Books I Wrote as a Kid

Did you guys write a lot as a kid? I know I did. In fact, when I was a child, the first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an artist, so I could draw my own stories. (Spelling was too hard back then–I would never be able to finish a story if I had to pause and ask my mother how to spell every other word!)

But once I did start writing, I didn’t stop. In looking through my old journals and notebooks, I couldn’t help but be amused at my early attempts at fiction…

…and so decided to share them.

#1: The Island

Okay….I don’t actually know what the title of this one was, because it is the name of the story I infamously shredded and burned later, but it was basically born out of my obsession with Swiss Family Robinson and the whole idea of being stranded on a deserted island, which has been a particular favorite daydream of mine since I was a small child. Seriously, if there was any type of story about surviving alone on an island (Island of the Blue Dolphins, Flight 29 Down, etc.) I. Ate. It. Up. Which is funny, since I’m not an outdoor person…at all.

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However, I love being by myself, so the whole “deserted” part of the “island” was, I guess, the attractive part, as well as the self-sufficiency. The story was basically about a group of kids my age at the time (that is, between the ages of 9 and 10) who get stranded on an island through means I cannot precisely remember, and have to work together to survive and find their way back home. I found this story again when I was 13 and was so horrified by my misspelled words, childish sentence structure, and overdramatic dialogue that I destroyed it.

I learned two things from this book:

  1. 9-year-old kids are generally not as smart as 9-year-old me thought and probably would not do very well on an island all by themselves….BUT a story about such improbably mature kids would probably be greatly enjoyed by fellow 9-year-olds. (If I was able to write about improbably mature nine-year-olds at that age…then was I an improbably mature nine-year-old? The world may never know.)
  2. I learned that I love writing about teamwork, and groups of bickering, diverse people who have to learn to work together. This hasn’t changed in the 14 years since I first wrote this story.

(also, should I watch Lost? Because I feel like I should watch Lost. I just….have heard about the ending, so ???)

#2: The Mystery of The China Shop

A mystery set in the 1940s. This one was handwritten between the pages of a tiny composition notebook heavily decorated with Lisa Frank stickers.

I also illustrated it with colored pencil drawings. This one had to be written within a year or two of The Island and was probably heavily influenced by the American Girl history mysteries.

I actually found and re-read this one because all I could remember about it was that my heroine’s older brother had a picture of Hitler on his wall that he would throw darts at. Because obviously no historical fiction book set during the 40s is complete without a little bit of obligatory Hitler-hate.

#3: Grace

I had completely forgotten about this one until I accidentally found it looking for The Mystery of the China Shop. It says “2005” at the beginning, which meant I was about 11 at the time of writing. It was about a girl named Grace (duh) who had a big family (because apparently I only know how to write about big families) and had to deal with starting school when (gasp!) her mom was going to be TEACHING AT THE SAME SCHOOL SHE ATTENDED. This is something I actually knew about (In the first grade, the only year I attended public school, my mother taught third grade across the hall from my classroom). There was also a new girl at the school, I think, and somebody had a wedding. I never got to go to any weddings as a kid, so I think I was living vicariously through the story at that point. (I just wanted to save the wedding rings like Ramona did in Ramona Forever, okay? *looks over at my newly engaged younger sister*) Overall, there was not much of a plot.

However, I still had room in my little notebook after I’d finished the story, so I used up the rest of the pages for a little picture book about my sister. Using gel pens, of course.

There was also a picture book I wrote in the back about the history of the United States of America called America the Beautiful because I am, and always have been, a history nerd.

#4: The Stevens

That isn’t actually the real title- I might have come up with this one when I was 12, but the title was actually really good and….I kind of want to save it and use it someday. I’m actually still quite fond of this one and its characters. It was set during the Civil War about this large, eccentric family living in the south who was generally so eccentric and weird (but also from old money) that they could get away with suspicious stuff…like helping runaway slaves escape to freedom. Sadly, this book didn’t have a lot of great writing in it, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to give up on this story completely, even though I know it’s been permanently buried in the story graveyard. Some of the scenes and plot points actually hold up after a decade’s inspection.

#5: Finding Adelaide

Oh man, here’s where I really decided to get serious and write a Grown Up Novel. This one was started when I was 13, around the time I started reading Christian Historical Fiction. It’s fairly obvious in that I was way too influenced by that genre, but I did have some good ideas of my own. The plot also grew out of my slight annoyance that such fiction has where ALL arranged marriages are always horrible and must be avoided at all costs–like, didn’t they work out sometimes? Why are all the guys girls get betrothed to old and gross? So this one was about a likable betrothed couple who didn’t know each other but there was a heavy dosage of evil uncles and mustache-twirling villains and disguises and passionate piano-playing with tears and joy and rage AND YES I AM A LITTLE MELODRAMATIC I GET IT.

