The Heart of Oldra Preview

I thought I might try something a little different, and share an excerpt from my upcoming release, The Heart of Oldra. This is available on all platforms from February 14, 2020.

Visit the book page for more details.

Chapter 1

The warm rock against her palm was almost smooth, small dimples on its surface keeping it in her loose hold. The flashing blue light lit up the world. Panic closed in around her, making it hard to breathe. Although she could hear her heart pounding fast in her ears, it was as though it had stopped in her chest.

As she focused on the man in dark green clothing by the porch, the egg dropped from her fingers. Its shell broke on the gravel with a quiet crack. Yolk oozed slowly out between the sharp edges of what had once kept it safe.

The whole world closed in around her.

Cora sat up, dragging in deep breaths. Each time she had the dream, the strange world she found herself in made more sense. The odd metal machine was a car, the rock was an egg, and that the man with his hat held too tight in his hands, didn’t want to be there.

Cora slid into the bench seat at the low table before the fire. Her mother remained silent, standing between her and the flames. The last time Cora had dreamt of the blue lights, she had woken to find her mother standing in the same place, but she had moved back to the sleeping area without a word when Cora had sat at the table.

Other than her father’s gentle snores, the rest of the cavern was silent. She looked away from her mother’s rigid back and glanced across the dark space. No one else moved, although she could feel Deen’s gaze on her.

Her mother turned slowly from the flames and sat opposite her. Cora looked down at the table, running her fingers over the wood’s grain.

Her mother cleared her throat.

‘We don’t have to talk about it,’ Cora offered quickly.

‘How often do you dream this?’ her mother asked.

‘You know.’

‘I do,’ Cora’s mother admitted, reaching forward to take her daughter’s hands.

Cora pulled her hands away. She didn’t want to feel her mother anymore that night.

‘That was the day I left,’ her mother said in a sad voice.

‘It felt as though the world was ending,’ Cora said, reliving the pain her mother had felt that day.

‘It was also the day your father found me in the snow, disappointed that I wasn’t what he wanted me to be.’

Cora looked up then, surprised at her mother’s words. She knew the story. The entire cavern knew the story of how the great Oldra, Gerry, had come to them from a land so far away. But it was always accompanied by the story of how much Pira loved her, how they were linked from the beginning. How this was where she was meant to be.

‘I can’t imagine that,’ Cora said softly.

‘Essawood was so different from the world I knew. I had lost so much, and I was so lost myself. They needed a man. They needed a warrior.’

‘They got one. You are amazing with a bow.’ Cora watched the woman opposite her carefully. ‘I thought you were meant to be together.’

‘We were,’ her mother said, the smile forming easily on her lips as she looked back at the sleeping area. ‘But I didn’t know that, and he fought it for so long.’

‘When did you know?’ Cora asked.

‘That I loved him?’

Cora nodded once.

‘When I lost him.’ Her mother sighed. Cora reached across the table then and took her hands. ‘You have heard the stories of the battle when he fell from dragonback and we feared him lost forever.’

‘You and Ariandi found him, and saved him.’

Her mother shook her head. ‘I found Sarn that night. Looking for one man, I found another.’

‘But that helped end the war.’

Her mother pulled her hands away. ‘They were both so broken, so close to death.’

‘You saved him,’ Cora said again. ‘You saved them both.’

‘I remember wondering how I would live if Pira died. How easily the world would go on without him. I was so scared,’ she added in a whisper.

‘You are never scared.’

She gave a little huff of a laugh. ‘I am scared more often than not. I am scared that babies will not survive, that the darkness would take us over, that Pira could slip from dragonback on any hunting trip.’

‘I didn’t know,’ Cora whispered.

‘I knew that I loved him, but I didn’t know what we had until he showed me.’

Cora raised her eyebrows. She wanted to know… And yet, this was not something she wanted to learn about her parents.

‘When two Oldra come together, they are bound in dragonlight.’

She expected comment from the dragons then, but there was nothing. She could feel them close by, and yet they were out of the cavern hunting. Usually they returned by the time she woke.

‘Why could I not choose my own dragon as the others did?’ Cora asked instead, drawing the conversation away from her parents’ union.

‘Ariandi chose me after a long time with no rider. Dra chose you, because you are the greatest Oldra of them all.’

Cora looked down at the table again. ‘I don’t think I can live up to that.’ She put her hand over her chest, where the mark lay cool against her skin, directly over her heart.

