Writing

My Writing Process

This week’s post was inspired by Magen Cube’s newsletter, Notes on Monstrosity, where they discuss their writing process. Finding out how other writers writer is something I find incredibly interesting, to the point that I will watch Youtube videos of writers trying famous authors’ processes or daily schedules. It’s fascinating how what works for one author would probably trample my brain into exhausted dust. In my creative classes, it’s a topic my students ask about and how they can best streamline the process. I’d like to make it clear that you will need to figure that out on your own and try what different writers do or venture out on your own and see what your brain jives with.

Some of you are going to read my process and be mad. So be it. My process is not what is preached by many writers. I do not hurdle to the finish line as fast as I can because, frankly, I am not fond of cleaning up the mess after. That’s it. I’m lazy. I do not have the mental fortitude to clean up the same draft 6+ times because I decide to speed through it the first time and now have a 100+ things I need to remember to fix AND do copy edits and such after. That’s not how this is going to go, so if you’re looking for how to write a book in 30 days or write 5k a day or whatever else the hustle culture is pedaling these days, this is not the blog post you seek.

Consider, I have written and published 7 (going on 8) books this way, so it works for me *shrugs*

The Beginning

Typically, my ideas start off with two characters or a single character, and everything sort of grows out of that. I spend a lot of time at the beginning feeling out who they are, what’s wrong with them, what they want, what their core personality is. From there, I think about how these characters would meet and interact because that will be the majority of the story. Then, I get stuck for like 2 weeks trying to figure out the conflict/plot. How do I figure this out? Usually thinking how I can best traumatize these characters. At the same time, I tend to start making a Pinterest board because I’m a very visual person. Once I start throwing together what they look like and where they are, more concrete aesthetic and plot things start to gel for me.

During this part, I’ll often try to start the story to better feel out the characters and have a few false starts. This happens more often with brand new characters than when I’m adding on to a pre-existing series, which makes sense because with new characters, this is more exploratory writing, not word count writing. During this early stage, I need to remember to be kind to myself because my first month or so of working on a book is SLOW. There is a lot of feeling in the dark until things make sense. At some point during this process, I can mentally see the ending or something toward the end to work towards. With that in mind, we get into the drafting stage.

Drafting

I want to make it very clear that I am a “slow” writer. Slow in comparison to the people who can bang out a 60k book in 2 months and have it ready for publication 2 months later. My books are usually 90k+, and I only write 500 to 1500 words a day with the latter being a *really* good day or me playing catch up because I skipped a day or two due to not feeling good. My monthly word counts average around 15k with the first month or two of a new draft often having less. Early on, I tend to write in 20 minute sprints, something akin to the Pomodoro Method. It forces me to write and move forward when I’m feeling hesitant.

But here is my cardinal sin, according to other writers. I EDIT AS I GO.

Yes, dear reader, I go back and edit what I wrote during my previous session as a warm-up. I do this because

a) I am an underwriter, so I need to add more detail. Often, after I’ve written a scene, that detail becomes clearer, and it makes more sense for me to add it now while it’s still fresh in my mind than 2 months from now when I don’t remember what the hell the room is supposed to look like. My brain is like a sieve or a browser with 25 tabs open and you can’t figure out where the music is coming from. I try not to over-complicate it if I can.

b) It’s less work for me later. Future Kara doesn’t appreciate it when Past Kara leaves cryptic messages in a draft that make no sense. [ADD CHAIR] For what, Past Kara?? Why and for what purpose do they need a chair?? I know some people can do this, I cannot. It just frustrates me. Then again, I am not a perfectionist, and as someone is who at least somewhat full of themselves, as many artists are, I tend to read my work and think it’s pretty good and editing it is just tumbling that shiny rock further. Ego is key for this process to work. I am self-conscious about many things; my writing is not one of them.

Once I have reacquainted myself with where I left off, it is time to write. As I said, I tend to write 500-1500 words a day, and this is either done in the morning around 10 AM or late at night with little in between. It’s when my brain works best.

Outlining or the Lack of

You may have noticed I didn’t mention making an outline. That is because I don’t make a traditional outline before I start writing. I do make a retroactive outline covering what I’ve already written, so I can go back and reference it as I move forward, which has been VERY helpful to me. I have a blog post about it here. Something I have been doing with The Reanimator’s Heart is using Sarra Canon’s Three Act Structure outline, which is based off Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and a few other structure books. I have been filling in scenes I think fit into the general structure to help me figure out the order of things and where I’m going, but I do this one act at a time. Act 1, then Act 2 part 1, Act 2 part 2, then Act 3 and not a moment ahead of time if I can help it. It is a very loose outline that is subject to change, but seeing everything laid out helps me keep the flow going.

Ironically, if I’m writing a short story, I tend to make a loose outline, but I think this is because, at most, I can hold about 30k words worth of direction in my head. Beyond that, my brain gets overwhelmed and sort of melts. My process is avoiding the brain melting stage at all costs.

To be continued…

Originally, this was going to be one MASSIVE blog post, but I have decided to break this up right here before the editing process. Truthfully, the drafting process and editing process feel very different to me, so it’s a good place to stop for now. In 2 weeks, the post on my editing process will come out, so I hope you will come back to read it.

Monthly Review

May 2022 Wrap-Up Post

Ah, May. The month when my allergies beat me up and steal my lunch money every year. But the semester is over, the grading is done, and I can fully invest my time in my work. I know we aren’t completely done with May, but I think the end of the 29th is good enough to capture most of what I have done. If anything earth-shattering happens those last two days, I’ll edit and add them. Let’s take a look at what my goals were for May.

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal: 15k
    • True goal: 17k
    • Stretch goal 19k
  • Blog Weekly
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Finish majority of room/office clean up
  • Play video games and craft more to unwind
  • Do a craft for fun (I’ve been slacking)

Let’s see how it went.


Books

I set out to read 8 books, and I read 8 books in May.

