What if I’m Not Good Enough: Challenges of Writing

As I take a break from the production piece of Triangle: Book Two of the Azellian Affairs, I find myself reflecting a bit on writing. One aspiring writer I met recently worried that she couldn’t write stories as good as the ones she was reading. I, too, still face this concern. With every new book it pokes at me—I’ve just gotten better at facing it, because fear doesn’t change my behavior any more. 

I’ve read everything from well written stories to horrible ones (and I’ve penned my share of both). Now, thanks to a wonderful book club I visited this week, I’ve experienced my book from a reader’s perspective. The one thing that impacted me the most is that I didn’t write the book the readers are enjoying—at least not entirely. I did write a different book, that I handed to my editor, who then contributed her perspective, asked questions and teased out what I was really saying. Between the two of us, we created Alawahea: Book One of the Azellian Affairs that readers are experiencing.

We, as writers, are far too close to our story. We add elements that make sense to us who have the backstory in our heads, but is not clear to a reader who doesn’t live in our minds. A good editor catches that, helps smooth it out. Or, maybe our story has contradictory elements. The editor catches that, too. When you read, do you love the way a scene is worded? Chances are, the editor had a say in that. The author is involved, yes, but the editor often catches when a word is being used too often, or if a different phrase will suit better. Is the perspective consistent? Does the character behave in a manner that makes sense to their development? All of that is in the provenance of the editor and yes, my editor helped me with every one of these issues for Alawahea and especially for Triangle. 

For everyone who feels a story inside: write it down. Whatever lives in your heart, put it on paper (or the computer, or whatever medium you use). So what if it’s a mess and doesn’t make sense? My stories don’t always make sense at first, either, until they go through intensive editing. Start with an outline, paragraphs, scene sketches, or a full story. Then you can decide whether or not to step into the editing process, or if simply writing it down was enough. 

Whether or not your story ever reaches an audience or undergoes the rigors of editing, facing fear and treating yourself with compassion in the midst of it will set you free in ways you can’t imagine now. All of the people we see flying free started here—facing fear. They just learned how to face it and move on anyway, and that’s something ALL of us can learn to do. 

What happens when we get to the end of our well maintained trails? We’ll see: and that's the most exciting part of all! 

The Other Side of the Rainbow: Book 2 Update!

It’s been a while since my last post—but the good news is, editing is finally done on book 2! It officially has a title, too, and is going to be called Triangle: Book Two of the Azellian Affairs. Within the next month or so, we will be moving from editing to production, which means we should see a finalized book in the next few months—maybe even before summer! 

So everyone who is waiting—your patience will be rewarded soon!  

It wasn’t only Triangle that got entirely re-written in this round of editing, my entire writing process has been completely turned on its head. I have learned that pre-writing stories is impossible. My editor has such an important contribution that I literally can’t write the next book until we are done with the one we are working on. Each story seeds the next—and even though I’ve written nine stories in this series over the years, the changes we made on Triangle not only change Triangle, they change everything I’ve written on the seven other books currently in the queue. Like the planet Pluto, which went from planet to dwarf planet, my already written stories devolved from complete stories to story “seeds”. 

After my initial discouragement, I came to realize that this shift actually is a place of incredible freedom. Yes, it looks like I have to start over, but instead, what happens is that I get to play in a brand new space with these characters and they get to surprise me in new and fascinating ways. They, and the stories, are coming alive in a way that I never expected when I first began the journey to publication so long ago. And somehow, this change in my process, where I write a new story while finishing up the editing on the other one, adds a dynamic excitement to the story arc that I haven’t felt in a long time. These stories are morphing and what is being born is something I don’t know, either—this is a very exciting place to be. 

Somewhere in the middle of all the editing on Triangle, I got book 3 (which is not yet named) written and am now in the pre-editing process, which involves my going through and tweaking scenes. Rough draft to finished copy is yet another part of my process that has changed dramatically. I know that the editor will be changing the story, teasing out the elements I might not even consciously see, which will seed more stories going forward, so my attachment to what I am writing is far less concrete than it used to be. What is the lesson in all of this? Everything changes, and change itself is beautiful. 

For everyone waiting: Book 3 is now officially on my editor’s queue for later this year, so hopefully we’ll get book 3 into editing more quickly than was the case with Triangle. Fingers crossed that we’ll have book 3 out in 2019! 

In the interim, in 2018 Triangle will be the treasure at the bottom of that ephemeral rainbow and the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!

