Teaser Chapter – Sleeper [Part 2]

(Reed’s Song of the Day: 5 to 9, by FIDLAR)

Finally finished working on this just now. I think I might go over specifics about editing this chapter next week, so if you’re interested in editing advice, be sure to read the whole thing!

Here’s a link to Part 1 if you haven’t read it yet.

Enjoy!


King Artura VII pushed against the golden throne, his gnarled arthritic fingers curling around the soft metal as he struggled to stand. Lit from all angles by torches, his skin pulled taut against his skull and his eyelids nearly receded into his head, he seemed more a cautionary tale against overindulgent magic usage than a king. A shiny, waxy corpse upon a throne.

Bennett Canton, the Head Governor, let his voice trail off as he watched his king stand slowly. He raised an eyebrow.

“Sir?” he said.

“Your law has merit, and I will sign it,” Artura VII said.

“But sir, you haven’t heard the full text – ”

“I will sign it, for sun’s sake. Is that not what you want?”

In the resulting silence, Artura VII stared with weak eyes at the occupants of the courtroom around him. The five Ordinance Heads, as well as several aristocrats who had nothing better to do than sit in this dreary ill-lit chamber and discuss new laws. The purple-coated Kingsguard stood in tight columns at the back of the room, their plate gleaming dully.

Despite the court being open to all, not a single person was here who didn’t have to be. And was it the king’s imagination, or had even the pool of aristocrats and sycophants shrunk in this past season?

“We appreciate your cooperation, sir,” Canton finally said. Artura’s eyes snapped back to the man – the wavy brown hair swept back over his head, the forest green eyes, the stubbled jawline. Canton was the very peak of fashion, and Artura VII looked like a fucking skeleton.

His fingers itched. Why did they always have to itch like that? Under the skin in a place that couldn’t be scratched except for by magic. He could always tell the oncoming withdrawal by his damned itchy fingers.

“Then have we no other business?” Artura said aloud. His eyes wandered through the room, seeking out the attention of the other Ordinance Heads. All four of them carefully kept their eyes averted.

“I suppose not, sir.” Canton paused – a seemingly natural hesitation, but Artura VII could tell it was calculated. “We will send it to you via the Kingsguard for signature later today?”

“Yes, yes.” A tremor went down the back of Artura VII’s legs and set his knees wobbling; he put one hand on the armrest of the throne for balance. “That concludes court for the week,” he said to the rest of the occupants of the room. “If you have suggestions, please leave them with the Kingsguard. Otherwise, good day.”

The upper crust of Kalin looked to one another at the dismissal. Then, muttering in tones that just barely bordered on insolence, they left.

As the Kingsguard began to file out behind the nobility, Artura VII leaned upon his throne and searched for one particular face in the sea of purple uniforms. “General Weiss!” he called, beckoning to the Kingsguard Captain with one finger.
General Hugh Weiss’s appearance would elicit one word in the mind of any anthrid meeting him for the first time: militant. It was in every hard muscle on his body, visible even under his coat; in the immaculate dark beard that decorated his lean face; in his eyes as gray as the rain. As he did every time he was called upon by his liege, the General knelt and prostrated himself before Artura VII.


“Come, now, Hugh,” Artura said, standing with only slight effort and putting one hand on the General’s shoulder. “You know you needn’t do that. None of the others do.”
“A dissident gesture is the most powerful,” the General said, brushing dust from the shoulder of his uniform. “Do you require something, Your Majesty? I always enjoy our conversations, but I do have quite a bit of paperwork to get through by Moonday’s end, and I still have yet to see Hale today.”


The excuse hung in the air, turning it sour.


“Hugh, please.” The king motioned for them to descend the carpeted steps from the throne. He kept his hand around General Weiss’s arm as they began to wander a path around the perimeter of the room. “Let us dispense with pleasantries and speak without inhibition. Would you at least grant me that?”


The General inclined his head. “Of course, Jeryl. You need only ask. I simply don’t want to be presumptuous.”


“Jeryl….” A wry smile touched Artura VII’s lips. “No one else has called me that since I was a young man. It brings some warmth into these old bones.”


The two men fell silent for a short while as they paced around the throne hall together. Artura VII brushed the tips of his fingers across the smooth worn stone of one of the many columns that decorated and supported the hall. They were the only ornamentation in the otherwise dark and threatening chamber. Torches flickered at regular intervals on the wall, but they failed to brighten everything. Weiss had once asked to replace them with lanterns, citing them as a ‘security threat’, but Artura VII preferred it this way.

In the darkness, it was harder for others to see just how close he was to death.

A sound came from behind him – a sound General Weiss seemed not to hear. Artura VII turned slightly until he could see the edge of his nonpareil in the very corner of his periphery. The enormous ornate mirror stood fifteen feet from his throne, dominating the hall around it. No other mirror in all of Kalin matched it in either size or majesty; its frame was gold and blightsteel interwoven with sparkling minerals and real gemstones from the Hilan Mountains. The reflective surface was a dark swirling black, the color of thick oily smoke, and it roiled and rippled upon itself as though attempting to escape the confines of its frame.

From within he could hear soft scraping noises.

Artura VII’s stomach churned as he edged a little more sideways to see his incubus, trapped within the nonpareil. The hulking beast stood tall enough that it had to bend over to be able to watch him, its burning black eyes shifting like small dark flames in its head. It saw him watching and raised one hand, dragging its claws against the frame.

The king blinked and it was gone. His own terrified expression stared back at him.

General Weiss, unnoticing of the king’s lapse, pointed to one of the columns. “The other day, Hale told me that they had to go all the way up to the peak of the Hilans to find the right stone to create these. Something about the artist’s desire to show the strength of the monarchy through choice of material.”

Artura VII nodded, his mind racing. A burning rash had settled between his shoulders and he could feel his skin pimpling.Though he tried not to look back at the nonpareil again, his eyes were drawn towards its dark surface.

The incubus smiled back at him, revealing an open gaping mouth with no teeth.

General Weiss noticed Artura staring this time and started to turn towards the nonpareil; Artura grabbed him by the shoulders and swung him back around. “Hugh,” he said, his nerves rattling within him like pebbles in a pot, “Will you please explain your disappointment in me?”


The General stiffened. “It’s hardly my place to comment on the decisions that the King—”
“Hugh.”


Weiss sighed, fidgeting with the handle of his sterrit. His downcast eyes reflected the dancing torchlight. “You seem distracted, Jeryl. You hardly notice what the Heads put in front of you anymore. Especially with Bennett Canton vying for power, you must scrutinize new legislation to make sure it is in the best interest of Kalin.”


