Category Archives: Writing

What story element do you struggle with most? (+ 5 Writer Resources)

In the U.S., tax season is well underway. My returns are thankfully filed, but the process of gathering receipts, etc. for the woman who helps me prepare them always reminds me of various things I spent money on throughout the year. The list below is NOT a list of things writers can deduct. (Ask your accountant about that). It’s just a thoroughly incomplete list of various resources you might find helpful.

In no particular order, here are some things I thought worth my $$$ in 2015 (keep in mind I didn’t publish anything last year; I’ve already lamented about that here so moving on, but it explains, in part, why this list is so thin):

  1. Book cover design: Way, WAY back in the beginning of 2015 I had Amber Shah at Book Beautiful design a cover for me for “Dream, Interrupted.” Although I didn’t use the cover, I loved it and would absolutely work with Amber again. She was fast, did great work, and was really nice to work with. I’m currently working with another cover designer for Pocket Full of Tinder, but that’s because I wanted an illustrated cover for it. (More info on that designer later). In any case, it never hurts to have 2-3 awesome service providers you can go to in case one has a scheduling conflict. There are a lot of great cover designers out there!

  2. Goodreads Ads: I stopped running Goodreads ads because it didn’t make sense for me to continue until I had another book to promote. But I plan to create an ad later this year for Pocket Full of Tinder. I like that authors can link to a brief excerpt or a giveaway. (All this said, I’m sure I’ll explore additional ad options for B4).

  3. Bewitching Book Tours: I’m obviously a fan of Roxanne Rhoads! Although she helps authors who write in all sorts of genres, she specializes in paranormal blog tours. If you’re a new PNR author, check her out here.

  4. Functional Nerds: Singer/Songwriter John Anealio and Author/Blogger Patrick Hester host SF/F focused podcasts every week on books, music, and technology. They are funny and down to earth — plus their guests are great. I’m woefully behind but (somewhat) recent episodes I loved were: Episode 245 with Fran Wilde, author of UPDRAFT, and Episode 237 with Naomi Novik, author of UPROOTED. Like what you hear? Back them on Patreon here.

  5. Various and sundry non-fiction guides2015 Guide to Self-PublishingMailChimp for BeginnersCreateSpace and Kindle Self-Publishing Master Class

Obviously, a meager list. But YOU can help me flesh it out in the comments below!:-)

I’m HOPING my next post will be a joint mother-daughter post. My older daughter took some great pics in Cape May a few weeks back and I’m going to experiment with having her write part of a future post.

Pocket Full of Tinder Update: I haven’t written the last chapter yet. I moved to internal revisions to really understand the totality of the novel – what the heck I’m trying to say – before writing that final bit. One of the BIGGEST things I struggle with in every novel is the mystery element. I love mysteries but for some reason, those subplots don’t come naturally to me. It’s almost always the #1 I have to beef up during revisions.

Have you filed your tax returns?

Any resources or recommendations you want to share?

Writers, what story elements do you struggle with the most? 

Readers, what are you reading?

Are you a fan of the beach during the off-season?

Java Junkie, coffee lover, Christmas tree ornament

What does this picture have to do with taxes, resources, recommendations, or challenging subplots? NOTHING! But who doesn’t love a Java Junkie? This is one of my favorite Christmas tree ornaments. (Yes, I know it’s April. But it was snowing only a few days ago so why not continue the seasonal anachronisms?)


#Writers: Do you name your chapters? (also: Pocket Full of Tinder update)

Very quick post. I’m nearing the end of Pocket Full of Tinder (yay!!!) and I want to get back to it. Plus, this weekend is Easter and next week, my kids are on Spring Break, which means less writing time for me.

[added later: I left my original intro to this post in here so I could laugh at myself. “Very quick post” = 1,700+ words. Guess I had more to say than I thought. There are headlines to help you navigate this beast and questions for YOU are in red.

Read my post. Enjoy your spring!!]

What have I been up to?

Pocket Full of Tinder – the aforementioned ms. I haven’t yet written THE END, but it’s in sight. Always an exciting time. This book will probably need more internal revisions (before I hand it off to an editor) than any previous book. But that’s okay. I have a revision process that I like. It’s the initial draft that’s always the hardest for me.

(WARNING: some meandering ahead…)

So, a few thoughts about structure for beginning writers or readers who enjoy behind-the-scenes type stuff:

Most of you have heard my “do as they say, not as I do” speech. It applies here sorta. The best advice everyone gives about writing is DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. Excellent advice. But kinda general. The trick is to try to learn as much as possible about ALL the methods out there and then pick and choose what works for you. Fine.

Structure generally – if you are BRAND NEW, you should at least be familiar with these concepts: three act structure, hero’s journey, and GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict).

Structure specifically – When I first start plotting, I write GMC for main characters, a rough synopsis (which almost invariably ends in a way the novel WON’T, but it gets me started), some work on the BIG LOCATION of the novel, and a quick description of chapters. Obviously, it’s a fluid, dynamic outline – more of an organic skeleton with all sorts of interconnected, moving parts than a rigid, inorganic, metal scaffold.

