Yes, it’s that time again. Aili is ready to share another adventure soon. The second book is nearly fully in the final draft, and editing begins this week. Before the end of October, Facing the Fire will be available for sale.
That also means I’ll begin planning her next adventure incredibly soon as well. As it sometimes happens, I have ideas where I’d like to go, but Aili had other ideas of her own. She decided certain things needed to happen when I was writing the ending of book two, and now I have something more to tackle in upcoming books. Teenagers!
When I first considered writing a series, I was hesitant. Some well known authors I had been learning from expressed that sequels could be a unique challenge, but I didn’t find it so. If anything, it was easier to write than the first book. Mind you, the first book I was still learning how to write a novel.
So, what happens in the second book? You learn more about the main characters. You learn some back story for both Scouts. You see Aili tackle her challenges she faces after the final scene in the first book. You get to meet more Scouts and learn more about her society.
What about the third book? I’m still in the planning stages. I won’t start writing it until the second book is ready to be published. I can promise you’ll learn even more about everyone, Aili will have new adventures, she’ll face a whole new set of challenges, and she’ll get to see more of her world. For someone who grew up in a city, even a large city, she’s never explored her country until she set off on her own in book one.
Keep an eye out. Book two is coming soon!
Everyone in Aili’s country wears a neckband. It has become a part of their culture, it’s been done for so long. When bands were originally used, they were made by mages who wanted an easy way to identify who was another mage and who was not. Earlier in their history the mages did allow non-magical folk to live in their countries, usually refugees from various disasters. Mages preferred to mark themselves instead of forcing outsiders to segregate or mark themselves.
People aren’t born with the bands, but they are given them within days from birth. As a person grows, the band grows with them. Their magical abilities and deeds are recorded by the bands through both colour and decorations. The bands start as a plain bronze, and change once a person’s magic becomes active. Normally this is around the age of five or six. Aili is incredibly unusual in not having her band change for a prolonged period.
The colour of a band affects a person’s status in society. Little children have bronze bands, and not much is expected of them as they grow and get ready to study magic. Once they are ready, around five or six years old, they are assessed for magical ability and their bands change to silver. Silver indicates a student. Silver bands have a small and flat plate with the magic teacher’s name on it. When a person passes their formal exams, their band turns gold and they are a full mage. They’re ready to find an occupation and take their place in society as a full adult. If their knowledge and abilities progress, usually as a person ages, their bands may turn platinum and they become a Master Mage.
By far the largest group are regular Mages. Much of the population have gold bands. Master Mages are not rare, though. They tend to gravitate to either academics, usually at the University, or they join specialist groups, like the Scouts and Border Guards. The population is fairly stable in the country, with families tending towards only two or three children generally, and people live in harmony with nature. Not everyone forms a family, which prevents the population from growing beyond their resources.
So, what does someone do when their band doesn’t act normally? That is Aili’s problem...
Come on, You can’t have a forest without wolves, now, can you? I love wolves. On one of my backpacking trips in behind Banff, we got to listen to the wolves howl as they moved through the valley. That was an experience of a lifetime.
My favourite part of the Zoo is the North American animals. These are the animals I grew up seeing. The wolves were always one of my favourites, because I never actually saw them in the wild, only heard them. I also adore watching the river otters and can watch them all day, but that’s just an aside. In fact, today’s Instagram picture is from a Zoo trip many years ago. I love wildlife photography, and the Zoo is a great place to practice.
Aili also loves wolves, and so do all Scouts. In the first book, you meet the wolves on the non-magical side of the border. In the sequel, coming soon, you meet the wolves that inhabit the forest Aili grew up playing in. They play a much bigger part of the story, even letting you see one of the main characters in a new way as they interact.
Wolves have a complex and fascinating social structure. Demonized through story throughout history, many people fear or hate wolves. That’s a shame, really. They keep an ecosystem healthy and prevent overpopulation among the grazers. That’s why all healthy forests should have wolves.
Like many of the main characters in my novels, both published and in progress, his name has a meaning. Andvari means guardian. Well, guardian of treasure, to be precise. He’s third in command of the Scouts, which means paperwork. Lots of paperwork. Still, he’s never too busy to have fun and sneak off on missions.
Based in the Eastern Border Woods, he and his Scout partner Kyson patrol the area regularly, along with the other Scouts and the Border Guards. The Scouts regularly cross the border to keep an eye on the non-magical folk, ensuring the border remains hidden and the magical boundary is strong.
Middle aged, magically powerful, and a gifted Earth Mage who specializes in concealment magic and sneaking. He’s more than capable of looking out for a student who can sneak around and avoid being seen when she wants. Despite his large size, he’s athletic and graceful, moving through trees undetected.
Though Aili can’t cast spells, he helps her uncover her abilities, and is open minded enough to try different things with her. Not everyone is flexible enough to handle powers outside of spells and incantations, but he’s up for the challenge.
