Long time, no blog. I haven’t been very good at taking the time to type up an update. Part of that is because I remain a slow creator (and far too quick to say “Yes” to things that then have to take priority over writing), and part is because I’m working on the behind-the-scenes of the forthcoming Guardians and Guides series. I set the Deadly Touch series in a world not all that different from ours, with a fairly soft magic system based on innate abilities with a genetic component, because I used to love punnet squares. This time, because I’m looking further back in human history for inspiration, it makes sense to develop a pantheon of gods, and then how those gods impact the world. It’s … a little overwhelming. I’m excited, because I have a lot of confidence in the series’ potential, but, yeah … I do sometimes wonder if my brain is actually capable of holding this whole story world in it. Luckily there are tools, like Campfire Writing‘s modules, I can use to help me.
Anyway, I also pop into Mastodon daily, because I really like it there, and especially because I like the WritingWonders hashtag. I joined in mid-to-late February and I pondered making a blog post at the end of the month with all my responses, but then I over thought it and didn’t do it. And I can feel myself doing the same for March… if I post all my responses here, this post will be rather long. So, you know what? I’m going to do that anyway (you don’t have to read it). And, in future, I might look to post them daily, or weekly… So, here goes. Best read by people who have read Healer’s Touch and Warrior’s Touch because, yes, there will be spoilers.
March 1st: Intro Day. What do you have in common with your MC?
Ah, we both have the same colour hair and eyes…
She’s lived a very different life to me, so we’re quite different.I think we have similar values, overall, though…
March 2nd: How much do you know about your MC prior to starting the first draft?
Usually just a “voice”/attitude and a starting image–not of a person, but a scene, perhaps a conversation. It won’t be the “opening scene”, but it’s where the story begins for me.
For instance: Healer’s Touch began here for me…
So, I knew the approximate mood. And I knew one of the major plot points…
March 3rd: Does your MC have any tattoos, scars, or distinguishing marks?
FMC Llew: No. Llew heals supernaturally, so scarring isn’t a thing for her. I haven’t previously investigated, but I don’t think there’s a tattoo artist willing to risk tattooing her… (it’d hurt them)
MMC Jonas: Being a soldier who fights people whose touch burns if they’re injured… Yes, when we first meet Jonas, he is riddled with scars, including a hand-shaped burn under his jaw. He also sports a massive gryphon tattoo that symbolises his family. By the end of Healer’s Touch, though, he’s scar free… He starts collecting new scars in Warrior’s Touch…
March 4th: MC (Llew) POV: Tell us something you envy about your best friend.
“Anya? She just oozes privilege, doesn’t she? She came from wealth and is about to marry into even greater wealth and power. She’s Ms. Fix-it because she can be. Something’s busted, whether an object or a system? Anya will talk to people and get it fixed. Someone dies? Anya will arrange the perfect funeral. I love her. She’s amazing.”
March 5th: Does your antagonist have any moral boundaries they would never cross?
Hmm. If Braph can justify it, he’ll do it. So, no … I can’t think of any.
March 6th: Describe your MC’s eyes.
Llew’s eyes are blue. I don’t really get into any more detail than that.
And Jonas’s eyes are brown.
March 7th: What colours are prominent in your MC’s bedroom/living space?
Llew lived in a tent on the bank of a river for years, so her “bedroom” was the classic khaki green tent, with grey stones and tussock all around. I suppose she had a blanket, which could include many colours. It’s not a detail I’ve gone into, though. On the road, she’s surrounded by grasses and dirt roads. Sometimes she stays at a hotel, which will be natural wooden boards. And when she’s really lucky, she might get to stay somewhere built of stone or marble, so would be surrounded by greys.
March 8th: On a typical day, what sounds can be heard in your MC’s home/living space?
Llew’s original home, that she has to leave early on in the series, would have been dominated by the flowing river babbling away.
I always imagined she would also hear New Zealand-like birds, such as the bellbird (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA7JlTJtJ2U) and Tūī (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucvO-gphZng)
March 9th: What is the first emotion your MC feels when they hear the word home? Why?
