Tag Archives: Swords and Fire

How I Accidentally Wrote a Love Triangle [SPOILERS for Swords & Fire!]

OKAY it’s been long enough since THE UNBOUND EMPIRE came out! I’m finally ready to make my tell-all post about Amalia’s romance arc in the Swords & Fire series! WOOHOO!!!!!! GET READY!!!!!!

BUT! This is SUPER SPOILERY.

DO NOT READ THIS POST UNTIL AFTER YOU FINISH THE UNBOUND EMPIRE. I mean it! You will be SO SPOILED, and not just on Amalia’s romantic choices. If you haven’t read the whole trilogy, STOP HERE.

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(No, really, this is INCREDIBLY SPOILERY. If you haven’t read THE UNBOUND EMPIRE, turn back now.)

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(Okay, you’ve read TUE? Yes? Almost there, then, keep scrolling!)

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OKAY! SO!!!

I never meant to write a love triangle. I swear. I don’t even LIKE love triangles! (Well, mostly. I can think of a few that were pretty cool.)

I originally wrote THE TETHERED MAGE as a standalone YA novel. In those early drafts, Amalia & Marcello wound up together at the end, yay! Happy ending!

…Yeah, so, obviously STUFF CHANGED. TTM became the first book of an adult fantasy trilogy. Amalia’s arc became something completely different—about taking responsibility rather than bucking authority. It couldn’t be a simple feel-good WOOHOO LOVE CONQUERS ALL, SCREW YOU MOM, I DO WHAT I WANT ending. And her romance arc had to span three books, not just one, so it couldn’t resolve so quickly.

So, okay, no problem! When I sat down to plot out Book Two, I figured aha, clearly I must give her a serious political courtship/marriage prospect. She’ll have to weigh love against duty! It’ll be great!

But I can’t just make him some jerk she should obviously reject, I thought. That’d be too easy. This has to be  a hard choice, pitting personal preference against political necessity. And then I thought OOOOOOOH, I’LL MAKE HIM A WITCH LORD!

And then HEH, I’LL MAKE HIM THE CROW LORD, CROWS ARE AWESOME.

(Yes, I do think in all caps, in fact, WHAT OF IT?)

And then I started writing Kathe and suddenly it was WHO ARE YOU WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH MY PLOT WAIT STOP PUT THAT DOWN!!!

So yeah, Kathe kind of took off on me, and I wound up unexpectedly adoring him. BUT it was still clear to me (and you are welcome to disagree with me, seriously, it’s completely subjective) that Amalia would be happier with Marcello.

And then as I was writing THE DEFIANT HEIR, it kind of sank in that Amalia’s arc was not really about what would make her happy.

OH SHIT, I thought, I HAVE TO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. I wanted Amalia’s choice to be genuinely difficult, and for readers to not know what she was going to do, or even necessarily what they WANTED her to do. Which meant the choice had to be hard and unclear for me, too.

So I made a decision, partway through drafting THE DEFIANT HEIR: I was not going to make this choice now. I had NO IDEA if she would wind up with Kathe or Marcello. NONE. I wrote and edited the whole book not knowing. My editor asked me if I knew, and I was like NOPE. NO CLUE.

Then it came time to plot out Book Three. And I had to make my choice.

CRAP CRAP CRAP, I thought.

And also HEYYYYYYYYYYY I COULD DO A POLY ENDING! NO ONE HAS TO CHOOSE! EVERYONE WINS!

But I knew (and, uh, my agent reminded me) that would be a cop out in this particular case, much as I might consider polyamory a fine solution to many love triangles. That wasn’t where this story and these characters were going. It would be me just gratifying myself (okay, and some of my readers) and letting me and Amalia dodge making our choice.

(But, you know, if someone wants to write that fanfic, HAVE AT.)

So anyway, I did what any reasonable writer would do: I TOTALLY PANICKED. I wrote my agent an email basically going HELP I WROTE MYSELF INTO A LOVE TRIANGLE AND NOW I HAVE TO GET OUT OF IT WHAT DO I DOOOOOOO.

My agent (Naomi Davis, who is awesome, by the way) gave me all sorts of incredibly good advice about stuff like tying the romance arc inextricably into the story, upping the stakes, doing something unpredictable, and generally being REALLY MEAN…but ultimately threw the decision RIGHT BACK INTO MY LAP. (Where, to be fair, it belonged.) I wasn’t getting out of this one. I had to figure this out myself.

I knew I wanted to pull Marcello back into the center of the plot. I knew I wanted to up the stakes and make Amalia’s choice EVEN HARDER. And I knew that ultimately, what happened with the romance arc had to be an important part of Amalia’s overall character arc. It couldn’t be, like, her fun little dessert plotline where she just has to choose which delicious flavor of ice cream she wants today.

Aaaaand that’s when I got the horrible idea of turning Marcello into a chimera. I was actually partway through a draft where that was TOTALLY NOT A THING, and suddenly here was this idea which would CHANGE EVERYTHING. The whole focus of the book, Amalia’s arc, the ending, everything.

Part of me was like NOOOOOOOO! THAT’S TOO MEAN! I LOVE MY CHARACTERS AND WANT THEM TO BE HAPPY! DON’T DO THIS!

So of course, I knew I had to do it.

And that made it EVEN HARDER to decide who she’d wind up with at the end, and I waffled for a long time. But ultimately, I knew that Amalia’s entire arc was about growing into her role and accepting her responsibilities and everything that came with them. And that meant going with the political choice after all (who, HEY, happened to be a hot Crow Lord, so COULD BE WORSE!).

I also wanted to show that complicated intersection of life and romance we face in reality, and to reinforce that you absolutely can love multiple people but have to make complicated life choices about who you can be with. That it isn’t all about finding your One True Love and having that magically fix all your problems (though it can be nice to escape into that fantasy). I never meant to write a love triangle, and I still honestly don’t quite think of it as a love triangle—more like a love/duty/politics/look-it’s-complicated POLYGON of some kind. And when I started thinking it all through, I realized that just as Amalia couldn’t achieve her full growth if she backed down from political duty and chose Marcello, Marcello couldn’t achieve his full growth with Amalia. He has his own important goals and ambitions, his purpose and career, and ways he wants to shape the world into a better place. He has more to become than just Amalia’s shadow.

It was really important to me to show that Marcello would be okay, though. And that’s where the scene with Istrella poking him in the eye came from. (Also because SHE TOTALLY WOULD DO IT—THANKS, ISTRELLA.) I didn’t have any room at the end of the book to show more than that, but I really hope to at some point write some epilogue short stories or something (or maybe more books someday, you never know, but at LEAST some short stories or vignettes) giving you more of a glimpse into how things pan out for all the core Swords & Fire characters!

In the process of plotting, I considered so many options. Having Amalia wind up with Marcello, with Kathe, with both, with neither. Killing off one or both of them. I went with the story that felt the most true to me—the most satisfying, if not necessarily the happiest (but TOTALLY NOT THE SADDEST OPTION either, I assure you). But all those alternate endings were possible—they could have happened—and if you prefer one of them, I totally encourage you to have that headcanon or write that fanfic!

And if you’re hoping to find out more about how things wind up going for Kathe and Amalia, well, I didn’t want to drop too strong of a hint in THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (which takes place 150 years later), because I want people to be able to read the trilogies in either order and I don’t want to spoil anything. But there MIGHT be a super subtle hint in there as an easter egg for Swords & Fire readers, and I MIGHT be hoping to add more such hints in the rest of the new series.

(PS: I totally don’t know where the romance arc is going to wind up in the new trilogy, either, for entirely different reasons. WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS TO MYSELF?!)

Happy reading!


Swords & Fire Fan Art (& More) Contest!

