Shattered Complete

shattered_vaseSo… I finished off my fifth novel this morning, or at least the first draft of it. It’s a mystery, tentatively titled Shattered. I wrote it mostly as an experiment, and I did learn several things from it. It will likely see publication sometime next year, but given the genre difference, I will probably publish it under a different author name.

First, the vital stats: It came in short – quite short – at 51,551 words. As I’ve often said regarding NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words is not a novel. Well, at least, it’s not a novel by sci-fi, urban fantasy, or epic fantasy standards. My two published novels are 90k and 85k words long, and even then, they’re on the short end of SF. However, many mysteries tend to be much shorter, in the 60-70k range. This draft is fairly rough – as most of my drafts are – so I expect it to bulk up about 7-10k during my first pass of edits. That’s a typical expansion in actual word count, though obviously it’s a larger percentage. However, this draft has a few notes like “[Whoops, forgot to mention the thing about the ammunition and the lock and the loading procedure. Put that in during edits.]” That’s 500 words right there, and that note is not exactly rare.

What did I learn?

For starters, outlines are still not my thing. It sucked my energy for writing the actual draft, and in the end, I didn’t follow it all that closely. For the 3 days and 5,000 words I put into the outline, it didn’t really help me much at all. I think all I really needed were my destination and waypoints, and once I had those in my head, the rest didn’t really matter.

Then there’s the matter of writing in a completely new genre. Yes, I can do it. I didn’t particularly feel the passion for it, but I was able to sit down pretty much every day and crank out the words. I didn’t need to light the magic candle or wait for the Spirit of the Muse to descend upon me and fill me with her divine inspiration. Nope, it was mostly a matter of putting my butt in the chair and pounding out the words on the keyboard. I think that just comes from the experience of past novels. I did pick up a couple of minor productivity tricks, and I’ll see if they work out again on the next book.

Also, the fact that it was a mystery pointed out a couple of specific lessons I should be able to carry elsewhere. First, character’s motives need to be believable, apparent, but not shouted out at the reader. Apparently some of my background characters have been a little two-dimensional, so I’ll be keeping this in mind going forward. And second, it’s hard but not impossible to spread out all the pieces of the climax to where they’re not obvious and then pull them all together for the big “Aha!” moment. I think I had an intuitive grasp of this already, but doing it in the mystery genre made the act of doing so much more explicit.

But probably my biggest take-away today is that my reaction has been decidedly business-like. I remember the first time I finished off a complete novel draft. I was euphoric for days, but with each novel completed, the emotional reaction had been less. This time, it was pretty much just, “Check that one off the list… what’s next?”

So yeah, what actually is next? I’m finishing off my edits to Debts of My Fathers and getting it off to beta readers. Then I’m doing the post-beta edits to Hell Bent and drafting its sequel, Stone Killer. Then it’s post-beta edits to Debts of My Fathers and drafting Oaths of My Fathers. And somewhere in there, both Hell Bent and Debts of My Fathers will go through copyedits and production to be released late this year.

So, it’s back to the word mines…

Welcome and Writing Update

ShipsOfMyFathers_Cover300pxI did a free Kindle promotion for Ships of My Fathers last week, and it was fairly successful. Worldwide, a little over a thousand folks downloaded it.  It seems a number of you enjoyed it and told your friends, and some of them are now buying it. Yay! Thank you.

Also, it seems a few of you have followed the links in the book and ended up here at my blog. Welcome. I tend to blog about three times a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. On Mondays, I usually write an essay relating to the genres I read and write, though sometimes you’ll just get some update on what’s happening in my life. On Wednesdays, I try to write something about writing and publishing. I’m not really trying to build an audience of writers, so I try to pick topics that might also interest readers. And on Fridays I post a review of a book or a movie. Random events intrude, so the schedule is a goal, not a guarantee.

If you are another writer wanting to talk about writing, I’m fairly active in the writing communities on Google+, and I encourage you to look me up there.

A couple of weeks back, I laid out my writing projects for the summer, so I thought I’d give a few updates on those.

Hell Bent: It is still with the beta readers. A few of them have finished their first pass but are going through it a second time before giving me their detailed feedback. It will be another week or two before I start gathering that stuff up, but the initial reactions sounded good. I hope to do the post-beta edits in August and get it to my copyeditor in September. Publication is still slated for November.

