How to be Creative in the Chaos that is Now

Today is my day on the Spellbound Scribes Blog. Come check it out!

Spellbound Scribes

First, let me say that I am proud of Liv and Lyra sharing their posts the last two weeks. As authors and public figures it’s difficult to know whether or not to speak up about politics, always afraid of hurting our livelihoods for offending people. But I think we all know that things are just different now and we need to speak up and not fear reprisal. If you didn’t get a chance to check them out last month, please go have a quick read.

I do want to get back to talking about writerly things, but we cannot ignore the fact that the current climate has really had a hard, hard impact on writers. The constant chaotic news loop we’re stuck in takes so much out of us. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, there is some new horror or frustration or just plain bullshit that has us…

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Summer Solstice and How I Lost a Year of My Life

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice. Now, I don’t get around to as much witchery as I’d like, but hubs and I are pretty good and dedicated to observing the two solstices and equinoxes. So, even after a pretty crummy week out of a pretty crummy month, we promised we would have a fire and a toast to the turning of the wheel.

If you follow me on Insta, you probably saw that we got a new fire table recently. The thing is so big that we needed to get rid of the picnic table we had. The table was old and rarely used, though our schoodle, Merlin, did enjoy sunbathing on it from time to time.

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And if you follow on Insta, you know that rather than just throwing the table out, we re-purposed it into a pretty cool bench.

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It was even Merlin-approved. The dude knows the table is gone and didn’t seem to care, as you can see.

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Now. Last night was not the first time we’ve all sat outside together around the new fire table. We’ve done it quite a few times in the last couple of months because we quite like it. We bring out two dog beds for both puppies, putting the tiny bed between the two chairs because, otherwise, Merlin has no chill.

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He knows the routine.

So, last night, we lit the fire, we raised a glass, and settled in. Merlin was standing opposite us on the other side of the table, staring at us. So I snapped my fingers and waved my hand and told him to come around the table to me — a command combo both he and his big brother understand.

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Merlin walked closer to the table. The obviously on fire table.

“No, Merlin. Around,” I said in my dog-command-voice and made the hand motion again.

Merlin peered over the edge of the table.

I set my glass down and leaned forward, starting to push out of the Adirondack chair. “Merlin, no.”

Then he jumped. ON THE TABLE THAT IS ON FUCKING FIRE.

“NO!” I screamed and I think hubs did too. And Merlin spun and kicked off the table, sending sparks into the air, like a cat fleeing water.

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The table is a glass fire table, which means no sparks. Nothing to catch fire. Except maybe fur. And, being that it is glass that is ON FIRE, means that glass is really fucking hot. But we both saw sparks burst in the air.

I dove to the puppy on the concrete and scooped him up and hugged him to my chest, hoping to smother anything that might be burning.

Reader: he was fine.

One paw smelled of singed hair, but there was no evidenced of burned fur or paw pad. But let me tell you, that dog is not a fan of being crushed in a bear-hug, so the fact that he didn’t wriggle and fight says a lot.

If you look closely, you can see the streaks in the dust where his paws were.

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Here, you can see a little divot in the glass where his paw hit (you might see the larger, amber colored glass under the more square, smokey quartz glass).

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So yeah. That’s how we rang in the turning of the wheel and how I’ll know, on  my deathbed that I probably still had a year to go if it wasn’t for this furball.

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(Picture taken this morning, pup obviously okay)

 

Behind the Scenes of Self Publishing–Paperback Edition

Today is my day on the Spellbound Scribes’ blog. Ever wonder what goes into self publishing a paperback book? Come check it out!

Spellbound Scribes

As you know, if you’ve been following along with my posts, I have a new release coming out on June 1st–less than a month away, EEEEEP!

Being self-published that means a few different things than it does for a traditionally published writer–including being able to try out a Friday release instead of the traditional Tuesday. And, as we’re all writers here, offering insight into the whole writing process, I thought I’d share a little bit of that with you guys.

The beginning is exactly the same. We all start with a spark of inspiration, then develop that into a story, then kill ourselves over the next 4 to 156 weeks trying to write the damn thing.

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Then we put the book away (or at least, we should). For me, I’ll set a book aside for between 1 to 6 weeks depending on how difficult the book was to write…

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Pre-Order Announcement!

It’s my day on the Spellbound Scribes’ blog and I have an announcement!

Spellbound Scribes

A little while back I shared the cover reveal of my upcoming young adult novel, Blackbird. Well, I’m very happy to announce the publication day and the pre-order links (if you’re so inclined)!

BlackbirdWhat if YouTube warned of the end of the world? Would we even take it seriously? Or just assume it was some lame, internet hoax?

Maggie has her first college finals to prepare for; she doesn’t have time for pranks and conspiracy theories. But a super flu has broken out on campus and her dorm mate keeps coughing, threatening to get her sick before she can get through the tests and get home for Christmas.

More and more people are coming down with the super flu and the vaccines aren’t working for everyone and when one of her professors is dragged out of the classroom by cops and doctors, Maggie realizes she’s waited too long to leave…

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How to Know When a Writer Should be Writing

Gonna be better about cross-posting! This was my week on the Spellbound Scribes’ Blog. Come laugh at my pain!

Spellbound Scribes

If you’ve been following along, you know that I had grand plans to write a new, dark, witchy, Ireland inspired book. And you also know that a natural disaster kind of derailed those plans for a while. Well, we’re finally, finally getting back to normal around here. Schedules are familiar, husband’s clients are getting back on track, things still feel a little like Bambi learning to walk, but we’re getting there.

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And I’ve had enough time away from writing to feel refreshed and like I should be ready to get back at it. My editor has Blackbird, which I’ll have back soon, but going over edits and writing something new can be done; I’ve done it. It’s nice to have two totally different projects like that to work on so you can take a break from one to the other and not overload yourself.

