What’s Moira Writing?

Hello, Gentle Readers!

It is always reassuring to know that the author is writing, is it not…? And so – an update! Hooray!

Light & Shadow Short Stories: a set of short stories to give you a glimpse of your favorite Light & Shadow characters, and a peek into the backstory of some characters you would not know so well! So far, there are plans for stories told by Roine, Marie de la Marque, Temar, and Miriel. If you have a favorite character, and would like to hear their story, speak up! I’m aiming for a set of six or seven stories total.

Origins and Inheritance: this would be a prequel and sequel (respectively) to Mahalia, my first novel. Inheritance follows the story of Mahalia, Nasrin, and Faseira when Pale Ones, their distant cousins, arrive from another land and demand the return of the magic that has been woven into the Yeshuhain. Origins is told by Isura, Mahalia’s sometime-enemy, and is set during the acquisition of the Great Oasis – a time of upheaval and tension across the desert.

Heaven: the story of the first human venture to a habitable planet, told through a series of vignettes from the point of view of different characters. It is difficult to describe this piece. Hopefully, it will be released sometime soon!

Purity: a three-part science fiction epic centered around the remnants of terran culture on a distant planet. It is hard to say too much more without giving away spoilers!

For now, Heart of the World is on the back burner, but it may make an appearance in my writing shortly!

-M

 

World-building

“People are afraid of information-dump, but I turn away far more manuscripts for being set in Generic Fantasy World A.”

-Fantasy editor, overheard at Convergence

World-building is important. There’s a chance that you’ll be able to squeak by without your readers noticing (or caring) that you haven’t built a complete world, and there’s certainly no reason to flesh out every single aspect of things, but the depth that good world-building brings to a story is incredible. Below are some of the more important aspects of world-building for you to consider. If you have one you’d like to add, leave a comment below!

Maps and Geography: this will inform your writing, whether or not you release the map with the book(s). I strongly recommend that you mark cities and geographical features. Things like mountains, deserts, and waterways (especially waterways) will have strong effects on cultural development, both through the harshness and variability of the climate, and through aspects like trade.

Flora and Fauna: I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic world-building panel at Convergence 2013. One of the best pieces of advice was to consider ecosystems and flesh out the flora and fauna – there are more than just deer! You’ll have domesticated animals, most likely, as well as their predators (foxes, tigers, bears), and your populace will likely not be fond of these nuisances and dangers. There will be birds of all kinds, insects that destroy crops. Speaking of crops, there will be crops! Refer back to your geography, and consider types of trees, flowers, and grasses.

Class, Groups, and Social Mobility: this is almost always highly relevant in fantasy, often relevant in scifi, and yet often not fleshed out very well. What are the social classes and groups in your society? What are their ways of life, characteristics, and internal divisions? And what are the possibilities of moving between them? Often this means caste and social stratification, but not always. Consider that geography and religion can play a huge part here. Speaking of which …

Religions: you should know the place and importance of religion in your world, and, if religion is highly important, some things about rituals, important figures such as saints, and core tenets. Religious strife, sects, and power grabs are all pieces of this. The rituals of the High Church versus the poor is another cultural division. Is the religion strong? Fading? Is it seen as foolish? Is there no religion? (If so, there will probably still be rituals of some sort around marriage, birth, death, etc – these should be planned out.)

Physical Mobility and Trade: trade has a near-unparalleled level of effect on religion, social structure, stability, and war. You should understand how and why the groups in your world trade (or don’t), and what effect this has on culture. Merchants and trade often have significant power.

Magic: this encompasses more than you might think. Magic is not just a system of power, the types of effects conjured, and the rituals to conjure them. Magic also appears in non-magical worlds, in the form of fringe-groups and cults; almost every human society features this. In addition, magic interacts strongly with religion. Whether religion and magic are combined, or whether they are opposed, you can bet that your religious groups and governments have strong opinions about magic. 

Government: it should be clear to you (at the least!) how leaders and advisors are chosen, how succession works, and how laws are made and enforced. Bear in mind that if you have a democracy or common-people-centric society, it is likely that the events leading to that will be fairly important.

As you can see, all of the above points interact with others. There may be additional aspects you need to work in, but this should be a good jumping point. Is there anything you’d like to add? Feel free to leave a comment!

-M

Darkness

As summer begins in earnest, I find myself utterly captivated by the plants growing in our garden. There is daily progress, from the barest hint of green shoots to the unfurling of leaves, and the tiny blossoms on our pepper plants. I go out and stare at them sometimes, and I get to feel as if I am not wasting my time – it’s a captivation, an entrancement, and I try to find words for it so that someday, I can share it through the lens of a character.

At the same time, I write. I write Science Fiction, which I have always found to be a fairly null genre term, being so very broad (then again, I suppose that Fantasy is much the same). The next piece is shaping up to be very short. I don’t want to say too much about it, for fear of spoiling it entirely. It involves dragging thoughts out of the subconscious and holding them up to sunlight, and that is a terrifying process.

Of course, there is the usual business of life: getting up in the mornings and putting on reasonable clothing, making meals, cleaning the house. My husband and I are training for Tough Mudder together, and I promise to post suitably-impressive pictures of thousands of people covered in mud.

