Tuesday, August 31, 2021

When the Adage Doesn't Apply

"If you're bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it."

~blink, blink~
~rolls on the floor laughing and groaning~

Here's the thing about writing advice (okay, okay there are many "things" but this ONE thing is...), it spans the humungous pool of all types of writing. From journalism, to academia, to tech writing, to memoir, to screenplays, to speculative fiction, to romance, and all the niches and crevices therein.

Methinks the boredom adage, along with its cousin "Write What You Know," is bleed over from the non-fic world. There's a lot of advice from that sector that simply doesn't apply to fiction. Think about it. Unless we're being paid heaps to ghostwrite something tedious, why, oh why would we waste our time writing something boring? Why, when most of us have hundreds of story ideas clamoring for the sustained attention required to write a novel, would we punish ourselves with the dull and uninteresting?

That's not to say that every word, scene, chapter, and revision is on-the-edge-of-our-seats exciting. It is work. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to get through a scene, but it's not because of boredom. We've got a long list of better excuses for those moments. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

While the Iron is Hot.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week takes a look at the oft-quoted advice for writers: “If you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading.” And we're asking is this true or false?

Well, that's not exactly the easiest question to give an answer, now is it?

So we will answer yes. And thenwe will answer no.

If you are bored writing the first draft of your story,or novel, then the answer is yes. For me at least, the first draft is almost pure exploration and fun. I write as a pantser. I don't often outline anything except in yhead, and that outline is discarded usualluy within the first ten minutes. it simply does not do the job any longer, as the story often takes chrge and pushes said outline to the side while it moves in a very different direction. The frist draft is often written at a furious pace, though as I get oldef that pace slows a bit. I am deicdedly NOT boreed when writing the firt draft.

^=The second and third drafts re very different stories.

The best example I can give is BOOMTOWN, my weird western novel starring recurring character Jonathan Crowley. Listen I knew the book was going to go all over the place. Most of my stories have multiple POVs and characters that range from mostly decent to absolutely reprehensible. I'm okay with that. As far as I'm concerned, that reflects the real world pretty darned well. There are few people who are all good, and few who are all bad, because what I've seen n the real world runs a wide spectrum and I try to reflect as much of the real world as I safely can in my tales.

But BOOMTOWN was different for another reason. It was the first time I ever started a novel and then put that novel on hold for years before finishing it. when I was originally working on BOOMTOWN my wife was in the final stages of kidney faiure. Most of my writing took place on a laptop cpmputer while I sat in the waiting room of the clinic where she had dialysis. Beeive me, it was a very different experience. I was worried about my wife constanty. I was tworking a full time job, writing full time, tking care of my beloved and sleeping rougly half as much as I needed to. I was living on coffee a lot of the time.

When my wife passed away, I dropped BOOMTOWN like a hot potato. i couldnt even look at the manuscript, becuse all I coud think of when I did was my wife, and her pain, and her hopes for the future before those hopes were dashed and crushed by reality. I moved on and srote different things. I had enjoyed what I'd written of the novel, loved iit, in fact, but there was no place in my life for those thoughts and memories, not right then. I moved on and pushed BOOMTOWN into the corner of my mind where I was least likely to look.

And a few year later, I stumbled across that partial manuscroipt and I gave it a read, considered whan I had planned to write and decided enough time had passed for me to safely continue the book. I went back to the simple joy of writing a weird western.. The manuscript was bleak and b=dark, exacty as I had remembered, onoy m0re so, because it brought to mind mmories that I did no0t want to consider.

I did not approach the book the same way the second time around. Despir=te my desire to drive the tale forward in my usual fashion, the novel decided to make me pay a different kind of attention. I found myself reading and rereading every ppassage I'd written, contemplting why I had written what zi had written and debating whether or not I shuo lightnen the tone of the book. Ultimately I decided to trust my initial instincts, and eft the darkness that permeated the whole manuscript alone.

Let me be clear here: BOOMTOWN is one of the darkest things I've ever written. There is a lack of redeeming chracters here, but i can till say that I was never bored when writing the first draft.

Te second nd third drafts? Those got a bit boringl you can onoy look at the same words so many times before the desire to walkaway from the computer gets strong enough to distract.Unlike what I type here, I cleaned up the typos and misspellings to a level I seldom achieve. It was likely the cleanest manuscript I ever turned in, because I needed the extra time to move through my grief, ad to work through the darkness in that tale. Was it exciting work?no, but it was necessry to get that story told and that's what I did.

was it boring No0w and then. But not often. I am blessedly lucky in that I a seldom bored by my chosen career, even the stuff that shoud be boring is interesting to me. RThat doesn't mean it's always exciting. Just that the process is something akin to playing with cly. Not really sculpting anything, just makeing new shapes and seeing what comes of them. Words can be like that, Sometimes you write a perfect sentence the firt time around but mostly I thonk you rehape those sentences a fe times ntil they are at leat moderatey comfortable.

So, no. I do not get n=bored with wr=hat I am writing.

And yes, sometimes the words can bore me to tears, but happily not often.

Was that enough of a ramble? I certainoy hope so.

