Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Graveyard

So, having just turned in one manuscript and gearing up to write the next, it's a good time to do some housecleaning and assessment of long-term plans and old projects that deserve another look.  I get to pull out the spreadsheet and move things around!  Part of that is deciding which things really do have a future, which need further time to marinate, and which are well and truly DEAD.

At least for now.

One of the dead things, for me, is The Crown of Druthal, which was my attempt to justify the full-world worldbuilding I did by coming up with a series idea that involved traveling around the whole world.  It did not come together, or more correctly I was not yet the writer who could handle it.  Either way: not going anywhere with that. 

But, it had some good bits, including this one where my main character, Augustine, has accidentally caused a major incident by committing a sacrilege in the eyes of the religion in the country they were visiting.  Eager to make things right, he's agreed to a public atonement ceremony: receiving nine lashes with a whip in the public square.
The streets of Galena were crowded with onlookers as they marched to Trelan Square.  Augustine walked in the center, with Gregor and Andus at either side of him, the soldiers forming a square around them.  The throngs opened to let the train pass, keeping a respectful distance as the soldiers led Augustine along the way.  Some of them shouted, some of them raised up their arms.  They were filled with energy, with excitement, but not anger.
“Am I wrong, or are they praying for me?” asked Augustine. 
“Of course they are,” said Andus.
“I thought they hated me,” said Augustine.
“They did,” said Andus. “Not anymore. You’re engaging in repentance.  That means you’ve accepted your sin.”
“I suppose,” said Augustine.
“Accepted responsibility for them at least,” said Gregor. “The public spectacle of these things is mostly about what you say.   You’ve accepting responsibility and taking the penance, so they have to at least say that they’re forgiving you and praying for you.  I’m sure some of them mean it.”
“Peace, Mister Sarton,” said Andus. 
“Sure are a lot of people, though,” Augustine said.
“From what I’ve gathered, Mister Montrose, you are possibly the first foreigner, first person who is not a member of the Acserian faith, to willingly accept a penance from the Church.  That’s quite a unique thing.  Many people will come to see it.”
“Wait until we reach the square, Aug,” said Gregor. “I think the whole Kannan Assembly will be on hand.  Not to mention the Prince of Pelkin, and whole hosts of lords and ladies.”
“Wonderful,” said Augustine.  His stomach was starting to knot up.
“Just think, you’re the Acserian social event of the year!”
“Shut it!” snapped Augustine.  Gregor’s smile melted off his face.  He mumbled an apology, and dropped back a pace or two.
Trelan Square was impossibly full of people.  Augustine had never seen anything like it.  Even the Maradaine Cup, where rowers from RCM and the University of Maradaine would race on the river, bringing out the teeming crowds on both shores, never had as many people in one place.  Augustine’s heart nearly stopped. 
The center of Trelan Square was a large stone platform.  This was an important place for the Acserians, Augustine knew.  When Acser was alive, he preached on that stone to the people.  He told them that the next prophet would reveal himself on it. Two hundred years later, an orphan boy named Galena ran up the steps, and suddenly scores of birds flew down and landed on the stone and the boy’s arms.   
Except for the Citadel itself, it was the most sacred place in all of Acseria.
Several Acserians stood on the stone, notably DaiKanna Zalnim.  The old man looked  thrilled to see the Druths make their approach.  There were several other zealot guards with him, in full regalia of bright red cloaks and armor. 
“Is there one there who seeks the forgiveness of the Rei and the Holy Church of Acseria?” called out Zalnim.  Augustine was about to speak, but Andus put his hand on his shoulder, and stepped forward.
“There is,” returned Andus. “We present him to your mercy.”  Major Haliert blew his whistle again, and the soldiers separated, leaving a clear path for Augustine to climb up to the platform.
“We recognize him as a sinner,” said Zalnim. “Approach, sinner, so that you may be forgiven.”  With a nudge from Andus, Augustine stumbled up the steps onto the platform.  As soon as he stepped up, two of the zealots grabbed his arms.  Their grip was firm, but not too hard.
“Your name, sinner,” said Zalnim.
“Augustine Montrose,” said Augustine.  He must not have said it loudly enough, for Zalnim looked at him expectantly.  “Augustine Montrose!” he called out, projecting his voice through the square.
“Augustine Montrose, citizen of Druthal, you are charged with heresy by mouth, that you did speak blasphemy in the presence of the Holy Rei and several members of the Kannan Assembly.  Do you accept this charge?”
