Princess, Empress, and Amazon: Chapter 8

Ellis woke early and dressed for a funeral. She’d been unsure what to wear but had finally decided that her dress uniform would work. The dress uniform jacket was a darker blue with bright silver buttons and braid, but it lacked the blouse that went under her everyday jacket. With only a shirt under it, the fit was closer to the body and showed off her increasing lack of slimness. The buttons strained across her belly, although the pale blue sash helped disguise that a bit. It would do, though, for today.  

Almost every moment that she’d spent with her brothers, she’d been in uniform. She didn’t believe young Michael had ever seen her out of it. He would understand.

For a second, hot tears stung her eyes again, but she forced that reaction down with a stern gaze into the mirror. If nothing else, it would make her scars redden and freshly healed chin and nose whiten. She rubbed her hands together, then passed one thumb over the back of the other hand, where new skin had replaced the scabbing from the coal mine. Faint blue spots speckled them, coal dust ground into her skin staining it. She hoped that would go away in time.

Her wild hair looked neat at least, clipped back at the nape of her neck. That was about as good as she could manage.  

Once she emerged into the sitting area, she found Carel waiting for her next to the table. The older woman’s lips pulled to one side as she observed the tight buttons, but then her eyes flicked to Ellis’ face. “I’m going to put powder on your nose,” Carel warned. “And that chin.”

Ellis kept herself from flinching, although just barely. “Why?”

“Because you will be out in public today,” Carel said, touching a red lacquered box on the table. “Was this Miss Eladine’s? It was in my bedroom.”

Not only did the box not look like something Merielle would have owned, the contents displayed when Carel opened it—an assortment of small pots and containers—didn’t either. Merielle had simply been too beautiful to ever think of painting her face. “Certainly not.”

“Another mysterious surprise from your brother? Or perhaps his ever-so-helpful tutor?” Carel let out an aggrieved sigh. “Well, sit down, and I’ll see if I can hide the raw spots.”

Given Carel’s outburst the previous afternoon, Ellis decided to comply with as much grace as she could. In the past, Miralys had done this before they attended balls together, but those days seemed so long ago. Ellis perched on the edge of her chair while Carel daubed paint from a pot on her healing scrapes, dusted her face—and scars—with tinted powder, and stained her lips. “Do I look presentable?”

Carel’s lips twisted again. “I’m unsure whether we should be hiding your scars… or accentuating them.”

“Accentuating?” Ellis blurted, more loudly than she’d planned. “I’m sorry. Why?”

“To show that you are military,” Carel said, peering narrowly at Ellis’ straight brows. “Beyond the three earrings, that is. They’re small enough not to be noticeable at a distance, not you’re your hair. Perhaps I’ll have some guidance from above on that, too, but for today, since your husband is coming, let’s stick with this.”

Ellis had long since come to terms with her scars—the ragged y-shaped one across her cheekbone and the smaller one cutting into her lower lip. Most days, she did her best to ignore them. She’d never thought of them as tools. She should ask Carmeyon what he thought, since he understood public opinion better than she did.

After the funeral, though. He had sent word the previous evening that, barring any incident at the war college, he should be there in time to escort her. Even though it would be a small and private funeral, she wanted his company for the ordeal.

Carel closed all the small jars and set the unexpected lacquered box over on the pianoforte, out of the way. “I’ll contact your seamstress today. You need to make time to see her, Ellis.”

“I will. Thank you,” Ellis managed. 

“I’ll move some buttons on that jacket later today,” Carel said with a casual gesture at Ellis’ uniform. “That should get you through Captain Dantreon’s memorial service, at least.”

Carel had said nothing so far about a service for Mikael, and Ellis had lost that thread in the chaos of the last couple of days. “Have you spoken to the chaplain here about a service for Mikael?”

Carel’s eyes didn’t meet hers.

“Do you want me to talk to him?” Ellis asked.

Carel’s chin lifted. “If you think you should.”

Ellis had no idea what Carel wanted now. “I’ll do that, then. Mikael had a lot of friends at the war college, and they will want to meet you.”

