Sunday, November 17, 2019

Authors Mentoring Authors

I love these #shelfie pics - ones readers send me of my book spotted in the wild. This one is from a Kroger grocery store in Anchorage, Alaska. Pretty awesome company it's keeping, huh?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Mentoring: my mentors, ways I've mentored others, how to do it right, how to do it wrong, and whether it's possible to lone-wolf this writing journey.

A lot of writing is done alone, it's true, by its very nature. And I suppose it's possible to "lone-wolf" it, though... why would you want to?

First of all, one of the best perks of being an author is getting to be friends with the authors whose books you love. I highly recommend everyone take advantage of that!

Also, a lot of the industry is stacked against authors. The people who want to make money off of us have their best interests at heart, not ours. (Often these things coincide. Sometimes they don't - and we need to be able to know the difference.) That kind of thing (like paying authors as little as they can get away with) operates best in secrecy. Only by banding together and sharing our insider knowledge can we counteract those attempts to keep us ignorant.

I've had some great mentors all along - teachers, editors, agents, sister writers, business-minded friends - and I'm deeply grateful for each and every one of them. I've done my best to pay that out as well by doing formal mentoring, as with SFWA's mentoring program, and informally by giving advice to friends, and friends of friends, as needed.

How to do it right? My approach is be generous and listen. There is no one-size-fits all solution. Everyone wants different things from their writing. I try to help writers refine their own goals and dreams - and then give feedback on best practices to get there.

How to do it wrong? Just the reverse! Every time I hear some author giving advice like "All you have to do is write a good book" I end up grinding my teeth. If that's all there was to it, we'd all be JK Rowling, right?

This is an apropos topic because I'm moving into a new phase of offering Author Coaching. The information will be going up on my website soon - like, this week! - so keep an eye out for that.

Happy writing, everyone!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

I Write Disasters On Purpose

Our topic this week is one thing we think we do well as an author and one thing we’d like to do better.

I think I’m pretty good at writing the action and adventure in all three of my genres (scifi romance, fantasy romance and paranormal).

Personally I like disaster movies and my plots are kind of along those lines – stuck on the futuristic version of the Titanic, marooned on a deserted planet with the enemy aliens arriving, cruising on an intergalactic luxury liner when a mysterious disease breaks out, rescuing a hostage taken by interstellar pirates, fighting a crime syndicate that spans the stars, abducted by evil alien scientists and making an alliance with genetically engineered soldiers…

My main characters in the SFR novels never lack for challenges and daunting obstacles along the way to the Happy Ever After ending. I enjoy showing the growth of the relationship between my hero and heroine as they’re thrown together by the circumstances and come to respect each other’s skills and personality as they fight shoulder to shoulder to save themselves and others caught in the disaster with them.  I have more time in the pages of a novel to show the relationship developing than a scriptwriter has in a ninety minute or even a two hour movie, so that’s a luxury.

I have the structure of my Sectors interstellar civilization well established, which enables me to visualize the elements of the stories as part of a vast world I’ve already built.

In the ancient Egyptian paranormal novels, the problem usually comes down to some form of black magic, and/or someone committing a crime appropriate to 1550 BCE, like an official skimming grain from Pharaoh’s taxes…but the gods are involved too. Occasionally I get a little more cinematic, as with the lost and hidden city in Lady of the Nile where much of the action takes place but I based it on elements of the Sumerian culture to keep the plot anchored in reality to some extent. Sumeria at its peak was 3000 years or so before my Egyptians. But for those novels I’m not writing huge disaster movie type tropes. The key there is the fascination with the ancient Egyptian culture and how the gods would interact with the humans in these situations…as well as the strong hero and heroine finding themselves in the middle of a situation like a clandestine invasion by an enemy and again, having to work together to resolve the problem to save Egypt. Oh, and falling in love, did I mention that?

