It’s day 8 and I’m almost at 14,500 words. Not a bad start. Concentrating on NaNo with so much else going on, like Hal-Con this weekend, means I’ve had to take a break from my blog, but I plan on posting the odd progress report, excerpt and maybe on an ambitious day I’ll even share some of my research. I learned a lot about crows while preparing for this novel and I wouldn’t mind preparing a piece on Cascade.
For now, I’m going to focus on getting myself ready for my day at the con tomorrow, including packing away the books I’m bringing with me. I have a couple I’m hoping to get autographed and four copies of my Masters and Renegades novel, Casualties of War. I intend on giving those away to four lucky folks who track me down, dressed in my blacks and purples. I’ll have my daughter with me and at some point I’ll be dropping down to visit the merchant room, where Tyche Books will be selling copies of the Masked Mosaic anthology.
Anyway, back to my preparations and more NaNo writing. I’ll have more to report back after the convention.
I eked out a little Chapter 6 today but the last few days have been frantic. I attended a CMA conference on Thursday and Friday with some pretty incredible speakers and I’m still trying to process everything they had to say. Amanda Lang’s views on the necessity of changing how we think and how we educate our children so we all ask more questions and become more innovative sounded pretty sensible to me, and Bill Strickland’s keynote speech about treating people like assets and recognizing the value of generating hope where hope is lacking was very inspirational. I liked his notion that hope is the cure to spiritual cancer, and he ought to know considering the miraculous things he has accomplished in his life. I’ll be dedicating next month’s blog posts to him. I think after a year that has been pretty dismal to this point, I could use a little more hope in my life.
Yesterday was the date of my children’s school’s spring fair. In addition to baking a few things for their bake sale, I donated a copy of Casualties of War and The Blood Is Strong. The books went into one of the raffle prizes and I’m hoping someone will end up reading them. After the fair, I was planning a weekend of gardening, writing and rewriting when two e-mails popped up. I found myself spending eight hours reviewing the edits for Prisoners of Fate (followed by a quick proofread of a short story’s final edits) and now I can’t shake Ebon, Urwick, Shetland and Anna from running around in my head.
I’m very proud of my plot for that book. It is dizzyingly convoluted, in a good way, and an excellent example of the type of story – one with circular logic in places and multiple timeline cross-references – where an outline was absolutely required. As my hubby said: “without one, you would have definitely gotten lost.” But we’ll let the critics judge for themselves once it has been published. I’ll be offering up a teaser tale, “The Phoenix Egg,” for that book in the near future, once the book’s release is drawing near.
Sometimes you may hear stories about spontaneous human combustion. I’m getting to the point where I think I’m about to burst into flames any minute, exploding because I haven’t done any writing lately (not quite like this picture here). I’ve been doing plenty of editing, but it’s just not the same. As soon as I’m done my current editing project, I really want to start writing something new. My problem is not that I don’t have any ideas what to write, my problem is I have too many ideas and I can’t decide what to work on next. So I’m putting it out there … I’m going to post a selection of my latest book ideas here and on a variety of social networking sites and ask everyone’s opinion. What do you think I should write next, and why? E-mail me your suggestion at email@example.com or post it as a comment here, or on facebook. I’ll send a copy of one of my books (Fervor, Elevation, MU, Casualties of War, The Blood is Strong or a zombie anthology) to the most creative explanation I receive detailing which book I should write next.
So here’s what I’m considering (** warning – there may be spoilers in these descriptions):
Masters & Renegades # 9 – Dagramar’s Zoo: Now that Renegade magic is legal in Seaforest, Nia and Snyder decide to seize upon the opportunity to visit their son and grandchild in Feltrey. When the pair fail to arrive at their destination, a frantic Prince Emrys and the captain of his guard, Jarvas are forced to head off in search of them, hoping that they are not lost beyond rescue. (the hubby didn’t want me working on this one until after #5 is published and #3 isn’t even out yet.)
M & R associated – I have a few possible prequels in contemplation:
An Urwick prequel – how he came to leave the underrealm and why he chose to become a Master when he was already a Renegade. It would also look at his run through the Admission Trials, the consequences and his apprenticeship to Jadira.
Another prequel would expand on Kraken Chasm and explore the creation of the Defiance.
Lastly, I could write a prequel based on the voyages of Traveller, from the Snowy Barrens to her employment with Galgamir.
