Writing a Female Protagonist (as a Male)

Strap on your helmets and grab your flux capacitors, kiddos, because we’re taking this baby back to 1985 2013. You see, I was in the spring semester of my sophomore year at the University of Massachusetts, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Being a bit of a real-life cave troll, resigned to an endless diet of Mountain Dew and Slim Jims, I had such a cavalier attitude toward my future “career” that I decided to enroll in a motley assortment of classes that just barely fit my degree’s requirements. One of these classes, as fate would have it, was Writing About Women.

I enrolled in the class with my university best friend, almost certain that we were in for several months of reading anatomical textbooks that described the limbs, hair, and nails of female specimens. Me being me, I had obviously neglected to read the course description.

Image result for awkward gif

What I found upon attending the first workshop was an intriguing, and in fact, entirely novel, look at the interior lives of women throughout history. It soon struck me, perhaps for the first time, that the majority of my favorite authors (and media producers at large) were men. I’m not going to tell you how to feel about that, but it was objectively reflective of my consumption habits as a modern-day reader.

So I dove head-first into the course.

I read everything from politically charged feminist manifestos to A Room of One’s Own, putting aside the biases that I’d unconsciously collected over a lifetime of reading, watching, and engaging with, male-centric media. And it left quite an impact on me.

You see, I rarely write with male protagonists anymore, and I can’t say that this is an entirely conscious choice. SCRIBES features Anna, a young girl, as its primary focus, and many of the surrounding cast members are female. There was never a political message behind the scrawling mess I called my first chapter, but the more the story developed, the more themes of feminine identity and vulnerability began to emerge. It led to an outright curiosity about the lives that women lead, the threats they face, the day-to-day issues that remain unsolved or ignored by the men in their lives. And so I began asking questions, like any good and curious writer.

I asked things I’d never imagined to my cousins, my girlfriend, my professors, my mother, my aunts—I was encouraged by their support of my need for some degree of authenticity.

This post is not intended to give you a “how to” guide on writing about women, as I am not qualified to do that by any means. I’m a man who exists with a man’s brain, a man’s view of society, a man’s view of women. No matter what I write, it will never take the place of reading accounts from actual women, nor should it.

This post, then, is an attempt to explain the various pitfalls and suggestions that I can offer up to my male brethren. I’ve seen a fair amount of stories in which female characters resemble something closer to text-based hentai props, complete with descriptions of bouncing cleavage, supple loins, and anything else under the sun that you would rather die than show your mother.

Image result for shameful gif

When I first started writing about Anna, I had a definite desire to just imagine her as a man, and then flip the genders like some botched magic trick. From various forum crawling, I’ve found this to be a common idea and piece of advice. This has a better intention than most of the above descriptors, but it still fails to capture something essential about engaging with female protagonists—they are not men. To equate the two sexes is to, in essence, demean whatever specific challenges women actually face. You can’t write an authentic, female-driven tale that ignores the reality of things like the threat of rape or birth-centric social pressures. These are as pressing and essential to the character’s experience as ideas of masculinity are to male characters.

There is a controversial (yet brief) section of SCRIBES that dealt with menstruation. For a girl living in a pseudo-medieval/bronze age/pre-modern society, the transition to womanhood meant a vast array of changes, and I felt that there was some importance to including this scene, if only for the sake of symbolism. You may feel uncomfortable facing these aspects, and that’s alright—not all writing is pain-free, and it shouldn’t be!

Be sure to ask for advice whenever you’re in doubt. Accept, with some humility, that you are not an omnipotent wizard that can peer into the minds of women ala Mel Gibson (creepy film, wasn’t it?). The women in your life can give insights that you never would’ve envisioned about the character and their world, so take some truth from the source.

And although it should go without saying, especially after the above examples, do your best to consider how you look out at the world. Are you constantly aware of your huge, shapely gonads lovingly caressing your inner thighs? If not, try to apply the same level of perspective and mental centering to female POV characters.

It’s a tough, meandering road, but it can teach you as much about yourself as it does about your fictional world.

Love, peace, and joy, my friends.

