Monthly Archives: August 2013

Status update – What’s happening on my keyboard ‘write’ now [Oh! so punny!]

So, my summer was not as productive as I would have hoped due to some circumstances that were partially in my control but that I let get away from me for a while.

but! I’m back on track! what’s going on? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED:

I just finished reading “2K to 10K” about writing faster and I got some really good tips! If anyone out there is looking for some ideas on how to punch up their numbers, I recommend it. What does it boil down to? WORK – pre-planning, pre-plotting and knowing what you’re writing before you sit down so that you don’t waste your writing time staring at the keyboard wondering ‘What Happens Next?” I feel like I knew this but I needed to see it written out for me and explained and this book was excellent at that.

I’ve been working on Book 2 of my Covencraft series [working title Counter-Hex] and while I know how it ends, I didn’t have it all fleshed out. To be clear, I don’t like to overplot because I like my characters to have room to do what they may feel is necessary and I won’t always know what that is until I start writing. But I do like to have certain beats to hit and I didn’t have all those set in my head. After reading the 2K book, I sat myself down and started ‘plotting’… and realized I kind of didn’t have a system for it, officially. My first step was to find “the System”

When I submitted Trial by Fire to Fable Press, I had to give a one-page synopsis and I found a great site that helped me do that. So I thought – dayammmmm I should do that for book 2 BEFORE i write it and then poof! I will know what I’m doing. This me be surprising to people who aren’t writers. Like, how did you write a book without knowing what you were doing? Like I said, I know how stuff ends, I just don’t always know how I’m going to get there. It’s worked out for me in the past but it’s been painful at times. I want to write less painfully! so I’m taking steps to make it happen.

I’ve also been playing with another story. I want to put it on Wattpad, but I just don’t know if it’s going to be a YA or if it’s going to be New Adult, or maybe neither? It feels like a YA [when I get the character voice I’m looking for] but then the plot I had in mind for it [which legitimately came from a dream I had] doesn’t work for a YA book, so I’m sort of torn. But I think on Wattpad you can put stuff up and ask for help? IDK, I’m not sure how that all works.

And of course, my other love, fanfic. Yes, lovelies, I’m still writing it. No, you can’t have my fandom name. But if you’re in the fandoms I’m in, you might be able to guess who I am based on my writing/posts.

So that’s what’s happening – 3 WIPs [works in progress] with the possibility of me re-working an existing work.

And that’s all the shrimp there is

 

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Letters from the Dogs

So, my sister and I are still very much like children. We sometimes have the combined mental capacity of 10 year olds. We amuse ourselves more than any one else with our antics.

One of the things we like to do when one of us is away, is write each other Letters From the Dogs. We have three dogs and tend to miss the little rats when we’re gone. Since we’re generally not on vacation with each other, one of us is still at home on dog duty while the other is away. Let’s see if you can match the dog to their letters. 😉

 

L. Beans

IMG_0072IMG_1357 from top to bottom: Lola, Rocky, Portia

Letters from when Jennifer was gone about 3 days:

Dearest Mother,
Your absence is like a burr in my fur; Obscured to others eyes, but quite noticeable to myself.
I am eating fine now, I thank you for your concerns.
There has been much riff raff in the neighborhood, but I remain ever diligent in reporting any shenanigans I see.
Fresh poultry was served as a snack yesterday. it was very tasty.
Dinner tonight was quite bountiful as we received two servings. I am sure you had something to do with it.
The manservant, Mark, came today to take the dogs for their sojourn. I do not know why he insists I accompany them, but he is quite adamant that I do.
Warmest Regards,

Mummy Jennifer,
Park is fun. I like to sit in the shade. WE got TWO helpings for dinner tonight, TWO. I didn’t even need to beg pork off G-ma afterward. Just went outside and lay in the shady spot by the lilac bush.  Good times.
We got chicken yesterday. I was just sitting there and it started flying. I ate the skin and the dark meet and other bits mummy margarita didn’t want. then she threw the rest out. Crazy! Who does that?

Mumsies,
We gots TWO DINNERS tonight!
Perhaps you have noticed how shinies my coat is? it’s cuz we gets fish oil in our food now. Makes me silky smooth. I like it.
And we got chicken too.
I’m a little bit sleepies right now, so I better go have my late evening nap.

