A Writer is Never Finished


One is never truly finished writing a story.

I’m not an expert on technique; my attention span does not allow me to study complicated books on style. My muse shies from the idea of outlining, flash cards don’t help me at all, and I follow the 7-point method very loosely.

The one thing I know for sure after all these years writing is that an author is never quite done. I’ve spent weeks pondering the meaning of imagination, how humans can take an idea—a goblet or a stream of water—and then write universes surrounding it.

You can play with object size and volume (you cannot contain the stream in the goblet; if you throw the goblet into the stream, it will disappear.) You can play with the history of the object (where does the stream come from? Did the goblet once belong to a king?) You can explore creatures that dwell in the water, gemstones on the side of the goblet, the craftsman who made the goblet.

A writer can do all this until there is a web of facts and lore. When it’s a character we’re dealing with, things become more complex, because—as the old cliché goes—each person is a universe. For those of us who write the story, we are never done and never want to be. However, there’s a contradiction, an instinct when we must find a place where imagining stops and story makes it onto paper.

Most writers have the desire to see our story bound as a book on someone’s shelf. This means we have to work out when to stop imagining the words, instead forming them with ink. It seems I’ve not figured that out yet.

I’ve been thinking of my ideas and characters, some of which you might know, wondering how they got where they are. Rereading my novels, I realized that even the secondary characters would have epic tales. Like most protagonists, they start out in a low place; I want to know how they got higher. I want to know how they succeeded.

Because I am the writer—because ideas are loud—I have been exploring the hows and whys of the universe I created. The answers are surfacing in the form of a new story. I’m not far into it and haven’t a clue whether I will finish, but writing from a new perspective has unlocked different parts of my imagination.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to think about your stories—your characters—their hobbies and their favorite objects. Delve into their histories and explore qualities you never thought were important. Petty things like this will help you get to know your universe.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Madeleine L’Engle wrote of writing as if it were a religion or magic. Storytelling helps us create things that, to us and our readers, are very real. A dedicated reader, when engrossed in a good story, will reach a point where they forget they are turning pages.

When you reach that depth, you have made magic.

Read Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know there are other books about storytelling, but again, I don’t spend much time reading technique.

Though I recommend these books, remember we only learn so much from the discoveries of others. An artist’s joy is in the complexity of our own ideas. Consider these great writers as guides to help you on your own journey.

Take time today to think on your own, exploring your worlds in a new way. I promise it will be worth the effort to bask in the eternity of a brainstorm.

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The Autumn Prince Returns


In October of 2015, I released a serial on my blog called The Autumn Prince.

It became more popular than I had anticipated; one reader called it the “highlight of her month,” and I am still humbled by that. The following year it was adapted into a short story for the Crows on Heartstrings anthology, where it shines among dozens of beautiful tales and drawings.

After the release of Crows on Heartstrings, different projects related to my Fallen Faery Tales series distracted me from The Autumn Prince. It managed to slip my mind for a long time, until now.

When the serial finished on Halloween of 2015, the story just wouldn’t get out of my head! I wrote it again as a novel that November because the characters and ideas were still so vivid.

A week ago, a friend encouraged me to find that draft and read it again. I couldn’t believe I had written it! I found myself wanting to know what happens next. So The Autumn Prince is back.

This April I’m working on edits for The Autumn Prince. My plan is to have it shine by the end of the year so I can query it in the winter. For this book, I am going to seek traditional publishing. The Autumn Prince has a different feel from Dissonance and Serenade; it wants to take the different road.

It wants to hit bookstore shelves. It wants to be your autumn read. For that, I need to work on it.

If you enjoyed The Autumn Prince when it was a serial on my blog, I hope you’ll like it all the more as a full-length novel. I’m surprised at how well I did adapting it into a book; it may have been a first draft, but it didn’t make me cringe!

I enjoyed reading it, and being the author, that’s saying something. I hope and pray you will enjoy it too.

