There’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I got around to it. That is building puzzles for my books.
Okay, maybe some backstory is needed here.
My mom often told stories about how I would do word searches before I could even read. Sure, why not? Let’s face it: letters are nothing but visual pictures. You don’t need the sound attached to understand that “BEACH” is one type of visual picture that you match to “BEACH” in a word search.
I enjoy doing the puzzles where you compare pictures and look for the differences. Or finding hidden things in images.
Now, I admit that I am not the biggest fan of crossword puzzles, but I use to design them by hand on graph paper. Creating them was so much more fun than solving. I also made several word searches. Today, our world makes it even easier. I love technology!
I have been living with the main character of my Sacred Knight story, Steigan, in my head since 1994. People laugh when I tell them I have a tote full of notes and drafts which weighs 41 pounds! What they don’t realize is that there’s hardly a notebook or scrap of paper in my house that doesn’t have some sort of note in or on it that has some reference to my Sacred Knight series. Seriously, it’s everywhere!
I am pretty much use to it, though I do have the moments of frustration when I’m looking for notes on another story and only find things for Sacred Knight.
Recently, the point of how long I have lived with story really got driven home!
This is a span of 26 years I’ve been working on this story. Not so much for the surrounding stories, like Tangled Magic, thank goodness. I’m merely talking about the Sacred Knight portion, Steigan’s story. 26 years.
A couple weeks ago, my youngest son (who is in his early 20’s) and I were looking for the draft of one of my children’s stories. We found a bunch of diskettes where the story could be stored as well as papers.
When I started digging into the papers and searching the files on the old diskettes, I kept running into more of my Sacred Knight story. Old manuscripts which I thought were all contained in my tote. That’s when I really started realizing how long I’ve worked on this story.
I’m sure I mentioned before that this story has gone through several incarnations too. It started off as a fantasy romance, then took a tailspin and became a young adult book, then a comic, and finally landed as the epic fantasy it is today. When it was a romance, the title was Some Kind of Kiss. I had completely forgotten about that until I ran into a file on the disk that was labeled “Steigan.” Then I laughed and realized that’s how the “SK” came about which I eventually started thinking about as “Sacred Knight.”
One of those weird and wonderful ways that life works.
In one file, I found the original name I had for Lucinia. If you’ve read Quest for the Three Books, then you are familiar with the woman who “adopted” Steigan and her bustling, mothering fashion. Originally, she wasn’t his adoptive mother, but merely the wife of the owner of the inn.
I thought it might be fun to pull out an old scene I wrote which has Lucinia’s original name on it. I didn’t remember this scene, but I do recall a later time where I where I was trying to think of the wife’s name and couldn’t. I threw in the placeholder name of Lucy until I could find the name. Then I was developing the backstory between Lucy and Arlyn and it was Arlyn who kept calling her Lucinia. A quick search and replace later, all the Lucy’s were changed to Lucinia.
Now that I’ve found the original name, I really like the fact that my brain rejected it so hard I forgot it (grin).
I do remember writing this scene though and it’s fun to see the things that stayed, or how they shifted positions (like Dragzel, who I had forgotten was initially Steigan’s pet. Did you know that Ellis was originally LS which stood for Little Steigan and that is why Ellis now has Dragzel? Fun trivia.)
If you’re interested, take a peek now.
The Room Above the Inn
(Excerpt from an old draft of Sacred Knight)
By Dawn Blair
Before Steigan opened the door, it was flung open and a robust woman bustled in. She walked right into him and, though Steigan tried to grab her, fell backwards.
“Oh, my!” She stood up, brushed herself off, and pulled brown hair fallen from her bun out of her face. “I’m awfully sorry. My, what a hard chest you have.” She knocked her hand against his metal breastplate before he could stop her. “Oh, my.”
“Are you okay?”
“My, do you have armor under there?” She reached for his cloak.
Steigan stepped away from her. “Please, ma’am. If you’re all right, I should be on my way now.” He looked around to see how many people in the tavern room were watching them. This was drawing more attention to him than he liked.
He caught a whiff of stew and his stomach began to growl.
“Oh, my. A growing boy. Don’t tell me Sim let you go away hungry. Let me guess. ‘No money, no service.’” She pursed her lips. “Come on now. We’ll take care of that.”
