Current Projects — March 2015

cropped-logoheader.jpg
As usual it’s time for my monthly round up of stuff I’m working on. I’m so behind it’s not even funny but I’m going to catch up if it kills me. I’ve got so much work to do at the moment but I know I can get it all done to time.

The Ashteraiverse

The Parting of the Waters — Writing the final act … well the penultimate one which has been left till last. I’m three months behind and, damn it, I’m going to catch up.

A World of Strange New Things — If things go to plan this will be my next mini Kickstarter protect (launching 23rd June the same day as The Parting of the Waters and Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea go on general, public release). This is set at the same time as Lesser Evils but is stand-alone and follows the first leg of Zoe’s life in modern-day Seattle. It’s also just about finished. Specifically:

  • Sweetness in Sorrow is back from my beta reader, the cover is in progress. It’s ready to go to Ellen as soon as we sync our schedules.
  • Temporal Grace is nearly finished, the cover is next on the list.
  • Suffer the Children needs the most work but the majority of it’s done.
  • Games the Powerful Play is mostly done but needs some restructuring before I send it off to be betaed.

When Darkness Eclipses Light — Zoe #2, I’ve started writing the first part but I’m still outlining, researching and structuring this (I doubt it will be a serial but, instead, a full novel). I plan on the story being around 100k when all is said and done.

One in Blue, The Other Green — Over half way, it’s just a matter of getting this down on paper.

In the Blackness of His Eyes — I’m not sure what this is in terms of length but I do know that it sits between A World of Strange New Things and When Darkness Eclipses Light. This is Elsa’s story, with a pro/epilogue narrated by Astraea.

Headhunted — This is the story of how James became James and I’m loving it, even if finishes just prior to The Shadow of the Stars.

The First Days and the Last — This is Bry’s novella … it’s long and winding because eight thousand years can really be condensed. Also there’s a death right at the beginning and it might be his but then the Ashterai never truly die …

The Fourth Race — Half way through the first draft focusing on the Willan plagueship encountered during the Gathering and their brush with the Mihari Empire before the events of Parting. This story is Alien meets Contagion meets BSG.

Ghost World (2014 Remix) — Actually contemplating the rewrite.

A Star Filled Sea — I just need to amend the text to reflect the Tuckerisation and then it goes to my beta reader.

Plotting out An Inherited State (Chaya and Josh #2) and Breaking Point (Chaya and Josh #3). Lesser Evils (Chaya and Josh #1) is on hold because I have no time and plans re Kickstarter for it.

A World of Strange New Things: Sweetness in Sorrow Final Ebook Cover

Lesleysmith_sweetnessinsorrow_web1_3I love getting concepts, I love the process of finding a tiny little glint in the darkness, digging it out and polishing until you have a garnet or a sapphire (diamonds are so passé). Above, in it’s full concept glory is the final nail in the coffin cover for Sweetness in Sorrow (note how it’s very much an amalgam of the original two concepts). This is nice as the content is done, just the art left and that will be in April. My beta reader loved it (I’m hoping that’s a good thing) and I’m hoping, while it feels like a self-contained story, people are going to want to know what happens after in the next couple of instalments which complete A World of Strange New Things.

A World of Strange New Things: How This Serial is Gonna Work

Lesleysmith_sweetnessinsorrow_web1

Lesleysmith_sweetnessinsorrow_web2

First off, I got concept art this morning for Sweetness in Sorrow. This makes me happy, even as my Amex sits, weeping piteously, in my wallet. The thing is there’s a reason for doing all the work before the campaign, this time I want it to be easier on me (in terms of fulfilment) but also better and faster for my backers. The one thing I hate about Kickstarter is all the waiting so I’m investing now to make life easier later.

Here’s the plan:

  • The Kickstarter (which you can preview now, as I build it, please do leave feedback and remember I still need to triple check the maths) for A World of Strange New Things  will launch on 23/6/2015.
  • That’s going to mean three books on one day (gee where did that idea come from?) as that’s also the launch day for The Parting of the Waters and Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea.
    • Sweetness in Sorrow will also launch that day as a separate e-book, hence the concepts above, to give potential a backers sample of the story but also officially launch the serial.
    • Temporal Grace will launch two weeks after the end of the campaign (once all the pledges have been processed) in September.
    • Suffer the Children will launch in October.
    • Games the Powerful Play will finish the book in November.
    • The omnibus will follow in either late December or January, subject to my schedule/exhaustion levels etc.
  • There will be Ben Adams’ art! We’re in the middle of hammering down schedules at the moment, Ellen will return to edit (because she’s ELLEN and the Basenjis’ will eat her) and Polgarus will make it all beautiful.
  • Each part of the serial will have a print edition! However these will vanish once the omnibus comes out, I’m aiming them squarely at my Teams, at my fanbase, because they’re going to be gorgeous. You’ll be able to back for the usual combo of e-book or print or both subject to your own personal tastes.
  • Oh and this is Zoe’s song for this book, enjoy:

