Well, it feels good to be getting back into the swing of things. I’ve let my mental health issues get the better of me for a while now and I’m digging my way back out of that.
So, I don’t know how many of you know but my wonderful publisher Less Than Three Press officially closed their doors last month leaving me once again out in the indie wilderness. I’ll be honest, it hit me really, really hard. I found myself wondering if I could have done more, promoted my books more, paid more for advertising, just over all worked harder to have done something to keep them from closing.
I was blaming myself for their closing. Something I had literally no control over. But a voice in my head kept saying it was my fault. Then today Jami Gold shared this thread (I highly recommend reading the full thread):
Here’s what I’m thinking about today: What squatters are living in my brain, not paying rent, wrecking the place? Bc yesterday I bought a flowery pink shirt at Marshalls and immediately thought… BUT I NEED TO LOOK TOUGH. WEAR BLACK. NOT BE GIRLY. And that thought? Squatter. 1/— Delilah S. Dawson (@DelilahSDawson) August 10, 2019
I found myself reading about someone who sounded exactly like myself even if my reasons for my ‘armor’ are different. My mother was the polar opposite, (begging me to be more girly, to do my hair, to wear dresses, to put on make-up), but the results were the same. Just like Dawson, I have ‘squatters’ in my head.
What so many call their ‘demons’ or ‘baggage’ – squatters. Squatters with snide hateful voices that would do anything to make us doubt ourselves.
Where I live, if you squat on a property for 7 years, you legally own it. Unfortunately a lot of us have unintentionally let our squatters come to ‘own’ real estate in our minds. We can’t evict them, so we must learn to live with them and minimize their impact on our lives.
It doesn’t matter whose voice the squatters have, our parents, a teacher, some other authority figure, a false friend, the result is the same and we have to work hard to overcome the ingrained negativity.
I am 41 and just now realizing where some of my squatters are from.
But not every voice is a squatter.
Learning how to listen critically to our own inner dialog is a lot like learning to lucid dream. Plenty of people will give you advice on how to do it but ultimately, its down to persistence and practice.
So when I started hearing that voice in my head telling me I’d failed LT3 it took me a few days to realize it for what it was. It wasn’t me. I hadn’t failed anyone. I’d written and edited and worked my butt off. They didn’t fail either. They chose to close before it would have been a mess. They gracefully bowed out of an industry that has become more of a cesspool than a creative breeding ground. I respect them greatly for it.
But this leaves me back at square one. A whole new square one from when I first started writing.
Part of me loathes the idea of approaching publishers, but I also don’t know if I have the energy to take up self-publishing again either. No many agents will look at LGBT outside of contemporary romance (if you know of anyone looking for queer spec fic please point me in their direction!).
But … I don’t want to stop writing. I’m not going to stop writing.
No matter what the squatters have to say about it.
Today I am very excited not only to announce my new free serial Idiot Mage & Sassy Stallion but to introduce you to the wonderful Kasia Bacon! Kasia has a new story coming out Monday, June 11th, in her Order Series. If you haven’t had a chance to read The Mutt and The Highlander I highly recommend them. They are quick reads full of wonderful characters and sizzling romance.
Twenty-One Arrow Salute
An archer’s heart is a hard target to hit…
Luckily, the Queen’s Guards are good shots!
TWENTY-ONE ARROW SALUTE
by Kasia Bacon
Verhan Tŭrryés of Black Mountain is a handful.
Freshly enlisted in the Highland Regiment, he does all he can to steer clear of responsibility and commitment. Just not his cup of mead, that. Loose of tongue and even looser of morals, he rarely misses an opportunity to get into trouble—and into the other archers’ knickers, too.
In a unit composed almost entirely of Dark Elves, Hernan Seinnés, with his green eyes and auburn hair, is an outsider. When Verhan, up the creek again, is blackmailed into helping Hernan, he never expects to fall for him. But during the long hours spent training Hernan for the Honour Guard, feelings strike the Highlander right in the heart—and with the force of an arrow.
