Love and Relationships – February 2019 Round Robin

Not to sound too much like a prude but I blushed my way through my first intimate scene. All I could think was that my mother was going to read this and the next time I see her there will be that long, awkward moment when she tells me she liked the book and then won’t look me in the face.

Which is probably why that scene lasted all of two paragraphs in Sedition. The sequel had a much longer scene, but after Saboteur I came to a place in my writing where I recognized that as much as I enjoy love stories, I did not enjoy explaining what 100% of the adult reading public already knows how to do.

Granted, there is a HUGE market where authors are making bank on steamy scenes. I even read some of them.

Are there boundaries I think shouldn’t be crossed in writing?

Well… That depends on if you’re asking professional-writer-me or happy-reader-me.

Professional-writer-me understands that the moment we censure fiction is the moment we’ve crossed into someone’s freedom. That said, there are things that even romance publishers express as tasteless and wrong, and I agree with them.

Because I don’t want to trigger anyone who may have suffered from trauma, I will leave it at that.

Happy-reader-me skips over steamy scenes.

I just do.

It’s nothing against the writing. If I’ve made it to that scene, it means the relationship in the novel has progressed enough and engaged me enough to keep me going. The steamy-scene is just sort of… obligatory?

I also do not enjoy writing the typical romance novel where strangers meet and grow into lovers. This is probably because I have a general fear of meeting new people – Introverts Unite! – and all my experiences have been full of anxiety and paranoia.

BUT…

I am a romantic.

My stories are full of characters who love each other, but it is a love that has grown naturally over the course of the story . And honestly, I am more interested in seeing how that love defines the lives of the characters and shapes who they are both as a couple and as individuals.

I like stories about marriages.

Nelek and Trenna, who star in the Sedition Series, are a marriage.

In the Tapped series, Seach and Jorry grew into a romance after many years together.

Cordon and Tessa, who will be in my upcoming novel The Soul Between Us, were married young but military/life pulled them apart. Their story is about mending a bridge.

So where does that leave me in the romance/relationship aspect of storytelling?

I want my readers to love how my characters love each other, and that goes beyond the bedroom. It goes into the sacrifices they make for the other person, the decisions they make as a team, and ultimately the story they have to tell.

I can pretty much guarantee that my intimate scenes will fade to black. They exist because intimacy is a part of every relationship, and without it there would be some serious alarm bells going on for every marriage counselor out there, but sometimes even fictional characters deserve some privacy.

See what my fellow authors have to say about relationships in fiction…

Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1vP
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

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Near The End

There’s a moment in every book where you’re so close to the end you can taste it and suddenly you lose all talent you ever possessed.

Poof!

Gone in an instant.

Or at least, this is what happens to me. It’s different for every writer, but it seems universal that we all come to a point where we realize what hacks we are.

The tension isn’t there. The characters are flat. The setting is nonexistent and we’ve discovered a love of one word that keeps repeating itself every other sentence.

Mine is the word ‘just’ if you’re wondering. He just managed to catch it. She just loved him. If she could just stop using the word just she might be capable of writing something worth reading.

I digress.

My moment of self-loathing always comes near the end of the novel. I’m sure there’s some psychology behind this, like I don’t want the story to end because I’ve spent so many hours commiserating with these characters that I just (see?) can’t let them go.

Or this is when my self-doubt rears its head because the next phase in this process (after editing) is querying and sweet holy banana’s on toast, how I hate querying.

Whatever the reasons, it’s there. And it’s a bear to get through. But if you’re a writer out there and you identify with anything I’ve said in this post, then allow me to stand in solidarity with you.

It sucks, but you’re not alone. Take a deep breath. Eat some ice cream. And let’s get back to work.

January Round Robin – Secondary Characters

When I started writing Tapped – my science fiction about rogue super-soldiers inadvertently starting an underground railroad in space – the character named Seach Barlow was secondary. He was meant to be a complication on the road to happiness in Jorry’s life, a memory of who she had been in the war, and a reminder of what she had lost.

Their freedom had come from the sacrifice of one I thought was the other major character of the tale; Johnathan Relo. The man had given himself up so that Seach and Jorry could get away from the authorities; men who meant to trap them in a quasi-prison that would take away their autonomy. Relo is, in my estimation, a true hero; a man who was willing to lay down his life for his friends and the woman he loved.

With Relo casting such a shadow on the narrative, it was easy to put Seach into a little corner – at first. But Seach had other plans. As the story progressed, he began pushing himself to the front, proving that he was every bit as heroic as Relo when he rescued a man on Pluto. And then again, on Neptune, when Seach kept his cool under interrogation, inevitably aiding in their escape.

