Why killing one of my characters isn’t an option for me

I write fun fiction with characters I love. Sometimes I write those characters into seemingly impossible situations and even I don’t know how to get them out…like now. Dr. Arienne Cerasola has been in a basement for five days now and I have no idea how to get her out, or even what she’s supposed to do in that basement.

I’m tired of being stuck there. In my mind, Arienne and I are staring at each other expectantly, each one of us waiting for the other to make a move. I have options – like take her out of the basement, or never put her in there to begin with – but I really like the basement…but it’s getting a little old. In order to jump start this novel again, I went hunting for plot twists and came across the idea to “kill one of my main characters”.

I will never, ever do that. Ever.

I know, they’re fictional, and I know I could easily kill one of them off…but I feel like that would be betraying my readers. You see, I write FUN fiction. I want to give readers a wild and fun ride, but I want them to always trust that I will bring them back home in the end without a scratch. Killing someone they like would betray that. I’ve felt betrayed every time it was done to me.

There are a few characters that other authors have killed on me, and I don’t think I’ve really forgiven them. I remember being young and reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH…and nearly having a breakdown when the book ended and that was only because the author HINTED at something.

I’ve had the same reaction every time an author kills a character that I love. I keep reading the book because I hope they’re really not dead, but I am generally disappointed. (I’d like you all to note how carefully I’m avoiding naming the characters so I don’t have to put a spoiler alert on this post…but you probably have your own list). My relationship with an author who kills a character I love is forever changed because I don’t really trust them after that.

There’s one author in particular whom I usually love, but I started her latest book and she brought up the character I still haven’t forgiven her for killing several books ago. I have to admit, I read one page after she mentioned the death of the character I loved and I haven’t gone back to the book because honestly, I’m still a little mad about that. Just the mention of his name reminds me that she betrayed me…because I know she didn’t have to kill him. The decision seemed lazy and disloyal.

Even with the betrayal issue aside, I also know life is hard enough. I’ve lost people; we have all have lost people. In this pandemic, we stand to lose more. I won’t add to to body count by killing one of my fictional friends.

I’m not saying that killing a character is always a bad thing, I’m just not the author that does that. I’ve seen the death of a character move the story forward (J.K. Rowling, for instance, but note I said THE DEATH, I do not enjoy a complete massacre and I’m a little mad at her for a few of them). More often killing a character seems like a gratuitous death – like the author saying “see, there’s bad in the world…nobody’s safe.” Real life has taught me that well enough, thank you.

So I will continue to figure out how to get Arienne out of the basement – without offing one of her friends. I will continue to keep my stories light and fun. I like an emotional ride, but I’d much rather write books that make you laugh than cry.

So be warned…things may look dire at times, but I promise I will not kill our darlings.

Life’s hard enough.

Kindle Countdown Deal

Right after publishing The Last 6 Weeks of Summer I started to feel guilty. The last time I saw Arienne Cerasola, Evan, and Coyote they had just returned to the summer residence of the Queen of the Southern Tier Fae. I’ve left them standing on the door step of that house long enough, so I’m now writing Legendary Magic – the fourth book in the Relic Hunter series.

So if you need to catch up, you can pick up the first two in the series for 99 cents today. Just click on the images below and you’ll go to Amazon.com.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007NO85J4

I just reread all of the books in the series (because I needed a refresher on some of the finer points) and I’ll post what that experience was like in a few days. Writing in a series is fun, because I get to go back and visit old friends. I have loved spending time with Arienne again, and I’m sending her on a new adventure with a whole new outlook. I really hope you’ll join me.

I write fun fiction with smart dialogue. I like those awkward moments in life when you’re sure everything is going to be so awesome and you’re super confident and then you trip over your own two feet and have to carry on anyway. I’ve missed looking at life that way.

