Bound A-Z: R is for Ruby (or: How to offend a dragon)

R

No sudden moves, guys.

I’ve invited Ruby here for an interview. This may have been a mistake, but we’ll see how it goes. We’re going to head out to the back yard now, as she definitely doesn’t fit into my office. Just walk quietly, stay behind me, and observe.

Oh. For anyone just joining us, Ruby is a dragon. A big, red, hot-and-smoky, not-quite-trustworthy (but kind of interesting), four-legged and two-winged dragon.

Let’s go, before the neighbours start to complain.

SCENE: backyard with a white picket fence. A massive dragon, her back rising higher than the neighbour’s bungalow roof, lies curled on the grass.

Ruby: *snorts, filling the air with the scent of wilting grass* What do you want now?

KS: Just a few questions. I asked readers in my Facebook group what they’d like to know about you, and–

Ruby: Your what group?

KS: It’s a human thing in this world. You can talk to people who aren’t there, see pictures and know what’s going on with them.

Ruby: I thought that was what you did for a living.

KS: No, it’s… Huh. Actually, I guess I do. Shall we get started?

Ruby: If it pleases your imaginary friends. *stretches, claws outstretched, digging deep paths into the lawn*

KS: Okay, then. Um… Kathy D wants to know about the father of your dragonlings. If the topic isn’t a sensitive one, of course.

Ruby: *chuckles* Of course not. Strange how are so easily offended by things as natural as producing young. This clutch, or the ones before them? Or the ones before them? Or–

KS: Any would be fine, but I think she meant the current… batch.

Ruby: Clutch, if we’re speaking of egg-laying. I don’t care enough to remember. He didn’t have a name, of course. Most dragons don’t have hapless young humans wandering into their private caves to bestow them. He was blue, with green eyes like mine. A handsome creature and strong, but quite young. He tried to lurk in my territory after I was done with him. We couldn’t have that, of course. He might have been a threat to the young ones when they hatched. I took care of the problem.

KS: *shuffles through notes* Okay, we’ll just leave that one alone. Maggie V wants to know whether you like ketchup.

Ruby: I like to catch up to what I’m hunting. Is that what you mean?

KS: There’s some quote about “beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup,” or something like that. It’s a seasoning sauce. With tomatoes.

Ruby: How horrid. *tilts head* I might try it, though.

KS: Maybe later, then. I have a request from Jennifer C about your past. How old you are, why you’re bothering to talk to humans. Anything.

Ruby: *narrows eyes* Now that is offensive. What have you heard?

KS: Nothing that’s not in the books. *moves chair farther away* We know it’s unusual for a dragon to take an interest in humans, that only older dragons can speak, and that most wouldn’t let humans go after interacting with them.

Ruby: *smiles* Then how do you know more don’t talk? Perhaps we just destroy the evidence of conversations like this one.

KS: *wipes sweat from brow* Fair enough. Would you rather move on?

Ruby: It doesn’t matter. I have found myself in a strange position these past few years. As I grow older, my mind is changing. Humans seem to think that becoming more like you should be desirable, but it’s not so. Internal conflicts and unanswerable questions and motivations that go beyond the basics of survival and procreation…

*shudders*

KS: You’re saying your life was simpler before?

Ruby: Infinitely.

KS: So why take an interest? Why not cling to what you once were, which as I understand it is the dragon ideal, instead of letting tasty humans live in exchange for stories and such? It’s almost as though you want friendship.

Ruby: Mind your words, human. *drums claws on the ground* The truth is that I don’t know. I’m hardly a respectable dragon anymore, I hate what I’m becoming, and yet it fascinates me. I want to know more about the lives of other creatures, to see what happens in the world and what effect I have on it with my actions or non-actions. It’s disgusting. Move on.

KS: You didn’t say how old you are.

Ruby: *glares*

KS: Moving on. Stephanie S says, “you’re a very seasoned dragon–”

Ruby: I’ll season you for supper with that catch-up stuff if you don’t drop it.

KS: Hey, it’s not my question. Be nice, or I’ll find a Sorcerer who can turn you into a salamander. The last book’s not out yet. I’m sure we could fit it in.

