Friday, March 31, 2017

Putting a Button on It

When a story you love ends, it's a tragedy. You've been through the wringer with those characters. After the danger and excitement of the climax, you're looking for a satisfying wrap up to the action something that lives up to the execution of the promise the story premise made in the very beginning. Something that cements the lessons the main character learned throughout the slings and arrows of the story.

But hey, no pressure, right?

Endings are hard. There's your hero after the climax, bruised, bloodied, often broken hearted. That may be figurative. It may be literal or metaphorical, but on some level, your MC has suffered a death at the climax. That is the point in the story wherein it becomes crystal clear that this character is no longer who he or she was when the story started. And there's no going back. The MC has to return to the ordinary world after the adventure and they have to do that bearing some useful gift. The cure for whatever plague was decimating the town. The head of the dragon eating all the sheep. A Holy Grail of some kind - even if that grail is simply a relationship worth hanging onto - the gift conveyed there is the formation of the new family, whatever form that family takes.

This is what we, as readers, want to see in a resolution, then - the MC applying what he or she has learned. If you're writing genre, that's a happy thing. The gift is a benefit to the community. If you're writing literary, the gift affects no one by the MC and may carry a bit of a curse with it. Think Cassandra in the Trojan War. Gifted with the ability to see the future, cursed so that no one would believe her. If you're writing tragedy, the denouement is the fall out associated with the MC failing to learn his or her lessons through the course of the story.

I suspect that most of our readers have been trained by TV and movies to expect short denouement. But since books aren't constrained by producers watching the dollar signs with every frame of film captured, maybe it really is incumbent upon authors to luxuriate in our endings a little bit - to give readers time and space to transition out of the world of the adventure and back into their normal world. Certainly different stories will bear different treatments. If you spend very little time in your hero's everyday world at the beginning of your story, you can probably invest little time in the resolution. If you spend pages on the heroine's normal world at the beginning of your story, immersing readers in the details, you will need a denouement of similar detail at the end to contrast the differences between the two. Set up and resolution are the frame on the action of your story. You don't want a lopsided frame, right?

So really. How long should your story resolution go? Exactly as long as it needs to be to bring your characters full circle. Unless you're a terrible human being and you mean to strand your characters mid-circle. Then your denouement needs to be even weightier in order to measure the consequences of characters who failed to complete their journey(s) or who died in mid-arc. (We're looking at you on that one, GRRM.)

Do I make it sound facile? It isn't. Just go have a look at how well I follow my own advice. O_o

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Resolution and Denouement: Sticking the Landing

In my Twelve Part Outline Structure, the final part is "resolution", in which the plot elements are, you know, resolved in a satisfying way.  That usually involves some form of your heroes managing to check another mark in the win column, or at least pull off some form of tie/stalemate.*  
But then, once the day is is saved-- or at least immediate danger quelled-- there's got to be some wind down.  How much is too much, that's the question.  
My instinct is to at least have some sort of check-in with the key plot points or character threads.  If it's a story with strong POV rules (for example, in A Murder of Mages we only get POVs from Minox and Satrine), then it's a good idea to have than final reflection or check-in with those POVs.  
The big rule for me is making sure nothing is left ambiguous that shouldn't be ambiguous.  For example, if a minor character was hurt in the big finale, you should make it clear that either A. they're going to be all right or B. they aren't, and what the consequences might be.
Rowling liked to have a pattern for her denouement in the Harry Potter books-- or at least the first five-- which was essentially Dumbledore Explains It All For You.  After everything is done, one way or another Harry has a sit-down with Dumbledore in which the old wizard lays out what the heck actually happened and clarifies any plot holes there might have been.  After that, it's more or less Harry packs up and takes the train home.  
My various series don't have quite the same structure-- and in the Thorn books, Prof. Alimen doesn't quite fulfill the same role-- though in both Thorn of Dentonhill and The Alchemy of Chaos, a good portion of the denouement is centered around a Veranix/Alimen scene.  I'll confess, the denouement for The Imposters of Aventil was extremely challenging.  That book, frankly, has a lot of balls in the air, so making sure each of those balls doesn't drop on the floor before the book is done was crucial-- especially doing it in such a way that it didn't feel like I was just dragging my heels to get to the end.  That said, I won't give anything away, save this: the denouement does not maintain the pattern.  
And that's fine.  We need to mix things up to keep the work fresh.  
Speaking of, this draft won't write itself.  Off to the word mines.
*- It depends on the type of story, but sometimes "not losing" is as much of a victory as your heroes are going to get.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Links for Tips on Writing a Denouement

I'm cheating this week because I'm working hard on my CD. So here are some links on writing a Denouement.


ONE. From Writer's Digest.

TWO. From Ellen Brocks Novel Bootcamp Lectures.

THREE. From Yeahwrite.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Stuff Before THE END

"And they all lived happily ever after."

Too short? Too abrupt? Missing your favorite character already? Fortunately, that line is not the denouement. The ball after the dragon's been slain and the prince rescued, when our happy couple announces their engagement, the families rejoice, a few jokes are exchanged, and the fairies fall into the cake. That broader scene is the denouement.

How long is too long? Too short? Just right? Well, Goldilocks, my off-the-cuff advice would be a chapter of commensurate length as all the other chapters.

Three things you want to include in the denouement:

  1. Expose any lingering plot secrets/hold-backs
  2. Welfare-check your primary and beloved characters
  3. Hint at the future of your protag (even if you're writing a standalone)
    • If you've killed your protag, then a glimpse of the future for their cause.
The difference between a denouement and an epilogue is usually the time gap and final reveals. The denouement stays in the timeline of the story and reveals specific plot secrets. The epilogue fast-forwards months/years and has no obligation to the plot, just the characters.

Has anyone encountered a denouement that went on too long? Let me know in the comments what made you feel, "oh, just get this over with already!"

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Writing the Denouement - What's the Right Amount of Wrap-up?

So... this is *MY* big news this week. How about you all?

Tee hee hee!

Yeah, okay, I'm still in a daze, totally gobsmacked, and running about in this kind of gleeful haze where I whisper to myself, "My fantasy romance, THE PAGES OF THE MIND, finaled in Paranormal Romance in RWA's RITA®  awards!!!"

To unpack that a little, for those not familiar, RWA is Romance Writers of America and the RITA® Award is our premiere award for published books in the romance genre. (There's also the Golden Heart, for unpublished works.) Because romance is an enormous umbrella with many subgenres, there are thirteen categories. "Paranormal Romance" is basically all science fiction or fantasy style stories with romance in the story arc. Yeah, it's a polyglot of a subgenre, but there you are. With entries capped at 2,000, and every entry read and ranked by five judges, it's a tremendous effort. It's basically the Academy Awards for romance authors. The winners will be announced at the very glam awards ceremony at the Annual Conference, which will be in Orlando this year, July 22-29.

Okay! Moving on...

Our topic this week is on story structure, specifically asking the SFF Seven about the Denouement: How long do you spend wrapping up a novel?