Over the rainbow

Climbing Another Mountain: The Journey of Writing a Sequel

It’s been months since my last blog post, as I have been completely and totally buried in editing my second novel. When I began this journey to publication years ago, I had thought the biggest mountain to climb was getting published in the first place. While, yes, that was a challenge requiring courage and support, little did I know that the process of editing a sequel was going to be quite so vigorous. Not only do I have to make sure characters are consistent and follow through logically and realistically, I also have to make sure all the changes my editor and I made editing the first book, Alawahea, flow through to the sequel. Since I originally wrote book 2 over fifteen years ago, the process of editing book 2 became something more of an undertaking than I expected. The story I wrote fifteen years ago dissolved, became something totally different, and that journey was an even bigger surprise than the original path to publication.

I am in awe—again!—of the synergy between editor and author. Until my editor stepped in and began asking questions, pointing at places where the story didn’t flow right, I literally could not see that the story even needed to BE updated. At the outset, I had thought book 1 flowed beautifully into book 2 and there would be very few changes that had to be made. It makes me laugh now—that self-created blindness that we all have experienced at one point or another when it comes to our own lives. When I finally realized how utterly and completely off-kilter book 2 was from book 1, and that the editing process would be so thorough that it ripped up the entire book, it led to frustration, anger and even a few tears—and then to acceptance, freedom and the birth of a totally new story. Who I was fifteen years ago (the “I” that wrote the original story) has utterly changed, so why wouldn’t the story? We don’t stay in one place, and neither does what we create.     

Book 2 required something beyond mere editing changes: it required a complete and total re-write. Characters were removed and scenes added, old storylines retired, new ones appeared, and out of the ashes of the old, a phoenix has risen. The true shape of book 2 is being slowly revealed to me, along with a deeper and stronger understanding of the characters whose lives are playing out on the page. It has been the most frustrating, challenging and yet fulfilling process I have ever experienced in my life, filled with all the tears—both sorrowful and joyous—of parenthood. Book 2 is growing up, and I’m humbled by what is being revealed. It feels somehow like I have had no say in it, even though my fingers are on the keyboard as the story flows through me. Will it resonate with audiences the way book 1 has? I don’t know—but I do know that the transformational experience of watching book 2 grow up and join its older sibling in the eyes of audiences will be a yet another journey of self-awareness and transcendental joy for me. Maybe even another mountain to climb. 

North Wall Denali in Denali National Park

Remembering the Editing Process -- Take Two

Much like childbirth, one forgets the pain—and utter joy—of any huge creative endeavor. I don’t know what other artists feel like, but it is a mix of emotions that face me as I get the first edit of Book 2 back from the editor and see what she has to say. Now I get to smooth out ALL those rough edges and begin to re-work the manuscript so it can be polished to a shine that brings out the best that it can be. The story I wrote gets a hair cut. Sometimes it’s quite dramatic and all the head gets shaved. Scenes come out, threads get re-woven. Other times, it’s a simple trim, a word adjusted here and there. 

It’s certainly the toughest part of the process. Writing a story, especially when the muse is talking, is easy. Re-writing it is quite different. Re-writing is a different skill set than writing, requiring a part of the brain to keep track of the large threads while coming up with brand new scenes that fit into the overall whole. It's not unlike editing. How does my editor do this on a regular basis? I have no idea, yet her input is so intensely invaluable and I am super grateful she does it. Something about the synergy between us brings out a magic I can’t even explain. I have re-written book 2 more than a few times, and edited it countless times, rearranging storylines and trying to smooth out edges. Yet, somehow, I can’t even perceive some of the trouble spots until she points them out. Her questions lead me down different roads and I see things I literally could not see before. It is a truly mutual creative endeavor that just amazes me.

But there is no question that it is difficult. This baby, who is being gestated, is asking for quite a bit of creative energy and time. This is where the hard work comes in. Writing a story is easy. Editing and re-writes? Not so much. But I wouldn’t give up any moment of this process. And best of all, at the end of the tunnel there are the continuing adventures of Tamara, Merran and Alarin, and a world in which I love to spend time! What’s next? Well, we’ll soon find out…

Fun First: Hiking in the snow

A few weeks ago, in the midst of one of its famous weather reversals, the Colorado Front Range experienced one of its common, but often dramatic, spring snowstorms. Twelve inches of wet, cold snow interrupted a steady string of 70 degree plus days. And I, being the insane, adopted Coloradan that I am, decided that taking a hike in the middle of it was a good idea. I’m not entirely crazy: I went with two others, who included my niece and father-in-law, on a populated, fairly low level trail (as trails in Denver go; this one was at about 6000 feet or so). I was also not the only one bit by the hike-in-a-snowstorm bug; the trail was surprisingly busy for the middle of snowstorm.

Dressed as I was in appropriate attire as well, the experience was much, much more pleasant than I thought it would be. There is something beautiful about being out in nature in the middle of a relatively “warm” snowstorm that is exhilarating, expansive and very loving toward my body. I handled it better than I thought I would. The three and half mile trail we walked was about perfect; not too hard, not too easy and I managed the distance (and vertical climb) better than I thought as well, considering it’s been a while since I last communed with the mountains. 

