Click the link to watch my author interview by Delilah Cordova of Smart Marketing for Authors. The beginning has a some audio problems, but it clears up a short way in.
How long should my debut novel be?
When I was writing the first edition of my first novel, a big question for me was how long should a debut novel be?
One of the first places I went to try to figure this out was Wikipedia. What I found out there was that writing over 40,000 words is considered a novel, but beyond that, it can vary greatly.
|Novel||40,000 words or over|
|Novella||17,500 to 39,999 words|
|Novelette||7,500 to 17,499 words|
|Short story||under 7,500 words|
There are a number of factors that can affect the length of your novel, such as genre and whether you plan to self-publish or are looking for a traditional publisher. If you are looking for a traditional publisher, it is also important to note that different publishers may be looking for different minimum word counts. On the flip side, if your manuscript is what they consider to be too long, the publisher may ask you to cut some of it out.
During the process of writing my first book, I read articles and spoke to people in the industry that suggested that a new, unknown author keep their first novel short, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, many publishers are looking for shorter novels for untested authors due to cost and so on, and longer novel lengths are typically reserved for authors who have already proven themselves.
I also read that a shorter novel might better entice readers to give your book a try, as they won’t have to commit to buying a longer and potentially more expensive book by an author they have never read before.
For the first edition of my novel, then, I kept it short at about 60,000 words. However, I felt it needed more fleshing out, and this thought was echoed in a review or two of the book.
When I decided to hire a graphic artist to do the book covers for the entire series, I also decided to re-do the cover of the first book so that the series would look more uniform. This would mean publishing a second edition, and I took this opportunity to develop my story a little more.
In the end, my second edition ended up at around 72,000 words and is, in my opinion, much improved from the first edition. This is still on the short side for my genre, which is fantasy. However, I followed the advice I was given or had read in the beginning concerning first novels and decided to keep it on the short side.
On the flip side of that, I recently read an article that listed publishers who consider new authors. Each of these had minimum word counts well above the numbers I had originally been given or found. However, I have read numerous other articles and books since that repeat this advice.
And, yet again, there are still many publishers who don’t seem to recommend a particular word count.
What take-away messages did I get from all this?
- Length is linked in large part to the genre you are writing in.
- There really is no true consensus.
Here is a list of some do’s and don’ts that I learned along the way and would like to pass on to aspiring authors:
DO base the length of your novel on what feels right for your story.
DON’T base the length on factors such as how much the per word cost for editing is.
DO think of the submission guidelines of traditional publishing houses you may wish to submit to or are hoping to catch the eye of with your self-published novel.
DON’T assume all publishing houses are looking for the same thing.
DO think of the purpose and audience of your book when deciding word count. Are you writing fiction or non-fiction? If fiction, which genre, and what age group?
DON’T write a super long book for children, or super short for adults.
And the biggest DO of all:
DO what works best for your particular story.
Below is a list of links to some articles I’ve read relating to word count:
Sherry Leclerc is a science fiction and fantasy fanatic who lives in magical realms where swords and sorcery,
action and adventure, seers, shifters and sorcerers abound.
Click on the image to read my previous blog posts
Click to sign up for my author newsletter and recieve a FREE copy of my short story collection, THE GUARDIANS OF STERRENVAR
Click to purchase a copy of The Guardians of Eastgate on Amazon.
Planning or Pantsing? Which Approach to Writing Works Best?
Are you a planner or a pantser?
The first time I ever heard the term “pantsing” was when I joined a writer’s group, and most of my fellow group members had decided to take part in NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a writing competition that takes place in November, where participants are challenged to both start and complete the first draft of a manuscript within that month.
Of course, you can prepare ahead of time by planning and outlining your story, building your characters and so on. However, the actual writing is not to start until November begins. I hadn’t planned on taking part in 2017, and I changed my mind at the last minute. Through our chat in writers’ group that evening, I discovered that made me a pantser.
You are a pantser if you start writing cold, with no preparation or outlining, no purposeful choosing of plot points or structure, or so on. You just sit with a notebook and pencil, or sit in front of your computer, and you just go for it!
I also realized that this was how I wrote my first novel. At the time, I worried that if I thought too much about the technical aspects of writing, I would feel overwhelmed and it would stifle my creativity. However, I had the storyline in my head for over twenty years before I put it down on paper, so I already had a pretty good handle on the premise, plot points, characters, and so on, even if I didn’t have my ideas on paper in any real, organized fashion.
I also went ahead and published the first edition of my first novel, The Guardians of Eastgate, with the help of an assisted self-publishing company. It was a Canadian company called Tellwell, based in Victoria, BC. As part of my agreement with them, I purchased a substantive edit, which includes both copy editing and content editing. Also, I have a degree in Language and Literature. So, I was good to go, right?
