On Cats

Hello friends!

A writer’s best companion is not their reader or editor. No, it is their cat.

Hear me out.

Many writers famously had or have feline companions. Some writers, like N.K. Jemisin, thank their cats in the acknowledgements. I thanked my lone cat (at the time) in my master’s thesis. 

So, why cats?

Perhaps surprisingly, cats are the second most popular pet in the United States, as of 2020. Unlike dogs, though, cats require less training and maintenance. I’ve always felt like cats are the introverts of the pet world, especially next to the dog’s extrovert. Because of this, I’ve preferred cats throughout my life, because they match my energy. 

Princesa, sleeping on a kitchen counter in her old age.

I have had four cats in my life. When I was in kindergarten, my family adopted a kitten we named Princesa. She lived with my parents until she was 18, at which point she died peacefully. She was a brat and terrorized every pet my parents tried to have after her. Still, I loved her dearly.

Mimi, tolerating some dress-up.

When I was 11, we got a second cat, my cat, Mimi. She was a feisty little demon who liked to sleep by my feet and would attack me if I ever kicked her by mistake. She unfortunately ran away when I was away at an arts program in high school.

Dobby with his canine friend, Bambina

Five years ago, I met Dobby, and I fell in love. My friend, who cared for him at the time, was looking to rehome him, and after negotiating with my partner, I finally adopted Dobby. To this day, he is the most affectionate cat I’ve ever had, and I spoil him like crazy. He is my handsome boy.

Earlier this year, I adopted Mayday from a rescue, and while she’s still warming up to me, she is Dobby’s best friend. The two of them romp all night, and May will actively cry for Dobby if he’s ignoring her. Shortly after she came home with us, she had to get all of her teeth pulled, so now she’s out sweet, toothless senior kitty.

Madame Mayday, when she still had a couple of teeth.

All-in-all, I’ve had cats in my life for more than 20 years now, and I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without them. If you’re a writer looking for an independent furry companion, I highly recommend.

What I wrote this week: “Alice Gets the Girl;” “Gabi Believes.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter; The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

On New Beginnings

Hello friends!

A couple of months ago, I decided I wanted to change career paths. For the last few years, I’ve been a bookkeeper, which is a comfy enough office job and was stable enough to get me through the pandemic without any lapse in pay. However, after finishing my MFA last year, I realized I wanted to really try pursuing something else. I’m still young, so I have lots of time to really figure out what the right career path might or might not be.

Anyway, in the spirit of trying new things, I’ve decided to try my hand at freelance editing. I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy this more than bookkeeping, and that this change will give me more time to work on my own writing. In the meantime, you can find me on Fiverr or shoot me an email through the contact tab to get a quote on editing services. 

I’m excited for this new journey!

What I wrote this week: “Gabi Meets a Monster;” “Alice, Strike One.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter.

On Revision…Again

Hello friends!

Vacation is over, and I’m back to writing. Way back in June, I’d resolved to take a break from working on Kita’s story, and that worked for a bit. However, I’ve taken on a new critique partner and the only thing in good enough condition to send her way is, of course, Scion of Victory. Rather than send her the exact draft I’ve already gotten feedback on from my writing buddy, I decided to do a quick revision of the beginning…again.

Beginnings are tough. You want to pull your reader in and adequately set up your world, too. You want people to get a clear picture of your world (especially in SFF writing) but also not info-dump and bore them. For Scion’s beginning, I’ve tried at least half a dozen different starts. Each time, I’ve thought I’m on the right track, only for my critique partners or beta readers to come back and say it’s not working yet. So I’ve returned to the drawing board again and again. I want Scion to be in the best shape possible, so I’m willing to do the work, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t get damn annoying after a while. Hence the break back in June.

But now, I’m hoping with a few more tweaks this will be the beginning that sticks. I’ve incorporated targeted feedback from my incomparable writing buddy, who’s read this whole manuscript like three times and understands what I need to get across, and my local writing group, who have valuable knowledge on what engages a reader. Now, having a reader with fresh eyes will let me know if I’m really getting there with this beginning. I cannot express how much I hope I don’t have to come up with an entirely new beginning again.

Revising is important, as are the first impressions we get from a book’s beginning. But I am super over rewriting this beginning.

What I wrote this week: Scion of Victory, beginning 4.2; “Alice Underground.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter; Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis.

On Breaks

Hello friends!

It’s been far too long since I’ve had a break from life in general, so for the last two weeks I traveled to see some friends and have some fun. I didn’t intend to write very much, but I actually ended up working through awesome blocks and wrote more than I intended to.

Anyway, now I’m back and doubling down. Finley’s story will be incredible.

What I wrote this week: “Alice Gets an Upgrade,” “Alice Underground.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter; Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis.

