Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Re: Road Trip Wednesday #84: The Roof Is On Fire

This weeks's question is certainly interesting. If my house was on fire and I could only grab five things, what would they be? Kinda tough. It depends on what rules we are playing with. Is every living creature out of the house? If not then the first thing I would be doing is getting my brother, my parents and my two little dogs. Stuff can be replaced -- people and pets can't.

But lets not cheat. The Mini Wheats and the family are safe. Now what?

1. My purse. I keep all of my identification in here. I also have all the money I currently own, in cash, because I absolutely detest and loathe banking. If I let my purse get destroyed I would have to get all of my information replaced and I wouldn't have any money to take care of myself in the meantime. Purse contents would likely include: Wallet, lipgloss, flash drive (hopefully up to date!) and a pack of gum. I tend to travel light.

2. My iPod. Pop it free from the charger and pull the charger out of the computer. No way would I lose my music. My iPod is something I take with me everywhere I go. Plus, I could use the music to calm myself down once I got out and I could find somewhere with wifi to tell people what is going on.

3. The bound copy of my only completed novel, Ring of Darkness. I wrote it over ten years ago, I do not have a digital copy of it at this point, but I do have it in a white glittery binder. I would be trying to lug it out from among my other books and would probably be writing a catalog of those outside to replace them once I got insurance money.

4. The photo album of my trips with my grandparents as a child. It is the only place where I have photos of my grandpa, who passed away in 1996 and I know I will never get to take another photo of him again so making sure I grabbed this would be absolutely vital.

5. "Jay", my black build-a-bear that wears that Video Game pajamas. My boyfriend made him to go with Kat, the pink and orange build a bear in Hello Kitty pajamas. (Okay, honestly? I'd cheat and grab them both since they'd be two feet apart.) The reason I am saying that I would pick "Jay" if I had to over "Kat" is because the real Jay (my boyfriend) recorded a message of him telling me that he loves me on it. We're long distance so it is nice having that at the push of a button.

Anyway, there's my list. I'm not sure whether I'd actually be able to carry all of that (although I suppose I'd stick the iPod in my purse and sling the purse over my arm.) but that was not something that was indicated in the description. Its funny how little trouble I actually had coming up with this list. There was a lot of crap that I had to cut through. It's also interesting, to me, that most of the things I would want to save are not actually my most financially valuable possessions.

Things That Make You Go "Ah!"

How good are you at pushing your own buttons?

I mean it in a good way. Like sitting in the shade and popping open a can of root beer. Not in the horror way, where you are running for your life from a zombie who wants to eat your brain. Just so we're clear.

There is much power and joy to be had in knowing the little things that can constitute toward your own happiness. Changing nay to yay can save a day.

Today I decided that I would share a few of the little things in life that tend to pick me up. Feel free to give this some thought and add your own.

1. Mini Wheat & Coco Puff.

Nope, I'm not talking about cereal. Those are the nicknames of my schnoodle, D'Argo and my bichon frise, Coco. Pets make awesome writing buddies. They lower your stress level when you pause to pet them, they lick your hands or face and force the inner critic to take a hike and they always listen to whatever you read. No fear of rejection here. They are always ready to cheek you on with an emphatic woof and a joyful wag of their tail.

2. My iPod

Best. Investment. Ever. I have no use for a smart phone, but I wanted all of the bells and whistles that came with one. This baffled me for many years as I contemplated what I would actually do with a phone plan that I knew I would never actually use. Then Apple made the iPod. It took me a while to warm up to the idea of owning one of these. Mine is a 3rd generation and I bought it in December of 2009. But I love the thing. It does everything I wanted it for without making me pay for the primary feature of a cell phone (making calls) that I totally didn't need. In a word, its perfect.

3. My Toys

Not those kinda toys, you pervert! I collect dolls and stuffed animals. I started about a year ago. I was hugely into these when I was a kid but after my grandfather passed away I gradually gave them up. (I was about 14.) People tend to look at you strange if you still have this kinda stuff past 12 or so. I say too bad for them. I'm not here to impress anyone. I use my dolls and build-a-bears as one of the ways that I reward myself for writing milestones. I also tend to theme the toys that I buy based on whatever I am currently writing; I find it helps my creativity. Most important? It has taught me to rely on my own judgement, something I feel every writer needs to eventually master.

