Marcy Kennedy

Gravity: The Number One Reason to Never Give Up

Gravity movieBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Do you ever have those days (or weeks or months) where one thing after another seems to go wrong? Or maybe things are going right, but not as right as you’d thought they would? Or you’re just plain tired of working so hard to stay in the same place?

And you think about giving up. Giving up on that project or job or relationship.

It’s tempting because you feel like nothing you try works. You feel alone.

In the movie Gravity, engineer and first-time astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) ends up as the sole survivor of an accident in space. Her shuttle is destroyed and she’s running out of oxygen. She’s lost contact with mission control on earth.

Worse, everything she tries only seems to make her situation worse. She makes it to the International Space Station, only to find the crew there has already evacuated to escape the same debris field that destroyed her shuttle. The parachute on the only remaining module has been accidentally deployed due to damage from the debris field, making it useless for returning to earth.

Before she can successfully make contact with anyone on the space station’s radio, the station catches fire. She escapes in the module, planning to use its thrusters to reach the Chinese space station Tiangong and use one of its modules to return to earth instead. Except the thrusters are out of fuel.

When she finally reaches the Chinese stations, its orbit is deteriorating (also due to being shoved out of position by the debris field), and she can’t dock with it. She shoots herself across space using explosive decompression and a fire extinguisher and barely makes it inside.

And just when she thinks she’s safe, just when it seems like nothing else could go wrong, when the module lands into a lake, a fire causes her to need to pop the hatch. Water rushes in and drags the module underwater. Ryan forces her way out, but her space suit is too heavy and she can’t swim.

She sheds her spacesuit and swims to shore.

As my husband and I watched this movie, I couldn’t help but think about how there was something to be learned from Gravity about what we can do when we feel like giving up.

Think outside the box and try something different.

When Ryan was inside the module with no thruster fuel, she realized that she had to find an unconventional solution to her problem. She couldn’t keep trying the traditional solution because it wasn’t going to work.

She found a way to trick the module into firing its landing thrusters instead (the ones that are only supposed to fire when the module senses it’s a certain distance from the earth’s surface).

Sometimes the solution to our problem isn’t giving up. Sometimes the solution is to look at our situation a different way.

Walk through your fear and discomfort.

At the start of the movie, one of the biggest things holding Ryan back from making it back to earth alive was her own fear and space sickness. She kept focusing on what would happen if she didn’t succeed.

It’s easy when things aren’t going right to allow our fear of what could possibly happen cloud our judgment or make us freeze. But we won’t succeed unless we push past our fear and what ifs.

And most of all, don’t lose hope.

The number one reason to never give up is we don’t know what will happen next (Click to tweet this.)

If Ryan had given up at any point along the way, she wouldn’t have made it safely back to earth. We can’t know what the next minute, hour, or day will bring. And maybe if we hold on and keep trying, it will be the turn for the better we were waiting for.

Have you felt like giving up on something lately? What do you do when this happens?

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Related Posts:
When Is It Time to Quit on Our Dreams?
The Dangerous Side of Hope

7 Ways to Develop Your Voice

Voice in FictionBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A couple of weeks ago I began a series on point of view, and the first POV I dug into was omniscient, where I pointed out that if you want to write in omniscient, you needed a strong voice as a writer. So today I’m continuing on with my seven tips for developing your voice.

A distinct voice seems to be the thing that everyone wants but no one can tell you how to get. And I have to admit this annoys me. I’m a very practical person. If you can clearly tell me how to do something, I’ll get it done for you. If it’s ooey gooey and you tell me “it just has to develop over time,” I’m going to be cheesed.

I’m also going to set out to figure out how to do whatever you’ve just told me can’t be taught and has to develop organically.

Developing your voice–like everything else in writing–takes time and discipline, but it can be done. So here are some ways you can actively work on developing your voice.

(1) Learn the Basics of Writing

Before you argue that this will only teach you to write like everyone else, hear me out.

