I first got the idea for my YA Fantasy/Dystopian novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC, which is forthcoming from NineStar Press—with a tentatively release date of June 11, 2018—around this time last year. I didn’t like what was going on in the United States, and I needed a project to channel my energy into. But I didn’t want to write a preachy book. That isn’t to stay social justice issues can’t be discussed in literature, they can be. I just wanted to organically approach it. And that’s how I created the idea of people born without magic being discriminated against in Magnifico—which is the fiction country where the novel takes place. I wanted a country where someone’s sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender wasn’t the basis for discrimination.
The issue of plot versus characterization was another thing I grappled with when writing IN THE NAME OF MAGIC. I don’t like the idea of writers having to pick one over the other. Plot and characterization should work together, not compete with one and another. And that’s how the idea of the main character Maximillian hiding his best friend Katherine—who was born without—came about.
Maximillian offers shelter to Katherine because I wanted to ground the novel’s world and not start with a large rebellious war right away. Katherine is a way for readers to see how non-magical people are being terrorized in my novel. The Katherine issue is also important because it shows Maximillian makes his choice. He chooses to do something despite risking his family’s life. Hiding a non-magical person is punishable by jail and death in my novel.
I also wanted to layer in the oppressive monarchy, meaning it resembles a snowball rolling down a hill. Maximillian witnesses more and more violent and oppressive things as the novel progresses, and suddenly, it’s like: What happened to my country?
Giving a human side to someone who got caught up in believing in the new ruler (Queen Vivian) was also important when writing my novel. Not because I wanted to shove a morally gray character in people’s faces, but because I wanted conflict for Maximillian. And that’s why his best friend, (and Katherine’s boyfriend) Taylor, supports Queen Vivian. His mom lost her job, and he’s angry about the country’s recession. Maximillian even keeps hiding Katherine a secret from Taylor, thus choosing his friendship with Katherine over his friendship with Taylor.
I also can’t forget about the novel’s main romance. Maximillian develops a relationship and falls in love with Queen Vivian’s estranged brother, Prince Stefan (who is Maximillian’s age). Although Maximillian and Stefan’s romance is eventually complicated by Queen Vivian reaching out to Stefan. However, I up the stakes further. Maximillian encourages a faux-reconciliation. Being in Queen Vivian’s orbit is a way to keep an eye on Magnifico politics, especially since he’s still hiding Katherine at that point in the novel.
IN THE NAME OF MAGIC is my most favorite thing I’ve ever written. Art is never 100 percent perfect, but I really thought about my writing craft with this book. Like with scenes that show characterization, incorporating sensory details, delivering worldbuilding in manageable chunks in addition to carefree scenes that balance out the life and death moments. Anyway, thanks for reading a little bit about my book!!!
Chris Bedell's previous publishing credits include essays on Thought Catalog, short stories on Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Short-Story.me, Chicago Literati, Pidgeonholes Magazine, The Vignette Review, Abbreviate Journal, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, creative nonfiction on Inklette Magazine, Sprout Magazine, Entropy Magazine, and The Drunken Odyssey, and poetry on Quail Bell Magazine. He also graduated with a BA in Creative Writing Fairleigh Dickinson University in May of 2016. Furthermore, his debut YA Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC about 17-year-old Maximillian who hides his oppressed best friend while falling in love with the Evil Queen's estranged brother in a tyrannical contemporary Earth like fantasy setting is forthcoming from NineStar Press, and has a tentative release date of June 11, 2018. Follow him on Twitter!
It seemed like a very good idea. I would quit my day job as a middle school teacher to spend all of my time writing an idea burning in my brain about little mischief-makers in elementary and how they grow forward through middle school.
This wasn’t an overnight decision—I had been practicing how it would feel to live off one income for a couple years. I have one of those husbands who supports my dream chasing.
This also wasn’t my first adventure in writing. I’d already published two previous novels, one of which was middle-grade fiction, the other non-fiction for adult children caring for elderly parents. So I was ready to untether myself from the district until someone suggested I use common sense—take this year as a sabbatical.
Anyone who has ever pursued an entrepreneurial path knows the risk involved when a safety net remains firmly in place. The worry is one might languish—eat bonbons, watch daytime television—until sadly, not a chapter is written before year’s end.
Fortunately, I did not succumb to these temptations, and, shamefully, I have missed every Ellen episode during this time away from the classroom. Instead, I wrote feverishly every single day, including nights and weekends. I was nervous that I’d have little to show for this gift of time. The possibility of returning to my administrators empty handed gnawed at me.
This is the only motivation I needed—to save face in front of my peers, bosses, and former students.
