Friday, July 31, 2020

Those Who Have, Those Who Will

This made me laugh and I needed that. I figured I'd share the wealth.

On to the stuff I'm supposed to be blogging about. You know, there's a saying in boating. There are boaters who have run aground and those who will. I feel like that's the same way with writers writing themselves into trouble. Have I run aground in a boat? Oh yes. More than once. Have I written myself into a corner? Shockingly, not yet. I have no doubt that at some point it's likely that I will - it just hasn't happened yet. I put it down to one of the oddities of my brain. Sure. Migraines all the damn time. But in exchange, continuity issues seem to be a little bit of a weird and mostly useless (unless I'm writing) super power. No one else appreciates being reminded of what they said four years ago. I assure you.

I do have a situation right now in a WIP where I wish I could adjust a timeline. But I can't. So I have to cope. An acting teacher, talking about how to put up a Shakespearean play, commented that it's easier to create within the confines of a set of rules than it is to create in a void. Some days, I agree. Some days, I rebel. But one thing remains. If I write a series, there's a spreadsheet with all of the details I assume I'll need going forward. I'm frequently wrong and I have to go digging through earlier books to find some detail I half remember so I can get it right in the next installment. It goes in the spreadsheet at that point. But that's about the limit of my patience for guaranteeing that I don't write myself into something I can't write myself out of. So far. But. Like I said. There are those who have and those who will. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Writing rules for your sci-fi/fantasy worlds

Rules…rules…rules were meant to be broken? 

Close, but our topic of the week is: What’s a rule of your world established in a precious book that complicated things for you later on?

And I consider myself lucky in this because so far I’ve only written books numbered one! But I’m aware of the danger of writing yourself into a tight corner because of world building/magic system, yes that came from Jeffe and her oh-so-handy posts over the years..and again this Sunday.

So I’ve used that advice…but mostly for my fantasy books because my sci-fi books I write as stand alones. Anyone out there write in different genres and treat the world building differently? 

For my fantasy books, one is Regency fantasy and the other is high fantasy.

High Fantasy: stories that take place in a completely fictional world with its own rules.

Regency fantasy is basically a historical with some magic thrown in. That meant I had to trade world building with historical research. Rabbit hole alert! Then the magic came into play and it was fantastic! Difficult physical challenges, magic! Weapons that met their mark as long as you’re close, magic! Clandestine meetings cracked by eavesdropping wind, magic! 

But all the while I already knew what would happen in book two and mostly in book three. Since I knew the future (ha! if only) I could work in hints and abilities/restrictions that I needed for book two. 

I used the same guidelines when world building my high fantasy. The magic system for this series took a year to formulate and over that year it morphed, like it was alive. Which it is, in the books. And like the Regency fantasy I already knew what would happen for my heroes and villains in book two so some of the secondary character’s magical abilities are the basis for the various main characters to come. 

After thinking about all of this I’m wondering what would happen if I wrote a book one without knowing anything about book two! I listened to Jeffe’s June 5th First Cup of Coffee where she interviewed author Grace Draven. During their coffee date Grace mentioned she wrote Phoenix Unbound without knowing what book two, Dragon Unleashed, would be. 

That blew my mind. I don’t—I don’t know if my brain could handle writing like that. Thank goodness for the beauty of this craft, that each of our paths are different and how we go about writing is different. And who knows, I could find myself in that predicament someday…and then I might have to borrow Jeffe’s tactic and lie my way out.

Too bad I’m not a proficient lier.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Where'd all that paint come from and why am I in this corner?

As Jeffe mentioned on Sunday, painting oneself into a corner is a plague on pantsers, those of us who write without outlines and sometimes even with no plan at all, just yee-haw it all out there. Writing's an adventure, right? No risk, no reward.

Until you're too far in to go back but look down and realize you can't go forward either. Because you've messed this thing up so bad. 

Painted yourself into a corner. 

I'm not saying that I do this all the time, but I do this all the time. Worse, I don't have any good advice for preventing it. For me, most times, it'll present as a note from a beta reader -- or worse, an editor -- something like, "This doesn't make sense. Did you even read the first book in this series?"

Of course I didn't read it. I wrote it.

But upon being informed of whatever plot sin I'd engaged in, my job as a storyteller is to go back and make it work. If making changes in an unpublished book can tidy everything up, that's best, but if the violation is in a book that's already out on the market, I have to change what I can. 

Sometimes, sad to say, this means I've had to give up some plot twists and reveals that I really, really loved. But I did it, and it's done, and no regrets, right?

Maybe the best advice is this: complete an entire series before you publish the first one. 

No really. And stop laughing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

New #PNR #Vampire Release: BLOOD KNIFE by Marcella Burnard

See, dear readers, Marcella tried to be sneaky on Friday and slip the announcement of her latest short story at the end of her post. I, as the gleeful herald of our merry SFF 7 troupe, do not do sneaky. I shout book news from the headlines and the socials, so.... ~clears throat~


by Marcella Burnard

Someone is sacrificing innocent people in the Seattle Underground. The murderer is trying, and succeeding, to raise a rogue vampire assassin. Rose Buchanan has the magic and the will to stand toe to toe with Vampire Magic. Including that possessed by the gorgeous blue-eyed vampire assassin who kidnaps her in a bid to pull a suspect list from her mind. When he can't overcome her will, he releases her and sets out to woo it from her instead.

When she's freed, Rose is more than ready to stake herself a vampire, but he's a witness to the three murders. She can't destroy him. Yet. Worse still to have to try to work with him when he keeps dialing the charm to 13.

