After three days, I've got 3,173 words written on the Tale of Haveshi Yellowcrow, the prequel to the other story I wrote and also based on an old abandoned idea. A few more days should finish it.
For a long time, I never thought of myself as much of a short-story writer. I had maybe a handful of short stories to go with the fifteen or so novellas and novels I'd written. I just figured that short stories weren't a form that I naturally thought in, or that I was comfortable with.
But now, in about three weeks or so, I'll have written five short stories, two of them from ideas I abandoned a long time ago because I wasn't sure how to spin them out into novel-length. Which just goes to show a few things:
1. Don't define yourself by what you think you can or can't do, or what you think you're naturally suited for. You just might surprise yourself, especially if you try.
2. In the new world of publishing (as Dean Wesley Smith calls it), the length of what we write doesn't have to be defined by the needs of the publishing industry. The size of an ebook isn't subject to the same cost-effectiveness considerations that paper books are (the bigger the book, the more expensive it is to print and the more space it takes up, while with a book that's too small, readers aren't willing to pay enough to cover the production expenses), and print-on-demand allows for printing one or two at a time of odd lengths of books (though there are limits to how short and maybe how long POD books can be, as a practical matter). Ideas that once seemed impossible to write to a marketable length can now be dug up from the depths of the hard drive or the file cabinet, dusted off, and given life in the length that's right for them.
So instead of calling myself a short-story writer or a novel writer, I'm a writer of my ideas, and I write them as short or as long as they need to be.
In other news, if you're on Goodreads, come say howdy at my Goodreads author profile.
One of my favorite writing quotes:
If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison
This is why (or a big reason why) I started writing. There were stories I wanted to read that I couldn't find on the bookshelves, so I decided to write them myself. In the fantasy novels I had read up to that time, wizards never got to fall in love. Or if they did, they never got to do anything about it. Kings and princes and warriors and farmboys-with-destinies, yes, but not wizards. And I thought that was unfair, so I decided to write a novel where a wizard got to have a romantic relationship. That's a little bit of what my very very first ever novel is about, and one day I will dust it off and give it a good revising and editing and set it loose into the world.
On the grander scale of things, what is there that won't be done if you don't do them? What songs won't be sung, pictures painted, blankets knitted, meals cooked, jokes told, smiles brought to someone's face, if you don't do it? Find that something, and do it.
So, yesterday, 1034 words written of a story that didn't exist before, and 1302 words today. I'm halfway through the next-to-last chapter of a story that languished for years as a couple of paragraphs and a few lines of dialogue. In a few more days, it will exist as a whole, new, complete thing (if in need of a good whipping-into-shape). There aren't a lot of things more satisfying than that.
Pre-camp challenge, days -11 and -10. 655 words yesterday, and 1161 words today. Evil conspiracies, a fight, and some serious smooching. :D Why I love writing.
This project might not even get to novella length; it might end up in the neighborhood of very long short story. But this story has been waiting a long time to get told, so I don't think it minds how long or short it is. And there are no length requirements in self-publishing as there are in conventional publishing. Stories can be as short or long as they need to be. An awkward length no longer needs to be a reason for a story to not get written and published, and stories no longer need to be cut down or padded out to meet some arbitrary length guideline.
This is a good thing.
The relationship between an author and their characters can be surprisingly complicated. It isn't just a matter of making up a name, age, and gender, plugging in a few personality traits, and then making them do what you want. No, when you've done it right, the character actually takes on a life of his/her own.
Usually this is a good thing, but not always.
So I'm working on the draft of book 2 of the Daughter of the Wildings series. Silas Vendine is one of my favorite characters ever, but, well, things have not been all bunnies and rainbows.
Sometimes a character is smarter than you. This happened the other day. Silas is supposed to consider some facts, come to a conclusion, and then embark on a course of action. Seems easy, right? Well, he got through the considering all the facts part, then came to a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CONCLUSION from the one in the story outline! And to make things even worse, it was a much more logical conclusion than the one I wanted him to come to!
In short, my character had seen something that I had completely missed. Panic ensued - was I going to have to trash my whole outline and start over again? I calmed myself down and worked it through, and happily realized that things can still proceed as planned, just from a different (and much more interesting) angle. So, ok. Good boy, Silas.
Then yesterday, Silas is on the trail of a bad guy, and can't find a sign of him anywhere. I'm going, "What do you MEAN you can't find anything? YOU'RE the big-time bounty hunter!" and Silas is going, "Um, nope nope, can't do that, nope." (Imagine Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome Bounty Hunter saying this in the best Goofy voice you can think of. That's what it was like.) So I slogged through my 2000-word quota for the day, desperately trying to think of good reasons why Mr. Big-Time Bounty Hunter is clueless (remember, he's not just an awesome bounty hunter, he's a MAGICAL awesome bounty hunter), then when I finally finish for the day he goes, "Ha ha, just joking, I picked up on something way back there, let's go back three days and start all over again."
I don't like to kill off major characters, but sometimes it's tempting.
The writing session today started with evaluating how much of yesterday's hard-won word count can be salvaged after this revelation from Silas that he actually knew what he was doing all along, and fortunately the damage isn't too bad. Just a matter of deleting or re-writing a few paragraphs, and it's fixed and we can move on.
