What I have learned about How To Plot a Story and how it can help ttrpgs!

I did not want to write this on my phone with the stupid touch screen but internet issues prevailed! Bear with the bare bones, if you will!

I am a Plotter. I have to be! If I try and write by the seat of my pants (Pantsing) I get to chapter two and panic.cIf I have a plotted outline blocks are – usually – easier to get over and when I can come back to the book I know where I am and what I’m aiming towards.

So at the risk of those annoying recipe blogs that tell you a life story and not how to cook:

  • Character Arcs
  • Themes
  • World State
  • The Point
  • The Plot

Those were the steps J go through and yes, I start with mind maps.

clockwise this says: you can jot things as they come to you. tropes you like and scenes you want, or random character info, and then number it later or list it. plus, you can colour code.

You need to know what the characters are starting and ending as. Talk to your players! They will have some idea and if they don’t, askwhere theif inspiration came from!

If they name a movie or show or book, wiki it at the least! Talk to them about what scenes they always love in movies and books, what scenes they act out in front of the mirror, you know? Does a monk want enlightenment if Bruce Lee Fists of Fury revenge?

Once you know where they start from, you can see a path ahead. Not a step by step story, but something to build toward, something to reward them with other than vorpel swords and mithril armour.

Let’s take our revengey monk! Their monastery was burned down, they want revenge. But maybe you have a cleric needing to have their faith in themself restored who can bring them back from the dark path? Maybe you have a prosy paladin who can end up holding the bad guys down at the end because they realise good isn’t always lawful.

Your story should begin with your characters.

a picture of my cat to rest your eyes! isn’t she cute! khahit is not here! khajit is stealthing!

Thematics was the hardest thing for me to wrapmy head around when I switched from roleplaying to books but omg if watching both good and bad ttrpg play on youtube has taught me anything, it’s that themes are crucial to cohesion, to interest, and to the playersremembering what’s going on!

Redemption! Death and rebirth! Faith and Self-awareness! Confidence and Confidance!

Look at your characters. Are they too trusting? Are they underhanded? Then consider street smarts and teamwork to balance things. Let’s follow this thread…

Your encounter sheet must be full of things relevant to the theme:

  • A gang of street kids feuding with each other being taught either to go straight or being united to take down oppressors
  • Corrupt guards for the lawful good types to learn about or the rogues to deal with
  • A rich merchant’s family in need of help in the wilderness to be robbed or aided and then brought back later

The cities should be going through relevant stuff, the big bad should be relevant, you use the theme to back up the character arcs. It all weaves itself into story!

Bringing me to world state.

This is gonna sound harsh.

You know that kid that always plays the same character. The girl with her be-eyelinered raven queen she rakes from fandom to fandom. The boy who has a name he sticks to and gives you nothing else.

Homebrews can get like that. You love your homebrew world, you’ve put so much into it.

Don’t be rigid. The world state reflects the theme. You might even have to change areas or aeons to be able to give the right backdrop.

War. Political Coups. Merchant princes. Bandit Kings. Sorcerer Towers.

It’ll help you keep each campaign separate in your head too so they don’t bleed, especially when you’re exhausted! And consider not just the events but social history. What do the peasants do for fun? An area with meadows? Mead festival! Mountains? Pastural migration and shearing competitions! Forest? Men wearing plaid singing about scones!

If evey town is mired in misery and suspicious locals the party will feel battered down. Life sucks enough without ttrpgs being all 90s fantasy and GoT crap. Read Shira Glassmen btw. Happy fantasy!

The cover for Shira Glassmen’s The Second Mango

At this point you have most of the story. With ttrpgs I know you can’t do chapter by chapter planning or you won’t want to invite the players around.

But you know you want Amy the Bard to feel good about herself, to get them to want togo to High City to hear about the Music Tourney where the Big Bad is trying out his Pied Piper Hypno Flute.

You want Reggie the Paladin to loosen up so at the Tourney they see that life outside asceticism can be rewarding and free will is important leading themyo be angered by the Big Bad and his hypnoflute.

You know Toby the Fighter’s player is having a hard time from their parents so you want them to learn about found family and how even disparate backgrounds can bring people together so whenthe Big Bad hyponflutes the group of ragamuffin street dancers you met along the way Toby will ho nucking futs about taking them down.

