Ignore The Small Things
Before I begin, I’d like to thank Marsha
for inviting me to the Speculative Salon. Thank you, Marsha! It’s great to be
here and to share some thoughts.
I chose ‘Don’t Ignore The Small Things’ as
my topic today, aimed specifically at fantasy and speculative fiction writers.
make my slightly harassed round of the Internet each day, what catches my eye
most often is the wealth of blogs, websites, FB posts and Tweets that offer
advice to writers. I doubt it’s ever been easier to find the answer to any
question you care to think of regarding the writing profession: from creative
writing, to journalism, to essay writing, non-fiction, or how to find and
submit to an agent or publisher. The ‘Net’ abounds with advice and information
of all kinds and value. Anyone can offer their experiences, from lists of dos
and don’ts, to ways of overcoming the dreaded ‘writers’ block’.
My own writing career began right at the
start of public access to the Internet and at that time, I didn’t own a pc. I
often wonder how different my path to publication might have been had I been
able to use the Net as we do now. I certainly wouldn’t have been caught by the
scam agent (damn her eyes!) who absconded with £300 of my – and others’ –
hard-earned cash. (At least, I hope I wouldn’t!)
It’s also much simpler to find people willing
to be alpha and beta readers – invaluable if you are a rookie writer seeking
feedback from people other than your friends and family. And if you then decide
you’d like to work with an editor or writing coach (such as myself, hint, hint),
the instant communication of email makes the process more intimate and
Amongst this plethora of advice and information
on how to create your fantasy world or write your fantasy novel, it’s easy to
forget The Small Things.
The Small Things are humdrum, everyday
things. Things we take so much for granted, we don’t even think about them.
Things like your favourite beverage: coffee, cola, or tea. Credit cards. Light
bulbs. Everyday clichés. Cussing. Stuff like that.
We all write in different ways. Some people
plan their novel down to the smallest detail before they write a single word.
Some make outlines, write chapter précis, or use the Snowflake method. Some,
like me, just start writing and allow the Muse to have her way. Whichever
method you use, you will eventually end up with a personal world in which your
characters live out their lives. These worlds will, by necessity, contain The
Small Things. But do you pay attention to them? Do you realise how
fundamentally they can affect the credibility of your world, even down to helping
your reader feel a part of it? Many times I’ve begun reading a novel, one which
sounded good from the cover copy, only to find that the writer has glossed over
some small but vital component of their world simply because (I imagine) they
felt it was unimportant.
So, whether you have created a totally new
and alien world, or have based your tale on our dear old Earth, it will still
contain The Small Things. The beings that populate your novel need to take
sustenance. They need to clean themselves, exchange goods or money for
products, illuminate their dwellings (unless they are sightless, of course!),
and cuss. I believe it enhances a novel immeasurably if the writer has used
their creativity on The Small Things. For example, my own novels are set in a fictitious
medieval world where coffee does not exist. I wanted my main female character,
Sullyan, to be as mildly addicted to this stimulant as I am, so I had to invent
a new beverage – fellan. I am not a huge
fan of clichés in writing, but people use clichés, similes and adages all the
time in everyday dialogue, so why not create some that pertain to your own
world? In my Artesans series, where the only means of transport is the horse,
instead of saying someone has ‘a chip on their shoulder’, I use ‘a burr under
their saddle’. My characters use longbows and crossbows, so instead of someone ‘going
off half-cocked’ (which is a vintage firearms reference), I have ‘going off
like a broken bow’. And rather than ‘flogging a dead horse’ (which would be
appropriate but is overused, as clichés are) I have used ‘pissing on a dead
tree’. These inventions are, in themselves, small things, but I believe they
give colour and flavour and, more importantly, a touch of humour, to a novel.
I could, of course, give many, many more
examples along these lines, but I’m sure you get the idea. You don’t have to go
overboard with creating new clichés, inventing new foods, modes of transport,
etc. in your novels, just add one or two. It makes readers take notice, and
it’s fun! My advice for writers, both new and experienced, is: Please don’t
ignore The Small Things.