On Joy

Hello friends!

I have the unfortunate tendency to read books that have a more serious (read: tragic) tone. I like to joke with my writing buddy that I don’t do “fun” books, but sometimes I need a break from that doom and gloom. Sometimes I just need to read something light and joyful.

I was in one of these moods recently, and thankfully I found the perfect book to provide that: Jonny Garza Villa’s debut novel Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun. While it had its more serious moments, overall the book filled me with pure joy. I smiled so much, I cried some, I texted my friend about how damn cute it was. I sped through the book, too, and I predict rereads in the future. Reading it honestly made me happier than a book has in a while (which is probably my own fault considering my usual reading choices). 

Sometimes life just needs a bit more joy, and it’s nice to know that there are books out there with the potential to create that joy.

What I wrote this week: “Alice Gets an Upgrade.”

What I read this week: The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi.

On Discovery Writing

Hello friends!

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a plotter, and I’m convinced this is the right way to approach novels.

But short stories are an entirely different beast.

When I write a short story, I typically start with an image or a line, and I write from there (or towards there). I don’t outline; I just sit down and write.

I’ve done several short stories this way. Three years ago, I had the image of two women and a girl in a car, driving through the desert and running from something, so I wrote about what they were running from and towards. I wrote and discovered why they had to run.

Another short began with wanting to do a study on setting, and I chose an abandoned mall. I made it the focus of the piece and the backdrop, and I hoped to imbue the setting with a richness I too often forget in my work.

Most recently, a first line popped into my head: “They were shipwrecked on the front lawn. This hadn’t been the plan, of course.” I jotted this down in my phone and let it stew. It sounded like it had to be about children, and I don’t often write about children. But what would happen from the shipwreck? How would children resolve the problems that arose from such a situation?

And that’s how I accidentally wrote a short story on Thursday. It has a more carefree and whimsical feel than most of my work, which is a nice break. It’s also a more omniscient point of view than I like to use, which was a fun challenge. I went in with a line and discovered the story as I wrote, coming up with motivations and character qualities that suited my needs. 

Of course, I’ll need to go back through and do some edits to smooth out the beginning now that I understand the end, but that’s for later. It was simply fun to take a couple of hours and play.

Because if writing doesn’t let you play and have fun, then why do it?

What I wrote this week: “Shipwreck;” “Gabi, Filled with Wonder;” “Alice Gets an Upgrade.”

What I read this week: American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell; The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi; The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi.

On the Evolution of Character

Hello friends!

One of my favorite things about writing is the potential every character has to become so much more.

By this, I mean that I often begin with one sense of a character, and as I continue working on them, they transform into something else. As with a lot of my work, the best example I have of this is in Kita’s story, in Scion of Victory.

The earliest scraps I wrote for this book were all very vague. I was still figuring out my world and the people populating it. The character who’s undergone the most change would have to be Ramint.

In early versions, Ramint acted as a sort of filler character. I needed someone around to react to a thing? Ramint. An orphaned line of dialogue? To Ramint. A task needed to be done? Ramint. Originally, I pictured her as an impressionable young boy, eager to prove himself. As I fleshed out the story more, I realized I needed more female characters, and I wanted a moral compass for the other characters. Ramint filled that need well. In the book’s current iteration, she’s a full-fledged narrator with her own motives, past, and arc. She provides a great contrast to Fahvitt, who is jaded like her but bitter and spiteful. She’s respected by the other characters for her outlook on the world and general optimism. She’s evolved into one of my favorite characters, and fleshing her out more fully has only made her more useful to the story as a whole.

My first full draft of Scion featured Ramint as a side character, and then I realized I needed to make her a narrator in order to better explore her motivations. Once I made that choice, I was able to build her relationships more powerfully, especially her friendship with Fahvitt. I wanted them to have a strong relationship from the start, and their bond only grows over the course of the novel. This benefited both of them individually and as a pair.

Ramint and Fahvitt both have significant arcs in book one now, and those arcs are very different from each other. Where Fahvitt becomes more trusting as he falls in love with Kita, Ramint faces betrayal and hardens herself. However, in exploring their characters more and allowing them the development they deserve, both rise from their tragic situations and become much more than they ever thought.

And to think, at the start I might have denied them that.

What I wrote this week: “Gabi, Filled with Wonder.”

What I read this week: American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell; The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi.

On Plotting and Outlining

Hello friends!

I am, undoubtedly and unabashedly, a plotter when it comes to writing. Outlines are my friend. Names and places are the right way to go. While there’s a time and a place for discovery writing or pantsing, I don’t believe you want to be doing that when it comes to drafting. 

