Monday, December 19, 2016

Quiet Time

I've reached the quiet part of my holiday season. Christmas Eve will be busy, but otherwise, I don't have a lot of obligations. I think I'm going to consider this a week off, other than writing, since I'll be busy in the week between Christmas and the New Year.

I saw Rogue One on Friday, and I really liked it. But it was a very different kind of Star Wars movie, definitely not suitable for kids. The regular Star Wars movies are basically fantasy in a space setting. This was a World War II movie in a Star Wars setting. It reminded me of The Dirty Dozen or Guns of Navarone, with maybe a dash or two of Saving Private Ryan. I thought that grittiness made the universe more real, and we saw more of it away from the main action of the series. This movie essentially hands over to the original movie, and I feel like it added a new layer of meaning to that movie because we now know what was involved in getting to that point.

I want to see it again, but it is rather draining. I was even a bit sore after the movie from being so tense for so long.

Now I want to spend this week reading and writing. It's bitterly cold (for this region), and I think it's a good day to spend under the electric blanket with the laptop.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ready for Rogue One

I now have a deadline for the next Rebels book, since I lined that up with the copyeditor yesterday, and we have a tentative release date of April 4. Which means I really need to buckle down to work now. No more "eh, whenever I get to it because there's no actual deadline."

Not that I expect to get much done today because I'm seeing Rogue One this afternoon, and I'm more excited about that than I am about Christmas gifts (I already got my big Christmas gift in the new bed, so gifts are a minor part of the season). That may make it hard to concentrate in the time I have before I have to get ready to go. I should probably do something else that's useful but that requires less concentration, like housework. That will make the house more pleasant for my planned hibernation next week. I'm really going to try to get some writing done while things are relatively quiet, but I'll also allow some time for reading and watching all those holiday movies I've got stocked up on my DVR.

This year's bunch hasn't been that good. My favorite so far was one on ION, A Cinderella Christmas, but I think that's mostly because I'm a sucker for Cinderella stories, and I liked the cast. This was an updating involving a woman who worked for the family event planning company and whose cousin/stepsister (after her uncle took her in when her parents died) took all the credit for her work. She meets the "prince" when she caters his holiday masquerade ball. It was rather cute. Though set design/prop people should know better than to use obvious Pepperidge Farms cookies when spreading out store-bought cookies on cookie sheets for the caterer heroine to be taking out of the oven. Tip: Milanos don't come out of the oven that way.

And, of course, I've come up with another idea for one I want to write. Maybe I'll squeeze that in among other projects. But then I'll have more than one script, which might make it worthwhile to look into pursuing.

But now I think I'll try to take my kitchen from "disaster area" to "a human being lives here."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Other News This Week

In addition to getting a book and short story launched this week, other stuff has happened.

I forgot to mention last week that I was named one of the Spirit of Texas Reading Program authors by the Texas Library Association. Here's what they describe this as being about: "The purpose of the list is to encourage youths in grades 9-12 to explore a variety of current, quality books from Texas authors and illustrators, develop critical reading skills, and to encourage greater interaction between Texas authors and illustrators, Texas librarians, and Texas youth." There are only six authors on the list, so it's a huge honor. I hope this is something that will matter to publishers in trying to shop around another YA book. I will also admit to a little internal "Ha!" when thinking that the publisher didn't consider that book successful enough to warrant a sequel -- you know, maybe it wasn't the book. Maybe it was that they didn't bother promoting it at all, since it keeps getting honored by librarians. Makes you wonder what would have happened if they'd done more than send out one tweet.

I have my Christmas shopping more or less done now, unless I find something fun that I just have to get. I just have one more big party before things quiet down a bit. That one's going to require some creativity in dressing because a front is coming through that afternoon, and at the time I leave for the party it will be in the 60s, but around the time the party ends, it could be close to freezing. So I guess I'll carry all the winter stuff in with me so I won't freeze on my way back to the car. Meanwhile, today is cold enough that I'm probably going to work from the bed office with the electric blanket. Tomorrow will be warm enough that I may just need a sweater or light jacket for Star Wars and walking around looking at Christmas lights. Sunday will be freezing, and I think that's going to be an afternoon snuggled in bed and watching Hogfather.

We had our "travelers" Christmas service last night, a Christmas Eve service for people who will be out of town, and then we had a quick rehearsal afterward in that auditorium. One of my friends recorded us singing the benediction we do at the end of every rehearsal, and since we could all use a bit of peace and blessing, I thought I'd share (also, it'll be handy to have a link to this for when I need it).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Your Novel Writing Resolution

This will be the last writing post of the year. I'll take a break during the holidays and be back in the new year.

A lot of people may try to write a novel during National Novel Writing Month in November, but I suspect a lot of people also make a new year's resolution to write a novel. If you're planning to make 2017 the year you finally write that book you've always wanted to write, here are a few tips to get it done.

You can start working on it now -- maybe not writing, but this is a good time to start thinking. What story do you want to write? Who are the characters? What are the conflicts? What is the setting? Is there any research you need to do? The more you think about it, the more ready you'll be to start writing, and the less likely you are to fizzle out after the part that came with the initial idea is done. If you aren't sure what you need to figure out, try writing down everything you know about this idea. You'll soon see what parts need to be better developed before you can start writing.

When making your writing plans, set realistic goals based on your writing pace and the time you have available to write. If all you want is to finish a novel by the end of the year, just writing a page a day will get you there. It's better to set an easy goal you're sure to achieve (and even top) than an overly ambitious goal that you're likely to miss on a regular basis. If your goal is to write five pages and you write two, you feel like you've failed and are running behind. If your goal is to write one page and you write two, you feel a sense of accomplishment and triumph that will give you some momentum into the next day. You can always up your goal after you've established a habit and can see what your pace really is.

But you don't have to write every day to succeed. I keep seeing that advice from writers who claim that if you don't write every day, you're not a real writer, and it's nonsense. You're a writer if you write, period. You can get that book done in a year whether you write one page a day, seven pages on a Saturday, or three and a half pages on Saturday and three and a half pages on Sunday. Unless you're a full-time writer, you have to fit your writing around your existing life, which probably includes things like work, family, and taking care of your home, maybe even a social life. However, that doesn't mean you can use life as an excuse. You just need to take it into consideration when you schedule writing time like it's an appointment. When I was working full-time, I designated writing days and life days on weeknights -- I tried to cram all after-work errands, appointments and weekday activities into certain nights, leaving other nights entirely free. I didn't expect much from myself on weeknight writing sessions, just enough to keep the momentum going, and then I tried to get serious amounts of work done in marathon sessions on Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Other people have great success fitting in small bits of writing in every little bit of free time -- a page at lunch, a paragraph or two every time they pass the computer. Some people are most productive if they get up and get their writing done first thing in the morning, before work and life. Others do best at the end of the day, after taking care of everything else. There's no one right answer. You just need to figure out what works for you.

Don't give up if you falter. Just get started again. No one will know when they read the finished product whether you stuck to your schedule or had to catch up. The point is to get it done. If you don't have a contracted deadline, you're not even obligated to finish the book this year.

Try to get a good way into the book before you let yourself give up on that story. Sometimes you do figure out that a story idea isn't viable, but if you've never written a whole book before, it's hard to tell whether you're dealing with a non-viable story or whether you're just stuck and need to work through it. You may need more brainstorming or research. Don't ditch the book you're working on if you get a brilliant new idea. The more you write, the more creative you get, so the ideas will start flowing. Don't let them distract you. Write them down and keep going. You need to finish something if you're ever going to go anywhere. A half dozen partial novels won't do you any good. You can do something with a completed novel.

Have a reward in mind for finishing your project. Visualize that reward when you want to give up (and it's not fair to cheat and reward yourself without reaching your goal).

Good luck, and have fun!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New Book Day!

It's book release day! The new book seems to be live at all the major sellers, though Amazon hasn't yet merged the listing for the paperback and e-book, and when I did a search on my name, the paperback is the first result and the e-book is on the second page of results.

The short story is live, too. I'm hearing that people are able to get it for free at Amazon, but when I just searched, it came up for 99 cents still. They're supposed to price match it to free, since it's free elsewhere. I've nagged on that, and I'm not sure how it works to get that to drop.

Anyway, they're out there, and I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Post-Weekend Weekend

I had one of those "I need a weekend to recover from the weekend" kind of weekends. I had a luncheon with a book club I frequently meet with on Saturday, and then a club meeting (it's a social club, which means that a "meeting" is a potluck at someone's house, where we hang out with friends and plan the stuff we'll do). I also had to bake a couple of batches of cookies for something to bring to the meeting and for the church's cookie sale. Sunday, my children's choir was singing in the early service, so I had to get up early, but wouldn't you know, I had one of those 4 a.m. insomnia bouts where I was awake enough to know I was conscious but not awake enough to do anything, and I finally fell back asleep about half an hour before my alarm went off.

The kids did a great job, and were mostly well-behaved. My biggest problem was replaced with a pod person, which was wonderful. He's usually the one getting hauled out into the hallway for throwing things, hitting other people, and generally being out of control, but he was a proper little gentleman who was telling me I needed to get the others to be quiet and was demonstrating how to stand in a straight line. He stood perfectly still and sang out beautifully. Maybe it was the tie. I should require him to come wearing a tie on Wednesday nights. But then there was the children's sermon right after they sang, with the children's minister talking about the Advent wreath and asking what symbols on it there were. One of our kids shouted out "Fire!" So, yeah, that was more normal. I'd been worried about how fascinated a couple of the kids were with the candles while they sang. They were edging in that direction.

