Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Doings at Drakenheath

And here we are . . . again. And I'm still breathing. And I'm still Doings-ing. The world still seems to be turning, the lark's on the wing, the snail's on the thorn, God's in His heaven . . . so I'm going to assume, along with Robert Browning, that all's right with the world.

Besides . . . Flexibility is the key to air power!

So, all that aside, what have the Doings been of late? Many indeed. Let's take the plunge . . .

The BIG doing is, of course, Poison Crown: The Smallman's Heir. Though I have to say, one of the main struggles of this last month has been the tendency for Poison Crown to get put off, despite its being the BIG doing. So many pressing LITTLE doings will insert themselves as vital, and . . . truth be told, the little doings are easier, not to mention most of their deadlines are more up-and-coming. So Poison Crown gets bumped.

I am still in the revision stage of this project just now. The book is technically drafted, but requires smoothing in a number of places. I DID manage to get through That Scene which had been holding me up for so long. By the grace of God alone . . . and the inspiration of Diana Wynne Jones, Ghandi, and Tolstoy. How's that for an odd trio?

I'm not kidding, though. While struggling through that scene, I read a book by Diana Wynne Jones, an essay on the life of Ghandi, and a short story of Tolstoy's, all of which inspired aspects of the scene in question. Can't tell you how, of course, without giving away something vital, so you'll just have to mull over it. Like a riddle. Or the beginning of a really bad joke: "One day Diana Wynne Jones, Ghandi, and Tolstoy walked into a bar . . ."

I also found myself turning to old writing techniques as a means to overcome one of the most severe attacks of writer's block I've had in some time (probably since Dragonwitch). I'm pretty much certain this attack stemmed from utter overwhelmed-ness. There was simply too much on my plate this last month, and even when I had a day devoted to nothing but writing, I couldn't make myself write. At least, not on the computer. But I COULD make myself write by hand . . . for a set period of time . . . if I started first thing in the morning . . .

So, last month found me rising early, picking up a notebook by about 7:00 am, and "jam writing," as I like to call it, for about an hour and a half. ("Jam writing," for those of you who don't know the term, is the art of blathering on a page. You tell yourself, "This doesn't have to be perfect. Lumé love me, it doesn't even have to be good!" And then you just start writing and see what happens. In this instance I focused on That Scene, of course. It wasn't just any jam write. But the principle is sound.)

Once the jam writing was complete, I typed up what I had and found it to be surprisingly all right. I really do like writing by hand, and if I lived in a perfect world that did not involve writer's cramp,  simple fatigue, or the devilish temptation that is a word processor, I would write whole novels this way. But it is a very, very, very slow process. A process that saw me achieving 4,000 words in a week. Which, when you consider my normal pace is 4,000 words a day . . . yeah, it's a bit pathetic.

But, as my father so wisely stated (as seen in the previous blog post), "Flexibility is the key to air power." So I'm being flexible. And I'm writing slowly. If that is what it takes, I'll finish these rewrites by hand and draft the whole of the next volume in a followup notebook!

Lord willing, this won't be the case.

So anyway, that's Poison Crown: The Smallman's Heir for you. Oh! Except and it has a cover now! Yes, indeed. After one of the most frustratingly drawn-out cover processes I have yet to experience, this novel has its very own bright-and-shiny new face, and it is, if I do say it myself, rather beautiful. Though "beautiful" might not be the right word, since this is a serious epic fantasy, not a pretty little fairy tale. I'll amend it to: It's rather awesome. "Awesome" is a great word for it. And I think you are going to love it!

For those of you who have signed up for my newsletter, you'll get to see the new cover along with some exciting sneak peeks on July 1. For those of you who have not signed up for my newsletter . . . well, no time like the present!

On to other doings . . .

I have a new website! I'm sure most of you have seen this already, but since it's a Doing that emerged over the last month, I'm going to mention it anyway. It is an actual, honest-to-goodness, not-a-blog-anymore, website. And I am very proud of it.

I know, I know. It's been a long time coming. Truth is, I had a very specific idea in my head of what I wanted this website to look like. And while we tossed around hiring a designer for the last several years, budget limits meant I really wasn't going to end up with a look I wanted.

But times have changed. I've learned a LOT over the last few years. Now I've got the ability to make myself quite a nice looking website (with some input from my brilliant husband, of course).

