Monday, April 30, 2018

How to be a better writer?

So many simple rules, but we're supposed to go with three, so I'll try to behave.

1) Be aware of your craft. By that I mean, READ. Read a lot. Read every damned day. Read all genres, heck, you can even go crazy and read nonfiction without it having to be research. READ. The simple process of reading is honing your skills if you are even remotely aware of your surroundings.

2) WRITE. Every single day. I don't care what your plans are. Write. Be if for ten minutes or several hours, write. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean you are putting words on paper or a file. Sometimes that simply means turning off the internet and actually working through issues of the latest story ideas in your head.

3) LIVE. Listen, I can say this a dozen delicate ways, but I don;t want to. It's nearly a natural tendency for writers to want to isolate themselves. The best of us, as far as I can tell, are extroverted introverts, but given a choice, locking ourselves in the dungeons of our own creation seems to be a positive thing in may eyes.
That's cool. Not.
Go out. I'm not saying you even have to be social, but go out, SEE PEOPLE. Observe them. Understand what makes them tick as best you can, because, at the end of the day, we are dealing with populations in the backs of our fool heads, and they should come from reality as much as they come from our imaginations See people. Watch them. Do';t stare, that's rude, but go to a restaurant, go to a cafe, go to a park, relax, and observe. See what makes them unique. Appreciate it, admire it, exploit it in your writings. Even as a kid I was almost always the "quiet one" because I found other people far more interesting than me. They have so many secrets! I want to know them all. And if I can't know them, I want to imagine them.

That's my three.

Your mileage may vary.

I got back the edits for my PREDATOR novel.

This has been a hoot!


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Three Ways I Learn to Be a Better Writer

Pretty excited to see the flyer up for my book signing with Minerva Spencer on July 8 at Page 1 Books in Albuquerque. This is her debut, so I expect it to be a fun party!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: Who do you learn from? (Teachers, mentors, resources for skilling up.)

It's an interesting question because a huge part of growing as a writer - and probably in any self-driven profession - is learning when to trust yourself and when to listen to others. As a newbie writer, we all really need to listen to advice from others. Even when we think we don't need it. Maybe even PARTICULARLY when we think we don't need it.

As with all wisdom, recognizing what you don't know is a great step toward truly improving.

And, as with many endeavors, but especially creative ones, there comes a point where taking classes, getting critique, etc., simply are no substitute for DOING THE WORK. Some people throw around the number "one million words" that you have to write before you've cleared the pipes and can really lay down fresh and clear prose. I don't know about one million, but I'd believe it. It takes a lot of just writing writing writing to get there.

So, once you're a more experienced writer - even one, like me, teaching others how to write - how do I learn?

Three things:

1) First and foremost I study other writers. I read widely in all genres, and I deliberately check out those books that win awards, that people love and talk about, and that sell well. (I think these are three different aspects of a "good" piece of writing. Very rarely does a book hit all three.

2) I have select critique partners. At this point I'm blessed to have a lot of author friends, and I hit them up at various times for various stories. I bet you can guess how I decide. Reference #2 above - I ask those writers who are really good at the thing I'm hoping works or am pretty sure needs to get fixed.

3) I learn from the world. Part of being a creative person is taking in the world around us and giving our answer to it. I try to experience all kinds of storytelling in different media, or different arts altogether - music, movies, painting, architecture, philosophy, nature. I'm a Taoist, so I believe that our lives are a long path of growing and refining ourselves. Writing is just one piece of that for me.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

I Predict Disruption But Also More of the Same

So not the Author. DepositPhoto

So our challenge this week is to set forth five prophecies for the future of publishing/romance/anything related. We do have a touch of the ‘the sight’ in our family but not for things of this nature LOL (doesn’t work on Lotto numbers either).

The first thing that comes to mind is that Amazon has become a big, stable business (as far as the books and indie publishing aspect) so I expect someone will come along and be a disruptor. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of disruption:  “Disruptive innovation is a term in the field of business administration which refers to an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products, and alliances.”

It happened to the phone company, the major TV networks, the record industry, the airlines, the retail industry, IBM, Xerox…so I predict it will happen to Amazon as well.  Yes, Amazon itself has been a huge disruptor in so many ways but time overtakes us all, inevitably.

Second, I think reverse harem will continue to be a big trope in romance, until whatever is next comes along to displace it. I have no idea what the next big popular trope will be. We’ve had the stepbrother thing, the blue space barbarian thing, YA dystopian angst, sparkly vampires…what’s lovely about the indie publishing world is that when a trope ceases to be ‘hot’, authors can still write it anyway and readers can still find it anyway…just not as much of it. Or those of us who didn’t find a particular trope fit in with their storytelling can just keep writing what we write and appreciating our loyal readers.

Third, since humans first sat around the campfire and told each other stories, there’s been a need for entertainment to balance the cares of daily life and work. I don’t expect that need to ever go away but in this day and age there are so many more options for entertainment than our ancestors had. Authors will have to be prolific and nimble to stay in the mix, and keep in mind that publishing is very much a business. Yes, there must be a good story first but discoverability is the key.

As a follow-on to that thought, fourth prediction, I think the older methods of promo – newsletters, Facebook ads/pages/groups, conferences, good reviews in a magazine, blogging, tweeting – are all becoming increasingly less effective. New methods of promo to reach the current and new audiences will have to be found. I’m not a Silicon Valley techie or a PR person so I have no idea what those new shiny tools will be, but I’m keeping my eyes and ears open.

Fifth, I predict someone will become the next ‘overnight success’ with something totally new that no one saw coming that catches the public fancy, becomes a movie or a TV miniseries, maybe even a theme park, and spawns a zillion similar books…because this always seems to happen. Someone will hit the zeitgeist just right, at the right second and BAM. Household word. The author probably really isn’t an ‘overnight success’ but has been writing away in the modern equivalent of a garret for years. More power to you, unknown author!

And if I knew what that shiny fabulous book plot was going to be, I’d write it myself, but as I mentioned above, the family gift is more for premonitions of onrushing catastrophe than what trope to be sure to include in the next book.

My heroine in HEALER OF THE NILE makes predictions by casting colorful stones. Of course when all else fails, she has a direct line to Shae, God of Fate. DepositPhoto

Friday, April 27, 2018

Predictions! 4 of Mine and 1 Guest Prediction

Predicting the publishing future - my stabs in the dark heart of the publishing wilderness. Totally sounds like I should be filming a Predator movie somewhere. Alas. Not happening. Yet.