I'm very interested in the answer to this question because it's something I've been working on. I get "ended too abruptly" as a comment more than any other (I'm pretty sure - I haven't annotated or anything), and across all the genres I write. On the occasion that someone I'm friendly with makes the comment and I'm able to dig a bit, they'll always say, "Oh, it's a good thing - I just wanted MORE!"

Wanting more IS a good thing, but ending too soon isn't so much.

The way ideal story structure works is like this. We all learned this in grade school. I don't know who else among the SFF 7 uses this, but it's a standard basis to work from.
Really, it's not so even, and it will look more or less like this for the Hero's Journey, which is how a lot of SFF stories go:
Thanks to Digital Worlds for this excellent graphic!

When you break this out into percentages, it looks like this:
Act I, Beginning: first 25%
Act II: middle 50%
Act II Climax:: at 75%
Act III Climax: at 90%
Denouement: 10%

"Denouement," for those who've forgotten high school English class, is a French word that means "untying." Basically that final percentage is for unraveling all those knots that got snarled and tightened along the way.

BUT - and this is the interesting part to me - if you measure the actual space of story after the final climax in most stories, it's not 10% of the total. Many authors end within pages of the ultimate climax. One exception to this is urban fantasy author Jennifer Estep. She has a good chunk after the story's climax, which she regards as a kind of "bookend" to the opening scene. She also uses that to set up the next book in the series.

Me? I do chart my own books and ... yeah, the percentages say I end abruptly. I never hit anywhere near 10%. It's more like 2-3%. But I'm trying to change this! I'm making an effort to add more onto the ending, untying some of those knots, to see if it makes a difference.

In fact, one book I deliberately made the effort to do that with is THE PAGES OF THE MIND, which had 8% of denouement after the Act III climax. Did I mention that finaled for a RITA???

Tee hee hee.


I'm interested in both reader and writer experiences with this. How much ending do you like? Who are some authors who handle this really well?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Was the Fun Lost?

I have never and hopefully will never, lose the "fun" part of my writing. I write the kind of stories I want to read, be it set in a science fiction future with romance or in a fantastical ancient Egypt with romance. I love telling my stories!

BUT - and this is a very large caveat - the writing and the joy of it is totally separate in my mind from the 'job', which is the work of then making that story available to be read by others, of doing the promo necessary to let readers know the book even exists, of putting in the time to do blog posts and participate on social media in support of the book. I do love social media for the sheer enjoyment of the conversations and the networking and 'meeting people', but sometimes there is a definite pressure in relation to "I need to write twelve blog posts on the new book and keep each one fresh and fun to read, and then tweet them and...."

I had what I refer to as "my competitive job" for a very long time and I did really well at it, and enjoyed it. I call it competitive because there were positions, opportunities, projects and management assignments that a lot of people wanted. An employee had to stay on their toes to do the work and have the responsibilities they aspired to. That job involved commuting to an office and there were bosses and performance reviews and deadlines and endless revisions to documents, and all the trappings of  standard work. Valuable experience but I certainly don't miss it. (Miss the people, yes. Miss the work, no.)

In the job part of of being an independently published author, I have to do edits and rewrites, based on input from my professional freelance editors. Are they my bosses? No, but my own internal boss refuses to let me put out books that haven't been edited and burnished. Do I have deadlines imposed on me by other people? Rarely. Only if I'm in an anthology or going to a conference. Otherwise the deadlines are set by me but that doesn't make them less real. I just did some deadline setting today in fact as far as my release schedule for the rest of the year. I can change that of course, but since I need to be selling books in order to pay my rent and my bills (and the costs of new books - covers, editors, the formatter, promo etc) and since there are so many books coming out all the time now, I need to be doing frequent new releases of high quality books. Definitely performance pressure.

Do I want to be rebellious and take a 'day off' and binge watch all ten seasons of some wonderful TV show? YES! Occasionally I'll even do that, but I'm always conscious in the back of my mind that I really need to get that book written for the June release and get it to the editor in plenty of time for her schedule and....

So the challenge for me isn't so much about losing the fun, but in keeping the job aspects of being a full time writer running my own small publishing business (publishing only myself to be clear) from crushing the creative juices.

Luckily for me, when I sit down to write the actual story, I lose myself in the flow of the creative process and I'm having fun. But I have to keep it all very much separated in my mind from the worries and pressure of the business of publishing and selling books.

To paraphrase one of my favorite TV shows, 'Killjoys', the story is all!

And by the way, I did a cover reveal for my next book, The Captive Shifter, available on the major ebook sites on April 3rd! Thanks to Fiona Jayde for another gorgeous cover!

Here's the blurb:
Concealing her own considerable magical powers, Caitlyn enters the service of the northern Witch Queen masquerading as a simple healer. Under order from her goddess, she’s searching for a magical gem stolen long ago from her own people, believed to be hidden in the massive castle. The task is daunting but Caitlyn is sure she can locate the gem and escape, bringing the prize back to the temple where it belongs. Until she meets the captive shifter and her loyalties become dangerously divided.
In payment for her past services to his people, Kyler the leopard shifter has entered into a life of servitude far from his forest home, allowing the Witch Queen to tap his magic to power her ever darker spells. Factions at Court are threatening to turn the Queen to the Shadow. Her increasing demands for magic will cut short his nearly immortal lifespan. Kyler’s resigned to his fate until the day he crosses paths with the new arrival, whose secrets and magic entice and attract both man and leopard. Has he met his mate at last?
The Queen will never willingly release him from captivity. Caitlyn’s goddess refuses to grant her any delay in accomplishing her own task. Can they locate the magical gem, fight the Shadow and win free of the Witch Queen to earn the right to be together?

Friday, March 24, 2017

When the Thrill Is Gone

It's been a crappy week. Really. The eldest cat had the words "atypical cells" mentioned in his proximity. And due to a confluence of other events coming together in a big FU to the fam, we're in the process of moving off the boat and putting it up for sale.

Those of you who know me know this is just about The Worst Thing That Could Happen. (TM)

And here I am to talk about fun. Well, sure. Because let me say that there's nothing like life dishing up a bit of perspective to make you appreciate just how much shelter losing yourself in writing (or whatever thing you love) has to offer. As Hatshepsut (right) so aptly and expressively demonstrates, nothing is fun and games all the time.

I suspect we each of us have our favorite parts of the writing process - the parts that are fun. For me, the first idea stages, proof of concept, plotting, arranging the conflicts and the characters, drafting the first few chapters - that giddy, get lost in the flow stuff. But into every life a little rain must fall, yes? So it is for every project. Every book has bits that defy fun.

Here's my theory on that, though. Writing isn't supposed to be fun. I don't mean that in a 'It's work!' sort of way. My assertion is that the creative process is a PROCESS. That means going through a cycle with identifiable stages. It means descending into the labyrinth and getting utterly lost before working out how to extract yourself before you starve or get eaten by the minotaur. It's maddening and sometimes scary stuff. But it's necessary.

