Birth Pains

Why do I write?

You know what? Writing a book is hard work. Getting anything accomplished when your internal editor is screaming at you the entire time is like trying to do a month’s worth of grocery shopping while three mischievous toddlers are stealing things out of the cart and then hiding them in all the wrong places around the store.

Actually, I’ve never had that experience but it sounded really good – before I put it down on virtual paper.

Oh, well…

You know what else? Writing a book is also a lot of fun and rewarding on a personal level. It’s especially nice when your beta readers tell you that they enjoyed reading it and are looking forward to the next installment.

black trunks of leaf-bare trees set against a lurid sunset with red-tinted clouds.
I would like to use a photo like this for the cover of the second novel, Wyldling Quest.

There are so many elements that I want to incorporate into the Wyldling Series. I have had so many ideas over the years that finishing the series was a daunting task, because my conception of what the story was really about kept changing as I matured. Finally, I had to put my foot down and say: “That’s it. Enough’s enough! Just write the blasted thing, already!” Breaking it up into six or seven books instead of writing it as a single novel has also helped.

Once I made a decision to turn it into a young adult fantasy series the path became clearer. I had defined my audience. But how to make it different from every other YA fantasy out there? Well, how many fantasy series do you know about that have a strong and overt Christian theme? By overt I mean that there are direct quotations from the Bible and characters that talk about Jesus Christ and believe in Him as their savior.

Please let me know if you find any fantasy books like that. I mean it. I would like to read them. I figure that there aren’t that many out there because I can’t find them. They certainly aren’t on the bestseller list on Amazon.

No, not anything by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. I’m talking about recent young adult Christian fantasy.

I am aware of fantasy series that have good moral themes and point vaguely toward Christianity or have characters that resemble Christ as an archetype. However, there is no mention of the real Jesus or how badly people need to be saved from their own depravity. Many of these stories promote the idea that most people are basically good with some bad tendencies that can be overcome with hard work and the best intentions -with some help from our Heavenly Friend, of course! – because that is what we all truly want to believe, isn’t it?

I realize that these authors – even the ones that are Christians -probably did not intentionally set out to write a book that included Christian themes for the purposes of leading others to Christ. When it comes right down to it, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a market for that type of fantasy novel. In the publishing business, like in any other business, money talks. Very loudly.

I like to think that authors write books because they want to tell an entertaining story that was burning in their hearts and crying out for release into the world. It’s a like having a baby (and I can honestly say that because I have given birth to and raised children).

“There is no greater pain than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

Quite frequently, I find myself thinking about my story and what I am going to write next. It is an obsession. I should be finding more work to do for my job, but I’m day-dreaming up plot points. I should be trying to fall asleep, but my brain is busy constructing witty dialogue and dramatic scenes. I should be doing housework, but I need to write. I should be weeding the garden (such as it is) but I need to write. Presently, I look at the clock and realize that it is past dinner-time, I should really cook something for my boys …

But I need to write!

I need to write because the people living inside of my head are begging me to tell their stories. And they won’t shut up until I do.

When I hear people talking about current events, or T.V. shows, or debating the strengths and weaknesses of sports teams, I often cannot relate, because my mind isn’t even on the same planet.

I am wandering around somewhere on Tehara.

People have gone into therapy for help in managing smaller obsessions, I’m sure, let alone an entire planet.

Other writers out there: do you know what I’m talking about?

Unfinished, continued

Here is a continuation of that snippet of a fantasy romance story that I posted in “Unfinished.” Perhaps I’ll write more of this tale, after all…

Photo by Muzibur Rahman Rahat on Pexels.com

The Ties That Bind … continues

Warner was a bear of a man with shaggy brown hair and, incongruously, a short, neatly trimmed beard and mustache. His brown eyes were keen and observant but not very expressive. Despite his size, or perhaps because of it, he was a reserved, gentle man who moved with efficiency and before-thought. When Adele saw him mooring the boat at the dock she felt the tension that had been gathering around her shoulders since that morning ease a little. 

She restrained herself from immediately running down to the lake to greet him. Instead, she made sure that she had his lunch ready, and that his pipe and smokeweed pouch were out on the little table beside his shabby armchair. She placed a warm pasty, a plate of greens, a strawberry tart, and a pint of cold beer on a tray and carried it out to the backyard, kicking open the door. Warner liked to eat his lunch on the work bench by the vegetable garden when the weather was clement. Adele often joined him, but not always to eat. Lunchtime was whenever Warner came home after his morning fishing excursions, and he didn’t expect her to wait on him.

