Monday, December 26, 2016

The Song vs. The Look

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas and/or Hannukah. The guys and I spent it with my parents, which was a lot of fun. I didn't get as many pictures as I would've liked because everyone was busy moving around, stuffing their face, or whatnot. Half of what I took turned out blurry. (I was using my phone, bad on me.) However, I did get one that was kinda funny. Mom giving Dad "the look". 

There is this one Christmas song Dad sings every year, but we don't know where the heck the song came from or who originally recorded it. He deliberately sings it like he's had far too much to drink. Which I admit is freaking hilarious. My parents don't drink at all, so this makes mom more than a little annoyed when he starts in with "the song". 

She used to call him out when he would start up with this mess. You know, like mom's do - Sarah Jane! David Lee! You get the idea. It's your first and middle name said in a sharp warning. Dad would crack up laughing at this, and give it a rest...for a little while. Randomly, a short time later, just long enough for Mom to have gotten past the first offense, he'd start in with the song again. 

After forty years of this, Mom has given up calling him out. Instead, she has developed "the look". It's reserved specifically for whenever he sings that song. 

When Mom is kind and patient,
but also sick of  your crap.
Dad: Mischief managed. 
Image Left: Initially, she was looking directly at me and smiling for the picture, but then Dad started singing "the song". 

Photo opportunity: priceless.  

I remember my parents playing that song on the living room stereo when I was a kid. They had (still have) a huge collection of vinyl records, many of them Christmas related. Vintage Firestone albums, compilations, and such. 

Anyway, searches for the lyrics of this particular song online exist, but these lyrics sites all beg and borrow from each other, so there is no telling who originally posted the song. On every site the band is listed as One Hundred and 21, or The One Hundred and 21. However, I can't find any evidence that was the actual name of a band. Zero returns on search results for bands by that name. I have a hypothesis, though. It could be One Hundred and 21 is part of the name of a Christmas compilation album, like, "One Hundred and 21 Sounds of the Season"... or something like that. 

If you're reading this and happen know who the band is, or what album this song comes off of, leave a comment. For anyone not interested in clicking on the link above, the song goes... 'It's Christmas Time, and I'm all alone. I put up my tree beside the window. In hopes you'll see how much you mean to me. But I live far out in the country, down seldom used roads, far away from you." For years, I thought The Lettermen or The Beach Boys sang this song, but I can't find it on any of their albums! 

In recap, 2016 was a difficult year, but I'm happy to report Christmas was wonderful. After dad's scary battle with cancer and equally scary doctor visits and follow ups, he's hanging in there, happy and healthy and still mischievous enough to tease my mom. We're super blessed have him with us. I can't begin to express how grateful I am to still have my parents. While I recognize this everyday, it makes every holiday we have together that much sweeter. 

Now onward we go. 2017's on the horizon, and I'm crossing my fingers the New Year will be a welcome relief from the hardships of 2016, and a fresh start filled with bright prospects for everyone. ✌💗💋   

Sunday, December 18, 2016

8 Days Until Christmas

Hurray for the holidays! Mini is finally out of school for winter break. We have the tree up and most of the presents have been bought. I still need to wrap them and plan to do that on Tuesday...after I buy some wrapping paper. 😉

We're spending our "Christmas" at my parent's house on the 22nd, having dinner and opening gifts on Thursday because Hubby has to work on Christmas Day. Of course MiniBeast will have a couple of Santa gifts and a stocking to pick through on Christmas morning, but aside from that, the holiday for us is mostly about gathering with family.

We are especially blessed to have Christmas together as a family this year after everything with Dad's kidney/ bladder cancer. The significance of that is not lost on me. He's officially in remission, and doing very well. We are extremely lucky to have him with us - a fact I don't take for granted.

Christmas blessing #2: Mini is adjusting after receiving a scary asthma diagnosis around Thanksgiving. We have since mastered using the inhaler, so that's one less worry under the tree. As a side note: His friend is having a birthday party this coming week, and I'm trying to fix my schedule so I can drive him to the event. It's going to be a busy Christmas week!

That's all I really had to say. I haven't posted much because...well, life. But then last week, I had an epiphany after I dropped by the livejournal blog of one of my favorite authorly people and discovered that his last post stated he had fallen into a depression and wasn't going to be updating for the forseeable future.

I was devastated to hear that, and to make it worse, the post was from August or thereabouts. I don't blog hop as frequently as I used to, but even having one sentence updates to read from him would've been something. Sort of like when you've been waiting around all day for a text back, and when you finally get a message and it says nothing but "K". It's a curt message, but you're relieved to get it anyway because...well, you really wanted a confirmation. You just wanted to hear back from that person. Sure, the note is short form, but you know what they mean. It's still communication. It's better than nothing. It's better than absolute silence.

Anyway, it made me think about my own blog, and how I've been neglecting it since I usually don't have anything of great purpose to talk about, just what's going on in my life...which is truthfully, rather boring and uneventful. Rather than trying to pull a topic from thin air, I usually just skip blogging altogether. But I guess the point is, when you "take a shine to someone", as my Gran used to say, you just want to hear (or read) their voice. When you miss someone and just want to hear their voice, it doesn't matter too much what they have to say. I decided I didn't want to just dump my old blog like that.

So, I'm going to make it a point to drop in here more often, even if it's just to write a single sentence or add a picture. It's voice. It's proof of life. I can do that much at least: show up. This blog has always been a hodgepodge, so what's one more odd duck blog post, right?  It's better than silence.

That's all for now. (I mean it this time.) It's almost midnight and I still need to jump in the shower. Until next time, ho ho ho, jingle jingle jingle, rum eggnog and all that...in other words, Merry Christmas!  💟

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

NaNoWriMo and Current Book Obsessions

MiniBeast Emoji ;P
Happy belated Halloween!

Yesterday was such a great day. Hubz was off work, so I was able to spend the day with him. Then, after Mini got home from school, we went to Mom and Dad's house for Halloween dinner. It was hotdogs and chili night, and Mom had a ton of candy out for the kids. (Confession: I'm still gorging myself on Tootsie Rolls. I can't resist!) After dinner, we took Mini to the firestation to trick-or-treat...and go through the Haunted House. Great times!

For the past month, I've been absent a lot from social media. Instead, I've been workshopping, reading, and studying rather intensively. It hasn't always been fun, but I feel it's been time well spent. My current plan is to use NaNoWriMo to test out some of the new tips and tricks I learned throughout October. We'll see how it goes.

Speaking of which, I signed up for NaNoWriMo, but I'm not totally committed to it like I was over the course of Camp NaNo a few months back. November tends to be a very busy month for me, and I've determined this year not to make myself crazy around the holidays.

Other news-ish things going on... I got the rights back on one of my old titles I thought I'd never have access to again. That's pretty exciting. I had a cover made for it, and I'll be re-releasing in January 2017 on Smashwords. I've also been cleaning up Chasing Moonlight for rerelease. I've made a pass through it already, and so far it looks pretty good. I'm thinking after one more round it should be ready to upload. At any rate, it won't take much longer for that one.

Now for my current book obsessions... Witches. Ever since I watched The Witch, I've been seeking witch-based books to read. To be honest, I'm more interested in reading the non-romancy type, but I've also been looking for the kind that are super creepy with a lot of plot and maybe with some romantic elements (but not a straight up witch-based romance).

