Tag Archives: Noon Onyx

#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!!😀


More Thoughts on Gozer the Destructor (#PuppyDestruction)

Facebook reaction to Tug’s destructive tendencies has been along the lines of “Holy Crap!” (I know Jen; her comment made me laugh). Another friend asked if we had a crate. (We do, but we only use it at night.) In any case, this isn’t a post about best practices for training your dog. It’s just a post about pets and how we love them and sometimes aren’t sure if we’re raising them right.

We adopted our last dog, Clipper, before we had kids. Both my husband and I were lawyers working in Baltimore and we lived in a row house. Our next door neighbor became a very good friend. She was a waitress in Little Italy and she would come over during the day and let Clipper out and he would play in the backyard with her dog, Shadow. Clip chewed stuff too – the knob off of a dresser and some door trim in the kitchen. There were probably other things. I don’t remember because it was a while ago. Maybe it’s selective memory (many times, I still feel as if Clipper was the Best Dog Ever and Tug is the Young Whippersnapper trying to take his place), but Tug seems more… feisty. And, heck, maybe he is. Dogs have different personalities same as people, regardless of their common breed characteristics.

This time, with Tug, we still use a crate. He sleeps in there at night, but spends his days (when he’s not outside) in our kitchen. We bought baby gates for the doorways, which has been interesting. It’s been years since I’ve had to hurdle in my own house and I’ll admit I even fell over one the other day. (Yeah, it was awesome. Thankfully, I wasn’t holding a cup of coffee!!) I’ll also admit that, when I’m in some other part of the house or out of it, I occasionally leave Tug in the kitchen instead of putting him in his crate and THAT’S when he becomes GOZER THE DESTRUCTOR.

Oddly, most of the stuff he’s destroyed is easily fixed. I have spackle and paint and Home Depot has the wall trim (it’s not like the trim in our old house, which was 100 years old). The Lifeproof case did its job and I can read the digital version of April’s RT Book Reviews. The couch I’m a bit miffed about, but to be fair, my cats had already done a number on it (why, oh why, won’t cats use the scratching posts you buy for them??)

Amy asked if Tug’s a hunting dog. No, although if he had a proper trainer, I’m sure he’d be great. But he’s a family dog. And Craig doesn’t hunt birds. He was interested in some of the training techniques for hunting dogs – and anyone with a lab knows how they LOVE to feel like they’re a helpful member of the pack. So he bought a copy of WATER DOG and has been working with Tug, using some of the techniques suggested in there. Me? I mostly train Tug to fetch by taking him out back with a cup of coffee (in a mug with a lid!) and a ball. I throw. He fetches.😀

Here’s one other Gozer the Destructor story, which I didn’t document because I was too furious, although it looked like a crime scene that should have been documented. At the time, I was pleasantly watching the election coverage (who am I kidding? I’m sure I was horrified at what I was hearing, but this isn’t a political post). I was sitting on the end of my couch with a glass of red wine (yeah, you know where this story is going, right?). I don’t know what set Tug off – the cat? Something someone said on TV? Ha. – but he went nuts. Jumped on me, fled behind my end table, got wrapped around the light cord, pulled it off the table, it came crashing down on my drink… Red wine splattered EVERYWHERE. On me, the table, floor, lampshade, him. Ugh. Believe it or not, I got it all cleaned up. (We have dark carpet and a good stain remover).

If nothing else, these pet challenges make good story fodder. I don’t want to be too much of a spoiler, but Pocket Full of Tinder opens with Nova getting in trouble for chewing up something in Noon’s dorm. Poor Nova! She’s a good girl too.

That’s it for today, folks. Lest you be worried that I’m suddenly going to be filling your in-boxes with daily posts, I’ll tell you that my next probable post will be a guest post next Thursday.

HAPPY SATURDAY, ALL!


Pocket Full of Tinder (Noon Onyx #4) Newsletter Update – Last Chance!

If all goes well with Mail Chimp, I’m going to be sending out my first quarterly newsletter this week. This is your last chance to sign up before it goes out! If you don’t, you’ll miss out on all the good stuff and will have to find one of the subscribers and beg them to share it with you.😀

Newsletter

What’s going to be in the newsletter?

