I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.— Henry David Thoreau
I’ll be honest, 2016 has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, we’ve lost so many cultural icons, from David Bowie to Alan Rickman to Prince to Leonard Cohen. We’ve also suffered through a knock-down, drag-out, mud-slinging US Presidential campaign—the worst I’ve ever seen, with nary a shred of decency shown by any side—and its Pyrrhic after-effects are still ahead of us.
More personally, I’ve been deeply disappointed by a very important relationship in my life, and of course, just recently, I lost my dog after ten amazing years.
So it’s a particularly challenging time to be drumming up enthusiasm and gratitude.
Which is why it’s all the more important to do so.
NaNoWriMo 2016 Progress
As difficult as this month has been, losing my dog, I’m grateful for NaNoWriMo. A lot of the joie de vivre has gone out of my novel project, and the middle has become a boggy mess, with characters wandering off and doing heaven only knows what. But having made the commitment to the project has kept me sane when I might otherwise have drifted off into despondency and sadness. I still have about a week left to finish my project, and though it hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked, I’m still determined to get to the ending, and I’m glad for the opportunity to tell Lady Eithne’s story.
My progress to date:
- Target Average Words Per Day: 1667
- Actual Average Words Per Day: 1878
- Minimum Target Word Count: 50,000
- Personal Target Word Count: 65,000
- Current Word Count: 45,076
- Words Remaining Toward Minimum Target: 4924
- Words Remaining Toward Personal Target: 19924
- Estimated Finish Date at Present Pace (50000 words): November 27, 2016
- Estimated Finish Date at Present Pace (65000 words): December 4, 2016
NaNoWriMo: How Do I Write My Ending?
I’m now coming to the ending of my project. In Act Three, my heroine has to accept the possibility that she’ll never get what she wants and begins to accept the reality of her situation. In doing so, she takes action and considers what she needs, rather than what she wants.
If she really knew—or were able to accept—what she needed, perhaps she wouldn’t spend so much time running away from it. But I have to remind myself, my idea of the story was never the whole story, because meaning comes out of experience, out of the past. This meaning from the past then leads to a false belief in the present. But the battle scene is my heroine’s opportunity to make a new choice, illustrating a new belief. When I imagine my heroine at the end of her evolution, my subconscious begins to find a through-line to that place. And that is the solution to my ending. The heroine’s problem couldn’t have been solved in the past because her true problem was an unwillingness or inability to accept the reality of her situation.
Once my heroine gives herself what she needs, the plight resolves itself. That doesn’t mean she no longer wants what she wants, if just no longer rules her because she recognizes the danger of putting her desires before her needs.
So I have to continue to be curious about what my heroine needs. What does it look like? I don’t have to solve it right now. After all, this is just a first draft, and the turkey smells too delicious. Right now, to get to the ending, I just have to let the story be as raw and alive as it wants to be, and keep myself out of the result.
Gratitude: 2016 in the Rearview
As much as 2016 sucked in so many ways, I’m nevertheless grateful for all I’ve been able to achieve this year, despite (or maybe because of) a great many obstacles.
In January, I was able to achieve a lifelong dream by bringing Hedge King in Winter to publication. The world and stories of this first installment in my Matter of Manred Saga was a very long time in development, and this first book was only made possible by the kind support and encouragement of some very dear friends. The story of young Lord Eowain, torn between loyalty to his brother and duty to his people, is a first, immersive dive into a richly-detailed heroic fantasy milieu developed over more than twenty years, deeply influenced by Celtic myth, legend, and history, as well as the works of classic fantasy authors such as Robert E. Howard, C.J. Cherryh, Evangeline Walton, Chris Bunch, and Glen Cook.
Then, just three months later in April, I was very proud to publish A Merchant’s Tale, the second book in the Matter of Manred Saga. It’s a smaller, more intimate story, a turn away from the larger political issues of the first book to look at the land and the people that inhabit it, and it introduces additional themes and concerns into the Saga that will continue to play out through the rest of the series. Through the eyes of the foreign merchant Corentin, I was able to bring a new perspective to the the tribal hedge-kingdom of Droma and explore the contrasts between the narrator’s materialism and the more animistic culture of my fantasy milieu.
In between, I published The Epistles of Eithne & Eowain, a series of letters between two primary characters in the Saga, the Lord Eowain and his potential bride-to-be, the Lady Eithne. This interlude between the first and second books in the series was published on Wattpad and to my newsletter audience, and grew out of the character development exercises I used to develop the third book (and my first full-length novel) in the series, The Romance of Eowain, which was published in July.
The Romance of Eowain was a return to the themes and characters introduced in Hedge King in Winter, and expanded the milieu with a journey beyond the bounds of the most troublesome hedge-kingdom on the High King’s Road. Old villains returned with new life, the motivations behind their villainy were explored in greater depth, and new villainy was introduced, tying Romance into the themes and characters introduced in A Merchant’s Tale. Most important of all, the struggle of Eowain to convince Eithne of his friendship, love, and loyalty runs throughout the tale, despite all the obstacles determined to keep them apart.
Together, I’m very thankful to have been able to bring these stories to the world, and I’m grateful to the many readers who’ve spent their time and money to explore the Matter of Manred and the hedge-kingdom of Droma with me, and to leave so many glowing reviews of this work.
I had also hoped to publish the fourth book (and second complete novel) in the Saga, The Wedding of Eithne, before now, but that was asking a lot from myself, and though I haven’t succeeded in achieving that goal, I’m grateful to be nearly finished with the first draft, thanks to the continued support of friends, fans, and family on this otherwise dark and difficult adventure called “indie publishing.” So look for The Wedding of Eithne in 2017!
And So Much More…
Even in the worst of times (and these could hardly be said to be those), there is always much for which to be grateful. No list could ever be complete, but I’m thankful to you, Dear Reader, for taking the time to peruse these blog posts each week, and to all my newsletter subscribers, for letting me into their inbox each month. I’m particularly thankful for all the expressions of sympathy and condolence over my recent loss that have come from my readers, my subscribers, and my extended social media friends.
I’m thankful for all my dear friends and family, for all the encouragement and support they show everyday in every way.
I’m thankful for the ten wonderful years I had with my faithful companion, Coco.
And I’m especially thankful for these two little hooligans, my daughters, whom I love and miss everyday.
So Without Further Adieu…
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!