Category: Fallen Friday

Fallen Friday: COVER REVEAL! (and sample chapters)

Fallen Friday: COVER REVEAL! (and sample chapters)

This week I am using my “Fallen Friday” to do something a little different. Since we are creeping up on the release date (January 13, 2022), I am taking this time and space to share a first peek at my cover and first two chapters!

In case you haven’t seen me screaming from the rooftops on social media, my novel, Fallen, is an urban fantasy story about a fallen angel, a murder, and a demon.

Blurb:

A newly-fallen angel accused of murder, Cassiel must save an elven girl and face demons—both literal and personal. She knows she isn’t the best person for the job, but she’s the only one who can do it.

The police are ill-equipped to handle demons, even with magic, and time is running out. Cassiel and her friends—a disabled human veteran, a reformed elven gangbanger, and an ex-marine orc—face the hardest fight of their lives.

This fast-paced urban fantasy adventure is the first novel in the “Smoke and Magic” series, set in modern Boston, MA. If you are looking for a new voice in Urban Fantasy, look no further than “Fallen.”

Cover design by Angel Leya.

To claim your free sample, please click the link below and sign up for my newsletter!

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

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Fallen Friday: ADHD and Writing

Fallen Friday: ADHD and Writing

I don’t talk about it much, but I have ADHD pretty significantly. I hide it really well because while my mother has always been incredibly accepting of it, my father wasn’t. My mom has it, so she gets me. My dad? Not so much. He thought it was a matter of discipline. And all I could ever do was disappoint him and everyone else by not living up to my potential.

As an adult who has their own decisions to make and who is no longer at the mercy of anyone else’s judgment, I have been starting to peel back the layers and really consider how my ADHD affects my life. Since writing is such a big part of my life, I’ve been considering it in that context, too.

So, what does it mean for me as a writer? How has having ADHD shaped my writing? Well, I can tell you this: there are at least three things I’ve noticed that are–wait, no. Four. Four things that are related to it.

  • I like to start sentences with prepositions because my thoughts often start in the middle.
  • When I am not starting with prepositions (or sometimes when I am) my sentences are very long because they wander.
  • I tend to write shorter paragraphs than many writers because I prefer to get in, get out, and be done. This also translates to shorter chapters.
  • Description and I are iffy bedfellows. I tend to not write much of it because so often I’m deeply focused on the action (the “interesting” part) and ignore everything else.

Now, none of these things are inherently bad. Starting sentences with prepositions is acceptable behavior these days, even if it makes my editor twitch a little. She’s learned to tolerate it so long as I am not doing it excessively enough to be a problem. Which I appreciate! Having really long sentences, on the other hand, is less helpful. Because my thoughts wander, sometimes my sentences do, too. Wandering sentences doesn’t help readers with comprehension, so I have been trying to learn to reign that in.

However, recognizing these things about myself means I can choose to keep or discard them as needed. Also, understanding how my brain works means I can treat it well. I’ve always known I had ADHD, but I have spent most of my thirty-six years pretending I didn’t. It hasn’t gone particularly well for me. Everything from my work to my school to my personal relationships has suffered. I have been able to make things work, mostly, but meeting this challenge rather than hiding from it also means I can stop working as hard.

That isn’t to say I am giving myself carte blanche to be lazy, but if I set myself up for success using methods designed for neurodivergent people, I’m more likely to succeed than if I try and follow the path for neurotypical folks. As the famous saying goes, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein)

It’s time for me to stop climbing trees. No, really, my knees don’t like it so well anymore, and the last time I did, I had trouble getting down.

Coming to this understanding about myself also explains a few things. First, it explains why I am so religious about keeping an outline and putting one together. Writing a story bigger than a flash fiction off the seat of my pants results in disaster because I cannot get anything done without at least having a general idea of where I’m going. My novel will change thirty times while I’m writing it if I don’t come up with parameters. Of course, this can lead to the opposite problem where I plan everything and don’t want to write it because I’ve over-planned.

The sweet spot is to use things like the Beat Sheet and the Snowflake Method to come up with a basic road map that has destinations I need to hit but provides me freedom in how I get to those points. I might know roughly where I’m going on the journey, but if I veer off into the weeds because I need to visit the World’s Biggest Ear of Corn, then, well, I can do that without getting entirely lost.

