Once in a while, I've tossed "a half million words" into a conversation. (I talk a lot.) Seriously, if I needed to come up with a figure on how much I’ve written, I’d guesstimate 500,000 words. I was way wrong, increasingly so over the years!
A couple or three years ago, I decided to find out the actual quantity of words I’ve misused. I knew that good old WORD would help me do a word count for each manuscript. So I “did a sum” as CS Lewis wrote in one of the Narnia books. Turns out, I've written more than one million words of narrative fiction--in the form of novels, memoir and short stories. This total doesn't include notes or outlines for unfinished works, nor does it include emails, filk lyrics, critiques, blog entries or lots of other stuff I've jotted down or typed up over the last 66 years. (Yeah. Okay. I didn't actually start 66 years ago, but whatever.)
Now that I've checked and totaled, I'm inflicting this vital information on you guys. The numbers won't mean much to anyone but me, so each work will have a description as well as a word count. Here goes!
Seabird = 160,000 words. Seabird is the first book in the Narentan Tumults fantasy series published by Gryphonwood Press back in Jan 2008.
On Narenta, a planet immeasurably far from Earth, followers of Wenos Zex, king of sorcerers, threaten the peaceful populace. The only ones who can thwart their spells, their assassins and their reptilian fighters are a handful of enchanters, fighters and scholarly seabirds. And according to prophetic tradition, an alien, the possessor of a secret power.
When high school senior Cara Marshall is whisked to Narenta, she is proclaimed champion of its three peoples against the daemagos sorcerers. Amid the grateful welcomes, Cara protests that neither the title nor the mission is hers.
"They've got the wrong person and they're going to get me killed because they won't admit it."
Is Cara's world-napping a mistake? The daemagos don't care as long as she's dead. Cara’s brief attempt at finding a way home mutates into a nightmarish blur of hiding and flight from ruthless werewright warriors, vicious serpent-hawks, and the remorseless sorcerers.
She is simultaneously overwhelmed by the trust the Narentan people show in her supposed latent power as their Outworlder champion. In whom dare she place her own trust when assassins lurk amidst the very people who welcome her? Innate but elusive, will her power surface in time for her to use it?
As she races across an eerie and perilous ancient world in search of the daemagos’ source of strength, Cara must also find the strength to face tragedy and doubt. Her chance to aid the Tethran kingdom and her remaining companions dwindling with the minutes, Cara grapples to perceive the essence of a hero’s heart and make it her own.
Earthbow = 181,374 words and the second book in the Narentan Tumults series. (Gryphonwood pubbed Earthbow in two parts back in 2010.) While I was doing early revisions, I was sure that Earthbow would clock in slightly shorter than Seabird. Uh… Not so much. Why do I keep writing longer books?
Earthbow currently starts off with a lot more action than Seabird did. You see, I gifted Earthbow’s initial chapter with armed guards and attacking werewrights. Probably over-correcting.
Earthbow is Sandy the Outworlder and Harone's story because Outworlders are always critical in helping Narentans during a Tumult. Harone, an enchanter initiate, was assigned to protect and train Sandy. Within days, he discovers that he has a critical decision to make which could kill a lot of people including himself if he chooses incorrectly. That's assuming he lives long enough to make the decision.
Earthbow is Coris' story because he's the first "good guy" to observe what's going on in the camp of the "bad guys". Just three problems. He doesn't understand what he sees, much as he would like to. He's constantly in danger for his life by later the same day. One event after another has him so consumed with the desire for revenge, he can hardly think straight.
Earthbow is Sevris' story and Beroc's story and Cenoc's story and the Pannians' story and JaQuen's story and Mexat's story because they are all to varying degrees the "bad guys" though I doubt that most of them see it that way.
Mexat actually might agree with the “bad guy” label, though he would probably add that if everyone would have just granted him absolute rule to begin with, none of this would have been necessary.
Earthbow is Alphesis' story and Renea's story and Hanos' story and Lania's story and Nailak's story and Phidias' story and Riptis' story and Palis' story and the stories of the Greenfolk and the Wildfolk for too many reasons to even begin listing.
Khiva believes that Earthbow is Khiva's story. (Khiva is pronounced with a LONG "I" !) She is a stoah ("stow-hah"), and stoahs are Who's not What's. In any case, Earthbow is Khiva's story and someone owes Khiva a rose garden.
Several years ago, I posted 8 linked extracts from Earthbow at this blog. To see them, go to the following links:
8 = http://tree-lady.livejournal.com/96799.h
7 = http://tree-lady.livejournal.com/96654.h
6 = http://tree-lady.livejournal.com/96376.h
5 = http://tree-lady.livejournal.com/96074.h
4 = http://tree-lady.livejournal.com/95897.h
3 = http://tree-lady.livejournal.com/95660.h
2 = http://tree-lady.livejournal.com/95297.h
Or, find the whole thing at Amazon: Earthbow Part 1 Earthbow Part 2
The Gryphon and the Basilisk aka "the behemoth" aka "The sequel that insisted it was a trilogy" aka "The book that intends to eat Delaware." This was really and truly intended to just be the sequel to Earthbow aka the third volume in the Narentan Tumults. Maybe “G&B” mistook “third volume” for “three volumes”?
