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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Process: Copyedits (of Doom)

Copyedits for DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS have arrived, so I'm diving into the editing cave to tackle them, which means you'll be hearing a little bit less from me for the next week or so. But I thought I'd give you a little peek into a day in the life of author me during Copyedits before I disappear entirely. (If you're curious, I already talked about the process of developmental edits, which obviously come first.)

When the copyedits arrive, the first thing I do is pour over the style sheet. This is basically an extra document that discusses everything unique to the manuscript, presenting the house's standard style choices for those elements and generally making sure we're all on the same page for everything from grammar rules I've ignored utterly to how we're planning on spelling landvættir throughout the text. (For this dual-narrative manuscript, the expression "stupid crying (v.)" made it onto the style sheet -- they find everything!)

Once I'm familiar with the style sheet I move on to the manuscript itself, surfing through the larger comments to make sure there are no surprises
and correcting or accepting the super easy stuff that jumps out at me. (So far, in every manuscript I've had to explain my irregular use of scene break markers -- because I'm kind of the worst about remembering to put them in consistently.)

Then the real work begins. I count up the days I have to get my copyedits done and divide the number of pages by the number of days I have to work with and then add in a little bit of a cushion -- so for this manuscript which is a robust 465 pages, I'm giving myself an assignment of at least 55 pages a day -- because I try really hard, always, to finish early and I usually do.

Then I start cleaning my house.

No, really.

By the time I get to copyedits on a manuscript, I'm mightily sick of reading and rereading and parsing my sentence structure and comma usage. But it isn't just that, either. For me, Copyedits are the most exhaustive and agonizing part of the process -- they make me second guess my choice to be a writer at all, and wonder if I even know how to write anything or if I'm only deluding myself into thinking I can write books. Basically, copyedits make me feel like utter crap, so I will do everything I possibly can to put off the copyediting.

I will wash dishes, swiff the hardwood floors, put away my laundry, pay the bills, write a conference panel proposal, shower, brush my cats, help El Husband with odd jobs, go grocery shopping, cook dinner for my cousins, turn making a sandwich into an art form, shoot the breeze with my fellow writers on our forum, reorganize my bookshelves and unpack boxes of even El Husband's books which don't really deserve premium shelfspace, go through all the accumulated junk mail, and write unnecessary blogposts just so I can Not Copyedit.

Which is why I won't be blogging again until I've turned these bad boys in -- because the last thing I need is another excuse to procrastinate. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Catalpa Blossoms
Summer is always busier than I expect it to be. June is nearly finished, and I can barely believe May is so far behind us. Part of it is the sheer quantity of social engagements -- Memorial Day kicks things off with a big family picnic, which we followed up with another smaller picnic and then a trip to South Dakota to see more family and friends, and catch a couple of hours of rodeo.

Now Summer Solstice has come and gone and I have a brother to help move, an Outlander binge-watch to host, and I'm staring the 4th of July in the face. I don't know how I got here, or how it's been almost 6 weeks since BY HELEN'S HAND released, and a month since I turned in edits on DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS, and I have only one sad sorry paragraph of a short story and the still only hand-written opening scene of my next Amalia Dillin novel to show for it.

Photo ©Gayle Dillin. Please do not reuse without permission.
July, I promise myself, will be the month I buckle down. July will be serious back to work drafting Orc 3 and copy edits and proofs, probably, for my next Amalia Carosella books, and maybe if we're very lucky, glimpses of cover art before August. (I've seen some concepts for DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS already and they are beautiful.) July is when I have to quit my dinking and aim for a solid 2K a day, because the Summer Olympics are coming in August...

Summer is always busier than I expect it to be.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Musing On: Amazon Abductions

Sometimes I wonder how much of the raping and abduction of Amazons is the boasting of later writers/descendants/cultures looking to justify their then-current patriarchal way of life, because to suggest these heroes met their equals and recognized a woman as a PERSON by falling in love didn't fit their cultural agenda/understanding of the world.

Is it wrong to turn a mythic abduction into a romance in which the woman has agency? In which the woman has choice, and the man recognizes her as his equal, and offers her a place at his side without violence? Or is this the natural evolution of what these myths should become, now that women are not simply seen (or only seen) as property and prizes?

How much misogyny do we read back into the myths because we're expecting it to be there, or even assuming that it is the only possible interpretation? For Classical Athens, yes, there certainly was a good bit of it -- but these stories predate Classical Athens. Is it possible the Mycenaeans with their imagery of women seated upon thrones accepting offerings, their goddesses accepting gifts, their daughters through which kingdoms were inherited, might have lived differently?