As harsh of a rebuke as he was likely to get from the General. King Artura scratched at one of the itchy spots on the back of his head, resisting the urge to look back at the nonpareil. “And what makes you think that my best interests are at all similar to those of Kalin?” he said.


“If that’s a joke, Your Majesty, it’s a distasteful one.”


“Bah! My hold on this city, that’s the true joke.” Unable to control himself, the king glanced over the General’s shoulder and let out a quick sigh of relief. The nonpareil was blank.


General Weiss’ mouth twitched into a half-frown. “Jeryl, I wish you would treat these discussions with more gravity.”


“I am being quite grave now.”


“Clearly, you aren’t! Otherwise, what possible reason would you have to—”


“Hugh, do you believe I am fit to rule Kalin?”


For one moment, the General’s eyes flicked up to meet Artura’s. Then he cast them back down towards his boots.


“Then why do you persist in trying to make a king of a broken man?” Artura whispered. He turned away from General Weiss, looking to the only part of the room that had any sort of flamboyance or color – the throne. Popular rumor abounded it was created from solid gold; it wasn’t, of course, but it still was flooding uncomfortable to sit on.


“I know you,” General Weiss said, placing one hand on his liege’s shoulder. “I watched you lead this city for over five years with the strength of a true king. You were the reason I wanted to become Kingsguard Captain.”


“That man is gone, Hugh,” Artura said. He shrugged off General Weiss’ hand, raising his head to stare at the cold stone walls of the throne hall.


“With all due respect, Jeryl, that’s hennashite and you know it.”


“It is not.” Artura VII shuddered and wiped his nose with one hand; he could see varicose veins beginning to spring forth in his forearm without magic to hold them back. The nonpareil was calling to him.


Behind, General Weiss sighed. “Well, I can’t argue with a man who won’t hear reason.”
There it was again. The disappointment, so heavy in the General’s voice. What gave him the right to act in such a way? He pretended he still cared, but inside he was just as conniving as the rest of them.


“You speak to me of reason?” the king rasped. He turned to face the General, dizzy already from the time spent standing. “You speak to me of strength? I would be dead without magic, Hugh. I’m already a floodstorming corpse! What reason is there for me to believe that I can control this city, when I can’t even control my own body? My own addiction?”


The General bore his king’s words with the steadfast presence that Artura VII had so often counted on. Now, it simply made him sick. “There is always time to change,” he said softly.


Shit. Not now….


Another trembling moment of weakness shuddered down Artura VII’s spine, and he clutched at the General’s shoulder for support.


“Are you all right, Jeryl?” General Weiss asked, and it was the concern in his voice that finally made the King’s decision for him.


“I want you to draft a bill for me,” Artura said. “Ceding my signing power to the Head Governor.”


“What?! Jeryl, that’s the last bit of power you have left! You can’t give it to Bennett Canton.”


Artura’s lips bent upward in a mirthless smile. “You really do hate that man, don’t you?”


“That has nothing to do with this,” the General said. “This is about you suffering your choices rather than facing them like a king ought to.”


“Like a king ought to,” Artura VII repeated. “Once again, you mock me with your words, make me feel like a child. You dare to patronize the King of Kalin?” He felt his fear slinking back, leaving him as he found refuge in irritation.


Weiss exhaled, his nostrils flaring. “If you think I’m patronizing you, then you’re mistaken. I simply—”


“Oh, I’m mistaken, am I? Again, you condescend to me.”


“Well, sun, Jeryl,” Weiss said, his voice growing louder, “If you insist on twisting everything I say into something sinister, then perhaps you deserve condescension!”


“I—”


“Perhaps you need a reminder that signing a law without even a cursory examination is unbefitting of a sun-forsaken king!”


“Be silent, General,” Artura hissed. Did he tremble with rage, or with weakness?


“Perhaps,” Weiss said, stepping closer, “you simply need someone to tell you to grow up and take some initiative!”


“Oh, I’ll show you initiative.” The king exhaled a sharp bark of pained laughter. “My final initiative will be signing that bill. I’ll give Canton a shot at running this fallow city.”


“No, you won’t,” Weiss said. “If you think I’ll let you condemn yourself, then—”


“Then what?” Artura VII said, his grip tightening on Weiss’s shoulder. “In case you’ve forgotten, Hugh, I’m still your king. You will do exactly as I say or I’ll have you executed. I still have that power.”


General Weiss gaped as he edged away from the King. Inadvertently, he broke Artura’s grip on his arm; without the support, the King’s legs began to shake with exertion.


The General stared at his King, but made no move to stabilize him. “Is that how it will play, then? Is this the legacy you’ve left for history?”


Artura felt blood rise to his face. “Get out of my throne hall.”


“Who will escort me?” General Weiss let out a choked laugh through his tears. “None of your soldiers respect you. They answer to me only.”


It was true. Sun and moon help him, it was all true. Artura VII commanded no one.


“Leave,” he whispered, forcing the word past trembling, traitorous lips. “I need to think.”


“Think, hm? That I sincerely doubt.”


Leave me!

The words echoed throughout the throne hall, growing more distorted and garbled as they overlapped. They were the cries of a wounded animal.

For the shortest of moments, the General’s hand clenched into a fist; then he conquered the urge and bowed stiffly one last time.


“Sir.”


General Weiss stalked to the side of the room and threw the door open, terrifying the maid who stood in the hallway behind it. The King heard him yell “What?!” at the poor girl before the door slammed shut and Artura VII was alone.


The tears ran down Artura’s face, catching in wrinkles as his body used up the last of the magic he’d hoarded. Another attack of weakness hit him as he descended the steps, causing him to fall to the ground with a pitiful thud. When he maneuvered his arms under his body to push himself up, all he could see were veins and wrinkles and liver spots.


Artura VII barely made it back to his feet and stumbled over to his nonpareil. The object that had tormented his waking dreams. The ultimate symbol of his addiction. His own pale, ancient face stared back at him like a corpse on a pyre. The sight of his true body made him want to retch.

With shaking hands Artura VII grasped at the sides of the nonpareila, nails digging into the soft gold of the frame. He could sense the magic just beyond it, waiting for him, beckoning.

Just one hit… just a tiny bit.  


Did he dare?

* * *

General Weiss stood just outside the door, debating whether or not to return and apologize, when he heard – felt – the shattering of the throne hall. The very air around him seemed to tremble as immense power coursed by in waves.


