Fantasy, Romance, Thrillers Oh My - A Writer's Blog Hop

Posted on July 15, 2014
The spellbinding Sara C. Snider tagged me in The Writing Process Blog Hop last week in a post titled Weird and Wonderful Writing. She loves things "quirky and odd" and has published her first epic fantasy novel, The Thirteenth Tower.

I met Sara last fall during her Halloween Blog Hop in 2013. I searched for a short story blog hop and found her site. With the foggy woods in the background image, I was instantly intrigued. Her love of Halloween was infectious and I joined the blog hop right away. It was loads of fun writing those scary stories and reading other entries of authors who partook. Definitely going to do it again. If you're going to visit Sara's blog, be sure to check out her A-Z challenge entries - they're all folklore and mythological creatures and beings, which totally proves her love of fantasy. Some of them are pretty outrageous.

So, the blog hop goes as follows:

1. Introduce who referred the blog tour to you.
2. Answer the following 4 questions:
   a.  What am I working on?
   b.  How does my work differ from others in its genre?
   c.  Why do I write what I do?
   d.  How does my writing process work?
3. Introduce the people you’re passing this on to who will then post a week later.

Here we go....

What am I working on?

Right now I'm on the final revision of my first urban fantasy novel titled Family Relics (subtitled Box of Souls). I'm pretty excited about this book since it's my first urban fantasy thriller and the first of a possible trilogy.

What's it about? Witches and Dragons of course! They're all set in modern day San Francisco. The protagonists are two sisters, Jasmyn and Katarina, who don't know they have inherited their magic from their dead grandmother who they thought was only 96 years old but was actually closer to 400 years old. When they learn of their powers, all hell breaks loose. The two fledgling witches accidentally release ancient dragons onto the world and have to work together to use their magic to stop the menace. I'm close to finalizing the outlines for books two and three. My outlines are loose, more like ideas written down in a sequence, with details scribbled about. We'll talk about that later with the last question.  Once I've flushed out the entire trilogy, I will see about waiting to release the first book when I am close to at least finishing the first draft of the next one.

Ah, l'amor
I've also started my second contemporary romance novel, still untitled, where the protagonists are a young single mother-slash-widower of a soldier killed in battle, and a guy whose superficial dating lifestyle has left him wanting something deeper. He is contracted by a new CTO to undermine current I.T. systems and processes in her department. She is a sharp I.T. manager who has a loyal team and great relationships with longtime coworkers. His objective is to find a way to get her fired. (Tum tum tuuummm).
After working together for a while, she lets down her guard and he sees past her steely managerial mask. Will their professional relationship get in the way of their feelings for one another? Will their own stubborn attitudes be roadblocks to a happy future?

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I love the way misunderstood emotions, family stresses, and inner struggles guide our decisions, the way we behave, the things we say. Will my characters do what's right if they are helping the people who have hurt them in the past? Will my characters leave when they are needed the most simply because it's easier than standing up to fight? Will they redeem themselves? Can they forgive their enemies? Can they be with the people they love, even when it seems wrong?

The Three by Lee Moyer
Could be Oxerion, Baronyx,
and Pterones
In Family Relics, the antagonists of the story are three brother dragons, Oxerion, Baronyx, and Pterones. The witches were once considered their "mothers", until Oxerion, the eldest dragon, betrayed them centuries ago. As a result, all three dragons were imprisoned. Now that they have been set free, Oxerion wants to kill the remaining witches and all humans in his way, Baronyx fights for the witches' forgiveness and argues for trying to live in peace with everyone, and Pterones doesn't want to choose between his two brothers. The brother dragons have issues of their own that evolve as the Jasmyn and Katarina try to figure out a way to capture them. Being as monumental and as gargantuan as these dragons are, their family struggles affect their decisions and create frustrations and conflicts that play out in confrontational scenes with the witches.

In my romance novels, I alternate between the guy's and gal's point of view and write from their first person perspective. Being inside a man's head intrigues me. I try to understand how men and women can view the same situation so differently and react in such opposite ways. Confusion, strong opinions, and poor communication are products of these contradicting forces. In the beginning of A Selfish Moment, Jubilee wakes up in Everett's apartment with a serious hang over and completely confused because she's blacked out the entire evening. Everett wakes up ecstatic about the wonderful evening they had and is practically in love with her. They scene is a cocktail of mixed signals and communication failures. They end up leaving at odds, with both thinking they were wronged. Ack! I love creating ridiculous situations for these couples, occurrences that are impossible but very probably, and giving them a chance to forgive themselves and each other, a chance to be happy. Crazy...but happy.

Why do I write what I do?

It's all about the complex characters.
Whenever I meet someone new, I tend to go into a 20-questions mode to find out about their lives. This is a recent revelation. I study their body language, listen intently on their pauses and take note of emotional inflections in their words. I really take the time to listen and learn about them. I never used to do this, but since I started taking my writing seriously, I do it all the time. I even wrote a post about this a year ago.

Anyway, the reason I do this is because real life people are complex and I love building complex characters. The more people I meet, really get to know, the more complexity I put into my stories. And I've learned that everyone wants to tell their story, you just have to ask the right questions. They all have pain, sorrow, happiness, betrayal, cynicism, etc. The best characters are the ones you can't tell if you love or hate, or those you love one moment and hate the next, and then love again later.