One last bit for you to consider: if you re never bored with your job, you are truly blessed. I am mostoy =lessed, though now and again I get so busy I don't have time to consider the ramifications of that thought. That's when I worry less baout boredom and more about getting words on papaer as quickly as i can. I love my chosen career. It doesn't always pay the bills as well as I'd like, but i always manage to ahve a good time with the process, even in the darket times.

keep miling,

Jom Moore

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Does Boring Writing Mean Boring Reading?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week takes a look at the oft-quoted advice for writers: “If you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading.” And we're asking is this true or false?

Okay, I'll confess: it's me asking. This was totally my topic suggestion because this advice really irritates me - I think it's wrong, even dangerous - and I want to know what everyone else thinks about it.

So, I feel a little bad kicking off this topic, as I know I'll be setting the tone here.

But... whatever!

The reason I think this advice is flat wrong is threefold. 

First of all, the process of writing a book takes HUGELY longer than reading a book. Let's say it takes 5 hours to read a novel. (It seems like my Kindle often reports something in that neighborhood when I open a new book.) I'm a fairly fast writer, and I keep track of my numbers, so let's use my writing time for an example. It takes me, on average, 55 working days to draft and revise a novel. In general, I spend 3 hours/day actively writing to get that book finished. That's 165 hours of writing, at a conservative estimate. That means it takes a reader approximately 3% of the time to read what it takes me to write. And I'm a fast writer! The percentage will only go down from there. 

Put another way, a reader will read at least 33 times as fast as we write. Comparing the two experiences is ridiculous, particularly when it comes to a subjective quality of feeling bored, which is time-sensitive.

Secondly, the experience of boredom is entirely subjective. What I find boring is not what you may find boring. I get bored with fight scenes, in books and movies. I know that's a me thing, but they don't hold my attention. Lots of people love fight scenes, which is cool. But there is no objective qualifier of what is "boring."

Finally, writing is a job. It might be an awesome job - it is! - but it's also work, which means it can be a slog. Especially writing novels. Working incrementally for ~75 days (my total time to produce a novel, including days off) on one story can get dull. Some days I'm tired. Sometimes I'm writing stuff I already know, like backstory from previous books, or stuff that isn't particularly exciting, like transitions, but that I know the reader will need to understand the story. I don't know ANY writer who is 100% excited and invested in what they're writing every moment and every word. Sometimes, people, it's going to be boring - and that has nothing to do with how the reader perceives it.

I promise you this. Test it for yourself. Make note of some part of your work in progress that you found boring to write and find out later if any of your readers find it boring to read. I'm sure they won't.

That's why I find this advice dangerous. It implies that only the writing we find exciting in the moment is valid - perhaps even suggests that anything we find boring to write should be thrown out. This is bad for getting words written, which is our primary job. If a section of the story is boring to read when you revisit it? Sure, edit that puppy! That's what revision is for. But don't let feeling unenthused in the moment stop you from moving forward in the story. 

Neil Gaiman says that writing a novel is a process of laying bricks in a long road. Some days the sun will be hot, the work mind-numbing, the process slow and grueling. But the bricks have to be laid. Do the work and don't worry about how you feel. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

No Such Thing as Perfect


Raina Bloodgood ~ from The Witch Collector by Charissa Weaks

This week here at the SFF Seven, our topic is Characters Who Aren't Perfect Specimens: Do you make the conscious effort to include characters with physical limitations?

I do. Could I do better?? Absolutely. Always.

In The Witch Collector, Raina Bloodgood, my heroine, is a voiceless witch in a land where magick is created by song. And yet this doesn't stop her from creating magick. From the moment the book begins, she's dealt with this her entire life, so she's learned to translate the ancient language that others sing into a hand language that allows her to create magickal constructions. I also offer a novella on my website that includes a heroine who is blind. And yet again, I think it's important to show how people with disabilities adapt or have already adapted, and so blindness doesn't define her. I also do not make disability something to be cured via magick. 

There have been people with disabilities in my life since I was a very young child, especially girls and women. My mother also taught special education for 25 years--I still have one of her sign language books. Disability, in many forms, has always been a part of my life. It obviously impacted me, more than I think I realized until I found myself writing my second heroine with a physical disability.

HOWEVER, all that said, it's important to remember that being a person with a disability does not render someone imperfect because there's no such thing as perfect in the first place. Also, we should strive to reflect our world--even in fantasy--meaning that our character list should contain diversity of all forms. If you hold up a mirror to the world, the reflection you get is not all white and it is not all non-disabled people. I know people who have physical disabilities, mental disabilities, and intellectual disabilities--they deserve to be represented in fiction, too. 

We writers have to do our best to be inclusive while doing no harm, being willing to listen, and striving to do better. 


Friday, August 27, 2021

Inclusion, Diversity, and Respect

Including disability in stories should be about helping everyone see themselves in fiction. I'm afraid that when I write, though, that's not usually top of mind. I'm far more interested in who people are. Why they are they way they are. As you delve into that kind of analysis, you run into the places and ways that people and bodies break -- or the way bodies have many ways of being in the world. 

Since I usually write around themes of alienation, otherness, and finding love and acceptance no matter who you are, it absolutely makes sense to write about differently-abled people. Not because I want to play ableist bingo at someone else's expense. When I wrote Edie, who was born deaf, I did not want her deafness to be her defining trait. This is not the source of her brokenness. Being deaf does not in any way equate to broken and I wanted that to remain true for Edie. Her wound had to do with her part in an old war. She's also an addict, and she's prejudiced. To heal herself, she has to put prejudice aside, kick her addiction, and come to terms with everything she'd ever done in the name of freeing her world. 