Debts of My Fathers: This is the sequel to Ships of My Fathers. I have now made my initial red-line edit pass over the printed document. I’ll start integrating those changes into the document over the next week. I hope to get it to my beta readers sometime in August. Publication is still slated for December or January. Of course, given my series goal of drafting book N+1 before publishing book N, I will need to draft book 3, Oaths of My Fathers, sometime in the fall.

shattered_vaseShattered: Contrary to my theme of “making it up as I go”, I actually did something of an outline for this one. It ended up being a 5000 word summary of events. In some ways it has been helpful. Given that I’ve never attempted this genre, it was useful to lay out the order of events. That way, I’ll know all the pieces are in place before the big reveal.

On the other hand, now that I’ve begun the actual text of the narrative, I’m already seeing ways in which I want to change some of those pieces. In fact, I’m feeling a strong desire to set aside the ongoing text and go back to edit the outline, and that sounds like it could be an unending task with no real progress going forward. Also, the mere existence of the outline is sapping my energy to write the book, since in some ways I’ve already spent the driving need to tell the story. So, for the moment, I’m doing my best to forget that I ever wrote the damned outline in the first place and only referring back to it for some of the research that I embedded into it. I hope to wrap this up by the end of July, but I’m already behind schedule.

Stone Killer: This is the sequel to Hell Bent. It’s still in pre-draft limbo. I like to think of it as sitting on the back burner of the stove as I add little ideas here and there. This one is taking shape in my more traditional fashion, sans outline. I know how it starts, and I know how it ends. I’m just plotting a few waypoints in between to help me go in the right direction. I hope to start drafting this in August.

That’s it for now. The narrative calls, so I’m heading back into the word-mines.

ApolloCon 2013

I spent this past weekend down in Houston for ApolloCon. I had a fairly laid-back experience this year. I even stole away some time to exercise in the gym and do red-line edits to Debts of My Fathers. I don’t have access to the actual attendance numbers, but the con seemed a little smaller this year than in the last couple of years. Or maybe I did not go to the really popular events. It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, here were some of the panels I attended:

Genre Journalism: This was mostly a discussion of some great SF/F blogs and news sources. John DeNardo was there, and he’s the managing editor of the group blog sfsignal.com. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, whose Hugo-winning blog started off about ten years ago just to share SF links with some friends.

Is There More to Space Opera than Space Fleets and Exploding Planets?: The obvious answer is yes, but we did spend a while talking about what makes space opera… well, space opera. Some argued that it required an epic scope… or rather, an EPIC SCOPE!! Others felt you could tell smaller stories within the larger backdrop.  From the audience, I pushed my own agenda for more civilian space opera, even though much of what I write does touch on the military.

When Spec Fic Stole My Brain: This turned into a fun trip down memory lane as panelists discussed what piece of speculative fiction first sparked their interest. Their ages ranged from the 40’s to the 70’s, so there was an interesting range from seeing the movies on the weekend for a dime to staying up late with the babysitter to watch Star Trek. It was neat that one of them had been hooked by Ringworld, just as I had.

Aaargh! We Loves Us Our Pirates – But Why?: I had been hoping this would take a turn towards space piracy, but we stayed pretty thoroughly mired in the ocean-bound variety. Still, it was an interesting mix of history, legends, and pure myth.

Communicating at the Speed of Light… Social Media for SF/F: This was mostly a discussion of the merits and pitfalls of various social media services and independent blogs. It was clear that the tide has turned against Facebook as a useful marketing platform, unless you’re selling pictures of cute cats. Google+ got some love, but the message from these particular panelists was mostly personal blogs and Twitter.

Frack You! No… Frell You!: This was a fun panel on various made-up swear words, alien oaths, and fantasy curses. By Grapthar’s Hammer, I haven’t laughed so hard at a panel in a long time.

And that was it. Like I said, it was fairly laid back for me. I probably spent about three hours on Sunday just sitting out in the lobby, chatting with people who stopped by, and editing Debts when they left. I even ran into a couple of friends who might go so far as to call themselves my fans. (Happy Dance!)

Summer Writing Schedule

writing_iconI thought I’d take a few minutes to update you about what I’m working on this summer.

