There’s a reason they keep comparing it to the zombie apocalypse…

If you do not open the gate for me to come in,
I shall smash the door and shatter the bolt,
I shall smash the doorpost and overturn the doors,
I shall raise up the dead and they shall eat the living:
And the dead shall outnumber the living!

~The Descent of Ishtar (Gilgamesh)

If you’re feeling like you’re living out the opening montage of a post-apocolyptic thriller right now, you’re not alone. Humans have a tendency to look for patterns, especially when they’re afraid. And the hopeless outbreak plot line is one that we have repeated over and over again in popular fiction, right back to Mesopotamia.

But even back in Mesopotamia, the zombies themselves were never more than a symbol of a larger fear. Something to fight when the thing you’re afraid of is invisible, ever-present.

Sometimes that fear was gods and their unknowable tempers, or magic and its mysterious ways, monsters or extra-terrestrials, with their alien desires. Things that could change the people we loved into something unrecognizable. Something that could change us, if we weren’t careful. Then, we learned to be afraid of things like radiation, bacteria, sleeper spies,  or viruses. Subtroped within each of these fears was the certainty we’d doom ourselves by flying too close to the sun. We’d try to bring back the dead in experiments gone terribly wrong, a miraculous cure for disease would backfire, our meddling with nature would do us in somehow. 

But the thing about horror stories is they’re designed to be exercises in thought. A way to let our brains work out the what-ifs, to follow our fears to the worst possible conclusion and put down the book, safe and sound. Unfortunately, when a similar enough situation plays out in real life, your mind is going to grab on to that repeated pattern and follow it to the conclusion. So if you’re feeling a slow, creeping fear of the inevitable right now, there’s a chance you’re reacting one of the following ways.

Denial. Everyone is overreacting. Nothing is wrong. I’m going to prove it. See, look at me, out and about.

Depression. We’re all infected, what’s the point?

Panic. If you don’t have all the things, how will you and your family survive?

Anxiety. Gotta keep those eyes glued to the screen, because if you don’t know what’s coming, you don’t know how to react.

If you’re finding yourself feeling like any combination of the above, do yourself a favor and engage  in activities that aren’t plot worthy. Turn off the news. Stop reading articles. Don’t watch or read anything in the disaster genre. I get that intellectually, you know you’re not actually in a zombie movie, but subconsciously, your brain may not be convinced. The more normal (while maintaining social isolation) things you do, the less this feels like a plot line. The less this feels like a predictable plot line, the less your brain will grip that pattern.

 

Ask Me Anything: Ana

Ana sent a question through my Ask Me Anything link! If you’d like me to ask a question to answer in future blogs,click here:

Question: Hello, first of all I want to tell you that I am a big fan of yours, and that I am fascinated by the characters in your books. I have some questions for you: Do we follow the stories of Persefone and Hades? Or maybe Ares and Aphrodite too? a book of little stories about them would be great.

Answer: Hi Ana! Thank you for your kind comment! You have no idea how much it brightens my day to hear from a fan.

In general, the Persephone trilogy focuses more on Persephone and Hades myths, with other mythological characters taking supporting roles, while the Aphrodite trilogy focuses more on Aphrodite heavy myths with Persephone and Hades (among others) taking the supporting roles. In future books, Persephone and Aphrodite will take supporting roles as I explore the major myths for other goddesses, like Artemis.

So you will see more of both, likely even as point of view characters, but they won’t be the protagonists for any further stories. Just side characters.

2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
Kaitlin has
read 0 books toward
her goal of
52 books.
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I love the Goodreads Reading Challenges. This year, I’m challenging myself to read a book a week. I read all the time, but since a chunk of my reading life is critiquing unpublished manuscripts or samples, I can’t log them on Goodreads. I love critiquing for my writers group and for my students, but I need to read outside of editing mode.

I learn so much as a writer by reading, especially when I read genres I’m less familiar with. So this year I really want to challenge myself to read classics and unfamiliar genres.

But to start with,  I’m reading The Toll by Neal Shusterman. What’s your first book of the year?

Ask me anything question from Tasha

Tasha sent the following question through my ask me anything form.

Name: Tasha

Comment: Hey! Big fan of The Daughters of Zeus books! I was wondering if there are any plans to continue the series or possibly some short stories just to get a little update on how everyone is doing. Or if there is plans to make a spin-off series?
Thanks so much for the question, Tasha. I’m always so happy to hear from people who enjoyed my books :D.
I do plan to write a trilogy featuring Artemis and Otrera as they navigate all the changes that occurred at the end of Venus Rising (and hunt down some escaped souls). All of the characters will make an appearance throughout the trilogy through dreamwalking or interactions.
I do have some short stories planned, and I’m planning to release those in an omnibus edition of each trilogy.
I can’t give you a date for those stories or the trilogy, because right now I’m swept up in my NANOWRIMO project. But I should have an update in January.

