Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Drive to Develop a Writing Practice

Look for the cover reveal for SHADOW WIZARD, book one in Renegades of Magic, the new trilogy continuing the Bonds of Magic epic tale! I'm getting the preorders set up today and plan to do the cover reveal on Instagram tomorrow, August 11, 2022. Members of my private Facebook group, Jeffe's Closet, may get a sneak peek ;-)

This week at the SFF Seven, we're asking: how has your writing practice changed over time?

It's interesting because the topic-suggester framed it as "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - my college French demanded I get the saying correct - which is a French saying that acknowledges that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In other words, that surface details may alter over time, but the essence of the thing, the recognizable cycle of events, is fundamentally inalterable. Often it's applied to history. So this suggests that our writing practice may change over time, but it also stays the same. Is this this case?

I'm saying no, at least for me. My writing practice has changed considerably since my newbie days. I was reflecting recently that, as a teen and young woman, I didn't really know how to apply myself to improving at a task. This largely came from the fact that, in school all the way through high school, I could get by without really trying. I had a good auditory and visual memory, and I tested well, so I didn't need to work hard to get A's. (Except in math, which I thought I wasn't good at, even though they put me in accelerated math classes. Turns out I likely wasn't good at it because I didn't like math, so I didn't listen in class. Oops.) In college and grad school, a number of professors began riding me to apply myself, to study and do the practice problems. I kind of tried to - especially when I had to retake Immunology for my biology major and really didn't want to have to retake second semester of organic chemistry - but there was a major problem: I didn't know how to study.

I remember thinking I needed to learn how to study, but I was mostly flailing about. It was only when I had novel deadlines to meet that I got very good at refining my ability to work in concentrated ways, incrementally, day after day. I don't often think of messages I'd like to give to my younger self, but I now wish I could advise that college student, that graduate student, to develop the habit of working for a couple of hours every morning. This is my best brain time. If I had done that in school, if I had spent just that much time working practice problems and reviewing the material, I likely would have done much better.

Of course, then I might have ended up as a research scientist after all, when I'm so happy as a novelist. Maybe it took working on something I truly cared about to inspire me to develop the practice to do it. Que sera, sera!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Ever-Evolving Process of Writing

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose:
How has my writing practice changed over time?

For those who aren't French speakers (like me), Merriam-Webster defines the translation as The more things change, the more they stay the same. It's a quote attributed to French novelist Karr. Now that I'm momentarily smart(er), I'll tell you what has changed in my writing process over the last two decades.

I plot. Not too deeply. Skeleton. Too much info winds up killing my joy of exploration as the story unfolds. Also, I plot to make sure I have one strong throughline, a general sense of character dev, and the foundation of world rules. More than that, and I'm wasting time on things that won't make it into the draft because the fullness of storytelling inevitably reveals surprises and twists that obliterate the details in an overplotted outline.

I've discovered I have a particular style in which--if a new chapter occurs in a setting different from the last chapter--I will open the chapter by setting the stage. I can't mentally progress with the scene if I don't have the staging clear in my head, thus clearly described on the page. To me, establishing the sensory experience for the reader is important for them to continue the journey with the POV character. It's by no means a "rule" of writing. It's purely my personal quirk. If I don't do it, I will stare at a blank page wondering why the hell the words won't flow. 

I've also learned that when I suffer Work Avoidance it's because I've fucked up something in a recent chapter that's preventing the story from continuing as it should. Events may fit within the scope of the plot but something, something, is amiss. It could be the way the Protag approaches the issue is wrong for the character--it fails to consider trauma, personality, or relationships. Or it could be that I've gone overboard with the conflict and left myself no room for escalation of risk later in the book. Or it could be that actions and consequences aren't suitably balanced. I have to return to the last two or three chapters I've written to find the glitch and repair it so I can get back on the train to Donesville. 

Most of all, I've learned not to fight my process. It is what it is...and it is continually evolving.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Listen! You Smell Something? A Sensory Exercise


While “Listen! You smell something?” is a brilliant comedic line in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, it also hits a home run in the way lines like that engage our brain. Confusion is king. I’ll talk about that at the end. 

