fiction, Writers

The Good, the Bad and the Dad is now live!

The fourth book of the Fairyland Romances, the Good, the Bad and the Dad is set at Christmas and features Haru – father of the fan favourite Minako from previous books. Haru is a widower, a translator and a struggling novelist and a Fairyland theme park devotee.

When he attracts the attention of not just a handsome prince, but a rogueish pirate at the theme park and out of it, his life becomes a lot more complicated.

It was fun to write this one and pack it full of cameos from the characters in the previous books, as well as lots of fluffy Christmas touches to warm the heart.

buy book number one: Rival Princes
Book number two: Mischief and Mayhem
Book number three: Recipe for Chaos

fiction, writing

SpecFicNZ podcast interviewed me!

I was recently interviewed by the SpecFicNZ podcast crew about writing, inspiration, RPGs and romance. This was a really fun interview to do, and I highly recommend you follow this podcast to learn more about New Zealand authors and what’s happening with speculative fiction.

https://specfic.nz/2019/10/20/episode-15-of-the-podcast-featuring-jamie-sands-is-now-live/

If you’re a fan or author of speculative fiction and based in New Zealand, go join in specficnz

Suburban Book of the Dead is available here and go here for my Jaxon Knight theme park romances.

fiction, writing

Writing process? Part two – characters

Part two Characters, who are they and how do they happen?

Some of the time my characters appear fully fleshed out and raring to go, most of the others take a little breaking out.

The hardest part for me is always naming them though. Good reference lists for names are googling baby names websites, especially for meanings. Or searching for names on pinterest – a quick search for ‘male names for romance’ for example, will bring up some names. Baby name websites, a google for ‘names which mean…’ is also useful for meaningful names.

Once I have some names, I assign a character archetype to each one. This is kind of intuitive and kind of not. I start with a Hogwarts house sorting…

For example in Rival Princes, Nate is a Gryffindor with strong Hufflepuff tendencies, and Dash is a Ravenclaw who people read as a Slytherin. This gives me a broad intersection of personality types and a springboard to more information.

Dash and Nate
Dash and Nate

Then I think about the role the character has in a story – okay, so Nate’s a Gryff in a new job, and I know he’s a natural charmer, because Dash is a hard worker who has researched and planned and strived to get where he is. The natural conflict there is that Dash feels like Nate hasn’t ‘earned’ his stripes the same way Dash has. Which is a totally normal and relatable way to feel. What does this tell us about the characters? Dash is competitive and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Then I ask myself, what is a good contrast to that? What if Nate was kind of oblivious to all that? What would make you oblivious? Maybe Nate just believes the best of people all the time, he’s a genuine and kind person, and he assumes the same of others.

If you’re not into Harry Potter, you can also use Horoscopes or zodiac, Myers-Briggs style personality types, oracle cards, whatever works for you.

Then I look at those characters, recognise parts of myself in both and build on those as well.

Add in some character details which I can bring depth into the characters with, working in contrasts really makes this easy. Dash is a neat freak, so Nate doesn’t really care about mess. Dash eats a healthy, well thought through and locally sources diet, Nate gets a lot of takeaways. Dash has one friend, and everyone else finds him prickly, Nate is a charmer who makes friends quickly and easily.

From there I start writing and let the characters reveal themselves as they go. I keep a document open for notes and have little profiles for each of them I can refer back to.

For characters who are harder to nail down I’ve had luck with character questionnaires before. You can find these by Googling or searching in pinterest. There are a lot of them out there, but they all seem to have questions that I wouldn’t think of otherwise, and even if the stuff you discover never ends up on the page explicitly, it might inform something.

At a recent conference I attended a panel by Jan Goldie about faceblindness and how it informs her character creation. She had folders of information with all the physical and personal details of her characters recorded to refer back to. It was like police records for each character, but included things like what their sense of humour is and who they look up to. I aspire to this level of information, but I’m not there yet.

Also….there’s nothing wrong with borrowing from other characters. Maybe your lead is partly Mr Darcy and partly Clark Kent. Maybe you want to take a tablespoon of Veronica Mars and a half cup of Tahani Al-Jamil and blend them up in a big bowl of Lisa Simpson, I dunno. I’m just saying you have permission to use characters which aren’t totally unique. Don’t copy directly – that’s gross, and people will notice – but it’s okay to make homages with some aspects of your characters.

