Tag Archives: crossroads

Options and Decisions (aka An Abundance of Ideas)

Over the last couple days, I’ve mentioned here and there I’m in the process of evaluating career options, and a subset of that evaluation is choosing the fiction projects that’ll come up once Breath of Stone is launched in the coming month(ish).

The overall career stuff is… complicated. A matter of deciding priorities, time expenditures, current needs, future plans, and professional satisfaction. Some things are working wonderfully, but I’m not certain I want to keep working them. Other things are more risky and will require time investment, but I’m drawn to them nonetheless. We shall see. ūüôā

Anyway! It was suggested I share my Next Project Dilemma to see what y’all might want to see next. So! *drumroll* Here are the fiction projects on the horizon!

Books Three and Four of Desert Rising: These are the SheyKhala novels, picking up after Breath of Stone. These are long books‚ÄĒat least 125K words each. They take awhile. That said, Book Three is completely plotted and partially written. Book Four is partially plotted.

Tomorrow’s Bones: Continuing the story of Sword and Chant. Chant was written as a stand-alone, but was always the opening to something more. This is a story that nags me often, but has a much smaller audience (at least at this time).

The Slaughterer: Something completely different! A stand-alone about a bounty-hunter pulled into his family’s decision to run a kind of Underground Railroad for magic workers.

Suffragette Story: This one dropped into my brain, almost fully formed, during last year’s Sirens Conference. It’s alternate/secret history of the fight to gain women the right to vote, complete with magic and martial arts.

The new series I still struggle to describe: If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s paranormal rural, but sometimes urban, contemporary fantasy. There are ghosts and small towns and historical sites and some city settings and sentient elements being manipulated as weapons. Each book is shorter than my usual tome, and I’d likely complete three of them before even publishing the first.

So… There are considerations that must be taken into account. Current faithful readers, market sizes, audience potential, variable time to be invested on each project…

But I’d love to hear what you think! The reader’s perspective, the writer’s perspective, your perspective.

Help me out here, my darlings! Talk about preferences as a reader, scheduling experience as a writer, knowledge, gut feelings, EVERYTHING.

Crossposted at These Certain Musings.  Comment here or there.

 

#SFWApro

 

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Seeing My Own Bias

If we’re paying attention, what we write tells us a great deal about ourselves.

This little dialogue exchange and I went back and forth for two days:

¬†“Besides,” Luke said, “I’d hate to tell the Old Man I let you leave town without even getting a little sparring in.”

“Nothing manipulative about that statement,” she muttered, and narrowed her eyes when he gave a guilty shrug.¬† “First of all, you don’t let me do anything, Sensei Luke.¬† Second, don’t call him the Old Man anymore.¬† I don’t like it.¬† Respect matters.”

She expected him to give the eye-roll of irritation or the cocky grin of indulgence most men would have responded with.  Instead, he offered her a solemn nod and met her gaze.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Text me the address,” Jack said.¬† “If I’m still in town, I’ll drop by.”

Why was it so troublesome?

I was worried the main character, the woman who goes by Jack, would sound too bitchy.

That’s a problem, really.¬† My problem.¬† I don’t much like discovering how deeply certain¬†biases sit in me.¬† It isn’t comfortable.¬† But it is real, so there ya go.

There isn’t a thing Jack says to Luke¬†that isn’t true.¬† Luke is being manipulative, he has no right to imply he has authority over her despite their relative rank in martial arts, and calling a past teacher the “Old Man” does strike Jack as disrespectful.¬† But she isn’t asking Luke to change, nor is she offering him the chance to realize he ought to change.¬† She tells him‚ÄĒpoint blank‚ÄĒwhat’s wrong with what he is¬†saying.¬† There is nothing “bitchy” about it.

I say many things like that in real life, but I realized I say them with the notion, “And if you think I’m a bitch for saying so, I don’t care,” in the back of my mind.¬† That’s a problem as well, but a realistic one.¬† People–and more often than not, the “people” refers to women–who draw lines and limits without couching them as optional deeds or giving the other person “credit” for acquiescing are often named pushy, humorless, angry, bitchy.

My decision to self-publish was and is driven by many reasons.  But at the core, the decision comes from wanting to tell my stories my way, as professionally as possible, and connect with readers who like them.