Guest Post: Life in the Tunnels


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A couple of days ago, I posted this excerpt from World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle (purchase it here!) If the excerpt wasn’t enough to interest you in this story, the author herself wrote a guest post describing the world where all this magic takes place–it’s well thought out, magical, intriguing. My review of the book is coming soon!


When Beila investigates her strange recurring dreams, she discovers a society of invisible people living in an enchanted world of connected underground tunnels. Life in the tunnels is an entirely foreign experience to an average New York teenager like Beila.

Food

In the middle of the tunnel world stands a magical garden that astounds Beila. A variety of vegetables and even fruits familiar to the villagers from their lives before the curse grow in this room, the largest in the tunnels. A sizable amount of the villagers’ lives revolves around this garden. Most nutrition comes from the produce, but social life centers in this place as well. Adults meet over cooking fires to tell stories. Children play games in the open patches of dirt. The light similar to the sun does what it can to cheer everyone’s spirits as the years stretch on.

The people can also eat meat and different breads and pastries from rooms in a specific tunnel hallway. Many of these foods were inaccessible to the villagers in their lives before the curse. At first, having such luxuries available made the curse almost seem worth it. As time passed, though, the food became commonplace and no longer made up for the cramped spaces, or lack of freedom and passing time.

Entertainment

One of the worst parts of the curse is the boredom. Magic rooms providing for all your needs may seem amazing, but most the villagers’ lives before the curse were centered on professions to meet needs. Those professions are unnecessary now. Even if villagers wanted to work, the space and materials to do their old jobs aren’t available. Adults have resigned themselves to lives of games, storytelling, and cooking, the only activities available to them. Those who still enjoy craft work might also spend days tearing apart clothing from the little “shop” to design something new, be it a toy or garment or something else entirely. The number of people interested in this hobby varies throughout the years; on the one hand, it provides something new to do, but on the other hand, the results of your work usually vanish by the next morning.

Children do have a few toys. Some of the children owned toys before the curse which came with them to the tunnels. These include dolls and tops. One of the “shops” also contains a few toys, which vanish from wherever they’re left each night and re-appear on the same shelf every morning. Most of the children’s amusement comes from games—races, leapfrog, pretending to be adults, jokes and riddles, hide and seek, tag. Some children enjoy drawing in the dirt with fingers or sticks, as well.

Family

Family units mostly mirror the society the villagers lived in before the curse. The passage of time caused the village’s interactions to change gradually, but these changes affected the larger society more than individual families. Marriage depends more on companionship and support than love or emotion. Parenting is a balancing act between not spoiling children and not being severe. The age determining adults from children is younger than modern American standards, but the distinction between age groups bears little familial or societal significance after years of life frozen in time, unaging.

Society

Most physical needs—food, cleanliness, clothing—the magic meets. Social interaction is therefore the most important part of a villager’s day. The village is a tight-knit community. There is no one leader, and with little change occurring over the years there has rarely been a need for one. It is hard to keep track of the years passing, but the village tries to observe the regular holidays such as Christmas (Noel), Epiphany, and the days of the saints.

As time has passed in the tunnels, the magic has begun to deteriorate. Villagers now need to help keep the garden pruned and organized. Clothing sometimes needs mended and shoes need fixing. These signs of magic deterioration are concerning for the villagers, since the signs indicate the magic keeping the people alive could be fading. The need for these types of work do bring back some of the sense of meaning and usefulness that was present in their lives before the curse, though.

Time passing also caused a societal shift. Family and societal hierarchies faded. Certain key women became vital to the village as a whole, bringing women up to a higher level of importance than before. By the time Beila arrives, most of the village operates in an almost matriarchal style by default, since its most important figures have a female majority. However, gender has little bearing on a person’s position in the village as a whole.

Excerpt from World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle


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I am a huge fan of faerie tale retellings, so when Emily asked me to review World of Shadows a while back, it was perfect. I’m still working on my review (let me tell you now, it is worth the read!) Until then, here’s an excerpt from the story itself.

