Tag Archives: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Vampires and Magic: Your World’s Rules

I’ve given a lot of thought lately to the way different worlds have different rules for things that don’t exist in our reality. I talked about this awhile ago when I did my posts on magic and how to make your own rules. The basic idea is that if you’re writing about things that don’t have established rules in the real world, you can make up any rules you like, as long as you’re consistent and your world makes sense. That’s why you can have wizards in the Harry Potter universe who need wands to cast their spells, and wizards in the Harry Dresden universe who use magic circles to contain the energies of their spells. Each rule system is different, and they contradict each other at points, but it works as long as you make it believable within the context of your own novels.

Since I started reading an Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novel, I’ve been thinking about how this concept applies to the well-known and sometimes overused genre of vampire stories. There’s a million ways to depict vampires, from the classic evil nobleman to the dark suave seducer to the suffering anti-hero to the deformed monster that preys on humans like a feral beast. And within all of these variations, the rules always change. Consider the usual vampire strengths and weaknesses:

Sunlight: Vampires are either weakened by it (Bram Stoker), instantly killed (Dungeons & Dragons), set on fire (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), slowly cooked (True Blood), or . . . well, we won’t talk about the other possibilities.

Holy water and crosses: Vampires are either repelled by them (D&D), physically hurt by touching them (Buffy), or unaffected by them at all (True Blood).

Silver: Some stories never mention silver at all, and sometimes it harms, weakens, or debilitates vampires. People are never quite sure.

Turning into a vampire: Sometimes you just get bitten and become a vampire, sometimes they need to feed you their own blood. Sometimes the vampire that made you can control you, sometimes you’re on your own.

Then there’s garlic, mirrors, whether or not they can enter a home uninvited, and plenty of other variables. No two vampire stories ever depict a vampire quite the same way, and yet the reader or viewer accepts the rules as they’re presented to them. If you’re reading a book where the author says inviting a vampire into your home makes them immune to crosses and garlic, then you accept that. If you’re reading one that says a vampire can force its way into a bachelor’s apartment but not a family home (because there’s more strong positive energy from a loving family), you accept it. The important thing is that the writer is consistent within their own rules and that everything makes sense.

Which makes me curious about other classics that can be modified and updated with new rules. There’s already plenty of examples. Maybe your werewolf built up an immunity to silver (like with iocane powder). Maybe Dr. Frankenstein the Third made his monster out of parts from aliens that crash landed at Area 51. Maybe trolls get more powerful the bigger their bridge is, so the Troll of the Golden Gate Bridge becomes an unstoppable beast. You never know.

I like it when writers keep things interesting. I like to see unique rules. And it’s always fun when something unexpected pops up and it really makes me think.

mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook


New Year, Three Weeks Late

If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed an extreme lack of blog posts lately. I blame a combination of depression, unemployment, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (not necessarily in that order).

Today is the first day of the new semester at Rowan University. The last semester before I get my master’s degree. After a month off, I really need to be back in school. I find I don’t do well without some sort of schedule or routine to keep me in check. The result is lots of lazing around, playing video games, and not doing any work on my revisions. Feel free to berate me about that last one in order to get me back on track.

It also leads to quite a few days where I say “I should write a blog post today,” then I end up not writing one. Mostly because it’s hard to find inspiration in a bag of Doritos and a Final Fantasy marathon. Those things are, however, chock full of calories and ennui.

On an up note, I’ve been talking to several people this past week who told me they finished Manifestation. Tock seems to be a fan favorite. I suppose that’s what happens when I take a cross between Kaylee and Agatha Heterodyne and give her flashy magic powers and a bad attitude. She’s quite neat.

I suppose that about covers what I’ve been up to. Hopefully today will be the real start of the new year for me. Though I do still have a princess to track down in FFIX, so I may be otherwise occupied.

Research: What Counts as a Source?

