writing

Uncontrollable Burn [Covencraft # 5] – status update!

You guys! I am THISCLOSE to finishing primary writing on book 5. My first draft is usually pretty close to my end draft [which is good or bad – take your pick!]. I’m just about to start chapter 17 [as it is numbered right now] and I think I need about 5000 more words to wrap it up. Then we’ll see what gets added/deleted during edits.

As I posted earlier, I have clinical depression and I just changed meds. Me finishing this book couldn’t have happened without it. Or rather, I could have done it, but a June release? Dude. IDK. I was working all of January and February to be on time and I’m a little behind, but I’ll make it! But if I hadn’t felt better? I would have still been back at 250 words a day, which is how I wrote book 4. Like, it can be done. But it sucks. Writing a book like that feels like chiseling out of marble with a teeny-tiny chisel. You can do it. Your exhausted and defeated most of the time, but it can be done.

But! I’m AM feeling good, and writing faster so that didn’t happen!

I’m happy with where the book has gone, emotionally and action-wise. It’s always a nailbiter to see if other people like it, but at least if they don’t, I know that I like it. [and if you don’t like it, I hope you tell me GENTLY why so I can review and learn! But if you post a review, you should know I make my sisters read them for me, lol. See my page on reviewing for why]

I will be in contact with the cover artist shortly and hope to post that as soon as it’s ready! I’m EXCITED. I don’t have the back blurb written yet, but will post as soon as I do. This book, generally, is a straight continuation of book 4, Dry Spells. Jade is continuing to deal with Lily being her own person, her feelings about her past, and her feelings for Paris. And then while she’s working on that, a Forest Fire happens! DUN DUN DUN.  Stay tuned!

 

 

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Status Update – Covencraft, Historical romances

Hi all!

To keep the momentum of my writing, I decided to jump right into the next Covencraft story as soon as I finished book 4, Dry Spells. The next ‘story’ is Uncontrollable Burn and it deals with Jade’s feelings for Paris and a wildfire burning out of control.

OH THE SYMBOLISM

Le problem is I don’t know if Uncontrollable Burn will be a full length novel [80-110,000 words] or novella length [45-75000 words]. I thought it would be a novella, but as I work through the beginning, maybe it will be long, IDK.

Le struggles.

It will be done, no matter what the length. I just don’t now if it’s a novel or a novella. You’ll find out as I do!

That also means, I don’t know when I am returning to Margaux Gillis realm of historical romances. The next story will either be a sequel to Ravenwood, featuring Charlotte, or a new story – either a ghost story or a Jekyll and Hyde bit. STAY TUNED.!!

 

 

Dry Spells [Covencraft #4] releases June 7!

Dry Spells will be released June 7! It’s up for pre-order at the moment and will be ready to download on June 7th! I’m very excited [as always!]

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I struggle with each book in its own way and then when I get to the end I’m like, ‘huh. Why was that so hard?’ I didn’t know the ’emotional heart’ of this book for a long time, and then when I did figure it out, it was SO OBVIOUS I wondered if I had purposely been blind to it for some ‘as yet still unknown to me’ reason.

I’m always proud of my work. *pats self on back*.  Maybe it’s egotistical or narcissistic, but I work hard at my writing and hope I get better with each book. I’m always grateful I have the opportunity to write and that I finished another story – getting it out of my head and into the computer. The transition from brain to fingers to keyboard to actual-readable-book is a tumultuous one, but I find it rewarding.

I’m already working on the next installment of Covencraft, Uncontrollable Burn. I just don’t know yet if it will be a novella or a full length book. We’ll see how Jade and Paris [and Lily and Bruce and everyone else!] feels about it!

 

 

 

Dry Spells Cover Reveal!

LOOK WHAT I HAVE HERE!!

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I’m just wrapping up the end of the first draft, and then two things happen – I go back to the beginning and start editing and it also goes out to my BFF/editor Donna for the “Yo, does this make sense mostly or is it a hot mess” initial read though. Usually, my first draft is rough, but I tend not to have too many plot holes or missing items – I don’t like to write out of order. I skipped over two scenes in this book and wrote one out of order, but other than that, I write from start to finish, so I shouldn’t have a hot mess when I’m done, but… I feel like I never know. I’m too close to it when I finish it to tell.

