My writing

More Than Coffee … teaser #1

I’ve been occupied lately by preparations for my Grandma’s 90th birthday–well done, Grandma!–but I am very glad to be able to go back to work writing. Specifically, I’m back to work on Kathleen’s wizards.

Remember my contribution of an original story to the fundraiser in aid of LGBT Chechens? This is that story! It’s been an interesting writing journey because the story and characters have all evolved unexpectedly as I’ve been writing. I have been wanting to share a snippet for ages, so here is the opening scene of the story, as it stands now. Note: there are almost certainly going to be a lot of changes in the final story!

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Structure > NaNoWriMo

This post will be of more interest to my fellow writers than readers. I’m giving up my chance to finish NaNo on time to focus on overhauling my plot, starting by giving myself a crash course in structure.

November’s been a really horrible month. We don’t need to go over that. It’s been a particularly bad month for my NaNo project, A Gentlemanly Murder. When I started writing on the first of November, my protagonist didn’t have a name. I finally came up with a name for him, and an opening scene five days later, but then I decided I needed to finish Morgen Song before I went further and set it aside. Morgen Song had a rogue ending that needed to be wrestled with, and while I was pinning that down, November hit in earnest. Finally Morgen Song behaved itself. I sat down with A Gentlemanly Murder, had a brilliantly productive day, work up the next morning and realised that something had gone wrong.

Something has gone wrong is not an unusual feeling for me. Three-quarters of my stories have gone off the rails at some point, requiring a lot of hard work wrestling, cutting words, revising and long walks before they emerge. I think they emerge better for the struggle, but I know I can write really strong stories without that fight–Deep Magic, The Biggest Scoop and Banging the Supernatural are examples of this. Worse, the fight is hard work. It brings with it doubt and writer’s block and ends in a lot of time wasted, whether in time not writing or in revisions later.

I’ve got a feeling that the solution lies in my plotting. I want to be a better outliner, but pretty much all the books I’ve read on how to outline your novel talk about structure instead. After much resisting, I’ve decided to accept the inevitable, and am giving myself a crash course in structure by spending some time with some old friends, namely Michael Hauge, James Scott Bell, Libbie Hawker and Monica Leonelle.

Michael Hauge spoke at the RWNZ 2016 Conference and was amazing. His story mastery workshop was really, really good. I’ve been revising the notes I took from his conference but if you’re interested, check out his product page–he recommended Writing Screenplays that Sell and The Hero’s Two Journeys  for people at the conference who wanted more info of what he was talking about.

What’s really cool is that as I’m re-reading, I’m noticing how well Hauge’s key plot moments and structure ties into James Scott Bell’s pivotal moments. I am a huge fan of Write Your Novel From the Middle, and just read Super Structure, which, while covering a lot of the same ground as Write Your Novel From the Middle, enlarges on the pivotal moments. I found it good because Bell’s moments really resonate with me.

If you haven’t heard of Take Off Your Pants, I will be very surprised! Libbie Hawker does a great job of articulating how theme ties into character and conflict and the outline that she suggests working with is what helped me get Morgen Song back on track at last. The way she approaches her outline is very, very similar to the way that Monica Leonelle works, with the difference that Leonelle brings her marketing savvy to the process in Nail Your Story. Leonelle also provides a copious amount of worksheets. In the past, I’ve been daunted by the sheer amount of worksheets to work through but no more. I’m hoping the time I invest now will equal faster drafting and less revisions later.

 

Actual transcript of actual conversation that took place this morning between me and roommate:

Me: I have great news!

Roommate: What?

M: Thorns and Fangs is coming out in print August 10th!

R: That’s great! [Beat.] That’s–

M: The day I arrive back in New Zealand.

R: That’s terrible news! How are I going to make you sign my book if you’re not here?


June has been a month of personal highs and global lows. Part of me feels very selfish for writing at all with so much going on but I’m realizing how much I need an escape in times of stress. As my time in Japan draws to a close, I am going to be making an effort to spend less time on social media, more time getting things done, whether preparing for the move, writing–or reading.

