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Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Zodiac Posts - TAURUS [3]

WHO is 'Strength'?

In the last of the Strength-themed posts inspired by the Taurus sign, before I move on to "Gemini" which gives me a perfect excuse to take that literally and do some posts on twins/doppelgangers as tropes, characters and their foils and all that sort of thing, I thought I'd do something more visual and fun!

I've already asked what three words "strength" immediately conjures up in my word association game, and I've briefly mused about Strong Female Characters and how my own writing doesn't seem to have any. I don't believe in writing tropes unless you're doing it deliberately to make a point; I believe in writing about people.

So here we are, with my final inspired idea.

I asked my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter if they could each pick three "strong" fictional role models. They didn't have to justify them but they could if they wanted - they just had to give three names from any form of media who, to them, represented "strength".

#WhoIsStrength? - My Three Fictional Role Models

As I've said in previous posts, I was brought up by my grandparents and my great-grandmother. That probably explains a lot about my three childhood/teenage fictional role models, whom I saw as "strong" women.

Miss Marple, played by Joan Hickson

I grew up loving Miss Jane Marple, avid gardener, keen knitter and devoted aunt, who had in her youth fallen for a married man who had gone to war and never returned. Underestimated by almost everyone who meets her but held in high regard by those who know of her remarkable powers of observation and deduction, Miss Marple is the "grey-haired cobra" and notorious "nosy parker" who gets to the bottom of murder most foul. She also gets to have afternoon tea a lot. Which I also like the idea of having.

Miss Marple sees the world and everyone in it through the prism of her little English village, St Mary Mead. A professional student of human nature, there is very rarely any type of behaviour she encounters which she cannot link back to a case study from her village, and the people she knows so well. She is also maternal and chatty, plays up to the dotty old lady impression to get information and appear harmless to potential suspects, and lives a quiet, rich, full life with her many friends (when not solving murders).

Esme Weatherwax (centre)
Then, there was my discovery of Discworld, and Esme "Granny" Weatherwax. I picked up a copy of Witches Abroad in our High School library and I was hooked. Granny Weatherwax never gives up, or admits that she's wrong, and practices 'headology' on people. She defeats Elves (no, they are not nice), vampires, twisted fairy godmothers, usurping rulers, and often has to overcome herself. She knows exactly who she is, and has loyal friends (each strong in their own way) to make sure that her independence and hot temper don't get the better of her. I was drawn to her because of that 'weaker' aspect of her character - the fact that she needs other people to ground her and keep her from cackling (first it's the cackling, then you're up to your eyes in spindles and it's nothing for it but a hot oven and a fast horse) and the fact that she would be fantastically terrifying as a 'wicked' witch but relentlessly does the right thing. Her pride is her fatal flaw, but it's her self-control and will of steel that triumph, and the fact that she has a very balanced and accurate understanding of human nature. To quote her best friend, Gytha "Nanny" Ogg, (whom she cannot be doing with at all), if you throw yourself on Granny Weatherwax's mercy, you had better be damn sure you deserve to bounce.

Lastly, the third role model of my early teens was the indestructible, indomitable Diana Trent, played by Stephanie Cole in the BBC sitcom Waiting for God. Diana is a retired freelance photographer and journalist whose adventurous working life usually involved hanging out of helicopters over war zones with her camera. Now a permanent resident in Bayview Retirement Village, Diana and her loyal sidekick, the delightful, consciously eccentric and upbeat Tom Ballard, spend their autumnal years enthusiastically Sticking It To The Man. With Tom in tow, Diana runs rings around the home's oppressive management, and the pair of them make life a living hell for oily manager Harvey Baines, his simpering assistant Jane, and their own families... not to mention anyone else stupid enough to cross swords with them. Diana is sarcastic, cynical, rude, embittered and utterly unimpressed with everything and everyone. She always outsmarts the con-artists, the greedy and the unscrupulous, pretends to despise her beloved niece so that she will remain untouched in her niece's memories as the fun, lively and active woman she used to be, and takes zero shit from anyone. I mainly loved her because she always came out with gems of practical wisdom like this:

... Got that, my old parrots? Never. Sign. Anything. 