  1. The Hellion’s Waltz (#3) by Olivia Waite- 4 stars, wonderful sapphic historical romance between a union activist/weaver and a piano teacher
  2. Along the Saltwise Sea (#2) by A. Deborah Baker (aka Seanan McGuire)- 4 stars, a middle grade story with a sort of Wizard of Oz style voice and adventure
  3. Love Bites (Southern Gothic series) by Magen Cubed- 4 stars, origin short story for the Leather and Lace series. It’s interesting to see how the story developed and expanded
  4. How to Train Your Pet Human (Southern Gothic series) by Magen Cubed- 5 stars, erotic short stories attached to the characters from Leather and Lace. As always, Cash and Dorian are hilarious and wonderful
  5. Siren Queen by Nghi Vo- 4 stars, a sapphic historical-fantasy story set in pre-Hayes Code Hollywood, horrific and glorious
  6. The 7 Days Author Guide to Book Advertising by Matthew J Holmes- 4 stars, useful in deciding what sort of ads to use and how they differ, not very specific or fleshed out
  7. Saga (#3) by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading in preparation for volume 10’s release in October
  8. Fevered Star (#2) by Rebecca Roanhorse- 4 stars, fantastic second book in a Meso/Indigenous American inspired world

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Researched AMS ads and ran one (yay for trying new things)
  • Made a book trailer and posted it on TikTok
  • Ran a free book ad with Free Booksy that was a FLOP, as far as paid promotion goes
  • Created a book launch/pre-order checklist for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Made a list of keywords for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Finished grading and posted my students’ grades
  • Brainstormed the future newsletter freebie “Jasmine and Jaguars”
  • I have been working on my disaster of a room/office. I have organized all my clothes/purged the ones I don’t want, thrown out a metric shit ton of my childhood toys and junk, organized my books and purged the ones I no longer want. I have the vast majority of the work done. The only things left to tackle is some more childhood stuff that needs to go and getting rid of old furniture.

Blogs Posted


Writing

My goal this month was to add 15,000 words at a minimum, and I am currently on track to hit that if I write 1,000 words a day for the next few days. I think I can do it, but it might be close or I might fall slightly short. Either way, it’s fine. My stats below do not include the 30th or 31st of May.

  • Week 1- 2,700 words and 2 missed days, 540 words/writing day
  • Week 2- 2,600 words and 3 missed days, 650 words/writing day
  • Week 3- 2,700 words and 3 missed days, 675 words/writing day
  • Week 4- 5,100 words and 0 missed days, 729 words/writing day

So this month has been a mixed bag as you can see from above. I’m not 100% sure what sort of went wrong this month, but I have a few ideas. First is that I hit the second half of act two. In terms of plotting, that is the hardest spot for me because it requires weaving all the threads you’ve created and load them up for act three where they must tie together and make a satisfying, coherent ending. This is where I end up pausing the most while working to make sure I’m staying on track. The second issue was my mom being home several days due to it being her birthday month, which threw me off along with the post-semester change in schedule. That transition period always trips me up. Ultimately, the tragedies toward the latter half of the month have been hard to deal with. I alternate between throwing myself into my work to deal and being so numbed out that I can’t do anything.

Shockingly, I’m very happy with what I’ve written so far this month, which I hope will continue as I move into June. The Reanimator’s Heart should be fully written by the middle of July, fingers crossed. I edit as I go, so the hope is that there will be minimal large scale issues to fix.


Hopes for June

I still haven’t done any crafts or really played any of my video games this month. I’m hoping I can find better balance in June and actually do some things to refill my creative well besides reading. I have a few needle felting kits that are small projects, so I may try doing those to see if I can at least complete one project this quarter. Below are my goals for June.

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal 13k
    • Real goal 15k
    • Stretch goal 17k
  • Finish the room/office destruction/cleaning
  • Blog weekly
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Approve cover design
  • Work on new reader magnet story
  • Play a video game/do some crafts
organization · Writing

How I’m Getting Back into Writing

As you may have gleaned from my posts since I started blogging again in the latter half of 2021, I have had a lot of trouble writing since the pandemic started. It was difficult before that, but it really worsened during the pandemic due to stress, worsening of my OCD symptoms, and what I now realize may have been covid brain fog (this seemed to greatly lessen after getting vaccinated). At this point, I’m in a much better place mentally than I was a year (or more) ago. Not 100% but at least 80% of the way there.

Since 2022 started, I have tried to really get back into the groove of writing like I did in 2019, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to optimize my writing routine and do things that make it easier to get work done. Before we get into this, I want to make it clear that I am not into the hustle grind, write a million words a day mentality. I’m literally just trying to get words on the page in a way that doesn’t feel like absolute torture.

Sprints

Something I started doing at the end of 2021 is using sprints. Sprints are setting a timer and writing for that amount of time. This is a branch off of the Pomodoro Method, which uses 25 minutes of work followed by a few minutes of time, followed by another “pomodoro” or 25 minute sprint. I found several authors on Youtube who do live sprints online, and I started joining those to help get started. Even if I found the videos too chatty at times, the synergy of writing at the same time as other people helped a lot. It took me a bit of trial and error to figure out what sprint length works best for me. 20 minutes seems to be my sweet spot. I can do two 20 minute sprints pretty easily and clock in a couple hundred words each time. I’m slowly trying to strengthen my creative muscles and do a bit more writing, so increasing from two sprints to three or even four in the future. I’m not there yet, but it’s a hope of mine.

Tracking Progress

With sprints, I’ve also started tracking my sprints with a printable chart that I got off Sarra Cannon’s website. You can see them in the picture below. Using these sheets and making note of the minutes long the sprint was helped me to find my sweet spot with sprint length. I also liked to see how much I got done each day and how the word count was increasing. Seeing progress makes me believe that it’s happening because adding words feels rather amorphous.

I also use a spreadsheet to track my daily word count. I take the total from the sprints and add it to an excel sheet. These spreadsheets also track my overall monthly goal (which we’ll get to in a bit). The monthly spreadsheets add everything up for me, let me track my progress, and the one I bought can track more than just my WIP. That way I can see that if I have a low word count on my WIP it may be because I wrote a 1,000 word blog post instead. If you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo, the word count trackers are a lot like what they have on their website, but this one covers more than one project at a time.

While tracking my progress has been good for me because I have the visual pay-off, something I struggled with greatly in January was not punishing myself for not writing on a certain day. I originally colored in the days where I didn’t write. That ended up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy where one writing-less day perpetuated more writing-less days. The colored bands stacked up, and my positive feelings surrounding my work plummeted. In February, I stopped coloring in the days I missed. I tried to treat the new month like a clean slate, and with each successive week, I tried to have less writing-less days if possible.

Realistic Goals

Let’s put a big neon, bolded sign around REALISTIC.

I somehow managed to be under the delusion that in the past, I could write like 30k a month despite logically knowing I didn’t write more 1,000 words a day. I actually went back through my blog and found my old monthly check-ins, which had my word count totals for the month. Most were 10k-20k depending on the month and where I was in the story.

This is also something I had to calibrate within myself. The beginnings of new books are a SLOG for me. I tend to have false starts, have a lot more pauses, and I can’t power through the beginnings when I don’t know where I’m going like I can in the middle of a work. What I am having to remind myself is that if I’m working on the beginning of the story (first 10k-15k), I need to be mindful that it’ll take me a lot longer than months where I’m in the middle or end of a book. I may only write 5k a month when I’m starting a brand new story and still feeling out where I’m going.

