Release Day and a Sale!

Hi, everyone! Boy, it’s been a while. Things have been hectic as hell around here lately, but today is cause for celebration. Happy release day to Children of the Healer, the third book in the Godfall series:

With the Storm Lord dead, Cordelia Ross and Simon Lazlo return to Gale, to normality, but when they find the populace poisoned by the drushka, it’s clear the aliens must be dealt with before life can be anything near normal. In the north, Patricia Dué takes control of Gale’s mine with Jonah, the servant she created in Dillon Tracey’s old body. She thinks controlling the humans’ only source of metal will bring her power, but her past won’t be banished so easily.

Amidst the chaos and conflict, a prophet predicts that true calamity is still to come, and the only way to stop it may be a murderous widow looking for revenge. As factions splinter and reconnect, the fate of Calamity lies uncertain, and even the prophets can’t see every ripple on the horizon.

And if that’s not enough, there’s a flash sale over at Bold Strokes Books! You can catch up on all my titles, including the Godfall series, for a limited time!

There’s no trailer yet. (I know, I know.) One of the reasons why is because I’m moving, I’m branching out into freelance copywriting and editing work, and I’m getting divorced. So, you have to forgive my lateness because if you don’t, you’re a monster.

Also also also, I’ll be at ConDFW the weekend of February 16, 17, and 18. I’ll post the final schedule as soon as I have it. Feel free to come see me there and buy me several hundred drinks. Thanks.

I hope you enjoy Children of the Healer. If you don’t, you’re also a monster.
j/k

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Back and Straight to Work!

I’m finally home from all my travels! Whew. Had an awesome time at Denver and Houston, though. Met a lot of hot fans. Literally. They were very attractive. And sweaty.

Now I’m back and getting my ass to work. I’ve sent in the final proofs for Coils, which will be coming your way this September.

Coils 300 DPII’ve had a lot of fun working on this book. It’s a fantasy romance with a comedic twist, which is a new one for me since I’ve never written a straight-up comedy before. I always try to incorporate a bit of comedy into everything I write. (I love me some witty banter.) But this will be the first in which I try to be funny from start to finish. I hope you laugh. Even if you don’t, lie, okay?

 

House of Fate WallpaperI’m also hard at work on House of Fate, my standalone space opera. Another first, it’s a sci-fi romance. I’ve done sci-fi with the Godfall series, but this will be a romance at heart, sort of like The Pyramid Waltz. I’ve discovered I really like yelling, “Lesbians in space!” at Pride events, and after this book comes out, it will be doubly true!

What’s everyone else been up to? Anyone else visit some Pride events in June? Anyone going on vacation this summer? Everyone else hot as balls?

First drafts: Don’t stop believin’…or writing

Let’s talk first drafts and editing. I’ve met writers who love editing, and those who loathe it, but if you want to improve the speed of your first drafts, you’re going to need to learn to love it. The first draft is all free flowing love and ideas, trying on different plots and characters and seeing how they fit. The eye is purely creative only because the editing eye can seriously get down to business later.

The most important piece of advice I can give you about writing first drafts is to never stop, go back, and try to “fix” what you’ve already done to suit what you’re doing now. So, in chapter three you decide that your guard captain isn’t really working out as your main character, and that her lieutenant is actually much more interesting and would make a better focal point for the story. Hurrah! You’ve caught that pretty quickly, and you’re happy with the decision you’ve made. Surely you should go back and change what you’ve written to reflect that, right?

Abso-freakin-lutely not!!!!

No way. Make a note in your handy dandy notes about where the change happened, maybe even why or a short note about where a new start to the novel could be, and then you keep going forward from that point and just leave those first three chapters where they lay. Why? Because they might change again, and then all your editing work would be for nothing, and because you’re on a roll now; things are becoming clearer for you in your novel, and you should embrace that forward momentum. I treat first drafts like a sprint. No matter what, I like to put my head down and run for the finish line.

