For some reason, whenever I count up how many complete novels I've written, I always seem to forget that, buried deep in the "Old Stories" folder in my Projects folder on my computer is a complete draft of the original version of the story that eventually become Chosen of Azara. I was reading back over it yesterday (very gingerly, in the same manner that you might remove that big chunk of prickly pear that's gotten itself stuck in the sole of your sneaker, because too much contact would be painful) and was surprised at how many elements of the original story made it into Chosen of Azara (along with some that, thankfully, didn't).
The seed of the idea that eventually turned into that first novel and finally matured into Chosen of Azara was an image that came into my mind one day, of a highborn young woman alone in the woods, seeing a vision of an unknown man, and then some time later, the man appears, in the flesh, at the door of her home, looking for her.
The earlier story starts with that scene and goes on with the adventure from there. I also discovered that the first story also has a magical talisman that the young woman wears as a necklace, two brothers, a dubious fiance, a lost kingdom, and a king who under normal circumstances should be waaaaay past his "for best quality, use by" date. And, like Chosen of Azara, it's also set in the world of Estelend which I had begun developing probably about the same time or a little earlier.
A lot of writers, especially newer ones, worry that just because one story has the same starting premise and even some more specific plot elements in common with another story, that that makes the two stories the same. You see this on the NaNoWriMo boards a lot - "Am I plagiarizing [movie or book] by having [incredibly broad and common story element] in my story?" (Someone wanted to know if they were plagiarizing George R.R. Martin by including sex in their fantasy novel.) Or, "This movie stole my plot!" Young wizards going to wizard school (A Wizard of Earthsea, anyone?) or characters who are half-human, half-god (a substantial chunk of Greek mythology) seem to cause particular concern.
The answer is, No, you're not plagiarizing, No one stole your idea, There are no ideas that have absolutely never been done before. Two writers can start out with remarkably similar premises, and even some specific plot elements, and end up with very different stories.
And, in fact, the SAME author can write two very different stories from the same starting point and with the same plot elements.
The original "girl sees strange man in a vision in the forest" story is pretty straightforward. Girl sees vision, dude shows up, girl (accompanied by brothers and dubious fiance) goes off on adventure with mystery dude, lost kingdom, yada yada, (eventual) happy ending.
I wasn't real happy with how that story came out, and in fact the girl got a name and personality change halfway through. She started out as kind of this pathetic spinster would-be-hermit, and eventually eveolved into someone more like the character of Lucie turned out to be. Aside from the main character, the story as a whole didn't do what I wanted it to do, and it certainly didn't do justice to my original idea of the man in the vision.
So I turned my mind (aka the Idea-o-Tron (TM)) to learning more about the guy in the visions. Ancient king, lost kingdom... How in the world is he showing up in visions in the woods right here, right now, to this particular young lady? I started digging more into that, and that was where Sevry and his story (and the very cool time travel technique) came from. But there was more to it than that; how did the war begin, that destroyed Sevry's kingdom? Kingdom-annihilating wars don't just come out of nowhere. So that led deeper into Savaru's history, and to the story of Juzeva.
By the time I'd worked out all this backstory, I realized it wasn't just backstory; the stories of Juzeva and Sevry were too closely connected to Lucie's story, and had too much important information, and were too compelling to me to just be relegated to backstory, to be worked in small chunks into the story of Lucie's adventure. So the new version of the novel started with Juzeva and became an inter-generational tale of the fall and restoration of the kingdom of Savaru. And it turned into a novel that I decided I loved, and was proud to publish (as opposed to the original version, which will remain in the privacy of my hard drive; though I'll never delete it because you never know when something from an old story can be recycled into a new one.)
So I finished the first draft of Book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings and was planning Book 5, when one night it came to me, as I was brushing my teeth, that there needs to be a sixth book in the series.
I panicked, wondering if there was enough story left to make up a whole other book. But as I thought about it that night (I usually lay awake late at night working out plots and story problems in my mind) and sat down and did a bunch of scene brainstorming and story development the next day, I realized that yes, there does have to be a sixth book, and there's plenty of story for two books instead of one. So a Book 6 there will be.
