It hardly even feels like it's been only three months since the last Upstream Update, and looking back over how much went on in the last few months of spring is quite shocking, indeed!
Finishing off the school year working the "hybrid" schedule (half the class on Monday/Tuesday, other half on Thursday/Friday, Wednesdays for prepping and remote learning) gave way to a full on four-day schedule, with all 18-20 kids in each class coming for the four in-person days, and Wednesdays still remote. It didn't get any less stressful--if anything, I think we'd gotten used to having two people watching up to thirty kids each, to go from that to suddenly having to keep track of almost sixty kids per staff member... that got to be too much.
The good thing was that one of the "remote facilitators," (what we called the staff who took on the instruction of the students who remained fully remote) was able to plug me into her "Writing Wednesdays", where the kids would be practicing their creative writing, so she would have me on with one or two, to practice generating ideas, vivid descriptions, and engaging vocabulary! I was totally in my element, and I had a ton of fun working through the kids' ideas. My favorite moment was the student who really took the concept of "vivid descriptions and strong vocabulary" to heart, and included the phrase "the stairs possessing the color red" in his narrative. Way to use the full range of vocabulary, dude!
Anyway, it sounds like next year we'll be back to a "regular" five-day schedule, so--yay for that! Barring anything completely extraordinary... I think we've all had our fair share, haven't we? Judging by what I've been able to do in this first week of summer break, I think I'll be ready to plunge full-steam-ahead when September rolls around!
There have been lots of goings-on since March, such as all of my siblings getting together for my sister's baby shower--it's her first, due any day now, and we are all beyond excited! I'll have an update below for the various interviews I've done over the spring, and I will let you know that there are more to come! The thing I'm proudest of about my writing is that I've managed to keep this up--a couple weeks ago, I logged my 400th-straight day of writing, since April of last year! So much has happened, with the new book coming out, spawning plans for a whole series, and a new blog serial (or two or three!) to boot... what fun it is!
The one thing that I've noticed is that my reading kind of slacked off there for a bit, after keeping up my average of 4 books a month for two months... and then it wasn't. But that's all past now, I've got quite the stack of library checkouts, I've hit the halfway point on my reading goal for this year, and I'm making good time through my indie TBR! (Which is especially good, because I keep picking up new books at giveaways in Facebook groups, so the metaphorical "pile" isn't getting any smaller!
Here are the stats:
Books Read: 20/40
Now here is where the real updates begin!
Main WIP: Fugitive of Crossway
As of March, I was slogging through Chapter 4 and lamenting its ponderous length... By April, I managed to reach the final "beat" of that chapter and commence Chapter 5... which had the same problem. Fast-forward to mid-May, when at last I find a good finish for Chapter 5... and then I proceed to write Chapter 6 in the space of 2 days.
Such is the irony of what we creatives call "laying groundwork", ladies and gentlemen. It takes forever to write, it feels all kinds of dumb and stupid to be in the middle of it, the real challenge is letting events unfold and conversations to happen just so, to make it feel natural, but also make sense in the way that the author wants the reader to understand what is happening... But once you're through it, you find that the exchange you were setting up for needed all that information, which makes it pretty important--and the scene happens pretty quickly because everything (and everyone) was where it (and they) needed to be.
Of course, then after Chapter 6 came the climax of the entire book, Chapter 7--the chapter I have been waiting for since I first started planning the thing--and by now, I've started on Chapter 8 and it should be smooth sailing from here on out! These next few weeks are critical, because if I can get the last 3 chapters and the epilogue all completed early on in my summer, then there is a good chance I'll be able to cut it down to size (word-count-wise, as I mentioned last time) over the fall, and have a better idea of a release date by then, as well!
The thing that I definitely don't want to do is start a trend of "each book in a series is longer than the one before it"--ahem! Not only because that demonstrates poor planning on the part of the author, but also, I just can't guarantee that the amount of material I'll come up with for book 3 is going to be so much more than what I've used so far for Book 2... and to add the pressure of coming up with still more for book 4?? I'm not going to do that to myself, and I won't make you, my follower, face the daunting choice of having to pay more and more for each successive book in a series. No, this book is definitely going to end up much shorter than it is now!
You know what that means, though, don't you? Yep! First Draft Excerpts, just like I did for Princess of Undersea, long before I knew it was going to be my debut novella, much less launch a whole series six years later! As I'm going through and taking out scenes, I'd rather not let them go to waste, so I'll be sharing the nixed scenes here (at least parts of them, anyway) so you'll know what could very well be missing or very altered in the final draft! In writing Princess of Undersea, the challenge was stretching out the meaningful scenes and making them take longer, adding in explanation so that it didn't feel so much like using someone else's intellectual property--for Fugitive, I went a little *ahem* overboard with my story beats, so there's definitely stuff that I don't need in there--conversations that don't actually need to be spelled out, I can treat it like a scene in a TV show episode, and summarize it in retrospect, rather than force the reader to slog through it all in chronological order.