#WhoIsStrength to You? 

When I posed the question on Facebook and Twitter, I had a HUGE range of responses. Just as a lot of people responded very differently to "What Is Strength?", people had a range of fictitious "strong" role models too. 

Check out the Strong Gallery: from Jane Eyre to Captain Kirk, can you see the strength in them that others see? (That may mean adjusting your definition of strength!)

Antimony Carver

Buffy Summers

Dean Winchester

Albus Dumbledore

Eowyn of Rohan

Fanny Price

Dr Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce

Hermione Granger

Jane Eyre


Cpt Kirk


Miles Vorkosigan

Mole, Wind in the Willows

Neville Longbottom

Phryne Fisher

Buttercup - from the book, not the film

Rick Grimes

Sally Lockheart

Samwise Gamgee

Dr Simon Tam

Tara Maclay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 Catherine Velis/Mireille

Toph Beifong

Tyrion Lannister

Xander Harris

Who do you relate to? Are your fictional role models up there? There are plenty to choose from! I'm sure I'll be adding more to the list...

Remember folks. Always be yourself. Unless you can be your fictitious role model - or Waiting for God's Basil. Then always be Basil. 

Nice one Basil. #WhatIsStrength

The Zodiac Posts - TAURUS [2]


My previous post on "strength" and "strong characters" led me to think about my own writing a little more. 

Quite a few people last week looked at strength through a very personal lens, identifying it with family members and friends. Others saw it in an abstract, ideal way, equating it with concepts rather than people. Still others thought that vulnerability was just as much a marker of strength as confidence was. I really enjoyed finding out what people thought, and suggesting ways of expanding the definitions of "strength" we all have in our minds. 

This week, I've been writing the fourth in my fantasy series, The Faustine Chronicles, The Book of Death. I've got a few new characters to have fun with, and, just as I was writing my other characters, I wasn't thinking about whether they were "strong" or not. I was actually thinking about how realistic they were given their back stories, personalities and the situations they found themselves in.

After reading a piece on "Strong Female Characters" by Tasha Robinson, critiquing female characters such as Valka in How To Train Your Dragon 2, and WyldStyle in The Lego Movie, I posed her questions at the end of the article to myself.

Do I write SFCs? As in, not individuals with flaws and weaknesses and cracks and limitations like everyone else (for these are the things that make us human) but Strong Female Characters [SFCs] as tropes, as walk-ons, as conventions? 
I hope not.

I see all my characters as individuals, so when I tell their stories, you have people in their stories who are peripheral, vital, passing by and deeply important. There are men in my life who are completely peripheral and had a passing or momentary impact on my life. There are women who have done the same thing. And for my male friends, the same thing applies. Everyone is the hero of their own story, but what you need to do when being in total control of that story is to ensure there is a balance. Real life doesn't have a balance, is messy, and is basically what you get with no means of appeal - but fiction has to make sense.

The one character that has always bothered me, though, who is abused and criticized and isn't very likeable but at the same time (I don't think) deserves what happens to her, has never had any sympathy from the readers.

Her name is Gisa Ranheard, and she appears in The Book of Time

Gisa outlived her abusive, cursed family, and even though her own curse is activated manages to turn it to her own advantage. But, because she stands in opposition to characters that the majority of readers seem to like, she gets zero sympathy from anyone. It was important to me that in some way there was justice for her. That was up to the other women; it was always going to be up to the female characters to sort each other out, and reveal their strengths and weaknesses to one another because of one another.

I think that's a key element in the books without me even realizing.

Perhaps that's because to me, strength comes in spite of mistakes and flaws, and shines through the cracks.

