The Black Magus

Real Love

I’m a hopeless romantic, through and through.

This was perhaps a bit silly of me, but after “The Scion Suit” gained a smidgen of attention on Reddit, I wondered if I should downplay the romance aspect of The Black Magus to make it sound more appealing to the sort of people who would actually read it — after all, I don’t think that I’d gain much traction with Twilight fans. But, I decided that would be rather disingenuous, considering that it’s right there in the very first chapter.

So there you have it: The Black Magus is the ultimate Mary-Sue fanfic, where the main character is a shy nobody who through sheer coincidence gains the attention of the most powerful magus on the planet. He competes against another magus to win her affection in a saucy love triangle, and ultimately pulls ahead by gifting her the most expensive car ever built. The girl, on the other hand, maintains an emotional affair with the other guy, just to prove how strong and independent she is after she’s married …


I’m totally not awesome enough to write that.

It’s not the sort of crap that’s always portrayed in popular romance novels. It’s also not the sort of “singles together” crap that we’re told to settle for because “romance doesn’t exist”. You won’t find any Taylor Swift songs that fit it.

It’s about devotion and compassion. It’s about two people joining together to become a family, and learning how to be there for each other. It’s about real love.

There’s also some stuff about magic and the world they live in, and a few other characters who have some dialogue and whatnot. You know, that necessary story-type stuff, to flesh it out into an actual novel and set up the sequel.

So, I have decided against downplaying the romance aspect of The Black Magus, because it is the entire foundation and structure of the novel. Please, don’t dismiss it because of a few bad stereotypes — I assure you that this story is different.

The Black Magus

The Black Magus characters


I know.

I spent over a year working on the first draft for this novel, and these are the only notes I made on the two main characters.


I confess, I’m terrible with notes, so I often find it easier and more organized to keep all of the information in my head. I don’t create character charts, or worksheets, or blah blah blah, because I make a point of locking everything in my mind.

Which is probably one of the reasons why I don’t fit in with writing communities.

Besides. Most of the time, I just listen to what they have to say anyway.

So, here we are: introducing the two main characters from The Black Magus, my upcoming fantasy romance novel.

Are you as excited as I am?

About Writing

Terrible Reader

I confess that I’m a terrible reader. Every time I pick up a book, I think, “This time I’ll read every word,” then sooner or later, I get bored and start skipping through.

“Why is the author taking so long to call the wagon green?”

“Meh, sex.”

“Okay, this character is stupid.”

“We get it already, they had a good time at the picnic.”

When I read out loud to the children, I adopt that bored, “Let’s get through this massive paragraph as quick as possible” monotone voice, and I’m afraid it’s pretty obvious that I don’t enjoy it.

It always feels like there’s a huge number of words getting in the way of the story, and I can’t remember the last time I found a book engrossing. Sometimes I could swear that authors actually want readers to skim over half of the novel, and throw in lots of filler just to look more impressive at first glance.

“In my book, it takes 800 pages for fifteen characters to make a single grilled cheese sandwich. It’s rich with subplots about running out of bread, taking bathroom breaks, and even falling in love. I also included numerous philosophical discussions about the merits of cheddar versus colby jack, and the different methods of toasting the bread. I included lots of poetry. There’s even a surprise plot twist where it turns out that half the characters are actually grilled cheese sandwiches themselves! The novel ends after the characters burn down the house and die because they tried to make it in the toaster.”

Oh wow!

No way!

The funny thing is, when I read my own stories with the same method I use to read other novels, I do get the whole, “WOAH this story is progressing crazy fast!” feeling. My style really isn’t best experienced by charging through. I do always “test read” my stuff before putting it out there, and following the natural flow of my mind without trying to speed up or edit anything feels good to me, so that’s how I keep it.

I skip writing the stuff that I skip reading. Which is a lot. But hey, that also means that there isn’t anything for you to skip over either, because I’m probably WAY worse than you about that.


About Writing


Why do I complain so much about contemporary literature?

Personally, I’m not likely to run into any sort of shortage of used books to read — as anyone who has been in a thrift store can attest to — so the hottest new releases don’t have any affect on me no matter how badly they are written. If I were to speak truthfully from the coldest place in my heart, I think it would be a relief if publishing houses died wholesale. Good riddance.

