29 December, 2015

Watching a story evolve

There's nothing more exciting than getting back into the groove of things. Working on the revisions for Tragedy of Ice has made me appreciate the overall story even more. 

Having worked on Comedy of Rain for NaNoWriMo, and seen my characters after a substantial time skip, I really appreciate their personal growth. Franklin is so utterly young in Tragedy of Ice, and has grown up so much by the beginning of Comedy of Rain; Kadiza's gone from being closed off to others, and has built quite the support group for herself by book 2; Hipólito's no longer the aloof outsider, having been given his own POV, so we finally know what's in his head and how he sees the others. 

It's just amazing watching them grow. My characters really are my children, and I put them through so much. And they are the better for it, believe me.

I've yet to hook up my second monitor, so until then, my Surface functions as my work screen.
I also realized that Tragedy of Ice and Comedy of Rain are substantially different, in terms of the type of action, but that's a good thing. Tragedy of Ice is very physical, from the conflicts to the trauma. Comedy of Rain is psychological, with lots of mental abuse to go around. Yeah, there are still some physical altercations, but the cerebral mindscrew of a rabbit hole gets deeper and darker with the changes ISA makes in book 2.

At first, this had me worried, because the two books are so drastically different in terms of content when I compare them side by side. But the more I go back and forth between them, plotting and planning future scenes and arranging connections from the first book to the second, I understand how wonderful this turn is. The books have to stand on their own—that's a given—but they need to approach the same major plot point from different angles, without sacrificing quality.

I think if I had tried to shoehorn the plot of book 2 to match more with book 1, it would have ruined it. Readers would've gotten a rehash of Tragedy of Ice, just with a different cast and setting. I can't have that. The story has to evolve (naturally, organically), and while they say "history repeats itself", that can't happen with two works so closely aligned. They have to be different. The stories have to be different. Or else what's the point?

And as I continue to work on the two, I realize something else: I still need to come up with a sodding series name! lol

14 December, 2015

Comeuppance has a cover!

I finished the cover for Comeuppance! I'm excited to say it's my absolute favourite to date. I love making the coverart as much as I do the actual stories. 


Speaking of the story. I'm on my (hopefully) final round of revisions, and will have the story out to my beta readers this week. If all goes according to plan, then I'll have the definitive publishing date to provide you folks with on my next update.

Until then! :)

29 November, 2015

As NaNoWriMo 2015 draws to a close


NaNoWriMo 2015 is officially over for me. I validated last night with a whopping 61,514 words. The story is only halfway done. I'm on chapter 17 of 34 (plus a prologue and an epilogue), so I still have quite a ways to go.

On the plus side, I got the intimidating part out of the way: starting the novel. That's always where I'm the most leery. I sit and stare and wonder how on page 1, a blank page of nothing, I can ever start a work of any length. But then once I do, I go at it like a dog with a bone. I worry at the words, pouring what's in my head out onto paper, and just do my best to get it all out.

Installing drivers takes the longest time imaginable . . ..
Now that I've gotten NaNo out of the way, I can ease off the throttle some, take the rest of Comedy of Rain in swings as I work to finish final edits and revisions on "Comeuppance", and get its coverart ready to go.

Speaking of coverart: I lost my reference photos. I have no idea what I did with them. So I had to surf around this past week, finding new ones and forming a collection. On the upside, I found some better reference photos than the ones I originally had, and I'm hoping to pull off the smoke in art nouveau style. *fingers crossed*

But at least I'm getting things sorted with my new laptop. I had to update everything to do with my Intuos4 tablet to get everything to work right, and now that I've gotten it settled, the only thing left to do will be to transfer my colour pallets from my old computer to my new one. Not looking forward to that, since the last time I did such a transfer, I ended up having to go in and rename each colour individually. *sigh*

Anyway, my goal now is to get the coverart for "Comeuppance" completed by January 1st, and that's doable, or at least I think so. I still haven't set an official date for the release in February, but I'll get there eventually. Perhaps I'll have all my revisions done by January 1st, too, and I can announce everything all at once. We'll see.

