I’d like you to meet Alejandro De Luna

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Alex is a second generation Mexican American and disillusioned US Army veteran, wounded by an IED in Iraq. After being medically discharged, he’s returned to the small Iowa town where his family lives, to help his mother and younger brother run the family restaurant. His father died while Alex was convalescing overseas. Alex was unable to make it home in time for the funeral, and suffers guilt over not being able to say goodbye. He lives in a small apartment above the restaurant that his Dad used as an office and personal library, surrounded by boxes of books and collectibles, a constant reminder of his dearly departed father. On the night of the solstice, Alex and his family close the restaurant early. Alex discovers he is more connected to the events unfolding on TV than he thought possible, and does his best to discover what that connection means.

Writing in the Time of a Pandemic

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It is difficult for me to ignore what is going on in the world. The news in all its sound-bite oriented glory (or horror) is just a mouse click away. Friends and family brushed by the Rona are retreating to their homes (in the best case scenarios). I’ve been cocooned in my house for the most part since Spring (with an odd night out here or there). Still, the danger has mounted and we’re seeing the fruits of ignoring those dangers now. Writing while all of this is happening seems trivial by comparison. I have friends who are working in emergency rooms and watching helplessly as people around them sicken and die. A creative outlet like mine doesn’t seem to be so helpful. I have to remind myself that for someone, somewhere, a story like mine may be the sunlight on a darkened day. It may not be much, and I may not be quick at anything I do lately, but I’m pushing my little bit of effort out into the world, and hoping for a brighter day (preferably sooner than later).

The setting for my books and stories…

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Is a world that has seen magic come and go. The latest return of magic is during a modern age that has forgotten the previous age existed. There are signs, relics, and ruins from the previous magical age, but who will know what they are or what they mean? The relics in particular may offer both insight and power in this changing world, but only for those who can find them and use them, though so few remain after thousands of years. The bleak times between ages of magic, were not entirely bereft of supernatural energy, but that energy often came at a far steeper cost than most were willing to pay. As currents of power again course throughout the Earth, some of the fell deeds of the bleak times will literally come back to haunt a world with magic unleashed.

Here’s an interesting Time Stone to dig out of my writing shoe…

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Sorry for the mixed metaphor (I have plenty more where that came from). The Fantastic America, Midwestern Magicians (and more to come) storyline didn’t evolve in a linear fashion. There are several short stories I wrote alongside the events in the novels that helped me flesh out the world, and practice my craft. These stories were great to show me the way forward, make more sense of how my magic system would work, and work my way through the mechanics of storytelling. They also fit perfectly with the word count my critique group uses, so I got excellent feedback as I wrote them. That’s the good news.

The other side of that coin is that now I have to reconcile those narratives (All of which made sense as stand alone short stories) with the novels they are meant to compliment. This became especially apparent tonight as I worked with scenes about Liz Fairchild and Ana Rivera. Both are strong female characters who have known each other since childhood, but their story arcs are wildly different. Both women are important to each other’s story arcs and character development, but their timelines are a pain to align as Ana’s solo story is already written and in my mind at least establishes the timeline for Liz to follow as I write it now.

What a terrible problem to have right? If this was the first time I’d run into this I’d be freaking out, but I had a similar problem aligning Fantastic America’s timeline to the new novel before I started Midwestern magicians. A lot of head scratching and an excel sheet later, I think I’ve ironed most of those wrinkles out. So Ana and Liz don’t seem as daunting after that. Only time will tell…

I’d like you to meet Elizabeth Fairchild:

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When you meet Liz, in Midwestern Magicians, she’ll be on her way to her parents’ house for Christmas. She’s a college student enrolled at prestigious Georgetown University in the pre-law portion of their International Studies program. A long time over achiever, Liz main concerns in life have been keeping up with her friends from high school, and doing better on her next attempt at the Law School Admission Test in February. The night of the winter solstice and the magic unleashed will change Liz forever.

Editing Fantastic America has taken a backseat for Nanowrimo, but it’s still on my mind – critiques, beta readers, and an actual editor on the horizon…

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Nanowrimo is my focus right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spending some time with the Fantastic America manuscript. Leaving the MS alone for a few weeks gives me more clarity and distance to work with it. So once I go back to it after the rough draft of Midwestern Magicians, I hope to have a much better handle on what the rough draft needs for large scale, developmental edits.

Rewriting is tough, but well worth the effort. Not only does it make the story better, but it clarifies what I intended to say in the first place. I want the story to shine, the characters to breathe, and the scenes to come to life. Ideally, I wrote that way to start with, but even if I dropped the ball, editing and rewriting are the only ways to catch that.

Early in my writing journey, accepting that I’d dropped the ball was hard. I thought I’d written exactly what I wanted, what the reader needed, and all of it in the best structure possible. Fortunately I survived the waves of critiques that disproved those notions. I still struggle to write the best first version of my stories, but I’m comfortable enough with how I write that I’m not devastated when someone else points out a missed opportunity. I write on.

I’d Like you to meet Adriana Rivera, The Lioness.

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When I first developed the story that would become the Magic Unleashed series, Adriana was a minor character. She was more of a sounding board for one of the main characters early in her part of the story. But Ana and I weren’t satisfied with that small part. So when I stepped away from the main story to practice my hand a short stories, Ana took on a much bigger role in how the world of Fantastic America, and Midwestern Magicians works. You’ll meet Ana first in the pages of Midwestern Magicians, but to really get to know her, you’ll have to read the first installment of her short story adventure, The Quest for the Lioness. Available as a free download as soon as I can figure out how to set it up!

If you’d told me a year ago…

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I’d be writing my second book during Nanowrimo, and killing it, I’d have said you were crazy. But here I am, blogging about the 35K+ words I’ve written so far this month. My second book is coming together just the way I planned it, but with just enough pantsing that the characters can help tell the story, too. I’m still struggling with some things, but overall, my craft is 100% better than it was just four months ago, before I had a finished manuscript or the confidence to query agents! Life is what you make of it, as much as what it makes of you.
🙂 A moment of author style Zen for you. You’re welcome!

Harry Turtledove wrote my favorite alternate history story.

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Don’t get me wrong, the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card is amazing too, but for me, the sheer scale and complexity of Turtledove’s In the Balance series is awe inspiring. Alien lizard people invade Earth during World War II. The aliens are far more advanced technologically, but humans are a brutal low-tech monster race to the aliens.

The cast of characters is more like A Song of Ice and Fire than your standard SF series, but the wide view allows us to see how an entire world (ours specifically) reacts to the aliens, and how the aliens react to us. His world building is rich, deep, and nuanced. The characters react in realistic ways to situations they never expected to find themselves in. There are very human moments, very alien moments, and a few scenes that blur the line between the two.

If you’ve never read the series, I whole-heartedly encourage you to pick it up (preferably at an independent bookstore or check it out from your local library, but whatever you do read it!). I aspire to improve my craft to tell such a wide view of events, as compellingly as Mr. Turtledove. <Emphatic cough>

It’s hard talking about this second book…

Since the first book is still undergoing revisions. In Fantastic America I wanted to have a decidedly human, normal view point for a world where miracles, monsters, and magic become part of the fabric of life. Ashley Monahan and Daniel Forrester are the lenses through which readers examine that fabric (and its fraying) in the first book. In Midwestern magicians, I throw the weird at you from the first few pages, and it gets weirder as the main characters learn their part in a changed modern world. Spoiler free explanation, as the title suggests, the two main characters in this book, Liz Fairchild, and Alex De Luna are in the thick of magic, living and breathing it from day one. Be prepared for a wild ride!