Forthcoming: Sword and Sonnet

Sword & Sonnet

Sword & Sonnet is coming in 2018!

The project editors are Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler. As well as having editorial experience with PodCastle and Shimmer, they’re also award-nominated writers. The stunning cover art is by Vlada Monakhova.

For publication news and information on how to order, check out their website.

My story, She Calls Down the Future in the Footprints Left Behind, is about a tribe of steppe raiders that get really high before each fight so their seer can predict how it will go. Then they attack the village where she was born.

This is my third pro-rate sale, which opens some doors and closes others. Here’s how the sausage was made:

Having read the editors’ work for a few years now, I had a sense of editorial taste, and an idea of how the story would go long before I sat down to write. It’s unusual for things to go so smoothly, and I’m savoring the luck while I have it.

Per the recommended reading, Shimmer tends toward lush and lovely language regardless of the subject matter. Also, figures like Sei Shōnagon conjure a sense of  erudition found at the height of civilized societies. I didn’t really feel I could do justice to these prompts, but I do love sword and sorcery. Maybe there’d be something in oral traditions and earlier forms that could fit.

I had thought about how to write the seer (ultimately named Naicto) for weeks, trying to work out how her powers functioned and possible plot consequences. The original plan was that she’d have to get to know all the fighters really well in order to record their deeds accurately (and consult with the chief who would live and die, then read out the prediction like an epic poem); but those elements felt too involved to work at this length.

With the deadline coming up, I wrote the first half of the story on a Saturday morning, got stuck, figured out how to fix it while taking a shower (don’t watch the fight from afar, do the reveal in the middle of the fight!), then wrote the second half that afternoon. I gave myself more room for poetic language than usual, because the plot itself was simple. A reread or two, and off it went.

The result was a speculative spin on drummers, psychoactive drug rituals described in books like Food of the Gods, and the transition from an oracular culture to a pragmatic one — learning from the past rather than chasing the future.

It’s not a poet’s tale, but just as every computer has a knapped stone in its ancestry, every poetic form began as a wordless rhythm and a need to remember.

While the drums in most Stabbing Westward songs certainly capture the mood of this story, here’s what I had on repeat while I was working. I love the drums, and most especially the way her voice frays when she belts at full volume.

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