Engaging all five senses is a powerful tool in writing, but today I’ll talk about the benefits of using them to calm anxiety.

Writers? Anxious? Nah . . .

Let’s start with 5-5-5 breath. Pick a spot ahead of you, ideally just above your comfortable line of sight but no neck craning, just slightly above straight ahead. Focus on that spot. Breathe in for five, hold for five, exhale for five. Repeat until your body is calm and relaxed. Then return to normal relaxed breathing for this next section. 

Keep looking ahead and use your senses to pick out:

5 things you see (either in your mind or peripheral vision)

4 things you feel (your feet on the ground, pillow underneath your head)

3 things you hear (electronics, or maybe just ringing in your ears)

2 things you smell (hmm, what did the cat just do?)

1 thing you taste (thinking of a taste may be simpler)

It may be more comfortable to close your eyes after you’ve picked out things you see. That’s perfectly fine. It can help you tune in more to the other senses.

Warning, you may doze off before you finish. Still, if you don’t, those heart palpitations caused by your nerves will have stopped by the time you get to the end.


If not, try 7-11 breathing to start. In for seven, out for eleven. It’s another terrific breathing technique that calms the body. 

Once you’ve found yourself in that super relaxed state, allow yourself to stay there a while. Make note of what else you’re sensing. Tune into your body and your surroundings. 

When you are ready to come out, simply wiggle your fingers or toes to bring your body back to a more conscious state. Get up, stretch if it feels good and move on with your day. 

Try that any time you feel anxious or simply want to tune into yourself and relax. What you come away with may surprise you.

You can also use a modified version of the above to do self-hypnosis. 

First, set an intention. What are you asking of your subconscious mind? Are you re-programming your mind to overcome a bad habit? A feeling? Pain? Our minds are powerful, you’d be amazed what you can accomplish. 

Set that intention and then a time frame. Tell yourself to come out of it in, say 15 minutes, or whatever works for you. 

Instead of 5-4-3-2-1 with the sense we’ll focus on three of them.

3 things you can see

3 things you can hear

3 things you can feel

Next repeat with 2 of each and then one of each. If more is needed, then repeat, this time from the bottom up--all the while focusing on that spot in front of you. Your eyes should feel tired. Do it until your eyelids just can’t stay open any longer. Then relax and enjoy the trance while your unconscious mind makes all the necessary changes.

Can you make lasting change in one session? Yes. 

Does it often take multiple sessions? Also yes.

Each one of us is different, so there is no “perfect” way. 

Whether self hypnosis or a simple few moments to calm an anxious mind, both techniques will help shift your mindset and leave you in a better frame of mind.

So what about the confusion I mentioned earlier? 

Confusion stops someone in their tracks. The downward spiral is interrupted. My hypnosis instructor told a story of confusing a client by pretending to smell his own watch every time she started her downward self-loathing spiral. She’d stop, ask him what he was doing. It would start a conversation that redirected her thinking. 

So, say you feel okay but you’re dealing with someone who is on edge, obsessing about something and heading into a spiral. Try “Listen! You smell that?” and see what happens. 

If they don’t laugh, they’ll still stop the downward spiral with a “What?” which may be enough to get them to stop.

You’re welcome.

Vee R. Paxton, your friendly neighborhood paranormal romance author and certified hypnotist.

Vee R. Paxton is a transplanted Midwesterner living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Portland and New York City are her two favorite places she's lived (although she loves her hometown in Missouri too!) 
She's passionate about storytelling and reading amazing stories. She's guardian to a sweet Bengal kitty cat, she worked in NYC theater, taught martial arts and also is trained in Reiki and hypnosis.