You know Chris Vogler's work The Hero's Journey? Where he describes story arc as a mythic construct with a series of stages? It isn't just the story that is a Hero's Journey. Every time you start a book, YOU are the hero accepting the call to go on an adventure.

The Call to Adventure - your initial idea. This may include all of that heady plotting and proof of concept work.
Refusal of the Call - the point at which you think this story won't work. Or the dog pukes his bodyweight on carpet and you spend days at the vet clinic in mortal terror, story forgotten.
Supernatural Aid - call it inspiration. A visit from the Muses. You get a bone tossed your way from the story or from the characters. A tiny scene volunteers. Doesn't matter, you get driven back to the work.
Crossing the First Threshold - you've invested in getting this book done.
In the Belly of the Beast - You dive headfirst into this new thing you're creating. It swallows you and for most of us the suck starts here.
The Road of Trials - Obstacles, complications, all the head pounding against desks comes in this stage. You're being challenged. Your creativity is being challenged. Seriously. This is YOUR arc. By the time you finish your story, you will be creatively capable of more than you were when you began, simply because you faced down problems you thought you couldn't solve.

I won't list out every single stage. But you can see it, yeah? The descent into the pit of despair to face your greatest fear, the big battle with your demon(s), the return carrying the Golden Fleece, as it were.

What I hear when someone, including me, talks about writing being fun, is a desire for writing to be easy. That is straight up Refusal of the Call. It's wanting to skate along the surface of writing, never delving into the depths of a story, declining to walk the road of trials in search of something meaningful to bring back from the journey. Writing, and the hero's journey, are meant to be - well - difficult. Challenging. Hard, even. Because only when the writer is forced to grow by some tiny increment (writers have growth rings like trees - each one the pages of a story) does something human and resonant emerge from the writing.

Sure, but dang, how do you face that? You learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Redefine fun. I do NOT like being scared. DO. NOT. LIKE. So guess what I'm going to get my face rubbed in every single book? I have a choice - run away from that or turn around and walk into it. I've tried both. I don't recommend running away. Makes it last longer and you just get tired. Whatever you deem unfun, reframe. Turn to face it and make yourself an explorer. Dealing with an emotion set that makes you want to hurl? Take it apart, piece by piece - catalog the sensations for use in writing. Got a scene to write that makes you want to slit your wrists with your felt pen? Walk away from the keyboard. Grab a paper and pencil and sketch out as many ways for that scene to happen as you can think of. Make 'em stupid and ridiculous. Make them serious. Funny. Tragic. Heroic. Somewhere in that exploration, you'll hit on something that speeds your pulse and you'll know you've found The One.

At the risk of sounding like Yoda, I'll say: Don't seek fun. Seek the discomfort, because that's where the jewels are hidden.

But by all means, if you're blocked, change your venue. Change your mode of operation to break up the kinesthetic expression - if you write on a keyboard 99% of the time, go to long hand for a day. Dictate. Whatever shifts you to another part of your brain and muscle memory. Remember to take breaks. Exercise. It shakes stuff loose. Why do you think Frodo had to walk across the whole of Middle Earth?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Perils of the Writer: The Toil and the Joy

Friends, I won't lie to you: I love writing, I love that this is my life, but there are times when it's a grind.  There are plenty of times where the idea of going into a manuscript just makes me want to go lie down.  
Right now, I've had to put drafting Parliament of Bodies to the side for a couple weeks.  Largely to focus on Holver Alley promotion, Imposters of Aventil copyedits and a whole lot of home/business/Live the Language stuff that required the forefront of my attention.  Now it's time to get back into Parliament.
And getting back into a book once you've been out of it for a chunk of time can be a real grind.  If the engine is cold, it takes a bit to get back up to full speed.  
Part of the process, for me, involves printing out what I've got and reading through with a red pen.  It helps get me back in the mindset, and see where I might be starting to lose the plot or go off course.  
This part isn't always "fun", though, so it helps to have a couple other things to mix it up and keep it fresh.  A big thing I do to help this is engage in a secondary project for a bit, to be a palate cleanser.  I'll also do long-term planning, big picture work.   
And all this is why, this week, I've been making hand-edits on the first part of Parliament, working a bit on The Secret Project, and updating all the Maradaine spreadsheets.  And doing that stuff is, frankly, a lot of fun for me.  Especially after a couple weeks of household bookkeeping data entry.  Oh, taxes, such a joy.  But that work is done, at least.
How about you?  How's your journey in the word mines this week?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Dreamer's Journey

"Finding the Fun Again" is an ironic topic this week.

Since my fellow writers here are going to surely post about writing, I will take a wee diversion and post about something that is, while not writing words, is also creative. I'm talking about writing music.

Let me take you back in time. I once owned a Baldwin upright piano. It was a heavyweight of my childhood, pun intended, and when I became an was mine. It came with me when I left home. Being one to rearrange a room on a whim, it moved it here and there with effort. Always, I played. I scribbled notes on paper wishing I had to skills to play all the things I heard in my head.

That piano was sold, a bit of cash was added to the amount gained and I suddenly owned an awesome keyboard with 16 track built in recording and midi orchestra at my fingertips. And so my journey as a scorewriter began.

Sadly, the music I labored over, stored on a 3in floppy (it had a built in disc drive) was not able to be removed and put into something more...shareable. Technology had other plans for me. I tried Cakewalk. No. It was not appropriately named. My cd dreams were back-burnered.

Fast forward seven years.

New computer. New software. New gadget go-between hooked the computer to the keyboard. At last, I could get the music off of the disc. But it was one track at a time. If I didn't hit play and record pefectlly then the notes did not line up. Each had to be moved individually. And when I wanted to hit play back to hear if they were aligned...well the program offered only one synthesized voice, impossible to differentiate the tracks.

The task was again back-burnered. Hope was hard to come by, but I had my 3 in disc. I had my keyboard. My music lived, but like a houseplant...only for me and anyone who visited (and happened to give a shit about my music) to enjoy.

Fast forward ANOTHER seven years.

I received a new computer last fall. I recieved Pro Tools for Christmas. A second keyboard became my birthday present. Then the East West subscription was purchased. Piece by piece, the new dream kit was assembled. On Tuesday of last week, after nearly a month of "this-is-not-my-normal-computer-area" tech hell, my persistent and wonderful husband got Pro Tools and East West talking to each other.

Wednesday went like this:
7:15 am bus ran; I'm home alone. Chores ensue.

8:30 am coffee in hand I go to office to begin

At some point I began to feel hungry, pulled a granola bar from my desk drawer (don't judge me) and ate it.

My phone reminded me at 2:30 to open the garage so the kid arriving soon on the bus could get inside...but it was a snowday. I ignored the chime and worked on.

I looked at the clock. 5:30 pm.

I looked at my coffee mug. It was half full.

