Back to work!

Greetings, Champions! I have returned from my travels and adventures in Switzerland!

As I am adventurous but not particularly daring, I went with the tour group Alpine Wild for my trip. Gotta say, the food over there is amazing! Alpine Wild has a Tolkien tour I badly wanted to take, but they don’t offer it ever year, and this happened to be one of their off years, I am sorry to say. Even so, since the tour guides knew I was a rabid Tolkien/literature fan, they pointed out some landmarks that Tolkien saw when he toured Switzerland as a young lad!

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True story: This photo isn’t photoshopped!

 

The countryside was gorgeous, and it was wonderful to be able to unplug for a while, but I am thrilled to be back, and I’ve already jumped into writing!

Next thing of interest, I was on another podcast! I was the guest for Simon Whistler’s Rocking Self Publishing podcast 161st episode. He is a fabulous host and interviewer, and I had a lot of fun talking to him–which is an accomplishment because usually I am nervous and sick to my stomach during things like interviews. We really dig into the details of writing “retellings,” so if you’re interested, here’s the link to the episode!

Things will be a bit in upheaval this month due to all the projects I’m balancing–the new website is coming along wonderfully, I just approved the header image last week and it is BEAUTIFUL!!–but especially because I’m back to writing with a vengeance. At this time, my book release schedule should be

Late November: *Releasing a short story in an anthology with a bunch of other authors, more on this in future posts *Endings, the final King Arthurs book.

Mid December: *Sleeping Beauty, book 8 of the Timeless Fairy Tales *Snow Queen short story anthology, which will contain all the short stories on the website, and some new content

Endings may get pushed back to a December release depending how the editing goes for all the books. Poor Editor #1 is going to get slammed, and I haven’t even told her about the short story for the anthology yet. Ahahahah…I should probably go grovel to her.

That’s all for today, Champions. Have a great week!

Writers, don’t be discouraged!

Today I’m going to talk about something that would normally cause me to shiver in horror and run away: I’m going to discuss the first book I ever wrote, The Awakening Call.

Those of you who are longtime Champions know that I avoid talking about the first book I wrote like it is sick with the plague. I wrote it when I was about 13-years-old. It was a sci fi story that had a flavor of X-Men to it as a lot of my characters had mutant-esque powers. It’s awful, it’s clunky, and while I would prefer to forget about it I feel like it’s necessary to keep it on my computer so I remember how far I’ve come. So why am I bringing up something I would much rather forget?

First of all, I figure you guys can always use a laugh. But the main reason is that I want to encourage the budding writers out there. It’s unfortunate, but while many people want to write books, most of them don’t even finish their first book, much less write more than one. A lot of it is because writing a book is a test of determination and perseverance, but some give up because they feel discouraged. They feel that their work isn’t good enough, or that they don’t have a story of worth to tell.

Here’s the thing, first books are usually terrible. Writing a book is a lot like learning to draw or starting an instrument. It will take a lot of practice and patience before you are able to produce a high quality novel. You can see this in my own writing. My Robyn Hood books were my second and third books released on Amazon. If you compare them to either of the Snow Queen books, it gets really embarrassing.

The Snow Queen books are so much better because I have two editors that went over it, but also because in general I’m a better writer. But let’s really drive the point home and compare passages from my newest, unedited manuscript–Swan Lake–to the first book I ever wrote, The Awakening Call. Click the read more link to see the two books.

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Final Freebie Unlocked

Greetings, Champions! As expected, the final freebie has been unlocked: Mages. This is the longest freebie of the bunch and marks the beginning of Rakel’s next step in life. I hope you enjoy it!

As some of you might have seen if you took a peek at my coming soon page, this December I’ll be releasing a short story anthology that will contain all the Snow Queen freebies, and one additional–and LONG–unseen story that will focus on Rakel as she builds the first magic academy, and the romantic entanglements of a certain Robber Maiden. For now I’ll leave everything on the site, but when I release the anthology I’ll have to take down a few of the freebies due to Amazon’s rules, but I’ll be sure to announce when I’m taking them down so everyone can save them if they so desire. There’s no need to hurry, though, as the anthology is a long ways away.

