Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, Publishing

Writing Frenzy

It used to be that I considered myself lucky if I could finish a novel within a month. A couple of them have taken me over a year. With a backlog of some 20+ story ideas, it felt like I was never going to have the slightest chance of getting caught up. Even with story structure and outlines, I still couldn’t seem to improve my writing pace, and felt as though I was continually falling farther and farther behind.

Then I came across The Story Equation by Susan May Warren. What a total game-changer! It highlighted aspects of story structure and outlining that I hadn’t really been clear on before, and presented the buildup of tension in a story in a completely new way.

In two days, I outlined 5 novels.

It was right around that time that a friend and fellow author, Gianni Holmes, threw down the challenge to write a novel (approximately 50k words) in ten days. It began as a purely personal goal on her part, since that was the amount of time she was looking forward to having away from her day job. (Keep in mind, this amazing lady has managed to self-publish something like a dozen books in the space of a year, all while working full time!) I saw the challenge, and as we were already part of a Facebook group who were pushing to try writing 12 Books in 12 Months, I figured, what the hell. I’d give it a shot just to see how close I could get. I honestly wasn’t sure I could finish within ten days, especially when it came to starting a new book in a whole new series, but it was definitely worth a try.

I finished in nine. Book 1 in a new, upcoming series, The House of Denmer, reached just shy of 50k words, all within nine days.

Then we started a Facebook group so we could repeat the challenge, and I turned right back around and did it again with another new project (Simon: A Transitivity Novella) and finished that one in six days.

With that done, I started on Book 2 of The House of Denmer … and ran into a snag. At the start of Day 3, I got the Blue Screen of Death, and had to go without my laptop for a few days. But once I got it back? Three more solid days of work, and that book was done, too. 50k in five days.

And then again, with Second Act: A Matchmakers Novella (coming soon!). 45k in nine days.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt the next round of the #10DayNovelChallenge, getting a start on Book 3 in The House of Denmer, which will ultimately be a five-book series. Following that will be a seven-book YA fantasy series, and if I can keep up this pace, every one of them might actually be written by the end of the year.

Susan May Warren, I could kiss you!

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

My Growing World

It’s release day! Illumined Shadows (Treble and the Lost Boys, Book 3) went live today, completing the Treble trilogy. I’m so glad Vic finally gets his HEA. After having this story close to my heart for almost two years, I’m definitely celebrating having it finally out there in the real world.

Illumined Shadows also makes the fifteenth novel set in my Shifting Isles fictional world (and, as things currently stand, I have at least fifteen more in the works, in addition to short stories). One of the things that I’ve discovered I love about having so many stories that connect in various ways within the fictional world, is just how often beloved characters either make cameo appearances or pop up in random references. For instance, Vic, the MC of Illumined Shadows, began as a minor character in both Blindsighted (Shifting Isles, Book 8) and Libertas (Shifting Isles, Book 9), and now has his own story. Elliden Crawford, the MC of Second Drafts, seems to be showing up all over the place (because I just adore him and can’t help myself).

Then, of course, there’s Vorena, from The Prisoner. I never could quite let her go. 😉

But then I had to go and write this bit in Illumined Shadows:

Who are we talking about here?” Athan asked, his marble features pulled into a hint of a frown. “Who’s Deyn?”

Summer brightened. “Oh! My great-great-great-grandmother’s ex-husband’s daughter’s daughter-in-law.” She paused for half a beat, then added, “Or your stepmother’s foster father’s best friend’s mother-in-law.”

Summer’s answer references seven named characters (in order: Ashyn Gael, Benash Rothbur, Saira Rothbur-Crawford, Zhadeyn Crawford, Seryn Vas-kelen, Samril Shyford, Daivid Thaton, and Zhadeyn again) from seven different books (The Prisoner, S.P.I.R.I.T. Division, Return to Tanas, Broken, Betrayal, Addiction, and Blindsighted, all from the Shifting Isles series). It is INSANE how many times I had to go over that little speech to make sure I’d gotten all the relationships right.

Thank gods for character family trees (which I’m STILL struggling with turning into some sort of imagery so I can include them both here on my website and in the books themselves). I’m also still working on getting profiles for all of these characters up here on the website (I think I only have two completed so far…yikes!), but eventually they’ll all be here, with all the applicable links and connections.

I could very well be insane…

BUT that’s a problem for another day. In the meantime, I’ve got my entire backlist enrolled in KU for those of you who use that service, and now that my poor Vic finally has his HEA, I’ve gotta have him go help out another character in my current WIP.

See? They just keep popping up everywhere!

Publishing, Treble and the Lost Boys

Here Comes Trouble!

Introducing: Ryley Skye! Forensics expert. Violinist. Cheater. Exhibitionist.

Mage?

Ryley can’t take anything seriously. Not the murder scenes he investigates, nor the fact that he’s cheating on his boyfriend. Not the bloody nightmares he gets every other night, and especially not Vic’s ridiculous theory that Ryley might be a mage.

Magic? Him? There’s just no way.

When Vic decides he’s had enough of Ryley’s cheating and breaks things off, it couldn’t come at a worse time. They’ve just been handed a case that will require them to work closely together, whether they like it or not. But Ryley plays along. He has to. He can’t afford any kind of confrontation. Things happen when he gets angry or aroused. Weird things. Bad things. He has to stay bottled up and in control at all times.

Then he meets Asher Arden, and indulges in what he thinks is a little rebound fling. But when Ryley loses control and puts Asher’s life at risk, he realizes two things: He loves Asher more than anything else in the world…

And Vic just might have been right all along.

The book is now available in both paperback and Kindle formats! Be sure to add it to your Goodreads TBR, and check out the Pinterest board for some neat visuals! There’s also a blog review tour and giveaway, courtesy of Signal Boost Promotions!

And huge thanks, once again, to Dana Leah at Designs by Dana, for the lovely cover.

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

It’s About Time

I learned very quickly, when diving in to create a fictional world, that the process was a lot more work than I’d anticipated. Though free of the restrictions of continuing to write within the confines of the real world (like I did with the Lethean Trilogy), I had far more work cut out for me than simple matters of research. Making up everything from the gods to the creation of the world to the development of various races and countries–which meant determining how different people looked, spoke, behaved, dressed; what they ate, what they valued; what technology or customs they had; etc–was both thrilling and exhausting. For the most part, I managed to keep it all in my head, but as my world grew, and more stories began to take shape, I wound up with notes scattered across dozens of files, which I was constantly having to seek out and reference to make sure I was getting the details right.

What I should have been doing all along, right from the start, was building a Series Bible, keeping everything in one spot, nice and neat and organized. Of course, I didn’t run into an obvious need to do so until I began editing the next Treble and the Lost Boys book and realized I’d run into a pretty glaring timeline issue.

Between Blindsighted (Shifting Isles, Book 8), Libertas (Shifting Isles, Book 9), and the three Treble books, I had five books on my hands with tightly overlapping events, and discovered that some of those events were turning out to be a whole year off.

So I stopped writing entirely, went back to The Prisoner, the first book in the Shifting Isles world, and starting reading. I took meticulous notes of every single day that was mentioned, how much time was indicated to have passed between different events, who was where, any mentions of what time of year it happened to be, any references to past events and how long ago they were said to be, any mentions of how old a particular character was, etc. At the same time, I started building one big Series Bible file, multiple spreadsheets to consolidate information about the gods, companies, addresses, magic spells, phrases, and–of course–characters.

Almost four months later, and after having gone through the 13 Shifting Isles world novels currently in print (as well as a handful of short stories), I discovered several more timeline issues.

Some were relatively minor: events being described as happening on the same day when they were really supposed to stretch out over two. Some were more interesting, like one week in Blindsighted that somehow contained 9 days instead of 6. The worst timeline discrepancy came with the Matchmakers Trilogy. Randomly throwing out that some particular thing or another happened such-and-such years ago is all well and good until you actually start pinning down dates for things and find out that the thing happening such-and-such years ago is a temporal impossibility when compared to other historical occurrences that were mentioned.

So I corrected, adjusted, edited. Hells, I wanted to do a series relaunch / second-edition-with-bonus-content launch anyway, so now, when that does happen, not only will I be able to put out the stories with corrected timeline flow, I’ll also be able to better develop extra bonus content, as well as appendices for the novels.

Like timeline notes, for instance, showcasing major events and their dates.

Or family trees for my characters (I had a good laugh when I started fleshing out a tree for Officer Benash, and realized the man ultimately had six wives/partners as well as ten children before he died (to say nothing of all the grandchildren and so on), when all the while, in my head, I just saw him as the man who loved Vorena and fathered Saira).

