I stalled for a day because I realized that Chapter 11 had no visible conflict in it. There were plot things that needed to happen, but the outline just had them happening and it was… dull. So, I had a day of replotting that scene, which affected some of the latter ones. I like very much the changes though. La!
Jessica Leake is joining us today with her novel Arcana. Here’s the publisher’s description.
A romantic, suspenseful, genre-bending debut set in Edwardian London.
Amid the sumptuous backdrop of the London season in 1905, headstrong Katherine Sinclair must join the ranks of debutantes vying for suitors. Unfortunately for Katherine, she cannot imagine anything more loathsome—or dangerous. To help ease her entrance into society, Katherine’s family has elicited the assistance of the Earl of Thornewood, a friend and London’s most eligible bachelor, to be her constant companion at the endless fetes and balls. But upon her arrival in London, Katherine realizes there will be more to this season than just white gowns and husband hunting.
Through her late mother’s enchanted diary, Katherine receives warning to keep hidden her otherworldly ability to perform arcana, a magic fueled by the power of the sun. Any misstep could mean ruin—and not just for her family name. The Order of the Eternal Sun is everywhere—hunting for those like her, able to feed on arcana with only a touch of the hand.
But society intrigue can be just as perilous as the Order. The machinations of the fashionable elite are a constant threat, and those who covet Katherine’s arcana, seeking the power of her birthright, could be hiding behind the façade of every suitor—even the darkly handsome Earl of Thornewood.
With so much danger and suspicion, can she give her heart to the one who captivates her, or is he just another after her power?
What’s Jessica’s favorite bit?
I’m sure most authors can say this about their works, but there’s a lot I enjoy about Arcana. It has all my favorite things in a book: romance, opulent history, and magic. But when I thought about what my favorite bit might be, it came back to the very first scene I ever wrote—a scene that miraculously made it all the way through the querying-for-an-agent round, the post-agent-editing round, and even the post-editor round. It’s a scene that I wrote the whole book around…a scene that, unfortunately, is extremely spoiler-y as it occurs right before the main character hits rock bottom. I will therefore do my best to describe why I love it so without fully revealing anything that would ruin the scene for future readers.
To set the scene: Katherine, the MC, has been forced to partner up with someone who has treated her with malicious disdain since the moment they met. They are riding horses on the estate of the man Katherine has fallen in love with—a man who still knows nothing about Katherine’s abilities. As they’re riding, the malicious character becomes increasingly frustrated, and takes it out on her horse. The poor horse reaches the end of its patience and takes off with its rider, galloping at break-neck speed through the woods. It ends disastrously, of course, and Katherine is left with an impossible decision, one that has the potential to ruin her.
I love that the scene is centered around a riding accident—that sounds ridiculously morbid, but I love the drama of it. When I wrote the scene, my instincts told me that galloping a horse through the woods (something I never did when I was riding because I would be much too afraid) would be a horrible idea, but I confirmed it with my friend who competes in Eventing. She assured me emphatically that it would be terrible not least of all because a tree branch could come out of nowhere and smash into your face.
It’s also a scene where we see Katherine really using her arcana, which is always fun to write and imagine, but in the context of this rigid Edwardian era society, it also has serious ramifications. Not only are there social consequences, but physical consequences as well. Katherine knows all this, but as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker: With great power comes great responsibility. She’s unwilling to stand by when she can help—even if it spells out disaster for her. We learn through her mother’s journal that this is a family trait, a legacy of self-sacrifice.
And that’s before she realizes the one person she wouldn’t want to witness using her powers has seen it all.
It’s an intense, exciting, emotional scene, one that changes the course of the story. It’s most definitely my favorite bit.
Jessica Leake has been in love with historical England ever since her first literary crush: Mr. Darcy. After embarking on a quest to bring her own intriguing and headstrong characters to life, she decided to quit her day job as a clinical therapist and spend her time weaving arcana with words.
She lives in Greenville, SC with her brilliant husband, three painfully cute children, and two mischievous dogs.
During NaNoWriMo, it’s pretty common to see people who doubt that they can write, because they are struggling with NaNo. I love the event and it works well for the way my brain is wired. It’s not for everybody. Just because I work better with a deadline doesn’t mean you will.
I’ve also seen people slamming NaNo because it doesn’t work for them. Just because it doesn’t work for you, doesn’t make those writers that enjoy it wrong.
But really, this is true of every writing process under the sun. So here is the most important thing I can say to you about process from one writer to another.
DO NOT COMPARE YOUR PROCESS TO ANOTHER WRITER’S.
Everybody’s brain is wired differently. The process does not matter. Only the end result matters.
If you work best solving things in outline before you get there, great! If you work best by discovering your story and then tossing the manuscript and writing an entirely new draft? Great! Try a bunch of different things. Figure out how your brain works best.
But do not judge your success as a writer by comparing your process to another writer’s.
Your audience will never see your process. They won’t see your mistakes and stumbles or any of that. All they will see is the finished book. Your process does not matter to them. Only the end result matters.
So if NaNo works as well for you as it does for me? Go forth and write like the wind this month. And if it doesn’t? Go forth and write in whatever manner works well for you.
JUST DO NOT COMPARE YOUR PROCESS TO ANOTHER WRITER’S.