Carel sighed. “Fine.”

Ellis could not have been more relieved when a knock on the sitting room door ended the awkward conversation. She went to open it herself and had to choke back a sob when she saw Carmeyon there, dressed in his dark dress uniform.

Her husband stepped over the threshold and wrapped his arms around her. “I am so sorry,” he whispered against her hair. “I wish I could have been here.”

After a moment, she made herself pull away. Carmeyon’s dark hair was neatly brushed, his uniform nearly uncreased, so he must have stopped at his father’s house in town to change clothing before coming to her.

“It’s the way this is always going to be,” she said softly. Recalling abruptly that Carel was there, watching them, Ellis stepped back and made a belated introduction. Carel studied Carmeyon with a cool gaze, as if he was a problem to be solved. Ellis wondered if no one had told her Carmeyon was half Cantreidian. Another thing I don’t often think about.

Carmeyon responded smoothly to whatever she’d said to him. “Thank you, and I am so sorry for your loss as well, Mrs. Deviron. Mikhal was well-liked at the war college. I suspect his memorial will be well attended, even though he didn’t live here.”

Ellis’ lips pressed into a hard line.

“His parents should be the ones having the memorial,” Carel said quickly. “Not me. I… I had only known him a short time.”

Carmeyon let out a soft sigh. “His friends will want to meet you, Mrs. Deviron. They will want to assure you that your pain is worthy, too. They want to offer you comfort, and you would be giving them that gift.”

Carel’s lip trembled, but she merely nodded, then made a shooing gesture. “You should go now, or you’ll both be late.”

Ellis grabbed Carmeyon’s hand and drew him to the door, suspecting that Carel wanted to vent her emotions on her own.

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After breakfast, Miralys took a moment to talk to Idiris, stopping the girl before she escaped into more self-imposed chores. “Dear, I wanted to talk to you about this weekend. Will you stay a moment?”

Idiris’ dark brows drew together, but she remained in her chair as Damon and his parents left the dingy dog-smelling breakfast room to get on with their own business for the day. This morning, the girl wore a dark blue overdress over a gray underdress, and her thick hair was braided back, making her look as serious as an old matron.

Miralys worried that Idiris had too little spontaneity in her life, too little fun. She certainly never courted trouble as Miralys had at her age. “My father said the memorial service for your father will be held on Saturday morning. We’ll need to take the train on Friday…”

“No,” Idiris said, jaw squaring off pugnaciously. Her arms closed over her chest. “I’m not going.”

Miralys nearly fell out of her chair. She knew that Idiris was still angry with her father for abandoning her, but the flat refusal shocked her. “But… he’s your father, Idiris. You should…”

“No!” She pushed her chair back and jumped to her feet. “You can’t make me go. I’m not going.”

Miralys chased her niece out of the breakfast room and down the hallway—at a ladylike pace, of course. “Idiris, don’t make me run up those stairs.”

Idiris stopped at the base of the stairwell, her slim back rigid. When she turned around, her mouth was clamped down in a tight frown. “I don’t care about him. He’s not my father anymore.”

Miralys’ eyes stung. She reached out and gathered Idiris into her arms. “Oh, sweetheart, I know. We’re your mother and father now. But this isn’t about him.

Idiris sniffled, blue eyes glistening. “I don’t care that he’s dead.”

Miralys turned her loose and sat down on the steps. “Here, sit with me. Please, Idiris.”

Idiris hesitated, but then settled next to her.

Miralys had never been fond of her eldest brother, Andrian. He’d gone into the Guard when she was a child, but before that, he’d never approved of his father’s brown children, as he called them. She’d always suspected that epithet was more a form of anger with their father rather than actual prejudice against his four half-siblings. All the same, it had given her little reason to care for Andrian, especially when she was a child. When he’d abandoned Idiris when the girl was only eight, though, that had set Miralys’ mind firmly against him. “Dear, your father and I never knew each other well,” she said. “He was too much older than me. It’s hard for me to miss him now that he’s gone.”

Idiris’ frown didn’t abate.

