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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

March Mayhem continues! I’m hosting interviews with characters from some of the books you can win when you enter the giveaway (you’ve done that, right?), starting with Yalira, the heroine of Kat Parrish’s Bride of the Midnight King.

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kat-parrishYala_lgYalira de Braxis, the heroine of Bride of the Midnight King and its sequel, Daughter of the Midnight King, was the natural daughter of Lexander de Braxis, a merchant who served on the vampire King Idrax’s Sunlight Council. She was orphaned early in life and brought up by her stepmother Tamare in the company of her stepsisters Resa and Rilla, working in Tamare’s gambling club, The House of Chaos and Chance. Yala, as her friends call her, never expected her life to take the turn it did, but that’s chaos and chance for you.

This interview with Yalira was conducted after the events of The Bride of the Midnight King, so her answers may contain mild spoilers.

 

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

 As you know, I live in the Shadow Palace now and sleep during the day, so it would have to be a night without responsibilities. The truth is, I enjoy my responsibilities and my days are balanced between duty and pleasure so that I never feel over-burdened by one and never get bored by the other.

 

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? What are you most proud of about your life?

 I should like to come back as a person in the far future when it will be possible to travel not just to other realms but also to whatever realms lie among the stars. When I was a little girl, my father would point out the pictures in the sky and tell me stories about the stars and I would wonder—what kind of marvelous creatures live on the stars?

I hope at the end of my life I’ll be able to look back at things I’ve done that have made Eindar a better place for all her citizens, human and vampire alike. I’m well aware of my position and the power that position gives me to effect change. I see my role as someone who can unite the factions that are threatening the peace and happiness of Eindar’s people.

 

What was the happiest time of your life?

Was? The happiest time of my life is the present. (more…)

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March Mayhem continues! Don’t forget to head over to Joanne Renaud’s blog to sign up to win a bunch of cool freebies: books, art, and more–just click the banner!

The awesome Katherine Tomlinson interviewed me about all kinds of stuff and whatnot over at her blog, Kattomic Energy. Here’s a snip that will probably get grammar nerds worldwide up in arms:

AP or Chicago Manual of Style?

AP ALL THE WAY. And yes, I deplore the Oxford comma (but I’ll still use it if it’s truly, absolutely and entirely necessary)!

Head over to the link to get the full scoop, and check out the rest of Katherine’s blog while you’re there.

And seriously, guys. The Oxford comma? It’s useful sometimes, sure, but how often is it actually necessary?

 

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I haven’t touched Steel Butterfly: Part One since I sent it off to the Awesome Team Beta a couple of months ago (in fact I haven’t written a word of fiction since I typed The End), but that was the plan. I wanted to let it sit and not do too much conscious thinking about it until I was ready to dig into revisions–and I knew (or felt, or vaguely apprehended–more likely, given my usual MO) it would need revisions a-plenty.

My feeling or vague apprehension is borne out by initial reports from the betas: the beginning is rough, the world-building sketchy, and the main character not as likeable as I had fondly imagined. So, that’s okay; now I know what I need to fix. But I’m not going to dive in just yet (for one thing, a couple members of the expeditionary force have yet to report back), for another I’ve got art deadlines, and for a third I want to give it time to cook in my subconscious before I bring it back to the fore.

I don’t know how other authors work, but for me a lot of the thinking about my stories goes on in the background while I’m doing other stuff. It’s like soup: you chuck in the ingredients, turn on the fire, and then let everything simmer and meld. Sometimes you might chuck in a couple extra things while it’s cooking, to make sure you’ve got the balance of flavors right, but mostly you just leave it alone.

What that means in practical writing terms is working on other stuff entirely, taking notes when a concrete idea bubbles to the top of my brain, and just generally being on the alert for neat ideas I can toss into the soup. I’m reading a book called Samurai Sketches (tales of samurai from the end of the Edo period) that is happily congruent with some of my needs (plus it’s just interesting!), and a blog post about Final Fantasy IX helped bring some of my world-building thoughts into better focus. That doesn’t mean my soup is going to be Final Fantasy-flavored*, or have big chunks of samurai in it (how far can we take this metaphor?), but storytellers are omnivoracious, and every thought, word, experience, goes into the soup one way or another.

The omnivoracious author on the hunt for more ingredients...

