Category Archives: Writing

BALTIMORE BOOK FEST: My Take (+ pics from my engagement party and rehearsal dinner: remember I said it was my anniversary?)

Two weekends ago, I went to the Baltimore Book Fest. Mostly as an attendee, but also as a panelist. It was a wonderful weekend!

The event was held at the Inner Harbor. In years past, it’s been held in Mount Vernon but the Washington Monument is under construction so the event coordinators thought the harbor would be a better venue.

I think current plans call for the festival’s return to Mount Vernon, a historic neighborhood that is home to the Walters Art Museum, the Peabody Conservatory, and the George Peabody Library (if you haven’t seen pictures, click here! it’s a beautiful library!), but I have to admit that I enjoyed attending the festival at the harbor and wouldn’t mind if future festivals were held there. While the harbor lacks the cultural feel of Mount Vernon, the Inner Harbor offers waterfront views and room to spread out.

There were tons of tents, most of them with books and authors in them. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and Maryland Romance Writers had a tent. Individual authors had tents. Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores, local museums, small presses, and library groups all had tents. It was fun seeing writers I’ve known for years as well as meeting many new ones.

Craig took this pic from Federal Hill.  I'm standing beside MRW's tent with a friend.  Can't you see me waving? ;-)

Craig took this pic from Federal Hill.
I’m standing beside MRW’s tent with a friend.
Can’t you see me waving? ;-)

One of my favorite things was walking around the book festival with my family. My younger daughter was away but my husband and older daughter spent time checking out all the tents and exhibits.

Jack Clemons, a former engineer and team leader of NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs, did a “Flags on the Moon” presentation at SFWA’s tent. He talked about each of the missions he was involved with from a perspective neither my husband nor I had heard before, focusing on the U.S. flags that were left behind by the astronauts. It’s hard to overstate how much we enjoyed this talk. Jack mixed in video clips, photographs, and his own personal anecdotes and memories. Watching a History Channel documentary is not at all the same as seeing a live presentation by someone who was actually involved in these missions.

My daughter loved meeting Marissa Meyer. She’s currently reading Cinder for her outside reading assignment. I gave her a stack of YA books to choose from and she read the first few paragraphs of each and choose Meyer’s book about a cyborg Cinderella in part because Meyer establishes immediate sympathy for her protagonist. My daughter had her sign Cinder and Scarlet and even got to play Taboo with her, Charles Gannon, Sarah Pinkster, and Michael Underwood as part of SFWA’s Dangerous Voices Variety Hour.

Marissa Meyer's Cinder

The Dark Fantasy panel was great – a much more intimate setting than NYCC’s genre-benders panel in 2012! We opened by discussing “dark fantasy” and what the heck that term really means. I’m not sure a consensus was reached but it was interesting hearing everyone’s take. I shared my thoughts: basically, that the term dark fantasy can be used as a catchall category for works that otherwise defy categorization. When I hear the term I assume the story will have at least one element that is disturbing, unsettling, provocative, or even violent, and that it may not end happily. Other writers shared their view that dark fantasy, including horror, can be cathartic for both writer and reader. Overall, however, I think the biggest takeaway from the panel was this:

Write for yourself. Yes, genre writers want to be commercial and should pay attention to the market. But chasing trends won’t make you a success. Instead, it will almost always guarantee you fail. Why? Because you’ll never get the timing right for one thing (by the time your work is finished, submitted, bought, and published, the trend will be stale). What’s worse though is that your work won’t be genuine.

Jill Archer, dark fantasy panel, Noon Onyx, Baltimore Book Festival, SFWA

Jill Archer
DARK FANTASY PANEL
Baltimore Book Fest 2014

We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing the market, preferring instead to answer questions about our work or share tips for other writers in the audience, but it’s worth noting here that I’ve been hearing various behind-the-scenes chatter about a decreased interest in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because if UF and/or PNR is your love, then write it. Read it. Trends come and go. If I’ve learned nothing else from my time as a writer, it’s that the most important thing is to be disciplined and stick to your own goals. For writers, it’s not the early bird who wins, it’s the one who hunts for the worms they think are perfect, from sunup to sundown… and then on through the night and into the next day… and so on and so forth.

It was also nice just getting down to the harbor. I used to work there and now I rarely get down there. So it was great having lunch with friends – and going to dinner! I mentioned before that it was our 17th wedding anniversary. (17 years?! Jeez, how did I get to be so old?! :-D )

Saturday night after the Author Meet & Greet, Craig and I cabbed it to Jack’s Bistro in Canton, a waterfront neighborhood to the east of the Inner Harbor. It was tiny and packed but absolutely terrific and just what we were in the mood for. Our waitress was super friendly with all sorts of helpful suggestions. We splurged: apps, wine, ridiculously large entrees, and a dessert.

Since I shared a wedding picture of us for our 15th anniversary, I’ll share two other vintage pics with you for this year: one from our engagement party and one from our rehearsal dinner. Enjoy!

Our engagement party circa 1995. I'm rocking the "young lawyer" look, huh? And some seriously curly hair!

Our engagement party circa 1995. I’m rocking the “young lawyer” look, huh? And some seriously curly hair!