I’ve never been a winter sport person, although I have enjoyed snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on occasion. I also don't care for cold, but this spring storm was so much warmer than the frigid Arctic air that sometimes sweeps through the state in the depths of January and February, that it was actually pleasant. The gentle snowfall and still air reminded me of childhood winters spent in Maine, sugaring off under the shelter of the forest and playing on snowmobiles across miles and miles of trails that crisscross the state. The camaraderie of the trail is pleasant and cheerful, especially when everyone is happy to be outside, reminding us of a more carefree time. 

Hiking in a snowstorm was a first for me, a reminder of the carefree moments from my childhood. While I don't like cold, spring storms are actually fun. How many fun firsts have you experienced so far this year? 

Hiking in the Snow

Visit From a Bird of Prey

Last week, as I walked out of my house, I had a very powerful nature experience: a magnificent bird of prey hovering over a freshly killed rabbit. Dogs and I both froze in the doorway, my brain racing to figure out what I was looking at, the dogs frozen because that’s when they do when faced with something new. As my brain slowly realized what I was seeing was not multiple rabbits (a common sight in front of my house), but actually a very large bird standing over one very dead rabbit, I was rendered breathless for several reasons. One, birds of prey are huge! Two, it was a magnificent animal, and one rarely sees a big bird like that on the ground, much less three minutes after it has just downed its prey. The bird flew from the grass to the roof of my neighbor’s porch watching me (and my dogs) very carefully. The dogs and I beat a hasty retreat back into the house, and I told my husband just what was waiting out front. He popped his head out and managed to get some amazing pictures. Fortunately, he’s quicker on the draw than I am; the camera was the last thing on my mind. If it had been left up to me, this would have been a story about the one that got away with no visual evidence to remind me. 

Of course being who we are, we immediately started arguing about what gracious animal had chosen to reduce our rabbit population that fine morning. Was it an eagle? If so, golden eagle? Immature bald eagle? There is a nesting pair nearby, so that particular guess was not that ridiculously far fetched. Falcon? Hawk? Some alien creature none of us have ever seen before but happens to look like a bird? The guesses reached from plausible to the realms of silly—I am a science fiction romance writer, after all—before I decided that it didn’t matter what wonderful creature had visited us, but that I was grateful for its visit all the same. I have seen these birds around, but never that close. It was as incredible as the time I came around a corner on a hiking path and came face to face with a deer. Being face to face with nature: it does have a way of taking our breath away, doesn’t it? 

Yes, the dogs did get their walk—we went out the back door instead—leaving the bird to finish its meal in peace. 

Here is one of the pictures my husband took of the bird on the roof next door. What kind of bird do you think it was? 

Bird of Prey

The Fantastic Everyday: Cars and Empathy

This weekend, I got a chance to enjoy an annual ritual: attend the Denver Auto Show. Dealerships from all over the Denver metro area trot out their flashiest and best cars. You get to view, handle and sit in everything from a Ford Fusion to a Lamborghini. I didn’t realize I enjoyed nice cars until I had a boyfriend who was a motorhead, but once having discovered it, I learned that cars are fun. Helping my good friend, the talented and vivacious Alissa Tyler, with her TV show, Cars From a Woman’s Perspective, helped me further develop my interest in appreciating cars and their performance. For a peek at Alissa’s engaging storytelling abilities and love of cars, go to www.carsfromawomansperspective.com. She has played with some really fun cars and filmed the experience, some of which I've gotten to share with her. 

Wandering around the auto show, experiencing the full sensory interaction of so many cars in one place, always makes me aware that cars are such interesting symbols. They are partially beings in and of themselves—try sitting in a Rolls Royce, then sit in a Mazda Miata, one right after the other, and you’ll feel the distinct personality difference between the two—but they are also creations. Someone designed these cars, put heart and soul into them, and put them out there, to be enjoyed. In that way, it’s very similar to writing or art. The artist or writer taps into the well of creativity, designs something, then the audience closes the loop by experiencing it. 

I write about a melding of the everyday and the fantastic. About aliens with extra senses and abilities that are far beyond our own. Except I ask myself, are they? Are those extra senses really all that alien? Or is it really just the way we all experience the world? This weekend, I got a chance to play a little with my own extra senses—the empathic/sensory awareness of my life that allows me to tap into and play with the image a car projects, and helps me enjoy the sensory experience of sitting in a nice, brand-new car. And I realized: empathy and experience don’t have to be scary or overwhelming. They are fun.  

I certainly got to experience that enjoyment this weekend, sharing my mental space with some very friendly cars! 

