Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WIP Wednesday: "The Last Inkweaver" Excerpt Comparison--Draft 1 Vs. Draft 2

Author's Note: Boy, this rewrite just keeps dragging along! Not totally lagging to the point that I'm just making up random stuff to fill in the empty spaces, but everything I want to put in is all of a sudden taking so much longer! But I figured it was high time for a "draft-off", a comparison between two similar sections of the novel. 
One of the biggest changes that I see affecting this draft more than I thought it would was the way I rearranged the events of the story. When I was writing Draft 1, I thought that the order of everything made sense just the way it was, and that I could not possibly see it another way, even if I tried.
Applying the Story Circle to The Last Inkweaver helped me see beyond just the events themselves, and discern the meaning behind each part that happened, and therefore, I began to see the events not for what they are, but for how they affect my main character, Callista. Therefore, the scenes themselves may be similar, but they represent a very different phase along the journey for Callista/Shereya and the others. 
In the case of Draft 1, Shereya and her friends had just gone from receiving a Told lamp from a Talesmith in Criansa, to intervening on behalf of three abandoned orphans in an unnamed town--and finally confessing the truth to Belak about what the three girls were doing so far from home, and what they had been following on this journey. In that sense, this business with Tark the Trafficker kind of came out of nowhere, an idea out of the blue that I just tossed together when I couldn't think of what else to do, because it was a chance for Shereya to flex the "storytelling muscles" she didn't know she had, and a way to fill the time until they would reach the enigmatic Moon Valley.
In Draft 2, on the other hand, I had the confrontation with Ronni the Bounty Hunter happen just before this, and in light of the coup they just staged, and the new information Callista received there bolstering her confidence, along with a new sense of respect from Matthias--she hadn't told him everything just yet, but she'd made some things very clear, and promised him the rest at some point. They encounter Tark on their way past a village they had heard of from one of Ronni's prisoners--unfortunately, it had been abandoned after his capture, so there wasn't anything in the village for our intrepid protagonists. Enter Tark, who very well could have been their savior, but ended up quite the opposite, and through her experience in telling a contrived story, Callista learns some important concepts that will help her as they move on to the three orphans--and that part of the story, I recently finished, so the only part left is Moon Valley, which I hope won't change all that much from the first draft... I'm so very nearly done!

Enjoy this look back!

Draft 1

The bandit dragged me all the way back to where Tark waited on a stump in front of a fire.

The bandit stirring a pot of soup hanging over the flames looked up, and I gasped. I had thought the whole group had been a bunch of burly men, but this was a woman! The woman sauntered off at a cue from Tark.
“What have you got for me, Japheth?” Tark growled.
I did not laugh, but it was very difficult to squelch the urge. What was a dirty, ignorant thug doing walking around with a name like that?
Japheth tossed me on my knees in front of the big man.
“This one wants to talk,” he announced.
Tark eyed me. “Bag Girl,” he identified. “Are you ready to tell me how your little frog-sticker works? Or the bag that we can’t open?” He gestured to the knapsack that sat upon a stump near the fire. The proximity of the knapsack was not as disturbing as the fact that it clearly had a huge axe buried right through the center. Had they in fact managed to destroy the tapestry?
Tark saw my horror as plainly as if it was written across my face, and he grinned. “My boys have tried everything possible to open that sack.” He stood and reached the stump in two paces. In a burst of strength he hefted the axe straight out of the log. With his free hand, he picked up the knapsack and hurled it at me. I caught it, feeling the voices tickle my ear just the same as they always had. I searched every inch of the knapsack for the enormous gash I felt sure had come from the axe—but there was not a mark on it except the natural wear from our journey thus far.
I looked back up at Tark, who studied me with his arms folded across his chest. I knew that Greyna would be working her way out of her bonds by now, so I had a limited time to capture and hold his attention so that they could escape in peace.
“I can explain,” I told Tark, “but it concerns this very special journey that we are on, and the tale is a long one.”
Tark glared at me. “I don’t suppose you can give me the short version?”
Not if I can help it! I thought to myself, but on a burst of inspiration I said, “If I do not tell this tale, the knapsack will not open.”
Tark’s face twisted into all sorts of angry shapes as he worked over his greed to get at whatever valuable treasure we must be hiding in the knapsack and the impatience for such things as stories. I had to convince him that listening to my story was really in his best interest—even though at just that moment, I had not the slightest clue what that story would in fact be! I was a bit sore from huddling on the ground like I was, so, with my eyes fixed on Tark to watch for any sign of disapproval or foreboding, I inched my way over to the log he had just been sitting on.
“Have you not heard of the Wordspinners?”
Tark snorted. “Of course I’ve heard of the Wordspinners! Everybody’s heard of them!”
“Do you know how they work their craft?” I challenged him.
His derision disappeared and he regarded me dubiously. “What does that have to do with you?” he demanded, as if expecting me to come out and confess I was one of their number—as if!
I gestured to the knapsack in my lap. “This knapsack was made by an Inkweaver; she told the story to lock it up, and if I can tell the story correctly, I can unlock it again.”
Word Count (total): 72, 163

