I’ve completed posts on all the heroines who appear in the two Facets books except for Katia and Alyce. They have their own books, so they will be discussed separately in connection to those books. I’d like to devote posts to the male characters as well, and to the role of parents and family in Facets (as well as in all my books.) But I’ll just give a brief rundown of Facets of Fantasy.
This was my second book, published in 2009. It contained 5 novellas that explored varying angles of the speculative genre—everything from epic fantasy to light fairy tale-with-castles work. Two years later I made another volume with all the stories edited and two of them rewritten. At the time I didn’t realize I could just upload those changes into the existing book—so now there are 2 Facets books.
Over the last 6 years, I’ve used the second Facets book as a way to sort the first one. I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the reaction to Facets of Fantasy—something, though never fully developing into the Wicked Twins of Ranter and Recluse, has always felt shady about reader’s reactions. And no matter what they said, I could never quite figure out which story they really liked; really disliked; really thought was interesting; and really thought was boring; and why they thought any of that. Facets of Fantasy became a bit of a problem. I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
I rewrote Halogen Crossing and The Amulet of Renari for the second book. Nothing. (Except people have always let slip a faintly snotty remark about Renari.) I enlarged The Trouble with Taranui and eventually made it its own book. Nothing. I tried to make the much-acclaimed Jurant a single, but somehow that didn’t work at all. Nothing. I worked Millhaven Castle into a different story, Alyce, and I’ve already posted about the problem that book created. And still nothing. Nothing about why a boring collection of stories seemed a problem in my writing life—something that was a bump, a roadblock, and in a way a big secret.
I’ve now added Victoria into the mix because reactions to it were similar. I’m retiring the first Facets book and carried Jurant and Millhaven Castle (always mentioned together) into the second book, adding Victoria. I’m also going to make at least one of the stories into a single ebook, not sure which one. Whether this will solve the problem, I don’t know. But eventually I will whittle it down and find out why Facets of Fantasy is THE book I need to do something about.
And there will be more updates.
I’m not unobjective about my stories. I sit down and try to organize a variety of impressions in my head—a snippet from this; a trailer from that; a line from this; and a random character who appeared out of nowhere. They’re all connected, otherwise I wouldn’t be thinking of them all at the same time.
Once it’s done, I pay careful attention to reader responses and compare them to what I’ve already learned from writing the story. It’s readers who are unobjective about my stories, not me. They just say whatever’s on their minds. The only reason I write any story is to find out who is there—if there’s a hidden audience, good or bad. Entertainment can be very deceptive and it’s easy for people to get roped into following something they don’t fully understand. If I know a story is good, people complaining about it is a red flag. If I know the story is boring, people praising it is a red flag. I balance what readers are doing with the content of the story and rapidly see whether this book has a bad crowd attached to it.
One thing that really alerts me to a bad crowd is abusive reader behavior. Now whiny reviews; snarling comments; and sudden, personal feedback don’t always mean the book has a bad crowd. Many times it’s just people who are disappointed it wasn’t closer to them—and based on their behavior, farther from them is a good thing. But if they’re combined with the Wicked Twin of friendly with a dose of silent, I know I’ve got a little bad egg on my hands.
The Friendly Recluse is a quieter, more latent way of being abusive. While the others storm and rant, the Friendly Recluse tries to get close to you in a hope of changing what you said or at least reinterpreting what you said while you play along. Some are also silent, not wanting to implicate themselves in the midst of all this. (A sign of guilty involvement.) Why is it that these are the only people around the book who seem to like it? Because those screaming others are really friends of the Friendly Recluse. In my years as a writer, I’ve seen this over and over. The Friendly Recluse will morph like a werewolf and suddenly join the other side. Where, of course, they really belonged the whole time.
Once I know that it's got not only people who are rude, but ones who are fake-friendly, or silent when you expected them so speak, I’ve seen enough. I retire or marginalize that story away from me and my readers. Not because I’ve been scared off, but because there are lots and lots of better stories out there that deserve more time.
And there will be more updates.
