactly the same character, the name/title has a good ring and I’d like to keep that.

Meven herself will be a main focus of this revision. Her character is kind of all over the place. The original Ice Witch was actually not icy, but funny and snarky. Meven spends too much time being scared and emotionally shut in. I plan to organize her and create a nice arc from the anxious fugitive to the confident and sarcastic Ice Witch I knew and loved.

Her foundling, currently named Elldry, is going to be called something with a stronger rhythm. With find-and-replace, that will be an easy fix. His personal arc will also be firmed up, but doesn’t need as much work as Meven’s.

Finally, there is currently a distinct lack of fangs in Fang Marsh. The previous two Minstrels of Skaythe novels each featured some sort of giant creature. They just pop, you know? So I will be looking to add a confrontation with something big and fanged, which will deepen the relationship between Meven and her hopeful boyfriend, Shonn, as they both save Elldry from it.

All that in two weeks? No sweat! *sarcasm*

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