Chapter Names

I’ve mentioned previously (maybe here? definitely elsewhere) that I name my chapters. In the past three Noon Onyx books, we took out the chapter names because my editor felt like they foreshadowed too much. I agreed, but I love chapters with names. I’m toying with leaving them in for Pocket Full of Tinder.

[Writers: do you name your chapters? Readers: do you like chapters with names or do you even notice that?]

The chapter names I love the most add another layer of meaning to the story (yep, it’s a thin veneer) but I love it when the name of the chapter gives readers a little clue as to the chapter’s meaning or purpose or when it IS a warning of what might lie ahead.

But sometimes, chapter names are just descriptive sign posts. Sometimes, I think of chapters in the same way I think of movie scenes. (Back in the DVD days, if you wanted to watch a particular scene in a movie, you could load your DVD into the player and pull up a list of scenes in a submenu).

Revising Tip You May Have Never Tried: Label your chapters. Your label can be perfunctory, but it will give you an immediate idea of what the chapter’s purpose is in the story. And if you are struggling to name it… examine it more closely. It probably needs more work. Or maybe it doesn’t belong there. Maybe it belongs somewhere else. Or maybe it needs to be deleted entirely.

Writer Blogs

I follow Chuck Wendig’s blog (most of you probably do too; his language is often colorful but he’s hilarious). The other day, E.J. Wenstrom, one of his “Five Things I Learned” guests said (in the context of much other good advice) that, “Writing a book is a hot mess.” Ain’t it though? I laughed out loud. Pocket Full of Tinder is a hot mess right now. It is one stinking pile of poo. But I will shape that mass of steaming tauri merdam (is that even right? I have no idea. “Track down woman who helps me with my Latin” is #2,097 on my To Do List) into a GREAT NOVEL come Halja or high northern mountains!😀

As an aside to my aside, I also follow Scalzi’s Whatever blog (his writer guests share their “Big Ideas”), The Qwillery (Sally interviews debut SF/F authors and also some cozy mystery authors), Suzanne Johnson (who helps me keep up on new releases and shares interesting thoughts on writing and publishing; her new book Wild Man’s Curse comes out on April 5th — go pre-order!:-) ) I also started following Magical Words recently (don’t know how I missed it before; GREAT posts by Faith Hunter, Diana Pharoah Francis, et al.) There are others I follow too… don’t have time to look through my in-box. Will try to do more comprehensive list later about people I follow as both reader and writer.

[In the meantime, if you have a great blog you follow for writer advice or new release info, please share in the comments!]

Final thoughts on structure/chapter names/my chapters:

Now that I have four tables of contents in front of me, I can see the general structure I follow for each Noon novel (although Dark Light of Day, as the first, doesn’t follow my “formula” as closely).

In the first third of the novel, I set everything up. The central question, the main characters, Noon’s assignment, hopefully some thematic elements. These scenes are always in there:

  • Introduce Noon to the reader
  • Her assignment
  • Preparations
  • Leaving

The trick with each novel is to make each of these scenes feel different. I don’t want the books to feel like repeats. Here’s a comparison of the “intro” scenes from the first three books:

Dark Light of Day

Chapter 1 “Winter Garden”

Noon was introduced as a character with fire magic whose touch instantly kills growing things and whose mere presence threatens them. Because of its destructive nature, Noon hates her magic and dreams of living a different life, becoming a different person.

She feels young, even a bit immature. But her reluctance to embrace herself comes from a good place. Noon wants to heal people and grow gardens. And if her tone sounds grumpy or rebellious… well, I think defiance can sometimes be a good thing.

Fiery Edge of Steel

Chapter 1 “Carne Vale”

A carne vale is a demon execution. Noon’s grudgingly accepted her magic, but she’s still a pacifist at heart. She’s honestly not sure if she can kill in cold blood, even if it’s a rogare demon, which are “the worst Halja has to offer… the lawbreakers, the criminals, the unsanctioned sinners…”

Noon doesn’t feel – as much – as if she’s the victim of fate or things beyond her control. She’s still headstrong but she also recognizes that she has duties and obligations to fulfill. A minor theme of Fiery Edge of Steel was noblesse oblige (or optimus obligatus as it’s called in Halja).

White Heart of Justice

Chapter 1 “The Gridiron”

The most immediate thing I wanted to establish was how much Noon had changed since the first book. The Gridiron is an underground sparring area where St. Luck’s MITs are trained. I opened with Noon in the midst of a fight with Ludovicus Mischmetal (a.k.a. Vicious), who knocks one of her teeth out.

After defeating Vicious, Noon calmly picks up her tooth, pockets it, and asks if she’s still on track to be her school’s pick as the upcoming Laurel Crown Race contender. If she wins the race, she’ll have a say in her future. Noon feels super strong, but also aware that she is a cog in a bigger wheel.

Other quick updates

Pocket Full of Tinder Cover

In the works! Which is also very exciting. My cover artist sent two preliminary sketches to me last week. I might do a bonus newsletter sharing them and other cover thoughts in the future. I’m still mulling over cover reveal options. You all know this is my first time self-pubbing so I need to work out the logistics of pre-pub promo, pre-order links, etc.

The bottom line is that covers are fun and I’m really happy with the direction Pocket Full of Tinder’s is heading in and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!!