Also, I’m only now realizing that the core idea of this one–girl runs away to hide from danger and start a new life elsewhere, boy tries to find her in a race against time before the bad guy does–actually got recycled in January Snow. huh. Maybe my writing hasn’t changed as much as I thought it has…

And there we have it.

Around this time is when I began coming up with ideas for Hidden Pearls. In a lot of ways, Hidden Pearls is a good example of my older writing. (I was still not a very good researcher and sometimes I lie awake at night dreading that a British person is going to read the novel and be horrified by its absolute American-ness)

But overall, each one of these stories had something that helped me on my writing journey in showing me what “clicks” for me and what doesn’t. The Island taught me that I love writing teamwork/friendship stories. The Mystery of the China Shop cemented my love of writing historical fiction and mysteries. Grace taught me that, while contemporaries aren’t really my thing, I do like writing about big families. Working on the The Stevens let me know that 1) I like to mix comedy and tragedy in one story and 2) eccentric and unusual characters are my favorites. And finally, Finding Adelaide was a lesson that, while romance is all very well and good, for me personally, writing it is also going to entail adding a lot of danger, swashbuckling action, and plot twists.

What are some of the stories, however regrettable, that you wrote as a kid?

How I Write Fairy Tale Retellings

It’s time for another post for fairy tale month! I already posted about why I write fairy tale retellings…now it’s time for a post on how.

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1: The Idea

This is the most nebulous, indefinable aspect of writing a fairy tale retelling. Each one I’ve done has a different story behind it.

January Snow was actually the first retelling idea I ever came up with. My brother mentioned how much he hated Snow White, and of course my first thought was, “how can I force him to like it?” The answer seemed obvious: add mobsters. And what better way to add organized crime to a “Snow White” tale than a 1920s American setting?

The Wulver’s Rose was much different because it was created for the Five Enchanted Roses contest. I’ve gone into detail about my process before, but I didn’t choose which fairy tale to tackle; the contest did it for me. But I did choose to set it in Scotland because I wanted the beast to be an actual mythological creature; during research, the wulver checked all my boxes and became the inspiration for the rest of the story.

I’ve always loved the story of “Rapunzel;” there’s something about the idea of a young woman trapped in a tower that’s always been an appealing plot to me. It seemed so cozy! Thus, my brain started wondering…what if she didn’t want to leave? The setting of With Blossoms Gold was taken directly from Paul O. Zelinsky’s picture book. Somehow, I couldn’t get rid of that vision of Rapunzel in a Renaissance gown.

There are a lot of reasons why an author may choose a particular fairy tale to retell; sometimes it’s because they dislike the original and wish to “fix” it (which is generally not my favorite tactic) or because they love the original so much they want to elaborate on it. Either way: make sure it’s a fairy tale you’re willing to travel with for the long haul, because you’re going to be knee-deep in it for a long time.

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2: The Reading

Reading, you say?

Yes. The Reading. After getting down my initial ideas and plans for the story, I reread the original fairy tale.

And then I read it again, this time with notes. I check through all of the major plot points, and all of the smaller bits of the story I know I’d like to incorporate. I also research other versions of the tale. Which version of “Rapunzel” do I want? Do I want to take inspiration for other similar tales of folklore? What are the similar legends, myths, and folktales of the region I’m setting the story in that can be utilized in in my own retelling?

I also avoid reading retellings of the same tale during this time.

One thing about reading fairy tale retellings is that they can run together and at times be frustratingly alike. That’s not surprising; they’re based on the same source material after all! But one thing that’s very important to me is not to be influenced by plot points of other retellings or the Disney versions. Of course, as someone who reads a lot of fairy-tale inspired fiction, I do generally already have a pretty good idea of what’s out there to begin with. (If you’ve never read a fairy tale retelling before but want to write one…you should probably familiarize yourself a bit with the genre!) One of my favorite things to do is pull in the more obscure elements of popular fairy tales and shine the spotlight on them in a retelling. Sometimes, the things we think are elements in a fairy tale are really just something invented by Disney or popular retellings. (The beast getting cursed because he was a jerk or did something wrong? Yeah, that’s not in Madame de Villeneuve’s original story!)

