I am at 181,313 words, and 34 chapters out of 54. Yes, I realize that is not a lot of words since my last update. I've decided to put aside some of my side projects and buckle down on AQATWW for a while.
Side quests have been distracting both me and Alexandra.
I am still writing regularly, even if the pace is uneven. It does not help, of course, when I have a sudden major plot-derailing idea.
The main drag on my progress is the same thing that always slows me down — I have written past some major plot holes which I know I will have to go back and fill in, but it bugs me and so I spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about how I am going to connect all the dots. I have actually gotten a little bit better about it this time. I used to sometimes come to a standstill, unable to continue until I'd figured out a way to write myself out of the corner. Now, I've just sort of handwaved a few chapter endings ("Um, wait, how did she get there? I'll figure that out later") and kept writing. I've also been trying to limit my habit of going back to rewrite before I am done with the first draft. (Not entirely successfully, but I'm getting better.)
Hopefully, between revisions and sharp-eyed beta readers, I'll be able to patch up the rough spots and smooth over inconsistencies, and the end result will make sense, even though I am once again expanding the scope of the setting a bit and breaking canon.
I know you like progress updates, but I haven't rambled writerly in a while. So let's talk about "canon" as it relates to AQ.
As you know, I originally wrote my stories with the idea that they would remain, in theory, "canon compliant" with the Potterverse. With all the post-series material Rowling has released, and of course, the Fantastic Beasts movies, AQ stopped being canon compliant a while ago, at least with regards to the entire deuterocanonical universe. But I have still more or less treated the original seven-book series as a sort of Bible. Which is to say, while I've certainly added things to the setting that were at most barely suggested in the original books, I've avoided doing things that would flatly contradict them.
This extends beyond simply trying to keep the rules of magic consistent, such as by not introducing Flying Spells. I've tried to keep the flavor and theme more or less consistent with the original as well. Not the same — I do not write like Rowling, and I don't try to. But I like to think that in an alternate universe where Rowling taps someone to write a sequel series, AQ could theoretically be that series. (Hey Jo, feel free to DM me!)
This does constrain me a bit, but it has also been a useful framework to abide by. I've read a fair amount of other fan works, including some very good ones. People continue to write HP fan fiction series that are even longer than mine, and color far outside the lines. I've seen very creative politics, magic systems, alternate takes on everything from Harry's childhood to house-elves to Muggle relations, but I continue to try to avoid doing anything that would be an irreconcilable retcon of the original series. (It is a lot easier, of course, when all of my characters and settings are completely original.)
Rowling's universe is fuzzy enough that there is a lot of leeway for bending canon even more. For example, I introduced Powers as actual, literal beings. Rowling gave us the Deathly Hallows and some wizard stories about Death that may or may not be apocryphal, but she didn't explicitly say "Yes, Death is actually a real entity," like by having Harry meet Death. Me having Alexandra meet Death and talk to the Stars Above doesn't contradict canon, but it is stretching it. I've had a few readers who just don't like the Lands Below, the Lands Beyond, and the World Away. Again, Rowling hints at places "beyond the Veil," but other than a few dreamlike sequences like his posthumous conversation with Dumbledore, Harry doesn't really go tripping through other dimensions. Yet I have Alexandra doing that repeatedly. I don't regret it, I think it works, but it's certainly true that every time she does "un-Potter-like" things, my stories are less like the originals.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it's not necessarily a good thing. (I have heard both views from readers, that they like my universe better, and that they dislike it when I veer too far from Rowling's setting.) But the same vision that keeps me from just filing the serial numbers off and rewriting Alexandra Quick as an original series keeps me trying to fit whatever happens within what I consider to be, at least theoretically, within Rowling's original framework.
I try to maintain some plausible fuzziness and not be pinned down too much on details that the more meticulous-minded readers often want me to clarify. I wrote a GURPS sheet for Alexandra, but in writing her, I never actually refer to a "character sheet" to define what she can and can't do. I am guided by a desire to be consistent, but make the story go where I want it to, much more than I am guided by any theoretical "rules." I really try not to be Brandon Sanderson (again, not that that's a bad thing), even though I've been accused of wanting to be him.
(If I had to choose, I'd rather be Stephen King, but y'know, without the years of substance addiction and rehab.)
So anyway, AQATWW will be bigger and bolder in scope in a lot of ways. I am still trying to keep events plausibly within the scope of Rowling's original "canon," but I will not let that be an absolute boundary.
In my head, I have always imagined my other story, Hogwarts Houses Divided, to take place in the same universe as AQ. I have no plans to have Alexandra meet Teddy & co., but I always thought they theoretically could. Whether this will still be possible after the end of AQATWW, I am not sure.
If you do want to see that, though, head on over to AO3 and read JackbeThimble's Alexandra Quick and the Order of the Phoenix!
And if that's not enough AQ metafanfic for you, pleasantracket has begun a post-AQATWA AU story: Return of the King.
Alexandra Quick and the Lands Below in print and ebook
I finally have the print draft ready for Alexandra Quick and the Lands Below. The following link is to the PDF manuscript, which I would like to invite anyone who wants to to download. It is formatted for a 6"x9" trade paperback.
Alexandra Quick and the Lands Below print manuscript
Once again, please do send me any typos or layout errors you find. I am very grateful to the handful of proofreaders who helped me polish up the AQATTC print manuscript, and once again, those who send me corrections will get access to the full size cover that will go on the eventual physical copy. Here is a preview (I am still tinkering with the colors and layout):
I am still trying to decide on a printing solution for this book. Most of the POD services can't handle a paperback book this size in one volume, and I still haven't found a local printer who will do it for less than about $50-$60 per copy, with a minimum of 10 copies. Splitting it into two volumes is still an option — I just don't like it, because it means my seven-book series will eventually be at least 13 books on the shelf.
Updated AQATLB ebook!
In my downloadable stories folder, you will see a revised and updated version of the ebook for book two, with illustrations by Sam Gabriel.
Finally, who doesn't love fan art by ankhes?