1. All the Eggs in One Flawed Basket - I'm seeing discontent and conversations going on about how certain LARGE empires are treating authors and books of certain genres. I see the call outs about how scammers are gaming said empire to the detriment of actual authors with actual novels. The writing on the wall says to me that the age of centralization is going to have to come to an end. If you are a reader or writer of content that isn't treated well, it's time to get subversive and create alternative outlets. I'm thinking of co-op publishing models run by the authors and readers themselves.
2. Newsletters Dying a Well Deserved Death - Yes, pretty much every single marketing guru out there who wants to tell authors how we're all doing it wrong (and given the number of people signed up for my mailing list *I* might be doing it all wrong) is pushing mailing list, mailing list, mailing list, I want hard numbers on open rates. Cause nobody under thirty that I know actually reads email unless coerced into it by work. My own email inboxes are so inundated that newsletters I willingly signed up for over time are now auto-filed in the trash. Only so many hours in a day and only so much bandwidth. Makes me sad. Do I know what's going to take the place? Nope. Not that clairvoyant. But when I want to know what an author I love is doing, I search for them on my book store of choice and start clicking buy buttons for the books I don't have.
3. Books that Have Actually Been Edited - This follows Jeffe's point about craft. A well written book is a book that has also been subjected to the fine and knowledgeable eye of an editor. I won't claim a book has to be perfect. It doesn't. But the plot holes need plugging. The turns of phrase need to make sense. Just because *I* know what I meant on page 163 doesn't mean that you know what I meant. I need an editor to tell me that the lengthy paragraph about the green and brown striped haviz makes no sense and maybe some of what I know in my head didn't make it to the page. So yes. I think books that have obviously been rushed and tossed online to cash in on something might start slipping as reader annoyance with such tomes begins growing.
4. Diversity - I suspect we'll begin to see authors of color and LGBTQA authors getting more subversive about publishing with co-ops. (I hope!) I don't see the major publishers, which seem to all be particularly tone deaf to the issues, pivoting on how they're asking their mostly white, straight authors to write diversity. We're already seeing authors using privilege to attempt to signal boost AOC and LGBTQA authors. I'm hoping for a lot more of that.
5. Hatshepsut's Prediction: MORE CATS!
I will do my best.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Perils of the Writer: Trend Chasing

So, the other day I was on a fantasy-lit based message board, and saw someone comment, "I want some fantasy-inspired music, but I don't like heavy metal.  What else is there?"

And I thought, "What are they talking about?  How is heavy metal the go-to trend in 'fantasy-inspired music'?"  And then it hit me:
fantasy music:heavy metal::fantasy lit:grimdark
(If I gave you SAT flashbacks with that, I apologize.)

But the analogy fits-- both fill the same subgenre niche, and both seem to be a popular trend at the moment.  And, I'll confess, I've never been too keen on the grimdark (nor heavy metal), but people like it and it's got some good stuff out there. Or, more correctly, there are a lot of works out there that I recognize their quality, while also recognizing that they are not for me.  And that's OK.  That's the thing with trends-- sometimes they'll be happening around you and you feel out of the loop because you just don't get why it's a thing.

Grimdark feels to be a strong trend in the genre right now, at least in the circles I have my eye on.  But trends change, so we'll see what's next.  I certainly would like it if people gravitated toward heroic fantasy, epic in scope but personal in scale.  I may know a book or two along those lines.

But what will the next fantasy trend be?  If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly (and lord knows I'm probably not), it's non-traditional secondary-world fantasy.  Things that really play with their worldbuilding, creating settings that are recognizable in totally different ways.  Stuff like the 1960s-ish secondary Asia of Jade City. Or the upcoming Titanshade by Dan Stout, set in a magical 1970sesque setting with 8-tracks and disco.  I'm looking forward to that one.

Maybe that's why a part of my brain is churning away with a vague idea involving a dieselpunk secondary-world setting and this helmet.

But it's still just early churnings.  We'll see what develops.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Since I suck at prognosticating, here's my wish list instead.

Predicting trends in the writing biz? Me? Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m the last person you’ll want to consult for prognostications. I kind of fail at them.

Back in the querying stage, I did a crudton of research on the market: what was selling, who was selling it, who was writing it, how they were selling it, what the covers looked like, what movies or television shows were sort of like the stuff that was selling. Even that crudton was barely a crumb on the surface of this gigantic, seaming pile of…er, research you can do. And people were there all along the way, advising me to research more, know more, learn more. Ack!

In the end, I learned that I was basically Jon Snow. I knew nothing.

I signed with an agent three years ago, and holy hell has the book business changed since then. No one predicted the convulsion our industry has endured, and I honestly don’t believe anyone has a clear handle on where it’s headed from here. We think trends are toward more optimistic, fluffy stuff. But tomorrow’s news story stands a good chance of yanking the stuffing right out of us. Alternately, if we go dark and current events go darker, I can’t imagine readers are going to follow us down into the pit of despair. And bless them for not.

So since I’m failing so completely to predict, how about I wish instead? That's what futuristic fictioneers do, after all: we build a world to our own spec. And if I were building the near future of the publishing biz, here are a few trends I would like to see:

  • More characters of color. Not just because representation matters (though it definitely does), but also because that's the way the world looks. Humans are a wonderfully, wildly diverse lot.
  • A resurgence of cyberpunk or more specifically, post-cyberpunk (e.g., Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash). Technology is eating us alive right now in the real world, so fiction where we pwn that stuff would be empowering.
  • Gay characters who exist in stories that aren’t about gayness. You know, where they’re just people, peopling. 
  • A retreat from trope-stuffing. One or two are fine, but commercial fiction has become overloaded with tropes, and the stories suffer from this bloat. At least we writer types should seek to invert or turn a few tropes sideways. 
  • Less mocking. Mockery isn’t funny, and I’m tired of reading books where “comedy” occurs at the expense of someone else. 
  • Consent. So much consent. Consent on every page. Heck, a whole cast of characters who are oh-yeah, all-in enthusiastic about the sexytimes. 
  • On a related note, I would like the word “mine” in a romantic context to become archaic usage. People don’t belong to each other and are not objects to be won. 
  • Actually, instead of stories about horrible characters doing horrible things to each other, how about some books about good people doing awesome things for each other? 
  • I mean, if you need stakes and stuff, they can always save the world. I’m so over being told that I as a reader like to see characters making poor life decisions. I don’t. 
  • Oh! And this: a gory, blood-spattered, 'bout-time end to cliffhangers.
Yeah. I feel better now. Probably haven't predicted anything at all, but I definitely feel better. How about you? You got anything specific you'd like to show up on your to-be-read pile? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Release Day: The Plagued Spy by @KAKrantz

It's Tuesday, and I'm thrilled to announce the second book in my Immortal Spy Urban Fantasy series is out today in eBook and paperback!

The Immortal Spy: Book 2

It’s all fun and games until someone breaks out the needles.

It was supposed to be a simple retrieval mission. Go in, grab the bespelled package of evidence against some very corrupt superpowers, and get out. The mission turns sideways when a vengeful spy Bix blackballed during her time in Dark Ops crashes the job and injects Bix’s teammates with an unknown toxin. Succumbing to a horrific mutation, the dying spook whispers the Mayday protocol for a compromised covert operation involving a biological weapon.