Status update for Swan Lake: It is currently with Editor #1. She’ll keep it for a few weeks and rip it apart edit it–although I did proudly tell her I believe I actually used farther/further correct in several instances. (I think I can count on one hand the number of times that has actually happened, so we’ll wait to find out.)

In fun news, I’m going to be experimenting with “Dragon,” which is a software program that converts your speech to text. A lot of writers use it to write faster, but I’m also hoping it will give my eyes a break. (Take care of your eyes, everyone. Eye-strain is no joke!) So I’m sure I’ll be able to regale you all with stories of our strange relationship. As a Midwest girl I have a some-what funny/slurred way of speaking, so Dragon and I are going to be in for some fun times. I was “training” him earlier so he can hopefully get over my accent, and I have to say it feels very sci-fi–ish.

I thought you budding writers out there might be interested in learning about this software, because “Dragon” actually has a phone app that can connect with your purchased software, so you can dictate your story to him anywhere, and then upload it to your computer which will turn the recorded session into text. This might be super helpful for those of you who have a busy schedule. It actually can plug in to your internet too–so you can write emails with him–but I think I’m going to use my Dragon for strictly fiction writing. (Yes, Myrrhlynn was rather amused when she realized I call Dragon a He and refer to him as mine. I can’t help it–I adore “How to Tame your Dragon!”)

That’s all for today, Champions! I’ll have a few more Snow Queen themed blog posts coming up now that all the freebies have been unlocked, so you can count on seeing those soon. Until then, Champions, have a fantastic week, and as always, thank you for reading!

Fourth Extra Unlocked!

Anndddd here we have it, Oskar’s extra! That’s right, thanks to all you wonderful Champions, the fourth extra has been unlocked. You can see the PDF version of it here: The Attendant.

Words cannot describe how MUCH I have wanted to release this one! I actually wrote it before I wrote Heart of Ice–it was one of my ‘exercises’ that helped me get to know Oskar’s character and background. I wanted to release it with Heart of Ice, but as Oskar’s heart-t0-heart moment with Rakel comes in Sacrifice, I made myself wait.

Oskar holds a very special place in my heart because he is the first person to believe in Rakel. Steinar and Halvor were close seconds, but Oskar first met Rakel when she was eight, and then pledged loyalty to her (though she didn’t know it) two years later when she was exiled at age ten. He stayed on Ensom Peak with her for twelve years. Give that boy a round of applause! (Side note, I almost always write applesauce instead of applause. Strange.)

If you dig in the books, it’s very interesting to see how Rakel’s first “believers” (Oskar, Steinar, and Halvor) see her differently. Steinar saw her as his sister who should rightfully be queen, and felt a lot of guilt that he was raised in her place. Oskar saw early on that Rakel was human, but due to his palace training he was well aware that she was a royal so he tried to treat her with kind dignity. Halvor respected Rakel, and probably had the greatest grasp of her strength of character because he had a better idea of what she was capable of.

You can also see the differences in the way they argue with her. Oskar will give Rakel whatever she wants unless it puts her in danger. Halvor is much more reserved and will always move to do what is tactically best, though he knows he is more than a little partial and is a lot more reluctant to put her in danger than he would a normal soldier. Steinar, on the other hand, tries to bargain with her and talk her into things.

One of the challenging parts of writing the Snow Queen books, is that because Rakel represents magic–which is hated–and brings about huge changes, the way people reacted to her is revealing of their character. For example, think of Phile. She was never afraid of Rakel’s magic, never hesitated to call her out on her actions, and held Rakel to a higher standard than most of the people in the resistance. Phile’s reaction to magic was pretty similar. She thought it was something useful–not scary–and assumed that if someone had it, it was meant to be used.

Well that’s all for today. I need to go take Perfect Dog out on a walk while it’s sunny! I hope you all enjoy the extra. Thanks again, Champions. You are the best! (Just a short ways to go until the last freebie is released.) As always, thanks for reading!

The Life Cycle of a Book

Good news, Snow Queen 2 has finished is first round of edits with Editor #2, and it has already been sent back to her! I didn’t have to add/correct as much as usual, so I am hoping the rest of the edits won’t take long and we’ll be able to stick to a late February release. But on to today’s topic!

