Wednesday, June 3, 2020

TFW

For those of you who don't know, the title stands for "That Feeling When."

As I near "the end" on one more book, I'm running into that feeling when I don't want the story to end, but I want it to end. I want do be done, but I don't want to rush to the finish line. When writing a story, there's nothing worse than rushing to tie up all the loose ends in a very convenient bow.

I read a book recently where once the author wrote the climax, the point that the story was leading up to where everything comes out into the open and generally does some sort of damage, they packed all the loose ends into neat little packages. Sometimes those loose ends aren't neat, nor should they be. Consider shows or movies where the villain tells the person he's about to kill all about his evil plan instead of just pulling the trigger. Yes, sometimes that's the only way you can reveal how they got there, but I will admit to wondering why the villain just offed the one guy but stopped to chat with the main target. Savoring the kill doesn't hold water with me most of the time.

And so I'm finding myself in this same boat. I'm about to write the climax. I know what's going to happen, but I'm not sure how it's going to unfold. In leading up to this point, I had written a section that showed a moment of clarity, rather than letting it play itself out. When I re-read it, I realized it would carry much more impact as an "aha" moment. "Where had she seen that look before?" AHA!  Well, something like that. I was pretty proud of myself for seeing it was too convenient as originally written. Yes, I am still growing in my writing journey every day.

Which brings me back to finishing. I have to walk my character into a potentially dangerous situation and bring her out on the other side, and then I have to show the reader how this has changed her life for the better. That's what books do. They show character growth or resolution of a goal, or both. So once we get to the other side, I need to explain why we traveled the roads we did to get to this point. Why did I point out that particular landmark along the way? And I have to do it in a logical, believable way instead of throwing my characters to the wolves and saying "you have to do this so that the story works the way I want it to." Funny, but too often, the characters tell ME how the story works out. I think it's better that way. After all, walking this journey with them all this way, I don't want to betray who they are now. Add in that there are reader expectations for the type of story I'm writing.

Which brings me to that feeling when the story comes to an end. I want to part with these characters as friends, hoping that one day we might see each other again - especially when the books are part of a series. And I don't want readers to say things like "well, that was a little too easy." My characters need to stay true to themselves, and true to the way the real world works, or at least the the extent the world they live in works.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

United We Stand/Divided We Fall

Anyone else remember the song?


I'm stepping off a cliff today and wondering if this is a discussion we can have in today's world. My experience lately says no. In fact, I'm fairly terrified to write this post because of people on "the other side of the fence." We've reached a point in history where people are not just divided, they are willing to kill other people to defend their argument, right or wrong.

When did politics become a competition rather than a polite debate over two differing sets of belief, designed to find the middle ground? People don’t seem to care about middle ground, only about being right. In a conversation the other day, I was fairly shocked to hear a friend denigrate a voice of authority simply because she disagreed with the stance. I did not call her out with my dissenting opinion, because, again, we are a country divided. There is no middle ground. People are refusing to see the other side, either with willful ignorance or because they have chosen a side and refuse to consider they might be mistaken. Families are at war with one another. My mother was worried greed would tear apart our family unit when she died (it didn't, we were raised better than that). I wonder what she would have thought about politics tearing apart families. Would she have taken the hard-line stance people are taking? Moot point, and I'm fairly sure I know the answer. Despite our political differences, family is more important. I've had explosive conversations with family members, until we agreed to disagree and not discuss it.

Because of the explosive nature of this topic, I'm not allowing comments. I don't need to hear you defend your position, I've heard it all. And isn't that part of the problem? No one wants to listen anymore. Friends are unfriending. We've become so embroiled in our positions that some find it necessary to lash out at those who disagree--some of them with guns. How does that solve anything? "If you don't agree with me, I'ma shoot you??"

I'm one person. What can I do? I'm certainly not going to be able to dissuade anyone, or convince them of the error of their ways. People know what they're doing. Their stubbornness to concede even one point is what prompted me to do the only thing I could think of, write this post. There is a middle ground. We can come together in spite of leaders who strive to divide us. We have a chance to make our world a better place, but we can only do that together, because...

United, We Stand. Divided, We Fall.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

About reviews...

They tell us as authors not to pay too much attention to reviews. Should we solicit them? Yes. Reviews help other people decide whether or not a book is worth their time. Most of the time. Some of the time. There are the odd reviews where a book doesn't connect with people, or they miss the point, or they just plain didn't like it. Hey, not everybody is going to think the same way, and that's okay. Sometimes people write a review that's completely unrelated to the actual product. "One star, the book was supposed to be here Monday and didn't get here until Friday."