Years of training guided one hand to the door and the other to the sterrit at his belt. The General dashed into the throne hall, ready to incapacitate any threat and, if necessary, give his life to the king for whom he had lost so much respect.


What he saw was King Artura VII, standing amidst scattered shards of the royal nonpareila with his hands balled. His arthritic posture was gone; his chest was heaving with the exertion of eliminating his vice once and for all.


General Weiss approached his liege, rapier held out at the ready. “Your Majesty…?”


Artura VII flinched at the sound, twirling around and bringing both fists up. When he saw General Weiss, he hesitated to put them down.


“Your Majesty, what—what happened?”


“I—” Artura VII faltered. He glanced around the room, eyes unfocused; they finally came to rest on the throne. He stumbled forward, edging around the shards of the nonpareila, until he’d reached the steps to the throne.


“Your Majesty?” Weiss called again.


The king ignored him, instead striding up the steps. With each inch he ascended, he straightened more, his head swiveling to regard the throne room with eyes that for once appeared bright and focused.


He reached the throne and ran one finger across the armrest. Then he sat, without the usual stiffness General Weiss had come to expect. He settled into the seat with a grim smile, as if he knew it would now yield to him. And when he spoke, his words echoed throughout the throne hall.


“It is time for a change.”


BUM BUM BUUUUUMMMMM.

We’ll leave it there! See you all next week.

Yours, off to DM for the night,

-R.R. Buck

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Teaser Chapter – Sleeper

(Reed’s Song of the Day: Dead Man’s Party, by Oingo Boingo)

Finally, y’all. Thanks to two very helpful alpha readers and a disgusting amount of looking at four pages of writing, I can bring you this.

(It’s not even the full chapter. It’s just the first half.)


A warm mist obscured the dreamscape in every direction. It blanketed the ground like a dirty silver snowfall, never rising above knee height, perpetually shifting and flowing. It seemed to have a sort of sentience in its movement as it wormed through the young woman’s legs like a stream between logs.
The woman, barely more than a girl, inaled dead air and observed her surroundings. In the timeless and occluded place known as Draumir, there were few landmarks by which a person could get their bearings; of these, she only cared for one – not the floating semi-illusory Temples in the sky to her left, nor the Ruined City behind, but the border in front of her. At a point several days’ ride away, the mist ascended towards the moon, dragging up dust and dirt as it went. It bisected the dreamscape completely, an infinite waterfall pouring up instead of down.
The girl leaned forward to let her fingertips skim the pale outer perimeter of her aura. A soft sphere extending outside her in all directions for a few feet, it shimmered occasionally when the light caught it but was otherwise invisible. However, as she pressed her fingers against it, there was a minor disturbance; the whole thing pulsed and became opaque.
Her fingers curled around the aura and she felt a sort of pressure against her grip. She brought her other hand to join the first, both of them facing away from each other. The mist border beckoned to her.
She pulled her aura apart.
It wasn’t a single movement – more a struggle. As she wrenched her hands away from each other, a small hole opened up in the center of her aura. Stray flecks of light bounced from it at odd angles, causing it to sparkle and waver. Through the hole she could more clearly see the mist border rising steadily into the air.
She pulled harder on her aura, widening the hole to a crack. The aura resisted her straining arms, sparking almost angrily at the perturbation. Still, its inertia couldn’t best her tenacity and it continued to open. At the point where it was wide enough for her to wiggle through sideways, she did so; a small sigh of relief left her as she let the aura go. After a moment, it reformed around her.
She’d travelled a great distance in a single warp. Whereas before the mist border had been visible in its entirety, she now could not see the top even if she craned her neck. It stood massive as a thunderhead and twice as dark, casting a pall over the land for a distance too vast to comprehend; now that she was close, she could see dust particles from the other side mingling with the mist and tinting it to dusk.
Her heart beat a rhythm in her chest. She stepped closer to the mist until the silvery brown curtain was inches from her face. As her aura came into contact with the border, it dimmed and flickered like a guttering candle, and for a moment the girl’s breath caught in her throat.
After a long moment of struggle, the aura seemed to solidify a bit more and it pushed back the mist, carving a dent into the mist wall and allowing her to see a tiny bit into the space beyond.
The Fallowland.
The girl breathed out a sigh of relief. So her aura would work here, though the dimness was concerning.
She took one last look around, behind her, where the dreamscape beckoned with promises if not of comfort then at least of safety. She could just barely see the outer wall of the Ruined City if she squinted.
Squaring her shoulders, she turned back to the border and stepped all the way through into the Fallowland.
She was astonished to find that, aside from the dust, it was remarkably similar to the dreamscape. Slimy patches of graygrass grew underfoot, squelching as her boots trod on them. She could hear the sluggish flow of streams trickling through the land, many of them probably leading outside to feed the rivulets of water that crisscrossed the dreamscape. And there was the occasional scuttering dash of a rabbit or the vibration of a kidra den off in the distance.
She could sense all these things, but her vision was limited to perhaps ten feet in front of her aura before the dust drew curtains over it. Unlike the mists of the dreamscape, this dust did not move, and stood as though petrified in time. It spun in eddies when she moved through it, only to reform behind in complete stillness. It enveloped absolutely everything, softer than a floodstorm and yet just as oppressive.
Enough gawking, the girl chided herself; she had a mission to accomplish. She set off across the lumpy, uneven ground, constantly slipping on the slick grass or dropping her foot into a warm hidden stream. Her aura was still recovering from the last warp, and it would be another minute or so before she could do so again. Still, as she walked through the Fallowland, she couldn’t help but feel that she had no sense of direction or purpose.
She stopped, and felt something watching her.
A shadow appeared in the dust to her right, moving more quickly than she would have expected, its arms held out low to either side. As it parted the dust between them, its blurred figure resolved into something both solid and shifting.
A hulking mass of dark flesh, vaguely anthrid in form, but with fingers that ended in curled claws. Its whole body seemed to be steaming, letting off a thick black smoke that overpowered the dust all around it. And it had an aura, a translucent black sphere that sparked and hissed where it came in contact with her own.
The incubus – and clearly, now, it was an incubus – stepped forward amid more crackling of auras, raising one hand towards the girl. Its claws extended fully with the sound of stone grating on stone. Behind that outstretched arm the girl could see a head just slightly too angular to be anthrid and two eyes filled with a flame so dark, so full of hatred and evil, they seemed to draw in light.
She’d trained for this. She’d known what to expect here. So why did she freeze in fear like a peelee facing down a wolf? Why did her muscles suddenly betray her?
The incubus observed her for a second, head cocked to one side as though trying to understand her. Then it raised its claws high above her head and brought them down to end her.
And that was when her body returned to her control.
She was off like a marsh hare, darting through the mist, refusing to even look behind her as she ran. She had no idea what direction she was going, if she was moving out of the Fallowland or further in, but it didn’t matter. Any distance she put between herself and the incubus was another breath of life.
Try as she might, she couldn’t block out the sound of it behind her; its thudding footsteps shook the ground ever so slightly as they landed. She could feel her spine tensing in anticipation of the rending claws in her back. But they never came, and she started to relax just barely enough to take stock of the situation.
There was only one way she could survive this. The girl gathered up her aura again, tearing at it with both hands. The little crack in the center was like a beacon of hope to her.
She stumbled over a hidden vine and lost concentration. Though she managed to keep her footing, she had to start again with her aura. The labored breaths of the incubus came from behind her, slow and heavy.
“Shite,” she muttered, bringing her aura back around and starting the process of warping again. “Shite, come on, you stupid thing.”
A claw raked her back, drawing a line of fiery pain, and her heart nearly leapt into her mouth. Somehow, she managed to keep her concentration. A cry of relief escaped her as her aura opened.
She wiggled sideways through and was treated to one last nightmarish glimpse of the incubus reaching for her from the other side, its eyes glowing dark.
Then she was somewhere else.
Though her mind tried to take stock of her situation and remain alert, her legs betrayed her. They crumpled and she fell into a sitting position, her tights growing damp with the permanent moisture of the Fallowland. She put her palms against her eyes, stifling tears that threatened to overwhelm her.
What had she been doing here? What had she thought she would accomplish? A stupid, scared little girl thinking she could crack the secrets of Draumir on her own. She’d nearly been killed, and now she was hopelessly lost.
She sniffled a bit, wishing there was someone here with her. Someone who could tell her what to do.
And then it happened.
She wasn’t quite sure how she knew – perhaps a nearly imperceptible change in the air, or a little sound as the incubus warped into place behind her. She whirled around, fists clenched. At the very least, she wasn’t going to freeze up this time.
The incubus moved with startling agility. When its aura came into contact with hers, they clashed, dark and light sparks flying as they pushed against one another. The incubus reached forward, its arm pushing into her aura so that it flexed like a bubble. To the girl it was as if she was being attacked in exaggeratedly slow motion.
She realized she might be able to run again, if her aura could slow down the incubus this much.
And then her aura disappeared.
The incubus overpowered her even as the Fallowland dust seeped into her eyes, her hair, her mouth. It was warm as she breathed it in.
The incubus lay a single claw on her forehead, and Draumir disappeared around her.
The girl saw something – something far beyond herself. A glimpse of a truth so deep and resonant that it ached to experience in this shortest of moments.
This… can’t be….
She collapsed to the ground and surrendered to unconsciousness.


