Category Archives: Revising

Everyone? Meet Tessen

islandofexiles-lr

In a way, the world Shiara occupies began back in 2008. I was fresh out of college, and I wanted to write a fantasy novel. That turns out to be hard to accomplish without an actual story idea, so I followed advice I found on Holly Lisle’s site and started with a map instead. I drew an elaborate world (seriously, I taped multiple pieces of graph paper together just to give myself space), arbitrarily assigned sociopolitical boundaries, and then began trying to explain both.

The story I came up with then isn’t the one you’re going to read in February, but the universe is.

Jump forward to 2014 and I decide to try a true fantasy novel again. I wanted to create something harsh and different and beautiful, so I plopped my characters in an Arizona/New Mexico-like desert and surrounded them with enemies and animals that could kill them. It was about twins and the perceptions of mercy in an aggression based society and a lot of other things.

This, also, is not the book you’re going to read in February, but it’s closer. I kept the setting, the enemies, and the animals. My narrator stayed, but changed her name, and her twin brother became a younger one. The character who remained almost exactly the same is Tessen. Somehow his character, one I didn’t plan for at all in the original version of the story, became the linchpin of this book, anchoring everyone and everything else as it all shifted around him. This isn’t his story, it’s Khya’s, but his footprints and fingerprints are all over the final version of Island of Exiles.

Readers likely won’t ever see the level of his influence. Tessen’s okay with that, but it’s why I’m so happy that the first excerpt I can share with you from the book introduces you to him! So read on and meet him for yourself. <3

I breathe the briny air and try to consider the options objectively. As objectively as I ever can when my brother is involved.

Yorri was the first person to tell me that one day I’d be kaigo, just like our blood-parents, serving the Miriseh and earning high honors in Ryogo. I’d flicked him on the shoulder and said “Of course I will be,” but his faith had been what convinced me I was right.

Yorri gets so excited he stumbles over his own words when he’s explaining how he solved some new, impossible puzzle. He devotes himself with frightening fervor to anything that ensnares his arrow-quick mind, but sometimes needs reminding that the rest of the world exists.

Forget objectivity. It’s worth the risk.

I am going to keep him safe, just like I always have.

“You’re going to be late for the vigil if you stand here staring into nothing for much longer, Khya.”

I tense, keeping my eyes on the angry, dark, blue white-capped waves. I’d heard the footsteps approaching, but several people had come and gone already and left me alone.

Tessen, however, never was able to keep his thoughts inside his head.

“I won’t be late.” I answer without looking at him until he moves into my peripheral vision.

He leans against the wall to the left of me, his forearms crossed on the ledge and his head tilted up. With his arms folded on the ledge and his body held slightly away from the wall, I can make out the lines of muscle under layers of cloth, all of it hard-earned—though I probably won’t ever admit that to him. I don’t look directly at him, but I turn my head enough to get a better look at his face.

He’s taller than me, so looking down on him like this is strange. Seeing him without the hood and atakafu we always wear on duty is stranger. I don’t think I’ve seen his whole face since he became nyshin over a year ago.

His thick eyebrows sit low over his deep-set eyes and the line of his nose is straight, because somehow he was always quick enough in training to avoid all but the most glancing blows to his face. The setting sun highlights the red in his terra-cotta skin and makes his oddly pale eyes flash. Usually they’re limestone gray, but now they’re paler than ever and gleaming almost as bright as the sunlight off the ocean.

“Shouldn’t you be off training? Or guarding something?” I ask before he speaks.

“I am.” He smirks at me. “I’m guarding the mad nyshin girl who’s decided to perch on the walls and imitate a mykyn bird.”

“I’m not planning on attempting flight.” I wave my hand at him, trying to brush him off. “You can go, Nyshin-ten.”

His lips purse; I hide a smile. It was delightful discovering exactly how annoyed he got when I called him by his class and rank instead of his name. The flash of aggravation disappears quickly, replaced by his more usual sardonic smile. “Should I guess what has you lost in your own head the night of a vigil?”

“No. I don’t have that much time.”

