Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
We here are not built for the heat. Unfortunately for us, no one had told the heat. The Pacific Northwest is currently going through some record temperatures, and while objectively north of the border we’re not climbing quite as high as our neighbours to the south, subjectively we’re roasting just as badly.
For anyone out there not in the know, as I’m writing this, we’re preparing for temperatures to reach around 37-38 Celsius today, which for my Fahrenheit-dependent readers is around 100 degrees. Now, let’s not make this into a heat-measuring contest. I’ve experienced just as bad and sometimes worse in other places around the world. The difference is those places were often built for heat, while for our poor city these are historic highs. Almost no one here has air conditioning, ourselves included.
It’s like when everyone living in wintry places laughs when it snows half an inch somewhere and the whole city shuts down. Personally, I’m not sure what’s funny about a municipality not overspending on infrastructure they hardly ever need, but that’s just the realist in me. For the same reason, few here have invested in an AC unit, and without doing any research I would venture to guess one is currently impossible to find. So we do what we can, trying to harness whatever non-existent breeze there is through all our open windows and doors, and trying to head to bed early knowing that sleep will be hard to come by during the sweltering nights. Also trying to keep a constant vigilant eye on three kids who need to stay hydrated, including a baby.
For myself, the hottest day of this ordeal, which should be today, is also coinciding with a return to work from a two-week vacation. Let’s just say catching up on a quarter of a thousand emails while my brain is trying to melt out of my head is really not a vibe I was going for. Thank goodness for working from home, I guess. Our office has very little by way of a circulating air system and facing this heat in proper pants in front of my sunny window sounds like the last thing I want to do.
So, whatever happens today and tomorrow, just have to remember that for us it should all be mostly over by Wednesday (though the interior regions of our Province will likely not be so lucky), with the return of a far more seasonable heat, and maybe full brain function that would allow me to not only work properly, but to write as well.
Of course, what I also can’t help but remember is that while this particular heat wave will be over soon, the situation that is causing it will not go away as quickly or as easily, that this is a pattern of events taking grip across the planet – a grip that’s only getting tighter. Time to remember too, that there are ways out of it, with all the combined ingenuity of humankind, it doesn’t have to be the status quo, or worse. However, there are those out there who would sooner put “shareholder value” or “political donations” on a higher pedestal than human suffering.
Hopefully, and I apologize for ending so crassly, once they start suffering too, their priorities will shift.
For a few moments after he’d woken up, Hilosh gave serious consideration to the possibility that he was dead. What else could have explained the doughy blanket of tranquility that he found himself wrapped in? Hilosh vaulted out of bed, nearly slamming his head into the shelves that overhung his cot and went straight to the window, where he found mostly darkness. It was nighttime on this inhospitable rock, but more importantly, the bolts of lightning were reduced to a few sparks glowing along the horizon. Any vestiges of remaining sleep left Hilosh and he marched out of his office, trailing behind plumes of fog from his warm breath in the frigid corridors and stairways of the barracks.
Stepping into the kitchen, he found Charosar already at work, with Yarmar offering herself as support.
“You knew about this and didn’t tell me?” Hilosh asked Yarmar who was checking on a steaming pot of something nutritious for a change.
“I figured you needed your sleep,” she answered unapologetically.
“Maybe you’re right. But don’t go spreading word, alright?”
“We’ll see,” she answered, closing the lid and moving to another pot.
“Should be ready in about a half hour,” Charosar declared as she leaned into a knife with the satisfaction of a professional who had been kept from her true passion by so many days of rehydrated ration packs. “Twenty if you want to lend a hand.”
Hilosh pulled off his fur-lined gloves and joined Yarmar at her side.
“I’ll give the call to wake up the crew in a few minutes,” Yarmar said. “Then after they had their fill, we’ll head straight out there.”