You are not writing n=number of players’ stories. You are telling one story together.

Stories are healing. Religions exist because storytellers know how to catch empathy and lock into someone’s hopes and needs. Give your players hope for what they can’t have in reality. A handsome lover. Piles of gold. A voice in politics. Confidence.

Storytelling is wishfulfillment.

Why do you think straight women consider men being obsessed with the Joker a red flag? Why is the romance novel industry as big as the porn industry?

Wish fulfilment, my darlings! That’s how you get them clearing their calendars and how YOU get to help act out that scene from reservoir dogs, or the bit from Red Cliff, or the whole of Mean Machine inside a prison island during a zombie apocalypse!

Lastly, do not worry about the OGL, my darlings! Let it set you free fromthe bullshit of legendary actions!


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Xmas Romance Recommendations

Many of these will be familiar to my friends but I feel the need to share since our decs are out of the attic, we’ve ordered the welsh black beef from the butcher (hashtag middle class), and I am into my rereads along with some new beloved titles.

Five Xmassy Books for December:

Unwrapping HanieEmpi Baryeh; What’s that? Internet meet up, second chance after asshole ex, sexy mild control play in bed, and a bloke who feels a friend connection as well as a ‘i want to mount you and not on my wall’ connection? Yes, please! May I have another? No seriously, I really hope Empi makes this a series, it’s glorious and hot and adorable! Also features some great Best Friending scenes which is always a delight!

To Tempt a Scoundrel Christi Caldwell; So much a favourite I am using it to lure my mum into abandoning Heyer for Caldwell. All the Caldwellian hallmarks are here: warm, enchanting characters who you root for, delicious Austen Misunderstanding ™, a passel of characters you just know will get their own books and you’ll love them too, and in this case a description of Christmas in the era that makes you feel cosy and xmassy for your own!

Dance All NightAlexis Daria; When I read this, I immediately bought a paper copy because this is a read-in-the-coffee-shop-while-drinking-seasonal-hot-chocolate kinda book. It’s adorable and steamy and a literal tick off christmas items book that you will cheer for! It’s a sequel but absolutely stand alone able!

Snowed In Rhoda Baxter; If you don’t want angst, just a romance as soft as big ol’ snowflakes and warm as cocoa, this is the one for you! STEM, rich woman and lovely chap are snowed in a village pub and bond and it’s just flawless start to finish! Perfect for those who work Xmas Eve and need to get into the spirit of the holidays STAT!

One Mistletoe WishAC Arthur; There is something unbelievably satisfying in reading about someone who 100% deserves happiness getting happiness. Fruits of labours – sorted! Sexy rich man blowing into town is also wonderfully told. She makes him work for it and I love it!

I still do not understand the damn wordpress block system at all so this is going here and not at the end. Professionalism? What’s that?

Though I am a pagan I do love me the warmth and fulfilling joy of Xmas novels! If you have not partaken before, now is the time!

Thank you and I hope you find something wonderful to get you in the mood for the cold nights – or hot if you’re in the southern hemisphere. And if there is nothing here that tickles your fancy, please check out www.loveafricapress.com. They are a small business specialising in romances about Africa and Africans across many subgenres. If you can’t find something you like there, you haven’t found the store yet 😉 .

Take care, stay cosy, remember that family is earned and you do not have to take shit just because it’s doled out! Have a great solstice and keep the lights burning through the darkest hours and may your chores be fast and your feasting tasty!

Author of the Heart of Gold series with LoveAfricaPress

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Two years later…

I am not the only person to feel that time stopped with the pandemic. It has taken this long for me to be able to leave the house, only to be surrounded by maskless faces. It’ terrifying for one with a damaged immune system. Issues are not solved, merely moved past, and I struggle to write because doing something I live while others struggle to survive fills me with counterproductive, self-indulgent guilt.

But counselling + friends + reminder that my books might make people either smile or AS I CONTINUE TO HOPE say ‘why is this white bitch writing this? i should be writing this’… well I am doing better!

