The first time I had something called The Water Road in my (virtual) hands was the fall of 2009. The book was my NaNoWriMo project that year, my second “winner” (the first is in the back of my closet, probably permanently). The process started some time before that, what with character sketches and some basic world building.
But the very first thing I remember writing was a Neldathi creation myth. It poured out in a very un-fantastic place.
Every year my office and our Federal Defender counterparts in the Northern District of West Virginia put on a two-day seminar for private attorneys who handle court appointed criminal cases. We alternate hosting and in 2009 the Northern District hosted up in Morgantown. Through the day and a half of the seminar (on breaks or during sessions that didn’t really apply to me), I sketched out this story about the Maker of Worlds and how she created this world in which I was going to tell this story.
Naturally, I had to account for the titular river, as fantastic a thing as there is in The Water Road universe. It was not born of a pleasant impulse:
Eons passed before the Maker of Worlds remembered her watery creation with the one continent upon it. In the time that had passed, The Land had become full of life. Not only animals and plants, but intelligent beings, who lived together in communities and created a society. The Land was rich and plentiful, but its inhabitants still found things to fight about. They constantly warred, on upon the other, seemingly without end. When the Maker saw what had become of her world, she was depressed. And she was angry.
In her anger, the Maker of Worlds lashed out at her creation. She drove a single finger into the soil on the east side of The Land. Then, she drug it across the entire breadth of The Land, changing it forever. In the wake of the Maker’s finger came Great Basin Lake and The Water Road. To the south of the river, great mountains heaved up from the soil, all the way south to the cold southern seas. To the north, The Land cracked and two great rivers were formed as water rushed into the fissures. The far north, beyond the reach of the waters, became barren, dry, and unhospitable. The people of The Land were likewise shattered, north and south, divided by the The Water Road into Neldathi and Altrerian. Many multitudes died.
Much as I enjoyed pulling that together, I knew it wasn’t part of the story itself. It was essentially a note to myself – something I didn’t intend anybody else to see. But it started something inside me, lit a fuse that wasn’t going to go out. It got so insistent that when the final session wound up I plopped myself down in a big chair in the hotel lobby, pen in hand and a legal pad, and scratched out:
It had been ten years since Gaven had been confronted by an angry Neldathi with a gun.
I didn’t get much further than that (I was months away from NaNo), but I’d crossed the Rubicon. There was no going back after that.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I never really thought I’d be here, looking back on eight years of work and being “done” with The Water Road. So I wanted to take care of one last piece of business, to acknowledge everybody who helped me get here. Thanks . . .
Firstly, to my family, friends, and coworkers who put up with a “writer” in their midst, who asked supportive questions and never made me feel like I was wasting my time chasing a silly dream.
To the members of West Virginia Writers, Inc., the Absolute Write Water Cooler, and KBoards who are quick with their advice, encouragement, and support. Great writing may be mostly about talent, but being a great writer means recognizing that those others out there who do what you do are allies and colleagues, not rivals.
To Empire Books & News in Huntington, West Virginia, who support local authors not because they’re some kind of odd curiosity that draws gawkers, but because they have great stories to tell, too.
To my copy editor, Claudette, who plowed through all three books of The Water Road, helping them be the best, most professional products they can be.
To the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Designs who did the covers for The Water Road trilogy. I get compliments on them almost everywhere they pop up.
And, of course, big thanks to readers who have told me how much they’ve enjoyed these books. That’s the greatest reward a writer could hope for.
Finally, to my wife, Kelly. When we met I was someone who had a few ideas and thought, maybe, I could write something, sometime. Back by her voracious reading habit, she’s pushed and supported me through all this, providing valuable, honest feedback and sharing in my happiness at getting this all done. I love you, sweetie.
On to new things!