Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Peek at the Process: Part II

Thanks for coming back! Of course, if you’re not “back,” but just joining me, here’s what you missed. On Tuesday, I decided to post the first part of a blog chain that gives a little insight to what us emerging authors are working on, how we work on it, and where we’re headed. Without further preface, here’s the continuation of that post.

Why fantasy—and where’s the “epic?”
My obsession with castles and creatures is an inescapable passion woven into the fiber of my being from as long as I can remember. Some will argue that medieval-style fantasy is warmed-over, but I disagree. I truly believe that it is a niche that resonates with enough lovers of the genre to justify writing it.

I tend to write “tight” to my characters in terms of plot because I don’t have a highly political mind. In order to write with the breadth of my current favorite author, (Brandon Sanderson) I think you need to have a greater grasp of and passion for political intrigue, and that’s just not who I am. Not that I won’t stretch that direction, because I think it will make my worldbuilding stronger, but my wiring is innately feminine in the aspect of wanting to focus in on individuals and their personal experience as the outside world messes with their plans and passions. There’s not much about me that’s terribly feminine, but I can recognize this tendency as likely tied to my chromosomes.

How I go about it…writing
My writing process, as much as I would like to say it is consistent, is not. It’s not that I’m drifting around, waiting for the muse to drop in. (Because I personally believe that it a mentality that locks many writers into the “never finished a manuscript” category.) My inconsistency has more to do with having too many pots on the stove at once, and sadly, writing lives on the back burners on a periodic basis. Realm Makers conference coordination has a lot of people wrapped up in it, so you can’t just let that sit off to the side. Writing, on the other hand, only involves me, since I’m in book-by-book contracts. It’s easier to put off the personal projects than to keep others waiting, at least for me.

All that to say, when I start a book, I have a character concept in mind, and I have a general idea what I want the character to accomplish externally. From that, I devise the general concept of what I want the character to experience internally. From there, I write from the seat of my pants, letting one thing lead to another in the plot. Throughout the drafting process, I tend to “plant” a lot of material that I may or may not “pay off” later. If I find a use for the plant, it stays in the book when I start to revise. If there was no satisfying “pay off” that comes in later (and by pay off, I mean a way to tie the element into a game-changing later event) the plant goes to the cutting room floor. I take this concept from my analysis of early PIXAR films. If you watch films like Toy Story or Monsters Inc., you see that every little element, seemingly thrown in as a whim early in the film, comes into play later in a plot-significant way. I love this method of “no waste” storytelling, and I hope I’m getting better at it as I go.

Once the book is done to the best of my perception, it goes through the wringer with my crit partner, then gets anywhere from 2 to 7 passes of more editing, then goes to Beta readers for that final gut check of “Do you like this?” If I run into stuff my crit partner and I didn’t see (because we are getting to know each other well enough that sometimes we make similar story assumptions), I fix that, and then the hunt for a publishing home begins.

Future plans
Originally, I had planned for Curse Reiver to be the second book in a trilogy, whose third book offered only the barest skeleton of what I thought might happen. But as I wrote through CR, I developed some pretty dramatic, high stakes, about midway through the book, tied to a plot element that was only a stop along the way to Danae’s ultimate goal, to free her father. So when I got to her return home, I faced a roadblock. The ending scene of the book was far too “small,” in proportion to the rest of the book’s conflicts.

The solution? Take the central conflict—the only element I had developed for book III—and use it for the climactic event in this book. What I thought was going to be a 90K word novel grew to more like 140k, but you know what? That feels about right to me in terms of story. There’s no rule that says it has to be a trilogy. The duology should be able to tie up most of the loose ends, and now I just have to decide if I should throw an epilogue onto the tale to answer a lingering question or two about Danae’s long-term future.
Eh, I’ll probably write it and let the critiquers tell me if I should drop it. They’re great for judging outcry about what you left out or shouldn’t have put in.

