Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)urban Fantasy – Excerpt from Chapter One

I’m writing a paranormal women’s fiction, or suburban fantasy called, Eastside Hedgewitch. The project idea came to me when I was blue over my decision to shelve Scavengers of the Starsea. I dropped the latter project because the POV characters were all of Afro-Latinx descent. I love the story and started writing it because my daughter said there was no one who looked like her in Science Fiction. I started with the idea of the Dominican diaspora in space instead of New York and ran with it. However, I decided until systemic racism isn’t a thing, and black and brown people are able to get published as easily as their white peers, it wasn’t my place to write that story.

Eastside Hedge Witch is the story of a widow in her forties raising her demigoddess daughter in the suburbs of Seattle. She’s left the supernatural community behind, but the devil is knocking at the door, asking her to come out and play. She answers his first call something like this:

I retrieve the container of Morton salt from my backpack and flick the spout with my thumb. I cringe when the friction causes the metal spout to squeak against the cardboard of the container. Fortunately, the beastie is still tearing up my neighbor’s garden looking for the bunny. I pour the salt in a circle, whispering the words my mother taught me that her mother taught her, and so on. I say it in English because the words are only a focus. The power comes from me. A metaphorical light inside that can blaze with the brilliance of a thousand suns, or so my mother said. 

Mom was more poetic than I could ever be. She read Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, and other greats of the twentieth century. I read comics and listened to Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan. She belonged to a coven. I was a lone-witch, living a continent away from the women who raised me. Generational disconnect happens to the supernatural too, I suppose.   

When I’m done with the setup, I return the salt to my backpack and steel myself before whistling. 

The hound pauses the search for the rabbit. Red glowing eyes swerve away from the flower bed and lock onto me. It sniffs the air. A low growl emits from the beast’s throat. Claws as long as my fingers click on the sidewalk as the hound stalks forward. 

“Go home and tell your master that Miriam’s answer is still no.” I pointed as I spoke, not intending a literal destination but a general begone direction. 

The idiot looks where I pointed. I roll my eyes. They’re not like earth dogs, they have no instinct to protect, but they have the same instinct to hunt and follow signals. When the hellhound realizes there isn’t a literal door behind it leading home, it narrows its predatory red gaze on me, but it doesn’t move.  

Panic fills me. This might be a seek and hold mission. Like a pointer dog finding the prey but not touching it. I’d rather the thing take me than its master anywhere in the vicinity of my kid, who was hopefully still fast asleep. 

I clear my throat.  “Also, tell him it’s a little gross and a lot creepy that he’s still got a thing for a mortal who dumped him over twenty years ago.”  I throw up a hand and shake my head. “Wait. Why am I telling you? You’re too stupid to deliver a message.” I make like I’m going to walk away.

That does it. The beast snarls and lunges.

My heart leaps into my throat. The creature is doing exactly what I want it to do. However, a massive hellhound launching in my direction accompanied by swirling magic that promises to rip me from everything I love to carry me to my least favorite ex scares the bejesus out of me.  My brain kicks into gear. I murmur the words of an incantation, stuttering with fear.

The ground quivers beneath my feet. Within the circle I’ve created on the ground, a swirling vortex appears. Fire erupts from the center, but I don’t feel the heat. It’s all contained by the salt I bought in a three-pack from Costco. The flames consume the hellhound.

The beast snarls and whines but cannot leave the trap.
Oopsy. I opened a portal to a less hospitable part of its world. If the thing didn’t tear people to shreds at the bidding of its master, I’d feel sorry for the thing.  Guess this hellhound won’t be delivering my message. 

I murmur another incantation, this time with confidence. The swirling vortex sucks the hellfire and burning beast down like a turd in a flushing toilet. As I’ve said, I’m no poet. Once more I chant, and the portal between worlds vanishes, leaving behind only my salt art.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Image courtesy unsplash.com

Draft Zero of My Novel is Finished, Now What?

