Category Archives: Life Reflections

2016 in Review

Getting up this morning I knew it was time for me to write my yearly wrap-up, but I didn’t have a lot of motivation. On Christmas Eve my car stopped starting in a parking lot and had to be towed home. Getting it towed to a mechanic and repaired will be today’s problem. The day after Christmas I managed to sprain my big toe. I’ll spare you the grizzly details, but I dearly hope none of you ever do something similar. The pain is completely disproportionate to the injury, and every step is a painful reminder that toes are important and do something.

Thankfully, the lovely Andi and I had been talking about writing, life, and 2017. The exact inspiration I needed was sitting in my e-mail.

 

Looking back at 2016, what did you accomplish as a writer? Of what are you most proud? What didn’t go as well as you’d hoped? 

Earlier this year I started keeping a list of work accomplishments. It’s something I plan on continuing because it gives me perspective. With how long so many “tasks” (like writing a book) take and how they tend to flow into one another (from writing to rewriting, to editing), it can be easy to forget what I’ve done and this reminds me.

2016 Accomplishments

  • Heavily edited Fey Hearted
  • Published Fey Hearted
  • Wrote Michelle’s Case Files
  • Rewrote Michelle’s Case Files
  • Edited Michelle’s Case Files
  • Published Michelle’s Case Files
  • Finished writing A Witch’s Rite (this book was started in 2015)
  • Rewrote A Witch’s Rite
  • Edited A Witch’s Rite
  • Published A Witch’s Rite
  • Wrote Draft Zero of the Fey Hearted Prequel Novella
  • Wrote Draft Zero of a science fiction short story
  • Reorganize NEConneely.com and created book landing pages
  • Rebuilt my desk to be ergonomic (Big thanks to my husband for helping!)
  • Formatted Fey Hearted and A Witch’s Rite for trade paperback
  • Reformatted Witch for Hire, A Witch’s Path, A Witch’s Trial, A Witch’s Concern for trade paperback
  • Reformatted  Witch for Hire, A Witch’s Path, A Witch’s Trial, A Witch’s Concern, A Witch’s Rite, Fey Hearted, and Michelle’s Case Files Kindle files to look prettier and be cohesive inside the series.
  • Formatted Fey Hearted, Michelle’s Case Files, Witch for Hire, A Witch’s Path, A Witch’s Trial, A Witch’s Concern, and  A Witch’s Rite for iBooks, Kobo, Nook, and other retailers
  • Published Fey Hearted, Michelle’s Case Files, Witch for Hire, and A Witch’s Path to iBooks, Kobo, Nook, and other retailers

I’m really proud of that list. Several of those things took weeks or months. Others required learning new skills and programs. I did all of that in between moving, getting married, visiting family, having a honeymoon, and being plagued with an ulcer. Everything I’ve just typed is important. They’re the things I need to remember when I wonder where 2016 went.

However, I didn’t do as much pure writing as I’d hoped. That’s the one thing I’d really like to improve upon in 2017.

 

Looking forward to 2017, what would you like to accomplish as a writer? What might need to stay in place for those things to happen? What might need to change? 

In 2017  I want to write 1,000,000 words. It’s a big goal, one I may not make, but everything I write gets me closer to some of my smaller goals (like completing individual books). And the process of trying will be a reward of its own as I get back to the writing and stories I love.

To write a million words in 2017, I need to hold onto my determination and drive while I work on my time management and daily flow. I need to learn when to take breaks and when to look at the a blank page and feel an upwelling of  “I Can!” I need to walk forward boldly and with conviction, remembering to prioritize my goals because it’s easy for them to get lost and that’s unacceptable. I need to be a better me and a better writer.

North Georgia is Burning

North Georgia is burning. The Rough Ridge Fire is destroying the Cohutta Wilderness area. If you read my Witch’s Path books you may recognize that name. That’s where the majority of A Witch’s Rite takes place. I have good memories of the area, and it’s very dear to so many of my friends and family.

Every day the numbers go up, but more than 21,000 acres are involved. The Cohutta Wilderness is only 37,000 acres. With no measurable rain in recent weeks, and none on the forecast, odds are the entire Cohutta will be consumed. I know when I go back it won’t look the same.

Even where I live, miles and miles away, smoke has settled over the city, making the sky hazy and breathing difficult. There’s been so much smoke around the greater Atlanta area that fire departments here have been fielding calls. The news picked up the story to inform citizens that they weren’t smelling a fire, but smoke from Rough Ridge that had settled here.

In the news it’s a fire, a bad one, uncommon in this area, and the result of a very dry summer and fall. To those of us who’ve lived in those mountains and love those mountains it’s so much more. We’re losing something beautiful, unique, and precious.

http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5078

Photos from the Rough Ridge Fire in Georgia

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.

Characterization vs Real Life and How Writers get it Wrong

I should be working on A Witch’s Rite.