Dark, creepy thriller-ish "romance" horror and erotica is also on my reading list right now. I read YOU by Carline Kepnes and loved it. I finished that one and wondered, Why aren't there more books available that read like that?! I hear there's a second book in that vein, also written by Kepnes, but I haven't picked it up yet. It's next up on my purchase list. Also, the Capture Me series by Anna Zaires is on my next-up list. I've heard a lot of hype about that set, and I'm itching to get my hands on it.

Lastly, non-fiction is very high on my list right now. I've been reading a ton of non-fiction lately on various topics: Bob Dylan, art-deco architecture, the Franco-Prussian War, and ghost hunting, for example. However, my current obsession is primarily focused on finding and reading books about the revision process. With the popularity and availability of how-to write guides out there now, one would think good books covering revision would be easier to find. Hm. Maybe it's just me, but there seem to be a lot fewer books devoted to the topic.

That's all for now. MiniBeast just came in from the school bus, and he's wanting a snack, so... Mom reporting for duty. (Ramen noodles or ham sandwich, Beastie. What'll it be?) ^_^  That said, I hope you all had a lovely Halloween. Until next time, happy wishes! ♦

Saturday, October 01, 2016

More Book News

Updates, updates! Yes, more updates.

Before I get started, just for the sake of saying so, it feels a little weird blogging on the Macbook. Everything looks slightly different. My HP little red writing laptop hasn't fully recovered from the Win10 anniversary update. She's tiptop healthy in terms of virus protection, etc. but she desperately needs a trip to visit Dr. Bulldog to fix the black screen on startup issue and spontaneous crashing problem before I end up with more data loss or a fried motherboard. I don't know which would be worse, but I'd seriously prefer not to find out.

That aside, the reissue for Chasing Moonlight is in the final stages and almost ready to go live. I love the new cover, which was created by Sterling Design Studios. The reissue will be out at Smashwords in ePub format first, and other file types and vendors will follow. I'll be revealing the new cover here on the blog very soon, and I gotta say...I'll be extremely glad to have this book in stores again. Out of everything I've written, Chasing Moonlight is probably my favorite Werekind story.

Also, the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks editions of Mating Instinct are in proofs and almost ready to go.

The Midnight Moon Trilogy Omnibus is also on the table, moving right along, and looking good. Feral Instinct, one of my harder to find by stories, will be included in the omnibus along with Under a Midnight Moon and Mating Instinct. So, if you missed Feral Instinct when it was contracted through Ravenous, take heart. It's getting a reissue as well.

That pretty much covers it for now. I do have a couple more new releases on the way, but I can't comment on them just yet. At any rate, it's pretty busy here. A good thing, since it keeps me out of trouble. ;o)

Until next time, best wishes! xoxo    

Friday, September 30, 2016

Mating Instinct is live at Smashwords

It's finally here! It's been a nightmare week of pure tech hell, but my new Werekind story is finally available...in ePub format at Smashwords. 

About Mating Instinct

Gemma Warren can hardly believe it when she is handed down an unexpected mating decree from the pack alpha. Who is the mysterious R.T. and why does he think they should be mates? Does it have something to do with that unfortunate little trespassing incident she got herself into a few weeks before? There is only one way to find out...

Smashwords link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/669382

The current edition is available only as an ePub through Smashwords. More formats and web vendors are in the works.

A special thank you to my personal tech Genie for saving my bacon. I owe you big time!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Today's the Day

It's release day for Mating Instinct! I thought I better drop in and post a quick update while I have a few minutes free time. I'm presently working to get the files uploaded, and as soon as I have the instore links, I'll be back with an official announcement, the (very slightly) updated cover, and the download urls. A big thanks to everyone who has waited so patiently for this new Werekind story. I love you, guys!

Update 9/26: Bear with me, y'all. I've officially been awake for 24 hours straight. I'm still trying to get the new book uploaded. I've been using a new program for creating books, and I keep getting an muhfrikkin auto vetter error, and I'm trying to work out how to fix it. If I can't solve the problem by this afternoon, I have a friend who has offered to help me with it after work. I'm freaking out and very sorry. It will be up as soon as I can get the thing to accept my file. #panic :(( I will update again very soon - hopefully by this evening! xoxo

Friday, September 09, 2016

Werekind Updates: Mating Instinct Cover Reveal: Series Info

Mating Instinct now has a cover...and a release date. The story will go live September 25th, 2016 with an initial release on Smashwords.

Mating Instinct is about Gemma from the Silver Werewolf Pack. It's the final tale in the Under A Midnight Moon trilogy.

The other stories in the trilogy are Under A Midnight Moon (Betsey's story), and Feral Instinct (Adriana's story). I'll be compiling an omnibus edition with all three stories very soon. If you haven't read Under A Midnight Moon, you can get a copy of it for free on Smashwords.

Next up on the 2016 Werekind release schedule is a reissue of Chasing Moonlight, Blaze Logan's story. The novella has a beautiful new cover that I'll be posting about in the coming weeks.

For those who have asked, Seth's story is still in the works. I'm aiming for a December release. I'll post more about it when I have the cover and a concrete release date. That just leaves Austin's story, which is coming out in 2017.

If you'd like an email notice when my new books are released, you can subscribe to the Smashwords email alerts on my profile page. It's a new feature that will send you an email once I upload new books there.

That's all for now. I'll be back next week with more bookish news. Sending out lots of happy wishes for the weekend. Until next time... xoxo

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Busy, Busy Bee

Road crews are working on the street right outside, so it's very loud in the writing cave today. When standing in the kitchen and in my office, it's possible to feel the vibrations from the machinery through the concrete floors. It's driving the doggles batty. Competely understandable. Fun times.

It's the last day of August, and I managed to hit everything on my to-do list for the month. Gemma's story (still debating about the title, and leaning toward changing it) is in edits. I finally fixed the no scrollbars issue in Word for Mac so editing with the Macbook is possible and writing with it is no longer a chore. This weekend, I'll be installing a new antivirus program for the new comp, just to be safe. I'll also be unlocking the "unlimited" feature in the new pubbing software I picked up recently, so I can compile the new Werekind story with it. I'm sooo excited to try out this new software! It's been fun to tinker with, but my options are limited and I can't upload anything with it until it's unlocked. But I digress... I have Gemma's test cover ready, and finalizing it is on my priority list. Expect a cover reveal next week!

Everything is moving forward and release day is imminent. Speaking of covers, I'm also in the final stages of having a new cover remade for Chasing Moonlight, which is getting a reissue in September. That's probably my favorite story in the Werekind series, so I'll be thrilled to have it back up and available for readers.

I guess I should get back to work now. I'm trying to get as many pages cleaned up as possible before MiniBeast gets home from school. Yes, yes, back to the yearly grind. I miss summer already. I hope y'all have a lovely day, and until next time, happy wishes! •


Cute bee graphic by forestgreen and anarres courtesy of openclipart.org

Sunday, August 28, 2016

41 Candles + 25 More

Happy Birthday to me...us! I'm sitting around in my pajamas at the moment, but in an hour or so I'll be going over to my mom and dad's house for c a k e. They're hosting a joint birthday party for Bub and me. His 25th is tomorrow, so I always share my bday with him. It's a special kind o' thing. Thank goodness Mom said she's not adding all the appropriate candles to the cakes, though. The result would likely resemble and choco-strawberry forest fire.