In the meantine reading Empi Baryeh, Christi Caldwell, and Ali Williams is firing my writing pistons and now I just have to get through Kinti’s panic attack without panicking myself! *thumbs up*

Also, I’ve started making my own clothes… because fuck fast fashionand it’s insistence that fat women can’ be tall or curvy and the insistence of plus size shops on selling terfling merch!

reminder: my Golden Heart page has a list of useful books, and soon i’ll add all the stuff i’ve read on Academia because omg that app…

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Apologies for silence and some spoilery research…

Pain is bad. Morphine is helpful, though my hopes that it would take the pain away entirely were misplaced.

The combination? not so great for writing.

Then, of course, we have the US police using protests against their murdering Black people to rise up and form literal death squads and use military tech against unarmed civilians. #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackStoriesMatter so if you like romance, hit me in the comments with a favourite trope or genre and I’ll rec a Black author.

As for the promised hint for the current WIP? onlh this:

Richards, Dona. “The Nyama of the Blacksmith: The Metaphysical Significance of Metallurgy in Africa.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 1981, pp. 218–238. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2784243. Accessed 18 June 2020.

I wrote something, realised I hadn’t read that yet, and when I did I realised I’d used a culturally appropriate metaphor. The characters are real. Always listen to the Voices, peeps!

Anyway… Kinti and Malik won’t write themselves…they’ve had weeks to try!

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Cover Reveal!

Here it is! The official cover from LoveAfricaPress for my medieval romance set in Marrakech. Gorgeous, right!?

So many thanks to Kiru Taye who talked me through what I wanted and, I believe, did this herself.

The model has all Tison’s sexy personality and determination (and I will acknowledge she is more west than east African because I don’t want people to think I didn’t care, but look at that face! …oh, you don’t know Tison yet so… ok, read the book, and then get back to me!)

This book is an m/f medieval romance. Tropes include: employee/employer, RigidSelfControl, public appearances, and self-affirmation. It contains references to past emotional trauma and scenes including misuse of drugs but I kept the angst at that juicy, heart-clenching level rather than hurtful.

I do not claim this book will change your life. I just hope it will make it easier for a while!

And seriously, how gorgeous is that cover!!!

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5 Reasons Every Romance Writer Should Watch Critical Role…

by Holly March

Image of a selection of dice from pixabay.

I get it, four hours a week and years of backstory, it is daunting to get into Critical Role. I assure you, it is worth it! Not least because if you watch Crit Role, you can watch Talks Machina and it is pure, unadulterated joy! Mostly, though, you can learn a lot. This article contains just a few lessons romance authors can learn from Critical Role.

1. Inhabiting Characters: The show is not planned, but each cast member has developed their own character. They know them inside out, and this allows for hooks to grow naturally into the narrative. No need to edit in things that foreshadow, if you know your characters well enough their growth will evolve naturally. [Fjord and Caduceus’ storyline]

Gif of Liam O'Brien
How the heck do I wrap text around an image in this stupid block system?

2. Self Parody: We cannot take ourselves super seriously. We write for joy. It is when you take yourself too seriously that you start trying to copywrite words and direct hate towards someone for something you deliberately take out of context. We need to be serious about diversity, not be precious about our genre. The recent campaign has lovingly parodied romance and erotica as a plot point. From Jester’s realisation that love is not the way it is in romance novels to reading smut outloud to keep ghosts at bay, Critical Role shows how important and soft our genre is. [Tusk Love]

3. Leading by Example: At the risk of being creepy… There are two married couples in the cast: Marisha Ray and Matthew Mercer; Laura Bailey and Travis Willingham. Watching them watch each other is pure romance inspiration. The group are all close friends, but catching the adoration and “yup, I married that!” moments is gorgeous. Bonus: Talks Machina is also great for this, as until recently the host, Brian W. Foster was in a long distance relationship with his girlfriend and now fiancee the sublime actress Ashley Johnson. The way he supported her while hating being apart from her is a love story all in itself. [throughout the show and in the talk show]

Gif of Laura and Travis
No, seriously, it doesn’t wrap the text, it’s weird…

4. Subplots: The bane of my existance (along with pacing) proves no problem for the cast. There is a constant ebb and flow of whose story is the central focus, and be it finding romance novels in every city they go to or one of the company stocially reading a book to improve her stats, there are always little threads running through and giving respite after emotional scenes. Most of the time. Sometimes they just break your heart. [The Sword, Nott’s family]

5. Adapting to the Unexpected: Sometimes your characters just will not do what they are supposed to and sometimes the dice hate you. Since Critical Role is a Tabletop Roleplay Game (TTRPG) everything that happens is dependent on the dice. Sometimes a big moment becomes a crushing defeat. If nothing else Critical Role is an inspiration for how to move on when you run into block, or a plothole, or write yourself into a corner. Adapt, turn it on its head, make it a teachable moment for your characters or yourself.