In January, I wrote 2,800 words, and in February I wrote 10k with the word count increasing each week. This leads me to my March goal. I decided that I’m going to have a good, better, best goal for my March word count goal. My good goal is 10,000 words, which is fairly modest and very doable if things continue as is. My better goal is 15k, and the best goal is 20k. I don’t think I’ll hit the 20k, but it would be amazing if I could. Instead of shooting for the fences and saying 20k for March, I have the lower goals which are more realistic and very doable. Basically, this is positive reinforcement as I stretch and rebuild my writing muscles. I have these goals written down on my sprint sheets and my word count spreadsheet along with how many words per day I need to reach each.

I’m a very visual person who likes data, so having all these spreadsheets and sprint sheets help me manage my goals while tempering my expectations (aka not being totally unrealistic because I can’t remember my past creative thresholds). Not everyone will like this, and I know some will actively hate that everything involves tracking because it has the opposite effect on them. But if you’re like me and need that sort of regimented, goal-oriented, piece-by-piece breakdown, some of what I’ve done these past two months may be helpful to you.

Monthly Review

February 2022 Wrap-Up

So last month in January’s monthly wrap-up post, I made a few goals for myself, which I promptly forgot. Let’s go over what those goals for February were:

  • Read 8 books
  • Write 20k words with a stretch goal of 30k
  • Finish a syllabus for a future class
  • Finish a proposal for that same class
  • blog weekly and send out my monthly newsletter
  • crochet more because I haven’t since before Christmas

So let’s see how that went.


Reading

I set out to read 8 books in February since my goal for the year is 100, and I read 9.

  1. Leather and Lace (#1) by Magen Cubed (4 stars- monster hunter x vampire with a cute dog chase down monsters and accidentally fall in love)
  2. A Southern Gothic Summer Vacation and Other Stories by Magen Cubed (4 stars- see above)
  3. A Southern Gothic Holiday Special by Magen Cubed (4 stars- see above)
  4. A Bloody Little Valentine by Magen Cubed (4 stars- see above)
  5. Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books by Chris Fox (3 stars- much more useful for people who are churning out books very fast and using Kindle Unlimited. For those that don’t, not very helpful)
  6. Newsletter Ninja 2 by Tammi Labrecque (4 stars- very helpful in regards to creating a reader magnet or cookie)
  7. We Free the Stars (#2) by Hafsah Faizal (4 stars- a lovely ending to an epic fantasy the duology)
  8. Rest in Pieces by Bess Lovejoy (4 stars- didn’t love it as much as Caitlin Doughty’s books on the same subject, little too sensationalized for my taste)
  9. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (4 stars- greatly enjoyed RR’s books as always)

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Finished the syllabus for the class on monsters (basically went through what I had, changed some books, tinkered with dates)
  • Finished the course proposal for the class on monsters (justifying why this class should exist beyond Kara wants to teach it)
  • Finished another hypothetical syllabus for a literary magazine class that I put off for months
  • Listened to and approved the first 15 minute sample of the audiobook for Kinship and Kindness as read by Jack RR Evans
  • Updated the keywords for all my books on Amazon, though I may still tinker with this in the future as I’m not sure if I actually did a good job or not
  • Completed 3 out of 5 weeks of Sarra Canon’s Publish and Thrive course (it runs through mid-March)
  • Added the proper Amazon categories to all my books in the US ebook store (I still need to do this for CA, UK, and all the paperbacks *quietly weeps*)
  • blogged weekly
  • sent out my February newsletter, you can read it here
  • Permanently set The Earl of Brass (book 1) to free and The Gentleman Devil (book 2) to $0.99 (make sure to grab them if you like queer historical-fantasy with a hefty dose of magic and the gothic)

Blogs Posted

If there is anything you ever want me to write/talk about, leave it in the comments! I will never complain about suggestions.


Writing

So if you read last month’s wrap-up post, you know January was a STRUGGLE when it comes to writing. By the end of the month, I had only written about 3,000 words. Luckily February was much better, and I ended up writing 10,000 words. For a lot of people, that really isn’t much, but between starting a new story (which is were I struggle most) and grief shit and current events, writing has not been easy for me. Here are my weekly stats (not including blog post word counts):

  • Week 1- 1,130 words and missed 3 days of writing, 377 words/writing day
  • Week 2- 1,160 words and missed 2 days of writing, 232 words/writing day
  • Week 3- 2,700 words and missed 2 days of writing, 540 words/writing day
  • Week 4- 3,615 words and missed 1 day of writing, 602 words/writing day

This doesn’t include Monday’s/February 28th’s word count since it runs into the new week for me, but I have reached 20k words in this draft *cue the flaming Elmo gif* and I’m feeling good about it. I’m also very happy to see the days off decrease and the word counts increase. I just hope I can keep this going in March.


Hopes for March

  • Read 8 books (to reach 25 total by the end of the quarter)
  • Finish Sarra Canon’s Publish and Thrive course
  • Brainstorm a short story for my newsletter subscribers (click on the newsletter tab at the top of the screen to join)
  • Writing goals
    • Minimum goal 10k to reach 30k words (323 words/day)
    • “True” goal 15k to reach 35k words (484 words/day)
    • Stretch goal 20k to reach 40k words (645 words/day)
  • Blog weekly and send out a monthly newsletter
  • Craft/Crochet something

Well, I never got around to crocheting really anything in February, so I will at that to March’s list. I do want to get into my craft projects again. It’s just been hard when I have a lot of writing to catch up on. I’m also trying to be realistic with my writing goals, so as not to overwhelm myself or set myself up to fail. I’ll do a post about writing goals in the near future.

So let’s see how March goes. What are some of your goals this month?

Writing

Why Authors Need Other Hobbies

I can already hear some of you saying, “But, Kara, writing is my hobby! It’s my one passion, my true love,” etc.

And, yeah, same, but that’s also part of the problem. For those of us who would eventually like to write full-time or think of writing as more than a hobby, writing can become an all-consuming activity. We spend hours upon hours of our lives staring at the screen, working on plots or outlines, posting on social media about our work, and of course, editing said work. Often, we clock in more time with our writing than we do with our day jobs.

But what happens when the words stop flowing for a while or we write something that isn’t well received? In the past when this happened, I caught myself falling into a mental health spiral because so much of my self-worth is tied closely to my ability to write and my productivity in relation to my writing. Part of this is certainly tied to the capitalistic notion of hustle culture and productivity = self-worth. Author and writer also become part of our identity, and when that part isn’t being stoked, we lose our sense of who we are, our self-confidence, and that leads to a lot of the mental health slipping.

What I found helped me to feel less mentally chaotic when stress or life made writing difficult was learning to crochet.