Let's see...what's been going on lately. Mini started 6th grade on the 25th. He said all his teachers are really nice this year, which is pure awesomeness. His second day back to school, Mother Nature threw an epic hissy fit. There was a storm that flooded one side of our yard, and the municipal water went out for two days. During the storm, Hubs went to move my car from the more floody side of the yard to the high-and-dry side, and noticed I had a flat tire. Whew! It's been crazypants around here. But on the upside, the weekend before Mini's school started was a blast. We went on a shopping quest to buy Minibeast new sneakers, and ended up at the Hibachi Grill before prowling through Big Lots for last minute supplies. We had a good time. It was the first time in months that all four of us: Hubs, Mini, Oldest, and Me were on an outing together.

Then, last night, I wrapped up the first round of hard revisions for my newest Werekind story that's headed to Smashwords in a week or two. *confetti* I consider that story a birthday gift to myself.

It still needs another round of revisions in at least two places, then I think it will be ready for copyedits. It's Gemma's tale, the last story in the Midnight Moon Trilogy. It's long overdue, I know, I know. After Gemma's story is released, I'll begin compiling the trilogy stories into an all-in-one edition for those who'd rather have the stories in that format. The all-in-one will include: Under A Midnight Moon, Feral Instinct (currently very hard to find a surviving copy of the anthology that short story ended up in), and Gemma's tale (I'm currently torn between two different titles.) So for anyone who wasn't able to pick up a copy of Feral Instinct the first time it rolled out, that one will be available soon, too.

Speaking of writing and tech-ish issues, I'm still wading through a few Windows 10 computer problems. I've managed to fix a few small annoyances but my primary laptop is still getting a black screen on startup. Restarting temporarily fixes it, but I don't know how long that's going to work before it shorts something out. I've tried several suggested fixes, an nothing has worked so far. I don't think Windows knows what's causing the error yet, or how to fix it. At any rate, I'm racing to get Gemma's story completed and uploaded before I send my comp to Dr. Bulldog. There's not much on my laptop to worry about, I tend to store thing on the cloud, but in the weird chance there is data loss or he has to strip everything out of my comp and do a reinstall, I don't want to lose everything that's there. So...I've been rabid saving everything. Uploading, burning, swapping files around. whew!All in the name of self preservation, yo. ;)

When Gemma's story gets to a certain level of completion (no more moing blocks of text around in revisions) I'll be able to send the document via dropbox to my Macbook and take over from there. It's too much of a pain to work in Word on the Macbook to do everything on it - my Word for Macbook has missing scrollbars. Go figure! It's a Word template problem but I haven't had the time to search out a fix. It's on my length to do list. Nevertheless, I've still managed to get a ton of writing done by swapping the document back and forth between computers. Now to just get the story nice and tidy so I can release it.

I'm out of time, so I'm off for now. I gotta go get changed out of my pjs into something presentable, then wrangle the boys into the car and head to Mom and Dad's. It's c a k e  t i m e!

I hope you have a lovely weekend, and for those heading back to the classroom this coming week whether as a student or a teacher: I wish you a safe and happy new school year!

Until next time, everyone. Happy wishes. xoxo


Cute birthday cake graphic by spreckers courtesy of openclipart.org

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Computer Blues: Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Mercury retrograde, why must you test me?  Well, technically we're only in the shadow of the retrograde, but already I'm feeling it. I'm going through fits with my computers (both of them) right now.

I bought my red HP laptop in 2015. It came with Windows 8.1, but right after I bought it, it forced me to upgrade to Windows 10. The day I upgraded to Windows 10, it wiped out my onboard webcam. I noticed but didn't worry about it too much because I'd been using my old usb webcam, which is plug and play and simple to use.

Anyway, last week, I missed the memo where the Windows 10 Anniversary update was pending. Over the weekend, I went to shut down my comp and I got a message that said it was installing updates. That's a normal thing, so I left it updating and went on to bed. It took three days to complete the installation. Part of that was to do with the lousy Louisiana weather, part was to do with the lousy net connection, another part was the download itself. Right after it had finished downloading, I kept going to the HP Support Assistant on my computer to find out if the update was necessary or if I could scrap it, but it wouldn't show me what had downloaded, much less allow me to do anything with it. It simply installed.

Now whenever I shut down my comp and bring it back up again, I get a black screen. I have to hit the power button to turn it off. If I turn it back on again quickly, it'll bring up the lock screen. I did a google search on this and it's an ongoing issue that began when the first Windows 10 upgrade was released. Seriously, Microsoft, get your act together!

I've been moving the werekind book I'm working on back and forth through my cloud storage, working on the red computer when its running right, then funneling it through the cloud to my macbook. Macbook has this weird Word glitch where the scrollbars don't show up on the documents, which is a major headache. Next pay period, I'm going to download Scrivener for Mac to see if that will make writing on the Macbook easier.

But that's not the only issue I'm currently facing. I checked my red Windows computer and it shows I have all the latest device drivers, so there's nothing more I can do at this point until Microsoft releases a patch or more updates. So, I don't have an onboard camera (for over a year now) and now I'm getting the black screen...which also doesn't have an update or patch to fix. I don't want to keep abusing the power button to boot up, though, because I'm hearing that people are ending up with fried motherboards.

A few cold links to what I'm talking about:
http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2901839/windows-broke-motherboard.html
http://www.tenforums.com/general-support/35636-windows-10-killed-my-dell-xps-2710-a.html
http://www.tenforums.com/general-support/9290-pc-stuck-black-screen-after-reset.html
http://www.tenforums.com/general-support/10457-fix-windows-10-booting-black-screen-14.html

And for the Mac scrollbars issue:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/310095

I tried turning off the fast startup, but that didn't fix the problem for me. It's starting to look like I'm going to have to take my red laptop to Dr. Bulldog, our repair guy.

Hubby keeps talking about how he needs a new laptop. I tell you, that's a horrible, terrible, bad bad bad idea right now. This Windows 10 issue has been a disaster, and that's not even going into the mess I went through to disable the new Microsoft owned preview version of Skype that was determined to force itself on me. I don't want Hubz buying a new Windows based laptop when Win 10 is killing off motherboards with this shoddy OS. Somehow I'm going to have to convince him to wait until this mess with Windows 10 gets ironed out...or convince him to get a Macbook. Seriously, all these tech issues are enough to give anyone the computer blues. ♥

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Good Signs, Good Times

School starts this coming week, so yesterday, Hubby and I took Bub and Mini over to Academy Sports to buy new shoes. That in an of itself was mostly uneventful.

We live on the north side of the lake, so on the way to "the city" we have to cross to the south end. Right before we reached the bridge that's not really much of a bridge, Hubz said, "Hey, look what's going on out there." I was so happy to see that the place Miller's Landing is loosely based on is being rebuilt. For those who don't know, Miller's Landing is the Silver County werewolf pack's running grounds in the Werekind Series.