But yeah, spending time on putting that together took up rather a lot of last month too. I feel it's worth it, however. Now that it's built, it's all a matter of upkeep, which is much simpler. And I was very pleased to have it done, ready in time to introduce to readers at the Draven's Light launch party.

Speaking of . . .

Draven's Light is now launched! Another great Doing of this last month. I had a tremendous time at the chat party with all of you who were able to make it and am so grateful that you would come and "hang out with me" to celebrate. The book seems to be doing quite well in these first weeks of its launch too. I don't read my reviews, but a few of you have written me lovely notes to let me know how you're enjoying the story, which is very encouraging and uplifting to my spirit. I do love that book, short though it may be.

It's been interesting since I wrote it seeing how much that story has influenced Poison Crown. I did not originally plan Poison Crown with Draven's Light in mind (Draven's Light came to me rather suddenly out of the blue . . . Thanks, Beka!). But because of that little story, my big story has taken on some fascinating themes which I have had great fun (and great difficulty) exploring. Again, I can't give it away . . . though, looking at the subtitles for the volumes might give you a clue what I'm talking about . . .

Okay, I know many of you are eager to learn how the other HUGE doing of this summer is coming along. I am, of course, referring to Five Enchanted Roses.

It's coming along quite well, actually! My part of the process is very stop-and-start these days. The book has been through it's final round of honest-to-goodness edits, has received its basic typesetting, and is now simply going through layers of proof reading. At the moment, the galleys are in the hands of the five authors themselves (plus one more proof reader), checking for issues in the text and typesetting. They have two weeks to get their finds back to me, at which point the document will be polished up . . . and then sent out to proof readers one more time. (Proof reading is a never-ending journey. A tragic one at that, since I have yet to read a single book in my life that did not boast its share of typos. But you have to KNOW that you did all you could.)

I'll be one of the last proof readers, and I fully intend to read the whole thing backwards. "Eh?" you say. "Aye," say I. I'll read it backwards, one page at a time. Helps the eye to catch things it would otherwise miss. One of the first editors I worked with at the beginning of my career taught me that trick, and it's a classic.

We will also be sending out the Influencer Reader files by June 27! So if you are interested in reading this wonderful collection a full month before the actual release date, do click this link and check out the rules. We'd love to have you on the team!

Mutti, looking stylish in her post-surgery collar.
So some of you, I'm sure, are curious to learn how my Mutti-Bear came through her surgery last month!

She's doing very well, thank you for asking. They ended up having to remove all of her teeth, poor girl, but she is so much happier now! Indeed, this former feral, who used to run at the sight of any human, has transformed post-surgery into a loving lap-baby. I think it may have been the trauma. Or the drugs. Possibly both. But the day after her surgery, when she was out of her mind on pain killers, she crawled into my lap, purring (and drooling rather badly . . . poor numb little mouth), and stayed there for several hours. I couldn't move, of course. Can't disturb the kitty. So I got a much-needed sitting-up nap, and she rolled around in my arms, made herself ridiculous and adorable, and ultimately learned the joys inherent in the life of a lap cat. She's sold out on that way of life now, and will come to my lap at the smallest beckoning. I never thought I'd see the day!

So thank you for all of your prayers. Mutti is so much happier now without all those rotten teeth in her head!

Here is a picture of Marmaduke for you:
 That's his, "Hold me! Hold me!" face. (And yes, Makoose is trying to upstage him.)

Here's a picture of Minerva Louise for you as well.

Oh, Evil. Thou art so precious!

I gave my husband a big birthday party this last weekend. I haven't hosted a large birthday party since his 30th, so this was quite the endeavor! He helped out a ton, of course, because he's sweet like that. And he absolutely deserved some extra love this year, as he has been so helpful and encouraging and wonderful to me through all the work craziness . . . Why, just last night, he emailed right before coming home from work to say, "Put on something nice! I'm taking you out for dinner." And he proceeded to sweep me away to what might have been the best meal I've had in a LONG time. What's more (proving yet again what an angel he is) he allowed me to talk/gripe about work almost the whole time! I love him so much.

So yes, he had to have a party. A big one. And it really was lovely! He asked for pound cake stuffed with strawberries, topped with blackberries, with an orange sugar glaze. Fancy. But if that's what my Handsome wants, that's what he's going to get!
Two of them, even!
He contributed by making homemade raspberry iced tea that was to die for! We offered champagne to our guests, but they almost all went for his tea instead (so now we have four bottles of leftover champagne we really don't know what to do with. I don't drink, and he doesn't drink THAT much. Looks like we'll have to host another party . . .) Anyway, it was really lovely, a great chance to catch up with a lot of people we just don't often see in the midst of our busy schedules. And I think Rohan felt very loved. Which he is!

