Thursday, July 20, 2017

Scrapbooking for Real Inspiration

I don't tend to-- consciously any way-- mine too much of real life into my novels.  Obviously there's bits and pieces, some of it more overt than others.  Well, there are two minor characters in Lady Henterman's Wardrobe who are, in fact, very real-life inspired, but I think I'm going to keep the details of that close to the chest for now.  Have to save something for the memoirs.

Now, one thing I do like to do is draw inspiration from places I've been.  A lot of how the city of Maradaine looks in my head comes from places like Mexico City (specifically Coyoacan), Montreal (specifically Old Town) and Boston.  I don't know if I necessarily do a perfect job getting those inspirations across, but it's what I strive for.

 Image result for coyoacan church
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In other news, I'm going to be at ArmadilloCon here in Austin from August 4th-6th.  If you're in the area, stop by and say hello.  There might even be a shiny ARC of The Imposters of Aventil in it for you.  More details on that to come.
Now back to the word mines.  Plenty of work to do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Real Life as Subplots in the Persephone Alcmedi Series

Back in the summer of 2009, the first Persephone Alcmedi novel VICIOUS CIRCLE hit the shelves. 

It doesn't seem like that long ago, and yet...we've come a long way since then. Most of my plotting revloves around Persephone and the intracasies of the witch council and Seph's own destiny, but there are many vampire and waerewolf characters in the mix.

When I learned about local Cleveland authorities planning to demolish one of the predominant buildings I used in the story, it seemed appropriate to include it.


EXCERPT:  WICKED CIRCLE, pg. 178

     Todd was blathering on about a meeting they’d just had with the Ohio Department of Transportation.
     ODOT had put a new compensation package on the table concerning their bid to buy and tear down the Cleveland Cold Storage building for the new I-90 project.   

I figured it was a great way to show that humans had their own notions and goals that had nothing to do with the non-humans. Yet at the same time, this allowed me to show their bias and hate by having the humans be snidely pleased that it was impacting the non-humans in a negative way. It also served as a mechanism to further explore and develop the heirarchy of waerewolves, as the big-wigs sent someone to negotiate for another prime location in Cleveland. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Real World Events, Gewgaws, Ribbons, & Hot Glue: Fictitious Scrapbooks

Taking real world non-fiction events and twisting them into a scene in a fantasy novel? Who does that?

Me. Totally me.

It's the twisting that's the fun part, then taking a hot glue gun to make little plastic bridges between the twists, and hoping the adhesive holds well enough that the whole story doesn't unravel. A little Modge Podge to seal it. A fashionable ribbon here. A pop-culture sticker there. Yep. Pretty much summarizes my writing process.

Yes. I absolutely burn my fingers on the glue. Yes, my hair, dog hair, and last week's mystery crumbs end up embedded in the scrapbook too. There's inevitably a ghosting fingerprint or twelve that'll identify me to the Thought Police.

In my defense, I try not to spill the bourbon on the scrapbook, 'cause that'd be alcohol abuse...and it eats through the glue. Though, it does make a great editing assistant and accidents happen.

So, scrapbooking in the figurative sense, I am a big fan.

Scrapbooking in the literal sense? Not it. No, that's wholly different talent.


Monday, July 17, 2017

scrapbooking

I suspect that every author is guilty of this to one level or another Scrapbooking is the fine art of using real life events (yours or someone else's) and incorporating them into a tale.

In my case the one case where I can consciously say I did this revolves around a story of mine called "Burden of Guilt: my Brother's Keeper." In the story I twins who are psychically linked. The catch is, one of them is a serial killer who keeps his brother in check via emotional blackmail.

The story came to me full blown when I was watching the eleven o'clock news and saw a piece n twin brothers who'd broken the rules, climbed the fence for a pool that was closed and, sadly, managed to get themselves drowned for their efforts. '

There isn't that much in common, really, but it was enough to get the creative juices flowing.

I looked at my wife, wished her a good night and wrote the 8,000 word story in one sitting.

For me it's a rarity that I use real life as a springboard and it's almost always accidental in that I don't seek the stories out but run across them.

But the process does make for interesting tales and I know several authors who are almost universally writing stories based on actual events that simply haunt them until they work out the details in their stories and novels.


What Blender Setting Do You Go For?

We've been on a long road trip this last week, seeing all kinds of family. And leaving the cats behind, like the monsters we are. Here is Jackson showing off his best Pitiful Abandoned Kitty face.