The omnivoracious author on the hunt for more ingredients…


 

*It doesn’t mean it’s not going to be Final Fantasy-flavored either, given what a tight grip FF4 still has on my imagination.

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FINISHED*

*for certain values of finished

*for certain values of “finished.” There’s work yet to be done, sanding down the edges, polishing the grain, that kind of thing. 155K is a lot of words! I bet I can cut at least fifteen thousand of them. But. But, but, but! The thing, the thing that I thought I would never get done, is done!

Be still my heart.

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Now that I am at last, at last approaching the end of The WIP That Would Not Die, I find myself strangely reluctant to push forward. Daily word counts have been in the tens instead of the hundreds since I embarked on Chapter 32 (of 33) (I think). Part of the problem is of course the unsettled state of the house, rugs pulled out, furniture where it should not be, no furniture where it should be, books and towels and papers all higgeldy-piggeldy … but the other part is … me. Why should this be? Why should finishing be scary?

It’s a great thumping big word, though, “finished,” and I’ve been unsteadily hacking my way towards the end of this maze for more years than I care to admit. How can you ever do this professionally, I chide myself, if it takes you this long to write one thing … and then you balk at the end?

image

A cookie if you can read my scribbles, because I sure can’t!

 

But I am moving forward, if slowly and with inexplicable reluctance. Ten words a day is still better than no words, right? Even if at this rate it’ll take another [really long time] to finish.

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When I’m working on a story, it often helps my writing-brain if the drawing-brain gets in on the act too.  Right now I’m plugging away at an old-fashioned buddy low fantasy adventure tale, in the vein of the pulp authors in the heyday of sword-and-sorcery (I like pulp.  It’s overwrought and over-the-top and fun, never preachy (unless, “Hey, Therns, enslaving people and murdering them is not cool, so quit it” is preaching), and it’s eventful and colorful.  So how do you meld a pulp sensibility with a more modern story-telling style?  Will that even work? Stay tuned), and trying to nail down a design for the main characters keeps me thinking about them even when I’m not actually writing–which, let’s be honest, is 22 out of the 24 hours of the day, most days.

So here is a rough pass at Clover and Bronig*, the heroes of my work-in-progress.  He’s a Viking warrior with a penchant for smashing, she’s a cleric of an unknown god, together they fight crime monsters!  (I’m hoping to submit the story to the latest Sword and Sorceress anthology, deadline soon, so everyone please send me happy story-finishy thoughts.)

Rough pencils--please excuse the mess.

Rough pencils–please excuse the mess.

I had wanted to finish this drawing and color it before today, but oh well.  Maybe next week! 😀  Clover must be standing on a box here, because otherwise she would only stand as tall as his belly-button.  Yes, he is huge and she is tiny; I love that kind of contrast in my main characters, and since they are both warriors, I needed to find other ways to play up their differences.

How about a snippet, while we’re here?  I cut this bit because it set the wrong tone, and because it was taking too long: it’s supposed to be a short story, which means I don’t have a thousand words to spend on the characters walking up to a church.

The Sanctuary of the Queen crouched in the midst of lower buildings, at the end of a tangle of hilly streets, as though lying in wait to pounce. The long, bleak stone plaza fronting its tall red doors gave it plenty of time to overawe the approaching worshipper with its dense black height, its bristle of towers and turrets and scowling gargoyles and its row of wholly extraneous spikes along the peak of its roofline, and the blank eyes of the buildings lining the plaza glared to reinforce any approaching human’s littleness and the sanctuary’s superiority.

Clover, stepping into the plaza from the mouth of a narrow alley, raised her eyes and recoiled, her heel coming down squarely on the top Bronig’s foot.

He grunted. “Easy,” he said, and removed her.

“That church,” Clover declared, “is a bully.”

Bronig said nothing. His silence weighed nearly as much as that of the inimical building glaring them down. Clover twisted round to beam at him.

“Ineed,” she said. “Have we not faced much worse on our journeys? And shall we falter in our divine purpose now? No, indeed!” Back to the sanctuary, she raised her voice and her fist and cried, “We do not fear you!”

The shout rebounded from stone to stone, filling the space between buildings with echoes. With a a rattle of wings, a raft of large black birds launched themselves into scummy sky, screeling. Bronig patted Clover’s head.

“Well,” he said. “Now they definitely know we’re coming.”

She grinned at him, a flash of teeth like a drawn sword. “It is honorable to give one’s foes fair warning,” she said.

