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Denise D. Young

Stories of Magic & Moonlight

Changing Directions

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This week turned out to be a wonderfully productive week. I wrote 4,429 words in a new story, Bewitched by the Dragon, and wrote a 4,678-word short story, Upon the Witching Hour, a retelling of Cinderella (but with a twist). I also wrote and posted my first Insecure Writers Support Group post, and am finding IWSG to be a supportive community.

I paused a couple chapters into Bewitched by the Dragon, though, because something felt off. I felt like I was going in the wrong direction, and sometimes a couple days of distance and careful thought shows me where I went wrong, and I actually end up further ahead than I would’ve if I’d just charged through. It’s a big lesson I’ve learned on this path.

I realized that the problem was that the story itself is intended to be novella length, and for that to work the hero and heroine need to meet up in chapter one. As it was written, it took them several chapters to even meet—that’s several chapters where there’s no sexual tension, no romance developing. Plot-wise, that just doesn’t work.

Tonight the answer came to me. They need to meet up by the end of chapter one, and I figured out how to do that. There are still a ton of unanswered questions swirling around this story, involving character arcs and backstory and a host of other normal, first-draft issues. And I’m still torn between first and third person POV, as I mentioned in a previous post. But now that I’ve solved this first riddle, I can work on solving the others. Back to the page!

The next couple weeks I have two manuscript critiques to do, so those will be my main focus. I’d like to at least get the first three chapters of Bewitched by the Dragon rewritten, though. Later this month I can move forward with that. I still have to get to the next draft of Fates Entangled as well, but that probably won’t happen until June at the earliest.

What about you? Do you ever need to take a day or two away from a project for some brainstorming?

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#IWSG Post: Making Magic on the Page

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Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeI love being a fantasy writer. No matter how many stories I write, there’s always new terrain to explore. As a practicing Pagan, I also have the opportunity to weave threads of real magic into worlds of the fantastic.

One of the ways I do this is by incorporating the magic and symbolism of gemstones and plants into my stories. In Spellfire’s Kiss, for example, my characters cast a spell that uses five gemstones, four associated with each of the four elements (earth, water, fire, and air) and a fifth to symbolize spirit. In my Cabot Sisters series, the characters have a chalcedony pendant that symbolizes the water magic that runs in their family. In The Faerie Key, Lily uses black tourmaline, a crystal that’s said to have powerful protective qualities, in casting a protection spell.

Plants, including herbs and trees, also have elemental associations and magical or healing properties. Sage is dried and bundled and used for cleansing people’s auras and living spaces and for smudging magical tools such as athames and wands. Lavender has calming properties, and it’s an herb that I reference frequently in my stories. Willow trees are associated with poetry, oaks with royalty, and an ash tree is said to be Yggdrasil, the tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse mythology.

When it comes to magic, the possibilities are endless, and that’s why I know I’ll never get bored writing fantasy. There are always ways to incorporate the magic of the natural world into a fantasy story. By far the most interesting research I get to do for my stories involves magical symbolism. I research goddesses and gods, types of faeries and other magical creatures, symbolism of plants and stones, and so much more.

Being a fantasy writer allows me to draw from nature, my greatest inspiration, and to incorporate my Pagan faith into my work. A raven, messenger of Odin or the Morrighan. The songs of birds heralding the arrival of spring. The legend of a redcap or kelpie. The power of the goddess Brigid. Or simply the verdant green of summer leaves. This is the magic of my path—and the magic that can make a fantasy story shine.

Learn more about the Insecure Writers Support Group, visit fellow bloggers, or sign up here.

What about you? What’s the most interesting thing you get to research for your work?

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The Importance of Point of View

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As writers, we think a lot about point of view. Sometimes our genre dictates what POV we use, although even within a genre we can use our own creativity. Yasmine Galenorn writes paranormal romance that’s first person, unusual for the romance genre where third person is often used. YA often calls for first person, although third is also frequently employed.

I’m thinking about it this week for two reasons: one, I just started a new project, and two, I’m doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript. Both have me thinking about genre expectations when it comes to POV. I started writing my story in first-person, present tense, rarely used in romance, and while I love writing in that POV and tense (I love the immediacy of it), I also realized when I added in the hero’s perspective that it got a little confusing. I might write the first chapter in both third and first and then seek out an opinion on which one works better. Ultimately, it’s about making sure readers don’t feel confused or jarred by point of view shifts, and jumping from POV to POV in a first-person story can be difficult.

We shall see what happens. Have you ever faced this dilemma? How did you decide?

A brief check-in:

This week I wrote 3,356 words in a new story (title pending). It’s paranormal romance—and there’s a dragon. Last week I finished the fifth draft of Spellfire’s Kiss and sent it off to beta readers, and I put the finishing touches on a short story and submitted it to a magazine. I’m also in the process of doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript, so I’m trying to work my way through that story and give lots of feedback.