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It *is* a great addition of Disney’s though

But that’s not the only reading that gets done. Because I write historically-set stories, I also have that research to do. It’s during this time that I usually have a notebook that helps me collect ideas when my two realms of research collide. (Spiritualists and mediums in the 1920s usually had a special object that they thought the spirits communicated with them through? Make a note of that because the evil queen’s object is sure as heck gonna be a mirror!)

3: The Writing

And now it’s time for the work. There’s not too much to say about this other than the fact that I do have my book of fairy tales beside my computer as I write that first draft. I’ll occasionally glance back through it if I need to. But –generally– the writing and revision process is not much different than my other books. Except….

4: The Revisions and Edits

I read the fairy tale. Again. (And yes, as much as I love my fairy tales, I’m usually pretty sick of it at this point!) Do I think I’ve written a good interpretation of the story? Have included all of the events and motifs from the original that I wanted to?

This is also the point when I start reading other retellings of the same fairy tale, just to see what others have done and make sure that what I have isn’t too similar to books that have already been published. I usually already have a good idea if this is true or not, but I want to double-check.

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And that’s about the size of it. Every book is different, but these are some ways that fairy tale retellings differ from my other works of fiction. But the how of writing retellings also depends a lot on each author’s goal. I love being true to the fairy tale and bringing in forgotten elements of what we often call the “original” while still turning one or two plot points on their head. (Rapunzel doesn’t want to leave; Snow White isn’t “innocent,” etc.) If you have different goals, then your process may look very different! However, one thing I think is essential is becoming ridiculously familiar with your source material. Feel free to alter it as you like, but it’s difficult to to give it your own spin when you don’t even know what you’re spinning in the first place!

Rumpelstiltskin is still my favorite childhood story. Spinning wheel inside the Blackhouse at Arnol. Scotland

Fellow writers, have you penned any fairy tale retellings? What are some tricks and tips you have to share? Do you enjoy fairy tale retellings that stick close to their sources, or ones that are only loose interpretations?

January Snow is Here!

It’s HERE!!!

My new book, January Snow, is now available for purchase on Amazon!

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Paperback copies will be available as soon as they finish going through Amazon’s review process, but for now, you can pick up a copy for your e-reader here.

 

January Snow has blood on her hands.

Never the obedient daughter of her father’s expectations, she finally thinks she’s found a way to earn his respect. But when her plan to take down her father’s rival ends in disaster, her stepmother is convinced that the tragedy that ensues is January’s fault- and she might not be wrong. Maria d’Angelo has spent her life communicating with the spirits, and now she’s certain they’re telling her one thing: January needs to die.

David Brendan has been searching for his brother’s killer, but the only witness to Jon’s death is the runaway daughter of one of the city’s most notorious crime bosses. Suddenly thrust from his high society world into one of mob violence, shadowy spiritualism, and political conspiracy, he realizes that he’s not the only one looking for January Snow- and if he doesn’t find her first, she won’t be the only one who ends up dead.

JANUARY SNOW is a retelling of “Snow White” set during the Roaring Twenties.

 

January Snow Cover Reveal + Advance Readers!

Woohoo! I know it seems like it’s taken forever for me to get this book out (at least it seems that way to me) but despite some delays, it’s coming. January Snow will be available on Kindle on January 30th, and paperback copies will be available soon after.  And now– FINALLY– a cover reveal!

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January Snow has blood on her hands.

Never the obedient daughter of her father’s expectations, she finally thinks she’s found a way to earn his respect. But when her plan to take down her father’s rival ends in disaster, her stepmother is convinced that the tragedy that ensues is January’s fault- and she might not be wrong. Maria d’Angelo has spent her life communicating with the spirits, and now she’s certain they’re telling her one thing: January needs to die.

David Brendan has been searching for his brother’s killer, but the only witness to Jon’s death is the runaway daughter of one of the city’s most notorious crime bosses. Suddenly thrust from his high society world into one of mob violence, shadowy spiritualism, and political conspiracy, he realizes that he’s not the only one looking for January Snow- and if he doesn’t find her first, she won’t be the only one who ends up dead.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in getting a free copy of for review purposes, continue reading down below!

How long does the review have to be? Just a few sentences! It can certainly be longer than that, but just listing a few things that you liked about the book is more than sufficient.

Where should I post the review? Do I have to have a blog? No, you don’t! Since Amazon is my main retailer, I do ask that you post a review there; however, reviews cross-posted to Goodreads or on a blog (if you have one) are also super helpful! It’s all about getting the word out.

Does the review have to be positive? No, not at all: all I ask is that you be honest (and polite).

