Writing The Whicker Witch

I have a couple projects in the works this year and among them are a few horror novellas/novels I’m writing and editing. I usually set aside a few weeks to write my first drafts. They’re sloppy but I get them done and then work on edits later on.

Last month I wrote my first draft of a work I’m currently calling The Whicker Witch. The first week went super smooth, the second got a little bumpy.

I dedicated a couple weeks to it and wrote five thousand words a day. My goal for the project was 50k but that was really just a guess. I wasn’t sure if it would come out longer or shorter.

I swear, I sent my dad a text first. He replied and that led to me calling him up at his 1:15am to talk about bridges for my book.

So the second week didn’t go quite as smooth as the first but I managed to stay on target for my word count. It went over the estimated 50k and into a third week. But it’s done!

And this is pretty much what it looks like! I write all my first drafts on Scrivener because you can have the outline in the same screen as well as a sidebar with character cards and this pretty little project target thingy!

Now, I should be on to editing this or one of the other finished first drafts on my desk BUT I jumped on another novella outline I had ready while I was still on a writing kick.

So, wish me luck! Because now I’m writing a novella about a demon and a mobster on a joyride!

Continue Reading

Crowns & Ash Character – Fay Dray Fen

No one takes from Fay Dray Fen.

“When did your dabbling in disobedience become full blown treason?”

“I do not dabble. I am an expert in all things.”

Second child and only daughter of the Queen. Fay was unwanted by her mother, sent out of the Tower at birth and never invited back. The people of the Realm rejoiced at a royal in their midst, happy to have a princess at their tables and, in time, Fay became a force to be reckoned with. She has no authority she didn’t take for herself, no love from the Queen, and almost no law in the Realm above her. Fay bends the city with the force of her will. She creates spoken laws like, “No one takes from Fay Dray Fen” by saying it and enforcing it until the rest of the Realm knows it well.

“Kill them.” He remembered Fay’s voice. Not angry or bitter, not even frightened of her own vengeful heart. Her voice had been so calm and so clear, as though death was the only path before her, the only choice she could have ever made. -Detox in Letters

A thousand paintings, sketches and sculptures of Fay Dray Fen adorned the homes of the High but her eyes were always wrong. In the end, they often painted her looking away, because none could capture even a fraction of the true weight of her gaze. -Vanity in Dust

Fay begins the series as Vaun’s bitter and somewhat smothering sister. She pushes and spies and plays at games he is only beginning to take notice of. Fay prides herself on knowing all the happenings of her world, but only after the events of Vanity in Dust, does she begin to see the people of the Realm as hers–not pawns to be moved but lives to be protected.

Fay is as loved as she is feared. The people of the Realm see her as something godly, the only one more powerful or terrifying is the Queen herself.

One of my favorite scenes in Detox in Letters is a duel between Fay Dray Fen and Addom Vym. Despite duels being a well-loved hobby of the High, where the wealthy battle with a flourish for the entertainment of their audience–Fay has never really participated. She’s dueled, but she’s never played along–known to win quickly and without any showmanship. But not only does she arrive to the duel with pageantry, she drags out the fight.

Her vision blurred in a second of fury. She had commanded him to play her enemy today and, true to his bloodline, he was an excellent liar. He lunged at her and they clashed in a rush of blood and the violent scraping of metal. She almost forgot to hold back, boots sliding in the rubble. He pushed her sword up with his, other arm slashing between them to cut at the bend of her elbow with his dagger.

Fay sucked in a breath so deep that it hit the bottom of her lungs. Her arm spasmed and fingers released her sword. It clattered to the ground and the crowd gasped in a way they never had before.

Before the first drops of her blood hit the ground, the handle of her dagger, still securely in her left hand, slammed against his face. His body bowed to the side, staggering a step away from her. She kicked out, heel to his wounded side and shoved him hard away from her and to the ground.

She glared when he rushed to his feet again, as though she would strike while he was down. His cheek turned red, rising with a welt and a bruise in the faint shape of her hilt, but Addom didn’t seem to notice. He just stared at her, mouth opening but no words coming out.

The whole yard had gone quiet.

Her arm twitched, warm liquid sliding down her hand to drip from her fingers. She followed his gaze to it—her blood—and then back up. His mouth trembled with a grin, eyes gleaming with too much excitement edged in a terror that had the Vym locking his knees.

“So, you really are just flesh and blood.” Addom heaved a breath, tears gathering in his eyes even when he smiled like a fool.

He wasn’t the only one gawking. Everyone stared at the red dripping from her arm. They’d never seen her bleed before.

Fay squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and waited for them to return to reality. This was just a show—a display for the entertainment of the public and the distraction of the Queen. “Are you grinning like that because you think you might win?” She took slow steps, pulling him into a circle and watching how he favored one side. His torn shirt exposed the gashes across his ribs, sticking to his waist where it soaked in blood. “I may be flesh and blood, but I am still your god.”

He sobered right before her eyes, swallowing hard and shivering in the face of his own mistake.

 

…though Fay boasted a cold heart, it was still there, beating in her chest and bleeding for her people. -Detox in Letters

Loves: Herself, even when her mother didn’t. Her brother, Vaun. A perfectly set table. Books. Knowledge. Victory.

Hates: The Queen. Bad manners. Ill-fitting jackets.

Fears: She would say that she fears nothing, but we know better. She’s afraid of failing the people she’s taken responsibility for. She’s afraid she won’t be able to do all the things she wants–that one day her will won’t be enough.