Then I had to sing with the choir for the late service. I had a few hours to eat lunch, read the newspaper, and make soup before going back for rehearsals, then a choir potluck soup supper (thus the soup), then the Christmas concert, and then I rushed home to refrigerate the soup leftovers (on the downside, my veggie soup wasn't really popular, but on the upside, I won't have to cook lunch this week!) before heading out to go to a friend's birthday party. There was some rather epic karaoke, and I will admit to showing off a wee bit. I hit a rather abrupt wall around 10 and came home, but then it took me a long time to wind down and actually get to sleep.

I let myself sleep very late today, and I normally would give myself the day off, but I have a book releasing tomorrow, so I need to do some promo work today. I may not try to get any writing done unless I feel very inspired. I also have a lot of cleaning to do, since my kitchen looks like I was only home long enough over the weekend to bake cookies and make soup.

But it gets easier from here. I'm done with children's choir until after the holidays. We have the travelers' Christmas Eve service Wednesday (an early Christmas Eve service for those who'll be out of town) and a short choir rehearsal, then Friday is Star Wars day, and then I have a party Saturday night. I suspect Sunday after church I will crawl into a cave for a little while and do some serious writing.

Friday, December 09, 2016

In Praise of Escapist Fantasy

I finished the Magicians trilogy, and now I see why people liked it. The second half of the first book was awfully grim, but the second two books have a real sense of wonder and fun. We got to see those cynical characters from the first book becoming good, strong (but still snarky) people, living up to their potential after everything they'd been through.

Now I'm in the mood for something else that's fun and escapist, and that's been a bit of a challenge. Of all the books I have on my shelf from convention freebies and the Nebula goody bag, most of the ones I haven't read yet sound so bleak and grim. Just reading the plot descriptions on the covers makes me want to crawl in bed and pull the blanket over my head.

And, you know, right now, the world needs some hope and escapism. It's been a rough year, and there's some scary and nasty stuff happening. We don't need to read about dystopias. What we need is hope and joy. It's hard to build a better world when you can't envision what that looks like, when all you're seeing is something dark and grim. That's why I'm glad that I do what I do. The kinds of things I write might not be taken seriously by the kind of people who use "escapist" or "fluff" as a criticism, but I think it can be just as important as all the grim, serious, message-laden stuff (not saying that there's anything wrong with the more serious stuff, just that it's not the only kind of fiction that has merit).

Why is escapism so important? Part of it might get called "self care." It's hard to take on the world all the time. Sometimes you need to take a step back and refresh, and a moment of fun and happiness may be what you need to recharge enough to go back out into the world and make a difference.

Then there's what I mentioned before about needing an image of a better world so you know how to make it happen. Sometimes we need a glimpse of a world where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, and the good guys prevail because they're good. We need a reminder that being good can be rewarding when we live in a world where good doesn't always win. That's why I don't really like the grimdark stuff or dystopias. I get enough about that from watching the news.

I get e-mails from people who've read my books while going through chemo, while on bedrest with a difficult pregnancy, who've read them to people recovering from strokes. They wanted something fun and light to take their minds off their current woes. I like to think that reading about good people doing good things and winning might encourage people that it's okay to be good, brave, and kind. And if enough people get that kind of encouragement, maybe they can change the world.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Another New Thing

One problem I'm having with all the different social media platforms is remembering what I've posted where. I get annoyed with people who post the same thing everywhere, but then there are people who only follow on one platform, so it kind of needs to be posted everywhere. The trick is mixing it up so that the post fits that platform rather than just doing a one-size fits all. But then I need to remember to put the info everywhere.

Something I forgot to post here (I think):
In addition to the new book on December 13, I'll be releasing a free short story set in the Enchanted, Inc. universe. This one is about Sam the gargoyle on a case. I originally wrote it for the FenCon program book in 2009, and I've read it at a few conventions, but this is the first time it's been published beyond that. I'm including a short excerpt from Enchanted, Inc. in it, so it should serve two purposes. It's a fun little bonus for existing fans and maybe a free sample for people who haven't tried the series yet. Here's what the cover looks like:

I should have pre-order links for everything soon, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Enjoying Winter

I got my synopsis more or less written yesterday, and Mom gave me the thumbs up on the opening chapters, so I may be good to go. Except I came up with something else I want to fit in the opening chapters, so I may do some tweaking on that today before my last children's choir session of the semester (wheeeee! Ahem.).

It's also time to get ready for our first real cold snap of the season -- not only our first freeze, but colder temperatures than we had all of last winter. I'm feeling somewhat responsible because I bought a new can of mosquito spray for the patio last week, and then right after that we had a rainy spell, and now a cold spell, so I haven't been able to sit outside, and then the freeze should take care of the mosquitoes.

In a way, I'm actually looking forward to the cold. I found my electric blanket, and I have ingredients for soup and hot cocoa. Thursday night may be my first good Hallmark movie binge. I've been letting them pile up on the DVR.

Some of this fondness for cold weather may be genetic. I found this article on Norwegian winters, and although I've never actually been to Norway, I think this sounds wonderful. I like that they have a special word for a sense of coziness, a way of taking a lot of the things we associate with Christmas, like candles, warm beverages, and blankets, and applying to winter in general, like Christmas without the stress. I think that may be my goal for January. I may buy up some candles and LED lights in the post-Christmas clearance and have a kind of personal winter-fest that's mostly celebrated with books, writing, and binge viewing of romantic comedies and fantasy movies.

I also now want to visit Norway in winter. I even have a real Norwegian sweater. I'm the weird person who doesn't get winter depression. I like the short days (again, might be genetic). A big key seems to be to celebrate the season you're in rather than wishing to be in a different season.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Next Year's Plans

My office in the bedroom plan worked out pretty well yesterday. I got a solid afternoon of work done, though there was the minor problem of not doing much of anything else because I was so comfortable where I was. My reading and working in bed has had the added benefit of breaking in the new mattress. They told me when I bought it that it would take a little while before it felt like the one in the store. In fact, although they have a very liberal return policy if you get a mattress and realize it doesn't work for you, they won't take it back until you've had it for 60 days because it takes that long to break it in and get used to it enough to know you really don't like it. When I first got mine, it was stiff enough that when the head was raised, the mattress just tilted instead of bending unless I was sitting on it. Just sleeping on it with it relatively flat wasn't doing a lot to break it in, but spending more time with the base in more extreme positions has really helped, and now it's more comfortable to sleep on, as well.

I may have finished the proposal part of this book, but it's still writing itself in my head as I wake up in the morning. I at least know what happens next. My view of what's really going on has changed since I started. I found where I'd written out a short blurb of the sort that would go in a query letter or cover, and it didn't fit anymore. Today I plan to write a synopsis, and that will likely lead to revisions on the shorter blurb. The real trick will be to force myself to switch gears and get back to writing another Rebels book while I wait for feedback on this idea from my agent.

I've been doing some business planning for next year, looking at everything I want to write. I'm definitely planning at least one more Rebels book for the year, likely another Enchanted, Inc. I want to do more Fairy Tale books, but what I think I may do is try writing shorter books -- in the 50,000-60,000 word range, about the length of a short mystery -- and do more of them more frequently.

I'm also looking at probably doing fewer conventions. They really don't pay off, and it's hard to make a business case for them. I'm planning to travel to two events that are more about professional development and networking than about publicity, but I won't be going out of town to any other events where I have to foot the travel expenses. Instead, I want to invest that time in writing and some of that money in promotion, maybe do some advertising. A BookBub listing could be paid for with the travel costs for a weekend convention, and it will more than pay for itself, while there's no way that a weekend convention that I've been to several times before will pay for itself, even in indirect word-of-mouth sales. Last year, I tried going to every event that invited me, and I saw no benefit at all. If anything, my sales numbers went down. Not that the conventions caused that to happen, but they certainly didn't raise my sales. I don't really find them that fun, not enough to warrant that kind of investment. I'd rather travel to see my friends away from an event like that so that we have time to spend together and a change to explore and tour. The only downside is not being able to write a trip like that off my taxes.

So, while last year was the year of conventions, next year will be the year of putting my head down and writing like crazy, to test the theory that the key to maintaining steady sales in self publishing is to get work out more frequently. I'm not sure I've yet hit critical mass in the number of books that are available or in the frequency of releases to keep everything visible.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Getting Seasonal

I got my Christmas stuff up over the weekend, and I got wacky and put the Christmas tree in my bedroom. That way, I didn't have to rearrange living room furniture for it, and I could put it in front of a window. It's situated so I can look at it from my bed, and I got one of those remote control outlet thingies, where there's a gizmo you plug into an outlet, and then you can control the things plugged into that outlet with a remote control. That way, I can lie in bed and look at the tree, and then turn off the tree lights without getting out of bed. I think after the holidays, I'm going to move that gizmo to the living room and put a lamp on it. The switch to the living room lights is in the back of the room, so when I come home at night, I have to turn on the entry light, cross the room to the living room switch, turn on that light, then go back to turn off the entryway. I'll be able to leave the remote in the entry and turn on a living room light when I enter the house, and then since I go through the entry to get to the bedroom, I won't have to do the back-and-forth to go to bed -- to the bedroom to turn on a light, back to the living room to turn off the lights. Just turn off everything but the lamp, go to bedroom, turn on light, click the remote to turn off lamp.

