On Writing

i also did not kidnap kyle robert shultz for an interview.

I am a social creature. Clearly. Today, I have the marvelous Kyle Robert Shultz with me. (I mean, not literally. But in spirit.) Shultz is the author of multiple series set in the Afterverse, a parallel universe where myths, fairy tales, and classic stories are real events and part of history. He lives in self-imposed exile in the southern Idaho desert, far enough away from humanity to protect innocent lives should he lose control of his awesome fictional powers and rip a hole in the space-time continuum or something.

So sit down (or stand), grab a cup of tea (or a pint, or a horn of ale, or coffee, OR HERBAL TEA OR NOTHING) and settle in – we’re in for yet another treat.

***DON’T READ ON … if you’d rather not touch on how Medusa is possibly misunderstood, ponder the best parts of book birthing, and dive into the deep depths of escapism and reading.***

apparently, this gif is tradition now.

I’ve been really enjoying Deadwood. Clearly you have an excellent sense of humour. What makes you laugh? Puns? Sarcasm? The ridiculous? Naked snails?

Why, thank you! So far as types of humor are concerned, I am very much on the dry, snarky end of the spectrum. The Twelfth Doctor is my spirit animal…either him or Peter B. Parker from Into the Spider-Verse; it varies. Though that doesn’t mean that a well-executed, totally goofy pun won’t elicit a snort of mirth from me from time to time. And of course, the vast comedic potential of naked snails is not to be underestimated.

The weird thing is that my style of humor varies depending on what character I’m writing, or, to put it another way, which part of the world I’m writing in. Todd Crane’s sense of humor in the Crockett and Crane series is decidedly American, and those books are a little more goofy in tone. Nick Beasley from the Beaumont and Beasley series, on the other hand, is a gruff, no-nonsense Londoner (or rather, Talesender, in this case) inhabiting a world with a distinctly Wodehousean flavor to its funny. I’m not a Brit myself, but I have immersed myself in a great deal of Britishness over the years through books, audiobooks, radio plays, etc.

Favourite mythological figure – from any culture! – go!

You want me to choose? Have you no mercy??? Okay, I’ll take a crack at it. I think I’ll go with…Hades. I mean, his relationship with Persephone is actually pretty sweet in quite a few versions of the myth; he once trapped two would-be kidnappers in magic chairs, which is hilarious; and he literally named his gigantic three-headed monster-dog Spot. He’s awesome.

Is Medusa maligned? I feel as though she, like sharks, have terrible PR. What are your thoughts?

Yes, I think that’s very accurate. The oldest myths about Medusa describe her as having been born with her unfortunate powers, so it’s hardly her fault, even if she did end up a little homicidal over time. I mean, who wouldn’t, in that situation? Perhaps if Perseus had just taken the time to have a conversation with her instead of getting all head-choppy, the conflict could have been resolved in a more civilized manner.

so when does this book come out?? YOU CAN WRITE IT. I’LL WAIT.

Why centaurs?

No, no, you’ve got it wrong. The question is obviously “Why not centaurs?” After all, they tend to appear in one of only two over-used archetypes: the barbaric monster or the star-gazing soothsayer. It’s high time they got more diverse representation in fantasy. You’re welcome, centaurs of the world.

However, to answer your question, I will have to rewind to the original draft of Crockett and Crane Book 1: Horseman, which was entitled “Horse and Man.” The book was much, much too long, and as I was editing, I realized that there were far too many instances of my main character Todd saying “I leaped astride my mettlesome charger and, wheeling into the wind, cried out, ‘Hi-ho, Cedric! Away!’” 

Slashing these reduced the draft from 200,000 to 50,000 words. But what of poor Cedric, and Todd’s need for transportation? Then, HARK, a brilliant idea: what if Todd was his own transportation? And so, Todd became a centaur. (Part-time, anyway.) This was clearly the most straightforward solution to the problem.

What’s a key component of your writing routine?

