Monday, 29 July 2019

Weekly Update: July 21-27

It's been another week of healing, so not a lot of writing progress but I got two good writing days this week.  I didn't track word counts, because it's still a lot lower than I'd like, but I'm counting this as progress.

Next week is Romancing the Capital and I am looking forward to that so much.  The last couple weeks has been all about making sure I'm in good shape for the conference.

I had friends at RWA National Conference last week and I am so jealous of their New York experiences.  New York is still on my bucket list to visit in person at some point.  This year, the money wasn't there, but someday, it will be.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Hidden Diamond: Creating An Emotional Experience with Jaycee Jarvis

There are lots of great authors and books out there, so many that it can be hard for readers to find the ones they love to read.  So I want to share the gems hidden among the chaos.  Each month, I feature a new Hidden Diamond author.

This month's Hidden Diamond is a fellow Soul Mate author and a Golden Heart Finalist who can always be counted on for an interesting discussion, Jaycee Jarvis.  I share her love of fantasy and romance and am intrigued by how she's put the two together for her Hands of Destin series.

The latest installment of the series, Deadly Courtship, released in May through Soul Mate Publishing.  The series follows a group of magically gifted friends, as they fight corruption in their government posts and find love along the way.  In Deadly Courtship, Madi, a member of the elite guard in the tropical town of Trimble, finds her loyalties tested in unexpected ways when her former lover is accused of murder.

Today, Jaycee shares her thoughts on the emotional experiences her readers are looking for, her writing process, and her answer to the eternal debate of astronauts versus cavemen.

Creating Emotional Experience

I really want to thank Jennifer for having me on her blog today! I’m passionate about reading and writing, so it is a real treat to be able to go on at length about my favorite subjects.

I once heard fiction writing described as the art of creating an emotional experience with the reader.  That really resonated with me, and my watchword as a writer is to authentically craft the experience my readers crave.

I think one of the important purposes of genre labels is to help readers figure out what emotion to expect. Want to be frightened? Horror is there for you. Looking for a laugh? Many bookstores have a humor section. Now good books are not completely one note and will mix different emotions into the story to keep it interesting. Still there is an emotional theme or tone to most novels, and genre plays a role in cluing the reader into the tone before they pick up the book. Because I write across genres, straddling both fantasy and romance, I’m hyper-aware of those reader expectations.

Fantasy stories promise wonder and surprise, with problems and solutions far removed from our mundane world. Readers pick up a fantasy novel to be transported,  to experience new possibilities. Romance, on the other hand, is all about the feels. Readers want to intimately know and understand the characters in a romance novel, and of course romance has the all important happy ending.

Authors who don’t write romance sometimes have the mistaken impression that delivering an HEA (happily ever after) somehow makes romance easier to write. After all, you already know the ending. But in some ways the promise that everything will turn out right in the end can be extremely challenging to deliver. Readers also want an interesting story, which means obstacles and conflict are a must, and then those problems have to be satisfyingly resolved. And what exactly constitutes a satisfactory resolution can be a matter of personal taste.

I’ve had beta readers complain because the villain didn’t meet a bloody enough end in my book. Because part of a happy ending includes a comeuppance for the bad guys, especially in fantasy. And I took their critique to heart, which strengthened the story at the same time.

As both a reader and a writer I enjoy the opportunity epilogues give to show the characters in the future, beyond the drama and whirlwind of the story. When I’m writing the capstone to my own novels, I always hope the reader will savor the proof that my characters have found their bliss and will live happily ever after.

- Jaycee Jarvis

Author Interview with Jaycee Jarvis

What is the wildest thing you've done to research a book?

I have a tendency to go down deep internet rabbit holes exploring obscure bits of history or ancient tech, but I don’t know if it’s exactly wild and crazy. I’m also a big gleaner, where everything I experience has the possibility of ending up in my books. I didn’t take a trip to Costa Rica strictly to research my books, but you can bet those humid hikes through the natural wonder of a rainforest found their way into my books set in a magical jungle kingdom.

What is your writing process?  

I’m a pantser with aspirations to be a plotter. I think it would be much more efficient to plan my stories out in advance, and cut down on rewrites, but somehow my creative mind doesn’t work like that. My stories tend to surprise me in wonderful ways, and never stick to the plan. The revision processes is where I really get into the meat of the story, since I have to draft to discover what the story is actually about.

What is your favourite thing to do to relax?

I was a reader long before I was a writer and it is still my go-to leisure activity. I love getting lost in the worlds that other writers create, and usually find myself inspired to get back to my own stories.

Who is your favourite fictional crush?

I will always have a soft spot for the man in black aka Wesley from the Princess Bride. I imprinted on that movie as a teen.

And in the spirit of the ongoing Joss Whedon debate, who would win: astronauts or cavemen?

Astronauts for sure, and I don’t think they’d even need the technological advantage. Their germs alone would wipe out the cavemen.

