Hello current musical inspiration, you are devouring the essence of my existence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hyNKTcUdxs

I know I said I was getting close to being done with edits, but here we are again. My wonderful editor returned the doc to me, the one I thought I’d be printing to make the final edits, however, the wordcount was a little higher than I hoped it would be. My lovely editor suggested a word cull, going in and tightening things up by removing unnecessary words or things that don’t add meaning. She was about to scrap off over 4k words, but of course everything gets checked by me so when she sent me the doc with the edits, I started rereading the book for the millionth time (holy crap, I’ve reread IASAD more times than I could ever have anticipated with all this editing business). Rereading the book led to more instances of “hmmm… I don’t know I like that wording/flow/description/adjective/action…” So here I go again, emailing my editor to say “heyyy, I’m going to address the removed words but I’m also going to reword and change some things”.

Well, believing I was almost done editing was nice for a time. So young. So naïve. As I hear it’s said amongst writers and editors alike, editing is never done. You just sort of pick a point you’re happy enough with it. I can guarantee a year after IASAD is published, I’ll go back in and find something else I’d like to change. Isn’t it amazing how I can write it one day, think it’s exactly how I want it, then go back in and wonder what the hell I was thinking and “who in their right mind would structure a sentence or write a description like that?!”

Ah, the chaotic beauty of writing.

Truth is, I shell out a LOT of content (my wordcount per week is at levels that imply I should be medicated, but writing is my therapy and oh boy don’t we all need therapy?). The ugly truth is, I shell out so much content, I occasionally forget specific things I’ve written. I don’t forget the characters, favorite lines, and descriptions I really liked, but I occasionally don’t remember specific wording or lines, to the point I reread my stuff and go “wait… I wrote that?” Sometimes it’s a pleasant discovery full of joy like “damn, I can’t believe I wrote that!”, other times it’s a cringy one, more like “damn, I can’t believe I wrote that.” It happens especially with my older work, but even still with my more current work. I suppose the nice thing about that is I’m in a constant state of improving. If my first complete novel DIDN’T make me cringe at parts, then it would mean I haven’t learned anything, haven’t grown as a writer, and possibly not as a person. So is it perfect? Absolutely not. Nothing is. But that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it only needs to make you feel.

I don’t know about you, but I find the truest forms of beauty to be contained in imperfections. One of my favorite things to photograph is old, scarred trees. I don’t photograph them for their perfection, I photograph them for the story they tell, the physical representation of longevity and survival through any adversity. I find scarred trees fascinating because of their scars. Isn’t it amazing to think that yes, they’ve had to live through torrential storms, droughts, lightning, invasive bugs, and abuse from people carving initials in the bark, but they’re still standing?

I recently read an article about an author I’m sure most of you are familiar with because this queen is DOMINATING the top charts for best sellers. Colleen Hoover. I cannot say if I’m a fan of her writing or not because I’ve yet to have the pleasure of embarking on what I hear is a painful but rewarding journey, but regardless of anything else, I’m a fan simply because of her success. The fact she’s held a position as a bestseller for so long, and for books that aren’t even new, is incredibly inspiring. It’s a dream of mine to have even one book hit the bestseller lists, and she has several. Because of her success, I’m a fan of her as a fellow author, and she’s definitely high on my list of authors I want to read (speaking of which, if anyone has a recommendation for where to begin with Colleen Hoover books, don’t be shy!).

Anyway, back to the article I read, there was a term in it I was unfamiliar with until today: trauma-porn. What? This is a thing? Why are we wording it like that? (add to the list of things I didn’t want to know were a thing). Just to be clear, this isn’t a complaint about Colleen Hoover (I can’t complain about anything until I’ve read her books and even then I’ve never been into authors bashing other authors) but rather whoever wrote that article and referred to her work as trauma-porn. I’m new to the word, and I already dislike it. The claim was that her characters are only interesting because of their trauma, that her characters always have trauma and it’s being exploited, and while that’s something I can’t speak on since I haven’t read her books, I can speak to the way it was phrased in the article. It began by building her up as an author, saying her success was incredible and inspiring. The article quickly turned to one that was a lot more negative, implying that the only reason her books are a success are because of the trauma-porn in them. While I still need to read the books and also I guess learn more what the hell trauma-porn is (I haven’t looked it up because I’m scared), it’s a huge pet-peeve of mine when any artists’ work is reduced to some comment like “it’s only because…”

Guys, it screams fan behavior and really ugly jealousy. Why can’t we be happy for someone’s success instead of saying “well it only happened because…”. This is something that happened to me more than once when IASAD skyrocketed in popularity. I ended up having to block an author I’d previously tried to be friends with because any time I got excited about my work she’d reduce it to “well what do you expect, you have a hot guy and sex, so obviously it’s popular”, as if every single book out there with a hot guy and sex is insanely popular (please, tell that to anyone writing adult romance and struggling to get their work noticed so they can celebrate that they’ve been popular this whole time, they just didn’t know it!).

