Publication and Sale: The Dog of Pel

The Dog of Pel is now available in ebook on Smashwords and Amazon. The paperback should be available on Amazon later this week.

As a celebration (because I’m always so damn relieved to get this far!) the ebooks of both Matcher Rules and The Bone Road are on sale at both vendors for $0.99 during July and August. Or longer if I feel happy.

The Dog of Pel — Coming July 2015



All Jamie Pel wants is a quiet life in his demesne and someone to share it with. As the secondary heir—the spare—of the Magne of Pel, his uncle, he’s avoided the pomp and ritual other Magnes and their primary heirs seem to relish. But with talk of a nascent slave trade circulating in Gallia, the Magne of Pel recruits Jamie to join an observation mission to the Scour, the blasted, burned-out territory where people sell themselves into slavery to get out.

With nothing but good intentions and a desire to steer clear of drama, Jamie obliges, but while he’s out-demesne, his uncle and beloved cousin—the primary heir—are both killed, elevating Jamie to a powerful position he’s spent his life trying to avoid. Returning home, he discovers traitors and thieves under his own roof and a tinderbox of ambition and intrigue about to explode among his fellow Magnes. With Magic afoot and a vicious power struggle stretching to every corner of Gallia, Jamie doesn’t know who to trust or where to turn. But if he doesn’t rise to the occasion—and soon—all of Gallia could be absorbed by the blighted Scour, and everything—and everyone—Jamie loves could be destroyed.

Revisions and Editors

After three months of revisions, I sent the finished manuscript to a professional editor. My final version of The Dog of Pel is almost exactly 100,000 words, by Microsoft’s Word Count. 340 pages.

For anyone interested in process:

I printed out the entire manuscript, went over it line by line, and wrote in corrections and notes to myself. Sometimes they were very detailed corrections to the text and other times said informative things such as “Rewrite!” or “Expand” or “?”. Going to Starbucks was very helpful and caffeine was essential. Well, caffeine is always essential, but the atmosphere helped. The white noise of a coffee shop really aids concentration.

Then I went back to the computer and entered the corrections or changed the troublesome bits. The ending seemed rushed and weak to me. I have an elaborate world with rules and structure and the end as first written seemed a bit ‘he waved his arms and magic happened’ so I rewrote it.

I rewrote it three times.

Because these changes altered some of the earlier plot, I printed out the manuscript again and repeated the corrections process, trying to catch all the tiny plot details and achieve logical consistency. I double and triple checked the last 50 pages for flow and tone and whatever you want to call it so the characters achieved logical and emotionally satisfying ends, whether good or bad.

I spell-checked the whole thing twice. I also went through my List of Words I Overuse such as ‘just’, ‘thought’, and for some annoying reason ‘nodded’, and removed as many as possible. Sometimes I see my characters as bobble-headed dolls, apparently. I have never put a sentence into a manuscript that said: ‘I just thought he nodded’ but clearly it is only a matter of time.

I let the manuscript sit for a few days. When I returned to it I changed some sentences. Then I changed them back. Then I changed some more and changed them back. This is my “You Are Done” indicator.

I didn’t use a professional editor for either Matcher Rules or The Bone Road. Whatever your opinion of either of those titles, I decided this time to move beyond the criticism and input of my friendly beta readers and send this manuscript to a professional. After some hesitation I chose a woman who I’d taken a workshop with some years ago. She’s not a fantasy genre specialist, but she does edit genre. I felt my trust in her professionalism and competency outweighed the narrow confines of genre. 

I won’t find out if this decision was good or bad until May 8th. She’ll start on the manuscript on April 20. I sent it in early because I could not do anything else with that enormous lump of work and anxiety sitting on my desktop. So it’s gone.

Now I have time to clean up a bit around here and work on some other projects. Also, I’m carrying around a notebook with the beginnings of the next book. So far I have a title, the first two sentences, about six character biographies and the beginning of an outline. This is my favorite part. All the possibilities of story, none of the reality of writing it down.

The Dog of Pel is Done

The first pass, anyway. Two and a half years of work mercifully not down the drain. It made a nice birthday gift from me to me.