Gethin is a vampire assassin forged long ago to police the Vampire Nation under the control of the Vampire Council. Now, the council believes the time of the assassins has passed. One by one, Gethin's fellow assassins and their Blood Knives have been destroyed. Only he remains, his Blood Knife in the hands of a murderous, unhinged human.

Rose has a choice to make. Destroy Gethin or find a way to free him and make the entire Vampire Nation her enemy.

*A portion of the proceeds go to the Southern Ohio Wolf Sanctuary*

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Painted Yourself into a Corner? Retcon FTW!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "World Rules and Painting Yourself into a Corner: What's a rule of your world established in a previous book that complicated things for you in a later book?"

This has happened to me SO MANY TIMES.

It's a downside of writing for discovery or being a gardener - which some people call "pantsing" - because I discover the world as I write the story. Sometimes I'm writing a later book in a series and I discover that some decision I made in an earlier book is limiting what I can do. The real bite is this is almost always some minor, stupid detail that I just threw out there for no good reason. Very often, it could've been left out entirely and nothing would've changed.

I've actually learned from past errors this way, and I'm much more careful these days about adding random worldbuilding details unless I'm SURE I want to live with them.

Mostly, anyway.

Except for one I found recently.

I've been writing book 3 of the Forgotten Empires trilogy, THE PROMISED QUEEN (cover teased above). That means I've been listening to the audio books of THE ORCHID THRONE and THE FIERY CROWN, just to gather up all the threads of the story. Well, I found a careless remark in THE ORCHID THRONE that blows a huge part of the worldbuilding reveal in THE PROMISED QUEEN. As in, totally contradicts what we discover later. 

And it's not even important, that toss-off line in THE ORCHID THRONE! I could've deleted it and no one would've cared or noticed. 

But no.

What to do???

I had three choices, I figured:

1) Change my big reveal in THE PROMISED QUEEN*

2) Pretend I didn't know about that line in THE ORCHID THRONE**

3) Retcon*** it.

Door #3, please! 

I'll even confess here how I did it, though I won't give the details of the exact mistake. I had Lia said she lied. It actually works just fine because she's an accomplished liar - self-confessed - and she had good reason to lie about that thing, at that time and place. Is it perfect? Maybe not. Does it work? I think so. 

And now you all know...


*No way
**Risky, because I know one of you would pick up on it
***For those who don't know, retconning is short for "retroactive continuity" and it means to "revise (an aspect of a fictional work) retrospectively, typically by introducing a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events."

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Muse Is Not Inspired


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is inspiration. What other media inspires us: fandom, music, photography, paintings?

Assuming the topic applies to our writing, I’m not sure I can directly credit anything as inspiration, which sounds awful, but I don’t look at a piece of art or a photograph and feel inspired to write a science fiction romance or a story set in ancient Egypt.  I may feel inspired to think lofty thoughts in general, or to feel at peace with the world or to seek out more of whatever I’m enjoying, all of which is a good thing and makes me a well rounded person, but as far as rushing to my desk and beginning a new novel…not happening.

I can listen to music and let my mind wander and think through plot developments but the point isn’t what particular music I’m listening to, because once I’m in the creative flow, I don’t even hear the music any longer. There’s one novel of mine that was largely written to the Russian dervish dance music from ‘Riverdance’ on endless repeat but not because it has anything to do with the novel. For some reason that particular piece of music was good at setting my mind free of my daily cares and concerns and shoving me into the creative flow for that one book.

There’s an old Gary Puckett and the Union Gap song that helped me with another novel, because there was something in the lyrics that reminded me of my hero and heroine; however, once the novel was written, their situation actually never even touched upon what the song evoked for me. And I didn’t listen to the song while writing.

I’m not telling you which books because I think the tie between the music and what I wrote is so idiosyncratic to me, I wouldn’t want anyone to hunt for an actual tie-in to the novels. There isn’t one!

So I guess my Muse responds to music to some extent but nothing as direct as inspiration.

I always had music playing when I started writing seriously, as it did seem to help the creative flow, but for quite a few years now I need silence when I write. Music would be too distracting and interfere with whatever I’m doing to transmit my thoughts from my brain to the keyboard. I do often listen to music in bed in the evenings before going to sleep and find myself mulling plots.

I was never tempted to write fanfic, other than some Star Trek stories I wrote in high school for a friend of mine. She had a crush on Mr. Spock so I’d clip photos from fan magazines to illustrate the short stories of her being on the Enterprise and having a flirty relationship with Spock. Other people’s characters don’t generally interest me in terms of wanting to write adventures for them though, or to ‘ship them’ with each other or with new partners. I’ve never read fanfic although I know it’s hugely popular and I’m happy for those who do love it, write it, read it, etc.  It’s just not my thing, say I with a shrug. I want to create my own worlds.

So, there you have it and I can’t think of anything to add that wouldn’t just be belaboring the point.

Friday, July 24, 2020

You Need More than One Bucket to Fill a Well

'Where I get inspiration', 'filling the well' and all the other euphemisms we use to encompass what really amounts to self-care is a tricky devil. I mean, do you ever have discontent rolling from your gut to heart and back again, but the wine and the bath bombs that did the trick yesterday don't put a dent in it today? Or is it just me pacing my house like a caged lion?