I’m currently reading Mugs and Monasteries by Cait O’Sullivan. It’s a short read, although a little confusing at times. I think it’s meant to be a little disorienting, but there were times where I felt like I’d missed something, only to realize that was just part of how the story was unfolding. Still, it’s a delightful journey into Ireland, and the characters drink lots of tea, so I can’t complain!

No major projects on the home front, just the usual tidying and baking and trying new recipes.

What have you been up to this week? I’d love to hear from you!

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Burning the Midnight Oil

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Last night I worked until 3 a.m. to finish my revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. The fifth draft is now in the hands of critique partners and awaits their feedback. Next up is revising my short story, The Forest’s Own, so I can start submitting that story to magazines.

As far as reading, last week I read Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, part of her Otherworld series, which I love. No surprise that I enjoyed this story as much as the others in the series. I’m continuing to read Little Women, which I set aside for a while, and I have a read-through of a friend’s romance manuscript to read as well, so most of my reading time will be dedicated to that.

On the home front, hubby and I took a car load of stuff to Goodwill, and I have four boxes of books that I’m donating to a library near my hometown. It’s a low-income area, and I know the books will be put to good use there. I finally finished painting the living room a rich, royal blue, and I’ve decluttered every room except my husband’s office. It’s definitely our biggest problem area—there’s a reason we saved it for last. We have a serious paper clutter problem that I’m looking for a way to address. I think with a better filing system and a more organized closet, we can get that room under control. I also planted some flower bulbs—irises and gladiolus—so hopefully come summer we have some new blooms in our flowerbed.

What about you? What projects have you been tackling lately? On the writing front? At home?

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Simple Living: What to Keep?

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As many of you know, one of my missions for 2017 is to drastically simplify my life. I’ve packed up boxes of stuff—extra dishes, knickknacks and picture frames, even books, and am working toward having a more streamlined home.

I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism, and I’ve read enough to know that I am not a minimalist. I want my home to feel cozy, and for me that means a few meaningful items here and there. It’s a balancing act, finding that place that is “enough.” Enough stuff. Enough books. Enough dishes. Enough artwork. Just enough.

I’m not sure how we know when we’ve reached that point. I’m learning simple living is more of a process than a destination. I’ve boxed up a lot of stuff and tucked it away in the attic. If I don’t miss it within the next six months, I’ll go ahead and donate it to a local thrift store.

We’re moving toward a simpler life. The arrival of spring helps with that. More time spent outdoors, going hiking or simply sitting outside with a notebook in my lap. Opening the windows and letting the birdsong and fresh air in. It’s a process. We’re getting there.

As far as writing, I’m making progress with Spellfire’s Kiss. I have cover art and some promotional materials made up; more on that in a few months. I’m 70 percent of the way through a read-through of the latest draft. My goal is to finish the read-through tonight and start working through my notes tonight or tomorrow. I’d like to get this story to my critique partners by early next week.

On the reading front, I’ve read 10 books out of 30 for the year. I just finished reading a book on simple living, Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life, by Lorilee Lippincott. It was good, although a lot of the tips were things I’d already done. I’d recommend it if you’re just starting to simplify your life, but if you’re further along in your journey, it might just be a reminder more than fresh information. I’m currently reading Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, which is fantastic.

What about you? Are you interested in simple living? What is the hardest part for you? What have you decided to keep or not to keep? How are your writing and reading goals coming along?

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Excitement Abounds

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It’s that time of year—the beginning of Round Two of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Feel free to join us on Facebook or on the website and hop in whenever you’re ready. I’m a few days late in getting my goals posted, but here they are…

So, Round One was a bit of a wash for me in terms of writing goals, but it also provided some much-needed downtime. I put a lot of thought into my writing path and the creative journey that I’m on. For the past few months I’ve been having trouble writing, getting words on the page here and there but not really moving forward.

And then, all of a sudden, things kicked back into gear. I realized if I want to make this path work I really need to start charging forward. During one of my tarot readings I drew the card the Ace of Swords, which is all about taking action, cutting through the briar, and moving forward. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I dug into revisions of Spellfire’s Kiss, a novel that I plan on releasing this fall, hopefully in October. I love this story; it’s the first one I wrote when I made the leap to writing full time, and I’m excited to be able to share it with readers.

So, what are my goals for Round Two? Here they are:

  • Finish Spellfire’s Kiss and send to editor by June 1.
  • Finish a second draft of Fates Entangled, a novella.
  • Finish The Forest’s Own, a short story, and start submitting to magazines.
  • Do a read-through and start revisions on Goblins and Grimoires, a novella.
  • Continue on my quest to read 30 books in 2017.
  • Read some books by writer-friends and get reviews posted.

What about you? What are your goals for the second quarter of 2017?

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The Magic Whispers…

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My plan was to write another Faerie Forest novelette—a short work, about 15,000 words, while I worked out a few plot points in my revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. Instead, what I discovered was a much longer story, a tale of family secrets and magical misdeeds that demands to be told. I know I need a few months to draft such a story, so the plan for the next couple months is to slowly allow this new story to unfold while I revise Spellfire’s Kiss so I can get it off to beta readers. I’d like to publish that one this fall, which means I need to get it to my editor by the summer so I have time for revisions.

Sometimes our stories surprise us, taking us down misty paths full of surprises. That’s the creative process, and the best thing to do is simply to allow our stories to whisper in our ear while we type madly away, letting the magic speak.

This week’s check-in:

Wrote 2,703 words in The Rogue Wore Red (working title). I spent a good deal of time trying to come up with a better title (that one is too Regency-sounding, I think), but nothing yet.

Finished reading The Crimson Spell by F. Goldsborough and started reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but the writing is amazing so far!

When is the last time one of your works in progress surprised you? What happened? I’d love to hear from you!

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Winter’s Last Stand

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Today the daffodils are resting their weary heads against the frozen earth. After a fairly mild winter, and an exceptionally mild February, winter appears to be making its last stand, complete with snow flurries and wind chill advisories. In Southwest Virginia we’ve been spared the mountains of snow that are currently blanketing the Northeast, though, so for that I am grateful—especially since many trees already have blooms and we could’ve been facing a lot of power outages.

But even as I walked Leo today, I could hear, over the wind’s roar, the hopeful songs of birds in the tree branches, and yesterday we saw a gathering of robins, pecking at and hopping along the snow-speckled earth. The promise of spring exists even on these frozen days.

I’m trying to remember the lessons of hygge that I read about in The Cozy Life. That means candles burning, a hot cup of spicy tea (I’ve recently discovered Bigelow’s Constant Comment, a blend of orange rind, black tea, and spices), and curling up under a blanket with a good book. I’ve been skipping around between books as of late. This week I’m reading The Crimson Spell, a book by F. Goldsborough based on the Charmed series. After I finish that, I’d like to get back to Little Women.

As far as writing, since my last check-in I’ve written a rough synopsis for a novelette, The Rogue Wore Red, formerly The Redcap in the Library. I’m worried the new title suggests Regency romance, and it’s really a fantasy romance story, so I might have to play with it. This week I’ve written 1,200 words in that story. I’m also getting close to finishing Michael’s character arc in Spellfire’s Kiss.

What about you? Are you digging out from under mountains of snow, shivering at the blast of icy wind, or enjoying springtime sunshine where you live? Do you think The Rogue Wore Red is more of a Regency title than a fantasy one? What are you currently writing—or reading? I’d love to hear from you!

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Sweeping away the cobwebs

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Sometimes in life it is necessary to sweep the cobwebs away. We get stuck in a rut, and it’s hard to break out. Lately I’ve been in just such a rut. I’ve been hobbling along with my writing. I’ll do well for a few days, and then I won’t write for a few days. It’s disheartening, and it’s a pattern I’m determined to break. So I’m going back to my goal of doing something writing related every day. It might mean actively writing or revising. It might be reading a book on craft or exploring an aspect of the creative process in some fashion. I am determined to get Spellfire’s Kiss finished and off to CPs and beta readers. That story is so close, and it means so much to me, and I’d like to share it with others.

I’m brushing away the cobwebs in many areas of my life. In my writing, I’m trying to establish a healthy routine that allows me to make steady progress. In my home, I’m undertaking a massive decluttering. This weekend I packed up five boxes of dishes and miscellaneous items from our kitchen and dining room. I’ve already decluttered the living room, with the exception of our DVD collection, which we plan on digitizing. Next I’ll move on to the upstairs, particularly our bedroom closet and our office, which are brimming with clutter.

What I’ve realized is this: I want to live a creative life, a life of creativity, love, and compassion. And to do that, I can’t make excuses. I have to create, daily, even as my energy waxes and wanes.

As I pare away the excess in my physical life, I hope to make mental and emotional space for creativity.

On the home front, I’ve done a ton of decluttering and painted a wall in the living room. Three walls down, one to go. I’ve hung some art in the living room and entryway and am working on decluttering room by room.

On the writing front, I’ve written a mere 121 words so far this week, in a novelette in the Faerie Forest series. The working title is Redcap in the Library, which kind of gives it away, I know. No progress yet this week on Spellfire’s Kiss, though I only have one more scene to write in Michael’s character arc and then I can start weaving that into the rest of the manuscript, after which I’ll dig into revisions.

As far as reading, I’m still reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron. I’ve thrown another book into the mix, Christine Danse’s Island of Icarus, a steampunk M/M romance. It’s turning out to be a sweet story that I’m enjoying so far. I also read Street Team Smarts by Sara Humphreys, which was more of a guide than a book, at 18 or so pages, but we’ll count that, too. And I finished reading The Joy of Less by Francine Jay this weekend, which I highly recommend. In keeping with my desire to move more slowly and thoughtfully this year, I’ve scaled back my reading goal to 30 books. I’m one book ahead of schedule, according to Goodreads.

And that’s where I’m at. Brushing away the cobwebs and paring away the excess to focus on what I love.

What about you? Have you ever taken on a massive decluttering? Did it free up mental space? How is your creative journey going?

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