Draft 2

Friggo tossed me on the ground like a sack.
"This her, Boss," he said, bobbing his bald head like an apple in a water-barrel. "This the bag girl wot had the stuff."

Tark kept his arms folded, an angry sneer contorting his features. "Sit her up, Frig. And take her gag off. I want her talking."

The henchman did as he was bid--yanking me upright by my hair and jerking my head back to wrench the fabric from my mouth. If it had still been tied tightly around my head as it had before, his movements would have probably dislocated my jaw.

Tark held my gaze with a grim expression as he sat down on the stump behind him, resting his elbows on his knees and bringing his hands up in front of him with the fingertips resting against each other.
"Now then, girl," he said. "Supposing you tell me what sort o' magic you have in these fancy pieces you carry." He gestured behind me, and Bert kicked over a few coals. In their midst was Rowinna's lamp, by all appearances cold and empty.

"Exhibit The First," he announced, like an actual peddler displaying his wares, "a lamp that won't light--won't even catch fire, the blasted thing!" As if to emphasize the point, Bert picked up a half-charred log from the fire, lit its end, and held it against the sloshing lamp--but nothing happened.
"And over here," Tark continued, gesturing of to the side, where Naten's exquisite sword lay among bits and pieces of twisted metal and splintered wood, "we have a sword I can't draw." He picked it up and tossed it on the ground in front of me.

"Oooooh!" Friggo jeered, still pulling unmercifully on my hair.

"Which brings us to this," he pointed to the stump between us. "The bag I can't open." He lifted the axe out, and I fully expected the satchel to separate along the cut--but it slipped off the stump, wholly unscathed. Had he really tried chopping it open already? I shook my head as my first thought had not been "How is that thing still intact?"

All my thoughts vanished when Tark suddenly sent the axe swinging right for my face. I flinched, but the edge of the blade hovered a hairs-breadth from my nose.
"So what is it, girl? Are you some kind of witch? You think this is some kind of joke you're playing?"

Friggo gripped harder on my hair, and tears sprang into my eyes. I saw Tark's sneer deepen, as if he thought the tears came from fear and not pain.

Tell him the truth! My logic exclaimed. What could it hurt? After all, everyone thinks the Wordspinner craft is a kind of magic, anyway. Why not give in to his expectations? Tell him it's magic, and be done with it!

"Well?" Tark advanced so the rough edge of the axe blade rested on the tip of my nose. "Are you going to undo the spell or not?"

Spell? There was no spell... My scrambling thoughts coalesced into a simple scheme--simple as birdsong, one might say.

"All right," I gasped out, "I'll talk! I'll tell you everything you need to know!"

Tark withdrew the axe, and waved at Friggo. "Go take care of the horses. I'll handle it from here."

