I’m happy to announce that I’ve started drafting the third book in the Civil Dusk series already! In this story, tentatively called “By Appointment Only,” Hugh meets with the spirits of Skara Brae to get his dian-stane fixed. They tell him to journey to New Hampshire in the USA, where descendants of theirs journeyed and built a settlement 4000 years ago. But how will he find it in a country to which he’s never been? Perhaps a local guide can assist!
Stay tuned for a completely unique story that’s already a page-turner! And in the meantime, get your copies of Civil Dusk and First Watch; links in the Buy My Books link above!
When I’m writing, I commonly leave myself brackets around words that I either need to go back in the typed document to fact check, or that I need to find a synonym for. In the pictured case below, it’s a fact check. I hand write my drafts and my first line of editing is when I type my written sections up, usually a chapter at a time. Do you do this? If not, it might help! For me, it gives me permission to keep writing and not stall my progress with a word check.
Civil Dusk is set MOSTLY on the island of Rousay in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. It goes other places too, like the underwater palace of Finfolkaheem and the vanished island of Hether Blether. This novella utilizes many of the stories which are a uniquely Orcadian blend of Norse and Celtic/Pictish folklore in a wondrous romp of magic and finding one’s self and waterhorses and selkies and witches and trows and you probably have NO CLUE what I’m talking about anymore so let me let the professionals ramp it up for you.
YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT, I HAVE A PROFESSIONAL KIRKUS REVIEW ON THIS ONE.
To quote that review directly, AHEM:
“An Orkney Islands fisherman with a hidden past encounters magic in Ordway’s fantasy novel.
This fast-moving work, shaped by Norse and Celtic mythology, opens by defining the term that gives the book its name: “The time of evening when the sun is six degrees below the horizon, when the light is still enough for you to see things…and for things to see you.” What protagonist Hugh Reid sees upends his life forever. After struggling to control his fishing boat during a storm at sea in 2018, he returns to his home on Scotland’s Orkney Islands, wondering at the unusual violence of the waves and the haunting song that he heard in the sound of the rain. But although the islands are steeped in tales of the supernatural, Hugh is impatient with people who believe in them—until he’s visited by a trow, “an ugly, stunted thing with pale, wrinkled flesh and gleaming, yellow eyes,” who guides him to a buried object of power, which the trow says he will need in a world-threatening conflict to come. Ordway cleverly draws on Orkney’s many traditional legends as she catapults Hugh into an epic adventure. The story involves a titanic struggle for dominance between the summer goddess, known as the Mither o’ the Sea, and the demonic winter spirit, Teran. A seaweed-maned water horse called a Nuggle, a goddess-channeling witch, selkies, and sorcerous Finmen make appearances, as do hidden places reached via a mysterious fog, an undersea kingdom, and a magical stone; the story also reveals the secrets of Hugh’s origins. The interplay between the various characters doesn’t always match the quality of the story; for example, the number of times that characters “smirk” becomes distracting. However, the author’s vivid depiction of otherworldly elements, the sea itself, and Hugh’s gradual acceptance of his true identity make for a rollicking read. At the conclusion, Hugh has an encounter with one-eyed Norse god Odin that teases a potential sequel.
An often clever mix of myth and legend in a contemporary setting, featuring a relatable protagonist.”
So, Civil Dusk is the story that I WANTED to write. Hollow Thunder was my proving ground to see whether I could write, get edited, and publish a novel. Box checked. The Loyalty of Dew threw a few more ideas on the tail of that and wrapped up some questions left hanging in HT. It’s the story I was obliged to write. But Civil Dusk is the one I’ve wanted to write for soooo loooong and I’m so very pleased with it. It’s about 187 pages, which means it’s about half the length of HT, which means I told the story that wanted to be told – and I told it WELL, thank you, just look at that Kirkus Review – and nothing more. No fluff in Civil Dusk. It’s Insulation Free.
I’m presently in the final stages of working on its sequel, which will be called First Watch and which should be released in Spring 2021 if everything continues going to plan. And we’re not gonna stop there. I already have ideas brewing for a third book in this series, with all the potential for more.
I’m gonna shut up now and leave you with the purchase link again, because you have reading to do!
I am officially past the halfway marker in writing First Watch… I’ve got 21k words typed! My goal is around 40k like the first book in its series, Civil Dusk. Appropriately, the plot is coming to the big climax and I just drafted the big reveal. I’m so excited! Publishing goal for First Watch is Spring 2021.