At every turn, Seach was there.

Midway through the rough draft I realized how much more interesting Seach was. He had spent too much time with Jorry not to have formed a profound bond, and since he knew about the romance between Relo and Jorry, it caused a great deal of inner turmoil for him. But more than that was the fact that he showed up every day. Perhaps he would have laid down his life the same way Relo did, but that’s not the way his story turned.

His sacrifice was of a more subtle manner, and as I came to understand it, a far more profound one.

And that is how Seach bumped himself up from Secondary character to a Main POV character, and one of my favorites. He will forever hold a special place in my heart, and in the books. Dealing with him has helped me broaden my focus when writing, forcing me to dig deeper whenever a character makes their way onto the page.

Interestingly enough, my current project has been nudging my character development skills as well. I am editing Castle of Three Kings and, in fickle writerly fashion, I decided to switch from Third Person Limited to First Person POV. This change has required me to focus more intently on how the secondary characters affect my POV character.

Given that we live in First Person POV, this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. Every person I meet affects me somehow, even if only in passing, and it should be no different for my character Kevin. But in asking how these secondary characters affect Kevin, I am also having to question the motivations and machinations of these characters.

It’s been a journey, and a fun one at that. I’m looking forward to seeing how the finished product looks.

Take a minute to check out what my fellow authors have to say about Secondary Characters in this month’s Round Robin…

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1tC
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://rhobincourtright.com/

Book Review – Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

I’ve made no secret of my family’s love for the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and this book, while ending on a gut-wrenching note, did not disappoint. Because we all enjoy this series, we listened to it together in the car. Laurence continues to be a steadfast man of honor and I enjoy the way he negotiates through life as an aviator, dealing with prejudices and less-than-honorable politics.

Temeraire the dragon is a source of joy, and the interactions between dragon and Captain Laurence are always a delight.

I will note, however, that near the end of the book both my husband and I had to read ahead on our own because we needed to know what was going to happen. There is a distressing situation that crops up, and in fact my husband – traitor that he is – snagged the next book to read without me.

(Note: He did this without telling me, which is why he gets an extra special glare.)

As to the novel itself, I find Novik’s narrative fluid and comfortable, easy to both listen to and read. I enjoy the moral pickles she puts her characters into, and the heroic means in which they meet such challenges. This series continues to be a joy to read and the cats in our house have all been honored with dragon names because of them.

Wherein I Forecast 2019 (Writing-wise, of course)

Last week I noted the things that I managed to complete in 2018 – which was a lot and I’m still patting myself on the back for a good year. I recognize that only die-hard fans really care about this stuff, and for those of you out there who count yourselves among this rare breed of reader, let it be known that I love you all and pray you never change.

For those who watch the blog for the writing class updates and other content, this might not be the post for you. And that’s OK!

If, for reasons neither of us can fully explain, the idea of peeking inside an author’s deadline calendar entices you, then I fully welcome you to read on. Otherwise, this is mostly to keep my head on straight through the year.

So, what do I want to accomplish in 2019?

  • A short story every month. These stories will vary in theme and substance and, hopefully, will find their way into the market. Others may find their way onto this site for FREE content.
  • 2nd and 3rd drafts of The Castle of Three Kings completed. And then, of course, start submitting this MG/YA story to places.
  • 2nd and 3rd drafts of The 13th Month completed. Also with the submission process in full swing.
  • Record Enemy Souls into audio to be released in segments for FREE. The hard copy will be available for sale if people don’t want to wait a week to find out what happens.
  • Release the Fact vs. Fiction edition of Tapped at the same time as Enemy Souls.
  • Inmate rough draft. (Camp Nano)
  • Warpath rough draft. (Nano)
  • City of Cemeteries rough draft.

I am sure I’ll get sidetracked by something and replace stuff and/or scrap a project, but for now I’m sticking with this list. I look forward to seeing how much of this I can get done and I hope everyone else has fun in the coming year.

2018 In Review

This year was crazy fun! Not only did I move across the country, but I got a ton of work done while I was at it.

IMG_2193What did I have projected for 2018? Well….

1) Complete Ashwood edits 1-3 and begin shopping it around.

Big check mark here! Not only did I begin shopping it around, but I got some great feedback. I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’ll just say that I’m hoping to throw some celebratory confetti soon.

2) Complete Enemy Souls and release it the Fall.