World of Shadows is enchanting! Buy it on Amazon and add it to your Goodreads shelf. Here’s what the book is about:

In this urban fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, modern-day teenager Beila Durand is plagued by nightmares that lead her to discover – and wind up trapped in – a cursed underground world. The invisible people that live in this medieval village depend on Beila learning the truth behind their curse – and why she is the only one who can set them free.
In her quest for answers, however, all she seems to find are more questions. Where do the echoing screeching at night originate? Who is the isolated man that speaks with Beila from the shadows of his cloak? What does this New York girl have to do with any of it? And will she ever find a way back home?

And finally, the excerpt! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“Hello?” I call out cautiously.
The hood turns sort of toward me—facing the floor to my right—but the figure remains seated. “Yes.” The voice is low, a male’s.
“Excuse me?”
The side of the cloak makes a wide gesture. “Come in, welcome.” He sounds young and not at all frightened like the invisible woman I heard before. In fact, he almost sounds unhappy, resigned, possibly even bored. Most notably, of course, he speaks clear, easy English.
“May I ask…where am I?”
“The tunnels.”
I nod and take a few steps forward, then take a deep breath and repeat, “Yes, I thought so, but where?”
This time the hood faces me directly, still completely covering the man’s face. He remains silent for a minute before pushing against the curved arms of the chair and standing quickly, like the President or a king just walked in the room. Again, he is silent and motionless for a long minute.
“Your name.”
“It’s Beila. I’m Beila Durand, from New York.” Another minute of silence passes, and I feel like he’s examining me. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel as awkward if I could see him—his eyes, his face, even his general form to confirm that he’s human. It’d be nice just to make sure I can see him, that he’s not invisible too. Or maybe, if he would only speak, then this place wouldn’t seem so stifling. “And you are?”
The hood nods quickly. “Ah, yes, of course. My apologies. I am…well, perhaps it is best for me not to say. Call me whatever you like, I suppose.” At least he’s polite.
I take another step toward him to close some of the distance between us. The cloak side makes another wide gesture, this time seeming to indicate the chair. I shake my head and sit cross-legged on the floor, so he takes the chair. It seems a little too much for me to sit in this mystery cloak man’s throne.
“Is your name dangerous?”
The hood shakes. “No.” Then it leans back ever so slightly before dropping forward. “Actually, it is. Now that you ask, yes. It’s…best for you to not know about me. Not yet, that is.”
Yeah, that’s not weird at all. “Okay then. Next question…why am I here? Oh, and you still never said where here is.”
“Those are questions I cannot answer for you.”
My eyebrows bunch up. “That makes three. Is there anything you can tell me?”
“Only that these dreams are very important, to all who live in the tunnels. Our lives are in your hands.”
“Our? You mean the griffin too, then?”
There is no response, no movement of the cloak.
“And the invisible people, with the cold hands that speak French? They live here too, right?”
I wait for him to speak. I’m beginning to wonder if he will when he clears his throat. “You have done well to learn this about our world. But I cannot answer questions for you. You must learn the truth for yourself.”
He likes that I’ve figured this stuff out, but he won’t help me any. Interesting. “So they do live here—the invisible people, and the griffin—here with you, in tunnels. But you can’t tell me anything about them, or you.”
He nods.
“Why not?”
“To tell would be grave. The truth must be sought for us to be saved.”
So many new questions come to mind with that statement. I focus on just one. “What do you mean, saved?”
The hood shakes and I nod. “I get it, no questions. Well then, if you’re not going to tell me anything, why am I even still here? Why doesn’t anyone come to take me to the cave? Or why don’t I wake up—something like that?”
The hood nods again, past me rather than at me this time. “You may leave whenever you like.”
When I turn around, all I see are the massive doors. Closed doors. I turn back around. “So I just up and leave, then? The cave’s out there?”
“When you step through the doors, you return to your home. The cave is unnecessary from here.”
“Huh. Unnecessary.” I push off the floor and stand, brushing the dirt off my hands onto my pajama pants. It’s only then that I realize I’m in my pajamas, with my hair down and unbrushed, as if I climbed straight out of bed into this room. I wave to the cloak, suddenly a bit self-conscious. “Well, guess I’ll be going, then, if that’s it.”
The cloak rises from the chair and steps forward. “Before you leave, milady.” Suddenly a necklace dangles in front of my face, right there in thin air. I look at the cloak-man, who just points to it and nods once. I take it and hold it out in my palm, trying to get a better look at it in the torchlight. It’s some sort of golden pendant on a chain. The pendant is an oval, with the design of a ribbon tied in a bow carved on top and a fancily scrolled loop carved on either side, connecting the pendant to the chain. Matching scrollwork curls along the bottom of the oval. The center of the pendant features a portrait painting framed by a thin gold line. The painting is of a young man, with nearly-shaved dark blond hair and eyes the same color. He’s wearing armor that’s elaborately carved and painted in red and black designs. The piece isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen in the city, and I’ve been to quite a few unique shops.
“What’s this?”
“A necklace. For you, Beila Durand. Take it with you when you leave.”