And if I couldn’t convince you… I am sure this will:

Video of the Mighty Nein Critical Role intro sequence

I promise you, it is worth it. You need creative input to continue to create. You need smething to love and be passionate about other than your book or you’ll implode. There are tears in there, and heartache, and fury, but there is so, so, so much joy. And so many lessons to be learned.

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10 Medieval Weapons every Woman should wield against her enemies…

This is a response to a need on twitter. It is couched in gendered terms as a means of satire against the lists created for “women” on the internet. TERFs are not welcome here.

Of course, any abled person can wield these weapons, and many are adaptable for those in wheelchairs. People who use crutches are advised to use poison against enemies instead.

The Hunga Munga

The Hunga Munga ROCKS!

There is a scene in Buffy where a little white girl uses it but this beeyatch is african through and through. It can be used to cut through dense jungle undergrowth and your enemies. Best of all? It’s a frickin’ throwing weapon too. You can hurl it at their retreating backs after they think they’ve won an argument by being supremacist and snotting off in a strop!

The Long Bow and Flat Bow

The Long Bow is a stone cold classic.

Developed by the welsh (booyah), particularly by welsh mercenaries and the southern kingdoms, it could pierce plate armour, fire for 600 yards at high accuracy, and have three rounds of ammunition in the air at once.

It is problematic for big boobs, though, as you can only pull to half draw.

The Indigenous American flatbow is a great alternative, as it is lighter and easier to use on horseback.

The Crossbow

The crossbow was invented both by the chinese and the genoese (but given Genoa’s command of trade at the time, it’s possible they just nicked the idea and told Europe they’d invented it). Using a mechanism to fire it requires less training than the longbow. Some versions even have a winch to make loading the darn thing easier so you don’t need uber strength to get a bolt in there.

There are hand held versions these days that fit beautifully in one’s handbag.

medieval dagger with a long slender blade – antique hand weapon with bone handle, isolated with clipping path

The Dirk is an awesome weapon. It’s pretty! Look at that nice sharp blade and elegant but understated handle!

The dirk is a great defensive weapon since it can be disguised in a long skirt or floofy sleeve but the long blade cuts deep, seeking out internal organs and sliding past ribs and through muscle.

Best places are under the armpit while hugging or into the femural arteries while being forced to your knees.

The Quarterstaff or Bowstaff are both excellent weapons. Traditionally associated with Little John as a weapon of strength, it actually takes a lot of skill to wield effectively. Katas are a must.

And I didn’t want to not credit but there are loads of pictures of Critical Role character Beauregard using her bowstaff and it is AWESOME.

If you have the dexterity, this is one for you!

The Javelin

While the southern welsh kingdoms were developing the bow, the northerners stuck to the old Briton weapon – the Javelin.

Up close it could be used like a bowstaff, but the plan was to throw it during a charge, and then retrieve it for close quarters combat.

Additionally, after a battle the points could be retrieved and affixed to other staves. So this weapon is thrifty AND recyclable!

Illustration of a Roman swords

Short swords are a blast.

The ambidexstrous among you can even dual wield in your duels. Smart and varied, the short sword doesn’t wear you down before you get to fighting, but still packs a heft thanks to that flat, wide blade.

Don’t forget they can be used defensively too, blocking incoming blows from your enemies.

The Khopesh

The Khopesh is the most beautiful weapon ever and I will fight you on this. That scythe-like blade (often in bronze because of the era it was designed) and a horn or wooden handle, it all screams class.

Your enemies will envy your style, I promise you, if you come at them with this ancient Egyptian beauty!

The Flail (often confused with the Mace), is an elegant weapon when used right and a bit of a menace to the beginner. Often light-weight to make switching weapons on horseback easier, it is also therefore not going to slow your charge.