Sara with Miata fever

New Beginnings: Here we go again!

Today is the start of new things: a beautiful new website and the beginning editing process on book 2 of the Azellian Affairs. I celebrate the new beginning, even as I approach the idea of editing Book 2 with a distinct feeling of nerves: yes, even having been through the editing process once before, with one published book under my belt, I feel nervous. Everything is in place: an editor and a cover designer who have won awards for the first book, a story that came from the same mysterious inner place as the first one, time carved out each day to write…everything has come together beautifully. 

As I write this blog, it is difficult to sit still. I want to jump up and down and startle my sleeping dogs awake, although I suspect I’d regret that plan of action pretty quickly. Maybe those nerves aren’t what I think they are. Maybe they’re something far different. Something far larger than just the story I’m writing at the moment is waiting to express itself through these stories. With nine stories written (and more in the hopper), I’m only just beginning to glimpse the bigger picture. That picture is not what I expected it to be when I started Alawahea so many years ago.

Book 2 is a very different being than Alawahea is. It’s got a big brother (or sister) to live up to, yet it has its own unique voice and flavor. Book 2 is about unexpected turns in the road. There are many of those…here’s to being able to roll through all the turns with grace and love. 

Editing Book 2

Diary of Merran Corina #5

Has your life ever changed suddenly and everything you thought you knew is different? Merran is about to embark on the life he will have in Alawahea:Book One of the Azellian Affairs: he is to become assistant to the Azellian Ambassador, a post that will change the entire course of his life.  

Merran Corina - about seven months after he first arrives on Earth

Finally got a chance to talk to the ambassador. He told me he’s had his eye on me for the past few months. He was impressed with how I’ve managed to work my way from waiter to manager in two months at the cafe. And that was without using my psi or my body. Mostly. Well, at least not on purpose.

My influence over human woman continues to grow. For some reason, they find me extremely attractive. It’s rather a mystery to me. I have to be very careful not to show them everything I can do, though. They are terrified of my mental abilities…just the suggestion that I might know more than they think I should know about what their likes or dislikes are, or echoing too much what they’re thinking…I have to be very, very careful not to reveal myself fully to them. I’m just glad I have no interest in a relationship. Keeping my partners rotating through and only for a few days at a time helps, but it’s been something of a challenge. There are women out there who would, consciously or unconsciously, attempt to trap me into legally linking myself to them. Pregnancy is apparently a popular way to create this kind of legal linking, which doesn’t make sense to me, but I’ve steered clear of a few women with thoughts like that. Apparently, the father is required to support his child on Earth, whether or not he had any say in the child’s conception.  Good thing I can prevent conception with or without the woman’s complicity in the matter. No way am I a going to ever be a father.

Oddly enough, it’s my…notoriety and popularity with human women that brought me to Saren’s attention. He has been watching me juggle humans on my own for the past three months and I’ve apparently impressed him. Assistant Ambassador. It feels like my life is on the cusp of a huge change. I wonder what’s next?

Want to find out more about Merran Corina and his experiences on Earth? Read an excerpt from Alawahea: Excerpt of Book 1

The Beginning

My first foray into writing occurred when I was a very young child, about 8 years old. I lived in a very rural area, up in the Northern part of Maine, 400 miles away from the nearest city of any size, which was Boston. I used to go outside at night and just look up at the night sky. It was absolutely gorgeous, too many stars to count. When you look at that many stars, your brain just boggles. It just looks like a mass of starlight. The stars always captured my imagination. I would look at the stars and wonder what planets there were surrounding them. Even as a young child, I didn’t even question that there were planets there, and probably other beings living on those planets. What were they like? What were some of the things they did? How were they different? How were they the same?

One particular heavenly body really fascinated me when I was growing up. Titan, which is a moon of Saturn. I would imagine this moon, which is one of the few moons in the solar system that has an atmosphere, and it completely mesmerized me. I didn’t know a lot about it, obviously, but it was just a jumping off point. I imagined what it would be like to live on another planet like Titan with a different colored sky. I imagined what it might be like to see something rise and set in that sky every day, whether it be another moon or a planet. I found all of that really fascinating.

When I was 8-years-old, most of my writing was very basic: “We went up the hill. We got a drink of water at the top of the hill and watched a beautiful planet rise.” Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of descriptors, or dialogue. The dialogue I did include was very basic, very simple. I would also draw pictures of what I thought the planet might look like. The creatures that lived there. The people that lived there. My drawing skills were also right on par with what an 8-year-old is capable of. Let’s just say, there were lots of stick people and stick creatures. Everything was beautiful, everything was something to be explored.