Depending on how you count, it’s either 94,000 words if you go by Microsoft Word or 80,000 words using the classic editorial 250 words per page. I prefer the actual Word count. I expect the final version will be over 100,000. There are some sections I need to expand and of course I need to edit, chop, change, clarify, and add more color and life and descriptions. I rushed a bit through the final 50 pages so I expect the last bit to need more work than the first. One of my villains, a nasty treacherous person of unspecified gender, had a very skimpy death scene and I certainly can’t let him/her get away with that. More blood! More suffering!

I’ve a busy week ahead so the manuscript can sit and marinate for a while. The back part of my brain, the part that plots, wants to slide in another character even at this late stage. It’s possible but I’m not sure it’s necessary; I’ll think about that.

In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas or whichever holiday is the flavor of your choice, and a Happy New Year!

Fun in Our Work

Yes, it’s been a while since I updated this blog, but give me a choice between blogging and making progress on The Dog of Pel and you guessed it.

I’ve combed through the existing manuscript, removed, changed, modified, and added all sorts of text, and sent the revised opus off to my beta readers. I’m working on the final chapters and thinking about the END, which is marvelous. Choices have been made. By me. I’ve made choices, finally, and I must tell you I’ve never worked on anything with so many possible ways to go. The beta readers (bless them) will tell me if I made the right choices so far, although I was very mean and left them suspended in mid-scene.

For this one, I think I am springing for an editor. A proper editorial critique by someone I respect who gets what I am attempting to do. The manuscript needs it, and several readers have said the others could have used one, so this time around it will get it.

I’m very excited at the prospect. I’m at least three months, maybe more, away from finishing and sending the final product off to an editor, but I’m looking forward to it. Also, I have to chose an editor, get on their schedule, and pay them dollars, but I’m even looking forward to the process.

With indie publishing, if I have to do all the work and wear all the hats, I get to have all the fun. It’s only fair.


Progress on The Dog of Pel

I’m writing steadily on The Dog of Pel. Current word count, as of today, is 75,000. I’ve accepted this one isn’t going to move quickly but it IS moving. My best guess for the final total—and this is a total guess—is between 100,000 and 110,000.

I’ve outlined to the end of the story at least three times and no sooner do I get my head into the writing than the story takes off in another direction. So the outlines are more like vague guidelines. Another image that reoccurs: I’m crossing a very rapid stream, jumping from stone to stone. I can only see one or at the most two stones ahead at any time.

I can tell the end of the first draft is coming because I’m making a list of all the revisions I have to encorporate in the second draft. But ‘first draft’ is a little misleading since I’ve been revising all along and parts of the story have a polished feel.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing. As I said, progress.

Getting Stuck/Getting Unstuck

About two months ago I got stuck. The Dog of Pel was over half done but I could not see my way forward. Or rather I had so many possibilities and permutations I was writing scenes, changing my mind, rewriting scenes, and ripping them out.

I have three fallback techniques, which aren’t really techniques but tricks to fool myself and force my brain to solve the problem. I tried two and invented a third, which seems to be working.

The first: print out the entire manuscript and re-read from the beginning. Mark it up. Go back to the computer and do all the revisions, hoping for inspiration to move forward. (This techique is very good for wasting time; I highly recommend it if you want the illusion of progress.) It didn’t work.

The second: Outlining. I hate outlining. I have six or seven outlines of possible plot permutations and kept tripping over the alternative possibilities and unanswered questions, see first paragraph.

The third: I wrote down all the questions. I stared at the list for three days. Make that a week. Not writing for so long made me nervous I would drop the manuscript entirely, but I was reassured by my obsession with the questions. If I was that worried, the story was still alive.

This worked. Or it has worked short term, because I ignored all the outlines and notes and started a new story line for the last third of the book. Now I’m moving forward, like Jamie in the Scour, one step at time and testing my footing very carefully.

I remind myself over and over: I got stuck with The Bone Road. For a very long time. Years. I planned and wrote my way out of that, and (I tell myself) I can do it with The Dog of Pel. Never Give Up. Never Never Never.


Work In Progress

I’m ambivalent giving details of the novel in progress. For one thing I change my mind a lot. For another sometimes I have a great idea but talking about it to another person kills it. So without going into too much detail, here’s the current state of being:

The title will probably be The Dog of Pel. I can see myself spending the next two years saying “No, I’m not writing about a dog” which will get old fast, but that’s the way I think of the book and until I get a better idea I’m going with it.

