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April Update - Matia Moryi Edition

It's been a while! In fact, I hadn't even noticed how long it had actually been. The last time I posted one of these updates was in December when I revealed the Fracture and Embers covers. 

And a pitiful amount of progress has been made since then, honestly, but at least it's been some progress. You wouldn't know it from those word meters in my sidebar; they haven't been updated in weeks, mostly because I was waiting until I'd reached certain goals. Fracture is now roughly 40% complete, and I got a little bit of work on Embers done yesterday (yes, yes, even though Fracture is really the one I should be focusing on). 

The explanation for my lack of progress is, frankly, games. I've been gaming for about 5 months straight now, and that's often how I choose to use my spare time. Is it an efficient use of my spare time? Eh... Could I be using my spare time in worse ways? Definitely. I focus primarily on story-based RPGs, so even though there's kind of a set overarching plot, you as the player still shape the story and influence the other characters based on your decisions and actions. It's a different method of storytelling than, say, a book, but it's storytelling nonetheless. And it's been established that one of the best ways to improve your own writing is to immerse yourself in other stories. So despite the fact that my evenings have been consumed by Fallout 4, a fifth replay of the Mass Effect trilogy, and now Mass Effect: Andromeda, I feel like my time hasn't been completely wasted.

Or at least that's what I tell myself. 

If you're in touch with me on social media, you probably already got the memo about this first announcement. Forged From The Stars is no more. Amazon made some recent-ish changes to their KDP Select exclusivity requirements that made it so no books enrolled in the Select program could exist in any other non-Select collections, even if those collections were still exclusive to Amazon (which Forged was). Dakiti ended up on their radar and got yanked from the program, so we decided to go ahead and remove Forged in order to protect our primary work and sales. Its pages will remain live on all of our sites though, simply with disclaimers that it's not available for sale anymore. Review copies will still be available upon request!

Much of my writing focus lately has been on Matia Moryi, one of the primary antagonists in Fracture. I wouldn't call her THE antagonist; that role is played by Alastair Manes, and she's got almost as much of a bone to pick with him as she does with anyone else. From the perspective of the Alpha team, she'll kind of be the face of the enemy, similar to how Sadey Payne was the face of the Resistance for readers in the majority of Ronan. But up until a certain point in the book, most descriptions of her will be from the POV of other characters. This has been an issue I've been concerned about throughout the better part of my writing process, and it reminds me of a similar problem I had at the beginning of Dakiti. In original drafts, the story started out from Ziva's perspective when introducing the Ariva™ backstory. There ended up being a lot of telling. I think switching to Aroska's POV helped readers see and feel the tension and anger a lot better, so I want to do something similar in Fracture by switching some of Matia's POV scenes to a different character. It will take some work, but I think it will really help. This solution is a cross between a shower idea and a workout idea -- which all writers know are the best -- because I totally got it IN the shower AT the gym yesterday morning. 

I also recently posted one of those character aesthetic collages (click for larger view) for Matia, after much deliberation about her exact appearance. She's someone who isn't necessarily proud of some of the things she's had to do throughout her life, but she continues to have to do them from a self-preservation standpoint. She hasn't necessarily "let herself go," but she's got kind of a greasy, grungy look because she simply doesn't care anymore. All that matters is keeping herself alive long enough to finish a job, get paid, and then stay on her employer's good side long enough to repeat the process. I liked how some of those images portray the apathy and grit I've been associating with her as I write.

Then, an artist friend asked if it would be okay if she whipped up a sketch of how she pictured Matia based on the collage, so I shared a couple of minor cosmetic details (namely that her hair is black rather than blonde like that image in the collage) and told her to go for it. (PSA: one of my favorite things is seeing my characters drawn in other people's styles, so y'all can feel free any time if you're artistically inclined!). For the most part, it's actually spot-on. I had toyed with having her wear some sort of colored stripe across her face like this, and once I saw it in the drawing, I knew I was gonna have to go with it. Not only does it look appropriately badass and warrior-like, but as someone who is very mysterious and secretive, it helps her not be immediately recognized. 

THEN, as is the norm when I'm going through a phase of being obsessed with a character, I took it upon myself to draw her in my own style, based on a combination of the collage and Stephanie's sketch. 

After posting her character aesthetic collage and seeing another artist's rendition of her based on that collage, I wanted to try my hand at drawing Matia Moryi myself (with a Prisma filter applied because I didn't finish her jacket and the last bit of her hair last night but was in a hurry to share it). Out of all the new characters in Fracture, she's been the hardest to nail down in terms of appearance. It's no secret that she's Haphezian, but she's been gone a long time so she's done her best to make sure she doesn't *look* Haphezian to the untrained eye (though her height is something she can't really change). I had a general idea of what I wanted her to look like, but I had so many design options. This is someone who has been on the run for a long time, so even though her current appearance is pretty unique, she has taken care to make sure it also adequately erases her past. Her hair is described as being "pulled back into a ragged braid interwoven with colored string and cords of matted hair" (and I decided small braids would be easier to draw than dreads, so...). She wears contacts, dark makeup, and kind of a reddish-brown skin dye that covers her facial tattoos. She also has a scar that I shamelessly modeled after my Fallout 4 character 😉 I definitely decided on more of a grungy, almost-barbaric look after spending a while scrolling through my "Imagination at Work: Appearances" board on Pinterest.

So there you have it. I'm excited for you all to meet her, and I'm excited for the other characters to meet her. She'll play a pivotal role in the story.

Thanks for following me on my journey and putting up with my meandering! I promise these books will be finished someday. Connect with me on social media for the latest updates. 

What I'm reading: Kantovan Vault by Joel Shepherd and The Banished Craft by E.D.E. Bell. The former is the third installment in the ongoing military sci fi Spiral Wars series (I've reviewed both Renegade and Drysine Legacy on my blog). I was asked to read the latter in preparation for the release of the third book in its respective series. It's kind of an alternate-timeline fantasy story with a really interesting setup. My curiosity has been piqued.

What I'm watching: Arrow. I used to just watch it on TV when it aired, but I got way behind and decided to just wait until Netflix picked up the season (3) I'd been in the middle of (plus CW always has an inordinate number of commercials during all of their shows). It's borderline nonsense and often overly dramatic, as most CW shows are, but it's fast-paced and reasonably engaging so it's good to watch while I'm working out. And while obviously choreographed, the stunt work is pretty good. Plus, Stephen Amell is nice to look at and he's been my main inspiration for Aroska for the past couple of years, so I can also say I'm doing writing research while watching ;)