  • UPDATE: Pocket Full of Tinder
  • SNEAK PEEK: Frigore Luna, a new Haljan holiday
  • FIRST LOOK: Map of St. Luck’s
  • WHO SAID IT? Match the Quote to the Character
  • BE AN AMBASSADOR: 3 Awesome Things You Can Do
  • CONTEST: Fireball Laser Cut Wood Earrings or a $10 eGC

The update will give readers an idea of what to expect from book #4. I also share my draft back cover copy (still working on it; it may change; I’m worried it might be too confusing/complicated). The sneak peek is a behind-the-scenes look at a new Haljan holiday I created for B4 based on two real world holidays. There’s also a map of St. Luck’s campus and a fun quiz where you can match characters and quotes. Finally, there are three ways you can help me spread the word about the series (do one, two, or all three!) and a contest exclusively for newsletter subscribers. Further dets are in the newsletter.

Sign up Here

What’s the difference between this blog and my newsletter? See this post.

I’ll share some puppy pics, maybe some “On the Fly” pics, and what I’ve been reading and watching soon. So stay tuned and, in the meantime, happy reading and writing!


DARK LIGHT OF DAY Pinterest Book Board #Fantasy #Romance #Giveaway

I’m on Pinterest, people!😀

I made a book board for DARK LIGHT OF DAY. Twenty quotes from the book matched with twenty pictures of items sold on Etsy. The result? A relatively quick, easy, creative project for me and a fun extra for readers and Noon fans.

I plan on creating boards for the rest of the books and will update with new pics and quotes every now and then.

In the meantime, a small giveaway to celebrate the fact that I’ve crossed one item off of my 2016 To Do List (“Check out Pinterest”)—

GIVEAWAY

Winner’s choice: one print copy of DARK LIGHT OF DAY or any other fantasy book from Book Depository up to $10. Open to international. Other details here. (Why not an Etsy gift card? Theirs start at $25. I’ll be giving away an Etsy gift card in connection with one of the giveaways I do for POCKET FULL OF TINDER though…)

I’ll draw the winner from those people who are following the Pinterest Dark Light of Day board by midnight EST on Valentine’s Day. Winner will be announced here. (I’ll also try to reach the winner via Pinterest). Since there are only a handful of people currently following the board, your chances of winning are terrific!

And quick plug for my newsletter – the first one’s coming out next month with some POCKET FULL OF TINDER sneak peeks! Sign up here.

Okay, back to work.:-)


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!


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?


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!!!


Five Photographs: Jill Archer (#writing: challenges, frustrations, joy, and hope!)

No post last week because I was on vacation. We went to wonderful Cape May, a place I’ve blogged about many times. Did some new things there too, which was nice: biked to the lighthouse and climbed to the top, biked to the brewery (a good way to work off the calories of a seasonal sampler! :-D ), and tried a few new restaurants/bars (among them, The Blue Pig at Congress Hall and 410 Bank Street). But now it’s Monday and time to get back to work!! Today’s Five Photographs guest is ME! :-) I share one of the things that brings me joy that I can’t believe no other writer picked. I dish on some things that frustrate me and I tally up everyone’s “biggest challenge facing writers today” answers and add my own. This will be one of the last posts this summer, so please give me a shout out in the comments if you’ve enjoyed this series!

Something that represents something unique about you

Mother Sculpture

My older daughter made this awesome sculpture for me when she was in elementary school. It’s me! There are two kids poking up from my head and arm, a tree growing out of my middle because I love nature, and I’m holding a pencil because I’m a writer — and because my daughter’s art has a practical side. Is that the coolest pencil holder you’ve ever seen or what?😀

Something that represents where you live

Fly Fishing

There were so many pictures I could have picked for this (see below), but I wanted to share a picture that I hadn’t posted yet so I went with this one. This was taken in the Gunpowder Falls State Park during a hike. The Gunpowder Falls offers world-class catch and release fly fishing. Even though I don’t fish, it’s neat to see the fishermen quietly going about their business in the river as you hike along its banks. It’s an amazingly beautiful park. Hard to believe when you’re in it how close you are to urban centers like Baltimore and York, PA.