I’ve completed my first draft of Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)Urban Fantasy. I’m happy with the story overall, but the finish is kinda soft. That’s okay. Why? Because it’s only a first draft. A first draft is the story you tell yourself, or if you’re silly like me, you post scenes from it on the internet for others to read.

When you write a book or a series, there are many ways to approach the process, but rarely are you going to write “The End” and be done. I’ve gone to conferences where authors, who have been writing for forty plus years boast that they write one clean draft and they’re done.

I roll my eyes at this kind of statement because I know I’m sitting in a room full of people who have been writing for a very short time relative to the speaker. If you’ve done anything for forty years, you’re going to be pretty darn good at it from the start. Also, one speaker had a television series name with a huge fandom slapped onto his books.

Most writers need more than one draft to get the plot, pacing, and character arcs in a place where it’s not only readable, but sellable. Believe them and not me? Try writing a story in one draft with no feedback, plop it on Amazon and see your numbers rise to less than a hundred.

If I don’t self-publish or query agents with my first draft, what should I do?

1. Once you’ve finished draft zero, read it yourself. Print a copy and just read your book as if you picked it up in the store.

2. Mark up that draft and edit. Read the revised draft out loud to catch any mistakes.

3. Ask for feedback. Where do you get feedback, especially now that most people are social distancing? https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/05/writing-critique-how-can-i-get-feedback-while-social-distancing/

4. Apply feedback. If you’ve got good critique partners, you’re going to have plenty of notes, and if you chose well, trust those notes. Revise.

5. Go through the process of reading, editing, again. Send it out for feedback one more time. Repeat until you have the cleanest, most readable, sellable draft you can possibly write without professional help.

You’re ready to query agents!

If you’re self-publishing, the next step is to send it off to an editor. If this is your very first novel, I highly suggest a developmental edit. Yes, your critique partners will give you some of that, but a professional editor with industry experience will have a lot more to say to polish your book. The goal is to put out the best version of your story possible. Good luck!

Image by Wokingham Libraries from Pixabay 

Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)Urban Fantasy –Excerpt from Chapter Thirty

There is no light inside the pocket universe I’ve created. So I will a sun. A single solitary star made of my light. It’s physically exhausting, and the star is dim, but a ball of burning gas, or the facsimile of one lights up the nothingness surrounding me.

 It takes a lot from me and I kind of drift in the nothingness. It could have been minutes, days, or years. I have no marker for the passage of time.

After I’ve recovered from the amount of magic it takes to make a star, I dump the soil into the nothing. I take a lone rock from the soil and pour magic into it. That is the beginning of a world, I think somewhere off where my mind still has conscious thoughts, and I am not purely a creature of magic. On my world, I create plains, mountains, and finish off with a lovely valley centered among rolling hills.  I lay in the soft dirt, pillowing my head with my arm and sleep.

I rise again with the dawn of my little star and plant the cuttings in the soil, willing them to grow flowers and seed, and reproduce again and again until I fall asleep. 

I rest for what seems like eons but could be moments. Life takes more energy than inanimate objects.

I pour the bucket out to create rivers and lakes and other bodies of water. I float in a pond letting my hair fan around me. This is not another version of Earth. This land is fey and I can feel the wildness of it. It carries my joys and sorrows. 

Sprites appear. They’re not my garden sprites but they help me all the same. They dance and sing and make me a floral crown.  More fae folk come. More worship. 

I become stronger, needing less rest. I can understand their words. They think I am a Tuatha De, a fae god.  

I see why my father had me do this. I’m becoming less me. I should go home, but I like the power. I like being a god.

I do some more creating. I make a world that is warm and welcoming. A happy paradise, not a prison. I build Shawn and Micha a little house and grow a tree with natural swings. The fae bring animals, strange and wonderful but not magical. I ask them to bring me fruits and vegetables. 

The fae like my world, and grow in happiness and devotion to me. I grow in power.  I’m dimly aware that I should be getting back.