I’m enrolled in Rowan University’s Master’s in Writing graduate program. I’m currently working on my master’s thesis project, a project which represents the bulk of my final year’s work. The requirement of the thesis is a 30,000 word written work (or equivalent, as some students are pursuing research-heavy academic projects that will come in at lower word counts for the same amount of effort). The type of project is open-ended; some students are writing memoirs or nonfiction pieces, others are doing academic research, and others are writing novels. I’m using the thesis project to write the sixth book in the Arcana Revived series, following the stories of Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah, who made their debut appearances in my first novel, Manifestation.

Part of the thesis project, in addition to writing the novel itself, is creating an annotated bibliography of the sources that informed or inspired my work. In the case of a creative work of fiction, such as mine, this can include the works of fiction that inspired me or where I drew some of my ideas from.

But what counts as a “source” in this context? Well, the professor is pretty open minded about that. Our sources can include, among other things, books, movies, news articles, poetry, and in my case, webcomics and video games.

Some of my sources are, naturally, fiction novels:
Jordon, R. (1990-2013). The Wheel of Time. New York, NY: Tor.
Anthony, P. (1977-2014). The Xanth Series. New York, NY: Del Rey, Tor.
Hickman, L., Hickman, T., & Weis, M. (1984-2014). Dragonlance. New York, NY: Random House.
Roberts, R. (2014). Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m A Supervillain. Virginia: Curiosity Quills.
Boswell, H. (2012). Mythology. United States: Artemathene Books.

I listed the various novels that have influenced me in different ways. In some cases, they influenced the way I write about magic (The Wheel of Time, Xanth). In other cases, they influenced how I write about specific elements in my series such as steampunk-style inventions (Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m A Supervillain) or angels and demons (Mythology). Or even how I’m structuring the different novels and collections in my series (Dragonlance). I deliberately chose a wide variety of sources in order to show the various ways that my work has built off of what came before me.

Some books, naturally, aren’t going to be works of fiction:
Stein, S. (1995). Stein on Writing. London: St. Martin’s Press.

In this case, it’s a book on writing techniques that greatly informed the way my novel is written, from the character descriptions, to the dialogue, to the way the chapters are laid out. These variables are as big of an overall influence as any specific works of fiction that inspired me.

But what about a book that, well, isn’t exactly something you’d expect to see cited in a bibliography?:
Martin, J. & Rateliff, J. (Eds.). (2003). Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast.

That’s right. I’m citing the DMG, because it taught me a lot about world-building, from designing my cities to developing the politics and culture of my world. I also drew from concepts of the multiverse and various parallel dimensions, which are common D&D tropes. My characters explore some alternate dimensions where the laws of physics aren’t quite what you’d expect, and my designs of those dimensions were heavily influenced by the DMG.

And, of course, there’s another book that I drew heavily from:
God. (1400 B.C.). The Holy Bible. Moses (Ed.) Manuscripts written while children of Israel wandered the wilderness for forty years after the Exodus.

Yes, I’m serious and yes, that’s how I’m citing it in my bibliography. That’s correct APA format for citing a book edited by someone other than the author (Moses transcribing God’s words). And I’m quite serious about the importance of the bible in my writing. My main character, Gabby Palladino, is very religious. Over the course of the novels she’s struggled with falling prey to the seven deadly sins, she’s worried about the state of her immortal soul, and she’s sought guidance frequently through prayer. And from her own persona guardian angel.

But what about sources that aren’t actually books?:
Foglio, K. & Foglio, P. (2000-2014). Girl Genius. Retrieved from http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

Girl Genius is a webcomic that heavily influenced my other main character, Tock Zipporah. Many of her personality traits as a mad scientist/inventor are based on Agatha Heterodyne, protagonist of the Girl Genius series. Without reading that series, Tock wouldn’t be who she is today.