You don’t have to be a genius Zeus plucking fully formed and utterly original new gods and goddesses out of your brain.

So, those are some of the ways I come up with characters. I also like to mooch around online and find an actor or a model who matches the basic idea of how my character looks as a reference but your mileage may vary on that one.

The point of going deep with all this stuff on your characters before you start writing is that if you know them well, then you know how they’re going to react to things. You’re going to find it easier to write their interactions and responses. That’s gotta be a good thing, right?

Next time: getting the actual writing done.

Part one

fiction, writing

Writing process? Part one

Advice about writing? What is my process? Well, first it’s just write. Write as much as I can, when I can and make time for it.

The longer answer is a bit more complicated. Let’s see if I can answer over a couple of posts.

Part one: Planning plants?

I used to write pure ‘by the seat of my pants’ aka Pantser, and just let the story tell itself through me. It was all very Romantic Poets – the wind through the lute and me just the instrument to the divine muse.

I got several novels written that way, but when I gave them to publishers or various others to look over, there were big problems with them.

e.g. The plot ambled around. The B plot started half way through the book instead of near the start as a concurrent stream. The characters made choices which were bizarre.

Some of those manuscripts are salvagable with some hard work, but looking at myself and realising I wanted to write fast, get something out there and hopefully make a little money, I knew I there had to be a better way.

So, in August and September last year I changed it up.

I read this article about increasing daily word count to 10,000 words.

Now, I’m generally enthusiastic about my work, and I can sort of find time most of the time, but planning was where I fell down. Like the Romantic poets I mentioned above, I didn’t believe in it. I thought I was above it.

Well, that’s just pretentious nonsense, isn’t it? You can’t sit around and hope a divine muse will pop into your house and dictate a book to you. You have to do the mahi and make it happen. And that meant planning.

There’s a lot of great books out there on planning* and I’m sorry but I haven’t read a single one. I had a fire under my butt and I wanted to get started immediately. So I went to planning articles and beat sheets.

Beat sheets are wonderful. Beat sheets break down the story beats into acts and important turning points, and there’s all these wonderful genre specific ones out there, too!

I’m a big fan of Jami Gold’s worksheets. She has put a ton of work into breaking down different genre and explaining each beat in a succint way.

So, I grab the beat sheet for the kind of book I’m writing and then brainstorm some things about the story.

Who are the characters? (I’ll do a post on my character notes, because I find them hilarious). Name the characters, what are their relationships and what are they most afraid of? Then I start mapping out the novel scene by scene using the beat sheet.

I don’t map the scene out exhaustively, I suppose I’m a little afraid of feeling like it’s done already, and losing the impetus to write it. So I give myself generic description. Something like:

Intro character A = house routine with daughter M – visit Important place – meet character B there. Show A’s need for love, and a way out of his lonely routine

Or

Character A is in the backyard , is startled by figure – heavy on atmosphere and description, then startle awake.

You can see I don’t give myself too much to go on, just enough to get the scene in my head so I can write it fully. Also reminding myself to write atmosphere is important or I’ll rely on dialogue too much. This makes me a planster – a planner who also writes by the seat of my pants.

I’d love to show you a picture example of one of my plot plans but it’s all spoilers for unpublished books… maybe someday.

I write this all longhand and leave lines in between each scene for extra notes. Characters can surprise you, they can move the story forward or change their minds when you didn’t expect it.

I’ve also found that as I write I might see a need for another scene to expand on something, so I give myself room for that as well.

Then, plan done, I just start writing those scenes. It really does save time, and it lets me see the shape of the story in advance. It ensures my B plot is present and interconnecting with the A plot, and it means when I’m focused I can just tear through words.

I don’t believe in divine wind from Heaven any more. I believe in working hard as often as I can, instead and tools like a beat sheet have really helped me with that.

*Romancing the Beat and Save the Cat! seem to be the two most recommended, and I have every intention of reading them… some day…

fiction, writing

Romance, self publishing and pen names

I’m doing something exciting – I’m publishing another book. But I’m doing it under a pen name.

Why am I putting it out under a pen name? Well, I’ve been doing a lot of research online on marketing and self publishing. The accepted knowledge is that you need a different pen name for each genre you publish, a lot of self publishing gurus preach this. This way my Young Adult readers won’t get confused expecting another YA supernatural action thriller, and my romance readers won’t pick up Suburban Book of the Dead expecting it to be a romance.

