Pulling myself out of the swamp
It's always important to know where your towel is
Each week in Story Cauldron I explore something of interest to me as a storyteller and writer of fantasies. In this week’s update, I share some thoughts I’ve had on life, my writing, and this newsletter.
November was rough. I was coming off of a couple of very difficult weeks of work and jumped into NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) with barely a plan. Somehow, I managed to finish—win—NaNoWriMo with just over 50K words (50,127 to be exact), and published this newsletter and my Friday novel chapters every week.
But I dragged myself over that finish line.
On December 1, I discovered why it had been so much more difficult this time. As it turns out, after reviewing some routine blood tests, my doctor discovered that there was a reason for why I felt so sluggish and unmotivated—an interaction with another medication caused my thyroid hormone to tank. Major hypothyroidism made me incapable of doing much of anything before I was exhausted, and I could barely even think straight by the end of the stretch.
A few days later, after sorting that all out, I already feel normal again. It’s night and day, honestly. But for a while, I was pulling my body through a murky swamp and it’s a bit amazing that I didn’t drown (though never underestimate the power of a word count goal to keep me going!)
Beware of the faeries
That’s how I start my novel The Boy Who Can Taste Color. Yet, as I wrote a large chunk of what will become book 3 in my series, I realized my faeries were a bit too ‘nice.’ So I had to spend some time reacquainting myself with how I had conceived of faeries in this world, and building upon it.
My faeries are neither good nor evil, but they thrive on chaos. Humans serve as entertainment and a source of power—they drink our emotions like fine wine and use them against our kind as it suits them. They may not wish to harm humans, but they do enjoy frightening us, confusing us, or even thrilling us, because that energy fuels their magic. They’re also always hungry, and their food barely sustains them. To them, a really good pastry from our world is worth its weight in gold. That’s why to grant wishes, they always require a snack—and you’d best bring a good one.
I’ve been a fan of Seidä Pass for years and honestly, these guys would fit right into my faerie world.
Beyond that… something that helped me remember that faeries should always be mystical and magical was the book The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, one of my favorite authors of YA fantasy/faerie stories. The book is simple enough—it takes place on an island either off the coast of Ireland or Scotland where magical but murderous horses, the capaill uisce, come crashing to shore with the waves, and some of the people of the island race them once a year in November. The horses are beautiful but will tear people apart.
My November was a lot like that, messy and murderous, but with words rather than horses. But what her book did was remind me of the power of mystery and setting. And I can tell that it will be one of the books that feed me as a writer. (You can read more about this concept on Stiefvater’s blog). Most of all, it reminded me that faeries are almost never helpful.
Story Cauldron: the reimagining
Story Cauldron is my personal/author newsletter. While I would love to have a broad audience, what matters the most is that it reflects who I am as a writer and a person.
I asked myself, how can I best serve my subscribers, who are either current or potential fans of my fiction? What are the ingredients that I throw into my cauldron that then transform into my finished books?
And as I fished around in the hot sparkly soup inside the cauldron, what I pulled out were bits and pieces of history and legends, things about my hometown that make my stories unique, and things that fill my creative well (such as the Stiefvater book). And from time to time, things that make me laugh or spark my curiosity (like that horrible Thanksgiving candy corn!)
All of this is to say, if you already enjoy what I’ve been sharing here, I hope you will like what I have up my sleeves even more. So make sure you always know where your towel is, because we’re going to be splashing around in the cauldron and it might get a little messy!