Did You Know…About Sprites?

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Of the fae, most of us are acquainted with faeries and elves the best, but several other categories of the fae-dom tend to go unnoticed. One of them is the sprite, and much like their counterparts, these creatures are unpredictable and mischievous. Unlike faeries and elves, they have more otherworldly attributes.

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Most often, sprites are paired with water, generally linked to elemental spirits, like the Nixie, which comes from nuhhussa, an Old High Germanic word meaning water sprite.  Mythology also called them water nymphs, naiads, or nyads, who were divine entities fixed in one place—differing them from gods and corporeal beings, like selkies and mermaids.

Water sprites are typically spotted near or in small lakes and streams. In Sweden, they can look like a man, a horse a bull, and even a cat or dog. The Bäckahästen make their victims ride on their backs to drown them.

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Sprites also have affinities for plants. Brightly colored and roughly the size of larger insects, these sprites have dazzling translucent wings. Many are confused with exotic flowers and butterflies at first glance. At night, they may glow, allowing them to hide amongst the fireflies.

These creatures are more common than their faeries and elven counterparts, living deep in the woods—high amongst the branches, down near rivers and streams, or calm and cool-weathered hills.

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Wooded sprites travel in swarms that bite if provoked, and they love to pester butterflies, which they fly faster and longer than. Routinely, the wake and bathe before hunting and eating plant pests, feeding their symbiotic relationship with the flowers, grasses, trees, and bushes.

Tree sprites are responsible for aiding trees in shaking off winter’s snow, budding leaves, and bearing fruit, which they love to snack on. They also help turn the leaves in autumn, and pluck limbs bare to complete the cycle. Afterwards, they hide deep within the trees during winter to keep the tree company and sing to the roots. Sometimes, they don’t make it to the next spring.

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A Dobbie is another form of sprite, the “household sprite,” originally seen in 1811, earning its name from dobbin, a farm horse in Merchant of Venice. Sussex, England called such spirits Master Dobbs. Much like J.K. Rowling’s rendition of Dobby, appropriately named, the house sprites take interest in the families they’ve adopted. They live in the unused parts of the house and are often retiring about the time their families are waking up.

Have you heard of the sprite? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Read a Russian Folktale about the Wood Sprite: here.

 

Sources:

https://www.paganspath.com/meta/faeries.htm

https://mythology.wikia.org/wiki/Sprite

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprite_(folklore)

https://aspcwf.wordpress.com/the-many-types-of-tribes-of-wee-folk/alphabetical-listing-of-tribes-discussed-here/household-sprites/

Quarter Three Review | I Think I’m Getting the Hang of This.

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I have finally seen the light for quarterly reviews after a long time working with planning in chunks like this. Slowly, I’ve seen my habits change, and not simply the ones that I track weekly. Now, I’m seeing improvement in my yearly planning and ability to shift my perspective and work schedule to fit what I’m capable of instead of pushing past my breaking point, which inevitably ends with a broken limb.

Let’s see if all of my reflection makes sense.

If you’d like to watch me figure this shit out on video, check out my plan with me below!

What I overestimated:

-My editing pace for INFERNO. The writing took forever, why should I assume the editing would go any faster?

-Time to write a day. Camp NaNoWriMo kicked my ass. I didn’t expect a couple hours of writing a day to tap my well so completely.

-Patreon goals. I’ve been in the middle of transitioning this page for months. MONTHS. It keeps getting pushed aside as time runs thin.

 

What I underestimated:

-My story, INFERNO. Man, that beast is the longest book I’ve written, by about 20k words. I’m impressed by it, even if it has obliterated me for the time being.

-My writing goals. I met mine for the year before August. I never thought I’d meet it. Woohoo!

-School wipe out. After teaching four classes and holding an office hour three days a week, shopping after two of those days, coming home to make my husband lunch, and I sit down at my desk between two and three, and well, the day is almost over. I don’t have so much time to get things done like I wish I could. It’s put me behind.

 

My vision:

-Keep it simple. This is where I’ve grown. I have begun to simplify my life, focusing on personal projects one at a time instead of stacking them so immensely high.

-Freelance and work from home more. I’ve loved working on this cookbook with my client, Joyce, and I want to do more projects like this. They don’t eliminate my creative well, and I love creating something beautiful that my clients can be proud of.

-Realistic goals and plans. Rather a repetitive note to my first, but when the new year comes around and my heavy semester is over, I feel invisible and forget the time crunch I’d just gone through. Inevitably, I plan for it, but as things slip loose and I fall behind, those projects stack up again to a too-full plate.

 

There’s more, but this speaks to much of the whole of it. Minus my improved power blocking—it still needs work—increasing my self-care, working towards smaller and longer-term income opportunities, and of course, being more present in my family’s life.

