Author: shawnee

K-Dramas = New Obsession

Happy Friday, everyone!

Starting this week, I’m going to start running some Top 5 lists while I’m waiting on edits from Amanda on Destroyer. This one is near and dear to my heart, and in case you haven’t been following my posts on Facebook recently, I’m going to give you one hint, here he it is:

I’ve got the worst case of Chen Kun on the brain EVER closely followed by Eun-Woo Cha, and God, I hate saying this out loud, but also Jingting Bai who is frankly young enough that it makes me feel like a letchy old lady. Ew. I haven’t been this fixated since probably Sons of Anarchy or David Tennant in DR WHO. I’ve got it bad. I’m so obsessed with Korean and Chinese period dramas that I’ve taken over control of the TV in my household and I’ve eaten waaaaay too much pot noodle and kimchi for one non-Asian household. It’s seriously so bad that I’m considering learning Korean or Mandarin Chinese just because that’s what you do when NETFLIX FEEDS YOU CRACK TELEVISION. OH MY GOD.

Yes, I’ve been bitten by the K-Drama bug. It started off harmless enough with binge watching Love Alarm and now I’ve moved onto a 56 episode Chinese drama THAT WILL TAKE ME FOREVER TO FINISH IT. Who makes a 56 episode season? The Chinese, that’s who. Kill me now. Wait, don’t. I have to get to the end and see if Ning Yi and Feng Zhi Wei finally make it (it only took them 40 episodes to hug, people . . .)

I should point out that technically, The Rise of Phoenixes that I’m talking about is not in fact a K-drama but a Chinese period drama so I’m cheating a bit. At this point, I might’ve lost about 50% of my readers who have no idea of what I’m talking about, but here it is in a nutshell:

K-Dramas stands for Korean Drama also known as Korean drama televisions series televised in . . wait for it . . Korean. They have made a bit of a resurgence more recently outside of Korea due to the K-pop and K-culture phenomenon and often are a love story that plays out in a contemporary setting and deals with relationships, family, duty, and other themes prevalent in Asian culture. They always have pretty boys and a girl who must choose between two or more possible love interests. The filial duty aspect also takes on a life of its own almost like another character in the story line especially when you start drilling down into period dynasty dramas. They are the slowest burn romance you’ll ever come across so if you are impatient, you will be screaming at your TV, trust me. But if you’re good for sacrifice, duty-bound tragedy, celestial destiny, and a whole host of wacky martial arts moves then read on. 

I’m going to make a contentious statement right here: The best TV on Netflix hands down RIGHT NOW is Asian television. Everything else that Netflix has produced as original content has been pretty lackluster and I’d even put The Witcher in that category (feel free to send me hate mail). If you want compelling, beautiful TV that delves into family, duty, honor, and personal sacrifice, Netflix has got a great selection to choose from.

Here are my current Top 5 MUST WATCH Asian TV Series on Netflix:

1) The Rise of Phoenixes 

I will say this: don’t start with this series. Although it’s my favorite so far, it is hard going to begin with and if you’re not used to watching subtitled content you will drive yourself insane and give up quickly. Try something a little softer, like Rookie Historian, which is my no. 2. It’s also a slow burn, but I think is a bit more easier on American audiences. If you delve into The Rise of Phoenixes be prepared for the time commitment and to fall head over heels for Chen Kun and Ni Ni who make this story so compelling. The cast overall is superb and you will find that you quickly care about all the characters and worry every time that someone is going to die ala George RR Martin. I’m going to be sad when I’m done with this one.

2) Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung

Until I started The Rise of Phoenixes, this was it for me. I really thought no one could top Historian Goo and Prince Yi. Equal parts funny and heart felt, again, the whole honor and duty-bound aspect of the show really cuts you to the core. The thing that I failed to mention above in The Rise of Phoenixes is that we’re also talking about very strong and clever female protagonists who still strive to have their own identities and desires separate from the main love interest . . . even if it means not getting the guy in the end. I just loved this one so much and it made me an instant Eun-Woo Cha fan who is also in a K-pop band. Go figure.

3) When the Camellia Blooms

True fact: my husband has been known to run around the house shouting, “Dong Baek!” It’s kinda cute and annoying at the same time. This series isn’t so much of a K-drama as it is a romantic comedy mixed with some thriller moments. What I love about this particular show is that it’s more realistic than the other picks on my list. It deals with a single mother raising her son in a small Korean coastal town and the way she struggles to be accepted in the close-knit community while attracting the single son of the local matriarch while also trying not to be killed by a murderer. It was a refreshing change from some of the more sickly sweet teen K-dramas you might see on Netflix.Very funny. 

