A Writing Meme – 5

The Writing Meme – Part 1
The Writing Meme – Part 2
The Writing Meme – Part 3
The Writing Meme – Part 4

23. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Oh, perfectly willing. In fact, I’ve just… Ah, but no. Spoilers. Mwahahaha.

24. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

Kim had an obese cat named Bud. He got old and died, because even wizard cats get old. If you’re following the Liminality Series, you’ll soon be introduced to Erin, who has a squad of buff men she calls her “entourage,” though they’re actually thralls, which is what you call it when a faerie keeps humans for pets.

There may be more miscellaneous pets in the future.

25. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favourite picture of him!

bashful_by_justleftofcenter13-d34dw92Well… I do. Just very, very poorly. I used to keep a file of sketches of my characters, until I realized my descriptions were more useful than my doodles, most of which looked like unidentified marsupials.

I like it a lot better when other people draw them for me.

Here’s Lenny, as envisioned by my dear friend Jennifer.

26. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

As in, are they significant to the plot? Eh, some. Morrigan, for instance, is not a conventionally pretty girl. She looks startlingly like her brother Sherlock in a wig and will, in a much later book (not a major spoiler) be arrested for posing as female for the purpose of felonious solicitation. Hard to make the charge stick, of course, after an undignified strip reveals that she is a bit female.

Most others work off certain archetypes, or common-sense extensions of their personal habits, genetics, etc. Lenny is nonthreatening: small, untidy, blond, but with unusually bright blue eyes. Daniel is severe and has an ascetic, angular appearance to match. Kim spends an awful lot of time sitting and reading, so she has thick, soft hips and thighs. She has the black hair and warm, dark complexion that comes from her mostly Indian ancestry. Jadwiga has the brown hair and eyes that are prevalent in Poland. Her scars prevent her from re-entering a society that largely frowns on extensive body modification, even though it wasn’t voluntary.

27. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

A few. In the small stuff, Daniel has such poor eyesight as to be non-functional without glasses. He can perceive large, blurry shapes, but wouldn’t be able to identify an object on a table three feet away, unless it was producing a distinctive sound or smell. With glasses, though, he can see just as well in the dark as in daylight.

Lenny suffered a brain infection as an infant and was totally deaf until his teens, except to the voices of ghosts and other dead beings. When he was fourteen, he began to regain some hearing and could perceive loud noises as a buzz. Becoming a vampire restored it completely, but left sensitivity and the inner-ear damage that prevents him from balancing. Other vampires would still consider him disabled, since the lack of balance means he can’t move superhumanly fast without hurting himself. Also, though not in the category of disabilities, I write him as non-neurotypical and asexual. A few readers have asked me if he’s on the autism spectrum, and while not precisely correct, it’s a useful analogy. His brain is designed for effective interaction with the dead, and as a result, interacting with the living is often difficult for him; likewise, his body is designed to facilitate moving spirits out of the world, not into it, so no sex drive.

Now you know.

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A Writing Meme – 4

The Writing Meme – Part 1
The Writing Meme – Part 2
The Writing Meme – Part 3

18. Favourite antagonist and why!

Signe, hands down. At least in Lost Knowledge, though I have a contender coming up in a future publication.

She’s not a primary antagonist, or anything. She’s not a bad guy, exactly, though she’s certainly awful. She just does a great job of poking at everybody’s insecurities, harassing them endlessly, and failing to put up with anybody’s rubbish.

19. Favourite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

It’s a duo: Lenny and Kim. Shadow of the Mountains was the first Lost Knowledge book I planned, and originally, it was supposed to be the only. Everything in Liminality was intended to be backstory, plotted but never written. But Kim and Lenny elbowed themselves into center stage, and I couldn’t say no when I realized that their story was really so much bigger than I had ever imagined.

20. What are your favourite character interactions to write?

I sort of already answered that without realizing that this was coming up, so I’ll go with a different answer.

Right now, I’m drafting The Van Helsing Legacy, and I am really digging the interactions between Meg and Chessie, the monster-hunting flatmates around whom the story revolves. Sort of without my consent, they acquired a bit of a buddy-cop vibe. You’ve got to admit that a bluestocking and a flapper chasing down vampires has a certain appeal.

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

Well… yes. Jeremiah’s got Cynthia, and Cynthia’s got Kim. Nobody’s got young children, though.

There’ll be more parent-child interaction in No Cage for a Crow, but it’s still mostly at a distance. Morrigan doesn’t get on well with her parents.

22. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

This is impossible. Everything I’m writing now has been percolating in the back of my head for ages. The Medium started brewing in 2005 or so, about the same time I began writing the atrocity that eventually became In the Shadow of the Mountains. The Morrigan Holmes series occurred to me when I was five. Yes, five. I’ve had The van Helsing Legacy rolling around in my head since the first time I saw a Hammer Dracula film, and I don’t even know when that was. I can’t possibly trace a story from inception to completion. The writing is variable. I was writing ItSotM for eight years before publication. The Medium brewed forever, but only took me a year to write, edit, and publish, probably precisely because so much thought had gone in beforehand. I drafted The Wailing in less than a month, but it’s short. There is no consistency in my time frames.

The Writing Meme  – Part 5

A Writing Meme – 3

The Writing Meme – Part 1
The Writing Meme – Part 2

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world building?

Hm. No clue. I’d have to ask a reader. But, well, the Lost Knowledge world is growing with each story. The building won’t be complete until the last book comes out.

That said, the coolest piece of information I’ve dropped so far (in my opinion) comes in The Medium: 

“Conscious access to memory is a unique trait of living things, but memory itself is not. It’s encoded in the minute vibrations between elementary particles. Our entire universe is built of information given shape. Part of that is its history. Its memory. Now watch.”

13. What’s your favourite culture to write, fictional or not?

Oh, golly, you can’t ask that of an anthropologist. Pick a favourite culture? Can’t be done. But, as mentioned previously, I’m always in love with whatever shiny new thing is currently going down, and right now, I’m researching Polish history for that nameless gothic thing. It seems that, whenever anybody decides to take over the world, they always start with Poland. In-depth research is a bit tricky for someone with only a high-novice understanding of Polish; there’s less literature in English than I would like. Ah, well. I found a volume of translated fairy tales, and that’s entertaining me, for the moment.

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I do have a pile of fantasy maps somewhere, for a project that was shelved several years ago. Everything else takes place in our world, though, so I just print things out from the internet and scribble on them in Sharpie. I’m sure I can dig up some examples, but they’re likely in the very bottom of one of my file boxes and will take some time to locate.

15. Mid way question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

I am (fondly) jealous of Jodi Lamm’s ridiculously fine ability to turn a phrase. I am so in love with her Titan Magic trilogy and look forward to the third book’s release. Gorgeous, subtle world-building, fascinatingly flawed characters, spine-tingling twists… Am I gushing? Go buy her books. She’s also loads of fun to talk to.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing?

Eh, a bit. Not much that’s yet been published. There will be a touch of romance in The Van Helsing Legacy and in that unnamed gothic piece. I don’t like the glorification of infatuation, though. Being in love is enjoyable in the  moment, but has no lasting worth at all without a deliberate commitment. Otherwise, it’s just a fling, with all the depth that word implies. If it’s a fling, I write it as a fling. If it’s love, though, the decision is more important than the emotion.

Sex doesn’t interest me in the least. You won’t find anything beyond implication in my writing.

17. Favourite protagonist and why!

Oh, definitely Kim. She gets things done. She’s determined and efficient and has a sense of humour, and she isn’t impressed with Daniel’s whinging. I’ll be sorry to leave her behind when Liminality is done. But hey, that’s what Patreon is for, right? I’ve got loads of deleted scenes and backstory that’ll have to come out somewhere.

The Writing Meme – Part 4
The Writing Meme – Part 5

A Writing Meme – 2

The Writing Meme – Part 1

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper?

I always have a notebook with me, because you never know when or where you might find yourself with ten minutes and nothing to do. If I have a choice, though, I prefer early mornings or late nights at my desk. A burning candle is nice, too. I always draft on paper. Always. Transcribing from paper to screen constitutes my first round of revision.

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

Sometimes, but only instrumental. I’m a fan of Peter Gundry and Philip Glass for writing. There are certainly songs that remind me of my characters, but I don’t make playlists for them, or anything.

8. What’s your favourite genre to write? To read?

The bulk of my writing so far is paranormal. I’m really enjoying mystery, as well, but I have no plans to branch out beyond Morrigan Holmes. Future projects – The Van Helsing Legacy and that gothic back-burner – return to paranormal, though in time periods other than the contemporary. I guess I just like a real-world setting with slight, ah, embellishments.

I read anything I can get my hands on. About equal parts fiction and non-fiction, the fiction about equal parts mystery, horror, paranormal, science fiction, historical, satire, YA… More picture books now than previously, since I collect them for use in my classes.

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

I hate this question. I think most authors do. There is, in fact, only one character whose origin I can pinpoint to a single moment. John, from The Siren, was inspired by a comment on a Youtube video. Everybody else evolved sort of organically. I’m thinking about stories for a while, telling myself stories, and suddenly realize I have a character.

I can describe how they develop, though. Most of my Lost Knowledge characters were involved in role-play around the internet for years before I began publishing the books. I can’t think of any better way to really get to know a character than to have someone else throw situations at them.

