Agency

When we talk about “agency” in literature, we are usually talking about the protagonist of the story: (1) having the ability to act in his/her/their environment, then; (2) acting.

Simple, right?

Well, as it turns out, not for me.

Agency is something I always have to write into my manuscripts after multiple drafts. My critique partners and beta readers always come back to me telling me my characters don’t have enough (or any) agency. The character is supposed to move the plot, not the other way around. It’s a concept taught in every 101 creative writing class.

Yet… it always eludes me.

Struggling with agency is a common problem for a lot of writers, but recently, I’ve been thinking about why it’s such a reoccurring problem for me. You see, it’s not one character or one book or one series that lacks agency for me. It’s all of them. Even though I should know better. Even though I write thinking this time I’m not going to have to edit agency into my character. Thinking this time I’m going to get it right. But I never do, and I have to wonder why.

I think the answer comes from another definition.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape

[Emphasis added]. Source.

I’ve written about my C-PTSD and how it relates to my reading and writing experiences before, but though I’ve previously connected the two things, I never made this particular connection.

It’s hard for me to write agency, because my mind is wired to believe I have none.

My C-PTSD stems from childhood abuse. That’s all I’m really willing to share about that out here, exposed on the internet, but for purposes of this post, I think it’s important that it’s understood this trauma occurred when I was very young and went on for a long, long time. It shaped the way my brain behaves. Seriously. Physical changes in my brain happened and those things impact my worldview. Deeply.

Though I’m older now, and I have agency, and I go to therapy to unravel and unpack all this trauma, I still struggle. I have an extremely difficult time making decisions. I get overwhelmed easily. When I’m in a dangerous or even mildly upsetting situation, I freeze. I have the ability to control my environment, but I struggle to do so. It’s uncomfortable, and it makes me nauseous and anxious.

Because deep down, I don’t understand agency. Agency is, at its root, having some kind of control or influence over your life situation. Something I never had. And if I’m honest with myself, it scares me.

My reactions to the world taking hold of the reins for me are much better. When someone dies, for instance, I’m the most level-headed person in the room. Not being in control is something I’m intimately familiar with and have learned to navigate beautifully. Which is… different.

I started to write unhealthy there, then changed it. Because maybe it’s not unhealthy. Maybe it’s simply different. Maybe it’s how I operate. And maybe that’s okay.

And maybe this is all to say that while I believe agency is important (and I do write it into my manuscripts where it’s needed), lack of agency might be just as important with some characters, and is something I would love to see explored further.

Can you tell a compelling story if your character has no agency? And how should we even define agency? Can’t agency be taking actions to survive, even if they’re not active actions? What if agency, for some characters, is not acting but freezing? What if agency is not striking back, but appeasing? What if agency is looking at a hopeless situation from which there is no escape, but hoping for one anyway?

What if agency could be rewritten?

indoors-3278291_1920
Even Rapunzel, locked in her tower, had the agency to let down her hair. But her prince had to find her first. What if he never came? Would her story still be worth telling? Photo courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/users/Emily_WillsPhotography-8096214/

Next Week on the Blog: Dreams, Failure, and the What Could Be Wish

❤ Always,

Aimee

Book Review: THE BELLES

Author’s Note: Hi all! I know I haven’t been around a lot, life has been extremely hectic. However, I do have a few posts I’ve been chewing over I hope to get to soon, about agency (eek!) and failure (double eek!). In the meantime, I’ve decided that in an effort to support other authors, I’m going to start doing BOOK REVIEWS! Woo! They’ll be sporadic as I intend to ONLY review those books I think deserving of five stars. Why? Well, because: (1) I want to support other authors; but (2) I like to keep it honest here, and I don’t five star like every single book I read; but also (3) I’m also an author who empathizes with anything less than five stars. So! I bring you my five-star only book reviews. To begin, I offer a review of Dhonielle Clayton’s, The Belles, which was my most anticipated read of the year and which definitely did not disappoint. Without further ado, here we go!

23197837Official Blurb: 

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie, that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles, or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

27783510_10105455140147238_344651365_nMy Take:

5/5 Stars.

THE BELLES, Clayton’s first high fantasy novel, is a stunning take on the concept of beauty in society. THE BELLES transports the reader to the world of Orléans, a place in which beauty is bought and bartered for and those with the power to give the people what they so desire, The Belles, are revered.

Clayton’s prose is warm and lush. It drips and flows, so I want to drink in every word. Beauty is reflected in every aspect of the piece, but so is the price that must be paid to obtain “perfection.”