Newsletter

In the meantime, if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, here’s the sign up link: http://eepurl.com/bAzF7n. The March edition went out already, but I’ve been sending links to it to those people who’ve signed up since. (Will probably do that again next week).

My March giveaway is a pair of fireball laser cut wood earrings + a small SWAG pack –OR– a $10 eGC to Book Depository (winner’s choice). Newsletter subscribers who share via social media or who email me their favorite quote from the books get an extra contest entry. The last one I received was, “The demons’ll get me one day.” (Bragging rights to you if you remember who said that and in which book).

What else have I been up to?

Last weekend, we dyed Easter eggs while it was snowing out. (The Northeast’s weather couldn’t have been weirder, huh?)

Those are snow flurries, not flower petals blowing about in the wind!

Those are snow flurries, not flower petals, blowing in the wind!

My husband’s getting ready to become a beekeeper… Bzzzzz….. (more on this later… maybe)

"NO BEES, NO HONEY; NO WORK, NO MONEY" (Um, I'd better wrap up this post soon!!)

“NO BEES, NO HONEY; NO WORK, NO MONEY” (Um, I’d better wrap up this post soon!!)

I missed celebrating National Puppy Day, which is kinda nuts since I have a puppy! In honor of it, and the movie everyone’s buzzzzzing about (haha, couldn’t resist), here’s a picture of Tug:

Batman v Superdog

[Are you going to see Batman versus Superman? Who do you think would win in a fight – Batman or Superdog?]

And here’s a final picture my younger daughter took. If you celebrate Easter, have a happy one! If not, best wishes for SPRING!!!

"NO WINTER LASTS FOREVER" Winter might be coming soon on HBO, but here in Maryland, it's OVER!! :-D

“NO WINTER LASTS FOREVER” — Hal Borland. Winter might be coming soon on HBO, but here in Maryland, it’s OVER!!😀


Burning Questions, Haunted Holloways, and Contest Winner

Contemporary romance writer and “professed book nerd” S.L. Marshall found me because my first novel shares a title with T.M. Frazier’s The Dark Light of Day (technically, Noon #1 lacks the the, but I digress…). We connected and she’s helpfully shared several of my posts. We’ve since swapped emails about writing and the writing life and then, a few weeks ago, Susan asked if I wanted to participate in her “5 Burning Questions” series of author interviews. She mentioned that paranormal romance writers weren’t her usual subjects, which sealed the deal for me. Of course I said yes!

Her first question was a question I’d never been asked before—

Kill, marry, or screw: Gideon Cross, Kellan Kyle or YOUR HERO?

Uh…

Susan was game enough to let me tweak the interview questions. Noon answers three questions (including that one, sort of) and I answer another three. I LOVED the interview. It’s been a while since I’ve done one and it was fun. It touches on my Anne Rice crush, her house in New Orleans, the type of stories I want to write and my writing process, as well as Noon’s favorite curse word and who she’d invite to a dinner party. Click here to read the interview. (Noon’s answer to the question I’ve never been asked is a small sneak peek at Pocket Full of Tinder).

Haunted Holloways

If you hop over to Susan’s place, you’ll see (as part of the discussion about The Rosegate House) a link to an Atlas Obscura post. This site/newsletter is my newest diversion. Many of you already know how I love reading and writing about places and buildings that change over time. Well, Atlas Obscura is right up my alley (pun intended)! In its own words:

Atlas Obscura is the definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places.”

There’s a road near me that I’ve always wondered about. It’s a deep-set narrow lane lined with tall, dirt walls instead of a berm. You can’t tell from my photo, but the road has a relatively steep grade. Turns out, it’s a holloway and I have Atlas Obscura to thank for finally helping me figure out its mystery and history. Click here to read their article “Holloways: Roads Tunneled into the Earth by Time” (their pictures of similar sunken lanes from various spots in France and England are much more beautiful than mine from Baltimore County).

WALKER ROAD | BALTIMORE COUNTY HOLLOWAY

WALKER ROAD | BALTIMORE COUNTY HOLLOWAY

Dark Light of Day Pinterest Book Board Contest Winner

My Pinterest book board contest winner is MISTY GEE. Misty, if you follow this blog, let me know whether you want a print copy of DLOD (if you live in the U.S., I can send you a signed copy) or another fantasy book up to $10 from Book Depository (you’ll need to tell me which one and your mailing address). Send me an email at: archer at jillarcher dot com. I’ll also try to reach you on Pinterest.

Putting the Pinterest board together was fun so I’ll have to do another one for Fiery Edge of Steel + another contest soon!:-)

That’s it for today. Happy reading and writing, all!


STILL stuck inside? Sign up for my newsletter! (#read #darkfantasy)

We are slowly digging out from under snow storm Jonas, i.e. Snowzilla. Almost two and a half feet here! How about you? How much snow did you get? Are you still trapped?

If you’re still stuck inside and looking for something to do, you can sign up for my quarterly author newsletter.

What will my newsletter offer?