I think I've known, way deep down, for a long time that it would take another book to finish off the series properly. For a long time I had envisioned the events of Book 5, which moves the story from the frontier - the Wildings - into the civilized land of Granadaia, as being the climactic events of the series. But that just didn't seem right. The series is called Daughter of the Wildings, and it's about that uncivilized frontier land, its unique magic, and the connection between Lainie Banfrey (the Daughter in the series) and the land and its magic. Finishing it off in Granadaia without coming back to what is the heart of the series would be an unsatisfactory ending that doesn't fit with what the series is about. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the events in Granadaia are the leadup to the climactic events, and not the actual climax themselves. The story has to come back to the Wildings, to the threats to the land and the people that have been building up through all the other books, and to the real significance of Lainie's unique power and her relationship to the land, and also integrate Silas fully into that relationship, in order to tie everything together and bring the story to a meaningful and satisfying conclusion.
As I thought this through, I thought that maybe the Granadaia part and the return to the Wildings part could just be two halves of the same book. But the more I developed the storyline, the more it became clear that the two halves of the book are also two totally different story lines, each with its own central story problem, instigating events, development, and conclusion. I aso realized that if the book was going to be an equivalent length with the previous books in the series, I was going to have to skim over or leave out a lot of important stuff, or else the book was going to be twice as long as the other books.
Therefore, the obvious answer, which waited for that brainless and bored moment of brushing my teeth to hit me upside the head, is to split "Book 5" into two books.
I think I'm about ready to start writing the last two books. As with the other books so far in the series, there's this feeling of jumping into the deep end without really knowing how deep the water is or what's waiting in there. I know where the books start, and where they end, and have a general idea of what happens in between, but very few of the details are clear. But so far it's worked out well, so I just have to make that leap of faith two more times. I think I'll just write straight through, without stopping between books 5 and 6, since I'd already been planning them as a single unit. With hard work and a minimum of interruptions, I hope to finish the drafts of both books by October.
So, yay! More time with Silas and Lainie! And none of this is even taking into consideration my idea for a possible follow-up series.
Note on the story blurbs for Daughter of the Wildings: All six are up. I apologize for any cheesiness, especially in the last few. Writing blurbs is hard, especially if you're trying not to give away any spoilers. And I want to stipulate that in my books, suggesting that the hero and heroine end up together is not a spoiler. In addition to being fantasy, my books are also romance, and to be a proper romance (as opposed to more general love story), you have to have the Happily (even if things aren't easy) Ever After. It's expected, as a hallmark of the genre. (Plus I hate unhappy endings.) The question isn't if they end up together, but how.
In the meantime, edits on The Lost Book of Anggird are progressing apace (I'm planning a blog post on the worst writing advice ever and how it nearly killed Lost Book), along with the first major revision of Sarya's Song. Maybe I'll do a post on that too, how I struggled with it for years, then applied some very helpful story-planning techniques, and now have the least-broken first draft I think I've ever written.
The feedback from the test readers on The Lost Book of Anggird is in, and it's awesome. Lots of love for the book, and also some good suggestions for making it even better. So I'm mulling all that over, and in the meantime I'm going full-in on finishing up revisions on Chosen of Azara and getting it ready for release in June.
Chosen of Azara is set in a world that I started making up years ago. I don't remember how long ago, and I don't think Chosen is even the first story I set in that world. "A Cure for Nel," one of the stories in the collection of the same name, is set in the same world, as are the two longer short stories I wrote in March and some other unfinished novels/story fragments.
I do remember how I started developing this world. I was bored one day, so I bought a box of crayons, the box with 64 different colors and a built-in sharpener. You can buy boxes with even more colors than that now, but at the time that was the deluxe box. Then I got out a big piece of cheap kid's drawing paper and started drawing this landmass. I wanted it to have deserts and hills and mountains and rivers and swampy areas and a large inland sea and all kinds of cool stuff. Mostly, I designed it around Sources, which I imagined as natural features that served as sources of magical power. A Source can be a hill or mountain, a cave, a place where two rivers flow together, a water spout or rocky ocean cove, an ancient tree, a spring or lake, a fjord, or any other kind of distinctive natural feature.
