Saturday, November 30, 2019

My Thanks to You!

Our topic this week was to thank the person or persons we're most grateful for, in connection with being an author.

I'm always thankful for the readers and this year I want to say a special thanks to everyone who bought the USA Today Best Selling Pets In Space 4 anthology during our first month, which is the donation period to our charity Hero Dogs, Inc. Due to your generosity, we'll be making our biggest annual donation to them yet, for a total just slightly over $10K spread over the four years we've been doing this scifi romance anthology.

We initially selected them because their work involves animals and veterans in need, two causes my co-founder Pauline B. Jones and I care deeply about, and which are important to our participating authors as well. We've even had a military veteran author or two and all of us involved have some connection to the military, in terms of family members who served or who are serving. Hero Dogs provides trained service animals to veterans and first responders in their general geographic area.

One of our authors, Laurie Green, is involved in raising and training racehorses and this year she pledged a certain percentage of one horse's winnings to also go to the charity, above and beyond the book royalties. Well, he began winning his races shortly after the book was released and Laurie is going to be able to make a nice 'extra' donation on her own as a result.

Pets In Space 4 will be available for purchase though December 31, 2020, although the time for royalty donations is over. (We designate the first month, up through the USA Veterans' Day because the bulk of our sales occur in that time frame.) I won't do buy links here since this is strictly a THANK YOU post but the book is up on all the major ebook seller platforms.

Friday, November 29, 2019


 I am grateful for the fact that you're all either still in a turkey coma, out shopping, or spending time with your families and therefore haven't noticed that I'm super tardy with my post today.

I'm grateful for second chances, whether real or perceived. There's nothing quite as energizing as feeling like there's still a chance for you and for a story you love.

I'm grateful for my editors, every last one. Every single editor has brought specific skills to the table and each one of those, no matter how hard it's sometimes been to hear that my story children might need braces to straighten those teeth, has made me a better, more skillful writer. Or possibly, it's exacerbated my worst tendencies to over think everything. Thin line.

I'm grateful for my critique partners and beta readers. Every single person who helps me get a story out of my head and on to paper challenges me to get better at what I do. I'm also eternally grateful to these people for not giving up on me even when I'd all but given up on myself.

Finally, I am grateful for this blog. It's kept me writing through just about everything. Memory glitches notwithstanding. It's forced me to keep thinking forward even while I bled envy all over the pages wishing some of the book covers on the bar had my name on them. They do now. See the second chances entry above.

I hope every single one of you has plenty of reasons for gratitude and may you have peaceful and bright holidays!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Being Thankful

Find one thing to be thankful for each day, 
even if the skies are grey,
and you’ll find a moment of happiness,
to chase your blues away.

And for all of our dear US readers, 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

With Thanks and Gratitude, Dear Readers

In this week of Thanks and Giving, I'm grateful for:

  • The unwavering support of my family. 
  • The forthright critiques of my CP, Jenn Stark.
  • The diligence and attention to detail of my editors Linda Ingmanson and Toni Lee.  
  • The creativity of my cover artist and his team at Gene Mollica, LLC.
  • The insight and persistence of my co-bloggers here at the SFF Seven.
  • The dear readers of this blog and of my books.

Happy [early] Thanksgiving 
[for the US readers].

Sunday, November 24, 2019

To Self, with Gratitude

Our topic here at the SFF Seven this week is "With Gratitude: Shout Out to someone who makes you a better author (peer, editor, reviewer, SO, pet, etc.)."

Mine is weird, I know - but it dovetails with what I've been talking about the last couple of days on my First Cup of Coffee podcast - and it's on my mind.

I don't mean to imply that there aren't a whole host of people out there deserving of a shout-out for all they've done for me. I'm truly wealthy in wonderful friends, family, and colleagues. In fact, I have the great fear we all suffer, that if I were to list them, I'd forget someone fatally important.

But I think it's also critically important to remember to have gratitude for our selves. I've been talking about the subconscious creative self - which is something every one of us has, whether we're actively engaged in an art or not. Our subconscious is the self without words or timelines, that connects to a realm our conscious brains cannot. Sometimes it's easier to think of the subconscious self like a beloved dog or cat. We have a loving and nurturing relationship with it, one that flows both directions. And, just like with our pets, it responds best to affection, not criticism.

Also, as with our pets, they don't always do what we think we want them to do - and the surprises give us the greatest delights.

So, I'm taking a moment today to express gratitude to my subconscious creative self, which has labored long and faithfully to feed me stories to write down. I'm truly grateful for all the blessings in my life.