I'm guessing that answer is no. Especially not now. We're all looking for ways to self-soothe. It's a skill we're supposed to pick up in the transition from child to adulthood, but rarely do in healthy ways. This culture isn't big on it. It doesn't help that what makes us feel empty and depleted is often an incredibly fast-moving target.

What to do, then?

Multiple weapons, my friend. Multiple weapons. Some days, all you need to restore your soul is an exquisite piece of chocolate. Or a meal made by someone who cares about you. A piece of poetry or art that steals your breath. A drive (where you don't get out of the car) just to see what's over that hill or around that bend over there. Music. Movement - never underestimate the power of dancing like a goober to music you love when no one else is home. Go for a walk - just wear your mask. Learn something new. It doesn't have to be weighty or even germane. I've watched a dog training show on Youtube, for heaven's sake. I don't have dogs. Can't have dogs, more's the pity, and so the chance that I would EVAR use this is . . . well hell . . . now it's going in a story. Right now, a thunderstorm is doing the job for me. Sitting outside, under good cover, never fear, exposed to negative ions and listening to the rain and not-so-distant rumble.

Also, I think it's important to say that it's okay to be spent. It's okay to be empty. There's power in that, too. It's a rich, fallow space to lie in while you take a breath without rushing to fill back up again. Nature abhors a vacuum. You will fill. It's legit to take a break before you rush to do and just be.

PS: New book out! The Blood Knife released yesterday as a part of a box set called Beyond Twilight that's available for the next three weeks. We have eleven vampire books in the collection. A portion of proceeds supports the Southern Ohio Wolf Sanctuary. The stories are based on how vampires might have changed in the years since Twilight first came out. Politics have changed. Social justice has changed. Vamps have had to adapt. We wrote a few of those stories. While we may be writing Team Edward, we're supporting Team Jacob.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Finding Inspiration

pic from my hiking adventures

If you’re a writer, you’ve undoubtedly been asked where do you get your ideas from? About a thousand times. And the topic of the week might give you an easy way to answer: what other media inspires you? 

I write sci-fi and fantasy. And for me, it’s almost a right brain left brain kind of thing. So it makes sense that I’m inspired to write the different genres in different ways.

When I’m writing the future and coming up with all sorts of made-up tech I thrive off other science fiction media. Anyone watch Altered Carbon? Fan-freaking-tastic! The character journeys were fun to watch unfold, but it was the world and all those small details—how the characters interacted with and used that world that fired off hundreds of ideas. 

When I’m writing fantasy I need nature. When I’m dreaming up completely new worlds and magic I need to walk under the trees and step to the cliff’s edge. If I really can’t get out, or my imagination needs to travel to the type of local I’ve never been to, photography saves me. Beautiful images, vivid or faded, breath taking scenery.

Yes, I know the act of writing stems from the same brain location, but activating the scientific part of me is a completely different function than painting worlds with words. 

I should really remember this for when I’m feeling stuck in my writing. I sort of do consciously think this way, I frequently take the husky pup (I still miss my Loki dog) for walks to get the mind going, and I’ll binge on sci-fi movies/shows for ideas. 

But if I actively try to kickstart the part of my brain I need…sooner, maybe my sticky spots will be shorter lived! 

How about you? I envy the people that get inspired by music. So, do you use a certain type of media to inspire you? 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Let the Music Shake Your Creative Soul

What other media refills my creative well? Books, movies/TV, music, illustrations/art, international news...really, not much doesn't. Inspiration is everywhere you want to see it.

If I'm stuck, though, or I can't crawl into the right mental place to make progress...or I'm just full of the I can't whines and snivels? It's music for the quick fix. Great songwriters will compress an amazing story into ~3 minutes. Better ones will set that story against music that pulls, shoves, and trips you. My go-to genre is the multi-headed beast known as Rock and it's many subgenres. Bombasts to ballads, load up my playlist with blues, punk, alt, goth, glam, or whatever some marketing dept wants to call it.  I want drums, bass, and guitar working together to make me feel and a vocalist who cracks open a door to world of possibilities. 

Give me a song that shakes the windows and my soul, and I'll give you a fantastical story.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Feeding the Creative Subconscious with Beauty

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is inspiration. What other media inspires us: fandom, music, photography, paintings?

For me, the answer is pretty much yes.

Yes to all of it. Books, poetry, news articles, music, visual arts of all kinds - it all feeds into a stewpot of inspiration for me. For today's post, however, I'll stick with visual arts, particularly paintings and drawings.

The above is a giclee by Diana Stetson called Raven Watching. My mom bought it for me a couple of weeks ago from a gallery in Santa Fe. It's an early birthday present, since the odds of us being together for my actual birthday aren't great. I love the sense of depth to this piece, and how the raven seems to be watching with a keen and knowing gaze. It looks exactly like the desert ravens around our house, too, so that's a lovely echo to bring indoors.

It's fitting, too, that my mom bought this gift for me, as she's the one who taught me to love art--largely by dragging me in and out of Santa Fe galleries on family vacations.

When I first began transitioning from being a scientist to a writer, I studied a great deal about being creative, especially the creative subconscious. One thing I gleaned was to surround myself with visual images that fed my subconscious. I read a quote from Anna Pavlova - which I inevitably can't find now - about the Imperial Ballet Academy where she studied. She said everywhere at the academy, they were surrounded by beauty - so that they would soak that in and bring it out again in their dance.

