Writing on Vacation

Hello, hello, hello! It’s lovely to speak with you from beautiful Hilton Head Island, South Carolina!

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I love beaches that save sand dunes for wildlife!

It’s been a lovely trip here. Incidentally, this is the location that inspired the book, “The Water is Wide”.  It’s a little spooky to read the account of Pat’s time teaching the descendants of plantation workers abandoned on the island and growing their own community through the decades here because Pat is from my area. I can far too easily put myself into his shoes in the book. You can read a book blogger’s review here.

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But though it’s a great book, it doesn’t really reflect the area very much anymore. Few people on the island are locals, as Hilton Head has become quite the Summer beach getaway destination filled with more transplants than Southern accents.

I honestly haven’t written a single thing in my manuscript while on vacation. Instead, I wrote like a madwoman on the long drive South, and once I got here I restrained myself to writing only in my personal notebook with bits of poetry and dialogue and other shiny words I like to collect but never publish.

In the end I probably got more work done that way instead of slogging through work when I want to be on the beach or having fun, but I mainly did it that way to just give myself a break. It’s not a bad thing to take time off, and I haven’t really done that since I started working for myself (surprisingly, I’m actually an awful boss to myself) so it was important to me to actually let myself not do anything remotely related to work.

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Aerial Adventure is great fun- and exercise!

I even got a chance to push some of my boundaries and conquer my issue with heights in a treetop obstacle course at the local zipline place. It was much more intense than I’d expected from the advertising, but it was very fun (even despite the sore muscles and bruises!)

treelined road right of ocean view and shore

Thankfully, my retreat here hasn’t led to any direct progress in writing P.S. The Dragon Sleights, but I needed the break to energize and not throw the whole thing out the window after months of working on it.

Now I’m refreshed I’ll be able to get back to work and zip right through it.

I hope you are enjoying your Summer reading and, if you have one, your vacation!

Happy Fourth of July!

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Today is known in the USA as Independence Day. It’s the day we celebrate signing the Declaration of Independence and formally becoming a distinct country and severing ties with England.

Today there’ll be a lot of fireworks, and I’ll go to one of the viewing events with my family. We’ll have a cookout with various meats stacked on potato rolls- sweet and sour vinegary pulled chicken straight out of the smoker, sweet barbeque pulled pork, and burger patties with all the fixings and probably ten different types of mustard knowing my family’s obsession with the condiment. We’ll buy most of these meats from the smoke cooking machine selling his goods at the farmer’s market, except for the burgers which will be put on the grill in the back yard and probably slightly burned in the process.

There will be coleslaw and potato salad, or maybe egg salad instead, and heaps of romaine lettuce with a few cherry tomatoes that will pass for a salad I won’t be eating, and either poundcake heaped with fruits and whipped topping or a trifle of layers of whipped topping and strawberries and blueberries.

We’ll end the day by joining friends at one of the fireworks viewings and buying cotton candy which normally sells for a buck but will cost six or eight times as much today for the convenience of it. We might even drink a soda or too, which my family normally avoids because they are so sweet none of us really want to finish an entire can. Then it’ll be totally dark and we’ll play with glowsticks. Or maybe we’ll skip going out and just hang out with our neighbors, putting up the smaller fireworks that only shoot up a few feet in the air unless someone bought illegal full size fireworks, and enjoy a nice time relaxing and chatting with people we like but don’t end up seeing too often because we are all too busy.

It won’t be the stuff of stories, but it will be a nice chill day either way and I am sure I will enjoy it.

Researching Royals for the Shadeworld Series

 

Sometimes when writing about dragons and magic and awesomeness like that, you have to research real life facts and stuff. It’s a strange world novelists live in.

 

Researching Royalty

For those of you reading the Shadeworld series (P.S. The Dragon Bites, The Dragon Fights, The Dragon Sleights) you’ll know that royalty plays a major part in the plot line. There’s revolution and amnesia and an Earth High School and a bunch of teenagers, but at the center of it all there’s Prince Aeron, Prince Richard, and King Vovin, the royals who rule over the entire Shadeworld, and every creature from harpy to fey to vampire that lives there. But, on account of how I’m an American, I’m not super up to date on royalty and all of that sort of thing.

So while in earlier books I researched fighting and battle tactics, for P.S. The Dragon Sleights I set myself to research up on royalty. And because of a certain famous royal wedding, I decided to do a bit of research on how royalty works in Britain.

So I want to take you along on a bit of the research rabbit hole now and share some of the things I used to learn about the royals.