Ruby: You wouldn’t dare.

KS: Try me. Stephanie wants to know whether there are any memories you’d like to share.

Ruby: Oh, certainly. I’m thinking now of back when the people of Darmid arrived in my lands, after they overthrew the magic-wielding humans who ruled them in the west. *chuckles* They were determined to rid their land of magic, and thought themselves so prepared to do so after their little scuffle. A group of them settled not far from my old home. I left them alone for the most part, but they insisted on hunting me. I moved on eventually, though never far enough for their liking. But before I left, I crept into their town in the middle of the night and set fire to a string of houses. You should have heard the screams. And one who fancied himself a proper magic hunter chased me with a long sword. Again, this was early days, and they were hardly refined in their techniques. I pinned him down, and with one claw opened his torso like I was removing his clothing. His innards–

KS: You know, that might be enough memories. Emma C wants to know your favourite colour, and Shannon S wants to know what you wish you’d done differently in your life.

Ruby: *rolls eyes, feigns choking to death, then lifts head* Are we talking about regrets, now? I’m not that much like you people. And I like chartreuse.

KS: Really?

Ruby: No. Red. And gold is so pretty…

KS: Shannon also wants to know what you’d like as a present, but I’m guessing gold would be the answer to that, too.

Ruby: No.

KS: No?

Ruby: I want the rest of the magic hunters who killed my young one not so long ago. Alive. They have much to answer for.

KS: We’ll have to look into that, though a few have been taken care of. Sarah H asks what you like to eat when humans aren’t available, and whether men or women taste better.

Ruby: *laughs* That’s more like it. Actually, humans aren’t my favourite meal. I prefer horses or deer. Fleet-footed herbivores in general. As to the other part of that… Women. But I’ll tell you that humans with magic in their blood taste better than those without.

KS: *absently* I’d heard that.

Ruby: From whom?

KS: *looks up* Um. Humans. From your world.

Ruby: *perks up* Were they consuming the flesh of their enemies?

KS: What? No. It’s… never mind. *clears throat*

Ruby: Do go on.

KS: Oh look, another question. Is there any creature you don’t like? This is from Shannon again.

Ruby: *scowls* Shannon’s nosy. I don’t like most creatures. It would be faster to list those I do like.

KS: Would you?

Ruby: No. And you’re not on the list. Last question, now.

KS: Scott H wants to know when you’re going to take over the world.

Ruby: YES. *slams fist on the ground* That’s a proper question. And the answer is “when I choose to.” *stretches her head high to look over the fence* Actually, I might take this one. Now that you mention it…

KS: Annnnnnd that wraps up my interview with Ruby. Ruby the wonderful and benevolent and not-taking-over-the-world dragon. Anything else you’d like to add?

Ruby: Yes. Tell your minions that if they ever encounter a dragon they should leave it alone. As I said, you’re not all that tasty, but we do what we must.

KS: Okay, then. Thanks for coming.

Ruby: And thank you for not making this the least interesting day I’ve spent in recent years. It was close, but you pulled it out at the end. Now, speaking of not tasty, tell me more about these humans who you claim told you–

Kate: *approaches cautiously, whispers in Ruby’s ear*

Ruby: *wrinkles snout* That’s disturbing on so many levels.

Kate: Goodnight, folks!

Big thanks to everyone on my Facebook page and group who provided questions for the interview! I hope the answers were satisfactory.

If you don’t want to miss out on future fun, join us at http://www.facebook.com/katesparkesauthor

 

 

 

 


WIPpet Wednesday: Fateful Meeting

Hey, what do you know? I’m back!

And I’m back with a new project. Through a series of events I’ll explain soon, I find myself with some unexpected time on my hands. I asked members of my street team/readers’ group to suggest short story ideas, and they thought this one was pretty keen.

I’m not going to tell you all about it. Not yet. But it relates to the Bound trilogy, should be out before Sworn is ready to go, and will be sent out as exclusive bonus content for newsletter subscribers.

