Welcome to this week’s guest blogger. Stacey Jay – a self described recovering workaholic (or at least working hard at recovering) with three pen names, two small children, and a passion for playing pretend for a living.
Take it away, Stacey!
First up, thanks so much to Maria for having me over to the blog! *waves at Maria’s readers*
Now I blog:
WRITING WHO YOU’RE NOT
As writers, we’re often told to “write what we know,” and I think that’s good advice. To write about things you believe in, emotions you’ve felt, truths you’ve learned/observed about the human condition—these are all goods things.
However, I think that “write what you know” can also lead to writing who you know. And in that case, writers often find themselves with a character that isn’t much of a character at all. The character is simply the author. In disguise. *waggles disguise fingers*
I’ve certainly created characters that resemble myself at one age or another. But with DEAD ON THE DELTA I set out from the beginning to create a heroine different from myself in almost every way. I wanted to experience this book from a truly alternative point of view.
Here are just a few of the differences that developed as I worked on Annabelle Lee, narrator of DEAD ON THE DELTA, and an officer for Fairy Containment and Control in an alternative Mississippi Delta infected by killer fairies:
Annabelle isn’t a wildly driven person. She works to live; she doesn’t live to work. I, on the other hand, confess on my website bio that I’m a “recovering workaholic.” The truth is that the “recovering” part of that statement is total B.S. I’m still a workaholic. I’ve just learned to work as hard at spending time with my family as I do writing books. But I’ve still written and revised five full-length novels—creating over half a million words—in the last ten months. It’s been fun to spend time in Annabelle’s head, imagining what it’s like to clock out at five and be done for the day, to have two whole days a week where you don’t have to do any work at all.
Annabelle has a lot of friends. She’s an integral part of her community and spends face time every week—and sometimes every day—with the people she loves. Most of the people I love are far away, or are people I only ever *see* online. In addition to writing full time, I’m also a stay at home mom to two young boys and I don’t have time to find good friends in my community at this point. So writing this aspect of Annabelle’s life has been a bit of wish fulfillment for me, as well.
Some of Annabelle’s other traits, however, haven’t been wish-fulfill-y at all:
Annabelle is commitment wary and uncomfortable around children. I married my husband less than six months after meeting him—and am still falling in love with him six years later—and have always been more at ease with children than adults.
Annabelle is slow to anger; I can get whipped into a snit fairly quickly.
Annabelle is slow to forgive; I have a hard time holding grudges. Even when I try.
Annabelle is, at times, disorganized; I make lists and refuse to let the ball drop.
Annabelle would do anything for a friend; I have to put my family first and sometimes that means saying “no” to friends.
Annabelle is a jeans, tank top, and very little make-up kind of girl. I’m a sun dress and cowgirl boots girl and say yes to both blush and lipstick, thankyouverymuch.
I think the only thing my heroine and I have in common is that we both enjoy a good joke and believe in fighting for what we believe is right, especially if it means defending someone who can’t defend themselves. She’s slower to rise to the challenge, but she rises, and that’s where I found the “what I know” in this story.
But it’s not the “what I know” that’s made working on this series so special to me. It’s slipping into the headspace of someone so different that makes writing Annabelle’s story such a sweet escape. (Even when the killer fairies are attacking.)
I hope it will be an equally sweet—and scary and surprising and sexy and all other “s” words that apply—escape for my readers.
Learn more about Stacey Jay and DEAD ON THE DELTA at staceyjay.com.
Watch the DEAD ON THE DELTA book trailer:
Stacey, thanks for a great post!!
In a word: yes. I write who I’m not, because frankly, no one wants to read about me. I share a few traits with Keira–primarily her non-fashion sense (black is *always* appropriate) and her tendency to want to be left alone. Other than that, I’m about as far from her as I could be. It’s fun making up character traits, exploring who each person I write is and isn’t.
Readers, what do you like best when you read about characters? What characters have stuck in your mind? Which have you truly disliked?
Hello everyone and thanks to Maria for having me in for a visit!
I’ve been thinking a lot about discovery lately and one of the things that’s really hit home is that while the word carries this wonderful connotation of fresh encounters, wonder, joy and excitement, it also can have negative connotations–fear and worry primary among them.
Discovery implies change and I think that change itself can be both frightening and wonderful. But once you discover something, once you know it, you can’t unknow it. As humans, I think we’re inclined to want to discover. To expand and to enrich ourselves and even though we know that pain can come with that, we are willing to put ourselves out there because the joyous possibilities outweigh the more frightening ones. Or so we tell ourselves anyway, and I think we are mostly right.
