Have I ever told you how I met Danaus, the hero of my Dark Days series? It was a strange, unexpected meeting that ended up with long-lasting reprecussions.
I had been toying with a short story involving a vampire with a twisted but playful disposition. She was taunting a lethal vampire hunter who simply refused to gel within my mind. It was like I couldn't get the spark I needed to bring him fully onto the page.
And then I found him in the oddest place. Flipping through a video game magazine, I stumbled across Ubisoft's ad for their Prince of Persia: Darkness Within game and staring back at me in all his rough and angry glory was Danaus. (Ok, so techincally he was the Prince, but he will forever be Danaus to me.)
Every muscle in my body froze for a breath as I stared at it. Then I wordlessly ripped out the image with extreme care and rushed to my office. I started typing, the words pouring onto the screen like a dam had burst open. I couldn't get my thoughts to slow down. The story, the voices finally coalesed in my head. Mira's voice had always been clear as day, but Danaus had been so much slower in coming. But then, dear Danaus is a man of few words. He's a man of action and hard-as-stone beliefs. My roomates at the time thought I had lost my mind. I nearly had to be physically removed from my computer that night. I simply didn't want to leave him.
But he didn't leave me when I stepped away from the computer.
The image of Danaus stayed with me. A silent force in my brain, driving me to complete my first urban fantasy novel. For the next month, I haunted every magazine stand I could find, purchasing magazines just so I could tear out Danaus's picture. I now have three copies and one is framed on my desk.
As time passed, Danaus wasn't just a character. He became the image of my muse. He was the driving force to finish the book, to endure rejection until I landed my agent, and then push through more rejection until I landed my first contact. When I traveled to my first book convention so many years ago where I gave my first pitch to an editor, I took my picture of Danaus with me and I taped him to the mirror in my room. I promised him that I would sell his book because the world needed his story. And even after I sold my books and traveled to more conventions, Danaus's picture went with me.
With the completion of the Dark Days series, I have packed Danaus away. He's still framed on my desk, but he's not on every computer desktop anymore. He worked hard through six books and two short stories. I've given him a rest, allowing him to spend some quality time with Mira. But he does come out every once in a while to remind me to keep writing.
Funny enough, I've found a new warrior to bond with, though in a somewhat different way. My heart has recently latched onto Ezio Auditorre de Firenze from the Assassin's Creed series. (Also, it is oddly ironic that this series is also made by Ubisoft. I'm thinking they may have a direct link with my soul.) While the image of Danaus helped me to solidify the character already in my head, Ezio is already a fully formed character belonging to someone else. As such, he'll never appear in anything I write.
But Ezio, like Danaus, is a force. They are a constant reminder that even when things look their bleakest, you have to keep fighting. These stories we're working on, they are important creations. The words need to be set free or they will simply clutter your mind. They need to reach readers to spread ideas and emotions.
I think because of Danaus and Ezio, I've come to the conclusion that writers are warriors. We fight for our words. We fight our stories. We fight to be heard.
Danaus brings our the warrior in me. Ezio reminds me that even when I really don't want to, writing is a Leap of Faith. Inch out onto the ledge and turn your eyes out. Not at the chasm below but out at the wide world spread eagerly before you. Take that next leap and have faith in your abilities. Let the stories be told.