I'm reading a book right now that is by a best seller from a major publishing house. It's pretty good overall, but there's a subject that's not sitting well with me. It's sort of a "diamond in the rough" sort of book where the girl is a tomboy, always has been. She resents people telling her to be more girly and trying to make her into something she's not, but then she has to wear a dress for a "girl" function and suddenly she thinks she should be what other people want her to be - girly. I'm not buying it, as much as the author is trying to convince me, that this girl WANTS (suddenly) to be more girly after 27 years, and all those people she resented are now somehow right. Sticking with the book - I expect it will get better, but it is raising my hackles. Does that make it a bad book? No... just not one I'm on board with.

But I digress. The reason for my post today is that despite being told not to check reviews on my books, I do. I don't get my nose out of shape when someone writes something ridiculous about one of my books, someone who misses the point (like I'm missing the point with the tomboy book), but when someone is enjoying my books, I do get the warm fuzzies. Big time. Nice reviews are encouragement to keep going, or guide you in the right direction. I sometimes wonder if I'm connecting with my audience, and hearing back from them confirms that I am (or I'm not). Currently, there is a reader who is making their way through my Epitaph series (shameless plug, the first in series is FREE!). Lots of people have reviewed that first book, and many have gone on to review the second. Then things tend to slow down. When my sister read the series, she told me which books she liked and which she didn't, and when she didn't, she said it wasn't that there was anything wrong, just that she was burned out on the series. I get that. I've burned out on my favorite authors after reading them back to back to back, too. My current reader (who I can identify because they leave their name) has been leaving glowing reviews about how they wonder if the next book will be as good as the last, and so far I haven't let them down. I LOVE reading reviews like that. When I know someone is enjoying the books, I want to give them more, as opposed to those people who say "I just don't get it," who make me want to give up and take up knitting (I can't knit to save my soul, that will NOT be the replacement of choice).

So moral of the story, those books that people have connected with, that they've left me glowing reviews on, those are the ones I gravitate toward writing more of. The ones that people don't bother to review, or that reviews are so-so, I move on from. As I finish the Hillendale series, I'm hoping to see more reviews so I know whether or not people are connecting with my "Practical Magic meets The Good Witch with a Spirit Walker thrown in" series, or if it was a lark on my part. Sometimes I venture into quirky territory just because my brain goes that direction. Hey, let me tell you about the book I wrote about fairies in the desert that is sitting in my desk drawer that one of my friends keeps telling me I should share with the world (I don't think I'm ready to do that, but ya never know!). In the meantime, I'm on the home stretch in Hillendale 3 (tentatively titled THE HIDDEN GRIMOIRE) and after that I expect to move back into my regular romance territory.

Carry on...


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Book Birthday Presents

Yesterday was the new book's birthday! And you know what? I have paperback copies to give away to two lucky readers! Who wants a copy of UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?

Buy it here
The Hillendale Novels follow a young woman learning about a heretofore unknown legacy and all the trials and tribulations that go with it. Brynn has had her share of trouble, and in UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, things are about to heat up. Intentionally calling on magic comes with unintended consequences.

Winners will be chosen by May 19.

 


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Ramble On

It has been a while since I used My Life Is A Musical in one of my posts. And yet the musical goes on.

Sidetrack - has anyone else been watching the Andrew Lloyd Webber You Tubes? The free shows over the weekends? I've see a couple, but of course I was late arriving and missed the one I STILL HAVEN'T SEEN.

Main track...

I'm diligently working on my next Hillendale novel. These are strange times we live in, and words are sometimes difficult to muster with all the distractions and anxiety that comes with every single news cycle. My critique partner just did a blog post on how to keep writing when it's hard to keep writing. For the most part, she was spot on, and I agree with her processes (You can read it here.) One thing I had to add to her lists is "just keep writing."

When the words won't come, I first try a change of scenery. A walk around the block with my characters. I talk to them, they talk to me. Except when they don't (or when I'm walking with the Big Guy, in which case, he drowns them out). When that doesn't work, I consider plot points - what I call "notes for what comes next." It gives me a direction to think, but there are still days when turning those plot points into paragraphs is a chore. So then what?

