Megan Haskell is the award-winning author of The Sanyare Chronicles, a fast-paced dark fantasy adventure featuring a kick-ass heroine, snarky carnivorous pixies, and a quest across nine faerie realms. She lives in Southern California with her phenomenally supportive husband, wicked smart daughters, and a ridiculously energetic dog. You can find her online at MeganHaskell.com.
Megan: World-building is a huge part of being a fantasy author. Somehow, you have to make the magical seem real, and the mayhem make sense. I got the idea for The Sanyare Chronicles in the summer of 2012, but I didn’t start writing the actual story until September or October of that year. In other words, I spent about three months, maybe more, doing nothing but filling notebooks with ideas for the world that my character would inhabit.
For me, it always starts with a character, and then a question. In this case, I knew my character was a human woman living as a third class citizen amongst the high elves of the fae. So I asked: Who does she live with? Where do they live? What is her occupation? Why is that job important (or not)? Who does she interact with? What are her surroundings like? I wanted the world to influence the character as much—if not more than—the events in the plot.
As I went along in this process, I developed entire civilizations, including their customs and geographies. I wrote out the rules of the magic that is an inherent part of their world. I studied ancient myths and legends, taking their creatures and twisting them to my own designs.
It was a lot of fun!
The War of the Nine Faerie Realms actually takes place in the same universe as The Sanyare Chronicles, but several thousand years earlier. Because of that, in some ways it was easier to do the world-building, but in others it was harder. I had to make sure that everything remained consistent and believable between the two stories, while introducing new characters and new settings to make it interesting.
Megan: Forged in Shadow is an epic fantasy adventure that explores how the innocent can get caught up in the chaos and politics of war. I was working on the theme that no one is blameless in war, and no one can claim all the fault.
Curuthannor is a reluctant smith’s son who would rather wield a sword than a hammer. So when the family gets a commission from the king for a powerful enchanted sword, he jumps at the chance to journey to a foreign land to broker a deal for the materials his father needs for the crafting. Along the way, he falls afoul of the foreign king and gets caught up in political chess games that not only threaten his own life, but those of his entire family.
Meanwhile, Lhéwen is the princess’s most trusted handmaiden, and proud of it. She’s a seamstress who can perform minor enchantments on physical objects, but she mostly makes small baubles and trinkets. She’s honored when the princess selects her for a special delegation to the foreign king. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize the princess has her own agenda. Lhéwen quickly becomes caught between allegiance to her home realm and her oaths to her princess, all while her skills are being used in a game she doesn’t fully understand.
Megan: Yes, Book Two is already in the works. In fact, as of right now, I have about 40k words written in the rough draft (Forged in Shadow is about 116k words). The War of the Nine Faerie Realms will be a trilogy, so this is really the second act of the overall story. It will continue to follow Curuthannor and Lhéwen as they navigate the harsh realities of their war-torn worlds, each trying to do what is right and honorable in the face of moral quandary and powerful foes.
Megan: The Sanyare Chronicles are action-adventure fantasy featuring a kick-ass heroine and her carnivorous pixie sidekicks.
Rie is a human raised by elves in the high court of faerie. Treated as a third-class citizen by everyone but her foster parents, she nevertheless rises to an honorable position in the messenger service. When assassins attack while she’s on a delivery, she’s framed for treason and sentenced to execution. To prove her innocence, she must forsake her oaths and flee into enemy lands, but the secrets she uncovers may threaten more than her honor or even her life…for war is looming in the nine faerie realms.
Thus begins The Last Descendant. The rest of the journey follows Rie as she uncovers the truth of her past to find her future.
Megan: Absolutely! Writing productivity is actually something I teach with my business partner, Greta Boris, over at The Author Wheel. I’m a firm believer that habits and schedules are key to moving forward with any story—any creative project, really—and avoiding writers’ block.
In my case, I’m a stay-at-home-mom with eight and five year-old girls. In a typical day (well, prior to COVID-19, anyway) I set aside work time from 9:30 to 11:30am when the five year-old is in preschool. I usually work either in my home office or my favorite local coffee shop (Patch Coffee off of Portola and El Toro) but location really doesn’t matter. For me to get into the writing headspace, I follow the same basic procedure:
1. Open the laptop and Scrivener (my writing application…I highly recommend it)
2. Put in my noise canceling headphones and turn the sound to Brain.FM, which plays white noise music that helps me focus
3. Re-read the last page or two of whatever I wrote in the previous writing session
4. Close my eyes and visualize the scene I want to write for a minute or two
5. Set a timer for 25 minutes
6. Write as much as I can without stopping
7. Take a five-ish minute break to stand up, go to the bathroom, get more coffee, answer an email, etc.
8. (Repeat steps 4-7 until I have to pick up the munchkin)
This small ritual tells my brain that it’s time to be creative. I don’t wait for the muse to bless me with her presence, I give her a call and invite her in for a cup of coffee.
After the girls go to bed, I’ll try to squeeze in another hour or two of working time, but usually my creative brain is pretty fried by that point so I focus more on marketing and other business activities rather than writing.
Megan: It’s not what she said, it’s what she did.
My mom lives in Colorado and she wanted me to come out and do a reading at a bookstore in Frisco (a mountain town). She set everything up and I publicized it on my website and social media and stuff, but I didn’t really expect anyone to come. I’m not famous (yet) and while I do have a strong fan base, they’re scattered all over the world. So I was shocked when one of my earliest fans and reviewers drove three hours up the mountain with her husband and sister just to meet me! It was amazing, and humbling, and inspiring all at the same time.
Megan: My website (www.meganhaskell.com) is the easiest place to keep up to date on everything that’s going on and buy signed paperbacks. You can sign up for my newsletter to get a free short story and approximately weekly newsletters that include everything from my latest goings-on to special sales and book recommendations.
I’m also frequently on Facebook . I don’t use other social media much, but I’m technically on Twitter and Instagram as well with the username @meganphaskell.
If you’re interested in learning more about the workshops I teach and want to take a fun five-minute Author Personality Quiz, you should check out The Author Wheel. We’re working on getting our courses available online soon!
As for my ebooks, Forged in Shadow will be released on April 6 to all major ebook distributors except Google. The Sanyare Chronicles are already out everywhere I can get them. You can use the universal links below to select your favorite digital book platform for download.
Jann: Megan, thank you so much for opening a window into your world. Your book covers are so engaging. Congratulations on the April 6th debut of Forged in Shadow. I can’t wait to read it.
Kidd Wadsworth writes to bring to life our magical, fire-breathing world. She believes we are super heroes. It’s time we put on our capes.
You can read Kidd’s monthly column, Infused with Meaning, here on the 18th of every month. More information about Kidd is found on her website, make sure you take the time to read her “about me” section.
Not only are all editors are not created equal, there are many people are promoting themselves as editors even though their only credentials are that they like to read and they were good in English. So, before you spend a ton of money are a few things to think about.
1) Do you need a story editor, a line editor or just someone to double check for typos? Personally, I always need a story editor. My books are intricate, and I am known for twists and turns. A story editor* keeps me on track with red herrings, challenges me to push the envelope, and gives me perspective on the plot/story as a whole. I couldn’t live without this input.
2) Overall editors are hard to come by in my humble opinion unless you are willing to pay the price. It is no easy job to take a book from start to finish when you’re an editor. When I was traditionally published, I often had three separate editors, each charged with perfecting a different part of the process. If you’re looking for just that one person, make sure you are clear up front so they can price their bid accordingly.
3) An editor works for you and you should select one carefully. I tested a reader who swore she was an editor. She had found some things in a published book, and I was impressed with the detail and her attitude. However, when I sent her test pages (for which I paid her), she missed the typos and grammar issues that I purposefully left in to gauge her level of expertise. She was a great reader and had caught some mistakes, but she was not an editor.
4) When you find a great editor, it is a thing of beauty. Remember, some are literally brilliant* and the good ones will be able to work on any book in any genre. This is because they understand that individual marketplaces call for different sensibilities. They will read a romance differently than they read a mystery. If you find one of those, hang on to her/him.
*For transparency, the fabulous story editor I have worked with since my first book is my Extra Squeeze colleague, Jenny Jensen.
All editors are created as equally as all dancers, or singers, politicians or writers, but that’s not really what you’re asking. A good editor wears different hats, each for different genres. And then there are the specialists who focus their skills, most notably in academics, poetry and children’s literature.
