Sunday, February 27, 2022

I'm Supposed to Talk About Newsletters...

Hey all. This week's topic focuses on chatting about our newsletters and promoting our work, but I'll be honest--I'm not much into promotion right now. It's been a tough week. Tough to remain creative when I'm so worried about the world. I have friends from Ukraine, and my book cover designers are based in Ukraine. The owner and her family, last I heard, are still there. It's been hard to watch the news but impossible to ignore it. 

All that said, instead of asking you to sign up for my newsletter or buy my book, I would like to encourage anyone who can to donate to Ukrainian efforts instead. If you can't afford to do that, maybe lift up a prayer to whatever god/gods you pray to. Innocent people are in harm's way and facing devastating loss, and they could use any support we can offer. Even seeing our posts online gives them hope and courage.

I'm linking here to a couple of posts that give options for places to donate:

Washington Post Listing

Time Magazine Article

Also know that my publisher, City Owl Press, will be making an announcement tomorrow (2/28) that they will donate all of the company's portion of royalties from any sales made on the City Owl Website in the month of March to Ukraine.

Remember to be careful where you donate funds, but the options listed above are safe.

Thank you,

Friday, February 25, 2022

Why This One

 To be honest, talking about works in progress feels small in light of Ukraine being attacked and invaded right after the 'governor' of Texas declared open season on trans kids, their parents, and any professional supporting them. It's hard to feel like anything I do matters at the moment. But. The hard fact is that I cannot do anything remotely useful about either situation except to say I'll fight for trans people the only way I know how: at the voting booth, by supporting organizations specifically helping trans youth, and by supporting the legal groups that will take apart Abbott's nonsense political posturing. To support Ukraine, I can donate to chef Jose Andres who is taking his mission to the region to feed those in need, whether it be refugees, other aid workers, or Ukrainian troops.

Then I recognize that I can write a story that might give someone else a few moments of escape and rest. We use the tools we have, right? So why this story? 

I'm working on book four of my space opera series. It's the next logical step in the story arc and there are a few issues that have to be worked out in this story before the final book in the series. I like the characters. I like the premise. I like where the book needs to go and where it needs to take the characters. But something hasn't been right about it for a long time. I think I've finally figured it out. I had the heroine's core goal at odds with her core wound. 

Psychology Tik Tok likes to make clear in three minute snippets that the wounds we internalized as children lead to our unhealthy coping mechanisms as adults. After spending some time feeling called out by a bunch of videos I thought I was scrolling for entertainment, it hit me that I'd gotten my heroine's issues wrong. I'd imagined she had a people pleasing problem. She doesn't. She has an abandonment issue. That changes everything. It changes her action. It changes her thinking. It changes her conflict with the hero. 

It changes the fact that up to this point, I haven't liked this story. Now, if we talk about why this WIP I can say, "Because finally I get to go have fun in this story."

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Why this Sci-Fi Thriller WIP?

cyberpunk filter of grainy pink of a brick alley with a large, round, copper sign at the end of it

I’m channeling a sci-fi vibe today because our topic this week is: 

Why this WIP?

WIP is work in progress. Yep, you got it. the work in progress I’m talking about today is my next sci-fi thriller! 

Why this one and not one of my fantasy ones? How do you pick what to work on when you have multiple projects (and no contracted or set timeline for any of them)? Why do you have more than one novel in the works? 

Sci-fi thrillers are pretty much what the label entails: science and a lot of action that makes your heart pound and your palms sweat. With my medical background I can’t help but find that bleeding through, one of my MCs works as a biohacker.

Biohacker, according to healthline, describes it as do-it-yourself-biology. Basically anything people do to alter their health and wellbeing. But…sci-fi here, so my biohacker provides his clients with biologic altering drugs. And after years of altering themselves people are becoming more AI than human.

It’s a bit creepy and exciting with a nice dose of humor provided by the found family and friction, both good and bad, between the MCs. Basically, it’s hella fun to write.

There are days I’m tempted to crack open my recent fantasy WIP. I am a mood reader, after all, and I write with my moods as well so I like to keep at least three WIPs on my laptop. But writing sci-fi uses more of my left side brain and I can geek out and imagine what our future could look like. When I write fantasy it’s right brained all the way—the tear your heart out, leave you emotionally exhausted kind of writing. 

