Category: Personal Writing

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.

Advertisement
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: 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: 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: How Do Centaurs Wear Pants?

Fallen Friday: How Do Centaurs Wear Pants?

When working on Fallen, I’ve come across a lot of these questions like the title of this blog. Do they wear pants at all, or do they just let it all hang out? Is that legal? Is it moral? Well, my solution was that centaurs aren’t usually in cities since they’re not comfortable there. They prefer large, grassy areas and dirt roads (better on their legs and feet), so since my books are set in Boston, I don’t need to know.

But, since I mentioned it, I’ve decided that they don’t wear pants since they couldn’t don them. Instead, they have small magical items (necklace, ring, etc.) which hides their bits away and makes them more or less a Ken (or Barbie) doll. Smooth.

It’s not that bits are offensive. They aren’t. But when we’re talking human-level sentience, if two-leggers need to wear things covering theirs, I imagine the laws involving four-legged creature like centaurs would have to be similar. And given the shape of a horse body and human torso… Well, I have enough trouble putting pants on as it is. I don’t want to think about yet MORE legs and booty, thanks!

Honestly, a lot of my world building has come down to the question of how magical races would integrate with modern society. Satyrs? Well, that’s easy. They just have pants designed for their leg shape. They could definitely wear pants like the human races do. That one was easy. Where do vampires get food? From consenting adults or blood banks. Also, your fae barista might give you an extra shot of glamour to help you get in the right headspace for a big interview. Things like that.

The thing that I’m really thinking about in terms of all of this is how magic intersects with police work. For example: there are many creatures who can change their physical appearance at will or shapeshift entirely. Now, a therianthrope’s DNA is likely the same whether they’re an animal, in their beast form, or in a human guise. So that would only confuse the visuals. You get a therianthrope bull in a china shop on camera, you won’t know what they look like as a human, but you might see some identifying marks. Plus paw prints, DNA, and so on would be traceable, I imagine.

Of course, I am fully aware that this stuff all flies in the face of real biology. A centaur could not exist, scientifically speaking. Nor could dragons or shapeshifters. I’m not even going to go there because, honestly, this is fantasy. I’m here for the magic. I love science, but this ain’t it!

Doing this kind of world building is a lot of work. There are a lot of intricate pieces to the series as I’m working on–more than just the cosmology of angels and demons. I have to deal with vampire politics, the laws around certain kinds of magic, and so much more. While the story starts from the POV of just one character, the series is actually much bigger than what it seems to start. I have plans for several trilogies, some stand-alone novels, and all of it ties into the meta plot, which is a lot. I’ll discuss a little of that in a future blog post (no spoilers, I promise).

However, this kind of daydreaming is one of my favorite parts of writing. A lot of us writers really get into the “what if” parts of our story crafting, and I’m no different. Using the modern world as a framework was the easiest thing I think I could have done because all the world building I do can exist on top of already-existing structures, which makes things easier. For my high fantasy novels, I have to create everything. Not only the magic bits, but the countries, factions, world, laws, and so on. It’s far harder than this. Or, at least, it’s more complicated in some ways. I still have to answer questions like how centaurs wear pants, but I have to do so on top of figuring out what the name and structure of the centaur country would be.

How do you think centaurs wear pants? No, really. How?

Fallen Friday: The Setting

Fallen Friday: The Setting

Welcome to another edition of “Fallen Friday!” If you weren’t around for last week’s, this is my new blog series where I talk about the journey I’ve undertaken to get here, my writing, and also about the novel itself as well as its setting! While you can learn this in the book, I figured sharing some of this stuff in advance couldn’t hurt. Fallen isn’t due out until December, and I don’t know if I can keep all this in for that long!

Like I mentioned last week, my novel’s setting is inspired by a mixture of the movie Bright on Netflix and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series along with no small dollop of Holly Black’s Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. While you may or may not recognize all the influences, the most obvious one at the first contact is Bright.

The setting of the Smoke and Magic series addresses a similar question to that movie: what if magic were commonplace, and fantasy races were all real? Now, unlike Bright, the world isn’t/ a post-modern dystopia where the elves live in the fantasy equivilent of The Aerium from Altered Carbon. (Yeah, I know, I’m a Netflix junkie. So sue me.) Instead, society is more or less like it is in the real world. Mostly.