Can an artist sculpt a lifelike statue without first learning about the features of different types of stone and without learning how to use a chisel and other tools? Can a pianist compose a sonata without first learning which notes sound good together?

One of the most important things a writer trying to develop their voice can do is to read craft books. Writing is just like any other skill, whether that be painting, woodworking, engineering, or neurosurgery. You have to be so solid on the basics that they come instinctively before you’re able to truly create something fresh and unique.

(2) Set Boundaries

In her excellent post on Ways to Develop Your Unique Writing Voice, social media maven and bestselling author Kristen Lamb pointed out how boundaries can actually free your creativity rather than limit you. She likened setting boundaries in writing to narrowing down what means of transportation want to use to take your vacation.

If you want to develop your voice more quickly, pick a point of view (first person or third person – if you’re not sure what that means, check out my post on point of view) and a genre and stick to it until you’ve mastered it.

How will this help? Each genre comes with conventions that you need to follow to write in it. POV adds structure and establishes how you can tell your story. When some of these big decisions are settled, you’re free to focus on the actual writing. In other words, you’re free to allow your voice to come out. 

(3) Read and Analyze

Read a lot is one of the few pieces of advice novelists are given for developing their voice. But reading alone isn’t enough. You need to figure out what works in these books and what doesn’t. What do you love and hate about them? It could be something big picture (like the way they weave their theme throughout the book) or it could be something more subtle (like the cadence they use in their sentences).

For each book you read, try to identify and write down three things you loved and three things you didn’t. For the things that you didn’t enjoy about the book, ask yourself why you didn’t like them and how you would have done them differently.

(4) Make A List of Words that Describe Your Personality

In her post about Author Voice Vs. Character Voice, romance writer Roni Loren describes her author voice and then points out how it directly relates to who she is as a person and how she approaches life. Your voice is you.

Sit down and make a list of 15-20 words that describe you, then elaborate on each and how you see that trait expressed in a normal day.

For example, I’m quirky, sarcastic, thoughtful, structured, and equal parts dark and optimistic. So is my voice. By identifying who I am, I can look at my writing and see what parts are true to me and what parts aren’t.

(5) Stop Reading Novels

I know. I know. Up above, I told you to read and analyze. That was one step along the path. But eventually, you’re going to need to make sure that you’re starting to sound like you rather than subconsciously copying another writer. The only sure way to do that is to stop reading other people’s work.

Take 1-2 months and use your reading time to write instead (or exchange novels for books on craft).

This isn’t meant to be maintained long-term. You only need to stay in this stage until you start hearing yourself. I made the biggest jump in developing my own voice when I stopped reading temporarily.

(6) Read Your Work Out Loud

What flows off your tongue? What comes naturally? What doesn’t?

Reading your work out loud helps you smooth out the tongue twister passages and create more realistic dialogue, but it also helps with voice. What sounds right to your ear? Could you see telling the story this way out loud to your friends?

(7) Blog to Get Comfortable Being You in Public

In a post she wrote a few years ago, YA author Susan Bischoff said that one of the benefits she gained from blogging was that “I learned how to be myself. In public. I don’t think that’s something that comes naturally to most people.”

The only way you can develop your unique voice is to be proud of who you are and how you sound. As soon as you start worrying about what other people will think or whether they’ll like your voice, you’re going to start trying to change it.

Blogging helps you learn to be comfortable with who you are and with sharing who you are with readers. Writing magazine articles is another way to help develop your voice in a public forum.

What other ways have you found to develop your voice? Do you agree with me that it can be developed or do you think it needs to develop organically? What author’s voice do you love the most?

I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

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Image Credit: Scott Snyder (via sxc.hu)

How to Write Faster for NaNo and Beyond

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

The next book in my Busy Writer’s Guides series is out just in time to help you with NaNoWriMo.

