It’s been a busy few weeks—months! Moving from one house to another took up a considerable amount of my time, brain power, and emotion. So does “nesting,” as I try to make this new place feel like home. Twenty-three years in the same house bestows a lot of comfort and familiarity. As much as I love the new digs, I still miss the feel of the old one with its well-known walls, much-loved landscape, and years of memories.
Then came the wedding. The first one we planned spoiled me with nine entire months in which to prepare. This time we had two. This time I felt more… disconnected from the process (and a little more panicky!), but it involved an entirely different set of people who worked in an entirely different way. And you know what? Everything worked out and it was beautiful, too. And as a bonus, I got to bring home the biggest, most beautiful bouquet of roses I’ve ever had.
I spent the two days following the wedding feeling like I hadn’t slept in a month, and then I had surgery. It went well (clearly, or I wouldn’t be writing this!), but I am tired, tired, tired… I am supposed to be writing, but I’ve achieved pretty much zip. Nada. Zilch. Why? Because I’m so unorganized and because I’ve somehow managed to become stuck. Weirdly, when I am up to my eyeballs in cutting and gathering miles of tulle or hemming my new dress by hand because the darned sewing machine up and quit, I can think of all kinds of things to write about, scenes to develop, plot twists to include.
Then I have one entire quiet day to myself and do nothing but stare at the screen…
Even as I sit here typing this my gaze is wandering to the window, and it’s such a gorgeous day outside! How many of those do I have left before the weather turns to miserable snow and freezing temperatures? Maybe I should go out and—
Wait, wait! Gotta finish this post, at least!
So where was I? Ah, yes, looking for inspiration and organization.
National Novel Writing Month is coming right up, and the good folks there always have a great store of inspiration to get writers pumped up. I got in on a TweetChat with author Scott Westerfeld and the on-going #NaNoPrep chat. Lots of good hints and lots of bubbling enthusiasm. I caught some! More resources and a schedule can be found here: NaNo Prep.
Joanna Penn and Joseph Michael did a webinar about using the fantastic Scrivener app for NaNoWriMo, but I’ll confess that the side-by-side chat they had going at the same time distracted the heck out of me. Notwithstanding, I like both of them and you can always learn something useful from them. Check out Joanna’s 8 Ways Scrivener Will Help You Become A Proficient Writer Overnight and keep an eye out for other webinars that Joe is presenting.
Over the years, despite thinking I was the only one, I’ve learned that almost everyone who writes, professional or not, faces a time-out occasionally.
Time-outs are just the creative self needing a break. Most are useful–they give us time for processing next steps in our writing. We can consider whether it’s going where we want it to go, we can muse over a dilemma that needs heightening or a character that needs fleshing out. Every creative activity needs these kinds of time-outs, what some call “filling the well.”
But getting started again–that’s another story.
I’ve learned that time-outs can be OK, but it took a lot of practice to know when to get back to work. Otherwise, my time-out (stall-out) becomes procrastination. And we all know all about that.
Here are some easy-peasy tips from writer friends that saved me from turning time-outs into book abandonment.
How would you like a subscription service that caters specifically to the sic-fi and fantasy genres? I know I would. And when founder Matthew Keith emailed me with the news I whooped a gleeful “YES!” and got up to do a Snoopy Dance. (No, there are no recordings. Too bad, right?) The really cool thing is that I’d just been doing some serious wishful thinking for that very thing. I mean, I enjoy getting announcements the other subscription services, but even though some of them allow you to set a preferred genre, that’s not always what appears in the ol’ mailbox.
Not that I’m discriminating! I enjoy picking up books from other genres to read, too, but I have loved the speculative genre—and fantasy in particular—since I was knee high to a grasshopper. In fact, the first story I ever wrote was about a magic bunny. I think I was about five. It was before I could successfully produce penmanship legible to anyone but myself, but luckily I had a scribe: my big sister, who further encouraged my imagination with wonderful things like itty-bitty yarn dollies (whose necessarily upright hair styles naturally led to fantasy), stories she made up, Tolkien, and her fantastic artistic skills.
But wait, I digress. Here’s what the site is all about:
With so many options available online to book buyers, it makes it hard to find what you’re looking for. Especially if, like us, you only read SciFi and Fantasy. This site has been created to simplify your search. No more wading through “everything else” in order to find the books you want. At SciFiFantasyFREAK, we will never advertise anything that doesn’t fall within those two genres.
Here’s a deal I had to share with all the writers reading my blog…
Out:Think Group is giving away a copy of Scrivener to five lucky winners. Scrivener, in case you haven’t heard of it, is the bomb-dot-com when it comes to writing. Novels, technical works, short stories, memoirs, blogging—you name it, Scrivener can handle it. Beautifully.
