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Monday, September 23, 2019

Guest Post: On Writing by S.M. Beiko

Hello all!  I'm back!  Sort of.  I'm just as busy as I was last semester (see my last update) but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to publish this guest post written by S.M. Beiko, author of The Brilliant Dark.  I'll still be active on social media (Twitter especially and a little Instagram) but I'll be keeping a relatively lower profile until December and January.  But anyway, enough about me!  I hope y'all enjoy this guest post; I certainly did.

Most recently, S.M. Beiko is the author of The Realms of Ancient series.

Scion of the Fox (#1)

"As the winter ice begins to thaw, the fury of a demon builds - all because one girl couldn't stay dead . . .

Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student - dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) - but she's uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind.  Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit names Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly.  A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay.  Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox."

Children of the Bloodlands (#2)

"The dazzling second book in S.M. Beiko’s Realms of Ancient series

Three months after the battle of Zabor, the five friends that came together to defeat her have been separated. Burdened with the Calamity Stone she acquired in Scion of the Fox, Roan has gone to Scotland to retrace her grandmother’s steps in an attempt to stop further evil from entering the world.

Meanwhile, a wicked monster called Seela has risen from the ashy Bloodlands and is wreaking havoc on the world while children in Edinburgh are afflicted by a strange plague; Eli travels to Seoul to face judgment and is nearly murdered; Natti endures a taxing journey with two polar bears; Phae tries desperately to obtain the key to the Underworld; and Barton joins a Family-wide coalition as the last defense against an enemy that will stop at nothing to undo Ancient’s influence on Earth — before there is no longer an Earth to fight for.

Darkness, death, and the ancient powers that shape the world will collide as our heroes discover that some children collapse under their dark inheritance, and those that don’t are haunted by blood."

The Brilliant Dark (#3)

"The highly anticipated final installment in Beiko's thrilling YA fantasy trilogy.

It's been seven years since the Denziens, an unseen people with elemental powers, were unmasked, and seven years since Roan Harken and Eli Rathgar disappeared into the Brilliant Dark.

Marked by Darklings and Death alike, Saskia is a mechanically minded Mundane, raised by Barton and Phae on daring stories about Roan Harken.  But the world Roan left behind is in turmoil.  The Darklings now hang in the sky as a threatening black moon, and with the order-maintaining Elemental Task Guard looking to get rid of all Denziens before they rebel, Saskia's only option is to go into the Brilliant Dark and bring Roan back.

But nothing is every that simple.

The Brilliant Dark is the final, thrilling chapter in this series about gods, monsters, and the people who must decide if they're willing to pay the ultimate price to protect the family they found . . . in a world that may not be worthy of saving."

Musings on My First Complete Trilogy - A Guest Blog by S.M. Beiko

With the release of my 4th novel, The Brilliant Dark, it’s brought in an entirely new experience for me.

I have finished a trilogy.

And the thing I keep asking myself is: how?

I know I was fully present and alert (err, slightly) while writing these books, but it does seem like a bit of a blur—three books in three years! And because I was graciously given free-rein about what I’d do for this guest blog, I wanted to talk about the feelings associated with telling a large story in three parts over several years (and a completely overhauled writing process to do it.)

First of all, this whole trilogy thing? It was an accident.

Scion of the Fox was never really meant (at the beginning) to be a series. The Lake and the Library was my first novel, and even all my ‘trunk’ novels that I wrote in and around that period were standalones, just like Lake. I liked telling one story in one shot and moving on to tell more stories. I did not get attached.

Scion itself was a story with no plan. I pansted it, quite hard, with an idea of how the story was going to unfold, the pithy characters that would tell it, and I was armed with a handful of pivotal, climactic scenes, but no idea about the connective tissue between them, or the consequences of the story’s ending. I knew I was going to leave Scion a bit open-ended, but not so much to hint at there being even more books to tell this much wider story I had, apparently, laid the ground work for.

Then my publisher asked me if it was a trilogy, because it seemed like it, and I said ‘yes’ without really thinking. Made the sequel titles up on the spot. Still pantsing it.

Even before Scion was released, I was given delivery deadlines on the sequels. They seemed manageable! Then the publisher came back to me to ask if I could hand in book 2 a year early. This new deadline was also 30 days away from this initial ask.

Again, I said ‘yes’ without thinking. Sort of a bad habit of a pantser, especially when you are now pantsing through LIFE.