Hell Bent is officially in beta. I handed it off to the bulk of the beta readers in the last few days, and I’m working out a handoff for the last one today. Hopefully I’ll get all that feedback by mid/late July and then do my edits in August. If I can get it to the copy editor in the September time frame, I might manage to publish it in November.

Debts of My Fathers (the sequel to Ships of My Fathers) is still in pre-edit limbo. I have the printout ready and waiting, but I haven’t looked at it since I wrapped it up last November. I will very likely do my initial edits to it this summer with an eye towards getting it to beta readers in the early fall. Publication is targeted for around New Years, but at this point, it’s hard to nail it down.

But for now, I’m starting to draft new work. In fact, I’m planning to draft two new novels this summer, if time and brain allows. My goal is to draft two new novels this year, with some hope of stretching that to three, and here I am with the year almost half-gone and not a single one written. Time to dig in.

shattered_vaseThe first one, tentatively titled Shattered, is quite the departure for me and might actually be a throw-away novel. Why? It’s a mystery, something I’ve never written before. Then why am I writing it, especially now when I should be trying to establish a rhythm in my publishing career? A couple of reasons. First, my mother is not a sci-fi or urban fantasy fan, and she keeps asking when I’m going to write something she can read. Well, I’m going to indulge her and try to write a mystery.

But the other reason is that a number of SF writers recommend that every writer should write a mystery at some point in their career, the earlier the better. Apparently, there’s something to be learned from the way a good mystery lays everything out and yet keeps the reading from seeing the resolution until the characters wrap it up all together. I’m also going to try a few experiments with additional prep work. I won’t say I’m going as far as the dreaded outline, but I’m at least laying down a few details before I type “Chapter 1”.

The second book I hope to draft this summer is the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer. My general goal in writing series is to draft the sequel before publishing the first, or to generalize it, draft N+1 before publishing N. I figure that improves my odds of fixing continuity problems before they go to print since it allows me to spot a problem in N+1 and fix it in N before it’s too late. So, since I hope to hand off Hell Bent to the copy editor around September, that means I’ll want to draft Stone Killer before that.

But if you do the math, you’ll see that’s drafting two full novels in the next two and a half months. Even considering that one of them is a mystery (typically a little shorter, targeting 65-75,000), the total for both novels will be in the range of 140-160,000 words. That’s about three NaNoWriMo’s worth in less than three months, while also trying to wrap up edits to Hell Bent and making my initial edits to Debts of My Fathers.

I honestly don’t know if I can do it, but that’s what I’m aiming for.

Novel Done, Moving Forward

It’s been quiet here for the last couple of weeks, but I finished the draft to Debts of My Fathers. I put in the last word Friday the 16th and went out to celebrate. Then came family, holidays, and so forth, so I decided to take a week off from all writing tasks, both fiction and blogging.

The novel itself is my longest draft so far, coming in at 99,269 words. Previous first drafts have come in around 75-80,000 and then stretched towards 90,000 during edits. This one is probably going to need to be cut some through tighter writing simply because even now I realize there a few more scenes that need to be added along the way.

The irony is that at the beginning of Act 3, I was worried that it was going to come in short at 65-70,000 words. Mostly that fear came from the no-outline vision of the climax I had in my mind, i.e. they get into this predicament and then with a little trickery, they get out of it. In the end, the trickery became… well, involved.

It is the sixth novel I’ve started and the fourth I’ve completed. (The first two unfinished novels are old and unlikely to see the light of day again.) I wrote it in five and half months, which is about the middle of the road for me so far. The others took three years, one year, and two months. I did the bulk of the work in June and the first part of July, and then I struggled over the next fourth months finishing it off. In retrospect, there are a couple of things I would have done differently schedule-wise, but I’m learning as I go. It’s also the first completed draft I’ve done that was not a NaNoWriMo attempt.

But for now, it’s done. I’ll probably print a review copy in the next week or two, and then that will sit on my shelf for a few months while I get some distance from it.

In the meantime, I will be returning to do the next edit pass on Ships of My Fathers. I’ll have to see how I feel at the end of it to decide whether it needs another beta reading or if it’s ready to go into the polish and proofreading stage.

Next I’ll do the edits to Hell Bent, my urban fantasy set in a cross-dimensional Pittsburgh. I wrote that one back in 2010-11, and it was a lot of fun. It’s a completely different setting, and I wrote it in first person. It’s a little on the short side at 71,000 words, but I know it’s going to grow about 10-15,000 words during the edit pass.