The biggest note to myself after addressing how I’ve felt about my last quarter, and my year, is to trust myself more with my creative experiments. I’ve been struggling with “Tatiana’s Diary” and the story format, but I’m so close to being done that I simply need to push along to the end and finish the experiment before I make my judgements.

So, here’s hoping I learn my lessons by the time I get to my end-of-the-year review.

 

Do you review your goals? Let me know your process in the comments below.

PTSD: am I handling it appropriately?

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As aware as I am of what PTSD can entail, I sometimes forget how little most people know about the disorder, other than the stereotypical depictions of flashbacks, withdrawal, and violence.

That’s usually what I see in my crime drama binge-watching tendencies, although I’ve been surprised a time or two at how spot on some do manage. Perhaps, I’m not convinced because TV doesn’t allow for the same type of emersion that reading does.

I don’t want to seem like I’m an expert on the subject. I certainly am not, but I have lived with a multitude of my husband’s symptoms for the last twelve years: loud bangs inducing flashbacks, sleeping with his arm propped on his ear, violent nightmares, pacing the house from anxiety, complete shutdowns of emotion and personality, and coaxing him inside from his stakeout when the drug addicts down the street were stealing from the neighborhood cars.

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The biggest thing I’ve learned—and relearned several times—is how unfair it is when people, including myself, expect him to behave like he doesn’t have a mental illness.

This is probably the most influential component to the overall dynamic of a character, like Ria. She can’t behave like everyone else because her pain is so new. The trauma from the first leg of her journey bleeds into the others: the girl she failed to save, being staked in the side, being staked in the heart, the human she got changed and had to kill to survive, the car crash, a child she had to let die, slicing the throat of an enemy, and so so much more.

I, too, lean toward that stereotypical flashback move. Hers overlap each other, too similar not to impact her when new trauma strikes. Unsure of how accurate I’m being, I never put her flashbacks in the way of her ability to fight. Instead, they seem to fuel her.

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Some studies have found that the heightened awareness and constant adrenaline from a combat zone overpower the effects. After all, PTSD is predominately categorized as being unable to turn this feeling off when returning home to presumable safety.

With the Celampresian Camp—or Boot Camp for Vamps—there are enough lulls for the symptoms to pop up and retreat in cycles. Most of this manifests in anxiety for Ria, an never-ending feeling of doom. Granted, she’s not wrong. Being hunted can do that to a person. It can also lead to a lack of sleep and withdrawing from outside world.

Checking off as many boxes as I could in the first four books, book five will have a different pace, and PTSD will be more prominent for my main charrie.

Overall, I’m happy enough if Ria holds her own kinds of truth amongst the variables that come with something as immense as PTSD. Have you tried to tackle in-depth psychological trauma in your stories? Let me know in the comments below.

 

BLOOD PHOENIX: INFERNO |Cover Reveal and Book Trailer

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I have been on journey with my new novel, drafting it faster than I’ve ever completed one before—five months from start to finish. A totally mind-blowing feat for me.

Add to this, the culmination of rebranding over the last few years has sent me to a cover artist to create new covers for the series. We started with book four, this book—BLOOD PHOENIX: INFERNO—and I am so SO happy to share it.

Big thanks to Christian from Covers by Christian. Not only was he patient with my pickiness, he churned out a cover that fits the book so well.

The angst.

The magick.

The wear from breaking my main character, Ria.

Okay, let me reign myself in. If I get myself too excited, I’m going to reveal too much, but I do want backdrop the cover a little bit with one small detail.

Those marks on her back are the catalyst to her next stage in the paranormal evolution, shoving her into a transformation that will take hold before the end of book five (the final chapter of Ria’s story).

All right, no more belaboring the point of this post. Here’s the book’s official blurb and the cover!

Drawing the Scarlet Queen to central New York’s training grounds, Ria’s remarkable blood triggers negotiations between two kingdoms.

Ria questions her own humanity when she finds herself aligned with Phea, the vampire queen—a woman who’s tortured her and her friends for months.

As all of her secrets unravel around her, Ria is forced to conform or sacrifice the people she loves.

If she doesn’t find a way to break their alliance, the balance of the universe will plunge deeper into chaos, and no one will be safe.

With a sprinkling of Twilight, a bite of Anita Blake, and a smattering of satirical Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you won’t want to miss this dark and witty vampire series.

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Now, I can’t help myself! Here’s the first two chapters of the new installment, coming this November. And I’ll be linking the official book trailer below.

Chapter One

Gene burst into my room and jarred me upright in my bed. Nausea burrowed into my gut, finding its old nesting hole to roll around in. Oh god. I was going to be sick again.

“Get dressed. We’re expected in the clearing.” He pulled the sheets back to hurry me along.

“What’s going on?”