Thus, I'm late posting today. But so it goes!

I've shared this news elsewhere, but I'm happy to share again here! Many of you have asked what I'm up to with various writing projects, including a few delayed ones. (Yes, the next Sorcerous Moons books are coming - I promise!) Basically what happened is that I changed agents back in February/March. And then I worked up something entirely fresh for New Agent Sarah Younger. Basically I gave her a list of ideas, we debated them, and I wrote 100 pages of one of her top three choices - the one I loved best. We went back and forth on it with several revisions. That's a great benefit of working with an agent as sharp as Sarah. She gave me great feedback on the book, tightening it up and making it the best it could be. Basically we spent three months working on this.

Which meant I kept setting aside other writing projects to work on the next round of THRONE OF FLOWERS, THRONE OF ASH. Thus my entire schedule getting delayed and shuffled. The beautiful part is, when Sarah took this out on submission, we had tons of interest, multiple offers, and a sale two weeks later. And here it is!!

These books won't start coming out until 2019, so now I can go back to a regular schedule. Which absolutely means finishing both the Sorcerous Moons and Missed Connections series. The other thing that happened is that Kensington, who published my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, started up a new SFF (Science Fiction and Fantasy) imprint called Rebel Base Books. They wanted to publish THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE, but that would have delayed its release until March of 2018 and I knew you all would have fits. (See? I do love you and want you to be happy. I really do!)

So, we said no on that, but they really wanted me to be part of this new imprint, so we settled on me writing a trilogy for them set in the Twelve Kingdoms world. It will be high fantasy, which means less of a romance arc. BUT, I'm pretty sure it will be Jenna's story. For those of you who know what that means! We finished talking about that right before the other submission, so that got announced at the same time.








All that taken care of, our topic this week is Scrapbooking—taking stories from real life as the springboard for your stories and subplots. I'm going to keep this short, mostly to kick off the topic. I love Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman's thoughts on "blender settings." Basically they say that all creative types take our real life experiences and metaphorically put them in a blender which produces the smoothie of our art. The big difference is what "setting" we put the blender on.

They've had to figure this out in their marriage, because they have such different blender settings. Amanda, a singer/songwriter and performance artist, has a very low blender setting. What she experiences, she turns around and shares in big chunks that are recognizably her art. Neil, as a writer of fantasy, has a very high setting - you almost can't recognize his real life in the final stories.

Neither is right or wrong - both of them are accomplished artists - but it took some doing for them to come to terms with how they each processed experiences. Especially for him with her putting so much of her - now their - personal life out there as part of her art.

What's most important is to find what works for you. My standard advice: discover your process and own it!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ins and Outs of My Newsletters

From DepositPhoto
The topic this week is author newsletters.

I have one, with about 3000 people on the e mail list and I have a separate list of about 1000 people who indicated interest in audiobooks only. The mail newsletter list is primarily ‘organic’, in that readers have signed up for it from my blog over the last five years, but I did add a few hundred people from various cross promo, list building events I tried last year.  I decided fairly quickly those events weren’t for me. There are many people in the world who sign up for these events for the prizes offered and then really didn’t want to continue to hear from the authors, so they unsubscribe and/or mark newsletters as spam. The audiobook list came entirely from a 2016 audiobook list builder giveaway and the first time I sent out audiobook news, there were about 40 unsubscribes, which wasn’t too bad. So I regard it as a solid list and feel the audiobook listeners genuinely do want to receive that content.

I only send out a newsletter when I have a new release OR some significant piece of news about something writing-related-to-Veronica Scott. On rare occasions I’ll do an NL in connection with a big, multi author promo event if I feel it would be of interest to, and potentially benefit my readers. I don’t ordinarily do NL swaps with other authors (on rare occasions I will, if it’s for an author I personally love), I never accept paid placement in my NL, I run no ads, I have no excerpts, freebies, contests or giveaways. I don’t share recipes, family news, personal stuff.

This does limit me from being involved in certain author cross promo events where part of the deal is the mandatory requirement to send out a newsletter. I will very rarely do that – it’s not my ‘deal’ with my readers who signed up, so I can't participate.

I’m just not a newsletter person. To me a NL is a ‘purely the facts’ kind of communication vehicle and the main reason I’d use it is for new release updates. The golden rule of promo to me is not to do the types that don’t come naturally.

