The Unexpected Novel

Anyone else ever come up with a short story idea and have it turn into a novel? Somehow that happens with a lot of things I write, apparently. As I may have mentioned, I’m terrible at short things. Though, to be fair, this is considered short when you compare it to my Enorians books. I’m sure it happens to a lot of people. In fact, I was just watching the Neil Gaiman Masterclass, and he was talking about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which, if you read my last post, you know if one of my favorites. That book started out as a short story, too, and then grew into the beautiful novel it is now.

Anyway, point is, here I am, writing an unintended book. Whoops.

In writing this, I started considering whether I should change my plans a bit for next year. Originally, I planned to revise book two of the Enorians Saga, then revise book one again once people get back to me, and in the second half the year, write book three. The thing is, though, I am well aware that my Enorians book one is long. It’s very long. Like in the 700s of pages long. And while that’s fine for already-published authors, I know publishers might be less likely to accept it simply because it’s…well, very long, and I am untested, if you will.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try querying it next year anyway, because I will, but I’m considering using the second half of the year to revise The Children of Oher a couple of times instead of writing Enorians book three. See, I have a feeling this much-more-reasonable-length book will be easier to have picked up, since it looks like it’ll be coming in under 100,000 words (Enorians book one, on the other hand, is over 200,000). That way, in case I struggle to get Enorians book one picked up, I have the Children of Oher to start sending out in 2022. Gotta be realistic, right?

That also gives me a chance to write my horse story, Spirits of the Sea, since that should also come in at a much more reasonable length than anything Enorian-related. Who knows, though, maybe I’ll just really want to work on Enorians book three in July.

If all goes as I hope, Enorians book one will be my debut novel. If not…Well, I like this new book, too, and then the Enorians will just have to wait their turn.

I know, of course, that self-publishing is an option, but that will be a last resort. I’d much prefer to go the traditional route. I definitely don’t need to be published by one of the big ones; I’m happy to be picked up by a small press, but there’s just so much involved in getting a book published that I’d rather let professionals handle (like finding editors, cover artists, formatting/layout, etc).

I was going to do a “Meet the Characters” for Enorians book two this week in anticipation of starting the revision next week, but since that’s being pushed back a month, let’s meet the characters from The Children of Oher instead! These will not be as extensive as the ones from my post a few weeks ago where I introduced Rowan, Aurea, and Draea from Enorians book one.


Meet the Characters

All pictures were made on artbreeder.com

Kora Mercer – Brought into Orilon against her will and forced to marry a man she’s never met, Kora just wants to get the heck out of there. While she doesn’t trust anyone around her, she is willing to use them to escape if that’s what needs to happen. Though she’s got no one left beyond the walls of Orilon, she still wants nothing to do with the town or the Children of Oher and would rather brave the abominations running around outside than stay where she is.

Asher Lindgren– Struggling between doing his duty to Orilon and Oher and also wanting to be with his best friend and love, Shay, Asher isn’t sure what to do. Shay’s been trying to convince him to leave, but Asher feels bound to do what needs to be done for the good of the Children. It’s more than that, though; he also fears he won’t be able to keep Shay safe from the monsters outside the walls, the same way he couldn’t protect his brother. He tells himself they can find happiness within Orilon, even while secretly knowing that isn’t true. 

Shay Clarke – Having been in love with his best friend, Asher, for years, Shay just wants to leave so they can be together. He let things be what they were for a long time, but once news came of the upcoming wedding, and knowing the two of them could never be happy in Orilon, he started trying to convince Asher to leave with him. The problem is, neither Asher nor Shay have ever gone beyond the fields just outside the walls, which means they’ll need help navigating the world beyond the town.

Cleo Harper – Aka Harp – Another of the girls who was brought in with Kora, she is forced to marry Shay, but as luck would have it (luck or Asher requesting the living arrangements), she ends up living right next to Kora. Like Kora, she wants to escape, too, but she does have people outside that she needs to find, so she asks Kora for help.