I decided June was going to be an all-writing month, and that I wasn’t going to read. It didn’t speed up my writing process any. In fact, I ended up getting stuck at all the usual points in the drafting process, and ended up reading anyway. Each time I read, I noticed an increase in enthusiasm and creativity. Of course, I was reading during times when I needed to pause and allow the next part of the plot to solidify, so I can’t simply credit reading for the writing boost … but it wasn’t taking away from my writing time like I’d assumed. Anyway, The Junk Mage has been burning a hole in my virtual bookshelf long enough–I’m going to treat myself and start reading.

In the meantime, I am really happy with how Uprooted is progressing! I’m going to share an excerpt under the cut: Ben spending some quality time with Nate’s brother, the elusive Ethan.

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Interviewed by the Interviewed!

No, my fingers didn’t slip. This week’s interview is with me! Since I can’t interview myself, I invited previous blog guests to turn the tables and give me a question. They came up with some really great questions! I enjoyed my turn in the interview hotseat and think that you’ll agree that the questions everyone gave me were a lot of fun! Topics span from my latest release, Morgen Curse, to my writing in general–and beyond!

Joe Cosentino, author of many, many books! My favourite is the In My Heart Anthology.

Since turnabout is fair play, I have a question for you. I read and loved Thorns and Fangs, and felt the sexy steam sizzling off the pages of the book. How do you make such dark, vampire characters so intoxicating and appealing? Were you influenced by my favorite television shows Dark Shadows and Dante’s Cove?

I’m really pleased you enjoyed Thorns and Fangs, Joe! But serious confession time here. While Dark Shadows is on my radar (I have heard so much about it from you and other sources that I really want to actually watch it), I’ve never actually seen it. In fact, there is a lot of television I haven’t seen.

When I was 12-14, my family was living in a small pacific island nation, that had three radio stations, one movie theatre in the capital city, and that was it as far as broadcast entertainment went (also, that one movie theatre played the same movie the entire time we lived there). I got out of the habit of watching TV and…never really got back into it.

Elliot Cooper, author of The Clockwork Menagerie.

MorgenCurse-MediumIs your sequel going to feature the same main characters as Deep Magic?

Morgen Curse doesn’t feature the same main characters as Deep Magic, but it does open the door to a meeting between them all … which is going to be amazing.

Deep Magic involved Welsh mythology. With the sequel, did you have to do any additional mythological research? And did you incorporate any other myths or legends?

I did research, but it wasn’t mythological. Morgen Curse is set on and around the Antipodes Islands, an uninhabited island group in New Zealand waters. Most of my research was centred around wikipedia, the Million Dollar Mouse and questioning my mum and stepdad about their experiences visiting other island nature reserves (having scientists in the family really came in useful!).

I did consider incorporating Maori mythology into the mythos of this world via Zane, who, despite his European name, has Polynesian blood, but I decided against it on the ground that I’d need to do a lot more research in order to do it properly, and I think that might be better suited for another story. I’m worried about moving too far from the original heart of Deep Magic.

Kaje Harper, author extraordinaire! I am really excited about the continuation of Kaje’s Tracefinder series, Changes, coming soon.

 When you write main characters with magic or powers, do you deliberately think about giving them human flaws so the reader will empathize?

I don’t think about it in terms of flaws, but I start character building with a problem. What does my character want? What is stopping him from getting it? Usually the problem stems from something internal because those problems are a lot harder to overcome and necessitate growth–I am a huge sucker for character growth.

I agree that flaws are especially important for characters with powers based on my own initial impression of Superman as overpowered and uninteresting. It wasn’t until I picked up an issue and discovered that he struggles to talk to his boss, and that he and Lois have to work at their marriage, and that he has a lot of difficulty coping with loss that he became real to me–recent terrible costume choices aside (Superman, please. You are stealing Kon-El’s fashion choices! Do you not remember the trainwreck that was 90s Superboy?)

Do you avoid reading paranormal while you are writing it to keep your world-building focused, or is it not an issue?

I did when working on Thorns and Fangs, aside from re-reading Dracula and Carmilla to put me in the vampire mood–and I think this was a mistake. Not only did I miss out on some amazing reads, but seeing what other people are doing in the genre since I published has given me increased drive and enthusiasm that I wished I’d had earlier! Rather than feeling discouraged, I am impressed and challenged to make my stories even better.

