Word Count for June 2014

Quite a bit of progress in June. I met my goal of finishing book five in three months (began April 2) with 10 days to spare – and technically more if you want to get picky about it, as I was sick for a week in there as well. I managed to impress myself by finishing early because book five ended up being quite a bit longer than the others have, clocking in at 142,000 words, where the others have been around 90-97,000 words. I also started book six in this time.

So my monthly tallies were about 50,000 for book five and about 15,000 in book six, so a grand total of 65,000 words.

My next goal will be to finish book six before the end of September, but I think I can get it done before the end of August. We’ll see.

Also, I’m into the last edits on book two now and should be getting a proof copy in the next week or two before the release. Watch out for pictures and updates on that.

Word Count for May 2014

I lost track of my monthly word count for a few months there. The writing was slow, I was sick, and there were a variety of other excuses. But in those months I finished book four of my series, which clocked in at 93,000 words, so that’s something.

For the last two months I have been writing book five, and have done about 80,000 words on it so far, which puts me at about 40,000 per month.

I set a goal of finishing book five in three months, so I’m in the last stretch. We’ll see if I can do it – book five is turning out to be quite a bit longer than book four was. I’m about 13,000 words shy of the full count for book four, but I’m only about halfway through book five, so it could easily go another 50-60,000 words before I’m done. If that is the case, I might extend my goal simply because it is so much longer than the others. We’ll have to see.

Meanwhile, the cover art for book two is nearly done, and I expect to have that one out in another two months or so. Stay tuned!

Novel Excerpt: The Mirror of Life

I’m thrilled to announce that the official title of book two in The Word and the Sword series is The Mirror of Life, and will pick up a week or two after the events of The Book of Secrets. It will be fairly different from book one in that the principle plot does not take place at the Paideia, though we will be with a number of familiar characters. We’ll also be introduced to some new characters, and the story will further unfold a number of things hinted at in The Book of Secrets.

You can stay up-to-date by checking in on the blog over the next few months as we gear up into the release (I’m aiming at August). I’ll be sharing the description and periodic excerpts for reading, as well as the cover later on.

And now, a short bit from The Mirror of Life:

“My apologies,” said the amused voice of Methuseld from behind him. “I did not intend to startle you.”

Relief washed through Finian, and he slumped back against the wall, clutching at his chest. As he watched, Methuseld’s lined face emerged from the shadows beyond the light, and he realized the source of the glow was the old mage’s staff, which shone brightly. In the silver light cast the staff, Methuseld’s belt-length beard seemed far less gray, and almost a brilliant, gleaming white.

“What are you doing down here?” Finian asked, as his racing heart began to slow.

“Looking for you. I saw you head for the lower levels from the entrance hall. And I must now ask you the same thing. What are you doing down here?”

Finian sighed, looking wistfully at the sealed passageway, and then back to Methuseld. “I wish there was another daemon to fight,” he said simply.

“To acquire yet more glory for yourself?” Methuseld asked quietly.

“No,” Finian said firmly, feeling a little insulted at Methuseld’s assumption. Didn’t the old mage know him better than that?

“Forgive me,” Methuseld said, with an apologetic smile. “I needed to be sure.”

“Not for more glory,” Finian said, shaking his head. “I wish there was another daemon to fight because you know where you stand with a daemon. The sides are clear. They want to kill you and you need to kill them. It’s simple.”

To Finian’s surprise, Methuseld’s warm eyes crinkled up, his mouth curled beneath his beard, and he began to chuckle.

“I do understand,” he said, still smiling. “More than you know.”

“I cannot see the path ahead,” Finian said softly, shaking his head.

“That,” said Methuseld, “is because you need more light.”

The glowing orb at the top of his staff grew suddenly brighter, and the shadows of the dark cell melted away and were gone.

Finian smiled wryly. “I didn’t mean the path back to the Great Hall.”

“I know,” Methuseld said, his eyes shining.


Writing Resolutions for 2014

Everybody does New Years Resolutions, and I’m also aware that they are typically done in January. So I’m starting my resolution by the time most people have given up on theirs. But I really want to shoot for this one, and I think you’ll all be excited to hear about it too.

My 2014 writing resolution is to finish two novels this year.

My average time actually writing a novel is between three and four months, though usually spread out over a longer period. I managed to finish this last book, book four in my The Word and the Sword series, in just about three and a half months exactly, and in that same timeframe. And I also had a bunch of gaps, so I’m betting I could have had it done in two-and-a-half if I’d really pushed at it.

My goal is to try to hit 1,000 words a day for three months on each book (making about 90,000 words total) with a month in between to outline and plan. We’ll see how it goes, and if it goes really well, I might even get a start on a third novel before the year’s end.

Regardless, my hope is to be able to shorten the gap between the releases in The Word and the Sword series. That means less waiting for the next one, and less heartbreak over the inevitable cliffhangers.

Word Count for January 2014

I know, I know, this is way late. But I have a good reason for forgetting to do this. I just finished book four in The Word and the Sword series and I’m also hard at work prepping book two for release (I’m shooting for August 2014, but we’ll see).