But the thing was, I needed that deadline to get myself in gear. It’s a weird image to paint, but I had the manuscript for Scion saved in a nested ‘Realms of Ancient’ folder, and beside it were the empty sequels’ folders, and sometimes I’d just sit and stare at these empty folders on my hard drive saying to myself, “I can’t imagine the day when these folders contain entire other books, let alone what’s going to be in those books, so how the ^&$% am I going to do this?”

And do it in 30 days, no less.

I had to change my approach. I needed a plan. No more pantsing! I cleared my month just for writing. I’d written big volumes in short periods before but this was going to be immense. Scion was 127k words and took over a year to call finished. I did the math on what I’d need to write over 30 days to tell a story roughly the same length. I made daily word count goals. I did the whole ‘plot points on recipe cards’ thing and spread them out on my office floor. I summarized every single chapter. I wrote out of sequence. I wrote scenes and characters that I felt like then moved them around a bunch. I did some (several) all nighters.

Somehow, I made the deadline, and wrote the 132k word manuscript for Children of the Bloodlands in 30 days, and the ensuing book somehow wasn’t a total disaster. My skull was like a scooped out pumpkin. I learned a lot about myself as a writer that month. 

The highest lesson? To not repeat this again on the last book, a book which was going to take every new planning skill I’d acquired. The second book felt ‘easy’ because I’d already established the world, the conflict, the stakes, the characters. I just had to inhabit them again without all the foundation work, and create the situations they had to get out of. I got to also ask a bunch of ‘new’ questions in this world, which is always fun.

But then you get to book 3, where you have to answer EVERY QUESTION you’ve ever laid out over two books, and you kind of go into panic over drive. Not only do you have to fulfill every promise you don’t remember making, you have to ‘stick the landing’ and show people it was worth dragging them on this journey over three books. That the resolution, and whatever overarcing morals you set out to demonstrate, aren’t flimsy and lame and boring and so done.

Blessedly, I took 9 months to write The Brilliant Dark, and it was hard and emotional and exhausting. I did cry a bit, which insulted me because I thought I was more practical than that…but I got attached to these characters. Coming from writing one-shots that I could easily leave behind, I only discovered that, at the very end, did I really enjoy writing these characters and telling their stories. And how much I’d miss them. 

But I shed my tears, and I’ve said all I mean to say about The Realms of Ancient, because now those folders on my hard drive are full, and I don’t need to ask myself ‘how’ anymore. I don’t need to ask myself anything. I can sit back, and exhale, feeling something like accomplishment, but more like the itch.

To write my next trilogy.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meet the Author:

SAMANTHA MARY BEIKO is a writer of whatever tromps into her head at the time--but mostly it is YA fantasy and its derivatives.

She currently works full-time the Canadian publishing industry as a freelance editor, graphic designer, and consultant, and is the Co-Publisher of ChiZine Publications. She devotes her days to helping traditional corporate publishers, as well as independent writers and creators, realize their projects to print or digital completion, helping them to market with editorial and graphic design. She was also the co-editor on Imaginarium 2013 and Imaginarium 5, and will be co-editing Gothic Tales of Haunted Love with Hope Nicholson for Bedside Press in 2017.

Her first novel, a young adult fantasy set in rural Manitoba called The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book, as well as the 2014 Aurora Award. Her next series, The Realms of Ancient, has been signed for a three book deal with ECW Press. The first book, Scion of the Fox, will be out in October 2017. The sequels to follow are Children of the Bloodlands and The Brilliant Dark in the subsequent years (2018 and 2019).

Samantha currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and is the co-chair of the Winnipeg ChiSeries, a reading series that highlights speculative writers in various panels, readings, and workshops. She is also the co-organizer, along with Hope Nicholson (Bedside Press) and Alicia May (Dandizette Cosmetics) of Winnipeg Geek Girls Social Club.
She apologizes in advance if she ignores you when a dog walks by.


That's all for now, folks!  Thanks for stopping by and thank you to S.M. Beiko for taking the time to "be" here!  (I'm much too proud of those quotation marks)  Have you ever attempted a long writing project in a short amount of time?  How did you fare?  Do you work better or worse with a deadline hanging over your head?  (Personally, I'm in the former camp which has gotten me into some tight spaces throughout my life!)


  1. It's always interesting that sometimes authors set out to write a series and it becomes a standalone, or vice versa as is the case here! Books have a way of writing themselves, in some aspects :D Great interview!

    Olivia-S @ Olivia's Catastrophe

    1. It is, isn't it? I'm reminded of that quote by Patrick Ness that goes something like stories are wild and go in directions you don't expect (in A Monster Calls). Thanks for stopping by, Olivia!


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