“I do, DaiKanna,” said Augustine.
“You are charged with causing willful damage to a sacred creature, in the sanctified Aviary of the Citadel, in the presence of the Holy Rei.  Do you accept this charge?”
“I do, DaiKanna.”
Augustine looked up and saw that the Druth soldiers had pulled back, with several of the Crown’s crew staying within their perimeter, an island of Druth faces in the sea of Acserians.   Past the crowd on the ground, there was a hastily built riser, with several people watching from above the crowd.  Augustine spotted the Rei up there, and several other Kanna and DaiKanna.  Near the Rei, Baron Milton and Jensen stood with Prince Restimadran.  They were all too far away for Augustine to get a good look at their faces, get a sense of what they were thinking.  Other people from the Crown were likely out and around in the crowd, but Augustine couldn’t find them.
“You have accepted that you must do penance for these sins, to remove the stain in the eyes of the Church and God?”
“I have, DaiKanna.”
“The sinner has accepted his penance!” Zalnim shouted out to the crowd.  There was a great cheer from them all.  The crowd was jubilant. Was it possible that they were truly happy for his contrition and repentance? 
 Did they really think they were saving his soul?
“His Holiness, Rei Nalesta IV of Acseria, has declared that your act of penance shall be as follows.  For the sin of blasphemy, you are to receive nine lashings with the calizar here in the public square.  For the sin of willful damage to a sacred creature, you are to receive a sacred getazán privately, from the Rei himself.”
“A what?” asked Augustine.  This was unexpected.  He wracked his brain to remember what a getazán was.  It was an old word, from the ancient Futran.  He looked out at his friends in the crowd.  Gregor, Cale, Andus, all of them, looked shocked and confused.
“Do you accept?” said Zalnim.
“Well, what is...” started Augustine.  Old words flashed through his brain.  Getazir was a Futran word meaning “task” or “chore”.  Was the Rei going to giving him some other thing to do?  What was it?
“Do you accept!” barked Zalnim.  It didn’t sound like a question.
“Yes, I accept the penance!” blurted out Augustine.  The crowd gave another shout of joy.
“Very well.  We shall perform the nine lashings from the calizar!”  The two brought Augustine over to a wooden post that was mounted on the platform.  One of them went behind him, and as quick as anything, cut open his shirt from behind.  Augustine would have preferred that they had just taken it off him, or asked him to do it himself.  It was too late to say anything about it now.  The shirt fell to the ground, and the other man took Augustine’s arms around either side of the post.  He pulled out a leather strap, and wrapped it loosely around Augustine’s wrists.  Augustine was bound to the post, but he could easily drop the strap and be free.
“The relamé is a badge of honor, given to the penitent,” the zealot whispered to Augustine, indicating the straps around his wrists. “It is a sign of your compliance.  Respect the relimar, and do not release it.”  Augustine nodded.  If I drop it, they’ll probably tie me to the post for real.
DaiKanna Zalnim came over to Augustine.  “The blessings of God are upon you, my son,” he said, touching Augustine’s face with one hand.  In the other hand, he was holding the calizar.  The whip was crueler looking than Augustine had expected.  The long cord of leather was bound in several places with barbed metal. A wave of panic filled Augustine. 
As Zalnim walked behind him, it took ever bit of control and courage to not drop the relamé and bolt off the platform.  He looked out at the crowd, his eyes seeking the risers.  He scanned over the people up on it.
“One!” shouted Zalnim from behind him, and a moment later, his back was torn open.  Augustine screamed in agony.  It was the worst pain he had ever known.  Almost instinctively, he gripped the relamé and pulled it tight against the post.  He refused to let go.  Tears coming to his eyes, he looked again at the risers.
There he was.  Elgin Jensen.
“Two!” Again, his flesh was shredded as the lash raked across his back.  Augustine screamed again, but did not shut his eyes this time.  His eyes were locked on Jensen. 
“Three!” He was on fire.  He could feel blood dripping onto his feet.  He didn’t scream that time.  He channeled every ounce of pain and anger into his eyes, which bore into Jensen.   Were he a mage, he was convinced that fire would blast out of them and incinerate the man.
“Six!” He was certain that he’d been cut to the bone.  His knuckles were white around the leather strap.  I won’t break, he thought, I won’t give you that satisfaction. 
“Seven!”  Again, a scream broke out from his lips, despite himself.  His legs buckled out from under him.  He dangled from the post, half kneeling.

If there was a nine, Augustine never heard it, for the pain overwhelmed him, and the world became black.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Necromancing the story

This week on SFF Seven, we're exhuming dead stories and making them dance.

(Insert dramatic organ music and spine-freezing, mad-scientist cackle.)

Specifically, we are called to "share something great from a dead project." Now, I will quibble with the adjective “great”--not sure if I’ve ever written anything “great"--but technically since I have no firm publication plans of any sort, all my solo-written stories are dead. However, due to my overfondness of literary, knobby, discarded putrescence, and as I am almost planning to attempt necromancy on this still-moist revenant for NaNoWriMo (November: National Novel Writing Month), you may read the shambling following intro if you dare.

(Actually, um, it's okay to not read it, but please don't speak ill of the dead.)


AN: There was a silly, short snippet here, but I took it down. If it's dead, who would want to read it anyhow? And of course it was never "great" to begin with. I've gone back through my many files of dead projects--so many--and have yet to find something even approaching great. Sorry for just whiffing on this, y'all. Back to normal next week.

Stay spooky!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

New #Fantasy Release: SHIELD OF THE PEOPLE by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Today, Marshall brings us back to the world of Maradaine with the second book of his Maradaine Elite series, where the political intrigue keeps us turning the pages and rooting for our heroes Dayne and Jerinne.

Maradaine Elite, Book 2

After stopping Tharek Pell and saving the Druth Parliament, Dayne Heldrin and Jerinne Fendall find themselves on the margins of the Tarian Order: lauded as heroes in public but scorned and ignored in private, their future in the Order hazy. Dayne is given an assignment that isolates him from the Order, and Jerinne is hazed and bullied at the bottom of the initiate rankings.

But it's a grand holiday week in the city of Maradaine, celebrating over two centuries of freedom and the foundation of the reunified modern nation, and with that come parades, revelry... and protests and demonstrations. A dissident group called The Open Hand--and their mysterious, charismatic leader, Bishop Ret Issendel--seeks to disrupt the Parliament elections with their message of secession and dissolution.

Despite orders to stay out of the public eye, Dayne and Jerinne are drawn into the intrigue of the Open Hand and kept apart by dark powerful conspiracies that brew around them. Dayne and Jerinne must fight for their own principles, and protect the will of the people as the election is thrown into chaos.

BUY IT NOW:  AmazonBAM! Powells  | IndieBound

*If you haven't read the first book, THE WAY OF THE SHIELD, start now!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Gravedigging: a Peek at Something No One Has Ever Seen

It's laundry day here, and Jackson takes laundry VERY seriously.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Gravedigging: Share Something Great from a Dead Project.

While intriguing, this is also a tall order. I mean, for me, very few (if any?) projects are truly dead. Though I suppose zombie works also qualify for this spooky theme. Also, if there's something Great in it, then the projects is almost certainly not dead. The truly dead projects are those that have nothing redeemable in them.

Also, this topic seriously took me down a rabbit hole of looking at old fragments of stories and various projects that languished for one reason or another - some going back twenty-five years to when I was first rooting around and finding my voice as a writer.

But here's a little something that's kind of been hanging around in the Undead Files. I wrote it down in part to capture a certain feel. It came from a dream when I was immersed in other projects and couldn't devote time to this. Turns out that was ten years ago! I could've sworn it was only a couple. Alas.

Anyway, it's rough - the names are placeholders - but I still see the shine in it.

For the first time, she let others into her private space.
Except for the Prince and that didn’t seem the same at all.
“Whoa,” said Johnny. “That’s an amazing tent. Patio. Pergola-type structure.”
“Yes, well, I wanted to be able to sit outside, but I needed a shield from the glare of the sun. I thought a little awning would do, but you know how things are when someone like the Prince gets involved.” She waved her hand vaguely at the elaborate patio cover, by way of explanation.
Several chairs were scattered about on the polished stones. Flat and gleaming like marble, the stones fit against one another with gorgeous precision, emerald greens glowed against amethyst against ruby. It was like a dance floor of precious gems.
            Overhead, a fanciful structure of soaring spires and beams supported drapes of silk. They fluttered in the light breeze and filtered the sun into a softer rainbow from above. The chairs looked like they were woven from white vines. Several were upright, while others would allow various reclining positions. Another sat before a desk that seemed to be carved from a single piece of topaz, as improbable as that might be.
            It was literally a jewel. Catching the light and throwing it back enhanced and warmed. There even seemed to be a quiet sun at the heart of it.
            The foreign woman caught Bizzy’s absorption with the desk.
            “A little much, isn’t it? When I said I wanted to be able to work outside, he took it to a serious extreme.”
            “Who are you?” Bizzy asked before she could help herself. Johnny stepped quickly to her and draped a heavy arm over her shoulders. He wasn’t happy with her. He didn’t want her jeopardizing his first real opportunity to get to know the woman better. Though, if the Prince, himself, was courting her, poor Johnny never stood a chance.