We finally have semi-seasonal weather, and it's about to get worse. I had to do the closet switch-out this morning in order to get dressed because I still had all my summer clothes in the closet, and I'd worn the only sweatshirt that was still handy. I had to bring the rest of my sweaters and sweatshirts downstairs. I've pulled out the summer clothes, and now I need to put away the winter stuff to get it off the bed. This should be an opportunity to do a closet purge, since I keep looking at things and realizing I never wore them all year, but instead of thinking, "I never wore that, so I should probably donate it," my thoughts are more like, "I never wore that, so it'll be like having something new next summer!"

But my real priority today is finishing up a book proposal and then doing some marketing stuff. It's kind of gray and chilly, and I like to switch around the places I write and the places I edit, so I may be officing in the bedroom today. That way, I can look at my tree and sit cradled in comfort on the fancy adjustable bed. But first, I need to put away all those sweatshirts and sweaters.

Friday, December 02, 2016

New Book Cover!

Busy day today. I've already run errands and done grocery shopping. I need to finish a proposal. And the weather is supposed to be so nasty tomorrow that they're already canceling all the outdoor Saturday holiday events, so I need to bring in all the Christmas stuff from the garage today so I can put it up over the weekend. And then I need to take care of some business stuff and do some baking. Whew!

So this will be short, but likely contains the thing you really want to see anyway. Ta da, the cover for the new book, coming December 13:

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Creative Overdrive

I have declared today to be my last non-holiday season day, in which I'm going to try to get everything pre-holiday taken care of. Tomorrow, I will load the Christmas music onto my phone, put up my decorations, possibly do my first round of baking, and let myself start watching the holiday movies that have been stacking up on the DVR. Then Saturday the Death March of fun begins with a vengeance, with several busy weekends in a row. This weekend isn't so bad (just a get-together, a party, and then chorale singing in two services), but next weekend will be the kind of weekend that requires a weekend to recover from. I have overlapping events Saturday, children singing Sunday morning, a concert Sunday evening, and a party after that. Sometime on either Friday or Saturday I have to bake for the church cookie swap. Everything should calm down the week before Christmas, and that may be my reading and watching Hallmark movies time, as I recover from all the socializing.

The sense of feeling busy isn't helped by the fact that my brain is in creative overdrive. It's not a bad thing necessarily, since it's awfully convenient that my brain is playing out the movie for the next scenes I need to write. There's no writer's block at all. I mostly just sit and transcribe, and sometimes try to put what I've seen into words. The downside is that all this is happening right when I wake up in the morning, when I'm in that twilight phase of being conscious but not really awake enough to want to get out of bed. I wake up with scenes playing out in my head, so I lie there and watch it all, taking mental notes, and then I lose all track of time. What seems to be five minutes turns out to have been half an hour. Sometimes I fall back asleep. As a result, I'm really oversleeping, and I lose most of the morning, which is when I do all the business and non-writing tasks I need to do, and there are a lot of those. I feel stressed when I'm feeling behind on the day.

Since I've got a book coming out, I really need to be focusing on promotion. I'd planned to get a new web site by now, but I got sidetracked by decision paralysis on finding a web designer and graphic designer to do a logo and possibly other work for the site. I'm in this bind where the people who know about me seem to really love my books, but most people don't know about me, and I don't know how to reach more people to break out of that loop. Nothing I do seems to go viral enough to really spread, and it doesn't help that a rather non-social person isn't very effective on social media. I'm writing books now because I hated doing PR. I'd be happiest hiding in a cave and writing, being the mysterious reclusive author, but it's hard to do that these days. But it's also hard to force myself to get out there with a book that's already done when I've got a book in my head that's trying to burst out, Alien-like, and all I really want to do is write it.

So I guess I'd better go either promote or write.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You've Finished NaNoWriMo. Now What?

If you participated in National Novel Writing month, you just have a few more hours (depending on when you read this) to finish. If you "won," congratulations. When I finish a book, it's a kind of high. All those moments in the middle when it felt like a slog and I was tempted to give up are forgotten, and when I get to the end, I'm convinced it's the best book ever. You may be tempted to send it off to editors or agents or upload it to Amazon right away.


Most editors and agents are winding down their reading for the year, trying to clear out their in-boxes before the holidays, so sending it now probably won't do you much good. And it's probably not ready for publication. Here are some things you might want to do before you try to get it published:

1) Put it aside. Enjoy the holidays. If an idea relating to the book strikes you, write it down, but otherwise don't look at the book until the new year. Giving yourself some distance helps you make better revisions. That's because right now, you're still attached to the emotion of writing it. You remember which parts were difficult, which parts came easily, where you got all the ideas. Remembering all that makes it more difficult to make the right edits. I've often found that when I look at a book again after a break of more than a few weeks, there are things I don't understand about my own plot, or I don't get my own jokes. Distance allows you to come closer to reading it like an editor might.

2) When you get it out, try to read it like a reader would. If you've got the technological capability to put it on an e-reader or tablet, do so, and then just read, not editing, but taking notes if something strikes you. This read is more for plot structure -- when does it drag? Is there something that doesn't make sense? How does it flow? Try to outline the piece and see how it holds together, then figure out what major surgery needs to be done. Are there scenes that need to be cut, added, or replaced to make the plot work? Do scenes need to be rearranged? Do you need to add or cut a subplot? Are there dangling plot threads you need to deal with? Are there any continuity errors that require you to set things up earlier in the book so they'll work at the end?

3) Now you can get down to editing. I generally make at least three passes. The first is the major surgery -- the bulk of the rewriting. That's when I add, cut, or replace scenes and make the plot work. The next pass is to make the words pretty. That's when I make sure the writing is tight, that I'm not repeating words too many times, that the jokes make sense, that all the words that need to be there are there, that I've used the best words for the occasion, that the character voices are unique. The final pass is proofreading, and then I usually read it out loud. That's when I spot awkward sentence structure, missing words that my brain tried to fill in, repetitions, and clunky dialogue. I often change fonts in the document between each phase, which makes it look like a different book. Words are in a different place on the page, which makes you see them differently, and it creates juxtapositions that may show you that you're repeating words within a paragraph or page.

4) Find someone else to read it. This is especially true for a first book. Get someone you trust to give you feedback. You can find critique groups or partners in online writing groups or in writing organizations. Friends and family aren't necessarily a good bet unless they're writers or avid readers who will give you honest feedback. And when you get feedback, accept it graciously. The goal for all of you is to make the book better. You're not helping the book if you get defensive about criticism and treat the person giving feedback like an enemy who's trying to hurt you. The criticism may be wrong, but you may have done something wrong that led the person to make the wrong conclusion. If something's unclear earlier in the book, it may lead readers to make wrong assumptions that affect their reactions to something later. Really mull over and think about the feedback before you accept or reject it.

5) Then you may go through another few rounds of revisions, fixing things that came up in the feedback, then proofreading after you've made those changes.

6) Now you might be ready to submit, though it might be a good idea to let it rest again for a week or so and give it one more read. Meanwhile, you can be researching your options. Don't submit to an agent or publisher without doing your research. Make sure you're dealing with legitimate agents who actually sell books and legitimate publishers that actually put out books. See how they like to receive submissions and work on your query. You may want to customize the query for each person you send it to. If you're thinking about self publishing, do some research into that.

7) Now you can send queries to agents or editors, if you're planning to take that path. If you're going to self-publish, you need to find an editor to hire. You might want to get a developmental editor to work on the story itself, especially if it's a first book, and you definitely need a copyeditor. You'll also need an artist and/or cover designer. Look at the books that are out there and see how yours will fit into the market. Independent publishing is easier than it once was, but you can't just throw something out onto the market and expect it to make money. You need to put some work and money into it.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Report: Magicians and Telepaths

I got chapter two of the new project done yesterday, though what that actually meant was fleshing out chapter one, changing the chapter break, and then fleshing out the scene before the old chapter break. Now I'm ready to start chapter three, which will really be moving forward.

Between hang-out time at my parents and my lazy Sunday enjoying the fancy new bed, I got a lot of reading done recently, so I'm due for a Book Report.

A few years ago, I read The Magicians by Lev Grossman and had very mixed feelings about it. I liked a lot of the concept and even some of the execution, but at the same time, it really bugged me. It struck me as rather derivative while trying to be edgy. The stuff at the magical school was rather obviously "It's Hogwarts, but with sex and drugs and drinking!" and then the stuff about the magical land was Narnia with a different name pasted on it, not even an attempt to scratch off the serial numbers. The really annoying thing about that was that while it was so obviously Narnia with a different name, the author was painted as a child molester. So he ripped off CS Lewis and then cast aspersions on him while claiming it was all fiction and not really him. I liked the first part of the book at school well enough, but then the characters left school midway through, and I felt like the book went off the rails. The ending made me mad enough that I didn't read the rest of the series. But then the TV series came on, and I liked it, and I learned that a lot of it came from later books. Since I'm working on my own "travel to a magical world" story, I figured I might as well tackle the whole series, mostly to make sure I'm not being accidentally derivative.

