Welcome to the official webspace
of writer Ashlee Scheuerman.
Rambler of many ramblings
Collector of pine cones
Author of The Damning Moths
…AMONG OTHER THINGS
Pull up a chair. Get comfy. Ashlee has Something to Say.
May 17, 2011 at 20:30 (Thoughts)
April 19, 2013 at 14:32 (Blogging, Other Writers, The Damning Moths, Thoughts, Writing)
Tags: Australian Shadows Award, Blogging, editing, life, Surviving the End, The Damning Moths, This Is Horror, Writing
Things have been happening, despite my relative silence. Of course, that should be a given. No matter how many blog posts I do or don’t write, or how many days go in between my Facebook or Twitter updates, life goes on and the world keeps spinning. Isn’t it funny how we might measure our personal existence by our presence on social media? If you can’t see me, I’m not entirely real.
Nonetheless, there were a couple of big ups and downs in the interim. No, no, nothing so big as the release of my novel. That’s still yet to come, though I have been dispensing ARCs to some very lovely people, and hearing wonderful things back. We’re looking at another month or two before I can pin down the release date. It’s hard to have delay after delay; I am not patient, but I’m forced to acknowledge this comes in part due to what has transpired through the early months of 2013. So let’s go over some of those things.
I had an author interview over at This Is Horror. If you haven’t seen it already, you can read my Meet The Writer on their website. I’ll note, it’s both fun and weird talking about yourself in the interview format.
Family and friends have gone through a number of personal trials. As a bystander for the most part, you try to support them. Show love. Remind them each of their importance in your life. Broken bones in accidents, severe illness and ongoing aftercare, a death. Little things, big things, unavoidable throughout life. Then the worldwide tragedies which have been occurring, with heart-warming tales of heroism amidst the chaos. One of these days, I’m going to stop reading the news.
I have spent the better part of two months designing and building an updated version of The Damning Moths website. It hasn’t gone live as I am still trying to muscle my way through some of the more finicky coding. I never thought myself as an especially talented web designer, but I think this will all work out rather nicely in the end. It’s just getting to the point where I am confident the site will function as best as possible.
Surviving the End received the Australian Shadows Award for Edited Publication. So far, my favourite part of being in an award winning anthology is the celebratory atmosphere with my co-contributors and the excitement our editor shared. And another hearty congratulations to us all.
I’m writing and plotting and editing all at once, which is hardly unusual, but takes a lot of attention away from other things. For the next week, I am burying my head in these stories for as many hours as anyone will let me. I’m talking very long days. See, I recently attended a course and gained accreditation for a new job. I will be starting in late May. I don’t exactly know how that will change my writing hours and energy levels, but I want to have some of this out of the way before then. What better timing than my week off work? If I manage to push hard enough, I know exactly what I can get accomplished. So here’s to a very productive week.
Lastly, I fill the gaps in between with the occasional important email, and reading. A lot of reading. Judging for the AHWA Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition, as an early reader (both requiring actual thought, assessment, and giving feedback where appropriate), and a whole pile of books being consumed unnaturally quick for pure enjoyment.
I know I’ve said it before, but I might be able to keep up with blogging again someday soon. Or you might hear from me again in a few months time. Either way, my love to you all, you’re not far from my thoughts.
I’m supposed to have an endless supply of things to talk about. Great ideas to muse over, or funny anecdotes to share. Pieces of my life and observations put into words and given freely to the world. I’m meant to connect with others, to find common ground, and to express my emotions regarding the state of existence.
But all I have are half-written blog posts about things which only serve to inspire me for a moment.
I’ve started–hold up, let me count them–sixteen entries which haven’t been finished recently. There are a couple which are fully written, but I’m not quite interested in posting them yet. It’s not that I’m worried about sharing these insights so much as I’m straddling the line between introvert and extrovert, and it just takes so much more effort to put things out there.
And to be perfectly honest, I almost feel like I have to hoard it all, store it up, to prepare for when I will absolutely need to push myself out into the spotlight when I launch The Damning Moths. That will require all of this enthusiasm and charisma. I can call the energy forth when I need to, but it makes everything else seem that much heavier. A little more strain on my reclusive half.
