What I love about my W.I.P.


The lovely Susan at mywithershins posted a fantastic idea for authors:  write a love list about your work in progress.  (the idea originated from Stephanie Perkins on Natalie Whipple’s blog).  The reasoning behind doing this is to keep you, the author, focused on what is important in the story and to keep the creativity alive.  There is no one particular thing you need to focus on.  Simply write a love list of everything you adore about your W.I.P., from characters, to settings, to the writing and or editing process.  I decided to try it because it sounds like the ultimate motivator to keep my muse in gear.

As In the Shadow of the Dragon King is my pride and joy, as well as the two novels in the saga that follow it, I’ve created a love list for the series.  I’ve been working on this series now for seven years off and on, for the last 2 years seriously.  Over the past year, personal issues have kept my muse and me from progressing forward.  Hopefully, this love list will get us both back on track

The Chronicles of fallhollow love list

1) Main character #2 – Eric Hamden – I am in love with this character, more so than the primary main character, David Heiland.  He is 18 years old, cocky, strong-willed, sensitive while remaining quite ‘mannish’.  He speaks his mind, is respectful when he needs to be, and defiant when called for.  He is a squire to the most admired and respected knight in the kingdom of Hirth and is afforded ‘rights’ other squires are not because of that relationship.  He comes off as slightly arrogant, but it’s because he gets irritated by people feeling they are entitled to things just because they’re in a position of power or because they have no power at all.  He abhors those who take what doesn’t belong to them, and he believes an offensive posture in war trumps a defensive position.

2) Main Character #1 – David Heiland – David is almost 18 , wealthy and lives in an 1860s antebellum mansion in Havendale, Tennessee (that’s near Bristol).  His parents are dead.  He is an archery champion, valedictorian, and his best friend is Charlotte Stein.  David likes to think he’s independent and assertive, but he’s actually very trusting…until he realizes his life has been nothing but a  lie.  He is impulsive, acts first and questions later.  His life is filled with drama.  He often feels the need to run away if he feels stuck.  At first, he balks at challenges, then comes to realize he can’t live without them.  He doesn’t like being told what to do, especially by other guys his age.  He’s into classic rock and plays an acoustic guitar.  While he doesn’t like war, he believes defense is better than offense.

3) YA/New Adult Fantasy Genre – I adore this genre. I’ve always been drawn to romantic and not so romantic fairy tales of knights, dragons, fair maidens and castles.  Anything magical and make believe.  When I was growing up, there weren’t a lot of books in this genre, which made me want to write in it.  I figured I couldn’t be the only kid in the world who loved reading fantasy tales where the heroes were kids or young adults.  Practically every story I wrote involved a dragon or some other mystical creature and kids.  I am glad to see the genre evolve over the years and know I have a place my writing can call ‘home’.

3)  Setting – When I first started this series, it began with a group of fairies fleeing their homes because of a war.  The story has changed some much since then.  The series transcends two worlds – Havendale, Tennessee and the fantasy world of Estaria and the realm of Fallhollow.  The bulk of In the Shadow of the Dragon King takes place in Fallhollow.  The second novel brings the characters into Havendale for the majority of the story, and the third marries the two worlds together.

4) The Soundtrack – When my novel is turned into a movie, I want James Horner to do the soundtrack.  I also hear some Aerosmith, Credence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, ELO, Jane Taylor, and Rebecca Ferguson.  I’d also like Enya to sing the closing song to the 1st movie.  I don’t want much, do I.  😉

5) Mythological creatures – I love dragons, faeries, gnomes, centaurs, etc.  and have included quite a few in my stories.  I’ve even created a few of my own.

6) Two points of view: 3rd person omnipotent – The story is so complex that I couldn’t tell it the way I wanted to in one person’s POV.  I chose David’s and Eric’s as they each have their feet in their own worlds.  I like the omnipotent POV because there can be slight author intrusion provided it doesn’t distract from the character’s telling of the story.

7) The Twist at the End of novels #2 #3 – I wrote the ending to novel #2 before I wrote one word of Dragon King.  It was strong with me when I wrote it and when I go back to read it now, it resonates within me even more than it did then.  I know in my heart that this is the way the 2nd novel has to end as much as I hate it.  It will also leave the reader thinking “WTF just happened!  No!  That can’t happen!  You can’t leave it there!”  The ending to novel #3 brings me to tears every time I read it.  It’s like the ending to the Hunger Games series when you want desperately for Katniss to choose to be with *fill in the blank*, but you know she has to choose *fill in the blank* because it’s the only logical decision.