And you’re not going to want to miss this one.

Oh. For anyone new to this blog hop, WIPpet Wednesday is where we share a snippet from a work in progress that relates in some way to the day’s date. Today I’ll share 9 paragraphs for the ninth month. No context just yet, but some of you might guess who at least one of these characters are if you’ve been listening to me rambling for long enough.

This is very much rough draft stuff. Don’t judge me for the tongue-twister at the beginning. ;)

A broad-shouldered soldier turned to face her, and her breath caught as his gaze met hers. Cold eyes, dark and hard, searched her face. He scowled. Maggie wanted to run, and found she couldn’t. Couldn’t even look away. She stood frozen in the street like a mouse entranced by a barn cat, unsure of how to move or escape.

To call the soldier handsome would have done him a disservice. In spite of his keen glare, she couldn’t help appreciating the strength of his clean-shaven jaw, the way his straight nose balanced the curve of his lips, the grace with which he finally turned away and released her from his stare. The group moved on, and she followed. This was something interesting, something she’d barely even read about. She glanced back to mark the path to the market in her mind, then slipped through the crowd.

The king’s men moved with purpose, not stopping to speak with anyone outside their group. When they stopped again at a corner, cart traffic paused to allow them to pass. At the far side, the handsome soldier looked back again. She caught a breath and backed away.

“Watch it,” an old man muttered as she bumped into him.

“Sorry,” she whispered, but he was gone. She looked back to the guards to see if any of them might be watching, and found that the group had moved on again. She squinted, but couldn’t see the handsome one among them. The frightening one, she added, and felt warm with relief to not be locked under his glare again. Emalda had warned her not to wander too far—perhaps this was why. No one needed trouble with those men, especially if the king were in town. To see where they were headed might have been interesting, but would lead to trouble.

As she made her way to the alley that led back to the market, a hand closed around her upper arm. Before she could scream, another hand spun her to face a green-clad chest. Her throat closed as she looked up into those piercing eyes. Brown, she saw now, but with no warmth in them.

“Who are you?” he demanded as he steered her toward an alley—not the busy one she’d passed through, but empty and dark.

Maggie looked around, but found no sympathetic glances or anyone who seemed at all inclined toward helping her. They wouldn’t interfere with one of the king’s men.

“Gloria Graphook,” she stammered, grabbing for anything but her own name. If there was going to be trouble, the last thing she wanted was for it to be connected with her family. “What do you want?”

Annnnd that’s all we have space for.

For more WIPpet Wednesday shenanigans from authors in a variety of genres, click the link here. If you’d like to join in, post your own snippet on your blog, link back, and be sure to go check out what everyone else is doing. Big thanks to KL Schwengel for hosting, and for ripping the above story to shreds.

Thanks for stopping by! I’ll be back tomorrow to continue the “Bound A-Z” series with “R is for Ruby.” She stopped by for an interview. It got awkward.

You’ll see what I mean.


Bound A-Z: Q is for Queen

Hmm. This is awkward.

I had the loveliest image I wanted to share for this topic, relating to future events in the trilogy, but I can’t find the original source to credit them. Since I don’t want to be Stealy McThievypants, we’ll have to do something else.

*shuffles through files* Queen, queen, queen…

We haven’t really heard much from them in the Bound trilogy, have we? We know Severn’s mother is the queen of Tyrea, and that Ulric hardly ever spoke to her again after Severn’s little stunt regarding Aren’s mother. We know she has no magic. Aren explained to Rowan in Bound that Sorcerers and Sorceresses can’t have children together, and the king certainly wanted strong potential heirs. The queen of Tyrea has a strong influence over her son (or she did, once), but she hasn’t showed up on the page.

I do have a little something in the works, though. A prequel novella that takes place a few decades (or a little more) before the start of Bound, and this one set in Belleisle and Tyrea. This one won’t be going up for sale when it’s finished, but will go out to newsletter subscribers as a special bonus to say thanks for supporting my work.*

So just because we’re talking about queens today, and because it’s been so long since I got to participate in WIPpet Wednesdays, here’s a thin slice of description from the rough draft of that novella.