Llew: Nostalgia. She thinks of her relatively worry-free years living alone on the bank of a river. She had friends she could call on when she wanted. She was able to keep herself fed, at least partially legally … She had a good life before she died and lived again so publicly. Not recommended.
Jonas: Pain. He grew up on a farm, playing with his big brother (though, he wouldn’t admit to that these days) and generally having a good life, until the day his parents were murdered.
And later, he had a nice home with a wife … who was also murdered … by his brother.
So, yeah … He still dreams of having a nice home one day. But the ones he’s had have left their scars.
March 10th: Is your MC responsible for anyone other than themselves? Whom?
This one is quite complicated. Initially, for Llew: no. And for Jonas, mostly not. So long as he’s doing as his nation demands, he has few direct responsibilities. He eventually learns that his child he thought had been killed in utero is now a one year old. But will he get the opportunity to be a father?
Jonas and Llew take turns at being responsible for each other–as bodyguard and/or nurse–at various stages of the story.
March 11th: MCs POV: Briefly describe your relationship with your parents.
Llew: I think I had a great relationship with my ma until she went missing when I was five. I would work with my pa in his smithy and tolerate his drunken mates until he also went missing when I was eleven. Then, it was best to assume they died. I mean, who abandons their kid? Of course, now I know different.
Jonas: Short. They both died when I was seven. I didn’t get there in time. I mean, I get that if I had I’d be dead, too, but it takes a long time for that to really make sense, you know? Didn’t really know my pa. He was a soldier, mostly off doing soldierly things. And sometimes ma did, too, but she was home more. I loved her.
March 12th: How important are material possessions and wealth to your MC?
As long as Llew’s got food in her belly and a place to sleep, she’s pretty happy. She’s aware money means better and more reliable food and sleeping, but she’s pretty happy with the basics.
Jonas is much the same. He has greater food needs, being Syakaran and having hungry muscles, but his added strength and speed also makes hunting easier, so he doesn’t want for much, usually …
March 13th: MC POV: Name the three most important thing in your life:
Llew: As much as I have a strong aversion to calling people “things”, it’s true.
Anya. Although, it’s probably for the best that it looks like we’ll settle in different countries. I love her. We’ll write. Probably visit. Small doses. Um, maybe don’t tell her that.
Um, my ma. I just worry. She is with Braph. Willingly, apparently. Loves him. I’d laugh, but the nausea won’t let me. I don’t know what to do. I wish I could have her back in my life, but I think– I think she’s gone?
Jonas: Llew, obviously. Especially now. I mean, without Llew, I wouldn’t have life. Literally. But it’s more than that. I fell pretty hard, right from the get go.
My knife. It’s been used to kill nearly everyone I love, but never when in my possession. So, I need to get it back. Again…
My son, Joelin. I got to meet him when Braph took me to his place. He’s not much older than one year, so he didn’t know me. But Braph let me feed him lunch a few times…
March 14th: What flaws does your MC have?
Llew: Occasionally overdramatic. Secretive (justified). Occasionally stubborn (which is also a strength, depending on the situation).
Jonas: Biggest is probably his inability to end his relationship with his brother who is demonstrably evil, including having directly hurt Llew, Jonas’s ex-wife, and Jonas himself. Jonas’s weakness when it comes to Braph leads to more hurt. He’s also quick to rage, though he manages it reasonably well these days. And he self-medicates with alcohol. Also, lacks faith in his own decision-making (he hasn’t had to previously, and recent efforts haven’t gone well).
March 15th: What unintentional behaviours/actions hurt your MC?
See (14) Flaws.
Jonas’s continued tendency to give his half-brother the benefit of the doubt hurts Llew (and others) directly several times.
March 16th: What does your MC do to cope with pain?
Llew finds supportive physical touch, such as a hug, soothing if it’s available. The external strength allows her to feel and work through her internal pain.
Jonas turns to alcohol …
March 17th: Has your MC ever done anything illegal or morally wrong?
Llew spent years supporting herself without legal work opportunities so, yes, she perfected her pick-pocketing skills…
Many would likely consider Jonas’s (historical) state-mandated adultery to be morally wrong…
March 18th: Is your MC more of a rebel or a rule follower?
Jonas: Rule follower.