From DepositPhoto
To balance that, I’m very active daily on twitter and on Facebook (on my Veronica Scott page) and in various scifi and fantasy romance FB groups, as well as author groups. I blog in three places regularly and I write posts for USA Today/HEA, Heroes & Heartbreakers, Romance University and Amazing Stories, plus occasional guest posts. I figure that’s enough Veronica Scott for most people!
So why do I even maintain a NL list? Yes, Amazon and BookBub and even Goodreads will send out new release alerts to people who have followed me on their sites. Three problems – the alerts don’t go out reliably or timely. In each place I have smaller numbers of followers than on my own list. Those lists ‘belong’ to the site, not me. I don’t even have access to who the people are. So I need my own list to ensure that in these constantly changing times, I can reach my readers who’ve expressed an interest in keeping up with my new releases. Or other book-related news, if something cool happens.

I’ve also gotten some very lovely reader mail back after a NL goes out.

In today’s world of publishing, everyone is looking for the next new thing. Somewhere in 2016, from my standpoint, the whole newsletter concept exploded, and authors were doing these huge list building events. I began to see certain unintended, unexpected side effects occurring, as discussed in various author groups I belong to. One effect, I mentioned above, was the set of ‘professional giveaway entering people’ who’d sign up for the prizes and then promptly unsubscribe. Another was the author getting in trouble for too many people marking their NL e mail as spam, versus simply unsubscribing. Third, readers were burning out – if there were 100 authors in an event, the poor reader might get inundated with 100 newsletters right after the event ended!  Fourth, readers are busy people and they might forget they’d even signed up for a NL as part of a giveaway weeks ago (or it wasn’t made clear to them their e mail was being harvested, which is a no-no, you have to disclose that) so when NL’s they had no memory of asking for hit their inbox, the person might get pretty upset.

And then there’s this whole idea of the ‘drip campaign’ which as I understand it, is where the author sends the poor reader a series of a mails, like gates to go through…add to that author frustration I’ve seen over “people don’t even read the NL, I’m going to delete half my list”…well, maybe the readers  ARE reading the NL, but in their e mail previewer, which might not count as an open in your particular NL tool…some people send NL’s weekly (!!!), bi-weekly….

Hello, I write books. I need to spend my time writing the books, and relevant posts for the big platforms where many readers hang out, not newsletters. I do have a PA help me with the technical part of sending the NL out, but I write the content. I don’t have the time in my life, or the patience, to manage drip campaigns and click thru rates and developing unique content just for the NL….I prioritize what works for me as a person and indie author.

I guess it sounds by now as if I’m pretty down on newsletters. I know some authors are very successful with NL’s and have forged terrific relationships with their readers because that format works so well and is a natural fit for their personality and communications style. SE Smith is an excellent example. I also love Nalini Singh’s and am happy to see a new one in my e mail whenever they show up.

After ALL that, if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter and be assured you’ll only see new releases info, with a smattering of other content, here’s the LINK. The sign up box is on my blog, at the top of the Home page.


And if you are into audiobooks, a group of authors from various genres has gotten together on Facebook and Twitter to do a giveaway July 15th through 30th. Just look for the hashtag #summeraudio


Friday, July 14, 2017

All I Do Not Know

The cat is back. Her feeding tube is out and she's recovering really, really well. My heart, however, is now in for some serious stress testing, apparently.

Aaaand, had you been subbed into my newsletter, you'd know all of this already because I just sent out a newsletter (the third in like three years) this past week. This is to say that when it comes to email lists and newsletters, I'm a learner, not a master. My email list is tiny. As in double digits tiny.

Finding how to subscribe to my email list is probably more difficult than it should be. KAK's excellent write up made that plain to me. Also plain to me is that getting my sign up put up as easily as Marshall did his? Yeah. It's not a thing. I have no way to grab my sign up box and put it where I want it. I have to send you to the Contact page on my website. Not sure why mine is coded that way. Dumb. But there you go. I will be asking my web mistress, I assure you.

My main issue with the whole newsletter/email list thing is that I have no earthly clue what to say. Ever. So my newsletter subscribers are mostly people who already know me from other endeavors - the international cat fancier's list I belong to, for example. So yes. My cats star in my newsletters. Kinda like they do everything else. As a result, I haven't ever really pushed for email sign ups.