Do I have to write a negative review? If you don’t like the book, but also don’t feel comfortable writing a review–you don’t have to. I add this because I’ve been in this position before, and it’s not fun. If I send you a copy, I’m not going to track you down and make sure you write a review; it’s on an honor system. Of course, please don’t use that as an excuse just to get a free book without writing a review just because you don’t feel like it! Reviews help to sell books, and for an indie author on a tight budget, they can really make a difference.

Do I have to read it in ebook form? Sadly, I simply can’t afford to send reviewers a paperback copy, so I’m only able to offer you a mobi, epub, or pdf file.

When should my review be posted? I’d love it if reviews could be posted by the end of February, but I do realize that’s a short month. Reviews within a month or two are what would really help me out.

~A little bit about the book~

How long is it? about 48,000 words–it’s basically a novella that’s almost a novel.

Is there any magic? Yes. Some of my fairy tale retellings (like With Blossoms Gold) have no magic, but January Snow does have a supernatural element. My antagonist, Maria, is a self-proclaimed medium, so there are scenes involving seances and reading cards. While I keep it a bit vague, stuff definitely does happen that has no “scientific” explanation. It’s not an overwhelming aspect of the book, but it is *there.*

Is this book “clean?” I would say so: like all of my books, it has no language or sexual content. However, it is a bit darker and there is a bit more violence. While I didn’t want to totally sugarcoat my characters or their decisions, I also know I have a lot of younger readers, so I tried to keep that in mind. It is a bit darker than my other works, though!

Is it a romance? Actually, no. There’s pretty much no romance in it, so if that’s what you are looking for you may be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’ve been trying to find a non-romance fairy tale retelling, this may be just what you’re looking for!

If you are interested please fill out the sign-up form below!

(also, I realized you could only choose one answer for “places I can review the book”- I fixed it, but thanks to the previous applicants for dropping down their other answers in the “other” section!)

 

Know The Novel: It is Written

I did it, guys! I won my first NaNo! While this year’s writing didn’t always go quite the way I expected, I learned so much about my story, even if I doubt a whole lot of what I wrote will actually end up in the finished novel. But still, every word written was worth it because if I hadn’t done this, I have a feeling this story would NEVER have gotten written.

And now, on to Christine’s questions!

1. Firstly, how did writing this novel go all around?

It was rocky at first, got a little better, went downhill, and then picked up spectacularly the very last week.

2. Did it turn out like you expected or completely different? And how do you feel about the outcome?

Oh, that’s a hard question! A little of both. However, actually writing through the story really made me see what is going to work plotwise, and what won’t. In a way, this draft became an epic brainstorming session on how to fix some very big plot holes and issues that I was struggling with in my outline. (I solved so many of them this month! The last week went so well because it seemed like I was FINALLY fixing all of the issues and uncertainties that have been plaguing this story from the beginning.)

3. What aspect of the story did you love writing about the most? (Characters, plot, setting, prose, etc.)

All of Sebastian and Helena’s scenes were outrageously fun to write. Throwing them into situations where they have to work together despite all of their issues was immensely satisfying to me. Also, this novel gave me the opportunity to really pile on some Angst™ in certain scenes, and I’m a little concerned about how much I enjoyed that.

4. How about your least favorite part?

Oh boy. The hard part about writing characters who know the future is that I, in fact, do NOT know the future. Trying to brainstorm future gadgets, events, tragedies, politics, etc. is Not Fun for me. Also, writing accurately about current technology and realistic ways to say, break in to a house and steal something out of a safe, is frustrating because I want it to be plausible and people really will know if I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Also, I wrote this story in dual first-person perspectives, which MAY have been a mistake. While I love writing in my characters’ heads like that, I’m honestly not sure if it’s best for the story (and making their voices distinct is hard) so I don’t know if that’s going to be the final perspective that makes it into the novel.

5. What do you feel like needs the most work?

See above.

6. How do you feel about your characters now that the novel is done? Who’s your favorite? Least favorite? Anyone surprise you? Give us all the details!

They are all dorks and I love them. So far, my antagonist has still been the most problematic, because even though I  have his motivation down, he doesn’t have much personality, at least not in this draft. He just sort of says and does the things the plot needs him to do without any personal flair.

The most surprising has probably been Sebastian? Poor guy just really wants to think the best of everyone, and sometimes that really bites him.

The last week I wasn’t sure where the story was going to go (I’d written the last third, but the middle was still a mess) so I began writing flashback scenes and it revealed so much about the characters. Even if these flashbacks don’t make it into the final book, writing them was without a doubt the most productive thing that happened this NaNo.

7. What’s your next plan of action with this novel?

I’m letting it rest until after I publish January Snow, but I would LOVE to work towards its publication within the next year or two (the book tentatively takes place in late 2020/early 2021, so that’s kind of the year I’m shooting for). However, it really does need almost an entirely new 1st draft, so I have a lot of work to do.

