Thursday, April 21, 2011

Love As Thou Wilt

I've been contemplating love the last few days, mostly because what I've been writing? Deals in the tangled relationships of various characters. I was actually thinking the other day I should renew my lapsed membership to Romance Writers of New Zealand; I joined it sort of on a lark about three and a half years ago, and I say "lark" because I never considered myself to be a "romance" author. I tend to dabble in something like urban fantasy, although I obviously sidestep into outright fantasy as well.

With that said, I wouldn't consider myself a fantasy author either; I have no interest in the political maelstroms that most hard fantasy novels seem to deal in. For instance, the only reason I finished The Lord of the Rings the summer I was fourteen? I simply had nothing better to do. My family was camping in our habitual spot at Fraser's Domain and it was extremely pleasant to lie in the sun beside the river and read while listening to CDs, even though I had long since lost interest in the story itself. Finishing it became more a matter of honour than anything else, come to think of it. I had begun the book at the behest of my brother, older than me by two years; he wasn't really known to be much of a reader while I'd had a voracious appetite for books ever since I learned to read (curiously enough, I don't even remember learning how; I can remember learning to write, but my hazy memories of childhood always hold a memory of how to read the letters I couldn't write; I suspect this explains to some extent my peculiar pronounciation of some words and my bizarre default settings when it comes to phoenetically sounding out unfamiliar words). So, the fact that my brother, not the family reader, had read and loved this monster tome? Totally meant I had to do it, too. Although I almost gave up when, a few hundred pages from the end, my extended whānau and I sat down for a lengthy game of Trivial Pursuit that resulted in my receiving the entirely ironic question of: what else did Frodo lose, when he lost the One Ring? The question itself was bad enough, but I clapped my hands over my ears and said: "DON'T TELL ME, DON'T TELL ME!"

Naturally, they told me.

Still, despite the fact I only got to the end of the book in a blaze of grim fatality, it still amuses me to think that I had combined Tolkien, Enya and Central Otago in 1996, long before one Peter Jackson. Me: 1. World: 0.

So, yes, fantasy? Isn't really my thing, any more than romance is. Which isn't to say I can't read and enjoy them; for instance, I found Dune fascinating, though I won't read much beyond it, and I have a long-standing weakness for Nora Roberts, old-school Danielle Steel and those terrible, terrible Mills and Boon books you can chomp through in less than an afternoon. When I was younger I was arrogant enough to assume myself a literary writer, but these days? I think I've accepted what others have recognised in me for years: I'm a writer of character. Plots are a useful sideline in my work, but it's the characters that I write for.

So, this is where we come to the idea of love. It amuses me to no end that my first presumed publishing credit is going to be in an anthology of erotica, paranormal or no; I've never even had a boyfriend (long story, but in the end I'm going to claim conceit and say I'm like the immortal Sherlock Holmes; I simply am not interested in romance in relation to myself). I mean, I entered the story on a whim, not knowing a lot about Mitzi Szereto or her previous works, though I suspected my story would be far too vanilla for her requirements. In the end I did flesh out the two sex scenes to some extent at her request, but the process of editing left me with the understanding that she chose the story on the strength of its atmosphere more than anything else. We have H.P. Lovecraft to blame for this, I think -- I'm sure the man would turn in his grave, to think that a young female author of paranormal erotica is holding him up as her primary influence -- but we'll also blame Amnesia: The Dark Descent for that one. Oh god, that game. It makes grown men cry like little girls. I do love it so.

...this does remind me, actually, that I have to try and write some blatant horror for the Wily Writers' Halloween issue. Because I was exposed to Stephen King at far too young an age -- read side-by-side with Christopher Pike and R.L. Stein, no less -- when I was in my pre-teens and early teens? I wrote ridiculous amounts of gory horror. I have a lingering affection for the genre, to the point I still have a mostly-unwritten novel in my mind that involves pirates, lesbians and MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIES, so...yeah. It'll happen. (And I'm sure Lovecraft would love me to do something with the courtly love of women while invoking his name, too. Ha!)