I'd spent 9 hours working on music and it had passed like a flash. I hadn't even thought of what I'd make for dinner... Saving the work, shutting it off, I rushed downstairs gulping my coffee...only to find my husband in the kitchen, home already. Usually, I have dinner waiting for us. I apologized. He shushed me and held up a bag...a bag that had Jeni's on the side of it. (As in Jeni's splendid ice cream.)

A new door has opened and I've rediscovered a joy I used to know, a joy that for too long has slumbered. Before me is a challenge, not only to master this new program (it is SOOO amazing and complex and I've only gleefully scratched the surface), but to hone my skills and exceed.

There will be a CD, my first, available with the release of my novel, Jovienne, in May. It will be the score for the book. My music is alive. Themes for my characters grew and overlaped and merged as when I wrote this score years ago when the music was an exercise to shape the vision in my mind of this story that I was writing. And the melodies are growing in the light of these new capabilities.

I have breathed the deep breath of someone who has created and waited.

My score is steps -- minutes, not years -- away from shareable.

To me, fun is the act of creation and the act of refining that creation. To be here, now, on the cusp of sharing it with is an act of persistence, of clinging to a dream that embodies me, that had embodied me for so long that it is part of the core of who I am.

You, whoever you are, never give up on your dreams, never give up on your self, never give up on working toward that goal that lives inside your soul.

Its true. There is nothing like the joy that overwhelms you when you're touching that goal. I danced in my kitchen eating ice cream for dinner and giggling with the one person who means so much, who believes in me and did all he could to give me this moment, all for the joy of sharing it with me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What To Do When Writing Is No Longer Fun


🎉 HUGE congrats to our Sunday captain Jeffe Kennedy! PAGES OF THE MIND is a finalist in the highly competitive RITA Awards--aka the Oscars of Romance Writers of America.  🎉


How do I sort the work from the pleasure of writing?  Uhm. Well, writing is work, so I'm going to rephrase that question as, "How do I deal with the unfun so I can get back to the fun?"

You simply have to push through the bad, the tough, and the I don't wanna, to get back to the fun.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Finding the fun again

Writing is always fun for me, but, yes, sometimes the work part gets me down.

The best method to make me remember that I love writing is to actually WRITE. Put aside the deadlines, the edits, everything else. Sit down and tell a story, write it out, consider the ramifications of each action taken and every reaction that comes afterward.

if that doesn't work, I set the project aside (for no more than one day, seriously) and work on a different tale.

I need to clarify that for me editing and writing are not the same beast. Writing is the freeform mess I put out on the pages, Editing is what remains when I'm done cleaning up that mess.

Want to know what else helps?

Get away from the desk and do something 4else now and then, In this case4, I went to a convention, What is in that picture but can't be seen are the notes I took while I was waiting for the next person to come by (they often came in waves between waves, I made notes).

The change of venue opened up my mind to new possibilities. I'll be using those notes in around 2 minutes.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

When Writing Is Work: Finding the Fun Again

Yesterday I got to take my stand-up paddle board out for a jaunt on Lake Sumner in New Mexico. It was a gorgeous day - warm and still, the water cool but not freezing. To my delighted surprise, I hadn't lost my skill with it since last fall. Rather, I'd improved! My balance and strength are much better. I even discovered what should have been a no-brainer, that the way I distribute my weight on the board contributes to the direction I turn as much as the paddling. There's a joy in both doing the work and in discovering I've improved, as much as in the simpler aspects of the sun, peace, and water.

Our topic this week is along those lines. The Business of Writing: How Do You Separate out the Work of Writing from the Pleasure of Writing?

This is one of those aspects of being a writer that tends to plague established authors more than aspiring ones. Don't get me wrong! The whole query-hell aspect of being an aspiring author, or the initial steps of self-publishing and trying to acquire an audience, those are their own special circles of torment. They're kind of like middle school and high school - full of angst and drama. None of us would go back to it for anything. I had dinner the other night with a lovely writer friend who's self-published some work and is in her fourth year of query hell with other work. It's hard. You just have to get through it.

So, yes, getting to be an established writer is better than being an aspiring one, in the way that being an adult is better than being a teenager - much more self-sufficiency, less drama, your own space where you can watch bad movies, drink wine, and eat junk food all night if you want to.

Not that I ever do that.

But, to extend the analogy, it's also more pressure than being a teenager. There are bills to pay. No one stands between you and the consequences of bad decisions. There's no more summers off or writing whatever takes your fancy, taking as long as you like to do it. You have to adult and treat writing like a, well, A JOB.

Because it is one.

And the thing about jobs is you have to do them even when you don't feel like it. When your art pays the bills, it becomes a business. That doesn't mean it CAN'T be a pleasure, but the two don't necessarily go hand in hand.

There's all those inspirational sayings like this one:

Which, in case you were confused, is not something Confucius said. I also found it attributed to Mark Twain. Also, no. I think it's one of those insipid things thought up by success coaches. I say insipid because it implies that if you love what you do it will never feel like work. This won't be news to any of you smart people, but *everything* feels like work sometimes. Anything worth doing takes effort. I love my stand-up paddle board, but sometimes it's a hell of a lot of work, especially paddling into the wind. I love my husband, but sometimes a relationship is work. There's nothing wrong with that.

Let me set that out on its own: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG with work.

There's nothing wrong with business. It's not drinking margaritas by the pool, but neither is writing. In fact, where most arts are concerned, this motivational poster has it spot on.

I know, I know. But really I don't mean that in a depressing way. Think of this: if we all wrote only the fun bits, we'd have 57,000 scraps of fabulous plot-bunnies and one-liners and zero novels or completed stories. Because at some point we have to do the parts we don't love. Sometimes we have to paddle into the wind.

Recently I've been working up a new series for my new agent. (Yes! Totally burying that quasi-secret lead. I'll be able to announce all the details on March 29, because reasons. Anyway, I'm working up a new idea for her. She wanted ~20,000 words of the first book, and I can write 5,000 words/day when I'm cruising, so I figured I could do this in a week.


Turns out not so much. All that *WORLD-BUILDING* doncha know. So there I was, flailing away, with only 3K when I'd hoped to have 10K, beating myself up about it. And it occurred to me that I spent an entire year on the first draft of THE MARK OF THE TALA. I went and looked it up. An entire year on 80K. Which works out to a little over 200 words/day, for those of you who prefer not to think about math. Sure, I was working full time then, and traveling for the day job A LOT,

But I also had that day job income. I had no agent, no publisher, no contract. I played with that book for a year because I could. That was still high school for me. Maybe Freshman year of college, when I could still take whatever courses looked interesting because I didn't have to think seriously about my future yet.

Yes, it was fun.

The thing is, writing this new book can be fun, too. IF I can keep from flogging myself with unrealistic timelines and schedules. And if I can keep from fretting about paying the bills. And from worrying about what that scathing review said, or what the market is looking for, or... or... or!