I liked the first book a little better after seeing the TV series, mostly because I like the TV versions of the characters better, and the book read better if I mentally inserted the TV characters. And I did end up liking the second book better than the first. It delved more into the magical world and then did a lot more globetrotting in our world, so we got that mix of magic and mundane that I love. I still feel like the fantasy world is a little too derivative. That part of the plot was basically Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I didn't realize quite how much was cribbed from that book until I rewatched the movie after reading this book, and wow, he barely tried to change things. At the same time, I feel like he doesn't quite get Narnia and thinks he's being edgy by making his world dangerous. Narnia was always dangerous. He's somehow managed the near-impossible of copying a story plot point by plot point while still coming across as never actually having read the original. Still, it was a fun magical adventure story that you might enjoy a bit more if you last read the Narnia books when you were 12 and don't remember them well enough to spot the ripoffs. I also liked that the characters were growing up and becoming a bit more likable. I'm in the middle of the third book now.

Then I got the new Connie Willis book, Crosstalk, which is basically a screwball comedy about telepathy. It has the feel of the old movies like Bringing up Baby and My Favorite Wife, but set in the near future, when people are so intent on communicating even more than their smart phones allow that they get brain implants that allow them to sense their romantic partner's emotions. A woman working for a cell phone company is thrilled when her boyfriend suggests they get the implants, because that means he's serious. But there might be unintended consequences. She's only supposed to be sensing emotions, but she hears a voice. And it's not her boyfriend's.

This was a fun romantic romp. The science is a little handwavy, so I think even fantasy readers might get into it. It might have been a little difficult to get into because the heroine comes across as kind of a doormat, not only with her boyfriend but also with her very intrusive, wacky family. But once the story kicks off, it gets really intense while also being very funny and eventually deeply romantic. It's not a sexy kind of romantic, but rather a really deep emotional bond formed during difficult circumstances, which is my kind of thing. I would say that if you have an intrusive family, the first few chapters might be triggering, but it ends up being somewhat important to the plot. I don't have an intrusive family, and I was practically climbing the walls during those scenes.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Post-holiday Catchup

I took a bit of a break for the holiday week, so I have a lot to catch up on.

First, Fantastic Beasts -- I had some writing structure quibbles with it, but I did enjoy the movie. I liked the Jazz Age setting, something we don't see a lot of in fantasy, and I liked the characters. The acting was excellent. It's fun seeing a movie in that universe in which the characters were adults and already fully trained wizards, so we didn't have to go through the origin story or training. I'm curious as to how the rest of the series will go because this seemed to be largely setup to establish the threat and establish the characters.

I had a good Thanksgiving with my family. I got to see just how much of a challenge it is to get everything done and on the table in a reasonable order when I tag teamed with my mom to finish getting the dinner ready and then get it served. This is why my meals tend to be simple. It's nearly impossible to have everything ready at about the same time.

Now I have a ton of turkey leftovers. I've already used a lot of them to make some soup. I'll have to get creative with the rest. The weekend is supposed to be chilly, so maybe I'll make some pot pies.

Saturday, there was gorgeous weather, so I took a long walk and came up with the solution for a problem I've been having with the book I've been working on. I also had the clever idea of wearing my hiking socks with my sneakers, so I didn't get the blisters or rubbing I usually get when I take that long a walk.

Sunday was delightfully gray, and I was reading the newspaper while sitting on the sofa and trying to find a comfortable position when I remembered that I now have that fancy adjustable bed. It was the perfect day for a good wallow, so I hauled the newspaper in there, along with some books, raised the head and foot to create a nice cradle position, and spent the afternoon doing crosswords and reading. When the head's elevated, I'm a long way from the nightstand, so I set up a folding wooden TV table by the bed to hold my tea. It was all rather decadent. I'll have to do that more often.

Now I need to dive into work for the week. I have a book to promote, a proposal to write, and a lot of housework that I need to do to get ready for the holidays.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Up on the Rooftop

After more than a year of me complaining about the leaks in my house, things are finally being done. Yesterday, they caulked the seams in my exterior stucco, and this morning they've been working on my roof. It's all very exciting, but also very noisy. I'd already planned to go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them today, but this makes it guilt-free, as I'm not sure how much work I'd be getting done, anyway. They have to move around clay tiles, then work on the part under the tiles, and there are power tools involved.

So, I think I'm going to make a grand day out of it. I need to go to the bank, and I may go out to lunch, and then I'll catch the first matinee of the day. Maybe they'll be done by the time I get home.

I'm really excited about this movie. It's the first in the Potterverse that was written to be a movie rather than being an adaptation, which means I'm going in with no idea what happens rather than having the book just about memorized and having my own mental images already in place. It's also aimed at adults rather than at kids. And I find Eddie Redmayne an absolutely fascinating actor to watch. His face is so transparent that you can read his thoughts. The first thing I saw him in was a WWI movie called Birdsong on PBS, and he hardly spoke, but you knew everything he was thinking. I suppose it's too much to hope that they let him sing in this movie.
He's also adorably brainy and geeky in real life. His PSA defending Hufflepuffs is a thing of beauty.

He may be my poster boy for the "nice guy" hero. He's also somehow become my mental image of Lord Henry. That wasn't anywhere in my mind when I started writing those books, but lately, he's who I see -- at least, a younger version.

Ooh, it just got quiet. Too quiet. It's awfully windy to be working on the roof. Maybe I'd better go out and check. I didn't hear any screaming, but you never know.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Coming Soon

We're less than a month away from the release of the new Enchanted, Inc. book. There's also going to be a bonus that day: an Enchanted, Inc. short story! That one will be a freebie -- a holiday gift for my existing readers, but I'm also hoping that maybe it will lure in some new readers. Due to a quirk at B&N, they may be charging 99 cents for it, but I'm going to try to put the EPUB version on my web site so Nook owners can get it for free (if they know to go to my site). It should be free at Amazon.

I guess this means I'll have to update my web site, huh? I was hoping to have a new one by now, but getting sick and then focusing on getting well again sort of sidetracked me. And also, I was writing, and I'd far prefer to write than deal with business and promo stuff. But I'd better get back on that.

Meanwhile, I've started something entirely new. I'd like to get back into traditional publishing to have more of a mix of income sources (and I think that having a contract may help if I'm trying to get a mortgage sometime next year), so I'm working on a proposal for a YA fantasy novel. I got a good start, then realized I'd started in the wrong place, so I'll have to start again. Still, I don't think it was a waste because it allowed me to explore the characters and get a better sense of them. No matter how much you plan and plot, it's still a little different once you start writing. That's when they really come to life. Meanwhile, some new characters who I believe will turn out to be pivotal appeared, so I had to figure out who they were and what was up with them.

So, after doing a bit of that work yesterday, I think I'm ready to start writing again today. The new opening scene was playing out in my head when I woke up this morning. As a result, I got a very late start on my day. I didn't want to get up and break the spell when I was seeing the movie in my head.

This was going to be a bit of a retreat weekend, anyway, since it's my last free weekend of the year, and this week so far has been really busy and social. Next weekend is Thanksgiving, and then I have a string of parties and other events filling the following three weekends, then there's Christmas, and then New Year's, and I have a convention that weekend (at least I think I do. They never put me on the web site, and I never heard more after they invited me, but when I asked about it, they said they still wanted me, and yet I'm still not on the web site). I would say I can anticipate a lot of cave time in January, but I already have school visits being booked. Librarians seem to have discovered me lately.

So I guess I'd better do some writing and get more books out there!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Damsel Under Stress Reread: Chapters 14-16

I didn't realize I'd gone so long without posting on the Damsel Under Stress commentary. I guess I got sidetracked by so many other things and never quite had the time to read and think.

But I picked the book up again this morning. In Chapter 14, we're still in the middle of the disastrous dinner date at the fancy restaurant, after Katie and Owen's planned simple night out got hijacked. Amid all the wacky hijinks, there is a plot clue hidden (and that's actually something that sets up the new book). It's funny, as I was rereading this, I was thinking back to my thought process in writing it, and it was all about how the idea of the perfect date isn't a one-size-fits-all thing. A super-fancy, celebrity-filled restaurant might be great for some people but miserable for others. The comparison that came to mind was the way they come up with these "dream" dates on shows like The Bachelor (I've never actually watched, but it's difficult to escape the imagery) that sound pretty painful to me. There's this ideal of what's supposed to be romantic, but if that's not the kind of person you are, it's not going to work. Then I got to the passage where Katie has the exact same thought.

That's where a lot of the Ethelinda stuff came from, the idea that a fairy godmother who wasn't keeping up with the times would come up with some crazy ideas of what was romantic. Then when that didn't work, she might look to popular culture for ideas, and that would be equally disastrous.

And then we're back to the plot, where Katie has to temporarily lose her magical immunity in order to see what's going on with the enemy's ad campaign. This is where the magical folks could use more "normal" people on their side, since all they have are either magical people or immunes. It's easier to make an immune normal than it would be to take away magical powers, so in order to see how Idris and his gang are hiding the ads, Katie has to step up. As we learned in the previous book, this also makes her vulnerable to magic.