3) Cheese in the Trap

We are a torn household on this show. I really liked it, my husband really didn’t. He took offense to the nerdy up-tight love interest, Jung Yoo, being too clinical, almost “on the spectrum” with the way he treated Hong Seol given the fact that my husband is himself a super nerd who can be socially shy shall we say. I actually thought it was a great college-level-girl-has-to-choose-her-destiny but wasn’t thrilled by the fact that it ends on a cliff hanger. I suspect that this could get another season. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be pissed (just like Love Alarm).

4) Cinderella and the Four Knights

If you’ve ever watched Eastenders, then this is the Korean equivalent. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just think soap opera. Man, this thing goes on forever about hidden agendas, secrets coming out of the closet, and a whole heap of mean boy syndrome. I’m not sure this one belongs on the list, but I did stay entertained. The husbot gave up and walked away bored. It was almost too much K-drama for him, but I felt like this was a quintessential K-drama at its core and was the best representation of what you get with this genre. I think it’s also easy and disposable if you like romance unlike some of the other ones on my list.

5) There is no number 5 . . . .

I hate when that happens, but alas, I could only recommend 4 for now. I still have a large list to get through and I didn’t want to add a fifth just for list sake. If you want to see what else I’ll be watching here is it – 

  • Chocolate
  • Yanxi Palace: Princess Adventures
  • Eternal Love
  • Romance is a Bonus Book
  • My Sassy Girl
  • One Spring Night
  • My First First Love
  • The Bride of Habaek
  • Mr Sunshine
  • The Princess Weiyoung

 

Let me know what K-dramas you love. Email me at shawnee@shawneesmall.com

xo – shawnee

 

 

 

  

Mars Con or Bust

 

In just a few hours, I’m off to MarsCon.

This is my only book-associated event for all of 2020 and with good reason. As I explained in my first blog post of the year, I’ve been suffering from some autoimmune issues that have been kicking my ass. Well, those same pesky issues are rearing their ugly head this week, and so the fact that I’m limping my way to MarsCon at all is a miracle. Yesterday, I thought I was going to have to cancel altogether, but today, I’m dosing up on the drugs, wearing my vampire sunglasses, forgoing eating, and am going to give it a go.

It means I’m going to be quiet. It means that I’m likely to be cranky. Ooooh look, just like old Goth times! Perfect…not really. It means that I’m not going to be on my A game and that doesn’t make me happy, but at least I should get a medal for showing up. Showing up is half the battle after all.

So. With that in mind, here is where I’ll be if you find to seek me out. I’ll try my best to perk up in your presence.

Friday:

4:00pmRomancing the Reader (Room 8)

Our panelists discuss the power of romance, the range and the voice of the genre, and the blush-inducing conversations!

Saturday:

12:00pmThe Internet: Valuable Research Tool or Kitten Photo Gallery? (Room 6)

Our panelists talk about the most useful resources for authors for research and finding markets. Where do you find the information you want and how useful is it?

3:00pmSocial Media for Authors (Room 4)

Our panelists discuss building a fan base through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Which social media platforms are helpful and which are a just a waste of a writer’s time?

8:00pmSex & Violence in Fairytales (Room L)

Naughty princes and violent godmothers. In this PG13 session, panelists discuss the role of both sex and violence in the narratives of the Grimm brothers along with other traditional folktales. Issues surrounding why many tales were later sanitized and adapted for the children’s market will also be addressed.

9:00pmWomen on the Dark Side (Room 8)

Not all women artists/creators are about unicorns and glittery vampires and silly pseudo-bondage. Some women create truly dark and challenging art and content, with just enough humor and whimsy to counterbalance all that darkness. Join our panelists as they celebrate the women creators who are creating content that connects with the deeper, darker side of all of us.

See you on the other side . . . or in this case MarsCon.

xo shawnee

Edits, Edits, and more Edits

One of my New Year resolutions was to make sure that I was keeping in touch with the outside world at least once a week with more than just a snarky FB post or two, and in that vein, I made a promise to myself to blog every Friday come hell or high water.

Yeah, that didn’t last too long. But in my defense, I’m in the middle of edits on Destroyer and I know that my readers would much prefer that I finally FINALLY get Destroyer out the door rather than blather away here about non-essential stuff.

Which brings me to my very short (*yeah, right) blog post about the hell pit authors call “Editing”.

To be fair, just about every author has their own take on editing. I know some authors who swear that they write a clean enough draft the first time that they hardly have to cut anything at all. I know others who live by the Stephen King ‘cut 10% rule’, and others who almost rewrite the entire book during the editing phase.

I’m somewhere in between all those examples.

When I first started out, I was a seriously wordy mofo. The original draft of Watcher was over 118,000 words . . . crazy. That’s like the size of a epic fantasy right there. Most novels these days and definitely first time novelists in the genres that I write in come in around the 80,000 words range. Paring Watcher down to its final 78Kish was, well, you can imagine not entirely a barrel of laughs. Protector was more like 90K pared down to right under the 80K mark, and Betrayer ended up being even smaller at around 77K (don’t quote me on that).

