all the things ... and a snippet from Cygnet Moon

The joy of having a writing partner (or group) is that I am on task to finish certain projects within a specified period of time. My writing partner and I are old friends, and I am so very fortunate that she is in my life.

We meet every two weeks and we are determined to have at least one chapter ready to be read. On the weeks that we do not meet, we touch base via email and describe what we've been doing. Most people think that writers write and that is all that writers do. However, part of her list included organizing her notes and outlining where she wants her chapter to go. My list included marketing (revamping the web site, setting up a profile on BookLikes, and working on a guest post for Bastard Books), writing chapter three of Cygnet Moon, and world-building.

World-building this week included coming up with animals to represent certain hours such as in the Chinese zodiac. I want to do something similar with Cygnet Moon, but I wanted to change the animals so that they all were birds. So my hours look like this:

Chinese zodiac

Hours

Cygnet zodiac

Rat

23:00 – 00:59

Heron

Ox

1:00 – 02:59

Stork

Tiger

03:00 – 04:59

Swan

Rabbit

05:00 – 06:59

Grouse

Dragon

07:00 – 08:59

Dragon

Snake

09:00 – 10:59

Crane

Horse

11:00 – 12:59

Phoenix

Goat

13:00 – 14:59

Gull

Monkey

15:00 – 16:59

Osprey

Rooster

17:00 – 18:59

Rooster

Dog

19:00 – 20:59

Dove

Pig

21:00 – 22:59

Swift

 

These are all fairly arbitrary right now. I didn't really put a lot of thought into why I chose this bird or that one, it was more like scrolling through a list and seeing what felt right. I don't let myself become too hung up with minor details during the zero draft portion of the story. What I have created is what I like to call "place holders." These are details that may or may not change, but they give me the ability to achieve the desired mood while filling in the broader strokes of the story itself.

So that is what I did with my week of writing.

Oh. And I've almost finished chapter three of Cygnet Moon, which is turning into a very dark fairy tale. I'll leave you with a teensy snippet:

“Makar,” Mother whispered my name. A thin line of salvia trailed from her bottom lip to the rim of the cup. “I feel as if he is here.”

Fear hardened around my heart.

Balian gestured to the guards with her staff. “Search the room! Seize him!”

Mother raised her head. “Be still!” Her voice emitted a shrill note I’d never heard her use before.

Balian seemed to shrink inside her voluminous robes.

“They will not find him. His body is not here, he is merely watching, hiding in the shadows, seeing what shouldn’t be seen. Ungrateful, spiteful child.”

Mother makes Catarina look like a novice, because Mother isn't emotionally unstable, she is just plain evil.

Wicked women rule.

Carry on and read books for pleasure.

I'll be making words ...

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.

Naked the Night Sings, a guest post at OWW, and linkage

A few brief notes (and links) to bring you up-to-date: I'm back on Tumblr and my feed runs through the sidebar here at my website. I've also set up a feed for BookSworn, a great new collective blog where I join several of genre fiction's newest authors for blogposts and giveaways and lots of cool stuff. Check us out. A Guest Post and Anthologies I have a guest post on the May 2013 Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror monthly newsletter where I talk about world building. You do NOT have to be a member to read the newsletter. If you're looking for an excellent online writing community, give OWW a shot.
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misunderstandings and more woerld-, er, world building

Art supplies, tracing paper, atlases, and the trusty laptop commandeered my kitchen table as I exercised cartographic muscles I didn't realize that I possessed. My husband took one look at the mess and said, "So, let me understand this: you are using a map of places that DO exist in order to construct a map of a place that DOES NOT exist?"

"Yes."

And that, my friends, is essentially what I've done with Woerld from the beginning. I am giving you your world back to you--regurgitated in a different form--maybe better in some ways, maybe worse, but it is an alternative world/Woerld of my imagination. However, in order to do that, I wanted to build upon the familiar.

I talked about it in another post that I wrote sometime ago when a reviewer, who wasn't very linguistically savvy, intimated that I made up the the word "Woerld" because "woe" constituted the first three letters. Woerld, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a medieval spelling of the word "world."

The word inspires the familiar. The spelling throws a twist into an otherwise known factor. Most readers got the twists and turns in Miserere, others focused primarily on the familiar.

Michael C. Hayes, in his superb cover art, picked up on the familiarity of the Templars as Christian knights. Hayes projected his thoughts onto the cross on Lucian's chest (and on the swords and other insignia in the cover art), which is a Templar cross. There was nothing wrong with this at all, by the way. I'm just using Hayes' art to show you how we all project our own experiences into the stories that we read.

The cross, Templar or otherwise, is not the Citadel's emblem. The Citadel's emblem is the alpha and omega combined to create an overlapping image. This was also deliberate on my part.

I could have used a crucifix, which is symbolic of the passion, or a resurrection cross, which is symbolic of the eternal life thereafter, or even the Templars' cross, which Hayes favored. Instead, I chose a symbol used most often on scholarly publications--the alpha and the omega. I always saw my bastions, all of them, as being much more like universities.

The focus on the Christians and the Citadel was due to Lucian and his biography. The time period and location of Lucian's birth would have made him an Eastern Orthodox Christian. A lot of people confused Eastern Orthodox with Catholic, and part of that was my fault. In creating the Citadel's rites and rituals, I went back to many early forms of Christianity that predated the schism between the east and the west. While I tried to remain true to Eastern Orthodox rites, it is, frankly, hard to beat out the Roman Catholics for flash and glamor--hence the exorcism performed in Miserere is Roman Catholic.

Unfortunately, Miserere experienced something of a Christian-anathema, and this attitude created a backlash that I wasn't prepared for--not just among fans but among a few other fantasy authors as well. For a while, I was mistaken for a Christian fiction writer, even though Miserere can in no way be categorized as Christian fiction. People who attempt to pass Miserere off as Christian fiction do not fully understand the Christian fiction market--or Christianity, for that matter.

Fortunately, a lot of fantasy authors have praised the book. I've even had atheists tell me that they've enjoyed the story, because it is not about religion but about people. When people read Miserere, some of them remark that they see the romance, others see an epic story, while others see only the religion. What they see is a reflection of themselves in the world that I created.

If you had asked me, last year this time, if I was going to write any other novels set in Woerld, I would have said no. Never.

However, a lot of people are asking for a second book--enough people are asking that I intend to work on Dolorosa. I'm curious what they will see this time. I am not afraid of those who misunderstand my intent. Those kinds of people only see reflections of themselves and their own prejudices in everything.

I've made a map of Woerld and am working with a friend to bring it to life. Like everything else in Woerld, it will be a familiar reflection of what is here on earth. Once I have acclimated you to Woerld and its hierarchies and bastions and places, I want you to get ready, because in Dolorosa, we are going to Hell ...

Your Character is Your Story's World at Muse, Rant, Rave

It's always cool to meet new local writers, and I love how Melinda tells of our first meeting--at her great-grandmother's wake (a beautiful woman, by the way, and an avid reader).

I was just thrilled when Melinda invited me to write a guest post for her blog. It's up today: Your Character is Your Story's World. While you're there, check out Melinda's link round-ups and other great posts. Melinda is a great lady descended from a long line of strong women.

Now go say hi, and tell her I sent you.