Newsletter

Quarterly newsletters will be sent every September, December, March, and June. Content will vary but will likely be some combination of:

  • Snippets from old or new work
  • Quizzes
  • Fun quotes and tweets
  • Recipes related to the books
  • Random Facts (background info on characters, etc.)
  • First look at Extras I’ll be adding to my website
  • Interesting stuff I’m researching
  • Meet the Team (bios of people who help me behind the scenes)
  • Be an Ambassador (ways readers can help me spread the word about my books)
  • Contests/Giveaways

Newsletters will also be sent out for each NEW RELEASE!

How will the newsletter differ from the blog?

The newsletter is mostly for readers who like my books and want to hear more about them. Some content, including occasional giveaways, will be exclusive to newsletter subscribers.

This blog will continue to be what it always has been – an inconsistently scheduled mashup of all the things I’m interested in: books, movies/TV shows, writing, day tripping, guest posts, etc.

Feel free to share my newsletter sign up link: http://eepurl.com/bAzF7n

Thanks, everyone! Hope you’re all doing well!


Stuck Inside? Here’s what to do…

Read: I’m currently reading Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED.

Write: The chapter I’m currently working on is called “Domesday Weapons.” Have been researching the Domesday Book, allodial title, the ancient Egyptian god Sobek, and Multnomah Falls, among other things.

Here’s a snippet (any bit of which might change before I publish POCKET FULL OF TINDER):

It was a bit eerie staring at myself.

I squinted at the familiar figure – a 22-year old female wearing black pants and a short wool cloak. She stood beside a barghest, a tiger, and a nymph, but though her companions were unusual, my gaze was drawn to her weapon – a fiery pepperbox that flickered dangerously in the hazy greenish-gray mist. Hopefully, the woman and her companions wouldn’t flicker tellingly as well. Fara and I had argued about the weapon, but she’d insisted the gun would look the most confident – if only because it was the most unpredictable.

The spell was called Simulacrum. Fara had recently learned it and suggested we use it this afternoon for our meeting with Acheron. Considering the river demon had chosen the Memento Mori viaduct as the site of our meet, I’d readily agreed. Even if my father hadn’t warned me to use “extreme caution” when meeting him, I would have anyway. Afterall, this was the place where over a hundred people had lost their lives only three short months ago.

Have your kid talk you into using Snapchat’s filters: If you’re getting this post via email, you’re going to have to click through to see my ridiculous selfies. Stay safe & warm, East Coasters!


#Writing Resolutions: 5 Ways to Keep Them!

I’m over at RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter today with 5 Ways To Keep Your Writing Resolutions. Haven’t yet made a 2016 writing resolution? There are plenty of ideas. Made one but not sure how to keep it? That’s what the post is for. Made a resolution and already know how you’re going to keep it? Stop by and share your secrets!

New Year’s Lagniappe: Is your resolution to write a novel this year? I’m offering to coach one member of FF&P who hasn’t yet reached PRO/PAN. Details are in the post. Happy writing, all!

Took this at the NASW Aviation Museum in Cape May, NJ. They have all sorts of vintage 1940s stuff. I suppose, one day, my laptop will look just as dated.

Took this at the NASW Aviation Museum in Cape May, NJ. They have all sorts of vintage 1940s stuff. I suppose, one day, my laptop will look just as dated.


GOODBYE 2015 — Two Things I Did Wrong and Two Things I Did Right

My first post for 2016 is a tell-all. 

Ha. Kidding, of course. I don’t have any shocking or salacious secrets to share. I do, however, love hyperbole, alliteration, and taking stock at year-end.

TWO THINGS I DID WRONG

(SORT OF) IN 2015

Nothing Published

I never promised a new novel in 2015 and for that, I’m grateful. It really bugs me to say I’ll do something and then not do it. I knew even back at the start of 2015 that getting a fourth novel out last year would be difficult. Still, I thought I would be able to publish other, smaller projects, like a Nightshade novella, a standalone of my short story “Dream, Interrupted,” or an audio version of something. But I didn’t. And that sucks. Because I wanted to.

But there were good reasons for each of those projects not happening.

(The Nightshade novella has always been ancillary to the Noon novels; it took longer than I anticipated to confirm that I have the right to do audio versions for the first three Noon books; and “Dream, Interrupted” was somewhat experimental. I’m not sure, frankly, if it’s worth it to do anything more with it. If so, it will require more thought than I want to give it right now.)

Still… not publishing anything feels very unproductive, especially in the current über-prolific publishing world where it seems that authors everywhere are being pressured (regardless of whether they are traditional or self-pub) to publish a minimum of one book a year.

I’ve said many times that if I could change one thing about me as a writer, it would be the pace at which I write. I’ve tried with zero success. When I attempt to write something at a faster pace, I produce garbage. Garbage that can probably be fixed. But fixing it takes time. And then I’m back to square one.

At least I’m in good company. George R.R. Martin recently revealed that he won’t be releasing The Winds of Winter anytime soon. Obviously, he’s GRRM and I’m Jill No Middle Initials Archer, but a lot of what he said in his post really resonated with me.

Ok, it’s true that I don’t have to worry about HBO, the Emmys, or a ginormous fan base, but his simple, truthful admissions (e.g. “sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t”) are encouraging to slow writers like me.

It’s crap that I didn’t publish anything in 2015. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a crap writer.

No Newsletter

Oh. My.

