Magra’s braided hair shone like the wings of a raven in the morning light. Her face was like a sword.
I am rarely surprised by a story. When I write I always feel I am in total control, sifting and judging words and sentences and actions as I move through it. I hold the strings. The story and characters therein move but with my purpose and desire.
I always feel I am in control when I write. But in the story “Vengeance is Mine,” published in the anthology Beauty Has Her Way edited by Jennifer Brozek, Magra definitely surprised me. She revealed hidden layers to her personality I didn’t know existed.
I think Magra came into her own in this story in a very big way. Haxan is about many things. I reject all simplistic definitions that try to pigeonhole Haxan. On the other hand, Magra, and what she stands for, is very prominent, and the more I think about it the more convinced I am that at its core the series is about her.
MARSHAL JOHN MARWOOD MURDERED TONIGHT STOP BELIEVE CLETE STRIDE RESPONSIBLE STOP REQUEST IMMEDIATE HELP I AM ALONE STOP
Magra, not Marwood, is the foundation of the series. I found that out when I wrote “Vengeance is Mine”. Go figure, right?
Marwood, for all his complexities, is understood by me. I know everything there is to know about him. I know exactly what he thinks and how he feels and what he wants in every imaginable situation. There are no hidden corners to his personality, and I doubt they are much hidden from readers as well. He’s not simplistic but he is understandable.
Magra Snowberry, on the other hand, is a total cipher to me. Therein lies her deep power, and for me, seductive mystery.
Oh, there are some things I do know about her. She was born Margarethe Louise Snowberry. She’s the daughter of “Shiner” Larsen and Black Sky. Magra was born in late spring with snow on the ground, uncommon for that season. It was interpreted as a sign of great power.
Hers is the first name to registered in Haxan birth records. The county official, a notorious drunk, misspelled it as “Maghra”. The birth certificate survives. It is part of a private collection in modern day Las Cruces.
At the age of nine Magra was sent East to be educated. She was beaten and abused. While she was gone her mother, Black Sky, died on The Long Walk to Fort Sumner. Magra returned to New Mexico Territory and lived until adulthood with her bereft father. Her knowledge of the desert is immense and it is believed she adopted her parents’ ability to “night-walk” people under special circumstances.
But these are known things. Facts and evidence supported by canon. I write the Haxan series and I am telling you there is more, much more, to Magra than I ever expected.
I am diving out of the sun.
When I was writing “Vengeance is Mine” that’s how she came to me. She was like a raptor falling out of the sky with folded wings. I had written Haxan stories about Magra before. No, that’s not quite true. I had written stories with Magra in them, but this was the first story about Magra.
She had always been a treasure trove of opportunity and potential. I could use her to explore Native American themes, racism, sexism, violence, and heretofore little explored facets of gritty western life through her eyes. Or at least through Marwood’s eyes as he viewed her dealing with these subjects.
I am embarrassed to admit in some of the earliest stories she was little more than a walk on character. Oh, she had a prominent role in the first Haxan story and the novel which will be published by CZP in late ’13 or early ’14. But in one or two subsequent short stories she was either a background character or just someone Marwood could save from violence and harm.
It wasn’t until I wrote “Vengeance is Mine” that I learned Marwood wasn’t the only one who could do the saving. Magra had power. Real power. But who was she? I mean, who was she, really?
I am Magra Snowberry, daughter of Black Sky.
When push came to shove Magra finally revealed herself. She showed me and the reader how she viewed herself and how she defined herself. She wasn’t only Marwood’s lover. If anything that was secondary to how she actually viewed herself. That surprised me. It shouldn’t have, perhaps, but it did. Boy, how it did.
She was revealing herself to me in ways I never imagined. I don’t know if you are a writer. But I am and I can tell you that is an amazing experience when hidden avenues are suddenly flooded with light. I still remember the moment and I remember how I felt. But for all this she still remains a cipher to me. She has revealed parts of herself I never thought or imagined existed when I created her. There are deep caverns here that I haven’t begun to plumb and may never fully understand.
From the perspective of a writer that is amazing to me. I know everything about Haxan. I know the streets and what it looks like and it’ history and its purpose. I know all these things as I know myself.
I still do not know Magra. I’m not sure I ever will. I’m not sure I am supposed to, and I write the darn things.
I feel like the world is cracking.
I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it is to have a character I do not know, yet am forced to write about. Every time I think about her I am amazed at how she amazed me.
To be sure something unexpected happened at the end of “Vengence is Mine” and that element has not been resolved in any story or novel to date. I know that it will. I know what happens later on to both Marwood and Magra. But I am not yet ready to write that story because there are other Haxan stories that demand attention right now.
I don’t write the Haxan stories in sequence. They come to me out of time and I place them in my head like beads on a string. I have a vague idea where each story belongs in a temporal sense, but I am not beholden to living by it. What I mean is, I might write a story that takes place in 1878 and then write a story that takes place in 1874. They might even be published that way. Major plot points are always kept in mind, but if it doesn’t matter then I don’t worry about whether or not as story takes place before or after one already published.
“Vengeance is Mine” is a little different, however. I have not consciously written a story that takes place after the events described in that story. There is too much to explore before those things happen, even though we have already seen what happens in this instance. If that makes sense.
But throughout it all Magra moves like a shadow. She night-walks the entire series. Even when she’s not there, she’s there. She has a presence that goes far beyond anything Marwood portrays.
I love all my characters of Haxan. I respect Magra.
She has power. Real power.