How to Write Faster

In How to Write Faster: A Busy Writer’s Guide you’ll learn eight techniques that can help you double your word count in a way that’s sustainable and doesn’t sacrifice the quality of your writing in favor of quantity.

In our new digital era, writers are expected to produce multiple books and short stories a year, and to somehow still find time to build a platform through blogging and social media. We end up burning out or sacrificing time with our family and friends to keep up with what’s being asked of us.

How to Write Faster provides you with tools and tips to help you find ways to write better, faster, and still have fun doing it, so that you’ll have time left to spend on living life away from your computer. This book was written for writers who believe that there’s more to life than just the words on the page and who want to find a better balance between the work they love and living a full life. The best way to do that is to be more productive in the writing time we have.

Because your time is precious, How to Write Faster is a mini-book of approximately 6,000 words. Like Strong Female Characters: A Busy Writer’s Guide, this one is priced at only 99 cents.

You can buy a copy at Amazon, Amazon.ca, Kobo, and Smashwords. More retailers coming soon!

If you’d like to help me spread the word, I’d appreciate it if you’d share one of the tweets below or share this post on Facebook, Google+, or wherever you hang out.

8 tips for making your word count in #NaNoWriMo and beyond! (Click to Tweet)

How to write faster without sacrificing quality for quantity (Click to Tweet)

A reformed slow writer gives her advice for doubling your word count (Click to Tweet)

And remember to add your favorite writing hashtag when you tweet! (Suggestions: #amwriting #amediting #writetip #MyWANA)

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Is This Motorcycle Riding on Water?

Salar de Uyuni, BoliviaBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Even since I read the Bible story about Jesus and Peter walking on water, I’ve wondered what it would be like. Without divine intervention, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, is the closest we’re going to get.

Welcome back to my Unbelievable Real Life feature, where I showcase weird creatures and offbeat places on our planet that seem like they should belong in a fantasy or science fiction story. Today we’re going to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, is the world’s largest salt flats. At 4,086 square miles, they’re bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Big deal, I hear you saying. So they’re big plains of salt. That’s not that cool.

But watch this…

The motorcycle looks like it’s either riding on the sky or on top of a lake.

This happens because this is one of the flattest areas on earth. When it rains, the water spreads out smoothly and deeply enough to create what amounts to the world’s largest mirror. It perfectly reflects the sky.

What do you think? Would you like to go and have your picture taken “walking on water”?

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Image Credit: Entrophy1963, used under Creative Commons license

Game Review: Battlestar Galactica the Board Game

Battlestar Galactica board gameBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome to a brand new regular feature I’m debuting!

As those of you who’ve been with me a while know, Fridays here on my blog are for fun. It’s the day when we try to bring a little fantasy into our everyday lives through talking with speculative fiction authors, exploring places and creatures from our world that look like they belong in a fantasy, talking food and music that appears in books/movies/video games, and just kicking back as we head into the weekend.

To those recurring features I’m adding reviews of tabletop games, computer games, and maybe I’ll even convince my long-suffering husband to review some of his favorite PlayStation games. Because what better way to bring fun and fantasy into our lives than through games 🙂

These aren’t going to be reviews for hard-core gamers. These are going to be reviews for the everyday person who plays for fun and has a busy life. I’ll try to review a variety of game types, as well as review games with variety in how many players they can play and whether they’re family friendly and 2-player friendly or not. My hope is that if the game one month isn’t for you, you might enjoy the one I feature the next month.

So no more delays. On to Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game…

Enter into the story…

Humans created cylons to make their lives easier, but the cylons rebelled. After a brutal war, the cylons left to find their own planet, but now they’ve returned to slaughter humanity and take their worlds instead. In a surprise attack, they killed all but 50,000 humans. These remaining homeless humans are now part of a small fleet of space ships, with limited resources, running for their lives.

As one of the human survivors, you need to help the fleet reach the planet of Kobol.

