Sunday, February 16, 2020

Pick Your OTP: Two Valentine's OTP Challenges

Since February is home to both Valentine's Day AND Tell A Fairy Tale Day (Feb. 26th), we've been celebrating fairy tales in general over at Fairy Tale Central. Part of that includes a blog tag about fairy tales, which you can join in on HERE.

Aaaand, we thought, what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than to host a tag specifically for fairy tale couples? The tag (and its writer OTP version) are live on Instagram right now (links below), but I wanted to post a blog version too, in case you don't have an IG or prefer to fill it out on a blog (like I do sometimes).

Fairy Tale OTP Challenge:

1. The first fairy tale OTP you shipped
2. The cliché fairy tale OTP that everyone ships but you still love
3. Your favorite hate-to-love fairy tale OTP
4. The fairy tale OTP with the craziest relationship
5. The best-dressed fairy tale OTP
6. Star-crossed love: the forbidden love fairy tale OTP
7. The funniest fairy tale OTP
8. The fairy tale OTP with the most growth in their relationship
9. The sweetest, most adorable fairy tale OTP
10. The OTP who snuck up on you, the one you didn't expect to love
11. The moodiest fairy tale OTP
12. The class-crossed fairy tale OTP
13. The obscure fairy tale OTP who isn't shipped by many people (or anyone)
14. Your very favorite fairy tale OTP you'll love for the rest of your days

If you want to take part in the Instagram version, you can find it HERE.

Writer's OTP Challenge:
(You can fill this out with any of your WIPs, published books, or ideas-to-be-written. They do not have to be fairy tale related.)

1. The first OTP you wrote
2. Your cliché OTP from an early work that you still love
3. A hate-to-love OTP you’ve written. (Or your favorite, if you’ve written several)
4. Your OTP with the craziest relationship
5. Your best dressed OTP
6. Star-crossed love: your forbidden love OTP
7. Your funniest OTP
8. Your OTP with the healthiest relationship
9. Your sweetest, most adorable OTP
10. The OTP who snuck up on you, the one you didn't expect to love
11. Your moodiest OTP
12. A class-crossed OTP you’ve written
13. An OTP you wrote that most people don’t ship
14. Your very favorite OTP you'll love for the rest of your days

The Instagram version of this tag can be found HERE.

If you fill out one or both tags, please come back here and leave me a link in the comments so I can read yours! I'll be back to fill them out myself later this month.

Happy February!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Good Men: Myth or Reality? Part 3

PC: Fabrice Nerfin

Carrying on talking about good men, it's my turn today. I've posted a little about my NaNo novel, The Icarus Aftermath, and there will be more posts coming next week + for a while. (I love this book so much, you guys.)

The Sunfire family in The Icarus Aftermath is six men and three girls, most of whom you meet in the first novel. That's 2/3 men, and one of my favorite things about writing this novel was getting to take guys from a variety of backgrounds and personalities and show the one thing that unites them: a burning love for their family.

On the surface, most of the Sunfires seem to fit into one bad boy trope or another—and all of them like leather jackets. (Look, leather jackets are just great, okay?) But there is far more to these guys than what you initially see.

Impulsive, easily annoyed, bossy, he’s definitely an aggressive alpha male. He’s been protecting people from an early age, stepping between his jealous father and his cousin. And when he finally decided to do something permanent about that situation, his answer was to run away and join in the guerrilla war against the olympians. (Brilliant, right? HA.) He’s most well known for leaping first and thinking on the way down, something that drives his rebellion generals and strategists insane.

He’s not easy to work with, he’s not always easy to get along with once you get past the charming surface, and he’s irritatingly right about a lot of things.

And yet every single one of his pilots would follow him through hell and back and turn right around and do it again. His family is the first to point out his flaws but also the first to fight you if you dare speak out against him. And his death rips a hole not just in his family and his girlfriend but in every single one of the people who knew him—even the ones who didn’t like him.

Because Icarus cares. He didn’t ask to be a leader, but when it came, he stepped up and took it on. He didn’t set out to build a family of orphans and rejects, but when that chance came, he grabbed it with both hands and said ‘why the heck not, let’s do this’.

He’s widely thought of as one of the best heroes of the rebellion AND A GOOD MAN AT THE SAME TIME. He’s the furthest thing from a pushover, and he manages to be a mostly alpha male without being a jerk at the same time.

Now the oldest of the Sunfires, it’s his job to look after them all, and Talos is not prepared for it. He was bullied as a child by the very people who should have protected him and looked out for him. He grew up unloved by almost everyone, abandoned more than once, and just plain angry.

He couldn’t even break out of the bullying until Icarus said ‘hey, let’s run away.’ And while running away and going on a two-person war against corrupt empires is fun, it’s not exactly the best way to learn anger management, you know what I mean? And it didn’t help that of the two of them: him and Icarus, he’s the responsible one. He’s the one who makes plans, who reminds Icarus that some things can’t be solved by leaping first.

If Icarus was the dad of the Sunfires, Talos was the mom in many ways. He looks out for them, he keeps Icarus level, and he keeps the others level too. He knows better than most what each sibling needs to feel loved or to help keep their tempers under control.

In many ways, Talos is primed to be the grumpy jerk who goes around snapping orders and gets nasty when they aren’t obeyed.

And that’s absolutely not who he is.

Because he knows that everything in life is a choice. And he could choose to give in to the anger. He could choose to be the bitter jerk, but he chose differently. He still battles his anger almost every day. When Icarus falls, he wants to destroy Krete, and he means literally destroy it: the entire planet.

But he doesn’t. And it has nothing to do with being a coward or a wimp or preferring to sit and brood in anger. No. He chooses to control his feelings and make a sensible, responsible choice. It isn’t easy. But the good choices rarely are, and that’s why they’re worth making.

He’s not always a hero. But he’s a good man.

He’s been handed literally everything to turn him into a brooding, bitter, victimizing whiner. Half-olympian, his mother treated him like trash, and he was extremely isolated as a child. He’s a textbook case for ‘hurt boy who became a whiny victim who broods and pouts and needs anger management.’

