Deleted Scene : More Hinge Backstory

This little snippet was originally in The Gantean, a piece of information about the magic of the Gantean Hinge. Ultimately, I found a way to “show” rather than “tell” this information, but, like a lot of writing about magic systems, I had to write out the theory of it before I could even attempt to integrate it more naturally into the story.

Leila was the narrator telling this info, though it could have been the Cedna, too:

“Because of this Hinge, all other magic was possible, for in its opening, the Ancestors had made the Layers permeable, so that we could walk from one to the next. The Gantean People were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole world, for all the nations who used magic. The Hinge, high on the ice plateaus of Gante, was the source of all magic.

Every Gantean knew about the Hinge. Such knowledge made us Iksraqtaq. It was a secret funneled into us, never spoken, but lived and felt and inhaled from our very first breath. If we were a stern and somber people, it was because of this great responsibility we guarded. We kept the Hinge open by feeding it the dead, their flesh and spirit and blood, to appease its endless hunger.”

Seven Questions: Mark A. King

I am very happy to welcome Mark A. King to my blog for a round of seven questions, featuring his debut novel Metropolitan Dreams. Mark is one of the founders of FlashDogs, a global community of talented flash fiction writers. His flash fiction stories have been published in a number of anthologies and magazines. Mark was born and raised in London, works in Cambridge, and lives in Norfolk, England.

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1-Pitch your book in three sentences or less.

M.A.K.: In the aftermath of a violent crime we follow the connected stories of an injured nightclub bouncer, an ageing crime-lord, a conflicted police hacker, a traumatised Tube-driver and a vulnerable twelve-year-old girl as they fight for survival, purpose and redemption in the fractured city of London. Along the journey we discover lost rivers, abandoned underground stations, mysterious forces and angels (perhaps).

2-Is your book indie-published or traditionally published? Tell us a little about that journey.

M.A.K.: Indie published. Having monitored the progress (and success) of many FlashDogs on their various publishing adventures, it became clear to me that traditional publishing can be a long, hard and often frustrating experience. Self publishing offers choice, power, flexibility and responsiveness in terms of being able to get the book in front of readers. Some misguided voices that say self publishing has lesser quality, but a fair number of the finest books I have read over the last few years have come from indie authors and traditional publishing is no guarantee that you will like a book anyway, as everyone has their own reading preferences. Indeed, the indie path can often offer a wider variety of material to the reader. Neither is better, it’s just that indie suited me at this time.
The kind and talented host of this blog helped me almost every step of the way, from story transformation through to last minute logo creation. Should you be able to find someone as marvellous, I highly recommend you seek their magic as a priority early in the process.

3-What are your favorite genres/books to read, and do you think this affects your writing? How?

M.A.K.: I enjoy speculative fiction, which covers genres as diverse as science fiction, horror, fantasy, magical realism and new weird. I find myself always looking firstly to ground my stories in the lives of my characters and the journey they on on, but I’m fascinated by the worlds that science, faith and spirituality hint at, which are just beyond our current understanding. So I always try to find an undercurrent of otherworldlyness in my stories (not a real word, but it probably should be).

4-What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

M.A.K.: I can’t remember the exact words, but it was something like ‘Write the way you want to write. Try not to be someone else as there is only one you.’
I’m starting to learn that it’s important to tell the stories I want to tell in the way that I want to tell them. It might sound obvious, but it’s not, well not for me anyway, I’m fairly conformist in my real life, my writing in many ways is an outlet for something more creative.
However, I realise that this approach is likely to mean that I have less success in terms of potential sales.
It would almost certainly be easier to create a firm genre fiction, following the paths of proven formulas, but that wouldn’t seem like success to me. I’ve waited all my life to write a novel. Success, I think, is creating something different and unique, being true to the stories in my imagination and in my heart, and all I can hope for is that readers will appreciate something slightly different and connect with it in some way.

5-How do you fit your writing into a busy life?