Parts 1 and 2 of the Letitia’s Garden CAL blanket I am working on for my mom. (Pattern by Rosina Plane on Ravelry)

What I love about crochet is that when I’m done with a project, there is an immediate pay off. I learn stitches, I follow a pattern, and I get a hat/scarf/blanket/produce bag/stuffed squid. Unlike writing where it takes months or years for a pay off, crocheting smaller projects can be done in an hour or two. It’s something I do to wind down if I’m feeling stressed by working on something simple or repetitive or to challenge myself by choosing something with an intricate pattern like the blanket in the picture. It helps keep me centered, especially when my writing isn’t going well.

Part of the reason this works is because I am a goal-oriented person who mentally gets off to ticking things off a to-do list, and a crochet pattern is basically a to-do list that ends in a product magically appearing. I can see the pay-off happening as I work the pattern, and that gives me the brain boost I need to counterbalance what’s going wrong with my writing. Does it help all the time? Absolutely not, and sometimes, I can’t bear the thought of picking up my crochet project and working on it.

But having a hobby that isn’t writing to give your brain that boost it needs to keep out of a downward spiral is really what is key here. If you’re athletic, maybe going to the gym and doing reps or having a pick-up game with your friends will do the trick. If you’re a crafter like me, maybe try crochet, needlepoint, knitting, plastic canvas, or even needle felting. Nothing like stabbing something a million times to get the frustration out. The good thing is, most of these hobbies don’t cost very much. You can get cheap yarn and a serviceable set of hooks/needles for $10 and there are tons of tutorials on YouTube, which is where I learned to crochet (I highly recommend HookedByRobin or JaydaInStitches).

If you are not crafty, then try video games. Much like crafts, quests give that bite size chunk pay off and seeing progression through a story or quest helps to refill the wells with serotonin. I greatly enjoy low stress games like Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, and Ooblets, so if you aren’t a big gamer, those might be a good place to start to unwind.

The other thing I might suggest if you don’t feel like getting into a new hobby or playing a game is reading. I think most authors also tend to be readers, but I get frustrated when I hear authors say they don’t have time to read. You can probably make time for anything you truly want to do, even if it’s squeezing in a few minutes reading an ebook on your phone while in the bathroom. It still helps to refill those creative reservoirs.

Truthfully, I think doing something non-book related is the better option when you need to counterbalance writing angst. Doing something with your hands or playing video games, which helps to engage that hand-eye coordination and decision making anyway, are rife with pay-offs that might make you feel better if things are going wrong. Those small pay-offs that a hobby can bring add up and will ultimately lower your stress even if a pattern or project is frustrating in the moment. A side benefit is that I’ve often had plot epiphanies while my brain was busy chugging away a crochet project or plantings crops in Stardew Valley. It’s the repetitive, meditative nature of it that allows for your brain to run in the background and unpick the knots you’ve made.

If you’re feeling frustrated or stuck with your writing, I highly recommend trying a new hobby or picking up an old one.

selkie cove · Writing

Selkie Cove: Chapter Two

SelkieCoveLH

As you have probably seen in early posts, Selkie Cove (IMD #5) will be out July 25th. I’m super excited for you to read it, and if you would like, you can pre-order it here. Paperbacks will be available before the release date.

If you missed chapter one, you can read it here.


 

Chapter Two

Sigils and Seals

Immanuel closed his eyes, drinking in the crisp autumnal air as it blew in from his window and ruffled the page that contained a sigil he had been working on to conjure wind. For most of the morning, he had barely gotten a stir of air. It wasn’t until he stopped picturing hurricane-force winds and replaced them with birds soaring and the smell of rain that he felt the kiss of Hyde Park’s earthen perfume brush his cheek. Opening his eyes, Immanuel found a loose Celtic knot beneath the nib of his pen. A smile flashed across his lips as he quickly jotted down his thoughts and results beside the sigil before they could sink beneath the sea of the research he was doing. For hours he had been gathering information on Arctic mammals from half a dozen books from the museum’s library, and he desperately needed a break from penguins and whales. Immanuel shuddered at the thought of having to dissect the latter beast and studied the new sigil’s form. While magic had only been part of his life a short while, it was proving to be as interesting a discipline as science.

Immanuel eyed the tea cup resting at the edge of his blotter and chewed his lip in thought. He had at least fifteen minutes before Sir William Henry Flower finished his weekly meeting with the heads of the museum’s departments. Anyone with any authority would be in the Shaw Room, which meant there would be time to try a trick he had been working on. Placing the cup before him, Immanuel drew in a slow, steady breath. With his eyes locked on the cold tea, his finger traced a whirl that grew into a deformed star on the tabletop. For a moment, nothing happened. He pictured water rolling over his back, the sensation of water dripping across his skin, the call of the ocean lapping against the shore. A ripple passed from his mind to the tea’s surface. The harder he stared, the rougher the waves became until the tea nearly sloshed over the edge of the china. When it reached a peak in the center, Immanuel’s mind snagged it. The sigil evolved beneath his hand, twisting into a lattice of peaks and valleys as the surface rose high above the cup until—

“What the devil do you think you’re doing!”

Immanuel jumped and the peak of liquid plummeted into the cup, shooting tea across his blotter and papers. Scrambling to keep the ink from bleeding into an indecipherable blur, Immanuel looked up to find Peregrine Nichols glaring back at him from the doorway. The junior botany curator’s sharp brown brows furrowed as he slammed the door shut with his foot and stood at the end of Immanuel’s desk. Despite being over a head shorter than Immanuel, the Peregrine had a commanding air he couldn’t hope to emulate. He had seen Peregrine take down a revenant with a pry bar and an incantation when he could scarcely will his body to move. Carefully, mopping his notes with a handkerchief, Immanuel avoided Peregrine’s gaze.

“Are you out of your bloody mind, Winter?” Peregrine hissed. “What if someone saw you? How would you have explained your levitating tea to them?”

“It wasn’t levitating, I was merely experimenting with— I didn’t think anyone would barge in.” Immanuel’s face reddened against his will as he held the handkerchief over his paper and hoped he hadn’t ruined the wind sigil. “Sir William always knocks.”

“But not everyone does. That’s the point. If you’re looking for a way to get on Elliot’s bad side, provoking a modern Inquisition by being careless is a good way to start.”

“I didn’t mean any harm.”

“It doesn’t matter. One slip up and we’re all pyre fodder. So, have you come to an answer yet? She’s even started nagging me to find out.”

A wave of guilt rippled through Immanuel’s gut as he broke from Peregrine’s hard gaze to shut the window and put the wet pages on the radiator to dry. He still didn’t have an answer. After discovering he had extranormal abilities and helping to foil a witch hell-bent on bringing an otherworldly creature to London, he had been offered the chance to join Her Majesty’s Interceptors, a sort of Home Office to deal with England’s overlooked world of magic. It had been tempting, but— Immanuel wasn’t certain what the “but” was. With all that transpired since he had been given a second chance at life, he was tired, and he savored the peace that had finally fallen over his life. His job as a junior curator and his relationship with Adam were all he could have wanted. Becoming an Interceptor would change all of that.