There is NOTHING I love more than fan art, so I’m having a contest! Prizes will at minimum include an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of my new novel in the Swords & Fire universe, THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (not out until June, but you can get it early if you win)! Plus, I’ll add more prizes if I get a lot of entries!

The details:

INTERNATIONAL CONTEST! Since this contest is all about my awesome readers, I want to include ALL of them!

WIDE DEFINITION OF ART! Entries can include memes, stick figures, cosplay photos, quote calligraphy, Incorrect Swords & Fire tweets, aesthetic boards, etc. All skill levels acceptable!

MULTIPLE PRIZES! If I can get enough entries, I’ll add more prizes! I’ll start with an ARC of THE OBSIDIAN TOWER, but if I get a really great response I’ll add stuff like signed books, an annotated/doodled book, Skype call, etc. Stay tuned for further prize announcements!

TIMEFRAME: The contest will run 1 month, to give time for people to create stuff (and for me to hopefully add prizes/annotate a book/etc if I get enough entries). Winner(s) will be picked on March 9.

HOW TO ENTER: Reply to the top tweet in this thread with your art or a link to it! OR, if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use my contact form to email me a link to your art that I can post to the Twitter thread for you.

MORE DETAILS:

  • One entry per person (you can post more than one thing if you want, but it only counts as one entry)
  • You can enter Swords & Fire art you already did earlier; doesn’t have to be new
  • Art can be any media but MUST pertain to the Swords & Fire trilogy/characters
  • If there is one prize, I will select a random winner from entrants. If there are multiple prizes, I may pick my favorites for some/all of the additional prizes!
  • I may retweet your art to squee over it and show it to the world, but I will not repost or reuse it, only share YOUR tweet/link
  • If you take commissions and want to include a link to your web page in your entry tweet or otherwise plug your work that is TOTALLY COOL

Let me know if you have any questions! I CANNOT WAIT to see your entries!!!


Predictive Text Chapter

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen Botnik’s Harry Potter chapter written with a predictive text keyboard programmed with all seven books, you should go read it now. It’s the funniest thing I’ve read all year. Then come back and read this post much later, because just about anything will pale in comparison.

I was so inspired that I decided to use Botnik’s app to upload the text of THE TETHERED MAGE and see if their predictive text keyboard could write a chapter of the sequel for me! I didn’t have the time to invest to get good at using it, but here, for your amusement, is my predictive text chapter of an unspecified Swords & Fire novel.

(Note that this will be funnier if you’ve read THE TETHERED MAGE.)

 

CHAPTER ???

I tried another time to leave the Mews without thinking about fire warlocks. I was hoping to find Marcello in the ducal library. Gray walls held nothing more than a perfunctory smile stretching toward disappointment. I maneuvered between rows of sleek men, fishing for young courtiers.

A new voice said, “The Empire depends on our hospitality.”

A disturbing figure that was worse than any doubt of my own limits flicked his fingers through his hair. Prince Ruven leaned against a wall, like a terrible idea.

Ruven smirked knowingly. “I can change your empire.”

I said lightly, “Here I almost missed your presence in my gut.”

Ruven placed a hand on my shoulder, and I gagged. “You should take my kingdom without hesitation, or ambition burns in my heart.”

My throat was nothing casual. “I couldn’t commend you to my mother.”

Ruven chuckled. “So I suppose it could be dangerous to tell her this foolishness.” His heart was done with my mother. He sighed and sipped a little dish of cheese.

My mother glided through the crowd with a spyglass, watching for assassins. Of course she wore a new diplomatic dagger. It seemed designed to keep any trouble from her life, like some foreboding of nine Hells.

I stared at my mother’s things as she sucked down the whole cursed hall. A moment lengthened under the assessing stare of her intrigues.

She smiled faintly at my breeches. “The Mews has secrets, like a terrible idea about your projects.”

She shrugged wearily at my marred design. It seemed designed to tighten my corset without fuss.

I wanted to protest that she knew nothing of my life. “I tried to do something for you. You have no choice about my overly intricate schematics.”