Letters from when Jennifer was gone for the whole month of August
Dearest Mother
Mother Margarita slept in your room the other night. I don’t know why she thought she had the right, but there you have it. She found the quilt somewhat bothersome and took it off and put it on the dresser. She just made that change like she owned the place. It was most distressing. I have not been spending full nights in our room, but quite often take myself downstairs for a little while, enjoying the silence.
There is much afoot in the neighborhood today. Much. I have been working hard at barking and alerting the women folk. Grandmother shared a piece of chicken with us for dinner. Mother Margarita informs me it is five more sleeps until you come home. I look forward to your return.
Warmest Regards,

Mummy Jennifer
I like flowers. I was sniffing the red lillies outside and now I have orange and red pollen all over my face. It’s pretty funny. I helped out with bbq-ing tonight, staying by the grill and making sure all was good. am sacked out right now by the fireplace on the cool tile. Life is pretty good.

Hello,
My mummsies says I knows you and you used to live here and that you’ll be back real soon. She says we knows each other real good. Maybes you lived in the other bedroom? the one we slept in on friday? that’s where Rocky sleeps. Sometimes I go in that room and I cry a little bit but I don’t know why.

When Jennifer was away in Hawaii
Dear mumsies
It has been very chillies. I hope it is warmer in hawaii this year than it was when I went. It has been a good sissmas bacation. Mumsies has been at home a lot. but when she leaves I miss her extra much and I sometimes go back to the door she came in from to see if she remembered to bring yous homes. we gets lots of treats because rocky is barking outside a lot. Today mumsies friend Auntie Donna came over and I sat her in lap and she petted me lots.  we get up at 6 every morning. It’s great.

Mummy Jennifers
I like the nightlights last night. I didn’t get confused. I like auntie donna. we get lots of treats. today, I wanted to pull the blanket but that little one was sleeping on it so I dragged her across the floor. funny.

Mother dearest
I sleep in our room most of the time but sometimes venture out. There is much trickery afoot in the neighborhood. I hear sounds. I bark. Mother Margarita is extremely unhelpful, coaxing me inside with treats. I refuse to abandon my post without one. I go out regularly however and patrol. I will ferret out the usurpers and bring them to swift justice.
Mother Margarita’s ‘friend’ Donna was by. She is loud. I do not like her. I barked at her. I circled her the whole time so that she knew I was there and was on to her. I barked when she laughed or spoke to loud. Finally, as she left, I barked her out the door. I was tricked into the laundry room by Mother Margarita at the last moment and missed the actual gloriousness of her being herded out the front door, but I imagine it was a wondrous site. She’ll not be coming back soon, I don’t think. I retire to bed around ten so that I may be up at 6 when the women awake and start my rounds early. It’s been long and laborious without you but I sally forth.
I remain your humble guardian.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Reposted from my blog tour

Yes, the most often asked question of writers, and the first one that comes to my mind as a reader : Where do you get your ideas?

I imagine like most authors, I would initially answer, “I don’t know. They just sort of come to me,” but that’s a really boring and unhelpful answer so I put my thinking cap on and sat down and tried to analyze my process.

What I realized was this – all my ideas all come from ‘somewhere’ or something tangible. Even if it’s not readily apparent. Thinking back on my most current working ideas [the ones I’ve recently written or am actively working on], the ‘biggest’ contributor is just the question, “What if?”

I tack that question on to a lot of stuff in my everyday life and mostly, it’s pretty boring. My inner monologue goes something like this:

  • What if I’m late?
  • What if I don’t pack a lunch? What will I eat?
  • What if I don’t do laundry today? Can I make it a few more days with what I have

SNORE. But! Sometimes, I find I’m asking bizarre “what if” questions based on stuff that’s going on around me. My inner monologue then goes something like this:

  • Jeez, that’s the fourth time I’ve seen that billboard, “WAKE UP!” What if it’s a message to me? What does it mean? Why am I getting it? What if I’m in a coma and this is all coma-world and all those messages are telling me to wake up?
  • I was almost run over by that lady’s shopping cart and she didn’t even see me! Whoa, what if I was invisible? What if I died at some point this morning and I didn’t even realize it and now, I’m a ghost and no one can see me?
  • The harvest moon is always so big and low. But it scares me sometimes. What if in a past life, I died while looking at it and now, whenever I see it hanging low and heavy on the horizon, I feel a little sick because somehow, my soul remembers that? I wonder what I did to ‘get dead’ while looking at the moon?