 

I’m still tweaking the book blurb [aka book jacket, aka the hardest thing I write, aka my least fave thing to do] but it should be ready shortly and then book 4 will go up for pre-order. I’m thinking a release date of June 7.

Unless it really IS A HOT MESS, lol. I will be eagerly awaiting Donna’s feedback.

But if Less is More, just Think How Much More ‘More’ will be!

Wow.

Internets, I’m a woman on fire.

My day job has been non stop for about 18 months and I swear to god, I keep thinking I can’t get any more busy, but I do. I am BLESSED WITH WORK. I don’t like to complain about it because there are a lot of people out there who don’t have work right now. So yes, blessed with work. And I do like being busy and feeling useful. and TBH, I think I’m KILLING IT. no really! I feel very productive and like I’m doing a good job! and I’m getting some super nice and appreciative feedback.

so yes, blessed with work.

But that also means it’s tough to come home at nights and write. I’ve been trying to push it lately because I’m just barely still on target for Book 4, (Dry Spells, Covencraft #4). If I lose any momentum, I’ll start falling behind. I’m already behind where I wanted to be, but I planned for an early finish so there is wiggle room in my goal.

All that to say, I’m running at top speed lately. It makes the days/weeks/ months go by fast and I realized this month is six months since Portia passed. Sigh. I can’t believe it. Half a year already. I still have her pick on my screen saver on my phone. It took it when she was at the puppy hospital. I miss her tons.

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It does help to be busy. I’m at 65000 ish words for Dry Spells, and I project about 95000 usually for a book. so 2/3rds done. I feel like I’ll be pretty close to that word count, but then I always say that and somehow end up going over. We’ll see what happens! I’ve been in touch with the Cover Artist and have him booked for about March so I’m excited to see some cover art and get that motivating me even more.

After Dry Spells, I have the next story idea, but I think it will be a novella length. So, Dry Spells will be a full novel, then Uncontrollable Burn will be novella length, and then the next book will be back to full length.

And that’s all the shrimp there is.

My Brain is getting Crowded

So. I haven’t been writing lately. Combination of still being in a bit of a funk about Portia, being hella busy with the day job and just… I don’t know. Stuff. I go through these phases where my anxiety creeps up on me and then it seems like everything sends me into a panic. Respond to comments on the blog? PANIC. Sit down to write? PANIC. Pick up the phone at work? DOUBLE PANIC.

I’m trying to break it all down into tiny, manageable bites. Today was to sit down and get 500 words done on book 4. A small goal, one that I know I can do. And then it would be a little deposit of good in my emotional bank. Goal achieved – got 538. And I still have more time to write, so anything else I get now is gravy.

But when I don’t write regularly, my crazy seems to leak out into my dreams. The more I’m away from the keyboard, the more bizarre my dreams get. I tried to write down one I had a few days ago:

I dreamed I was some kind of timeless, immortal woman who had captured some people in the upper floor of this grand old house. They had all agreed to enter the floor, but they didn’t know that as soon as they agreed, they were trapped there until I let them go – everyone was now immortal in this place. It was like a large apartment suite – the kind you would see in a really old castle or townhouse.
I was kind of dressed like I was from teh 1920s. I had a sort of manservant that was outside the apartment suite, or the Tea Room, as I kept calling it. He could bring us [or rather ME since he only did stuff for me] things from the outside world. He brought liquor and food [although we required none] and would take my things out to be drycleaned. he was dying of some kind of cancer and I was going to miss him terribly once he passed.
 
The people I had trapped with me were angry, scared and at times violent. I was more… amused or entertained by this than anything else. I dont’ know what I was planning. I do know that at one point, I curled up in this big easy chair – and this chair, I had the knowledge, used to be in some sort of a men’s club back in time. I opened one of the side pouches and found some cigarettes and lit one. As I sat there, one of the women I was keeping hostage came and sat in the chair next to me and I said something like “How easy it would have been to be a man back then. With items like this at your disposal, everywhere you went.” and I was so angry at how hard it had been to be a woman in history.
 