I’m creating a forest when a glowing white light, not of my making, appears. I’m drawn to it. The power behind the magic is familiar to me. 


Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Image by Katarzyna Micińska from Pixabay

Writing Critique: How Can I Get Feedback While Social Distancing?

The Before Times: When critique groups met in person.

Emerging writers, who want to improve, will ask for feedback. Where do they go in the time of covid-19? Writing groups on social media. Why is this a bad thing? Because trolls aren’t living under bridges anymore, they’re online. Not only trolls, but a lot of ‘experts’ who parrot what they learned without real understanding of story craft. Professional writers with several award-winning works under their belt don’t belong to amateur writing groups on Facebook doling out free feedback to emerging writers.

If not social media, where should I go?

In an ideal world, emerging writers could meet a mix of professional writers, editors, agents, and other knowledgeable emerging writers at a workshop, get a feel for their knowledge and style in a critique group, and make connections there. Unfortunately, we live in a world that going to these workshops is expensive, and if you’re reading this in 2020, there’s also a certain pandemic going around cancelling all the writers’ conferences, IRL classes, and workshops.

A few tips when searching for feedback online:

  1. Seek a virtual workshop with a mix of pros and emerging writers. Fortunately, there are many free classes online where you can get the similar quality instruction and peer reviews. In any creative writing class or workshop, you have at least one pro monitoring feedback and can tell you if it is bunk or not.
  2. Don’t post a tiny excerpt on a social media group and expect quality feedback. The internet, even writing groups, has ‘experts’ who simply like to criticize without any actual knowledge or skill of their own.
  3. Do vet who is giving your critiques by taking a look at their writing. The proof is in the prose pudding. If they’re a good writer, they’re at least knowledgeable of craft.
  4. Find partners who write, or at least read, your genre. I am not a poet. I could not give feedback on poetry. I would not ask a poet to critique my urban fantasy. Unless, they were a poet, who also read and wrote urban fantasy.
  5. Know what feedback to ask for. Before you’ve even picked up a pen, keyboard, or what have you to write, learn craft. Read books and articles on writing. Therefore, you will be armed with what you need to know about grammar, style, plot, tension, pace, character arcs, world building, etc. so you’ll be able to detect the difference between opinion and sound structural, craft knowledge.
  6. Trust your gut. If your only source is an online group because for whatever reason you cannot virtually attend a workshop or a free online writing class, then indeed, ask for help in online writing groups. But, please, get to know those writers and their works first. Observe their behavior within the group before accepting their advice. It will save you a lot of time and ill advice.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)urban Fantasy — Excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Nine

I enter the guest room where Roxy has been staying. It’s brightly colored with paintings of forests and a floral pattern on the bedspread where Micah appears simply sleeping, not in a magical coma I hope I can undo. 

Gabriel stands next to the window overlooking my side yard that connects to Shawn and Micahs’ back yard.   

 I close the door behind me with a soft click. 

“Where’s Shawn?” I don’t bother to use a soft voice. Micah isn’t waking.

Gabriel, likely lost in thought, doesn’t answer right away and when he does, he keeps his eyes on the Johnsons’ house. “He went to tell the kids their father collapsed and ask the babysitter to stay on for a while so he can return to the hospital.”

My gaze shifts to gentle Micah. “This happened too fast.”

“Nephilim not raised by angels are usually too weak to have any kind of power. He’s a product of someone’s carelessness.” 

“I don’t know. I think Micah was intentional.” I check Micah’s pulse and fluff the pillows under his head. “He told me once that his parents had trouble conceiving and then suddenly there he was, a miracle. They were very religious. Maybe a fallen angel took advantage of his mom.”

Gabriel blows out his breath. “I’d like to blame demons, but I know better. I grew up in Heaven, remember?”

“What do you mean?” I’d been there. Angels were a bunch of self-righteous prudes. Whereas demons are less selective and like to mess with humans just to piss their heavenly kin off. 