Hope you enjoyed! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Yours, relishing the rain,

-R.R. Buck

Streed of Consciousness [Part 10 – Job Apps]

(Reed’s Song of the Day: Why Don’t You Get a Job, by the Offspring)

Well, I thought I was going to have a sample chapter of Sleeper ready for you today after editing. Turns out an hour and a half of editing only gets me one page of good-looking text.

Yeah, this year’s writing is gonna suck.

But you know what else sucks? Applying for jobs. It’s kind of like sending your book off to literary agencies, except you also have to do a bunch of in-person interviews and other nerve-wracking things.

I had a sort of informal chat the other day with a guy from UCLA Newsroom, a science writer there whom I asked to talk to about the various career fields available to a new writer. And at the end somewhere, I tried to sneak in the “Well, are there any jobs available in Newsroom right now for someone like me?” question.

There aren’t.

But I don’t mind that right now. If I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think Newsroom is the place for me. What was much more useful was the advice he gave me, which I added to the good advice various other on-campus writers and communications professionals have given me over the years.

Hell, you know what? I’ll share it with you and then be done. It’s already 6pm and I don’t want to write a lot more today.

Number One – Choose an entry level position at a place that will allow you upward growth. This is actually one of my main incentives not to stay at UCLA, despite my love of the culture and the learning community. The UCLA Library, much like many parts of UCLA, doesn’t have too much room for a young professional like me; they may be content to keep hiring me for thousand-hour stints, but it’s unlikely that there will be a career position for which I’m actually a good match (and that I like). This would suggest that new places, like Riot Games, would be a better fit for me.

Number Two – Figure out what skills you have instead of what career you want. Chances are there are dozens of careers out there I don’t even know about which might be of interest to me because they utilize the same kinds of skills I might prize as a library instructor and assistant, or as a researcher, or as a writer. I should try to map out those skills first and then seek a career counselor’s help in seeing what things I might be interested in.

Number Three – Cast a wide net. Man, I fucking hate this one, if only because it reminds me of the first time I really tried to market a writing project to literary agents. (It was an earlier, much unpolished iteration of Sleeper.) Casting a wide net is kind of like speed dating, or like trying to hug every person you meet. Try as I might, I can’t not get my feelings hurt when a company (or literary agency) rejects me; when it’s fifty instead, that’s just the worst. Still, though, I need to do it. Blegh.

Number Four – Keep spirits up. Okay, nobody actually said this to me, but I think it needs to be said by me to myself. It sucks being a new adult and putting yourself out there, but it’s just something I have to do. I have to know that I am capable of doing not only good work, but work that no one else could do, or do as well, or do in the way I am able to.

Number Five – Take on new projects and learn new skills at your current job. I already kind of knew this one, but it’s good to hear it reinforced – learn a metric shit-ton of new things at any job, because it looks good to be a learner and you never know what skills might be applicable to a job you want. That’s why I’m taking a bunch of data and statistics-related workshops this quarter and starting up one or two new projects completely autonomously.

Anyway, I’m sure I have more to learn, but I should remind myself that at least I have a job right now, and prospects for the future. I’m pretty lucky even in being able to have that.

I will try to have at least half a chapter of Sleeper ready for you all by next Tuesday, but no promises, darlings. ❤

Yours, looking for jobs if you have a position available (lol),

-R.R. Buck

2018 Writing Goals: Edits, Edits Everywhere

(Reed’s Song of the Day: the Katamari Damacy theme song)

There may or may not be a tendency at the advent of the new year for people to make goals that they then fold on just weeks later. Humankind loves self-improvement as an idea, but as a reality, well… we suck.

But that’s why I’m making my resolution for this year to PUBLISH MY FIRST NOVEL AND HAVE IT HIT THE NY TIMES BESTSELLER LIST.