With her friends infected and sequestered in quarantine, a mole inside the spy guild exposing its undercover agents, and the brightest minds in the Mid Worlds unable to identify the biologic, Bix picks up the mission to find the creators and the cure. She’ll square off against Fates, dragons, angels, and even the god of plagues to save her friends; yet the greatest threat might well be the darkness growing within Bix and the evil on which it feeds.

Beware the plagued spy, for wrath and ruin are sure to follow…

Buy It Now:

Amazon   |  iBooks  |  B&N  |  Kobo

If you missed the first book in the series, THE BURNED SPY is available at Amazon and Other Leading Retailers.

Cover art by Gene Mollica Studio

Monday, April 23, 2018

My Top Five Trends in Publishing

Just got back from the orthopedic doctor. Looks like I'll be doing surgery sometime soon because I screwed up some tendons in my shoulder. I tend to need those tendons, so, yeah, surgery.

That aside, let's see about this week's subject. The top 5 trends I see in publishing.

1) A surge in audiobooks. Technology is making it easier and easier for people to produce them and they are in demands. This comes with an audio glut. Too many books that would never have made thew grade as it were will come out and fall on their faces. bad writing, bad production and bad voice overs will linger like a bad taste in the mouth. This will eventually level out. 

2) Ebooks will get cheaper. Really, that's inevitable. Some of the big houses are still charging prices comparable to the cost of a hardcover, but it's not working for them and they'll eventually all catch on. Those that do not will a) be the exceptions or b) regret it. 

3) I agree with Jeffe. A lot more people will do ebooks through their sites. As with audio above, your mileage will vary depending on how ell made the books are and how well edited. As we have already seen on Amazon, quality DOES make a difference. 

4) Piracy will continue, but will be more costly. What do I mean? I mean as viruses get more adept at hiding a lot of sites that offer "free" versions of books that are for sale on Amazon, etc, will end up costing the downloaders dearly. Hackers are getting creative when it comes to stealing information and causing mayhem. You don;t pay to play and some of them will make you rue the day. 

5) Traditional publishing will continue, with a boost from more brick and mortar booksellers and with a dash of specialty presses. The thing about specialty presses is that they are vey often labors of love. Some will come, some will go, but love will continue on. The brick and mortar stores will expand slowly, and in the process they will cherry pick the best of the specialty presses. 

Those are my predictions and I'm sticking to them. 

In the meantime I predict that I will finish four novels this year.  That does not include the Predator novel that I already finished.

Boomtown, Spores, As We Know It and one more as yet unnamed. All three are in various stages of completion, and the unnamed one is potentially something that will be contracted in advance. 


Sunday, April 22, 2018

What Lies Ahead? Jeffe's Five Predictions

A panorama of Santa Rosa Lake, New Mexico (and surrounds).

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Trend Change: What shifts in the world of writing are you noticing? (Craft, Sales, Publishing, Tech, etc.)

Here's my five!

1. Craft

I think we're going to be seeing greater emphasis on craft. Following the market glut of frequent sequels and stuffed books created for Kindle Unlimited bait, I see readers growing more discerning about looking for the "good stuff." Self-publishing has aged into being an almost universally recognized publishing choice - but with that has come decreased tolerance for anyone doing it on the cheap. There's no excuse for slapped-together covers and poorly edited or formatted books, not when so many authors are putting out books indistinguishable from traditionally published ones. With more and more self-published books reaching award-nomination notice, craft will again become a key quality in a story, rather than low price point or shock value.

2. Sales

We all saw sales take a major nosedive with the 2016 election and ensuing dumpster fire in the US. Thankfully that seems to be rebounding. At least for sales of self-published books, and for those that meet a reasonable quality standard. I'm hopeful that the Amazon sweeps to clear out KU scammers will help restore discoverability of books so that readers are actually seeing relevant books.

3. Publishing

Traditional publishers have been offering fewer contracts for straight-up romance and I think that will continue to decline. Self-publishing and digital publishers like Amazon's Montlake imprint have created a glut of inexpensive romance books so that traditional publishers are simply not seeing the profit margins on the genre that they used to. On the other hand, I think traditional publishers are more and more excited about other genres with romance elements.

4. Tech

I'm wondering how many indie and hybrid authors will start moving to selling books directly from their own websites. The tech is there, as is the incentive to diversify from Amazon. I'm looking at doing this myself.

5. Etc.

We may have passed the self-publishing gold rush boom - but we're also emerging from the bust. Things are beginning to level out and a LOT of authors are establishing relatively stable incomes from hybrid efforts. Traditional publishers are recognizing that their authors will be also self-publishing and they're accommodating those efforts in contracts and in promotions.

I expect things to continue to improve for authors, which means all you readers should be golden!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rethinking A Decision Made for My Second Egyptian #PNR Book

I don’t really have mistakes to report on my first book, Priestess of the Nile, although I’m sure when I eventually get the rights back, I’ll revise it with all the many things I’ve learned since writing the story in 2011. Seven years of writing more books and interacting with great editors and getting better at craft issues have to make a difference.

But overall, I remain pretty happy with the story and with it being my first published title. I will forevermore be in love with that cover - thank you, Carina Press and Frauke of Croco Designs!

Where I do think I went a bit wrong was with the second book in that Gods of Egypt series, Warrior of the Nile. I do a TON of research, all the time, into various aspects of ancient Egypt, but for this book, I veered off the track in the hero’s backstory in my opinion. I made him the last survivor of a mountain tribe that had its own gods and myths (conveniently created by me to fit my story), although since he was adopted by Pharaoh’s family at a young age, he also subscribed to the Egyptian beliefs. Indeed, the entire book revolves around a demand made by the goddess Nephthys and her personal involvement in the quest.

In fact, however, much of how the book’s plot is resolved ties back to this personal belief system the hero Khenet retains. There’s a key scene in a ruined temple belonging to an ancient goddess predating Egypt, again all from my own inventive brain. There’s another pivotal moment where Khenet receives a bit of help from his tribe’s god, fulfilling a prophecy. And then there are these jewels….
Now if I’d been writing fantasy, nothing wrong with creating and injecting all kinds of cool new mythos and lore and etc.

Sobek - photo is Author's Own
But I really try to tell these stories from the standpoint that the gods exist and interact in the daily life circa 1550 BCE the way the ancient Egyptians believed they did, and very much wanted them to do. I feel the success of the later books in the series revolves around that key aspect. Not in taking giant departures and left turns from the overall Egyptian culture. (Liberties and conscious anachronisms, yes. Wholesale invention of new stuff – no.)  So to me, book two rings bit false now, like a brass bell in a lineup of silver ones. Not the same tone. I haven’t repeated that ‘mistake’. I find a way to make my plots happen much more concisely within the ancient Egyptian framework. They had such a complex civilization and belief system to match.