So yeah, I’ll stick to my sci-fi thriller for now. How about you? What’s got your passion going at the moment?

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A Worthy WiP

 Why this Work In Progress (WiP)? What about it resonates with me?

Well, this WiP--with the working title of Worthy--is the first of a futuristic-fantasy trilogy that examines a world where humanity's avarice, cruelty, and selfishness are regulated and policed. Where there is a distinct line between upholding the laws of society and addressing the corruption of an individual's nature.

One thing this real-world pandemic of disease and disinformation has brought into sharp focus is that there are those among us who are willfully--even gleefully--horrible people. They roll out of bed with the intention of fucking over people for no better reason than to feel a frisson of power. I despise those folks so deeply that my coping mechanism is to spend time deep-diving into a society where that vicious desperation for control is mitigated, where there is a third party who sees through actions and soundbites into the composition of an individual's nature and simply eradicates the source. What sort of society is that? Is that a utopia or does it breed new problems? Is depravity hardcoded into human nature? Is everything that makes humans bad simply rooted in an unfulfilled basic need? (Shout out to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs!)

Oh yeah, for sure, never fear, there's plenty of magic and whodunnits and conspiracies and slow-burn romance and all that good stuff. Hell, it even has a plot and a few substories to boot. Shocking, I know. Writing it is as disturbing as it is cathartic...which, makes being an author totally worth it.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Why This WIP?

This week's post topic is Why this WIP? What about it resonates for you?

Well, my current WIP--City of Ruin--is my second romantic fantasy novel under contract with City Owl Press and releases later this year. So that's why this WIP ;) But also because I really love the story, and I've been able to employ certain storytelling elements (ones I can't mention!) that make my writer's heart happy.

City of Ruin is book two in The Witch Walker trilogy, a continuation of Raina Bloodgood and Alexus Thibault's story. Their passionate tale is just getting started in The Witch Collector, book one. There's so much more unveiling left to do and secrets to bring to light, and I'm having a blast placing the puzzle pieces for readers. It's this--the story weaving--that always gets me excited.

If The Witch Collector sounds like a book you might enjoy, and if you haven't given it a try, I'll drop the buy links here. You can also add it on Goodreads!

Friday, February 18, 2022

Four-Footed Writing Companions

It's hard to see the void who's positioned himself between me and the keyboard, but that's Raven. He's appointed himself my newest furry writing companion. Provided it's not too hot. Or there's nothing interesting happening on the back deck.  He's not as experienced as the editors and writing companions who filled the position before him, but I'm confident he'll learn. Perceval and Arya want to be my editors. They've perfecting the art of walking across my keyboard. In Arya's case, she particularly likes to stand on keys. Just to make sure she really gets her point across.

 Crow likes to be in the same room so he can offer moral support while I work, but he's more of a thinker than a doer. He looks on from his sunny spot on the cat tree while I write. I'm required to pay a pet tax by skritching his chin if I get up to grab tea or a snack. All of this four-footed company is most welcome as our senior editor died on Monday afternoon. Miss Cuillean had retired from her position about four months ago, but out of respect, no other cat would take her place while she battled her final illness. Now that she's moved on, the younger cats are seizing their opportunities and I have all the furry contributors in the middle of what I'm doing that I can handle. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Alexia's Furry Editor

dark blue pottery cup with 'Look Beyond the Trail' stamped in the shape of a running husky in the foreground, and a stretched out, seeping black and white Siberian husky in the background

There are few jobs as solitary as writing.

That is, unless you have a furry editor that pokes their nose where it doesn’t belong…on your keyboard, across your screen, on top of your hands. But we still love them!

a black and white Siberian husky curled up on a black and white blanket with the edge of a laptop visible on the right hand side of the image

I have a Siberian husky for a writing buddy. When I first started, his name was Loki. He kept my feet, and my heart, warm. He was by my side as I finished my second fantasy novel. And someday, when that book gets its chance to be published, it’ll be in his memory. At least for me.

Now, I have a new furry editor! Ullr the husky pup. He’s better at feeding my muse—by which I mean he demands more walks. But, he is two. So it’s expected. 