In addition to the take on beauty that permeates the page, Clayton’s depiction of female relationships was something that had me thinking for hours after I left Orléans behind. Her characters were relatable but not perfect. Never perfect. Camellia Beauregard (“Camille”), the story’s protagonist, makes decisions I cringed at, not because I judged her, but because her choices forced me to examine myself. Put in Camille’s shoes, I might have done some of the same things, and Clayton’s intricate use of language allowed me to make that connection both instantly and deeply, leading to a greater appreciation of Camille’s situation and the world of Orléans.

In short, I highly recommend picking up a copy, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

Buy Links (click me and buy Dhonielle’s book because it’s so good, and I want everyone to read it and love it):

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

That’s all for now! Hope everyone is doing well!

❤ Aimee

 

2018 Writing Goals

Well… 2017 has been a bit of a rough one if I’m honest (which I try to be). It’s been a difficult year to create for me and many others if Twitter is to be believed. But when I sit down and push all the noise aside, I realize I did accomplish quite a bit in the last year, which I will now reflect on.

  • I hit (and surpassed) the elusive 100 book sales mark for my debut novel The Wheel Mages.
    • Note: 90% of self-published books will sell less than 100 copies, so this is a real accomplishment even if it doesn’t seem like much in terms of sales numbers.

TheWheelMageFinal

  • I published the second book in my Changing Tides series, The Blood Mage.

TheBloodMageFinal-FJM_High_Res_1800x2700

  • Although I didn’t make into Pitch Wars this year, I did enter, which was quite a feat. Plus, it means I have a novel ready to query for (hopefully) a traditional publishing deal. The King’s Blade features a diverse cast of characters including a triumvirate of Deep Sea power by way of a competent assassin, a mermaid magician and scientist, a young king who has a knack for political maneuvers and on land, you’ll find a human prince who is softer than my average male character and a budding naturalist himself. I did more research for The King’s Blade than anything I’ve ever worked on, and I am immensely proud of it. Read more about it here.

With all that said, I do have some pretty serious writing goals for 2018. Let’s see if I can accomplish them!

  1. Create a real marketing strategy for my Changing Tides Series and execute, execute, execute!
  2. Pay off the editing fees for The Blood Mage.
  3. Finish the draft of the third book in my Changing Tides Series and get it out for developmental edits at the very least.
  4. Start querying The King’s Blade for a traditional deal.
  5. Finish my beta reads!
  6. Read, read, read (my TBR is out of this world and I can’t seem to stop buying more things to add to it!)

All you writers out there: What did you accomplish in 2017 and what are some of your goals for the New Year?

Happy Holidays everyone!

❤ Aimee

 

The Wheel Mages is an Award Winner

I’m back! I apologize for the delay in blogging, but I’ve had a whirlwind end of July/beginning of August! I attended the Romance Writers of America Nationals where The Wheel Mages was up for an award through the Young Adult Romance Writers of America chapter (YARWA), and The King’s Blade, which you can read more about here, was submitted to Pitch Wars for consideration, so it’s been a busy few weeks!

But I have news!

The Wheel Mages, my debut high fantasy novel, won third place for YARWA’s Athena Award for Excellence in New Adult Fiction! I’m so humbled to have been part of the competition. And for any romance fans out there, I would definitely recommend the RWA’s Nationals! I didn’t get to stay for the full conference because I had Pitch Wars things to do and the budget didn’t really allow for it, but it looked like a heck of a good time if romance is your jam!

20264835_1548206695240173_1300211349462936169_n

So now that The King’s Blade has been submitted to Pitch Wars, I have three full weeks with no writing deadlines whatsoever, and I’m sort of at a loss of what to do with myself! Since this journey began in January of last year, I’ve always had something on my plate. My biggest goal is to use this time to relax, reboot, and refresh (and catch up on my ridiculously large TBR).

Anyone have any reads they’d recommend?

Launch Day! The Blood Mage

Well… it’s here! Today, my second book, The Blood Mage goes out into the big wide world for your consumption. This book has a really special place in my heart. They’re all different: the books, that is. They all occupy different spaces in my heart, but this one is the book I felt like I needed to write. So I’m excited (and nervous) to share it with you.

Anyhoo, before I get too reflective, there are some special people I want to thank for making this book (and all the books in this series) possible. You can find the following in the Acknowledgement section of The Blood Mage, but I wanted to share it here as well. These people can’t get enough props in my mind. So without further ado, here are my thank yous to those who helped me put the book of my heart into the hands of others.