Written by writers for writers, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, I’ve waxed poetic about it before here, and a little bit (down toward the bottom of the post) here. The more I use Scrivener, the more I like love it. It organizes, helps outlining and/or storyboarding (or not!), formats manuscripts for things like e-book publishing or print books, helps you keep track of things with labels and tags, has a search feature too fantastic for one sentence, and cartwheel-inducing revision abilities. It slices! it dices!
Okay, not really, but it certainly makes slicing and dicing—er, editing—easier. I mean, how brilliant is dragging-and-dropping entire scenes? Can your fancy-schmancy text editor do that? And can it keep copies of web pages for research? Pictures? Video?
And then dash over to Out:Think to jump in on the Scrivener Giveaway. The contest ends July 30, 07:00PM AMT, and prizes will be awarded August 04, 07:00PM AMT.
Literature and Latte also have an excellent collection of video tutorials in addition to a walk-through included with the application and an extensive forum that includes help for Scrivener and other Lit-and-Lat applications.
If that’s not enough for you, please be sure to visit these websites:
Author AR Silverberry is interviewing me over on his blog as part of a series to introduce the authors of the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. Here’s an excerpt:
How do you approach crafting a novel?
I sneak up on it and tackle it when it’s not looking!
Actually, each of my novels has started with an idea—a scene, a character, a “what if.” I jot it down, let it burble around in the caverns of my imagination for a while, then add a little more. I tend to gravitate toward characters more than anything as a starting point, and fleshing them out is a great way for me to develop the setting and the plot.
This might come as a shock to you, but I love fantasy books (and movies!).
There was a time when I could pick any fantasy book off the shelf and not have to worry about over-the-top violence and gore, sex, and foul language. I miss those days…
All is not lost, though!
The Fantasy & Science-Fiction Network (FSF Net) is dedicated to helping fans find the very best fantasy & sci-fi books for children and adults (both young and old) which do not exceed a PG-13 rating.
On the website you will find author profiles, reviews, interviews, and various articles of interest to the fantasy or science-fiction connoisseur. The group also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and (new!) Goodreads.
Be sure to go visit, like, follow, share, and participate!
I will be sharing more groups and sites like this in the future—stay tuned!
You can also pay a visit to my own list of Flinch-Free reading recommendations: Read these!
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Have you got a go-to site for finding clean fantasy and sci-fi reads?
What are some of your favorite (clean) fantasy and sic-fi books?
Ladies and Jellybeans, Wonderful Readers, much to my delight we have author William Hahn joining us to talk about how he tackles (tackled?) writing a series. William taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, which wonderfully supports his journey into the realm of fantasy. He has written, in fact, an entire compendium about the lands in his novels—which is amazing bonus material for his readers and inspirational for those of us who write. Be sure you read through to the end of the post for a chance to enter a giveaway! Take it away, Will!
I’m very pleased to be invited to address Robin’s readers, and the topic could not be hotter. On the one hand, I’m a huge proponent of working tales into series for several reasons:
•First and foremost, because—as indie authors and particularly using e-pub—we can shake off the chains of artificial constraints on length and form, which are often just echoes of the paper-pub model that does not serve us. •Also there seems no question that today’s mobile and tech-savvy readers like shorter forms. It’s not that their appetite for reading overall has gone down. But “bite-sized” reading is more enjoyable for them because reading time has also been chopped up. It’s more often the twenty minutes’ commute to work, and rarely two hours curled up by the fire with cocoa anymore. And a short e-book is all set to become a right-sized audiobook! •Shorter formats turn pricing pressure on e-books into an advantage. You can justify a lower price for your work, and the reader doesn’t need to risk as much to take a flier on you, especially at first. Win-win.
Having said all that… I’m probably the worst example of a series writer you’ll ever meet!
Part One: The Accidental Series
I write epic fantasy tales; guys like me look at a 40,000 word novella and say “nice first chapter; where’s the rest?” Once I decided to put my hand to describing The Lands of Hope, I cranked out an 85,000 word… thing, that I immediately recognized was not a full story. Not even one! It was instead the latter two-thirds of a full length novel, of which I had not envisioned the right starting place. Later on, I would finally locate that spot, and now The Plane of Dreams is a proper novel, tending towards long by other genre standards, but nothing special within epic fantasy at 114,000 words. In the process I realized it is in fact the middle book of a series; there’s a full-length novel behind it (name TBD) and another coming after it (entitled “The Test of Fire”). But that’s old school, LoTR thinking about a classic paperback trilogy—today, series are supposed to be SHORT! Patience.
Meantime, I had turned to another subject and out sprang Judgement’s Tale, my upcoming release. I wrote and polished it for about a year, and wound up with a 200,000 word “monsterpiece.” I know, “get to the series already.” Well, this is it! I polished and re-read the work, and wondered what to do with it. First I ran it out there on query to twoscore agents—gee, unknown author in the ice-cold epic fantasy genre with a bulging first manuscript, I still can’t understand why they passed. But I was still thinking “paper” and “representation” and “advance” and all kinds of other things I should have known from the start were the REAL fantasy! My mind moves slowly.
