Salt Winds & Wandering: Sailing

The dawn brought a clear sky and brisk wind, and they had three fine days of sailing after that – days where the white horses chased them across the ocean, where the sail snapped and ruffled, with the wind shooting after them as they danced with Swiftwings. They only stopped when the sun began to turn the green sky into fire and they were too tired to do anything other than roll into rugs in the welcoming sand. The mornings turned into brilliant diamond days, sweet and fresh, and the warm wood of the tiller welcomed them back as old friends as the wind bowed to them and Swiftwings began to fly.

– Excerpt from Salt Winds & Wandering

NB. Swiftwings is their boat.

NaNoWriMo 2014: Week 2 update

So, my NaNo word count is currently 23,000 (or something around that). But I haven’t done any work on it for the past week for one simple reason: I don’t have the characters ready yet.

I got halfway through Heights and Horizons last weekend; as I want it to be about 40,000 words, and I’m six chapters in and pretty much halfway through my story, that works brilliantly. I’ve also managed to plot roughly what I want to happen next: the second half is going away from Jesse and Huish, and it’s going to follow all of my explorers and my map-makers in the other lands.

However, I’ve got a slight issue. I have some of my explorers already (Moel from Desert Sands, Obak & Iilde from Salt Winds) but I also want to bring someone in from Empty Skies for Tao; I want someone from Ziricon who will appear in Desert Sands. And for those, I need three books finished – Salt Winds (to complete Obak and Iilde’s story), Empty Skies (to actually write my explorer character in Tao) and then Desert Sands, to bring my Ziricon explorer in and finish off another few stories.

So I spent my NaNo meetings this weekend finishing Salt Winds; I wrote 5000 words on Saturday and have the story finished, which is wonderful. It was read by my beta reader (my wonderful Aunt) last week and she had some brilliant suggestions for additional material and scenes, so I’m now a lot happier with the story than I was. It’s a lot more streamlined; the only thing that may need to go into it is more of Obak being a little shit, because at the start, he really is. But at the moment, I’m happy to call it complete.

So, this week is going to be Empty Skies; I’ve got to put the cat amongst the pigeons (or policeman amongst the runaways) which will lead to some very fun writing. That’s likely to take me most of this week and probably my writing time this weekend. After that, it’s Desert Sands again, and then back to Heights and Horizons!

I’m actually not particularly bothered by the lack of progress on Heights and Horizons. Although my words don’t count towards NaNo, I didn’t expect to win (thankfully, as I know I’m a novella writer!) and I just love the writing company and the kick-up-the-ass it gives me. So to get a story finished, and get the kick I need to finish Empty Skies and carry on with Desert Sands – that’s brilliant.

And the final thing that’s making me smile at the moment is that I’m really looking forward to continuing work on Heights and Horizons when I do get back to it; I’ve got some politics, some exploration, some interesting characters – and it’s going to be a lot of fun to write. So even if it does go out of November (which it likely will), I’m still going to enjoy my writing.

I can has all the news!

03/02/2014 22:05

And Salt Winds is (provisionally) finished as well! I’m doing well tonight.

Have a beginning as an apology for the continuous blog posts from tonight…


                The Council room felt cold, even with the sunshine streaming in.  Obak had taken his assigned position in the centre of the half-circle, staring straight ahead at the carved wooden walls, and now waited for the Mages sitting before him to speak.

                It was Wyverex, old and dry, who broke the silence. “Mage Obak, Second Level Fire. You have been asked to come before us today due to your dismissal from a service position. To remind the Council of this,” Wyverex laid his hands in his lap, the richly-embroidered sleeves of his robe glinting in the light, “you may remember that in furtherance of my own studies, I requested that an Archivist by the name of Catter Jeck take on a quest for me. He was to investigate the possible locations of Treloolir, the Centre of Magic, and if possible find this location.”

                “Why a layman?” Albeso broke in irritably.

