Have I Gone Crazy? Writing a Series in 30 Days

It’s Nanowrimo this month, which if you’re not familiar with the event means many authors, including myself, are challenging themselves to do the near impossible.

Writing a Series in One Month, title on yellow dot at right, wow! hand drawn style speech bubble at left,on gray sweater writing on paper at crowded desk background photo

For most authors, this means writing the first draft for an entire book in just 30 days.

For me this year, this means writing the draft for an entire series in just 30 days.

Thankfully, I have a little bit of a head start. I have an outline, which helps me know where the story is going, even if I don’t yet know exactly which words will take us there.

I’m also fully stocked on snacks, caffeine, and time. Because you know, time is the main ingredient needed to do near impossible writing marathons like this!

I’ve made some good progress on my full book draft so far.

I’m a little behind at being only halfway through book one so far, but I’m still trucking along at drafting about 3 whole chapters per day. I’m pretty happy with my writing speed on this, and I think with a few concentrated marathon days to make up for any chapters I’ve fallen behind on I will be able to finish the challenge on time even with the occasional demands of things like a social life and business obligations and all that sort of stuff.

I think I’ll actually make it.

Handwriting a series draft in chartreuse green binder with mechanical pencil on top, on black desktop with looseleaf paper

It will be the fastest I’ve ever written a series before. And, I’ve found that writing it all at once like this, has also made it better writing because it never has a chance to fade out of my head or for the plot to get confused or forgotten from leaving it a little too long between writing sessions.

But we still need to keep in mind that writing a book is a challenge that takes many authors an entire year, or many, to accomplish. I’m trying to write 3 books in a month.

Wish me luck!

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.

a rhinestone crown with fleur de lis with pearl details on white bright backgroud

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?

 

 

 

 

 

A Playlist to Revise By

I’ve shared my favorite songs to write books by before. It all started with my first Revising Playlist post, where I shared a few requirements from my revision music.

  1. It’s hard to stay focused when your soundtrack has words

  2. This includes even words in other languages you don’t understand, as that can still distract your writing

Last month I’d thrown out my previous rules completely and switched back to my listening to my current favorite songs. This month, however, I’ve moved into a sort of happy medium, to listen to lyricless songs that are still more song than ambient soundtrack.

A great way to accomplish that, I’ve found, is to turn to movie soundtracks. They are full of emotion and great for doing your English homework or writing for fun, and they help drown out the distracting noises of people that may be around you.

To add even more fun I’m sharing my favorite soundtracks for movies based off of books!

The Lord of the Rings

Of course I love the books. And the movies. I love great stories and this series fits the bill both in literature and cinematic editions. But I also love these soundtracks to play in the background for writing any genre of book because they just spark my imagination.

Pride and Prejudice

The 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice is my favorite on screen adaptation and I can and have argued with those who disagreed on this. Sure, there are screen editions that portrayed every single tiny detail that happened in the book, and that’s pretty cool. But the acting was completely flat to me in those versions so I won’t make myself sit through a painful performance just because it’s more detailed. Well, actually I can and will if the alternative is a flashy adaptation that really kills the source story (I’m looking at you Disney retelling of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I still prefer the BBC version of the series because Disney completely missed the plot on this one.) But anyways, the music of this movie and the emotion of it is excellent, and I may or may not have watched this movie weekly in Middle school during 2007-08 and monthly at the beginning of High School.

Jurassic Park

A person doesn’t always need calm and soothing music to work by. The suspense of this soundtrack is really key for me when I’m doing work that I don’t want to do. It’s like the violence of the music soothes me when I want to put things off forever but know I can’t because I have a job to do and bills looming if I don’t. (Because that’s one of the joys of adulthood.) You may relate more to doing math homework you hate. Or some other homework that involves calculations if you are anything like me. It can be freeing to sort of vent your frustrations through the music.

Happy writing and studying adventures!

I hope my favorite songs can help you focus on whatever work you have on your plate, like they’ve helped me.

 

 

A Playlist to Revise By

I personally love music. I love listening to it. I love just going about the average every day parts of my life to a soundtrack. But just like I shared in my last Revising Playlist post, I have a few requirements from my revision music.