Here’s what I discovered. There’s a lot I can get done in the day when school bells aren’t going off every forty-five minutes, with thirty kids clamoring at my door, anxious to come inside! Oh, how I loved them dearly.
This peaceful time alone at my desk with my thoughts has unleashed some pent up creativity. Characters I never remembered creating came spilling out of my brain. Toward the end of the series, I went digging through stories I’d written ten years earlier for a scene I wanted to revive, and I found Lynn Hannigan—again. The name had evidently been stuck in my head all this time without my awareness.
I wrote Lynn Hannigan with such clarity when she interacted with her son, Slater, that she must be a repressed memory. The closest inspiration I can conjure up is a fifth-grade friend whose mother washed her mouth out with soap—an actual bar of soap—and sliced her tonsils with her overly long fingernails in the process. Ouch! My friend never used naughty words again. But I love this kind of energy for Slater’s mother. “Is she helping, or is she hurting?” seems to be the regular commentary I get from my friends.
Writing Mischief-Book 1 came easily. There might be those naysayers who think these characters and plot lines must be thinly disguised versions of what’s ever happened to me inside my years of teaching twenty-seven hundred students. But I submit, what would be the fun in that? I prefer my own imagination. Besides, no one would believe the worst of what I’ve seen in the classroom!
Plus, whatever has happened in the classroom needs to stay in the classroom. It’s the unwritten promise we educators make to our students. It’s the right thing to do. After all, childhood is meant for learning.
Writing Mayhem-Book 2 filled me with excitement because the characters were now indelible to me and the reader. But I was sick with worry that I wouldn’t love this one as much as I did Mischief-Book 1. Isn’t that a normal feeling for any parent ready to welcome a second child? Thankfully, the beta-readers loved it even a little more and the anticipation for a third book put even higher expectations on me. Could I deliver? I was frantic that I might not.
Writing Menace-Book 3 was so much fun! I caught my rhythm and could type a chapter a day. In my mind, I became a boy. I thought of muddy situations to bring boyhood to life and ta-da, Elmer Woods became the scary place where Slater and his friends would meet their match. It was absolutely delicious to invent. I bounced out of bed every morning awaiting a good story, even though I was greeted with a blank page. By the end of the day, I was quite pleased with the trajectory of the plot but managing all of the moving parts for three books in different stages of production was robbing me of my writing time. I felt very much like the lady in the circus spinning plates on poles!
Writing Malice-Book 4 became difficult emotionally. I spent an entire month trying to avoid one scene because I didn’t want it to turn out that way. My aim in writing this series is that I’d engage non-readers, boys in particular. I had to include the heartache of childhood because I know kids in real life experience the same. This modern day Tom Sawyer-type adventure reminds us that even Tom had his share of woes. We can’t always play pirates on an island. Life throws us curveballs, and we take them like a punch to the gut in Malice-Book 4.
The scariest part of writing is always getting up the courage to share it with the world. It’s the tortured artist in me and I daresay, most creative types must feel this way too. But I trust my instincts and when a scene is not right, I know how to hit delete and begin again.
I feel so happy with how the story in Mischief Series has unfolded—and I’m so incredibly grateful others are discovering it now too. These characters have not let go of me yet. The fourth book in the series is set for a December 2017 release. Available at Books, Inc. and amazon
A gift for Mischief lovers...
Now through Sunday, December 17th you can grab the MISCHIEF series on Kindle for only $0.99 each!
Mischief (Book 1)
Mayhem (Book 2)
Menace (Book 3)
I hope you’ll take advantage of this special offer, and please share with your friends!
And don’t forget our December Giveaway Deal: 20 readers will receive a FREE copy of Book 4 after posting reviews of Mischief Series:Books 1-3 to amazon. Email me your screenshot once reviews are LIVE and provide a good address where book may be shipped on December 20th.
Book 4 will be signed and sent 2-day USPS. Reach me at: StefaniaShaffer@gmail.com with any questions
I should probably preface this with saying the title of this piece is how I USED to feel about editing. For the newbies out there and the old hands who still hate it, all I can say is that it is a learning process. And it takes TIME.
What I will say is that if you have people in your corner, the ones who will support you no matter what, it will become easier.
Editing... Is a mental process.
Yes, it is a physical process, of course it is. Editing is physically changing words to find something more succinct, finding missing commas - or deleting too many commas (I suffer from this! I think my drafting style is to write like William Shatner is reading my text aloud), talking marks, question marks, plot holes (or discovering your plot has some how fallen into a black hole... the space death of plot if you will). Editing might be reading aloud, reviewing, scanning, rewriting, trunking large swathes ah la The Bush Fire approach, or Critique Partner reading, Beta reading, Alpha reading or just resting a manuscript. Editing is a lot of things to a lot of people. And everyone does it differently.