Well, I'm not sure what happened, except that the focus shifted radically to different characters and they dragged in their own plot and the next thing you know there was a murder and I couldn't believe who did it but I couldn't tell anybody because that part of the plot became a murder mystery.
And in the meantime there's this angsty romance which I don't even do and later very possibly a romantic triangle that just sort popped into existence when I looked away from the monitor for a second. I swear I only looked away for a second.
And then, or before that really, there were all these scenes from some werewrights' points of view, and isn't -that- an interesting take on reality?
After the tragic death back home it's no wonder the other person goes nuts. Or maybe they actually don't. They haven't told me yet which it is. A someone else does lose it big time though.
We get a tour of a sorcerer's fortress and find out this one has an art collection (who knew?), not long after celebrating Yule and visiting some centaur-like people. Extreme winter sports include riding horses down something like a glacier with werewrights in pursuit. Retreating to the indoors doesn’t mean the former “pursu-ees” get to veg out. Before they know it, they’ve got a command performance at a bit of a masquerade to deal with. Pyrotechnics wrap up the evening.
Next time a host invites these travelers to visit, the provided entertainment resembles ghoulish reality TV, broadcast internationally via a Thought Stone.
Now, when it comes to the end I know that lots of people are going to die because they're up against a seriously bad bad dude. I'm not sure which ones really do (die) though because everyone wants to be noble and sacrifice themselves for everyone else but they can't all do it or what's the point then of sacrificing themselves? Besides which if I let them all sacrifice themselves, I'll cry and the readers (all two of them) will kill me.
No matter who dies for whom or if nobody dies for nobody, how do we outwit the bad guy without everybody dying anyway? He's like meaner than a junkyard dog. Arrgh! I always knew this was coming and I kept thinking I'd come up with something super-clever to take care of the bad guy and his minions. (Let’s hear it for minions! Where would we be in fantasy without them?) I’ve had
You see, I put all those guns on the wall all the way through two and two-thirds volumes to help them out. Now I don't know which words, and actions and stage props make the best guns and which are red herrings. How do you shoot a red herring anyway? The characters don't even know about most of the herrings or guns. Is it any wonder all the characters have been having such long conversations about exactly that? Not shooting herrings, but what strategy has even a prayer of them surviving the outwitting of bad guys?
That's a lot of what they've been doing for the last scenes I’ve written of G&B#3. Praying, angsting and debating. They're sitting on sofas and practicing fire-throwing and being Mr Mean-Jeans. In other words just killing time like actors without a script. You'd think they were in The Purple Rose of Cairo, if it weren't for the constant bickering. "That's got to be the stupidest plan I've ever heard! Yeah? What've you got? Well, it might work but -I- need to do that part. I've been trained... No! That's what I'm here for... That's ego talking! It's just that I don't want you to get killed taking terrible chances! Well, I don't want you to get killed either! We're all going to die, aren't we? Maybe. Really? Maybe what? Never mind. That won't work..."
At which point, I feel invisible eyes heading my way. All waiting for me to come up with a solution, and then put it into someone's mouth!
I wrote the first two and two-thirds volumes! They can't chip in a few lines of dialogue?
Gryphon & Basilisk vol.1 = 157,000 words
Gryphon & Basilisk vol.2 = 149,000 words
Gryphon & Basilisk vol.3 = 101,000 words, so far (Everyone's still waiting for me.)
Marooned = 54, 000 words so far. (Four-fifths of first draft is complete) Marooned has or will have 22 chapters, of which chapters 1-16 and chapter 22 are complete. Chapters 17-21 have been in outline form for several years now.
Starting this one is my editor's fault. Short story, long--Dave made an assumption and the next thing you know, I was roped into the project. For the sake of the two people who have read Seabird, suffice it to say that something mysterious happened to someone back in that book. I knew what happened but I never expected to write about it. Then Dave (my editor) pushed and SusanW (from Written Remains) kept pulling, and the next thing you know Marooned was born.
Marooned was the only “stray” Narentan story, until I went and committed a novel-writing during NaNoWriMo 2008, thereby producing a very rough and hurried draft that I happen to love…
"Da Boid, da Tree-Rat 'n da Loser" for National Novel Writing Month November 1-30, 2008. That beknighted opus which takes place in the same world as Narenta, currently clocks in at 54,976 words in chapter form. There also a few pages of notes-to-self. It was strangely fun to write because the main characters—one in particular—couldn’t resist telling me about their backgrounds, interests, etc. (Neighbors may have heard me grumbling, “Stop it! I can’t write that fast!”) Sadly I reached December 1 at which time I had to neglect cleaning up the conclusion of Boid-TreeRat-Loser, in order to deal with other responsibilities. Yes, the title will have to change before publication. Sigh. Grumble. Did I mention that I love the ending?