Deafness for Edie only mattered because it impacted how she experiences the world, the hero, and the conflict. Let me explain how many times I realized I had used hearing words in reference to her when she clearly and distinctly could not hear. 

Another character starts her story full of fears and unhappiness. She's still recovering from being nearly starved to death as well as from multiple broken bones. She has a raging and dangerous case of PTSD. 

So here I am saying what should be the quiet part out loud: I do not believe that love can cure anything. You might have to come burn my RWA card over it, but I don't. I firmly hold to the notion that love cures nothing. Ever. All it can do is make you want to be  a better version of yourself. That's mighty power, but it's not a panacea. 

In each of my characters, I insist that they be the ones to put themselves back together. Their partner can support or even inspire, but they cannot do the work. They cannot make the change for the character who needs to change. 

My goal is the literary equivalent of the Japanese practice of kintsugi - repairing what is broken by gluing it together with gold and creating something new in the process. Only my characters do that job themselves. Their hero or heroin may inspire them, but that's as good as it gets, and never ever do we disrespect who these characters are by 'fixing' something inherent to them. Certainly there's more work to do. And I'm going to get things wrong some times because while I live with disabling chronic illness, I can't presume to comprehend the lived experience of someone with a disability I don't suffer. But yes. Show me where a character is hurt and how. Then let's break out the gold dust and glue and knit some stuff back together again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

I need to do better, like these examples.

I, um, need to do better regarding disabled representation in my books. There is some discussion on the ethics of using cybernetic implants to "fix" folks born with disabilities, and I suppose my AI character Chloe starts off with impairment to all her senses since she's a computer with no physical body, but both of those angles are reaching. The truth is that I've dropped the ball. 

As these books did not:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle -- Main character Meg wears thick glasses, and her adventure is altered when she finds herself without them. One of the most poignant scenes features Meg and Aunt Beast, who is an alien creature without any visual sense but who is so incredibly beautiful despite. The disability representation here is deft, but my daughter who has eyesight similar to Meg was profoundly affected and appreciative.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo -- Kaz, the criminal mastermind and all-around badass, walks with a cane and has PTSD. Both of these conditions affect him differently but never stop him or slow him from protagging all over the place. As Alaina Leary wrote, "Kaz is a disabled character who is complex, badass, and decidedly attractive."

And one animation: Kanan Jarrus in Star Wars Rebels is in my top-three all-time favorite Jedi Knights, and he is so freaking amazing, not despite his blindness but because of who he becomes with it. He perceives the Force in a whole new way and brings fans along for that ride. 

Also, I'm really looking forward to Lillie Lainoff's One for All, "a gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers, in which a girl with a chronic illness trains a Musketeer and uncovers secrets, sisterhood, and self-love." It comes out next year, and as Lainoff is the founder of Disabled Kidlit Writers, my guess is the representation is going to be pretty awesome.

So, at least I have some models for how to do this right. Feel free to suggest others in the comments.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Not Every Character Is Physically Perfect

Do I make a conscious effort to include characters who aren't physically flawless in my novels? Yes. Dear readers, I will tell you why. Representation matters. Years ago, social media blew up with a plea from readers to include physical diversity in addition to cultural and racial diversity. I listened. So, yes, these days I make a conscious effort to include disabled characters, be their disability physical or mental. 

Do I do it well? Eh, I definitely have room to do it better. I do rely heavily on magic to skirt a lot of the day-to-day impediments and challenges. The male love interest in my Immortal Spy UF series has one arm amputated above the elbow. However, this character is a very old magical being with a keen scientific mind, so he uses magic to button his pants and lace his military boots. He applies a combo of science and magic to make his trove of prostheses that serve different functions from cooking to welding to combat, but they often melt or short-circuit when in conflict with higher magical powers. 

I have characters who suffer physical and mental consequences due to on-page conflicts who don't recover to a perfect state, but then again, I do have characters who recover to perfection. So, I'm far from a good example, but I am trying to do better. I'm not interested in tokenism but in having rich, multidimensional characters for whom any disability isn't the defining characteristic but an attribute. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Limited editions?

So this week the subject is whether or notg we incude charcters with physical limitations in our stories.

Of course I do. Where wouod the fun be if every character was nearly perfect?

But the less glib answe goes something like this: The characters, as in real life, are deg=fined not only by what they can do, but by what they can't do. Gooing all the way back to UNDER THE OVERTREE, my very first novel, I have always believed charcters should have flaws. Any in thius case, I mean physical flaws. Mark Howell, the main player in the story (I can really call hi the hero of the tale) was obese and obsessed wigth not being o erweight. He was obsessed witgh a lot of things, really, but he couldnpt stand being overweight because he thought that held him back from the girl of his dreams.

Tyler Wilson a scrawny kid with horriboe eyesight and a dangerousoy loud mouth, saw tghe world differently and refused to let the fact that he was blind as a bat without his glasses and didnt have a battgleship body to back uo his battleship mouth stop him from firing said mouth off at the drop of a hat. they had two very different approaches to their world, as well they should.

