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Feb 16, 2015

An Interview with me from A. L. Butcher

Alexandra Butcher has graciously agreed to interview me and her questions were very thought-provoking.

The interview takes place on Alexandra's blog, The Library of Erana

I suggest (very loudly but nicely) that you check out her books. From her website:

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles
A series of adult dark fantasy romance adventures set in the world of Erana, a dark world where magic is forbidden and elves live as slaves beneath the iron grip of the ruling and corrupt Order of Witch-Hunters. Yet despite their best efforts magic still exists, all be it hidden, suppressed or denied.  In book one in this dark world a young elven mage flees for her life, pursued by her former owner, slavers and the Order and encounters a mysterious and powerful man. Together they seek to save an elven child stolen from her home, to avenge the wrongs done and to find some light in the darkness. Secrets, lies, revenge, romance, sex and sorcery fill this adventure.


More information here with references to reviews, progress on the series, and most importantly, links to where you can buy the books. I'm looking forward to reading them.

In addition, Alexandra's widespread interests have resulted in several short stories and an impressive number of interviews with an interesting mix of creative types. Just breeze though the list of her accomplishments in 2014 here to figure out where you want to go next!

My thanks to Alexandra and continued success with writing and learning journey!




Feb 9, 2015

Free Flash Fiction February: How Daphne Lost Her Hero

Originally appeared in Polluto Magazine, Volume 7, edited by Adam Lowe and Victoria Hooper, April 2012, ISBN 9781907133077. Visit Adam Lowe and Victoria Hooper and check out their books.


How Daphne Lost Her Hero 

Sharon Kae Reamer 



“Lash those sails or you'll be the first ones overboard.” She paced back and forth on the poop, white shirt billowing in the storm, hair flying like some mad medusa.

Men scrambled to carry out her commands. Loud cursing floated above the chaos whenever someone slipped on the wet planks.

She faced the sea. The sky continued to darken and waves crashed against the ship.

“What is it, Daphne?” He stood at the helm, his face half in shadow, and wore that look of wretchedness only he could conjure, the one that seemed to come from the depths of his soul.

“The end of everything,” Daphne said.

“You mean the ship or the storm?” He shoved hands in his pockets, hunching his shoulders.

“No, no, something, ach, Jimmy, I can't think when I'm wet.” She pushed back a matted strand of hair.

“The name's Elwood,” he said. “The helm's locked down.”

“Shit. We're completely screwed then.” The ship groaned, lifted out of the sea by...something.

They cried out as a massive fish-shaped dragon (or was it a dragon-shaped fish?) with pointy teeth and a snake's tongue reared up on the port side.

“Holy crap.” Daphne lunged back. It reeked of bilgewater and vomit mixed with decomposing rat.

“Exactly. Leviathan. And she wants to play.” Jimmy braced himself at the stern and moved in front of Daphne.

“Saving me from myself again?”

His shy smile got wiped away by the heaven-sized bucketload of water that the creature sloshed over the deck...

...Floosh.

“Hey!” An overflowing roof gutter sloshed a bucketload of water onto Daphne's head. “Shit. What? Oh.” She clicked her keychain.

“Mama, helloooo, unlock the door.” Bryan banged his hand on the roof and dripped on the passenger's side.

They squelched into the car.

“I feel like the Thing from the Lake, you know, creepy, dripping slime,” Daphne said.

Bryan personified wetness at her and gave her a look. She fumbled the key into the ignition. She knew that look well; she had observed her son and her husband exchanging it often enough.

“Sorry. I got distracted.”

He laughed, a derisive bark that sounded strange coming from a child. Not a child, a teenager, she told herself. A transitory, even mythical being...the thought reminded her of something...

“We're – I'm not hurting anyone.”

Bryan mumbled.

“I didn't catch that, sweetie.”

“Other moms think about blueberry tarts and basketball schedules,” he burst out. “You live in your own world. It's like you don't even exist anymore. Why don't you try to be your real self for a change?”

She strangled the word sorry before she said it again. “I've just got a vivid—”

He cut her off. “Yeah, yeah, imagination instead of a brain.”