Occasionally when I talk to my friends about my job, I’ll bewilder them because I’ll mention releasing/editing one book, and starting another. Most people assume authors start with one book and stick with it from its conception to its launch day, but I’ve found that is an inefficient way for me to work. Today I thought I would shed some light on my work cycle so you can get a fell for my scheduling.

Before I get started writing, I’ve usually been chewing on the story idea for anywhere between a few months to a few years. Right now, in 2016, I’m already starting to think of characterization for books I won’t write until 2017. I try to play around with the stories and have fun long before I’m serious about them because it helps me work through a lot of character and plot ideas.

When I’m ready to commit myself to the story, I usually take a week to plot and plan out the book, and do any last-minute research. In example, for Heart of Ice I researched icebergs and unusual snow phenomena. For The Little Selkie I read up about marine life–particularly seals and sea lions.

The following week I begin writing. This usually takes two to three intense weeks. This is usually when I drop off the face of the planet online, and in real life. (After a full day of writing, I have the tendency to wander around, scruffy and half asleep.) I then usually need to take a few days off of the book to decompress–this is usually when I get caught up on my social media accounts and emails.

Me after writing a book. It's not a pretty sight.

Me after writing a book. It’s not a pretty sight.

The following week I work on editing–a process that can take a week to two weeks. The story will then get passed off to Editor #1, who will go over it for one to three weeks. In the meantime I’m usually editing an old piece of work, or getting another story ready to shine. For example, when Editor #1 was going over Heart of Ice, I was polishing Endeavor for its release. I will occasionally begin writing another book, but usually it’s a King Arthur book instead of a full length novel like a Timeless Fairy Tale. (Note: At this time Myrrhlynn usually gets to see a rough draft so she can begin brainstorming cover images.)

Editor #1 will send the book back to me, and I’ll take at least a week to go over her corrections, and then post it on to Editor #2. Editor #2 usually gets the novel for a month and a half. During that time we’ll pass the manuscript back and forth. The first edit is always the most intense, and usually any following edits are fine-tuning new or problematic scenes. While Editor #2 has the book I am either getting posts and contests lined up for its release, or I’m starting another project.

When Editor #2 is finished, I send it to Editor #1 for a final read-through. Genius Editor #1 usually finishes the final read-through in about a week. It takes me a day or two to make corrections, and then I send it to my final end-all reader: My mother. My mom reads through it in a weekend and lets me know about any typos or errors, then the book is ready to go!

When the book launches I spend the first week observing its reviews and notifying readers that it is available. If I didn’t have time to prepare blog posts about it, now is when I’ll write them, and prep for the following month’s newsletter. If I have everything prepped, then this is when I’m writing my next book.

I almost always balance between two books in the weeks leading up to a new book’s release. When Heart of Ice made its debut I was going over corrections Editor #1 suggested for Snow Queen 2. Now, as Snow Queen 2 is being combed over by Editor #2, I’m plotting and planning my next fairy tale, Swan Lake.

All in all, it usually takes about three to four months for a book to go from plotting to after-launch activities. My turn-around time used to be much shorter, but Editor #1 and #2 are worth their weight in gold, and the time it takes for them to correct my books are crucial. I get around the added time by beginning the writing process much sooner, so there won’t be a big gap between book releases.

And that is the life cycle of a book! Thank you for reading, Champions, I hope you have a lovely week!

Writing Tips: Character Balance

Today’s topic might feel basic, but it’s probably the most important concept you need to grasp if you want to succeed as a writer. There’s a fairly well known mantra that is often beaten into the heads of writers: Don’t write a perfect or overpowered main character. This might feel a little obvious, but I can tell you through first-hand experience that when you begin writing, you will probably write a main character that you  identify with. Because of this, it’s very likely you will write this character so they have no personal faults, are incredibly smart, athletic, well-loved by all, and are everything a normal person is not. These kinds of characters are really hated. Publishers won’t go near them, and neither will readers. So before you start your story you need to take a close look at what your character is like.

A lot of books that talk about characterization and writing novels assure you that you can fix your too-perfect character by giving them a flaw. Just one. That is the biggest load of hogwash I have ever read. Your character needs several flaws and a slew of weaknesses because he/she should be a reflection of real-life people. I have never met anyone who possess only one flaw. Furthermore, you need to give them a doozie of a flaw that they have to face throughout the book, not a little one that rarely comes into play. (So you can’t have a story in which the main character is good in everything, except for perhaps one sport which she is only a little good at, and it never comes up.) It doesn’t mean your character can’t still be clever and fun, or really good at something, it just means you need to look for balance. Often a flaw is accompanied by several personality defects, and usually a character’s strength ends up becoming a weakness. I’m going to draw on a few literary examples to show you this.

