Jenn Lyons: What I Learned Writing Blood Sin

Everything is permitted…  and everyone has their price. 

Zander Sin is the bad boy of rock-n-roll, known for his wealth, his temper tantrums, and his love of hedonism, but to K&R expert and newly born maran vampire Jackson Pastor, Zander Sin is something else: murderer, monster, and kidnapper. After Zander’s Whore of Babylon tour comes to Los Angeles, Jackson also learns that Zander Sin has a grudge with Jackson’s family that goes way beyond money or power, and stretches all the way back to ancient Rome. 

Zander may be on everyone’s hit list, human and supernatural alike, but when Jackson learns that Zander’s keeping his younger sister Monika prisoner, he finds himself face-to-face with the most objectionable of outcomes: being forced to help Zander Sin get what he wants. 

Even if it means Jackson may have to betray everyone he loves to do it.

* * *

The Second Book In A Series Is Just As Hard As The First.

Blood Sin is my fourth book, but my first sequel. All the previous books had been in radically different genres with no connection to each other (because sticking to one genre will never be my groove.) Blood Sin, on the other hand, is the sequel to Blood Chimera, book two in an open-ended paranormal mystery series. In some ways that’s easier, since it means that there will be familiar characters and some of the world-building is already done, but everything that’s a benefit is also a constraint, because…well…the characters are familiar and the world-building is already done. I can’t just go around changing things now, or introducing concepts which should have been present in the first book. I’m locked in.

So easier in lots of ways, but also scary.

Stare Into The Abyss Of Language And The Vocabulary Stares Back.

So the monsters in my series are called ‘grendels’ — and as you might expect that translated into reading about the epic poem ‘Beowulf.’ While doing so, I discovered the word ‘aeglaeca,’ which turns out to be a bit problematic. And sexist.

Whoa now. What?

Aeglaeca is a word used to describe Grendel’s mother, and it’s usually translated as meaning ‘monstrous.’ Grendel’s mother is a monster because it says so right there. Monster. See? Print doesn’t lie. And that’s all well and good, but the same word is also often used to describe the titular hero of the story, Beowulf.

Only then the same word is typically translated as ‘heroic.’

Same word. Used the same way. The only difference between how the word is translated into modern English seems to be the gender of the subject, and that translation is one of the main pieces of evidence used to present that Grendel’s mother is a foul bitch-beast. Turns out ‘aeglaeca’ really translates as ‘epic’ or ‘fierce’ — applicable to both heroes and villains. So everything I assumed I knew about Grendel’s mother stemmed from a bunch of scholars who just couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that a woman could try to kick the ass of the man who killed her son without also being a literal monster.

Anyway, I ended up naming a Vegas-style floor show after it, because Blood Sin’s that kind of book.

I Have To Write Faster Than My Demons.

Blood Sin was probably the most trouble-free novel I’ve written to date. I’m pretty infamous for hitting the three-fourths mark of a book and grinding to a halt so I can go back over everything I’ve done and second guess myself in crippling ways, up to and including completely radical rewrites. That didn’t happen this time. Why?

Blood Sin was also the fastest I’ve ever written a novel, and these things are not unconnected. That probably goes against someone’s rules for writing and certainly against popular conceptions of how writing should be, but I have discovered that I do my best writing when I write fast enough to trust my instincts instead of giving my brain time to second-guess my work. How fast? At least two thousand words an hour usually does the trick for me. I can’t keep that up all day — it’s exhausting — but when you’re writing that fast, you don’t need more than a few hours a day.

My Health is an Important Part of This Process.

Around six or so years ago, long before I decided to make this writing thing a permanent part of my raison d’être, I was a freelance illustrator, which fyi, is not an easy way to earn a penny. I worked myself to the ground, spent long periods of time cramming myself into poor ergonomic contortions, and ended up doing permanent damage to my health from which I’ve yet to recover. Back problems, primarily, but also weight gain from being so sedentary, which of course made the back problems worse.

I’m still paying for it.

What I’ve learned from this (besides how important diet is for my overall health and well being) is that ignoring your health is something you will absolutely regret. In some ways, the attention I now pay to my diet and exercise means I’m healthier than I’ve ever been before (especially since I’ve cut sugar out of my diet) but all it takes is one really bad back flare-up to remind me how nice it would have been if I’d done all this before it became a crippling issue. Also? It’s not easy for me to write when I’m doubled over in pain.

So don’t be me, okay?

Always Be Closing.