Part Two: A Series on Purpose
After a month of drowning my sorrows (which turns out is incredibly hard to do when you don’t drink alcohol), I discovered the indie/e-pub path and have been very happy since. But I knew the long form wasn’t going to fly well there either: something in me said to hold back. I turned to an idea I had for shorter tales, novellas in a real no-kidding series. The Ring and the Flag and Fencing Reputation, first two of four tales in the series Shards of Light, are on the web now. Each focuses on a different hero in the set of three who are at the center of the plot; I designed the first two tales so you can start with either one, they stand alone and come in at nice novella length (33 and 45 thousand words). The third tale, Perilous Embraces, is half-done at 35 thousand words and unquestionably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to write. I want to keep momentum, try to build that slow burn as so many bloggers advise. Shards of Light is going to be a terrific tale but this third installment (well, honestly the heroine) is giving me a tough time right now. So, what to do…
Part Three: When I Wasn’t Looking
That’s when it hit me. Well actually, that’s when a good friend hit me, right on the forehead like those V-8 commercials. And virtually, with a pleasant email invitation but still—pow! Take Judgement’s Tale, the epic monsterpiece that no agent or publisher in their right mind—barring one—would touch, and break it up into a series! Oh sure, you guessed it all along, right. I was skeptical but intrigued, and looked over my manuscript. And sure enough, the chapter breaks I already had in the tale worked out really well—first installment a little shorter as you would want, the others getting a bit longer as the tale develops.
I worked out a release schedule with my publisher—oh hold on, tiny detail—
I HAVE A PUBLISHER!!
I signed a contract and everything. Two or three times a week I take it out, read it, see my signature at the bottom and just giggle like a schoolgirl.
So—contract terms, release schedule, cover art, editing service, and right now this very blog tour you’re reading. All part of the plan, thanks to the flexibility brought about by e-books, self-publishing and a jot of ingenuity. Truly, it is a marvelous time to be an author. The freedom to publish when I choose, in the length and form I want, has been more joy to me than I can describe. My most ambitious work is coming to the world starting July 4th, and by creating a series I make it hopefully easier for readers to take in, and gain a little time to continue working on my other material knowing my “slow burn” is set for the future.
Think seriously about series! The advantages of publishing your work in installments go far beyond the list I started out with. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, thumbs-up or down, when it works or not. I hope you will look into my upcoming series, beginning with Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance. Who knows, it could be the start of something for both of us.
Games of Chance
For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.
In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play… Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale.
Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.
Will didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.
Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). With the publication of Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance, he begins at last to tell the tale of the Land’s most unique hero, The Man in Grey.
Somehow Posting Day has snuck up on me. I’m not sure where the rest of the week went, though I do recall slaaaaaving away (Just kidding, L.A.) to update the author index and profiles over at the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network, to which I belong. Actually, it was fun reading about the other members of the group and adding their books to my collection the list. The group is growing fast, and I get to work with some fantastic folks. Be sure to check them out!
And speaking of collecting more books to read, you might recall that I interviewed Charles David Carpenter and D.W. Jones back in February. Great guys. No, really.
And guess what? They’ve just released their second book in the Necromancers’ Pride series, entitled Tides of War!! Aaaaawsome!
Can Corwyn and Velladriana complete their quest? Will Crispin and Dolthaia escape the dangerous followers of Maars the Lector? What drove the Viper’s Legionnaire Reese to lands so far from his home? What schemes are the Weavers concocting? What darkness will the Necromancers unleash? What are the true extents of the Pride’s powers?
You’ll have to get a copy and find out!
Have you read any (other) good fantasy books lately? Share in the comments!
I’m participating in a fantastic eBook Sale! It’s a one-day only gig, so saddle up your dragon or strap on your jet packs and get over to the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network to grab your choice(s) from over a dozen fantasy and sci-fi books. All of these titles are priced under $0.99 at the time of writing this post. Prices are subject to change, so check the price before clicking “buy.”
The 99-cent sale is 24 hours only starting May 23, 2014 12:01 AM PST
The FSF Net is a growing group of over fifty authors who have gathered together to create a unique news channel dedicated to fans of fantasy and science-fiction books. Their members include some of today’s top bestselling fantasy and sci-fi authors like J.D. Hallowell, Brian Anderson, Lindsay Buroker, and Leeland Artra. All fantasy and sci-fi works by its member authors are guaranteed to not exceed the PG13 standard as described in the group’s website. While most of the books are written for adult fans of sci-fi and fantasy, the books are safe for all readers 13+ with limited violence, limited swearing, and no erotica. Since its creation in December of 2013, the network has helped launch many more bestselling authors, and its membership continues to grow weekly.