The one thing I’d like to do better would be to write big sprawling multi volume novels in a fantasy world where I had plot elements that didn’t pay off until late in the series, or where truths evolve over the course of the series and by the end the reader is marveling that “Oh, I never saw that coming but it makes perfect sense.” I have to mention our Jeffe Kennedy and her Twelve Kingdoms series as my example here – great, complex STUFF to keep the reader fully engrossed.

I am getting better at doing series with an overarching plot arc, as with my SFR Badari Warriors series for example. And I have a huge plot arc at play in my fantasy romance series Magic of Claddare but since I don’t plot in advance or outline it’s challenging to do the kind of writing where I have the young page say something casual in volume one that everything turns on in volume fifteen when he’s about to be crowned king and is now a seasoned warrior of thirty.

It’s not a burning desire of mine as a writer but I’d like to continue to grow a bit more adept at it over time.

I write the kinds of books I want to read and I’m happy with my mix of adventures, action and romance. As long as the readers are too, I’m all set!
(May I crow about my new release?)

Ex-Special Forces soldier and mercenary Flo Michetti is bored with her assignment as a pilot for the genetically engineered Badari pack in their fight against the evil Khagrish scientists. She jumps at the chance to take a dangerous undercover mission. She infiltrates a group of human prisoners on their way to a secret lab in the southern ocean, where the Badari believe many more of their own kind have been created and are being experimented on. Once Flo has located the lab, found the Alpha among the Badari there and sent a report back, the plan will be to attack and rescue all the prisoners.

Arriving at the island Flo learns the true nature of the horrific experiment for which the humans have been brought to this remote location. Time will be perilously short to escape before it’s too late for all of them. She has to locate the Alpha of this captive southern pack, who conceals his identity to escape death at the hands of the Khagrish, and get him to join with her and her allies.

Daegan feels an instant attraction to Flo when the Badari and the humans are forced together by the Khagrish scientists, but there are mysteries and questions surrounding her. Before he reveals himself as the incognito Alpha she’s seeking, he wants answers to allay his doubts. He also wants Flo in his bed…but can he risk his heart to claim her as his mate?

Complicating the situation is a dangerous rival for Daegan’s position as Alpha, an oncoming hurricane and Flo’s resistance to abandoning her life as a soldier of fortune…as the Khagrish scientists prepare to initiate the experiment, the clock is ticking for humans and Badari alike.
Amazon      Apple Books      Kobo     Nook    GooglePlay

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Good versus the Development Opportunity

Crow wants you to know he has a tough life. (That's a stuffed lion he's resting against there.) So yeah, even the cats have stuffies.

I suppose in a way this leads reasonably well into what I feel like I do well in fiction. I over invest. Kidding/no kidding. My plots and details tend to be a little involved and I have a disturbing tendency to obsess over them. I'd like to believe that creates an immersive read - one that draws readers into the characters and their world. The other thing I'm really good at is editing. Once I've finished a draft, if you tell me something is broken, I may whine and complain, but I will wander off, deep in thought and then come back 24 hours later with a bunch of possible solutions. So while I'm not glib or clever when I'm on the spot (one of the reasons I'm kind of bad at Twitter) I do like the fact that I have some problem solving skill.

Which leads us to what I'm working on getting better at and that is drafting. I'm not fast and I want to be fast. I do better work, I think, when I'm going fast and don't have time to second guess what's going on and/or get too inside the characters' heads. It's a work in progress. Aren't we all?

I want to take a second to say Welcome Aboard to Alexia!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hello, my name is Alexia Chantel, and I’m a book addict.

That’s how it all started. And then I followed an author I’d been lucky to interview a few times for Reading Between the Wines to another blog site called the Word Whores. 

And that’s when I found my first writing community. Here were seven authors who wrote science fiction and fantasy of all kinds! They had helpful suggestions on how to set up spreadsheets and dream up alien pets, how to manage word counts and reminders, with stoic stares, to keep writing.

And I kept writing. And the Word Whores became the SFF Seven.  