The other issue is that I am scattered across a wide array of genres. SFR. UF. Fantasy. Paranormal Romance. In no case have any of my series been completed past two books. Usually, in a push for email sign ups, an author has something to offer - a free book, short, novella, something. And I do. But it is the sole example of sword and sorcery that I've written. So it's an odd lead-in to the rest of my list, right?

Sigh.

I think if we want to be really straight here, this is me. Drowning in all I do not know.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mailing Lists, Black Gate and Imminent Imposters

So the topic on hand this week is Mailing Lists, and how to do them well. Frankly, I'm still learning that one. I've only recently launched my mailing list, and my main rule of thumb is "only post when there's news".  Just today I saw a friend comment that she's on a writer's mailing list that has multiple posts a day.  That, my friends, is spamming.  I won't do that.  Heck, emailing more than once a month seems overzealous to me.

However, if you want a not-too-inconvenient mailing list:


In other news, Black Gate Magazine just recently posted a nice write-up detailing all the books, including the upcoming ones, of the full Maradaine sequence.

And speaking of upcoming books, The Imposters of Aventil is less than three months away.   And if you have access to NetGalley, it's already available to review.  And I should have ARCs to give away in the near future.  You know you want an ARC, don't you?  Of course you do.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Email Lists & Selling That Book You Wrote: 5 Tips

Give me your email address! All the email addresses! One address. Two address. Three address!

Yeah, I know sometimes it feels like you can't go anywhere on the web without someone demanding your email address, and you don't want to be one of those people. Yet, you kind of, sort of, awfully badly want to be one of those people whose books sell.

Here's the thing, second only to writing the next book, email lists are the best marketing tool. To make it sound less sales-oriented and more about connecting with the reader, the authorverse often refers to email lists as newsletter subscribers. In the world of marketing, there is a difference, but for the sake of this post, I'll use the terms interchangeably.

If you're feeling skeevy about email lists think of them this way: these are people who want you to tell them when you have a new book out. They want to buy your book. Why wouldn't you tell them?

SPAM. 

As in, you don't want to be spammy. You hate being spammed by overenthusiastic authors who somehow got your email address and now they're like your crazy aunt who won't stop emailing you.

There are scads of How To Build Your Newsletter Subscribers classes out there, and too many of them advocate mailing campaigns that are better suited for retailers than authors. There absolutely is such a monster as Too Much Communication, especially when there is no value-add for the customer. Want to know how to tell when a Big Retailer has someone on-the-ball in heir marketing department? Their newsletter settings allow the customer to define how often the company contacts them: Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Quarterly. Only When There's Big News. Do I think you need to have that setting? No.

You're an author not a retailer.  

Anything you do that takes away from writing the next book, better have a high Return On Investment (ROI). That is why I am a proponent of less is more. I believe strongly in the unspoken agreement between reader and author. One part of that agreement is the author will never abuse information given to them by a reader. This includes their email address.

How often you should send a newsletter and the content of your newsletters are different posts for different days, but the short version is: send when you have a new book to sell. If you are a writer who drops a new book every month, then you have a reason to send a monthly newsletter. Same thing for quarterly. If you're releasing serialized works in addition to novels, those two lists should be separate.

5 Things To Do To Build Your Email List

  • Make it easy for people to subscribe. Put a link to your subscription page in the back matter of your ebooks. Put the subscribe box on the main page of your website. 
    • Note: Popovers (those windows that appear over the web page) do generate a lot of subscribers but they also turn away a lot of potential readers. The jury is split on their effectiveness. It's the latest way to combat "sidebar-blindness" in which the visitor ignores whatever is in the sidebar/header/footer, etc.
  • Cross-promote in author newsletters that are in the same genre as your book
    • Note: That promotion should go to a landing page that should include your subscription widget. Same applies to landing pages from ad campaigns: they should always include the option to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Offer a free short story exclusive to subscribers
    • Note: Some authors offer other freebies with a "chance to win" to "new subscribers only." Some offer offline-tangible things (like swag). Do what's right for you. Keep in mind, you're an author, the product you're selling is your stories, so no need to go overboard with prizes. Don't make it complicated. 
  • Remind your social media followers to subscribe. Remind them there are things in the newsletter they won't see in 140 characters and a gif. 
    • Note: Be selective about when you do it, say a week before you drop a newsletter. Don't do it daily or weekly, it becomes noise that's easy to ignore.
  • Plug it. Pin it. Embed it. Everywhere your author bio appears should also include a reminder to subscribe. If it's digital, then include the link to the subscription page. Twitter and Facebook had "pinned" posts option, rotate in a subscription promo when you're in the lull after new release promo. Offline, verbally encourage subscriptions. Remind readers of the benefits. 

