Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Happens when You Don't Make Your Goals? You Keep Going, Of Course #WriterWednesday #amwriting #goals

About a week ago I started prepping my blog posts for 2017, including my yearly writing goals... And that got me to thinking about my 2016 goals, and one goal in particular that I am not going to achieve. I'd planned to release five novels this year, but that just won't be happening.

I started off strong, and released Changing Scenes on January 5. The Virgin Queen released on April 5, and Copper Veins FINALLY came out on July 27. And then...crickets. The other two titles I'd intended to release this year were Changing Fate, the third installment in my contemporary romance series, Changes, and Rise of the Deva'shi, the third Chronicle of Parthalan. After I was done being mad at myself for not making these goals, I took a step back and tried to figure out what happened.

In the case of Changing Fate, there were a few things going on. In all honesty Changing Scenes came out way too quickly (Changing Teams released October 29, 2015, and Changing Scenes hit the shelves on January 5, 2016), and I never got the chance to properly promote it.  Add that to the fact that I have two other currently-releasing series, am querying a fourth, am in grad school full time, and have the Wonder Twins, husband, and pets to wrangle, and, well, I think you know why Changing Fate isn't coming out until next year. Oy.

The situation is a bit different for Rise of the Deva'shi. Even though this is the third Chronicle of Parthalan, it was originally released back in 2009. (Long story. Someday, when y'all have insomnia, I'll tell you all about it.) So it was supposed to re-release this year, being that Bellatrix Press picked up the entire series. Everything was lined up, and then... well, I did a thing.

I was supposed to hand over the manuscript to the editor by August 1. In the meantime I'd been reworking and tweaking away, and I kept getting stuck on this one section. It didn't really fit with the overall tone of the book, and our hero, Aeolmar, was behaving out of character. There were some good scenes in that passage, and some awesome bits of dialogue, but in the end it had to go.

So, the day before the manuscript was due, I cut 24,000 words.

Yes, twenty four THOUSAND.

As you can imagine, this turn of events meant that the manuscript was delivered somewhat later than promised, hence the delayed release date. But you know what? I'm glad I chopped out that part of the story. Now my editor is concentrating on the actual meat of the novel, not trying to make a few bits of dialogue and weird scenes fit into the overall narrative. This means that when Rise of the Deva'shi is released, it will be a stronger story. Since I took my time with Changing Fate, it will be a stronger story, too.

Your take-away from all of this is DON'T RUSH YOUR WRITING. I don't recommend making huge plot changes the day before your deadline, either, but if you need more time don't be afraid to ask for it. The story takes as long as it takes. And you do want to put out the best story possible, right?
 ProvostHeirToTheSun  Heir to the Sun is currently on sale for 99 cents here: http://amzn.to/2cSkNSx

 My next appearance will be at Bing Comic Con in Springfield, MA on October 22: http://www.bingcomiccon.org/

StrangeAuthorsSign up for my mailing list here and get a free ebook anthology, Strange Authors!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Writer Wednesday - Things To Consider Before Submitting Your Manuscript #amwriting #amediting #WedmesdayWisdomForWriters

Hey there writers! Today I'd like to discuss things that you need to have ready when submitting your manuscript, but many writers overlook. It's easy enough to do, since we typically spend so much time polishing our work to perfection, but every item I've listed below is absolutely essential, if not for the initial query then for the final product. Of note, these guidelines are for fiction projects. Nonfiction book proposals are a whole different blog post!
  1. A tag line, also called a hook or a log line - your book will need something catchy that draws the reader in.
  2. Front cover - while no one's expecting you to send in cover mock ups--in fact, many publishers actively discourage it--you need to have a clear idea of how you'd like the cover to look. Otherwise, if the publisher asks you for suggestions and you reply that you're cool with whatever they come up with, you might be stuck with an image that doesn't properly represent your book.
  3. Back cover - the text on the back cover--usually referred to as the back cover matter or blurb--is your one page opportunity to convince a reader to pick up your book. It needs to be concise, interesting, and leave enough clues that the reader needs to read the book to find out what happens. It's your first opportunity to make that all-important emotional connection with your reader.
There are many more items we could discuss, but these three items--tag line, front cover and back cover--are the meat of your final product. Now let's see some of these concepts in action, using one of my books, Heir to the Sun, as an example. Below is the cover, tag line in bold, and the back cover matter:

  A mad king. An escaped slave. One warrior to save the realm... b3177-magnetWhen Asherah, stripped of both her memory and her dignity, learns that King Sahlgren is responsible for her torment it nearly breaks her. Instead, she leads her fellow slaves to freedom. More prisons are scattered across Parthalan, and Asherah vows to burn them all.

 Caol'nir, a warrior descended from the gods, is sworn to serve and defend the king. Then a priestess is murdered, and Caol'nir learns that Sahlgren is to blame. Determined to stop the king, sacred oath or no, Caol'nir joins Asherah's rebellion.

 What Caol'nir doesn't know is that Sahlgren has promised the demon lord a woman of rare and singular beauty, a woman whose abilities are rumored to rival the sun god’s themselves…a woman Caol’nir knows all too well.

 Now as to how the awesomeness we see above us came to be, I started with the tag line. I wanted something simmering with tension that would draw the reader in. As for the back cover matter, I wanted to give the reader the barest taste of the plot, and the core issues our heroes are trying to solve. And as for the amazing cover by Veronica Jones, I knew that I wanted an action scene, and I knew which characters I wanted to feature.  I provided Veronica with the character descriptions, and gave her a few scenes to pick from, and voila! There you have it, the three things I plot out long before my manuscript is complete.

What work-ahead items are on your list - marketing, platform building, ordering swag? Tell us in the comments!

Heir to the Sun is currently on sale for 99 cents here: http://amzn.to/2cSkNSx

 My next appearance will be at Bing Comic Con in Springfield, MA on October 22: http://www.bingcomiccon.org/

StrangeAuthorsSign up for my mailing list here and get a free ebook anthology, Strange Authors!  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Writer Wednesday - Take Care Of Yourself #WednesdayWisdomForWriters #amwriting #wellness

Recently, I was discussing con crud with a writer friend. What’s con crud, you ask? I assure you, it’s just as gross as it sounds.

 This ailment got its vivid name because it tends to pop up among conference and convention goers a few days after the event in question has ended. Typical symptoms include congestion, cough, and a general feeling of malaise. I know, makes you want to sign up for even more conferences, amiright? 

For years I thought that con crud was the inevitable result of being packed into a hotel or other public facility, breathing in the same recycled air as hundreds if not thousands of others, subsisting on stale coffee and cookies, and sleeping less than usual. Many anecdotal cures promise to cure the crud, ranging from taking high doses of vitamin C to eating raw garlic. They never worked, at least not for me.

 But what if con crud wasn’t inevitable? What if by making a few small changes to my pre-con routine, I could avoid con crud altogether?

 This called for science, and its buddy, research. In true mad scientist fashion, I used myself as a test subject.

 I put my plan in motion shortly before I attended Necon this past July. During the week leading up to the event, I slept a full eight hours every night, and took at least one nap per day. I doubled my water intake, eliminated alcohol, and made sure to consume vegetables and protein at every meal. Basically, for a week I behaved like a normal healthy person, not my usual overstressed, pretzel-munching, coffee-guzzling self. And guess what?

 I didn’t get con crud!

 By resting, keeping myself hydrated, and eating as well as I could manage, I got my body into the best condition it could possibly be in BEFORE the con. While at the con I still drank the stale coffee, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough, but I didn’t get con crud. In fact, after four days at Necon I didn’t even have my usual post-con fatigue. In short, I felt great.