M.A.K.: It is incredibly hard. Like many writers, I have a full time job. I have a reasonable amount of responsibility in my job and when I come home there are numerous demands on my time and energy. I juggle a number of social media accounts (my personal one, my writer one/s and the FlashDogs one)–I wouldn’t make a good spy, as this is too many identities for me already. I tend to squeeze stolen minutes and hours between other tasks, or use my work breaks wisely. My favourite writing experience was when I had to drop my daughter at a horse riding experience which was in in a neighbouring county. Too far away to come back home, so I looked at the map and realised that Rendlesham Forest was nearby, so I took my laptop and wrote some of Metropolitan Dreams from the middle of the forest where UFO sightings have been reported (the UK’s very own Roswell incident, only with more witnesses and recorded evidence from military personnel).
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It was a magical place to write from, it wasn’t just the history, but being outside surrounded by the energy of the forest was inspiring in itself. So, while finding time is sometimes hard, it does also lead to wonderful opportunities.

6-How and when did you first know you were a writer?

M.A.K.: I find it odd to think of myself as a writer and I have a cheeky small-boy grin when someone suggests that I might be one. For most of us, writing is unlikely to pay the bills, so for me, it is only ever a secondary role to; being a father, husband, good employee/manager, community contributor etc.

7-What’s your secret superpower?

M.A.K.: What is it now? Or what would I like it to be? If now, then people say that I am generally very calm under pressure. But if I had to choose a real superpower, it would be teleportation. I’d click my fingers and return to the warm sands of Shark Bay on Heron Island which sits atop the Great Barrier Reef. I’d click my fingers again to visit family or friends I don’t see often enough. Click to visit the many friends I have not yet met in different parts of the world.

Many thanks to Mark for answering seven questions!

You can learn more about Mark and his writing at his blog: https://makingfiction.com/
Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Making_Fiction
Get Metropolitan Dreams: https://goo.gl/EsXA3I

Deleted/Reworked Scene: Sterling Prologue

My friend and reader Christine requested a deleted scene from Sterling, Tales of Blood and Light 3, and so this next one is for her. Book Three had fewer purely deleted scenes and many more “reworked” ones, so this scene may have familiar bits, for those of you who have read Sterling. This was the Prologue I had in the first draft, which was reworked and rewritten and massaged into the shorter and less wordy Prologue I used in the final version.

Sterling, of course, is the narrator, albeit a bit younger than she ended up in the final prologue:

“Every girl has a fairy tale,” my sister Stesichore said. We sat on the sun porch off the fourth floor of our Shankar house, as grand a dwelling as any in Lethemia. “Why, there’s a fairy tale for any situation and any appearance. There’s Cinder and Ashe for a housemaid, and Rose Red for a girl whose mother has died. Clever girls have The Peasant’s Wise Daughter, and beauties can have their pick from Fair Ruslana or Pretty Poppy.”

Stesi’s musing came about because she’d found me out on the deck reading a book of such stories, and she’d asked me if I liked them. I’d told her honestly that they were silly and unrealistic, and she’d begged to differ. Now she had to prove herself, which I knew could be a tedious game. I sighed and put the book aside. Stesi, impossible to ignore, demanded attention. She couldn’t endure being alone; only through the eyes of others could she make sense of the world and herself. I was fourteen; she was twenty-two, but I was the sister with more sense. Not that anyone would ever recognize that.

I acceded to her overtaking my quiet afternoon. “So what would your tale be, Stesi?”

The Princess in the Tower, of course.”

I wrinkled my brow, trying to determine why “of course” tagged this sentence. I couldn’t reason it out. “Why that one? I would have thought Fair Ruslana more to your liking.” Fair Ruslana told the tale of a beautiful, fair-haired princess enchanted into a long sleep, only to be broken by the kiss of her true love, a prince.

Stesi patted at her hair, upswept into a fabulous arrangement that likely took several hours for her handmaiden to create. “Well, first of all, I have beautiful hair. Everyone says so.”

That was true enough. Stesi’s hair was long and heavy, the color of honey. She’d been chagrined when the pale blonde of her youth had changed to the darker hue. She’d begged for a year to be allowed to dye it, but my mother had said that “Only courtesans and loose women alter their appearance with artificial aids.” So Stesi, in typical fashion, had begun to believe that honey-gold hair was far more desirable than the pale locks I had never outgrown.