Unversed in relationships, Verhan finally plucks up enough courage to tell Hernan how he feels, only to drive the Asirhwӱnian away instead. If Verhan can swallow his pride, he might get one last chance to show Hernan what he means to him—and maybe this time he can hit the mark.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A linguist and an avid reader with a particular fondness for fantasy and paranormal genres, KASIA BACON lives in London with her husband. When not tearing her hair out over a translating project, she writes stories about the shenanigans of emotionally constipated assassins and sexy Elves. Otherwise, she can be found shaking her loins at a Zumba class, binging on anime or admiring throwing knives on Pinterest. She has a mild coffee and lemon tart addiction. A lover of MMA and Muay Thai, she also enjoys nature and the great outdoors. She dreams of becoming independently wealthy, leaving the city and moving into her wooden mini-manor—located in the heart of stunning forests resembling those of the Elven Country depicted in her tales.
Find Kasia online:
Sign up for her mailing list to receive freebies and updates and learn about new releases.
I have loved these stories and I’m sure you will too!
Idiot Mage & Sassy Stallion
Available today for free!!! An all-new fantasy story set in the same universe as Forbidden Enchantment.
Tier’ghan Trolde ran from everything. Responsibilities, jealous would-be lovers, debt collectors but most of all from the knowledge he is a failure as a mage. Where his fellow graduates had secure positions at various holdings and were amassing their fortunes he was a wandering wretch without even a paladin to protect him. He’d started out well enough until word spread about the uncanny nature of his spell casting. The core of the spell would be true but there were always unexpected consequences. But a lone mage is most often a dead mage.
Without a paladin to protect him, every person he meets could be the last.
The last thing Quenoor needs is an idiot mage to look after. He’s got more than enough problems of his own. But when the charming red-head ends up on the wrong end of a knife it is up to Quenoor to save his sorry hide. Maybe having a mage around won’t be so bad, they might even figure out why the horse they stole can talk and seems to think it is actually a 2000-year-old knight of a long-gone empire.
June is here and for those of us in the States, that means Pride Month! It is a month to celebrate the MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments and Intersex) community and how far we’ve come and where we are headed. It is also a great month to look at our writing and see where we stand with our commitment to writing with diversity.
With that in mind, I would like to encourage you to commit to writing more diverse characters. This is something I know sounds like more work, but I promise it’s no more work than what you’re already doing. I’ll be here to help you along the way, too. Not only will you have all the information available on my blog but you’re also welcome to ask me any questions you might have.
So look at/think about your story and explore ways you might be able to show diversity. Make the commitment to writing diversely. Join the #WriMoDiversity commitment today to show your support. Tweet #WriMoDiversity and let me know how you plan to explore diversity in your story.
I am making the commitment to #wrimodiversity this Pride Month!
Join me in my commitment to #wrimodiversity for Pride Month!
Remember to be honest, accurate and respectful. For help check these links:
Below is a badge you can display on your blog or website or share on your social media to show your support. Don’t forget to share on the #WriMoDiversity or #DiversityDoneBetter tags on Twitter throughout June to let us know how you are doing.
How to Write with Diversity Workshop
In line with this, I am very happy to announce a 4-week workshop in July devoted to helping you write more inclusively. (The workshop focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity and will not address racial diversity as I am white and do not wish to stray from my lane).
The workshop will run from July 1st-29th and will feature one live lecture per week on Mondays and access to a private forum to post your assignments (yes assignments! ^_^) and discuss topics with other class members.
The topics are as follows:
- Week One: Recognizing and Overcoming Internalized Bias
- Week Two: When to Avoid Tropes and Stereotypes
- Week Three: Developing Your Diverse Cast
- Week Four: Developing Your Diverse Case Part 2: The Story
The introductory cost of the course will be $50 which includes all four live lectures, worksheets, and access to the private forum.
I look forward to seeing you there!
How to Write with Diversity Workshop
A four-week writing workshop devoted to helping us write with more diversity!
Are there any other topics you’d like to see me address in a workshop? Let me know in the comments.