The shift to get out of bed set off warning bells, and my head sank between my knees.

“Another renegade.”

My esophagus shrank.

I bolted to the bathroom, kicking the door closed as I bent over the toilet and puked. This has been my routine for the last few weeks. Gene was unhappy to admit that it might contribute to my lack of faerie blood, but he gladly filled in the gaps in my needs as he could.

“We do not have time—”

I wiped my mouth on the back of my hand. “Pull out something for me to wear. I won’t be long.”

Another wave trampled me.

My stomach churned out more bile.

I rinsed and waited.

Twice was my pattern, but some days…so I lingered.

Five deep breaths, and I opened the door to a dress.

“Come on. Are you kidding me?”

“We do not have time.”

Ugh. I snatched it and threw it over my head, snagging the heels that would sink into the grass in the clearing. Gene both ushered and supported me as I slipped into the shoes on our way out of the apartment door.

“I didn’t know James was looking for anyone.” Fidgeting with the dress top, the line didn’t match the sports bra I wore beneath it.

“He’s not the only one with the job.”

We stood around the semi-circle as Phea strode across the lawn, waiting in her usual spot across from the pathway onto the grounds, dressed like the true queen she was. Powerful. Elegant. Elevated.

She took up the entire clearing with her presence.

Not that long ago, I tramped through that foliage to face the queen of the vampires and ended the evening with a stake beside my heart, dying, and claimed by a man I didn’t know—the one I’d grown reliant on, connected to, comfortable with. I suppressed the urge to reach for his hand now.

The brush rustled, and Vincent stepped through—all doom and danger—then Julia appeared.

That couldn’t be.

Julia was dead.

Dead-dead.

Set-herself-on-fire dead.

The blonde hair shimmered, and Julia vanished. In her place stood the small blonde woman I’d seen in Vincent’s memories. A patch of hair buzzed around her ear, a gold piece holding her hair in place to expose it, and her rainbow eyes glowed with the kind of power that seemed regal.

Not what I expected out of a renegade.

Nor was the corset covering her abundant dress.

Phea’s surprise shifted her unnaturally, like when a cat tilted its head on its side but not nearly as dramatic. Scarlet stood from her dais on the porch behind our queen—a queen of her own. Bloody, they said. The Scarlet Queen.

“May I present Nani, Maka Nani, noble faerie of the underwater mound.” Vincent presented her in the same way James, my maker, presented me to Phea. An offering.

And that’s exactly what she was.

“Oh, Commander, how naughty you’ve been.”

His bow held an intimacy that came from a reformed renegade. One that made her third in command so loyal to her. Nani, the new vampire, fell into a graceful and practiced curtsy without buckling under fear.

Certainly not a normal renegade.

Scarlet’s obvious interest countered her usual demeanor, wicked and cold—colder than Phea, and it seemed to spark a challenge between the two, given the recent trend of sacrifices they paraded through the grounds.

“She is my claim, Your Majesty.”

“General.” Phea’s demand hung in the air, and James dragged a bent over T that once chained him in place to punish him for my vampirism. Now, he thrust the sharpened end into the ground as Vincent stepped forward to take it. “We have a punishment to dole out, and if your fae wants to be tested as yours, she will have to watch and wait through it before she undergoes her own trials.”

“She’s strong enough.”

Nani shifted behind him, but Vincent kept his gaze on our queen as he efficiently disrobed and braced himself within the metal cuffs at the ends of the T-top.

It was more than I wanted to see of him, looking over James instead in his suit and newly shortened hair. He stood as her soldier with a large, wooden box in hand.

Phea flicked her wrist, and the shackles snapped around Vincent’s.

James presented her whip.

She touched the scar on his chin before taking the weapon and slashing it across the grass, a snake promising to strike.

Feet jarred from under him, Vincent took the weight in his shoulders, but instead of the devoted bliss he often aimed at our queen, he seemed to find solace in his new claim.

Nani’s hands clenched the puffy fabric of her skirt, but she maintained her decorum. Like a princess.

Man, I really didn’t want to witness this again. I barely endured it when she’d done this to James. Well, if you could call it that. Felix taunted me right in the middle of this group while she split James’s skin open. Vincent held me as Felix and Gene fought. I hadn’t seen so much of the act.

Felix, our queen’s pet, was gone now, too.

Did Phea think he was out on a renegade hunt? That the new vampires I’d killed and sent off with the Assetatomerely ran off or got themselves killed? She had to suspect me.

I’d stabbed him in the heart after all. Like they’d forced me to do to Harris.

Too many deaths under my belt in too few weeks.

Witchet-crack.

The whip struck flesh, breaking the sound barrier and bringing me back from the neurotic melancholy I’d grown too used to sulking in.

The musky scent of his blood tapped my heartbeat in my fangs and curdled my insides.