“I will get back to her soon. What is it you need?”

“For you to not do magic at work,” Peregrine snapped, keeping his voice low. Releasing a sigh, the impish curator stepped around Immanuel’s desk to inspect the drowsy pink orchid blooming on his shelf between an ammonite and a sea urchin’s shell. “This is Hexalectris colemanii. Where did you get it? They’re exceptionally rare. I tried to get one, but it arrived dead.”

Immanuel met Peregrine’s umber eyes before quickly averting his gaze back to his papers. “I— I didn’t think you wanted it anymore.”

“So you fished it out of my rubbish bin?”

“I… Well, yes. I thought it might be pretty, and I wanted to see if I could revive it. It was an experiment, really. You can have it back if you want.”

“Thanks,” he replied tartly as he stood on tiptoe to pull the plant down. Hugging the orchid to his chest, he turned on heel to make for the door. “Oh, Sir William wants to see you in the loading dock, and may I suggest you put your papers away before you go.”

The moment Peregrine shut the door behind him, Immanuel released a slow breath. Carefully moving the drying pages behind his desk, he blocked them from sight with a stack of books. He rushed down the hall and hoped to god Sir William hadn’t been waiting long. The last time he did, he became the liaison between his boss and the British Museum, which really meant a month of being a glorified errand boy. Darting down the back steps, Immanuel nodded to the archivists at the front desk before slipping into the storeroom’s maze of dusty wooden shelves. His heart thundered in his throat as he crossed the boards, focusing his attention on the shelves of specimens and bones. It had been months since he was attacked between the stacks by Lord Rose, but each time he ventured into the vast storeroom without a companion, he found his mind grasping to relive those dark moments. More than anything, he wished he knew how to make it stop.

As he grew closer to the loading docks, an unintelligible mix of men’s voices rose through the stillness. Ahead, a crane swung, dangling a long box the size of a coffin. Sir William stood near the controls, watching the crate with an eagle eye as he fed the crane-operator directions. Spotting Immanuel step from the shadows, Sir William stared down his patrician nose at the lanky young man, his gaze lingering on Immanuel’s scar and blotted eye. Immanuel shifted beneath his gaze before clasping his hands behind his back to stop his fidgeting form.

“I beg your pardon, sir. I got caught up helping Peregrine.”

Ignoring him, Sir William turned and gestured for Immanuel to follow him the way came. “A specimen has arrived that I need you to examine. I know it to be a the work of a mountebank, but it came from a well-respected benefactor who claims it to be genuine. We obviously cannot have forgeries in the collection, which is why I would like you to give it the time and attention it deserves. Very little. But make the report detailed, so I can present it to them with little conflict. Do you understand what I’m asking of you, Winter?”

“Yes, sir. I believe so, but what is it?”

“A charlatan’s creation.” Stopping beside man-sized crate covered with a canvas sheet, Sir William released a huff. “Here it is. Put the report on my desk when you’re finished, so I can review it. No matter how foolish this is, we must take care not offend our donors.”

The breath hitched in Immanuel’s throat as the director tossed back the sheet and his eyes fell upon the creature. Floating within the glass-walled case was a seal-like beast. While the skin retained the smooth, grey speckled fur of a harbor seal, the face and body had the unmistakable profile of the human form. Its arms were short, as if stunted, and ended in a webbed hand tipped with sharp claws. Spotted hooded lids covered the creature’s large eyes, which peaked out beneath long lashes, but the longer Immanuel stared at it, the more he feared it would turn its gaze to him. A twang of recognition rang through him, touching the deepest parts of his mind. All thoughts escaped him as he took in the creature’s bisected tail and elongated human torso. With a tut, Sir William tossed the sheet back over the glass coffin, hiding the creature from view as a dockhand passed.

“Take this up to Mr. Winter’s office and let no one else see it.”

Before Immanuel could speak, the direct snapped his fingers for one of the dockhands to fetch a cart. Whatever the creature was, Immanuel had the sinking feeling it wasn’t as unbelievable as Sir William thought. The director turned and headed back to the dock, leaving Immanuel standing mute as two rough dockhands swept in. The wooden dolly yawned beneath the weight of the beast and the gallons of fluid surrounding it. Immanuel flinched as the gruff men rammed in the cart into the doorframe on their way to the upper floor before shoving the corner further into the elevator with their scuffed boots. Following close behind them, Immanuel stood silently in front of the elevator doors, staring down at the shoes Adam had polished for him the previous night. The men beside him spoke of a new freak show opening in Piccadilly one of the other men had seen. Immanuel’s scarred eye burned as he clasped his nervous hands behind his back. Would they call him a freak if they knew what he truly was? That with a touch of his hand, he could see the last moments of the creature at their feet’s life, if it really was a creature at all and not some amalgamation of body parts, or that he taught himself to manipulate water. Would they call for his demise if they knew all the ways he went against nature?

With a ding, the elevator doors creaked open, and the men rolled the box down the hall to Immanuel’s office. Immanuel inwardly sighed, standing out of the way until, with a few more bangs, they left him alone with the veiled creature. Ignoring the glass box taking up most of the space between his desk and door, Immanuel shimmied behind his desk to gather up the papers and fallen books the men had scattered in their wake. His eyes roamed over the sigils and notes. The ink had bled in a few places, but overall, his work appeared to be legible. He carefully tucked his the papers into his notebook and turned his attention to the pile of letters sitting on his blotter. As he turned over the first envelope, his eyes lit up; the seal was from the Royal Zoological Society. Immanuel’s hands shook as he ripped open the seal and pulled out the letter.

 

***

 

Adam watched from the threshold as Immanuel scanned the letter in his hands. His bichrome eyes widened, and a wide smile brightened his features. Immanuel bit his lip and reread the letter again, the look of glee refusing to leave his face. Swallowing hard, Adam lightly wrapped on the door with his knuckles. Immanuel jumped, but upon seeing Adam, relief spread washed across his face only to be replaced with the previous unbridled happiness.

“Adam, I got in,” Immanuel said, beaming. Standing, he held the letter out for Adam to take, but his companion didn’t move from his place near the door. “Look! I got into the Zoological Society. Read it. Tell me I’m not imaging this.”

“Congratulations. I’m very proud of you,” Adam replied, his voice tight.

“Thank you. I can’t believe it. I was certain my paper wasn’t good enough. Walrus evolution isn’t exactly interesting, but—” Glancing at the clock above his door, Immanuel paused as he stuffed the letter back into the envelope with trembling hands. “You got here quickly. I wasn’t expecting you for another few minutes.”

“Mr. Bodkin let me out early.”

