Saturday, June 29, 2019

#55 Inside the Emotion of Fiction WINGS UNSEEN by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

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****Rebecca Gomez Farrell’s WINGS UNSEEN is #55 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece.  

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? Wings Unseen. It was once titled Lansera, the name of one of the fictional countries in the book. It was also titled Feathered Heads in a later draft, which was an absolutely horrible name, but I knew I needed something other than Lansera. I'm so glad I finally came up with Wings Unseen, which readers will see functions on multiple levels in the narrative.

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no. If yes, what publisher and what publication date? Yes, Wings Unseen was published by Meerkat Press in August 2017.

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I began thinking about it in college, around the year 2000. I worked on it in bits and pieces over the next decade, finishing the final draft in 2013.
Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? And please describe in detail. And can you please include a photo? Although coffee shops play an essential role in my writing habits, the bulk of my work on Wings Unseen was completed at my home in Durham, NC, where my husband and I lived from 2007-2013. 
     And a good portion of that time was spent on our deck, from which I'd watch my three cats playing in the very green grass and hunting voles and shrews in the woods behind our house. It was a lovely place to live, until late spring when the tiger mosquitoes would come out along with the humidity. Let's just say that my hatred for those mosquitoes also found its way into the book.
What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? When Wings Unseen was nothing more than a collection of images in my head, I wrote those images down on sheets of a notepad. Then, when I had an afternoon I could spend writing, I would tear a sheet out at random and get to work. Once all my scenes were complete, and many of them went through my critique group, I went to my next draft, which consisted of ironing out just what the plot was, developing the necessary timeline, and making all the scenes tie together.
     I often think of writing a book for me at that stage as putting together the pieces of a puzzle – until I have all those pieces, I don't fully know what the picture will be. This makes me a pantser or gardener writer rather than an outliner. Future drafts involved making that second draft actually good, then writing a final draft after getting feedback from beta readers.
     I type directly into my laptop, and I eventually started keeping a character tree and glossary as I went, updating them as needed. I usually work in total silence, though I will occasionally put on instrumental music in the background.  

What is the summary of this specific fiction work? When Prince Janto leaves for an annual competition, hoping to slay the mythical silver stag, he leaves behind his fiancée, Serra Gavenstone, whose brother has just been murdered. Serra accepts an unexpected invitation to study with the mysterious sacred Brotherhood, hoping to find a place to grieve her brother's death in peace. What she finds instead is a horror that consumes all living things from within, a horror that only she can see. And her brother's killer, Vesperi, a ruthless noblewoman, possesses the silver flame, the only weapon that can save them.
     Janto, Serra, and Vesperi must learn to believe in themselves and each other to defeat this invisible plague and the darker terror from which it springs.

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? In Chapter 12, Serra has just arrived at the Temple of Enjoin with her trusted, overly emotional handmaiden, Bini, and Ser Allyn, a no-nonsense, disapproving, advisor to the king. Though she was not close to him, Serra is grieving for her murdered brother, Agler, and will be staying with the priests of Madel, their goddess, to study their ways and escape her life at court for a time.
      Oh, and it's a courtesy in this world for people to greet and dismiss each other by clasping their hands together and then raising their elbows up. The higher and longer the gesture is held, the more deference is given.

Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference. The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.