Oelia Payne – The Divine Elder of the Children of Oher. When the people of Orilon stopped conceiving female babies, she took it as a sign Oher was angry at them and was punishing them for allowing the abominations to live amongst them. She had to take matters into her own hands and start bringing in women from outside. Then the Melting Death happened, and she knew that was another punishment, not just of the Children but of the whole world. She’s doing all she can to attempt to appease the goddess and atone for their sins.


What I Wrote Over the Last Week

Chapters six, seven, and eight of The Children of Oher.

What I’m Reading Right Now

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Favorite Books and Authors

Let’s talk about my favorite books today.

“What’s your favorite book?” is always a hard question for me. Not just because my favorite books typically change, but also because I don’t have just one. Who has just one favorite book? That’s crazy, right? So, here we go.

My Favorite Books:

I have to start with the Harry Potter series just because it’s the reason I started loving reading, and writing, in the first place. It also continues to engross me with every reread, even knowing what’s going to happen. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has and always will be my favorite, though.

And in no particular order, here’s the rest (for which my lovely foxes will be helping me show off each wonderful book):

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I read this first years ago, and then last year during my Masters program, I took a Neil Gaiman class. I’d somehow forgotten everything about the book. It was like reading it for the first time all over again. I don’t even know exactly what it is I love about this book so much, but I do love it. It’s strange and beautiful and full of magic.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Have you ever read a book and thought, “Damn, I wish I wrote this book”? That’s this book for me. I freaking love this book so much. I honestly think part of why I love this is just because horses… It’s about horses. Carnivorous water horses. And people who love those horses so much. It just speaks to me. And I love the characters. I love all of it. And ever since I read it, I wanted to write something about horses, which is, I think, another reason I wanted to write Spirits of the Sea.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber – I loved this book the first time I read it seven years ago in Scotland, and I’ve loved it every reread since. I even managed to convince the boyfriend, who never really reads, to read it. He didn’t seem to understand my love for it, but, honestly, I can’t even tell you why I enjoy it so much. There’s just something about it that makes me want to reread it over and over (which I guarantee I’ll continue doing).

Fledgling by Octavia Butler – I flew through all of Octavia Butler’s books in like a year and a half, and my favorite is really a tie between this one and Kindred, which was the first one of hers I read after it was recommended by a professor during my Masters program. Fledgling is strange and uncomfortable and somehow wonderful at the same time. This seems to be a theme, but I don’t know exactly what it is I love about it. I just loved all of it and its change on vampire ideas.

Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown – This has to be one of the best sci-fi series I’ve ever read (or, well, listened to in this case). I am just so impressed with the world building – and thoroughly jealous of Brown’s skills in that department – and the characters are wonderful and real, and the plots are insane. Before book six comes out, I fully plan to reread the first five, because there is just so much going on it’ll be a good reminder.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carman Maria Machado – Only recently have I started enjoying short stories, and this was recommended to me by my wonderful writing buddy. And I enjoyed every single one of the stories. I’ll definitely be going back and rereading them again.

There are so many more I could list, but I’ll leave it there, otherwise we’ll be here all day.

Other books I read this year that I absolutely loved:

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Killing Moon, The Shadowed Sun, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods all by N.K. Jemisin

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Favorite Authors – aka I’ll read anything of theirs you put in front of me:

N.K. Jemisin

Margaret Atwood

Neil Gaiman

Keri Arthur

Octavia Butler

Both Hank and John Green

What is/are your favorite book(s)? Favorite authors?

What I Wrote Over the Last Week

Chapters four and five of The Children of Oher. I am determined to finish this by the end of January, so I can keep somewhat on my planned schedule of revising book two and then book one and starting book three of the Enorians Saga by July.

What I’m Reading Right Now

Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Horsemanship Through Life by Mark Rashid

What Inspires Us?