The Late Serenade Announcement


My second book, Serenade, has been available on Kindle for a few weeks now, but I didn’t want to write a blog post about it until you could get it on paperback. Now it’s all set up (get your paper copy here!) and I can finally gush about it.

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This is the second book following Allie’s adventures–the second of many books, because I’m not good at coming up with endings. I keep coming up with subplots and different ways to expand on world-building. I’ve been working on Serenade all year; it’s so strange to be holding it as a paper book! It finally feels real.

I had a lot of help from friends and family (hi, Mom!!) Special thanks go to Kristia S. for the lovely cover. Thanks also to my editors, Alex and Sarah. Then there are all the beta readers–some of which even read the book twice–including Syd, Rae, Faith, Phil, Alex (she has been such a great help!) Jennifer and Chris. Briana has also been a great encouragement. I wasn’t able to mention everyone in this blog post, but know I could not have done this alone. You’ve all been very patient with me; I am blessed to have so much support for this journey.

Here’s what the story is about:

Months after her narrow escape from death, Allie feels incomplete. She is weakened by Dissonance, a music-based illness which drains her strength every day; she struggles to feel useful, living a quiet life with her family in their Florida apartment.

As faery tales begin to fall, an unexpected death drives them back to Serenade, a kingdom where many see them as traitors. Facing new responsibilities, Allie must prove she has the strength to be a Muse and finally beat her Dissonance for good.

Read it on your Kindle by purchasing it here! And remember, each time you buy a book, you help me fund my coffee obsession. :D I’m already working on book three! (And a couple more.)

I hope you’ve had a good year, and when you read Serenade, I hope you enjoy it!

-Mariella

Book Review: Wendy Darling – Stars by Colleen Oakes


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I am fascinated by retellings of classic novels! Some stories are so beloved that they capture imaginations for years, never losing their magic. Often these retellings can be shallow and unoriginal, but Wendy Darling: Stars did not disappoint.

It’s the story of Peter Pan told from Wendy’s point of view, and though it’s been a few years since I read the original book, this version was lovely to read. I enjoyed the care placed in each relationship. Conflicts were added to make characters realistic and believable; even though they’ve been written before, they were pleasantly original here.

No one was perfect in this book. Wendy’s brothers all had flaws, and even her father, though overall kind, still valued the family reputation over her happiness. He won’t approve of Wendy’s relationship with a young bookseller named Booth, and that disagreement creates a chasm between them, one we could feel—because they’d gotten along well before that. There is a scene where she and Mr. Darling are looking at the sky, looking for the second star to the right, and it was so cute that I was sad when they fell apart.

Peter Pan in this novel is more human than in other retellings. His crush on Wendy makes him more than a boy who won’t grow up; here he’s a young man afraid to face reality. There were scenes where he was kind to Wendy, and others where he lost his mind. There were times when he was considerate of others, and dark moments when he thought little about killing. Like Wendy, he’s older and makes decisions that are fitting for his age.

I also liked that the book was well-written. The author put thought into plot and location, and the writing was poetic. This novel took me through the streets of London; I flew in the skies of Neverland, swam with dark mermaids, and stole from pirates.