Ullr is getting better at keeping my feet warm.
And he’s quite accomplished at closing my laptop! But his best quality is his soft fur that works better than any stress ball or fidget. All I have to do is sit and give him some long scratches for my mind to relax and hone in on my story. It’s very zen. Of course, he’s also incredibly talented at getting in the way when I’m doing yoga—so maybe it’s a trade off. 

There’s good and there’s frustrating with Ullr. All I know is I would be much lonelier at my writing if I didn’t have his furry butt beside me. Here’s to my furry editor!

Do you have a writing buddy your craft would suffer without?

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Jeffe's Furry Editors

 First things first: the Romancing the Vote auction is live! I'm offering six months of author coaching to the winning bidder and the bids are climbing! This is an important cause and tons of great stuff from all kinds of wonderful industry folks. Go forth and bid!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is an homage to our furry editors. I have two, my Maine coon cat buddies: 

Isabel, who specializes in floof and loving. She is not entirely helpful, so far as keyboard access is involved, but she's the best at purring companionship. Total win.

I took this picture today. Jackson visits my writing desk daily, politely sitting to the side of the keyboard (win!) and staring at me until I pet him (not ideal). Observers have accused him of whispering the books into my ear. I will neither confirm nor deny. I can only say that, as a ghostwriter, he works pretty cheap. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Wintery Writing Companion

 Ahhh a tribute to our furry writing companion(s)?

Checks the outdoor temp.
A balmy 21 degrees.๐Ÿฅถ
Leans back in chair
Eyes the porch
Spots this winter baby and all her DNGAF glory:

Oh, I know it's cold out there. She's a husky. All that floof? Multiple layers of furry insulation. She'd rather be lolling in the snowdrift that's beyond the frame of the photo but is settling for the outdoor couch. This same girl leaps into bed at the asscrack of dawn during a snowfall to inform me that The Great White Wet is happening and that I ought to be joyful and when, oh when, am I taking her outside to frolic?!?

See that look on her face? That's the look of "unless you're bringing me a cookie, it hasn't been two hours since our last outing, so get back to work."  sigh Such a taskmaster.

I wouldn't trade her for the world. ๐Ÿ’–

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Furry Editors

This week's post topic is An Homage to Writing Buddies: Be they furry or friendly!

I'm pretty sure I've shared pics of my baby dogs before, but since we're bestowing a little special honor on those who help (and sometimes hinder) us through this writing gig, I'll be sharing a few more.

This is our old girl Harley. Harley is the sweetest German Shepherd in existence. She is 15 years-old and hates getting her picture taken. She's a beautiful queen. Super gentle. Astonishingly smart. And she's been at my side for a very long time, watching me write several books that will never see the light of day--and some that will. She's my best friend.

This is Roscoe the English Bulldog. Where Harley is my BFF, Roscoe is my child--the baby that cannot be without his mom. He's painfully cute and his hobbies are sleeping, eating, and shoving my laptop off my lap so he can plant his eight pound body on me. As you can see, he is ever at my side and constantly trying to figure out how to get closer.

And this is Nash, Roscoe's brother. Nash is...well, Nash. He's so sweet sometimes and a bit of a handful absolute terror at other times lol. He keeps things lively in our house, that's for sure! Sometimes he just wants me to be done with writing, and when that happens, he does this 'stare down' thing. It's what I call the HURRY UP stare. He's also been known to use his paw to slam my laptop closed if I don't pay attention to him. Needless to say, I unfailingly let him win.

And those are my furry editors, always at my side. I love them with my whole heart.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The perfect place to listen to The Mars Strain


a brown table top with a pair of red Beats headphones surrounding a foamed coffee cup and next to them is an iPhone playing the audiobook The Mars Strain

I’m a mood reader, as evidenced in my most recent Insta reel with the stack of books I had to bring on vacation. I didn’t know what I would feel like reading, so I had to bring a variety! 

Mood Reader: someone who selects their 

reads according to their current state of mind

And since I’m a mood reader I’m loving the topic of the week: set the mood for a perfect read! Catching a few pages on the bus or in a waiting room is great, but being able to slide into a story when all you have to do for the next hour is read truly immerses you into the story. 