Let’s start with the classics: Elizabeth of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. For starters, Elizabeth is not the prettiest out of her sisters–but she is the smartest. Her fatal flaw is her prejudice. As we all know she is prejudice of Mr. Darcy, and dislikes him for the first half of the book. BUT, it doesn’t stop there! If Elizabeth’s only flaw was prejudice she still could have befriended Darcy, or noticed how he was interested in her and decided to accept when he proposed. (The book would have been a total BORE.) Instead, Elizabeth’s cleverness gets the best of her and she openly scorns Darcy and treats him with disdain. If she had been as kind as Jane that wouldn’t have happened. Do you see how the balance of her character works to create a wonderful story? She is pretty and clever, but her cleverness is a double edged sword thanks to her prejudice. Balance makes it possible to picture her as your next-door neighbor.

Another example: Sherlock of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. Sherlock was incredibly clever, but not the most handsome guy. He was so brilliant he could catch crooks with very little work, and he is obviously a genius. However, Sherlock is not the smartest man in Britain. His BROTHER is. (Talk about an excellent opportunity for emotional conflict!) Furthermore, he had a drug addiction, wrestled with depression, and because of the curt way he acted he wasn’t exactly well liked. Many say John Watson looks stupid next to Sherlock, but I think Sherlock’s social ineptitude/stoicism is amplified by Watson’s kindness. (You can see this in modern adaptions, like Sherlock BBC, and the Great Mouse Detective.) Sherlock’s genius and prowess is balanced with his emotional and social issues, and while they might not play a role in the crime he has to solve they play a HUGE role in his life.

charactersHow about an example from my work: Gabrielle from Puss in Boots. I chose this one on purpose because Gabrielle–unlike many of my heroines–is absolutely beautiful. Hands down she is the most gorgeous princess from Timeless Fairy Tales. However, several things counter her beauty: 1) she doesn’t value it and sees it as a flaw 2) she misjudges people because of her past experiences 3) she willingly takes orders from a cat. By the end of the book Gabrielle is much more comfortable with herself, and she’s become more gentle. She understands she was wrong in the way she would verbally act out in her hometown, and Puss has helped her become more independent. (She wouldn’t have taken on the ogre alone at the start of the story!)

This brings me to a big point. Your character must start the book negatively unbalanced–though they most often shouldn’t know it, or they see it as something that is only natural. By the end of the book, they should be a better person (better, not perfect) and have grown because of the challenges and obstacles they faced. You can see it in all my heroines. In the little Selkie Dylan is prideful and doesn’t want to ask humans for help, but by the end of the book she requests their help and marries one. In C&C Cinderella overcomes her deeply held hatred of Erlauf, and becomes queen. In King Arthurs Britt started as a very unwilling king and didn’t care much about ruling, but she’s maturing and is being forced to let her knights mature, so she can become a leader who could rule Britain in her own right.

Your goal should be to tell a good story, not to live out your fantasies through your main character. That might sound harsh, but it’s a painful lesson I had to learn that I would like to spare you. My first book was a sci fi story, which will never see the light of day because it cannot be salvaged. I got too attached to the main character, and I made her perfect in every way. If I ever feel like I’m getting a little prideful, I go back and read that story, and it sets my teeth on edge because now I loathe that very same character.

If you need practice in drawing balanced characters, try examining the people in your life. Who do you really know and love that would be a fun main character? What kind of flaws does that person have? We’re not looking to be critical, we’re observing truth. Usually the smart, quiet, perfectionist people can be a little socially awkward or they will feel overwhelmed because they don’t live up to their own standards. The social butterfly who is an absolute blast to hang out with might have a hard time organizing herself so her life is a little messy. None of this is because these people are terrible or evil, it’s because everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Your main character must reflect this, or your story will never go anywhere.