8. If you could have your greatest dream realized for this novel, what would it be?

If anyone wants to turn this into a Netflix series, I would not complain….

9. Share some of your favorite snippets!

“Besides, how do you know their ultimate collapse isn’t part of my plan?”
My father’s guffaw was louder than I’d heard it recently; I’d have been gratified if he hadn’t been laughing at me.
“Sebastian,” he said, his laugh subsiding into a rumbling cough before halting, “you’re honorable down to your bones. You’d die for Helena Moran before you’d betray her.”
I was offended “That is the most ridiculous exaggeration I’ve ever heard,” I said, flicking a crumb off of my sleeve. “I wouldn’t change a tire for Helena Moran, much less take a bullet for her.”

Moran started to walk towards it, but I flung my arm out and stopped her.
“There could be traps,” I said.
She shined her flashlight in my face in annoyance. “This isn’t the mummy’s tomb, Finch.”
Maintaining eye contact, I threw my glove across the room and it landed on the floor, shredded.
“Look at that,” I said. “Lasers.”

10. Did you glean any new writing and/or life lessons from writing this novel?

It’s always really encouraging to me to know that I can write this much this quickly. Sometimes I get bogged down in the “I must have INSPIRATION to wriiiite” mindset that pretty much just stops me from writing anything at all. Sometimes you just have to make yourself put down words before the inspiration gets there.

So there we go: another NaNo, closed. Once I reached that 50,000 mark, I told myself I’d give myself a week off of writing so I wouldn’t burn out. How long did that last before I started writing again?

(1) day

Know the Novel: Within the WIP

It’s time for a NaNo update! I’m once again linking up with Christine’s Know the Novel now that it’s about halfway through the month.

1. How’s the writing going overall?

…meh? Actually, it’s going a LOT better than it was a first. I am definitely NOT a pantster, guys. I know where I’m beginning and where I’m going to end, but the middle is the void of the unknown, even here at 25,000 words. I don’t normally make a habit of actually writing a novel when I don’t have a full outline, so…this is hard.

2. What’s been the most fun aspect about writing this novel so far?

Seeing my characters personalities develop as they interact with each other. And sometimes they say funny things, much to my surprise and satisfaction.

3. What do you think of your characters at this point? Who’s your favorite to write about?

My characters aren’t matching up with what they originally were going to be in my head, and I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing or not. Also, I realized there’s kind of a vacuum space in my character dynamics, which means I’m going to have to create an entirely NEW character to fill that space and then figure out how that changes everything. None of my characters are behaving–they are either acting in ways I never intended, or refuse to let me develop their personalities at all. My revisions are probably going to be spent forcing them to do things that don’t particularly want to.

Screaming internally

If I was to pick a favorite, I’d say that I am really enjoying writing Helena and Sebastian, especially when they’re together.

4. Has your novel surprised you in any way?

My characters were supposed to be Mature Adults™. They are not.

5. Have you come across any problem areas?

Guess who doesn’t know what’s going to happen in Act 2?

Also, as I mentioned before, I need to create at least (1) new character from scratch and insert into places I’ve ALREADY written. asdjghfkjgjn

Another issue is making my characters’ voices distinct. At this point, they all sound like the same snarky person, just in different moods.

6. What’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?

Just getting the words down. The first week, I really had NO IDEA how the novel was going to go (I already had about 10,000 words written, which meant I was about to start That Part that was being so elusive.) Actually getting through the next arc of the plot has been something of a miracle. And now I need another miracle for the next one.

7. If you were transported into your novel and became any one of the characters, which one do you think you’d be? Would you take any different actions than they have?

I would probably be Annie, who is constantly chained to her desk typing away on her computer with coffee while debating her favorite conspiracy theories.

8. Give us the first sentence or paragraph then 2 (or 3!) more favorite snippets!

I’m actually not going to post the first line (because I’m not very happy with it) but here are some other excerpts:

“It was Helena Moran.” I stared at the phone, brows furrowed.
“Oh.” She stopped her dusting and looked at me. “What did she want? Your head on a platter? Our hearts in jars? I think we might have a magic mirror she’d be interested in.”

***

“We’re meeting together tomorrow. I promised I’d bring the algorithm, and you and Samantha Casaubon can go over it together. See? It’ll be like a little family reunion.”
She opened one eye. “I bet that’s what they said to Mary, Queen of Scots before her cousin chopped off her head.”

