Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Jeffe and her Iconic Scene


SHADOW WIZARD releases tomorrow!! Preorder price of $4.99 will be good into tomorrow, then it goes up. (Along with my grocery bill, alas!) The audiobook is being recorded now and should be available in about 2 weeks.

 
This week at the SFF Seven, we're asking: Do you have an iconic scene that inspires your writing?
 
I think most of my stories arise from certain pivotal images. For most every book I've written, I can almost certainly identify what the core image was. It's more than visual, however, and feels more like a snippet of a moment: a character in a situation. For a long time I have had an iconic scene. I started drawing it when  was a little girl and it's found its way into any number of stories over the years. I've never quite felt like I fully wrote the story of it, though it's haunted me less recently, so maybe I've come close enough for it to leave me alone.
 
The scene:
 
A woman stands on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Waves rise in whitecaps, dashing themselves against the rocks below. A wind off the water blows back her hair and gown. She's waiting...  Perhaps for an enemy to arrive on her shores? That's my usual feeling. Sometimes a large wolfhound is with her. Sometimes I think she's a sorceress, other times a queen.
 
If you've read a lot of my books, you'll probably recognize ways that this scene appears in various forms. I might've finally worked it out of my system with the Forgotten Empires trilogy, although it still didn't feel precisely like that iconic scene. Maybe I'll wend my way back to it someday!
 
For the time-being, however, I've been in the marshes and woodlands with the denizens of the Renegades of Magic world. SHADOW WIZARD takes us to a new high house (if you're familiar with the Bonds of Magic trilogy), and increasingly wild adventures. In this book, this snippet of a scene is one of my favorites:
 

She flung herself against him, embracing him with fierce tenacity, face buried against his neck, her chin digging rather sharply against his collarbone. For a slender, barely-there wraith, Seliah possessed a surprising amount of tensile strength. And she smelled of water in the moonlight, her tough, tense, thin little body vibrating with spiky silver magic, her breasts surprisingly—and distractingly—soft and full pressed against his chest. He couldn’t help a tiny fantasy of how it would feel to be buried inside that intensity, to have that passionate body surging against his, embracing and engulfing.

It's never going to happen, he told himself firmly.

Are you sure? part of him whispered back slyly.

Yes. Ruthlessly banishing the image, he refused to touch her any more than he already had. Holding his hands out, even more awkward than ever, he kind of waved them around as he waited for the hug to end.

It didn’t. Instead she held on, a buzzing bundle of intoxicating magic and tempting woman. Jadren tried patting her back, thinking maybe that would satisfy her enough to encourage her to go away, but she only purred, snuggling closer, like a cat who’d found the one cat-hater in the room and had no greater goal in life than encamping on his lap forever.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

New Fantasy Romance Release: CITY OF RUIN by Charissa Weaks

 πŸŽ‰πŸ“šπŸ’–πŸŽ‰We're celebrating Sunday blogger Charissa's newest book baby today! It's the second in her Witch Walker fantasy romance series. Grab a copy today and get lost in a tale of swords, sizzle, and sorcery! πŸŽ‰πŸ“šπŸ’–πŸŽ‰

CITY OF RUIN
Witch Walker, Book 2


The night the Prince of the East razed her village, Raina Bloodgood’s life changed forever. Forced into someone else’s war—and into the arms of the Witch Collector, Alexus Thibault—Raina discovered that everything she believed was wrong, and that she was capable of far more than anyone imagined.

Now, the Prince of the East has taken the Frost King as a pawn in his war against the Summerlands, causing Alexus’s life to hang in the balance. To thwart the prince’s endgame and prevent the Tiressian empire from returning to an age of gods, Raina, Alexus, and a band of Northlanders race against the sands of time to reach a mystical desert land where merciless assassins lurk around every corner.

In the midst of tragedy, Raina and Alexus fight to stay together and alive, all while a nefarious presence follows them straight to the jeweled gates of the Summerland queen’s citadel—the City of Ruin. With much to fear, it’s the terror of a past she shouldn't remember that Raina cannot cast from her dreams.