Jubilee, the female protagonist in A Selfish Moment, will make you angry from her bitchy behavior in one scene, but then you sympathize with her when her insecurities come out in the next. Everett throws Jubilee out of his apartment after being humiliated and you want to punch him in the head. Then, moments later, you forgive him when he realizes his mistake and chases her down the street.

In Family Relics, you begin to root for Baronyx as he fights with Oxerion, yet you still want the witches to capture them. You will love Jasmyn because she is strong and stoic, hiding her pain in the face of her family's favoritism towards her sister, and sometimes acting out because of it. You'll despise her spitefulness, her dismissal of her little sister, yet you can understand why. She has a tough fortress around her bruised heart, yet privately she yearns for her family's affection. Can you really blame her coldness, her inability to externalize her emotions?

How does my writing process work?

I start my outline in an actual notebook
I learned from my first novel that I will never start a book until I have an outline done with the beginning, middle and end of the story. That first novel took forever because I had a terrific beginning, an idea of a middle, and nothing for the ending. I have since written several outlines of potential novels with a beginning and middle but no ending. Those have not been started.

It usually takes me a few days to flush an outline and generate key characters with temporary names and some background information. After a few days of scribbling in my journal, with lots of sidebar notes in tiny squares pointing to other tiny squares, a sketch simulating a timeline you may have done in 8th grade, I have a skeleton of a story.  Then I put it away and do something else, like run, play with the kids, shop, something, anything, other than look at the outline. After a few nail-biting days, where I force myself to NOT look at my notebook, I pick it up and read it again. If I'm still just as thrilled about the outline as I was the first day, then I start typing up the "beginning". I air-quote that because the beginnings of my stories are almost always rewritten or completely removed.

Then, I get lost in my writing, with my head tucked way down and my fingers slamming the keys. The story oozes out of me; there's no real planning outside of that outline and set of notes. I get the story down, the sequence of events, the character names, plots points, etc., in about 6-8 weeks. This is usually the time my family complains about the lack of food in the fridge, the abundance of take out, and the extra dust lingering on the furniture. Laundry? What laundry?

When I finish the first draft, I put it away for a few weeks and catch up on my TBR list. This is a "clean your mental palate" break. I read other stuff then come back to my work. After reading several books, I go through a mild This-Story-Sucks panic attack before picking up the first draft and starting the first round of editing. This is where the real work begins.

The first revision is about plugging plot holes, deepening the characters, killing my darlings, and filling in back stories. After another break and another knockout round of self-doubt, I start the second revision which is about making sure I haven't forgotten any details. Are the trees right for the season? Did I get the character's quirks right? Is the scene taking place in daytime or at night? Did I keep track of the time of day throughout? This is also about the time I finalize my character document, where I list out physical traits, emotional and psychological features, and some key history bullet points for each character in the story.

Next up is the "Reflection Phase" where I obsess about the story, in the shower, while I'm driving, in my sleep... you get the idea. Is it really as good as I think it is? Will it read well? Did I cover everything? Did I feed the kids last night? Where are the kids anyway? I go through one more revision where I concentrate on grammar, tense, and look at the overall style of the story. I use Grammarly for this which I have found very useful. Then it's off to beta readers for tearing apart. I love beta readers!

My Nominees Are....

Actor, Cook, Daddy, devourer of Sabras Hummus, aging British Rock Star and part time Italian Fresco Restorer, Tony Payson's delightful habit for verbosity shows in his short stories, poetry and rants on his blog titled The Writer's Bloc. A self proclaimed graduate from the School of Warrior Poets with a degree in Gonzo Journalism, (not to mention a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Southern Maine) Tony sucks you into his winding prose and keeps you there until the very end. He describes himself as "A compulsive story teller who would rather use twenty words when five will do."

The lovely Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin at Life Love and Other Catastrophes has a deep passion for writing. She was born in Spain and immigrated to Australia when she was young, and still maintains her Spanish culture and traditions.  A Licensed Conveyancer by day, in her free time Yolanda writes about her travels, her photography, and of life itself. Poetry is her outlet of expression, filled with vibrant language and deep emotions, and is as essential to her as breathing. Her posts and guest posts on other blogs are filled with spirituality and insight, so be sure to check her out. Yolanda will definitely add a little bit of color to your day.


2 comments:

  1. Your Family Relics story sounds really interesting. I love dragons, but I haven't read a story with them in, like, forever. (Seriously, I think I was 16, so around 20 years ago--holy moly). I think I'm due for a dragon story!

    I can definitely relate to the self-doubt attacks. There are periods where I really dislike my own stories because I think they're crap, etc. Nothing for it, really, other than just plow on ahead anyway. ;)

    And I'm totally looking forward to the Halloween Blog Hop again! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so looking forward to Halloween Blog Hop too!

      Self doubt is my self-imposed torture, something that always seems to happen no matter how much I try to avoid it. But once I started editing, I got sucked into the story and got excited again. It happens with every round of revision. Go figure...

      Delete