I know it’s not always easy to pick yourself back up and just carry on. Those little demons that whisper that you’re not really as good as you think you are can get really pushy sometimes and it’s nice when you realize you really ARE that good – that the demons just talk smack because they can. That’s their JOB. YOUR job is to get up, pick the pine needles out of your teeth and move on doing exactly what you were meant to do.

Why this isolation is working so well for me (and those like me)

At the start of this pandemic, I heard so many people talking about isolation and the negative impact it would have on people. There were online groups for people to talk to complete strangers springing up all over the internet. I even found myself in a chat group for an hour with a group of women I sometimes do critiques with. Women whose screen names I know, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge about them.

They were nice enough, and we were all of a similar age with similar interests, yet I struggled to find something to talk about. Even talking about myself seemed strained – not that I’m shy, really…it’s just odd for me to talk to people I don’t really know. I’m not a fan of small talk. I admit, I only went to the chat room because I wasn’t motivated to do anything more interesting that night and it gave me a convenient excuse to spend the night on the couch with the dog and not feel compelled to be productive.

So a few weeks went by and I was isolated in my nice little house – seeing only close family and one friend – all from a responsible social distance. I worked from home, taking a 15 step commute to my office and being engaged in my job until quitting time (and often well beyond quitting time). Around week two, something magical began to happen.

I realized I was sleeping 8 solid hours. I had no bouts of my occasional insomnia. My house was tidy, and even the mail that tends to pile up on the kitchen table disappeared. I didn’t feel tense, time pressured, or exhausted at night. I began to feel more creative, but without the pressure to produce something. I became the person I am – free from outside distractions or expectations – and I started to THRIVE.

Granted, I am very fortunate that my job immediately went to remote work – I didn’t have to face the financial stress and pressure so many people are facing. My point in writing this is not to diminish the struggles which are very real out there for so many people. But for some of us blessed with healthy families and some degree of economic security this time has been the ultimate luxury.

I’m an introvert – in a very extroverted occupation – and doing that for a lifetime has been exhausting. Being home and secluded has opened up a whole new world for me – a world filled with imagination, creativity, and a calmness I have never experienced on this level.

For years I have thought I’d be 100 percent okay all by myself in a cabin in the woods. This pandemic has taught me that I was completely accurate. If I find out tomorrow I can’t leave my house for two more years, I’m going to go take a hot bath, drink some tea, and order more cleaning supplies from Amazon. I’m not going to protest. I’m not even going to give it a second’s thought. I’m just going to snuggle in with the dog, breathe a sigh of relief, and get on with entertaining myself.

For those of you who are desperate for human interaction – I’m not without pity. I think it would be horrible to just want to see somebody and have a conversation and be unable to connect on this most basic human level. This isolation is very hard on most people, and I don’t deny or minimize that at all. But when the doors open and we’re once again all together there will be those of us who are struggling to reintegrate into our old lives and ways of behaving. Some of us will go home exhausted after a day of endless distraction and conversation and we will long for the seclusion, for the opportunity to be alone with our thoughts.

Being an introvert has advantages in times like these – so to my introverted pals out there we will adjust when this is over – but I know I’ll be taking a closer look at how I plan to continue to live after having been allowed this wonderful luxury. I know the creative spree I’ve been on will end, but I’ll have to find new ways of reengaging with my (exhausted) creative side.

My first day of Social Distancing

I admit it, the thought of social distancing appeals to me.  I’m not very social to begin with.  My idea of a perfect day is really being alone in my house with my dog and having the freedom to bang out a few chapters of my next novel or work on my graphic design projects.  The thought of not seeing people for a few weeks (months?) really doesn’t cause me any anxiety or sadness.  I know I’m probably in the minority with this, but I’m a true introvert, and being an only child prepared me well for times like these.

With that being said, I also know that at some point I’m likely to find myself stretched out on my couch binge watching some series or another.  In fact, last summer I devoted weeks to the entire Boston Legal series and I loved every moment of that.  In this current situation, though, the mere thought of engaging in slothful behavior causes me to feel a flutter of anxiety.  That could be because last summer binge watching was a luxury that I chose while totally in control of my life and secure in the knowledge nothing big was looming outside my door.