As a half-olympian, he’s more powerful than most people. He can use persuasion on others, he can hear better than the average human/alien, and he is slightly stronger than the average human. He’s volatile, he doesn’t play well with others, he hates being treated like a kid, and he’s a BRAT sometimes. He messes with people just because he likes it, he taunts people, he thinks his family is better than most of the galaxy, and he’s a bit of a snob when it comes to who he likes and doesn’t like.

He’s the perfect setup for a manipulative little jerk.

And only two things kept him from going there. The Sunfires, and himself. The Sunfires pulled him out, they gave him a home and family, but all of it would have been utterly worthless without his own burning desire to be a better person. He’s worked to get to where he is, to be able to stand on his own two feet and look his General in the eye with a clear conscience.

Sure, it annoys and sometimes hurts him when people dismiss him as a kid even though he isn’t. Yes, he wants revenge on anyone who touches what he loves. And, oh, the temptation is definitely there to just manipulate the people around him to get what he wants.

But he won’t do that. And not because he’s a wimp or a pushover. No, it’s because long ago he chose to be responsible for himself and his actions, he chose to fight for self control, and he chose to be a good person, no matter what that took.

He isn’t a Sunfire, but he plays a major role in the book. He’s got all the hallmarks of a really annoying bad boy. Dark, tall, swaggering, arrogant, ladies' man, and he couldn’t care less if he starts conflict. Talos doesn’t like working with him, Mikon doesn’t really like working with him, and for a while, it seems like the only people who do like him are the ladies.

But as you get to know Xuthos, you find out that he isn’t your typical bad boy. He’s smart, he’s hugely capable, and the General assigned him to work with Talos because she knew he would balance the Sunfire out. And sure, he’s got a typical slightly traumatic past, but he’s no victim, and he doesn’t need saving from himself because HE’S taken responsibility FOR HIMSELF. Including when it comes to the girl he starts falling for—the girl who isn’t an option. He doesn’t whine or get fussy or huffy when she turns him down. He accepts it, he manages to not be bitter about the rejection, and he's even honest about the fact that next to Icarus, he’s not much of a catch.

At one point, Koralia tells him ‘you have one tiny spot of nobility in your heart and I managed to touch it.’ And it’s true.

On the surface, he seems like an aggressive alpha male abusive bad boy type. Is he a frustrating, aggravating man who could behave better at least some of the time? Yes, he is. But deep down, he’s trying really hard to be a good man.

In real life, good men aren’t only wimpy pushovers or aggressive bad-boy borderline-abusive jerks. They can have as wide a range of personalities as good women, with backstories as varied and complex as anyone.

Not all heroes are good men. Not all good men are heroes. And true good men don't fit either the aggressive alpha male trope OR the wimpy pushover trope because both are unhealthy. Realistic, three-dimensional good men in fiction do exist…and they’re worth writing and reading about.

And I’ll take a good man over a hero any day.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Good Men: Myth or Reality? Part 2

PC: Jehyun Sung

Guys don’t have to be wimpy pushovers to be good men. Not all good men are what you would call heroes. And not all heroes are good men.

I mentioned Mirriam's amazing NaNo novel in my last post. It's often hard for me to choose favorites with Mirriam's novels, because I love all of hers. Her writing covers such a broad range of genres, and I just love that, and I love her plots + characters.

But The Eigengrau is one of the best she's ever written, and I'm borderline obsessed with it and the characters in it. In addition to a fantastic set of female characters and side characters, she's written several male characters that are all incredible, good men without being lame, wimpy, or too-aggressive bad-boy types.

Some minor spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.

On the surface, Travis actually seems like the stereotypical pushover boring good guy. He seems sweet and quiet but nothing special.

And in some ways, he isn’t ‘special.’ He doesn’t stand out in a crowd. He isn’t the first person you notice when you walk into the room.

But as you get into the book, as you learn more about Travis, you realize he’s dealt with a lot of trauma, pain, and darkness firsthand. He’s not soft and kind because he’s a wimp or because he’s never faced darkness. He’s strong because he has seen it, and he’s kind because HE CHOSE TO LET HIS PAST MAKE HIM KIND. Not hard. Not bitter.

Several days ago, after reading a section with Travis, I told Mirriam:
‘He’s not dull at all. He comes across as the quiet guy who's observant and also the kind most people overlook but who is subtly a good guy on the side, and it's just...I love him a lot.’

And actually, as I’m writing this, we’re word warring, and she’s writing a couple of Travis-centric chapters, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that he’s been through hell and back and he had every opportunity to go sour, bitter, and become a ‘bitter bad boy’ type...and didn't.

He isn’t a soft!boi. He isn’t a leather jacket wearing melodramatic bad boy. Not that there’s anything wrong with those types on occasion; he just isn't one, unlike you might expect. He’s a quiet guy with loyalty issues who should have made some choices differently but who takes responsibility for his own actions.

At one point, I said, ‘WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND. WHY AND HOW DID SHE LEAVE THAT?’ And that was an intentionally double-sided comment, because his girlfriend left for reasons that had nothing to do with him, but the point still stands that he is an amazing character.

He’s no wimp. He’s no pushover. He’s not someone you can walk all over. He’s 3D, he’s realistic, he’s a good man at heart, he’s trying to be a good man in his actions, and if you look a little closer at the quiet ones who smile and laugh and interact without standing out, you might just see some Travises in your own life.

It takes you a while to really get a feel for Maddox’s character, but as you read further and further, you realize that one of his biggest strengths was that he loved with all his heart and he could connect. People felt like they could talk to him. One of my favorite Maddox scenes so far is one where he isn’t even present. It comes out that another character has a big secret that Maddox knew, that he initially figured out the secret in the first place. Seemingly a tiny thing, just being there to say ‘hey, it’s okay, this doesn’t mean you’re broken, there’s a word for that, it’s a legit thing.’ But it made all the difference in the world to this one person.

