A long time ago in a country far, far away… I think 15,000 kilometres qualifies as ‘far, far away’.
‘Mortal Instinct’ began it’s journey on the banks of a quiet river at the hand of a young woman as she recovered from an horrific motorcycle crash.
She was an ordinary sort of woman who daily, had to accomplish the extraordinary, and push herself to learn to walk again. At first the pain was excruciating, but through sheer stubbornness it progressed to mind-numbing hard work.
After her daily physiotherapy sessions she would hobble along the riverbank on her way home, breathing deeply so she wouldn’t scream, and wonder when it would get easier.
One summer’s day, when the sun burned particularly bright, she stopped under the shade of an ancient She-oak. A gentle breeze blew up from the river and used Mother Oak’s branches to paint soothing dapples on the green-sward. The woman was tired, bone tired, spirit tired. She half-sat/half-fell onto the grass at the edge of the river and cried, and cried.
She didn’t cry forever, although it felt like it. The warm breeze and the sunshine and the quiet river slowly recalled her attention to the supple beauty of her surroundings.
She blew her nose, wiped her eyes, accepted Mother Nature’s gentle gift, and breathed deep some more.
She leaned forward to peer down at the slow moving river. A tiny water-bug, she called them whirly-gigs, leisurely sculled its way across the top of the water.
In that moment something magical happened …
“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering” – Bruce Lee
… In that moment something magical happened …
Her world expanded beyond the constricting bands of pain wrapped around her heart. The fire in her knee receded and the whisper of the old tree’s tiny leaves grew to a roar. The space underneath the leaves shimmered and she knew, knew without a doubt, that something was trying to slip through from another place.
She often carried a backpack, well stocked with pain-killers and pencils, pens and handkerchiefs. She didn’t like tissues. One decent blow and they shredded to bits. It also held her recovery journal.
Her hands opened the cloth bound journal of their own accord and wrote down what she was seeing.
That was how the first scene of the first full length novel she’d ever written began.
Months passed as the pain became easier to bear and her mobility increased. Her knee crept past a 20 degree bend, then 30, then 45 degrees on a good day when it wasn’t raining and her physiotherapy went easily. She could almost walk with out a limp.
What surprised her the most was that these wondrous things almost seemed like tiny milestones compared to the words that flowed onto the pages of her journal every day as she sat under the old tree.
A year passed and the anniversary of her accident rose above the horizon. Her knee stopped bending at the 90 degree mark. For the rest of her life it would never bend any further.
If others pitied her, she never noticed. She was glad to be able to walk, to run if she had to, to go up and down stairs, one at a time if necessary. And she wrote.
On the day of that 1st anniversary two things happened, she moved from the small country town where she’d lived for a very long time, and she finished the story.
Her physical healing was complete. She packed the story away with her few treasures and mostly forgot about it for the next ten years.
Then, one day something magical happened …
“Girls who put out are tramps. Girls who don’t are ladies. This is, however, a rather archaic usage of the word. Should one of you boys happen upon a girl who doesn’t put out, do not jump to the conclusion that you have found a lady. What you have probably found is a lesbian” - Fran Lebowitz
… Then, one day something magical happened …
During those ten years she learned so very much about the world that existed beyond the small circle she’d inhabited for 25 years. She moved into a big city, with public transport, and skyscrapers, and lots of people. More people in one place than she’d ever seen before. She lived in a lesbian feminist household and learned very quickly what that meant. She had the first of her three major relationships, with Virgos.
She occasionally asked herself over the years, what was it that drew her, a laid-back butch Libran, to a succession of wired alpha-femme Virgos?
(Notice she used the word wired’, and not ‘high-maintenance’? She did so for three very important reasons. 1 – it’s a very derogatory term, 2 – it’s patently not true, and 3 – her wife, a Virgo -yes, wife. It’s legal here in Canada – would whack her.)
She played in a women’s music band at woman’s music festivals. She discovered many things about the world that she didn’t like and a few things she did. She found her spirituality, and entered university as a mature age student. (Not bad for a gal who left school at 14 and got a job in order to survive)
Every once in a while she took out that manuscript and read it, shook her head, and put it away again. She wasn’t ready to engage with all the memories it brought back. Also, she was having too much fun!
On a day when she knew there was nothing more the city could show her, she left.
One chilly Winter’s day, she discovered light dusting of snow had fallen while she slept. It was the first time she’d ever seen snow. She quickly tugged on her warmest clothes and went outside to play.
