Even more exciting, that’s Prince James, my protagonist, on the cover! I may or may not have been dancing since I first realised a couple of weeks back when I received a sneak peek at the cover.
My morning has been a flurry of social media sharing it and I just sent out my first email newsletter ever announcing it. If you’re a newsletter member please let me know if the email looked good – it really is my first ever attempt!
Do you not know anything about Charming yet? Charming is one of my Retailored Fairy Tales, the very first to be released. Here’s the story in one line:
“To keep his small kingdom from bankruptcy Prince James sells his services to worried parents and lazy lovers to rescue their princesses for them. His latest mission however, is proving to be his most difficult.”
A dire wolf, an enchanter’s eldest daughter, lies, a princess trapped in a tower at the bottom of a lake, and the dark secrets of the Black Forest, all while trying to keep his kingdom afloat and maybe, just maybe, finding his love-at-first-sight girl.
Right now it’s only available in paperback (buy here) but the ebook version will be along shortly and I’ll let you know at once when it’s released.
When I started writing this crazy story(the one I’m calling ‘My Skeleton Romance’ for lack of an actual name at the moment) I thought it would be a novella length, a bit longer than The Troll’s Toll (which is 20,ooo words). I guessed probably 30,000. However I’m passing 25 k (half a NaNoWriMo novel!) and I’m about a third of the way through the plot.
I’m not writing super lean, but I’m not fluffing about padding either. I’m just having so much fun with some of the characters. My supporting cast are stepping up and saying, “hey, I’m more important than the role you’ve assigned me. Here, how about you give me some depth by doing this? And you know what, that’ll go and complicate things for your protagonist too”
The story was supposed to be a romance with a bizarre fantasy/horror twist to it, the romance has taken a back seat to the ‘coming out’ side of the story for the first half (it’s growing a bit more romantic now) and other character relationships have become much more significant that I’d planned.
While I was laying out the plot I was astounding myself with some of the ideas I was having, and now it’s happening all over again.
It looks like this story is going to be a novel perhaps, not a novella. Either way, lets finish this draft first, then do some revision before I start trying to square it away into a box.
I’ve come to a point in editing Written By The Stars where I have to decide whether or not to pull out a cool plot point.
The concept of this part of the plot is awesome and it would be a great way to show the differences between Fanta’s home world (our own) and the world she ends up in. On the other hand the only way to solve it in this book is to either change a part of the story’s climax I don’t want to change, or make it part of the driving source for a sequel novel.
I’ve idly toyed with the idea of a sequel to Written By The Stars almost since its completion, but have never had a strong enough plot idea to make me want to commit to it.
Now I haven’t got a choice. If I keep this plot thread in, I need to resolve it in the second book (because all first book resolution options make me want to barf for entirely non-pregnancy related reasons), or I need to remove all mention of it and stick with a stand-alone fantasy novel. This means I have to pause in editing to see if I can make a plot outline worth committing to.
Which is a pity since my editing momentum has been great the last few weeks since I restarted working on this revision back at the writers retreat.
Me and my shiny new certificate. Yes, I framed it.
I’ve already mentioned this, but I suppose it was more in passing in a goals round-up than in a big way. So let me rectify that.
Last year my (still not yet published) short story, Charming, received an honourable mention in the fourth quarter of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers Of The Future contest.
An honoruable mention nets me a nice certificate to commemorate the achievement. And it just arrived in the mail 😀
Now I’ll be putting it beside my lovely Redlitzer trophy and my ‘published author’ plaque/desk stand thing. I’m starting to get a nice little collection going.
If you’d like to know a little more about Charming this is the one sentence summary I have for it on my ‘Current Projects’ page:
To keep his small kingdom from bankruptcy Prince James sells his services to worried parents and lazy lovers to rescue their princesses for them. His latest mission however, is proving to be his most difficult.
Charming is still out there shopping for a home and has a couple of sequels at various developmental stages too. I’ll keep you updated on its progress.
I have just finished writing what may have been the toughest scene to write in my life thus far.
It wasn’t tough because I had no idea what to write. I knew EXACTLY what to write. It was the content, how close it is to my own life, that made it hard.
My mind kept trying to twist away from it. Hey Kirstie, check out what’s happening on Facebook. Oh, you should totally look at baby monitors for the new baby instead. No, write a blog post about this. You should go read that book you started yesterday. No wait, you should email that magazine you think might not have correctly removed you from their subscription list and is sending you copies you haven’t paid for yet.
Sometimes I could barely get a whole sentence out without my brain trying to disengage.
Foxworth is a schnauzer
This is all Talitha’s fault ;p No actually, going back far enough it’s my own. I made a writing prompt on the Vision Writer’s website and it inspired me to write ‘Foxworth’, the story of a family of five who adopt a dog with mismatched eyes and a creepy reason why he keeps being returned to the animal shelter.
I submitted Foxworth to my group for feedback, knowing it was a rather selfishly written story with an ending written to satisfy my own real life worries. I wanted to see if the story could appeal to anyone but me and maybe a few parents in similar situations to me.
Foxworth was well received, mostly with minor corrections, but the deeply talented Talitha pointed out something very important my story was missing. I had shied away from the distressing side of my life which the story was trying to appease. I wasn’t admitting to how bad things can be sometimes. I needed to show that to make the ending satisfying for more readers, to make those who haven’t lived this understand why the ending is cathartic. (You can read a bit more about Talitha’s feedback on the Vision Writer’s site)
I don’t know yet if what I’ve written will connect with people deeply enough. People who have experienced it will understand, but I think they would have understood even with the early version which didn’t flat out put it in your face.
I do know however, that Foxworth is becoming the story I’m most deeply invested in out of all my works.