Mental illness is brutal to deal with. And Maddox had more problems than most. But he knew whom to trust. He often fell down in the fight. In some ways, he wasn’t what we’d call a good guy. But he did try to be a good man.

In some ways, he’s the stereotypical ‘older brother’s best friend’. But only on the surface.
One of Jesse’s biggest strengths is his awareness. His ability to understand people and make them feel at home without making a big deal out of their problems. He’s the rock. The one you can go to and tell about your problems and he might ask some questions...or he might hand you a beer and challenge you to a game of Mario Kart.

But none of this is because he had a great childhood or had awesome role models or woke up one day with a passion to be a great guy. If anyone comes close to the ‘silent strong gruff one with a heart of gold’ type in this novel, it would be him. HE DOESN’T, but it would be him. Ex-military, bartender, the one who handed the kids alcoholic drinks before they were legally old enough, and the one who taught more than one of them how to swear.

That’s not typical hero behavior. It’s not typical good guy behavior. But is Jesse a good man? Yes. He is.

Okay, frankly, Harbor is a little, er, brat, to use a mild term. His attitude can be a real pain in the neck, he can be really annoying, and there are days you just want to stare at him and say ‘can you be any less helpful?’ Or ‘gee, you couldn’t have mentioned that SOONER?’
He’s a brat.

Did I mention Harbor is blind?
Mmmm, because he is.

He’s about the most un-stereotypically blind person in a story. But he’s one of the most realistically blind characters I’ve ever read in a book.

Not everyone with physical ‘disabilities’ is self pitying. Not all of them see themselves as victims. And not all of them are bitter jerks who have to be brought out with kindness and sweetness and love. That’s the most common storyline for people with disabilities, but not everyone in real life is like that. (I say ‘disabilities’ like that to point out that some people don’t even like calling it that. They see themselves as ordinary people living a life just as full as yours or mine—and I see them the same way.) There are people who have physical disabilities who just go about their lives as you or I would, adjusting to what they have to when they have to.

Harbor is one of these. Without the reminders of his cane, needing an AI to read aloud articles to him, someone leading him around, or him making jokes about his blindness—you’d forget he’s blind. Why? Because his blindness does not define him. He has seemingly every reason to be a bitter, sour person. He can’t see. He doesn’t get to do some things in life that others do. He has to have a lot of help in some ways. He can’t live what most people see as a ‘normal life’.

But despite the sass and the frequent brattiness, Harbor is one of the most genuinely ‘good guys’ in this book. He’s super smart, he’s observant without needing to see, and he puts facts together quickly. This is a complex plot and story and it’s really helpful to recap information often for the reader. This could get boring really fast and/or feel artificial and contrived. But it doesn’t. Harbor usually stars in these scenes, meaning a) there’s an natural reason for the recapping and b) it’s done with style. It feels realistic. And it’s lovable.

Harbor had every opportunity to be bitter and sour and a whining self-pitying guy. But he’s not. He’s one of the most genuinely good guys in the book. And there is nothing wimpy about him.

Okay, he’s going to be really hard to talk about—not because he isn’t a good guy, but because I know things about him that even readers don’t yet.

Ah, the trials of being best friends with the author.

Gavin is probably the least likable guy at first. He seems like an anti-social sociopath. He’s not even ‘in’ the gang of friends at first. He’s legitimately worrying. Has he murdered someone? Is he going to snap and go psychotic?

And some of those questions persist. Gavin isn’t an easy person to understand. I really can't say much about him because I can’t spoil the book for you, but let’s just say that GAVIN IS MY BOY AND I ADORE HIM AND YOU ALL WILL WHEN YOU GET TO THE END IF NOT BEFORE, ahem.

Despite all his problems and all the reasons he could be a jerk or whine and play the pity card because of his trauma, he doesn’t. Gavin is an amazing man, nuanced and fascinating. And he’s a hero at the same time. It’s not easy being both, especially when you are as Different as he is.

But he does it, and he does it brilliantly.


If anyone is the typical leather-jacket-wearing bad boy jerk, Declan is.
He made molotov cocktails to rob convenience stores WHEN HE WAS A TEEN, okay. That’s a bit of a spoiler, but the scene is hysterical and has so much more in it, so go read it.

But then you get to go deeper.
And you get to the heart of Declan. You get to see that under his brash exterior, he stood up for love and loyalty. He fought for what he loved. And he protected what he loved. He’s still trying to protect what he loves. He’s still trying to fight for what he cares about.

Declan is no knight. He’s not even a healthy guy. I wouldn’t suggest anyone date him, at least not for a long while.
And whether he's a good man or not is up for debate at the moment.

But deep down, he was a hero. IS a hero.

These are the main male characters of The Eigengrau. And guess what, not a single one of them is a pushover. (Well. Ahem. One or two might be occasionally when it comes to their girlfriends or puppy dog eyes but you’d have to be INHUMAN not to be, so that’s a moot point.) And not a single one is a jerk to the point where you wonder why in the name of common sense anyone is even hanging around them.

But they ARE realistic. If you look closely enough at the men you know, you can see some/all of these characteristics in them.

Again, men don't have to be lame or wimpy or bossy jerks to be good or desirable. You can write fascinating, nuanced men and still have them be good guys.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Good Men: Myth or Reality? Part 1

PC: Steve Halama

Where have all the good men gone…and where are all the gods?

I know, I know, that line is horribly overused, but it just fits sometimes, and this is one of those times.

Girls loving fictional male characters tend to get one of two reactions:
The fangirl reaction:
‘OMGOSH I KNOOOOOOOW, ISN’T HE JUST SO DREAAAAMY, I feel this, so glad you’re a fan too!’


The cynical reaction:
‘Well, if you love those stupid unrealistic men in fiction, you’re never going to find a man IRL because you’ll never be satisfied, because real men can't compare to your stupid fake unrealistic men.’

To be fair, there are plenty of girls who take unrealistic expectations away from the kind of books they read and try to apply them to real life and are endlessly frustrated, let down, and disappointed. But not all girls.