Having ADHD also means that just sitting down to do the writing can be a challenge in and of itself. There are times when, if I’m wrestling with something, I cannot keep my brain on the work. Then there are others where I’ll get up, have some tea, jot down some ideas, and when I look up again it’s midnight and I’ll have written 10k words. There’s no in between, which is something I’m trying to teach myself.

I cannot change the fact that I have ADHD. I can take medication (though I often don’t because if I drink much tea with it, I end up with heart problems), learn to trick my brain into playing nice, or do other such things, but there’s only so much I can do. I’m not neurotypical, so I will always be a square peg in a round hole. I was called that a lot in school because I just didn’t study/work/learn like other students did.

Nobody ever questioned that I’m smart. I just heard that old chestnut that I wasn’t “applying myself.” Nobody could tell how hard I was working or how much I was trying except my mother because she got it. So this is me more or less coming out, in a way. I am here, I am neurodivergent, and I am sick of hiding it and pretending otherwise because it hasn’t helped my life.

Instead, it’s time for me to live my truth and learn how to be who I am rather than blaming myself for who I am not and acting as though that will somehow solve my problems. Because, obviously, punishing myself for not being something or someone different hasn’t gotten me very far.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Fallen Friday: Magic

Fallen Friday: Magic

So I’ve talked some about the angels and demons and their hierarchy in the setting, since a large part of the story centers around them, but I haven’t talked a ton about non-celestial magic. Which I think is a shame.

While the series is focused on the celestials a lot of the time, there are going to be a number of POV characters in future books who use arcane magic, which is a different thing. This may change when I write it all out, but the way I have magic set up is that it is set up into a few categories and sub-categories. There’s some crossover between them, but I haven’t figured how much or exactly how.

Without further ado, these are the current categories of magic I have set up:

  • Celestial
  • Arcane
  • Primal
  • Glamour

Celestial magic is used by angels and demons, arcane magic is used by most everything else, and glamour is used by the fae races (which is a significant category of species from sidhe to sluagh). A caster of each type doesn’t tend to have much crossover into other types absent a multi-species individual (half fae, half elf, for example). However, some angels and demons are capable of using arcane magic powered by celestial powers. Primal magic is used by creatures such as therianthropes who can shapeshift at will but aren’t typically “casting” magic exactly. While it’s a process that involves it, the magic is innate and limited.

Magic also comes in several types: channelled, invoked, and ritual. Channelled magic is just magic someone uses without “casting a spell” more or less. Again, to pull up the therianthropes, they just do it. Invoked is typically what most folks think of when they think “casting a spell.” It would be a word, a geture, or something of that nature driven by intent and manifested as an exercise of will. It typically requires training of some kind, even if someone is born with the innate talent to cast it. This is more the D&D type spellcasting where you cast “shield” or “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter.” Things like that.

Finally there’s ritual magic. Since magic is inherent to most things in the world, almost anybody can do ritual magic even if they aren’t casters. They also most often use ritual magic for utility things like powering street lights, handling heating and cooling, or various other such applications. With ritual magic, a lot of the time, the power is in the ritual itself. The downside is that rituals have to be performed exactingly. A mistake can result in catastrophe. Or, at the very least, the caster being pink and lime green polka-dotted for awhile. Which is a fashion catastrophe if nothing else.

For small magic, sigils are a common tool. They channel small amounts of energy. Some individuals get sigils tattooed on their joints to help channel energy, like a built in heating pad. Others use them as light switches and so on. Their uses are various and sundry. Not everyone uses them or is educated on it, but they’re common enough that folks more or less expect them in places and is familiar with it.

On a more writerly side of things, I went with magic being mundane in this series because I don’t see too many series of books, TV shows, etc. that have that element. The only one I can really think of where magic is commonplace and everyone knows it is Avatar: the Last Airbender which has a very different take on it than I do. Do you know of any series like that? Tell me about them in the comments!

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Fallen Friday: Fences

Fallen Friday: Fences

Peeling paint and tired, sagging fence lines speak to the weary feeling that has settled over my town, my country, and my life. When I was younger, those fences were straight and even like the perfect, even teeth of a movie star. Now they lean to the side, valiantly defying the will of the weather, sun, and time that have rusted their nails, torn their clapboards, and broken their supports.