            “She doesn’t mean it,” Johnny was saying. “She’s just easily…” he looked around the confection of a courtyard, “dazzled.”

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Care and Feeding of the Author in the House

DepositPhoto - Why yes, I DO have a sweet tooth!

Our topic this week is care and feeding of the author.

Chuck Wendig wrote a blogpost this week that addressed this issue from an interesting standpoint.  “Sharp Rock, Soft Pillow: The Balance of Self-Care and Tough Love.” To quote him in part:

“There is a phenomenon, and I speak from experience on this one, where self-care crosses a line, and goes from being a kindness to yourself to being an unkindness to the art. Art can be propulsive, climactic, conflicting — both to us and to the audience. And making art is by its nature opposite to self-care at stages. You may find it comforting to create a thing, but in that creation there is inevitably frustration, and once it’s exposed to the world, ha ha ha…”

Not the Author! DepositPhoto
I don’t write at the grand, complex level he does, not even close, but I think he’s put his finger on one challenge all writers face. The self-care is very important because if things work out well you can literally write for your entire life, right up to the last second, but you have to take care of your mind and body (and hope there aren’t any genetic gotchas lurking – we have a few in my family). Since becoming a full time author I’ve found that my limit for a daily word count is somewhere around 4K. I think once I did 5K. The trouble is, if I spend that much time at the keyboard, there are physical repercussions, to my hands, my back, my eyes…and I do have an ergonomically correct set up, I use eye drops and yellow tint glasses, a wrist brace…I mean, I’ve put a lot of effort into making this a good place to sit and write. But I just cannot do long stints of typing any more. My usual day is somewhere between 1K-2.5K, written in short stints over the course of the entire day.

DepositPhoto - I eat vegetables occasionally,
 I promise.
I’m in several author groups on Facebook where people regularly talk about how they have to write 20K words by sundown to make their contract deadline or their pre-order deadline or whatever and I cringe. I feel the stress sweeping over me just thinking about the situation and I shake my head. I know that works for some people. And others can get huge word counts day in and day out 365 days a year. Well, more power to them but that’s not in the cards for me.

I also agree with his point, as I understood it, that self-care can turn into not writing if taken too far. We authors can be good at procrastination (the research! The social media!) and sometimes we do have to push ourselves to put the rear end in the chair and WRITE. I always remind myself whatever other fun thing I’m doing besides writing isn’t going to pay the rent so I’d better get words on paper.

However, I have to listen to what my body is telling me. As I’ve gotten older physically (I stay at a certain age in my head LOL) and some of the things that run in my family have caught up to me, I’ve had to accept that as stubborn and self-reliant and “just push through and get it done” as I am at my Irish core, I’ll increasingly be out of commission afterward. So I must ask myself, is this a real deadline? Do I really have to do whatever this is in such big chunks?

I’ve learned to take a break every 25 minutes and be on my feet doing something, whether it’s playing with Jake the Cat or folding laundry. I utilize a To Do List to manage my stress and that feeling of being overwhelmed by All The Things at once…I take a short nap daily. I have a flexible publishing schedule (the joys of being self-published) and I build in extra time for unexpected delays. I try to stay two book covers ‘ahead’ from my wonderful cover artist, Fiona Jayde. I eat right and often. I drink 80 ounces of water a day. I try to walk as many steps a day as I can but I’ve accepted the physical limitation there as well. Sure I can do 10,000 steps. Once. Then I’ll be in bed for a week. So I set goals that work for me. So that’s my end of the situation.