If I could go back in time à la Marty McFly or Claire Randall Fraser nèe Beauchamp I would start an author newsletter in the summer of 2012, two months before Dark Light of Day’s release.

As it is, I neither started a newsletter, nor did I save in any easy-to-locate place all of the email addresses of the various readers who have contacted me in the years since. Stupid? You bet. But live and learn, I suppose. (And, to be clear, I’m not saying I’d sign anyone up for a newsletter without their permission, but I don’t think it’s out of line to email them once to tell them I’m starting one and ask them if they’d like to subscribe.)

In October of 2015, I mentioned here that I’d be launching a newsletter “soon.” Didn’t happen. Why? Well, the biggest reasons are elsewhere in this post, but I also got lazy about learning how to use Mail Chimp and I worried that a year+ after my last release, no one would sign up. Obviously, I need to get over myself. I continue to think that newsletters can be an effective part of an author’s outreach plan. The only way I’ll ever know if it works for me is to do it. The sooner the better, but at the latest, before Pocket Full of Tinder is released.

♦♦♦

TWO THINGS I DID RIGHT

IN 2015

I continued to participate in the writing/reading/publishing community

Though 2015 was a quiet year for me, I didn’t disappear completely. About halfway through the year, I scaled back my online activity so that I could spend more time on Pocket Full of Tinder. But I still posted here occasionally. I checked in on Facebook and Twitter. I lurked on writer’s group loops. I scheduled workshops for FF&P. I read lots of books. I took classes on self-publishing. I responded to readers who reached out to me. I served as a writing accountability coach for a nonfiction writer who lives near me – and SHE published in 2015 – something I was incredibly happy about.

I kept writing and submitting

This is the key to everything, of course. If 2016 shapes up to be a good year, it will be because of the work I did in 2015. I may not have released anything in 2015 but I:

  • Wrote a 20,000 word adult fantasy proposal (I submitted it to my agent, but we both decided it wasn’t ready to be submitted to New York. I could have revised, but decided to stuff it in a drawer instead. I want to finish Pocket Full of Tinder.)

[For those of you who don’t know, once you are published, you can sell future work by submitting a proposal. Typically, a fiction proposal is the first 50-100 pages of the manuscript, a complete synopsis/summary, back cover copy, and your bio. Twenty thousand words may not sound like much, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting those first 20,000 words right. Putting a saleable proposal together is no easy task. Much of the research, worldbuilding, plotting, and characterization has to be done before that first portion of the manuscript can even be written.]

  • Submitted my YA fantasy proposal to five editors (in addition to the six editors we sent it to in 2014). Out of eleven editors, two passed it on to another editor (a great sign), one exchanged emails with my agent (another potentially good sign), but ultimately all rejected (two in one day!!). All of them gave the proposal serious consideration and nearly all of the rejections were kind and complimentary – “clever concept” “intriguing” “fresh and original” “compelling premise” “REALLY good writer” “reluctantly passing”………

But. No. Sale. Argh!!!😦

[For the record, in case anyone beyond my readers or writer friends reads this, I’m truly grateful for the experience. I very much appreciate that nearly a dozen awesome editors took the time to review my proposal and consider buying it. I think the books would have been fantastic. But publishing is a weird beast, half-creative and half-commercial. Editors not only have to love the books they buy, they also have to believe those books will have mass market appeal. A writers’ life is challenging, but I don’t envy Big 5 editors. It’s got to be a tough gig.]

  • Wrote 50,000 words of Pocket Full of Tinder. Do I wish I was further along? Yes! But I’ll get there. The book’s halfway finished and fully plotted. I found an illustrator to do a custom cover for me and I’m on her wait list. Hopefully, we’ll start designing the cover by the end of February.

♦♦♦

Things I did in 2015 that were neither right nor wrong

Left my literary agency

This was as amicable as it could be. I’m still friends with my former agent and, if I see her at a future conference, I will give her a big hug and ask her if she wants to grab a coffee, wine, lunch, or whatever. I’m so very grateful to her for all that she did for me. She is a terrific mentor and a dedicated, loyal, committed, and tenacious agent. So why leave? After spending fourteen months trying to sell my YA proposal, I knew my next step was going to be to self-publish the next Noon book. Our paths started to diverge and it felt like the right time to clarify my relationship with the agency. I don’t regret the decision but that didn’t make it any easier. It was INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT (anyone who has ever left an agency can probably relate, although every situation is different so maybe not).

Judged myself more harshly than others

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. The fact that, when other people share their challenges with me, I’m much more forgiving with them than I am with myself.

When I talk with other writers, I’m constantly stressing that the important questions are whether they’re happy, whether they feel creatively fulfilled, whether they’re meeting THEIR GOALS, but with myself, I strive to be unflinchingly objective. This is good and bad.

Setting quantifiable goals and meeting them is a guaranteed way of achieving what you want. You know the Yoda quote, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I get that.

But writing fiction is unlike anything else I’ve ever done. It requires imagination and emotion and letting go as much as it does discipline and structure and bearing down.

♦♦♦

Goals for 2016?

Make the transition from traditional to self-pub

This doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on being a hybrid author. I’d love to sell to New York again. But it will be a while. I’m going to self-publish my fourth novel and then…

And then…

We’ll see.:-)

A lot depends on how that goes. But, after a somewhat rocky 2015, I feel sanguine about 2016.