A few years back, the place burned to the ground. I'm not sure if it was accidental or what, but it was sad to see the place in such a state. The owners bulldozed it after it burned and put up a chain gate so no one could drive over there. Probably for safety reasons. For the longest time it looked like they were just going to leave it like that. We've sorely missed the place. Seeing it making a comeback really made my day. I'm glad the owners have decided to rebuild. •  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Going Postal: USPS Service Louisiana Style

For years, I've been telling my friends who sometimes send me little trinkets in the mail to wrap the boxes very, very well. Our paper mail and packages both have a habit of arriving opened. Anything that sounds shakeable or looks like a mailed check is particularly vulnerable. This time, the package contained my new, refurbed Macbook that I ordered last week. In the past, I've posted pictures of packages that have arrived to me opened, but this one takes the cake. Look at the condition this box was in upon arrival. The driver dropped it off at my door and was gone in a flash. I didn't even have time to put on my flip flops, before he was gone. I honestly can't say I'm surprised.
To me, this is completely unacceptable condition. I've filed a formal complaint with USPS and listed my local post office as the culprit, and I've offered pictures as well as my tracking number as evidence. I even did a screen grab of the tracking info. The computer shipped from Florida, and was listed as in transit, no descriptions...until it arrived at our local post office. There, it was initially listed as "arrived at unit" with no description. Seven minutes later it's listed as "arrived at unit VISIBLY DAMAGED". Those are the exact words. Another six minutes later, it was re-listed yet again as "arrived at unit." No damage listed. Suspicious, no? I screen grabbed all that info and am saving it as evidence. I will absolutely 100% agree to be interviewed and give over any pertinent info when USPS gets back in touch with me.

The power cord shown in the picture was unwrapped and practically falling out of the box. The wad of bubble wrap it had been contained in was floating loose inside the box. Draw your own conclusions regarding that one. To say I'm pissed off about that is a gross understatment.  


At any rate, the computer seems to be in good working order. Thankfully it got here before the heavy rains started this afternoon. I immediately took it out of the box, or rather, the box fell apart at the side seam when I took the tape off it...because it was wet. Even the inside of the box was damp. I was extremely worried about the condition computer at that point, but when I took it out of the box, it was wrapped in a huge wad of large-sized bubble wrap. The unit didn't feel damp, and thankfully there was no breaking or chipping of the casing, or damage to the screen. It fired right up when I plugged it in and turned it on, and I had no trouble connecting to the net, etc. etc. So far, so good. Even so, I'm going to use it for a few days to make sure nothing goes wrong with it before I say for sure I'm keeping it. The sellers have an unconditional return policy, and while I really hope I don't have to return it, that's at least some insurance in case the comp appears to have problems. That's all I need is to be stuck with an expensive disaster. •

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The War of Art...And Writerly Motivation

I've probably talked about The War of Art by Steven Pressfield here on the blog before. It's about writer's resistance and breaking creative blocks. Along with this book, I read Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit (also by Pressfield), which I liked a little more. That said, I'm not sure if it's because it's actually better, or just because I read it first, so I'll leave it at that. What matters is that, at the end of the day, The War of Art is a damn good book.

I'm writing about it today, because of all the motivational writing type books that I've read over the years, this one has probably been the most helpful "kick to the pants" I've received as far as books go.

It's setup like a series of short, to the point essays, which makes it easy to read. Some of the sections are a couple of pages long, while others are as short as a paragraph. The generous mix makes for fast reading, with no padding or filler. It's one of those books you and sit and read half of it in one sitting, then pick it up a day later and polish it off. Compulsive reading. Good stuff.

Other books that are similar that I've liked are Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott) and Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert). Both have their strong points, so I can easily recommend those two. However if you're having trouble simply getting words on the page, I highly recommend The War of Art and Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit, by Steven Pressfield. •

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cora's Summer (and Writing) Adventures

Used courtesy of inky2010 and openclipart.org
I'm not ready for the summer to be over. I've had such a good writing stretch these past couple of months, which has been a nice change of pace for me. I'm now working my way through revisions. That in and of itself is a reason to celebrate. More about that in a minute.

Mini heads back to school on the 25th, which is just a few days before my birthday, then Oldest's birthday is the day after mine. We're planning a joint birthday gathering at my mom and dad's house to celebrate, and in the meantime, I'm waiting for my new/refurbed laptop to arrive. It's kinda sorta a birthday gift to myself, but not really. I bought it strictly for bookish purposes. It's a Macbook, and I need it to run a specific program I've been wanting, which isn't available for Windows PC. I'm eager to test drive the new laptop, and that new program.

So about writing and celebrations, I'm currently revising a new Werekind story, and getting it ready to release on Smashwords. It won't be much longer now. I'm aiming for a birthday release date, but at the latest it will be in early September. I finished Gemma's story first, so that's the first one I'll be releasing. After that one's up, I'll be focusing on completing Seth's story and getting that one out.

Seth's story has been an absolute bear to write. Never in my life have I had such trouble writing about someone. I've been through three different draft versions of it so far, and only recently have I managed to finesse that his character, and that storyline, into something I feel suits the characters and the existing story. I'm happy with the direction it's taken, and just as a teaser, Laney and Cole make a cameo appearance in the new version. I'm ready to get the story written and let it go! My plan is to have all the remaining "loose ends" Werekind books released by spring of 2017.

At any rate, in the here and now, Gemma's story is nearing the finish line. I also recently completed the final two fairy stories for the Twilight's Edge Collection, but I've put that project on the backburner until November while I focus on wrapping up the werewolves. I drafted another story in July as part of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I don't plan to do anything else with that one for the time being. Again, I need to see to the wolves - both their frontlist and backlist stories.

So there you have it, my summer in writing. Of course, writing isn't all that has happened over this summer....

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up in ER with a sprained foot. While I was cooking one evening, JakeDog pounced the top of my foot by accident (he was trying to beat SassiePup to a treat), and the pain was so bad I ended up having to go to the hospital. A round of xrays and a few bandages later, I was sent home. However, I couldn't walk on that foot for a week due to the pain.

Then, about a week after I was able to ditch the crutches, our air conditioner blew up. Literally. We had no idea that was even possible, but alas... We've had some seizing up issues with the AC in recent years, but it seemed to be working fine. Then one evening while hubby and I were outside picking figs - kaboom! This cloud of black smoke shot out of the AC. We were in the front yard; the AC is around back. We could see the cloud of black smoke shoot out over the backyard. Scared us to bits. Minibeast screamed. We're lucky no one was hurt!

So there you have it, a few Cora Adventures in parting. With hubby's work schedule, we didn't get to do a lot of the typical summery things: the beach, vacation, travel, etc., but I have no regrets on that score. Overall, it's been a peaceful, and incredibly productive summer.

That's all for now. I'll post again when something new comes up...and when the new book releases. Until next time, happy wishes!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 Pre-Writing Prep

Woohoo! Camp NaNoWriMo starts on Friday, July 1st. Am I crazy enough to try writing a book in a month?  Absolutely! I've signed up to a cabin, and I'm ready to start writing. For the past two weeks I've been working on my outline and scene notes for the month long event. I'm eager to see this new book written. I love these characters, I love this story, and I'm going into the event as prepared as possible.

At the end of May, shortly before Mini's birthday, I reread part of Karen Weisner's First Draft in 30 Days, as well as Blake Snyder's Save the Cat Strike's Back, to make sure I have all my writerly tools ready for a fast draft. 

I still have a short list of research topics to take care of before Friday, and I'm still tinkering with the scenes in the finale stage of my beat sheet, but for the most part I have everything I need in place to get this story off the ground. Wish me luck! 