I live alone with Jake the Cat so no one has to tiptoe around Writer Me but if there was someone else under my roof, a few suggestions for happy co-existence:
Don’t ask me how it’s going. Don’t offer me plot ideas. Don’t ask me to write a certain character. Don’t tell me about bad reviews. Don’t suggest I try outlining or any other tool or technique. (I have my own methods that work for me.) Don’t compare my books/writing to anyone else’s. Don’t comment on whether I wrote a lot of words today or 10 words today. Don’t critique my book covers. Don’t offer promo ideas. Don’t ask me to write your story. Don’t ask me where I got my ideas or say, “You should write XYZ because it’s hot right now.” Don’t interrupt me while I’m writing. (Unless there’s a fire or blood.)

Do I sound like a curmudgeon? Well maybe to some extent. I’m very self-protective over my writing and of the soft creature-writer living inside my well-developed hard exterior.

Now sometimes I will discuss any or all of those topics, but only with other authors who understand my genre and the issues we all face (promo, visibility, etc.) and only if I’m in the mood and only to the extent I feel comfortable. One of my daughters is also a USA Today Best Selling author and she and I have really good discussions at times about these types of things.

So IF you ever find yourself living under my roof, Jake the Cat will avoid you like the plague for a few days until he suddenly decides he likes you and if I’m hard at work at my laptop, please feel free to just pass by like a ship in the night. If I’m not at the keyboard, let’s talk about the weather or the NFL game of the week or the latest episode of a good TV show, but don’t bring up my books unless I do it first.

And harmony will reign.

Or something.

P.S. Didja see my new release? WINTER SOLSTICE DREAM, a holiday fantasy romance with a Cinderella-ish plot...

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

Then Halvor, an ambitious Dales lord rides into the city, bringing his mercenaries to serve the king, with the promise of a rich reward, including a title and an estate. The only catch? He has to marry a highborn Azrimaran noblewoman to seal the treaty.
Fate conspires to throw Nadelma and Halvor into each other’s company and the connection is instant and deep but both resist the attraction. She knows she can never have him for herself. He must fulfill the treaty to secure a safe place for his people to live, since their holding in the Dales was destroyed by the black magic of the Shadow. Marriage to a noble damsel of the king’s choice is his fate.
Until he met Nadelma he thought his heart was frozen by the loss of all he cared for, back in the Dales. Now he knows better but his people must come first.
The situation is hopeless…or is it? For the king declares the city will celebrate Winter Solstice and hold a ball, where wishes and dreams just might come true.
Amazon      Apple Books      Nook      Kobo      Google

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Abbreviated Manual for the Care and Feeding of Writers

Generalized instructions for keeping a writer alive, interacting with other humans with minimal snarling, reasonably happy, marginally sane, and writing (which feeds the first four conditions.)

If you love a writer:
  1. Advocate for a room of the writer's own. Perfect world, this room of the writer's own is not shared space, but you know, you do what you can.
  2. Ask the writer to declare office hours (this is a negotiation you participate in, because the hours have to work for you, too, in the interest of the next step.)
  3. Stop talking to us while we're writing. Seriously. The house is only so big. You can find your missing thing yourself. This goes double for the refrigerator and pantry. Not everything can be in front. Move things. If you still can't find what you want, go to the store. No more interrupting writing time to ask how to find something. If the house is on fire or blood is being spilled, by all means interrupt. If you're leaving and want us to know, that's a yes from me, too, but your writer may disagree. Asking what your writer prefers belongs in the negotiation above.
If you are the writer:
  1. Take responsibility for your own well-being. Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum. It needs feeding as much as you do. To that end:
    • Take your meds if you need 'em. See the MD if they aren't working.
    • Drink water.
    • Eat actual healthy food.
    • Exercise.
  2. Talk to your loved ones and your friends when you aren't writing. Help them find their things in your off hours if that's their love language. Part of caring for and feeding you means caring for and feeding the people you care about. (Yeah, I know the numbering has lost its damned mind - went into the HTML to fix and let's just say that didn't go well. It shouldn't be news to anyone that computers can't really count.)
  3. Set office hours. Keep them. Enforce them from a place of love and compassion for the people and critters in your life. This is why I will always advocate for a writer having a door to shut, even if I don't have that, myself. Remember that 'No.' is a complete sentence.
  4. Get out into nature once in a while to remind yourself you live in this world as well as the worlds of your stories.
  5. Cultivate a hobby. Preferably one radically different than writing. Knitting. Gardening. Painting. Serial remodels. Whatever. You're looking for something to take you out of the frustrations inherent to writing and put you in different brain space. Bet your problem solving is speedier.
  6. Find community. It's natural to talk about what we do, what we aspire to, and what we wish we could do. Our families may not be equipped to have those conversations. It isn't that they don't care, they just may not have the frame of reference that allows them to do anything more than smile and nod. So it's vital to find or create a community of fellow writers who can validate your experiences in a way family might want to, but can't.
  7. Lighten up and don't take writing, yourself, or the care and feeding rules too seriously. Cause this is all about figuring out what works and what support you need from your nearest and dearest.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Administering Self Care