But yes, there is a bit of an oddity in that I personally have no interest in romance in my own life, but I do focus a lot on it in my writing. Partly it's because the interactions of people are a keystone of their lives, but sometimes I wonder if fanfiction didn't play a part in it. I mean, I've been writing original fiction since I could write -- the first story I remember writing, I was five or so, and it was about worlds of lava with rainbow bridges and children who lived inside a sun -- but I dabbled in fanfiction from when I was about twelve until I was twenty-one or so. I didn't really understand what it was until I was sixteen or thereabouts, which is when the internet first struck my house asunder, but anyone who's read a could deal of fanfic will know that while gen is a valid and common category, it's all about the ship-sailing in the end. And although I'd learned quite a bit from reading far above my age level for all of my young life, I think my first real introduction to smut? Happened through the wonderful world of fanfiction.

Still, though...I've never mastered the art of smut. And I say that as someone about to be published in an erotica anthology. Ah, irony, my old friend...I have one of Mitzi's other anthologies around here somewhere, and though I haven't read all of it yet (I was distracted first by my Charlaine Harris marathon, and right now I'm on a Jacqueline Carey mission) I've read enough to think: "What on earth did she see in my work?" Not that I'm going to rock the boat by asking! ^_~ But, as I said, I read enough ship-fic for various OTPs I'd developed fixations on, and in the end I had to give it a whirl myself. But I discovered rather quickly that original or fanfic? I can't write PWP. Every time I tell a pair of characters to go and get it on, they...tell me a goddamned story.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, in the greater scheme of story-telling. Every scene should be relevant to a story's development, and the fact that I often set out to write two thousand words of smut and end up with a ten thousand word short story that explains to me in detail a significant event in someone's past or a cultural idosyncracity or spawns an entire novel...I suppose it's useful? Although it can be irritating with it, ha. I believe The Simple Story, which I sampled a bit in the last entry, started out that way; I think I just wanted Araben and Aleksandr to have a tender moment, considering the rather ballsed-up state of their relationship at the time. And I'm fairly certain the next story I'm going to share a snippet from, Together We Will Live Forever, was the same -- I wanted to find out something about Otho and Círa, and considering he was sent to "seduce" her in the beginning, I figured the bedroom was a relevant place to explore their dealings with one another. Currently the story is unfinished at fifteen thousand words and deals strongly in the histories not only of Círa and Otho, but of Ryennkar Vassidenel and Arosek Asfiye, and in the complicated machination of the personal and political relationship of Cydrac Agrane and his Second, Andorin Osideros.

And all I wanted was some smut. Dammit.

Still, with that said? I suppose I can take some comfort -- and evil glee, yes -- in knowing that I did once write a "short" story about Círa and Otho that is mostly an extended sex scene...although it also goes a long way towards explaining their estrangement at the time Kit Eryntalla meets them both. Of course, Kit's story? Is a young adult novel and therefore will never have this scene included. It still amuses me to know that it exists, mind you...

However, let us move on to this little bitlet from Together We Will Live Forever. Like most of my short stories, the title is a placeholder and merely borrowed from a song I happened to associate with its writing. You can hear it here; Clint Mansell's score is the real reason I finally watched Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, and this song? Will always make me cry. It's about life, it's about death, but mostly? It's about love. And in the end, no matter what turns of the worlds join and split them asunder, that is really what matters most in the relationship between Otho Calenta, Major in the Crimson Ruby Division Northern Armies, and Círa DeCameiron, Ice Maiden of Aran Nomese and Lady of Greywater.

Otho Calenta and Círa DeCameiron, as drawn by the lovely Neme-chan.

(extract from "Together We Will Live Forever," copyright  2011)

This time, he knew he did sleep. When he awoke some hours later, it was to find himself both cold and alone. In his haste to find her he cared nothing for his state of undress, thrusting the bedcurtains open to reveal the room beyond. A gasp escaped his lips, accompanied by a cool puff of air; whatever he had expected, it had not been what lay before him now.