The spikes pierce, and the ball bludgeons, but the speed of your strike should keep the swing going around for the follow through, so you shouldn’t have to yank it out of too many skulls.

But the best weapon for the lady of today to smite her enemies is the mutha-truckin’ war chariot. How could you do better than to emulate Boudicca herself? (Well… I mean Ameridas actually won against the romans…but i digress)

Blades on the wheels to cut through their legs, archers on the back, and horses trained for battle. The javelin makes a great combo with this utter winner of a weapon.

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I am going to be published!

I am so very excited!

Love Africa Press is going to publish my story Her Golden Eyes (I suck at titles so this is a working title! I’m kinda hoping the editors will be able to find a catchier one!) This press is a digital publisher with the aim of promoting and spreading stories about Africa and African characters with a love of the continent. There is an amazing article with them here. It lays out the mission statement and attitude of the women running the press and I am beyond honoured that my story will be part of this press.

This would not have happened without The Pink Heart Society and #UKRomChat and is a real testament to how putting work in and being willing to help people out and be yourself can go a long, long way.

This story was the third medieval romance I wrote. The first was lady and knight, very safe, and the second was a pirate prince set on the Isle of Mann. The advice I was given by Harlequin was to write something no one else could, and since I had been whining about the lack of medieval African romances, I leapt into another of the regions my online RP had lightly stepped into and Sabbah and Tison happened. I am so excited to share them with people and to have the chance – if nothing else – to work with an editor and improve my craft.

Once I discovered the #OwnVoices movement I was very worried that I was submitting and being one of those authors who sensationalises other races and cultures. Huge props to Ahmad Fathy, who beta’d the book for me and gave the greatest compliment I could have received, that I had “perfectly captured the conservative Arabic man in love“. He also, as a fantasy reader primarily, got a little sick of being told how hot and muscled Sabbah is. Bless him for sticking with it, and for always encouraging me to believe in the book. Without him I would never have had the courage to send Kiru Taye the story when she asked about it during UKRomChat.

I am going to put up links to Love Africa Press and I really recommend you check them out. You can get a lot of the books through Kindle at the least. I LOVE Kiru Taye’s books especially so this is like someone from Delta Rae tapped me on the shoulder and said “You sing really well!” or something.

This is still sinking in and I am still occasionally texting my best friend and saying OH MY GODS, KIRU TAYE LIKES MY BOOK! let alone the fact I am actually contracted to be published next year.

I have a list going of people who book blog. Preference will be given to medieval and African/Afro-Caribbean bloggers but if you will be interested in my medieval Marrakech romance for your blog or booktube, please let me know! I will get ten copies to give away and only one is earmarked for definite so far!

If I have any advice to offer in the “how did you get published” vein, it’s write your fanfic, write your RPs, be yourself on social media, and if someone asks for help GIVE IT! I was so nervous about becoming a Content Editor for Pink Heart Society and I still have months where my executive dysfunction just says NOPE! CAN’T! TOO SIMILAR TO BAD TIME IN LIFE! which is also why I can’t use facebook. I did not know why UKRomChat would want to talk to ME and why on earth would anyone pay attention when there are legit authors either side of me. If I hadn’t been talking about past writing, I would not have been picked up by Kiru Taye.

Oh, and do your research. I have read books on medieval islam, west african empires and tradition, the trade routes, the political stuff… I have researched birds and insects and vermin… you need to know when foods were introduced along the silk road and the Saharan trade routes… You need the terminology. You need to know the difference between slavery in medieval Arabic Africa and the devastating evil of slavery in the 15th to 19th centuries. You need to respect that just because you don’t believe something, your character does! I have a Christian and a Muslim character and I’m a brythonic pagan witch who practices energy magic, for pete’s sake. Don’t be one of those people writing about Sheikhs as just exotic dukes with harems. It is so cringey that those are still published, and I know that it’s bad to cast shade but… you know…

It’s 2019, people…

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My Archetypes Articles So Far…

My Archetypes pieces are the price The Pink Heart Society pays for my editing. I love writing them. In a recent interview with #UKRomChat I said it might be a side effect of my Aspergers, but I see patterns in words the way some see them in Magic Eye pictures.