Hope you all have blessings and reasons for gratitude also.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Six Quick Points of Advice on Being an Author


Technically this week’s topic is mentoring. I've always liked this quote:  “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby

In the old day job I definitely had mentors and owe a great deal to all of them. One thing I ran into, however, is expressed well by Steven Spielberg: “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Because I was a woman in a spot where there had been few if any women at that time, some of my early mentors at NASA/JPL  had definite ideas of who and what I should look like when I ‘made it’…and their vision didn’t always match mine. That was definitely my first chance to adopt the adage “Your Mileage May Vary” and there’s no one right way to do ANYTHING.

Later in my career there I participated in the formal mentoring program at NASA/JPL, for which we had training, ‘contracts’ between the mentor and mentee, a time limit and a lot of structure. I also informally mentored a great many people. Having been one of the first women in management in my particular specialized business area of the Lab, I had insights to share and I wanted to pay forward the wonderful help I’d received from my own mentors.

As an author, I’ve had several wonderful mentors, who shared their experiences with me and to whom I’d turn if something happened I wasn’t sure how to handle. Our own Jeffe Kennedy is one of my primary mentor resources to this day! Susan ‘SE’ Smith is another terrific fount of advice and support, generous with her time.

I do some mentoring of other authors if I’m asked a question or to give a presentation. I belong to a variety of online author groups and I’ll weigh in on the discussion if I feel I have something to contribute from my experiences or from things I’ve observed in the scifi romance world. I think my main message usually boils down to: There’s no one way! Everyone has their own path and their own definition of success.

Here are some points from the speech I gave a few years ago to a Los Angeles-are writing group, which represent my basic approach to giving general advice:

First we need to pause and acknowledge that finishing a book is a HUGE accomplishment and deserves celebration and kudos. So few people actually manage to complete that first book, although so many talk about writing a book ‘someday’, or may even write a few pages and find out what hard work it can be and stop. So if you’ve completed that first book, take a moment to bask in the well-deserved happy feels.

But then the author needs to ask where on the spectrum of expectations they fall. Is this the book of their heart, the one and only book they ever want to create and just having it available on Amazon for friends and relatives to buy will truly be enough? Holding that paperback version is a thrill all right. So if the book sits at #3,000,000 in Amazon forever they’ll be ok with it? Or are they secretly hoping to become J. K. Rowling someday, with billions of readers and theme parks and movies and so forth? I think we’d all like to be that person and yes, someone does win the lotto and yes, a few authors do rise to that level…but there’s nothing specific you can do right now to become JKR.

So accept that you fall into the middle of the spectrum with most of us authors and realize writing is a business and you’re going to have to treat it as such.
First, you have to have a social media presence. How are readers going to find you and your book if you aren’t out there to be found? No, magical thinking doesn’t qualify as a strategy, especially nowadays with the huge volume of books being published every week. If your book hovers around #3,000,000 in ranking, readers are not going to stumble over it.

 I always encourage authors to find the social media that works for them and where they feel comfortable. Even if they aren’t yet published, they have interesting lives, hobbies, fan favorites, general book talk they can share. And the internet always loves a good cat picture or two!

The one thing I strongly urge a writer to have is a blog or a website. There needs to be a central point a reader can go to learn about you, your books, what’s coming next and when, and a way to contact the author. Yes, you can have an Author Page on Amazon and also collect followers on BookBub after publication – I do both – but that real estate doesn’t belong to you. You don’t even know who those readers are and the company can change its business practices on a dime. So have one internet spot that’s all yours!  Your first internet presence doesn’t have to be full of bells and whistles and expensive.

Six more quick points of advice?

Develop a thick skin because this is a business.
Never engage with reviewers, especially over a negative review.
Find a group of likeminded writers, on Facebook or wherever, for encouragement and tips and cross promo!
Practice self-care, physically and mentally.
Don’t compare your journey to any other author’s because everyone’s path is different.
Most important: Stay true to your own voice!

When I saw the topic for the week here, I realized I do very little mentoring as a self-published author. Certainly not like it was in the old day job, where my office door was always open and I was happy to sit and chat. Pondering this today, I think in part it’s because most of my interactions nowadays are online.

For health reasons I don’t travel to conferences any more either, so I don’t actually meet too many people in real life these days!

Many of the answers a person new to self-publishing might be seeking can be found in the rich archives of the various author groups on Facebook, with people willing to answer or advise on more complex issues as they arise. Find one or two or more of these groups that feel like they might be on your wavelength and lurk and search their old posts…if asked, I do my best to steer people to the groups I’ve found that work for me but there’s a much larger universe out there than the few I frequent nowadays.

