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

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. 😇

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.


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.


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!

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Writing in Community


Writing as a practice

Although I have been writing all my life, I began writing fiction seriously in the last five years. It began as a creative practice, like my crochet and baking. Still is–it helps me stay balanced and maintain a positive outlook. As I gained confidence and started sharing my work, I found kindred spirits online and joined discord groups for writers. In this way, I share my practice with others who are engaged in the same activities. Online interaction has been a necessity in the last few years, given that we were often in lockdown, but it would have been my choice as a neurodivergent individual who can struggle in social situations (especially with strangers). 

Emerging from the Cave

I relish the time I spend alone writing. But the myth that writing is a solitary activity is just that … a myth. 

The writing part–thinking and typing–can be solitary (although online writing sprints with your pals is a fantastic way to work on a first draft). Yet, the many parts of being an author involve interacting with others: writers, editors, agents, cover artists, PAs, publishers or fellow indie authors, bloggers, bookstagrammers, and on and on. And even writing your drafts is better with encouragement and feedback: there are alpha and beta readers, ARC readers and street teams–as well as writing critique groups, Facebook groups, and discord communities. 

You may think the time you spend on these interactions will take away from your writing time, but it is a necessary part of being an author. And the experiences can enrich your skills and lead to opportunities.

Finding Groups

Small groups work better for me, but I enjoy being in a couple of larger interest groups. There are any number of online classes, writing experts, and coaches who can set you up with a critique group. It is harder to find affordable or free options, but you can search for writers' groups on Facebook and Discord, many of which don't need a paid subscription. Those options, instead, require more of a DIY approach that can achieve good results. They are great for baby authors and those who don't have a lot of disposable income to throw around (that is, most of us).

For my purposes, there’s a supportive Facebook group for writers who are moms where they understand the challenges mom-writers face. It's a great place to lurk and share in my peers’ successes and setbacks. I also joined the FaRoFeb Facebook group and discord server for authors–one of the best decisions I made. It’s not a giant group, but big enough that some of the discord channels move very fast. However, I can poke along at my speed and keep up with a wonderful group of talented and dedicated authors who embrace all of our quirky Fantasy Romance interests and tangents. 

These groups form communities that lift up their members and make us all better. The more you participate, the better experience you will have, but it's all right to start out slow.

Learning and Growing

I treasure the interactions I have with my writer friends. We have learned the importance of open communication and we strive to balance support with critique. It's not easy, but we keep working at it, giving ourselves and each other grace when we don't live up to our high ideals. This small but mighty group is my ride-and-die. And I’m a better person, friend, and writer because of them.

I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’ll share them here, with the understanding that your journey may be very different.

  • I’ve learned to pay attention to my needs and abilities. Smaller groups and opportunities are more rewarding for me. You may be different - I have a friend who went to a large writers’ convention and loved every minute of it.  Work within your social battery settings and consider what helps you recharge.
  • I’ve learned that setting boundaries and making rules (or simply some agreed-upon ideas for how to be together) can make the community experience better. Authors are a prickly breed and misunderstandings and hurt feelings can happen. But we can also be the most supportive and loyal creatures in the world!
  • I’ve learned that sharing my work isn’t scary. It has increased my confidence and allowed me to see my stories more objectively, which has improved my revision skills. It’s been a mindset shift. I’m not killing darlings or offering up my babies; I’m working on projects that are shaped with feedback and advice to make them the best they can be. 
  • I’ve learned what I can contribute in providing feedback to my writer friends. I’m a teacher by training and am a pretty good copy editor. I also love to be a cheerleader by looking for ways that someone’s story bones could be improved. It makes me so happy!
  • I’ve learned to be more selective in my writing critique partners. I made a couple mistakes in the beginning by offering to provide feedback on projects that weren’t a good fit. Now that I understand better what I like, I can ask up front about the work so I can make an informed decision.

I didn't realize when I started this journey how much I would learn about myself--both the good and the bad. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, challenging myself to do better happens most effectively when I have supports who will cheer me on and pick me up when I fall. 