All of this means that, as with all things adulting, it's up to us to find the fun in what we do. It can be a lot like reaching back to our carefree youth and rediscovering those aspects that felt like PLAY instead of work. When I wrote THE MARK OF THE TALA, I called it The Middle Princess and I just followed the story wherever it led, indulging myself in *my* favorite stuff.

You know what? There is absolutely no reason I can't do that with this book, too. Yes, this is my job, but it's a job I chose out of love. It's hard work at times, sure. It's also a joy.

Finding the fun in effort is a conscious choice.

Instead of thinking about the wind I'm paddling into, I need to focus on the joy of balance, of cool water splashing my feet and the sun warm on my skin. And of the pleasure in finding that I've improved, of discovering a cool new trick.

It's all fun, if we let it be.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I Have A Recipe Box But...

The little metal stove was my grandfather's when he was a kid in the early 1900's.

I do have a recipe box (see photo above) which my Dad gave me when I left home to get married at age 19. There are old family recipes in it on index cards, including a couple written by my late grandmother.

But see, here's the thing - I grew up in a house where my mother HATED to cook and my father would have been happy to eat steak or hamburger, and mashed potatoes with canned corn or peas every night (oh, gee, we pretty much did) and overeasy eggs with bacon, toast and butter every breakfast. I don't remember him having a preference  about lunch actually. He probably grabbed a sandwich at the office. Coffee and chocolate were his other two food groups. I taught myself to cook to have some variety but mostly so I could have cake more than once a year on my birthday, which was my mother's grudging compromise when it came to baking. She also made one lemon meringue pie annually. I pretty much concentrated on learning to make my own favorite desserts.

My late husband was a foodie and one of those people who could look at a pantry full of ingredients and whip up some fabulous dish from his mind. He did not need recipes! He would have loved the "Top Chef" program. I love to watch the show, but more for the personalities involved and the way the challenges go. Although I do salivate at the many seared scallop dishes each season...

When I look inside my recipe box, other than desserts, a lot of the 'treasured' family recipes are really plain ones from a 1950's USDA cookbook for new brides that my mother was given when she got married. Lots of butter and eggs. The ones from my days as a mother cooking for the family tend to be casseroles done with the most basic of basics. Good for reheating. Good with catsup.  I also had a tendency not to write down recipes the way they were originally set forth but as I simplified them or revised them, so for instance, our favorite beef n cheese crescent pie now omits ALL the spices but salt. I do include the green beans that the recipe calls for - one of my offspring so loathes the green beans that I wrote it into one of my novels as an in-joke. (The alien heroine cannot bring herself to eat green beans.) I also didn't bother to write down my specific steps in preparing anything, so the index cards aren't very helpful. Hey, I know how to make the dish!

Currently I open cans for the cats, who are very non demanding. I now have a chronic health condition that severely limits what I myself can eat, so I have the same three simple meals pretty much every day. Occasionally I splurge on either a dessert or a dinner out, knowing full well I'll "pay for it" later. I don't cook anything complicated. Or even from the 1950's USDA pamphlet.

So no, dear Readers, I won't be sharing any recipes with you today. Sorry! (Not're better off, trust me.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Recipe to Kick the Flu to the Curb

When the flu came to call, I did my level best to evict that bastage with a great big pot of mushroom soup. I say MUSHROOM SOUP up front so if you are one of those fungi haters, you can click out right now. But let me tell you. Mushrooms stimulate the immune system. According to Nutrition, mushrooms are little powerhouses of nutrition. Lovely. But the real point was making it massively tasty for someone so congested she could taste remarkably little. This fit that bill. It was also really soothing on a sore throat. So.

Mushroom Soup (vegan, gluten free, blah, blah, healthy)

For the stock:
1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion
2 carrots
mushroom trim
2 crushed cloves garlic

For the soup:
1 lb mushrooms - pick Shiitake, Maitake, Oyster, Trumpet, Crimini, whatever you can find - the broader the array of mushrooms, the better immune boosting profile. White button mushrooms are fine, but they will not impart the deep, rich flavor of the other mushrooms. My base was Shiitake with Oyster and Maitake mushrooms for variety. You'll want about a pound. Or more. Depends on how much soup you want.
2 TBSP olive oil
4 - 6 Cups Stock
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 crushed cloves garlic
Salt to taste

Clean your shrooms. Take out the stems - reserve those for the stock - wipe gritty mushroom caps with a damp paper towel. Slice the caps and set them aside.

Make your stock:
In a soup pot, heat olive oil. Quarter an onion and toss in the oil. Peel and cut up your carrots into chunks. Toss those into the stock pot. Add the mushroom stems and crushed garlic. Sautee until the onions turn golden and translucent. Add water to cover (about 6 cups). Cover, bring to a boil. Remove the cover, turn down to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes.

Make your soup:
In a crockpot (because I am ALL about the easy), put the uncooked rice in the bottom. Add a cup of water. Turn on the crockpot and put on the lid while you sautee your mushrooms. In a large skillet, heat 1 TBSP of oil. Add half of your mushroom caps. Sautee until the caps begin to brown. Scrap them into the crockpot with the rice. Repeat until all your mushrooms are cooked. Deglaze the frying pan with a little water and add the browned bits and liquid to your crockpot. Salt the mushrooms to your taste as you cook them if you like. Check the moisture level in the crockpot - the rice will begin absorbing water. Add another cup if the rice is soaking up water. Once the stock is done, strain the liquid into your crockpot. (Those cooked carrots and onions make a fine snack.) Add your garlic cloves. Stir and taste for seasoning. The mushrooms will need plenty of salt. Pepper is optional. Let the soup cook for about an hour to blend flavors.

If you want to be really fancy, cook the rice in the veggie stock before adding your mushroom caps. After cooking for 30 minutes, use an immersion blender to puree the cooked rice into the broth. Presto. 'Cream' of Mushroom Soup.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Books are out, Drinks all around!

I've got a lot on my plate this week, including: I just appeared on Writing on the Air (The March 15th episode).  And sometimes when you're busy, you need to just stop and have a cocktail.  And if you stop by here, you can get the cocktail of the house.
My wife sometimes calls it the Maresca Mule, though I think Mexican Mule is the better term.
How do you make the Mexican Mule?  Glad you asked!
Take a cocktail glass, and run a lime along the rim, and then salt the rim with Chilito.  Add crushed ice, a shot of tequila, juice of half a lime, and then top it off with ginger brew.  It's spicy, strong and delicious.    
Have at it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I don't know what else to call this recipe.  It looks like a a lot of work but it truly isn't more than chopping ingredients. I wrote this up to show options, so it may look like a lot of ingredients but you get to pick and choose. And you only need one kind of meat, and not necessarily a lot of it. (: 


With three of us in the house, this recipe offers a lot of variability. Not only does it use veggies in a mix and match format that works well for us (I like to use what I have, not run to the store every day), but it can be served on a plate, in a bowl or in wraps. Also, when there are only 3 of us, I use one large chicken breast and 1 uncle bens pre-cooked rice, with about 1 to 1 1/2 cups total of the optional veggies. It leaves little, if any, leftover. That said, you can see how this is heavy on the veggies and keeps the meat volume low.