A past that's determined to find her. One way or another.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | BN 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Iconic Scenes and A New Book Release

 


Happy Sunday, all! 

I've been buried under writerly tasks getting City of Ruin out in the world. It releases this Tuesday, though, 9/27! I kind of can't believe I'm going to have two book babies in the world in the course of less than a year. As a slow writer, I'm utterly amazed by that! Like... who even am I? ;)

Today's topic for the SFF Seven is: Do you have an iconic scene that inspires your writing? 

I can tell you of one main scene (from books and film) that affected me as a writer. 


At the Prancing Pony from The Lord of the Rings, we meet Strider, aka Aragorn.

“a strange-looking weather-beaten man, sitting in the shadows near the wall… He had a tall tankard in front of him, and was smoking a long-stemmed pipe curiously carved. His legs were stretched out before him, showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud. A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heat of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face.

I can't say that this impacted scenes that I write, save for the importance of character introduction and how it can either be memorable or not. But it did impact how I write heroes and how I introduce characters. This moment, for me, was perfect. I saw him, I was curious about him, and I was intrigued. Then I was in love for the rest of my freaking life, but we won't talk about that haha.
But! If you like Aragorn mixed with a little Geralt of Rivia, you might like Alexus Thibault from my book, The Witch Collector. Again, book two, City of Ruin, is out Tuesday, and I'm so excited! Signed copies are available in my Etsy store, and it's in ebook and print everywhere online too.  
I hope you all have a good week! I'm going to watch the new Rings of Power this week and CHILL!
~ Charissa





Saturday, September 24, 2022

My Wacky Senior Project

 



Like a surprising number of writers, I have a technical background. Or maybe it isn't surprising for those of us with an interest in sci-fi and fantasy stories since the nerd/geek overlap is pretty heavy in those fandoms. In any case, my college degree is in mathematics and I've always had a bit of an analytical bent, which helps me with the business side of writing, but not the creative part so much.


However, I don’t believe I would be a published writer if it weren’t for my college education. Though I’d always been an avid reader, I had written very little fiction before taking a creative writing class in college. That class opened my eyes to the art of writing in ways I had never experienced before. I considered changing my major at that point, but I wasn't excited about adding another year of schooling to my degree. So instead I remained a math major, and simply took every class on creative writing that I could fit into my schedule.


My alma mater also had an interesting senior thesis/senior project format, in that seniors were allowed to choose any "substantial work" as their project as long as they had a professor to guide it. I had friends who made movies or wrote and directed plays for their senior project, so it was not a stretch at all for me to write a novel--especially since I had a great relationship with my creative writing instructor. It was a little out there for a math major to choose a creative project, but technically allowed. (The head of the math department pointed out that it wouldn't help me get into grad school, but since grad school wasn't my goal...*shrug*)


I'm not particularly proud of the novel I wrote that year--it was poorly plotted melodrama, with strangely flat characters. Frankly my writing skills were still in their formative stage, and when I think about my books that will never see the light of day, that one tops the list. Still, writing it--especially under the guidance of a mentor, with regular check-ins on my progress--was an incredible learning experience, and helped me become the writer I am today.


So even though my degree doesn't obviously have anything to do with my writing, I still give my college experience a lot of credit for nurturing my interest in creative writing and literature.

Jaycee Jarvis is an award winning fantasy romance author, who combines heartfelt romance with immersive magical worlds. When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her spouse, three children, and a menagerie of pets.

Find her at http://www.jayceejarvis.com

Friday, September 23, 2022

Alas, Poor College Degree

I used to say that my college degree was as useless as burnt plastic. While I was working at a major software company that shall remain nameless, it might have been true in the most literal sense. In the less than literal sense, however, I was using the skills I'd learned all the time. Still do. Especially in writing. My degree is a BFA in Acting from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.

What the heck, you might be asking yourself, does an actor do with an acting degree while writing novels (or working in software)?