IMG_1699Mostly check mark… Because the book is done, but I have decided to do some crazy new things with this book in the coming months. I will be releasing it as a podiobook, chapter by chapter, for FREE. But if you can’t wait for the chapters to come out or the sound of my voice irritates you (hey, it’s possible) then it will also be out for sale in hard copy at the same time.

This is a marketing ploy. I know. And I do hate marketing, but at least this way I can have some fun with it. I’ll be stretching theater and public speaking muscles that haven’t been used in some time, so it should be a grand adventure…

As soon as I have a proper microphone and sound booth. (Christmas, fellas. That’s my eyelash-batting wish to Santa and he seems to like me enough to agree.)

2nd Edition of the original Tapped novel released sometime in the summer.

Newp. Didn’t do this one. I have the edits done and I know what I want to put in the Fact 1130181417cvs. Fiction section at the back, but I put it on hold because it made more sense to do the Tapped universe stuff all at the same time. So you can expect this to come out around the same time or slightly before Enemy Souls makes its audio debut.

3) First Draft – Song of Swans.

Sadly, this novel was scrapped. Or not so sadly, because it became Castle of Three Kings and the first draft of that novel is complete. SO! I give it a check mark as complete anyway.

4) First Draft – The 13th Month. 

As of this moment I am 8 chapters shy of the finish line. If I keep my deadlines then the book will be more than done by the end of the year. So I’m going to give it a preemptive check mark.

5) First Draft – Inmate.

1130181417aI didn’t even start this one. Big old X and a blaring horn of shame.

BUT!

The things I did that weren’t on the agenda…

Several short stories, one of which I am going to give as a freebie for my New Years Celebratory post. I won Camp NanoWrimo AND I won November’s NaNowrimo.

Started plotting a completely different novel thanks to the Writing Excuses Master Class that I’ve been taking. 1130181417b

Began working on my twitter presence and all the marketing stuff that I super hate but is required for people to actually… you know… pick up my novels. It’s been grueling work there, but at the end of the day, I remind myself that it is more important to write good books than to try blasting people with my information.

Hence the Master Class. And the classes through Coursera I’m taking. And the fact that my butt hits the chair at 9AM sharp every day.

I have also had the pleasure of connecting with writers in this area. All have been lovely people and I am so pleased to call them quasi-neighbors now that I’m in New England.

I hope everyone else had a great 2018!

Holiday Snippet – December Round Robin

This month, the round robin participants are regaling everyone with snippets from their own work that highlight the spirit of the season. Some may even give a short story or flash fiction and I’m delighted to check out what they have in store.

For me, I’ve chosen an excerpt from my novel Persona, a novel about Megan Shepherd as she is thrust unwittingly into the middle of Nazi Germany. While the snippet is more somber than I’m sure many of the other works will prove today, I chose it because, at its heart, is a woman who misses home.

As a veteran, I deeply respect the sacrifice that takes family members away from home during whatever holidays they normally celebrate. If there’s an empty space at your table this year, I hope you find some comfort in those who are able to gather with you, and I hope your loved one comes home soon.

Happy Holidays.

Persona – Chapter Five

“You’re such a quiet little thing,” Schuler remarked.

He sat across from her in their little train car, his newspaper momentarily forgotten on his lap. Megan pulled her gaze from the window to look at him. He sat uncomfortably in the barely-padded seat, his lanky frame folded in awkward angles. Megan had dozed off and on since leaving Wilhelmshaven, but it was a light sleep that couldn’t satisfy her exhaustion. The train jostled along its tracks, rumbling through the seat so loudly that it never failed to wake her.

And, of course, her mind would not leave her alone to rest either. As grateful as she was to be leaving all signs of the Navy behind, it was increasingly evident that she was travelling deeper into Germany, deeper behind so-called enemy lines, and her tension was growing.

“At first I thought it was because you were sick,” Schuler said thoughtfully. “And then because you were worried about what sort of future Germany had in store for you. But now I think it’s just your nature. You’re quiet.”

Megan shifted in her seat, feeling stiff, angry muscles stretch with the sudden movement. She felt exhausted all around, like she could melt into a little pool of nothingness and still never recover from the past weeks. And yet she had to recover, and quickly because the curiosity on Schuler’s face was not going away. She gathered up the threads of her lie, reminding herself yet again that she was Klaudia Volk, orphaned and lost, relying on the kindnesses of men she’d just met.

Feeling terribly small and exposed, Megan smiled at him, knowing full well how strained it must look.

“I’m sorry, Doctor,” she said. “Did you want conversation?”