I’ve seen so many humourous comics or captioned images lately that reflect my state of being exactly: I don’t mind going out, but that means I need to put on pants and actually see people. I like being a writer, where I can sit at home and make things up about fictional people with outrageous abilities and entertaining quirks. I get true enjoyment out of putting together unlikely scenarios then figuring out how they make perfect sense.
Surely, I should have more thoughts to share with this corner of the world, right?
The proclivity to write does not translate to finding something worth saying. I can compose dozens of things, but deciding whether to put them into this specific platform is another thing altogether. I’m not interested in this blog being political, or adding this voice to the cries of social reform; at some stage I realised I don’t want to bring my opinionated side here. I have other places to get into debates (which I do often), and I suppose, I just don’t want to invite argument in yet another location I frequent.
But sometimes, that leaves me with little to say.
I had a great question the other day from a guy at work. He knows I’m a writer, with my first novel coming out soon, and wanted to know if I’ve got any new writing in the works at the moment. My answer was, Yes, I’m in the middle of drafting three stories.
He gave me a surprised look and confirmed, Three?
That’s right, three separate books concurrently written. A prequel, a sequel, and something completely different to keep things exciting. To that, he wanted to know how I don’t get them all tangled up and confused with one another. Therein is the interesting quality of being me, and writing the things I do.
My explanation was something to the effect of, I spend most of my time thinking about these characters and their situations. They’re like friends. Just as a normal person probably wouldn’t mistake one friend’s life with another, I can keep track of the people in three different books at the same time.
I didn’t mention that I’m actively reading two novels and a bunch of short stories by other people as well.
From the perspective of someone who doesn’t write, this concept seemed especially amazing. I know a whole lot of authors would also agree. Myself, I just don’t struggle to identify each character, and even if I need a refresher, I have a lot of notes. I’m kind of obsessive with note taking these days. Even though I can follow the lives of half a dozen main characters and twice as many minor characters doesn’t mean my memory is any good. I’m in their worlds so often that there isn’t anything terribly confusing about it, not at the drafting stage.
I might disagree when it comes time to edit.
I am overwhelmingly pleased to be able to share with you all the final cover art for The Damning Moths!
Please head on over to the official website and bask in the pretties! Wait, that’s what I’m doing. You may join me in basking if you like, or just take a quick little look. Either way, I’m so excited!
This beautiful piece of illustration and design was done by Ty Scheuerman, my very talented husband. I could not ask for a more wonderful cover.
I carry a wish/prayer box with me on a keyring. It’s just a small pewter cube with a magnetic fastener on the lid, with a tiny space inside to put a slip of paper with your wish/prayer written on it. There are pretty little swirlies as decoration, and the words “faith”, “love”, “joy”, and “hope” on each edge of the lid. Up until recently, my box carried a rolled strip of paper with some serious advice from a trusted author friend. Someone who talked me out of being stupid about my fears. Her words meant a huge amount, and they were exactly what I needed to hear, and I decided to copy them into my box to hang off my belt loop and reinforce the positive change I had to commit to.
On the keyring right beside the box is a small spiral cage holding my craggy ball of Apache Tear Obsidian, a grounding and creative stone. They go together well, and as a pair are my “touchstone”. A tangible sign of my intent, something to grab when I need a ready reminder of my will to grow and improve and overcome. In recent times, I had sat down to review my plans for the future, as the New Year tends to inspire. Not much about my goals has changed, but I did realise that the mantras inside my wish/prayer box had come to pass; I didn’t feel the same way about those troubles anymore. The repetition had worked and reinforced my ability to be confident in those areas. With this rather self-satisfied understanding, I grabbed my box to replace the note within-
And it was already gone. One empty box, no sign of my mini-scroll anywhere.
Make no mistake, I flip open the lid on the wish/prayer box near-daily (the magnetic clasp makes such a nice “clack” when it shuts!) and just peek inside. I didn’t need to pry out the note, unroll the paper, and read the message each day as I knew its words and meaning off by heart by that point. So it couldn’t have been gone for longer than a day, two at the very most. Right at the point where I’m concluding it’s time for a new mantra to lead me on?
So I lost one wish. It flitted away to the Nether to make way for something new, and did so at exactly the right time.