  1. It’s hard to stay focused when your soundtrack has words

  2. This includes even words in other languages you don’t understand, as that can still distract your writing

My solution then? Skip the actual music and use ambient soundtracks instead, either meant to be white noise like cafe sounds or meant to get you into the mood for a scene you are writing with genre ambient soundtracks meant to sound like fantasy world music. And that worked pretty well.

But I still love music and want to listen to the real deal. Lately I’ve thrown out my previous rules completely and switched back to my current favorite songs.

Wait- Maroon 5

This song is completely stuck in my head. I don’t think it’s a life changing song or anything grand like that, but it’s a great earworm that my brain can not just let go even after listening to it maybe a dozen times on a recent long car trip.

Denouement- Amusism

This song is amazing. And free on Google Play. And amazing. And now I need to buy all the rest of the band’s music.

Sadly no Youtube video of it so you can’t really get a feel for it before downloading, but seriously the song is great electropop.

Later a Dream- Grooms

This is a great song that lies on the genre spectrum somewhere between acoustic and the easy listening version of pop. (You know what I’m talking about.) It gives me soothing vibes, while also being cheery. I’m a fan of this at any rate.

Happy writing and studying adventures!

I hope my favorite songs can help you focus on whatever work you have on your plate, like they’ve helped me.

 

Progress Update: PS The Dragon Sleights

I don’t know about you, but I’m an optimistic person. I put out on my little publishing calendar that I was 100% certain that I would write and revise and edit an entire novel every single month.

Has that happened yet? No.

Life happens instead. Sometimes I get distracted building up my other blog or applying to writing contests and guest posting to make some cash to pay the bills. Sometimes I get distracted because something big happens in my family, like a funeral or a wedding. Or, in my case this year, I’ve had two funerals and a wedding happening back to back. The wedding was lovely, and slowing down my writing after the funerals was right for me in my healing journey, but the fact remains that I don’t actually write as quickly as I set out to. Whoops.

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So currently PS The Dragon Sleights is only half done on the draft. That doesn’t include revising, or editing time, so that’s a bummer. Instead I’ve been working on getting my first novel, “Family Inflammed,” released as my first print book. Which is very exciting because I know many people prefer a good bookcase over a tablet stuffed with e-books, and libraries tend to prefer the same thing as well. So I’m working on that as sort of a hold-you-over release.

But the good news is that part of the reason PS The Dragon Sleights has been delayed is because it is coming out to be an epic book. I know every author tends to feel that way about their work, but this book is really going to turn the entire Shadeworld series on its head. The characters defied my expectations, and I’m sure they’ll do the same for you, so get ready.

Shadeworld Season One Box Set Coming Soon!

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In other news, even though I still plan for the grand total of Shadeworld books to be quite large, after I do finish releasing the third book I will also release a collection of the books so far. Call it season one of the series, if you will.

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.

Teen Dragon Mischief! Character Profiles: Aeron

In the Shadeworld books,  Aeron is a major player. And by that I mean main character not, you know, an actual player.

My character reference for Aeron

He’s a Dragon. He’s the crown Prince of the entire Shadeworld and all of the magical beings who live there. He’s also one of the most popular guys on campus at Tybolt Hall, a highschool in Wisconsin, USA- so he goes to human school instead of dragon school. which is pretty weird, yeah.

He’s a very interesting character. He’s not sweet, not at all, but he still cares about people. A lot. But he’s also a jerk to people. for some reason he always tries to hide that he’s a bit of a softy. Sure, he gets into fights and starts kingdom scale drama. But he also gives a lot of vacation time and really good pay to his employees at the palace and he’s trying to reform his kingdom’s laws to make life better for his subjects.

All his subjects seem to see, though, is that he fails academically over and over again due to problems humans on earth call learning disabilities. Much of his kingdom sees him as a dumb brute, and it feels like his brother sees him in the same way. His dad at least knows his true capabilities, though having the inheritance of the monarchy in his future doesn’t heal the brotherly divide.

Revising on The Road

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One of the joys of the holidays is to spend time with the people you love. Unfortunately, in my case at least, the people I love live far away from where I live. This weekend’s trip, in particular, involved taking a full day car trip to visit.

Writing on the road can be a little messy, but it can be done. Provided you aren’t the type of person who gets car sick and can’t handle reading or writing on a road trip, of course. Because if you have that problem, your best bet is probably to take your ginger pill and listen to an audio book as you lean your head out the window.