Remember it's quality over quantity. Valuable subscribers are the ones who actually open your emails, then go buy your books. Brace yourself. Open Rates are a small fraction of your total list. Click Thru Rates (CTR) are a fraction of the Open Rates. Buy Rates are an even smaller fraction of CTR.  

Never, ever, ever sign people up for your newsletter without their consent. 
In some states, that is how you run afoul of anti-spam laws. 

Keep your efforts focused on your primary goal: Sell Your Books.



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Not A Fan of Too Much Change

The theme for the week is to identify the one thing we need most in our life.

Well, ok, personally I’m all about stability. I like things to proceed on an even keel, no big surprises, just follow my routine basically. Feed the cats when they expect to eat, do the grocery shopping on Friday, see my new grandbaby on Thursday afternoon, pay the rent on the 1st of the month, see the dentist once a quarter…write this post on Saturday morning…etc., etc., etc. And then since things are so calm and peaceful and serene, and going as expected, I feel free to spend hours at my desk every day writing all kinds of science fiction chaos and mayhem (but with Happily Ever After endings).

Which is all very nice and lovely but life doesn’t actually work that way, or not for too long anyway. I’d have to have the total control of Billy Mumy in that old episode of “Twilight Zone” where he held everyone hostage to his wishes, and pretty much ran things. “It’s A Good Life” was not actually all that good for anyone but his character! (But what ever was, in the Twilight Zone?) Total control over everything doesn’t turn out too well. As Marcella said in her post on Friday, we need change even if we don’t necessarily always welcome it at first. Change opens up new possibilities and fresh approaches.

I don’t tend to react well to change. My family has learned to tell me stuff wayyyyy up front so I can mentally switch gears and go through my own laborious process of resistance, grumbling, acceptance, embracing and then enjoying. I do get there, but it takes a while. Don’t ask any of them what it was like when I found out two years ago that the owner of the condo I was renting had decided to sell (not to me) and I had to move. This was the place I’d expected to live for decades LOL. Silly me.

Probably a better metaphor for my life than the depressing Twilight Zone episode is the fact that I live in Southern California, in a supremely earthquake-prone location. In fact, I was once informed by a very famous seismologist that my house (at the time) sat right on a little known fault and based on the historical record, if that part of the fault broke in a quake, my house and everything around it would go up OR down at least 18’ in the blink of an eye. Well, who knew?

But obviously I realize as a whole my area is geographically
unstable and could let go in a riproaring CHANGE at any second (and no, The Rock wouldn’t be here to save me and my cats), yet still I live here. Life is very much like that, I believe. We do the best we can and then when change occurs and is the opposite of ‘stable’, we cope.

This coming week is the 29th anniversary of the day my high school sweetheart husband went out the door for a bike ride with a friend and ten minutes later the neighbors were at the same door telling me there’d been a terrible accident. That event left me a very young widow with a three year old and a five year old, and was probably THE biggest change I’ll ever experience in life. Literally everything was ripped apart and had to be put back together one step at a time. Those ten minutes redirected the entire course of my life thereafter.


So you’ll forgive me if I’m very adamant about how much I need stability. Yes, I can and will cope with the minor and major catastrophes life throws at us (as well as the VERY good things – hello, grandbaby!)  but if it’s all the same to you, I’ve done my share and would like to just peacefully go about writing my space operas.

(Speaking of which, Mission to Mahjundar is on sale at the moment...I was actually working on a very early draft of this book when my husband died...he would have been very proud to see that it did get published eventually and was an award winning novel. He was always my biggest fan and cheerleader, when it came to my writing and my attempts to become a published author. I could not have asked for a more supportive spouse and best friend, and feel blessed to have had him in my life for as many years as I did. This anniversary is always something of a challenging time for me, so I hope I haven't gone too personal here.)

Amazon     Barnes & Noble   iTunes      KOBO

Friday, July 7, 2017

Making Space

Have you ever wanted something badly enough to change your habits to get or achieve it? Did you say to yourself that you needed to make space in your life for the effort required to achieve your goal? Maybe it was making the baseball team and what you needed was to make space for dedicated practice every day. Only that way could you develop the skill needed to make a team.