“It’s a pretty place, but honestly, the angels are no better than humans. Some asshole took advantage of a human woman’s piety. It’s illegal in Heaven to ‘bless’ a couple with a child by fucking a married woman, but it’s done all the time.”

 Unused to Gabriel speaking crassly, I straighten and fold my arms across my chest. “If angels are that corrupt, what gives them the right to think they can rule over everyone?”

The were-nephilim snorted. “Rule? Rule would imply some sort of intervention or governance. If you haven’t noticed, angels don’t intervene anymore now that the fae are gone and the other gods have less sway. They simply feed off the system, fattening on the power of human belief. I promised myself I’d do things differently, actually protect my mother’s world from angels like that, as well as demons, not draw too much attention to myself. Stay humble. What I’ve done by not showing my strength is allowed one uncle to hide a dangerous fugitive and the other to question my authority.”

I see where archangel’s line of thinking is going. This could be the point where I stop liking him and we could go from almost lovers to enemies. “Oberon won’t make Micah a nowhere.”

He turns from the window.  “Then I have a decision to make.”

I hold up a hand. I don’t grab or yank Gabriel back as he tries to pass me. I simply put a hand in his way. I breathe a sigh of relief when he stops.

“He’s offered to instruct me how to do it. I came to ask you to take care of Jada. That is, if I fail, I don’t want her to go live among the fae.” I don’t say if this is a trick so that Oberon can get rid of me to get his hands on a more moldable-to-his-will demigoddess. Jada is almost an adult, but so young and misses her father deeply. My father was being kind, and I saw him filling that role to his advantage.

Gabriel takes my hand in his and kisses it. “I’m honored you’d trust me to take care of her.”

She was practically an adult, but I don’t say as much. “You’ve trusted me with yours.”

“I can’t do this in here.” He leads me by the hand out of the room. Nerves overtake me as I realize he’s leading me to my bedroom.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps
Image by Amber Avalona from Pixabay 

Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)urban Fantasy — Excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Eight

Upon seeing his granddaughter, Oberon gave her a warm smile I didn’t think fae were capable of and then told everyone to leave the house for ten Earth minutes or he would assist with nothing. When the time is up, they’re giggling together. His naturally pink hair next to her dyed green, heads bent looking through a photo album. Although he doesn’t look much older than her, Oberon behaves as a doting grandfather.

“I still have the urgent matter to present to you,” I say in as respectful a tone as I can muster. 

Jada, apprised of the situation, closes the album. “Nice to meet you, pop pop.” She kisses Oberon on the cheek the way she used to kiss Raf and my heart melts. 

The fae crooks a taloned finger, beckoning Jada closer. “Let me impart some wisdom in a whisper before you go.”

Jada bends over and the Unseelie fae whispers in her ear. She laughs outright and gives him a kiss on the other cheek. “Me too.”

She squeezes my arm on the way out. After all my warnings about my supposed father, she knows better than to ask to see him more or to visit his home. 

I pour more of the tea that I’ve set out for the fae upon his arrival. A blend I know he’ll like. I fix it with honey and plenty of cream. He may be taller than a human but all fae love cream and their beverages on the extra sweet side. 

Oberon accepts the china cup, my best set for PTSA luncheons I’ve hosted, and takes a sip before speaking. “Tita, if this is about your magic being unbound. I had to despite the risk you’d attract more fae. You were defenseless against angels, and I couldn’t allow that.”

“I’m not angry about having all my power, I–” I sigh, my gaze shifting to the ceiling where Micah was in a magical coma. 

“Do you wish to learn how to use it?”

“I do.” I take a seat in the sofa kitty corner to the chair, seated at the edge. I wring my hands. “I’ve already used it. I cast a sleeping spell and now a nephilim is in a coma in my guest room.”

Oberon flashes white teeth with overly long and pointed canines. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

I laugh. I can’t help myself. It’s more nerves than humor, but by his pleased expression, the Unseelie king takes it as a compliment. I take a deep breath and explain the situation. I had to pause to answer clarifying questions. At no point do I ask him anything out of this.