Yeah, no, but seriously. Since I was finally able to finish my newest project, Sanctuary, just a few days ago, I’ve decided to dedicate this year first and foremost to editing the projects I’ve already written. While I have a great idea for a new novel or series percolating in my mind, I’m pretty ready to lay down the black pen for a bit and grab a red one instead.

The problem with editing, however, is that it takes perseverance in the complete absence of that first-draft momentum where everything is super new and exciting. You have to really, really care about your project to want to dig into it, eviscerate it, and put the bloody mess of it back together in something that vaguely resembles a novel. And, much like exercise, I both hate and am terrible at editing.

So it’s gonna be a fun year.

My hope is that, like I was in the “writing mindset” all of last year without editing any major project, I can put myself in the “editing mindset” this year and actually get something accomplished.

Let’s take a look at the projects I have in some stage of completion that I’ll be working on over the course of this year:

The Kalin Chronicles (trilogy): I have finished the first two books in this series, Sleeper and Lucid, and I have two chapters written of the third book, Woken, before I ran out of steam. I think I got bogged down because I was editing Sleeper while trying to write the last two, resulting in a semi-edited first novel and a complete lack of care for the other two.

My goal for this year is to completely finish writing and editing this series. This will be my baseline goal – I’m thinking there’s a strong possibility I won’t get to my other projects, but at the very least, I want to have this series ready for querying by the end of the year. It’s going to take some major edits – I already comprehensively queried about (yikes) 80 literary agents and small publishers a year or two ago with this project, and I know now that it was premature. But with some tenacity and hopefully a few dedicated alpha readers, I can get it done.

Next up: Symphony of Legend. If you tuned in earlier this year when I started this blog, you probably read all about this project. Currently it’s a 150,000 word single novel, but I found that, in the process of writing, I didn’t capture all the worldbuilding details that make the stakes feel real. So I’m going to completely revamp this project, either this year or next year, and start it the way I originally intended – with a longer plot that extends multiple years, a slower introduction to the magic system, and character moments that aren’t quite so back-to-back-to-back. If editing is pruning, my first attempt to edit this novel in passing was like hacking down the entire plant. Now I need to let it grow out a little before I get the shears.

My end goal for Symphony of Legend is actually a trilogy – I think it has the potential to be three 100,000 word books if done right. It will take a lot more writing, but my hope is I can at least get started on it this year.

Finally, Sanctuary. My love and hate for this book are inexorable. If you might recall, I started it with a completely new tactic for writing in mind – no structure, no outlining, just a character or two and a premise. The result was a hot, steaming mess that I might be entirely tempted on giving up if the subject matter wasn’t so important to me and, in my own egotistic opinion, to the world. The work currently stands at a sad 80,000 words, and believe it or not, that’s something like 80% dialogue. And not the good kind of dialogue either.

So this one will probably be a very difficult one to edit. On the one hand, it needs descriptions and plot points and an actual compelling story to be added in; on the other hand, it needs a lot of unnecessary dialogue driven out. I can’t tell if the end result will be a full-length novel or a novella or something in between, but it’s going to be an uphill hike.

I’m nervous about going full-on into editing, especially with the Kalin Chronicles, because this will guaranteed be my last chance to impress agents. If they didn’t like it the first time and they don’t like it the second time, you can bet your butt there won’t be a third time; as a matter of fact, if I don’t get any hits, I’ll probably end up self-publishing.

Regardless, there will be no forward progress in my work until I give this a try, so I’m diving right in. Maybe I should rename the blog Journey Into Editing. But then it would have to also be Journey Into Choosing a Career and Journey Into Trying to be Vegan When You Love Mac N Cheese.

Yours, ready for the back-to-work email flood,

-R.R. Buck

Rally in 2018

(Reed’s Song of the Day: All My Friends Are In Bar Bands, by the Wonder Years)

We join here today for a special holiday edition of Journey Into Writing. Thanks for taking time away from your New Year’s Eve Eve to read this post.

I did a pretty cool thing the past two days. While I had some time to myself in between holidays, I wrote. A lot. Yesterday it was 8200 words (about six hours in total of writing). Today it was another 2800. And between those two, I finished my most recent writing project, Sanctuary.

Sanctuary was like the shitty wine pairing to the shitty meal that was 2017. The book was originally intended to be a teen sci-fi novel about an island where people with mental and physical illnesses are quarantined away from mainstream society. It was meant to be a way to explore the various opinions people have about mental illness (opinions of both those who don’t have a mental illness, and those who do). And technically, it did that.

But there was something really, truly hard about trying to “dive” into the inner thoughts and feelings of characters with mental illness. For one thing, I don’t define myself as having any mental illnesses, so trying to write about them is a little bit like trying to write about what it’s like to be black in the U.S. as a white person. I tried to base my characters off of real people I know with mental illnesses, but even so, it feels like I’m making reappropriations and mischaracterizations of very nuanced and complex states of mind.

And it was emotionally taxing to do this day in, day out, for months. I made it a goal for this novel not to hold back on the harshness of things in the world. So if a character was sexually assaulted, you can bet I didn’t gloss over the details of how it felt to that character. If there was abuse, neglect, hatred… all of that had to come out. And it’s pretty painful to keep doing that day after day after day.

Not that it would have really mattered in this year. I’ve made quite enough posts about my emotional state on this blog, so I’ll just say it succinctly: I’ve been emotionally fragile and disillusioned by a lot of the things I’ve seen happening this year, in the world but also in my own life. It’s not the worst year I’ve had in my life, but it’s pretty damn close. So really, writing Sanctuary was just like the icing on the shit-cake.

And I have to tell you, I was ready to go home for the holidays and end this horrible year with some really bad family infighting. All five of my immediate family members have been in weird places recently, and tensions have arisen between all of us that are a little more complicated than who took the remote or what we want to have for dinner. Given my last interactions with my family members, I was concerned that having the five of us in one place for Christmas meant an inevitable blow-up. It wasn’t about if, it was about when and how bad.

And then the most incredible thing happened.

Things have gone perfect. Absolutely, honestly perfect since the moment I got back home. And not the “we’re tiptoeing around each other and barely interacting because we’re afraid of stirring something up” kind of perfect.

I had serious conversations – about politics, philosophy, the state of the environment and the world, about my issues and my perceptions of the issues of other family members – with everyone in my immediate family, and even with my girlfriend’s family. I have rarely been so honest and open with so many people as I have been in the last week or two, and that in and of itself is usually a recipe for disaster.