Until then, I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season. I haven't exactly gotten into the full swing of things (I blame NaNo for that lol), but at least I had a four-day weekend to enjoy. Tomorrow is my return to the "real world", but at least I feel like I accomplished some things this weekend.

Cheers!

15 November, 2015

Hi. I'm Ash, and I'm a NaNo-holic

I made it . . . 4 days into November before I relapsed and fell off the wagon.

I'm doing NaNoWriMo, writing the sequel to Tragedy of Ice. My original outline for Comedy of Rain wasn't very actiony. It had me worried. It's definitely different in regards to the pacing that Tragedy of Ice has. But I've had some things surprise me. A fight scene I didn't originally plan. A subplot with the other colonists that I didn't expect (I'm looking at you now, Suresh).

Kadiza's in a mostly good place this time (until people start screwing things up for her). Franklin is questioning everything (because he has no idea where he stands anymore). Hipólito has secrets—and a POV—for once (and he's going to snap if people keep after him the way they are).

As of last night, I have 33,749 words written. I'm only on chapter 7 of a planned 36 (prologue and epilogue included in that count). I'm sure most everything in the first few chapters is unnecessary NaNo wordiness (who am I kidding, it's all wordiness – I read a sentence I wrote last night that's 26 words, and it should only be 5), so once Comedy of Rain is confirmed as a NaNo winner, I'm going to go back and cut the superfluous writing to get a better balance.

The real follow-up problem I'm going to have with Comedy of Rain is figuring out how much recap of Tragedy of Ice needs to actually be there. There are obviously strong references to events that took place in the first book, so those will have to stay to make sense, but then there's so much of it I included as infodump (because it was easy) that will have to go because it's inflated the opening chapters unnecessarily.

Oh, well, back to the grind. The sooner I get the 50,0000 words, the sooner I can get back to the other many things on my to-do list.

01 November, 2015

Lazy Sunday, or why I decided to opt out of NaNo and worry about what's already in progress

You're probably surprised to see that I'm here updating instead of writing in a frenzy to meet/surpass NaNoWriMo's Day 1 goal. Well, it's because I've written three books this year already, and it'd exceed my abilities to do a fourth.

'Cause really, three's already too much.

So I am doing the responsible thing today. The adult thing today. And that's settle in to use November to leisurely work on editing the novels I've already got on my plate. I'd love to publish Tragedy of Ice next year. I think it's to that point, editing-wise, where there's not much else I can do with it aside from set it free.

It'll be in publishing waters soon....

First I have to do the cover art and promotional posters for it, though. The closer I get to finishing those, the better chance I have of hammering down a solid date for you folks.

In the middle of all that, however, I have the cover art for "Comeuppance" that I need to do, so I can start doing promo work for it, too. I'm looking to keep with February for its release, since that's when I've been publishing the other Appalachian Dream Tales, and it makes sense to keep those on a steady schedule.

Scratch out that "24th". I'll have a date closer to the others, trust me.

But amidst all that, I have some friends I owe edits to, so that's my other major concern this month. I got behind on those, so this is my public apology that I'll be giving them my undivided attention.

Even if real life tries to distract me.

For now, I'll leave you with the reminder that the Bowman's Inn Autumn collection is out, and that the first two anthologies are still on sale to celebrate. :)

Laters, folks!

11 October, 2015

Mark your calendars for October 18th!

That's right. We've got a tentative release date for The Bowman's Inn: Autumn anthology, and it's 18 October 2015. I'm super excited for having been a part of this anthology, and not just writing for it. I was able to help out with proof reading, and got to see everyone's finished products, read in their entirety, in the order we've arranged for publication.

I have to say I am thrilled and amazed at the talent that's been pulled together for this collection. Everyone's put in tons of hard work, and I'm excited to say that the final product is one you folks will enjoy.

