After today’s struggle with dressing myself (and you’d think after 42 years, I’d pretty much have that one on autopilot) I have but ONE thought — Never shall I have either heroine or villianess wear one of those laughable, horrendous contraptions I fought with this morning….. a bra where the straps hook into the back. I’d say I looked like a dog chasing it’s tail, but I’m pretty sure the dog would have had a higher success rate.
Not only can I say that, but over the holidays, one of my characters found out SHE can say it too! Up until now, everybody (including myself) thought it was over for her. Not so! The House on Evermore Lane is building up to a grand finale and this news really put a kink in things for some of our nastier characters. I’m excited to be writing about it!
This does not, of course, explain why I have not been writing in my blog. I’d like to say it was because I was terribly busy with the holidays and working on my storyline. However, about the best I can do is say I was in a complete funk and not writing much of anything. And of course, with the New Year comes the resolution to do better.
Speaking of that, the thought occurred to me that our characters can also have resolutions, especially the main voices in our story, because we carry their complete lives in our heads. For example, here are some of mine.
Mina Drake: 1) Do not kill Toby. No matter what or how tempting. 2) Do not send Father’s Day card to insane serial-killer-fairy-king type father. 3) Convince the refrigerator that ice cream is a healthy and accepted part of a normal daily diet.
Toby McGillis: 1) Do not kill Mina. No matter what or how tempting. 2) Stay off of Vi, or Violent’s (as Mina calls her) radar, now that I’ve allowed a witch to best her. 3) Spend more time getting to know a certain bewitching waitress
Max: 1) Do not kill Mina or Toby. No matter what or how tempting. 2) Refrain from eating the small fae. They taste nasty and give you gas. 3) More sunbathing and less human-assisted bathing. Much less.
Bing: 1) Do not kill Max. No matter what or how tempting. 2) Remember what my real name is and how I ended up as a stone dragon. 3) Cut down on the brooding sullen bad boy act. It only works for James Dean and Charlie Sheen.
Can you name the top resolutions that the characters in your story would make? Knowing your characters inside and out (and what writer doesn’t, when they live in our heads 24/7?) is a huge part of making them easy for readers to love, hate or understand. Or some combination of the three.
It occurred to me yesterday, in a conversation with another writer, that (despite what they told us in english class) we all have different ways to write, to create the story, and to get everything put on paper. My new friend, a sci-fi writer, was explaining how she carefully worked out her entire story plot, all the characters, all the events, into a detailed outline before she started writing her story, and then, in her words, it was easy to write the book, it practically wrote itself for her.
I smiled and nodded and personally thought how that much organization would basically be my own personal hell — when it comes to fiction writing. As you have guessed at this point, I flung everything my english teachers ever tried to teach me about outlines, form, and organization out the window with how I write.
There is an outline to my stories — but it’s very basic, doesn’t include many details, and rarely stays the same for more than a few days. Writing for me is an incredibly fluid process, and I find that tying too much of the story down on paper instead of actually writing it binds me up and gives me a horrible headache. Occasionally hives.
Generally, the way it works is….. I get an idea. It may not be for an entire story — it may only be for a character, it might even only be a line of dialogue. But its something that plants the seed. The seed germinates in my head (which is easy, because it is full of B.S., LOL). Other ideas come to me. I do tend to write them down, but I don’t try to force them into an outline format, or even to play well with each other. I do some research on things that interest me that might be tied in to this seed of an idea. This process can go on in the background for months.
Eventually, one of the characters will come to me and ask me to let them tell their story, and this is when the real writing starts. The story begins to flow from me as they tell it to me. We have some false starts. The book I’m working on now, the first 20k words have been re-written 3 times to get them right, and the concepts in the storyline changed multiple times. Characters add themselves into the story at will, when they introduce themselves to me. Sometimes that changes the storyline, sometimes it simply affirms it.
Writing to me is not ME telling a story. It is, instead, me passing on the story of another. My characters live and breath in my mind (along with all my personalities — some days its a little crowded up there, I’m surprised the police aren’t called more often). They decide how their stories go, not me. And its like the interviewing process…. sometimes you have to go over something multiple times and from multiple characters points of view, before you understand where they are trying to take you with it.