I took that to heart and surround myself with art that makes me feel reverence for the world. Sometimes I can point to specific inspirations. Other times... well, I hope that it's soaked in, ready to spring forth in new forms.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Notes for Stories Collect Dust While I Write Other Books


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is all about Ideas. How do you write down or remember those great ideas that you get mid-shower/dream/car drive? If you lose them, how do you get them back?

As an author, I have wisps of ideas and plots running around in my mind all the time (I’m good at multitasking!). Sometimes I’ll read an article that inspires a plot idea or occasionally one will come to me out of the blue. I usually write myself a one sentence note with the gist of the idea and then I have a folder stuffed full of these. The thing is, I almost never refer back to them.

I’m always working on a book and I’m always thinking about the next two books to come, even if they aren’t in the same series or even the same universe. I keep a constantly simmering ‘pot of stew’ going in my head with ideas for these books and will rarely allow myself to get distracted by anything newer or shinier. These three books – the one I’m writing, the next one I’ll write and then the most likely one after that – ARE the shiny for me. So for example, right now I’m writing a Star Cruise story set on my interstellar space liner, which is for the Pets in Space® 5 anthology, due out in the Fall. The next book will most likely be either JAMOKAN or TRATUS, which are both in my Badari Warriors science fiction romance series. I’m debating between the two of them as to what’s up first. The third book in my mind’s queue at the moment is either one set in my fantasy world of Claddare, or maybe an Egyptian…or one of these could be my fourth in line, if I write Jamokan and then Tratus.

BUT, this week I’ve become enamored of one of my older ideas and am severely tempted to write it after Jamokan. I have to go where the Muse has the energy to be in order to write my best books and to have the creative flow. I’ve learned my own process pretty well over the years! This particular plot is one I’ve been mulling for years, off and on, but it never bubbled up to the top of the list for whatever reason. The same thing happened with COLONY UNDER SIEGE: INTERSTELLAR PLAGUE, which I released in June. I’d had it in mind to do forever but then the pandemic made it the only thing I was in the mood to write and so I did.

This portion of the writing year is a bit under constraint because I can’t release a scifi romance in the same time as Pets In Space (we don’t compete with ourselves), but I do have to keep paying the rent and the bills, so I need to keep my releases coming on a more or less regular schedule. So, the fantasy or the Egyptian might come next after JAMOKAN  purely due to scheduling concerns. Luckily I love writing in both worlds but my fan base is smaller than for the SFR.

If a random idea really strikes a chord with me, I won’t forget it. I may take years to actually use it in a book, but it’ll always be there, in the Muse’s list of ingredients.

My first "woke up in the morning,
gotta write it" title and my first really BIG
On really rare occasions I might wake up in the morning with an entire book in my head (well, as completely as I ever plot in advance – the beginning, the ending, the hero and heroine and a few major scenes) and I know I have to set aside everything else and just write this book. Those plots are a gift not to be squandered and they kind of write themselves. This is where it’s helpful to be independently published as I don’t owe anyone anything under a contract with a hard date. Pets in Space is an exception.

The other thing I have to be careful of is not thinking through an idea too much before writing it. I used to have a two hour commute that could become three hours or more on the Southern California freeways. I also used to get anxiety attacks after a really bad 1982 accident (long story, on a freeway offramp, locked the brakes, rolled the car three times, ended upside down after knocking over a tree, broke three ribs..). One day I was stuck in traffic, on the way to work, anxiety giving me hell…so I told myself a story. You can safely do that if your car isn’t moving or only inching forward in occasional bursts. It was a scifi ghost story, set in space on an abandoned colony. I seriously gave myself goose bumps because it was so darn scary. And then the traffic eventually opened up, I got to work and was late for meetings that day, etc., so I never wrote any of it down. It was one of those shining magic stories that I should have dropped everything to actually write but at the old day job that certainly wasn’t a possibility. Bosses paying you to work don’t exactly resonate with you shutting your door and writing a novel on their time.

Will I ever write it? I haven’t forgotten the essentials and at one point I did write maybe the first 1000 words but the magic of it was gone. The Muse felt we’d been there and done that and weren’t going back. If I think about a story too much, I can’t write it, and on that commute from hell, I’d let myself develop the entire story, like a movie, down to the details so I wouldn’t have a major anxiety attack and pass out in the (allegedly) fast lane. Soooo, I kinda doubt it but never say never. If I got a new wrinkle or twist to add, then maybe. But for now the few notes and words there are on it reside in that bulging, never opened “Note for Stories” folder in the old beige file cabinet.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Idea Recall

Just a flower about to burst into bloom on the lanai. I was told it was a form of orchid. To be sure, it's an epiphyte, but I'm not so sure about the orchid thing. It's a Medinilla magnifica.

I'm using this photo here because I want to make the point that ideas are as numerous as the clusters of flowers on this plant. You either enjoy them when they bloom or you lose them when they drop, which happens frequently. Like so many tropical and subtropical plants, the flowers don't all come out at once. They emerge in waves and they drop in waves. No sooner have you swept up one mess of rose grapes, which these are also called, and another set are falling.

There's my idea metaphor.

Gather ye the buds of ideas while ye may. Cause sure as you sleep on 'em, they'll be gone like ghosts in the rising sun. Waking life ideas are easy. Say you're in the shower. You get an idea followed by another and another. Those ideas are related or they wouldn't have triggered one another. NUMBER THEM in your head. Assign each a single key word. REPEAT THEM. Then finish your shower asap, GTFO, and find paper. Or whatever recording device you need. Your phone has a recorder on it. Record the idea. There's a notes app. Use that if you have to. I prefer either paper or just getting an idea to a computer. The whole strategy for me is to find just that one single key word that opens out the entire idea when I repeat it.