8)  The Plot – War has come to Fallhollow, and unless David and Eric can stop it, it will come to Havendale and Earth, too.  But how do three mortal teens rein in a dragon, a sorcerer and a council of mages determined to annihilate every non-magical creature across multiple worlds? Enter a knight, two fae and an army of eccentric allies.  Together, David finds the courage he didn’t know he had, and uncovers a hidden truth  that changes everything.

For you writers out there, what’s on your ‘love list’?  Do you think making a ‘love list’ will help you stay focused on your W.I.P.?

Flying below radar again


Hi guys!

I’m so glad you dropped in to see what’s up.  I hate to inform you that this week will probably be another down week for me.   You see, I’ve written 3 versions of the same novel…one for me, one for the publisher, one with the publisher’s comments and edits, and now I’m working on #4…a melding of the previous three.

I understood and agree with many points the publisher pointed out to me and I am gladly working on them.  They were correct on many aspects of the novel and I respect and admire their keen eyes and editing sense.  However, there are aspects about my novel that I must keep for my novel to remain mine.  There are hints of things to come in books two and especially book three in the saga.  If I take them out, then those events don’t hold as much weight.  They don’t pack a punch, and it won’t be the story I want to tell.

I had a discussion with the publisher the other day and they are a little hesitant about my decision to leave in a certain aspect that I have to have in the trilogy.  they are, however, still interested in seeing the final result.

The melding it, the bringing all 4 versions together has been more difficult that I thought.  Scenes, once ‘acted’ out by other characters, have been relegated to only two points of view.  Scenes that weren’t there at all in any of the versions have been written.  Conflicts once suffered by others are now experienced by someone else.  I have to admit, the writing is better, the story is better, but the outlining of 3 novels into one has been a chore to say the least.  The first novel was outlined to a certain extent.  I knew what I wanted to happen in each chapter and to whom, but now that many character POVs are gone, those scenes now have to go away all together or placed elsewhere with someone else.

That means this week will be another down week for me on my blog.  I will try to pop in here and there to say hello. I’m definitely still popping in on all your blogs to say hi and keep informed of the latest news and developments.

Oh, just to let you know…in my down time I’ve been engrossed in Cassandra Clare’s Immortal Instruments series:  City of Bone, City of Ash and City of Glass.  If you haven’t picked these up, you must.  A lot of folks think she’s a bit heavy on the description.  To me, it’s just the right amount, and her characterizations are fantastic and well thought out.  If you’re looking for faeries, werewolves, vampires, dead, silent, mind-speaking ghoulish things called the Silent Brothers, all wrapped up in an urban fantasy that takes place in NY, you’ve opened the right book.   It’s sexy, fun and definitely an adventure.

Till next time,

Stay healthy, happy and keep sweet.

Me

Re-writing a manuscript: Stick with it or let it go?


I’ve been writing my Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy for years.  Yes, I said years.  I started a long time ago, mainly as a passing fancy.  Then, something happened in 2003 and I knew in my heart and soul I had to finish it.

I also knew it would have to be three books; otherwise I would have one, 300,000 word novel.  Big NOT.  I wrote here and there, working on all three novels when the urge hit me, but came to an abrupt halt about a year later.  It wasn’t working.  My writing was lacking that umph.  I needed help.

I began to read young adult books and fantasy books with a passion.  I also began to research the publishing world.  I found out that agents and publishers wanted stand alone books in trilogies or in a series, meaning they had to be complete unto themselves, even though the story continued.  Back to the drawing board.

I continued to write when I could find time between taking care of a family and working full-time.  I joined an online writer’s group out of the UK – YouWriteOn.com and began getting feedback.  With the critiques came praises along with a few slaps in the face.  The slaps in the face were the ones that woke me up to the problems, while the praises kept me motivated.  I have to admit I almost gave up, especially after a critique partner told me I should let the story go to its grave.  “Sometimes,” he said, “it’s better to let it go than continue trying to resurrect the damn thing.”

Let it go?  Was he crazy?  This was my baby…the novel closest to my heart.  I’d written others.  They’re gone now, lost, destroyed.  This wasn’t my first attempt…but it was the first time I felt so passionate about the need to tell this story and get it published.

After I lost my job in 2010, I focused on nothing but my writing.  I set myself a goal, found a few great beta readers, and off I went to finish In the Shadow of the Dragon King. Exactly one year later, almost to the date of setting my goal, I submitted my novel to a publisher.  I knew it wasn’t perfect but I’d polished it the best I could.  With bated breath I waited.  And waited.  Three weeks later I got a response.  The message:  it needs work, but we’d love to see you resubmit if you decide you want to make the enclosed changes.