These articles are about characters, pitfalls in writing them, and how best to pair them off…all in my ever so very humble opinion…

The early ones may contain language I’ve yet spotted which contains linguistic bias for a binary gender system. I edit them out as I notice them, because just because a habit is ingrained doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to change, and I am trying. If you see mistakes where I’ve said “both genders” or something like that, please tell me.

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#UKRomChat Interview

On Monday I was the honoured guest of #UKRomChat, a hashtag group for romance authors to chat and learn from each other within the bounds of GMT or BST, rather than having to stay up until four am for the ones in the US or Oz…


It was bloody scary in the lead up but everyone was amazing, and so supportive, even when Shropshire internet did it’s thing in the last ten minutes, meaning the chat had to overrun.


I’ve collected and cleaned up my answers, in case anyone’s interested, because I got very scrambled and forgot what question I was answering at one point and *gestures*


Q1: Hi Holly, please tell us about yourself and the books that you have written.

I’ve been telling stories and writing them all my life (mostly fantasy, but I wrote 170,000 of a hard history based on the wars fought by Gruffudd and Maredudd ap Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd but I knew I was working towards the tragic ending and it was affecting my depression). It wasn’t until i switched to romances that i finished any! I’ve written three medieval romances, set in different countries (Warwickshire, England; The Isle of Mann, at the time part of the independent Isles; and Marrakech, Morocco.

This was before i became fully aware of the movement and realised that some white chick on the welsh border should not be telling stories based in medieval africa…there is such a small space allotted for black authors, especially in romance… For a white historian to tell a story where the culture is intrinsic to the characters is not fair… not when so many black authors are trying to break into a heavily biased industry.

but yeah, romances… 75000 words, 4000 words a chapter… the format helped! none are published, but i had a beta reader tell me i “captured the struggle of a conservative arabic man in love” which was awesome! He is Egyptian and has been nagging me for a sequel despite my above argument about white people taking story space from authors of colour ever since he Betad.

Q2. Regarding , please tell us all about your fairy tale adaptations. They sound awesome!

Squee! All right, they were meant to be a frickin’ side project. And then i got really involved in the world-building. They are sole POV romances with a heavy dollop of self-empowerment and friendship. They are shapeshifter fairy tales in an iron age setting.

I am currently writing Cinderella, under the title Ashwolf© but the main characters for Icemirror (The Snow Queen) and as yet untitled Snow White have been introduced.

I started writing them, as I said, as a silly side project. I love paranormal romances (Ann Aguirre, Margo Bond Collins, Kiru Taye, Michelle Osgood), and I love Fairy Tale Adaptations (May Sage, Julia Quinn, Shana Galen, Marissa Meyer). Sticking them together and trying to write the way I wrote fanfic was the plan. They took over from the “main project”, my first foray into high fantasy since uni bitches mocked me out of it. Suddenly I was fleshing out this world and loving the characters and now they are my fricking life…

alar by Nico Houle

Please enjoy this commission from artist Nico Houle of my Love Interest Alar. He is actually a red head but the style of art is all stark colours. And I love the expression! It’s so my soft, beta leader!

I believe Nico is available for commissions again and I really recommend him. He was super friendly and understanding of my embarrassed faceclaim choice and that since I’d not asked for a commission before I had no idea what to ask. Genuinely nice lad, and clearly super talented!


Q3. It’s autism awareness month. Do you find your autism impacts on your writing?

This is the first time I am writing an autistic character… my romances were attempts at writing people who didn’t think like me… i was being told “women don’t think like that”! Well, I do! When I see a man I think is hot i DO just tell him. When I get a potential boyfriend I bring up sex as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait til your wedding night to find out he wants to bring a dog into the equation…

But yes, i am writing people who think like me and it is soooooo much easier… i was trying to write for Harlequin… like to the formula… and it just does not work for me! I love reading them so I thought I could write neurotypical romance as though I could translate it somehow…

So instead i’m writing these daft things with mental health issues and neurodiversity instead! (Thank you to the people who said they wanted more of these! I promise you from now on I’ll only be writing people who think like I do. Pity the beast in Beauty and the Beast. She’s getting my M.E.)