Vines, invasive and choking, crawl over trees and buildings. They could be pretty if they weren’t trying to kill everything, carpeting it in a toxic green death, swallowing the local plants, driving out the flowers, and leaving them a thorny wasteland. Nobody can keep up with them anymore, so the best we can do is ignore them. They flourish when we aren’t looking, but tearing them out requires a community effort nobody has time for.

When I was young, there were orchards. Wide, open spaces with apples bowed down so low that even my small hands could capture them without straining. I used to sneak in with my best friend, stealing apples until our faces were sticky and bellies full. We then ran, giggling and rushing into the safety of the forested buffer between the houses and the farm, dodging patches of skunk cabbage and poison ivy. The apple trees never chased us.

These days, the orchards are vanishing, replaced by garish new homes nobody can afford. “For sale,” they scream from their monochrome, cookie-cutter windows. “Newly built!” The empty windows stare vacant and glassy, as if even they know nobody wants them.

The people I went to school with laugh. “As if we can afford you,” we say back. “Can we have our apple trees back?”

“No.”

Everything new is made of cardboard and aluminum and sheetrock that looks like it belongs in California, not here. Not where the apples grew plentiful and the bees hummed on long summer days where we ran barefoot through the open spaces.

Everything old needs several new coats of paint, new nails, and a roof that doesn’t leak. It needs love and the hands of a carpenter who remembers how to put things back together again. Or maybe it can just lean forever, a guttural sigh echoed from the lips of ancestors who remember when there were horses in the barn. Or at least goats.

We can’t afford those either.

Instead, we pack together in tenements in the city, far away from the trees and the creeping green vines and the memory of apples. We tell ourselves we like the hustle and bustle. We like the convenience. Our eyes are as empty as the new houses on side roads carved into the orchards.

Our children won’t remember the trees or the bees. They’ll grow up knowing only sagging fences, peeling paint, and empty windows framed by curling green vines ready to choke out whatever light remains.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Fallen Friday: Creative Slump

Fallen Friday: Creative Slump

I, like so many people, sometimes deal with dry spells when it comes to creativity. Lord knows I am in one now. I help people deal with these often as a book coach and in my writing group, but the shoe is now on the other foot, and I’m whining and kicking my feet about it like anybody does. Also, this time, my own advice isn’t helping.

I’ve been wrestling with this slump for over a week now, and nothing’s been coming out how I want it. No art, writing, music, or anything else seems to be doing what I want it to do, going to the gym isn’t getting things moving, and right now I think I just need to give myself some breathing room. While I am a big fan of helping writers get back on the horse, it’s also important to know when the horse is just tired, and it’s too hot for this, and maybe it’s picked up a stone in its hoofand needs some down time. And a good hoof cleaning.

Work toward the release of book one is going well, and my beating my head against the wall of book two is where I’m stuck. I’m more than halfway through the novel in terms of story events and 45k in on word count, but I am just stuck on how to get from the beat I’m at to the beat I’m headed for. It’ll come to me, but I just haven’t been able to get my brain into the mode.

I advise writing every day, and I suggest a lot of things when dealing with creative block. I also have been taking my own advice (reading, exercise, talking it over with friends, making sure I’m hydrated/fed, etc.) but sometimes things just don’t happen. I can’t speak for last week, but for me this week hasn’t been going well. It’s been a perfect storms of severe heat and humidity for where I live, migraines, an Ehlers-Danlos pain flare, and messing with my sleep schedule. As well as life in general just being a jerk.

It’s okay to have times when the creativity just isn’t happening. Whether it’s for a few weeks or a few months. I’m not really behind schedule because my goal is to release a book a year, and book one isn’t due out until January of 2022. I pushed the release off so as to not compete with Big Five marketing around the holidays. So I have until 2023 to finish the fool thing, and I’m better than halfway done with the first draft. Also, I have a second series I’m looking at under a pen name that’s been trying to get my attention, though I don’t know how much I’ll be doing with that if anything. I may just write it to get it out of my system and then go back to what I’m better known for.

Right now, though, I am pretty sure my body and brain are just demanding rest.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Fallen Friday: Series Plotting

Fallen Friday: Series Plotting

I think that image sums up how I feel about plotting my series right now. I have around fourteen viewpoint characters between my husband (who plans on writing some in this series, too) and I. The metaplot is substantial, but certainly not excessively convoluted. But finding out how everyone ties together into it, and what to reveal in which book when is a lot. Particularly since we have to introduce some POV characters before some events.