The young woman set the tray down on the workbench and ran back inside to procure a cup of tea and a tart for herself. She stood by the table and waited, quivering with anticipation like a well-trained dog. It wasn’t long before she heard boots crunching in the gravel along the steep path leading up from the lake to the cottage. A wide-brimmed hat popped into view, and then a shaggy head crested the rise of the hill. Warner grinned at her, his teeth a flash of white splitting his beard. He carried a string full of gutted perch over one shoulder. “Still there, eh?” he called, teasing.

“I see you actually did go fishing this time,” Adele shot back playfully, arms akimbo.

“Successfully,” the burly man added, shaking the stringer of lake trout.

Laughing, Adele took his catch into the kitchen and put the fish into the sink to clean later. When she came out, Warner had removed his hat and was munching on his pasty, staring out at the lake. She sat down across from him, playing with her teacup. He gazed right past her, as if she wasn’t there, even after he finished his food. Adele schooled herself to patience, drank her tea and ate her tart. Warner continued to stare and frown at the lake. Finally, Adele lost patience and asked, “Well? are they coming?” Belatedly, she added, “sir.”

“Hmm?” Warner raised his eyebrows and focused on her. “Sorry, Adele, I was considering our next move. Yes, they’ll send someone. That’s all I can say for now.”

“Oh.” The young woman looked down into her lap. “I…I apologize, sir. For my impatience.”

Warner snorted with amusement. “You’re quite readily forgiven, initiate. Me, I’d go stir-crazy, having to sit in a tiny cottage all day.” He gulped down the last of his beer with relish and stifled a belch with the back of his hand. “Just what do you do all day, Adele?”

Adele smirked at him. “Oh, nothing much.” She ticked off the points on her fingers. “I just cook all the food, do the gardening, go to market, tend to the chickens, wash all your dirty clothes, and keep the place spick and span so that you can drag in muck on your boots every afternoon. ” She leaned her forearms on the table, her blue eyes dancing with mirth. “I’m basically your mother. Oh! Yeah. And I read sometimes.” She blushed, and added, “sir.”

The big man laughed outright. “Zifa was right. You’re a gem, girl.”

Adele propped her chin in her hands and smiled nostalgically. “I miss Zifa,” she murmured. “I hope she comes soon.”

“Me too, Adele,” he sighed. “Me too.”

They were silent for several moments. The man brooding, the young woman resolving an inner debate. Presently, she blurted out: “A man came by today.”

“Really?” Warner came out of his reverie. “This happen often?”

Adele shook her head, embarrassed. “No, sir. But I told him…that you were my…my husband.” She bit her lip, steeling herself for a reprimand.

Instead, he simply looked at her, amused. “Did you, now? Trying to scare him off? I bet he was hideous. Hunchback?” He grinned.

She chuckled in spite of herself. “No, no hunchback. He was tall and…well-built. Dark hair. Dressed like a ranger. His eyes reminded me of emeralds.” She frowned, looking off into the middle distance. “And he walked without making a sound or casting a shadow.”

Suddenly uncomfortable, she looked away from the man. “I…kind of invited him to supper tomorrow.”

“Hmm.” Warner scratched his beard, scanning the lake pensively. “Let’s move this conversation inside, initiate.”

“Yes, sir.” Adele took the dishes in. Warner held the door for her. Before he stepped inside himself, the man took another glance around the yard with eyes that that missed nothing. His expression was grim.

***

Adele knelt on the verge of the flower garden in the front yard, pulling up weeds. Warner sat smoking his pipe on the front porch steps. The late afternoon sun was wheeling its way toward early evening and the biting insects would be out soon. The young woman hoped that she would finish the task before then. It was her self-imposed penance; however, she drew the line at having her blood sucked out by vesperflies.

“Those trout tasted real good,” Warner observed. He blew a smoke ring. “What was that stuff you put on ’em?”

“Lemon butter, mostly,” she said, yanking out a particularly stubborn dandelion. “But I also added some parsley and thyme into the batter. Plus some other herbs. My secret.”

 “If you plan on fixing the chicken the same way tomorrow I reckon your admirer will be hell-bent on stealing you away from me,” Warner said dryly. “If anyone calls asking for me, tell them I’m cleaning my musket.”

“Ha ha,” Adele said sarcastically. And then, she chuckled. “I’ll make sure to give Zifa the recipe when we return to Shidkey.”

“When this is all over,” the big man muttered, puffing on his pipe.

“Yeah…” The young woman sighed as she pulled the last weed. She stretched, knuckling her back. “So, when are you going to tell me why you brought me here, sir?”

“What do you mean?” Warner asked in a mild tone. “I’d have thought it was obvious. So you could take care of me while Zifa’s clearing up that mess in Copper Harbor.” Smiling slightly, the big man tapped the dottle out of his pipe and stamped on the embers to snuff them.