I’m pretty much set in my path, writing what I write, publishing and doing promo the way I’ve found works best for me and my readers and prospective readers…

General advice and periodic posts on my blog are the way I roll nowadays, as far as providing mentoring.

My latest release:

Amazon      Apple Books      Kobo     Nook    GooglePlay

Friday, November 22, 2019

In Praise of Mentors

When faced with something you have to do, but don't know how to do, what DO you do? Maybe YouTube a how-to? Cause there are a metric crap ton of vids on any topic you can imagine (and a few you can't). There are arcane and amazingly useful channels out there. Then there are the videos that are clearly some desperate marketing 'guru' wanting to entice you into SPECIAL FOR YOU TODAY pricing on their amazing class that will teach you everything you ever needed to know about <insert topic, including writing, here>.

Some writers have channels that are legitimately helpful, but for writing mentorship, I lean on organizations. The single most cost effective way to learn about this industry while participating in the industry is to pay dues to RWA, SFWA, NINC, and other writer organizations that bring writers with all levels of experience together. Had I not found and joined RWA when I did, I'd still be out wandering in the novelist woods wondering why nothing was working.

Chapter meetings taught me the difference between internal and external conflict. It was at meetings that I finally figured out what voice was. When my first rejection letter came in, my chapter mates broke it down for me, explaining what the editor was telling me and how encouraging that rejection actually was. Chapter meetings and local writer conferences led me to classes and to the people who's working style meshed with and enhanced my own. Do you know how much that would cost if I'd tried to get that kind of support and education from a single person? Far, far more than I had. Then or now.

Writer organizations give you access to an incredibly deep well of experience and information. I can go to the email loops or forums, ask literally any question and have germane answers within a day. All for the price of a membership. In that regard, I am super pro-mentorship. Take advantage of the organizations to which you belong and do what you can to give back, whether that's through serving on a board, or volunteering to stuff goodie bags at a conference.

It's vital to recognize, though, that mentorships have drawbacks. First, no one can do the work for you. Second, when anyone talks 'how to', you aren't getting The One True Way. You're getting the speaker's way. Whatever the teacher/speaker is sharing is what works for them. It may not work for you. When you're the one learning, it pays to keep in mind that you're going to classes in order to try out tools to see how or whether they fit your hand. When you find what fits, seek out that instructor and take every last one of their classes. The point is to take what fits and chuck the rest.  In that way, you become your own best mentor.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

To be, or not to be, a mentor.

Are you:
  1. working your way through NaNoWriMo and your first book
  2. querying or researching the indie track
  3. have a book or two out in the world, ready to create the next one
  4. been in publishing long enough you feel confident in the ins and outs

For the A’s - I’ve got loads of encouragement, and a slew of cheesy quotes if you’re interested. 
For the B’s - I’ve got encouragement and some tips on where to find information. 
For the C’s - I’ve got encouragement and a pretty good set of reader’s eyes. For the D’s - I’ve got encouragement, and a few questions. 

When I started writing, I believed it was a solo expedition, but then I realized that I wasn’t an astronaut. Lone wolf is the term more frequently used, but wolves operate in packs because the strength is in the pack. And that’s true of authors as well.

That understanding changed the game for me. Instead of being alone in a void, I found a writing community filled with people as clueless as I was, only the members were at all levels of their careers. Even when I didn’t think I could contribute I found people coming along behind me looking for suggestions on things I’d just done or gone through, and my voracious reading matched up with others needing a fresh set of eyes on their work.

No matter which letter you picked, you’ve got something to offer. Did you notice I listed encouragement with each one? That’s because everyone, no matter their level of achievements, has bad days, rejections, doubt, and thousands of other life challenges. So join in, even if it’s to offer a smile. Because if we’re all out there together, we may as well be having fun.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wanted: A DumbleYoda of My Very Own

A couple weeks ago, I tried to sign up to get a mentor through the SFWA, but the slots were all full within, like, an hour of the thing going live. That’s how starved we are for information.

We = all of us who are trying to do this writing thing. Having published a book or signed with an agent does not confer magical status of “I got this all covered now.” Many of us are confused and periodically hopeless.

Starved = sort of ironic, given how many YouTube vids there are for How To Self-Publish Your Book And Make A Gazillion Dollars Doing It! Easy! Everybody Can! I’m not saying they’re all scams trying to get you to pay for a magical placebo. But, um, caveat emptor.