Steigan wanted to pull away and scream. He did neither, not with his head starting to feel so light and his stomach filled with only hunger. “I just came in to talk to Sim.”
She dragged him into the kitchen, where she spun around to face him. She placed her hand on the countertop where several knives hung within her reach. “You. I know you.”
“Please just let me leave.” Steigan tried to step back, but the woman refused to let him get more than an arm’s length away. “This whole thing’s been one big misunderstanding.”
“Shh!” She swayed from foot to foot, at first keeping her hands near her face. Then, she reached out to push the cloak back. Her fingers touched the blue and gold armor, then she lay her whole hand against it.
“Really, I should be going.”
“I know.” She pointed a finger towards him. “I had a dream about you. That’s it.” She stretched to the tips of her toes and clasped her hands together. “I remember now.”
Steigan pulled the cloak back around him. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I have to be going.”
She grabbed his arm. Her short nails scratched him. “You can’t. I have to help you. I will help you.”
The woman reached for a muffin and slathered it in butter before handing it to Steigan. “You must be starving.”
Once Steigan took the muffin from her, she puttered around the kitchen gathering more food in a trencher. “My name is Larcina. I’m Sim’s wife. Do you remember your name?”
Steigan swallowed the bite. “Remember?”
“Yes, remember. There hasn’t been a dominus in the north for over five hundred years. Certainly you’ve been awaken. In my dream, you’d been laid to sleep by Saint Steigan and told to wake when the time was right.” Larcina picked out some chunks of meat from the stew and put them on the floor. She pointed at Dragzel. “For your creature.”
Steigan took Dragzel off his shoulder and placed him on the floor before taking the trencher. “Blessings to you.” He nodded. “My name is Steigan. I am from the south. I live in New Lilinar.” Lived came to him as an afterthought. It was hard getting use to the destruction of New Lilinar since for him it had happened only today. By the goddess, what was he doing here? Why had he ever wanted adventure?
Larcina went to stir the stew pot. “If you are willing to work, I am certain I can convince Sim to let you stay with us as long as you need to. You aren’t afraid of a little hard work, are you?”
“No, ma’am. But why are you doing this? Why are you so willing to help me?”
“Good. For your work, you will receive room and board. I can’t offer you one of our inn rooms because we must always keep some open in case the Holy Reverend comes traveling through, but I can give you the upstairs loft. I think you will find it to your advantage as long as you keep quiet.”
“Why? Why are you doing this?” he repeated.
Larcina lit a candle. The first thing we must do is hide your armor.” She kicked aside a rug covering a trapdoor in the floor. “If you’ll just pull that ring…”
The door was heavy and if something was pushed over it, it would be impossible to open from the inside. Finally it rose and fell back on the hinges. Steigan took a candle and tried to look inside. “A storage cellar?”
“A good place for you to keep your armor hidden. Sim has problems bringing up barrels from down there and if you could oblige us by getting the barrels, he’d have no reason for going down there. You armor would never been seen.”
Steigan started down the steps. Blackness quickly encroached and even the candle he carried wasn’t helpful. A light dusting of cobwebs brushed against his face once he was completely under the floor level. He rubbed then away with his hand and continued on.
“While you’re down there, why don’t you get a barrel of strickleberry ale?” Larcina called down.
The musty basement had a dirt floor and walls. Barrels were stacked against two of those walls and on a third were shelves that looked to hold canned vegetables and fruit.
Steigan unfastened his cloak and draped it over the barrels. He began removing pieces of his armor and stacking them on barrels to keep them off the floor. He’d be down here polishing the pieces ever day, he thought, to keep the rust away.
Once out of the armor, he grabbed a barrel and relized there was no way he could carry it out unless he put the candle down. Reluctantly, Steigan set the candle on a shelve. Balancing the barrel on his shoulder, he looked towards the top of the steep stairs.
From above, an angry voice boomed, “He is not staying, Larcina. He’s a vagabond. Fates, woman, you can’t take in every stray that comes knocking at the door.” Steigan knew instantly it was Sim’s voice he heard.
Neither Sim nor Larcina was in view, but through the cracks in the rough floorboards, he could see shadows of where they stood. Steigan half expected the trapdoor to be slammed shut at any moment.
“You’re letting your imagination run away with you,” Steigan whispered to himself. “What are they going to do, lock you in here?” Even trying to laugh it off as a ridiculous idea, he couldn’t get past the seriousness of it.
