The Herb Witch Tales – A Work in Progress Update

It has been quite some time since I’ve spoken in any detail about my current works-in-progress on the story front. Part of the reason is likely that I’ve been preoccupied with other things in life over the past couple of months. Between travel, work, family time, and the most socialization I’ve had since the pandemic, I’ve been pretty busy.

And yet, here I have these two stories, nearing completion of their second drafts.

The Herb Witch Tales parts 1 and 2

For longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve been working on a two-part novel. Really, it’s two novellas that I will publish separately in ebook and together in one hardcopy volume. The reasoning there has more to do with marketing than anything else — people are more likely to read an ebook if it’s not too much of a commitment. It will also cost less to publish 90,000 words as one volume versus two separate volumes of 45,000 words each.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been aiming for.

Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1 has been sitting in its third draft form for a few months at 48,000 words. I rewrote it mostly from scratch earlier this year, so it definitely needs some fine-tuning.

New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 is in its second draft at 41,000 words. Achieving my word count goal for June would put me just shy of 50,000 words for this one. It also needs a healthy dose of fine-tuning.

So in the near future I’ll have two novellas just under 50k words each, and I’ll have a few large wrinkles to work out:

  • Add some more description to individual characters. I left out a lot of physical descriptions – quite unlike me – to expedite the writing process, but I recognize now that it makes some characters more difficult to distinguish, and now it may be difficult for me to go back and add those details in without sounding out of place in the narrative.
  • Ensure that specific details – like the style of dress for my characters’ culture – are referred to consistently.
  • Pacing. My overhaul of part 1 caused a similar overhaul of part 2, so I need to make sure their plots make sense independently of each other. If someone were to read only part 1, would the story and ending make sense to them without reading part 2?

I have a lot of work cut out for myself for these stories, but I’m pleased at how close I am to finishing the drafting process. From here, it will be revisions of each story individually and of the 1+2 volume in total.

Next, Next Steps

It’s been difficult for me not to think about my next full-length novel. The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy will be the sequel to my first (and so far, only) published novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento. I had written about 60,000 words of a first draft a couple years ago before shifting focus to what I had hoped would be a much quicker writing process for The Herb Witch Tales.

Turns out I can’t write and publish a full-length story every year. Oh well. I am definitely excited to return to Legacy and my favorite character I’ve created. But I want to finish what’s in front of me first.

So, my medium-term goal, say, through the end of this year, is to get The Herb Witch Tales #1 and #2 into a publishable state. Not to publish them, mind you. I just want to have polished drafts that I can consider publishing in the longer term, perhaps once I’ve really picked up and made new progress on Legacy.

We’ll see. I’m excited, and also just enjoying the grind, for once.

Steve D

Spare Parts for Broken Hearts – Songs that Stick to My Brain part 2

It’s time to return to my review of Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, the L.A.-based rock band whose eight singles have inhabited my ear space for the last couple of months.

When I listen to and review an album, the goal is to understand the music as a whole piece, rather than a critique.

I reviewed Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ first for singles a few weeks ago. Today we’ll listen to the back four.

Previous post: Spare Parts for Broken Hearts – Songs that Stick to My Brain part 1

“You’re softer / When we collide

Gentle acoustic strums open “Pleasure Delay”, paired with lead singer Sarah Green’s off-kilter verses. The sound steadily builds with rhythm guitar and then drums.

Then the chorus hits with atmospheric sound–crashing cymbals, heavy chords, and eerie vocal tracks from Green behind the lyrics: “I could really show you something / I could be your one and only”

This song is a plea, perhaps for connection, but with a darker self-awareness, or maybe an admission: “But if you’re gonna die would you do it for me”.

“Take my hand and watch it burn”

“Say When” opens with a kind of slurring verse that seems to be directed at a former significant other. The music treads forward inexorably to a wailing chorus of old wounds: “Say when / Tell me you don’t want me then you hurt me just to stick around”.

In the second verse, the music quiets to a walking bass line and light drums, but Green’s vocals retain the anguish: “Take my hand and watch it burn / Oh I am shaking / From the love I can’t return”.

As in the first crop of songs from my previous post, “Say When” exemplifies Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ ability to embody diverse and often conflicting emotional tones between songs, within songs, or even within a single verse.

“Build a bridge / Burn it down together”

“Mush” is the first song I ever heard by this group, and I was immediately struck by the weighty post-grunge overtones and Green’s ability to take her voice from warm and breezy to a full-throated gale and back in an instant.

I’m counting this entry as two songs, because the acoustic version of “Mush” is just as poignant as the full-band version. If someone had shown me the acoustic version first and told me it was the original, I would have believed them.

The authenticity of Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ music is what resonates with me. It feels real, and even when the times of the music seem to contradict the anguished lyrics, that contradiction feels intentional.

It makes listening to these songs a layered experience, even after the tenth or twentieth time.

Steve D

June Write Day: Oops

Holy crap it’s June. Apologies for my recent absence. A week of time off and the holiday weekend threw me off. I forgot to post a haiku on Sunday for the first time in like… three years. And then I forgot to schedule this post for this morning. So now I’m cramming.

June is off to a great start!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 6,600 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Continue the exercise climb.

Write 6,600 words?

NOPE. I think I write about 2,000 words to start the month, and then did not write again. I was away from home for the week before Memorial Day without reliable internet access, so I knew I had limited writing time in May.

My adjusted goal for available writing time was supposed to account for this, but I need to tweak it to a lower weird count goal.

I’ll probably try for 400 words per available day, or some such.

Read three books?

Almost. I finished two books in May, and I’ve made good headway on three others. One of this might be a comic volume, but who’s keeping track?

Continue the exercise climb?

Another hiccup in May. My week away consisted of virtually no exercise. That was due to the renovation work I was helping a friend with on his Thousand Islands cabin. Turns out that tearing out drywall and old wood, carrying supplies, and installing new flooring is damn tiring. Thus, I didn’t really need the extra exercise.

I had a great week in cabin in the river with a few friends, though.

Goals for June

  1. Write 8,800 words. This is my adjusted goal, counting 400 words per day for twenty-two available writing days. June is (hopefully) a slow month for us.
  2. Read three books. As I said, I feel like I have enough of a head start to reach this.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. I’m back on track, I think, so I feel pretty good about this.
  4. Reorganize this site. You may have noticed some new headers on this site’s navigation. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m shifting my writing topics to themes rather than formats. I’m debating whether I want to re-tag my archive with these new themes, so there may be more changes to come.

Steve D