My novels are mostly going to be set in the city of Boston, MA because I live quite close to the city. I haven’t spent a great deal of time there in person due to a combination of finances and physical disability, but if Google Streetview tracked steps like my Fitbit does, I’d have probably clocked several marathons by now. I have also been to the city a number of times (Logan Airport, the Boston Aquarium and museums and zoo, The Royale to see VNV Nation perform, and so on), and I’m a historian who is intimately familiar with the history of the city. I also live in New Hampshire, so the historical New England buildings are hardly foreign territory for me. My family church is with a year or so of the establishment of Old North Church in Boston.

So what does it mean that magic is commonplace in the world?

Well, for one thing, there are degrees in it from Harvard. While you won’t meet her until book two, there’s a character who has a degree in it. Magic is, of course, quite regulated. It’s commonplace insomuch as there are many people who can do it, how magic is used and by whom is tightly-controlled. Particularly things like necromancy (which will show up later in the series). Small things like illusion magic (the fae use it a lot) to alter hair color, eye color, and so on? Not considered much of a big deal in most circumstances, though it can make police work a nightmare if you have no idea what the person really looks like. They have special units for that.

Those with magic are considered “metas.” Some species are entirely comprised of metas (like the aforementioned fae) while others only have the occasional meta. Species like therianthropes are also considered meta since their shapeshifting, while a product of nature, is a form of magic. Metas are, generally speaking, broken up into two categories: active and passive. Passive metas are individuals like therianthropes whose magic is (typically) limited to shapeshifting and healing wounds or a vampire’s ability to exist.

Generally speaking, about 40% of the population is meta, with the bulk of the non-meta population being made up of humanity. While there are many other species in the world, humans reproduce the fastest. Some of the long-lived races, like elves, have few children and typically at more or less a replacement rate since elves can live for centuries. Biology saw fit to ensure they wouldn’t over-populate the world and kill off life on the planet. Most of the species with excessively long natural lifespans have similar parameters to their biology.

So what about things like dragons?

Yes, well, dragons certainly existed, though they were in fact hunted out in the Medieval ages so far as anyone knows. Any who weren’t slain by knights have long since gone into hiding. And just as well for the most part–they were extremely powerful creatures known to cause a great deal of trouble for folks. What with the hoarding and such. Not exactly ideal neighbors a lot of the time.

So what does that mean for the day-to-day?

Well, you still have computers and cell phones and Internet. The world still exists as we expect it to on average. However, there are folks with heating and cooling handled by runes instead of forced air. They still require charging and maintainence, but it’s cheaper that way. Also, there are flight rules for winged creatures communting. And there are cars designed for bigger creatures. And, you know, centaur standing room on trains and busses.

Some things like World Wars are also a little different, but I don’t want to get too far into that in this installment.

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.

Writing. We Hates it.

Writing. We Hates it.

There are days–and more of them than we are likely excited about–where writing feels like pushing our brains through a cheese grater. I’m having one of those days now, actually. As I write this, it is extremely hot (over 90F with 41% humidity) for where I live. Now, if you don’t know, I’m a New Englander. We usually don’t see these temperatures until August. So our AC isn’t in (we have window units), and I am melting in a puddle of nope. If I didn’t have housemates, I’d probably be lying on the kitchen floor in my underpants. To top off this sundae of suck, I have had a migraine for three days now. Not fun.

On days like this, we need to be kind to ourselves. I saw a tweet the other day with someone talking about not shaming folks for only writing a few words in a day. Apparently they have received flak for having low word-count days and sessions. And I am here to squash that like a bug. (I don’t usually squish bugs, honestly. I feel bad about it.) There are days where I stare at my Windows desktop with a blank expression for half an hour before I have the mental energy to open something. I’m sure you’ve had days like that, too.

It’s okay.

We all have days like this. We might even have weeks, months, or years like this. There are times when life has decided we aren’t writing right now. That’s okay,too. If you are dealing with problems or situations that require all your energy to manage then it’s only natural your creativity will take a hit.

