Magic Unbound: Diaries of a SLATE Librarian
My name is Lina and I’m a fully-fledged, badge-wielding Librarian at the largest most prestigious library in the post-Fracture world.
If circumstances of birth, beauty, wealth, power, or even companionship were different, I might be a powerhouse in these hallowed halls of befuddled and deadly knowledge. But here I am: bespectacled, clumsy, a magic weakling, and, generally, as far as I can get from the magic-brimming, athletically-inclined noblemen and women who make up the ranks of top-tier Librarians.
Oh, and did I mention? I have the dubious honor of having a self-appointed guardian, Prux. He may look like a rather oddly marked cat, but he can change his size and weight at will and his taco addiction and predilection for pranks might yet put us on the street again. Don’t get me started on the furballs..
Nothing’s changed markedly since I wedged myself in the door at the Southern Library of Adapted Technology and Energy (aka Slate). It’s expected by my superiors that I will eventually give up and quit or die as a result of some disastrous unbound magical mishap.
But that’s OK.
I’m not the giving up type, and I am still alive.
That counts for something, right?
I’ve survived this long by trusting my senses and understanding the complicated language of ink and power. Now, I sense change whispering through every page around me, and I feel like something is shifting inside myself as well.
I’ll just say nope to it all, thank you very much. I’m comfortable and perfectly happy, damn it!
What’s that? You hear fate laughing her silly, vindictive head off too?
In the very near future, I’ll find myself dragged from my shelves into a murder-solving-fray, catch the attention of an Eidolon nobleman who might complicate my emotions exquisitely, and generally have my life turned ass-side up.
Oddly specific this premonition, but there you have it.
The truly distressing part? I may be the only one paying attention to what the books are saying, and I can’t help but feel like I’m not strong enough to face the beginning of this chaotic tale.
Ready or not:
When did I get lost? When did I lose that inner fire that fed on insecurity and hesitancy?
These are the questions I am asking myself now.
I have attempted to start writing again a dozen–nay–a million times now. Sitting down at the computer, writing notes for my next book, agonizing over details from my first book to try and bring it to a publishable level. Reading and rereading books that I feel are perfect and others that are so far from it and wondering where in the level of skills, my own writing would come in.
I’ve avoided the computer for days and weeks so that I wouldn’t feel the guilt associated with avoiding my very expensive, super useful Scrivener program. I’ve done everything imaginable–including learning some pretty obscure fiber arts skills–to validate my utter lack of motivation and results.
I think the reason I simply haven’t done what I love comes down to terror.
At some point, I became more afraid of disappointing myself and others, than trying to get past my weaknesses. I know I have weaknesses–so very many of them. But are they really that terrible? Or is it in my head? Does my inability to place comma’s perfectly, my tendency to not see errors (typos, grammar errors, etc.) in my writing, and fear of constant rejection from every publishing source mean I need to just give up?
I guess I already did that….
So now what? I have always written, from my 10th birthday when I sat down and began drawing out the visions in my head on a yellow notepad up to my 31st birthday–or thereabouts.
Now, as a homemaker, who has had at least one failed career and perhaps more–if you count my writing as failed already–I am trying to make myself move again. Trying to make the words come out, to build a fire with green firewood in a cracked pit amongst sodden ashes.
Where do I start?
What if it is over even before I begin?
Can I find a group to join? If I do find some like-minded writers, will I stand out as that lady who thinks she might can write, but hasn’t managed to yet?
So many of my writing peers have found their places, via school, careers, or publication. They have stuck to their strengths and managed to succeed on their own terms. I honestly couldn’t be more proud or jealous. After all, I’ll write this blog post and cut it from my Facebook feed (shame, fear, self-pity choose one reason), which means that almost no one, if not actually no one, will read it.
And here I am, staying home with my beautiful daughter, but feeling largely like a failure. I know that what I am doing at home is important, difficult, and special. No, I do not want to get a full-time job and leave the home. I love having this time with my daughter and treasure all that we can do together. However, separate from the pride I feel for my daughter, I continue to feel like a failure.
Even when I try to really get back into the flow, the rhythm of a writing routine, I put blocks on myself–write this, not that; don’t try too much too quickly; don’t put yourself out too far.
I go online and I try to find groups to join, but freeze before actually joining. I consider writing part time for various websites screaming for people to gush about a single subject for a few hundred words. But I can’t get over, through, under, or around the wall I’ve erected between myself and my writing.
Insistent thoughts cycle constantly, so quietly that you can’t hear them unless you really concentrate, but, once you do, they are paralyzing in their volume: If I join a group, will I be the least accomplished, least progressed writer in my age group? If I try to work online and make mistake after mistake as I did at my first job, what will I do? Why can’t I not make mistakes? Why can’t I see that this was supposed to be capitalized and that fact wasn’t quite right? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be fearless again? What do I really have to say worth reading? When is it too late and the end of my writing?