The thing ofit is, we as people are defined not only by the world around us but by our perceptions if that world. I think you have to show that as much as possible in writing if you want to breathe life into your golems.

I ALWAYA want my golems to live as much as possible. how can i convince reader to care about the characters if they aren't able to understand their motivations I may as well as comic readers to accept stick figures (all I'm capabe of drawing these days). Theose flaws, those physical limitations can make all of the difference. In SEVEN FORGES Andover Lashk is maimed for life, His hands are utterly destroyed, and he faces a life as a cripple, assuming he survives the infection that set in on his damaged limbs. The challenges and miraculous cure he is offered shape the rest of his life from that moment on.

In the SEVEN FORGES series, it is important that one faction of the people see scars as a weakness and another sees scars as a sign or strength.

For me this us simple and effective way to show the differences in cultures. It is also a simple and effective way to show the strenhgths and weknesses of chracters who will elvolve and adapt, or fail to adapt, in a story.

Tead=ser time: Here's the back cover for a new anthology I'm editing. I'll posty more about that soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Cover Reveal! The Dragon's Daughter and the Winter Mage

I'm headed out of town so today I'm just sharing a cover reveal for my September release! The Dragon's Daughter and the Winter Mage comes out September 24 and isn't this cover stunning??

Preorder here!

Invisible Loner

Gendra—partblood daughter of an elite mossback soldier and the only shapeshifter to achieve the coveted dragon form—is anything but interesting. She’s actually plain and awkward and … invisible. Every guy she meets either looks right through her or—worse—thinks of her as just a friend. Fortunately Gen is far too practical to wallow in self pity. Much.

A Search for True Love

But as Gen accompanies her oldest friends on a quest for Her Majesty High Queen Ursula, she can’t help feeling bitter about her lonely fate as, two by two, they pair off with each other. As usual, everyone but odd-woman-out Gen seems to be finding the happiness in true love that has always eluded her. And Gen’s pathetic attempts to come out of her shell have only met with social disaster.

Dragon’s Daughter

Still, with magic rifts plaguing the Thirteen Kingdoms and a strange intelligence stalking them from an alter-realm, Gen has plenty to deal with—especially when she’s cut off from the group, isolated and facing a lethal danger. It just figures that Gen is on her own, once again. But with no one coming to save her, she has only herself to rely upon.

And, perhaps, the help of a mysterious, stranded magician… 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Dearest Reader...


This week we're talking about things we love loathe about publishing. What I love most is easy. The readers. I'm fairly new to publishing, though I've been in the writing world for a decade. Even still, readers have been such an encouragement for me. I've had people from around the world ask for signed copies of anthologies or track me down on Facebook to chat about The Witch Collector and how it changed from a novelette to a novel, or how Yeva and the Green Garden hooked them on my writing. I've watched a line form at a signing table in New York and readers smile and tell me how they couldn't wait to dig in. I just recently had a reader tell me how invested she is in the characters from Silver Heart, a novella I offer for free on my website. It gives me such joy to hear things like that. You don't have to please everyone--some people probably hate my work. But those who love it make it worth it. It makes my day to get messages from readers, and I cannot wait until the Witch Collector is out in the world. My little reader group--the Rebel Readers--are already such a wonderful support system. They're excited, and that makes ME excited. It makes me work harder.

As for things I don't like about publishing? Petty people and waiting. But these things feel minor in comparison to what I wrote above. I might be too new to answer this week's question with anything but naivety ;) But for now, I really love this gig, and I hope I get to do it for a very long time.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Writing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 Ah, the idealism of the new author. Everything is so shiny. All possibility lays before whatever debut book is about to hit the world. That pivotal moment is the very best part of writing. Anything could happen. Then the book is published and an author's fortunes fall as they may. This is my list of the best and worst part about the journey.

The Good

  • Finishing a book. There's nothing like that feeling. Nothing. I love solving story problems to the point that I wrap a story. 
  • Editing. Fixing what I've written plays to my strengths - which, in case you're wondering - are overthinking and paralysis by analysis.
  • Readers. 

The Bad

  • First drafts. OMG, y'all. I so want this to come easier, but see the above line about overthinking. Now you can add in second guessing and not trusting myself.
  • Finding/creating the time and space I need to do the deep work I need to do in order to write. Turns out moving your parents in with you during a pandemic isn't conducive to silence and contemplation.
  • Isolation. The pandemic nonsense has zapped a bunch of us who need to come together once in awhile in some kind of evil master mind convention and trade energy.
  • Daily chronic migraine. SO gets in the way. We're working on it. I swear.

The Ugly

  • Me. Drafting. Again. Drafting is my own Sisyphean task. WANT TO FIX. Help me fix me!
  • Having someone you need to be able to trust abuse that trust by withholding vital communication. This is a thing. Remember you own your own business. Don't be afraid to fire people. Somedays it's necessary. But it's definitely bad.
  • My marketing. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Alexia's Favorite Perk to being an Author!

 Publishing is a strange, strange occupation…at least from my POV coming from the medical field. It’s time tables are opaque and responses from people lag for months until suddenly something is needed yesterday. 

It’s easy to pick out the dislikes in the book making biz, as it is with everything. But I like to focus on the good stuff—the highlights! 

My number one fave of being an author:

Being blessed to be included in some wonderful groups of authors!