Once I get that off to my beta readers, it will either be back to polishing Ships of My Fathers or diving into the sequel to Hell Bent. I’ll just have to see where I am by then. Right now I don’t have a clear vision of how that sequel ends, and I can’t really start until I know where I’m going. Failing that, I’m still toying with the idea of writing a vanilla-world mystery for my mother.

The blog should return to something like its regular schedule, and I’ll probably have two Jim Butcher reviews up before the end of the year. I recently finished the second book in his Furies series, and the next installment of the Dresden Files comes out tomorrow. I had been dreading reading that one in hardcover, but it looks like my new Kindle jumped ahead in the production queue and shipped this morning.

What about the rest of you?  I know many of you were doing NaNoWriMo this year.  How did that go?

5 Ways to Keep Grinding out NaNoWriMo

Well, November 1st came and went, and I did not start on NaNoWriMo this year. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I had several reasons not to do NaNoWriMo, and the one that really killed it was the over-full writing schedule. Specifically, November arrived without me finishing the draft to Debts of My Fathers. Add to that the edits and polishing needs for two more novels, and jumping ship to do NaNoWriMo this year just seemed to be a bad choice for my long-term goals. However, I am still hoping to squeeze out one more draft this year, so my December might turn into Personal Novel Writing Month (PeNoWriMo).

But with four NaNoWriMo wins under my belt from previous years, I figure I’ve got a few useful things to say about getting to that 50,000 word finish line. I’ve done it with time off. I’ve done it on death-march projects. I’ve even done it with a pretty serious chest cold. In short, it can be done.

But how? More specifically, how do you keep going when you hit the wall of plot confusion, self-doubt, and fatigue around 18,000 words? Maybe it comes early, or maybe late, but somewhere in NaNoWriMo, you’re bound to hit some kind of wall. Here are some ways to keep grinding out 1,666 words each day when even 100 seems impossible.

1. Build momentum while padding it out. If you have a hard time starting at the beginning of the writing session, just pad out the text with description or trivial dialog. Yes, that part will need to be cut, but that will happen months later during the edits. Put it in now, get your fingers moving, and once the words start flowing, segue into the morgue scene where Dr. Pickles finds the missing bullet.

 

2. Park downhill. This is another technique for easing your way into the next writing session, but it requires you to plan ahead. When you’re running out of your allotted writing time (or you’ve beaten back the daily word count to nothing), don’t wrap things up. Instead, leave things right there in the middle of the action with just a couple of notes to remind you what happens next. That way, when you come back the next day, you don’t have to stare at the blank page wondering what comes next. Instead, you can pick back up with the grenade still sailing through the air past our intrepid hero.

3. Knock something over. If you’re pantsing it (or if you suddenly realize your careful outline isn’t working), you can get stuck, unsure of what happens next. This is pretty common around the 20-30,000 word mark. You’ve established the setting, put the characters in motion, established the conflict, and now you’re left wondering what to do between now and that distant climax. This is the perfect time for something unexpected. The car breaks down. Your hero gets arrested. The dinner guest is carrying the pox. Shit hits the fan! You’ll crank out 10-15,000 words recovering from this, and very likely it will set up something important for the end.

4. Burn your thesaurus. Well, not literally burn it, but try to stay away from it. The point here is to not get bogged down in the wordcraft. Yes, there are writers who turn out beautifully poetic first drafts… in eight years. They do not do it in thirty days. More than once, I’ve just thrown down some crap and followed it up with a note to my later self, “That doesn’t work as well as it needs to. Fix it.”

5. Resist the urge to edit. You’re twenty thousand words in and you realize your hero needs a sidekick. Do not go back and edit what you have to add the sidekick. Just drop in a little note to your later self that you are adding the sidekick and that it will need some exposition and interaction earlier on. Then start writing as if the sidekick has been there the whole time. The same goes for evil nemeses, long-lost brothers, and dead mentors. Even if you did an outline, the act of writing that first draft reveals what the story really is. You can deal with that extra leg later on.

If that doesn’t keep the words flowing, you might need chemical intervention or a neural interface. For other thoughts on NaNoWriMo, see my column last year: Nah Know Rhyme Oh!