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Research is a Great Excuse to Watch T.V.

It’s true, research is a great excuse to watch t.v. What I like to do since I work at home now is to turn my lunch break into a nice time to enjoy my food while watching an episode of something fun on Netflix. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying:

Grace of Monaco

This film is no longer available on streaming Netflix in the USA and you’d have to either do the dvd rental service or check it out on Prime now if you want to watch it. The story was an interesting telling of a true series of events where a Hollywood starlet became a princess and was really quite miserable in it. Interesting events, and of course as an American I love any sort of underdog story. The ending of it cut things off a little abruptly, but I guess it makes sense you can’t boil someone’s entire life into a single movie, so I wasn’t too upset by that.

The Crown

I’ve quite enjoyed this series. I knew very little about the queen’s reign (we learned other things in History classes in my American schools, like The Trail of Tears, the Civilization of Mali, Ancient China, World War II, those sorts of things that had a bit more impact on my hemisphere, though I’m sure the queen is perfectly lovely)  so every episode has been a surprise to me.

I’m sure it’s not completely accurate, it would be almost impossible to capture the nuances of family life and personal relationships just from years of media coverage those outside of the royal family would have access to, but even keeping in mind to take events with a grain of salt I’ve enjoyed the series purely for its entertainment value.

I can’t help but think though that the casting director made some very odd choices for the characters outside of the main cast. The actress for Jackie Kennedy, in particular, was a very unique choice in both voice and appearance in my mind. But the main characters are very well done, so I probably should be more appreciative to just have that!

Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King

I enjoyed this a great deal. It felt rather documentary-ish, so I’m hoping it’s somewhat historically accurate. Even if it isn’t though I enjoyed it, and that’s what matters.

Final Thoughts on Televised Research

I’m sure none of what I’ve been watching is high quality educational content. But it was fun to watch, and it got me the gist of the ideas, so I figure it works well enough. Learning doesn’t have to be stuffy, I thoroughly believe that is true, so I had fun with my inspiration.

And besides, I’m writing Fantasy, not a research paper. If some of the facts are skewed, it really doesn’t matter at all.

Or, it may be that my “research” is just a poor excuse I’ve made to myself to goof off on occasion. And why not? If you work longer hours, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have a slightly longer lunch.

What do you do for work that’s really just for fun?

 

 

 

 

 

Gone Fishing

This weekend I went fishing for the first time.

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Arriving at the dock at 7 A.M.

We set out at 4 AM to get to the dock by 7 AM (which is still very early). I live in Virginia, and the dock was in Maryland, so it was a bit of a trip, but not too awful. The dock itself was lovely, because it was pretty far out of the way of D.C. where I’m based.

The fishing boat we went on with a family friend was one of the smallest at this dock, but I know most of the docks at home wouldn’t have been able to fit it just because there’s a lot of people wanting very convenient dock spaces so they are much smaller near the capitol.

photo of K.G. Wilkie, on a fishing boat, on the Potomac River

Just riding the boat out to the end of Potomac River was quite fun! I always love a good boat ride. I especially loved hanging a little off the side so I could feel the wind whipping at my face and the waves slapping my hands like a high five.

K.G.Wilkie fishing, catfish

I caught several fish, we all did. We were getting fish almost continuously after we got to our destination on the water. The fun thing was that I personally caught the two biggest fish on the trip, a 26 inch catfish and a 24 inch catfish. Unfortunately we threw them both back out, because I love catfish but the rest of the group dislikes it and I couldn’t finish off that much fish all by myself. After the catfish was on board it started to moo at me, which was oddly scary in a way the other fish weren’t, so in the end I was happy to toss it back out.

No need to worry though, we caught plenty of rockfish and a perch (all of the legally required lengths) as well as many fish that were too small and had to be tossed back. Don’t worry about the rockfish though, we were several hours out from D.C. and all of the fish we caught were healthy normal fish and lacked the sores that are becoming a problem in D.C. caught rockfish.

feet in navy blue boat shoes on deck of fishing boat with view of river

Then after a long day of really struggling to reel in the strong fish that fought valiantly against reeling, I was happy to spend the return trip by boat just enjoying the view. And the view included a cooler full of many dinners worth of fish as well as the almost endless view of blue, so it was truly wonderful.

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The sky was lovely as well at the end of a long day.

The only thing that wasn’t lovely was myself covered in bits of fish scales and fish slime and other unmentionable ickiness.

So we hosed ourselves off at the marina and changed clothes before heading home to enjoy a nice grilled rockfish.