                “I am sure that you are well aware of the dangers of using too much magic, Albeso.” Wyverex said. “One of the potential dangers of Treloolir is that it has multiple lines. A non-Mage would not suffer the backlash issues.”

                “But would not be able to feel the lines.” Albeso countered.

                “The quest is more to do with research and study than physical magic.” Wyverex said dryly. “Anyway, his current destination is Meton. I am sure that Lord Heir Toru Idalin will not miss a chance to be involved in something interesting.”

                Albeso gave a humph, and sat back again. Wyverex turned his attention back to Obak, still standing in the centre of the room. “Mage Obak, you are one of our best scholars. Your work has been exemplary, and you have greatly extended our knowledge of my myths surrounding Treloolir and our understanding of the lines. It is for this reason that I requested you place your current studies on hold, and travel with Archivist Jeck in his search to provide him with expert assistance on the first part of his journey. You agreed to this?”

                “I did.” Obak said shortly.

                “And yet, five days after you left Taderah with Archivist Jeck and Dirr Meerla, you have returned.”

                “It was not my choice.” The Dirr’s voice, so smooth and calm, flashed through his head. Mage Obak, your services are no longer required. I advise that you return to Taderah. I will report this situation. He winced.

                “So I understand.” Wyverex said dryly. “We have had a report from Dirr Meerla. You had a…difference of opinion with Archivist Jeck?”

                – arrogant, puffed-up idiot! If you’d take even a moment to listen, you’d know that you’re not telling me anything useful. I know all of this already!

                “He was of the opinion that he knew everything already.”

                You’re only following your own agenda! Have you even heard anything I’ve just said? Have you even read half the texts? Just because you think you’re right does not mean that I do!

                “And there were…personal issues as well?” Wyverex asked.

                Of all the stuck-up, obnoxious Mages that I’ve met, you have to be the worst. I despise you! Just go away!

                “He disliked me. I did my best to be polite.”

                “I warned you about your arrogance before you went, Obak.” Wyverex said, sounding annoyed. “Catter Jeck is not an idiot, and is not a fool. He is an incredibly competent researcher and archivist, and it was stressed that you were there to assist him. And yet Dirr Meerla’s report is a list of your attempts to take over the quest, to steer the research onto irrelevant sidelines, your constant complaints at Catter’s perceived lack of deference to you, complaints about the travel, a continued arrogance with everyone you met that made interacting at every location far harder than it needed to be, and your inability to take any sort of criticism or to accept another point of view – how do you answer any of that?”

                Obak’s temper exploded. “You sent me because I am the best scholar on the subject! He refused to listen to any information, refused to even consider changing his ideas, and would not listen to anything I said! He was rude, lacked any kind of respect, and is the most thoroughly obnoxious person I have ever encountered!”

                “Catter Jeck? Obnoxious?”Hitert said from the far side of the room. “I have worked with him on a number of studies, and I have never known him to be anything but polite and courteous. He has worked with a number of my students, too, and I have never heard anything but good. Whereas you, Mage Obak, are known to have flaws when you interact with others. This may be a case of your word against his, but I would be inclined to believe in the professionalism of a Dirr, and the integrity of an Archivist.”

                Obak was obviously steaming with anger, his fists balled inside his sleeves. “You should have given me the assignment. I’m the expert! I’m the one that has done all the research and written all the papers. I should have gone! And instead I was sent as an assistant, to help someone else get all the credit for using my work!”

                “Archivist Jeck is a well-known researcher in his own right.” Hitert said coldly. “If anything, you would be taking his credit.”

                “He doesn’t know anything. He hasn’t studied the texts, he’s written nothing!” Obak snapped.

                “Nothing you’ve read, by the sounds of things.” Hitert snapped back. “He’s actually written some very interesting papers. You would do well to not dismiss him simply because he is not a Mage.”

                Wyverex sighed. “Enough! Mage Obak, I cannot ignore the previous evidence of your conduct, and I cannot ignore a Dirr report. As your supervisor, I am recording an official reprimand. You lacked respect, courtesy and professionalism on an assignment, and this will be considered when we are considering future assignments. You may return to your studies.”