Words fascinate me. There are so many to choose from, and we’re not even restricted to a single language. English cherry-picks from dozens of countries, and then there are regional dialects, slang, and my personal favourite, archaic words. The lilt of writing is so brilliant, able to be reshaped into something better, something more poignant, something visceral.
I love the act of writing, both by hand and typing. Handwriting has a messiness to it. A wild abandon, where everything is free-form and unrestrained. The flow of ink from my favourite pens onto the perfect weight paper, the soft skritter-skit the ballpoint makes. Then there’s my fingers dancing over a keyboard, which I can almost convince myself is a type of magic, a song contained in characters on the screen. Typing is effortless, a habitual action. Muscle memory takes my fingers where I need them, and stories pour out.
My little community of writers! As with any interest on this planet, I don’t fit in with every group of fellow authors, but over the course of these last few years, I’ve begun collecting like-minded writing friends who come together to genuinely celebrate victories and successes, commiserate over the trials of our passion, and cheer each other on when another is struggling to draft, edit, or find a way to get their writing into the hands of eager readers. I have unending love for my friends. You are the best.
Telling a story is vicarious. So full of emotion. When you write the scenes which move you, when you are overcome by the experiences associated with being an author, the joy of finishing, the terror of releasing, the devious spark of a new idea which carries you away from the everyday world in a glorious instant of inspiration. It’s existing in a whole other layer of life.
December 5, 2012 at 22:16 (Blogging, Other Writers, The Damning Moths, Writing)
Tags: Annie Neugebauer, books, Kristen Tsetsi, Living With The Dead, Martin Livings, Michael Bailey, The Damning Moths, The Next Big Thing, Writing
Friend and fellow Perth writer Martin Livings, who has been kicking around the industry for over two decades, has pegged me for this: The Next Big Thing writer promotion cycle. Answer the interview, tag more writers, watch as it takes over the blogosphere. Many thanks, Martin! On that note, I highly recommend everyone wriggle on over to pick up Martin’s short story collection, “Living With The Dead” because this man knows his horror, yes he does.
Now! I give you The Next Big Thing(s). Yeah. I’m a big cheater, so absolutely no one should be surprised when I break all the rules and talk about the collective of my current work. It’s all connected! That has to count for something! But let me try and keep the focus on my first novel, The Damning Moths, coming out soon.
ONE: What is the working title of your next book?
Disclaimer: my working titles are always lazy and hasty. The Damning Moths was known as “Novel Series” until it got properly named. Uh huh. Book Two is exactly that, although pre-draft it received the codename “Spiral Leaves”. The novella prequel has the misfortune of being called “By Blood”. This is why I never discuss working titles. Moving on.
TWO: Where did the idea come from for the book?
The first concept which triggered the plot for everything is actually slated to be in Book Three, and I believe that was from a dream I had. During the subsequent two years of writing, editing, and refining the ideas, it has blossomed to where we are right now. The individual ideas tend to come to me through asking questions of the characters. What is their motive? What do they believe in? What makes them tick? With knowing those answers, I then ask: What will shatter their world? The resulting implosion is what happens in the book. Something to shake the character’s personal resolve in an integral way and see how far I can push them before everything breaks.
THREE: What genre does your book fall under?
Dark fantasy. Fantasy setting, horror lifeblood. I’ve had so many people look me up and down then ask why I write dark stuff. It’s an interesting subject, to be sure. I like the feeling of things being really, really bad for the characters. I enjoy the psychology in writing those who have to deal with horrific things. And I like being a little scared.
FOUR: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is a terrible question, and the person who originally asked it should feel bad. That said, I always have the disparity between the actors and actresses who look most like each character, and those I feel would play the role to perfection. This is part of why I don’t aim for live action films, and would love to see a high budget anime made of TDM.
FIVE: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
“A world of blackened Faerie Tales is bubbling over with the conflict of past sins and perverse schemes as the gods’ glorious crown is passed to a new, unwilling victim.”
SIX: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Coming out through World Ender, my independent media label!
SEVEN: How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Six furious weeks on the scant and roughest draft of The Damning Moths, where words flew from my fingertips incomprehensibly. It took me another five months of changing the POV, fleshing out all the necessary parts, adding in characters, and finally, some very tough editing, before I had gotten it into the shape of a real novel instead of whatever I had spun in a bleary daze of drafting. The novella was drafted in five weeks, and Book Two is still in the works.