So, Silas, buddy, you get a reprieve this time. But watch youself after this. *evil grin*
In other news, A Cure for Nel, and Other Stories, is now available for Kindle on Amazon. The regular price is only $0.99!
Finally, I'll leave you with my Daughter of the Wildings mood music:
Danger Days, by My Chemical Romance, with just a dash of Green Day, Dire Straits, Social Distortion, and Muse.
(Just a note: it seems kind of egotistical to write these musings about what my writing is like. My justification is, I'm an unknown quantity, and I hope that if readers have some idea what to expect from my books, they'll be more likely to give them a try. Or maybe it's just ego :D )
So, on the sidebar here, my stories are described as "dark-edged." What does that mean? Horror? Occult? Grimdark (that is, life sucks, the bad guys win, and everyone else dies)?
Nope, that's not it. I like romance, happy endings, and fluffy rainbow bunnies (aren't they cute?) as much as, or maybe even more than, anyone else. But, as a scripture says, "It must needs be that there is an opposition in all things." How can you fully appreciate joy if you've never felt sorrow, or safety if you've never been in danger? Good unopposed by evil loses its significance, and life in the face of death is more precious and meaningful. Nobility and selflessness in the face of evil and greed mean more; love, honor, and integrity are at war with lust, deviousness, and expediency, and prove in the end, sometimes after a long struggle, to be more rewarding.
So I place the characters in my books in situations where they have to face the darkness, both in the world and within themselves, and make difficult choices. Death, loss, betrayal, madness, pain, hardship, hatred, abuse, deprivation, sorrow, and temptation are all things they have to deal with. Sometimes they make the right choices for the wrong reasons, sometimes they make the wrong choices for the right reasons, sometimes they make the right choices for the right reasons even though it's hard and things still don't work out, and, in the face of pain, loss, discouragement, despair, and temptation, they have to reaffirm their commitment to what they believe is right.
Don't despair, though; like I said, I love happy endings. Or at least, hopeful-for-now endings. And those endings are more satisfying when the characters have earned them. They are forced to learn and grow and discover what kind of men and women they really are and can be; they pass through the fire and come out stronger and better. The darker the tunnel, the brighter the light at the end of it.
(Image credit: Expell-HUN, stock.xchang)
So, why does a fantasy writer have a photo of a desert as the header image on her blog? (Gorgeous photo, isn't it? It's of Wadi Rum, or the Valley of the Moon, in Jordan. The photographer, whose work can be seen at stock.xchng, has taken photos of deserts all over the world.) [Update: since replaced with a new picture, but still of the desert.] Where's the enchanted forest, the elves and dragons and fairies?
I've lived almost my whole life in a desert area, and have a love/hate relationship with the desert. On the one hand, I love green and trees and rivers with actual water in them and seasons, and I hate the heat. Hate, hate, hate it. On the other hand, there are green and trees and water and season in the desert, they're just a lot more subtle, and you have to learn how to see them. The desert can be spectacularly beautiful, or spectacularly ugly, at first glance, but as you observe it more, you uncover more layers and depths. Things are hidden here, buried, waiting until conditions are right to come out in the open. We may not get spectacular fall foliage (though if you're down by the wash, you'll see some beautiful yellow cottonwoods), but you can tell it's autumn by the color of the light on the mountains.
Though the desert might look barren, it's actually teeming with unseen layers of life. Plants and animals have adapted to the unforgiving conditions, to take in what's available when it's available and conserve as much as they can, to defend themelves, to wait patiently through the heat and drought until the cool of evening, or the cool of winter, or the rainy season, to come out and show themelves. Humans, also, have managed to survive in the desert for thousands of years. Some civilizations still exist, others lasted for hundreds or thousands of years and then died out or suddenly disappeared.
The desert has secrets, and power, and history, and beauty, which unfold themselves to those who are open to seeing it. Desert scenery varies widely, from endless stretches of sand to thick growths of cacti, desert trees, and wildflowers. The challenges it presents for survival are unique, and the cultures that grow from it are uniquely adapted to the demands of life in the harsh conditions. When you look at it that way, what more magical setting could there be for fantasy? Or one so rich in possibilities? But it doesn't seem to be all that common in fantasy novels, perhaps because a lot of fantasy is still based on a medieval-Europe-type setting. This isn't univerally true, though, and seems to be changing more in recent years. A few novels that I can think of right off hand that take place, at least in part, in a desert setting are The Tombs of Atuan (Book 2 of the Earthsea series) by Ursula K. Leguin (one of my childhood favorites), Empress (Book 1 of the Godspeaker Trilogy) by Karen Miller, and two of the four novels I've read so far in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson: Deadhouse Gates and House of Chains.
In my own writing, I also frequently use desert settings. Urdaisunia is entirely set in a desert land, and significant events in Chosen of Azara and The Lost Book of Anggird also take place in desert areas. I can't envision these events taking place in any other environment. There's just something about them that demands the harsh environment and layers of mystery of the desert. Although not all of my novels feature desert settings, if I had to think of a landscape that most nearly represented my writing, it would be the desert.
Okay. So what about the elves, fairies, and dragons?
Well, for some reason, they never seem to make it into my novels. But that's another blog post for another time.
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