This book is ideal for people who loved Peter Pan. It made me sad for Wendy and Booth, made me curious about Peter, and took me to a world where lost people never grow up. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Book Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson


The Bookseller follows a woman named Kitty who lives in Denver, where she runs a bookstore with her best friend, Frieda. In 1962 it’s not usual for her to be unmarried at the age of thirty-eight, but she tells herself she’s content. Having gone through a failed courtship and several dates that led nowhere, she’s come to terms with life at home with her cat.

Things aren’t as stable as she’d like them to be. The bookstore is losing business as customers flock to big shopping centers in town. She and Frieda are struggling to pay the rent, contemplating the idea of moving to a location that’ll attract more business.

In the midst of this uncertainty, Kitty begins to have strange dreams. Each night when she drifts off, she finds herself in an alternate universe where everything is different.

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Kitty’s married with children in this universe. Her husband, Lars, is a man she spoke to once in the waking world, on the phone; they never met, but in the dream they are married. They have started a family; he built a lovely house for her and the children.

In this dream universe, Kitty is wealthy and has plenty of friends. She has a closet of elegant clothing, even a maid. The world she visits in her sleep is full of contradictions to her real life; it’s like the flip side of a coin.

As the dreams become more vivid, readers are left wondering which of the two universes is actually a dream? It becomes hard to decide. Cynthia Swanson has done a good job of taking two outcomes and making both of them plausible.

The Bookseller addresses the timeless question “What if?” We’ve all wondered how our lives could be different if we made that choice differently, or took the left road instead of the right. How would the universe change if we embraced a different hobby? How would it change the future, how would it change us?

This novel drew me in with its poignant writing and powerful scenes, making me question my own life. As the story progressed and fog cleared, I marveled at Swanson’s genius: She took a concept difficult to pull off, writing each reality with grace and elegance. Both of them have their pros and cons. Neither is complete.

But life is never truly complete. This truth doesn’t escape the pages of books. The Bookseller is wonderful because it makes us ponder our own choices, compelling us to ask “What if?” the way we did when we were children.

Life might look better in an alternate universe, but we’d find ourselves missing things we don’t notice now. The Bookseller helps us appreciate what we have, not envying others’ lives or wishing away our truths.

Like Kitty does in both realities, we’ll wake up and realize these little things are gone. But they only seemed little when we took them for granted, because they will leave great voids.

The Bookseller is a beautiful piece of literary fiction, one I can rate five stars without thinking twice. Give it a try and let it change your perspective on life.

Book Review: Char by Kristina Wojtaszek


I accepted a review copy of Char, having been told beforehand that it was a good read. I think I expected it to be a good read anyway, because I love stories about faeries. The book did not disappoint me; I was excited to read this book and see what I’d find.

It was an emotionally scarring trip through the land of fae. I could feel dirt under my feet, taste smoke in the air; my heart raced during intense scenes.

The world of Char is one of magic and danger. Luna has embarked on a quest which costs her actual blood—a bit of her pinkie finger. It separates her from all the people she loves most, but she’s determined to follow through. She has a no-nonsense mindset, focusing on the task at hand.

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Char lived up to my expectations in almost every way. However, once I finished reading, I realized the love triangle felt over-emphasized. The interactions between Luna and her love interests were enjoyable—I certainly hopped on one of the ships!

However, I wonder if that emphasis on love was necessary in a story driven by urgency.

Why is Char different from the other faerie books out there? It gives you a sensation of freedom. You are living this journey with Luna, feeling her pain, facing the danger. It’s written so your heart feels like it’s dancing on the pages.

Also, the faerie queen is not perfect. She’s got haunts and regrets so powerful, she often seems like a normal girl. We do not like everything she does, but feel enough sympathy not to judge. It was nice to see her off the pedestal, struggling alongside her people.

Luna’s fate at the end was so harsh, it almost made me sick. It showed how human-like these faeries could be, making decisions based on feelings of fear and betrayal. Events in Char were arranged to shock readers, dropping a bomb.