I Can’t Do That

I’ve been stuck on Debts of My Fathers for a couple of months now. It’s not the traditional “writer’s block” where I’m blocked on the writing itself. I’ve written plenty of other stuff. It’s also not that I’m unclear on what comes next. Certainly, I’ve jiggered the order of a few of the as-yet-unwritten events, but I’ve always known what was going to happen. So, to be clear, I know exactly what has to happen next.

I just don’t want to do it.

Very soon, I have to do something horrific to a character I like. I have to do my dead-level best to break her down to the core, and to do that, I must do something truly abhorrent – something I would never do, something I am realizing I cannot do.

But of course, it’s not me that’s doing it. And for that matter, the character I’m inflicting it on isn’t really suffering for it either. It’s all make-believe with one fictional character being mean to another equally fictional character. I’m just jotting this little lie down on paper.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t help much. In some ways, to make the reader care about these characters, the writer has to care just as much. So it sucks when something bad happens to one of them. It sucks even more because, at some level, I’m the one doing it. Remember that thing about fictional characters taking up slots in our monkey-sphere? Yeah… well right now Skippy the Wonder-Monkey is looking at me with accusing eyes. “You’re doing what? To my sister Charlene the Cheery-Chimp?”

So now I’ve got to go do that terrible thing to someone I like, and I don’t want to do it. The scars on that character will be permanent, and if she was real, she would never actually forgive me, not even after removing my internal organs with a rusty spork. But she’s not real, so I’m going to fire up the torture machine and drop her in. I might even have to decapitate her teddy bear first.

But if I ever find out I’m in some kind of Stranger Than Fiction world, I’m really going to lose it.

Blogiversary

This blog is now officially one year old. My first post was little more than “Hey! This is my blog!” and a brief introduction. I didn’t have any grand plans then. I can’t say my plans are that grand now either, but at least I’ve got some momentum.

And momentum is exactly what I was lacking a year ago. I had been piddling around with my writing for years… well, decades really. I felt I had a lot of stories to tell, and I thought my writing was rising to a professional level, but I was not getting anywhere. Of course, I wasn’t trying that hard, either. I had a couple of leads on agents, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed. For that matter, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to proceed.

You see, somewhere in that tentative agent hunt, one of those agents had asked an important question: why do I want to be published? This was different than the age-old question of why do I want to write, and notably, it was a question I had never asked myself. At the time it was asked, my only answer was that it seemed to be the next logical step, but writing and publishing are very different tasks, and just because I enjoyed one was no reason to think I would enjoy the other.

The other lurking question was whether to pursue traditional publishing at all or head out into the lands of self-publishing on my own. “No unagented submissions” was the rule of the day, and even getting an agent was a dicey proposition. Meanwhile, a legion of scam artists were eager to pounce on my dreams and turn them into debts and disaster.  And the self-publishing evangelists were making claims that seemed too good to be true.

To say I was stuck would be an exaggeration of my forward motion, but that had changed two weeks earlier. I was having lunch with a friend, and we were both bemoaning our lack of progress. He was trying to make the jump “above the line” in films, and I was trying to move forward on some kind of writing career. We had both been stuck for years, and we didn’t see anything obvious that was about to yank us forward.

And that’s when I said it. “I don’t want to be having this same conversation in two years.

It’s not pithy enough to be a Nike slogan, but it had the same effect. I dusted off this domain – registered but idle for years – and started blogging. I finished the edits to Beneath the Sky. I finished the draft to Hell Bent. I wrote the draft to Ships of My Fathers. When the new year came around, I finally answered my questions about publishing and made the decision to self-publish Beneath the Sky.  In May I did exactly that. Since then I’ve done first pass edits to Ships of My Fathers and launched into the draft of its sequel, Debts of My Fathers.

I’d like to say it’s been one steady roll of successes, but I’ve had my stumbles along the way. Publishing Beneath the Sky took longer than I had hoped, and I feel like I rushed the cover. The draft to Debts of My Fathers stalled over the summer due to distractions from a house full of special-needs kids and some problems with how the third act was shaping up. I’ve resolved those now, and I’m heading back in to finish it up. But now I’m two months behind where I wanted to be.

Still, I’m eager to keep moving and confident that when next September rolls around, I won’t be having that same stuck-in-the-mud conversation. Tasks that I’m still hoping to finish off this year include: finishing Debts of my Fathers, polishing and publishing Ships of my Fathers, getting Hell Bent into the hands of my beta readers, and writing the first draft to the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer.