***

“You keep this place stocked?” I asked, sitting at the bar.
“Not really. I stopped by the store.” He glanced at me. “Don’t worry, I kept a low profile.”
“I didn’t say anything,” I said, my elbows resting on the counter. “Need any help?”
“You can wash the strawberries.”
I did so while he used the waffle-maker. Neither of us said anything, but it was a companionable silence borne of mutual exhaustion. The silence continued as we ate, and Sebastian didn’t comment as I swirled a mountain of whipped cream on my waffles high enough to change altitudes. He just looked at it a moment before grabbing the whipped cream and following suit. We silently clinked our glasses of milk together in solidarity and went back to our food.

9. Share an interesting tidbit about the writing process so far! (For example: Have you made any hilarious typos? Derailed from your outline? Killed off a character? Changed projects entirely? Anything you want to share!)

Back when I starting planning this one months and months ago, I had an idea to just *mention* a particular art theft. In the middle of writing a scene, I was able to insert it so smoothly and organically that it’s been almost the only thing that’s gone according to plan. The fun thing about a novel with time travelers is that you can take weird historical events that have happened and blame it on time interference. That suggests all sorts of fun possibilities and is. very fun!

Cary Grant and Shirley Temple in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, 1947. tumblr_n0lx3vR6GW1qiltfko1_400.gif (300×220)

10. Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looks like. Where do you write? What time of day? Alone or with others? Is a lot of coffee (or some other drink) consumed? Do you light candles? Play music? Get distracted by social media (*cough, cough*)? Tell all! 

Another thing that’s very different for me for this novel is that I haven’t been keeping as much to a schedule as I normally do–or rather, instead of writing in the mid-morning, as usual, I keep finding myself writing in the afternoon and evening. There’s definitely a lot of coffee, and I do light candles!

This is also the first time I’ve written a draft ENTIRELY in comic sans, so that’s going well.

How’s your NaNo going?

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Me reading the first third of my book before remembering that I’m the one who has to write the rest of it.

Know the Novel: Timeworn

NANO IS IN TWO DAYS

Of course, that’s a really bad time to be struck with a story idea that is NOT your NaNo novel, but of course that’s what happened to me :/ (Luckily it’s a short story, so I’ve been working on that this week in an effort to finish a first draft before November begins.)

But, in preparing for NaNo, I’m participating in Christine’s Know the Novel link-up!

I’ve done NaNo before, but I’d say I really only fully participated once, and I got to a little over 40,000 words before Thanksgiving happened and the rest of the month completely got away from me. I normally don’t post much about my stories this early in the game, but I’m hoping doing so will give me the accountability I need to stick with it.

I know I said I wasn’t going to post about this story yet, but I have decided to push it up on my priorities list and make it my NaNo novel. Yes…it’s the time travel one.

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel? 

When it comes to plotting stories, my ideas generally resemble bumper cars speeding around the track of my mind. And sometimes, those bumper-car ideas slam into each other and wham! a new idea is formed. This is what happened in Timeworn, which is the result of a three car collision involving:

-a story idea about secret societies

-a story about stranded time travelers

-a story idea about two people who have been trained since childhood to thwart the other…only for them to have to work together and in the process realize that they work insanely well together. If that wasn’t enough, they realize that they might actually like each other, too??? #disgusting

2. Share a blurb!

I don’t want to share too much yet, but it involves two feuding secret societies, the betrayal that forces them to work together, and a big “enemies-to-friends (and maybe more???)” relationship arc. Tonally and aesthetically, it’s taking a lot of inspiration from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (the movie), Inception, black-and-white romantic comedies, and…Carmen Sandiego. (I also recently realized there’s definitely some Person of Interest influence too)

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

It’s the first novel I’ve EVER written that takes place in the present day (which is ironic because the whole premise involves…well…time travel). It’s also going to involve a bit of globe-trotting, which will be fun. The thing is, one of the main reasons I find that I myself don’t normally enjoy contemporary novels is because the style of writing isn’t my favorite, and I don’t usually find the characters as likable/relatable as in historical fiction or fantasy. Ergo, trying to mesh a more historical/classics style of writing and characterizations with a modern setting without going overboard might be an interesting balance. However, I think it fits well with Timeworn‘s premise, since it has so much to do with the intersection of futuristic technology with historical events.

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

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Helena

A down-to-earth, take-no-nonsense, solid type, with a good sense of humor that saves her from being too overbearing or dull. Surprisingly terrible at thinking well under pressure and is constantly forgetting to put things back in the refrigerator.