Hilosh nodded, slicing into a vegetable that had been frozen for far too long; nothing Vaparozh, so he never bothered to learn the name of it. As he toiled with Yarmar and Charosar over the hot pots and pans, for the first time in days he peeled off the outer layers of his clothing, revealing a frame the other two appeared to him to eye with some concern. It was what he always looked like, though, even in his youth when he’d have to finely adjust with his bare hands mining drills that weighed three times as much as he did. It was nice, for a change, not only to shed the fake skin of a shimchek, but some whole other person’s body type as well.
Once they were done, and the food was delivered, Hilosh and Yarmar split up to attend to their duties.
The crew hadn’t gotten a full night’s rest but with the food filling their bellies and the prospect of getting the job done, no one was complaining and the mood in the male mess hall was generally upbeat. Yarmar was across the door in the female mess hall – their crew was split about even, though she had all the Mraboran, and he figured the mood in there was a few degrees more cheerful than where he was. He never had the same way with words as she did, but in any case, it didn’t seem like they needed him much, as most of the crew was chatting away contently, with the notable exception of the Human, who sat in his own corner of the long table, trying to keep down the alien cuisine.
Hilosh knew his own prejudices weren’t helping Ayra Santosi none either, that he wasn’t being fair, drawing this kind of inexorable association between two completely random Humans, who likely never met and hadn’t even been aware of the other’s existence. It was hard, though – Humans hadn’t exactly become ubiquitous around these parts and Hilosh encountered so few it was easy to imagine them as part of a small cohesive group rather than a species that numbered in the billions, much like the Vaparozh themselves. Still, every time Hilosh looked at Santosi, he imagined the one that had come years before Santosi, brought to this forgotten corner of space as if intentionally to set off the chain of events that brought Hilosh there.
The turnover at this mining operation made it that there was no one on this rock left who had met her. Even the ownership of the facility had changed twice since she spent time here, guiding the bore machines, praying away the lightning storms, and freezing in her bunk between supply shipments, just like the rest of them, except for one small difference – somewhere in the dead lava tunnels that crisscrossed this once volcanically active world, she’d discovered a Drop. In the stories that were passed down about the glossy black sphere, its size varied greatly – anywhere from being barely large enough to power a surface-to-orbit shuttle to being suitable for a capital navy ship or a small lunar colony. The only things that were certain was that it did exist and that it was promptly pilfered, most likely by the same Human who found it, leaving nothing here but the promises of finding more. These were the promises sold to the next owner of the mine, and the next, and then to the corporation that Hilosh was working for, who then asked him, for the good of all Vaparozh, to volunteer for this post, not because he had some magic touch, but because everyone else was either too old and important or too young and full of promise. At least Yarmar was someone who could relate. She had a far more positive outlook, though, something he envied her for.
Just don’t look at Ayra Santosi, Hilosh told himself, focus on the others, and do what Yarmar would do, which, he acknowledged, was useless advice, as he was no Yarmar.
Hilosh sighed and let his eyes wander past the window and up the wall to the ceiling. Everything here was constructed from the same dull grey lightweight metal. No matter how many rugs, tapestries or blankets, shipped in by successive crews who tried to make the barracks more livable, were hung on the walls and covered the floor, it still felt like the inside of a can of salted fish. Between the rationing of water that made showers a scarce commodity and filled the living quarters with a briny aroma and the darkness of his office, he half-expected that when he turned his head he would find not Yarmar, but a bug-eyed scaly fish staring dumbly straight ahead.
Instead, it was just Yarmar; a whole generation younger than him, although, who wasn’t these days? She gazed out the window with such determination that he could almost believe that she could resolve this storm just by looking at it. Her wide violet eyes, not uncommon in their species, looked deep purple in this light, while his own pale blue ones appeared dim, as if someone had turned off the light behind an empty pane of glass. The light of the storm in general was not kind to their complexion, erasing the darker ringlets that mottled their earthen green skin leaving them looking like monotonous blots of ink, particularly where the mass of flesh that formed at the back of their skull and neck drooped over their shoulders, spilling down slightly over their chests. Despite all that, he was perfectly content to hole up in his metal cave. Yarmar was of course right though, he had to do for the men what she’d done for the women. It wasn’t their fault that they were stuck with him.