But. As I said. The One Thing Guaranteed to Fail: lying to yourself about remembering that idea that comes to you in twilight sleep - in that moment between waking and dropping into slumber. You don't want to rouse yourself. So you number the ideas. You key word them. You repeat them. And when your alarm goes off, all you'll remember is that you had ideas and now, they're gone. The only solution here is a pad of paper beside the bed and a book light. I used to use sharpie and write on my palm when I got ideas in the middle of the night. That gets really, really hard to read when you write over something you've already written, so seriously, don't do that. A little note book and an unobtrusive light source will make  you much happier and you won't hate yourself in the morning.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How to not lose your ideas!

You walk into the room, flip on the light switch, and stare…wondering why you came in here to begin with. Memory can be tricky. And if you’re a writer you’ve undoubtedly lost ideas. So, ‘How do you write down or remember those great ideas that you get mid-shower/dream/car ride?’?

My chronic disease sometimes pals along with brain fog. If you don’t know what that is, consider yourself blessed. If you read my description below and it resonates with you, my heart goes out to you, let me know if you need an electronic hug.

Brain Fog: symptoms of mental fatigue. Sometimes involving memory, mental clarity, mental fatigue, loss of concentration, not feeling like yourself…similar to mentally wading through thick fog. 

So the question remains, how do I remember those lightening-bolt book ideas when they strike? Maybe it really depends on what kind of lightening you get.  

Book concept ideas. The big ones that undoubtedly have rolling thunder follow. When these hit I prefer to ruminate on them for a while. I read a post by John Scalzi, likely the same one Jeffe referred to on Sunday, in which he talked about his story selection process and if his idea still sounds good after a year he figures that it’s worth writing. Trust me, the good ones stick around.

Writing ideas. Cloud to cloud lightening. Plot fixes, characters, world building, magic, transitions…etc. It never fails, these kinds of ideas hit at the least convenient of times. In the shower, driving, cooking, weeding the garden. Basically anytime I’m far away from my computer and can’t immediately start writing out the genius idea. And too many times I’ve been struck, but couldn’t get to my computer or find some paper to write down the perfect fix…and then forgotten it. 

I’m pretty terrible at recalling those perfect fixes, sucky brain fog. But I do have a secret weapon. He’s been with me longer than I’ve been without him, we’ve grown up together, he’s always got my back, he’s more important to me today than he was in the beginning, and today we’ve officially been married for 15 years! (I wish we were back in Ten Sleep WY) Technically we’ve been together for 21 years and it’s safe to say he knows how my brain works and how it’s going to work. Which is why he bought me…this is where I divulge my insider tip: 

I have mini notebooks, everywhere. Along with a pen. 

My handsome man bought me a handful of mini moleskine notebooks for my birthday a few years back and I keep one in each of our vehicles, always one or two in my purse, one in my nightstand and one in the kitchen. Always within reach and always on hand. 

I couldn’t keep track of my writing ideas with out my notebooks and I couldn’t make it through life without him. So, thanks for the moleskines, Jon, and thanks for these past amazing years. I’m looking forward to the next 15, happy anniversary.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Flight of the elusive story idea

You know how butterflies can't seem to fly in a straight line and never go where you expect them to go? It's really hard to capture them, even with a huge net. I don't even try. I just watch them fly and appreciate their beauty and attempt to imprint it on my memory.

Butterflies are like story ideas.

They wander into view unexpectedly, a flash of distracting gorgeousness exactly when I don't expect them and, frankly, don't have time for them. (Usually when I'm driving, exercising, or doing dishes.) The best I can do is attempt to see every part of them, run them through the challenge course of my brain, and attempt to imprint their essence there so I can retrieve them later, when I have the time.

Okay, yes, I have tried fishtailing onto a side street, skidding to a stop, grabbing my handy-dandy notebook, and furiously writing the thing down. Usually it's a dialogue snippet of such startling brilliance I find myself amazed... until I read it back later and am like, what? I almost got myself rear-ended for this crud?

Same thing with dreams: I'll wake up, certain I've got a complete and glorious story or scene ready-made from dreamland, and I'll scribble it down in a rush, only to find out later that it wasn't so great and actually was probably just a dream-mangled episode of Doctor Who or quest from Dragon Age.

Mostly I find that these brilliant butterfly ideas are only beautiful in the moment. If I write them exactly as they are, it's like capturing a critter in a net, and folks, that's not where a butterfly is supposed to be. A butterfly, like an idea, is only actually beautiful if it's wild.

So I started making myself step back and letting my ideas fly, and turns out they don't always fly away. Sometimes the linger, thread themselves in and out of whatever other task I'm doing, and then later, when I sit down to write, I find that all that aimless flitting has evolved into a discernible pattern and has sort of magically fitted itself into my work-in-progress. I guess, my brain being what it is, it's not the act of recognizing an idea that's useful: it's allowing that idea to process.

So maybe the idea is more caterpillar than butterfly, honestly. It's better if it has time to develop.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

New SciFi Romance Release: IVOKK by Veronica Scott

Our Saturday blogger and publishing powerhouse Veronica Scott released the latest in her Badari Warriors SciFi Romance series this weekend, so for those of you building your payday book list, be sure to add IVOKK to your cart and savor the Happily Ever After!