Have you paid any attention to some of the New Age-y philosophies about 'making room' for something in your life? There's the story about the woman who decided she was ready for a committed relationship, but no prospects appeared. She finally realizes she hasn't made room for a partner. Therefore, she cleans out her closet so half is empty. She clears the second bay of the garage. Presto. Because she'd made physical space, she'd made psychic space, and put herself into the frame of mind to see possibilities she hadn't before. The natural cynic in me nods and says, 'how neat, tidy and accommodating.'

Regardless, both stories point out a single fact: Space is predicated on loss.

If you need space, you have to lose something you currently have or do or are in order to have what you believe you want. In the case of the wannabe baseball player, the loss is after school TV and games with friends. In the case of the relationship, it's the loss of physical space, yes, but it's a larger psychological shift - it's a case of reframing one's identity as an individual to someone who is part of a pair.

If you require further proof, think back to a time you'd lost someone. Tell me you didn't exit a funeral home or leave the gravesite with a sense of vast emptiness. There's that space we were looking for. Granted. It doesn't always require a human or animal sacrifice. Sometimes a job loss, or getting dumped, or losing a place to live suffices. Once the panic subsides, a kind of numbness sets in that somehow stretches time and you're staring over the rim of the Grand Time (and Space) Canyon.

This is where I am. I always want more space for writing - and for dedicated mental/emotional energy to apply thereto, but that's another blog rant. I've had a specific vision for how that would work. Turquoise water, a beach, and a writing desk that looks over it all. While that pretty vision isn't assured, we are moving across the continent. From Seattle to Tampa, Florida. It's time to sail warm water.  To make the space for all of this to happen, we had to lose our home and our eldest feline. We had to lose a ton of assumptions about ourselves, too. Like a friend said, we defined Pacific Northwest. But you know, the moss has grown thick enough, I think. Time to redefine ourselves. I have no idea what the definition will be - but it will involve writing, another boat, cats, and the ocean. Always the cats and the ocean.

So what do I need to make space for? Nothing. The space is made. I'm wallowing in it. Now it's time to execute.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Need More Space For...

What do I need more space for?

This is a trick question, right?

We all know I don't have a dedicated work space.  I'm a writing vagabond, going wherever I can with my rolling case carrying my laptop and writing notes.  Today I'm at the kitchen table, tomorrow I might be on the couch, next week: we'll see.   Maybe using the kitchen counter as a standing desk.

I would love a dedicated office, desk, etc.  Right now it's not an option, but when I do have that space, it'll be lovely.

I've mentioned this online before, and someone unhelpfully pointed me toward this cartoon of a Charles Bukowski quote.  As if to say, Hey, man, if you were really serious about your art, you wouldn't need a special office space.  You'd do just fine without it, because you'd be DRIVEN, man.

Screw that.  I mean, yes, I don't need it.  I think I've actively demonstrated that point plenty.  I can continue to work and do fine with nothing but my rolling-bag-vagabond-office and whatever flat surface I find.  I can.

That doesn't mean I don't want more.  That doesn't mean I shouldn't strive for having it, like it would make me soft.

Though, on some level, it's a nice metaphor for my writing career.  I mean, I'm doing pretty good.  But there's still plenty to achieve, and I kind of like that I still have to be hungry and fight for it.  That it hasn't gotten too easy.

If you've been following me for a while you're probably aware of my feelings of how this business is supposed to be.  I'll let Tom say it one more time.

 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th!

From all of us at the SFF Seven,

Happy Independence Day!


To our international readers: We invite you to share in the revelry.  Yes, we know about our drunk uncle. We tried to uninvite him, but he's enamored with the big screen.

Remember folks, you're starting off with 10 fingers and 10 toes, try not to lose any today.
Stay hydrated.
Pets don't like fireworks. They like cheeseburgers.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The One Thing I Need

Really lovely how RWA sends the RITA and Golden Heart Finalists this invitation to the reception, along with our shiny finalist pin! Both are mementos to treasure.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is "I need to make more space in my life for…"

I find it interesting that whoever submitted this topic phrased it as "I need," rather than "I want." I'm a believer in separating "needs" from "wants." We can want all sorts of things - from the immediate impulse of that yummy chocolate whispering from the pantry in the kitchen to that Italian villa overlooking the Mediterranean. As opposed to the actual needs for adequate nutrition and shelter from the elements. See my point? The latter is about basic survival and keeping ourselves alive, whereas the former are about treats and luxuries. In the case of some treats - too much chocolate, for example - those can actually work against survival by being not good for long-term health.

