The story of how a strange dream birthed a new novel and world and taught me to trust my creativity and instincts, and what you can learn from it.
Welcome to the World of the Ash Dancer. I am the author C E Dorset. You can just call me Charlie. Most of the people that know me do, some don'tm but there's a long and complex story about that and I don't feel like going into it right now. Let's just say, if you're curious about that: Head over to Project: Shadow.com. There's actually a post over there called, "Call me Charlie." It explains the whole long story.
[00:00:26] I say that because you might know me as Eric and I used to do a whole bunch of podcasts from The Confessed, which was dedicated to the Legend of the Seeker. We the Gods and Kings. We did the Project: Shadow podcast. We did dashPunk Unfiltered, and Switzerland: I am still sorry. I'm still so sorry. I'm still so sorry for everything that Wolf said on the podcast. I'm still so sorry. And a bunch of other podcasts over the years.
[00:00:58] Today we're opening a new one. And not only are we opening a new podcast. We're opening the Labyrinth of Souls, because today, my first new book in way too long has finally come out and that would be a Labyrinth of Souls, which is a novella set in the World of the Ash Dancer. I could not be more excited. I want to try not to just blubber in gibber like an idiot, but for those of you who know me, you know it's gonna happen and you just wait for that. I think I can hold it together at least a little bit.
[00:01:41] Now this book was a long time coming. I really wanted to do an accompanying podcast with it. But this podcast is not going to be what you might think it is. You're not going to get the audio for the book here (at least maybe not. We're looking into that) But if you'd like to record an audio book contact me and we'll talk. Because this book unlike any of the books that I've released before features two prominent female leads. In fact if there was a reverse Bechtel test this book would probably fail. There are some guys in the book. Ger's a guy. Master Sosin's a guy. Grandmaster Cacuun is a guy. Tobi's a guy. There's a couple guys in the book but they're kind of in the background. Because this story, more than any that I've ever done, really centers on the personality and identities and. experiences of two extraordinary women and that would be Raih and Jodhaa Bhai. That name may sound familiar but we'll talk more about Jodhaa and her origins later. But if that name does sound familiar to you then you're probably listening to the podcast and probably in a similar fandom as I am.
[00:03:14] So I feel like the first thing that I have to talk about in this podcast is: Why did it take so long between my last book and this book for me to write a story?
[00:03:27] And this is one of those things that I debated whether or not I should talk about because in a way it's kind of a really writerly thing. But I think it's something that speaks not only to the story that I ended up writing but to something that all of us face in our lives. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I'm not saying that from a point of view of writer's block because I've had a lot of story ideas come and go in the interim, but none of them felt right. None of them felt like that's what I wanted to spend the next couple of months of my life doing. Because writing makes so many of the things that we do in our life, it's time consuming and it's self isolating work, where it's just me, and a laptop, and the characters sitting around for a really long time and (you know) I know and respect quite a few writers that can just bang it out on whatever topic they have even the slightest inkling about. And I love them, but I really need to feel connected and enthralled by what I'm doing. And the stories that I was coming up with, the ideas that I was coming up with in the interim, I loved and I hoped to get back to them someday. But they didn't feel authentically me. They felt like they had something missing. And I couldn't figure out what it was.
[00:05:08] There was this hollow emptiness in me. Every time I sat down to work on one of those stories that yeah I mean I could write it but what's the point of me sitting down and banging out a bunch of words for you guys to read. If I'm not feeling that love, if I'm not feeling that passion, how can I expect anybody else to? That's kind of what broke me as a writer.
[00:05:38] I had a bunch of ideas but they were, for lack of better terms, intellectually gained. Right. I'd kind of look to books I like to read, stuff that's doing well in the market, and stories that I thought would resonate with my audience and that people would enjoy. But as far as that personal connection, I wasn't putting a lot of that in there. They were stories. It was almost like being hired by another company to work on their IP and that felt wrong.
[00:06:21] It felt like anything that I would make in that process would be inferior and not worth the time, energy, and effort to bring it out into the world and for people to really invest their own time, energy, and effort into.