#

As Daphne weeded her garden, she discovered an entire posse of slugs munching her lettuce plants. She considered troweling them in half but couldn't bring herself to do it. The only thing more evil than live slugs was disemboweled ones. She stomped off in search of some pelleted death for the tiny monsters. Inside the dark, cool shed, shafts of light from the window streaked across the wall in front of her, and she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder...

“It's almost time, Daphne.”

She turned. Streaks of light from shuttered windows striped his face. His desperate look seemed to rake her face before he lowered his head. When he looked up again, he pushed his hat back with one finger, a toothpick in his mouth.

“Don't go, Jimmy.” She grabbed his arm, her skirts rustling against him. “Stay with me.”

“The name's Elwood. I've got to stand up to them or be branded a coward forever.” He nodded at her. “You, too, Daphne.”

She clutched the arm tighter, staring at her reflection in the barroom mirror. “I don't know what you mean.”

“I've got my demons,” he said and stood up straighter. “And you've got yours. Time to face 'em.”

Doors and windows slammed shut outside.

“Come on out, Jimmy. We're waitin' for ya.”

She recognized the voice of Horace Slugg, head of the notorious Slugg clan and an ace gunslinger. Jimmy didn't stand a chance.

“Wait,” she said. “You've always saved me before. Who would I be...”

He flashed her his patented look of anguish. “This is the only way to save you.” The doors swung back after he left.

A shot rang out and then another...

...door slammed somewhere in the house and sounded like a shot going off. Daphne jumped back, knocking slug pellets to the floor. They scattered at her feet.

“Earth to Daphne. Hello.” Graham prodded her shoulder with his finger.

She raised her chin at her husband- “I was just going to poison the slugs. They're criminals, they are.”

He shook his head at her as they bent to clean the mess. “Daphne, this can't go on forever. You need to decide if you want to join the real world or stay in your private one.”

“Why can't I live in both of them?”

“Because...we have a hard time getting through to the real you anymore.”

She spoke as soft as a cloud condensing. “He can. He does.”

Graham paused, unsure. “Where's that dustpan?” He clicked on the light switch...

...and made her look up. Daphne had been staring at her paws pressed together on her lap. She realized she had been talking and wriggled in her chair. A six-foot white rabbit wearing wire-rim spectacles sat behind the desk in front of her clicking his ballpoint closed. He had just finished writing in a small cloth-covered book.

Daphne spotted the syringe on his desk, business end aimed at her, and puffed out her cheeks. The nameplate on the desk read Dr. H. Pooka.

Their eyes met. She resisted the urge to scratch behind her ears. She flicked them once instead.

The doctor sat back in his chair. “Your relatives are concerned. An imaginary companion is one thing, but one that accompanies you every night to the pub is quite another.” Dr. Pooka's long ears twitched back at her. “What did you call it again? A human being?”

She swallowed hard. “We're friends,” she whispered.

“Look at it this way. An imaginary –- mythical -- being and countless bottles of cheap whiskey as your only friends? Anything has to be better than that.”

She thought longingly about a drink of whiskey. Maybe even two drinks. It would have been just the thing right then. “Jimmy and I never did anyone any harm.”

“Your condition is well documented in the annals. Rare, but it does happen from time to time. Some researchers have dubbed it myth devolution. You appear to be in the early stages...” Dr. Pooka prodded the syringe with his paw and caressed it with a furry thumb.

She closed her eyes and tried to remember her husband and her son, but the memory had already started to fade. If what he had told her was true, they would no longer exist. Or they would, but she wouldn't, at least to them. Daphne was confused.

“Then I won't have a husband named Graham or a son named Bryan?”

“No, I'm afraid they'll be gone as well.” He peered at her over the top of his spectacles.

His half-lidded look was hard for Daphne to decipher. She resisted the urge to bolt from the chair.

He continued: “As fascinating as your case is for me, I would prefer to help you.”

Daphne stared at him and fought to keep her nose and her left hind leg from twitching in panic.