Jack is a woman who has decided she will no longer put up with the little falsehoods expected of a woman who gets along by getting along.¬† She doesn’t want to play nice anymore by couching honest criticism in sweet diplomacy.¬† She still has plenty of insecurities, faults, and demons from the past, but she’s going to call bullshit when she hears it, and she expects the other person to be adult enough to handle candor.

I’m sure I’ve come across these writerly decisions before, but I can’t remember being quite so aware of it.

Snow and Voice

This morning, we Indiana folk had a bit of early snow.

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As you can see, many of our trees are still wearing the last tatters of autumn fashion. It’s an odd thing, seeing golden leaves above fresh snow. It wasn’t much more than a dusting of white, and it disappeared by the afternoon. But it must have startled the trees before it melted because most dumped their remaining leaves in a hurry, leaving us with puddles of color on the snow. Temps overnight will hit the upper teens. By Sunday, temps will hit 60. It’s all “normal” for the awkwardness or season-transition.

I’ve had my own transition awkwardness going on the writing front. Every one of the learning novels I’ve written–those that contribute to my million words of crap–has been fantasy. Pseudo-Celtic in the beginning, then created pre-industrial worlds. The voice in those novels evolved over time, and the voice for Sword and Chant is distinct from Sand of Bone, but they all shared certain traits that mark them as more traditional fantasy tales. I can play with language–rhythm, flow, word choice, and patterns–in a way that, to my ear, doesn’t work well in other genres.

Now I’m working on Crossroads of America, set in present-day Indiana. That traditional fantasy voice doesn’t work here. The moment I let my attention wander, especially when I’m feeling the flow of the story, that old voice takes over and the characters suddenly sound as if they’ve been transported from a different culture and time. The process has become one of write, delete, write again, revise, and finally move ahead. Writing forward without revising seems the poorer option to me. The sooner I get comfortable with the modern voice, the sooner the story feels real.

I’m almost there. The last section didn’t contain throw-back metaphors, archaic phrases, or any piece of dialog that sounded too much like iambic pentameter. (I am far too fond of “akin to,” for example.) But I stumble over describing modern settings–a weird writing quirk, if you ask me. After all, if I can give the reader an interesting setting they’ve never seen before, it shouldn’t be hard to describe a bar in downtown Indy. Oh, but it is!

Silliness.

So I feel akin to (there it is!) those trees, holding on to my leaves as the snow flurries move in. Maybe soon, I can drop all those dead leaves, pretty as they are, and move on to the next thing completely. The challenge makes me glad I chose Crossroads as my NaNo project, though. Without the push, I might have let this project sit forever as a “maybe someday” thing. Instead, the story is beginning to connect and I’m gaining greater flexibility as a writer.

Whether I hit 50K or not, I win.

(Can you tell I’m happy with this project? I am!)

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Crossroads Finally Makes Sense

Many years ago, I was able to attend the Writers of the Future writing workshop in Los Angeles, taught by K.D. Wentworth and Tim Powers.  K.D. gave me a piece of short story writing advice: Mutilate the cows on the first page.  For me, who had a bad habit of burying the SF element too many words into the story, it was an excellent piece of advice.

But it was Tim whom I got to know quite well during that week, and I had the chance to spend much of a later convention hanging out with him and his wife.  Over coffee, I expressed my huge admiration for the event-puzzles Tim wrote as secret histories, and asked his advice on writing about the weird and wild in present-day settings.  The conversation was fascinating, far-reaching, and made my brain hurt with the effort to keep up.  His process of discovering and connecting historical events with fantastical motivations and influences stuck with me as I plotted out Crossroads of America.

Now, Crossroads is not a complex secret history, though it does draw from real historical reports, regional folklore, and local events.¬† But the biggest missing piece has always been why the major character–Jack–ends up in a position of such influence, why she is the one who must act, and why her actions might have the power to solve the, um… problems.

Today, while hunting Google for the names of a couple locations in the California wilderness, I came upon this:

“Scientists are puzzled by a mysterious Los Padres National Forest hot spot where 400-degree ground ignited a wildfire.¬† The hot spot was discovered by fire crews putting out a three-acre fire last summer in the forest’s Dick Smith Wilderness.”

And all of a sudden, Jack has a complex backstory that makes her the inevitable choice for the role she must play, and it’s all based on an actual event!

Now back to adding words to my NaNo count.