“If I go down and join the men to eat, how else would they know I’m working extra hard on their behalf by watching this blasted storm for hours on end? Probably know more about it than Viri at this point.”
“Well that’s good, we might need a replacement meteorologist soon,” Yarmar said.
“Because if the crew has to ration any harder, he’s first on the list to get eaten.”
Hilosh chuckled, dislodging something in his throat that made him cough. “You’re as dark as a Mraboran,” he said.
“Well I did work among them for years.”
“Right, that must be why they love you.” Rocks; rocks made a lot of sense to Hilosh. People, not so much. He liked to think he knew more about rocks than Yarmar, but if he did, it wasn’t nearly as much as she knew more about people than him.
“Oh, come now.” She paused, and he wished she hadn’t softened her voice. “They love you too.”
“Yeah, maybe how I’d taste.”
“See, easy habit to make, harder one to break.”
Hilosh let out a laugh that faded as his thoughts returned to the weather outside. His mind raced to find patterns and hypothesis. No lightning strikes for three seconds? That was a good sign up until the skies would unleash another volley that would jump from guardrail to guardrail down into the open pit. A patch of sky that grew lighter towards the horizon? That meant the storm was running out of steam. And then, a few minutes later, it would grow so dark Hilosh suspected the sun itself might have gone out while no one was watching. Everything in his head was the storm, and so he didn’t even hear when Yarmar took her exit from the office, leaving him with the only company he’d kept in days. A particularly bright flash struck the ground beneath his window.
Everything was good omens and bad omens and new omens he hadn’t yet ascribed any meaning to. None of them however slowed the approach of the Raire, or hurried up the storm, or transported all their mined ore to the transfer station in orbit. He remembered the words of his son, spoken with such disgust and embarrassment years earlier: “This is why we lost. This is why we’d been losing for centuries.” It wasn’t his words, of course, it was theirs, the Thorian educators in that fancy school of his. Hilosh thought it would give Rachek an advantage in the world. He was right, Rachek was doing well in the world, better than his father could have ever imagined himself doing, but it was still somehow the biggest mistake Hilosh had ever made. The second biggest had been agreeing to accept this position. Not having seen either of his kids in years, he figured he’d spend some if his later years in service to his people. And yet somehow it still felt like losing.
Yarmar once again was right, it was sleep that he needed instead of insisting on this window-side vigil. He’d need the right presence of mind to tell their crew that they needed to section off more parts of the barracks, that they’d be bunking in even closer quarters, and that despite all that, they’d still need to lower the temperature a couple of degrees.
In the corner of the office, there stood a cot, recessed underneath some shelves. It was one of the reasons that him and Yarmar had separate offices, since they slept in them too. He crawled underneath the thick rough blanket and, sticking his head inside until his breath sufficiently warmed him, fell asleep in minutes.
Represented here is a specimen of braungal, a perennial tree native to Mrabr, the homeworld of the Mraboran. The braungal is one of the more common species of numerous trees that contribute to Mrabr’s mottled purple and green appearance. It is worth noting that for some inexplicable reason, the artist chose a much lighter and more vibrant shade of purple than how the trees actually appear in real life. Perhaps an artistic liberty taken to highlight the exoticness of the trees to those from planets with exclusively green foliage.
The tree is rather ubiquitous on Mrabr, its range spanning the entire planet save for the southwest planes beyond the Graram Mountains, and the polar regions. Most braungal reach the height of about 40 to 60 feet, while the more majestic subspecies in the far north can grow as high as 100 feet. The tree’s thick lower fronds are only a few feet off the ground and can serve as adequate shelter during a storm. Caution should be taken though as a swampy area with a thick concentration of these fronds may indicate the habitat of a Mraboran meatgrinder.
The pink slightly translucent fruit of the braungal are edible to most sentients but unremarkable in its taste. The flesh of the fruit is firm and mostly flavourless with slight sour notes, while also containing a large quantity of small white seeds that are bitter when bitten into. Braungal fruit rarely form part of the diet of the largely carnivorous Mraboran, though it is often included in livestock feed for animals such as the agmari.
