A picture of dax

Dax Murray

Software Engineer and Speculative Fiction Author.

Reflections on a first novel

Time works funny sometimes. It does not feel like all that long ago that I revealed the cover for my first novel, A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams, and yet it has been months. Three long and exhausting months. A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams was ambitious, I set out on that journey late in the middle of the night in December 2016. It was cold, and snowing, and I couldn't sleep. I had been working on refining and revising The Resignation Letter (at that time I was calling it The Resignation Letter of the First Imperial Scientist) and I wanted something else to occupy my mind while I tried to fall asleep. I pulled out my phone and opened a new word document and began writing a first person account of running through the woods with crows and ravens following behind. I got to about 600 words in that untitled Google Doc before I felt like I was ready to go to sleep.

And then I forgot about that still untitled random bit of writing. I finished The Resignation Letter, released it, and then felt a bit empty. I needed something else to write. I had not truly written anything in a few years. I had a bad person in my life, and this person not encouraging or supportive of my writing. They thought they they were true writers, writing was their thing. So I couldn't do it. Despite the fact that I minored in writing in college. I wasn't allowed to write, according to them. But in August 2016, I decided this person was not someone I wanted to be around anymore. And then my words began to flow again. I did not want that flow of words to dry up, to stop running, to stop nourishing me. In a round about way, The Resignation Letter was my own way of saying "no more." With that out of the way, I wanted to write a happier story.

So, I dug through my Google Drive and found this snippet. I began outlining, plotting, watching way too many youtube videos with ballerina's. I think this story lived in me longer than I was cognizant. In Sepetember, the Russian Grand Ballet came to DC. It was a night of a presidential debate. I should have been in the office waiting for servers to be crashed by the millions of donations pouring in. But I managed to get the night off so I could go see Swan Lake at the Warner Theatre in DC. It was gorgeous. We ended up with better seats than we paid for. My friends were using the restroom and an usher came to ask where we were sitting. I handed him my ticket and my friends and he took them all from me and handed me new ones. He gave us VIP tickets with servers right at the front of the balcony. He said all we needed to do was promise we would each get a drink or food. We were planning on that already!

The story came in bursts. I wrote 5000 words one day and only 10 the next. I tried to not let myself feel bad about that. Halfway through I decided I wanted to tell the story from Alexis' PoV, too. So I went back and began very precisely outlining concurrent events. Then I decided I didn't want it to be in first person. So I went back and edited to all be in tight third person. Tatiana surprised me. I was not planning on her being in the story, I did not include her in any of my early character cards. But she felt right. The Mother of the Forest was not supposed to make an appearance until the end. But then I saw a tweet of Bee's that said lesbians and snakes were going to be a trope. And well, I had two snakes, and this was a really sapphic book, so, sure, let's have the Mother of the Forest take the form of a venomous snake.

I finished the first draft of it sometime in July. It was 52,007 words. I had wanted it to be a novella, and I had told my editor it would be substantially shorter. But my first thought was I did it! I wrote a book. It had been a dream of mine since childhood. I remember sitting at the family computer with my sister, brother, and cousin Angela as we tried to co-write an epic space adventure. I remember sitting on Muggle Pride's fanfic forum and posting chapters of a really dark "book five" before Order of the Phoenix was released. I remember when another fanfic writer, "TieFi", began posting her own works in a subforum. One day she posted a link to buy a physical copy of the book. I was a teen with a part time job, but I bought her book. It's still on my shelf! I remember re-writing Lioness Rampant so that Alanna did not end up with George. All through it all I kept thinking I wanted to write my own stuff one day. And as I wrote that last word on that sloppy first draft, I knew I had done what I dreamed of doing for so long.

And then I needed to destroy one fifth of it. Editing is hard. This edit resulted in those 600 words I had written 7 months earlier being deleted. Entirely. They had survived the transition to third person, the addition of characters, the re-writing of her back story (originally she knew who she was). But now they were unnecessary to the story. These 600 words were what I had shared with several people when they asked for a sneak peak. And they are not even in the final draft. I somehow deleted 10,000 words. Even more were lost when I finished the revision after getting it back from the editor. More were added, though, too. Plot holes were fleshed out, detail was given to scenes, and a completely new chapter was added.

And now it is out in the world and the world can read it. It came out October 27th, and el oh el four days later NaNoWriMo started. I didn't have anything planned but I decided to try to get as much as I could during NaNoWriMo. Even though my word count isn't climbing, I am doing a ton of planning. I wrote both A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams and The Resignation Letter using Google Docs. Each story has its own folder, and in it I keep a doc on research, a doc on timelines, a doc on each character. Each version of the story, each draft, has it's own file, too. This time around I am using Scrivener, though. I first heard about it years ago and got the free trial and loved it. But I didn't have the means to purchase it until recently. So this will be the first one made exclusively in Scrivener.

I can't tell you much about my next novel, but I can tell you it's set in a roughly 1910's Europe fantasy country, which means I am researching who had indoor plumbing and who didn't, who had electric lights and who didn't, and a lot more about a time period that had rapid technological advances. The main character is named Ana, after my grandmother. Ana lives with a ragtag bunch of queer kids living in a flat above a bakery. The current working title is How To Lose A Throne.

I am still undecided about if I am going to try to pitch this to agents or if I am going to self-publish it. Self publishing is hard. I loved that I did not have to worry about a cover being bad or wrong. I loved the complete control I had over the final product. But wow I suck at marketing. I am reading all these guides on having an author website and a mailing list and a facebook page and I am not sure if I can do all those things? I rarely update this blog, and half the time it's not about writing at all. It's about snakes or Ruby or frustrations with this or that programming language or framework. I don't want to have to seperate out my messy identity into different blogs, but that may happen. I my migrate the coding / tech posts to dax.codes at some point.


An all white ball python in a small container An all white ball python in my hand flicking her tongue This is my NEW, so far unnamed, ball python. She hatched 8.25.2017, and her morph is "super mojave" or "blue eyed leucistic" - she is not albino, as albino ball pythons have yellow markings and red eyes. Mojave is what is called a "co-dominate" gene, so if a BP only has one copy of that gene, they look a little bit like normal ball pythons. They are still have markings, but the pattern is reduced, the browns are more like black, and it fades from spine to stomach. With two copies, you get an all white snake with a little bit of purple markings on the head. The mojave gene also can be paired with the "lesser" gene or the "russo" gene to get all white snakes which are also "blue eyed leucisits", but without the head markings. I specifically wanted a super mojave for the cute purple head markings. She's getting settled in still, so I don't have a ton of picutres of her yet. She ate for me for the first time on Friday. I can't decide on what her name should be, I've got some ideas but, still haven't picked one.

A Brazilian Rainbow Boa in my hand This is my Brazilian Rainbow Boa, Calcifer! I got him back in April but I don't recall if I ever posted a picture of him here. He's super great, he isn't a morph, just a regular normal coloration and pattern. I'll get around someday to making an indepth care guide for Brazilian Rainbow Boa's like I did for Ball Pythons.

I've got a cool side project I am working on, I bought snakes.cool and am trying to make a nice website for tons of care guides and product recommendations for keeping various types of non-venomous snakes.

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