Each strike uncovered the madness in Phea’s eyes—one I didn’t see when she’d done this to James—then, I hadn’t exactly been watching her.

Her whip slid around her, leaving traces of blood across her dark clothes.

And they referred to Scarlet the bloody queen?

I traced the lines of Gene’s jacket with my gaze, the way his hands folded together in front of him, the clean press along the creases, the swoop of his dark hair styled in almond oil. The scent calmed me from here. My attention must have burned his skin because his shoulders rolled, and he tipped his face my way to spare a glance.

I forced a smile to say I was okay. Just trying to not really pay attention over here.

Witchet-crack.

I flinched, working on my breath. It didn’t help, funneling more of Vincent’s musky blood into my sinuses. I could practically taste him.

James shifted on the other side of the circle, far enough to keep clear of the gore. With his expensive taste, I understood why.

The new persona he’d taken on after he changed me and brought me here didn’t fit him like his suit did. Standing at ease, clasped arms behind him exaggerated his shoulders’ width.

He met my gaze between the full-fledged vampires I stood behind. The planes of his face were blank, but amusement twinkled in the blackness of his eyes; beyond the gruesome display he found humor in my rushed attire. At least, that’s what the trajectory of his examination suggested.

I tugged at the clingy fabric, the static twisting it between my thighs.

Did a corner of his mouth quirk?

Witchet-crack.

I jerked and shifted again, aware of someone else watching me.

Torture consumed Phea, Nani, and most of those gathered, but not Scarlet. No, I seemed to fascinate her. As much as the thought wormed its way down my spine and made me squirm, it had been this way since Tahe and I returned from the attack at the mall. For a while, I assumed she sensed Boden on me in some way, but I didn’t know if fae possessed that kind of discernment.

Wishful thinking kept me from examining this too closely.

Maybe she got wind of my more-than-inflated reputation.

It’s not like I held a candle to either queen.

But those too-round eyes, that demeanor, those gloved hands…all unsettled me.

Might be the stories and gossip Tahe whispered in my ear when we went into town to feed.

Scarlet smiled at me, manipulative and sweet.

Had this been a few weeks ago, I might have reached for Gene’s hand to stabilize my emotions and my abilities, but my mentor has put in the work with me, gotten me to put in the work, too, and I had control. At least in times like this.

Put me against her directly, however, and I’d likely be singing a different story.

Scarlet paced on the dais behind the performance, giving her an excellent view of the gory bits—something she enjoyed—but her head tilted, remaining privy to my every move.

Witchet-crack.

Shaking my head, I tuned her out and rubbed the scar on my chest. It didn’t dull the burning reminder of how the wood felt as it slammed between my ribs.

Witchet-crack.

Damned glad this wasn’t my problem.

 

Chapter Two

Gene escorted me to his apartment in the Victorian house. I sank into his comfy, leather couch, holding my middle and urging my body to settle while he swept the living room, partial kitchen, and bedroom before settling in front of me.

“Coffee or blood?”

“What?” Queasiness curdled deeper.

“For your stomach, which would you prefer, coffee or blood?”

My choices warred with each other, simultaneously appetizing and revolting. I couldn’t decide, so I leaned into his shoulder instead.

Warmth engulfed my sides and back as his hand generated circles.

One of our cycles. Me queasy or puking. Him unsure what to do for me. We’d already discussed the possibilities of needing fae blood, and as sick as I was of being ill, I didn’t want to bring up that discussion again. There was no point to it.

The vanilla, honey, and almond scent of him took the edge off, so we spent a lot of time in close proximity, especially in the mornings when it was worst.

That meant a lot of sleepovers and cuddling.

Intimacy bloomed between us, and I struggled with it.

It sent us in another routine of warm, cold, hot, too hot, cold, and around again.

Demanding and pronounced taps struck his front door, pulling us apart.

Visitors made a habit of separating us. Unannounced and dangerous.

Gene paused to brush my bangs from my face and drop a kiss on my mouth before he helped me upright. Whoever showed up probably meant to gain something from me—an upper hand, information, fear. Being tired and aware of it didn’t keep it from happening.

I braced myself behind him, peeking from behind his shoulders.

He opened the door to Scarlet.

That prickling I used to get when Felix’s power crawled over my skin returned, but the threat was far more perilous.

A tug at her gloves and a brief touch to her pearls, Scarlet nodded to acknowledge us both. “Do I get the offer of coffee or blood? I almost always take blood, whether offered or not. Almost.”

The quirk of her mouth disturbed me.

Gene’s shoulders tightened under his suit jacket.

“I find it strange. You two have retired here five of seven nights this week.”

“I do not see how our nightly routine or where we retire is of interest to you or how it is any of your business.”