Don't get me wrong - I like the book and my hero, I love some of the 'Egyptian' elements in it wildly, like Lady Tuya's visit to the goddess Isis...I just think I moved away from what's at the core of my Gods of Egypt series by injecting a fantasy side story that had no roots in anything the Egyptians believed.

I’m not writing historicals. I am writing paranormal elements but I’ve always felt with Warrior I went too far away from what keeps me (and my readers) grounded in the Land of the Pharaohs as I visualize it.

(And with apologies to the very co-operative and supportive Carina Press Art Department staff at the time, the cover for Warrior - which was not done by Frauke - was just never my favorite of the series, for...reasons. Although some aspects of it are very cool!)

I've been self publishing the Gods of Egypt series since Warrior was released (up to seven books now!)  but I'll always be SO grateful to Carina Press for launching my career.

Friday, April 20, 2018

You Did What?

You want mistakes? How much time do you have? Don't worry. I won't list them all, if only as some kind of balm for my mortally wounded pride.

My first four books will never see the light of day. Each for very good reason. But the first one - oh the first one was SPECIAL. 

I wrote an entire 100k words of a contemporary romance aimed at Harlequin. It was called GROWING LOVE. It starred an American floral designer with a best friend who hauled her across the Atlantic to the UK to design said bestie's wedding - aaaaaand just maybe because bestie was setting up the heroine with her temperamental, rock star brother. I wrote this thing and I loved everything about it. Everything. I sent it off to a specific editor at Harlequin full of expectation.

Ah, the innocence of youth. 

I'd love to tell you I got a phone call or a glowing letter in response, but we all know what I actually got were crickets. Tiny, timid ones. Well. Then came my very first RWA conference and the editor I'd queried was going to be there. So I made sure to get an appointment with her. It was a group appointment, naturally. Thus, with sweaty palms and shaky voice, I described the book to her and mentioned that I'd sent it already. She promised to look for it when she got back to work.

Not only did she look for my packet, she wrote out a detailed rejection letter explaining why she couldn't buy the book. 


I'd written 100k words and there wasn't a single, solitary shred of conflict. None. Neither internal nor external. It was 100k words predicated on snark. Shush. It was glorious snark. I admit I crept back to my local RWA chapter and had to ask what internal conflict was, cause I had no clue. Some days, I think I still don't. Regardless. Pretty big mistake. Pretty big learning opportunity that led me to dive into local chapter meetings where people like Stella Cameron would come to explain the difference between internal and external conflict and why a romance had to have both and why externals always wrap before internals in the romance market. 

I *still* take writing classes. Probably always will, because there are nuances to story telling that I pick up from every single class I take. And there are still mistakes. Hopefully all new ones that we can talk about in the years ahead. 

Actual photo of the author working on her current WIP.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Mistakes of the First Novel

I'm a bit crunched for time this week, and the SFF Seven topic is about mistakes in that first novel.  And frankly, I'm always learning with every novel I write.  And back when Thorn of Dentonhill was coming out, I owned up to one of its more glaring flaws-- I mistake I wouldn't make if I were writing it now.  As it's still appropriate, I'll put it all out here:

So, I've been holding off writing this post for a while, but with this article recently making the rounds, it's probably high time I talked about this.

I don't know much about this movie (The Art of the Steal), beyond what's shown here on the poster, but the poster is very telling.  We've got eight characters: seven male and one female.  So, a bunch of guys of all different types and The Girl.  In other words, we've got The Smurfette Principle in full effect.  Furthermore, while Katheryn Winnick isn't being overtly sexualized in this image, it still stands out that she's wearing shorts while everyone else gets pants.

(2018 addendum: I've now seen The Art of the Steal, and it's a fun enough movie, but it is VERY much a Smurfette Principle movie.)

Images like this one are pretty common, not only for movies, but for stories in general, especially of the action/genre/sf/fantasy types.  Here's another exampleAnother. Another. Another. YET ANOTHER.  I didn't even have to remotely try hard to gather those. It's so typical, such a pervasive paradigm, that movies, books and TV shows can have little-to-no female presence, and it doesn't stand out as strange.  I mean, who's the most significant female character in Hunt for Red October?  It's Jack's wife, who only appears for a couple lines in the very beginning.  How about Saving Private Ryan?  I'd argue it's Mrs. Ryan, who doesn't even have lines, but is talked about as someone who deserves to have at least one son come home.

I could go on about this sort of thing, but there's one big problem: Thorn of Dentonhill falls into the same trap.  An image not entirely unlike the Art of the Steal poster could be used to show the main cast of Thorn.

I didn't mean to do that, which is exactly part of the problem.  While writing it, it didn't seem strange that there was only one significant female character.  Now, I could make excuses or arguments that the world we're looking into with Thorn is made of spaces where men intentionally isolate themselves in some way-- the all-male dorms of the University of Maradaine, for example-- but that would be pure rationalization.

The real reason is I wasn't fully aware.

Now, this doesn't mean that Thorn is, in and of itself, a problem. Frankly, I think it's a great book, and the early reviews have been very strong.  But it is part of this problematic trend, and I need to be aware of that as I move forward in my writing career.

I felt compelled to be up front about this.  If this means that Thorn is a problematic read for you, I respect that.

All I can say beyond that is I believe I've done better with each book that's following.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Oh no she didn't! (Except I so did.)

Ermaghad, the topic this week is gaffes we’ve made in books, published and pre. I…don’t even know where to start. I am a serial word abuser. (If you ever meet my copy editor, please buy her a drink and promise to never spontaneously make up verbs.) So how about a game of Six Truths and a Lie? In honor of our SFF Seven blog title, here are seven super-embarrassing word crimes I have committed:

  1. The fanfiction from second grade where Luke and Leia went out on a date. (Qualification: RotJ wasn’t out yet, so the incest was as yet unconfirmed. Also, I wasn’t super clear what a date was but had some hazy thought that it had something to do with eating pasta together, like Lady and the Tramp.) 
  2. The one-act play I wrote in high school, which I intended to be this tense, tragic relationship drama, but the actors got ahold of it and played it as a straight-up comedy and I never told anyone it wasn't meant to be funny. At all. 
  3. The tech document I wrote about a public health web site but forgot the L in "public." 
  4. The thing with a scuba suit that was so gross my critique partner wrote “eeewww” in the margin. 
  5. Same book, I wrote a prologue. 
  6. Still same book, I wrote not one, not two, but three flashback scenes. 
  7. That fanfiction tale of old Gondor interpreted through a series of limericks. 

Aaaaand of those is a lie.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Writing Gaffes: Why THAT Book Stays Under The Bed

Worst gaffes in my first non-published book?