It was after I sent that first book out to be published and was thinking about the second book in the series that I decided to take a closer look at all the technical elements. After all, though I had written plenty in the past, this was my first novel. It started with a book called, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Browne and King. From there I read Structuring Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland, and I am still reading anything I think will help me improve my craft, in both book and blog article form. And you know what? I started thinking, I can do better.
So, when I found a graphic artist to do all the covers for the series and I decided to re-do the first cover as well to keep the series uniform, I decided that would be a perfect opportunity for me to make some improvements in the story as well. As a result, the second edition of The Guardians of Eastgate is being released on the February 19th, 2018, and I feel it’s a much better, much more solid novel because of what I learned and the improvements it led to.
So, is planning or pantsing better? Does planning stifle creativity? Of course, each author must find their own methods and a system that works for them. But here are some advantages and disadvantages of each that I have discovered along the way.
Advantages of Planning:
- You will develop a greater understanding of your world and your characters before you start to write the story
- You will know what your plot points and pinch points will be ahead of time
- You will be able to see if the plots and subplots are adequate
- You can see and fix obvious plot holes before they happen
- You will have an opportunity for feedback that you can easily incorporate in the story
- It will be easy to track your progress and see the road ahead as you write
- You can choose the planning method that works best for you, with as much or as little detail as you like, as long as it helps you stay on track
Disadvantages of Planning:
- The challenge may seem daunting at first, and some authors, new authors in particular, may feel overwhelmed and give up
- It is a slower process
- You may spend time developing a plan or outline that does not work in the end
- Despite your best-laid plans, your characters may have different ideas and make you veer off-course
- It might stifle creativity by causing writers to think too much about structure and grammar instead of letting the story flow naturally
- The author may be less flexible and less open to new ideas that come up during the writing process
Advantages of Pantsing:
- You can get into writing your story right away!
- The writing process may be faster and smoother because you are letting it flow freely
- The story flows organically, allowing more opportunity to come up with novel ideas
- You will have less stress, since you are worrying less about the technical aspects of writing
- You are less likely to over-think or over-complicate things
Disadvantages of Pantsing
- Some authors may feel like they don’t know where to begin, or don’t know what they are doing
- Obvious plot holes might be missed until later on, when they could be more complicated to fix
- You may end up having to cut portions of the story because they do not work
- Plot points, subplots, character development, and so on, may be inadequate if you haven’t put the thought into it ahead of time
- You may end up with a weaker story line than you would have if you had planned it
- Writing your story may go faster in the beginning but end up taking much more time to revise and re-write on the back end
What are your thoughts on planning and pantsing? Which works best for you?
I will pin this question to my Facebook author page. Please feel free to visit and comment. Let’s start the conversation!
Sherry Leclerc is a science fiction and fantasy fanatic who lives in magical realms where swords and sorcery, action and adventure, seers, shifters and sorcerers abound.
Click on the image below to sign up for my newsletter and recieve a free copy of my Seers Short Stories (The Guardians of Sterrenvar)
Check out my Author page on Amazon for the Second Edition of the Guardians of Eastgate: Book 1 of The Seers Series, set to release on February 19, 2018
Click on the image below to enter the GOODREADS giveway for a signed paperback version of The Guardians of Eastgate. The giveaway ends on February 22nd, so hurry and sign up while there is still time!
Are you a new or aspiring author and you’re wondering, what is self-publishing? Have you decided on self-publishing but don’t know where to begin? Are you a traditionally published author who would like to have more creative control, so are now considering self-publishing?
Then, read on for some valuable information to help you decide if self-publishing is right for you.
To begin, let me summarize the information I gave you previously. In Issue # 1 of this blog series, I gave a brief overview of traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing and self-publishing.
In Issue # 2 I looked in more detail at assisted self-publishing, and I listed the services, or tasks that need doing, that assisted self-publishing companies can provide you the talent or services for.
Traditional publishing is signing on with a publishing house that will cover the associated costs and provide the expertise to get your book from manuscript to published work. They take on the financial risk, as well as the taking the time and resources to get your book from manuscript to published book. That is why they claim royalties and then pay the author.
*If a publisher asks you to pay for services while also asking you to sign a contract, they are not a true publishing house, and this should be a big flashing warning light.
Assisted self-publishing is when you pay a company to find or provide these services for you. You take on the financial risk, so the company should NOT charge you a print cost above the actual printer’s cost, and they should NOT claim any royalties. Also, remember, if they provide ISBNs and a domain name for you, then chances are they are listed as publisher of the book and owner of the domain name, so you should probably get these for yourself.
For true self-publishing, you take it upon yourself to do as much of the above as possible, and to find and pay for the right people to get each of the tasks done that you can’t do yourself. You again take on all the financial risk, but this time, you will have no company guiding you along the way or putting you in touch with all the right people you need to get everything done. So, if you are new at the game, you will need to be patient, willing to deal with a steep learning curve, and willing to take the necessary time to learn everything you need to learn and find the people you need to get it done.