I had several lovely things picked up from drycleaning by my servant and my hostages ended up playing around in them like kids playing dress up. capes, hats, big scarves and feathers. This also amused me. They thought my things were so extravagant.
 
There was on person who said he wanted to leave, and he demanded it. he was escorted to a weird kind of old fashioned elevator and one of the other hostages went with him, saying he could accompany him on his trip down, but wouldn’t be leaving with him. As the elevator descended, it was consumed by fire, and the man who wanted to leave [he was young, maybe 20 or so?] turned to paper money and then to ash, only his mind was still present and he had this knowledge that he would be burning ashes for the rest of eternity. the fragments of him fell through the bottom of the elevator grate and then the elevator rose again, with the other man who had accompanied the younger, now ash one, coming back to the Tea Room.
 
There were large bay windows for one section and you could see the world outside, but they could not see in.

About two days after that one, I had one where I was playing some kind of game with people where I had to crawl through tunnels and small spaces [this is actually a recurring theme in my dreams. I have to crawl through a vent or some kind of portal and it only works as long as I don’t think too hard about it. but if I DO then I can’t fit through. And I’m always super anxious that it won’t work because I’m thinking so hard about it and then I won’t fit]. I was just about to crawl through a small vent when I noticed there was a stairwell off to my left. I went up the stairs and found myself in the top floor of a strange kind of house. It was like a little self contained place all on it’s own. And there were these two women there, who were more like girls. They were misshapen and didn’t speak any language I understood. and I had this sense that they were kept up in this attic, but not as a punishment. More like… a protection. Their caregiver arrived – a lady that started yelling and screaming at me for finding them and as she rushed toward me, I grabbed a chair and used it to ward her off only I pushed too hard and she fell out the window. And now these strange girls were without a caretaker. The stairs down from the attic had a complicated mechanism that the girls couldn’t use and but that I was able to and I found myself exploring the rest of the house. On the second floor lived another woman. She was the sister of the woman I’d accidentally killed. She didn’t tell me who the girls were, only that they belonged to her sister and her sister had left life to take care of them and so she followed her sister because that’s how their family worked. She was showing me old pictures of them from before they entered the house. they were beautiful women – dressed in fancy items and with silky, shiny, styled hair. I felt awful for what I’d done but I kept remembering how she’d charged at me and I didn’t mean to push her, it just happened. The sister didn’t seem angry with me. But did seem sad about being trapped in the house.

So, yeah. It’s time to start writing again. My brain gets too full when I don’t.

Patience, Padawan – Cello and Writing

I often think and draw parallels between my cello lessons and my writing progress. I feel like I’m a constant student – I never want to think I’m THERE because I feel like there’s so much to be said for always being on the journey.

In cello, I’ve FINALLY progressed enough to learn one of the Bach Cello Suites. I’ve chosen Suite 2

Oh, I love this one so much. I listen to it a lot and I put my ipod on repeat to hear it over and over again. I would probably have started this earlier IF I PRACTICED, but as it is, I don’t practice very much and I have the BEST CELLO TEACHER ever, and she’s fine with how much I do or don’t practice and just works with me where I am. We FINALLY started working on this and I was SO EXCITED. I said to her, “I’ve told people I’m working on it and they want to hear it!” and she nodded with excitement and said, “Yeah, in a couple of years, you’ll be ready to play this!”

RECORD SCRATCH – WHUT. A COUPLE OF YEARS???

Ah, yes. Such is the cello, such is Bach, such is the way of things. I will be able to play the notes, and indeed can do so moderately now [okay, moderately is generous. I can hit the notes. Mostly. Some of the time.].

But yes. YEARS. That’s how long it will take for me to ‘work’ on Bach and play the Prelude of Suite No.2.

And that’s… well. that’s okay actually. I mean, what else am I doing? Don’t’ get me wrong, it sucks that it will take two years, but… it’s a journey, you know?