 So, what does this have to do with writing? Quite a bit, actually. First of all, your creative impulses are a higher level function than talking or moving around or breathing, so when you’re not feeling 100% your body naturally diverts resources and energy to where it’s needed most.  If you imagine your creative process as the top 10% of your energy, you can (probably) visualize what I mean. And have you ever tried writing when you’re sick or tired? It’s not easy.

 Therefore, the better shape we keep ourselves in, the better our creative output will be. I’m not saying you should live like a monk, and ingest nothing  but spinach and water and sunlight. Just take the time to take care of yourself, and know your limits. If you have a big event, a deadline looming on the horizon, or are taking part in a writing challenge (ya’ll didn’t think I’d forget to mention NaNoWriMo, did you?) be cognizant of your habits. You’ll never make your word count if you’re too tired to type.

 Do you have any tip on avoiding con crud? Tell us in the comments!

 I'll be at Whipowill Stables for their open house on September 18, selling books and playing with horses. Learn more about the event here

. StrangeAuthorsSign up for my mailing list here and get a free ebook anthology, Strange Authors!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Writer Wednesday: It’s Time To Talk About NaNoWriMo #writerwednesday #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

Here we are on the last day of August, with summer winding down and the kids returning to school. Right now I'm looking ahead to November, specifically NaNoWriMo. Knowledge I've written about NaNo before, but here's a description in a nutshell: You write a first draft of a novel (50,000 words, which breaks down to 1,667 words per day) in 30 days, during the month of November. Hence, National Novel Writing Month = NaNoWriMo. Sounds daunting, right? Actually, it's totally doable, and I should know. I've been participating in NaNo for years, and I always make my word count. My personal best is 66k in 19 days, but there were a few extenuating circumstances there: I didn't pay my cable bill, and I had no internet for half the month. It was a wonder Facebook survived without me. Lesson the first: reducing/eliminating distractions has a positive effect on word count. The other tip I can't stress enough is getting all of your pre-work out of the way before November 1. What is pre-work? Well, your outline, for one. Also, if your story concept needs any sort of research--be it places, dates, obscure languages--do it now. when November 1 hits you want to hit the ground running, not get bogged down reading semi-factual Wikipedia pages. Lesson the second: research now, write like the dickens later. Something else I do to keep me on track is engage a NaNo buddy. Your buddy can help you by critiquing plot points, helping you out when the story hits a rough patch, or just by commiserating and sheering you on. My NaNo buddy this year is Barry *waves* and we've already had a few chat sessions to talk about our projects. He's working on a horror novel with a fricken' AWESOME concept, and I'm going to cobble together a retelling of Medusa and other Greek myths. Which means that our projects will never, ever be in competition for the same venue. Side benefit! Lesson the third: get a support group/person/houseplant. There's no need to go it alone! Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is tough, but any serious writer can make this goal. If you feel like you need a challenge to get yourself back on track, or just want to revel in writing something new, I say give NaNo a go. You might surprise yourself. afe12-frontOh, and that 66k I wrote in 19 days? It's a real book - Changing Teams! Check it out here!   See that, if I can win NaNo, and get the resulting project published, you can too :)   Are you planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Tell me in the comments!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Writer Wednesday – Always Spring For The Good Shirts #AmWriting #Marketing #Promo #WednesdayWisdom