I truely think you need to do a little of everything. And above all - to LISTEN.
Listen to your manuscript. Listen to your words. Listen to your readers (Alpha, Beta, CP, friend, long suffering family member who doesn't have a choice BUT to read it). Listen. Hear what they are telling you.
But make your own choices about what to implement. You will know. You will FEEL it. (I'll come back to this in a minute.)
I am someone who has found it difficult to let go of my baby. I am also someone who will continue to edit long after I know I should stop.
In the early days, this is a good thing.
Let me tell you about my manuscript. Let's call her Baby One. I wrote Baby One when I was in high school (so many years ago now that I cannot remember that far back). A little something that I wrote because I needed to write. It made me laugh, it made me happy. I loved and was IN LOVE with Baby One. It took me less than six months. I gave her to family and friends to read, only received praise (because they were friends and family) and thought I was amazing. I had written a book! I put it away and "grew up." I got on with my day to day life. University, job and travel. I put away Baby One but never quite forgot about her.
Ten years ago, bored in a job that I did not enjoy, I started to write again. I'd written a book once before. I could do it again. Baby Two took five years or stress, sweat and curses, and was stopped and started so often I am surprised she even makes sense. It was at this point I thought back to Baby One and decided to reread her. I stilled loved her but she had flaws. I went back over her and for the first time thought about actually doing something with her... querying.
Oh what a young fool I was.
Since those early days I have become more serious about my writing and studied writing guides, books on writing by writers, grammar and editing guides and reread Baby One and Two again. Crap. I was awful. The worst writer ever. Why was I even bothering to write...? I was a disgrace.
It took a while to shake off the plague of doubts. I joined a writing community. Found some fabulous CPs and beta readers. And editors (paid) to see the flaws I couldn't see because I was too close to my words.
And the one thing I have learned?
You need distance.
You have to distance yourself from the words. When I first started to edit seriously, I was emotionally distraught each and every time I cut words. When I received commentary or comments about my manuscript, words like "This is the worst thing I have read, you should not consider writing as a full time career" to things not making sense, or dialogue that wasn't working or descriptive passages that were just crap I cried. This was me on a page. It was me they were dissing or hating or confused by. I was angry. Oh so angry.
Again, It took me a while to gather some perspective and put those comments in a judgy box I could close the lid on. I pulled my little cotton socks up and made some changes.
And it was better.
(Let me quickly say, it wasn't the hurtful words that made my writing better - I think some people need more people skills or to learn how to communicate better, and if you ever receive those comments or reviews IGNORE THEM - the good comments, the ones from people who actually cared, mean more to me than I can ever possibly say.)
I cut more, I wrote more, I changed things around and moved chapters forward and back, changed POV, cut characters out and yes, more crying, but again... it was better.
Time went by and I began to see the beauty in my words.
But I also learned that the "words" didn't matter. It was all still mine. It was all still me.
I have rewritten Baby One over a dozen times, rewritten Baby Two almost as often.
And do you know what. I still love Baby One and now Baby Two as much as I did with those first drafts. They have grown, changed, become their own voices and personalities and people I am proud to call mine. They don't resemble what they looked like when I first wrote them at all anymore. But they are still mine. I can still hear the joy in those words. Characters have changed, names have changed, plot has definitely changed. POV shifted, chapters deleted, chapters added... But in my head they are the same.
Editing has made my babies stronger. Every time I have reworked something, it has grown stronger.
So going back to my previous comment about knowing what to implement out of the plethora of suggestions and comments. I think you know what will work and what won't. And if you are not sure, try it. Write that new chapter or paragraph or character. You will know if it doesn't work or if a comment doesn't actually help. If you think the comment is wrong. Don't do it. But don't disregard it out of hand. If a reader has a question in their mind about something, you have to ask yourself WHY they have that question in the first place. Is something missing elsewhere that will clarify this point? No comment is invalid. If you think the comment is wrong, think about why it is wrong? Should you be clearer somewhere else? Was your explanation earlier lacking in something? Just because it is clear to you as the writer doesn't mean it is clear to the reader. And in my case, I had cut so much of the story and rewritten so much I had no idea what I had explained and what was only in my head (because it was explained in an earlier draft that I had now cut). Having readers to call you out and pick you up on this is INVALUABLE. Don't dismiss comments out of hand, (no matter how much they make you want to cry.)
So when do you stop editing? - No really, I am asking you. Help me for god's sake, help me... take it out of my hands!!