An interesting comment came up in one of my Facebook author groups. One of the authors commented and said they’d been contacted by an irate reader who was upset about the ending of their book. They then asked the group if they should include trigger warnings in the future. The response so far, with a few dissenters, has been a resounding no, with many commenting that they ‘don’t do trigger warnings.’
Now, I am not condoning author abuse. And the reader mentioned could have handled the matter without resorting to cursing at the author and instead used it as a teaching moment. No one should attack an author in reviews, social media or email. There are ways to air grievances or address problematic elements in books that don’t involve hate-filled speech.
But what is a trigger warning and why should we as authors be concerned about them?
First, it became very clear, very quickly that nearly all the authors in the thread have the wrong idea about why trigger warnings are needed. So what is a trigger warning?
A trigger warning is a statement at the beginning of a piece of media that alerts the viewer/reader to the sensitive material contained within that could be potentially distressing or harmful.
It is much like the ratings that the MPAA, ESRB and MRS provide movies, video games, and comic books. It is to inform their consumers of content and allow them an informed decision. Trigger warnings can help a reader understand that a book is going to contain certain material and allow them to make an informed choice as to whether or not that material is for them.
Trigger warnings are not frivolous, ‘indie,’ or for those seeking special treatment. They are legitimate warnings that can help someone avoid undue stress that can lead to major problems especially for those with mental health issues.
Trigger warnings are potentially lifesaving for people who have dealt with traumas like sexual assault, hate crimes or violence. Eliminating these advisories and zones on campus suggests that someone should have to listen to someone who questions their humanity or experience.
This kind of insensitive rhetoric also implies that mental health issues or traumatic pasts ― those that require a safe space or a trigger warning ― render a student weak. And that type of attitude silences those who may be struggling.
Let’s play a game.
You click on the links below.
Don’t want to?
Because you don’t know what’s actually behind that word do you? You have no idea if I’m linking you to porn, a picture of kittens, or a virus.
If you clicked on through you’re a braver person than I. Or maybe you have a software plug-in installed that tells you what the link is when you hover over it. Chrome does this automatically in a small box at the bottom of the page.
Guess what. That’s your warning. You didn’t want to chance a nasty surprise on the other end of that link. Why? Because you want to keep your computer and yourself safe.
That’s all trigger warnings are for. Keeping people safe. It’s not about ruining the plot or spoiling things for your reader. It is about allowing people to make informed decisions. It is not about limiting you or what you write. It is not about you. It is about your reader who suffers from PTSD or other trauma-induced anxiety, it is about your reader who is a rape or domestic violence survivor. It is about your reader who lives with a major mental illness like depression or anorexia.
We would never do anything to deliberately hurt or cause our readers distress and yes we want them to enjoy the emotional highs and lows of our plot, but not at the expense of their mental health.
Warning: The following contain strong abelist rhetoric.
Using trigger warnings is not censoring your writing. You are welcome to write the darkest, goriest, most unsettling and depressing thing ever. Just please say so. Leaving it to reviewers is unfair, insensitive, and lazy.
It is not about being ‘offended’ or upset about a plot development. It is genuine acute distress brought on by reliving a past trauma that can manifest as an anxiety or panic attack, suicidal ideation, depression and so on. There is a major difference in having an emotional impact on your reader and triggering them into an episode.
“Squirm,” and “discomfort,” for example, do not accurately capture the sensation of white heat, rapid heartbeat, the feeling that you are about to die or vivid flashbacks of assault. Many administrators and professors feel that students need to grow a “thicker skin.” A marginalizing “sticks and stones” understanding of what “counts” as “real” pain is evident not only in the statements of many professors, but in the large number of comments that quickly followed the Times piece, where readers categorized trigger warnings as “coddling” a “weak” “victim-mentality.”