Not that I am against treats and luxuries! In fact, I believe treating ourselves to things we DON'T need is an important reward for hard work. Just yesterday I bought these Steve Madden blingy shoes to wear to the RITA Awards ceremony. (Only $64 at DSW, though!) I don't need them. I had other shoes I could wear. But all that hard work I put into the books that led to finaling for this award deserves a little fun treat for myself. Plus, zero calories!
So, when I consider the question of what I NEED to make more space in my life for... I'm coming up empty. These days I'm doing pretty well. I've worked out a reasonable writing schedule that's maximally productive without draining the well. I'm adding back in fun things like gardening and seeing friends. I'm even (reasonably) on track for my reading goal of 150 books for this year!

There have been times in my life that I would have had a long list for this question, but right now I can think of only one thing: zero-calorie Prosecco.

Now, that I truly NEED! ;-)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

At Least No One Asks Me to Travel with a Crocodile

From DepositPhoto
This week’s topic is writing while travelling and how we accomplish the feat.

I don’t.

For various reasons, travel takes a lot out of me and if I’m required to travel, I’m going to be concentrating on the mechanics of the trip and the accomplishment of whatever I went for. I take a pad of paper with me in case I get a really killer plot idea or want to take note of something, but only once have I ever actually written a few words of prose. It was less than a page, about a character known as The Renegade, and I’ve never done anything else with that particular snippet. I did use the character in a small but pivotal role in Star Survivor. He’s an intriguing guy so he may still get his own book in the future.

So that’s a short and not especially illuminating or useful discussion. I thought about not even posting today, rather than waste your time, but then I thought I could at least give you a passage about travel from one of my books.

Here’s an excerpt from Magic of the Nile where the heroine, High Priestess Tyema, is sent on a journey by the Crocodile God she serves. Tyema and I share a reluctance to travel but at least no one asks me to take along a live crocodile!

Magic was a ‘Hearts Through History Romancing the Novel’ Contest Winner….