Immanuel gaze drifted to the letter again but caught himself. “That was very nice of him.”

Stepping out the way of the coat rack by the door, Adam kept his eyes locked on the knotty floorboards. How could Immanuel not notice the strain in his voice or the tightness in his features? Immanuel walked toward the door but returned to grab the letter of his desk. Adam drew in a breath and steeled himself. Happiness could blind as much as anger, and it wasn’t his place to ruin Immanuel’s day. It wasn’t his place to ruin anything for anyone. Clearing his throat, Adam turned to the cloaked crate inches from his ankle.

“What’s this?” he asked, nudging the box with his foot.

Immanuel glanced toward the window for any sign of rain before grabbing his top hat. “A specimen Sir William wants me to take a look at after lunch. A seal of some sort.”

“Great. The flat will stink like dead fish.”

Adam turned at a gentle squeeze of his arm. Immanuel let his hand linger as he met Adam’s gaze, a fleeting embrace before they had to pretend they were nothing more than friends. Most days he would have relished such an allowance in public, but today he wanted nothing more than to peel his lover’s fingers off. His coat.

Staring into Adam’s eyes, Immanuel whispered, “It’s nothing a bath for two can’t fix.”

He should have smiled, he should have done something, but all Adam felt was the gnaw of dread hallowing his chest.

 

***

 

Immanuel wouldn’t stop rambling. It was a habit Adam normally found endearing, that his happiness could send his mouth and mind spinning out of control, but after the day he had, Adam wished he would shut up.  Sitting in a leather-backed booth at Benekey’s, Adam rubbed his brow as Immanuel prattled on about walrus anatomy between bites of fried fish. His head pounded with clank of glasses and silverware, the din of voices all around them, and the haze of cigarette smoke drifting in despite the high walls of the booth. A plate of roast beef sat untouched beside a glass of wine he hadn’t intended to order. It would turn his face red, if it wasn’t already, but perhaps it would make denial that much easier.

Adam snapped out of his thoughts as Immanuel’s hand brushed against his under the guise of chasing a loose chip.

“What’s wrong? You’re very quiet today,” Immanuel said softly, his mismatched eyes wide with concern. “Tell me about your office. Any interesting clients?”

Resisting the urge to scratch his wrist, Adam tapped his nail on the base of the glass and kept his gaze on the merlot within. Ruin it, his mind whispered. “I was fired today.”

“You were wha—?” Immanuel’s mouth wordlessly opened twice before he shook his head and put his hand over Adam’s. “Mein Gott, why didn’t you say anything? I’m so sorry, Adam. If I had known, I wouldn’t have—”

Adam ripped his hand away and picked up his knife. “It’s fine. I don’t want to make a thing of it.”

“Can you fix it? Can you prove to Mr. Bodkin that whatever it was, was an accident? You always seemed to get on so well, so maybe he would listen after given the chance to rethink his decision.”

He swallowed against the knot in his throat and tried to keep his voice level. “It wasn’t due to a mistake. They needed to make room for the boss’s son, so they gave me the ax.”

“Oh.” Immanuel’s expression lightened as he leaned back in his seat. “Then, it shouldn’t be too hard to find new employment. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. There must be other offices looking for accountants.”

“Yes, but Ellis… Ellis owns half of them. The others are either friends of his or they wouldn’t hire me because I don’t think he will give me a reference. Bodkin never mentioned it and I forgot to ask. That’s what happened when Reynolds was fired last year. He was blackballed. Last I heard, he had to take a position in Edinburgh,” Adam replied, his voice alien, tighter but calmer than he anticipated.

“But— but why wouldn’t they give you a reference if you were let go due to nepotism?”

“Because I don’t fit their aesthetic,” he spat as he turned to watch his reflection in the smoked glass mirror beside them.

“What do you mean by ‘aesthetic’?”

His henna-red hair and blue eyes flared, taking on an unworldly hue under the dim electric lights. “I think you know what I mean.”

Dropping his voice, Immanuel pushed aside his plate and leaned closer. “That you’re— you’re,” the word escaped him, “schwul? There’s no way for them to know that for certain. You’re so careful.”

Ignoring Immanuel’s doe eyes upon him, Adam ground his jaw and began hacking his roast into cubes. “Apparently, they suspect it. It seems no matter what I do, people still see through me.”

“Even so, I’m sure you’ll get a new position before you know it. You’re pretty perfect to me.”

“Unfortunately your opinion matters very little.”

Adam looked up from his now blood-ringed plate to find Immanuel glaring at him. His blotted blue eye glistened with moisture while his lips sealed in a hard line. On the table beside his fork, Immanuel’s finger itched with the urge to draw a sigil. For a moment they merely stared at each other as Adam waited for something on his side of the table to go flying with a twist of his lover’s finger. Let him, he thought bitterly.

“I understand that you have had a very trying day, but could you please not take it out on me. I have done nothing to you, Adam.”

“My apologies. It’s just that while I was on the train, I realized I can only be without work for two months before we’re in the red. My sister’s toy business has been slow since she married, and I only have a little over a month’s worth of pay in reserve.”

When Adam’s gaze returned to his plate, Immanuel asked, “Have you spoken to Lord or Lady Dorset? I’m certain they—”

“I’m certain they would too, but I’m not going to sponge off my brother-in-law for the rest of my life,” he snapped.

“It would only be for a little while.”

“I said, no.”

“Then, what do you plan to do? You act like you won’t be able to find work as an accountant, but you couldn’t possibly ask your sister for help when you need it. If your fears are correct, you may not have an income.  Then what will we do? My wages at the museum…” Immanuel drew in a tremulous breath. He liked living on Baker Street in their own flat where they could do as they please without fear. “I suppose I could ask Sir William for a raise… or an advance. If I tell him the circumstances, then—”

“Don’t you dare. I don’t need everyone knowing my business.” No one would discuss how far the countess’s brother has fallen behind his back.

“Adam,” Immanuel pleaded, shaking his head, “what do you expect me to do? You act like you won’t be able to get work, but you act like we should do nothing to stay afloat. I’m certain Hadley—”

“Don’t bring up my sister. I don’t need help.”

Immanuel sat back, watching Adam stab a piece of beef and twirl it on the tip of his fork without bringing it to his lips. “Are you really going to let your pride sink us? This doesn’t only affect you, Adam.”

For a moment, Adam merely scowled at him, but in an instant, his hand was on his coat and his hat was on his head. Immanuel scooted out of the booth after him, calling his name as Adam cast a burning glance over his shoulder. Standing next to their table, Immanuel watched Adam cut through the crowded restaurant and disappear onto the street. Tears burned the backs of Immanuel’s eyes at the sudden sensation of falling. He blinked until his clouded eye cleared, stuffing his hand into his pocket for coins. The cool metal with its familiar striations and reliefs brought his mind back to the smoke-hazed room clattering with men. Drawing in a long slow breath, Immanuel released it as the panic momentarily receded.

