The Month Ahead (March 2015)

That it is March already does not thrill me, given the volume of work I have to do. At this point I am not trying to get ahead or even get caught up; I’m just trying not to fall any farther behind.

On Fridays I will continue to post chapters of my father’s post-World War II memoir, Remembering Japan: 1945 -1946.

Each Thursday I hope to post a short “enthusiasm” for a novel, short fiction collection, or other media, but that will depend on how each week shakes out.

In February I did some publicity (posts and interviews) for the publication of my short fiction collection, THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT (Tachyon Publications). The collection also got a number of gratifyingly positive reviews. It’s not too late to buy and read it!

I also completed and turned in the copy-edited ms of Black Wolves (Orbit Books). The novel now goes to typesetting and I will next see it in page proofs. Publication date remains 3 November 2015.

I continue to work on a draft of the sequel to my YA debut Court of Fives (Little,Brown Young Readers). Having sorted out a plot tangle (with the patient aid of one of my editors) I have what looks to me like a clear shot to the end.

An essay on Writing Women Characters will go up some time this month on It’s long and meant not as an “opinion piece” but as more of a workshop style essay.

I am still working on The Beatriceid, which is now my most overdue item.

The three projects mentioned above are my focus for March. I have other posts, essays, interviews, short stories, and novels awaiting my attention but for the moment they have to stand in line. I’m not complaining; far from it.

I am at that stage of my workload where I am having to say No to things I would like to say Yes to because I have too many outstanding projects and commitments (often small ones, but the small ones pile up into monstrously intimidating mountains). I like saying Yes to things but when I have too much unfinished work, especially of multiple diverse types, I often end up becoming exhausted by the mere thought of the overload and don’t get anything done at all.

So: March is for finding the space to breathe.

Meeting Authors at Cons, and other links

I did a Reddit AMA yesterday (you can find the entire text here & there were great questions).


I enjoyed all the questions but I wanted to highlight this exchange.

A reader asked if I was going to be at Worldcon/Sasquan this year and, when I said I was, wrote:

i’m so unbelievably stoked for sasquan. my first con, and a ton of authors who i really respect are going to be there. i’m not sure i’m going to be able to keep my cool.


To which I replied:

Once a newer writer sitting next to me at an autographing said she thought I was being really gracious and patient with the people coming up with books for autographs.

I said, “Are you kidding? I feel like grabbing each one and shrieking, ‘omg thank you for reading my books!!!’ But I keep my cool and don’t.”


There’s a giveaway at Reddit until Wednesday (tonight) evening for THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT.

In other news, the CEs (copy edited manuscript) for BLACK WOLVES dropped into my inbox yesterday a month before I expected it. Well. That’s my next week sorted when i was already working gangbusters on the first draft of the second YA novel. Now I feel guilty for complaining although at the time I did get a massive 6 hour stress headache (I’m feeling better now as I went paddling).

Here’s a cool post over at A Dribble of Ink that shows the evolution of Julie Dillon’s art from black and white sketch to color illustration to the cover of THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT. I find this kind of process amazingly cool.

I believe an interview with me by Paul Weimer should be up at SF Signal (probably it will post while I’m asleep), so I’ll just link to SFSignal for now.


2014 in Retrospective. 2015 Prospective.

For me 2014 proved to be one of those years more endured than enjoyed, with some memorable exceptions. For those interested in what I wrote over the course of the year, here is a retrospective.


I published a single piece of fiction in 2014, a story (novelette) that I wrote as a valentine for my readers: The Courtship. I call it a coda to the Spiritwalker Trilogy because it takes place a few days after the end of Cold Steel.

No novel in 2014, alas. Which always makes me feel as if I have been unproductive. So here is what I did accomplish:

As I’ve mentioned, I fell behind writing Black Wolves because of my father’s final illness and death in 2013, so although Black Wolves was originally scheduled for November 2014 it was not even finished by the end of 2013.