After taking an excruciatingly long time to consider it all, Oberon says, “You want me to wake the nephilim?”

“I am asking, as an ally to Gabriel, what do you offer?” I sip from my own cup of tea, watching him over the brim.

Oberon sets down the cup. “My dearest Tati, I’m trying to make a way for the fae to come back to Earth, not serve archangels. The way I see it, I’ve already offered the fae’s assistance by proxy when the blood of my blood protected the were-nephilim and his council from the rogue.”

“Micah’s a good man.”

The fairy king tsks. “He was raised with no training and no morals, killing his own family and innocents. There’s a reason the angels executed all the nephilim on Earth once.”

A shiver ran through me. I’d heard about it. So many angels were leaving heaven to marry Earth women that the numbers of the angelic guard dwindled. Guess who took advantage of that? The angels were recalled to duty when the demonic army invaded Heaven. They left their nephilim children behind. The result was a race of humans with incredible strength and power and no one to tell them no. Instead of coming back and taking care of their offspring, they simply wiped them all out, executed them and their mothers for allowing such ‘awful’ children. Not all the mothers were human. Many covens were slaughtered.

“Can you make a nowhere?” 

“I’d call that a non sequitur, but I understand what you want. Place him somewhere he’s not dangerous until his husband can get him under control. I can make a nowhere, but I’m not going to.” Oberon smiled. “You are.”

Written Material ©Tammy Deschamps

Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay 

Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)urban Fantasy –Excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Seven

The council didn’t waste time. As soon as Micah joined his husband out in my back garden, Gabriel got to the point. We voted to free the cryptids with the stipulation that they had to report to Gabriel if the demon sought them out. We also voted to trap the crossroads demon and find out exactly what His Creepiness planned to do.

Shawn and Micah return. Micah seems a little shook, but otherwise taking the news he’s part angel and there’s a supernatural underworld right under his nose pretty well. Too well.  There’s a manic gleam in his eyes as a too-wide smile spreads on his lips. His gaze flicks around the table at all of us.

“So you’re some sort of supernatural council?”

We all nod. Unease twists my gut. This isn’t going to go well. I glance at Gabriel, but his focus is all on Micah, who directs his next question to Gabriel. “And you’re the boss?”

The were-nephilim smiles and shakes his head. “The council is more of a UN of this territory than a hierarchical organization. I represent the angels and nephilim of this territory.”

“Says who?”

“The angelic anocracy appointed me archangel of the Pacific Northwest after I served several years as an officer under several archangels in both Heaven and in different Earthly territories. I also served as a liaison to the faerie Seelie and Unseelie courts for a brief period too before taking office,” Gabriel answers patiently why he’s qualified to have sayso as if we didn’t have a demon to catch and Lucifer’s plans to thwart. Any other archangel would have looked at one of their officers and expected them to speak. That’s the reason why I would vote for Gabriel to be the archangel if it weren’t already an appointed thing.  

The were-nephilim continues. “The council didn’t exist when I took the position as archangel. My mother is a werewolf. She was an alpha to her pack. I liked the way that elders of the families gathered to represent their clans, and though she had ultimate say, everyone got a vote. I wanted all supernaturals to have representation and to build a larger, less segregated sense of community, so I formed this council. Everyone you see here sees to the needs of both their community and the supernatural community at large.”

“Yeah, but you’re the one who has only real power. Shawn says it’s up to you whether I get to stay in this territory or not, and we need to seek your protection or something.”

Gabriel spreads his arms palms up. “Because you are part angel, and I am appointed by all angels to handle angelic matters before they involve the community at large. If you were a siren, I would leave the decision to Lucinda. If you were a witch or an Unseelie, I’d leave it to Miriam. The same goes for Ana, Cian, and Aurora’s communities.” 