Thankfully just taking a day off like this- I normally skip taking weekends off even because I’m a workaholic- was able to supercharge my mental juices and helped me complete an additional two chapters in P.S. The Dragon Sleights and get some good revising and editing done as well!

 

Graduate Season

This weekend we celebrated a very special event.

Graduations aren’t really anyone’s favorite event in the world. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, which many Americans tend to dislike. Worst of all you end up spending a few hours watching person upon person walk across the stage before the person you came to see is up there for five seconds.

But still, a graduation is special. It’s a nice time to celebrate that someone put a lot of late night studying and crying over essays and working their butt off to learn something and advance in their career and life.

Grad School Graduate

The graduate (my sibling) is particularly not into graduation ceremonies, and really wanted to avoid the event, but she went on with it anyway because her parents said they’d honestly feel disappointed if she skipped out on it. So she went, even though she’d rather have done anything else.

In the case of my graduate, it was a time to celebrate pouring a few ten thousands and several hours of hair pulling and midnight studying squeezed in after being a teacher all day long into getting a graduate degree so she could continue on the path towards her goal of being a professor some day. It was a particularly noteable occasion because she finish her grad degree in one year while she was working full time with special needs students who kick and bite her, so a lot of impressive hard work and stubbornness went into this occasion.

The average grad degree takes much longer, often 3-6 years for people who are working full time. And, well, the average person doesn’t go to get a Special Ed grad degree with a focus on autism education in the first place either. But she’s been aiming to be a professor for a long time, and to be a professor of teachers for a year or two, so it’s not a surprise to any of us that she went for this. I suppose the Special Ed focus was pretty normal though, considering that her visual processing disorders and the effect it had on her education was much more severe than my own rather significant case. And, considering the grad, it’s not much of a surprise that she’d power through full time work and full time student status at once. I think the only thing that really ended up surprising anyone was that her focus was in a different branch of Special Ed than she had a personal background with, but it seems to be working well for her.

Celebration

After the ceremony, to do something the grad would actually like in celebration of the occasion, we went out to a cafe.
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It’s been raining almost constantly for the last week, I suppose because the weather forgot to do that in the Spring as is proper, so the tables outside were unusually empty.

The inside, however, was crammed full of humans. We managed to squeeze out a table, though, and sit down with out treats.

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The plate my cupcake came on seemed to be celebrating with us as well!

I had a nice mushroom quiche. Mushroom is just a favorite flavor that I never get tired of! And then I had a lovely triple lemon cupcake. I’m not so convinced the whipped cream piped on top was actually lemon flavored, it tasted more like a plain vanilla, but it was a lovely contrast to the slightly sour lemon filling and the fairly sweet lemon cake.

So that was how we celebrate a graduation! What do you do in graduate season?

 

Why I Chose to Write My Books with Diverse Characters

Some people view an all white able bodied cast of characters in a book to be pretty normal. I guess to them it’s pretty normal, a reflection of their daily life, and not an active artistic choice. Or perhaps it is purposeful, and meant to illustrate some truth of the culture or experiences of that group.

You can find that kind of mindset in books from every country though- all Japanese cast in Japanese books, all white Dutch people in Dutch books, all ethnically Middle Eastern people in a Middle Eastern book.

My books aren’t diverse because that’s the thing that sells best in YA. They’re just diverse because my experience of the world has always been a mix of perspectives.

It’s not always a bad thing- Persepolis, a graphic novel written by an Iranian woman who had been a teenager during the rise of the Taliban, depends on all the characters being Iranian to bring the story across.

Then there’s other books where you can get a feeling that the homogenous cast is due to the author wanting to cut out characters of different perspectives and backgrounds, just like they cut the same people out of their real life.

And there’s the third type of author who, funnily enough, is scared to write books with a diverse cast. They are scared they won’t portray the characters perfectly, that they’ll accidentally slip into stereotypes or they’ll make a minority group feel Other with their portrayal of them. I get that. Fear of wanting to be perfect, fear of hurting others, is definitely something I share.

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But I grew up in place where a group of friends like this looks normal. I grew up with a tight knit group of friends in High School that were disabled, gay, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Polynesian, African American, and white bread American. I grew up receiving New Year’s money in a little red envelope, eating larb and pad prik khing as my comfort foods, taking my shoes off at the front door of most houses I’d visit, hunkering down for a five hour Bollywood movie. For me, a diverse cast of character is just the way I think of characters.It’s not something I have to tweak afterwards because I know how much that means to people in less represented groups, it just happens that way for almost all of my books (except for Family Inflamed, where the choice of having the abusive family be white and the healthy loving family be mixed race was on purpose.)

