Town Line Tuesday: Creator of Worlds

Magic and technology, kingdoms and queendoms and distant planets, alternate universes and mysterious galaxies, magical creatures and alien races, to name but a few of all the little pieces that go into building elaborate fantasy and sci-fi worlds. World-building is a key part of writing fantasy and sci-fi, it’s a fun and creative process but also a necessary one—even magic worlds of make-believe need some sort of rules and structure, without them you’ve got nothing but chaos and your readers won’t be able to follow what’s going on let alone suspend disbelief the way they should. Still, while world-building is a lot of fun when it’s all in my head—seriously I could spend all day lost in imagining worlds of my own design—I’ve found that getting it onto the page is…less fun. The problem with putting the world-building on the page is that it, by very definition, needs to be done through exposition (the placement of often very wordy explanations of important background information into a story) and honestly, I don’t much like reading exposition let alone writing it. Don’t get me wrong, exposition, while annoying, is very important and I do actually find its contents interesting (most of the time anyway) it just has a way of completely bogging down the story.

 

I’m currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and let me tell you, the first six chapters were a pain to get through. The prologue explaining the contest was one thing, it set up the premise of the story nicely and it was all necessary information at that point in the narrative. The next six chapters however…well as interesting as I find the OASIS and I have to admit the background about Halliday is certainly necessary for Parzival’s solving of the puzzles but nothing happens in those six chapters. Parzival goes to school and does almost nothing there and the rest of the sixty-odd pages are nothing but exposition. Maybe it’s just me but personally I’d prefer the author trust the reader a little more to figure out what’s going on through context and small bits of exposition spaced out throughout the novel and interspersed with action rather than dumping everything on us all at once at the start of the story. Maybe you like your world-building all at once at the beginning of a book because when you’re finished, once you’ve earned the action after slogging through all the background muck, you at least know what’s going on and you can sit back and enjoy the ride. But I’ve got to say, I actually don’t mind being somewhat confused at the start of the book, I relish figuring things out on my own and the twists and turns in the plot that slowly reveal the secrets of the world I’m immersed in keep me coming back for more when pages upon pages of exposition exhaust me to the point of wanting to walk a way rather than keep trudging forward.

 

This reading preference really shows itself in my writing, I like to play things close to the vest, revealing things only when the plot demands it. Sometimes this dislike of heavy exposition and descriptive language works to my disadvantage as I sometimes struggle with making sure scenes are as descriptive as they need to be but it’s something I am constantly working on. As for world-building in The Demon of New Salem, since the novel takes place in our world—albeit our world with magic—the primary pieces I have to worry about building are my fictional town of New Salem, creating lore for the Supernaturals, and of course creating a system of magic and rules for how magic works and doesn’t work—which is what I am currently trying to work out during my writing sessions at my local coffee shop. It’s funny how given that magic is something that doesn’t exist, and can therefore theoretically operate any way I want it to, has me spending quite a bit of time researching… I’m sure my Google search history from my last writing session looks like that of a novice Wicca. Unfortunately, since magic isn’t real, it hasn’t been super helpful, but at least it helps to get some idea as to what plants and incantations supposedly do what so I have a place to jump off from when creating my system. Now to figure out how to put the pieces I have worked out to paper without falling into the trap of wordy and complicated exposition. It’s all about balance I suppose.

Town Line Tuesday: Meet the Cast

They say nobody exists in a vacuum, that no one ever goes through life without being impacted and shaped by the people around them. This is of course true of fictional characters as well. No matter how brilliantly crafted a main character, their story is nowhere near as interesting if they don’t have friends and/or family to support them or enemies to challenge them. In the spirit of this, I thought I’d introduce you to a couple of the central characters in Daphne’s story so far.

Hannah Beckman

Species: Human

Age: 28

Gender: Female

Hair: Red

Eyes: Green

Occupation: AEGIS agent

Hannah is Daphne’s best friend and partner. She grew up in AEGIS–the secret vigilante organization that works to keep peace between humans and Supernaturals–her entire family having been agents of the organization for almost as long as AEGIS has existed. Hannah is a highly trained badass whose skill in hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship, not to mention her mile-wide stubborn streak, are more than a match for Daphne’s own. Even though Daphne is the one with the people-reading powers, Hannah’s even-tempered nature and easy charm usually makes her a better diplomat than often hot-headed Daphne. Especially when Daphne tells her exactly which buttons to push. Despite her lifestyle of living with a gun in her hand and blood under her nails, her hands are always perfectly manicured–even if she can’t quite lose the calluses on her palms–and she’s mourned the loss of more than one fabulous dress in the line of duty.

