Sionnach Wintergreen

author of fantasy and romance


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I’m Done With Epic Fantasy

I write in basically two genres, epic fantasy and erotic romance. I’m going to finish the last book in my current epic fantasy series, and then I’m done with epic fantasy. To be honest, it’s hard to finish that last story at this point, but I know a few people (literally, a few) want to see the series resolved, so I’ll finish it for them.

It just takes too much time and effort to write epic fantasy, and the rewards are minimal. Monetarily, my erotic romances do much better. People seem to like them. My epic fantasy most be very, very niche. Only a few people (and I am so thankful for and love those people!) seem to get it. I’m participating in a review group and Under the Shadow seems to blow peoples’ minds. They don’t understand it, it has too many characters, on and on. One reviewer loved my voice, but thought the characters drifted and had no concrete goals. (It’s a character-driven story–not a plot-driven story. Grr.) The new reviewer is just lost. I’ve told him it’s okay to stop reading it. Apparently, I’m torturing people with my fantasy books.

The erotic romance crowd doesn’t seem to be having any problems with my romances. Those stories are, in fairness, much simpler than the epic fantasy series. I focus on two main characters; the goal is simply starting a relationship; there are no maps. (There are glossaries sometimes because I can’t help myself; I love fantasy and I suck.) Because of their inherent simplicity, my romances only take a few months to write. I actually spent years putting together my epic fantasy series. Years. But the romances sale and no one complains about them.

So, I’ll be retooling the website and shifting my focus to romances. I already have an m/m historical mystery romance planned as well as a paranormal romance in the works. It’s a painful decision, but I wanted to be a writer to communicate with people, to connect with readers, to have strangers read and enjoy my stories. Torturing people with my works was never one of my goals. So, onward and upward. Hello, world of romance!


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Doms Need Love, Too

Depictions of BDSM in popular media make my skin crawl. They’re rarely anything I recognize. I really hate how doms are portrayed as crazed sociopaths who enjoy hurting people in all aspects of their lives.

Um. No. We, as a group, tend to be nice people. If you met me outside of my dungeon (yes, I have one. No, it’s not the red room of pain. It’s decorated in green men and cats) you would probably find me charming and kind hearted. (At least, that’s what people tell me….) I don’t eat men for breakfast. I don’t make cutthroat business deals. I don’t try to find ways to humiliate my husband outside of our playtime, and I don’t try to control his life.

Some people do have slave contracts. Neither of us are big on formalities or paperwork, so we’ve never bothered with anything like that. BDSM has been a huge part of our romantic life during our twenty years together. We’re both creative, playful sensation-lovers, so it fits our needs well.

But other people’s ignorance still irks me. Being a dom means seeing yourself portrayed as the bad guy almost constantly. The damaged one who hurts people because he doesn’t know how to love. Why? Because vanilla sex is love? Reduced to its lowest terms, vanilla sex is just a lot of jamming various things into various holes. Love doesn’t have much to do with it. It’s what we decide it means that’s everything. The same thing is true of BDSM.

In Lover, Destroyer, although it’s fantasy romance, I tried to show BDSM as part of a loving relationship. The men have problems, but BDSM isn’t one of them. It’s no more a problem than vanilla sex is in most vanilla romances.

Lover, Destroyer is available on Amazon. Read it for free on Kindle Unlimited!

 

 


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Word Counts Aren’t Everything

I don’t know if it’s because of NaNoWriMo or just that everyone likes quantifiable markers of progress, but writers–especially new writers–seem to place an extraordinary amount of emphasis on word count. This seems very wrong-headed to me for several reasons, but I’m only going to discuss one in this post.

It’s easy to let numbers get in the way of progress or become a false marker of it. I hate seeing writers (usually on Twitter) feel deflated because they didn’t reach their daily word count. Writing is a complex art. It’s hard enough without piling some arbitrary goal like the number of words one can click out on top of it. I don’t have a daily word count. I try to write a little every day, but sometimes “writing” means daydreaming about my characters while I do dishes or wash my hair, plotting scenes on a spreadsheet, or reading about writing. I’ve released two novels, a novella, and a short story this year and didn’t fret about the word count a single day.

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. It just does. This is okay. Sometimes the words flow. Sometimes they don’t. To me, obsessing about word count can interfere with this natural rhythm, stressing out writers who need to relax so they can write more. I often see people setting their daily writing goals too high. So many people want to knock out 3,000 or more words a day. I often don’t write more than 1,500 words on “paper” per day. I write, however, in some form or another, every day.

Writing is too beautiful, too meaningful, to turn into some sort of drudgery. It should be something that is difficult at times, but mostly fun–like a thrilling, high-maintenance lover. It should never be like working at a factory turning out widgets. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your word count requirements, please take a deep breath and remember to ENJOY writing. If you have to back off and read about it, that’s time well-spent. Learning how to craft a story is far more important than banging out some arbitrary number of words.

And here’s the fun part–a good story will naturally result in a good word count. If you have interesting characters, a fleshed out plot with a satisfying resolution, a world of specific details, and stimulating dialogue–I can guarantee that story has a good word count.

Happy writing!

 


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Yesterday I watched Trump adviser Stephen Miller, with his cruel, lifeless eyes, discount the worth of the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The poem is “The New Colossus,” a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus. It was added later, he said, and insinuated that it didn’t have anything to do with the meaning of the Statue of Liberty. I don’t understand the conservative preoccupation with the way something originally occurred. Every writer knows the first pass at something is rarely complete and almost always inadequate.

The poem and its message of sanctuary and openness, to me and to many other Americans, defines the statue–it explains its metaphor and purpose. It’s as important as the Statue of Liberty herself.  But what does any of this have to do with a blog about writing books? I write fantasy and erotic romances, those aren’t political. Except when they are. (And, honestly, they always are. Everything is political. Ursula LeGuin has said that fiction writers tell lies in order to tell the truth.)

My latest book, an erotic M/M romance set in a fantasy land, involves a young prince named Elarhe. Magic is forbidden in his land, but he has developed magical powers, so he steals away, disguised as a peasant and crosses the border to the neighboring kingdom where he hopes to explore his abilities. He is an unauthorized immigrant and finds himself doing “anything dirty and dangerous” in order to survive, including interring the bodies of victims of a tannery’s poisoned runoff. (Because I also like to sneak environmental themes into my books….)

He is treated badly in  his new land, but he never gives up and never stops trying to improve his life and make a difference. The idea to make Elarhe an immigrant arose from Trump’s stupid border wall and Muslim ban business. (I tend to react to things by writing about them. I think all writers do this whether their conscious of it or not.) When I was crafting Elarhe’s character, I very much wanted to imbue him with a confidence and optimism that I associate with immigrants. It takes a special courage to relocate to a new country. I’ve thought of doing it myself and have always felt too fearful to make the leap.

I admire people who search for their dreams. I find nothing admirable about dead-eyed, creepy little Nazis who bully reporters and think poems have no value.

 


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Depression Feels Like…

I’ve been sort of beige and muffled lately, mildly depressed. I’ve been functional, for the most part. My mood is lifting, and I’m grateful. While I was sifting through some files today, however, I found something I wrote while in the midst of one of my worst depressions. A lot of people don’t seem to understand what clinical depression feels like. To me, if feels like this:

I feel numb. I get out of bed in the morning because I know my husband expects it. All I want to do is sleep. Everything seems difficult–little things like brushing my teeth and hair feel arduous. I don’t want to be around other people. I cringe from my friends. Just attending a social function physically hurts–I have to escape to another room or outside to make my skin stop crawling. I have so little energy that I feel like I could fall asleep standing, like a horse. Everyone around me seems to be moving at eighty miles an hour while I stumble through a sea of gelatin.

I know it wasn’t always like this, but I can’t remember feeling normal or competent or whole or anything. I can’t feel anything but the overwhelming numbness. I am a hollow tree or a frozen landscape, something empty and barren, something dead–a waxwork of the person I distantly remember being.

A few weeks after I wrote this I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My variety tends more toward Bipolar II, which is characterized by long, deep depressive episodes. The antidepressants that work so well for many people with unipolar depression can actually drive bipolar people into manias or suicide. I had tried different antidepressants in the past and none of them worked. I believed the fault lay somehow with me, never realizing that I had been misdiagnosed with chronic depression and that I simply hadn’t been given the right medications.

I still have low moods, but I rarely feel the level of emptiness that I felt in the throes of my worst depressive episodes. Medications are not for everyone, but I credit a combination of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medications with saving my life.


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Making a New Ceiling

My wonderful, geeky friends are excited about the new woman Doctor in Doctor Who. They were thrilled to see Wonder Woman do so well at the box office and many are hoping that the Black Widow in the Marvel Universe will get her own movie. They’re excited that the new Bond might be female or black. Although I share in their excitement, as a biologically female, genderqueer writer, I find myself wishing we weren’t just rehashing characters written by cisgender, cissexual white men in the middle of the last century.

I wish we were celebrating new, original characters created by people living here and now. I want to hear from diverse voices. I want to know about the characters and worlds created whole cloth by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA people. Diverse writers in the here and now are brimming with stories and characters that are every bit as exciting as anything from some comfortable franchise.

Breaking the glass ceiling is fine, but I would rather create an entirely new ceiling. Something unique and profound. Something from this century. Something created by many points of view–prisms through which we might see ourselves in a new light.

 


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Elarhe and Kite

LD book sample I love contrast. I can’t resist unusual pairings. Elarhe and Kite, from my new erotic romance, Lover, Destroyer, are the perfect match, in my opinion, because they’re polar opposites.

Elarhe is a young, idealistic prince who left his kingdom to learn how to wield his magical powers, powers that are considered evil in his homeland. He discards everything to follow his dream and enters the Grandimanderian Empire disguised in rags. He is confident and passionate, spirited and kind. He is a creature of heart and fire.

Kite lives like a prince, but was actually an orphaned goatherd until, at thirteen, he developed a horrific magical power capable of destroying an entire city.  As an adult, he lives alone aside from his dogs and a few servants, surrounded by his wealth and a pervasive, brooding darkness. He is like a lake of still, black water hiding secrets and skeletons beneath its surface.

Lover, Destroyer explores how two such different men learn to love and understand each other while exploring BDSM and learning to appreciate each other’s boundaries.