From Wikipedia

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows creative activities as the top of the pyramid. If your other needs aren’t being met, there’s a good chance you may be feeling like you just don’t have it in you to write at the moment. And that is okay. If you need a hall pass from someone telling you that it’s okay to take time off, this is it. Here you go. Come back to class when you’re feeling better.

If you need a hall pass from someone telling you that it’s okay to take time off, this is it. Here you go. Come back to class when you’re feeling better.

I am all for pushing through and writing when it’s hard. You shouldn’t quit when it gets tough, but recognizing times in your life and in your health that you need to step back and focus your time and energy onto other things. I have, at many points in my life, needed to take breaks. Also, don’t be afraid to acknowledge burnout. It is real and can drain you of your ability to put words on a page. These are all real, and they are all valid. It’s not just major emergencies that can destroy your ability to write for awhile. Sometimes just working all your scheduled hours can be enough to throw you.

I don’t have much more to add here. Just be kind to yourself. Write when you can, be honest about when you can’t, and stay hydrated.

Fallen Friday: The World of Smoke and Magic

Fallen Friday: The World of Smoke and Magic

With the upcoming release of my novel, Fallen, I am going to start writing blogs about the setting, the characters and more things about me as an author and a person than just my usual fare of writing advice. That’s not going away, of course. This is still my editing blog. But I am expanding.

Okay, so, on to brass tacks.

Fallen is an urban fantasy in a world that was inspired by a combination of re-reading the Dresden Files and watching the movie Bright. I’ve been a lover of the genre for ages, and after watching Bright a few years ago, my husband and I were spit-balling about the movie and talking about what we’d do if it were our world. Which then turned into us creating some stories in the setting.

Now, I’m going to admit here in front of the whole world that I’ve been doing text-based role-playing since probably the late 1990s. I started on a forum dedicated to the Gargoyles television show (shout-out to my friend, Brynn, who got me into it), and then I continued from there into AOL chats (Rhy’din, Red Dragon Inne) and even ran one myself for a few years (Silence Falls Inne). I met some of my lifelong friends there. I even met my husband through text-based roleplay.

If you don’t know what it is, the long and short of it is you have people taking on the roles of characters and, usually through a chat medium or a forum, telling the stories of their adventures in a cooperative fashion. It’s sort of like Dungeons and Dragons without the dice.

So my husband and I, as is our wont, started building up this world with some amazing characters and stories, and it lived there between us for awhile. I have literal hundreds of logs of it on my computer.

And as we played, and as we developed this world, we started agreeing that writing a novel in the setting would be cool. Now, my husband is also a writer, but he hasn’t done much more than short stories at this point in his life, and has his eyes set on a different story. That’ll be for him to talk about, though.

With it settled that I’d do the writing, I got down to it.

I started writing the novel during the lockdown in 2020. I didn’t have much editing happening that year (or much anything happening that year except all the D&D ever), so it seemed like a good time to do it. As I wrote, of course some of the characters changed from what they were in the roleplay, and through all of this my husband has been my coach, cheerleader, and sounding board. I’m constantly pestering him to read passages where I’ve written his characters to see if I did them justice because, well, I love them. Though the stories I’m writing here are different from what we’ve played out. Even if some do have the same beats.

I started writing the novel during the lockdown in 2020. I didn’t have much editing happening that year (or much anything happening that year except all the D&D ever), so it seemed like a good time to do it.

E. Prybylski

While I’ve written several novels in the past (not including the “novels” I wrote in high school), this one felt different. I had always intended to publish a different series and setting first and have actually rewritten that novel from the ground up about three different times now. But something stopped me. This time, when I put my hands to the keys, the story more or less just fell out of me all at once. It wasn’t as fast as NaNoWriMo–it still took me almost a year to write. But unlike the other books I’ve written in the past, when I read this one, I didn’t feel the urge to strip it to the outline and try again.

In fact, I have the audacity to think it might actually be good.

Part of what kept me going was my writing group, I’ll be honest. I was posting drafts live to them to keep myself accountable, and one person in particular (Elly, you’re a rockstar) kept me going. She’d talk about what I’d written, express excitement or worry. Or ask me when the next chapters were coming out. It kept me going through the hard parts, and when I got to the end, she was so excited for me.