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Year: 2009
Gaff: 5 POVs, delayed meet-cute

Unlike epic fantasy where a half-dozen Points Of View isn't uncommon, I was not writing epic fantasy. I was writing a romance about wolf shifters in the Carpathians. Romance readers have certain expectations, like spending 99% of the book in the heads of one or the other romantic leads. That last 1% is reserved for the villains of Romantic Suspense. I, however, thought that sidekicks and the villain needed their own scenes too. At least a third of the story was told from their perspectives. To make matters worse, my primary couple didn't meet until chapter five, or maybe it was chapter eight. Oh, and it came in at a slim 110k words for a genre that was looking for 75k.

Golly gee, I wonder why I never got a request for a full for that one.

~kicks the Tome That Never Should've Been under the bed~

Monday, April 16, 2018

Looking back: My first Book's worst mistakes.

So back in the day, I was writing a comic book proposal a day and had been going strong for over a month when I finally decided I'd had enough.

I had an image stuck in my head and could not get it to leave me alone, so I finally broke down and wrote that scene. Then I wrote the next and the third. About three months later I had the first draft of my novel UNDER THE OVERTREE.

I was pleased. i was delighted! I ad around 180,000 words on a computer file and it felt effortless!

Of course, back then I barely understood the concept of editing....

I edited the hell out of that manuscript, I fixed a nearly endless run of run on sentences. I corrected tense shifts that were positively epic.  I studied the structure of the book a few dozen times and realized that I had created a massive house of cards. One scene goes and the whole thing falls apart.

And then when I was done I set it aside for a few weeks and did it again.

And again.

And again.

I have never edited a book as heavily as I edited UNDER THE OVERTREE. I believe there were seven or so drafts before I could look at it without actively cringing.

These days I edit as I go. It's slower, but it keeps me sane. 

there have been three editions of the book. There was the initial version from Meisha Merlin, the mass market edition from Leisure books, and finally the limited edition from Bloodletting Press. Likely there will be a new edition soon.

I have not made significant changes on the latter editions. part of me wants to, because, frankly thee are things I'd like to change. My writing style has evolved over time and some of those early phrases hurt my head. I won't. I will resist the temptation, because all of those warts and scales? They're proof that I HAVE evolved as a writer. And if I made the changes, it would no longer be the same novel.

I'm proud of that story despite the things I might want to change.

But, wow, I seriously never thought the edits would end....

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Screwing Up in that First Book

I'm always terribly amused by these signs. Apparently in flat, desert landscapes like we have in New Mexico, one must beware of sudden lakes.

A big mistake, to be cruising along and not realize the road ends in a cliff dive into water.

That segues pretty naturally into this week's topic at the SFF Seven: "Looking Back: Your first book's (published or not) most cringe-worthy gaffe."

The gaffe I *still* cringe over in one of my very early books is actually an inadvertent typo that made it into the published book. This was a traditionally published book, too, an erotic romance I did with Carina Press, that went through multiple layers of editing, copy-editing and proofreading. This is on top of the fact that I turn in pretty clean copy overall. Usually mistakes stand out to me like they're in red font. I even went back to my original draft to see if I really did that, convinced that someone along the way had introduced the error.

Nope. All my fault.

And nobody caught it.



That's why my book, SAPPHIRE, from 2011 has this line in it:

"She was like a baby heroine addict..."

Heroine versus heroin. Alas.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Does My Family read My Books? What Do you Think?

Not my family but they sure look like happy Readers! From DepositPhoto

My immediate family is extremely supportive of my writing, probably because I’ve literally been writing since any of them have known me. I first became published in January 2012 but that’s just one milestone on my lifelong need to tell my stories, starting at age 7.

My late husband and I met in the tenth grade. It was common knowledge among our friends that I wrote science fiction and he was always my biggest booster and champion. After we were married, he’d do whatever it took to carve out time for me to write in the evenings and on weekends (I had that demanding day job at NASA/JPL) although sadly when he died, I kind of put away the novel I was working on for a very long time and concentrated all my energy on being the single working mother of two very young children. He always read whatever I wrote and was maybe the only person I ever let read something while I was still writing it. As a general rule, I never let people read my works in progress. Ever.

My daughters read my books when the first draft is complete. They’ve just always known that “Mom writes” so it’s an accepted fact of our lives.

I’ll never forget the first time I gave them one of my novels to read, hot off the printer in the living room and years before I was published, and I’ll never forget how astounded they were that their mother had actually written all this. They were teenagers and sat up pretty much all night reading the book and really enjoyed it, which was so gratifying to me. My genres aren’t their preferred favorites but as I mentioned above, they read everything I write.

My brother is my extremely devoted fan and reads each book the moment they go up on Amazon after editing and formatting. He gives me a detailed review and critique which is only for my eyes and which I value so much since we grew up together in a house where my Dad loved science fiction and passed that joy of reading the genre onto us both.

My parents both passed away many years ago.

As far as my extended family, I believe they’re proud to have a published author in the family (because they’ve told me that numerous times and I have no reason to doubt them LOL) but no one is a particular fan of my genres. My closest cousin on my mother’s side sort of dutifully reads each new book and then gives them to the local library, which works for me! 

I once sent an assortment of the paperback books, both scifi and ancient Egyptian, to my godparents who are still alive, with an invitation to pass them along to any of my huge family of cousins on my Dad’s side who might be interested. The eventual, tactful response was that everyone had sampled at least one of the free books and congratulations again on being published but gee, no one here is a romance reader really.

And that’s perfectly fine.

People like the genres of books they like and at least everyone in that part of the family was open to sampling mine. (I think my aunt did say something about the story she sampled being a bit steamy for her, which is mildly hilarious because I write pretty middle of the road sex scenes but hey, she’s known me since I was a baby.)

I don’t write my books for my relatives, or my friends. I write the stories for me, to tell you the truth. Then I’m happy to put them out there in the world on the ebook platforms and thrilled that the books have found an audience of readers who do enjoy romance, science fiction and trips to ancient Egypt.

Here are just a few of my 20+ published titles, ranging from the first, Priestess of the Nile, to the most recent, Mateer, and a little bit of everything in between.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Who Reads Me

Happy Friday the 13th! Practice safe superstitions out there, people!

I am developing a new appreciation for sunrises since we moved. Maybe because I'm no longer stuck out on the western edge of the continent where sunrises were hidden by Crown Hill and I had unimpeded water and skies for sunsets. There is chatter now about moving us back to a water-based existence. I'll be interested in seeing what I get in the way of sky watching while on the water here.

This was Thursday morning. Not bad. Unless the red sky at morning sailor take warning screed is true. If it is, I'm screwed.

We're talking about family reading our books. The answer is yes. AFTER they are books. I know I sound like a broken record (also hush up with your 'what's a record' nonsense and then get off my lawn.) I'm super protective of work until it is fully formed. I hate critiques of something that's still gestating.