Clearly that isn’t happening.

Prince Charming and I had a wonderful weekend filled with family and friends. It was really nice to see everyone and spend time with people we don’t see as much as we would like. One of the big events was a surprise birthday for a family member that was largely organized by the birthday girl’s mother-in-law.

Not only was the party awesome fun, but it was a true family celebration, with everyone coming together to make it an unforgettable day. It was also a little sad for Prince Charming and myself. He looked around and could see all the ways his mother would’ve been involved if only she was still with us. I was told how much I look like her, and stood there knowing I would never get a gift from my mother in law. I would never be cutting a cake while she gleefully informed me that it was chocolate and vanilla.

It’s not that my mother-in-law wouldn’t have done those things – every one of my newly acquired family members assures me she would’ve – it’s that it can’t happen. She’s years gone from here.

I was so sure I could write this without crying. I was wrong.

Last night, Prince Charming and I held each other and cried. We cried for what he had lost, and what couldn’t be.

As strange as this sounds, all those emotions and experiences directly relate to writing. Often times main characters are missing one or both parents. There are a lot of reason for that, it simplifies the writing process, removes characters that won’t be fully developed or involved, and with young adult novels it allows the author to do things with the character that parents would never ever allow.

However, in stories where a parent is dead, it’s often presented as a fact that has little emotional impact or as a tragic event that the character is recovered from. I’m blessed and still have both my parents, but I have several friends who’ve lost a parent. That’s a wound that never really heals or if it does it takes years. And I mean fifteen or twenty not three to five.

Plus, there are a few issues that are seldom mentioned in literature. The wound left when a parent passes away, well, it hurts the child and all the people around them. Some of that is for obvious reasons. If you’re close to someone who loses a parent, odds are you knew the parent too and feel the loss.

Here’s the crazy part, one that’s almost never brought up in books, the loss of a parent can hurt someone who never met the parent but cares deeply about the child. For example, I came into Prince Charming’s life at least four years too late to meet his mother. Last night we both cried for what could have been and what had been lost. When we were planning our wedding my husband had to deal with the reality that his mom wouldn’t be there, but knowing what it would’ve been like if she was because he remembers what his mother did when his sister got married. I did my best to make it feel like things were happening exactly as they would’ve if his mother had been there, all the while knowing I was attempting the impossible.

It’s rare for a character in a book to have those moments. Typically, if they do it’s within a year or two of the relative’s death. What’s thought of as the “acceptable mourning time.” In reality those moments when it hits you can come at any point, at times when you don’t even see it coming, like a surprise birthday party.

The times I can recall a similar set of feelings being mentioned in a book, it was largely glossed over. Something like:

“I wish my mother could be here,” He said softly as we watched the celebration.

Laughter echoed through the room, but it felt distant, as if the two of us were viewing from afar. “She’s here in spirit.” I slipped an arm around his waist. His arm came around my shoulders and he pulled me close.

“She is, and she wouldn’t want us to miss a moment of our wedding.” A smile broke through his somber reflections. “Come on, I want to dance with my wife.”

Let me tell you what actually happens.

More than four years after my mother-in-law’s death, I’m at a party with my husband and he looks lost for a moment. Later, I learn that he was thinking about how much his mother would’ve loved the party. She would’ve been in the thick of things, and planning to do a similar event for either my husband for myself.

I am told I look like her. Since I’ve only seen a few pictures of her and don’t have a super clear idea what she looked like in person, never mind how she looked at different points in her life, I stand there awkwardly and try to find the right thing to say. I’m torn between saying what I’m thinking, which goes something like, “Do I? Hum, we do have that one picture of here. I can see it. *shrug* It doesn’t matter much either way.” Or sticking with the polite southern reply. “Do I? No one’s said that before.” (I went with the second because I’m a Georgia Girl.)

A day later I tell my husband that the party made me sad because I realized I would never open a present my mother-in-law picked out for me, or do a hundred other tiny things that happened at that party. Then he’s telling me how he had a moment at the party, and really had to focus to avoid crying at someone else’s event. Then we’re both crying. And I’ve never met the woman, and this has been his reality for years.

That’s life. It hurts when you least expect it, for reason that you never dreamed it could.

I won’t stop writing characters with deceased or absent parents, but I’m going to rethink it a little. There’s a character in the works who’s an orphan, and after this weekend, I can tell you that she’s going to miss her parents. The story is going to catch up with her between 4-10 years after their deaths, and while in other books that would simply be her “tragic past,” in this book it’s going to be her every day reality. She will have thoughts like,  “This is a life unlike anything my parents wanted for me,” “I wish they could see me like this,” “My mother would’ve loved this dress,” and “If only my parents could see me now they’d be so proud.”

Actually, in this book they might not be proud, but that’s a different story, one that’s itching to be written so I better finish up A Witch’s Rite so I can start on other projects.