So naturally I got to work…

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Cover Reveal and Pre-order Links!

Oof, it has been a minute since I last posted here. I am sorry about that! But at least I’m coming back with something fun and exciting, right?

If you’ve been following me on other outlets then you know I’ve been working on the very first companion novel to my Ash & Ruin Trilogy. I finally have the release day set and the cover is all pretty and creepy, just like we like it for our apocalyptic adventures!

So, are you ready to see it?

At fifteen years old, Gwen’s world has ended. Not because she’s gone through a break-up. Not because her parents are ruining her life with a lame curfew. Not because her grades are struggling. Not in the way a fifteen-year-old’s life usually ends.

At fifteen years old, Gwen has burned the dead bodies of both her parents and fortified her home against the plague-spreading monsters who killed them, waiting for her sister, Maggie, to make her way back home in the apocalyptic landscape that is the world now.

At fifteen years old, Gwen’s world has ended, but she’s not giving up. She’s not giving up on life, her home, or her sister. Because all you have left when the world ends is hope, so that’s what she’s got, a BB gun and hope.

Hopefully it’ll be enough.

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You can pre-order your ebook copy now at these sites (more to be added as soon as they’re live):

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Kobo Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | ibooks

(It, along with all of my other books, are available on all of Amazon’s sites, but there are so many to list, so just do a quick search for it and you’ll find it!)

Revising, editing, and all the rough drafts.

As I sit down to work on yet another rough draft, I thought it might be interesting to read about how I revise and edit a new book. Because I also offer manuscript critique services, I see a lot of books before they’re ready from new writers. It’s always hard to know when a book is done and it’s time to let it go out into the world and flourish or die by its own merit, but you do need to spend a significant amount of time on it before that happens.

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First, I outline the story. When I was a new writer, I didn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, so if you’re not an outliner, don’t freak out; everyone is different and things change from book to book.

Once the outline is done, I fast draft the book. This means I write daily, usually taking 1-2 days off a week so I don’t burn out, until it’s done. There are some days where I might just get 500 words or 1,000 words, but my goal is 2-4k words a day. But, again, every book is different. As long as I make some progress, I’m happy.

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Then, when that first draft is done, I back up my work in 2-3 different places. I like to email myself the document every day so I don’t ever lose any work. But when I finish, I email myself again the completed document. I also save it to a memory stick. This way, if something happens to my computer, my book is safely stored in two places that can’t also be damaged by whatever killed my computer. When I was writing my fourth book, Fire, my hard-drive crashed and I lost about 20k words because I wasn’t in the habit of emailing myself on the daily, just at the end of a draft. It was devastating. Never again!

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Then I walk away. I close the file on the computer and I don’t look at it again for at least a week, sometimes as much as six months. Again, it depends on the book (and deadlines). But I get away from it and do other things. I clean the house, I read other people’s books, I relax. I do things that have nothing to do with the book I was writing. I may even start writing (and finish) another book before I ever come back to it. There’s a few reasons for this but the main reason is so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

You just spent a couple of months to the better part of a year focused on this one story, it’s been loud in your head, the characters alive and and controlling. If you come back too soon, you’ll remember everything and you won’t see mistakes, you won’t find the plot holes, you won’t pick up on the weaknesses or the thin characters. You need to read your rough draft as though you weren’t the one who wrote it.

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I like to print out a copy of the MS to go over it the first time. This way I’m not working on it in the same medium that I wrote it. I am familiar with it on the computer screen, so my eyes and mind might trick me into reading it the way I wanted it to be, not the way it is. By printing it, it becomes a new book and I can take a bright red pen to it and make corrections and notes to transcribe back on the computer. That’s the second draft.

Now, depending on the book, this is the right time to give it to beta readers to go over. I like to have at least two readers, but three is ideal. You want readers who will give it back to you in 2-4 weeks. This gives you another break away from the book, but also ensures your readers focus on your book so they don’t forget what they read in the first half because they took so long to finish it.

Wait to make any changes to your MS until you hear back from all betas. This gives you the chance to see if critiques are just personal preference or if you really missed something because they all mentioned the same thing(s).

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Now I go over the book again, this time on the computer, comparing beta notes, seeing if I agree or not. If I agree with a change, I have to make sure I thread it through the whole book. That’s the third draft.

Now I put it on a tablet to read it as an ebook. You may need another break or you may be ready to just dive in. So, again, I’m reading it in a different medium and more like any reader who bought it would read it. I use the highlight and note function to keep track of issues and changes I want to make. Once I make those changes, I’ve got a fourth draft.

Only on the 3rd or 4th draft does my editor get the book. Because I self-publish, I pay my editor for her services, so why in the world would I send her a book before it’s ready? I wouldn’t, and neither should you. I often get MSs that are not ready and people are paying me a fee to go over the book and 90% of the time, most of my notes could have been caught by the author or by a beta reader to be addressed for free.

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Once I get my MS back from my editor and implement the line-edits and content-edits, I am up to the fifth draft. Guess what? It goes back for a proof-reader to comb to make sure we didn’t miss any tiny mistakes.

So, in the end, I’m publishing the 5th or 6th draft. I don’t always use beta readers because sometimes I’m up to the 5th, 6th, or 7th book in a series and I can’t expect friends to do that much work for me. But the first book in a series? A stand alone? A trilogy? Yes, I use beta readers for all of those.

You will get to the point where you start to hate your book because you’ve read it so many times, but that’s what it takes to polish it, to develop those characters, to make the plot compelling. This is the work that goes into a book. Getting that first draft is the easy part, making it a book is where the hard work really is.

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Writing is re-writing. This is the rule you should be living by.