I’m working to create a change in my life and it means there’s going to be a whole lot of discovery to come. I’m terrified. And exhilarated. I’ve got to have faith that it will all come out in the end—faith in me, faith in my family, and faith in the world.
Which brings me to risk. Discovery also implies risk along with change. Because you are taking a chance that whatever you discover won’t be a good thing. We have to rely on ourselves to carry us through and sometimes I think we doubt our strength. We fear our fragility to handle what comes. It’s hard to believe in our own untested strengths, and I think we push ourselves to find out what we are capable of.
Writing is a journey of discovery that can be terrifying. Not like there’s a serial killer stalking you sort of terrifying, but more in the chance we’ll discover we are fragile, or we aren’t capable, or we aren’t good writers. That fear is tied so tightly to our sense of personal value that it can become debilitating. You’ve heard the advice, I’m sure, that if you have any choice about becoming a writer, if you can choose anything else, do it. That’s because writing is so hard on levels that many people don’t understand.
It’s just words. If they don’t turn out, write more. Sounds simple. But then you have to wonder if the bad words signal a discovery you need to make—that you can’t write. That you are a hack. That you should never have left that fast food job. The doubt worms into your soul and is impossible to fight.
But then there are moments of discovery where the story just grabs you and the words flow and pour out and they are so right. You can hardly keep up with them, your fingers flying over the keyboard. At the end of the day, you just want to hug yourself and chortle madly and then jump up and dance.
Those days don’t come often enough, but they are the days of discovery for writers. When we find new worlds, new friends, new enemies, new joy. When the worms of doubt incinerate inside us and we’re whole again.
It’s scary and it’s dangerous. It makes it all worth it. But it’s the reason I keep writing.
Thanks, Diana! Risk and change – yep, that’s pretty much the standard writer mantra, right? We create worlds, even if firmly ensconced in the “real world”, create people, make stories that we hope others will want to read. Eek! Why do we do this again? Oh yeah, because it’s cool!
How about you readers? What risks or changes have you discovered in your lives, whether writing or just in something you love to do? Would you give up the risk or avoid the change? What kinds of benefits have you encountered?
Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Crimson Wind, the 2nd book in Diana’s fabulous Horngate Witches series!
Nancy Holder is the multiple-award winning, New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Wicked series, written with Debbie Viguié. She and Viguié have sold a total of eleven books together so far. Their Crusade series is available now from Simon and Schuster, and the Wolf Springs Chronicles series will debut in December with Unleashed. Nancy also writes the Possessions series for Razorbill. She writes comic books and pulp fiction for Moonstone Books, and is on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program, offered through the University of Southern Maine.
I have been so lucky to discover my coauthor, Debbie Viguié. Debbie was a student of mine at the Maui Writers Retreat and she was so talented and fun right from the get-go. Shortly after the retreat, I began work on a four-book contract for the Wicked series, and I asked Debbie if she would join me. She added so much to the books, including all our fantastic poems, that it became “our” thing rather than my thing-with-help-from-someone-else. We had a great time working together, and it’s just gotten better through the years. We’ve sold eleven books together so far. Plus, we have become very, very good friends.
Not only do we like each as friends as collaborators, but we have so much in common—we both love the Italian metal group, Rhapsody of Fire, Stargate SG-1, and Chuck; we love going on book tours; and we are both total Disney kids. In fact, I’m flying to Orlando in a week so we can go to Disney World together. We have so much to celebrate–no one throws better parties than Holder & Viguié!
Nancy, thanks for introducing us to your coauthor! I’m looking forward to reading all your books!
Readers & writers – have you ever collaborated with another person on a project? Was it difficult? Easy? What did you find the most rewarding?
Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Crusade in trade paperback with a signed bookplate.
I real a lot of fiction. (Most editors do.) What I read tends to be on the older side, usually from pulp magazines (circa 1915 to 1955). I select stories to be reprinted by Wildside Press in the “Wildside Pulp Fiction” line of books and anthologies (and in Adventure Tales magazine). Most of the fiction I read is your usual, standard fare. Rockets and rayguns in the science fiction pulps. Gats and gumshoes in the mystery pulps. A mix of romance and adventure and mainstream in the general-fiction pulps.
But every once in a while I run across something truly special. An author or a short story whose work transcends its humble pulp roots. I’d like to talk a little bit about one of my favorite discoveries over the last decade and, hopefully, steer you toward some great reading you might otherwise miss.