Authors writing guys who inspire that kind of love tend to get a lot of eye rolls and not be taken seriously. And, look. If I started to list on my fingers the number of unrealistic male characters I’ve come across in fiction, I’d run out of fingers in less than thirty seconds. (The same is true of female characters though.)

So yes, there ARE a lot of ’stupid male characters’ in fiction. (And stupid female characters.)

But not all authors write like this. And loving a fictional male character doesn’t automatically mean you’re an idiot without the brains to see good men in real life.

There is the expectation that if you’ve written a ‘swoonworthy guy’ in fiction, he’s going to be wimpy, stupid, and unrealistic. There’s also the expectation that if a guy in a book is a ‘good guy,’ he’s going to be lame; that there are only two types of fictional men: hot bad boy jerks with a secret heart of gold who behave like rude alpha males…or wimpy pushover good-hearted guys who let the girls do whatever they want and don’t ever push back.

(An argument can be made for a third subtype: the sweet soft boi who is precious and should be protected, but he doesn't enter into this article.)

I loathe wimps.

I’ve written some, because they exist in real life and they needed to be in that story for whatever reason. But they weren’t ‘good guys’, at least not without a lot of changing and growth.

Frankly, I think there are major problems with both wimpy pushovers and aggressive bad-boy types. The wimps lack the spine to stand up and take responsibility for themselves, and the aggressives tend to ride roughshod over people. (This is not true of every single man who is either type, okay, I'm generalizing a little, which I don't normally like doing, but you're all smart; you get the point I'm trying to make here.)

The other day, I was frustrated after dealing with some legitimately obnoxious, selfish people IRL. And I said so to Mirriam, adding, "LET’S WRITE."
Her response was "Yes, let’s get back to OUR men."

On the surface, that sounds like a dumb fangirl swoony comment.

It wasn’t.

One of the reasons Mirriam and I get along so well is because we’re both pretty confident people. I could write an entire blog post on how and why that is an important component in us as people and our dynamic, but that’s not this post.

And one thing we both strive for in fiction is a level of character realism that matches real life.

We both write a lot of speculative fiction. Urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, high fantasy, science fantasy, etc. Those aren't what you'd call 'realistic' worlds—as in, they don't follow the rules Earth does. My NaNo novel this year was in the space opera genre, hers was in the suspense horror genre.

But in these speculative worlds, we try hard for realism with our characters. If you don’t feel like you could know these people in real life, if you don’t get attached to at least some of them, we’re failing as writers.

And one thing hugely important to both of us is that our male characters be ‘fully masculine’ while being ‘good guys.’ I believe there are lines in this world: right vs. wrong, black vs. white. So does she. Hope, light, darkness, evil, good—these are themes we explore a lot—in every book we write, and they are a huge part of our male (and female) characters.

We don’t like wimps, either of us. We also loathe the idea that good guys have to be broody, frankly ABUSIVE jerks in order to be ‘swoonworthy.’

Guys don’t have to be wimpy pushovers to be good men. Not all good men are what you would call heroes. And not all heroes are good men.

Realistic three-dimensional good men can be written and can be interesting. And since I've spent an entire month trying to write a novel about men like that and reading an amazing novel full of them, I'd like to introduce you to some.

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

In Which I Did NaNo. Yes, Again.

PC: Vincentiu Solomon

NaNoWriMo is done and gone and passed, and I haven't posted here even once about it.


I did write a book, and I actually finished it. 

The Icarus Aftermath is DONE. I wrote 114,000 words in 32 days. That's the fastest I've ever written a novel. It's also the second shortest novel I've ever written. (Look, I like long books, okay? Okay.)

'Fine, but what's it about, Arielle,' you ask, 'because you haven't talked about it in public at all except for a lot of mysterious yelling and screaming between you and Mirriam on Facebook with Kate occasionally popping in to wail.'

Basically, it's Greek Mythology meets Star Wars with a found family in the center of the story.

I'm probably going to be posting a lot about this book and this series now because I'm in love with it. So much in love.

Which has NOTHING to do with Mirriam trying to use peer pressure to get me to write more. I PROTEST this kind of callous treatment.

I'm going to start with Christine Smith's Know the Novel tags.

What first sparked the idea for this novel?

Usually I know the answer to this question. I can trace out in detail the path the story sparks took until they flamed into a full novel. This time? It literally was there in my head one night, and there was no path. I'd never considered doing anything like this before; there was no path, and there were no sparks along the way. It just popped in.

Share a blurb!

Icarus is dead, leaving his cousin Talos to lead the Rebellion's fighters. First objective: take out the Labyrinth. Only problem? No one can find its key.

Koralia is reasonably sure she can find the key, if given enough time. At least it keeps her distracted. If Talos would quit acting like she's a traitor, maybe she could get it done faster.

Time is running out. If they don't work together to unlock the Labyrinth soon, the Rebellion is doomed. Their general will do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn't happen...even if it means banging their heads together.

Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

In space. Probably a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, but I haven't decided which one yet and it has very little bearing on the story anyway.

Favorite aspects... Greek Mythology in space. That's it right there.

Greek Mythology had a lot of fascinating commentaries on the human psyche, and getting to explore those in a way that's lighter and fun and full of plenty of space adventure is just fun.

But my absolute top favorite element in this book is the Found Family of the Sunfires, Icarus's adopted siblings. Omgosh, I love writing about them.

Tell us about your protagonist(s).

Amazon-trained, the daughter of prominent olympians, and Icarus's girlfriend. She struggles to feel at home anywhere. Or she did, before she met Icarus.

Icarus's cousin, foster-brother, and best friend. Co-leader of the Sunfires.

The General aka General Athanasia
She's been with the rebellion for a long time, is godmother to Talos and Icarus, and spends a lot of time wanting to knock people's heads together. Including Talos and Koralia.
I can't exactly blame her.

And then there's Mikon. But you have to read the book to find out about him.

Who (or what) is the antagonist?

Minos of Planet Krete, who wants to expand his empire
Theseus, who wants the key of the Labyrinth for his own personal reasons

What excites you the most about this novel?

