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One Week!

If you live in the San Francisco area, I hope you’ll consider coming to see me speak at the Livermore Public Library:

As part of their NaNoWriMo programming, I’ll be going over the basics of writing a polished manuscript. I’ll also touch on querying once the writing is done. Bring your writing questions!

IWSG: November 2018

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Still a bit nervous about my upcoming presentation at our public library next week. I’ve got my notes written and my PowerPoint presentation done, so I’m as prepared as I can be. Don’t know if I’m afraid a lot of people will be there or that no one will show up. At least a handful of my writing group members say they plan to attend, so I’ll have support!

Question of the Month: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I’m not even sure I understand this question. I *think* it’s asking whether my creativity as a writer has spilled into the rest of my life? I’ve always been a problem solver, so for me, it’s writing that draws from my natural creativity—my stories are puzzles to be solved via creative means. I put characters into situations and then have to get them back out. The most fun is when my subconscious has planted all the seeds and I don’t even realize it until I’m writing the resolution and everything falls into place.

And ICYMI: Faebourne is now available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback! (Well, the paperback is pre-order, but it comes out next Monday, so it won’t be a long wait to hold it in your hands!) If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can even read Faebourne for FREE!

When mild-mannered Duncan Oliver is abducted by the Milne brothers and taken to their legendary home of Faebourne, his unexciting life becomes much more interesting. Adelia Milne has been cursed, and Duncan is her chosen champion to break the spell. Duncan may not be a hero, but he is a gentleman, and he refuses to leave a lady in distress. He becomes determined to take on the quest on Miss Milne’s behalf.

Meanwhile, an unlikely rescue team forms in the pairing of Duncan’s best friend George and valet Davies. As they set out for Faebourne—and also perchance to learn more about Davies’ obscured family history—what begins as an unequal partnership quickly blooms into friendship… and possibly something more.

Read the first chapter here.

Nope Book Tag

This is an old one that I only recently heard about, but I decided to do it despite it being old news.

1. A NOPE Ending – A book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage, or simply because the ending was crappy.

I love, love, love Tana French’s In the Woods, but I recall being disappointed that it left many questions unanswered. It’s been long enough since I read it that I can’t remember specifics, but I do have the lingering sense of having wanted more from the ending.

2. A NOPE Protagonist – A main character you dislike and drives you crazy.

I know so many people adore Lila Bard in the Shades of Magic books, but ugh, I can’t like her. She feels like a cliché to me and something of a Mary Sue.

3. A NOPE Series – A series that turned out to be a huge pile of NOPE after you’ve invested all that time and energy on it, or a series you gave up on because it wasn’t worth it anymore.

I read all of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles when I was in high school and college, and I was pretty excited when she went back to writing them a few years ago. But I just could. not. finish. Prince Lestat. So I don’t know if I’ve changed or the writing has become…something… I dunno, but just nope.

4. NOPE Popular Pairing – A ship you don’t support.

You know, I don’t read a lot of the books that prompt this kind of reaction. I guess I do feel like Peter Grant + Beverley Brook is a bit forced, though. That relationship just does not add anything to the stories for me.

And though I know this is a book tag, can I just say that I can’t understand the Sherlock/Molly thing. I just don’t feel that one at all. (Nothing against those who ship it.)

5. NOPE Plot Twist – A plot twist you didn’t see coming or didn’t like.

I didn’t find the unearthing of Gwenllian to benefit the Raven Cycle very much. I don’t know if that counts as a plot twist, per se, but it was a moment that could be plucked out of those books—the character could be, really—and nothing lost.

6. A NOPE Protagonist Action/Decision – A character decision that made you shake your head NOPE.

Bad decisions make great stories, right? But I think pretty much everything Bella Swan did (and I only read the first two books, couldn’t even go on) just felt like NOPE to me.

7. NOPE Genre – A genre you will never read.

While I hesitate to say “never,” I probably won’t ever pick up erotica. Not my thing at all.

8. NOPE Book Format – Book formatting you hate and refuse to buy until it comes out in a different edition.

I don’t *hate* ebooks, but I tend not to read them. I’ve got so many downloaded that I will probably never read because my first inclination is always to reach for a physical book.

Oh, but I DO hate movie/TV tie-in book covers. I won’t buy those.

9. NOPE Trope – A trope that makes you NOPE.

Alpha males. A gruff bad boy that just needs the right woman to soften him. The overprotective type that comes off as controlling. Nope to all that.

10. NOPE Recommendation – A book that is constantly hyped and pushed at you that you simply refuse to read.

Well, to be fair, any time someone says I “have to” see or read something, I’m that much LESS likely to do so. I’m contrary like that. But I don’t care how many people recommend Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale to me, I’m probably never going to read it. It just doesn’t sound interesting to me. My loss, I guess.

11. NOPE Cliché/Pet Peeve – A cliché or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

Scenes in which two characters are arguing and then suddenly they start kissing. Arguments are not foreplay (at least not for me).

12. NOPE Love Interest – The love interest that isn’t worthy of being one. A character you don’t think should have been a viable love interest.