A shift in her stance read offense. “I heard you were one to follow rules and protocol, and here I am still standing in the hallway like some kind of beggar.”

Scarlet didn’t force her way in the way Felix or Vincent might. Instead, she smoothed down the fabric of her bodice and sighed. “You think just because I lost the ability to flay someone with my bare hands keeps me from enjoying the use of a blade? That I don’t have any other abilities? It was easy enough to gain power with it, but keeping influence and position brought new challenges. Different attention. More subtly. I have a new way of dealing with obstacles now.”

“How’s that?” Gene moved to block me once more.

“Why, I deal in secrets. And you’re teeming in them.” Her gaze found me anyways. “The both of you are.”

Gene and I exchanged a look, clearly dismissing me from the room. I didn’t want to leave him there alone with her, but I’d learned to trust him.

“I didn’t say she could leave.”

“You’re not our queen, and etiquette says you’ll deal with me as our hierarchy dictates.”

“It may be in your best interests not to send me after her when you’re not present, especially since she enjoys spending so much time with that pack of humans. Hierarchy would not serve her well then.”

I met her gaze fully. A challenge to her authority.

Even though I am not the highest amongst them, depending on who was present, they were powerless against her, and she’d force me to break protocol anyways.

My hand braced Gene’s elbow. He broke his protective barrier between us.

“So, what do you want from me? The more specific you can be, the better,” I said.

Her lips and brows quirked. “I see why you tend to conduct the meetings, but I am not surprised. Her attitude proceeds her. Generating a mythos of her own, spreading wide, and once it’s penetrated too far, you’ll not be able to contain or control it.”

I fought not to roll my eyes. Didn’t I say to be specific?

“And?”

Ria.” Gene gave me a shot of magick to chide me.

I crossed my arms and waited.

Scarlet met my challenge with a practiced ease. “Your secrets, renegade. I want your secrets.”

A deep breath jangled her pearls, and she wiped her hands down her bodice once more.

My fingers tightened around my biceps. She’d have to wait in line.

“Not right this moment, mind you, my reputation doesn’t include my sense of patience, but I know when to utilize it if I must.” A few curious blinks, and she acknowledged us both individually before turning from the door. “Not forever, though.”

Adrenaline shook my hands and shoulders, so I gripped myself harder as Gene closed the door.

“You shouldn’t goad her. She might not be our queen, but she has enough power to slaughter scores of her own people and ours.”

“I know.”

“It’s like you have a death wish.”

“I don’t.”

“Why do you challenge her then?”

“Because she’s the epitome of authority, and you know how I am with that.”

Gene mimicked my stance, arms folding across his chest. “Quite intimately, but I do not find that to be an adequate answer.”

A tilt of my head shifted his weight in response. His tendency to lecture me came from a good place, so I sighed.

“How about because I’m sick of every other creature looking at me like an anomaly, like my secrets are the answer to whatever power struggle they’re entangled in, like I’m some prize to cash in on. I am a person. Not property—”

Gene cleared his throat, reminding me that I wasn’t quite right. He didn’t need to, but that didn’t mean I agreed with how this society pinned me as such.

“—to be used as some type of magickal talisman. I just want to be left alone.”

“I do not disagree with you, but you will have to give up the pipedream. Reality is ruthless, and the sooner you understand that, the safer I can keep you.”

Another dose of adrenaline sucker punched me right where I was sensitive. My arms unfolded, and I cradled myself for the jog to the bathroom.

I cursed life as an immortal the entire time. How could I be this sick as a vampire?

I missed how easily Boden’s touch tended to soothe this pain.

Gene came in after, a glass of water at the ready.

Thanking him, I swished and spat before I flushed.

“Coffee or blood?”

Exasperated, I couldn’t refrain from the eye roll. “Coffee.”

 

And the trailer! I’m so excited for this book, y’all.

Figuring Out Fictional Motherhood

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As a woman who lucked out, getting to take part in raising children without having to push them out of my body, the idea of motherhood for me is a bit skewed.

This creates a challenge for me as I begin writing my way toward motherhood for several characters. Luckily, I have plenty of friends and family to question about what pregnancy and child-rearing is like; plus, the internet has a buttload of information—both medically and anecdotally.

I got to learn about those super long needles used to test DNA, called an Amniocentesis Test, the stages of baby bump, what sonograms look like, what it’s like to establish a connection with the baby as it grows. Yup, lots of things that I’ll never experience.

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That’s the fun thing about writing a wide range of characters, with enough research and imagination, I can nail motherhood. At least, fictionally. I’ve known Ria wanted kids throughout her entire series so far. Several of her past lives featured kids. Each of the books, so far, has put her in the position to instinctually save children, and she naturally wants to save people, especially the innocent. It’s in her nature to act motherly. Her mother, Tatiana, has to get used to and give up on being a mother in a matter of nine months. Kaia is barreling towards motherhood and step-motherhood with one last novel to wrap up her saga.