I’m working very hard on a consistent and logical world structure. In fantasy this is harder than it looks. If you have a world where the use of fire is forbidden you have to construct a way for the characters to heat their homes, cook their food, and transmute objects from one state to another. It’s quite easy to slip up. The other day I found a well-written description of an important location which had smoke drifting up from the chimneys. Urk!

I’m trying to write this one from a single point-of-view. This means the reader can only know what the character knows, so I have to make sure the protagonist gets information by either being in the right place at the right time or has access to the information some other way. Also, I must be careful not to give my protagonist mind-reading skills. In other words if he is talking to someone he can assume the other character is motivated by hate, or ambition, or love, but he can’t know it until the character demonstrates it by his actions or tells him.

There has to be enough action to keep the reader involved. I’ve spent a lot of time building this world and I have a bad tendency to data dump, so I’m always going back and removing (not deleting!) hunks of exposition. I have to feed that information into the text and the reader’s mind in a natural way without slowing down the story. As a reader I actually like data dumps so my judgment is shaky here.

I’ve run the draft past several patient alpha readers and they’ve been encouraging enough so I don’t feel as if I’ve wasted both my time and theirs. They also gave me great feedback.

One of the encouraging things about the state of the manuscript so far: it’s like a scaffold. I’ve gone back three times and added new characters to existing scenes, tweaked world details, and made other substantial changes and the manuscript has been very accepting. I’m able to slot new stuff in without much difficulty and this more than anything makes me feel I’m on the right track.

So, onward! And no, it is not about a dog.

Accidental Stupidity (Almost)

As a human, I’m a stacker. I stack the ten books I am more or less reading by my chair, I stack all the papers I have to do something with on my desk and my computer desktop is littered with gifs and jpegs and docs, some in folders and some simply floating around getting in my way. Every so often I tidy up.

Today I was cleaning up the desktop, putting the cartoons in a folder, dumping old notes and spreadsheets into the Trash, making a folder optimistically named ‘Taxes’, and the desktop was looking very clean and organized. Normally, I follow through by simply clicking Empty Trash.

Some dim distant bell rang in my head. Something, something was niggling at my attention. Where was the current manuscript? It should be right there…

It’s too bad I wasn’t hooked up to a blood pressure meter because I might have set a new land speed record for panic. My hands were literally shaking when I opened the Trash folder. And there it was: 60,000 plus words of The Dog of Pel. Thank god I am on a mac. I hauled it back very very carefully (shaking hands, remember?) and opened it. It was, of course, fine. Unlike its creator.

Yes, I have backups. But I’ve made a lot of changes in the last three weeks: changes in plot structure, characterization, and a host of tiny details. Losing that file would have been a major and depressing setback and I’m not sure I would have the energy or enthusiasm to recreate it.

Obviously (DUH!) I need to revisit an auto-backup utility. I’ve avoided these because of my entrenched prejudices against IT file control programs, based on 30 years of Big Corporate experience. (They forced us into auto-backups, but we never ever had a successful restore. Not once.)

Dog of Pel is about halfway, as far as I can tell, and if I can’t who can? Sorry, still giddy with relief here. It’s in the ‘muddled middle’ where the initial inspiration has waned and the end is not yet in sight. Lots of uncertainty and a massive number of choices, each one creating more choices and so on. It’s satisfying work, but it is still work.

I don’t know what I would have done if I had trashed the manuscript. Cried, certainly. Been depressed, absolutely. I hope my sense of the story would have let me, after a period of mourning, go back to the last backup and recreate what I had done. Thank all the gods and little fishes, I don’t have to go down that road. Thank god I listened to that little niggling voice. Right now, I’m taking myself out to lunch.

And my hands have stopped shaking.

The Dog of Pell

I started writing my new fantasy, The Dog of Pell, yesterday July 4.

I didn’t outline the entire book, but I do have the main plot including resolution planned, and many of the scenes in the first half. I’ve also worked out the world rules, which is very important for fantasy.

It’s lovely to be writing something new, and at the same time, it feels great to be back in the familiar creating groove. I have been doing editing and corrections and re-writes for so long.

So, I’m off!