Beautiful People – March 2017 Edition

Every month, the incredible Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In host the BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE meme. It’s a meme consisting of ten questions geared toward helping writers dive further into their manuscripts and their characters.

I went back and forth on what project to use for this month’s Beautiful People Meme, especially given that next month is Camp NaNo. Do I keep going with the project I’m querying? Or play with the shiny new idea that is in a completely different universe to GUARDED (the querying MS) and the rest of the books in that series?

As much as I love the Aeons, I need to shelve that universe for a tidbit to let my mind switch over to a new/different fantasy universe. So let me introduce Teagan and McKenna, the MC’s for the shiny new idea.

No. 1 – What’s their favourite book/movie/play/etc.?
If Teagan and McKenna were in our world, they’d probably watch the TV show Supernatural religiously. They’d both be Dean girls, but both would secretly prefer Sam.

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I mean, how could you not love those faces?

No. 2 – Is there anything they regret doing?
Ummm. Honestly, these two aren’t really “regretful” types. Teagan thinks regrets are a waste of time. The only time McKenna has regrets is when she doesn’t do something.

No. 3 – If they were sick or wounded, who would take care of them and how?
If McKenna gets sick or wounded, she has three people who come to her aid: Teagan, their caretaker Gareth, and her friend Raum. For Teagan, it’s McKenna and Gareth. Physical wounds are easy enough to deal with (yay magic). But if they don’t expel enough of their magical energy, their bodies will seize up on them. If they don’t stay physical throughout the episode, there could be long-lasting damage. So Raum is more than happy to slap the girls around a bit if it will keep them from letting their latent magic eat away at their nervous system… because violence is always the answer, kids. (KIDDING!)

No. 4 – Is there an object they can’t bear to part with and why?Teagan's comb
For Teagan, it’s her mother’s hair comb. It’s bronze and has decorative spikes. The hair comb was passed down from high priestess to high priestess. Teagan was on the fast track to inherit it before the temple was destroyed.

McKenna earlingFor McKenna, it’s her acolyte earring. When an acolyte begins honing their magic, they’re gifted an earring signaling their growth. McKenna had been so young when the temple was destroyed, so the earring is her only tangible memory of those days.

No. 5 – What are 5 ways to win their heart (or friendship)?
Teagan: Integrity, Intelligence, Stealth, Snark, Selflessness.
McKenna: Whimsy, Humor, Snark, Adrenaline, anything related to flying.

No. 6 – Describe a typical outfit for them from top to bottom.

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Picture curtesy of HarpyQueen on Deviantart

The aesthetic of this fantasy world is very steampunk in nature, so the fashion is multilayered and complex and every piece of garment would have a purpose.

Shoes: Laced riding boots. They’re durable, fairly comfortable, and way more easy to move around in than the healed shoes worn by the upper class.

Tights: The girls (and most of their class) wear leggings instead of the thin tights the women of the upper class do. Leggings offer more coverage and warmth when their skirts are pulled up for easier movement.

Skirts: If the girls are wearing skirts, they usually have a ribbon sewn into the inside that they can pull up and knot so the front of the skirt is hiked up out of the way of their movement. The only time the skirt is actually down completely is when they have to deal with the upper class. Having such a short skirt is much frowned upon for the richer part of the population.

Shirts: Usually something linen with billowy sleeves. Often cream in color from lack of dyes. Sometimes the girls will embroider the lapel or the cuffs… if they’re bored.

Corsets: This is where the girls usually get creative. Most of their corsets are constructed with leather, but each has unique metal detailing depending on what they’re planning that day. McKenna likes the one with the retractable mini-grappling hook attached to the back. Sure, it’s a bitch to put on, what with the harness straps you have to step through before you even start lacing the corset, but it’s super useful. Teagan usually goes for the corsets she’s detailed with metal loops to which she can tie different items, ie. tools, herb pouches, coin purses.

Jackets: Sometimes leather, sometimes cloth, but always dark in color. Dark coats tend to let the girls disappear a tad easier than the brightly colored ones of the upper class.