There’s a particular market I really want to submit it to, but if they reject the story I’m not sure I have the strength to keep sending it to other traditional markets like I do with all my other short stories. Not due to the pain of rejection (I’m pretty numb to that after the last few years and being aware that sometimes there’s only 4-5 story slots and well over a hundred submissions makes it less painful) but because I want it out there now. I have a deep urge to get Foxworth into the hands of others. So perhaps you’ll be reading Foxworth soon…
My apologies. When I first got news of this spotlight I prepared this post, saved it as a draft and then – like the genius I am – forgot to actually publish it when this article was posted on Allan Walsh’s A Writer’s Journey.
In yesterday’s post about the anthology, 18, that my critique group released for its eighteenth anniversary, I mentioned the work wasn’t just the product of the members imaginations but also showed the critiquing of the group and the ability of the writers to take that feedback and work on it. I also mentioned that my story, Nightfall, went through a great deal of change. In fact it is one of the stories that probably changed the most from the original.
In my original story Marrille had a massive fear of giving birth and therefore of being assigned a mate, but the group thought this distracted from the much bigger themes in the story – muddied the waters so to speak (though I’m definitely keeping that fear for some poor future character to suffer).
Also, in the original version Marrille and Sario successfully made their provision run, visiting the local town, bartering for food and allowing me to show off all the wonderful creatures I’d populated the world with. However, cool as it was to me, not enough happened in the scene, and it set the action of the hawk attack too far back from the start, meaning a longer slog for the reader before life and death hung in the balance.
So my second version had both of those removed (along with some smaller more finnicky stuff I won’t waste time here on), however my story was still well over the word count and there was still something about the story niggling in a few minds and we eventually uncovered what that was.
The fix was to chop apart the start again. I thought I was killing a darling (a writer’s term for removing something you love that just isn’t working) when I cut the market scene, but taking out the start was much, much worse. My favourite character’s best moments were cut, in fact the whole power of his presence was diminished massively – but it wasn’t his story, it was Marrille’s so it had to go.
This should show how much a story can change between first draft and when it appears on printed page. A critique group, or at least some outside opinions, can help so much in finding flaws that you can’t see yourself, whether you can sense something’s wrong or not.
The cut start is still a darling, and though it was killed from the story I couldn’t let it wallow in a shallow grave in the Word Cemetary, so I’ve made it available here(read on site or pdf). You can read Nightfall in it’s final form first and come back to see the longer opening because of curiosity or read it first then read Nightfall as it appears in the anthology 18. You can buy 18 from Amazon. You can read the darling start by downloading it in pdf or reading it here on this site.
Long-time readers will be familiar with the fact I’m a member and Vice-President of a fantastic critique group: Vision Writers.
Vision Writers celebrates its eighteenth anniversary this September, and current president Belinda thought it would be a smashing idea for the current generation of the group to make an anthology. Our original intent was to release a little closer to the anniversary in September, but at the meeting on Sunday we found the ebook version was good to go so – SURPRISE – you can go buy it now!
All of the stories have been critiqued by the whole group at least twice, so aren’t just the product of the imaginations of group members, but the toil of our critiquing and our members taking on board the feedback and actioning it(more on that in an upcoming post where I’ll give you a chance to check out how dramatically my own story Nightfall changed throughout the process).
And I’m going to issue a challenge to all readers of the anthology: one of our members is sweet sixteen. Her piece is in here with everyone else’s. I GUARANTEE you won’t guess which one is hers. Yes. Guarantee. I’m going for that strong a word.
Obviously I’m totally biased as to the awesomeness of this anthology, so go check it out on Amazon and peek inside. The ‘look inside’ function on Amazon will let you see the first story and a little bit of the second and I’m confident you won’t be able to stop yourself there.
Oomph is available in print and for e-readers and is filled with stories of super heroes whose powers are less than awesome, not that they let that get in their way!
Short Circuit is about a sixteen year old struggling to be a good hero. She can manipulate electricity but not create it, meaning she has to electrocute herself daily to charge up for combat and is constantly running out in the heat of battle. You’ll enjoy plenty of team battles, a touch of unrequited love, and plenty of laughs.
I wrote Short Circuit specifically for ‘Oomph’. The character and her world already existed for another story (which I swear I’ll do as soon as I can rope an artist into making a comic with me), so I really just opened a window into what was originally back story for that character. It was a lot of fun writing the story, and reminded me of the fluctuating confidence of teenagers (one second you’re queen bee the next you don’t know if you can ever show your face in public again).
And awesomely this also enables me to become an Amazon Author as well (without having to self-publish!).
If you want to grab a copy, head over to Crossed Genres to select print or e-reader version and then let me know what you think.
Kirstie Olley is an award-winning speculative fiction author and the full-time wrangler of her children Xander and Harlequin.
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Read The Troll's Toll: A Retailored Fairy Tales Novella now.
Read 'Charming' (Honorable Mention in the Writers of The Future contest Q4 2014) in Leading Edge Magazine issue 68.
Read 'Short Circuit' (finalist in the 2013 Aurealis Awards Best Fantasy Short Fiction category) in Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way from Crossed Genres.
Read ‘Hanabi to Kitsune'(Fireworks and Foxes) now in Tales of the Sunrise Lands from Guardbridge Books.
Read ‘Glass Bones’ now in WARRIOR an anthology choc-full of LGBTQIA warriors all across space, time, and imagination.
Read 'Gaps' in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #63. Click the cover to buy.
Read The Beauty of the Dance(Honorable Mention in the Writers of The Future contest Q41 2015) in Myriad Lands vol 1: Around the World.
Read 'Nightfall' for free now in 18. Click the picture to decide where to download it from.
Read ‘God’s Chosen’ for free now in Darkest Depths – the Vision Writers 20th Anniversary anthology. Click the picture to decide where to download it from.
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