And I named it SourceWorld. Which is descriptive, but not very organic - that is, it doesn't sound like something that the people living there would naturally call it. It's an externally-imposed name. So I got out my word-making-up-fu (checked the word-origins section of my huge old American Heritage dictionary and mixed some stuff from that together with some names I came up with on a fantasy name generator) and ta-daa, Estelend was born.
The idea with magic in Estelend is that naturally-occuring heavenly and earthly magical powers are combined and flow through the Sources. Where the Source is, what kind of natural feature it's located in, and what sort of people gravitate to that Source all affect the kind of power it is, good, not so good, useful for healing or prophecy or other stuff, and so on. Certain people are born with an ability to take in Source-power and use it. Other people who aren't born with the ability can have it forced into them. A very few people are born perfectly attuned to the power of a certain Source, and their lives depend on having constant access to power from that Source. Bringing together a person and a Source that are incompatible, or committing certain acts within a Source (such as bloodshed) can taint or even destroy the Source.
So I started marking in the Sources, and the countries, and figuring out allies and enemies and the different characteristics of the people and places on this huge continent, and how the magic works, and stories started to grow. I don't know if you can really call them a series, since they are all stand-alone, with different characters in different places, but they definitely go together. Chosen of Azara was posted on an old website I had for many years, and now I'm excited to be able to write and share more of the stories that my world of Estelend has given birth to. (Kanyev the Source-Fixer has been waiting impatiently for his day in the sun for a long time now. I promise, buddy, your time is coming.)
There's a quick introduction to the world of Chosen of Azara, "A Cure for Nel," the tales of Haveshi Yellowcrow and Latan the Scholar, and more. Oh, and if you have a fantasy world, you have to have a map, and here it is. This is an improved drawing I did based on the original, and doctored up in the image editing program I had two computers ago. I don't seem to have the dingbat any more that I was using to mark cities, so as I add more cities I guess I'll have to find something else to mark them with. But that's ok. Better to have a world that continues to grow and develop than to have it become static for lack of a dingbat.
First off today, I'm very pleased to be spotlighted on J.J. DiBenedetto's blog! J.J. also left a very lovely review for Urdaisunia on Goodreads. Go check it out, and also make sure you check out his paranormal suspense "Dream" series.
This just in: I'm also featured on Robin Leigh Morgan's website and blog! Go take a look, and also check out her YA paranormal romance, I Kissed A Ghost.
Some time ago, I promised a post on why there aren't any elves, fairies, or dragons in my stories. The short answer to this question is, because so far I haven't seen any reason to put any in.
The longer, and hopefully more interesting answer is: When I'm reading a novel and come across a character of a fantasy race (elves, fairies, dwarves, etc.) I almost always find myself asking, "Why isn't this character human? What makes this character something besides a human with heightened senses/love of nature/pointy ears/superior attitude or short/has a beard/likes beer/lives underground?" I find humans fascinating. They come in an endless variety of physical types, temperaments, talents, prejudices, emotions, desires, abilities, habitats, backgrounds, beliefs, and so on. I've found enough to write about just with humans as characters (and, ok, gods here and there, but there's good reasons why gods are gods) without adding the artificial differences of designating them as "elves" or "dwarves" or whatever. If there are going to be different races, for me there has to be a significant reason that matters to the story why those characters cannot be any sort of human.