I’ve worked on USAF manuals, fiction of all flavors, history and biography and business materials. I wore a different editing hat for each. A lot of the rules are the same, but each genre has a different intent and any useful editing must be done with that intent top of mind. The flow, pacing and characterization of a thriller are light years from those of business material (though maybe marketers should rethink that). Each of those hats comes with my confident understanding of the author’s intent so I can see any problems and add to the intended message. I think this is true of most editors.
I’ve turned down work twice. The first was a treatise on the physics of string theory. At least that’s what I think it was. I had no hat for this and so could offer nothing but a suggestion for a more suitable editor. The second was a children’s picture book. I love children’s books. I read the manuscript and tried to find a hat that fit. I soon realized this required a special knowledge, an insight into the reader’s mind and the author’s intent; knowledge and insight for which I don’t have a hat.
So yes, I do think that an author of a children’s picture book should find and build a relationship with an editor whose specialty is children’s lit. That doesn’t mean she would be better created, just that she was the best at dancing and singing to that tune.
I would say it depends on the experience of the editor. Some are quite capable of understanding the different styles and switching accordingly. Some are not. Look at the work they’ve previously done and see how it aligns with your own.
That said, sometimes an editor from another genre can bring a fresh perspective that could help you break away from the norm and set your work apart from that of other writers. Great books are often ones that cross genres and re-purpose other styles.
Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.
Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.
The garrison commander had barely closed his eyes, ready for the escape that sleep would grant him, when the duty officer shook his shoulder. Newbolt was new but competent, so his lapse of protocol—waking him instead of dealing with the crisis on his own—surprised the commander. The fear in Newbolt’s eyes was genuine, though.
“Another checkpoint problem?” For more than two months, the Runeheads had been slipping past the guards, somehow blending in with the regulars on the route into Locke Town. The garrison’s whole purpose was to monitor the traffic in and out of the city, to stop the Runeheads from gaining a foothold there.
“No, sir.” Newbolt was nervous.
Mosby sat up in bed and reached for his tunic. “What then?” He dressed quickly but thoroughly, aware that the chill of this alien night would knife through him if he wasn’t prepared.
“It’s the blinking light, sir.”
Inwardly, Mosby groaned. It was difficult enough to keep the garrison fully staffed because of its remoteness from Earth-based settlements. Throw in a race that lacked humanoid features and resented the soldiers’ presence. Now he faced his latest challenge, dispelling rumors of the Runeheads’ telepathic control of energy. Three men in the last week had requested a transfer after reporting a flashing light that immobilized them.
“Show me.” He followed Newbolt out to the perimeter gate. The guard station was awash in floodlights, but the brightness stopped a few feet out and the terrain beyond was inky, empty and quiet. “Shut off the lights,” Mosby ordered. He and Newbolt stared into the sudden darkness for several minutes. With his hand on his stunner, he wondered if he could trust Newbolt. Perhaps the duty officer and the others who had seen the phenomenon were in the first stages of hallucination disorder. He would need to file a report, encourage them to seek treatment, and ask for additional staff while they were on sick leave.
“There,” Newbolt hissed.
Mosby scanned the blackness, hoping he would not see anything.
“There—do you see it?” Newbolt’s voice quavered. “What is it? It’s got to stop.” He disappeared into the night.
“Newbolt, wait.” Mosby listened for his footsteps but heard nothing. He moved to switch the floodlights back on, but above and to his right, a green light began blinking. It was small but insistent, and it was moving. “Newbolt?”
Featuring Meriam Wilhelm Author of the Month
The one thing I know, after all my years as an elementary school principal, is that there is magic everywhere and in everyone. While I miss those enchanting moments with kids, I have always wanted to let my imagination run wild as I seek out my own magic and write about it. When I retired, I started to write my first books, a series called The Witches of New Moon Beach and inspiration wasn’t hard to find.
I have lived in Redondo Beach all my life, and New Moon might have more than a passing resemblance to my hometown. Every day I walk on the path that runs along the beach, sometimes with my sisters, but most often with my thoughts as I plot my next book.
I am long married and mom to three great grown kids. When I’m not writing or walking on the beach, you’ll find me sewing, reading or traveling and taking pictures.
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