Not “if” but “how”: Thoughts on HEA

HEA: Happily Ever After

I’m going to preface this by saying: not every story needs or will have a happy ending. Sometimes it’s not in the story. And that’s fine. I have a few of those up my sleeve and I’ve read some exquisite stories with sad/tragic endings. Buffy springs to mind. Love that show* and Joss Whedon is a genius.

However.

I’ve been watching a lot of TV and movies from the 80s** and 90s this holiday and I’ve noticed something. The stories they tell are fun***. At the end of the day your favourite characters survive. At the end of the day the good guys win and the bad guys lose. At the end of the day, the guy gets the girl/the girl gets the guy and they get to live happily ever after. And you get to just feel good when you switch off the telly****.

And I love that.

And yet it seems that since then, there’s been a shift in how we tell stories. Optimism has been given backseat to gritty realism with endings that are darker and maybe not completely happy. For example, the original Star Wars trilogy was wonderful – everybody lived and lived happily ever after. The James Bond films of the 90s***** are over-the-top fun while Brosnan still brings depth to the character. Contrast this with the newer Bond films which, while I do enjoy them, are much darker and it’s questionable as to whether or not anyone except Bond will actually survive.

And it came to me that I’m not interested in if my favourite characters will survive. I’m interested in how they survive. I’m interested in how they get through sh*t and how they live after the dust has settled (and yes, I’m still bitter about Remus and Tonks in Harry Potter).

Which brings me to a sub-point. I’m tired of stories that bring the couple together only to tear them apart for some reason later on down the road. I assume it’s meant to add tension, but to me it falls flat. Show me a love story where the characters have each other’s backs and work through sh*t together. Show me characters who argue and make up. It might take them awhile to get there, but once they’ve got there for the love of all things stop breaking them up. Show me how they stay together. Show me how they fight for each other. See REMINGTON STEELE and CASTLE.

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I’m a believer in hope. And those are the stories I write. Bad stuff will inevitably happen (current novel is very dark and very twisted and my characters hate me so much right now…), but I believe in hope and happily ever after. And I’m reminded of the very last line from EVER AFTER******:

 

img-thing

 

So on that note, have a wonderful new year. May it be one of hope.

 

Slàinte!

 

 

 

——————-

*Team Spike, yo.

**REMINGTON STEELE FTW. And if you have never seen this show you need to rethink your life. Stephanie Zimbalist. Pierce Brosnan. She’s a P.I. He’s an ex-con. They solve cases. There’s romance with insane chemistry. Hijinks. Comedy. Heart. Drama. And lots of kissing.

***There are exceptions. I’m just talking generally. And yes, the academic in me is screaming. But I’m on holiday so I’ve gagged it. 😉

****I have been known to channel British expressions. Just fyi. Also, pun not intended.

*****Aaaaaand haters to the left. Brosnan is my Bond.

The name is Bond. James Bond.
              The name is Bond. James Bond.

******Drew Barrymore. Dougray Scott. Anjelica Huston. 1998. A Cinderella Story. Funny. Romantic. Feel good. Timeless. You want to watch this.

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Confessions of a Writer Tag

Alrighty then. I was tagged by the lovely Nicole Wilson, so here you go…

 

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

I started writing when I was five. All of my elementary school teachers thought that writing stories was a good project (it was), so starting in kindergarden we would make these little story books. As I got older, the stories kind of got longer and longer. And by the time I was in high school, I decided that being a writer was what I wanted. Though it wasn’t until 2013 that I started to realize that it was what I really wanted. And I have Bethany Morrow to thank for shoving me off the deep end. 😀

 

What genre do you write?

I write high fantasy and sci-fi, generally. Though the fantasy may end up with touches of the gothic and/or horror. I occasionally write historical, but only short and not often. SFF is my happy place.

 

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

Oook. I have two that are WiPs (ish). The first one is entitled In Secret Kept and this one has an…interesting and slightly convoluted genesis.

Back when I was 9 or 10 (or something), Darby O’Gill and the Little People aired on Disney around Halloween. There’s one scene where the old man’s daughter has fallen off a cliff and the Banshee is coming to collect her, because the girl is nearly dead. The father stands over her, shouting “Take me instead”. In my head, I flipped this and I saw, instead, a man who had once been cold and cruel standing over the body of the woman he’d come to love. Fast forward to me at age 16 and I wrote the novel. And it was a blatant homage to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (my fave Disney movie OF ALL TIME and fave fairy tale, to boot). And that was fine. Then.

Fast forward to me now, at 32. After a trip to Scotland which inspired me to finish the novella I was writing at the time (Rheda), I realized where I wanted to take Secret. So I started plotting it out again, changing things, and then I realized it was set in a world I’ve been slowly building since I was 14. A world that has been (recently) very influenced by my graduate research in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse.

