year in review, year to come

Strange days, the weeks around Christmas and new years. I find it difficult to keep motivated due to the disruption in schedule (and a nice cold I’m working on – achoo!) Certainly not a time to start anything new. So I thought I’d review:

For the coming year:

  • Attend the HNS conference in June
  • Have a proper second draft in time for this conference if it kills me
    • To this end, write a bit every day, even if it kills me
  • Keep meeting with critiquers and critiquing in turn
  • Guest blog post(s?)

And this is just off the top of my stuffy head.

Happy holidays to those that celebrate. Don’t worry, I’ll see you one more time before the new year, with a tidy link dump for next Wednesday.

slowing to a crawl: the mental grind of editing

I got nothin’ for y’all this week. Sorry.

Well, nothing you can see yet, anyway. Let me explain.

Sloth: This might take a while
AND HOW. Courtesy YouTube

Edits and rewrites continue. Got good feedback on a rewritten chapter from my critique group. I can honestly say I look at the book every day. Nonetheless, progress is slow.

I can draft in fits and starts because it’s ok if the words suck. Butt in seat, type type type, and there you are. Unfortunately it takes me at least 15 minutes to get into “edit mode”: find my place, review what I’ve already done, and get back into the scene/character’s head…

Long story short, I’ve discovered that early morning stolen moments aren’t working. If I can get 2 uninterrupted hours I can usually complete a scene, but given day job, life, etc. I only have this luxury on weekends.

Hence this abbreviated blog post – what time I can steal goes into the book.

Once I’m published I can never work this way again. Fellow writers, how do you edit when on a deadline? Is it possible in short spurts? Any mental exercises for slipping into one’s story world easily so I can pick back up fast?

Meanwhile, nose back to grindstone.

who is my audience?

Who will read my book?

Short answer: I don’t know (yet).

Long answer: I didn’t write this book with an audience in mind. I just wanted to read something about Dee and Kelley that explored the effect of their delusions on their strange household. Two years on I’m editing and realizing I’ll have to market this thing eventually.

I’ve focused on the historical fiction market for the obvious reason that the story takes place in the past. But not all times/places/people appeal to all readers, and I wonder if the paranormal aspects might further limit its appeal.

Horror: Sorta? Readers who like creeping “Haunting of Hill House”- style ambiguity might enjoy it, but anyone expecting blood spatters or serial killers will likely be disappointed.

It’s gothic…ish. The settings include dark castles and gloomy alchemy labs, but lacks languishing maidens and and Victorian restraint.

Mystery? Yes – but it’s never solved.

The magic and alchemy might appeal to fantasy readers though I imply that nothing magical may be going on at all.

It’s not romance because there’s no happily ever after, just unhealthy obsession and distraction.

Modern day occultists: um…maybe? In theory the subject matter is a perfect fit but in my pessimistic imaginings they’d only read to see what I got wrong. Ditto Dee/Kelley scholars (all ~6 of them), though I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised.

So, if you like a bit of weird with your history or fantasy with your reality, I may have the book for you. I just hope you’re not too put out if it all turns out to be a hallucination!

what is it?

I’ve been secretive about the details of my book out of irrational fears of being scooped and having a stupid premise. Then I remembered I’m not the first person to write about these people, and the informal feedback I’m getting suggests I’ve found an interesting angle so I thought I’d come clean:

My novel is about the strange working and domestic partnership of the 16th century mathematician/magus John Dee and his crystal ball gazer (or “scryer”) Edward Kelley. The short version: Dee was one of the geniuses of the Elizabethan age and still Kelley managed to convince him for almost 10 years that he talked with angels. This delusion led them to create a magic system still in use today, scold the Holy Roman Emperor, piss off some clerics, have a seance with the King of Poland, and ultimately swap wives.

Most scholars seem to write off Dee as a rube and Kelley as a con man, which they undoubtedly were to some degree, but on closer examination the story is much more complicated. Kelley questioned the veracity of his own visions and tried to leave Dee more than once, and the sheer volume and variety of their output suggests there was something more going on.

In my research I’ve only found one article that explores in depth the idea that the “angels” were the product of fraud combined with mental illness, and that’s my premise.

My story assumes that Kelley pulled a con that got out of hand when he started actually seeing things. With Dee’s encouragement this turned into a kind of “folie a deux” and they dragged their wives along with them.

Kelley is my protagonist, as he seems to have the most obvious story arc and because I’m personally fascinated by his motives and his possible perspective of Dee’s obsession with their “actions” (seances).

Dee’s wife Jane is my other POV character, as she’s been given short shrift in the other fiction I’ve read (when she appears at all), and given what must have been her demanding responsibilities managing an experimental household, I figure she’s got good reason to be angry at both Dee and Kelley = conflict ahoy!

It’s turning into a bit of a genre bender – it’s certainly historical but not clear-cut military or romance (though there is sex), with elements of ambiguous paranormal/psychological horror (are the angels real or shared madness?), then there’s the adventure on the Continent and domestic drama…

So, kinda hard to pin down. But never dull.


It’s impossible to write without considering National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’m new enough to serious writing that I’ve never participated before and I’m getting encouragement from all quarters to give it a try. It DOES sound like a good way to get words down, but I have to ask – does it really count if I’m just doing prep/background?

Don’t misunderstand me: I will still be writing key scenes for the novel and doing exercises to improve in general but I’m in no way ready to force a multi-thousand word first draft.

Part of this is because I’ve not completed my timeline of the historical events on which I’m basing my story. These cover 6 years and several countries, and while I already know I’m going to have to deviate from the reality to make a ripping yarn, I want to have this complete before I start the main writing so I know exactly how and where I’m breaking off from fact.

Figuring out a compelling story arc is the other problem. History seldom unfolds in a tidy seven-point story structure or the like, so once I have the fact down I have to hammer it into a readable fiction.

As such I’m going to end up doing more of a NaNoOutlineMo/NaNoResearchMo in order to get everything lined up. I suppose this is illustrative of how much writing doesn’t have much to do with actual writing, at least when I’m not done with my research.