My dad is my exercise buddy, and if it’s not raining we’ll do our warmup outside of the gym. We’re fortunate to have a walking/bike trail near our house that roughly follows a local creek for a pretty long way, surrounded by parks and, in one stretch, parkway. It’s a really great place for walking and hearing the frogs and the owls, or spotting deer and fireflies of the occasional fox. And getting bitten by mosquitoes, because apparently I’m delicious…
But my father is also one of my writing buddies. He always has been. He’s a scientist by training, but he has an artist’s soul, and is the one who hooked me on fantasy stories and beautifully sculpted paragraphs. So on these warmup walks, we often end up chatting about art and music and our writing. Last night he brought up the fact that I haven’t sent him any manuscripts recently. He sounded worried about it, like I’d fallen off the writing wagon. I had to point out to him that I was on vacation for the past three weeks, and had been editing before that so the lack of new novel was pretty unsurprising.
Which, naturally, led to a conversation about the most recent manuscript he has read, which is the one I’m currently revising. He feels strongly that it is, perhaps, a bit too cheerful. I can understand his point, since it’s a bit of a contrast from the news lately which is what we’ve both been reading, but I had to explain to him two things. First, this book is a bit of a divergence from the rest of the Riverton novels. It’s got a different main character who has different problems and different life goals (though not so terribly different, as it turns out!) It’s also maybe a bit more young-adultish? Brian shows up and he’s in his mid-twenties (rather than over two hundred years old…) and his heart is soft, easy to leave an impression on. It’s easy for him to fall into a new situation and form attachments. There’s a bit more swearing, though.
Secondly: I like a happy ending. Well, maybe not perfectly happy, with birds singing and flower petals swirling around, but an ending that is satisfying. Michael sits at his breakfast table at the end of A Demon’s Duty, about to be taken to task by a woman that’s barely an eighth his age, in a situation that he could never have imagined in his wildest dreams. He is totally at sea and unable to draw on his personal experience for the first time since he was a child, and yet he’s content. He’s looking at the challenge and accepting it for what it is: the next stage in his life. I don’t know if that’s a “happy ending” or not, but I found it pretty satisfying.
My father like a bit more grit in his reading material, so he finds my stories a bit… fluffy for his tastes on occasion. I had to explain to him the phrase ‘grimdark’ and that I’m freaking over it. I find so much fantasy out there these days to be a relentless march of the hero having literally everything taken away from them, all their allies turning their backs, and basically the world being the worst place ever.
I don’t want to read that, thanks. I put A Game of Thrones down without making it past the first quarter of the book because I found literally not one character that I would spend time with. They were all horrible people being horrible to each other. Sadly, I found it to be completely in line with most other fantasy I’ve found in the last ten or fifteen years. I’m depressed enough as it is, I don’t need to absorb that sort of relentless negativity in my fiction. (No, really. That’s where the Anxiety Gnomes attack from.)
So I’ll stick with my ‘fluffy,’ more up-beat stories. I’ll read the Hands of Lyr again and go write something where somebody hugs someone. Preferably right before or after some sort of major climactic battle against darkness. Maybe even against grimdarkness.
A quick note here, in case you missed it— A Demon’s Sanction is now available in paperback, in case you prefer tattooed slices of tree corpse to read from rather than a screen!