“The real you is in there. You can meet her today,” the Pooka urged.

She looked around at the door, feeling the familiar hopelessness. She had learned that well from Jimmy. Maybe he was just make-believe. Did that matter? He had always been there when she needed him. He'd brought her back each time. But this time the door didn't open. No one was coming. She suspected he wouldn't be at the pub either, even if she did escape long enough to get down there.

Daphne thought about her husband and her son. Would they even remember her? She turned back around and blinked her eyes in surrender to the inevitable.

His name was Elwood and he wasn't going to save her ever again.


The End

©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.

Jan 25, 2015

Ten Things I Learned About Writing a Series

Subtitle: The Schattenreich series is finished! For Now. (insert huge winking smiley face, dancing, with fireworks going off in the background)

Current conventional wisdom says that readers love series. I know as a reader, I not only love series, I luuuuurve them. I also like standalones, but I'm a hard core series reader at heart and not just trilogies. Four, five, more books. Give me more. And I'm not one of those readers who demands that each book in a series be a 'standalone' either. One or the other cliffhanger is certainly okay if I am confident that the author will be able to deliver the next book (and conclude the series) while I'm still alive to enjoy it (and still fit-of-mind enough to be able to remember what came before).

So you might think that I figured all those things into my plan when I began writing The Schattenreich series of five books. But, as I suspect is the case with how many fantasy series start out, this was not the case. I started off with a sequel in mind that grew to a trilogy and then a short ways into writing the fourth book, I realized I would need five books to finish it. Bad planning, some would say. I agree, but would amend that to 'no planning'.

'Hi, my name is Sharon and I am a pantser.' This means I write by 'the seat of my pants'. It's not entirely accurate. I do a modest amount of planning for each book. Most of the planning goes by the wayside by the time I reach the middle of the book, but that's okay. I've got a goalpost or a signpost or a looming stake-through-the-heart kind of post (write until the end or die) to push me on.

Primary Fault started out as a physical prompt, a small wooden cat that I own (a gift from my sister-in-law). I picked it up and put it next to my laptop the day I decided to sit down and finally write a novel.

I had ideas brewing from actual events (the archeological excavations in Cologne and whether there really had been an earthquake that could have scared Charlemagne enough to abandon the Praetorium as his seat of government) and some imagined backstory (that culminated in the short story The Raven's Curse, first published in The Phantom Queen Awakes anthology and soon to be rereleased).

Even though a couple of the early ideas were flawed (Charlemagne had many palaces, not just Cologne. And whether he really abandoned the city is pure speculation - there's nothing written to substantiate it). And the earthquake around 780/790 C.E that supposedly 'destroyed' the Praetorium, well.......this paper sheds a different light on the whole destructive earthquake hypothesis.

But I adapted as the series grew, coming up with novel ways of dealing with the earthquake hypothesis and with Charlemagne and a whole slew of other problems that raised their ugly heads while writing. I have now officially written The End to the first draft of the fifth and last book in the series, Triple Junction. Barring any unforeseen problems, expected publication will be sometime in early summer, 2015.

To make a long story (or series) shorter, here are the top things I learned about writing a series.


1. You need to love spending time with your characters.

Because you will be spending time with them. Lots of time. Time you're giving up from being with your loved ones (but not your cat - he/she will be right there with you), BFFs, mothers-in-law, etc. Your social skills will suffer tremendously, and people will wonder why you've started stuttering when you're in a room containing more than three people. Get used to it. You don't have to love your characters, but you do need to enjoy being around them, day and night. They will haunt your dreams and make you get up in the middle of dinner to rush to the computer to add something that just occurred to you that Character A needs to say to Character B at just that moment. Your family may end up hating your characters. It is the price you must pay.
I like hanging out
with Caitlin
I love spending time
with Hagen


 2. Do a scene outline before starting each book in the series. Update it when the book diverges.

It will make your life easier. Period. You can subsequently use it to add information to help you keep track of character motivations and history, important objects and events, plot points, series arcs, etc. It will save you from having to search the finished (and already published) books for things. I define a scene outline as a one- to two-sentence description of each major scene in the book. I am thankful to Tish Cohen for first suggesting this method to me.