And the thing exploded. It’s taken on a life of its own and it is so much better than it ever was before. And that makes me happy 🙂

The second WiP is still in development, but it currently titled Haven and is a fantasy-steampunk-horror about brothers, family, friends and lovers, and the criminal underbelly of a prosperous city. I started working on this one over the summer while I was letting the draft of Secret rest. And this time, all it took was a single pin on Pinterest to make me wonder…

 

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

My first piece was a story about a lost cat. I wrote when I was five, for school.

 

What’s the best part about writing?

Seeing my stories take shape and grow wings.

 

What’s the worst part about writing?

The writing. Seriously. It’s HARD. But the end result is so worth it.

 

What’s the name of your favorite character and why?

Wait. What. I CAN’T DO THIS. But if I had to pick one, I’d pick Alodia from In Secret Kept. I love the way she’s evolved over the years. *resists the urge to name more*

 

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

Ha. Hahahaha. *cough* Sorry. This question is just really ironic since I’m supposed to be thesising right now. Whoops.

That being said…three times a week, ish. It depends on my school work load and how tired I am. As to what time…it depends on the state of my brain, though night is usually best. By that point I’ve finished with the day and can just work uninterrupted.

 

Did you go to college for writing?

Nope. I’ve learned a lot from hanging out on Absolute Write and chatting on twitter and/or skype with other authors. And by reading.

 

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

All of it. Next question?

threatenproperly

 

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

Stop agonizing. It will come. (you know who you are <3)

 

What advice would you give to another writer?

Give yourself permission to suck. That’s what drafts are for. Write. Edit. Repeat. OH. And find a beta reader who is NOT a family member. Someone you trust for solid crit.

 

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

Absolute Write. Fabulous community.

Cathleen Townsend posts a lot of really helpful writing tips.

Nathan Bransford is fabulous, and has really great advice on query letters (*shudder*)

 

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

Reading. D’oh. Playing piano. Gym. Tearing my hair out over 2000 piece puzzles. Being in as much sunshine as humanly possible.

 

What’s the best thing you’re watching on television?

I’m going to go with Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. Also watching Castle Season 8, and while the episodes are solid and the characters are more center-stage this season, I’m not quite buying this whole “separation” between Beckett and Castle.

 

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Sorry, can’t pick just one. Also, since I’ve read a lot this year I’m going to limit this to those I’ve read for the first time:

Vicious by Victoria Schwab. Creation of supervillains.

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. High fantasy.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Tsar-punk heist novel. GAH.

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley. Historical suspense/romance.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. Shimmering retelling of Sheherazade.

All five of these are fantastic and have stayed with me long after I closed the cover.

 

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

I’m going to say…Age of Ultron.

 

What is your favorite book or series of all time?

LORD OF THE RINGS. AND YES ALL CAPS IS NECESSARY.

 

Who is your favorite author?

Tolkien.

C.S. Lewis

Rosamund Hodge.

Leigh Bardugo.

Robin McKinley.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

(yes, I cheated. Sue me. 😛 )

 

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Finishing this draft of Secret and beginning to write Haven while my lovely beta readers read and crit Secret.

 

Where else can we find you online?

You can tweet me here: @afhumphrey

Still working on the rest!

 

Tagging:

@CathleenTowns

@wanderingquille

@abnersenires

@ShunterNi

@out_ofthe_fog

 

To make life easier, here are the questions:

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
What genre do you write?
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Did you go to college for writing?
What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
What advice would you give to another writer?
What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
What’s the best thing you’re watching on television?
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
What is your favorite book or series of all time?
Who is your favorite author?
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Where else can we find you online?

Far vel!

7/7/7/7 Challenge

In a fit of academic procrastination creativity, I am finally getting around to responding to Maggie Maxwell who tagged me for a “Share Your Work” blog challenge.

In short, you go to the seventh page of a WiP, count down to the seventh line and then share the following seven lines with your readers. And then you tag seven more people. (That last part still needs work…if you have a blog and a WiP of at least 7 pages and want to be tagged, leave me a comment with a link to your blog)

This wee segment is from my novel In Secret Kept, an adult high fantasy. The story opens with an ill-fated journey.

 

Brilliance at work.
             Brilliance at work.

***

Yes, Father. May I be excused, Father? Father, please.

What had happened to her? To him? Once there had been laughter, and music, and late-night games of chess. And then her mother died and everything changed.

Biting back tears, Alodia pushed away from the wall. Not now. She couldn’t fall apart here where all could see.

She set off down the hall, the click of her boots echoing loudly in the quiet. The silence, too, was all wrong.

***

Want to be tagged? Leave me a shout.

Ciao!

Adventure

Ah…adventure. I love that feeling. The feeling of the unknown that is to come the moment I step on the plane or set foot in another country.