4. Cute Writing Gear

If you have a choice, you should make a choice. It doesn't matter how small the decision is. If you do not decide something, I can promise that someone will choose for you. I can't promise you'll like what they pick. I'm an incredibly slow decision maker. I agonize over every tiny little choice. I want to pick the "perfect" thing. I have had to learn to relax this. I can't ensure I am going to pick the perfect pink or sky blue mouse any more then I can ensure I will always pick the perfect adjective or noun in every sentence I write. If I try, I'm not going to have a mouse or a novel. If I want the finished thing, I have to settle for doing my best. But that does not mean I have to settle for 'the default'.

5. Villains Seeking Redemption.

This is something that will draw me like a moth to a flame every single time. I love seeing someone dark and dangerous being redeemed. It can be a rather unhealthy obsession. Mastered, though? It makes for great storytelling. My favorite example currently is Rephaim from P.C. & Kristen Cast's House of Night series. I absolutely adore reading about him & Stevie Rae. (Doesn't hurt that she is totally into country music. Though I'll take Brad Paisley over Kenny Chesney. But I'll get to that...) I think the most valuable thing that recognizing my interest in this theme is that I can watch for it in my own writing. And that is something that applies to any underlying theme or idea.

6. Josh Groban and Brad Paisley

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. What are those two names doing in the same heading? Yikes! Well, they are -- currently at least -- my two favorite people to listen to as I write. Why? Because they cover two ends of a very large spectrum. Josh Groban, in my opinion, takes intimate concepts and makes them larger then life. Songs like "Mai" (That's "Never" in English, apparently) which covers the feelings of rejection and betrayal, "My Confession" which is about changing your mind about someone, etc. (There are a ton of songs I could go into detail on here but I'll trust that you have the idea.)

Brad Paisley does the opposite. He will take a small contained idea and make it universal. Songs like "Online" about being a total geek and wanting to escape into the fantasy world of the internet, "She's Everything" where he describes various details about the woman he loves, or "Letter to Me" where he thinks about what he would send to his 17-year-old self are all full of short little word images that make the song people feel real and authentic. It is also important to note that Brad Paisley tends to have an awesome sense of humor which, while it can add a shade to his music, does not overwhelm it. (He does not have the issue that tends to plague The Barenaked Ladies, in other words.)

I suppose in the long run it could be argued that Josh Groban is very relatable when thinking about plot, whereas Brad Paisley is who I am more likely to listen to when I think about characters. (Sorry Josh, I love you to death, but it's the truth.) The bottom line, though, is to find the right music for whatever I am working on right this second. For Moon Dance, some of the other stuff on my PlayList includes "Grenade" by Bruno Mars, "F*** You" by Cee Lo Green, "Bad Romance" and "Judas" by Lady GaGa and "Maneatrr" by Shwayze.

7. My Purse

"I think, therefore I am". I run around with a pretty nice Dolce & Gabanna brown leather purse. When we looked it up online we found out its worth roughly $850 USD. My mother got it for me at Value Village when a bunch of runway purses were brought in as a unit. She paid $35 Canadian. Hmm... $800+ in savings, I still have a looks like it's totally brand new purse and for the first three weeks I had people around here stopping to ask where on earth I got it. I'm a far cry from a material girl, but once in a while it is fun to have something out of the ordinary. Especially when I (or my mom, in this case) did not have to pay an otherworldly price to own it.

8. Video Games With Story

It wasn't a book that convinced me I wanted to be a writer. It was a game. I was 11 or 12 when Square released Final Fantasy II (technically FFIV) for the Super Nintendo. I wanted that game so bad that my father ended up driving in a snow storm on Christmas Eve to six different Toys R Us to ensure that I got it. (Not sure whether its the game or the thought, but I still consider it my favorite Christmas gift of all time.) FFIV was one of the first RPGs that had a real, honest to goodness, story. It was a story of redeption, a story of betrayal, a story of love, a story of forgiveness...

I'll be the first to admit that it probably has one of the largest spheres of influence over what I write, even today.

I realize that not everybody who writes games. And not everybody who games writes. But he's a thought: Do you know what stories, regardless of their medium, have most deeply shaped you as a writer? What issues cut you most closely to the core? The ones that make you shout with joy, seethe with rage, or break down into gut wrenching sobs of uncontrolled sorrow? I think it is really something worth thinking about.