We all know you’re far more likely to keep reading when you’re cozied up in a comfy spot with a warm blanket while it rains outside.  But what if there’s no rainstorm or snowstorm? What if your next read is an audiobook about a lab girl who battles an alien organism alongside her astronaut ex? 

red Beats headphones around an iPhone playing the audiobook The Mars Strain

First Step: Download that audiobook and grab a comfy pair of headphones! 

Next: Drive, fly, hop a bus to Florida and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center—the place where the majority of The Mars Strain takes place!

Finally: Stroll through those front gates and hit play! Hear Jules’ story as you walk where she would’ve been! 

inside Kennedy Space Center a hand holds up an iPhone playing The Mars Strain audiobook as they walk into a chamber with a sign over the door stating: Leaving Earth Heading to Mars

Of course…if you can’t listen to The Mars Strain while walking in Juliet’s footsteps—hello bucket list—it also works great during any commute, while repainting a wall, or gardening! 

How do you like to get into the reading mood?

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Stay Warm This Winter: Bring Home A Fire Warrior

 Setting the๐ŸŽถ mooooood ๐ŸŽถ for delving into one of my books, eh? Since it's winter, and Mother Nature just dumped a bunch of hail, sleet, and snow on my turf, I'm going to recommend the following for my High Fantasy Larcout:

  1. Pick a stormy day, one where the pitter-patter of the elements against your roof provides nature's white noise. (Bonus if you have a metal roof. Those acoustics...~chef's kiss~)
  2. Light a fire in the fireplace (No, don't light one in that room. Finish the book, then you'll be suitably armed to address whatever growls and writhes within that festering space.)
  3. Collect your favorite rocks, crystals, and geodes into a serving bowl. Place it near your snuggle seat.
  4. Grab your favorite snowglobe. Yep. Snowglobe. Give it a good shake at the end of each chapter. Once you start reading, you'll understand why. 
  5. Pour your libation. Absolutely no water, though. Keep reading. Reasons will be revealed.
  6. Settle into your coziest chair/couch/bed. Burrow under your animal print, beaded, bedazzled, or straight-up sparkly blanket(s).
  7. ENJOY!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Witch Collector Vibes

This week's blog topic was more of a task, but a fun one! We are to suggest how a reader can set the mood to settle in while reading one of our books.

I'm so into this. I'm all about the Hygge lifestyle, a Danish/Scandinavian concept, though in all honesty, I had no idea it was a thing until The Little Book of Hygge came out. As I read that book, I kept thinking to myself...this is all very normal in my home and life, but I realize that it might not be for everyone. 

So how can you set the mood if you decide to read The Witch Collector?

Step 1

Choose a comfy reading spot. If it's cold where you are, and hopefully it is for the best vibe, find a cozy place in your home, maybe one with a view of the outdoors. Then grab your book and settle in. A warm sweater will help, as well as a soft blanket and fuzzy socks, and maybe even a fire if you have a fireplace, because this book will give you chilly, winter vibes!


Step 2

Light a candle! My recommendation is a wood wick candle with either scents of winter, the forest, or a sexy man ;) Sandalwood is my fave. The crackling flame will set the mood during all the scenes that have a little (or a lot) of fire.

Step 3

Be sure you have a warm drink and snacks on hand. My go-to is coffee, loaded with foam. But hot cocoa, warm apple cider, or hot tea will work just fine too! I don't always snack when reading, but when I do, it's usually a Biscoff cookie to dip in my coffee. I also love apples, which pairs well with this book. If you're a wine person, grab a glass of Oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

Step 4

Find a cuddling partner who won't interrupt your reading.

Step 5


Friday, February 4, 2022

Wishes for Younger Writer Me

 If I remember rightly, this topic might have been my suggestion, and I think I suggested it because at the time I imagined it would be easy to drop a top ten list and waltz away.

You'll notice there's no top ten list.

I've spent the week contemplating what I'd tell younger writer me if I had the chance. It was stuff like 'being published doesn't equal success'. 'Being published does not mean you have it made.' 'Polish up your armor, you're going to need it.' It's all super depressing stuff and the key piece that finally made me pull up short on a "Hey. Wait a minute." was the fact that not a single thing I could think of to say to younger writer me is actionable

Maybe I've grown jaded, but cryptic advice without concrete, actionable goals/outcomes aren't worth the breath to utter them. Or the heartbeats spent listening to them. 