We all have different things that inspire us, but I guess the question I’m really asking is where do our ideas for stories come from? I’m sure everyone has a different system of coming up with stories. Some might take moments from life and write a story based around those. Others might see a picture and create a story to go along with it. There are hundreds, probably thousands of writing prompts on the internet to leap off from. In Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury talks about writing lists of nouns, and he’d end up writing stories based on those words. In a class I took during my final quarter at Lindenwood, we had to randomly select numbers that would give us our starting character(s) and the first sentence that would be our jumping off point. And from there we were to come up with a novella idea. A whole novella idea with a plot outline and everything. I thought for sure the professor was nuts. It’s amazing what can come out of something as simple as: Woman and girl (child) & “The grass had grown knee high.” I now have not a novella idea, but rather, a novel idea, because I’m terrible at keeping anything short.

Besides that, I only have a few specific memories of things that have inspired me or where specific stories came from.

I don’t know where the original idea for the enorians came from. I just know it all started in high school when my friends and I were passing notebooks back and forth between class and roleplaying in them. The only really specific moment of inspiration I remember related to the Enorians Saga was when I was in Scotland. Our whole study abroad class took a trip to the Isle of Skye, and we went to see Old Man of Storr.

It was windy to begin with, but it just became all the more intense the farther up the hill we hiked (or more like struggled, panting the whole way). With the hovering fog and the wind nearly blowing us off the mountain, I made a joke to my friends about how it was actually just wind spirits protecting the rock and trying to stop us from getting too close because it was actually a portal to another world. And thus, the portal to Enoralori was born.

Funnily enough, some of my other ideas have spawned from dreams. If you read the blog post about my mom, you’ll know the short story I wrote about the girl getting a phone call from her dead mom came from a dream I had, where my mom called me.

The novel (which grew from a short story to a novella to now a novel… whoops) I’m currently working on – The Children of Oher – also came from a dream. I dreamed that I was being forced to marry some guy I didn’t know by this cult, but really he didn’t want to marry me, either, because he was in love with his best friend. And even within the dream, I looked at the person next to me, and went “This would be a good idea for a story.” And now here we are, writing that story.

And, of course, I have to mention where “Spirits of the Sea” came from. I saw a video on facebook of Dutch people riding their draft horses down to the sea and I loved it so much I immediately went, “I have to put this in a book somewhere.” I ended up turning it into a fantasy short story, which morphed into a novel idea, because of course it did.

The one other specific memory I have of inspiration happened last year before we went to Belize. Our friends told us it would be a good idea to get a base tan before we went, since we were going in November, and the sun there is pretty intense. So I did that, and one day while I was lying in the tanning bed, I thought about how nice and warm it was. And an idea for a character popped into my head. A woman who used tanning as a way to relax after a hard day of work. It turned into some kind of weird body horror thing, because apparently that’s something I can write, I guess. I haven’t actually finished that story yet, but it exists in a half-finished state.

I also think it’s interesting to consider what inspires us in the sense of the types of things we create. I can’t seem to steer away from fantasy, nor do I really have any desire to, and I know for certain that’s because my love of reading all started with Harry Potter and has only continued to be fueled by fantasy since. I think that’s also the reason why most of my writing somehow tends to involve monsters and battles, despite that I actually hate writing battles haha. And, of course, there has to be some kind of love or romance aspect in every story, because I’m always a sucker for a love story. The enorians gods came into being after I took a Greek Mythology class during college, and while the gods themselves aren’t based on any specific gods, the idea of enorians having numerous gods came from Greek Mythology.

It’s funny. I worried in the past that I would run out of ideas. I wondered how authors could just keep coming up with new concepts, and now I’m sitting here with six books I want to write for the Enorians Saga and one prequel-type novella/novel to go along with that. I’ve got The Children of Oher I’m working on, and four more book ideas beyond those. So I guess it’s safe to say I probably won’t run out of ideas anytime soon. And hopefully if I ever do, the inspiration fairy will find me in my dreams.