One of my favorite things about writing is that Moment when Inspiration Strikes. I’ve been struggling with a plot problem in First Watch for several months, and it’s made me NOT want to write because I knew once I reached that point I’d have NO IDEA what to do.
So I’m wicked pleased to announce that I’ve solved it and am now extremely excited to write again!
Thanks to a Facebook post by Mystic Moon, a local shop, I’ve learned that when hag stones break it’s a sign that it had saved a life. Readers of my novella Civil Dusk will know that Hugh, the main character, is bound to a dian-stane, which is really just a BIG hag stone when it all boils down. (Nonreaders can grab a copy of Civil Dusk here: buy my book on paperback or Kindle.)
Followers of my Facebook will know that the Wild Hunt features prominently in the plot of First Watch, which is the sequel to Civil Dusk that I am presently drafting and will endeavor to release sometime in 2020.
Readers of this blog will be wondering where the fuck I’m going with all these cues, and hey, guess what: that’d be telling! Unless you enjoy massive spoilers in a novella that isn’t even published yet, you’re just gonna have to wait. And if you do enjoy massive spoilers, please comment on this post and I might divulge SOME STUFF because I’m legit really excited about this.
Or you can just go explore the posts in the various things I linked above and piece it together yourself, because I’m sure I’ve leaked some critical plot stuff somewhere in there. What else have you got to do, anyway?
I guess the main reason I’m writing this post (besides to take the opportunity to toss in some shameless plugs, because OBVIOUSLY) is to define writers’ block as it affects me. When I get writers’ block, it manifests as either ZERO idea of how my plot is going to get from where it is to The End, or to the next scene, or whatever; OR it’s because I’m missing a scene idea to bridge Where We Are to The End. Basically, I don’t know where the story’s going, so I can’t write it. This problem likely arises because I don’t outline.
Why don’t I outline? Well, it’s simple: I get REALLY EXCITED about the ideas I do have, and so I just want to Get Writing those ideas. So outlining takes time, time which I could be spending Writing The Ideas, and so The Ideas get written and the outline doesn’t happen. It didn’t even get Capitalized. So my writers’ block moments are, ultimately, my own fault.
And I’m okay with that. This method of haphazard spurts gets shit done, obviously: I’ve published some books. It’s just not very efficient, and I get that, and it makes me a little unpredictable as far as release dates, and I get that too.
How does your writers’ block manifest? Is there something that triggers it? Are you dealing with it? Can you punch it in the face? DO YOU KNOW ITS NAME??
1) You carry an extra pen just in case your current pen mysteriously dies.
2) You have a favorite pen and, let’s be honest, your other pens know which that is.
3) You’ve read the word “pen” too many times at this point and are wondering if it’s actually a real word.
4) You never ever lend your pens when someone asks for one, even if you currently have it in your hand and when they ask “do you have a pen I can borrow” you look them right in the eye and say “no.”
5) When you come across a nice pen in the wild (store, bank, etc) you steal it without the slightest bit of shame.
6) You own a Really Nice Pen that you intend to never ever write with, on account of how nice it is and you don’t want to spoil that by using it.
7) You’ve written with a quill just to see what it was like.
8) You’ve written with a fountain pen just to see what it was like.
9) You’ve been driven into a mad panic because you briefly misplaced your favorite pen and you’ll never write again despite the 15 extra pens you have waiting in reserve – and it’s fine because it was behind your ear or under your leg in the couch/chair the whole time, thank the Muse.
10) You’ve thrown away a pen with plenty of ink in it still because the little clip thing broke and who really has time for that in their lives.
Previously, my books have taken years between them for the writing process to occur. I’d set goals and organize little trackers to, in theory, help motivate myself by seeing the progress as it happened. And, to a degree, these worked: books were written and subsequently published. I’ve got 3 out, y’know. But then I read a summary of survey results regarding Writing Habits of the People That Actually Do This For A Living (And Don’t You Want To?) (my title, not theirs) and it seems that people who make a living with their books have published over 20 titles.
As a person who works in retail, this made a lot of sense to me.