As for the blog, I have a few changes in mind. Some of them are cosmetic, but a few are content-focused. I will probably be dropping my intermittent blog entries on making gold in World of Warcraft – though for the record, I did punch through the one million gold mark this summer. (Fanfare?  Cheers?  Golf clap??)  Instead of talking about gaming, I’m going to take a stab at writing more short fiction. This is something I have not done regularly since the 1990’s, but I want to give it another shot. The SF/F essays will continue, and I will likely continue to talk some about writing and publishing. The book reviews will keep coming along as fast (er, I mean, as slow…) as I read them, but I’m thinking about adding some columns on movies as well.  Podcasting is still a possibility, but it’s iffy.

I hope to have two or three more books in print by the time this blogiversary rolls around next year, but other than that, I have no idea where this is all headed. As always, I’m making it up as I go.

Darn… Didn’t Finish

It’s August 1st, and I haven’t finished the draft of that next novel, Debts of My Fathers. I’m around 75,000 words, and I probably have another 15,000 words to go.

So, what happened?

Well, first of all, it’s not a disaster. I’m probably going to take a few days off and then pick up and finish it off by mid-month. However, it is a little disappointing. My previous three novels were all done as NaNoWriMo’s, and I hit the 50,000 word mark by November 30th in each case. (Plus, I did another NaNoWriMo even before those, but that novel was never completed.) So I’m used to setting a deadline and meeting it. This time I didn’t.

The deadline was to finish the novel by the end of July, and the novel felt like it was going to be around 90,000 words. So with 60 days, I set a pace of 1500 words per day. I did pretty well until mid to late July, and then I started faltering. Partly it was that I had two weekend conferences (20-22nd and 27-29th) that sucked up some of my days. They also pushed other tasks off of the weekend and into weekday time that I would have been writing. It’s also summer, and I’m dealing with the kids a lot. So, to that extent, it wasn’t so much writer’s block as much as it was having trouble making the hours in my schedule.

But it was also at least a little bit of writer’s block. I’m not a big fan of waiting for the stars to align before I can write. I put my butt in the chair and write. But still, some days I write at the pace of 1000 words per hour, and some days I write at the pace of 200 words per hour. Generally, the faster I write, the better the text, so it’s not like I’m spending hours carefully crafting those magic 200 words. The last several days of July were a lot closer to 200 words per hour than 1000 words per hour.

To some extent, I’m not that surprised. Of the three novels I completed before this, I hit a rough patch at around 70-75% of the way through on each of them. It actually caused me to set each of them aside for a while. The first one had a pause of almost two years. The second one caused a pause of about ten months. The third one was a pause of a few weeks. I’m not sure what it is about that spot, but while I won’t call it writer’s block, it might be at least a writer’s cramp. Hopefully, the pause will be even shorter this time.

So I’m going to take a few days off from the novel draft, though it probably will not be a few days off from writing. I hope to get ahead on some blog and essay writing and possibly even do a little bit of flash fiction. Then I’ll wrap this one up by mid-August.

I’ll let you know when it wraps up.

Page 100

Sorry, no essay today, but I crossed through page 100 on my new draft.  I draft on 8.5×11″ pages — or rather, their electronic equivalent — so that’s about 56,000 words.  In a trade paperback, that would be closing in on page 200.

I’m more or less on track to finish up by the end of July.  I’m setting a pace for 90,000 words, though my drafts tend to come in closer to 80,000 with another 5-10K creeping in during the edit phase.  This is for two reasons: first, my drafts are often light on needed description, and second, my initial drafts sometimes include notes like “hey, this gun needs to show up back in act 1.”  So, while there is some tightening of the prose during the edits, I also add a fair amount, sometimes in snippets and sometimes entire scenes.

It’s also been interesting in that I’m writing a sequel to a book that won’t come out until this fall, and I still have time to go back and change things in that first book.  So, as I’m winding this one down and firming up the ideas for the next three (it’s a 5-book series… I think), I’m seeing a couple of items that I need to go back and drop into the first book.  Things that, y’know… might be IMPORTANT later.

So, back to the word mines.  I’ve got another six or seven pages before the next bad thing happens to our heroes.