By the way, it's free to join the madness. If you're interested in Camp NaNoWriMo, you can sign up here: http://campnanowrimo.org/   If you decide to join in, good luck and happy writing! 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Exceptional Writing Guides || Writing Fiction: A Guide To Narrative Craft

Cover for the 8th edition.
Mom's birthday was yesterday, so party month is officially over for us until August. The mid thru last week of May is called party month because Dad, Mom, and Mini's birthdays fall within this time frame. The birthday parties are also interspersed with other events such as the last day of school, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day, so there's always a lot going on for the family in May. By the time June 1st rolls around, we're all ready for a day to relax on the couch.

That day is today. We're all doing our own thing around the house, so I thought I'd pop in here and wrap up my series covering the books I've found to be exceptional writing guides.

The last book I'm going to be showcasing for this set is Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. It's a college text book that is still in use at universities and colleges across the US, and it has many editions. I've read this book twice. I originally read the 2nd edition, which is available for borrowing free of charge at openlibrary.org with an open library membership. For my home office, I purchased and read the 8th edition, which can be picked up from Amazon for about $15.00 used, plus shipping.

I like the 8th edition better than the 2nd because of the short story selections, and there is an expanded chapter covering dialogue, but both are very good books.

There are several reasons I like this book and consider it an exceptional guide to writing. Chapter 1 kicks off with a very practical subtitle: Whatever Works, The Writing Process. I can appreciate a writing textbook that understands there isn't a single process that works for all. Nevertheless the chapter launches into a practical discussion covering how to start writing (which is not always an easy task), how to keep going, and the writer's role.

Other topics I found very helpful in Writing Fiction:

  • Writing About Emotion
  • Active Writing
  • Prose Rhythm
  • Direct Methods of Character Presentation
  • Indirect Methods of Character Presentation
  • Place and Atmosphere
  • Harmony and Conflict Between Character and Place
  • Patterns of Power
  • Connection and Disconnection
  • and Re-Vision
Other nice touches - there are author advice quotes throughout the guide, and there is a section showing a novel marked up for revision. Of course, since this is a textbook, there are generous writing exercises throughout.



What sold me on this book. I was very impressed by the amount of pages devoted to charaterisation, two full chapters, apart from the section on POV. There is also a generous section related to setting and atmosphere. Both Patterns of Power, and Connection and Disconnection are unique to this textbook, helpful, and I can't think of any other books where these concepts are thoroughly discussed.

Writing Fiction is one of the more indepth nuts and bolts writing guides I've found, and that's why it's on my list for exceptional books. The one thing that might put some people off is that this book reads like a textbook...because obviously, as I've already stated, that's exactly what it is. For reader/writers who can get past that, there is a lot of good coverage of topics that are typically glossed over in genre-specific writing guides, as well as unique writing topics you won't find in writing guides elsewhere.

That's it for now. If you'd like to check out my other book recommendation in this two part set, scroll down my blog to the post titled A Creative Writing Course in Book Form, or simply click here.

Until next time, happy wishes! ☺   

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Creative Writing Course in Book Form

In my last post, I promised to write about a couple of exceptional writing guides I read recently. Today I'm going to focus on one of those books. It's called Mastering Fiction Writing by Kit Reed.

This morning I went over to Amazon to grab shopping links for this book, and the reviews there are an even 50/50 split. I'm truly surprised there aren't more reviews for this book overall. It used to be a college text book, and it's incredibly afforable, so I'm not sure quite what I was expecting. However I'm going to throw my gauntlet into the ring and tell you this is quite possibly the best, most helpful writing guide I've ever read. I truly mean that.

I read a sample of this book online, and I was sold within the first few pages. The author talks about how she spent years searching for the secret tricks, the paint-by-number set of rules for sucessful writing, and even after she knew better, she still kept searching for them. Talk about relatable. She
might as well have been writing about me.

Most writers, unpublished or published, have at some point heard other writers talk about "writing from character". This book covers that topic, explaining it from a primordial, developmental standpoint.

Ms. Reed suggests drawing character from our "alluvial sludge". In other words, she suggests forming them from our childhood experiences, and the personal triumphs and tragedies throughout our lives that have shaped us into who we are as individuals.

She further discusses how to create characters from those experiences, and from there, she explains how the first lines of a story propel the characters forward, guided by their own unique "inner logic" that hints at the direction the story will unfold.

This is invaluable information if you've ever created a character you love, but can't seem to get them to "do" anything on the page. And that is just one helpful facet of this guide.

Other chapters in Mastering Fiction Writing that I found especially helpful include:

  • Development 
  • Rewriting to Complete your Thinking*
  • Plot, Or: The List of the Lucky Seven
  • What to Leave Out and What to Put In
  • Audience
  • Discipline  
Mastering Fiction Writing gets my highest recommendation. It's basically a creative writing course in book form for as little as 1¢ (used, plus shipping) on Amazon. (print copies only, no digital) At 136 pages, it's a quick read with an absolute treasure trove of helpful writing advice packed in from cover to cover. If you'd like to buy a copy for yourself, you can find the book here: Mastering Fiction Writing / Kit Reed / Amazon 

*P.S. One more thing before I go... My favorite chapter in Mastering Fiction Writing is Rewriting to Complete Your Thinking.  If you read the book and find this section helpful, or if you're simply looking for books that focus on rewriting and revising, I recommend an additional book by Kit Reed called Revision, which is part of Writer's Digest Books' classic The Elements of Fiction Writing book series. You can buy a copy here: Revision / Kit Reed / Amazon 

Next week, I'll be discussing the other book I recently read that turned out to be a great writing guide. Until then, I'm sending you lots of happy wishes. •

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. I'm going to visit my parents in the morning to check in on them and give my Mom a big hug. I didn't have the cash for fancy gifts this year, which kind of sucks, but I was able to buy cards...yes, cards, plural. Dad is a Mother's Day baby; he was born on the 10th, so each year we celebrate his birthday in tandem with Mother's Day.

I feel a little empty handed because I didn't bake them a cake this year, but Dad's diet has changed so drastically since he lost his kidney I've been afraid to attempt it. A friend of the family brought him animal crackers while he was in the hospital (there's significance behind that, but it's a very long story), and anyway, dad ate the animal crackers and it shot his blood sugar through the roof. The nurse had to come in and give him emergency insulin. Mercy.

I don't want to inadvertently take something over there food wise that might hurt him, so I've left the edible treats up to Mom. I think she planned to bake him a diabetic safe coconut pie, so that will be the birthday trimmings. Whatever works. For Mother's Day, just a long visit with my Mommy, and some pictures. I know all the above doesn't sound very exciting, I'm just glad I still have both my mom and my dad to spend the day with. That in itself is worth celebrating.

In writerly news, I'm finally closing in on the end of a short story. I'm actually very eager to finish this thing, and I'm trying not to rush it. I've gotten the bulk of it down on paper, and now I'm going back and filling it in. So far, so good. Hopefully it won't take me much longer to wrap it up, but at the same time I don't want to zoom through it and make a lot of mistakes, either. At any rate, once it's finished, I can move on to the next story in the cue.

One more thing before I go, I picked up a couple of writing guides recently that really resonated with me. I found them over at OpenLibrary.org and bought print copies to keep in my home office. Combined, they've managed to pry me out of non-writing shell and get me back to work again. In next post I'll write a little bit about them. If there's any chance they might help someone else, I'd love to pay it forward.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A Creative Mess = Progress

Image by Kablam at OpenClipArt.
I just realized I need to clean my office. I don't usually let it get this far. It's a complete mess. Like, I'd close the door to hide this disaster zone if we had sudden visitors. It's that bad.