[00:06:43] So about a year ago, actually a little over a year ago (As most of these great stories started), I had a weird dream. It was a very weird dream. Basically I had a dream about a woman who pulled a sword from a stone, much like King Arthur. But it wasn't a stone, it turned out to be a dragon and the dragon came to life, and Rahhhh. And it was a very interesting idea. I couldn't get out of my head and I had decided I was going to do NaNo last year (National Novel Writing Month if you not familiar with NaNoWriMo), where you'd sit down and you just decide I'm going to write a book, 50000 words at least in the next 30 days. It's a marathon. It's not an easy thing to do. And I already had a completely other book plotted out. I had the outline ready. I had the idea ready. I had everything worked out. That's what I'm going to do to write this other book. And then the day before NaNo on October 31st, I have this weird dream. And all day I couldn't get it out of my head. So I knew I was ready to do this other book, and so I decided well I'll just take today, I'll do some art work, I'll play around with it. It'll go away. It's not uncommon to wake up after a dream and have a weird idea for a story but usually they go away. Like there's not as much there as you think there is because you start toying with it to figure out what is the story about. You start teasing it apart. And you realize that you were half asleep you didn't have your coffee yet and that's why you thought that that was the most brilliant idea in the world. That's what I thought was going to happen. And so I played around with the idea I kind of did some pictures of the two characters that I saw in there and really tried to get a feel for what this thing was that was really just burdening my mind and wanting to get out.
[00:08:56] So at midnight, as the clock ticked over it's November 1st and I like to start writing at midnight. I told my husband Brian, I said I'm going to go back to the office and since it's early in the process, I'm going to go back there and that idea that's been bugging me all day, I'm going to sit down and I'm going to see what happens. Because I know what's going to happen: I'm going to sit down and start typing and nothing's gonna happen. I'll write a couple of words and maybe a couple paragraphs and then the whole thing will peter out and it will be done. I realize, Oh look. See, there it is. Hallo idea, not worth doing.
[00:09:45] And so I went back to my office and I sat down and I pulled my laptop out and turned some music on and a couple hours later I had written almost 3000 words. I don't write that fast. I'm just going to be honest with you, I don't write that fast. And I kind of have you know wobbled out of the office and looked at my husband and it was like I just read all this stuff and I think there might be a there, there.
[00:10:18] And so the next day, I was like well let's see what happens that I sat down and started writing. Bam. I mean another couple of thousand words. And I mean it's just flowing out. I mean it's just pouring out of me and I don't write like that. I really don't write like that. I plan everything. I figure everything out and I'm meticulous, and all those things that had apparently been killing my creativity over the years. And here's the story it's just pouring out of me. And so I'm looking at it, and I'm like, This is the thing. But I really shouldn't be writing it yet because I don't know these characters well enough to write them. I don't know this world well enough to write them. But there really is something here and I had gotten to a point in this story where I introduced a character named Raih, and her backstory was so clear to me.
[00:11:18] It was so clear. I knew who she was. I knew where she came from and I started making all of these notes about her and this friend of hers, Jodhaa Bhai, who by the way would have appeared in the next chapter of the book. That I was working on at the time that would be, Dragon in the Snow. And I knew as I'm writing down the details of how they got together, and how their friendship formed, and all of the things there, I was like, This is a really interesting story and it just kept coming out, and like detail upon detail upon detail on detail. I realized what I was doing was actually outlining another story. And that blew me away, because here I am just trying to get some backstory on a character, a couple of characters, for a novel I'm working on. And I'm realizing oh my goodness this is a whole other book. Not just one book but a series of books. There's a whole bunch of stories here. And I'm fascinated by them and I really want to know more. I want to learn more.
[00:12:31] And that became my gateway into the World of the Ash Dancer.