Group of women, the 2018 Golden Heart finalists, seated and standing together.

This picture are my 2018 Golden Heart sisters, the Persisters. Having a group of writers that, no matter which publishing path they were taking, were starting out at about the same place was invaluable. Having these fabulous women, and the women I met through my Golden Heart experience, is definitely the best part of being an author and I hope that each and every one of you find a like-minded group to feel at home with. 

My next fave is being able to work from home and have this guy around all the time. 

Ullr the husky pup standing in a kitchen wearing filtered eye glasses as he gives the camera a stern look.
Ullr the husky pup

Writing's a lonely gig! You're in your own head, you need no to minimal interruptions, quiet places rule, and all communication is done through email. It's easy to loose connections, which is maybe why authors are so fond of their pets. And I gotta say, I'm awfully fond of Ullr—even when he's a knucklehead and whining to go outside to chase squirrels. 

What are your best and worst aspects of being an author?

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Writing, the best of jobs, the worst of jobs

This week on SFF Seven, we’re talking about the absolute best part of publishing… and also the worst, the nadir. The pit. The suxors.

First, the good stuff. For me, the best part of publishing is not even publishing, not really. It’s writing the book. I believe that writing is not a thing I do so much as it is a thing I am in my most core self. If I wrote nothing, I would no longer exist. That’s how integral storytelling is for me. 

Note that I’m using words like writing and storytelling here, not necessarily publishing. Where publishing shines is those occasions when I am identified as an authoress. In other words, I love validation from the outside world of a thing that I know already: that I’m a thing that writes. That validation can come in the form of an email from somebody who read a book of mine and liked it enough to tell me, or having my agent or editor express excitement over a manuscript, or even my kid telling her English teacher that she developed strong writing skills because her mom is “a professional writer.” 

Those are the moments in my life when I feel the most real, like I’m earning my spot on this planet by doing the thing I was meant to do. Publishing sometimes offers those moments, and I love it for that.

I love it less for being a business, which leads us to my least favorite thing about publishing: money. Anybody says they’re writing purely for the riches of it all gets an automatic side-eye from me. That person would be better served in almost any other profession, because fiction writing is a terrible get-rich-quick scheme. The dirty secret about this biz is that most writers don’t make a living wage through their fiction writing alone, so they supplement by giving talks, doing a little editing on the side, writing how-to books, teaching classes, or, as in my case, having a partner who doesn’t mind that I’m a net negative on the household income tax form. Yeah, I am very aware of my privilege, and I am grateful. 

To him, mind you. Not to publishing. Publishing as a biz minds very much if a writer does not rake in the bucks. Publishing is very okay with kicking that writer right to the curb. Nothing personal, just business. And that’s the thing I hate most about it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Best & Worst of Publishing

What is the best and the worst thing about publishing?

Best: Getting to share my stories with the world!

Worst: Most of the world being unaware of the existence of those stories. 

~takes knife through the heart~

~collapses to the floor~

~single tear dribbles down cheek~

Monday, August 16, 2021

The pros and cons of the writing gig

What are your favorite and least favorite things about publishing? Oh, my...So many options.

Dislikes: 1) Everything happens so slowly, except the deadlines to turn around edits. Inevitably once you've turned in a book the hurry up and wait begins.. Then, and this is UNIVERSALLY WITH EVERY BOOK I'VE EVER DELIVERED TO A MAJOR HOUSE, when they shoot themmanuscript back to you, they want it back in ten days please.

2) once again with the major houses, I've had remarkaby little say on cover art.

3) could we, maybe, just this once mind you, try advretising the book/ you know, so i can spend my time writing?

4) wouod we maybe be able to work out buying the book on an outline and a few smple chapters? It happens, but not as often as I'd like.

5) I got you blurbs. Can we use them?


1) I have 9 moths to write this. Plkay, I'll spend seven months on other prok=jects, but I have 9 months!!!

2) Damn, that's some pretty cover art. With the exception of maybe three covrs, I've almost universally loved the artwork for my books.

3)Self-publishing is no longer a sin. BAD edit jobs are, but not self-publishing. I'll take what i can get. 4) i love occasionally writing media tie-ins. I'd do that more often if it were offered. How can you NOT love writing in some of your favorite sand boxees?

5) I can nver say how much i've learned from good editors, and I am normally blessed with good editors.

A bonus ;love: I get so much excitement out of projects that stick in my mind and whispr to me. The image below is one of many pieces of insoiration for my nove abut the Bogeyman. I'm 30,000 words into this beast and its echoing around in the back of my head. This is goingto be deliciousy evil fun!

What are YOU working on, writer types? Artist types?

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Pain and the Glory of Publishing


At the SFF Seven this week we're asking: What are your favorite and least favorite things about publishing?

How much time have you got?

Okay, okay - the question implies one of each, so I'll go with that, starting with the negative so I can finish on the positive.

Least Favorite Thing

The uncertainty. 

The uncertainty, she be a bitch. Unless an author really strikes gold, the uncertainty never goes away. And I'm talking serious gold here, not gold-for-a-season. I'm talking million-dollar sales. And even then, there's no guarantees. I'm thinking of a couple of authors who struck serious gold, have made millions and millions of dollars on a particular book or series, then can't sell anything else. This happens surprisingly often with phenoms. Whatever it is about that one book or series that attracted the phenom lightning, it rarely happens again. In some cases, where it was the idea that attracted the lightning and the writer themselves isn't all that great - or doesn't push themselves to grow - the likelihood of them penning another book that anyone but the most die-hard fan wants to read is super low.