Accessories: Teagan has a monocle, a fact that I’m kinda in love with. It’s enchanted to act as a kind of security footage feed. She and McKenna run multiple ‘businesses’ and the monocle lets Teagan know where she needs to be and when. Each of the girls also have a cuff bracelet that measures how much excess magical energy they need to burn off.

McKenna loves bowler hats. She wears one most days. Unlike everything else, they have no use other than to sate McKenna’s love for them.

No. 7 – What’s their favorite type of weather?
Because the city is often smothered by smog, both girls ache for clear, sunshiny weather.

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No. 8 – What’s the worst fight they’ve ever been in?
I have a feeling I’m about to find out with the drafting process. I already know these two are going to rip the plot out of my hands, so I honestly don’t know what previous or future fights are going to come down the hatch for these two. I do know that when the temple of the old religion was dismantled, the girls had a hell of a time finding ‘normalcy’ after that, but as for how violent that ordeal actually was, I’m not 100% sure.

No. 9 – What names or nicknames have they been called throughout their life?
I’m a sucker for shortening names. McKenna often gets called ‘Mic’ by her closest friends and ‘closer friends.’ Teagan doesn’t really have a nickname. She does often get called ‘Minerva’ by some of their village elderly, at least the ones who were devout patrons of the temple. Minerva was the temple’s high priestess and Teagan’s mother. The older Teagan gets, the more she resembles Minerva.

No. 10 – What makes their heart feel alive?
Teagan lives for the days she gets to escape the floating city to the forest beyond the city’s shadow. The air is clean, the colors are vibrant, and there isn’t an Upper (person from the upper class) in sight.

Meanwhile, McKenna lives for the moments right after she escapes trouble. Her blood is pumping, her chest heaving, and her falling adrenaline makes her practically gleeful because she was able to get away with whatever flavor of mischief she chose that day.

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If McKenna knew this reference, she’d use it… after every incident of mischief… Every. Single. One.

So those are the MC’s for my next project. I’m excited to jump into their world and play with this duo’s dynamic. Between the different character development, world building, and plotting I’ve been jotting down, it promises to be a wild ride. Steampunk, magic, and trouble. Could it get any better?

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Beautiful People Meme: Couples Edition

Alright, well since I’ve posted only serious nonsense recently, I thought the blog could use Beautiful Peoplea little brevity. And by brevity, I mean doing the BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE meme hosted by
Paper Fury
and Further Up and Further In. This month, the focus is couples.

So here’s 10 questions and answer on one of the couple (because yes, there’s more than one) in my first book, GUARDED:

No. 1 | How and why did they meet?
Kjersten and Jon meet during one of Kjersten’s shifts at Beans Hollow Café where she and her sister work. Jon was sent by the magical realm’s Council to document her progress with her abilities.

No. 2 | What were their first impressions of each other?
Kjersten’s first impression of Jon was just observing the similarities between them. It had been years since she’d run into a fellow martial artist, so the scars that come from splitting your brow open or breaking your nose stood out to her in a very specific way.

Jon’s first impression of Kjersten was a bit more conflicted. The information he’d been given on her painted her in a less than complementary light (the Council thought her abilities had killed her parents). So when he meets a girl who seems driven more by fear than guilt, it makes him question the validity of the Council’s report, which of course makes him more interested in getting to know the real her.

No. 3 | How would they prove their love for each other?
Their relationship is very much built of mutual respect and understanding. Neither of them needs ‘proof’ of the other’s affections. It’s more that neither of them quite know how to communicate the depth of their feelings.

No. 4 | What would be an ideal date?
Eek. Kjersten isn’t the romantic type, and Jonathan hasn’t entertained the idea of romance (also why they have a hard time communicating their affection for each other). The two of them just thoroughly enjoy each others’ company, whether it’s talking over Jon’s homemade kofta (a Middle Eastern dish where spiced ground lamb is wrapped in eggplant and baked in a delicious red sauce) or practicing new grappling techniques in a sparring match.