I work full time. I’m also a fervent gamer who enjoys table-top RPGs and MMOs. I have a lot of hobbies. And I’ve written five books in the last two years (and I’m in the middle of my sixth.) Guess what I don’t do so much anymore? (Hint: I still pay my bills.) I’ve discovered that writing books (and finishing those books) is a choice. It’s not about talent, although that certainly impacts if anyone will want to read my books later. It’s about one single thing: making writing more important than all the other activities that clamor for my free time and energy.

Writing is my BAE, my first priority, the thing I do before TV shows, video games, or hanging out with friends. When that wasn’t true? I also didn’t have any finished books. Probably some kind of connection there…

I have friends who are professional artists, and they draw all the time. ALL THE TIME. When they aren’t drawing, they are watching videos of other artists drawing or they are staring at drawn pictures of Batman pointing a finger at them and saying, “Why aren’t you drawing?”

Writing is exactly the same.

Which isn’t to say I haven’t been playing a lot of video games lately, just that I’m not making any excuses for it the way I used to do.

* * *

Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three cats and a lot of opinions on anything from Sumerian creation myths to the correct way to make a martini. At various points in her life, she has wanted to be an archaeologist, anthropologist, architect, diamond cutter, fashion illustrator, graphic designer, or Batman. Turning from such obvious trades, she is now a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing science fiction and fantasy.

Jenn Lyons: Website | Tumblr | Twitter

Blood Sin: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

8 responses to “Jenn Lyons: What I Learned Writing Blood Sin”

  1. Thanks for this post, Jenn. And I hope your back pain gets better. That has to suck.

    I had a question: my NaNo project is the first book in a series (I’m thinking it might about 5 books). Should I go ahead and write a rough draft for the other four books NaNo? I have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in the other books and I’m not under any pressure to produce or time constraints. I’m very tempted to, especially when it comes to continuity. If anyone else has an opinion or has done this before, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks again!

    • I suppose that’s probably going to depend on how you write, but personally, I’ve avoided creating more than vague outlines for sequels because the plot of the book I’m writing now usually ends up being a moving target. So I too have ideas for how the rest of the series will go, but that may change depending on what this book needs. Example: there’s a character in the first book, Charlie, who was supposed to be a throw-away character. I liked her enough that not only did I not kill her off, but she gained a larger role in the second book.

      So any advance plans I might have made for future books would have been more like…guidelines. I also tend to avoid anything that can be used as justification for not finishing the book in front of me.

      So my advice: finish the first book, then see where you stand.

  2. Ouch, 3/4 of the way through a draft and then second-guessing all the way back to radical rewrites. That hit close to home. I loved your suggestion for how to get around that. I also felt your pain on the book 2 constraints. I was in the middle of a book 2 and decided I couldn’t take following my own rules anymore. I cut all ties. Now I am happily adrift in a new world.

    Good luck with the back. Swimming helps.

    • Thanks! (Swimming does help, but it’s shocking how important diet has been.)

      I don’t think the sequel thing is entirely bad though. The plus side to having rules and constraints is that I was also in comfortable territory, which meant since I could spend more time playing and less exploring the boundaries. The character banter came easier. Pacing flowed better. I had a better grasp of various arcs. On the whole, I think some parts of the second book came together much easier because it was a sequel.

  3. “before I decided to make this writing thing a permanent part of my raison d’être”

    I found this particular notion very comforting. I’ve started and abandoned many stories in the past. I’ve heard many writers talk about feeling a compulsion to write, like it’s something you have to get out of you or you’ll die but I’ve never felt that way. I’ve often wondered if perhaps that meant I shouldn’t be writing. The simple idea that you can *choose* to make writing a reason for being reassures me. It means all I have to do to be a writer is to go write something. Of course, being a *good * writer is a different box o’ rocks.

    Oh, and YAY writing in Georgia! Woo-hoo A-town!

    • I splish-splashed in the kiddie pool of writing for YEARS because I’d bought into the notion that if I were a real writer I would be ‘inspired’ and the ‘the muse would strike.’ That did happen on occasion, but it was never with any reliability. Realizing writing is also a habit changed my whole world. If you haven’t read some of Chuck Wendig’s articles on this (and he has a new book out which talks about it too) I recommend them: he has some damn good advice.

      (Atlanta is awesome. I really love being a writer here.)

  4. I love how you wrote about monsters and then said that you have to write faster than your demons. You mean, you have to be more epic and fierce than they are? 🙂

    These are great lessons learned, thanks.

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