“Then I won’t guess. Only your brother puts that look on your face.”

I look at him, expecting to see mockery in his eyes. There isn’t any. He looks almost…serious?

“You’re worried about his herynshi. Unless he’s in trouble again? It’s been a while. He’s overdue.”

“It’s been a while because he doesn’t have to deal with people who point out his every mistake anymore. Like you.” Gritting my teeth, I bend to brace my hand on the ledge and jump down to where Tessen stands. At six feet, he’s only an inch or two taller than me. Our eyes are nearly level when I square off against him. “You’re one of the reasons he ever got in trouble in the first place.”

“And you spent years trying to make him invisible.” Tessen’s lips thin, and the muscles in his jaw clench for a moment. “Even before you found your wards, you shielded him from everything. What he can do now that you’re not there to monitor his every move should be all the proof you need.”

“He would have died if I hadn’t protected him.” Nothing will ever convince me it was wrong to keep him alive. “You can’t seriously be suggesting I should have let that happen?”

“No, that isn’t— You don’t even know what he’s capable of! How long has it been since you’ve seen him fight? It’s been—” He steps back, his lips pressed tight and his hands held away from his weapons. “Bellows, Khya. I didn’t come here to fight with you. This isn’t how this was supposed to go.”

I blink. “What?” Tessen backing away from an argument? This has to be a trick. “How what was supposed to go?”

He shakes his head, a small smile quirking up the corners of his mouth. “I only came to ask if you’d dance with me tonight at the celebration.”

He can’t be serious…but there’s not a single sign that he isn’t being sincere.

I drop my gaze to hide the confusion that has to show on my face. My focus catches on the pendant gleaming against the undyed cloth of his tunic—a two-inch iron disc etched with crossed zeeka swords. Blood and rot, I hate seeing that around his neck. The zeeka is the symbol of the kaigo; the pendant is a symbol of their students.

Tessen is wearing the kaigo-sei pendant that should have been mine.

Out of the whole clan, the Miriseh and the kaigo only choose one nyshin-ten per year. His blood-mother, Neeva, is on the kaigo council. Being named a kaigo-sei isn’t a guarantee of advancement, but it is a sign that the leaders of the clan are keeping an eye on you. The kaigo-sei are given extra training and have to face additional tests of magic, skill, and leadership. Not every nyshin named a kaigo-sei student becomes a council member, but no one who isn’t a kaigo-sei will ever become one. I can still earn one—and I will, sooner rather than later—but it seems like they’re already grooming Tessen to take Kaigo Neeva’s place one day.

Rot take him, it was supposed to be me.

Swallowing the fruitless envy building in my chest, I raise my eyes to meet Tessen’s again. “I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep.”

“But that’s not a no, so I’ll ask again tonight.” He smiles, inclines his head, and then walks away whistling. I hate that sound, and I’m almost positive he knows that.

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Finally finished! So many colors and notes omg. One last step to…

Finally finished! So many colors and notes omg. One last step to go! Hopefully I can get through it quickly. Wish me luck!

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Oh no, guys! I ran out of blue tabs!…

Oh no, guys! I ran out of blue tabs! That’s…probably not a good sign since the blue are changes I need to make, huh? Oh goodness someone send help.

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Color coded proofing is my new favorite method. Also, this means…

Color coded proofing is my new favorite method. Also, this means that Deadly Sweet Lies is almost ready for you guys!

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Progress and projects.

This weekend I did something I have never done before. I read Sing Sweet Nightingale in its entirety to my younger sister. Not that Haley couldn’t have read it herself, but she’s already read this book five or six times and I needed to read it aloud anyway for editing purposes. She hasn’t read the latest draft, so she volunteered to listen. Two birds and one stone and all that.

I already knew that reading text aloud can help you catch errors you wouldn’t see while reading silently (the human brain is such a strange place), but I wasn’t aware how much it could change your experience of your own book to read it to someone else. Moments that didn’t seem that amusing on the page are suddenly giggle-worthy and action sequences fly past as you read with the speed of a blow-by-blow fight commentator. The flip side is also possible, though. Moments you thought would be tear-jerking don’t come off with the same power as you thought they had or that dialogue you thought hid the massive exposition you needed to slip in doesn’t play it’s part as well as you’d hoped. Whatever the realization, good or bad, it’s worth the time and the slightly raw throat to read your book aloud. Preferably to an audience. Even if it’s an audience of one.