‘You will understand some day.’

‘And if I don’t want to understand?’ Cora asked, sounding far more like a child than she wished.

Her mother smiled indulgently, like she had when Cora was small. ‘This is your fate. This is who you are.’

‘My healing skills are limited at best, and I’m not the warrior you were, nor am I needed to be.’

‘You are the greatest Oldra,’ her mother insisted.

‘How do you know that? Why are you so sure I can be so strong?’ she asked more loudly than she’d intended, the frustration evident in her voice.

Her mother stood slowly from the table. ‘Because you have already saved us all from the darkness, and there will come a time when you will find the shadows again.’

What I am learning from editing

What I am learning from editing

What I am editing:

I am working on the first book of a new full length novel series. This is a medieval fantasy and a little different to what I have done before.

I am a little behind where I would like to be. My schedule was thrown out a little by pushing Oldra into this year. But I think I can make it up.

 

What I’m trying to do:

Strengthen the story. That is ensure the plot works and fits with the following books; ensure the characters are who I want them to be (although they tend to be who they want to be). More of the detail will be focused on next edit.

I want to ensure that the characters have depth and their own voice. Most do but others need a little work. I’m also thinking more about the setting. In my first draft I have lots of “rooms” or “spaces” or a rough idea of where they were in the grounds or castle. This edit is about fleshing out the bones. There is still a lot of work to go, and a lot of moving around the story and then I’ll complete another read-through and mark-up. Then it all starts again.

 

How well it is working:

It is coming together reasonably well. There are some major gaps that I’m trying to fill in as I go; too many characters don’t have a name (although we don’t want a Mr Martin style cast of thousands). The characters are working fairly well on their own already and the plot is reasonably strong, even with the gaps currently in the storyline. It is hard work. But I know the importance of editing.

 

My editing process:

I am just slogging on. I pick up where I last was, reread a page to get back into the story and take it sentence by sentence. There are scenes I’m moving around, chapters I’m combining. Some of this is still rough, but then I rework through what I pull together so that it makes sense and I’m not refixing on the next edit.

My plan is to complete this edit, read through and then repeat several times before it is at the point I can send to the proof reader. I am considering having someone look at more of a structural edit for this one, but it depends how it goes. It is certainly worth someone else reading through the manuscript, especially when self publishing.

In The Mark of Oldra, my proof reader picked up that I referred to someone by name before she learnt his name. No matter how many times you check your own work you can’t pick up everything.

 

There is still a long way to go but I love all the characters, even the bad ones and so I want to ensure their story is the best it can be. It will get easier as it goes. Then I will need to start thinking blurbs and covers.

The Mark of Oldra

The Mark of Oldra

The Mark of Oldra

Release date – 1 February 2016

Gerry Ryder shivers violently as the snow settles around her. Huge, black trees glisten with frost as their naked branches clatter in the wind. She isn’t sure if it’s hard to breathe because she’s scared out of her mind, or if this strange, new world is so cold that the air freezes in her lungs.

Gerry struggles to be the soldier the Penna needs her to be. Her dark dreams and visions don’t help. Although she craves a place in Essawood, she really wants to go home.

It is only when the shadows of her dreams appear solid before her and the power of the Oldra is revealed that can Gerry find her place in the snow; a place where a greater threat lies beyond the shadows. One that will devastate everything she thought she knew. One the snow whispers it is her destiny to defeat. But how does she fight a shadow?

 

Available on any platform you wish from 1 February 2016.

To find a copy at your favourite vendor, please see My Books page.

The Mark of Oldra was written as a stand-alone book but I miss them already. There may be more stories from this world or about these people but I don’t know when or what they might be.

In celebration of the release of The Mark of Oldra, I am offering my short stories for free from 1st of February for 5 days. If you haven’t already picked up a copy of these short reads, this is your chance to grab them.

Editing Process – or the retreat fall out (and I mean that in a good way)

My read-through notes
My read-through notes

There were a number of things I wanted to talk to you about this week and then as I have been so focused on my edit I thought I should probably fill you in on that. I’ve even struggled to get to the newsletter mailout; sorry for those that have signed up already but it will be out soon.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been working to someone else’s editing system, which was a variation on another writer’s system. In the last week I’ve come up with another all of my own. One which works better for me. And it may have been hinted at by The Writing Buddy on the writing retreat.

