Monday, May 26, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop on the Worldwide Writing Process Blog Tour.

I was invited aboard by epic speculative fantasy author C. D. Sutherland, author of The Dragoneers series. Thanks, Charles!

You can read about his writing process HERE.

What am I working on?

I'm currently working on Book 2 and 3 simultaneously for my Dragonsfyre series.

Book 1 -- Bound by Dragonsfyre -- was the result of an online serialized fiction project where I posted a new chapter every week here on my blog A Piece of My Mind for a two-year run, beginning in April of 2010 and ending just before the book's official publication in May of 2012.

The good news is: it's taking me half the amount of time to get the next two books finished, but it would feel quite long if you're the reader waiting to see what's going on with Scorpius. Both traditional publishers and self-published authors have listened to readers who find it incredibly hard to wait a full year before finding out what happens next to their favorite characters in a series.

So I'm completing this section of the series before releasing Book 2 -- because Book 3 will release very soon afterwards.

I say 'this section' because I really enjoy writing about the characters inhabiting the Eighth Dominion. There are twelve dominions in this realm, and I'm now planning a sweeping series following developments in each of the numbered kingdoms.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Until recently, I would say that my work differed by its tendency towards very dark and violent tones. Also, that it didn't exactly fit certain genre conventions.

However, my Dragonsfyre series has released at a time when Game of Thrones has killed off almost an entire family line at the Red Wedding -- and on television. I hadn't categorized my dark fantasy series as YA, even though Book 1 is a coming-of-age story, because once we head into Scorpius' adulthood, things take a drastic turn for him. Yet Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series contains just as much violence as my Dragonsfyre world, so I'm re-evaluating how I've been marketing it and finding readers.

As for my Brotherhood of Blood vampire series -- at first I resisted marketing it as paranormal romance. It follows the convention of not tying up the story arc until the conclusion of the entire series, in the manner of the fantasy genre, as opposed to each title having its own conclusion even when part of a series, in the manner of the romance genre. Also, it retains my tendency towards a very dark tone, so I was actually marketing it as horror.

However, the plot is driven by a love story. Darker paranormal romance series have built a readership tolerance for unresolved endings while waiting for the series to wrap up. The challenging part of having a truly fresh take on things is: how do you describe these genre-defying books to readers? I'm still refining this for myself.

Why do I write what I do?

The quick-and-dirty answer is that I have always been a square peg in a round-hole world. I write hard-to-define stories because that's what I love to read and watch.

My TV viewing habits definitely reflect what I'm attracted to as far as genre: Supernatural, True Blood, Once Upon a Time, Agents of SHIELD (all technically contemporary but with the all-important addition of the supernatural or the fantastic,) Game of Thrones, Vikings, Downton Abbey. Aside from these series, my husband and I are big fans of TV series produced in other countries, such as Bednaya Nastya (Poor Anastasia) from Russia, Riget (The Kingdom) from Denmark, and The Great Queen Seondeok from South Korea. We always discover these series through serendipity, and then watch them either through an online service such as, or by ordering the DVD.

For the most part, as long as there are swords involved, with horses not cars, corsets not cell phones, and so on -- I'm attracted to it. There could be a storyline about a turf war, but if it was a contemporary story set in the lap of luxury between drug lords, I would probably pass it up. However, if it was basically the same turf war set during the Crusades between a Knight Templar and a disinherited Saxon lord, with a love triangle thrown in for good measure, I am all in. Believe me, I find this amusing about myself, but there you go.

Of course, there are exceptions. Tarantino's Kill Bill films are on my Top Ten list -- nothing of the fantastic involved in those (although you could argue some magical realism.) I do love science fiction. Straightforward historical is always a great idea (yet the closer the time period gets to present-day, the less I'm engaged.)

If I describe my Brotherhood of Blood vampire novel as a Dark Ages vampire superhero origin story, you'll see how my muse has gone for a giant mash-up between all of my favorite genres. The fact that a few reviewers have mentioned things like "Puts the monster back into vampire," and "[her] vampires are dark and dangerous" are why I was shying away from steering the book towards paranormal romance readers. Yet the entire story revolves around two lovers and their driving need to be together. I may be attracted to darker subject matter, but I'm definitely a romantic. A gothic romantic of course, but still...     

How does my writing process work?

Well, I would say that my initial exposure to other stories from the genres I love is really the first part of my writing process. For me this is more of a visual-and-auditory thing than reading other books in my genre.

I just soak it all in – the atmosphere, the lighting, the location, the costumes, the music, and especially the emotions from my favorite scenes. I’ll include my passion for ballet here, because many of the story ballets qualify as fantasy genre. Immersing myself in full-length ballets never fails to inspire my creative muse.

Eventually scenes will start playing through my head as though I have my own personal story channel in there somewhere. They just play out as though fully formed, but I have to pay attention and figure out what’s going on. Who is that? Why are they doing that to him?

I write out the initial scenes, and then I have to do some mental unravelling of the story threads until things start to make sense. This is usually done while I’m walking by myself, or when I’m on the bus.

At this point I used to start writing without trying to plot. Now that I’m working on two series, I have trained myself to make a Save-the-Cat sketch of the storyline before heading into my natural pantser mode (writing by the seat of my pants.) I suppose I should mention here that I always write at my desk with headphones on and music playing. Unless I'm out somewhere, in which case I write longhand in an old school notebook.

I’m also a veteran of five NaNoWriMo marathons, which I’ve discovered is key to unlocking the heart of my story. NaNoWriMo forces me to write for word count, which pressurizes my creative process well past my comfort zone. I keep writing within a scene for longer than I would normally stay there, purely for word count purposes – and this always leads to discovering things about my characters that would have remained hidden if I wasn’t doing NaNo.

This in turn requires weaving together two manuscript files – the regular one I’d been working on before NaNo, and the NaNo version. I find this part of my process very draining mentally, yet the shining-jewel scenes I get from this way of working is absolutely worth it.

Once I weld these together, I do an initial revision to make sure nothing’s missing and that it all makes sense. Then I give the manuscript over to several readers for initial feedback.

I do a second revision based on that, and then I hand the manuscript over to a professional editor. I do a third set of revisions based on her recommendations. At that point, the book is ready to go to the formatter’s before uploading to the various retail platforms.

Thanks for joining me for this Writing Process Blog Tour.

At this point I’m supposed to hand the baton over to three more authors. However, there is a good-news-bad-news thing about this sort of blog tour.

I asked quite a few authors to take part. The good news: all of the writers I know are currently writing to deadlines and didn’t have an opening in their schedules to take part in the tour.

Or – the writers I know had already taken part in this tour.

So to wrap up this Writing Process Blog Tour, I’ll introduce you to three of my author friends who have already posted about their writing processes:

Angels-and-demons YA author Shawna Romkey

You can read about her writing process HERE

Scottish historicals author Kate Robbins

You can read about her writing process HERE

Contemporary Newfoundland-settings author Victoria Barbour

You can read about her writing process HERE