“Despite that, I’m still going to his memorial in Jenesetta,” Miralys told her. “Whatever else happened, my father—your grandpapa—lost his oldest son. I’m going there for my father, not yours. And I would like you to come with me because Father says he would love to see his grandchildren, you and Siron both. You don’t have to go to the actual service if you don’t want, I promise, but I would like you to come visit with your grandpapa, at the least.”

Idiris sniffed in a breath, then said, “I’ll go, but only for Grandpapa.”

“Thank you,” Miralys said gravely.

Then Idiris sighed. “Do I have to go see my aunts?”

Since Idiris had only one aunt on her father’s side—Ellis Dantreon—Miralys suspected she meant her mother’s family, the Seredians, comprised of two sisters who were possibly the fussiest women Miralys had ever met. Idiris wrote to them monthly but didn’t enjoy visiting them in person. “Perhaps one short visit. Since you’ll be busy consoling your grandpapa, I mean.”

Idiris nodded her agreement. Miralys snaked an arm around her shoulders and squeezed her close. “Thank you. And now I think we should get up before the dog-pee smell transfers to our clothes.”

Idiris pointed to the newel post at the end of the stairwell, a spot which surely must have been a canine favorite. “I think it’s coming from there.”

Miralys heaved herself up to her feet, then hauled her niece up as well. “So glamorous, like living in a palace.”

Idiris just snorted and headed upstairs.

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The funeral for Michael Revasien was held in the smaller chapel in the garrison, but every pew was crammed with officers and their wives, all of whom were there for Sirien Revasien’s sake. Ellis didn’t recall much when she thought about it later, the chaplain’s words floating over and past her mind. She just felt numb.

Three deaths, all close to home for her. They were at war now, and gatherings like this would be all the more common in the future. The first in a long line of memorials.

Carmeyon sat or stood by her side throughout, answering others’ questions for her when he could see her civility had worn out. As the crowd in the chapel thinned down to only close friends and family, he grasped her hand and led her to the side of the chapel. “Are you ready to go?”

They should take their leave of the sub-marshal. “I’m not good at this sort of thing,” she whispered. “Knowing what to say.”

“No one is,” he returned.

A young aide with very Menhirre looks stopped in front of them. “Captain Dantreon, Lieutenant Dantreon, Marshal Severin needs you in his conference room.”

Ellis felt a flush go through her. “Is this about my hearing?”

The young man—probably five or six years older than she was, Ellis guessed—regarded her with brows drawn together. “I did not ask, Lieutenant.”

Carmeyon’s hand squeezed hers, and he told the aide they would go. “A simple exit that requires no more socializing. I would think you would like that.”

She walked along the aisle with him, noting as she did so that the aide had moved on to talk to Sub-marshal Korileys, head of the King’s Bodyguard. Ellis glanced up at Carmeyon’s face. “Did you arrange that?”

For a second, he seemed startled. “Uh, no. Mr. Fareinacassan is one of Severin’s aides, so it’s a legitimate request.”

They exited the chapel and made their way along the hallways of the garrison, not missing the somber mood throughout the halls. Revasien was well-liked, and the unusual quiet was evidence of that.

They took the stairs up to the conference room, wondering who else might have been called. When the entered the room, Marshal Severin sat at one end of the long conference table, Harisen standing next to him along with several other officers from the bodyguard in that corner of the room. A cough behind her warned her that Sub-marshal Korileys had made good time getting up the stairs, so she and Carmeyon moved farther into the room and took a pair of seats on one side when Harisen motioned for them to. Ellis was surprised to see Mr. Felidias enter the room—her father’s secretary—which meant surely this wasn’t about her hearing. Then Carmeyon’s father entered, his pale face grim. He sat on Ellis’ other side as the various officers and one secretary took seats about the table. He gestured for Ellis to wait as Marshal Severin gathered a sheaf of papers into a folder on the desk in front of him.

“First,” Severin began, “this information must not leave this room. Is that clear?”

Everyone around the table began to nod, so Ellis did the same.

“Lieutenant Dantreon,” Severin asked, “why did your Mrs. Deviron request information about the regency proposal from Mr. Felidias yesterday?”