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

That role-playing background resulted in some really strange ones. Daniel once wound up married to a time-travelling airship captain from a steampunk alternate universe, living in an interdimensional bubble where they were occasionally attacked by Daleks. Non-canon, of course, but he still hasn’t forgiven me. Lenny’s been turned into a wolf, hit with a love spell, attacked by Umbrella Corp. zombies, and press-ganged into taking care of a magical toddler. Kim and Jadwiga have, for the most part, been spared any particular indignity, except for that one time they both got really smashed and almost came to blows over the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Canon is about to get weird, too. No spoilers.

11. Who is your favourite character to write? Least favourite?

Individual characters aren’t that interesting, to me. I like to play characters off one another. Current favourite is having Kim and Daniel in the same room, snarking at one another, closely followed by Signe tormenting Daniel.

hated writing Sebastian. It was incredibly emotionally taxing, and I am forever glad that I ultimately decided not to give him the status of point-of-view character. That would have killed the series.

The Writing Meme – Part 3
The Writing Meme – Part 4
The Writing Meme – Part 5

A Writing Meme – 1

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

To be honest, my favourite is usually whatever shiny new thing I happen to be working on currently, and my various projects are different enough that it’s a bit apples-to-oranges trying to compare them.

I love my Lost Knowledge world, because it’s flexible enough to incorporate almost any new folklore I come across, and I have fun working with monsters who are basically just screwed-up people.

I love dipping into the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes in the Morrigan Holmes serial I’m working on. I love the contrast between the glittering upper classes, the stolid middle class, and the starving, tubercular masses upon whose backs the other two build their lives. It’s all very pretty, but only until you actually start paying attention.

I  love the classic horror world in which I’ll be playing with The Van Helsing Legacy, based in part on my deep and painstaking folklore research and in part on the old Hammer films. The post-war attitudes of absurdity and cynicism will be tough, but I welcome the challenge.

And there’s one more on the back burner that I won’t discuss too much too soon, except to say that it’s had me reading lots and lots of old gothic fiction, and I’m very excited.

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

There are 832 documents in my combined “Character Profile” folders. It’s possible I have a problem.

I don’t have a real preference. There’s a roughly equal number of males and females in the work I’ve published so far. The Liminality Series follows two women and two men, all of whom are pivotal. Women are outnumbered in No Cage for a Crow, but it’s written from a female perspective. Women will far outnumber men in The Van Helsing Legacy (also written from a female perspective), as a result of the dent World War One made in Europe’s male population.

There certainly needs to be more female-driven literature. I may as well contribute.

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

I keep a list of names I like, with a connotation analysis and etymology, if I can find one. It’s sorted by gender and origin.

For real-world fictional places, I research trends in place-naming by time period and geography. For instance, a near-future project will take place partly at Blackeagles in Cumbria. There are no eagles in the area, “-eagles” being a corruption of “-eccles”, referring to a church. Blackeagles is named for the burnt-out ruin of a monastery outside the town.

For invented-world fictional places… Boggle.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

The first I can remember was a ‘novel’ that spanned something like ten or fifteen black-and-white composition notebooks, begun in… second grade? Third? It was horrible. A girl named Sabrina got sucked into a magical world and was made their princess for no particular reason, and she was the best at magic and had beautiful eyes that changed colour and beautiful hair that changed colour and a magic ring that did I-forget-what, and there were unicorns, and I believe she was able to turn into one at will (though this was never a useful skill). It didn’t really have much of a plot.

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest?

Chronologically, Aaron Margolis, from In the Shadow of the Mountains, is youngest in Lost Knowledge, being fourteen when the story starts. He’s recently been beaten out by Snail, of No Cage for a Crow, who is nine.

Oldest is tough, since I have a few who have technically existed since the beginning of the universe. But I guess they only halfway qualify as characters, so I’ll have to go with Signe the Swarm, first introduced in The Wailing. She’s forgotten how old she is, but the prevailing opinion in the wizard community is that she’s old enough it’s possible she was never human at all.

I came across this interview on DeviantART and couldn’t trace it down to an original post. If you know where this originally came from, please let me know so I can give appropriate credit.

The Writing Meme – Part 2
The Writing Meme – Part 3
The Writing Meme – Part 4
The Writing Meme – Part 5

The Self-Congratulatory Photopalooza — Scifi Edition

It’s that time again, dear readers! You should all be expecting it, by now, as it is tradition. And for The Siren, the traditional hat is back. This time, it’s a Harris tweed construction, souvenir of my recent sojourn in London (of which there shall soon be a full recounting and further photopalooza).

So, first I was like… “Dignity. Always dignity.”

Then I was like… “Okay, yes, I’ll admit it’s pretty brilliant.”

Then I was inordinately pleased with myself…

And all was right with the world.