Once I finish the draft, too, I'll probably take a break from the main storyline to work on short stories for a bit. Two of the three "Tales from Crossway" are complete: "Trading Secrets" and "Unlucky Urcellus", and I just have to finish an extended version of "Yet You Are Young" to call that done.
I will tell you what, though, announcing and planning more of "The Gilded Spurs" back in March spawned a thrilling session of coming up with themes for the other six short stories that will go with the final two books, the "Tales from Outwest" and "Tales from Overcliff." Including (but not limited to): The truth behind who actually sent the letter inviting Mellisande to the town in Outwest; the origins of the wily magician "Antonio The Great"; a story featuring Prince Nathan's mother Queen Theresa (since she is deceased by the start of Princess of Undersea); a "Goldilocks And The Three Bears" referencing story, which I'm not going to give away what in-series details it's taking, because spoilers! Also, readers will get to see the courtship of one King's Steward, Giles--as Ylaine makes good on the promise she made at the end of Princess of Undersea!
As you can see, there is still plenty of fun to be had! But The Undersea Saga is not all I'm writing!
Which brings us to...
Blog Serial-In-Progress: The Clan of Outcasts, Season 3
Part 26 just went live a this weekend, and I only recently began to realize just how this series has just exploded!
Who would have guessed that the simple little series with a bunch of backstories for a handful of characters, coupled with present-day narratives that all connected them together somehow--would wind up being this epic adventure that spanned whole oceans? I mean, the setting is called "The Realm", for crying out loud! Talk about place-holder names!
I remember thinking about how to start it in July of last year--I was going to go back to "the roots", introduce new characters through flashbacks the same way I did for Season 1, filling in a proposed 3-year gap to even tie in a fanfiction story I wrote for a completely unrelated (and yet, now totally canon!) connection to a book series I stan.
Then the flashbacks started getting too long, the way I'd divided up the characters at the end of Season 2 made for some hefty finagling to give each one's perspective on the goings-on, since they were all experiencing different things at the same time, figuring out different pieces to the puzzle, based on whatever they were dealing with.
I knew I had made my plot too ambitious when I kept having to divide up the installments--instead of quick glimpses of the different locations, the way I'd been able to do it sometimes in the first season, it was long, drawn-out scenes rife with action and development, two or 3 at most per "episode." I mentioned how I was running into the problem of being too wordy and getting too detailed in my conversations with Fugitive of Crossway, well--here is a prime example of what happens when that isn't edited out, because when you read my blog serials, those are often not "final-edited", so you're getting the raw story!
Just out of curiosity, I checked the word count of the amount of the story I have so far: 168 pages, 110K words, and I've still got 8 installments to go! Just 20K more words, and it's about the length of Return of the King--but is it epic enough to warrant such an exorbitant word count? What do you think, judging by what you've read of it so far? I do have the ending in mind--which is more than I could say for any of the other seasons, when I'd gotten this far into writing them! My hope is that at least enough people are still finding it interesting, to warrant my excitement over finishing it. I'll definitely see it through, for sure--I'm committed to these characters, and it seems right to finish out the story that I've begun! I'll admit, there's a lot on my blog that seems to be for my own enjoyment, I can't really tell if anybody else is liking it at all... But I'm not ready to give up on my band of Outcasts just yet!
In the last three months, several interviews have gone "live", such as the DIY Writer Podcast interview, the "TV Interview" I did with the host of Fairy Tale Access, one that I recorded with Elin Wyn called "Pants On Or Off" that was very fun to do, and a blog interview with Romelia Lungu. If you've missed out on the various interviews, and you'd like to find out more about me, and some interesting "behind-the-scenes" facts about Princess of Undersea and the rest of the Undersea Saga (and other projects I'm writing), visit "The Undersea Saga" page tab up at the top of this website, and I have all the interviews linked--stop by every couple weeks or so, because I update as the interviews are published!
Honestly, ten books in 3 months isn't bad--it's not like 10 books in the 2 months like I had by the time of the last Upstream Update, but the fact that I'm already up to 20 books in June is promising--I think I should be able to make my goal this year!
In April, things got a little hectic in my day-to-day schedule, and so I only managed to finish just one book, and that was an ebook: Black Train by Clareesa Savka. You can read my full Reader's Review by clicking on the hyperlinked text.