Then, of course, there’s movies and TV shows:
Johnson, M., Steuer, P., & Adamson, A. (2005). The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. United States: Walt Disney Pictures, Walden Media.
Whedon, J., Greenwalt, D., Noxon, M., Kuzui, F., & Kuzui, K. (1997-2003). Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Television series]. Los Angeles: 20th Century Fox.
Kring, T., Hammer, D., Arkush, A., & Beeman, G. (2006-2010). Heroes [Television series]. Philadelphia, New York: NBC Universal Television Distribution.
Todd, J., Todd, S., & Nolan, C. (2000). Memento [Motion picture]. United States: Summit Entertainment.

I drew different types of inspiration from these different shows and movies. Memento is a heavy inspiration for my newest major character, Jaden Farrell, who suffers from severe memory problems. The Chronicles of Narnia influenced Gabby Palladino, who, as you can see here, is modeled after Susan Pevensie, played by Anna Popplewell. And Buffy and Heroes influenced me as works with superheroes and supernatural forces fighting in grand struggles for the fate of the world.

One last source, of course, might be the one that stands out the most:
Sakaguchi, H., Kitase, Y. & Ito, H. (1994). Final Fantasy VI [Super Nintendo game]. United States: Square Enix.

Yes, I’m citing Final Fantasy in the bibliography for my master’s thesis project. I’ve mentioned the influence Final Fantasy has on my writing before, starting with the concept of magic returning to a world that had lost it. Some of the Final Fantasy summoned monsters, like Shiva, Leviathan, Quetzalcoatl, and Titan, also influenced the types of monsters that appear in my later books. In fact, this video game was probably the most important and influential source of all, more than any of the books I’m citing.

It just goes to show that inspiration can come in a variety of forms. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t draw on unorthodox sources in your research. What you find might just surprise you.

mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Religion in Fiction

There can be a lot of complications that arise when you work religion into a piece of fiction. You might risk offending people, you might get the details wrong and misrepresent a faith, or you might simply be uncomfortable addressing something that can be such a sensitive topic. There’s a few different ways to address these issues, depending on your genre and the role that religion plays in your story.

Fictionalizing the Faith

Christian FictionFictionalized religion can take on a couple of different forms. A simple example would be creating characters in your novel who are priests, nuns, churchgoers, or anyone else involved in religion in some way. Your fictional priest might be “believable” as a priest, but he’s never going to be 100% like any real-life priest, even if you are inspired by some people you know. Even your fictional “West Podunk Baptist Church” won’t be quite the same as any church in the real world. This can give you a certain amount of leeway, since if your priest has a love affair with an teenage girl, solves murders, crimes, and mysteries, or gets drunk and hangs out with bandits, people won’t necessarily think you’re saying all priests act like that.

But sometimes you need to get a little deeper into questions of faith and spirituality. Sometimes, going into those questions is the whole point. So how do you address those questions?

One strategy can be to draw references directly from the Bible. It can be easy enough to find a Bible passage that relates to whatever it is you’re writing about, even gangsters committing brutal murder (and then having a spiritual awakening and deciding to wander the Earth). Using direct biblical quotes can be an effective way to keep your writing grounded in real-life religion, while understanding that the characters and their actions are still dependent on their personal interpretation of the Bible. In other words, no one who watches Pulp Fiction would claim that the passage Jules quotes is actually meant to condone murder; they just see it as the way Jules himself acts with regard to religion. You can also take this fictionalization a step further by making up your own Bible quotes–the passage Jules quotes in the scenes linked above is actually part real quote, part fiction.

If you want to stay away from actual Bible verses, you can also speak more generally about spirituality, sin, and the religious questions surrounding them. In my novel, Manifestation, the subject of religion comes up a number of times. One example is the question of whether something you did counts as a sin, if you didn’t mean for it to happen. Then there’s the question of whether God actually punishes the wicked like He did in so many old biblical stories. And one of my favorite scenes involves the question of how to find your soul. This scene comes right after Tock asked the question “How do I feel my soul?”:

Father Donovan tapped his fingers against his lip for a moment, studying her. “All right,” he said, taking a deep breath. “When you put it that way, I think I understand what you’re getting at. Let me answer your question by asking you this . . . have you ever loved someone?”