For the most part diversity isn’t something I think about, because it just is my particular reality. I don’t go through my character lists and try to make sure it is perfectly split between genders, sexuality, race, or anything. I do try to avoid representing characters I know nothing about, but that is only because I am putting those perspectives on hold to explore in future books after I’ve gotten a better understanding of them rather than throwing them out altogether.

So, to sum it all up, my books aren’t diverse because that’s the thing that sells best in YA. They’re just diverse because my experience of the world has always been a mix of perspectives.

Congratulations

Worked hard at a great job

A wonderful job,

But my dream was still to write full time

And when my contract was done I knew my time had once again come

So we amicably parted ways

And everyone expressed regret to see me go.

All except for one-

Who congratulated me on taking the chance to move

forward into the path I wanted to move toward

And it felt nice to remember this wasn’t an ending,

But the start of yet another adventure.

And to be reminded that this wasn’t goodbye,

But congratulations.

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The Sorrow of Goodbye

Hello fans, and friends, and friendly fans. I have been a bit derailed in writing in general lately- no blog posts, no progress on my next book which is now far late of the proposed February 15th release. The progress on the book being delayed was expected, but the lack of any communication by blog or social media was not anticipated.

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Just a few weeks apart I faced the death of not one, but two grandparents. I loved them both dearly, but the death of my mother’s father was especially painful as we hadn’t had much time to anticipate this happening and because he raised me as much as my parents did.

And this hard time I’ve taken some time off of work to spend time with friends, and loved ones. And reading. So much reading. One of the greatest ways to give ourselves a little distance and clarity when grieving is to drown ourselves in the world of fiction. So I spent a few nights ordering Thai takeout and binge watching movies. I did some shopping and bought over a hundred used dvds- normally I avoid retail therapy but this felt so right. I ate a lot of desserts, and I didn’t care that I have a lot of food sensitivities that stress my body out and ate just about everything regardless. I went on some long nature walks.

I did everything I could to bury my emotions, and then I switched to facing them head on.

I wrote some poetry that I’ll probably never publish. I drew. I tried to play the harmonica like my Papa (grandpa) did. I sat and stared out of windows and just let myself think a lot.

I’m glad this job gives me the flexibility to take things easy when I really must. I’m glad to see you are still willing to visit my site after a month long dry period. And I’m glad that I feel better now and am ready to get back to work writing. I know it’s what both of my grandpas would have wanted.

 

Meet the Cast of the Shadeworld! Character Profiles: Alyss

I thought it would be fun to do something a little bit different today! I’ve been working on the Shadeworld series for a long time, and publishing them for a few months now, so I wanted to touch base with all of you and add some fun bonus content on here. Let me know if you like this sort of post!

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This is my character reference for Alyss!

Alyss

This girl isn’t so great at being social, but she really wants to be. Her serious approach to life makes some keep their distance from her, but she can still let loose and have fun when there’s the opportunity. Alice uses big words, but she’s not stuffy. She is, however, a little headstrong and willing to jump into a situation she knows nothing about if she feels something unjust is going down!

Alice has brown hair, is a little short, and a nondescript size. With her personality and attributes combined, she probably would be completely ignored by her fellow students if she hadn’t spent her life in primarily white neighborhoods where her darker skin tone stood out so much.

One of the first characters we really meet in this book, Alyss is a girl with her eyes on the prize. After growing up in poor health and with distant parents, she’s desperate to form new relationships and close connections now that she’s moved to a new school and neighborhood. Problems crop up in her social life right away though when I she meets the control freak Aaron who’s weirdly obsessed with her. Besides how weird the people in town and school are, though, there just seems to be something fishy about them – something almost magical!

 

I Hit Publish Today!

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I think hitting publish is one thing I’ll never grow tired of. This second book in the series had its ups and downs, I’ll admit- fiddling with trying to figure out how to format a paperback edition of the first book in the series ended up consuming all of December so I had to push this book back a few weeks to January instead- but we got here. The edit was once again done by Carol Rushing (a professional editor, unlike typo prone me) and the cover was done once again by Beetiful Book Designs, so I have a gorgeous professional quality book.

Even better, this time the story spends almost no time on Earth, so we get to spend more action with dragons, nymphs, wizards, vampires, and the Shadeworld! I know you liked the first book in the series, but I’m sure you’ll love this one as much as I do.