I know that a lot of authors fear accidentally plagiarising others, but spotting similarities between my work and other writers that happened completely unwittingly has made me think it is better to be aware of possible similarities so that you can concentrate on giving them your own unique spin rather than remaining ignorant and potentially being blindsided by them.

I made the conscious decision while working on Deep Magic to seek out other merman stories and I am really glad I did. Reading Arielle Pierce’s In the Lonely Sea and The Song of the Sea in particular really brought the Welsh Coast’s intertidal peculiarities home to me in a way that no amount of wikipedia articles and pinterest boards could. Deep Magic is a much better story for it!

What was the first book you read that left you wishing the magic or world in it was real?

I feel like I talk about The Changeover by Margaret Mahy a lot, but the first time I picked it up, I felt like it was written for me. It’s a YA coming of age story that combines rite of passage with saving a younger brother from an awful vampire-like monster. Laura, with her wooly hair and chaotic family was instantly relatable, and I loved the way she took in witches and magic with perfect composure. Sorry, with his decision to work for the Department of Conversation, also struck a chord (one that echoes in Morgen Curse — my mother and stepfather both worked for DOC ). Most importantly, they were New Zealanders, and at that point, attending my second international school in Singapore, the only kiwi in my class, that meant a lot.

I don’t think I consciously wished The Changeover was real, it just seemed real to an extent that influenced me. I found out years later that it was set in the city I went to University in, and I suspect that I had a flat in the house the witches lived in–I once found a figure made of sticks left in a bath in a garden and occasionally there would be rune like marks in chalk on the front steps or path.

Sam, editor at NineStar Press.

 Does your travel impact your writing at all, and if so, how can we see that influence?

I’ve been travelling since such an early age that it is hard for me to identify all the ways travelling has influenced me. Living across cultures and attending schools with classmates from very different countries and with very different belief systems meant that I am very conscious that there is more than one way of interpreting events! My characters often have opposing viewpoints, and my stories sometimes have loose ends that don’t tie nicely together as a result. I suspect that’s symptomatic about my ambivalence about my place in the world! I’m a New Zealander who has lived longer outside her country than in it. People tell me I’ve lost my accent, and I actually had to recruit a New Zealand beta-reader for Morgen Curse because I was not confident in my ability to write a kiwi character!

On a more positive note, loving to travel has helped me write settings because I know what I notice and enjoy when visiting a new place for the first time. Deep Magic was an absolute blast to write, because immersing myself in the Llyn Peninsula allowed me to indulge my travel fix. Olly, returning to Wales after a long absence and being something of an exile himself, was very easy to write, as I could relate to his desire for a place to call home very easily!

If you had only one book you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Okay, now this question is just plain mean. I’m torn between either The Complete Jane Austen (she is amazing, and her comedic timing is perfect), or the Collected Works of Dorothy L. Sayers (mystery plus a slow-burning romance between two amazing characters). Bur seriously, just one book!? You are an evil, evil person, Sam.

Pascaline Lestrange, author of His Vampire Lover:

There’s a lot of supernatural creatures with definite sex appeal out there. What is it about vampires that you find so appealing?

This is another really good but really tough question! Much as I love the novel Dracula, I don’t find Dracula sexy. There is something compelling about his inherent danger and the threat he poses to the unknowing characters. Carmilla has the same element of danger, but Carmilla herself does more complicated things for me.

Some modern vampires are more uncomplicatedly sexy in their appeal, but for me, there is a tendency for them to lose their appeal once they become mundane. I think it all comes down to the combination of danger and the unknown.


And that’s the interview. My cold seems to be finally, finally, on the mend. If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer on camera, let me know!

In the meantime, Morgen Curse is now available on iBooks! You can find it here.

 

June Goals, AotM & Pinterest Preview.