Writing. Which sounds like a really dumb and/or sarcastic answer, but that is not my intention…let me explain. What I mean is that if I don’t sit down with the intention of actually putting words on the page, one way or another, I’m not going to get any writing done that day, or possibly ever. I don’t necessarily write every day, as some people advise, but on a day when I’ve set out to write, I only allow myself a few minutes of “planning” time. If my brain hasn’t succeeded in coming up with a workable plan, and the clock is ticking, I say, “Okay brain, you’ve had your chance,” and just launch into freewriting. Some of my best ideas have come from this method.

Does a book come fully formed into your mind like KABLAM! THE BOOK IS IN YOUR HEAD! Or do you spend years plotting methodically? Or do you metaphorically fly by the seat of your metaphorical pinstriped trousers?

KABLAM! is actually a very accurate synopsis of my process. That’s not to say I have every last detail of the story in my head from the beginning, though…at least, not consciously. Typically, I get a tidal wave of inspiration for a story, then start writing madly until I’ve at least gotten the most crucial or difficult scenes on paper. After that, it’s more or less smooth sailing. I wouldn’t quite call it “pantsing”—or is it “trousering”?—because I do have at least a semblance of a plan. I just don’t write the plan out on paper because it uses up valuable energy and spoils all the fun surprises. Plus, I look terrible in metaphorical pinstripes.

Favourite part of the entire book birthing process? (That’s a weird analogy. I apologise. BUT STILL.)

No, it’s actually a great analogy. Can we authors help it if there are similarities between the two processes? Stop judging us, tiresome normal humans. I think my favorite part is actually the middle-ish part of the story, when I’m completely caught up in the creative flow and I know exactly where I’m headed with my various arcs. Granted, when it’s over, I find myself surrounded by empty coffee cups, wildly scribbled notes on any scraps of paper to hand, and unconscious people who dared try to interrupt me during the process, but it’s all worth it.

Hardest part of the biz? (For me it’s the fame. It’s just so difficult to handle.)

The fame is crushing. That said, I think the hardest part for me is balancing the business with the art. Mainly because I’m weird and I actually enjoy the business side of things, so I can easily get too caught up in one or the other. There has to be a balance between the two, or it just doesn’t work. It’s no good trying to create my own evil business empire to rival Disney if I’m not spending plenty of time just writing books. And, on the other hand, no matter how much I love simply sitting down and writing, I won’t get very far if I don’t pay attention to my business.

Are you ready for two deep questions?

Not remotely. Back, fiend. Back, I say.

TOO LATE. I often hear that reading is a form of escapism. Personally my answer is complicated, never succinct and always essay length. What’s yours?

I’m tempted to write an essay as well, but I’ll try to control myself. My simple response to this criticism would be, how is it a criticism, and what’s wrong with escapism? Now, granted, there are probably unhealthy forms of escapism, but I have yet to meet an average reader who is “too absorbed” in the worlds of their favorite books. I would say that the particular kind of escapism which comes from books is exceptionally healthy, especially since it puts the imagination to work more than other forms of entertainment. My books are frequently referred to as “harmless fun,” but it’s usually not in a derogatory context, because harmless fun is often what people want. So it doesn’t offend me in the slightest, nor would I call anyone out for saying it. 

Also, they are most definitely not harmless fun, Steve B. on Amazon, and if you don’t see the very weighty philosophical message in Chapter Twenty-Seven of The Reckoning of Rumpelstiltskin, then that is entirely your problem, you Philistine.

Our world seems a little darker and our lives can be difficult – how do you feel picking up a book can affect that? And, as a writer, how do you feel writing a book can help?