Living With Bipolar: The World Feels Flat and I Rant A Bit

2015-02-22 19.08.14I’m into my third week of quetiapine and the worst part about it all isn’t the medication (though that comes a close second) but rather the lack of support. My GP is off sick and has been since the beginning of the year, I feel bad for her (it’s obviously something serious) but it couldn’t come at a worse time. I’ve seen a lovely GP in the interim but I had to order my ECG myself, and suggest bloods. I’ve started this medication with no information bar what comes in the packet and the horrors of Googling quetiapine.

The local mental health system say there’s a three month waiting list for a caseworker. They expect me to just … wait … on new medication, Currently the extent of my support amounts to D or Ceri watching me from the cat tree, Uni nudging me back to consciousness on the bus and Karen and Sophie to keep their motherly eyes on me.

The problem is, as an aspie, I can’t always quantify things really well. It’s this weird inability to deal with change. For example, I’ll know Winter is coming (to quote Ned Stark) but each time it feels like a new experience, strange and alien, even though I’ve done it before. Medication is like that, quetiapine especially so.

It makes me so sluggish, so tired and unless I wake up at 5am and drink coffee, it hits me mid-afternoon and I become functionally useless. Writing feels like a marathon, the ideas are there but I’ve not seen my motivation actually present, even though I do want to write. I’m hungry most of the time but lack the energy to cook, worse it’s not a craving for a specific thing or food group, more just a need for food and what I do eat seldom seems to satisfy me (though beef bourguignon seems to check all the boxes).

Stress is another factor. I know if I get too stressed I need to take valium as well as my peracyazine which, in turn, makes me even more tired. I’ve been stressed a lot lately which isn’t surprising if I gave you a list of the shit that’s been happening. Today I want a drink, a proper alcoholic DRINK, but this is a bad idea (I have a launch party to host tonight) and I’m meeting a friend for lunch Wednesday, I’d rather drink with a nice plate of Japanese food than on my own with the cats. I know this is the smart thing to do (for my friends have told me so :D) but the stress isn’t limited to one factor but a dozen things which are out of my control and, therefore, freak out aboutable.

So all I can do is, apparently, wait.

Sigh.

The Wonderful World of Ashterai Timelines

Screenshot 2015-02-22 09.37.00Thanks to the wonders of the International Date Line, today Scarlett starts on the cover of Sweetness in Sorrow (which I need ready for the Kickstarter campaign for A World of Strange New Things in June). I’m in the middle of finishing World off, in tandem with The Parting of the Waters and One in Blue, The Other Green. This is a good thing but it’s got me thinking on personal timelines. The Ashteraiverse is designed to be read chronologically, starting at A and ending a Z. However that isn’t to say that the characters own timelines work out like that.

Zoe is a prime example, we meet various alterations of her in different books, some of her past selves but chronologically speaking, the version in A Star Filled Sea is the most up-to-date, the one who has fully come to terms with her Ashterai persona. She’s comfortable with herself thanks to her adventures in World and the sequel, When Darkness Eclipses Light. Oh and thanks to all that she’s also learned to handle her superpowers like a pro (in World she’s not sure what she can do or if she even wants to know and Darkness forces her to learn). This character growth is the fun bit of writing, especially as Zoe’s different personas and lives allow me to jump back and forth. She is essentially the sum of the best parts of her past selves so Salla’s personality is responsible for Zoe’s love of technology and her sensuality, her compassion and altruism comes from another life (which is an easter egg for the eagle-eyed to spot in a certain short story) and her self assurance is a much more recent thing that is all Zoe.

For the sake of narrative, I’m trying to stick with people and follow through. So Josh and Chaya will narrate books (I have three planned out) and their experiences will change them, the same happens with Shai as she has to deal with the fallout from the Three Day War and carving out her own life as the first Cultural Advisor in London. Elyn’s my current project and her novel serves as a bridge that sets the stage for The Shadow of the Stars. Once these are zone then I can start the Priestess series properly and I’m looking forward to it, the chance to visit post-Contact London.