Approachable and easy to talk to, his skills with people are partly how he advanced into the leadership position in the Scouts. Despite their differences, he and his gruff Scout partner get along well, a partnership based on mutual respect and years in the bush together.
Andvari is not based on any one person, but was inspired by many people I met on my martial arts journey. He reminds me of the best traits of my teachers.
"I have no status and no place in a magical world, when I have no magic. All I have is my pony," she whispered...
Every story needs a main character, and Aili is the brave adventurer that the Forest Guardians series follows. She's not as alone as she feels, but we don't always remember that when things feel darkest.
A young woman transitioning into adulthood, or at least she would be if she had magic, Aili is confronted with finding her place in the world. We all must do the best we can with what we know, even if we don't know enough and can't see the actions of those around us.
So, what do you do when you don't fit in and you can't see a future you like? You go make your own future, in Aili's opinion. A young woman of surprising non-magical talents, she spent part of her childhood playing in the forest near her home city. With a thirst for knowledge and a love of reading, a girl can learn a lot in a library, when nobody bothers her. After all, what would you say to the girl with no magic?
She grew up with Leya, her faithful pony companion, whom she helped train. Leya let her get deeper into the forest than she ever could on her own, deep enough to meet the wolf pack...
Awkward around people her own age, Aili spent her time with a few adults who taught her skills and talked to her like she mattered. What will she do when she encounters boys and social expectations (book 2, in progress)? Well, Aili would rather never come out of the forest again, but how likely is that, really? Especially considering who her teacher is! And just what is he going to teach her, anyways?
To me, the best part of stories is the characters who bring them to life. Without our characters, what’s left? Sometimes a character may even be the wind, or a spirit, or animals, but something always acts in a story. If not, where’s the story?
How do I write characters? First, I imagine who I want to go on an adventure with. Who will I encounter? Who are my allies and who am I unsure about? Who or what am I fighting against? Sure, there’s no secret that my protagonists are based at least loosely on me, either as I am or was. If I write a story I want to read, I’ll get an adventure from it. But...what about everyone else?
Inspiration for characters comes from all over. Who do we know that we admire? What traits do we wish they had? What makes them human, I mean what are their hopes, dreams, fears, and flaws? Without all these, they’re not really real, are they?
Okay, so we’ll take a concrete example right from my first novel. The character of Leya, Aili’s pony. Where did she come from?
For starters, I love ponies. I ride them every chance I get over horses, as they’re quirky and full of personality. I love my horses, too, but there’s something about the ponies that I just do well with. They have enough attitude for a massive horse, all stuffed in those little hairy bodies. I know ponies.
Alright, I know how ponies think and behave, what their likes and dislikes typically are. What now? Well, Leya can’t just be any pony, she needs to be her own pony. What does she specifically like? What does she hate, and who doesn’t she tolerate? In her case I based her off a couple of ponies I actually have in my paddocks here at home. I chose some traits from each that I thought would blend well into one personality...horsinality? I worked out what she fears, what her favourite treats were, where she likes to be scratched. Everything I know about my own ponies, I worked out for her.
This works for human characters as well. While I may not know all my character’s backstory, I learned more about one just this sequel in fact, I know what they like and don’t, what they want, and how they react to things. Readers can discover more as future books progress. Even if much of this information never makes it into a book, it gives me a consistent person to work with. I have a notebook with information on each character, where this gets written down.
So, who are they? Who’re their friends? What are their hobbies? Do they have a favourite food? How well do they read, and what language(s)? Bring them to life and let them play. How do they dress? Are they tidy or messy, clean or dirty? Write a dating profile for them if that helps, or think of a facebook profile to organize what you know. Or do like I do and keep a record in a paper book, leaving room to add more information as they adventure in more stories.
Make a character...Go write!
Why do I write? I love to explore new worlds and meet new people. I love magic and adventure and possibilities. I love that when reading as well. I have authors I love who write book series in fantastic worlds with amazing characters.
Tomorrow I begin my hopefully final edit of my novel. To be truthful, I can’t wait to make everything as quality as I can and have an actual paperback book. I want to page through it and adventure with my characters all over again, again and again. I have done this with other authors’ books as well, with characters I love.
It’s one of the big things that drew me to writing, actually. I always get myself lost in a world, whether one of my own design or with my fanfiction. Designing my own world for the series I’m writing has been an adventure in itself. He got me a notebook so I can make notes on everything, from the places I make to the people involved.
Now that I’m getting the sequel on its way, I can develop the world more. Things that played some role in the first book get explained and explored more in the second book, and probably more books after that. Being able to flesh out aspects of a world is exciting. What do I want to happen? Is it a nice place? Are there social issues? It’s all up to me. Do I want to make the world more mixed, with some desirable and some less desirable traits? It’s all up to me!
