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

(images from Pinterest and used for #thursdayaesthetic)

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.

(images from Pinterest and used for #thursdayaesthetic)

…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.

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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.

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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.

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INFERNAL

Infernal, my very first ever published horror book, came out last week! It’s available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and a bunch of other sites all conveniently linked below.

Please take a second to add it to your Goodreads if you use the site!

And if you do check it out and enjoy it, please leave a review! It means the world!

 

Goodreads

Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

 

INFERNAL

Shrouded in Mystery

According to the legends, those who venture onto the shores of this cursed island never return.

Abandoned

Valerie DeNola and her sister Julie have chosen to ignore the legends and the warnings. They have been selected to lead a team of explorers to the island to discover the mystery surrounding it. But once ashore, they become cut off from the outside world, and what they discover is something they could never have prepared for.

Inhabited by Death

Now they must fight against an unknown presence that is picking them off one by one. No one can be trusted, and when even nature rises up against them, all seems lost. Their one hope is the extraction team they know is coming. But will any of them survive to see it arrive?

 

Published by Grinning Skull Press

Cover by Jeffrey Kosh

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My first book published was not the first written.

Vanity in Dust was my first published novel BUT it was the fifth book I wrote.

There’s this idea about writers churning out a perfect novel and that being the end of it. And for someone, somewhere, I’m sure that’s true. But for most of us, we have more stories to write than we’ll ever have time to put into words and writing, like any other art, is something that gets better with practice. I learn new things with every book. The first few mostly taught me how to go about writing and finishing a story.

Originally I was writing high fantasy–the kind with sword clanking, thrones at war, and lots of betrayal. I read a lot of fantasy as a kid so it was naturally where I went with my own writing. Fantasy has always been my go-to genre. When I walk into a library or a bookstore, I go straight for Fantasy. It’s my anchor, and my comfort zone. I didn’t even try anything else until I joined a writing site when I was seventeen and started branching out. After that, I tried writing urban fantasy. And then, after FOUR BOOKS, I wrote Vanity in Dust, which is somewhere between high fantasy and urban fantasy. It’s a purely fantasy world, but far from medieval inspired, with modern themes and technology all powered by magic.

Even Infernal, the island horror I have coming out soon, isn’t the first horror novel I wrote. My first tries were just that–a try. Not a failure, because it moved me closer to getting it right, but not a win either.

This isn’t to say that the books I wrote before the ones published have been tossed aside (though a couple definitely have been). Some just haven’t found their place yet or need more work. Because getting a book published is work. There are great steps between creating an idea, turning it into a manuscript, and getting it publisher-ready. Fortunately, I love all the steps–I just wish I had more time.

I haven’t written a perfect book yet. If I do, it might not be until I’m seventy, hopefully with dozens of books under my belt. And, I admit, I kind of like that idea.

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