Craig and Jill Rehearsal Dinner 1997

Craig and Jill Rehearsal Dinner 1997

Hope everyone’s week is going well! Tomorrow, I have another guest blogger. (She says she doesn’t like to dress up for Halloween! But we’ll forgive her. It’s a great post! :-) )


Baltimore Book Festival: I’m going; are you?

Baltimore Book Festival, fantasy author, Jill Archer, Noon Onyx

I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Fest this weekend. Details on my scheduled events are below. The rest of the time, I’ll likely be wandering around, checking out everyone else’s events. If you’re going, it would be great to meet you! Stop by my Friday night panel and/or Saturday’s Meet & Greet. Tell me whether you’re a writer, reader, or both. Let me know if you’re a Noon Onyx fan. Or wish me and my husband (who will be there too) a Happy Anniversary (it’s our 17th!). There will be a limited number of all three Noon Onyx books for sale at the festival — and I’m offering special pricing! If you haven’t yet purchased a Noon Onyx novel, now’s your chance to buy one at a discount and have me sign it. :-D Come on, don’t make me lug my books home from the festival! If you live in the Baltimore/Washington area, help me sell out! (I’m also happy to sign books you’ve previously purchased if you want to bring them.) Hope to see you there!

Friday 9/26/14 6:00-7:00

Writing Dark Fantasy

So you’d like to write dark fantasy, horror fiction, or paranormals, or demons, angels, post-apocalyptic, and genre-bending fiction that puts you on the edge of your seat. Meet with writers of these genres to talk about what’s trending, what publishers are doing, and what tips our panel of authors has to offer.

Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jill Archer, Em Garner, John Maclay, Sunny Moraine

Where is it?

This event is at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stage (SFWA’s tent), which is on the Key Highway side of the harbor between the Science Center and the Visionary Art Museum. Click here for a map of exhibits at the Baltimore Book Fest.

Saturday 9/27/14 5:30 -7:00

Reception and Meet & Greet

(Authors, Music, and Food!)

Join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at our reception, autographing session, and Meet and Greet with our program participants at the Baltimore Book Festival.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeanne Adams, Jill Archer, Catherine Asaro, Jack Clemons, Brenda Clough, Scott Edelman, Charles Gannon, Ronald Garner, Em Garner, Herb Gilliland, Anne K Gray, Elektra Hammond, Justina Ireland, Jim Johnson, Alma Katsu, Cheryl Klam, L. Jagi Lamplighter, John Maclay, Marrisa Meyer, Sunny Moraine, Christine Norris, Ellen Oh, Sarah Pinsker, Caroline Richmond, Don Sakers, Karen Sandler, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Rori Shay, Alex Shvartsman, Dawnyell Snyder, Bud Sparhawk, John Tilden, Mike Underwood, Jean Marie Ward, Fran Wilde, Ilene Wong, Karlo Yeager

Where is it?

This event is at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stage (SFWA’s tent), which is on the Key Highway side of the harbor between the Science Center and the Visionary Art Museum. Click here for a map of exhibits at the Baltimore Book Fest.


MIND MELD: What’s Your Take on Author Legacies? Should Unfinished Series Remain Unfinished?

I’m a panelist for SF Signal’s Mind Meld today. The question was:

Brandon Sanderson famously finished Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time while writers like Roger Zelazny (“Amber”) and George R.R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire”) have said nobody will finish their series or continue their work. Would you want another writer to pick up an unfinished series by an author? Should unfinished series remain unfinished?

Want to discuss, debate, and/or read everyone’s answers? Click here!

More updates from me later…


#Writing: Buildingbuilding – Overwhelmed by Worldbuilding? Try a more focused approach…

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately worldbuilding. Or rather, buildingbuilding. One of the projects I’ve had waiting in the wings needed to be taken to the next step. And the main setting for this story is a building, not a world. Since the Noon Onyx novels have such a sprawling setting, designing a smaller set that’s interesting enough to serve as the backdrop for two novels (the intended length of the project) is challenging, but one I’ve taken on happily. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I figured I’d share some thoughts about my buildingbuilding process. It’s too early, however, to share the building from my WIP, so I’m going to use my somewhat silly water tower as the building example for this post.

Here are some of the things I consider as I build a building that will serve as a significant set for one of my stories:

Name

Not all buildings need names, but if your building is going to be a big part of your story, consider giving it a proper name. The first thing I did when trying to think of a name for my MC’s home was a search for “famous water towers.” I wasn’t sure what I’d find. Maybe nothing. But the internet instantly delivered inspirational info. This link takes you to a list of the 10 Coolest Water Towers. (Who knew, right? Some of you may be in the business of constructing water towers, but for the rest of us, lists like this are a nice surprise). So I glanced through the pics. They looked neat. Whimsical. Interesting.

But I don’t want to use any of these water towers exactly. I want to build a water tower for my story that’s unique. So I decided the water tower should look like a light bulb. And it should be painted yellow – as in, American cheese colored yellow. (If you’re wondering why a light bulb or American cheese, see my Unspiration post where this cockamamie story idea first originated).

I decided to name the water tower The Edison.