The Peace Bride used to be Jeri'ik (the name of one of the characters) when I first conceived of it. Fantasy but not in the Narentan universe. Darker. More adult. Some very interesting characters and magic and religion, if I do say so. This is a very old story I used to recount to myself for my own amusement. I had other tales but they were mostly time-travel. I never wrote those down.
Chapters 1-7 are complete. Chapters 8, 9, 10 are partially written. I have very brief notes under the headings of chapters 11-21(?), plus a two-three page outline for the rest of the plot. I know exactly what happens, even for the scenes without notes. Like I said, I used to tell this to myself for my own amusement--chiefly when I had insomnia.
The Peace Bride = 26, 000 words that are usable. I -really- like the beginning! Like Boid, I love the characters! Especially a conniving old wizard and a scary-smart high level envoy.
Life Tides was supposed to be a NaNoWriMo fiction entry set in Ocean City, New Jersey back in 2003. It stalled when I couldn't get the heroine out of her hotel room and up to the boardwalk. No, she didn't have a handsome man in there with her. Since I needed to write something between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, I began writing a memoir of my family. The memoir won't have this title but the title serves the purpose for the time being. I'm nearly finished the book and I'm about to start sending out queries for an agent.
Life Tides = Old guesstimates were “71,000 words, which would probably grow to 80,000 words before it's complete.” Now it thinks it’s a scary 154,499 words but it’s not I tell you! No way does it get to gobble up all my notes, memos, 1992* entries, etc.
Stop that! Get down! You may not have my dinner!
*a date, not the number of entries.
The Memory Well = just a 3,000 word premise for a novel. I really wanted to write this several years ago but polishing Seabird had priority. I also had serious down time due to illness that summer and fall. The Memory Well is an actual gothic romance with a nice helping of magic on the side. It's set neither in the Narentan world nor the Peace Bride world, and it concerns a young woman who periodically comes out of a magically induced trance and realizes that family and friends around her are manipulating her memories. Then, she discovers that a young man hired as a musician for the household professes that the same thing is happening to him. Can she trust him?
That's the last of my novels in progress, or novel premises.
I keep a tiny file labeled "Ocean City Album" which is a proposal and chapter titles for a photo album of 1970's-1980's photographs of Ocean City NJ, with a few bits of commentary. I would never actually make a formal proposal until I first scanned in several hundred photographs and tried manipulating them first for clarity etc. Any progress on this is thwarted at the moment because I’m missing two boxes of photos since my surreal move last year. No word count for this.
If anyone asks I always say that I can't write Short Stories. I do write them but very rarely and they turn out to be decent even more rarely. Actually, I was surprised to discover that I had completed 19 short stories:
winter's season (fantasy), baffled by the green door (published in Stories from the Inkslingers, this is creative nonfiction), nightmare (horror), circles (light sf/fantasy),daisy and the paper-mice (fiction from a cat's pov), dragon's tail tale (tall tale fantasy), lament (experimental), long acres (mainstream), a night in the library (horror, and pretty bad writing), no substitutions (fantasy and even worse writing), the not so great escape (sf and I've always thought it cute but pros thinks it's terrible), the pumpkin-smasher (my poor misunderstood light fantasy), the queen of the tor sith (fantasy poem re elves), rennie's airdrop (frothy bit of urban fantasy, sort of), the sailor's tale (mythic fantasy set in Revolutionary Maryland), shadow harper (mythic fantasy with a twist, pubbed last year in UnCONventional by Spencer Hill Press), the faerie door (writ for a small group who thought it "sounded nice"), what became of burro and duck (attempt at a magic realism picture book), dingle (never completed fantasy story but I'm hopeful).
JANUARY 2014 UPDATE. Most of these stories have never been published. Or submitted. Or rejected. I can't write stories to spec--based on a publisher's submission guidelines for an anthology. My stories either happen or they don't. "Shadow Harper" was written about 10 years before Spencer Hill listed their submission guidelines for the UnCONventional anthology.
So what will become of "Daisy and the Paper-Mice" or "Winter's Season" and all the rest? Glad you asked! Most of these short stories will appear in "Tree House Tales" during 2014. The THT collection will feature a wide variety of my writings, spanning 35 years--fiction, non-fiction, anecdotes, artwork, extracts from five Narenta Novels and some fiddlie-bits to be named later. See "Tree House Tales Table of Contents" for more information!
Short Stories = 19 x 2000 words (probably more) = 38,000 words.
Seabird = 160,000
G&B 3= 101,000 so far
Marooned=54,000 so far
Memory Well premise=3,000
Short stories= 19x2000=38,000
Total= 1,076,626 words