She raised an empty glass. “That must hurt. You should think of Raverra and your duty.”

“You know I wanted to make everything fit in this gown.”

She shrugged. “I could only imagine what you meant. Destruction, undergarments, and your dignity seem bent with powerful magic.”

A moment later, all my friends from Ardence said that my mother was untouchable.

 

***

 

The doge himself occupied my favorite chair at our table. I gestured to the steaming cups already awaiting us on the table, with both hands on fire. It could be anything, at our family dinner.

I stared past the doge, and Zaira lifted her hand in despair. Marcello bowed stiffly, with a grand resignation.

It could never happen that we wanted a quiet moment for private conversation. I wanted to ask him before breakfast to make sure that she wore her own ignorance as a swarm of ants.

The doge said wearily, “A certain unctuous merchant conveyed bodies in his robes to get into your corset.”

My mother would never stand for that.

“You should preclude comfortable trousers,” I said. “Anything that we can spare to keep them from being unimpressed.”

Marcello murmured, “They want to join your family in their ruthless cruelty.” He leaned against my side and hurled a glass of wine from the room.

In my mind, that was mere noises. I said carefully, “To make the empire covered with their power.”

The doge said, “The Empire stands to keep hidden among the Serene Envoy’s mistresses.”

My mind lacked precise control of my anger. I wanted to protest his attention, for his eyes gleamed with a soft echo of his own ignorance. “You should pay more attention to the imperial seal. The imperial palace is not what you truly wish it were.”

Zaira shrugged ruefully. “A few seconds without fear could change the world.”

The doge dictated a long answer. “You’re a trivial terror, for you know why I can hate you.” His elegant disapproval shaped Zaira’s cellars with his bold voice, and Zaira laughed at his face.

She gave me a challenging smile, and Zaira snorted, “I could survive your presence if you weren’t selling meat to the ragpicker.”

He ordered her to make assumptions, or the generals would pounce. His face burned, as if he might argue with her in the foyer of our palace.

Lace cuffs flew out of her coffee, and Zaira hesitated. A moment later, as he gasped in recognition, she tossed a little orphan girl at him.

I stared at war.

Zaira raised her fist and tried to clench the doge in her hand. She slipped a handful of powerful magic in her hair. Fire leaped at his face, as if he expected something simpler than a pure breath.

Zaira yanked the doge from his seat. His brows lifted toward the spreading flames. I tried not to flinch at her reflection, with her dark fire flickering between us.

She tore his heart, fluttering like a pigeon, with her courtly coiffed hair.

Marcello winced as he scooped a handful of shrieking tendrils in his hands. I asked Marcello for a cake, and he spread the city into flame.

Zaira snorted in her hand. Her arm hung over a hundred deaths. A fire gnawed at the stones scattered around the doge’s door.

I was done at last: vulnerability cluttered the floor.


Big Announcement!

Sooooooo… I have some news.

I have AWESOME news.

I have the VERY BEST NEWS IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!

I am giddy with delight to announce (and I cannot believe I’m saying this and it’s true and this is really happening) that Orbit has acquired my fantasy novel, THE TETHERED MAGE, for publication in Fall 2017!

NO SERIOUSLY THIS IS A REAL THING THAT IS HAPPENING! HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!

(I am being totally professional about this, as you can see.)

And you know what else? You know what? IT’S GOING TO BE A TRILOGY! So I really hope you like my book, because there’s going to be THREE OF IT! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

LOOK! Here’s proof I’m not dreaming:

deal-announcement-tethered-mage

You guys, I can’t even tell you how happy I am. This has been my dream since I was literally five years old. And Orbit is an amazing publisher, and my editor (Lindsey Hall) is amazing, and my agent (the incredible Naomi Davis) is a goddess.

I am so far over the moon I can’t even SEE the moon from here. I’m past the Oort cloud in deep space. It’s crazy. I probably need some oxygen and I might die. OF JOY.

YAAAAYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!