Feeling blessed

As you saw in Kristine’s post this week, the FaRoFeb group released an exciting anthology on Tuesday! I am grateful to have a story in the collection–alongside this wonderful group of authors (and don't forget to read Grace Draven and Jeffe Kennedy’s introduction). The community exemplifies the magical possibilities of collaboration, support, and good humour that can make a good experience great.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Filling the Creative Well with Writing Communities

Writing communities tend to proliferate like rabbits. You think you don’t have any, then you turn around and you have six. I’m not any different. I thought I was out here all on my own until I began counting things up and yes, I have writing communities. A lot of them. They fall into a few categories:

  •  Organizations
  •  Publisher
  •  Educational
  •  Committed

Organizations are professional groups like RWA, SFWA, local chapters, and any other regional writing groups we might be members of. Pre-pandemic, these communities functioned both in-person and online. Now, they’re mostly online with a few tentative in-person events starting. The power of professional organizations is in the numbers – a wide range of knowledge and experience is available. The disadvantage of professional organizations is in the numbers – that wide range of points of view can and does stir drama. Regional or focused-interest groups (thriller, mystery or PNR groups) are a good energizer because you’re in a community of writers who understand your genre and presumably your interests. It creates synergy. Local chapters are the smallest of the professional organizations but that often translates into more frequent in-person interactions and more detailed sharing around your specific writing needs because you know the smaller group and they know you.

I derive energy from professional orgs because I never feel quite so valid as a writer as when I’m soaking up business advice from people who’ve already been where I am.

Publisher/publishing house – Many publishers have started author communities as a means of leveraging cross-marketing. These communities work under the premise that a rising tide lifts all boats. Occasionally, a publisher takes community to the next level and does a conference in an exotic location and then the virtual turns into an in-person excursion to Ireland. It’s a chance to put faces to the names you routinely see asking for newsletter spots and retweets.

I derive energy from my publishing community because my publisher is run by a committed group of people who really do give a darn about everyone who writes for them and who are passionate about the business.

Educational communities/co-ops/etc – Writing classes tend to engender community, if only for the length of the class. Don’t underestimate those class-length connections, though. Critique partners are often found through classes. Author co-ops are longer term associations focused on promotional/educational synergy. These communities fill my ‘always learning’ well. They are currently all virtual and online.

I derive energy from education and learning. Almost always. There are exceptions and in those exceptional cases, I’ve learned to walk away and go find a different class.

Committed communities – These are the long-term relationships we build with other writers. Critique groups. Our personal author circles. For me these are the communities that cross over the line between ‘writer community’ to friends. Well, okay. Friends who also write and who can dispense writing advice from time to time. These are the people who can, and do, apply a much-needed swift kick when the situation calls for it.  They bolster confidence and make suggestions for fixing that scene the mean old editor hated. Almost all my communities are virtual, including this one. I had in-person, then I moved across a continent. Critique still happens once a week, it’s just on Zoom. At the end of the month, I’ll have a quick, in-person visit when I take a short road trip. And I’ll get all kinds of energy from that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Release Day: Fantast Romance Anthology ONCE UPON A FORBIDDEN DESIRE

We're super excited to announce our Saturday FaRoFeb bloggers' new anthology of fairy tales retold with steam and sizzle. This limited edition release includes a foreword by our own award-winning Wednesday blogger Jeffe. Get it now while it's a mere $0.99!

Once Upon a Forbidden Desire

When it comes to true love, rules are meant to be broken …

Dark forests and locked doors, poisoned apples and forbidden lovers ... Bold heroines and swoon-worthy heroes break all the rules in this enchanting anthology of the fairy tales you thought you knew.

Once Upon A Forbidden Desire features 20 enticing fairy tale retellings by a diverse selection of fantasy romance authors. From sweet true love’s kisses to sizzling passion, from the streets of Seattle to enchanted forests, and from poor scullery maids to a winged Prince Charming ...

If you enjoy spellbinding romance, enthralling new worlds, and stories with a taste of the forbidden, these happily ever afters will leave you spellbound. Give in to the temptation and grab your copy of Once Upon a Forbidden Desire now.

With a foreword by Grace Draven and Jeffe Kennedy, this limited edition anthology celebrates the variety of the fantasy romance genre. It contains stories ranging from sweet to steamy and is recommended for an adult audience.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon