Where am I at?

Since Newsletter #1, I have been very busy. I mentioned in Newsletter #1 that I was working on a rewrite of The Kira Chronicles trilogy (making it a 6 book series), and a rewrite of a stand alone novel originally called Avatar that I was thinking of calling The Messenger. Well, since that February newsletter (where has the time gone?), lots of things have happened.

If you check out K S Nikakis on Amazon, you will see three new books have been added to the five book Angel Caste series and my stand alones: The Emerald Serpent, The Third Moon, and Heart Hunter.

The Messenger is out, but simply called Messenger, and the first two books in the revamped, and in some ways, re-imagined The Kira Chronicles series are out too. I was debating whether to change all the titles for the series or add to the three original titles from the trilogy: The Whisper of Leaves, The Song of the Silvercades, and the Cry of the Marwing.

I have a 'thing' about coherence in book titles in trilogies/series, and in taglines. You might notice that in the nine books where I've used taglines, all have six words (something about my personality is probably emerging at this point!) 

The Whisper of Leaves and The Cry of the Marwing fitted well together, but Book #2 only fitted syllable-wise if it became The Silvercades' Song, then it no longer matched rhythm-wise. I was also splitting three books into six and adding new material and wanted the titles to be a good fit for each book's story. So ... The books already out in The Kira Chronicles series are: The Whisper of Leaves and The Silence of Stone.

Now the Big Reveal: da da da! The rest of the series in order are: The Secrets of Stars, The Thunder of Hoofs, The Crying of Birds and The Music of Home. Part of the coherence of a book trilogy or series, is of course, the cover art, including images, colours and typography. I am lucky enough to have a horticulturist son who started life in the multi-media industry, and who's worked with me on all my book covers.

I start with a sense of what I want, but continue to be blown away by what he creates. Seeing a visual interpretation of my word-worlds never gets dull! I did buy the rights to use the original cover art of The Kira Chronicles trilogy but matching the style with another artist for the extra three books was never feasible, and my budget doesn't stretch to the original artist. So began the long search through Shutterstock, a site I trust to have treated its artists ethically (and in accordance with copyright law).

It is easy to find a good image here and there, but I needed six, coherent with each other, and that fitted the story of each book, and that fitted the fantasy genre. I think I've found them, and two of course, are already out there on Amazon. Check out the rest on this newsletter.




How Many Titles?

To be honest, I didn't expect to enjoy rewriting either Avatar/Messenger, or making The Kira Chronicles trilogy into a series. The reality of being an independent author (indie) is that you no longer have a large publishing company behind you (like Allen and Unwin Australia who published The Kira Chronicles trilogy), and the reality of that is you need more books out there to reach your readers and to build a readership. When you no longer have big marketing divisions or book sellers going into bookshops to promote your work, it means you can't afford to let novels sit neglected in your files. They need to be polished and launched to find readers who might love them.

There are some indie authors who produce a phenomenal number of books (I've read of some who write a book every two weeks). I am not one of them. Firstly, I can't physically write that fast, and secondly, I don't want to. For me, a big part of the joy of writing is discovering the story. Colloquially, I am known as a pantser (a writer who writes 'by the seat of their pants') as opposed to a planner.

I don't know the story before I start and sometimes don't even know what's coming in the next sentence (this is draft 1, remember, and my books are at least 4 drafts!). It is an exhilarating and exhausting way to write and not nearly as fast as knowing exactly what the story is. But what drives me on is the belief that the story (whatever it is) is worth telling and that I care enough to put in the hours of work to tell it.

When I went back to Avatar/Messenger and clicked on the file, I wondered if I would care enough about the story to make it as best it could be. I hadn't read it for years, or thought about it, which I considered a bad sign.  So, heart in mouth, I started to read, and loved it. Yes there were things to fix, and things to enrich, and things to make clearer and more powerful, but I cared about it, and that's all I ever need as a writer. 

I am still in the process with re-imagining The Kira Chronicles trilogy as a series which has proved a very different process again. I'll let you know more about it in my next newsletter.

Deep Fantasy

Why did I coin the term Deep Fantasy?  Because, after telling people I write fantasy, I found myself saying things like: 'but not like Game of Thrones. I don't do epic battles, gory violence, complex political intrigue, or graphic sex' and 'not like Harry Potter with boy wizards, boarding schools, and magic systems' and 'not set in a city with werewolves and shape-shifters' and 'not Celtic with Druids and standing stones' and 'not like Lord of the Rings with elves and dwarves.' I don't consciously draw on existing fairy stories either, or Greek Myths, or any other obvious mythic system (although I might in the future) and I don't do dystopia. I like hope in my stories. 