I’m pre-published at the moment, but I have a fabulous agent and good things are coming. I write sci-fi thrillers and fantasy, so I feel at home with the SFF Seven and I can't believe I get to join them! 

I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I’ll share what works and doesn’t work for me and I promise there'll be some laughs along the way. Not to sound all Disney-princessy, but there’s so much to learn. So, I hope you’ll stop by on Thursday’s to see what I figure out along my publishing journey, what crazy things I can get my fellow authors to divulge, and likely some adorable Siberian husky pictures.

Have a great week and I hope you find an even better book!

You can find me most frequently on Instagram and occasionally Twitter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

I will shake the pom-poms for you

Back when I started going to critique groups and getting serious about this writing adventure, I didn't have a lot to offer. Like, I'd be sitting at a table with people who had published two, three, forty books, and all I had were a literature degree and a reputation for being really handy with commas. So before offering critique of any kind, I warned folks that they should take the comma edits as set science and all other notes with a cup or bucket of salt.

As I've adventured around in this crazy world since then, I've gotten a little more information crammed into my noggin, and though I will still defend the Oxford comma with my dying breath (looking at you, APA-style journalism people), there's one thing I do even better now:

I shake the pom-poms for you.

All those other people sitting around all those tables are all pretty incredible writers. Most have gone on to publish their brilliant stories, and I am so stuffed with pride for them I feel like exploding right now. In the best possible way, of course.

When it comes to all the obvious things--fame, fortune, personal satisfaction in a job well done--writing hasn't really been good to me. Where it shines, though, is shoving this awkward introvert into the faces of amazing people and giving them a reason to see her. Sometimes listen to her. Sometimes even share their friendship with her. So hell yeah, that's the thing I'm proudest of, the thing I do best, and the service I offer to anyone who needs it.

If you're at a crossroads--don't know whether you want to go indie or hang in there for trad? not sure if your shapeshifting flamingo story is urban fantasy, paranormal romance, or upbeat horror? have an offer of representation from an agent that no one has ever heard of and aren't sure if you ought to accept?--I'm here for you. To listen. To offer advice if you need or want it, to read your manuscript if you need it, but mostly to listen as you work your way through all the tangles and snarls of this profession.

No matter whether you've published zero books or a hundred, you did the thing, wrote the words, and we now have that in common. We are peers. I support you. This is the thing I do best as a writer.

As for what I do worst... hoo boy. Erm, everything? Do we really need to slice that putrid carcass open and observe its innards? You are of course welcome to go read my one-star reviews. Those should illuminate far better than I could. And I do promise I'm working on all those things.

From underneath this sparkly pile of pom-poms, of course.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I Can Build You A World

One thing I do really well in my books? That's a good question. Like most fantasy writers, I hope my worldbuilding is near the top of the list. I hope my character development is up there too along with action/fight scenes.

One thing I want to do better? Oh, dear reader, the list is so long. It's part-and-parcel of wanting to grow as a writer and constantly improve my craft. Regular readers of this blog know I wish I could be more consistent in the time it takes me to write a book, so that's no surprise. From a story building perspective, I'd like to hone my weaving of complex plot threads so they're more captivating.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

What I Have and What I Want

As requested, I've put THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN, HEART'S BLOOD, NEGOTIATION and THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN into print format! You can find those on my website. 

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is One thing we're really good at as an author and one thing we'd like to do better.

Hrm. If I go by what I hear most, I'd say that I'm really good at worldbuilding. That's the compliment I get the most often on the books. Personally, I think I'm good at characters and dialogue. Really, I think the most important authorial skill I have is a strong work ethic and daily writing habit.

