Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I've just submitted Queen of Courtesans, another novelette starring Bounty Fenetre, to Scrybe press who recently published Hobgoblin Boots. It occurred to me that I've been on a very strange, backwards and forwards kind of road with this particular character.

Bounty first appeared in something of a cameo role in Liquid gold, my second Mocklore novel. Her only significance was as Aragon Silversword's annoying ex-girlfriend. But I had bigger plans for my chainmail lingere-wearing, straggle-haired half-hobgoblin girl...

My next Mocklore novel, Sopay Ballads, was the story of another of Bounty's ex-boyfriends, Luc Triclover the down-and-out hero who was on the run from three goddesses who were determined to make him choose which was the most beautiful. Bounty, working for the Lady Emperor, is trying to sabotage a theatrical company that Luc was hired to protect, and all three goddesses conspire to make their lives chaotic...

The publishers hated the manuscript. Looking back at it, it was an overly muddled story with two many main characters and subplots. I have plans to rework it as several separate stories, something that will hopefully be possible with the support of Scrybe Press, who are hungry for more Bounty stories.

While I was trying to figure out what went wrong with the still-unpublished Soapy Ballads, I wrote an origin story for Bounty and Luc, which explained their complicated relationship by going right back to the beginning. I loved the story (Hobgoblin Boots), as I thought it captured the characters far better than the aborted novel had managed. The only problem was, it was 13,500 words, which is an almost impossible length to sell. That, and it was obviously the beginning of a series, which limited my options even further. It did the rounds of various fantasy magazines for a year or two, while I kept working on other stories.

I knew that Bounty was best friends with my other serialised short story character, Delta Void. The novel Soapy Ballads had been punctuated by letters between these two friends. After I sold a few Delta Void stories to Australian anthologies such as Agog! and AustrAlien Absurdities, I wrote a short story in which Delta and Bounty teamed up on an adventure, and was set several years after Hobgoblin Boots, but well before Liquid Gold -- to be precise, it was a story set at the end of the relationship between Bounty and Aragon Silversword. Given that I had been writing both Delta and Bounty stories in first person, it was very strange to write a story combining the two -- although this was definitely a Delta story, it provided a new perspective on Bounty through the eyes of her long-suffering best friend.

Delta Void and the Stray God, the Bounty-Delta crossover, will be published in the Dec-Jan issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine this year.

Meanwhile my poor little Hobgoblin Boots was still doing the rounds -- the main complaint of editors who rejected it was that it didn't have an entirley satisfying ending. I knew that! It was the beginning of a series, or possibly the beginning of a novel, and I understood their frustration. But I still wanted to find a home for it!

Scrybe Press came to the rescue, an utterly brilliant and revolutionary small press publishing house who have dedicated themselves to publishing short stories -- particularly long short stories -- as chapbooks, so that they can feature on their own rather than as part of an anthology or magazine. Not only that, but they are particularly interested in stories which form a series, so that their stable of authors will keep feeding the readers with new tales about favourite characters. How perfect was that?

Hobgoblin Boots, then, finally found a home of its own and is now a chapbook published by Scrybe Press. They are interested in pbulishing my Delta Void series and another Mocklroe series in progress about Amberline the pirate, but what they really want more than anything is more Bounty stories.

It came as a bit of a shock, really. my first plan was to rework the Soapy Ballads storyline to cntinue the Luc-Bounty arc, but after dutifully sending in my proposals I hit a blank wall. I wasn't quite ready to write those stories yet -- and I didn't want Bounty to be entirley defined by her on-again, off-again relationship with Luc. Plus, those stories don't start until eight years after Hobgoblin Boots, which was a big time gap to abandon my girl into.

Given that I've been writing this character backwards, there are a few differences between the first, later Bounty and the second, younger Bounty. The later Bounty is more sure of herself, more confident, and has courtesan skills as well as a track record as a bounty hunter. More importantly, Zibria is her town, whereas the younger Bounty has never even visited the place. I wanted at least one story that went some way towards explaining her future self. And it seemed funny to have a story about the end of her relationship with Aragon Silversword, but not the beginning...

So I came up with Queen of Courtesans, a novelette about the beginning of Bounty's relationship with the Courtesan Academy and the mysterious sir Silversword. The strangest thing about writing it was that Scrybe Press have no word limits up to 50,000, so I didn't have to skimp on words. Unlike Hobgoblin Boots, which I spent in a constant state of terror that I would go over 10,000 (which, of course, I did). I was so conscious of not getting too flabby with my writing, though, that I overdid things a bit -- my writing group the Invisible College protested that there wasn't enough characterisation and the story was a little too fast paced -- which is impressive for 15,000 words! So I gave myself permission to slow down a little and add a bit of character here and there.

Don't know yet what the verdict is from Scrybe, but I'm hoping they approve. Now all I have to do is go back to my monster novel Soapy Ballads and turn it into some slender, slinky Bounty + Luc novelettes to keep the series going...

And, of course, write my novel.

And, of course, write my postgrad thesis.

Did I mention that I'm having a baby in January? Time is shrinking...