Pretty much any Sherlock Holmes story that puts Holmes in a relationship (but especially if the relationship is with Irene Adler). I nope right on out of books that do that.

13. NOPE Book – A book that shouldn’t have existed.

Did I mention those new Lestat books? Also, with many apologies to Uncle Stevie, but Dreamcatcher was awful.

14. NOPE Villain – A scary villain/antagonist you would hate to cross and would make you run in the opposite direction.

I know they’re dead, but the Dane twins in A Darker Shade of Magic were pretty damn creepy. I’d definitely avoid them.

15. NOPE Death – A character death that still haunts you.

One Day by David Nicholls. Movie was terrible, but the book made me ugly cry, and that’s very difficult to do if there aren’t animals involved.

16. NOPE Author – An author you had a bad experience reading and have decided to quit.

This is probably going to be somewhat… I don’t want to say “controversial,” because that’s not it, but it’s something I’ll probably get a lot of backlash for. But I don’t read Neil Gaiman anymore. I think he’s a lovely man, and I’ve enjoyed much of his work, but I never could get into American Gods, and I picked up one or two other books now and then, but they just didn’t work for me. And I don’t know if I outgrew him, or if the tone of his work changed, or what. I can’t even say I’ll never read him again. I just haven’t in a long, long time. But I do still admire him as an author.

My History with Pink

I took one of those random Internet quizzes today about what color I am, and the result was:

Your color is pink! You are a loving, kind, and generous person. You are very approachable, as people are attracted to your warmth and softness. You are also instinctively protective and tend to take care of others first.

I don’t know why I take these quizzes except to see who, if anyone, “gets” me. Deep down, we all want to be understood.

As for pink, I don’t mind it, and when I was young I considered it my favorite color. Except… I don’t think it actually was.

Let me explain. I was a child (and am a person) who very much wanted to meet and exceed expectations. And I felt like I was supposed to like pink. So I liked pink. Or thought I did. But if given a choice about things, I didn’t typically pick the pink one. I leaned more towards purple. Yet if anyone asked, I would say my favorite color was pink. Because that was the “correct” answer.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to win approval. My parents were very lax in a lot of ways, which meant they never seemed very impressed by anything I did. For the most part I’m extremely grateful they weren’t the pushy, demanding kind of parents, but over time I’ve come to realize that the lack of praise affected me, too. I ended up looking to my teachers for approval, and I got terrific grades, so there was that at least.

“Liking” pink, then, was just another attempt to be dutiful and hopefully win some appreciation from the adults around me. (I’m an only child.) But deep down, I liked purple. That happens to be my dad’s favorite color, too, so I never wanted to admit that I liked it because in my childish mind that would be taking away from him and/or showing favoritism toward him. I even chose my first My Little Pony based on the fact that she was purple with green hair—my dad’s and mom’s favorite colors combined. I was dead set against playing favorites and hurting feelings. (The pony was Seashell, btw.)

I would even color pictures in purple, green, and pink in an effort to combine my and my parents’ “likes” and not leave anyone out.

It’s been a long, hard road in coming to understand myself and my constant search for acknowledgement. I wanted the gold stars, the stickers, the pats on the head… And I still do. I feel crushed when I don’t receive them. I wonder what went wrong, or what is wrong with me. So I struggle now to remember that my worth is inherent and that it doesn’t matter if others recognize and affirm it.

It’s okay that pink really isn’t my favorite color.

Books I’ll Probably Never Read Tag

This one is making the rounds, so I’m not 100% sure who to credit for it… Whoever you are, thanks for the blog prompt!

1. A really hyped book you’re not interested in reading.

Just about anything by Kristin Hannah, really. Or Liane Moriarty. I tried one of hers once and could not get into it. There’s something about literary women’s fiction that puts me off. I can’t identify with the characters at all.

2. A series you won’t start/be finishing.

Everything I’ve read about the Court of Thorns and Roses books is just a no for me. I also tried reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and couldn’t get into it, so I won’t continue on that one. Same with the Game of Thrones books. (Yes, okay, A Song of Ice and Fire.)

3. A classic that you’re just not interested in.

Just about anything by Charles Dickens. We had to read Great Expectations in school, and it was excruciating. Though not as bad as Les Misérables. So I won’t read any more Victor Hugo either.

4. Any genres you never read.

I don’t read erotica. Not my thing. Not into westerns or hard sci-fi either.

5. A book on your shelves you’ll probably never actually read.

I’ve had Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell on my shelf for a long, long time. Watched and loved the television adaptation but will probably never actually heft the book to read it.

Whatever Happened To…

Now and then I get questions about sequels to some of my works. So I thought it might be handy to answer a lot of them in one post.

Whatever Happened…

after “The Mystery of the Last Line”?

A lot of readers found this story open-ended. I never intended to write a sequel, though after so many readers seemed to want more explanation, I did toy with the idea. I even started one, but I just couldn’t find the thread, so I abandoned it.

to the K-Pro sequel?

