Greetings!

As an early birthday present to myself, I activated the Very Specific Plan I mentioned last log post. This involved mailing (yes, mailing–people still do that!) a cover letter, synopsis, first three chapters, and a self-addressed stamped envelope directly to the young adult acquisitions editor for Tor, one of my favorite publishers of fantasy. Now I wait for six months to hear back. “Why?” you may ask. I really don’t know. This is what I felt compelled to do with this particular project, so I listened to my instincts. I firmly expect a rejection from Tor (after all, they receive thousands of manuscripts every year in the mail), but for now I’m content to wait and get back to work on The Salt Pine Prince. Finally!

One of my New Year’s Resolution was to drastically cut back on Facebook time, and so far it’s been a success. I don’t log in very often and when I do it’s just for a few minutes. And I’m really much happier for it! Surprisingly, I don’t miss it, though I do miss feeling more connected to family and friends. This actually leads into my next resolution, which is to get/stay more in contact with family and friends in other ways. Like mailing letters, calling, and making more of an effort to visit. As an introvert, the struggle to maintain relationships is real, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try!

Anyway, back to Delaterra I go!

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Happy Holidays

December 21, 2015

Greetings and Happy Holidays!

Time to update! My fifth book will come out tomorrow (under my pseudonym), and I’m polishing up a sixth that I have a very specific plan for (it was a surprise idea that popped up during NaNoWriMo, which I will tell you all about in about six months when I see how it goes). Once book #6 is out of my hands (hopefully in January), I’m going to finish what will end up being my 7th book, The Salt Pine Prince. I know I’ve said that a few times, and who knows if I’ll actually follow through this time, but there it is. It’s always been in the back of my mind, where I’ve been working out the kinks.

Also of note, I got a new job! It’s been a journey the past eight months being a “stay at home mom”. It always felt like there was no time to write, but somehow I self-published three books in that time, and got a lot of work done on #6. But I’m ready to get back to work.

Finally, I’m still writing short stories and have been working with an anthology called “Clash of the Titles”, where the editor created the titles and the writers wrote stories to match. My story is called “A Quality of Pain” (it’s fairly dark) and right now I’m not sure if it will appear in the main anthology or be released in a spin-off magazine. There’s a Kickstarter planned so depending on where my story will appear I may update on that at a later date.

Well, that’s all for now! I’ve been flirting with the idea of quitting social media because I honestly don’t care for it, and never have. It’s just another thing to update. I convince myself that I’ll be able to manage it (I even created a Hootsuite account) and I do for a few weeks, then I go months without tweeting or updating Facebook. So, we’ll see.

Happy Holidays and New Year!

 

Short story released!

November 1, 2015

Today is the day! Check out my short story, The Guardian of the Mountain, for free on SQ Mag here! Hope you enjoy!

Today is also the first day of NaNoWriMo, and I’m participating for the 4th time. I hope to write a sequel for my horror series, as well as finish The Salt Pine Prince. I like having two very different projects to work on because NaNoWriMo is intense, and writing two separate stories somehow makes it a little easier for me.

Anyway, that’s it for now! Back to writing….

SO…..it’s been awhile! In the past few months we’ve moved to a different state, changed jobs, applied for new jobs, I started working from home, my oldest child started preschool, all with baby Cedric in tow. It’s been busy, to say the least. Toss in some health issues and it’s a party! During that time I actually wrote a short non-fiction book that is doing well, all things considered, and as a sequel to another series I’m writing. Once that one’s published, I’m going to update The Feast, then really crack down on The Salt Pine Prince during NaNoWriMo.

And, here’s more exciting news: a short story I wrote earlier this year, entitled “The Guardian of the Mountain”, will appear in SQ Mag next month. It’s (very, very) loosely based on Beauty and the Beast and is more of a fable than straight-up fantasy. It was really fun to write and I’m very excited to show something different! I’ll share a link to it when the time comes, but in the meantime feel free to check out SQ Mag. They’re based in Australia and offer a nice variety every issue.

http://sqmag.com/

I’m paraphrasing Flora on page five. This is how I’ve been feeling lately about Delaterra. It’s such a big place, and so much is happening, I simply can’t keep track of it all! So I’ve been sticking to short stories, and a non-fiction book I’ll publish next month. At least until things quiet down 🙂 In the past few months we had Cedric, moved to a different state, and fixed up a house. Plus, I took an online continuing ed class for librarianship in there (and I’m still questioning my sanity regarding that decision!). Things are finally settling into a routine, and soon I’ll stop thinking about Delaterra and I’ll write about it instead.

I just wanted to give a little update about writing, since I tend to keep on the quiet side. I love working on so many different projects because there’s always something to write, a few sentences here and a paragraph there. It’s progress. Shotgun progress, but progress all the same. Moving forward. Moving upward. Slowly growing. I don’t see the forest for the trees (or the book for all the words), then suddenly…it’s there. But not for a while yet 🙂

Good night.

Welcome aboard, Cedric!