At the moment, I’m 40k into the story, and feeling very very good about how it has shaped up recently. Totally different direction than where I originally tried to force the story to go, but that’s okay. Now, all those nagging little ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions that I attached to the original idea are gone. It feels right. It flows. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work some of those other ideas back in later. Depending on the agreeability of my characters of course. I’m excited to see how the next 40k words flow, and what new characters appear and what new things I learn about the lives in my story.
So, how do YOU write? Plan it all out? Stream of consciousness writing? Plan a little, write a little? I know there are as many ways to approach a story, to tell a story, as there are storytellers. I’d love to hear yours.
Do you frown, wrinkle your nose or sneer at the concept of authors who self publish? Why? Is it because you think that this is a path for anyone to become an author — not just those of us who have the talent?
Traditional publishing takes a long time. You have to fight and beg for even the opportunity to have your manuscript read. If you are lucky enough to have a book accepted (and that can easily take years of effort) then you are stuck living by the rules of your publishing house. You do what they want you to do, accept what they want to pay you, charge what they want to charge for your books, and go where they send you for marketing. While I realize that for some writers, the be-all-and-end-all of existence, the holy grail itself, is to be an author at a large traditional publishing house.
If that is what your dream is, then I say let no one take it from you. Be diligent in working toward it. Just don’t hate on those of us who choose not to go that route.
I am not only willing to put my fingers into every step of the publishing and marketing process, but I prefer it that way (yes, I have control issues, but really good ones!). I run my own company, I have been in graphic design and marketing for pushing three decades now. I know what I’m doing and I’m very comfortable doing it myself. For someone like me, traditional publishing is not a viable pathway. I would be so frustrated with the repeated efforts, the delays, the rules, I would feel like an employee all over again. So not interested in going there. Not for me.
With self publishing, I have control over the whole process and how fast it moves. I can have access to everything that I would have at a publishing house. Yes, I do have to pay for their services. But you pay for them at a traditional publishing house too, after they ‘accept’ you. You just don’t realize it. Royalties in traditional publishing are normally a very low percentage. That’s because all the things I pay for individually (editing, marketing, public relations, isbns, etc) are all tallied up under the expenses of the publishing house and you the author only make money after they start clearing their expenses.
I would rather pick who my editor, marketer, cover designer, etc are personally, without having to think about their company affiliation or place of employment. All I have to be concerned with is that our personalities match, we have the same goals for my book, and I can afford them. And when you can pull down 70-80% of the book price in author royalties, I have a lot more leeway in what I can afford.
For me, it’s all about the choices I can make and having the freedom to make them. I’m sure there are some writers who are now authors who don’t really have the talent or ability to write a good book. The most wonderful thing about a book is that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it. And with billions of people on the planet, there’s a market for just about everything. One man’s trash, another man’s treasure.
So don’t hate on self publishing because its different. Our standards aren’t lower. In fact, in lots of cases, they are higher, because there is no big publishing house to hide behind if we screw it up. 🙂
A friend of mine made a comment the other day about how much she talks to me in her head (and assumably, my head). I laughed and said something about ‘background chatter’. Later, she wanted to make sure that she was not the reason for all the ‘boxes piled up in my head.’ And I had to tell her that the boxes were always there, only the names on them changed.
That got me to thinking. There’s a lot that goes on in my head, as I am sure goes on in every other creative person’s mind (and probably other people too). I’ve even named some of them, as they are strong enough to have personalities of their own (No, no, not Eve — we’re not talking true MPD here). Some of those become characters in my stories, and some of them simply give birth to characters in my stories. Of course, then I have all the characters up there as well, at least as long as I am writing about them — sometimes longer if I happen to decide I’m done before they are. If only I could find a way to charge them all rent….. I’d have millions, I think.
An artist is supposed to have a Muse, that soul spark of creativity that whispers dreams in our ear, that years to be brought to life through whatever medium we’ve chosen — writing, music, sculpture, dance. How do you find your muse when you have a crowd like that to look through everyday?