The braungal occupies a special cultural significance for Mraboran as well. Mysterious strangers often wait for folkloric travelers under the braungal and the tree is closely associated with Lorz, the goddess of the hunt, one of the more prominent deities in the Mraboran pantheon and one of a handful still revered in a society that has grown largely agnostic.
Although the planet has been united politically for thousands of years, braungal trees continue to be strongly associated symbolically with the northern hemisphere, as braungal fronds used to serve as the national emblem of the royal house that had dominated there prior to unification. Primarily for this reason, prominent northern families ensure that their estates have a healthy braungal grove, and breed varieties whose leaves approach the colour black as a sign of prominence and wealth.
To see where the Braungal tree is referenced in The Bloodlet Sun, please see here.
The fur coat kept the warmth in, but without the steaming tea, there would have been no warmth for it to contain. The fur, of course, was fake, they hadn’t harvested shimchek for their fur in centuries, but the coat did its job nonetheless. Vaiya tea was still around, except this was also not the real thing, and it was not doing its job. Yarmar had put together her own special recipe from the supplies they had available, and Hilosh supposed that if you heated it enough to scald your tongue, you could almost pretend it was distilled memories of the actual drink.
The view outside the darkened co-supervisor’s office was even more sorrowful, and made Hilosh feel cozy by comparison. The storm had entered its second week, lashing the canyon that was the base of their mining operation with piercing violet lightning while winds made everything in the workers’ barracks shiver and groan. The engineers assured him the structures could withstand a far worse beating. Then again, the geologist promised far more ore than what they’d been pulling up, and the meteorologist swore at the beginning that this storm would clear within three days. So Hilosh was in ample supply of assurances but with a dwindling amount of trust in them.
There was a hollow metallic knock on the door.
“Come in.” He didn’t need to ask who it was, knowing that it would be Yarmar, his co-supervisor, no doubt with some news he didn’t want to hear; otherwise, she wouldn’t have bothered him, knowing to leave him to his own somewhat unproductive way of coping with this adversity.
“It’s not going to go away just because you keep staring at it,” she said.
“It used to work with my kids.”
“Have you been sleeping?”
“Not recently,” and then after the pause that was filled by Yarmar’s sigh he added, “Besides, your vaiya tea has been keeping me up.”
“That tea is glorified bathwater and you know it.” She joined him by the window, looking down into the deep scar in the ground, the sheer rock faces punctured by mining caverns, some of which were plugged by drilling machines that had been tucked away from the worst of the weather. The War of the Last Gasp may have been celebrated across the Know Reaches for its blow to the Thorian Empire, the apparent signal that their time of dominance would soon be coming to an end, but forty years later, not only had that day not come, but forgotten in the allies’ victory were the Vaparozh. Hilosh and Yarmar’s people lost substantial territory at the end of the war, an unspoken compromise to have the Thorians admit defeat, which resulted in the resource crunch that chased their people to the inhospitable worlds of Dead Space, just like the rock Hilosh had now found himself on.
“Any end in sight?” Yarmar asked.
“None that I can see. Though Viri swears up and down that it’ll be another two days at most.”
“We might not have two days.” There it was, the reason she had come. “The Raire just radioed in and said they’re a couple of days out.”
“Great,” Hilosh said with what felt like the last bit of strength leaving his body.
“If this thing isn’t over by then …” She stopped herself, took the mug from his gloved hands, and took a sip of his vaiya tea. “Well, I don’t need to tell you.”
She hadn’t. Just like her, he’d been crunching the numbers the last couple of days. No one was crazy enough to fly shuttles in this weather, and even if the storm resolved itself, it would take time to collect the extracted ore for transport, and the crew of the Raire wasn’t exactly known for their patience. This far out into Dead Space, about a two-month freighter haul to the nearest breathable atmosphere, supply ships were life and they knew it. The Raire in particular was an Anthar Kai vessel, so would have little concern for the plight of lesser species. They’d stick around an extra half day, at most, and then they’d be gone, and not only would this complete an abysmal year of missed quotas, the crew would also have to ration until the next scheduled ship arrived. He wondered how much more he could lower the temperature before they chucked him down the chasm.