Contemporary literature is all about making money. Idealistically, we want to believe that ‘high quality = more profit’, but the popularity of the YouTube channel ‘5 Minute Crafts’ is undeniable proof that sentiment just isn’t true. Profit comes from tickling algorithms coupled with click-bait, and corporations have turned it into a science.

The thing is, ‘5 Minute Crafts’ and its ilk aren’t harmlessly mediocre underneath all the hype. I’ve seen videos promoting burning your hair with a candle, soaking strawberries in bleach, and other such activities that have no business in a DIY context, and should never be tried at home. Seriously, burning your hair is not a fast way to get rid of split ends, it is a stinky way to get rid of your hair. People are prophesying that these channels will one day kill YouTube.

Let’s bring the topic back to books: publishing houses, and by extension writers, are excessively geared towards money. The algorithms utilize formulaic stories that just so happen to hit all the right trending key words, and the shiny covers function as the click bait. Whether or not the story is actually well written and engaging is never the question.

You see, it doesn’t matter how much teachers extol the virtues of reading, no one is going to bother if the experience is a tedious one. Every time I hear someone say that they hate reading, I sympathize with the statement, “Most books suck.”

I say that as a writer.

The last I heard, fiction sales have been steadily dropping for some time now, and I don’t believe that the popularity of video streaming or video games has anything to do with it — movies have existed for quite some time, and the adage has always been, “the book is better” up until now. I believe that fiction is dying because no one gives a shit if the reader has an enjoyable experience or not, so long as they can collect on the royalties.

Statistically I also contribute to “the death of the novel”, because I haven’t purchased anything new in the last ten years, even though I still read books. I’m not voracious by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m usually working my way through something. I’m sure there are others who read plenty of fiction, but who also prefer used books, or websites that provide content for free. Humans have loved storytelling since the dawn of time, and that isn’t going to change.

I complain about contemporary literature because, as a writer, I often feel like I’ve dedicated my life to a field that is gaining an increasingly bad rap through blatant mismanagement. It doesn’t matter how much love and attention I put into producing quality works if people have been taught through experience to hate reading in the first place.

Since I’m not delusional enough to believe that my solitary rumblings are going to have any sort of effect on the world, I often wonder what other sort of venues are there for connecting with readers. How can I publish novels without resorting to books? How can I stand apart from contemporary literature?

About Writing

Book Covers


My husband found The Regiment (published 1987) in a used bookstore back in 2010, and a few days later handed it over to me with the instruction that I *had* to read it. The Regiment is a scifi novel that is deeply philosophical, with a subtle element of spirituality woven in, and it influenced the way I think of every day life. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

It was never unpacked after our last move, and now currently resides in a box in the basement, so it’s been awhile since I’ve read it. One of these days I’ll get around to unpacking those boxes, but that day is not today.

The thing is, my husband and I got a very good laugh about the cover, and we still occasionally reference how bad it is. The picture is only vaguely related to the novel at best, and the tagline is so badly wrong that I suspect whoever wrote it hadn’t even read a summary. Excellent book, terrible cover.


I purchased Wicked Lovely when it was a new release in 2008, back when I was young and trusting. I consider it to be a guilty pleasure, since while I adore the idea of faerie courts in the book, I think that it is put together in a way that is shallow and a touch crude.

Mind you, I’d still rate the book 3.5/5, and I even followed the author’s blog for awhile clear back then, so I mean it when I describe this as a guilty pleasure. I read the sequel, Ink Exchange, and every now and then ponder whether or not I should get more books by Melissa Marr, just to see how her writing has been coming along. Unfortunately, the premise of the novels never unfolded in a satisfying fashion, so I continue to hold back. There’s just too much of a modern twist in her writing.

Wanna guess why I bought this book back then?

The cover.

It was pretty.

The contents therein did not match expectations. If the cover had actually reflected the story, I wouldn’t have spent my hard-earned pennies on it, because I’m not a modern sort of person by any stretch of the imagination. Now that it’s 11 years later, I might cut the cover off, frame it, and hang it on the wall where I can look at it, but I’m not all that inclined toward reading the novel again. It’s probably a good thing that this book is also squirreled away in the basement.