Micah’s gaze flicks between me and Lucinda, his brow furrowing in confusion. Finally my long-time friend narrows his eyes on me. “You planned this. You were mad Shawn had power of attorney over your finances, so you decided to ruin our lives by exposing our secret.” A ripple of power follows his words. 

“Hey,” Shawn says, coming to Micah’s side. “Breathe.”

“Actually, I forgot about brunch. I haven’t told Gabriel a thing about you.”

“What about humans?” Micah mimes like he’s looking for something. “I don’t see any humans here having a say.”

“Because humans are unaware of our existence and it is one of our first duties as a supernatural to keep it that way,” Gabriel’s reply is calm but his whole body tenses.

Micah shakes his head. “That’s not fair.” Tears sliding down his cheeks, he points a finger at Gabriel and then all of us. “If you didn’t hide your existence, my parents would have known what I was and could have helped me. There’s blood on all of your hands.”

Gabriel swallows hard at the judgment but says nothing.

“Humans persecute our kind,” I say gently. “It’s for our safety.”

Pure rage fills Micah’s face. I feel the power building up. Micah holds up a hand. “You’ll tell the Angelic Anocracy where my husband is and that he didn’t perform his duty. They’ll execute him. Won’t they?”

Gabriel stands. “I offered asylum. Control yourself or I will.” The words rumble in his chest and there’s power in them. He’s about to shift into the were-nephilim form, I can feel it.

The angelic magic in the room is an oppressive weight. The growing pressure is like a balloon filling with air, and  I’m terrified of what is going to happen when it pops.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Jaroslav Devia on Unsplash

Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)Urban Fantasy–Chapter Twenty-Six

“This is Micah and Shawn, my neighbors. I hope you guys don’t mind, but my boyfriend Gabriel and some new and old friends are joining us,” I say loudly enough so the council can hear. I put on what I hope is a welcoming smile. After the whole ordeal in the pocket universe,  I totally forgot I’d invited the Johnsons over for brunch.

“Boyfriend?” Micah gasps, taking Gabriel in a slow head to toe once over, a little in awe.  

Shoot. Did I say that? Why did I say that. I’ve never had a boyfriend in my life it’s not even a term I’d use. Lovers, a husband, yeah, but boyfriend? It seemed too mundane. I fully expect Gabriel to balk at the title. 

Instead of correcting me, Gabriel kisses my cheek and nuzzles my neck. “That’s right. Miriam matters a great deal to me.” Although Micah asked the question, the were-nephilim addresses Shawn with a hint of threat in his tone. He’s not acting like himself. Someone stole Gabriel and replaced him with a possessive alphahole so insecure he’s threatening gay men.

“Aw! New relationship energy! I’m Micah and this is my husband Shawn.” He extends a hand and nods his head in Shawn’s direction.

Shawn remains eerily silent, his face unreadable.

A frisson runs down my spine. Maybe Gabriel has a good reason to act this way.

Gabriel takes Micah’s hand and shakes it. “Gabriel Crowfoot.”

Shawn’s gaze flicking to Gabriel’s arm around my waist. “We would have brought more if we knew there were going to be more people. I was under the assumption it was going to be the three of us.”

“Now you can assume if you come to this dwelling, I will be here.” 

Gabriel’s reply makes no sense to me but Shawn says, “Understood.” He extends a hand. “I’m Shawn Johnson and I have no problem with your presence, if you have no problem with us.” 

“Shawn, is it? Funny you don’t look like a Shawn to me,” Gabriel replies, through a toothy smile that is more of a sneer, not taking Shawn’s hand.  

“Everyone thinks he looks like Idris Elba,” Micah offers, clearly still in awe of Gabriel and not reading the tension between the were-nephilim and Shawn.

“Is that Micah I hear?” Lucinda calls from the dining room. “Tell him to bring that handsome husband Shawn of his in here. It’s about time everyone met.”

“It’s me!” Micah takes the casserole out of my hands as he passes.

I want to go with him and get away from this weird tension. As soon as Micah is inside and Lucinda starts making introductions, I say, “What the hell is going on between you two?”