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Sebastian

Would be much too suave and smooth for trustworthiness, except for his unwavering optimism in believing the best of his comrades. Is especially talented at charming grumpy old ladies. Is probably wearing hot topic Superman socks with his fancy three-piece suit.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

A defected member of one of the societies, who’s now putting both sides–and maybe the entire world–at risk.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

There’s so much in here I haven’t written before: main characters older than my normal age bracket (30s instead of 20s), present day setting, and lots of opportunities for spy stuff and secret agent shenanigans. It’s making me really nervous, but also excited.

Can we safely use time travel to explore our cultural folk tales? The past is a foreign place - inseparable from fact and fiction - it is all memory? Does time exist? Can we talk about time and myth or do we insult?

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

It wasn’t originally planned to be a series, but I do think I may leave it open for other books in the future. I’m still figuring that out, because if I do that, I may have to change some plot elements and the point where the character arc in this story ends.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

Plotting, plotting, plotting. And yet….there are still so many sections of my outline that consist of question marks. We’re just going to see where the first half of the outline takes me, I guess. The middle is pretty much just one big ???? right now.

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.

It’s a story more about the consequences of time travel rather than time travel itself. The two societies are made up of the descendants of time travelers who got stranded in the 1800s, but who left their futuristic knowledge to be used by their successors. Just how that knowledge is to be used is what precipitated the break in the original travelers, and plays a huge part of the current conflict between the two groups.

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

Here’s a peek at my secret Pinterest board:

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And now I guess I have just enough time to take a deep breath before preparing to dive in on Friday!

(and of course I’ve also got to finish that short story in two days so that deep breath is really all I’ve got time for!)

January Snow Snippets

Digby pulled out a chair for her at the end of the table, and she sat stiffly down.

“I don’t really know where to begin…” she said a little awkwardly. “I’m not sure….I don’t usually like sharing,” Oh, why couldn’t she think of the right things to say? She’d used her words to get out of any number of scrapes before, so why was it so hard now? She wondered if she’d hit her head a little harder than she’d thought.

“Then you can leave,” George said. Simon smacked him on the back of the head.

Digby gave Jan an encouraging nod, and she sighed. “I’m trying to escape the mob,” she said, choosing her words carefully. “My father was involved, but he died and now they’re after me. I was trying to get out of New York when Digby found me.”

Now all the men looked to Digby. He shrugged. “Wasn’t just gonna leave her there.”

“She can stay here, of course,” Simon said.

“Where?” Harold asked. “The attic?”

“She can’t stay there, she’ll freeze!”

“She can have my room. I’ll take the attic.”

“I don’t think so! I bunk with you, and I sure as heck ain’t gonna move to the attic!”

“She’s not our problem,” George growled. “I’m agin it.”

“Remember what our Lord has said! ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ ” Preacher quoted.

Harold snorted. “If she’s an angel, then I’m Rudolph Valentino.”

Cold Wind & Iron
from pinterest

As they danced, a girl across the room caught his eye, if only because she was the only person in the party who seemed immobile. Everyone around her was laughing or drinking or dancing, but she—

She just stood there.

She would have looked bored, except that she seemed to be waiting for someone, or something.

“Are you listening to me?” Peaches complained, jolting David’s attention back to his dance partner.

“You said you were going to see the new John Barrymore picture and did I want to go?”

“Oh. You were listening, I guess.” She seemed disappointed, as if she would have liked an excuse to berate him. It was Peaches’s preferred form of flirting.

How To Disappear
from pinterest

She pulled up the window frame and climbed through the open window, her foot landing on the closed head of the toilet. She stepped down onto the tiled floor carefully before turning and closing the window. As she stepped into her carpeted bedroom, she saw the room was in disarray, half of her things packed into boxes, and cans of paint unopened by the door. It sent a shot of anger through her, though she knew she should have expected it.

Maria was redecorating already.

She slipped out of her shoes and placed them just inside the bathroom next to the door, out of view from the room outside but convenient for her getaway. The outside hallway was quiet, and she leaned out of the doorway, glancing down both sides of the hall. The staircase by the front hall would be the most difficult, and though she was assuming that Maroni would be at the trial, he’d always had a habit of lurking between the door and her father’s study, and she couldn’t quite shake the fear he was just around the corner.

But he wasn’t.

January slid into the room and gently removed the vase that decorated one of the bottom shelves of her father’s massive bookcase that stretched along the entire length of its right wall. She slid the end of the letter opener from his desk in between the back corner of the shelf and its dividing support. The wood panel clicked, revealing a crack, and she easily slid the back panel sideways to reveal the front of her father’s safe. An uneasy breath shuddered out of her as she slowly turned its knob. Her stomach dropped when nothing happened, and she tried to steady herself. Of course Maria had changed the combination; she’d been aware that January had known the old one. Besides, Maria was unlikely to take the chance that anyone else might have known it.