The crew were mostly Vaparozh, with a few Mraboran and Nabak, as well as one lonely Human, the first one to have stepped foot here since the Human that had started this whole mess for Hilosh in the first place.
“How’s the crew?” Hilosh asked. He hadn’t been out of his office in a few days, and in any case, Yarmar was always better with the whole lot of them than he was.
“You know how they are, they just want to work. Charosar has been talking about how she did four years on Rosha Chot’hagh without any work stoppages and this storm is nothing compared to what they have there.”
“Ha, I also spent time on Rosha Chot’hagh. Those storms are a gentle breeze compared to what’s out there right now. This place? Should have been shut down years ago if they asked me.”
“I take it no one asked you.”
“Nope. Just thought I’d have better luck finding another Drop down there.” A lightning bolt struck the top of a crane standing at the edge of the chasm. “I don’t know, I think my luck may have run out.”
“There’s always my luck, maybe it’ll rub off on you.” Yarmar jostled him shoulder-to-shoulder, yet Hilosh didn’t take his eyes off the storm or even crack a smile.
“You should at least join the men for dinner tonight,” Yarmar suggested.
I’ve noticed a curious trend in my writing recently to do with the setting of my stories. First question of course is how does one “notice” their own trend, aren’t I the one setting them? To that I answer that you’d be surprised what you don’t notice about your writing until you’ve had a chance to step back and take a look. Specifically, in my case I’ve been setting more of my stories in Russia, and with a particular slant to them as well.
Thinking back on my high school churn of short stories, I can’t recall any of them being explicitly set in Russia except one – the mostly autobiographical story of a kid with a heart condition trying to play hockey (don’t worry folks, knock on wood but this seems to have resolved itself – the heart condition, not the hockey, which is an affliction that refuses to leave me). There was another one that was loosely based on the events of one of the bombings of the Russian parliament in the early post-Soviet Union days, but it was set in an otherwise nameless fictional European country. An odd pattern give how much of writing advice is “write what you know”.
This seems to have begun to shift in the past few years.
Firstly, my second novel that I’m currently 70K words into is set predominantly in Russia. You can read more about it here but the gist is that someone who immigrates from Russia as a kid wakes up in his mid-twenties back in Moscow living the life he would have supposedly led if he had never left. Some parts are set in Canada, but otherwise it’s a Russian-set novel through and through.
Secondly, my third long-form writing project, which recently surpassed 15K but is still in the experimental stage is an autobiographical (or possible semi-autobiographical, since I’m still toying with this) accounting of my relationship with my father set against my immigrant experience. Most of this takes place in Canada but since I immigrated after I’d turned thirteen Russia plays a prominent role here as well.
And finally are my short stories. My production of these has slowed down considerably and I think on average I’ve completed about two a year for the last few years. Still, two out of the last four that I’ve worked on are set exclusively in Russia, with a curious common theme between them. The one that I completed last year, “Grisha and Kolya”, follows two kids, one who has a developmental delay and the other who bullies him regardless, not for his disability, but his perceived class privilege. The other, "Snowdrops", is about an older woman living by herself just above the concrete overhang of a Soviet-era apartment block and her struggles with a juvenile delinquent who keeps throwing things out of their apartment to smash right outside her window.
Both of these stories are pure fiction, but draw heavily on my own experience in Russia, including elements of myself lurking in the background, as I use the stories to try to deal with some of of the mistakes from my childhood.
It’s a shift to be sure, and not entirely a mysterious one.
High school wasn’t exactly an encouraging environment for me to explore my Russianness, as I found mostly what my identity earned me was a heavy dose of bullying. This time in my life I was trying to figure just how “Canadian” I could be given my background, and learning how heavy the first part of the hyphenation of “Russian-Canadian” would be.