Paying their bill, Immanuel slipped onto the street hoping to see Adam leaning against the brick façade waiting for him, but when he reached the corner, he knew for certain he had gone. Fear welled in his breast, compelling him to run home to make certain his lover was all right. Immanuel stood very still until with each breath and droplet of rain pattering against his face, the feeling finally relinquished its hold. Adam would be fine. He was a reasonable man, who had shown no sign of wanting to hurt himself. He would be fine. Pulling out his pocket watch, Immanuel clicked open the cold brass face. Even if wanted to, there was no way he could make it to the house and return to the museum without arousing suspicion at his tardiness. There was only one thing he could do: go back to the museum and carry on as if Adam Fenice’s troubles weren’t his own.


Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think, and if you’re interested, you can pre-order Selkie Cove.

dead magic · Monthly Review · Writing

October 2016 in Review

blog-monthly-review

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

October was infinitely less chaotic than September, and now, that I’ve gotten into the groove of teaching, I look forward to what the spring semester holds.

What I accomplished in October:

  1. Worked out a system to stay on top of grading student papers/homework
  2. Read 4 books:
    1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (5 stars)
    2. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 2 by Kore Yamazaki (4 stars)
    3. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 3 by Kore Yamazaki (5 stars)
    4. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 4 by Kore Yamazaki (4 stars)
  3. Formatted the ebook and paperback of Dead Magic
  4. Prepared for Dead Magic‘s release by setting up promos
  5. Ended up scrapping a short story I had planned to write
  6. Bought a word processor to help me focus
  7. Started plotting Selkie Cove, which will be book 5 of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices

What I hope to achieve in November:

  1. Read 4 books
  2. Keep up with grading/feedback for my students
  3. Tweak the syllabus for my creative writing class
  4. Write 10,000 words of Selkie Cove
  5. Launch Dead Magic on November 10th

October has been a recover month for me. With all of the prep for Dead Magic coming out and the amount of grading I’ve been doing, I have been more than burnt out. Teaching is something I love doing, but I’m still not accustomed to it. Because I’m an introvert by nature, I often leave campus feeling high and fried at the same time. What I’m hoping is that by time I teach in the spring, I’ll be more acclimated to this sort of energy expulsion. As of right now, I’m also scheduled to teach less days next semester, which may help.

What else have I been up to? Well, I started writing a short story that I thought I would publish by Halloween, but it just wasn’t working out. Most of the time, I believe in pushing through and finishing what I start. This time, I knew it wasn’t working out. It took me days to type out a few thousand words that weren’t very good. I scrapped it for now. In the future, I’ll work on it again or incorporate the idea into a future book. It’s a doable storyline but now isn’t the right moment for it.

Most importantly, DEAD MAGIC IS COMING OUT IN A FEW DAYS!!! *screams internally* I’m so excited to share this book with everyone. I think it’s my favorite thus far, and I desperately want others to read it because I can’t really talk about it with anyone considering all of two people have read it. On top of launching Dead Magic, I’ve also begun working on the fifth book in the series, Selkie Cove, which I hope to finish by next spring. It feels great to be writing again and not editing. As much as I love editing, it’s much more draining than actually writing.

Remember to keep an eye out for Dead Magic, which is coming out this Thursday, November 10th in ebook and paperback.

 

dead magic · Uncategorized

Dead Magic Cover Reveal and Pre-Order!

dead-magic-ebook-cover

Ta-da! Dead Magic‘s cover has been revealed! I have been chomping at the bit to show you the cover for Dead Magic (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #4). I think this my favorite cover yet.

So what is Dead Magic about? Well, it stars our young, scarred scientist, Immanuel Winter, along with his dashing boyfriend and of course, his unwilling soulmate, Emmeline Jardine, as they face the forces of darkness once again.

Immanuel wants nothing more than a peaceful life as a scientist, but his happiness is short-lived when his past demons refuse to go quietly. As body-snatching spirits attack and creatures rise from the dead, he fears his sanity is slipping. Burdened with strange new powers, he struggles to hide them from his lover for fear of losing the only person he trusts.
But the woman who shares his soul has a secret of her own. Disillusioned with her life, Emmeline turns to a handsome suitor who offers her a world of limitless possibilities at an exclusive club. Rumors swirl of occult rituals and magic, and Emmeline soon fears he desires more than just her love.
Something wicked is heading for London that threatens to destroy everything Emmeline and Immanuel hold dear. And it wants more than secrets.

Add it to your Goodreads to-be-read list here.

And I set up a pre-order for Dead Magic. It’s official release day is November 10th, 2016! You can pre-order it here. You can read the unedited first chapter here.

Spread the word and tell your friends Dead Magic will be arriving, and its an entrance you won’t soon forget.

Monthly Review · Writing

June 2016 in Review

In Review June

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

Now that I’m completely free from school and waist-deep in Dead Magic, I have been writing my little fingers off and being shockingly productive. Part of me is pleased and part of me is wondering when it will all come crashing to a halt.

What I accomplished in June:

  1. Wrote 21,000 words of Dead Magic
  2. Wrote 6 blog posts and a guest blog on Mariella Hunt’s website
  3. Published a Spanish translation of The Earl of Brass entitled El Conde de Latón, which is available here.
  4. Published the audiobook for The Winter Garden, which is available here.
  5. Planned out the beats for a forthcoming Ingenious Mechanical Devices novella
  6. Read 4 books
    1. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg (2 stars)
    2. Ninety-Nine Righteous Men by K.M. Claude (4.5 stars)
    3. Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (4 stars)
    4. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (5 stars)

What I hope to achieve in July:

  1. Write 20,ooo words of Dead Magic
  2. Write 10,000 words of the unnamed novella
  3. Write 6 blog posts
  4. Work more on my syllabus for freshman writing
  5. Work on the cover for Dead Magic with my designer
  6. Read 3 books
  7. Enjoy life in between everything mentioned above

I love watching my word count steadily increase from month to month. June was wonderful in terms of productivity. I feel like I got so much done and that the rest of Dead Magic should go smoothly now that I’ve hit the 2/3s mark.

There are quite a few balls in the air with my series. I have my Spanish translator working on The Winter Garden, my Italian and Portuguese translators working on The Earl of Brass, and my narrator is working on the audiobook for The Earl and the Artificer. Then I have Dead Magic to start wrapping up soon and the novella I’ve been plotting. I’m confident it will all get done, and that I can manage.

I’m seriously excited about my writing projects. Ideas are bubbling out of me, and now if only my productivity could keep up with my ideas. The one thing that was completely neglected in June was editing. I told myself I would edit chapters 1-8, but in the end, I decided to dump that idea. I’ve been spot editing as I go, fixing issues that arise or adding foreshadowing of future chapters, but at this point, editing without being finished or having a clear goal in mind seems pointless.