I would also add a couple of steps along the way for self-published authors.
Steps for self-publishing your book:
- Finish your manuscript. Just write at this point. Do not edit while you write.
- Put the manuscript aside for a while. Some people suggest a couple of weeks, even months. I’m not that patient though, so I will say at least a few days to a week.
- Edit your manuscript.
- Get beta readers to read your book. Be specific in what you expect from them.
- Edit your manuscript again based on the feedback from the beta readers.
- Repeat steps 3-5 if necessary
- Find and hire people to do the cover and interior design. This process should actually be started somewhere between steps 1 and 6, as it could take a while.
- Hire a professional editor to edit your book.
- Revise your book based on your editor’s feedback (You don’t have to make every suggested change)
- Have your book proofread
- Buy ISBNs for each format of your book (in Canada, we get those for free)
- Create, or hire someone to create, the cover file(s) and interior file(s) needed to upload to the distributor (often, this is the cover designer, at least for the cover files).
- Create an account with your distributor(s) of choice and set it up
- Go over your distributor’s style guide to make sure your book files conform to their expectations
- Upload your book files to the distributor(s)
*There is usually some turn-around time needed for the distributor to review and approve your file.
- If the files are not approved, fix them and re-submit
- If you are selling print copies, have one printed and sent to you so you can make sure there are no problems before releasing it for sale. This is called a proof copy.
- Marketing, which can actually start when you are in the process of writing, but should take place during and/or between all the other steps.
DON’T PANIC if this seems like a lot.
It’s because there are so many things to do, and so much I didn’t know, that I used assisted self-publishing for my first book. But if you have a limited budget, patience, and the time to put into it, there are many options and resources available that can make the process easier, and less expensive, for you. I will tell you about some of these in future posts.
In future issues:
- Further explanations of the above steps and links to helpful resources
Please note that these are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. To sign up for my author newsletter in exchange for a free copy of my Seers Series short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar, please click here.
P.S.S. To sign up for a chance to win a free copy of the Second Edition of The Guardians of Eastgate on Goodreads, please click here.
What Is Assisted Self-Publishing?
In my first issue of this blog thread, which I posted earlier this month, I talked to you a little about traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing, and self-publishing. Today, I will talk a little more about assisted self-publishing.
Once I finished writing the manuscript of the first novel I wished to publish, I was left with the question, “What next?” I knew there was a lot more to do, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Also, I have a full-time day job and two small children, which meant it would likely take me a long time to do the study and research needed to do it myself.
Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue for me. I love to learn, and I am interested in learning more about editing, self-publishing and so on. But this was a story I have had in my head for over two decades, and I wasn’t feeling patient enough to wait the months it would take to learn enough to do it myself. I knew I would eventually, but I just didn’t want to wait.
Finishing your manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg.
I quickly learned that the majority of the work comes after the final draft of your manuscript is done (if you can ever really call it ‘done’). And like the 90% of an iceberg that’s hidden underwater, a huge chunk of the process can be like a hidden mystery to those who have never done it before.
Finishing your manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg
Because of my lack of experience and my very busy schedule, the idea of assisted self-publishing intrigued me. So, I researched the names of some companies that offered this service, then started with reviews of said companies. This turned out to be a good idea, because I learned what to look for, as well as what to watch out for.
There are many things to do to get a book ready for publication, and assisted self-publishing companies can help with most of these steps.
Services offered by most assisted self-publishing companies:
- Editing. You can choose editing options based on what you need and what you can afford. There is usually a per-word charge which varies according to the level of editing requested.
- Interior formatting and design. This step pretty much ensures your book is formatted correctly for print, eBook, or both, depending on what you want. It also makes sure it is easy to read and esthetically pleasing for readers. The price varies according to the format(s) you are publishing.
- Cover design and layout. Self-publishing companies offer this service as well, if you do not already have a cover image for your book
- Promotional materials. The designers can take the images from the cover and provide you with the files you will need to turn those images into bookmarks, business cards, signs and so on.
- Illustrators, if needed.
- Distribution. These companies will set up, or let you know how to set up, your distribution accounts with Print on Demand services, if required, and online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
- Author website. Many assisted self-publishing companies can purchase a domain name for you, set up a basic website and get it hosted for you for a charge.
- Marketing. Assisted self-publishing companies do not do the marketing for you usually, but can provide you with valuable marketing advice. Again, for a fee.
- ISBNs. Assisted self-publishing companies can purchase ISBNs for your book. In fact, they often purchase ISBNs in bulk in order to save money. You may wish to purchase these yourself, however, to ensure you are listed as the publisher
CAUTION!!! Make sure you do your research before choosing a company to help you self-publish. Many will claim royalties, hold the copyright, etc. So, even though you are paying for their services out of your own pocket, you may end up not being listed as the publisher, not being the owner of your ISBNs or domain name, and so on. You may also end up losing some of your royalties to said company.