Publication and availability details:
Book One, King’s Envoy, was published by Rhemalda Publishing on 15 August 2011, and
Book Two, King’s Champion, will be out on 15 August 2012. King’s Artesan will
appear in August 2013. For those who are animal lovers, I had a non-fiction
book published in 2008, about the life of my wonderful Dalmatian, Daisy. It’s
available in print both from my website and on Amazon,
and also as an e-book from Smashwords
(although without the lovely colour photographs). Personally signed copies of
my Artesan books are also available from my website.
‘I was riveted from start to finish by this excellent novel.
Action, intrigue, dirty tricks and humor combine to make this a great addition
to the world of fantasy.’
Barry Tighe, The
Spawater Chronicles, Gieves to the
Fore, and Flashman and the War
between the States.
‘The characters are convincing, the settings realistic and
the action scenes gripping. Cas Peace's competent prose makes the reading
effortless. This series will be a great hit with lovers of fantasy and
Judith Arnopp, Peaceweaver,
The Forest Dwellers and The Song of
Peace weaves her story with the skill of the most accomplished Artesan. If
imagination was an element, she’d be a Master-elite.”
Steven D Jackson, Shifter.
copy for King’s Champion:
After surviving brutal torture and escaping
from Lord Rykan’s dungeons, Major Sullyan is trapped in Andaryon, too injured
to cross the Veils. Slowly dying and determined to find some purpose in the
shattered remains of her life, she travels to the Andaryan capitol to offer the
Hierarch her sword and Artesan gifts in the fight against Rykan and his vast
army. Because women hold no power in Andaryon, Sullyan is met with prejudice,
hostility, and suspicion.
Before she can seek vengeance on the field
of battle, she must prove herself to the Hierarch’s generals. Finding support
from the unlikeliest sources, Sullyan sets a plan into motion to defeat Lord
Rykan and end his bid for the throne. The fate of two realms depends on her
success, but her strength is fading fast and time is running out.
Excerpt from King’s Champion:
Branches whipped past Rienne’s face as she clung to the horse’s
neck. The darkness and the wind of their speed were unremitting. Horse sweat
slicked her fingers. Her arms and legs ached fiercely with the effort of
staying on the galloping beast, and neither the wiry arms circling her waist nor
the unfamiliar chest pressed into her back were helping. She wasn’t used to
riding this fast and certainly not riding double.
A quick glance to her left showed Cal, his horse weaving its own
hectic path through the trees. Taran should be just behind him, Robin and Bull
even further back. At least she hoped they were there. She couldn’t hear them,
couldn’t hear anything above the rasping breath of her horse and the rough slap
of branches. She felt rather than heard the pounding hoof beats as they jarred
up through her thighs and into her protesting back.
Would this ride never end?
Her laboring horse kept trying to slow, but the thin man seated
behind her repeatedly dug his heels into its lathered flanks. Rienne heard the
poor beast grunt as it plunged on through the trees. She grimaced in sympathy.
How much more could it take? Neither she nor the Count were heavy, but even the
stoutest horse would struggle to maintain this pace while carrying two riders.
Rienne didn’t like to think what might happen if it foundered.
How long had it been since she, Count Marik, and Robin had brought
the gravely injured and unconscious Major Sullyan out of those dreadful
dungeons? How long since they had fled Rykan’s palace and the patrols sent to
hunt them? Rienne shuddered, trying not to think of Sullyan’s unresponsive face
as Robin took her onto his horse. Marik had kicked their shared mount ahead of
Robin, desperate to lead them far away from Rykan’s palace. As she passed him, Rienne
saw tears glistening in Robin’s indigo eyes. Since then, she hadn’t had an
opportunity to gauge the Major’s condition. Was she still alive or had she, as
Rienne privately feared, already died? Her injuries were severe; this wild,
panic-stricken flight through an unfamiliar forest might be one ordeal too
The lack of light forced them to use the main forest trails, but
Rykan’s patrols had been coming and going over the previous weeks, as had Marik’s
men, obeying the Duke’s call to arms. Rienne prayed that the tracks they were
making would be lost among all the others. If they could get far enough away by
dawn, surely they would be safe?
