Episode 63: Delilah S. Dawson

Photo by Shane LeonardI am excited to share this week’s episode with you. Delilah is one of my favorite author’s to read  and it was a blast chatting with her!

Delilah S. Dawson is the New York Times bestselling writer of Star Wars: PHASMA, Servants of the Storm, the HIT series, Wake of Vultures and the Shadow series (as Lila Bowen), and many others. She has written a variety of short stories and comics. Delilah is on the show talking her books and comics, inspiration, and a love of Star Wars. She goes into what it’s like writing Rhett Walker of her Shadow series, and the history of other characters. Delilah also talks her journey to writing comics.
Find more about Delilah: https://www.whimsydark.com/

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Episode 54: Heather Mason

54 promo.pngPop Culture journalist and host of Obsessed Right Now, Heather Mason joins me this We talk about Heather’s six weeks on the road, changes in weather, and the pressure to binge-watch Stranger Things 2. Before Heather comes on I get into the twisty world of my writing process and thoughts for those participating in NanoWriMo. The weekly book recommendation of the week is “All The Crooked Saints” by Maggie Stiefvater.

 

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maybe try this…

I like to think of writing as a ‘gut’ business. Books are personal at the core, so emotional inspiration or interest is part of it—just a level, but still important. One slice of cheddar cheese makes all the difference in a ham sandwich. Following my gut is how I solve problems in the arcs, know when ideas or worth something, and on and on.

The problem is, the inner-critic sometimes gets in the way of gut listening. Something I am working on. I had some dancing with my demons while I reread my current work in progress and wrote a reverse outline to track plot lines and beats all while keeping other feedback in mind. I had multiple unhelpful voices coming in and telling me any shred of an idea I had was no good. I’m not sure if this is just the way it has to be. I have to feel desperate in order to have ideas. I don’t know, nor do I know where today went. It’s been a sea of notes and ideas and outlining and panic since around 9 am.

I am feeling confident that I’m on the right track. These issues are being solved just as they should be, one at a time. Putting a story together in a new world is a puzzle. Every piece adds up, but in this case, some of the pieces are never seen.

Sometimes it’s daunting to think of all the pieces at once. It isn’t helpful to try and swallow all of it—a dance that happens in steps. That speaks to a lot of phases in the process. I am still figuring all this out as I go and still trying to achieve my goals so I wouldn’t take this writing advice and theories to heart because I am just trying to figure it out. One thing I am damn certain of is words shake other words free. So I am dumping some thoughts out to find the words I need, and maybe my words will poke at some words or hope you need. Who knows?

It is all too easy to get caught up in the desperate need to create and share and publish when the focus at the moment should be the experience of creating. It really is an amazing thing, especially when it flows. The act of forming a spell or a creature is a thrill.

I guess I will end this rant by concluding with, savor the small moments and enjoy the ride.

heroes and holes to different realms

I think about Alice in Wonderland a lot. Leather bound and aged. Aside from the story being one of the first I can point to for having opened the literary realms to me, the meaning of the story and feeling it gives me adds to my daily thoughts. Seeds and caterpillars. Dreams and age. Creatures and villains.

The hero’s story is one of change and purpose. An often grabbed trope in this arc is the loss of innocence. It is something we all go through. The journey through fallen dreams and life-hardened perspectives aren’t possible without it.

The manuscript that is being edited right now was a trip I enjoyed so much I decided it had to be a series. A world I want to stay in. The project out of my hands leaves a sour hole in my chest. Something I need to fill. I’m someone that has to have something to obsess over—ideas to hobble together. Drafting the second while the first one fed through the grinder didn’t seem like something I could do at the moment. Juggling fire on a tight rope blindfolded. At least one eye. But like ideas and gardens and stewing plots, I had projects and characters on the back burner. I pumped out three short stories. These were swirling around for a good while. They came right out. Cleaned up nicely and off they went.

“Okay,” I told myself. “It’s time to dive into the manuscript concept burning a whole in your back pocket.”

Because it has been trying to come out for years in different ways. I found the story and what the characters were doing. I sat down.

Nothing.

Some words.

Five different tries.

Feeling nothing. Oh wait, panic, that’s right.

I don’t know how you guys are with ideas. But, they feel like my air. When I can’t grab one I ask myself, “Was that it? Is that all I have? Am I tapped out?”

One thing that I am learning right now—something I should have probably known already but didn’t look at it as it stood in the corner pointing at me—writing sometimes means not writing.

Sometimes wandering and living and walking nowhere is how you write, how I write. Getting lost to find things. It’s hard for me not to work. I have yet to reach my career goals so most of the time it feels impossible to justify not working. But working means different things. I’ve been lucky the last nine months. I’ve been flush with ideas and energy to pump it out.
I spent four days not writing, it felt like torture, but now I have the format and voice I was looking for.
I’ve heard so many writers say, “The path to every book is different,” I can’t even count. Like so many sayings that are used too often, they lose their weight, but they exist for good reason. Every path is different. Each story has a rhythm, their own beat, and heart and blood.
So, yes, my mind is in a better spot right now. I’m getting into the groove with this book, but I’m not diving so deep in just yet. Edits for my other project will be dropping in any day. Then these ideas will wiggle and work stuff out in the background while I go through the edits.
Part of me is excited to get them back and eager to get my fingers in there and get dirty. But, I’m also nervous—before-you-get-on-a-really-loopy-rollercoaster nervous. I’m not sure what to expect. I have an idea, maybe. Guesses. The unknown is always intriguing to ponder.
The dance between liking and loathing lack of control.
I think that wraps this up, for now, I’ve gone on long enough. I’d like to sink my teeth into some drafting this strange, scary, and heartbreaking new project before my stomach and brain demands lunch.

a pen in each hand

Putting down the first word is often the hardest. To make the jump in and start that sentence has me dancing in the space between creating and pulling my hair out some days. Others are like my fingers are on fire with all the thoughts running through my head.