For other authors, working away at their productive word mines, it's difficult to know what the next day or next year - or next decade! - will bring. There's no corporate ladder, no particular career path, no salary or benefits. Publishing is a fickle beast and I hear regularly from my author friends, some very successful, who hit rough patches and worry about the future of their careers. The ones who survive are ready to reinvent - and to be flexible and diligent in their efforts.

I'll be frank: a lot of them can't take the uncertainty and give up. It's not a career for someone who wants certainty and security.

So, why be a writer at all? Well, that's... 

The Favorite Thing

Writing for a living.

Seriously, it's the reason we put up with the rest. I've had other jobs and a nearly twenty-year career in another profession, and being a writer is the absolute BEST. It's amazing being a creator and the font of something that I alone bring into existence. From there other people can also have jobs, but I am the origin. The money I make is from my own self, not derived from someone else's thing, and that's an incredible experience. 

It kind of comes around to the risk/opportunity ratio. Yes, there's a lot of risk and uncertainty, but there's also an equivalent or greater measure of opportunity. Because there is no corporate ladder or career path, it's all up to me to create. And I love that. I love that all the meetings have to do with something I'm passionate about, that the phone calls are about me and my work. I'm serving my own creation and not someone else and that, my friends, makes all the rest worth it. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Weathering the Storm

This week's topic is Temperature Control: How often does weather, climate, or environmental temperature factor into your stories?

I am an atmospheric writer. I like description that makes me feel something. As a reader, I like to be completely submerged in a world, and that means that all the senses need to be engaged. I also love scene setting. There's nothing worse than trying to read a book that doesn't orient me or suck me into the scene. Setting can also create suspense or nostalgia or evoke fear or happiness, or any other gazillion emotional responses. It's a handy tool when used correctly. So in answer to this week's prompt: Yes, weather absolutely factors into my stories. Sometimes A LOT.

The trilogy I'm working on now is an example. The elements are a character in themselves. Book one, The Witch Collector, finds the hero and heroine trapped in an enchanted, frozen wood. In book two, the weather element will be different, as the characters move south, and book three will change again. This trilogy was designed around weather. There's a Frost King and a Fire Queen, and gods who reflect much of the area of the world they represent. My characters are forced to weather storms. Literally.

But even if I hadn't designed these books around elemental reasons, you will always get a strong sense of atmosphere via the weather in my writing. Weather can build so much tension, provide conflict, and even mirror characterization. I thought I'd share a few snippets to give you an idea: 

Cutting through the village green, I memorize every detail. Frost glistens on the thatch of each cottage and hut, and the last thin breaths of nighttime fires curl out of chimneys. Gardens are dying back, and the wildflowers lining the path to the fields have turned to colorless husks. Soon, snow will pile on the eaves and creep knee-deep over every door, and life here in the vale will grow bitter and difficult.

My attention draws back to the path. As we ride, the autumn cover changes, the dirt and rotting foliage becoming marred by branching veins of crystallized frost. The awaiting cold reaches for us, clawing at the ground to drag us closer.

Ahead, light snow swirls in a coming breeze, depositing a white dusting over everything. With flurries dancing, I almost miss the second flicker of movement along the path’s edge.

Turning a glance over my shoulder, I look more closely as we pass. Snow clings to a thick patch of curled briar vines that have been hacked away, leaving a barbed hole big enough for a person to crawl into if they become desperate enough. Beyond, I think I see the whites of eyes. An animal, perhaps, but I can’t be sure.

The old oil lamp Alexus found at Littledenn hangs from his hand, its wavering flame giving off enough illumination through the amber glass that we travel inside an orb of golden light. Worry for Eastlanders spotting us has long passed, our need of light the larger worry. The rest of the world outside our little bubble is dark but white with cold, the snow and ice that glazes every limb and needle and leaf emitting the faintest eerie glow—a forest made of silver and shadows.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Stormy Weather or Sunny Book Skies

Happy Friday the 13th from stormy and bracing for tropical storm Fred Florida. Apropos that we're talking weather in books.

Have you ever gone on vacation on one of those gloriously clear topaz days where all the colors are brighter and vibrating with life? Have you ever gone on vacation only to have the temperatures plummet, the wind blow clouds and misery in?

You probably felt a certain way about each of those experiences. And weather in books is a tool I can exploit to bring those feelings back to you while you read. 

I can either juxtapose lovely weather against a character's misery, or I can have it mirror their misery or joy or sorrow or rage. Weather offers an easy-to-deploy threat, yet another obstacle to be overcome if I really need to test how well my characters have learned a lesson, or how badly they want a goal. 

Because I'm writing mostly science fiction, environmental conditions take on outsized importance. Ships in space live and die by environmental factors. Weather provides great color for alien worlds. It's also a great plot point. It shows up in every single book I write. In one book, a key scene hinges on how sweltering a noxious swamp is. Another book describes a planet having its atmosphere being slowly blasted away by an expanding sun. In the current WIP, the weather is a ticking clock. Beat that clock and live. Fail and die. 