Oh, and he got THE MOST EPIC BIRTHDAY CARD EVER this year. I really have to share:

Imps will recognize our own Hannah William's brilliance here. I love how she captured his likeness with striking accuracy, complete with heroic aura (even his culinary creation sparkles! Which is absolutely true to life, I'll have you know.) Milly and Minerva enjoyed making appearances here as well.

And what is that you ask? Why, yes. Yes, I do wear flowing white dresses every day while I write. I wouldn't be caught dead in penguins-with-pink-hearts pajama pants at 5:30 in the evening (the time at which I am writing this post). Only flowing white dresses. Thank you.

"Handel in the Strand." I'm still learning it. Sometimes. It's actually ALMOST done, with just a few ticklish passages I haven't refined yet and some dynamics that could use some . . . like . . . existence. I also desperately need to tune my piano (which hasn't been turned since our move, so you can imagine how pleasant it sounds about now). Once these things are done, however, I shall endeavor to record a full performance for all of you.

Oh! Speaking of!!! I almost forgot!!!!

Don't forget the Goldstone Wood Music Contest is still running! I am accepting submissions through June 24, so don't miss the deadline! It's still a pretty small contest at this point, with just a few fun pieces submitted. Hopefully we'll get a handful more so that we can offer a proper concert for all of you . . . and a goodly pool of songs for Melanie J. Morgan to pick from for her animatic! Rules are here if you want to refresh your memory. Let me know if you have any questions!

I probably shouldn't let a Doings post go by without at least mentioning the Five Magic Spindles creative writing contest! I am so pleased to have finally been able to share this gorgeous cover with all of you, not to mention the secret of this year's theme. Are you excited about "Sleeping Beauty"? Getting some good inspiration for your entries? Do tell . . . or at least, tell as much as you feel you can at this point. Wouldn't want you jinx your inspiration!

Well, there are other Doings, mostly little ones. And some big ones I can't talk about yet. It's been a busy month, and this month bodes to be busier still. So say a few prayers for me if you think of it!

What are YOUR Doings these days? Any great projects? Plans for your summer? New jobs? Old jobs? Travel?

Are you writing a fairy tale retelling???

Do tell!


Unknown said...

"Some dynamics that could use some . . . like . . . existence."

This made me laugh SO HARD! Because rest assured, you can expect two music pieces from me for the contest, which I'm recording today and tomorrow (which means I'll probably send them in on Friday). Their dynamics could also use some existence. I'll blame in on the recording.

My big event this summer is North Carolina's Governor's School, where I'm going for six weeks to study choral music. It starts in six days, and before then I need to a. record and submit songs, b. take the ACT, c. write blog posts for my absence, and d... pack. So it is an epic adventure with stressful preparation.

I am also working on two entries for the writing contest! Won't say much yet... except that one is set in a real-life mythical French forest, and the other is based on a scary English biography about... well, won't say that yet, either. : )

I'm glad you seem to be feeling better! Keep up the flowy white dresses. They're a major part of the creative process. ; D

Sarah Pennington said...

Happy birthday to Rohan! (And that's a lovely card, Hannah!) I'm glad you're working through your writer's block; here's hoping it disappears completely soon!

My summer is going to be busy, busy, busy . . . in both awesome and non-awesome ways. The non-awesome ways I don't want to talk about because I'm currently pretending they don't exist. (At least for a week or two.)

Awesome ways: I have only one WIP left, which means I'll be doing a Sleeping Beauty retelling during Camp NaNoWriMo. :D I'm super excited, since this'll be my first year entering the contest. Also, my sister and I have a HUGE stack of Nancy Drew games to play- I have no idea how long it'll take us, but hopefully a while! And then I have another HUGE stack of books to read. So, lots of summer awesome!

Esther Brooksmith (wisdomcreates) said...