The best example of this I've ever read is the Danae in the Flesh and Spirit/Breath and Bone duology by Carol Berg. The Danae are an elvish/fae-like race with a superficial resemblance to humans. However, everything from their physiology to their ways of interacting with and affecting their world are completely alien. (Although their biology is close enough to allow them to interbreed with humans.) Their stages of growth are marked by increases in magical abilities, and the appearance of really cool glowing blue tattoo-like markings on their bodies. Their way of getting around their world and ours is not limited by things like physical location and distance but relies more on the resemblances between one place and another. Their magic is based on dance, and their dances have a very real effect on their world and the human world. And the list of fundamental things that make the Danae who they are and not human goes on and on. Their very unhumanness (yes, that's a word, I'm a writer and I used it, that makes it a word) is a pivotal point in the story and has a profound effect on the main character.
Another of my favorite examples of the use of fantasy races is in The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams. I read this a number of years ago and don't remember a whole lot about it, but I do remember that the differences between humans and the various fantasy races in the book went a lot deeper than just name, appearances, and general outlook on life.
If I ever write a story where it's essential to have a character that is non-human on a very deep, fundamental level, that has differences from humans that go beyond the wide variety of characteristics that humans already display, then I'll do that. But so far, just plain old humans have been keeping me plenty busy.
But what about dragons? They're clearly not just humans that are lizard-shaped, scaley, have wings, and breathe fire. But a lot of other people have written about dragons, and written about them far better than I ever could, so I don't really feel like that's something I need to push myself to do. If I ever have a story idea that requires a dragon, I'll use a dragon. But so far I haven't.
My favorite stories with dragons? A Wizard of Earthsea and The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin. Great dragons, not at all pets or just dragony humans, but with their own history and way of looking at life and the world. I also enjoyed Song of the Beast, by Carol Berg. (btw, everything Carol Berg writes is awesome. You should read it.) (also btw, an older edition of A Wizard of Earthsea has one of the worst covers I've ever seen. Go check it out if you dare, but remember, what has been seen cannot be un-seen.)
Last time on the Breakfast Challenge, we looked at Professor Roric Rossony from The Lost Book of Anggird. Today we'll see what breakfast is like for the characters in Urdaisunia.
In short, not nearly as luxurious. At one time, the land of Urdaisunia was an agricultural oasis, the Urdaisunians having developed various advanced agricultural techniques including an extensive irrigation system. But now drought and war have put an end to that, and food is in perilously short supply.
The staple foods in the villages along the riverbanks, including Rashali's home village Moon Bend, are lentils and barley (mostly from stores from previous years' crops, since the harvests have been getting worse every year), root vegetables and greens that are native to the desert (because of the water shortage, vegetable gardens can no longer be grown), goat's milk, and chicken eggs. The river villagers' main source of animal protein was always fish, but with the drying up of the rivers, that major component of their diet has disappeared. Every once in a while, the village will butcher a spare goat and eat a small portion of the meat spit-roasted or stewed, but most of it is cured and dried. Goat jerky, basically. The same with chickens: they're more valuable for their eggs than for their meat, but every once in a while a hen too old to lay or a spare rooster will be killed and eaten.
With food in such short supply, the river villagers generally only eat one meal a day. They postpone that one meal as late in the day as they can, so they won't be too hungry to sleep at bedtime. Food supplies are commonly-shared, so food preparation and eating are generally communal activities. In spite of the shortages, the villagers are generous with those who have even less, such as travelers who have eaten their own provisions. They believe it's an offense to the gods to withold even what little they have been given by the favor of the gods.
When Rashali finds herself in unexpectedly comfortable circumstances in the capital city Zir, she is served a meal consisting of grilled fish (the two rivers have been dammed up at Zir, so fish is still available), soft cheese, cold cooked barley dressed with olive oil and herbs, fresh greens, figs, and almond cakes. This is more food than she sees in a week, and she feels guilty at the abundance, thinking of how hungry the people back home in Moon Bend are, but she eats as much of it as she can so as not to offend the gods and the person who provided the meal by wasting it. This is a supper; a breakfast in this situation would consist of cooked barley and/or lentils topped with goat-milk yogurt, barley bread, soft cheese, and figs or grapes. Two large meals a day are served here, one in late morning and the other late in the afternoon. Meals are eaten privately or in a formal family setting.