Even in the urban fantasies, weather gets mention. It's such a constant part of our lives. Weather determines our survival as individuals and as a species. Without some kindly weather, we'd starve. So while it might be something we don't always consciously think about, we all experience it. Day in. Day out. It's familiar. It helps me take you someplace you've never been, but still anchor you with an experience you can relate to. 

Besides. If I didn't use weather in my books, how else could I get my emo on?

Thursday, August 12, 2021

What's your book weather?

mountain top view of the Great Smokey Mountains, green tree tops in foreground and 'smokey' dark mountains in the background all highlighted by sunlight filtering through the cloudy sky
Great Smokey Mountains  

 Tendrils of smokey mist curl through the trees, dampening the air to curl my hair. It’s called the breath of dragons…

How often does weather or climate factor into your stories? 

When I write fantasy—all the time. To me, fantasy and nature go hand in hand. Rumbling thunder and earth quakes are the result of incredible power moving through. Mist hides monsters. And twilight is for smoldering gazes that ignite. 

Our environments—rain, sleet, or shine—effect our emotions. Rainy days make us want to curl up on the couch with a hot cuppa the same way bright blue skies make us want to run around outside. And when I think of my favorite books they all feature character emotions that are highlighted by the weather. Sort of like a movie soundtrack…only it’s book weather! 

Before writing this post I’d assumed weather only showed up in my fantasy stories. Then I thought about The Mars Strain and how it opens up on a steamy, summer day that contrasts with the cool, dry inside of the lab. 

I guess I can say weather and climate are part of my writing tools! Writers, do you like to emphasize character emotions or events with storms and sunshine? What's your book weather?

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Weather in Fiction: Effective or Tedious?

Weather starts out as a huge part of my Wanted and Wired series…and just gets more important. In the very first scene of the very first book, a sniper lines up her target while rain beats down on a grim, gray future urbanscape. Later, we find out that storms — hurricanes in particular, and climate change more broadly — have shaped this fictional world and raised stakes that, in a climate-neutral alternative reality, might not have been such a big deal. Weather events are intentional, important to both character and plot.

So, yeah, I use weather and climate to propel a story. I think it can be an effective tool in your storyteller’s belt.

Just be careful not to overdo it. For instance, I love Dean Koontz (shameless fangirl here). Those early books of his were important to my teen brain development. So when someone recommended a Koontz book — the Jane Hawke series — a few years ago, I devoured it and all its sequels, and then eagerly recommended the whole thing to my critique partner. Well, she read the first one, and when I asked what she thought, she gave me a look and said, “He does love his long weather descriptions, doesn’t he?” 

Honestly, I hadn’t even noticed on first read, but when I looked back, holy crud, almost every chapter begins with some gloomy mood-music description of the weather. I guess it sets the tone or something, but it almost never has anything to do with the story itself. I can see how she thought it overwhelmed the story instead of deepening it.

And that, perhaps, is when weather becomes tedious: yes, use it to layer in plot or character points; no, don’t overdo it when it is just a ruffle tacked on to the story.

p.s. — I would still rec the Jane Hawke books. They’re super fun. Just skim the weather bits if they bug you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Weather: From Window Dressing to Antagonist

 Question of the week: How often does weather/climate factor into my stories?

Sometimes the presence of weather/climate is negligible. Others, it's an external conflict for one arc of the story. Occasionally, it's significant enough to be the primary antagonist for the whole book. 

Climate was less of an issue in my Immortal Spy UF series. It functioned primarily as window dressing to show the seasonal passage of time or establishing "this is not earth" settings. Once in a while, climate changes served to show-vs-tell the upper levels of magic in action. It rarely took center stage because my protagonist would be slightly inconvenienced by such changes, but not threatened. She's the kind of not-a-human who has to remember to wear a coat in the blizzard simply to blend in, not because she's cold. 

However, in my Fire Born HF series, the grueling hot, arid climates in the first book were boons for my fire-warrior protagonist. OTOH, the persistent winter in the second book was a huge problem for her since ingesting moisture of any kind is toxic and relentless cold is crippling. Her circulatory system isn't blood-based, it's fire-based. Fire + water = bad. Safe to say the climate in Book 2 was an inescapable antagonist.

My current HF WiP takes place in a world of elementals, so climate is more than pivotal, it's personal, political, and very present.

Climate/weather is such a wonderful tool for writers. It can be a passive presence that sets the mood or a violent death-insisting character. It can dominate as a theme or subtly evoke emotions in the reader. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Mood lighting for the ages.

So this week's subject is how much does the wether affect your stories. The answer for me is r4elly quite simple: It's another part of the environment of my tales and that menas it may as well be a character. In my currenty story, the weather is extremely important. TRhe character are in a new town, and being hunter=d. They are dealing with a dark night and a very heavy fog, mening their ability to see what is stalking them is very limited. in other tales the weather plays its pazrt. Funerals with sunlight play out differentoy than funerals in the rain. in one of my stories involving Jonathan crowley, the monster hunter, one of his enemies is trying to get away in a snow storm. That chNges everything and rdically at that, There is no definite=ive answer for me., except that the weather can be a mild s mood lighting or as important as any min charcter depending on the situation. The one thing I promise yu, is that the weather plays its part.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Witch Collector #Bookstagram

Man, I almost missed today's post! I've been under the weather and writing, so my mind isn't on point. And I would've hated to have missed today because I love love love Bookstagram! I'm a photography fanatic and have even done headshots, graduation pics, and engagement photos for various people. Graphics are a fun pastime for me, and having a book coming out soon that I can showcase makes that hobby even better. 

If you follow me on Instagram, all those graphics you see are made by me, unless I share a Bookstagram photo created by someone else. Canva is my go-to for this, although I've also used Bookbrush. There are all sorts of ways to do your own mock-ups and flat lays--free. For instance, this is just a Canva stock photo with my book image on top. I used a shadowing effect to give it a more 'real' appearance since I don't have paperbacks yet.

Here are a few more I made on Canva:

**For an easy, free book mockup tool, check this out. This is how I made the paperback image above. Below, I used the digital cover + shadowing again.

Even cooler?? When other people Bookstagram your book!

I have mad respect for Bookstagrammers. Just trying to curate my own little baby Insta is a grand task. I can't imagine the time and work they put into some of their images. I mean, hello, @myfriendsarefiction built a BOOK THRONE for The Witch Collector. That's WILD. I still can't get over it. And there will be more images to come in September from various book bloggers on Insta. We won't even talk about BookTok yet. I'm struggling in that department. One social media platform conquer party at a time ;)

Do you have a favorite bookish Insta account??


Friday, August 6, 2021

Instagram Time Sinks

 Pretty Instagram photos haven't been on my list of things to do. Should probably be. Aren't. In part because cats and a moveable composition aren't compatible. I do realize I could maybe go somewhere in this house and close a door with the ever so helpful felines on the other side of it. I just haven't. Instead, I play with virtual photos - these were ads that ran on Facebook and got posted (but not boosted) on Instagram. They did fine. 

The issue for me is that I can spend a bunch of time on photos, or I can steal that time back for working on a book. Given that I've had to take on a day job (living in a house big enough to accommodate four adults - one with mobility issues is more expensive than  two people living in a 34' boat - who knew) the hours available for writing have shrunk considerably. 

I'm going to opt for words over photos most of the time. So while these are a little flat and shiny rather than textured and lush like Jeffe's lovely photos, the ads are the closest I get to Instagram-worthy shots. If I want yet another job, I'll figure out some means of creating clever TikToks cause nothing says time sink like an amateur doing video editing.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Bookstagram The Mars Strain!

Bookstagram of The Mars Strain audiobook shown on iPhone with red Beats headphones on the top, beneath is a red NASA shirt with a white space shuttle and to the other side is black background and a handful of blood test tubes (empty) with red and blue tops.

 This week's topic is right up my alley. If you follow me on Instagram you know I love photography, and bookstagram falls right into that category! 

I had a lot of fun finding a NASA shirt. And naturally I had some old test tubes laying around—bookstagram fun! 

Crystal at Reading Between the Wines Book Club does a fabulous job with all of her bookish picks. @ginandtolkein have also swayed my next reads with their shots. 

Tell me, do you have a favorite Bookstagrammer? 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Not a visual person

This week we here at SFF Seven are trying our hands at creating bookstagrams: staged photos that feature our books for the purposes of posting on Instagram. I've seen these things floating around, and it would be so flattering to have one made for one of my books. But by and large they haven't been, and in any case, I wouldn't be the right person to do it.

See, I'm not a visual person.

In the edit letter for my first book, I remember my editor asking basically what my characters looked like because the book was sparse on physical -- read: visual -- descriptions. I was like, hmm, Mari's a south Texan from Whataburger country and Heron lived in Egypt before his mamas adopted him, so probably they both have brown hair and eyes, medium brown skin. Mari's tallish and Heron's lanky. And... that's about it? 

Apparently it was not enough for a cover designer, and honestly, not quite enough for readers either. They wanted a "he's so hot" long description of my hero's pulchritude. But I guess I had a hard time delivering what readers wanted because that's not what really gets me going. I lean hard into textures and smells and sounds and tastes, because those are the senses that move me emotionally. 

To me, visual is seeming, which is not the same thing as being.

Visuals rarely convince me to buy a book, so if I created a bookstagram for my own book it wouldn't feel authentic or right. Which is probably why, although I have an Instagram account, I mostly post pics of my pets and stuff that I find in the garden. 

Though, all that said, these cakes that match book covers are super cool. And naturally, if somebody ever made fanart for something I'd written, I would lose my shit. That would be amazing.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Burned Bookstagram


Meet the gatekeeper on a mission from Hel.

The Burned Spy 

Book 1 of the Immortal Spy Urban Fantasy Series

(I'm clearly lacking the artistic eye necessary for good #bookstagram pics.)

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Jeffe the Bookstagrammer?

Our topic at the SFF Seven is "Bookstagrammer for a day!" We're making our own "amazing" cover shots. I'm putting "amazing" in quotes because I'm not at all sure mine qualify. 

This was a crazy time-suck, people! And I have renewed respect for all those Bookstagrammers who produce such gorgeous images. Finding a background that sets off the book cover without overwhelming it takes a lot of trial and error. Also, if you have long hair like I do and you're taking a photo from above? Yeah, you have to tie it up. 

I think the above is my best shot. What do you think?

Also, here are some of the others. (By far not all.) If you know what I'm doing rong, please let me know!