EIGHT: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Goodness, I don’t know. I struggle with this constantly. A lot of other dark fantasy is very much the armies, swords, and dragons kind of thing. Those who write about the fae kingdoms often stick with the very Tolkien/D&D styled races, or have a much more traditionally detached take on Faerie. Since there is a convoluted and vast history which triggers the political conflicts in TDM, as well as eldrich themes, big magic, and a character-driven plot, it’s not in one or the other camp, and I don’t know if I’ve read anything much like it before. I’ve had early readers compare my writing to far more dramatic names than I’m brave enough to repeat. I expect fans of George RR Martin and Laurell K Hamilton would find something to appreciate.
NINE: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Other authors inspire me to create, though each individual story is told because of the characters. I want to see where they go, all because they are fascinating to me. A dream started this tale, as is true of many stories I write, but inspiration is a constant flow for me. In the words of the awesome Chuck Wendig, Ask a writer: “Where do you get your ideas from?” And the writer will reply: “How do you make yours stop?” I’ve been writing for fifteen-some years. This just happens now.
TEN: What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Let’s take “about the book” rather liberally, shall we?
First, The Damning Moths is illustrated with some of the best artwork I’ve ever seen, and that’s before my bias kicks in! Truly, I have been overwhelmed by the quality of the illustrations and how well the artist has captured the scenes and characters. Readers will get treated with a page of artwork every chapter. Yay!
Second, there is an original soundtrack written for the book, an amazing post-rock/progressive electro rock album by The Revolver Project. I am so, so, so happy with how the soundtrack has come out. Early listeners have universally proclaimed, “This sounds like it’s from a horror movie”. I think that counts as a massive success. Music is an integral part of writing for me, so there is something inherent and natural about a book having companion theme songs. Double yay!
With great pleasure, I introduce to you my tag-ee, and the star of a “Next Big Thing” post! Please direct your attention to the lovely Kristen Tsetsi!
Okay. Alright. So. I am not a plotter by nature, and any kind of organisation system I have tried has failed me utterly. Something about all of the bits and bobs (especially in certain speciality writing programs) leave me irritable and unproductive. This shouldn’t go here, and what is that doing there, grumble grumble. Too bad I’m not a programmer, or I would just make my own application the way I want it.
But there comes a time when some things are necessary, and you either adapt, or fall to the ground in a sobbing heap. I adapted, and man, have I ever been missing out on the fun!
The Damning Moths requires an ongoing timeline. Simply put, there are a number of vital players in different locations who I need to keep track of, even if their actions never show up on paper. Oh, sure, I hummed and hahhed over how best to do this, and tried the sort of standard-looking horizontal timeline dealie (you know the kind they have to depict historical events or a person’s lifetime). That flopped. Too many people, too many things happening, too difficult to modify; I found myself holding the original sketchy outline of “character, location, and event” in a messy pile in my notebook, with a bucket-load of extra frustration. So what do I try to keep this tidy and easier to reference to prevent mistakes?
I realised at some point, people use daily planners in the format they are because it’s the effective way. I already knew the calendar system for TDM (which is actually far too complicated to relate in a few sentences), the length of the years, the months and seasons, so forth. Which lead me to the somewhat lengthy, but ultimately very useful process of creating the full calendar in a normal OpenOffice document, using a table. Yep, just like a real calendar, with little boxes for each day, or month, or year, depending on the level of detail it holds.
As such, I have several versions to reference. The historical, which is just years listed, because the characters have lifespans of hundreds of years, so I just use that to note births, deaths, and important events like wars, covering the past several thousand years as I need it. Then we move down to important years, which shows all the dates for a more specific tracking of events and the season they occur in. And now, the individual book calendar, which follows where people are at times of the day and when important plot points are revealed to various characters.
Sound complicated? It is and isn’t; when TDM deals so heavily with misplaced memory and deceit between people that the individual character’s knowledge at different times is a major factor, this makes it much, much easier. It took a lot of work in the first place to build the calendars. But it’s so refreshing to have it finally laid out where I can see everything at a glance, and I’ve kept blank copies of the yearly calendar to re-use for each subsequent book. There won’t be future issues regarding who is where and what they know about at the time. I’ve got it covered. I can easily figure out people’s relative age during events through history, keep track of who knows who and when they meet, and of course, at the book level, I can make sure no one will be written in two places at once as these subplots come crashing together. It’s exciting.