The first day back to work is always like this for me—which is today. I get nervous to sit down and lose myself in my own head. There is always a way in through the nerves and first word. Remembering that words only need to be present in order to be be fixed, helps.

In early January, I learned that the dystopian I had bled over was close, but the manuscript wasn’t quite “sell-ready.” I received great feedback and ideas, but the taste of “almost” brewed something new in me. My hunger became like a newborn vampire’s thirst. (Twilight reference.)

I spent a few weeks not looking at it, knowing I would fix it but only when I knew how. After soaking my hair in red dye, reading a towering stack of Image comics, and revisiting my go-to writing books (pretty much every one written by Chuck Wendig), I was ready.

I put everything I could down (podcast, other projects, chores) and allowed myself to fall into the story and the characters. I knew I had stuff I could keep and I knew the arrangement was off. Finding the story is like climbing out of an onion. One of Wendig’s “List’s of 25” made the visual of climbing out of an onion really stick.

Ten colored pens and a five subject notebook were purchased. I reread the manuscript, didn’t touch a thing, and took a disgusting amount of notes both inside the document and on paper. Some notes were ideas of what could be better or where scenes should move. Others were meaner. Once I was through it, I put it away again.

I am stubborn and obsessive—two things I consider some of my most valuable tools for the trade. I wanted to be very purposeful with how I bulldogged this. While I was feeding the crows and thinking about a short story in the works, exactly what I needed to do hit me like the realization I ate too many Girl Scout cookies. You know that heavy, sinking gut clenching sensation under your belly button? Yeah, just like that.

My ideas caused the dystopian to transform into high fantasy, and third person would become first. So, part of me wanted to tell myself no. The small, shrill voice said, “You are way off.” “Crazy.” “Trying to sabotage yourself.”

But, I didn’t listen to the voices or the doubt. I started a new document and rewrote the whole damn thing, keeping only 35,000 of the 120,00 words. I worked harder in the last four months than I had ever before. Which, is saying a lot because hard work is my favorite hobby.

Research.

Notes.

Layering.

Foreshadowing.

All of it.

I kept listening to my gut and ignoring the less productive trains of thought. When I handed it over to my editor the Friday before last, I felt like I was delivering my best foot. Now, I wait to hear back. It’s a battle to not worry about it or think about what needs fixing.

My kids had spring break last week. All the adventuring and quality time took my head out of the fantasy world I created and put it back into my very pleasant reality. It was nice. Coming back to my chair and career wrangling made me nervous, but I’m happy to be back. If this were easy, I would have lost interest years ago.

This post has helped me get my fingers and mind moving, so I thank you for that. I’m going to tinker with a pile of short stories that I had going before the rewrite took my brain to places I didn’t know I was capable of going.

So, yeah. Here we are.

-J

chasing dreams

Hey, guys!

I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like to. I tried the before bedtime and I only stuck to it for a week. I have so many deadlines and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited about it. I love to write, building my career is challenging but rewarding. Following dreams can be terrifying but I believe it’s necessary. Things have just been super busy. Most of my nights have been me bent over my computer writing until I’m close to passed out. I’m hoping once the fall comes I’ll have some more time to blog.

I’ve been working a lot behind the scenes, getting things set up and being heads down and creating. One of the things taking up my time has been co-writing a fantasy novel with the wonderful author, Rebecca Clark. It originally started as a short story and became so much more. Rebecca and I just entered our fantasy project in an Inkshares contest with Geek & Sundry. I’m really excited and nervous.

The more preorders the project receives and better chance it has to win. Winning would be amazing and help me get so much closer to my dreams.  Below you’ll find the blurb and cover. I’d love to know your thoughts. You can comment below if you have any questions. Shares and preorders would be so appreciated. It makes me nervous to put myself out there like this but we are super proud of this story and would love the chance to share the entire version with the world.

ShadowBearerseBook.jpgView the book on Inkshares

Countless Huditra villages demolished by a darkness spreading throughout the lands. Thousands slain by the falling shadows. Hate looms over the forgotten lands like heavy fog stifling the little life that’s left. Over the years the Nafarat have been casting their magic, destroying all that’s natural. The War From Nowhere forced those who’ve survived the initial attacks into hiding. Nothing alive was safe. Both Tag, the leader of the Nari, river, people and Athea, the future chief of Dagee, the tribe behind the mountains, are all that’s left standing of their kind. With their home grounds no longer safe Tag and Athea hit the traveler’s road, each with individual missions. When their paths cross, they reluctantly team up to seek the answers that will lead them to free the land of shadows.

My Obsession

I have always been incredibly stubborn. At times, it works against me, and it takes turns maddening those who love me. But as I build my writing career I’ve decided it one my qualities I love most about myself.

When I’m told, I can’t do something it only makes me convinced that I will, in fact, do just that. I get surprises and setbacks and opportunities. All that is part of what I do, but I know as long I don’t stop writing and continue to improve and grow I’ll be fine.

This is a new feeling for me.

I have a strange relationship with ideas. I get flustered when I get one while I’m focusing on something else. But, in those moments when I just don’t have one, I panic, I feel miserable and obsessed with getting a spark of any kind.

Perhaps this is just my process.

I worry about all the different outcomes of any possible situation constantly.

Wishful thinking and hard work.

Denial and delusions of grandeur.

Either way, I suppose I’m on the trail.