Purpose

The water tower in my sample story isn’t going to store water. It’s going to be the main character’s home. Its purpose is to serve as living space. So I searched the internet for water towers that had been converted to residential use. Again, wasn’t sure what I’d find. But this link from i09 (People Who Live Inside Water Towers) popped up as the first result when I searched “converted water towers.” I’ll admit, I was both excited and disappointed. The post is terrific; the pictures are awesomely cool. But my water tower as personal residence idea wasn’t as original as I’d thought.

Writers (and readers who are interested in this sort of thing), this happens all the time. You think your ideas are amazing and unique… but they aren’t. This is only one of a gazillion places where your story idea will be tested. You have two choices: ditch your idea in favor of finding something more original that still suits your story purposes or continue using your not-as-fresh-as-you-thought idea. I decided that living in a water tower is still a pretty cool idea even if I’m not the first person to have thought of it. I’m going to stick with it.

History

My water tower isn’t being used to store water anymore. Why not? Here is where the building’s history becomes backstory. Some of this work may show up in your final manuscript, but a lot of it won’t. I started out researching why a town might abandon its water tower. I learned that the main purpose of a water tower is to maintain a constant pressure in the town’s water supply rather than supply the water directly. Interesting, but a distraction. I could have been sucked into researching how water towers work for the next half-hour or more.

But I didn’t want to get side tracked so I decided on an easy answer: the water tower was abandoned after a new one was built. (This idea also generated a possible plot idea. Maybe The Edison is scheduled for demolition. Maybe – a la Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – the main character has to find a way to save her home by moving it somewhere else.)

Façade

What does the building look like on the outside? Since it’s fairly easy to imagine a water tower that looks like a light bulb, I’m not going to spend too much time describing The Edison.  It’s worth noting here that, even though my stories focus on characters, I more often print out pictures of places when I’m writing, which I then tack up in my office to convey a particular tone or mood. The more easily I can imagine the environment that my character exists in, the more easily I can imagine what that character is thinking, feeling, and doing inside of it.

The Edison (Beware of Nutria)

Floor plan

What does your building look like on the inside? For me, this stage is driven by two considerations: the story’s needs and verisimilitude. I need the interior of my building to provide whatever rooms, hidden caches, darkened alcoves – whatever – that are required for the plot. And I want my buildings grounded in reality. The best fantasy feels like it could be real but for the fantasy elements.

So for my water tower I searched “water tower residence floor plans.” The results were interesting enough but not as inspiring as I wanted. So I searched “tree house floor plans.” That yielded all sorts of fascinating shapes and ideas to build on. I started with three basic areas (eating, sleeping, bathing) and then considered a few others based on my (albeit completely silly) story idea: a playroom for the nutria, a library for a collection of books on Varmit Crimes and Misdemeanors, a zip line hung between two old telephone poles…

I’m not going to share my rough floor plan drawing because it’s horrible. But my buildingbuilding process isn’t. If nothing else, going through this exercise for just one of the buildings in your WIP will give you a more fully fleshed out setting for at least one of your scenes. It might also give you a chance to see your WIP from a different perspective, which can generate all sorts of new plot ideas.

Writers, do you have a “buildingbuilding” process? How do you build the buildings within which your scenes take place?

I hope everyone’s writing is going well! I’ll be posting more about what else I’ve been up to later.


C.L. Wilson: Ten Things I’ve Learned Since I Started Writing

Bestselling fantasy author C.L. Wilson is wrapping up her blog tour for THE WINTER KING, her newest fantasy romance. I met Ms. Wilson years ago at a writer’s conference before I was published. We only chatted for a few minutes, but I remember how nice she was. And how terrific her books sounded. So I’m very happy to host her for her last stop where she shares ten of the things she’s learned since she started writing. She’s also offering a tour-wide giveaway: one copy of her book and a winter white rose snow globe pendant (pictured below; U.S. only). Welcome, C.L.!

The Winter King, C.L. Wilson, fantasy, romance

Ten Things I’ve Learned

Since I Started Writing

by C.L. Wilson

I penned (or, rather, penciled) my first story at age 5-6, completed and submitted my first novel at 21, joined RWA in the late ‘80’s, early 90’s, and sold my first book in 2006 (published in 2007).  Since 2007, I’ve hit the USA Today, NY Times, Publisher’s Weekly, had my (former) publisher go bankrupt and close its doors, seen over half of the US bookstores go out of business, and seen the rise of ebooks and self-publishing totally change the publishing landscape, and returned to publishing after three and a half years away to find everything dramatically different than it was in 2011.

10. Never stop reading. 

Read a lot.  Always.  Love of writing stories begins with love of reading stories, so reading is something writers should make time to do every day. And you should read outside your own genre, too.  This is important.  It’s something I often forget, simply because I love reading the genres I write most of all, but reading outside your own genre is akin to thinking outside the box.  You’ll never know what is going to spark that next unique idea, so broadening your reading horizons is a great way to prep your brain for making interesting new leaps and connections! Now, with ebooks, I have an extensive library that is always with me on my cell phone, iPad, and Nook.

9. Build a Circle of (Writer) Friends.

No one understands the ups and downs of being a writer as much as other writers.  No one can help you celebrate the successes and get through the downturns like other writers.  I have a close, tight-knit circle of writer friends—my BFFs—with whom I share everything.  I wouldn’t be published without them.  We brainstorm, help each other when we’re stuck, laugh, cry, support each other when our books come out, and generally act as confidant, safety net, cheer squad, commiseration crew, and all-around besties for one another.  My life is so much richer for having this circle of friends in it.