1.) Prep:
Either make rice (2 cups volume when cooked) or have your Uncle Ben's ready to heat. 
**I recommend the Santa Fe flavor or plain Brown Rice*

2.) Chop your core veggies: 
    4 green onions, sliced (use onion and green parts)
    2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped (or use the pre-chopped kind in jar)

2 A.) Chop your OPTIONAL veggies: 
    (**you need only 1 or 2, but can use more (or all) if serving A LOT OT PEOPLE!)
   1 cup asparagus, in 3/4 inch to 1 inch pieces
   1 small to medium zucchini, diced
   1 can, drained, sliced water chestnuts
   1/2 to 1 cup fresh mushrooms (or use canned ones)
   1/2 cup peppers diced, red, green, yellow, orange --you choose or mix and match!
   1/2 cup tomato, diced, seeded (can use canned tomato or salsa depending on your flavor combo)
   1 can of corn, drained
* 1/4 cup nuts or sunflower seeds (cashews, almonds, pistachios)
      * this dish is plenty good without any nuts too

3.) Choose and prep your meat: (**USE ONLY 1 kind of meat**)
   1 bag of cooked small, tail off shrimp, thawed and rinsed
   diced chicken  CUT SMALL TO COOK FAST   *1 large breast for 2-3 people
   diced beef (or stew meat) CUT SMALL TO COOK FAST
   diced pork  CUT SMALL TO COOK FAST (can be pork loin or sausage or andouille or heck, it'd probably be good with hot dogs sliced up!)

4.) COOK:
  Use LARGE skillet, set burner on medium-high
  Put 2 or 3 TBSP Olive oil in skillet
  Add 1 or 2 TBSP butter
  Add 1 to 3 TBSP cajun seasoning **to your taste**
  Add garlic and onion   STIR. 

When it is sizzling:

5)  Add the veggies that take longer to cook such as carrots, zucchini

6)  Add the veggies that take medium time to cook such as mushrooms, peppers

7)  Add the veggies that take little time to cook such as asparagus, water chestnuts, nuts

 8) Add the MEAT 
STIR and COOK until meat is done

9) SQUEEZE a lemon over the skillet or offer wedges with each place setting

10) EITHER: serve OVER rice OR add rice to skillet and stir to mix

   A) Serve in a bowl

   B) Spoon into wraps (maybe add sour cream)

   C) Serve on a plate 

NOTE: This recipe lends itself to your modifications and experimentation. We had some unsliced bacon in the fridge. I cut off a wedge, chopped it small and added it to the mix. Sooo good!!! You could change the flavor by leaving out the cajun seasoning and going for something else. Just about any blended spice from McCormick's grilling would work well. Match your seasoning to the rice flavor (or go plain). You can make it more Chinese or Thai by using a jar of sauce added at the end and using teryaki rice. You know your palate, adjust accordingly and it'll be your new thing!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Recipe for Gluttony: Mac & Cheese w/ Havarti & Asiago

Today, some of us are waking up to snow...when only last week we had our air conditioners running. Good thing there's no such catastrophe as climate change. ~eye roll~

With a nod to fuzzy blankets, fuzzy dogs, and fuzzy slippers, here is my favorite winter comfort food:


  • 8 ounces whole wheat pasta
    • Whatever shape makes you happy
    • Yes, whole wheat because you need noodles that stand up to the weight of the cheese. 
    • If you need to go Gluten-Free, then rice noodles work well too.
    • If you buy a 10oz box, use the whole box. We’re cooking here, not baking. We have wiggle room.
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground (powdered) mustard or ¼ cup prepared mustard (like Dijon)
    • (again, we’re cooking here, peeps, wiggle room)
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper (for zing!)
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper (for mmm)
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine
    • (2 cups if you believe in drinking half of what you measure)
  • 5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, plus 2 ounces set aside for topping
  • 3 ounces havarti, shredded
  • 2 ounces asiago, shredded

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Unearth two pots and a casserole dish
  3. Boil pasta al dente.
    •  Don’t overcook it (until it turns soft); otherwise, you’ll be eating cheese glue. It’ll finish cooking in the oven.
  4. Roux the Day: While you’re waiting for that watched pot to boil, in the second pot sauté the onions and garlic in the butter. Whisk in the flour. Whisk in the milk. Whisk in the spices. Keep whisking for 7 mins-ish. Do not let the mixture boil.
    • (During which time, your pasta will probably finish cooking. Go drain it and scurry back. If you do not scurry, your milk will scorch.)
  5. Saucy: To the spiced milk mixture, stir in the cheese until melted. Stir in the wine. Turn off the heat. Gently stir (aka “fold) in the pasta.
  6. Pour the mac & cheese into the casserole dish. Top with remaining cheddar.
    • Note: there should be more sauce than noodles, just shy of soupy. Remember the noodles will continue to cook and absorb liquid. Too little sauce and your noodles will dry out. 
  7. Bake for 30 mins.
    • If you want an extra crispy cheese crust, then put it in the broiler for 5 mins.
  8. Cool for 5 mins to save yourself from burning the roof of your mouth.

Serve with some flaked salmon or steamed broccoli if you need to feel a little virtuous. Also, leftovers are super awesome.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Apparently today is a recipe kind of day.
I actually don't USE recipes. I free form everything I'm cooking.

So, with that in mind, here are the basics of a favorite of mine.

Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup.

Dice tomatoes into large pieces. Let's say, ten or so. Add three freshly chopped onions. Don't skin the tomatoes DO skin the onions. using three tablespoons of utter or extra virgin olive oil and medium heat, saute until the onions have become translucent and the tomatoes have effectively softened and begun to break down. using either an inversion blender or a regular blender. (might want to let the pot contents cool down) puree until tomatoes and onions are one thick and moderately chunky consistency.

The next options depend on your dietary restrictions.

I prefer actual cream, but you can also make a roux base.

The roux is made of equal parts butter and flour stirred together under constant low heat until they make an even paste. Then water, vegetable stock, or some of the actual tomato and onion can be used to dilute the roux into a thick, but liquid consistency. Maybe a cup all told.

Put the tomato and onion mix back on low heat and stir on the roux or cream.

Seasonings. At the bare minimum I use salt and pepper to taste. I will often add garlic.

If I've feeling particularly adventurous I'll add spinach and feta and once again use the inversion blender. The spinach should be sauteed. The feta should not.

Serve alone or with grilled cheese sandwiches.

You can, optionally use beef stock or chicken stock to cook the tomatoes and onions.

Like I said, I don't really do recipes, but there you are. Tonight's dinner? Burritos....

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Procrastination or Proactive?

The mere fact that I never write these SFF7 posts until the day before they're due to go live doesn't mean I procrastinate, right?