Acknowledgments:

Self-published authors often find themselves labeled as “go-it-alone” types. In my experience, this isn’t true. I’m fortunate enough to find myself surrounded by people who have all helped make me who I am and who have helped make this book, and this series, what it is.

First, I want to thank my little brother, Tyler, who has given me not only encouragement, but hope. His unrelenting optimism and shameless promotion of this series has brought me so much joy. TJ, I’m honored to call you brother.

To the rest of my small but mighty family—thank you. Always and forever, thank you.

I also want to thank the entire town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who seriously showed up for the first book. Punxsy brought me my first reviewer, my first signing, and the first time I ever sold out of copies of The Wheel Mages. Y’all are fantastic (or should I say y’uns?).

To my best friend, Jen, I will never be able to say enough how grateful I am to have you in my life.

To my beta readers, especially Emily and Kelly, thank you. And a special shout out to Emily who was the hand behind getting my first book into its very first library, who has been an ardent supporter, who has pushed me to always keep challenging myself, and who has been a shoulder to cry on—your friendship has meant the world to me.

Always to my editor, Katie, but most definitely this time. This book has seen more revisions than I thought possible, and you never once faltered. When I was sure the problem was insurmountable, you made me readjust my vision and see a molehill instead of a mountain. I honestly don’t know how I could have done it without you.

To Nikki, my copy editor, who probably doesn’t get as much credit as she deserves because copy editing is too often overlooked—you’re awesome, and I appreciate everything you do. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t send this Acknowledgement section to you for copy edits, but I wanted to surprise you. Sorry if there’s something in here that’s making your eye twitch (and I’m sure there is).

Big shout out and continuous thanks to my cover artist, Fiona, whose cover design inspired the words, “I want to marry that cover.” Indeed. I don’t know how you do it, but you are a rock star. Also new to the team, I want to thank Tamara, my formatter, who saved me lots of time and cursing and made this print book much lovelier than its predecessor. I’m so excited to have you on board and to not ever have to format a book myself again.

Book bloggers, reviewers, bookstagrammers, and booktubers, y’all are incredible. I appreciate you so, so much. Thank you for supporting not only me, but indie authors in general, and promoting our work. Special thanks to those of you who have given me not only your time, but also your friendship.

Thank you to my coworkers at my 9-5 who have been amazingly supportive of my moonlight career as an author and have purchased, read, reviewed, and plugged my work. You guys are seriously like a family to me, and I’m so overwhelmed by your constant support and kindness.

Finally, to my readers, I want you all to know you mean the world to me. Even if we’ve never met, even if I’ve never said a word to you, even if we have met and I’ve been incredibly awkward about the whole thing, I care about you all so much. Every day, you’re the ones who make my dreams come true, and there is no amount of praise or thanks I could ever truly assign to that.

With every bit of love in my heart, thank you,

Aimee

#OwnVoices & Self-Publishing

First, I would like to say I use this hashtag (even in this blog) with incredible caution because I’m aware of my privilege. I’m white, straight, cisgender, heterosexual, and able-bodied (ish). I have a huge amount of privilege, which I acknowledge. I don’t want to undercut other marginalized voices by speaking over them. To avoid doing so, in this post, I will be as specific as possible. I’ll discuss my mental illness and how it impacted my publishing decisions, especially in relation to my upcoming novel, The Blood Mage. I’ll talk about #OwnVoices as it relates to me, my marginalization, my work. But please be aware this is not the only opinion in this discussion, so seek out others and listen. Always, always listen.

K, so if you don’t know what #OwnVoices is, read this. Also, check out We Need Diverse Books. That’s all I’m going to say on that. From here on out, I’m going to assume you know what I mean when I say #OwnVoices.

The Blood Mage is #OwnVoices. Without spoilers, it’s a book centering a character who has post traumatic stress disorder. It largely deals with her struggle with the darkness that often accompanies mental illness. This book was extremely difficult for me to write, but it was also one of the great joys of my life.

The Wheel Mages will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first book I published, just as In the Light of Dawn will occupy a similar place because it was the first manuscript I ever completed. But The Blood Mage is me spilled onto the page. Alena’s struggle is very much my struggle. That makes this launch both the most exhilarating and most terrifying experience of my life.

I knew what this series was going to be before I started it. I knew The Wheel Mages was in some way the vessel to get to The Blood Mage. I am not a plotter, but I did have a general sense of direction when I sat down to write this series. PTSD can’t be unlinked from the trauma that produced it. That’s sort of the whole of it. And, when I set out to write the Changing Tides series, I knew that, because I’ve lived (and continue to live) that reality.