I finished actually writing the first draft sometime in April, I believe. I spent May revising and sent it in to my editor a couple weeks ago. We’re about halfway through the first pass because before sending it to her I ran it through SmartEdit several times long with PerfectIt and had Word 365 read the entire thing aloud to me. While it butchered some of the names in a hysterical manner, it worked well enough for what I needed.

Now, of course, the real work has started.

As I’ve talked to my authors about for years as their editor at Insomnia and the publishing house I started at, I am gearing up to do my pre-release marketing. I’ve got my street team assembled, I have been putting together a list of blogs to submit ARCs to, I’m working on a “press kit” for my book as iWriterly suggested in her brilliant marketing video. In addition, I’m in talks with my amazing friend at Pop Fizzion to make a special bath bomb to as a raffle prize to give away to people when I get closer to release (or during my release party), and I’m going to be looking into commissioning art for some stickers to send out. I don’t have a lot of money for prizes, but I’m working on fun ideas to get people engaged.

It’s honestly surreal to be going through this process for a book that’s mine. In some ways, I feel arm’s length to it because a lot of these motions are familiar and based on advice I’ve been giving to authors on and off since the first release I was part of in 2010. It’s a collection of short stories (I don’t get anything from you buying it at this point, so you can or not if you feel a yen to). It’s published under my maiden name, but that really was me. Same with this book that I published in 2011. I didn’t write all of these stories, but I did edit them, and I do have a story in there. I also have a piece of flash fiction in this collection and another two short stories in this one. (It’s been a long time since I looked at those. Wow.)

I know that’s a whole stack of links, and I apologize.

Despite having been published in multiple short story collections and having had a number of articles in The Mighty get good reviews, finishing a novel somehow feels more real to me. It’s not that I don’t think short stories or articles are valid–I absolutely do–but my heart has always been in long form fiction, so the shorter pieces never quite felt complete to me in the way finishing a novel did.

Well, this has been a long ramble for a first post in this new series, but this is where we are.

Lessons Learned and Where I Am

Lessons Learned and Where I Am

As we prepare to launch Insomnia Publishing’s newest release, First Favor (the third Sam Archer book), I am kind of reflecting some on the things I’ve learned about editing, publishing, and writing over the last few years. While I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front, I’ve been very busy on the life front. And on my career. This is likely to venture into the personal, so you are going to learn a bit about who I am and what my life is in this blog. It’s not really about writing advice, but maybe you’ll learn something? I don’t know.

Over the last couple years, I’ve been re-thinking my approach to editing, writing, and publishing. I’ve been giving deep thought to what I want, what I need, and what direction I want to take. Both with my company (the aforementioned Insomnia Publishing) and with my editing. I’ve spent a couple years studying editing and really giving deep thought into what services I provide, what my price points ought to be, and whether or not I am over- or under-charging. What kind of editing I do, and how I want to approach things in the future.

I also started writing the first book I’m publishing. I started Fallen in the middle of last year and finished the last draft of it earlier this year. I signed a contract with my own company (I have an in with the acquisitions editor) and have my novel in editing. Seeing the editing process from the other side with another editor has given me some insight into the “user” end of the experience. Though I will say my editor is a delight and very easy to work with. We are old friends, so there’s no sting or distrust there.

I also am switching software for my typesetting. Given the outrageous costs of Adobe, I was still using CS3 to work on my book covers and typesetting. It still works, of course, but I run the perpetual risk of losing the software and my ability to do the work if I lose the key and install disks since it’s no longer supported, and Adobe really doesn’t like the fact that I’m still using it and not paying the astronomical fees to update. Or paying monthly for access to their software. Which, frankly, is just abhorrent to me. I am, maybe, old fashioned in the sense that I prefer to buy my software and not rent it.

In doing that switch, I am re-visiting how I do my cover art and typesetting (I’m now using Affinity’s suite). While I’ve read reviews that it’s not as good as Adobe is, I can say with certainty that it’s a far cry from using CS3 (a software suite from around 2005), so anything it doesn’t match up to with Adobe certainly outstrips what I had. This has changed my work flow and made me faster and given me more versatility with my covers. It makes things easier to design the way I see in my head, too, which makes all the difference. For example, I had to re-typeset First Favor Sunday night into Monday after realizing that the file had un-typeset itself. A page had been deleted somewhere, and the manuscript was a disaster as a result.