As I entered my teens, I continued to write, but moved away from Titan as a subject matter. Astronomy continued to be a fascination of mine, although I didn’t end up going into it because the math intimidated me. Explorations within astronomy absolutely captured me. I would read anything I could get my hands on by NASA, and took astronomy classes. I wanted to do anything I possibly could to learn more about planets that might exist out there.

Since, of course, it’s all based on what humanity knows, my lessons were mostly about the solar system. It was mostly our solar system that I was exploring, but it provided a jumping off point. As I got into my teens, I also started to write plays. For the most part, I would act out the plays that I wrote with my friends. We would actually go through and role play through the dialogue. I found plays to be too restrictive. There were so many details in my imagination that didn’t necessarily translate to a play, so I found myself gravitating toward a narrative style, rather than play writing. Those stories morphed and became Alawahea.

There were stories before Alawahea. There were many different characters. Whatever I happened to be reading at the time would definitely influence my writing style. There were times when I was reading thigs that weren’t really that great, so my writing followed suit.

When I got into college, I began to write the basic story of Alawahea. I told the story from my own viewpoint because my writing experience tells me, “start where you are.” When you start writing, start where you are. I wrote about a young girl who was in college and started to bring in elements of the fantastic when she encountered aliens. The questions I asked myself to drive the narrative were things like: How did meeting aliens impact her? What are some of the things she said? What are some of the things she imagined? How were the aliens different from her? How were they the same? I contrasted things by getting into the aliens heads and seeing things from their perspective. What did they think of humans? What was confusing to them? What things were the same?

All of that gave me room for the birth of a planet. It gave me the ability to create Azelle, which is the fictional planet that I’ve been able to tap into. The story just started jumping off the page. As I wrote the novel, I also wrote backstory and all kinds of things that built into the characters. All of the little details of their lives just started flowing through me. I currently have 8 stories and they came so easily. It all just started with a little girl’s fascination with the stars in the night sky, and developed into a whole other way of life that feels so very real to me.

Azellian Affairs: Dairy of Merran Corina #4

We all go through a period of time of searching for ourselves, for a direction, maybe even a purpose. Merran is seeking to find that piece of himself and a direction that will shape his life for years to come. But like many things in our lives, it doesn't come easily. 

Merran Corina - about four months after he first arrives on Earth

Applied for a job with the embassy. I’m told my chances of getting in at the embassy are zero to none, but if I want to stay on Earth, I have to get some kind of employment soon, or they’ll be shipping me back to Azelle.

Merran Corina - two weeks after he submits his job application

The embassy rejected my application. I’m not giving up. They say the ambassador spends hours a day at the human-run coffee shop around the corner, spending time with Azellians and humans alike. I’ll get to see him eventually…I managed to land a job at that coffee shop as a barista. It's a busy coffee shop, but that means I get to meet lots of humans. Such interesting lives they lead! So many differences...but some similarities, too.

It’s hard to believe, but I’m having more sex now than I did when I was with her. It's very weird to me, that human women find me so attractive. Is this the same Merran Corina who spent his whole life being hated for his caver roots? It is totally unreal. Surreal, perhaps, but also very pleasurable. And, by the aarya’s eyes, human women are something else! They have no shields, no way to hide what they’re feeling or thinking from me. Reading a human woman’s mind while I’m stimulating her body….We’ve always been taught humans are uptight, controlled and lack sexual appetite. That’s not been my experience. Even though they can’t link with me during sex, I can certainly read their physical sensations and it’s quite a rush. There is a sort of unrestrained, unflagging joy they have in who they are that I find quite stimulating. 

Sometimes it can be overwhelming and unpleasant, though. I never let my interactions go on for very long. It's better that way. Relationships based on a lie? Even I know better than that.

Want to find out more about Merran Corina and his experiences on Earth? Read an excerpt from Alawahea: Excerpt of Book 1

Azellian Affairs: Dairy of Merran Corina #3

Change comes to all our lives, taking us down roads we would never have expected. Sometimes, those side paths are dramatic enough to completely change our direction. In Merran’s case, he went from being a fairly typical young Azellian man briefly visiting Earth to becoming the youngest ambassador ever. He also accomplished something none before him ever had: human/Azellian cooperation and active collaboration. But, before finding that path, he lost himself for a time, wandering and creating a sexual legacy for himself that would continue to haunt him years later.

Merran Corina - about a month and a half after his arrival

She left me. Kaelynn left me. Says it’s because she’s not ready to settle down, that she came to Earth to get away from me and she didn’t expect me to follow her. They all know I am Liporinn and even my Corina blood can’t balance it out. The aarya damn them all. 