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No. 5 | Is there something they emphatically disagree on?
Kjersten’s impulse to do things herself. It’s a constant source of contention in their relationship because Jon just wants to be there for her.

No. 6 | List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)
Quirk 1: Jon loves Hazelnut Latte’s. It’s the only thing he orders at the café and when Kjersten needs to apologize, she usually brings along one to soften Jon up a bit.

Quirk 2: Kjersten is a bad cook. She can bake if she has a recipe because her mind is analytical that way, but her personality doesn’t lend itself toward artful expression.

Quirk 3: Cooking is a soft spot for Jon. It’s one of the few positive memories he has of his birth parents, so most of the things he cooks are recipes learned from his birth mom.

Quirk 4 (non-food): Kjersten is bad at regulating her temper. Really bad at it. Jon can usually see when one her blow-ups is coming down the hatch, but sometimes he doesn’t catch it quick enough.

Quirk 5 (non-food): Jon is a deceptively talented healer. His foster-dad was a village healer in the magical realm and taught Jon a lot of what he knew, despite Jon not being a healer’s apprentice. Basically, you want Jon on your side of a fight.

No. 7 | What’s one thing they know about each other that no one else does?
Kjersten is probably the only person Jon has allowed to know the depth of his heartache over being cast out by his birth family. Jon refuses to show that sensitive underbelly to the vast majority of people.

On the other side, Jon is the only person who Kjersten allows to see her vulnerability. She trusts him implicitly. So if she makes a mistake, he’s the first person she confides in about it.

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No. 8 | What’s one thing that they keep a secret from each other?
The depth of their affection for the other. Most of their lives have been filled with losing people they care about, so both of them have a deep-rooted fear that if they were to reveal their feelings, they’d suddenly lose them.

No. 9 | How would their lives be different without each other?
Jon would continue through life, detached from those around him, ignorant to the real reason his family cast him out. Kjersten’s PTSD would continue to eat her alive without that tether to pull her back from the edge. (I think it’s important to note that Jon doesn’t ‘fix’ Kjersten’s PTSD. He is a source of non-judgmental support that acts as a type of mirror for her to process her emotions and fears so she can better manage her PTSD.)

No. 10 | Where do they each see this relationship going?
Unfortunately, Kjersten’s going to outlive Jon by a solid couple centuries. But right now, they’re just taking solace in the fact that they know they have each other’s backs, as well as their hearts.


This Q&A goes on for the rest of the month, so if you want to get to know some of the other couples in the series, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do a separate post for each. 🙂

If you want to learn more about Kjersten’s story, check out the pitch and first 500 words here.

NaNoWriMo 2016: Super Excited & Extremely Nervous

Wow. November is tomorrow. Like the past two years, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month where you write 50k words toward your next novel project.

I’m participating this year for multiple reasons, but the main reason is that I need to. If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know I’ve fallen off my rocker this year. The PTSD has pretty much stolen all remnants of self-esteem. NaNo has always been a source of positivity for me. Between achieving the challenge itself and the NaNo community, November has just been a good month for the past couple years.

bb-redoneSo when I say I need to participate, it’s really a matter of needing to prove to myself that I can still do a thing that makes me happy and fulfilled. And like last year, I’ll be participating in the BEAUTIFUL BOOKS meme hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up, Further In.

Here’s post 1 of 3: An Introduction to my NaNo Novel

 

Question 1: What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
Redeemed (working title) is book 4 of the 5-book YA Fantasy series I’ve been working on. And to say it’s kinda been an enigma (plot and character-wise) would be an understatement. Since I first developed the series, I knew the main character’s abilities, where the story would take place, and what needed to happen (in terms of the series’ big picture) for Book 5 to work, but other than those three things, I was at a loss.

Gwen, the MC, went through a million name changes. Nothing stuck. There was Blaire, Alison, Winifred, Jaclyn. I had zero luck ironing down any details with her character. Then I finished the final draft of book 1, discovered a character that would play a huge role in book 4, and from there, everything started clicking into place.