Having made people glassy-eyed with what I don't write, I decided it would be more use to tell them what I do write and having discarded terms like 'traditional fantasy', 'pastoral fantasy' and 'spiritual fantasy' as not getting to the heart of the issue,  I came up with Deep Fantasy. 

Deep Fantasy recognises that fantasy has the potential to work on two levels: the surface level where the story should be gripping, emotionally moving, and enjoyable; and the deeper level, where the story's symbols, metaphors and imagery have psychological power.

I set my stories in Secondary Worlds but the settings can be more than backdrops to the action. In Heart Hunter, Fleet's ice-locked lands are a metaphor for her own congealed emotional state, and her quest to find the magic talisman to unlock the frozen streams and return food to her people, is a quest for adulthood. I discuss the Deep Fantasy aspects of my books on my website if you'd like to explore the idea further. 

While you mightn't have heard of Deep Fantasy, you probably have heard of Planners and Pantsers (or Panthers, as Isobelle Carmody prefers). The idea is that writers either plan out their novel in detail before they write, or jump in and see what happens (thus writing 'by the seat of their pants'). Apart from Heart Hunter (which started as a Ph.D and had to demonstrate Joseph Campbell's 17 part Hero Quest), I've always been a pantser. For me, a big part of the joy of writing is having wonderful discoveries emerge as the story reveals itself and, in the past, I couldn't imagine anything worse than knowing the story's outcome beforehand. 

 In reality, writers are rarely purely one thing or another, but it seems from my pantser viewpoint, that planners write more quickly. They don't need to continuously reflect on what's emerged in order to work out what comes next. Writing quickly is an advantage to all writers, but particularly to Indie authors, where releasing books regularly is important.  

Pantsering a stand alone is definitely easier than pantsering a series, as I discovered in Angel Caste. This series is complex on the deep fantasy level, and I found the final book (Angel Blessed) very demanding to write. It's something I'm keeping in mind with my new series (SOO). I don't think I'll ever be a planner, but I'll certainly need to consider each character's journey in more detail before they undertake it.

Cheers until next time.

Welcome to Newsletter #1

Hi everyone! Welcome to my very first newsletter. Thanks for subscribing!

This is the numero uno of my newsletters, and I will be 'newslettering' again when I've got updates about my projects, something to say on writing-related subjects, pictures to share, or freebies to send your way.  I also blog on Goodreads if you'd like to catch up with me more regularly.

So, what am I working on now? I finished the five book Angel Caste series and launched on Amazon KDP just before Christmas (2017). Yay! It's a series I love, so I hope you do too. As I was finishing the series, I was contemplating the rejig, re-edit and relaunch of The Kira Chronicles trilogy that was originally published by Allen and Unwin in 2007 - 9.

Once I stopped finding the trilogy in bookstores, I asked Allen and Unwin for the rights back, and being the great company they are, they were kind enough to oblige. So, the trilogy has been in the queue waiting for me to get to it for several years, and now I've started the task of making it into a six book series.

I've had fans of the trilogy worried about this, but all the things they love about Kira's story will stay. I'm adding some of the material cut from the trilogy, including the ending (originally Kira's journey concluded in Sarnia), and new material that enriches how the story unfolds. Book 1 was published before I had written Book 3, so there are things I'd like to strengthen in the earlier books. A series is also a better fit than a trilogy for Amazon KDP and, as an independent publisher, I have to consider that.

I've completed the first run through of Book 1, which will probably keep the title: The Whisper of Leaves, and had intended to push on with the second, and probably final edit, but decided instead to put some space between me and the story, crucial to good editing. So, I've gone back to a story I wrote some time ago called Avatar, which has been sitting unloved and all but forgotten in my files. Avatar predates the film by the same name, so you can guess how old the original story is. I'm loving rediscovering and enriching it.

Obviously I have to come up with a new title, and at this stage, it's likely be The Messenger. I'll complete the rewrite/edit before returning to The Kira Chronicles series, and am aiming for an end of March launch date. I'm doing some casual academic work this semester, so that might affect the schedule, but it's useful to have a goal.

After the Kira Chronicles series is complete (no firm date but some time in 2018), I'll start a series which I am presently researching. The series working title is SOO, but I won't reveal what these letters stand for yet (have a guess if you want!), and the series title might change. I don't usually start another series until I finish a current work, but I keep getting scenes and dialogue from SOO, so I've changed my working methods, and set up a file for them. 

Moving between The Kira Chronicles series and Avatar/The Messenger is also a change for me, but it's good to see what works. Once Avatar/The Messenger is done, I might well be working between The Kira Chronicles series and SOO. We will see.

Cheers until next time.