As Steigan emerged with the barrel, he saw Larcina standing with her hands folded against her chest. She was biting her lip and glaring at Sim. They both paused to glance towards Steigan. He set the barrel down. “I have to go back for the candle,” Steigan explained, pointing toward the cellar.
“Actually, we need another barrel brought up,” Larcina said. “The Holy Reverend is coming in tonight. Do you mind?”
Steigan looked toward Sim. “No, not at all.” Steigan started back down the stairs.
“This isn’t a good time to take in strangers, Larcina. First he shows up and now news of the Holy Reverend coming. I don’t like it. Something’s going on.” Sim said.
“He’s only a boy. He’ll cause no harm and I doubt he’s caused injury to another.”
There was silence again as Steigan brought up the second barrel then returned for the candle. He closed the trapdoor and secretly breathed a sigh of relief to be out of there.
“I have to go check on the rooms.” Sim turned on his heel and left.
Larcina turned back to her countertop where she had several balls of dough sitting on a heavy covering of flour. Diced vegetables were stacked in neat piles and little spice tins were scattered about.
Steigan leaned against the counter. “I take it this is not a normal trip for the Holy Reverend.”
She pounded one of the dough balls. Flour exploded, dusting all of her tins. “This isn’t a Traveler’s Moon. It’s too dangerous. Besides, this isn’t really a good time.”
Every time I say that, it’s an affirmation that I believe in the crazy ways that I tell my stories, even if that path doesn’t make sense. Often it doesn’t until something clicks and I see a larger picture in hindsight.
I’ve been working on Walk the Path (editing stage) and The Missing Thread (writing stage) in tandem. Many events from these stories tangle together. It would have been impossible to make them fit together if I wasn’t going through them together like I am now.
I can’t tell you how excite this entire world makes me. Sacred Knight and the Onesong series are so intertwined, as they should be considering that Onesong is pretty much the prequel, and they support each other so well. It literally amazes me every time I go back to look for information or even just in the whole writing/editing phases to see how they twist together. I am grateful for these stories. I am grateful for getting to a point where I can handle the vast scope of the story and multitude of characters without fear of it falling apart or shrinking back and taming down the story to something more manageable. I’m grateful for the surprises it brings to me each time. I’m grateful that I’m not a plotter because I would have killed the energy of this story if I were.
Okay, come closer if you dare. I’m going to take a moment to pull back the curtain and show you my world right now.
I’m going to talk about The Missing Thread since it’s what I’m writing. Right now, I have several characters going down into Gohaldinest. This is Steigan’s second time being there. It’s interesting to see it through his eyes now. I won’t include spoilers here, but I will say that Steigan has more to fear now.
Dragzel, a creature who is basically like a kitten-sized baby dragon, is along for the journey as well. Now Dragzel has been a part of every story. I often read Dragzel’s lines aloud as I’m writing them because I love narrating this character as well as writing him. He’s so much fun and terribly mischievous. Steigan loathes this creature and with good reason. He doesn’t understand why other people adore it. In Gohaldinest, Steigan’s friend, Ithanes, is giving Dragzel the utmost respect. I think Steigan is about to lose his cool. (grin)
Having Dragzel here is fun because Dragzel’s memories of Gohaldinest are tumultuous at best. He probably has the most knowledge of anyone in the group at this point. The things he knows…
I just got chills up my arms.
I keep reflecting back on the scene in Tangled Magic where Dragzel is guiding Rivic through Gohaldinest. There is so much information, both spoken and unspoken in that scene, that makes it fantastically delightful for me as a writer. I want to pull that essence into the scene of this group walking through Gohaldinest now, but darker and with more creepiness. It ought to feel like Halloween night. That would be a deep contrast to The Quick Highlights of the City as provided by Dragzel in Tangled Magic.
Well, now I’m inspired to get back to work, so off I shall be now and whisked away once more into my story. I hope you enjoyed your glimpse of what’s coming up.
One of my favorite things about being a “discovery writer” (that’s someone who doesn’t plot a story out, though I am thinking that some planning would help, but that’s a blog for another day) is finding little bits of story that are gems waiting to be uncovered.
There’s one “gem” though that I’ve been waiting for years to find out what the story behind the story is.
