Writers are busy, distracted beasts.
There’s never been a time in my writing career that I’ve had less than three manuscripts going at once. That’s not to say I’m writing them all at the same time—they’re always at different stages, from concept to drafting to editing to publication (for a peek at some of my strategies at each of these different stages, check out My Strategic Author Shoebox). This was true in the very early stages of Woodwalker, back in 2015 when it was just a baby manuscript looking for an agent. That year, I was a park ranger in Yellowstone querying my first book, drafting my second, and plotting my third, when a brand new character popped into my life. Over the past four years, that character has sprouted a whole world and duology around her, with book one, Sunshield, debuting on May 26, 2020.
The Outlaw Road duology has three narrators, but at the heart of the story is a single character, and it’s her alias that gives book one its title. Head below the jump to read about her origins and the story that grew around her, along with her visual development!
While I can often come up with content for my “For Writers” and “For Artists” blog posts, I sometimes have trouble figuring out what readers are interested in. Do you want character sketches? Deleted passages? JK Rowling-style exposés on secret and possibly irrelevant backstory?
This month, instead of guessing, I decided to let you all tell me what you’re looking for. I finished out September with an Instagram Ask Me Anything, which I promised to answer in this month’s blog post. See your questions and their answers below!
It should go without saying, but there are MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS for the entire trilogy below--continue at your own risk!
Recently I’ve given several programs on the power of fan art, and during these programs, I always make sure to stress that the same value applies to fanfiction as well. There’s a good reason for that—most of my completed manuscripts prior to Woodwalker’s publication were fanfiction. The most significant of these, at least in relationship to my published work, is a 67,000 word fic set in the world and events of The Hobbit (in comparison, Woodwalker is 72k words). I wrote it after the first Hobbit movie came out and made me mad with how little it held to the spirit of the book, keeping me awake at night with all the potential that had been lost. It ended up becoming the first of a duology, with the second installment set during The Lord of the Rings.
Nobody has read these fics, not even my best friend and beta reader, who’s read almost everything else I’ve ever written. And they’re not my only LotR fics—I wrote one in undergrad that topped 115k words and encompassed about 500 years of Middle Earth history. But the one set during The Hobbit is the most special to me for several reasons—first, because The Hobbit defined my childhood and ignited my love of fantasy, quests, and worldbuilding. Second, because it was the fic I was writing when my husband finally found out, after four years of marriage, that all the typing I was doing on my computer wasn’t just social media, but fiction writing. And third, because without it, I wouldn’t have conceived of the character of Mae and the plot of Woodwalker.
Warning: Big plot spoilers for Woodwalker below (but none for books 2 and 3). Read them all after the jump!
This month, I am so stoked to bring you an extra-special guest post PLUS the biggest Creatures of Light giveaway yet! As many of you saw, earlier this month I attended Electric City Comicon, hosted by the Anderson County Library System in South Carolina. There I got to moderate a panel with three fantastic SFF authors, judge the Fan Art Contest, and do some super-fun live-drawing for an excitable peanut gallery. It was a great event, but the biggest thrill for me, hands down, was seeing the legendary Sadie by Design cosplay Queen Mona.
Look at this gown! Look at it! Look at her crown! Her pendant! Her hair! Her freckles! From the moment Sadie told me she was thinking of cosplaying Mona, I knew she would be absolutely perfect, but I never expected to be this blown away by her work. Her friend and fellow cosplayer Virginia also showed up in a spot-on rendition of Mae.
My heart, y’all. I think many authors would agree that the ultimate dream is seeing artwork inspired by our books. I spent the day in a sort of foggy high, grinning and clapping every time Sadie glided elegantly through the event. Unsurprisingly, she won second place in the Adult Cosplay Contest. And now she’s been gracious enough to break down her process for you and provide some insights into how she meticulously and lovingly created such fantastic cosplay.
And to make things EXTRA special, we’ve collaborated to bring you the epic CREATURES OF LIGHT PRIZE PACK GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will receive a signed trilogy set from me, two stunning photo prints of Sadie’s cosplay, and a handful of CoL bookmarks and stickers. Check out all the details and enter to win at the end of this post!
Now it’s my honor to introduce Sadie from Sadie by Design---take it all in below the jump!
So you know how I said last month that I was finally getting a Wacom Cintiq to replace my external Intuos tablet? Well, I did it! It wasn't an entirely seamless process, complete with the gutting realization that the Cintiq wasn't compatible with my current laptop, but after some setbacks I got it set up in the past week and have started tinkering with it. And with June's blog structured for readers of my trilogy, what better way to break it in than by drawing a bunch of pictures of my protagonists!
While romance isn't the central part of the Creatures of Light trilogy, it's a strong current throughout all three books. Partnerships--both platonic and romantic--play a big role in driving the plot and upping the stakes. And the romances, be they past or present or on the rise, are not simple, sweet things. They're messy, and bittersweet, and at times very, very hard. Some fall apart over the course of the trilogy, some bloom. But they all have an impact, leaving characters different people from who they were before.
So this blog post features an illustrated snippet from each protagonist's first meaningful interaction with their significant other. Some are right there in the text, and some are only hinted at. Obviously, there are spoilers ahead! But I've arranged and labeled them by book, so if you've only read Woodwalker, you can stop without spoiling the rest; likewise for Ashes to Fire. If you haven't read any of them.... get out now while you still can!(Shameless link to book one in the series here!)
See them all after the jump!
Some of you know that Creatures of Light had to be almost entirely rewritten just a few months before publication--particularly if you were lucky enough to follow along my slow deterioration into temporary insanity while on deadline last summer. The book as it exists now was written in about three and a half months. While there are a few snippets that remained the same from the first incarnation to the next--like some of the travel through the cave system, and a bit of the interaction with Gemma's mother--most of it is completely different. Different characters died, different characters fell in love, different countries ended up with alternative political systems. And almost none of it revolved around the protagonist, Gemma--which became the main reason the story needed a complete reorientation.
The book is much stronger now, thanks to the guidance from my agent and editor and feedback from my betas. And one of the many gifts the rewrite has given me is an entire manuscript of unpublished material. Most of it is irrelevant now, but the prologue below still could have happened within the canon of the current book. In it, we see Mona, Mae, Rou, and Colm a few weeks after the end of Ashes to Fire, with Mona sick in bed and still trying to get stuff done anyway. I never truly loved this prologue, because unlike the first two books, it didn't add any extra layers to the story--and again, none of it revolves around the protagonist at all. But it's got a few little fun snippets, and probably still happened in the interlude between books 2 and 3. Check it out below the jump!
Warning: There are some spoilers for Woodwalker and Ashes to Fire included, so proceed at your own discretion!
This month, in the lead-up to the Creatures of Light paperback release, I've been producing all kinds of bonus content--including character profiles for a few final main characters. The most significant, of course, is Celeno, Seventh King of Alcoro and sort of the unwitting epicenter of all the messes everybody's sorting through in the series. His character design has remained fairly constant from my early drafts--my mom fan-cast him as Oscar Isaac pretty early on, which has given me a good stable design foundation (as well as a phone gallery full of Poe Dameron screencaps).
For Celeno's official character portrait, I took a video of my Photoshop process, from sketch to finished product. Check it out below the jump:
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator