Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

#CoverReveal And other news…

Cover reveal day! Huzzah! I’m so excited to finally share the cover for my upcoming release…

But we’ll get to that. 😉 First, a little general news and commentary in the way of fictional worldbuilding.

There’s so much that goes into a book that a reader never sees. Not just the seemingly-endless hours of plotting, organizing, writing, and editing, but all the little nit-picky details that may not even show up in a book but a writer needs to know. For instance, character family trees. Or timelines.

Both of which have been tormenting me lately.

I posted previously that, thanks to an idea from a devoted reader, I was adjusting a few stories to accommodate a change in character descendants which–though a lot of work–turned out to make the future of the series even better, giving a pivotal character a bit more scope when it comes time to tell his story. Once I started charting out the tree to bring various branches together to create this character, however, I nearly ran into a problem: marrying cousins.

Thankfully, with a little more work, I was able to avoid that (sort of: it’s more like marrying second [or was it third?] cousins instead of first), but keeping track of and untangling the various branches to make sure I’d actually gotten it right nearly overloaded my brain. I finally had to print the whole thing out and pin it up on the wall in my office, just to be sure.

And, I must say, seeing that posted really brought my little fictional world to life in a whole new way.

The even more daunting project facing me, though, is the timeline. So far, I’ve been going along giving a few things concrete dates, but mostly keeping events pretty general. And until recently, that worked just fine. Until I came upon five books (two in my main series, and three in an upcoming trilogy that run alongside those two) that all have connected characters, as well as events that all happen within a few years of one another.

And as I went to edit an upcoming book, I realized several details were a whole year off.

Probably something the average reader would never be able to catch on to since there aren’t many actual dates referenced in the stories themselves, but I’m picky when it comes to that kind of stuff, so I had to fix it. At least I was able to keep the details on already-published books as they are, and just adjust the timelines in the upcoming books to match it.

But then it occurred to me that I’ll eventually be writing books that take place prior to my main series, fleshing out key events that have been referred to and hinted at throughout the series. Which means I need to pin down actual dates for those things so I don’t accidentally write them in the wrong season. Or the wrong year.

So all writing is now on hold as I go back through all my Shifting Isles books (all nine currently out in that series, as well as the Matchmakers trilogy and the upcoming Treble and the Lost Boys trilogy) so I can pinpoint exact dates for everything. Overkill? Possibly. But at least, that way, I won’t ever hit a snag like this again. And it’ll be better to do it now rather than after my series timeline stretches another five books into the future.

Normally I enjoy reading my own books, but…ugh. This is going to be tedious. Worth it, but tedious. Then again, knowing me, chances are I’ll wind up with some huge insight or inspiration for the rest of the series or offshoots of it along the way.

In the midst of all this, I’m also (very slowly but surely) trying to put together a wiki for the Shifting Isles world. That’s going to be a process and a half by itself, but it’s kinda fun seeing it come together, having all those little linked pages, showing how things connect.

But, enough of all that. Time for the really exciting news of the day: the cover of my next release!

Ta-da!

I’ve never done a proper cover reveal before, and I’ve been sitting on this one for almost two months. Thank gods this day finally came, because not being able to share it was driving me insane!

Ice on Fire is the first book in a new m/m romance trilogy, Treble and the Lost Boys, set in my fictional world of the Shifting Isles. The cover design is by Dana Leah at Designs by Dana.

You can add the book to your To Read shelf on Goodreads, and the book is up for pre-order on Amazon in Kindle format (paperback will be available on release day, April 27th).

The book is approximately 100,000 words / 340 pages.

BLURB:

Zac Cinder is on the verge of making his dream come true. His punk rock band, Inferno, might have a shot at an audition for a record deal. Fame and fortune would mean he could finally help his parents. They’d raised eight kids in a loving household while barely scraping by, so Zac is determined to give back in any way he can.

Keeping Inferno together, though, means keeping his biggest secret. His bigoted bandmates would drop him in an instant if they found out Zac was gay.

Then he meets Adrian Frost, and Zac can’t resist the shy man. Adrian gives up everything to be with Zac, but Zac can’t bring himself to do the same. He doesn’t want to lose Adrian, but he can’t give up Inferno, either. Not when he’s so close to realizing his dream.

When one cruel decision rips Adrian from his life, Zac will have to decide if ambition is worth the price of the greatest happiness he’s ever known.

(Note: This story takes place in a fictional world, the same as in the Shifting Isles Series. There are multiple gods, different names for the days of the week, etc. A glossary is included.)

WARNING: Contains scenes of self-harm that may be disturbing for some readers.

 

And now to sit back and (not so patiently) wait for release day…

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Shifting Isles

Five Stages of Hitting the Right Plot

A lesson I’ve learned the hard way, more than once (twice, in fact, on one book alone [Broken (Shifting Isles series, Book 4)], once on another, and it’s happening again with one of my current works-in-progress, Illumined Shadows (Treble and the Lost Boys, Book 3)).

You’ve got your story idea, your character profiles, your outline. You’re feeling good, ready to write. Sure, there will be hiccups along the way, little details that need to be researched or fleshed out or filled in, but you can worry about all that later. Hells, for all you know, those little bits might take the story in a new direction you didn’t anticipate and make it even better.

So you sit down to write.

At first, everything is great. You knock out a few thousand words. Then the same on the next day. And the day after that. You grin to yourself, seeing your word count climb.

Then your pace slows. Your daily word counts go down. You stare at the screen trying to decide what to write more often than actually putting your fingers to the keys. You find yourself distracted by other, more interesting things. Maybe even not-so-interesting things, like chores. And you rush off to engage in those other things because sitting any longer at that computer, seeing no new words appear, is getting tedious.

You check your outline. You know what you want to write next, right?

So you keep trying.

DENIAL: It’s all fine. Everything is fine. If I just keep chipping away at it, I’ll eventually get past whatever this slump is, and the book will get done. Doesn’t matter that the outline isn’t really working as well as I thought it might, and that the characters aren’t developing quite the way I imagined. It’s fine. Totally fine.

And you keep trying, forcing yourself to sit at that computer and make words happen, even when they’re not starting to feel right. On that note…

ANGER: Why the hells are these words not feeling right? I outlined this damned book, didn’t I? So why isn’t it coming together? Why is the story falling flat? Why aren’t the characters shaping up the way I imagined? What the hells is going on?

Insert rage-quit and storm away, glaring at the computer from a distance while you go about doing other things.

But you still have a book to write, so you sit down and try again.

BARGAINING: Alright, if I can sit down and get 5,000 words today, and tomorrow, and the next day, until the whole thing is finally done, I can have [insert reward here]. Or, if I can just get this book done, I can finally move on to that other one that I’ve been really itching to get to.

So you try, but you’re still having to force the words out. It’s just not flowing. There’s still something wrong, and you know exactly what it is–the truth has been taunting you from the beginning–but you can’t seem to make yourself say it without slipping into…

DEPRESSION: Oh, gods. This is hopeless. The plot is wrong, and the character arcs aren’t quite right, and fixing it isn’t going to be just a matter of going back through the 50,000 words I’ve already written and just doing some scene editing. It’s going to mean deleting almost all of those 50,000 words (half a novel!) and starting over. I can’t do it. I just can’t. Losing all that progress? Seeing my word count drop back from 50,000 to zero? *goes to hide in a dark corner and cry*

But then, finally, comes the moment when you’re left with no other choice. For the sake of your sanity, for the sake of the story, for the sake of ever getting another word written ever again, you hit the final stage.

ACCEPTANCE: [Ctrl-A] [Backspace] *sigh*

Word count: 0

Rewrite outline. Fix character arcs. And start again.

Inspiration, Shifting Isles, Teasers and Excerpts

Awkward: Party of One [includes an excerpt from Betrayal]

It seems to be a general understanding that writers are socially-awkward creatures. We’re in our heads, making up fake people and fake places and fake scenarios all the time, too wrapped up in our thoughts to be aware of the fact that there’s a real world out there, with real people in it.

Real people who might run into us and wonder if we’re not slightly off our rockers.

I was in the midst of writing Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) when I had a particularly awkward and embarrassing situation.

Because my brain-mouth connection is just awesome.

I was lying in bed one night, thinking about the plot, when an idea for a scene ran through my head. The dialogue and action played out just right, and I knew it would be a good addition to the story. But did I get up and immediately write it down? No. Of course not. Because I knew, I just knew, I’d remember it all the next morning.

I always do. Somehow, my writer memory is, by far, the most reliable part of my memory. Everything else falls by the wayside. But my stories? Stick like glue.

Except this time. This time, I woke the next morning, and had no fucking clue what the scene entailed.

I remembered an argument, but that was about it. It was something between the main character, Sam, and his fellow mage, Ithyn. But what they argued about, and why, completely eluded me.

Normally, when this memory lapse happens, it only takes a few minutes of thinking it over for the whole scene to come rushing back.

Nope. Not this time. This time, I agonized for hours. What the hells was the scene? What were they arguing about? Why couldn’t I remember?

I needed just a clue. A keyword. A hint. Something to bring it all back.

And, of course, being the awesome socially-awkward person I am, it all came to me in a public setting. Most likely work (since, let’s face it, where the hells else do I ever go outside my house?), possibly the grocery store, definitely somewhere that involved other people.

“Whore!” That’s it. That’s the keyword I needed.

And, of course, I said it out loud.

Cue the what-the-fuck looks from people around me.

And cue the furious blush on my face.

Yeah, y’all totally didn’t just hear me say ‘whore’ randomly just now. You imagined it. Totally didn’t happen. Wasn’t me. Carry on.

At least–thank gods–I salvaged the scene, but I definitely could have done without that particular moment of revelation.

So, without further ado, here’s part of the scene in question, in which Sam recovers from having taken an unknown substance from amidst the stock of herbs and drugs that Ithyn–a specialist in healing–keeps on hand. The scene references the Erosti Guildmates, who are renowned throughout the world of the Shifting Isles for being highly-trained professionals in all manner of entertainments (sex, massage, singing, dancing, cooking, etc.). To be particularly crass, they are–to some–nothing but glorified whores.

Enjoy!

 

 

WHEN SAM came to, he found a blurry figure bent over him, swimming in his vision.

Shhh-sh-sh. Do not move,” a voice murmured.

Sam tried to lift his head, then groaned and closed his eyes again.

Drink this,” the soft voice said as a hand slipped around the back of Sam’s neck and cradled his head, lifting it slightly as a cup was touched to his lips.

Sam drank, and gagged, but the person holding the cup wouldn’t let him stop. The foul concoction was forced into his mouth, so Sam had no choice but to swallow as quickly as possible or choke.

Finally, the cup was taken away and Sam’s head was rested back down. Panting, Sam blinked heavily several times before his vision began to clear and he was able to make out Ithyn leaning over him.

Gods all around, Samril.” Ithyn sighed, gently pressing his wrist to Sam’s forehead. “What were you thinking?”

Sam tried to answer, felt his stomach lurch in response, and shut his mouth again.

Ithyn shook his head. “You nearly killed yourself, do you realize that?”

Sam’s eyes went wide, but he still couldn’t speak quite yet. Killed myself? What the hells did I take?

Ithyn continued looking him over, checking his pulse, examining his eyes and tongue, feeling the glands under his jaw, then sat back with another sigh. “Thank Kalos, I was able to determine which powder you took. Why did you not simply wait for me? I might have been able to assist you with…whatever it was you were attempting to accomplish.”

Needed,” Sam whispered, testing his voice, “an escape.”

Oh, Sam.” Ithyn sighed. “But to take your own life?”

Sam slowly shook his head, thankful the room didn’t spin when he did so. “Wasn’t my intention.”

What was your intention?”

Just…a break. A little break from the world.”

And you used that?” Ithyn asked incredulously.

Sam shrugged and slowly sat up. He found himself on the sofa in Ithyn’s sitting room, not far from where he’d collapsed on the floor. “It did say For Master Shyford.”

Ithyn gave him a puzzled look, then glanced over at the table where all the herbs were arranged. He gave an exasperated sigh and shook his head. “That note had nothing to do with the powders. It was for the books I placed in your room the day you arrived, and I simply forgot to discard the note. Besides, you had my jars all out of arrangement, anyway. How could you possibly match the note to one of them?”

Sam felt the tips of his ears go red. He really had made a bad assumption there.

The blue one looked like–”

Like what?” Ithyn asked when Sam broke off and fell silent.

Sam shook his head. Father’s love, I’m an idiot. He knew herb lore was not his strong point. “Looked just like the drug the Guildmate gave me.”

A puzzled look flashed across Ithyn’s face before it gave way to a stony expression. “I see,” he bit off. Then he was silent for a moment before he suddenly jumped up from his perch on the edge of the sofa and went over to the table, roughly rearranging the bottles and keeping his back to Sam.

Sam slowly sat up, testing his body for any further pain or dizziness, and turned to look at Ithyn. “Did I say something wrong?”

Ithyn paused his movements, gave a tight shake of his head, and went back to whatever he was doing.

Sam stood. “Ithyn, look, I’m sorry I messed with your bottles there. I just–”

Ithyn whirled on him. “You know, when you cavort with whores, you are no better than one yourself.”

Sam’s eyes went wide. “Excuse me? You’re calling me a whore?”

You have been with one,” Ithyn accused. “You admitted as much yourself.” He paused and gave Sam a quick once-over. “And more than once, if I had to guess.”

He’s not a whore!” Sam threw up his hands.

Ithyn clasped his hands before himself, the posture on him somehow more threatening than if he’d crossed his arms over his chest. “Does he accept payment in return for bodily pleasures?”

Of course.”

Whore,” Ithyn reiterated, and turned back to his jars and bottles.

Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) is now available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle formats!

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

And With No Fanfare Whatsoever…

I released a book two weeks ago, and barely posted a damned thing about it.

It certainly wasn’t for lack of satisfaction with the book. I’m much happier than I initially thought I would be with the story, considering how much I struggled with the plot line (shades of Broken all over again). Although, I didn’t really consider just how content I was with the story until I gave it that final proof copy read-through right before releasing it. There was this constant sense of “it’s technically done” until that final reading, and then I was hit with a sense of “I actually really enjoyed reading that.”

A little backwards from the usual, but whatever works, I suppose.

Overall, I think I’m just … tired.

Too much life change going on at once, and I think it just became more overwhelming than I realized. For an introverted Highly Sensitive Person, change is never a good thing, even when it’s voluntarily chosen. Selling my house and moving was monumental enough. Starting hormone therapy and watching / feeling my body change was a whole other level of stress, even though desired. Hiring someone and training her to take over my day job so I could eventually do the full-time writer gig….I think that just pushed me beyond my limit.

It’s all I can do to drum up the energy to go in to work each day, let alone train her. It’s all I can do to simply adult lately. I forget to pay my bills (which NEVER happens). I forget to do my chores. I put off anything and everything to do with writing, editing, brainstorming, marketing.

Because I just don’t want to.

I’m not giving up on writing. Not even close. It’s definitely still my life-long passion, and I’ve still got (at last count) at least 20 more books to put out, to add to the 12 I have out now. I think I simply overdid things, and might need to take another step back.

Which just kills me, considering the nine-month long dry spell I suffered last year, which set my whole writing schedule back in the first place. Betrayal should have been out last year, not to mention two more that follow it, but now they’ll (hopefully) be coming out this year instead. I just need to ease myself through this depressive funk I’m in and get my head back in the game.

As for Betrayal, though…

This is the first book in the Shifting Isles series that is written entirely in one character’s perspective, rather than switching between the two (or three) MCs. In this book, we get Sam’s story, when he goes off to Ceynes to be personal mage to the emperor there after the resolution of the Westfield virus scandal in The Five-Hour Wife. In Betrayal, we follow Sam as he tries to navigate his new post while also juggling a very unexpected new attraction that just might help him get over his long-unrequited love of his best friend, not to mention trying to make sense of the prophecy that brought him to Ceynes in the first place.

One thing I love about this story is the constant mix of places and technology. Sam goes from Agoran (which is more technologically advanced than our own real world) to Ceynes, which is something like medieval England. There’s even a little sprinkling of Jadu’n, the magical Isle where the magi live, as well as Erostil, the tropical Isle where the Erosti Guildmates (essentially, glorified prostitutes) are trained. One minute, Sam’s in a world with electricity and mobile phones, and the next, he’s in a place where the height of technology is candles and horse-drawn carriages.

And the Westfield virus scandal may not be quite as resolved as Sam thought…

There will be magic. And winged horses. And danger. And secrets. And lots of flirting between Sam and a certain silver-haired mage, which is just about the only thing that keeps Sam sane while he tries to deal with a cocky boy king who sits on the throne of Ceynes.

And there will be betrayal.

Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) now available on CreateSpace and Amazon.com (in both Print and Kindle formats).

I Novel, JA Wood, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Back on the Box

Wow, what a crazy few months. Back in October, my entire foundation felt pulled out from under me. Deciding to sell my house with the intention of banking the proceeds so I could afford to try the full-time writer gig was a HUGE change, but apparently that’s how I do things. I trudge along, tolerating, tolerating, tolerating — whatever the problem may be — then finally snap and make a big decision, and never look back.

The process of selling the house, moving, and getting settled in at my new place took longer than I’d hoped, but it’s finally done. And I’ve found a sense of home again, something I was afraid would be always lacking. My entire mental well-being was so wrapped up in my house that I wasn’t sure I’d ever find that sense of stability and comfort ever again, but now that I’m unpacked, settled in, and have a new routine, my foundation is once again stable. I’m home. I have a new writing space, and I love it. It’s perfect.

And, next week, my day job replacement starts training. Which means I’m not far from being able to finally leave the place I’ve worked for almost 17 years (half my life!), and try to write full-time. It’s a scary prospect, but I have to try it. It’s either that or continue in a dead-end, unchallenging job that leaves me feeling like I merely exist rather than live. I want to live.

Now that all the pieces are falling into place, I’m finally writing again. Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) was supposed to have been out last June, but after releasing the Matchmakers Trilogy, I just seemed to lose all motivation to write. Life, eh?

But Betrayal is now finished, and just getting a last few touch-ups with the red pen before I slog through the tedious process of formatting and setup, getting the files ready for publication. It’ll be so worth it, though. I miss that feeling of having a new proof copy in my hands. I can’t wait.

(Aaaaaand I even got back on my box jumps. Not well, and not every time — I still have to build myself up to them — but they’re not insurmountable anymore.)

As for what’s in store for the rest of the year? All going well, I’m hoping to get back to my previous schedule and also have books 7, 8, and 9 in the Shifting Isles series released throughout the year. If I have time for it, I may even throw in another m/m romance trilogy that the Muse has been teasing me with for several months now. And that’s not even counting the remaining 5 books in the Shifting Isles series after Book 9, and the standalone that takes place before the events in the series, and the other series that takes place before the standalone, and another side series I’m toying with, and…

Yeah. Straitjacket. I need one.

So many books to write, so little time…

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Shifting Isles

2016 Rainbow Awards

15380790_1466238886743522_9050221161763556811_nI still can’t believe it. The Matchmakers Trilogy was a Finalist in the 2016 Rainbow Awards!

Being Newbie Mr. Nobody in the m/m fiction genre, I thought there was no way my work would receive any kind of recognition in these awards. Receiving Honorable Mention several weeks ago blew my mind. Finding out I was a Finalist left me speechless. I can’t believe my book made it that far, especially amongst a list of so many fantastic books.

Many congratulations to all the winners! My to-buy list of books is about to explode even more than usual. And huge thanks to Elisa and the judges for all their hard work and dedication to making the Awards happen. Such a great experience and I can’t wait to try again next year with a new release!

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Excitement Error

There’s always something. You go through the writing process, get everything done and uploaded and ready for sale, and then there’s always something that has to be fixed.

You know, that one little spelling error you missed. Or a page layout issue that just didn’t sit right with you. Or maybe the image on the cover really needs a slight adjustment.

The things that wake you up in the middle of the night after a book launch, and have you scrambling out of bed to get it fixed in a hurry, because you won’t be able to sleep until it’s done.

That didn’t happen when I released the Matchmakers trilogy. I was so excited about that one, so eager to get it released, that for the first time, I actually slept easily the night after launch.

But, there’s always something.

I stumbled across a bad review of Second Chances, the first book in the trilogy. A lot of it I just brushed off as personal taste, but the reviewer did point out one thing that had completely slipped my mind.

The stories take place in a fictional world, and since all my writing takes place in that fictional world, it never occurred to me that the m/m audience, as opposed to my general fantasy audience, wouldn’t immediately realize that the books took place in a fictional world.

Then another reviewer pointed it out (pre-review, thank you Isa!), and I realized how stupid I’d been.

I’m just so wrapped up in this fictional world that it never occurred to me my readers might not be so. I live and eat and breathe the Shifting Isles, so I forget that there’s an actual reality out there sometimes.

So, yeah, my mistake. Entirely my fault. I should have thought of that. I’ve corrected it now, adding a note before the text to clarify that the stories do not take place in the real world, that there are multiple gods, that the days of the week have different names, etc. All the little things that were throwing readers.

What can I say? Live and learn. Fix your mistakes. And move on to the next thing.

But on a positive note…

honorable-mentionEEEEE! The Matchmakers Trilogy received Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards!

I actually screamed when I saw this pop up on the Facebook event page for the Awards. Considering I’m the little guy, the newbie, the nobody, and running amongst so many of my favorite authors, I never dreamed I’d actually get any kind of recognition. Sure, I’d hoped, but never thought it would actually happen. As far as I understand it, Honorable Mention means at least one judge gave the book at least 9/10 in all four ranking criteria, which is just thrilling to me. That someone enjoyed my book that much…

What a feeling!