Sweet relief flooded over me as Friggo released my hair and stumbled off toward the wagon. I watched him go, willing Matthias and the others into action as soon as he moved out of Tark's sight. I hadn't seen the brothers at all, but I didn't doubt they would be around somewhere.
"So!" Tark's voice interrupted my surreptitious search. "What can you tell me about these things you carry?"

I looked him in the eye and told the absolute truth, "They are made by Wordspinners." I spoke the name with heavy reverence. "Have you heard of the Wordspinners, sir?"

The ruffian snorted, laying the axe across his lap. "Of course; a bunch of storytelling folk, ain't they? What do they want with swords and lamps?"

I nodded slowly. "It is said that Wordspinners' Tales make things, and that things made by a Wordspinner's Tale are generally more than they seem."

He squinted, his manner cooling a bit. "What's that supposed to mean? What nonsense are you spouting, girl?" His grip tightened on the axe shaft.

"Please! I am telling you what I know, I swear!" I begged, leaning forward as best I could with my hands still tied behind my back. "A Wordspinner designs objects meant only for someone who could hear and understand the Tale they tell. Only those who could hear and understand the Tale would be able to use the gifts."

His dirty brow furrowed. "Hear and understand? What do you mean by that?" His lip curled. "Are you telling me you know this Tale that will enable me to draw the sword and open the pack?" He lifted the satchel and shook it. "You've got treasure in there, girl! I know it--I can hear it and feel its weight! That'll be the price for eating my soup and sleeping in my wagon last night. Tell me what I want to know!"

I sighed heavily, as if yielding my secrets with great reluctance. "All right... I can tell you the tale for these gifts, the way the Wordspinner told it to me when she made them." Lies, all lies--mostly.

Word Count (so far): 134, 272 words

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Sneak Preview: "Red, The Wolf"

In this twist on "Little Red Riding Hood," a gifted young woman named "Red" is the protector of a small mountain village. They have grown to depend on her superhuman abilities to answer any threats. In this first scene, a housewife converses with the young shopkeeper in the general store.

Mrs. Garrity clucked her tongue. "Well, young Junior isn't quite sleeping through the night yet, but Henny--bless her soul! She's been a great help to me, tending after Dot and Fred while they're ill, so I can take care of the housework."
Wendy nodded at the peculiar array of fresh stains on the apron. "Doing the week's baking, I see."
Mrs. Garrity blinked absently. The two dark men dipped their dirty fingers in the barrels of sugar, fiddled with a few of the children's toys. They seemed to be waiting for something--Wendy wasn't sure what it could be.
"What? Oh," The goodwife glanced down. "Yes, I'm afraid I've undertaken the bread and cakes for the school social--it's the least I can do for Schoolmaster Theo, what with the time and energy he invests in teaching our young ones! That being said, I've run out of flour. Can I have a pound of it please, and some vanilla if you still have it?"
Retrieving the two ingredients would put her closer to the two men who gave her such unease. Wendy shook her head; if they meant no harm, she had no business assuming they did!
"Of course, Mrs. Garrity. Right away."

Wendy moved toward the flour barrel. She offered the dark men a hopeful smile. One of them nodded blankly, while the other turned his back as soon as he caught her looking at them. Wendy fought to keep her hands steady as she measured out the flour and selected the last small vial of vanilla extract.
"You're in luck, Mrs. Garrity!" Her voice came a bit louder than she intended. "We happen to have one more bottle of--"
One of the men moved a hand to his side, causing Wendy to flinch. The little bottle fairly jumped out of her hand and shattered on the floor. Wendy stared numbly at the small brown pool as the smell of it permeated the shop.
Mrs. Garrity clucked her tongue. "Oh, Wendy, I'm so sorry; I'll just take the flour, that's all right." She dug the coins out of a small pouch and paid for the pound of flour. For good measure, Wendy tucked in a small sweet as well. "For Henny," she said, earning a smile from the overworked woman.