I write. Cue the Led Zeppelin song. I Ramble On. I can't even tell you how I get started, I just put my fingers on the keyboard and let stream of consciousness run. Ramble on.

Sometimes, rambling results in something new and different than I wasn't expecting. That's always a bonus. But almost always, it is a blast of sentences strung together, sometimes repetitive, sometimes redundant, sometimes run-on. I throw in information that doesn't add anything. I throw in stuff that makes no sense. But there's always gold hiding inside the slag. When I've reached my word count for the day, I can go back and sift out the sludge. You can fix bad writing. You can't fix an empty page.

So my writing advice for today? Ramble on. There's a story hiding inside the influx of words, and once you get them down, you can find the gold.

While you're here, can I remind you that the new release will be out NEXT WEEK? (Yes, I'm very excited!) An enchanted weeping beech tree,  a white squirrel, a summer solstice festival. Calling on magic comes with UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES!

Click here to buy


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Snowflake warning

I read a blog post recently about word etymology at a time when it was very relevant. The author points out how word usage has metamorphosed over time to change in meaning, sometimes only slightly and sometimes more dramatically. For those of you who are word nerds like me, here’s a link to The Kill Zone. Of particular interest was the commentary on indigenous.

My upcoming release, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, releases next month, and it travels into Native American territory. In order to accurately portray the culture, I reached out to a fellow author who is Native American (shout out to @SR Howen). She was very gracious and offered me several references along with her own personal experience. She also suggested the word indigenous to refer to Native Americans, along with “don’t refer to them as” terms. I also contacted another resource who did a sensitivity reading for me and got a “second opinion.” I chose to add a disclaimer that reminded readers this was fiction, and some of what I’d written is protected and private and because I wrote it, and it isn't necessarily accurate (this is fiction, artistic license). This is what my editor called “a snowflake warning.” Look at that! Another etymology change around the use of the word snowflake!

My editor pointed out my use of the word indigenous and how “technically “ it could be misconstrued or inaccurate. If I hadn’t been specifically pointed to that term by someone who “lives the life,” I might have reconsidered my word choice. This is one time I have to overrule my editor.

It's a challenge in these times to be considerate of everyone's feelings, but it's something I do strive to do - hence a sensitivity reader. At the end of the day, everyone's experience is different. When I wrote COOKIE THERAPY, the firemen I interviewed (three of them) gave me different approaches to the climactic scene, to the point where the scenario I worked through with one was deemed as impossible and deadly by another. I won't always get it right. The best I can do is get close enough and hope people forgive me for my mistakes. After all, everybody's experiences are different, after all, and that can even vary by geography. In the end, I can only hope I created an enjoyable reading experience.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES releases May 12. You can preorder now, or if you follow me at Amazon or Bookbub, they'll email you when it goes live.

Get it here

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

When tropes become real life

You're going to see a lot of quarantine/stuck together novels in the near future, except it won't be a standard manufactured trope. Now, it's real life!

How many of you have read a book about people stranded in a cabin in the snow (or The Stanley Hotel...)? It's a fairly common trope. Throw two people together where they aren't able to escape and see what happens. Yes, it could happen, and sometimes does, but those types of things don't often catch people unaware, and not for days at a time. I saw a movie where a pilot and a flight attendant get grounded due to weather, and she invites him to her family's home. I bought the premise, until they were grounded for several days. I think it turned into four or more days before it was over. Most airports dig out before then, so they lost my suspension of disbelief.

But now? My sister was nearly stranded when the travel ban was first implemented. People weren't able to return home, or to leave. With the state of things now, people quarantining and travel restrictions, we're living the trope. I read a story about people who'd traveled to meet someone, people who were on a first date, and suddenly they couldn't go home and that first date turned into a very long date.

For the most part, it seems most travel restrictions have allowed people to return home, but there are exceptions, and those exceptions are what light up an author's imagination. The possibilities abound, from worst case scenarios to being comically trapped with the one person you'd least like to get stuck with, to people eager to take advantage of the situation where it doesn't work out the way they hope.

Have you had a pandemic experience that put you into a situation you didn't expect? Quarantined unexpectedly or unable to travel home? This author would love to hear your stories.

I'm also excited to share with you that Hillendale #2, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, is releasing next month, May 12. If you're the preordering type of person, you can do that now. Otherwise, if you follow me at Amazon or Bookbub, they'll shoot you a reminder when it drops.

Get it here