Guess which one causes more in-story problems …
March 19th: Who or what does your MC hate the most?
Llew: Easy. Braph.
Jonas: Hates Braph the Magician but loves Braph his big brother. It sucks.
March 20th: Share a snippet of a fight, battle, or conflict scene.
March 21st: How descriptive is your writing? Share a snippet of a description.
Not very descriptive, most of the time. It depends what my characters would notice, and most of the time that’s just practical stuff.
This is possibly the most descriptive I get:
Inside, the solid stone walls and high ceilings were at once both comforting and cold. The solid structure gave her a sense of safety she needed now, but the hardness and straight edges left her hankering for her Spot on the shore of Cheer’s Big River, where rounded stones shifted beneath her feet and tussocks bowed out of her path when she made her way for her daily swim. She was a long way from the streets of Cheer, and as much as she may have wished to return, she couldn’t deny she had landed on her feet. These hallways of marble floors and heavily decorated walls were a shrine to money.
Immense paintings dressed the corridor walls. Men peered down at her from gilded frames. Most merely depicted a head and shoulders, looking upon those below with disdain. Some were full-length portraits of one man or another standing beside a prized horse, often wielding a sword, and wearing a heavily medaled uniform. Occasionally, a proud man might stand behind a chair, with a woman cradling a baby seated upon it.
March 22nd: What’s your favourite setting in your story?
Merrid & Ard’s farm. It sits in the heart of Turhmos. The country of Turhmos is hostile to both Llew (They would capture her to use her powers for their army or, more likely, breed more like her. As Llew says: Ew!) and Jonas (Jonas is a Quaven soldier who has fought against Turhmos his whole life). But, Merrid and Ard built a bunker beneath their home years ago and have been freeing Aenuks (like Llew), including Llew’s parents many years ago. It’s a little oasis of comfort and freedom for both Llew and Jonas, but Llew especially.
March 23rd: How would you feel if readers wrote fanfiction of your book?
This one’s hard!
I’d certainly be flattered if someone connected with my characters and world deeply enough to write them into new tales.
That being said, while I’m still working to complete the series, I hope readers will let me do so. I’m a slow writer (slow, anyway, plus I’m a mum of young kids and I work) and if someone came along and “outwrote” me, I’d be pretty disheartened.
If I’ve completed the series and moved onto something else, and they wish to explore something I didn’t dig deeper into, that would be different.
But, yeah, while my story world remains my happy place, I’d like to hold onto that.
So, patience …
March 24th (catch up): If your story was a fable, what would the moral be?
Probably: Keep turning towards hope, no matter how hopeless things seem.
March 25th: If your MC was on social media, what would their favourite platform be and why?
Social media would be really dangerous for Llew. Too many people want to possess her for their own ends, so she’s best to keep her existence and whereabouts off any radars (not that they exist in the world, but neither does social media, thankfully).
However, I suspect she would appreciate the decentralisation and anti-monopoly of social media based on the ActivityPub protocol.
March 26th: If you characters were on a deserted island, which one would resort to cannibalism first?
Wow. What a question.
It’s easy to say Braph, because he very well might. He certainly doesn’t mind killing people to get what he wants, so…
The one who would *need* to first would be Jonas, because his metabolism is super fast. But he’d also be very effective at catching any animals that might be available for hunting (fish?), so should be able to delay any need to resort to cannibalism. He’s also willing to sacrifice himself, so, I don’t see him giving in to that…
March 27th: What would your MC’s favourite book be?
Llew doesn’t read. She used to do numbers as a kid, but didn’t really do the written word.
For Jonas, it was probably some military strategy book, and likely steeped in anti-Aenuk propaganda… So he’s likely to have changed his mind by now.
March 28th: Does your antagonist have any redeemable qualities?
Braph? He can be a very tender lover, so–as long as you don’t mind ignoring all the bad stuff he does–being in a relationship with him can be rewarding. And he’s an OK big brother if you don’t overshadow him. You know, once he’s got no more to prove, his hit list shrinks to zero.
Braph had all the advantages in this fight, and both knew it. Jonas dug deep, calling on the lessons he’d instilled in others less strong and less fast than himself.