And, because I love Maryland so much, here are some links to other posts I’ve done highlighting just some of what Maryland has to offer:

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Panda Plant

I’ve shared lots of pictures over the years of all of my pets so I wanted to share something new. This is the Panda Plant that my daughter grew from a cutting in Ag Science class. It now keeps me company in my office. If you want to see pictures of all of my pets though, here are some links:

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

BUTTONS!!! Not the kind like “he really pushes my buttons” but the myriad, omnipresent buttons that you actually suspect do nothing. They’re smoke and mirrors. You press them and nothing happens (like the “Comfort” button in my car. Huh? What exactly does that thing do?! I notice zero difference when I press it.) And just look at all those buttons on my remote controls!!! (Yes, we actually use all of those. Yes, we probably need a universal remote. But that would just add MORE BUTTONS to my life.) Take my washing machine, for example. Fourteen settings. Fourteen!!! (Convenient that 14 can be divided by 2 so that each side of the dial has an equal number.) And, yep, I realize that my washing machine technically has only one button and the other settings are controlled by a knob. My old machine had half as many settings but they were all buttons. I’m not sure which is worse.

I saved the worst (best?) for last — my alarm clock!!! Retro is cool. This thing is like circa 1985 or something. It picks up weird signals when you leave your cell phone too close to it. And it’s called the “Dream Machine.” But. Really? As if! The thing lives to torture you with its hideous a.m. screech. The one good thing I can say about it is that there are only seven buttons and I know what each and every one of them does. See? They don’t make ’em like they used to.😀

BTW — a quiz for writers — which buttons can we not live without?

[Hint: QWERTY:-) ]

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Coffee

Of course my family brings me joy!! And my friends. And all sorts of other stuff in my life like books, movies, hiking, biking, day tripping, etc. But I had to pick the one thing that I couldn’t believe no one else picked — COFFEE!!! We’re writers for crying out loud! Where’s the COFFEE LOVE?!😀 Pictured above are three of my favorite coffee mugs.

I also had a runner-up I debated picking:

Pac Man

Yep, PAC-MAN! This is the real deal, folks. Vintage Atari. (My husband still has his old console, as well as about fifty katrillion cartridges. He was much better about keeping all his old electronics than I was.) When I was getting this post together, I was telling him about all of my choices. And before I decided to pick coffee, I told him I picked Pac-Man as the thing that brought me joy. And he was like, “Why?”

Huh?

Why?!?

Because it’s Pac-Man!!!

(In his defense, his question wasn’t because he doesn’t understand the appeal of old video games, but because Adventure is his favorite, not Pac-Man.)

Like vintage gaming? Check out these posts:

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Sometimes a reviewer can say it better than I can:

“A thrilling adventure that brings Noon and her Guardian Angel Rafe, literally to the gates of Hell…” The Qwillery

What are you working on next?

A YA duology and more stories set in Noon’s world.

What are you currently reading?

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Everything I usually watch (GoT, Outlander, Downton Abbey, and Mr. Selfridge) is on hiatus so I may go back to watching Vikings and/or Orphan Black.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Ah, so many choices! And, even though I’m the one who came up with this question, I’ll admit that “what’s your favorite” questions are always tough for me. My favorites constantly change depending on my mood, what I’ve recently read or watched, sentimentality, the season…

So here’s my answer to this question as of today:

Favorite fantasy creature: Temeraire from Naomi Novik’s HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON

Favorite fantasy villain: Lasher from Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR

Favorite fantasy weapon: the sharing knife from its eponymous series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I was curious about the final tally for this question so I went back through everyone’s answers. For the most part, there were six answers:

  • Discoverability (5)
  • Marketing (3)
  • Deciding whether to self-publish or traditionally publish (3)
  • Balancing writer demands like social media and marketing while writing the next book (2)
  • Pressure to write faster and produce more (2)
  • Digital disruption (1)

There’s no doubt these are all significant challenges facing writers today. But I’m going to pick something different yet familiar to all of you writers out there to talk about:

The challenge to KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON. It’s not a new challenge. It’s a timeless one.

How can we meet that challenge?

