When you’re an “indy writer” (the trendy way of saying self-published), you are your own marketer. And publicist. And everything else. It’s a lot, I won’t lie, however, it can be fun because you can chose when to issue a sale.
So… Right now, I’m offering a digital copy, available only on Amazon Kindle, of my first book for only $.99! Don’t have Kindle? The app is free to download on almost any device (I have it on my iPhone). Want a hard copy? Well, that is available as a print-on-demand for $10.99 at Amazon and B&N if you wish!
Go ahead! Snag a copy! And let me know what you think in a review. I’d love feedback.
As a writer, I’m always analyzing my characters. I’m evaluating them: how they work together; are they innovative; are they nothing more than stereotypes; are they effective. So many questions, and important questions, to be asked of your characters, and important to answer. If we want to continue to grow as a literary community, and we do, then we have to do our part to contribute. What is beautiful is that we are doing that more and more. We are adding more complex female and POC characters and the world is better for it.
So when I look over my characters, I have to find my voice in them, and find my particular trend… and I can safely say that I know what I like to do. I’m a Ying-Yang writer. I like balance in my characters. If I have a wild-card, then I need to have a cool-headed character next to them. Often this manifests in a female-male pairing. No, I’m not just talking romantically (because I happen to subscribe to the fact that women and men can just be friends with nothing more attached). I like balance. I want a female character on the same ground as a male character. Maybe that comes from my own experiences with friendships. Or maybe that comes from my desire for equal friendships like that. I’m not sure. But I find myself doing it all the time.
In Turned/Red, I have Red alongside Hunt (though I throw Mal in the mix). In my current novel, (working title Ghost Crown), Katja is beside her brother Emil (I also love writing brother-sister relationships that are functional and not confrontational. Blame Joss Whedon and Firefly). I like balance. But I like to show that women and men can work alongside each other, or even in opposition to each other, and that their gender doesn’t play a part. They happen to be a woman or a man, but that doesn’t define them. So I pit them together or against each other. I make them equal and I balance out the leads.
Or make them non-binary. Spin that balanced top.
But I do it with women characters too. Red is balanced by Mal. Katja is balanced by Milanka. Even the men are balanced: Hunt by Byar and Emil by Goran. Hot/cold. Passion/Pragmatism. But then I like to take those balance points and flip them. Suddenly the passionate one is logical, and the logical one has done something spontaneous.
And then I like to tear that balance apart. It’s an emotional moment, but also a plot moment. I’m a character driven writer, so this makes sense. I need an emotional trauma to turn the tide of the story. Sometimes, that mixes into the plot based story-telling some writers favor, but it’s more about sharing the world through a character, and these moments define us as human beings, so why not a fictional character?
By now, you’re probably thinking that this traps me. I’m stuck finding the balance between my characters instead of letting them be insanely complex or difficult people. Not so. A character isn’t always the level-headed one. Sometimes they switch. That’s human nature. If you look at your own friend base, you’ll find the strange balance. For many of us, that’s a group of people. We all play a little part in balancing us out as a whole. For me, that makes a well-rounded and multi-dimensional story. Balance. It swings one way or another, but the way it swings, the direction, and how you find that balance is the fun and intensely difficult part of story telling. It’s also how to create a multi-colored world. It rounds it out, fills it up, and creates humans.
For each writer, it is different. Some will balance with physical descriptions. Some do it with emotions. Some with alignment (good vs evil). Some do all of these. They’re all good. But we have to make sure to expand upon that starting balance point, and tip it over. I think that’s why I start with my female-male duo or passion-pragmatic duo. Then I tip them over the edge and see where that takes us.
Whether you start with a duo or a trio or a group of nine beginning a journey to destroy the ring (I could write a whole post on how that group balanced each other. Just look at an elf and a dwarf), tip that balance. Spin it. Drop a rock on one side, and see how they slide and fall.
If you’ve been on twitter lately, and you follow lady writers, you may have seen a hashtag pop up. #thingsonlywomenwritershere. It accompanies the comments, and experiences, that women writers face every day. Even today. When I saw this movement pop up, I couldn’t agree with the sentiments posts from fellow lady writers more. Though my experiences are “smaller,” in that I am an indie writer and not navigating a corporate publishing world, it is no less filled with the prejudices that society has placed in our minds.
Women have always had to fight to be heard in a “serious” manner in the writing world. Whether it was writing under a male, or gender neutral pen-name, or writing in a manner that would appeal to male readers, we have had to cater to the prevailed societal pressures: that men drive sales in certain genres. Women were only successful in romance, and “chick-lit” (a genre title I don’t much like). Only a few women were “allowed” into the “all boys club” of fantasy, sci-fi, and action and adventure.
Luckily, we’re in a time where women are flooding these genres. And that’s fantastic. Especially as a woman who loves those genres. But the hardest part is this: I’m hearing people, under their breath, saying that every book is about a female protagonist, and that it is overdone. Overdone? How many decades have we endured millions of books with male leads? And I have enjoyed them, immensely. A few years where girls are in the spotlight does not make up for decades of being sidelined as a poorly written damsel, love-interest, or random assassin girl who has little personality of her own. Don’t just give us a sword, give us a story. Women are CRAVING it.