I kid you not, those are all LEGITIMATE thoughts I’ve had. Sometimes I get a thought like that and it turns into a short story, or a book, or even just a snippet for my slush pile. Other times I laugh at myself or just shake it off. Sometimes I say them out loud and get really strange looks.

I’ve gotten some ideas from other places too – snippets of a song I heard, or artwork, or maybe some overheard dialogue as I walk around. But the number one place I get them is just by stopping sometimes and wondering, “What if…?”

Side note – the “WAKE UP!” billboards turned out to be for a new morning radio show. Took me WEEKS to figure it out. I was really starting to be sure I was in a coma. True story.

Beginning with the End in Mind

Originally posted at http://mymidnightfantasies.blogspot.com/  as part of my blog tour!

 
As part of my day job, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take the workshop, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People [created by Stephen Covey]. It’s really about how to make the most out of what’s important to you. It’s not about being successful, or rich or famous, although if those things matter to you, I guess it could be. The habits are about how to structure your life and your time so that you use it to the best of your abilities and you get what you want – what you consider important. One of the habits talked about was “Beginning with the End in Mind.”  Basically, it’s about knowing what you want to get out of something before you start. Whenever I learn something new in any avenue of my life, I try to sit back and think about how I can apply it to my entire life – work, hobbies, family. In this case, Beginning with the End in Mind, has helped me with structuring and writing my book. Here’s how:

The early stages of developing a story are very exciting! Characters, plots, scenes, dialogue snippets – they’re all swirling and percolating in your mind and your fingers are just ITCHING to start typing. The beginning sometimes seems to just pour out of you – your writing is fast paced, voluminous and you’re happy-happy-happy.

But, do you know where you’re going? If not, you’ll probably be like me and all of a sudden it grinds to a halt and you’re not really sure why. It was going so well! You had a rhythm! There was a flow! And now? NADA.

It could be because you don’t know where you’re going. I don’t necessarily mean you need to have every plot point of your story mapped out in the early stages, but knowing generally what your book is about and how it ends can be a real game-changer for your writing.

So, how do I do that? I try to write the synopsis of my book BEFORE I start the book, or while I’m still working on the first pages – while I’m still in that super-exciting stage. The synopsis is your book jacket or your book’s teaser – it’s what your book is about. It generally doesn’t contain any real spoilers or a step by step plot outline, but it does tell you what to expect.

But, “it’s complicated”, you say, “I’ve a lot going on! This happens and this happens and there’s this woman from the past and we don’t know what her motives are and she’s got connections to the protagonist. It’s all tangled and complex”.

I’m sure it is! That makes for a great book!

But at it’s core, what’s your story about? Who is your story about? What is the essential struggle? Everything else is the ‘dressing’ or the ‘extras.’ If your book is an ice cream sundae, the synopsis is the ice cream. You can add whipped cream, cherries, nuts, sauces and anything else you want to make it as fantastic as possible. But you gotta have the ice cream first! At the risk of mixing my metaphors, I’m going to go so far as to say if your ice cream is NOT readily viewable or noticeable to the reader, they’re going to wonder what all these extra toppings are for.

Also, knowing what your book is about will really help you when you get stuck. I keep my synopsis on a doc that I can see while I write. When I get stuck, I read over it and think, “Is this scene telling that story? Does this moment propel the narrative toward this goal? If not, is that why I’m stuck? Am I telling the same story now that I started out with? What would need to happen next to get me to where I’m going?”

Sometimes, I get really excited about a new set of characters or a scene I want to write and I think, “I’ll just start and the ending will come!” That RARELY works for me. If you can do it, I envy you. I usually end up with some great writing that I’m excited about and then it just peters out and stops at some point and I’m never able to get it going again. Mostly because I don’t know where I’m going with it.

Additionally, if YOU don’t know where you’re story is going, how will the reader? Will they feel the same sense of wandering and disjointedness while reading it that you felt writing it? Probably.