Now on my 6th book, I’ve come to recognize some home truths about myself :

  1. My writing has gotten tighter 
  2. I’m still a wordy mofo, but I know the signs when I’m going off the rails
  3. Pacing is my Achilles heel
  4. Editing for me is still more about stripping out than putting in
  5. I hate writing in 1st person; all my series moving forward are likely to be 3rd person only
  6. Thank god for my editor, Amanda

One of the ways that I’m probably different from a lot of authors is that I don’t prescribe to the vomiting method of first drafting. The OCD in me cannot cope with regurgitating the first thing that pops into my brain and leaving it alone on the page. Simply put, I can’t write dog poo and leave it there for 300 pages. It’s like a needle at the base of my skull wheedling away until I go back and try to make whatever rubbish I just wrote better.

My advice to first time writers would be don’t do this. It’s bad for flow, it’s bad for productivity. I’ve killed and stalled out more lovely passages by going back than I care to admit to. The only saving grace is that I’ve learned not to go back and tweak until after I’ve gotten the new word count down for the day. I leave editing for when my creative brain is mush.

That’s my coping strategy, but it comes at a cost. My productivity is much slower naturally and paired with my current eye issues, really drags down my word count. Yes, I’m neurotic about this. Having said all that, when it comes to the editing phase, my draft is already cleaner because I’ve done edits along the way. Occasionally, a real corker will get through. I’m going to show you an example right now. Don’t laugh. I actually recognized that it was a corker and highlighted it to come back to later (a rare occurrence) because it was so horrible that it would’ve been going down the rabbit hole to fix it. As it turns out, I cut it entirely.

Here you go, Shining Ones fans –

“Wait!” I held my hands up, glancing between the two guards. Moredcai raised his palm and gave them the signal to halt. “There can’t be any harm in you at least telling me a little bit about this place.”

“Fine, if it is a history lesson you want then a history lesson you shall have.” He paused and gave a pointed look to the guards who stayed by my side, but didn’t take a hold of my arms. I exhaled slowly. “But try to run off or do something foolish and it will not be pleasant. Come.”

Brusquely, he turned and started off again, but this time his pace was unhurried. His words followed behind him like a wafting, lazy swirl of smoke –

“Lucien’s – shall we call it pet project – saw its humble beginnings take root in the eighteenth century. Not in this country,” Mordecai waved his arm around airily, “this one was barely a step above the savages, but there were other men in Europe, emboldened with just enough knowledge to make them dangerous, but perfect for Lucien’s plan. He allowed them to think it was their idea – rather ingenuous given that your kind were full of superstition and fear back then. It was far too easy for him to corrupt the more hungry ones.” He pointed to the oil portrait of a man dressed in old-fashion garb kneeling in a cave, a naked and well-proportioned woman reclining in repose at his feet. “Dashwood was always a bit too pompous for my liking. Thick as a plank as well, but keen.” Mordecai carried on past the painting leaving me to follow behind him. He pointed out the other portraits that lined the hall. “They all were. Eager for forbidden knowledge. An appetite for power beyond that which they already had. Arrogant, exceedingly rich, greedy, but also easily manipulated when their egos were stroked. As all powerful men are. That made it easy for Lucien. He had them exactly where he needed them.”

 

OH MY GOD. CAN YOU SAY SHOW DON’T TELL? Also, cheese factor 150%.

First indicator should’ve been the size of this paragraph. If I have long drawn out paragraphs, I know immediately I have a problem because I’m a short and punchy sort of writer. Most of my paragraphs are 3-4 sentences long.

Second indicator is that it does in fact read like a history lesson. BORING. History wasn’t fun in high school, it’s not gonna be fun now. As much as I’d like the reader to know about the history behind the fabricated Hellfire Club in my story, this ain’t the way to do it.

And lastly, I fell for the infamous info dump because I was looking for filler for the scene unfolding. If I have to scramble for filler, I’ve already failed because filler is a no no. Every piece of information a writer drops in a story should have a purpose and that purpose is to propel the story forward. Some will argue that character descriptions and details that round out a character are also important and don’t necessarily drive the plot forward – that’s true – but 8 out of 10 times, if a writer is dropping information in that doesn’t somehow connect back to the plot then it just drags the reader out of flow and I’m a firm believer that that’s where bad reviews come from. Authors, you can fight me on this point.

Anyhow, you can see my point, and also, I think it’s worth letting my readers see behind the curtain.Every writer can be a hack at some point. I’m no different. It’s humbling to know that I can still produce rubbish – it keeps me honest.

The rest of my editing routine is a bit boring and I won’t bore you with those details, plus, I’ve got to get back to editing in order to get this manuscript to Amanda if I want to hit my release date. I may post more corkers for you as I go along if the feedback is positive.

