Gillian St. Kevern tagged me for this talk-about-myself blog hop. The hop invited me to answer the five questions below. I encourage you to check out Gillian’s blog to find out what she’s up to. As for me:
My current project, Thick as Ice, is nearly finished. The book continues the adventures of Vorgell and Madd from Thick as Thieves. Vorgell takes on winter goblins—in the heat of summer—and gets closer to Madd’s ass. I really enjoy this pair’s company, and their growing relationship plucks at my jaded heartstrings. Fans will be happy to learn Petal continues to be fierce, is now a teenager, and has mysterious bumps on her shoulders. Here’s a snippet of the boys:
Taking advantage of one of the shadows, Madd pressed Vorgell toward a building wall. It was a clumsy move, as much a product of mead as of lust, but he brazened it by cupping his friend’s well-endowed groin and grinning when what felt like a serpent moved under his hand.
“You can’t resist me, you know.”
“Never could. And tonight I can’t get you to a bed fast enough. This way.” Vorgell dragged him out of the shadow and cast a watchful glance in every direction. Thieves Wart boasted a surplus of villains.
“It’s better in moonlight.”
“Cock sucking, you oaf. It’s better then. All cocks are pretty in moonlight.”
“I do not think you could be any drunker and still walk on two legs.”
I’m also writing a standalone short for the boys. It should appear later this year in a charity anthology.
But wait! There’s more! I’m writing another short—about a spider shifter—for an April Fool’s Anthology early next year. I’ve set the story on a remote island in northern Wisconsin where the natives are hostile to newcomers, especially those they invite to join them for dinner. After that? Let’s just say I don’t lack for WIPs needing attention.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Other people can probably answer that better than I can. No writer sees their own work clearly. One thing I bring to my work is long experience with reading and writing science fiction and fantasy. I learned my craft at the knees of some amazing editors and writers and I’m pretty exacting about genre elements. My magic systems aren’t flimsy. My settings are detailed. But so are those of other writers and I couldn’t tell you precisely how mine differ.
My main love is building worlds and invoking a sense of wonder and place. My readers will enter lush worlds, fully developed societies with clear rules, and inhabited by characters who fit seamlessly into their surroundings. They belong there and the story belongs there. I think that’s true even for my recent contemporary story, The Last Cannoli.
Oh, and there’s humor, some books more than others. But rumor has it Thick as Thieves and The Last Cannoli have made people laugh.
* By the way, if you know a way my work differs from others, could you please tell me in a comment? I would be eternally grateful.
I spent my childhood being continually uprooted. We moved from place to place, state to state, and I never lived in the same place more than two years. Every time I made friends I had to leave them behind. One reason I started making up my own worlds was to have control over something. In addition to accumulating a rich trove of landscapes, people, and social values, I devised a certain way of looking at the world. I was always the other. The new kid. The outsider. Imagine being the tallest (and blondest) person when walking through crowds in Bolivia. So I became fascinated by otherness. My favorite stories still feature characters in unfamiliar settings, or from exotic backgrounds. After I discovered The Lord of the Rings and the books of Thomas Burnette Swann, I was hooked. Fantasy and science fiction completely suited me.
What’s so great about fantasy and science fiction is that any idea is possible and can be developed, examined, and explored. A completely frozen world. An imprisoned god. Women who need men for only one thing—and it isn’t reproduction. Humanity meeting a form of life it cannot subdue. And it’s not necessary to leave human emotions and passions behind. Human characters, in any setting, will fight, love, fear, and strive for something. We can crawl inside the alien, visit societies Earth has never seen. Every story I write is a model used to explore and show the immense power of being human, of finding those other people we can trust and love.
And then there’s sex. Every permutation of human sexuality is beautiful and worthy of being explored, including the way sex is misunderstood and manipulated. In fact, sexual landscapes can be among the most challenging, and rewarding, to visit. Once you get past physical attraction, what really pulls another person in and makes them want to share their bodies and secrets not just for a night but forever? The combinations are endless.
A story usually begins with a character. Almost always the character has a problem. In one of my MF WIPs, when the heroine meets the hero, she’s pregnant with another man’s child. Can a pregnant woman attract a hot man? Thick as Thieves germinated from the idea of a perpetually oversexed barbarian (how much fun could I have with that!?) who falls for a prickly male witch. The main character and narrator in The Last Cannoli was suggested by a prompt, but I knew I had my story when I envisioned a relocated Midwesterner finding work at a Philadelphia Italian bakery famed for its cannoli. His problem was stepping into a business run by a family of passionate Italian Americans. Trust me, that’s a problem—it took me a couple years to figure out the one I married into.
Naturally, there are exceptions, but in most cases once I have a character I create a conflict. Because conflicts provide direction. A fun conflict guarantees a fun story. An intense conflict, or a sexy one, creates a different kind of story. With every story I make a conscious decision what kind of story I want it to be, and devise a suitable conflict. If the story is deeply focused on the main characters, I make the conflict be about them. They are part of the conflict. What they do, why they do it, what happens as a result, all comes from some flaw or virtue within them that drives everything else. Sean Whelan, in The Last Cannoli, wants to express his creative side—and then wants to help the bakery he’s come to love by using his creative side—and the end result is a cannoli war. Madd Moondark doesn’t want to be controlled by anyone, which is why he puts the brakes on Vorgell’s lusty pursuit and also why they end up in a creepy castle trying to find a way to rid Madd of a cursed love collar that puts him in the bad guy’s power. Conflicts are the engine of the story.
Everything after that is gravy. I’m a pantser and it’s a bit like I’m in a video game, following my characters around, meeting new characters, and creating environments suitable for their adventures. I custom make worlds to suit the characters, rather than fit my characters to a world I’ve created. The exception, of course, is a series. The Uttor books all have the same world in common.
And if I am giving the impression I’m very deliberate… I’m not. I’ve just been around long enough to have figured out what I do. My writing is terrifyingly spontaneous. Sometimes I come up with ideas or images in advance, but more often than not I create them on the spot, as needed. My heroes could use a bath and it would be fun to get them naked, of course, and clean, and have sexy fun—so how do I do that? I come up with a bath that also introduces a new character and advances the plot, because everything must advance the plot. My heroine is competent and her society accepting of such, but I need a way to show it. Let’s see… the hero can see her adjudicating a difficult case that—you got it—advances the plot. Writing is a constant process of finding solutions that move the story forward.
That said, I often get amazing ideas—even entire scenes or complete dialogues—when in the shower. Those end up getting scribbled on scraps of paper by an unclothed, dripping author. For everything else? I’m probably wearing jeans and sipping coffee.
Who’s Next on the Blog Hop?
Anyone who wants to be! I must be late to the game because I’m having trouble finding friends who haven’t already been tagged. Just saying this is a fun event and I encourage folks to join in.
Remember to comment if you can tell me how my work differs from those of other writers in my genres. That question really does come up a lot and I never have a good answer!