I completed a first draft of Black Wolves, and subsequently two revisions, for Orbit Books.

I also completed a final line edit and copy edits and page proofs on Court of Fives, my YA debut with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, coming August 2015.

In addition I completed copy edits and page proofs for my forthcoming short fiction collection, The Very Best of Kate Elliott (Tachyon Publications), forthcoming in February 2015.

I started (and have not yet finished) a piece of short fiction called The Beatriceid, in the style of the Aeneid, but told from the perspective of Beatrice (one of the heroines of the Spiritwalker Trilogy). I also have written about half a short story, “When I Grow Up,” told from the point of view of [spoiler]. I plan to finish these ASAP.


Justine Larbalestier and I launched a monthly book club for Bestselling Women’s Fiction (of the 20th century). We read a novel each month, chatted about it in email and compiled that chat into a post, and invited discussion. I thought this was pretty great, and you can read our posts and the discussion. Unfortunately the press of our schedules overcame us in the second half of the year and we had to put the project on hiatus but we hope to start it up again here in 2015.

This RocketTalk podcast hosted by Justin Landon in which N.K. Jemisin and I discuss bias in the science fiction and fantasy field went really well, and frankly I’m proud of how the discussion unfolded on a difficult and controversial topic.

In honor of NaNoWriMo I managed to write a blog post a day about writing for the first 14 days. You can find a list of these posts at the NaNoWriMo tag/category on this blog.

I wrote up a long squee post about Martha Wells’ The Fall of Ile-Rien Trilogy which generated a lot of wonderful discussion both here and on my Live Journal mirror site.

Another squee post: Over at A Dribble of Ink I highlighted the illustrations drawn by Hugo-award-winning artist Julie Dillon for my illustrated short story “The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal” Because I will never get tired of talking about what a great artist she is!

In December I again participated in Smugglivus, the annual festival of posts at the home of the marvelous Book Smugglers. This year I discussed the presence of women relating to women in narratives (with a focus on television).


If you asked me what I accomplished this year, I would say: Not enough.

Funny how harshly we can judge ourselves.


I don’t get out much because it is expensive to fly from Hawaii to anywhere. (Why is no one crying for me?)

BUT I did have an absolutely fabulous trip to England and France in August and September of 2014. I visited dear friends, went to a nurturing writer’s retreat in Brittany, and in general soaked up hanging out with writers and sff community people and cramming in a year’s worth of shop talk in one month.

I attended Loncon (Worldcon) in London, which was huge, wonderful, diverse, exciting, and exhausting (in the right way), the best Worldcon I have attended.

I was honored to be one of the Guests of Honor (with Larry Rostant, Charlaine Harris, & Toby Whithouse) at Fantasycon, ably run by Lee Harris. This small literary convention proved to be a really fabulous weekend in York, England.


I’ll be writing. The aforementioned two short pieces need to be finished (I have other Spiritwalker short fiction that is partially written too; in a perfect world I would finish them all by June and bring them out as a short collection, but I’m skeptical I can manage that with my current novel writing schedule).

My novel writing schedule? A YA novel and an epic fantasy novel. I will also try to find time to eat and sleep and exercise and, if I’m lucky, to read.

The rest of this week I will be posting about my forthcoming projects and when you can expect them and where you can pre-order. It looks to be a busy year. I say that as a good thing.

As always, my thanks to my readers. You make this all possible.

NaNoWriMo 12: Don’t Think. Just Write.

As I have mentioned multiple times in the last two days, I finally finished the revisions for BLACK WOLVES, the first volume of a new epic fantasy series. I wrote two days ago about what a difficult book this has been for me to write.

I have early drafts of different versions of the opening going back to 2009 before I was overtaken by Cat Barahal’s story and wrote the Spiritwalker Trilogy. As it happens, the opening I have now is not any of the multiple iterations I trotted through their paces over the last five years.