In Quest for the Three Books, I “knew” that the Shant’olin (nasty ghosts who eat souls) were tied to the ruins of Lilinar. I always figured Rivic had had something to do with this. But as I prepare the ending of Walk the Path, sequel to Tangled Magic, I haven’t discovered the answer to how the Shant’olin were contained to the ruins, or even how they got there.
It remains a mystery.
Also, when I was working on all the stories in the Sacred Knight series, I know there is something special about the gates of Lilinar, perhaps that there is something buried beneath them, maybe right inside. The observant reader will notice that the Shant’olin never approach near the gate in Quest for the Three Books. In later books, Steigan often has a strange sensation as he’s walking into Lilinar. Again, I thought I would find out what was going on when I wrote Rivic’s books, since he was the one who built Lilinar. But Walk the Path ends with him just starting the building of Lilinar after he leaves Gohaldinest.
That leaves me with the question of what is going on?
There is another story here. Is there a character I’m missing? A bigger picture? Another story between stories?
Do you want to know the best part?
That means there is more to this story for me to start to discover. And that is my happy spot.
Here’s a little story you might not know about Gohaldinest.
In Quest for the Three Books, I needed a name for a place whose streets were supposedly paved with gold. The line, “The streets are paved with gold, but I seek a richer treasure,” kept going through my head. The streets of where?
So, of course I went about naming this city by doing what I always do: starting with a letter and seeing where it goes from there. As you are probably thinking, the name became Gohaldinest.
The streets of Gohaldinest are paved with gold, but I seek a richer treasure. If you’ve read the Sacred Knight series, then you know this is a line from the oath of a dominus. But Gohaldinest was never meant to be a real city. It was supposed to be an imaginary place, the setting of a fable.
We have cities like this in our own history, those that seem to have been swallowed by time. As our archaeology and technology improves, we realize that sometimes the rubble of one city becomes the foundations for another. Many towns are built from the very stones of the buildings of fallen cities.
This is what happened to Gohaldinest. It literally wasn’t until the third book, To Birth a Destiny, when Steigan is in Dubinshire that he discovers that Gohaldinest is real and that Dubinshire was built from the rock that had once formed the older city.
Now to have walked through Gohaldinest in the shoes of three different characters (Steigan: Quest for the Three Books, Rivic: Tangled Magic & Walk the Path, and Cirvel: Palladium) just for starters is pretty amazing and wondrous. The further back I go into the history of Gohaldinest (since for some reason I have to be writing these books pretty much backwards — it doesn’t quite count since I still need to write books 5 and 6 for Sacred Knight), the more of an amazing place this city becomes.
A few nights ago I was flipping through my sketchbook again and came across a picture that reminds me of Ithanes. Ah, Ithanes!
He doesn’t come into the story until book 2, Manifest the Magic, but he was so full of surprises for me. I’ve come to utterly adore him. He’s like the king of snark, and very powerful with his magic. He knows what he’s good at, and lets people follow their strengths. He’s a good leader in that he finds people to compensate for the areas where he is weak. I think that’s why he likes Steigan so much. Yet, he also doesn’t often show weakness in himself. He’s lord of two lands, Dubinshire and Gohaldinest, and he lets everyone know it. Don’t let him fool you, though. He does have his deep, dark secrets.
And speaking of which, I so want to look through that curio cabinet he keeps locked in his chambers. In book 3, To Birth a Destiny, the reader gets to see that curio a couple of times and Steigan even describes some of what he saw. But let me tell you, I was right there when Steigan was discussing what he was seeing and he certainly didn’t get to some of the more interesting items toward the back. Some day I’d like to draw that cabinet and all the trinkets in there. I’d also love to sit down and talk to Ithanes about how he collected all of them. Oh, the stories!
This sketch was done in 2018. I do think if I’d intended it to be Ithanes, it should have had a teardrop-shaped gemstone hanging from the circlet. Maybe I just needed practice drawing a circlet, even a wiry one. (grin)
Maybe someday I’ll get around to doing an illustrated Sacred Knight edition, or maybe even a graphic novel. Someday.
Did you know that Rivic’s story,Tangled Magic, almost didn’t happen?
As I was working on the first three books of the Sacred Knight series and thinking about Alityka’s part, I started seeing scenes with Rivic and Alityka. I even wrote several of these scenes down. All were from Alityka’s point of view.