The volume itself, in all its perfection:

The perils of barbecue before bed

There must have been something in the barbecue sauce. (To be perfectly candid, I know exactly what was in the barbecue sauce: whiskey. Order some, because it’s the best thing I’ve ever put on a pulled-pork sandwich.)

The entire family was affected. Each of us staggered out this morning, dazed and bewildered, and in almost perfect unison, declared “I had the freaking weirdest dreams last night.” As these things go, we clustered around and shared our tales of the uncanny.

The Deerslayer’s Wife dreamed that she was suffering from cancer. It started out horrifying, as cancer must, but quickly became bizarre, as she discovered that this strange and hitherto-unknown form caused yellowing of the skin. With dream-logic, she decided that the best way to conceal the fact that her skin was bright yellow and her hair was falling out was black-and-purple acrylic dreadlocks. The mental image of one’s mother, yellow and with raver dreads, was not one I expected so early in the morning.

The Deerslayer (husband of the Deerslayer’s Wife, naturally) dreamed that his teeth had all turned to chalk and were crumbling out of his mouth, leaving bits everywhere. (To be fair, I’ve had this dream, as have several other people I know. It seems to be a common one.)

The Minion dreamed that she wore shorts to school and, dreaming in third-person, saw herself from behind and realized that she had prematurely developed varicose veins and strange, lumpy cellulite. She was apparently unfazed by the fact that she could see herself from behind without the aid of a mirror, which would have been the part that freaked me out.

I dreamed that I had suddenly developed some strange, Tourette’s-like disorder and was constantly and uncontrollably dropping f-bombs the way an Independence Day parade drops candy. The Deerslayer’s Wife, being the conscientious woman she is, whacked me soundly for each offence.

To conclude, I don’t know whether this is a recommendation for or caution against barbecue before bed. Either way, last night was entertaining.

20 things somebody actually googled (blog challenge!)

Just for fun, in no particular order (except backwards, because it suits me), here are the twenty strangest search terms that have brought someone to my site:

20. Zombie Apocalypse Ideas

Now, I thought this was a little odd, but I did do one silly post about the zombie apocalypse. The really strange thing is that this is the search term that has resulted in the most views. Like, more than any other search term that has ever brought anyone to this blog. There were a number of variations on this, such as “Zombie Apocalypse Is Coming,” “Good Zombie Apocalypse” (what?), “Christmas Zombie Aplocalips” (no kidding…), “Apokylypz” (no…), and “zombee pocky lips” (don’t want to know).

19. Velvetbrownfox

I’ve gotten four views on four different dates from this search term. I have no idea what this refers to. I’m assuming it must be a thing, right?

18. подсолнухи картинки

Are search engines alphabet-specific? Google Translate tells me that this person wanted pictures of sunflowers, and I did indeed post pictures of sunflowers once, but I did not label them in Cyrillic.

17. the man sitting the feel of loneliness images

Really not sure.

16. peeing on bushes and weeds

Still not really sure.

15. dalek no trespassing

Swiper, no swiping!

14. grass fight texas

Everything in Texas is extremely aggressive. You should see those dandelions.

13. big spiders and a big cobweb

Halloween, I’m guessing?

12. texas Revolting

I’m tempted to run this through Google Image Search.

11. cranky political judges

I’m guessing ‘cranky’ was what brought them here. I don’t recall ever having mentioned politics or judges. Still, the mental image is nice.

10. is there a word that means “to suck the life out of everything”?

If there is, it’s probably German.

9. fart jelly gelly beans

Either a misinformed Harry Potter reference, or… No, I can’t think of anything else.

8. vampire poland homes

Best real estate service ever.

7. Comments made by blue bell ice cream drivers

Are they known for their pithy wit?

6. Boat or mountains?

I have no idea.

5. Morrigan puns

Ancient and complicated triple-goddesses lend themselves to quaint humor.

4. How to get children to internalize values

Smells like social engineering.

3. trippy sunflowers

Duuuuuuuuuuude.

2. Mexican dragons

Is that a thing? I know most cultures have some dragon-like creature in their mythology, but I’ve lived within driving distance of Mexico all my life and have never heard of a Mexican dragon.

1. i don’t words

It’s okay. Neither do I.

 

Your turn, bloggers. I challenge you to go through your search terms and list off all the weird ones!

Going hunting for…

… the undead.

I started work on these some time ago, and just got around to finishing them. They’re hand-carved, stained and aged, and the grips are wrapped in waxed cotton thread. I hope to have quite a few more of them ready by the time AggieCon rolls around, assuming I can get a table again. Unfortunately, these are too big for the box I had been keeping my kit in. Needs a longer box, I suppose. Or shorter stakes.

Anyway, if I fail to acquire an AggieCon table or have leftovers, they’ll likely be showing up on Etsy.

Happy hunting!

(In my head, Daniel is in an absolute snit. He thinks I have far too much fun.)