So there you have it, my extended version of the “My Process” blog hop. I hope this gave you some ideas on how you might tackle your own inspiration!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Peek at the Process: Part I

For as many writers as you’ll find in within shouting distance, you’ll find just as many creative processes. It’s amazing to me, how although we’re all striving for the same end (a tightly-crafted story) that we all attack that behemoth task on different fronts. So, as suggested by Kat Heckenbach, I thought I’d jump into the stream of authors who are lately discussing their current projects and a little about how they are tackling them. Be sure to check out Kat’s post on the subject and leave a comment there..since after all, we writers live for feedback, even if it also scares us to death.

Since, true to form, this post grew to mammoth proportions, I am going to post this in two parts. Look for the second half on Thursday, in which I will tag the next author’s blog who will be tackling this project.

What I’m working on:
As lovely as this is, I'm glad I can type on a computer...
Currently, I have a novel that will serve as the sequel to Curse Bearer in the works. The working title for this project is Curse Reiver, but as we all know, titles have a way of shifting around right up to the point the cover is finished, so I’m holding this title with a light grip.

Curse Reiver, the second book of The Risen Age Archive continues the story of Danae Baledric and her desperate journey to return to her father in time to cast off a curse that destines him for an agonizing future of magical bondage. It’s a rollicking story that drives Danae and her friends through subterranean caverns populated by mermaids, through gladiatorial battles, behind the walls of a siege, and over land and sea back to Danae’s beleaguered homeland. Friendships struggle to ford the buffeting waters of treachery, and characters face the darkest corners of their souls.

How my work is different:
It’s taken me a while to really pigeonhole where my work fits, and I think that is where it stands out. I write character-oriented, clean, new adult fantasy. Though the world is often at stake, the scope of my stories tends to focus specifically on my protagonists’ individual contributions to the greater whole, and upon their personal transformations as a result of their adventures. Readers generally only see the sweep of world history as it touches my protagonists specifically.

As for audience, my characters fall into the “new adult” range—away from their home and families of origin, but not yet established in the adult world. But unlike much of the new adult fare out there, plot elements that involve sexual exploration are absent.  An occasional kiss, whether well-meaning or ill-advised, yes. Temptation and struggle? Some. While human chemistry is a facet of pretty much all stages of life from adolescence on, I don’t find sexual experience to be the cornerstone of self awareness that so many would paint it to be. Plus, I think it’s most tactful to keep what happens behind closed doors…well, behind closed doors, even in deep-third POV fiction. Observing other people’s (even fictional people’s) intimate encounters is distasteful to me. It’s a personal conviction of mine that many will disagree with, and that’s ok. It’s how I intend to roll no matter what.

So concludes part I of this blog chain. Please join me again on Thursday, and in the meantime, check out Kat Heckenbach’s blog, since she’s the one who prompted me to participate, even though I am not typically a bandwagony person. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chapter Samples: The Sequel to Curse Bearer

In a few days, I will be diving back into the final few-thousand words that will wrap up the second book in The Risen Age archive. I admit, this book has been too long in coming, but due to a 6 week stint in set design for my husband's/kids' school, I took a little sabbatical from writing, which has kept this draft from being truly finished. (Oh, and I had to get the Realm Makers conference registration live, which wasn't a tiny task.) I hope to amend the book's unfinished nature by mid April. 

In the meantime, I think I'll post a couple of sample chapters for your perusal. I heartily invite your comments. After all, this is the stage of the game where I can make things right if you think they're off to a bad start!

Curse Reiver (working title)
Book II of The Risen Age Archive

(Yes, there's a prologue. The POV character and location are separate from the main action of the story, so I stand stalwartly by its necessity.)

To be cast into his own fires of sacrifice by an Elgadrim Knight, even by an elf, was insulting enough. But by a simple girl? Ba-al Zechmaat roared in wordless indignation.

The fiend high priest of Queldurik disentangled himself from a last loop of chain around his foot. Despite his broken wing’s searing protests, he slammed his talons into the wall and sent chips of obsidian flying in a pelting spray. He hauled his weight, one shuddering arm length at a time, away from the bottom of the sacrifice pit that ringed the altar platform. The flames that roared along the pit’s floor licked over his flesh, familiar, but comfortless. Only the strain of the climb dominated Ba-al Zechmaat’s notice. Plagues upon the weaknesses I endure while I linger on this mortal plane.