What would I like to do better? It's kind of intangible, really. I'm constantly trying to improve my craft, to make each book the best it can be. Frankly, I'd like to be able to write faster and not need to revise, but I'm not sure that's a practical plan. The intangible is that I'd like to write a book that appeals to so many readers that it becomes an enormous hit. That's not practical either, as phenoms like that aren't predictable. I guess I'm going to say I'd like to approach my writing work with consistent delight and gladness. THAT I can control.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

My 5 Principles for Writing in 3 Genres

Graphics from DepositPhoto

Our task this week was supposed to be a flash fiction exercise but those just aren’t my thing, so I’m sharing a post I wrote recently as a guest for another blog (Paranormal Romantics and I apologize for repeating myself if you read this post over there), when I realized I’d published in each of my three very different genres recently.

I write scifi romance, fantasy and paranormal and I’ve had a release in each in the last few months. The stars must have aligned for me! The three genres are very different, especially since my paranormals are set in 1550 BCE in ancient Egypt. I’ve never had any problem switching ‘voices’ when I move from one set of books to the next and I think there are several factors at play (besides of course The Muse who I credit for all my creativity).

I do have five foundational principles, no matter which world I’m writing in – Your Mileage May Vary as to what works for you:
·         People are people, in the far past or the far future. They care about most of the same things we do and they fall in love…
·         Action and adventure existed in all eras, but scaled to the world around the characters…
·         A version of Special Forces kickass military existed in every time, even if they aren’t called by that title…
·         Any story is improved with a bit of mysticism and the inexplicable, judiciously mixed into the plot…
·         This is ROMANCE so there will be a Happy Ever After.

For the ancient Egyptian novels, I do tons of research, which undergirds all my stories set there, even though I do take some anachronistic liberties. I think, however, because my starting point is a culture so different from ours, and my going-in assumption is that the gods are ‘real’ and do play a part in every day events, I fell into a use of language and a frame of reference that lends itself to a “you are there” feeling for the readers. My characters can’t refer to anything that didn’t exist more than 3000 years ago – no computer-based terms like data or off the grid, no items “as hard as steel”, no borrowed French words (I love faux but not for these novels) and their way of looking at life was so different from ours, especially with their complete faith in an Afterlife lived exactly as life on earth was lived, only better if you took worldly goods into the tomb with you. I’ve read translations of poems, songs and official records from the period so I’m familiar with terms they did use. 

The reviewers at Dear Author paid me what I regarded as the supreme compliment once, saying of one novel “…these definitely aren’t 21st C people in linen kilts.”

For the scifi romance, I just let the writing and the story telling rip and put adventures out there. I don’t explain the blasters or the spaceships any more than you explain your microwave to yourself. I invent the desired surroundings, be it a space ship or an alien planet and I put my main characters into jeopardy and step back to see how it all works out. (I’m a seat of the pants writer, no outlines.) 

I have created an extensive galactic world for my novels, called The Sectors, with additional details as needed, and I’ve got a standard interstellar luxury cruise liner and other elements that reoccur. There’s an interstellar crime syndicate and an opposing crime fighting unit, mysterious elder aliens, an alien goddess ruling over a Brotherhood of bodyguard/assassins…rock stars, fashion designers and of course my Special Forces warfighters. Certain characters may pop up repeatedly from time to time, but the books are pretty much standalone.

My fantasy world of Claddare is on a smaller scale, with only two books set there so far, but when I “go there”, I know I’m in a medieval type setting, not-Earth but maybe a distant alternate, with powerful magic at play. I think for those books my Muse summons up memories of all the books and movies I’ve read that were set in such places, like Andre Norton’s Witch World and the movie ‘Ladyhawke’ and provides me with a ‘voice’ and a flow of language that fits the time and place, to tell my own stories. I don’t write to music as I find that too distracting but I like to listen to music when I’m thinking about plots and characters. I have a treasure trove of Celtic music that really puts me in the right mood.

