Snippet Sunday #20

If you’ve read The High King’s Will, you might remember a brief appearance from Valdyr, the Summer Wolf. Here’s a bit from The Heart of Stone (which is Eagle’s third) with Valdyr’s brother. I’ve had this sitting around on my hard drive for ages, and I can’t wait to put some more book around it.

~*~

A huge white shape bowled him over. The books he’d bought dug into his back, and he couldn’t reach his knives. Icy wetness dribbled onto his neck; a frozen wind blew into his face.

He opened his eyes and looked into the cold yellow gaze of winter. A massive white wolf crouched over him, skinny, slavering. What are you? it said in his mind.

“You must be Valdyr’s brother,” he managed.

What are you, snacklet? Answer me quick, before I eat you up! I’m hungry!

He swallowed his fear. “Lord, they call me Eagle Eye Wormsbane.”

A fine title for half a bite. The Wolf straightened and allowed Eagle to rise. Over its head, clouds stacked in the sky, great gray clouds fat with snow, darkening in the sunset. You might’ve guessed I’m the Winter Wolf, it said, or I hope you have, for otherwise you’re a useless little bit of meat and no mistake.

“I did guess,” Eagle said. At the Wolf’s back, flurries danced and skirled, and the wind that blew over its shoulders, ruffling matted fur, was so cold it burned through his jumper and shirt. He bowed. “Welcome to Rodansk, Lord.”

The Wolf gave a doggy smile, like Valdyr its brother. Ullr’s come early, and I mean to stay a good long time.

I am typing this from my home. My family is around me.

A year ago today I was lying in a hospital bed. A year ago today I was in a CAT scanner. A year ago today I was in the emergency room hearing the resident, with concern on his young face, say quietly: “You have a mass in your brain.”

I’m getting it back. I just sent a book to my beta-readers last week, for the first time since before I heard that — since The High King’s Will was in beta.

Also I fucking lived.

It’s still in there. To me it looks like a wad of soap bubbles — I’ve seen it on MRI scans since and it looks like a wad of soap bubbles at the bottom of the sink. Except it’s inside my skull, in my brain, kissing my hemispheres with terror. They say I’m not going to have any more problems with it, but some small part of me thinks of the way it looked and cringes from it.

But I fucking lived. I lived through the surgery and through the recovery and here I am. Off I go to write.

Ode to a Side Character: A Guest Post by Hannah Steenbock

Hello again, and welcome to a new series here on menyoral.com, about everybody’s favorite thing — characters! My first guest is the lovely and kind Hannah Steenbock, here to talk about a side character from The Cloud Lands Saga, Debesh.

~*~

When I first met Debesh, he was just one of five Wing Commanders in a tactical meeting. All I knew about him then was that my villain was attracted to him and he wasn’t averse to her attention, which was exactly what I needed.

He was just someone to use for a subplot, to explore dragon culture in my world, and to provide a nice distraction from killing kraken and decimating dragons in fights. Back then, I didn’t even bother to come up with his hair color or much of a description.

But when the trap sprang and Debesh and his dragon Vandranen were abducted in a vile plot… I discovered how much courage and determination this man really had. You see, in the story, the evil dragon controls both her rider and Vandranen, and through him, Debesh. He can just hang on to the ride.

And yet, the brave Wing Commander fights back as much as he can, by leaving secret messages and by resisting the evil dragon at every turn. I do put him through hell, I hurt him a lot, and I even get him raped. And in the end, it’s only through his determination, endless courage, and some good luck that the evil plot fails.

I won’t say more about the story itself, because I’ve re-launched the book with Debesh’s tale. Kraken War is book #2 in The Cloud Lands Saga.

Debesh totally earned my admiration while writing the stories of The Cloud Lands Saga, because he held up strong through everything I threw at him, which was a lot. And even after all this, he is still true to himself, a good man at heart, a gentle man and a caring man.

He recently gained his hair color and a bit more of a body image – in answer to the new cover. When my friend suggested a person as focus, we had been searching for Prince Orlen, the male MC of my stories about The Cloud Lands. But when I saw her draft, I immediately knew she had found Debesh. And he spoke to my heart again.

It makes me happy to say that Debesh will return in the fourth book of my series (release planned for end of March), where he will spend much time with one of the main characters of the series. And once again, he’ll prove to be a man of integrity, honesty and courage. He has become pivotal for the future of the Cloud Lands, even, and he has absolutely earned his position there.

This is not the first time I experience such a scenario. Sometimes, side characters can move in and become much, much more than just a throw-away name or a plot point. And I love it when that happens. I love it when they show up and cling to the story by sheer grit. When they demand attention from me, and give a story more depth and show me more of their world.

I’d like to encourage you to pay attention to your side characters. I’m sure they have a story to tell, if you but ask them.