He shook his head–but the corner of his mouth twitched a little beneath his moustache.

Their footsteps rang loud against the cobbles–or Clover’s did, her boot heels like the clappers of bells. Bronig by rights should have clanked like a working forge with all the cutlery he had hanging about his person, but not a single dagger rattled in its sheath, and his tread was inaudible beneath all the racket Clover was making. No other humans were visible, in that stony space before the looming sanctuary and between the cramped, inward-leaning buildings, but the sense of being watched was strong. Clover’s shoulders twitched, and her hands dropped to the hilts of her twin swords. Bronig dropped back a few paces behind her, his gaze keen and alert and everywhere.

Under the sanctuary’s shadow, the peak of its roof cleaving the sky, its stained stones straining at their bonds, each eager to be the first to fall on the interlopers. Clover’s toe touched the first step up to the red doors, and she paused, craning up, and the building glared back down. Bronig, passing her, hooked his arm through hers and hauled her up, sure-footed as a mountain ram, unworried as a man traversing his own home.

“I can walk!” Clover protested.

“So do it,” was his unruffled reply.

Halfway up, the tall red doors swung silently outward; a figure stood in the opening, waiting.

 


*I think I’ll leave the story of the origins of these characters for another day, but I should mention that Bronig is somebody else’s creation, and I made sure to get his permission and blessing before snatching up his character and running off with him!

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Before a story (a novel, a movie, a play, a comic book) begins, your main character has lived at least a little, experienced the world, seen and done and felt things that shape who he* is when the action begins. (Unless you want to go the Tristram Shandy route, I suppose, in which case more power to you.) Further, he lives in a world that did not come into being the moment he did (or at least, you have to make the reader believe he does, and that you’re not making it all up as you go along, if making it up as you go is your style), and that world works in a certain way. And you are going to have to convey all of this information to your readers without boring them to tears.

How?

Two much-maligned techniques in fantastic fiction are the prologue and the info-dump, and they’re maligned for good reason: if done badly, they are boring as hell (if hell is boring? But nobody says “boring as Limbo” or “boring as the Greek Underworld”) and make impatient readers** put down your book and move on to something more entertaining. Now, how to make a prologue or an info-dump entertaining might be a good topic for another day (especially as I am not sure how, myself!), but today I’d like to look at a third way, one I don’t see used too often anymore, alas.

Poster-SaranceThe other day I was moved to pick up and reread Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Sarantine Mosaic (an excellent fantasy based on the Byzantine Empire, and one I think everybody should read). Now, this book has a lot of backstory and worldbuilding information that the reader needs quickly, to follow the action of the plot: there’s Imperial politics, chariot racing, religion, a cast of just-about thousands; it truly is epic. Then there’s the main character, Caius Crispus, weighted down with grief and rage springing from recent experiences.

Yet Kay never assaults the reader with the long historical document-style prologue (I think this can work, but you have to be an amazing craftsman to catch both the style of a historical document and the reader’s attention), but cunningly works the needed information into the action of the story. You need to be up to speed on the politics of the Empire? Here, let’s watch a political assassination in progress, and establish the relationship of two main characters while we’re at it. Chariot racing is important, so here’s a young chariot racer observing the fallout of said assassination when all he wants is to be racing. Why is Crispin so angry and sad? How about a conversation with his mentor to establish the facts?

That old saw, “Show, don’t tell,” is key here. Readers’ mileage varies, of course, on how much work they’re willing to put into a story in order to get out needed information; I suppose readers probably exist who would rather just be told, “Crispin is angry and sad because–” But an excellent rule of writing (espoused by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, screenwriters of Pirates of the Caribbean fame) is, “Give your audience 2+2 and make them work out 4 on their own.”

If you are not quite sure how to do that, then you must study! Read books by past masters of their craft and try to puzzle out how they achieved that effect. (Plus reading more books is always good.) It isn’t even necessary, I think, to consciously bend one’s thoughts to the effort; simply absorbing lots and lots of good books may be enough. (I suppose it depends on how analytical a turn of mind you have, or how much you write by instinct and grace.)

What books are good? The books you love, of course. Find them and learn from them.


*Or she, yes, obviously; it’s not misogyny, it’s grammar.

 **Like me. Sorry, guys. Life is too short, and time is too limited, to read boring books.

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