So: my word tallies for January weren’t all that impressive. Just about 24,000 words last month. I figured as much. Winter is always a tough season for me (I have Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder) and so motivating myself is difficult. I also had some personal issues I was working through.

However, I’m back on track this month and should be back to ordinary output for the month of February.

Why We Write

I’ve always been fascinated with writers. From an early age I wanted to know more about these strange alchemists who were able to write such interesting and compelling stories, who were able to move me and make me feel things about people that didn’t even exist. I know a lot of people are likewise captivated.

It took me a while to realize that life is not really so much like fiction as we might think. In fiction, the hero never lets you down, or at least not for long and not at the climax of a story. Life, however, doesn’t seem to like playing by the same rules as fiction. For all its complexity, fiction can only ever be a dim shadow of reality, a simplistic picture of a complicated situation.

In life, that’s what happens with our heroes. They inevitably let us down. No matter who you idolize or love, they will eventually say or do something that is deeply wrong or stupid, or make a fool of themselves. I quickly realized that my authorial heroes weren’t perfect, and their lives were often a wreck and a ruin, even while things seemed to always work out in their fiction.

I’ve also marveled at what motivates people to write. It’s a rather odd thing to do, when you think about it. To sit alone in a room and make up words and events and people that aren’t there, all for the reading pleasure of real people who also aren’t there. Why someone chooses to write has always puzzled me, and I speak this as someone who has been writing since around the age of fourteen or so.

So what makes me write? I confess that I am not sure. On one level, I write because ideas get stuck in my head and won’t leave me alone until I get them out. In that way, writing is a means of processing internal things, after a fashion. I get the idea for a character or a story and it won’t leave me alone until I get it out on paper, and then I am able to move on.

On a slightly deeper level, I write in order to process my own emotions and my own internal struggle. This isn’t as uncommon as one might be tempted to think. In this case, I have to write because I’ve gotten mentally hung up on one thing or another and I can’t move on until I’ve expressed it. This happens a lot in my non-fiction writing. You become obsessed with certain ideas until you “put them out there,” so to speak, and this act of externalization drains it out of you so you can move on to new things.

The second book in my Word and the Sword series (due out this early fall) was like that. It is a strongly personal book. It wasn’t originally, simply outlined and put away in a drawer until it was time to write, and then I went through some personal and very painful experiences I needed to process emotionally, experiences that broke who I was before and began a process of reshaping and regrowing in new directions. I was drawn back to that story because my subconscious realized the thematic material in that book was very similar. So I sat down and started to write. And I was unable to stop until the book was finished. Stopping only for meals and a few hours’ sleep, I wrote for five whole days, and then it was done. And this was a rather freeing moment, too, when I had pushed those emotions and that mental conflict out of myself onto the page. Resolving the story helped resolve personal issues for myself. Writing can sometimes be that.

In fact, writers often report being “driven” to write, by the muse, by God, or by the devil. Whatever label they choose to put upon it, the interest in writing is often experienced psychologically by the writer as compulsion, as a wild, driven nature that compels them to get the words on the page. Choice is one of the great themes of literature; compulsion is one of the great themes of writers.

This does much to explain the eccentric behavior of writers, and I admit that I am no stranger to neurosis in my personal life. It tends to attract a certain amount of unsettled identity. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that writers are mentally ill, it doesn’t hurt for them to be a bit odd. The act of writing is an act of thinking sideways, and it takes a certain sideways mind to sustain a career doing this sort of thing for a living.

But on the other hand, there must be more than drive. As I said about my own experience writing the second book in my series, it was a means of emotional expression and processing. When I finished the book, I felt a grand release of tension. I wasn’t caught up in whatever internal conflict I had had before. But I didn’t stop writing. A lot of writers put all their emotional issues into a single book, or become very popular very quickly because they are using their fiction as a means of resolving their own internal issues. The danger here is that, once resolved, the drive that pushed them into writing in the first place is now gone and the push to keep writing vanishes. Their ideas dry up.

So there has got to be something beyond compulsion that lends itself to writing. I cannot speak for other writers, only for myself. But for myself, I keep writing because I love writing. I love the development of a story, the process of breaking a story down, outlining, and the act of creation. I love the early energy and life of the first act, and I love the tough slog of the middle act, and the ramp up and thrill of the third act and resolution. Because, for me, every book I write is an act of growth. The new themes that come up take me in new directions, leave behind the old me and take me on to new horizons. I never stop growing as a person, so how could I stop writing?

2013 End-of-Year Word Count Roundup

I’ve been trying out a new thing this year, tracking my monthly word counts, tallying up how many new words of fiction I manage each month. I only started in August, and have been posting them here occasionally. My goal for next year is to actually post my numbers on the blog at the end of each month. These numbers have been rounded to the nearest even total.

Here are the tallies for 2013:

August: 56,000 words of fiction.