Wings Unseen, Chapter 12 excerpt, pages 66-68

     Bini cried when the priestess said no, she couldn’t stay. They had arrived at Enjoin after three days riding in the carriage. Her normally tidy braid frayed, Bini clasped Serra’s hand. The servant’s skin felt smooth and cool as always, but her composure was the opposite. The pollen that had drifted inside whenever Serra drew the curtains for fresh air had reddened Bini’s eyes, and her dress had wrinkled on the journey. Both worsened at this farewell.
Serra must have looked much the same. As they hugged, she felt the black mourning ribbons Bini wore and was touched by her handmaid’s loyalty. The same black shreds of ribbon were tied around Serra’s arms. Sometimes, she wondered if they wrapped around her mind.
“I will be fine.” Though if honest, being left here with no one familiar frightened Serra. Alone was all she had craved for over a week, but with Bini leaving too, Serra found the idea less appealing than it had sounded in the throne room when the Brother invited her to come to Enjoin. Perspectives could change so swiftly. Had Agler thought the same as he burned?
“Oh, Lady Serra, don’t let them make me leave you, not so soon after your brother’s death. You need me!”
Serra breathed in the scent of Bini’s salve, libtyl oil and the milky nectar of soothpricklers that made her skin so cool and inviting. She put on her fixed smile and poise that had been given much practice of late and pulled away from her handmaid. “It will be fine, I promise. The priests and priestesses will look after me here. Besides, who else but Madel could give me peace?”
Bini gave another loud sob, but she withdrew. “Goodbye, Lady Serra.” She sniffled. “I will relay all the plans we discussed for the wedding to the queen. We will make it perfect for you.” Bini raised her elbows in farewell. Serra returned the courtesy then took Ser Allyn’s hand and allowed him to help her down from the carriage. He was in charge of the small group that had brought her here: Bini, the carriage driver, and a pair of mounted guards who had hauled her trunk and their provisions on a cart.
“Where should we put her belongings?” Ser Allyn asked the priestess who greeted them, a slight woman with the strawberry-blonde hair that people from the Western regions sometimes had—hair like Janto’s. Her garb was simple, a thin, ivory-colored garment. Serra envied her; in this thick air, Serra's own traveling gown made her feel twenty pounds heavier. If she had traveled more often, she might have known it would be far too confining for this weather.
“You may take them back with you. We will provide all the Lady needs.”
Ser Allyn made to insist, or at least that’s what Serra thought the quick reddening of his face meant. His cordiality stopped him as it nearly always did.
“It’s fine,” Serra said for the third time in two minutes. “My clothes would do me no good here. I did not think to ask advice on packing, and besides”—she leaned up on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear—“I would not want the other initiates thinking me pretentious. The princess should not put on airs, correct?”
He regarded her thoughtfully. “The trunk will go back with us.” Sers Irven and Rullo, who sat their horses heroically in the heat, tunics soaked with sweat, dismounted to place it back on the cart.
“You are welcome to refresh yourselves here,” the priestess offered.
Ser Allyn waved the thought away. “This trip was unplanned—I cannot stay away from the king for long. But if you would replenish our water pouches . . .”
“I will send someone to you with fresh water.” The priestess raised her elbows to him and then to Serra. “Follow me, Lady Gavenstone.”
Serra followed the priestess down the short path toward the Temple of Enjoin, the central sanctuary of Lansera. It was the same shape as all other temples she'd seen, though perhaps twice as immense. The glass dome roof was capped by a model of Madel’s hand reaching skyward. In the towns, temple walls were painted with vibrant, colorful murals done by artisans. Enjoin's were plain white with a sheen of yellow from the pollen of Lake Ashra’s flowering bushes.
Serra’s arm itched as she walked. When she reached to scratch it, the mourning ribbons dragged against her hand, and the sensation shocked her like a bee sting. She whirled around, heart pounding, and ran as fast as she could to the cart that held her trunk. How could I forget, even for a moment? She lifted her skirt and jumped to where the trunk rested, tripping over all the fabric.
“The key,” she demanded of Sers Irven and Rullo on their horses. “Where is the key?” Their astonishment at her impetuous behavior showed only in their eyes. Ser Irven fumbled in his saddle bag and pulled out a key covered with engravings of Gavenstone’s vines. Serra grabbed it, her hand shaking as she turned the lock. Where did I put it? She had been in such a hurry to pack; Ser Allyn would faint from the sight of so many pricey gowns tossed in disarray. Luckily, he had gone into the carriage with Bini.
Her fingers grazed the pebbled exterior of Janto’s seeing glass, and she hesitated, wishing for it, too, but it wasn’t what her heart wanted right then. There. Agler’s handkerchief peeked out from beneath a set of her undergarments. She snatched it and held it close to her chest, closing her eyes in relief. When she opened them, she found all her companions staring at her with concern. Bini’s eyes filled once again with tears.
“I am sorry.” Serra clutched the cloth in her hand. His ring she had left for safe-keeping in her room, but this she could not part with. “I forgot something I needed, that’s all. I did not mean to worry you.”
Ser Allyn disapproved, but the others nodded with understanding. She supposed a near-princess who had lost a brother was allowed a few moments of gracelessness. Serra took Ser Irven’s hand to disembark then gave Bini another hug. “Thank you, again.” She raised her elbows to them. “Have a safe journey home. Tell the queen I will miss her greatly.”

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you? And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? This moment is a common experience in grief – not arriving to study with a fantasy world's religious order, of course, but having a moment of panic that you've forgotten about the person who has died, and that you're betraying them when you realize it. Earlier in the book, Serra explains that her brother, Agler, gave her that handkerchief the last night she saw him, during another rather emotional moment in the narrative. So she has imbued the handkerchief with meaning; it symbolizes all she's lost. If she had let the carriage go off with that handkerchief, she may have never forgiven herself for it. It's just a piece of fabric, but for Serra, it's the only connection she has to her immediate family members, who have all passed away. So the relief she feels when she finds it, despite how rash her panic may have appeared, is very relatable for people who have also lost loved ones.

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt. There weren't any significant changes to this selection from the final draft to the published draft. I'm including a screenshot of my editor's suggestions for the two middle pages – on the other two pages (RIGHT and BELOW LEFT), there were only comma corrections. You'll note that I use ryn and rynnas rather than priests and priestesses in the book itself – I just thought I'd spare you the extra terminology in reading the excerpt. Us fantasists love building new vocabularies!

Other works you have published? I've had over twenty shorter works published in magazines, anthologies, and online. The full list is at my website, here:
         Most recently, that includes a reprint of my horror short story, "Thlush-a-Lum," in the Fright into Flight anthology from Word Horde. I am expecting a humorous fantasy tale, "An Inconvenient Quest," and a romantic urban fantasy tale, "Wishing for More," to be published within the next year in Stupefying Stories and Selene Quarterly, respectively.

Anything you would like to add? By the end of the year, I hope to have finished Draft #2 of Wings Unfurled, the sequel to Wings Unseen. We'll see if my publisher loves it enough to publish it! I will also soon be shopping around the first book in my postapocalyptic, paranormal romance trilogy, Natural Disasters, to agents. Wish me luck!
     Rebecca Gomez Farrell writes all the speculative fiction genres she can conjure up. Her first fantasy novel, Wings Unseen, debuted in August 2017 from Meerkat Press. You can find her shorter works in over twenty publications including Typehouse Literary Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and most recently, the Fright into Flight anthology from Word Horde.
     Becca co-leads the 400-member strong East Bay Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup group and organizes a chapter of the national Women Who Submit Lit organization, which encourages all writers who identify as women and/or genderqueer to send their work out for publication. She is also a regular participant in the local literary reading scene.

     Becca’s food, drink, and travel blog,, has garnered multiple accolades and influences every tasty bite of her fictional worldbuilding.
Social media: @theGourme
(Right:  Becca at her book launch for WINGS UNSEEN)


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