[00:12:36] So after taking a couple months to work on a map and I really mean a couple of months to work on a map. It's a pretty map you can see it over at Ash Dancer.com. It's a pretty map, lots and lots of detail on everything. I came back to this idea and I was I thought to myself, Well, what I'll do is I'll write a novella. I love writing novellas. They're fun. They're quick. They're easy. I'll write a novella and kind of get out what it is- The initial meeting of these two characters because I thought it was such an interesting idea and such a powerful story. I'll just write that real quick. And, hazzah, I'll have something that I can put out there and say, Hey I'm working on this new world. Here it is here's this little story that you can read. And it'll happened real quick because the stories flowing really fast, really well. Everything's going great. I'll writer this really quick and get it out.
[00:13:44] So, of course, that's not what happened. I started writing it and the more I wrote it the more notes I was taking about the various characters and the people that were meeting and like- there's one part in the opening where in the book Raih and Jodhaa have been invited to attend the magic school. And this is where they met and where their friendship started. And there's this one quick scene where they see all of the teachers standing on this dais and it's in the first scene of the book. And the first couple pages of the book and I find myself writing all these side notes with the names of each and every one of these people up there. Their back stories where they come from. And what branches of magic they teach and how magic works in the world and all this additional content. And I'm sitting back and I'm like This is not going to be a short project because this is-.
[00:14:56] This is my worldbuilding book. This is the book that's going to teach me everything I need to know to write in the World of the Ash Dancer. And so it didn't take off real quick.
[00:15:08] I started writing the book, I believe in March of this year and I finished in October. So it's a lot longer than I thought it would for a little book but it provided so much and it provided so much detail and richness that for every little thing in this story I have reams and reams of what that means and why that and there are a few names that get dropped that I have so much more about. And that's what Ash Dancer.com is going to be: a place where I put a lot of that content, especially right now when I'm kind of going through and figuring out what's a spoiler and what's not.So I don't ruin anything ready body.
[00:15:53] The process of creating Labyrinth of Souls changed me as a writer, because while I had an outline and the book in a lot of ways follows the barest plot points that were in that outline. It took on a life of its own. And I became something that I hadn't been since I was a kid and that's something we writers like to call a Pantser: somebody who writes by the seat of their pants. So much of this was written like that. And when I went back and reread it, I was astounded at how much made sense and I didn't really have to go back and make sure that things were set up and earlier scenes, like it set itself up on the trajectory that it was going. It reawakened in me this thing that I didn't know that I had in me and it reawakened it to such an extent that after I finished writing it... Writing and I finished editing in October, I had this complete other idea for another set of characters that also appear in that other book. Part of their backstory. I spent the month of November I spent NaNoWriMo this year writing that book. And so that's in the editing process right now and that will eventually come out, but I've never written anything like this before.
[00:17:39] I don't mean that in like, This story is so fresh and original. No, I mean like like this. In the manner in which I wrote this. It kind of wrote itself and the few people that I've handed it off to who have read it have had really wonderful things to say about it. That means the world to me and I'm hoping that you love it too.
[00:18:06] But today, it goes up to the wide world. Well, I wrote it on Wattpad. So it's kind of already been out there and I've gotten some nice comments over there. But now, it's out for everybody. So you can go to AshDancer.com and click the link over to Amazon and it's free for the first five days after publication because I want this to have the widest reach it can get.
[00:18:37] Now after the first five days, if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, it'll still be free until March 16th. And I say it that way because depending on how everything goes over on Amazon, I'm going to make a decision in March whether or not to continue that because for it to be in that Kindle Unlimited group of books it has to be exclusive to Amazon and we'll see how well that's going by then make a decision.
[00:19:15] And so I decided to do this podcast and I didn't expect it to be so much inside baseball, but I think it's important to know where the story comes from. Almost as much as it is to know what it is. It's a story of two girls who are going off to a Magical Academy. Trying to find their vocation. What is it that they are meant to do. What are their secret talents. And along the way they have to face some demons from their past. It's a story I think we all have to face. And this is where I get to be a little egotistical and I'm sorry for that, but in so many ways, it was such an important story for me to write because I was on the same path with them.