The two men hadn't moved from the corner of the store. Wendy tended to a few more customers, keeping a wary eye in case the men tried something, but it came time that the last customer left and no new customers had come in--and still the men waited.
Wendy finally found the sticking point for her courage. She came around the corner and marched up to the man who had turned his back.
"Can I help you, gentlemen?" she asked.
At last, the two men grinned at her, but there was no mirth in their smiles. A series of clicks, and Wendy saw the barrels of two guns aimed at her.
"We'll be needing a few things, yeah," grunted the first man. "Let's start with the money in the cashbox behind the counter."
Wendy opened her mouth, but the other man raised his gun. "Not a sound, lass; it's not worth the trouble, trust us."
The young woman clapped her mouth shut and yielded the cash box. One man kept his gun aimed at her while the other actually walked around to the back of the counter, grabbed a two-yard swath of cloth, and piled things into it: tools, bullets, bottles of liquor, kerosene, and some rope. Once they had what they wanted, as a last deed, both men selected a handful of candies and backed out of the store.
"Pleasure doing business with ya!" hollered the second man as he left.

The minute they were gone, Wendy dashed for the back door of the shop. She picked up the red flag stored just by the door, and slid the pole into a bracket over the stoop. The townspeople wouldn't blink twice at a couple of rag-tag men coming out of the store with all that merchandise--sure, it was more than anyone in Queston could afford in one transaction, but signing bills of credit promising to pay Wendy back later was fairly common practice. Only one person could apprehend the thieves before they got too far. All she could do now was wait.

The sun set, and at last Wendy could close up shop for the night. She shuttered the windows and barred the door. When she reached the back door, she took one look at the figure in the shadows and jumped so bad she nearly dropped the lantern in her hand.
"Oh gracious!"
The figure--a female--stepped forward, dropping a cloth-wrapped bundle at her feet.
"Stolen items?" she asked.
Wendy nodded, shining her light over the retrieved goods. Everything was still there, even the cashbox. She tried not to gaze too closely at the dark stains that now adorned the fabric.
"You were right to summon me," the figure declared. "Those men won't be stealing anytime soon."
The young shopkeeper dragged the bundle inside. "Thank you, Red," she said.
"Have a good night," Red replied, and disappeared into the darkness.
Wendy sighed, and began replacing all that had been taken to its proper place.

On the other side of the village, a husband and wife waited under a red flag hanging from the upstairs window behind their house. They trembled as the cold night closed in, but they clutched a small tunic between them, muttering prayers underneath their breath. Sure enough, their shadowy protector came.
"What has happened?"
The man spoke first. "It's our son, Charlie. He asked to play after supper, and he has not returned."
"Please," begged his wife, holding the tunic out to her. "We need the Wolf to find him."
Red took the tunic from the woman's hand. She held it to her face and inhaled deeply.
"I have his scent," she said. "The Wolf will find him."


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Happy Birthday, Upstream Writer!

Six Years!!! And what years they have been... So much writing, SO much reading, SO much agonizing over putting my thoughts into words, the ups and downs, ins and outs... Watching the hit counter go zig-zagging its way across the screen, cheering for each day that topped 100, and wondering where I went wrong when days would go by with no hits at all...

But through it all, you have supported me! Thank you! Let's celebrate with a retrospective look at some of the stats I've garnered over the last year! And then, afterward, we'll be looking ahead at what's to come for this blog!


Blog Stats:

Total Views in 2018: 17,325
Total Posts in 2018: 82
--18 Reader's Reviews

Achievements Unlocked:

Gained 50 Blogger Followers!
This was an unexpected surprise to discover at the end of this year! I had been sitting at 48 followers for so long I suppose I wondered if anybody even USED the little blue button anymore... Looks like they do! What fun!

