I’ve been silent about my current work-in-progress for a very, very long time. I apologize for that. It won’t surprise anyone when I say the last 18 months have been very… challenging. It’s been a year now since I last wrote about my one-on-one session with one of my writing inspirations, Stephen Lawhead. You can read the article I wrote about my time with him here.
My primary purpose during my time with SRL was to work on the setting for my story. And boy did he ever help me! To summarize his advice, he told me I needed to find an anchor, something to root the reader into a time and place so they would be better able to jump into the story. Yes, I’m writing fantasy, but even fantasy needs an anchor to something. It’s just easier on readers. During our talk, we settled on anchoring my time and place in ancient Mesopotamia, specifically the Sumerians.
In the midst of the challenging past year, I didn’t let his advice waste away. Immediately I set about locating and reading as much as I could get my hands on about Sumeria: its culture, its people, its politics, its economy, its religion, and the general worldview of the population. And what I discovered blew me away.
How was I to know that nestled into the dust of history was a pearl of a story that fit EXACTLY what I was already writing? It was astonishing when I discovered it. But for now, I’m not going to explain any more. You’ll have to wait, because I’ll get into that bit later on.
So where am I in my writing process now? I’m nearing the half-way point for the first book in the planned trilogy. Since I have the “anchor” for this book finally settled (because research and marinating that research to fit the story takes an inordinate amount of time), the rest of the writing should go much more swiftly.
I recognize that it still may be some time before I have a completed book to publish. But I wanted to let you, my readers, know that I’ve not forgotten about you. Since I want to keep you interested in my current project, here’s a little tease for you. Let’s call it an early Christmas present.
Thanks to the sage advice of the fantastic author Stephen R. Lawhead, I give you the opening to my forthcoming book in draft form (not necessarily the final product of this chapter): In the Land of Fire and Ashes:
“I still feel chilled when I think of it,” Nuri whispered. “If only I had known what it portended.” She went still for a long moment, then added, “But perhaps it was best I did not.”
Kyrios set his pen down near the bottles of colored inks lined up in a perfect line before him. He didn’t need all the colors, necessarily, but he wanted to embellish this story, and the colors would give the manuscript a tone that tales such as Nuri’s needed. Stories like hers would be passed down through the ages, generations would learn from them, would tell their children, and their children’s children. He glanced at Nuri, waiting.
She stood at the open window. Her long, dark hair blew back from her face as the night air whispered into the room on the wings of evening’s arrival, bringing with it the scent of the cedar forest beyond. He studied her, her regal posture, her trim form, her slender fingers drawing lines down the polished stone of the wall as she watched a peregrine circle overhead in the fading light.
“The rocks,” she continued, still staring into the sky beyond. “I can still feel them wedged underneath me. And the dust. It smelled…” She drew in a deep breath, as if she wasn’t smelling the cedars beyond the tower but rather the memories of that place. “Ancient,” she added at last.
Her words trailed off, and she glanced back at Kyrios. Nuri still had moments of hesitancy, even after all these years, as if she had never fully come to understand her new life and place. But that was ridiculous, he knew. So much had happened since that time. She’d become a different woman. She’d had no choice.
“The air in that chasm…” She shuddered, and Kyrios watched a flicker of horror cross her eyes. “…it felt heavy, weighted with ages, the darkness and the…” She stopped, and Kyrios feared she wouldn’t continue.“ Tell me, Nuri. Go back to that place and tell me how it was.”
He smiled, and her face softened. She nodded, and he turned back to the empty pages waiting to receive her tale. The nib of his pen — a glossy drop of ebony ink threatening to fall from it — hovered, steady, determined, waiting.