In another part of the book, Rashali is in an exceptionally well-run rebel camp with good supply lines, including water supplies. Three meals a day are served here, because the days start early and end late and include a lot of military training and other hard work. A typical meal is lentil stew topped with goat-milk yogurt, and the camp also stores hard-baked cakes of barley and lentils.
In Kubiz, the great harbor city, fish is a lot more abundant, of course. Fish stew or grilled fish are eaten at nearly every meal, and Kubiz still has enough food supplies that anyone who can afford it can eat three meals a day. Kubiz is also a very cosmopolitan city, so the food has a lot of international influences, including stir-fry and kebabs. Candy is popular, with makers of almond-paste and honey sweets being common.
I used food in Urdaisunia as a close reflection of the different circumstances and settings the characters find themselves in. In some ways, Urdaisunia is a story of survival, both of individuals and of nations, and food is essential to survival. It was also interesting to do some research into what kinds of food would have been available to the ancient Sumerians. In an earlier version of the book I had the Urdaisunians eating lots of rice, until it occurred to me (duh) that rice cultivation takes a lot of water. Way more water than was ever available. So, goodbye rice, hello barley. I like barley, as it happens, and I also like lentils. I don't think I'd like them as much if that was most of what I had to eat, though.
Camp NaNo report:
4/15 1801 words
4/16 1680 words
Finally, here's a shout-out to Sharon Stevenson, this week's featured writer at the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Writers and Reviewers group on Goodreads!
So, here's a fun thing. Camille LaGuire issued a challenge on her blog: write about your characters at breakfast. (Or, for readers, your favorite characters at breakfast.) She starts off with a post about her young gunslinger couple, Mick and Casey, and what breakfast is like for them. I imagine that breakfast for Silas and Lainie, from Daughter of the Wildings, is probably pretty much the same.
The main character that came to my mind when I read this challenge is Professor Roric Rossony from The Lost Book of Anggird. The Professor has some interesting eating habits, and breakfast plays an important part in the first section of the book. Here's one of my favorite scenes (please remember that this is not the final version; all mistakes and bad writing will be corrected by the time this is ready for release):
(The setup: Professor Rossony and his newly-hired assistant, Perarre, have been at Morning Lecture, a quasi-worship service, and have just arrived at his office/apartment to begin the day's work.)
When they reached the Professor’s third-floor apartment, the Professor asked, “Will you join me for breakfast, Miss Tabrano?”
Professors in this land (the Vorunne Dominion) are a privileged class, and Professor Rossony is one of the elite of the elite. As part of his compensation for his work, he is provided with the best of everything in living quarters and food. This is entirely different from what Perarre is used to, as an Assistant at the University. Her position is roughly equivalent to a post-grad assistantship or research position, which doesn't quite come with the same status and compensation as that of a full and widely-renowned professor. So she's glad to join him for breakfast even if it does mean getting grilled at the same time over what was said during Lecture!
Tea, pastries, and fruit appear in this meal; later on, when Perarre has been consistently in the habit of eating breakfast with the Professor for some time, the meal expands to include bacon and eggs, bread rolls, and even oranges. The Vorunne Dominion includes areas that have the right climate for growing citrus, but because of the limited growing season and the costs in shipping them, oranges are still something of a luxury item. However, nothing is too good or too expensive for one of the Dominion's most renowed Professors.
Professor Rossony is also notable for his extremely fastidious habits (notice the eating the apple with a knife and fork; he eats bacon the same way, too). He has good reasons for having such habits; they're his way of coping with what is later revealed to be a difficult and chaotic childhood and adolescence along with other challenges that he faces. He seeks to maintain absolute control in whatever areas of his life he can to compensate for devastating things that were/are out of his control.
I like the opportunities this scene provided for some interplay between the Professor and Perarre as they get to know each other a little better, how she's chagrined to notice the difference between his fastidious manners and her own more careless style of eating (this contrast carries over to many other areas besides eating), and the fact that the Professor feels no hesitancy to push her, a female, to stretch herself intellectually, and that he offers her the respect of telling her she doesn't have to agree with him. Later on, breakfast becomes an opportunity for Perarre to show her displeasure with some of the Professor's behavior, by declining to join him at the table, and for him to offer an apology (buttering a hard roll for another person can be an act of contrition).