Today we’re going to talk about something that’s just as important to successful writers as proper grammar and strong characterization: making a good first impression. This can be done in many ways, and several of them have nothing to do with the actual quality of your writing. Now, don’t for a moment think that I’m suggesting your writing should be anything but top notch, and polished until it’s and perfect as you can get it. But let’s face it, the writing isn’t always the first impression someone has of an author. There are many other ways to make contact with new readers, either via a website, social media, personal appearances, or swag. Yes, swag matters. A lot. Let me tell you about my husband. He’s a rock star (locally, anyway) which means that we have an abundance of band t-shirts in our house. You know the shirts I’m talking about – they start out black with vibrant designs silk screened onto them. After a few washes, the fabric  fades and possibly pills, and the design cracks and flakes off. Whenever that happens, you know the band settled for the cheap shirts. What difference does this make? Well, out of sight out of mind, for one; the main purpose of swag is so people have a handy little reminder of who you are, and what you do. And if your swag disintegrates or looks sub-par after regular use or wear, that doesn’t leave the best impression. Sometimes we hit the nail on the head, and get swag that is both well designed and long-lasting.  I worked at a liquor store over ten years ago, and one of the sales representatives gave me a Magic Hat shirt. I’ve been wearing that shirt almost weekly since then, and while the design is faded it’s still legible. Even better, the fabric hasn’t shrunk or thinned out to nothing. In short, Magic Hat sprung for the good shirts. What does this mean for us authors? First and foremost, swag should be well designed. If you know your way around graphic design programs there’s nothing wrong with designing things yourself. There’s also nothing wrong with hiring someone who knows what they’re doing—remember, you can reuse the same designs again and again, so consider that in your cost benefit analysis. As for printing, if you don’t have a nearby print shop a quick internet search will reveal a plethora of online retailers. Don’t be the author with the home-printed bookmarks and crooked logo. Trust me on this. By being choosy about our swag—and making it as professional-looking as possible—you strengthen your brand and appeal to a wider audience. There are all sorts of articles out there advising authors how to strengthen their brand, and professional, well-designed swag is an easy way to stand out from the crowd. What do you think about swag? Love it, hate it, or collect it? Tell me in the comments below! jen2

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Virgin Queen, book 2 of The Chronicles of Parthalan, on sale for 99 cents

That's right, the second Chronicle of Parthalan is on sale for 99 cents, but only for a limited time. This is s great opportunity to revisit Parthalan and Asherah - but you need to act fast, since the price goes back up on August 13. And stay tuned for updates on the next installment, Rise of the Deva'shi, will be available by year end. Click to purchase---> http://amzn.to/2aJqfoE virgin_queen_final-draft_text2   A broken queen. A friendship mired in deceit. Can one man from the desert help hold the realm together? Asherah, Queen of Parthalan and Lady of Tingu, has led her people through eight centuries of prosperity. That peace shatters when Mersgoth, the mordeth thought long dead, attacks Teg’urnan. In the aftermath a new warrior emerges: Aeolmar, a man as secretive as he is deadly. Asherah and Aeolmar race across Parthalan in pursuit of Mersgoth, and track the beast to the High Desert. While they're gone, Harek, now Prelate of Parthalan, conspires with the Dark Fae against the elves...Against Leran, the king of the elves and Asherah's son in all but blood. Will Asherah see the truth of Harek before it's too late, or will he bring down the fae once and for all? ***********************************************************************   389fb-bellatrix  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Live today - COPPER VEINS, book three of the Copper Legacy @SpencerHillP #urbanfantasy #fantasy #newrelease #coppergirl

jen2 Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble Sara’s pretty sure her life is perfect. Not only are she and Micah finally married, her father, who’d been missing since the Magic Wars, has been found. Actually, he just strode up to the manor’s front door, but whatever. Sara knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. But Baudoin Corbeau isn’t content to return to family life. He’s decided that he will be the force of change in the Mundane world, and lead the Elemental resistance to victory with his children at his side. What’s worse, Baudoin doesn’t approve of Sara’s marriage, and makes every attempt to separate her from Micah. After a visit to the Mundane realm leaves Sara, Max and Sadie imprisoned by the Peacekeepers, Sara’s doubts creep to the surface. Is her father right? Does she belong in the Mundane realm, not the Otherworld? Is Micah really the right man--make that elf--for her? Was marrying him a mistake? copperveinsteaser3 New to the series? Comment below for a chance to win the book that started it all, Copper Girl! Happy reading :) copperveinsbook3