Pros of using an assisted self-publishing company:
- They can provide the people/talent you need to get your book from manuscript to published book, so you do not need to spend countless hours searching for the people you need yourself
- You can learn much about the process through interaction with your project manager and other people in the company who are knowledgeable in their fields
- The assisted self-publishing company will provide the man hours needed for each step, when you yourself may not have the time to put into the process
- They usually supply revision rounds, so you get some control of the project
- All of the self-publishing companies I researched offered packages, so you can pick the price and the services you can afford
Cons of using an assisted self-publishing company:
- Since they are getting paid to get your book published, you may end up with doubt about whether or not the editor has provided you with honest, or brutal enough, feedback. That might seem like a strange thing for an author to complain about, but it isn’t really. Not if you are truly interested in getting your best possible work out there.
- You may not have direct contact with the various people working on your book, and may have to depend on a project manager and margin notes to get your feedback to the people it needs to get to
- If the assisted self-publishing company purchases the ISBNs and the domain name for your website on your behalf, then chances are they will be listed as the owners, not you.
- According to my research, most assisted self-publishing companies claim a royalty for what is supposed to be a ‘self’ published work
- The services offered can be quite costly
I had a good experience overall with the company I chose and am, for the most part, happy I went that route for my first published work. I learned a lot, and my project manager was quick to get back to me when I had a question. I loved the cover of my book, which was created using stock photos and some input from myself. Also, once I realized my ISBNs and domain name did not technically belong to me, I contacted the company, who then helped me transfer ownership of the domain name from them to me. I can’t do much about the ISBNs for that book, unless I want to change my files and resubmit them, which would take more time and money.
However, I will likely not use an assisted self-publishing company in the future, for a few reasons. First of all, I’ve discovered that it is fairly easy to find independent editors, graphic artists, and so on, who charge less while still offering quality services, if you have the time to do your research. Secondly, since I am writing a series, I would like all the covers to be uniform, which would be very difficult to do with stock photos (Tellwell’s graphic designers use stock photos. I can’t speak for all the companies out there on this point, though). And lastly, lack of one-on-one, direct contact with my editor left a couple of my questions unanswered, which I feel ultimately affected the quality of the finished product.
In fact, the issue about cover uniformity for the series, coupled with the unanswered questions to my editor, led me to the decision to re-do my cover and update and expand my story in a second edition, without using an assisted self-publishing company to help me. I will tell you more about that in my next post.
In the next issue of Tips from a Self-Published Author Finding Her Way in the Dark:
- What steps you will need to complete to get your book from manuscript to published work
- Options for book formats and distribution channels
- IngramSpark, CreateSpace and Smashwords
*PLEASE NOTE: My experience with assisted self-publishing beyond the initial research is limited to one company, Tellwell.ca. They are a Canadian company based in Victoria, BC, and were the only company I found during my research who did not claim any royalties. Therefore, many of my observations are based, in large part, on my experiences with them. These are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research.
I look forward to posting more blogs about self-publishing, for your information and enjoyment, in the future.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Sign up for my author newsletter in exchange for a free copy of my Seers Series short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar, here.
Sign up for a chance to win a free copy of the Second Edition of The Guardians of Eastgate on Goodreads here.
Traditional Publishing, Assisted Self-Publishing, or Self-Publishing?
I published my very first novel, The Guardians of Eastgate: Seers Book I, the summer of 2017. It was officially released for sale on all online platforms on August 30, 2017. During the process of getting that first edition out to the public, and since then, I have learned a lot. And I’ve learned enough to know that there is still a lot more left to learn. It’s a never-ending process. I say ‘never-ending’ because there are always new things happening, so I expect I will never know everything there is about the subject.
In order to help other authors who are starting out and thinking about self-publishing, I decided to start writing this blog series. In it, I will tell you about the things I’ve discovered while stumbling my way through the dark.
In this first issue, I will talk to you a little about traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing, and self-publishing.
When I finished writing my first manuscript, I knew I would need it edited, formatted for print and eBook, and so on. Really, though, I was aware there was a lot to be done, but I didn’t know what it all was, or how to go about doing it. So, I searched online for help.
Some major benefits of going with a traditional publisher, I have learned, are that they take on the costs of publishing the book, and they provide editors, cover artists, and pretty much every other service that you need to get your story from manuscript to published book. So, it’s the publisher who takes on the risk of putting money into a book that may or may not make back the value of the investment.
Sounds great, right? Especially if you are a new author who can’t afford to carry all the costs yourself, or you don’t have the time to search for all the talent you need.