I feel that way about my writing. I’m happy with each work as I finish it but as I look back on things I think, well, this could be tweaked or that could have been better. But I’m still a work in progress as a writer, and I hope I always am. I hope to always be learning and growing. Although it can be hard at times feeling like you never GET TO THE END, there’s also a sense of freedom in never GETTING TO THE END. It’s like… if I don’t get it exactly perfect, I get to try again on the next round! That’s kind of liberating and frees from this feeling of.. if I don’t get it right, it’s all over. Now, if I don’t get it right, I just try again.

So, Patience, Padawan. We must learn to love the process.

Double-Sided Witch (Covencraft #3) available for preorder on Amazon

GUESS WHAT??

*jumps up and down like a four-year old*

Book 3 of Covencraft, Double-Sided Witch is available for preorder on Amazon! I KNOW!!

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I’m very happy with the cover. I work with a great artists (and if you’re interested in his details, message me and I’ll pass them along or check out the inside cover of my other books. His name is there).

I hope you’re all as excited as I am! The release date is June 2. I’m working on getting it on all the other book sites.

SO EXCITED!!!!

Side note – writing update – I’m working on my werewolf historical romance right now, titled Ravenwood. That should be done by end of April and go into editing by May. I’m also plotting out book 4 for Covencraft (no title yet). Then, I start writing book 4 in June and I’m planning on having it done by November (with Nanowrimo being the big push to finish if I need it).

Everything I Needed to Know About Writing, I Learned from my Cello

I love analogies.

If you teach me a thing or tell me something, I’m already searching through my brain like a giant rolodex trying to find a logical match for it – something I can relate it to. My most often used analogy is that writing is like learning to play an instrument. I started taking cello lessons about two and half years ago and like most new things, I took to it with vigor and passion – practicing every day! Reading books! More practicing! Researching online about cellos and bows!

Since I like to match up things I do, learn and see, I started thinking about how I was learning the cello: my sessions with my teacher, my reading of books about it, my sometimes disastrous practice sessions, my occasional stumbling into glory by hitting a row of notes previously missed. I realized – writing and learning to play an instrument are incredibly and intimately similar.

Practice
The first time I tried to play a song on my cello it sounded like a chorus of dying swans – honking, hulking swans with no pitch or tune. For a beginner, it wasn’t bad! But listening to it with my adult ears, it was sad and a little embarrassing. In a way, this reminds me of my first, earliest stories, written as a child and seen through adult eyes. Bad character development. Plot holes. Deus ex Machina. Stilted dialogue. Overwrought emotions.

What if I had stopped writing then? What if I had seen my work through adult eyes, the same way I hear my cello playing through adult ears and just… given up?

Luckily, I can be a persistent terrier when I want and I didn’t give up. I loved telling stories and loved the finished product of a complete, comprehensive piece of work that I created. So, I kept at it. Writing more stories, longer works, shorter pieces. I tried new techniques – maybe a new point of view or a different tone, working on smaller scenes and snapshots instead of bigger works. Each of these stories can be seen as practice. I’m practicing my craft. I think the key thing is, I’m always hoping and trying to get better – and how do I do that? I keep writing.

One of the quotes I’ve read that sticks with me the most was something like, “Nobody gets to the Philharmonic Orchestra by thinking about playing the violin.” That quote turned itself around in my brain for several days while I practiced my cello. I’m certainly not expecting to ever make it as a professional musician, but I do realize that to get better, I have to practice. I then made the connection with writing again. Nobody gets better at writing by thinking about writing. You have to do it. Thinkers think. Writers write. If I want to get better at writing, I’ve got to keep doing it. Working my way through a difficult scene or a patchy area is the same as going over and over a hard phrase of music or a complicate set of fingering for some notes. That’s not to say that I sit there and write lines of the same words over and over again! But rather, the act of sitting down and working is its own reward. Over the years, I’ve amassed a large volume of work and when I sit down and review it, I can see my growth. Sometimes in earlier works I can see hints of the writer I will become, much like sometimes with my cello I manage to stumble through a difficult passage expertly the first time. It’s very exciting when this happens! It’s like a glimpse into the future of what I’m aiming for. Mostly, however, what I see and what I’m proud of is the hard work and dedication my writing shows. It shows I stick with it. I keep trying. I may not always get it right, but I show up and do the work.