9. The Original Mortal Kombat Movie

This is probably my favorite movie of all time. I hunted to find a copy of this on DVD for something like 12 - 15 years. I recently had the good fortune to pick up a copy when they released it alongside the new Mortal Kombat game (9, I think?) earlier this year. I've already watched my DVD six times.

What I love about this movie is how it blends so many things together. The game mythology was handled extremely well and the various settings made the movie come alive. The fight scenes are exciting and even after all this time I still enjoy them. But what separates this from many other "fight" movies for me is that the characters are so carefully drawn out and that who they are is every bit as, or even more, important then what they are doing (fighting). There is also a fair amount of humor that threads through what is going on, that (yet again) does not take away from what is happening.

10. My Favorite Foods

Come on. You know you have one. At least one.

That "thing" that satisfies every time, that always tastes perfect. That there is always time for. That cheers you up no matter what.

Forget, for a moment, the calorie counter, the carbohydrate check, the % of fat... Think, for a moment, of food as nourishment for the soul. Here are a few instant wins I can think of for me off the top of my head:

-- #2 Combo with large fries and a frosty at Wendy's
-- Cheese Capaletti from East Side Mario's
-- Jelly Belly jellybeans
-- Cucumber with a light sprinkling of salt
-- Delisio Garlic Bread Pizza -- Bruchetta or Garlic Chicken
-- Tetley orange peaco tea
-- President's Choice hot chocolate
-- Poutine (french fries with shreded cheese / curd and gravy)
-- Anything that mixes peanut butter & chocolate

In Conclusion

Well, there is the first aid kit for my soul. If I am down there are a ton of little things that I can do, use, think about, etc. to make sure that I bounce back. But I don't just reserve my favorite things for those times. I feel that the best way to avoid ending up like a bruised banana is to integrate the things I love into my daily round. So now I think I will head off, have a hand full of Jelly Belly while I make a cup of tea and then listen to some Josh Groban and Brad Paisley.

After all, I have a novel to finish. :) Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Moon Dance Sample:

Well, I put this up on Absolute Write so I might as well pop it on here, too. This is a sample piece from my current WIP, Moon Dance. Sarena kissed another guy while out on her date with Kesyl and he is not very happy about it.

* + * + *


The movie credits began to roll. Kess put on his jacket and picked up Sara's. He began to make his way up the to the exit. What had happened? Was she sick? He frowned, not liking that idea at all. Surely Kyden hadn't...

No. His fist had clenched and he forced his fingers to relax before someone noticed and got scared. If anything happened to Sara, he would be the first to know. There was no mistaking that. She was his. It was his right and his duty to know if she was in danger.

The lights came on and he gave himself a moment to adjust to the sudden brightness. There she was. Sitting with those losers from the shopping mall. Making out with Josh Gray. No shame about anyone seeing. Including him.

He threw her jacket at her. "I'm leaving. You coming or not?"

She pushed away from the guy like he had a disease. A little late for that now. She put on her jacket and walked beside him, her head lowered. Good. At last she had the sense to look a little guilty.

Little pellets of hail slapped against the pavement, mirroring his mood. He put the key in the ignition and began to drive away.

"Kess, I can explain everything--"

"Save it." He spared her a glance before returning his attention to the road. She looked like she was going to be sick. Awesome; they matched. She looked how he felt. "You do this shit every time I take you anywhere. I'm done being used."

"What?" She touched his arm and he shrugged her hand away. "He tried to put me under compulsion. I had no choice."

"He tried. Did he succeed?"


"Then choice was the one thing you did have." His hands gripped the steering wheel tight. If he kept that up he'd break it. "And you chose to kiss him."

"What could you have done? You were six rows down."

His foot slammed the breaks, only catching the red light at the last minute. A horn from the car in front shared its driver's displeasure.

"Watch the road! I'd like to arrive alive, thanks." She reached down and began to fiddle with the radio.

He grabbed her hand and pushed it away; the radio went off. "Did I say I was finished yet? Where were we... Ah, what could I have done?"

"I didn't want to see my friends end up like the gingerbread--"

The light turned green and Kess pressed the gas. He knew he was going too fast but he didn't give a damn. He couldn't believe what she'd just said. "First up: your friends suck. They treat you like crap. I hate them. Yet they're still breathing."

"You missed the turn."