 

Advertisements

The Brutal Stages of Grief (When Preparing your Novel for Publishing)

In my experience, writing tends to be 1% carefree and effortless, and 99% slogging through a sea of self-doubt, prose-loathing, and utter heartbreak. Not just the process of writing, mind you, but the entire shebang, leading from plot formation to writing to editing to submitting to publishing.

Image result for Crying gif

I feel you, Parker. I feel you.

Those who love to write, of course, hold onto that 1% with such fervency that nothing can really break them down. You could stick them in a featureless one-square-meter cage and they’d find a way to use their own blood to plaster the walls. They’d probably just be getting to the good part when the unfortunate roadblock of “death” gets in the way.

Hyperbole aside, writing has a lot of moments that are downright painful.

The saddest part of this sadomasochistic ordeal happens not during the writing itself, but long after, when you’ve dragged yourself back to the writing table for a dose of editing. Depending on how many bottles of Jagermeister you downed during the creative process, you may need to rinse and repeat this “editing” thing several times. But the physical drudgery of combing through pages again and again and again, searching for misspelled words or inconsistent details, is only a fraction of the torture.

Image result for Drinking gif

In order to prepare your novel for its birth in the world, there will be an extensive process of denial and suffering. Rebirth was never comfortable, right? And at many points in your novel-prepping journey, you’ll probably find solace in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Jokes aside, I find that Ross and Kessler’s depiction of grief as a five stage process is fairly apt for editing.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Stage 1: Denial
This early stage of editing grief occurs when you receive your editor’s (or agent’s) first email about your story. As you read their opening lines, marveling at how they admire your “daring” prose and pacing, you may resemble this:

Image result for Aw yeah gif

Yet as you continue onward, coming across the death knells of phrases such as “However, there is a lot to do here,” you will become certain that your editor simply overlooked your creative genius. Of course Jeanette needs to travel to the countryside for half the book—I mean, did you even read her dramatic return in Chapter 37? Oh, and now they’re calling out your Tolkien-esque word count. Which leads to. . .

 

Stage 2: Anger
The stage of anger is sparked by a sense of complete injustice within the world of publishing. If only I’d submitted my book at the cutting edge of this new vampire-mermaid-centaur-hybrid romance trend. . . it would all be so different. Sad to say, my friend, but once you begin blaming the publishing industry (or your editor) for their feedback, you’ve entered dangerous territory. You may look like this at this stage:

Image result for fuck you  gif

I mean, come on. Who in the flying fulcrum does this person think he is!? Cut out Billy Loompa’s descent in the Mirror Kingdom? Are you insane, Mr. Editor!? He has no idea how much worldbuilding you did for that place. Or how many times you cried to the imaginary scenarios you’ve woven into that prose. He hasn’t even seen your seven-book sequel plans for the Mushroom Queen and her cohorts. What an absolute troglodyte.

Once you take enough Valium drink enough tea to regain your composure, you move into. . .

 

Stage 3: Bargaining
At this point, things are looking rough. You’re staring at your email, fingers exhausted from typing and deleting constant strings of lexical savagery, and you resign yourself to taking the editor’s advice a bit more seriously. Okay, you can trim the third chapter visit to Burger King and Molly’s pregnancy arc. You can even do away with the description of a character licking their postage stamp, saliva rivulets and all.

But you absolutely cannot let go of the scene where Grand Vizier Sha’turnakh buys a puppy for his daughter in the cosmic bazaar. That needs to stay. It must stay.

But the editor pings you back immediately, saying little more than no. Now you look something like this:

Related image

Realizing that you’re about to embark on a quest of extreme revision and character slicing, you move into. . .

 

Stage 4: Depression
The Jagermeister comes back out. You call your buddies up to watch some mindless Transformer sequels and swipe around on Tinder for a few hours, hoping to forget the cruel mistress that is publishing. You can hardly bring yourself out of a funk long enough to shower, let alone sit in front of the keyboard and look for mentally constructed friends to obliterate. If you’re fortunate, this stage will be shortened by advice from your agent, friend, therapist, deity of choice, or some other force.

Once you’ve embraced the inevitable (and perhaps put aside a grain of your own ego), you find the bliss of. . .