Good news, everybody!  I just finished the draft of the novel I'll have coming out next year!  Which is awesome, I'm thrilled. 

Of course, checking my schedule and timelines, that means I need to get started on the draft of the next project... er... now.

I mean, this is good, this is how I designed things.  What I just finished was the last book of the last contract, and what I'm about to start is the first book of the new contract, and if I didn't have that already lined up and ready to get started RIGHT NOW, I would probably spiral out into a whirlwind of WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW?

But even still, this sort of pace can take its toll.  So, while I will be starting that now-ish, I AM going to take a bit of time first to do things like re-organize my space, a few days of Not Writing Anything, re-assess long term plans, and generally get my head in the right place to Write The Next Book.

Plus: chiropractor.  Yeah, that's a thing to do this week.

Because even running like a massive writing machine, I need to keep the machine maintained. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Hey Writer, Take Care of You

Sometimes when I’m not quite awake, or not quite asleep, I hear the tentative knock on the locked guest room door and the small voice seeping through: “Mom? Can I ask you something?” I try to rewrite the memory, to answer her and be a decent human, but then I recall how it actually went down and suddenly feel like I can never sleep again.

Sometimes when I’m feeling fat because I haven’t exercised in a little while, I look at my food tracking notes from that year and realize that at one point I knew by memory how many calories were in an ounce of vodka. I count the hours, the days, I existed on nothing but coffee and tinned nuts. I lost some weight, yeah, but at what cost?

Writers aren’t always good to ourselves. Left to our own devices, we have a bad tendency to put deadlines and the desires of strangers above our own health, mental health, and the needs of people who love us. Like, for real love us.

So hey, writers, we need to stop that. Seriously, right now. Think about those self-imposed rules--“no, kids, you can’t talk to me unless the house is burning down” or “I can’t eat birthday cake until I turn in this manuscript” or “I’ll take a day off after I hit this deadline” or “the flu is kicking my ass, but I’ma get those 3k words in today” or my personal fave, “I’ll do Thanksgiving with the family next year, when I won’t have a deadline.” Do those sacrifices...make things better? Really? Are the sales an adequate return on the investment? Are the reviews? If they are, is that balance sheet okay with you? Are you okay with who you’ve become?

Here’s the thing: the world is not going to take care of you. It’s not going to feed you. It’s not even going to feed your soul. Readers, contracts, awards, sales, and bestseller lists don’t care about you. They’ll keep taking as long as you keep giving, so please. Stop.

Take care of you. You can write the thing and live a life without your life becoming the thing.

I like to play a game called What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Here’s a scenario:

I write zero words for, let's say, a month. What’s the worst that could happen?

I could miss deadlines.
I could disappoint that reader who was kind enough to send a note saying they liked my story but who I’ve never met.
That reader could forget about me and my stories and move on to the next book.
All readers could.
My sales could go away.
I could lose contracts.
My editor could cut me loose.
I could lose my agent.
I could have to start over in another genre.
Change my name.
Re-learn everything.
Eat a lot of ramen.
Consider a part-time job.
Pick my own kids up at school.
Make dinner for my own family instead of eating out or ordering in.
Celebrate the important days.
Go to my kid’s concert.
Write only when I want to, when I can, when it doesn’t hurt.
Actually enjoy the writing.
Fall in love with words again.
Forget about the readers who have forgotten about me.
And when that voice asks, “Mom, can I ask you something?”

Now? I unlock the door and answer her. And if that’s the worst that can happen, I am so okay with my choices. Better than okay, honestly.

This is how I take care of me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Writers Are Like Pets

Caring for an author in your life? We're not dissimilar to the family pet. Make sure we eat, drink, exercise, and leave us alone for the bulk of the day.