We get a contrast between the "dream" date and the date that's truly ideal for Owen and Katie when they have dinner at his place while watching for one of the Spellworks ads on TV. It's just burgers and TV, but they get to talk about their childhoods and interests, and it feels comfortable and genuine.

Meanwhile, they're getting ready for a costumed New Year's Eve party. I recall going through a lot of different ideas for how a really wacky magical party would go, and I settled on costumes because that creates a lot of opportunity for intrigue. Still, it can be kind of a pain coming up with a costume at a non-traditional time of year for costumes. One company I used to work for once had a costume party for Christmas, and that was a challenge. I imagine it's less difficult in New York.

And Katie has come up with a way to fight an extremely ADD villain: distract him. I actually don't remember how that plays out, so I'm looking forward to reading on.

We end with a cliffhanger in which it looks like Ethelinda might be about to spill the beans to Katie's friends about her magical life. Stay tuned (or read ahead) to see what happens next!

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Change of Bedding

I was out Friday morning buying my new bed, which was just delivered, so I missed a day posting. I managed to get a great deal on a higher-end bed (though apparently, it's the higher end of the "mid-range" and not what's truly considered "higher-end," but it was still what I liked best out of all the ones I tried). Then I had to buy new sheets, since I upgraded from a full to a queen and all my bedding is for a full. The new sheets are currently being washed. My old bed looked so tiny once I stripped it of all the bedding and mattress toppers. The new one is taller, but it also has lots of room underneath for stashing my sweater boxes and bags. I'll need to get a new bedskirt, and they now have some that don't have to go under the mattress, but rather pin to the base.

I'm thinking that the next cold, rainy weekend, I'm going to have a movie day in the new bed, since I can raise the head and foot to make it almost like a giant recliner. I'll stay in pajamas all day and watch romantic comedies (most of which I have on DVD rather than Blu-Ray, so they'll play on the machine in the bedroom).

This was also an excuse/occasion to thoroughly clean my bedroom. I was able to vacuum between the time they took away the old bed and brought in the new one, and it was scary how much junk came up. It filled the Dyson canister. I'd already done a lot of cleaning around the bed last night so that all I'd need to do was jump in and clean just the space under the bed. When I was clearing out from under the bed yesterday, I found books I didn't remember owning. I hope the new bed has the same magical book generating properties.

In other news, I finally got to do my solo in church yesterday. By the time I sang, it had becomes something of a weight because of it being postponed before, and I was so afraid of getting sick again or not being well enough. I did have a sore throat, and I was losing my speaking voice, which gave me a scare, but I got through it, and I think it went okay. I'm a raging perfectionist, and it may not have been the best I ever did it, but I think it did go well enough. People said nice things. I went out to lunch with friends afterward and ran into people from church who complimented me. Now I can relax a bit and not worry too much about my voice, though I have a follow-up with the doctor tomorrow to see what we're going to do going forward.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


I was making great progress on the book. There was all kinds of tension, and I'd built up to the first big turning point, with a major chapter-ending cliffhanger.

And then during the night after writing it, I had a "hmmm" moment because it was giving me deja vu. I thought I ought to check something in the previous book because my recollection was that a character had at least gained more of an inkling about that thing, and that might mean I needed to shade the revelation differently.

It turned out that I'd actually revealed that thing in the previous book. So there went all the tension and the big "aha!" moment. I don't think anything but the last 5,000 or so words (and only bits and pieces of that) will need to be rewritten, but it will affect shadings of everything else, so it's back to the drawing board, to a large extent.

I may actually backburner it for a little while to work on that proposal I'm developing, which has really taken off in my head. Timewise, that's more important, as I want to get it to my agent before she breaks for the holidays (and maybe that means she might get to look at it to act on early in the year), while I just want to have a finished book on this other project before everyone returns from the holidays early next year.

Since I was frustrated by the writing, I went shopping yesterday. My parents have offered to get me a new bed for Christmas, and I need to pick it out. I went to one of those mattress stores that does the scientific analysis of you to suggest the ideal bed for you. You lie on a bed and it scans you (probably for weight and height), then you get into your usual sleeping position, and it scans again, then gives you a readout of recommended mattresses.

Wow, were they all very different from what I have now. The problem was, they were all so much better than what I have, and they were all pretty close, that it was hard to tell what I liked best. It was like going to the eye doctor and she flips the little lens things around and asks which one you like better, and you can hardly tell the difference. I was surprised by how much I didn't like the Tempurpedics. I'd have thought that would have been ideal for me. I wanted to do a little more research before making a final decision, and now I'm glad because the one I liked the best in the store has terrible reviews. They almost all said it was really comfortable in the store and for the first few months, but it started sagging badly almost immediately after the store's guarantee expired and they had to deal with the manufacturer, and the manufacturer was a nightmare to deal with for the warrantee.  So, now I need to go back and look at some of the other ones that I didn't like quite as much in the store but that have much better user feedback.

I also learned that the "price match guarantee" some of the stores offer doesn't mean much because they game the system -- the same mattress may be sold under different names at different stores, but since that name isn't available elsewhere, you can't get the price matched. There was an online chart showing what the equivalents are, and it turns out that Macy's offers the same thing for a lot less. I may have to run up to Macy's and see how it goes and what they offer. I feel a little bad using the one store's electronics to tell me what to get and letting that salesman spend so much time and then running elsewhere, but I guess that's the way retail works.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Worldbuilding: The Trouble with Magic

In my writing posts, I've been talking about worldbuilding. You're doing worldbuilding whenever you write fiction, but we tend to think of it as relating to fantasy, where you're creating a different world that works in unusual ways. One of those differences is generally the existence of some form of magic, and that's one of the big pitfalls of fantasy worldbuilding. If you don't handle magic well, it can completely derail your plot. Magic can either make things too difficult for your heroes -- if the villain has it and they don't -- make things too easy for your heroes -- they can solve the whole thing with a wave of a hand -- or make your heroes look like idiots if they have the power to solve the whole thing with a wave of a hand and still go about it the hard way. If you're going to have magic in your world, you need to put some thought and planning into it. It's a really good idea to have at least a general idea of how your magical system works and what the rules and limitations are before you start writing, and then force yourself to abide by it. If you make up the magic as you go and resist codifying it into any kind of system along the way, you'll actually make things more difficult for yourself because it gets harder to come up with a plot that still works.

First, think about the source of your magic and who can use it. Where does the power come from? Is it in the atmosphere? In objects? In people? Is the ability to use magic something a person is born with? Is it something anyone can do, but some people can do better than others? Is it something that happens to a person? Is it genetic, running in families, or is it random? Does it require training? Do some people have more power than others, or is the difference in training? You don't necessarily have to spell all this out in your story, but you should probably have some rationale for which characters have magical abilities and which characters don't. You also probably want some kind of balance between the villain and the hero, enough to maintain a struggle, with some way of one side finding an advantage in the final confrontation. If one side is overpowered, it's hard to keep things going. Why doesn't the more powerful person just crush the other? Sometimes, that balance can come from the hero needing to learn and gain abilities -- he may not face the villain until he's leveled up some, might lose the earlier confrontation, then may grow some more until he's able to win. You need to build these possibilities into your magical system and think about how it plays into your characters.

Next, it will really help your plotting if there's some kind of limitation on magic use, whether it's a power supply issue, the way the magic works, or rules with real consequences. Otherwise, magic makes things too easy and drains all the suspense from the story. If all your magical characters can just wave their hands and do anything they want, non-stop, then you have to contrive ways to keep them from being effective immediately. It seems less artificial if limits are already built in. Your characters might get tired and hungry from all the power used to do magic. There may be more or less magical power in different locations. They may need to use tools, like wands, to use magic -- if your magic user is useless without a wand, it's easy to temporarily take away his power. They may need to use specific spells that require ritual or ingredients. They may need to know the incantation and motions to make a specific spell work. There may be rules about who can use what forms of magic in particular circumstances, with dire consequences if those rules aren't obeyed. If you want to really make things tough, there can be a major cost -- the magic user gives up part of her lifespan, ages, suffers pain, has to draw upon someone else's lifespan, uses up finite resources. All of these things keep people from just waving their hands and getting anything they want.

Having magic will change society in some ways. Part of that will determine -- or depend upon -- whether magic is open or secret and what the consequences are for spilling the secret. If magic is open, are the magic users in power? If not, why not, given that they have all that power? If magic is secret, the same questions apply -- are magical people secretly using their magic to get into power? If not, why not? If magic is known, what does everyone else think about it? Is it revered or feared? Have non-magical people tried to pass any laws regulating magic use? Are laws like that a reason magic is now underground, if it's secret? Does magic create a class system? How does magic affect day-to-day life? Has it affected the development of technology? How does it affect the economy if some people can create things out of thin air? What kind of transportation system is required if people can poof themselves from place to place?

One particular issue relating to magic is the possibility of magical healing. It's handy to be able to badly injure or even kill your characters and then get them back on their feet again without a lengthy recovery period, but that can also sap suspense from your story if you know that any magic user can wave a hand and heal any wound. If that's possible, why have hospitals and doctors? It works best if there are even more limits to healing than to regular magic -- that's a special magical talent, it takes certain training, it has a high energy cost, it may mend a wound but not take care of related problems like blood loss, etc. Then you can maintain some suspense as to whether a character will live or die and still have the chance to have a character healed, without guaranteeing that every character can be so easily healed and without making your characters look stupid or callous if not everyone is healed that way.