Fair question. Think of the acting degree as the most expensive three years of intense therapy you can imagine. It's so intense that of the 20 people who started the acting conservatory the same time I did, only 8 made it to graduation. (Our graduating class was 10 people - we'd picked up a pair of students who'd taken a break and were coming back to finish up their degree work.) Yes, Cornish taught us craft and technique, but above everything, Cornish dumped us face first into the sea called "Acting requires enormous emotional effort." The conservatory's job was to crack each of us like nuts and open us up so we could finally see inside. It wasn't easy and it was often unpleasant. But it was necessary. We had to be able to name every nuance of emotion whether we felt it or believed we saw it in someone else in class.  To do that, we had to rummage around inside our own emotional lives and examine every shadowy don't-want-to-admit-we-feel-that feeling we had. Ask me sometime about the incidence of raging nightmares in students during this work. I'm not trying to make it sound like a torture chamber because if you come to the work with a sense of curiosity, it's a lot of fun finding out what makes you tick and learning to parse yourself into useful bits of a toolkit. 

In regard to using the degree off stage, it turns out that once you've learned what you've learned at Cornish, it doesn't go away. The ability to name emotion or to reach for a part of yourself as if it were a wrench becomes inextricably bound up in the fabric of who you are. That means that in working for corporate America, it's easier to approach public speaking, to convey confidence, and to identify the surface emotions of the people around you. 

It's no stretch of imagination to think of using an acting degree for writing novels. They are both (for me) character-driven work. I suspect if we polled all the writers in the world who were or are also actors, we'd find they're all character-driven. (I'm willing to be proven wrong.) For me, though, it's more than that. Yes. I'm entirely character-driven. The emotional work means better depth and breadth of emotion in my writing. When I'm doing it right. The technique work means I dedicate time to working on each character's unique voice and physicality - how they perceive their world and how they move through it. For me, a scene is a stage. It means I'm responsible for clear, crisp stage directions in my work. I will always mess this up a little - this is why editors are so important - having that objective audience who can say 'whoa what just happened there?' I came away from Cornish with a stage combat certification that I put to work for every single fight scene in a book.

If pressed to pick the one thing that has had the single biggest impact on me, I'd say the emotional work. Hands down. It's also the work that has had the biggest impact on the people around me. Certainly I wrote before and during school, but I do feel like being published would have been far less likely without the work.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

How My Education Levels Up My Writing


white, lab, plastic tray holding a line of 13 filled blood tubes with red caps


It can seem as if all writers have degrees in writing or literature. Professionals who knew they wanted to author books and have the certificates to say they are legit. But that’s not the only way into this industry. 


My formal education was in Clinical Laboratory Science and yes, it comes into play when I write! How fun is that?! Absolutely geek out fun, for me! Especially since I don’t lab it up any more.


So, what parts of my lab degree do I actually use as a writer? In The Mars Strain it’s pretty obvious. I wrote that story about a lab girl who saves the day. I used real technology, lab lingo, and testing—sometimes with a dash of imagination thrown in. But I actually use my medical background in all my writing. 


My current WIP is another sci-fi thriller about a biologically engineered drug. Even though my main characters aren’t lab people, they live in a society that has been genetically altered and are dealing with an attacker that is exploiting those traits. Once again I’m balancing the line between giving enough real-life medical detail and suspending belief in the futuristic. 


Wait, don’t I write sci-fi and fantasy? Why yes, yes I do. And I have to be careful with my anatomy descriptions when I’m crafting fantasy. But what magical tale is complete without a healer? Healers know a lot about the body: how they work, how to mend them, and how they break. 


I still love the medical field and find it fascinating. And I’m grateful that I chose my lab background because it has given me a great base for me to spin my tales from. But degree or no, I wouldn’t have any books written without an imagination. 


If you have stories to tell, it doesn’t matter what educational background you have. It may mean you’ll need to self educate on the technical aspects of writing, but stories come out of living. And only you have your perspective. 