So I've had a rethink. What actionable things do I wish I'd known before I'd been published. Okay. I suppose the first piece is that I wish I'd known that agents could do as much harm as good - but the kicker is that there's no way (assuming you've done due diligence around knowing who you're hiring) to know until you're in the situation. The actionable piece to that is to enter into that business relationship with eyes wide open and with the full knowledge that a day may come when one or the other of you may have to sever the relationship.  I wish I'd known to have a plan for both best case AND worst case scenarios regarding options clauses. That means I wish I'd come up with a plan for what I'd do with book three whether my publisher wanted the book or not. I didn't. So I flailed. In hindsight, I perceive how devastating flailing is for me. A writer needs a plan and this writer in particular needs a plan, even if that plan is nothing more than drafting a novel just for the fun of seeing how the characters spark and ignite.

I notice that most of what I wish I could communicate isn't actually about writing, it's about the business thereof. I believed I had a reasonable grounding in the business of publishing because of RWA - and maybe I did, but in no way was I adequately prepared to face some of the challenges that came with being published. It is true that driven by those challenges I took a couple of crash business courses aimed at entrepreneurs. They helped - it was there that I learned to plan for both the best and worst case scenarios. I think if I could only give younger writer me a single piece of actionable advice, it would be to take those business classes before getting published. The ride might still have been bumpy, but it might have involved slightly less flailing. Or maybe different flailing.

That's the thing about changing the past. You never know what kind of snowball effect it'll have on the future. 


You know what? I take it all back. If I could tell younger writer me anything, it simply be "Write. Never give up on it. Never give up on you."

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

What I'm Glad I Didn't Know When I Decided to Become a Writer

This week at the SFF Seven we're discussing what we wish we'd known when we decided we wanted to write.

It's an interesting question, and a fraught one. I first decided that being a writer would be the perfect career for me back in 1993. That's almost 30 years ago, so it isn't easy to think back to that younger self. At the time, I was completing a Ph.D. in neurophysiology and confronting the bald truth that I didn't really want to be a research scientist. I sat myself down, meditated, and asked the question: if I took away all the if's and's and but's, what would be the ideal life.

No one was more surprised than I was to hear that the answer was to be a writer. But I also knew it was a true answer and that, if I wanted to be happy, I had to do whatever it took to make that come true.

So, I cut bait on my Ph.D., got a Masters and a job as an editor/writer to start building my chops. I took night classes from visiting writers. I began writing, something, anything.

What do I wish I'd known then? It's tempting to say I wish I'd known how long it would take before I truly began earning a living as an author. My conception then of how long it would take was absolutely the largest lacunae of ignorance in my hopeful moonscape. I thought it would be a couple of years, not a couple of decades. I totally thought I'd hit it big. I thought my steady progression of successes, for which I am grateful, make no mistake, would have a steeper upward trendline. 

And yet... I'm actually glad the younger me didn't know how protracted that effort would be, how studded with setbacks and pitfalls. Had I known, would I still have done it?

I don't know.

Sometimes I think our ignorance at the outset of an ambitious enterprise works in our favor. Ignorance truly can be bliss, especially when it allows hope to flourish, hope that carries us through the difficult times. 

Maybe what I really wish I'd known back when I made that decision is that it was the right one. But then, I knew that anyway. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Wish I'd Always Known: I'm a Plotter

 What, oh what, do I wish I'd known back when I'd started writing?

Plot. First.
Every. Time.

I wish I'd known myself well enough to know that I *have* to craft the skeletal plot before jumping into writing. So, so, so many drafts of stories that could've been great if I'd known where the story was headed before settling in and writing now languish in the "never to be shown to the public" folder. Hell, even my first two published books would've been leaps and bounds better if I'd plotted them out first. Going back and fixing the broken tales is soul-crushing and...infuriating. By the time edits come due, I'm wedded to scenes that really ought to be cut and end up doing a full rewrite just to salvage the kernel of the concept and the shells of the characters. 

At this point, I know better. Alas, that doesn't mean I didn't just waste four months pantsing a story then trunking it because it fell apart. That lil' winter tragedy is confirmation that I gotta do the logical work upfront so the whimsy and wtfery can blossom while writing the actual story. True way back when I was a baby writer, true to this day.