So I’ve become more determined to get the series started by “Civil Dusk” populated as quickly as I can while still maintaining a particular sense of quality. To that end, I made a goal for myself: I’d write 1.5 pages every day until First Watch was complete. Ideally, I’d like it to be fully drafted and edited by the end of August 2020, so that I can get all the cover work and last bits done in September for publication in early October or late September.
My math is laughably WRONG in this case, but whatever, that just means First Watch will be done waaay ahead of schedule if I stick to my goal. And so far, dear readers, I’ve been tempted to stray. I finished the first chapter as scheduled, and typed it up, and then TOOK A DAY OFF FROM WRITING.
MISTAKE, dear readers, MISTAKE.
My muse shattered. I lost inspiration for a whole second day. I knew generally where chapter two was going but had no impetus to write; until my day job boss gave me the next day off on the one stipulation that I WOULD WRITE. He’s super cool. 😉 Maybe he was sick of hearing about my writing woes. Whatever.
So according to my goal I now had 4.5 pages to write to catch back up to schedule. And I DID IT. And then, the FREAKING MAGIC HAPPENED: my muse didn’t pass out! I kept going! I drafted an entire chapter in ONE FREAKING DAY! It was a first for me and my writing.
And it taught me something. I needed structure, and I needed to be determined enough to actually keep working at the writing thing until it was fluid enough to keep writing without me. (Writers know what I mean by this.) Guess what? I’ve just done TWO MORE PAGES tonight because I sat down and stared at the page and jotted notes and stupid things down until the writing started. I meant to do 1.5 pages tonight; I GOT 2 DONE.
It’s exciting. Summary, as presented by my dog Aggie: be determined enough and you can do it, even if the task at hand is fitting your 62 lb Rottie self down into a bed meant for a 20lb dog TOPS. Yeah, you know there’s a photo.
I fully intended to start drafting Civil Dusk 2 (name TBD) during NaNoWriMo.
And then today I realized it’s already November 16, and I’m still just in the plotting and planning stage where I brainstorm scenes onto paper that will (probably) end up being part of the book.
I still don’t have a title decided. “Nahtwaren” was a potential but it’s a real mouthful. Plus I want to somehow indicate that this is part of a continuing series.
Is it too late to designate Civil Dusk as Book 1 of “Series Name Here”? Should I name the series? Or should I be like Sir Terry Pratchett and just make you figure out what frickin order to read things in? I ended that sentence with a preposition intentionally.
So, dear readers: do you start a project with a title in mind, or do you add it somewhere in between?
Do you like book series that clearly label the order of the books, or do you prefer books that are stand-alone stories while also can be read in a series because of related content or continuing characters?
For those who may not know, “RPG” stands for “role-playing game.” There are several variations of this concept in the world, from tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons to online games like World of Warcraft, but the one I am referring to here is the one hosted on message boards and in email chains: the text-based RPG.
Text-based RPGs are, in a very big way, the reason I finished writing an 80,000 word novel ( Hollow Thunder .) They are, essentially, huge living stories that you write with other people. As a writer’s training tool, they’re extremely useful because you must achieve certain things in order for other people to want to reply to your posts.
create interesting, flawed, motivated characters that have compelling backstories and goals
develop a writing style/voice that makes others want to read and reply to what you write
be willing to adjust your ideas around the feedback/replies of others in order to keep the story going
conceptualize story arcs and plots, some of which may involve one or two characters but others which encompass the entire group and could carry other small stories along with them
collaborate with others to further develop your own characters based on how they interact with others’
And there’s so much more that I probably didn’t even consider when this realization hit me. All of these qualities of text-based RPGs made me a stronger writer, which got me on the track to becoming a published author, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.
The last RPG message board I participated on had a unique requirement for posts that made me capable of writing an 80,000 word novel: word count requirements. There wasn’t a set minimum for each post; rather, you had to match or exceed the word count of the post to which you replied. That requirement eliminated short posts that didn’t do anything to move the story along, and it also made each writer really stretch those brain muscles. At that point, the people I was playing/writing with were good enough that they realized the word count couldn’t just be fluff-filled. It had to be important and meaningful.
I highly encourage anyone who wants to be a writer to get involved in some RPGs. Even if it isn’t text-based, go hang out with the LARP nerds or the D&D geeks and try the story out. (For reference, I use the words “nerds” and “geeks” with love and belonging.) You’ll find yourself improvising in the mind-set of your character and delving into those story-building qualities before you even know it.