Queen of Swords: research

L'Île de LamantinesL’Île de Lamantines

Working on the setting for the first three chapters of the new novel, along with bits of dialog and description and an overall plan. Coming together slowly. When a lot of action is dependent on geography I usually do some close sketches to keep myself oriented as I write. This is the rough sketch for the fictional island in the Antilles that I’ve been working with. It’s called L’Île de Lamantines, or Island of the Manatees (click to expand, but be warned, the full sized graphic is big).

I add to the notes on the sheet as I come across details in my reading. When I’m finally finished with this it will be quite crowded with text.

another short excerpt Fire Along the Sky

Just in case you had the idea that this new novel is not about the Bonners themselves…there’s another short excerpt below (see “continue reading” at the bottom of this entry).

That will be the last excerpt, but please know that while the younger Bonners (Lily, Hannah, Jennet) play a large role in this story, Elizabeth and Nathaniel are still central.

Continue reading “another short excerpt Fire Along the Sky”

reading, writing, and the opening paragraphs of Thunder at Twilight

John and Aeryn

Farscape. You knew that was coming, right?

Watched episode Green-Eyed Monster on dvd last night, listening to the commentary by Ben Browder, who plays John Crichton and also wrote this particular episode. Listening to storytellers talk about the creative process is something that I could do forever. This particular episode is interesting because it’s mostly about the drama that goes on around the triangle of John, Aeryn and Crais, the slightly-off-center former PeaceKeeper commander who lusts for (as Ben Browder puts it) John’s girl. It’s this episode where John and Aeryn both make the decision to pursue the relationship, and it’s handled beautifully.

Ben Browder, in his commentary, seems somewhat uneasy about his own work; he keeps refering to himself as schmaltzy, when in fact there’s a wonderful mixture of strong emotion and tentativeness in the way John and Aeryn approach each other. You know the old addage about how porcupines mate; you can see it happening here.

Sense & SensibilityAnother movie/dvd to watch again and again, with or without the commentary, is Sense and Sensibility. I have great respect for everyone associated with this adapation, from Ang Lee (the director) to each and every minor character. But I’m in awe of Emma Thompson‘s work on the screenplay, and I recommend her commentary on the dvd very highly.

I’ve been writing very little, but thinking a lot. And reading constantly, about islands in the Caribbean just now.

It occurs to me that readers might get a little panicky, thinking that I’m sending the Bonners off to an island somewhere for the duration of book five in the series. Let me say: that’s not the case. The first few chapters of Queen of Swords do take place on such an island, but only a subset of the family is there.

I’m aware that many of my readers don’t like it when I take the action outside of upper NY state, but I hope they’ll stick with me. Most of novel five takes place in New Orleans and environs, with occasional peaks back at what’s going on in Paradise. New Orleans in 1814 was an incredible place, and I hope I’ll do it justice. Certainly I know my characters are all wound up about it.

Another problem I should mention: since there’s such a long gap between the time I finish a novel and the time the readers get to see it, I forget sometimes what they know already and what they don’t. I try very hard not to let spoilers into my discussions, but I may slip in a small way sometimes.

I have to go now and draw a map. Luke is requesting it.

And here’s the opening page of Thunder at Twilight, something I’ve been promising the members of the discussion board at yahoo for a while. See the “continue reading” link at the bottom of this post.

Continue reading “reading, writing, and the opening paragraphs of Thunder at Twilight”

writer's block

… that’s the wrong term. There’s a period when the story is coalescing, coming together in strange ways in my head. I think about details and snippets of dialog and ask myself questions: what is it Hannah wants here? why is this character so persistant? what does the air smell like just now?

I keep myself busy with research and reading, reading, reading (a study on the history of the British army called Redcoat just now). Making notes to myself, and losing them and spending an hour looking for the notes and then starting all over anyway. Studying maps. Maps are great for helping the process along (for me personally).

Somebody asked on the discussion board at Yahoo whether or not plot comes first, or how that works. I can only answer for myself, and here it is: yes and no. I have the greater historical framework to pay attention to, and that is a kind of mega-plot I can’t change. Or not much, anyway. From there, it’s a fairly organic process for me. I have an overall knowledge of what’s going to happen (at least, I think I do; sometimes big things change half way through because a character just refuses to go along with what I had planned). While my conscious is busy thinking things through (okay, in this next chapter Jennet will have to…) my subconscious is getting up to tricks, and will spring surprises on me at the oddest moments. While I was writing Into the Wilderness I had no idea that Julian had seduced Kitty until she came around the corner in the middle of the night and ran into Elizabeth. Then it made perfect sense. Julian was a healthy male without female companionship and with a terrible habit of acting out on his worst impulses, what else was he going to do? That’s the way my plots develop: by hook and crook.

Just now the whole fifth book is simmering, and I’m jumpy and will remain jumpy until i get the first chapter nailed down. Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitutude) once said that it takes him forever to write the first sentence, and everything flows once he’s got that down. For me it’s a whole chapter. I have thirty pages written that I will rewrite and rewrite until I’m comfortable that I know the setting and the characters and where they’re headed (at least at first).

If you know Márquez’s work or any of the authors who are known for magical realism, you might notice that I actually lean towards such things myself once in a while, in a small way. Think of Treenie.