And yet, I still tried to sign up for that  mentorship program, didn’t I? See, I wish there was a magic pill for How Do I Do This? I’m Rey, telling Luke that something has awakened inside me—this incredible urge to tell stories—and I need to know my place in all this and I’m begging Luke to train me and help me make sense of it, and every single day Luke takes one look at my lightsaber and throws it off a cliff. Every. Single. Day.

The bottom line is that as much as I yearn for a Dumbledore or a Yoda to give a crap about my journey and tell me when I’m doing it wrong—and when I’m doing it right—that ain’t gonna happen.  There is no such thing as a wisefolk out in the world who are even half as invested in your success as you are.

So, basically, be your own mentor. Learn your own thing. And message me if you need to scream/vent/rage into the void because this whole gig is confusing and cyclically horrifying, and we are all just flailing here. Sometimes it’s helpful to share.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mentoring: Would I, Could I, Should I, Have I?

Oh, so you want to know about mentoring, dear reader? Well, here's KAK's 5 Quick Mentoring Hits:

  • Have I ever "officially" mentored an author at any stage of their career? 
    • Nope. Not because I'm a dick (opinions may vary on that). Mostly, it's because there are moments when we (authors) need advice but it's not a sustained state of apprenticeship. Also, the needs fluctuate from 0 to 60 to -12. I may be the experienced one in April, but by August the mentee probably is the new expert. Roles flip. It's a good thing. It encourages continuous education.
  • Am I available to answer questions or offer advice? 
    • Sure. All advice comes with the standard disclaimer of "YMMV." While I'm happy to answer questions, don't expect me to do the work for you. Yes, I have strong opinions about certain topics and fluid thoughts on others. Yes, I can be and have been wrong. Yes, I am big enough to admit when that happens.
  • Do I consider myself an expert on any one aspect of authoring?
    • Oh hell no. I'm passably good at some things and a bit of a penny-in-the-socket on others.
  • Ever considered sharing what you've learned in your decade+ of playing in the publishing arena?
    • That's the biggest reason this blog exists. Authors at various stages of their careers can read our seven different perspectives on topics ranging from writing compelling sidekicks with fetishes to negotiating for yourself in an industry focused on their bottom line. From pre-published to self-published to hybrid published to traditionally published, this blog comes at the issues from all avenues and across the spec-fic and romance genres. 
  • Would you ever want someone to mentor you?
    • Who wouldn't want a resource who's been there, done that, and done it with better success? Then again, as Jeffe mentioned on Sunday, a lot of that kind of mentorship comes from friendships with other authors. I value my friendships, heck, it increases the odds I'll listen to their advice. 👼

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Authors Mentoring Authors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing, everyone!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

I Write Disasters On Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Good versus the Development Opportunity

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

I will shake the pom-poms for you

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

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

I shake the pom-poms for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I Can Build You A World

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

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

Sunday, November 10, 2019

What I Have and What I Want

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

My 5 Principles for Writing in 3 Genres

Graphics from DepositPhoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon      Apple Books     Kobo     Nook      Google

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon     Apple Books       Nook    Kobo     Google

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

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

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

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

Amazon      Apple Books      Nook      Kobo      Google

Note: All book covers from Fiona Jayde

Friday, November 8, 2019

Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor

I'm breaking rules this week. I'm on a pair of deadlines that require every last moment of concentration. So rather than 100 word flash fiction, I'm offering up a snippet of a deleted scene. This cutting from the editing room floor is from Enemy Storm, book three of the SFR series. Enjoy knowing you'll never see it again.

            "Let me get this straight,” I said. “We’re at war. We’re losing ground. My people are dying. You're stringing me up after a short mockery of a trial, and we're playing paper dolls?"
            The queen met my gaze. "We’re en route to the front line. I’ve done everything I can until we get there. So have you. We are engaging in a bit of theater."
            "You want to present me as something I'm not?"
            She tossed a fierce grin my way. "That's one way of looking at it. The other is that it behooves us to provide an image in sharp contrast to my people's assumptions regarding you."
            Awareness hit like an explosion. "You need me to look harmless."
            "Oh no," she said, amusement in her eyes. "That would be impossible. So we shift the narrative."
            “You’re stripping me bare and remaking me in . . .
            “Yes,” Eilod said, the word forceful, her gaze intent on mine in the mirror. “That is exactly what I’m doing. It serves my purpose to change what people see when you walk into that tribunal.”
            “What? Defenseless? Fragile?”
            “Vulnerable,” Eilod said. “You will stir hearts and awaken the protective instincts of citizens across the empire. I will paint a vivid picture the fourteen year old you’d been when soldiers killed your parents. Parents across the empire will look at their own children and contemplate abandoning them to death in order to protect them the way your parents died to protect you.”