For those of you reading along with Ghost Talkers,I just posted Chapter 6. If you are curious, I finished the poem that is masking the book cipher and inserted it and the decoding into Chapter 5.
For those not reading along, this might be amusing and doesn’t involve spoilers. When I was writing the chapter, I didn’t want to have to stop to figure it out, so inserted a note to myself, which was this.
[In which I write a verse that is written in their cipher. I will hate myself later for having decided that this is how it works. Thank God, it doesn’t have to be good poetry.]
I am not finished with Chapter 7, because World Fantasy. However, since I’ll be on a train when I finish it, I figure I’ll go ahead and indulge by posting 5 now. I did fairly well at continuing to write during the convention, but obviously slowed down. It was a really great weekend.
I spent most of it going, “How did I acquire this life? Because this is amazing.”
M. Todd Gallowglas is a writer and a storyteller who has spent years doing traditional oral storytelling at renaissance fairs. He joined us at FantasyCon/Westercon 67 before a live audience and talked to us about how this tradition has informed his writing, and how these principles can inform our writing as well. He also schools us (okay, mostly Howard) about how these principles should be informing parts of our podcast.
If you are curious about statistics, I’m 18,667 words into the novel although only 12,580 count toward NaNoWriMo. I’d written the first chapter before NaNo started in order to sell the book. I just finished writing Chapter 5.
Sometimes I think it’s useful for early career writers to see the things that might happen to your brain later. I just got an email from my editor that Shades of Milk and Honey is going into its 7th printing.
Between all the US editions so far, we’ve netted 23,793 copies. That’s not counting the UK or foreign language editions.
Now… to me, that seems like a staggering amount of people to have read my book. But, to put that in perspective: Wise Man’s Fear sold more in the first week. At the same time, other writers will look at my 23k and be jealous because they haven’t sold as many copies. This is the tricky thing about being an author. You are constantly measuring yourself against other writers, which isn’t useful. Books are very, very different beasts and you can rarely do direct comparisons.
So on the one hand, I’m looking at seventh edition and feeling like OMG! I’m a real writer now, and also knowing exactly how that stacks up compared to a NY Times best seller.
The point of all of this is that, as you go forward you have to define your own sense of success.
For me? Seven printings is a very nice place to be.
But so was selling a single book.
And so was selling a single story.
And so was just finishing a story.
Those success points are going to change over time, and they should. That’s how you level up as a writer. It’s why imposter syndrome happens, because you attain success and immediately set another goal. When you stop having imposter syndrome. When you stop thinking of ways in which you can improve, that’s when you need to worry.
Meanwhile, enjoy the highs of attaining a goal and then set the next one.
Shallee McArthur is joining us today with her novel The Unhappening of Genesis Lee. Here’s the publisher’s description.
What would it feel like to never forget? Or to have a memory stolen?
Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi–a small group of genetically enhanced humans–Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.
Anyone could be next. That’s why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims not only that they have met before, but that Gena knows who the thief is.
The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things–or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast…because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.
What’s Shallee’s favorite bit?
I am afraid of forgetting.
The first time I realized it, I sat on a semi-secluded patch of grass on my college campus, crying to my mom over the phone. Six weeks prior, I had returned from an incredible experience—four months living and teaching in Ghana, West Africa. But now I was home, back to everything like it had never happened. I whispered to my mom through the phone,
“What if I forget?”
I knew I wouldn’t forget the experience as a whole. It was one of those things we say is “unforgettable,” but that’s only true to an extent. Already, I was learning that details fade, and I clung to them desperately, dreaming and daydreaming of them. I tried to hold on to the exact color of a Harmattan sky clouded by dust blowing down from the Sahara, and the precise places where the boards under my mattress pressed into my back at night, and the sound of tiny Benjie’s voice saying, “B is for Benjie!”
Forgetting these things felt like it would make the entire four months unhappen.
It was six years before I wrote The Unhappening of Genesis Lee—the story of a girl who never forgot any tiny detail, until her externally-stored memories started getting stolen. Through this book, I was able to confront my own fear of forgetting.
I got to explore something else, too, and this is my favorite bit. When you forget something, it doesn’t mean that thing is truly gone. A memory is more than a picture playing in your mind of a past event. It’s also the internal change the event created inside you. You became you through these moments, even if you don’t remember every detail of them.
So how does it feel to still be that you…but to have absolutely no memory of the moments and choices and people who made you who you are?
That’s what I got to play with. That’s the fear I got to confront. And that is my favorite bit about the whole book.
Shallee McArthur originally wanted to be a scientist, until she discovered she liked her science best in fictional form. When she’s not writing young adult science fiction and fantasy, she’s attempting to raise her son and daughter as proper geeks. A little part of her heart is devoted to Africa after volunteering twice in Ghana. She has a degree in English from Brigham Young University and lives in Utah with her husband and two children.
And because people always ask, her name is pronounced “shuh-LEE.” But she answers to anything that sounds remotely close.
Acclaimed fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal has enchanted many fans with her beloved novels featuring a Regency setting in which magic–known here as glamour–is real. In Valour and Vanity, master glamourists Jane and Vincent find themselves in the sort of a magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean’s Eleven. After Melody’s wedding, the […]