Tock frowned, her face scrunched up as she stared at the priest. “Like, a boy?” she asked.

Father Donovan smirked, then shrugged. “A boy,” he said, “a family member. Your parents. Anyone.”

For a moment, Tock thought about Frankie Palladino. She didn’t know quite what was going on between her and that boy, though she didn’t think it was love. Not yet. Feelings, to be sure. Something more than the physical acts they’d shared. But not love. She could only think of one person she’d ever loved in her life. “My granddad,” she said, her voice a soft whisper.

“And how can you explain that feeling?” Father Donovan asked her. “How do you ‘find’ it, as you put it? How do you ‘use it when you need it’?”

Tock frowned, thinking it over. Thinking about her granddad made her chest hurt. It had been . . . seven months? Eight? Yet the loss was still so fresh. Her fingers gripped the edge of her blanket, and she wanted to wake up Minty so that he could hug her.

She didn’t notice when a tear fell from her eye. “What you’re feeling right now?” Father Donovan said, speaking in a soft, calm tone. “That comes from your soul.”

Manifestation, Chapter 30: Soul

There’s no direct biblical quotes in that passage. There’s no real connection to a certain religion (and, in fact, I never specify which church or denomination Father Donovan belongs to). But it addresses religious questions in a way that relates to the characters and their goals and desires.

But what if you want to take the fictionalization a step further? In that case, you might decide to just make up your own religion.

Fictional Religions

Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/368479473?view_mode=2
Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/368479473?view_mode=2

A common trope in fantasy novels is to invent whole new worlds with unique sets of gods. This is seen most commonly in Dungeons & Dragons, and in D&D-based books, like Dragonlance.

A completely fictional religion gives you a lot more freedom. You can create your Gods from scratch and decide on their personalities (Are they kind? Vengeful? Nurturing? Scholarly? Warlike?). You can develop wars between different religious groups without risking offending any real-life people who feel like their religion is being mis-portrayed. And you can develop entire histories for these religions in order to tie them in with the plot you’re developing.

Completely fictional gods are most commonly seen in stories that don’t take place on Earth, but there are exceptions. A great example is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where many episodes dealt with villains who worshiped one demonic god or another. The fifth season even had a goddess as the main villain, and there was a triad of demon-gods working behind the scenes throughout most of the spinoff series, Angel.

Then there’s alien religions seen in various Star Trek series. The most well-known is probably the Bajoran people on Deep Space Nine, who worship a group of deities known as The Prophets. To the more scientifically-minded members of the crew, The Prophets are nothing more than aliens who happen to exist in a sort of parallel dimension outside the normal flow of time. Thus, their ability to send the Bajorans messages about the future is less “religious prophecy,” more “time travel.” But the series blurs these lines a number of times during its seven-year run, especially since Captain Sisko is seen as a religious figure, known as the Emissary, because The Prophets speak to him.

There’s probably other ways to address the use of religion in fiction, but these are certainly some of the most common that I’ve seen. If you know of other examples that use a different strategy, please feel free to share them!

mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Magic Dance

Writing about magic kisses the other day made me think of another common trope: the Magic Dance.

Of course, the magic dance isn’t just a song from Labyrinth. Dancing (and we’ll throw singing in there, just for fun) is often used in various magic rituals or spells in movies, books, and other mediums. Though, depending on the genre, there can be some gray areas between dances that are actually magical, those that are purely ritualistic, and those that are somewhere in between.

Let’s look at a few examples of magic dances in different mediums.

This dance is knowing as a “sending,” and it’s an important plot point in Final Fantasy X. It’s a ritual that’s used to release the souls of the dead and send them on their way to the “Farplane” (the afterlife). According to the game lore, without the sending ritual, the souls of the dead might remain behind, angry and confused after their deaths. This, of course, results in the person becoming undead. Though the game takes a unique angle on it, since the “unsent” aren’t zombies, vampires, or any other traditional type of undead. Instead of staking them through the heart or shooting them in the head, the only way to defeat them is to perform this magic dance.