 

Spencer Montgomery

Species: Human

Age: 27

Gender: Male

Hair: Light Brown

Eyes: Gray/Green

Occupation: New Salem Sheriff’s Department Deputy

Spencer is Daphne’s adoptive brother. While they share neither blood nor legal familial ties, Daphne and Spencer grew up together and Spencer’s father was more of a dad to Daphne than Daphne’s flesh-and-blood one. The Spencer Daphne knew was an intelligent yet carefree man with a penchant for breaking rules in the name of having fun. In the wake of his father’s sudden death, Spencer is a new man. A more serious, more suspicious, more reckless man, and yet still every bit as prone to breaking a few rules in the name of finding his father’s killer. He still blames Daphne for leaving New Salem without so much as a goodbye and now, ten years later, she’s returned from who-knows-where and he can’t help but wonder what her true motives are for coming home.

Margaret Beckman

Species: Human

Age: 50

Gender: Female

Hair: Graying Dark Blonde

Eyes: Brown

Occupation: Lore and Logistics Admin for AEGIS

Once a field agent for AEGIS, Marge has long since hung up her sword (figuratively at least) and taken up a desk job at the organization, coordinating field missions, filing reports and researching and updating supernatural lore for the archives. It’s supposed to be a promotion but, truth be told, she sometimes misses getting her hands dirty. As Hannah’s mother, she has naturally had more of a presence in Daphne’s life as an AEGIS agent than she has with most field agents and Marge and Daphne have developed a strong mentor-student bond as a result. No one understands Daphne’s mindset at the beginning of the novel better than Margaret Beckman, even if she is worried what that grief might make her young friend do.

 

Anka Satoya

Species: Human

Age: 42

Gender: Female

Hair: Black

Eyes: Brown

Occupation: Coroner for the New Salem Sheriff’s Department

Anka is the Coroner for the NSSD and a close friend of Spencer’s. She’s confident, smart, and the best at her job–something she’s not too humble to admit. She adores Spencer so even though it could cost her her job and every instinct she has is screaming there’s something suspicious about this Daphne character who has shown up at Spencer’s side seemingly out of nowhere, she’ll do anything she can to help her friend get justice for his father’s murder.

 

The Demon

Species: Demon

Gender: Female

Hair: ??????

Eyes: Endless Voids of Evil

Occupation: None

The Demon is New Salem’s one-and-only urban legend. In a town where the supernatural has always been impossible, no one tells stories about haunted houses or bogeymen or even monsters under the bed. The Demon is the only exception because she is less a legend than indisputable fact. The Demon was a real girl once, a citizen of New Salem born and raised. But time and fear have a way of twisting things and she was a strange girl with even stranger eyes; eyes they say could tear your very soul from your body if you looked at them too long. Said to have telepathic and mind-control powers–and those being only the very tip of the iceberg as far as what she can do–The Demon is the antithesis of all that New Salem holds sacred. So when people start dying of mysterious, seemingly supernatural circumstances in New Salem, everyone knows The Demon must be the one behind it.

 

Town Line Tuesday: Context? What Context? #2

Hey everyone, sorry I haven’t been posting regularly as of late, I’ve been a bit busier than usual. I’m dog-and-house-sitting this week for a family friend and I’m just getting settled in today so this week’s Town Line Tuesday will be another short one but I will be posting another non-novel-related post later in the week and should be back to regular Town Line Tuesdays next week. For now, enjoy another out of context line from page 21 line 11.

“I just follow orders dear. And so do you, so I expect you to keep everything you learn here hush-hush.”

Town Line Tuesday: SupernaturalsOnly

In honor of Valentine’s day, I thought it would be fun to create a fake dating profile for Daphne. This ended up being way more involved than I originally imagined and I might go back and edit this at a later date (it’d be awesome if I could somehow get artwork for a profile pic at some point) but for now, enjoy!

Continue reading

Town Line Tuesday: Context? What Context?

I thought it might be fun to post a short random quote from what I’ve written of the novel so far with zero context. I determined this quote using a random number generator to decide what page and paragraph to pick from. I’d like to say I got this on the first try but I had to go through a lot of “he nodded” and “she shrugged” and long rambling possibly spoiler-y paragraphs before I found one that was short and worked well enough out of context. If I decide to do this again later I’ll have to figure out a better system. But for now, from page 28 paragraph/line 4:

 

“Do I get mauled to death by a werewolf or something?” Hannah joked.