Looking at my working outline and notes, I can see where I’m pulling different inspirations from. And honestly, most of it comes from friends and other incredible people who have entered my life.

Question 2: Describe what your novel is about!
Here’s the very shabby synopsis I have on the NaNo site:

Gwen Carter has visions. Some of the near future. Some of the past. But when she sees a future where a woman named Helen tortures her family to get to her, Gwen takes off.

Now halfway across the country in Seattle, Washington, Gwen realizes she can manipulate her visions and seeks out Helen from her nightmare to lure her away from her family.

Helen isn’t the only one searching for Gwen, a man who can shift into different animals is also on the hunt. But there’s something different about him, the men he travels with call him Tadgh and clearly trust and respect him.

So Gwen seeks his help. Unfortunately, there’s only so much Tadgh can do when the lives of his men are being held as collateral for his allegiance to someone else.

Question 3: What is your book’s aesthetic?
I think the aesthetic is going to be equal parts grit and clarity. If that makes any sense. Between Gwen’s abilities and the plot itself, there’s a lot of potential for some dark, gritty moments – think NBC’s show Hannibal (except no cannibalism). But there’s also opportunity for bright, beautiful moments like Disney’s live action Cinderella. We’ll see how well those two mesh. Lol

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Question 4: Introduce us to each of your characters!
Gwendolyn Carter – Gwen is the most innately heroic of the protagonists in my series. While she doesn’t seek out danger, she can’t sit idly by and watch injustice unfold either. Her ability to hear thoughts and see others’ choices makes her decision-making far more strategic, so nothing she does is impulsive.

Tadgh O’Connell – Tadgh, a shapeshifter of sorts, is defined by his leadership role in his clan. Integrity, camaraderie, and loyalty are his core values, and he can’t/won’t sacrifice them for anyone or anything.

Helen Veritas – Helen is the descendant of the Roman Goddess of Truth, Veritas. She can sense when you’re lying, and if she chooses to, she can literally carve the truth out of you. She’s vicious and unapologetic.

Celeste – Celeste can manipulate earth and air. She’s desperate to save her kin from the Council and is running out of time to do so.

Question 5: How do you prepare to write?
I am a planner through and through. I have a scene outline, a beat sheet, character profiles, and other extraneous notes on the world and its many complexities.

Usually, I’ll start each day with a goal sheet of what scenes I’d like to accomplish based on what mood I’m in, what inspiration is striking, etc.

Question 6: What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Eek. Just to see what it turns into. Last year, I went into NaNo having a pretty clear vision of what book 3 was going to be, and it still surprised me. Redeemed is already a complete enigma, so I wouldn’t put it past these characters to throw me for several loops.

Plus there’s the whole thing of this being the second to last book in the series. That’s fairly terrifying. lol

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Question 7: List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Overcasts, Ferries, and an Amalgamation of charming old storefronts and sleek new construction. It takes place in Seattle, WA.

Question 8: What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
All Gwen wants is for her family to be okay, but in order to do that, she has to lure Helen and Celeste away from them.

Question 9: How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Uhhhh. Honestly I have no idea. I think I’m going to just be pantsing this bit.

Gwen is a fairly well adjusted character compared to the MC’s of my first three books. So we’ll see how this ends up.

Question 10: What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
The major theme in this novel is to greet others with an open heart and an open mind. None of us have the ability to know someone’s full backstory upon meeting, so stereotyping or making snap-judgments only prove to hurt ourselves and extinguish progress.

As for how I want to readers to feel, I want them to be even more excited for the series conclusion in book 5. lol

***

And there it is, what I’ll be working on this next month. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see how this turns out, especially with it being the final adventure before the big showdown in book 5. This series has been such a fun place to live in and I’m still finding new things about the characters and the world. I just hope I can do all the characters’ stories justice.

 

So it’s been a while…

 

Hey everyone. First off, I just wanna thank ya’ll for sticking with me this year. I know I kinda fell off for a while, and by while I mean several months. Second, this isn’t going to be so much of a writing post as it’s more of an explanation and apology for my disappearance this year. I wish that I had good news to share, that my absence was related to some awesome thing, but in truth, my mental health just took a huge dump at the beginning of the year and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to pick myself even slightly off the ground in order to “feel” like myself.