“And The Princess in the Tower is all about an unattainable woman. That’s me. I have rejected all my suitors thus far, and I shall wait until the best one offers for me.”

“Oh? And who will that be?” I couldn’t help asking, though I knew encouraging Stesi in this way could be foolish.

“Prince Costas, of course. I am going to marry him and become Queen of Lethemia.”

This plan, far-fetched as it sounded, was not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, my parents were likely angling for the match. But there had been no word yet that Costas Galatien, a full three years younger than Stesi, intended to hold a Marriage Brokering anytime soon.

“So what’s my fairy tale?” I asked, knowing this question would shatter Stesi’s argument to pieces. There were no fairy tales for a girl like me.

The Ugly Duchess,” Stesi said without hesitation. Her selection of that tale for me came as no surprise, but her choice showed how little Stesi knew. The Ugly Duchess told the story of a fair-skinned girl born into a dark-skinned world. She grew up her whole life being called ugly, until her father married her off to a duke from a distant land. When she arrived in her new home, she discovered that there were other fair-skinned people, and the people of the fair-skinned world considered her beautiful beyond compare. Like most fairy tales, the message intended to be uplifting: that beauty could be in the eye of the beholder—but the message was wrong. I should know. I had the kind of ugliness that could not be remedied by a change in perspective. I’d been born with a wine-stain birthmark sprawling across the right side of my face and trailing down my neck. My mark would not be considered lovely anywhere in the world.

I had been an outsider my whole life, looking in at other people’s stories from a distance. Stesi’s story dominated my childhood. Her beauty and her importance as the heir to House Ricknagel eclipsed everything else in Mama and Papa’s eyes.

But that afternoon after Stesi flounced away from the sun porch to do something “more interesting than reading fusty tales,” I began to see that I had a story too, though it bore no resemblance to Stesi’s bejeweled fairy tale.

This was the first circle of my story, the truth on which the world agreed: Sterling Ricknagel was nobody, the ugly, shameful daughter of a great house. Any story is never only one story, one circle. Concentric circles lie beneath; even the tightest story has other tales creeping below, silent loops waiting for only a slight weakening in the first story to break free.

No one would remember me in the history books. The passage of my life would be forgotten, and I couldn’t help but think it would be a mercy if it were. I would make no mark upon the world.

I slammed the book of fairy tales closed.

Deleted Scene: Laith and Miran in Muscan

Here’s a scene that was cut because the book from which it was drawn was entirely rewritten (ToB&L Book 4) and the young boy character “Miran” (Laith Amar’s nephew) was cut. This was a scene from Book 4– and so you see a big give-away about one of my narrators for that book, who happens to be Laith Amar, Lethemia’s top mage and Leila’s half-brother. There is another big reveal about something that happens at the end of this scene that may relieve some readers, however, since this scene was cut, I make no guarantees that it officially happens in Book 4–or anywhere!–anymore. This scene was a bit of a darling because it contained one of my favorite things: puppies!

Reminder–the narrator here is Laith. Muscan is a city in the Eastern Empire.

Scene:

I needn’t have worried. Miran loved Muscan. Everything fascinated him—the gilded cupolas on the seven basilicas, the elaborate bath houses, the spicy food, the hothouses full of flowers that stretched for leagues beyond Muscan, even the stray dogs on the street that he insisted on feeding.

“I miss the hounds at home,” he told me as we stood in a filthy backstreet pursuing a bitch-dog with sagging teats that he had spied from a far. The poor dog was skin and bones. Miran had bought a shoulder of raw pork at Muscan’s open-air market and held it wrapped in linen.

I had a headache—the final, enduring symptom from whatever sickness had struck me down in Galantia. It never stopped, a dull, throbbing pulse behind my left temple. After nearly two sidereals in Muscan, Elena’s image had faded from the backs of my eyelids. A little. But I was losing hope. No Esani troupes had passed through the city in all this time. Somehow she had slipped through my fingers. The failure weighed more heavily upon me with every passing day.