It’s going to be an amazing ride and I’ve only just started.

One Year of Kickstarter

Screenshot 2015-02-21 10.30.37I got send this from Kickstarter, reminding me that a year ago my first campaign funded. The Changing of the Sun led to The Parting of the Waters and, most recently to A Star Filled Sea. I never really expected the first campaign to fund but three later and it’s allowed me to do things, to publish beautiful books. Now I just have to finish Parting, to complete the short stories for Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea and then do the amendments for Star. It’s been an amazing year but this one, it’s going to be even more stunning.

Two Weeks In: How Things Are

10675_10153118373981449_4857539752832569356_nIt’s half term here in the UK which means this is a temporary blip on my morning bliss. An empty Starbucks not filled with people. This will change in a couple of hours but for now this whole place is mine, I can laugh at YouTube videos without my anxiety going into overdrive (the Lovely Baristas know I’m bonkers) and enjoy a hot beverage.

I’ve been on my new medication for two weeks and, so far, it’s much better than it was than it started. The main side effects seem to be limited to my sense of smell (which means everything more than unscented is magnified to gagging level) and finding a balance between my quetiapine and my daily mix of diazapam and peracyazine for anxiety. I need the latter or I become with immobile mess of anxiousness, the diazepam is for those days when everything is too much and I’m trying to ration it to a need-only basis.

I’ve cut out alcohol (bar the odd glass with meals and friends), cut back on coffee, I’m trying to record my moods religiously so I can at least track what sets me off and am attempting to be as stress-free as possible (which is difficult when Apocalypse Weird launches in less than a week). I’ve been catching up with friends though and a hug from a small child/Bramble the Guide Dog is just like diazapam except with no negative effects whatsoever. Bonus!

Screenshot 2015-02-18 09.29.48Bramble is my friend’s guide dog, she’s like a micro version of Uni, right down to being a tart, albeit a better behaved one, and because she’s not mine, SHE LOVES ME like Uni does every other human on the planet. She curled up next to me yesterday on the bunkette in Starbucks and not a soul noticed. Plus because she’s gorgeous, the Baristas love her as much as Uni. Nothing is better than one guide dog except multiples.

(FYI: Three or more is a chaos, for very good reason).

The good news is, after three months of WTF, D has moved back in permanently. He’s his pre-blip ball of affection, sleeping on me, head butting me and generally being his normal mighty self. I couldn’t be happier, even if I still don’t know what set this off in the first place.

On the writing front things have slowed a little, this is mainly because I’m coming to the end of A World of Strange New Things and am mapping out the sequel. I don’t like endings but I do know the flow of this story so that’s okay. The problem is that The Parting of the Waters is at a similar point and I really do need to get that done as well. Nothing is worse than finishing one project than finishing two, while planning out other new ones that I really want to get started on. I need to finish these two. At least A Star Filled Sea is complete, bar beta-reading and the Tuckerisation.

I’ve found a couple of obvious (except to me, of course) tricks which are helping, things like turning my iPad to Airplane mode at night so I don’t wake up and start Googling/checking Facebook and evicting the dog from both bed and room (her presence is killing my back). I’ve also making an attempt to sleep in or as much as I need to on certain days which seems to be helping. I woke naturallyish (as much as you can with a bengal climbing up your spine) at 7am this morning and slept almost right through which does wonders for my mental state, especially as I’m trying hard to break my reliance on Zopiclone.

Today is a writing day, I’m finishing off Temporal Grace (part two of A World of Strange New Things) and then I have a meeting at lunch time. After that depends on my mood, my levels and my spoons. However if I can finish this section than I’ll feel a bit better, I like being able to tick things off my to do list, it’s helpful.

Off to Betaland: The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture

Screenshot 2015-02-12 13.41.02It always amazes me that, once I get moving on things, they seldom take long to complete. Yesterday I sent “The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture” , my short story for The Z Chronicles, off to my Lovely Betas for vivisection. The Union side of the story is the nesting into which the main story is revealed: Sandis, my main POV char appears in A Star Filled Sea and Ghost World (2014 Remix) but he’s curious about zombies and an AMA with his class’ visiting professor (Rheia, of everything else) gets him curious about the Union version of the zombie menace, the Soulless who are primarily composed of the Chiitai Hedrim caste and the Rulani, a Sankai subspecies engineered and controlled by the Mihari.