But for me writing on the road is not only something I can do, but something I like to do. It fills hours of monotony quite well, and it’s very satisfying to see how my book builds.

All I do is play music in my earbuds, and type away on a full keyboard laptop, and it works. The trick is just paying attention to what you’re writing.

In other news I enjoyed my weekend stay with family a lot. I got to see my cousins who continue to grow like bean sprouts, and I could spend time with my ailing grandfather, so it was a good experience, if a little sad. Fantasy is a great way to escape from sad situations, but for now I am content with my life and my family and I will continue writing.

A Playlist to Revise By

I personally love music. I love listening to it. I love just going about the average every day parts of my life to a soundtrack.

It’s hard to stay focused when your soundtrack has words

But writing is a little messy when I listen to my normal playlists. I’ve known since my student years that when I work in silence I can’t get anything done, but when I write to the pop music that I do the vacuuming by or use to survive commuting I end up writing snippets of the lyrics into my work. Sometimes that’s a pretty good thing, but other times… well, there aren’t many cases where the hero of an epic Fantasy needs to “Shake it Off”. It just doesn’t work for what I’m writing. More energetic music without words like Electro Pop makes me want to dance more than write, and that’s not really useful either!

Words in other languages can still distract your writing

One solution a lot of other creatives I know use, especially studio artists, is to listen to music in the same genre that they normally go for, but in a language they don’t understand. That’s helpful, but sometimes any words at all can be too distracting. Besides, even foreign music tends to have snippets of English thrown in just for kicks, and I also don’t need characters that are “ready to bingo”. (Don’t worry Super Junior, I can guarantee my lyrics would be much funnier or even plain incomprehensible if I ever attempted to write even one line in Korean.)

Maybe the solution for a distraction free soundtrack is not to use actual music at all

So the next thing I’ve tried was to use an ambient noise soundtrack instead of actual music. You can find hours long clips of nature sounds like rain or snow, or atmospheric sounds like a crackling fire or bird calls in a tropical paradise.

For me the best ambient noise for concentrating has definitely been sites that let you mix your own soundtrack with different volumes for different components. This cafe mix, for example, lets me adjust the sounds of clacking silverware, the low murmer of indistinct conversations, a quiet rain, and other little background noises.

Genre Theme Music

When ambient noise won’t cut it, genre themed music called useful titles like “Fantasy Ambient Playlist” or “Science Fiction Ambient noise” are pretty useful.

Of course, if all else fails, doing a quick Winnie The Pooh stretch usually gets my blood moving just enough that I can focus on sitting down and moving the magic of the Shadeworld series along 🙂

Vampires and Faeries and Mermaids, Oh My! Researching Politics to Write my Magical World.

Hi all. I’m the author that writes this blog. And the books you see on the main page. Actually I write  a lot of things to be honest.

But one thing that has made me waaay late on my deadline to finish writing PS The Dragon Fights, the second installment in the epic Shadeworld series, is that I challenged myself by writing something new I have little experience with. What does that mean?

Writing a Council Scene, or Why the Heck Did I Sign Myself Up For This Torture

Spoiler of First Book, also discussion of my next book (PS The Dragon Fights) ahead

If you’ve read PS The Dragon Bites (available on Amazon US here, or Amazon India or Amazon Australia or any other Amazon)  you’ll know that the wizards are leading the rebellion threatening to not only overthrow the Dragons that rule all of the Shadeworld, but to destroy their world itself.

In the next book the other leaders of the world come together to try to address this problem. It gets messy, of course, because even in a world full of magic politics is not going to be smooth sailing.

-End of Spoiler-

To write a battle council of magical creatures surprisingly involves some research into real world politics.

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Researching Politics

I’ve never really been a politician and never even ran to be the president of fourth grade, let alone run for any office more serious than that, so I don’t have a lot of personal experience to draw on. It was a little dry watching hours of Parlimentary and Congressional meetings on Youtube, but I got through it, and I came out the other end absolutely sure that I maybe hopefully understand how a political meeting of any sort would likely go down. Hopefully the scene reflects some of the flavor and verisimilitude I think I’ve gained through my efforts.

I hope you’ll read the book once it’s released live and tell me how well I did!