What this impromptu reading means in the larger scope of my life, though, is that I’m pretty much done with this round of edits! I’m waiting for one or two other beta readers to get back to me with notes (hopefully just to tell me I made all the right changes), then the draft goes back to the wonderful editresses for the next round! Line edits, I think. Which should be interesting. I’ve never done line edits before. It should be an experience, to say the least. The idea of examining each of my words with that much attention to detail is… daunting. In a good way, but daunting nonetheless.

I’m also nearing the time when I get to begin editing another project–something entirely different from anything else I have in the works and a project that I LOVE SO MUCH. The excitement level for this book is just, whoa. Love it. Things are happening with it and I really can’t wait to share more details, but for now, that’s it! Tis still in the works and up in the air, so I don’t want to say something now and have it not be true later. SEKRITS ARE FUN! Not really, but whatever. I have to pretend they are or I might go a little crazy. 😉

And, um… that’s it for now! Later, lovelies! <3

You may notice something different.

I’ve been considering it for a while and I have finally decided to just go for it. Blogger hasn’t been giving me the functionality I’ve wanted and Google has been making me a little mad by cutting out services I like (why kill the Reader, Google. Really?). Originally, I wanted to switch platforms and have a complete custom redesign along the way, but that isn’t going to happen right now. I want all the bells and whistles and I don’t have the money to pay for them. However, I found a WordPress template that has most of the features I wanted so I decided to switch to their free platform and hope for the best.

Thus, the new look! Also, you may notice that the URL at the top of the page is not quite as simplified as my old one. That’s one thing Blogger definitely does better than WordPress–custom domain names pointing to your site. You can still get here by typing byericacameron.com, but after that everything will be a little longer in the navigation bar. WordPress, if you’re listening, it’d be nice if you could fix that. I already pay for a domain name. I REALLY don’t want to pay you for the right to use it, too.

Other than the site switch, I’m still working on Sing Sweet Nightingale edits. Right now I’m about 100 pages from the end, but I think this round is going to take multiple passes and read throughs because of all the tiny tweaks I’m making. It’s been an interesting process. Well, the whole publication process has been a learning experience, but this is different. I’m not a details person, but I have to be now. I have to look at all the tiny questions I never answered–never really considered–and make it all fit. Here’s hoping I pull it off!

Also, let me know what you think about the site! I may change the background if I find one I like more, but this one is kind of cool. Are those darker blue shapes flowers? Are the the silhouettes of skulls? WHO KNOWS? I don’t. 😉

SSN Edits Round Two! Or is it three?

This week, I’ve begun work on a new round of edits for Sing Sweet Nightingale! I think it’s round two. But it might be three. Maybe 2.5? Whatever the number designation, it’s edits and it’s from my beloved editresses, so that means it’s awesome. 😀

It’s also pretty cool that I can put up the pretty, pretty cover when I talk about the book instead of some random image that has nothing to do with it. Don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that!

Anywho, edits. This round is tough! Which is weird because my edit letter is less than a third the size of my previous edit letter. I guess the broad strokes of fixing big problems were a little easier to deal with than examining a scene and surgically adding and removing to make it… not suck. I’m making progress and I still have time, so here’s hoping I can pull off all the tweaks I need to make. More updates shall follow. Eventually.

Also–and in non-editorial-related news–there’s only ONE MONTH LEFT until you can have a copy of my first ever published short story in your hands! Doorways to Extra Time releases August 27 and my story “Whatever It Takes” is the second one in the book! Fourth if you count the two introductions by the editors… Fourth or second, it’s still really early in the book! Read it and you get to meet a character who will show up in The Dream War Saga at some point! Not going to tell you which character, but at least one of them is coming back! Go order it now!

Buy Doorways from:
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