September: 135,000 words, 65,000 fiction, and about 70,000 nonfiction.

October: 35,000 words of fiction.

November: 45,000 words; 15,000 fiction, and 30,000 nonfiction.

December: 64,000 words of fiction.

Plus I finished about 40,000 new words to finish book three in The Word and the Sword series in May, before I started tallying.

So my grand total this year was: 360,000 words for 2013; 260,000 words of fiction, and 100,000 words of nonfiction. 320,000 words were produced in the last six months of the year.

I have to say, I did not expect this at all when I decided to start counting. It really surprised me (in a good way) how much writing can be accomplished when I apply myself. I am excited to track my words for the whole of 2014 and see how much I can produce!

Happy Holidays to all!

I know I’m a bit late here, Christmas being two days past now, but hey. I was celebrating my own holiday with friends and family. I hope each and every one of you had an excellent Christmas.

I took a few days off writing for a mini-vacation before I get back to it on Monday and finish up my last writing week of 2013. I’m hard at work on rewriting book two in my The Word and the Sword series, the sequel to The Book of Secrets. Book three is finished and awaits a rewrite and a polish, and I am in the middle of my first draft on book four (I cannot wait to get the next books to you guys!). I’m also about halfway done with the second volume of short stories, following The Lost Mine and Other Tales. I hope to check a few other projects off the list before the year’s end. So there is a lot of exciting stuff due out in 2014!

Film Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The internet has been down over here for the last few days (thanks, SNOW), but we’ve got it all back on and humming now. During the blackout period, I went and saw part two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug.

I am a big fan of Tolkien and his fiction, and of Peter Jackson and his films, and of Jackson’s Middle-Earth adaptations. I really resonate with Jackson’s directatorial style and intense approach to cinema, so I was obviously looking forward to the film immensely.

The Desolation of Smaug is much faster-paced than An Unexpected Journey, for those who thought it was too slow. I had no problem with the pacing on AUJ, personally, and found it captivating and excellent the whole way through. We used to call the slow parts of films “character development,” but the blockbuster mentality seems to have made us forget this. Anyway, we’re talking about DoS.


The film is fantastic. We get a glimpse of scenes and moments from Tolkien’s other Hobbit-related material, such as the “The Quest for Erebor” retelling in Unfinished Tales. We get a great cameo of Peter Jackson in the second or third shot of the film, a reprise of his cameo in Fellowship of the Ring (for those of you who care about this).

Otherwise, the film was fantastic. We start out with a race to Beorn’s house, which was perfectly realized from the book. Mirkwood was exactly as it should have been, and we get a lot of great details from the book there. Some bits are omitted entirely in Mirkwood – logically, gone are the frolicking elves, an idea that would have been hard to keep with the darker, more serious tone of the films.

The Woodland Realm of the elves is also fantastic, and one of the best sections of the film. Thranduil is wonderfully realized, while it is a relief and pleasant to have Legolas back (he is Thranduil’s son and would have been in the Hobbit had his character been invented at the time it was written). Because the book skimps on so many details, the filmmakers saw fit to invent a new character, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Some had concerns about her presence in the film prior to its release, but she integrates herself seamlessly and effortlessly into Middle Earth and proves to be one of the most interesting and compelling characters, in my opinion.

The escape by barrels is present here, now a lengthy (and spectacular) action sequence, which even features one of the best Bombur moments in the Hobbit films yet. Bard is perfectly realized as the grim but heroic character from the book, now expanded a bit to provide some backstory. Lake-town was beautifully realized and exactly what it needed to be. Likewise, the arrival upon the doorstep, while having some changes from the book, was moving and wonderful. The interior of Erebor was great, as was the reveal and confrontation with Smaug. Best. Dragon. Ever. I’m not even joking.

The film really is worth your time to go see. Just expect that they have altered some things, but nothing, in my opinion, that endangers the integrity of the book or its central thematic core.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a good thanksgiving time with family and friends!

We celebrated on Tuesday with the parents and one of my brothers and his wife (the other brother couldn’t make it in this year). A wonderful time for catching up and hanging out. We rewatched Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, an odd and enjoyable sci-fi film from a few years ago now. Also watched some Doctor Who, which was very fun.

I spent yesterday limping around the house and sleeping, feeling exhausted, ill, and in pain. I have a chronic back issue that is perennial, though it is bearable most days. Every month or two, however, it flares up pretty bad, and at least once a year it puts me off my feet for a day or two. Yesterday wasn’t that bad, but it was bad enough to warrant taking it easy. I watched The Two Towers, and then felt like switching gears, so I rewatched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, one of my favorite films in the Potter franchise. I don’t usually watch this much television in a day, but it’s the holidays and I was feeling lousy, so I have no regrets.

I was also pleasantly surprised when I woke up today to find The Book of Secrets at #18 on the Top 100 Coming of Age list on Amazon. Sales continue to putter along, enough to keep it on the list, at least, and in the upper 50,000 sales rank in the Kindle store, for which I am grateful and blessed.

See you around the blog!