January let her fingers rest gently on the knob; she knew Maria would never pick random numbers. She liked things to have meaning, to have symbolism. January didn’t have to crack the safe, she just needed to crack Maria.

Am I the only one who has a hard time formatting quotes on WordPress? Everything’s so huge and it drives me craaaazy.

A World Where There Are Octobers

I have always passionately loved Octobers. Fall is my favorite season, and October is the month where here in South Carolina the heat starts to FINALLY drop (our highs are supposed to be in the 70s and 80s this week, yay). It’s also when I love to light some candles and hunker down with some good mysteries and spooky (but not scary) stories.

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my October TBR list

I’m tidying up January Snow right now, and next month I’m hoping to give you all a cover reveal!  I’ll be making an official announcement a bit closer to reveal time if you’d like to participate, but for now rest assured I’m working on it 😀

Her stockings were soaked to the knees.
Strangely enough, after all she had been through, that was the uppermost thought in her mind. Not the running, not Chase’s desperate actions as he pushed her out of the crossfire. It wasn’t even the repercussions of her actions that plagued her.
It was those darned stockings, wet and clinging to her legs. 

I’m also prepping for NaNoWriMo! I was wavering between working on my “Little Mermaid” retelling or my time travel story; the time travel story won out in the end. (the TLM story is going to be a novella, and it’s already halfway written, so it probably wasn’t the most fitting choice). It’s been years since I’ve attempted NaNo, so I’m hoping I can pull myself together and write 50,000 words in a month!

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Also, later this month I’m planning on sharing some excerpts from January Snow (as well as the book’s Spotify playlist) so stay tuned 😀

What’s on your October Reads list?

Writing Update

While I begin the nerve-wracking beta process for January Snow, I’ve leapt head-first into my next projects.

Back in July 2017, I wrote the first draft of my first science fiction novel, Earthbound, which was basically borne of wondering what would happen if a superhero failed to save the world from destruction. While that premise is still very much a part of the story, it’s not a superhero story. (Then again, I’m also writing a time-travel novel that contains no actual time travel within its pages, so maybe I’m just a super contrary author)

parkour2
look, I made a meme

Instead, this story became a space adventure with some of my favorite characters I’ve ever created–think “retired and bitter superhero becomes a father figure to four unpredictable (and also a little bitter) space kids.”

It’s also basically the “bickering group of diverse individuals have to work together for a common goal and become a family in the process” trope that I would live and die for. So I’m very invested.

just right
I know I overuse this meme, please don’t come @ me for it.
via ArtStation

Said story also decided to take a page from its characters’ misbehavior and refuse to be a single book. It’s going to be a duology (!) BUT it’s also screaming for a prequel novella that you all will probably get for free. Right now I’ve split the first draft in half, and I’m re-writing and expanding each part into its own book.  I should have that done by the end of the year. (I’m shooting to have the draft of book #1 finished this month, but we’ll see). I’d like to finish both books around the same time–more as two halves to the same story rather than two separate novels–and then release them close together. Mainly because I know I’m very bad at waiting for books in series to come out, and so I’ve always had the idea if I wrote a (short-ish) series I’d want to publish the books close together.

Will I be writing any more fairy tale retellings? You bet! I’ve got a “The Little Mermaid” retelling coming next, followed by “Little Red Riding Hood.” (which, pssst….is this month’s featured fairy tale on FTC). I’m never entirely sure how long these novellas are going to take me to finish. Because each one is set in a completely different time period and location, it means my research pretty much starts from scratch for every book. The first draft of the LM retelling is about halfway done, but I haven’t even started on my research for RRH. (It’s also a lot more intimidating because it takes place in Japan, and I’ve never written a story with a non-European or non-American setting before. The amount of research, therefore, is going to be brutal).

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Historical fiction fans–I haven’t forgotten about you either! Like my fairy tale retellings, these take a lot longer because of the research. But my next historical novel is set in 1830s Cheshire. It’s heavily inspired by Cranford, Persuasion, North and South, and just a bit of Oliver Twist. It doesn’t have as much action as Hidden Pearls, but it does have some espionage, so maybe that makes up for it? The entire story (at this point) takes place in one village, and I think this may be the first time I’ve ever written anything that doesn’t involve travelling! That’s an odd thing to realize, but I guess it’s true.

“And what about that time travel novel, Hayden?”

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(one day I’ll tell you about it, but today is not that day)