It’s been a while hasn’t it? Everyone keeps wondering what we’re up to and I’m finally going to enlighten you: We’ve been writing a new book! Marzio and I have been working on the Khajj trilogy (The Books of Lirios) for two years now. It’s a sprawling fantasy world with complex characters and it’s own mythos–in short, it’s epic. The Soulbinder’s Covenant is an extremely complex project. The outline alone is 50K words. Just imagine! At some point it became readily apparent that as much as I wanted to tell this tale, I was stuck. Not stuck in the sense that I didn’t know the story, but stuck in the sense that I wasn’t happy with the writing. It happens to all of us writers, we get half way through a book and suddenly we hit a wall. We have that moment when all the gears come to a screeching halt for no apparent reason at all.
My gears stopped. I felt clunky, rusty, like a ten year old with a survival kit in the middle of the woods. I had all the tools to make fire, but no idea how to strike a spark. My word counts were painfully low for months. I found myself staring blankly at the screen, doing artwork, distracting myself in every way possible. I was exhausted by this project. Marzio wasn’t much better. His life has been a roller coaster of stress and pulling the words out was difficult. We were both in a funk. I switched gears in January and decided to polish up an old horror manuscript (An Endless Hunger). We dove into that project, again neglecting The Soulbinder’s Covenant. Publishing An Endless Hunger gave us something to do with our time. It was good, until the process ended. Then, Marzio and I went back to our computer screens and stared blankly some more.
Don’t get me wrong, my idea of staring blankly equaled about eight chapters, but still, it was nowhere near the 110K words we needed. The novel as it stands, has about 30 chapters. I became increasingly more frustrated with my work. My 9-5 job was stressful and I had freelance design work piling up. In June I dived into yet another project. I began to collaborate on a coffee table visual poetry book with a friend. It was clear that I was running as fast as possible from my novel and seeking inspiration elsewhere.
Everyone tells you that writing a novel is not easy, but I’m here to confirm it. It’s not easy. I am fussy. I like my language a certain way. I don’t drop my standards. I don’t cut corners. I want to write the book I want to read, and, let’s face it I’m cerebral. Mental. I am in love with beautiful language and characters that feel real. Maybe I’m a snob. Yes, I could probably crank out subpar novels one after the other, but I refuse to do that. That is not me. I see the marketplace for books and it makes me both happy and sad. Happy in that I see even the lowliest trash being gobbled up, sad when I wonder if good writing even has a chance. In the end, regardless of the market, I will only write what I want to write. If it is received well that’s great, if not, I’m still going to do it.
So on to the big question: What is this new book about?
I’ll tell you. Realizing that I needed to recharge my batteries, I booked a trip to Turks and Caicos in July. The Caribbean has a way of unknotting the kinks left behind by the harried pace of New York City life. We arrived in Providenciales on a sunny day and made our way to the Seven Stars, a luxury condo community on Grace Bay. The resort was quiet, luxurious and large. When I say large, I mean LARGE. My husband and I wandered through our 2500 square foot apartment in awe. We got lost in the place. The balcony faced the ocean and wrapped around the whole building. It was nothing short of magnificent. For about four days I didn’t touch a phone, laptop or kindle. My routine included beach, beach and more beach. We took walks and snorkeled our days away. It was blissful.
One night after having gone to bed, a story began to gnaw the back of my mind. It was abstract at first, a series of moonlit rooftops stretching as far as the eye could see. Darkness. Shadows. An assassin. But what was he doing? What was he after?
I got up and took my laptop out of the safe. I plugged in and began to write. By the time 4AM rolled around I had 3000 words and the beginning of what will become my next novel. I was overjoyed. During the next five days, the story grew and grew. Words hadn’t flowed this easily since The Olive Grove the previous year. I was on to something and I chased it. I was sending Marzio my updates through email every night. He was excited that I was writing again and it wasn’t long before I got him involved in the process. When I returned from vacation we went to our usual spot to brainstorm–the Russian bath house. Apropos considering this new story was influenced so much by water. In the hot tub we began talking about the plot. As fate would have it, that’s where our villains were born and Marzio got on board.
The story is set in Laremlis, the world of the Khajj books in a port city called Reyza, where political schemes and wars over commerce set the backdrop for murder and romance. It’s not your typical boy meets girl story, but it is a romance. The sex is explicit (it’s me we’re talking about), but this book is not erotica. It’s romantic fantasy with elements of high and low fantasy. I’ve created a Pinterest Board for inspiration that shows you where my mind is at. Flooded caves, bazaars, assassins, and yes, nymphs and mermaids. Maybe it was Yemaya herself who inspired this story, waking me from my zero-word-count slumber to beat the war drums of the ocean. Who knows? The important thing is that I’m flowing, no pun intended.
Tendrils of Fate is the title for our new book. This story is leading me by the nose and teaching me how to write in new, unexpected ways. I broke out of the mold I didn’t even know I was in. Did that make sense? Anyhow, I am inspired to tell this story. The best thing is that I’ve been able to connect the threads of the Khajj storyline and world into this novel. The clever reader (that means you) will be able to connect little events in the books and smile in the knowledge that the authors knew what they were doing. That is the great benefit of having a solid outline.