Magic can make writing easier in some respects -- I've had editors give up on nitpicking something in a book when they realize that they're dealing with a world where magic works. "A wizard did it" can be a perfectly valid explanation. But at the same time, making "a wizard did it" be plausible requires a lot of background work.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Fangirls and Portals

A while ago I was talking about the portal stories in children's fiction -- how it must have been common enough that it was considered a trope that gets spoofed, but I hadn't been able to think of anything for children other than the Narnia books. I did eventually dig up some others, and there was the mention of E. Nesbit, who got referenced in the Edward Eager books.

Well, I finally remembered to request one of the E. Nesbit books from the library (most of them seem to be in the archive warehouse, so they aren't shelved in the regular libraries and have to be requested). And I may not be able to get through the whole thing. I can see why Edward Eager sort of lampooned them. They seem to be an artifact of their particular time and place. At least, this one was. It's not so much the fantasy part that's the problem. It's the characters. I've barely made it to the fantasy part. I liked the way the characters found the magical land, but boy, are those kids insufferable. I'm not sure I'd have been able to get through this even when I was a child.

So, this little bit of research for the portal fantasy story I'm plotting (which involves a story within a story -- it's a portal fantasy that involves a portal fantasy) may have to go by the wayside. I just know of another way of getting between worlds that I'll have to avoid.

Over the weekend, I read what I suppose you could call a genre-adjacent book, the young adult novel Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The idea I'm playing with involves a character who's a fangirl of the portal fantasy book, so I wanted to see what else has been said about fan culture (I like to read any books that might get compared to my idea to make sure to differentiate mine). This book is about a college freshman who seems to be shy and withdrawn, without a lot of friends, but she has an active online life as a big-name fan fiction author for a series that's basically Not!Harry Potter. She writes epic Not!Harry/Not!Draco romances. As a college student, she's struggling with keeping up with her fan fiction while also navigating classes and relationships.

I had a rather uncomfortable response to this book. On the one hand, it does seem to accurately reflect what I've seen of fan culture. I've known way too many people exactly like the heroine (just substitute for the fandom of any real property). On the other hand, while the depiction was rather respectful, it also had a note of suggesting that she was this obsessed because she had a lot of emotional damage. She also seemed extremely disconnected with reality -- she's surprised to get an F on a college creative writing assignment because she turned in fan fiction, and she couldn't understand why her professor kept talking about how her work needed to be original when she kept insisting that the story was all hers and therefore was original, even if she borrowed the characters and situation from another writer. I've encountered fan writers who were unclear on how that works (someone once sent me a Buffy fanfic that "fixed" the Willow and Tara relationship to send to my publisher because they were sure lots of people would want to read a book about that), but it was hard to sympathize with the character when I was siding with the professor. The book seemed to go back and forth on whether all this was a positive force in the character's life or something holding her back. It was a big seller -- big enough that apparently the author published a novel that was the fan fiction story the character was writing -- but I'd be curious to know how people really involved in the fan fiction community felt about the depiction.

On the other hand, I did like the way college life and relationships were portrayed, the way friendships form in a dorm and in classes. The romantic plot was rather lovely -- a healthy, positive relationship rather than the weirdness you get with a lot of college-based romances.

It was a fun book I read quickly, though it ends up that this depiction of a fangirl is very different from the one I have living in my head. Actually, the one living in my head was somewhat inspired by a girl at my church who's just so enthusiastic about the things she loves, she manages to work them into every conversation. She was in late elementary school when I first encountered her, and she made what I think she believed to be an obscure and slightly veiled Doctor Who reference. I shocked her by replying in a way that made it obvious I got it. And then she talked my ear off with enthusiasm for having someone to talk to about her obsession. That's going to be my fangirl, the person who meets a kindred spirit and bubbles over.

Monday, November 07, 2016

My Weather Happy Place

It's a delightfully dreary Monday morning, and I'm looking forward to a good day of writing, if that antihistamine ever wears off. It seems to get worse the longer I take it, so now I have to take it right after dinner if I want to wake up at a reasonable hour and not feel groggy for several more hours after I wake up.

I had a delightful rainy Sunday afternoon yesterday. It's been ages since I had a day like that. It was perfect for spending the day reading and drinking tea. Yeah, it was somewhat work-related reading, but it was enjoyable work-related reading, so it didn't really count as work.

I also got in a little outdoors time this weekend, with a short walk in the woods by the lake. The last time I went to that park, the lake was way lower than it was supposed to be, so it was like a cliff overlooking the lake. Then the lake was flooded, so that whole area was under water for a long time. You could see on the trees where the water line was, and a lot of the trees died. Now the part that was like a cliff is pretty much just the shore. It's thrown off my whole orientation of where things are supposed to be, since I'm used to the lake being much farther away. We're getting to the time of year when it's really nice to be out and about outside. I just need to get through this week first, since I'm supposed to be singing that solo Sunday. I'll be a little less worried about protecting my voice after that, and I'll be seeing the doctor again the following Tuesday, so I'll know more about what's actually going on with me. Then maybe I can play outside some more.

I feel better in general because the weather has switched to cool and damp, which is my happy place.

Meanwhile, I need to get back to full work mode. I've been writing but haven't really been carrying out all my marketing plans. One thing my agent and I agreed I need to focus on is visibility as a fantasy author. I really don't seem to exist there other than with individuals I've met at conventions. In general fantasy groups, when people are looking for recommendations or talking about books, my name never seems to come up. I'm all but invisible in the fantasy world, as I discovered when attending the Nebulas. My readership seems to mostly come around the fringes of that, from paranormal romance, paranormal cozy mystery, paranormal chick lit, etc. That's a huge opportunity for me, a bunch of new readers who might like me who haven't bought my books yet. The trick is finding a way to get more visibility there. I already go to conventions. The Enchanted, Inc. books were well-reviewed in Locus and even got a nice feature in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I just need to figure out what more I can do to hit that target audience.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Why I Procrastinate

The tackled procrastination feels so good. It turns out that I had built up one thing in my head to be really awful, and it turned out to be something different going on than I expected. I'd received an ominous-looking envelope from the accounts receivable department of a company I have an account with, and it looked to me like one of those "you're in trouble now, missy" kinds of letters, which was weird because I couldn't think of any reason I would owe them money. I'm up to date on my bills with them. But when I got it in the mail, I really didn't want to deal with it. I forced myself to face it yesterday, bracing myself for having to make a bunch of phone calls and being put on hold for hours. I opened it and found a check. They were refunding me from an overbilling (not sure why they couldn't have credited me, but whatever). So, I didn't have to make any annoying phone calls. There was another put-off task that I think I resolved, but I may need to make a follow-up e-mail to be sure. Most of this comes from doing multiple things with the same company, but the different branches don't talk to each other in some ways while talking in other ways. Changing billing on one thing affected the billing on another thing, but no one could figure out who I needed to talk to in order to get the other thing adjusted, so I ended up having to deal separately with different departments, even if the billing all came from the one place. I was able to do that online, but I want to confirm that it went through and worked.

Whew! Is there any wonder I procrastinate stuff like that? It meant that I didn't get as much writing done as I hoped. Well, there was other business stuff, and giving input to an artist, and getting caught up on bookkeeping. Someday maybe I'll be able to afford an administrative assistant to do some of the business stuff for me. But now that I've seen the bookkeeping, that won't be anytime soon.

Which means I need to do some writing.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Secrets and Spoilers

I made my writing goal again yesterday, so I'm on target. I'm trying to take advantage of the early enthusiasm because I know there will be a time in the middle when I'm stuck or distracted or just don't want to do anything. There may be a nice day when I just want to go for a long walk. So I'm trying to get as much done as possible now when I want to do it.

I'm having fun getting to use some of my research in this part of the book, something that really did exist and was used that's coming in handy for me now. See, all that reading I did leading up to this book wasn't wasted.

There are four big secrets that are still secret in the Rebel Mechanics books. A lot of people have guessed one of them. One or two people have guessed another. I haven't heard of anyone having the slightest inkling about the other two. I've put in only subtle hints of the sort that could have a totally different meaning for one of them. The other exists only in my head, and I'm still not sure if I'm going to use it. It was there when I started writing, and it was something that came out of my research, but I'm not sure now if I want to have it be that way, and it wouldn't contradict any text if I change my mind.

I suspect that three of the secrets will have to come out in this book, all for plot reasons, though I figure one of them shouldn't be dragged out any longer because it's becoming obvious enough that if the characters don't do the math, they look pretty dumb.

It's funny when people pull me aside at conventions to whisper questions about what they've guessed. I've only confirmed any of the answers with my former editor (mostly because I had to make my case for keeping some things in the first book, pointing out that clever readers might notice something in that scene that will be important later). Otherwise, it's fun singing out, "Spoilers!"

Meanwhile, I've designated today as a Procrastination Conquering Day, in which I set aside time to tackle a bunch of little things I've been putting off. Either it will turn out to be quicker and easier than I feared, or it will justify the procrastination.