One of the things I loved about writing Tamer of Horses after Helen of Sparta and By Helen's Hand was the difference in upbringing between Hippodamia and Helen -- Hippodamia, as a foundling child raised by centaurs, did not have to be Greek the way that Helen was. She wasn't raised in a palace, she isn't bound by the same kind of cultural restrictions we would expect of an ancient Greek civilization. And while I found for Helen some amount of agency even writing within those strictures, Hippodamia was a woman whose agency didn't have to be carved out or shoehorned into a pre-existing mythic structure that demands her passivity.

I'm going to keep carving and shoehorning. I'm going to keep spinning agency and equality into my retellings of myth. I'm going to keep fighting the idea that the Amazon must be Abducted as a metaphor for the triumph of "natural order" over the chaotic force of women leading their own lives, and opt instead for a narrative of recognition and understanding. Because in the end, I still believe that these myths are living things -- and in order to keep them relevant to our world today, they need that kind of bending and stretching. But also because, completely honestly, those are the stories I want to read.

We're blogtouring May 16-June 24th to celebrate the release of BY HELEN'S HAND (Helen of Sparta #2) -- available NOW in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle. I hope you'll join us by sharing your own reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you like to talk books!

And if you enjoyed my take on Helen, don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD for a free short story prequel to HELEN OF SPARTA: Ariadne and the Beast!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Read Around the World Tour: Bronze Age Greece

Hosted by Aimie K. Runyan, author of Promised to the Crown, we're traveling the world (and history) with ten great historical fiction books and giving away signed copies of ALL of them at the end! The tour begins Here.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of guest-gifts with you when you travel through Bronze Age Greece. Guest-friendship was one of the most sacred bonds, and your best bet for traveling unmolested in and out of the incredible palaces of the Achaean kings. You won’t want to miss the imposing Lion Gate of Mycenae, or the sprawling palace at Knossos on the island nation of Crete – perhaps not quite so impressive as it was during its height, before the Minotaur was defeated and Minos fell, but worth the journey all the same.

The Rock of Athens has weathered every storm, an impenetrable walled fortress upon the Acropolis from which King Theseus rules Attica and Crete with the advice and counsel of his assembly. Be sure not to snub King Nestor of Pylos, either – an entertaining host with a story for every occasion, you’ll find your poor reputation precedes you if he feels that he’s been slighted.

And of course, across the sea, there is the golden city of Troy, its walls the work of Poseidon himself. You’ll find no finer palaces, no grander treasures than those inside Troy’s towering walls – at least not outside of Egypt. But tread carefully if your curiosity draws you to the Nile Valley, for Egypt is not often known for its kindness to foreign travelers, even when they come with rank and riches aplenty.

...Even if you're Helen of Sparta.

With divine beauty comes dangerous power.

Helen believed she could escape her destiny and save her people from utter destruction. After defying her family and betraying her intended husband, she found peace with her beloved Theseus, the king of Athens and son of Poseidon.

But peace did not last long. Cruelly separated from Theseus by the gods, and uncertain whether he will live or die, Helen is forced to return to Sparta. In order to avoid marriage to Menelaus, a powerful prince unhinged by desire, Helen assembles an array of suitors to compete for her hand. As the men circle like vultures, Helen dreams again of war—and of a strange prince, meant to steal her away. Every step she takes to protect herself and her people seems to bring destruction nearer. Without Theseus’s strength to support her, can Helen thwart the gods and stop her nightmare from coming to pass?

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Celebrating By Helen's Hand with Livetweets

In case you missed my livetweeting events of TROY and  Helen of Troy (The made for tv miniseries) I've storified them for you!

Helen of Troy, first because it is by far much less painful:

(You can also find my thoughts on the [inferior] second half from a previous livetweeting endeavor HERE.)

And now, the unfortunate TROY, which made such a HASH of Achilles's character that I cannot even:

You can SEE me running out of outraged steam as that movie goes on and on and on and on... If I never livetweet it again it will be too soon, you guys. These are the sacrifices I make for you. I hope you appreciate them.

By Helen's Hand is getting some fantastic reviews (thank you!!!) and June's issue of The Amaliad is going to have some fun news for you all, as well as a small Helen and Menelaus cut scene from Helen of Sparta, so if you haven't subscribed (and gotten to read the FREE short story prequel, Ariadne and the Beast, just for signing up!) definitely do so!

And don't forget that HELEN OF SPARTA is on sale for just $1.99 for kindle this month!

We're blogtouring May 16-June 24th to celebrate the release of BY HELEN'S HAND (Helen of Sparta #2) -- available NOW in paperback, audio (cd, mp3, and audible), and for kindle. I hope you'll join us by sharing your own reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you like to talk books!