Town Line Tuesday: Winter Shenanigans

It’s snowing in Nashville today! So I thought I’d get in the winter spirit and write a short snow scene between Daphne and her partner Hannah for this week’s Town Line Tuesday. This takes place a few years after Daphne’s exile from New Salem and long before the events of The Demon of New Salem. It’s canon-compliant but will probably never be brought up in canon. Also I’m posting this from my phone because my internet went out right as I went to post this so if anything is wonky with the formatting that’s why.

​“Hurry up would you,” Hannah called over her shoulder, “the sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we can go back to drinking hot chocolate by the fire.”

​Daphne pulled her eyes away from the animal tracks she had been studying—canine if she remembered Adam’s tracking lessons correctly—and grinned at her friend. “What’s the matter? Cold?”

“No” she said, wrapping her arms around her middle to retain body warmth. “I’ll just be happier when we can get out of this damn snow.”

“How can you not like snow?”

“What’s to like? Its cold, its wet, it gets all over everything, its annoying to walk through.” Hannah kicked at the stuff to prove her point. It wasn’t actively snowing but there was still enough on the ground from the night before that their walk through the woods was more of a trudge. Hannah sighed and kept walking. “Let’s just get this over with okay?”

Daphne hurried to catch up. “It is pretty though. Magical even.”

“You sound like someone who never had snow growing up.” Daphne could practically hear the eye-roll in Hannah’s voice.

Daphne shrugged. “We had snow. Not this much, but we had it.” Her lip curled in a half-smile. “My brother and I had some epic snowball fights.”

Hannah was quiet.

“What about you? Don’t tell me you never—” Daphne cut off, eyebrows pinched together in a frown.

Hannah looked back at her, concerned.

Daphne shook her head and nodded for Hannah to keep walking. “Don’t tell me you never had any winter shenanigans.” She slipped her knife out of its sheath. “Snowball fights, sledding, snow angels…” Daphne brushed against a tree, using the tip of the knife to pull a chunk of bark off, “…you can’t tell me you never had any fun in the snow.” She slid the knife back into the sheath and the piece of bark into her pocket.

Hannah’s shoulders tensed up a little, she looked up toward the sky—though not much of it could be seen through the trees. “Of course I did. But I was the only kid in AEGIS so any fun I had I had alone. Most of my experiences with snow were training-related: fighting in snow, tracking, survival, that sort of thing.”

“Huh.”

Hannah glanced back at her. “What?”

Daphne laughed. “Nothing. I just can’t believe I actually had a more normal childhood than someone.”

Hannah snorted. “It’s not a competition Pen,” she said, using the nickname for Daphne’s last name she had taken to calling her lately.

“No, I know I just—” Daphne stopped again. “Yeah we’re going in circles.”

Hannah stopped too, turning to face Daphne. “What’re you talking about?”

Daphne nodded at the small canine tracks heading off into the woods on their left. “We’ve passed those tracks before.”

“We’re in a forest full of animals Pen, there’re bound to be multiple sets of tracks.”

Daphne shook her head. “No those are the same tracks. Same direction, same animal, same size, even the same gait.”

“Okay, then maybe we’ve crossed the same animal’s path twice.”

“Yeah, I thought that too. Still, something didn’t feel right.” Daphne ran a gloved finger over a bark-less spot on the tree closest to her. “Which is why I marked this tree. Just in case.”

“Daphne, look around! We’re up to our ankles in snow, if we were walking in circles we would’ve crossed our own tracks again.” Hannah gestured toward the unblemished snow covering the forest floor in front of them.

Daphne ran a hand through her hair, knocking her hood off her head in the process. “Yeah and we’ve been walking in a straight line not following a path. I don’t know what to tell you, I just know we’ve passed this tree at least two times.”

Movement up in the tree behind Hannah caught Daphne’s eye. “Don’t look now but there’s a fox in the tree behind you.” The arctic fox’s intelligent golden eyes, locked unflinchingly with Daphne’s, seemed to be filled with laughter.

Hannah lifted a well-groomed eyebrow. “What?” she laughed. “Do foxes even climb trees?”

The fox stood from its perch on the lowest branch of the tree, snow-colored fur fluffing out and tail curling over its back as it stretched, a wide yawn revealing a wicked grin of sharp silver teeth.

“I don’t know. This one did. No, wait don’t look!”

Too late, Hannah was already turning. As soon as Hannah’s eye caught on the branch, the fox leapt up and away. The force of the jump shook the branch, dislodging the snow gathered there. Which fell straight down onto Hannah’s head.

Hannah let out a startled yell, her green eyes wide with shock.

Daphne snorted, biting her tongue to keep from laughing out loud.

“Don’t you dare.”

Daphne couldn’t help it. She cackled, shoulders shaking with uncontrollable laughter as she hunched over, holding her stomach.

