Other Peoples' Work!, Writing!

Contemplating Sequence

So, with the Redefining Evil trailer mostly done, and nothing to do for that but wait for C’s edit to come back to me, I once again was restlessly without a project. The book teaser took me a solid week to do. I wanted to hold off on publishing it to give myself time to tinker with the art and music, but I’m not sure that I’m feeling too compelled to go back to the images — an age-old problem. I now just need to decide whether to scrap the idea of modifying anything or to just give myself a breather from it and then come back.

Anyhow, I’m reading Fledgling by Octavia Butler. She’s a really renown science fiction/fantasy author, a powerhouse black woman who died around 2005. My dad was a fan of hers, and I ran across Fledgling while I was exploring the “Vampires” subcategory of Fantasy on the B&N website. I thought it would be cool to read a vampire book by someone who doesn’t “specialize” in vampire fiction and also is known for good writing. I’m a little over halfway through, though, and I’m pretty disappointed. Reading this book sparked a recent comment from me on the Redefining Evil FB page. I was really disappointed immediately to find that Butler was basically trying to reinvent the vampire myth. She doesn’t wait very long before her narrator, a black woman named Shori who is a genetic experiment to see if black vampires are less sensitive to sunlight, disses on popular conceptions of vampire lore. It’s one thing to say “that’s what they say, but that’s not how it is” — which is annoying and common enough as it is — but then to add in a contemptuous attitude when debunking vampire myths…gosh, what the hell is the point? Like, I sincerely don’t understand that. I much prefer a writer who embraces customary treatment of this or that subject. When I say that, Patricia C. Wrede’s Arthurian fantasies come to mind. They all take place in traditional fantasy settings, with the knights in shining armor and the dragons and their dragon keeps and the princesses with pretty gowns and long flowing hair. But Wrede (a local Minnesotan, BY the way) deals with this in a wry, cheeky, refreshing way. Cimorene was a huge inspiration to me when I was younger. She doesn’t take nobody’s shit and happily becomes a dragon’s servant after running away from home because she got bored. Sounds like Lucienne, which makes absolute, perfect sense. Anyway — Wrede didn’t write anything “new,” per se, but what she wrote, she wrote WELL. As Solomon says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9b-10a). I always, always, always think of this — especially as it pertains to storytelling. Anyway, what’s more is that this new vampire idea done by Butler (essentially, she keeps the sensitivity to sun and feasting on blood…but, like how the smutty vampire romance authors do it, having your blood sucked is an incredibly pleasurable and addictive experience, so vampires are basically polygamistic drug lords…) is sort of rather quite boring. The narrator is stoic and unemotional, and the characters are boring, without quirks or admirable characteristics. It’s the same encounter over and over again. “I thought his smell was enticing.” and then “I bit her, and she didn’t like it, but we would learn to like it. Then we slept.” and then “The attackers came and tried to burn the houses down, but I am a super vampire so I killed half of them and caught this one and since I bit him now he’s my pet. Woot.” The answer for any conflict is just Shori biting them and intoxicating them and then making them do her will. Uh. What? Butler gave herself an easy entrance because the story starts with Shori waking up after the aftermath of a fire that killed her family, naturally with a head wound that caused amnesia. Thus, the narrator is able to learn vampires at the same time as the reader, so we never have to guess about what kind of vampires Butler’s writing about. I mean, I have a tiny bit of hopefulness still — Butler’s writing is supposed to be grim and gritty, and so there might be a twist yet in store that will win me over to her world. But somehow I’m doubting it. Big sigh.

One night a few days ago after I started reading this, I randomly opened up “Sun-Walking” because I often like skimming through my writing as I do my pictures. Well, before I really knew what was happening, I had read the first solid forty pages and wanted to keep going. It reignited my interest in it. Before I started that Ava project that I dropped, I was debating between starting a new story, rewriting “…Whispered the River,” or writing the sequel to “Sun-Walking.”

A while ago, shortly before I finished the first draft of SW, I started thinking it had the potential to have a sequel. I definitely didn’t think the relationships had resolve, and the conflict wasn’t set up to be solved by the end of the story. Now, with the rewrite, there’s even more tension left to play with. One of my goals while writing it was to maintain a kind of momentum my writing frequently loses. I kept it up until the ending, and now I’ve changed it. There’s a lot of energy to the story. I’m pretty excited. I decided on making it into a trilogy because of the phases I thought the story could take. I thought I would call the second one “Sky-Dancing,” but I hadn’t figured out what to call the third. Today I landed on “Wind-Running,” but decided that would make a better name for the second one. So now, this trilogy is tentatively called the Apprentice of Light trilogy, which includes “Sun-Walking,” “Wind-Running,” and “Sky-Dancing.” 😀 I figured out what I wanted to happen and say in the second book, and it’s a bit inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’ “Dark Lord of Derkholm” as well as the world-hopping design I set up for “Farewell, Fairytale.”

I haven’t done a series since I wrote “…Whispered the River,” but unlike …WtR, I’m going to keep track of characters and not add them in just because I thought I had an intriguing design. I’m going to keep the plot focused and central and not build sub-plots and super-plots. “Wind-Running” is going to take place in a world more like mine, so it won’t have the little plot holes that “Sun-Walking” had. I’m usually opposed (violently) to series, but to justify a trilogy I only have to look at Jonathan Stroud, and then I know that it *can* be a classy thing to do.

Whether or not this will actually work is, as usual, a toss-up. But it’s nice to set my sights on this, and I have a lot left to learn about Lucienne and Levi.


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