[00:20:13] I've got other books out. I've written other things over the years, but this one- I had to face my own fears about what I thought writing had to be and what I thought publishing had to be and what I thought putting a story together had to be. I had to face those demons from my own past. I had to dig down deep and realize that yeah I'm not sticking to an outline but I can trust the story. It knows where it wants to go and whatever it does wrong, we can fix that. And you get it and so I kind of feel like it's the story if my own experience as well. That like Jodhaa and Raih, and Avishai and Kahn, and Percy. It was my labyrinth of souls as much as it was their labyrinth of souls because it reconnected me to that magic of imagination where I didn't worry if it was steampunk enough. Because it's steampunk or if it's decopunk enough because I wanted to put some decopunk features into it but I don't care.
[00:21:49] I like I realized I don't care if it's steampunk enough, or decopunk enough, or epic fantasy enough, or sword and sorcery enough. That didn't matter. What mattered was that it was true to its self, that it felt like the story that it wanted and needed to be and for me that was liberating.
[00:22:16] I'd gotten locked down into all of this industry speak. Making sure that I was doing the right thing so that I could promote it easily and I didn't do that this time. I really didn't do that this time. And so here it is. Labyrinth of Souls. Out for the world and everyone else.
[00:22:48] You'll notice when you go to Amazon it's in the young adult category. That wasn't by intent or design it was after it was done and I had to decide what category fit it.
[00:22:59] I realized you know it's young adult book and I'd been wanting to write a young adult series for a while, but of course that comes with all these rules of the type of characters you have to have and that type of story that you have to have, and you know all those things that you're told by other people. But this is a young adult book.
[00:23:22] It's about two girls trying to find their calling. Trying to find their place in the world. It is a coming of age story. You can't get much more YA than that. And it is those things not by design but by purpose because that's what it wanted to be. And I think that for me is the amazing magic that is this book and why Labyrinth of Souls means so much to me and why I hope it means so much to you.
[00:24:04] You know like you said it's their journey. It's my journey. I bet, it's your journey too. And as part of that I would like for you to share your stories with me. You can find all my contact information and all the social networks you can find me on over at Ash Dancer.com. That's one word no dashes. Ash dancer dot com.
[00:24:31] So what do you think. This is our first real episode of the podcast. They're not all going to be like this. We're going to do some question and answer episodes. My husband has agreed to help with those. So if you have any questions feel free to send them in. The first, quite a few episodes of this podcast are going to be dedicated to the world of the Ash Dancer, especially as it pertains to Labyrinth of Souls and the things that we have going on there. And I'm going to give it some time. But eventually I'm going to do a chapter by chapter talk and those will contain spoilers so get your copy now. Especially now while it's free. No skin off your teeth. And so what we're going to be doing here is I will share probably some original short stories with you have some short stories written in the setting. And I think it might be fun to do a dramatic reading of them. It could be fun. So those will probably be included in here as bonus episodes. And really just kind of share this world with you and have it, have this podcast be a place where we can talk about not only the magic in the World of the Ash Dancer but the magic in our own lives because, hopefully, this book and this world will mean as much to you guys as it does to me.
[00:26:02] It's already brought so much magic into my life. I can't help but just gush about it. So. For the first five days at least of this podcast because the book just came out and I'm really really excited that a lot that I want to say this podcast is going to be a daily podcast. So keep listening and when the decision is made on what day the podcast will normally come out it will transition into a weekly podcast. So. Be looking for that. But just so you know there will be one podcast today for the first couple days and then it will taper off into its regular format.
[00:26:51] I'm really, really excited and have a lot that I want to say and this gives me a chance to say all that.
[00:26:58] Thank you so so much for your time to listen. And like I said, Definitely, Head over to Ash Dancer dot com or Amazon.com and pick up your free copy of Labyrinth of Souls now while you can. And if you like it spread the word and if you have anything to say about it. Let me know. You join our Facebook group. Hit me up on Twitter. I spend most of my time on Twitter. But the nice thing about the Facebook group is it dings me every time there's comments in there so it's much easier for me to keep up with that. But yeah I am so excited. And I hope you love this because much as I do and I will see you in the next episode. So until then have the fun.