8. Learn how long it takes you to write a book BEFORE you sell one. 

I wish I’d learned this before I sold, but between the day job, family, and the constant shuffling of priorities, I didn’t know.  I still don’t.  I’m getting better at it though.  One way to estimate is to track your word count every time you write.  Figure out about how many words you write per hour on average, and how many hours per week you write on average.  That will give you a good idea of how long it will take you to write a rough draft of say, 100,000 words. (or 150,000 in my case!)

7. Learn to call for help when you get stuck. (See Circle of Friends above). 

For me, I can get (and have gotten) stuck for weeks, even months at a time, and you can’t afford to do that while under deadline, so you need to set a time limit on the “I can figure this out myself” part of your “writer’s block” and call in reinforcements when needed.  A few minutes on the phone with a friend, a few probing questions about plot, character motivation, etc., and even if the friend doesn’t come up with the answer, her questions help you figure it out yourself!

6. Keep learning.

No matter how much you know about writing, about publishing about anything, there’s always something new to learn.  Keep asking questions, keep listening, keeping learning about the craft and the industry.

5. Remember, once you’re published, writing is a business, and you are the business owner!

As much as I wish I could just write a book and forget about the rest, that’s not how being a published author works.  You need to learn how the publishing business works.  You need to learn how to promote your work (and that includes how NOT to promote your work).  You need to understand how to read contracts so you know what you’re signing. (Having an agent helps a lot for contracts and negotiations, but at the end of the day, it’s your name on the contract, not hers.)  Once you’re published, writing can’t be that thing you do when the muse strikes.  It has to be that thing you do even when you have to drag your muse kicking and screaming out of whatever fluffy, warm bed she’s snuggled into to hibernate!

4. Keep the day job!

Contrary to popular opinion, most published authors don’t make enough money from their work to live on.  Even being a New York Times bestseller doesn’t guarantee you’re pulling down a six-figure or even a high-five-digit salary (especially these days).  And with print publishing, royalties are paid out over the course of three or more years, not months.  My college writing professors told me that only approximately 30% of all authors support themselves on their writing.  I’m not sure what the statistics are today, but I don’t think things have changed that much.

3. Understand that no matter how great your book is, someone out there is going to hate it. 

And they’re going to get on the internet and tell everyone who will listen just how awful your darling masterpiece is.  This remains the hardest thing for me.  No matter how many books I have published, or how many people love those books and give it rave reviews, having someone who didn’t love one of my books go online to shred that book to bits…well, it hurts.  So when I see that someone is about to take a butcher knife to my baby, I turn and walk away.  Don’t want to see it.  Can’t let that negativity into my creative space.  I’m hard enough on myself as it is without piling on other people’s criticism to boot.  It does nothing to help my writing and it does a whole lot to hurt it.  So, as my son says, Swerve!

Apart from that, there is one other trick I’ve learned to help put bad reviews in perspective.  I’ve done it many times.  The trick is this: I go to an online bookstore, and pull up one of my all time favorite books (books I think are sheer masterpieces, books that made me swoon, books I’ve read until the pages are falling out).  Then I go to the 1 star reviews for that book and I read them. It helps me realize that no matter how perfect a book is, if enough people read it, somewhere out there, someone is going to despise that book as much as I adore it. Makes no sense to me, but they do.

2. Power Hour really works.

Among my Circle of Friends (see above), there are about 5 of us who get together 3-4 hours of every day to write.  We conference call each other at pre-determined times and report in our starting word counts. (Cell Phones are GREAT for this – but divvy up who is conferencing whom into the call so you don’t run out of minutes) Then the phone goes off, and we write.  During Power Hour, we do not get on Facebook, we do not answer email, we do not text or take phone calls or allow interruptions.  We Write.  At the end of the hour, we conference call back in to report our ending word counts. You’d be shocked how much we get done.   A little friendly competition goes a long way…and so does knowing your friends are counting on you to write with them, even when you’d rather sleep in or read that book that’s calling to you.  Plus we get to chat with our Circle of Friends several times a day, every day, and that is worth my weight in international long distance minutes! (which is to say, a LOT!) Those of us used to working 8-12 hours or more a day are making the same daily word count in 3-4 hours with Power Hours.  Wow.  That leaves us free to spend the rest of the time devoted to my next Lesson I’ve Learned….

1. Make Time for Other Things. 

It’s very easy to let a job you love consume you (especially when you work from home). Refilling the well is a vital activity for every creative person.  Find things away from writing and your computer that relax you, challenge you, make you happy.  Make time for family, friends, and yourself, too!  How can you refill the creative well if you’re constantly draining it dry?

Life is meant for living…so live it!  And love it!  Find your happiness where you can and thank whatever high power you believe in for every glorious new day.

More About The Winter King

Wynter Atrialan, the Winter King, once lived in peace with his southern, Summerlander neighbors, but when Falcon, the prince of Summerlea, stole Wynter’s bride and murdered his young brother, Wynter vows vengeance. Calling upon a dangerous Wintercraig magic called the Ice Heart, he gathers his armies and marches against Summerlea, crushing their armies and spreading icy winter in his wake.

