Series…Serieses? Is that a word? My spell check says no and suggests Series’. But it’s not the series(es) possession. It’s plural. You get the idea.

Anyway. I am currently writing two story arcs: The Slaughter Chronicles and The Heart of the Forest Cycle. The Slaughter Chronicles is about my main character Regina Slaughter and all her adventures and mistakes. The Heart of the Forest Cycle is about several different faeries, or fair folk, or fey, depending on how you see them.

The Slaughter Chronicles are mainly written in first person limited point of view. I am writing a few novellas that focus on the supporting characters and those are written in third person slightly limited, slightly omniscient depending on how I feel.

The books in The Heart of the Forest Cycle are third person limited and the perspective flows across multiple characters (if you hate character jumping I sincerely apologize).

What I enjoy immensely about writing two different stories at once is that if I get burned out on one I can switch to the other. In a perfect world that kind of transition is seamless and productive. In reality, it’s more often jarring and annoying, mainly because I want to keep to my self-imposed deadlines and when the story doesn’t flow I can’t meet my deadline.

So, my plan was to finish the final draft of the first book in The Heart of the Forest Cycle this month, during Camp Nanowrimo, and work on editing the manuscript over the summer and self-publish it in August.

The story isn’t’ ready.

I have to re-work the magic system. I have to re-write all the things! (Well, not really all the things but it sure feels like it!)

And all while those thoughts are going on Regina is clawing at the back of my brain and screaming, “Tell my story, bitch!”

So after about a week of thinking about how to solve all my problems and two days of not writing (sometimes you just need a break) I have decided that I’m going to put The Heart of the Forest Cycle on the back burner AGAIN and write Regina because her plot holes are WAY easier to fill and smooth over than all my fey drama.

(They wouldn’t be real fey if there wasn’t any drama.)

The thing that I’ve learned/realized that I need to do in order to be a successful writer is to write whatever wants to come out of my brain regardless of what project it fits into. If I had listened to my brain and wrote that one scene when I first thought about it I would probably not have as hard a time solidifying my characters for The Heart of the Forest Cycle but I said, “No! I need to think about this other thing now.” And then the problem got bigger and bigger even though the other thing got done.

My hope still is to publish the first book of The Heart of the Forest Cycle this year but if I don’t, I’m not going to cry over it. I’d rather have a good story than a rushed story. I still love both my stories and all my characters even when they argue with me. Eventually both will be out in the world in full force but Here and Away probably won’t be ready until 2020.

Who else is working on more than one project? More than one project with different genres?

I’d love to hear how y’all do it 🙂

I don’t like all Stephen King books but I can’t deny he is a master of the horror genre. And the books of his that I do like, I like because they entertain me as a reader, not a writer. I get transported into that world and I don’t want to leave because there’s something there in the terror that feels like home.

So when I was a kid, my mom went to Pennsylvania for a conference or something and first I got scared because I didn’t hear Pennsylvania, I heard Transylvania and I thought Dracula was going to kill her. I was corrected rather quickly about that before I could realize that if Dracula “killed” her she could turn into a vampire and have a pretty cool life after that.

But then after we dropped her off at the airport my dad said something about how her plane might crash, a possibility that had never popped into my head before even though I had my first plane ride when I was 3, and when we got home he put on The Langoliers.

And I fucking loved it.

I loved the creepy abandoned airport, I love how the characters could pick through other people’s stuff and explore things that seemed ordinary but were really out of the ordinary.

I loved the little girl, I wanted to be her. I loved the tough Australian guy, I wanted to marry him and I was sad when he died. I loved the pilot and his bravery flying the plane through the rip in reality knowing that if he fucked it up they would all die. I even liked the guy who ripped up paper, even though he was also kinda creepy. And I felt kinda bad that he was messed up. But I also loved it when the Langoliers ate him.

I could go on and on about those characters. I think it’s one of the few stories where I like every single character, which doesn’t happen often.

I hot-glued cotton balls to a rock and drew teeth on it. I am not artistic. It was an albino langolier. Whatever.

I thought those monsters were fucking adorable. And if you think about it, knowing that a toothy, round monster thing eats the past is kind of comforting because everything embarrassing or humiliating that ever happened to you is, technically, gone now.

And that’s how I got into Stephen King.

This is an example of one of the ways I think up characters:

Me: (recording poems for my audiobook)

Icharus: I want to be a character now.

Me: But you already are.

Icharus: In a book.

Me: …what?

Icharus: I want to be in a book. I didn’t die when I fell. And I love Orpheus.

Me: You do? Ok just hang on a–

Icharus: And I want my book to be like every James Baldwin novel but with more sex.

Me: I don’t know if I can be that brutal.

Icharus: And it’s going to be a trilogy.

Me: Really?

Icharus: Yep.

Me: Well you’ll have to get in line behind Regina, all the Echos, Helen, and everybody else.

Icharus: Did I mention I love Orpheus? And maybe one of the gods too. Apollo could be very metaphorical.

Me: Take a number and get in line!

Icharus: I really, really want a book-trilogy.

Me: You’ll get one just shut up and let me work!

Icharus: I don’t trust you.

Me: It’ll happen! You’re in the queue. I promise!

Icharus: You’re going to have to do a lot of research. Geography is really important.

Me: I know!

Icharus: …maybe Achilles…

Me: Don’t push it.