Thank you, Jaycee, for being one of my Hidden Diamonds!  And if you'd like your own copies of Jaycee's books or to follow her on social media, you can find her here.

Facebook       Twitter       Website

And if you'd like to spend a little more time on this website, you can check out my latest release, a steampunk romance created specially for Romancing the Capital, A Star To Steer Her By.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Still A Real Writer: Struggling With Limitations

On Tuesday last week, I injured myself rather severely.  I fell, spraining both hands and my foot.  My doctor told me to avoid moving my hands or putting any weight on my foot for three days to allow the sprains to begin to heal properly.

I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in one of the most excruciatingly difficult positions.  Everything I would ordinarily do to occupy and entertain myself: typing, drawing, puzzles, cross-stitch, all of them require my hands.  Luckily, I had sent off my final edits for Deadly Potential to Soul Mate Publishing before this happened.

Even scrolling through Twitter on my phone was overwhelmingly painful.  I tried using the dictation software to write a few replies, but it was frustratingly difficult.

The problem with hand-held devices is that you have to HOLD them in your HANDS!
As I was scrolling, I saw a piece of writing advice that often gets trotted out: Real writers write every day, they have no other choice.

That advice is garbage, but it is particularly hurtful to those suffering from chronic health conditions, injuries, or who have other responsibilities, such as family, earning an income, or other challenges.

I didn't write for three days.  That doesn't make me suddenly less of a "real writer" or a bad writer.  Very few authors can manage to write on a daily basis.  For those that can, I think they should be celebrated.  But those who can't should never be made to feel less than.

I'm going to be several weeks recovering from this injury.  And if I want to actually recover, I will need to listen to my body and respect the pain warning me that something is wrong.  It will be a challenge, because I strongly internalized the message that there are no excuses for not getting work done.  That illness and injury are things that willpower can and should overcome.

That level of expectation is harmful, even in the best of circumstances.  In a case like my current one, it could delay or even eliminate my chance to recover completely.

So I'm going to be quiet for the next few weeks.  But I'm still going to be a real writer, regardless of how many words I put on the page.

Previous blogpost: Heroine Fix: Mazikeen from Lucifer, and how she's worth it.

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Monday, 15 July 2019

Weekly Update: July 7-13

Weekly word count: 1050

Considering that Tuesday was spent in the emergency room and Wednesday through Friday were enforced no-work days, I will take this total.

I have managed to injure my hands in such a way that it will take several weeks to recover.  (A fall in a parking lot for those who are curious.)  They're sprained, not broken, for which I'm grateful, but the pain is still enough to make me cautious.

These days I'd give a great deal for mutant healing abilities.  It's been a week of watching Netflix, which sounds great in theory, but not once you're in pain while doing it.

Don't worry.  I should be back on my feet in time for Romancing The Capital.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Heroine Fix: Mazikeen, Totally Worth It

Heroine Fix is a monthly feature where I share amazing and interesting female characters whom I admire and inspire my own writing. This post will contain spoilers.

Those who know me are well aware that I adore the television series Lucifer, with its irreverent take on Christian mythology.  And one of my favourite characters is the title character's best friend and right-hand demon, Mazikeen (Maze for short).

Whereas Lucifer is conflicted about his purpose and nature, Maze is confident in her own path.  She is on Earth to protect Lucifer and enjoy herself with sex, liquor and violence.  It's only as Lucifer shifts into doing more and more good that she begins to doubt her place.  She and Lucifer have been partners for millennia.  She was his head torturer and second in command.  If he is abandoning that part of his life, its a rejection of her as well.

The rejection leaves her lost in a society she doesn't understand.  Human customs seem arbitrary and hypocritical.  For all that she enjoys physical pleasures, they aren't enough for her.

Any one would be overwhelmed when faced with the diminishing of a long-term partnership, and the erosion of our understanding of the world.  Most of us would give up.

Mazikeen returns to Lucifer and demands respect and acknowledgment.  In his narcissism, he doesn't understand why this is so crucial to her.  She takes the incredibly scary step of following through on her ultimatum.  She leaves him to find her own place in the world.

In doing so, she discovers a richness she'd previously despised: the humans.  She begins a friendship with Linda, a psychologist who knows the truth about demons on Earth.  Linda helps her to understand human customs (though not without some setbacks and misunderstandings).  Mazikeen also befriends Trixie, a young girl who is not afraid of the supernatural.  The relationship with Trixie brings out Maze's protective side.  No little girl has ever been safer from anyone looking to hurt her.

She finds a job that she loves and excels at, a bounty hunter.  She can find any bad guy and bring them back easily.  She revels in her skills and how easy it is for her to show-up the more macho, experienced bounty hunters.  Watching her take unrepentant pride in her accomplishments rather than dismissing them is frankly inspiring.  So often women are trained to accept compliments with a "here's why I don't deserve this" instead of "damn right, I am awesome."