Additionally, the idea that any trigger warnings constitute censorship is not only incorrect but also definitively misleading. In most cases, no one is saying professors cannot teach texts or show videos. Nor do warnings imply some sort of apology for lessons to follow. Nor, in the interesting choice of words of one professor quoted in the Times piece, do trigger warnings mean that students “should not be forced to deal with something that makes them uncomfortable.” Warnings seek mainly to give students information they need in order to decide whether or not to take or stay in a class.
— What’s Really Important About ‘Trigger Warnings’ By Soraya Chemaly (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/trigger-warnings-college-new-york-times_b_5359276.html)
When and How to Use Trigger Warnings
So we’ve established that no one wants to censor you and you’re not spoiling anything for anyone so what next? Many authors seem very confused on when and how to actually use trigger warnings. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does my plot contain sensitive topics like abuse, domestic violence, racism, homophobia, suicide or rape?
- Do my characters experience abuse or suffer graphic violence on the page?
- Do any of my characters suffer from a mental illness?
- Do any of my characters die in the course of the plot?
- Do any of my characters struggle with substance abuse?
- Are there any graphic scenes of violence or sex that are not expected in the genre or not covered by the blurb?
If you answered yes to any of these you owe it to your reader to use a trigger warning. I am not saying give away your plot. There are very simple and easy ways to include trigger warnings without spoiling anything for anyone. You aren’t going to list every trigger you can think of, obviously. Just the ones that pertain to your story. It is as easy as just saying: major character death, suicide, rape.
My book The Jeweled Dagger contains the following after the blurb:
Trigger warnings for: verbal abuse, transphobia, character death, attempted rape, homophobia.
Now, do you know what the book is about? Have I spoiled the plot for you?
Not likely. The words, while providing all the information you need, do not spoil the plot for you. If you feel that I have taken away anything from your reading experience by listing these then I’m not sure why you bother with blurbs either.
Those of us who occasionally use trigger warnings are not as naïve as we’re made out to be; we understand that there is no magical warning that will assuage all anxieties and protect students from all traumas, nor is there a boilerplate trigger warning or trigger warning policy that professors can be reasonably expected to follow formulaically. Rather, trigger warnings are, in practice, just one of a set of tools that professors use with varying degrees of formality to negotiate the give-and-take of classroom interactions. If you take away the media hysteria surrounding trigger warnings, you’re left with a mode of conversational priming that we all use: “You might want to sit down for this”; “I’m not sure how to say this, but…” It’s hardly anti-intellectual or emotionally damaging to anticipate that other people may react to traumatic material with negative emotions, particularly if they suffer from PTSD; it’s human to engage others with empathy. It’s also human to have emotional responses to life and literature, responses that may come before, but in no way preclude, a dispassionate analysis of a text or situation.
The P.C. backlash and the trigger-warning backlash hold a common fallacy: They see pushback from the margins and mistake it for threats to the most institutionally powerful.
—The Trigger Warning Myth by Aaron R. Hanlon (https://newrepublic.com/article/122543/trigger-warning-myth)
We as authors get a lot of grief from all sides and it is understandable that having to account for yet another thing on our to-do list seems counter-productive. It is perfectly understandable that we want our readers to be surprised by plot developments. But we lose nothing by listing a simple warning. We may even gain more readers.
If you’ve been following anything about the state of the writing industry these past few weeks, you’ll be well aware of the kerfuffle that has gone on. Many much more talented and eloquent writers than myself have weighed in on the #cockygate and KU issues. In fact, I’m not going to discuss anything to do with the writing industry today.
I think we are all tired of the constant issues that have been cropping up in the industry. I am happy though, to see so many of us pulling together to support and help each other. That’s what we need. This isn’t a competition. There is room for us all.
That being said, today I’m giving you all a small gift. The rough draft of the first chapter of The Daggers of Ariyon which is the sequel to The Jeweled Dagger. It picks up just a few weeks after the events at the end of JD. It does contain major spoilers for the end of JD, so I recommend reading JD first. You can grab a copy on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and most other major retailers.
FYI: This is a rough draft and subject to change.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that first impressions are a bitch.