700th Post--Flash Fiction #16

This was a fun experimental series that I enjoyed putting together, and it turns out, marks my 700th post on this blog! This installment, in particular, was very intriguing when I first saw it, but it took a considerable amount of time and really several failed attempts before I landed on a storyline I was happy with. I really wanted to do something with "Rabbit's" apparent omniscience, but couldn't figure out a decent action/breakout scene to feature it in the limited amount of time I gave myself. So there it is, in all its glory!

Another situation that I think was a bigger deal for me. Don't get me wrong, it started out great and I think a lot of people were excited, some even communicated their excitement to me... But the longer it went, the more it felt like the feedback sort of waned. But, by jingo, I finished it in grand style! It was fun to write a RPG-style story... if anybody feels like adapting it for a playable tabletop campaign, just let me know! I think there's plenty of potential there, with the diverse archetypes and the myriad ways things can go very wrong or very right!

Started and completed an original fairy tale re-telling: "The Dragon's Mark"

Huzzah! I've finally finished another one! It was originally going to be an anthology submission. The concept started with "Cinderella WITH DRAGONS" and that was it. I had a few ideas at first, and enlisted the assistance of a writer friend (Thanks Raven!) to help me decide which one, and to brainstorm how to make it work... and in the process of discussing with her, I remembered that I actually had a story that included a dragon and an ancient artifact, that could possibly work its way into the Cinderella fairytale--and it did! It was fun to set it in the Mediterranean region, rather different from the "orthodox" tendency to choose more Western Europe places like England or France. About halfway through it, I was just days away from the deadline and closing in on the word count limit, so I quickly decided that I wasn't going to submit it after all, but I was still going to finish it! And now you all can enjoy it on my blog or on Wattpad!

"Heartsong" accepted and published in an anthology

This was fun! After participating in two other anthologies, I had such a great experience that when the opportunity came up to submit to another one, I immediately checked through my stock of short stories to decide which one fit the theme that I would begin polishing. That ended up being "Heartsong", another mermaid-themed story that explored more of the "magical singing voice" concept that I invented for Ylaine in "Princess of Undersea." The way a "heartsong" works is this: Every living creature has a "heartsong" that is basically their innermost psyche, a musical interpretation of their personality, proclivity, and thought processes. A natural conclusion of this is that two creatures with complementing heartsongs will be drawn to one another. Now, a siren can hear the heartsongs of other beings, and yet only they have the ability to reproduce the heartsong they hear. When they are singing along with a creature's heartsong, the creature in question is immediately attracted to the siren. Once this connection happens, the siren then has the ability to change the heartsong ever so slightly, gaining control over the creature and bending it to her will. In my story, one siren is in the middle of drowning a victim when a second person interrupts and tries to save the intended victim. The siren cannot switch songs, so the first person survives, but when she tries to sing the heartsong of the rescuer--she cannot. The notes just won't come. She takes him prisoner until she can figure out why this happens. If you want to read the full story, you can find it in the anthology "Cracks In The Tapestry."

100th Reader's Review--Painter Place by Pamela Poole

Honestly, I think this was a bigger deal for me than it was for anyone else. I had been saving this book for my hundredth review ever since I downloaded it a while back. I had high hopes of the confetti-and-balloons type, but as it turned out, review #100 came and went relatively quietly... Here's hoping #200 fares better!

Most Popular Reader's Review: The Secret King: Letháo by Dawn Chapman
Not 100% the best book I read all year (beat out just barely by just a few others!) but I think this highlights the importance of sharing, and the key to making blog reviews worthwhile. When the author has a strong online presence, a simple review like this one can be shared, re-shared, and spread far and wide, into multiple networks that I personally don't have access to. When it's a type that relates to other books I read, I can include the title in my "Further Reading" section on other reviews, netting it even more visibility here on my blog. Thanks to all that sharing and social media presence, this review earns its slot in my Top-10-All-Time-Viewed posts, even beating out posts from the very beginning of my blog!