Gah, there’s so much more to talk about–how character flaws play important roles in plot, how your secondary characters should have strengths and flaws of their own, etc–but this is already a huge post so I’ll have to cut it off here. Can you think of your favorite novel and identify the character’s strengths, weaknesses, and flaws? Leave a comment and get some discussion going! In the meantime, thank you for reading, Champions, and I hope this gets you thinking.

Writing Tips: Character Movement

Greetings, Champions! Before we get started with today’s topic–Character Movement–I want to announce that I have an instagram account: km.shea. Follow my account if you want to get a little glimpse into my life! Thus far I have two extremely lonely pictures on there, but as the account is brand new, it will take me a few days to fix that. Additionally, I did some major remodeling to the categories section (omgawsh it took me all morning to sort my posts) so the categories cloud on the right navigation bar will be easier to navigate now.

Okay, let’s begin! When I say today I’m going to discuss character movement, I mean two things 1) actual movement–think verbs, like: jumped, skipped, swung–and 2) facial expressions.

Editor #2 watches character movement–facial expressions in particular–like a hawk. The misuses she commonly watches for are…

  • Overused movement/expression: A lot of writers use smile too much–heck, I use smile too much. It’s a challenge, but if you notice your characters are displaying one expression over and over again, try to think of an alternate way of showing that feeling. Instead of smiling their eyes could brighten, or they could jump for joy.
  • Continuity: This means that you can’t have Sally standing in paragraph one, and in paragraph two she gets up from a chair.
  • No movement: There are times when you want a lot of dialog, and there are times when you just want action. However, these times need to be carefully balanced and interrupted. If the characters are having an emotional conversation, you need to use their body language to give the readers clues as to what they are feeling.
  • Too much movement: Readers are intelligent, so you don’t have to spell every gesture out for them. If your character is getting up from a desk you don’t have to say “Hunter pushed his chair back from the desk and stood up out of the chair” you can simply say “Hunter stood.” Your reader will understand. (That being said, if your character is stuck in a bear-trap, you better explain how he got himself unstuck before he stood.)
  • Tame verbs: Character movement needs to be strong. Why have your character walk when they can march, or stroll, or saunter? However, you don’t want to have “strolled” or “sauntered” in your manuscript more than a a few times. It’s all a balancing act. In my original draft of The Snow Queen: Heart of Ice, Rakel–the heroine–winces about eight times. That is five times too many, so Editor #2 had me change some of the instances to flinched and grimaced.

Now that list is some of the areas Editor #2 has pointed out as errors, but there are a few good things you should know about character movement as well.

Body language, actions, and facial expressions should all give hints and clues to what your characters are feeling, and what’s going on. Movement can also be an expression of the character itself.

Bill Amend understands the importance of character movement...

Bill Amend understands the importance of character movement… For anyone who doesn’t know this comic, that’s Peter–a senior in high school–cross-dressing as his little sister Paige.

Tari–the nimble elf heroine of Red Rope of Fate–does a lot of gliding, waltzing, and dancing. Her movements are beautiful and elegant because of what she is. Ahira of Princess Ahira is a little more clumsy so she occasionally trips, gets dirty, and stomps around when she’s feeling bad tempered. And that’s the differences between two females. If you compare them to, say, Colonel Friedrich of Cinderella, the Colonel stands a lot taller, saunters, and has the tendency be on his guard due to his military training.

Figuring out how they move is especially important for your main characters, and it needs to be consistent. You can’t have your heroine be clumsy one moment and then as graceful as a swan in the next scene–unless you make the change gradually over the duration of the novel. Also, a few secondary characters might have unique movements, but you need to make sure you don’t go overboard or everyone will be skipping, romping, and storming all over the place. It will get distracting and feel forced. Keeping that in mind, the same movement technique can be used to show information about background characters that have an impact on your story.

Let’s say your characters have broken into a castle and are trying to avoid any guards. Although the guards are background roles who likely will never be named, their movements can help readers grasp a blanket generalization about them. Using body language can tell readers (and your characters) if they need to worry about the guards or not. Horrible guards would be slumped–possibly leaning against a wall–and perhaps even look bored. Elite honor guards, on the other hand, would stand at perfect attention with their hands on their weapons.

Alright, so I’ve had a chance to try explaining this to you, now you’re free to fly away and try it for yourself. However, I highly recommend you do a bit of research first and skim a few of your favorite books to watch how the authors move their characters. Observing it in other stories will help you see the rhythm and pattern writers use.