~*~

Hannah Steenbock is a German writer of Speculative Fiction. She uses both her native German and English as languages for her tales, as she loves English and tends to think in that language when plotting Fantasy.

After finishing university with a degree in English and Spanish, she lives and works in Kiel, the northernmost state capital of Germany. Her other pastimes include working as a therapist, riding horses, strolling along beaches, talking with trees, and devouring as many stories as time allows.

Read more on her website: www.hannah-steenbock.de

Find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HannahSteenbock

She occasionally even tweets: www.twitter.com/FirleF

~*~

And take a look at this gorgeous cover, featuring Debesh!

steenbock

How I Write A Book: A Guest Post by Fiona Skye

Find out where my friend Fiona takes inspiration — read on!

~*~

Many readers—myself included—are curious about how their favorite authors write books. I’m not talking about what kind of computer they use or what sort of software; I’m more talking about what creative process they follow. So, I thought I’d share a little about my own methods, and maybe give you a peek behind the curtain, so to speak. This is by no means an exhaustive look into how I write a book from beginning to end, but it does cover the highlights. What’s missing is all the tears and frustration and joy and endless cups of tea and gummi worms and trail mix.

It starts with, as do all things creative, inspiration. A particular song lyric, a film, a photograph, whatever. The idea takes hold in my brain, and I spend the next few days thinking hard about it. For me, books begin with a character. Recently, I saw this painting on Facebook and I knew that at some point in the future, she would be appearing in one of my books.

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After being struck with inspiration, I play an epic game of “Questions”. We’ll use the photo above as our case study. What is her name? Why is her face covered? What does she do for a living? It the owl real or magically conjured? Where does she live? After about fifteen minutes of asking myself everything I can possibly think of, I spend some time writing down the answers to all my questions. At this point, I’ve got a pretty decent idea of who this character is and why I need to write about her.

The next step is to fill out one of two different character interviews. One is pretty exhaustive and contains 80 questions. I usually only use this one if the game of questions didn’t yield anything good. The other interview is shorter and less intensive. It’s only got 45 questions; this is the one I use most of the time. I take a day or two to really get into my character’s head and life, taking my time and digging deep. When I’ve finished, I know this character better than I know myself, and it’s time to move on to a little world building.

World building after creating a character is a bit like reverse engineering. If you know a little about anthropology (or how and why a particular culture is the way it is), it’s pretty easy to figure out what your characters’ world is like based on the answers to your game of questions and the subsequent interview. Staying with our woman, I’ve decided that she is an assassin for hire who has magically bonded with that owl. The bird is her eyes and ears at night, helping her stay safe as she fulfills her contracts. Her world is a desert world, so I head to Wikipedia to start reading about ancient Persia. I start jotting down anything and everything that catches my attention, and I follow links like Alice down the White Rabbit’s hole. Once I’ve amassed a few pages of notes, it’s time to fill out a world building packet. It’s not exhaustive; indeed, it’s only 21 questions, but it’s enough to help me organize my thoughts.

So now I’ve got a character and the world in which she lives, but I need a conflict. This one’s pretty easy–she’s an assassin, so there’s plenty of conflict there, but probably not enough to support an entire book. So I play another game; this one’s called “What If”? What if she goes out to fulfill her contract only to find the mark already dead? What if she’s hired to kill a child or another woman or the king? What if she stumbles across a vast conspiracy aimed at removing the king from the country’s throne? What if she’s hired to kill a friend or her lover? Again, I spend 15 minutes or so jotting down every single What If question that comes to me and then take some time to answer them all. Often the answers create more What Ifs, so I write those down, too. After a day or so, these questions have helped me come up with a great conflict that will serve as the framework around which I’ll build my plot.

After I’ve got my character, my world, my conflict, and my plot, I need to populate the rest of my story with villains and secondary characters. I repeat the same steps as above, playing my question games, filling out my character sheets, and thinking about how these other characters fit into my assassin’s life and her world. I usually try to create at least three other characters at this point–a villain, a love interest, and a best friend/helper character.

Then I very roughly outline the book. And by very roughly, I mean I write down the beginning, a bit about the middle, and the end. Occasionally, I’ll write something more detailed, but I far prefer to be a discovery writer and let the story unfold in an organic way.

Finally, the groundwork has been laid and I’m ready to start writing. I try to begin my story as close to the inciting incident as possible. That’s not always easy, but I don’t worry too much about getting it right during the zero draft. My only concern is getting it out as quickly as possible. Yes, it’s a big steaming mess when I’m finally done, but you know what? That’s what editors, beta readers, and author revisions are for.