In season 4, Mazikeen does something that will forever cement her as one of the bravest characters I've had the pleasure of watching.  Throughout the series, she has protected herself by keeping a flippant distance from even her closest friends.  She rarely admits any feelings beyond rage, and tends to be dismissive of her relationships (even though she's taken incredible damage in order to protect her friends).

In this most recent season, Mazikeen falls in love with Eve (the actual Eve, as in the original human woman mentioned in the Bible).  Eve is in love (or at least infatuation) with Lucifer, and enlists Maze's help to win his heart.  Mazikeen takes the risk of telling Eve how she feels (in a glorious cover of Oasis's Wonderwall), knowing that it is most likely that Eve doesn't feel the same way about her.

Mazikeen allows herself to be completely vulnerable.  And when Eve misunderstands the gesture, Maze has the courage to accept that what she wanted isn't possible.

She could physically force Eve to be with her.  She could have lied and tricked Eve into a relationship.  But she wanted something genuine and wasn't willing to settle for anything less.

Because Maze knows what she's worth.  And she's worth the happily ever after with someone who adores her and whom she adores, the challenging job that she's brilliant at, and the respect and friendship of those in her life.

We shouldn't settle for anything less either.

Previous Heroine Fix: Sara Lance from DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Previous post: Overcoming Writer's Block

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Monday, 8 July 2019

Weekly Update: June 30-July 6

Weekly word count: 4127

Steady progress.  Hopefully next week goes better since I'll have both kids in camp rather than facing a steady stream of "I'm bored."

I have come up with a rather clever parenting plan for the younger.  His teacher commented last year that he was having trouble with the standard five paragraph essay structure.  He would repeat himself rather than explaining his conclusions.

So for this summer vacation, he is allowed to watch movies during the day.  (Usually they have a strict 2 x 30 minutes of screentime each day.)  However, for each movie he watches, he has to provide me with an outline for a five paragraph essay.  So far he's done "Ghost was not really a bad guy" for Ant-Man and the Wasp and "Ways the Cree Made Vers Think She Wasn't Powerful" for Captain Marvel.  He's still struggling a bit but making improvements.

For those worried about his vacation quality time, it's entirely optional.  If he doesn't want to watch a movie, he doesn't have to do the outline.  It's cut down on his complaining and I have the illusion of teaching him something.  Wins all around!

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Breaking Writer's Block

There is nothing more frustrating to an author than when the words on the page just aren't flowing.  Whether the page is staying blank or progress feels like we're struggling across a gravel slope, it can be disheartening to be the one wooing the creative muse.

However, there are techniques that can help.  Here are the ones I've found helpful.

Is it a problem with the story or something external?

Lots of things can affect creative output.  Depression, stress, and a number of other health and life problems will cut down word counts.  So my first step is to figure out if something external is to blame.  I've found the best way to do that is to take a break from my WIP and try something else.  If I can dash off 2k words of fan fic or chasing a plot bunny, then the problem isn't with me, it's the story.

Where is the problem with the story?

The vast majority of the time, when I'm having trouble with a story, it's because there's a plot hole or a faulty character arc or plot line.  Sometimes I can pin down where it is fairly quickly and sometimes it takes some work.  I generally find the best way to find it is to either write out my plot by hand or talk to someone.  Writing by hand uses a different part of the brain than typing, so the switch can let me see things from a different angle.

After that comes the hard part.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice the best bits.

Sometimes I really want to include a scene, or a moment, or a character.  But sometimes they're just not working in a particular story.  They're slowing it down or making things too complicated, or require narrative convenience to make them work.  It's heartbreaking to let them go, but I tuck them into the "use it later" folder on my computer.

This isn't exactly "kill your darlings" advice, it's "be willing to do what's best for the story" advice.  There will be other stories where your darlings can thrive and get the best possible versions of themselves. 

Sometimes this means substantial rewrites and if that's the case, then that's something else that we need to be willing to do.  Even if it means a book is delayed, it's better to have a book delayed and then be good than to put out something flawed.

Dealing with writer's block is one of the things I think of when people tell me that they think writing is easy.  Writing can be easy, when everything is going well.  But when it's not, that's what separates professional authors from enthusiastic amateurs.  Professionals do the work that isn't as much fun, that can be tedious and difficult.  But they do it because they're driven to do it.  And that's what makes it special.

Previous post: Hidden Diamond Interview with Olivia Dade

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Monday, 1 July 2019

Weekly Update: June 23-29

Weekly word count: 2314

I'd made some good progress on the ending for Division but the ending didn't feel right.  I spent some time thinking about it and plotting it out and I think I have a better ending now.  Hopefully progress will be faster after this.

I also got my final edits back for Deadly Potential from Soul Mate.  The release date is set for October 23rd.  I'll let you all know once it's available for pre-order.