Hannah huffed. “It’s not that funny!” She furiously swiped at her head and clothes to rid herself of the icy wet clumps.

“Y-your face!” Daphne could barely catch her breath enough to get the words out.

Hannah glared. “You think this is funny huh.”

Daphne struggled to breathe. “Hilarious.”

Hannah’s lip twitched. “I was pretty shocked.”

“Should’ve seen your face.”

“Oh yeah? Did it look something like this?”

Frigid wetness hit Daphne square in the face, sobering her instantly.

Hannah giggled. “You’re right. That is hilarious.”

Daphne smirked, bending to pick up a clump of snow, shaping it as she stood. “This means war.” She pulled her arm back to throw, only to be hit in the back of the head by a snowball, startling her into dropping her own.

She whirled around to find the fox sitting on a log, washing its face as if completely oblivious.

Hannah about choked on a laugh. “Did the fox—”

The fox lowered its paw and grinned a very un-foxlike grin.

“I don’t think that’s a fox,” Daphne said, taking a step backward, slowly moving her arms behind her back.

The not-fox’s gold eyes glinted. It jumped, quicker than the eye could follow, hit Daphne straight in the chest knocking her over backward into the snow, her arms instinctively going up to catch her attacker. For a second, Daphne found herself staring up into the grinning face of a young girl underneath the hood of a fox pelt. Then, in the wink of a golden eye, the girl was gone.

“You alright?” Hannah stood over her, holding out a hand.

Daphne clasped Hannah’s glove-covered hand with her own bare one, letting Hannah pull her to her feet. “I think we found the Winter Court,” she said.

“Too bad she got away.”

Daphne shrugged and bent over to pick up the glove she had dropped right before the fey jumped her. She could still feel the eternal cold, slippery playfulness and flickering shadows of trickery prickling under her skin, knew the way home like it actually was her home. “Did she?”

Hannah barked out a laugh. “You got a reading? You sly fox!”

Daphne snorted. “You’re terrible.”

Hannah shoved her. “Please, I’m hilarious.”

Daphne hummed. “You keep telling yourself that.” She pulled her glove back on. “Come on, sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we’ll be drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire.”

Town Line Tuesday: Flashbacks

The Demon of New Salem opens on Daphne Pendragon struggling to put her life back together a year after a devastating loss shattered it like glass. When we meet her, Daphne has already had enough adventures to fill a whole series of novels, but it is here, picking up the pieces, trying to rebuild what’s left of her life, making the decision to return to New Salem after ten years of exile, where Daphne’s story really begins. Still, all those untold adventures are a huge part of Daphne and good, bad, or so ugly they need to be buried so deep they’ll never see the light of day, these stories make Daphne who she is and they all (or at least some of them) deserve to be told. And because Daphne keeps her past locked up as tight as she possibly can (not to mention the fact that her telling these stories to another character would be clumsy and impractical from a writing standpoint) the only way these stories will (probably) get told is through flashbacks.

Originally, I was going to insert flashbacks where they were needed and in no particular order. Truth be told, this probably would’ve been easier to write—albeit messier and perhaps even confusing to read. Instead, after much internal debate, I’ve decided to use flashbacks to tell a second, cohesive story that will run parallel to Daphne’s present. This is hardly a new or original idea but it is definitely how I should’ve been using flashbacks from the start. Initially, however, I didn’t want the flashbacks to play such a huge role in the story, I wanted them to slowly reveal some of Daphne’s past in pieces and then move on. In some ways, this might’ve worked better—at least, the original flashbacks I’d already written were put in in response to certain triggers in the main story and in at least one instance I referred back to a flashback in a later unrelated scene and now that the flashbacks are being rewritten certain questions answered in the original flashbacks will have to be left for later books (yes, this is hopefully going to be a series but I refuse to think too hard about that at least until I get book one written) and certain present scenes will probably have to be re-worked to fit the new flashbacks. Sometimes writing is a straight line… and sometimes you get messes like this. Oh well. It’s a good thing I love it.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of needing a cohesive story to tell through flashbacks that works with—and runs parallel to—the main storyline. It took a lot of contemplation and deliberation but, in the end, the answer was actually pretty obvious. If The Demon of New Salem is about Daphne trying to rebuild her life, what better secondary story to tell than the story of how it fell apart? Through flashbacks, you’ll see Daphne’s last AEGIS (secret vigilante organization, possibly more on that in a later post) mission before everything falls apart. It’s a storyline that, though I didn’t plan it, connects with the main story arc in a critical way. Funny how that happens sometimes.