Snow covered the room like a forgetful shroud. He knew what she was. He had never been able to forget it, had never even wanted to. But he had never seen her do this.


There was no answer to his croaked question. Yet even as he spoke, he realised he could see her. Dawn had broken while he slept, filling the bedchamber with a dull grey light. It seemed that despite the silence, the wind having dropped, clouds still obscured the sky with glum serenity of purpose. The heavy draperies had been pulled back from the great windows, and there she stood: silhouetted against the glass, the plains, and the sea beyond them both.


Still she did not answer. Struck with the uncomfortable feeling that she was not entirely ignoring him, Otho shifted uneasily upon the bed. He could remember all too well the way her eyes had looked only yesterday when she had been the Ice Maiden, that inhuman creature who rang the iron bells of Greywater to herald only death and darkness. It seemed that perhaps she had slipped behind the mask again, though a quiet corner of his mind did wonder if the woman who was his wife was not perhaps the true mask.

Either way, he would not leave her. He was not a man of broken promises.

Pushing back the heavy blankets he swore at the chill of the air upon his naked skin. Casting about for what remained of his clothes left him in rueful despair; aside from a few likely-looking lumps beneath the snow, there was no sign of his discarded uniform. With a sigh, he accepted that he was already looking at it.

Though he kept civilian clothes stored here in one of the great wardrobes, it was over the far side of the room, and the distance between bed and door was roughly the same as the distance separating him from his wife. With a shake of his head, he made his choice. Besides, he thought with some wry amusement, for all he knew it had snowed in there too. It seemed she was in the mood for such impossibilities.

After pulling one of the fleece blankets free of the oval bed, he draped it around his shoulders like he thought himself a Legate. With a gritting of his teeth he steeled himself for the thought of snow between his toes and pushed out of the bed. Though he’d sworn he wouldn’t, he cursed aloud – yet when he looked up, he saw that there had been no discernible movement from the silhouette at the window. Wriggling the complaining digits, he shrugged, struck out on his path. He figured he would forget about it soon enough. As soon as they went numb, at any rate.

As he began to shuffle through the snow on the floor, finding it came almost halfway up his calves at some points, he noted it was growing ever lighter. Day had chosen to make its mark upon the world, for all the grim prophecies of the previous morning, though the sky remained that dun grey; it hung motionless over the world, an unpainted and abandoned canvas.

Against that greyness, she shone, a blaze and white; the snow had settled about her in the fashion of a cloak, granting her its stark purity of colour. It rose from the ground like a cradling hand, wrapped around her entire. As he ventured to stand between her and the window, between snow and sea, he saw that actual stalactites dripped down from her hairline, framing her face like a drawn veil of shimmering diamond. Her eyes, though they did not blink, did not focus upon him, staring only outward; they had taken on the strange colour he had seen for the first time only yesterday. Again, he thought them to be so much like the furious northern seas, that place of the heaving white-tipped waves where the covetous northern god had claimed her for his own. But he Dreamed now, as did her true god-father of the West, and now Círa DeCameiron belonged only to herself.


Her unmoving beauty, stark and pale, reminded him of the army of statues in her Chamber of Mirrors. Housed deep below the crooked pillars of the broken palace above, they were there as lovely and distant and uncanny as she was here. Yet though her sculptures were only ice, beneath her ice she was real. Otho had no idea how Círa awakened her golems. He had a good inkling of how to bring her back to life.

Still, he shifted, uncertain. His feet had begun to protest the frozen passage early on, but even now they hadn’t quite slipped out of the realm of sensation. He looked down to see their redness, and then sighed. He was not a man to shy from his duty, but in that moment, he paused. Though she was not frightening in this guise, not as she had been when he had stood before her when she had dressed in the pearls and damask of the Ice Maiden of the North Sea, it was unnerving to look into those eyes and feel them staring straight through him.

He’d never liked to think long on the fact that while his life was the fleeting moment of mere mortality, hers was an endless stretch of immortal time-keeping. As he looked to her then, he wondered if she was ever able to forget.