I first encountered Arthur O. Friel’s fiction in the pages of Adventure magazine. I had a vague idea he might be of interest, since his novel The Pathless Trail had been reprinted by Centaur Press in the 1960s – which meant early fantasy had enjoyed his work. (Centaur also reprinted works by Robert E. Howard, Talbot Mundy, and H. Warner Munn, among others.)
But I was completely unprepared for what I found. It was the story of two rubber-plantation workers in the Amazon jungle. And it was good. Better than good—great. So great that I had to read more. And as I searched through my archive of Adventure pulps, I discovered the adventures of Pedro and Lourenço continued in quite a few other stories (and in some with just Pedro by himself). Each story had a animal theme (with titles like “The Firefly,” “The Ant-Eater,” “The Spider”) in which Pedro compared a person to the traits of an Amazonian animal and spun a tale around it.
Most of them are action-adventure, but some (such as “The Tailed Men”) are fantasy. The writing was fresh, vivid, and modern. There wasn’t any racism, dialect, or any of the other dated elements which can detract from writing of the period. If I hadn’t seen the stories in their original context, I could easily have believed they were written today.
I quickly compiled a manuscript of 8 stories and 1 complete novel from the pages of Adventure. It would be a fairly thick (300+ page) book. And I titled is Amazon Nights: Classic Adventure Tales from the Pulps.
Beyond the stories, one pressing question remained. Who, exactly, was this Friel guy, and how could he write so brilliantly about the Amazon? Most pulp writers never left their home countries. Look at Robert E. Howard, who seldom ventured far from Texas, and yet he wrote about the Far East, Puritan England, and South Sea islands – not to mention the Hyborian Age of Conan. Could a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas and a set of travel brochures have given Friel the authentic feel of his stories?
No. Friel really was an Amazon explorer, after a career as the South American correspondent of the Associated Press. Nowadays you can go to Wikipedia to look him up, but in 2004 — when I began my project — very little info on him was available. It had to be gleaned, in bits and pieces, from the bios in pulp magazines and the notes at the end of his later novels.
Here’s the link to his entry at Wikipedia, which will provide more info:
I have continued to seek out his work, and now I am proud to have Wildside Press as one of the leading publishers of all things Friel. We have reprinted 2 collections of his Pedro and Lourenço (Amazon Nights and Black Hawk and Other Tales of the Amazon), as well as the novels King of Kearsarge, Tiger River, and Forgotten Island.
And you know what? The Friel revival seems to be spreading. I’ve been seeing other new editions of his books appearing on Amazon.com.
Next time you’re in the mood for adventure fiction set in the Amazon – sometimes tinged with fantasy, but always well written, fresh, and full of the authenticity that only first-hand experience can provide – look no farther. Arthur O. Friel is your man.
John, thanks for the fascinating look at Arthur O. Friel! What a wondrous world those old pulps contained. I hope you readers were as entertained as I was!
Don’t forget, if you comment on each week’s Summer of Discovery post, you’ll be entered to win the grand prize – a complete signed set of my Blood Lines books, including the upcoming book 5, Blood Sacrifice!
Join me next week as we welcome the prolific & most excellent Ms. Nancy Holder, a New York Times bestselling author and producer of many wonderful books. Her latest novel, Crusade (book 1 of the Crusade series) is now available in trade paperback.
* Selected contest winner will be sent a copy of the eBook via email.
I live in the world of mundania: work, traffic, rent payments, politics, climate change, terrorists. Is it any wonder that I seek escape in books–both writing and reading? As a kid, I often found myself rushing through schoolwork to get to my library books*. I’d discovered Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels. Later on there was Dracula (in all his various permutations), Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, Charles deLint’s Ottowa, Tanya Huff’s Toronto, Joss Whedon’s Sunnydale, Chris Golden’s Shadow Saga…all of which eventually led to my own Rio Seco, Texas and my take on urban fantasy.
Every single day I discover something new about the world of books, whether a new author, a new story, a new world created by an old friend. This is a never-ending feast and I’m glad to share my blog this late spring/summer with so many brilliant folks who helped create that feast.
Join me tomorrow, May 5, as we kick off our series with John Betancourt, owner/publisher of Wildside Press and the man who helped start my own writing career. In addition to his publisher hat, John is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and mystery novels as well as short stories.