In a sea of college freshmen, Elizabeth Bennet feels more like a den mother than a returning student. She’d rather be playing Exploding Kittens than dodge-the-gropers at a frat party, but no way was she letting her innocent, doe-eyed roommate go alone.
Everything about Meryton College screams old money—something she and Jane definitely are not—but Elizabeth resolves to enjoy herself. That resolve is tested—and so is her temper—when she meets Will Darcy, a pompous blowhole with no sense of fun, and his relentlessly charming wingman, Charlie.
Back at school after prolonged break, Will Darcy is far too old and weary for coeds. Yet even he can see why Charlie spontaneously decides the captivating Jane is “the one.” What throws Will is his own reaction to Jane’s roommate.
Elizabeth’s moonlight skin and shining laugh hit him like a sucker punch. And he doesn’t like it. Elizabeth Bennet is dangerous, not only because she has a gift for making him make an ass of himself, but because she and her razor-sharp wit could too easily throw his life off course, and he can’t afford for that to happen again.
Yet he also can’t seem to stay away.
This book was so much fun. Every time I found myself having to put it down I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and their sizzling interactions. (I’ll admit up front that I have never once read Jane Austen, sacrilege I know, but in my defense, I have tried).
From the start, I fell in love with Elizabeth. Brilliant, funny and with a wicked tongue she’s everything I love to see in a heroine. Mr. Darcy didn’t disappoint either and their interactions were amazing. I loved it every time they verbally sparred with each other. I’m surprised my Kindle wasn’t sparking at times.
Beyond the amazing characterizations, I was so happy that Stanton seamlessly included a wonderful mix of diversity into the story. Jane, Elizabeth’s best friend is African-American and eschews every stereotype but also doesn’t back away from handling racial issues within the story. Not only that, we are treated to LGBT characters who are not walking stereotypes but simply humans going about their lives.
Elizabeth comes across as less a raging feminist than a person who understands what it means to have to be a woman in this day and age and the sometimes monumental challenges that come with the territory. She makes her mistakes, owns them, and isn’t afraid to learn and grow, something I love her for.
It’s not often I enjoy a het romance this much (Jami Gold being the other exception), I might even have gotten teary-eyed at a couple of scenes. This is one romance I’ll be revisiting and likely soon.
She is queen and a widow, and an invading army is approaching the castle. The enemy covets the mountain of gold buried under the fortress, and many of the queen’s subjects have fled.
As a bitter wind sweeps over the castle walls and whispers to the queen, a stranger arrives at the gate begging to be allowed in. She’s injured, but Rapunzel recognizes the woman’s face from her visions and her name from ancient tales.
Is she a spy?
Or an enchantress?
The queen has Irmela locked in the dungeon, but despite the danger, her majesty cannot resist the stunning woman, and she traipses into the damp freezing recesses of the castle to interrogate her.
Irmela has a dark history but she and Rapunzel are connected as though a web of invisible thread draws them together.
While burning oil, brimstone and hot sand rain down on the castle, the queen is in turmoil. She battles not only an enemy and her family’s disapproval but also her own pride. She’s torn between duty and love and tells herself that giving her heart to an immortal is foolhardy.
But the ever-present wind, never willing to do Rapunzel’s bidding, might – after centuries of being its own master – offer her and Irmela its support.Rapunzel may not be in a tower, but she is a prisoner – of sorts.
tl;dr: Lackluster world building, thin character development along with some unfortunate word choices make Rapunzel’s Surrender feel rough around the edges.
I personally felt a bit imprisoned by this short story. From the first chapter I had trouble connecting with Queen Rapunzel and bouncing from past to present to hazy visions brought on the wind never gave me a chance to get to know her. Unfortunately, this persisted throughout the story with point-of-view changes coming close to head hopping and leaving some scenes a muddled mess.
Then there was some very unfortunate phrasing during the actual sex that immediately turned me off to the whole scene. A woman’s vaginal secretions being called ‘broth’ pulled me right out of the whole story and it took me a bit to return to it and be able to take it seriously.