Challenges will always be there in one iteration or another. Anyone who sets a meaningful goal for themselves will have obstacles to overcome. The key to success is perseverance. Is it hard? Yes!!! Writers suffer rejections, bad reviews, low pay, long hours, self-doubt, and countless other buzz and bliss kills. Some days, meeting the challenge of “keepin’ on” can feel like you’re hiking up Mt. Everest with an anvil on your back.

When it starts to feel like that, take a breather. Do something else. Not for too long, but for a little while. When you return to the mountain the anvil will be lighter. Why? Because it’s not real. Yes, the challenges that writers face are real. But once you step back from them they merge and meld and blend and mix into the rest of what comprises a writer’s life (imagination, creative expression, immersing yourself in stories with emotional resonance, spending time with characters that make you laugh, cry, and/or admire them, the wonderfully rich dynamic between writers and readers, your love of the written word, narrative, drama, etc.)

You will realize that climbing a mountain is difficult but doable. The anvil is no more real than a knot in your shoulder, a cramp in your calf. Rub it out, smudge it out, and keep going!

Have fun and be proud of the fact that YOU ARE HIKING A MOUNTAIN!!!😀


Deleted Scenes: one from Dark Light of Day + one from future Noon Onyx B4

Writers: do you share your deleted scenes?

Readers: do you like reading them?

I don’t share many deleted scenes mostly because they’ve been deleted for a reason. They’re either not very good, they’re redundant, it’s a story thread I didn’t pursue, or something similar. So sharing them doesn’t make much sense. If I wanted to sell a beautiful dress, I wouldn’t stand on the street corner handing out remnants, right? And sharing a deleted scene from a WIP is doubly precarious because it may give something away that I shouldn’t or show something that I’ll change my mind about later.

But deleted scenes can sometimes be fun and/or interesting. Who doesn’t watch the blooper reel? I love story extras, whether they’re coming from authors or filmmakers. Below are two of mine. (I’ll also eventually share a bunch of deleted scenes from White Heart of Justice featuring Ari and what he was up to when Noon was down in southern Halja with Rafe, but I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll share those… I might share them here or I might make them available some other way).

This first deleted scene is from Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1). It’s a second training scene. I cut it because that book was already long and I didn’t think we needed to see another Wednesday in the Manipulation dungeon. The scene below wasn’t as strong as the scene in the book where Brunus attacks Noon with the nadziak.

Deleted Scene from

DARK LIGHT OF DAY

The day after the call from Night was a Wednesday, which meant the next morning I was back in the Manipulation dungeon. My mood was one of weary resignation… that is until Rochester told us we were through (for a while anyway) with learning how to try to shape our magic like weapons. We would now be moving on to our most important magical skill — throwing fire. And we would be practicing it alone, one on one, with Rochester. He picked me as his first victim and then kicked everyone else out.

The dungeon felt like a melting ice-cube today: cold, hard, clear, and dripping wet.

“Have you ever been to the Osmium Mountains, Ms. Onyx?”

I shook my head. No one had that I knew of. They were the edge of the world as far as most people were concerned — high mountains located miles and miles northwest of New Babylon, far past the scattered Hyrke outposts and demon devotion sites situated in Halja’s northern hinterlands.

I stood in the center of the room, near one of the floor grates, listening to the trickle of water. My breath puffed in the cold and I stamped my feet, although it was more out of expectation than impatience. Over the course of the semester, I’d mastered the attitude of this room, if not its lessons.

“They’re glacier mountains, prone to avalanches,” Rochester explained. “Do you know which type of demon is the most common there?”

No, but I could guess. “Ice breathers.”

Rochester’s mouth quirked in a smug little self-satisfied smile.

I wanted to kick him in the shin.

“Oh, there are plenty of those. But there’s even more of another type of demon. Pyrothropes.”

“Pyrothropes? Why would demons whose true form is fire want to live in a land full of snow and ice?”

“It’s not that they want to. That’s where they’re spawned.”

“They could leave. Come down from the mountains. No one’s forcing them to live up there.”

Rochester stared at me. “There’s a lot you can learn from the pyrothropes, Nouiomo. But we’re only going to focus on one of those things today — the difference between heat and an explosion. The pyrothropes are capable of creating huge explosions with their magic.” He raised an eyebrow at me and his implication was clear. Like me. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it. “But if they went around throwing explosive fireballs everywhere up there, what do you think would happen?”