But the responses to these conversations were overwhelmingly positive. I learned new insights about how the people close to me think; I felt a stronger and deeper connection with my girlfriend’s family than I ever have before; and all the while nobody was anything but positive about things. Seriously, I can’t even describe what that has meant to me.

And then the actually good icing on the cake. I got an idea yesterday that, if I had about 10,000 words left to write in Sanctuary, maybe I should try to finish it before the year was out. That way, in 2018, I could look forward to a project that wasn’t so heavy and emotionally taxing on me.

3300 words a day would be a lot, I reasoned, but if I didn’t have anything to do from the 29th to the 31st, I could force myself to write for two hours or so a day. And the reward would be not having the end of that project hanging over my head in the beginning of 2018.

So I started working on it – and I finished a day early.

Just like I can’t really describe what it means to come home and have a stress-free holiday, I can’t really describe how it feels to finish Sanctuary. It’s been partially about exorcising my demons, and now I feel that so many of the things that were burdening me in 2017 have gone into this book and been locked away. I feel ready for 2018, with a kind of hope that had been mostly lost for me during this year.

I’m ready for the world to change, as well as myself. I’m ready for more hardship, more tough realizations and self-growth and exhaustion. But (and maybe I’ll eat my words next year), I think if I could survive 2017 with the support of my loved ones, I’ll be able to survive whatever comes next.

Or, to put it another way, I’m rallying for 2018. And I want everyone who’s reading this blog who’s also felt beaten down by this year to rally with me. Cast off your previous self and move into 2018 with the knowledge that, through your determination and your hope, you’re going to make things better in your little corner of the world.

And if you ever need support or commiseration, you know what blog to come to.

Yours, honestly and sincerely hopeful,

-R.R. Buck

 

Book Review: Boneshaker

(Reed’s Song of the Day: Money Trees, by Kendrick Lamar)

Sorry for this post a day late, but I wanted to officially finish the book before I wrote the review, and annoyingly enough, I had 8 pages left when I left for work yesterday.

Title: Boneshaker

Author: Cherie Priest

Genre: Steampunk

Premise: Sixteen years ago, a disastrous mistake made by a drilling machine caused the majority of then-Seattle to be exposed to a toxic gas that turns those who breathe it into the living dead. While walls have gone up around the infected parts of the city to keep the gas from spreading, the damage has been done, and everyone curses the name of the man who caused the release of the gas – Dr. Leviticus Blue. Well, except for his son, Zeke who has hatched a plan to sneak into the infected city to try to gather evidence with which to exonerate his now-dead father. And when Zeke inevitably gets trapped inside the wall, it’s up to his mother to find a way in to rescue him from pirates, gangsters, and an entire army of zombies.

So I’ve been doing some research into steampunk as a genre because I intend my next major project to have a serious steampunk vibe in a more high-fantasy world. I was actually kind of disappointed to look up the top steampunk novels and find that as a whole, the genre is kind of underdeveloped and not favorably reviewed. I wondered if, when I read my first legitimate steampunk book, I was going to be upset at the quality of the writing.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by Boneshaker. The characters were interesting, if not incredibly engaging; the premise and plotline were full of adventure and action; and there were a lot of cool little gadgets and gizmos that, to me, make up the best part of a steampunk novel. I know “steampunk meets zombies” sounds like a recipe for some lame fan-fiction or something, but I actually found all of it tied together really well.

The strong point of this novel was absolutely the dialogue. Pretty much every character is this gritty, tough-as-nails person from the late 1800’s who speaks in pithy, aggro phrases. I wish I had my copy of the book here at work so I could copy some stuff down, but suffice to say it played out a lot like an old western and I totally loved that vibe.

Another point in its favor was the strong female roles, of which there were many. Besides Briar Wilkes, the main character and the mother of Zeke, there were a couple of other really badass heroines – characters with real flaws but also a lot of strength and courage to do what was right. That was pretty awesome to see.

Still, I didn’t find it an intensely gripping novel, due to some factors that it would be hard for me to put into words. I think it’s a good relaxed read despite being an adventure novel, and while I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing, I was definitely glad I randomly picked it out of the steampunk section in a little bookshop.

Reed’s Rating: 8/10

Yours, looking to get some more steampunk for Christmas,

-R.R. Buck

Ups and Downs

(Reed’s Album of the Day: The Upsides, by the Wonder Years)

Well, this has certainly been an interesting week. In fact, this week seems to reflect what kind of a year it’s been for me – a year of ups and downs.

Mostly, things have been going downhill, and I’m actually really glad that this blog is forcing me to admit that to myself. I’ve had a lot of struggles with realizing what kind of country I live in and who populates it (outside of Southern California, which definitely is a bubble). I’ve realized some things about myself that make me sick to think about. I’ve had a difficult writing project that has drained a lot of my energy and time.

But then there have been good things too, haven’t there? In contrast to Sanctuary, I have Symphony of Legend, which I finished earlier this year, and I had an awesome time writing that one. I’ve realized stuff I don’t like about myself, but I’ve also made enormous strides in trying to correct those things, and progress may be slow to come, but it’s coming. And, of course, the recent downturn things have taken in the United States has disheartened me, but it has also brought me closer to my community and opened doors to deeper communication about issues.

What happened this week? Well, we found out that Alamabans will rather vote for a Democrat than a child molester, which is good. But earlier today the FCC repealed net neutrality laws, which is bad. (Here’s to hoping I don’t have to start paying to keep writing on WordPress.)

And even though it wasn’t this week, there was last week’s fires and the weird realizations they brought. But on the good side of that coin, I had a moment at work the other day during a meeting where I realized how nice my coworkers are, and how much they do to support me in my work endeavors.

I’m still not sure what to do with my life after this position ends next spring, but I’m narrowing it down more. And I have several new prospects for potential positions to apply for, which is exciting and a little bit scary.

Rarely has my life been like this – on the downswing, but with some moments of really stark happiness and fulfillment. Usually it’s more the other way around. But I’m trying to be more okay with not being okay, and I think talking about it to you all helps. So, in a way, I should be thankful for the online community that’s allowed me to indulge myself in moments of selfish reflection twice a week.

It’s weird, now that I’m thinking about it – my favorite band released an album while I was in high school with the same lyrical motif throughout, which became a little bit like my anthem when I was feeling overwhelmed. It works perfectly here, and I’ll leave you with it.