April 22, 2015

Time to update on my personal life! My husband, daughter (Ellie, almost 3), and I welcomed Cedric James to our family on March 25, his due date. Fun fact: his sister was also born on her due date! The past month has been a blur, but I do have good writing news. Sometime soon I hope to share details on a short story I submitted to a magazine 🙂 Other than that, I’m plugging away at The Salt Pine Prince when I can!

2015-04-08 11.14.44 - Copy

Click here for a nice review by The Bookie Monster! What a great way to start a Friday, and kick-off the weekend 🙂

I am perhaps a third done with The Salt Pine Prince, the next installment of The Feast saga (AKA Tale of Delaterra), set for release hopefully Spring 2016. Below is an excerpt from one of Bjorn’s chapters:

Dawn on the inland sea. It looks like winter, always, because of the salt pines. They coat everything in white, no matter the time of year. It is beautiful, every morning, as the light reflects on salt slick with dew, and the few animals that can live here quickly lap up the water before it gets too brackish for them. Apart from the small stream that empties into the sea, that’s all there is for them to drink. Except when the trees weep.

“Bjorn,” Ebbe greets me. I nod. Together we head to the stables to feed the animals, before we feed ourselves. It is the nature of life here, to care for other beings first. We have the resilience and will to wait for food; animals only know their hunger.

“Almost time,” Ebbe comments as we brush down Morvan, the giant Clydesdale that does all our hauling. I nod again.

Morvan knows it’s almost time, too, for us to journey together. I can tell he’s been conserving his strength for the weeks ahead. He will need it, since salt is heavy.

“You’re old enough to go alone this year.” Ebbe doesn’t say I should, I notice. Still, I feel ready, and know I can manage it alone. I nod again. We finish caring for the other animals–four goats, three sheep, and various fowl–before heading inside. Jorgen has prepared gruel and tea, and we welcome the warmth. It is not winter, far from it, but the mornings are always chilly by the Pines.

“What say you, Thom?” Ebbe asks between mouthfuls, “Bjorn will gather the salt alone this time.”

“’Bout time,” Thom says, though he is not cross, “Lad’s been strong enough these past two years to manage alone. It’ll be a good test for his will, though. It’s lonesome across the sea.” Thom winks at me, a sparkle of mischief in his dark eyes.

“Aye, the lad’s ready,” Jorgen comments. He is the eldest monk, though by no means infirm. A lifetime of restraint has made these men resilient to the hardship of life despite its daily wearing, and I wonder if I will be the same in fifty years’ time. I stare at the spoonful of gruel as a strange feeling enters my chest. Discontent? I carefully open my mouth and take the spoonful. By now I can manage to eat without pain, and speaking doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did when I was a child, but silence is a difficult habit to break. Fortunately, I can communicate with my caretakers largely without speaking. They are good listeners, to be sure, but they are excellent readers of faces, hands, and silences, too.

“We’re running low on crimson and azure, a little earlier than usual,” Ebbe says, his hands around his mug of tea. His long fingers are delicate and gentle, which might be why the animals like him the best of us all. I smile as well as I can, because it’s my fault the ink is low. “Then again, it’s worth the beauty Bjorn gave us.” He gestures to my drawing pinned to the wall, where a familiar dawn shines down on us.

“It’s hard to begrudge the lad that,” Thom says, “His pictures speak the love of this land he’d rather not say.”

“Oh, hello,” Ebbe says to the bird landing on the sill, “What have we here?” He gently picks up the bird and unrolls the tiny parchment on its leg.

“I’ll read it,” Jorgen says, reaching for it, thankfully interrupting the monks,“You find him some crumbs.” Ebbe nods.

“Well? What’s it say?” Thom asks after a moment, noticing Jorgen’s amusement.

“Madge will visit soon, with one of her friends. We can expect them within the week.”

Jorgen grumbles and sits back in his chair. “The only thing worse than one sorcerer is two,” he comments, but he is not cross. Without Madge, I would’ve died as a child, so she’s always welcome when she makes her way north to us.

Disclaimer: a significant driving force behind this entry is many readers’ dislike* towards Dagger, a character in The Feast saga that I personally love to write but would probably not be friends with in real life. Okay, first disclaimer over.

Second disclaimer: I’m not claiming to be a guru on character development. This is entry is based on my own experiences and encounters with unlikable characters, both as a reader and a writer.

Mini Dagger

So, why are unlikable characters okay? They’re real. That’s the biggest reason. Likable and unlikable characters alike (confession: I wrote this entire entry just so I could use this phrase! Kidding…) have something major in common: flaws. But what makes the flaws of the likable characters more forgivable than the unlikable ones? I think it’s a willingness to look past those flaws, just like we tend to do in real life for loved ones or people we admire. Unfortunately, this usually dooms the unlikable characters to a downward spiral of unredeemablilty (I just made up that word).