 

Stage 5: Acceptance
That’s right. This story has a relatively happy ending to it. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you may not, in fact, have every answer in the book about creating a perfect story that readers will enjoy, you open yourself up to a vast world of constructive criticism and guidance. Most of this wisdom will transform your work into something more rad and readable than you ever dreamed possible. In my own case, it meant trimming down a painfully slow scene of wandering through markets and looking at spiders in small jars. Yes, really.

It also meant figuring out how to become less lazy when I write future novels. If I can avoid letting myself fall into the trap of “just writing” to watch the word count go up (temporarily inflating my sense of pride in the process), then I can make my prose far more efficient and hard-hitting. I truly can’t thank my editor and agent enough for knowing when to slap me upside the head and say “Wake up, James! You’re a writer, not an enlightened being.”

At this stage, you’ll generally have this disposition:

Image result for dont care gif

With every revision and step away from the work as being “your baby,” you become more ruthless, more practiced, more able to view the novel as an objective production that doesn’t require quite so much proverbial member-waving to make your voice heard. I pray that you all find acceptance, with or without the Jager.

Love, peace, and happiness, my friends.

SCRIBES Audible Giveaway!?

Image result for Celebration gif knife

Hey, all you lovely people. Hope your day has gone well and has included far more than a measly four hours of sleep!

The big news today, as announced on Twitter earlier, is that I’ll have a handful of Audible codes for SCRIBES when it hits virtual shelves next February. In recent months I’ve developed quite a steamy affair with Audible, regularly cheating on my paperback and hardcover lovers in favor of some aural stimulation on my morning bus rides.

That was graphic, wasn’t it?

Anyway, I’m still working out how to distribute these codes to the relevant people when the book drops, so I’m welcome to any and all advice on giveaways, sharing events, so on and so forth. I’m not a book marketing guru, so I humbly submit myself to the will of the people here. That being said, I’m honored and rather thrilled to finally be able to share my baby (SCRIBES, not a literally baby—I hope) with the rest of the world. It has been one helluva long time coming, and it feels like a stroke of good luck for us little people out there, slugging away at agent submissions and re-edits on our shelved manuscripts.

And, if you haven’t checked it out already, feel free to peruse the description and Amazon page for SCRIBES on the blog’s main sidebar. I would link it here, but my brain is working at the speed of gradually crystallizing molasses.

Love, peace, and plenty of rest, dear friends.

 

Follow me on Twitter! (Please, I beg of you)

Hello everyone! Just dropping some news I should have shared long, long ago. Like, prehistoric long ago.

Image result for Awkward gif

I have a Twitter. And it is HERE.

Yes, it’s very exciting, I know. The same platform used by Grand Emperor Trump and all the rest. And truthfully, I’ve been slacking on using it in any substantial way. As my latest tweet implies, I’ve been running about with my brain somewhere in southern Mexico, scrambling to teach Latvian children while also writing and editing back-to-back sequels to SCRIBES.

But it’s all worth it.

So if you get a chance, and happen to use Twitter, I’d love any support you can throw my way! I’ll even follow you back, because I’m a generous lover Twitter-er.

Love, peace, and best wishes.

Power Creep and Why it’s Not the End of the World (Unless you Like that Sort of Thing)

Wow, three posts in three days. Either the world is on the brink of an inexorable apocalypse, or I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid hitting the bars long enough to slap my fingers onto a keyboard. It’s a mixture of both, so don’t get too cheery just yet.

Hands up if you’ve heard of power creep. Kidding—that was a clever gimmick to introduce the obscurity of the idea. I’m going to go ahead and give you a James-muddled definition anyway.

Power creep, in essence, is when a character’s powers become so tilted in their favor that they no longer face a threat or challenge from their opponents. In video games, this is bad enough. You need to crank up the difficulty or spend the better part of your play-through acting like you’re ScarJo in Lucy. Nice reference, right? In other words, you’re an absolutely unstoppable murdering machine that uses the arms, hipbones, and spines of fallen foes to beat their brethren into a crimson PULP.

But it’s worse in novels.