Autism made research for the medieval stuff easier… retention of little facts, stuff like that… i am autistic… but instead of baseball cards or the names of one hit wonders, i threw myself into medieval history… so i can tell anecdotes about kings and princes 800 years dead the way most people talk about kardashians!

It helps with world-building and planning that i am so visual… I do mindmaps, actual maps, great branching diagrams about what I want to accomplish, which tropes I want to use, what I want the characters to feel and how they will arc.

The executive dysfunction side of it is a… ahem… a camel. Basically i want to open my laptop. I am next to my laptop. And i can’t open it. I just can’t… my hands flex… and i stare at it… and i can’t… and I only learned that was an autistic thing last year… i kept assuming it was some character weakness in myself. But yeah that sucks!

But autism has only just with this project begun to influence my characters… because i want to just write without having to go “do normals think like this?” So my character is blunt and curious… she is fascinated by new things… she trips over her own head…like i am doing!

Lucy Keeling then asked: What do you have to do, or what helps you to get typing or keep typing?

Some days i have to accept i am not going to be able to write… like getting a migraine… sitting in front of it and feeling like crap won’t help! i have playlists of character songs, i have aesthetics and wallpapers… i have fancasts to look at… and i have my notebook for worldbuilding so if i can’t write i’ll go in there and talk about traditions and games people play and stuff… anything to keep my head in the game, as HSM taught us!

Q4. Are there any misconceptions about autism that you come across in your own reading? What can writers do to educate themselves about autism and neurodiversity?

ok so first off the hashtag, and you need to be following @NeuroRebel Amazing! Keep far from AutismSpeaks… they’re the sort of organisation that thinks it’s caused by vaccines, and should be cured. They preach actual eugenics. So you get parents who are led astray with the “hope” that their kid will be “normal” some day… it’s understandable! I am an Aspie. I’m fortunate. I can mask, I can communicate, I got a frickin’ degree even if that and a year in an office broke my mind because people suck.

There are people whose children cannot understand the connection between “I need the loo” and “my pants are full of shit”. And that fucking sucks. That is hard. But people get so focused on how hard it is for the parents not having a normal kid that they forget that the child is a person, an entity, who is clearly not responding to the teaching techniques that work for a NT child.

Autism is not a mental health problem. It’s a lumping together of anyone who doesn’t think the way the majority do… and not like agreement wise, but rather synapses and neurological pathways in the brain. And there are so many different variations but we’re all just stuck together kinda like People Whose Favourite Colour is Red being a majority so anyone whose favourite colour is something else being the Non Red People

One of the reasons i didn’t ever think i was autistic was that i hate maths… and all autistic people are like… super good at maths or art… Bones, House, NCIS… all these shows portraying autistic kids as these artistic geniuses who can predict the frickin’ future with their art… The exception I’d state is that Boston Legal’s portrayal of a lawyer with asperger’s was good! It was massively exaggerated, like… he had ALL THE TICS! ALL THE BEHAVIOURAL ODDITIES and they didn’t really understand what stimming was, but yeah… that was good. Parents used to laugh and go “that’s so like Holly” in his scenes.

Anyway, if you know the fantasy/DnD alignment of Neutral Good… Chaotic good etc… autism is a lot more like that… my nephew is Chaotic Neutral. I’m firmly in Order. I can’t disobey rules! When nephew visits we get on fine… most of the time… but if we clash it’s because he needs a good reason to follow an instruction while i’m like CADET YOU WERE GIVEN A DIRECT ORDER… so we clash… which cerebrally is fascinating!

Autism is a spectrum. So sure, have a stressed single mum with her kid who draws all the time and leaves his toys everywhere and needs constant attention… but also remember that there’s the kid who talks all the time, happily occupies themself, and has learned to feel guilt already if they are too noisy.


Q5. What does your role at the PHS involve?

People send in their articles, and I copy and paste them into the website’s dashboard thingey, and format them to the specifications of the site so everything is nice and tidy and on brand! and i attach stock photos to illustrate points which is a struggle because there are not enough stock pictures of POC, gay couples, and especially not enough gay couples who aren’t white and hipster as all get out…

i also write articles when i can, especially my Archetypes series where i choose two romance stock characters and talk about pitfalls, cliches, and how to best match them off with other archetypes… (i think this is an austistic thing too, seeing the patterns in books…) it also gives me an excuse to plug my favourite authors over and over again! mwahahaah!