Thanks for giving me a chance to ramble on.

xo Shawnee

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2020, my people.
 
A bright shiny new year and if you run in certain circles, another brand-new decade. Before you fight me over the nuance of that last statement, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this thing.
 
First off, it’s lovely to see you. Yes, I’ve been AWOL.
 
It’s been a hell of a year and I’m more than happy to kick 2019’s ass right out the ol’ door. We saw quite a bit of upheaveal at Chez Small including saying good bye to several loved ones and saying hello to whole bunch of other unpleasant such as health issues and the like that I’m really glad that 2019 is firmly behind us. There were probably some good things that happened in 2019, but so much of what happened was overshadowed by the bad that honestly, I can’t even remember much of last year. And I don’t want to dwell on those things and be Debbie Downer especially since we’ve got this clean and crisp new page called 2020 which has so much POTENTIAL to be SO VERY AWESOME; yet at the same time, I do feel like I need to offer you guys some sort of explanation as to why my writing stalled out and why Destroyer is almost 2 years overdue. (Yep, it hurt to write that out.)
 
Back in November 2018, coming off the end of another box set, I started noticing that my eyes were getting tired and gritty at night right around bedtime. I didn’t think anything of it – I’m notorious for staying up reading past my bed time, and I’m no spring chicken either. I just figured that I was entering the scary old stage also known as “needing readers” and went about my business. As we rolled into December, my eyes got more and more irritated and I was having a harder and harder time ‘seeing’ at night. Again, I thought I was just suffering from tired eyes.
 
Then I got the first corneal tear.
 
For most people a corneal scratch/abrasion/tear is pretty straight forward. It hurts, yes, and it’s highly uncomfortable, but the eye is a quick healer and for most sufferers, within a couple of days, symptoms abate. For me, not so much. Not only didn’t it get better, it got much MUCH worse. Like a whole holy hell worse where I’d rather stay up all night putting drops in my eyes than fall asleep. What was happening, as I found out later was that my eyes were so severely dry that my eyelid was ripping the SCAB RIGHT OFF MY EYEBALL while I slept. Yep, you read that right. Let that sink in. Ripping a bandaid off your eyeball every night. And the doctors couldn’t figure out why I was waking up in sobbing pain in the middle of the night until I finally saw a cornea specialist who basically saved my life. Finally, someone who knew what was wrong…
 
Yeah, the funny thing is when you have one autoimmune disease, you’re likely to get another. Okay, not so funny.
 
 
My diagnosis? Bloody auto-immune complication. My body’s cells are not just attacking my skin and my intestines, my body has decided to rage war on my eyeballs, too. So my body is attacking the glands and things in my eyes meaning I’ve got constant inflammation and no tears and oils. Not only am I prone to spontaneous tears and abrasions (thanks eyelids, you fuckers), but I’ve got diminished vision when I’m in an autoimmune flare and when I’m not in a flare and I can see relatively well, I still can’t stare at a computer screen very long because the eyeballs dry out (thanks eyeballs, you fuckers). So that’s why my writing has stalled out and my career has come to a standstill.
 
There have been many, many times over the last fifteen months that I’ve almost thrown in the towel and given up on being an author. Nothing feels quite as bad as being in pain and watching your career tank and not being able to do anything about it. Or sitting down at your lap top and trying to write just one page and having to give up because your eyes feel like they’ve been doused in gasoline and set on fire. To say I was on the edge would be the understatement of the year. And the thing is you can’t really complain about it because someone somewhere has it worse than you. If the worst that happened to me is that I couldn’t write anymore than I should be grateful, right? That’s no way to live, I’ll tell you that for free.
 
So, what saved me? Well, other than fountain pens, probably a handful of friends and close author chums.
 
And me. I saved me.
 
Because I refused to give up. I whined, cried, complained, raged against my stupid body on a daily basis, but I never gave up. If I got one paragraph written or one page (I haven’t been able to write more than 1,000 words at a time since diagnosis), I still called that a win. And you know what?
 
IT PAID OFF.
 
Today, at noon, I finished Destroyer. At 92,857 words, the first draft is done.
 
Destroyer Book Cover
 
 
 
 
Even the drop of water eventually erodes away the stone, my people. So if I can do it with wonky eyeballs, so can you. Don’t give up – whether it’s your dream or your health or something that seems completely unattainable to you – NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT. Because eventually you’ll get there, too.
 
This is what I say for 2020. Screw all the other resolutions. Just keep this one: Keep fighting the good fight. You will succeed.
 
 
See you on the other side.
 
xo shawnee
 
 

Thank you for taking part.

Hello, my beautiful Montblanc.

Seriously, my ability to make decisions is about nil at the moment and as always, I love getting feedback from you guys!

Also, if you’re looking at this blog post and trying to figure out what’s going on, you *reeeeeeeeally* need to sign up for my newslettters here.

xo shawnee