I might, at some point in the future, write my own version of faerie courts to tell the story that I had wanted to read back then, though my cover won’t be anywhere near as pretty if I do. I’ll have to rely on the strength of words alone to generate appeal, and we all know how well that will work, le sigh.

At least I’ll have the satisfaction of a good story.

I don’t judge books by their covers anymore; beauty is only skin deep.


About Me

Literary World

Whenever I take a gander at the hottest new releases on Amazon, I can’t help but feel like there really isn’t a place for me in the literary world. It’s not that I don’t believe that I have the skill to write, but rather, I think that society’s tastes have drifted too far for my novels to have much appeal.

I’m old fashioned, and I like sentences that flow well together as an easy thought, that can be read out loud to others. I like to focus more on straightforward storytelling, and I don’t particularly care about impressing anyone with my command of purple prose. I’m nothing like Game of Thrones, and I don’t feel any desire to erase my own voice in order to imitate the bestsellers. I don’t have any points to prove; I’m just make-believing because I like to, and savoring the process of filling up page after page.

I really couldn’t care less about what celebrities or the New York Times say about anything. Their opinions are more of a disincentive, to be truthful, and I will feel like an epic failure as an individualist if I gained their approval.

Sometimes I think that the real world is all about hyper-conformity, and trying as hard as possible to be “3 edgy 5 you” to prove how thoroughly you belong in the 21st century. Me? I’m enamored with the basics of True Love and Motherhood, and it doesn’t bother me that I don’t particularly belong to any century.

Ultimately, it doesn’t much matter. I’ve never been one for approval seeking, and in many ways I’ve lived my life to the opposite. As long as I’m happy and fulfilled, nothing else really matters.

I just kind of wish that I wasn’t so gosh darn weird compared to everyone else. Why can’t there be more weirdos in the world?

About Writing

The Chosen One

A trope that I see every now and then that drives me absolutely batty goes something like this:

Congratulations hero! You are the CHOSEN ONE! You have special powers that no one else does!

The intro is all about letting the audience know how super awesome this character is, being the Chosen One and all, and you think that you’re in for some impressive ass-kicking all around, literally and/or figuratively.

Then, as the story progresses, it turns out that the character isn’t that awesome after all, because:

  • They don’t want to be the Chosen One.
  • A dozen other characters are introduced who also have special abilities.
  • Their power turns out to not be anywhere near as cool as it sounds.

Any one of those three would put my teeth on edge, but for whatever reason I usually see all three of these together. I used to try to finish stories that pulled this trope, but experience has taught me that the ending never gets better.

So, let’s break down my bullet points:

  • They don’t want to be the Chosen One

I suspect that the writer is trying to be subversive with this one, but societal context has changed to the point that aspiring to be a mediocre nobody is par for the course — you can even decorate your home with quotes about how you will never do, say, or think anything unique or special. Personally, I have been heavily criticized every time I’ve taken on a new responsibility, often because others treat it as some sort of enslavement.

You have four kids? How on Earth are you ever supposed to do anything?

Oh, I don’t know. Occasionally the kids take off the shackles and I’m allowed a bit of sunshine; just enough to keep me going. So tell me, what do you do with your freedom? Work all day, then veg out on the internet?

Anyway, it would be far more refreshing to see a character who actually wants to be the Chosen One and takes the responsibility seriously.

  • A dozen other characters are introduced who also have special abilities.

I wish I could say that this is due to a lack of imagination, but I can’t shake the suspicion that it’s wish fulfillment on the part of the writer. Usually, the main character is no longer set apart, instead belonging to a tight-knit group where everyone knows everyone else’s pain, and never has to face the possibility of loneliness.

After the cadre has been formed, the enemies start popping up with even stronger powers to justify it all, and the hero is looking less and less unique and interesting. But at least the writer vicariously has imaginary friends!

  • Their power turns out to not be anywhere near as cool as it sounds.