As usual, the exact details of my story are worked out as I go. I need enough flexibility in my plotting to implement the good stuff which inevitably comes along after I’ve already started writing. On the other hand, sometimes figuring out the important parts when you reach them doesn’t always bode so well. Sometimes you hit a challenge which is solved in an even more difficult fashion.
Ever have a story or plot point you’re not sure if you should write for its intensity? I’ve come across the first instance of a fully justified, genuinely evil action which fits in exactly with the story. It ticks all the right boxes for reasons and rational in the world setting and for the characters in question. But I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the worst ideas I’ve ever come up with. For all the murders I’ve already written, the characters eaten alive, those betrayed and hurt beyond recovery, this one idea actually makes me pause. I got teary just coming up with it, and it sure would be hard to write.
The thing is, as I said, it slots right into place. It’s the big, awful catalyst I need. It works with all these other plots and subplots swimming around it. And I kind of want to write it. I want to be scared of what I’m creating, if only a little bit.
On that subject, I will always remember reading an interview with my favourite author, Matthew Reilly. In case you haven’t read any of his work (go fix that problem now, don’t worry, I’ll wait while you buy one of his stories), you need to know this: He kills any character. Not a single one of them is safe, no matter how important they are, and Matthew wields that power with a deftness and investment which really makes my experience reading his work superbly memorable. In one of his books, he kills a major player. It’s huge; this isn’t just killing a very important character like all those others, we’re talking “central to the setting he’s built” kind of character. In this interview, he spoke of debating over whether he could go through with it. Writing that particular death over all others he had put to paper. What it would mean to him, and to the readers, when that character is killed. He admits he had to take a break after getting the words down. But the important part was, for the story to go the right way, and for the surviving characters to face this challenge and grow, it needed to happen.
I know what it’s like now, in a surprisingly intimate way. Do I go through with this? Write this horrible event, knowing what it does to the characters, knowing how challenging it could be to readers?
You probably already know the answer.
Wow, hey. Zips by, doesn’t it? I’ve been all too aware of the passing days, though not within the context of, “I haven’t blogged in two months”, and more the general sense of time whirling by, oblivious to the human experience. Time is a fascinating illusion; the measurement of movement and change, especially when one can imagine that nothing is changing at all, and still observe the all too obvious differences between “then” and “now”.
Life has been what it is. The down parts which we spend half our effort trying to avoid still come knocking. Upheaval is part of that change which I note, but also blurs together in the apparent sea of sameness. We still get up each day. Eat, shower, work, sleep. The little things in between. Seeing the same faces, having close approximations of the same conversation within each encounter. Our greetings are universal. Sometimes I answer differently just to see the expression on a person’s face register that they must think about my reply, rather than it being the expected generalisation. Sometimes, I see how glad they are for a variation, themselves. Sometimes, they are busy, and it was a cursory exchange, and they don’t really want to have to think about something new. Ah, but that’s people-watching for you.
And as a counter to the troughs, there are the bright points of laughter and friendship; the good news instead of bad; the moments of brilliant entertainment which enrich our lives. Going away for short trips to places I like with people I love. Seeing animals, walking in the rain, making children giggle. Spending hours talking, seeing the obvious fruits of your labour, and especially, the much-appreciated acknowledgement of others for what you do. Finding things worth reading, worth watching, worth playing. Even the quiet times of being alone where thoughts are free to bubble over faster than you can possibly record them, even though you’re certain they are important and need to be collected for future uses.
Two months. We saved a kitten from a storm, and said goodbye to some family members. I’ve read a whole lot of books, and written nearly a third of another. I have determined that I can probably do a lot more than I believe of myself, but it’s finding the time and effort that’s the real trouble. I like November and the positivity and companionship it brings out in so many of my writer friends (thanks to NaNoWriMo). I’m especially enjoying building some expertise on the “behind the scenes” aspects in releasing books.
Oh, yes. I’m still around. Two months in a long time, but really, it’s just the blink of an eye.