Speaking as a reader, I believe that picking up a book—especially a work of fantasy or science fiction, since those are my go-to genres—allows me to step outside the madness for a while, which gives me both breathing space and a fresh perspective. Granted, in order to accomplish that, it needs to be the right kind of book—the kind that I attempt to write myself. There’s a certain degree of idealism in my fiction; it’s definitely not “gritty” or “grounded.” But I believe that writers of the “fairy story” (the catch-all term which both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used for fantasy, mythology, etc.) have a responsibility to sprinkle at least a little idealism into their work, especially when writing from the Christian perspective. Our stories should incorporate what Tolkien called the “eucatastrophe,” “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).” Especially since, as Tolkien goes on to say, “the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.” (quotes from Tolkien’s “Letter 89”)

And finally – the VERY LAST QUESTION – what’s a solid tip, saying, sword, sentence, paragraph and/or elf that will help an aspiring writer?

Never tell anyone, including yourself, that you don’t know what you’re doing. Of course you don’t; you’re a writer. If you knew what you were doing, there wouldn’t be any surprises, and you wouldn’t have any fun. Pretend you do know what you’re doing, write the story anyway, and it will all turn out fine in the end. Trust me. I know exactly what I’m doing.

(And I do apologize for the deplorable lack of helpful elves.)

Thank you for stopping by, Kyle! It’s been a pleasure having you on here. I will forgive you for the lack of helpful elves one day.


You can stalk Kyle here, check out his brand-new release right here, or check out his book design business right here. (You might not need anything book designing-wise but you can still be nosy muhahahaha.)

(And if you just want a smile, go here.)

Books

comparing white chocolate to georgette heyer books

… because, of course. I inhale white chocolate, and do the same with Georgette Heyer’s books. So it makes perfect sense. Either that or the following is a slow descent into madness.

Before I should go on, please don’t comment ‘WHITE CHOCOLATE ISN’T EVEN PROPER CHOCOLATE THO!’ because I don’t need that kind of outrageous negativity in my life. Also, it is! (AndPlutoISaplanettoosothere.)

Lindt Lindor White Chocolate ‘Irresistibly Smooth’

It’s not my favorite chocolate ever. It’s a bit flaky? And then the middle is smooth. Just, pick one – okay? (Or, note to self, read the packet before gobbling it down. Manage expectations etc. Specifically your ones.) It’s a whole journey in your mouth with good and bad and brilliant and confusion.

Spig Muslin – it took me years to get around to reading this and I was not a fan at first. Because I’d skimmed it and hadn’t taken the time to read it. But then I went on a one woman road trip and listened to the audio AND OH MY GOSH IT’S ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD. It’s a journey, but we get there in the end. I could always do with more hero/heroine clashes because you know that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

(I don’t know what that phrase means. I have theories but mmhfff.)

Thornton’s White Chocolate:

It’s white chocolate that could have potential if only it took a little less sweetener and a little more milk.

Friday’s Child – it’s been awhile since I’ve read this one so this could be wrong. I reserve the right to be wrong. But – I remember hating it. Perhaps I had the wrong mindset. Perhaps when I go back into the book I’m going to think it’s wonderful. It’s the bee’s knees. The cat’s meow. BUT NOT TODAY.

If all of Heyer’s books were tea, this would be Earl Grey. (I didn’t always loathe Earl Grey; once upon a time, we had a torrid like affair. BUT NO LONGER.)

If all of Heyer’s books were white chocolate this would be- wait.

Milky Bar Buttons

Milky Bar Buttons fill me with happiness – sweet, but not too much so. Milky, as one would suspect. It’s a perfect marriage between the two.

Cotillion/Frederica – I mean, they’re just so sweet and beautiful. How could you not? They are comfort. They are sweet. They are full to the brim of vibrant characters with cackle-inducing humour.

I have written blog posts about both of them: Cotillion / Frederica.

Green and Black’s White Chocolate

I could eat several entire bars of these in one day. For me, this is my favorite white chocolate (SO FAR!) It’s sweet – but not too much. Milky, but in the perfect way. It has resolution (wut) it has flavour. It is good for you (in comparison to the rest). It is ethical. (I think.)

Civil Contract aka one of my favourite Heyer books evah!!! It’s real. Or at least, it feels real to me – far more real than the other Heyers. The ending is not overwhelmingly happy, but it is practical. Perhaps even realistic.