Over the years, like Canadian society has finally begun to do, I’ve started moving past the “hyphenated” identity, allowing both to exist independently in the amounts that are true to myself and not some externally-dictated vision of what I should be. I think for this reason I’ve felt more comfortable drawing on my Russian influence directly, since each foray no longer threatens to envelop me in an identity crisis in the same way. I’m excited as to where this new direction in my writing will lead me.
My favourite author, Kazuo Ishiguro, set his first two novels in Japan, even though he emigrated from that country at the age of five. Not to say that I’m anywhere close to expecting the same kind of success, but it’s a great source of inspiration, and who’s to say what will happen next.
When the Human that had hit her noticed she’d seen him, he straightened up and spread his arms, “Wassat, abom? Want sommore?” Despite it being a heavily accented version of StEC, she understood enough – “abom”, short for “abomination”, a catchall epithet for anyone not Human.
She scanned him for a weapon, and finding none figured she may have underestimated the power of a Human fist. Still, she wondered what a full-force open strike from a Mraboran would do to a Human face. Either from boldness or stupidity, he showed no fear as she approached him, arms hanging limply at her side, a pose that may have looked entirely harmless, even comical, to someone unfamiliar, but to any Mraboran who saw would have been an obvious sign that blood was about to be spilled. A Mraboran did see, though, and risked putting himself in the line of fire to pull Angzal away from the street.
“Don’t be daft,” Rzena hissed at her in Mraboran, though his speech was somewhat slurred, prompting the Humans to make crude meowling noises in mock imitation as the two of them retreated, shoving past the law enforcement officers and out of the suffocating strangle of the march. Here, the pedestrians thinned out quickly, and only two blocks later they felt safe enough to slow down.
“I can’t believe you were actually about to fight them,” Rzena said, annoyed, as if it was him who’d had to drag her half-conscious bug-eyed self over that bridge.
“Me!?” She whirled on him, considering for a moment that it hardly mattered which individual served as an outlet for her rage and wondered where the same fire had been when she had to drag him out of there all on her own. “They’re the ones that attacked us first.”
“A few glancing blows. You think that would have been enough to justify a Mraboran diplomat disemboweling a few non-consequential Humans? I can almost imagine the headlines back home. Or is it that you seriously don’t want to keep this job, do you?”
“Forget the job, I’d rather live.”
Looking into his eyes, the right squinting from the swelling on his brow, she took his impatient exasperated tone for what it was – gratitude that he could never express in so many words.
So she dropped it, and they continued to put distance between themselves and the protesters until their presence no longer caused that ripple in the air that Angzal picked up on when they had left the restaurant. Rzena walked with a slight limp that he looked to be trying to hide but couldn’t avoid, so Angzal made no mention of it. As for her own injury, she touched the back of her skull and realized quickly that unless she enjoyed the sensation of a hot needle stabbing through her head temple to temple, then she should probably not do that anymore. Angzal knew the prudent thing to do would be to get it checked out by a doctor, but she had no appetite for dealing with Human xenobiologists, and the one Mraboran clinic in town would not be open at this hour. She wondered if Rzena had walked himself through the same equations yet.
“How’s your head?” she asked.
Rzena put a hand to his brow and then studied his fingers. “Bleeding’s stopped.”
He chortled at that. “Yeah, I guess it is.” He touched it again, seemingly harder this time since he winced and like Angzal thought better of poking around again.
They were passing in front of the consulate offices. The only evidence that this was the starting point of tonight’s conflagration were an abundance of litter, a sign with a snapped handle tossed to the curb and several abandoned low metal fences, for posterity, to show that some effort to control the crowds had obviously been made.
“You think you’re going to get that checked out tonight?” Angzal motioned with her head to Rzena’s swollen brow that continued its advance over his eye.
“I’ll live,” he answered, and then with a shrug added, “probably.”