Adele gathered the weeds up in a bundle and carried them over to the compost heap. “With all due respect, sir, I don’t believe you. There are others more experienced in fieldwork – “

“Well, you are the best cook in the entire convent,” he interjected. “And how do you think those ‘more experienced’ initiates became ‘more experienced’ in the first place?” He waved his pipe at her in emphasis. “You can’t expect to spend your entire youth holed up in the Archives. It was high time that you had an opportunity to learn the ropes.”

Adele bit her lip. “Sir, I appreciate my chance to participate in active service. I wasn’t complaining. It’s just…” She sighed, spreading her hands out helplessly.

“You’re used to having all the answers at your fingertips.” Warner packed more smokeweed into his pipe. “Well, now you’ll have to get used to not knowing everything.”

Adele looked at him steadily, mulling over his words. She was trained in obedience. If Warner said she didn’t need to know, then she didn’t need to know. “I just don’t get it,” she said softly. “Why would you need an inexperienced Binder on a mission to liase with – “

The big man clicked at her and held up one hand, his brown eyes alert. Silenced, the young woman reflexively clutched at the small lump concealed under her bodice and edged toward the front porch and Warner. “Time to retire for the night,” the big man commanded with quiet assurance.

The two went into the cottage. Warner bolted both doors. This was something that he hadn’t done before. It made Adele nervous and she wondered at it as she hastily got things ready for the next day in the kitchen. Then she closed all the windows and drew the curtains while the man lit the kerosene lamp in the sitting room. When she joined him, he was paging through the prayer book. Just as she had every evening for the past twelve days, Adele knelt beside the burly man as he read through the liturgy, responding on cue. When the service was completed, the two sang a short hymn together.

Afterward, Warner wished Adele a good night and sent the young woman to her tiny bedroom. Once he heard the snick of her door latch closing, he went to an oaken chest and removed his musket.

On with the Quest

Tentative cover art for the second novel. It needs something…I don’t know…maybe some characters?
I decided to take a risk by making the plot less boring.

While the first installment of the Wyldling series – Wyldling Snare – is out to be ripped into shreds by the beta readers, I have not put my writing on hold. On the contrary, I have continued writing the sequel, tentatively entitled Wyldling Quest. The narrative picks up where the first book leaves off – on a cliffhanger. If you hate that sort of thing, do not fret, because I will most likely publish the second book within six months of the first, God willing. Based on my outline thus far, it will have roughly 25 chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue. Currently, I have written the prologue and four complete chapters and even now I am in the midst of crafting a fifth chapter.

Naturally, this is a first draft of the second revision of the original work that I finished over a year ago. Maybe someone would have found the original version an entertaining read; I, however, thought that the heroine was spending too much time moping around and not accomplishing much of anything. Sitting around and bemoaning her impotence to effect change for three chapters is not the way to write an adventure story! BORING! A heroine ought to be out doing things as quickly as possible in the book, don’t you think? She needs to ACT.

As a result, I decided to allow her to misbehave a little – with a little nudge from the most mischievous of the supporting characters. In the original version, the heroine was in the main a sullen passive observer who was kept in obedient ignorance by her guardians. Yes, she is new to this world (a fish out of water character type) so there will still be that observatory element in the new version but I plan to make her less whiny and more proactive in proving her dependability to the other characters. She still begins as the character I made her to be – a sensitive and cautious sixteen year old girl with self esteem issues – but if she is really so anxious to rescue the hero from his captors, then she had better put on her big girl pants, stop complaining, and get on with it!

I can laugh at myself now for being so rigid as to adhere to my original expectations for the story – which were unrealistic, to say the least. And I don’t mean in the sense of fantasy or magic, I mean unrealistic as to character actions and interactions. Yes, the action takes place on a different planet, but even in a fantasy novel people should still behave in recognizable patterns. For example, if you were a military leader and you wanted to keep it a secret that the heir apparent to the throne has been abducted and a girl from another world has simultaneously appeared in the place from whence he was taken, you wouldn’t allow your underlings to throw a party and invite everyone in the village to meet her. Apparently my twenty year old self believed that a reader would suspend their disbelief in this circumstance.

Inevitably, by making the changes that I did, I changed the course of a story. I chopped out nearly a quarter of what I had worked so hard to craft and hone over the years. However, when you are a writer you must make sacrifices so that the story can flow in a direction that is entertaining while somewhat plausible. Were there instances of humorous, quirky dialogue and darling creative descriptions that did not escape my chopping block? Of course there were. And I do not delude myself into believing that everything I keep will survive a professional editor’s critical eye when the time comes.

So that’s my update. As always, I hope that in sharing my progress, somewhere in my rambling, shameless self-indulgence that there was something that might help another aspiring author.