This is just in the first part of the book. Then the Professor delves too deeply into things he shouldn't, and everything goes kablooey (literally?), and then breakfast becomes an entirely different matter, when you're on the run for your life. But it was fun to use the morning meals in the first part of the book as a chance to develop the characters, show what their lives are like at the University, and start to develop their relationship. Maybe it's just me, but I can see just a little bit of the chemistry between Perarre and the Professor starting to bubble up in the scene I quoted here.
Camp NaNo update:
On Friday and Saturday, various issues, including trying to fix a broken printer, dealing with wonky writing software, and the need to do a massive grocery shopping trip, kept my numbers down. Here's the report for the last few days:
4/11 - 1518 words
4/12 - 343 words
4/13 - 753 words
Total word count so far: 13,348/30,000
Today's Camp NaNo output:
1517 words Total: 5234/30,000 words.
Have I mentioned how much fun this series, Daughter of the Wildings, is to write? Aside from the issue of it not wanting to let me plan more than a few scenes or chapters in advance, which is completely different from how I usually write. The setting and the characters are so much fun, and I'm finding myself leaving places where I can write short stories and novellas later on to fill in some gaps. The world needs more second-world fantasy (that is, fantasy set in a world completely unconnected to ours) in a wild west type of setting.
Anyway. I realized I haven't written anything about Urdaisunia lately. It's published, it's out there, and I've moved on to other projects. But I haven't forgotten about it. There's a story behind the writing of Urdaisunia, and here it is.
A long time ago, I wrote my first novel. Like a good little writer, I then found an agent in the Writers Marketplace book at the library, and bundled my novel off to an agent who represented fantasy writers. Then I started my next novel.
There were two seeds for this second novel. One was an image that came into my mind, of a peasant woman, destitute and desperate, facing down three men on horseback who were holding swords over her head. Then one of the men, obviously in charge of the other two, orders them, in a language she doesn't understand, to not kill her.
The other seed was my fascination at the time (well, I still have it) with very ancient civilizations and cultures. Not the Romans and Greeks, those whippersnappers, but even more ancient. And not the Egyptians, because that's been done. I wanted really, really ancient, and something that you didn't see stuff about all the time. Sumeria fit the bill. I read up about the technology and culture developed by the Sumerians, and their literature and mythology, and began developing a world based on that. You can find more details about the Sumerian influences on Urdaisunia in this post. Then I plopped that peasant woman and the three warriors down in that world, and came up with the idea of an ancient, proud civilization in decline and conquered by newcomers, and the gods of that civilization all in an uproar about what to do about it.
I started writing that novel and was having loads of fun with it. In the meantime, I got a response from the literary agency I had contacted, a very nice rejection that made me feel like maybe I would hit the target with the next book. Also in the meantime, though, the word "marketability" had entered my awareness. Whether through reading Writer's Digest magazine, or something in the letter from the agency, or both, I don't remember. But at that point, I realized that I was not only going to have to write something good, I was also going to have to write something that an agent would find marketable and that the agent would be able to convince an editor at a publishing company was marketable.
And then I froze up. I had no idea what someone else was going to think was marketable - I still don't. I don't know if anyone does. All I knew was that I had never seen anything like the novel I was writing on the fantasy shelves at bookstores (pre-Medieval, non-European setting, no wizards and magic, all these gods running around doing their soap opera thing), which said to me that books like that were not considered marketable. I mean, I couldn't be the only person who ever thought of writing something like that.
So I tried to change the story. I stuck some wizard and magic stuff (beyond the small amount that came organically) into the story and tried to make the whole thing with the gods a little less weird, and just tried to make the whole structure of the novel more like that of the fantasy novels I was reading at the time. The more I tried to make the novel "marketable," the bigger mess it turned into, and finally I just gave up - both on the novel and on the idea of trying to get published, since it was now apparent to me that I didn't have a clue about how to write the kinds of things that agents and publishers would want.