Turning slightly, he shared her view, raising an eyebrow to see what he found there. Strange, indeed to see the gardens of Greywater in this fashion: they had become a white plain, an alien landscape of drifts and mountains of snow despite the fact spring had come long ago with the awakening of the sun-bear in the Kaverlen Mountains. Though dawn had long since broken, no footsteps marred the pristine pathless world below. The smoke of early fires drifted from chimneys, both within the precincts of the palace and from the judicial city beyond, and he shivered. No fire had been lit at the heart of her chamber, and his feet were now almost numb through. Círa had never cared much for fire, and he had not held it against her; as a child of the earth-god, sworn opposite of the fire-lady of the South, his own nature demanded much the same. Still, he thought he knew enough to understand the soul-deep fire inside her actual heart.

And even when a traitorous voice inside whispered she has no heart he whispered back: so why can I hear it beating?

It was no childish fancy. When he placed his hand over the ice-box of her chest, for all her prenatural nature he felt its long, slow beat as he did his own. Yet even under his calm, strong touch, still she stared, and did not move. Dropping his hand, he let his eyes skip again to the curtain of snow over Aran Nomese. Strangely, he thought again of Kit Eryntalla, of the boy she had followed like he could save her from this. She’d never believed it of him, had never thought that Otho could save her from this enslavement as he’d promised, but she’d believed it of that boy. Perhaps, he mused, that was the reason why he had the odd feeling that Kit would have known how to wake her from this strange sleep.

In the end thinking of the young man was likely was gave him the notion. He’d never been curious of fairytales as a child, and his father certainly hadn’t chosen to read any to him. His mother had not either, but she had still told him of the power of legends and myth through the beauty and strength of her dance. Otho had learned the stories the same way, in the careful matching of step to beat, of emotion to note. In so many of those stories, one lover had awakened the other with a kiss.

“Well, what the hell?” he murmured. Draping the blanket carefully over his shoulders so it would not fall, he raised his hands to cradle her head and touched his lips to hers. It was hardly the most peculiar thing he had ever done in the name of love, and even before he drew back he had to think with wry amusement that it was unlikely to be the last.


I apologise for any roughness in the work -- I only pieced it together earlier this evening, so it's very much a draft. I just adore Otho when he's struggling with recognising what his wife really is. I also apologise for the fact that aside from the fact they're both naked, apart from his blanket and her snow-cloak? There's not an iota of smut to be seen. Then again...that's just how I roll. Apparently. ^_~


  1. You're being published in an erotica anthology? Congratulations! Where can I find this fabulous collection?

  2. It's still coming at this stage, but there's more info on it here:

    ...and oh my god, that was the worst unintentional pun ever. ;_;

  3. Darling, I thought you'd done it on purpose. You should never admit to your mistakes. Play such double-entendre off as natural, and the world will believe you a terrific wit!

  4. But but but... Tolkien! Maybe if you read something else of his? Like Leaf By Niggle.

  5. I've just never really cottoned on to Tolkien, it seems! I blame "The Simarilion," mind you. Just...never again. XD

  6. Hmm, I can see that. He's got some great short stories, though!

  7. ...he wrote short stories? I never knew that. And given how he wrote his novels, I almost can't believe it. This I need to see! ( know, I'm a Bad Person; I still feel guilty about the first time I was in Oxford. My friend was reading Oriental Studies at Pembroke College, and she took me in there, sat me down in some sort of common room, and told me very seriously THIS IS WHERE TOLKIEN WROTE SOMETIMES and waited for me to be awestruck. I kind of blinked and said: "Oh, okay...let's go see the ducks!" Or something equally asinine. Oops. XD)

  8. Ooh, lucky! I've been to his pub and stood outside his house, and DH has been up to his grave, but I've never been in his rooms.
    He's got.. hmm, about 5 or 6 short stories, I think. If you don't mind buying and reading things out of context, get the fifth and... well, I don't remember. But there's two books in his son's History of Middle Earth series that feature Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers, which are a wonderful blend of fantasy and Englishness. He, um, never actually completed the story, of course...