Illustrating a place
Back at work means less time for the good things, so I've left this entry for a fortnight.
The first exciting news was seeing a working draft of Kirsi's illustration for the first book. We're working on the ambient colour being similar to the original novel ie colours around Tamesan's name meaning the Dawn's Light while capturing a sense of character and place. I'm loving what I've seen and we are discussing important features to add connection between the art and the writing.
Readers often ask if the writer has input into cover illustrations. My experience generally has been yes, and is certainly the case now when self-publishing, but also some of my earlier books emerged with covers approved by the publisher and not entirely by me. I think a lot depends on the marketing editors and what they guess will work as attractive covers.
Chasse's Song is now entering Chapter 18, and just over 55,000 words. The last two chapters brought interesting challenges where I am trying to capture Chasse's struggle with what constitutes being a man - traditionally in his village and what people expect of him. The antagonists have been reintroduced to ramp up the pressure on Chasse as they threaten the people he loves. Chasse is an emerging warrior, but his inexperience and lack of confidence arising from his inexperience combine to frustrate him when he wants to act as he believes he should act.
Because of the central character focus, it's also interesting working out how to show growth continuing offstage for Tam and Jaysin who are coming to grips with learning magic and living with a growing dragon. The trope/feature of magic in The Last Wizard books is partly the immutable and ubiquitous connection between dragons and wizards, with dragons being an inter-generational source of magical lore and ability, and also the presumption of the capacity for magic to enhance and work on the natural energy in all matter. Tam's growing capacity for magic is tied directly to her baby and growing dragon. Jaysin, however, is an anomaly; a person who can weave magic from the very matter of things, something not seen in this particular fantasy world before.
Speaking of fantasy worlds, as each of my works emerged I placed them geographically on the same planet/world. The Andrakis trilogy with its lands of Andrakis, Ranu Ka Shehaala, Targa and Uz Erhaag expanded eastward in the Ashuak Chronicles to include Ashua, Shekisu and Sekesu and Ukesu, and in the Dreaming in Amber series the world not only encompassed all of these lands but introduced Western Shess. Map examples below...
The existing draft of my latest work moves east from Ranu Ka Shehaala to introduce more countries/lands. The Last Wizard was never originally positioned in this world as a stand-alone novel, but I am now placing Harbin and the future places to be introduced in the third book in the greater fantasy world, most likely to the far north of the yet unpublished new fantasy project. So that entails drawing a new map of the world which I started today.
No research this past fortnight, just purely writing and editing.
Lost history and no drinking
Chasse's Song reached 50,000 words this week, with a key moment concluded that defines the plot for the second half of the novel. Research for Chasse's Song was limited this week, focussing mainly on spear fighting techniques. Most of the work on the novel was in banging out writing.
However, part of this week was devoted to a revisit to Girlie, thanks to amazing research being conducted by a good friend - Grant Tinney - who has a Facebook site called Brighton South Australia's Lost History Tour.
Contributors to the site have unearthed a treasure-trove of images and stories that support my research for Girlie and I have revised and added detail to a couple of pieces of information used in the novel, particularly concerning the Argosy dance hall at Seacliff.
I also uncovered a small article via Trove highlighting the alcohol rules in place in the 1940s - no consumption of alcohol within three hundred yards of dance halls. I always wondered why my father and his friends used to get in cars and drive a distance from the local dance hall when I was a kid. Now I know. It also explains the popularity of hip flasks and similar containers for having alcohol handy and easy to transport and hide.
A return to work this week might slow the writing process, but I'm committed to meet my target draft deadline for the second The Last Wizard book.
Boats, butchers, birds and bruises
With 45,000 words in draft, technically I'm at the halfway point of Chasse's Song. Of course, 'halfway' is a concept when creating a story, a marker, a reminder of keeping the story within agreed bounds. This is partly determined by text binding limitations with publication, partly audience expectation of reading lengths, partly 'tradition' for a genre - but mostly so I can give myself a solid target to constrain the tale.
Writing comes with more research. This week, the Harbin Dragon Fang are embarking on building a new dragon ship, regardless of whether the ones who fled when the dragon appeared in the village are coming back with the village's only ship. This sent me back into researching how the Vikings and other seafarers built their clinker longships. So much information is available, particularly given the projects that have been undertaken to replicate the building of those ships - everything from the kind of tree needed, how to shape and cut the keel, the strakes, the bow and so on. Additional research was needed to determine how a sail could be constructed from goat hide (the Vikings apparently sometimes used wool). Materials, techniques, time - all are important to help me add 'authenticity' to the story.
This led to revising how to fell trees effectively. Again, personal life way back in my teens gave me experience in this, but memory and research need to combine. There are some fascinating pages online. I was especially amused by the link following:
Then the fun research turned to killing and butchering goats. Yes, from my childhood I remember the process for killing, hanging, gutting and butchering a sheep, but fifty years separate me from that time. So, into the research. There is literally nothing you can't learn online nowadays. Why this? A spoiler - how else do you feed a baby dragon?
With the story's changing seasons from deep blizzard winter to emerging spring, I then researched a range of topics including seagull breeding seasons, bears emerging from hibernation, wolves hunting in snow and so on.
Finally, before this post, I was researching the impact and healing processes involved in treating broken ribs and a 'mildly' punctured lung - the fate of a character hangs on this material.
The links in this post are quick samples of where I've been as I've been developing the story. Each piece of research needed correlation from multiple sources to ensure I was finding accurate (or relatively accurate) information. A long time ago, I naively thought writing a story was a case of 'making it up' and relying on my personal knowledge and experiences. While that is equally still true, especially in a fantasy tale where the world and magic are in the hands of the writer, the degree of research involved is often hidden from readers, especially if it flows in the tale as it should - part of the world, the characters and the events.
One more week of being a 'full time' writer lies ahead before the working world kicks back in. Fourteen chapters have taken shape. I'm enjoying the project, but it is only a partial form chipped roughly in marble - a long way from the statue I want it to be.
Writing is my passion. Ideas, opinions, beliefs, experiences expressed through language - through words and images - pervade and create my life. Writing is my voice, my soul, my self. My dream is one day writing will sustain my life...