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Writing: Wizards & Work, Part 4

These are still entertaining me! They often need a moment to click; a phrase or comment, or a mannerism linked in to a fantasy setting. I’m really enjoying it when they do come to me. As usual, no offence intended to anyone who is inspiration, and definitely nothing implied; it’s often just the initial inspiration that I’ve borrowed, and then gone off in a completely different direction!

You can also read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

He has a way of looking at you; a sharp-eyed, sideways glance that takes in everything before he gives a friendly smile. In that red-hot moment, you’re never entirely sure what the judgement will be. Are you interesting enough for a longer look? Considered useful enough for a smile? Judged unimportant and politely dismissed?

Or is the smile that of a predator, approving of his prey?

 

The curse was subtle and vicious: it cursed the bearer to tiny bad luck, to those small twists of fate that wear down the hardest mountain with grey disappointment. It dulled his days to tedium, spiralled his thoughts into circles and worked every project into knots and snarls. The problem was that no one could figure out what he had done to earn such a costly revenge. He had no drama in his backstory, no offenses placed against his name; and that seemed the final jab of the curse – to not even deserve another’s carefully-crafted hate.

 

He preferred ‘adaptable’ over ‘slippery’; his pride in his ability to get things done was almost as strong as his stubbornness in staying his course. But it was rare that he was taken aback; he even went so far as to blink.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever offered…help…before.”

The small elf blinked in turn. “It’s called being nice.”

“Yes. Well. That’s not something I’m very good at.” But the tall, imposing necromancer managed something approaching a smile, creasing his face into new lines. Nice… it would need some practise, but this new plan might just work.

 

He was a true Knight in Shining Armour; one that blinded the vision when he appeared, glowing and explosive, inspiring and righteous. Around him, faces would shine and bodies would bow. And when he approached, for a moment everything would be perfect; ideas would flow, projects would work, twists would unsnarl. For a moment, the world was good.

And then he would be summoned away, sweeping off to the next perfect moment, and we would be left in the grey, shattered ruins of our normality.

 

He is friendly, smiling, affable, cheery; always up for a conversation, or a chat and always open to suggestions or ideas. But sometimes, mid-conversation, you’ll see his eyelids flicker for a few seconds – almost as if a thought has been stopped, or a plan redirected.

“I heard he was one of the supreme evil overlords,” kitchen gossip tells me. “Rehabilitated, of course. That’s the therapy kicking in whenever he gets ideas.”

“But we were only talking about cute bunnies…”

“Well, you can make anything evil.”

My TBR pile: April 2019

When I last checked in Winter 2018, I had quite a large TBR pile. And, uh, it hasn’t really got any smaller! Work isn’t helping: 13 manuscripts and counting on the slush pile, plus four personal reads (aka. friends have asked me, and I want to do a decent editorial read!) – the perils of being a speed reader are many…and include a towering submissions stack.

I either gave up on or didn’t like If Cats Disappeared from the World (too much navel-gazing and not enough cats), Your Favourite Band Cannot Save You, Vanished Kingdoms (requiring too much in-depth knowledge of specific points in history and frankly very dull despite the interesting subject matter), The Corpse-Rat King (just didn’t get on with it), The Man In The High Castle (weird but I liked it), and I think I’m going to have to give up on Broad Knowledge & Choose Wisely, because frankly they just aren’t for me. I did also read Andy Weir’s Artemis, which frankly I disliked, but I don’t have time for in-depth literary critique so just moved on – which is a shame as I loved The Martian, but there you go.

I finally finished This Savage Song (review coming soon) and started both Everless and The Court of Broken Knives; I’m still reading The Tethered Mage and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I’ve also added Thornbound from Stephanie Burgis, which is the sequel to Snowspelled, and Not For Use In Navigation by Iona Datt Sharma (who did Sing For The Coming Of The Longest Night). I’ve also added Zen Cho’s Sorcerer To The Crown,  but I’ve actually been pretty good apart from that!

Always happy to have recommendations, even if they might end up near the bottom of the pile… and always happy if anyone wants to give me some more reading time!

Writing: Wizards & Work – Part 3

More silly fantasy character studies from my work; they are definitely taking liberties with the people, and most definitely not intended to be a comment on anyone’s character!

(The first one may be the exception… totally not looking at you, Remy.)

You can also read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.

 

She was so sweet, so helpful and so friendly that it was clear she had to be thoroughly evil; everyone knew that she had plans for world domination, but no one could quite determine how exactly she was going to achieve it.

Everyone ensured that her every whim was obeyed anyway, just in case.

 

The thing about zombies is that they’re only brainless and shambling if the spell goes wrong.

He was so useful that his employers had not even let death stop his work. The spell was expensive – indeed, he was still paying off his debt for the reanimation – but he did not need to eat, or sleep, or stop. The occasional shamble did not prevent his friendly face being one frequently seen around the office, and the knowledge in his brain was not hindered by his lack of pulse.

It was rumoured that one of the company projects was earmarked for reanimating key members of staff if they happened to pass away inconveniently; but after a slight misunderstanding with a betting pool, the rumour was officially denied, and the project name put down to simple coincidence.

 

A man thrown out of time, irritated and frustrated with our world – longing for a time of direct politics and simpler morals, where words were not picked apart in endless streams and courage was easier to grasp. And yet he had found his faith and his love in this time, and fought for them every day; argued with those who would drag his soul down, defended his love to every comer, and came back every dawn with a stout heart and explosive temper to wage war against his fellow believers.