Venus Rising Audiobook

Venus Rising Audiobook

Did you know I narrate my own audiobooks? As of today, you can get the entire Daughters of Zeus series on audible. Check out my latest release in the Daughters of Zeus universe now.

Venus Rising

The final battle….

Aphrodite is in big trouble this time. She’s stranded on the island of the Damned – without powers and without her beloved Ares. Worse, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the demigods figure out she’s a goddess. If that happens, she’ll wish she were dead.

Help arrives in the form of an unlikely ally. But Medea has her own demands, and if Aphrodite wants to survive – not to mention find Hades and the weapons cache – she has to meet them.

But all their plans take a back seat when they find themselves in even more pressing danger. When Medea moved the island, she rendered it unstable. Now it’s breaking apart and sinking. In the chaos, the demigods have risen up, blaming the gods for their misfortune. Nobody is safe from the demigods…especially a Pantheon sympathizer like Aphrodite. And they’ve come up with a deadly test to uncover any imposters.

Aphrodite knows she can’t do this alone. It will take the whole Pantheon to get her out of this mess. Unfortunately, they’ll have to find her first….

YASH Winners!

#YASH Young adult Scavenger Hunt

It’s official…the YA Scavenger Hunt is over for 2019. But not to worry gentle readers. We will be back in 2020 with even more thrilling new reads. As promised, here are the winning results of the contests. Congrats to the many winners! Note: Individual author contest information will be added as the day goes on. If you don’t see an author’s name listed yet, never fear. Simply check back for updates to this post during the week.

GRAND PRIZE WINNERS:

Gold Team: Secret Number-395 Winner-Jennifer Jackson
Purple Team: Secret Number-1184 Winner-Katherine B.
Red Team: Secret Number-762 Winner-Katie Thomas
Blue Team: Secret Number-1401 Winner-Brittany Cornett
Bonus Entry: Secret Number-98 Winner-Carol Coutts Siepka

AUTHOR CONTESTS:

KAITLIN BEVIS: The winner of my personal giveaway was Pam!

ABIGAIL JOHNSON: The winner of my personal giveaway was Brianna Clay.

A.G. HOWARD: Stain w/sprayed edges–Austin Atkins; Splintered notebook–Alyssa Skoog; Goblin mask–Trisa; Vampire brooch–Garima Ghiraiya; YA swag pack–Madeleine Bergroth; Limited edition swag pack–Kathryn Schroeder.

AMALIE HOWARD: Joy Flynn won a signed prize pack of the Aquarathi series.

AMBER R. DUELL: The winner of my personal giveaway–a Dream Keeper ebook + Dark Consort eARC– is Saray (I’m guessing Sarah Y, but it’s all one word in the Rafflecopter).

AMY FELLNER DOMINY: I ran a DOUBLE BOOK BONUS: Two winners each receive two of my YA novels. The winners are Noma Aguebor and Beverly Gordon.

AMY MCNULTY: I had a bonus YASH giveaway. A $25 Storiarts gift card. My winner was Suzannah C.

BREEANA SHIELDS: My giveaway was a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card and the winner was Neko Tatsujin.

BRENDA DRAKE: The winner of an autographed complete Library Jumpers series is Kaitlin Whanger.

C. LEE MCKENZIE: One signed paperback copy of Double Negative to Sheri Larson.

CAITLIN SANGSTER: Shelly Hammond won the personal giveaway for a copy of Last Star Burning.

CM BOERS: My winners are: Wagering Home Paperback prize pack: Alison Weaver, Wagering Home Ebook: Morgane Gilson

COLLEEN HOUCK: Winners of a Colleen Houck book of their choice: Brian Bedard, Ayanami Faerudo, Nancy Storms, Daisy Burnett, & Shaina Pierce. Winner of the Tiger’s Dream signed set of hardbacks: Jessie Hopkins.

COURTNEY ALAMEDA: My winner is Anika ‘Pixie’ Crayon

DANIELLE STINSON: The winner of my giveaway Allisa White

EVA POHLER: Clarissa Hiciano was the winner of my personal YASH giveaway. She won a signed copy of The Gatekeeper’s Trilogy and a $25 Amazon gift card.

HEATHER MCKENZIE: Melissa Williams won a copy of RHAPSODY, Book 3 of The Nightmusic Trilogy

HELEN VIVIENNE FLETCHER: My personal giveaway winner was Brianna C.

JOSHUA BELLIN: My personal giveaway (the 3 books in the Ecosystem series), my winner: Jalyn McColgan.