What I haven’t discussed is what my long-suffering editor at Orbit Books endured during this long writing process. She was both kind and patient during and after my father’s illness and death. In Winter 2014 I was able to start working on the book again. Writing this book was like carving a path through molasses with a feather.

Every time I sat down two overwhelming thought processes dominated my thinking.

The first was a constant unceasing voice second-guessing every single decision I was making, what I call the Hyper-Energetic Overly-Critical Internal Editor Who Can’t Shut Up:

“You shouldn’t do that. It won’t work.” “if you did it that way it might be better.” “I wrote that scene but she should put the cup down on the tray not the table” “This is too (sentimental) (violent) (political) (boring) (feminist) (not feminist enough) (static) (dense in world building) (focused on family relationships) (ridiculous) (simplistic) (complicated).”

The second, not surprisingly, was the other voice, the one many writers have struggled with, the one that says, “this is all pointless and awful and you should just quit now. In fact it would be merciful not just to you but to all of us if you would just quit.”

These two voices are not the same but they often get intertwined.

I believe the second voice springs out of our deepest fears as creative people and as people who often have to overcome obstacles of lack of time, lack of support, lack of belief, discouragement, physical and economic challenges, prejudices and bias, concerns that we ought to be doing something more practical or “worthy” by other people’s standards, that what we’ve done hasn’t been good enough and can never be good enough: The list rolls on and on.

It is a crisis of belief that ebbs and rises; I think it is part of the human psyche exacerbated and amplified by damaging conditions and other external obstacles that impact our ability to create. Grief, depression, stress, severe anxiety: All feed into that voice. Sometimes we have to deliberately find ways to comfort the voice to quiet it; sometimes the only option is to ignore it or try to shut it away. A visualization I sometimes use is to imagine setting the voice behind a door and closing the door.

The first voice (for me) has a different role. An Internal Editor is necessary because that is the voice that helps you-the-writer edit, improve, change, meet the challenge, and come up with something that isn’t the same thing you did last time.

But when the Internal Editor gets on that hyperactive treadmill it is so debilitating.

At some point in Spring 2014 I called my editor, probably in despair, and she patiently let me talk on and on as she does.

And then she said, “Don’t think. Just write.”

I actually wrote down those words and posted them on my computer as a reminder.

Not because I shouldn’t think when I write, but because I know (but have to remind myself) that when my head cycles into that over-thinking stage, it doesn’t help me proceed with the first draft, with the upwelling phase of the writing where I have to allow my subconscious to work so that the best connections and ideas can bubble up into my conscious writing brain.

Later (at a normal volume) the Internal Editor is crucial and necessary. But if you write a first draft as I do (and not everyone does), then too much thinking in the first draft gets in the way of the tangled process through which I unfold and discover my story.

I did try to “think” less and second-guess myself less as I went on. I did finally finish a mess of a first draft and turn it in (usually I turn in a second or third draft but in this case I had to move the draft off my desk and take some deep breaths). I got a long long editorial letter in tandem with a long long phone call.

Revisions went much better although they took a long time. By this point the Internal Editor — now speaking at a reasonable volume — was much happier and therefore more incisively useful. The Internal Editor is never useful to me when it is being hyperactive; then it is just telling me that I should move the salt shaker six inches to the right while standing on my left foot. But when the Internal Editor is working in tandem with my writing brain, they can get an amazing amount of work done.

For months in the Spring and Summer of 2014 every morning when I woke up my first thought was, “this book is broken; it will never work” accompanied by a leaden wave of despair.

Last week I woke up and I had a flash of a thought. “What if the book isn’t going to work no matter what I’ve done?”

I realized at that moment that this was the first time in weeks I had thought about the book as (potentially) broken. I had just experienced a normal flash of anxiety, not the punishing despair I had fought through. The realization gave me a sense of peace, a reminder that even as we struggle through the despair, we may also find the light.