It’s an important distinction to make that you generally don’t sit down to write a final draft when you first start. I don’t sit down in front of a new sheet of music and expect to play it proficiently, certainly not at my beginner level! Nor should I sit down to write and expect the words to come out of my fingers and brain perfectly. They will need to be fine tuned and worked over – edited several times. The key is that they are out on the page to work with because I did the initial step – I wrote. Say it with me, “Writers write!”

Focus
Of course, the ‘thinking’ piece is important too! I find I write best when I think out what I’m going to do before hand – settling the plot and the sequence before I put fingers to keyboard. In a sense, I do the same thing with my cello – thinking about what I will practice before I sit down with my cello. Then, just as when I practice my cello, when I write I try to stay focused on the task at hand. I don’t think about the grocery shopping. Or the laundry. Or that report that I’m trying to compile at work. Or Tumblr, Facebook, LiveJournal, iTunes… I focus on what I’m doing. I’m writing. At the same time, I can’t get too focused on the mechanics or I lose the narrative. With the cello, I can’t always focus on tune or pitch. Sometimes I have to focus on the fluidity of the music, or the movement of my bow. Tune and pitch will come as I work on the other items. It’s the same with writing. I tell the story I want to tell. Later on, I can go through my work and polish it – editing for grammar, word choice and further narrative clarity. Just like when I play, I learn the notes first and then work on fine tuning later.

Regularity
Just like my instrument practice, my writing practice needs to be regular. Long stretches or breaks of too long and I’m losing my ‘touch.’ I took three weeks off playing the cello and when I went back, my string crossings were sloppy. My tuning was a little off. I couldn’t remember that note in the second bar is a b-flat [ALWAYS B-FLAT, why do I keep forgetting?!]. It’s the same with writing. Write regularly and you keep the skills you gain. Take long, indeterminate breaks and you start to get sloppy. Poor word choices, bad metaphors, awkward and stilted dialogue. Also, I find when working on a larger work, regular and consistent writing keeps the flow of the narrative moving along well. I don’t have to wonder, “Now, where did I leave those characters last time. Has Jade realized she may have feelings for Paris yet? Did I get that far?” When I write often, daily if I can manage it, I keep the narrative tighter in my head and don’t have to keep going back and reviewing what I’ve already written to keep the story straight.

Self-Editing, Awareness and Analytical Thinking
If you want to get better at an instrument, you can’t just ‘sit down and play.’ You have to listen to good playing. Listen to bad playing. Think about why you liked something and why you didn’t like something else. Compare your playing to others. I feel the same is true for writing. In the case of writers, we have to read. A lot. I read in and out of my preferred genres and I try to keep notes on what I liked and what I didn’t. There have been times I’ve read a book in which I couldn’t stand the main characters but I simply had to know what happened next. So, I went back and analyzed why that was. How were these marginal characters keeping me invested? A lot of it had to do with the pace of the story. It was so fast, I could forgive the characters. I’ve read other books in which the writing was gorgeous and yet, I had to stop half way through because I just didn’t care. Again, I go back and think carefully about why I’m not engaged. Is the language too cumbersome for me? Do I just ‘not like it’? Do I not identify with any of the characters?

Of course, I quite often just read for enjoyment too! I don’t just read profound or literary works and I feel no shame about the books I choose to read. I read horror, romance, urban fantasy, some non-fiction. On vacation, I only want ‘easy reads.’ But that doesn’t mean that I can’t stop and think about why I find those books ‘easy’ or ‘comfortable.’ There’s a certain sense of familiarity about some of the genres I read and by recognizing that, I’m better able to plot and/or structure my own works – whether that means I set out to follow a ‘formula’ or I set out to completely buck the norm and try something different. The key here, I believe, is knowing what the norm is.