I’m not saying we don’t need male centered stories. We do. Inclusivity and diversity doesn’t mean shoving the former aside. It means opening the door and letting everyone play on an equal shelf, WITHOUT prejudice about whether it deserves to be there or not. I want my new paranormal fantasy shelved with the likes of George R.R. Martin (not saying I’m on that caliber, only giving a male author example), and I want it sitting next to an Asian women’s story, a black man’s, a latino’s. I want people to look at the story, not the gender or ethnicity of the character.
It’s a lot to ask. But I’m going to ask it, because having people say that I’m a woman writer, writing female protagonists, that my books are only for girls, is a discrimination we’re led to believe is okay. It’s not. And that hashtag, #thingsonlywomenwritershere, needs to be looked at by everyone, men and women alike, and realize what we are doing… so we can stop it, and open doors for everyone.
I tell people, when they ask, and I’ve mentioned it here before, that writing Turned/Red didn’t just happen. I didn’t just sit down one way with a story ready to pour out of me. There was an idea, one I toyed with for months, a whim almost. But that’s not unusual. I’ve found that artists toy with ideas, pouring over them time and time again, molding and reshaping.
The actually writing of said ideas? I wish that came faster.
People who know me as the girl who can sew a 1860s dress in a day (sewing, yes. Research? That’s months in the making, but I digress), were shocked, maybe even confused when I said that I had at least three versions of my story, all of them vastly different. None of them making it past the third chapter.
That’s a lie. The first one went to the sixth, I believe.
The point is, I tried writing this story enough times to think that it wasn’t going to happen, not in the way I wanted. And I was right. It took a late night drive after a long rehearsal for the opening words to pop into my head. From there, everything fell into place. That was about 1.5-2 years after the initial concept web/family tree. Years. Of hard character building, world crafting work. I was just very hush-hush about it. Tentative. At least until I knew it would take.
So when people have begun asking for a sequel? Well….
Sitting down to the write the sequel? Let’s just say that it’s following in the footsteps of its predecessor. I, naively, thought that since this world was built, the characters created, and the pivotal moments conceived, that I’d have it. Naive. But… This is the first sequel I’ve ever written and I suppose I should give myself some space for that…still… when people ask about how soon that sequel is going to come out, I have to be honest and say: soon, but not this year.
I want to do it sooner, but that’s not how this one wants to work. Now, I can say that I’m working on novellas, and I had a fun concept to do short, 1000 word one-shots of different moments, characters, etc. to keep the juices flowing. Maybe post them on WordPress and later compile them. It might yield the sequel. Or not.
Granted… that paranormal fantasy I keep working on? That’s not going away any time soon. I’m actually excited with my own patience with letting this one un-fold.
I sat down this week to write up a blog post and you know what happened? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I stared at the wall for a while, binged This Is Us (which I’m in love with, and it’s not even something I usually watch on TV), and found myself all over my local zoo’s website (I love penguins for some reason). Usually, this ADD sort of thinking produces something, but not this week. Could it be burn out from an amazing production week/run of a performance? Could it be I’m using it all up in drafting my Wonder Woman outfit for con? Or because I hit this weird, but good-weird spot in my recent novel and I’m busy working it out? Or maybe it is all of those things.
Maybe I needed to talk about how to balance being an indy (independent) writer, performer, seamstress, pin up girl, AND working a regular-if-only-it-was-full-time job. That’s the reality a lot of us face as we start out trying to carve a little spot for ourselves. So few of us get to sit down and write, or perform, full-time. I’d love to do both. That’s my goal, a completely reach-able with LOTS of hard work goal, but one filled with the ever persistent balance problem. I have to feed myself, therefore, I had to make money by working. I’m committed to events, which require my sewing skills. I have to make sure my soul hasn’t gone crazy, so I work on finding the next fabulous show to perform in. It’s a lot. On top of the need to write down these stories bubbling in my head. It’s not wonder people thing us, artists are a little off-beat.
As spring rolls around, I realize that I will have less and less time to write. It’ll be about chiseling moments of time in order to do so… and to be honest, that’s difficult for me. I get ideas, need to try them out, and end up side-tracked. It’s the ENFP life at its purest. It’s brilliant but I have to remember to keep at it.
I, also, have to remember, that I’m not failing if I’m not writing every day. Not if I’m composing in my head, thinking about it, then I’m not failing. And yes, I repeat that to myself every time I beat myself up over it… and I do it every time. I remind myself that everyone works differently. Some have to write every day. Some don’t. Some binge. Some trickle. Some plan chapters a week/word count a week. Some don’t.