JULIE ESHBAUGH: I ran a giveaway of a preorder of Crown of Oblivion on my blog. The winner is Adik (@Readinginthemorning.)

KAT ROSS: I gave away signed paperbacks of my Fourth Element Trilogy and the winner is Saray Hernandez

KATHLEEN BALDWIN: Amber Walker won a hardback of Harbor for the Nightingale.

KELSEY KETCH: I did a giveaway for 3 ebook copies of Daughter of Isis. The winners are Brittany, Crystal C., and Brianna C.

KRISTIN JACQUES: The winner of a signed copy of Marrow Charm was Britt Bryan!

LISH MCBRIDE: I gave away five copies of Pyromantic on my website. The winners are Shaina Pierce, Jennifer Jackson, Debra Larsen Branigan, Nicole Woodruff, and Anubha.

LIVIA BLACKBURNE: bonus giveaway winner during YASH: Desiree

SARA FUJIMURA: Shelly Hammond won a TANABATA WISH prize pack.

SARAH JUDE: Theresa S is the randomly chosen winner of the giveaway I ran for a signed hardcover copy of my book THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS.

SHANNON THOMPSON: Jessica Richert won a signed copy of The Timely Death Trilogy or the Bad Bloods series.

T. RAE MITCHELL: Emily Huff won the following Book Swag Prize Package:
(1) Fate & Finn Chibi Magnetic Bookmarks
(1) The Lunar Chronicles Coloring Book
(1) Fate’s Keep Keychain
(1) Signed Fate & Finn (by Gabriella Bujdoso) Bookplate

YVONNE VENTRESCA: Personal giveaway winner: Crystal

Why Mental Heath Matters in Fiction

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When I was twelve, a well meaning adult asked if I could live one of my favorite books, which would I choose? In a true moment of epiphany, I realized just how horrible the lives of book characters were.

Authors put their characters through hell. It’s not cruelty. The journey to hell and back is a long established station along the heroes journey. To see a character arc progress, you have to see a character at their lowest.

But the YA books of the past only showed the journey, not the effects. The character’s were “resilient” and “strong.” They could pick themselves up off the floor, put on a cheerful smile, and carry on with their lives as though pieces hadn’t just been ripped out of them.

I know now that this was a trope left over from the days of Victorian children’s literature, when a child’s innate goodness was enough to spare them, if not from the cruelty of the world, than from its lingering effects. Female protagonists in particular have long been expected to “rise above” the worst.

But rather than inspiring twelve-year-old me, I remember feeling this moment of intense defeat. I could never be that person. I knew I wasn’t the type of person who was “strong enough” to survive the life and trials of a protagonist with a smile on my face.

I found myself chasing flawed protagonists. And not the kind who overcame their flaws and became literal angels and paragons of goodness (looking at you Vampire Diaries), but protagonists with flaws that spidered and cracked when pressure was put on them, but didn’t break.

I wanted to– needed to– know it was possible to survive protagonist level changes without being perfect. Because my much more minor problems were changing me, only I didn’t like who I was turning into. In fact, I kind of hated her.

I was needy and desperate in a way my protagonists never were. I was lonely no matter how many people were around me. I craved attention in a way no heroine ever had. And I felt like I was breaking in a way no protagonist ever would.

Twelve-year-old me might not have been dealing with the fate of the entire world. But I was dealing with a hellish school environment. I had two friends, but they weren’t normal friendships. They were toxic, co-dependent things. The result of being friends, not due to common interest, but because we were backed into the same corner by a popular group that routinely wrote us notes explaining how much better the world would be if we freaks would just kill ourselves.

Or each other.

Whatever, as long as we were gone so they didn’t have to look at our ugly faces anymore.

They called us poor and verbally ripped to pieces everything we wore, every hair cut, every tiny thing we might have enjoyed choosing, they called us lesbians because we sat too close together, they called us weird because of the books we read, they called us traitors because we weren’t from the south, they called us hideous and flinched every time we looked at them straight on, they never put hands on us (because the one time a boy snapped my bra strap, my friend drop kicked him), but they spent every moment of every day tearing us down.

And it wasn’t making me a better person. I wasn’t smiling through my trauma, minor in comparison though it was.

I didn’t find my refuge in books. YA hadn’t matured yet to that point, yet. I found my solace in Sailor Moon. The reason I loved her was because she was allowed to have flaws. She could cry and be a brat and it never got better. She had the same kind of weird, love-hate friendship with Sailor Mars that I did with my friend. The same kind of strange hero worship friendship with Sailor Venus. For once, I could see myself in fiction.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it saved my life.