 

I’m not sad anymore/I’m just tired of this place

If this year would just end/I think we’d all be okay

 

Yours, with love and empathy,

-R.R. Buck

 

Magic Moment

(Reed’s Song of the Day: Handclap, by Fitz and the Tantrums)

A short one today – I’m all written out from the revelations I was having last week. I’m mostly on here to share something good that happened to me, since I’ve written a lot about the bad and not so much about the good.

Optimism has never taken work for me before, so that’s scary. But still, I’m readjusting and reminding myself to seek happiness in the little things.

My magic moment happened yesterday when I sat down after work to write a bit for Sanctuary and I actually wrote more than a thousand words without dreading it or feeling emotionally drained.

Normally, writing over a thousand words isn’t an issue for me – especially when I’m writing some adventure fantasy novel where the characters are fun and the story is, if not light, at least lighthearted in some places. But Sanctuary is meant to be taxing on the reader. It tries to dig up all the blackest corners of mental health, mental illness, and our attitudes about them.

I think a part of it was the whole Not-So-NaNoWriMo, which exhausted me for writing, and another part of it was the content in what I was writing, but ever since I started picking back up on writing after I was sick (a few weeks ago now), I’ve barely been able to get out 500 to 700 words a day. My progress on Sanctuary has been miniscule the past few weeks.

But I’m proud of myself because I kept writing every day, even with that exhaustion setting in. There’s nothing worse, I think, as a writer than sitting down and barely writing anything, knowing the writing itself is shitty, and feeling upset not just because of that shittiness but also because of the way the writing itself actually makes you feel.

That’s been my past few weeks.

And now it seems like I’m more over things – at least for right now. Yesterday I sat down to write and not only was I not dreading it, I was actually eager. Maybe it’s because this book has kind of been like a burden I’ve been dragging and now I can see the end of things where I can finally put that burden down, or maybe I’m exciting for the climax of this novel, which is only a few chapters away. Whatever it is, I’ve been doing better with the writing.

And when the writing goes well, chances are life goes well too.

So I wish all you other writers good luck with your projects. Hopefully they’re going better than mine and you’re excited to sit down every day and create. And if you’re not, well… just keep pushing through it. The day you can willingly allow yourself to write shit and not immediately throw it away is the day you start to become a writer in earnest.

Yours, feeling it Mr. Krabbs,

-R.R. Buck

Reed’s Top 3 – Things I Learned from Packing my Fire Bag

(Reed’s Song of the Day: Fire, by Jimi Hendrix)

It is a rather dark day on which I’m writing this, friends and followers. Or, well, it would be if there weren’t four fires raging in L.A. County.

But in all seriousness, first I should just say that I’m totally and completely fine. We’ve been packed and ready to go for the past two days – ever since I woke up at seven thirty AM yesterday and saw that the mandatory evacuation zone was only a few blocks from my apartment – but it looks like the “Skirball Fire”, as it’s being called, hasn’t moved southeast of where it currently rages.

Honestly, my thoughts turn more towards friends and family in Ventura or caught among some of the other much deadlier fires. If you’re going to offer all those thoughts and prayers, ironic or otherwise, please offer them to those victims.

But anyway, other than finding a penchant for morbid humor in the face of a potential evacuation (my roommates and I immediately started making a playlist of fire-related songs to play while we packed, lol), I actually learned a few things during the packing of my fire bag. When faced with an apartment’s worth of possessions and only one duffel bag to fit the most important ones in, what did I choose?

Honestly, it was surprising to me, what I ended up packing. I won’t give you the full list, but I will give you the takeaways.

NUMBER THREE: HOLY SHIT I’M A NERD

I mean, this one should not come as a surprise to anyone at this point, but honestly, if you were to take out the contents of my bag and arrange them by volume, fantasy would take up a bulk portion of that space (along with my soft blankie). The first things I thought to pack were my fantasy clothing outfits, and later on I added my D&D materials and various fantasy weaponry I’ve picked up over the years.

The fantasy stuff wasn’t that surprising to me – it was more that I had so much of it, and dedicated a huge amount of my bag to it. Of course, much of it is expensive, which I’ll talk about in the second point, but still. It was interesting that the first thought that jumped into my head was “Save my doublet and cape!”

NUMBER TWO: PRICE TAG SEEMS TO MATTER MORE THAN I EXPECTED

You know, for someone who’s said frequently that I don’t care about money or that I spend money on weird things, I nonetheless packed the most expensive possessions I had first. Things I wouldn’t have ordinarily thought about – like my most expensive suit and my cologne bottle – jumped into the front of my mind as soon as I realized that there was a small probability our place would burn down.

It seems like a “well, duh” thing to say, but honestly I always thought the price tag didn’t matter to me when considering an item’s worth. I assumed that things with sentimental value would be much more important than the dollar amount… and speaking of sentimental value….

NUMBER ONE: I DON’T HAVE VERY MANY POSSESSIONS OF SENTIMENTAL VALUE

I’m a very sappy person. A very sentimental person, too. I never really catalogued my possessions, but if you’d asked me, I would have probably said that I had a lot of sentimental stuff lying around. What was interesting to me was finding out that I’d actually left a lot of that stuff at home, and there were only a few items of value:

A pocketwatch Lindsay gave me for an anniversary because she knows I love old pocketwatches; a wristwatch my brother gave me for graduation which I soon broke; the first book I ever wrote, printed, and self-bound (from all the way back in middle school); my D&D token, which happens to be the top from Inception (another anniversary gift); a deck of cards with cute shit written on it (another anniversary gift); and a charm necklace I made for myself which had broken a while ago.

But that’s it. It sounds like a lot written out, but all in all they took up no space. I’m not sad or upset or anything that I don’t keep a lot of sentimental things; I’m just more surprised than anything. In contrast, when I went to Lindsay’s place, I asked her which of her (approximately) 7.5 metric fucktons of stuffed animals she would save if she had the chance.

In a way, packing your bags with the possibility of a catastrophe is a crude lens through which to take stock of your life and what’s important in it. Though these were the most important three realizations I had, there’s an entire list of things I learned as I was preparing to evacuate. I’ll list em here, in case anyone’s interested.