Admittedly, I’ve been thinking about this more than usual because my seminar this semester is on the adventure novel. We’re into week three, and we started with a fantastic article by Georg Simmel called “The Adventure”. You can find the whole thing on the web, but there were a couple of points that really resonated:

We speak of adventure precisely when continuity with life is thus disregarded on principle – or rather when there is not even any need to disregard it, because we know from the beginning that we have to do with something alien, untouchable, out of the ordinary.

And then this:

No matter how much the adventure seems to rest on a differentiation within life, life as a whole may be perceived as an adventure. For this, one need neither be an adventurer nor undergo many adventures. To have such a remarkable attitude toward life, one must sense above its totality a higher unity, a super-life, as it were, whose relation to life parallels the relation of the immediate life totality itself to those particular experiences which we call adventures.

And the reason these points in particular resonated was that I saw myself in them. I’m a writer, I write of adventures. I feel adventure in my bones in this life. I need that adventure, that out-of-the-ordinary. And it could be as big as stepping on a plane or as small as heading to class or writing, knowing that this is leading me forward to…I know not what. But something. Though, as Bilbo learned, adventures are not all pony rides in May sunshine.

And yet.

Oh. And yet.

We’ve been to the Moon and back. We roam out among the stars. We dive to the depths of the sea. And yet we don’t know everything. We never will.

There is still Romance and Wonder and Adventure in the world, small and big. It’s what we do about it that matters. It is, after all, a dangerous business going out your door.

So if you’ll excuse me…

 

adventure

 

 

And then there was music…

Imma blame Bethany Morrow for this one since she just did a post about music. (And really, check out her blog too. Seriously.)

I write to music. And if I don’t have at least one piece for a project, I feel like I’m missing something. I have a playlist for IN SECRET KEPT, I have one for the still-to-be-written trilogy, and now, at last, I am beginning one for the steampunk novel. While the following track doesn’t exactly scream “fantasy steampunk”, it does, I feel, fit the relationship between my two MCs.

I may or may not be listening to this on loop. Just sayin’.

Can’t wait to see where this goes musically.

Stay tuned 😉

A whole new world!

So while IN SECRET KEPT is simmering in the lockbox and guarded by dwarves and dragons, I’ve been attempting to wrench my mind onto the next project. The effort has been Herculean because my fingers are itching to get back to SECRET and start working on the three pages of notes I have for revision.

BUT I MUST CULTIVATE PATIENCE.

doctor
And then comes the Doctor, and whispers words of wisdom…

 

Yeah…

ANYHOW.

So I’ve been working on the new novel, of the steampunk variety. Originally it was set in the same world as SECRET, just at a later point in history. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t. There were things I wanted to do with the story that I couldn’t do if it was set in that world. So I pulled it out.

And that’s when everything EXPLODED.

 

With this newfound freedom (if you will), the project definitely became a novel (huzzah! I was never happy with it just as a short) and I started seeing new characters and relationships and possibilities, oh my!

It’s also terrifying because it’s a whole new world (sing with me! You know you want to!). This is not something I’ve been living with for years, this is something brand-spanking new.

So once more into breach and boldly going where I’ve not gone before, and all that jazz.

See you on the other side.

The stories we tell: a love letter to books and writing

Well. On the list of things I’m supposed to be doing, blogging isn’t one of them.

Pfft.

 

Team Spike, yo.
Team Spike, yo.

 

It’s the end-ish of August so academia is moving rather more slowly at the moment because my brain is tired and just wants to be creative. So to that end: a blog post which is a love letter to stories that have blown my mind.

There are two books that spring to mind, both of which are recent discoveries (I’ll save my Tolkien love letter for another day, heh): Deathless by Catherynne Valente and Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.

deathless-cruelbeauty

Deathless had me the moment I realized it was about Koschei the Deathless*. It’s twisted and dark and blood-streaked – and utterly ALIVE. And the prose is stunning and perfectly captures the Russian voice. Cruel Beauty drew me initially because of the cover** and the more I stared at it, the more I perused it, the more I was drawn into it. Anything that has echoes of Greek mythology, Beauty and the Beast (and a host of other fairy tales) and even Til We Have Faces*** by C.S. Lewis is my cup of tea. So I bought it and devoured it in a day. It’s dark and utterly exquisite. I’m rereading it now and as enamoured as ever. Again, beautiful prose.

So what’s my point? My point is that a) both these books blew my fracking mind and you need to read them now, and b) I hit the end of both and thought I want to tell stories like that.

The stories that sweep you up and take you places and leave you emotionally compromised even as you’re reaching for page 1 all over again.  The stories that linger. The stories of love that are complicated yet never in doubt. These are the stories I want to tell.

So when I’m tired and blech and it feels too much like work, I remember my dream. I remember why I’m doing this.

And then everything makes sense all over again.

 

Far vel!

 

*and if you don’t know who that is, hie thee to Wikipedia and educate thyself in the beauties of Russian folklore.

**because let’s face it, it’s the cover that launched a thousand ships. Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

***And if you haven’t read Til We Have Faces you need to rethink your life.