The answer, at least for me, is I don’t. While my muse occasionally hunts me down and explains to me what she wants me to do, more often than not, she is content giving me little slivers of information and then letting me mull over them until the idea sneaks up and pounces on me. I understand she does a better job of staying in communication with my characters and many semi-personalities (I think grown ups call them imaginary friends now days). My characters are all too willing to tell me what I should do. Which is why sometimes I ignore them and then go through several frustrating days of writer’s block until they decide to start speaking to me again.
My muse is like the girl you see in the bar or club. She looks perfectly normal and average and she’s not doing or wearing anything that would make her stand out. She’s a quiet presence in the room who spends most of her time watching and cataloging others. You didn’t see her come in, and you may not notice when she leaves, but as long as she’s there, you’ll feel sort of a quiet comfort that all is right with the world, and when she moves on, you may wonder what it is you suddenly feel like you’re missing — but without quite being able to call it loneliness.
I have had a problem with the storyline I’m currently mangling into a book. One of my favorite characters, Mina’s aunt Rowan, who is by reputation a strong, spirited, feisty, independent woman… err, witch… dies before we get a chance to meet her. And even as I have written the story and been amazed and entertained watching the characters of Mina, Toby, Bing and Max grow and develop right before my eyes… I’ve missed having Rowan in the mix. She’s such a smart lady, and she’s waited so very long to see Mina again. Rowan never had children of her own, and Mina was for the longest time, the daughter she never had. To separate her and Mina now that Mina is finally coming out from under the forgetting spell seems… like cruel and unusual punishment.
I can’t just re-write the story and make Rowan live. Too many factors hinge on Mina moving to Savannah, making the House on Evermore Lane her own, and finding her own way through to witchly strength. Coming into your own is something done better without a helicopter parent… in this case, a helicopter aunt. I don’t think that’s the type of person Rowan is — but the story is about Mina’s development, and it won’t be the same if she doesn’t have to be the own to create the story herself.
So my options seemed limited…. would finding and reading Rowan’s diary help make her a real character both in this story and to Mina? would flashbacks do the trick? What about having her come back as a spirit, like Esme (well, okay, nobody is like Esme, the low country voodoo queen)? Bring her back to life? Each way I came up with seemed alternately overdone, cheesy, too simple, too staid, too…. too NOT Rowan.
But I am pleased and excited to announce that I have found the perfect way to make Rowan a full-blown, card-carrying member of the cast of the House On Evermore Lane — without taking anything away from Mina’s personal growth (and witchly growth) journey. And I hope that you’re going to enjoy reading about it as much as I am going to enjoy writing about it…. Hey, Max! put that down, I’m gonna need it later…. snarky kitty!!! (stops typing, chases a laughing Max into the other room to retrieve a piece of storyline from his little kitty paws)
Lola Lyons, ace reporter for the Savannah Supernatural Times here, with Toby McGillis — werewolf, private eye, and general befriender of witches in distress.
Lola: Good evening, Toby. How’s life been treating you lately?
Toby: It’s been interesting, I gotta say, watching the hole that Rowan’s death left in the supernatural community slowly being filled back in.
Lola: Had some hair-raising moments, eh?
Toby (grimaces): Something like that.
Lola: So tell us how Mina is really doing. It looks like she got off to a bit of a rough start.
Toby: She’s handling the shock well. Her whole life was pretty much turned upside down by finding out she was a witch, and then inheriting the house on Evermore Lane. She’s still feeling very torn about the decision to either stay here, or try to return to her old life. Right now, her biggest focus is on dealing with her father, learning to handle her magic, and finding her place in the werewolf clan.
Lola: You don’t mean she’s becoming a werewolf, too? Is there… something going on between the two of you? Are you withholding information, naughty boy?
Toby: uuummm, no. Mina is more like a sister to me than anything. That could be because of all the yelling, though. She’s not shown any interest in anything more (or less) than platonic. I’m good with that.
Lola: So, what’s happening with the clan then?
Toby: When Rowan died, we lost our magnus — the pack member who is witch and helps deal with magical conflict, attack or protections — Noah’s idea was to bring Mina in as Rowan’s replacement. Things are a bit rocky with that right now, and I’m not sure how it will turn out. Mina is becoming somebody who doesn’t back down much, and that’s not setting well with some of the more aggressive members of the pack. Noah likes her just fine.