After three long, bitter years of battle, Summerlea is defeated and Wynter comes to the heart of the kingdom to issue his terms for their surrender. The prince of Summerlea stole Wynter’s bride and slew Wynter’s Heir. He wants the loss replaced. The Ice Heart is consuming him. Wynter hopes holding his own child in his arms will rekindle the warmth of love and melt the Ice Heart before he becomes the monster of Wintercraig legend, the Ice King.

The Summer King has three very precious daughters whom he loves dearly. Wynter will take one of them to wife. She will have one year to provide him with an Heir. If she fails, he will turn her out in the ice and snow of the mountains and claim another princess for his wife. And so it will continue until Wynter has his Heir or the Summer King is out of daughters. All the while, Wynter will enjoy the vengeance of knowing the Summer King will suffer each day without his beloved daughter(s), as Wynter suffers each day without his own beloved brother.

The plan is perfect—except for one small detail. The Summer King has a fourth daughter. One of which he is not so fond.

Blamed as a child for the death of her beloved mother, Khamsin Coruscate, the forgotten princess of Summerlea, has spent her life hidden from the world like an embarrassing secret. Dressed in cast-off gowns and left to her own devices, with only the determination of her loyal nursemaid to ensure she receives the education befitting an Heir to the Summer Throne, Khamsin haunts the abandoned towers and gardens of Summerlea’s royal palace, close to her beloved late mother’s treasures, and waits for the day her father will recognize her as a Princess of the Rose. But though she dreams of the valor and sacrifices of ancient Summerlea heroes and pines for paternal love that will never come, Khamsin is no sweet, gentle, helpless princess-in-a-tower. She is a fiercely passionate creature with a volatile, rebellious temper that is often as reckless and destructive as the dangerous forces of her weathergift, the power of storms.

Together will their stormy personalities be able to meld or will their powers destroy not only their love but the whole world?

Add it to your Goodreads Shelf

Available for purchase at Avon Romance Amazon  BN  Kobo

C.L. Wilson

C.L. Wilson

More About C.L. Wilson

Praised for exceptional worldbuilding and lyric prose, C.L. Wilson’s unique blend of action, romance, and richly-imagined fantasy have endeared her books romance and fantasy readers alike.  Her critically acclaimed novels have regularly appeared on bestseller lists including the USA Today, the New York Times, and Publisher’s Weekly.

When not torturing her characters mercilessly, C.L. enjoys reading, questing through the wilds of the latest Elder Scrolls game and dreaming of a world where Bluebell’s Nutty Chocolate ice cream is a fat burning food.

She can be found online here:

Tour Giveaway

White rose snow globe pendant

“A copy of THE WINTER KING, complete with a gorgeous white rose snow globe pendant reminiscent of the book!”

U.S. only. Click here for the Rafflecopter link. 

The Winter King Banner

Queen of Song and Souls

I know I’ve been unbelievably quiet lately, but I’m also a big believer in C.L. Wilson’s #1 piece of advice (this week, I’m spending lots of time with my family) and her #10 (I finished Laurence Gonzales’ LUCY: realized not long after starting it that, despite some superficial similarities, the book and the movie are two different stories… more on that later). Now I’m debating whether my next book should be another in Wilson’s Tairen Soul series or THE WINTER KING… It’s good to have choices! :-D

Hope everyone else is having a terrific August full of everything fun and/or productive: vacations, reading, writing, family, new places imagined or real… Thank you to C.L. Wilson for guest blogging today!


Unspiration

For one reason or another, the other day I was actively trying to think of things that did not inspire me.

My list:

  1. Telephone poles, water towers, billboards
  2. Armadillos, nutria, dingoes
  3. Light bulbs (despite their association with ideas)
  4. American cheese
  5. Petty crimes and misdemeanors

Writers, you know where I’m going with this, right? Any list – even an uninspiration list – can be used for inspiration.

No, I’m not going to write a story about an Oliver Twist type girl with American cheese colored hair who lives in a water tower with only a single light bulb and a family of nutria. But, hey, I could.

I might.

Because ideas can come from anywhere – even unideas. And giving your muse absolute, unfettered freedom can sometimes make your WIP seem fresher and less frustrating. :-D

If you are stuck: write a list! Of anything. Everything. Nothing.

What else have I been up to?

billy joel concert nat park

Concert: My husband’s birthday was this past weekend. We celebrated by seeing Billy Joel at Nationals Park in DC. It was fantastic! Wished he would have played Vienna instead of Uptown Girl, but except for that, a perfect setlist.

Jalapeno Poppers: Once again, I am faced with a bumper crop of jalapeno peppers. What else can you do but stuff them with cream cheese, wrap bacon around them, and bake them?

Reading: LUCY by Laurence Gonzales. I actually bought this some time ago. Yet another example of a book that’s been in my TBR pile way too long. Now that the movie’s out, I figured I’d better get to it.