Reader's Reviews with +100 Views: Charon Unguarded by A. H. Johnstone, What We've Unlearned by The Writerpunk Press Group, The Secret King: Letháo by Dawn Chapman, DreamtimeDragons by The Dreamtime Fantasy Authors, and Chasing Rabbits by Erin Bedford

These books were so much fun! I'm glad they got so many views--it was worth it! Of course, the one with the most views I've already mentioned: The Secret King: Letháo was one of a couple space operas I read early in the year. It felt like reading Asimov, honestly! If Asimov decided that he was going to forgo hard sci-fi and cyberpunk for a host of deep fantasy twists, that is! 
Then, of course, there was What We've Unlearned, which was probably my FAVORITE READ OF 2018. I loved all the unique renditions of classics that I'd grown up reading, from Mark Twain to Jane Austen, and even Beowulf as you've probably never thought of it before! The Writerpunk Group is full of awesome and all of their adaptations are on point!

Speaking of anthologies, I finally got to read Dreamtime Dragons and discover exactly what I had contributed to, back in the day. My favorite story was the one I got to "peer edit" pre-publishing--Nav Logan writes like Jasper Fforde, and I am ALL HERE for that! There were a couple other stories that I absolutely loved there, too. You can read my review to find out which ones they were--and if you've seen that little bit of short story I posted a couple years ago, called "Arthur and The Egg"... That's the one I completed and submitted to this anthology! 

Chasing Rabbits was a dark, steamy kind of twist on Lewis Carroll's already-twisted Alice in Wonderland, and  Charon Unguarded pleased me exceedingly, as a unique take on "deities from multiple pantheons with real-world personas"--Kind of like a grown-up ersion of Rick Riordan's books, without the gritty darkness of Gaiman's "American Gods". Lots of great fun to be had here!

Reader's Reviews with +80 Views: Jacq of Spades and The Alcatraz Coup by Patricia Loofbourrow, Do You Trust Me? by Kelly Blanchard, and Amster Damned by Nils Visser

And one of those (Amster Damned) is only recently posted! I loved the time-travel-plus-steampunk-plus-foreign-slang Visser uses; his characters are always successfully charming! 
Two of the books listed above are from the same series: The Alcatraz Coup is a prequel to Jacq of Spades, which is the first book in the Red Dog Conspiracy Series, and it is wonderful! I love good wordplay, and this series is full of it! The setting is called Bridges, it's ruled by four crime families battling for supremacy: The Spadros family, the Harts, the Clubbs, and the Diamonds. Each book is named after a card value: Jacq of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, King of Hearts, Ace of Spades--you see where I'm going with this? 
Even an "Alcatraz Coup" is a move in the game of Bridge... And the steampunk neo-noir style is at once enthralling and intriguing! 
Last one to mention is Do You Trust Me?, the fourth book in the Chronicles of Lorrek series that started on Wattpad for at least the first two, and the series just exploded after that! This one was a sort of "backdoor prequel" as it gave glimpses into what happened before the start of the series, and it filled in gaps while remaining interesting and engaging in the present, losing none of the momentum for the characters!

Wattpad/Writing Achievements:

Completed The AmazonTriangle--102K words and I am finally done with it! The Amazon Triangle currently holds the record for "Longest Finished Manuscript"... the operative word being Finished. If I ever get to the end of "The Last Inkweaver" it's going to beat that record all to shreds... I left 102K in the dust a long time ago on that one, and I'm still not even done!
Speaking of which...

+100K words on The Last Inkweaver--Yep, that's something I achieved this year! Considering that the whole thing (Plus all the "Tales of the Inkweaver" I tossed in) came to around (or maybe just under) 100K in the first draft... the fact that I'm now over 120K with 4-5 chapters remaining is nothing short of miraculous! Who knew there was that much still to be told in this story?

