Category Archives: About Writing

The Noveling Time of Year

In November people all around the world spend 30 days doing their very best to write 50,000 words. National Novel Writing Month, or as most people call it NaNoWriMo, is what started my career. Both Witch for Hire and A Witch’s Path started out as NaNoWriMo projects.

I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo this month and encourage anyone dreaming of writing a novel to make their way over to http://nanowrimo.org and join in! One of the best part of NaNoWriMo is the fellowship. Often writing is a very solitary event, and this is one time where it’s easy to find other writers and make new friends!

Late August Update

The past two weeks, and the entire summer if I’m being completely honest, have been difficult. I’ve been ill with mysterious stomach issues, which have made being productive and happy difficult. While I’m confident this will get sorted out, my health isn’t the focus of this week’s update, the impact on my work, however, is pertinent.

The prequel to Fey Hearted, tentatively titled Human Fey, is in the works. If you’d asked me in July how long it would take to write, I would’ve told you two weeks for the first draft (20,000 words in two weeks means average 2,000 words for 10 work days which is well within my abilities when I’m healthy). Add another week to tidy it up before it went out to beta readers, then two weeks for the beta readers to get back to me. From there, anything from a day to a week of additional work to get it looking good before it could get scheduled for edits (the editing process has its own timeline). Basically, three to four weeks of heavy hands on work. Two of those weeks I’d be working on the beginnings of another project (Witch’s Path Book 6 in this case).

That hasn’t how things have gone. I first got sick back in June and it was all I could do to get A Witch’s Rite to the editor in anything remotely resembling a timely fashion. When A Witch’s Rite finally went to an editor, two weeks later than I’d initially intended (basically the time I was going to use to write Human Fey), I figured a week off to rejuvenate, rest, and read would do wonders. Then I would jump into Human Fey and knock it out in two weeks.

I was wrong.

When I’m sick I don’t feel creative. In fact, I often can’t create. I can’t picture worlds. I can’t see characters. I can’t do what writers do. All I can do is be sick.

All of this has been to get to one very simply point.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry because it feels like it’s taking forever to write a relatively short project. I’m sorry because I know you want books to read and I want to write them. I want to be more productive than I’m capable of right now. In June and early July, I could be tough. I could push through. These days I’m not feeling so tough. I’m tired, I’m worn out, and I’m sick.

It pains me to say I’m still working on Human Fey, but I’m proud of the work I’ve done. Right now I’m more than a quarter of the way through the first draft. For the 6th book of the Witch’s Path Series I’ve got the skeleton of a rough outline and an idea for the title.

If these updates sound repetitive, be patient with me. This isn’t the summer I wanted or the level of productivity I expect from myself. There are big plans for cool and awesome things. As soon as I’m back in fighting shape I’m going to attack all of them. Until then, slow is the expected pace and I’m sorry for that.

~N

The Damage of Rape in Literature

Rape has been talked about a lot lately, and it’s slowly fading from the front page of every news source. I know a lot of you are tired of the topic and I wish I could move on, but I can’t because I’ve long had strong views on how rape is used in stories. Or to be more accurate, the lack of impact it has on so many stories after it’s happened to one or more characters in the book.

Let me back up. I think the first time I read a rape scene was in Mercedes Lackey’s Magic’s Price. Now, I think it’s overall great book, and I have so much respect for her as an author (I own something like 30 of her books and have read another 15), but I never liked the way it was done or felt that it was consistent with the story* in Magic’s Price. In large part because I felt that the main character was raped near the end of the book to show 1) How evil the bad guys were, and 2) How much the hero had to overcome to defeat the evil. What I didn’t see was the enough enough time spent of the horrible things rape does to its victims.

Since reading Magic’s Price I’ve read a lot of books with rape in them. Over time I noticed that rape was often used as a cheap plot device. Need something horrible an unspeakable to happen to a character? Rape, sodomy, torture – to the page!

What I almost never saw in these books were scenes where the rape survivor had any lingering effects from the rape. In fact in one book the main character was brutally raped and then went about her life the next day like nothing had happened. I never read other book by that author. If she couldn’t give something as serious as rape the page time it deserved it shouldn’t have been in the book.

Off-hand I can only name three authors (I think?) who have given any attention to what happens after the rape. One of these authors wrote a character that not only suffered depression and isolation immediately after, but later experienced flashbacks, trouble being touched, and trouble being intimate after the rape. These issues cropped up from time to time in subsequent books. That seems a lot more realistic than getting up the next day and saving the world.

Rape, sodomy, torture, or anything related should not be used lightly in literature. Books are often an escape for people; some of which have survived those very experiences. Before any author writes rape into a book they need to really think about what they’re doing. That character must deal with that incident for the rest of its life. Anything less is doing a disservice to the people who have survived rape and trivializing a horrible life-altering experience that never goes away. And that’s true if it happens to the character on the page, off the page, or in their “tragic past.”

If what I just said isn’t enough of a reason to really think about using rape, sodomy, or torture casually, let me give you a couple more. Books communicate knowledge and morals. Even books intended for adults end up being read by children, small people still developing their moral center. Reading is a way they learn, and they need to learn that rape isn’t trivial. It’s a giant, horrible, terrible thing that destroys lives.

As an author, having a character that bounces back from rape or any other horrible thing like it never happened indicates that you made the wrong choice. To me, someone who is both an author and a reader, it feels like you needed some type of action that would thrill the reader and fill pages but not impact the rest of the story. Rape was the wrong choice. Any type of sexual assault is the wrong choice.