If I decide the scene in chapter five should take place in a restaurant instead of someone’s living room? I make a note of the change and keep going. This secondary character isn’t working? I make a note of where I’m no longer going to be writing them and keep going. Now if it’s something really big, like the whole plot isn’t working, I do the same thing, but my primary note is that everything before the big change is likely going to be cut completely, which leads me to the second most important piece of advice I can give you about writing first drafts.

Learn to love cutting your novel!!!!!

It’s more than just killing your darlings. It’s more than cutting scenes or words that don’t add anything or characters you love that other people can’t connect with. It’s taking whole chunks of perfectly good writing, seeing that they really don’t fit, and excising them as if they were dead tissue. You can do with them what you like. I like to save them in a folder (with little notes in the beginning about what they are and where they came from) so that later I can stick them back in if they’re a good fit. You have to be okay with cutting thousands of hard-earned words if it makes your novel better. Learn to be a novel sadist and love it.

You will need that sadist within because if you’re writing down all your ideas in your first draft, many of them will have to go. You’re going to have a lot of editing work to do. You may have to change tenses or person. I almost always have to add description and subtract exposition. But if you’ve got an entire first draft, you’ll have an entire novel waiting and not just pieces that you’ve been editing and re-editing for years. You’ll have finished a freaking novel! It may be ugly and in pieces, and you switched main character in chapter three, it all takes place in a diner now, and no one has the same eye color anymore, but you wrote a goddamned novel all the same!

If that’s too scary to contemplate, break it down into smaller increments. Think of finishing chapters, scenes, or sentences; one word following another won’t seem so intimidating. Editing can be thought of the same way. If you look at your crappy first draft and the work seems too hard, dissect it with the help of your notes. Look at it as building bricks to be moved around. Line edits can wait to until the end, long after the plot and the characters are settled in their proper spaces.

Remember, do not stop whatever part of the process you’re in just to move on to another part because you’re bored/tired/OCD. If every time you write, you go back to edit, you’ll never finish a first draft, and if every time you edit, you stop and work on the first draft of something else, you’ll never have a completed work. Very advanced writers can work on multiple novels that are at different levels of completeness, but even then, it’s difficult. If you’re just starting out, I’d stay with one novel until it’s done unless you’ve decided to abandon it completely because no part of it is working.

Sound insurmountable? Wonderful! Welcome to being a writer. Now thumb your nose at insurmountable and go write. Then edit. Just like writing those first drafts, the more you edit, the more you’ll want to edit. You’ll get a taste for it until you’re sidling up to other writers and offering to edit their work, too.

Or maybe not. Don’t be creepy.

Do you love editing as much as I do? Do you bite your lip every time you have to cut a chunk from your novel? Is that creepy?

Have questions about other parts of the writing process? Let me know, and I’ll probably steal your ideas and do a blog post!

!!!!!

Notes, the writing before you write

People often ask me how I write so quickly. My typing speed is pretty high, but that’s not usually what they mean. They want to know how I move through projects so quickly and finish first drafts within a month or two, so I thought I’d share some tips. First off, Notes.

Notes!!!!

I can’t stress them enough. I’ve heard of both pantsers and plotters. The first doesn’t use an outline and writes “by the seat of their pants.” The second has a detailed outline and sticks to it. I’m somewhere in between. I think most people are, but I can’t move without my notes, and if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t write anything down before you start writing and then stalls out quickly, I believe this is because you didn’t make any notes.

I like to make my notes with pen and paper. My notebooks are color coded and I use different pen colors for different characters or timelines. I like to have them open beside me while I’m working on my laptop, and the color coding of the notebooks helps me keep track of them. But you use whatever notes you like. Some weirdos hate paper, or so I’ve heard.

Spitball the ending!!!!

(The exclamation points make orders come alive!!!!!)

You don’t have to do an outline, but I think it is helpful to have a general idea of where the story is going, even if it’s something like, “A guard captain starts off believing her queen is awesome and ends up realizing she’s evil.” That’s enough to set a bulls-eye to aim for. You’re going to need a whole lot more plot to wrap around that, but you know in the beginning you want someone to think one way and end up thinking another. This could change. You could decide you want this realization to be in chapter three. Then your main character needs a new goal. Even if you don’t have one right away, jotting down potential ideas can help you think of something. Even if your idea is as vague as, “I want everyone to die like in Hamlet,” that will get you thinking of ways to make that happen. Writing them down solidifies them and helps them stick in your brain.

React to all the things!!!!

How characters react to various situations is the best way to show how their minds work, imo. I won’t believe a narrative that simply tells me a person is jovial or angry or homicidal. I want to see them being all those things. So I jot down character sketches before writing the story. My guard captain is jovial when she’s off duty, angry when she’s on, and homicidal when someone attacks her. I think of how she might react to a potential lover, too, or something less threatening than an attack. That way, if it happens in the story, I can look to my notes and my character can react quickly, so to speak, and I can keep writing without slowing down to worry about who this person is and why they do what they do. I can get the heart of them down right away and add some fine-tuning later. A first draft is not the time to polish. It needs a framework of a plot and a framework of the characters, too.

Notes do more stuff, too!!!!

(Or, I suck at headings!!!!)

Notes are useful for  more than what I’ve listed here. As I’m writing, I keep a loose timeline of what’s happening when. Sometimes I don’t do this until after I’ve got my first draft done, that way I can tidy up the timeline as I polish.

Also, when I finish writing, I sometimes jot down bullet points about what I’ve just written, especially if there’s going to be a gap of a few days before I can write again. This saves me from having to read what I’ve written before, which saves me from the temptation to edit as I go and get bogged down in details when I should be writing new stuff.

It’s also very handy to write down chapter breaks in your notes, so you can see how long each chapter is as you write. If you’re trying to be consistent with the lengths of your chapters, you’ll see what you’ve done so far and have an idea of how long you want a scene to be by looking at how much room it’s already taken up within a chapter.

You may have noticed that I treat first drafts sort of like notes themselves. This is very true, but I will save how I get through first drafts for another post. Hint: never stop writing a first draft in order to edit it.

Do you use notes when you write? Do you find they make your life easier? If you didn’t before, are you going to try them now?

Provincetown!

Had a great time at Ptown this past weekend, going from event to event for Bold Strokes Books at Women’s Week.

Here’s a few random pics:

signing This is a signing after one of the panels with (from left): Kris Bryant, Jean Copeland, me, Aurora Rey, Jennifer Lavoie, and Carsen Taite. We had just finished doing our reading and then went to Recovering Hearts to sign books for adoring hordes of fans (not pictured.)

group pic

Here’s a nice group shout after the signing of (from left): me, D Jackson Leigh, VK Powell, Missouri Vaun, Ali Vali, and Carsen Taite. This was after the signing when someone asked to take a pic of us. I believe it’s all over facebook.

publishing talk

Here’s one shot from the panel on the writer’s life. (From left again): Sandy Lowe, MJ Williamz, me, and Sophia Kell Hagin. Almost all of us were thirsty.

reading

And this last one is just me. It’s from my reading, and at this point I believe I’m telling the audience that writing romance is “All about the frickin’.” Always go for the laugh, people.

The panels were all very entertaining and informative. The readings were fantastic. I attended all of them but didn’t get very many pictures because I was suffering the pain of kidney stones at the time and was either in too much pain to move or too high to know what the hell a camera was. Thankfully, my cell reception was so bad in Ptown that I actually couldn’t text or call anyone, or I probably would have drunk dialed everyone I know. I am feeling a bit better now that I’m home, but as I have several kidney stones, I’m not out of the woods yet. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, I’m hard at work on Coils to turn it in by the end of October, so you might not see me around very much. I’ll check back in when I’m less busy, I promise.

Random nano tips

It’s still Nano time, my writerly kinfolk, so here come some more word count tips!