Miran tossed the pork in front of the hole in the wall where we’d seen the desperate bitch pass carrying not one but two tiny puppies in her mouth. We waited.

“She looked so weak,” he murmured. “Maybe she can’t come out? Or maybe she’s just wary.”

“Wouldn’t you be, if you were her?” I said distractedly. The hammer at my temple beat a steady, nauseating rhythm.

Wheels rattled on the cobbles behind us. “News! Printed news! The latest from Lethemia!” A small voice cried in the Imperial tongue.

I turned away from the dog’s hidey-hole, though Miran did not. A boy smaller than Miran pushed a cart brimming with freshly-printed new-sheets. I could still smell the fishy odor of the ink. “News! Papers minted from the Muscan Imperial Press! Official!” he cried again.

“How much?” I asked in his language, which I had learned lifetimes ago as a student at the Conservatoire. What news of Lethemia was so important the Imperial press had taken it up? I had come to understand that the Empire rarely made mention of its western neighbor in its press or politics these days.

“Two jennars, sir,” the newsboy said. He lifted a paper with ink-stained fingers.

I handed him the coins and took the paper. The newsboy passed on his way, and when I turned, I found Miran standing with two wriggling puppies in his arms and tears streaming down his pale cheeks.

“What? What is it?”

“She died,” Miran said. “Their mother is dead.” He jerked his chin towards the hole. I peered into it and saw the sad, still form of the bitch, every rib shadowed.

“They’re too small to eat the pork,” Miran said from behind me. “They need milk.”

I rolled up the paper, tucked it beneath my arm, placed a hand on Miran’s shoulder, and together we went back to the open-air market. I couldn’t stand his tears.

After procuring milk and paying an exorbitant sum to the keeper of our hotel for permission to keep the puppies in our room—the Imperials, in general, disliked dogs—finally I had Miran happily settled with his freshly-bathed puppies and a ball of yarn. I unfurled the newsprint and began to read.

The paper nearly slipped from my hands.

“Holy Amassis!” I whispered. “After all this time?”

Leila’s long missing daughter, Tiriq’s own twin, Tianiq Galatien, had been found.

November Goals

As I sit down to write my November Goals, I am struck by how very dark it is outside. We’ve had rain for almost a week here in Northern California, a feat that hasn’t occured in years, and I find the dark, wet mornings are perfect for writing. They make me feel quite inspired. I wish this weather could go on for longer! Alas, both the darkness and the wetness will go, as we change our clocks next weekend and the weather pattern is already shifting.

My October Goals were:

  1.  ToB&L Book 5 revision. CHECK.I finished this much faster than the actual draft-writing.
  2. Begin ToB&L Book 5 revision. I’m in the thick if this right now. CHECK.
  3. Other CHECK. I worked on plenty of “other” last month. First, I formatted a box set for Margaret Locke. Second, I did a global read through on Beth Deitchman’s latest fantasy novel. Third, I finished line edits on Mark A. King’s Metropolitan Dreams. And fourth, I began a global read through of Tamara Shoemaker’s final Heart of A Dragon book, Unleash the Inferno!

My November goals are:

  1. Continue ToB&L Book 5 revision.
  2. NANOWRIMO I’m participating as one half of a co-writing team (with Tamara Shoemaker) in National Novel Writing Month. We are writing a fantasy romance book set in a Reconstruction Era-ish setting with a magic system that involves the elements and … indigo. My goal is to add words every day, with a target of about 1500 or more per day.
  3. Other. This seems like a good goal category to keep. I’m sure I’ll have more other to report at the end of the month.

Seven Questions : October 2016 : Tamara Shoemaker

Author extraordinaire Tamara Shoemaker reappears for her fourth round of Seven Questions. The woman can’t help it; she just keeps cranking out books! This month she is releasing both Guardian of the Vale, the third and final installment in her YA urban fantasy series, and the complete Guardian of the Vale Trilogy Box Set, in which you can get all three books in the series in one convenient and discounted file, starting today.

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1) Tamara, this is your ninth book. Wow! How has your book-writing process changed between Book 1 and Book 9?