What I Wrote Over the Last Week

Chapters two and three of The Children of Oher

What I’m Reading Right Now

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Horsemanship Through Life: A Trainer’s Guide to Better Living and Better Riding by Mark Rashid

How NaNoWriMo Went and What I Wrote

Phew, NaNo is over, and thank goodness for that. I am tired. It’s crazy that I managed to go beyond NaNoWriMo length in April and May. But, then again, I wasn’t working at that point, nor did I have anything else going on in my life given, you know, COVID, so I had all the time in the world to write. It was a bit different last month for a number of reasons. The first is that I started a new job, so I went from working something like twenty-five hours a week to suddenly working full time. Second, I wasn’t working on a novel or anything specifically planned or set like I was in April and May when I was working on book two of the Enorians Saga. Instead I had a vague idea of some stories I might want to write.

I’m really glad I decided to go with writing a bunch of different things, because I ended up coming out of it with six myths (only three more to go to hit my goal of twenty), a few short stories, and the start of two novels.  

There were so many days after waking up early and working eight hours that I just did not want to write. And three of those days I gave in and wrote nothing. A couple others I counted my blog posts to try to hit my word goals. It was rough. Writing is hard!

On days I was really on the struggle bus but knew I had to get those words down, I ended up writing things I knew would be easy, which was how I ended up writing about Rowan (seen on the left here in the art breeder version I made) and Ien for funsies. But I did manage, for the most part, to write consistently. The first time I attempted this was my sophomore year of undergrad when I got halfway. And this year I finally finished! Which means that I wrote 50,000+ words in a month three times this year. Which is kind of absolutely insane.

Props to anyone who manages this while working full time, especially if they have kids, too, or things they have to do outside of work. Managing full time work and existing as a human adult who also has hobbies and friends and family and responsibilities can make it hard to fit writing in. It’s so easy to make excuses, to find reasons not to write, and for so many years I made those excuses and found those reasons. It wasn’t until I started my master’s program and decided that seriously this time, I was going to write every day whether I wanted to or not, that things changed. And as I said, there are certainly still days where I don’t write, but they’re far and few between compared to before.

Also, can I just mention how difficult finding a good picture to along with my daily Instagram post was? Especially when I was trying to post them right before bed. When in doubt, post a cute picture of a cat, right? (Haha see what I did there? A cute cat ->)

So what’s next? Well, this month I’m continuing one of the novels I wrote the first chapter of… After I finish the character sheets and planning out specific story moments. So, you know, probably like six days after I originally wanted to start it, but oh well. And then when the new year hits, I want to revise Enorian Saga books two and one (again) and then write book three. Maybe I’ll even come up with titles at some point so I can stop referring to them by number.

All right, enough rambling. Let’s look at what I wrote last month, and maybe share an excerpt for each section 😉.

Things I wrote during National Novel Writing Month

Myths

“The Folly of Blissfruit” – A myth about an enorian fruit (blissfruit) that causes crazy amazing highs and why enorians shouldn’t eat it. 

“The First Aesan” – A myth about Aesa’s decision to take children to her realm upon their death rather than sending them to the Aether.

“Aesa’s Ring of Conception” – A myth about a Velite woman who desperately wants children but can’t have them and Aesa’s special ring that allows conception no matter the circumstances.

“The Apex Predator” – A myth about Nora-Vel’s objects, which are all body parts of her favorite creature.

“Typheus the Wind Scythe” – A myth about how a weapon of Kezerien’s, a wind scythe, became a god-blessed weapon.

“Borea’s Heart of Darkness” – A myth about a god-blessed lantern of Borea’s that allows the holder to live even beyond the moment they should have died while they seek their vengeance.

Excerpt from pages two and three of “Borea’s Heart of Darkness”

Ashira’s head swam as she pushed open the door. She dropped to her knees, weeping at the sight of her parents dead in their bed. A wave of weakness washed over her, and she pressed a hand to the wound along her belly. It burned beneath her palm, hot and painful. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she knew she was dying. She felt it.

She sank onto her side, stating up at the bed, surrounded by the heavy silence of her slaughtered family. Her family had long ruled Lirona, and though she did not know for certain who had sent the assassin that murdered her family in their beds, she knew she could not die without punishing them.

Closing her eyes, Ashira stoked her hatred for the Sandrian assassin and the unknown person who had given her the assignment. She let the hatred, the anger consume her, and then she prayed to Borea. She had heard tale of an item blessed by the goddess of hatred. A special lantern that would keep the holder alive until they got their revenge.