Sex scenes and fight scenes take up a lot of room. I say, never gloss over them when doing Nano. If you don’t want such long scenes later, you can always trim them. I’ve got plenty of scenes tucked in random folders that I’m too embarrassed to show anyone.

If a particular scene isn’t lighting your fire, don’t skip it. For me, skipping around in a book makes it ten times harder to edit later. I also lose a sense of continuity. Instead of jumping over a scene that just won’t come to you, try writing it briefly, more as narrative notes than just [EXPOSITION GOES HERE]. Though I will admit, I have done that. We all have. I keep scenes that I’m not feeling simple, just including a summary of the information I want to convey plus a bit of dialogue and description so I can remember the tone I want later. And if you reach the end of your novel and haven’t gotten the words you wanted, you can always come back and flesh these out, an easier task if there’s something there.

Random characters need lines, too. Got a palace guard stuck in a corner in the middle of a scene? Got a rookie cop waiting two desks over? Give these people a few lines, even if you have to cut them later. Random people can quickly turn into interesting minor characters. And reading about Cristine, the sarcastic serving girl who’s saving up to go to military school is much more interesting than Bar Wench 3.

Just remember, everything that doesn’t work can be cut. Later. And it might not work where you originally put it, but it can always work somewhere else!

Anymore random tips anyone wants to share? How’s it going for you?

Nano tips to boost your word count

I’m a word count warrior when it comes to Nano. It helps that writing is my full time job. It also helps that I type really fast, but I don’t think that’s the only reason behind my sometimes epic word counts. I think what helps is that I write EVERYTHING I’m thinking.

So, I had a character involved in a fight scene. It was going well, and then I realized that said character needs to have an epiphany either at the beginning of this fight or maybe a tiny epiphany as she’s fighting. Since I didn’t know which I’d ultimately choose, and since I didn’t want to slow down and really think about where to put it and how long it should be, I just injected this really long epiphany right there in the middle of the fight.

Will I leave it? Hell no! Once I edit, it’s either going to get moved or cut down (probably both), but that’s the work of editing, something I don’t even think of during the rough draft/nano stage of writing.

And that’s the secret. Suddenly, I have more words for my daily word count, but I also have tons of notes written in narrative form. I have lots of choices when I go back to edit. I do the same thing when I decide I want a character to have an intense emotional reaction. I’ll think, I want sadness here, so I’ll write, “She was sad.” But that’s deadly dull, so I’ll expand on it and expand on it and decide if I want her to be the saddest she’s ever been. Then I’ll expand on that, add in a few physical reactions, way too many.

Words, words, words! And choices! This is what I love the most about writing first drafts, all the wonderful choices I give myself. I overwrite, and then I can do another of my favorite things, which is cutting huge chunks out of my work, really streamlining it and making it all fight tightly together. The rough draft is like piling huge amounts of clay onto my worktable, and then editing is sloughing off large bits before all the real sculpting and polishing.

Maybe I’m a little crazy for liking that so much, but I guarantee you’ll buff your word count if you try it, and then you’ll have a lot of raw material to play with. And those parts that I cut? I don’t throw them away. I keep them in a separate folder to use at another time or maybe on another project if I just like them. You don’t always have to murder your darlings. Sometimes, you just lock them in a cupboard. Nano-er or serial killer, you decide.

Do you do the same when you write a rough draft, or do you edit as you go? Any nano tips you’d like to share?

Now, just for your pleasure, here are my dogs in a Halloween costume I bought on sale:

Daisy

Daisy

Polly

Polly

The eyes light up. We’re totally trick or treating next year. “What? This is my child dressed as a dog dressed as a dinosaur. Give us candy.”

Nano time! And a handy editing tool.

It’s almost NaNoWriMo, my dear little ice cream sundaes! And you know what that means. November is going to get crazy. And I’ll need some ice cream sundaes by the time it’s done.

For those of you just joining the party, Nano is when people all around the world endeavor to write 50,000 words during the month of November. This year, I’ll be participating in the madness as a final push in order to finish my current work in progress. I like to get in on all the writing energy, especially from the face-to-face write ins. Nothing increases my productivity like being surrounded by people who are doing the same thing I am. It also keeps me from surfing the internet. Mostly.

If you sign up, make sure you pick a home region. That way, you can find out what’s going on around you. If you’re an introvert, don’t worry. You don’t have to interact much at a write in. You just have to write. I like to talk a little during breaks, but if you’d rather be in your own world, that’s perfectly acceptable. Anyway, if you’d like to be my Nano buddy, my Nano handle is zendra. I’m kind of a racer, tho, so be warned. 😉

And after you finish and edit your Nano (December is edit your Nano month), I have the perfect polishing tool. I don’t know how many times I’ve read my manuscript and just glided over typos, like my brain fixes them so my eye can’t see them. I had a sentence that had “she was she” in the middle, and my brain just deleted that second she even though it was still in the manuscript. Reading aloud didn’t help because I just deleted it again. So, I needed someone to read to me, someone who wouldn’t automatically correct while they did so.

And I discovered Windows Narrator. It’s one of the accessibility tools, but anyone can use it. It’s a robotic monotone that reads exactly what you have. You can change the voice and the speed, and it helped me find so many errors. Here’s a link on how to find it from the Start menu, and here’s a link to find it with Windows 8. I found it the first time by searching for accessibility and then finding it through the accessibility menu.

A bit of a warning, the voice makes me sleepy because it has no inflection. I also wouldn’t use it except as a polishing tool (unless you need it for other reasons!), or you’ll be stopping and restarting it all the time. Also, since it’s for those with impaired vision, it will read everything to you, not only highlighted text in a Word document. So you can’t let it read and then do other things on your desktop, or it will start reading whatever you’re doing. It’s good for focusing in that way.

Who’s doing Nano? Who already uses the narrator? Talk to me, ice cream sundaes.

False false alarm

OMG, loans, you guys. So, after a lot of kerfuffle, we are moving. Again. Again again, even. So, I’m not only working on edits and finishing another book, I’m also packing to move.

Next week.

I’m also reading on the internet how to put a blind dog at ease in new surroundings and getting ready for a con this weekend. Here’s my FenCon schedule again, in case you missed it:

Saturday 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Trinity I – IV
Female Protagonists and their evolving role in Literature

Description: It’s been a long time since the pulps used women as simple plot devices. Strong female leads make for great books, and we explore some of the best and worst examples of female protagonists in fantasy and science fiction.

___________________________

Saturday 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Pin Oak
Pimp My Monster

Description: Let’s trick out our undead, partially deceased, shapeshifters, and other things of nightmares for the 21st century. How to put a fresh twist on these festering creatures from the past.

___________________________

Sunday 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Pin Oak
Why Should You Join A Professional Organization?

Description: Professional organizations have much to offer, but are they for everyone? Or like Groucho Marx, would you rather not belong to a club that would have you as a member?

___________________________

Sunday 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Addison Lecture Hall
When Will it Ever End?

Description: How long is too long? When should a series hang it up, or is there no limit to the number of books an author can or should write in a specific setting? Which well-known series have done an excellent job of holding our attention across multiple books, and which have jumped the proverbial shark?

It’s this weekend in Dallas, so come on out if you’ve to the inclination.

So so so busy. If I neglect some of your blogs, I’m sorry. I’m up to my eyeballs in it.

Yet another quick update

We’re here, we’re swamped! Only sort of, I guess. I finished the page proofs for A Kingdom Lost, which is the last step for me before printing. So, all is on track for April. Hooray! Now I have to finish the manuscript for The Fiend Queen and then I’ll hop on that promotion train.

First stop, ConDFW. I’m listed under Panelists, and you’ll know my schedule as soon as I do, so come see me if you’re in the area.

Until then, here’s one of my shots taken at Disney World in the Be Our Guest restaurant:
IMG-20131101-00114

If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. They folded the napkin like a rose for fuck’s sake. You can’t get much cooler than that.

And where can I see you in the upcoming months?