I don’t recognize the author I was when I wrote Broken Crowns. I mean, I see shades of her in who I am now (I still sit down to write every day, I still set word count goals), but I’m much more disciplined about my story structure now. With my first book, I made up the story each day as I typed. Now, I write an entire history of my characters before I ever even start page one, chapter one. I’ll create timelines, backstory, personality profiles, outlines, find inspiration pics, all sorts of things I never did for the first book. It might help that I now write fantasy, which is all about world-building and setting. Broken Crowns was a mystery, and while setting up your world in a mystery is still important, it doesn’t hold the same weight that it does in fantasy.

2) Which phase of the book process do you enjoy most and why?

I’m pretty sure this makes me an odd bird among writers, as quite a few of my fellow authors have told me they enjoy the first-draft process the most–but I love the edits, particularly the line edits. First-drafting, while giving me a bit of freedom to just write without worrying about finesse or polish, sometimes chafes, because I dislike putting anything on paper that doesn’t immediately bowl me over. I realize in order to craft a book, that annoyingly poor first draft has to come out, so I do it. But I love the line edits–the final stage before publication, because that’s when I’m dusting off all the rough edges of my work and watching it transform into a true work of art. It’s lovely.

3) Novels are a tough form, time-consuming and sometimes underappreciated in the world. What keeps you so motivated?

I realized a long time ago that if my motivation relied on reader appreciation, I would have quit after the first book hit the market. Some will love you, some will hate you, most won’t even give your book a chance. I can’t focus on that, or I will get discouraged. For me, it’s all about the work itself. I am a book lover, have been all my life. I love everything about a book, from the smell of dusty old volumes to the crinkly, crunchy sound of the pages as they turn (Kindle, you will never own me!). The stories I fall in love with, I read over and over and over again. They become real to me, holding honored places on my bookshelves. I’m serious. I have a “favorite” shelf, and a “lesser” shelf, and a “I-don’t-like-these-as-much-so -let’s-put-them-in-the-corner” shelf. If authors have impacted and inhabited my life through their works of art, I want to do the same for others. So my motivation is to make my stories real, to me if to no one else. The satisfaction I gain from pouring all of myself into a project like this is beyond measure.

4) Do your book ideas arrive in your head in a particular way? As images, as opening scenes or sentences, as characters, as conflicts? Tell us a little about idea generation, brainstorming, and how you come up with a story? Once you have an idea, what are the next steps?

They come in all shapes and sizes and by any means: ridiculous questions my kids ask, an anecdote where something happens by accident, a dream that vividly sticks in my mind–anything that makes me ask: What if? Once I have that what if question, I write down the seed of the story, and then I spend days staring at the wall, thinking, occasionally jotting something down. The story builds on itself. Once I have the premise I want to write about, I have to build the world around it. What’s the setting? This earth? Another earth? What time period? Modern style? Medieval style? Victorian style? Ancient style? What government ruled during that time? Dictatorship? Monarchy? President? Pantheon? Who are the characters? What are their backgrounds? How are they affected by their culture? What’s the central conflict and how is everything in this world shaped by it? Once I have a good grasp on ALL these things, and not until that happens, THEN I start writing.

5) You have been forcibly recruited as an experimental space traveller (sorry). You are allowed to bring only what you can carry in a small backpack. What do you pack?

(Forcibly being the key word.) Space! Ack! Fie, fie!

Okay, fine. I would need tether ropes, first and foremost, because obviously, I can’t be trusted not to float off into nothingness forever and ever and ever and ever…

Whose bright idea was space again?

And then, several tanks of oxygen, again, because while I’m floating off forever and ever and ever and ever, I’ll need something to breathe… *can’t breathe, must breathe… air… help…

You say I can’t fit oxygen tanks into a backpack. Erg.

I’d like to take a few books to pass the time while I’m floating into nothingness until my eventual smothering, starving, helpless death…

Maybe I need to move on to the next question…

6) It turns out that your experimental space ship has malfunctioned, and instead of traveling through space, you’re traveling through time. What era/year will be your desired destination? And why?

Oh, thank goodness. Time travel is much more palatable.