This is the natural consequence of the previous bullet points. Even if someone is uncertain at first, they’ll naturally be drawn into enjoying ULTIMATE POWER when they realize what they can do with it, so in order to keep up with the mediocre aspiration, the ULTIMATE POWER can’t actually be all that seductive or useful. You also can’t make your friends feel bad by being obviously better than them, and the battles need more suspense by dangling the question of whether or not the entire group has what it takes to defeat the single bad guy. Working alone. Against all of you.

Wait, who was supposed to be the Chosen One again?

It’s a terrible trope, which unfortunately plagues the fantasy genre, so I keep coming across it. Le sigh.

Maybe we could try something new?

About Writing

Music and Writing

For the past several months, I’ve been working on the rough draft of a new novel, and for the past several months, I’ve been listening to Kamelot on repeat. Specifically, the song, “The Last Day of Sunlight” (which as far as I can tell has not been posted YouTube).

When my husband commented on it, I muttered vaguely about how that particular song “kept the channel open” for writing my novel.

Music is a powerful tool for putting one in a specific mindset for writing. Each story has a different “feeling” about it, and finding a song that suits that “feeling” is often a powerful way of tuning in to inspiration and creativity. I don’t know if this is something I can explain accurately, but I’m certain that those who have experienced it know exactly what I’m talking about.

Often, the earliest stages of a novel involve also finding the music that fits the story, to compose the playlist that will sustain the channel of creativity for the duration of writing. Then, I will listen to that playlist on repeat, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.

Even if it does start to wear on everyone I live with.

Thankfully, my husband understands.


About Writing


I’ve mentioned before that I write all of my rough drafts by hand. One of the benefits of doing this is that ink is permanent, thus effectively neutralizing the urge to edit as I go. My main focus with my rough drafts is getting the story down on paper with as little critical thinking as possible.

I’m a firm believer in the power of editing and let quite a lot slide through in my rough drafts, but every now and then I do write something that’s so bad, it grinds the story to a halt. Sometimes it’s necessary to rewrite as I go, just to keep the story progressing. I average rewriting about five pages out of a hundred, which is more a testament to how forgiving I am than anything else.

Since transcribing onto the computer is an eventual necessity, that’s where I do the bulk of my rewriting. That’s when I start to think, “How can this be better?” I usually end up rewriting about 90%.

Ever since I started cleanly separating the steps of writing and rewriting, I’ve been able to finish books, rather than collecting files of unfinished beginnings.

Tiny frog

About Writing

Instead of studying Creative Writing…

I majored in Creative Writing during my stint in college. In one of my regular English classes, that focused on teaching grammar of all things (who does that?), we had a published author come as a guest speaker one day. After class, offhandedly, he commented, “Majoring in Creative Writing is the worst thing you can do as a writer.” He advised me to switch majors immediately.

I can’t remember his name or the title of the book he wrote. Shame, really, because that was probably the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

If you’re on this journey, don’t read books or websites that teach creative writing. Just don’t.

Learn grammar. Learn what prepositions and interjections are. Watch School House Rock. Internalize it. Use it all the time, even when texting. Embrace being seen as snooty. Words are your medium, and you need to understand how to use them correctly. Just don’t turn into a “grammar nazi” who compulsively hyper corrects everyone else — people hate that. Part of the rich complexity of English is that it can, and often does, accommodate oddities and mishmashing, so learn how to use that effectively.

Read non-fiction. I particularly like self-help books, as they tend to be a rich reservoir of foibles and psychology, wrapped up in layman’s descriptions that are easy to understand. And hey, if I happen to also benefit from it, all the better. These sorts of books will give you a better understanding of how to create realistic characters than worksheets ever will.

And of course, research your genre. Don’t write a Highlander romance based entirely off of all the other Highlander romance novels you’ve read; find a history book about Scotland first. This is especially important if you are writing in one of the realistic genres; its easy to alienate those who could be your most loyal fanbase if you completely misrepresent their field.

Finally, practice. Write all the time. Write about everything. Write and rewrite. Write. Write. Write. Compose stories in your head while you’re at the dentist or driving in your car. Don’t start judging anything until the 2nd or 3rd drafts; instead, enjoy the flow of creativity. Just frickin’ write!

You’ll learn far more than Creative Writing classes will teach you.