Friday, August 5, 2022

All Systems Go

 I'm wicked late to the game this week. It's been a week. Layoffs at work. Drama. DRAMA. But I can finally breathe again. And I came here simply to tell you that I managed to catch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral yesterday. I geeked all the way out. Maybe you can hear it in my voice in this video: 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

A Process to Everything


Green stalks of salmon-pink hollyhocks stretching up to a blue sky with sun shining through the blossoms

There is so much, and at the same time, so little on my mind. 

Today I sat in my garden and watched the sunshine peek through my hollyhocks. I planted these stalks from seed. Watered them. Weeded around them. Dreamt of how lovely the blossoms would be. And, at long last, admire them. 

But one thing I didn’t plan for was the variety of life buzzing around the flowers. There are more types of bees in this flower bed than I knew existed! There are hoverflies and butterflies, beetles and moths, fliers and crawlers I can’t name. It’s amazing!

And all of that is like writing a book.

It starts off by cultivating an idea. Then you weed out the bad details so the good stuff has room to spread. You dream about the plot and characters. And then you type The End. But the real magic happens after that when your book is out in the world, surrounded by life, interacting with life. And it’s amazing.

Happy daydreaming, friends!

What’s on your mind this week?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

LONEN'S WAR Now in Audio!

 On my mind this week is the audiobook release of LONEN'S WAR

A little while back, I sold the audio rights for this self-published series, Sorcerous Moons, to Scribd. Megan Frampton is my editor there and she's been great to work with. Many thanks to Agent Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency for negotiating the deal. I feel like I should give Sarah a special shout-out because it's really great to have an agent who supports the indie side of my career, too. She invested a lot of time and energy into getting me the best possible contract with Scribd. Another plus: Scribd gave me a free subscription for a year! This is pretty amazing since other audiobook publishers of my books have refused to provide me with copies of my audiobooks. If I want to listen to my own freaking book on audio, I have to buy it. 


Not so with Scribd! I've been super pleased with the process of working with them. There was a SNAFU in the original recording and they fixed it by re-recording the first three books. It set the production schedule back but they did it without complaint and I was impressed by their professionalism. 

The ensuing five books will be out on the following (tentative) schedule:

#2 ORIA'S GAMBIT August 16
#3 THE TIDES OF BARA September 13
#4 THE FORESTS OF DRU September 27
#6 LONEN'S REIGN October 25

Also, LONEN'S WAR is now wide and should be available on all retailer platforms. Print is coming any day now and just wait to see how super cool the set is together with the new covers! 
Very exciting to see this rejuvenation of my first entirely self-pubbed series. 

In other news...

Look for the cover reveal and preorder link for SHADOW WIZARD, Book #1 in Renegades of Magic, the trilogy that picks up after  Bonds of Magic! Look for SHADOW WIZARD coming September 29, 20222! Here's a sneak peek of the cover:

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Dear WiP: I Don't Love You Anymore

On My Mind This Week: Falling Out of Love w/ the WiP

I'm breaking up with my WiP. Tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. Soon, for sure. You see, I don't love it anymore. Our interactions are contentious. We spend a lot of time glaring and snarling at each other. Words written are words erased. Progress is ephemeral. We're not gaining anything from this relationship. When we started this adventure, we had shared goals, attainable milestones, and bright dreams of success. Now, key dates have flown past in silent swiftness as we endure another day of each other's presence. Outlines have burned to ashes, their mocking laughter drowned out by our mutual derision. I've given you space to work out your issues, yet you insist the fault is solely mine. 

I can't continue like this. 

We're breaking up.

Once we finish this chapter.

We're through after this.

Or maybe the next one. 

I mean it. 

Just one more chapter.

No, really. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Slow Writing and Herding Cats on the Way to Mordor


Photo by Nikhil Prasad on Unsplash

Before I became a published creative writer, I was an academic author. The academic publishing industry is a different racket–a very lucrative one, in fact. Higher education institutions grant the degrees and pay the salaries of the academics who research and write the papers and books that, in turn, the universities and colleges then buy for their libraries. The Guardian quipped, “It is as if the New Yorker or the Economist demanded that journalists write and edit each other’s work for free, and asked the government to foot the bill.” 