He kept driving, taking an on ramp a few miles up the road and putting them out on the 401. "I know where I'm going. I just can't believe you chose to be at something's mercy rather then to trust me."

"I didn't want to cause a scene." She sounded like she was talking about the weather.

"Something tried to use compulsion on you. You are human. You can die." How could she place so little value on her life? He let out a slow breath, fighting to keep his temper under control. He knew he wasn't winning. "If the choice is between your life or the fucking theatre exploding, I don't care. Let it go boom. You come first."

"I've busted my butt to make a place for myself here. I don't want to ruin it."

He pulled the car to the side of the highway and brought it to a stop. "That's it? I'd ruin your perfect existance? That we both know is a pile of shit?"

"I've done my best." Her eyes were glossy. "Don't feel bad. I didn't expect it to be good enough for you."

"You don't get it." Lightning flashed a few feet away, lighting the inside of the SUV. She wasn't even looking at him. She seemed busy looking at the beads on her pants. He reached over and shook her shoulder. "Do you fucking know who I am?"

"If I don't that's your fault." She had a point. "Then again, do you even know who you are really? I had to tell you about the Inklings."

"I'm a Sealer. You know what that is?"

The look on her face told him she did. "The one person I have worked to avoid. Why are you telling me this now?"

"I've been having trouble judging your case." Her hand rested on the unlock button for the door and he smiled. "Don't. It's useless. Just let me finish."


"Like hell I won't." Sara opened the door and jumped out. The rain soaked through her coat as if it was not there. Oh yeah, this had been a bright idea.

So had going on a date with a Sealer. Dammit. How had she been this stupid? How had she not figured it out? Then again he was what, a year older then her?

"Get back in the car. It's dangerous out here." As if to proove his point, a bolt of lightning struck a few feet away, luminating the area with its brilliance. In a blink Sara felt Kess' arms around her. She found herself back in the car before she even had time to protest. "You want to throw your life away? Fine. But not in front of me."

"I don't understand. You--"

"I'll always protect you. No matter what." His arms circled her and she let herself be held. How was it that he stayed warm and dry when the heavens seemed to be weeping? She felt his breath, warm against her ear. His lips pressed a kiss to its lobe. "Sarena, forget you ever met me."

She jerked away from him like he'd slapped her. She could feel the power of his voice as the compulsion traveled through her body. She scrambled to put up shields, only to have each of them collapse under the intensity of his power. When had he gotten this strong?

Her throat tightened and tears welled up, threatening to fall. She blinked rapidly to hold them in. No way she would give him the satisfaction. Her shields became smaller, weaker. It wasn't doing any good trying to hold back her reaction to his power. She couldn't fight both. Either he or the tears were going to win. The tears could have it.

She focused and imagined herself giving his compulsion a large push. She wanted to force it from her body. Kess stumbled back and landed on his ass. He blinked looking up at her. Mud, dirt and blades of grass were stuck to his black leather coat. "Not bad for a human. I don't get why you fought me, though."

"For a human?" She got back into the SUV but left the door open so he could hear her. "Fine. I'll take that as a compliment. What you did wasn't bad either. For a coward."

The drive back to the house was filled with uneasy silence. Kess had turned on the heat to help dry their clothes, but without the usual chatter between them the dry air made her mind foggy. The car finally rounded the last turn and pulled into the driveway.

She went to open the door, but Kess' hand stopped her. She turned to see what he wanted. "About the compulsion--"

"It's okay. I forgive you. You were mad."

He shook his head. His eyes still looked like they had no iris whatsoever. He reached out and touched her face, his fingers cool against her warm skin. She smiled at him. Trusted him. Everything would be fine.

"Pretend that it worked." He took his hand from her face and began to open the door. "You're good at that."

The door slammed shut behind him. Sara watched him walk up the stairs and go through the front door. Yet she sat where she was, unable to move. She could feel her stomach knotting. It was like she had eaten raw worms; or at least it was as slimy as she imagined that would be.

It was over, whatever it had been. He didn't want her anymore. Her mind still in a daze she went into the house and took the stairs to her bedroom two at a time. Closing the door behind her she flopped onto her bed.

It didn't matter that she was soaking wet. It didn't matter that her boots were covered in mud. The only thing that mattered was that it felt like there was a hole in her heart and she had no idea how she was going to fill it back in.