Humans have some very colorful language for times like this that I didn't learn in school. One of the women I went out with last night gave me quite a list, in between our other activities. Taught me quite a bit, too. Who would have thought humans could be as talented and innovative as the acolytes when it comes to sexual exploration? Women seem quite fascinated by the question of whether or not my resemblance to human males is from head to toe...Apparently I do resemble human males in all the particulars: the physical ones, anyway. The mental ones are another story. They don't know about those, and I'm not going to enlighten anyone.

Of course, no one seems to care that my mother was a Liporinn...they just seem quite enamored of my body and what I can do with it. I suppose I might as well distract myself for the moment.

Want to learn more about Merran Corina and his experiences on Earth? Read an excerpt from Alawahea: Excerpt of Book 1

Azellian Affairs: Diary of Merran Corina #2

We continue our view of Merran’s early life on Earth. Only twenty years old, just stepping into adulthood, Merran has followed his girlfriend from Azelle to Earth. He's exploring Earth with all of the enthusiasm of someone who has never been away from their home before. Excited about what is coming his way, he's learning as much as he can.   

Merran Corina—about a month after he first arrives

Kaelynn wants to talk tonight. I wonder what she wants to talk about? We’ve been together for a couple of years now, we moved to Earth together. Maybe she wants me to move in with her? Right now, we’re keeping separate domiciles. It seems silly to me to do that. I love her, she loves me. We could declare it publicly and live together. If she does, I’m ready for it. I’m so glad I met someone who doesn’t care what my mother’s family name was. I love her so much.

Humans have a concept of exclusivity, too. They have another name for it. I learned about it when I met my first human this week. She is married. Interesting concept, to spend one’s life legally obligated to someone else. Even the Raderths, who are pretty archaic in many of their practices with their families, don’t legally link themselves to their mates. Seems odd to do that.

There’s got to be a history of marriage on the internet. It’s really helpful that humans have computers and track their history so easily where anyone can access it. It doesn’t even require a trip to the Temple or a talk with the Keepers to get access to it. Maybe I’ll do some research. Humans are really rather fascinating beings. Such a rich, complex history. I’m so glad I came with Kaelynn to Earth.

Learn more about Merran Corina and his experiences on Earth. Read an excerpt from Alawahea here: Excerpt of Book 1

Azellian Affairs: Diary of Merran Corina

Merran Corina has always been one of the characters who speaks the most loudly to me. In early versions of Alawahea, he was meant to be a minor character, someone distant and uninvolved. That didn’t last very long. From early on, he sauntered onto the stage in my head and proceeded to take over. Who is Merran Corina? What makes him tick? Why does he act the way he does? I asked those questions of myself and of him, and I got the next several blog posts of “diary” entries: an intimate peek inside Merran Corina’s head.

Merran came to Earth as a young man, just out of acolyte training, wary, but still willing to hope for the best, before he learns that there is something beyond both hope and fear. 

Over the next several posts, we will be playing inside Merran’s head and getting a peek into the man we first meet in Alawahea: Book One of the Azellian Affairs. If you're meeting him for the first time, welcome! If you have already read Alawahea, have fun learning more about Merran...I certainly did! 

Merran Corina—one week after his first arrival on Earth, fifty years after the first Azellian embassy was established on Earth.

Interesting planet, Earth. Full of people who are so wide open. No barriers to their thoughts at all. It's like standing in the middle of a party of people talking and shouting at once....overwhelming and nothing more than noise, unless I stay shielded all the time. I don't know how other Corinas do it. I don't think a Healer, sensitive as they are, would ever survive here. If I hadn't had extra training from the aarya, I'd be a mess and heading home as fast as my feet could carry me. Even if it meant Kaelynn left me.

Speaking of Kaelynn, we had really great sex last night. I'm really glad both of us were acolytes. They taught us stuff that I'd really miss if she ever left me. I wonder if she thinks the same thing?   I mean, I might be Corina on my father's side, but my mother...I'm not going to think about that. Kaelynn isn't from a High Council family. She’s an acolyte, like me. Surely she doesn't care if I'm...never mind. She doesn't care.

Want to read more about Merran Corina and his experiences? Read an excerpt from Alawahea to learn moreExcerpt of Book 1

Star Wars: Being a Science Fiction Fan

As I come home from watching Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, I am reminded of the pleasure and fun I had as a teenager first watching Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Although I saw that movie first, before the first two, I had played with the action figures from the first two movies and knew the basic story line even before stepping into the movie theatre. Going to the movie with friends was as much fun as I’d had in my entire, rather reclusive, teen years. Seeing a movie three times in the movie theatre? Going to a movie with a crowd of other teenagers? That was a first for me…and well worth the trip, all three times.