Braph lunged and Jonas twisted, moving with his brother, gritting his teeth through the pain. Lashing out as he sent the one-armed man past, he caught Braph’s chest with his palm, and Braph went down, rolled, and jumped to his feet. Braph’s fist took Jonas in the face again, his nose crunching. The stump came around to distract him. So fast, so fast he didn’t have time to react before the fist came at him again, into his gut, winding him.
For the second, maybe third, time in his life, Jonas was being outfought.
He went down on hands and knees. Braph’s boot caught him in the guts, and he went down on his side, curled up like a baby.
Braph knelt at Jonas’s back, gripping his hair, and pulling his head back. “Had enough?”
He hesitated. Bravado would dictate his usual response here, but his denial caught in the back of his throat. He coughed on the blood trickling from his nose. “Yes,” he croaked. He sounded weak. He was weak.
The stump wavered like Braph was going to hit him. Frustration rippled across his brother’s face. “I guess you have, then.” He threw Jonas’s head into the mud and stood. “I can’t even kill you, now. There’s no challenge in it.”
March 29th: How do you envision your book’s cover? If published, how does it differ from that?
I really struggle to fully envision my covers before they’re done, so … I don’t know. That being said, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what my WIP cover will look like.
For all my published covers, I have had a lot of input into their design, including the ones originally published through a publisher, so any and all failings can be placed at my feet!
What I like best about the new HT cover is that Jonas looks both kind of sexy and a threat, which suits his role in this story. And the illustrator (Vimes Art) is just super talented.
Now, for WT, the sad fact is, I was unable to get the first HT artist back to do the first WT cover (he got snapped up to work on Disney stuff), and it shows… Very static, on-the-nose character depictions … yawn. I did like the colour scheme, though, as it really stands out against other Fantasy titles. So, we kept that second time around. This time, I’ve got the same artist. Yippee.
For Magician’s Touch, the WIP, I have the same artist locked in (phew!), and I have quite a strong image in mind for that one. A dark man in a long coat striding forward… could be Jonas, could be Braph… it won’t be obvious, but it will be obvious that he’s on a mission.
March 30th: How has your vision of your MC changed since you wrote the first page?
When I first started this series, it was going to be a stand-alone Fantasy Romance book with Llew, a fairly typical Fantasy orphan fulfilling the “fool” role in order for the reader to explore the world with her, and Jonas a typical broody alpha male type clashing and gradually falling in love. The end.
However, somewhere around the halfway mark, I realised there was more to explore, both world- and character-wise. And so the idea of the rest of the series came about.
Llew turned out not to be an orphan, Jonas has lost any alpha type status, and their journey to love (on both sides) turned out to be more complicated than the traditional Romance beats. Jonas got there pretty early, but it took until later in Book 2 (Warrior’s Touch) for Llew to figure it out.
Now they’re a solid unit ready to tackle the obstacles between them and a hopeful, fulfilling future.
Visually, Llew has gone from presenting as a boy because it was safer to feeling confident to present as herself, despite those who would capture or kill her. And Jonas … Well, the poor dude has lost his interminable self-confidence and half a leg. But he does have Llew’s love and her determination to keep him alive. Jonas used to have a network of superiors, subordinates, and peers all working towards the same future. Now his support structure is Llew; the epitome of what he used to fight.
Llew used to be 100% independent, relying on no one, and not needed by anyone. Now she will fight everything that is trying to take Jonas from her, and she’s got friends she can count on.
March 31st: Have you ever written alternative endings for yourself?
To date, simple answer: no.
A bonus favourite from the February WritingWonders collection:
February 15th: Describe your MC’s current mood like a weather forecast.
Currently under the dark clouds of mourning with trouble brewing in the north, and a high pressure decision swooping in, causing rising anxiety.
But, see this small bubble of supportive companionship and love? It just might be strong enough to help her avoid the worst of the coming storm…
And, done. I hope that was a bit of fun for those who already love Llew and Jonas a little bit, and maybe it’s inspired someone to go and actually read Llew and Jonas’s story? You can check them out for free in a range of Internet corners. If you’ve enjoyed them for free, feel free to toss a coin in my hat over at Ko-Fi.