To give you an idea of what to expect, we have a lot of werewolves and shapeshifters, Greek gods, and Average Joes. There's something for everyone, especially if you're looking for a little romance...!

The leaves are turning red and gold in the city of Anteros. All Hallows Eve opens the gate between the worlds of fantasy and reality. Anything could happen as you look for your Soul Mate. And of course there will be a costume party at The Bowman's Inn. The bartender, Valentine Archer, will know just what you need. He not only looks like a Greek god, he used to be one. Cupid prefers to be called Val these days. But he still knows how to bring people together. 
Eight authors have combined their talent to bring you a collection of tales with romance, mystery and maybe a little humor. The delightful short stories feature characters who own or operate the facilities of the Bowman’s Inn or are just passing through. Whatever the case, Cupid has a way to help each of them find what their hearts require.

The Bowman's Inn: Spring
The Bowman's Inn: Summer
So while you set your alarms for Sunday, October 18th in anticipation, you can also check out the first two anthologies in the collection.

I've read these, and loved them, and can say they are perfect little short reads for the commute to work, break times, and that 15 minutes of downtime you want to spend reading something but don't want to get engrossed in a novel.

You can easily read through Spring and Summer to get ready for Autumn!

Chat at you follks soon! And enjoy the reading :)

20 September, 2015

[Movie review] I have a problem

and the first step is admitting it: I will get hung up on an actor or actress, and watch just about anything with that person in it. And yes, that includes horrible, D-grade horror movies.

Recently, I've gotten caught up on Sage Brocklebank (probably best known for his role as Buzz McNab on Psych), as I picture he would be perfect for playing Aidan from my current short story project, No Signal. You know--if it were ever adapted into a movie.

So I searched Netflix, and while his appearance is hit or miss on Psych for only being a reoccurring role, he was billed for a horror film called "Severed: Forest of the Dead". So I popped it on to watch, and yeah Sage was in it, for all of maybe 40 seconds. So sad. They missed an opportunity to utilize him further, as I don't think he even ended up as one of the zombies.

Anyway, I watched the whole thing hoping to spot Sage as a zombie. I didn't. What I did spot were some things that, as a writer, really bugged the crap out of me.

For starters, when the rag-tag group of survivors try to make their initial escape, they reach a bridge that the main character had just driven across not 2-hours earlier movie-time, and yet the gate was suddenly closed off--Who closed it?--and rather than climb the fence or slip through the gaps in the fence--which, even though was laced with barbwire, had significant room for the characters to take a jacket off and work as a team to pull the barbwire out of the way for them to climb through one at a time. Yes, they used the excuse that the nearest town was "200 miles away on foot", but seriously, would you rather stay in the place laced with zombies, or take your chances on a lone highway and the chance to get picked up by a random car and driven to safety?

How I would've done the scene differently: as I said, have the characters use a jacket to pull the barbwire out of the way, and as the first person starts climbing through, have the zombies show up, attack them, and the majority have to flee, thereby leaving the lone person caught in the fence-line to either make it to the other side to safety, or be the sacrificial lamb.

The second thing that irked me was that the survivors are banded together in a lumber mill, and the zombies are lumberjacks. And yet, only one chainsaw was used one time to kill one zombie. Okay, there was a giant saw that a zombie stumbled into, but still. There've got to be hundreds of zombies out there, which meant there were at least that many chainsaws. I expected more Chainsaw On Zombie action.

The other thing that irked me was the same thing that irked me about Dawn of the Dead: you have a crack-shot among the survivors who seems to have an ample supply of bullets, and rather than headshotting the zombies so they have that many less zombies to deal with, they turn it into a game of chance. Personally, I'd rather someone headshot the zombies so they're down long enough for the others with the chainsaws axes to hack off the head so the zombies are no longer rampaging.

I suppose this is why I hardly ever watch horror movies, as I sit here critiquing them for the characters' inability to form a sound escape plan. Overall, though, compared to the number of horror movies I have watched, I'd give this one a C+, as I was entertained for the most part.