Getting to show Aphrodite as a horrible mother and give Ares a redemption arc.
At least, that's how it started.
But then in the space of one scene, it turned into being excited to write about the Sunfires, this family of orphans that Icarus brought together. And that's how it stayed.

Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

Series. Beyond that, I can't say. It might be a trilogy, it might be a quartet—I just don't know yet.

Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

Plansting for this novel. I knew what myth I was retelling and that was my foundation. But a lot of the character arcs changed as I went along. And I had the time of my life.

Name a few things that makes this story unique.

Greek Myths in Space

That's...pretty much the main thing.

Oh, and getting to show that many of the so-called heroes of Greek Mythology weren't exactly who you'd call good people.

Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, ANYTHING you want to share!)

The Pinterest Board (Also, YES, I'm in the process of changing all my story boards over to an author Pinterest.)

The Spotify Playlist

And that's The Icarus Aftermath! More posts will be coming this month. (Wow, I'm rusty at writing blog posts.)

Did you do NaNo? What novel did you write, and have you finished it?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dark is the Night: Blog Tour + Interview with Mirriam Neal

I came to the Urban Fantasy genre rather late. Growing up, it wasn't on the list of accepted literature in my family's house. After a while, that relaxed, but I still didn't just jump wholeheartedly into vampires. I explored a little—I'm always curious, but nothing really grabbed my attention. I'm a 90s child. I grew up in the era of Twilight books and movies, and come on, to someone like me, that was NOT incentive to jump on the vampire bandwagon.

And then I read Mirriam's Monster and told her I'd like to read more of her work. She sent me copies of everything she had at the time, which included the very beginnings of Dark is the Night. I don't remember if it was the first beginning of the book or the second, but it was verrrrrry early on. (Many of Mirriam's books have a few starts before the rest Sticks™ and DITN had more than most.)

But I got busy and didn't actually start reading it until she re-started the book for another draft.

And then I got sucked in. I'd found vampires I could love.

At the time, it was set in London (*heart eyes*), called This Mortal Coil, and had a rather posh Victorian Gothic setting. I loved it. I wanted more. I NEEDED more.

 But that version too languished and died. Time passed, January 2014 arrived, and Mirriam went on a vacation which involved South Carolina. When she got back, she wrote the first chapter of the New and Improved book, still titled This Mortal Coil at that point. Excitedly, she sent it out. Like most of the regular beta team, I was hesitant. I really loved the London setting. But the South Carolina setting sang like the other one hadn't, and I fell in love quickly.

And the rest is history. The book changed titles, but South Carolina stuck, these versions of the characters stuck, and the book flourished. She finished writing it, set it aside, went back and revised it later, and now at last it's publishing time.

So it makes me very happy to help bring you Dark is the Night in all its Southern Gothic glory, starting with an interview about not just DITN but the Salvation series. Oh yes, there are more books coming. You don't have to leave the world forever when you finish this book.

Skata only has one goal in life—to seek out the vampire who turned his wife and kill it. When he finally tracks the vampire to the small nowhere town of Salvation, South Carolina, he realizes he has stepped foot into something bigger than himself. He's going to need help—and that help may come in many forms. Between the vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, and an unusual preacher, Skata may be in over his head.

Salvation series' aesthetic in three words?

Sarcastic, lethal, spooky. 

What were the first sparks for this series? 

I actually began this book as something completely different and much more pseudo-Victorian gothic. I was in my mid teens. It was inspired by the members of my favorite Japanese rock band at the time, but only one of those characters remains the same as he did when I started the book. I shelved it for a couple years, until a drive through South Carolina shot me full of new inspiration. I changed almost everything and it came together so quickly and beautifully, and to this date it’s my personal favorite book of mine (or at the very least, a tie). 

Where are you in writing the series? 

I’m about 1/3 through writing No Dark Disguise, the second book in the series.

Favorite character/s in the series?

That’s completely impossible for me to answer, but if I had to choose a HANDFUL of favorites, I would say Angel, Skinner, Skata, and Baylor (who doesn’t appear until the second book. I have big plans for him). 

Character/s in the series who are most like you? 

This is always a hard question to ask myself. I can pinpoint who I am in any kind of fiction I didn’t write, but when I write the characters they all feel ‘most like me’ depending on the moment. If I really had to pick, I’d probably say some unholy mixture of Colton + Angel.

Favorite canon ship in the series?

I CAN’T ACTUALLY SAY. IT’S A SPOILER. I can say it involves 1 human and 1 supernatural creature. 

(It's going to be EPIC. ~ Arielle) 

Any 'non-canon' ships you have a soft spot for? 

I have a soft spot for the concept of Easton + Colton, now that I think about it. Do they have any romantic chemistry in-novel? Absolutely not. But if I had chosen to take that route, I think it would have gone Pretty Darn Well.

So far, what's been your favorite part of the series to write and why? 

Building up the relationships between characters and their different dynamics is absolutely my favorite part. I live for it.

Have you had a LEAST favorite part to write? 

Honestly I adore writing everything except action scenes. I no longer struggle with them, but I for me, action sequences are actually the most boring to write. I prefer dialogue, interaction, or introspection.

Are there any scenes that you loved writing that didn't make it into the final draft of any of the books? 

Fortunately, no! More than ten years of NaNoWriMo has taught me how to avoid writing full scenes that won’t make it into the final cut. It was too painful, so I e v o l v e d. 

Are there any easter eggs in the series? 

Honestly the only real easter egg is the fact I named my vampire Angel (it’s not his real name) before I knew about the Buffyverse Angel. I’m often asked if I named my vampire after Joss Whedon’s and the answer is: not intentionally!

Yep, this question is totally going to get me glared at, but that never stopped me. People Want to Know.
At this point, how many books does the series have/might it have? 

THIS I honestly have no answer to. I expect the series to continue for as long as I’m writing, honestly—there are too many characters to leave alone. If I’m not writing a novel based in Salvation, it might be a spin-off for one of the other characters. There are too many threads to pull, but if I were to take a stab and guess, I’d say eight to ten.