Or finally make some progress (and corrections) on the Wiki I started building a few months back and had to set aside in favor of other, more pressing matters. With a dozen spreadsheets and notes on something like 260 characters, that’s going to be an ambitious project in and of itself.

Or…maps. But that’s a fun topic for another time… 😉

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…

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

When the Grass Isn’t As Green As You Imagined

It’s strange to look back at this post from eight months ago and recall how starry-eyed I was at the time. Back then, just two months into my experiment at being a full-time writer, I thought I was truly living the dream: no alarm clocks, no bosses, no desk to be chained to and customers to satisfy for ten hours a day, six days a week. I was free to write and do whatever else I wanted, all on my own schedule. I relaxed. I read a lot. My chiropractor marveled at the improvement in my back now that my shoulders weren’t constantly up in my ears from the stress of the day job. And, of course, I got a lot of writing done. It was the kind of life that every writer talks about wanting if they haven’t achieved already. And I wanted it. I wanted it for years, but never took the leap until I managed to find a way to make it a financially-viable lifestyle, even if only temporarily. I took the leap, and for a while, I couldn’t be happier.

Now? Heh. Different story.

I’m not saying I regret taking the opportunity. Not by a longshot! It was the best decision I ever made. It gave me the final push to leave the day job where I’d worked for 17 years, something I’d been chickening out of for way too long. It gave me the chance to start transitioning with hormone therapy away from the prying eyes of customers, coworkers, and vendors who had known me for nearly two decades (which, as it turns out, was not nearly as big a concern as I imagined, but, you know, hindsight and all that). Overall, it forced me to take the biggest, scariest risk of my life. Not have a job? Was I mad?!?! Sure, selling my house gave me plenty of savings to live off of, but there’s just something comforting about having a regular paycheck coming in, no matter how much of a cushion you have.

Mostly, it gave me the opportunity to write without having to steal moments in and around the day job. Granted, the whole point of leaving the day job was so I’d actually have time to market my books in addition to writing them, and I wound up doing very little marketing. Still, I got a lot more writing done than ever before. I thought I’d finally get my series release dates back on schedule.

So what’s the problem? I am SO FUCKING BORED.

I never get bored. Never. I’ve always wondered at people who complain they’re bored, because that has never been a problem for me. Until now. Even writing has become boring, which is the last thing I want. Writing was my passion. It was the thing I stumbled upon in my darkest moments, and out of trauma came this beautiful, perfect thing, this sense of purpose, this meaning for living. I’d envied people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I never had that until I fell into writing.

So the last thing I wanted was for my passion to start feeling like a job.

Now, you’d think that would have been a given. Writing full-time? That makes it a job. But it didn’t feel like that. It felt like an adventure, an escape from the trap of a 9-5 (rather, a 7:30 to 5:30), a chance to play at being retired, in a way, while also pursuing the thing I loved. Except…writing was my passion because it was also my escape from reality. It gave me an outlet to deal with my trauma, but it also gave me a place to disappear to at the end of the day. My little fantasy world was my safe, happy place where I could go on adventures and meet new people and experience new and exciting things, all without having to leave the house. After dealing with the harsh realities of providing customer service to the general public (ugh) all day, my writing was a necessary relief.

And now it’s lost that element. It’s no longer an escape since it’s now my entire life. My whole day revolves around writing, so it’s turning my passion into work, my escape into a job. It’s no longer magical and exciting. I find myself desperately grasping for new project ideas just for the sake of keeping the passion alive when I’ve already got fifteen other projects stacked up behind me, needing to get done but going ignored because they now feel like work rather than a mystery to uncover.

Now I find myself facing the prospect of having to go out and get a part-time job, just for the sake of having something else to do, some reason to leave the house, some grounding sense of reality in hopes that writing can become a beloved escape again.

I honestly don’t know how some people do it. While still working full-time, I thought there was nothing that could beat this kind of lifestyle. No alarm clocks? No bosses or customers to please? Sounds like a deal! But now that I’ve gotten to experience it, going fully unemployed to pursue a dream leaves some things to be desired. To the writers who can do this full-time for years on end without losing their spark, I salute you. I don’t know how you do it, and though I thought this would be the perfect lifestyle for an introvert such as myself, I’m not sure I envy you any longer. Guess I’m just not cut out for being unemployed. I need to be active. I need to be useful.

But not back to my old day job. If I ever have to sit at a desk and answer phones all day again, I’m going to go insane.

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.