Well, it can be great, but there is also a flip side. Traditional publishing companies provide you with everything you need, but they also claim much of the royalties from the sales of the book. Of course, you can negotiate contracts most of the time, but some publishers will actually take up to 70% or more of the royalties. On top of that, the publishing house will most likely hold the copyright and take the creative control.
And, that’s assuming you can get a traditional publishing company to take you on in the first place. Did you know that when J.K. Rowling was looking for a publisher for her first Harry Potter book, she was turned down many times before a small publishing company decided to take a chance on her? And look where she is today.
There are two morals to that story.
First, never give up!
Second, don’t expect that you’ll find a company to take you on right away.
Publishing Companies can end up with more manuscripts sent to them than they can process. At the same time, though, some publishers don’t like it if you’ve sent the same manuscript out to other publishers to look at while it’s with them. Many won’t even take submissions if you don’t query through an agent.
Manuscripts can end up sitting for years on an editor’s desk before they even get the chance to look at them. Then, once they do, your manuscript may end up rejected not because it wasn’t a good story or because it wasn’t well-written. It could end up being rejected for reasons such as, how many manuscripts in your genre has the company taken on presently? What genres are selling well at that moment in time? And so on and so on.
However, you may never know why the manuscript was rejected. For example, one of the members of a Facebook writers’ groups I belong to recently wrote about how he had asked an editor that “why” question. He was told, in not a very nice fashion, to never ask that question again. So, you may end up sitting there, deflated, thinking your story and/or writing are not good enough. Of course, there is always the possibility that’s the case. But there is also the possibility that it was rejected for a completely different reason.
Many authors write query letters to the publishing company instead of submitting their manuscripts cold. A good query letter can help your book stand out, so it is a good idea to learn how to write one well if you are going with traditional publishing. Some authors also go the route of finding literary agents to take them on as clients. These agents can help make them more noticeable to traditional publishing companies. Again, you have to write query letters and be prepared to go to numerous agents before finding one who will take you on as a client.
Another thing I discovered is that there are many so-called “Assisted Self-Publishing” companies out there. However, many of them are linked to traditional publishers and, while you still have to pay for everything yourself since you are “self-publishing,” these companies still charge for services, and even claim royalties. In some cases, they claim much more than I would have expected, considering that the initial costs come out of the author’s own pocket. So, if you go this route, you have to be very careful in researching and choosing a company. You also need to make sure you purchase the ISBNs yourself, and not through the company, if you want to be listed as the copyright holder.
As for myself, I decided to go the assisted self-publishing route in the beginning because I had waited more than 25 years to get the story in my head down on paper, darn it! I didn’t want to take years more to get it out to the world. But, since I knew nothing, I decided to go the ‘assisted self-publishing’ route.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I go that route after all the negative things I said about it above? Well, there were a couple of reasons. First of all, I had a book that needed publishing and not enough time or patience to learn to do everything myself. More importantly, I managed to find a Canadian company called Tellwell (www.tellwell.ca), who provides the ‘talent’ (editors, layout people, cover designers, etc.), sets up distribution accounts, and various other things you might need, depending on how much you want to spend. And this was the ONE company I found who didn’t claim the copyright, and who did not take ANY royalties.
They can even, if you purchase that particular service, set you up with a domain name and a website. In fact, they have recently helped me transfer the domain name owner from them (because they do all the initial set-up) to me.
If you go the true self-publishing route, you can either do it all yourself using a service such as CreateSpace, or find and pay the people and/or services you need to get your book published. I will give you more information about self-publishing and self-publishing options in Issue 2 of this newsletter.
In the next issue of Tips from a Self-Published Author Finding Her Way in the Dark:
- More pros and cons of assisted self-publishing
- Why I am glad I used a (true) assisted self-publishing company for my first novel
- Why I would NOT go this route for the second edition of my first book, or for planned future books
- More information about self-publishing options
Please note that these are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research. My goal is to inform you of the kinds of things you need to know, and maybe even give you some insights and direction.
I look forward to posting more blogs about self-publishing, for your information and enjoyment, in the future.
Thanks for reading!
Here is the updated cover for my short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar. The difference between this version and the previous one is the font for the author name, which I have replaced with my author-branded version, created for me by my graphic artist. In the new version, the S of my name has a dragon head and a dragonish body – as close as we could get with it remaining an S.
The short story files have been formatted for eBook, and will be given away as a free gift for anyone who signs up for my mailing list on my new Author Reach page. The Author Reach admin are currently working on setting everything up. I will post an update once everything is ready.
The short story collection will not be published for sale until it is complete. It currently contains the two stories posted on my website, The Seer and the Prince and Light to Darkness, and is around 10,000 words. I plan to write a short story for the protagonist of each of the books in the series, plus one or two other special characters you will get to meet once I have the time to get them down on paper and published. So many ideas, so little time…
For anyone who decides to go check out my Author Reach page before it is ready, please keep in mind that it’s under construction. It will be updated with the short story giveaway shortly. Check back for updates!