*

And on and on it went and that is how I made the decision to eventually write a gay romance. A character popped into my head that wouldn’t shut up. But really this character has been in my head since 2012 and didn’t find his voice until day before yesterday. Before that he was a shadowy idea floating around in my brain meat.

It happened during a writing exercise I did back in grad school (see how long ago). The exercise was to look at a book cover and write the synopsis on the back. No influence from the real synopsis or any other information from the book. Just write something based off the cover. You should try it, it’s super fun.

When I read my little blurb the girl sitting at the table directly across from me lit up with a smile and after class she told me I had to write that character, that his voice was so clear to her.

At the time I wasn’t writing fiction but I thought she was super nice to say so, so I put the suggestion away and now almost 7, count em, 7 years later here’s that voice again.

But this time I am writing fiction and I don’t want to tell him to go away. So I guess I’m adding another project to my publication schedule.

*

How do your characters come to you?

Or, if you’re a poet, how do poems happen?

DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF

If you want to make yourself a better writer, in my opinion, one of the best things to do is:

DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF

If you have the thought: I can’t write (insert thing here).

If you have the thought: I don’t want to write (insert thing here).

Take that thought and throw it away. Write that thing. You may not like the thing you’ve written when you’re done, you may not ever publish it or let anyone else read it, but you will be able to learn something through the process of writing it.

If you only write novels, try writing a short story or a poem, see where it gets you.

If you only write poetry try writing fiction, or just a paragraph of prose. See what happens. You can turn it into a poem later if you really, really hate it.

Here’s an example of how this worked for me:

Say you have a problem with endings, I certainly do. I have so much trouble figuring out how to end big writing projects. Whether its a short story or a novel–yes a short story is big for me–I have problems.

But I don’t have problems ending micro-fiction or ending poems. So I looked at how I wrote the endings to poems, what I was feeling/thinking about when I came to the end of the poem and tried applying that to ending a short story. And then I had the ending. And I was more satisfied with it than I thought I would be.

I just looked at the concept of “the end” in a different way and I gained new insight into how I make endings happen.

If you’re one of those people who thinks: why should I write poetry when I’m only going to be a published novelist or vice versa. Trying something different, if you’re open to it, or looking at something from a different angle will expand your brain.

Writing other things is PRACTICE. If you don’t practice, you don’t grow. If you don’t experiment you won’t ever become a better writer.

So go write. All the things.

DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF

Another example:

I hate writing sonnets and rhyming poems but I still try my hand at writing them. And they are terrible. And I hate figuring out how to calculate meter. Meter hurts my brain. But every so often I do it anyway because I don’t want to limit myself.

Follow up question:

What are some of the things that you hate to write or are opposed to write?

Do you have one?

Did you have one?

If you’re a writer, are your characters your imaginary friends?

Today I binge watched all of Sci Fi’s Happy on Netflix and it made me think a lot about the distinct lack of imaginary friends in my life.

I never made up a taking animal or another human that only I could see and interact with. I’ve always felt slightly less human because of that. I feel like everyone who’s truly creative had an imaginary friend somewhere in their childhood, which cuts me out of the True Creative category.

I did have a stuffed rabbit named Fuzzy in elementary school and later a stuffed frog named Filbert that I had all through high school and college. Filbert was more of an emotional support plushie, a therapeutic tool, while Fuzzy was my BFF.

Somewhere in first grade Fuzzy disappeared. I don’t know if I lost him at school or if my father threw him away because I was too old to be so attached to a stuffed animal or whatever. But with Fuzzy gone I was devastated.

At this point you may be wondering if I had any real friends growing up. The answer is not really. There were a few people but we only interacted at school or through school related activities, I never kept up with them and they never kept up with me once we changed schools.

So in a sense I made my own friends but I used inanimate objects to build my stories and characters upon. I never invented a creature out of thin air, from scratch until I started seriously writing fiction. But I don’t see my characters walking around helping me kill bad guys or cheat at poker. And even though my characters do talk to me it’s only in the context of their stories, they don’t exist in this world with me.

I kinda wish they did, it might make writing easier.

To anyone reading this: what’s your experience with imaginary friends? I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject. And if you’ve seen Happy and if you liked it. I personally thought it was amazing.

Take the splintered memory of your father beating you from between your mother’s clenched teeth. If you can still hear his voice, go west. You will come to a ditch cradling a dead cat. If his neck is twisted, proceed north. If his belly is split open like a rotten orange under a motorcycle wheel, go south; you will find the driver’s bloody bootprints scuffing the Black-Eyed-Susans. If you mix the pollen with loose-leaf tobacco and roll a cigarette, your doppelgänger in another universe will be gifted a front row seat to the next public execution. But that is not the direction you want to go. If you ignore me and walk towards the old Civil War battlefield marked with the city’s slapdash attempts at historical preservation, your old lovers, wherever they are, will turn pail as if a nurse has taken too much life force away from the abrasive latticework of a failed experimental procedure. You taste blood in your mouth. They will fall to the floor and you will not be there to kiss the languor from their eyelashes. If you don’t see a dead cat, continue west as if nothing is wrong. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. Or a river. And you must either cut off all your hair or throw your clothes into the Salvation Army donation bin that washed up on the riverbank with the rest of the hurricane detritus and proceed with your own body acting as a trembling neophyte’s compass pointing towards the sharpest point away. If fear clamps down on you so hard your ribs creak and snap against your heart, you can choose a different direction. You can run, screaming, back home or you can try to walk on water.