I’m hoping I can vary them enough to show a spectrum of mom experiences.

So, yeah, here comes the babies.

Wow, that’s so awkward of me to say.

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Here’s to tapping into my own step-motherhood, auntiness, cat-motherhood, and teacheriness to pull these varying moms off in a realistic way.

 

Got any tips for handling the many moods of babies since I got my yahoos in the threes and fours? I’d love to know how you handle character experiences that drastically differ from your won. Leave me your advice in the comments below!

Creating the Stages of Grief in Fictional Characters

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Grief has been long understood as the eventual progression of steps we walk through after a loss. Most think of it as a straight route through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but the truth is that grief is a mess of loops and tangents and backtracking through these emotions without a specific or defined trajectory.

It also has more parts than we once knew, adding shock before denial and testing before acceptance. Let’s break down the steps to better understand real grief so that we can write about it with better accuracy.

First, every person—and therefore, every character—experiences grief differently, and we grieve over many types of losses: a loved one dying, the end of a relationship, losing a home or a job, amputation, terminal health diagnoses, and having to drop out of a program, etc.

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Second, grief is cyclical and has no specific rhyme or reason. We can jump around, repeat, and remain stagnant in several stages before we make progress in dealing with our losses, and the process will take longer for some than others.

Here are the stages:

Shock | Initial shutdown at receiving the bad news. This typically comes with numbness, fogginess, or disbelief. This is when we run on autopilot, protecting us from that early pain.

Denial | Avoiding the inescapable. Although psychology has deemed denial as a negative symptom, in grief, denial is healthy in moderate quantities. It’s the brains way of making itself feel better until it can fully face the loss. Easing into the difficult reality is denial’s job, ensuring that we don’t face it all at once.

Anger | Aggravated outburst of bottled-up emotion. This may be anger at the source of our loss—the person who died or left or fired us, etc. Sarcasm or increased irritation from minor problems is caused by the energy needed to move on. Anger can happen at any period of grief, and it often cycles.

Bargaining | Futile pursuit of getting back what was lost. This is when people beg god or the universe to reverse the tragedy, promising to live better, do better, and end bad habits in exchange. These can generate uncomfortable conversations that lead nowhere.

Depression | The final comprehension of the unavoidable. This is accompanied by sadness and crying, loss of appetite or disrupted sleep patterns, unexplained aches and pains, and it seems like this could be the end of our life. And it is the end of an old normal.

Testing | Pursuing genuine paths forward. While in that dark pit of depression, we recognize that we can’t stay there forever. Thus, we start experimenting for ways out, doing things to relieve the despair, crawling out of the dark hole toward acceptance.

Acceptance | Finally establishing a new normal. Recognizing the importance of the person or thing lost, we lack the anger once harbored for it or the need to barter for its return. Instead, we begin building our new lives. This comes with absolute peace, but the stage is so hard won that most never fully reach acceptance.

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Managing each of these states accurately within a character’s story arc takes careful planning. Or, at least, that’s what I like to think. I planned each bit for my new diary story where a mom realizes she will die to give birth to her baby. I’m sure they’ll change slightly for organic developments.

We also naturally understand these steps when we cause grief to our characters, leading them through their own loops without planning, but there’s something to be said for a little structure, even if it comes afterwards, in revision.

The most important thing to note is that reality comes in variety—not just excessive crying or vowing revenge. Some process internally and others externally. We all cope differently, so this means creating distinct reactions that don’t simply end, no matter if the world needs saving. This is why reactions sprinkle through a person’s life instead of stopping it.

My point is, if you’re going to tackle grief with your characters, be sure to keep it in sight as your creations interact with the world.

Have you tackled grief in your stories or plan to? Tell me about how you’re tackling it in the comments below.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/grief/understanding-the-stages-of-grief/

https://www.griefandsympathy.com/whatisshock.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/supersurvivors/201707/why-the-five-stages-grief-are-wrong

http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/testing_stage.htm

https://storyembers.org/six-tips-for-writing-grief-realistically/

 

 

My Summer Wrap Up & Memory Keeping

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Want to watch me prep for my Fall Semester and check out my new classroom? Check out my new Day in the Life vlog.

 

Y’all, I have never had a summer fly by as fast as this one did. Man!

The good news is, I got to spend a lot of quality time with my family back in New York, I published a novella, finished the first draft of a novel—completing Camp NaNoWriMo, started vlogging about writing and editing on YouTube, finished my first round of edits on an old novel, and put together a cookbook for a client. Wow, when I put it all down on paper, that sounds like way too much. Still, it was a lot of fun!