I enjoy writing for the various worlds – some of my readers like all three, some only read one genre but I appreciate every single person! YAY for readers! Occasionally someone is a little irritated that I wrote an Egyptian instead of the next book in my Badari Warriors SFR series, but I love the creative exercise of switching back and forth and it’s refreshing to me to tell such different tales.
Here are the three most recent novels:

STAR CRUISE: IDOL’S CURSE in the USA Today Best Selling Pets In Space®4 anthology: An unusual bequest….Juli Shaeffer, the Nebula Zephyr’s cruise director, receives a mysterious bequest from the estate of a longtime passenger – a lump of rock taken from a reef on the planet Tahumaroa. Legend states anyone who steals from the ocean gods will be cursed. The passenger’s will requests the rock be returned to the beach so his heirs won’t be affected by the bad luck he believed he’d incurred. Juli doesn’t believe in superstitions and she agrees to carry out this small favor on the ship’s next stop at the planet in question.

Until the rock disappears from her office…
When the rock disappears and reappears in various locations around the ship, and seems connected to a steadily escalating series of mishaps, Juli turns to Third Officer Steve Aureli as the only one she feels she can trust. Along with Steve and his elderly Aunt Dian – a passenger aboard the Nebula Zephyr for this cruise – she investigates the strange series of malfunctions plaguing the interstellar luxury liner. Steve and Juli enlist his Aunt Dian’s dog, Charrli, a retired Sectors Z Corps canine, to help them track the missing rock as it moves about the ship.

Juli and Steve must find the rock, hang onto it and transport it to the planet’s surface, before the alien idol’s curse turns deadly. The attraction between the two of them grows as the threat to Juli becomes more and more focused. Can she carry out her task while he keeps her safe from the alien curse? Will the capricious alien idol bring them good fortune…or disaster?

Amazon      Apple Books     Kobo     Nook      Google

RETURN OF DANCER OF THE NILE (GODS OF EGYPT):  Nima, formerly a tavern dancer in the land of the Nile, has settled into the leisurely life of her dreams as the pampered, beloved wife to a high ranking general who’s also a member of Pharaoh’s court. She’s sworn never to dance for anyone else but Kamin, the man she loves. All is fine until one day news arrives that her husband has been killed in a chariot accident while on a trip to a remote city on Pharaoh’s behalf.

But as a reward for their previous service to Egypt against a dangerous enemy, the gods had promised Nima and Kamin they’d die at the same moment…so if she still lives, so must he.

Why is the ruler of the city lying to Pharaoh about Kamin’s death? What is the woman covering up? And where is Kamin?

Time for Nima the elegant lady to vanish from Thebes and Nima the skilled dancer to make her way in disguise to the far distant province and fight for Kamin’s life.  She’ll have to deal with angry gods, black magic, an enemy prince and a deadly ghost along the way.

Nima is the only one who can rescue her beloved from the dark fate planned for him by Egypt’s enemies…

Amazon     Apple Books       Nook    Kobo     Google

WINTER SOLSTICE DREAM: A MAGIC OF CLADDARE NOVELLA:  Torn from her home in the Dales as a child, Nadelma has made a place for herself as the head cook in the Witch Queen of Azrimar’s castle. She stays in the background of the busy court and uses her gentle magic gifts sparingly to help others. More or less content, she’s made peace with the hard facts of her life. Romance, marriage, a family – all beyond her dreams any longer.

Then Halvor, an ambitious Dales lord rides into the city, bringing his mercenaries to serve the king, with the promise of a rich reward, including a title and an estate. The only catch? He has to marry a highborn Azrimaran noblewoman to seal the treaty.

Fate conspires to throw Nadelma and Halvor into each other’s company and the connection is instant and deep but both resist the attraction. She knows she can never have him for herself. He must fulfill the treaty to secure a safe place for his people to live, since their holding in the Dales was destroyed by the black magic of the Shadow. Marriage to a noble damsel of the king’s choice is his fate.

Until he met Nadelma he thought his heart was frozen by the loss of all he cared for, back in the Dales. Now he knows better but his people must come first.
The situation is hopeless…or is it? For the king declares the city will celebrate Winter Solstice and hold a ball, where wishes and dreams just might come true.

Amazon      Apple Books      Nook      Kobo      Google

Note: All book covers from Fiona Jayde