Char has several traits which make it worth the read:

  • Clever character development. It must take delicate planning to make the faerie queen so vulnerable that readers feel sympathy, despite the darker things she has done.
  • A setting written like artwork. You smell the forest as it’s described, feel grass under your feet. You aren’t turning the pages of a book—you’re living a story!
  • The ending. It has a powerful effect, shattering what was generally a peaceful setting. We are pulled along harmoniously, and the ending shatters our daydream.

In all, Char was a beautiful book that’ll have my mind reeling for a long time. It’s a faery tale you can taste and smell. Give this book a try if you like faeries or are a lover of nature; I promise you won’t be disappointed!

What’s Next for The Autumn Prince?


In September I was outside enjoying the days before autumn really kicked up frost. I had my Moleskine with me; as I watched leaves let go of their branches, the words autumnal gold surfaced in my heart, and I began to write.

What resulted was a story I would release in twenty parts on October called The Autumn Prince. I was quite nervous people would think the idea stupid; however, so many people enjoyed it, which shocked me! By the time that serial ended, people were telling me to write a novel.

Which I did—the very next month. I was so immersed in the world of The Autumn Prince that it came to me easily. It’s currently a first draft, and of course will need a rewrite, but the point is I have something to start with.

My plan was to self-publish the serial version of The Autumn Prince (what I had posted on my blog in October) as a novella in ebook form this year. I didn’t want to waste all that writing, and if people enjoyed it then it certainly deserved a chance. Then I would shift my focus to the novel.

But plans change.

3d03e7_321633d03dbf409fb4399ebce6c747c4On October I also found out about the exciting project called Crows on Heartstrings, an anthology of tales about doomed love featuring illustrations and stories from people around the world. When I submitted to Crows, my hope was to get a different story in, one called Starless.

In an exciting twist, arrangements to include Starless in this anthology changed; it needs a lot of work. But I still had another story about doomed love that people really liked.

The Autumn Prince has been edited into a short story to be featured in Crows with an illustration. I am glad the spark that went off on October isn’t going to vanish into history!

We’re in the process of edits for The Autumn Prince for its next adventure in the world.

This year I will also begin rewrites for the novel, which will be the first of a series. Momentum hasn’t slowed since I hit Publish on that first part of my serial. I have a feeling it’s not going to stop.

Thank you to people who encouraged me to keep on with the serial, falling in love with Prince Caspar and the Barn Owl when I thought the idea would be called dumb and childish. Watching those leaves fall in September, I think I caught a story that was golden.

Look out for Crows—not just because of The Autumn Prince! So many of us are working to give you a beautiful reading experience. Visit the Crows website here!

Authors Ridge: A Resting Place for Storytellers


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image source: Yankee Magazine

Surfing the Internet years ago, I learned of a place in Concord, Massachusetts called Authors Ridge. It’s a corner of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery; if the mention of Sleepy Hollow doesn’t bring to your mind the Headless Horseman, don’t worry. The symbolism behind Authors Ridge deepens.

This is a place where several greats of literature are buried practically side-by-side. You can visit Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Ellery Channing, Louisa May Alcott and her family.

I haven’t been there, but the thought of it makes me dream. I don’t think cemeteries have to be frightening, and this place would inspire me. Not everyone believes in ghosts, but any creative knows of muses.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote something staggeringly appropriate: Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.” Those monuments aren’t tombstones; they’re stories powerful enough to outlive their authors.

Writers and bookworms make pilgrimages to this surreal place, leaving pens, poems and notes at the graves of their favorite authors. Perhaps they hope some talent will rub off, or want to thank them for writing characters that never died.

Whatever the motive, Authors Ridge is full of wonderful mystery. It’s one place I hope to visit someday; perhaps I’ll leave a pen of my own.


Read more about Authors Ridge:

Yankee Magazine – Sleepy Hollow Cemetery: Where Concords Legends Lie

Atlas Obscura – Authors Ridge

New England Travel Planner