Endeavour (Fervor #5)
When You Scream – Sequel to When You Whisper- Follows Felicia’s life after the first book
Paranormal adventure/romance – Audrey’s father is an established writer who crashed hard after her mother’s death and has written nothing since. At the advice of his agent, he decides to change his environment, and he picks up Audrey and what is left of his life and moves to Sandor Island in hopes of finding solace and refuge from his grief. Audrey’s own life is upended, and at first she feels trapped and bored on the somewhat isolated island until she discovers that there is something very strange about the island’s other inhabitants, its history and its shores. Instead of being stranded in the middle of nowhere and nothing, she finds herself at the centre of a war between the ghosts of pirates and a clan of nereids. She also is introduced to love in a very unanticipated way – one she is not sure she is willing to explore.
Sifting the Ashes:
Post-apocalyptic horror/dark fantasy – a post-apocalyptic tale told from the point of view of Ash, a crow. “The humans rose from amidst the animals and we adapted. The humans started building their cities, and we adapted again. We changed with them, we grew with them, thriving and remaining strong. Now the humans have fallen and we will adapt again. The world is ours to make of it what we will.”
In Her Blood:
Fantasy Romance – An expansion on my short story “The Last” (posted on my account on Scribd and Wattpad.)
Nine choices – as many as I had contestants in MU. It’ll be interesting to see if I get many responses and how creative those responses will be. I’m looking forward to reading them.
Imps are by far my favourite demonic monster and can be found in a variety of literature, usually bound to an evil wizard or in service to a greater demon. They are most often depicted as small winged and horned creatures with sharp little fangs and claws and a pointed tail. I was so drawn to the idea of these nasty little beasties that I had to include one in my fantasy series, Masters & Renegades.
Stiggle makes an appearance in both Magic University, the first book in the series, and Casualties of War, the second. He is often getting into some kind of mischief or another:
Reid stood to approach the stage, momentarily loosening his hold on Stiggle’s collar. Stiggle had already decided that the closest basin of flowers looked very much like lunch, and feeling the tension on his collar relax, made a break for it. He launched himself at the basin, coming to rest on the lip at its edge. Said basin was precariously perched on the top of a lopsided pillar, which had been recently repaired with somewhat sloppy and fragile results. The entire construct teetered and collapsed, dowsing the crowd with water, flowers, sawdust and ceramic shards – along with one soggy and bruised imp. Reid rushed over and scooped Stiggle from the pile of unhappy and damp ceremony attendees. Pulling a bag from his belt, Reid shook the water from the demonic creature and tossed its wriggling body inside. Ignoring its ear-piercing shrieks, he slung it over his shoulder and made for the stage, a determined look settling across his features. He stepped into his spot on the stage, purposefully avoiding the grim stares from Fortia and Burrell. Fortia shook her head and turned back to the scrolls. Burrell glanced into the crowd, waiting for the chaos to settle before continuing.
Above is one of my sketches of an imp.
Drakes, dragons, dragonets and others of the draco persuasion are littered throughout horror and fantasy, myth and legend. While not all of them are scary per se, the ones who are can be downright ominous. Whole they almost all have scale-armoured bodies and sharp teeth and claws, some can breathe anything from fire to noxious gas, some are frightfully intelligent and can use their own magic, some have enormous strength and others can move at lightning speed. Big or small, winged or otherwise, you don’t want to catch one of these in a foul mood. Here’s an excerpt from Casualties of War involving one particularly nasty ice drake:
Reid had Dee approach the mouth of the cave with him, and the goat, while the others waited behind. He had already picked out a sturdy spot where they could attach the animal’s lead that was visible enough to the cavern’s interior to attract the drake. Reid had Dee move back once the goat was secured, after which he gave it a solid swat to the rump. It bleated loudly as a result. Then, Reid dashed away.
They hid amongst the bushes watching the goat as it stumbled about. Occasionally, it would stop and look into the cavern, or gaze out at the skyline as it swayed from side to side. Then suddenly it was not there. In blinking, they had missed the moment the drake had seized its prey. Dee was horribly startled by this. Dragons had the reputation of being slow because of their size, but their smaller, more-streamline cousin had moved at lightning speed. What it lacked in overall strength, it made up for in versatility. The only evidence left that the goat had ever been there was a trail of blood drops leading into the cavern. Dee shuddered and backed away quickly.