2 short stories published in anthologies this year: Yes, it finally happened!
Facing a dearth of technical difficulties (and unforeseen life changes on the part of our editor, the poor woman!) DROWNED IN MOONLIGHT finally released in the spring, and in it is my short story "The Starborn Legacy"! The story itself is a combination of the last two installments of a serial story I wrote for my second-ever NaNoWriMo--which was itself a combination of all the Suggestion Box lists I had garnered from my first attempt at running that series on my blog!
"The Starborn Legacy" focuses on a teenage girl living in a faraway space colony, long after Earth had been abandoned and forgotten. She's been trying to get closer to her mother, to reach through the anger and the bitterness against her own mother, the girl's grandmother--only to find out that her grandmother was the legendary space explorer who maintained the continued existence of Earth, moreover claiming that it was still inhabited by some humans who had found their way back. But before this young girl can convince her paranoid mother to let her follow in her grandmother's footsteps... people in the colony start dropping dead, the mother included, and it's a race to figure out why.

The second story was the one I mentioned earlier, "Heartsong" in CRACKS IN THE TAPESTRY.

Wattpad Stories Added: (*Fanfictions)

Next-Generation Grimm*--Two girls, both Grimms; one raised by the Royal Family, the other by Wesen. A desperate hunt for a mysterious key brings them together.
Keep Portland Grimm*--The Winchesters come to Portland in search of a girl in danger--what they get is far more than any of them bargained for!
Alice's Adventures in Storybrooke*--What if Alice and the others really did enter Storybrooke? What would Regina do to keep Jafar from taking over the town?
Read Between The Lines*--An abandoned hiker, a light-fingered hotel maid, a sudden and reluctant bride... What strange malady is afflicting Portland, and can Nick find the cause before he becomes the next victim?
Fair Trade*--Nick and Juliette finally get the chance to plan their wedding and focus on a future together... But old enemies desire to "rewrite" the Grimm's "happily ever after."
The Sound of An Echo*--Percy encounters a Half-Blood camper with a strange ability... Then discovers that their fates are tied together in a quest to save the world--again!
The Glow--In an alternate world where a person's heart literally glows when they meet their soul mate, Jessica is nearing her thirties and she hasn't ever "Glowed"... part of her wonders if she ever will.
The Misfortune Cookie--An innocent night out to a Chinese Art Gala turns into a race against a terrorist group to find a bomb set to destroy the city.
A Writer's Tale: The Series: The Dragon's Quest, The Commander's Courage (Coming Soon: The Sheriff's Showdown)--A writer with a penchant for staying at home is pushed to think beyond her comfort zone... and thus she accidentally stumbles into an adventure beyond her wildest imagination!
The Dragon's Mark--In a small Italian city governed by the secretive, exclusive Drakistos family, a simple housemaid shunned for her grotesque appearance slowly uncovers a secret that threatens the lives of everyone around her.

Word Tracking Stats

In April, I set up an account on WordKeeper Alpha and started tracking the different projects, setting myself deadlines and just having fun with the pretty colors and the goal trackers and whatnot. I set myself a goal of 25K a month, and determined to track anything and everything I could. According to the tracker, starting in April and going until the end of the year, I managed to get at least 222K words written. Adding to that all that I wrote in January to March, even though I wasn't able to log it, I probably achieved somewhere in the ballpark of 250K last year. We'll see how much I get done, starting fresh from the beginning of a year! As you'll see at the end of this post, I still have plenty of opportunity to get those words in!

Months I achieved my monthly goal: April, July, August, September, October, November

Reading Stats:

36 Books Read
17 Library Checkouts

Dreadfully lax, compared to previous years, I know... But 2018 was stressful in terms of working at my day job, so there wasn't much energy or time to read, regardless of whether it was ebooks or library checkouts! Though what I did read... was brilliant!

