In the course of working on what became A Cat at Bay, I re-read and reworked material I had written way back when I first started the Commander Ni Drako stories, in 2006. I’d worked over a few of the chapters before, taking out some really, really heavy references to life stuff, and trimming out some copyrighted material. But I had not sat down and really read through them with an eye on publication. I wrote the stories as a way to vent and keep from doing something uncharitable to grad school faculty (among others). And since that time, I’ve written, oh, two history books, and several million words of fiction. So I sat down and started work. Ow.
The first things that got cut out were some really terrible pity-party scenes. At the time, writing them let me get it out of my system. Now? Nope, Rada Ni Drako is no longer the character she was 9 (!) years ago, and she wouldn’t do that. She’s a lot harder than she was back then, with a back story. And my writing has changed for the better, although Nas Hedron, my long-suffering editor, might not agree. He does the good stuff. The mistakes and bloopers are all mine.
After I got everything sketched in, I ended up cutting three chapters. Two no longer fit the pace of the story, and one was just too long. I may publish it as a stand-alone, since Zabet has all the good lines (as usual). Even so that left a 90k word book, plus a little bonus story that won’t fit into the next book, theme-wise, but makes a nice coda for this one.
It was interesting to see how other characters have changed. One of the chapters featured one Joschka von Hohen-Drachenburg, a walk-on minor figure who was supposed to play his part and leave. Little did I know 🙂 Joschka is the first character I wrote who dug in his heels and refused to accept the part I’d written for him. In fact, he took an entire plot arc and tied it into knots, then re-wrote the book to suit his tastes. Rada, by this time, had also gone her own way, leaving the poor author to wonder what on Earth or Drakon IV was going on. Note that this was long before Elizabeth von Sarmas decided to turn my fine ideas inside out and then ride a mule over them.
For some reason I was obsessed with clothes back then, too. That got trimmed, if not entirely pruned out.
But the book still did not flow. It worked, but it didn’t move well. Another re-read revealed the problem, and a bit more of this and that got added to the story. Now I had pacing and the story tumbled ahead, racing where it needed to and slowing for breath where appropriate. I also heavily rewrote two chapters, taking out a lot of literary experimentation that was great practice for a new writer, but that rolled as well as an exploded tire on a bent rim once I’d reworked other chapters. Yes, it really was that bad, trust me.
Continuity problems fixed, pacing reset, pity parties excised, I sent the manuscript to my beta readers. They caught a few things. Then I passed it on to Ye Editor. He had some recommendations that helped, a few that I didn’t agree with, and in general tightened up and polished it.
Now all it needs is a cover, and formatting, and it will be ready for prime time, in e-book form AND in print. Yes, A Cat at Bay will be available in paperback, probably in late October. Although it is #7 in the series, it can stand alone.