This was in about 1991. Fast forward to, oh, 2005, 2006, or so. Those characters - the peasant-rebel woman, the hapless prince, the scheming gods, wouldn't leave me alone. So I dug into my old story files and hauled out my old printouts, gave the first few chapters a quick edit, and started posting them on my old fiction website, with the intent of writing and posting the rest of it one chapter at a time.
How did that work out? About as well as you'd expect it to. I had a mishmash of the different old versions I'd tried writing, plot threads that went nowhere, and no clue how I wanted it to work out at the end. So I chucked the whole idea again.
But those darn characters STILL wouldn't leave me alone. So in, hmm, early 2010, on a creative high after completing my first National Novel Writing Month challenge, I hauled out all my old notes and files and printouts, plopped whatever was salvagable into a Liquid Story Binder project, and patchworked together a complete manuscript from usable old bits and newly-written material. It felt really good to finally reach The End on the novel I'd started nearly twenty years earlier.
There was just one problem, though. It was awful. Between my execrable "high fantasy" narrative style from when I first started writing, and the "let's just get this over with" brain dumps in the new stuff, and the random bits of deleted characters and subplots still lying around, it was a huge mess. I figured that one day I would tackle it and make something out of it, but I had no idea how.
And then I discovered Holly Lisle's How To Revise Your Novel online course. It sounded good, and I was gearing up to dive into the world of self-publishing and wanted to get the editorial skills to be able to make my books as good as I could, so I signed up. The project I chose to do the course with was that thrice-abandoned mess, Urdaisunia. I figured if the method taught in the course could make something readable out of that thing, then it could work on any book.
The course has five months worth of lessons, but it took me longer than that to get all the way through all the work. It was hard - just reading my rough draft made my eyeballs bleed at times, and I had to dig down really deep to find the really cool story that lay buried far beneath the surface. But I did it, I tore that thing apart, pulled out and dusted off what was good and got rid of the bad, and put it all back together again. When I finally finished the first revision, I sent my vastly improved story out to some friends who bravely agreed to test-read it for me, did another big revision based on their feedback and some more ideas I'd had about the story, and then, when all that was done, realized I had a novel I was proud of.
And, well, the rest is history. I did the final edits, formatted it, and now that story I abandoned long ago as being a hopeless cause is now out there, on Amazon and in paperback and everything (in theory, you can even go to your favorite bricks&mortar bookstore and special-order it). It's an incredible feeling.
And Rashali and Eruz and all those bickering gods are much, much happier with me now.
So I went and did my civic duty on Tuesday. I got put on the short list for a jury, but in the end wasn't selected for the actual jury. Which was just as well, since my chronic fatigue syndrome would make it extremely difficult to serve on even a three-day trial, which this one was. But I was also a little disappointed, since it seemed like an interesting case.
One thing about jury duty is there are lots of stories to be found there. The pool of people summoned to jury duty represents all different ages and walks of life. If you like to people-watch, that's a great place to do it. How do people come dressed - casual or all dressed up? What do they bring with them to pass the time? What's their attitude about being there? And what are the "why's" behind all those things?
And that's just in the waiting room. Once you get to the courtroom, there are more stories. What's going on with the case? For this one, it was a young woman who was a passenger in a car where a quantity of drugs for sale was found. Did she have anything to do with it, or was it the other person, the driver, who was responsible for the drugs? It would have been interesting to hear the evidence on that.
The stories weren't just limited to the person on trial. The prosecuting attorney was blind; she even had her guide dog in the courtroom to guide her up to the judge's bench when one of the prospective jurors wanted to answer a question in private. My husband and I got married after his first year of law school, and I can tell you that getting through law school and taking the bar exam and then practicing law requires a mind-boggling amount of reading and writing. This attorney was making notes with a Braille tool, and I had to wonder how diificult it must have been for her to successfully get through school and pass the bar and then function in this job, and what it was that drove her to tackle all these hardships and challenges and make it to where she was.
