building first drafts and cygnet moon

First drafts are very fluid for me--they shift and merge a little at a time as I work through the story. A strong synopsis gives me an excellent road map to use, but all stories shift and merge and change as they go along, primarily due to the growth of the characters.

During the course of a first draft, I find or create various images to help me visualize and describe the characters and their environment; I write scenes that help me define characters and their motives but never make it into the novel. I draw maps, or locate pictures or scenes of different landscapes, and sometimes I find pictures of men or women who make me think of my characters. I keep them on hand for inspiration. Sometimes, I post them to my Tumblr, other times I just save them to my hard drive and pull them up when I need to strengthen my inner vision.

About a week ago, I changed my cover pic on Facebook (and a couple of other places) just for something new. Back during the winter, Robert Dunbar posted a spooky little pic on his Pinterest page that intrigued me. I took the pic and edited it heavily in my photoshop program in order to make it look like a character from my new work in progress, Cygnet Moon.

Several people asked about the picture and a few people speculated that the character was supposed to be evil, but he's not. I'm reposting him here with the excerpt so you can meet Makar's ar'nel with the understanding that all of this might change before the first draft is finished.

This is the first time that I've photoshopped a pic to make a character and I'm really proud of how he turned out, because this is exactly how I imagined Makar's ar'nel to look:

He is a black shadow with wild hair and eyes like nickel. My ar’nel is my magic made manifest, the breath of my spirit. My grandmother’s ar’nel exhibits itself as a great gray swan that follows her like a shade. When she visited me, her ar’nel filled my chambers and enveloped her in a pearl mist. The tapestries undulated like waves and the shields that decorate the walls trembled in her passing.

My ar’nel barely causes the lamp flames to flutter. I glare at him. If he was a great spirit like grandmother’s swan, I could use him to force the guards aside; they would have no choice but to obey my commands. Instead, I am left with this wicked magic that refuses to obey me. He is good for tipping over inkpots and knocking paintings askew but little else.

I've got two short stories to finish, then I am back into Makar's world in Cygnet Moon. If you want to leave a comment, let me know what you do to build your worlds during your first drafts.

a few quick thoughts

A lovely gentleman emailed me on Facebook to ask for a status update on my current novel. His email made me realize I'd been rather lax about the blog. So here, for what it's worth, are a few updates:

  • I'm involved in the final edits of THE GARDEN. Due to the need for a new chapter towards the end of the novel, the dynamics in two subsequent chapters have changed somewhat, so I'm working on the rewrites of those scenes.
  • Another part of wrapping up my final edits includes reading the text out loud for clunky sentences and poor grammar. It's time consuming, but the process helps me catch missing words and/or clumsy phrasing.
  • I'm also finalizing some research on honorifics for Hebrew kings. Yair Goldberg has been invaluable in sending me information, so I should have those details hammered out soon.
  • Speaking of research, I'm working a blog post about the need for research in a novel. I'll keep you posted about that.
  • I'll be talking about Urban Fantasy and Gothic fiction on the newest Mind Meld. Watch SF Signal for updates.

To all my dear friends in New York City and in the northeast: My heart goes out to you in this terrible crisis. Please keep yourselves safe and know that we are thinking of you--and sending whatever aid we can.

Debut Authorpalooza (2012) & Reddit AMA

I am joining Justin at Staffer's Book Review, along with nine other debut authors for a two week long event of guest posts, prizes, and never-before-seen excerpts from our second novels. It is the Debut Authorpalooza 2012!

The following authors have all volunteered to write a blog post and offer up an excerpt:

Mark Lawrence Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns

Kameron Hurley God's War, Infidel, Rapture 

Elspeth Cooper Songs of the Earth, Trinity Rising

Courtney Schafer The Whitefire Crossing, The Tainted City

Stina Leicht Of Blood and Honey, And Blue Skies From Pain

Mazarkis Williams The Emperor's Knife, Knifesworn

Bradley Beaulieu The Winds of Khalakovo, The Straits of Galahesh

Anne Lyle The Alchemist of Souls, Merchant of Dreams

Doug Hulick Among Thieves, Sworn in Steel

And of course, I'll be there with my blog post and the first chapter of The Garden in its entirety.

We are also participating in a giant AMA on Reddit on July 19, 2012. That's right! Ten authors answering your questions on a Reddit AMA. You can read the intro here. I'll post more links as they become available, but your best bet is to watch Staffer's Book Review for all the details.

So when is your favorite author posting? Justin has the complete schedule here.

It all begins today, July 16, and Justin is kicking off the event with Mark Lawrence ...

Women in SF&F at Fantasy Cafe

I have a guest post up today over at the book blog Fantasy Cafe. Kristen has made the entire month of April Women in SF&F month and today is my turn. I talk about honoring your demons and why dark sides are important.

Check out Women in SF&F Month at Fantasy Cafe.

There are Tootsie Rolls ...

Research for Miserere--a bibliography

Several people have asked on different occasions about the research materials that I used for Miserere. If you're interested, you can find these resources under the Research tab at the top of the page. I left journal articles off the list, because they can be difficult to locate; however, most, if not all, of these books are still in print.

Just click Research if you want to see the list.