Had Carel already done so? Very efficient. “Um, to be honest, sir, a letter was left for her in my rooms that said she needed to understand the proposal, so I suggested she ask Mr. Felidias. I knew he would have that information.” When Severin gave her a strange look, she added, “It was a letter from my brother, Prince Kerris. I don’t know how it got into my rooms, but it’s not the first one that’s shown up there.”

Severin’s square jaw clenched. “That explains that. Unfortunately, the prince must have a stronger Gift than we were aware.”

Ellis had known that, but she didn’t think Kerry had made a show of it to anyone else. Not much, at least. Carmeyon and his father knew, and a few others. “Is that what this is about, sir?”

“I’m afraid that Karsyas has had a stroke,” Severin said, his pale eyes on Ellis’. “He’s been unable to speak or even to rise from his bed.”

A hot wave of nausea surged through Ellis’ gut. “When did that happen?”  She swallowed hard as Carmeyon clenched her hand in this. “My apologies. When did that happen, sir?”

“Yesterday, when he was informed of Michael Revasien’s passing, Lieutenant. He said there was nothing left and slumped onto his chaise in his library. The bodyguard thought at first that he’d merely lain down, but Harisen recognized quickly that something was wrong and sent for Queron.” Severin gestured toward the garrison’s surgeon.

Queron drew in a careful breath. “He’s not responding to stimuli at all, Lieutenant. As strokes go, this was a bad one.”

Triggered by learning of Michael’s death. She licked her lips. “What did he say again?”

Captain Harisen leaned forward. “He said, There is nothing more.”

Ellis closed her eyes, recognizing the quote from an old myth about a wise Seer who recognized death when his visions ran dry. “Is he dying?”

“Not immediately so, Lieutenant,” Queron answered. “He could recover enough to walk and talk in time, given some effort.”

“However, I have been conferring with a Seer in the city,” Severin added softly, as if he feared startling her. “He does not see your father attending the Council again. Not ever.”

Ellis pinched the bridge of her nose, fighting back irrational tears. She felt Marshal Dantreon’s hand cup her elbow, supporting her, and Carmeyon’s grasp on her hand.

They want to enact the Regency.  

Return to Index

Go on to Chapter 9

Coming 9/15, The King’s Daughter: Book 4

Book 4 of The King’s Daughter will be available on September 15th!

Amazon/ Others

A country braces for war…

The former cadets of the war college of Amiestrin know their king isn’t just royal. He’s a Seer of profound talent and, quite possibly, a madman as well. But for years now, the king and the other Seers have been predicting war, and they’re the ones who will have to fight it.

Llelas Sevireiya has spent the past year preparing his home province for that war. When a young Seer shows up at his door with orders for him to take time out to seek out a wife, he travels to Perisen and brings one home, not one anyone expected.

Thomas Farrier has plans for his life, but the marshals seem determined to upend them. Now he must adapt to a political role helping refugees who are fleeing over the border into Jenear. That assignment takes him to Sandrine, the home of his friend, Llelas.

Ellis Dantreon serves as a member of the King’s Bodyguard, guarding her own father. When the king decides to visit the border, the only question he has for his daughter is whether she’s ready. Now she, Thomas, and Llelas must become what the Seers expect of them: the princess, the knight, and the nightrider.

Almost there…

The third book (of four) in the Palace of Dreams cycle will be coming out August 13th. (Click here for preorder links.)

DreamsfromtheGrave_ebook

Mikael Lee has dreamed of death for a decade now. He shares the last moments of murder victims, usually ones he’s later fated to investigate. But one death has always eluded him: his father’s murder.

Now he’s dreaming his father’s murder again, an old and powerful dream that can drag him to the brink of death. This time, though, he has a witness who can help him find the truth: Shironne Anjir. She’s been dragged into Mikael’s dreams for years. As much as Mikael does, she wants this dream put to bed, the deaths in Mikael’s memories solved once and for all.

And more than that, Mikael wants to uncover his father’s greatest secret—the identity of a half-brother Mikael has never met.