For now, Baby Three is done and dusted, Baby Four is in draft form, Babies Five and Six are in progress. And weirdly, I have discovered something. I enjoy editing now.
There I said it. I enjoy editing. I am writing new material now and all I am thinking is, "When I get to editing this, this is going to be amazing!"
I need to go lie down now and have a coffee.
Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen. You can read more of her work on her blog. Look for her on Facebook or Twitter.
I’d like to thank Kate for inviting me to guest blog today. Twitter is proving a good place for writers to hang out and connect with other writers from all over the world.
My writing journey has taken many twists and turns and crossed oceans. I’ve spent an almost equal amount of time in Europe as I have in the US, and that informs my writing on different levels, I’m sure.
But, to the stories:
It was a dark night one winter in Seattle, when I filled an antique fountain pen and let the ink flow into what is now a novella “Tales from the Fountain Pen”.
“Slowly my eyes adjust.
I am outside. The breeze is cold, but not unbearably so. Stars shine brightly overhead, but I see no sign of the moon. Perhaps that is why I am out this night. But what am I doing here on a deserted back road surrounded by farmland?
“Are you coming?” the familiar voice of my brother whispers. “We don’t want to get caught by a patrol.”
“Oh, right. I was just admiring the stars,” I say, and look at my brother. His face is almost hidden by the dark; I can barely make out his features.
He takes my arm and we walk along the empty road toward a structure in the distance. Of course: the Adema farm. I am taking my brother to the farm to hide him from the Germans.
But, wait. This is not the way to the Adema farm. Are we going even further away?
Just then, Theo puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me close.
“Patrol, act married,” he hisses in my ear.
“Right.” I remember what our plan was now.
I snuggle against his shoulder. My left hand is in my pocket and I can feel our mother’s wedding band on my ring finger. Everything has been set up to give the appearance of a married couple.
“Halt,” a gruff voice behind us calls out.
We stop and slowly turn around to find a small German military vehicle with its headlights shuttered.
Fear spreads from the pit of my stomach through my whole body. This is no ordinary patrol. These are people on a special mission, I’m sure of it. There are twice as many soldiers on the vehicle as normal and they have a Gestapo member with them.”
I feel I had nothing to do with it other than to hold the pen and let it do its thing. And of course, refill it, which on that first night, I had to do three times. I finally had to stop writing when I was cold and shivering, and my hand cramped so badly that the pen shook, dripping ink.
Exploring the family stories that way proved successful. From there my life slipped into a dark period which pushed me into a different genre. My next novel was a YA thriller with a hint of paranormal in the form of remote viewing.
My lovely indie publisher Untreed Reads, again picked it up and not so very long ago “Out in the Dark” saw the light of day. Imagine my delight at holding an actual paperback in my hands with my …. pen name on it. Since I didn’t want to confuse my audience with both historical fiction and YA thrillers, I opted for the pen name, Nicola Adams, for YA. (And, yes, there is a story behind that choice of name too.)
“The image flashed across his brain again and Jake rubbed his eyes to make it go away. He knew what it was and why he was seeing it, but he didn’t want to deal with it. He shouldn’t have to, not at his age. He should be having a normal life, going to baseball practice, sneaking a smoke behind his mother’s back and cutting the occasional class to prove he was a normal teen—except that he wasn’t.
It was all his father’s fault. His father had taught him to see what nobody else could. To see far away and see what he was told to see. His father had taught him to read people, events and places from afar, and now his father was sending him images. Things Jake didn’t want to see.
The school bus bounced across the potholes like it had lost all suspension. It was the oldest bus in the fleet, used to pick up the rowdiest kids along the rural routes in Washington. The seat covers were torn and the windows covered in permanent marker graffiti; some good, most terrible and just about all of it lewd.
Jessica nudged him hard in the ribs. “Hey, you listening?”
“Yeah, I’m listening,” Jake grumbled. She might be his girlfriend, but he was getting tired of her constant chatter about clothes and parties and celebrities. “When’s the party and where?” he said in a gruff voice, the one he’d adopted after his father left for the Air Force base somewhere south.
It had only been a year since his dad got called up for a special and highly secret project, but it felt so much longer. Jake’s mother could barely cope, and Jake felt sure she would start something with Mr. Caruthers, the high school football coach. He’d been hanging around for weeks now, supposedly helping her out with chores around the house, but acting as if he was about to own the place.”