Besides the fun mixing of old and new, the new movie reminded me of what a science fiction fan I actually am. I have always been a science fiction fan, but it has dimmed these past few years of focusing on other things instead of the realms of fantastical, possibility-stretching entertainment. Watching a masterful blend of science fiction and romance reminded me again why I write what I do. Star Wars has become so intertwined with our culture that it’s pretty much part of it. It certainly contributed heavily to my writing, along with other sci-fi classic writers like Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton. It melded drama, with a leavening of humor, and action, building characters we all got to know, then as children, played with endlessly. So much so, thirty odd years later, we bring our children to the newest release and reminisce with them over memories thirty years old.

Whether you like (or saw) Star Wars or didn’t, chances are you certainly are aware of the phenomenon of it. For those of us who did see it both when it originally came out, the re-releases, the re-boot (continuation) and now the re-re-boot of the franchise, it is a reminder that the innocence of childhood lurks not all that far behind our grown up lives. Stories that are driven by character, action and plot? Sign me up, please! After seeing Star Wars again, I am reminded that my fascination with science fiction and romance is ever growing and continues to this day. I get to play there now, in a different way, through my stories and my sharing of posts with fellow sci-fi readers, writers and fans and I remember how grateful I am to be a sci-fi geek who has allowed herself to play in this space. I get to write fun stories, too!  What could be better than that?

Get to participate in the look of an entire series!

Creating a look for a series has a whole different set of challenges and joys to recommend it. When I first started, I was looking for some symbolic and interesting art that suggested what was going on in the book. It’s taken me several months to realize that a series is a different set of thought processes than a single book and that having the input of other people is very important.

I’m beginning to launch the process of starting the second book and am taking a moment to review the first one and what I’ve learned so far. Where do I want to go with the series? What look do I want to create? What would be fun on the cover, giving hints about the story behind it, but also is eye-catching? I recently discovered 99 Designs, which runs a contest for designers all around the world to compete for a chance to design a cover. I’ve seen some beautiful artwork based on a short paragraph I gave them about the story…and they responded. And best of all, it’s led to some really great concepts for covers!

For the next four days, I’m going to be running a poll to help me decide the direction of the covers for my series. I want to know what you like! And of course, I’m showing the work of some very talented designers in the world of 99 Designs. Some of these designers have really floored me with their talent and insight—they all created these pictures from a description I wrote about the story. There are some really amazing artists listed here. Which is your favorite? 

The voting link is here:


Tell me what you think!

Top Five Reasons I love the Karen Chance Cassie Palmer Series

Karen Chance just recently released her newest novel in the Cassie Palmer series: Reap the Wind. I read the book and found myself re-reading the entire series (again). That’s the way the best books go: you read them over and over and they splash their magic every time. Yummy!

  1. Intricate, interesting plot line that goes in totally unexpected directions. I certainly have my preferences for where the story will go…and so far, it hasn’t. Yet the way it turns out is always perfect and leaves me wanting more. 
  2. A time travel story that links back to itself. There have been scenes with a later Cassie that have happened in the story (but occurred in earlier books with an earlier Cassie, just from a different perspective). I always try to dig up the one scene I’m looking for to see how it went the first time and compare…ebooks are great for that, although most of mine are now littered with bookmarks where I’ve earmarked a scene to go back to.
  3. Madcap action. These books are quickly paced, and MOVE through their plot lines. Yet they’re not simple plots. Some of them are downright…Machiavellian in their complexity and twists (worthy of the vampire society she creates in them). But they are delightfully entertaining as they do it. I can read them over and over and find something new every time.
  4. Wonderful, robust mythology. My favorite books always have what I call a “mythology,” a backstory that is rich and varied and delivers all kinds of surprises and discoveries. The more internally coherent they are, the better I like it. It’s challenging to write out a coherent culture and history. I’ve done it myself and have lots of admiration for those who manage it. Karen Chance does it beautifully.
  5. Funny, engaging humor. The books have a dry, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes silly sense of humor. Yet for all that they explore some very dark subjects (some pretty intense stuff happens), they aren’t dark. I love the goofy and the sarcastic characters and the rich depth of them all....even the ones intended as comic relief, since they perfectly balance the violence of the fight scenes.
  6. Pritkin. I have my preferred character and my favorite “romantic” lead. As I mention in item 1), I have no idea WHERE she is taking this character or his story arc, but I wait in breathless anticipation to see where it goes. 

Yes, there are only five reasons in the title, and I’ve added a sixth, but like the war mage Pritkin says, do the unexpected. It keeps you unpredictable, just like the Cassie Palmer stories themselves. Well worth the read! Even after the 101st time I’ve read them….

Here is a link to her site and a list of her books. I'm always looking for a new read, so if you know of any other quality authors with fun characters and a great storyline, please comment below!