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I honestly think this has been the hardest book I’ve ever written, and… I’m not even certain why. That does, however, offer an explanation for why it’s taken so long to get this one from the computer to the page.

Oddly, the main plot of this book was written back in 2004 or 2005, but because of various life incidents, publisher incidents, and changes made to the first book, it’s had to be totally rewritten.

I have already started on the fourth and final book in this sequence (Twilight of Dreams), and hope to have that out next year, although I have a lot of work coming out between the two.

And there is a possibility of a separate book about Sera… but right now I’m not committing to that.

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And I do have a book coming out later this year under the Anna St. Vincent name.

I am working on editing Knight and Nightrider, but I am not sure whether I’ll publish it this year or not. (Ideally, I’ll hold K&N and PEA until The White King is finished, but… that may be some time.)

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Much of this slowness is related to family life issues. My in-laws have been living with us for most of June and July, and we’re having some renovation done to make it easier for them to live here, so that’s been eating away at my writing time. I’m hoping that life will return to normal eventually, but this year has been… a difficult one.

But here’s to getting a single book out this year!  Mejor que nada.

Working away… and the new map

I’m still working on getting The King’s Daughter Book 4 out, although I suspect it will hit in either late September or early October.  (Mary Quirk will be out 9/8

The fourth KD book (Knight and Nightrider) is a bit of an odd duck, mostly because the content of the first half and the back half are quite different. So the book is neatly cut into two parts under one cover, just to make that plain. 

And, since I’m going through with republishing all my self-done books (which will take months), I will be adding a map to all the King’s Daughter books: 

 

It’s not unusual for a writer to have a map in their book, and I did have an older one, done years ago (2005?) in Campaign Cartographer. This new one was done using my friend Photoshop, and I’m happy with it. It’s not perfect (and I always struggle with straight lines), but this should do for another 15 years.

And back to edits now…

New Words from the Golden City

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I’m close to setting up a pre-order page for After the War, the final (chronologically) novella in the Golden City series.  I’m still waiting on the cover, but as soon as that’s finalized, I’ll work on turning that live. (The cover artist–Rachel A, Marks–is also a writer, and she’s in the midst of edits for her next book.)

My planned date for After the War to go on sale is August 1, although that might change if there are complications.

In addition, my patrons have received the first chapter in a new work that tells of the meetings of Miguel Gaspar, Gabriel Anjos, Nadezhda Vladimirova, and the Lady.  I’ve jokingly called them my Torchwood in the past because they seem to work behind the scenes, focusing on the creepy and weird stuff. (if you don’t understand the reference, that’s OK.)

The work is very tentatively titled The Undiscovered Truth, although that may change.  (The first chapter is available here on my website, but it’s password protected so that only my patrons see it.)

#SFWAPro

 

Reflections on first person…

I’ve been working on cleaning up my mss of Whatever Else (for some reason, a lot of periods were deleted) and that led me to think about writing first person rather than third.

I have a limited number of stories in which I used first person, and for most of those, I was trying to portray a specific ‘voice’.

For example, A Hand for Each was written to sound similar to the writing of Richard Dana (Two Years Before the Mast).  I wanted the narrator to sound like an English seaman.

After five long years of herding freighters about the Indian peninsula, we had finally been given orders to return home. How I longed to see England again. My family wrote to me but their letters often went astray, likely arriving in a port we had just left. I knew that I missed many of them.

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The Stains of the Past was meant to sound more like a young woman with a past: 

I believe in redemption. Every week when I go to confession, the priest tells me my sins are forgiven. I am a new person now, he has explained, and my penitence has created in me a clean heart. Unfortunately, my sins haven’t been forgotten. My past will always be with me, at least as far as Kiya is concerned.

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In The Nature of Demons, I wanted the hapless narrator to sound a bit like Dr. Watson. I was thrilled when one of the critiquers actually mentioned that my Dr. Antris sounded like…Dr. Watson!

A more educated man would have recognized the signs, I thought.  Only a week before, the king had forced Menhas’ company on me, naming him a shaman among his tribe — a storyteller and healer.  As such, I expected him to have at least a passing familiarity with the hundred forms of demons.  “Do your people not have stories of these creatures?”