NaNoWriMo 11: 2015 is for The Very Best, Court of Fives, & Black Wolves

Having emailed the revised manuscript for BLACK WOLVES to my editor yesterday at 1 a.m. (which means technically today but let’s not quibble), I managed to do pretty much zero today which all told I am taking as a win.

I do not have enough bandwidth to write anything that takes more than 5 brain cells rubbing together so I decided to take a photo of my three current projects all lined up in a row on my kitchen table.*


On the left we have the page proofs for THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT, a short fiction collection by Tachyon Publications, due for publication in February 2015.

In the middle we have the page proofs for COURT OF FIVES, a YA fantasy novel (“Little Women meets Game of Thrones” is what the publisher is calling it) being published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 18 August 2015.

Finally, on the right, the typically monstrous epic fantasy since that is apparently the only type of epic fantasy I can write. BLACK WOLVES will be published by Orbit Books. Possibly October 2015 but that is not yet confirmed.

I have all these books coming next year because I had nothing come out in 2014 due to the events of 2013 putting the brakes on my writing for the year.

Publishers usually like to have completed revised and edited manuscripts a year ahead of publication date because that gives them plenty of time to move through the production phase and whatever marketing and publicity work they are going to do to get pre-orders and publicity going for the novel. There is a lot of lead time in this business (books can be produced quickly but it costs more, so with commercial publishers a very short lead time is an option only for books that must have a quick turnaround for timeliness or are expected to be bestsellers).

What do I personally get for all that lead time? Focused and intensive editing, a good-to-excellent copy edit, excellent design and typography, great covers (not always for everyone but I’ve had quite good luck with covers), an expansive distribution network, and a lot of miscellaneous work that I simply could not do myself or wouldn’t be good at. On a later date I will post the timeline of COURT OF FIVES to give a sense of how the process worked.

Meanwhile I am going to bed in the hopes of catching up with my sleep so I can embark tomorrow on the glamorous immediate-post-manscript writing life of laundry, filing, opening mail, and a few errands.



* the advanced reading copy in the background is Wesley Chu’s TIME SALVAGER (July 2015, Tor Books)

NaNoWriMo 10: Black Wolves

I interrupt this series of posts on writing with a bit of news.

The revised manuscript of BLACK WOLVES, volume one of a new epic fantasy series, is complete and has now been emailed to my editor at Orbit Books. It’s not the longest book I’ve written by a long shot, and unfortunately it is not the shortest either, running as it does to a little over 700 pages (that’s about 225,000 words in the font I use).

At the moment I have no easy way to explain this novel except that it is about how the past pervades the present. I can’t even figure out a handy Chthulhu meets Pokemon shorthand description, not yet anyway. The story is set in the same universe as the Crossroads Trilogy but is specifically written to stand alone from that trilogy (you do not have to read the earlier trilogy to read this).

It’s almost 1 a.m. as I write this so I’m not sure I can do justice to my feelings.

I was about a third of the way into the first draft of this novel in Summer 2013 when my father was told that his cancer had returned and he entered hospice care. I could not write first draft during the last 2 months of his life, and I could not write first draft for several months after his death, which meant I could not work on this novel. Somewhat strangely, I was able to revise the already completed YA fantasy manuscript, so that’s what I worked on.

However when the YA was complete and turned in, I picked up Black Wolves again and the work became a morass. I always hit a point in every book where I think it is the worst thing I’ve ever written; where I wonder if I should stop writing; where I think maybe THIS TIME I have really lost my writing chops and should just quit while I’m ahead.

I call this phase of the process the Chasm of Doubt.

Tied as it was to my beloved father’s passing, Black Wolves became a grueling emotional and psychological battle. I pushed through a monstrously uncooperative first draft (with the encouragement of Karen Miller, Andrea Chandler, and Paul Weimer) that to be frank was a mess. I seriously considered abandoning the novel more than once because I thought I could never get past the despair it engendered in me (not the story; the book itself).