In May, I was able to complete 3 books: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman, The Purple Door District by Erin Casey, and Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie. Unearthed was... okay. Part Indiana-Jones-treasure-hunt, part astronauts-exploring-an-alien-world-and-discovering-an-apocalyptic-plot, part guy-and-girl-team-up-and-both-have-secrets-and-both-have-high-stakes... The back-and-forth trading perspectives put me in mind of the Lorien Legacies... but they did it better, and the ending wasn't altogether as satisfying as one might have hoped... As in, it wasn't enough of an ending that *someone* (le moi) who didn't really get all that invested in the main characters could discontinue reading the other books in the series without judgment, but ALSO, it didn't give enough of a hint at the next book so that a reluctant reader (*sigh* me again...) might possibly be cajoled into giving the next book a chance in the hopes that the story got better... It wasn't terrible, though!
The Purple Door District, on the other hand, gave me all the GRIMM fangirl-feels, and carried me along under its thrall--I absolutely loved it, and you can read more about it in my official Reader's Review. BONUS: Erin Casey has a BookTok channel and her videos about an author dealing with the struggles of the writing process are SO RELATABLE IT HURTS! But at the same time, she does it with such flair that I'm laughing through the "pain." You should totally check it out!
Five Little Pigs was a delightful return to the wonderful world of Hercule Poirot. I found it fascinating to read the book and watch that particular episode of the TV series at the same time--just the way the episode combined different chapters of the book to give a more complete narrative, while still keeping the clues and the resulting reveal in good order, to not give away too much at once.
(*Brief note: You'll notice there's a book missing from the image above, if you pay attention to that sort of thing; I mentioned and included it in my "books to read" for the last update, but it turns out The Ultimatum by T. Davis Bunn was actually a sequel to a book that I haven't read, and so not only was it really hard to get into, I decided it wasn't even worth trying to procure the first book... so I just nixed it from the list and kept right on going!)
Over the course of the month of June, I've read 4 books, but I counted 5 titles because one of the books I checked out thinking I hadn't read it yet was Poirot Investigates, by Agatha Christie--but, as it turns out, I read it when I first started Hercule Poirot's Casebook, seeing as that collection of short stories was included in the larger anthology! So while I didn't "read" that title just then, I counted it because it happened this year! (Just like I did with The Under Dog And Other Stories back in January)
Anyway, the ones I did read started with A Minute To Midnight by David Baldacci. This was the sequel to Long Road To Mercy, and the second book in his first series featuring a female lead, Atlee Pine.
Don't get me wrong. I love Baldacci, and up till now, I would have said he didn't disappoint in any of his crime thrillers. Maybe in trying to write a female lead, Baldacci kind of falters--which is kind of silly, because his series led by male characters are not over-misogynistic, nor are the female support characters one-dimensional or hyper-sexualized... and yet, I counted seven blatant "THIS IS HOW MY LADY CHARACTER DOESN'T CONFORM TO GENDER STEREOTYPES" instances in the first six chapters... while there were just as many instances of the conformity he tries to disavow, right there in the narrative! Baldacci, you wonderfully prolific maestro--just stick to the guys. Don't try to write a woman just for the sake of "writing women." I mean, on a scale of "James Patterson" (THE WORST) to "Mark Lawrence" (one of the best "Man Writing Women" authors I've read so far!), he's at least somewhere in the middle... better than "Phillip Pullman" (here's looking at Sally Lockhart...) but not quite "Brandon Sanderson", even--and there are several indie authors I can think of who wrote female-led crime thrillers that were very good in my estimation, and this one just... wasn't.
On a brighter note, the other library book I read in June was Renegades by Marissa Meyer--holy heck! It's enough to give Reckoners (speaking of Brandon Sanderson) a run for its money! Similar premise, of a world where some people developed super-powers and became superheroes (called "prodigies"), and the superheroes established themselves as a kind of ruling class, a group dubbed The Original Six setting themselves up as the main authority who sets the ground rules for the others, calling themselves the Renegades, and you're either a Renegade and you're going to follow their rules and requirements to maintain order in the world and you'll be sent on missions to defend innocents and non-prodigies, fighting against those who would use their powers for evil. Meyer populates her novel with diverse characters and intricate backstories--I absolutely loved it all the way through, and I foresee that this will be another series I'll want to have on my shelves in the near future!
Meanwhile, I finished two ebooks, checking off a total of seven Reader's Reviews: A Maze And Grace by Cyn Mackley, the second book in her delightful Goode-Grace Mystery series, and my first indie nonfiction, But I'm Not Depressed by Lia Rees--an insightful deep-dive into the world of neurodivergence and how much modern medicine still has to learn about the brain. You can read the official Reader's Reviews for those titles by clicking the hyperlinked text.
As you can see by the nightstand picture, I have only five more books to go: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence (I'm about halfway through it already, and enjoying it immensely!); Find Me If You Can by Kelly Blanchard (another signed edition--I'm so excited to get back to the Chronicles of Lorrek!); Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (because Seraphina was so enjoyable!); and U is For Undertow by Sue Grafton (can't believe I'm so close to finishing the Kinsey Millhone series!) will finish them off--and then, what next? I'll let you know in the fall!
In the meantime...
Catch You Further Upstream!