Above you’ll find my sketch of an ice drake.
It’s funny how sometimes we can draw inspiration from characters. I’ve seen articles lately about how readers can be influenced by the characters in the books they read, carrying over elements of the characters into real life – a method of transforming theory into practice, I guess. If that works for readers, I suspect it also works for writers. I’m not sure if this is a common experience for all writers, but I often feel a profound connection with my characters, more so than the ones in the books I read – even those that have touched me in a very strong way.
I find myself identifying with the strangest of characters, like my gnomish ex-schoolteacher wizard’s apprentice, Reeree, who appears in my Masters and Renegades series, both in Magic University and my soon-to-be-released Casualties of War. Now I’m not a fan of the colour pink, and I’m often one of the taller people in a crowd, so on a physical level, I can’t relate to her very well. But what I do understand is playing it safe for the better part your life and then suddenly reaching a place where you realize a risk is necessary or your life will prove quite pointless. While nobody would ever accuse me of being normal, I certainly let things play out in an “ordinary” way, until I found it just wasn’t enough. Like Reeree, I came to the conclusion that I wanted my life to be something more than ordinary. I want to do something significant and meaningful. I want to serve some higher purpose.
At the point in my life where that notion truly hit home, I started taking chances. It would have been nice to make as drastic a change as Reeree – to make that leap without looking back…no regrets, but I’m afraid I wasn’t as bold. My chosen path has been slower going, a gradual transformation, but I’ve done a lot in the last few years, much of which I might have considered impossible before now. I’m hoping it will eventually lead me to that opportunity to make a real difference in the world, be it writing a book that moves people to better their lives, or even just helps one person to overcome some sort of adversity, or perhaps, make some sizable contribution to a charitable cause.
In the meantime, I’ll keep working towards that objective of being anything but ordinary, like Reeree, but with smaller steadier steps. I’ve managed to get this far in a very short amount of time and … hey … it doesn’t hurt to dream.
I noticed on a friend’s blog that archeologists have uncovered proof of another female gladiator in the Roman arenas. It brought me back to a discussion I had with a writer friend regarding strong female characters. When I suggested I like to see strong female characters, she automatically jumped to the idea that I was implying the stereotypical fantasy swordswoman, battling alongside the men with her rippling muscles, bronze brassiere and Xena-like war-cries.
Far from it.
All I meant was: “please don’t give me another story where every woman significant to the plot is either a doormat, an ornament or a victim.”
I admit – I do have warrior women in some of my tales. I have female Templars, soldiers like my Dee Aaronsod or Brianna, and my apprentice mercenary character, Carlisle. In fact the head of my Red-Sun mercenary guild is a villainous woman named Minerva. But a lot of my strong female characters are miles from the stereotypical Amazonian fighter. They range from a stout little middle-aged, ex-school teacher who is willing to brave a mountain full of dangers for the sake of helping others, my Reeree in the soon to be released “Casualties of War”, to my super-mom, Margot, who works as a financial administrative assistant and takes on some exceptional responsibilities, in “Just Another Day”. I even have a primary female character in my unpublished Snowy Barrens trilogy, the shamaness Fawn, who is extremely strong, despite being a healer, a social outcast because of some disturbing facial scarring, and a pacifist. I consider Sarah one of my strongest characters in Fervor, but she is not physically strong, wilful, contrary or bold. She is loving and understanding and offers as much of herself as she can possibly give, even though it might put her in danger.
Strong doesn’t just mean emotionally fierce and physically powerful. Strong can mean taking action, not bending when others oppose you, offering commitment to follow through on the things you’ve started and showing resolve when things get tough. It can mean not turning away and leaving things for others to fix, if they go bad. It can mean staying true to yourself, and helping those you love, or even helping complete strangers who need you, for that matter. Strength comes in various shades and designs, not just a single stereotype.
I’m not playing the feminist card and saying every woman in the story should be strong, for the sake of serving as a positive role model for any girls/young women who might be reading it. Fiction should reflect life, and there are a range of people out there, including doormats, ornaments and victims, so these personality types will play a part in stories – what I’m saying is there are an awful lot of women out there who make a very positive impact on others’ lives, and that should be reflected too, especially if you want me, as a reader, to be able to relate properly to your story.
So please, give me something other than just damsels in distress or women who can’t go on without their man. Give me something strong.