When I contemplated this series, I thought about what bothered me in the fantasy I’d grown up with. I loved stories about magic and romance and heroic, epic battles. But something that rang intrinsically false to me was this idea that epic battles have no consequences. Frequently, battle scenes proceed like so: A hero or heroine kills someone (or lots of someones), throws up, a fellow warrior pats him/her on the back and says it’s normal and that’s the long and short of it.

Part of the problem is that epic battles tend to be the climax of fantasy novels and denouements in young adult and adult literature are notoriously fast-paced. In young adult literature, there’s also an emphasis on happily ever afters so things need to be wrapped up with a nice bow quite quickly. That doesn’t leave much room for exploration of trauma and what it does to the psyche.

I wanted to make some room. But to get there, I needed a series. One book to lead to the trauma and at least two more to flesh it out. I needed space, and space isn’t something that’s always guaranteed in the traditional publishing world. Of course, people sell series all the time. But if book one flops, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get book two. For me, book two was critical. Without The Blood MageThe Wheel Mages is a rather traditional young adult fantasy (albeit with a somewhat nontraditional ending).

Now, anyone involved in publishing knows there are not many things you can guarantee, especially when it comes to sales. But this wasn’t about sales–not really. This was about putting this series out there. It was about knowing it existed. And that was something I could, in fact, guarantee.

If I self-published.

For someone like me, someone who was trained to traditionally publish, who was constantly fed the lie that only rejects self-publish, making a decision to walk this road was not easy. Several times, I contemplated giving up and querying. I know, it might be funny to some to hear it said this way, because usually it’s the other way around: giving up querying to self-publish, but for me, this was how it worked.

The main reason I didn’t give up though, was because I wanted this series out there. I grew up reading stories of epic battles, but what I saw was different than what others might see. I didn’t see stories of valor; I saw stories of trauma with no consequences. I saw characters doing and living through horrible things and coming out on the other side with their psyches intact. Epic battles in fantasy novels didn’t make me feel strong. They made me feel weak. Because I hadn’t come out of my own trauma with my psyche intact.

If I went traditional, and The Wheel Mages didn’t do well, and the publisher decided not to continue the series, I would have written a traditional fantasy novel with an epic battle at the end and no consequences, essentially perpetuating the lie I was trying to fight against. I couldn’t have that, not on my watch.

So why didn’t I simply write The Blood Mage first, then? Well, because trauma is a tricky thing. Like I said above, the effects of trauma can’t be separated from the trauma itself. Could I have created a character who was #OwnVoices from the beginning? Surely. But in my personal experience, the trauma is as important as the post traumatic stress, so I wanted the reader to get the whole picture in real time, not through flashback or compression.

There are a lot of factors that go into making this critical decision, and everyone has to choose his/her/their own path, but for me, this was the right one, at least for this story.

In short, don’t let anyone tell you your story isn’t important, or that it’s not worthy, or that no one is interested in reading it. Because somewhere out there, there’s someone who has been reading the same story over and over again, desperate for something new, something that speaks to their experience, and you might be the one to finally tell it.

❤ Always,

Aimee

Both books together

Cover Reveal: The Blood Mage

Today is the day everyone! So without further ado, please bask in the glory that is the cover of The Blood Mage. And make sure to scroll to the end for details on how to get a sneak peek and additional launch information!

TheBloodMageFinal-FJM_High_Res_1800x2700

Official Launch Date for The Blood Mage is July 18, 2017!

But you can preorder for Kindle NOW!

Annnd if you’re interested in receiving a sneak peek of The Blood Mage, sign up for my newsletter because I’ll be sending out a link next week containing the prologue and first chapter!

Thanks to Fiona Jayde Media for her stunning design and all the work on the cover. I hope you all enjoy!

❤ Aimee

Calling Book Bloggers

Hey all! So with The Blood Mage due out this summer (official launch date and cover reveal happening here on Tuesday), I’m currently looking for book bloggers/reviewers to receive a digital ARC sometime in June. I don’t care about the size of your social following or how many blog readers you have. If you’re new and trying to build a following, great! Me too. Let’s work together!

Here’s the deal. To receive an ARC for The Blood Mage you must meet the following requirements:

  1. You’ve read The Wheel Mages. Haven’t read it yet? No problem, if you’re a book blogger and you’re interested, shoot me an email and I can hook you up with a digital copy of The Wheel Mages. You can then decide if you’re still interested in receiving The Blood Mage.
  2. You have to have a way to read the book digitally. I’m not doing hard copies of ARCs, this is digital only. I’m self-published and operating on a dwindling budget, so physical copies of ARCs were just not financially viable. That said, I’ll have the book available in epub, mobi, and PDF, so I can accommodate almost all ereaders.
  3. You’re willing (and able) to post a review of the book between July and August, 2017. I know this is a time crunch, but never fear! If you can’t meet the deadline, I’d still love for you to read it, just send me an email, and I’ll get you a final copy after it’s been published.