Throughout the story, Rapunzel worries if she’s worthy of being a queen. Her actions clearly show she’s not. Inviting a known sorceress and possible spy into her room just because the wind once whispered her name and gave her sexy visions seems irresponsible in the extreme to me. Then again that may just be me. Perhaps if I’d been given a chance to get to know her instead of being told about her childhood I might have understood her motivations better. As it is her motivations are conflicting and contradictory. All in all, it felt like reading fanfiction of a fandom I’m not familiar with.
There is so much potential here and I feel bad for being harsh, but a good solid content edit would do wonders to clear up the confusion and put the focus where it should be.
All that being said, Laurenti has a nice lyrical style that needs the polish a good experienced editor could give.
You can get your copy here.
If you’re like me and have been anxiously awaiting news on when Forbidden Enchantment will be released—wait no longer! The pre-order is here with a tentative release date of Jan 10th!
Sidhe cannot lie. Yet Cedric lies about everything from being happy to being human. Hiding his true appearance with glamor runes, he’s managed to live quietly among humans for nearly fifty years. But as he journeys to the capital at the behest of the empress, a chance encounter with the first dragon to be seen in a thousand years threatens to reveal all his secrets.
Talfryn commits a taboo every time he leaves the mountains. Yet for an outcast, long banished from the dragons’ last city, taboos are trifles. He’s more interested in acquiring items for his hoard. Drawn by the scent of a rare enchantment, he’ll risk everything, including his freedom, to find the source.
Don’t miss out on the excitement! Pre-order your copy now.
It’s finally here! The cover for my fantasy Forbidden Enchantment. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this story and these characters. While it still features many things you’ve come to expect from my writing, it’s also a little bit of a departure from my normal style, but in a good way.
Inspired by a prompt and the urge to write high fantasy that isn’t set in quasi-Medieval Europe Forbidden Enchantment is a fantasy with a bit of a twist. It features many queer characters including both protagonists. Here is an unofficial blurb for you:
Sidhe cannot lie. Yet Cedric does it every day. Lying about everything from being happy to being human. Hiding his true appearance with glamor runes, he’s managed to live quietly among humans for nearly fifty years. Now, he’s headed for the capital of the Empire at the request of the Empress. A chance meeting with the first dragon to be seen in a thousand years threatens to reveal everything he’s kept hidden.
Talfryn breaks taboo everytime he leaves the mountains. Yet for an outcast, long banished from the dragons’ last city, taboos are trifles. He’s more interested in getting items for his hoard. This means taking risks, including battling knights to get their enchanted shields. Drawn by the scent of a rare enchantment he’ll risk everything, including his freedom, to find the source.
Forbidden Enchantment will be coming soon from Less Than Three Press. I’ll keep you updated on release dates. ^_^
This past week, October 22-28, was asexual awareness week.
Asexual Awareness Week is an international campaign that seeks to educate about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences and to create materials that are accessible to our community and our allies around the world.
Asexuality is not a widely known orientation so when I realized Holly Drummond in Perfect Rhythm identifies as ace, I was absolutely thrilled. And a little worried.
Pop star Leontyne Blake might sing about love, but she stopped believing in it a long time ago. What women want is her image, not the real her. When her father has a stroke, she flees the spotlight and returns to her tiny Missouri hometown.
In her childhood home, she meets small-town nurse Holly Drummond, who isn’t impressed by Leo’s fame at all. That isn’t the only thing that makes Holly different from other women. She’s also asexual. For her, dating is a minefield of expectations that she has decided to avoid.
Can the tentative friendship between a burned-out pop star and a woman not interested in sex develop into something more despite their diverse expectations?
A lesbian romance about seeking the perfect rhythm between two very different people—and finding happiness where they least expect it.
Thankfully, I didn’t need to be. Jae is a fantastic writer and I’m so glad I grabbed this book. I saw a promo for in on Tumblr and the mention of a lesbian from my home state of Missouri piqued my interest. Granted, I’d never read contemporary f/f before and I wasn’t certain what to expect.
