The core story of O&E has been settled for about six years now, but they say the Abyss is in the details. When Cassandra first uttered her prophetic ramblings in the streets of Brokhal, was when I first truly grasped the underpinnings of the tale I was weaving. All at once I would argue my interest has always been in the simple humanity of my star crossed heroes. Destined to uncommon deeds, and troubling ends.
The whole of the first draft for the original Book 1 (now Book 1 & 2) was a “mere” 135k words. Each of the halves I split the tale into are now as long, or longer than the original manuscript, and sometimes I still feel that I am rushing things. Telling a story woven across decades, following the course of my heroes from practically birth to their prophesied fates has certainly proven a challenge to balance. I may one day do yet another pass, adding more abridging text to the longer stretches of skipped time, or where dates alone do not convey the break between events. Evening out my mysterious narrator, who usually does a good job of staying neutral. If anything I long to show some more subtle cracks in that facade, than clean up the ones that appear.
There have been many changes along the way, but as the analogy occurs for poor old Ezik, all has been in service of cutting the course deeper, and defying the rains to change a thing. That said, Book 1 got far more love than Book 2 in the years I sat, and noodled with the manuscript and dates (I trimmed 400 years off the calendar at some point.) Book 2 I have found around the middle, and into the latter half developed some problems. Logistical miss matches of time. While I am excited about the content that is filling the gaps, and think with some confidence that I am telling an even more compelling story, and will hopefully meet my deadlines, I do worry.
I am currently racing the clock, and trying to complete Book 2 by adding roughly two chapters worth of content, maybe a little more, into the middle. Hopefully without dropping publishing cadence. All in an effort to smooth out time, and make the twins years apart feel more substantial, and meaningful. I do worry though that this fresh content, however compelling, may show some seams. It will not have the years of editing passes behind it that earlier content has.
This further puts at risk Book III’s time table, since all my free time and energy is going into Book II currently, when I had hoped to perhaps finish Book III while I was publishing Book II. A task that looks less, and less likely, but a bridge I will just have to cross when I come to it.
At any rate, I hope you will all indulge me some failures, and please, offer critique where something seems confusing, or out of place. I really do want to hear what my readers think, and get this right. So let me tackle some things that are troubling me:
Spoiler Warning: Discussing content for readers up to Book II: Chapter 8, slight allusions to future content without specifics.
I particularly hesitate around some moments that make me as an author uncomfortable. I honestly get angry that they make me uncomfortable.
From such things as daring to even allude to menstruation, and there will be one more mention that naturally falls out of dialogue in Chapter 11. This shouldn’t bother me, it actually doesn’t bother me, but it does make me self-conscious. It actually makes me very mad that it does. I fret, and worry about making silly squeamish male readers cringe, and on the other side that where it occurs in The Winter Frost is meant to be a painfully awkward, touching, and yes intimate moment between two friends who wind up (later) lovers. This all gets inextricably tied up with so many hangups in our society, and I grudgingly embrace that all the more means it needs to be there.
I am literally playing here with the fantasy for many women of being rid of this nuisance in their lives (which in our world can sometimes be done with alternative versions of birth control – oh wait, relevant…) all the while shifting the trouble onto something that requires time, and attention. While I totally romanticize this scene, I do so more as a stumbling block, because dear fates how ever much Celia is more certain at the end she loves Katrisha, and however little shame has been put on her over the topic, she just can’t bring herself to reveal her heart under the circumstances. Which makes it harder over all.
If anyone noticed, yes I am intentionally playing with seasons and cycles here. With winter ending, spring coming, and “skipping the fall.” I also very much wanted to explore the mechanics of how people use their gift having subtle effects. From mage blood poisoning screwing up Katrisha’s health, and delaying development, to Wren developing very early, to Celia being ahead of Katrisha even though she was behind Wren.
Now – onto the other side here. Yes, lesbian (or should I say Lycian) romance. I am apparently intent on making this labor of love as niche as I can. I do not want to spoil anything, but I will be plain. It is going to get so much more complicated than that, and I will be dodging around the minefield of dealing with complex sexuality in what is arguably (if accidentally) young adult fiction. While moralizing far more ambiguously about society than about the actions of individuals.
I cringe half as much for what I will be cutting out, as for what I will leave in. So many things that are tempting to lay out flatly, and challengingly, and all at once I am unwilling to derail my content rating on. I will leave a great deal to the imagination where it belongs, and on the topic of things Katrisha will learn from Celia, I will suffice with the railings of a young Sylvia Grey, some centuries before:
“To think I had imagined not knowing a word for a part of my own body. I should almost find this preferable to the realization that I knew full well at least three expressions for parts of a boy, and could not say from whence exactly I learned them. No, worse, was the fact that I did – without context – know a word for my own anatomy. A word that was a favored slur on my father’s lips for women and men alike. That so plainly highlighted his innate hatred for women, to at last attach proper definition. I rail between spite for the abusive misuse, and a wish to scream it from the rooftops until there is no power left but to describe simple fact. All at once I am bereft of specifics, on the parts, the complexity, of an organ that even the most detailed medical texts reduce inaccurately to a vessel for other things, and not as I have found, a source of joy, particularly in aspects they have willfully forgone to even mention the existence of.”
Fates I love writing in the voice of Sylvia. So delightfully and justifiably angry that one.