Pass it on! Be sure and share the news on your favorite social media sites!
No, the post title is not the title of a new book—though it might make a really fun spoof. I have had hardly any time for even thinking about writing. You see, Hubster just woke up one day and said, “I need something sportier.”
He was talking about a house.
Okay, technically, that’s not what he said, but Maxwell Pig’s line somehow seemed to fit the moment, because his sudden action on a desire he’d been vaguely harboring for a few years was, you know, sudden. Being the cautious one, I implored that we take things slowly. We were talking about a big commitment financially, emotionally, physically… We bought our first house over twenty years ago. It doesn’t seem like that long, but I did the math, and it’s true. We put a lot of work and a lot of love into updating it, and there were still projects and hopes lined up—including the addition of a garage (which one really needs in northern Utah). My youngest daughter grew up there. Having moved around quite a bit when I was young, I dreamed of buying a house and living there forever. Like Hubster’s parents. Like his grandparents. And probably their parents…
We looked at several houses to get a feel for the market. Or at least that’s what I thought we were doing. Then BAM! We were making an offer and putting our first house on the market. All in a matter of days. It wasn’t ready. *I* wasn’t ready. And yet there I was, sorting through our two decades of accumulated stuff, packing and giving away and throwing away. Not only did we not want to bring useless stuff with us, but we were downsizing a little. Bye-bye to my craft room. Bye-bye to the guest room. Bye-bye to Hubster’s never-finished-photo-studio.
I’ll tell you, decluttering on such a scale sure gives one a new perspective about the life they’ve lived and how they might be spending the future!
Faster than I could credit, we were signing the closing papers.
We didn’t get the keys, and that ended up taking a little longer than we’d hoped. We made the 50 minute drive with the Forerunner packed to the gills and me making jokes about trying to keep the front tires on the pavement. Our excitement, which went up and down with each obstacle and “one more thing” we’d encountered, hit an all-time low. We’d first viewed the house through rosy glasses. Hubster was sold on the garage (ANY garage); I was enamored with the large kitchen/dining/family room area, which could actually accommodate our growing family for get-togethers and holidays. The inspection revealed far more grime than we’d previously noticed. Stepping over the threshold with our belongings to put away, we discovered the real truth of the matter: The people who had lived here before hadn’t cleaned anything during the two(ish) years they’d lived here. Nothing. Not. One. Thing.
“Eww,” was the word of the day. The week! I’d have been so embarrassed to leave my house in that condition! It took Hubster and me four hours to clean the top half of the kitchen, including the microwave and the kitchen sink. Then we discovered we’d missed a cabinet. Yikes. Mostly, I just wanted to cry. I’d just spent the last couple weeks packing and cleaning our old house, and now I was going to have to deep clean the new one. I’d expected to have to wipe things down and make it “my” clean, but not to this extent. Thank goodness for my sweet sister in law, who bravely and unselfishly tackled some very nasty bathrooms—and still managed to keep her sense of humor.
A neighbor loaned us his covered trailer so we could start moving the boxes and smaller things while saving most of the furniture for the weekend and the much-needed manly and muscular help. We fit a lot of stuff in that thing, which we hooked up to the little pick-up truck my father-in-law so graciously loaned us. Our only serious mishap was “two” theme: two flat tires, (nearly) two hundred bucks for new ones, and two hours of sitting on the expressway. “Could have been worse,” Hubster said. “Could have been raining.”
Naturally, my imagination supplied MUCH more gruesome and drastic “worse” scenarios. I’m a writer. A key developmental tool is the question, “What’s the worst thing that could happen to your character?” Thankfully, we were not at the mercy of a ruthless author. Our wonderful son and the nifty new cell phone (with Google Maps on it to tell us where the nearest tire seller was located) my #2 daughter helped me get came to our rescue.
On the big day the Moving Crew arrived, along with two big trucks, another (huge!) trailer, several cars, and my darling grandson. He handled the big stuff without even breaking a sweat.
Seriously—a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped, whether it was lifting and carrying, driving, unpacking, making our bed (!), providing pizza (!), posing with the elk antlers, loading up the pantry, or loaning keys and coolers. You all RAWK!
So the bulk of the cleaning and putting the house “together” is done. Hubster may argue; half the garage is still full of boxes, but it’s a work in progress! It took us 20+ years to put it together the first time, it’s going to take a little while to rearrange and polish.
Here is a peek at the NEW family room and my NEW office (please pardon my abysmal photography skills—using PhotoBooth on my laptop, of all things):
Not done yet, but now you know what I’ve been up to since I fell into the rabbit hole. More virtual catching up to do next week. Tomorrow? I’m gonna WRITE.