I miss Borders

I miss Borders

Writing: Here’s another character sketch from the Nightshade novella I’m working on:

Aceraceae “Acer” Feldspar’s healing magic only works on one person: her. Losing her mother at the age of seven to a disease she couldn’t cure, she was determined to find a way to use her magic to help others. Now, at nineteen, Acer protects her tribe’s perimeter. But the intrusion of a scarlet augur – demon harbinger of passion, pain, and seismic change – threatens far more than Acer’s pride.

So how about you? How was your week? Have you seen any great concerts or read any good books? What do you do with a dozen or more jalapenos? Writers, what are you working on? What’s on your “Unspiration” list?

Enjoy the last two days of July!


#Writing life: Should you keep your face to the sun… Or your nose to the grindstone?

sunflowers 2

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.” HELEN KELLER

I’ve been keeping my face to the sun and my nose to the grindstone. It’s why I’ve been mostly absent on Facebook and Twitter lately. I’m enjoying summer and my sunny writing cave. What am I working on? A novella featuring a character I’ve wanted to spend more time with for a while now. Here’s his character blurb:

Nocturo “Nightshade” Onyx has the sinister looks of a Maegester but the soft, healing magic of a Mederi. Eight months ago he joined the progressive Demeter Tribe so that he could hone his skills. He now wields surgical scalpels, defensive daggers, and waxing magic with ease. But his greatest challenges are still to come: trapping a demon, capturing a young woman’s heart, and bringing his sister back from the brink of death.

What else have I been up to?

Reading: Tina Connolly’s IRONSKIN and the first two books in C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series.

Map Making: Bought Campaign Cartographer 3. CC2 was tough for me, so wish me luck! If I can master the upgrade, I’ll be able to make maps of the places I write about. Maps I’d love to share: St. Luck’s campus; New Babylon, Etincelle, and the Mederi outposts; the eastern Lethe; the Shallows; southern Halja; and — if all goes according to plan — Rockthorn Gorge!

Animal Shelter: Took some food, treats, and my youngest to visit our local pet shelter. I’m still trying to talk my husband into adopting another cat in the fall. lol.

Sharing someone else’s good hiking/writing advice: I read this article recently about the Appalachian Trail. It struck me that thru-hiker Jim Parkins’ words about hiking a 2,180 mile trail might also apply, with one slight tweak, to writing a 100,000 word novel => “The hardest part is the mental part, [putting your butt in the chair every morning].” (emphasis added :-D )

sunflower

So how’s everyone’s summer going? Are you writing? Reading? Working? Sunbathing? Are you keeping your face to the sun… or your nose to the grindstone?

Hope everyone is having a terrific week!


Functional Nerds Podcast: #writing #violins #scrivener

John Anealio and Patrick Hester, hosts of the Functional Nerds podcast, interviewed me recently (Episode #198). We covered a range of interesting topics, which are listed below so that, even if you only have a few minutes, you can tune in and hear select bits. I’m also including links to some other podcast episodes you may enjoy. If you’re not already a Functional Nerds subscriber, check it out. Podcasts are free, but if you like what you hear, consider donating and/or sharing the links!

04:10 — My Pick of the Week: A Natural History of Dragons

09:09 — Patrick’s Pick of the Week: Magic: The Gathering

12:40 — John’s Pick of the Week: The Shambling Guide to New York City

14:00 — How my past career as a lawyer impacts my writing

18:20 — My alma maters: Penn State and University of Baltimore

19:20 — Me, rambling about how/when I started writing

22:20 — The Episode’s Big Reveal: Patrick tells me there’s a sequel to The Devil Went Down to Georgia (! — I had no idea).

23:10 — I talk about how I used to play the violin; great discussion on kids and music

29:00 — I do a horrible job discussing the original blog post that caught John’s attention (my post at SF Signal: What Is It With The Devil And Violins?). For some insane reason, I thought this would be the one thing John wouldn’t want to talk about (naively assumed he’d have a been there, done that feeling about the topic. Duh.) John’s articulate. I am not. Please forgive and read my original post instead of listening to my inane, totally unprepared response.

38:40 — We discuss fan conventions. John and Patrick share their favorites and recommend some for me.

42:00 — Urged on by me, Patrick gives a mini-intro to Scrivener spiel. I’ve written in Word pretty much since I first switched from typewriter to computer so I wanted to hear his perspective on why Scrivener’s so great.

51:10 — Episode closes with — what else? — The Devil Went Down to Georgia :-D

Other Functional Nerds podcasts you might enjoy:

Episode 195 — James SA Corey

Episode 148 — Mur Lafferty Part 1

Episode 149 — Mur Lafferty Part 2

Episode 146 — Delilah S. Dawson Part 1

Episode 147 — Delilah S. Dawson Part 2

I hope everyone is having a great July!


Last Day! My White Heart of Justice blog tour is coming to a close…

Today’s menu:

  1. Final list of topics and links in WHOJ blog tour
  2. Discussion questions for White Heart of Justice
  3. Brief bit about the current “should adults read YA?” debate

I’ve had a terrific time visiting all of the blog hosts and reading and responding to reader comments. Each release has had its own vibe and I gotta say — even despite the uncertain future of the series — WHOJ’s release has been my favorite. Maybe it’s just that I’m getting to know the online book blogging community better (and they are getting to know me) or maybe it’s because I wasn’t a clueless newbie nor was I under enormous deadline pressure at release time. Regardless, I’ve had fun and I hope you have too. As a final thank you and one last chance for everyone to enter to win my awesome prizes, I’m listing all the blog tour participants below with dedicated links to each site and a brief description of topics. If you haven’t already checked out the posts, interviews, and reviews, please do! I am grateful to each and every tour participant and to Roxanne Rhoads at Bewitching Book Tours for setting it up.