You see, in video games, the player can derive some sense of wild amusement from seeing their character beating the ever-living goombas out of every goomba in sight. No sweat, right? If nothing else, it’s a testament to your ability to play the game at a highly competent level. But in fiction at large, it’s a sign that the author has seriously neglected the story and world encountered by the protagonist.

Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of denigrating examples from my own work to push this point. But I’d like to illustrate my points in a more comprehensive fashion before we press on.

Essentially, when a protagonist encounters enemies or a world that no longer poses any feasible threat, there’s a massive difference from that of power creep in video games. The author has complete control over the progression of the story, the antagonists, and the protagonist’s challenges. You wouldn’t spontaneously drop the protagonist from Chapter 37 into the prologue, because you’d be royally cocking up their entire arc of progression and growth. The reader needs to have a sense that you know what you’re doing when you construct these story blueprints (caveat: I barely do).

Image result for awkward smile gif

Stories run on tension, and a character who can demolish anything at the touch of a button, presumably, has no tension left to nibble on. Where’s the danger in a character that can end the world with a sneeze?

Well, there’s plenty, actually.

One of my favorite books (and potentially what got me into fantasy) is Gifts, by Ursula K. LeGuin. One of the characters is able to obliterate entire armies by simply having his blindfold removed. That’s neat, man. That’s really neat. There’s plenty of tension to be had there, too. His powers make him a threat to absolutely everyone in his life, including his family and friends, and because of that, he’s exiled (ostracized, technically).

In my own writing, I’ve certainly done power creep the “wrong” way by having characters run through the motions of the plot without ever testing them. Character A needs to find a vault, so Character A uses his lit-ass seeking powers and stumbles upon it. Great. Character A then needs to shoot Character B, so he gets a fabulous shot through the skull at 1,600 meters.

Not as good, right? Say yes.

Power creep can be handled in a variety of ways, but the idea of an omnipotent character has never been more frightening or relevant than in Dune, where Muad’Dib finds himself able to see the future with stunning clarity. This leads to some lovely philosophical questions about the nature of living, the value of existence, and the inherent joy of the unknown. Being able to see every notch and bump in the road isn’t as wondrous as it first seems, my friends.

Another way to look at the idea of power creep is by honing in on precisely what the character wants. If they’re determined to get revenge on their family’s killer, there’s something tragic and simultaneously startling about tracking, encountering, and murdering the alleged killer in the early part of the book. What next? When all you have is blood on your hands and a row of graves, what’s left to fill that void in the character’s life? There are curious avenues to take from there.

A more visceral form of power creep, in my eyes, would probably be the film Dredd. The eponymous Judge Dredd finds himself trapped in a high-rise apartment building with a motley crew of psychopaths, and the viewer is left to delight in watching the character mow down wave after wave after wave after wave of bad guys, all the while wondering: Who’s actually the more morally bankrupt person here?

Power creep is real, my friends, but it doesn’t always need to be a hallmark of lazy storytelling. Just as often as not, it’s a sign to go deeper, and a chance to explore the less obvious implications of ambition and recklessness.

Love, peace, and joy.

On the Importance of a Real-Life Muse

One of the more common lamentations I hear from fellow writers, in some form or another, is that their “muse” hasn’t come to them. Or, worse yet, it was there just moments ago, then it decided to shack up with some nobody from across the tracks and get knocked up, finally writing a dear John letter to the former partner after the guilt became too much to bear.

Moving on.

A muse is one of the most common and oft-recited myths that exists in the writing world. I’m sorry to say, my friends, but I have no faith in the concept of “inspiration” as far as it exists in the popular conception. Inspiration tends to be a cumulative process of acquiring data about the world around us, working it into a new and (hopefully) interesting pattern, and releasing it back into the wild as a book, film, and so forth. Now, some people may have moments of extreme creativity, but these moments tend to be few and far between.

I won’t get into the neuroscience of how ideas are generated, but safe to say, they are not your invention, and I have my doubts that they’re thrown into our heads in the same vein as Powerball numbers, as the Ancient Greeks may have once believed. A muse, more or less, is a convenient hand-waving act for the process of hard work, rumination, and exposure to the world. Nobody ever wrote a novel by meditating in a cave for twelve years, having never learned what a character, plot, or story really is. It takes dedication, training, failure, persistence, success, and lots of cherry beer.

