Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Drive to Develop a Writing Practice


Look for the cover reveal for SHADOW WIZARD, book one in Renegades of Magic, the new trilogy continuing the Bonds of Magic epic tale! I'm getting the preorders set up today and plan to do the cover reveal on Instagram tomorrow, August 11, 2022. Members of my private Facebook group, Jeffe's Closet, may get a sneak peek ;-)

This week at the SFF Seven, we're asking: how has your writing practice changed over time?

It's interesting because the topic-suggester framed it as "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - my college French demanded I get the saying correct - which is a French saying that acknowledges that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In other words, that surface details may alter over time, but the essence of the thing, the recognizable cycle of events, is fundamentally inalterable. Often it's applied to history. So this suggests that our writing practice may change over time, but it also stays the same. Is this this case?

I'm saying no, at least for me. My writing practice has changed considerably since my newbie days. I was reflecting recently that, as a teen and young woman, I didn't really know how to apply myself to improving at a task. This largely came from the fact that, in school all the way through high school, I could get by without really trying. I had a good auditory and visual memory, and I tested well, so I didn't need to work hard to get A's. (Except in math, which I thought I wasn't good at, even though they put me in accelerated math classes. Turns out I likely wasn't good at it because I didn't like math, so I didn't listen in class. Oops.) In college and grad school, a number of professors began riding me to apply myself, to study and do the practice problems. I kind of tried to - especially when I had to retake Immunology for my biology major and really didn't want to have to retake second semester of organic chemistry - but there was a major problem: I didn't know how to study.

I remember thinking I needed to learn how to study, but I was mostly flailing about. It was only when I had novel deadlines to meet that I got very good at refining my ability to work in concentrated ways, incrementally, day after day. I don't often think of messages I'd like to give to my younger self, but I now wish I could advise that college student, that graduate student, to develop the habit of working for a couple of hours every morning. This is my best brain time. If I had done that in school, if I had spent just that much time working practice problems and reviewing the material, I likely would have done much better.

Of course, then I might have ended up as a research scientist after all, when I'm so happy as a novelist. Maybe it took working on something I truly cared about to inspire me to develop the practice to do it. Que sera, sera!


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Ever-Evolving Process of Writing


Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose:
How has my writing practice changed over time?

For those who aren't French speakers (like me), Merriam-Webster defines the translation as The more things change, the more they stay the same. It's a quote attributed to French novelist Karr. Now that I'm momentarily smart(er), I'll tell you what has changed in my writing process over the last two decades.

I plot. Not too deeply. Skeleton. Too much info winds up killing my joy of exploration as the story unfolds. Also, I plot to make sure I have one strong throughline, a general sense of character dev, and the foundation of world rules. More than that, and I'm wasting time on things that won't make it into the draft because the fullness of storytelling inevitably reveals surprises and twists that obliterate the details in an overplotted outline.

I've discovered I have a particular style in which--if a new chapter occurs in a setting different from the last chapter--I will open the chapter by setting the stage. I can't mentally progress with the scene if I don't have the staging clear in my head, thus clearly described on the page. To me, establishing the sensory experience for the reader is important for them to continue the journey with the POV character. It's by no means a "rule" of writing. It's purely my personal quirk. If I don't do it, I will stare at a blank page wondering why the hell the words won't flow. 

I've also learned that when I suffer Work Avoidance it's because I've fucked up something in a recent chapter that's preventing the story from continuing as it should. Events may fit within the scope of the plot but something, something, is amiss. It could be the way the Protag approaches the issue is wrong for the character--it fails to consider trauma, personality, or relationships. Or it could be that I've gone overboard with the conflict and left myself no room for escalation of risk later in the book. Or it could be that actions and consequences aren't suitably balanced. I have to return to the last two or three chapters I've written to find the glitch and repair it so I can get back on the train to Donesville. 

Most of all, I've learned not to fight my process. It is what it is...and it is continually evolving.


Saturday, August 6, 2022

Listen! You Smell Something? A Sensory Exercise

 


While “Listen! You smell something?” is a brilliant comedic line in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, it also hits a home run in the way lines like that engage our brain. Confusion is king. I’ll talk about that at the end. 

Engaging all five senses is a powerful tool in writing, but today I’ll talk about the benefits of using them to calm anxiety.

Writers? Anxious? Nah . . .

Let’s start with 5-5-5 breath. Pick a spot ahead of you, ideally just above your comfortable line of sight but no neck craning, just slightly above straight ahead. Focus on that spot. Breathe in for five, hold for five, exhale for five. Repeat until your body is calm and relaxed. Then return to normal relaxed breathing for this next section. 

Keep looking ahead and use your senses to pick out:

5 things you see (either in your mind or peripheral vision)

4 things you feel (your feet on the ground, pillow underneath your head)

3 things you hear (electronics, or maybe just ringing in your ears)

2 things you smell (hmm, what did the cat just do?)

1 thing you taste (thinking of a taste may be simpler)

It may be more comfortable to close your eyes after you’ve picked out things you see. That’s perfectly fine. It can help you tune in more to the other senses.

Warning, you may doze off before you finish. Still, if you don’t, those heart palpitations caused by your nerves will have stopped by the time you get to the end.

 

If not, try 7-11 breathing to start. In for seven, out for eleven. It’s another terrific breathing technique that calms the body. 

Once you’ve found yourself in that super relaxed state, allow yourself to stay there a while. Make note of what else you’re sensing. Tune into your body and your surroundings. 

When you are ready to come out, simply wiggle your fingers or toes to bring your body back to a more conscious state. Get up, stretch if it feels good and move on with your day. 

Try that any time you feel anxious or simply want to tune into yourself and relax. What you come away with may surprise you.


You can also use a modified version of the above to do self-hypnosis. 

First, set an intention. What are you asking of your subconscious mind? Are you re-programming your mind to overcome a bad habit? A feeling? Pain? Our minds are powerful, you’d be amazed what you can accomplish. 

Set that intention and then a time frame. Tell yourself to come out of it in, say 15 minutes, or whatever works for you. 

Instead of 5-4-3-2-1 with the sense we’ll focus on three of them.

3 things you can see

3 things you can hear

3 things you can feel

Next repeat with 2 of each and then one of each. If more is needed, then repeat, this time from the bottom up--all the while focusing on that spot in front of you. Your eyes should feel tired. Do it until your eyelids just can’t stay open any longer. Then relax and enjoy the trance while your unconscious mind makes all the necessary changes.

Can you make lasting change in one session? Yes. 

Does it often take multiple sessions? Also yes.

Each one of us is different, so there is no “perfect” way. 

Whether self hypnosis or a simple few moments to calm an anxious mind, both techniques will help shift your mindset and leave you in a better frame of mind.


So what about the confusion I mentioned earlier? 

Confusion stops someone in their tracks. The downward spiral is interrupted. My hypnosis instructor told a story of confusing a client by pretending to smell his own watch every time she started her downward self-loathing spiral. She’d stop, ask him what he was doing. It would start a conversation that redirected her thinking. 

So, say you feel okay but you’re dealing with someone who is on edge, obsessing about something and heading into a spiral. Try “Listen! You smell that?” and see what happens. 

If they don’t laugh, they’ll still stop the downward spiral with a “What?” which may be enough to get them to stop.


You’re welcome.

Vee R. Paxton, your friendly neighborhood paranormal romance author and certified hypnotist.

Vee R. Paxton is a transplanted Midwesterner living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Portland and New York City are her two favorite places she's lived (although she loves her hometown in Missouri too!) 
She's passionate about storytelling and reading amazing stories. She's guardian to a sweet Bengal kitty cat, she worked in NYC theater, taught martial arts and also is trained in Reiki and hypnosis.


Friday, August 5, 2022

All Systems Go

 I'm wicked late to the game this week. It's been a week. Layoffs at work. Drama. DRAMA. But I can finally breathe again. And I came here simply to tell you that I managed to catch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral yesterday. I geeked all the way out. Maybe you can hear it in my voice in this video: 



Thursday, August 4, 2022

A Process to Everything

 

Green stalks of salmon-pink hollyhocks stretching up to a blue sky with sun shining through the blossoms


There is so much, and at the same time, so little on my mind. 


Today I sat in my garden and watched the sunshine peek through my hollyhocks. I planted these stalks from seed. Watered them. Weeded around them. Dreamt of how lovely the blossoms would be. And, at long last, admire them. 


But one thing I didn’t plan for was the variety of life buzzing around the flowers. There are more types of bees in this flower bed than I knew existed! There are hoverflies and butterflies, beetles and moths, fliers and crawlers I can’t name. It’s amazing!


And all of that is like writing a book.


It starts off by cultivating an idea. Then you weed out the bad details so the good stuff has room to spread. You dream about the plot and characters. And then you type The End. But the real magic happens after that when your book is out in the world, surrounded by life, interacting with life. And it’s amazing.


Happy daydreaming, friends!



What’s on your mind this week?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

LONEN'S WAR Now in Audio!

 On my mind this week is the audiobook release of LONEN'S WAR

A little while back, I sold the audio rights for this self-published series, Sorcerous Moons, to Scribd. Megan Frampton is my editor there and she's been great to work with. Many thanks to Agent Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency for negotiating the deal. I feel like I should give Sarah a special shout-out because it's really great to have an agent who supports the indie side of my career, too. She invested a lot of time and energy into getting me the best possible contract with Scribd. Another plus: Scribd gave me a free subscription for a year! This is pretty amazing since other audiobook publishers of my books have refused to provide me with copies of my audiobooks. If I want to listen to my own freaking book on audio, I have to buy it. 

Grr.

Not so with Scribd! I've been super pleased with the process of working with them. There was a SNAFU in the original recording and they fixed it by re-recording the first three books. It set the production schedule back but they did it without complaint and I was impressed by their professionalism. 

The ensuing five books will be out on the following (tentative) schedule:

#2 ORIA'S GAMBIT August 16
#3 THE TIDES OF BARA September 13
#4 THE FORESTS OF DRU September 27
#5 ORIA'S ENCHANTMENT October 11
#6 LONEN'S REIGN October 25

Also, LONEN'S WAR is now wide and should be available on all retailer platforms. Print is coming any day now and just wait to see how super cool the set is together with the new covers! 
Very exciting to see this rejuvenation of my first entirely self-pubbed series. 

In other news...

Look for the cover reveal and preorder link for SHADOW WIZARD, Book #1 in Renegades of Magic, the trilogy that picks up after  Bonds of Magic! Look for SHADOW WIZARD coming September 29, 20222! Here's a sneak peek of the cover:

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Dear WiP: I Don't Love You Anymore

On My Mind This Week: Falling Out of Love w/ the WiP

I'm breaking up with my WiP. Tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. Soon, for sure. You see, I don't love it anymore. Our interactions are contentious. We spend a lot of time glaring and snarling at each other. Words written are words erased. Progress is ephemeral. We're not gaining anything from this relationship. When we started this adventure, we had shared goals, attainable milestones, and bright dreams of success. Now, key dates have flown past in silent swiftness as we endure another day of each other's presence. Outlines have burned to ashes, their mocking laughter drowned out by our mutual derision. I've given you space to work out your issues, yet you insist the fault is solely mine. 

I can't continue like this. 

We're breaking up.

Once we finish this chapter.

We're through after this.

Or maybe the next one. 

I mean it. 

Just one more chapter.

No, really.