“Avalanche,” I supplied dutifully.

“Right,” Rochester brightened, smiling at me. I was instantly suspicious. “And yet, despite all their precautions, the pyrothropes are still buried from time to time under natural avalanches. How do you think they use their magic to escape?”

“Explosion?” I said, imagining a plume of snow erupting like a volcano.

But Rochester shook his head. “Definitely not, as you will see. Throwing an explosive burst of fire while lying trapped beneath tons of snow and ice is quite… uncomfortable. Even throwing fire or — for the pyrothrope, reverting to true form — is risky. Do you know why?”

I remained silent, suddenly worried about the direction this lesson was heading.

“The pyrothropes didn’t learn to control their magic because they were afraid of hurting somebody. They did it because, if they didn’t, they would suffocate to death.”

And then — whoosh! — a wave of magic washed over me. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t hear.

I could feel though. And what I felt was terrifying. Because I was trapped in a block of something so cold, solid, and crushing, I couldn’t even lift my eyelids to see what it was. I couldn’t expand my lungs enough to take a breath to smell it. I tried to wiggle my fingers. The tips moved the tiniest little bit. All I could feel was cold.

Rochester’s muffled voice called to me, “Use your magic to melt the ice. But be careful, Nouiomo. No uncontrolled explosions this time. If you panic and throw an explosive fireball, you’re likely to be trapped in there with it. Much better to concentrate. Shape your magic into a nice warm ball and then slowly expand it.”

I started panicking almost immediately. How could Rochester use words like nice and warm when he was referring to my being smothered to death? My eyes started to water with tears of frustration. They instantly froze, further cementing my eyes shut. My lungs burned with the need for breath. Before I could stop what was happening, my magic ‘popped’ inside of Rochester’s life-sized ice-cube and the most exquisite blistering pain bubbled up underneath my skin. I screamed, but of course no sound came out of my mouth. My lips didn’t even move. I tried to run, but only my toes twitched.

I tried to heat up my magic again, just to get out, but this time it sputtered. Its spasms echoed mine as I started to black out. Just before I did, Rochester melted the ice-cube. I fell to the floor, burned, shivering, and gasping for breath.

Rochester put me in the cube eighteen more times that Wednesday morning. When I left I didn’t even look at him. I couldn’t.

~

The scene below is from the as yet untitled Noon Onyx #4. It’s from the first chapter, so I don’t think it gives much away, but it’s a fun sneak peek because it shows three of the main characters and hints at a few things. Just remember, like the scene above, it’s an irregularly shaped, rough-edged remnant. It’s been discarded for a reason. (It’s cute, but didn’t have enough oomph for me for chapter one).

Deleted Scene from

Untitled Noon Onyx #4

Like a glowing aura of glamoured light, Fara Vanderlin stood all white and bright at the end of the dirty alley in between Corpus Justica, our law library, and Rickard Building, where all my classes were held, waiting for me.

“What’s with the paper bag?” she called.

“Don’t ask,” I answered.

She raised her eyebrows, but said nothing else as I set the bag down on the pavement.

“Do you think you can cloak this so that it’s safe here until we get back?”

Her slightly puzzled expression turned to one of complete bewilderment. “You want me to cast a cloaking spell over a bag of trash?”

“Yep.”

She shrugged. “Okay.”

She murmured a series of unfamiliar words and the bag disappeared into the grunge of the alley. And that was one of the things I loved about Fara. Unlike my previous Guardian, she didn’t ask all sorts of unwarranted questions. If she knew a spell that could help me, she cast it.

“Where’s Virtus?” I asked.

Fara glanced at Nova. “I thought since he and Nova were still… getting aquainted… it might be better if he stayed behind while we ran our little errand.”

I grunted my assent. Virtus was Fara’s tiger. Her having him as a four-footed companion was just as unusual as my having Nova. We’d been hoping their mutual non-verbal, no opposable thumbs status would make them BFFs but no such luck. It had been hate at first sight.

“And the Joshua School’s still okay with you keeping him there?”

“Yes. Why wouldn’t they be?”

“Ah… no reason.”

So… how about you? Thoughts on deleted scenes?

Hope everyone had a great weekend!


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