I’ve got plenty of new goals for the rest of the year, but I surpassed a major milestone in these last few months and that’s my word count goal for the year. FOR THE YEAR. By August. Um…what?

My original goal was 106,000 words, I’m just shy of 116,000 words.

I didn’t think I’d get past 100,000 since I’d been struggling these last few years to get words to paper. I will admit that since the start of August, my word count has dropped significantly, but I’m trying to not completely lose the habit amongst the chaos of the Fall Semester, teaching four classes, editing an anthology and two books, and publishing another.

I wonder, however, if my yearly habit should be front heavy. Writing packed into the slow times of the year, and focusing on editing and marketing for the last quarter. Ooo, y’all, I have so many new ideas to get ahead.

Honestly, I’ve been leaning more and more that way the last couple of years, but I feel like my yearly planning system is about to change. Here’s hoping I can keep more realistic goals, so that I can keep meeting them.

Okay, sorry for that tangent, but when ideas strike, sometimes, you just have to go for the ride.

To end, I want to highlight some of my favorite memories from the summer:

~My plane landing early and ruining the surprise my mom planned with the kids holding signs with my name on it. They were still really cute, and I loved it.

~Strawberry picking with the family.

~Having a no-looking drawing contest with my niece in the back seat of my mom’s car.

~Chatting with my brother about Arizona

~Watching Bosch, Absentia, and Timeless with my dad; A Discovery of Witches with my mom; Letterkenny with my friend/sister, Donna; Entourage with my Uncle John.

~Going to the craft show with my mom and forgetting to pay the library ladies for the coffee and donuts before remembering and literally running back to pay them.

~The cookout with my Aunt Mikki and cousins Joel and Cameron, and making that’s-what-she-said jokes to him and his girlfriend much to their shock.

~Visiting my grandma in the hospital and having her mistake me for one of the nurses, but the moment she knew I was there, she boasted about me to the actual nurses.

~Having dinner and drinks and talk around the bonfire with my Aunt Karin and cousins Rachel and Naomi. We toasted each other all night.

~Going to the gym with my step-dad, Dan, and teasing my mom whenever we went somewhere together by singing, “waiting on the woman,” to her as we waited for her to pull the car out of the garage.

~Going to Strong with my mom and step-dad, and the nurse asking him to flip over his hand, so he gives her his other one, and all of us giggling together.

~So many trips to the ice cream stand and lots and lots of food!

It was a good time, y’all.

How did your summer go? Tell me in the comments below!

Did You Know…About the Scarlet Queen?

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Marusya Negreev, the Scarlet Queen, single-handedly seized the faerie mound in the Soviet Union just before the Russian Revolution and the fall of Tsar Nicholas the second. Many believe that the fall of the mound influenced the fall of the tsar’s regime, but no one knows for certain.

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When Marusya gained power within the Soviet mound, she flayed her own parents for her merciless upbringing and proved to the people that she would defeat all who came against her. Ruthless and dispassionate, her name was a sign of what she’d been burdened with, and her family was blamed for much of her bitterness. Names prove potent enough to taint the soul, especially amongst the faerie folk.

Many fae died without their home to hide within—exposed to the Celampresians and humans. Anyone who did not serve Marusya fled her rule. Too many didn’t make it out and more never found their way to safety.

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Immediately following Queen Tarkovsky stepping down from the Soviet throne, Scarlet ordered the execution of what amounted to be a hundred-thousand faerie folk, more than a third of the population, earning her the title as the Scarlet Queen. The bloody queen.

She ran off to join the Celampresians as the revolutionaries gained greater numbers than she had the strength to fight from within the mound. Her death toll rose to a quarter million afterwards.

Now, she works with the vampire queen, searching for ways inside what was left of the independent mounds and the truth about her birth.

Camp NaNoWriMo Week Five and Final Update

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Hello, lovelies!

It’s done. Oh my shit, it’s done. Camp. The book. All of it.

But believe me, the book did not want to end. I kept plugging and plugging and plugging, and the book got longer and longer and longer. It finally wrapped itself up at 94,500 words, and fifty-three chapters.

I sat for a day in disbelief that I’d finished it and rewarded myself with a few chapters of reading for pleasure.

Want to see me try and talk my way through the ending? Check out my Camp writing vlog below.

In my last four days of camp—because my week starts on Sunday, not Monday, fight me about it—I racked up close to five-thousand words and all of my remaining minutes. Actually, with the last day, I got an extra five hours in because I wouldn’t let myself plug in those last ten minutes until the book was done.

Okay, let’s be honest, I would have by midnight because I like checking off the box that says I’d complete something, but the prolonging of button-clicking gratification pushed me to find that ending.

So, here are my number so the week:

Minutes Completed: 585/480

Words Written: 4,989

Total Minutes Completed: 3,720/3,720

Total Words Written: 27,964/20,000

Final note: I WON!