What I got was a lovely, blossoming relationship between two amazing women. When I first started I braced myself, unsure if I’d be able to connect with Leo Blake, the main protagonist. I needn’t have worried. She is wonderfully down to earth and relatable for a pop star. She’s stubborn and full of pride but not so much that she won’t admit mistakes or try her best to rectify things that have gone wrong.
While I love Leo, Holly was the one I really connected with for obvious reasons. I really appreciated how Jae handled Holly’s asexuality, including being frank about how pressured we can feel in relationships.
So many parts of this book hit home for me and not just the setting. It was refreshing to read a story where the asexual character wasn’t ‘fixed’ by having sex or ever pressured into the act at all. I also greatly appreciated the content warning before the chapter that had a sex scene in it.
All the characters were wonderfully fleshed out and made the whole journey with Leo and Holly that much more interesting. I loved having plenty of time to get to know them. I know a lot of people call this a ‘slow burn’ romance, but it is still fast-paced by my standards. xD
Overall, I delighted in reading this book. It was thoughtful, funny and moving.
October is my month to read and plan for NaNoWriMo. It’s a good way for me to get through my TBR pile … if it quit growing. Anyway, I decided to kick the month off with the brand new release Seers Stone by Holly Evans. Part of the Ink Born world, it is full of fun and magic. Here is the official blurb:
My name’s Kaitlyn Felis, and I’m a treasure-hunting alchemist.
I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work for a mysterious elf called Fein Thyrin. Not only did he give me my dream alchemy lab, one that came with a beautiful part-nymph assistant (she’ll be the end of me, in the best possible way) he’s also hired me as his personal treasure-hunter. To say I was excited is a drastic understatement.
First on my treasure-hunting list? The Seers Stone – it’s a thing of legends, and I’m going to be the first hunter to get my hands on it.
Seers Stone stars Kaitlyn Felis, a fun, feisty, flirty heroine who I quickly fell in love with. Her companion will’o-the-whisp, Wispy, is adorable and adds just the right touch of humor when things are getting a bit dicey. And they do indeed get dicey at points. Kaitlyn might be an alchemist but she also craves adventure and treasure hunting is the perfect outlet for that. While most of the time I find characters like her grating, she was amazingly well grounded and not above calling herself out on her own bullshit. Something I’ve come to love about Holly’s writing is the fact that her protagonists are allowed to make mistakes and be assholes, but they also acknowledge where they went wrong when the time comes.
I will also say that typically I don’t care for characters who sleep around. Mostly because of personal reasons. I’m demisexual and the thought of sleeping with someone I’ve just met is both baffling and terrifying. But this felt so much different. Kaitlyn is all about adventure and trying new things, and sex is just another component of that. It helped that encounters didn’t feel forced and the scenes were sweet and emotion-focused rather than your typical blow-by-blow erotica (don’t get me wrong, I love those too, when in the right place).
It was great to see Tyn again as well as a couple other familiar faces. As always Evans took us to some spectacular places as well as some rather creepy/depressing areas. It’s nice to see such a well-rounded world. Yes, there is wonderful beautiful magic, but there is also a rather dismal and terrifying underbelly as well. And magic definitely has its cost.
Overall, this was a fun, fast-paced read and I’m very much looking forward to more of Kaitlyn.
Limited Print Edition of Masquerade
Get your very own limited edition print copy of Masquerade.
Okay, so that title is a *little* misleading. I’m not talking about actual blood. Unless you’re like me and tend to have random nosebleeds. Not good for your keyboard. No, the hurt I’m referring to is more emotional than physical. But how so?
You’ve no doubt come across the adage to ‘write what you know’ and likely the opposing viewpoint that this is limiting to your narrative.
However, I’m going to give you a different take on this. Write what you feel. Here’s some overshare for you: I use writing as a coping mechanism to keep my brain from talking me into killing myself. Sometimes that nastiness bleeds over into my writing. Characters suffer and suffer horribly. Mostly because they are a stand-in for myself. I won’t get into the psychology of it. My doctors are aware and even encourage it. Why?