A Badari Warriors SciFi Romance Novel

Proud enforcer of the Badari South Seas pack, Ivokk undertakes a secret mission back to their former home, in search of a cure for a mysterious illness affecting his soldiers, now in exile in the north. He’s ready to make any sacrifice to find the answer and help his pack brothers stay strong. He’s even willing to accept responsibility for the human woman assigned to the mission, although she’s a headstrong civilian, difficult and rumored to dislike his kind.

Sandara DiFerria was once a three-star chef in the Sectors, but that was before the alien enemy kidnapped the entire adult population of her colony to use for experimentation. Rescued from the labs by the Badari, she does her part to support the rebellion now by running the vast commissary operation in Sanctuary Valley. All she asks is to be left alone until she can get back to the Sectors and pick up her old life again. Her one previous romantic brush with a Badari soldier turned out badly, ending in public humiliation. Add to that post-traumatic stress from her life before moving to the colony and she’s the last person to pick for a top-secret mission. Or so she believes.

The Alpha running the pack disagrees and sends her to do the job under Ivokk’s watchful eye. Thrown together by the nature of the task they must undertake, the undeniable attraction they both feel grows. Will the dark secrets of Sandara’s hidden past create an insurmountable barrier between them? Can Ivokk and the tempestuous human chef find the answer to the Badari illness in time? Or will the elements and the enemy bring disaster?

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | BN | iBooks | Kobo

Monday, July 13, 2020

How do you save ideas

This week the topic of conversation is how to save those ideas that come to you at the strangest times. OIn the shower and a notion pops up, driving down the road or having a conversation and an idea for a tale hits you?

I don't save them. I kind of fih=gure if it's a good enough thought, it'll come tome again. Like all of the goodies boiling in a pot of stew. If it's good enough, it'll come back to the surface. I'll see it when it does.

On an unrelated note: along with my co-editor Christopher Golden, I have won the Shirley Jckon Award for 2019, in the category of anthologies. Chris put it better than I could have, so I'm stealing his words: 

"I'm absolutely thrilled to learn that The Twisted Book of Shadows has won the Shirley Jackson Award. It means the world to me that this book, and these authors, has received this honor. While I'm extremely grateful to publisher John M. McIlveen, co-editor James A. Moore, coordinator Matt Bechtel, and editorial committee including Linda D Addison, Rachel Autumn Deering, Lee Thomas, Nadia Bulkin, and KL Pereira (as well as to every person who supported our gofundme with a donation), I want to point your attention to the contributors. We sifted through 700 stories to find extraordinary stories. I'm so damned proud to be associated with the authors and the stories in this book, so congratulations to the authors. If you haven't read the stories yet, you owe it to yourselves to do so.
Angelmutter by David Surface
At Least the Chickens are All Right by Trisha Wooldridge
Beneath Her Skin by KT Wagner
Brother Mine by Rohit Sawant
Cake by MM DeVoe
Coyote by Jason A. Wyckoff
Elegy by Sarah L. Johnson
For Every Sin an Absolution by Kristi DeMeester
Groomed by Liam Hogan
Liza by Jeffrey B. Burton
Lydia by Cindy O'Quinn
Midnight Sun by Andrew Bourelle
Mirror, Mirror by PD Cacek
Records of the Dead by John Linwood Grant
Smeared Star in Your Hands by Sara Tantlinger
The Birthing Pool by Eoin Murphy
The Pale Mouth by Melissa Swensen
Underground by George Murray
Unto the Next by Amanda Helms"

Wow. Just, wow. I am so very honored. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Grabbing Those Great Ideas

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is all about Ideas. How do you write down or remember those great ideas that you get mid-shower/dream/car drive? If you lose them, how do you get them back?

It's funny this came up now because I talked about this very thing on my podcast, First Cup of Coffee, just recently - and even commented that I liked what I'd talked through so much that I should transcribe it. So this gave me the impetus to do that - and edit the transcription, which is the time-consuming part.

If you prefer to listen, you can listen here. Or, read on for the transcription! I included the whole thing, but set off the relevant section in bold, in case you don't care for a faithful reproduction of my conversational rambling.

Good morning, everyone. This is Jeffe Kennedy. I'm here with my first cup of coffee. It's Thursday, July 2, and I am back in my grape arbor and my folks are on the road this morning. So the staycation is over. I'm getting back to work today.

It's good to have a little bit of fallow time. But now I am ready to get after it. I have not yet gotten edits back from editor Jennie on The Promised Queen. She said she thought maybe week of June 29. But seeing is how it's Thursday. It might be next week. Which I told her whenever is fine, and that's really true. So that means that I can start in on one of my other projects today, because Lost Princess released on Monday, and thank you all for the wonderful reception for that book.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have the book earn out on release day, or a little before, as some of that's before because when you guys buy through my website, I get that money right away. But to go ahead and recoup all of my costs on that first day of release is wonderful, because then after that I can consider it all income. And that's, that's just incredibly useful. So thank you all. And I'm glad that you're happy with the book. And so far, nobody seems to feel cheated.

I won't spoil or anything but there was something I had hoped I'd be able to do with that book. And I just couldn't figure out a way to make make it happen. Although I've received suggestions from several people. Spoiler: cover your ears for just a second if you haven't read it yet. I've received suggestions from several people on how to actually get elephants to Dasnaria. It could happen We'll see. Okay, now you can all come back.

So, yeah, I'm feeling rested, tanned, rested and ready. It's an old joke. Uh, yeah, it's um, it's actually a, like a Nixon joke, I think. Which tells you something. It also tells you something when our political climate is such that we long for the simplicity of Nixon who simply resigned in disgrace and flew off of this helicopter. Ah, the good old days. Right.