Lola: When you say more aggressive members, are you talking about anybody in specific? I mean, perhaps a certain female werewolf who is known to have control issues — and lots of pent up anger?
Toby: If you mean Violetta, yeah, she’s been a bit of a problem in the transition. I think things are starting to work out though.
Lola: I heard that Mina nicknamed your girl Vi as Violent just a few minutes after meeting her.
Toby (laughing): Don’t say that in front of Vi if you want to keep your head attached. She hates it. Noah has his second on a tight lease while waiting to see if things settle down.
Lola: Vi does have a lot of friends a lot like herself. Does this put Mina in any danger?
Toby: If they catch her off guard right this minute, maybe. Give her a little more time to get comfortable with her magic and no, they won’t be a problem for her.
Lola: That means the time for a coup is now.
Toby (shaking his head): They would have to take on Noah, and the entire alpha family. It would get them killed or at the very least a pack exile. It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t want to be on their side in that battle. We’re not immortal… just really difficult to kill.
Lola: So what do you think are Mina’s chances here?
Toby: I think Mina will do just fine. There may be bodies before she gets there, though. As long as one of them isn’t mine or hers, I’m okay with that.
Lola: Is she going to be strong enough to go head to head with her father, the fairy king?
Toby: He’s only king of one of the courts, not all of them, so he’s not as powerful as the true Fairie King. Besides, who says she’s going to go head to head with him?
Lola: One hears things — Like that he’s got a bounty on her head… and doesn’t care if it’s attached to her body or not when he gets it.
Toby: They would have to survive catching her first.
Lola: So, is she going to let her father’s attitudes and behavior simply follow her around for the rest of her life?
Toby: Doesn’t what our parents think or want of us haunt us all our lives anyway?
Lola: You’re saying that she has no plans to confront him or put a stop to his mission to kill her?
Toby: I’m just saying that the future hasn’t been determined quite yet. Mina has a few surprises in her. You’ll just have to wait and see what happens, I guess.
Lola (frowning): Well, folks, there you go, straight from the werewolf’s muzzle…. we’ll just have to wait and see what Mina does. I imagine it’s guaranteed to be spectacular… but the jury is out over whether that’s spectacularly good or spectacularly bad. Lola Lyons, bringing the supernatural to savannah, one haunt at a time.
Bing is the latest entry in Mina Grave’s life. He’s a dragon made entirely of stone, changed from a human knight centuries ago by a curse. In another life, Bing had a different name. He was a knight and rumor, along with his vaguely constructed memories, someone much more.
He saved Mina’s life when she was attacked by a hell hound in the graveyard, and he returned her home. He is familiar with the other supes in the city, including Toby and Max, although he tends to keep to himself. He loves to haunt the graveyards, where he’s been known to assume the stillness of a gravestone and the rooftops of the city to keep company with the gargoyles.
On being cursed….
It’s been an interesting life. It was a lot worse when I was cursed and a prisoner. I’ve had this form for so long now that I’m not sure I could go back to being human. I was a human for less than fifty years; i’ve been a dragon for at least five centuries. How do you go back to something like that? And, if it’s not something I’d go back to, is it really a curse anymore… or did at some point it become a gift?
There was a girl who helped me. I don’t know who she was. She was dirty and tattered and I assumed she was a servant. I remember her because she was the only one who didn’t seem to either fear or hate me. She never mocked me, never tried to hurt me, starve me, never treated me with the unkindness the other servants of the wizard did. I cannot remember her face, her name, just barely a whisper of her. She brought me a icon, a cross with two dragons fighting in the middle of it, a red one and a white one. She tied around my neck with a ribbon.
I was weak, exhausted, hurting. I had no more strength than a kitten at that point. The spells the wizard lay on me when he cursed me bound me hard. I don’t know what she did to that icon, but once it was on me, I could see better, hear better, think better. My strength started to return… and strength and power I had never had in human form came with it. A dark roaring came with it, and the darkness and the sound covered up the next several years. I know I escaped. I came up on the site of the castle years later and, while it still stank of dark magic, it was leveled to the ground. I assume I did that, as he never came after me. I never saw her again.