Haven’t read The Wheel Mages and trying to decide if it’s worth it for you to commit to reading two books in a short time frame? Let me give you some bullet points about the Changing Tides series!

  • Young adult, high fantasy
  • Self-published, professionally edited–developmental and copy/line editing
  • Strong female protagonist (and strong female friendships!)
  • Elemental magic
  • Romance
  • Plot twists
  • Trope-bending
  • LGBTQ rep (lesbian, not MC)
  • Mental illness rep (PTSD, MC, second book)
  • Diverse cast
  • Eastern European, late 1800s inspired

What are other book bloggers saying about The Wheel Mages?

“It was so refreshing to read such a mysterious and captivating book. I highly recommend this book and I can’t wait to read the next one.” – A Bibliophiles Book Blog

“The world building was exquisite, and the characters’ developments were written so well, that I just want to go back and read it all over again.” Shihtzu Book Reviews

“This book is action-packed, bubbling with magic and such a page turner.” – Adoread

“Aimee’s writing style for this book was emphatic, eloquent, and crisp.” Maxxesbooktopia

So, all that said, if you’re interested, please send an email to yours truly at aimee@aimee-davis.com with a link to your blog and your preference of digital file!

❤ Aimee

TheBloodMageTitle

The Last Birthday

Today, I turn 29. I’m joking it’s the last birthday I’ll ever celebrate. I’m almost not a twenty-something anymore, and it feels a bit like losing a shield. But in all seriousness, it’s really just another day.

That said, it’s another day where I shall go ahead and do some self promotion. Because it’s MY day (also George Washington’s, any other Pisces in the house?)

I’m going to share with you all some of my favorite reviews of The Wheel Mages and hope to convince you that if you haven’t jumped into the world of the Sanctum yet, now’s the time (looking at you Maas fans, we have until May until her next book is released).

So… without further ado, here we go! Read to the end – there’s also NEWS. And sign up for my newsletter! I’m getting it all in today, y’all.

review-1

review-3review-5review-4review-2

News! My trilogy is no longer a trilogy. I know, I know, I had reservations about this as well which I plan to completely outline in a post later this week or next week, but I promise the decision was not taken lightly and it was very thoroughly discussed and debated with my team of trusted beta readers as well as my editor. In the end, expanding the series was the best choice for the characters.

Have a great day everyone!

❤ Aimee

Valentine’s Day and News

Okay! So… I finally did it y’all. I finally made a newsletter… well… sort of. I made a mailing list, which you can sign up for by clicking on the link to the right of your screen where I joyfully declare I have done a thing. Or you can click here.

We’ll see. I’m still not convinced on the newsletter thing, but I recently had a discussion with a beta reader who told me she does in fact read author newsletters, so I bit the bullet and did it. I’m hoping to send them monthly, and I won’t sell your information and all that good SEC stuff here.

Now, the information that would go in a February newsletter but didn’t because I didn’t create such a thing until today is as follows:

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, people! In honor of the holiday and in honor of my first in I don’t know how long Valentine’s Day single, I will be teasing the new novel all day tomorrow in 140 characters or less. That’s right everyone, #TheBloodMage is going to be rocking it on Twitter. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you can find me @writingwaimee or click here. I’m allll about the links today.

Of course there will be gooey goodness, and the hashtag for the day will be #TheBloodMage. It’s not only about amorous affections though, there will be some other kinds of love on display as well, and I promise it will be spoiler free.

As a preview, here’s one of the fun ones I pulled yesterday that didn’t make the 140 character cutoff but was too good to ignore. This is about one of the new lead’s love affair with the loveliest of all full-bodied flavors—wine.

16729512_1377309335663244_6872872879109293999_n

Writing Workshop in Reading, PA – My workshop which was originally going to be in mid-February was rearranged, so it will now be happening on March 22nd with details to come (in the new newsletter so go ahead and sign up for that if you want to meet me live and in the flesh, because I’m not going to tell you where it is except in the newsletter!)

The Blood Mage – Comes back from the editor sometime today. In case you couldn’t tell, by all the links and the rambling, I’m a bit nervous. We’ll see how it goes!

And that’s a wrap! Happy V-Day everyone, and make sure to click on some of my fancy new links!

❤ Aimee