Q6. You share our passion for promoting diversity in romance. How does the PHS go about this?

just looking at the Meet the Team part of the website shows you how many ethnicities we have represented, though that isn’t how people are chosen. There’s no PHS quota or guideline for including mentions of different ethnic writers or sexualities or genders. But we try… individually we try… and Trish, who runs the site, is genuinely awesome and our content commissioner, Ali, is a paladin!

Over christmas, for example, we had christmas reads, hannukah reads, a piece about paganism… i was worried when i started that i might have to sneak in diversity but it’s just calmly expected… we would like to get more representation for LGBTQIA+ people and in advertising books, but since they’re a marginalised group (IT IS NOT A ****ING GENRE, PUBLISHING) there is less capital for advertising…

Whenever i do an archetypes article i try and make sure i don’t use the term “both genders” which is exclusionary to non-binary and intersex people especially… i try and include romances that aren’t purely heterosexual…and content editor is always up for articles about diversity… after another year of heavily white-weighted awards at the RWA RITAs we went back and forth and the new edition has a list of books by Ali’s favourite black authors to choose from…i also have a typed up and tied together article of a questionaire that three amazing trans and non binary writers filled in for me about how allocisgender writers can include and portray trans characters… every little helps, i hope!

Q7. What’s your favourite historical period and who is your favourite historical romance author?

I was dreading this one… my favourite era is the 12th Century.

As in I do not think about anything after 1200 because that is the year all hope ended for the welsh… it all went downhill.

But i prefer to read regency to victorian… reading medieval tends to……make me think “how would i write this? what would i include here… oh… that sort of butter churning wasn’t introduced for another seven years… book ruined…” both Elisabeth Hobbes and Kiru Taye are in the chat and i recommend both so, so highly (Kiru Taye’s Men of Valor trilogy is gloriously sexy)!

But…I think anyone who follows me knows my fave historical author is Christi Caldwell. She writes early to mid 19th century and she writes so, so fast and at such high quality, which is daunting but so good for a reader! she knows just how i like it! and is lovely! She does the Misunderstandings and Tragic Sacrifices so well that they never feel forced. And I love it! I love that heart-breaking, chest-freezing bit of the book where you wonder how the happy ending will come about.

Q8. Last year you recorded a podcast series called From The World Up. What inspired this and do you have any tips for hosting a podcast?

I am currently writing fantasy but I have so much medieval knowledge, especially of the day to day minutiae, that was just going to waste. I wanted to share it, to help people who are DMing for Dungeons and Dragons, or writing fantasies set in a medievally background, to fill out their worlds realistically. To stop them having those moments where they have someone use a mechanism that only would have existed if something else did blah blah blah…

And advice?

yeah… don’t listen to your own damn recordings…

I wanted to keep doing one a fortnight, but i wanted to check my sound levels were equal and i hate my own voice… executive dysfunction on them ever since! It sucks…

But mainly, pick something you find interesting. not something that is trending… i love medieval history and since i’m writing fantasy romance atm a lot of the knowledge was just sitting there, doing nothing as I said so *gestures*. It was a way of spreading the love.


Q9. What are the most important things to consider when world-building?

That what might be your hero being amazing to you, might be “oh look, even in fantasy a white dude has to save us…”

We have to learn from the Eddingses and even the Tolkiens and ensure that fantasy moves away from eurocentricness…just take a step back and think “are my orcs like… super russian? do they need to be?” “do i really want a society with slaves just to show they’re the baddies?” after that… google your names, city names, religion names, everything followed by “translation”. You don’t want to suddenly find out five books in that your capital is called City of Butts in Malay.

Q10. And to our last but not least question. What is it about writing the Happily Ever After that you love?

I have chronic depression. I’ve survived suicidal nights reading romances back to back. They give me joy, happiness, and i can only read books with happy endings because of my head. I want to give that to others. Plus if i didn’t the Voices would kill me.

So yeah if anyone ever sneers at you for writing romance novels, tell them you’re saving lives… because you are…

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