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In Fleurs du Mal, I wanted the protagonist to be disdainful and cold.

I looked at Anne instead. She clung to Jeremy’s arm with one hand as we walked, her hips swaying as if she still heard a tango in the night air. I couldn’t decide what to make of her attachment to him. He is far out of his league, I thought, my trusting little brother.

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And in Whatever Else, I wanted my main character to sound…a bit helpless. She’s in a society where women are chattel, and has never been trained to do more than be a wife. So it was a difficult voice for me to write, but I hope I cam up with the right one:

His sudden claim baffled me. Arras had been my husband nearly four years. Three years older than my nineteen, Seyvas was of an age with him; even through the worst of our peoples’ squabbling, he and Arras had remained friends. Since our wedding, though, Seyvas hadn’t come to the manor at all. Not until now.

I turned back to him and whispered, “What are you talking about? You’ve known Arras all your life.”

“Arras is dead,” my brother answered in a flat voice, his eyes gone bleak

I stared at him, mouth agape.

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So for me, the choice of first person is usually tied to the fact that I want the POV character to sound different than me. I want them to have a very distinctive personality.

What’s your reasoning behind the times that you chose to write in first person?

#SFWAPro

Writing Advice: Should I Plot? Or Pants?

This is one of those strange areas in which the answer seems perfectly obvious: whatever works.

The problem that most people have isn’t grasping the fact that while plotting works for some authors, it doesn’t work for others. Most people get that.

The problem is, they don’t know which option will work for them.

For me, it’s a mixed bag.

I’ll give you two examples:

  1. I woke up one morning with a story idea in my head. I outlined it, and started typing. (My outline for it was only a couple of pages, but it was a novella). I typed and followed my outline and 26K words later, I was done.  That story was Iron Shoes, and went on to be a Nebula finalist in 2010.  IronShoes_Draft2DigitalFinal (2)

2. I had an idea  for a long time, and finally put together an outline for the story. It was a few pages long (again, a novella), and I sat down and began typing.  Within three paragraphs, one of the throw-away characters who didn’t even have a name suddenly took on a personality…and then I had to give him a name, and a story, and a reason for even being in scene 1. (That would be Duilio). And I tossed away my outlline, then sat there and wrote in a fever until 15K later, I had a novella, “Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy”.  That novella was later rewritten as a novel, The Golden City (a Locus Award finalist for 2013)

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My point being that both things worked for me. Yes, I prefer to outline, but…sometimes the outline just can’t contain what’s going on with the story. Could I have written The Golden City without having Duilio Ferreira suddenly appear in it? Could I have simply followed my outline? Yes.

It would have been a different story. It might have been a better story…or a horrible one.

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Here’s what I do:

I generally start out with a halfhearted outline-usually only a few pages long. Then I start writing.  I’ve learned that for me, the outline -usually- loses contact with the story somewhere about the 2/3 mark.  (The Golden City was an aberration, with the breakaway coming on page 1. Iron Shoes, on the other hand, never broke away.)

That’s when I do my REAL outlining–at the 2/3 point. I sit down and figure out where all my plot points need to fall, how long I have, and what loose ends I still need to tie up. It’s one of the least fun parts of my writing process, because I really want to stop and get back to writing words. But I make an effort.

Then I start writing again.  And once I get to end of a novel, I check in with my outline and tweak it a bit, and start my edit pass.

So generally, I’m using a hybrid form of pantsing and plotting. It’s what works for me.

Therefore, I’m not going to come down on either side, the plotting or pantsing side. The trick is to know that one tactic isn’t necessarily better than the other.

For me, the situation appears to be this:

  1. Outlining will work for one writer, but not another.
  2. Outlining can work for one writer for one story, and yet not the next.
  3. Outlining can work in tandem with pantsing on the same story.
  4. The situation can change. Plotters become pantsers and vice versa.

So try them both out. See which fits better. Be reckless and combine them! There’s no rule that says you have to pick one method and stick with it for the rest of your life. (Unless you get a tattoo. Then you’re stuck.)