When I opened my attached manuscript, it was bleeding.  A lot.  I mean, it was mortally wounded.  I got a hold of one of my trusted beta partners and sobbed.  When I got over the pain of being kicked in the gut, she and I went over the comments and changes.  We both realized I had a goldmine in my hand.  A publisher took a lot of time to go through my manuscript, page by page, line by line, and tell me what was wrong with it, what I needed to fix, and if I decided to make the changes, to resubmit.

That was eleven months ago.  Life got in the way during that time, slowing down my momentum to re-write.  I have a month and a half to finish my revisions and send it back by the ‘not exactly a rejection’ anniversary date.  Should I stick with it or let it go?  I’m definitely sticking with it.

Have you ever had a project you almost gave up on only to be glad you didn’t?

Why I write


Why do I write?  And why young adult fantasy?  Don’t teens have enough to deal with?  Shouldn’t I focus more on offering teens solutions during these tough years rather than fill their heads with non-existent fluff?  Isn’t writing fantasy a bit egotistical?

Believe it or not, these are questions I’ve been asked over the past several years.  I respond this way:

  • I write because I love to write.  It’s as important to me as breathing.  If I go a day without writing, I get jittery.  My brain flips out.  It’s like I didn’t get my ‘fix’ and I’m in major withdrawal. It’s not pretty.
  • I like writing young adult books because kids need a place to escape, just like adults.  I like the audience.  I think they are an awesome bunch of peeps and not so stereotypical as adults make them out to be.
  • I write fantasy because kids, like adults, want to escape reality.  They want to go to a place where they can defeat any and all odds, where they can be the hero.
  • Fantasy is no different than any other genre in the lessons that can be taught and learned.  The lessons are just more intense.  The situations are taken to the extreme, but in the end, the hero ends up believing in himself and what he can accomplish, if he puts his mind to a task. I can’t think of a more practical lesson for a teen.
  • As for writing being an egotistical thing to do…well, yes it is.  It’s also a very giving art form.  We see the world a different way.  We hear dialogue differently.  We are always asking the proverbial question, What if?  Our dreams become more than images in our brains.  They take on a life of their own.  Unlike the general populace, writers have an inexplicable urge to share those dreams, those stories with others.  To do so, we have to share our deepest secrets, our hopes, our fears.  Unflinching courage is required to write.  Even more courage is required to ‘put it out there’ for others to read.  Rejection is very hard on a writer because writing is so close to our souls.  It makes us vulnerable and it takes a long time, sometimes years, to toughen our hide.  Even then, negative reviews still stab at our core.  And yet…we keep on because we have a story that has to be told.

In my case, I like fantasy because it is true escapism.  Of all the stories I clung to as a child, it was the fairytales that stuck with me the most.  The shining knights on white horses that rescued those in distress, the castles…magic.  Fantasy took me away from my problems of the here and now.  It made me invincible.  I could picture myself in gowns, or dressed in a poet shirt and trousers, fleeing on a horse through the woods from some despicable evil, a sword at my side.  There was always a sense of honor, integrity, a belief in doing what was right, not what was easy.  There was always a sense of danger around every corner, along with a knowing that the hero would prevail against all odds.  For me, fantasy provided, and still does, an escape, a release from the tensions of modern life.  The characters often face problems far more serious than our own.  Look at Katniss in the Hunger Games – forced into a game of life and death to save her sister and her family.  Fantasy readers understand that, no matter how big the problem (which are usually much bigger than our own), our hero will prevail.  It teaches us not to ever give up.  After all, if a seventeen year old can kill a dragon with a magic stone, then the seventeen year old reading the book may look at his Geometry test with a bit more confidence.

I found that writing fantasy is more difficult than reading it.  We ask our readers to suspend belief with a completeness that is not required in other genres.  We have to push the boundaries.  We ask our readers to invest themselves not only in a made-up tale, but a made-up world.  I think writing fantasy reminds people of how necessary it is to dream, to never lose your childish imagination.  Think about it.  Why do you think Disney is so popular?

I do write other types of fiction but no other genre fuels my imagination the way fantasy does. I shrug and say, So what.  I’m a hopeless romantic and dreamer in love with tales of King Arthur and Merlin.  If you ask me, the world would be better off with a little more magic.  What do you think?