Movie review done, it's time for me to get back to work on my to do list. Currently, I have to finish this short story for publishing next month, then I have to get back to Comeuppance, and ready it for publication for February 2016. I have more revisions to do for Tragedy of Ice, and then I have the novel expansion for No Signal to work on for when I get the publishing rights back for the short story.

Until next time, folks :)

05 September, 2015

I'm alive, I swear!

Yikes! My last post was the tail-end of June, and here I'd promised more frequent updates. My apologies, folks.

Lessee . . . bringing you up to speed, I'm taking a break from editing Tragedy of Ice at the moment while I work on a romantic short story for an anthology called The Bowman's Inn. I'll be submitting a short for their Autumn collection, which is on schedule to be published in October of this year.

The short story exploded, too. I wrote out the short, then decided before doing revisions to do some free-writing, to get a better handle on the main characters. Well, it became 11,000 words of back story. Then another 18,000 words of back story. Now it's 54,000+ words (including the word count for the short story), and I can still do more with it.

I've decided that once the publishing rights revert back to me for the short story, I'm going to release it as an expanded romance novel. I'm looking forward to it, as I think it'll be a great treat for those who want to read more about the characters' shared history.

Aside from that, I've got to get back to my Appalachian Dream Tales soon. If I want to stay with my publishing schedule for those, then the next one, "Comeuppance", will be out in February 2016. Once I'm through the milestone with my Bowman's Inn short story (which, btw, the name for it is "No Signal"), I'll be back on course, doing the revisions for "Comeuppance" and getting the story cover ready to premiere.

That said, I doubt I'll be able to do much writing this weekend, as it's the holiday and family is in visiting from out of state. Going forward, I think what I'll try to do for the next few months is bring you folks a bi-monthly update. I'll shoot for every 15 days, so look for my next post near September 20th.

See you then!

28 June, 2015

Plot, and making sure it moves forward

I'm in the second draft revisions of Tragedy of Ice, and I'm taking my time with them since I have plenty of feedback from my critics to consider. And it seems most of them are in agreement about one particular issue: openings.

Something I've always known is that I have a problem starting scenes, but no trouble finishing them. Beginnings are my weakest point, whether it's chapter 1, or the opening scene to chapter 35. I'm like an old car, having to take my time to rev up speed -- though once I get there, I'm fine. But I'm having to teach myself new techniques on the go to make the openings just as active and strong as my middles and endings.

And I think it's a good thing I chose now to finally watch Attack on Titan, an anime that I've only ever heard folks rave about. Well, it does have a great premise, but the execution of the story is so poorly done that the plot stagnates and putters to a halt by the end. What muddies everything is the overuse of flashbacks (especially short-term flashbacks that could've easily been part of the linear plot 2-3 episodes earlier), side stories for characters that aren't integral to the plot (the military police side story in particular towards the end of the series), and history lessons meant to explain things about the Titans that could've easily been covered during the training episodes (again, as part of the linear plot).

So while I don't use flashbacks or side stories that deviate from my two POV characters (Franklin and Kadiza), I do have to make sure I don't stall my plot with exposition that would turn the reader off to the whole novel. It's okay that my characters experience setbacks, just like it's okay for the characters of Attack on Titan to experience setbacks, but it's important that the plot moves forward even if the characters are struggling. If everything comes to a standstill, then there's nothing to hold my interest as a writer, and by extension there's nothing to hold your interest as the reader.

I have to make sure things move forward, and that's doubly important during these second draft revisions, as I have to make sure I'm not over zealously adding new character interactions that will weigh down the plot instead of advancing it. I've got to find that perfect balance, but that's a topic for another day.

For now, I need to get back to editing, as I'm sure you're all more interested in reading the finished work rather than my ramblings about finishing the work. I'll check in again soon (still struggling to get back into a blogging groove, but Tragedy of Ice is keeping my attention laser-focused), but in the meanwhile, here's a link to Hipólito's character sheet.

Until next time! :)

07 June, 2015

The muse is strong with this one . . .