These zombies might not want to eat you but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be afraid. Zombies were, originally, not the ravening horde from movies but simply resurrected humans with no minds, susceptible to the commands of whomever controlled them. This idea of being soulless, mindless, is the crux of this story and I wanted to remind folks that not all zombies want to eat your brains. Plus it links in beautifully to my Ashteraiverse and I want people to be curious enough to check out my other stuff once they finish the anthology.

I do hope my betas like it, actually I don’t want them to like it, I want constructive criticism and honest options if something doesn’t work. Then I can fix it, make it better and get it off to Sam and Ellen.

Timeline-ing and First Drafting The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture

HoneybeeHive

I’m in the middle of doing the first draft of “The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture” and it’s an excellent excuse to talk about world building, time lining and how a story comes together. This story is principally about zombies with a distinctly Ashteraiverse-like take. The Soulless are people whose wills have been subjugated (for various reasons) and they’re not your typical zombies, some are violent, most are simply blank slates who do as they’re told. Sometimes they can do terrible things but there is always something behind them, whomever has taken their soul and either controls it or has devoured it.

Souls are, in the Ashteraiverse, the base currency of the universe. You get one, you don’t give it away.

The idea for the Soulless has been around for a while; Chaya meets a Soulless minion of the Van Buren Group in Inspired but I wanted to do aliens, properly, and give zombieism my own unique slant. So we’re going to talk about the Mihari and the Chiitai.

In the Ashteraiverse, the Milky Way is split by three factions. The Union (on whose worlds most of these stories are set), the Mihari Empire (who are EVIL) and the occasionally-mentioned, lesser-known Chiitai Conglomeration. The Chiitai, of the three, are the most alien; the Mihari go stomping around but these eight foot insectoid creatures seldom cross out of their own territories, mainly because they’ve been fighting a multi-generation turf war and also because, for them, territory is an important part of their species’ hierarchy. They have their territory and don’t seek to expand, unlike the Mihari (who try to take whatever they can) and the Union (who act as a barrier, protecting weaker races and seldom expanding their territory by more than a star system and, only then, with the consent of the worlds involved).

I’m first drafting this story and am liking it, except this draft feels more like a precis of events, I’m telling not showing. This is okay, I need to figure out the story, the mechanics of my zombies, in order to do a second draft. Bees figure in that Chiitai society functions much like a hive: you have the Jiha, the caste of queens, the warriors who serve as commanders and generals with drones playing the shitty role of the aforementioned zombies, cannon fodder and pawns in a larger game. Drones don’t live long but the sheer numbers makes them a force to be reckoned with and that is what will turn the tide and end the War of Bloodied Fields.

I know the arc of the story, beginning with the War, continuing with the Mihari turning up looking for a new planet to subjugate in a system full of lovely mineral-rich asteroids they can use for fuel, a foothold in a quadrant of space no one has claimed yet. Well, aside from the natives that is. The story then shifts to the Mihari part of the tale as they use stolen knowledge and taint a great warrior’s desire for peace, twisting it into an abomination which ends with a Sankai clone, one of the enslaved Rulani, called 873e.

e … well e is important. You’ll see why later but THAT is another story.

The other problem is I’m trying to timeline where this story sits within my universe. The Mihari Empire’s period of expansion is an epic thing, beginning just before the Gathering of the Races (midway through The Parting of the Waters and prior, in The Fourth Race) it ends with taking over the homeworld of Ambassador Ren (Saruvoi) and the fall of the empire a few decades after that in 2021. The Mihari’s desire for territory drives the creation of the Union and eight thousand years is a lot of time to wander the galaxy, hence their ability to travel so far. Aside from the Mihari, the only ones who’ve gone anywhere that far out are the Seranoa.

So where does this story sit?

I know it’s post-Gathering but there’s also a tie to A World of Strange New Things (specifically Sweetness in Sorrow). Eight thousand years of history gives me plenty of time to play and the Chiitai, they’re pretty secretive and happy with their lot post-war. They have a hell of a lot of rebuilding to do and they’re not ready yet, not for the Union, not for the post-Mihai world. The stain of what one warrior does to save his species is going to take a lot of washing out.