3. Keep thinking about where the series is heading.

Even though I'm a pantser, I knew the series had to end. I worried a lot about this, especially as the series grew past what I had originally intended. But I had a shimmer of how things should end up. Sorta. Kinda. And that helped. A lot.

4. Be a stickler for consistency.

This concerns mainly characters, but also includes keeping track of past events (see 2. above) and what impact they had on the characters. Characters are what will make people continue to read your xth book. Unless the series is unending, the main characters will (and should) change and evolve, but they should remain predictable in the sense of what and who they represent. In a successful series, readers want to know what will happen, but more importantly, they want to know what will happen to your protagonists. They want to know about your bad guys as well (which is why I'm going to be publishing a novella with Dagmar Abel in it at some point, and muchas gracias to Martha Hubbard for the suggestion.) Fortunately, the more books in a series you write, the easier this will become as you come to know your characters as well or even better than your own family (see 1. above).

5. Be prepared to adapt.

I know. I said be consistent. But the series might make a sudden turn into unexpected territory. If it feels right, do it. This happened to me at the end of the third book, Double Couple, and I had to adjust my thinking accordingly. I originally wanted each book to be a neat, complete, fantasy-suspense plot with some sort of crime behind it that involved a seismic event. But the characters occupying my version of the Otherworld (Ande-dubnos) decided they wanted more air time. And I had to agree with them. I still have a definitive seismic event in each of the books. But the fourth (Shadow Zone) and fifth books serve the series as a whole rather than any preconceived notion of what they should be.

6. Have things worth fighting for.

Death is not your only option
Early on, one of my beta readers warned me that not enough was at stake in my story. I took this warning to heart. It is difficult, but not impossible, to bring across a sense of urgency in a series where the main protagonist has to survive until the last book (if not the end). So it is vital to make their struggles important enough to overcome this built-in flaw. I have a 2000-year old curse of death that threatens Caitlin, my main character. This is a pretty good hook. But if it occurs in Book 2 or Book 3 or even in Book 4 then I am missing a protagonist. Oops. In the meantime, my job is to keep the reader interested until Caitlin gets slammed by the curse. Or manages to overcome it (what - you think I'm going to tell? Ha!) So I made sure she is subjected to numerous other threats - both to herself and to those she loves - along the way. Only the reader can decide if I am successful or not.

7. To Theme or Not to Theme.

I found it helps to have one and to keep it in mind while writing but not to hit the reader over the head with it. I didn't discover my theme until around the middle of the second book, Shaky Ground. It doesn't have to be anything earth shaking (see what I did there?), and I kept my theme simple (and don't know if anyone will be able to guess it until the end).

8. Timeliness is important.

I believe it is important if you commit yourself to writing a series to satisfy the reader's need to have the sequels on a timely basis. If you are a writer, you may feel differently. As a reader, I want the next book now, if not sooner. But I'm willing to wait a reasonable amount of time. What is reasonable is debatable. But the longer it takes, the more you will court reader dissatisfaction. Life may get in the way, there's no question. But I'm writing for readers now, not for posterity. And I appreciate every one who is willing to wait for the next book.

9. Not everyone will love every book in the series. 

It's not the end of the world. Live with it. But don't let it slow you down. And remember to thank your readers for sticking with your series (thank you!) despite this.


10.  Think about the children   what you will do after the series is finished. Plan ahead.

 The day will come. You want to have your characters back. They no longer haunt your dreams, and you  become morose. Your loss seems insurmountable. If you have jotted some story/novel ideas down during the time you were unable to do anything other than write the freaking series, now is the time to pull them out. Unfinished short stories, musicals, your planned opus on the history of nose hairs - anything - this is the time to start working on them.




Was that ten already? I'm sure I've left out a bunch of important things. If you (as a reader or a writer) think of anything to add, please do so!




photo credit:
dedevanderroove via photopin cc

Thalita Carvalho ϟ via photopin cc