#WhatIsStrength to you? 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Valentine's Day Special: Excerpt from The Book of Death

The Birth

This is an excerpt from my current WiP, The Book of Death. It is unedited, and comes from one of the first chapters. I haven't got to any "romantic" bits yet - so you'll have to make do with newborns. 

The crowd were now completely hushed. The silence was eerie - eerie in its suddenness, the way it passed like an electric current from person to person, group to group. Their king was reclusive, not given to many public appearances of this type. He was so pale it seemed he was not given to many private outdoor appearances, either. In fact, he had lived most of his pre-royal existence outdoors, hardy and tough despite his frame and well used to making the best of things in all weathers and without shelter. Seven hundred years could change a man. So could draining a powerful Dark Faerie of his life-force and glamour, and artificially extending his youth and life through drinking the blood of willing mortal donors. The heart that pounded resolutely in his chest was fit and strong, and the hazel eyes that looked out over the crowd below were sharp, shrewd and flecked with purple.

"We are delighted to announce," he said in low tones which nevertheless carried all around the city, "Her Majesty, Queen Johanna Vassilissa, has given birth to our firstborn -" There was an eruption of cheers, and the king raised his voice, drowning them out with little effort, "- twins, a boy and a girl, safely and without complications. Prince Cenred Kristof was born two minutes before his sister, the Princess Adosinda Elsa. We thank you, our people, for your love and your faith, and take all of your good wishes and prayers to our hearts at this glad time. A national holiday is declared - we wish for you all to celebrate with us, and share in our joy." He dipped his head, the chiseled, serious features ever the fantasy of many of his more romantically-minded subjects, and the crowd erupted.

There had been no heir for seven hundred years. Their great-grandparents had told them stories of when the royal couple first began their shamanic experimentations, their grandparents had wondered if it was possible. Some of them had been in this very square twenty years ago, when the announcement had been made that a prince had been delivered stillborn. Those that had been there could recall even now the deathly hush that had descended after the chamberlain's quavering words, and the way the wailing had began. Quietly, with gasps, broken and sad - and the ones that wept, the ones that sobbed, the ones that screamed. The candles and lanterns that had been lit, and stayed lit, and the crowd that camped out in the square for a whole week in resolute steadfastness despite the miserable weather, remaining to grieve with their king and queen.

Now, it had worked. The historic moment had arrived.  

Those that remembered sitting down on the cold wet stones, staring up at the balcony with tears and raindrops running down their cheeks, were so happy they were weeping out loud, their passionate sobs of joy merging with the frenzied roars of excitement and history-making hysteria until the sounds were indistinguishable and the ensuing din could be heard for miles around.

They were still cheering ten minutes later when he finally made it back through the curtains and into the warmth of the plush carpets and central heating system of the palace, running on its immense furnace deep in the belly of the basements. King Vin had invented central heating himself, based on descriptions of the ancient underfloor heating systems of his mother-in-law's native country, and had also designed Acca's sewage system. He had established the Royal Academy of Inventors and Engineers, and worked closely with them on various projects. He was eternally thankful that the royal treasury had also invested in the Royal College of Shamans, without whom the twins would not have been conceived, and the Royal College of Midwifery, without whom the twins would not have been so safely delivered.

            The Black Queen was in bed with the twins, the midwives still present and standing by, when he came into the room. The grey light of the mild December poured through the bay window, washing over the thick pile blue carpet, where soft-soled midwives were handling bloody sheets and wrapping up the afterbirth for burning. Jola looked up at him with a bright smile, still bathed in a sheen of sweat and looking exhausted. Her long black hair was spangled with white, which glowed brilliantly as if a constellation had been sprinkled through the raven curls, which were not true black but shot through with the same glimmering purple that shimmered in the clouds.

"Is it too late to change the names?" she said, as soon as he pushed open the door. 

Vin nodded, walking gingerly across the room to the bed as if afraid the carpet would scream. "We agreed." He took a seat by the pillows and kissed the top of her head. "Naming them after our parents does not mean they will turn out like our parents." They both knew he meant her parents, but Jola appreciated the inclusivity of 'our'. "Have you taken blood yet?" 