Then in 2015, I started writing a story as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month held in November). I had fully intended it to be a rewrite of the start of a novel I had written many years ago and lost the beginning chapters. Soon, I realized that I was actually writing two books. Yes, I had the start of my lost novel, which I wrote nearly 30 years ago and I certainly don’t remember how it started then so this was fresh, but I also had a major piece of another story. I finished NaNoWriMo with over the 50,000 words needed to “win,” but I hadn’t actually finished the novel.
After giving it some time to cool down and really figure out what I had going on, I split the two pieces apart. Yet now I had to figure out the characters I had. I so much wanted to write Alityka’s story that I resisted telling it from Rivic’s point of view, yet I knew in my heart this was exactly what was what needed to happen. Yes, Alityka’s side of my Sacred Knight story needed to be told by Rivic.
Ah, yes… in the post of my weekly chapter last Friday, I did mention that I would talk about why I’d been absent. Look at how well I dodged that!
Okay, well, if you figured from the not so discrete announcement, I’ve been busy getting Tangled Magic up. I had so wanted to let it have a longer pre-order time, maybe get some hype worked up for it. But after finding it delayed for nearly a year, I couldn’t do that. I just didn’t want to wait any longer.
So, I finally had to draw the line in the sand and say that I was getting it done.
Read it before the Sacred Knight story starts towards its conclusion with The Missing Thread (more on that to come!)
In case you are wondering, this story has changed significantly since it here on the blog under the working title of Onesong. Which, honestly, it should because the chapters I release here are merely work in progress to keep me moving. By the time I make them into a book, they should be worked out and cleaned up. It’ll be familiar, but (hopefully) delightfully different.
I’ve been preparing Tangled Magic for publication and I started thinking that I should add a map and a character list like I’ve done for my Sacred Knight series.
Now, keep in mind that I had this thought while I was actually working on a scene for Walk the Path, sequel to Tangled Magic, because this is where one of those odd synchronicities take place.
These two things made me start thinking about the character list in Sacred Knight. Did you know that there is actually a character missing from the cast in To Birth a Destiny (book 3) as well as Prince of the Ruined Land (book4)? I have mentioned it a few times and no one has ever come back to me saying that they have found the character.
Okay, yes, it is one character in a lineup of nearly 100. I admit that it’s probably not very obvious.
But here comes Tangled Magic and I have an opportunity to either list this very character (sort of – I’ll explain below) in the cast or not. The situation repeats for Walk the Path. If I really wanted to push it, I get another “chance” to hide this character in the character list for Palladium.
Now the reason I say that it’s the “very character” is because it’s not necessarily the same person. It is the same person in To Birth a Destiny and Prince of the Ruined Land, but in the other books, there’s a possibility that it’s more of a position, like a title.
And I am the one left laughing because I never did give this character an actual name in the Sacred Knight series.
As for the synchronicity, I was writing about this character in Walk the Path when I actually realized what was going on with this character.
Yep, now I’m really launched into my maniacal laughter.
I’m having fun wondering just how long I can “hide” this character. Maybe if I make it all the way to the release of Palladium without someone pointing it out, I’ll set up some kind of prize for finding the missing person.
Until then, I already consider the game afoot. (grin)
Sometimes I like to go back through my sketchbook. I find interesting things.
Here’s a partially inked picture of *shock* Steigan. I use to draw him more than anything else. Not so much these days, but every now and then he pops up.
You can see that it’s over 2 years old.
More interesting is that on the next page, I found this statement that I wrote:
His eyes are older,
Yet they still mock me.
Temptation leave me be.
I am an idiot.
His eyes still haunt.
My heart grows none the wiser.
Just have to say, “Say what?” I found this to be a completely odd statement in my journal. Who the heck was I talking about? Was it just words that popped into my head? I have lines that do that sometimes, but I generally write them down in an idea file, not in my sketchbook. This makes me think I was actually referring to someone. Besides, words like “I am an idiot” don’t usually fill the snippets that land in my head; that also feels more like me talking in my head.
Since this was also dated around 2017 and there is absolutely no clue as to what I was thinking about on that day, I guess this will fall off into the mysteries of mankind. The world will never know what adventure I was on that day which led me to write these words.
Oh, and it’s more proof that I am no poet. But I do enjoy it when my past self leaves my future self some tantalizing mysteries.