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
I just signed up for Author Reach, which is a new site where authors can make their work available to readers, and readers can search out new and favorite authors. It will allow me to easily set-up a subscriber list for that monthly newsletter I have been meaning to start.
Currently, I am working on preparing my short storioes for e-book format. The image attached to this post is the pre-made cover I purchased for the Short Story Collection, which I have titled The Guardians of Sterrenvar. It may take me a week or two to get everything set up properly, since I also work full time, have a family, write, etc. etc. I hope you will check it out once it is ready.
I will post an update once everything is in place. For the first couple of weeks after everything is ready, I will be giving away a free e-book copy of the short story collection to those who sign up to my email list for newsletters and updates. Then you will have the stories in e-book version instead of having to read them off my web site.
I got some great feedback on my second edition of The Guardians of Eastgate from my paid beta reader yesterday . I’m still waiting on my unpaid beta readers
In the meantime, I finished self-editing based on the feedback I received so far.
Next steps: editing by a professional, waiting for other feedback, waiting on cover art etc.
In summary, my next step is waiting.
I’m not so good at that, so in the meantime I will continue working on the second and third books in the series.
Yes, you heard me. I started the 3rd book on November 1st, since I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the book you write during that period is supposed to be a new one. So, I am now working on two simultaneously.
Yes, I’m crazy. I’ve never tried to debate that…
I am now posting my second short story from the Seers Series. The main character of this story is the main character of the second book in the series, Talwyn Sevi. It is much shorter than the first short story I posted, but gives a glimpse into her childhood, and thus into her psyche.
LIGHT TO DARKNESS: A SEERS SHORT STORY
By Sherry Leclerc
“Tali! Try to catch me, Tali!” Sorcha called.
“Stop calling me that!” Talwyn replied. “I’m not a baby anymore. Use my grown-up name.”
“Oh, but honey, you are a baby. You are to me, anyway. You’ll be my baby for a long time yet.”
“I am eight years old, Sorcha! If I was a human, I’d be learning to hunt and fight by now.”
“But you aren’t human, a stór,” her big sister said. “And you should be grateful. Humans only let their males learn to hunt and fight.
“Then again, Edan did say that the last time he was in Westgate, the King had started training his daughter. So, there may be hope yet. Would you like me to bring you there so we can ask the king to adopt you?”
“You know what, you’re right. You are too small to be an eight-year-old human, so they will treat you even more like a baby. You would hate that. I guess adoption by the human king is out for you after all, Tali-wali.”
“Stop teasing, Sorcha! Call me Talwyn!”
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll start calling you Talwyn when you can catch me.”
Talwyn only had to think about that for one very short moment before her lips turned up in a grin, and she launched herself towards her sister. Sorcha laughed brightly as she ran around the clearing, shifting left and right to escape Talwyn’s reach as she chased her. Then she ran in and around the trees as Talwyn followed closely on her heels.
It didn’t take very long for Talwyn to catch up, however. She was one of the fastest of her age in the village. When she got to Sorcha, she tackled her, and they both tumbled to the ground in a fit of laughter.
Talwyn looked at her sister in awe as she laughed. “I wish my smile was magic like yours,” she said.
“Magic?” Sorcha asked. “What do you mean?”
“When you smile,” Talwyn explained, “it’s like sunshine. It shines so bright it lights up everything around.”
Sorcha’s smile changed at that, turning warm and sentimental rather than the merry smile of a moment ago.
“You are such a sweetheart, a stór. Never change.”
Her sister and mother often called her a stór – my treasure – as did many others in the village. She liked it. It made her feel cared for and protected.
At this appraisal and approval from her big sister, who she really looked up to, her own face broke out in a huge smile. She didn’t know if it shined as bright as Sorcha’s or not, but it sure felt like it did.
“Sorcha! Talwyn!” they heard their mother’s voice calling from the direction of their hut.
Talwyn grabbed her sister’s hand and they headed home, swinging their arms between them. When they reached their cozy little hut, their mother greeted them with a smile.
“Come,” she said. “It is time to head to the gathering place for our midday meal.”
Talwyn loved going to the gathering place for meals. It was a chance to see many of the people from the village, to get news and hear stories. It also didn’t hurt that seers considered children to be precious, so she always got a lot of attention.
“When will father be home, mama?” Talwyn asked as they walked.
Talwyn’s mother and older sister exchanged a look, and Talwyn thought she saw a flash of worry on her mother’s face before she covered it with a smile. Talwyn may be young, but she was still a seer. She usually saw the emotions that the adults tried to hide from her.