A return to my irregular, inconsistent blogging schedule

Hahaha. You all know I’m the poster child for “Do as They Say, Not as I Do.” My blog has NEVER been a contender for any “Best Websites for Writers” list. And that’s not me being too harsh on myself. That’s just me calling it like it is. But blogging isn’t meant to be perfect. So, in a way, my blog *is* perfect.😀

Expect some of the same type of posts I wrote in the past – writing, books, movies… Noon Onyx updates, posts about my first time self-publishing… that sort of thing.

Ok, that’s it for now. If I would have put this many words into Pocket Full of Tinder I would be one very happy lady right now.

How about you? Did 2015 end the way you wanted it to? What are your goals for 2016?


#Writing #Workshops for November (and my two cents on what to do if you hate the scene you’re writing)

Below are the online workshops being offered in November by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

I’m including a picture of flowers this time instead of animals… There’s also a brief bit from me at the end about a scene I’m struggling with and what I intend to do about it. For those of you who are in a hurry, here are the take aways from this post:

  • Register for workshops
  • Keep writing!
  • Carve Pumpkins
  • Eat Candy
  • Happy Halloween!! 😀

Book Covers: The Poster for your Book

11/02/2015 – 11/16/2015

If a book is a  movie in your head, a book cover is the poster to entice the crowds. Whether you’re doing your cover yourself or working with a designer, same principles can be applied to ensure a marketable poster for your book to attract a reader’s eye.

Join award-winning cover artist Fiona Jayde in a two-week course covering the joys of trends, the fun of fonts, common misconceptions, false starts, and Fiona’s driving philosophy on book covers: go big or go home.

About the Presenter, Fiona Jayde

Fiona Jayde is a space pilot, a ninth degree black belt in three styles of martial arts, a computer hacker, a mountain climber, a jazz singer, a weight lifter, a superspy with a talent for languages, and an evil genius. All in her own head.

In life, she is tinkers with images to create cover art for amazing books, possesses a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do and blue belt in Aikido, used to be a hot-shot web developer, scared to death of snakes, loves jazz piano, and can bench-press  20 pounds — with effort. She learned English reading Nora Roberts and watching Growing Pains, and when pried away from her computer, enjoys movies where things frequently blow up.

Cost: FFP Members:$10.00/Non-Members: $15.00

Register for This Workshop

Lessons of Firefly: Learning From the Works of Joss Whedon

11/02/2015 – 11/29/2015

Though Joss Whedon’s television show FIREFLY only aired through the fall months of 2002, it has continued to generate followers through word of mouth, DVD sales and an exhaustible amount of followers known as “Browncoats”.  The Romance Writers of America has many “Browncoasts” in their midst as Jacqui Jacoby learned though discussions with members at the RWA National Conference in both Atlanta and Dallas.  Many of these followers love to listen and talk about what they learned from watching the series.  Discussing dialogue is a favorite pastime, both at the conferences and online in writing loops.

FIREFLY, created by the Rod Serling of our generation, was a masterpiece of writing.  Each of its thirteen episodes taught character development, dialogue and plotting techniques.  Its motion picture sequel, SERENITY, not only touched on these subjects but added relationships, loyalties and loss to its repertoire.

In this workshop, Ms. Jacoby will reveal the lessons of FIREFLY.  By using class participation and examples from the episodes, she will translate with words what Mr. Whedon was teaching us on screen.

About the Presenter, Jacqui Jacoby

As a die-hard Firefly fan who can quote dialogue and scenes from both the series and the movie, Jacqui Jacoby knows how to get a crowd excited about the Lessons of Firefly.

She is a workshop teacher who has appeared both live and online to give such classes as “From Austin to Aliens: How to Create Classic Tough Chicks” and “Behind the Scenes: The Research Before the Book.”

Winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award in Excellence, as well as the Suzannah and the Dixie for her books, Ms. Jacoby’s articles have appeared worldwide.  Lessons From The Giants ran in publications in the United States, Canada and Australia.  Her article, Tough Chicks: Heroines in Today’s Market ran in the June 2006 RWR Magazine.

A graduate of UCLA, Ms. Jacoby lives in the Arizona mountains with her husband of twenty-four years and their three children.  Besides studying martial arts and sword fighting, Ms, Jacoby has recently returned to school to achieve her second Bachelor of Arts, this one in Modern Languages.

Cost: FFP Members:$15.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

"I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers." - Claude Monet "I always like to have flowers on the table. I think they make it look special." -Ina Garten My older daughter made this bouquet in her Ag Science class. I love that class. Assignments are often practical, hands-on, and creative. This project was part of their floriculture unit.

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” – Claude Monet
“I always like to have flowers on the table. I think they make it look special.” -Ina Garten
My older daughter made this bouquet in her Ag Science class. I love that class. Assignments are often practical, hands-on, and creative. This project was part of their floriculture unit.

What to do if the scene you’re writing sucks😀

So Noon #4 is going well. I recently finished a big, emotional scene and I love how it turned out. It made me smile and laugh and, you know, feel stuff. But then I got to the next scene and everything started C-R-A-W-L-I-N-G… like Glacial Pace City. At first, I thought it was bc I’d just come from a big scene and, in comparison, this scene felt small and slow. Not every scene can be a Big Scene, right? Well, sorta but also sorta not.