But first, I'll go find absolutely anything else to do before that. My sock drawer really needs to be reorganized.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Off to a Good Start

I got a good start on my Not Really NaNoWriMo book yesterday, in spite of frittering away the morning and running errands in the afternoon, coming in with a couple of hundred words more than my goal. I'm resisting the urge to recalculate the daily target based on that, as it's more about finishing the book than about hitting an actual word count, and I could go over or under. But I am trying to rack up word count in the early days when enthusiasm is high so I'll have a cushion for when I'm slogging through the middle or if something comes up later in the month. I tried to be realistic about days I would be writing. I included Saturdays unless I had other plans but didn't include Sundays, and I didn't include travel days around Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day itself, but I didn't give myself the entire holiday weekend, so if I get ahead of things, that's probably where that time will go.

I have choir tonight but not children's choir, so it will be a shorter day, but not as short as a usual Wednesday, so I should be able to hit my goal, but maybe not go over.

Tomorrow, though, is supposed to be cool and rainy, and I don't have to be anywhere or do anything, so I'm hoping for a great writing day.

It's always fun and a little daunting to step back into one of my fictional worlds. I was worried about finding my Verity voice after spending the summer writing Katie, but I slipped right back into the more Victorian mode. Reading Frankenstein over the weekend probably helped, as that more formal voice was in my head.

Meanwhile, I went to the library for early voting this morning and picked up a few books that may be references for the proposal I'm playing with.

It's nice to really be back in work mode after being sick. Now I just need to get back on all the business and marketing stuff that I've let slide.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016


Part of my Halloween weekend fun was watching Young Frankenstein for the first time in ages (probably since I've been adult enough to get all the jokes), and then I realized that I'd never actually read the original novel of Frankenstein. I've seen the old silent movie, I've seen numerous spoofs, I've seen more recent adaptations that were closer to the book, but I hadn't read the book. I decided this was as good a time as any to rectify that, and since it's in public domain, I got it on my tablet.

I have to say that for a novel that's considered one of the early works of horror, it wasn't that scary. I have to agree with those who classify it as science fiction. It really is more about the science and the implications of the science than it is about the scares. There's suspense, it's atmospheric, and some of the stuff happening is horrible, but I didn't find it all that scary. Also, most of the "classic" movie interpretations are so thinly based on the book as to be entirely different entities -- the look and behavior of the creature, the scope, the events, the time period.

I was a little amused by the very 19th century story telling style, something I'm coming to think of as Novel Inception, where it's a story within a story within a story within a letter. That seems to have been a common thing in early novels, where they couldn't just tell a story. It had to be a letter describing events. Sometimes, it's a letter describing a story told to the letter writer. In this case, it was letters describing events that led to meeting someone who told a story, and part of that story was a story told to that storyteller. At one point in the book, it's a letter relating a story told to the letter writer by someone who's telling a story someone else told him.

Now I think I need to read Dracula, since that probably bears little resemblance to all the adaptations that have become famous. Maybe next Halloween.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Back in Work Mode

I'm considering myself to be more or less back to "normal" and therefore will start going back to a normal routine. I've had several nights of solid sleep, and the coughing is almost gone. That's about three weeks earlier than it normally would have been without treatment, so that's a win. I've already started doing some housework to get things back in shape after I let them really slide while I was sick.

I'm not going to do National Novel Writing Month officially -- I'm not going to register or anything like that -- but I am going to do it with the next Rebel Mechanics book. I've written the prologue, but everything else will be written that month. Based on the days I have available to write and am likely to write, I'll need to write about 3,200 words a day to reach my likely target word count. I usually try to do about 4,000 to 5,000 words a day, so this is doable. One of life's great joys is recalculating the daily target word count (or number of days required to write) based on going over the target word count.

Meanwhile, I did a lot of development on that idea for a book proposal. I've built up the world, named it, come up with a timeline, and know what the underlying issue is. I'm going to work on that today, in addition to a bunch of errand and business-type stuff, and that will be what I work on in my "spare" time this month so I can get a proposal to my agent before the holidays.

Which means I have work to do, and I'd better get to it!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Breathing Again

I spent yesterday morning at the doctor, getting checked for that nagging cough that I get every time I get sick. I seem to have a very mild asthma that's triggered by illness, but at the moment, they're hitting it with a lot of stuff to get rid of the cough, and then we'll dig into exactly what's going on. As a result, I have a rather complicated medication schedule. I already feel a lot better. There's still some coughing, but not like there was, and I got a decent night's sleep last night, for the first time in ages. It was funny, at first they weren't thinking about asthma because my lung function test came in at 114 percent of "normal." I pointed out that I'm a singer, so I'm not quite normal. Sure enough, when they had me breathe in some medication and tested function again, it really did improve, which was a sign that there was something that needed to be treated.

I'm still going to be taking it easy this weekend to get completely well. I'm probably going to spend a lot of time brainstorming because a lurking idea that I think might make a good book proposal has risen up to demand attention, suddenly a lot more fully formed than it was, and I may develop it enough to give my agent a proposal to work with while I'm busy writing the new Rebel Mechanics book.

This is totally not an excuse to spend the weekend watching movies and reading relevant research books.

It looks like I'm going to be staycationing this year because every time I try to block out time that I could get away, something arises in those days, so I can't even find three consecutive days to go anywhere. I like to have at least that much time, so that there's a whole day that isn't a travel day. The solo I didn't get to do when I was sick got moved to the Sunday of the weekend I'd been planning for, and then there was an event that's on the border of work and fun that Saturday, so that turned out to be a good opportunity to go to that event. Then I'd thought about going away the following Monday and coming back on Wednesday in time for choir, but then there's an important HOA meeting on that Tuesday, and my follow-up doctor visit is that Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, I more than used up any "vacation" time while I was sick and not very productive. So, what I may do instead is give myself time to do some fun things around town, as opportunities arise. If it's a pleasant day and I'm feeling up to it, I can go hiking or walking. I may visit downtown and go to a museum.

But first, I need to get well, as I just don't feel like doing much right now. I'm hoping that tackling this thing that turns even a minor cold into an epic ordeal will end up making me more productive. Fewer days sick means more days writing, which means more books.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Worldbuilding: Using Your World

I've been talking about worldbuilding, getting into the physical location and the society. Now it's time to start using this world. After all, you're not writing an encyclopedia entry. You're writing a story, so it's more about the things that happen in this world than it is about the world itself.

A lot of how your worldbuilding plays into your storytelling depends on your creative process. Sometimes, you build the world, then figure out the possible stories. Sometimes you come up with the story, then build the world where it can happen. You may come up with characters first, then figure out what kind of world they live in, and then figure out the story. You may come up with the story, think of the characters needed to tell the story, then figure out what kind of world they might live in. Or it may be a series of layers -- a bit of each, building as you simultaneously develop the world, story, and characters, with each new idea in one area sparking new ideas in other areas.

However you go about it, the world itself will show in the larger societal conflicts and in the interpersonal conflicts. You'll see that in wars and the reasons for them, in the crises that are affecting your characters (drought, natural disasters, wars, curses), the places your characters need to travel to obtain the things they need, etc. And it will show in the skills your characters have (or don't have), the resources they have, the resources they need, the way they see and interact with other people. It will show in the laws that constrain their actions and the consequences for violating those laws, as well as what the characters have to do to avoid those consequences or make others pay consequences for their actions (is there a legal system, or do you have to take justice into your own hands?). Your world will even show in what your characters eat, what they wear, where and how they live, the language they use, their superstitions and beliefs, their attitude toward authority, and how that compares and contrasts to other characters who might be from a different culture or class.

A lot of how your world is conveyed will depend on how we're seeing it. If you've ever traveled with another person and both of you had cameras, you might notice that each of you has a very different set of photos from the same locations because you notice or are interested in very different things. The perspective of the point-of-view character makes a big difference. Imagine a stranger coming into town and taking stock of his surroundings. If he's a thief, he'll notice how much wealth there is, what objects worth stealing there are, how much security there is, what the consequences might be for thievery, and what possible exit routes there might be. A poor person from a rural area might see even a relatively poor town as wealthy compared to her experience. A wealthy person from a big city may see the same town as poor, shabby, and provincial. A seamstress may notice the clothing, colors, fabrics, and workmanship, while a metalsmith wouldn't notice any of that, instead focusing on the ironwork on the buildings and the armor worn by the guards. A cook may pay attention to the cooking smells coming from houses and the variety of foods available in the market. A hungry person will mostly notice food. A weary person will home in on inns. You get the idea. What would your viewpoint character notice or care about in the parts of the world he visits? If it's not the things the reader needs to know to understand the plot, then you may need to adjust the circumstances -- change the character or find a way to create a situation that will force the character to notice the things you want to convey. I think this is one reason why thieves are such popular fantasy characters -- their work requires them to notice a lot of details, they pay attention to the wealthy as potential targets, and they move among the lower classes. That gives the writer a lot of opportunities for describing the world through the characters' eyes.