What else have I been working on? Among other things, I’ve been tinkering with my website. As promised, I added Discussion Questions for White Heart of Justice. If you read the ones for either Dark Light of Day or Fiery Edge of Steel, you know they contain MASSIVE SPOILERS. Pretty much the entire plot is revealed so don’t read them if you haven’t already read the book(s). Also, after nearly three years of blogging with the same header pic, I finally decided to change it. For those of you who get updates via email, I’m including the before and after pic. I also created a static landing page for my blog. It’s an experiment. I had been using my latest blog posts as a landing page, but it’s probably time to switch over to a static “hello, welcome, here’s who I am and what I write,” right? Check out the new static page here and let me know what you think.

iStock/almotional

BEFORE: Gargoyle of Notre Dame de Paris

iStock/maroznc

AFTER: architecture in Ghent, Belgium

What’s next? Ha! Well, those of you who have been following along on the tour know that I’ve got at least two potential WIPs waiting in the wings: a Noon Onyx B4 and a new, fantastic, creepy-romantic “YA deuce” I’ve been working on (meaning I envision two books). An aside: lots of online noise lately about whether adults should read YA or not. Wow. Really? I’m not going to waste too much time on an articulate response, but the very idea of someone else telling me what I should or shouldn’t read is mind-blowing. My general approach to reading fiction for entertainment is READ WHAT YOU LIKE, PEOPLE. And don’t let anyone tell you to read anything different. At one time or another, readers of young adult, new adult, romance, science fiction, and fantasy have all been called out for their “odd tastes.” What do I do when I hear this sort of nonsense? Ignore, ignore, ignore…. (Now if you’re reading for educational purposes, the entire discussion changes, but that’s a discussion for another day). Keep calm and read on, my fellow genre lovers!

Below are the WHOJ blog tour topics and links. Except for the post where I’ll be announcing the blog tour prize winners, this is the last you’ll hear about WHOJ in such concentrated fashion. You have all been WONDERFUL SPORTS, but I’m sure you’re looking forward to posts on some other topics too. Speaking of that, I’ve got a great guest blogger stopping by tomorrow — Susannah Sandlin (a.k.a. Suzanne Johnson) with her five favorite scenes from Allegiance. See you then! :-D

BLOG TOUR DATES, TOPICS, AND LINKS

For giveaway details see below

Teaser posts and posts marked with an * are outside of the BBT tour

May 20 Spotlight/Excerpt

Butterfly-o-Meter Books

 

May 20 Review

“The best so far… I SERIOUSLY CHEERED”

Happy Tails and Tales

 

May 21 Interview

Books Direct

Topics: what my family thinks of my writing, thoughts on a possible B4, more hints about a future short story featuring new heroine Corelei Neverest

 

May 21 Spotlight

Bookin’ It Reviews

 

May 21 Spotlight

Deb Sanders

 

May 22 Guest Blog

Magic and Mayhem

Top 5 Cool Things You Can Do With A Sword &

Why Heroes and Heroines Can’t Do Without Them

 

May 22 Spotlight

Coffee Break

 

May 22 Spotlight

Cherry Mischievous

 

May 23 Guest Blog

Christina McKnight

Reinventing the Goddess of Sleep: how I used Caer Ibormeith as inspiration for a new patron demon

 

May 23 Spotlight

Shut Up & Read

 
* May 27 RELEASE DAY PARTY!
Bitten By Books
Kalisto’s Crystal Palace and Raphael Sinclair’s Wish: I discuss how I created the setting for the “gearing up” scene. My inspirations? Snow globes, greenhouses, guardian angels, London’s Crystal Palace, whether and when wishes should be granted… and there’s an excerpt that sheds some light on my Rafe sneak peek tweet.
 

May 28 Guest Blog

Night Owl Reviews

Gifts from the Gods: What do rusty gardening tools and 1981′s Clash of the Titans have in common? What the heck is a daisy grubber? Did Noon’s mom really give her “one to grow on” in each book so far?

 

* May 28 Guest Blog

The Reading Café

Topic: The Noon Onyx Covers — discussed in greater detail than ever before! (And there’s a fun, little “ode to covers” intro)

Review too! (“A must read for fans of urban fantasy and dystopian fairy tales where Armageddon is only the beginning, not the end.”)

.

May 29&30 Spotlight and Review

What the Cat Read

Dark Light of Day (“I loved Noon. She’s feisty, conflicted, [and] rather sarcastic at times…”)

Fiery Edge of Steel (“Ah, Rafe… he stole the show in this book.”)

White Heart of Justice (“I have to give Archer serious purrs and a tail wave of approval for this one… Action, adventure, romance, humor, suspense, danger, deception…”)

.

* May 29 Guest Blog
SFSignal
Topic: What Is It With The Devil and Violins? Come read about The Fifth String, Norwegian fossegrimen, and Fiddler’s Green. BONUS: I share the original titles to each of the Noon Onyx books. WHOJ’s is the best!

