I try to do this once a year, especially when my faith in what I’m doing feels strained and tattered. When the words are hard and I second guess everything. When the family is oblivious to how much I do. How little time I have to write. How little sleep I get as a result.
I do this… and it’s all worth it.
What’s my secret to refilling the Well? I take a little walk with Gregar, Shannari, and Rhaekhar.
The Rose of Shanhasson was the first book I ever finished. If you’re new around here, you may not know the whole saga. Those blog posts are long gone, lost in a domain transfer many years ago. But Rose is more than my first book. It’s my first love. It’s the first book that taught me to dream in rhyme. Where I learned to dream in words, rather than letting the movie play in my head.
It’s far from the first draft (I have sworn to permanently silence my sister if she even thinks about ever bringing that first awful draft out in public). It went through major revisions over several years. Both my personal revisions after years of RWA contest circuits — and then my first editor’s revisions (that publisher long ago shut their doors). I was so thrilled when Dorchester requested a full, and agonized for YEARS waiting on an answer that never came. Another publisher closed their doors.
I still remember some of the things I had to change over the years with bittersweet fondness. Like the sur’ami aspect (hello, budding bondage slave/Master writer) which I hacked out long before I submitted it to Drollerie. My editor at the time didn’t like me calling Varne “the Closest Blood” because she read it as Closet. Though we changed it to Nearest, he’ll always be Closest in my head.
I know the characters so thoroughly that I could pick it up and write any of them today without having to refresh my memory on their voices or their backstory. They live in my dreams. They always will. There’s some indescribable magic that I find woven in those words. Maybe it’s the blood, sweat, and buckets of tears I shed on that story over the years, but I love it. So much.
The Shanhasson series is as close to my deepest darkest heart you’ll ever see without meeting me in person and getting me drunk. Laughs.
You might be surprised at the violence and darkness – mixed with the hope and love. There’s pain and death and agonizing loss. And the greatest love of all. Each book is not Romance (spoiler: characters die) but the trilogy ends on a huge happy ending reunion high note that I hope makes up for the hell I put you through to get there.
So much love. So much blood.
The only story that even comes close….
Charlie’s One Cut Deeper. And maybe that’s why I love him and Ranay so much too. Yes, there’s a Master/slave relationship too. Maybe my muse was trying to get back to that original vision of long long ago. Ranay reminds me of my early Shannari, before I wounded her heart. Literally. Before she had to learn to kill to protect herself. I don’t think Ranay will ever have to go that far. Charlie is more than eager to do any killing needed to keep his heart safe.
I thought of Gregar often while working on Two Cuts Darker. He’s still the first, the most honored, the deadliest of all. But his gift lives on in Charlie and his brother, Vince. The Shadowed Blood will always ride in my dreams, and when I’m especially lucky, he shows up in my stories too.
She pointed her sword at Gregar. “Back off.”
The Blood took a step closer, pressing the sword tip into his body. Her jaw tightened with determination and she pushed a little harder, puncturing his chest. Smiling with anticipation, Gregar pushed back. A little closer, a little more steel pressing into his body.
She shifted her grip on the hilt, fully prepared to skewer him. A coldness settled on her features that told Rhaekhar she’d killed before and often. Very impressive. He liked a hint of danger in a woman. Evidently, so did Gregar.
“Go ahead,” he taunted, his low voice echoing with amusement and his trademark wickedness. Shannari shivered and her eyes widened. “Run me through. I shall greatly enjoy it.”
Her gaze flickered to the smaller wound she dealt to Rhaekhar’s neck earlier. “Are you all crazy?”
“Gregar is… special. He used to be a Death Rider.” At the blank look on her face, Rhaekhar added, “An assassin. Death Riders delight in sacrificing blood to the Great Wind Stallion. Blood sacrifice is a very great honor among us.”
She jerked her sword away. Gregar wiped his hand across his chest and licked the blood from his fingers. “Would you like a taste?”