Variety
Yes, it is the spice of life. When I play my cello, I have some contemporary pieces, some classical pieces and some studies. Each of the pieces I work on helps me in a different way – style, tone, fingering, dexterity. Multiple pieces also keeps me from getting bored or frustrated. If one isn’t working for me that day, I move to the next. I try to do the same with my writing. I generally have three projects always on on the go – usually two short ones and one long one. The longer piece tends to be novel length [min 80,000 words]. These works take planning, focus and consistency. I’ve got to keep my world building straight, my characterizations solid and my plot arcs smooth. Then I have my smaller pieces – usually a couple of short stories or some snippets of things that may end up being longer pieces someday, but not right now. I’m a bit more free to play around here. Shiny new ideas! Trying out new POVs! Playing around with different tones and nuances. Some days I simply don’t want to work with certain storylines or characters, so it’s nice to have a choice. It’s also a good motivational tool when I don’t feel like writing at all. I tell myself, surely you can find something in these three works that you’d like to work on. If I can’t, I have to wonder if I’m being deliberately stubborn just trying to get out of writing that day.

Prodigies
Now, if you’re like me, you’ve started thinking about the connections between music and writing and you’re probably wondering, “Yeah, but what about those people who are just GOOD at it automatically?” Ah yes, the prodigies. To be sure, there are prodigies in every walk of life. Some people are naturally gifted. There are some writers whose first kick at the can is stunning and they’ll tell you they’ve never written a thing before, or that they just sort of toyed around with writing and it worked out. Prodigies are rare, but they sure do muck up how I feel about my hard work! I discussed this with my cello teacher the other day. I regularly discuss the similarities between writing and our lessons with her and I wanted to know her thoughts on prodigies. She has taught some over the years – students who were able to pick up the instrument and had a gift. I was surprised by what she told me. I expected her to agree with my thoughts – there are some prodigies out there in every field and the rest of us must simply come to terms with the fact that we will never be them. But, what she told me instead was this – Yes, prodigies exist, but what she has seen is that while initially they are able to reach higher states of achievement and performance very quickly, their accelerated progress tapers off. She said that for example, say you have a prodigy and someone like me – an average person learning the cello. I can reach an intermediate level in three years; the prodigy can reach an intermediate level in three months. However, once we’re both at that level, the prodigy’s speed of advancement starts to slow down, while mine remains the same. All is not lost! I could be as good as a prodigy if I dedicated myself and put the time into the music!

This was profound to me. I had somewhat ‘given up’ on ever being considered a ‘master’ at writing. I thought I was okay at ‘being good’ perhaps even ‘being pretty darn good’ but that was where I was going to peak. I was resigned to this, consoling myself by noting that some of the most renowned authors/writers in popular fiction weren’t actually that good, so I was in respectable company. But now! Now I feel as though the sky is the limit again! As long as I keep working, keep refining my product and stick with it, I could be great! Which leads me to…

Persistence
Another key element with writing, I believe, is persistence. Sticking to it. I think we all have a kind of Elysian Fields in our mind with respect to writing – a place where the words flow free under a cloudless sky and everything is chapter after chapter of wonderful prose, thoughtful insights and compelling character development.

What writers generally get instead is hours staring at a computer screen [or a blank notebook], wanting to bash our heads into our desk and wail, ‘WRITING IS HARD!! WHAT IS THIS PLOT? WHO ARE THESE CHARACTERS???’

Let’s be frank – if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy. Take heart! If you are sitting at a keyboard and thinking that it may be easier to get blood from a stone than to finish your current Work in Progress – you are not alone! What will separate writers from would-be-writers is persistence.

Time Off!
If I play the cello too much in a week, I get sore spots on my fingers from the strings. My bow hand gets this weird cramp. I keep making the same mistake over and over and instead of fixing it, I think I’m actually making it more likely to keep happening. Time for a break! There’s no shame in taking scheduled time off, as long as it’s not too often nor for too long. I slate certain days to be writing free – usually because I’ve got other regular commitments. These ‘Write-Free’ days give my brain time to rest and recharge and also help me on other days when I feel like it’s too hard to keep going. I remind myself that I have some Write-Free days coming up and I’ll get my break then.

As a final note [oh! The puns!] I leave you with this: At 90 years old, a famous cellist Pablo Cassals, still practiced for four or five hours every day. When asked why he still worked so hard, he said, “Because I think I am making some progress.”

May you also always be making progress.

 

I wrote this piece over a year ago for the All Author’s Magazine and completely forgot to cross-post!