Salt Winds: notes on improvements

13/01/2014 10:16

Well, Salt Winds is coming together (I really need to update the section in my writing) and is approaching 25,000 words. I have one chapter left to write which is, usefully, the hardest…

I started the story with the idea of someone who, let’s face it, is a twat. And then life deals him a few hard punches (although most are of his own making) and he gets depressed, tries to commit suicide, fails and gets sent off to the seaside for his health. The rest of the story flows from there.

And the chapter I haven’t written yet is the first one, in which all of the above happens.


How do you write depression? How do I convey the absolute, overwhelming sense of hopelessness? How does it even work? I don’t want to end up with a chapter where all the reader is thinking is “oh, quit being whiny! Quit being useless!”. I mean, I already want to whack him round the head for being an arrogant, obnoxious idiot, so I don’t need to make it worse.

Depression isn’t easy to convey. Logically, when you lay it out, it’s simple. You’re feeling down; ok, so cheer up. Do something to make yourself feel better. No matter what life’s dealt you, it isn’t that bad; it could be worse. Just get up and do it.

But it really isn’t that simple. It’s all in your head, and that’s really hard to out across. I can lay out the reasons, I can lay out the feelings, but unless the reader can connect the two, and also understand – and empathise! – with Obak, it’s not going to work.

I need to get across the endless future, the endless tedium, the lack of anything that could make it better. I need to get across that the good things sometimes aren’t when you start looking at them from the inside. I need to get across the internal part of depression, not just the external view that everyone else sees.

And one of the things that I really want to get across, which I think is the core of depression; people don’t try to commit suicide because they want to die. They commit suicide because they don’t want to carry on. Because they want to remove themselves from everyone else’s worlds – for everyone else’s sake. Depression is inherently selfish, but it’s also cruel. It turns you around, makes you think that you’re a burden on the people who care and a nuisance to those who don’t. It makes you think that it wouldn’t matter if you were there or not. It makes you wonder why you are carrying on. It makes you realise that you really don’t matter. It makes you realise how small you really are. How weak. How insignificant.


And if I get all of that right, if I manage to convey depression, then I need to show him getting better. That’s important. Depression strips away everything, coats it in a grey fog that doesn’t let anything in. I need to show that fog releasing its hold. I need to show small things breaking through, the shock when you realise that you can feel again, that things do matter; the horror and sadness when you remember how you felt, what you thought, and realise what it would have done. That there are always little joys, little moments that are important. That despite what the world tells you and despite what you thought, you do matter, no matter how small you are. I need to show that it can – and does – get better. That it can be beaten.


I need to show both depression, as it really is, and being able to recover. And I need to do it so that the reader understands.

Salt Winds: improved

06/01/2014 21:22

Just wrote 10000 words in an afternoon. I was walking back from the gym, had an idea, and…boom.


I haven’t really gone into depth about how magic works in the Green Sky series. It isn’t really relevant, and to be honest, it annoys the f*** out of me when writers spend a stack of time describing things like that. It works, somehow, now get on with the story!

But I started thinking “what if…” (which is always a bad idea, or at least it is for my wordcount). What if a Mage who does a lot of sailing, and gets to know the winds…would they be able to somehow use magic in a different element to the one they are used to? If a fire mage did a lot of sailing, what would happen if they suddenly found they had some slight wind talent?

And then thought, well, one of my other characters does exactly that. She approached it from a different direction, but she does the same thing. Yay, I get to bring other characters back!

I also developed one of my other characters. I didn’t really have an image of her in my mind, but she has now turned into a slightly Tauriel-figure – quick-tempered, but with an extra dose of proud and icy, and slightly less Elf-mystery. She’s quite fun to write, but the major challenge has been cutting off any suggestions of a love story. I think writing a platonic friendship is actually harder than writing a love story!

Anyway, all this probably made no sense whatsoever to anyone, but I didn’t sleep well last night and I suspect my brain is currently paying the price. Ho hum!