It feels nice to win Camp NaNoWriMo again. It’s been a while. In fact, this year has reminded me just how important writing is to my life. And now that I’ve made it a focus, I’m certainly not letting go of it again if I can help it.

 

Well, I’ll be back next week with a project update and an editing vlog, where I dive back into INFERNO to take a full look at it. In the meantime, let me know how you celebrate when you finish a project in the comments below.

 

Breaking Down Satire: Vividness

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Since one of the main descriptions of satire is the use of vivid language that clearly depicts painful, bizarre, foolish, and wicked events and people in order to make an audience aware of how blinded or insensitive or numb we can become to the truths in which we often must overlook to get through our day. Okay, that opens a can of worms that I will actually dig into.

Let’s jump right into an example, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” one of my favorite stories to teach for the satire unit.

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Ursula K. Le Guin does an excellent job of crafting this magnificent place, and she does so straight away with her first lines:

With the clamor of bells that set the swallows soring, the Festival of Summer came to the city of Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old miss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved.

And:

An old woman, small, fat, and laughing, is passing out flowers from a basket, and tall young men wear her flowers in their shining hair. A child of nine or ten sits at the edge of the crowd, alone, playing on a wooden flute. People pause to listen, and they smile, but they do not speak to him, for he never ceases playing and never sees them, his dark eyes wholly rapt in the sweet, thin magic of the tune.

Both create a sense of awe, of fairy tale, or a utopia, which is what Le Guin works for six pages to make us believe in—something more unbelievable than a fairy tale. Utopias cannot exist. Especially not on a large scale.

And that, my friends, is her point. She often asks the reader, “Do you believe me now?”

Then, she drops this bomb on us, more vivid than any of her previous imagery:

Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing.

In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas, or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window. A little light seeps in dustily between cracks in the boards, secondhand from a cobwebbed window somewhere across the cellar. In one corner of the little room a couple of mops, with stiff, clotted, foul-smelling heads, stand near a rusty bucket. The floor is dirt, a little damp to the touch, as cellar dirt usually is. The room is about three aces long and two wide: a mere broom closet or disused tool room. In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose and occasionally fumbles vaguely with its toes or genitals, as it sits hunched in the corner farthest from the buck and the two mops. It is afraid of the mops. It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it knows the mops are still standing there; and the door is locked and nobody will come…but the child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother’s voice, sometimes speaks. ‘I will be good,’ it says. ‘Please let me out. I will be good!’

Although may lessons can be taken by the way she sets up the trajectory of the story, the largest impact comes in comparing that first child, the flue player, with the child in the closet. Le Guin lays out the rules, without that single sacrifice, that boy wouldn’t have been so blissfully wrapped in the tune of his flute.

In fact, the entire city would fall apart, and so would its people:

If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing indeed; but if it were one, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms. To exchange all the goodness and grave of every life in Omleas for that single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the change of the happiness of one…

I hope the point is obvious. Since utopia means something different for all of us, when one is enacted, there will always be someone who is oppressed and violated. Someone will always suffer so that others can have more.

I, of course, use this in class to talk about all types of things, like child slave labor and bad business practices of big conglomerates. But it also allows me to force their hand, to make them look at their bad behavior, at all of ours, because those conglomerates wouldn’t be so big if we didn’t buy their products. But when Le Guin makes that connection between the children, she is describing us—those of us with the easy connection to the internet, who carry computers around in our pockets, drive our own cars to work or school, have more food than we can eat in a week, those of us who have to work fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty ours a week to have a little more than the bare minimum.

She is also talking about the rich and powerful, too, don’t let me distract from that, but they aren’t reading this story. My students are, and they have to know that those luxuries are available to us because of that eight-year-old digging in a field to extract cocoa and coffee beans. Those people who try to jump to their deaths from the top floor of a third-world factory, making our leading brand of phones, because they’re treated so poorly—only to be caught in nets and rolled right back into work.

We buy those products and fuel those businesses. We vote with our dollar, but most of us do not think about it.

We’re distracted by those toys, by the hustle to be successful, to make more money, to live an easier life. Because it’s hard to do. It makes sense that we don’t stop to think about it, and when we do, we feel the pull of that game on our phone, that social media feed, that cat video. We can’t do anything as a single person amongst billions.

That’s why Le Guin names the story after her brilliant ending. There are ones that walk away from the city because they can’t live with their happiness hinging on someone else’s misery.

If you get the chance to read the full story, I encourage you to. Her ability to so vividly describe this place and this problem makes it rich with connections and layers of meaning. And that’s what vividness should do for a satirical text—highlight their point and infuriate their readers.

 

Have you had a vivid description impact you in this way? Let me know about it in the comments below.