A temple guard wearing a steel skull mask peered over the edge of the pit. “Your Eminence, can we assist you?”

Even from a full story below, Ba-al Zechmaat detected the tremor that ran through the guard’s body. “Assist me, you simp? How about this? Find them!”

“With all due respect, my liege…find who?”

Idiot humans and their ceaseless questions. What did the almighty Queldurik see in them?

“Imbecile. The Elgadrim dog and his little decoys,” Zechmaat replied. “Catch the maggot-breathed thieves. Drag them back to me. The strap them to these pitted idols and slow roast them until their flesh falls from their bones.”

A red-robed priest joined the first guard at the pit’s lip. He extended a length of rope and made ready to toss it to Ba-al Zechmaat.

“Don’t bother,” the fiend said. He heaved his way up the final two fathoms of the wall to stand before the human rabble that had begun to assemble in the chamber. Still three more guards scrambled in through the entry, herded toward the cringing assembly at the sacrifice pit’s edge by Zechmaat’s apprentice, Ba-al Hilekar.

With a clawed hand, Zechmaat snatched a handful of the first guard’s robe and lifted the man into the air to address him nose-to-nose. “How is it you did not see, you steaming pile of dung? Was it you who admitted a Knight of the Phoenix to the temple?”

“He…the knight…Your Eminence—he was disguised.” The salty tang of fear emanated from the guard’s flesh.

“And it was your duty to notice such disguises,” Zechmaat snarled. “And even having missed such an obvious intrusion, did not the combat that broke out alert you that something might be amiss?”

The humans licked their lips and let furtive glances flit toward the chamber exit. Hilekar spread his feet and reached for the whip on his belt. The guards stilled and focused on the floor.

“The doors . . .” the ensnared guard said. “We couldn’t open them until just now.”

Zechmaat bristled. “You’re not even worth the fuel it will take to burn you.”

The minor priest stepped forward. “Please, Your Dark Eminence, there is no need for this fury. The infidels did not interrupt any ceremony. Their parlor tricks and pathetic retreat pose no threat to Queldurik’s almighty authority.”

“No need?” Zechmaat flung the guard in a single thrust into the pit behind him.

A thud ended the man’s scream. Those who remained at the lip of the chasm stood wide-eyed as the stench of charring flesh filled the air.

“Are you blind to what’s gone?” the fiend ripped the empty scabbard from his back and dashed it to the floor.

The crowd hemmed between Zechmaat and Hilekar flinched away from the clatter—except the priest. He alone wore an expression of steely skepticism. Zechmaat drew a breath and quieted his rage. He extended his awareness and probed stealthily into the priest’s mind.

The sword you shouldn’t have been wearing in the first place, you swaggering . . . ?

Zechmaat belted the priest with a balled fist before the man had time to blink. He crumpled to the black stone floor with a misshapen cheekbone, a blank stare, and blood flowing from his ear.

“Hilekar!” the fiend bellowed. “If this fool regains consciousness, flay him.” He paced and rubbed his tense brow for a few strides. “Deploy hounds. Perform Incantations of Seeing on the falcons—it won’t be long before we know which way they’ve run.”

“Will you pursue them yourself, O Great One?” Hilekar asked.

“No, I dare not leave the Almighty’s temple un-guarded at such a time as this, since it seems I am flooded with incompetent men,” Zechmaat snapped. “As soon as we have a lead on the thieves’ location, you will lead the group to capture them. Now out!”

Ba-al Zechmaat thrust a clawed forefinger toward the door.

He groaned though his teeth while the temple servants tripped over one another in retreat. If the heady little girl from Radromir thought she had any chance of crossing Queldurik’s lieutenant and still making it back to her precious Papa in time, how bitter she would soon find her delusion.

Chapter 1

Danae Baledric’s glance swept the distant tundra horizon, but to her admittedly untrained eye, it remained empty. The deepening twilight was treacherous. She did not trust it for candor about horsemen that were likely sweeping the barren expanse in search of her. In search of the Sword.