“Well, perhaps a little, Klaudia,” Schuler said with a smile that was far more gracious than her own.

It seemed safest to keep the conversation on him, so she searched for a neutral topic.

“Have you known Captain Von Buren very long?” She asked.

“I’ve known him for several years, yes,” he said. “He’s a very good man. The best I’ve ever known. Though I think he should have warned you about his house.”

“His house?”

“Yes,” Schuler said, folding his newspaper. “I wouldn’t describe it as a mere house, Klaudia. It’s very large. His property takes up several acres, though the … shall we say, manor house … sits near the center.”

The word “manor” made her stiffen in surprise, and then she chastised herself for the reaction. He was a Von. He had history and title to him. Of course he lived in that history.

“Most of the rooms are closed off, I’m sure,” Schuler went on, tapping the folded paper in his lap. “But I still can’t see you feeling comfortable there. That house is enough to swallow me whole and I’m used to a certain level of luxury.”

“Is it his family home?”

“Oh yes. The Von Buren’s have lived there for several generations. They trace their lineage back to kings and barons,” Schuler said. “Not that such a lineage says much these days. Still, I think there might be a guest house on the property. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you chose to reside there instead.”

Kings and barons, Megan thought. The image fit Von Buren very well. He had the air of aristocracy and the firm, unyielding command of a man bred to lead. And now that she thought about it, he had told Albrecht that his estate was large. This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

“Where did you grow up, Klaudia?”

Megan looked to the window again and tried to mask her panic. It appeared she would not be able to keep the conversation from her person. She took a deep breath and stared at the blurred passage of shadowed trees and buildings outside.

Stick with the familiar, she thought.

“Neuss,” she said. “My father owned a barley farm.”

Her mother had come from Neuss, so she was confident any digging around Schuler might do would bring up the name Klaudia Volk. Of course, that name was tied to a ten year old girl just prior to her leaving Germany with her family but at least it was there. And she was fairly certain Uncle George had mentioned a barley farm, too.

But maybe it was wheat.

She prayed Schuler knew less than she did about agriculture.

“Ah,” Schuler said. “That explains the quiet nature, I think. No doubt you’ve had more excitement the last few years than you’re used to.”

“Yes,” she said, grateful to be telling the truth again.

“Well, I’m certain life will quiet down again for you in Ulm.”

She smiled at him, a genuine smile this time. “I certainly hope so.”

They lapsed into silence and Megan turned her attention back to the window. The landscape seemed to have flattened, giving her a clear view of open fields stretching far into the horizon. Here and there the rounded curve of a hill interrupted, its grassy face somehow dull in the winter light and the sky above looked pale gray bordering on blue, as if the elements themselves felt it necessary to display a dreary and foreboding day. Megan let the images blur, choosing to focus on the foggy windowpane instead.

She’d missed Christmas.

Or she was about to anyway.

Schultz had informed her they’d made harbor on the twenty-second of December, and it had been a day later before she’d met with Albrecht.

Christmas Eve, she thought, suddenly understanding why their train was so full. Soldiers and families were desperately trying to close the distance, to congregate in central locations for a celebration or two. Megan smiled, her mind drifting to home, to the sharp scent of pine and colorful packages ringing the tree.

Mother had always loved Christmas, both the traditions of her homeland and the ones her father had insisted upon. The month of December generally created joyous mayhem in the Shepherd home, starting with the Advent wreath and moving through Saint Nikolaus Day where their clean shoes would be left outside the door overnight so that Nikolaus could fill them with treats. But on Christmas itself the celebration came to a climax with big dinners and thoughtful presents and Megan couldn’t stop the sudden wash of homesickness as it rushed over her.

Heaven help her, she missed her mother so much.

Megan took a deep breath, banishing mother from her mind. She knew where those thoughts would lead, could sense the dark hospital room encroaching on her memory, and forced herself back into the present. Schuler had returned to his newspaper, his brow pinched in displeasure at whatever he was reading. A part of her wanted to draw him out again, to ask what had his attention and start another conversation, but he would inevitably ask more about her person and she wasn’t ready for that.

She had the ridiculous thought to write down her story as she’d told it to Schuler and Von Buren, just to keep it all straight. But she couldn’t risk someone else finding it, so of course that would not do. Frustrated, Megan turned to the window again and tried to get some sleep. It would be some hours before she reached Ulm and she imagined she would need all her wits about her when she got there.


Check out some other holiday inspired snippets and free content from my fellow authors here on the round robin…

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1qI
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com