#SFWAPro

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Bonus story: At a workshop, I had to write a story in 24 hours. I plotted the snot out of that thing, researching and setting up the small world where a clockwork-type factory functioned under the streets of Paris, doling out life and death. I slept for about three hours that night, and when I got up, started writing….a TOTALLY DIFFERENT STORY. I actually managed to get that 7K monstrosity typed out before the deadline that afternoon, but it was a close shave.

That story was “Fleurs du Mal”, which was later published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. And other than being set in Paris, it has NOTHING in common with the story I outlined.

Why this happens, I don’t know.

 

 

Writing Advice: Choose your advisors carefully

I don’t often dispense writing advice. In a lot of ways, I don’t think I’ve yet earned that right.  I’m not a million seller. There’s not a movie to be based on my works. And I’m not an industry insider. The only source from which I can draw my advice is my own admittedly-limited experience (and that of my friends).

But I’m going to dish some out anyway.

This weekend on my Tumblr feed, I ran across this quote:

“The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.”

Jeff Goins

I found this an objectionable statement, equating perseverance with ‘good writing’. I suspect that the author meant something more like “perseverance is required for successful publication“, but that’s not what he said.*

He -said- that people who quit writing aren’t good writers.

And that’s wrong. There are plenty of brilliant writers out there who are no longer publishing. This industry is brutal, and navigating its vagaries can be exhausting for an able-bodied young person with ample spare time.  For someone who’s ill; for someone whose finances barely allow them time to sleep,much less write; for someone who has 12 other projects in the work or 3 kids at home….sometimes pursuit of publication just isn’t in the cards. Not at the moment. Perhaps not ever.

That doesn’t make them a BAD writer.

For me, it was hard to balance work with writing. I was a teacher, and every moment that I spent writing was time taken away from my students’ possible futures. (This is a guilt thing). It was hard for me to work on writing when I needed to make lesson plans and grade and write grants and scholarships. So when I was teaching, I wrote very little save for during those 8 weeks of summer. That didn’t make me a BAD writer.

So my main advice here is to look at the person who’s giving you advice. In the case of the guy above, he seems to be a self-help guru with 4 books published (the most recent by his own press). Yes, he’s a big seller (on Amazon), but has he ever tried to pitch a fantasy novel to one of the Big 5?  Has he ever submitted to Clarkesworld? Has he ever tried to publish in your market?

Perhaps his advice isn’t the best match, then.

For me, the pithy statement above was simply miss-aimed. Equating talent and skill with persistence doesn’t work for me, no matter how good a little soundbite it makes.

#SFWAPro

 

 

*And yes, I’m aware that this might be out of context. I haven’t read the book. However, alone and with no context is how I encountered it being touted on Tumblr…

 

 

 

One WIP? Or many?

One of the interesting things about authors is how we’re all different. Some of us are plotters, some pantsers, and a large percentage are in between. Some write every day. Some don’t. Some have rituals or a special place to write, while others can write anywhere, anywhen.

And some of us can only work on one project at a time.

I’ve never been one of those writers. I’ve always been able to have three or four WIPs going, save when I was under a real deadline crush. In fact, for me that makes it easier.  If I’m having trouble working on WIP1, then I open WIP2 and tinker with that for a while. A lot of the time, that shakes loose whatever was bothering me about WIP1.

Recently I’ve had 3 WIPs going: After the War, The Horn, and The Sins of the Fathers. 

(I actually have opened a few other files in this time, mostly on weekends, just for fun. Sometimes we need to do ‘fun’ writing just to remind ourselves why we do this.)

But my point is that this strange way of working is what works for me.

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After the War is due to be out later this summer, which means I need to get that last section finished, and then get it out to my editor. I’ve even got a cover commissioned for it, due to me about June 15th.  Now, this is a Portugal story involving Serafina Palmeira and Alejandro Ferreira.point_of_no_return3_by_faestock

(This is the -likely- picture we’ll be using–via Faestock on DeviantArt–for the cover…the rights belong to that artist.)