The romance is a slow one, built more on friendship than the heady heights of first love. And I’m completely okay with that.

I’ve podcasted about this in my very long lived five episode podcast series. I’ve discussed this passionately in a graveyard. I’ve read it multiple times.

Perhaps, over the years, my taste in brands of white chocolate and Heyer books may shift. And that’s okay – we always seem to be changing, don’t we? I don’t like some of the books my teenage self read. Because my gosh the heroes were like sausages – the wurst.

*pause for audience laughter*

*no laughter. joke flops about like a beached fish. dies horribly*

Well, this has made me long for some white chocolate. OH WAIT. I haven’t even got to the combo flavours yet!!! White chocolate and strawberry and … Nope. I should stop, lest I put an end to being so very succinct. ah-hem.

QUESTION: HOW MANY TIMES WAS SWEET USED AS A DESCRIPTION IN THIS BLOG POST?

ANSWER: NOT ENOUGH.

happy reading!

Books, I think I just rambled, Life

2019 – it happened. also, still no grey hair

2019 wasn’t the easiest year I’ve ever lived, but it also was one full of richness and joy and growth. (Clearly, I should write greeting cards.)

Let’s do a little recap, shall we?

TEACHING // BREAST LUMPS // ILLNESS

in a different country, but still lovin’ the same authors

Teaching abroad was an adventure. I believed it was the right place for me, but I missed home and my family and my books. And financial stability.

I earned money by freelance work (read: Fiverr – ONE DAY I WILL TELL YOU ABOUT MY SHORT-LIVED CAREER), and with some support from home and half my rent paid by the school, I was able to live and teach English. I met so many lovely people there who really blessed me. I learned far more than I taught.

I returned home and started working in an office job. And then I discovered that I had a lump in my breast. (The two … are not connected.) It was a pretty dark month, that one. I decided to plan my funeral. I got as far as a room with a coffin and some chairs. (Don’t attend, by the way, it’s going to be completely boring.)

I had an ultrasound and it turns out I have fibre-something-something. I can’t spell or remember it, but apparently – and more importantly – it’s called a ‘breast mouse’. So. Brambly Hedge never had that sort of mice, lemme tell you- Okay. Let’s stop there.

According to the doctor, I’m okay, and my funeral plans were premature. But I can’t help but view my mammary glands as ticking time bombs.

And then there’s been other illness in the family and that’s been difficult and has sucked.

i saw this online and had to recreate it. … months later and it’s still HYSTERICAL

A Hawaiian snail went extinct. Other people and creatures have had a far more rubbish 2019 than I have. Truly. When I compare my life – I mean, I know we shouldn’t – but fried parsnips, it could be so much worse. I don’t have breast cancer. And the fact that I can type that feels like some kind of miracle for which I am so. grateful.

Through the dark times and the good, God has been there. Constant. I haven’t talked a lot about my faith on this blog. I’m worried that it will sound holier-than-thou and God knows I can’t live up to that.

But God can, and so I’ll write it here – 2019 wasn’t easy, but God was good, and greater than every hardship. Under everything, joy has dwelt like a hidden stream.

There will probably be harder years – this is life, after all, we aren’t promised an easy one – but we are promised that He is with us always. And that’s true for 2019.

BOOKS

What – you thought I wouldn’t put anything about books in here? PFFFFT. Of course I would. And will. So let me present you with the books that made the biggest impact on me this year …

*drum roll please*

  • Keep Going by Austin Kleon This changed my life. Truly – it kickstarted a better writing routine and helped me finish writing a book and plunge into other projects. The front cover alone (‘Keep Going’ it proclaims in big letters) I’ve put it on my desk and every time I see it, it reminds me to do just that: keep going. Funny, how two words can mean so much.
  • The Bible – New Living Translation I’ve grown up a strictly KJV kind of girl, but let me tell you this – reading it in modern English, stripped of thees and thous has made it a lot easier to read. You don’t have to think past the older English as much. I’ll always adore and go back to the KJV but man alive, the NLT has really made a difference.
  • The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien I know – I’d never read them before. But I have now and what touched me was the overall backdrop of it – of a world, an age that was fading away and how what was new was uncertain. I ended it in tears. Frodo is so much better in the books than on film. Also, the songs and poems? Dope. They’re dope.
  • Till We Have Faces by C. S Lewis I seldom find books in which I connect so strongly to a character – but I did with this one. I am going to have to read it again, I think. But more slowly this time. I rush when I enjoy a book, you see, gobbling it up instead of savoring it.