In all of my stories, there is only one Cassandra Mel-Kallai. She is unique. Not only is she in a story that’s out of character for me, she is almost the only heroine to actually drive a story. This girl is a touch too old and forests don't appear in Halogen Crossing. But it still captures a bit of her personality.
Halogen Crossing truly is about Cassandra and what makes the story complex is she is nonetheless a placeholder like many of my characters. The story is dictated by her decisions about the Belt—but she is a narrative voice through which we can see a broader story behind her. The story of the world that Belt came from (the kingdom of the sea) and what it represents.
I’ve never heard anyone speak about Cassandra. Not once. And I’ve always found that suspicious because she has an unusually strong presence. The only hint I had of how strongly others might react to this story came from a strange, very confrontational statement made a by a girl several years ago. She attacked a cover I had with a blonde girl like Cassandra on it and said it was homemade-looking, “blurry, and really hard on the eyes,” She insisted on showing me a picture of a place like Bespin in Empire Strikes Back, and that was the impression she got out of the story. I was like, “Whoa, RUDE.” It was quite a while afterwards that I realized she was very upset about the story, not the cover. No one else has said a thing-- to my knowledge.
This story wasn’t difficult or unpleasant to write, but it has some dark themes, shown in a veiled way. I don’t apologize for that because I don’t feel personally about it. I first thought of Cassie as a human personification of the element Calcium (this take on the story can still be seen in the name of the villains, Halogen, a family of elements) and in no way like me or connected to me. I was trying to get at something basic and primitive, as primitive as the elements that make up our world. Cassandra is sold into something represented by the people of the sea and the Belt—something she knows is dark and she wishes everyone around her would acknowledge.
It might be troubling to people who are interested in this kind of fantasy to know others can see what their world is about without belonging to it. As I saw it. There was a lot of interest in fantasy, especially sweeping, allegorical sagas, during the decade I wrote this story, and I think audiences were considering who is really interested in that kind of work. So I know who Cassandra is. Everyone knows. And that’s why, although I considered doing a sequel in which she and Karl traveled to the bottom of the sea, I stopped because there was no more to tell. People know what this story is about.
What she is about.
And there will be more updates.
In a couple of earlier posts, I stated very firmly that my heroines are not ME and put this down to a supportive passivity that most of them exhibit. I’d like to expand a little on that. Many people read the book for the MC, to imagine themselves as him or her. Most authors also, if only unconsciously, do give the MC experiences they relate to or have had themselves. My style of writing is a little different in that I don’t view the MC as important. In almost all my stories, they truly are narrators only—a framework to hinge the story around so we can watch it unfold.
This is what makes them appear so passive. They don’t usually state a lot of their own opinions on anything because their job is to be a placeholder. Somebody has to be voicing the story, otherwise it will get too disorganized. The story is what you should be looking at, not the heroines. In fact, when I post on individual heroines I am trying to talk about the story behind them, not the girls themselves. So if people have been looking for the story in my heroines, they’ve been looking in the wrong place. The heroines aren’t clones because the stories aren’t identical. But in most cases they remain quiet, relative to the other characters.
That doesn’t mean that I am a passive, supportive person. I actually have a temper (something my characters never exhibit) and broke hinges on drawers that the man in the home improvement store said were almost impossible to break. (I grinned and thought, “whoopsie.”) I threw books at the wall when I was mad and the dent is still there, covered by a calendar to this day. And I certainly had opinions on the people around me. I just felt the best way of expressing those opinions was to show what the people are actually like as a world, as a functioning group, rather than to create a heroine who said what I thought.
Saying that makes me supportive and to be treated cavalierly is as stupid as saying Bilbo Baggins is supportive of Gollum by agreeing to the riddles game and not killing Gollum later. He’s supportive of the plot, not Gollum. If he doesn’t do these things, which are important to the story, he’s not a feisty, strong character. He’s a useless character. I have a reason behind what I do, as do my characters. And that reason is the opposite of passivity.
And there will be more updates.
7 books published and 3 more on the way. Farmer's daughter, LOTR fan, loves to read rather than talk about reading. Always has time to finish her WIP.