Borea, in her realm where it rained acid and blood, heard Ashira’s prayers over the moans and screams of caged souls. So great was the princess’s hatred and anger that Borea felt it through the suffering of those around her. Borea understood the need to sate the bloodlust. And who better to offer her Heart of Darkness to but someone so desperate for vengeance that they would prolong their life to achieve it?

But the lantern came with a price. Before she sent it to the girl, Borea spoke to her through the still-pooling blood of her parents. The blood slid off the bed and formed a vague-enorian shape in front of Ashira. It stood mere inches high, but the voice that rang out was clear and laced with loathing.

I have heard your prayers, Ashira of Lirona. I will give you that which you so desire, but know it comes at a cost. You have until the light goes out to kill your target, at which time, you will die. If the light goes out before you kill your target, you will die. Upon your death, your soul will come to me, where you will spend eternity among the tortured souls in my realm. Do you still wish to seek your vengeance?

Ashira stared at the wavering blood-made being before her. She didn’t care where she went after she died. All she wanted was to destroy the person who had slaughtered her family. “Yes,” she whispered.


Short Stories

“Spirits of the Sea” – Once a year, the residents of Senresse ride their horses down to the sea to wash the evil winter spirits from their legs. But danger lurks beneath the waves, for the sea spirits require a sacrifice to keep the island flourishing (this was really just an excuse for me to write about horses).

An untitled story about a girl who receives a phone call from her mom, who died the year before.

An untitled story about a server struggling while being the only one on shift as told via table numbers.

“The Journals of Silsia” – Silsia was one of the enorians who first came through the portal. These journal entries show her struggle in adapting to this new, strange place.

Excerpt from the first journal entry in “The Journals of Silsia”

Day 2

It’s terrible, staring up at the portal jutting up into the sky, knowing we’ll never go back. We arrived at the beginning of the cold season, it seems, though we have no idea when – or if – the weather might change. Perhaps there is only a cold season here. All I know is the snow keeps falling, coating the ground in a thick, white layer. My clothes barely ward off the chill. I miss the coat our creator blessed me with. The thick, shaggy hair would’ve kept me warm like it always does during the winter.

But it’s more than that. It’s more than just missing my coat. Kalasandria “blessed” us all with these human forms, as she called them. The Zaria tells us we have to wear them to blend in, in case any humans show up. But I haven’t seen another soul since we arrived. Only us enorians. I hate this form. It’s so confining. My skin prickles and itches like it knows it’s not my real skin, like the hairs of my true form tickle it from beneath. And I keep forgetting I don’t have my secondary arms. I dropped a mug the other day, one of the few Dris and I managed to bring. I went to grab it with my lower hand, forgetting I didn’t have it, and the mug shattered on the frozen ground. That’s the fourth time I’ve dropped something now. I don’t now if I’ll ever get used to this.

The Zaria says it’ll take time, but we’ll all get used to these new forms. Those of us with wings seem to be struggling more than us land-bounders. They’re used to flying everywhere, but now they have to be careful. They can’t be seen, the Zaria warns. Apparently, these humans can be hostile when faced with something unknown.

If we don’t finish up these shelters we’re building soon, I’ll have to change back, no matter what the Zaria says. I’m freezing, and so is Dris.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Kalasandria did save us from Enos and the war, after all, but why didn’t anyone consider our living arrangements before we came through the portal?

The portal that’s now sealed. Closed off to us forever. Will I ever see home again? 


Starts of Novels

Chapter one of The Children of Oher, which started out as a short story idea, then was going to be a novella, but then I plotted out the chapters the other night. Now it looks like it’ll more than likely turn into a novel.

Kora Mercer (pictured in the art breeder version I made) gets kidnapped by the Children of Oher and is forced to marry one of their young men because the group hasn’t had a female child born in years, so they have to resort to pulling women in from outside their walls. But when she realizes her new husband, Asher Webb, is in love with his best friend and wants as little to do with all this marriage business as her, she has to decide whether to trust him in hopes they might escape their prison together.