Every scene doesn’t have to be BIG, but every scene has to have meaning and move the story forward. Every scene can’t be full of non-stop action (at least not in my books), BUT it has to be full of tension. I want readers engaged in the experience of each and every scene. I want them to want to turn the page. So when *I* start to feel kind of blah about a scene, I know readers probably will too.

So what to do about this little bit of blah in my manuscript?

1. “Houston, we have a problem.” The first step in fixing a problem, is knowing you have a problem. If you find your attention drifting when writing, editing, or reviewing your work, it might be a sign that the scene lacks tension, which is a problem that needs to be fixed. How?

2. Make a list of the things that you know are wrong with the scene: When your problem is lack of tension, it’s hard to know how to fix it without digging deeper. One of the things I hate about the scene I’m working on is the dialog. It meanders. I think it’s because I need to better understand exactly what I want the scene to do. The scene also features a secondary character I haven’t 100% figured out yet.

3. Make a list of things that might fix the scene. I’m a big fan of brainstorming lists. Someone once gave me this advice: when you’re stuck, make a List of 20. Twenty things that might work. The trick is to not hold back. Put crazy ideas on that list. The first five will be crap so the more ideas you put on your list, the better. For my current scene, I could: (a) make the secondary character scarier, meaner, nastier; (b) add other characters (sometimes just adding another person to a two person scene changes the dynamic and makes it more interesting); (c) build a more suspenseful set (the place where the scene takes place); (d) fix a possible timing issue (maybe the scene needs a ticking clock… or more room to breathe?); (e) change what the characters are doing (add more action and/or give them something else to do while talking that serves a purpose or has greater meaning). (See? I told you the first five are always crap.😉 )

4. DON’T PANIC. Don’t let one scene undermine your confidence or give you temporary writer’s block. If you need to, step away from your keyboard for a moment. (That works wonders for me). Know, deep in your heart (because it’s true!), that this scene will get fixed eventually.

5. Do your best and move on.

–OR–

6. Rip it out and start it over (just that scene though!!) If you find yourself endlessly repeating step #6, go back to #5. I’ll admit that #5 is probably the most efficient way of writing a first draft. And for fast first draft fans, the only way. For me, it’s hard though. I tend to build each scene from the scenes that have come before. So if I have a scene I know is weak, it’s hard to move on. To me, it feels like I’m building a house of cards without one of the bottom cards — or a beach house without one of the stilts.

In the end, the advice is always the same: Keep Writing! Only by continuously writing will you be able to know your writing style and what works for you.

BEST WISHES, EVERYONE!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

TO ANYONE STARTING NANO ON SUNDAY — GOOD LUCK!!!


OCTOBER 2015 UPDATE

What’s up with me? In a nutshell:

Noon Onyx Book #4 — well underway. Tentatively titled POCKETFUL OF TINDER. (Thoughts on title? Let me know below or send me a note. The great thing about self-publishing it is I get to pick it. The nerve-wracking thing about self-publishing? I get to pick it.😀 But I’m the one who suggested the first three so I suppose it’s not very different.) No one is sorrier than me for the delay. There are reasons but I want this to be a QUICK update. I’m shooting for an early 2016 release and will keep everyone posted.

Nightshade novella — I envision this as a companion piece to the next Noon book so, if all goes well, I’ll release it around the same time. There may be some extras in it. A deleted scene from WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE featuring Ari and/or some other character vignettes.

Audio versions of Noon Onyx novels — trying to make this happen. Frankly, I’m not sure how it will go. It’ll be interesting to see if I can find a narrator who’s willing to have a go at all the Latin and other crazy, near-unpronounceable words in the books.😀

Dream, Interrupted — on the back burner for now. I know I said I’d get this published as a stand alone short story, share some discussion questions, and maybe do an audio version of it in 2015, but other projects are more important right now. No one is clamoring for it. It’s a piece I thought was neat and fun to write and I’ll definitely do something more with it — later.

My YA Duology — on submission, which means I really can’t say anything about it other than I WISH I COULD SAY SO MUCH ABOUT IT!!!😀😀😀

Author Newsletter — I will be launching one soon. My plan is to publish it quarterly with a blast for new releases. More details in a future post.

Halloween — what? this wasn’t on my original list of updates back in January? well, it should have been, huh? Only three weekends until the BIG DAY! (That’s my younger daughter below, modeling costume bits and pieces from years past.)

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!!


Blogging Swan Song

You may have noticed that my posts here have dwindled lately. Months ago, I decided to take a break from blogging (originally, I thought I wouldn’t blog past June but my vaca got in the way of me posting these final hurrahs so now it’s nearly mid-summer and I’m just getting around to my bloggy swan song).

Why I’m Stopping

Mostly, because I want to focus on my books more than my blogging.

And it’s good to shake things up every now and then – to take a break and/or try something new. I think it’s been clear from the beginning that my goal was a casual, eclectic site where I could discuss things that I think are fun and neat and invite other writers to share their thoughts on the same.

