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.

Writing with the Undercover Soundtrack

I met Roz Morris online during my helluo librorum blogging days when her Twitter handle was @dirtywhitecandy and we were in the middle of working on our novels. Roz now goes by @ByRozMorris on Twitter, but that's the only thing that has changed. Her debut My Memories of a Future Life is beginning to garner reviews and her blog posts on writing advice continue to be relevant and witty.

Roz is running a series on her blog called The Undercover Soundtrack, and she graciously asked me to share a little about the soundtrack I used for Miserere. I hope you'll join me today and read about The Undercover Soundtrack for Miserere.

redemption, the Rosa, and dark fantasy at Tartitude

Today I'm being interviewed by a wickedly insightful lady who I have grown to respect and admire. I met Jan some time ago in the blogosphere and though she and I write in completely different genres, we share similar tastes in the themes we like to explore through literature.

So I wasn't surprised when her questions delved deep into Miserere's themes of redemption, heroism, and family-ties.

I hope you'll join me today with Jan O'Hara at her blog Tartitude where I answer her questions about my debut Miserere: An Autumn Tale.

... I think there is a common misconception about fantasy that it’s all about magic and world-building, but fantasy readers crave full-dimensional characters with complex stories. I think that is why George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series is so captivating. He has taken a historical event and warped it into a fantasy setting, but he has also created a vibrant cast of characters ... [READ MORE]

Urban fantasy, or is it? by Alex Bledsoe

Thanks to all the great bloggers who have (and have yet) to participate in my blog tour! I've got a couple more interviews coming up this week, but I thought today, we'd take a break from me and let someone else talk for a while.

My friend Alex Bledsoe, author of the Eddie LaCrosse series and those devilish vampires in Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood, is taking the helm today to talk about urban fantasy and his newest novel, The Hum and the Shiver. I've had a chance to read an ARC of The Hum and the Shiver, and Alex once more shows off his versatile talent by dishing up a new tale that moves like a song on a summer night.

And there is a contest, so be sure you read for your chance to win a copy of The Hum and the Shiver.

For those of you who don't know, Alex grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland and twenty minutes from Nutbush. He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls and mustard, writes before six in the morning and tries to teach his two sons to act like they've been to town before. You can keep up with Alex on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, and read his blog here.

Urban Fantasy, Or Is It?

by

Alex Bledsoe

Elizabeth Bear defines urban fantasy thus: “In urban fantasy you don’t leave the chip shop and go to another world to find the unicorn. Rather, the unicorn shows up at the chip shop and orders the cod.”

But what do you call it if the unicorn has to bring his tacklebox and catch his own cod? Or climb on the tractor and put the weevil spray on his cotton field? What do you call the tropes of urban fantasy if they're no longer urban, but are still contemporary?

This is what I've run into trying to describe my next novel, The Hum and the Shiver, out in September from Tor.

It's set in the modern, contemporary, up-to-the-minute world. There are cars, trucks, cell phones and computers. But the characters are farmers, returning soldiers, and small-town ministers. They may brush up against faery magic, but they do it in the mountains of East Tennessee, not the gritty streets of Chicago or St. Louis.

So what is it?

The obvious inversion, "rural fantasy," seems kind of...blah. "Urban" implies trendy fashion, electronics, fast-paced transportation and the smell of exhaust pipes, which then makes a vivid contrast to "fantasy." "Urban" implies sophistication. "Rural," though, conjures up images of fields, forests and lakes, which are very much the traditional fantasy setting. And you have the same problem with terms such as "agrarian fantasy," "rustic fantasy," or "country fantasy." None of them imply modernity.

There are other synonyms: "pastoral" might work, except that my story has trucks running from highway patrolmen, knives drawn in anger and at least one mention of dangling intestines. "Arcadian" has a nice lilt, but most people wouldn't know what it means; same with "bucolic," which sounds like an advanced form of colic, and believe me, that's nothing anyone wants to experience.

Maybe my process is wrong, though. Is looking for antonyms to "urban" and/or synonyms for "rural" too obvious? Perhaps we need a totally unrelated term that connotes modern, yet rural, reality. Something that says farms, trailers, pickups and railroad crossings.

I like "dirt road." "Dirt" implies the rural location, but "road" carries connotations of modern vehicles. Which gives us the term, "dirt road fantasy."

What do you think? Is "dirt road fantasy" a valid opposite for "urban fantasy"? Will it ever catch on? Or do you have an even better idea?

The best suggestion will win a free signed copy of The Hum and the Shiver.

The contest will end July 24, 2011.

an interview is up at My Bookish Ways

I've got an interview up today with Kristin at My Bookish Ways where I'm talking about Miserere, libraries, and early writing influences among other things ... Cool questions and ANOTHER chance to win a copy of Miserere at Kristin's blog:

I grew up in a rural area where we were within walking distance of nothing. So every Saturday morning, my dad would round all three of us up and drive us into town to the Reidsville Public Library. We’d get there around nine in the morning and stay until the library closed at noon. We were allowed to check out as many books as we liked, and I spent the whole summer reading. I think it was that early exposure to the library that really defined my love of literature. It’s one of the reasons I love libraries so much and see their value to our communities ... [READ MORE]

Rady--Chapter Two by Kacey Condon

Chapter two of Rady is now up! Kacey takes the story I started and puts a really cool spin on Rady. Here's a teaser:

Early morning was the worst time for Jimmy. Even before Grandma was gone, in the last year he had been expected to wake his brother. Granddaddy proved how important that job was early last fall.

“The most important thing you can do is be ready to cut yourself. If you hesitate, there will never be time to make up for it. Now, fold this up like I showed you, and let’s get to it.”

Jimmy took the knife from Granddaddy’s hand and, holding the razor edge away from his body, pressed the tiny button. The snapping sound always made him jump, but his hands moved without thought by now. He pushed the smooth heaviness into his jeans pocket and tried to breathe back the fear. [Read more]

Keep up with Rady in my sidebar. I'll be posting new chapters as they're written ...