As my life slowly entered calmer waters I returned to historical fiction, stories without wild car-chases. A long email correspondence with a sometimes friend in Strasbourg, France, handed me more information than I could possible squeeze into one book. Not only was he able to get me detailed – first hand – accounts of the area during WWII, he also emailed me a treasure trove of pictures and fading, crumbling documents found in a suitcase hidden under a friend’s bed. These pictures and documents tell a fascinating story of a time between the two world wars. That story is now in the To-Be-Written stack of notebooks. My trusty Moleskine notebook stack is growing.
Right now, I’m shopping around a YA historical, the first in a trilogy set in WWII, The Coming Storm. The family saga starts in Strasbourg, France, and the surviving kids travel to Morocco to hide out and join Free France based there.
Phew … It’s been quite the journey from that dark night. My newfound freedom and more joyous life means my writing is freer. And, as contrarian as it sounds, I’m actually happily drafting a murder mystery.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where my interest in the ordinary, every-day, heroic stories from WWII comes from: I had a very, very attractive, young, high school history teacher who was obsessed with WWII and I had him for two years. Trust me when I say that most of us had serious crushes on the man and as a consequence got very good grades.
That’s a bit about my writing journey.
To learn more:
For the holidays I’m offering a giveaway of the ebook versions of Tales from the Fountain Pen and Out in the Dark.
Please indicate your preference for either historical fiction or YA thriller so you’ll be entered for the correct drawing. I will draw 1 winner each on Christmas Eve.
I love helping my author friends reveal their brand new covers to the world. And today, I am delighted to have my good friend Taryn Bashford on the blog to show off her gorgeous new covers. THE HARPER EFFECT is an awesome YA contemporary novel about sports, friendships, love, and life and you should totally pre-order your copy today!
Over to Taryn ...
I wrote the very first draft of The Harper Effect over thirty years ago when my 15-year-old brother was playing at Wimbledon and won a scholarship to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. At the time, I was training for the Olympics in the 400m track event. Sport was and still is an important part of my life, and even as a teen, I could see how it helped me through the usual teen angsts that we must all survive.
I hope that my novel, The Harper Effect, will do two things for my readers: firstly, be that helping hand, that metaphorical hug that any coming of age story provides, and secondly, represent sporty women as normal, cool, admirable and successful so that teen girls can aspire to a new type of role model. If girls can see themselves represented as strong, powerful and athletic, they will be more likely to participate in sport.
Instead of bombarding girls with images of external beauty that they should live up to, let’s bombard them with confident, healthy female role models. To prove the point, those girls who haven’t dropped sport in high school have more positive body images than non-athletes (Sabo & Veliz’s study, Go Out and Play; Youth sport in America).
I know that when I’m training – I’m now doing triathlons – I feel strong and fit and confident and this in turn, makes me feel powerful and full of positivity, yet when I’m ill or not training, being physically weaker and less fit affects my self-esteem and my ability to cope with the challenges in life.
The Harper Effect shows that through dreaming big, working hard, and believing in yourself, you can achieve anything. Let our teens, both boys and girls, see that women can play sport—they can be confident, they can be winners, they can be star athletes. Let them see their sister or best friend or cousin can be involved in professional women’s sport.
Let’s present girls with alternate choices for their future. Let’s empower them and help them find self-realisation. Sport can help girls to BE SOMEBODY.
I’m thrilled to finally be revealing the cover for my characters who are dying to get out into the world.
The Harper Effect is the story of a girl who learns to win from a boy who has lost everything.
Harper Hunter doesn't know how it came to this.
Her tennis dreams are collapsing; her coach says she doesn't have what it takes to make it in the world of professional tennis.
Her new doubles partner is moody, mysterious and angry at the world. What is he hiding?
Harper's in love with Jacob, her neighbour, but he is her sister’s boyfriend. Or, he was. Harper could never betray Aria with Jacob ... could she?
As her heart and dreams pull her in different directions, she must figure out exactly what she wants. And just how hard she's willing to fight to get it.
An excerpt from The Harper Effect:
The dining room is where the ghosts and monsters play. That’s what Jacob said when I was five and he was six, necks curling around the half-open door, our eyes blurting fright. On a dare, we’d tiptoe into the room, dash around the table then jump through the French windows into the garden, screaming with delighted terror. Nearly twelve years later, it’s still my least favourite room in the house. Maybe that’s because it’s where the recent pep talks have taken place and the grandfather clock seems to count down the seconds to the end of life as I know it.
To pre-order THE HARPER EFFECT:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Taryn lives the typical writer’s life, with characters from her books insisting they help make dinner. This can be disconcerting as many of them can’t cook. The first draft of The Harper Effect was written when Taryn was 14 years old, and evolved over many drafts to include details from the real life of a professional tennis player and coach, her brother.
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!