It was important to me when I first entered the crazy world of social media that I be seen as a whole person and not just the author who wrote books about a world where the demons had won.

But now that four years and three books are behind me, I think lots of you know who I am and those that don’t… Maybe they just want books, not blog posts!😀

I’ve achieved my goal, which was TO BLOG. Period. (Admittedly, I had some loose secondary goals like “at least once a week” “add guest bloggers” “increase traffic” “learn how to use WordPress” “reach 100 countries” … that sort of thing). But I’ve reached those goals too now.

I’ve loved the quirkiness of blogging, the random connections, how blogging isn’t perfect and no one expects it to be. I’ve loved its serendipity.

Who remembers that one of my top referrers for years was Sir Jog A Lot (a marathon runner!) or that one of my top posts in 2014 was my review of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (bc, it turns out, lots of people search the internet for… well… if not the meaning of life then at least the meaning of ghost cat metaphors) or that a vintage aircraft/WWII researcher contacted me with info about my grandfather seventy years after he died bc of a Veteran’s Day post I did back in 2013?

IF YOU HAVEN’T BLOGGED YET, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

That feeling of being part of a larger whole and using your blog as a tool to connect with others is powerfully addictive stuff.

I’ll miss it, that’s for sure.

But I’ll still be around (see below). And there’s nothing stopping me from starting up again in the fall. (Although, if I do, this blog may become more of an author newsletter with info about my upcoming releases, contests, cover reveals, and the like.)

Thank You for Following!

I very much appreciate everyone’s support with this blog. All the shares and comments, all the tweets and RTs, all the follows and likes. You guys are TRULY AWESOME!!! (Over the years, I’ve received many compliments about different posts. One reader told me she printed out all of my Disney park reviews so that she could save them for future trips. More recently, lots of people have told me how much they enjoyed the Five Photographs author interview series.) I always say I’m a novelist first and a blogger second, but it’s been fantastic hearing people say how much they’ve enjoyed blog posts that I wrote or hosted.

Final stats:

If you are a Noon Onyx fan, or if you want to know more about my future writing projects, stay tuned… I don’t expect to post any news this summer, but hopefully I’ll have an exciting update in the fall. In the meantime, I’ll be writing!!

If you are a writer, I’ll still be lurking on RWA’s FF&P loop (and occasionally PAN). And who knows? I just might storm the gates of SFWA’s forums this summer…😉

Other Places You Can Find Me

Brought To You By…

the Noon Onyx Series

Gotta give a final shout out to my Noon Onyx series…

If you’ve enjoyed ANY of the posts I’ve written here over the last four years or so and you haven’t yet bought the books, PLEASE do so now!😀

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

NOON ONYX #3

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover art

One out of every two hunters who follow the Old Trail will not return…

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race. Noon’s task, however, is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse – and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…

“High stakes and powerful magic collide” —Publishers Weekly
“Demanding, powerful, full-flavored and utterly destructive” —Bitten by Books
“I was hooked from the beginning.” —Night Owl Reviews (TOP PICK)
 

Amazon Barnes and Noble  Books-A-Million

Powell’s Books  Book Depository  IndieBound


FIERY EDGE OF STEEL

NOON ONYX #2

Fiery Edge of Steel  Final

When traveling into the unknown, sometimes the biggest danger is the one you bring with you…

Noon Onyx is the first woman in memory to wield waning magic. Her unique abilities, paired with a lack of control and reluctance to kill, have branded her as an outsider from her peers. Only her powerful lover, Ari Carmine, and a roguish and mysterious angel, Rafe Sinclair, support her unconventional ways. When Noon is shipped off to a remote outpost to investigate several unusual disappearances, it seems Luck is not on her side. But when the outpost settlers claim that an ancient and evil foe has stepped out of legend to commit the crimes, Noon realizes that she could be facing something much worse than she ever imagined…

“Excitement and action leap from the page” —Publishers Weekly
“A fresh and fascinating series!” —RT Book Reviews (4 Stars)
“Danger, adventure, magic, love, and the quest for truth.” —The Qwillery

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Books-A-Million

Powell’s Books  Book Depository  IndieBound


DARK LIGHT OF DAY

NOON ONYX #1

Jill Archer's Dark Light of Day

Into the darkness, we bring light…

Noon Onyx has been accepted into the prestigious St. Lucifer’s Law School where her mother hopes she’ll be trained as a Maegester. But Noon doesn’t want to control demons, set fires, or destroy things. She wants to become a Mederi so she can grow gardens and heal people. Noon’s best friend, Peter Aster, is an angel spellcaster who thinks he has the answer to Noon’s predicament: an ancient, mysterious, lost spell that can turn Noon into the Mederi she always wanted to be. Only one person stands in the way of Noon’s dream – Ari Carmine, a fellow classmate who seems fascinated by Noon’s fiery side.

“A spectacular debut novel.”—USA Today bestselling author Faith Hunter
“Set against the backdrop of university life, there is an abundance of adventure, mystery and passion!”—RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Books-A-Million

Powell’s Books  Book Depository  IndieBound

 

*****

STAY TUNED FOR MORE NEWS IN THE FALL!! HAVE A FANTASTIC SUMMER, EVERYONE!!!


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