Shawn still has a wary eye on the were-nephilim when he says, “Miriam, Gabriel and I need to speak privately. Is there somewhere we can do so?”

I shake my head. “No. No. You have me crazy on paper. If you know Gabriel, then you know I am not crazy.”“He’s the lawyer that controls your assets? Then we have a bigger problem than we thought,” Gabriel hisses.

Suddenly everything makes sense, Raf didn’t betray me. Shawn is a…

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Donovan Reeves on Unsplash

Questions that Come up in Social Media Writing Groups: How Do I Write a Book?

The short answer is there’s no one way to write a book. The variance of style and plot depend on genre and then there are those who subvert those plots intentionally. That’s what happens when you have a bunch of creative thinkers making up stories.

I’m not going to get into the structure of a novel. There are hundreds of books out there that will tell you what to write at what point. I’m going to tell you the basics of story.

Create a relatable protagonist, someone with hopes and dreams, family and friends (or future friends if you’re writing a story about the friendless gaining friends).

This person starts out with a wrong perception about something, usually ideological thematically, but in relation to something personal to the character.

For example: Let’s say Julie is a teenager who has been deeply hurt in the past by someone, so she’s a loner. Everything about Julie, the way she dresses, her hair, her lifestyle, and attitude, has to say, “I’m not friendly.”

The plot is a series of events that drives the character to make choices, each choice will have a consequence until the protagonist has an aha moment and see things differently. You’ll begin with a problem that challenges Julie’s belief she doesn’t need friends. She’ll keep her unfriendly ways, and that will create more problems for Julie.

If you haven’t caught on, in this case, Julie is her own antagonist. But, to make things interesting, come up with Worse Julie. That will be your antagonist. Not only will Worse Julie make life difficult for Julie, but everyone else around Julie. Give this person redeeming qualities and make them not a loser, so that Julie can’t seem immediately why they’re so terrible.

Along the way, give Julie helpers along the way. Julie sees their value in the moment, so lets these helpers in. She’s happier and doesn’t know why. Things go more smoothly with these helpers.

Suddenly Julie is surrounded by people, people who can hurt her. She freaks out. She pushes everyone away and faces the challenge and the Worse Julie alone.

At this point in the plot, the protagonist must fail Big Time. In some plot books, it’s got to be a physical or metaphorical death of some sorts. For less drama, it just has to be a devastating blow to Julie because she pushed people away instead of being vulnerable and allowing her helpers to be her friends.

Voila! Aha moment. Julie sees that she needs friends and has had them all along.

In the end, the protagonist’s perspective has changed. They are different inside and out.

This is an oversimplification, but I hope it clicks where more technical explanations of plot structure have failed.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)Urban Fantasy–Excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Four

We settle into chairs. My dining table seats eight. I sit at the head of the table since it’s my house and where I usually sit anyway, Gabriel to my left, Princess taking the seat next to him. Lucinda sits to my right and the two of us pass out coffee and donuts around the table. Cian and Ana, holding hands come in and sit next to Lucinda.  

Aurora sits at the far end opposite me, leaving a chair empty next to Princess. Dark circles show how little sleep the bigfoot has had last night. Her cousin is being held prisoner by the pack, which means she’s in a spare bedroom in Gabriel’s house not already occupied by a pack member. I don’t know how I feel about dating someone who has twelve weres living in his house, including Princess and that jerk Nate, and still has a spare bedroom. I can’t say I’m not relieved he’s not looking to put me in ‘mate’ status. At least Princess doesn’t comment after she sniffs the air like a beagle.

Starting with Gabriel, the council goes through the formal naming of who each member is and who they represent. 

As they go around, I realize I now represent much more than witches, so when it is my turn to stand I clear my throat. “I am Miriam. I represent the covenless witches, the exiled Unseelie, sprites, and mortals with demon blood–who choose to side with this council.” I think it’s very important to clarify that fact. 

