Story Time: Courting the Lady Scythe

Today’s Story Time is “Courting the Lady Scythe,” which first appeared in Ekaterina Sedia’s anthology, Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy in 2008. The anthology won a World Fantasy Award for the editor in 2009.

This story is set in the same universe as A Warrior of Dreams. Like any decent universe, there’s more that goes on beyond what you see in the main storyline. There are legends and fables and cautionary tales, and this is one of those. Which one is something you’ll need to decide for yourself.

Standard Reminder: “Courting the Lady Scythe” will be online until next Wednesday, October 25th. After that, there will be something else in its place.

 

 

How About “Free”?

A Warrior of DreamsJust a quick note in case anyone didn’t know that LightSpeed Magazine now has reprinted “The Man Who Carved Skulls” on their website, and as of the 7th, it’s free, along with an Author Spotlight mini-interview which will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the story and the process that put it there. It’s set in the same universe as A Warrior of Dreams, but you certainly don’t need to have read the book to follow the story.

For no particular reason, I was thinking about rewards, those little things you do for yourself when you’ve accomplished something and deserve a treat. For a good hour’s guitar practice, for instance, last night I rewarded myself by jamming along with a recording of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood playing “Cocaine” on YouTube. It’s also practice, in that it helps with things like taking cues from other players (play softer during Eric and Steve’s solos!) and keeping in time. Also a lot more fun than doing Spider Fingers.

Then I thought about writing rewards. What’s the reward for a good day’s writing? And I realized that I don’t give myself rewards for that. I look at the words produced and that makes me feel good all by itself.

Life Could Be a Dream

No, this isn’t a dream diary. Most people’s dreams aren’t as interesting as they think they are, including mine, for the simple reason of perspective. A dream is VR in a way that current VR tech can only envy: Fully immersive. Sight. Sound. Taste. Touch. All that is vivd to the dreamer in a way it’s never going to be to the one hearing about it. “I went flying last night! It was wonderful!” and we all go, “Umm, yeah, that’s nice.” Unless we were the ones doing the flying. Quite often without a plane. Exciting? Sure, to the one doing it. Fun? Likewise. Interesting to others? Not so much. Rather like vacation photos. (Disclaimer: There are exceptions. I did say “most.” No, I’m not going to name them. You can assume I’m talking about you.)

Rather, I’m thinking about dreaming as it relates to the writing process. I’ve dreamed complete, wonderful stories that–see above–turned to complete dross in the morning, rather like fairy gold. Even when I remember one in every detail, by morning I realize they make no sense at all. None. And they don’t work. The unusual thing is when they DO work, and I’ve found that the ONLY time a dream suggests a real, workable story to me is not when it tries to hand me a plot. My dream plots are complete nonsense, and those never work. Sometimes I’ll get a workable image, but only now and then. What does work is when the dream hands me a character. And even that doesn’t happen very often. But I can think of three very — to me — notable exceptions.

1) Treedle. This character appeared in “What Power Holds,” an early story published in Dragon Magazine back in 1994. He only appeared in the first one written, but the series he sparked is still going on. The last short story in the series was “The First Law of Power” in RoF in 2001, but it was also the genesis of The Long Look and Black Kath’s Daughter, and whatever more books may come.

2) Golden Bell. I don’t even remember much of the dream she came from. What I do remember was her standing before me, saying, “I have a malady of music, a fever of poetry that consumes me.” That line made it into the story almost unchanged, which was “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng.” Published in the first issue of Black Gate, and also the first piece of mine to ever make it into a Year’s Best compilation.

3) The Lady Scythe. Dreamed her exactly as she was in the story, down to the no-nonsense work clothes she wore underneath her ceremonial attire. She was the Emperor’s executioner, set in the same universe as A Warrior of Dreams. She looked a lot like a cheerful high-rent tavern wench. In actuality she was a psychopath with a heart of ice. Came with the job.  “Courting the Lady Scythe,” in Paper Cities, said book being the winner of a World Fantasy Award that year in the anthology category.

Only three times so far. And in each case, the character with the dream origin is NOT the main character, even though they are responsible for the story coming into existence. This may mean something. Or not. But it’s fun to think about, at least to me. If not for the rest of you, well, dreams are a tricky subject. 🙂

Do-Over

I was never happy with the original cover of A Warrior of Dreams. It had the right surreal quality, but the presentation made it look a little too much like an afterlife fantasy, which it emphatically was not. So I’ve done…well, not tweaking. More of a makeover.

Edited to Add: As part of my general glee over fixing the cover, I should mention that the Kindle edition is available as a free download today and tomorrow only (2-13-2012 and 2-14-2012). There won’t be any more free promotions for this title, so now’s the time.