So, while it’s hard and it can be it’s own trial, writing the synopsis of your story before you start can be a great anchor for your work. It lets you know that you know where you’re going. You don’t have to know how to get there, but you do need to have the destination in mind!

Genre/World Building in Supernatural Books

Originally posted as part of my blog tour on August 2nd at Mythical Books

One of the most exciting and creative part of writing a book in the Supernatural genre [witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts etc] is that it’s generally an opportunity for a significant amount of world building. Most authors are excited to put their own spin on lore and tropes, and it’s always fun to play around and see what you can come up with.

It can also be nerve-wracking and difficult. Deciding on the ‘rules’ for the ‘universe’ of your book [or series as the case may be] can end up defining a lot of your plot and character limitations. In my own writing, I try to stick to a few easy rules:

1. Be Consistent. I find fans are willing to accept almost anything with respect to rules and world building, as long as you’re consistent. Ideally you want to make sense AND be consistent, but fans will even forgive logic flaws if you’re consistent. We’ve all read books that set up clearly defined rules and limitations for the supernatural elements only to find those rules and limitations broken or ignored later on. As a reader, it’s incredibly frustrating. You’ve spent all this time investing in this world and when the rules are broken, especially when it seems as though they are broken for convenience, it feels like a big cheat from the author. I feel betrayed when this happens. I feel like I can’t trust the author now, because anything they say may be tossed out the window later on when it’s convenient for them. I guarantee if you break your rules, your readers will want to lynch you. LYNCH YOU.

2. Build in kryptonite for both protagonists and antagonists. We all want our heroes/heroines to be powerful in some way. Similarly, we all want the ‘bad guys’ to be powerful and to be worthy opponents. But, heroes and villains without limits are boring and dangerous. Why would anyone oppose them? How can anyone oppose them? If your hero or heroine has no faults and/or no limits, there’s no suspense. He/she cannot fail. Without the suspense, why is the reader reading? Look at the classic TV show MacGyver. We all know MacGyver will make it out, he’s our hero! But there’s always that small chance he won’t. Because he’s human. Because he uses his brain and he only has what’s in front of him. That tiny suspicion of his weaknesses, his fallibility, keeps us on the edge of our seat. What if he doesn’t have what he needs? What if he doesn’t know everything he needs to know to get himself out? Similarly, we need our villains to have a weakness. If they’re all powerful, how can they be defeated? And as a tie in from above, if the hero breaks our world-building rules to defeat the villain because there’s no built in kryptonite, the reader will feel cheated.

3. Add elements of the real world. In my book, I consider using magic like doing gymnastics. Sure, my characters can do a backflip. Do they do one EVERYDAY EVERY TIME they go to the store? No. Because real life isn’t like that. People don’t do the things they are capable of every day. Why? Because it takes effort or it’s tiring or it gives them a headache or they need special tools or it’s ‘not allowed’ – whatever it is, if you can make it like the ‘regular world’, your reader is familiar with it and will probably accept it. We all have special skills and abilities we don’t use everyday. Tell me why your characters don’t and I’ll probably believe you. If you fail to tell me why though, every time someone’s in peril, I’m going to be asking, “Well, why don’t they just use BLAH BLAH BLAH to get themselves out?”

4. Write the rules down. Okay you don’t physically have to write the rules down, but having them laid out sure can make your life easier later on. If you have them written down, you’re more likely to follow them. Also, this leads to number 5….

5. KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid – Ah, yes, the KISS rule that so many of us learned in school. It’s true. KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID – this is where writing your rules down helps. If you can write them down, chances are they’re pretty simple to follow. If you CAN’T articulate them, is it that they’re too hard? Remember, you want your reader to focus on your characters and your plot – you don’t want them so caught up in the rules that they lose interest in your book! Keeping it simple makes it easier for the reader (and you!) to remember.

Nothing in the above means you can’t be outlandish or take risks. You shouldn’t feel hemmed in. It’s your world, BUILD IT. In the immortal words of “Field of Dreams” (the movie) – “If you build it, they will come.” But you also want people to enjoy your world and, in my humble opinion, by following the above guidelines, they will!