Annotations: Petition (Chapter 15)

I ought to have said back in the annotations for Chapter 13 that everything from Chapters 14 through to the end of Chapter 25 did not exist in the original outline, which called for the following:

Act I: Rahelu Petitions the Houses; becomes a Supplicant; is sent on assignment.

Act II: Rahelu completes the assignment. The assignment has huge consequences for the balance of power between the Houses.

Act III: House war.

Somehow I thought I was going to be able to do all that justice in…75,000 words.


In that original version, the story skipped straight from the end of Rahelu’s audiences in Chapter 12 to the beginning of Chapter 26 and Act I ended with the end of Chapter 27. I got four (terrible) chapters into writing what was supposed to be Act II (and is now Book 2) before I became horribly stuck.

So I decided to cheat a little. I knew that final scene (what is now Chapter 27) was the best emotional scene I’d written and would make a strong ending. The logical thing to do here was to turn the book outline into a series outline and expand the ~38,000 words I had for what was supposed to be Act I into a full, 75,000-word novel. (Yeah, I still had delusions about being able to write a short novel.)

In my opinion, there’s only one good way to add length: add story. Again, I wanted something very tightly structured because I didn’t want to get too carried away and end up with something bloated.

Hence: the murder mystery that forms the second half of this book.

But I needed something to transition between the tournament arc—which is still ongoing since the Petitioners are competing with each other, though they’re doing so by completing assignments (quests) for the Houses—and the murder mystery subplot.

I also have a pet peeve about jobs and the recruitment process in general. I kind of hate it because the entire thing (as it exists in professional services) is a bait-and-switch for most.

The firms sell quite the dream to the bright-eyed grads fighting tooth and nail for a coveted position with them: a glamorous career where you’re using your hard-won skills and knowledge to present flashy, brilliant insights in pretty dataviz slide decks to the admiring applause of C-suite executives in the boardrooms where it happens.

The reality for most: 60+ hour work weeks wrangling data and documents that you don’t understand, triple checking figures and formulas with a calculator until your fingers and eyes bleed, going for coffee runs and other mundane tasks that make you wonder why you spent so long obtaining a very expensive university education to do things that don’t require you to use any of the knowledge and skills you’ve got.

Hence: the boring resonance crystal recharging assignment. Sorry, Rahelu. (Not sorry.) And sorry if you hated reading paragraphs upon paragraphs about it. (Sorriest to my beta readers, most of all, who had to read a very verbose version of it.)

Fortunately, this is fiction, not real life so things do happen.

Rahelu’s one-on-one time with Tsenjhe is one of my favorite character moments in the book. Too often in fantasy, women are set against each other. We expect the Nheras/Rahelu dynamic as a matter of default, where women are set up as rivals, often in the context of a man’s affections or approval or their suitability for these things and how well they embody femininity.

We rarely see all of the rich diversity of strong female relationships that exist in real life where women hold each other up. Even when we get female mentor/mentee relationships, it’s so often done in the context of “learning how to be a woman” or “learning how to deal with men” and I’m kind of sick of it.

Because just as men and boys can exist as self-actualized individuals and have relationships that do not revolve around the existence of women, women and girls do not need men to “complete” them as a person (please, let that Biblical notion die right there) and they can have fulfilling relationships that are not founded on any male-centric bases.

At the same time, romantic love and relationships is a pretty big part of life for most people. I don’t like the approach of just pretending it doesn’t exist either.

So it was important to me to show that Tsenjhe and Rahelu’s relationship is a strong one that is not centered around and would exist without Keshwar, even though he’s important to both of them. His name does come up twice in their conversations; both times, he is incidental to (and not the focus of) what they are discussing.

Because Tsenjhe and Rahelu’s identities do not revolve around how they fit into Keshwar’s life; they were fully realized people before Keshwar became part of their lives, will continue to be so long after he’s gone, and would have been so even if he never entered their lives.

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