Chapter one of the novel version of Spirits of the Sea, which will be told in first person from the point of view of the sister of one of the protagonists of the short story version. – When Amalia’s (pictured here in the art breeder version I made) brother is taken by the sea spirits, she takes matters into her own hands and searches for a way to travel to Ijamere to get him back. 

Excerpt of the first two pages of chapter one of The Children of Oher

Kora’s wedding day looking nothing like how she’d imagined it in her childhood. First, she was only eighteen. She’d always thought she would be well into her twenties or older. Someone else had picked out her dress, a simple, straight white thing that made her feel like she was wearing a sack. Not the graceful gown she’d pictured, with a flowing train and a sparkling bodice. She didn’t have a veil, though she’d always liked the idea of her husband lifting it to kiss her when the time came. Her hair hadn’t even been done nicely. It lay in its dark, messy waves, the top all frizzy from having a bag pulled off her head. Not pinned up in some elegant style like in the pictures with diamond-studded hairclips and flowers weaved throughout. And the last thing she’d ever wanted was to get married in the middle of summer outside. The sun beat down on her, making her hot and uncomfortable. But worst of all, the man Kora stood in front of, the man she was supposed to marry, wasn’t a man she loved. In fact, she hadn’t met him until ten minutes earlier.

Trying not to look into the stony face of her supposed future husband, Kora glanced at the people around her. They stood in a garden surrounded by houses. An unnaturally perfect garden. Kora had always liked overgrown ones, where the plants were allowed to flourish and go where they wished, but this one felt sterile, controlled. Each flower, each leaf, each petal placed just so. Water rushed somewhere behind her. A river? She wasn’t sure. The grass prickled against the soles of her bare feet.

She wasn’t the only one girl who seemed out of place. On either side of her a half circle stretched at least ten girls long, each one wearing the same sack of a white dress. She couldn’t get a good look at some of them, but the ones she could see looked to be in various states of shock or grief. The blonde girl beside her wept silently, eyes on the ground, her shoulders slumped. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen. The woman on Kora’s other side had hair as green as the eyes she darted in Kora’s direction. Woman, Kora thought, but young, still. Not much older than herself. All the girls in line couldn’t have been older than their mid-twenties. Had they all been brought in from the outside like her?

Each of the girls had a male opposite standing in front of her. Kara glanced at the man before her again. His skin was the color of wet driftwood, and black eyebrows formed a deep frown, his forehead winkled and beading with sweat. The muscles in his jaw stood out, as if he clenched them. But his deep-set eyes weren’t on her. They gazed at something to beyond her, and when they flicked to her, she quickly looked away.

Beyond the couples, if they could even be called that, the garden was filled with a large crowd, all dressed as if they were attending an actual wedding rather than whatever this was supposed to be. They spoke to each other in quiet, excited voices. What were they all waiting for?

Trying to relief the discomfort of keeping her arms behind her back, Kora rolled her shoulders, grimacing. She tried her plastic cuffs again, moving her hands in hopes this time they were looser. The cuffs rubbed painfully against the already sensitive skin of her hands. All the attempt did was earn her a sharp jab in the spine. She shot a glare back at the man behind her. That earned her another jab in the same bruised spot.


Other

I wrote five different chunks of scenes written just for fun, which consisted of things that happened in book two of the Enorians Saga but in this case written from an alternate point of view, background information on the antagonist of all three books, and a couple of scenes that might end up in book three.

I’d given an excerpt from my “other” things but a lot of it is very spoiler heavy in terms of things that happen either between books one and two or in book two, soooo I’ll have to skip that.

What I wrote over the last week

I finished up “Borea’s Heart of Darkness”

A scene about Ien and Akrin that will hopefully take place in book three in some capacity.

I then took two days to do nothing to recover from NaNoWriMo and used the next couple days to plan out The Children of Oher.

What I’m reading right now

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Horsemanship Through Life: A Trainer’s Guide to Better Living and Better Riding by Mark Rashid