Well, instead of the up to ten business days, I’ve been assigned my ISBN numbers and have my account. That was fast! A single business day? Really? This is getting more real now...
My first ever reader loved the story. Soon I do my final edits, then prep the book for publication. There’s both the ebook and the paperback to get ready, but that’s okay. I’ve decided what names to publish under, as well, I think.
Best of all, my outline is nearly done for the sequel, and I’ve begun writing, even as I edit and prep other books as well. This series is just flowing out of me in draft form. While I still take care to edit it and make it the best I can, the characters have their own lives already and want to go on more adventures. I can sit down for an hour on the martial arts book and get 1000 words out, but I’ll sit for 1 1/4 hours on the sequel and 2000 words flow in the same time.
I always remind myself - write the book you want to read. It helps me plot and plan. It gives me characters I love. It gives the story meaning to me, and lets me write about themes I love, like friendship and loyalty, struggling against adversity, and personal triumph.
Also, I need to let myself write the way I do it best, which means jumping all over the place and writing out of order. I can fill things in as I go, if the important scenes get written first.
He’s getting me a journal for this series. I need to start recording things about the characters, places, settings, items, and so on. Things need to remain consistent through the books. Being able to open a journal and look at the information quickly will make everything go better and more smoothly. There’s also something about hand writing that really appeals to me. My gratitude journal and my personal journal are hand written for a reason.
They say that unless your goal scares you it’s not big enough. I’m not sure who they are, but this definitely is a little scary. I’ll be putting myself out there, even with a pen name, and opening myself to criticism. I don’t care so much, though there’s still an element to fear about it. There’s so much to learn and so many steps. That’s okay, it’s a journey every bit as much as what my characters go through. A labour of love, if you will.
Well, yesterday I felt gloomy and scattered and part of me wanted to quit. Small surprise, as I was editing the part of the book where my character was feeling despondent, hopeless, at the end of her rope, and ready to give up. She travelled on through sheer force of will.
I made it past that part today, feeling just as gloomy initially, but then everything changed. Things went from bad to worse for her, but she didn’t have time to wallow at first. She had to deal with life threatening situations, being alone and lost, being separated from her friends, and then save someone important to her, twice. She had her pity party, picked herself up, and kept going.
I wrote furiously, even as an edit, everything just coming to me. Honestly, I cried through much of it, releasing stress and worry and fear right alongside her. I poured our joined hearts out on the page, sharing our feelings and fears, our small triumphs and hope, and I feel so much better.
How can a character affect me so much? More importantly, will she affect others the same way? I’m almost done, so soon I’ll have that feedback from other people. What I do know is that my characters can affect my mood. Yesterday not only did I write about her down mood, in my new book I wrote the funeral scene of a beloved elderly member of the community, and a scene in the romance where he hit rock bottom. Today it felt so good getting to the point where she could take positive action and begin turning things around. I haven’t done any work on the other two books, as the first one wants to be done.
I’ve written scenes I’ve shared with others that have had them in tears, or jumping out of their skin, or grinning happily. I feel if the story can move me, it might take the reader on the same journey. Only time and readers will tell. In the mean time, I go in realizing my own moods may be impacted by what I’m writing and by my own personal circumstances. I have patience and kindness for myself, and continue to bring myself from my writing as much as I can.
Go write something that moves you.
I’ve reached that stage in editing. I’m almost done draft 3, and I’m beginning to doubt myself. That’s fine, actually. See, I’m editing the part where my character goes through her challenges and has to face her fears. She’s doubting and she’s moody and life just isn’t going her way. As I edit, I feel it, too.
Maybe that’s a good thing, as it means her emotions are coming across, at least to me. I’ll know when I hand it over to someone else for review and comments. What it also means is that I push through the doubt like she does and keep going. When I spend all morning in another world, or worlds (I’m writing more than one book), sometimes I feel what they feel.
Sometimes it can take a little for me to extract myself again. I’ve heard it said that a writer is a whole bunch of people rolled into one body. Sometimes I feel that way. I’m the lost girl trying to find my way in life. I’m her mentor, coming to help. I’m the villain, just wanting to make the world my version of better.
I’m also the writer who sits back and gives these people their own voice, knowing they want to be on the page. It’s hard when I give them feelings, as I’m sensitive to the feelings of others. Characters can have feelings just as strong as we do, if the writer is any good. I’ve written scenes where my guy has jumped, wanted to scream, almost sobbed, and more as he read them, and he’s not the most emotive guy. I hope that means I can share the ride with my other readers, too.
Right now that means writing through the doubt and journeying on with the young mage, not letting her feelings overwhelm me as we go. It’s pushing on and finishing the book, revising again as needed when this draft is done. It’s planting my butt in that chair every morning So the story can continue. That’s what being a writer is, it’s writing because I have no other choice.
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.