Author Updates

A progress report on my current work and my writing life.

January 2024

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

I’m starting the new year feeling really good about my current work in progress, partly because I feel like I’m making really good progress in my work! During my time off at the end of the year, I had six full days with no obligations, and I devoted most of my waking hours to writing. This new story, which is the continuation of A Signal for Redemption and the as-yet-unpublished parallel story, is shaping up as a blend of my favorite elements of both. It’s a long way from done, and the Muse may not always be as cooperative as she has been lately, but I am pleased with the way it’s going so far. 

November 23, 2023

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

I’ve decided to postpone publication of Secrets of Redemption, despite the fact that it is very close to finished. I feel it’s not the right story to come after Book One, and I want to continue to refine it in the context of the next book. It’s a gut-feeling thing. I have started working on the new one, which picks up where A Signal for Redemption ends. It wasn’t an easy decision, and I’m sorry to delay getting a sequel published. I hope you will stick with me as I work on this new book and get Secrets where it needs to be. I’m very excited about the possibilities I’ve gained for both stories and will keep you posted on progress.

July 5, 2023

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

Big, big milestone this weekend. The draft of Safe Conduct is with a first reader. It’s an exciting, nerve-racking, proud, and embarrassed moment all in one. I know that the draft isn’t perfect, and the book isn’t finished—but now it gets easier to believe it really will see daylight someday.

The whole point of asking someone to read it at this stage is to get help improving it. But even so, it’s hard not to worry about how it’ll be received. Here’s hoping that this draft survives its first encounter with someone else’s imagination. And survives without needing total reconstruction.

June 8, 2023

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

The first draft is done, I’ve done my initial read-through, and I’ve started the work of pulling it all apart so that I can put it back together the right way. It’s slow going, but I’ve got progress to show for it. It’s not unlike getting to know people in real life; the more time I spend with these characters, the more I’m learning to love their quirks and understand what makes them tick. A fun part of the process!

February 11, 2023

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

Part of my rushed feeling is that I’m getting very close to the end of the first draft, and I want more time to work on it! Life still needs tending to, and work has been intense lately. I’ve been trying to write an hour or two each day, but it comes at the expense of sleep sometimes, and that backfires after a couple of days. So most of my writing has to wait for weekends, and not every weekend allows for the extended writing marathon.

Having said that, I think that I’ll be moving into the editing phase soon. The story I’ve written goes beyond what I intended, so the first step will be to refine the contours within the draft. I may end up with a different book (with a different title) than the one I set out to write—the peril of being a “discovery” writer. On the other hand, with so much raw material to work with, the original book may be in there and just a little camouflaged  by something extra.

January 7, 2023

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

Yes, the draft of Safe Conduct is coming along. My relocation and all that has cost me about six months on the project, I think, so I am not going to make my hoped-for release date in the first quarter. However, I’m now at the equivalent of the climactic battle and things are moving fast. It’s exciting, and there’s so much momentum now that it is very hard to close the laptop when I’m out of time. 

And yes, as mentioned above, I’ve got more than enough material to work with. I’m actually quite interested to read the whole thing from the beginning, which is pretty long-ago by now, and see what’s in there. Once I see what’s on the cutting-room floor, maybe there will be some ready-made side stories I can post while I prep for publication. 

August 8, 2022

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

I’m sorry to say August is not looking like a great writing month. July was terrific and I was on a roll, and for a while I was hoping that the first draft would be done before I started my new job. I didn’t make it, and there’s been a dramatic drop in writing hours. I’m at least managing to stay connected to the story through short sessions, so although I’ve lost momentum I haven’t lost fluency. And, although I’m not spending as much quality time with my trusty MacBook Pro, I am still thinking about these characters and their situations and the creative process is still clicking along.

One of the things I’m enjoying about Safe Conduct is working in the connections to the storyline of Signal. For instance, while Piers is on the planet, he’s trying not to think too much about what’s going on “back home,” but the people on the ship are quite naturally thinking a lot about the planet. So they are fascinated by the scouts’ reports. That gives me a chance to touch a bit on what the other scouts are finding—which Piers doesn’t know. It’s fun, and it’s letting me add some more detail and depth to the story-world, which is one of my favorite parts of writing fiction. It’s also one way I’m trying to make sure that these two books feel connected, so that the next book feels like the continuation of both of these. 