It’s also security of sorts – if people hate this book and it gets horrible reviews, then it won’t affect my “real” name.

This pen name (Jaxon Knight) will be publishing sweet, queer romances, starting with my themepark romances.

Sweet means no cheating, no dark stuff, no sex scenes and not that much swearing – there’s drama, but it’s not life and death drama. For fanfic readers, the term ‘fluff’ is a good analogue. It’s cute and heart warming. Romances require either a Happy Ever After or a Happily For Now. You have to have the main couple kiss and commit to each other at the end of the book.

Here’s the blurb:

There are three golden rules for new recruits at Fairyland Theme Park:

1. No breaking character, even if you’re dying of heat exhaustion

2. Always give guests the most magical time

3. No falling in love.

Nate’s only been working a day, and he’s already broken all three.

Fast-tracked into a Prince role, Nate’s at odds with Dash, the handsome not-so-charming prince who is supposed to be training him. Nate doesn’t know how he ended up on Dash’s bad side, but the broody prince sure is hot when he gets mad.

Dash has worked long and hard to play Prince Justice at Fairyland. Now, instead of focusing on his own performance, he is forced to train newbie Nate to be the perfect prince. Nate’s annoying ease with the guests coupled with his charm and good looks could dethrone Dash from his number one spot … so why does he secretly want to kiss him?  

Fairyland heats up as sparks fly between the two rival princes. Will they get their fairytale romance before they’re kicked out of Fairyland for good?

Find out in this standalone MM contemporary romance by Jaxon Knight, set in an amusement park where fairytales can come true.

Pre-order now to get it as soon as it’s released! (Paperback coming soon)

If you want to follow Jaxon Knight’s exploits, please check out the Goodreads profile I’ve built for the pen name.

fiction

Suburban Book of the Dead an awards finalist!

The finalists for the Sir Julius Vogel awards, New Zealand’s science fiction awards were announced last Sunday. Here’s the longlist.

The Suburban Book of the Dead is nominated for Best Youth Novel! I’m absolutely over the moon that it got to the short list. My little book, a nominee! I’m so pleased and honoured.

The awards are voted by the Science Fiction society and awarded at Geysercon on Queen’s Birthday weekend. (Friday 31st May – Sunday 2nd June 2019) 

If you’re local, I highly recommend attending Geysercon. I’ll be appearing on a panel or two, and paperback copies of Suburban Book of the Dead will be available for purchase at the book fair all weekend.

Click the cover to be taken to the book on Amazon. It’s also available on BookDepository and the Hutt based indie bookstore Writers Plot Readers Read

fiction, writing

Void breath

Breathing to re-anchor myself. To make myself more human and less void. Breathe in, breathe out.

I need less aether in this skin. My skin.

Some days it takes longer than others. A disruption to my routine will certainly cause the human-ness to disappate, the myriad confusions of the universe rush in instead.

This openness to the void is usually not much of an issue. Not too big, not too bothersome. But if I have to get up at 4am to check into an early flight, or if I get wrapped up in excitement at a party, or playing a video game and stay awake to late then it rears up.

Any day I forget to eat.

If I get sick with a fever.

If I run into an ex unexpectedly.

There are warning signs: a slight nausea where my stomach should be, a prickling in my fingers, or a tingling up the forearms. The feeling that something in my spine is out of place and wants a good crack. My eyes dry out, my throat scratches, the corners of my mouth crack painfully.

When these things happen, even one of them, I get irritable.

It’s best not to speak to me.

This is for your own good, you understand. Anything that sets me off in this state could trigger… well. I don’t exactly know what it triggers. I don’t know what would happen. I’ve always been able to control it.

Breathe in, slow, controlled.

Even the time I woke up halfway through the process. My heart fluttering somewhere around my left ear and my being feeling such affinity to the infinity. The void filling me and threatening to do something worse, something more…

Breathe out, longer than I breathed in for. Control the rate of expulsion.

If I couldn’t breathe my body back into the completeness who knows what might happen. But something in me continues to chase the void away. To return to the anchor of the flesh and breathe. In and out.

Breathe in

Breathe out

____

This is a short piece I found in an old notebook from 2015. I rather liked it, so I updated it and now you get to enjoy the existential horror of anxiety. You’re welcome.