On the other hand, a sign of a messy office is a sign of progress being made elsewhere. I wrote a little more on my latest story this morning. It not only has legs, it now has a title! A title I'm keeping under wraps to keep from jinxing myself, but I will say that I'm extremely relieved that the idea fairy decided to sprinkle a little title magic over this one. I haven't had this much trouble coming up with a title since Dominant Territory.

Anyway, toward noon, Hubz, Mini, and I took a break and went to eat at Panda's. On returning home, I took some more cold meds, made a pot of  licorice root tea to try to tame my cough, and went back to work. I wrote a little more, and when the well dried up, I made two tester covers for the next release. I'm satisfied with one of them, so this week I'll be buying stock images for a new release. Woot!

So that's the latest. I'm back to the writing cave, and I'm  -t h i s-  close to wrapping up another short story. I'll post again when I have something more to say. Sending lovely vibes to everyone for the week ahead.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hello Again

Hello, again!

I just checked the calendar, and I can't believe it's already nearing the end of April. I guess I've been away from the blog for about a month, although it really feels more like it's been six months. Seriously. It feels like a big chunk of time is missing and I don't know where it went.

I've been keeping up based on events rather than actual dates: Dad was hospitalized at the end of March, and it's been three or so weeks since they removed his kidney. Mini has testing all this week, and beyond that, he has roughly 3 weeks of school left to go. Hubby has four more work days before his shift rotates, then he's off seven days again. That's how my clockwork brain works lately. Stop, start. Stop, start. Event to event, unceasing.

Somewhere during all this, I decided to pick up the pen again. Or rather, I decided to collect some disjointed words in a Scrivener file, which has since morphed into a story. I won't go into details and risk jinxing it, but I should have a new story up on Smashwords soon.

That's really all I had to say. I haven't been very active on social media, because...well, after everything that happened in March, I can't think of much to say. I especially can't think of much to say without repeating myself, and I've decided to spare everyone. I check in with a few friends on twitter still, reply to tweets here and there, and reshare pictures, but beyond that I struggle to make even basic conversation these days. I'm drained, verbally, emotionally, etc. I decided to bow out for a while, because I keep having to apologize when every conversation seems so awkward lately (because of me!). I'd rather do that than say something else that sounds like I've been dismissive or short with someone when that wasn't my intention.

So there it is. A much overdue blog update. Bear with me while I get my blogging groove back. ♥

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Using Tarot Cards to Aid in Character Creation

I've been meaning to write a not-so-serious blog post about using tarot cards as a guide to character creation, but I always find myself complicating the topic whenever I start writing about it. It's not a complex process, so I'm tossing my cards in the air, so to speak, and letting them fall where they may, because using tarot to sculpt your characters is easy, and it's an interesting way of digging into who your characters are on a sub surface level.

Let's dive right in and get started...

Chosing a deck to work with.
I have dozens of decks, but my favorite is The Halloween Tarot by Karen Lee and Kipling West, so that's what I'm going to use. I love the symbolism of the Halloween deck, but you can use any Rider Waite based deck you like, or even Leonormand style decks. The choice is yours.

If you aren't familiar with the meanings and symbolism tarot cards use, feel free to use the little white book included with most new packs of tarot cards to help you. Using the LWB (little white book) works, because the underlying meaning of the cards are what you're going to use to help build your characters' personalities and personal histories.

Shuffling, Drawing, and Laying out the cards.
Take your deck and shuffle the cards. When I lay out the cards, typically I like working in threes - three cards / three characteristics per character. I like to do this because it mimics a past, present, future tarot reading. I also do this because I read somewhere (long, long ago in a land far away) that our brains are hardwired to process threes.

Another reason I like to draw three cards per character, is because you can create a character arc with three cards, each card representing a shift in character persepective, but I promised myself I wouldn't bog this blog post down and make it more complicated than it needs to be. For the purpose of this blog post, I'm going to do a one-card draw and put it face up.

The card I drew is the World card. (shown above) This is the card I'm going to use to flesh out my character, which I've already decided is female, in her early 20s, and from a small Romanian village north of Bucharest. Other than that, I really don't know much about Stella (Stela). The rest of her traits I'll develope based on the World card.

Choosing character traits based on the cards you drew. 
I knew I wanted to create Stella before I ever reached for my tarot cards, so starting out I had a vague idea of a slim, brunette woman in mind for a central character. However, I didn't have her personality nailed down at all. Her personal and family history is even more vague for me. I need to know these things about her before I start writing her story.

To add meaning to her as a character, I'm going to look at the meanings, themes, and symbolism found in the The World card. In the Ryder-Waite deck, some of the typical themes for The World card are about expanding energies, embracing all the elements of our nature (a potential theme for my dear Stella), and completion. The card holds many other meanings as well. After I've drawn a card, the next step it to sort through that card's themes and meanings to find the ones that best apply to the character I want to create.

The LWB that comes with the deck can give you more clues about the meaning of the World card: success, feeling at one with the universe, cycles. If you don't have a little white book with your tarot deck, you can find individual card meanings listed both at Keen and Biddy Tarot. They're both excellent resources that I highy recommend.

The image on the card, which differs from deck to deck, can also be used as inspiration to add to the personality of your character. In The Halloween Tarot, the world card shows a black cat in the middle of the card instead of a woman. Maybe Stella is intensely superstitious, self-centered, or a crazy cat lady. Maybe she's someone who loves her cat more than she loves her husband or siblings. That's an interesting idea. I'm going to write that one down. I'd definitely riff off that idea to find out why Stella is the type who loves her cat more than her family. What happened in her life to make her feel that way? Did her family do something to her? If so, what and how does this affect her life now?

While going through the character creation process, I usually make a list of all the possibilities that I come up with based on the card in hand, and then go back through the list and choose the ones I like best.

Back to the character in question, maybe Stella is a vet, who has a knack for dealing with stubborn cats. Or, maybe the people in Stella's life view her as a 'black cat' type...whenever she comes around, they're sure something bad/unlucky is about to befall them. That's yet another interesting option I'd want to add to my list...and I'd probably turn over another card to answer the question: Why do people feel Stella showing up brings them bad luck?

Whatever card I turn over to answer that question, I'd mine the meanings of that card to come up with possible answers. For example, if I turned over the 3 of Swords, the answer might be: People view Stella as bad luck, because she brings sorrow, bitterness, and bad news with her whenever she shows up. Or maybe Stella is a heartbreaker. That could work well in a romance. All of those meanings: sorrow, bitterness, bad news, and heart break are meanings attributed to the 3 of Swords card.

Bonus: The Underlying Theme
Sometimes, when I'm stuck for a theme for a short story or novel, I turn to the tarot. I shuffle the deck of my choosing, but instead of turning over the top card, I set the deck down and then flip it over to reveal the card on the very bottom of the deck. For some people who read tarot, the card on the bottom of the deck can represent "the underlying issue" of a situation or problem.

When brainstorming your story, if you're interested in writing and developing a singular theme, seeking out "the underlying issue" can be a good way to generate ideas. Look at the card on the bottom of the deck and riff themes off the symbolism of the card the same way you would for creating a character.