Along the way, if the cylons reach the end of the Galactica boarding track, the humans lose. If one of your resources (population, food, fuel, and morale) reaches zero, the humans lose. If the cylons destroy Galactica, the humans lose.

Why does the game seem weighted in favor of the cylons? Well, read on…

How Well Does the Theme Work? You feel like you’re there.

If you’re someone who enjoyed BSG, then you’ll at least enjoy trying this game. Not only are the board and other components beautiful, but the game was clearly designed by someone who understood the show. Your resources are limited and hard to replace. The cylons are stronger than you. You don’t know who you can trust, and you might even end up being a cylon sleeper agent halfway through.

Battkestar Galactica game board

This is only part of the board you’ll be playing on.

Battlestar Galactica ships

Three of the ships that will be on the board either attacking or defending the civilian ships.

Beyond this, when you draw what are called Crisis Cards, they’re events from the first season. As a fan of the show, it’s exciting to recognize them and take part. You’re often facing what seems like a no-win situation where every result is bad (or at least doesn’t help you in any way). Just like the characters in the show needed to decide what to sacrifice just to survive, you’ll need to do the same.  

Crisis Card

Events are based on episodes of the show.

The roles are also unique. If you’re a pilot, your character can leave Galactica and climb into a viper to engage cylon raiders. If you’re the Admiral, you decide what planet the fleet will make a faster-than-light jump to. Each of the game characters has strengths and weaknesses based on their matching character from the show. I refuse to ever play Gaius Baltar. The slimeball.

Kara Starbuck Thrace

My favorite character to play 🙂 I like to fly the vipers.

Type of Game: Cooperative with a traitor element.

At the beginning of the game, you’re dealt a secret loyalty card telling you whether you’re human or cylon. The humans all work together to reach Kobol, and so you win or lose as a team. You won’t always know who is a cylon (or a sympathizer) and who isn’t though, so this is partially a game of betrayal and deciding who you can trust.

In fact, you can’t even trust yourself. Halfway through the game, you deal a new set of loyalty cards. You might find out you’re really a cylon who was programmed to believe themselves a human. Suddenly the people you’ve been working with are your enemies, and the trust you’ve worked so hard to earn will be used to destroy them.

Length of Play Rating: Kill. Me. Now.

The game we won against the cylons took 4 HOURS. It’s shorter if the humans lose, but by the time you hit 2-3 hours of play, it all starts to feel a little repetitive.

Marcy’s Hint for Shorter Game Play: In the future, instead of needing to get 8 planet points + one jump to reach Kobol and win, we’ll be doing 6 planet points = instant win or 4 planet points + one jump.

Number of Players: 3-6 people

This game really plays better with 4 or more because it’s too easy to guess who’s the cylon in a 3-player game, and the cylon in a 3-player game makes it almost impossible for the humans to win.

Family Friendly? A snowflake’s chance in h*ll.

In other words, no way. The box says 10+, but this is really a 14+ game. In my opinion, the themes in BSG were too mature for children, so most kids won’t have watched the show and won’t know the story/characters. It’s a complicated game to learn, and it’s long.  

Would you try this game? What types of games are you most interested in having me review? And, the big question, are you a BSG fan?

Click here if you’d like to check out Battlestar Galactica (affiliate link).

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Are You Writing in the POV You Think You’re Writing In?

Point of ViewBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Point of view problems are the most common problems I see as a freelance editor. And I’m not surprised. Point of view is a difficult concept to master, yet it’s also the most essential. (Check out Janice Hardy’s post on 4 Tips to Solve 99% of Your Writing Problems. It’s all about POV.)

So I’m kicking off a new series that I hope will help you understand your point of view options better, choose the right POV for your story, and get it right when you do.

What Is POV?

When we talk about POV, we basically mean the point of view from which the story is told. Who are you listening to? Whose head are you in? In a practical sense, POV lays the foundation for everything you’ll write in your story, and it comes in four types.

Second Person

Second person POV tells the story using you.