She noticed that someone had put her Hello Kitty back on her bed. She pulled it against her and curled up in a little ball. This time when the tears came she surrenedered to them. She'd only known him a week. It shouldn't have hurt this much. She stared at her iPhone sitting on her bedside table. She could not think of one person to call who wasn't going to say "I told you so."

* + * + *

Now to quit being lazy and get to work on Chapter 10. :D Anyway, let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

Can you tell me the heart of your story in one sentence? Answer the all mighty "What is it all about?" in the ten seconds most people are going to give you in casual conversation before their mind wanders off on a tangent such as that the fluffy white cloud over there looks curiously like Bart Simpson's head? Yes? Sweet! You are one step closer to completing your novel.

I'm just hitting the midpoint in my current novel, Moon Dance. I was finding myself a little stuck. It felt strange. I knew what I was suppose to be working on, where the story was meant to go. Yet something was blocking me from actually putting fingers to keyboard the way that I have been for the last two weeks.

It hit me this afternoon. I was talking to my Mom. She asked what my book is about. Silence.

I know that my Mom's attention span for one topic can last a very short amount of time. She's busy and tends to worry too much. How could I share all of the things that I want to say in Moon Dance with her in a span if time ranging from a few seconds to a minute? At that moment I was in big trouble.

I sat down and began thinking about other books I had read. What would I say if someone asked me to tell them the basic plot of Lord of the Rings? The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? I noticed right away that I could sum up their basic concept in a sentence. Hmmm...

If an outline is a map, then a single sentence description of a novel is like a compass that will make sure you know which way is North. It's the trunk of a tree, the spine of any living creature, the course of a song.

Sarena and Kesyl must find a way to defeat Avish the Devourer before he destroys them.

Does this mean I no longer need subplots? Motivation? Absolutely not. What it does do, though, is tell me that if I find my plot getting too far away from my hero and heroine dealing with the enemy who is out to kick their ass my book will suffer for it. It also means that I need to somehow connect any subplots that I have to the main story plot in some way for them to make sense. Here are some examples:

Kesyl knows that Sarena is destined to be his. He believes that it should be her choice, though.

Originally Avish's goal was to get rid of Kesyl. However, Sarena gets herself mixed up with him by taking video footage of him when he attacks a girl at her high school. If Sarena did not bring the camera to Hycanth House there would be no need for him to live with the Lengtons'. He might not find out that he and Sarena are Destined.

Kyden places a curse on Sarena so that she will help him find a way to win Amy despite the fact that he is the God of Plagues.

Kyden tells Avish to leave Sarena alone; he has plans for her. Although Avish figures Kyden wants her for himself the truth is he wants her to help him get closer to Amelia Farrow. Because he needs her alive to help him get the girl he wants, I am able to use the dynamic between Kyden and Sarena to create conflict and gradually bring out qualities that separate him from Avish and the other Dark Prophets.

Sarena wants her brother Jayden to come home and spend Christmas with the whole family.

This is Sarena's original reason for going to Hycanth House. The desire to spend Christmas with Jayden is what gives him the idea that he and Kesyl can hide from the Dark Prophets there until the Council of Seven hunt Avish down to make living at the school safe again. (Yeah, right.) This subplot also gives the book its timeline and its holiday inspired setting (both Christmas and the ski vacation).

Avish finds himself falling in love with one of Sarena's human friends.

Before anyone can paint Avish as a one trick pony he finds a vulnerability in himself that he did not see coming when he meets Sarena and Isabelle's friend Cait McClure. When an accident later in the book brings about her death Avish blames Sarena and she actually becomes his primary target. He does not feel that anyone else is going to serve justice for the death of the girl he loves, so he decides to take matters into his own hands.

I think, based on the summary of my book, that the hardest part for me in the main plot is going to be finding a way to make the reader feel that Sarena and Kesyl took action. That they did not simply react to what life threw at them the whole way through. I feel that it is important for these two to actually make choices and "What did they choose to do next?" is a question I am going to have to ask a lot from here on out.

Anyway, I hope that this helps somebody out. If nothing else it gave me a chance to think.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Re: Road Trip Wednesday #82: Plotter or Pantser?

Up until about three weeks ago, I would have sworn up and down that the only way to write is by the seat of your pants. Outlines? Storyboards? Anything resembling a preset plot at all? Hello, straight jacket. How nice of you to drop by.