Or, as my writing professor often told us. . . the difference between authors and dreamers is that the authors sat down and wrote. It couldn’t be truer, nor more depressing. The latter aspect comes from the fact that so many potentially great authors were deprived of creation by the mere idea that their muse never showed up. Don’t wait for something to come to you — just write.

Now, onto the title of this post. My firm belief is that human beings require several things to be happy, and these are generally affirmed by long-term studies. One of these things, incidentally, is not heroin. The source of happiness I’ve come to most appreciate is a real-life muse, which takes the form of my girlfriend. Unfortunately, neither of us are very keen on sharing, but I have faith that you, too, can find your very own Life Companion™.

Real-life muses are great. They tell you that your writing is phenomenal when you think it sucks. They make you cupcakes. They give you hope that can’t be taken away by the lovingly worded rejections of editors, agents, and employers.

There’s a consistent trope that essentially pegs writers as loveless, no-good alcoholics that are married to their work. While this may be true for some, it seems like more of a cliche that has come into being through self-determination and dogged persistence to pursue self-destruction. The more you put into the people around you, the more you’re likely to receive in return. And, in that lovely utopia of stress relief and positive life vibes, you typically (and incidentally) find inspiration.

So maybe muses are real, after all.

Love, peace, and joy, my friends.

Scribes: The (un)Official Soundtrack

The title of this post is, admittedly, rather misleading on some level. To the best of my knowledge, few books have ever been published with a soundtrack, much less without any news of receiving a film adaptation. That being said, I’ve always considered SCRIBES and the other books in the upcoming Scribe Cycle (shameless plug) to have a bit of an unofficial soundtrack to them, hand-picked and arranged by yours truly. Furthermore, I’ve always been fascinated with the more “meta” aspects of writing: the quiet, esoteric spaces that writers construct, the curious rituals they have related to coffee or green tea, the stress balls that they neurotically squeeze (or bite) in the doldrums of the submission process.

But many, many writers, especially on the ‘net these days (I don’t know if that phrase makes me feel like a cyberpunk apologist or an old man), consider music to be high-octane fuel for writing. There’s a natural link between the vague, ineffable tasks of describing the feelings evoked by music and trying to capture the mental images (and plots) that play out in your head, which is certainly not helped by this slippery, imprecise thing that we call “language.”

So, I thought it might be interesting for people to judge my atrocious music taste, and also to give you an idea of the absolute anarchy of my playlists, with lovingly crafted explanatory tags for each selection. I won’t be including some of the more “provocative” music that I take with me to the gym, but if you’re so inclined to get a taste of that world, you can Youtube a few tracks from Run the Jewels or Ski Mask.

Robertdowneyjr Wide Eye GIF - Robertdowneyjr WideEye TonyStark GIFs

I don’t actually listen to music when I write, with the possible exception of instrumental music such as Russian Circles. I find that it’s already hard enough to pin down what I’d like to say; I don’t need somebody else’s words clogging up my brain! I do, however, find a lot of inspiration or “vibes” from music during morning commutes or similarly mindless stretches of the day.

Let’s get into it.