A word chock to the brim full of wonder, excitement, antici………pation. I love new discoveries, whether new tech, new authors, different or unusual places or random historical facts. This curiousity and the need to examine “what if” is what drives my need to write.
In celebration of the summer and the discovery of new things, I’ve invited an inspiration of writers to guest post right here on this blog throughout the summer.
They’ll be talking about their own discoveries–whether it’s new books, new authors, new themes, a new movie…whatever strikes their respective fancies. I’m hoping that my own readers discover authors new to them, or at least, something they didn’t know about an author they already read.
But wait, there’s more!
In addition to the guest blog posts, some of our authors will be giving away books and/or other prizes (we’re still hammering out details). I’m pitching in with copies of Blood Heat and one lucky reader will come away with he grand prize: a full set of Blood Lines books, including the upcoming Blood Sacrifice!
Winners will be drawn at random from those of you who comment on the blog. To win the grand prize, you must visit at least once a week and leave a minimum of one comment on each author’s guest post!
Participating authors include an eclectic mix of urban fantasy, YA, horror and mystery writers.
So pop in May 5 for and then join me each Thursday through August in welcoming the following authors:
I remember very clearly getting my first Smith Corona electric typewriter as a graduation gift from high school. I pounded the pete out of that rickety machine. I learned how to touch type and yearned for a fancy IBM Selectric with the nifty ball instead of the keys that would get tangled because I typed too fast. I typed my first short story (for a class) on the kitchen table, the typewriter clacking and bouncing as I began what is now a trend–composing in my head and then doing a marathon writing session near deadline. Little did I know (though my mother did) that this would become not only a habit, but a paid one.
I do mourn the loss of technologies–Kodachrome, floppy disks. They were the vanguards, the harbingers of today’s electronic world. My first computer was a 486 with 4 MB of RAM (yes, 4 Megabytes) and a tiny hard drive. I was excited that it used 3.5 inch floppies, instead of those outmoded 5.25 inch ones. I learned how to edit my config files to load apps into high memory, to tweak the settings enough so Mom and I could play our FPS games (we loved Doom!). Fast forward some 15 years and I’m writing on a 3 year old iMac with 4 GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, and external 1 TB hard drive…and this is just simple model.
Would I go back? Nah. Computers/word processing made it much too easy to write. But I still look back just a little fondly on the machines that started it all for me. RIP typewriters…you made it easy…at least mechanically.
I love to shop at independent stores (i.e., not chains). Whether it’s a bookstore, art store, music store or a local restaurant, these independent proprietors never fail to intrigue, interest and well, help me spend my money on cool things.
An example (shipping notification email from CD Baby):
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, March 15, 2011.
We hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. In commemoration, we have placed your picture on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We miss you already. We’ll be right here at http://cdbaby.com/, patiently awaiting your return.
Can’t beat that, can you? Every single time I get a communication from them, I grin.
Sure, the prices are cheaper at the chain stores (sometimes) but frankly, being able to get a personalized autograph from Neil Gaiman (thanks to Mysterious Galaxy), a lovely collection of folk tunes by author Seanan McGuire or gorgeous jewelry at Cemetery Cat Designs trumps price in my book. The experience totally outweighs the cost–and you can’t get this kind of unique product/service at a chain. Nope. No sirree.
Sure, I still shop online at chains, because I can get really good prices on things like large bags of cat litter and electronics.
But when it comes to products that evoke beauty, creativity and touch the heart? I prefer to shop indie.
What’s your favorite independent storefront? What have you found there that is unique or special?
Last week, Genre for Japan raised more than £11,000 thanks to a ton of authors who each donated something. My own modest donation went for £60!
This week, the incomparable Jim C. Hines is repeating his last year’s fundraising efforts to support rape crisis centers.
Support rape crisis centers and enter to win an advance copy of The Snow Queen’s Shadow, by Jim C. Hines.
For every $500 raised (up to $5000), Jim is tossing in an additional drawing for other prizes.
I know the economy sucks. I know that sometimes it’s tough to find the extra cash. I’d love it if you were to skip that mocha today and donate the $5 you saved to RAINN or a local rape crisis center. We all know at least one rape victim…even if you don’t know it. I can name at least three friends who have been raped. And that’s without sitting down and thinking.
Continuing in the awesome tradition of SF/F authors gathering and donating items for charity, stop by Genre for Japan this week. Many SF/F authors have contributed items or services for auction. All proceeds from the auction will benefit Red Cross Japanese Tsunami Appeal.