One night I was working on character bios for the characters for a concept that I've been fooling around with for years in my head. I'd been calling it Chronicles of the Holly Knight. Basically its about a girl whose family is taken from her and she has to learn to use powers she does not want in order to save them. Well, during the character bio for Sarena the sheet I had found with some really awesome questions asks me to tell about his best and worst holiday.

She told me her best Christmas was the one where she first met Kesyl. Wait what? They weren't suppose to meet at Christmas! This would change everything, I tell you. Everything!

Kesyl echoed her, though. He told me that it was that Christmas where he found out who / what he really was. I sat there, staring at what had popped up on my computer screen. My finger circled the delete key. No way. I was not going to reshape my whole story for these guys.

Then I opened a fresh wordpad file. Okay, smart asses. Talk. They didn't shut up for three six hour writing sessions. Now that the outline for Moon Dance is done, they still don't shut up. They didn't tell me every nitty gritty detail point for point. They gave me a compass to get from "In the beginning..." to :"The End". They've filled in the details along the way.

I'm now 34,000 words into my rough draft of their story. This is the longest thing I've written in probably ten years. It is also the most concentrated burst of writing I have ever experienced. I'm not allowed to glance back -- that's a big rule in the Underworld, I guess. (Be it the realm of Hades in ancient Greece or the purple skied shadowlands that the Death God, Lucian, rules here...) If something happens off the beaten path I am to just mark my map (outline). I can always fix it later -- that's what editing is for.

At this point I am just telling their story because they are so determined that it be told. Okay, I'm really curious to see what they will do next, too. Hopefully I will be able to craft this into something worthy of sharing with others. Either way, though, its been one hell of a ride. Without the map, though? I'm sure I would have missed a turn somewhere.

Walking Contradiction: Do We Mean What We Say?

My morning routine before I start to work on my story, Moon Dance, often includes checking out blogs and forums to wake up my half asleep brain. Among my travels through the blogisphere I came across one blog called The Book Lantern that had some very interesting articles regarding the creation of YA fiction. After reading quite a few posts and mulling over what the authors said, I had to give some serious thought to what I am trying to accomplish in Moon Dance, and whether what I am writing actually matches what I am trying to say. Read on to find out how that went...

I'm no stranger to putting my characters in tough situations. In my current novel, Moon Dance, I have just hit the half way mark and shit is definitely hitting the fan. Yet I do not do this to sensationalize what I am writing.

I feel that the problems that my characters face must come out of aspects of their own characteristics. I also feel that before I put them up against a giant hot pink mushroom with octopus tentacles that I had better not their strengths, its strengths, which side will prevail, and why.

There are two levels to the above criteria, though: the physical level and the mental / emotional level. It is this second one that tends to give me a lot of trouble with Moon Dance because the events of the story are intense and happen over roughly two weeks of 'real' time.

While Moon Dance is urban fantasy / romance, it is also YA. This means that I have a rock and a hard place to deal with. The presence of magic in my universe allows me to bend or alter physical rules in favor of making my own. The new rules must be consistent, though. And they must be clearly explained in a way that makes sense. The fact that my book is romance means that the reader is going to expect an HEA -- happily ever after. At the very least, it means that I expect to be giving one, as that is what I like to read.

Its the last one -- the fact that I am aiming for my book to count as YA -- that tends to bring up a lot of challenges. When I first started writing it the question in the back of my head was always "Can I do that?". Can I say "Fuck!"? Is that combat scene too violent? Is a teen going to be able to relate to this situation? I have since gotten past this question -- at least for now -- and am knee deep writing my book the way that I want to write it. If something needs to change? That's what editing is for.

Yet as I spend more time in the YA community (I like to read others' blogs, hang out on writing forums, etc. when I take a pause from actually writing.) I am beginning to sense that there is a far larger and more imposing question. A question that makes "Can I do that?" pale in comparison.

That question is "What Am I Really Telling My Reader?". From what I am gathering the limiting -- or perhaps defining would be a better word? -- factor should not be about whether I can do something. Instead it needs to be about whether I should do it, and whether doing it is actually telling my readers what I actually want to tell them.

I'll explain by discussing the section of Moon Dance that I am trying to write today:

Sara and Kess go on a date and it ends up being screwed up because Sara's friends hold her up at the theatre making Kess think that she used him for dinner and a free movie. Kess is Kindred royalty. Kess is use to getting his own way. Kess is angry.