How have you used your background in your writing?

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Yo, Author, You Using That Higher Ed?

This Week's Topic:
What aspects of my formal education do I actually use as a writer?

Does daydreaming during lectures count? No? Well then, believe it or not, I use more of my Master's of International Commerce & Policy than I do my Bachelor's of English with a focus in Creative Writing.

Wait, wut? Yup, you read that correctly. If you're a regular reader of the blog, you've endured my opinions on the uselessness of higher ed in creative writing and being a novelist.  

How do my studies in International Commerce & Policy (MAICP) show up in my work? World-building and political intrigue. Wanna know how to knee-cap a neighboring government without using an army? MAICP. Want to understand how an international governing body makes laws to satisfy the masses but can neither implement nor enforce those laws? MAICP. Baking loopholes into trade contracts to exploit them and ruin an industry/economy/gov't party? MAICP. Need to implement an external conflict of man-made famine? MAICP supplies cause and cure! Want organizations bullying each other into submission? MAICP for the blueprint! How about creating a villain who uses the tactics of US lobbyists to screw over the protags? Say it with me, everyone, MAICP!

When it comes to the economics and policies of running or destroying an empire, MAICP is there for me. 

Quite possibly not the endorsement expected by the Alumni Association. πŸ˜‡


Sunday, September 18, 2022

Circles of Community - How Writer Friends Keep Me Going

 

A gratifying milestone for me - DARK WIZARD has passed 500 ratings on Amazon! And with a 4.3 overall average, too. I'm so thrilled by all the love this book and series has received. 

I've been busy writing SHADOW WIZARD, the next book in this world (coming 9/29! available for preorder now), and so missed my usual Wednesday blog post. I'm making that up today, because I really did want to address this week's topic at the SFF Seven. We're talking about Writing Community and asking: do you have a writing community and if so (online, phone calls, zoom, in person) how do your interactions refill your creative well?

I'm so deeply grateful for my writing community! I have many different ones, from one-on-one friendships to large, professional organizations. Here's a smattering of them and how they refill that well.

Friends

Just yesterday I had one of my monthly hour+ phone calls with writer bestie Grace Draven. We've been doing this for a couple of years now. Aside from our other messaging via text and FB messenger, and quick calls, we set aside time to have longer conversations about our business strategy. These talks help us both clarify our priorities.

 I get on Zoom daily with another writer bestie, Darynda Jones. We typically do three one-hour writing sprints with some chatting in between. Having that company while writing (even though we mute while actually working) gives me a sense of companionship, and the daily discussions of our writing keep us invigorated. We can also bounce ideas off of each other, from "what's the word I'm trying to think of?" to "Help me solve this plot problem!"

I also have other writer besties I communicate with via email or social media, people I can call upon for insight or emergency beta reads. We don't necessarily talk on a regular schedule, but knowing they're out there is priceless.

Small Groups

I'm part of various smaller communities, from a private author group on Facebook, to a Fantasy Romance Discord, to the much larger Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) Discord. I love to dip in and out of these groups, answering questions and asking them, too. They're fun and fantastic resources.

Professional Organizations

I already mentioned SFWA. As the current president of the organization, I get to interact with all kinds of creators, from newbie writers to names on the spines of books on my shelf. Getting to email with Neil Gaiman, have coffee with Catherine Asaro, or chat for a few hours with Jane Yolen are thrills I never quite get over. Feeling like a part of that larger community is validating for me on a critical level. I believe more in myself and in my work for having those associations.

Conferences

I just returned from WorldCon in Chicago - my first big conference since the COVID pandemic - and it brought home to me how wonderful these gatherings are. Conferences bring in so many different members of the reading, writing, and creating community that the cross-section of conversation is incredibly stimulating. More than the programming, just getting to be around other people who love the same stuff and sharing that excitement refills my creative well like nothing else. One of the great revelations of the pandemic for me was how much social stimulation I gain from conferences. I value them like never before.

I value all of my writing communities, and am so grateful for each and every one of you!