You dig through your purse, but can’t find your keys. They were there yesterday. You’re sure of it. You tip your purse’s contents out onto the table, and receipts, old gum wrappers, and pennies spill everywhere.

The “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that were popular when I was a kid used second person POV.

You’d be able to self-publish a book written in second person, but you probably wouldn’t be able to sell it to a traditional publisher. For an example of one of the few successful second person books, try to find a copy of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.

Omniscient POV

Omniscient POV is when the story is told by an all-knowing narrator. That all-knowing narrator is the author, and the story is told in his or her voice rather than in any particular character’s voice.

This is easily confused with head-hopping. Head-hopping and omniscient POV are not the same thing. I’ll cover both in more detail in an upcoming post.

For an excellent example of how to write omniscient POV well, check out Rachel Aaron’s The Spirit Thief.

Third Person POV

In third person, a scene, chapter, or sometimes, even the whole book is told from the perspective of a single character, but it uses he/she.

Melanie dug through her purse. No keys. They were here yesterday. She’d dropped them in when she came home from work. Hadn’t she? She tipped her purse’s contents out onto the table, and receipts, old gum wrappers, and pennies spilled everywhere.

Everything is filtered through the eyes of the viewpoint character, and we hear their voice. You can have multiple third person POV characters per book as long as you don’t hop between them in a single scene. If you give the flavor of a particular character’s voice, and switch POVs mid-scene without a proper transition, you’re head-hopping.

Even though you can have multiple POV characters, try to write your book with the smallest possible number. (Few of us are writing something like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.)

First Person POV

Just like it sounds, in first person, the character is telling us the story directly.

I dug through my purse. No keys. They were here yesterday. I’d dropped them in when I came home from work, didn’t I? I tipped my purse’s contents out onto the table, and receipts, old gum wrappers, and pennies spilled everywhere.

Most of the time, when you use first person POV, you’ll only use that single POV throughout the book (like in The Hunger Games). However, that’s not a rule. Authors have successfully used more than one first person POV in the same book. I just wouldn’t recommend it for new writers because it’s difficult to do well.

For examples of how to write first person POV well, read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (multiple first person POVs) or Janice Hardy’s The Shifter (a single first person POV).

I’ll dig into each type of POV (except for second person) in future posts, but after this overview, hopefully we’re all working from the same foundation.

What POV are you writing in? What you’re biggest struggle with POV? I’m happy to take requests for future posts!

I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Image Credit: Gabriella Fabbri (www.sxc.hu)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra.

How to Create Strong Female Characters

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’ve been hinting at it for months now, but the time has finally come. I’ve released the first book in my Busy Writer’s Guides series! And I’ve priced it at 99 cents.

cover

The misconceptions around what writers mean when we talk about strong female characters make them one of the most difficult character types to write well. Do we have to strip away all femininity to make a female character strong? How do we keep a strong female character likeable? If we’re writing historical fiction or science fiction or fantasy based on a historical culture, how far can we stray from the historical records when creating our female characters?

In Strong Female Characters: A Busy Writer’s Guide you’ll learn

  • what “strong female characters” means,
  • the keys to writing characters who don’t match stereotypical male or female qualities,
  • how to keep strong female characters likeable, and
  • what roles women actually played in history.

Each book in the Busy Writer’s Guide series is intended to give you enough theory so that you can understand why things work and why they don’t, but also enough examples to see how that theory looks in practice. In addition, they provide tips and exercises to help you take it to the pages of your own story with an editor’s-eye view. I call them an accelerated master’s class in a topic.

Strong Female Characters is a mini-book of approximately 4,000 words.

You can buy a copy at Amazon, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords. They’ll be available in more places soon 🙂

If you’d like to help me spread the word, I’d appreciate it if you’d share one of the tweets below or share this post on Facebook, Google+, or wherever you hang out.