It couldn’t have just been me who saw this lack, because over the next few years, there was a shift in young adult fiction. When Harry Potter saw Cedric die, his newly awoken determination to destroy Voldemort wasn’t a healthy thing. He was obviously traumatized, and he dealt with it by lashing out and getting angry.

Katniss Everdeen experienced PTSD after a situation that would give literally any human PTSD.

Holly Black’s characters dived into the nitty gritty underworld and let themselves enjoy the escape from the hell that was their normal lives.

These characters would have made such a difference to me growing up, so when it came time to write my own stories, I knew my characters had to deal with their trauma in authentic ways. Even if it was hard to write.

Persephone survives the events of her trilogy, but she isn’t left unmarked by them. She has nightmares, she has issues she needs to work through. Aphrodite has panic attacks. Tess experiences disassociation and traumatic flashbacks. And in my work in progress, Celeste struggles with uncontrollable outbursts of anger and depression. Their issues are not the story, and they don’t get magically resolved by the last page. It’s just a part of who they are and it influences how they deal with the events of the story.

It wasn’t easy to write characters who found realistic ways to cope with their trauma. It took time and research and frankly, a mental toll. But I will never forget the day I didn’t feel “strong enough” to be a protagonist in the books I read to escape my day to day life. And I never want my books to be the reason someone feels that way.

So, dear readers, please know that you are not weak if you don’t pick yourself up off the ground, force a smile to your face, and radiate positivity. You are not less if you aren’t a never ending fountain of kindness and good feelings, even to, or especially to, those who have hurt you. You are not failing if you reach out for help.

Thank you so much to Eva Pohler for including me on this World Suicide Prevention Day campaign. Please check out the rest of the stories that will be posted over the next several days. And come by and talk with myself and the other authors in our live facebook event on September 10th.

We’d love to talk to you.

 

 

 

Stories Told in Dialogue

Dialogue

This week’s creative writing camp is all about economy of language. I’m hoping to teach my students to give every word multiple jobs.

The most overt example of this is dialogue.

Good dialogue should tell the reader more than the words the speaker is saying. You should be able to tell who is talking, what they think of who they’re speaking to, how they feel about what they’re saying, and get a feel for their personality while they’re at it.

For an example, we looked at the story “They’re Made Out of Meat,” by Terri Bisson. Without a single description or tag, the Bisson constructed a rudimentary setting, goal, worldview, and character dynamic. We know the two beings speaking are co-workers, we can tell one out ranks the other, but we also know they’re friendly beyond their work roles because of the way they speak to each other.

Of course once they read a story entirely in dialogue, they had to write one of their own. Every student wrote their own story, and the students had to guess the setting, who was speaking, relationships to one another, and attitudes toward their topic.

Want to give it a try? Post your dialogue story in the comments below.

 

 

Random Plot Generator

Writing Resources, #amwriting

In Creative Writing Camp today, my students were challenged to firmly ground the reader in the story in three sentences that convey the setting, goal, and character.

It’s a super fun exercise that everyone should try (credit to the idea from Writing ExcusesMary Robinette Kowal who had a tweet about healthcare go viral this week).

Step 1: Go to Random Plot Generator

Step 2: Choose a Main Character, a Setting, and a Situation

Step 3: Set the scene in three sentences.

Step 4: Change only the setting and write it again

Step 5: Change only the character and try it again

Step 6: Change only the situation and try it again

Here were mine from today.

Scenario 1: A foolish man in his thirties at the fair being left for good.

So maybe he should have told her about the motion sickness before sitting next to her on the tilt-a-whirl, but how was he supposed to know it would both tilt and whirl? 

“Forget my number,” she snarled, slinging chunks of his birthday dinner off her designer dress.

Whatever, it was still an improvement from his thirty-second birthday when he’d gone scuba diving with the piranhas. 

Scenario 2: A foolish man in a castle being left for good.

The young king watched impassively as his wife bared her neck for the guillotine, trying to figure out why she looked so upset. If she’d given birth to a son instead of a daughter, this wouldn’t be happening. Next time, he’d find a woman approaching her forties; with age came wisdom, and with wisdom, sons. 

Scenario 3: A naive old man in a castle being left for good.

The king was flirting with his wife again, but Old-Man Bob wasn’t worried. His young, beautiful wife had a stable life without all the problems riches brought with them. Surely she’d reject the King’s advances. 

Scenario 4: A naive old man in a castle giving a dog a home.

Old man Bob squinted his eyes at the puppy dragging an elk out of the castle moat. “Here boy,” he whistled as the puppy bared teeth the size of his arm at him and left out an earth trembling growl. “Let’s get you in out of the cold.”

Want to give it a try? Post your 3 sentence scene in the comments below.