Have fun with creating characters. 
As with any creative process, you'll get some good results and some stinkers. The point is to have fun while letting the cards lead you to new possibilities you can riff off of. If you get stuck with a personality trait that doesn't seem to fit, or if you're just not sure what to do with a card you drew, you can always return that card to the deck and draw another one, or you can turn over another card to add to the overall picture. The key is to look broadly at the cards symbolism, meanings, and key themes to help you paint a picture of who your character is and how they behave within your story world.

If you like this post, or would like to know more about using tarot to create characters, leave a comment or let me know via social media. I'm reachable at all the usual places, including here at the blog. I hope to do more creative, writerly posts like this one in the future.

Stress Rollercoaster

I haven't written about it yet on the blog, because I've been busy and stressed out, however I've already announced it on other social media so I feel I might as well own up to the fact that my dad is in very ill health. When we first took him to ER a few days ago, we didn't think he'd ever be coming home again. It looked that grim.

His diagnosis has swung from cancer, to not being cancer, and back to cancer again - just not as imminently life threatening as the initial diagnosis led us to believe.

Tomorrow morning, Dad goes in to have his right kidney, a tumor affecting the tube that leads from the kidney to the bladder, and a portion of the bladder removed. After the surgery, we'll find out if he has to go through chemo as a follow up. It's all I've been able to think about for the past 24 hours. It's enough to drive a person crazy.

We're all stressed out and anxious. We all just show it in differnet ways. Oldest hasn't spoken barely a word in the past three days. With mom, she's a chatty type, and I can tell she's nervous because I can't get in a word edgewise. Hubz is brooding and grumpy. On top of the panic, rapidly shifting news and emotions, my body decided to hit me with the worst sinus infection of all time. I can't smell or taste anything, and my ears feel like they're packed with cotton. Even when someone is talking to me directly, I can barely hear a thing!

The real waiting begins tomorrow, but in the meantime, I've been obsessively cleaning house, organizing devices, culling and moving things around, and updating all manner of things... the typical worrywart way of trying to control one's environment when absolutely nothing is under control. My nerves are shot, but my house is cleaner than it's been in the past six months. ♦
 

Wicked Obsession - A Brief History of the Mal Vampires

I received a question recently from reader Jennifer F. about the mal vampire, Julian, in my novel Wicked Obsession, so I thought I'd take a moment to give some details related to that character which might help explain what a mal vampire is exactly.

In Wicked Obsession, during Julian's youth, he was in a house fire, and his body was left scarred. Because the damage was caused by fire, he could only heal from it to a degree. Vampires in my universe are creatures who pride themselves on their strength, good looks, and immortality - which is tied to their ability to heal. They consider scars of this nature to be a terrible flaw, and often, something to be ashamed of.

Before Eleni's arrival at his chateau, Julian had remained closed off from the world because, in his opinion, he is flawed due to his extensive scars. It is his love for Eleni that brings him out of his shell and allows his heart to heal.

Where did the term mal vampire come from?  I made up the term to describe vampires who had suffered some kind of misfortune that made them "less desirable" in the eyes of vampire society.

On its own, the word mal in French, means "poorly", "bad", "wrong", but is typically used to describe a verb. Mauvais vampire would be the term I'd use if I was simply trying to convey that Julian is a "bad vampire". But that wasn't my intention. The term mal (the way I'm using it) was loosely inspired by the Malheur (misfortune) card in the Oracle De La Triade. (Edited to add: a similar card would be "misfortune" in the Leonormand Gypsy deck.)

In my novels, vampires who have suffered physical traumas, whether by fire or other means, are mal(heur) "misfortune" vampires. However, because they are a globalized society of vampires, with Russians living in America, and Americans living in France, I felt that over time, the vampires probably would've simply shortened malheur to mal and embraced the shortened phrase mal vampire as a sort of double entendre. I hope this helps explain the origins of the mal vampire.

-------------------------------------
The first book in the series, Wicked Temption, is still out of print. Thanks for your patience.

Wicked Obsession is available online at Smashwords, and is available in print on Amazon.  


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Breaking My Bookish Heart

Last week, I went over to Samhain Publishing to look at their horror submission guidelines, but the page had a message posted that the company is closed to submissions (of all genres, not just horror) while they catch up on slush pile subs. They've done that before, so I didn't think much about it. I figured I'd go ahead with my project and keep an eye on twitter for when they reopen submissions.

Fast forward a few days later, I log in to twitter, and the first tweet I see is that Samhain is in the process of closing its doors. Of course I'm moving forward with my project anyway, but the news is still shocking and depressing regarding the company. I have a lot of friends published there, and Samhain has what I would consider one of the best horror imprints on the market today.

I have no idea how this has affected the romance editors up to this point, but it's clear where things are headed after the letter announcing the company's closure was posted to the site. At any rate, I did some further digging, and I guess the signs have been there since late last year that they might be facing closure. Editor Don D'Auria was let go in 2015, and he was the one who built their horror line. I followed his authors from Dorchester, and read them at Samhain as well. I'm crossing my fingers and waiting to see where he turns up next. The same with the authors who will be shut out by the closure. I'm curious where they will go once the dust has settled. I know a few people who have said that the Samhain closure is their cue to focus on self-publishing, but at the same time, I've heard others say their sales at Amazon are down because of the KU program. Now, Amazon has filed patents and has started the wheels turning toward the possible creation of a used ebook market on their site. This adds even more uncertainty to an already unstable ebook market.

After the Samhain announcement, I began looking into the larger digital publishing companies that are still standing. Keep in mind, I'm still looking for a stable publishing "home" myself. There are three companies that appear to stand apart from the rest: Entangled, which is still relatively new; Lyrical, which is under Kensington's umbrella; and Carina Press, which is an imprint of Harlequin. I'm curious to see if any of these companies cast their nets to catch the top tier talent left displaced by Samhain's closure. I'd also be interested to see what the ratio of romance writers vs non-romance writers in terms of those author acquisitions turns out to be.

Taking the current market into consideration, I can't blame any author who decides to go full throttle indie, but for me personally, I'm a fan of hybrid publishing. I like to have a traditional/digital publisher for some projects, and then self-publish the works that I know would sell better as indie titles on Smashwords. Because most of my sales come from foreign markets and their distributors rather than from Amazon, this works best for me. The problem with the ongoing market shrinkage is that there are now fewer reputable independent trads and epublishers for writers like me to send work to, so we end up being pushed, for better or worse, into self-publishing because there's no where left for us to go.

Follow Your Inner Moonlight

Follow your inner moonlight; don't
hide the madness. (a mixed quote
usually attributed to Ginsberg)
I'm woefully behind in reporting the latest crazy Cora Adventures. If you follow me on twitter you've probably heard most of them by now, but here's a fast recap of February 2016.

  • Two trips to see the hospital vampires. I'm surprised I have any blood left. A couple of my numbers still don't look good, so I'm back to the doctor next week to find out what's going on.
  • Two stories sent out, two rejections received. One rejection was a keeper, very encouraging with good advice. The other, not so much. It was one of those rejection letters stinging enough to make me question what I'm doing with my life.
  • Shout attack by a little old lady in a red sports car at the gas station. She didn't know how to pull her car up to the pumps on the same side as her gas tank, and in her opinion, this was my fault. A little scary, a little amusing. 
  • I chipped my left front tooth. I don't even understand how. 
I'm ready to ditch this month, I tell ya. Onward to March.

Moving along to the topic at hand - tarot. I haven't posted much lately so I thought I'd share one of my favorite tarot cards of all time. It's the Moon card from The Halloween Tarot by Kipling West. I can't think of another Moon card that gives such a smart and unique take on the traditional tarot meanings and symbolism.