There are more, I’m sure. I’ve enjoyed many books this year. I haven’t been keeping my goodreads updated because I’ve lowkey got a conspiracy theory running about Amazon and how they’re probably gathering all the books I’ve read and items I’ve purchased and guessing what kind of a person I am and I don’t need that kind of stress okay?

I’ll give the information to Facebook, instead, via Instagram.

IN SUMMARY

Thank you so much for reading my blog. This is a place where I unload my brain and amuse myself (one of my besetting sins is that I find myself funny – even if the reality, and other people’s groans, point to the contrary.) and the fact that you’ve stuck around and read these posts? Thank you. You’re pretty awesome. Tell me how your year has gone? What’s the best book you’ve picked up? What’s the worst?

Next week brings a new year, and with it, new adventures.

See you there!

adventures and awesome fashion sense await!

*re the title of this post: if my hair goes grey it means that i’m one step closer to the wolf pelt hair i’ve been aiming for ever since i decided it would be awesome to have wolf-pelt hair. i haven’t actually pictured it clearly in my head but i think it would be amazing. Yes, I am a mature adult – why are you asking?

Books

the joys of a book buying ban

Since the 1st of December, I’ve been on a book buying ban. I know – what heinous heresy is this?! A bookworm refraining from buying books?

I have my reasons – I felt greedy, gorging myself on newly butchered trees. My bookworm soul was beginning to bear an unflattering resemblance to Jabba the Hutt. And yet I wasn’t reading the books. I had the excuses – I’m a queen at excuses – but the time had come when I couldn’t continue. There were no more excuses left.

My soul was burning with guilt.

It was a time for a change.

I’m on books 7 and 8 out of 45 books which I’ve owned but never read. (And … I own more than 45 unread books. I think. I haven’t counted because quite frankly, I feel ashamed. Why ’45’? Because it’s a start and ’50’ was rather daunting.)

Here’s a bit of a status update: I’ve read some books which I’ve bought recently, and books which I bought years and years ago.

And let me tell you, I am finding gems.

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis left me crying on my bedroom floor – and really confused because I knew that there was analogy somewhere. Pro Tip: Don’t read books late at night, when you’re reading fast because you want to know what happens next and thennnnn you’ve accidentally missed the meaning of the whole book because of a really important paragraph. Or three.

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley wrapped me up with a warm blanket of nostalgia – Robin Hood was my childhood hero. Honest to goodness … books and movies about him truly shaped who I was and how I viewed the world.

(And it still does.)

And I loved it … and then THEY ALL GET SENT OUT TO A CRUSADE AND BASICALLY I’M GOING TO ASSUME THEY ALL DIED OF PLAGUE.

(I don’t care if it was the Third Crusade, Suzannah. I can just picture them in my mind. And they’re all dead. As doornails. And dodos. And diplodocuseseses. [diplodocusi?])

And other books … I’ve finally cracked open that Christian fantasy that I bought many moons ago. It’s fabulous. FAB-U-LOUS. How did I not know that this existed???!!! HOW DID I NOT PICK IT UP BEFORE???? I’m on page 95 so my opinions could change but I think this is going to be glorious.

GLORIOUS.

Why?

  1. It’s a sort of Helen of Troy retelling
  2. IT HAS A CASSANDRA TYPE CHARACTER
  3. It’s dramatic
  4. SO. DRAMATIC
  5. It is feeding my soul
  6. It’s putting a gleam in my eye

“Nay. Nay, m’lord!” She rushed to his side. “Never will you be anything less than the magnificent man and warrior you’ve always been.”