 

May 30 Interview

CBY Book Club

Wanna know what my very first favorite book was? I also talk about books in my TBR pile: past, present, and future.

 

May 30 Spotlight

Melissa Stevens

 

June 2 review 

“If you’re looking for a new adult fantasy series with exceptional world building, exciting storylines, and strong characters, you need to try the Noon Onyx books.”

Tynga’s Reviews

 

June 3 Guest Blog

Preternatura

Topic: Lord Lawless and the Festival of Frivolity (how I used Saturnalia and the Lord of Misrule as inspiration for a St. Luck’s winter celebration)

 

June 4 Guest blog

Addicted 2 Heroines

Topic: Noon’s missing tooth. Yep, Noon loses her tooth in Chapter 1. Come read about why I knocked it out and give me your opinion on über heroines: If you could choose only one word to describe your ideal heroine, would it be interesting, relatable, or admirable?

 

June 5 Interview

JeanzBookReadNReview

Topics: Reviews, DNFs, and book trailers

 

June 6 Interview

Fantasy Book Addict

If you could choose one book cover to put on your wall as a poster, what would it be? I also talk about how I came up with Noon’s name.

 

June 6 review

“With WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, the Noon Onyx series is now one of my favorite urban/dark fantasy series.”

Leeanna.me

 

June 9 Spotlight

3 Partners in shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!

 

June 9 review and interview

Topics: Am I a pioneer of New Adult Fantasy? I also include a message for Spanish and international readers.

Review: “This book is a homage to Noon’s independence…. With a quirky sense of humour and [fantastic] worldbuilding, White Heart of Justice delves deep into a quest of magic, freedom, redemption and love.”

Tower of Babel

 

June 10 Spotlight

On the Broomstick

 

June 10 Spotlight

Fang-tastic Books

TEASER POSTS

Cover Reveal

The Laurel Crown Race and Its Targets

What Can Readers Expect and Sneak Peek at Page Proofs: Prologue and Page One

The Noon Onyx Series: Urban Fantasy, New Adult… or Neither?

RT Book Reviews: White Heart of Justice

Publishers Weekly: White Heart of Justice

Sneak Peek Tweets + Giveaway

Super Quick Author Interview at Night Owl Reviews

BBT TOUR-WIDE GIVEAWAYS

  • $50 Amazon eGift Certificate (or bookseller of winner’s choice) (international)
  • 5 copies of White Heart of Justice (or an earlier book in the series, winner’s choice) (international so long as Book Depository ships to your address)
  • Dark Light of Day themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • Fiery Edge of Steel themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • White Heart of Justice themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 and over. For official rules, please see my Giveaways page.

DARK LIGHT OF DAY

PRIZE PACKDark Light of Day Prize Pack

  • Signed print copy of Dark Light of Day
  • Handmade bookmark with charm
  • Natural Face Paint Kit
  • Orange Silk Flower Hair Clip
  • Atomic Fireball Candies
  • Signed copy of galley pages of scene that inspired prize pack

FIERY EDGE OF STEEL

PRIZE PACKFiery Edge of Steel Prize Pack

  • Signed print copy of Fiery Edge of Steel
  • Handmade bookmark with charm
  • “The Queen of Flowers” T-shirt Tank Top
  • Set of three Silver Glass Mercury Votive Holders
  • Petite Pear Candies
  • Signed copy of galley pages of scene that inspired prize pack

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

PRIZE PACKWhite Heart of Justice Prize Pack

  • Signed print copy of White Heart of Justice
  • Handmade bookmark with charm
  • White Crystal Headband
  • Vintage Star Pin
  • White Chocolate Meltaways
  • Signed copy of galley pages of scene that inspired prize pack

White Heart of Justice, Jill Archer, Noon Onyx, dark fantasy, fantasy, urban fantasy, demons, angels, post-apocalyptic


One to Grow On: Noon’s Mom + Cover Lovers Chat

My blog tour resumes today with some fun posts: I’m discussing vintage gardening tools, Clash of the Titans, and Noon’s mom’s growing gifts over at Night Owl Reviews and I’m at The Reading Café discussing my covers. I know I’ve discussed them before, but I share more about the process, covers in general, and give each of my covers a “stat report.” If fantasy covers were baseball cards, click here for what would be on the back of mine. Finally, I’m wrapping up my Release Day Party at Bitten by Books. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by, there’s still time! Readers have asked TONS of terrific questions — and I’ve answered them, in great detail. Skim through for more background on just about everything or leave a question of your own!

Local Lending Libraries

And because I like to include pics w my posts… here are two for all of the book, coffee, and pizza lovers out there => Starbuck’s and Bertucci’s versions of the local lending library. I like it!

Bookshelf at my local Starbuck's -- what's missing? ;-)

Bookshelf at my local Starbuck’s — what’s missing? ;-)

Bookshelf at my local Bertucci's. Mostly children's books... so they get a pass. :-D

Bookshelf at my local Bertucci’s. Mostly children’s books… so they get a pass. :-D

Hope to see you over at Night Owl Reviews, The Reading Café, and/or Bitten by Books!


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