 

A broad pile of ornate fabric and curly brown hair swept into view, an astonishingly corseted lump of woman escorted by a white-haired young man. Jewels twinkled in her hair, crowning a face that was somehow round and pinched all at once, as though a generously endowed and once-beautiful lady had caught the middle part of her face in a slamming door. The rich brocade of her many-layered skirts brushed against the floor with every tiny step she took.

 

It’s not much, I know. Can’t spoil things, though, and I think you guys are going to like this one.

Well, if you like romance and danger and forbidden love and origin stories (sort of) and seeing established characters when they were younger and very different from how we’re used to seeing them.

It’s been a bit of a shock, actually.

So there you have her, the current queen of Tyrea.

Next week: R. Hmm. If only I had a character or two whose name started with R…

*sign-ups are free here, and new subscribers get a free download of The Binding, the existing prequel short story.


P is for Potioner

Alas, we find ourselves at another entry that leaves me struggling to not post spoilers. And man, does this topic develop in the next book.

One of the interesting things about writing a series is how things develop in unexpected ways. I don’t remember when I decided that there were two types of magic in the world I was creating, or when I realized how very different they were. It was one of those things that just seemed to exist, a discovery rather than an idea.

I’m afraid I’m as guilty of underestimating Potioners as some of my characters are, though. You see, when things started out, I thought there were strict divisions. A Sorcerer’s magic is internal, whereas a Potioner uses her perceptions and skills to manipulate magic outside of herself. They were healers, typically. Important people in their way, but nothing on the level of a Sorcerer.

Not real magic.

My characters showed me differently as I wrote their stories. It wasn’t until I drafted The Binding that I realized a Potioner was responsible for Rowan’s condition–I’d assumed it was a magical curse of some sort. But Elisha showed up with her ointments and herbs, and I learned that healing isn’t the only thing a Potioner is capable of.

Emalda introduced me to the range of skills a Potioner might have, but it wasn’t until I slipped into Nox’s mind that I truly understood the experience. I learned what it’s like to feel magic pulsing through a plant, to hear them calling silently, to sense the potential of a thing. I understood then that Potioners are far more than the glorified chefs or chemists that Aren (and so many people like him) take them for. Their magic might not flow through them as it does a Sorcerer, but it’s there.

And now we come to SPOILERTOWN, so I won’t say much. I will tell you that I’ve met another character who changed everything. Actually, she showed me something that was in front of me from the beginning, and I had overlooked it.

You see, there are several levels of skill when you’re a Potioner.

There are those with basic skills, mostly learned from books with a little kick of natural talent thrown in. They may be competent craftsmen, but there’s little art to it. Little of themselves thrown in.

There are the gifted ones, those like Nox and Sara who sense the power and potential in everything around them, who work from instinct as much as from lessons. They are the artists, using their gifts to build on learned skills and create something entirely new. They’re the innovators.

And then there are the truly great ones, who can–

No, I’m not telling.

All I’ll say is that though Nox thinks she’s mastered her art, she still has a lot to learn.


Writing Resources: For Love or Money by Susan Kaye Quinn

A quick book review today, and one that will be mostly of interest to writers.

Okay, almost strictly of interest to writers.

You might be familiar with Susan Kaye Quinn from her book The Indie Author Survival Guide. If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard me mention it (assuming you’ve been around long enough. Hi, new guys!).  It’s a fantastic resource for any indie writer, whether you’re new to this* or an experienced author looking to brush up on how to approach book production and marketing.

That book is the kind of how-to guide that feels like an older sister (a nice one, not the kind who puts gum in your hair) holding your hand and guiding you through the scary stuff.

For Love or Money is a different beast altogether. It’s not about how to write, or how to publish. It’s about crafting the rest of your career after those first few books, about figuring out what your goals are, why you’re writing and publishing, and how best to reach the top of your chosen mountain.

It’s about writing for love: Telling the stories that move you, the ones you’d write even if no one ever read them.

It’s about writing for money: Figuring out the market and discovering your own voice within a tight genre framework.