Whew, and that’s everything I can think of today. Thanks for reading, Champions! I hope you found this helpful.

Writing Tips: What do you want to see?

Hello Champions! It’s been a while since I’ve posted any writing tips, so I really wanted to do that today, but I realized I don’t really have a good idea what you guys want to know about writing, so instead I’m holding a poll to find out what interests you the most!

The poll will be open for roughly one week. You can only vote for one topic, but you can vote more than once–though I would appreciate it if you cast your votes for the things you are most passionate about so I know what to prioritize. These were all the general topics I could think of at the moment, but if you have a particular topic you would like to see me cover please give me a shout out in the comments below.

I’ll wait for the poll results before I tackle any real writing tips, but I know in the past I’ve been asked a few times by readers who badly want to write, but find it difficult to snatch more than a few minutes at a time. I have found the book for you: 5,000 words per hour. It’s an ebook that outlines how the author manages to write 4,000 to 5,000 words in an hour–which is roughly 8-10 pages of a Microsoft Word Document. Warning: I have tried his method, and I’m not certain how the heck he does it. Using his method DID help me increase my output, but I max out at roughly 2,000 words per hour, well below what he clocks in.

BUT, the idea of maximizing your output isn’t why I think you should check this book out. As I mentioned, I have this book in mind for writers who find it difficult to muster up the time. Trying to write for an hour is probably out of their reach. The reason why I think this book will be a perfect jump-start for you time-masters, is because he gives a detailed method that shows you how to start writing for five minute stretches. After a few weeks of practice, if you can slip a couple of these five minute sessions in your day, you should be able to get about a page done per day. It doesn’t sound like a fabulous pace, but after half a year you should have a decent-length novel!

That’s all for today, Champions! Thank you for voting in the poll, and I look forward to seeing what you guys are interested in. Have a great week!

A Chat with the Editor

Earlier this past weekend/week, I gave you guys the chance to submit questions for my editor, Jeri. She’s generously answered many of the inquiries I received. To make it easier on Jeri, I condensed and combined some of the questions, and anything in italics is from me–I couldn’t help putting in a few side-notes in addition to asking the questions. Now, before we get started, I want to give a little bit of background info.

Jeri–or Editor #1 as I usually refer to her–has worked with me since I released The Wild Swans in 2014. She’s edited almost all of my books–although some she didn’t get a chance to take a crack at until recently–and she’s the only editor I use for everything. (Editor #2 just works with me on Timeless Fairy Tales. Jeri has gone through all of my stories.) I consider her to be an excellent colleague, but she is also an awesome friend and has the best taste in books. Okay, we’re ready to get going!

KM Shea: For our first question, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Jeri: Oh, wow. An interview and a personal question? I feel like I have a spotlight pointed at me… I’m a working mom with three kiddos, a fantastic husband, and two dogs. I was born and bred in the West and have lived in multiple states and cities around the Rockies. I have an MA in English, and with that I taught technical writing and composition for years, leading me into the editing world. However, editing hasn’t been my day job for a long time. I just do it for fun on the side while I work in corporate training for my 9-5.

K: How did editing become your career?

J: I actually stumbled into editing from an academic pathway. I planned on being an English instructor (after I realized doctors don’t get to go home very often) and worked as an adjunct at four different universities/colleges while we settled and started our family. The class I loved teaching the most was technical writing because commas and grammar make me happy. That technical writing background was absolutely mandatory for what I do to help KM Shea. An editor must know when to use a comma and when to use a semi-colon, to know the difference between a phrase and a clause, a compound and a compound-complex sentence.

From there, I worked as the senior editor for an academic research program for several years. In that role, I got very good at figuring out what authors meant through their context and at being able to articulate it for them without changing their voice. That skill/talent is critical. KM’s voice is so awesome that you want to hear her, not me. So it’s important for any editor to have the gift of…translation, so to speak—to be able to pull out of an author’s context what she’s really trying to say and to keep the “fix” clean enough to sound like her, not like the editor.

Editing is kind of a marriage between those two skills—the technical, math-like nature of grammar and usage and the gut-feel of knowing what an author really meant to say, but didn’t. (KM Shea: She’s right. While I mostly wax poetry about Jeri’s ability to fix my various cases of comma abuse, her ability to tweak a sentence so it is structurally complete but sounds the same is just as important.)