When doing series plotting, I always look to Avatar: the Last Airbender for advice because it is, in my mind, the best recent example of the three-act structure in action. I can plot each episode, each season, and the entire series on the beat sheet, which is pretty impressive in all honesty. That tight pacing and storytelling is brilliant, and it is the number one example I always return to when considering the plot.

I’m obviously not going to give you spoilers on my metaplot. That would just be…well…the first book’s not even OUT yet!

I’ve been doing most of that plotting on pen and paper. Or close enough thereto–I use a Rocketbook because between D&D, writing, and life, I used to keep dozens of notebooks and never get anywhere with them. I kept losing all of them and couldn’t find the one I needed when I needed it, so making the switch was great. I love my Rocketbook and wouldn’t go anywhere without it.

There are many methods to plotting things out, including index cards, software, mind mapping, the Beat Sheet (my preferred method), the Snowflake method, and many others. For me, paper and the Beat Sheet are my go-to pairing. I don’t do pantsing because with my ADHD, I’d wander off into the weeds and get lost or write something incomprehensible. I know. I’ve done it. The manuscripts I have from high school are, well. . . Let’s not talk about those. ‘Tis a silly place.

I don’t yet know how many books are going to be in the series yet, but I know it’s going to be more than four, since I’m at four for the first act of the series overall. And since act two is usually twice as long as act one, we’re looking at a lot of real estate. That isn’t to say it won’t be twice as many NOVELS, but it has a lot of ground to cover in terms of the story itself. I should probably put up a cork board somewhere, but then I run the risk of becoming the living embodiment of the picture at the top of this blog post.

I don’t know, maybe “sleepless conspiracy nut” will be in next year.

Fallen Friday: Working Vacation

Fallen Friday: Working Vacation

I spent last week on retreat at a family cabin in the mountains. It has no internet, no cell service, no television service. It’s on a lake in the Adirondack mountains and is quite cozy, has a huge fireplace, and is a perfect place to settle in and write. It’s also a great place to retreat from the constant news cycle and constant hammer of data and stimulation, which helps my ADHD brain calm down.

Heck, even as I write this I have the news on in the background. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

While I don’t get to do these retreats more than a few times a year, they are incredibly valuable to me both as a writer and as a person. Having the opportunity to not deal with my phone constantly pinging me with updates from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, the news, TikTok, and the various places I’m on social media is important. I know for a lot of people the FOMO (fear of missing out) is big, but for me that quiet is a relief. I’m also old enough that I remember a time before all of these things existed, so part of me longs for the silence.

During that week, I wrote over 10k words on the second book in my book series. It’s currently sitting at about 40k words (a little over halfway since my target is around 70k). The quiet makes it easier to create. I typically write about 1,000 words per sitting, though I don’t write every day. There are many days I am too fatigued, in too much pain, or dealing with real life, so I write slower than some. Generally speaking, it takes me about 6-8 months to produce a first draft in my experience, though I have won NaNoWriMo a few times, so I know I can do it. I just don’t often have the luxury of that kind of time.

Part of my routine during this vacation was reading. I finished two books in the gere I’m writing in, and started a third. And now that I am home, I am reading one of my first non-fiction works, “I Alone Can Fix It” by Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker. I haven’t read much for nonfiction, but I find the writing in this good enough that I can follow it. Even if it’s not my usual fare. I’m doing this partially because the subject matter interests me but also because I am trying to read things out of my comfort zone to expand my knowledge of the craft. I also buy books to study the typesetting, editing, and formatting because that is part of what I do, after all.

I know this is a lot of a ramble. I’m having a bit of brainfog today because the smoke from the Canadian and Pacific Northwest wildfires hads settled in my area, which is making it hard for me to breathe (I’m an asthmatic). My hope is that the incoming rain will knock some of it out of the atmosphere, but we will see.

Back to the vacation, however. I can safely say that if you have the opportunity or ability to shut down the world for even a day or two, you may find–as I do–that the creativity you are struggling with comes roaring back. Disconnecting with the constant thrum of input is invaluable to me as a writer, and while I am definitely an internet native (I started going online in the 90s), I also see the benefit of just…not. Enjoy the quiet.