It was going to be called Ms. Fortune, which is a title I still really love. I had it all planned and even showcased it one year for the A—Z postings they do every April. But the first book didn’t do so great (and truthfully, if I had the energy I’d go re-edit it), so I didn’t end up investing any time in writing the second book.

to Peter Stoller?

That’s another one I started a couple sequels to but never finished. You’ll find a lot of that on this list, and that’s because [most] writers go where the readers are. If as an author I never hear from people who want more—and certainly if a book doesn’t sell—then I (like many authors) often won’t pursue that series or character.

If you’re wondering what happened to Peter specifically, though… I don’t know. I’d have to write the books to find out.

to The Great Divide and A More Perfect Union (the Changers sequels)?

Same story: yes, it was originally meant to be a trilogy. But the book sales were middling and the publisher never asked for more. Meanwhile, this was around the time I published Brynnde, which has been my best-selling book. So I redirected my time and energy in that direction.

to Hamlette?

Ah, the sad truth there is that I queried for over a year and had no takers. Some of the feedback left me really doubtful about the book’s viability. So I don’t know what I’ll do with it. I’ve rewritten it a number of times, but I can’t seem to get it right (at least not according to agents; CPs and betas enjoyed it). Sigh.

Facts About Faebourne

I was planning to do this as a video, but I still haven’t figured out how to make *good* videos, so I’ll just post this instead for now. May yet to a video later.

The ebook version of Faebourne is out now, and the paperback will be out in a couple more weeks. However, I’ve had a few questions come in, so I thought I’d answer them. SPOILERS FOLLOW

Fun Fact: Davies was originally named Michaels. This was before I decided to write chapters from George’s and Davies’ points of view. At first, the novel was going to be all Duncan. But then I thought it might be fun to follow George and [then] Michaels as they went to “rescue” Duncan. As I began writing those chapters, it became increasingly clear that George and Michaels were falling in love. Well, I couldn’t have George + Michaels. And George is such a George, so Michaels had to give up his name. I think it fits him just as well.

Fun Fact: When I started writing, I thought Edward was the gay one and anticipated Edward and George getting together. The characters clearly had other ideas.

Fun Fact: Without realizing it until the book was finished, I gave the Milne siblings the same first initials as my three children.

Q: If the mirror shows a person’s true self, what did Aloysius see when he looked in it?

Oooh. Good question! I honestly don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just a fox. In fact, I also suspect Richard saw something slightly different from his usual reflection, and I wonder if that might be one of the reasons he broke the mirror? I’d love to hear readers’ speculations on this.

Q: You know that Lord Montcliffe couldn’t just give the title to his nephew, right?

Yes, and I’m sorry I wasn’t a bit clearer in the text. Davies would inherit the title whether he wanted it or not, but he could refuse to use it. And Lord Montcliffe could will his money and other property to his nephew if he wanted to disinherit Davies to any degree. Meanwhile, the nephew’s assumption is that he is heir presumptive because he (like most everyone else connected to Lord Montcliffe) did not know of Davies’ existence.

Q: Will they ever go back to Faebourne?

I sort of have this idea that at some point Faebourne will become George and Davies’ hideaway. When Davies is eventually pressed into marriage and/or when good will turns against their relationship and it can no longer be overlooked. As for the Milnes, none of them seem all that attached to the family home.

Q: But what happened to Aloysius?!

So much love for Aloysius! He went with Adelia and Duncan, of course. He’s Adelia’s guardian/familiar, after all. And probably wiser than Richard.

Q: No romance for Richard?

Honestly, he’s not interested. He’s asexual.

Q: What’s with Edward’s “kaleidoscope” eyes?

Well, remember that the Milnes do have fairy blood in their family line. Odd traits are bound to surface now and then. And no, I wasn’t riffing on The Beatles.

So those were the questions readers had (so far). If you read Faebourne and have questions about it, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer!

The Cocoons Are Opening

That title sounds a lot creepier than I intended. What I mean is that the butterflies are starting to emerge. The ones in my stomach. Because my presentation at the local library looms on the horizon.

I generally don’t mind speaking engagements, though I often prefer to be on a panel than be a sole presenter. Mostly I worry that the attendees will feel like I’m lecturing, that I’ll bore them, or that they won’t get what they came for—namely, that I’ll disappoint them. I suppose that’s a normal concern to have. (Is it? Please tell me it is!)

I outlined my talk months ago and had the PowerPoint partially done. Today I finished it, so I do feel more prepared now. It’s all information I’ve given at other venues in other ways, so this compilation is not entirely new, which means I’m comfortable with my familiarity with the material. That helps.

But the audience will be new to me. I think some of my writing group are planning to attend, and I don’t know whether that makes me feel better or more nervous.

All I can do is my best, I suppose. Hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll be asked to speak at other venues too. I’ve done a few small writing conferences, but I’d like to do more.

Have you ever had to give a presentation? Do you get nervous? Any tips or tricks to keep the butterflies at bay? (No, the naked audience thing doesn’t really work for me.)