3 tricks to keeping strong female characters likeable (Click to Tweet)

What do we mean by “strong female characters”? (Click to Tweet)

How to Create Strong Female Characters (Click to Tweet)

And remember to add your favorite writing hashtag when you tweet! (Suggestions: #amwriting #amediting #writetip #MyWANA)

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What Star Wars Character Are You?

Star Wars The Empire Strikes BackBy Marcy Kennedy (@Marcy Kennedy)

Every few months I like to do a crazy personality quiz here. The first quiz (What Star Trek Race Are You?) started because of a disagreement my husband and I were having, and I had such fun with the quiz that since then I’ve also done What Lord of the Rings Character Are You? I have many more I’d like to do in the future, and this week that means What Star Wars Character Are You?

Here’s how it works. Read the descriptions below and write down the letter of the one that’s most like you. (Don’t look for it to be exact, since you might be a child of two of the characters.) At the end, I’ll tell you what character you picked

(A) You’re confident, sometimes to the point of arrogance, loyal to those who are loyal to you, and you believe the rules are often arbitrary or unnecessarily restrictive. Despite this, your motivation is always the greater good.

(B) You have a quiet strength and determination that people respect. When a tough situation arises, you deal with it with tact and diplomacy, and you believe the rules are there for a good reason. We should respect the people in authority and the rules they make.

(C) You struggle to make decisions, largely because you underestimate your own abilities. You see things in black and white and are uncomfortable with the grey areas. Seeing the world in black and white, as good and evil, also makes you willing to sacrifice yourself for what you believe is right.

(D) You’re a born creative who thinks outside the box. Rather than repeatedly beating against a barrier, you try to find a way around, under, or over it. Unfortunately, this can also make you impetuous and impulsive, and can sometimes get you into trouble.

(E) Your biggest flaw is that you worry too much, including about what other people think. This leaves you unable to stand up for yourself, but also comes with a benefit. You’re able to see the flaws in a plan and analyze the chances for success better than anyone else.

(F) You have a taste for the finer things in life. You’re a shrewd businessperson when it comes to forwarding your own interests. This means you sometimes hurt people, but you regret when you do and you strive to make it right.

ANSWER KEY:

Do not go farther until you’ve picked your letter!!

(A) You’re Han Solo. As a Corellian, Han has no use for the odds because he believes he can beat them. He’s also learned from experience that laws were made by people in ivory towers and don’t usually apply well to the rough world he lives in, so he lives by his own code. Under his roguish exterior hides a heart of gold.

(B) You’re Leia Organa. Not only was Leia a princess of Alderaan, but she was also a member of the Imperial Senate until Darth Vader realized she was actually working with the Rebel Alliance. Unlike Han, she believes in going through the proper, official channels whenever possible, but she also believes that, if evil people gain power, they should be unseated: The government is meant to rule for the best interest of all. She was an exemplary diplomat.

(C) You’re Luke Skywalker. Everyone knows Luke as the “hero” of the Star Wars movies, but Luke didn’t see himself as a hero. He didn’t want to be a Jedi at the beginning, and when he was training with Yoda he was constantly talking about what he couldn’t do. He had to get past that and learn to trust his abilities before he could succeed. His black-and-white view of the world was a strength, but also a weakness.

(D) You’re R2-D2. He might have been a droid, but he was arguably the most creative of the Star Wars characters. While the others stood around talking about what to do, he jumped in and started testing ideas. Sometimes that got him into close calls and put his friends in danger, but sometimes it also got them out of it.

(E) You’re C-3PO. C-3PO was always giving them the odds of success, to the point where Han admonished him, “Never tell me the odds!” What he might be most known for, though, is his groveling. He was always apologizing for someone else’s actions in the hope of avoiding repercussions, and he rarely stood up for himself.

(F) You’re Lando Calrissian. Lando betrayed Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO into the hands of Darth Vader, even though Han was supposed to be his friend, in order to save his city, Bespin’s Cloud City (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back). But, when it really counted later, Lando made amends by helping save Han and the Rebels, and he and Han stayed friends throughout their lives.