Right now, my tentative release date for Dead Magic is November 15th, BUT if the book is done before then, I will happily move the date forward. I’m really hoping the book will be out sooner than that.

Finally, I will be taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo and am sharing a cabin with some fantastic authors. What will you be doing this July?

Personal Life · Writing

Author Q&A about Dead Magic

So I was tagged on Tumblr by fellow author, Caitlin E. Jones, to do an author Q&A. I liked it so much that I decided to post it here as well.

What is your new book about?

My current WIP is called Dead Magic, which is the fourth book in my historical-fantasy series, The Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Dead Magic is about Emmeline and Immanuel’s lives six months after escaping Lord Rose’s clutches. Both are struggling to find where they belong and establish a new life. Soon, their lives are complicated by magic books, a device that can track souls called a vivalabe, and corpses coming back to life. If you’d like to read a more detailed blurb, you can do so here.If you’d like to read a more detailed blurb, you can do so here.

What or who inspired it?

The Victorian era was a huge inspiration behind Dead Magic. It’s a very weird time due to the combination of superstition, science, and pseudoscience. At the time, Spiritualism (a Christianity-based religion that involved talking to the dead) grew in popularity during the Victorian era, and it inspired Emmeline’s character. She’s a Spiritualist medium who works at the Spiritualist Society but is often overlooked in favor of the theatrical frauds. Immanuel is the opposite side of society. He’s an evolutionist with a specialty in animal anatomy. Together they form a duality between life and death.

What was the biggest challenge while writing it?

Keeping track of the story lines and balancing where to switch between Immanuel and Emmeline. They are equally important characters, so I don’t want either of them to have more screen time than the other. The book also has several plot lines going at once, which can be hard to keep track of off the top of my head. I made a doc to keep as an outline of what I’ve written, but I tend to forget to update it. My procrastination regarding doing things that help me are a pretty big challenge by itself.

What do you want to achieve with this book?

That I’ll create a book that I’m proud of and that I would enjoy to read. All of my books were created because I wanted to read something that didn’t exist. If I enjoy it, hopefully others will too.

What do you hope for this book?

That someone besides me will enjoy it. I’m also hoping that through Immanuel’s struggles, people with PTSD and depression will see themselves. Mostly, I hope that it helps build my audience and bring new people into the Ingenious Mechanical Devices universe.

Are there any parts that have special personal significance to you?

There’s a scene where Immanuel has an emotional breakdown following an attempt on his life. That scene was taken from real life and my experiences watching the ones I love suffer with depression. It’s a scene where I play Adam, Immanuel’s lover, watching his companion spiral into a breakdown while he can do nothing to stop it. It’s the most helpless position to be in–wanting so badly to help but knowing you can do nothing but support them until it passes for a time.

Do you have a favorite character or one you really enjoyed writing?

Immanuel is probably my favorite character out of all of my children (don’t tell the others). He’s very close to me in terms of my personality, and it’s his quiet intensity that I love. He feels so deeply compared to other characters, and it allows me to explore trauma, injustice, and love in ways that I couldn’t with anyone else.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?

Do binaries exist in good and evil or life and death?, different kinds of love, facing darkness, recovery.

What made you set it in__________?

I chose the 1890s because what I wanted to include in my first book fit within that decade. A lot of the anachronistic steampunk elements didn’t exist yet, but it was the closet time period for what I wanted. The perks of the 1890s is the freedom. It was the Naughty Nineties and things could have changed for the better. It’s a diversion point I want to explore. What if Oscar Wilde hadn’t been sent to jail? What if England’s colonies gained steam technology and electricity early?

Did the title come instantly, or did you labour over it?

I hate making titles. It’s one of my least favorite parts of writing, but for Dead Magic, the title came while I was writing chapter one. I had hoped for an early title because I was so tired of calling it IMD #4. How boring. Dead Magic was short, to the point, and a bit mysterious, so it’s stuck.

Who do you think will enjoy your book?

My ideal readers are people who like period dramas but also enjoy Doctor Who. You have to love history and fantasy to enjoy my work because the two intermingle in most stories. Also, if you’re into Penny Dreadful or would like it if there was with less sex and violence, then my books are probably your thing. Dark Victorian fantasies is my flavor of choice.

Do you have a special spot for writing at home?

Usually I just sit on the couch and write. I like to sit folded up like a pretzel, so a desk doesn’t work too well unless I’m forcing myself to write something.

Do you like silence or music playing while you’re writing?

Neither. I like background noise, but usually I have on rain sounds or the tv on something I won’t find too interesting. I need noise, but music sometimes distracts me to the point that I find myself singing instead of writing.

When did you start writing?

I can remember pecking sentences on my nanny’s electric typewriter about puppies and kittens going on adventures. I started trying to write actual stories when I was nine or ten and never stopped.

Did you always want to become an author?

Oh, boy. I’ve had a lot of career dreams over the years. My more serious ambitions have been science teacher, doctor, and English professor. The latter allows me to be an author while still having a stable, or at least decent, income. I absolutely loved medicine, and while I was working on my BA in biology, I loved my classes but felt my mind constantly being drawn back to literature. The more lucrative but soul-draining career in medicine went out the window and was replaced with literature and writing in my junior year of college.

Tell us a bit about your childhood?

I was the oldest of my cousins and was an only child, so I came out as a miniature adult. My childhood was mostly spent hanging out with my grandma, my dogs, reading books before bed with my mom, and watching a lot of Disney movies. Strangely, I had fascinations with dinosaurs, mummies, and Abbott and Costello. As I grew up, I started getting into Sherlock Holmes and mysteries, which led to my love of the Victorian era.

If you’ve had other jobs outside of writing, what were they?

The farthest thing I’ve done from writing is working as a customer service temp, which I’ve done on and off for about seven years now. I’ve also worked as a writing tutor at two different universities and a graduate assistant while I was getting my MFA. In the fall, I’ll be teaching college freshman writing.

Describe yourself in three words.

Academic, quiet, dog-person.

What Sign are you and are you typical of it?

Cancer, and not really. They always seem to be portrayed as emotional. I much prefer my MTBI, which is an INTJ. It’s much closer to my personality.

What three things do you dislike?

Prejudice, ignorance, and sauerkraut.

What three things do you like?

Books with great stories and characters, dogs, and anything related to stationary. I pretty much hoard books and stationary. I’d have even more dogs, but good dog food is hella expensive.

Do you have a family and partner, or are you single?

My boyfriend and I have been together for eleven years (as of next week). He’s my best friend and an artist as well. I don’t have any kids and don’t plan to have any in the future. That’s just not my thing.