The magic that the snowfall wove around her reminded her of another day when another sort of magic fell all around her too.
Inspired, she returned to her house, (her cat companions had declined her invitation to gambol in the chilly white stuff, thank you very much!) and dug through the piles of papers stacked in the corners of her study, much to the amusement of her four-legged companions.
Where else would the manuscript be but at the very bottom. The tears that fell onto it told her she was ready to face the story again.
Then, something magical happened …
“A Thaum is the basic unit of magical strength. It has been universally established as the amount of magic needed to create one small white pigeon or three normal sized billiard balls. The thaum, hitherto believed to be the smallest possible particle of magic, was succesfully demonstrated to be made up of /resons/ (Lit.: ‘Thing-ies’) or reality fragments. Currently research indicates that each reson is itself made up of a combination of at least five ‘flavours’, known as ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘sideways’, ‘sex appeal’ and ‘peppermint’” - Terry Pratchett
… Then, something magical happened …
She read the battered old manuscript over and over again, making notes in the margins and on scraps of paper that she stapled to the manuscript, until she ran out of scraps and staples, and ideas.
She took out her stylish Smith-Corona daisy-wheel electric typewriter that she’d recently treated herself to … (They’re actually still being sold!) and started writing … and writing … and writing.
The story flowed from her fingers as though it were unravelling in front of her. She wrote through the night, stopping only to perform her staff-ly duties (feeding her furry companions) and snatch a few hours sleep. Her dreams tormented her with flashes of dialogue and scenes and plot-lines.
Her characters evolved from two-dimensional alternate versions of herself into their own fully fleshed three dimensional Selves.
In five excruciatingly intense days the 35 page double-spaced story grew into a fully-fledged novel with chapters and a prologue and an epilogue. (She has a thing for prologues and epilogues that she’s never grown out of)
The magic slowly ebbed from her fingers. Her mind released its stranglehold on her Muse, and she typed the title of the story on the very last blank sheet of paper she had in the house:
The woman was wise enough to know ‘The Awakener’ was only a first draft, and that to take the next step to make it the best it could be, she had to learn a great deal more about this writing profession that had claimed her for its own.
She put the shiny new manuscript and the battered old pages back into a slightly less scruffy box and stowed it safely under her bed.
Something like ten years passed by without that box ever being opened again.
The woman shed her life once more. She flew from one side of the Pacific Ocean to the other, and began a new life in a country that had bears, and racoons, and moose-es, (oh my!) rather than wombats, kangaroos, and platypuses.
Of the wealth of possessions she’d owned, she only kept enough to fill two suitcases and three boxes. Packed securely in the very center of one of the boxes was the manuscript.
A few months later, on the other side of the world, when she finally emptied the dregs of the boxes, something magical happened …
“You fail only if you stop writing” – Ray Bradbury
… A few months later, on the other side of the world, when she finally emptied the dregs of the boxes, something magical happened …
So, there she was, in Canada, married, with a brand new family of grown-up children, (most of whom seem to be showing an irrationial urge to get married!) grand-children, and cousins of all manner of degrees (it still overwhelms her sometimes, but that’s another story) who appear to be working diligently on creating the next generation of Canadians.
She was at a loose end because she hadn’t received her Workers Permit yet, and unless she wanted to work and get paid under the counter which would’ve placed her whole residency process in jeopardy, she was left to her own devices.
One day, her wife, after patiently watching her climb the walls, told her to haul that manuscript out of that suitcase in the closet and start working on it.
She resisted. Of course she resisted, for a very simple reason. By this time she’d gleaned enough knowledge about the whole writing-to-get-published process to know just exactly how much work was involved. Lots … and lots.
She wasn’t adverse to hard work. She’d grown up in a very primitive rural shack near a creek that provided her family with their only source of water, so hard work sat on her shoulder, comfortably if not happily, for most of her life.
But writing a novel wasn’t like picking crops in a field, or studying architecture, or even running lesbian spirituality workshops. It was nothing like becoming a Shaman, or re-learning how to ride a bicycle.
She ran out of things it wasn’t like, and decided to follow Yoda’s advice.
“ … Try not!. Do, or do not. There is no try.” (Which doesn’t mean a do-or-die attitude, but to commit to the ‘doing’ with all your spirit and being)
She rewrote the prologue, the first chapter. Her creative fires awoke and her Muses (Irony and Serendipity – a couple of bad-ass women if ever there was!) shook the cobwebs from their staffs (staves?)and kept the energy flowing.