Being used to a safety net, I pursued traditional publishing avenues first and secured a contract with a boutique romance publisher for my paranormal shifter romance series. 

Two ideas anchored my decision. 

The first is that I am a slow writer. I can write reliably and well (I am an English professor, after all), but I need to mull and ponder as I scribble on many, many, many sheets. Adding in my ADHD means that most things in my life take longer than they might for others. My perfectionist tendencies–carefully honed in my academic career–also mean I find it difficult to let go of my work before I have reworked it multiple times. As a result, the 20 books to 50K method is not for me: publishing a book a month, or even every three months, is impossible. I do not mean to disparage anyone who has success with this model. I just know myself and my limits. 

The second is that I want to write books that people will read. In my academic field, I can guarantee that a dozen people will read my latest paper on apocalyptic imagery in the Middle English translation of Catherine of Siena’s revelations, and I have presented papers to thirty or forty people at a time (yes, my field really is that small). With the prospect of reaching hundreds of readers–maybe even more some day?–in mind, I happily pored over Calls for Submissions from smaller publishers as I considered ways to get my foot in the door. I’m not afraid to write to market and I’m used to editors telling me to revise my work, especially if it means my stories will find readers. The experience of working with a traditional publisher is a fantastic way for me, at this stage in my life and writing career, to learn the ropes and reach an audience.

And yet…

I have many friends who are self-published and I hope one day to have the confidence to do this. The shiny prize of higher royalties glimmers out of reach, as I consider all the responsibilities of indie publishing–so many decisions, so many expenses! It seems overwhelming. This is my opinion, for the point I am on my author journey: not only because I have so much to learn, but also because I am still working full time while establishing myself as a creative author.

I took a step in the indie direction by wangling a spot in the FaRo anthology, Once Upon a Forbidden Desire (pre-order available now). The amazing folks of FaRoFeb, led by HR Moore, have put together a fantastic volume, herding 20 author-cats through the entire publication process, from drafting and revisions, to copy-editing and formatting, and then on to publishing, distributing, and marketing the volume. It has truly been a wonder to watch it come together.

Here are two things I’ve learned from this process:

  1. Collaboration is both wonderful and hard. Academic publishing is bossier and simpler: peer reviewers critique papers; editors make decisions about book covers, formatting, and so on; publishers set the schedule and take care of printing, distribution, and marketing. The academic writer is only one cog in the big machine. In contrast, publishing creative work independently means making a lot of decisions oneself. The FaRo anthology team had to balance the experiences and desires of many strong, autonomous women–all of whom had valuable expertise. The skilful negotiation and consensus-building I witnessed revealed the big heart of the group. There was so much curiosity, patience, willingness to listen and learn, and a strong desire to lift everyone up that inspired me to no end. I am grateful to be a part of this group because they make me better–not just a better writer (and having had the honor of copy-editing and proofreading several of the papers allowed me to learn from them), but also a better colleague and author.

  1. Indie publishing is not for the faint of heart. It takes drive, smarts, perspicuity, and persistence to succeed. And that doesn’t include the writing part of the author job. We’ve all heard horror stories of someone who slaps some words on a page, sticks it up on Kindle as a book, and then is surprised that nobody reads it–or that they receive terrible reviews. The authors I know are polar opposites to those boogeymen. The amazing women I worked with on this project spent hours pulling together long-tail keywords lists, creating Instagram images and reels, fixing commas, converting ellipses and correcting other formatting errors, preparing ARC reader forms and blog tours, and so many other tasks that it would astound you if you haven’t been through this yourself. It truly felt like our own Fellowship pulling together to get the Ring–erm, book–to the Mordor of KDP and D2D.

I am grateful to have had these first experiences with both traditional and indie publishing. There is no single response to the question of how and where to publish; there are as many answers as there are authors. All of it is part of your individual journey. 

Remember, this is a long trip and you will learn from every experience you have. Don’t forget to pack your pipe-weed and ask for help from your friends!


Mimi B. Rose