Because it gets those emotions out of my system. It allows me some space from it to look at it rationally.
Now, I know most of you are going ‘what the flying frick Bran, this isn’t what I followed you for.’ But let me show you how this coping skill of mine can help you be a better writer; by showing you how to face those parts of yourself.
Writing What You Feel
A lot of ‘write what you know’ advice focuses on events, places, and people in your life. And yes there is a wealth of material to be gained from your experiences through life; material I highly suggest you mine and refine for use.
Writers who are intimately familiar with their subject produce more knowing, more confident and, as a result, stronger results. — Should We Write What We Know? BY BEN YAGODA
I have worked in construction most of my life. Though that might be difficult to tell from what I write. I don’t write about construction or anything associated with it. But, I do use some of my experiences from my former job. Working outside year round in all kinds of weather, dealing with sexual harassment, watching someone die in an accident, millionaire homeowners who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire. But more than that, I use the emotions those experiences elicited in my writing; the exhaustion, frustration, horror, and anger to name a few.
Instead of letting those feelings sit and fester, I wrote about them. I wrote about characters dealing with the same emotions even if it wasn’t the same situation.
When you write what you feel you are looking for those instances when something really spoke to or affected you. Something that made you passionate. You don’t have to just channel negative emotions, positive experiences are just as effective. Though it helps to have some sort of distance from the event, at least in my experience. You need to be able to look at it objectively and pull out the emotions without causing yourself undo stress.
Let me show you how. Once again this is probably oversharing, but being open and honest is the main part of this process.
Three Steps to Writing What You Feel
As William Trevor once said, “There is an element of autobiography in all fiction that is pain or distress, or pleasure, is based on the author’s own.” We all write ourselves into our characters. It’s only when we start fearing that inner editor that we can end up with flat prose, cardboard characters, and a boring plot. But sometimes that inner editor is our own fear at facing something painful.
I recently started a short story. It’s to be a freebie for my street team and features a pair of side characters from The Jeweled Dagger. It was supposed to have been a quick easy write up of around 5k words. I got about 1500 in and realized the main character Séraphin was grappling with something deeply personal to me. Something I myself have not fully dealt with; reconciling my religious upbringing with my sexuality and gender identity. All progress halted. I simply couldn’t write any further without having to face my own emotions on the matter.
Step One: Take time to explore the event/situation in your mind.
(Note: some experiences are too painful to explore alone, take care of yourself first and foremost).
I spent several days thinking about the situation. I know I have a deep faith in what I was taught growing up. I also know who I am now, but the shame, resentment, and trepidation don’t just go away overnight. Séraphin faces a similar conundrum. His faith in his country or the pull to fully be himself. This lead to the next step:
Step Two: Let yourself feel.
This is probably the hardest part of the exercise, allowing yourself to face full on those emotions and accept them. It is going to hurt. I’m not too proud to admit that tears have been involved. But this is where that fearsome inner editor can be challenged, that voice saying ‘no one wants to hear this’ can be silenced. Your experiences and emotions are valid and real and have every right to make it onto the page.
As for me, this led to the realization that I cannot have it both ways. Either I conform and shutter away a huge part of myself or I leave behind what I grew up believing and find a new way. I spent time analyzing my feelings and then looking at how it related to Séraphin’s situation. This gave me what I needed to continue writing, which is the next step.
Step Three: Write it all out.
Sometimes this can be as difficult as part two. Writing is letting go, it’s a form of bloodletting, a draining of our psyche rather than our veins. It is scary and painful and glorious all at once. Let it be. Let yourself cry while you write out the pain. Let yourself shiver in your chair while you detail the fear. Grin from ear to ear as you relate the joy. Most of all feel.
I let Seraphin have his doubt, shame, and resentment. I let him feel what I felt and reach his own decision (I’m not giving that away, sorry).
So now a short story that suddenly became too personal has helped me deal with my own insecurities and has that much more emotional punch now. Honestly, every single story you write should have at least something like this in it. If you’re not passionate about your story, no matter what genre or length, readers notice.