“Yeah, I’ve also seen enough Humans for one evening.” A rowdy group of locals stepped out of a nearby restaurant and onto the street. By all accounts, and Angzal knew this, they had nothing to do with the others, and were simply having a good time, not even paying any mind to the two Mraboran. Still, they both made the silent decision to cross the street and out of their path, walking at a pace that was uncomfortable for Rzena until their paths diverged a few minutes later and Angzal offered to see him to his door.
“Don’t bother,” he said, and there was a pang of something akin to sorrow in Angzal to hear him sound his age. It looked as if something else was dancing on the tip of his tongue, perhaps some kind of joke or comment he wanted to use to brush the whole series of events under the rug, clear the slate. Instead, all he said was “Good night” and turned to head home.
She waited for him to disappear behind a corner before going on her way.
For Angzal at least, any notion of home was still lightyears away. Nothing about her apartment suggested any sort of sanctuary and, given the throbbing that now ballooned where the Humans had struck her, even the possibility of lying on her back in her strange bed on this strange planet and staring up into a painfully boring white ceiling to put this whole day away was taken from her.
Back in February I introduced you to my latest writing project – the fantasy story with LitRPG elements entitled “The Second Magus”. I’d gotten the idea for the novel when I saw which kind of genres succeeded on Royal Road after I had posted The Bloodlet Sun to that site I wanted to try my hand at my own story in that vein, while also finally bringing to life an idea that I’ve had brewing for a number of years. I initially estimated that I would like be ready to post this in the spring/summer.
With spring quickly slipping away from us (and if we’re going by the Russian way of counting the seasons, today is the first day of summer), I think I’m likely to miss that goal. The good news is, this has nothing to do with a general lack of progress on the story. In fact, having recently cleared 36K words, I’m further along in it by word count than I’d hoped at the beginning of the year.
The problem is that whereas I’ve seemed to have found time for writing, I’m still having trouble putting in as much editing as I’d hoped. The Second Magus is competing with The Bloodlet Sun, which is already on a schedule where I can’t afford to fall behind, andmy novel, which I’ve sworn and will continue to swear will be done soon. For this reason, the editing is lagging significantly behind the writing, and of those 35K words, none so far are publishing-ready.
This is further compounded by the fact that I want to have a pretty aggressive initial release schedule to increase my chances of getting into the “Trending” section of Royal Road. This means that I need to work up a significant buffer before I launch into it, and as a result have much more work ahead of me. Currently, my more realistic goal is that The Second Magus will launch on Roya Road in September, on the anniversary of the release of The Bloodlet Sun on this blog.
As for the story itself, I think it’s going well. I didn’t know how comfortable I would feel in the genre but I’ve found a niche I can live with – focusing on the character and the plot rather than unique and detailed worldbuilding that can be found in something like the Stormlight Archive. Elements of the world and parts of the plot sometimes sprout as I go, which is another advantage of waiting for a larger buffer to build up. Unlike traditional works which get written in their whole before going to publishing, with my serial web novels, I don’t have the benefit of being able to see the end result and then reworking from the beginning. At least with a buffer it allows me to set most of my pieces right before I gallop ahead and handcuff myself by things written in the earlier chapters.
I’ve also had a chance to try out the first few chapters on my kids and it received their stamp of approval. Wish I could take them further into the story but our story time has been sidetracked over the last month or so by my seven-year-old’s own creation: The Adventures of Bob and Appaly. I might go into that later just for fun – it is quite the ride on the rollercoaster of a kid’s imagination.
In the meantime, I will plug way at The Second Magus and work on fleshing out such minor details as the name of the Kingdom where everything takes place, and the main character’s last name (I know, I know, but fictional names have never been my strong suit so I’m being extra careful here, and with the first name being “Miro”, I think I’m just lucky it’s something that’s only four letters and two syllables long and doesn’t sound like some tertiary Star Wars planet afterthought).
I’ll also need to put n some extra effort into the synopsis, as my previous version of The Bloodlet Sun one has recently been torn to shreds by some very helpful users on Royal Road. Taking those lessons to heart, I should have something prepared in the next month, and it will probably be the next thing I’ll be sharing with you in terms of an update on this project.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.