If I were an enlightened individual, I’m sure none of that would matter, but here we are: in the shadows and experiencing minor panic attacks.
I feel like I need to get the stories out, the emotions, the pent up imagination, because I don’t want them to die in me. I don’t want me to die in myself.
So, there it is.
Where do I go from here?
As I have been working on my new book, I’ve run into questions that probably should have been considered in my first novel.
Whoops! Live and learn. 😛
This quandary, as is almost always the case, revolves around grammar. I am not even the red-headed stepchild of a c-rated grammatician, so often find myself struggling to bring my writing into proper form. This time around the writer’s block, I was pondering capitalization.
Pretty sure that I couldn’t be the only fantasy writer struggling with when to (or not to) capitalize names of species or races, I looked for help.
All those readers out there lifting grammar-sharpened noses to avoid the waft of my inadequacies, pinch that honker and try to be understanding–writing fantasy (or sci-fi) presents some out-of-the-norm challenges.
As all of the curious are wont to do, I turned to my trusty search engine.
The result? A rather interesting article that can get a bit heavy and convoluted toward its center, but pulls out nicely in the end.
“Capitalization of Fantasy Race Names,” by Mark William Chase helped sort me out.
In a nut shell, he came to this conclusion:
“Can the people of the race/species be identified as having a common cultural heritage, language, religion (or set of beliefs), or general ideology, that uniquely distinguishing them as a group?” If the answer is yes, their name should be capitalized as it is with Visigoth or Celt. If the answer is no, then they are not a distinct cultural group and their name should be lower cased. This is why elf, in general fantasy terms as well as in mythology, is lower cased, while Elf is capitalized in fantasy works such as Lord of the Rings where the Elves do have a common cultural heritage.”
-Mark William Chase
Capitalization of Fantasy Race Names
As language is a continuously transmogrifying monster that gobbles the woulds and shoulds of our oral and written traditions without even the courtesy of chewing with its mouth closed, everyone has a right to their own opinions, so I leave it to you to decide whether or not this is a viable policy.
For me, it works. So, my mengens will be lower cased, my Eidolons capitalized, and the poor humans will not even know they are being slighted.
the comma-deaf waif wishing she had a clue
Sources: Mark William Chase: “Capitalization of Fantasy Race Names“
Well, I’ve managed to focus my novel’s first chapter into a first person perspective and I think it worked!
I mean, I think my main character’s voice pushed through to the forefront even more assertive than I could have hoped for. I am going to wait until a few of my most trusted advisors read the chapter before making final decisions, but I think they will like the changes as well.
Did I or do I?
During my revisions in changing the perspective, I was in a constant battle of the tenses. In third person, that sort of consideration has always flowed smoothly through my brain.
However, in this version, I found myself stumbling in some areas over present and past tenses. I’m not sure if this is simply a *paucity of practice or general lack of grammatical skill on my part.
Haha…grammatical skills. I’ll never claim to have those.
Looking up some general advise to help navigate, I discovered this section on Now Novel.com that I thought interesting:
3: Mix the tenses for colour and variety
Le Guin raises a good point about writing tenses. Le Guin describes the downside of telling a story almost exclusively in present tense:
‘It all rather sounds alike…it’s bland, predictable, risk-free. All too often, it’s McProse. The wealth and complexity of our verb forms is part of the color of the language. Using only one tense is like having a whole set of oil paints and using only pink.’
Instead mix different tenses where appropriate, but signal changes between time settings:
That morning, she had run her usual route to the store. As she turned the corner, she had come upon a disturbing scene. Apart from the glass and metal sprayed across the road like some outgoing tide’s deposit, there were what looked like two stretchers, mostly eclipsed from view by a swarm of emergency workers.
Now, safely home, she decided to lie down, all the while trying to get that scene out of her mind.
Mixing the tenses can help to show the cause and effect of interlocking events. The use of the past perfect to describe the scene of an accident in the example above is effective because the past perfect shows what is already complete. It gives it an irrevocable quality, the quality of a haunting, living-on-in-memory event. Finished, but not finished in the character’s mind’s eye.
Now I really want to read more from Le Guin, obviously, but this description pretty much describes what I’m trying to accomplish. I think I managed to work out the kinks, finding a balance between the various aspects of do, did, and have done. However, I have no doubt, it will take more practice to master the fine art of the tenses in first person.
Did she really just say that?
I think Satani’s character really gets a chance to shine in this version. She says and notices some aspects of the scenes I hadn’t considered in third person.
For non writers out there, this must sound really pretty insane, but I promise I won’t stick my head in an oven, if you will just roll with the oddness.
As, first person is such a in-depth view into my Character’s head, I find that she notices specifics that the third person narrator, no matter how close, did not. It’s kind of fun writing this closely with her, feeling as if I’m finally right there in the action, rather than standing back on a platform to judge and tweak each sentence.