On being a knight…..
It’s hard for people to understand what being a knight is, in your time. We were a bit like your modern superheros. We came to stop war, win battles, save people, set right wrongs. And, like some of your superheros, there were those who were used to do bad things and those who twisted around until wrong was their right.
Some of us got a little out of hand and lost the definition of ‘wrong’ that we started with. Some of us got tied up in the age hold human dramas of money, greed and power. Some of us became instruments of destruction at the hands of others.
Of course, when I was a knight it wasn’t the ‘lonely, handsome, idealized, tortured-but-good knight’ that folks today picture. We were dirty and sweaty. We smelled like horses, smoke and old leather on our best days. We slept on the ground, did hours of weapon work every day just to keep an edge, and ate when we could. We rode into battles where the people we slew were not the people we fought but pawns, lines of defense placed between us and them with no thought for the humanity or sacredness of life. Often knights themselves were nothing more than playing pieces on a board of strategy between rulers and those-who-would-rule.
On who he really is…
There’s so much I don’t remember. It’s all very blurry, anything that happened before I woke up one day in this form, chained to the walls of a magical cell. I can remember bits and pieces. I remember the old man, and I know he was important in my life. I remember the feel out outdoor life, sleeping by the fire, hearing the horses rumble to themselves. But I don’t remember many specifics.
I wish I knew more about who I was, and what kind of knight I was. Something in me says that I wasn’t cursed because I was a bad person, but because I threatened somebody. I can remember some things. I remember the old man, the magician. I think I lived with him. I know that, as ironic as this sounds, I slew dragons. I can’t tell you that I didn’t also take the likes of men and women. I can tell you that if I did, it was because I felt it was necessary or because I had no other choice.
Max and I have a betting pool on how long that boy is going to live.
Mina is much stronger than either Max or Toby give her credit for. They are trying to help her and teach her what she needs to know, and I agree that’s important, but both of them tend to shelter her from knowledge and tell her only what they think she needs to know at the moment. Once Mina comes into her full abilities… well, let’s just say I’m fairly certain both of those boys will come out of it with singed fur and a better understanding of a strong woman. In fact, Mina reminds me in a way of the girl who helped me escape. That girl gave me my freedom and my life. I hope to return the favor by helping Mina. Who knows, maybe she’s put a spell on even me.
This books is a rollicking adventure about a young witch whose been dropped (face-first, in her words) into a world she’s only ever dreamed about. You’ll laugh, be scared and have courage every step of the way with her. She’ll remind you that while not every heroine is a legendary fighter, invincible or immortal, it’s the ones who become real to you that you love the best. Join myself, Mina, Toby, Bing and the rest of our cast as we face the Big Bad, and our nightmares.
Thank you for looking at my book. I hope that you enjoy this story, and I am pleased to have you as a reader and a fan. I am looking forward to meeting you, even if it’s only virtually. Thank you for peeking into Mina’s world and mine. Come back and visit often 🙂
ROM THE DIARY OF MINA GRAVES:
I think, that if something is going to happen in your life that will totally flip it and you inside out, you should get a little warning, not be allowed to sail blithely into it. I mean, had I know than by the end of the day my house would be burned to the ground, the entire cast of the Big Bad would be chasing me and I would soon become the new Magnus of the local werewolf pack, well, at the very least I would have dressed differently. And possibly hidden under my bed refusing to come out.
But here I am in Savannah, living in a magic house that won’t give me ice cream, with a talking cat and the ghost of a voodoo queen, on ‘sabbatical’ from my job. I’ve just found out I’m not who I thought I was, and that the magic spell responsible for my memory loss is also what kept me alive and hidden from the Big Bad and my father… the ever-so-slightly-insane King of the Wild Hunt.
I’ve got a werewolf PI trying to keep me alive (when he’s not yelling at me), a vampiric lawyer who scares the heebie-jeebies out of me, and oh, yeah, did I mention that all those fairy tale creatures you’ve read about are REAL, and it seems like every last one of them is chasing the reward my father has out on my head — whether it’s attached to my body or not?