He checked; the glass at the bedside was stained, but empty save for a few clots. Jola had not been taking blood throughout her pregnancy - the shamans had advised against it - but now it would help her to heal faster following the birth. Jola and Vin had aged a little in the centuries that had passed since their marriage. Jola had been sixteen when they met: now she was thirty. When she stopped taking blood, she aged naturally, her body clock ticking forwards again at a steady, normal pace, and when she started her daily rations again the aging process halted. Vin had allowed himself to age a little more, and counted his natural years as thirty-two, but they had both been around for far more years than they cared to remember. 

He looked down at the twins, nestled in their mother's arms, wrinkled red faces and closed squinting eyes giving them the confused expression of newborns unused to the world beyond the womb, and a great surge of love welled up within him. They were so real, so present, no longer a bump separated from his touch by layers of skin, no longer hypotheticals and what-ifs and maybes and the subject of aching daydreams. They were finally here. 

"Hello, Addie," he whispered, as his daughter's tiny mouth moved. Her brother flexed his little fingers into a star, whole hand completely dwarfed by his father's calloused palm. "Hello, Red." 

He had almost given up with the treatments. He had even begun to resent Jola for forcing them both on down that path of private humiliation and endless disappointment, but seeing her now, the culmination of all their struggles peacefully napping in her arms, and her exhausted joy shining through the blotches and sweat, made all their dashed hopes seem more than worthwhile. Vin swallowed, so full of emotion it physically hurt. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Zodiac Posts - TAURUS [1]

What is Strength?

I have to say, I'm enjoying the challenge of coming up with blog posts inspired by zodiac traits. It's a lot of fun looking at the prompt options for each sign, and gives me a lot more scope than I imagined! it's also much better than having to come up with new topics completely unprompted. I'm quite bad at that.

After our dynamic action interviews inspired by Aries, we come to Taurus - and "strength" is the obvious thing that comes to mind here. 

Now I can really roll my sleeves up, because I have this thing about "strong women". Oh dear lord, yes. In fairness, I have a thing about "strong" people - strong women may be a more talked about concept, but "strong" men - or the idea about what makes a "strong" male character is actually just as contentious. It's not all about the armour, folks.

I really appreciate the work of these guys, One Mile In My Shoes, a charity working to end the stigma against mental illness one story at a time. The title that caught my eye in my Newsfeed was "... if I have PTSD then how can I be strong?"

          It was Emily's story, and it's very challenging. But it was that initial question itself which resonated with me. "... If I am x, or have y, how can I be strong?" This is what we ask ourselves, as if "strong" people are perfect, flawless, and have no scars. I know from experience that when you are at your weakest, and someone says to you, "You're the strongest person I know", it makes no sense to you. My own response was to shut down. I was like, "What the hell do you mean? Is it because I still get up in the morning and I'm dressed? Is it because I seem to be able to buy my own food? Is it because I look like everything's normal? Because it isn't. And it is not fine. And this is the weakest and most impotent and most helpless I have ever felt." But I'd just say nothing. With hindsight, I can say that now I really am fine, I know that I am a strong person. You can be strongest in weakness - it's in the getting to the other side that you're tested, and while other people can't see that you're in your own private hell, feeling thin and stretched and useless, when you make it to the other side there is somehow more of you than before - or more to you than before. At any rate, you're never the same. So what impact does this knowledge have when you come to write "strong" characters?

This links in with my earlier post on representations of mental health in fiction, and why more antagonists have mental health issues than protagonists. I then interviewed author Maya Starling on her work in progress, working title Vengeance Upturned, and its main character Etta. I wondered how many protagonists were out there, grappling with various personal issues. Most of them seem to be detectives, driven by their own demons to solve crimes and combat the darker side of human nature. Either that, or they take up arms against injustice and evil, and live ambiguous lives of heroism on the margins of society. "Noir" is a thriving, rich sub-genre, applicable to most things. I wonder if there's a Romance Noir out there somewhere, waiting for me to discover it like a hidden box of Black Magic chocolates. (Anyone else remember those? Christmas tradition in our house...)

