Still waters run deep

From the #wip

The Merlai are a seafaring folk. Their ships are the fastest amongst all of the Nine Realms of the Broken Continent.

But the Nine Realms, whose mercantile interests they assist, only know a fraction of the true power of the Merlai.

Founded in the Age of Chaos, after the Sundering that ended the War of the Summoner, the Merlai Islands were formed when the land their forebears lived on became cut off from the rest of Ath’may by rising oceans.

But there are many races on Sobia, and not all of them breath the air of the surface. The ancestors of today’s Merlai found assistance from, and in some aces refuge with, the evay of the oceans. This enabled them to survive when they likely would have perished. These sea evay also taught them how to build the ships they still use today, making them the faster, human, riders of the waves in Ath’may.

A Plea for Help

“It was the want of immortality that corrupted the Ten and made them Devak’sahrin. And it was the last act of Varos Korin’ad to lock them away for Eternity. But in the Sundering the Atresian Plains have become lost to us. All that is left of our civilization is in ruins, poisonous to the touch and over which the fabric of reality is stretched so thin that tears between this realm and the Void are a constant threat. We beg of you; help us.”

  • Shaluay Starmaster Rylak to the Hyla’varic Congress of the Var Imperium, 473 A.S.
Art by Scott Richard

At the end of the War of the Summoners, the Sundering broke the continent of Ath’may in two and destroyed the civilization that humankind had built over ten millennia. The chaos that followed lasted nearly five hundred years before Starmaster Rylak, in an act of desperation, petitioned the Hyla’var to assist the remnants of humanity.

Like many of the races native to Sobia, the Var had turned their backs on the war that the human Sahrin had wrought. It was these Sahrin- the Summoners – who had almost destroyed the world. It was their greed and lust for power that had caused the countless deaths of the Var and other races. The Evay had retreated to their realms and closed the pathways to them, the Aerynai had taken to their sky cities, abandoning the surface world to its fate, and the Xious’bisan had disappeared into their mountain fortresses. Only the Var remained, and it was to them that the leader of the Shaluay Starbinders turned.

For ten days and nights the Hyla’var – the artists and mystics, the elder caste of the Var – debated before finally agreeing to give succor to humanity.

This act was the first of what became the Hyla’varic Congress, and gave birth to the Var Imperium. The Hyla’var directed the Sola’var – laborers, farmers and sometime soldier caste – to assist humankind. The directed their considerable might to cleansing the remnants of the Daemon Horde from the war torn lands, and worked with humanity to build new cities in the changed world.

Short Stories

The other day I was approached by Chris Rosser, amazing author of ‘The Weaver’s Boy’, Book One in the Lords of Skeinhold, about the possibility of contributing a short story to an anthology project* he was considering.

*N.B. This is all hypothetical with a very specific theme, don’t go bombarding Chris with your short stories!

Now, why would he approach me, an unpublished writer, you might wonder? Well, he is currently beta-reading my WIP, so hopefully that means he thinks my work is good enough that a short story of mine would be enjoyable reading. It is a huge compliment, but alas, I have been focusing exclusively on novel writing – and having been ‘working on’ ‘The Blood of the Spear’ for ten-ish years (and world building t for even longer), I’ve never written a short story in my life.

I haven’t even read many. My reading habits, again, tend to focus on novels – big epic tomes at that – because I like to sink into a story, a world, and really get to know characters and I just somehow assumed that short stories couldn’t get me there. That being sad I have read shorts by GRRM set in Westeros, and shorts by Janny Wurts set in the wider universe of Paravia.

However, more recently I have been branching out reading, being (forced) by both Chris Rosser and Deck Matthews, to read their novellas and short stories. As I said, I haven’t read many previous, and I have never looked into the art of writing a short story or novella.

Now, I have some discarded prologues from ‘The Blood of the Spear‘ that I have put into a folder called ‘Shorts’, with the idea that I might revisit these and expand them some. Or at the very least, turn them into character sketches that might get released one day. But I really don’t have anything ready now, or that I could even work on at the moment as I continue to think about BotS and the greater series.

But Chris’ question got me thinking. What could I write a short story about? Or even a novella? The answer came to me fairly quickly as the muse would have it. I have two characters in BotS who turn up approximately halfway into the story. They are important characters, and as they join my main cohort their back story is left as rather mysterious. Not in the ‘what’s the secret’ kind of way, but more along the lines of ‘there is a story here’. Yesterday they, the characters, gave me the bare bones of that story and I have started a new document in the ‘Shorts’ folder with the notes on how they met and why they travel together.

Now, all I have to do is look into the art of short stories (and given I take after GRRM with the whole ‘ten thousand words is me clearing my throat’ thing, it will likely be a novella) flesh out the bare bones into an actual plot and get some writing done.

It always reassures me when the idea for a new story comes to me. Often time writing BotS I will become so immersed that I wonder what is next and panic, thinking I have no other story in my mind. But then I remember my ‘Shorts’ folder, and my ‘Future Projects’ folder, and my head is again filled with ideas. It’s exciting!

2019 – The State of Play

Welcome to another year! I was looking over old emails today and noted that I sent my WIP – The Blood of the Spear – out to its first beta-readers back in 2013… time goes by so quickly.

Last year, after extensive re-writes I sent the 7th draft out to another round of beta-readers. I understand this is not the most efficient way to do things, it also gets a bit silly calling people who are reading your book beta-readers when they are more like gamma-readers by now but whatever. I have to say though, that I learnt more about what I need to do to a manuscript before I say, ‘the end’ then I have in the last 5 years of ‘rewriting’ (which basically amounted to me pushing words around).

I have learnt that I need to read the whole manuscript out loud to myself before I show it to anyone.

I need to go through the whole thing and cut (most of) the filter words – I DID NOT KNOW THIS WAS A THING! One of the consequences of being self-taught, I guess. But in 2018 I discovered these and now they are on my radar! Cutting these filter words reduced the size of the manuscript from about 206K words to 194K.

It’s only after then that I should hand it out. Although my alpha-reader gets to read it before all this happens. Eep!

I also learnt that my grasp of grammar was much poorer that I had realised. It was pointed out to me rather ungently, but once I’d picked up my fragile self-esteem I was able to see some of the things this person was talking about and was able to adjust my manuscript accordingly. Or at least make it better. I think/hope? Regardless, I learnt that this beta-reader is also not the right fit for me, so silver lining.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not averse to criticism, but when it’s presented in a way that is not helpful it can be hard to take. But, possibly good practice for if I ever get published and someone writes a negative review?

So, what does 2019 hold for me. Well. I currently have folders for five WIPs, all of which are set on Sobia, the world I have been building for the last 27 odd years.

1. The Blood of the Spear, book one in The Eye of Eternity.

Marked once the saviour and twice the destroyer, the Phoenix Lord must know himself before he can be reborn. He must descend before he can begin to rise. He must kindle the flame before he is risen.

This is story of two half-brothers touched by prophecy and destined to save or destroy the world. I am currently finishing self-edits based on beta-reader feedback and will be sending it off to my editor in April.

After that will start to hunt down look for an agent.

As a first-time writer I am somewhat apprehensive that a manuscript weighing in at 197K words will just be a bridge to far for a publisher to take a risk on. Yes, self-publishing is certainly a viable option, but this is a (planned) seven book series (at least) and I want to give it the best chance of being read as I can, so I might put it aside and work on something that I will deliberately make shorter, which leads me to:

2. The Path of Stone, book one in The Hand of the Earth series.

At its roots this is the tale of a princess who had chosen to renounce her royal heritage and swear service to the Elder God of the Earth to become a Guardian of the Emerald Fire. But on the night she is to take her final vows, she is betrayed and exiled into slavery.

This is set about twenty years before events in the Eye of Eternity and is loosely connected.

I am thinking this is a four-book series, and the challenge is to bring them in under 150K words each. Well, at least the first one 😛

3. The Tower of the Stars, book two of The Eye of Eternity.

This is in the very early stages of the first draft. I haven’t even finished the prologue and want to sit down and properly plot this one out (I didn’t do that with TBotS).

4. The Heart of the Grove.

A girl’s quest for the truth, a sorcerer’s lust for power.

This is a standalone and happens in the same time-frame as the events in The Blood of the Spear – again this is linked to the Eye of Eternity series but is not required reading.

5. The Five Dragons.

Set in the Crescent Cities, it follows the bitter struggle between two women intent on taking control of one the world’s greatest mercantile dynasties.

Again, this too is planned as a standalone novel. It is set in the same world as The Eye of Eternity series but isn’t (at this stage) connected to the Eye of Eternity series in any substantial way.

Will I get all of this done in 2019? Roflmao.

No.

But I plan to make a good start on both The Tower of the Stars and The Path of Stone.

I am also commissioning an artist to transform my map of Ath’may, the Broken Continent (where my stories are set), into a map worthy of going into a book. I am excited about this and know who I am approaching, but that will wait until later in the year when my cash flow is more robust.

Oh! And I have plans to get a ‘proper’ website happening, but that is well and truly on the back burner until such a time as I get closer to publication.

Happy 2019 everybody!