I'm very good with deadlines - the old day job at NASA/JPL was a place where if a deadline was missed, you might blow a launch window or an entire planetary encounter so....kinda had to meet the due dates on stuff. Mars is there in a certain spot of its orbit around the solar system when it's there, not a day earlier and not a day later. I did contracts, not science, but the principle was the same.We had gigantic systems to track deliverables, both flight hardware and contractual.

All my life, I've found that I do better if I work on something right before it's due, a day or a few days ahead. I need that feeling of urgency to do my best work. The thrill of possible danger and defeat? I don't know, I just require the emotional pressure.

If a project is huge and in multi parts, I may break it down into components and assign each of them its own due date, culminating in the entire thing being ready when needed. We call that the critical path in project management. Certain activities will hold up the entire effort while other things may be nice to have but really don't affect  overall success or failure. Being an indie author, I set all my own due dates and there's not too much fallout if I'm 'late'. I do like to keep releasing new books every three or four months so I have to maintain a certain amount of discipline.

For the author interviews I write for USA Today HEA, I have to get in touch with each author a certain amount of time ahead, give them time to answer the pithy questions, leave time for me to ask clarifying or backup questions, write the post and then leave my editor time to go over the column before it goes live. So I have mini deadlines all along the way.

What we have in our family is a problem known as 'dithering'. This happens when too many things show up on my To Do List and they all seem to have equal weight, so my internal deliverables' tracker gets overwhelmed and I can't work effectively on anything. So I kinda do nothing or go off and do something totally not on the critical path of any project. Binge watch "Top Chef" maybe, or go thrifting at my favorite  store - fun but not ultimately productive. And I'll feel faintly uneasy the entire time because I KNOW there are things I should have been doing instead.

If there's something I really don't want to do, I'll make myself assign the task a due date and then I will do it on that date. I might reward myself with chocolate later, and I might not schedule anything else stressful for the same day. but usually what I find out is that the item I was dreading isn't really that hard or scary or unpleasant. And it feels so good to cross it off my To Do List!

So I'm proactive about my procrastination....

In other news, my Lady of the Star Wind was selected as an EPIC eBook Award Finalist last week! WHEE! I've put the book on sale for $.99 in honor of the honor...

The story:
Are they merely luckless lovers … or a legend come back to life?
Mark Denaltieri, ex-Sector Special Forces, has been hired by the Outlier Empress to rescue her granddaughter, Princess Alessandra, from kidnappers. Since the Empress once had him tortured and banished, she’s the last person Mark wants to work for. But he takes the job. He’ll save Alessandra, his first love, and discover why she didn’t speak for him when he desperately needed her. Then he’ll be on his way, finally free of his past.
Alessandra would rather her rescuer was anyone but Mark–after all, he let her believe he was dead all this time. But when the couple are forced to flee her captors by Traveling via a strange crystal globe, they find themselves in a lovely Oasis on a desert planet, the old attraction sizzling between them again.
They soon discover they are far from alone. The Oasis holds the entrance to another world, one in which the inhabitants are convinced Sandy and Mark are the Lady of the Star Wind and her Warrior, come to free them from an evil Queen.
Mark and Sandy must work together to unearth an ancient mirror, and crown the true king of this land.  Can they fulfill the prophecy of the Lady and her Warrior … and this time, will their love survive the test?
Buy Links:  iBooks     Amazon    KOBO     Barnes & Noble
Here's the gorgeous book trailer video Cheri Lasota did for me:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Procrastination Advantage

Procrastination is defined as the act of postponing or delaying something.

Resistance is defined as the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent  something by argument or action. Or in a writer's case - inaction.

Which, when you think about it, is really what's going on with procrastination. We're postponing (and/or preventing) the work. I think of procrastination as a symptom of resistance. It's a non-useful safety mechanism, some primordial brain space activating when we contemplate pursuing something that matters to us. Steven Pressfield has built a career out of describing resistance and has specific advice for combating it.

But are there times that procrastination is an advantage? Maybe. In rare circumstances. But let's be clear. 'Advantage' is pushing it, in my opinion, because I have to say that procrastination feels TERRIBLE. It's an awful place to be. So any benefit it confers is weighed against chest crushing pressure it exerts. These are the rare circumstances where the advantage of procrastination edges past its ickiness.

1. Procrastination is a symptom of an ailment. Not mine. A book's. Procrastination can be a little bit like waking up with a sore throat. It *could* just be a silly thing that will go away after a cup of tea. Or it could be strep. For me, if I go two days procrastinating, then my book probably has strep. Diagnosing the problem can take days. DAYS. Because it means disengaging from a novel in progress enough to get the 10,000 foot view so I can ID what's wrong. The problem could be in the previous chapter, or it could be in the first part of the story. Once I figure out the problem, it may take another couple of days to work out how to fix it. Only then can I move on. This is procrastination acting as a signpost that says "Hey, dummy, here be plot hole!" Let's not get into the psychological reasoning behind why my brain cannot possibly leave that stuff until the editing phase.

2. Procrastination as means of knitting up a raveling brain. Modern life is full of distractions, noise, and demands on our time. You know. Your beloved can't find his or her car keys. One kid is having a melt down about the diorama due in history tomorrow (no, of course he hasn't started it), another is going to starve to death RIGHT THERE on the kitchen floor if food isn't shoved at her this instant, and the dog just threw up all over your dining room carpet. And you're trying to write. Our brains become noisy, crowded places when we're juggling all of the roles adulthood requires. Procrastination is occasionally a means by which we let some of the excess sturm und drang ooze out our ears. It's meaningless activity meant to soothe some of the frayed and ragged edges so we can restore mental silence and focus. If that's the case, directing procrastination activities to that end (meditation work, working out, going for a walk in nature - alone) can actually get you back to work faster than if you just try to suck up the randomization and work through it.

3. Procrastination as serendipity. This one hasn't yet happened to me. I've only heard about it happening to someone else who had a contract for a project that she just kept dragging her feet on. This frustrated her no end and she could never articulate why she had so much trouble approaching the work. She liked the story and liked the work she'd done to win the contract, so what was going on? Just as she bit the bullet to call her editor so she could beg for a deadline extension, word came that the house had closed. She ended up feeling like she'd dodged a bullet. Now who can say whether she, on some level, saw and registered the warning signs of a publisher in trouble and then signed with them anyway - or if the whole thing was a coincidence. She did write the book thereafter and ended up self publishing it.

I've heard it said that procrastination is your subconscious extending you a vote of no confidence. If you're procrastinating, it's because you don't have a goal and a plan in place to get you to it.