One challenge in conveying a world is that a character isn't naturally going to take note of the ordinary. If things are going on just like they always have, most people aren't going to have an interior monologue noting the ordinary details. You want to avoid the "As you know, Bob" conversation in which two characters tell each other things both of them already know. Most people don't sit around talking about the history of the place where they live or think in detail about how a device they use daily works. One good way around this is the fish-out-of-water character, a newcomer who doesn't know these things and who can ask questions -- why does everyone do that when the king passes, why does this city fear that city, how do you use magic, etc. That can either be your viewpoint character who's the newcomer and has to learn the ways of this new situation, or your viewpoint character could be the veteran who has to explain things to a newcomer. The other way to describe the ordinary is to break it. You wouldn't have a character who routinely uses a machine think in depth about how it works when it's working normally, but if it stops working, he may think about what it's supposed to do while figuring out what's wrong. If something unusual happens to break routine, then people might think about what usually happens and what's different about today. If it's a dry climate and it almost never rains, people may not think about the lack of rain, the heat, and the dust, because that's just the way it is. If it rains unexpectedly, then they can notice the difference and notice when things return to normal. Breaking the usual also adds conflict and tension, so it drives the story while describing the world rather than just being description.

Ideally, the worldbuilding should be a seamless part of your story and characters so readers just feel immersed. You want them to understand the world enough to understand the story and for it to feel like a real place. You don't want to become so enamored of your world that you stop the action to tell us all about it.

Next, I'll deal with the special case of worlds that involve magic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Movie in my Mind

I thought I was going to start writing the book yesterday, but then I realized that I didn't really have an opening scene. I just had the opening situation. I thought I kind of had an idea what might happen in the opening, but that felt too static. Then there was something else I thought I might do, but that didn't work, either. I did some brainstorming and came up with an entirely new option that fits in all the things I wanted. It needs a little more development, but I'm starting to see the "movie" of the book in my head. When that happens, I know I'm on the right track. So maybe I'll get that opening written today.

I also managed to sing some yesterday, even the high notes. I still cough a bit when I try to sing too much (and I have an appointment for an asthma screening on Thursday), but the rest of the cold symptoms seem to have gone away.

I'm considering this a valid reason not to sign up to volunteer at the Halloween carnival on Wednesday night. I figure that standing outside and being around lots of kids would be a bad idea while I'm trying to get well. That means I get sort of a night off without children's choir, though I will still have to go to regular choir rehearsal.

And now to work ...

Monday, October 24, 2016

Autumning Elsewhere

I managed to sing in the choir concert last night. I think I even got all the notes. I'm not sure how pretty it was, and I definitely wouldn't have been up to singing a solo, but I did get through it all. I would be doing a lot better, but the ragweed levels shot up, and so now on the tail of a cold/cough/whatever, I've got a bad allergy attack. I've decided that my new grand plan in life is to get to the point where I can "autumn" elsewhere, in a place that actually has an autumn and that has lower ragweed levels. It tends to not be so bad when it's cool and damp, so I need to follow the cool and damp. I think I'd be a lot healthier overall if I were away from Dallas for September and October. I think my writing productivity would go up because that kind of weather energizes and inspires me, and I'd get more work done if I were healthy, so it might even end up paying for itself.

We had a day or so of cool, fallish weather, but I'm back to sitting around the house in a tank top and haven't yet put the real comforter back on the bed, and it's almost November. The leaves haven't started turning. At this rate, we may start getting fallish around Thanksgiving.

I wrote the first words of the new book on Friday, the prologue. Today, I'm going to make myself start in earnest. In order to afford to autumn elsewhere, in addition to buying a new house and moving, I need to write like a fiend for the next few months. It's time to get out the Word Count M&Ms.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Getting Started

I got a really good start on plotting the new book yesterday and may even try writing words today. I have the opening planned and know the main story goal. I have a good sense of what the ending will be and what the midpoint should be. Since starting with that much and then winging it from there worked so well in the last book I wrote, I'm tempted to try it again, doing my plotting a little at a time.

I am a little ashamed at how long it took me to remember that I needed to figure out what the goal was. I was trying to plot and coming up with events, then realized that I didn't know what the main character wanted to accomplish and what the main story question was. That was my struggle in writing the previous book in this series. I was midway through when I realized that's what I was missing. I didn't have a good throughline because of that, and it took a lot of rewriting to fix it. It should help that I know it now.

I think I'm going to keep the newspaper articles at the beginning as a way to recap the previous books. It's a device that fits with the story, and it's a good way to remind readers what happened before without having to insert too much of that into the narrative. I'm reading a book now that's a sequel to something I read last year, and I'm having a hard time keeping up with it because I didn't remember all the details of events. The author did eventually weave enough information in to remind me, but it would have been nice to have more of a refresher up front.

Now I just need to get my brain back in order enough to string words together.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Catching-Up Time

I made it through children's choir last night. The kids were actually surprisingly good. I don't know if the more challenging ones were tired and behaving better or if I had that good a lesson so they were engaged rather than acting up, but the usual challenge didn't have to be taken outside and only one other kid had to have a time out in the hall when he got a little overexcited. Now I just have three more sessions this semester. Next week is the Halloween carnival, then the week after that is the children's worship service, then I have two weeks, then Thanksgiving, and then one week before we take a break for the holidays. I can do three lesson plans.

I also found out that instead of getting one of the grad students to fill in on my solo, the choir just did something else, a piece that's familiar enough they were able to just run through it Sunday morning. Which means I still have to sing it, if I ever get my voice back entirely. It turns out that doing this helped the choir director better align some of the pieces he had planned because he was having second thoughts about the piece he had planned for that Sunday. I've got about a month now to get well and get back in shape.

I feel like I let a lot of stuff pile up this week that I should have been doing but couldn't concentrate on. Maybe today I can start getting to it all. I need to write some cover copy and do some work toward all my branding stuff. And brainstorm a book so I can plot it and start writing.

So I guess I'd better get on that, huh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Revolutions are Hard

Yesterday, I took a look at the synopsis I wrote for what I had then planned as a trilogy of Rebel books, and wow, I went pretty far astray on my plans. I did stick to the planned plot for the first half of book two, but then went on a totally different tangent and ended up in a different place. Meanwhile, I didn't even get to the stuff that I'd planned to get to that needs to happen. Book three may end up being the second half of my planned book 2, which means I might have a four-book trilogy. But then I've heard that it's better to have series with odd numbers of books, so I may need to go to five. I guess I'll have to see how this book shapes up.

Basically, what it comes down to is that it's very hard to have a revolution -- something more than just an uprising. Creating a new country takes more than just the armed revolt. You have to have something in place to run the new country and make it work. And you have to get a lot of people on board, at all levels of society. That's one of the things that was fairly unique about the real American revolution. It involved participation from the landed elites down to ordinary people, all working together. The ordinary people might have had an uprising but probably wouldn't have been able to put together a national government. The elites had the government and the Declaration of Independence but wouldn't have been able to win the revolution without the ordinary people. That kind of cooperation among classes was unlikely in British society at that time.

Now I need to move that kind of thing into the Gilded Age, which had its own kind of class consciousness, even in the real history. There were massive divides between rich and poor then, with the rich people being really, really rich and the poor people being extremely poor. There was social movement possible, though, with some of those very rich people having come from next to nothing. They had a little trouble breaking into the upper crust, in spite of their wealth. So, how bad would it have been if the British class structure were still in place and the upper class had a physical difference -- magic -- that separated them from the rank and file? And that's where the idea for these books came from.

So, to complete this series, I need to progress things to the point that they're able to have a successful revolution and put together a government that might actually work. The fun thing about alternate history is that I can fix some of the things that went "wrong" with our history.

I have more brainstorming and plotting to do today before I attempt to go deal with children's choir. I may go to adult choir rehearsal to listen, but singing is still out of the question.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Woefully Underprepared

I got well enough yesterday to actually manage some sitting and thinking. I made a list of things that could or should happen in this next book, and a few scenes started to come to mind. I'm feeling a bit better today, though I had a rather rough night, so I'm hoping to do more brainstorming work this afternoon. My pattern seems to go that I need to go lie down and rest a bit after breakfast, then feel well enough to get up and do something, then need to rest again, then have a few hours of feeling pretty good, and then later at night I feel really tired and that's when the coughing kicks in.

During this afternoon's up-and-at-'em phase, I'm hoping to make a run to Target and Kroger because I was woefully underprepared for illness. I was out of most of the cold/flu medication I usually keep on hand, and I didn't have much good "sick" food handy. Fortunately, I'd made a vat of vegetable soup a few weeks ago and had some in the freezer, but I didn't have any chicken soup or ingredients for chicken soup. I have this weird thing of not being able to eat canned chicken noodle soup, mostly because that's what they usually give you in recovery after day surgery as the test for whether you'll be able to keep anything down. Supposedly, it's gentle on the stomach enough to be given on an empty stomach. But I tend to have a delayed reaction to anesthesia, so let's just say that after they've decided I'm fine and send me home, things get unpleasant in the car, and that's now what I associate with canned chicken noodle soup. Now I can only manage to eat the kind that's dry that you mix with water, or else I do a mix of chicken broth and chicken stock (I find that soup made with just broth is too weak, but with just stock it's too strong) and throw some fine noodles and frozen peas and carrots in, maybe some bits of chicken breast if I have any handy. I also ran out of multivitamins, which I probably need to make up for not having much appetite right now.

My aim for this week is to get well enough to sing in this weekend's choir concert. We're doing a Schubert mass, and I've put a lot of work into learning it. I'd hate to miss yet another singing thing because of this illness. At the moment, I can talk for a little while without coughing, but singing is out of the question.

But brainstorming is going to happen today. I have a book to plot.