I asked: can you be considered a protagonist, or even a straight hero, if you also have schizophrenia? How many schizophrenic heroes are there in fiction? How many of them are main characters, not secondary characters? (I'm using "hero" gender neutrally here. At least, that's the intention).

What about a romantic lead with Aspergers, hoping to meet the boy/girl of their dreams?

Can someone suffering an ongoing battle with depression - and never actually wins, but learns to deal with it rather than overcoming it completely (in itself a kind of victory) - be a protagonist, a hero, a main character, in something other than a detective role or a story ABOUT depression? (Re)-imagine the story of Snow White, where the story is exactly the same in all respects, but in which Snow is exactly this kind of character. 

Would 'Cinder' Ella still be a classic heroine if she had depression, or was an alcoholic, or addicted to prescription painkillers? Or if she had a physical disability, perhaps, or learning difficulties? Could she be the heroine and get the prince and have every part of the story remain exactly the same if she happened to have Downs Syndrome?

I hope you see where I'm going with this...

Now, the concept of writing "strong" women cropped up in my Twitterfeed the other day, and I knew exactly what I wanted to discuss next, so I was pleased that this fitted into the next zodiac sign I was given to inspire my topic. A lot of people want their "strong" characters to demonstrate strength by kicking ass and taking names. That's fine - that's a form of strength. I used #WhatIsStrength on twitter, and found a load of fitness tweets and gym-related articles. That's another form of strength. These are both very valid. So I wondered what other people thought strength was.

I asked people on Facebook and Twitter to tell me what three words instantly came to mind when they saw the words "STRONG"/"STRENGTH". 

Here are some of the answers (there's obviously no 'right' or 'wrong' answer to this, it's just a word association game and all answers will be personal and relevant to that person's understanding and conceptualizing of that attribute).

FRIENDS / FAMILY / MYSELF - Lisa Gillis, author of the rock star romance novels in the G-String and D-String series

INDEPENDENCE / STEEL / INNER - Natasha Rowlin, author of the moving short story "The Cello Room" 

POWER / FREEDOM / AUTONOMY -  Kara Jorgenson, author of The Earl of Brass


RESILIENT / WILLPOWER / UNYIELDING - Alex Rosa, author of Tryst and Emotionally Compromised

PASSION / STEADFASTNESS / DETERMINATION - Emerald Delmara, author of fantasy short story "Eternal Dreams" 

IRONCLAD / WILLFUL / COMMITTED - Kim Fry, President of Kace Tripp Publishing and author of Jumper 27 and short stories "Dead Girl Walking" and "Bone Music"

COMMITMENT / INTELLIGENCE / CARING - Mel Favereux, author of the Sanctuary series

GRACE / RESILIENCE / HUMOUR - David Jon Fuller, copy editor and author of several short stories including "The Harsh Light of Morning" and "A Deeper Echo"

MOTHER / FRIEND / SISTER - Donna Sharples 


COMPELLING / INTENSE / PASSIONATE - Laura Perry, freelance editor and author of fiction and Pagan/Wiccan non-fiction titles 


Strength can come in many forms. I'm not trying to present answers - just ideas.


... A lot more than the sum of its representations.


Think about your own personal view of a "strong character". Write down how you define "strong", and the things that you believe give a character strength. Now think about this:

Can you have a "strong character" who is willing to be vulnerable? 

Can you have a "strong character" who is having therapy?

Can you have a "strong character" who is unapologetically sensitive and emotional?

Can you have a "strong character" with depression?

Can you have a "strong character" with schizophrenia?

Can you have a "strong character" with multiple personalities?