Please, whatever you do, relinquish all expectations for our participating in anything whilst in the throes of writing. That includes the maintenance of home, family, and self. When we're between books, we'll be joyfully present while we refill our creative well.

We're not horrible people, we're just deeply involved with fictional people. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Care and Feeding of the Writer in Your LIfe

I was away at MileHi Con this weekend and missed posting yesterday, but since James is on leave, I thought I'd cross-post my podcast, First Cup of Coffee, here. I address this week's topic at the SFF Seven: the care and feeding of the writer in your life. 

About MileHi Con and more on success as the progressive realization of a goal. Also on the care and feeding of the writer in your life - and Exciting News on the Frolic Podcast Network! Article here

First Cup of Coffee is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at! 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The One Career Goal I Crave To Achieve

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the big career goal to which we currently aspire.

The first thing for me to remember is the fact this is my second fulltime career, the first having been at NASA/JPL on the business side of the house where I made my way up the ranks of management in our Division, stepped sideways into working on fascinating projects, made another career move to become a process improvement person and principal individual contributor reporting to the Division Manager, received a NASA Exceptional Service Medal…in short, I did all the classic career things of promotions, raises, challenging work, recognition over a lot of years…and had wonderful experiences along the way because how could you work at the place that built Mars rovers and other such robotic missions and not have a blast?

I’ve been writing since I was seven years old but at the time I went to college, there was never any realistic prospect of making a living as a writer, so I majored in business and followed that path. Marriage, motherhood, widowhood, single working-outside-the-home motherhood… I always wrote my stories though.
And then when I finally had an empty nest and more time to myself, I decided to go for it and see if I could become a published author.

So I did that (thank you, Carina Press!). Then I got into self-publishing in a big way and eventually was able to leave the day job and write full time after three years.

So my point here is, in my writing career I never had the kinds of goals many of my peers had or have. I didn’t want an agent, I didn’t want contracts, I didn’t want to write for a traditional publisher. I don’t have specific goals for annual royalties – as long as I can continue to support myself as a fulltime author, pay the bills and buy Jake the Cat his preferred food,  I’m happy.
I wanted to have FUN and be a fulltime author.

I got to do book signings, book readings, be on panels at  romance conferences, see my books on the shelf in several independent book stores…received some very satisfying awards…made wonderful friends…I was lucky enough to interview my favorite authors like Nalini Singh as well as some of the TV actors on science fiction shows I loved (“Killjoys” and “Dark Matter”)…I got to be a genuine Star Trek character, reading a (tiny) part in the official audiobook of Harlan Ellison’s “The City on the Edge of Forever”…yes, I am a starship Enterprise Red Shirt Crew Member but I survived the episode, people…and put my ‘Veronica Scott’ signature on the copy of the script next to the real Hollywood actors’ names, which was a THRILL.

I’ve been on the USA Today Best Seller list, which I never in a million years would have expected to happen…

I have around 35 books out…

So my author journey has been about telling my stories, having readers, having experiences that my former day job self never would have gotten to enjoy. Freedom from ever going to any more staff meetings, process improvement training or management retreats.

There is one thing though…okay, I admit it – I want, I crave – to have a movie or TV show made from one of my books. I long to watch actors bringing my characters to life for the screen (any screen, any size – Apple TV, call me!)

I did have several wonderful audiobooks made, with actor/narrator Michael Riffle bringing my characters to life and thoroughly enjoyed the experience – it was a pleasure to work with him and his wife – but I still long for that cinematic treatment.

I know there’s always the chance the film adaptation will be awful or completely take my story and turn it unrecognizable (like Andre Norton’s Beast Master although Marc Singer was hot in his day), but I’ll take that chance!

(Said with tongue in cheek): How can it be no one wants to turn my “Titanic in space” novel Wreck of the Nebula Dream into a movie? A TV movie? A half hour special?  A long commercial? An Instagram story?  Or take the Star Cruise series and tell a love boat in space type tale?

So that’s my one unrequited professional goal…

I did actually have a breath of Hollywood interest in one of my novels quite early in my career. Ironically it wasn’t my science fiction romance but one of my ancient Egyptian paranormal romances they were considering. Unfortunately for me, fortunately for them no doubt, the primary person involved suddenly got a great role on a very large hit TV show and that was the end of the discussions.

I’m not exactly waiting by the phone but it would be cool….

Until then I’ll keep on writing and having fun.