The way I was editing was slow and I would probably be still handwriting notes. While on retreat it was suggested that I try putting my edits straight into the document, which I did. Since returning home I have continued with this process and finished the draft last Monday. Although I must say I have rewritten the last chapter twice and still not happy with it.

The next round was the read through. I did this on the computer as well using the comments feature of word to mark up everything that made me pause. And I mean everything. From clunky sentences, dialogue that didn’t sit right, setting, gaps, where I should have mentioned some key point but didn’t, missing costumes, or gestures or not enough of the five senses to immerse the reader.

Everything. I even marked up some pages where I just said “this doesn’t work – fix it” to a note at the beginning of one chapter stating that it “needed more around the second scene because it wasn’t clear what was actually happening.”

I scheduled out a week for the read through but as I have only been working on the edit I have had (or maybe put) more time into it than I thought I had available. Read through completed in three days. And I took my time with it.

Then I forced myself to take a day away from it, to give it a little distance and thinking room. Only one day but it was one of the hardest days of this edit yet. The story and characters were always close and I was keen to get back to it. As hard as it was being away from the book it was worth taking the time.

I am now well under way with making all the changes and edits needed to make this story work. Again I am working straight into the document, although I did save it as another draft in case I lose something important. So far it seems to be working well and I’m on track to finish this edit by the end of the month.

This process is so much easier and quicker than what I was doing before and I’m seeing the effect immediately. Some pages take a bit longer, some are running relatively smoothly but if I need to go back then I can.

Given that this process is also proving to me just how much time I can give my writing (which is more than I have been consistently giving it before now) I don’t think it will take much to make up the extra word count when I get back to drafting. I also think I can still get the first Iski book written and out before Christmas.

Over the last few years of this blog I have been referring to this fantasy novel as “SNOW” and that has been the working title all along, even for those first scribbled pages. But it needs something stronger and I’ve been playing with ideas. Once I’m settled on the title I’ll put something up on the My Books page.

Character Arc and Structure

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I have settled back into my writing, although not quite as regularly as I would like. Some projects are moving along well but I am struggling with my draft of the medieval fantasy trilogy.

I am stuck with my main character’s arc in book two. I have her overall story clear in my mind but it is at the individual book level that I’m stuck. Although the series covers one main story I would like each book to be a complete story in itself. And I’m not sure at this stage that what occurs in book two could be considered as complete.

 

Character Arcs

I came across an article on Twitter last week about not mistaking the need for character change for a complete change of character over the course of the story. It was a timely reminder that my character needs changes as she develops over the course of the story. Over the course of this series my character undergoes a number of changes, or experiences some form of change, and yet in book two she appears to experience very little.

KM Weiland has actually produced a whole series of articles on character arcs and they are all brilliantly useful (see links below).

 

Do I really need to have an arc?

Whether the characters changes (either positively or negatively) or the environment or world/setting changes around them there will be change. And this change will impact on the character and their choices. This in turn will impact on the other characters around them and the events of the story.

So, yes, in some form a character arc is going to be needed.

This will be linked to the story structure. For the story must move forward.

For my story I need to ensure there is a clear change for the character (not that she becomes someone different) over the course of the series and in some part over each book in the series.

When I look at book two there seemed to be more change around her but it is those changes that influence who she is and who she will become. In some ways she discovers that the world around her is not what she thought it was.

I did think that perhaps it was a flat character arc but once I mapped out the structure and the main points of the story, there was change in my character. Granted some of that change is that she learns of her own worth and strength but it is a development of her character.

 

Story Structure and Character Arc

I decided to look at the structure of the book and see if that would help. And it does. And the reading I’m doing (more links below) connects the two together.

At the beginning of book two my character is quite lost although she tries to appear strong, and then a major incident throws her for a loop and she is left feeling helpless.

By the end of the book my MC has discovered her world around her is not what she thought and that those closest to her have deceived her in some way also. She actually finds herself more scared at the end of the book which is where she starts the third – thinking that all is lost and that nothing will be as it ought to be, but she is stronger and better able to survive the situation.

I need to consider that her story is over all of the books and although she changes and grows it is only part of the bigger story. Because her ultimate development is across all three books.

There is still a lot to work out. And this is only a first draft. But when I stopped to think what would I do if this was a stand-alone book it didn’t help. It is a long story, an involved story and it needs (I think) three books to tell it. If it was looking like it was all happy and settled at the end of book one why would the story continue into book two?