Can you have a "strong character" who has no idea how to physically defend themselves and never does - because they won't, or can't?

Can you have a "strong character" with Dissassociative Identity Disorder?

Can you have a "strong character" with Downs Syndrome?

Can you have a "strong character" with learning difficulties?

Can you have a "strong character" who is just not that clever or quick-witted?

Can you have a "strong character" who is asexual?

... Ok.

Consider what you've got on paper. I find reflective exercises after the writing stage sometimes help the process, too.

For example:

How comfortable are you with "strong characters" who are also protagonists, but have religious convictions you are not familiar with, or don't personally accept? Can you have a "strong character" who is passionate, intelligent and determined, but also has strong, deep and genuine religious convictions - somewhat out of fashion in fiction, perhaps, unless we're talking Historical Fiction? (Even then, I've noticed that the "outsiders" or "rebels" in various HistFic periods are usually always atheists, with atheism as a mark of their rebellious, 'strong' personality. That's fine and often works really well, but it can feel as if there are other stories left untold, and whole new sets of conflicts left unexplored... and sometimes, at worst, just comes off as a lazy trope applied because the author wanted to write a "strong character".)

Or, how about this:

Do characters need to be active in order to be "strong" - what about passive characters? Is there strength in passivity? (What about passive forms of resistance, like the villagers of Kanthapura? What about pacifists or conscientious objectors? Are they the 'cowards' of official contemporary WWI / WWII narrative, or are they strong, too? What about characters who refuse to take revenge? Those who would rather face the consequences of their non-action than undertake something against their conscience?) 

           I find things like this interesting because I get to think about other perspectives and really get to grips with 'lazy thinking'. Why do I think the way I do? What assumptions do I have about people, and how do my real-life assumptions impact the way I represent my characters?

Who decides that some stories are worth telling while others are not, and who casts people in the roles they play? Is it you as the writer, or are you unconsciously reproducing a trope or type that fits a socially accepted image of strength, which perhaps you have never had cause to question? (I've done that. I need to think more about the people I write, no question. There's no judgement here.)

Yes, of course you can write a two-dimensional or even one-dimensional character on purpose, if that's what you require and it works. This isn't about censorship or judgement of good writing. It's just me sat here behind a laptop, thinking aloud into cyberspace, and wondering what the hell "strong characters" even are. And why they aren't also something else. 

In the end, perhaps "strength" and how we view it comes down to how we see empowerment as a culture. Strength can be seen when the swords are dropped, not when they are drawn. Strength can be found in the granting of second chances and the showing of mercy, not in revenge and justice. Strength can be found in laughing at yourself. Strength can be found in shouldering responsibility and sacrificing adventure to do so. Strength can be found in the willingness to change, as well as the determination to stay the course.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Zodiac Posts - ARIES [3]

A is for Action


Following my interview with Maya Starling about mental health in fiction and her main character, Etta, I decided to interview three very different authors on their craft and their various approaches to action and writing dynamic scenes. 

You can read steampunk author Kara Jorgensen's interview here: ARIES [1]

You can read author and editor Charlotte Ashley's interview here: ARIES [2]

Interview with Jaycee Ford

The last of my three interviews is with bestselling romance author Jaycee Ford,

Jaycee FordJaycee Ford grew up chasing street cars around the city of New Orleans. After doing a four year stint at Louisiana State University, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and fled for the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. New Orleans beckoned her home again where she put her love of the foothills into a series of romance novels. In between writing, she's found behind her desk at a top rated law firm ... or still chasing street cars.

1. What inspired you to write a linked series,What inspired you to write a linked series, and the Love Bug theme? 

Everyone always starts out stating that they wrote well in school or had a passion for reading early in life. The truth is that I used to loathe reading. I’ve come to learn it was because I only read books required by school and they just didn’t do it for me. As I grew up, I had come to enjoy some of the required reading. When I became an adult, I discovered romance novels. Even though most are considered “easy reads,” I devoured them quickly and almost intensely. Most married woman in their mid to late twenties would more than likely agree with my statement. By the time I turned thirty, I couldn’t find a story that met all my expectations. I decided to write my Happily Ever After. Watching Fireflies is very loosely based upon me and my husband’s meeting and our rush to the altar. Quick by my standards is meeting and marriage within two years. Well, it was quick for me. Anyway, we had our “insta-love” romance which began shortly after I ended a horrid relationship with an ex. In real life, the ex did not meet the same demise as the villain in Watching Fireflies, but as the saying goes, “Never piss off a writer.”

I came up with the title Watching Fireflies because I was a city girl who moved to the country hills of North Carolina. The thing that most drew me to the country life was the fireflies. I never witnessed that sort of beauty in the city. I used to watch them for hours and hours during the summer months. Since my favorite pastime was watching fireflies, a novel was born. My second novel in the series was actually written much later. My second written novel was Hornet’s Nest, which is available for purchase on 3 February 2015. The story took readers away from the country and into the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte is dubbed the “Queen City.” Per Wikipedia, it is named in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had become queen consort of Great Britain the year before the city's founding. I couldn’t come up with anything regal related in the form of titles. However, there is also a second nickname for this city. The story goes that British commander General Charles Cornwallis occupied the city during the American Revolutionary War. Charlotte is one of the largest southern cities in the United States. Of course, it’s a little rebellious. When the residents drove him out of occupation, he described the city as “a hornet’s nest of rebellion.” Enter light bulb moment here. The Love Bug Series was born. I rearranged the order before publishing making Dragonfly Awakening second and Hornet’s Nest third. The fourth and final book in the series is my current work in progress. It’s titled Mosquito Chase

2. How do you build up to that climactic moment in your narrative?

My published works, Watching Fireflies and Dragonfly Awakening, are both romance novels; however, their climactic approach was vastly different. Watching Fireflies is a romantic suspense. I gave the readers the love and passion early on in the story. Some may describe it as “insta-love” but the focus was the suspense (with highly romantic elements). The emotions throughout the novel lead up to the climax of both story arcs. We have the obvious climax in the romantic sense (wink, wink) and the climax of the suspense, which I cannot say. I wouldn’t want to ruin the experience. Dragonfly Awakening is a classic New Adult/Contemporary Romance where the spoken words “I love you” is the peak. I always write Happily Ever After romance novels because that’s the epitome of romance.

3. What do you think you’ve learned about writing dynamic scenes, keeping the interactions engaging and hooking the reader from when you started writing?

I find starting off a novel with some sort of action always grabs the reader’s attention. They want to find out instantly why the character is driving furiously or why the character’s heart is pounding. If you can grab their attention with some sort of feeling, they will continue to want that dire need to feel what the character is feeling. It’s another factor in the “Show, don’t tell” requirement of writing. Don’t just show the reader what the character is feeling. Make the reader feel what the character is feeling. If you want tears, make the character go through agony. If you want happiness, make the character elated with emotion. It’s a hard task, but very easy to achieve through personal experience.

4. How much energy and drive does it take for you to get where you are now in your writing career? 

Becoming a writer is easy. Becoming a published author is not for the weak of heart. The time a writer spends on the luxury of writing will be cut by more than half (even more if the publishing process is self rather than traditional). I’ve taken on the roll of self-published author, which can also be called a business owner. I have my company Jaycee Ford and I have to sell, market, account for all assets, and manage all aspects that goes into this company. Once one product is cleared through the lines of production, the process starts over again with a story plot. The end goal is to hit the button “Publish.” It’s gratifying to read “The End” knowing that you can lay it to rest. But as any good product you produce, you still have to sell it. The salesman is always working.

As many writers know, this isn’t a make it rich quick business. It’s a passion. Writers have to supplement their passion with pencil pushing desk work. In my case, it’s in an accounting cubicle at a law firm in downtown New Orleans, Louisiana.

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