As she wrote, a mysterious and nameless discontent flitted in and out of the shadows just beyond the edge of her vision. She was a third of the way through her latest rewrite, and unfortunately the discontent had grown logarithmically. Now she had a name for it; Backstory.
Backstory was not happy with ‘The Awakener‘. Backstory wanted a whole book of its own, and something magical happened …
… Backstory was not happy with ‘The Awakener’. Backstory wanted a whole book of its own, and something magical happened …
The characters that had previously leaped out at her had no place in this new story she needed to write. A story that existed a thousand generations in their past, and on another world.
Although she tried valiantly it was inevitable that they would slide quietly down the side of her desk and into a drawer. They languished, not forgotten, never forgotten, biding their time until the story arc would swing around and pick them up again, and they would be able to finish their adventures.
As the new story began to take shape, she noticed the not-so-subtle hand of Irony, one of her Muses, creeping into the narrative. Irony concluded that this story needed a Prologue to recount how all things in the Mortal Realm came into Existence. A Creation Myth that would provide the framework to weave all the stories of the ever-increasing cast of characters (all of whom were clamouring for books of their own) together in the end. An end which was starting to look at least five books away.
She was tempted to enact an Armageddon of her own, one that would surpass the Armageddon a main character was plotting. (A short-tempered immortal being, with very little tolerance for the foibles of Mortals) It was probably for the best that she didn’t. The results would’ve been … spectacular.
Of course, she did have the option to ignore Irony’s ‘suggestions’, but she’d learned in her harsh apprenticeship that writing was not just about making sure all the dots connected, which was the craft of writing, but the art of writing needed to be pursued if a story to become more than the sum of its parts.
It was with a mixture of both dread, (Irony might expect her to go even further back in Time, beyond the Creation Myth itself) and excitement, that she reeled in the threads and began to weave a bright tapestry.
… the story of the Gallery and its twin, the magnificent and flawed Mortal Realm, flew from her hands, and something magical happened …
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live” – Henry David Thoreau
… the story of the Gallery and its twin, the magnificent and flawed Mortal Realm, flew from her hands, and something magical happened …
She finished the n-th rewrite, reread, edited, polished- buffed-n-shined it until she knew the time had come to send her baby out into the world, to seek its fate, to sink or swim, to … (that’s probably enough metaphors)
At some point during this process, she forgot just exactly when, the book’s name fell into her lap. She never seemed to have any trouble finding story titles, and this one fitted perfectly.
She’d researched publishers, set up her blog, written her template pitch, synopsis, and cover letter, (to be altered as necessary, according to the whims … erm … I mean, guidelines of each publisher’s submission process) and girded her loins to do battle with the purchasing Editors of her chosen genre.
Meanwhile, in another part of the e-Verse, an on-line writers conference was about to begin.
The woman had previously attended the conference workshops and forums, and learned a great deal in the process. Up until now she’d never had anything to ‘pitch’ to any of the publishing houses who were looking for new authors …. This time was different.
“Why not?” She asked herself. “I haven’t heard anything back from any of the queries I have out there. What have I got to lose?” Self refrained from commenting on this rhetorical question, and began reviewing the computer file titled, ‘elevator pitches’.
The process apeared to be simplicity itself. All she had to do was enter a chatroom, pitch to the waiting audience and wait for a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. She didn’t have to talk to anyone face-to-face, or worry about what to wear, body language, or any of those non-verbal and visual clues that we all use to make value judgments about others.
So, she shouldn’t have been nervous, right? … Wrong! … What she would type, in the space of 30 seconds or thereabouts, would determine which alternate future universe she, and her novel, would exist in.
This was the pitch she used …
“A short-tempered Immortal and three mismatched women with commitment issues must find a way to harness the Sphere, the most powerful force in existence to save the Gallery, a web of corridors linking the worlds of the Mortal Realm, before it destroys them.
They are aided by a thrice-born warrior who cannot die, a woman who has lived for-almost-ever, and an Enhanced Cybernetic Habitat Operator Archivist who knows too many secrets.
Using ECHO technology and magic, they journey from the complex politics of their home world through the collapsing corridors of the dying Gallery into realms of otherworldly existence where only the strong and talented survive.
Their lives entwine in unexpected ways as they struggle to fulfill their destiny, or become unwitting pawns in a game that lasts for a thousand generations.”
And then …
… She waited … until something magical happened …
“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance” - Ray Bradbury – Science Fiction Writer, 1920 – 2012