It’s the first blog post of the new month! Obviously an ideal time to share my plans for June and reflect on the business that was May. But before I get started on all that fun stuff, I have something I have to get off my chest:

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.41.28 PM

That. See that? That is my book on the front page of the M/M Romance Group! I’m one of their 5 authors of the month (not pictured in the above screencap is Ally Blue, and I have to say that her Bay City Paranormal Investigations series sounds very cool, and I intend to check them out once I am allowed to read again–more on that later)! I won’t lie, I am ridiculously pleased. This was an awesome, totally unexpected surprise.

Another totally awesome surprise?

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 5.24.15 PM

This screencap was taken from Morgen Curse‘s Amazon page yesterday! ( yesterday at time of me writing this post anyway). For a hot second, Morgen Curse was 57 in a category on Amazon! How cool is that?

… apologies. We authors get way, way too excited about things like that. Anyway, now that I’ve peeled myself away from my kdp dashboard, writing plans!


May Goals!

  • continue to update blog twice weekly-DONE
  • publish Mystery Project aka. Deep Magic sequel-VERY DONE
  • new outline for Uprooted-DONE
  • work on Uprooted-DONE but could do better
  • Read more M/M romance – DONE but could read more
  • stay focused by reading writing blogs and books on craft.- Kind of Done

May was very productive! Despite school throwing extra hours at me, I managed to get all of my list done. However, this came at a price! I’ve had a non-stop cold since Friday the 13th (ironic, right) that has already seen me go to the doctor twice, and may necessitate a third trip. Yeah, I’m not impressed either. With that in mind, and also because I know I have problems focusing on reading when I’m writing, I’m going to make things easier for myself in the month of June.

For a start, I’m not going to be doing any guest author interviews for June! I love doing them, and I’m always encouraged and inspired by the conversations I have with my fellow M/M authors, but I think I need to take care of myself. I’ve also got a couple of guest appearances in the works, and will continue update the blog with updates from my June project. And speaking of …

June Goals!

  • Get back into the habit of writing everyday.
  • Get at least 50% through the draft of Uprooted.

… Uprooted? What might that be? Well, here’s a pinterest board to give you an idea. And if that’s not enough, here’s a teaser from what I wrote today:

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Morgen Curse Out Now!

It was about this time last year that I submitted Deep Magic to the DRitC mods. I had a strong suspicion that I would return to the Llyn peninsula and its inhabitants some day. I never expected Morgen Curse.

Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords

MorgenCurse-Medium

 

Ieuan is a young morgen in a lot of trouble. The storm he sung up to soothe his broken heart attracted the attention of the Cursed One, an underwater sorcerer exiled from the morgen group for a terrible crime. But the Cursed One wants Ieuan’s help to save a life — that of Zane, a sailor shipwrecked in Ieuan’s storm. Ieuan finds himself drawn into the Cursed One’s impossible task against his better judgement. But as his morgen kin mount a search for him, Ieuan’s help might be all of their undoing.

Morgen Curse is not a sequel, exactly. And it’s not exactly a romance either. It’s a beginning.

Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords


Quick update! On May 11th, I uploaded Deep Magic to Amazon and asked you to help me make it free by reporting it to Amazon. Unfortunately it is still not free…but on the plus side, Deep Magic has sold 64 copies! Which means that the Kumamoto Relief Fund will eventually be getting 19.15 US dollars, 1.74 pounds, .62 euros and .35 Canadian dollars. I feel this is pretty cool!

Also, I really wanted to do another youtube reading, but I’ve had a really vicious cold for the last two weeks which has left me with a really unappealing hacking cough. Still, consider this a heads up that if you ever wanted to hear me answer a question in person, now is a great time to ask!

Morgen Curse: Cover Reveal!

Deep Magic and Morgen Curse might be part of a series that deals with witches, curses and now a sorcerer, but I think the real magic worker might be cover artist, Bree Archer, who has once again worked her magic and made me the perfect cover.

MorgenCurse-Medium

I don’t know what to say, besides look at it–look at it! I could not be happier. Thank you, Bree!

In other news, I am working on getting chapter one ready to send out as a sample to members of my mailing list next week! If you are not already signed up, now is a good time. I am also preparing a dramatic reading and an interview with me, so if you have any requests or questions please leave me a comment!