Also, when I got back, I hadn’t missed anything of serious importance. If World War III had started while I was gone, my mother would’ve called the land line and warned me. So the FOMO? It’s a lie. Taking some time offline won’t mean you miss everything. Heck, like me, you might not miss anything at all except a few memes and a couple emails.

In short, I’m back all the richer for my trip, and I’ll be getting right back to the business of writing, Twitter, and the rest. It’s nice to be home with my cats, but no small part of me continues to long for the quiet of the lake where I could write and listen to the loons call back and forth in the gloaming and mornings were shrouded in mist so thick I couldn’t see past the end of the dock, and it felt like the rest of the world ended there, in the smooth, glassy waters of Loon Lake.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Fallen Friday: Tea

Fallen Friday: Tea

Her name was Grace. She was the barista at my favorite coffee shop, and I saw her every morning on my way home from work. And every morning she gave me the same bright smile. “Good morning, Lisa,” she chirped as I walked in. I knew it was nothing but good customer service, but it always felt personal. Maybe it was because I was just lonely enough to believe it.

I smiled back. “Good morning.” I was usually the first one in the shop when it opened since I worked night shift and got off work about the time the shop opened.

“You want your usual?” she asked, already plucking a cup from the stack of them behind the counter.

My usual. A chamomile tea with a shot of sweet dreams. Sometimes having a fae barista makes your day just a little better.

“Yeah, please. It was a long one.” I leaned both hands on the counter and yawned.

“You catch the guy yet?” she asked while she put together my tea.

I’d told her the morning before that I’d been chasing after a killer. I sort of regretted it since a lot of the time people treat you differently when they know you’re a cop. Grace, however, had taken it in stride. Either she didn’t care enough about me that it mattered, or she liked me enough that it didn’t. At least now she knew why I liked the sweet dreams in my tea.

Grace bustled about, adding honey to my tea and humming while she did so. The sound soothed nerves frayed by long hours working overnights on cases that had no happy endings. In truth, happy endings don’t exist in homicide. The happiest ending we get is when we catch a killer, and even then we catch them only after they’ve killed someone.

It was then I realized I hadn’t answered yet. “No, not yet. I’m hoping we’re close, though. The magic division is on him. He left some spell components at the last scene. I think we’re closing in. I just hope we get him before he kills anybody else.”

“Me too. How long have you been on the case?” She set my cup on the counter and slid it toward me.

I wrapped my fingers around the paper to-go cup and sighed. “Few weeks now. He’s killed four people.”

Grace put her hands over mine on the cup. “You’ll get him. I’m sure of it.”

When I looked into her sparkling violet eyes, I almost believed her. I smiled some. It felt like my mouth should’ve made a creaking noise from disuse. I didn’t smile much. We don’t tend to in homicide. “Thanks, Grace,” I said, looking down at where her hands sat over mine.

“Hey, uh, just a random question,” she asked, releasing my hands and heading over to the cash register. “But I was invited to a party tomorrow. I was wondering if you might wanna go?” She didn’t look at me as she asked, but the detective in me read her body language. Blushing cheeks, hunched shoulders, fingers looking for anything to be busy with.

I sipped my tea. “I haven’t been to a party since college.”

“Oh, sorry. I just—”

“I’d love to.”

She lifted her head, a brilliant smile pouring across her beautiful features. “Really?”

“Yeah. Really.”

She jotted down her number on a napkin and slid it across the counter to me. “Call me when you get up?”

“All right. Will do.” The tea tasted better this morning. Or maybe I just noticed it more.

Grace smiled at me again, and it felt like sunrise all over again. Maybe everything in the world didn’t suck. “Cool. Oh, uh, I’ve got your tea. It’s on me, I mean. Well, not on me. You have it. But…” She sputtered a couple more seconds, and I let her. It was precious.

“I get what you meant, Grace.” I smiled again. She seemed to like it. “I’ll call you tonight.”

“Cool. Yeah. Okay.” She nodded.

I headed out to my car and climbed in, sitting for a minute in the quiet and sipping at my tea. She’d done something else to it this time. While, yeah, it definitely had that soft, ethereal quality I knew would help me sleep when I got home, would chase away the demons in my dreams, this time it did something else.

Or maybe it wasn’t the tea.

That day, in my dingy little apartment on the wrong side of town I dreamt of flower fields, of Grace laughing, and of sunrises. And when I woke up feeling lighter and like I could breathe again, I called the number she’d given me on the napkin.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Fallen Friday: Editing from the Otter Slide

Fallen Friday: Editing from the Otter Slide

I know, I know. “But E,” you say, “Your Monday blog is about publishing industry stuff! What sorcery is this!” Well, this week I wanted to talk about something more writery (it’s a word now, hush) than just regaling you with tidbits about my setting. Instead, I kind of wanted to discuss what it was like having my work edited by another professional editor. In case you’ve never had it done before, this is what it’s been like for me.

First, I want to say as a disclaimer, my editor is my friend Mel. We joined the publishing industry around the same time, and we’ve worked together for most of it, so I knew what to expect from her mostly. I’ve seen her work before, but we haven’t really done a lot of work together. Her blog is mostly her art, but you might see some writing here and there. She’s a delight. Go see her stuff! We’ve been friends since college, so I also knew without a doubt I could trust her. Plus, she also works at my publishing company, so when she’s ready to publish her book, I’ll be working on it.

My imposter syndrome keeps needling me and telling me I don’t really know what I’m doing. That nobody will like my book. That nobody will care. It’s this constant mantra playing on loop telling me I am going to be nothing but a disgrace.

Now, as someone who has been editing other people’s writing for over a decade, I can safely say I’m an expert at it. It’s not new to me. But being edited? I’ve not had that much. Plus, it gave me exposure to how another editor might work differently. It’s been an interesting experience.

Before I sent Mel my manuscript (teehee, alliteration), I self-edited it twice and then ran it through PerfectIt and SmartEdit, which are my editing programs. They obviously didn’t catch everything, but I sent her the cleanest manuscript I could have, so the majority of her edits were her asking about continuity errors, catching places where I overused a particular word (“though” is my nemesis), and catching the occasional typo or punctuation error.

We did tussle a little over some of my writing habits. I like starting sentences with prepositions and have a bit of a choppy writing style. At least with this series. The main character is often confused, and things happen quickly. As a result, the choppier style works. I will also admit fully that I am heavily influenced by Jim Butcher’s writing, and he does that a fair amount. But anyone who has read much of my writing in the past would not be surprised to learn that.

Overall, however, it wasn’t the humbling experience I feared. Not because Mel is unkind or overly critical or anything, but because my imposter syndrome keeps needling me and telling me I don’t really know what I’m doing. That nobody will like my book. That nobody will care. It’s this constant mantra playing on loop telling me I’m going to be nothing but a disgrace.

I know it’s not true, but that doesn’t stop the brain weasels from whispering to me.

In fact, Mel’s editing being light and mostly focused on the spots where I made silly mistakes (or leaving jokes in the margins) helped reaffirm the fact that maybe I do know what I’m doing. That maybe I’m not an imposter.

Of course, the reality is that I studied creative writing in college and started writing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pen. I’ve taken a number of creative writing courses and studied with several incredible mentors whose critiques, edits, and encouragement have helped me a great deal over the years. I’ve been studying writing intensely since 2006 when I started taking classes at SNHU, my alma mater. While my degree is in European history focused on the Renaissance, I was only a few credits shy of having my minor in creative writing when I graduated.

While it’s a pipe dream of mine to go back to college for my MFA in writing, I doubt that will happen due to financial and physical constraints. But hey, a girl can dream.

My novel, which is due to release this December, is the culmination of decades of work and experience. And that shows. Now, do I expect my first book to be a huge bestseller, topping charts, getting me interviews on Oprah? Definitely not. For one, I don’t even know if Oprah has a show anymore. But regardless, it is the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since I was very, very young. And now, at thirty-five, I’m taking my first steps toward fulfilling it.

Going through my book line by line with a good friend whose expertise I trust has been incredibly helpful for my confidence because, not only is she my friend, she is my peer. She actually enjoys my writing. Which is an incredibly exciting thing to be able to say. She makes silly jokes about my characters with me, and she is looking forward to seeing what comes next. That kind of support is invaluable.

Is there the instinct to stick out my chin, dig in my feet, and say ‘No, I said what I meant to say!’ Of course. We all have that. But the reality is that I trust these people. I wouldn’t have asked them to edit my writing if I didn’t.