So, I will get back into the groove now.

The projects I'm thinking about working on are: going back to Dark Wizard which, I think I told you all, that Grace Draven wants me to just call it Dark Wizard. We're arguing about this. She says, I should just title it Dark Wizard. I'm like, you can't just name a book Dark Wizard. And so then I've started playing with variations on that, you know, a little bit of gamesmanship with wordplay, etymology, you know, sort of like Darth Vader, you know, it could be like Darth. Of course, I can't use Darth because that it immediately evokes Star Wars. But the working title is definitely Dark Wizard. And then I also got another great idea for a story that I don't know what my working title for it should be. But I think it's a really good idea. You know, like one of those ones that zings. Oh no, I started to mention it when I drove in for writer coffee last Thursday, I talked about it some and then I decided that there was too much noise on the podcast and I didn't put it up.

That's one thing about taking some time off and letting the well refill is that sometimes you just get these ideas that pop into your head. And this is one that comes a little bit out of my mentoring session too at SFWA's Nebula conference.

So, I think it's really good idea. I'm tempted to try again. I mean, I know my 3000 words a day is sustainable. I'm definitely going to try to do 3000 words a day. I'll get back into the groove on Dark Wizard - and I'm thinking about trying for more words again later in the day on this new story, on the new shiny. I don't know how that would work. I definitely can't do it right off. And there's probably nothing wrong with letting the idea percolate. Kelly Robson said something about that when I told her I had a new idea. You know, the really good writer friends are the ones who, when you tell them that you have a great new idea, they don't ask you what it is. Because they know better. They know that you're still sort of sitting on the egg as it were. And I do think that there's a possibility of sitting on an egg so long that it goes bad, you know that it's a dud. But I think that if that -

Okay, so here we're going to extend the analogy.

If you're sitting on an egg so long that nothing happens and it's a dud, then I think it was always a dud.

The really good ideas, if you sit on them for a long time, eventually, they're going to start picking their way out of the, the shell. And by that you will know. Different writers are different ways about those things. And you know how I'm always talking about, own your process. Discover what your process is, own it. Keep refining it.

And I feel like this is a lifelong process for all of us. I kind of gave my I finished teaching my class on Identifying and Breaking Bad writing habits. In my rousing goodbye screed, I talked about this, that as much as we would like - and I'll tell you what I am so this person: I want to buy thing and then have it for the rest of my life. I want to be able to learn something and then know it. I want to build a habit, and then have it. And I don't get to have that.

This is not how the universe works, to my great consternation. And with all of these things, it's because building habits and refining your creative process are our processes. And they are iterative. So this means that you keep going back over and over and you keep checking and rechecking to see how they're doing. See how you are doing. Are you still being productive? Is that thing that worked before still working? How can you tweak How can you maximize? How can you maximize in terms of not increasing output, but improving output, which I think is a different thing. You know, like Leslye Penelope, she's been talking about that she just took a break, that she took a couple of weeks off and she's been reading and enjoying herself, that crop rotation idea of letting the fields lie follow. Deanna Rayburn talks about that, that she took like a couple of years off writing, and only read. And I think that those things are very important as part of discovering your process, and refining all of these things.

Every round is different. So it's very tempting to listen to other writers and say, Okay, here's how you do the thing. Like, you know, I had one of the students in my class ask saying, Well, when I do a really detailed outline, I find I lose interest in the story and I struggled to finish it. You know that's a question that we get all the time. This comes up all the time. And it's, it's so funny, because the obvious answer is, then don't do a detailed outline. Your process does not involve doing a detailed outline beforehand. But people get so wrapped up in the idea that that is how you do the thing, that you do this thing by making a detailed outline. And they think that the problem is is is somehow in how they're executing. And it's like, No, no, this is not your creative process.

Figure out what your creative process is.

Own it.

Don't let other people tell you how you should be doing the thing.

So along with this idea of like sitting on, on new ideas, John Scalzi has a very interesting approach. He said that he gets an idea. And he thinks about it a little bit, and then he puts it away. And then if it's still there in the morning, he gives a little bit more thought and then puts it away. And then if it's still there a week later, he gives a little bit more thought and puts it away. And he'll do this for months or a year.

And I thought, well, that's a that's an interesting approach.

Some people I know, like my friend Darynda, she gets ideas, and she has to go ahead and write out a pretty detailed outline of the idea before it'll leave her alone. I don't know if she's still doing that. I should ask her if she's still doing that. We haven't done an interview with her in a couple of years, we should get her back on here. Because these things change, right? That's the most important thing is that these things change over the course of our writing career as we refine our process. You know, so the upshot was is that Darynda has something like 60 plus book outlines on her hard drive, which even she acknowledges is not super productive, because she won't have time to write all of them. But that's it's part of how ideas seize her and how she deals with them. So it would be very interesting to ask her if she's still doing it that way. I will try to remember to make a note poke her and see if she wants to do an interview. I haven't seen her in so long . When was the last time I saw Darynda? January, I guess? Yeah. So it'd be nice to have a nice a good long conversation. And you guys might as well listen in.

I usually the jot down a few notes on the idea, because I will forget it. And that's where  Scalzi would say, well, then it deserves to be forgotten. And I'm not sure I believe that's true. Because sometimes I will go back to my spreadsheet of ideas. And I'll think, oh, that is a great idea. And I'll write down just enough words to make it come alive for me again, and I think I would lose those and I'm not sure that they should be lost.