K: What is your editing process? Do you edit while you read, or read the book first then edit, do you watch for specific things, or just fix whatever errors you find?

J: I read and edit simultaneously. But, this comes down to the difference between copyediting and editing. And I kind of do both. Because KM’s nice and patient with me, she doesn’t care that I make organizational and character recommendations as I go—acting as more of an editor. And for that, I have to read. (KM Shea: *snorts* What she’s not telling you is those “recommendations” point out critical flaws. Addressing them help flesh out and fix the characters/scene/story.)

But, I make copyediting changes as I go, too, wiping out commas and spelling errors. And then I do a second pass after KM has made revisions because, like everyone, I’m human and miss things the first time around. (KM Shea: She’s being generous. She also has to take a second pass because I’ll make changes and add paragraphs/scenes and muck the whole thing up again.) As KM has mentioned in her posts, I think I have two talents: though I can’t make up a story for the life of me, I am good at finding the holes in the stories others weave. And I know how to fill those holes and what that character would say or do (especially if the characters are as awesome as they are in KM Shea’s books). Then, I know where the punctuation should be changed to make that meaning come across and to be true (as much as is possible, with some artistic license) to the English language and all its crazy intricacies.

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Difficult Romance

Today I’m reverting back to answering reader questions!

Shaylee said I really love your books and I really want to know who the hardest romance for you to write was? And how did you finish writing it even though it was hard?

Oh-ho-ho-ho, this is a question I am so looking forward to answering!

Hands down, Elle and Severin from Beauty and the Beast were the most difficult couple I have ever written. Never before (and hopefully never again) have I written a pair of characters who were so completely disinterested in each other. Their lack of interest comes from their fascinating backgrounds, and it provided a great backbone for the story, but when I hit the halfway point I was pulling out my hair because neither of them would speak to each other. The entire story hinged on their backgrounds, so it wasn’t something I could rewrite, but I knew I needed help, or the pair would never fall in love. Disinterest between a couple is much more difficult to handle than dislike.

You have to be aware of someone to dislike them, but disinterest is dangerous because it means you don’t notice the other person is alive. If you have two characters like this, it will be a real challenge to make them shed their apathy.

Having painfully learned this while writing B&B, I knew if I wanted to make the romance happen, I had to have a massive intervention with the entire cast of B&B. I took an afternoon where I sat down and asked Severin and Elle what it would take to make them get interested in each other. I ended up concluding that the duo would not willingly start down the path of friendship, but I realized that they both prized their relationship with Severin’s servants. I swapped my attention to their servants, and Emele enthusiastically volunteered and became the vehicle used to brow-beat Elle into befriending Severin. Once Elle was convinced an attempt at friendship was necessary, she was going to force Severin into talking to her, whether he wanted to or not. This opened up interactions between the duo, which is what allowed their relationship to blossom.

Most times the couples I write are self sufficient—like Ahira and Azmaveth from Princess Ahira, or Gemma and Stil of Rumpelstiltskin. If I give them enough “screen time” together, they will make the romance happen themselves. Sometimes the characters need a little nudge—or a big wallop, like Elle and Severin. It’s important to have a strong cast of supporting characters, or several outside factors, which can impact the hero and heroine and open a path for them. Even my books where the couple falls in love on their own have strong supporting characters, because it provides a deeper canvas for their relationship to be displayed on. Having dowdy secondary characters will not make the magic of the romance stand out more, it will make it less believable.

Another helpful trick I’ve learned in trying to jump start character relationships, is to collect real-life examples of romance. Ask married couples how they met and how the proposal was pulled off. You’ll get some sweet and some hilarious stories, you’ll learn a lot about romance and how it affects the way a couple interacts, and it will also teach you what won’t work. In example, the invasive persistence Colonel Friedrich of Cinderella displays would have utterly terrified Tari of Red Rope, and the relationship never would have gotten off the ground.

That’s all for today! Next week I will receive the corrected draft of the Little Selkie, so I will have a better idea when it will be released. Also, I updated the “Coming Soon” tab with a tentative/estimated release schedule, so check it out when you have time. Thanks for reading, Champions! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!