*blows out air*

I am tired.

It's been a long, long trip from February to now, but I have written and revised the first draft of Tragedy of Ice, and now it's time that I sit on it and let it simmer and mature before going back to tackle the second draft.

The final word count this round came out to 121,919 words. That's a lot. That's a LOT more than Uncertain Heirs, even. But I won't let the word count intimidate me. It's a big manuscript, but it's a quick read.

Which means I will have to slow down for the editing. First revisions meant I was packing in information for clarity. This time I'll have to slow down to address character development, plot holes, consistency (you know, the nitty-gritty of making sure someone's designated broken limb doesn't change between chapters from their left to their right, or something similar), etc. So to be able to do that, I have to distance myself from the writing so it's like brand new material when I sit down to comb through it.

"So what do you do in the meanwhile?" you might ask.

Well, assorted things, really. I've been doing character sheets for my four main characters: Kadiza, Franklin, Hipólito, and Suresh. I've finished Kadiza's and Franklin's, and I'm working my way through Hipólito's. I had hoped to get to Suresh's this weekend, but it doesn't look like that'll happen. After I finish the main four, I'm planning to do character busts for the others mentioned throughout the novel, if only so they can have faces, at least.

And of course: notation. Making running notes of the manuscript is going to be the biggest help. I use OneNote for all my note-taking needs, but I have a copy of Scrivener now, so I'll be playing with it to see if I want to change over. Basically, I make my notes as I read through the manuscript, keeping quick references for characters, settings, motifs, themes, etc.

Something else that I'm trying new this time is to write "behind the scenes" bits (mainly for my benefit) to see what happens in the interim between chapters. Keeping in mind that this story is told from alternating POVs for Kadiza and Franklin, there's a lot of information that doesn't make it into the manuscript, so to make sure I keep the alluded-to knowledge accurate and consistent, I'm writing them out in hardcopy form so they're not running together in my brain.

Because that does happen. I sometimes think of things that overlap after awhile, and I forget the chronology, so it's best to start writing these things down now.

And so I won't keep you, I'm going to get back to the world building. So I'll see you all again soon!

Cheers!

09 May, 2015

A much needed update . . .

Yes. I know. I haven't been around the last three months. I blame my muse -- she's been holding my feet to the fire.

Tragedy of Ice is going, well, swimmingly. This story, unlike any I've written before, has come to me so clearly, I can't begin to explain how elated I am. I've gone straight from the raw draft to the first round of edits, and the plot is only tightening to a more cohesive unit. Since I can't say much about the ongoing plot of the story right now, I think what I'll do instead is give the big picture overview of what I've been working with:

Earth is on borrowed time – has been for the last 28 years, and so the nations of the world have pooled their resources and settled on the terraformation of Mars as the best chance of survival for the human race. 900 are chosen to undertake the EURTHA mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, a mission that will inevitably bring water and valuable minerals to the MARTHA colony on Mars. 
What should have been an 11-month mission to land moon-side has extended to two years. EURTHA has been plagued with one setback after another, as seismic activity on Europa's surface has scrubbed primary and secondary landing sites. Stuck in Europa's orbit, some fear turning back, others fear proceeding, leading to a rise in disenfranchisement and dissent among the colonists. 
Since launch, a feud has pitted Kadiza and Franklin against one another, but when renegade colonists shoot their mutual friend, Suresh, and steal one of his 3D printers, Kadiza and Franklin independently devise ways to avenge their friend. Each upgrades their NVR mechsuits, and assumes the respective identities of Voyager Crux and Peace Win. 
Not knowing who the other is beneath the suit, Kadiza and Franklin take a stand to defend the colony they've come to call home.

I like to think of this story as a tribute to my Transformers and anime upbringing, but also a nod to the scientific advances we're currently undertaking. It's over 105,000 words, and I'm still in the process of editing the last six chapters, so that number may fluctuate before I reach the end.

Alas, I must return to the grind, but hopefully my updates will become more steady again.