But balance, that’s what I need. I need to make sure I am feeding all of my artistic outlets. And take the time to regenerate those juices. It also means, to me, giving in to my artistic impulses when they occur. And that just because it isn’t happening at that moment, or even a day or two done the road, doesn’t mean it won’t suddenly happen again.
Patience. It’s a virtue, or something. I’m not very good at it, but I’m trying.
And I pose this question: how do you balance it all? I’d love to swap tips, stories, etc. You an always learn from someone else. Always.
I recently uncovered my copy of A Feast of Ice and Fire: the Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook(which I HIGHLY recommend for the historical goodies in there). I did it to gear up for the next (and last, let me cry into my pillow please) season. In the forward, I was struck by how the authors of the cookbook commented on George R. R. Martin’s feasts, and how often he writes them. I never paid much attention when I was reading the books. I was too much in the world, and maybe, just maybe, that’s why author’s put food in their books.
In this new project I’ve realized how important a component food has become. There are whole scenes around meals, which makes sense for a fantasy novel, but isn’t it that way in life? Don’t we have the most amazing conversations over a plate of food, or a glass of our favorite drink (be it wine or grape juice)? We are at our most open when we are sharing a meal, so it makes sense to bring that forth in a written work. There’s hardly an easy out if you are sharing a meal. You either suck it up and stay, or you make a dramatic exit. Either are writing gold. It forces your characters to follow through with their words and actions. They don’t get to swing a sword, slip away, or any other easy out. Not that forcing them to stay is easy writing. On the contrary. The next thing you know, you’re writing a scene you weren’t sure you were ready for, but your characters were. And in the end? The narrative is better for it.
Food always places a culture. For my new project, which I brought up in my last post about world building, my new place has some touches for a Croatian heritage I’m only just now discovering, so I’ve made a conscious choice to use Croatian and similar style foods. Even if people don’t know what burek or kifle is, there’s instantly a feel associated with those words, and that spelling. It’s a feel I want to imbue my story with, not to mention I like the idea of planning a meal around this new tale.
And there is such a rise in cookbooks inspired off of books/tv shows/movies. I have an Amazon wish list full of them. (Arguably, I love historical cooking, so anything that even hints at historical recipes is instantly in my “need” list.) Eating, and socializing around that act, is purely human. Of course, as authors, no matter how “other” our characters are, this will always reveal some sort of truth. Even Turned/Red had some of my favorite, poignant moments, around a table and coffee.
We need food to survive. And the social interaction that it involves, even if it is just one person. If we want to be true to life? Food is on the page, whether we consciously write it, or it just happens.
Breaking away from Turned/Red to look at a new project I’m working on: my epic paranormal fantasy. You read that right. Paranormal. Fantasy. A “I see dead people” meets Tamora Pierce world. I’m very excited; the characters are starting to come into their own, and so is the world, which is never easy. World building is very difficult, in case you didn’t know. This world has been particularly interesting.
When I started out, I knew I didn’t want a typical European-like medieval fantasy. Oh sure, it is pre-gunpowder, so there are a lot of swords, and knives, and staffs. But there’s no “winter.” There’s no wool. It’s all silk and cotton. There are veils, and gold coin jewelry, leather armor, and sandals. The air is sweltering most of the time, but the nights are cool. The food is Croatian, or Slavic. There are droughts in the plains, trade routes being block, and border wars. And it’s a lot to organize, but so much fun to build.
There’s always a gateway for me into world building. Sometimes it is an image I find on Pinterest (we don’t want to know how much time I spend on Pinterest), or a recipe, or a phrase a friend of mine says. In the case of my new project (I’ve lovingly titled Ghost Crown), it is my little known Croatian heritage. I’ve spent so much time investing in the Irish/Scottish side, that I wanted to dive into the Croatian, and the more I did, the more the world built itself.
It started with an image of the Grand Palaiska (the royal palace) where it had this very Roman feel with stone pillars, silks draping about, the dress code is delicate, draping about them, silks and cottons, leather and studs. Everything is open. The moment that image solidified, the moment I knew I had a place, a time, and a story. I knew I was taking my love of Roman architecture, and mixing it with Croatian, or sometimes Slavic words, foods, names.
Then I drew a map. I hate maps. Half-way through a story, I ignore them to re-write
them how I want/need them to look. But I did it. I drew a map with town names, and mountains, and lakes, and neighboring countries. Oddly enough, this time? It stuck. So far. I’m only 30k words into the story. There’s still plenty of time for me to chuck it out the window.
But the world is there now. I know my country’s name: Srebrov. I know their neighbors. I know there are docks that my POV character can see from her balcony. I know there are mountains, and plain-lands where food is grown. I know there’s a bit of land in dispute between my country and their rival/enemy. I know the south could care less about the north. I know these things, and once I know them (and it takes some time. It isn’t over night), suddenly, I have a story. The people show up and populate them.
My stories are character driven, but I have to create their world first. And it’s fun. Creating a world from scratch means you get to make it up. You get to decide. I mean, once the characters show up, I lose all the control, but at least I made their world… I can still pretend like I did something.