She shied at shadows, her heart lurching at each unusual shape that
loomed through the trees. Marik seemed in mortal fear of his life and rode
hunched behind her in silence. She could almost feel him listening for the sound
of pursuit and guessed he was thinking about his fate should Rykan’s men catch
them. Only once so far had Bull sensed someone close on their tail. He had
urged them on to greater speed, and Rienne prayed hard that her horse would
find the strength to endure.
Abruptly, she felt Marik’s body tense. She gasped as a dark shape
arrowed toward her. She grabbed for the reins, trying to turn the horse’s head,
but unaccountably, Marik fought her.
“Let go!” she yelled, driving an elbow into his ribs. He whooshed
out a breath and let go the rein, but it was too late. A large hand had already
clamped onto her horse’s cheek strap and was hauling on it, slowing the
“It’s me, Rienne! It’s alright, we can stop now.”
Bull’s deep bass voice, harsh with strain, calmed Rienne’s
shuddering heart. She managed to turn her head and smile as he brought her
lathered horse to a walk.
“Are we safe? Have we lost them?” She cursed the tremor in her
Bull frowned. “For the moment. I haven’t sensed anyone behind us for
a while. Taran and I have dropped the shield. We’re too tired to maintain it
right now. We still need to be cautious, but I think we can give the horses a
rest. Killing them won’t help us.”
He left her and dropped back, presumably to continue scanning the
woods. Cal took his place, nudging his horse alongside hers. “Share with me for
Rienne nodded and awkwardly made the transition from her own mount
to Cal’s. She ached in every bone and moving was both difficult and painful.
Once she was sitting behind her lover, however, with her arms wrapped about his
waist and her face buried in the back of his neck, she felt much better.
After a few minutes she recovered enough to look behind her. “Cal,
slow up a bit more, please.”
Cal complied and they drew level with Robin’s plodding horse. Rienne
glanced at the Captain, then at the limp form cradled in his arms. Sullyan lay
unmoving, her head bowed against his chest.
Robin raised red-rimmed eyes and she realized he had been weeping.
She nudged Cal’s horse with her foot, edging it closer. “Let me
see.” Reaching across, she drew down a corner of the velvet cloak the Major was
wrapped in and put her hand to Sullyan’s neck above the silver collar, feeling
for a pulse. Her fingers came away bloody. Robin’s eyes never left hers.
“It’s difficult to tell,” she murmured. “The movement of the horse
interferes. But I think she’s still with us. She’s terribly cold.”
“I’m doing my best.”
Robin’s voice choked. Rienne was shocked by his anguish. “Oh, Robin,
I know you are. If not for you, she’d still be in that cell and almost
certainly dead by now. At least she’s among friends, even if ….” She couldn’t
Robin closed his eyes. “That’s no comfort, Rienne.”
For those who don’t know me, I’m Cas Peace,
British author of the triple-trilogy fantasy series Artesans of Albia. I was
born in the lovely county of Hampshire, in the UK, where I still live with my
husband and two rescue dogs, Milly and Milo. Dogs and horses are two passions
of mine and when I left school I trained as a horse-riding instructor. I went
on to own my own horse and to develop an interest in carriage-driving. I then
trained my Welsh Cob, Lively, to pull a carriage, and together we competed in
cross-country driving trials and driving-dressage. That was a few years ago and
now, I concentrate on my dogs. We attend dog-agility training sessions and
sometimes even compete.
In addition to my writing, I work as a
writing coach and freelance editor/proof reader. Please see my website for details.
This June, I am attending the Rhemalda
Publishing reading and writing conference ‘Got Stories?’, being held in Salt
Lake City, Utah, on June 16th 2012. See link for more details. Along
with my fellow Rhemalda authors, I will be giving a talk, on Epic World
Building. The second book in my Artesans trilogy, King’s Champion, will be
available for purchase at the conference, although its official release date
isn’t until 15th August 2012. Come along and be one of the first to
own a copy – I’d love to see you there!