Not every author is as blessed as I am to be able to work with a dear friend as an editor. However, I can say for sure that working with someone you can laugh with, share jokes with, and who you feel comfortable with makes the process easier. Not everything about having your work edited is fun. There are times when I’ve really had to hit authors upside the head with a clue-by-four and tell them they needed to fix something. It can sting. Mel convinced me of a few things I was iffy on, but ultimately I decided she was right. If you trust someone and hear their advice for what it is (a genuine desire to make your work succeed), it takes a lot of the sting out.

Sure, nobody likes getting told they have parsley stuck in their teeth, but I’d much rather have it pointed out to me before I go out in front of everyone else. And that’s what this process is. Mel is finding all the things that could be embarrassing mistakes before I show things off to the public. Heck, even my blogs have another set of eyes on them. My friend Josh (hi, Josh!) is helping me clean them up before you folks see all my typos. He, too, is an editor.

Last week he made some important points to me about mentioning some things in my blog regarding religion in my novel. It was good feedback, and it gave me an angle I hadn’t considered before on something. So I accepted that I needed to fix it and went back to do so. Is there the instinct to stick out my chin, dig in my feet and say, “No, I said what I meant to say!” like a petulant child? Of course. We all have that. But the reality is that I trust these people. I wouldn’t have asked them to edit my writing if I didn’t. So if I trust them, I also have to set my ego aside and consider what they’re saying. Also, they’re both professionals, so I at the very least ought to give them the respect that deserves.

I know Josh is reading this, but if Mel does: thank you. You really are as good as I keep telling you, you are. And if anyone needs a good editor, she’s definitely someone you can trust to work with. I know I do. Josh? You’re amazing also. Honestly, he’s really good at picking out things that should be phased differently with regards to sensitivity reading, and his knowledge of pop culture can be very useful in avoiding sticking your foot in blunders. (Even if I am still naming my main character Cassiel, to heck with Supernatural.)

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Fallen Friday: Thorny Theological Issues

Fallen Friday: Thorny Theological Issues

This isn’t a spoiler, since it’s on the cover, but my main character in Fallen is a fallen angel (like the title didn’t give it away, right?). As a result, I put a lot of work into considering how angels and demons work in the setting and how I want to address them. It took a lot of consideration because on one hand, I’m a Christian and want to do justice to my faith. On the other, this isn’t a Christian book series. Which will become apparent to you pretty quickly, and I am expecting some heat for the way I use angels. Just remember that this is fiction.

I did a fair amount of research on angels in the book of Enoch as well as in Kaballah and other sources before settling on which choirs exist in my setting and how they work. I still don’t have every single detail laid out, but the basic foundation is all present, and since my editor and some of my beta readers have been curious, I figured this was a good time and place to discuss exactly what I am doing! Also, some of this may be subject to some measure of change as I write the series, since it’s not all codified yet.

While studying, I learned there are multiple types of angels that are listed in various places, and I didn’t want to use all of them. Also, depending on which scholars you read, the hierarchy is different, and Jewish and Islamic folks use different names from Christians. I defaulted to using the Jewish names since it was as close to the source material as I could get and, being a history nerd, I like using the more authentic names rather than Anglicizing them. Also, there’s no Anglicized version of some of the types, so writing some in English and some in Hebrew and mashing them together didn’t appeal to me.

The angel types I went with are as follows, in descending order from most power to least powerful.

  • Seraphim
  • Cherubim
  • Ophanim
  • Erelim
  • Malakim
  • Ishim

The way I am using archangels is that it’s a position, not a separate species of angel altogether. I chose to go that route because there are only six of them (not counting those fallen like Lucifer), and it gave me the opportunity to work in their roles and their functions. Basically, I have it that the six archangels are more or less the top tier management who oversee the duties of those assigned to their purview. I’m not going to bore you with the exact details of what angels do what, and what each looks like when not adopting a human guise (though the ophanim are the wheels with eyes). I’m not writing an RPG, after all. At least not now. Though the idea has crossed my mind.

Demons are structured similarly to angels, though it’s far less organized because, by nature, they tend to be more chaotic and less likely to fall in line. I haven’t worked out all the various types yet and what I’d like to call them, but it’s more or less a broken mirror of heaven’s ranks.

However, for demons, an archdemon is a demon who was once an angel. There aren’t a ton of them, all things considered, and they tend to be excessively powerful. Their power, of course, does depend on what kind of angel they were when they fell. An archdemon who was once a seraph is obviously more potent than a demon who was a malak. I need to do a little more work on exactly who is what in Hell, but at this point in my novels the exact “structure” of Hell hasn’t been extremely important. All you need to know, for the most part is “demons bad.”