The Final Fantasy series has several other types of magic dances. These include the Songstress in Final Fantasy X-2, who can use songs and dances to blind enemies, mute them, or put them to sleep; Mog in Final Fantasy VI, who can use dances to summon the elements and attack enemies with magic fire, sandstorms, blizzards, and so on; and the Dancer class in Final Fantasy Tactics, who can disable, slow, and damage enemies with their magic dances.

Next, let’s look at a commonly-known type of magic dance from real life: Rain Dances.

Many people are probably only familiar with rain dances from movies and television. Many of the portrayals are likely to be inaccurate, especially those seen in cartoons. Though there are still places where the ritual is performed to this day, and you can read up on the specifics of the ritual on websites like Indians.org.

The basics of a rain dance involve a group of people, garbed in ritualistic clothing, performing an intricate dance that was said to bring forth rain for the entire season. According to the article linked above, it was more commonly performed in dry and arid regions, which certainly makes sense, since those areas would have a greater need.

Despite this, most people would probably argue that the rain dance ritual is nothing more than a superstition, and that it doesn’t actually bring the rain. However, even if you don’t believe in the literal magic of the ritual, it still has important cultural significance. It’s a ritual that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries and is still performed today by the descendants of those who performed it ages ago. It’s that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

These first two examples cover fictional dances that can be used to summon magical effects as well as real life rituals that some believe to have a supernatural effect. But I’d like to discuss one more type of magic dance: A magical spell that makes people dance.

This is essentially the opposite of the first two examples. In the earlier examples, the dances themselves were used to create some sort of magical effect. But in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Once More With Feeling,” it’s a magic spell that creates the dance. It’s basically a form of mind control, which forces people to break out into song and dance at the bidding of a demon in a leisure suit (and as he explains, they burst into fire if the magical energies from the song and dance go on for too long).

Of course, Buffy isn’t the only time there’s ever been a magic effect that makes people dance. There’s a spell in Dungeons and Dragons called “Otto’s Irresistible Dance,” which, as the name says, makes a character dance irresistibly (which makes it hard for them to continue fighting a battle). There have also been some TV shows and movies where a villain takes control of someone’s body with mind control or “puppeteering” powers and forces them to dance (possibly fulfilling a romantic fantasy for the puppeteer). Or you could have something like what happens in the movie Beetlejuice, where ghosts possess people as part of a haunting and force them to sing and dance in an attempt to scare them (it doesn’t work out the way they planned).

There’s sure to be plenty of other examples of magical dancing in various forms of media, but these have always been some of the most memorable to me. So if you’re ever in the need of a little magic, remember these examples, and dance . . . like there’s no one watching.

mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

My Arcane Apocalyptic Writing Process

So a crazy lady with unique ideological views, aka Charlotte Ashlock, the “Crazy Idealist,” has asked me to discuss my writing process, my reasons behind my work, and the various things that make my writing unique. She wrote a similar post about her own work, or as she put it, “Her Crazy Idealism at Work.” It was an interesting read, so I definitely recommend checking it out.

(I was also apparently tagged for this by The Great and Terrible Evey about two months ago, and she never actually, y’know, TOLD me she tagged me.)

Those of you who regularly visit my blog may already know some of these details, but others may not. So I’m going to mix things up a bit and try to keep things interesting.

What am I working on?

Arcana Revived is an urban fantasy series set in a fictional modern day world. The story follows two main characters (and a diverse supporting cast) on different paths as they experience the return of magic to the world after it’s been gone for centuries and is now considered nothing more than myth and legend.