 

What this means for me

Having a better understanding of the structure of the MC’s story and her arc for this book will help me to complete the draft, by filling in the missing pieces of her story. Learning how she interacts with the other characters and their actions is a part of that understanding and will impact on her growth and reactions as it will on theirs.

Story structure and character arc are intertwined. Even though I have a clear idea of how the MC’s story fits into an appropriate structure it is a matter of ensuring that she grows and learns from what happens to her (and so far she seems to be). And it will still only be part of the bigger story.

Much of the fine tuning will occur in the editing process. At the moment the drafting is a matter of getting the story down and making sure it develops in a sensible way. In some ways I think it is easier to learn about the characters and how they grow or can grow by drafting them in the first place. My characters can get carried away and they are usually fairly strong in dictating which way they think they should go. And quite often they are right, but for those times that they aren’t I need to be sure I know where they should be.

Writing this out has helped me to see how I should progress this story. This is a reminder for me that journaling is a useful process and that I could be unwinding these problems there rather than with you. But I like to share and it could be that my struggles on the screen mean less struggles for your writing.

 

Useful links

KM Weiland articles:

Character arcs

Figure character arc

 

Other useful articles

Novel 7 point structure

Plot and structure

Building a character arc

Putting a character arc in your novel

Johanna K. Pitcairn

Midyear Goal Check

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Life has been somewhat crazy over the last week as I moved into my new house. I am still unpacking boxes and finding homes for everything. It appears that I have a lot more stuff than I remember packing into the boxes in the first place. So I am half sorting as I go and sometimes just unpacking into cupboards with the idea of coming back and sorting later.

During this crazy week I haven’t taken any time to sit down and write – partly because I didn’t have a space to sit down at and partly because there was no space in my head for words to form. With the excuse of the car needing a service I was trapped in town today with nothing to do but sit quietly somewhere and refocus on my writing.

I started by going over my 2015 writing goals and how I am meeting them and what my plans are for the rest of the year.

I have listed these by writing project…

 

Snow (a fantasy novel) 

I am working through a major edit. I had hoped it would be the final edit but I think there is more work required. This edit is bigger than I intended as I have refocused the story and I am rewriting some chunks of it and smoothing out other parts for it to make sense. It will be a stronger story for it in the end and then I need to decide whether I self publish or submit the traditional way.

I need to foxus on the editing first and although it is not going to be done by my original time frame (the end of August) it will be done by the end of October.

 

Raven Crown Trilogy (draft) 

Drafted to 250,000 words (around the half way mark) so this is actually well on track.

The plot for book 1 is clear although the main character is not quite as present as I want her at this point.

Book 2 is my favourite and the main points are there but I still need to work on the storyline for the main character (or at least wrap up part of it for her).

Book 3 has come together better than I thought. Still unsure about the end, I have an idea but as I get closer it changes slightly (yes, that is because the characters are thinking for themselves). Book 3 is a lot darker than the others but I’m only half way through the first draft so a long way to go.

The draft for all three will be finished by the end of the year.

 

Iski Flare (Book 1) 

The outline is complete and ready for the Retreat to start drafting. I am also hoping to use the Retreat time to outline (and maybe start) the next two books in the series. This will be a series of novellas and although I’ve only thought about the first three I am hoping that this will continue beyond that.

I have been casting characters and trialling using the Snowflake method for outlining this book. This is on track to be self published by Christmas.

 

Spend an hour every week playing with creative ideas

This hasn’t quite worked out as often as I would have liked. But I am playing more with ideas for different projects.

 

Weekly blog posts

Occasionally late but generally this is working well.

 

Joint project with Lone Creature

This was a recent addition to my writing goals. We have talked about writing together for some time and finally have decided on a project worthy of our joint time and effort. This has been a little disjointed as our ideas develop and change around the project itself but I think we are on track now.

I am hoping to have the first story in this series drafted and ready for working together by the end of July.

 

Now that I am in the new house I am hoping to quickly settle back into a writing routine.

The planning I did today has not only helped cement just how much I have to do, but how much I want to do. This clarity refocuses what I need to do to reach these and certainly helps it appear more achievable.

I saw a great quote this morning (at my gym):

“Don’t hope for it more than you work for it”

A fitting reminder that to get anywhere we need to put the work in. I have my plan now it is time to sit down and work to it to reach my writing goals.

Is it time for you to revisit your writing goals?