While I was working on it I figured out some ways to make my life faster, make things more efficient. I’m always adding things to my process and learning new things while I work. Which, honestly, is one of the things I like best about this line of work. There’s always a way to refine what I’m doing, smooth things out, discover new details of the programs I use. It’s a never-ending process, and I love learning more in order to be better at my chosen vocation. I could list these little shortcuts, but I expect most of you would have your eyes cross if I discussed it. Typesetting is a highly technical field mixed with wizardry and a love of fonts. I am, in fact, a horrible font nerd at this point in my life, and I could probably spend a solid half-hour babbling about fonts, readability, and qualities you’re looking for in one if prompted. Or, if you’re unlucky enough to meet me at a cocktail party, unprompted.

In addition to that, I’ve been working on better ebook formatting and trying to learn how to embed fonts to let me use chapter headers and dropcaps. For example, in First Favor, I use a dropcap on each chapter in the same font as the chapter headers and the title page (and the cover). It’s “Chapbook” in case you were wondering. (I am sure you weren’t.)

I do like Chapbook.

Lessons in editing are a different kettle of fish than typesetting and cover design, of course.

Over the last few months I’ve done some book coaching for some lovely clients, both of whom need different things. I’m not going to get into their requirements because that’s personal, but it’s given me a different perspective on what I do. Walking someone through the process of writing their book and encouraging (and holding accountable) my authors is very rewarding. I love seeing them blossom and develop and meet goals. I’ve not done writing coaching in a formal way before, but I’ve been working with authors in my Discord group regularly. It’s not as detailed or as intensive as coaching, but I pop in, give lectures almsot every week, encourage folks, and we have a lovely community going.

Beyond that, I’ve been spending a lot of time in several groups for editors, talking amongst each other and discussing everything from comma placement and hyphenation to regional dialect. It’s a fantastic and fascinating thing to see and learn from. Some of these folks are veterans of over fifty years. Yet others are brand new to the profession and are drinking in the opinions and views of others. Also, different disciplines have such different perspectives. These things I’m always adapting into my own editing and learning.

Then we come to my writing.

I’m at a point where I’ve got an editor working on my book. This is my first time working on a novel with an editor, and I am finding the experience instructive and interesting. Also having finished a novel and working on my cover for real, preparing the typesetting, thinking about marketing… I think it’s going to teach me a lot about that part of the business. While I haven’t been on the author side of things before, I have been on the publisher side enough for long enough to make a good go of it, I think. I also have some phenomenal authors I am close with who are brilliant at it, and who I am going to be whining to as I learn to do this myself for the first time.

What this will teach me, beyond the satisfaction of publishing my own books (which has been a lifelong dream), this will make me a better editor and better publisher. And I am all for it. I look forward to this. I mean, also, I’m publishing a book, so the child in me who started writing as soon as they were old enough to hold a pencil is squealing and dancing. No, really. Child me did ballet.

If there’s an actual takeaway from this ramble, it’s that no matter how long you’ve been working in the field, there’s always something to learn, and exploring other angles of the same industry can provide a lot of insight into how to approach things. I’m not saying authors need to be editors. In fact, I think that (unless you have training) it’s a terrible idea. However, studying the thing from multiple angles can give you a whole new appreciation for the industry you’re in. I love learning, and every new milestone just tells me just how much further I have to go.

By the way, to plug the aforementioned novel my company is releasing, I’m really excited to introduce you to the third book in the Sam Archer series. Written by my good friend, Dr. Joseph Weinberg, this is the best book in the series yet. If you haven’t read them, you’re really missing out. The series is like a crossover between The Dresden Files and Constantine, insomuch as Sam is a man with no powers facing down a world of things so much bigger than he is. His voice is fantastic, the stories are wonderful, and I am kind of biased, but he has great cover art. (Spoiler alert: I did his cover art.)

See? It looks pretty awesome.

First Favor comes out June 15th, 2021 and is available for pre-order from Amazon. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you can find Pipe and Pestle also on Amazon for $3.99 for the ebook.

If you enjoyed this blog post and want to give me a thumbs up, feel free to visit my ko-fi and leave me a tip! A few tips is a tank of gas, a cup of coffee, or a cheeseburger.