Stories come from different places. Some are fun and quirky, like my flash fiction piece "The Secret Ingredient." That particular story stemmed from a contest run by an online writing group I belong to. The story prompt was something along the lines of, "Write about something that doesn't belong in your kitchen." I couldn't come up with anything that week for the contest, but I liked that prompt, so I let my subconscious toss it around for a few weeks. One day the premise popped into my mind, and I laughed. I also happened to be home from work, thanks to a leaking gas line, so that made it into the story as well. I churned that story out in an afternoon. I chose it for a reading, and enjoyed hearing people laugh at all the right spots.
"The Leaving is Joyful" also stemmed from a contest. The participants exchanged settings and wrote from there. Often, stories suffer from 'white room syndrome.' This contest was geared towards addressing that issue. It was a fascinating learning experience, and it remains one of my favorite writing contests.
When I finished writing my novel Shards of History, I was initially relieved to have finally gotten to the words "The End." After a while, however, I found myself thinking about the characters and wondering what else they were up to. I thought about my main character quite a bit, but I also thought about one of the secondary characters, Rasmus, as well. In the novel, I raised quite a few questions about his past, but I didn't answer all of them. So I wrote "The Road Home" in order to find out more about his past and his future.
Other stories stem from very personal places. "The King of Ash and Bones" was the first story I completed after my father passed away in 2009. At the time, I was in between jobs, I was broke, I had just finished revisions on my novel Shards of History, and it was winter, which is a bleak time anyway. I had nothing to keep my mind from dwelling on how much I missed my father, how much my mother was hurting, and all the myriad things that go along with losing a loved one. I'm not sure how long I went without writing. I think I fiddled around with journal entries for a while, but they were too personal, and I didn't want to dwell on those emotions directly anyway.
I ended up listening to a lot of Johnny Cash. My father was a country music sort of guy, and he enjoyed the older stuff. Johnny Cash is not exactly known for upbeat music, but somehow it was what I needed. I'd sit back, close my eyes, and just listen. After a while, I started getting images and ideas, and before I knew it, I was itching to write a story. I decided to try to infuse my grief into the story without ever directly talking about anybody's father dying.
I think the story turned out pretty dark. I tend to write dark stories anyway. Even my humor is dark. But I felt better afterwards. Writing--and reading--are cathartic. That story was exactly what I needed at the time, and once I'd put it behind me, I felt I was able to move on and write other types of stories.
Only she knows the truth that can save her people. — Like all Taakwa, Malia fears the fierce winged creatures known as Jeguduns who live in the cliffs surrounding her valley. When the river dries up and Malia is forced to scavenge farther from the village than normal, she discovers a Jegudun, injured and in need of help. Malia’s existence—her status as clan mother in training, her marriage, her very life—is threatened by her choice to befriend the Jegudun. But she’s the only Taakwa who knows the truth: that the threat to her people is much bigger and more malicious than the Jeguduns who’ve lived alongside them for decades. Lurking on the edge of the valley is an Outsider army seeking to plunder and destroy the Taakwa, and it’s only a matter of time before the Outsiders find a way through the magic that protects the valley—a magic that can only be created by Taakwa and Jeguduns working together. Malia is in a race against time. She must warn the Jeguduns that the Taakwa march against them and convince the Taakwa that their real enemy isn’t who they think it is before the Outsiders find a way into the valley and destroy everything she holds dear.
An exiled man returns to his family and the life he left behind. A king is determined to avenge his people. A man doomed to die gives his wife her greatest wish. A suspected affair leads to a shocking and wondrous surprise. Roland works her magic again in this four-story collection of eerie and enchanting works, including Rasmus’s story from after Shards of History.