  1. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman--This one wins everything! It had a secret order of Librarians, time/space travel, alternate dimensions... What more could my book-loving soul ask for?
  2. Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence--Mark Lawrence nails it again! The sequel to Red Sister and the continuation of his first trilogy featuring a female lead--everything about this series is amazing and I love all the science inspiration (pseudoscience though it may be) and the unique characters strike just the right emotional chords!
  3. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik--Enjoying this book almost makes up for having to return "Spinning Silver" un-read (ALMOST...) Ever since "Uprooted" I knew I loved Novik's style. The way she incorporates dragons into Regency-era wartime is MAGNIFICENT and totally credible--I love Temeraire!
  4. A Sliver of Stardust by Marissa Burt--Ah yes! Nothing like going to the library and finding out that the author of a duology you enjoyed has another series out! This one incorporates stardust, nursery rhymes, and lullabies into magical abilities and there are gryphons and I am SOLD!
  5. End Game (Will Robie #5) by David Baldacci--This man doesn't stop... and unlike another super-prolific crime novel writer whose books I did not enjoy, Baldacci never ceases to offer respect for his craft, honing his storytelling to get his readers right at the heart, not just for the money or the popularity, but because he consistently delivers genuinely good stories. Every. Dang. Time! This one in particular, an unexpected continuation of a series I thought for sure was done back when it was a trilogy... now this is Book 5 and it takes us deep into the life of a character that was probably only going to be very much a secondary sort, one of those who is more name than substance... Not true anymore! Brilliantly staged, and expertly executed, all the way through!
  6. The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman--My first introduction to Patrick Carman (not counting those installments of the 39 Clues series that I read, since I didn't know it was him at the time...) and I enjoyed it quite a bit! The world-building, the distinct characters, the unique premise--everything worked together very well and I would definitely read more of the series!
  7. The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz--Ah, self-insertion at its finest! In the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Horowitz inserts himself as a writer following around a brusque, self-absorbed investigator and recording this investigation in memoir form, sort of like the Watson to his Holmes... but not even his familiarity with Sherlock could prepare the unsuspecting writer for the peril in store! I spent half the book thinking I could pick out the clues from among the red herrings... and the twist happened and I was very wrong--but I'm not even mad! Nicely done!
  8. Death Masks (Dresden Files #5) by Jim Butcher--Always a treat! Another Dresden File under my belt, and a great one, at that!
  9. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater--Sheer magic from the pen of Maggie Stiefvater! Occasionally it got too trippy and I couldn't follow what was going on, but I loved the poignant prose and it brought immense satisfaction at the end, so this is definitely a Top 10!
  10. S is for Silence /T is for Trespass (Kinsey Millhone #19 and #20) by Sue Grafton--Yes, it's a double. Still working my way through the ABC Mysteries--How Grafton managed to come up with 25 unique ways to put her main character Kinsey into mortal peril is mind-boggling--I'm up to 20 and I still can't guess how a book is going to turn out! "T for Trespass" was kind of gruesome, actually... but still good!


Now that we've gone over a quick review of my year... What do you have to look forward to?

Priscilla Sum--That's right, I'm giving it a second chance! I know it was a little tenuous, and part of me is not too excited about having to struggle for each plot point, but maybe--just maybe--I can pull it off!

The Prince and The Rose--In addition, I'm finally going to finish this one! I've had the ending in mind for quite some time, I just got too busy writing other things to get back to the last half of this one. I think you all are going to like it!

Red, The Wolf--Speaking of new things... Another twisted fairy tale is on its way! 
Those familiar with Clan of Outcasts might remember Velora,  the "Wolf" character--and that is who inspired the idea for the main character of a Little Red Riding Hood re-telling--like, if Velora became the unofficial defender of a remote forest village! I'm excited to see how it all turns out!

A Writer's Tale, The Series--With The Last Inkweaver coming to a close, I think I can finally turn my focus back to this series, bringing it all the way to its conclusion. Even if I just took it a book a month, that's around 25K per book, so it would be well within my monthly goal, anyway!

That should take me well into the spring--and who knows what will happen next? There are plenty of half-way projects that I really should get back and finish--hopefully keeping a word-count goal in mind will help me tick items off the list!

Here's to another great year, and as always--

Catch You Further Upstream!