That kind of approach doesn’t tell me anything about the person being talked about, but it does tell me a lot about the one saying it. Now, if you’ve read any of my work, you know I go dark in my writing, which may be why this particular article bugged me by implying an author only introduces a traumatic character for the sales, or for some twisted enjoyment people get from seeing characters in pain, or whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. When I started writing 90% of my books, it was before I had an audience, when the books were only for me to read and I intended them to only be mine to read for eternity. It was well before I ever even considered sharing my work. I definitely didn’t put in traumatized characters for sales or because I think trauma is fun. Here’s a harsh reality I’d like anyone who thinks that to understand: some of us write traumatized characters because they’re the characters we know how to write.

This may come as a shock, but when I write really dark things like character backstories, I legitimately sob through that portion of my writing. I had to take a break from a Patreon update I did Friday where my FMC completely panicked and reacted in a believable, but hurtful way, because of her trauma. Writing that hurt me so much, I had to walk out and find my honey and make him hug me while I cried for her and the MMC she hurt in the process. It’s not something I do for some obscure, twisted reason, or to exploit, it’s something I do because I firmly believe the purpose of art is to feel and learn and challenge and evoke things you didn’t know you could feel so powerfully and for me, traumatized characters were underrepresented in the books I read.

When I was a young girl reading a bunch of books with girls who had loving families and no tragic backstories, it made me feel alone in my pain. I couldn’t pick up a book without wishing I wasn’t me, but not in a fun way, like “oh heck yeah I wish I was her so I could have those powers, or be an astronaut, or own that badass car, or be a kickass ninja, or get the cute boy”. I’m talking more like “I wish there was a character like me so I know we can make it too”. If I ever get noticed enough to have an article written about me and they chock my success up to “trauma-porn”, I really hope the person saying that never has to endure the kinds of things they would have to in order to understand that’s not what this is. Now I’m not saying Colleen Hoover is a saint, I can’t say that, I don’t know her, and maybe I’m far off base in saying it’s insulting to have her work reduced to that phrase, I don’t know because I don’t know her or her motivation, but neither does the person who wrote that article. Some people aren’t comfortable voicing that they have struggles so even if it’s not outright stated for everyone to see, it’s wrong to assume you know what their motivation is. I wouldn’t want to go in depth into my struggles. I sometimes get squirmy even mentioning it in passing, but I do because if I’d had just one person willing to admit that yeah, they’ve been through some shit but they were able to come out the other side, I think I could’ve avoided a lot of pain in my life and healed much faster. The knowledge you’re not alone is an underrated superpower.

Some of you might know this or maybe you don’t, but Lord of the Rings started my writing journey. I devoured that book as a kid over and over and no, it wasn’t because of Aragorn (my husband, for the record), or because Legolas was amazing, or because magic is awesome, or because Sam is the friend we all desperately want, it was because Frodo suffered. I didn’t enjoy watching Frodo suffer, I was inspired by his suffering because it told me I could suffer and still make it. I could be imperfect and still succeed. Hope was the overarching theme and for hope to exist for a character so lost in darkness? I’d never related to someone so deeply. His journey was not easy, but he still made it.

That’s why my characters have been through some shit. That’s why I create dark themes. They were written for people who want to understand mental illness or trauma better and can handle the reality of how painful it is. They were written for the people who can’t relate to scar-free characters with normal lives. They were written for those of us that don’t want to be alone in our darkness, that want to see characters succeed despite their pain. It’s not for sales, it’s not for fun, it’s not for some other reason, it’s just because this is life. Life has tragic backstories and trauma and painful moments, and I won’t pretend they don’t exist.

I said something to my honey last night he insisted I write down and it’s appropriate for here, so here it goes. We were discussing different levels of adult romance and I told him not all adult romance sex scenes are the same. Some are vanilla, some are loving, some are kinky, some are a combination, and some are what I’d call “softcore” while others are what I’d call “hardcore”. He asked if I write softcore or hardcore, and I told him it’s hardcore most the time, but not because it’s all I’m willing to write, but rather, my whole goal in writing is to make you FEEL. And whatever it is I make you feel, I want you to really fucking feel it. If happiness is the goal, I want you overjoyed. If it’s sadness, I want you sobbing and cursing my name. If it’s anger, I want you hurtling your phone (or soon, book ;)) across the room. If it’s empathy, I want you to hurt as deeply as the characters do. And if it’s spicy, I want you really fucking worked up. That’s just how I write. I read books because I love the way they make me feel things so deeply, and so in my writing, my purpose is to make you feel. Now, it’s not always pleasant feelings, but whatever you feel, the goal is for it to be powerful enough to go “damn, that was something I can’t forget”. I wish I could say I pull off making my readers feel this much with a hundred percent accuracy and perfection every time, but my writing’s not flawless, and everyone’s experiences are different, so it’s not really that I always get it right but more that it’s my goal.

So yeah, I write dark and you’ll feel how dark, but the purpose is not for sales or anything else. It’s for the same reason I want you to be happy and rooting for the main character. I want you to feel it with every fiber of your soul, and I want those who don’t understand darkness to see a glimpse into it and maybe be gentler with people they know are struggling, and I want those who do understand darkness to know they can be the hero, too.

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