You are such a good writer, and I hope one day to write such fascinating posts. You made me chuckle several times, and I thank you for that.
Yay for odd trios of inspiration, and I'm fascinated to see how that set came together. ;). Also I love the handwriting and very much sympathize with the slowness of said process. Typing is so much better at keeping up with my brain speed. That being said, I'm doing some of my contest entry ideas by hand, at least for a little while.
Congratulations on your website and book milestones!
I still am fascinated with every step you share of the 5ER project. And I love the way you throw tips into your Doings the suggestion to read a book backwards. :) I don't overlook them!
I have been thinking of Mutti, and I'm so glad to hear she's doing better. I laughed out loud over her discovery of lap joys. :D Good for her! I could see her as you described it. :D
Happy birthday to Rohan. Looking at him through your eyes (since I've never met him), I am quite impressed with how amazing he is. He sounds perfect for you.
And I love, love, love the picture. That is awesome. Especially your flowing white dress, of course.
Yay for music! I look forward to hearing an updated video of your playing... After the piano is tuned, of course.
For my summer, I an going to be working on a Sleeping Beauty retelling. I have two or three ideas bouncing around in my head, and we'll see which one sticks. One is set in modern times, and two were long ago.
I am also finishing up my midwifery training, which is exciting. And I'm going on a youth mission trip as a chaperone, which will be awesome and amazing.
I am very excited about Sleeping Beauty and can't wait to see what comes out it.

Unknown said...

I love doings posts :D!
All my doings are reading, Beowulf, Draven's Light, War and Peace.

Meredith said...

Always love the doings posts, and you never cease to amaze me. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into your writing process for Poison Crown, (such an intriguing-sounding book!), and the collaborative inspiration of Diana Wynne-Jones, Gandhi and Tolstoy has certainly aroused my curiosity. Perhaps you could just casually slip in the name of Tolstoy's short story? Hmmm? LOL! And, I love Diana Wynne-Jones books, especially Fire and Hemlock. Of course, Hal's Moving Castle is wonderful, too. Goodness! Such different stories!

So thrilled that Mutti is doing well.

You certainly are blessed to have such a wonderful husband. Your night out sounded perfectly lovely.

Yes, I am super excited about Five Magic Spindles. I hadn't read Charles Perrault's version of that tale in ages as Sleeping Beauty is not one of my favorites. But, wow! I forgot how detailed Perrault's tale is, and a certain line really sparked the germ of an idea in my head. Will not say which line, but it's made my imagination run wild. Have also enjoyed reading a really old version by Jean-Baptiste Basile, which is really creepy. Don't think I'll be using his version if I retell the story, although it'll be super interesting if someone does! LOL! Can I just say I wouldn't want that prince to find me! Anyway, I'm liking Sleeping Beauty a lot more now, and it's been such fun to brainstorm.

I definitely hope that you receive more entries for the music contest. Last year's was such fun! Best wishes to all who are working on pieces.

Thank you as always for these outstanding and informative posts. Am looking forward to Five Enchanted Roses as well. You're always in my prayers. Blessings.

Natasha Roxby said...

I LOLed when you mentioned your trio and the beginning of that very bad joke! I had to read it out loud to my parents, to which my dad looked at me and replied, "A pastor a priest, and a rabbi walked into a bar. The bartender looked up at them and said, 'Is this some kind of bad joke?'"

But I am so very, very, very excited for the Poison Crown cover reveal!!! It's going to be AMAZING!!!!! :D :D :D :D

And how wonderful to hear that Mutti-bear is doing better! My own kitty, the magnificent Sidney-face, has hopped into our laps on occasion. But only when we're sitting in the Adirondack chair in the sunroom. Nowhere else. She's silly.

Unfortunately, I've not gotten to read Draven's Light just yet. Soon, though, because my grandmother just decided to order it for me! With the stipulation that I'll read it to her this summer, of course. ;)

As for my own doings, I am doing a lot of writing in journals as well! One in my personal journal, and one in my writer's notebook. Although I think that, once I'm done with this notebook, I'll have to start keeping three writer's notebooks: one for my fantasy novel Guardian, one for my Five Magic Spindles retelling, and one for my blog and other random things. Oh goodness! My purse will be able to rival my mother's in weight if I go along with this plan!

And I'm going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo this July. I may or may not be able to get much done, seeing as I'm going to be doing an insane amount of running around and traveling this summer, but I fully intend to do as much as I can!

And then, of course, I REALLY need to set to my summer reading in earnest! I've the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Confessions of Saint Augustine, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Inferno, and probably one other that I'm not remembering to read before the summer's out! I began the Odyssey last night, but didn't make it very far. It's not the easiest of late-night reading, to be sure! But once I get my mind adjusted to the older style of writing that this particular translation is in, I don't think that it'll be too bad.