And it’s about doing both. Ms Quinn writes “mercenary” fiction (strictly for money) under a pen name, and she talks about finding joy in the work she does there. She talks about taking ideas that you love and shaping them so that they fit the market, thus allowing the books you write for love to become money-makers. And she talks about how it’s just fine to have both kinds of books out there.

I enjoyed this book enough that I read it in a day (during a long reading slump, no less). I’ll share a few of the lessons I took away from it, but it’s definitely worth grabbing a copy and reading it for yourself (though you should definitely read IASG first, as this one refers back to it).

My take-aways:

  • Not every book has to be a bestseller. When one book (say, a first book) has some measure of success, there can be a lot of pressure to repeat that with every new project or series. It’s comforting to know that if I decide to work on a project I love that might resonate with fewer readers, that’s okay. Writing for love is healthy, and sales will vary over the course of a career.
  • Writing for the market, aiming to please a larger number of people by writing books that cater to the genre tropes people love, is not selling out. It’s a unique form of creative challenge, and one that can net huge rewards (even outside of the money). There’s nothing wrong with actually wanting to make money off of our hard work, and predicting what will sell isn’t impossible.
  • I have my whole career ahead of me. If I decide to genre-hop instead of staying with a successful world and premise, that’s okay. It may put the brakes on things, but not burning out is just as important as maintaining sales numbers. Playing in another sandbox might keep me happier, and therefore help me do better and more meaningful work when I do return to the genre and world that kicked things off for me.

That’s not all, but those were the things I most needed to hear.

This book helped be choose the mountain I want to climb: writing stories I want to read, shaped to enthrall a large audience… most of the time. I don’t think I’ll ever be a mercenary writer, churning out dragon porn to make a quick buck (though I could totally kick ass at that, guys). Stories that are purely “for love”, i.e. too non-genre-specific to find much of an audience, will go on the back burner until I’m at a place financially where I can afford for them to flop and not have to stress out about it.

Reading this book helped me step back, look at my career goals, and decide where I want to go.

And that’s huge.

Check out Susan Kaye Quinn’s site here for links.

*New to this as I was the first time I read it, that is. In fact, the IASG, Be the Monkey (Konrath and Eisler), and Let’s Get Digital (Gaughran) were the three books that convinced me that indie publishing was the path I wanted to take, and I’m mind-explodingly grateful to the authors of all of them. If not for these books, Bound could still be making the rounds of slush piles, or badly published and nearly unread. *shudder*


O is for Orim (factoids for megafan show-offs included within)

O

Orim.

Not a familiar word?

It shouldn’t be.

“Orim” was the name of the country of Darmid when I sent Bound off for edits. When my editor got the twelve-year-old giggles over the fact that “Orish” sounded like “whorish,” I figured I should change it. It wasn’t easy. By the time I settled on something that wasn’t too hard to remember or pronounce and that I didn’t hate too much, I barely had time to do a find-and-replace before I sent the thing off for formatting.

There have been a lot of things like that during the writing process. See, I’m bad at naming stuff. We’ve talked a little about this before, so I won’t go too much into it. But the fact is, a book you hold in your hands on release day (bless you) is likely not the one the author first imagined months or years before, when it was just a bright bit of inspired magic with huge potential. Much as we like to think of stories as things we discover or living beings that grow organically*, there’s as much construction involved as there is discovery.

Disclaimer: Look away if ye wish not to see behind the veil.

Character names change. In the first draft of Bound, Rowan’s name was Abra (yoinked from my favourite book, East of Eden). That one got canned as soon as I realized that HEY, MAGIC. ABRA CADABRA.

*headdesk*

Aren went through at least four names before I found one that suited him perfectly–one I found by picking nice syllables and smashing them together rather than just changing the spelling of a common name, because I have to do everything the hard way.

Aren and Rowan were different people in early drafts, until Rowan grew a backbone and Aren embraced the fact that he’s kind of a dick. Romantic things happened earlier in the first drafts, because MAN can characters be hard to handle when they both know what they want.