So then Elizabeth Gilbert talked about - I'll see if I can find the link to this podcast. I think it was like two years ago that I was reading her, maybe just a year. I know, I was doing a podcast on listening to her audio book, which I can't think of the name of now. It's the one on that's kind of like about creativity and magical thinking. (BIG MAGIC) But anyway, she has this idea that that ideas come to you and kind of lurk and wait. And if you don't pay attention to them - she thinks of them as like living things - that if you don't pay attention to them, then they leave and they go find someone else. That was it: she had said that Ann Patchett ended up writing her idea because she didn't get to it, and that it was uncannily close to her own idea.

It makes for a fascinating story.

I'm not sure I believe that, but I kind of like my egg analogy. Part of what I'm thinking about now is okay, I'm working to this idea is like, does it hurt to write down a few thousand words to get the story started and then poke at it every once in a while. I know writers who do this, but I'm thinking back to one concept I had that I did that on, and it did kind of die and lose impetus. So maybe it'd be better to keep it fully in the egg. Maybe this is part of it. It's like, once it starts, once you crack that egg, you know, it's okay to let the idea incubate in the egg. But once you crack that egg, then you either have to feed your little baby bird regularly, insects all the time, like my bluebirds ferry insects to their babies.

Or it'll die. You have to.

That's an interesting concept. So I like the idea of keeping the idea eggs. So thanks guys! You just helped me solve this problem. And, for your information, in case you didn't know, this is exactly how all of my conversations with my friends go: where I ask them questions and they say things and then I arrive at the answer and and thank them and they're like I just sat here and listened to you talk. So you guys are all doing this for me. All right, I won't try to do more than 3000 words a day, because that really does work best for me. It's very sustainable, and it's good. And even though I didn't get that much written the last couple weeks of June. I still am way ahead of last year. So I've been doing much better And on that note, I think I will go get to work today. I need to, I want to get 3000 words on Dark Wizard if I can. And because there's always the ramp up factor, you know, it's just as yesterday morning, I ran on the treadmill again for the first time and today I lifted weights and my body is feeling a little creaky because I've mostly been like, shopping and going out to eat and drinking wine. So, physically and creatively, I am waking up those creaky muscles and getting back to it. So all right: I am getting back to work.

I'll remind you that first cup of coffee is part of the Frolic Media Podcast Network, and you can find more podcasts you'll love at and I will talk to you all tomorrow. Promise. Okay, take care. Bye bye.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Live and Let Live on Fiction Tropes


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Sex on the Beach & Sand in the Wrong Places: What's your favorite bit of pop-culture fiction doesn't work well in reality?"

I’m kind of a live and let live person. I don’t over analyze tropes or fictional conventions and if there’s something I personally don’t like, I just don’t read it. There will probably be many other people who do like brother’s-best-friend-the-bully-at-the-elves-prison-joining-a-reverse-harem-before-heroine-saves-the-universe. More power to them, enjoy the book and I’ll be over here reading something else. And maybe tomorrow I’ll be in the mood for some of that insane RH prison break romance. You never know.

Which is a long winded way to say I have nothing to say on the week’s topic. Oh, I can think of all kinds of things they do all the time in movies, TV and best sellers (and non-best sellers) that your average person would never be able to pull off but why ruin the fun? It’s FICTION. It’s escapism. It’s yes, if I am ever trapped on a speeding bus with a bomb and my driver’s license was suspended I WILL still drive the thing over a broken freeway ramp through the air like a lumbering whale gone airborne and go home with Keanu Reeves, thank you very much. Or if I find myself in an abandoned, shot up complex on a nasty mining colony planet, I’ll escape the Alien Queen’s hordes, shoot the place up and fly off with Michael Biehn.

I’d probably never do a Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise though. Just sayin’.

Also there’s this – humans are capable of amazing things in reality when push comes to shove and the chips are down. I think we all need some happy, hopeful fiction, especially right now, to take us out of our daily lives full of…well you know what it’s full of right now…and off to a place where anything is possible and a happy ending is guaranteed. (Being a romance reader…)

Hey, I have a new release this week!
Proud enforcer of the Badari South Seas pack, Ivokk undertakes a secret mission back to their former home, in search of a cure for a mysterious illness affecting his soldiers, now in exile in the north. He’s ready to make any sacrifice to find the answer and help his pack brothers stay strong. He’s even willing to accept responsibility for the human woman assigned to the mission, although she’s a headstrong civilian, difficult and rumored to dislike his kind.

Sandara DiFerria was once a three star chef in the Sectors, but that was before the alien enemy kidnapped the entire adult population of her colony to use for experimentation. Rescued from the labs by the Badari, she does her part to support the rebellion now by running the vast commissary operation in Sanctuary Valley. All she asks is to be left alone until she can get back to the Sectors and pick up her old life again. Her one previous romantic brush with a Badari soldier turned out badly, ending in public humiliation. Add to that post-traumatic stress from her life before moving to the colony and she’s the last person to pick for a top secret mission. Or so she believes.

The Alpha running the pack disagrees and sends her to do the job under Ivokk’s watchful eye. Thrown together by the nature of the task they must undertake, the undeniable attraction they both feel grows. Will the dark secrets of Sandara’s hidden past create an insurmountable barrier between them? Can Ivokk and the tempestuous human chef find the answer to the Badari illness in time? Or will the elements and the enemy bring disaster?

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