Let me be perfectly honest here - I have Second Guessing EVERY Damn Thing I Do disease. I don't watch the news because I don't need any help being depressed, I can do that myself, thanks. Very much like that, I can paralyze my writing process with 'Am I Doing This Right' questions without having external voices reinforcing those doubts. So I've learned to say no to all but a very few people (other authors) who I can trust to give me the straight scoop on how a piece of work is or isn't progressing.

And look. We all know that geeks are great, right? I mean I married one and he's a good guy. But he is, at heart, a programmer. This means that B must follow A and you do NOT take detours from B straight down the rabbit hole to Q. Thus, while I love him, I do not discuss my work with him until it's been turned over to the editor. And for all the gods, I do NOT TALK IDEAS WITH HIM. Never ever ever. I *think* it's Margie Lawson who tells the story about talking to her husband about story ideas and the angrier he gets, the more on track she knows she is. This is my life. You cannot talk to COBAL programmer about illogical and fluid story concepts. It's been hard experience for both us, because you know he'd ask what I was working on just to - you know - care about what I do.

We had to give it up. I think he's secretly pleased. But yes. He reads the books when they're published. Funny thing. He doesn't have a problem with them, then. My parents and my in-laws read the books. A bunch of my extended family read the first one, but I do not know whether any of them have read any further. I think they were mainly interested in making sure I actually had gone off and gotten published.

The only comment came from my mother. "Your main character sure does swear a lot."

I haven't had the heart to mention that I do, too. Leave the woman her illusions, right? ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

But Does Your Wife Read Them?

So, when I met her, my wife was not a fantasy fan.  She literally did not know the conventions of the genre.  So often times, especially early on in my writing process, she couldn't make heads or tails of what I was doing.  What is this about?  Where is this city supposed to be?  Why do you have centuries of fake history?  Why don't you write something like One Hundred Years of Solitude?

Actually, as strange as that last one was, magical realism did prove to be the gateway toward some common ground.  She understood the rules of that genre, and through that I could show her how fantasy worked.

OK, there was also Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings as huge worldwide phenomenons.  That helped, too.

That isn't to say she doesn't read my work.  She definitely does.  But let's be real: she mostly does because it's mine.  She isn't seeking out the rest of the genre.

That said, she's more of a fan of short stories, and Jump the Black is probably her favorite.  She does nudge me, gently, to create a novel-length version of that story.

I think it's there.  I haven't found it all yet, but the novel length version exists.  It'll come.  I've got time.  And I've got someone to read it when it's done.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dear Mom, Please don't read my books...yet.

Mom (upon learning that I’ve co-written a story that an actual publisher wants to actually publish): Can I read it?
Me: Er, I don’t think you’d like it.
Mom: It’s a romance. I like romances.
Me (silently: Oh, you sweet summer child) and aloud:  Actually, it’s more of a… scene. With three people. Who chat a bit in the parlor and then head upstairs to, uh, not chat. For twelve thousand words. Of nakedly not chatting.
Mom: Oh. Maybe the next one, then.

Me: Uh oh, the ending fizzled, dinnit? It needs more guns blazing and cat hissing.
Hubs: No, that’s not what I was going to say at all.
Me: Wait, you and your fancy film degree and years making computer games weren’t going to give me constructive criticism that will definitely make me a better writer after I get over the initial navel-gazingly depressing realization that I’m not quite there yet?
Hubs: No. This one is good. Consider me a fan.
Me, having just received the biggest compliment of my life, sobs and kisses the shit out of that man.

My eldest child grabs a copy of my first-ever published-in-paper book.
Her: This is so cool, Mom. Can I read it?
Me (after slight hesitation for she is yet a Jedi youngling): Er, sure. Just, if you get to something confusing or weird, let’s talk about it, okay?
She cracks open the book and digs in. A couple of minutes later, she closes the book and sets it back in the box.
Her: I’m not allowed to read this book.
Me: Nonsense, I just told you—
Her (interrupting): Three. You have three swears on the first page, and two are the F-bomb. Mom, I’m not allowing myself to read it. And you need to watch your language.

So, to date three of the most important people in my universe have attempted to read my books. One actually made it all the way through. Hey, one of three ain’t… okay it’s a crappy percentage.

But someday I’ll write something without swears or sex.

(Stop laughing, you. I totally will.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cursed By Blood (to Read My Books)

Does my family read my books?

~slaps knee~

Dear readers, my father has been checking my homework since I started having homework. The greatest invention of my childhood was erasable ink. Who cared that erasing turned the entire page Smurf blue? I didn't have to re-write the whole tham ding just to correct a half dozen mistakes. Fast forward a few decades and yes, yes my father is still checking my homework. Only now he's the proofreader armed with Track Changes.

And if you think I can have one parent proofread and not the other, then well, pfft, tschtt, pfft. My mother is the avid fantasy reader. There is no bottom lip quiver quite like southern Mama's lip quiver when I send the digital version instead of the print version because--don't you know--it is so much easier for her to read and comment in print. That technology stuff is just too mean to her.

My sister was my CP for my romance books 'cause, as my very wise father once said, "There are some things daddies don't want to know." Since then, I've stopped writing romance, and my sister had my beloved niblings. Her schedule went from hectic to when-do-you-have-time-to-pee, so I don't ask for time she doesn't have to give. She's miffed that she's been removed from my process. It's ire I'll endure for the sake of her relative sanity. Once her children age out of the "Mommy-Mommy-Mommy" years into the "Ugh-Mom" stage, then I won't feel guilty about asking for her time. Until then, No Books For Her. Though, she not only buys them after they go on sale, she gives them as gifts, passes out promo cards, and is edging out my mom as my lead marketer. Her husband is also in on the Sell All The Books program.

Yes, dear reader, yes, it is awesome to be so well loved and supported by family. I am beyond blessed and incredibly grateful.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Does my family read my books?

Some of them do.

A few.

My family is...complicated.

My sister, who was the webmistress for my page for a long time, read all of my books. She still does, but I have to remember to send them to her

My other sisters? Well, I've given both of them copies. They keep promising to read.

My oldest brother? Yes.

My second oldest brother? We don't speak any more. My choice. So, no.

My parents are both deceased. My mother had a full collection of my books and told me she was proud of me, but never read them. She didn't like scary stuff. She read one short story of mine and it brought tears to her eyes and she loved it, but there was a ghost at the end and that rather annoyed her.

Two of my nephews do.

The others might. I don't honestly know.

To be fair, one of my sisters has been known to write erotica and I can't bring myself to read it. not my cup of tea.

The thing is, there's never an obligation. If they read it and enjoy it, I am delighted. If they choose not to read it, that's okay, too.  I used to give copies of all of my books to every family member. One of my siblings asked that i give copies of my books to a good friend. I suggested handing over the copies I'd already given to that sibling, especially since the books n question were limited editions that ran between forty-five and several hundred dollars in the secondary market. I am nowhere near that generous. I'd have to get a third job to pay the rent. Then I realized that most weren't reading the books and brought that practice to a screeching halt. Im good with offering copies to relatives that will READ them, but listen even if they were comp copies (and only some of them were.) you only get so many of those, and they can be put to better use than just gathering dust on a relative's shelf.