But I’m stubborn, and my editor insisted that I absolutely could fix the things that didn’t work because the stuff that did work was all there ready to be polished and shiny. Plowing through revisions was almost as hard — and seemed to take just as long — as writing the first draft, and I want to thank Tricia Sullivan in particular for saying the words I needed to hear to not give up.

Yesterday my sister said to me that it was time to let the book go and stop worrying about what it is, if it’s good, if it’s worthy. It is what it is. It’s done. Now it has gone to other hands. What happens next I don’t yet know.

But I do know that if there is one thing a creative artist needs it is sheer stubborn persistence, the ability to trudge on and on despite the mire, to just keep going even when you despair the most and the road seems impossible, impassable, and endless.


Writing Through

I posted this as a sequence of Tweets and wanted to log it here as well.


Finally printed out my 4 single spaced pages of note from 2 hour phone call with my editor. I added these notes to the 20 page edit notes she subsequently emailed me (but which she had already written before she made the phone call).

This is the glamorous writing life, people. An editor who makes you dig and dig and dig is a treasure.

I wrote the bulk of BLACK WOLVES (my new epic fantasy) after my father died last fall because I had to do something. The 1st draft is a mess. In fact, I spent much of the time writing it wondering if I should just dump the whole idea, or dump writing in general. But I couldn’t stop. Stopping would have been like dying. Or like facing grief.

I forced myself through to a 200,000 word first draft because I had to, whether I kept the story or not. Because I knew I couldn’t trust the negativity in my head. I had to get it out regardless of the end result.

When I finally sent it to my editor I didn’t know if she would say, “Um, can we start over?” OR “Okay, let’s dig in.”

She said, “DIG IN.”

Sometimes being told you have work to do is the best gift someone can give you. Because it means the work is worth doing.

Women Destroy SF, Julie Dillon Illustrates, & Publication Updates

The June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine is WOMEN DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION. Read about its genesis here, and you can buy a complete e-version RIGHT NOW or read it for free online across the month of June as all the stories are released day by day.

Of particular interest is that my daughter is one of the contributors, in her first professional sale, for the flash fiction “The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23” (points if you get where the title comes from), and honestly I am SO EXCITED I CANNOT EVEN TELL YOU.

So naturally I heartily recommend the issue to your attention.


Meanwhile, over at A Dribble of Ink, I share some of the fabulous Julie Dillon illustrations that are in The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal, and talk a little bit about the genesis of the project. Mostly because it is Hugo voting season I want to signal boost what a fantastic artist Julie is; she is one of the finalists for the Hugo Award Pro Artist category this year.


Finally, publication news.

Here is the information page for my upcoming collection with Tachyon Publications.

My YA fantasy, COURT OF FIVES, is in production and due for publication in Summer 2015 via Little, Brown Young Readers. There’s a rudimentary goodreads page but no other internet presence so far.

My new epic fantasy, BLACK WOLVES, has a complete draft. After a 2 hour phone call with my perspicacious editor and a 20 page edit letter, I now embark upon a vast raft of revisions so can offer no firm publication date yet but I can confirm it will not be published in 2014. I will update a confirmed date when we have one but I expect that will not be until I have a solid second draft, and I can’t be sure how long revisions will take. This is all good news, though: I want to write and you want to read the very best book I am capable of writing.


Reminder: I am thrilled to be one of the Guests of Honor at Fantasycon 2014 in York, England, 5 – 7 September THIS YEAR and I would love to see you there (it is a small convention and so a venue in which you can expect to actually get to talk to people; I expect lots of great programming and discussion).

I also plan to attend Loncon 3 (Worldcon) in London 14 – 18 August 2014, which looks huge and exciting.

If you attend either or both events, please find me and say hello. I attend conventions to see friends I only see at conventions (and talk endlessly about writing) and to meet new people and chat with readers.