Which Star Wars character (or combo) did you end up as?

Behind the Scenes: Kim Cleary and Necromancers

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Today I have the privilege of interviewing debut author Kim Cleary. I’m especially excited to offer this interview because I edited Path Unchosen and so I had a sneak peek long before it was available for purchase 🙂 When you hear about the obstacles Kim overcame to write this book, I hope you’ll find her as much of an inspiration as I do.

Path Unchosen by Kim ClearyBefore we get to the interview, here’s what Path Unchosen is about…

When eighteen-year-old Judy Hudson discovers she’s a necromancer and sees first-hand the pain her powers can cause the dead, she just wants to deny who she is. The zombie plague is long over. She wants to find a more normal life, but that’s a challenge when a beautiful otherworldly man, who claims to be her guardian, saves her life.

Judy tries to set right the harm she inflicted on a spirit she raised, but new zombies attack—zombies raised from among the long-time dead. Someone else just like her is out there, and he’s not trying to set anything right. To save her own life, and protect the innocent inhabitants of the nearby town who’ve become her friends, Judy has to figure out who’s raising the dead and why.

She must also learn to control the darkness inside her—a seductive darkness that promises her power beyond her wildest dreams.

Welcome, Kim!

What was the spark of inspiration that started you writing Path Unchosen?

I started writing a short story called “The Darkness” when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness which caused permanent damage in my hands and stopped me from typing. I had to teach myself how to use voice software and a good friend gave me an opening line to get me started. (The opening line was “The darkness surrounded me, enveloped me, I felt strangely warm, as if a quilt had been wrapped around me.” This line has since been taken out, but what is left of it is now halfway through chapter 3 and says “Warmth encircled me as if someone had wrapped me in a downy quilt, but it was a fleeting sensation before darkness surrounded me.”)

I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction stories and found myself gravitating to the style as soon as I started writing. I shared pieces of the story with my sister and a small number of friends, received positive feedback and encouragement, and I just kept going with it. By the time I was let go from work, I had 35,000 words written and several ideas of how to keep the story going.

That battle with darkness is a recurring theme in Path Unchosen, and so readers might expect you to cast your necromancers as villainous (because of their dealings with the dead). How did you choose to deal with the preconception of necromancers as dark and evil, and why did you make that choice?

My heroine was always going to be a necromancer. I’m not sure I can explain why! Even as a child, I was interested in the culture of death and the dead. I’ve also always been a bit contrary, so perhaps I just wanted to go against the norm. I tried to paint Judy as a compassionate character from the start of the story, and to show her own conflict with her power over the dead.

In this story, it’s just one generation on from a man-made plague that killed more than half of the world’s adults. After the plague, zombies rose and attacked survivors. In this world, people are comfortable with magic and witchcraft; they accept, and fear, life after death in a variety of forms. Judy accepts that she has a responsibility for the dead. She not only speaks to them, she cares for them as well.

What do you feel makes your book unique from all the others out there?

I’m not sure it is unique! At one level, it’s just a coming of age story in a fantasy setting. If there is any uniqueness perhaps it’s that my heroine is full of hope in a rather bleak world. She is determined to be compassionate even though she can access enormous power.

I felt your book took a fresh take on a lot of fantasy tropes, but what I liked best was Judy’s emotional journey. If there was one message or emotion you wanted your readers to walk away with at the end, what would it be?

I had one reader tell me she really identifies with Judy and how she discovers herself, makes sense of her life, and finally meets herself. That put a huge beam on my face. But my main message is twofold: (1) knowing who you are doesn’t trap you – it makes you stronger, and (2) compassion doesn’t make you weak – compassion combined with bravery gives you power.

Thanks so much, Kim, for taking us behind the scenes on Path Unchosen!