These days, I'm more likely to send a mobi file.

If they want to read the book that is.

Two of my limited edition covers. The top one, Bloodstained Oz, was selling for 7-800 dollars in the secondary market before we decided to put out an ebook format. That was for the numbered edition. The lettered edition (of which there are only 27) was selling fro closer to $3,000.00, The mind boggles.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Does Your Family Read Your Books?

We have high winds today and Jackson is feeling the fever - here he is trying to climb the portal post. Spoiler alert: that's as high as he got.

Our topic this week is whether our spouses or close family read our books. I always find it interesting how widely this answer varies among writers - from those who cowrite with spouses, or rely upon them or close family to critique, to those whose families don't even know they write.

Seriously - I have a friend who was a journalist and wrote - and shopped - his first novel in secret, even from his wife and kids, because he didn't want them to know about it if he failed. Which... I can understand. It's an excruciating phase, the one where writers labor for years to hone their craft, often over multiple novels or hundreds of stories, with nothing to demonstrate to the greater world for the effort. A lot of writers give up in this phase, or self-publish in order to have "something" to show for all that work. There are few questions more invidious than "Oh, you're *still* writing that book?"

At the other end are the couples where both are writers and exchange work, or who collaborate together. I think collaborating with a spouse would be trying, although the team writing as Ilona Andrews does it brilliantly. I'm still amused by Ilona's explanation that they don't really fight over the storylines, but one of them might "angrily load the dishwasher."

As for me, my husband David does not read what I write, pretty much ever. Sometimes he hears pieces of stories at readings. But, overall, he doesn't read fiction. I'm okay with this. I think our close families can exert strong influence on us, and not always in the way that encourages to grow.

I taught Tai Chi for a lot of years, including an introductory class in continuing education, and it was always a bad sign when spouses took the class together. Or parent and child. Or sisters. (I don't recall ever having brothers take a class together.) Inevitably, they would start telling the other how to do it. Usually it was framed as being "helpful," but it rarely was. It got so that in partner exercises we'd make it a rule that they couldn't work with someone they knew. This was entirely to pry apart the people who knew each other far too well - and got in each other's way.

So, I don't mind that David doesn't read my work. It gives me a certain freedom to have that headspace to myself. My mom reads my books, but only after they're published. Some other members of my family read them, but largely most of them don't. I'm okay with that, too. Everyone should read what they want to!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Planning Is Ants vs Grasshoppers For Me


Do you remember the childhood fable about the grasshopper, who played all summer and didn’t think much beyond the next sip of dew or bite of berry? Versus the ants who diligently and constantly labored 24/7 to build stockpiles? And then in the winter guess who kicks back in a cozy burrow with lots to eat, versus who is outside shivering and scratching in the snow? (Where do grasshoppers go in the winter anyway?)

Well, the family joke around my house was that my late husband was the Ant, because he was a very long term thinker and we definitely followed the very wise plan he came up with, as far as his military service, our college, our careers, buying the first car, the first house, having the first baby, etc. This freed me to be myself – I think of myself as more of a cheery butterfly than a Grasshopper actually. I am NOT, in any circumstance, a planner or long term thinker.

When he died in an accident, I had to step up and do my best for the family. I managed to be what I truly am NOT, which is to say someone who plans. If I tell you 2018 is the only calendar in my house or that I access on my computer, you get the picture, right? (And I typically stay in the current month, other than to notate dental appointments.)

Now in the old day job at NASA/JPL, I was involved with schedules and planning for various interplanetary missions. Those suckers are HUGE. Thousands of steps. Millions maybe on the big flagship missions. The planet or planets you’re trying to hit will only be in the spot you need for a certain window of time so you have to start literally years beforehand and know every single thing, including contingencies for the unforeseen, that has to happen.  I didn’t develop such schedules but I have the utmost respect for those who can and do. I sat in probably hundreds of meetings where the discussion centered around the schedules and status. I had to give reports and take action items on my portions of those schedules.

The main thing I retained is the concept of the critical path, which is basically the sequence of tasks that will take the longest to complete to deliver the project. The critical path may change from time to time, based on other circumstances, but there always is going to be one. You can’t let yourself get distracted from keeping your eye on that path if you want to succeed.

Okay, so moving to the topic today, which deals with how you plan as an author, or how you plan future books while keeping up with current deadlines…do you hear me laughing? That is so not me! My critical path as an author is to write the books. Period. Full stop. Since I self-publish, any deadlines are my own and tend to be quite vague. “I’ll get this book out in April.” “I’d like to write four or five books this year.”

I had a taste of mixing self-pub and more traditional publishing back in my Carina Press days, and I have to say – lovely as they were to work with – I didn’t care for the experience. The idea of having a perfectly good book ready to publish that can’t be published for another six months or a year or whatever because it has to fit a publisher’s overall schedule gives me the most visceral reaction of NOOOOOO! I could never work as far in advance as Jeffe does, which she talked about in her post earlier this week. I admire what she does, but it’s not Butterfly Me.

I have lots of “tiny deadlines” but those are for my blog posts (“OMG is it Saturday again already???” Time for SFF7!) and other activities of that type. I do have a yearly schedule to work through with my friend Pauline B. Jones on our annual Pets In Space scifi romance anthologies (award winning and USA Today Best Selling, I might immodestly add).

And we've discussed many times in this space how I am superstitious about my writing process and my Muse and can't even do an outline or I won't write the book, much less know that I'm writing such-and-such a book in 2019 to publish in 2020!

So there you have it and now it’s time for me to flit off again. Have a great weekend!.

Friday, April 6, 2018

What Not to Ask Me

So you know how you make some random blanket statement that your life is an open book and you have nothing to hide? And then, inevitably, out of nowhere, someone tosses out a question that makes you recoil while certain nether regions pucker?

Yeah. Who'd have thought something so innocent as 'how do you plan' would be my hill to die upon?

To make a long story short: Not answering the planning question.


You're still here. Uhm. Okay. I, uh, look. How about why I don't like chatting about plans? It's superstition. I like to keep my plans, like my poker cards, close to my vest. Not that I play poker well. It's just that in any creative endeavor, I feel like the energy of beginning is fragile and easily dissipated. So I don't talk about my plans (for fiction or drawings or paintings or photography) with anyone. Not even crit partners. Once projects are well underway, they seem to withstand being discussed and dissected. At the point that I have the legs assembled and the brain and heart of a story plugged in, the skeleton can handle all kinds of challenges being tossed at it. Until then, I'm super susceptible to being utterly derailed by someone saying, "this bit here doesn't make sense." Stupid but true.