“I’m not sure when he will be back, a stór,” her mother replied. “It depends on how things go with the humans.”
Her father had gone to the human village not too far from their own to speak with the leaders there. He was one of several emissaries sent out to try to bring back peace between their peoples.
“Why don’t the humans like us, mother?” she asked.
“It’s not that they don’t like us, Tali,” her mother said. “They have been turned against us and taught to fear us by evil beings who would like to see us gone from the realm.”
“But we’re not scary at all,” Talwyn said.
“I know that, a stór, as do you and the rest of our people. But we are stronger than the humans are and have abilities that they do not. We live centuries when they live decades.”
“But that’s because we protect the realm. We have to be strong to protect the realm, right?”
“That’s true,” Sorcha said. She was walking on the other side of Talwyn. “However, the humans don’t really understand that. They did at one time, but their life spans are short, so it is not uncommon for the humans to forget what their people once knew as truth.”
“Yes, they are a young species,” her mother added. “That also makes them vulnerable to lies and manipulation, unfortunately. What we see happening now isn’t really their fault. They are being manipulated, honed into weapons by dark forces that don’t really care if they live or die, as long as they serve their purpose first.”
“That’s horrible,” Talwyn said. “Maybe we should move them into our village so we can take care of them and protect them from the evil people.”
“That’s a nice thought, Tali,” Sorcha said, “but we try not to interfere in their lives too much. We let them make their own decisions and find their own way. I just hope they choose the right path this time.”
“But the bad guys interfere,” Talwyn said, “and they don’t even care about the humans.”
“Yes, but the humans don’t realize they are being interfered with. That’s what manipulation is. The dark forces whisper in the ears of any who will listen, building on the humans’ fears and insecurities until they have them where they want them, until the humans think they came to these conclusions on their own.”
“It is so horrible,” Talwyn said just as they were arriving at the gathering place.
“Yes, it really is,” her mother agreed. “But this is not something you need to worry yourself about. Let’s go get some food and sit and eat with the others.”
Everyone had their place in seer society. There were hunters who caught or gathered the food they ate. There were those that prepared it for the whole village, there were those who made the more difficult items of clothing for the people, there were protectors who watched over them all, and there were champions who watched over the realm. Talwyn wondered what role she would take when she became an adult. She was young, yes, but she liked the idea of contributing to the whole and knowing you added something vital to the people. She looked forward to it. Sorcha would be able to choose her role soon.
They were part way through their meal, surrounded by their fellow seers, talking to those near them, when it happened.
Flann, one of the seer protectors, burst forth from the tree-line, running towards the gathering place.
“There is a large group of humans headed this way,” he said as soon as he reached them.
Many of the adults around them stood up. Concerned voices drifted over each other in the large space.
After a moment of shock, someone asked, “What do they want?”
“Well,” Flann said, “they are armed, and they look determined, perhaps angry.”
“I don’t understand why none of us foresaw the humans coming to our village,” Sorcha said.
“Maybe they only recently made that decision,” Flann suggested.
“Then why didn’t we see the possibility?” Sorcha asked.
“If the idea to come here was only thought of recently, and none of us has slept since,” her mother said, “then we wouldn’t have seen it.”
“What do we do?” another voice asked. “our elders are all out acting as emissaries, trying to bring peace back to the realm.”
“We’ll do what we do what we always said we would do,” a female voice said. “We will try to talk to them.”
“And if that doesn’t work?”
“Then we will run.”
“Why not stand and fight back?” another male voice asked.
“Because it isn’t fair to them, Conn,” the female voice responded. “We have so many advantages over them.”
Talwyn’s mother now joined in. “Let’s not forget, they are innocent in this evil plotting. They have been turned into weapons. What do you seek to destroy in a fight? The sword, or the one who wields it?”
“Well right now,” the first male said, “those who wield these weapons hide in the shadows while the humans do the dirty work. How can we strike at what we can’t see?”
“Then, as Bríd said,” her mother replied, “we will run. Even the slowest among us could outrun the fastest human with little effort.”
“Fine,” Conn said after a moment. “But all the mothers with children will stand behind us. At the first sign of trouble, you run. We will delay them as much as we can.”
“Agreed,” Bríd said.
Talwyn’s mother ushered her and her sister to the back of the crowd. Then a silence fell over them as they waited for the humans to arrive.
When they finally saw the large group coming through the trees, there was a collective gasp.
“Mommy, those big ugly things with the humans, are they demonkin?” Talwyn asked quietly.
“Yes, a stór, they are.”
“I don’t understand,” Talwyn said. “Why would humans be with demonkin?”
“Do you see that mist drifting around that demonkin’s form, Tali?” her mother asked.
“Well that means they are hiding behind an illusion,” her mother explained. “The humans don’t have true sight as we do. They don’t know they are demonkin. They look just like other humans to them.”