Aaannnd... I think that's about it! As always, it's wonderful to get to hear about your many Doings, Anne Elisabeth! I really don't know how you can manage all of that, but you really do a marvelous job of it!

Blessings, Anne Elisabeth! :)

Unknown said...

Oh, and I almost forgot! Hannah, that was a lovely card that you made for Rohan! I simply loved it! :D

Kendra E. Ardnek said...

Lots of doings, lots of busy. I'm excited about Poison Crown (and getting to see the cover!!! It's going to be brilliant, I know already), but I hear you on the writer's block thing. Why can't we live in a perfect world where books are written perfectly the first time and we don't have to do edits, revisions, or rewrites? It'd save a lot of time.

I hear you on writing by hand, as well. If only we lived in said perfect world, which also includes no writer's cramp and magical transference from paper to screen.

Happy birthday to Rohan, and that card Hannah drew is amazing. She's a wonderful artist.

My own doings mostly involve preparing my own Water Princess, Fire Prince for its publication in late August, which is involving quite a bit of revision in certain places. Also, I'm working on writing its sequel, and Poison Kiss, which will be (provided the bridge holds and the creek don't rise) my entry for the Enchanted Spindles collection. Basically, the jilted fairy decides that the spindle curse is getting a bit overdone, so cuts to the chase and declares that true love's kiss will cause the curse. Also, Puss in Boots, the White Cat, and Rumplestilskin ... because I have an inability to constrain a retelling to one fairy tale.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh, sounds like a busy month. I hope it all goes well for you!

I have a drawing to finish for a contest, a room to finish, and a birthday to celebrate, not to mention books to read and video games to play!

As for my story, all I'm going to say is I have settled on an idea, and hope that I can get my writing skills and motivation enough up to snuff to actually stand a chance! Or at least finish it. XD

Esther Brooksmith (wisdomcreates) said...

Anne, I just had to pop in and say I LOVE THE MINI-MAGAZINE!!!! I just read the summer issue, and, wow, it was so good. I found every single article to be helpful and well written. Huge round of applause -- this publication is a keeper.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@wisdomecreats: THANK YOU! You are the first person to send me an actual response, so it's WONDERFUL to know that you enjoyed it so well! Hopefully your reaction reflects the across-the-board response too. :) Thank you so much for letting me know. I look forward to sharing future issues of our mini-mag with everyone. The lineup for the autumn articles is already looking really fun . . .

Jenelle Leanne said...

Just wanted to let you know that the Rooglewood Newsletter is GORGEOUS! Hadn't gotten to email until now, and wow! Just beautiful.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Jenelle Leanne -- Thank you! Your article was wonderful. An excellent central feature for our first edition! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! I simply cannot wait for Poison Crown and Five Enchanted Roses. You should definitely take your time on Poison Crown because your writing and your stories are truly so wonderful that they are completely worth the wait. I'm also still progressing through the series since I have to read Shadow Hand and Golden Daughter, so it gives me a bit more time to catch up before the next installment.

I am also very happy about the revamped newsletter. All of the articles were so insightful and particularly useful. I especially loved receiving advice from Jenelle, Jill, and yourself.

I finally got an idea that I think I will use for my Sleeping Beauty retelling, and I plan to draft it during Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I still have a lot of fleshing out to do for the story, but my idea is developing nicely. It has a plot twist that really deviates from the original plot, but the setting and the feel of the story are still going to remain very classic.

Anastasis Faith said...

Wow! I will be keeping you and your very busy life in my prayers! The mini-magazine was very lovely and I loved the articles! I cannot wait until the next issue!

My life is pretty busy too! Trying to write a novel this summer (at 53,000 words...and only 1/3 of the way through!) and a Sleeping Beauty novella. Just launched my first blog today! That has been very exciting for me, but lots and lots of work! :) I have an intense piano camp next week and I need to revive my pieces which have fallen by the wayside. ;) They could all use some more dynamic contrast as well! :P

Thank you for your dedication to glorifying God through your writing! I am praying for your endeavors!

Carrie-Anne Thomas said...

That card is beautiful, Hannah!

Ooh, look! Marmaduke is trying to be the Grumpy Cat! xD He's adorable.

I actually had an idea for a Sleeping Beauty Retelling before I found out that it was the featured fairytale! It was lovely.
And speaking of lovely, the mini-magazine was pretty epic. xD