About Kim:

Kim ClearyKim writes urban fantasy for anyone who longs to discover they are extraordinary. She writes about hopefulness and determination, and about heroes who push through extraordinary situations and obstacles, one step at a time. Magical friends and gorgeous guys help, or hinder, in one adventure after another.

When not writing, revising, or thinking about writing, Kim gardens, plays with her dog, chats on social media, catches up with friends or cooks an Indian feast. She is a member of Writers Victoria, Romance Writers of Australia, The Alliance of Independent Authors, and a certified chocoholic.

Kim grew up in Birmingham, UK, studied medieval history and psychology at Adelaide University in South Australia and has worked all over Australia and in London. She now lives with her husband and an adorable Cocker Spaniel in Melbourne, Australia.

You can buy Path Unchosen (Daughter Of Ravenswood)on Amazon.

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Who Makes You Want to Be a Better Person?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I had a light-hearted quiz post prepared for today (and you’ll still see it next week), but I couldn’t post it. I felt the need to re-post something I wrote two years ago. You see, Saturday was the 12th anniversary of the death of one of my dearest friends, and this past week another friend of mine lost her son. He was only 24 years old. An unexpected health complication took him from those who loved him.

So I needed to re-run this post in honor of the memory of both Amanda and James because I know that he was to many people what she was to me.

****

“I have forgotten that men cannot see unicorns. If men no longer know what they’re looking at, there may be other unicorns in the world yet, unknown, and glad of it.”—The Last Unicorn (1982 movie) based on the novel by Peter S. Beagle.

Unicorn

Don’t believe anyone who tells you unicorns don’t exist. I’ve met one. And no, I’m not talking about those pictures that occasionally circle the internet of goats who’ve had their horns trained to twist together.

I’ve met a real, live unicorn. She just didn’t look like what most people might expect.

Accounts differ about where the unicorn legend originated, but the most consistent picture of them is of a white horse with a single spiral horn growing from their forehead. As every little girl will tell you, they’re exceptionally beautiful.

Their horn soon became known as the bane of evil. A unicorn horn could drive away evil, neutralize poison, and kill any monster it came into contact with. Both their horn and their blood were said to have healing properties.

In China, unicorns came to symbolize wisdom. They were the kings among the animals. In the United Kingdom, they symbolized purity and many kings made them part of their heraldry.

They were and are beloved for a very simple reason.

Unicorns are the embodiment of good.

My unicorn had dark hair, hands that were cold even in summer, and an infectious laugh. She was exceptionally beautiful both inside and out.

Her name was Amanda, and she was one of my best friends. In 2001, a repeat-offender drunk driver with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit and a suspended license slammed into her driver’s side door at 100/mph (160 km/h). After 21 hours in a coma, she died. In a way, it was a blessing. The doctors said even if she’d woken up, she’d never have been the Amanda we knew again.

For a year, I brought flowers to her grave every Friday. I went because I missed her, but to be honest, I think I went more because of the fear that if I skipped even one week it would mean I’d forgotten her. And she deserved to be remembered.

Then, a year after her death, sitting on the soggy ground beside her grave, I finally realized the best way to honor and remember her wasn’t to sit in the cold and cry. It wasn’t to bring her flowers. It was to let her life and who she was motivate me to be a better person.

When you cut away all the myths and speculations and stories, unicorns are the things that make us want to be better simply by knowing of them, by being around them. They are what we aspire to be.

Amanda was far from perfect, but I can’t remember the imperfections anymore. What I do remember is her creativity, her cheerfulness, her refusal to let anyone change who she was, her determination and strong work ethic, her soft heart for hurting people.

The qualities I still remember best about her are the ones I want people to one day remember about me too.

I’m far from perfect. I’m still far from being the person I want to be. But I hope that one day, if I keep working at it, I’ll be someone’s unicorn too.

Who’s your unicorn? What is it about them that you so admire? How have they helped you become a better person?

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Image Credit: aschaeffer via www.sxc.hu