What can you tell us about where the series is going in terms of other 'inhumans' we might see or big plot points to look forward to? 

I plan to expand the ‘inhuman’ count for each book. The second book in the series brings us not only more werewolves, but a couple more exotic supernatural beings as well. Particularly one creature from the other side of the globe with a potential for havoc I don’t often see in fiction—but that’s all I can tell you.

For a taste of the Salvation world, check out this playlist.

Mirriam Neal is an author frequently masquerading as an artist. When she’s not scrubbing paint off her hands, she’s thinking about writing (actually, if she’s being honest, she’s always thinking about writing). A discovery writer, she tends to start novels and figure them out as she goes along and likes to work on several books at the same time—while drinking black coffee. She’s a sucker for monsters, unlikely friendships, redemption arcs, and underdog protagonists. When not painting fantasy art or writing genre-bending novels, she likes to argue the existence of Bigfoot, rave about Guillermo del Toro, and write passionate defenses of misunderstood characters.

To learn more about her fiction and art, visit her website:, where you can find a full list of all her social medias, or join the Citadel Fiction newsletter:

Here's a look at what we have coming up on the tour:

FRIDAY, October 18 = Mirriam Neal - release post + blog tour schedule

SATURDAY, October 19 = Katherine S. Cole - interview

SUNDAY, October 20 = Erudessa Aranduriel - book spotlight + book review

MONDAY, October 21 = Eli Carnley - book review + interview
+ Christine Smith - book review

TUESDAY, October 22 = Deborah O’Carroll - book review

WEDNESDAY, October 23 = Elizabeth Salvador - book spotlight

THURSDAY, October 24 = Rachel Rossano - book spotlight

FRIDAY, October 25 = Carolyn Hamborsky - book spotlight

SATURDAY, October 26 = Angela Watts - interview
+ Ashley Hunter - interview
+ Arielle Bailey - tour wrap-up


MONDAY, October 21 = LoriAnn Weldon - book spotlight
+ Heather A. Titus - book spotlight


Mirriam will be posting regularly with quotes and other information about the series.

And I'll be posting character spotlights every day, highlighting the main cast from Dark is the Night.

 Have you read Dark is the Night? Are you interested in reading it?


Saturday, June 1, 2019

That's the Best You Could Do? ~ Rapunzel Prompt

A day late, but here is the prompt for Intuitive Writing Guide and Fairy Tale Central's Rapunzel writing prompt.

“Hey, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”
Christopher could feel the woman’s scalding glare from across the room, but Brendan looked unfazed.
Rocking back on his heels, Brendan pulled one hand out of his pocket to gesture to the woman’s elaborate blonde braids. “Please,” he added, his tone bored.
Her chin went up as she sniffed. “Show me some credentials. I don’t let it down for just anyone, you know.”
“Credentials? Seriously?”
Her look turned decidedly frosty.
Chris leaned back against a doorway, trying not to snicker. Technically, he was lead for this mission, but if Brendan wanted to dig himself into a hole, he wasn’t about to stop it. Work hadn’t been this entertaining in weeks.
Although...Brendan was often careless but rarely rude, so that was odd. None of them had slept much last night, but each member of the team was used to going without sleep, so it wasn’t likely to be that. He made a mental note to talk to ask about it later.
When she didn’t give in, Brendan sighed. “Captain Arthur Griffin of Pendragon Security? My boss? You may have heard of him. That’s all the credentials you’re going to get.”
“Oh no, I had no idea who had been hired to guard me.” She rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. “Yes, naturally, I’ve met your boss, who was a sight more polite than you.”
Brendan shrugged. “That’s his job. Mine is to protect you.”
The woman’s eyes sparked wrathfully, but before his teammate could irritate her further, Chris stepped forward.
“Miss.” He bent his head respectfully. “We have orders to check and make sure you weren’t bugged. I understand that you were careful, but someone could still have dropped or slipped something onto you. Bugs can easily hide inside hair. Please, will you remove your jumper and take your hair down?”
She regarded him with a frown for a minute before shrugging. “Fine.”
Brendan crossed the room to take Christopher’s place near the door. “Suckup,” he muttered as he handed Chris the scanner.
“It’s all in how you talk to them,” he retorted in the same undertone.
“Rapunzel? That’s the best you could do?” The woman shot Brendan an irritated sideways glance as she began taking down her braids.
“You deserved that,” Chris informed Brendan, his tone as smug as he could make it. He turned the scanner on and began calibrating it.
“Piss off,” Brendan grumbled. He wiggled two fingers in the air mockingly and leaned back against the doorframe. “You don’t look like a Cinderella.”
Her fingers didn’t slow but she rolled her eyes again. “How about Aurora? Cinderella wasn’t the only blonde princess.”
“You want to sleep that much?” Chris motioned for her to turn around so he could begin scanning.
“I would,” Brendan interjected. “I might actually get caught up for once.” He ran a hand over his face and blinked a few times, as if shaking sleep away. “I got two hours last night and had weak coffee this morning.”
“Well, why didn’t you say you needed coffee before?” the woman demanded, turning in place as Chris ran the scanner over her hair. “There’s strong black coffee in the kitchen. But don’t think it lets you out of having been a nob,” she called after him as he made a beeline for the other room.
“Oh, don’t worry about that, miss. His boss won’t let him forget it.”
She turned so she could see him over her shoulder, her face thoughtful. “I can see that. He…” she hesitated long enough that he looked at her to see if she was going to continue. She was smiling a little.
Another Arthur fangirl. At this rate, the boss would have as many as a celebrity in no time.
“He makes an impression,” she said at last.
“Try living with him.” Brendan came in from the kitchen, sipping from one mug and set another on the table for Chris. “Our glamorous captain is as human as we are.”
“Really. You don’t say. I’m not––”
The scanner beeped, cutting her off. Chris extracted the bug and held it up. He gave it a cursory glance and moved to drop it on a nearby table but then stopped and did a double take.
Brendan tensed. “What?” He reached out and took it from Chris, examining it closely. Muttering a stream of swearing under his breath, he looked at the woman and grinned. “Well, you’re about to see your paragon again, Rapunzel.”
Chris reached out and shoved him toward the hallway, motioning for him to hurry. “He has to call Arthur. We have a problem.”