Cheers!

04 April, 2015

Been a busy litte beaver

I mentioned last blog that I'd gotten the inspiration for a story that I planned to keep for NaNoWriMo this year.

Hah.

I gave into the muse and wrote it. Mostly wrote it. I'm currently on chapter 32 of a planned 34 chapters. Whew. 76,000+ words so far, and so much more to go back and add to this space opera.

I know so much more about this story--Tragedy of Ice--now that I've expanded on what I dreamed up during a nap in February. So much, in fact, that I may be able to go directly into editing after I finish the raw draft. Heck, I may even try to self-publish this story this year just to see if I can do the turnaround. :)

Alrighty, now that I've checked in with you all, I'm going to duck out and try to finish this raw draft this weekend. I'll try to check back in next weekend to get back on a normal schedule for updates.

Cheers!

22 February, 2015

What dreams may come . . .

One of my favourite things about being a writer is dreaming. Not day dreaming, mind you, but dreaming-dreaming. I've had several stories originate from dreams, inspired by my unbiased subconsciousness, which puts me on a lead for a potentially magnificent original story.

My Appalachian Dream Tales started this way, and so did Uncertain Heirs, and now it looks like I have another story percolating from a dream I had yesterday while taking a nap. Right now I'm tentatively calling it Tragedy of Ice, and it will be a sci-fi story set somewhere between 2020CE and 2030CE. I'll let you know more as my outline progresses, but for now I plan to make it this year's NaNoWriMo event. :)

In the meanwhile, I hope you all are enjoying the newly released Evening Hallow. :)

Catch you later!

01 February, 2015

Evening Hallow is now available for pre-order!

Whew! What a tireless two weeks I've had, getting Evening Hallow finished and ready for upload to Amazon, and also recoding Thoroughbred to include a sample -- that's right, and if you've bought Thoroughbred in the past, you should be able to sync your Kindle for the updated version! :)

I'm so very, very excited to have this next short story ready on time. I wanted to publish it on the anniversary of Thoroughbred, but it looks like Evening Hallow will be able to come out a little bit sooner -- just in time for Valentine's Day!

Also, I've taken things one step further -- Thoroughbred is available now through Smashwords, and Evening Hallow is available for pre-order there, too. Now those of you who don't have Kindle, but have other readers, can purchase copies, as well.

I hope you all enjoy! And please, if you love what you read, consider leaving feedback on both Amazon and Smashwords. Thank you!

20 January, 2015

Be on the lookout

For a new short story. I've been busy getting Evening Hallow finished along with its cover, and my plan is to publish it sometime mid-February. I'll be working diligently from now until then to get it prepared, and I will keep you apprised of that progress. For now, I gotta get back to the grind. See you next weekend.

10 January, 2015

New story on the horizon

Hello everyone,

It's been a busy start to the new year -- aside from battling the flu, I've been working diligently to get all of the Queen of Seasons quintet written out. I've begun book 3, so I'm slowly chugging along.

The other story I've been working on is my short story "Evening Hallow", which is hopefully in its last stages of revisions. I have it tentatively planned for publishing through Amazon Kindle for February. In the middle of writing this month, I'll be making the cover up for "Evening Hallow" and debuting it here in advance of the story's publication.

As for Uncertain Heirs, I know I haven't mentioned it lately, but it's still out for agent queries. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll have something better to report on it in the immediate future.

Take care for now, folks, I've gotta get back to work. ;)

______________________________________________________________________

Ash Litton

Ash Litton is a writer and lover of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things fictional. She is the author of No Signal, Thoroughbred, Evening Hallow, Comeuppance, and Cabover Cabaret, and works on other Appalachian Dream Tales between her ongoing novel projects.

When she's not writing, she's drawing, and when she's not doing either of those, she's dreaming up new projects to work on. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Ash has always wondered what things lay hidden in the hills around her. She attended West Virginia University, where she studied the English language before returning home to her family in rural West Virginia.