Do I wish my brain worked differently around this? You betcha. Instead, I have to be the weird little muppet in a Jim Henson skit who gasps and vanishes into her hole, pulling a rock in after her. Here. Have a cat.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How I Plan The Future

So, this should surprise no one, but I plan out a LOT for the future.  That involves tracking the projects I have active, where they are in the production process, what needs to be done next in each of them, as well as projects that are on the backburner or planned for the future, either definitively planned (i.e., under contract), or prospective plans. 

To give you an idea, here's a filtered-and-redacted glimpse at my Productivity Worksheet:

And that's minus the things that have a Status of "Pending" or "Planned".  (Plus I blurred some stuff that's "secret" because I don't like to talk about things that aren't either done or contracted, if not both.  But I'll let you stew on my project codes.)

So, my time management takes into account the big things I need to do next.  Namely, draft Shield of the People and get geared up to write The Fenmere Job and The People of the City over the next eighteen months, all while taking into account my own workflow and reasonable expectations.  For example, I know I'm not the kind of writer who can pull off 100K in three weeks in an explosive flurry of words, so, yeah, don't schedule that as The Plan.  I prefer the steady pace of regular progress to the deadline.  And for that, I'm on track and in good shape with everything coming up. 

Plus some other stuff.  As you can see.  And there's a lot you can't see, because it's far future or just a bit too vague.  But even the vague stuff I track, just in case.  (Plus if I put work into the vague stuff, I like to track that THAT is what I worked on.)

And speaking of work: back to it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Herding cats or time management, same diff

An actual conversation between my editor and me, circa early 2016.
Her, in a soft, reasonable voice: So, here’s how it will play out. I have the manuscript for book 1—yay—so we will get working on that. You’ll get revisions around March. You’ve said you’ll have book 2 to me in June…?
Me, lying like mad as I had NO idea what I was doing: Is June fast enough? Because I’m sure I can write it faster, if necessary.
Her, patiently: Ah, no. June’s fine. And mid-December for the third manuscript, you said? And of course you’ll have other stuff come along in the midst.
Me, as dork: Other… stuff? 
Her: Oh you know, revisions, line edits, copy edits, publicity paperwork, page proofs, galleys, cover art packets. Just the usual.
Me: ?!
Her, in this super kind voice, because I’m sure I wasn’t the first noob writer she’d ever had to talk off a ledge: We sometimes call it herding cats.

Okay, so that wasn’t exactly how it went, word-for-word, but the gist is accurate. I'd talked to a few veteran writers, and they'd all advised that it takes about six months to write a decent manuscript for a full-length (90k-word) book. So I'd gone into that conversation with all their collective assurance at my back.

And came out panicking.

I distinctly recall that phrase—herding cats. And the part about her being amazingly patient with me. And the part about me pretty much freaking out. I mean, not just during that call. I was freaking out essentially all of 2016.

In the end, we hit all the deadlines, more or less (see below regarding Christmas), and lo! Books occurred!

So… I sort of know how to schedule my time so I can write 2.5 books a year? Except I really don’t. That whole year was a blur. When the family went on vacation, they snorkeled and sight-saw, and I stayed in a hotel, writing. When we had Thanksgiving, I came out and ate bird meat, then went back to my room to write. At Christmas (because that mid-December deadline slid out to January) I ventured forth to exchange presents, and then locked myself in the guest room, writing like a crazy person.

At any rate, we all survived, but I have no idea how it happened. Neither do I have even a sniff of wisdom on this topic.

It was herding cats.

Which the MythBusters proved is impossible.

So the two books that came out and have my name on the covers? Are basically miracles.

Which is not to say I will not again attempt the impossible. Because crazy-making as it is? Creating books is also a gorgeous thrill ride of miracle-making cat-herding fun.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Cover Reveal and Lessons Learned from Writing a Series on a Schedule

We clearly have a theme going this week of cover reveals with James and Jeffe, so  I'm happy to continue it with the cover for the second book in my Immortal Spy Urban Fantasy Series. The amazing team at Gene Mollica Studios did the cover.

The Immortal Spy: Book 2

It’s all fun and games until someone breaks out the needles.

It was supposed to be a simple retrieval mission. Go in, grab the bespelled package of evidence against some very corrupt superpowers, and get out. The mission turns sideways when a vengeful spy Bix blackballed during her time in Dark Ops crashes the job and injects Bix’s teammates with an unknown toxin. Succumbing to a horrific mutation, the dying spook whispers the Mayday protocol for a compromised covert operation involving a biological weapon.

With her friends infected and sequestered in quarantine, a mole inside the spy guild exposing its undercover agents, and the brightest minds in the Mid Worlds unable to identify the biologic, Bix picks up the mission to find the creators and the cure. She’ll square off against Fates, dragons, angels, and even the god of plagues to save her friends; yet the greatest threat might well be the darkness growing within Bix and the evil on which it feeds.

Beware the plagued spy, for wrath and ruin are sure to follow…

The book drops on April 24, in print and eBook.

Pre-Order the eBook:
Amazon Kindle  |  iBooks  |  B&N Nook  |  Kobo

Now, as for this week's topic of scheduling the writing and the business, I'm going to take a moment to laugh hysterically then sob a little. I am a girl who must plan All The Things. For those of you who've followed this blog for a while, you know I'm a slow writer. I'm still one of those writers who can't accurately estimate how long it'll take me to write a book. I took a year of publishing nothing to write the first three books in this series so I could drop them at regular intervals while I wrote the remaining four books. The plan is to release quarterly. I'll be able to do that with the first four...but there might be a six-month gap between four and five. Then hopefully back to quarterly for six and seven.

What happened to my beautiful plan?

In a nutshell, I learned more about me as a writer and a publisher trying to hold myself to a schedule. From a personal-development angle, I hadn't done that before. In my high-fantasy series, the books take as long to write as they take. That's what my creative process demands. However, I wanted to grow as a career author, so I committed to writing and publishing a series on a tight schedule.
A third of the way into this business experiment,  I've learned that some books will be easy to write. Some books won't require heavy dev edits. Some books will flip the bird and be the most recalcitrant little bastards. I am blessed in that my editors, artists, and formatters are top-notch and make their dates without issue. When there's lag, it's all me. I need to keep building my skills both on the page and off (pretty sure that'll always be the case).

So far, my biggest takeaway is that I can write two books a year, reasonably. Three is pushing it. Four is unrealistic for me. (I know, I know, many of my fellow SFF Seven bloggers are power writers, and that is awesome. Enviable in many ways. Hat tips to them!) Also, during the winter holidays, I should expect no creative progress and schedule no deliverables to or from. Yes, businesses still function and other contributors to my end products absolutely make their dates. It is my life that does not allow for much more than analytical work. That's good to know. I can adjust my schedules and expectations accordingly...once I finish this series.