Did you take part in the Rapunzel prompt?

Hop back over to IWG on Monday for the Aladdin prompt!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

No Originality: Rumpelstiltskin Flash Scene

When Christine, Faith, and I all started Fairy Tale Central, one of the things we were most excited about was hosting writing prompts based on the featured fairy tale of the month. We're all writers, I love writing prompt-inspired scenes, Faith and Christine do too, so win-win.

The prompts go up on the third of every month over on Intuitive Writing Guide, and here, finally, is my scene for April's Rumpelstiltskin prompt. As usual, it started out supposed to be 600-800 words and clocked out at something like 1,500 words.

This scene fits into the Pendragons and Pimpernels universe, which I'll be back to talk about later.

This was the prompt:

What had her father been THINKING?
Well, it’s plain he wasn’t thinking at all.
Mary looked around at the workshop. There was very little hope that this monumental—and impossible—task could be accomplished with anything here at hand, but she looked anyway, methodically picking up and examining every tool, every material, every piece of plastic and straw and metal. Every pot of paint, including the ones she'd brought.
Nothing. Not even her vague plans had prepared for this large a job.
Just to be sure, she repeated the process, looking under and behind everything in the workshop.
Still nothing. I knew it was impossible! But if I don’t, Father will be evicted. What had possessed him to say such rubbish? How pissed out of his head was he?
Groaning, she crossed her arms on the table and buried her head in them, giving in to tears. It’s no use. I tried. How am I supposed to fix this?
“Come now, mädchen, certainly it is not hopeless yet.”
With a scream, she leaped up and back…or she tried to. Her hip bumped sharply into the edge of the table, and she lost her balance, falling flat on her butt on the floor. Staring wildly around her, she finally located the speaker by the door.
The door that was theoretically locked.
No, it had definitely been locked. She’d checked, no less than four times.
“Who are you?” she snapped out, trying to sound like he hadn’t just scared her so badly that her heart was still beating frantically and her breath came in gasps.
“I think the bigger question is why am I here, Madame, would you not agree?”
“Madame? I’m not…I’m…where are you from? Who talks like that anymore? This is 2017.”
“So many questions! Would you not be more comfortable asking them from anywhere other than the floor? Well,” he amended. “I do not recommend the ceiling either.”
Getting up sounded like a really good idea, and she scrambled to her feet, looking around her for a sharp or heavy object. Being armed also sounded like a good idea.
“Come now,” said man placatingly, for man he definitely was, she could see, now that she was standing. “If I were here to injure you, I would already have done so, before you could be up or arm yourself. Far less danger to me to do it quickly, while you were still surprised and off guard.”
Well, that was reassuring.
“Who are you?” she asked again, or rather, demanded.
He sighed and finally came out of the dim shadows by the door into the full light of the center of the workshop, limping and leaning on a staff taller than either of them.
By the harsh light of the overhead bulbs, he looked old. Old enough to be her grandfather at least. Shorter than her even, he was thin, but not bony. Just lean. When she looked at his face, he seemed old. But looking straight into his eyes…that impression faded. His wizened face settled in lines of quiet, and he cocked his head to the side, studying her as if she was something fascinating.
“What?” she huffed finally, as much from curiosity now as from wariness or caution. “I’m not an alien.”
“Aye, that you are not, Miss Mary Miller.”
“You know my name! How do you know my name?”
The man sighed heavily, the same way her father did when she asked too many times about their finances that month or the same way she did when the answers were unsatisfactory. An irritated sigh.
“It was not hard to fathom. A rather boring name. Did your parents have no originality?”
“My parents…what? Why are you here?”
“So many questions.” He cocked his head at her, studying her as if she was some kind of specimen. “But so little consistency in them. I am here to do what you deem to be impossible.”
She snorted. “It is impossible. You’re cracked out of your head if you think it isn’t.”
With another sigh, this one sounding exasperated, he limped over to a stool and sat down on it, leaning his right leg out in front of him. She could see now that it was rather twisted, and she looked away, trying not to stare.
“You British humans are so factual,” he said, both hands clasped around the staff as he leaned forward, looking around the workshop. “Is there no belief left in you?”
“British humans? What, other humans are better?”
He raised his eyebrows at her, and she felt as if he was about to scold her. But his voice was mild as he said, “Better, worse, these are just words which are hard to apply to degrees of belief. The French still believe. The Americans do not. The Russians cast a curse over one shoulder and a charm against witches over the other. The Germans…” he paused. “Well, it has been many years since I met a German.”
That made something click in her head. “Did you speak German earlier? Madken?”
“Mädchen,” he corrected. “You can at least recognize German when you hear it. Good.”
If she had thought that his answers would make anything clearer, she was obviously mistaken. He was just another crazy old man who had somehow picked the lock from the outside and was here to yarn on with old stories. She should feed him, and then he’d go away and leave her to her impossible task.
As if he’d heard her thoughts, he tapped his staff lightly on the floor. “Now, about this task of yours.”
She laughed shortly. “You mean the insanity my father’s drunken boastings led me into? The impossible one that will become a viral video tomorrow? ‘Girl Tries and Fails to Turn Straw into Gold’. That task?”
“The very same, Miss Miller.”
“Right.” She’d heard enough. “Here, sit down. I think there’s a beer or two in the fridge; I’ll get you some.”
Moving around the table toward the mini fridge, the question stopped her so suddenly that she bumped her other hip into the table. She winced. Great, another bruise. At least they’ll match.
“I just thought you’d want some,” she said. It was a lame reason, and she knew it, but how did you tell a person they were crazy without telling them?
“You clearly don’t think I can do this. Children these days. And no use telling me you are already an adult,” he chuckled wryly when she drew herself up to do just that.
Getting up, he limped over to the workbench and picked up a single piece of straw. He held it between his fingers for a minute, just held it, as far as she could see. Then he reached his hand out to her, the straw on his palm.
Gingerly, she took it. It looked like gold. It felt like gold. It even smelled like gold.
But…how? “You did…did…it,” she stammered. “How?”
“A good alchemist never reveals his secrets save on his deathbed, and that is yet far off for me. Do you believe me now?”
She had to be dreaming. Had to be. There was no other way this was actually true, that this man—wizard, charlatan, fake, whatever he was—had actually turned this straw into gold.
“You’re actually here to help me,” she said slowly, trying to make sense of it. “You’re really going to turn this straw into the gold that will help my future father-in-law become a jewelry millionaire?”
“Yes,” he said simply, and then his mouth twisted as if he’d smelled bad food. “But you can do better than him, child.”
She shrugged, bypassing that and going straight for the question that seemed to matter the most. “How?”
“Give me your necklace.”
“My what? Why?”
He shook his head, turning back to the workbench. “So many questions. Because it’s gold, that’s why.”
Blinking, she shook her head, wishing she could get rid of the feeling that the entire thing was a dream while knowing it wasn’t. “Wait. Aren’t you going to make gold for me?”
“That is the bargain, yes.”
“Then why do you need my gold?”
This time, his sigh filed the entire workshop. “Do you want my help or not?”
“Well, yes, I do.”
“And as I understand it, it was this very necklace that started this whole shoddy business?”
“Well, yes.”
“Then you should have no qualms in handing it over to me.” He held out his hand expectantly.
“You still haven’t told me why you want it,” she insisted, making a last effort to figure out what rabbit hole she’d disappeared down.
“Bah.” He snapped his fingers in irritation, but as she came closer, his face changed, settling into lines she hadn’t seen in years.
“My guardian angel,” she whispered, her voice hitching in shock.
“Yes. Now can we at last set to work?”
Wordlessly, she handed the necklace over and sat on the stool he indicated, drawing a deep breath and settling in to watch closely. There were a lot more questions she wanted answered before the night was over, and if silence now would make him more amenable to giving her those answers, she would barely even breathe.