Gabby Palladino begins the story as an ordinary teenage girl, struggling with the usual issues of her place in life, her troubles in school, her sexual orientation, and an unwed pregnant older sister. Before the world begins to change, she is a poet and aspiring actress, living a relatively normal suburban life. Minerva “Tock” Zipporah, on the other hand, has recently recovered from an illness that left her in a coma for months. Her life is filled with chaos even before the world changes as she deals with poverty, an abusive father, and a volatile temper that causes her a lot of trouble. Both girls find their paths cross on a day when the entire world begins undergoing irrevocable changes that see the return of the fabled arcana, which grants magical abilities to some, while others are left trying to cope with things no one understands, and no one can control.

The in-progress series currently consists of five novels (one complete and soon to be released later this year, two that are finished first drafts awaiting revision, one in-progress draft, and one being outlined). There are also fourteen short stories set in the same world and timeline as the novels, but each telling its own standalone tale. You can read two of the short fiction pieces online: Crying and There’s No Such Thing As Monsters, hosted on Ravenheart Press, run by my friend Eve Jacob. I’ve also published one short story ebook, Radiance, and the others are planned for release in similar format after the first novel, Manifestation, comes out this year. In addition to the novels and short stories, I’m also working on a multigenre musical novella, Giapelli, written in the theme of a mix between a prose piece and a Broadway-style musical set aboard an 1850s steam-powered riverboat that is hijacked by bandits. It’s set in the same world as Arcana Revived and thus there are supernatural elements, but let’s just say the story doesn’t follow the expected format. The novella probably won’t be released until after some of the other pieces in the series, due to the complexity of putting together such a unique piece.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

While there are plenty of things that I think make my work unique, there are two main areas that I think are worth pointing out here. One is the way most modern fantasy stories address magic. Almost every story I see incorporating magic into a modern day world uses one of the following techniques: 1) Magic exists but is kept hidden away by a secret society or conspiracy (Harry Potter, Heroes, most vampire stories), 2) Magic is unique to certain individuals or “superheroes” but doesn’t exist elsewhere (think of most superhero movies where other than the main hero and the main villain, the rest of the world is normal), or 3) Magic exists everywhere and everyone knows about it (such as with the X-Men, where mutants are commonly known to exist in the world). While there are surely some exceptions, almost every book or movie I can think of with modern day magic falls into one of these categories. There can be crossovers, such as in the series True Blood where there WAS a conspiracy to keep it all hidden and THEN the conspiracy ended and the whole world knew vampires exist, but that still follows the basic formula.

My series doesn’t follow any of these formulas. There is no conspiracy, because I’ve always found it hard to believe that anyone could keep such things hidden and secret for so long (unless you have something like the flashy thing from Men in Black). There is no unique incident, lab accident, radioactive spider, mutation, or other effect that grants powers to just one or a small group of people while leaving everyone else untouched. The entire world is being changed, and figuring out how and why arcana is returning is an ongoing mystery throughout the novels.

The second main area I feel is different is that instead of avoiding the difficult questions of what happened to the world, I’m exploring them. “Post-Apocalyptic” is a common genre, but in almost every story I see in that genre, the apocalypse is merely a part of history. The Wheel of Time series had “the breaking of the world,” but it took place 3000 years ago. Similar ancient catastrophes are part of the back story of the Sword of Truth series of books, several Final Fantasy games, and movies like the Matrix and Wall-E, where (for very different reasons) civilization as we once knew it has collapsed. There are some movies where we see the disaster that brings about the collapse (Independence Day, Deep Impact), but we don’t see what happens after except to see that humanity survives and there’s hope for the future. Otherwise we enter the story years later after humanity has struggled for a long time to recover. Or then there’s the Resident Evil films, which skip over the main period of the zombie apocalypse between the second movie (where only one city was contaminated) and the third (where the whole world has collapsed).

What’s missing from all of these stories is what happens during the collapse. Humanity’s struggle to survive. The way the new governments and societies form. Instead of skipping from “before” to “after,” my goal is to show what happens “during” this period of struggle. I think that makes for a deeper and more unique story.