  1. Tool. Many of you from older demographics are probably familiar with Tool. They tend to be quite “love it or hate it” for people, although I suppose that trend is present throughout this playlist. Tool’s music manages to be brutal, austere, and inhuman at times, yet the lyrics beautifully convey some of humanity’s most raw inner states. They tend to appear on a lot of playlists that deal with psychedelic or spiritual themes, and with good reason. Recommended track: Parabol and Parabola.
  2. Matisyahu. This choice will likely be more cryptic. Matisyahu is (and no, I’m not kidding) a Jewish reggae singer with a penchant for rap and clever vocal schemes. Many of his songs touch on the intersection of the modern world and his faith, which is something that I feel most people have ceased contemplating. I listen to mainly his older work, but there are still some catchy tunes to be found in newer albums. Recommended track: Jerusalem.
  3. Russian Circles. One of my all-time favorite, OG, put-me-on-a-desert-island picks. Despite their name, this US-based group has shockingly little to do with Slavic culture. Their tracks run the gamut of moods, ranging from slow, chugging riffs to celestial glee. I lean more heavily toward their “dark” tracks, but hey, that’s a writer for you. Recommended track: Harper Lewis.
  4. The XX. Yeah, I can get gushy and sensitive, too. The XX wowed me from the first moment a friend sent me their tracks, and I’ve been quite a devoted listener ever since. Words really can’t capture the feeling of this group. If I had to pick one, however, it would be “bittersweet.” Recommended track: Angels.
  5. Any sort of night bass / bass house. Some particular favorites are Dustycloud, Malaa (check out Notorious), AC Slater, and a few others.
  6. Electric Youth. If you don’t know about synthpop/synthwave, you should at least check it out to feel some heavy 80s nostalgia. Even heavier if you weren’t born until the 90s. This is the kind of music that made the film Drive such an instant classic. Recommended track: A Real Hero.
  7. Coheed and Cambria. No way to make this list without some good old C&C. I’ve been cranking these tunes since middle school, just after their second album was released, and to this day, they remain one of my favorites. Their sound changes drastically between tracks, even within the same album, but it’s always inspiring to hear lyrics that are directly tied to the band’s overarching concept story. It pains me to choose only one track, since I have a deep connection to most of them (having seen two of their concerts and pre-ordered nearly every album). So I’m going to break my own rules and pick three. Recommended trackS: In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, Mother Superior, and Apollo II: The Telling Truth.
  8. Mustapha Mond. As we head into the more divisive territory on this playlist, I feel that Mustapha Mond is a decent balancing act. Many of their tracks are airy, buzzing with vitality, at once steeped in melancholy and some semblance of bliss. Poetic, right? Anyway, check ’em out. Recommended track: Damage.
  9. Lil Uzi Vert. Oh, ho, ho. This is where the hate mail’s going to pour in. Lil Uzi Vert’s one of the more controversial musical preferences I have, and he’s not exactly unanimously loved in the rap world, either. Even so, he brings a fun, charismatic edge to rap that I rarely see, with the possible exception of Chance the Rapper or (occasionally) Tory Lanez. His production really carries the music, but the catchy hooks are what keep you shamefully reaching for that loop button. Recommended track: How to Talk.
  10. Max Richter. This is probably the classiest selection I have. Max Richter’s probably best known outside the mellow music world for having one of his tracks featured in the film Arrival. He crafts some phenomenally haunting melodies that express everything from loss to wonder. Recommended track: On the Nature of Daylight.
  11. Amon Amarth. This is another band that belongs with Coheed and Cambria on the “old school favorites” list. The storytelling quality of their music, combined with some monstrous viking screams, are what set them above other metal bands (in my eyes, of course). But again, it’s metal. It’s love it or hate it. Recommended track: Twilight of the Thunder God.
  12. Rage Against the Machine. Everybody from politicians to your average Walmart shopper probably knows about RATM, and that’s an arguably good thing. Even if you’re not a fan of their grating melodies or smash-the-state lyrics, they’re a living example of merging art with a relevant, gloves-off message for the masses. Recommended track: Sleep Now in the Fire.
  13. The Weeknd. Long before the Weeknd made it onto the billboards with his new pop-driven tracks, he wrote about the life of Abel, who lived in a sprawling web of sex and debauchery and betrayal. While I hate to fall into the trap of labeling myself as an “older work” fan, it’s pretty apt here. Some of his most heartbreaking tracks, alternating between a sense of vulnerability and decadence, are what drew me into his world. Recommended track: The Fall.
  14. Death Grips. This is the band to listen to if you consider yourself an open-minded music fan. It’s avant garde. It’s reckless. It’s industrial and obnoxious and vulgar. But I quite like it. Recommended track: Takyon.
  15. Travis Scott. Say what you will about Travis Scott, but he’s made quite a name for himself as a rapper, feature king, and general baron of the music world. His tracks may not appeal to everyone’s auditory faculties, but if you can forget the blatant materialism of the music and embrace the mood he’s going for, you’ll have a good time. Recommended track: Butterfly Effect.

So, there you have it! Feel free to judge me and leave comments about how people like me should be banned from using Soundcloud. Love, peace, and joy, my friends, and tell me what you listen to in the comments!