I want to see changes in the way rape, sodomy, and torture are handled in books. While the hero of any story is often asked to do the extraordinary, that shouldn’t include a truly unbelievable recovery from one of those things. A hero is often the character the readers relate to, or see themselves as, when they read the book. That means that what happens to that character needs to be relatable and meaningful to the overall arc of the story. Rape that only serves to fill a chapter or two and nothing more is none of those things.

There are millions of people reading our books and every time we use rape that way we lose their trust. Every time we skip over what happens after the rape we send a message to all the people that have lived through those horrors that it isn’t worth handling as a serious topic. We tell them they aren’t important, that their experiences don’t matter, and that they should stay quiet because no one wants to hear about that part of their lives. We tell them rape is so normal, so common, that it’s unremarkable. We show them how little we think of their pain and how little we understand.

As authors we can do better.

We need to do better.

There are millions of people of every gender, orientation, race, and walk of life that need us to do better. They need us to handle rape as a serious topic or leave it alone. They need to know that we see how devastating rape is to a person. They need us to create characters that have relatable post-rape experiences.

As authors we have a plethora of choices as to how things happen in our books and we owe it to every person who’s been a victim to do our best to handle serious issues as serious issues.

Do Better. Rape isn’t entertaining.

 

 

 

*If you’ve read Magic’s Price, maybe you agree with me, and maybe you don’t (to be fair, the main character died so quickly he didn’t have much time to deal with the post-rape trauma). Either way is fine, and we could talk about that book at length, but that book isn’t the problem. It’s how common the issues are in literature.

Interview with A New Look on Books

Rae over at A New Look on Books asked me to to an interview and I can finally share it with you!

Tell us about your journey of becoming an author and publishing your first book. Any extra advice to fellow dreamers?

I wish my journey to being a published author was inspirational, something novelists told themselves to bolster their spirits as they were working toward publication. I spent years wanting to be an author, writing in my spare time, and thanks to National Novel Writing Month in 2010, finally writing what would become my first book. I half-heartedly revised Witch for Hire several times, but life marched on, and I abandoned the book.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I started to get serious. At the time I was horribly depressed and was clinging to anything that I enjoyed. I went back to work on Witch for Hire. Over more than six long months I did the best editing I could, had a cover made, and figured out how to format an e-book.

The entire time I spent working on the book, I held onto the project with dogged determination, not letting anything get in my way. My fears and doubts didn’t matter any more. I didn’t care if I failed, so long as I tried. I knew, with absolute certainty, that I would regret never trying far more than I would regret failure.

January 11, 2014, I published Witch for Hire. I published it without telling my family because I didn’t believe the book would do well and I didn’t want to fail in the eyes of my loved ones. To my total shock, the book did well and in the spring of 2015, I quit my day job and started writing full time.

As for advice to fellow dreamers, I recommend finding a happier path to publication. Aside from that, you should find some likeminded friends, work on your craft, and you absolutely must read and write a lot. Odds are you’ll end up working two jobs to support yourself the one that pays bills and writing. It takes a huge amount of self-discipline to write after work, and on your weekend, instead of sleep, Star Wars, or friends. Along with the work ethic of a god, you’ll need an iron will, and the determination of a starving dog guarding a juicy bone.”

 

Looking on your website I see you have multiple writing projects at once. How do you manage to juggle all the characters, themes, and arcs for each project?

It isn’t easy, but after several years of working on my Witch’s Path Series, I wanted some variety and Fey Hearted wanted to be written. The story arcs are the easiest things to keep separate because Fey Hearted and its sequel are stories of personal growth, while the Witch’s Path Series is adventure based. In addition, the characters, worlds, and themes are distinct, which helps.

The Witch’s Path series is typically somewhat humorous, with magical absurdities, snark, and a strong connection to the world we live in. Fey Hearted is serious and thoughtful, focusing on themes of love, happiness, and consequences. The themes have helped shape the world and story into something very different from my other works.

The most confusing part is the creatures. Often when I dream up a new creature there’s the potential for it to go into either world depending on how it’s presented. I’m still working on that issue. Hopefully that aspect of the two worlds will clearly delineate while I’m writing the sequel to Fey Hearted.

 

Why focus on the fantasy/supernatural/science fiction genre?

Dragons! Unicorns! Magic! Things I always wished were real.:-)

Wait, I should give a serious answer. Growing up I read so many novels with fantasy elements and I fell in love with the genre. Not only does it transport the reader to a wonderful new world, but it’s allows you to enjoy adventure without living through the hardships. Plus, many of the problems characters face in a fantasy world mirror ones each of us face in life. To me, that gives the reader a way to process a problem that they may struggle with in real life in a much less threatening way.

 

What is your favorite element of writing about the supernatural?

The ability to create anything. The only limits are my imagination and ability to convey the information to the reader.

 

How do you go about creating one of your characters?

It depends. Every character develops slightly differently. Some are created because of what the story or other characters need. I find my main characters usually shape the characters in the rest of the story. Michelle, my main character from the Witch’s Path Series, came to me in a dream. Rose, from Fey Hearted, was more a creation of the world. I really wanted someone different from Michelle, and who could still be fierce. When I started to develop the world, I realized that it wasn’t enough for her to be fierce. She needed to be strong enough to fight convention, live with harsh consequences, and be passionate about family and happiness. Rose developed into a much quieter character, which was more challenging to write, but well worth it because I found new ways to demonstrate her abilities.

Excerpt from Fey Hearted

Fey Hearted is on sale for $0.99 June 9-16 on Amazon

 

Originally published at A New Look on Books June 11, 2016.