I'm sitting here, in an apple orchard in Glastonbury, with a warm Beltane sun gently making its way across the morning sky. An occasional breeze sends May blossom cascading down over my keyboard and screen. The world is a sea of white and dappled green. The hawthorne, cowslip and apple trees all in bloom. I am utterly relaxed and in quiet awe at the wonders of nature.
It's an accident that I'm here, in that Brookestardust randomly pulled directions out of her arse, that led me here. But it's a happy accident. Thirteen years ago, to the day, I had a landmark moment in my life, just up the road from here. I stood on Glastonbury Tor and conducted a handfasting. It was my first public ritual as an initiated Wiccan high priestess. Such things give you pause to remember an incredible journey from there to now.
My May blossom, apple blossom, Beltane moment seems a million miles away from the past year, where I've carried with me the story of a dark, Samhain night in West Wales. But it's not. It's just the polar opposite, in a quite a literal sense, and it's all about journeys.
'Annals of Fear II' was a challenge to write. I wanted to write a story which was a bit like 'Donnie Darko', insofar as no two people reading it would arrive at the same conclusions; nor, it would seem, had seen the same story unfold. Is 'Donnie Darko' about time travel; LSD; schizophrenia; autism; parallel universes; or a modern fable along the theme of 'Alice in Wonderland'? I've sat in a cinema with a group of people who all watched the same, but a very different film. 'Donnie Darko' owns. Could I do that?
In order to do it, you have to have a shitload of detail, some of which will be important and some will be red herrings or otherwise background noise. Which is which depends greatly upon the story that you're reading. My plan was never to have a definitive conclusion, as that would make Letters of the readers too. I know what I think happened. I might be wrong.
Sareyva has already informed me that I'm not going to do that. She's told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I'm taking people on a epic, two novel journey, then I'm giving them a conclusion! 'kay. Therefore you will note that Century has nicked off with all of the evidence. He will be my Mary-Sue in the next story, if I have to strap him down and beat him into submission. Yes, we all know how well that worked last time, as Century is buggered if he's going to be anyone's Mary-Sue, especially the likes of me. He didn't survive Wammy's House for this! But anyway, next story, Century will tell you exactly what I think happened in that house. He might be wrong.
One of the biggest difficulties in 'Annals II' was that the house, for whatever reason, messes with the mind. Annoyances turn into fury; intrepidation turns into fear; caution turns into paranoia; and, in short, people start acting out of character, in reaction to it. Other people then, with the same emotional pressures upon them, have to react to those around them kicking off. It was a bit of a tight-rope to walk because, if they all became too far gone, then I was opening myself up to accusations of 'your characters are sooo OOC'. They had to be OOC, but within their characters too.
This was especially hard with Kiana, as her character hadn't been fully established. But I am pleased with the reaction. The early chapters all gathered reactions of 'Kiana is such a BAMF!', while the latter ones complained about her whinging and hysteria. Another bad one was Valerie, again because she wasn't established. I had to be subtle with her. She broke professional codes of conduct, as the big hint there.
I also wanted to write a story which looked feasible within the historical and legendary reality. If someone searches Google for information about Nanteos Mansion, tunnels, monks and ghosts, then they will find it. It will interweave with my story. The monks did flee Strata Florida with the Holy Grail. They were buried in Nanteos's cellar. Their remains are no longer there. 'Ghosthunters' did a programme where someone ventured into that cellar and found a tunnel leading off. They went to explore it and hurried back out in terror. Something shadowy had filled them with such dread that they couldn't stay.
I watched loads of ghost programmes on YouTube. The phenomena reported in this story all happened somewhere, at some time, though not usually all at once in the same place. I also sat and re-read piles of books on Welsh supernatural, preternatural, Otherworldly type things. One of my most shocking moments was to learn that there is a ghost of a man named David, who was killed on a bicycle. He turns up on foggy nights to guide people along the road to the safety of the town. I found out about him long after Dafydd (Welsh for David) had been established, on his bicycle, transporting people to the safety of Aberystwyth. Sometimes you just couldn't make this stuff up!
Last night, in the George and Pilgrim pub, in Glastonbury, I asked a local what was actually buried under Arthur and Gwenhwyfar's headstone, in Glastonbury Abbey. He laughed at me and said, "Sod all. They opened it up in the 1920s and there was nothing under there." Arthur's bones aren't in the Abbey, despite King Stephen apparently burying them there all of those years ago. So where did they go? Local rumour has it that they disappeared during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. (Go Century! He so called that!) But the headstone keeps the tourists happy.
Finally, 'Annals II' was hard to write for personal reasons. It's been a bit of a dark year for me and I lost confidence in my own craft several times. There were long periods when nothing was written at all, because I just couldn't. I'm glad that I did in the end though. I hope you liked my story and thank you very much for reading it.
Credits and Thanks
I am indebted to Spoiled-kitten, who kept pace with me during the writing. She called the good and the bad stuff, thus allowing me chance to fine-tune it before the next reader got there. She was also there for brain-storming purposes. She's the one person to whom I could turn and say, "Right, I could go one of two ways here, x or y, and she'd help me hash out the more feasible/dramatic/best of them."
I would also like to thank my rl friend, E, who sat there for a couple of hours one night and helped me work out the architecture of the house. He misunderstood something that I was unclear on describing, so, for clarity, asked, "So the monolith is inside the house?" And my mind just went BAM! He was then condemned to working out the structure with me. I did history and fairies; he did internal supporting walls. When I think back to what I was trying to tell him before, it made no sense. Neolithic settlers wouldn't have placed the stone on a ledge beneath the house. What's the point in that? So thank you, E, for connecting the disparate dots in my mind.
A conversation between Miyamashi and Melissa did alter a planned storyline. Hands up, Fenian was going to die. Fenian was going to die because I found myself in precisely the same dilemma as Ohba did. Had he let Mello run, then Mello would have solved the case, but Ohba wanted Near to do that. Had I let Fenian run, he would have solved the case. Ohba killed Mello; I was one chapter away from killing Fenian.
He'd already been the one to impart some important information. Spoiled-kitten and I had discussed that and she'd said that was fine. I was to remember that Fenian is a genius too; and Mello doesn't always have to grab the limelight, even in a MxM story. Then, as the plot unfolded, Fenian was always the closest of the Wammys to getting the answers. If I wanted to maintain the rule of MxM winning and OCs never beating them, then Fenian needed removing. In a thread on Guns and Games, I read intently comments made by Miyamashi and Melissa. They said that Ohba's way of doing it had been wrong. They said that it's ok for your main characters to fail, especially if they are going to learn life lessons from this. They didn't know it, but they saved Fenian's life.
(And Miyamashi also gets my undying thanks for all of the other things that he does. Occasional blind guesses at what Mello would do in any given situation is just part of it. All of the emotional support and practical advice (like banning OOC and Mary-Sue from my vocabulary) gets these stories written in the first place.)
A huge thanks goes out to Sareyva, with her amazing eye for detail (no typo missed) and her encyclopaedic knowledge of random facts scattered throughout my stories. To say that she proof-read is to understate the point. She was an editor extraordinaire, an archivist and, in many instances, actually wrote many of the lines that you ultimately read. That's when my meaning was unclear and she made suggestions for clarity. I always used them. One day, :usersareyva: is going to write fan-fiction of her own and I'll be first in line to read them.
There are two other places on the internet where great, helpful and highly appreciated work is being done by people here. Annals II was horrible to write because of the cast of thousands and the continuity. When you get into the flow of writing, the last thing that you want to do is stop to look up how many sugars Century takes in his tea; or what car Hal drives. Sareyva would know, because she knows everything, but she's not on-line 24/7. If it's a detail fundamental to the plot, then I need to know right now.
I swore blind that I'd not write another story until I'd got a Wiki up-to-date with such things in it. Cosette and Matt1337Gamer saw that and surmised, totally correctly, that if they were going to wait for me to do that, then it would be a decade before the sequel turned up. They have both made an unbelievable start on it. The He Moves Me Differently Wiki already has 100s of pages, facts, details, the minutest things, all of which are going to be invaluable when I come to write. All of that is, in large part, down to those two. Thank you.
I also had Animeprincess PM me with a request for a forum. She wanted somewhere to discuss my stories in depth. Confidence and ego boost or what?! Thus the He Moves Me Differently Forum was born. I'm just the code monkey there. AP is leading chapter discussions from Annals II and, as people have joined, the threads are piling up. I'm possibly one of the most unconfident people on MangaBullet, thus things like this really encourage me to write on. Thank you.