From there, it’s just a matter of writing. Sometimes it takes me almost 2 years to finish something. Sometimes it only takes 3 months. Regardless of how long it takes, once I’ve finished the zero draft, I put it away and don’t look at it again for at least a month. During this time, I start the process all over again, searching for new inspiration, creating new characters and worlds and conflicts. Then, with the help of my husband—who is my alpha reader—I start revisions and create a first draft of the first story. When it’s finished, I send it off to some beta readers and wait for their feedback. While I’m waiting for feedback, I continue working with my latest idea, writing the zero draft. Once I get my beta readers’ thoughts, it’s another round of revisions to create the second draft. At this point, the second draft goes to my editor for yet another round of revisions, and when I have her feedback in hand, I work on the third and final draft. And then it’s the fun part–cover art, formatting for both print and ebook, and finally, publication.

So that’s it. That’s how I write a book. I think it’s a pretty straightforward process.

~*~

Fiona Skye is a best-selling, award-winning urban fantasy novelist. The first two books of her Revelations Trilogy are available on Amazon; the third book will be out sometime in 2017, and an anthology of short stories concerning characters from the Trilogy will follow.

Find Fiona on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her own website for more information about her, her writing, and tons of pictures of her dog and cats.

Seodrass — My Very Own Happy Place: A Guest Post by Bethanie F. DeVors

I know it’s been a really long time, but here’s the last of the guest posts about worlds. I think it was worth the wait! I love Bethanie, and I’m really looking forward to her second Seodrassian release.

~*~

Like a lot of independent authors I know, I have a day job. It’s a good job with good benefits, good coworkers, etc. What’s not good is the stress. It’s fast-paced, ever-changing, and challenging. While I enjoy a challenge (would get bored if the job were easy), it does require a good deal of stress relief. Some people drink wine. Some people watch television. Some people exercise.
I do some of those things, but my most effective stress relief? Writing about the kingdom of Seodrass.
I didn’t create a perfect fantastical kingdom in Seodrass. Rebellion, war, mayhem. All present. And yet, when asked what fictional world I would choose to live in if I could, I always choose Seodrass. Why would I choose a place recovering from bloody rebellion and strife? Because I love these characters. I love the people of the kingdom. I love the culture and the way it looks it my head.
When I think of Seodrass, I think of lush, rolling green hills and magical forests as well as inherently decent people who are generous and fun-loving. I think of brave men and women willing to fight and die to protect their people and to preserve what’s good.
Maybe all that seems hokey, but in what feels like a world gone mad, I need a safe place to go to. I don’t even realize I’m doing it before I’m spaced out and imagining what my characters should do next in their continuing saga. I visit Seodrass and her people while waiting in the airport to board my plane, while sitting in an Uber ride, while taking my lunchbreak at work… See a pattern?
Seodrass provides access to some of my favorite people, some born in this world and some born in that world. But almost all of these characters call Seodrass home by the end of the first book. I would love to have coffee with Rhys, the plucky video game designer, and Braeden, her genius intern, but only if we could have it in the royal castle of Seodrass while knights train outside and the nobility does whatever it is nobility does. I’d gladly take a tour of the grounds with Lord Tormod and Lady Bonneah, the interim rulers. I wouldn’t say no to a crash course in sword play from Sir Machar, Rhys’s trainer, or in archery from Sir Daeg, head of the knights. Maybe I could take time to stop in and see Derrine, the servant assigned to Rhys for the duration of her stay or Daeg’s mother, Lady Kyla, who was so nice to Rhys.
If I really had time and means, I’d beg for the real tour of Seodrass – the one in which I’d get to ride a horse through the countryside and see the different villages like Airril, where Daeg grew up, or Ellar, the village that provides the raw material for the best cloth in the entire kingdom. I’d want to see the memorial by the pond in Ellar with the names of the heroes who fought in the rebellion. If they’d let me, I’d even love to visit the Sanctuary and meet Cohmnall, the head Brother, and lose myself in the library there. The list of people and places to see goes on and on in my head.
The good news is, I can visit anytime I want since Seodrass lives in my head.  And I’m sincerely hoping readers want to visit, too, because there’s a lot more Seodrass still growing in that noggin I call a brain.
~*~
Bethanie F. DeVors resides in South Carolina surrounded by four cats and two dogs. She is currently working on her fantasy series, The Seodrassian Chronicles. A lifelong reader, Bethanie discovered she wanted to tell her own stories after attempting to write fan fiction episodes for The A-Team and The Monkees. She started writing during third grade and never stopped, encouraged by her family, particularly her mother.

When not writing fiction, Bethanie spends her time daydreaming about Henry Cavill and helping further the cause to convince Chris Hemsworth to wear a kilt. In an effort to maintain her geek card, she participates in a yearly 24-hour gaming marathon through Extra Life to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and attempts to attend at least one comic convention a year.
Visit her at any of these places!