I’ve always said I was born in the wrong era, as history has always fascinated me. I have a particular penchant for the 1850’s through the 1880’s. I’d love to go (and quite often do in the pages of historical novels and Civil War accounts). As my husband reminds me when I wish aloud for such things, air-conditioning and indoor plumbing weren’t really a thing, at least not in most households (indoor plumbing), and death by measles, typhoid, and the common cold was a thing. So… there’s that.

But I’d still love to go, because I’m a legit nerd-in-training, or so I’ve been told.

7) Tell us a bit about your next book (or books, since it’s you)

Hahaha! Thou makest me laugh out loud.

I am soooooo excited for November to hit, because that means it’s National Novel Writing Month, and I am planning to write TWO novels during it. First, I’m co-writing a novel with the fabulous Emily June Street (I suspect you know something of her), where we will explore a fantasy world set similarly to the deep south during the Reconstruction period, and where we weave a romance reminiscent of Jane Eyre and her brooding and passionate Mr. Rochester. I can’t WAIT for this!

My second novel will explore the theme of using music as magic. This story has been teasing my brain for many months–perhaps because music is important in my life, magical in its own way. It touches the very roots of who I am, and I’m really excited to dig in and tease out the ways it could be shown in this world I’m about to create. Here’s the logline I created for it: “When Alex Cale, a prodigy whose musical magic shapes the world, discovers the deterioration of his symphonies, he suspects sabotage by Edon White, the Conservatoire’s new Director. As the world begins to crumble beneath this incurable discordance, only Lyric, a mysterious eighteen-year-old girl with hidden talents, can help Alex restore harmony and magic.”

 Can’t wait to get started!

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About Guardian of the Vale:

Clayborne Training Institute, a school for teen Elementals, has fallen beneath a sweeping nationwide coup led by the Elemental Alliance, a party of power-hungry sectarians. Having narrowly escaped the fight for the school, Alayne Worth, Quadriweave and possessor of the Vale, flees Clayborne with twenty-three desperate students seeking the headquarters of the Last Order, the underground organization planning to wrest control from the Alliance. Danger shadows her steps as the struggle for the Vale and its power stalks ever closer to home. Conflicts, perils, enemies, and rebellions push Alayne toward a cataclysmic battle that threatens to rend CommonEarth at the seams, and the Vale is the linchpin that decides the victory or the defeat. When those closest to Alayne threaten her possession of the Vale, will she and the world in which she lives survive the fallout?

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About Tamara:

Tamara Shoemaker authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning two installments of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame and Embrace the Fire, as well as her first completed trilogy: Mark of Four, Shadows of Uprising, and Guardian of the Vale. In her spare time, she freelances as an editor for other works of fiction, chases three children hither and yon, and tries hard to ignore the brownie mixes that inevitably show up in her cabinets.

Follow her on social media:
Twitter: @TamaraShoemaker
Website: http://www.tamarashoemaker.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tshoebooks

 

October Goals

Well, for the first time in a while, I really underperformed on my goals. I have no excuse, except that goal number one took me much longer than I expected this month. In other news, my Imitrex prescription has been a life-saver, allaying six migraines in the month of September!

My goals for September were:

  1. Work on ToB&L Book 4 revision.  CHECK. I finished this yesterday, on the final day of the month.
  2. Finish ToB&L Book 6 revision. No check–didn’t even begin.
  3. Begin ToB&L Book 5 revision. No check–didn’t even begin.

My goals for October will be:

  1.  ToB&L Book 4 revision. Now that the draft is finally done, I can start editing. Normally I’d let the draft stew for a bit, but this one took me so long to write I feel ready to dive back into the beginning parts– in fact, I’m eager to do so. The draft came out to almost 140K words; I’d like to get it down to 115K or less. This revision pass I’ll be honing the focus of the book, cutting extraneous scenes and information.
  2. Begin ToB&L Book 5 revision: I really, really want to get started on this one this month, but, after last month, I’m not entirely certain it will happen. I’m putting it on the goals list anyway.
  3. Other I’m inserting this category because of all the various “other” projects that inevitably sprout up during the month and surprise me. I’m sure some will arise in October.