SCRIBES has got a cover!

Greetings, friends and newcomers alike. Today’s exciting news (a few days delayed in light of grading exams for fifth graders, but nevertheless) is that SCRIBES, the first book The Scribe Cycle, finally has a cover! Okay, sure, you probably understood that much from the title of this post.

The fine folks at Kensington did a pretty stellar job with this one, if I may say so myself. Check it out and let me know what you think!

SCRIBES Cover.jpg

Can’t wait to see what happens in this oh-so-magnificent book!

Oh, wait.

Anyway, SCRIBES is kicking off the Scribe Cycle in February of 2018! You can check it out here and at most other major retailers (nifty that it’s on Audible too, right?).

Love, peace, and pixie dust, my friends.

The Scribe Cycle is Coming!

Image result for Hotline bling gif

It’s been a while, but I’m back in the proverbial saddle with some incredible news: my dark fantasy series, The Scribe Cycle, has officially been green-lit for publication through Kensington. The first novel, aptly named Scribes, is on track for a February 2018 release, which is phenomenal. And terrifying. And a bit like holding rabid butterflies in your stomach. BUT MOSTLY PHENOMENAL.

“But what’s it all about?” you whisper softly.

Seeing as we’ll be spending some quality time (in other words, three full novels and potentially other material) in this world, I might make a separate post talking about the setting of The Scribe Cycle — its religions, its locales, its entirely inconsequential nuggets of world-building that really have no place in a proper narrative. This time, however, I’d prefer to lay out the story and general predicament of Scribes.

Rzolka is not in flames, but ashes. Born into the ruins of a brutal civil war where magic has begun to sprout with violent repercussions,  Anna has never known peace. She and her fellow scribes, able to grant invulnerability through scarring, are desirable, rare, and powerless. Despite granting their protection to others, scribes can never be scarred. Most survive at the mercy of power-hungry rulers and flesh-traffickers. This fear is heightened for Anna, whose scars grant seemingly infinite protection. But everything changes on a foggy autumn morning. Her life, once confined to a remote village, is torn asunder when an exiled war criminal offers her a choice: create an immortal army in the northern sands of Hazan, living in decadence, or forfeit her brother’s life. Amid northern luxuries, the contract’s true horror comes to light. Unstoppable hordes slaughter beyond reproach, ransack cities, and launch a merciless campaign to retake her homeland. Guided by a cryptic Hazani assassin, Anna must master her scars and fight back before she becomes the architect of an apocalyptic war. In a world where everybody wants you, it’s only a matter of time until persuasion becomes a blade at your neck.

Sound good? Thrilled to hear it. In fact, I’m even more excited to share this world — a sort of hodgepodge of Baltic, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian cultures — with all of you. As soon as we finalize a cover design, you’ll be the first to know.

I truly couldn’t be more ecstatic, nor more eager to share the journey of crafting the next two novels in the series. You can count on plenty of writing posts, real-world topics related to the content of the books, and generally more frequent updates as we move forward.

And as a final message, a sincere and heartfelt thanks to some very important people: Lindsay Mealing, my fabulous agent, who has always been so encouraging of me and my weird ideas. James Abbate, my eternally helpful editor for Scribes. My close friends, who know their own names and have always inspired me to be better. Last, and certainly not least, my family members, who expertly walk the line between embarassingly supportive and loving beyond belief. None of this could happen without you; I’m just the one who put my fingers on some keys.

Love, peace, and hope for all of you lovely people out there.

Just had “The Call.” Officially an Agented Fantasy Writer!

Now that I’ve stopped hyperventilating, I figured I should make a brief and self-congratulatory post for all of you wonderful people.

I finally have a literary agent.

Just like anyone else will tell you, this is the day that a writer dreams of since they’re old enough to understand the abstract concepts of publishing, marketing, and selling. Revisions are certainly on the way for my latest work, and I’m so excited to share details about it with all of you as it comes closer to being shipped off to publishers’ desks.

Excuse me while I cry like an emotionally unstable kindergartener, please.

And, if you’re so inclined, follow me on Twitter here!