  1. Packing for an evacuation is like packing for a trip – you bring your electronics and your chargers, your toiletries, maybe something to read. It feels kind of surreal packing as if you’re about to leave on vacation instead of because there’s a fire just a few miles from your apartment.
  2. I didn’t pack nearly as many books as I thought. As I was trying to choose which three would be able to fit, I said to myself, “This is the only time I’ll ever say this in my life, but I wish I had a Kindle or a Nook instead of all these paper books.” Honestly, they take up too much space – and I’m not inclined to read them all another time – to pack more than just a few. But, since I’m an avid reader, it surprised me how easily I could part with them.
  3. There’s something kind of pretty about a nice soft ashfall in the winter. Call it the morbid part of me, but it’s about as close as we’ll get to snow in L.A., especially with this global warming whositwhatsit.
  4. I didn’t even consider the fact that I should things that would be hard to replace, like my Social Security card, passport, and birth certificate, until my roommate suggested that. Related to this, both common and identity thieves would probably have a field day in an evacuation center.
  5. It’s weird how hard it was for me to take the whole thing seriously. Like, I was cracking jokes and denying the severity of things even when we could see the smoke billowing up from just next to the freeway. When I think back about how I’ve handled, say, relatives dying, it’s been with the same dark humor, but somehow I thought I would have had it different when it was a fire.

Anyway, here’s to hoping I don’t have to evacuate after all, and to hoping that everyone else is safe around here. My love for all you people, it… burns.

Too soon?

Yours, with fiery passion,

-R.R. Buck

 

Streed of Consciousness [Part 9 – the “Each Project” Phenomenon and my Elusive Female Lead]

(Reed’s Song of the Day: Hit me with dat Gerudo Valley Theme)

Hello. How are you? I am fine.

With the exception of being unnecessarily tired.

The past two days made me kind of exhausted for some random reason. I got all the sleep I needed, but when I woke up yesterday and this morning, I had to hit the snooze button (which I really don’t do very often on weekdays). There’s nothing that bugs me more than when I wake up feeling exhausted despite having gotten more than 8 hours of sleep.

But hey, now I’m just complaining. I really don’t have very much to talk about in this post, but I wanted to share a few things I noticed about my writing projects which I wanted to throw out here in this space. I didn’t really know what to call this bundle of only semi-related things, so I went with the first thing I came up with, which is the “Each Project” Phenomenon.

Basically, I’ve noticed that when I finished a project of a certain style, be it a single novel or a series, I had to set that style completely aside when starting my next project. Not like I wrote in a completely different genre each time (well, kinda, but not entirely), but more like little things couldn’t be repeated.

For instance: I’ve said frequently on this blog that I love to write to music. Even right now, I’m listening to the Breath of the Wild soundtrack. Usually, unless I’m going for a very specific tone or type of chapter, I listen to the same soundtrack the entire time I’m writing a project; for instance, in my current novel, I’m listening to the Firewatch OST. Before that, it was Journey – not the band, the video game, ya dingus. And before that it was Twilight Princess and a few other random songs.

But that’s the weird thing – after I would finish a project, I would immediately stop writing to what I had started calling the “playlist” for that novel. I tried to write my current project, Sanctuary, to the Journey OST which had worked so perfectly for Symphony of Legend, and I just couldn’t – I had to start anew with Firewatch.

This mirrors the changing feeling of each book I write. Even though all of them fall under Sci-Fi/Fantasy, I wouldn’t consider any of my projects to be the exact same kind of genre. To date, I’ve written:

  • One attempt at Sci-Fi literary allegory in high school (The Trrratssmaker)
  • One heavily autobiographical pseudo-Sci-Fi trilogy in freshman year (The Fourth, The Fifth, and The Sixth)
  • Two heavily world-building books of a Sci-Fi trilogy that was never finished (The Palazzo and The Slump)
  • Two heavily character-driven books of a fantasy trilogy that was never finished (Sleeper and Woken), which had zero larger themes
  • One fantasy middle grade novelette written in a single night (Blackeyes)
  • One character- and magic-driven completed novel with underlying themes (Symphony of Legend)
  • One nearly completed super depressing YA Sci-Fi book about mental illness (Sanctuary)

Along with a bunch of other short stories and half-finished projects. But none of these projects feel even remotely close to each other, despite being penned by the same hand. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the writing style changes drastically from project to project, sometimes to its benefit, other times to its detriment.

I dunno, I just figured when I was starting out that most projects would be kind of in the same genre until I got good enough to experiment with things. I’m now realizing that the experimentation often comes before the expertise.

Regardless, everything feels different – hence the “Each Project” Phenomenon, where each project is very much set apart from the others.

BUT THERE IS ONE THING THAT’S THE SAME.

I have had in mind a character, ever since The Palazzo in my second year of college. She was first called Tori, then she became Melira in Sleeper. After that she was Qin in Symphony, and her newest iteration is Laney in Sanctuary. She’s a badass, witty (often sarcastic) female lead who usually has to wait for others to catch up to her. The character I want her to be – the eventual character I know she will be – is strong without being stoic, emotional without being whiny, passionate without being intense, and sarcastic without being straight-up mean.

But none of the characters I’ve written have come close to that.

Ironically, I think I’ve actually been moving away from her as time has gone on. When she appeared in the Palazzo as Tori, she was well characterized but kind of dull to read about. She did a lot of introspecting but not a lot of growth. And when she became Melira in Sleeper, I liked her a lot but felt that, compared to my other characters’ motivations, she was kind of flat.

But then she became a total bitch in Symphony, and I have no idea what’s going on in Sanctuary, but amid a litany of other problems, Laney’s character is emotional at the wrong moments, defiant at the other wrong moments, and overall a mess. Which is kind of what I intended, but still. Not very much of a feminist role model.

Still, this character keeps appearing in each of my major projects. And something about that – the only person that persists, despite all of the changing genres and circumstances of my projects – makes her special to me.

I want her to be flawed, but when I try to make her that way, she ends up being dominated by her flaws. However, I can’t make her perfect – not just because I wouldn’t know how to write perfect, but also because that kind of idealizing women is just another form of sexism. So right now I’m stuck.

But I have a new project coming up after I finally finish the living hell that is writing Symphony. I don’t want to talk about it now, but suffice to say that while it will be dark like my other recent projects, it will be underlined and cut by an uproarious adventure and good humor. And honestly, I think that’s what this character has been missing – the entire time she’s lived in my past four projects, she hasn’t had a place to express the fun side of her.

Well, I’m gonna give it to her.

Did any of this rambling resonate with you? Do you have the same “Each Project” Phenomenon going on? Do you find yourself writing iterations of the same character in each major project? If you do, hit me with a like or a comment – I’d be really interested to hear if anyone else is struggling to make a specific character come out just the way they want.

Anyway, my stomach is screaming at me, so I’d better get off and grab something to eat. But rest assured, darlings, I will be back again on Thursday.

If you get bored in the meantime, find some good new writing music.

Yours, from beautiful fiery Los Angeles,

-R.R. Buck