Is that true do you think?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Procrastination; or, Trying To Get Things Done In A Release Week

If you haven't noticed, I've got a pretty intense writing schedule.  The Holver Alley Crew just came out, and The Imposters of Aventil is out in the fall (Pre-order now!), and Lady Henterman's Wardrobe next year, and... you get the picture.  I don't have a too much wiggle room in there.
But that doesn't mean I don't have days where I'm all, "Yeah.... writing.  Need to ... words... or something."
I definitely have days where I I whiff it.  ESPECIALLY right now, when a book has just come out, and all my brain power is used by "BOOK!  OUT!  ARE PEOPLE BUYING IT?  ARE THEY LIKING IT? WHAT IS HAPPENING?"
This is my fifth book, and it's still pretty much like the first one.  I've curbed some of the less-healthy behaviors (refreshing Amazon ranking constantly), but it still is occupying a heck of a lot of brain space.  My head is a spinning rainbow wheel.
Procrastination is part of how things go, it's a natural part of the process.  And as much as I try to make progress on a daily basis, I have bad days.  I have days where I can't get my head into my primary project (current primary project: drafting A Parliament of Bodies), and that's why you have secondary projects.  (Though now some of those are in my agent's hands, and thus I'm on NEW secondary projects-- one that's been a back-burner tertiary project for a while.)
But right now, I'm in that happy-distracted place about the release of The Holver Alley Crew.  Have you picked it up yet?  Then GET ON IT.  Meanwhile, I'm going to get on the writing.  Soon.  Any minute now. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Procrastination vs.Causation

I'm at Cleveland Concoction this weekend, Friday and Saturday March 10th and 11th. If you're in the area of Northern Ohio, check out the website: HERE for details, location, hotels, and all the info!

9PM What is Urban Fantasy?

1 PM Character Creation Challenge
7 PM Elevator Pitch Tutorial
10 PM Writing Fantasy Romance


"Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions..."  -Psychology Today

Procrastination is not something I often do. If there's work to me done, it's getting done. That said, when those times appear, those times when I just 'don't wanna,' its become apparent to me that there is more of a reason than avoidance of adult responsibility.

Sometimes, it is a need for more information. Once that hurdle is leapt, then the desire to get back on task reappears.

Sometimes, it is overwhelming. For instance, ProTools. Oh. My. God. ProTools. If you know this program, I need not say more. If you don't...the instruction manual is like reading 200 pages of stereo instructions. *headdesk* Just seeing the vastness of this dream-come-true access to such sent me straight into ripping down the wallpaper in the bathroom. I spent two weeks in that bathroom, wearing myself out physically (wallpaper removal. wall washing. wall repairing. raised stencils. painting. decorative painting. disliking and repainting. touching up. buying fabric for curtains and sewing. and so much more.) It seems it was all a subconcious plot to get me to sit for a bit every day and read in that manual, then give me something physical to do while ruminating over the information I'd just taken in. By the time the bathroom was done, my fear-induced procrastination about the program had turned into a ready-to-work attitude.

My advice: think about what is truly at the root of the procrastination. If it is just 'don't wanna' find a way to make yourself 'wanna,' such as a reward. The purpose of the reward is to keep you from producing 100 % crap work. If the reason is something else, take steps to tend to that ASAP.

Progress is active. 
You may spin your wheels, 
zig and zag a bit, 
but eventually 
you'll get the traction 
and move forward!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Release Day: The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca #Fantasy

It's a fabulous day in the SFF Seven as we celebrate Marshall's newest installment in the Maradaine universe; a perfect read for fans of fantasy, mystery, and adventure!


The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax's service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life.

Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. 

With no home, no shop, and no honest income--and saddled with a looming debt--they fall back on their old skills and old friends. With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land. Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti's crumbling sanity, the brothers and their crew of amateurs and washouts swear to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.

BUY IT NOW:     Amazon   |   B&N   |   BAM!   |  IndieBound

Monday, March 6, 2017

On the fine art of procrastination

Years ago I did an interview with Mark Rein-Hagen of White Wolf Games in which he said, and I'm paraphrasing, "I split my time between actual writing and creating." Tongue firmly planted in cheek I said the creation going on in that office had to be monumental. because there wasn't much writing going on .I was joking, of course, because really, he wasn't wrong.

Procrastination is a relative thing, but for me, as a writer, even when I'm doing nothing, there's a lot going on. When I'm driving log distances the odds are good that I'll have music going and I'll be plotting out a novel or a short story. When I'm watching TV, the same thing. When Im talking to people, not so much, because actual conversation requires that I pay attention.

When I'm reading a book, I'm automatically correlating the information into my reading list. Not on a conscious level, but often just to make certain that what I'm reading isn't too similar to what I'm working on,.When I wrote BLOOD RED I literally read fifty books on vampires and watched easily thirty movies for the exact same reason. Research is important. There are a LOT of vampire novels out there and a little crossover is going to happen but I wanted to try to make what I was doing as unique as possible.

Here's the thing: writers are often daydreamers. Even when doing nothing, the mind wants to wander and play what if. For that reason I will gleefully encourage procrastination, so long as it's within reason. Twiddling your thumbs will never take the place of hard work when it comes to putting food on the table. I can daydream a day away, but I still need to meet or exceed my word count whenever humanly possible.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Procrastination as a Positive

I’ve been a bit down the rabbit hole lately. An apropos metaphor for this post as I found this photo in a college friend’s scrapbook. That’s me at eighteen, dressed as Alice in Wonderland for a sorority party. This last weekend I met with a lot of my sorority sisters from college. We celebrated our chapters 100th anniversary, which meant we spent a lot of time talking, resurrecting old memories. We also met with the collegians currently in the chapter – as young and fresh-faced as I was then.

And this photo is me, too, many years later, taken by my friend, Karen Koonce Weesner, who I met as a pledge sister when I was eighteen. We gave a talk to the collegians and assembled alumnae. I called it “Now We Are Fifty” – and we wished that those girls would have the blessing of that same kind of lifelong friendship.

It’s been a good month for me that way. I spent a weekend with Grace Draven, and then my lovely friend Anne Calhoun came to visit me. This coming week I’m spending with family, celebrating my mom’s birthday.

I am overflowing with love and the best kind of connections.

Which is a wonderful thing, as there’s been some upheaval in my writing career the last couple of weeks also. The good kind! Out of respect for the people involved, I can’t tell you much until the end of March, but it’s going to be a really good change for me. But, you know, Alice taught us that about change – growing taller, smaller, eat me, drink me, through the looking glass – it’s always painful.

All of this means that I haven’t been writing very much. I’ve been taking a lot of days off to handle business, to travel, to be with people. When I have been writing, the project has gone slowly because all the upheaval has changed the trajectory of what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s felt like I’m procrastinating. I certainly haven’t been holding myself to a rigid schedule or wordcount production. 

I remind myself, though, that none of that means I’m not working on the book. Or books, which is what it really is.

That’s the topic for the week – When Procrastination Is Your Friend. There’s a lot that goes into writing. Done correctly, the stories we spin grow out of who we are, how we feel, what we’re experiencing. Instead of procrastinating this last month, I’m letting myself call it a time of refilling. All of these conversations and time spent strolling through wonderland and old scrapbooks are ways of relaxing and reliving.

So are stories.

I’ll be ready to write again soon.

Love to all my sisters in Gamma Phi Beta, in TTKE