Relationships: Had a romance with Philip Belholn in her youth that sometimes pops up in the present. Has a complicated flirtation with Addom Vym and a known affection for the Dourdin sisters. Everyone in the Realm knows she loves her brother, Vaun, and is close friends with her sister-in-law, AviSariel. She also has strong ties with the Vym family, often seen in the company of Evelet and Larc.

Fay loved her secrets almost as much as she loved her knowledge. -Detox in Letters

And if the Realm had ice cream, her favorite would be something seriously chocolaty with chunks of brownie.

Continue Reading

Burn Out

Burn out is something I’ve heard many artists and creators talk about and thought, naively, that I had been excused from it. I thought I’d been blessed and simply never burned out–never hit that unseen wall where all our plans and schedules and inspiration went smashing to bits.

I was wrong. And, in hindsight, I’ve had bouts of burn out plenty of times before and just didn’t recognize it. Mine sneaks up on me. It’s like the gas runs out but for a while, the wheels keep rolling and I think I’m fine. I’ve got no energy, no lust to work on my projects, no oomph to get shit done. What’s worse, I forget why I even want to do any of my projects. When I look back on the weeks of burn out, it seems like sinking but I know that when I was living it, I didn’t realize I was going down. I didn’t realize what it was at all, until I woke up from that haze of procrastination.

But, this time, I steered into it. I tried not to panic or question it. I blew February watching Netflix, listening to podcasts, reading books, and writing fanfiction. (And I went to the day job, so I wasn’t literally pajamas 24/7–but mentally I was.) My lists of to-do’s piled up and I was a ghost on social media.

Every time I’ve burned out, this time included, I’ve reached the point where I think, “Oh shit, I am never going to get anything done again. This is it. This is all I’ll ever want to do.” And it’s never been true. There comes a day, when I wake from the burn out like a storm has passed and suddenly I don’t want to watch TV or write fanfics anymore. Suddenly I have energy again and ideas for my stories and a desire to tackle social media and get out there and interact with people.

It’s taken me years to figure out, but I always come back. So, I try not to panic when I don’t have it in me to do everything–or anything. Instead, I try to listen to my body and what it needs, whether that’s a nap, or to binge watch soap operas, or write fanfics, or eat pancakes. I can’t do everything all the time. Sometimes my to-do’s pile up. And that’s okay, because I can do it later. I think the trick, for me, is recognizing and respecting my own limits and not making myself feel bad for them.

This picture below is one I took the day after I woke up from my hazy February. I think I got more done on the 1st of March than I did the whole two months before and this week I’m tackling the editing of a ghost story I wrote last October and it’s going great!  So, I’m going to leave this here for Future Me, in her next burn out, to look at and remember that she’s great at this! …But she doesn’t have to be great at it every damn day.

Continue Reading

Northern Lights Tour

My mom and stepdad visited us in Sweden for Christmas and New Years and I tried to take them on some truly Swedish adventures. One of those adventures was a Northern Lights wandering out in the arctic wilds near Kiruna.

I had to ask Linn (@booksnknitting) how to take pictures of northern lights and she talked me through setting up my camera with screenshots to help.

We went out with Britt from Guide in North and it was amazing! She met up with us and provided a bunch of winter clothes. After we suited up, we drove out of the city and into the dark. Already there were some waves of northern lights in the sky. And then we got into the sleighs behind scooters and went out onto a frozen river, farther out into the country.

The lights were amazing but I was even more blown away but just how many stars we could see. Britt even pointed out mars, winking red at us.

We saw a few moose, who stopped to stare back at us for a while. I did not get a picture of them. I happen to be weirded out by moose–they absolutely give me the heebie jeebies BUT my mom and Papa Pat got a kick out it.

Just when we were freezing our toes off, the tour continued up to a little cabin where we got to warm up by the fire, eat some food, drink some tea, and even have a bit of cake.

The lights were incredible, moving from one side of the sky overhead and to the other. It seemed like as soon as you marveled in one direction someone was pointing out the lights in another.

I don’t think Phong and I would ever have done anything like this if we weren’t entertaining guests.

If you find yourself in Kiruna and have any interest in going out to see the lights or look at moose or go fishing, I can’t recommend Guide in North enough. Britt and her husband were absolutely amazing and we had an evening we’ll never forget.

Continue Reading

Cover Photo Shoot

This December, between parents visiting from the States, boat tours in Stockholm and northern lights in Kiruna, we did the photo shoot for the cover of Book Three in the Crowns & Ash Series!

I use the word “we” loosely here because I mostly control the Spotify playlist and help Phong with hair and makeup–which he is capable of doing on his own. He is a man of many talents.

Linn Arvidsson has done the last two covers for the series and set up the shoot. We hauled bags of props, clothes, makeup, flowers, and cake into the studio and followed her directions. One of the flashes was acting up, seeming only to work when any one of us stared directly at it. She took dozens of pictures while we tried different poses and outfits and the results were AMAZING! Unfortunately, I can’t share those. So, you’ll have to settle for my pictures taken on the sidelines.

Getting this kind of involvement with the cover process, and seeing Linn and Phong work, has been a delight–one I understand to be pretty rare for authors.

I am trying to nail Linn down for an interview as a cover artist/photographer. Hopefully that will be gracing the blog this year!

 

Quotes from the shoot.

Cheryl: What’s your best side?

Phong: Right.

Two hours and tons of photos later. Looking through the pictures that ended up being mostly of his left side.

Phong: Huh. Guess they’re both good. *smug grin*

 

Special thanks to got2b glued hairspray. Seriously, Phong uses it exclusively and I’ve even known him to order it online and send to friends we’re going to visit so it’ll be there when he arrives. Pretty much everyone that loves us has a bottle of got2b waiting for him. And for good reason! It works.

Continue Reading