July 10, 2022

I’m happy to report that after a little slow-down, I’ve been making great progress on Safe Conduct in the past few weeks. It’s extra fun to write when everything is flowing—the characters are running the scenes and I’m just writing down what I see happening. 

In the past few writing sessions, I “witnessed” a couple of brawls over a disagreement about the ship’s landing plans. One of those led to the first significant disciplinary action taken on the ship in years, and resulted in a chance for me to write a speech for the captain. If it hasn’t already become obvious, I love working out what makes all the characters do what they do, from the backstory that makes one of them sensitive to a certain insult to the secret that leads someone else to make an indecipherable decision. Matching internal reality with descriptions of what’s happening around the characters is a thoroughly satisfying aspect of writing fiction. It’s “finding the why.” 

If the muse continues to be as cooperative as she has been in the past two weeks, I’m optimistic that I may finish the first draft only a few weeks after my target deadline. Then the revising and refining stage… But it’s getting there!

I am running a few weeks behind because of things happening in my real life, which still has to take priority over my fictional life. I like to joke that I’d rather be writing because in fiction I can control what happens. I’m not sure that’s as true as is sounds, though—the people on Redemption seem pretty sure that they are calling the shots.

I’m eager to get this book in the hands of readers and to keep going into book 3. I adore Kath, Jamie, and the others who are in this story, and I also can’t wait to be reunited with Piers and his friends. I think it’s going to be tremendous fun to see what Atto thinks of Redemption, for instance. I hope you’re looking forward to it, too.

June 8, 2022

Last weekend was one of my best writing weekends in years—in the flow! It’s so exciting to be working at that pace, and I’m in the race to the finish with Safe Conduct now. I am pushing myself to see if I can finish the first draft before the relocation project really begins in earnest; I’d love to get it done before I start the new job but that isn’t looking too plausible despite the fact that I’m in the fast-moving part now. I feel like every minute of my free time is going to writing. Might not be healthy, but it certainly is satisfying!

It’s clear at this point that revision is going to be a Major Project this fall. The draft is already over 161K words, which is just a little shy of the longest draft of Signal, and I’m not that close to the end. From reader reactions to Signal, I’m no longer panicked that no one will tolerate a long book (take that, marketing advice)—but long and sprawling are different. I’m already aware of some places I want to tighten up, but I won’t know how much I need to do until I really dig in. I’m actually looking forward to it, though. That’s the jigsaw puzzle.

My hope/plan (at the moment it’s hard to tell the difference) is to plough through the rest of the first draft to get it all down. Then I’ll let the draft sit for maybe two weeks before revision begins. During that breather, I hope to dig through my files and find some bonus material from Signal that I can share with anyone who’s missing Piers and his crew as much as I am. 

May 8, 2022

Wonderful: people have said they enjoyed A Signal for Redemption. Fantastic: they really, really want to know what happens next. And yet: I’m 120k words into a draft that won’t answer that question. As I’ve told several people, Safe Conduct is like reading between the lines of Signal. It helps fill in some important gaps, so it’ll be worth it. I (hope) promise.

The past few weeks have had little bit of go-slow-to-go-fast. For about a week, the characters were just milling around and seemed rather uninterested in doing what they were supposed to do. I don’t like to fight them, so I was hoping it would sort out and we could get on with the story, but there was some frustration going. I do recall this phase from writing the first book, and so I finally had to admit that I need to do some revision to get things back on track. I’d been resisting that, because I wanted to just get the story down first and it felt like it’d be giving in and scratching a mosquito bite. Revising is a different mindset, but I need to do something to get this herd of cats to move along. It still seems strange to me that they can have minds of their own. 

On the other hand, these wrong turns are part of how I get to know them. Even though a lot of what I’m drafting now will end up “on the cutting room floor,” it’s how I learn their voices, their hopes and fears—it’s how I learn to love them. Now that I am getting better acquainted, I’m starting to think it may be time to work on character introductions for my new friends, like the ones for some of the Signal characters on my website. You won’t be totally wrong if you think I’m working on those as a form of procrastination.