On the defense side, one of the defense attorneys was a young woman from a small town (she mentioned it because a few of the prospective jurors were from the same small town, and she wanted to make sure none of them knew her) and from an ethnic background that tends to be poor and under-educated. What made her decide to become a lawyer, and what drove her to overcome the challenges she might have faced to get to that courtroom?
Then, as I was thinking about those two women, I realized that two of my female characters, Perarre from The Lost Book of Anggird and Sarya from Sarya's Song are women who have worked their way into academically challenging professions despite great odds against them. So that seems to be a theme that I'm drawn to.
And then there were the prospective jurors. We each had to give a short biographical statement about ourselves. Everyone's life is different, and everyone's life has something unique and interesting about it. Careers, educational background, family situations, interests - no two people had the same combination of things. One thing they asked was what bumper stickers we have on our cars. I was surprised that almost no one had bumper stickers, and the few who did had something completely innocuous (like me; my only bumper sticker is for my college alumni association). I was also surprised that more than one person had a son in prison. Those people did not make it onto the final jury. You could hear the emotion in their voices as they answered the question if you have a friend or family member in jail. That must be an incredibly heartbreaking thing to go through.
They also asked if we have previous experience on a jury, what kind of case, and what the verdict was. I was on the jury once in a robbery case, and we returned a guilty verdict. (The evidence was clear, but it was incredibly hard to pass a judgment on someone which meant that he would have to go to prison.) I'm guessing that that's why they didn't put me on the jury; defense attorneys probably don't like that.
So that was my day of jury duty. Going by how I feel today, two days later, I should probably try to get a medical exemption next time I'm summoned. But it was definitely worthwhile, both for knowing that I was fulfilling my civic responsibility, and for the nourishment for my writer's brain.
No Camp NaNo word count on Tuesday, obviously. Yesterday I only got 848.
Total word count: 2357/30,000
And I kind of liked this line from yesterday's output (remember this is raw and unedited, fresh from my brain):
Being found out as a mage was bad enough; being found out as a mage who cheated at cards would entitle that mage to additional gruesome variations on the standard hanging.
So, back to work now. Planning to write a good big chunk on that Camp NaNo novel today, and continue progress on the revision of Chosen of Azara. It needs more work that I had thought, so the release date might be getting pushed back to June. I'll see how it goes when I get to the parts that need major rewriting.
Wrote 1486 words today, to replace what I lost last night and finish up that chapter. While I was thinking through this chapter today, my muse bopped me on the head with a realization: One of the characters in this story is also a character from another unfinished story. I had started that story and then realized I had no idea where it was going or what would happen to the main character. Well, now I know - she ends up in this story. So now I can write that other story as a prequel to this one. I love it when things just fall into place like that.
I'm looking at three weeks between now and the start of Camp NaNoWriMo, and taking Dean Wesley Smith's advice to produce new words every day more to heart, and wanting to produce more short stories to post for free here and then later to package into collections and sell. So I've got ideas for some weird (fantasy/fantasy-ish) super-short/flash fiction, and I'm looking through old notes and story fragments, and what happens? One fragment, just a couple of paragraphs and a few lines of dialogue, decides to morph into a novella set in my Estelend world and loosely connected to Chosen of Azara.
And now I'm going, AAAHHH! what to write! what to write!! There are eighteen days from today to the start of Camp NaNo (excluding Sundays, which I take off from writing) and including today and March 25th, my jury duty day (hopefully I can get some writing done while I'm hanging out in the jury waiting room, and hopefully I don't get rescheduled to sometime in April). At a minimum of a thousand words a day, that's eighteen thousand words. Figure an average of 1500 words for each of my super-short stories, so that's 4500 words, leaves 13,500 words for the novella. Not sure that's quite enough, but if I up my word count to 1500 a day (also very doable) that'll leave me with 22,500 words for the novella, to write before April.
Can I do it?
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