These kind of quotes just … ugh!!! Reading them gives a spring to my step and a chuckle in my cheek. (Let’s just pretend that’s a thing.) I’m so very glad that it stayed on my shelves all through the years.

Also, I’m reading a Western about a centaur.

This book buying ban has been the best thing for my bookworm-ness and my bank account. And for brilliant alliteration.

Ah-hem.

read the rules and follow my book ban right here.

Life

um, why aren’t i a superhero yet?

I think I’ve put my finger on a problem.

We live in an age of instant gratification – we want things and we want things now dammit! (WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU CAN DELIVER THIS TOMORROW? THE DAY AFTER YOU SAY?! THAT’S TERRIBLE! HOW DARE YOU! WHAT ERA DO YOU LIVE IN – THE STONE AGE?)

For example:

I would like to have Project If published, and a trilogy of Our Intrepid Heroine professionally edited with sparkling new front covers – all ready to be released into the world.

I’d like to be so physically fit that if a vine suddenly appeared before me, I could swing on it and not fall off.

I’d like to speak several languages. Perfectly.

I’d like to be able say: why YES, I do think that the economy is going downhill. Just compare it to the statistics of 1970 when blah blah said blah blah in blah paragraph two … just like Churchill predicted.

I’d like to have a blog with regular posts and maybe a newsletter full of HILARIOUS doings.

AND I WANT IT ALL RIGHT. NOW.

I’m blaming Amazon Prime – it’s given me unrealistic expectations.

Begrudgingly, I’m learning what I’ve known for some time but haven’t wanted to accept: that life is spent in waiting periods and in steady step-by-step-keep-going days.

I know – it would be so much easier to have a ‘working montage’ to upbeat music:

DA DAAA HERE IS NESS TYPING DA DAAAA HERE’S ALL THE CUPS OF TEA SHE’S CONSUMED AND LOOK HOW THEY’VE BUILT UP AND GROWN MOLDY DA DAAA HERE’S HER SLAPPING HER MANUSCRIPT ONTO AN EDITOR’S DESK DA DA DAAAA HERE’S HER BOOK BEING MADE DA DA DAAA HERE’S READERS ALL OVER THE WORLD READING HER BOOK DA DAADADAADADADA HERE’S NESS LAUGHING HUMBLY AT HER ENORMOUSLY WELL-RECEIVED AND INTELLECTUALLY STUNNING WORK-OF-ART.

But alas, this is not how life works. Or at least, this is not how my life works. Yours may be different. (1, TELL ME YOUR SECRETS and 2, HOW DARE YOU.)

I didn’t win NaNoWriMo – I tried, but as a movie once put it: life … finds a way [to stop you writing.]

Is that an excuse? Probably. But I started a book and I intend to finish it because a) it’s funny [well. To me] and b) it deals with something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I told myself ‘ah, just put in a few 10k word days – it’ll be done … no problem!’ because doing it in big chunks is so much better than a little perseverance and elbow grease.

(AND ALSO I HAVE VERY REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS AND TOTALLY WRITE 10 THOUSAND WORDS IN A SINGLE DAY ALLLLL THE TIME.)

(Also – imagine if it was elbow geese. Hahahahahaha.)

It’s December and a new year is dawning.

I’m going to try and be patient – with myself, with my projects, with life, with … everything. I’m going to try and learn that big things happen because of small actions carried out every day.

I’m going to edit Project If and I’m going to round-house kick the frustration that wails: BUT MUUUUMMM WHY CAN’T MY BOOK BE PERFECT STRAIGHT AWAAAAAYYYY.

(Because your first draft was trash, Jimmy*! TRASH!!)

*I have no idea who Jimmy is.

**also round-house kicks would leave me on the floor with a pulled muscle. No. With SEVERAL pulled muscles.