Dagger has many flaws. She’s selfish, impetuous, hotheaded, and prickly (to name a few). She’s also a know-it-all and she’ll hold a grudge, even if it’s an ill-placed grudge. In short, very much like any teenager, especially a younger sibling. When I write Dagger, I can almost feel a mini version of her sitting on my right shoulder and hissing in my right ear as I type. “Really?” she’ll seethe, “You’re making me look like an idiot!” It’s kind of fun.

Of all the characters, she feels the most real to me because she’s the farthest from perfect. She’s everything I wasn’t growing up (I’m sure my parents are thankful); in fact, it never crossed my mind to be like her. Of course, I’m the last person who should try to objectively analyze my adolescent behavior 😉 But is that what dooms her to be unlikable? Or is it her overconfidence (the biggest barrier for me)?

Does she annoy you? If so, you’re reacting as I intended. Does she make you want to throw the book across the room? Good. You’re feeling something, which is more than I can say for the plethora of pleasant books I’ve read with pleasant characters, which I close with a sigh after reading the last page. (That’s a nice feeling, too…) Dagger is there as a major part of the story, yes, but she’s also there to tickle that spot on your back you can’t reach, taunt you with her own stupid actions and choices, and just when you think she’s going to die (finally!) she doesn’t** give you that satisfaction. Why? Why would I do that to you? Because you can handle her, and you can shake your head at her in disappointment and disbelief, and then you can forgive her. I believe in you!

I’d like to ask readers of all kinds (myself included) to pause the next time we run into an unlikable character, and ask, “Why?” Do we tend to be drawn towards certain characteristics and repelled by others, no matter what? Or do we treat each individual character as that–an individual–and have unique reasons for liking or not liking them?

As a reader, my feelings are a little different based on what I’m reading. If I’m reading “fluff” purely for mental escape, then yeah, a complete cast of likable characters is fine. Then, I don’t have to worry about the characters and I can focus on the story (usually I can zip straight through to the happy ending). But if I’m reading to immerse myself in a new world, I want a complex cast of characters to guide me, whether I like them or not. They are a part of that world and they shape each others’ paths through their selfish, stupid, or accidental actions. That’s one of the many reasons I love Game of Thrones (the books): I probably hate just as many of the characters as I love (maybe more!) and yet I keep wanting more because they’re real.

As a writer, finding a palatable balance of characteristics is challenging at times, but believe it or not it’s harder to consciously write an abrasive character like Dagger. I wanted her to be strong, which she undoubtedly is, but not in the ways she thinks she is. I wanted her to be passionate, in everything but the romantic sense of that word. And I wanted her to redeemable, which I think she is by the end, but that’s open for debate.

Anyway, this is mostly a post to justify my own feelings, but as a reader, a writer, and (heck, why not!) a librarian, I feel a bit qualified to say that we need unlikable characters in stories to make them good stories, at the least. Someone needs to contrast the straightedge protagonist or the pleasant sidekick and make them look better than they are! Right?

*Okay, it ranges from dislike to outright hatred (and hoping she dies)

**Woopsie, spoiler alert!

Something very unusual happened today–unusual enough that I decided to write about it! I happened to get feedback from two very different sources today, which is doubly odd since I rarely get feedback, and never unsolicited feedback. So, with that being said, I’m just a whirlwind of emotions at the moment and figured it’s a good time to comment on this aspect of writing.

Feedback is integral to the craft, but deciding which feedback to heed and which to ignore is almost an art itself! Today I received feedback from a library acquaintance and a judge from a contest I entered (and didn’t win), very different sources. Both were concerned about pacing and the balance of character’s alternating voices, but both were very impressed with Flora’s character and the balance of her girl and horse identities while she’s cursed, as well as the other characters coming alive and acting accordingly. (Side note: nobody likes Dagger! I will write an entry about this in the near future.) While it’s far too late to make huge changes to the story, it’s not too late to apply this feedback to what I’m currently working on in order to make subsequent stories a little better. That’s how it goes. As much as us “indie” writers want instant success, that’s not how it happens (normally). It’s a long road of taking what we can get when we get it, and doing as much writing and editing as we can in the mean time.

Do I regret publishing The Feast when I did? A little. Maybe delaying a month or two would’ve made a difference in the balance and pacing (which I felt wasn’t quite right at the time, but didn’t know how to fix), but probably not. Those kinds of issues take experience to resolve, experience which I simply don’t have yet because it takes years (a lifetime, really) to garner. For some writers, that’s enough to convince them to resist publishing anything for decades until they finally feel they’re getting it right. For me, there’s nothing like knowing I need to get better to motivate me to actually get better, because my career as a writer is on the line if I don’t. It’s the same with any career: doctors learn what they can from textbooks and theory before jumping in, but practice and experience are the best teachers for them.

The bottom line: it’s quite disheartening to get feedback you can’t apply to the actual work. But, since I’m the kind of person who believes positivity is largely generated from within, I’m going to roll with it and focus on the positive parts of the feedback while tucking away the suggestions for subsequent works. Note to future self: try to get much more feedback before publishing the next book, and let it marinate for a few months, minimum.