Princess’s mouth drops and then she side-eyes Gabriel, who only has eyes for me. “You have to be part demon yourself to represent them.”

“I am.” 

I let that settle on the council as I take my seat. No one seems phased by it except Princess. 

She glares at Gabriel. “You knew about this?”

The archangel turns his head slowly from me to her. “Found out a lot of things when we were in the pocket realm. We’re here to share what happened with the council and how this council will go forward.”

She flicks her hand dismissively like he’s no use then turns to me. “What kind of fallen angel’s spawn are you?”

I balk at the word spawn. I hate the answer to the question even more. I don’t think I have any succubus powers, but after going nuts in a dining room with Gabriel when we were expecting people and the girls could come downstairs at any moment, I’m not sure.

“That’s rude,” Ana declares with an outraged look. She’s in a pretty sweater and her hair and makeup is neatly arranged. Hard to believe she was a giant earth moving lizard yesterday. “And classist. You’re trying to find out where she ranks in their hierarchy.”

“I want to know what power she has over my alpha,” Princess snaps back with a warning growl. 

Ana scoffs and rolls her eyes.

“According to a fae in the nowhere, I’m part succubus,” I answer without flinching.

That turns heads. 

“Full fae can’t lie,” Cian offers with his eyes anywhere but on me. 

I roll my eyes. Great. That is exactly the response I don’t want. The knowledge of my demon blood somehow transformed me into an irresistible temptress capable of enthralling men by just casting their gaze on me, not a middle-aged mom in leggings and a t-shirt no one took seriously two weeks ago.  

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Kayla Maurais on Unsplash

How to Become a Better Writer without an MFA in Six Ridiculously Hard Steps

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

For whatever reason, time, money, living situation, etc. not everyone can go to school and get a masters in creative writing. Does this mean you have to give up on your dream to become a writer?Absolutely not. What it does mean is that you must dedicate time and effort, and have to be a little more resourceful.

Step One: Get your hands on books on writing from the library. There are a myriad of books out there on how to write. Find out what books a university is using. Go to your favorite author’s website or blog and find out what books they recommend. Read as many as you can and take notes. Do the exercises. Also, find books that tailor specifically to the genre you write. Your writing will improve significantly.

Step Two: Writers read. Much of learning to write is learning story craft. While you’re reading books on writing, consume as many books as you can while analyzing the craft aspect you learned from those writing books. Watch movies and television, they are different mediums, but you’ll start to see how story is crafted. Take notes where the writer succeeded and failed to get craft right. Ask yourself if it was intentional. Ask yourself how you would write it differently.
These books don’t have to be new. Who better to learn from than books written by your favorite authors?

Step Three:  Subscribe to Youtube channels that cover the craft of writing. There is so many free lectures out there about writing. Take notes. This is your MFA at your pace.

Personally, I like to watch critique videos. Where readers give feedback on books they’ve read. What the writer got right and wrong. This is in addition to craft videos. (Bonus: You’ll see a lot of criticism is opinion and grow a thicker skin when you’re eventually ready for feedback.)

Step Four: Write! Practice what you’ve learned, preferably an aspect at a time.  You’re going to learn there are many elements to writing a well-crafted story. Don’t be overwhelmed. Treat it like a class, dedicating a small piece at a time, eventually getting to the big picture and combining all the elements you’ve learned.

Step Five: Get feedback from someone experienced and talented, not your buddies. In creative writing classes, you constantly write pieces and get feedback from your peers and the professor. Find some writers who have a little more experience under their belt to give you feedback. Critique groups can be a great resource for this. Facebook is an excellent source for finding critique groups.

Writer beware: Some critique groups are heavy on the criticism and light on the helpful feedback. These are tired writers with little talent who want to make themselves feel better about their work by tearing down newbies. If critique feels abusive and not constructive, find another group.

Step Six: Repeat until you have something worth sharing with the world. Have fun with it. Experiment. You’ll get there!

Good luck! Happy writing!

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