Here is “Step 1” for writing a novel

What Inspires Your Writing?

Learn more about TimI know you can see it in your mind: a published book with your name on the cover. Readers crowding in to be a part of your book signing event.

But right now, that novel is just a bunch of ideas bouncing around in your head.

So how do you get from here…to there?

Start with your Daily Action Calendar, which is available to you when you join our online writing group, the (brand new) Better Writers Club!

Think of your Daily Action Calendar as a straight line from where you are now to the virtual shelves of Amazon, and even your local bookstore.

Every day, your Calendar gives you one simple action you can take to move forward on your novel. No more wondering what you’re supposed to be doing and when, while feeling more and more overwhelmed and then losing motivation altogether.

As time goes on…

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Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown!

LGBTQ Reads

Please excuse me while I go full fangirl, but if you’ve spent any time asking for recs on the LGBTQReads Tumblr, you know that Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit falls out of my mouth about twelve times a day. So how psyched am I to be revealing the cover of Jaye Robin Brown‘s next f/f YA, The Meaning of Birds, which releases on April 16, 2019?? (Very. Is that not obvious? I’m sorry, I thought it was obvious.) Here’s the story behind the story:

Before:
Ever since her father’s death, Jessica has struggled with the anger building inside her. And being one of the only out teens in school hadn’t helped matters. But come sophomore year, all that changes when effervescent Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent…

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Grief and Internet Anonymity

Tonight was a bad night.

I have been keeping fish for about 14 years now. It all started with a free goldfish that I won at a college orientation event. A bowl became a 10-gallon tank, and then a 29-gallon tank when I did my research and learned about the actual needs of a goldfish. A couple of years later, my goldfish, Hyacinth, died.

I was devastated.

I know, you’re rolling your eyes and saying “It’s just a fish.” But, he wasn’t just a fish. I had spent countless hours researching and caring for this fish. I had done everything I could to make sure his habitat was perfect and that he was healthy, so his death was a blow.

Of course, eventually, I recovered and decided to try my hand at tropical fish keeping. Within a year, I had a beautiful live-planted tropical aquarium running with a beta fish, some schooling fish, and my first pleco (after an algae incident.) He was a bristlenose pleco, only an inch long, and the ugliest thing I had ever seen in my life.

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My 29-gallon tank

Bristlenose plecos are smaller than the 2-foot-long common plecos people are familiar with. They only grow to somewhere between 6-8 inches long and eat algae and driftwood. You can see the driftwood in the photo above, though my pleco is hiding in it, as he often did during the day.

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source: http://www.pethelpful.com

Male bristlenose plecos live up to their names and grow horrifying-looking bristles on their face as they reach maturity. Females do not grow bristles, however.

Their average life-span is about 12 years, so they can live for quite a while. Though I was not particularly attached to my own pleco at first, after he began to develop his bristles (and I got over how terrifying they looked) I actually really grew to love him the best. He quickly became my favorite fish, and was the only fish in the tank, aside from my beta fish, who was given a name. I named him Davey Jones, and called him Jonesy for short. Even my mother, who hated my fish tank, loved Jonesy and would sneak him treats of cucumber or zucchini when I wasn’t home.

When I moved out of my parents’ house 5 years ago, I upgraded from a 29-gallon tank to a 55-gallon tank. Jonesy came with me, along with a few other fish and all my plants and driftwood. As of today, I have had the same community going (Jonesy being the only original fish) for the past 11 or 12 years.

Tonight, after getting home from a long shitty day, (I spent 4 hours sitting around in a car dealership and left with no car. :|) I went into the living room to feed the fish and found Jonesy dead on the floor of the tank.

Of course, I was upset. My heart broke for my uniquely ugly pet fish whom I’d had for my entire adult life (I bought him when I was twenty! Please don’t do math right now).

After recovering from the initial shock of finding him, and realizing that he likely died of old age and nothing I did, I carefully scooped him up, wrapped his body and disposed of him. I kept my composure. I was sad, but he was an old fish and I took great care of him.

When I went back to the tank to feed the rest of my fish, a thought that has been nagging at the back of my head for about the last year-and-a-half or two years came back. I ought to sell my set up. I had considered it before buying the house–it has been getting hard to keep up with maintenance as my life has gotten more and more hectic, and I have slowly begun to lose my love of fishkeeping.

Adding on top  of that my workload, and the fact that I am hoping to have a baby by this time next year (I know I haven’t written anything about that yet–it’s coming!), I realized it was probably best for the fish and myself if I sold the whole set-up to someone who had the time and the energy needed to take care of a tank this size. The one thing that had been holding me back for the last year was Jonesy and how attached I was to him.

I took to Facebook and posted in a fishkeeping group about my loss and explained that I was considering selling the whole set up for reasons a, b, c and x.

At first, people were kind and offered condolences and advice on selling my set up. Some complimented me on the beauty of my tank, others suggested bringing the last few fish to a fish store and selling off the set up piece-by-piece.

Then, someone commented saying that I was a disgusting person for giving up my aquarium in exchange for a “human brat.” This someone was some rando 20-year-old kid, so I really didn’t care about his opinion and told him so. Then, it escalated. Women with children began to shame me and rub in my face that they had children AND fish tanks. Men commented saying how many kids they had and pointed out that THEY never gave up THEIR fish.

I was annoyed and hurt. I didn’t owe them an explanation. I reported the comments to group admins and tagged admins but after over an hour, none of them had done anything. The comments continued to escalate. A few people defended me, but they got worse and worse. I was called a “shit person” a “whore” and told to kill myself.

Now, as a woman, I get comments like this every day on Facebook. MANY women do. Usually, I report the idiot and move on. Tonight, it hurt though. Tonight, I was grieving for the loss of a beloved pet, and looking for advice, and I was told instead that I would be a shitty mother and that I should just kill myself.

Why do people think it’s okay to say things like that to other people? The anonymity of the internet, even if you are using a Facebook account with your real name and photo, makes people into monsters. No administrator in the group did anything to stop this, and in the end, I deleted the post and left the group like a coward.

Now, I’m exhausted from a bad day, upset over the death of my favorite fish, and feeling hollow inside because I ran away from the onslaught of insults being thrown at me instead of facing them and standing my ground. I feel like a failure, even though logically I know that I am not and I know that what these random people on the internet have to say doesn’t matter.

Still, it hurts. Especially when I am feeling like crap already because my pet died–it hurts. I didn’t deserve to be treated like that. No one does.

It’s one thing to get into a flame-war with someone on Facebook. Many of us are guilty of it–I am guilty of it. But I have never told someone to go kill themselves. I have never stooped to bullying someone for no reason other than the fact that I could, and they could do nothing about it.

Bullying is nothing new–and neither is internet bullying. This month alone, Star Wars star Kelly Marie Tran deleted social media accounts because people were bullying and harassing her so much that she felt she had no other choice. Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown deactivated her Twitter after so-called fans made a slew of homophobic memes (during PRIDE MONTH) using her photos. The world is fucked up.

 

Anyway, I’m sorry that this post is a downer, but I felt like I had to get it off my chest somehow. I’ve been crying for the past two hours and I’m not even sure why. I’ll be fine in the morning, I’m sure–but tonight my heart is aching and my ego has been struck a solid blow.


 

IMPORTANT LINKS:

StopBullying.gov
Stop Bullying Twitter
Cyberbullying Research Center
STOPCyberbullying
DO Something

Boston Pride Festival and Representation

Let me start this off by apologizing! I had intended on writing this blog ON Saturday after the Pride Festival but got into a car accident (mild fender bender!) on my way home. After that my whole evening was shot, and Sami and I opted to drop in on my parents’ house to use their hot tub (which was awesome!) to soothe our aching legs. After that, I got caught up in sewing commissions, and writing Chapter 11 of The Daffodil Witch! (It’s here, go read it!! But after you read this haha.)

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ANYWAY, Boston Pride! Let me tell you all about it and how AMAZING it was!

BEFORE THE PARADE

untitled1.pngLeading up to pride, I knew that I didn’t want to just show up, watch the parade, and be done with it! I wanted to leave an impact somehow, even if it was only on a few people. A few years ago my father took me to NYC for New York Pride while on a business trip and I had dyed a rainbow streak into my hair in anticipation of it!

This year, I wanted to do something more and really make an effort. I wanted to be involved somehow, but it was too late to organize anything big!

I ordered myself an awesome ace pride pin (which I have been wearing every day since), did my nails in the ace flag colors, and made a rainbow flower crown to start!

 

Was that enough? Nope! I also ordered a bunch of mini rainbow flags and a roll of 500 heart pride stickers to hand out to people! THOSE were a huge hit! You would be amazed at how excited people got over the stickers. Even on the train into the city before Pride started, I ended up hanging out stickers!

 

Look at Sami, isn’t she cute? That brings me to our awesome outfits. Sami is a huge Star Wars nerd and had only JUST come out as a demisexual lesbian after a long time of questioning. She decided to rock her pride and ended up buying a really awesome pin while we were there!

 

I went into the city with Sami and Brendan, who is part of what I refer to affectionately as my ‘game night crew,’ a tight-knit group of friends who I see weekly for games and what we deem real-talks (I’ll talk more about that in another blog post! But we talk about some pretty serious topics and are all very close.) Brendan is not queer, but he was the one who wanted most to go to Boston Pride. He’s the best sort of ally you could want!

 

How fabulous are we?! And yes, Brendan IS doing the same pose in both photos. He’s a great ally and a great friend, but also a huge dork. See my skirt?! I struggled at first with the decision on my skirt. I knew I would make something festive, but I originally figured I would make a rainbow skirt to be super festive! Then it dawned on me that I could actually represent MYSELF as an ace at Boston Pride instead of just going in with the classic rainbow. I took to Facebook, and overwhelmingly, my friends suggested I go with the ace colors.

You can’t tell here, but each fabric is SUPER glittery, and Sami’s fishnets are covered in rhinestones. We like to be seen from space. If you ask either of us what our favorite color is, the answer will be, without hesitation: glitter!

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OKAY so, on to the parade itself!

THE PARADE

Once we got into the city, it was a sea of rainbows, pink and glitter! We really couldn’t stop smiling and looking around. Rainbows were plastered in business windows, and flags were EVERYWHERE. It was an amazing feeling for me, as someone who has been out as queer almost my entire life–a feeling of being at home, of being safe, of being loved and included: a feeling of recognition. I can’t even imagine what Sami was feeling. Up until that moment, she had really only come out to maybe one or two people, and even when she came out to me it had been with the question of “am I allowed to identify as a lesbian if I dated a guy for so long?”

We ran into lots of awesome people we know, which was great! Took plenty of selfies. The first person we saw was our friend Danielle. Danielle is a wonderful specimen who somehow manages to show up everywhere at everything, and I run into her no matter where I go–EVEN IF IT IS IN A DIFFERENT STATE. We also saw my friend Lyndsey, who was representing fabulously in a Katsuki Yuri from YURI ON ICE! cosplay. Both of them walked in the parade (which we had planned to do until we got distracted by the lure of Starbucks coffee! Whoops!) Shortly after the parade started, we were joined by my friend Emmy, her younger sister and her friend Jennifer, who twinned with her in Wonder Woman regalia! (Don’t they look great?!)

 

The parade was amazing, of course! There was lots of free swag! Sami even got me this AWESOME Aladdin magnet, which I adore with every fiber of my being. (In case you don’t know, Aladdin is my FAVORITE Disney movie and always has been!)

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The parade itself was LONG, as to be expected. I tried to take as many photos as I possibly could (I am not a photographer, and am used to not taking photos ever at events because I get immersed in them.) My phone died after a few hours and I wasn’t able to take as many as I would have liked, but here is just a bunch of them in a slideshow for you:

 

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Yes, I had a BLAST. I loved the parade. I screamed so much I was sure I would lose my voice. I saw SO many flags and so much diversity… but I noticed that ONE thing was missing: I didn’t see a single ace flag in the entire parade. Did this ruin my experience? Not at all, I still had an amazing time–but it did stick with me that I didn’t see Black, Grey, White, Purple anywhere in the parade, and it made it that much more poignant that I had decided to wear my own flag to proudly represent asexuals.

REPRESENTATION

The whole day, my companions and I were inactively on the lookout for more ace flags. We saw maybe three total the whole day, and I’m sure those people bought them ahead of time and brought them with them.  This is why I am so happy I wore my ace colors rather than only rainbow.

I had at least fifteen instances where someone came up to me and thanked me for wearing the ace colors, or complimented me on my skirt and pointed out that they, too, were ace! I WISH my phone had not died, for I would have taken a selfie with every one of them to share with you. Alas, all I can do is share those moments that stuck out to me the most.

One girl I had noticed was lingering with her friends behind us outside of Starbucks as we watched the parade. They weren’t standing WITH the parade onlookers, but up against the building. I had noticed a few times that they were looking at me, and thought maybe they wanted a sticker. Before I could offer one, I was distracted by friends joining us.

Maybe a half hour into the parade, one of the girls stepped over and tapped my shoulder.

“I love your skirt,” she said. Her voice was weak and quiet, and I could tell she was shy.

I offered her a big smile and thanked her. Then she showed me the small, ace-flag earrings she wore and the ace-flag nail polish she had done and smiled shyly at me. I think she was probably in her teens. She was small, shy, and intimidated looking. I told her they were awesome, gave her and all her friends stickers. Then I saw a look in her eye and knew that she was going to cry. I hugged her tightly, and she held on for a while.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m tearing up myself. I don’t think she expected to see ace representation at the parade. Asexual erasure is a real problem–with the queer AND straight community. I touched on this before in my Pride Month post. We are made to feel like we don’t exist like we aren’t valid. I hope that this moment, for her, was an eye-opener. I hope she feels valid now, because I am sure by the way she cried and was afraid at first to look me in the eye that she was not at all confident in herself.

This happened over and over throughout the day. I got hugs, I was thanked, I had people scream “I LOVE YOUR SKIRT!” over the crowds of people when they couldn’t get close enough. People showed me their small, and sometimes hidden, ace memorabilia. One girl who had to have been 13 if she was a day ran up to me with wide eyes, took my hands and said. “You are beautiful!”

I was overwhelmed by her.

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Credit

Next year, I am already planning to attend pride again, but I want to REALLY make a difference this time. I want to register in the parade and form a group of asexual and demisexual people to walk with. I want us to fly our flags proudly, to wear our flags, to carry signs that remind everyone that WE EXIST and WE ARE VALID.

Sami was also inspired by pride. She wants to organize a cosplay group to walk in the parade for next year–and has even made a group on Facebook (a global group) for LGBTQ+ Cosplayers! She wanted to create a safe place for queer cosplayers to gather, network, chat and share! Check it out!

Thank you to everyone who came to me to show their appreciation for my representation. Thank you for making my Boston Pride experience so memorable!


IMPORTANT LINKS

Sami’s Links
Tumblr
Facebook
LGBTQ+ Cosplayers

Lyndsey’s Links
Website
Facebook
Twitter

 

 

Workshop Wednesdays

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Today is what we call Workshop Wednesdays in my writing group on Facebook, Writers of Queer Fiction. I created this group along with fellow authors Claerie Kavanaugh and Amy Nowacoski.

We made this group after coming together in a Beta Reader’s group on Facebook, discussing how it was difficult to find an active group for LGBT+ writers or writers who write with LGBT+ characters and themes. Now, of course, there are lots of amazing writers groups on facebook! I am in quite a few of them, and utilize them all! But, sometimes you need to ask serious questions about representation, sensitivity, or, dare I say it, sex–and you don’t want to be mocked by Joe Schmoe in that group with 50k+ members in it.

That is where  Writers of Queer Fiction comes in! We offer a safe place to ask these questions. We are a group for writers and readers. That’s right–you don’t have to be a writer to join! If you are just an avid reader, or someone who can offer valuable feedback to the writers in this group, we will welcome you with open arms! We have been active for about three weeks now, and have already formed friendships! We share funny stories, queer experiences, sad stories. We comfort each other and offer support and advice for those who seek it!

Every Wednesday, we come together to do a group workshop for one randomly selected writer! So far, the workshops have gone swimmingly! Aspiring M/M romance author Grayson Bell even tweeted about his experience with the workshop:

Reading that made my heart soar. I am excited to be able to help other writers in this way and to form these wonderful relationships with other blossoming talents! We have a really amazing array of talent in the group too–from LGBT+ children’s book writers to romance writers, mystery writers and even a fair share of erotica!

Basically what I am trying to say here is: COME JOIN US! We are awesome and what better time to join a new queer family than Pride Month!?


*** Join Writers of Queer Fiction ***

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(Have I linked it enough times? Lol)

Book Review: The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

I do not like sports. That isn’t to say that I hate them, but I have never been very interested in sports in general. That being said, I could watch ice skaters all day—though I’m not sure if that’s because I enjoy ice skating, or because I’m in awe of what they do. I cannot ice skate.

Anyway, I happened across Angie Abdou through a funny exchange on Twitter–something that may be the purest interaction I have ever had on the platform! Fellow hopeful #CarinaPitch participant and new author Alex Rettie introduced us. To think, had I never commented on his post, I’d have never met my ‘long-lost cousin.’

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Thanks to Alex, a new friendship blossomed! And, I have a new cousin! 🙂 Now, whether we are blood-related or not, Angie is a fellow Syrian and a fellow Abdou, so she is my cousin no matter what. Anyway, that night I bought The Bone Cage and put my other book on hold so I could read it immediately. Three days later, I had finished the book and decided that since it is the first book I’ve finished since starting my blog, it would also be the first book I review!

Now, please bear with me here, as this is my first real book review.

The Bone Cage
by Angie Abdou

Book description, borrowed from Goodreads:

Digger, an 85 kilo wrestler, and Sadie, a 26-year-old speed swimmer, stand on the verge of realizing every athlete’s dream–winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Both athletes are nearing the end of their athletic careers, and are forced to confront the question: what happens to athletes when their bodies are too old and injured to compete? The blossoming relationship between Digger and Sadie is tested in the all-important months leading up to the Olympics, as intense training schedules, divided loyalties, and unpredicted obstacles take their draining toll. The Olympics, as both of them are painfully aware, will be the realization or the end of a life’s dream. 

The book starts out by throwing you immediately into the story. You have no time to think before the story just starts. Instantly, you’re sucked into Digger’s psyche. The descriptions are amazing, I honestly felt like I was standing right there with Digger.

Digger has always been a good sweater. He’s only just stepped into the sauna and already he can feel the itch of sweat behind his ears, around his hairline, along his spine. It’s a natural talent his teammates envy, especially at a time like this.

The entire book is like this–descriptions that yank you right into the story and make you forget everything going on around you.

This book is not one I would usually buy. As I have mentioned before, I don’t usually read contemporary, and I definitely don’t read about sports. That being said, I am so glad I did buy this one. Every other chapter is dedicated to one character–following Digger first, then Sadie, and back and forth. By the end of chapter 2, I was 100% invested in both characters. Present tense is not something I am a fan of, and this book is entirely written in present tense. However, it really, really works here.

Because of the style, I really felt connected to the characters. I cared about them–and I really got a feeling for their very different personalities. Both characters have very similar goals–they want to go to the Olympics, and they want to succeed. Both are afraid that they are becoming too old for their sports, and that this is their last chance at accomplishing their dreams.

 Yes, the pool, always her centre, has lost its hold. What, she wonders, has held the whole thing together this long? I have an intense burning desire to be a champion. That was the phrase she learned at National Youth Team swim camps. I have an intense burning desire to be a champion. They repeated the mantra over and over—a room full of fourteen-year-olds chanting the words in unison. I have an intense burning desire to be a champion.

For a while, both characters follow their own path and they do not interact with one another. By the time they do meet each other, I couldn’t help but feel ridiculously excited. (“Omg he’s talking about Sadie! They’re gonna meet!”)

I loved how they interacted with each other and the people around them. I loved the descriptions of the characters and the little glimpse into each one’s personality and life through the eyes of the two POV characters. What I loved the most about this book, however, was how invested I was in them, especially as someone who really doesn’t have any interest in sportketball of any kind. It was beautifully, masterfully written in a way that could hold anyone’s interest. You don’t need to love sports, or even know anything about them, to love this book. This book is about people. It’s about hope, determination, relationships, and sacrifice.

Angie found the perfect balance between giving the reader a ton of information about each sport (swimming and wrestling) but not making you feel like it was all a big infodump. I was never left wondering why they were doing something or how things worked, but I also never once felt like I was being preached at or sitting in on some kind of lesson about sports.

The big question: would I read more by Angie? Absolutely! I already have plans to buy more of her books once I finish with To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams. Her books are a refreshing change from what I usually read, and if her characterization and description in her other books are anything like they are in The Bone Cage, I would read every word she has ever written in a heartbeat.


Links to Check out:

Angie’s Website
Angie’s Twitter
Angie’s Facebook
Angie’s Goodreads
Angie’s Amazon Page

 

My Creative Space and What Inspires Me

When I write, I like to feel as zen as possible. Today, it’s raining. There is something about the dim light and soft patter of a rainy day that triggers the ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian responsein me. It helps me to relax. From my writing desk, I can watch the rain splash and trickle against the leaves of the dogwood tree in my front yard. It’s only 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) today, but I have the windows open and a cool breeze flows through my bedroom, carrying the scent of dirt, rain, and atmosphere.

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I also have a small hummingbird feeder hanging just outside my window. There’s something about hearing the hum of their wings and the sweet chirps of excitement they make that always gives me a little thrill. My cats, of course, love the occasional visit as well. They are always alert when they hear that familiar buzz, and usually, run to the window to watch with wide eyes and wiggling butts.

I write in my bedroom, in a cozy little corner in the large space. I have a window right beside me, and a bookshelf on the other side of me. On my desk, I have a collection of items that inspire me and help me on my creative journey.

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When it’s time to sit down to work, I have a routine. This may change for later works, but for The Daffodil Witch, I have specific sources of inspiration; a routine. I boot up my trusty old laptop, open up Scrivener, then settle into my seat.

I light incense while I write. I love incense, Sandalwood being my favorite. Sometimes, I’ll burn scented candles instead. I turn on my elephant lamp, and the glow of the fairy lights over my bed and the soft light of the lamp is just enough to make me feel secluded like I’m alone in the world and have all the time I need to let inspiration flow.

I listen to music, as well. I can’t listen to anything with -lyrics, or it will distract me. I like to find 1 to 10-hour videos on YouTube with some kind of spa, or relaxing Celtic music. My favorite for writing The Daffodil Witch has been a beautiful Celtic melody created by the talented musician Peder B. Helland. He has tons of different options on his YouTube page, Soothing Relaxation. The one that I go to most is the three-hour melody here:

This is how I create my perfect zen zone to write in, how I enter another world where I can experience magic and intrigue from the safety of my bedroom (usually with one or more cat vying for my attention in my lap). If I find myself suffering from writer’s block, I spend my time doing research, re-reading, editing and planning. There is never a shortage of things to work on.

So, what do I keep on my desk to help inspire me? (Aside from a lot of elephants, that is…) I’ll show you! 🙂 Everything I keep on my desk has a purpose. The second monitor and phone are entirely work-related. I am fortunate enough to work from home certain days of the week, and I do it here at my writing desk.

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Here is my daffodil! I can’t keep real daffodils in the house since they’re very poisonous and my cats are very curious. I found this adorable little silk plant shopping once at JoAnn Fabric’s and had to buy it. It sat in my kitchen until I purchased this desk.  I keep my jewelry holder here because I hate to type with my rings on, but would hate even more to lose them. I think the plaque should speak for itself. 😉

34416305_10101875806540796_3225951387724546048_n (1)My map! My map should be obvious as well. This was drawn for me by the fantastically talented Felix Avenier. She is doing all the artwork for The Daffodil Witch. You’ll see me posting about her and her artwork a lot on here. I’ll definitely be making a blog post each time she sends m a finished piece! At the moment, she is working on Victorian-style color portraits of Oliver and the Wizard Beaumont. Definitely go check out her website. (NSFW!)

What writer’s desk would be complete without a collection of books? Now, I have quite a few bookshelves in my house. In my living room, I have a six-foot-tall bookcase on either side of my entertainment center filled with books. In my bedroom, just beside my desk, I have another shelf stuffed to the brim with books, graphic novels, light novels, magazines, art books and audiobooks from before Audible existed!

On my desk, I keep a special selection of books. These are books that specifically inspire me as a writer, or specifically inspire The Daffodil Witch.

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So, why these books? Here’s why:

  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
    Dickens was a popular novelist in the Victorian era. His books are referenced frequently in The Daffodil Witch and it is suggested by the wizard that Oliver likely got his name from this popular title. Finley is also a fan of Dickens in the book and is often seen reading the Pickwick Papers in Oliver’s room while he studies.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
    This book was the original source that inspired me to write The Daffodil Witch. The idea originally came from a conversation with my friend Juli. How cool would it be to see a queer version of Howl’s Moving Castle? We both love the Ghibli version of the movie, and I am an avid fan of the book itself. It’s a frequent re-read for me. Then, the conversation turned into a back and forth of ideas. I had forgotten about the conversation, to be honest. It was a few years ago–two or three, I believe? One day, I got the sudden urge to write and this was the idea that came pouring out of me.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    Jane Austen is the ultimate inspiration for me and always has been. I have been obsessed with her, her novels, and her wit since I was a child. Pride and Prejudice, naturally, is my favorite of her books. In a way, the romance between Oliver and the Wizard Beaumont are very similar to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship–the push and pull, the immediate rejection of one another, the series of misunderstandings. It’s my dream to be considered somewhat of a modern version of Austen.
  • It Was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande
    This book was recommended to me by my friend Marcus, who I had mentioned before in my Happy Pride Month post. I had mentioned that I was having trouble with passive voice, as this book has been my first visit back to the writing world in more than eight years. I was slipping and my usually precise grammar was weaker than it had been. He recommended this book to me, and I have found it very helpful!
  • September Moon by Candice Proctor
    This book was my first ever romance novel. My dear friend Hillary found it on her mother’s bookshelf when we were about eleven, I believe. She read it, told me all about it and then loaned it to me. I have re-read it a few times as an adult and still enjoy it every time!
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
    This is here for much the same reason Pride and Prejudice is. It is another of my very early books and early favorites. Heathcliff has always been a favorite character of mine. With this book, I fell in love with the trope of the tortured soul.
  • Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon
    31948855_10101851880284206_7898404987162591232_nLet me preface this by saying that Josh Lanyon is an author I only discovered around Christmas time 2017–about six or seven months ago. When I discovered her books through the Romance Package on Audible after reading up all of the available books by K.J. Charles (another favorite author of mine!) I quickly became hooked. It surprised me. I had never been a huge fan of contemporary books (as evident by my collection here and my Goodreads account!) but something about her writing made me fall utterly in love with every book she wrote. I started out with the Adrien English Mystery Series (please go read these, they are absolutely fantastic!) and quickly snowballed. Not only did I fall in love with her and Charles’ books, but reading them made me realize that there was a market for what I wanted to write, and inspired me to finally sit down and do what I had always wanted to do–write a book. In April, I had the opportunity to send Josh my first three chapters for her to read and offer feedback. This opportunity, for me, was huge. Murder Takes the High Road came out a few weeks before she sent back her (very encouraging and very helpful, thank you Josh!!) feedback. I remember waking up at 6:00 AM on a trip to Disney World with my family to find the audiobook had been released. Naturally, I downloaded it immediately and enjoyed it thoroughly while on my trip. Shortly after I got home, I found this book and another of hers in my mailbox (as a Patron of hers on Patreon, I get signed copies of newly released books!) This book arrived with a special note inside along with her autograph.
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
    This one really needs no explanation. Tolkien remains a source of inspiration for all fantasy writers, but this book, in particular, was one of my favorites as a child. It was my first venture into true High Fantasy and I have always felt a strong connection to Bilbo Baggins–in many ways.

And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed your little journey into my world and my creative process. I hope this wasn’t a boring post. What’s your creative process? Do you listen to music? Do you have recommendations for me for books to read, music to listen to?  Let me know!

Happy Pride Month!

It’s June–and you know what that means!? Pride Month!!

I already made an introduction post, but to commemorate the beginning of Pride Month, I am going to tell you a little story about how it took me 25 years to understand my sexuality.

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Let’s start with elementary school. I think I was about nine years old the first time my mom had a “sex” talk with me. Of course, I already knew what sex was by then (thanks to my slightly older cousin who found out through a dirty magazine and shared the details with me) and mostly how it worked, but not EVERYTHING about it. Just the general idea.  He also graciously taught me about “gays and lesbians.”

Anyway–my mother sat me down sometime in the summer, I was still in a damp bathing suit from playing in the sprinklers, and said to me:

Katie, I just want you to understand that your father and I won’t love you any less if you like girls the same as boy. You can feel comfortable and tell us.

Thanks, mom! No, but really–thank you.

I don’t really know what prompted her to tell me that. I think she must have seen me and my friends playing ‘prince and princess’ or something. (I always played the prince, because Aladdin was my favorite. Shout out to Aladdin!)

It wasn’t until like four years later that an actual curiosity or interest in boys, girls, and romance even started to occur to me. However, not even a year later, when I finally entered the dreaded puberty, I distinctly remember my mother telling me that it meant my body was ready to make a baby if I had sex with a boy. I also distinctly remember jerking away from her loving embrace and saying something along the lines of:

Gross. That will never happen.

Typical kid stuff maybe, but I never once wavered from that point of view.

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As I grew older, and everyone around me started humming about love and sex, I started telling my friends things like:

I don’t have time for that crap. I want to be a successful business woman. I want to be a famous writer.

and, later:

Maybe someday I’ll marry someone. But he would have to be gay. And live in his own house, or at least  his own room. He could have a secret boyfriend and just never touch me but people would totally think we were in love.

Eventually, I grew out of that idea. It had logistical problems, of course! Anyway, by high school, I finally conceded to try dating. I realized pretty quickly that I found guys attractive, but I also found girls attractive. For a while, I considered myself bi. Then I started talking to someone online who lived about an hour from me. My dad would bring me occasionally to meet up with her in person. Eventually, we started dating.

It wasn’t long after we started dating that my girlfriend-at-the-time came out as trans. I didn’t bat an eyelash at it. I accepted it, and my girlfriend briefly became my boyfriend–but then we broke up–though with no hard feelings and we still talk to this day! He’s still a super hottie, living on the other side of the country, and happily married!

This was when I started to consider myself pansexual. I realized that it wasn’t men or women I was attracted to, it was people. I didn’t care if they were male or female–in fact, my aesthetic seemed to mostly be androgynous and genderfluid people.

Still, I dated a couple more boys and found that once they started wanting to kiss and cuddle, I quickly felt threatened and pushed them away, ending things. I did not want physical contact–I didn’t even like being mushy or romantic. I tried to pretend, but sex was always something that I had zero interest in trying.

A friend–now ex-friend–told me once:

No guy is going to want to marry a virgin. You have to have sex with someone so you can practice.

Of course, he was talking about himself. Gross, no thank you.

That was when I met Marcus. Wonderful, intelligent, and understanding Marcus. I met him during a live stream of his and his partner, Felix’s webcomic. I started out as a fangirl of their webcomic Spectre, (NSFW) but somehow ended up becoming fast friends with both of them. (In fact, Felix is the one doing the artwork for my novel in progress, The Daffodil Witch!)

Marcus was the first one to mention the term asexual to me. I was twenty-five, and my entire world changed in that moment. He sent me links and recommended books, articles, and even a documentary. Since pre-pubescence, I had been trying desperately to understand my sexuality, my cool feelings toward sex and dating in general. Now, suddenly, I had found a word that described me. That described me exactly.

I will never forget the relief that came with that label, to be able to put a label on it and understand it.

Friends made fun of it, of course. Asexuals are still often mocked, dismissed and swept under the carpet. We are accused of being broken, or sex-traumatized. We are made to feel inadequate and unwelcome. Not by everyone, but by many. I faced mocking–jokes about how plants and bacteria are asexual, not people. When people realized I wasn’t laughing at those jokes, they stopped making them.

I decided to take pride in my identity. I put a banner up on facebook, I wore pins, I explained it to people openly and with confidence. It helped a lot, and my friends fell in line and accepted it, accepted me. Many of them never questioned it–some came to me in earnest looking for advice because they had never heard the term themselves, and found themselves identifying with it.

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I figured out quickly after that that not only am I asexual. I have no desire to be with someone, physically or otherwise. I love my single status–I am comfortable with it and enjoy it. I hate dating. I hate the pressure of dating, even when sex wasn’t a factor. (I had one boyfriend who I dated for a year and he understood and accepted my aversion to sex, but in the end, it didn’t work out due to complicated circumstances.)

My parents have accepted it, too. My parents have always been totally open and accepting of my identity, even as it changed. I mentioned my mom’s “It’s okay to like girls” talk, but I haven’t mentioned my father’s support. To give you a small taste of it, here is a screenshot from my author page of a story I shared on May 17th:

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Photo by Marilyn Humphries

Once, when my father was helping me move into a new apartment, I remember him looking at my twin-sized bed and saying:

Kate, you need to get a queen or something. What if you have a guy over?

I laughed and informed him that he would be sleeping on the couch like any other overnight guest. Still, he ended up being right–I needed a queen. Not for a lover, but for my cats. Do you have ANY idea how much space cats take up in a bed?? If you’re a cat owner, you definitely know!

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Anyways, my life has been so much better ever since I came to understand my identity. I always knew I was somewhere in the Queer spectrum, but never knew quite where. Now, I know. Of course, I still get comments almost EVERY day from people–almost always men. They ask me out or make some kind of comment and I will explain that I’m not interested, that I’m ace. It never fails, I always get some form of:

I bet if you let me f*ck you, you’d start to like it.

YUP. That happens. A few times a week. It will probably always happen, and every time I make sure to react with disgust to make sure they understand that I’m not amused. Still, it doesn’t matter how many times I get gross comments like this–I am totally and utterly content with my status as asexual, and to anyone else out there who is struggling with their own identity, if you are reading this, I hope it somehow helps you! Never let anyone else make you feel inadequate or broken.

If you are feeling depressed, scared, alone, rejected, inadequate, etc–GET HELP. Ask a friend, ask a family member, ask online, seek professional help. Anywhere you can get it, you are not alone!

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Helpful Links and Phone Numbers:

Asexuality Archive

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone Number: 1-800-273-8255
Live Chat Link

LGBT Youth Resources

 

“I lost my will to write.” How this author bounced back and became an award winner

An amazing write-up on me and my story by Timothy Pike of ChapterBuzz.com!

What Inspires Your Writing?

Writers Who Are Making It Happen: Kaitlyn Abdou

Welcome to the first installment of Writers Who Are Making It Happen, where I feature writers who, quite frankly, don’t mess around. These determined novelists aren’t just talking the talk, they’re walking the walk. Anyone can say, “I want to write a novel,” but it takes a certain kind of writer to actually do it. These brave souls are telling fear and self-doubt where to go, receiving valuable feedback on ChapterBuzz, and steadily venturing into the exciting world of writing success. Becoming a published author requires commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm. These are the writers who are making it happen!

(Want to make it happen for yourself? Join us in the Better Writers Club.)

Award-winning author Kaitlyn Abdou This is quite a promising year for Kaitlyn Abdou and the fantasy novel she’s currently in the throes of writing, The Daffodil Witch.

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