The Excerpt:
The journey from her temple to the small port that was Ibis Nome’s only formal access to the Nile took three days by donkey cart. Tyema grew increasingly nauseous and short of breath the longer the journey went on, even though she was surrounded by her kinsmen, her temple workers and her niece Renebti and scribe Jemkhufu. All of them did their utmost to make her comfortable, especially Renebti, who was a gentle soul and obviously distressed to see her aunt in such turmoil. Usually Tyema did a good job of hiding her symptoms but in the close quarters of the cart, and the tent the two women shared at night, she feared her problems were all too obvious.
                Infant Seknehure was well behaved, watching the world go by from the safety of a sling Tyema wore. He was her solace. Taking care of his simple needs, snuggling him, breathing in his sweet baby scent all calmed her and enabled her to shut out the world. Even when he was fussy and she had to walk beside the cart, trying to soothe him, the activity relieved her symptoms as well.
                But her dread of the river voyage ahead came rushing back in a dizzying wave as her small caravan wound its way through the crowded, smelly harbor town. People stared at her since the High Priestess of Sobek was legendary in the province, rarely seen. Tyema held her head high, feeling her blushes staining her cheeks, and tried to smile. It didn’t help that she was wearing a simple traveling dress and cloak, not her ceremonial robes and crown. Nothing to hide behind.
                The nomarch’s private ship, the Swift, was much larger than any other vessel in the choked harbor. Comparing the tiny inlet to the sweeping peninsula she and Sahure had surveyed, Tyema could certainly see why Pharaoh had sent him to investigate the possibility of building a new port for the increased trade he was contemplating.
                Captain Djedefhor was waiting to greet her on the pier, dressed in a simple white shirt, dyed blue kilt and matching nemes. Around his neck he wore two amulets, one of Sobek and the other of Ra, the sun god who sailed the sky and the Underworld. Djedefhor bowed as she dismounted from the cart and shook out her skirts. “It’s my honor and pleasure to convey you to Thebes, Lady Tyema. I hope my poor ship will meet with your approval.”
                “I’m not used to traveling on ships at all, captain,” she answered honestly. “It’s very kind of the nomarch to lend me his vessel for the journey.”
                Djedefhor smiled broadly. “We’ll set a high standard for you to compare all other ships to in the future. The nomarch’s orders were to ensure your every comfort while conveying you to Thebes as fast as possible.” His easy manner toward Tyema bordered on flirtation, his glances at her appreciative. “Are you ready to board?”
                “I must see to the comfort of my crocodile before I can worry about myself,” Tyema answered. “This is my crocodile keeper, Hotepre.”
                As the grizzled older man came forward, the ship’s captain frowned. “Ah yes, the crocodile. I must confess I prefer taking you on as a passenger over inviting one of the Nile beasts onto my deck,” Djedefhor said with disarming honesty. Tyema liked him all the more for his candor. “I don’t suppose we can put it in the hold?”
                “Not before I’ve died and gone to the Afterlife,” Hotepre said, hands on his hips. His two underkeepers crowded behind him, ready to defend their crocodile.
                Djedefhor surveyed the crate on the last donkey cart. It was rocking side to side and much clawing and noise could be heard. The harnessed donkey was wide eyed, sidling nervously while the driver held the bridle tight.
                “I can order the animal to walk onto the ship,” Tyema said. “Our idea was to chain him by the hind leg to the mast, or perhaps the rail at the stern? One of my men will watch the crocodile at all times. We’ll have to catch fish to feed it periodically during the voyage.”
                Djedefhor had apparently not heard anything she said after the part about walking the crocodile onto his vessel. He swallowed hard. “For the sake of my crew, can you bring it aboard in the crate? I’ll agree to let it travel on deck, as long as I’m satisfied with the restraints, but I’d rather not risk having such a dangerous animal walk freely.” He glanced at the massive crate again. “I expected to treat the beast as cargo, not a passenger.”
                “This animal was personally selected by Sobek, to honor Pharaoh. I assure you Sobek has given me the power to command his creatures,” Tyema said. Deciding she didn’t want to push the point and incur the captain’s hostility before the voyage had even begun, she went on in a more positive tone, “But we can certainly load him onto the ship inside the crate and then allow him to have the fresh air. The box is constructed to come apart easily. Hotepre, can you take care of this for me?”
                “Well, then it’s settled,” Seeming pleased, Djedefhor offered her his hand to ascend the wooden gangplank. “It’s a bit tricky for nonsailors. And of course you have the baby to balance as well. “
                Trying to decide if the captain actually was trying to flirt with her, Tyema allowed him to escort her onto the Swift.  Renebti and Jemkhufu brought up the rear. The deck was reassuringly wide but flashes of the day she’d been carried aboard a Hyksos vessel as a terrified prisoner came and went in her mind. Tyema froze, clutching the baby so tightly he cried. Her vision was narrowing and she knew she was going to faint. From a distance she heard Renebti’s voice asking if she was all right and the captain’s deeper tones as he said something, but she couldn’t stop the escalation of her terror. Someone tried to take Seknehure away from her and as she was resisting the attempt, backing away, she tripped.
                There was a flash of pain in the back of her skull and the world went black.

The Story:  She’s a priestess, he’s a proud warrior … is love enough to bridge their differences?
When the high priestess of an Egyptian temple falls in love with a captain of the royal guard, their bond is tested by the intrigue and peril of their duties to the gods and Pharaoh.
Tyema serves Sobek the Crocodile God as High Priestess of his Nile river temple. But despite her beauty, grace, and the power she wields, the shy priestess lives as a recluse in the remote temple grounds. For though Sobek rescued her from a childhood of abuse and neglect, and healed her crippled foot, her dark past haunts her still.

When Sahure, a dashing captain of Pharaoh’s guard, arrives to ask her help for Pharaoh, Tyema’s wounded heart blossoms. The captain is captivated as by her well … until Pharaoh orders him to the dangerous frontier, far from Tyema. He rides away, bound by duty and honor, leaving Tyema with even more secrets to bear.

Heart-broken, Tyema returns to her lonely life … until the Crocodile God reveals other plans for his priestess. For Pharaoh’s life is threatened with black magic, and only one who wields the power of a god can unmask the sorcerer. Tyema must brave court life, and somehow withstand the pressures of swirling gossip, intrigue and danger. And she must hurry, before ancient evils overcome all her efforts.

But when Sahure returns, is he there to help or to hinder? Will love lead them to common ground, and a future together … or will their differences tear them apart forever?

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