This is why, for the entire month of June, I held off on writing. I pivoted to a new project, but I didn’t write a single chapter. However, I outlined. Like a lot. And planned. And created characters to populate my world. And gave that world quirks and depths and hidden shames.

In the last month, I have outlined a full novel by character arcs (beat sheets!) and by chapter. I’ve titled thirty-something chapters. I’ve named almost seventy characters, most of whom will have little bearing on the story. And I’ve had a blast doing it.

Now, going into July, I’m ready to write this novel over the next couple of months. 

What I wrote this week: Finley plotting and outlining; “Gabi, Filled with Wonder.”

What I read this week: Dreadnought by April Daniels; Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa; American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

On Adaptations

Hello friends!

I’ve waited two months to write this blog. Though, really, I guess it’s been longer.

Adaptations. Specifically, book to screen adaptations. Some fall short of fan expectations (see: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief). Others capture the spirit of the book even if they’ve thrown out whole storylines or changed massive plot points (see: Howl’s Moving Castle). Some just keep the name and the general concept (see: Annihilation). Rarest of all the adaptations is the one that remains faithful to the story and the spirit, while also finding love among the existing fanbase (see: Holes).

With the rise of television, more and more books have been adapted into shows rather than movies, which I personally think has done wonders. The television format allows more room for side characters and subplots, allowing adaptations to remain more faithful to the source material.

I waited for years to see the Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone, and I went into the show with a cautious optimism. Clearly, the production had a high budget, and being adapted into a series felt like the right call for such a rich world. I was more apprehensive (and also more excited) about the Six of Crows storyline. The duology of books is among my favorites, and while it’s set in the world of the originally published Shadow and Bone trilogy, the characters and their stories rely on different aspects of the fantasy world, and the events in the duology take place years after the trilogy. Like many, I was skeptical about the meshing of the plotlines, but I held onto a shred of optimism. With every announcement and teaser, my excitement only grew.

The show hit Netflix on April 23rd. I finished watching all eight hour-long episodes on April 24th. Since then, I’ve watched the series all the way through two more times. And I love it.

I read the trilogy after I’d read the duology, so I was a little underwhelmed by it. However, the aspects of the trilogy I felt needed work were fortified in the show. And the Crows enriched the world and the show, while remaining true to their roots and going on adventures before the events of their books start. Obviously, some things were changed or added, but nothing that felt untrue to the spirit of the stories told in the books.

Overall, my cautious optimism was rewarded. I sat glued to my screen during my first watch-through, and I coordinated with my dear friend across the country so we could watch at the same time and text each other our reactions real-time. We laughed, we gasped, we freaked out, and we had a blast doing it. We’ve also kept each other updated on news about the show, like the announcement of its renewal for a second season. I’m positive that when they announce new cast members and release dates, we’ll be texting each other eagerly.

And in the end, isn’t it more important to build friendships on these beautiful stories than to nitpick the details?

What I wrote this week: Finley, outlining and dragging my feet and nonsense.

What I read this week: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender; Dreadnought by April Daniels; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

On Conventions

Hello friends!

I’ve already mentioned I’m not a very social person. I like my small gatherings and tight-knit groups. So when I went to my first writing convention last fall, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d enjoy myself.

Of course, due to the chaos of last year, the 2020 World Fantasy Convention was held virtually. I was okay with this; tickets were cheaper, and I wouldn’t have to pay for travel. The major downside was that I’d planned to meet my writing buddy at the convention, and now our in-person meeting would be delayed indefinitely.

The convention’s virtual format worked really well for me. WFC took pains to make it feel fun and social, with different chatrooms set up in the evenings after the day’s panels had concluded. I didn’t expect to spend a lot of time in these chatrooms, but I ended up in them every night until one or two in the morning. I really enjoyed being able to meet other writers who shared my passion and dedication, and having a built-in friend in the form of my writing buddy made it easier to socialize.

I promised myself I’d try to be outgoing and make connections over the long weekend, and thankfully I was helped in this. One night, in a chatroom with about eight people, I found three others based in Southern California. One of them emailed after the convention, and from there the four of us formed a group. We knew we had similar interests and goals, which brought us to the convention, and we all had massive works in progress. Six months later, we’re exchanging chapters and critiques very consistently.

I got to meet them all in person for the first time last weekend. We met up at a coffee shop, and we proceeded to talk…for six hours. And honestly, it was great. I’ve found friends who share my passion and drive, and who are quite talented in their own rights.

I went to the World Fantasy Convention not really knowing what to expect. I sat in on a lot of panels, took copious amounts of notes, jotted down so many reading recommendations, and met some cool people. But hands down, the biggest benefit has been finding a local writing group and fostering that connection with others like me.

What I wrote this week: Finley outlining; Kita bonus content.

What I read this week: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno Garcia; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender.