The Last Day of NaNoWriMo

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Yes, I know I quit. Yes. I know tomorrow is the last day of NaNoWriMo. However, the day I quit the contest, I started writing Eastside Faerie again. I have my writing rhythm down and don’t need a contest to push me to create. But, I’m grateful the contest exists. NaNoWriMo inspires a lot of people, including myself.

Congrats to all the winners and participants! Yes, participants. Sitting down and getting out a rough draft is the first step to creating a writing routine, so you’ve already won by participating.

Hope all is well. Happy writing!

©TJ Deschamps

Writing Stories with Multiple Points of View: 4 Quick Tips

If you read this blog, I wrote an article about POV a few weeks back. If you don’t know what POV is start here:

For those who do, let’s move on to the 4 tips:

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  1. Don’t “head hop” flitting like a butterfly from one character’s perspective to the next. Head hopping, or an omniscient view, is not something you should tackle if you’re not an experienced writer. It’s extremely difficult to do well and might confuse the reader. Learn how to tell a story from a singular POV first.
  2. Don’t retell what happened in the last scene but from another perspective in the next chapter, unless it gives a fuller view of what is happening. A good example of how to do this is Season 2 of Warrior. The last two episodes of the season give what happens after a murder from two different perspectives. You get to find out what happened to the characters left to deal with what happened in one episode and the next you get to learn what happened to the character who ran from the scene. Doing it in one episode (or chapter) would have been less effective.
  3. If you write from dual perspectives because it’s a genre expectation, use the dual perspective to create conflict or tension. The romance genre are masters at creating conflict by the two main characters seeing things differently and resolving issues in the end by seeing what the other saw the whole time.
  4. Read books with multiple POVs. Decipher why the author told the story from different perspectives. Ask yourself did the multiple perspectives enrich the story and in what ways did it enrich the story? Did the author use multiple POVs to keep secrets from one character but not the reader? Did they use it for conflict? What would be different if the story was told from one perspective? Would it be missing something? Apply what you’ve learned to your own work.

Hope you are all doing well. Happy writing!

©TJ Deschamps

My Thoughts on the Big Five Becoming the Big Four

On 11/25/2020, Penguin Random House publishing bought failing Simon & Schuster. On Twitter, traditionally published authors, some my friends, lamented that it was going to be even harder to get a publishing contract. I feel for them. There’s some incredible talent out there that can’t afford to invest in the top notch marketing, covers, and editing a Big House provides. I’m lamenting with them because I love their work and truly believe the world is better for their stories.

I’m new to the industry. Although I’ve signed with an indie press to publish Eastside Hedge Witch in 2021, I never for a moment considered going with one of the Big Five. Why?

Because I don’t like institutionalized gatekeeping. I understand that agents and purchasing editors for the big houses have to have discerning tastes so that only the top notch talent gets past the slush pile. That would be fine if it was an equal opportunity. For the entire history of the publishing industry, anyone who wasn’t a cis-gender, heterosexual white man had a harder time getting their work seen. I know the big houses and agents are turning that around, even their boards are more diverse now, but it’s still not a way I’d go. My reasons are here:

I hope more authors turn to smaller presses and indie publishers, and let the giants monopolizing the industry either fall or change their policies about how much they pay authors for their work, allow for them to have more of a say in cover art and titles, and how much support they give new authors a few months after a release.

©TJ Deschamps

Happy Turkey Day

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It’s Turkey Day in the United States. Normally, a day off from writing to spend with my family and friends at a huge Friendsgiving feast.

Because the covid-19 case numbers are high in Washington state, Governor Inslee has wisely set some restrictions, including gatherings inside your home. No Friendsgiving this year.

So, instead of baking pies, I’m writing–at least until the family gets up.

I hope you all are having a good day! Happy writing!

©TJ Deschamps

NaNoWriMo Day 23 and 24: I Accidentally on Purpose Quit

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I’m not nearly as distraught as this woman.

I still wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo because I like the community. However, I wanted to change my goal. Don’t ask me how I did it but somehow in the process of changing my goal from an unfeasible 50K words to a likely 40K, I deleted any numerical goal. My new goal, according to NaNoWriMo, is to finish Eastside Faerie. That’s as unlikely as hitting 50,000 words.

So, I give up. Today is my last day reporting about NaNo. Am I done writing my WIPs? Nope. I’ll still be working on Eastside Faerie and Warrior Tithe, but it will be at my regular pace of 500-1K words a day.

Hope you’re all doing well! Happy Writing!

©TJ Deschamps

NaNoWriMo Day 22: Woefully Behind/Brightly Optimistic

Every year I do NaNoWriMo, I am either on point or ahead, some years I get a little behind, but I almost always win the contest. But, what is winning? Getting 50k words in a document? Honestly, I could write nonsensical drivel and get fifty thousand words in a few days. I would get zero satisfaction past the short lived I won announcement banner rush of dopamine. I’d get no real sense of accomplishment out of that type of win.

When I first started doing NaNoWriMo, I knew nothing about plot structure, the elements needed in a scene, character arcs, or subplots. I wrote a lot of things happening, but there was no real story there. In the years since, I’ve read a lot of books on writing, attended workshops, classes, and conferences. So, when I sit down to write, I have already done a lot of prep work. The characters don’t ‘go off on their own adventure’, and I don’t write scenes simply because I want the characters to do whatever is happening in the scene. I have a lot of fun with my drafts, but I’m not simply getting in words or entertaining myself anymore.

I think the reason I’m not likely to win this year is not only that, but I’ve found my writing pace. I’ve formed a daily writing habit and have regular hours. NaNo isn’t the only time when I’m serious about writing. The contest isn’t motivation. My novella selling and the reviews coming in is my motivation now. I’m not going to take a break from writing in December. This is my career and I’m dedicated to it.

I’ll still participate in NaNoWriMo because I believe the community is a wonderful component of the contest, and I believe in supporting other writers in forming a daily writing habit.

Hope you’re all doing well. Happy writing!

©TJ Deschamps

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Celebrating Over 100 Followers!

It has come to my attention that this blog has over 100 followers!

Thank you!

If you’d like to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or witness my character/story boards mayhem Pinterest, click on the icons for those sites on the header for this blog on my homepage.

Hope you’re all doing well. Happy Writing!

NaNoWriMo: Day 20 & 21 (featuring excerpt from Warrior Tithe)

Yesterday, I made progress in Eastside Faerie. Today I’m rewarding myself with working on Warrior Tithe. I thought starting with Fagan’s (Fergus from Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling) side of the story was too bleak, so I’m starting with Aoife’s side of the story.

Here’s an excerpt from the rough draft, that will likely change a lot in revisions post NaNoWriMo:

The clang of metal meeting metal sang in Aoife’s ears as Roi’s sword clashed with hers. The shock of his brute strength reverberating up her arm. She spun away and took a running leap onto higher ground–crates piled in the arena for such purpose. 

Roi bombarded her with images of him mounting her every way possible in this arena in front of the entire court of her father Mannan Mac Lir. The sea fairfolk cheering him on as he drove himself in her. What’s worse was that the pervert imagined her enjoying such a degrading act. The sorcerer king was so sure he’d win. 

He grinned wickedly at her sound of disgust. “Ye do possess the sight!” he bellowed. In a lower, guttural tone, he vowed,  “I must have ye. I’ll rule all of Ireland and beyond with ye at my side.”

Aoife cursed herself for ever desiring the man. She was the one that challenged him. She wanted to prove to her da, the god of the sea, that Roi was worthy of her, but alas, he was not. Roi saw her as a prize–a warm body to give him pleasure and secure his rule, not a person with a heart and love to give. 

 If she’d wanted an alliance match, she would have settled on a fae like herself.

Roi leapt onto the crates. They groaned and shook with the weight of him. Her erstwhile intended was a beast of a man, muscled, fey, and filled with magic, sword at the ready.

 Aoife squatted and pushed with her feet, arching her back as she flipped backwards off the mound.  The whine of his blade slicing the air sang above–just missing her. On the ground again, their bodies thrust back and forth, and circled round–the deadly dance of swordplay. 

Fae and faster than the mortal sorcerer king, she put distance between them, using evasive maneuvers to tire him out. He may have magic, but Roi was human. All Aoife had to do was outlast him and make her move when he was too exhausted to fight back. 

Roi charged. Aoife spun out of the way–except she didn’t. She’d meant to, but her boots would not move. The soles were magically sealed to the ground. Using magic was against the rules of the match. Roi had to best her physically. His hefty body hurtling at her, she had no time to cry foul. 

Aoife did have time to shift into her kelpie form. If Roi was going to use magic, so was she. Smoke curled around her. A storm of power rippled through her body as ever bone, sinew, and tendon remade itself. She was small in her fae form, easily crushed by a man as big as Roi. However as a black mare, a kelpie, she outmatched the brute in weight and height. 

The sorcerer king ricocheted backwards, plopping on his arse. His sword flew out of his hand and skittered across the compact dirt floor of the arena. 

She nickered in her kelpie form, laughing at the fool. The seafolk fae laughed, too, mocking the human king who dared to believe he was a match for one of Mannan’s daughters.

“Forfeit! Use of magic is a voluntary forfeit!” Roi cried, silencing them all.

Aoife turned her gaze to her father and tried shifting back to her mortal form so she could speak and acquit herself , but couldn’t any more than she could get her boots free from the ground. She nickered and whinnied, backing away to demonstrate her boots were fixed to the ground. To her horror, one of the boots unsettled with the movement–her proof gone. 

Roi rose to his feet. A sly grin crept up the corner of his mouth as he sheathed his sword. He squinted his dark eyes at her in challenge. “Make yerself a woman again, or not, I’ll ride ye one way or another, my bride.”

©TJ Deschamps

Hope you’re all doing well.

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NaNoWriMo Day 19: Getting Over the Hump

I wrote about 2, 289 words yesterday for the Warrior Tithe project, bringing my NaNoWriMo word count to 28086 words. This means that I’m behind on NaNo and not writing Eastside Faerie.

However, because I took a step back and took a break from the project, I realized I wrote myself into a corner with Eastside Faerie by writing scenes centered around the complicated romantic subplot. I suppose I had a romance inside me. (Warrior Tithe will do better for a complicated romance and satisfies that creative urge.) The Eastside series is more about Miriam going through a midlife crisis of sorts, realizing she’s too powerful to be satisfied with a mundane life, and that she can make a difference against an ancient, corrupt oligarchy.

Now that I worked out what was blocking me, I can return to Eastside Faerie. Warrior Tithe is still in me, but I’ve got to work out the plot before I write any more. I’m up stupid early, so I have time to work on both today.

Hope your day is going well. Happy Writing!

©T.J. Deschamps

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NaNoWriMo Day 18: Excerpt from Warrior Tithe

Day 18 had the same problem as day 17. I have the sketch of the picture I want to paint for Eastside Faerie, but I’m blocked in filling in the finer details. Whenever I find this happening with my writing, I do several things:

  1. Take long walks. I usually listen to audiobooks instead of music if I’m on a thinking walk because these walks aren’t about getting my cardio for the day. I take my time, notice things, and think, think, think.
  2. Go for a drive. The scenery and doing something different helps in a similar way as walking.
  3. Read lots of books. I feel recharged and creative after reading good books. I think of how I would write it better if the book is bad.
  4. Watch lots of TV and Movies. Same effect as reading books.
  5. Work on something else until it comes to me.

I’ve tried 1-4 for about two weeks. I simply have another story in me that has decided it wants out NOW. This is my normal process. It’s also why you won’t see that next book in a series from certain authors. They’re busy with other projects. However, it won’t go on for seven to ten years.

I’ll probably work on Eastside Faerie today, Day 19, as well as the story I’m working on now.

Here is an excerpt from the rough draft of Warrior Tithe:

 Fagan woke with a fierce pain in his ribs. The culprit, his brother Cuilén’s elbow. Without a drop of fat on the waifish lad, his joint was as sharp as a dirk. Sitting up, Fagan rubbed the sleep out of his bleary eyes. The soreness went away as he rubbed his side, but another ache sat deep in his belly that he couldn’t rub away and his cock grew painfully hard with the urge to piss. 

There was no going back to sleep for Fagan. He glared at his sleeping brother. Oh no, Cuilén wasn’t going to laze all day while Fagan hunted and scavenged for the two of them.

“Wake up. The peat for the fire won’t dig itself.”

Cuilén didn’t so much as mutter an excuse. He lay there as dead to the world as a corpse. Fagan shoved Cuilén’s offending appendage aside as he exited the pallet. Fagan’s brother rolled onto the floor without so much as a grunt. The sparse light revealed the odd way Cuilén’s body didn’t relax into a more comfortable position as a living body should.

Fagan knelt next to his brother. His long black hair curtained his view as he bent over Cuilén and placed his palm against an ice cold cheek. At least the boy’s eyes were closed, but his waifish body would stay curled in sleep forever more.

Fagan didn’t bellow and wail the way he had when his parents had died of plague or when their other four siblings, including the wee bairn had come to the same demise as his last . A single tear slid down his cheek, cooling as he gathered stiff remains of his brother. Fagan pushed to his feet and went outside.

His breath clouded the chill air as he trudged past the barren field. The crunch of snow, the only sound as he passed the framework of what used to house the chickens, livestock, and horse. He’d used the rest of the wood to warm soups made of the bones of the last of the livestock long after the meat filled the bellies of his siblings, including the farm’s horse. 

Fagan had loved that old horse, loved the way he felt on the mount riding into the village with his father. Like he was someone who could ride above it all better than all that didn’t have such luxuries. That was before the plague had taken his father and his mother. 

It was best that they’d eaten the horse anyway. They had nothing to feed the livestock for a while now. Plague had taken the nearby farmers. There was no grain to be had when there were no farmers to sow and reap the harvest. It wasn’t like there was anyone left to impress anyway. Plague and invaders had taken the coastal village. 

Knees buckling and head dizzy with hunger, Fagan laid Cuilén in the snow next to the cairns of the rest of his family. Straightening, he stumbled a respectable distance to take a piss. He placed a hand stiff with cold against a tree for balance as he fumbled with his aching erection. 

Fagan reckoned he should feel sad or angry, or something of the like. Cuilén had been his favorite brother despite the six year age difference. But, he felt nothing, numb as his cold-desensitized fingers. After he finished his piss, he went to the area of the ruins of the stable and gathered the rocks he’d been collecting. Three days ago, Fagan had shown his brother the pile, thinking it’d be him. 

“I cannae bury ye,” Cuilén said, blue eyes just like Fagan’s shimmering with tears.

“Then boil me bones in a stew and live for a few more days, ye daft bairn.” 

“How can ye say such a thing? Has yer heart frozen with the winter chill?”

Fagan carried an armful of rocks, believing his heart may have frozen. He couldn’t feel neither joy or sadness, only the hunger gnawing at his insides. Looking over his brother’s body, Fagan briefly considered doing exactly what he’d proposed Cuilén do. The younger boy had grown so thin, he doubted it was worth suffering in Hell for eternity. The Christian Lord of their da’s religion wouldn’t forgive him for such a thing, even if Cuilén, who knew the suffering of slow starvation, might.  

As he built his brother’s cairn, Fagan wondered if there was such a place as hell, heaven, or purgatory for that matter.  The priest died along with the rest of the village. Pagans had killed them all. 

The bairns, including himself, were all baptized, but his ma had never believed in his da’s Jesus. She said the saints were nothing but fae and Jesus himself was probably the king of the faeries having himself a laugh. Da would get angry when she blasphemed like that, but Fagan could see no harm in it. The Christian god had shown himself and gave nothing but some advice as far as the young man knew. 

“At least faeries would make a bargain with ye,” he said out loud, setting the last stone on the cairn. 

After burying his brother, Fergus took the last of the stacked peat and piled it in the hearth under the pot hanging over it. His gaze landed on the ladle on the mantle, remembering his mother dipping it in and sneaking Fagan a sip of stew while the others weren’t looking. The hearty aromas of carrots, onions, and herbs from her garden and the weight of it all in his belly, warming him. His mother’s conspiratorial smile. The sound of his siblings banter. The memory stood in sharp contrast to the ache in his gut and the empty cottage.

In that moment, the notion Fagan had nothing to live for and nothing to look forward to, came into sharp clarity. He supposed he should feel something about it, but his head and gut ached too much. He sipped some water from a jug that he and Cuilén had collected from the river the day before, pouring the rest into the pot. 

“Best to get a fire started to heat the water,” Fagan said out of habit–there’d always been someone around to hear him. “If I am to find anything in the traps, I am keen to skin and boil whatever I find right away.”