Another article that had a lot of generally good advice that stuck out in my head was “First Person Point of View” on The Writers Craft.com
First person point of view is the most reader friendly. It’s intimate. The reader feels like the character’s best friend. In fact, the viewpoint character will often confide in the reader things he wouldn’t tell his best friend.
Source: First Person Point of View
So, here we are, learning how to see the world differently. I hope this will be a productive new journey for my writing. I can’t see how it will hurt. You will all have to be the judge when my book finally does come out. Until next time!
A woman along for the ride
*I’m always learning new vocabulary. If you want to join in, please do!
My first novel, Starkin, has been on my computer for years now, patiently awaiting a moment of sheer bravery.
I've submitted my manuscript many times and had an equal number of rejections or lack of responses. This put me in a rather poor state of mind, which, among other distractions, contributed to my two-year writing sabbatical.
Now, I'm beginning a final editing round before self publishing and am making some frightening and difficult decisions. Most pointedly, about perspective.
My writing has always lent itself to third person, but over the past few years, as urban fantasy has grown in popularity, the realm of first person perspective has truly blossomed. I've been reading some amazing heroic journeys crafted by authors such as Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews, which have made me look at my own writing and wonder…what if?
What if my character's thoughts, already bursting through the gaps of a close narrative, just need a whispered nudge to fall into an entirely new scope? What would the grand I do to, and for, my story?
I've decided to find out. I am going to take the first chapter and Beta test my theory. Can I wrangle the first person perspective into a true outlet for my character? Is she strong enough to fill that role? Is this just what she needs to get her voice out there?
We will just have to wait and see.
An explorer with pen and paper
I’m excited to say, my beautiful toddler is able to self entertain long enough these days for me to sit down and write.
I feel like I did when I first picked up a #2 Pencil and yellow long-leaf notebook at the age of 10, wondering with growing amazement what story would come out of the tip. Maybe my mommy-time sabbatical will prove to be a blessing in disguise! I’ve taken two years, and some change off, and now my batteries are recharged and the ideas are flowing.
First step: Planning!
I’ve decided to write an Urban Fantasy novel series, which has been rumbling around in my head for years! I’ve played with the first 40 pages a few times, a tendency I seem to have before I can get serious about a project.
With the discovery of Scrivener, I’ve enjoyed the act of really breaking my world down into manageable, as well as research-able, bits. If this is going to be a longer series and a world I visit often, I want to make sure all the street signs are loud enough and the sleazy Overseers are believable.
I am getting into the aspects of my characters that I truly enjoy ferreting out, motivation and inspiration. I use a variety of methods to eek out every possible smidgen of emotion to help me understand each character’s journey. One of my favorite exercises, as suggested in “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook,” is to have my characters dream.
Once I’ve outlined their past and futures it seems only fitting to give them leeway and see what direction we go in. You’d be surprised what hidden emotions, fears, hopes and resentments come out in this step.
In my first novel, “Starkin,” the dream stage for my protagonist changed the entire route I was taking with the novel. It flowed as true and perfectly imperfect as a waterfall. I’m hoping I’ve gotten to know my new character, Lina, just as well.
Yay for writing! Let’s do this!
A fierce determination
Names, names, names, names, names…
When writing a new novel, you’ve got to generate what I consider to be a confusing and somewhat cumbersome number of names. You must give that city, the street, an apartment building, the lead character’s dog walker, karate master, bus driver, demon ruler, and some random city park a name.
I know as an author of Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, the urge is to add so many vowels that even I can’t pronounce the result, but I must, and will, resist.
This time around, I will have some names that are a bit more fantastical, coming from a fantastical race, but largely the world will be human mixed with magic. This means there will be Dave the baker, Tisha the security officer, Simon the part-time musician, and so many other “normal” monikers.
But naming things isn’t as simple as pulling words out of a hat (or google search engine), especially in a novel where names have power, history and impact on the characters’ society. For example, the library…just a building filled with books, right? Nope! It is one of the infrastructures around which this world will run. Thus, I can’t just say welcome to the South Nashville Library… It must have a name that not only matches the building’s import, but also attains the interest of the reader…
So, how to find just the right name for just the right fictional place or character? I’ll let you know when I can figure out this library’s blasted name.
Until then, wish me luck!
My brain is brimming with new laws, maps, religions, magic, characters, and all the thousands of major and tiny building blocks of a new world. I’ve been brewing my next Urban Fantasy series, which I hope to start (technically, restart) writing within the next few weeks.
So far, it is shaping up to be a fun world to create and maintain.
Getting the world set is proving to be an interesting challenge. I need to stay super organized, but I’ve never excelled in the OCD arena. However, I am going to give it my all.
In an effort to actually keep the myriad factoids about this world properly organized, I’ve purchased Scrivener. Now, here is a program for a writer.
I believe Scrivener will be to me as the IPhone now is to my life.
How did I live without it?
Just glad I don’t have to anymore.
So, onward with the writing, researching and general awesomeness that is world building. Minecraft can’t touch this, my peeps.
P.S. I love Minecraft.