Halt! How do I explain the emotions of a being whose entire identity revolves around his feelings, amid a negative emotion (set?) like anger, disappointment and even a tinge of betrayal*? Am I running full speed toward having him become a member of the "Bad Boy Club"? Depending on how I show his reaction and how Sara reacts to his reaction, I will be sending a message to my reader. I have to know what message that is.

(*Kess knows from magic in an earlier chapter that he and Sara are destined. He has chosen not to tell her and to try and date her like the human she is because he believes she deserves a choice.)

This is probably the mildest issue in the chapter. Kess gets Sara back to her house and decides that he is going to return to the School where he learns magic (Hycanth House). When no one at home wants to listen to her, Sara calls her "friend" Isabelle and they agree to meet at the park.

Sara received a pair of enchanted anklets that let her run incredibly fast. She uses these and is wearing headphones with her new iPhone. She is upset and is not watching where she is going. She runs into the middle of an intersection, a car swerves to miss hitting her and (since she is using the anklets she is long gone) ends up getting hit head on by a tractor trailer because the 401 is down.

The car held one of Sara's closest friends (Cait) and her family. They all died instantly from the crash impact (needs more research). When Sara gets to the park she does not find Isabelle. She finds Kesyl. He begins to make advances toward her and she does her best to resist them. She feels it is important that they sort out what happened.

It's not really Kess though. It is Avish the Devourer, the villain of my novel, who has made himself appear to her as Kess. When she refuses the physical advances Avish takes his own form and attacks her directly. In my original outline I had him doing this as Kess. That was another "Halt!" moment that needed fixing. The events I am describing take place on Dec. 26th. The timeline for the novel ends Dec. 31st. That would not realistically -- even in 'my world' -- leave enough time for this issue to be given the weight it would deserve.

Why am I putting Sara through this? What do I want from it? Lets take a look:

(1) Avish is attacking Sara because of Cait's death. (That's another "Should I?" topic in and of itself!) She does not know Sara is dead yet.

(2) I am having him come to her as Kess because (a) altering his appearance is one of his key abilities and (b) I want her to have to consider who Kess is and what he is capable of doing. Up until this point she and Kess have had decently fair sailing as a pair. This event is the catalyst from which they are going to have to grow.

(3) Avish has been trying to get at Sara the entire novel. She should know better then to leave her home alone for any reason with a killer on the lose. If she thinks she isn't going to answer for it in a book by me? She's wrong. Act too stupid to live and gee, you just might die.

Sara is rescued by Kyden (a character who possesses many, many shades of gray that probably make my original Kess concept jealous) and Kess. Sara finds that being in close proximity to Kess is uncomfortable after what has happened. Kess realizes that if he had listened to Sara on the way home from the theatre this situation might have been avoided. She is determined to find a way to keep moving forward and get past what has happened. He is determined to find ways to better protect her from Avish -- he is now fully convinced that he is not the Devourer's primary target.

When they return to the house Isabelle is there. She tells Sara that Cait is dead. A news story comes on in the background and tells where the accident happened. Sara recalls nearly getting hit by a car there. She is suspicious that the two situations are connected, but has no tangible proof.

Avish does know that the two issues are connected, though. He was with Cait as she died. (Okay, scratch her dying instantly. Yet again, research.) His feelings? Why should Sarena be allowed to live if she is (in his mind) the reason that Cait died? The chess game between these two has become personal. The big "Halt!" issue that I know I have to find a way to resolve is this: How is Sara going to react when she finds out that she at the very least had a hand in what happened? How will she cope long term?

Am I prepared to provide realistic emotional context for my readers and if so what would the appropriate level of grief be -- loss of a good friend? Survivors Guilt? PTSD? Do I allow the magic in my world to assist in healing her spirit (which is one of the biggest focuses of my book) or do I have her reject this assistance so that I can be more true to what a reader would experience in these circumstances?

Only time will tell how I will resolve these issues. But I firmly believe that every situation in my book must come from something that went before. That means I cannot shrink from the path that my book has to take, even as I step up to the challenge of being true to the book while not betraying readers on the most basic levels of the author / reader relationship.

All I can say for now: wish me luck. No doubt I will need it.

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