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But it’s recently been The Horn and The Sins of the Fathers that have taken up most of my time.

The Sins of the Fathers (name may change) is the sequel to Dreaming Death, starting only a month later than the end of that novel. Now, this was primarily concerned with the problems caused by Shironne’s father, Mikael’s father, and to a lesser extent, Deborah’s. Hence the name.

However, the edits on the first book killed off Shironne’s father before the first book happened. He was supposed to die slowly and painfully in the first half of Book 2. Removing him also removed a lot of the issues with Mikael’s father, so…I’m having to rewrite Book 2.  This happens sometimes.

On balance, I’m okay with the changes, but it means that as I was rewriting the sequel, the murder in it seemed to work less and less, making the plot weaker and weaker. Unfortunately, how to fix that problem has eluded me for for quite a while. I’ve been spinning my wheels writing it because it just seemed…wrong.

But working on The Horn provided an answer in a very different way.

I’ve been working on that, a series of novellas set elsewhere in Larossa shortly before the events of Dreaming Death (early summer-fall).  The events of the two story lines eventually tie together.So it was of direct benefit to me to have parts of The Horn solid in my head and written down.

But while I was hunting and pecking through my old files for a spare bit of text (I really need to get in there and rename all those old files because their current names are gibberish) I ran across an old Mikael/Shironne story about a murder that…

Well, I’d never finished that 2005 story. I probably got busy with something else and never got back to it. But suddenly I had in my hands the answer to my problem with TSotF.  I could swap out the short story’s murder for the problematic one in the book. A bunch of names had changed, but  the short story was set right after the book, so there wasn’t much time or age difference.

And suddenly I knew how to fix the broken part of TSotF. I am in the process of stripping out the old murder and working in the new. I’m re-outlining the book, as much as I do outlining. And everything is moving again.

Such a relief.

The point to all of that being: For me, working on more than one project at a time is helpful.  Not true for everyone, but for me, it pays.

 

Does that work for you? Or are you a ‘one project at a time’ writer?

 

#SFWAPro

Blind in Your Mind

Recently I ran across an article that discussed being “Blind in your Mind” here. 

It was fascinating to me to read it because I could relate to almost everything the writer said. In fact, several other writers I know said the same thing. Many of us don’t picture things in our heads, and it’s rather bizarre to us that other people do.

Now I want to be clear…I am not as “mind-blind’ as the writer of this article. I dream in color all the time and often can recall snatches of those dreams.  And I do, when I think about things I’ve seen in the past, sometimes get a split-second image in my head. It fades away so quickly that I don’t get any details out of it, like an afterimage instead of a true image.

I am far more likely to recall how something moved or words related to something I’ve seen.  I cannot close my eyes and picture anyone. Not even myself–like the Bible verse, I walk away from the mirror and forget what I look like.

This does not interfere, as the article specifies, with my ability to recognize people. I can recognize people’s faces both in real life and in photographs (as some other people cannot). But if I close my eyes and try to picture them, I only see blackness.

In fact, the harder I try, the less I get. If I’m trying, I won’t even get the split-second image that I mentioned before. I suspect that my ability to recall visual images is subconscious rather than conscious.

There is probably a continuum at work here, where some people are extreme, like the man in the article. And other people picture everything in their mind’s eye, rather like an internal movie.

Some authors who mentioned having a mind’s eye said they often struggle with descriptions because they can’t get the details right enough to match what they see. For my own part, I struggle with making sure I have enough description to get across the basics for the reader.

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One of the ways I deal with this is to use photographs of characters. I often keep those on bulletin boards so I can look at my characters as I’m writing them. That way I know what they look like.

Many of these photographs are from an old stash in tubs that I’ve been collecting since college…a long time ago. I’ve recently started using Pinterest to track my pictures as well. For example, here’s my set of photos that I’m using for The Horn. I can look at the pictures any time to remind myself who my characters are.  (Although I also print them out so I can access them when I’m not online.)

 

So if you’re a writer, do you have this issue? Do you see things in your mind or not? And if not, how do you learn to describe for the reader?

#SFWAPro