Ignoring that only silence responded, Fagan busied himself starting the fire. Once he got the peat smoldering and then at full flame, the dense earthy smoke burned low. Peat didn’t give off as much heat and light as woodfire, and it had a denser smoke, but his ma had insisted they not cut the trees because there could be dormant faeries among them. 

She’d also leave out a bit of cream to appease the faeries and keep them from playing tricks.  His father, a Christian, turned a blind eye to Fagan’s mother’s doings, but he forbade her from teaching their children about the old gods. In his mind, they were demons not tricksters and favor givers. So, Fagan’s ma would talk about her beliefs in the form of stories. Fagan and his siblings cut their teeth on tales of wild shades, pixies, faerie queens, and kelpies.

Fagan made his way around the southern side of the cabin to check the traps, avoiding the cairns on the north end near the stables. Nothing stirred as he passed through the woods

A bloodcurdling, inhuman scream tore through the silence of the chilly early morning. 

Fagan’s heart raced with anticipation as he ran through the woods. One of his traps caught something big. Hope that the trap caught a strapping buck with meat to last for a good long time, rose in his chest. He could see himself eating well as he traveled to someplace that was so damned cursed, maybe far as a city. He could take up soldiering or…Fagan stopped dead in his tracks when he came across what his trap had caught. The iron teeth of the trap had caught the hind leg of black horse, a magnificent beast, stared back at him with glowing red eyes. 

“kelpie,” he whispered, backing away. His ma had told plenty of fairy tales about daring young men, thinking they could mount one, only to be dragged to their deaths from merely touching a kelpie. The beast’s preternaturally intelligent gaze locked onto his. 

Fagan closed his eyes, believing the kelpie might ensorcel him somehow. Water horses were powerful faeries. How could a mortal trap even hold such a thing?

The beast let out a mournful cry.

A trap, he knew it, but his stupid trecherous heart had seen so much suffering. He couldn’t take no more. Fagan opened his eyes. If the water horse killed him for his efforts, at least he’d see his family again and this damnable ache in his gut would go away. Fagan had hoped he’d go in his sleep as most of his family had, but Cuilén would love the story, and it wouldn’t be suicide if the kelpie drowned him. 

He held up his hands to show he had no weapons as he cautiously approached the water horse. The kelpie shied away. By the pitiful sound it made, the movement caused the poor creature a considerable amount of pain.

Fagan made soothing sounds he used to calm his horse. “I shan’t harm ye. I aim to set ye free.” 

The glowing red eyes latched onto him, distrustfully. Conversely, the kelpie held still, its flanks pulsing rapidly with the fae’s labored breaths.

Fagan gripped the kelpie’s leg with one hand and triggered the mechanism that released the trap with the other. 

The water melted into smoke before his eyes, but he could feel sinew and bone shifting in his grasp. The smoke dissipated. A naked woman with bright auburn curls and a pained expression on her ivory-white face appeared in the beast’s place. Green eyes, intelligent and wise, latched onto his. Fagan didn’t dare look lower, but he held her bare, bleeding leg. Those green eyes shifted from his to just below where he held. 

“Cannae ye heal yerself, kelpie?” Fagan asked.

She shook her head mournfully, lashes fluttering. 

“I’m dying,” she whispered in a voice that was birdsong to Fagan’s ears. “Poison–” 

The lovely water horse passed out before she could finish her sentence. 

 Fergus remembered that iron was lethal to the fae. He’d watched his ma pour a jar of salt and iron shavings across the threshold of their cottage and along the windows. 

“We have a crucifix. Da says that’s all ye need to be saved.”

“Christ may have died fer our sins, but he won’t stop a shade from taking one of my wee bairns and leaving us with a changeling.” 

Fagan examined the wound. The trap was old and rusty. Bits of iron shavings had lodged themselves in the kelpie’s damaged flesh. A niggling voice in the young man’s head said that he would do better to leave the kelpie to die. She’d probably beguiled many to their death with either of her forms long before Fagan took his first breath. Not once, however, did he have the opportunity to save a single member of his family.

There was no reason this kelpie should die other than her nature, and Fagan had seen enough of man’s follies to know the fae weren’t the only treacherous creatures in existence.

©TJ Deschamps

Hope you’re all doing well. Happy writing!

©TJ Deschamps

Photo by Jill Dimond on Unsplash

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