The prompt is still open here, if you want to write your own scene and add it to the comments.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Interview with Faith White and...Fairy Tale Central is Live!

I'm beyond excited. It's still surreal to me (and I think to my fellow site authors), because I've spent the last few weeks pushing so hard to get everything ready that I'm still in that phase of wondering if I've left anything out, have I forgotten something, is there something I'll remember in three days that was important that got left off a list?

BUT IT'S LIVE NOW. And we are beyond happy and excited.

To celebrate its launch, today I have one of my co-administrators here to answer some questions about her love of fairy tales!

Welcome, Faith!

What draws you to fairy tales; what is it that you love most about them?

Among the many reasons I'm drawn to fairy tales, I absolutely LOVE imagery in fairy tales. One of my many favorite fairy tales is Snow White, just for the richness of all the motifs - from magic mirrors to poisoned apples to seven dwarfs. Many of the tales have specific numbers they reuse, with three being the most common number. It's storytelling at its purest form. I mean even today you will see that in writing: the first-time fail, second-time fail, and finally third-time triumph. It's just a stable foundation in the hero's journey.

With straw into gold, coins dropping from girls' mouths, giants and princes, dragons and princesses, there's this whimsical, magical side of our imagination that is drawn out through fairy tales, and I love that it can reach that childhood place of wonder for us.

What fairy tale theme/moral really speaks to you personally?

It's the most common theme there is (I think) but it honestly is to me the most powerful - good overcomes evil. It doesn't matter how much the evil stepmother stole from Cinderella, or that Rapunzel's prince's eyes were blinded in the thorns, or that Snow White is lying dead-like in a casket.  Ultimately, there is a happily ever after for all those that overcome in these tales.

And a very similar theme in relation to that is: authentic/true love overcomes. Ultimately, true love broke the spell off of the beast, true love united Cinderella and her prince and set her free from her past, the true love in Rapunzel's tears healed her prince's eyes. It's a message of hope amidst often dark tales.

I find it amusing that people say life isn't a fairy tale - while I know they refer to happily ever afters, if you look at fairy tales, they are often very dark and difficult with impossible obstacles and evil villains destroying lives. But hope and love save the day in the end, and I think believing in that in our own lives is a powerful thing.

What fairy tale retellings are you writing or specifically planning to write in the future?

I currently have a Regency Beauty and the Beast retelling (Beauty’s Beast) that I'm in the process of writing. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale and I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, and I thought a combination of the two would be a lot of fun.

I'm also working on a trilogy about three royal sisters (Princess of Gara series), one who tries to outwit a dragon prince, the second who must save their father from a vicious shapeshifter fox-woman, and the third who must find a way to escape a palace where seven prince suitors live.

Last (but not least, lol), I'm in the works of a superhero series (The Warriors) that will be soft fairy tale retellings, including Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Pinocchio, and more. I've been a superhero geek since I was a kid, so it's a lot of fun dreaming up a superhero team myself.

You can follow Faith on:
Her blog

Visit Fairy Tale Central here.

Also, check out Christine's blog to continue the tour and see my answers to the above questions and Faith's blog to read Christine's answers.

Which of Faith's retellings interests you the most? Are you excited about the launch of Fairy Tale Central?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Coming Soon to a Site Near You...


...that someone was offering you the key to a big old castle library that felt both old and new at the same time and was specifically full of fairy tales and fairy-tale-related things, including but not limited to:

~ lists of fairy-tale retellings
~ reviews of fairy-tale retellings

~ essays and blog posts analyzing fairy tales and their themes

~ writing prompts inspired by specific fairy tales

~ interviews with fairy-tale-retelling authors

~ mini galleries of fairy-tale art and products made by fairy-tale artisans

~ commentaries on fairy tales
~ links to other interesting fairy tale articles, including tips on writing fairy-tale retellings

Imagine you could have access to all that, in a website/blog form, with a full complement of social media to also follow.

Welcome to Fairy Tale Central, coming April 1 (no joke) to a website near you.