Some of the themes the Moon card represents are cyclic change, a short phase or waiting period, being creatively or emotionally blocked, trickery and doubt, things that look different when you shine a light on it, painful transformation, emotional baggage, hidden or buried emotions rising to the surface, feeling that you're being held at an emotional distance from others, barking at the moon - aka, freaking out over perceived threats that may or may not truly exist (the story of my life), and feeling emotionally isolated or unstable. It can also signify the need to either reign oneself in (and conform to accepted standards), or to come out of one's shell - both scenarios designed to break your isolation and return you to "civilization". It depends on the reading and the card, and there are many card variations out there.

As I mentioned above, my favorite Moon Card is the one from The Halloween Tarot, which shows a werewolf undergoing a painful transformation. Because of his own feral state, he is left to wander the wilderness alone, unable to get past the briars and fence that bar him from seeking comfort and refuge in the house on the hill. His blocked/painful situation isn't necessarily a unique experience, although it may feel that way to him - that no one understands what he is going through. The skull on the fence shows that others have come this way before and perished because they couldn't either reign themselves in, they couldn't figure out where to go next, or they simply didn't call out for help (howl) or otherwise heed directions. The werewolf's feral state is contrasted masterfully by the image of a loyal Boston terrier, which is sometimes called the American "gentleman" of dogs, to further paint an impression of savagery versus civilized behavior. Very clever of the artist, I have to say.

I get this card pretty frequently when I'm creatively blocked, or facing a lot of little frustrations. It's just a phase. Bear with it, and it will pass. That's the typical takeaway. I also get this card when I'm having  hard time deciding what I want to do with a writing project that has stalled. Now, this is just a personal take on this particular Moon card, but I can't look at the werewolf without thinking of the quote, "Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness."

In other words, stop trying to transform yourself and the story into something it's not mean to be. I'm frequently guilty of this, trying to force my stories to fit a mold and my characters to act a certain way. The card indicates that it's necessary to go deep and follow your own personal flow. Be authentic and trust your instincts.

In both the traditional Rider-Waite and The Halloween Tarot decks, both cards show a lobster marking a pathway or trail leading off into the hills. However, what sets the Halloween deck apart, is that the designated trail, a.k.a. "the traditional or appropriate" path, isn't effectively leading the werewolf (ourselves) out of the wilderness. It doesn't matter if the werewolf ended up that way by wandering off track accidentally and getting lost, or if it happened while he was in the process of trying to cling to an outdated trail in order to get to his destination the "right" way, or if he deliberately rebelled against the path set before him and took off on an unmarked route that turned out to be a deadend.

Whatever scenario fits the querent's situation, the Moon card could be a subtle message that when you're blocked from going one direction - don't give up!  It's perfectly okay to try different paths until you find the one that works for you. ♥  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pick A Project. Now Focus.



Instead of  trying to take on a lot of small projects this year, I've decided to focus on one novel length project. By doing it this way, I'm hoping to get to the root cause of why my last three projects have all turned out so horribly broken. Why can't I seem to fix them?  Better yet, how do I fix them? Whatever the problem is, I'm seeking to solve it, even if it means taking a solid year to repeatedly workshop one single book.

My last three novels - yes, three full-length completed novels (or rather, three complete messes) - are so broken that I can't seem to dig my way through the revisions. One of the novels, a contemporary cowboy romance, has been rewritten four times. It still sucks. There's no other word for it. It reads like a first draft, even after four drafts, and I can't seem to fix it. In fact, until recently, I wasn't even able to figure out what the heck is wrong with it. How can I hope to cure the problem if I can't properly diagnose the terminal issue killing my novel in the first place?

I took a workshop recently, and in the middle of one of the lectures, I had an epiphany about the cowboy romance and why it wasn't working. It all goes back to the planning stages of the book, properly setting up the conflicts, and building the characters. I looked at the notes I'd taken during the workshop, and instantly knew I would have to go back to the beginning and start over again. I said to myself: Really? Really, Cora?  [self loathing intensifies] Sigh. Yes, really.

I'm not diving back into the cowboy story again just yet. It frustrates me just to look at it, so I'm setting it aside to work on something fresh. I've made some notes on ways the cowboy story can possibly be fixed...things I picked up from that workshop. In the meantime, I'm brainstorming a new project and taking the advice of the writing teacher. I'm taking my time, digging deeper into who the characters are, and focusing on building the conflicts before I start writing. Should I hit a snag somewhere, I'll be heading off to the nearest workshop to try to figure out where my project derailed and why. Then, back to working on it. Rinse and repeat. We'll see how that works out. ♥

Thursday, January 07, 2016

2016: Be Loyal To Yourself

Dear 2016, please be kind. That's all I ask you to be. My wish can be summed up by quoting Reinhold Neibur:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference."

The only person I can change is me. A hard lesson to learn, but perhaps absorbed more easily after bringing two headstrong boys into the world. With that in mind, the one resolution I made for the New Year was to make changes in my life so there is less stress. The emotional turmoil I've been through over the past two years just isn't worth it. I can't let it continue. It's slowly killing me. To help combat some of the negativity, I've been meditating more, praying more, and walking away more.

Starting way back in mid-December, I deleted several social media accounts, and since then I've trimmed my Facebook list by half. The trimming continues. In every corner of my life, I'm making it a point to weed out those who aren't worthy of my trust, my energy, my support, or my loyalty.

That last one is a big deal for me. I'm loyal to a fault, and I know this. I tend to give people I love - both friends and family - chances, then more chances, then still more, even after people have made it plain and clear they wouldn't do the same for me. And I usually know I shouldn't give "one more chance" when something bad happens, but like the sucker I am, I do it anyway...out of guilt, or something like that. I don't know why I do it, really. I wish I knew, because then maybe it would be easier for me to stop doing it. Know what I mean?

Anyway, I have a set of oracle cards called The Wisdom of Avalon by Collete Baron Reid, and one of the cards in the deck is the dog. That card is about loyalty and sincerity. The thing that resonates most with me about that card is that it tells us to love sincerely and without conditions, like the dog. Also, the card teaches that if someone is being insincere, move on because that person isn't meant to be in your pack.

I've been letting go of people who have made it clear in one way or another that I am not a part of their pack. I can't tell you how freeing that is. Especially when it comes to the fair weather friends, quasi-friends, and the ones who know they can use you because they know you're loyal to them, then they drop you like a hot potato when they get what they want.

I'm so over it. I've been over it a while, but there is something about deleting someone, whether from real life friendships or online friendships, that is so hard to do. It feels so risky and personal. I don't like to hurt other people. I have frequently made myself uncomfortable in order to make concessions for others, and I can tell you first hand that if you make a habit of it, people close to you eventually being to expect it.

While making concessions can be a good thing in and of itself, taken to an extreme - which I tend to do - it isn't healthy. I know this, and over the Christmas holidays I realized that I have to start looking out for me, too. After all, if someone only comes around when they want something, that's not really a friendship, is it?

After reading back through all of the above (I went to get tea and lost my place), I realized there's more than one simple step when it comes to my "stress less" plan for the year. Stressing less is going to require letting go of toxic people and relationships, and learning to value myself more. It makes me anxious just thinking about it, but I know it's time.

Here's to 2016, and moving forward without regret. ♥