As a side note, I am still open for reading and reviewing indie books for July!

-M

The Piece You’re Afraid to Write

I am afraid to write one of my stories. It has been in the works for years, collating and shifting in my head, characters coming to life and fading into the background as others arrive. It is truly impossible to describe what this piece means to me – it is my mirror, held up to the world, both as truthful as I can make it, and a strange mix of pragmatism and hope. If I do my job correctly, you will see through my eyes, you will love these characters as completely as I do, you will be as devastated as I am.

If, if, if. I am terrified that it is not going to work. I am afraid beyond measure that people will stare at the words, blankly, and wonder why they meant so much to me.

So, today, I am afraid. I have downloaded the drabbles and outlines I have written over the years, and – wrapped in a blanket against this unseasonable chill – I am beginning to arrange the pieces, beginning to write. I have no way to know what will come of it.

That feels like an odd note on which to end a post, so I will share two things with you:

First, the backyard garden I built with my husband on Saturday! We have blisters and cuts all over our hands, and the tomato plants look a bit surly to have been taken out of their planters and put out in the cold rain, but we are very, very hopeful. As Ron Finley said, “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do….Plus, you get strawberries.”

moira garden

Second, a question for all of you: I assume we all have a few by now, but who was the first character whose death made you absolutely bawl? Movies, books, videogames, any form of media. (And, everyone – general spoiler alert!)

Have a lovely Monday, all!

-M

The Myth of REAL [noun]

“This isn’t real [noun]…”

My, does this come up a lot. Do any of the following sound familiar? “This isn’t real Star Trek.” “This isn’t real Battlestar Galactica.” “Vampire books aren’t real fantasy.” “This is a movie but not real cinema.”

This is all over the place. Science Fiction and Fantasy fans are deeply invested in their genres and in specific works, and this is not surprising: like other forms of art, SciFi and Fantasy show a window into humanity that can be wholly transformative. It is not hyperbole when fans speak of movies, books, and games that have changed their lives. These works showed them a vision of what humanity was, or is, or could be someday.

Where I think we as a community fall down is not in recognizing the uniqueness and power of these transformative moments, but in recognizing their inviolability. When you read life-changing literature, or see a movie or TV episode that resounds, or listen to a glorious piece of music, that moment is yours. Artistic media is not a finished product, it is the start of a dialogue. The creation of media is not the end of the process—it is only the first half. The audience creates the second half. You, reader, have finished the work in your own way by seeing it. Perhaps you didn’t like it, or perhaps you did; either way, it has changed you, and in a way, you have changed it.

We declare that we understand the work or the genre in a way that no one else can, which is true, and that we understand it in the single way it was meant to be understood, which is not true. (Even the creator of the work cannot know all of what it has meant, or will mean.) We believe that our vision is the only vision, and we become its champions, fiercely determined to protect it. We strive to describe the media to others in words that will capture the power of our own response to it.

And because we believe that we can change others’ minds, and influence their vision, we in turn believe that they can change ours. We believe, erroneously, that those who showcase a different lens, a different story, or a different mode of storytelling, somehow diminish the meaning we have derived from the same or other works. We believe that Twilight diminishes Dracula, or that 50 Shades of Grey diminishes literature in general, or that a Star Trek/Star Wars/Battlestar Galatica reboot retroactively ruins the original series. If we do not like dark/gritty/bubblegum/ sunshine-and-rainbows, we assume that those visions diminish the validity of our genre.

It doesn’t need to be that way. Maybe you don’t like vampire books or urban fantasy. Or high fantasy. Or genre fiction. Or horror movies. But, as with Roger Ebert’s now-famous assessment of videogames, we would be wrong to say that we are the final arbiters of what is or isn’t art, genre fiction, or “REAL [noun.]” Enjoy your media and your moment and your vision. Relive it. Discuss it. It is in sharing your vision as clearly as you can that you create those transformative moments for others, not in loudly proclaiming that something else is unworthy.
Don’t fear that your moment can be diminished by others enjoying media in a different way. Don’t tell us why X isn’t really _____. Tell us about something you liked instead. Share your vision.

Behold!

The website has undergone the first wave of redesign, and content is back in place! Thank you for your patience during this time!

On the docket for the next few weeks:

  • Excerpts and sneak peeks – that’s right! Over the next few weeks, you will get sneak peeks of my upcoming works: Origins, Inheritance, and The Heart of the World.
  • More giveaways on Goodreads – in the next two to three months, we will see giveaways for “Shadowforged” and “Shadow’s End”!
  • Character work on Isura for “Origins” – Isura remains a finicky character, perhaps not as rigid and unpleasant in her childhood as she was during the events of “Mahalia,” but always a bit prickly, never one to sit by quietly while people did things the Wrong Way.
  • Polishing the “Inheritance” draft – it is clear that this will take more than one read-through, editing as I go. I don’t think we will make a release date of May 16, and for that I do apologize, but the story will be better for it!
  • Setting the scene in “The Heart of the World” – I’ve truly never been much of a one for zombie apocalypses, but a similar type of calamity is being faced in this fantasy world. How will the disparate races of the earth handle such a threat?

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions!

-M