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms since my deployment to Iraq as a Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Army in 2011. The symptoms would come and go and shift and change, but for the most part, they were bearable.

Then 2016 happened and multiple things hit me in succession. My dog got poisoned by mothballs (she’s fine, no worries), a couple important relationships in my life rapidly and completely deteriorated, multiple PSTD triggers were hit, then I needed to find a new living situation (because of one of said relationship failings). So I moved back to Iowa at the end of January and attempted to pick up the pieces. Started weekly therapy sessions at the VA, started taking medication, and attempted to find a new job.

The longer trying to get a job took, the harder it was to sustain what little self-respect I had, which didn’t exactly help on the depression and anxiety end of things. Neither did the lack of compassion from certain people who just didn’t understand PTSD or didn’t want to understand it.

And of course, the worse my self-esteem became, the harder it was to face the things I loved or what I thought “defined” me. Writing was one of those things. Being a writer was everything I wanted since I was an itty-bit and because everything else that was important to me had failed, it seemed easier to put writing and everything attached to it inside a safe little lockbox in the back of my mind.

So I avoided it. All of it. The Manuscripts. Friends. Family. Twitter. The Blog. Critique Partners. TBR Books. Everything.

Next thing I knew, it was May and I didn’t recognize myself.

Now we’re at the tail end of August and I’ve lost most of 2016 to crappy mental health. Oy vey. The goals I’d set at the beginning of the year are near impossible to achieve. But I’m trying. It’s a daily struggle, but I finally have enough of a grasp on things that I can [somewhat] see a pale little light at the end of this very long, dark, narrow tunnel.

I’m happy to say that I am back to writing, more or less. Wrote a chapter last week that needs a crap ton of editing before it’s even remotely readable. But hey, one word at a time, right? And I’m reading again! Which is huge. Getting back to blogging three times a week is going to take some time, and I have no idea what these new posts are going to look like because I have a lot of catching up to do with the industry, not to mention my own work. But I have to [re]start somewhere, right?

Thanks again for sticking with me! It means more than I could even begin to say!

– Bree

Just Use Said: A Writerly Discussion on Dialogue Tags

There are a lot of articles and blog posts on this subject, but I wanted to open a discussion here.

Before I joined a writer’s critique group, my writing was far from publishable. I had adverbs everywhere, along with a lot of ‘said’ synonyms. The more my work was reviewed, the more I realized I had a lot to learn in the writing department.

Like the use of adverbs, I realized that when I began avoiding said-synonyms, I was forced to strengthen the narrative and clarify the action.

I’m not sure about you and your writing, but when I was using said-synonyms, it was as a means to avoid excessive use of ‘said.’ BUT the glorious thing about changing all those tags back to ‘said’ is that you begin to see all the holes in the narrative, giving you the opportunity to strengthen the prose and clarify tone.

Here’s an example:

“And what about you?” I whimpered.

Or.

A shudder rippled through my chest, spilling tears onto my cheeks. I pulled my sleeve over my knuckles and wiped them away. “And what about you?”

The first one is fine, sure. But the second gives a sense of what’s going on outside of the dialogue. As a reader, I start a book for the concept, but stay for the characters. When you take the time to reveal those subtle character traits, like how they interpret what they’re feeling or how they respond to what they’re feeling, the reader is able to get a clearer picture of the character, leading to a better connection between your writing and the reader.

Substituting action for dialogue tags also provides a more cinematic reading experience. Going back to the example, whimpered describes how it is said, but when you add in the details of the character wiping away the tears with her sleeve, you get to see what the character is doing. Again, this gives the reader more insight into the character, making the reader more sympathetic to the character’s cause/goals.

Of course, these are just my thoughts and preferences as a reader and writer. I believe that writing, like most arts, is incredibly subjective, so if you have additional thoughts, please share them in the comments section below.