And here comes the trivia for anyone who’s read this far:

The entire backstory of Darmid (or Orim… and other things before that) was different. Until edits, the reason the people of that land feared magic was because their ancestors came from our world. Their horses were average because they came from here, too. People feared magic because it was a danger to them when they first arrived, and because they carried prejudices about witchcraft from our world to that one. They set out to destroy it in their land, and within a few generations they almost succeeded. In previous drafts Kel talked about how the merfolk could come to “Oldworld,” while the people were trapped on land (though if you asked around in Ardare, you might find that there were occasionally recent arrivals via the mountains).

It was cool. It was interesting. And it totally threw off the story when I had to weave it into the narrative. That’s not the kind of thing you want to just infodump, and it became confusing when spread out. In the end, the story wasn’t about that. So I dropped it.

This origin of humans in Serath has not been completely abandoned. There’s a reason for little idiosyncrasies and apparent anachronisms, and they all have roots in our world. There’s a reason so many species that originated in that world may have occasionally been spotted here, once upon a time. There’s a reason the merfolk have fashions that might seem more at home in our world, why their library holds so many treasures unknown in Tyrea…

…but the humans no longer know about it. Instead of Tyreans arriving a few thousand years ago (hence the developed magic in their bloodlines) and the Darmish just a few hundred (hence their weaker magic and how rare Rowan’s gift was), it’s all been pushed so far back into the past that no human remembers it. The stories are generally dismissed as myth, especially in Tyrea. Only the merfolk still know, and they don’t tell.

What does this mean? Nothing on a practical level, at least for now. If Niari’s fascination with human culture has ever led her to our shores, she won’t be telling Aren or Rowan. If there’s sheet music for the Beatles in the Grotto’s library, Aren won’t know what it is if he ever gets a chance to bang it out on a piano (and he’d probably think it was weird, anyway).

Unless I write more about the merfolk, this little fact will probably never come up. Even then, it might never make it onto the page.

But now you know.

Feel free to be all hipstery about it if it ever does make an appearance. :)

Tell me: What one thing are you such a mega-geek about that you absorb obscure bits of trivia like you’re a sponge in a puddle?

*Okay, maybe it’s like this for some writers, and their first drafts are unplanned, inspired, just-as-they-imagined gifts from the muses. Most of us have to work harder, especially if we want our work to appeal to anyone outside our own heads.


New Website (with free stuff!)

Guys? I’ve been busy.

Like… Veggie Tales busy.

I’ve had edits ready to go for over a month, and thank goodness for that. We moved to a new town, which meant no time for anything else for quite a while. We’ve been in the new house for about three weeks now, and are almost settled in. I’ve got an office, and I’ve been putting it to good use.

Don't worry, it's far messier than this now.

Don’t worry, it’s far messier than this now. I’ll get a better picture soon. This is just sad.

Doing what, you ask?

Planning new stories–a short story that will be a newsletter exclusive when it’s done, and a new novel that I’m so excited about that it might disrupt plans to get my Urban Fantasy series done. The short story topic is Bound-related, and was suggested by members of my street team.* They’re working me hard. It’s fantastic.

Reading books about writing, about business, about… well, fiction as well, actually. We’ll talk about that later.

I’ve also finally got around to getting a proper website set up. I was intimidated for a long time, having no idea how to buy a domain name other than through WordPress.com, unsure of whether I could handle using anything else. Thanks to a fantastic tutorial series, I’ve finally got something cooked up.

It’s got book information.

It’s got excerpts.

It’s got the latest information on upcoming releases.

It’s got a chance to sign up for my newsletter, which now comes with a free download of The Binding, the short story prequel to the Bound trilogy (no longer available anywhere else).

Click here to take a look at the new katesparkes.com, then let me know whether there’s anything you’d like to see added in the future!

And I’ll see you back here tomorrow for a most interesting addition to the Bound A-Z series.

*not a member yet? Love the Bound trilogy and want to chat with other readers, ask me questions, get your hands on advance review copies, and have a grand old time? Make sure you’ve got a review posted somewhere, then ask to join on Facebook. We don’t bite. Usually.


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