I also recognize that Islam has its own structure for angels, but I know nothing about the faith beyond the fact that it is similar in many respects to my own but distinct and different in many others. I don’t know enough about Islam to utilize their theology, and I don’t want to do them a disservice by trying. I know it’s present, and I respect it. However, as I say further on, the reason I chose my own religion to alter is because that’s what I know, and I don’t want to appropriate someone else’s.

Now for the parts that are likely to cheese people off because this is where my “this is FICTION” comment comes strongly into play.

The way I have the reality of God in this setting is that God is the creator deity. He is not the explicitly Abrahamic deity of Yahweh. The creator, which the angels just usually call “the Father” or “Father” is too big for any religion to understand and too big for human comprehension. While much of Fallen takes place in a Christian setting and dealing with Christian people (this is largely stemming from me writing what I know), the angels are servants of the creator, not the church, and as such they aren’t innately Christian, themselves. My main character would be just as comfortable in a Jewish temple, a Mosque, or in a Buddhist temple as she is in a Christian church. Angels are just as likely to quote the Bible as they are to quote another religion’s scripture beause all of them are right, and all of them are wrong.

In addition to that, the polytheistic religions actually have some merit.

God created more than just angels and the races of the Earth. He also created the elohim (note: different from reference to God as Elohim. Capitalization matters here). Elohim, in Hebrew, is a plural word for “gods” or “deities.” While we could dig into Christian theology here, I really don’t want to because, as I said, my series isn’t a Christian book series explicitly. It’s urban fantasy with some Christian overtones not dissimilar to Dresden Files or Supernatural, which both deal with angels and demons but aren’t Christian fiction.

So what are the elohim?

In my setting, they are more powerful than the seraphim. They were God’s first, his eldest creations. Creatures who interacted with the elohim saw them as gods in their own right, and many of the elohim didn’t try and dissuade them of the notion. To human understanding, they are gods, though they derive their power through their connection to the divine source, the creator Himself.

(Also, to note, I refer to the creator as male, but the reality is the deity isn’t gendered. This is, again, a case of “write what you know,” so I’m most comfortable referring to the deity as male pronouns.)

The point of the religion in these books is this:

Everybody is right. Everybody is wrong.

So, then we come to the question of why use the Hebrew words for things if it’s not going to be Jewish/Christian?

Honestly, it’s because that’s what I’m most familiar with. I am Christian, myself, and studied Christianity and the history of the Bible in college (in a non-religious sense). While it’s feasible to use another religion’s words for the concepts and such in my books, I admit fully that I don’t know enough about them to do them justice, and I don’t want to appropriate another culture’s living faith systems for my fiction. I’m okay using my own. It’s my belief that my religion is big enough to handle some fiction using our words.

Further, creating and imposing an entirely new and different religion as the “true” religion and laying it over the real world with all its religious and historical complexities didn’t work for me. It would be incredibly complicated, and it would require an incredible amount of world building to accomplish properly. Which would then require me to alter my characters into unrecognizability almost, and I didn’t want to do that. As such, I decided to use the framework I know and alter it slightly.

Beyond that, the angels speak an entirely different language. They wouldn’t call themselves “seraphim” or “malakim”; they’d use the Enochian words for it. My main character uses those words for herself because she’s mostly interacting with Christian folks in the first book, and it’s the easiest way to explain it.

As to why I didn’t write this to be explicitly Christian and be done with it, it was a choice based on the fact that my theology in the story didn’t work as being Christian alone. While the first few books about Cassiel are explicitly about an angel’s experience in the world, some of the other ones are decidedly more terrestrial.

Just as a teaser, I have vague ideas for some other themes:

  • A licensed necromancer dealing with ghosts and the undead.
  • A former CIA operative who had to retire but is still doing her work. Vaguely reminiscent of a supernatural Burn Notice.
  • A few books dealing with vampire politics and ancient beings.

My husband also has some ideas kicking around for novels in the universe that he’d like to write. We’ve worked on this setting together for years, and there are some stories from some perspectives he’d like to tell.

The meta-plot for the series, well…I’ll leave that for you to piece together yourselves. But I promise there is one. All these threads tie together in various places. There is a method to my madness.

This time.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.