Why do I write what I do?

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King described how he came up for the idea for his first novel, Carrie. Pieces of it came from different bits of inspiration he’d had floating around in his head for awhile. One was based on his experience working as a high school janitor cleaning the girl’s locker room where he came up with an idea of teenage girls harassing one girl who’d just gotten her period. The other was based on an article about telekinesis developing in a girl during puberty. Then, as he put it, “POW! Two unrelated ideas, adolescent cruelty and telekinesis, came together, and I had an idea …”

My own ideas came from multiple different sources. Gabby, Tock, and some of the other major characters came from online collaborative writing and roleplaying groups I once wrote with. I developed them in separate, unconnected story arcs, then eventually decided it would interesting to put them together in a new setting and see what happened.

Gabby was partially inspired by Susan Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia, along with ideas I first developed for a couple of my old Dungeons and Dragons characters. Tock was partially inspired by the trio of nerd supervillains, Warren, Johnathan, and Andrew, from Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, along with the MagiTek enemies in Final Fantasy 6, and Agatha Heterodyne from the webcomic Girl Genius. Much of the chaos that develops in the course of my books comes from taking these drastically different characters from diverse sources of inspiration, setting them loose, and watching the consequences of their actions unfold.

It’s also fair to say that I’ve been heavily influenced by many fantasy and sci fi books and movies. I’d say my series is far more fantasy than sci fi, but there are sci fi elements when I get into some of the magitech stuff that Tock gets up to.

How does my writing process work?

I’m a Pantser, not a Plotter. My process goes something like this:

Each “point of view character” in my series (characters who have parts of the story told from their perspective rather than being on the sidelines of another character’s story) has certain goals they want to accomplish, and I have goals in how I want to develop them. To avoid spoilers I won’t go into some of them, but the goals can vary from simple to complex. There may be an immediate goal like “survive the current catastrophe,” a developmental goal like “learn how to control their arcana” or “teach Gabby how to use a bow and arrow,” or relationship goals like “get to their first kiss.” Once I set a certain goal, I then put obstacles in the way (dangers that lower the chances of survival, complications in the arcana that need to be puzzled out, Gabby’s clumsiness with an unfamiliar weapon, or awkward interruptions that prevent the kiss). I then write until the complications are (eventually) overcome and the goal is accomplished. There are also overall plot goals for each book, and the book isn’t done until the complications are overcome and the goals are accomplished.

Sometimes, because I don’t do detailed outlines and plot out each scene, I find myself uncertain how to proceed towards a given goal. I usually address this in one of a few ways. Once simple technique is to assume that if I’m not sure what to do, the characters aren’t sure either, so I write them puzzling through their uncertainty until they decide what to do. This saves me from having to think of a solution because the characters do it for me. Other times I’ll have issues like “this event can’t happen until I get Gabby and Tock in the same city together,” so I focus on events that will lead them to the same place at the same time. In any case, I always have those goals in mind, and each scene is written to move the plot towards them.

So that’s all for now. I hope my writing process proved interesting. Next, you should go check out a few other people who have been instructed to write about their own processes. You can peruse their blogs for now, and if they comply with the instructions, they should have posts about their processes up soon.

Emmy Shine Emily Toynton, also known as Emmy Shine. She blogs. She’s deaf. And I want to kiss her face.




A K Anderson A. K. Anderson. I never remember what the A or the K stand for. She writes books and stuff, and also wrote this comic. But she didn’t draw the comic, the guy who drew this comic did. They’re both pretty cool.


Quip Slinger Quip Slinger. She may or may not also be known as “Cairn Rodriguez” (or not . . . possibly “Cairn Rodrigues”; the world may never know). She is a flower. She may or may not also have a face. Don’t ask.



April Deann April. She scrawls and scribbles. She is not, to the best of my knowledge, associated with any mutant turtles, ninja or otherwise.