Meds, zombies and me

Screenshot 2015-02-05 08.30.28I feel like a zombie this morning so it’s almost fitting that I start on my story for The Z Chronicles. It’s tentatively titled “The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture” (I’ve been reading The Alien Chronicles and Autumn Kalquist’s story 318 stuck in my brain). The story is a nested one, beginning with a group of alien medical students asking their teacher about humanity’s obsession with zombies, one student find his curiosity piqued and starts looking into the Union’s version of zombies, the Soulless, who were originally created by the insectoid Chiitai to end the bitter War of Bloodied Fields (the same war which causes Zoe to quit her job as a healer) and how the idea of a controlled drone class—insane, mindless, soulless and generally unpleasant—is co-opted by the Mihari Empire who promptly use it to enslave the Sankai (known to humanity as those Greys from Roswell), turning a philosophical race from Zeta Reticuli into zombie clones—the Rulani, the ‘Enslaved’—who become the unwilling pawns in a galactic takeover bid.

Originally I was going to rewrite Zombie Hotel but I think alien zombies work so much better than plague zombies or raised ones. This story is all about control, about committing terrible crimes and whether such actions can be justified fr a greater, more noble goal. Plus the Chiitai is a race I’ve been wanting to flesh out for a while now. Their female-only descendants, the Jiha, appear in Karim and the Waterstone, a short story set in a possible future where the War of Bloodied Fields spilled over and destroyed not only the Union but Earth as well. This future will never happen but, in it, the Jiha have become the matriarchs of the vestiges of a dozen worlds decimated by the Great Devastation, decamping to a small world where they can create new hives, use mammals as hosts and ensure the survival of their own species as well as those whose worlds were destroyed in the fallout from the war.

I do try and write stand-alone stories but, sometimes, they all seem connected. This is one of those days and I think this  particular offering is going to be special.

The Ashteraiverse in One Song

This song covers the entire Ashteraiverse, from Zoe’s turmoil to the discovery of soulmates, Kalika’s burden, the infinite beauty of the universe and the suggestion that there are forces more powerful than life and death. This is the song that makes me think of An’she, of Maros and the struggle to survive. This is my universe encapsulated.

Current Projects — February 2015

cropped-logoheader.jpg
As usual it’s time for my monthly round up of stuff I’m working on.

*Note: Some stuff is contracted … as I plan to actually make anthologies and novels a regular thing, this will be indicated though vagueness remained when something hasn’t been formally announced or is super secret.

The Ashteraiverse

 

A World of Strange New Things — If things go to plan this will be my next mini Kickstarter protect (launching 23rd June the same day as The Parting of the Waters and Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea go on general, public release). This is set at the same time as Lesser Evils but is stand-alone and follows the first leg of Zoe’s life in modern-day Seattle

The Parting of the Waters — Writing the final act … well the penultimate one which has been left till last.

Encoding Sentience 1.0  First draft done, set aside prior to revisions being made. I have plans to submit this somewhere but if it doesn’t make it, it’s heading for Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea.

Headhunted — This is the story of how James became James and I’m loving it, even if finishes just prior to The Shadow of the Stars.

The First Days and the Last — This is Bry’s novella … it’s long and winding because eight thousand years can really be condensed. Also there’s a death right at the beginning and it might be his but then the Ashterai never truly die …

The Fourth Race — Half way through the first draft focusing on the Willan plagueship encountered during the Gathering and their brush with the Mihari Empire before the events of Parting. This story is Alien meets Contagion meets BSG.

A Star Filled Sea — Now the Kickstarter is live it’s finished and resting.

Plotting out An Inherited State (Chaya and Josh #2) and Breaking Point (Chaya and Josh #3). Lesser Evils (Chaya and Josh #1) is on hold because I have no time and plans re Kickstarter for it.

Short stories and novellas

*Zombie Hotel — A short story about zombies and an ultra modern Tokyo hotel and the end of the world. Am re-reading prior to a rewrite and while standalone, this is the precursor to my AW world even if this story will be heading somewhere different.

Apocalypse Weird

 

*The Fractured Mirror — AW: Japan #1. Kyoto, zombies and the end of the world. The third draft is complete and resting prior to the official submission date at the end of the month.

*The Crimson Sea — AW: Japan #2. Tokyo prior to the Event and Miyajima (aka Itsukushima) after. Earthquakes, tsunami, mermaids and I think this one is much more of a mystery, focused on a writer and his hikikomori sister. Also MERMAIDS (人魚). This one should be done by April, if I start it soonish. I’m not actually contracted yet but the urge to write this one is strong so … erm … there.