 

No one could exactly put their finger on when the potions machine had become sentient, but it was universally agreed by all the staff that the device had a personality of its own. Stubborn, wilful and devious, it seemed to take perverse pleasure in denying the vital fluid to those most in need, and deliberately thwarted every attempt to fix any problem. Even threats of violence rarely placated it long enough to get more than a dribble of liquid.

For those few in the company that could order its replacement, however, it worked perfectly.

 

He has not been hired as a spell-smith; merely an administrator, he says when asked. He has always refused to discuss his provenance, age, or any other such mundane matters; his conversation centres around his employment and the wonders of modern cinema. However, hints such as 636 BC being “a little while ago” and a brief reference to having known several famous historical figures personally suggests age; the accidental wreaths of blue smoke and angry mutterings of dead languages when something goes wrong do little to dispel the impression of some deep, arcane skill.

The occasional mumbling of “when in doubt, use demons,” also do little to counter this impression.

 

She looks up as you approach, tinted goggles across her eyes and delicate gloves sheathing her skin. A parchment lies in front of her, the words twisting in your vision as you catch a glimpse of it and your mind filling with a dragon, raining fire and vengeance down upon a walled city.

You ask for a recommendation; a gentle story, one to ease your mind into sleep and your body into welcome rest. She nods, lays a glove-covered hand on the scroll in front of her to obscure the writhing text and then leans back to pick out one of the copied scrolls from the shelves behind her.

“What would happen if you gave me the original?” you ask curiously as you take the story.

The book witch pushes the goggles up onto her hair and gives you the faintest of smiles. “You’d sleep easily, but you’d likely not wake up again.”

 

[This may be ending up as a story…sort of plotting odd bits off and on!]

Imposter Syndrome

Wait, why are they asking me? I don’t know this. I’m just pretending to know the answers. Everything I’m saying is a guess and someone’s going to tell me that I’ve got it all wrong. I’m making this up. I’m just thinking that I’m allowed to do this. I’m going to get told to stop and that I’m not good enough and that I have no idea what I’m on about…

(Also, emailing authors who have written books that I really admire is still the scariest part of the job.)

I’ve had a few people approach me recently – either through work or privately – and ask for professional opinions. After all, I’m an editor! I read and write and edit and I Know Something About Books!

And I’ve agreed! After all, this is my job. This is what I love doing. I can do this!

Except…

Wait, they’re listening to me?

I think the worry kicks in when I realise that people are accepting what I take without the customary large pinch of salt that I automatically put on anything I say. After all, I know that I know nothing; but everyone is nodding at me, and going away and actually implementing my suggestions, and…

It’s like they think I know what I’m talking about.

Which I do, of course. I’ve been doing this for a while, and if nothing else, I know enough from experience. I’ve been through these situations, seen what works, seen what doesn’t. I do know what I’m on about! Except…

And then my brain and I just go round in circles for a while.

Being asked to read things – or, y’know, doing it for my job – is fun, and satisfying: it really is. I love being able to read things and re-write a blurb, or tweak a synopsis, or point out which parts of a novel could be strengthened and which are already really strong. I love reading new stuff and emailing the author with “So where’s the next bit? Ooh, ten chapters? Yes please!” I love being able to help.

And I am good at it – with the proviso that I can always, and will always be, learning more. I am definitely not as good as I want to be, and it’s such a wonderful experience to see people with more experience and more talent working. Editing’s such a strange skill that it’s really interesting to see how other people do it!

It’s just terrifying that other people seem to agree with the half of my brain that thinks I’m worth listening to!

An Experiment in Reading Out Loud

Otter hadn’t read Soul Music, likes other Pratchett books, and is into music enough that I reckoned they’d get most of the jokes. I wanted to practise reading out loud; I occasionally get asked to do it as an author, and frankly it’s something I do need to spend more time doing. Otter agreed on their part, too, and therefore, a plan was born: we were going to read Soul Music out loud.

(As an aside: one of the reasons I adore Soul Music (and Pratchett generally) is all those little in-jokes; you read a scene or a line and it’s pretty funny, but then you see something classic or read something and suddenly OH WOW THAT’S WHAT HE’S RIFFING OFF! Which I love. However, it doesn’t necessarily help with not getting the giggles when reading.

Death doesn’t help that either, or the Death of Rats.

SQUEAK.)

Anyhow! It was something in the nature of an experiment, as I hated being read to as a child (being able to see the page when you’re a fast reader is a recipe for frustration) and don’t really get on with audiobooks. Otter felt they were thoroughly out of practice reading as well… but we gave it a go.

Conclusion: we’re ok at Welsh, and sort-of-Jamaican (which is what we settled on for Lias) but couldn’t work out a voice for Glod. Otter does a mean Death – definitely better than me – but I do a better Susan. And we both had to keep stopping to giggle at the jokes.

Secondary conclusion: “How the fuck can you remember lines of the book?!” (An odd Kate skill: I memorise a lot of them as I read, and it’s partly why I get faster when I’ve read a book more than twice – I’m not even really reading, just skimming something I already know. Otter gave me a side-eye for that.)

Overall – a lot of fun! We’re going to keep going, I think – if nothing else it definitely is giving me practise in reading out loud, even if I do get the giggles more often than I want… (how do audiobook narrators not laugh at the funny bits?!)