Times are different now.  Oh, how they’re different!  There’s economic chaos on a Global scale.  People are in real danger of hunger and homelessness.  At best, we will feel some minor discomfort from this.  At worst, we face loss, grief, and horrible sickness possibly of ourselves or our loved ones.  Yeah, binge watching isn’t on my calendar today.

I rolled out of bed at 5 a.m., made myself tea, told my dog that this was our “new reality” – and turned on the news for about an hour.  When I had taken all I could of the calamity that’s now our daily experience, I set about being productive.  I cleaned my kitchen.  I did two loads of laundry.  I changed my sheets.  I checked in at my office – via email – and did a few small projects that I had kept for this morning just so I could feel some sense of normalcy.

Then I sat down to write this post and after three different opening sentences realized that my need for productivity comes from a complete loss of control over my life.  I’m not unhappy being here with the dog.  I love having the flexibility to telecommute.  I feel very fortunate that I’m not worried I’ll starve over the next month.  But even I – with my love of solitude – feel anxious that I can’t control any part of this situation.  All I can do is sit tight and count my blessings – and be productive in the hope that when this is over, I have done something to make my life – and those of others – a little less stressful.

Stay safe.  Practice Social Distancing.  Wash your hands.  And do whatever you can today to help yourself or someone you care about feel a little more in control in these crazy times.

I Finally went LIVE with my new blog!

The New Blog is LIVE!

I’ve been back at my writing desk for a few weeks now, working on some new projects and finishing up some old ones.  The new blog is all about where I’ve been for four years – caring for my husband and my mother – and I said I’d share it as soon as I went live.  Not all of the posts are up yet, but more will be coming in the next few weeks.  They’re written and formatted, but I want to double check them one more time (part of being a control-freak writer, I guess).  In the meantime, you can check it out here.

 

Here’s what else I’m working on:

The 4th book in the Arienne Cerasola Series

A brand new series that has a lot to do with feathers (more on that later…)

A new romance series I started last year as my NaNoWriMo project.

I’ll be publishing snippets and teasers over the next few months so stay tuned and thanks for all of your support over the years.

My return to writing…

I know, it’s been a loooong time, but I have a really good excuse…honest.

In 2014 – right as I was publishing Legendary Magic, my husband had a medical crisis that hit us completely out of the blue.  One day we were wandering the art galleries in Vermont, the next we were in the Emergency Room.  Thus began the hardest time in my life.  Three years of worry, stress, and eventually savoring every moment until the inevitable happened.

I should mention that half way through my husband’s illness, my mother’s heart condition worsened…so I learned how to be a two-location caregiver.  I should also mention they died four months apart.

Four months.  Yup.

My two biggest supports were both gone and I had to learn how to stand completely on my own and recover from repeated trauma and stress.  Fortunately, I have those skills (and a whole bunch of other ones I was surprised to learn were within me).

But it’s time to put my life back together and that means balancing my writing with my art, but first there’s something I absolutely have to do:  start my own resource blog for caregivers.  It’s not an easy lot in life, but (if you can keep your sanity) it is rewarding.

Needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to write.  There wasn’t a whole lot of time for anything, really.  But I have mental notes and all sorts of new angles running around my head and now that my powers of concentration are back, I’m diving right in.  I’m drafting the blog posts right now, and I’ll put up a link as soon as I title it (I might need a bit of help on that one) and figure out if I want the entire thing to go live at once or to space out the posts.  Decisions, decisions…

So as soon as the blog is ready, I’ll let you know.  Then it’s back to Arienne and the gang, as well as Cally, Cleo, and a few new characters I want you all to meet.

So here we go.  Back to a whole different life.

Best,

R. Leonia Shea
2018