The Cassie Palmer Series:

Touch the Dark

Claimed by Shadow

Embrace the Night

Curse the Dawn

Hunt the Moon

Tempt the Stars

Reap the Wind

A Thank You To Merry Dissonance Press

Although I am not technically self-published (I am working with an indie publisher), there is a certain power to publishing through the indie circuit that reminds me of the edgy, remarkable, very powerful movies that get made through the indie industry. My publisher, Merry Dissonance Press, has been a blessing and a huge help as I wandered into a brand new world, sometimes quite literally. I had to learn a new language, a new set of rules, an entirely new paradigm from which to function, and Donna Mazzitelli helped me do that. Step by step, as my book went from edited manuscript through to final product, Donna helped me navigate the steps to actually holding a copy of my book in my hand.

So much goes into the production of a book: cover art design, layout design, putting the book up into various e-book outlets (from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, all the way to Smashwords), making sure it looks good and is professional at every step of the way, and even registering it with the Library of Congress and getting an IBSN number. Even help with the book launch party and making sure I had all the supplies for that….I had no idea you even needed any of that to launch a book. No idea of the sheer work that goes into the background of getting a book out there. I have quite a bit more sympathy for the publishers of the world, and for the authors who self-publish. Diving into the world of publication, while it is very different than it used to be, can still be a bit bewildering to the novice. Merry Dissonance Press helped me face that challenge and really navigate it. I’m very excited for book 2 and where it will take us!

Merging Sci-Fi and Romance

I just had my first experience with being on a radio show being interviewed by someone. I really loved the experience! The interviewer, Briar Lee Mitchell, was supportive and helped me bring up some really neat information I never put into words before: how do you merge the romance and sci-fi genres? The answer gave me a sneak peek into my own psyche, which I love. I read quite a bit of classic science fiction and fantasy. When I was in my teens and early 20’s, I also had time to read novels that required you to learn a huge amount about another world before you could even begin to enjoy the story. That ability ended for me in my mid 20’s, after I graduated from college and entered the working world. Work and family slowly ate at my free time, and I no longer had the energy after a long work day to focus on a complex book for hours on end.

But as I continued to read and write, my stories evolved and my tastes slowly shifted. Growing up between two cultures myself (French and English), I witnessed the confusion and heart break that can come from cultural assumptions, and perhaps not surprisingly, that theme crept into the stories I was writing. Yet it was very important to me to keep a story simple, easy to read and enjoyable. While I did at one point adore complex stories that built incredible worlds, my brain filled up with the complexities of life and I stopped wanting to read about the complexities of other worlds.

How to balance the two? Bringing to life a culture, yet keeping it simple, believable and interesting as I spun a story? Enter romance, which I also read quite a bit of during my formative years. I didn’t need a complex plot, as I already had a complex situation playing out in the conflict and character interactions. Most romance novels are pretty simple: man meets woman, they fall in love and after some problems which they invariably resolve, they end up living happily ever after. How did that impact my writing? Move the story to Earth, pair the aliens with human characters people could relate to…and voila, I had a story that bridged the two genres.

Do my characters end up living happily ever after? Spoilers are never fun: I can say, though, while I do enjoy HEA’s (happily ever afters) and usually end up there, who said a book needs to end on it EVERY time? I’m playing between genres, after all, and science fiction encourages lots of series. Romance encourages HEA’s….merge the two and you get six more books currently written and just waiting for publication. Stay tuned and we’ll all learn more together!


10 Thing Readers Would be Surprised to Know About Me

  1. I avoided admitting I was a writer for a very long time. Everyone else in my life knew it except for me.
  2. I was an Anthropology and French major in college. No English degree for me
  3. I could never write short stories until about a year ago. Now I write them all the time.
  4. I did accounting and tax prep for seventeen years before deciding that I was going to follow my passion, which is writing. Some of you who already know me know this, because they met me when I had my accounting hat on, but there will come a day that this will be news, because I have left all that behind.
  5. Before taking up accounting and tax prep, I worked as a financial aid counselor for my alma mater for five years.
  6. I spent 5 months in France in college. I was nearly fluent, but let it go to focus on writing English. I’d love to pick it up again, though. Immersion is the way to go!
  7. I’ve read more French literature books than I have English literature. While my high school peers were reading English lit classics, I was taking creative writing.
  8. I have never read or seen Game of Thrones. Okay, that’s a lie. I saw one episode. As popular as it is, it requires too much effort to get into the storyline. Yes, I am a lazy reader/TV watcher.
  9. I don’t like cold winters. Which made growing up in a place that has worse winters than coastal Alaska problematic.
  10. I love hiking. I love the outdoors and spending time in it. Especially after I moved to Colorado, where it is sunny most of the time and amazingly biting-bug free. Sshhh, that’s a secret we who live in Colorado don’t want to get out. Unfortunately, I think it’s already too late as Denver has quadrupled in size since I first moved here.