They stopped talking, as the humans were now close enough to speak.
“Why have you come here?” Bríd asked from the front of the crowd.
“We have come here to rid the realm of the blight that is the seers,” the large demonkin in front said.
“I see,” Bríd said. “And do your human companions know that you are an evil demonkin in disguise?”
“Lies!” another demonkin hissed from further back in the crowd.
“You see that?” the lead demonkin said, addressing the humans. “Their deceit and manipulations have begun already.”
“They are trying to divide us!” Yet another demonkin called. “Don’t listen to them!”
Peering around the adults in front of her, Talwyn noticed that there were several demonkin randomly positioned throughout the group of humans.
“We have done nothing to you,” Conn said to the humans. “We have done nothing but protect our realm.”
“Nothing but look into people’s minds, invading their privacy, you mean,” said the lead demonkin. “Nothing but play with their lives for your own amusement. We all know what you have done.”
The other demonkin yelled out their agreement, and Talwyn noticed that, this time, many of the humans joined in as well.
“Let’s just sit and discuss what you have heard,” Bríd suggested. “Maybe we can figure out where all of these stories come from.”
“We have heard enough of your lies,” the instigator said. “The time for talk is over. Now it’s time for action.
“Get them!” he yelled. The other demonkin gave an answering battle cry as they charged forward. The humans were caught up in the frenzy as well, and charged forward with the disguised demonkin.
“Run!” Talwyn’s mother yelled. She grabbed her daughters’ hands and pulled them into the forest behind them.
“Mother!” Talwyn yelled. “They’re everywhere!”
The woods all around them were peppered with demonkin and human, waiting for any runners.
“The humans we can outrun,” Sorcha said. “I’m not so sure about the demonkin.”
Talwyn’s mother picked her up and held her close to her chest. They took off through the woods together, the sounds of enemy footfalls not far behind. They weaved around trees and bushes, heading deeper and deeper into the forest.
“We can’t shake them,” Sorcha said, glancing over her shoulder. “Mother, take Talwyn. Run as fast as you can. Hide her somewhere. I will try to divert them.”
“No, Sorcha!” Talwyn cried, reaching for her sister. Sorcha grabbed her hand and kissed it quickly. “I love you, a stór,” she said, and then she was gone.
Talwyn and her mother ran through the woods, her mother holding onto her tightly. Tree branches and leaves took turns flashing by in a blur or hitting them as her mother ran as fast as she could. After some time, her mother placed her on the ground and started digging underneath an outcropping of rock.
“Here Talwyn,” her mother said, taking her by the hand. “I want you to hide in here. No matter what you hear, don’t move. Don’t make a sound. Do you understand.?”
Talwyn was scared. She didn’t understand what was happening. She didn’t want to leave her mother. Why were those people chasing them? They didn’t do anything wrong! Tears streaked down her cheeks.
“Do you understand?” her mother asked again.
She nodded at her mother, who then placed her underneath the outcropping and started placing rocks and twigs in front of her hiding place. It got darker and darker as her mother gave her more cover. When there was nothing left but a little sliver of light, her mother leaned in and looked her in the eye. “I love you Tali. Never forget.” Then everything went dark.
She heard the sound of her mother’s footfalls as she ran away, and the sound of more footfalls pursuing her. Her mother managed to lead them a short distance away from her hiding place, but Talwyn’s people had excellent senses. So, even though her hands were clamped tightly down over her ears, Talwyn could still hear the sounds of weapons striking, of people screaming. Could still feel the fear that maybe their attackers would be able to see her in her hiding spot.
“Stop, please! Don’t hurt her. Please, I will do whatever you want, just don’t hurt her!” It was her mother’s voice. Talwyn was very young, but she still understood that her mother was pleading for her sister’s life.
Why are those people hurting them? She thought. Why won’t they stop?
Talwyn wanted so desperately to go to her family. She didn’t dare move, however, because her mother had hidden her here, her sister had sacrificed herself to draw the humans away from her. She needed to honor their sacrifices.
It seemed like such a long time until the screams and sounds of violence stopped. Even then she waited, afraid to come out too soon from her hiding place. She was afraid the humans might still be there, ready to grab her and hurt her too.
Once, she dared to open her eyes to peek out around the rocks and greenery that hid her, trying to see if the coast was clear. What she saw, however, across the clearing, was blood, splattered on the ground, and the lifeless forms of the people she loved. So, she squeezed her eyes tight again and stayed like that, shivering, as night fell.
Eventually, she heard footsteps, and she huddled closer to the back of her hiding place. Then, a familiar voice called out to her.
“Talwyn Sevi, come here, child,” the kind male voice said. There was some noise as the man moved the items that had kept her hidden and reached in for her. “You are safe now. Come, I will take you home.”
Home, she thought. My home is my family, and they are gone. I have no home.